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Monthly Archives: January 2014

In his eyes*

Wake up. Wake up! His brain yells through the sleepy fog that hangs low and heavy on his consciousness. He tries to lift his eyes but really he is just too weary. Somewhere faraway, a phone is ringing. Now it’s become a fire engine roaring down the street. And now it’s an alarm. The fire is in front of him.

It’s jarring but he’s a spectator even in his own dream. He’s not spurred into motion. He simply watches the house burn down around him, sensing the urgency but unable to rouse himself.

Slowly panic engulfs like the flames, but still he remains stagnant, knowing he’s about to die, but too paralyzed to do anything about it. He is a prisoner of his broken body and his over-medicated brain. His heart hammers against his chest.

Deep inside his head, he knows that he no longer lives in a house.  The small detail reminds him that he is still sleeping. The screaming alarm is once again the phone.

The call is from his daughter. He can envision her face right now, cradling the phone on the other side of the world, 45 minutes away, children flanking her on all ends – frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, but not surprised. It’s far from the first time he hasn’t been able to get to the phone, even for a wakeup call he asked for; one that he needs to make a doctor appointment he has already rescheduled three times.

She is a good girl, his daughter. He sees her as child; the long dark pig tails, the green eyes that match his own, or at least used to when his own eyes were less muddied; the ready smile reserved just for him. He has failed that little girl who he promised in her crib to protect from harm. He never expected that he would be the one hurting her.

He pushes the thought away. It wounds and he needs not to think about it. Right now, he needs to focus his energy to wake up, to answer the ringing phone, to make his appointment.

With monumental effort, he forces himself to open his eyes. Through blurred vision he takes in the vials of medication scattered on the table, the clutter of boxes overloaded with books and papers, the slop of food on the floor from a 4am binge on cereal and ice cream that he barely remembers. A few pills lie there as well. He momentarily wonders if they are medications he never took, or extras that dropped after taking something he shouldn’t have. His heart quickens.

The ringing stops.

Disgusted by his failure but filled with relief, his eyes droop back down.

She will never again look at him the way she did once upon a time ago when he was a hero.

A tear slides down the side his face. He was a hero, strong and beautiful. Ah. I remember you, he recalls wistfully, drifting off; his mouth lifting in a small grin.

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. His brain now commands and all pain fades into unconsciousness.

Once again he has found peace.

Strong and beautiful

Strong and beautiful


He walked out from the school, his backpack slung behind him looking sweetly melancholy or merely just exhausted. It was hard to tell in the dark.

Usually, my husband did this late night Hebrew school pick-up, but tonight he was working late. So at 8:10pm, I was in the car on a cold night with my two younger boys instead of  in the middle of our stalling before bed routine, probably somewhere between whining for snacks and whining to brush teeth.

When he opened the car door, the noise of his brothers tackled him and he flung the door too hard and hit his hand on the car parked next to us. Not too bad, but enough to make him grimace. He didn’t cry. Instead, he decided to inflict some pain on his brothers. “You guys have nothing better to do than yell and play video games!” He lashed out at them. “Can’t you do anything else?”

“You okay?” I asked, a little concerned by the desperation in his voice.

He just nodded but didn’t say anything more.

Back in the house two minutes, he lost it again when his youngest brother complained that he pilfered one of his goldfish crackers. “You’re so sensitive!” he yelled and then stomped into his room.

Uh oh. Something was wrong and it wasn’t the hand.

I got the two younger boys in the shower and went in to see my oldest son. His room was dark and he was lying under his covers fully dressed, clutching a favorite old dinosaur toy, feigning sleep.

“Baby?” I questioned and rubbed his back soothingly. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” He muttered.

“I can tell something’s wrong. Please tell me.”

“Nothing’s wrong.” He insisted; his eyes squeezed closed so not to face me, his mouth twitching emotion.

I sat next to him in silence, studying his heartbreakingly sweet face obviously in the midst of some internal struggle. Do I respect his space or probe deeper? Where is that parenting book when you need it?

“Did you get in trouble in class?” I asked gently.

He shook his head.

“Did you get into a fight with someone?”

More shaking.

“Were you embarrassed or hurt in some way?” I persisted.

“Stop!” He almost cried, burying his face in his pillow. “You’re making it worse.”

I guess I should have chosen space.

“Okay.” I conceded. “I’m sorry. I just want to help.”

I rubbed his back a little longer; not wanting to leave him, dying to know what was upsetting him, but uncertain what to do. The idea that someone would put him in this emotionally vulnerable place was too much for me. No one was allowed to hurt my baby.

“You can’t help.” He said into his pillow.

What? Untrue! I can help! I need to help. I’ve always been able to help. Don’t shut me out, I wanted to cry. Instead, I left him to get the other boys into bed; the ones whose biggest problems were if I had pirate booty to give for snack the next day and if I could secure a good play date.

By the time I came back to his room, he was asleep.

But I would be up all night.

Back when it was easy... sigh.

Back when it was easy… sigh.

Let The iBeatings Begin!

I want to beat my children. Wait, did I say that out loud? Please don’t call child services. I don’t really want to beat them in the literal way, just figuratively. Figuratively, I want to beat them silly.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe because they’re spoiled and deserve a good figurative beating. Because maybe, I’m tired of the word, “Wait” when I’m asking something like, “Do you want vanilla or chocolate?” and their video game can’t be interrupted; or maybe because they remember they need special molding clay at 9pm for a diorama due the next day. Or because I make three different dinners for them to say, “I’m not hungry” but five minutes after everything has been cleared away, find them attached to my waist, devastated by hunger. Because I sit and help patiently with homework only to be told that “It’s fine” with an eye roll of disdain, even when it’s not, and they haven’t figured out yet that they should say bless you when I sneeze, or offer to help when I’m schlepping in 12 grocery bags instead of throwing their knapsack on top of the bags. That’s why. I could go on, if you need more.

But it’s no longer the 70’s when beatings were just as acceptable as lack of supervision and random light drug use. When I tell my children I’m going to beat them – an entertaining threat that I somehow picked up watching the hysterical skit from Bill Cosby Himself – they roll their eyes. “Oh funny, mom.”   Yeah, I have them quaking in their furry crocs.



I need something to show them that I mean business. I probably would get more of a response if I threatened to beat their devices.

That’s it! They would cower in fear. I would have them at my mercy. I can hear them now…

“NO! My iPhone hasn’t done anything wrong. Please, beat me! Just leave it alone.”

“But, it’s taken me so long to get to that level!”

“Not my contacts!”

“Take the DS! Or the Wii. Just leave the X-Boxxxxxxx!”

phone death 3

Gee, what’s that doing there? Mwahahaha

Or, maybe we could create a new app – iMomfia where I control all the apps on my kids’ devices. If one of the children doesn’t behave, I could make one of their apps just disappear. They’ll never know which one.

I would hold their complete submission in my hands. I would have them doing their homework, putting their dishes in the sink, taking showers without hassle. It’s genius. Or blackmail. Same, same.

Somehow technology has become the only effective method of bribery in my house. For the past few years I’ve used it as a carrot, dangling before them. “Do well in school this year and I’ll get you an iTouch… Show me how helpful you can be around the house and maybe you’ll earn yourself an iTunes card…”  So, I guess it’s partly my fault that it’s become the most important thing to them, but I prefer to blame society.

Yes! It’s society’s fault that I own them in the first place, and now just to get my children’s attention, I may have to beat a device worth hundreds of dollars.


This is gonna hurt.

phone death

*No children or devices were harmed in the making of this totally humorous post.

You’ll grow up when I’m good and ready

“Hey, baby.” I say to my eleven year-old. It’s what I call my boys, except my middle son, who at four would already reprimand me for calling him baby. “I’m not a baby.” He’d growl, to which I’d reply, “You’re my baby.” He never accepted my answer and would yell at me whenever I slipped.

Not so with my oldest. He’s always embraced both being a baby and being my baby.

I can’t say I don’t love it, but at times I worry if I’ve made his comfort zone too comfortable; if I’ve babied my baby too much.

“You want to call a friend to come over?” I ask.

He’s curled up in his favorite chair, wrapped in a blanket for comfort not warmth, a bowl of popcorn at his feet watching Austin and Ally on television. He barely turns his head toward me when he answers, “Nah. I’m good.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, walking to the chair and squatting down next to him.

At my closeness, he immediately leans over and nuzzles his head against my body. I give him a squeeze and kiss his head. Ah. My baby.

“I’m good.” He says again, opening his arms for a hug, which I happily embrace.

It’s his downtime. He works hard at school, homework and sports, so I don’t mind him relaxing if that’s what makes him happy.

He craves home, while my middle son craves independence. At eight, he’s already a social animal, and has secured a friend to come over. After his play date, it is not unusual for him to ask for another.

Sometimes, I worry a bit that my oldest is too happy nestled in his chair while his more socially developed friends spend more time bonding and making connections. I worry about him being left behind. Even, shallowly, about not being cool. I want, what I think, most parents want, for him to have an easy run through middle and high school. To fit in. To be well-liked.

“Mommy?” He asks, as I give his head one last tousle and rise to leave him. “Can you bring me water?”

I struggle with wanting to push him out there and pull him back in. I struggle with wanting to do things for him and for him to do them himself. Push. Pull.

He’s eleven. Maybe that’s the age where they need to mature. Almost all of his friends are texting and addicted to Instagram. Quite a few are already into girls. At the moment, my beautiful, sweet son remains blissfully unaware of the social tornado going on all around him.

But probably not for very long.

“Okay, baby.” I say.

His chair

His happy place

The house where food goes to die

“Uh, this says pink grapefruit juice.” My friend said skeptically, holding out a container filled of brown liquid, a clump of growth in the center.

We were at my parents’ vacation home upstate, looking for something edible in the closets that would save us a trip out in the cold. My friend had no way of knowing that the house is used intermittently, and my parents are notoriously bad at remembering to throw anything away. It’s funny because whenever I’m here, I think I clear the old stuff out, only to find more the next time we come. This is the house where food comes to die.

“Yeah, sorry. It’s just old. Be careful what you eat here. The last time I was here I grabbed a bag of chips dated 2001.” I didn’t mention the four year-old cream cheese I once found that should have been donated to science.

I pulled a random box of cookies from the cabinet. “Let’s see. Not too bad… They expired in 2010.” I pulled down another box and grimaced. “2009.”

Box by box, we systematically emptied the place. It became a game to see if we could find anything that wasn’t expired. The closest was a jar of peanut butter dated August, 2013. The oldest was a refrigerated jar of jelly dated 2003.

During our rummaging, one of the kids sauntered in. “Oooh cookies!” He exclaimed, eyes wide as an Oreo.

My friend and I immediately grabbed the box. “No!” We both screamed like he was about to touch fire.

Oreo eyes now looked like they had been dunked and might start to drip.

“Sorry!” We both quickly apologized. “They’re bad. They could make you sick.”

He looked at us skeptically. In his eight years, he heard many questionable reasons from adults as to why he couldn’t have a cookie. This was just another to add to the list. He left empty-handed, but full of suspicion.

Just then my husband walked in holding a bag chips, his mouth chewing.

open at your own risk...

Open at your own risk…

“Hey,” I said slowly. “Where’d ya get those?”

“Up there.” He pointed to the cabinet.

Uh oh.

My friend and I exchanged a look.

“Um, they might be a little old.” I said, grabbing the nearly empty bag.

“Expires, March, 2013.” I read.

He shrugged, unimpressed. “Tasted fine.”

It was the exact same thing he said to me every night when I asked how dinner was. Apparently my superior culinary skills have dumbed down his expectations so that even expired food is agreeable to him. I didn’t know whether to be horrified or thrilled. I think both.

Later, we of course went out for dinner and purchased some fresh snacks for our stay.

I have no doubt that I will see them again for years to come.

My grandma may be dead but she’s still inspiring

I’m sitting here waiting for inspiration to hit me. I’m ready inspiration, come and get me. But no, the only thing here with me is my cat, rubbing his head annoyingly against the top of the screen. I give him a little shove, but clearly, he doesn’t get it and pads even closer to me, intent on laying his body across my keyboard. As if I didn’t have enough obstacles.

Uh, move it buddy.


I’m struggling to come up with meaningful thoughts to put out there; a moment that resonates, that tugs at the heart stings with a twang, a story with a moral that makes you really think about life, or the real coup, being able to give you a good laugh, the kind that can change your mood for just a second.

Instead I just sit here, staring at the screen until I’m almost looking through it, waiting for one of those cool 3-D images to pop out at me. START TYPING. THINK, DAMN IT. YOU CAN DO IT.

I’ve been feeling so numb lately, and not just because of the Raynaud’s that turns my feet and  fingers white and cold as a cup of milk. Could it be winter blues? Or, is this the next stage of my mid-life crisis? I went from feeling a little sexy to a little bit conflicted, and now feeling a little dead? It happened so fast I didn’t even find an appropriate outfit to wear to the funeral. But I guess the old gym pants will do. It’s how I lived, and I’m nothing if not consistent.

But now I’m just being dramatic. And I can tell already, my mother is hating this essay. Don’t worry, mom, it’s just a moment. This too shall pass, as my dead grandmother used to say. She’s looking at me now from a picture across the room; her head thrown back in joy, even with the shower cap on her head which she must have forgotten she was wearing when my husband snapped the picture, because there is no way she would be caught dead in a picture with a shower cap. Ah, the irony.

Gone two years now, she looks radiant, even in the cap, with me by her side and my three boys lined up like beautiful, dutiful progeny; the future, captured in the present which is now the past.

I miss her. I do. Even thinking it now brings that drippy sentimentality to my eyes making them leak at the edges. Looking around, I see some of her treasures glittering: a ceramic dog that was her mother’s, an ugly turn-of-the-century figurine couple mid step, pretty, useless little tea cups on display. There are other things, but that’s all they are. Things. And who needs them really, except that they were hers.

The real gift she left me was living long enough to have a real presence in my life. To make a difference in who I was and am. To have a voice so strong, I can still hear her throaty rasp so clearly…

“Get your head out of your arse and stop this nonsense!”

I smile. Already I feel warmer.

She’s got me thinking.

Going with the glamour hat over the shower cap. You're welcome, Grandma.

Going with the glamour hat over the shower cap. You’re welcome, Grandma.

Rabbi, we have to stop meeting like this

We, the parents of the Hebrew class of Gimel, which means third graders to non-Hebrew readers, were called to temple recently for a teaching moment with the Rabbi.

In theory, this is a very nice thing. We have a friendly, young rabbi and bunch of parents who I have known for years. In reality, putting me anywhere near the Rabbi has in the past proven somewhat problematic. Apparently, Rabbis make me nervous or stupid, possibly both.

That’s why, I have resolved for the past year or so now, to watch my mouth and what comes out of it. I will not tell the rabbi, that my hotness is the reason that the room is warm. I will not swear ‘Jesus Christmas’ when I accidentally spill my coffee that I probably should not have brought into temple in the first place. I will not comment on any part of his appearance, like I did when he grew a beard after the passing of his mother, which, who knew – was connected. Um, every Jewish person but me.

This morning, the Rabbi tells us we were brought together to discuss the Shema. I’ve always been a good girl, but never a good Jewish girl, so I couldn’t really tell you what it means beyond that is a prayer that sounds lovely to ear and speaks to the heart of the covenant between you and God. I think.

It’s probably because when the rabbi started speaking I was too involved with searching for a butterscotch candy deep in my bag. Don’t worry, he waited for me to find it.

And when one of the women asked a question that made me roll my eyes a little, I couldn’t help nudging the friend next to me and giggling like an elementary school idiot.

It’s an informal gathering and thankfully the rabbi is kind and tolerant. I add my two cents here and there, and am my general babbling self, causing one woman to remark that I should possibly just lead the discussion.

Okay, then. I’ll shut up now.

And I did, silently chastising myself until the children all filed in. They were part of this ‘special activity’ with the parents and rabbi. They took their seats around the table and my eyes followed my little third grade boy, so freaking adorable with his new haircut that accentuates his huge, green eyes that are always glittering with mischief.

They all settled in and we turned our attention back to the rabbi. “So we are all here for this….”

The sound of a chair rustling interrupted.

The rabbi starts again.

More rustling.

It is, of course, my son.

We all turned to watch my impish boy as he worked to move his chair in between the two next to him.

When he was finally done, he looked up at me and smiled radiantly. I couldn’t help but smile back, but we’re going to have to have a talk when we get home. He just can’t go around being so distracting.

I have no idea where he gets it.

owen and me

Damn. I know where he gets it.