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Scenes of a Valentine’s Past

Valentine’s Day Morning – 2016
6:15 am

Begrudgingly one eye opens and sees the clock. My heart jumps awake, even though I technically don’t have to be awake for another ½ hour. But today is special. I have to hang the hearts I made last night on each of my sons’ bedroom doors! I was up late cutting them out and writing special personal messages for each of them – ‘You’re so smart’, ‘I love your curls’, ‘You tell the best jokes!’ – that I practically fell asleep with a pair of scissors clutched (responsibly – blades in) in one hand and a Sharpee – Cap on, whew! – in the other.

I race (quietly) to the bathroom and over to the dresser to collect my Valentine’s art project for my three little labors of love, now 8, 10 and 13. Ten personalized hearts times three. Now if I can only find the tape. I lift my construction paper. Not there. I check under a pile of clothes. Not there. I know it’s around here somewhere. I remember bringing it up. It would help to turn on the light but my husband still sleeps. Maybe it’s over by the- F%$!!! Found it, on the floor, under my foot.

My muffled exclamation of pain causes my husband to stir. He  took off from work and was sleeping in.  “What are you doing?” he asks.

Nothing, I assure him. Go back to sleep. He doesn’t need to be told twice and turns over muttering sweet nothings to me which might sound a lot like “You’re crazy” but with my Valentine’s ears I interpret to mean, ‘I’m crazy for you.’

After a quick pit stop back to the bathroom for band aids to tourniquet my gushing foot, I soft peddle it each of my kids’ doors and lovingly hang their hearts so that they can appreciate them and all the wonderful qualities of themselves when they wake up. I also leave a trail of chocolate kisses from their bedrooms, down the stairs, leading to the kitchen. Eeeeee! They are going to love it!

6:30am

In the kitchen whipping up pancakes, frying turkey bacon and scrambling eggs. I have cut toast into hearts with a cookie cutter. On each boy’s chair sits a small bug-eyed stuffed creature and box of chocolates. My husband’s chair has man-size box and a card. I am a Valentine’s domestic goddess. I keep whipping and waiting for my family to run down the stairs and smother me with love.

7am

I hear rustling upstairs. Oh! My boys have clearly been awakened by the fresh smell of pancakes and bacon wafting up the stairs. I sneak toward the steps. Is that giggling I hear? Wait. It could be shouting. Yup. Shouting. F&%!

“Boys!” I yell in my sweetest voice and stomp up. “What’s going on?”

The scene is straight out of Psycho Willy Wonka. 8 year-old son is smeared with chocolate, a mass of Kisses clutched in his hands. 10 year-old boy is yelling at him and trying to grab the Kisses while 13 year old boy is quietly off to the side laughing popping chocolates in his mouth.

The floor shimmers with crinkly silver and purple foil.

“Boys!” I repeat and finally they notice me. They can’t control themselves and begin talking all at once. The outpouring of love is overshadowed by a lot of annoying complaining and petty bullshit.

“Did you guys notice your doors?” I ask. They should. I’ve done it for the last few years or so. Their doors are almost completely covered with love. Shamed, they look over and read. Or at least two of them do. My youngest is too busy crying and hiding. My middle son still feisty from the chocolate wars wants to argue over heart number 7 and insists that, no, in fact he is not smart.

“Thanks mom,” my oldest says, and my face slowly opens with happiness until I realize that’s all he has to say. He walks past me down the steps. But wait, he stops mid-way. Could there be something more? A card? A hug? My heart flutters…

“Do you know where my phone is?”

Yup, exactly what I thought.

I spend the next five minutes trying to coerce my embarrassed, pissed off youngest to come out of hiding and find myself with snot and chocolate all over my hands and pajama shirt. Sighing I give up and head downstairs to find my older boys securely positioned in front of the television, iPads in hand.

“Guys, I made a good Valentine’s day breakfast.”

“Not now,” says my oldest.

“I’m not hungry,” says my middle.

“I am!” squeaks my youngest but when I trot him inside, he looks at the spread and immediately announces, “I want cereal.”

7:15am

I trudge my fuming, snot covered, bloody foot self back to my room and kick my still snoring husband out of bed. I’m done with this holiday. Wake me up on Mother’s Day.

Valentine’s morning – 2017

You would think I would learn, but like a pup, tail wagging and waiting for that bone, I cover the floor with chocolate kisses, again write personalized hearts, and go down to make a ‘special’ breakfast. I don’t know why I am surprised when one boy complains that the Kisses I left on the floor leading from their bedrooms downstairs are annoying, while another one says the card I wrote has too many words to read. There is a fight about who did or didn’t flush the toilet and no one but my husband is interested in the special breakfast I made.

I steam with my coffee a bit until I remember that last year the day actually ended up pretty awesome. I wound up getting my own original song, written and performed by my own personal ‘homemade’ boy band. It was the best present ever! (To see the video go to my Facebook page).

And that’s when lightening struck twice. My youngest runs in and hands me dead flowers that he has hidden in the closet to save as a special gift, and my oldest made me a really thoughtful card, while my middle guy brings me special socks to keep my always cold feet snuggly warm. There are also stuffed animals and goodies to go with the hugs! Clearly, the day is looking up! And of course, as long as we’re together annoying each other, it’s all good.

Love and happiness to you all. xoxo

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Who can resist dead flowers and chocolate!!!?

From toddler to teen: A mom’s short retrospective

From toddler to teen: A mom’s short retrospective

2002

Love. Love. Love. Your drool is adorable, your poop, a topic of conversation. Never leave my side. Stay forever in my arms. You are mine. I am yours. Before you, life had no meaning. Before you there was nothing.

2005

Oh my baby. My poor sweet child. Don’t be sad. It’s only for a couple of hours. Everyone goes to nursery. Why? I don’t know why. Good question! Why?!! No don’t cry. You’re making me cry. Okay one more hug. Okay one more. Okay, Just one mor-

Yes, I know he’s going to be fine. Okay… shut the door.

(I’ll just be sitting here.)

2007

First day of Kindergarten. Can’t…. even….. speak.

2008-10

What’s going on, my love? Yes, I would Love to play dinosaur battles with you! Yes, I want to color! Yes we can build a set-up! Yes, I will even listen to the really really long and convoluted story about the dragons you are breeding on your video game and all 112 words you have made up for your own secret language. Tell me. I am fascinated.

2010-2012

Of course! Have all your friends come over! Everyone is welcome! Five on five wiffleball/soccer/football/basketball in the yard? Fabulous! Manhunt through the house? Movies? Wii? X-Box? Great! I’ll order a pizza! Who wants fresh baked cookies? Weeeeee!!!

2013-2014

Uh okay, of course I’ll drive you to your friend’s. Again.

2015

Me: Can I make you pancakes?

Him: Shrug

Me: Hey that was a good game you played today!

Him: Grunt

Me: Who did you hang out with at the party yesterday?

Him: Eye roll

Sigh. (Both of us)

2016 –

How are you? How’s school? What’s going on? What’s new? Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you comfortable? Do you have friends you like? Do they like you? Are you feeling okay? Do you need anything? Want anything? Can I help you? Hello? Are you listening? Hello…

I’m here.

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And always will be

 

*Now that I have you all sapped up, go check out my latest essay over on Scary Mommy – Underneath His Teenage Scowl. Originally titled, It’s not you, It’s me. Okay, maybe it is you,  but just a little.  🙂

 

Time For My Big Girl Pants

 

From my storm door I fog up the glass watching my middle son race around on the neighbor’s lawn. Our neighbor’s daughter is with him, but of course she’s in long pants and a winter coat and he’s in a pair of shorts, beaming as he crunch, crunch, crunches over the frozen grass.  Last winter of course, we went through the same. It’s a thing, my older sons tell me, but looking around all I notice are appropriately dressed kids. Not that this is something I stress over. They wear their hoodies. And if they’re cold, well, they know the draw to pull.

My youngest boy wearing pants and a jacket (clearly the smart one) lingers in the house with me, timidly watching the cold from the inside and waiting for that strip of yellow to rumble up the block. Usually my middle son screams, “Bus!” and on his signal we bolt through the door, out into the street where the belabored vehicle idles, creaking its doors open, panting exhaust fumes.

They step on and I follow their little faces and wave, almost immediately losing my 5th grader to his posse in the back seats. But my 2nd grader hangs with me, his brave smile pressed up against the tinted or possibly just very dirty windows, barely concealing his anxiety at leaving his home and me before the bus heaves up, heavily turns and makes its way to the next stop.

On a cold day like today, I am back in my house within seconds, relieved, closing the door to the outside, hunkering down in the quiet and sweet comforts of my steaming coffee, a pile of clean laundry to fold and hopefully a warm voice on the other end of my phone. I spend a lot of time hiding myself away. I used to say that I needed the time and space to write and while that’s true, a writer needs to write, life’s injustices have kept me on hiatus for months keeping a steady force field between me and my computer.

I haven’t been happy about it, although my son has. He is now free to play his Minecraft while I am free of his long faced, soulful pleading. It’s been a relief of sorts, to not feel the pressure of myself to perform. In the beginning with all the other stresses going on, I welcomed it. But quickly that free space got gobbled up with new and old problems and people…  cousins with BRACA diagnosis, one fighting cancer and the other going thru a preventative double mastectomy and hysterectomy, friends who needed an ear and of course my unwell father. And just like that, day after day slowly slipped through my fingers and I lost myself as I focused on others.

So I guess that’s where I’ve been all these months, if you’re even wondering, fogging it up on the inside. But lately I feel the crushing weight of my father’s immeasurable needs has lessened because I lessened them, and here and there the inklings of misplaced energy and discontent sparkle through me. It’s time, my dulled senses snap, to say hello again and find my focus; to get invigorated, get out and feel the fresh air.

But I’ll be doing it in pants.

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That’s my boy!

 

And in case you missed, here’s the essay that secured that my middle son will never wear anything but shorts in winter. Read What’s up with Boys and Shorts in Winter.

And also, if interested, here’s the last article I wrote for On Parenting on Washpo. They Grow Up so Fast, so What’s my Rush?

Yay! I wrote something. 🙂

 

Cooperstown

“Heads up!!” We yell, from our fabulous protected viewing area, shielded from both the hot midday sun and fly balls. Immediately, all the siblings dash out to be the one to retrieve it. Within minutes my middle son is back having secured the treasure. “I gave it to Olivia,” he tells me with a shrug. “I got so many.”

“That’s nice,” I smile. With captured balls spilling from his duffle bag he can afford to be generous.

It is day six at the Cooperstown Dream Park, a tournament culminating my oldest son’s little league experience, where his team (and coaches) along with over a hundred others, stay on the compound in barracks for the total baseball ‘experience’ while my younger boys and I, along with the other families and siblings get a slightly different ‘experience’ at a nearby $69 a night hotel charging $250.

I turn my attention back to the game but it’s hard to watch. Our scrappy town team has made an impressive showing this week but this game is sloppy and all signs point down, especially the big one looming over the field showing us in need of five runs.

“We’re losing!” My youngest states matter of fact, in much the same way he announced the game before that we were winning. Either way doesn’t matter to him, he has more important issues to discuss. “Can I have money for a snack?” He asks with a sly grin.

I shush him, intent on my boy up at plate. The count is 3-2, and he has fouled off two balls already. He postures like a threat; his energy palpable. I wonder if he can see with his overgrown hair. “Smash it,” I whisper to myself and him over and over.  And he does; hard, high and to the left. “Heads up!!” We all scream again to any unknowing passersby, and the littles, including my snack seeking son, scamper to retrieve the foul.

At the plate, my son gives the bat a test swing and a little twirl while my stare burns a hole in his helmet. He locks and loads and this time drives the ball hard between second and third, getting on base. I breathe, cheer and toss the stress over to the next mom.

This has been a week of damn good baseball. We watched our boys’ rise to challenges, swell with confidence and leave the field with their feet ten feet off the ground, although compared with many of the other players who dwarfed our boys by length, width and facial hair, it may not be so easily noticed.

There have been homeruns (and near homeruns – mere inches!!) that catapulted us from our seats; catches to the wall that drew our breath, seamless plays that made us grin wildly and nod to each other with pride and a merry go round of pitching that gave every player the opportunity to buy the “I pitched at Cooperstown’ tee shirt.

There have also been hits and bangs, broken fingers and broken spirits, slaps to the head for both the amazing and the devastating, great coaching and mentoring that exceeds the expected; knowing just when a kid needs a pat on the back or a kick in the butt, and allowing each boy the opportunity to feel proud and important and really experience the best in themselves.

Even on days like today, where the negativity buzzed around the dugout like flies and we beat no one but ourselves, when it is over any stray tears will be lost as they run, dive and barrel over each other like puppies in the dirt.

These times, like these boys, are so fleeting and these days are the ones to remember. We will look back on the laundry, the sun and bugs, the wine and the whining, the strategizing for the games and the schlepping to get there. We will remember these families who have become like family of our own and these boys with the balls in their gloves and the glimmer in their eyes, their swagger and innocence and the arms around each other’s shoulders and we will long for it all.

Heads up boys, we win.

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#Go Legends

The United Skates has Fallen and it can’t get up

Well it’s official. It’s not the eighties anymore.

I learned this today on my son’s fourth grade class trip to United Skates.

I, of course, arrived in my spandex leggings and neon pink zip up ready to Rock and Roll All Night, but it’s like none of these children ever spent a Friday night at the local rink circling the track and darting through crisscrossing strobes lights to Let’s Get Crazy by Prince.

10 year old arms and legs flailed all over the place, spinning by like baby giraffes on ice. The kids scrambled around like eggs, then lay on the rink floor beaten. It was hand to your mouth horrifying, in that ‘you can’t believe what you are seeing’ way and I could not. stop. laughing.

I probably won’t be brought back for a class trip any time soon, but all those children flopping every which way, doing unintentional splits, desperately trying to stay upright like cartoon characters on banana peels… It was just too much and too many of them. It was like someone put a slick of oil on a walkway and told 50 kids that there was free ice cream right across the way. Down Down Down they all went. It was total, utter chaos. It was hysterical.

None of the 20 something workers seemed concerned. They just zoomed here and there picking up all the rattled little bodies and sending them happily off to fall again two seconds later.

But the absolute best were these new safety devices they give the kids who can’t skate (Um, pretty much all of them). They are literally walkers on wheels! Seriously, you can’t not be amused by this.

Skating looks verrry different than when I was a kid.

I hear there’s pudding at lunch today, Gertie!

Even though 2015 skating was different than when I was a kid, I was totally in the spirit and considered putting my hair in a side pony tail. I grabbed my son’s hand for a mock ‘couples skate’ moment and he allowed me the pleasure for 3 seconds before pretending I didn’t exist. I threw around the words Super and Awesome a lot, and even once found myself putting them together while dancing around, picking up felled children as I grooved.

“Wow, you’re doing super awesome out there, kid!” I said and gave a wink as he hobbled by with his walker. It was the same kid who once asked me why my house was such a mess, not that I remember things like that.

It was time to go, and from the mouths of the beaten and black and blue (but no broken boned) babes, it was unanimously and without question the best day of fourth grade.

It certainly was for me.

Skate on.

Skate on.

Stomach Virus – You’re bugging me

There’s no one at our bus stop.

The yellow beast chugs toward the corner, heaving to a stop. Its loud industrial honk blares through the neighborhood three times before the sliding doors pull closed on no one and the machine ambles forward, on to the next street where a pile of children push each other and laugh and fight with delightful pre-school energy, straining their necks for that glimpse of yellow but also hoping never to see it.

The day is brisk and vibrant with shards of sun lighting the way. At the door, I have to shield my eyes from its brightness. I can’t believe how fresh the air feels, how invigorating, how healthy. I suck a deep breath in, letting it center me with its crisp cleanness, hoping it will help prepare me for my day. Greedily, I take another moment and another sublime breath.

My house reeks of stale and sick, sapped of energy and hope, piles of soiled laundry, children crying, husband lying in bed moaning. An alternate world exists outside this house, one full of life, with everyday problems and everyday troubles – Did you finish your homework, Will you stop torturing your brother, Should we have tacos for dinner or chicken cutlets. It all seems so bright and entertaining in the throes of misery.

I am one of the infected and so I must shut myself away from the outside world. I must lay on couches and beds, wrapped in blankets shivering, close to the cool, lovely bathroom tile, the swirl of infection billowing in the air.

“Mama?” I hear, but I can barely lift my head to address him.

“Coming,” I muster and lift my body, heavy with the effort of sickness, but weak with emptiness over to where he huddles.

“What can I do for you baby?” I ask, wanting to die, wanting not to catch any more of what he has or to give any bit of what I have.

“Water,” he croaks, “And hugs,”

The water is easy and he takes a halting sip before lying down again spent. In place of hugs, I curl up in his bed around his feet.

Now 36 hours later, my husband is off to work armed with a bottle of Pepto, Tylenol and a Ginger Ale and two out of three of my boys are in school. I am slowly recuperating. I know because I am actually thinking about lunch although not sure if I can actually stomach anything. Also, a shower. When before the idea seemed a fantasy I didn’t even have the energy to want, I am now craving it with every inch of my crawling skin.

My middle son relaxes on the couch complaining of a headache but asking to play a board game, and my cleaning ladies are just finishing up removing all toxicity from our house; the smell of organic chemicals a sonnet to my sniffer.

They leave and I toss the last load of laundry into the machine. Over the last few days, I have successfully washed every fabric in my house. I crack the windows to let the fresh air in, look over to my boy and breathe a little easier. We’ve made it to the other side. “Can I get you something?” I ask, feeling his head which seems slightly warm.

He gives me a wan, funny smile like he’s not sure how he wants to answer and then throws up all over me.

 

He's feeling much better now.

Feeling much better now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to the party is not half the fun

We’re going to a party! We’re going to a party!

We need to be in temple by 10:30am but I have an appointment at the hair place to blow out my curly curls and get trims for my boys at 9am. It’s 8:15am. We have a half an hour to get out of the house.

“These pants are too tight!” My son yells, and tosses them out of his room into the hall. I hop over, pulling up my tights as I go and get smacked in the face with the offending black pants.

“Didn’t you wear these last week?” I ask, untangling the inside out legs and searching for the tag. Not that it matters. At almost 13, things that fit one week, no longer fit the next.

“I’m ready!” My middle son announces; walking past in a shirt clearly buttoned by a drunk.

“Um, let me help you,” I say, starting to undo and redo. Another pair of pants flies out of my oldest son’s room and I hear him stomping around angrily.

My 7 year-old dances by in his pajamas. “Mommy! Watch my cartwheel!”

“Get dressed,” I order. “No cartwheels now. We’re late.”

I run back into my room to fix myself. My husband emerges from our closet. “This good?” he asks, holding a blue tie against his grey shirt.

I nod that it’s fine and run into the bathroom to play around with some make up my mother brought over.

“I know you like to be ‘natural’, but just something to brighten your eyes? And skin. And maybe a little lipstick?” She suggested so coyly, you barely knew you were being strong armed until you were pinned. Later, I would use a very similar tone trying to convince my son that slightly shorter hair looks better than never combed hair.

“I know what I’m doing,” I had snapped, and am happy she’s not here now to watch me put lip liner under my eyes.

We’re going to a party! We’re going to a party!

“I’m hungry!” My middle son barges in and announces as I’m struggling to close the clasp on my necklace.

“Get yourself some cereal. I need to get dressed.”

“I don’t want cereal,” he says. “I want pancakes.”

I look at him dumbfounded. Seriously?  “I’m not making pancakes right now.”

“Forget it! I’m not eating!” He huffs and storms out as my 12 year old storms in. He is frustrated to the point of tears.

I feel his pain.

“I’ll find you something. I promise. Just give me five minutes?” I ask, looking hopefully and reassuringly into his stressed face.

He calms down, gives me a hug and a blessed five minute reprieve to get myself together so we can get to the hair place and then to the temple for the b’nai (double) bar mitvah and then to the other one across town and the ensuing parties that follow.

“It’s raining out!” I hear my husband yell and a glance out the window confirms it. Freaking great. Did I mention the blow out for the curly hair?

My 7 year old cartwheels past, wearing only his Skylander undies.

We’d better get to that party soon. I need a drink.

Actual discarded pants

Actual discarded pants