Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joyful Joyful - How I Miss Thee

"You're the one I want to be with, you're the reason that I came. And you'll find Me in the stillness as I'm whispering your name." ~Anon

The stockings seem much emptier,
The tree looks not as green.
The carols sound so out of tune,
And the traditions have just become routine.

I've relived all my memories
Of the twenty-fifth of December
To try and find whats missing now,
From the Christmases I remember.

Its not a certain flavor
Or a gift beneath the tree,
But more that special feeling
the season once brought to me.

After years of searching high and low,
through woods, on beaches, in shops, and pews,
I'm almost sure that what I'm missing
Is sharing Christmastime with you.

With you the season came alive,
A wonderland in any weather.
Its something I've lost bit by bit
Since we last were together.

Gifts and shopping hold no thrill,
I've no pride in well done decorations.
I still roll the cookies and pour the eggnog,
But I just don't feel much celebration.

What was the wellspring you possessed
That renewed your spirit from year to year?
I miss the peace, the joy, the laughter,
The successful missions spreading yuletide cheer.

Its still and cold this Christmas Eve,
The sky is dressed with its brilliant lights.
As I turn my face up to the stars,
I think of you, and send my love tonight.

And if you could still send me a gift
To open as tomorrow comes,
Please help me find that joy, that hope,
For this Christmas and for future ones.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Not the baby

A three year old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm.  ~B. Vaughan

You're three! Three! Too old to call my baby anymore. Even you insist you're a "boy" now to anyone who dare say otherwise. You're independent, headstrong, and so, so, smart. I laugh at something you say every day. The questions you ask and the phrases you use blow me away sometimes. I love to hear you count, and say your letters and numbers. I can see your personality out on a daily basis now. Glimpses of the man you'll grow up to be. You love to smile and to use that smile to weasel out of getting in trouble, and you definitely are a handful at times!  You're my helper in everything we do; cooking, shopping, driving. You even have an opinion on the clothes I pick out and try on. I love that you get songs stuck in your head and will sing them to yourself while you're playing. And I love that you still snuggle. At least you're not too old for your mom, yet. Happy Birthday sweet Little Bear!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Three’s a Crowd

It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge. ~P. Diller
Top 10 list of things that are more difficult with three children instead of two;
1. Trying to fit 3 car seats across the backseat of a 5 passenger car. Or as my husband and I call it - Car Seat Tetris
2. Holding hands in the parking lot or to cross the street.
3. When you have roast chicken for dinner and each kid wants a drumstick
4. When they play together, one of them is usually left out. This becomes a major war when the game they are playing involves the Xbox.
5. When they are all scheduled for activities and they somehow all have to be in a different place at the same time.
6. When you’re out shopping solo duty and one of them utters the dreaded “Mom, I have to go bathroom!”
7. When you’re out shopping with them and YOU have to go to the bathroom!
8. Telling them apart by voice from another room when you can hear that giggling that signifies they’re up to no good
9. When there are only two of you and all three need to be accompanied on the roller coaster at the amusement park
And my all time favorite -
10. Trying to keep a straight face. Especially when someone stops by out of the blue to witness your house trashed, the oldest one chasing the dog, the middle one playing train in the kitchen with the dining chairs and the youngest one running around the house with no pants. Because in this house that’s the usual after school activities that go on between homework and dinner.
Sometimes parenthood is all about keeping your sense of humor intact.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mirror Mirror

The world is as many times new as there are children in our lives. ~R. Brault
Seven. How can it be seven years have gone by already? I can still remember her fitting on my chest, curled up in one arm, and having sweet milky baby breath while she slept. Now she’s old enough that I can recall what I was like at her age. The likes, the dislikes, the fears, the fights. In so many ways its like looking into a mirror of my childhood. Silly, goofy, giggly, passionate, hot-tempered, dramatic. (Although I don’t remember being as dramatic as she is.) But she is our creative, beautiful, Monkey-bean. And we wouldn’t have her any other way. Its going to be a wonderful ride reliving my childhood with you. Happy birthday, baby.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Children’s Garden

You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. ~J. Rohn

I still cannot believe Scootch has grown this fast. I remember the summer after he was born, when my anxiety was still an immobilizing disorder. I remember that fear of going outside, the rush of uneasiness if I even thought about doing something that involved taking my baby out of the house. Thankfully, its been a long time since those days. But, I must admit that there is still fear of the unknown present, that little rush of discomfort, every morning as Scootch steps out of the house to meet the bus.
Scootch has been coached and prepped about his allergies and the food at school. Sit at the special table for lunch, don’t share food with your friends, always ask a grownup if you’re not sure about something, always ask if you’re given something we didn’t pack for you….he’s heard them all. He’s repeated them to me. We’ve practiced what to do if he feels like he’s having a reaction. I’ve tried to prepare him for any possibility he might encounter. And still, after all that, he could not wait to go to school. To conquer the great grown-up wonderland of changing classes, new teachers, riding the bus, having recess, and eating in the cafeteria. No fear for him. No reservations. I guess I must be doing something right that he isn’t terrified of leaving the safe sanctuary of home. Like I was. Sometimes I still am.
I find it ironic that I suffered through the worst anxiety disorder of my life after giving birth to the boy who now makes me worry the most. I sometimes wonder if that was my initiation period to becoming his mother. If you can conquer agoraphobia, night terrors, and anxiety attacks, this food allergy thing on a daily basis should be a walk in the park, right? It still doesn’t get any easier to let him go face the great big world alone without me. At least I knew my fears were in my mind. There really weren’t people waiting to run me down in the parking lot, or break into my house and steal my kids. Scootch’s allergies are real, and his reactions are even more terrifying. But being a parent means doing what’s best for your kids, and its in Scootch’s best interest to know how to take on the world by himself, a little bit at a time. Kindergarten means one small step for Scootch, but one giant leap for Mommy’s piece of mind.
Only 171 days left.

Friday, July 19, 2013


It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  ~J. Maynard

You're the happiest of little men when you get your way. Smiling, affectionate, and readily armed with a brilliant blue gaze. Trouble with being two and a half is that your life is a lesson in limits, and you don't like it. You become a 'little bear' in every sense of the word. You kick at me, scratch me, yell, collapse, and bang your head on the floor on purpose. It makes my heart ache to hear you so grieved and upset, but you need to learn. And sometimes I turn into you. When you are angry and yell and cry, I yell and cry too. And then we're both angry two year olds with pouty faces and stubborn hearts. Sometimes I wish you would just hurry up and grow through this phase already, but then I turn around and catch a glimpse of Monkey and Scootch, and realize that you'll be through this in the blink of an eye.
Which is why your nap time is my favorite time of day. Whether you want to lie down, or you're insisting you're "not tired," you still cling to me with your chubby arms around my neck. I lay you down in your little bed and you refuse to loosen your grip, so I lay my head down next to yours. And somehow, no matter what the fight was, all is forgiven. You look at my face and my eyes and offer me wet kisses. You sometimes still refuse that you need rest through your own yawns and my soft shushing. The music plays as the minutes pass and I watch you fight sleep, your little lids and lashes lowering and flickering. Your arms still locked around me,  fingers flexing against my neck in a mimic of my hand patting you on the back. I stroke my fingers through your hair and I can tell the moment sleep drags you away from me. I can feel it when the heavy weight of your embrace releases the slightest bit. And then I can ease away, tucking a stuffy in your arms as my replacement. You'll clutch at it and stir for a moment, but then fall back into your dreams. And when you wake up, we have both been given absolution. And we can both try again anew.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


We've had bad luck with our kids - they've all grown up. ~Christopher Morley

Scootch's birthday is in June, like mine. I never realized how emotional that could be. How him turning a year older would coincide with other milestones in school to pack a double whammy punch. This year he graduated from Preschool only one week after his birthday. Truly a big boy in every sense of the word. He sang, he danced, and marched down the aisle in his little white mortarboard with a big wave and a smile. So different from the introverted little 4 year old who I had to drag to orientation the first day, and refused to participate in class for an entire week.This big boy can write his name (first and last!), knows his address and phone number, and loves to do simple math and word games. He can read Hop on Pop all by himself, and tries to tell me what other words say everywhere we go. Fine motor skills are still a bit of a challenge, but he tries his best instead of just saying he "can't do it," and that's half the battle. He loves puzzles and building things, and made a couple of best friends in school. He asks me at least once a day if he's going to Kindergarten tomorrow. He absolutely cannot wait to board that bus with his sister in September and head off to new adventures. I, on the other hand, wish there was a time machine so I could go back for another cuddle and just hold onto him for a tiny bit longer as my sweet baby boy. Where does the time go?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Someday perhaps the inner light will shine forth from us, and then we'll need no other light.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
My depression most often makes me feel isolated. Unreachable. Unrelatable. Its the hardest type of battle because the entire time I’m feeling so cut off, the knowledge is there in the back of my mind that this is a prison of my own making. Not purposefully, but nonetheless. I know that the shadows and darkness I live in aren’t real, but constructed by my head. Yet, the invisible wall separating me from the rest of the world still seems unbreachable to me. Until there are instances that make me feel like I’m at the end of a light tube. When the moment of connecting to something or someone kindred to me beams in like sunshine of the outside world reflected in off of a series of mirrors to illuminate me internally inside the dark little cave in my mind.
This was posted a week before my Mother’s birthday - but I didn’t see it until months later, until after passing the anniversary of her death. I was true to my promise from years before, and planted a garden that day. Trying to use the anniversary of her death as a day to remember to celebrate life instead of dwell on the loss. But I still have been walking around numb and isolated until I read this; a letter Joan Carpenter’s daughter, Karin Cook, wrote to her mother over a decade after she passed. Another mother, another daughter, another lifetime. But the pain, the love, the loss, the uncertainty are all the same. Transcending the differences between us and uniting me to her, if only for a few minutes.

Dear Mom,
What time was I born?
When did I walk?
What was my first word?
My body has begun to look like yours. Suddenly I can see you in me. I have so many questions. I look for answers in the air. Listen for your voice. Anticipate. Find meaning in the example of your life. I imagine what you might have said or done. Sometimes I hear answers in the echo of your absence. The notion of mentor is always a little empty for me. Holding out for the hope of you. My identity has taken shape in spite of that absence. There are women I go to for advice. But advice comes from the outside. Knowing, from within. There is so much I don't know.
What were your secrets?
What was your greatest source of strength?
When did you know you were dying?
I wish I had paid closer attention. The things that really matter you gave me early on—a way of being and loving and imagining. It's the stuff of daily life that is often more challenging. I step unsure into a world of rules and etiquette, not knowing what is expected in many situations. I am lacking a certain kind of confidence. Decisions and departures are difficult. As are dinner parties. Celebrations and ceremony. Any kind of change. Small things become symbolic. Every object matters—that moth-eaten sweater, those photos. Suddenly I care about your silverware. My memory is an album of missed opportunities. The loss of you lingers.
Did you like yourself?
Who was your greatest love?
What did you fear most?
In the weeks before your death, I knew to ask questions. At nineteen, I needed to hear your hopes for me. On your deathbed, you said that you understood my love for women, just as you suggested you would have fought against it. In your absence, I have had to imagine your acceptance.
There are choices I have made that would not have been yours. Somehow that knowledge is harder for me than if I had you to fight with. My motions lack forcefulness. I back into decisions rather than forge ahead. This hesitancy leaves me wondering:
Did you ever doubt me?
Would you have accepted me?
What did you wish for me?
I know that my political choices threatened you. Your way was to keep things looking good on the outside, deny certain feelings, erase unpleasant actions. Since your death, I have exposed many of the things that you would have liked to keep hidden. I can no longer hold the family secrets for you.
I search for information about your life. Each scrapbook, letter, anecdote I come across is crucial to my desire to understand you and the choices you made. I have learned about affairs, abuse, all things you would not have wanted me to know. Yet they explain the missing blanks in my memory bank and round out your humanity.
Who did you dream you would be?
Did you ever live alone?
Why did you divorce?
Did you believe in God?
One thing you said haunts me still. When I asked about motherhood, you said that children don't need as much as you gave. "Eighty percent is probably plenty." I was shocked by your words. Did you regret having given so much of yourself? Now, those words seem like a gift. A way of offering me a model of motherhood, beyond even your own example.
Becoming a mother is something I think about a great deal, almost to the point of preoccupation. I have heard it said that constant dreaming about birth often signals a desire to birth one's self, to come into one's own. My process of grieving the loss of you has been as much about birthing myself as letting you go.
What were your last thoughts?
Were you proud?
Were you at peace?
What is it like to die?
How frightened you must have been shouldering so much of your illness alone. The level of your own isolation is a mystery to me. In my life, I try hard to reach out, to let others in. I fear loss more than anything. I turn on my computer. Make things up. I tell the truth. My daily work is toward connection. All these questions move me to search, less and less for your answers and increasingly for my own.

“My process of grieving the loss of you has been as much about birthing myself as letting you go.” I never thought one little sentence could embrace me so completely. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be understood, truly empathized with, instead of just pitied and consoled. And just like that I can remember myself. Light pours in, and I can see a way to go on. Up. Out of the darkness.
Thank you for the light.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"It's a girl"

Men get laid, but women get screwed.  ~Quentin Crisp

It is no secret I am was terrified of having a daughter. Especially having an oldest daughter. There is no end to the dangers and injustices of being a female, and my greatest fears are of her being subjected to any one of them. I was the baby in my family. The younger child, the youngest of my girlfriends. I grew up always feeling like I had an added layer of protection. I remember my brother teaching me Akido when I was 14. I remember his guy friends - my “other” brothers - popping up at the most embarrassing times and chasing off anyone paying attention to me that was of the opposite sex. I think it somewhat made me more aware of my own personal safety. People stressing about me being vulnerable made me self conscious about putting myself in those situations (lest my brother and his friends show up). Moreso when I was older and attending night classes in college in the heart of a small city. An abandoned hotel that housed a community of vagrants sat directly across the street from my building where I attended class. And the last words my (female) professor would always say as we left after 9pm were, “Stay in pairs!”  But in those growing years, I always felt protected. It makes me wonder how I can make my daughter feel the same sense of security.
I know I can't hold onto her forever. Monkey might only be six years old, but the eye rolling and frustration with me being around her all the time is already making an appearance. But how do you let them fly without worrying about them getting ensnared in a trap once they leave your sight? How do you raise her with the lesson that her voice is important, and should be heeded, when all around us, everyday, the public, the politicians, the religious leaders, are all disregarding women’s rights and demeaning women's roles or trying to pass legislation on our bodies and what we're “allowed” to do with them? When women are ridiculed as being ugly and frumpy if they're spotted in an outfit consisting of anything loose and comfortable, and even young girls who haven’t hit double digits in age are being pressurized by retailers and the media to be “sexy” and “flirty.” Or when a photo of the private parts of a female celebrity are bigger news than the movie she is promoting. Whose voice is going to be louder in her life? The few encouraging her from the nest, or the drowning cacophony from outside? I go to bed at night after tucking her in, and all I see in my head is how many examples of how to be female is to live the life of a double standard.

And now the Steubenville case has me up at night, even more anxious than before. The case in itself is a nightmare, but I think what is making me so violently ill is the reaction to the verdict. News outlets and people from all walks of life remarking on how sad it is that these smart, promising, young men will now be forever haunted by what they have done. How their once bright futures will be forever tarnished. I want to know one good reason why they shouldn't be forever affected by what they did, like their victim will be. And it would also be extremely interesting to know how such “bright,” “smart,” “promising,” young men weren't bright enough or smart enough to know that drugging someone to victimize them is wrong. That someone in a vulnerable position doesn't equal a puppet to be played with and exploited, and then photographed so the images could then be uploaded to the internet and traded like virtual playing cards of their atrocities. What kind of world is this that we have created for our children where rape culture is the celebrated standard?
The realization is that as much attention I need to be giving to developing a strong, confident daughter, I need to double up on teaching my sons to be kind and respectful. Chivalrous, even. Boys who will respect when someone tells them “no.” Who will have empathy and helpfulness towards others, and be aware of another’s feelings and how they are effecting them. I need to instill their own confidence in themselves, so they are less likely to follow a crowd for validation, and hopefully more likely to stand up for someone else, even if they are standing alone. I learned all about the bystander effect in college taking classes for my psychology minor. How insecure and scared of their peers must these teens in Steubenville have been that after the THREE parties that this girl was dragged to, not ONE person stood up, or reported, or intervened on her behalf? Peer pressure can trump conscience very easily, but my hope is to raise children who would try to be a voice of reason and restraint.

Change always seems insurmountable until precipitated by some life altering event. I really wish this wasn't so. I wish we humans would lend more credit to foresight and preparation instead of crisis management and reaction strategies. But for every daughter that is raped, there is also a son who is a rapist. I’m hoping and praying that this house has neither. But in the meantime, I'm going to do my best to teach them how to manage the ugly truth of the world. Maybe when they grow up, they can change it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I find myself unable to articulate well enough when people ask me about my day so they can fully comprehend what its like. I also wonder if this is just what its like for me, and not for anyone else. I feel wholly unprepared for the stress of this life I lead. Other people carry on with their lives with seemingly much more impressive challenges, and sometimes I find myself hiding in a corner by nightfall, trying to make the thoughts stop cycling inside my head, just for spending the day home alone with my children for 10 hours. I am incapable of escaping the stress mothering brings.

I never realized how much being a mother meant your body and emotions were reduced to collateral damage by the lives of your children. As much as everyone tells you, reminds you, and writes columns in every parenting magazine available about keeping calm and simplifying life to keep down stress, there are just no tips to help you when your daughter has an unscheduled half day and will be coming home on the bus 45 minutes after your son’s dentist appointment starts. Or when at that same dental appointment, your youngest suddenly has a paralyzing fear of the office and refuses to go down the hall so you can be in the room with your son while he’s getting a procedure done. By the time you do get home with only a minute to spare before the bus pulls up to drop off your daughter, you’re so stretched thin and emotionally raw you feel like an exposed live wire. And then you need to spend the rest of the day refereeing the arguments, overseeing the homework completion, redirecting the two year old so he’ll lose interest in stuffing the puzzle erasers in his mouth, and hopefully find some time to plan and prep dinner because you have parent teacher conferences to attend later in the evening. And that’s a mild day compared to some of the worst. There is so much scheduling, and reminders, and deadlines to keep track of that it never all makes it onto the same calendars. I think if I lost my phone at this point, it would set us all back at least six months, since that’s the planner that is the most handy, and therefore the most up to date.
When people insist I need to take time off for myself I want to laugh in their face, because I am never able to turn “off” completely. I don't get 5 minutes to myself in the bathroom let alone enough time to do anything meaningful like exercise or something like that. Going out anywhere involves so much preparation for childcare and bedtime routine setup, coupled with the incessant worrying the entire time I’m away from the house about the health and safety of my kids that it morphs into making me more tense than when I started. To be honest, the best alone time would just be being allowed to lie in on a Saturday morning for an extra hour without being jolted awake by the sounds my kids throwing things off the top of the bunk bed, or crashing their bodies through my bedroom door to announce they’ve pooped. Or want breakfast. Or both of those things. I have hobbies, but I’m never able to pursue more than one at a time, because there just aren’t many, if any, hours in the day I can spend just doing something that doesn’t need to be done by tomorrow morning. Because being needed all day by three little beings takes up all of my waking hours. I haven’t even been able to manage an uninterrupted cup of tea in the past two years, unless you count the one I had while on vacation in Canada when there were five other people around to distract my children for me. It’s sad, really.
And I find myself depressed by all of this. Not just the fact that I’m failing at doing a good, sane job of being a mother. I’m disappointed because this is the only chance I’m going to get of watching them at this age, the one shot I have of seeing them through these stages. And both my memories and their perceptions are going to be colored and warped by the stress that is constantly hovering and permeating our lives. Every day I promise myself I’m going to go slower, I’m going to savor my time with them, and every day that promise is broken amidst the dash to the bus stop in the morning, or the hustling to make preschool on time, or the race to make and eat lunch before pickup, and on and on. What I would give to be able to play in the laundry pile with them one morning, and maybe have time to make a hot breakfast without them having a breakdown in the meantime because they NEED to EAT! RIGHT NOW! It makes me wonder who would savor the memory of such a perfect day more? Me or them? They would probably remember most vividly the exquisiteness of such a morning, but I think it would be more sacred to me. A reaffirmation of sorts that I still exist in the remains of myself that have been splintered by motherhood. Not only that I exist, but that I can still be fulfilled by a day well lived. Restored and rejuvenated to try again to lead a life well done.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Paying for Permanence

You may lose your most valuable property through misfortune in various ways.  You may lose your house, your wife and other treasures.  But of your moko, you cannot be deprived except by death.  It will be your ornament and companion until your last day.  ~Netana Whakaari

My mother's Grace Kelly photo
As an adult myself, most of my regrets about my mother are about never knowing her as a grownup. I was right on that cusp of learning all about her past and fleshing her out as a 3 dimensional human being when she passed, so all I'm stuck with is my childhood perception of a woman whose favorite color was orange, loved to teach and to sing, and hated anything that tasted like raspberries.
I might be biased, but I think it makes an impact on your self image when you really have no archetype to guide yourself by growing up besides the airbrushed models in a magazine. Getting older now is even harder.Choosing clothing becomes an exercise in toeing the line between kosher and Cougartown. Its not like high school when you knew what not to wear. Over one hundred fellow classmates created quite the learning standard. Nowadays I just follow the rule of keeping as covered as possible while I try to keep up the New Year's resolution of exercising and eating better. And most days I wish I had my mother to talk to, because I know she would empathize with me. I imagine her growing older more gracefully than my blind man's stumble I've got going on. She had already mastered Weight Watchers, and Mary Kay, and how to apply Loving Care by the time she was my age. And thinking about this reminded me of a happy discovery many years back.
For her 43rd birthday, she got Glamour Shots done for herself as a gift. I remember this distinctly, because she was very dissatisfied with her looks and her weight. And she left for her appointment grumbling that she didn't think they'd be able to make her look any younger. I thought she looked like a movie star, and fell in love with one of the proofs that she didn't have printed. As a surprise, she had the proof copied for me and presented it to me in a frame. After she died I wanted to re-frame it and was surprised to discover an inscription on the back.

Just recently, while being dissatisfied with my own self image, I remembered about the whole thing; the pictures, her grumblings, and the gift with the surprise message on the back. I realized this would be a perfect memory to keep in my face day to day. Not only my mother's love, but her whole perception about love and beauty. Maybe I was the influence for her that made her decide that middle age wasn't as bad as she thought. Perhaps her eleven year old daughter's adoration over her looking like Grace Kelly made her feel better about herself. I'd like to hope so. And I'd like to remind myself that, every day. So, I concluded it was time to do something for myself that would make me feel beautiful, and decided to get her words inked on my arm as a tattoo. A permanent message to serve as my reminder that not only am I loved from above, but that my own daughter is watching me, and seeing, too. If anything I need to keep my eyes open and upward for her. To try and remember to see myself through her eyes. Hopefully it will help me be kinder to myself as well.
Missing my mother is an evolving beast. I've gotten over it in some areas, substituted in most, and still wallow in a personal pity party in one deep, buried, corner of my emotional closet.  Its also hard not having many tangible things to remember her by. My sentimentality about objects didn't kick in until after she was gone, so I never kept birthday cards or the little notes in my lunchbox she used to leave me. But this I can carry with me. Not just in my heart, or my memories, but as a part of me. Solid, beautiful, and permanent.