Don’t Underestimate Yourself

There have been too many occasions for which my mother has had to fly in to rescue me.  In my defense, if I were to outline each of these insurmountable situations, you would absolutely agree that rescue was needed, hands down.  So, it’s not that I am a weak or incapable being, but if I were one of my sisters, or one of the three hundred other people who count on my mom for four million things, I might be slightly annoyed at daughter number four for her uncanny knack for attracting the impossible.

That said, one of these times specifically involved pre-term labor, a rambunctious 15 month old with a broken leg, a 16 ton cast, and doctor’s orders to “take it easy”  (Because that phrase means so much to a mother of a 15 month old.)  But, off she flew from East to West to help me do just that.  She was there about a week before Isabelle decided that 40 week pregnancies are for suckers and 36 was quite enough, thank you very much.

During the weeks that followed, she helped my husband and I as we ran ragged trying to juggle two babies, and I dreaded the day that she would go.  I kept on saying “how on earth am I going to do this by myself?  There isn’t any way! How does anyone do this?!”

But, the day came.  My mother had responsibilities at home that had been neglected for too long.  Her own 95 (then 93) year old mother lives in her care, as well as my younger brother who has Down Syndrome. I had her for a whole month – Only-child style.  It was then that I learned that we can surprise ourselves by our strength, resilience and resourcefulness once we are forced to go it alone.

The days and months ahead were not easy by any means, but I did actually learn that I could put two kids in the car without forgetting one of them in the driveway or the on roof of the car.  Coming to the realization that you are not a complete moron feels really good.  Thank you Mom, for cutting the cord.

Speaking of cutting cords….my mother swooped in the day before  my vocal surgery and stayed for five days, three days longer than planned.  After umpteen phone calls from my brother and grandmother, the guilt overtook me and I sent her home.  I had only two more days before I would hopefully be able speak, and although my husband was working late for both of them I felt confident I would surprise myself with my brilliant and silent coping skills.

The first solo bedtime was a complete disaster and it was made abundantly clear that there is absolutely no way in hell you can take care of preschool aged children without speaking to them with no other adult present.

And yet, I was again reminded of my resourcefulness.

I picked up the phone and sent a text to the babysitter.

See?  Trust yourself.  You are capable.  You are strong.  You have everything you need.

Shhhhhh. Highlights

The day after my surgery, deadlines still loomed. I mean, really doesn’t the Board of Education know that my vocal cords take precedence over the mission of closing the achievement gap for inner-city children? 

So off I went to the New Jersey Department of Education to take a health exam (necessary due to the fact that my bachelor’s degree is in tap dancing and lacks the credits necessary to teach children.) Or something like that. 

I couldn’t find the correct building and ended up in a police parking lot. I got out of the car and handed a cop my phone on which I had typed a message,  similar to all other messages I have written anytime I have needed to communicate with strangers since Wednesday. 

 I just had vocal surgery and can’t speak. I need —–

What I find most amusing about this practice is observing the unanimous expressions in the faces of all those being handed my phone. It’s the same every time. It goes from a scrunched nose, pinchy-eyed sneer – a “who is this yahoo handing me her phone?” sort of look.  Then about 4.5 seconds through the message the wrinkles melt to an “Oh. I’m an asshole. Let me be nice to make up for being an asshole” look. 

Every time. Makes me giggle. Of course not out loud because laughing is forbidden on vocal rest.  Terrible for your cords. Right up there with whispering which is on the same level as screaming. No joke. Who knew?

Ok, so that was fun. And so was the test which could have been passed by the world’s largest imbecile. One of the questions:

True or False: 

Drinking beer is a good substitute for whisky because it is less likely to affect liver function and create addiction. 

Really. 

I Handed in the test and exited the building wearing an expression of “look at me crossing things off the list exactly one day after surgery.   Who is more incredible than I?”

The next stop was a family trip to Target for diapers.  But on the way in, I spotted a sundress which I felt I simply must try on. It’s hotter than bejesus here and you just can’t have too many Target sundresses, wouldn’t you agree?

I left my mother with Isabelle, my husband with Zachary and sauntered (how do you walk through Target?) to the dressing room. I put the dress on and went searching for my mom to see what she thought of it. A minute and a half later, I returned to an empty dressing room. I found three red-shirted employees to whom I mouthed with frantic and slightly psychotic hand gestures “where are my clothes?!”   I had left my phone with my mom and was therefore without my electronic crutch.   They looked at me with a mixture of pity, confusion and I swear, a glimmer of fear.  I searched myself while they watched, quite amused, and found my dress in the trash under the counter. 

Now, herein lies the greatest lesson vocal rest might have to offer for one who is incapable of letting things lie. I so badly wanted to ask why on earth my dress was thrown away. Put on a hanger? On the desk? Left in the room?  Sure. But why would it be thrown in the trash during my minute and a half absence? 

Here is where we learn “economy of language” folks.  Ask yourself this:

If you had to type out everything you wanted to say on a blasted auto-correcting iPhone, just how many things would be slashed off of the “need to know” list? 

Exactly.

Still on the day’s to do list was a trip to the bank. Now this, I suggest everyone try, just once. Hold up your phone to the teller’s window and don’t say a word. Watch her expression as she reads your message.

 Jolly Good Fun. 

Communication with the kids is a whole different entry as I am reeling from today’s nightmare of having to leave my son on the side of the road with my mother because his behavior was so atrocious he could no longer be allowed in the car. 

I do believe that no matter how much my mother and others have stepped in to make this doable, children do actually need their mothers to speak to them. With actual words. (Or sign language if both parties know more than the handful of baby signs we learned before our kids learned to speak). I know. Shocking revelation.

But, God bless my mother who has royally saved my ass this week, stepping in to tend to every squabble, whine and need. (Hubby is directing and choreographing a show and has been gone all day, everyday). I do believe there has only been one “My children never acted like this” comment. Ironically, this came no less than five minutes after I snapped my fingers at her to ask her something. 

 Another entry….

 About my children. Not hers. That’s her blog to write and deny. 

Vow of Silence

No.  Not the one I apparently took 3 months ago when I stopped writing this blog.

A Vow to embark on a profound, life-altering spiritual journey.  My soul knows no bounds when it comes to stretching beyond its comfort zone into the far off places of ethereal and seldom explored energy.  I’m just that way.  Always have been.

Ever since I delved into the masterpiece, Eat, Pray, Love  (back when I had the time to delve into anything other than “Once Upon a Potty”), I too have wanted to leave my family and all those I hold dear, move to India and go within.  Flee to a world of Silence.  (Of course I would also like to eat my way through Italy first and gain an additional 15 pounds, because quite frankly, this year I am on a roll, but I digress.)

Silence

Silence – Meaning no speaking.

Not. A. Word.

I decided that this simply must be done to clear out the cobwebs that have clouded the nooks and crannies of my ever-so-chatty brain.  And what better time to do it than when one is the caretaker of a two and three-year-old who are not in any camp or school and therefore spend all of their time at home trying to kill one another  playing Candyland, painting, crafting and enjoying many other family activities to enrich the rapidly expanding mind. They don’t need a mother who speaks to them.  They listen to about 5% of what I have to say anyway. It is because of these wholesome practices that they have learned to be quite capable of going off and entertaining themselves in healthy, fruitful and non-violent ways.

So, it begins. Six days of absolute silence…My courageous act of Martyrdom.

Yes. Martyrdom.

Because I believe all shall benefit from the lessons I am about to learn from my walk into the far off depths of Solitude.  While the children spin, yell, fist fight and roll around me, I shall remain untouched.  Quiet.  Stoic.

And I tell you this.  Hear me and hear me well…

This choice has absolutely nothing to do with the two cysts that were sliced off of my vocal cords at New York Presbyterian Hospital while I floated in the abyss of general anesthesia and narcotics this morning.

Nothing.

It has very little to do with the strict Doctor’s orders to refrain from uttering as much as a word, whispered or non.  Nor does it have to do with the threat that I will never sing again should I decide to disregard these orders.

I do this for me.  For my soul.  For my Family.  And really, for the good of

All Human Life Everywhere.

Day one of the journey complete.

Don’t call to thank me.  I can’t answer the phone.

Motherfog Fact-Check – All statements are true and correct.  Except for the hogwosh about a spiritual journey.  Gotta shut-up, peeps.  And this stuff HAS to be documented for my children.  

James and the Giant What?

My son has been showing more interest in longer story books. At three months shy of four, I wasn’t sure if he had the attention span for a chapter book, but I felt it worth a trip to the library.

I have fond bedtime memories of “James and the Giant Peach”, although my Mother must have omitted some of Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker’s dialogue.  I certainly have no recollection of threatened brutal beatings, wishes for a broken neck or a possible night alone in a dark well.  Nor do I recall James being referred to as an “ass” by Mr. Old-Green-Grasshopper.

So, following her lead, the other evening we dove into our “G” version of the juicy tale, while his little sister sat on the floor, dismantling a box of Superhero band-aids.

Speeding through it, my son soaked up the story like a sponge, his imagination making up for sparse illustrations.  He became so hooked that at a live theatre showing of “Super Why” (last Tuesday’s special Mommy-Son date),  he requested I read a few chapters during intermission. When the flashing lights and thunderous music returned with the vigor of a rock concert , it’s quite possible my son threw a small tantrum over stowing the book before finding out just what happened to the green crystals in the white paper bag after James’ unfortunate stumble over a tree root.

Later that evening, I marveled at his retention, making a mental note to begin his Harvard college savings fund.  Every couple of chapters, I checked for comprehension by asking questions.

“Where are James’ parents?”

“They got eaten by a giant rhinoceros!”

“Who are Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker?”

“His aunts”

“Are they nice?”

“No!”

“What did Miss Spider make everyone?”

“She spun them beds to sleep in”

He even foreshadowed the ghastly squashing of the Aunts by the giant rolling fruit, which most certainly shows early signs of sociopathy an advanced cognitive ability  for problem solving.

Hmmm. Perhaps a double major at both MIT and Harvard, I thought proudly before proceeding on to chapter 17.

Using all of my top-notch conservatory drama training, I had both kids on the edge of the bed, staring wide-eyed as James and his buggy friends were violently jostled around their dwelling as it crashed through town, off a cliff and into the sea.

“Mommy, stop! Wait. Who is jostled?”

“James and the insects”

“Why?  Why are they jostled?”

“Because they are inside the peach.”

“Who is inside the peach?”

“James and the insects”

“Why are they inside a peach?”

…..oh, dear.

LAX to JFK

I am currently 30,000 feet in the air, heading home to my family after one long and luxurious week on the west coast.

My jaunt began in Northern California and ended in my old Los Angeles stomping ground where this blog was conceived, along with my children and all the turmoil a 30 something’s crisis can muster.

The trip was for work, although I hardly think singing musical theatre tunes in the middle of glorious wine country could be qualified as such. None the less, I do have my paycheck tucked in my purse, safely stowed in the overhead compartment above me because items do tend to shift during flight.

Santa Rosa, just outside of San Francisco, is breathtaking, along with most everywhere else in Northern California, and my time there was scrumptious. I got to meet naptimewriting and her spouse for the first time after a year of cyber-bonding through writing, and all of us chatted over cocktails and snacks in the hotel wine bar after the performance. We could have talked for hours, but some of us had to get home to put babies to bed. Some. Myself not included. That was strange and amazing, wrapped inside a tortilla of guilt.

I spent the next day meandering through wine country with another dear friend, wondering whose life I quantum leapt into. It was surreal and odd with a devilish splash of Sauvignon Blanc and a side of Brie. Ok. Enough with the food and beverage references. Clearly I’m hungry and they don’t serve food on flights anymore. (I was given a blanket which I haven’t seen in years and I wonder how many got laid off for that cuddly perk)

Once all of my friends had left, I had an evening alone in the hotel before heading off for the second leg of my trip. It’s ironic how much we ache for this alone time, compiling mental lists of all we could accomplish if we had it, but find ourselves rather lost when blessed with silence. Mommy brains must undergo some scientific process of evolution, rendering them useless outside the midst of madness, mess and chaos.

I got nothing completed that evening, other than ingesting entirely too much food off the hotel restaurant menu while emailing a friend about how much I missed my babies.

It occurred to me at that moment that a week is an extremely long block of time. Four days might be the max for mommy-child, bi-coastal distance…just from my experience. But Los Angeles awaited, and the children were in the amazing and quite capable hands of Mr. Mom.

I landed at LAX and immediately felt like I was home. My time there would be brief so I told very few that I was coming. There were girlfriends on my list that had priority. Three of them, all of whom helped me through the insanity of being a new Mom, witnessing first-hand what I now recognize as postpartum anxiety, became pregnant before our move back east and would deliver just after we left.

“Thanks for all the help in supporting me through these couple of years and loving me in spite of all my batshit crazy, guys! Good luck! Peace out!”

How kind of me.

But these cherubs were calling, and had to be met and held by yours truly, If even for a brief moment. I was amazed and a bit humbled by how easy these ladies made it look. One was kind enough to say she learned from me, but I am quite certain I never exhibited such grace and ease with motherhood during my time in LA. A tornado, frantically spinning through the town with no clear path or direction, wreaking havoc on all who meet it, is the only picture that comes to mind.

That said, the juxtaposition during this trip was surreal. I visited all of the special hideaways that brought me peace during emotional and confusing times. I made my way to what we have named “Kennedy’s beach” and had a brief moment with our first-born. But, oddly I didn’t feel any closer to her than I do on a daily basis. It became clear yesterday, that that place was for us, to give us something symbolic to think of and visit. But our actual physical presence there isn’t necessary for her closeness.

I hiked the hike that pulled me, on a daily basis through every step of healing from her loss, trying to conceive again, and finally to a place where hope throughout my pregnancy with Zachary was allowed. If I had left a grain of sand for every agonizing thought and emotion processed on Fryman Canyon, it would be veritable trail of quicksand.

These sacred places, along with every nook and cranny surrounding them, right down to our neighborhood grocery store, brought flashes of specific moments all having to do with these emotionally dense and soul-shaping years.

As I now have some sort of direction, with a new career that invigorates and gives me purpose (I know I haven’t yet told you anything about that. See blogger’s note at the bottom) I feel like I’m visiting these places with a new set of eyes. Everything seems slower. More deliberate.

A long exhale.

So, while a week is too long, and I miss my family like the dickens, this trip was priceless in every way.

And necessary.

California will always have a substantial slice of my heart, but now it’s time to go home. My babies are waiting at JFK.

Blogger’s Note:
I will share more about the job, but it didn’t fit in this post. However, I feel it’s annoying to be so cryptic. Especially if I am going to drop off the face of the blog world for months at a time. (Which it seems I may do)

The short version:
I have been offered a performing arts teaching position at a remarkable charter school in Newark. As the top charter school in the country, it is overhauling the face of urban education. Stay tuned for more details, but I am so honored to have been chosen to be a part of this school that is literally changing lives daily…for good.

#couldn’tresist

Flu Etiquette Poll

Sickness seems to be rampant this year, at least in these here parts.  So, I thought a little poll-taking would be fun, just to see how much we all care about our fellow-man. It’s quick, it’s easy, and there’s no judgement.  Unless I disagree with your answer.

Here we go.  A couple of hypotheticals.

Strictly Hypothetical.

1.) You are on vacation.  Four days into your sunshine and bliss, you come down with the flu.  Surely caught from another Germy Influenzite within the stuffy confines of the aircraft on your way to aforementioned sunny and blissful destination.   The night before your scheduled departure to Coldville (your home-town), the thought of getting two children up at 5 a.m. to get them on a plane as you, yourself struggle to stop the room from being a simulated Gravitron ride feels impossible.  But, personal nausea aside, you are most certainly not germ-free and are quite possibly a walking flu missile.  Do you:

A.) Pay the $1200 in change fees to spare your fellow passengers (but continue to infect your in-laws with whom you are staying).

B.) Suffer through the torture, and get everyone home to their own beds and say a prayer for all those innocents flying North along with your toxicity.

C.) Find another solution that will make me feel stupid that I did not think of it myself.

 

2.) Once home, your spouse must work, leaving you to care for two small children in your pathetic sickly state.  Do you:

A.) Call a babysitter to come help, risking her health

B.) Beg a family member to come help, also risking their health

C.) Suffer through it and  actually sob to your three-year old and two-year old, begging them to go easy on you as they stare, utterly confused.

 

The Beach -Take 2

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog in September of 2011 was called “The Beach”

Have a quick read and you’ll understand why I have omitted our sandy coasts from the list of possible family outing locations. But these past 17 months have done wonders to heal the emotional trauma created on that fateful day, and I agreed to return this afternoon.

I now must announce that due to the two extra set of hands profound growth and maturation of my now three and two year old, from steadfast and strict parenting techniques that began from that day forward, resulting in consistent, dutiful adherence to my rules, astute listening skills, desire and need to please their guardians and therefore quickly follow our every direction, I can officially claim that my love and appreciation for the rolling tides and tranquil magic of the ocean, Pacific or Atlantic, has been restored

See for yourself.

20130116-153510.jpg

20130116-153527.jpg

20130116-153542.jpg

20130116-154318.jpg

Please feel free to contact me for expert parenting advice.

(Or…just bring a couple of extra adults along with you when you decide to take small children to the beach.)

Fact Check – all statements are true and correct, except for those insinuating I have any idea what the hell I am doing.