Tag Archives: motherhood

It’s Not You, It’s Me.

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We fired our cleaning ladies this morning. It’s a little heartbreaking because we’ve had them for years.

The urge to do it wasn’t an urge at all, but a slowly moving snowball rolling down a 30˚ slope toward my face. I am at the bottom of the hill, lying in a pile of my own havoc and the havoc foisted upon me by my three wonderful and active boys, two dogs, busier than bananas husband and newly busy self.

It’s probably The Worst Time of The Year for me to do this, to let them go. Halloween candy wrappers everywhere. Dog hair is at an all-time high although I’m not sure why because don’t golden retrievers keep their hair in the fall? Tree leaves and those little sharp-as-frack seed pods from the tulip poplars are all over my front walk-up, they look like confetti in my front hall, and in other places they have assembled in neat little piles beneath my dusty furniture. They’re insulated by the dog hair; perhaps they will all commingle and create a small yet dense forest beneath the bench near the umbrella stand crammed into a darkened corner.

I can feel it in my gut: letting the Cleaning Ladies Go is The Wrongest Idea Ever.

The thing is: it’s me. I can’t do it all. I turn into a VIPER FROM HELL the day before they cleaning ladies come. I’ve written about it and I’ve also suppressed the hell out of my emotions regarding this situation.

“Three boy,” one says in her broken English. She’s a lovely person. “That mean hard works for ju. Ees a lawt.” Part of me realizes this is an affirmation on their part that I NEED them. That I can’t exist without them.

I can exist without them. I just won’t clean my microwave without them. When I see them, I want to fold into their ample bosoms and heave and cry because it IS A LAWT. Driving to soccer five times weekly, music lessons twice, therapy once, teaching yoga four times a week, taking yoga just once, grocery shopping, cooking, walking dogs, laundry (just mine and the youngest’s), using the bathroom, and wiping down a freaking countertop … We don’t really over-schedule our kids, but I’m wiped out by Friday and that’s when they come. Fridays. And peeps, having them come the same week as my Lady Time, IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER.

don't eff with me.

the cleaning ladies are coming and I’ve been bleeding and sleepless for four days? don’t eff with me.

Prepping for the cleaning ladies and then having my kids NOT HELP AT ALL hits a very exposed nerve.

It taps the utterly most raw and deepest part of me: feeling invisible and unheard. That I don’t matter. That I’m replaceable.

It’s not the cleaning ladies who do this; they are amazing. They get that shit done in two hours and the house is presentable. It’s my team. My family. I honestly fantasize about taking off to Newark and finding a five-star hotel and crashing there, using all my yoga teacher money to stay one hour there and then get back in the car and drive to Trenton where I can find a diner and order a grilled cheese on rye and a bowl of tomato soup and I’ll use the VISA rebate gift card I got when I switched contact lenses last month. Then I’ll buy gas with the rest of the balance and drive back home to children who when they see me after my long, unexpected and restful journey, will say,

“Where are my cleats?”

So it’s not you, dear cleaning ladies, it’s me. I can’t handle the stress of prepping for you the night before. My kids don’t give a damn and having you show up just to stack the piles of their collective crap, and the crap I’ve not put away in time and the crap my husband hasn’t put away in time… It’s not worth it. Not this time of year. Not when Thanksgiving is three weeks away and then freakin’ Christmas. (“Mom, can we get a PlayStation 4??? Everyone says our PS3 sucks…” <– that. I want to take a sledgehammer to the PS3 and ask them if it really sucks then.)

When I say to people, my public, these things… these sort of quasi-deep yet revelatory (if you get where I’m really coming from) confessions about the State of my State, it’s because I’m tired. I’m tired of being The Answerer here.

The other night, we grilled the most fabulous pork chops. They were on the grill for 20 minutes after marinating in brown sugar and mustard at room temperature for about four hours. My husband, whom I love, cut into the chop and asked me, “Is this done?” as he showed me the cut loin.

Internally I SCREAMED, “WHO THE FUCK AM I? A HUMAN GRILL THERMOMETER? DO I LOOK LIKE WOLFGANG FREAKING PUCK??” but externally I coolly said, “Sure.” And returned to sharpening my knives.

I am not Everyone’s Mommy here. I am a human being too.  Everyone knows that when I’m sharpening knives, I’m NOT to be disturbed. That’s why I walk around with the sharpening steel at all times now.

So this morning, I did what I could. When he was getting ready for his escape from the house work this morning, my husband sensed my disposition. It couldn’t have been the knife-sharpening again…

“Ev-everything ok, hon?”

“No. Yes. No. It’s all FUBAR,” I said. “I can’t do this alone. There’s a hammer in the dining room and I don’t know why; my pruning shears are in the bathroom — I DIDN’T DO IT… and shit everywhere. A firewood log in the playroom?? Cleats, shin guards, soccer balls, those effing black rubber flecks from turf fields… I want to stab a phone book except THOSE don’t exist anymore…”

“Let’s just cancel them.” He said.

IT WAS LIKE THE SUN SHONE IN MY HOUSE. The angels were singing.

So he left and I did what I could.

I prepped the front walk-up. I swept the leaves and seed pods out of the way. I got rid of catalogs (OY! WITH THE CATALOGS!). What I really need to do is go out with the girls in my life. But we’re all so busy. I think this is why people plan adventures to far-flung places (Hoboken) and get impossibly drunk because when you’re on a schedule like the ones we endure, there’s no time for R&R.

I know I sound ungrateful. I’m not. I’m blessed like no one’s business. Three healthy boys, a great marriage, the dogs, the yoga teaching and so much shit that I lose my mind every fortnight to get it the hell out of the way. I get it; it’s just … that I’D LIKE SOME HELP for THE HELP.

I know they’ll be back. I’m no fool. The cleaning ladies are my heroin(es).

They just got here. No joke. Gotta get back to making little piles…

Bye.

Thank you.

The Most Elegant Snow

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The most elegant snow is falling outside. It’s a gorgeous, fluffy and soft-landing snow.

I just returned from an hour-long outing with the dogs after dropping my youngest at school.

Before we left, the snow began. Ever the opportunist, he offered, “Do you think they will cancel school today?”

I smirked at his smirk and shook my head saying, “No honey. The buses are already on the road. And we will be late if we don’t get a move on.”

Charlie, our puppy, about 15? weeks is doing well. He wears a head collar now, to prevent him from hurting his neck and throat with all his enthusiastic pulling. He leads almost every step with both his feet, bounding from his hind legs. He loathes his head collar, bucking.

My son likes to take a leash to walk the dogs on the way to school. Today, I suggested he take Murphy for he is more stable and older and understands not to pull so hard. Today, Murphy was all over the place. Charlie, on the other hand, was more sedate, submitting to the power of the head collar, the premise of which is based on the way to control a horse with a halter putting pressure on the front muzzle “down” and the back of his head “in” as though his mother were correcting him. It calms him instantly, save for the rearing, tossing of his little body and occasional thrust into the snow or earth to release the collar.

We walked along our path system, the dogs and I, after dropping my son. It’s quiet and bucolic back there. The snow falling creating ever more serene and authentic moments. I watched flakes waft down and opened my mouth, eager to catch a couple on my tongue. I admit I have a very poor average.

I read an article this morning about Alec Baldwin, a rant of his proclaiming his so-called retirement from public life. It’s so sad… we are all screaming, in one fashion or another, for relevance. He just does it in a way that is so conflicted, transparent and complicated. Just say it Alec, “I’m a flawed guy. I reacted primitively. I wish I weren’t so interesting but I yearn to be of interest…” it’s ok. He’s so angry inside.

On the walk, I thought about Alec, knowing he wasn’t thinking about me. I let it go.

I noticed when we were beneath some tall pines, the ones that sky rocket fifty feet into the air, that the snowflakes were less dense. I began to feel sad about that, I feared the snow was ending. But I looked up and realized it was because of the pine needles; they were filtering the flakes, so to speak. Then I thought about how much bigger must those flakes be when they initially fall to be as big as they are when they land here, for surely they have broken off along their descent.

We left the path system to walk along the busy big road dividing our neighborhood. Charlie has not been on that roadside yet and it’s important to show him he can survive walking along such mayhem. The snow, the traffic, the noise, the big dog Murphy insulating him on the left and me on his right, he seemed to strut right along; his ears were pulled back, something I remembered from early training with our first dog, which indicates a lot of mental work is at play: taking it all in, from the sights and the sounds and the smells to the verbal commands from the handler to the energy transmitted through the leash. He did alright. When we returned to the path system, he was visibly relieved as his stride increased and he became playful again.

He is sleeping now on his little bed. Murphy is laying by my feet; they both need to be taxed mentally from time to time and nothing seems to do it as well as a long walk on that roadside.

It’s been snowing about an hour and a half now. The cars are covered, rooftops are blanketed. I swept my walk-up to the house’s front door; it’s covered again. I catch myself wondering now if the evening classes and school programs would be cancelled for today. By the time I finished sweeping, it was almost covered again. I knew it would snow, but I didn’t think it would be quite this much, although I am really enjoying it. They say it will be back tomorrow, “a disturbance” they call it; since when is snow falling in winter a ‘disturbance’? It strikes me as quite normal; the 62˚ and sunshine we had yesterday was a disturbance (a welcome one, but a disturbance nonetheless) if you ask me.

When we returned to the house, I decided to let the dogs loose in the back yard off their leashes. I fumbled for my keys to the back door and opened it up while they played. They heard it swing wide and ran in. They’d had enough. For years I’ve been trying to get the boys to use the back entrance to the house; I grew up in a world where family used the back or side entrance and guests used the front door. I don’t think it’s like that in Virginia. People use the front door; not many rear or side doors are included in the houses around here anyway.

My oldest tried out for the high school soccer team yesterday. It’s a very competitive program. He fell and hurt his left leg in one of the sprinting sessions and complained of cold-air induced asthma; a phenomenon I am quite familiar with; when I try to go running in the winter, it’s very hard on my throat, I can’t handle the cold air so I workout inside. I don’t think he will continue with the tryouts. That’s why I wondered about the after-school programs today and whether he will be coming home on time or later. He is much too hard on himself. I am so proud of him for even trying. I want him to find a passion and stick with it. Let exercise be the passion or something else, but not feel a failure if he doesn’t make this team. He will be starting In Cold Blood soon; I can’t wait. I just started it myself. Capote… what a writer! I find myself reminding myself that it’s nonfiction; that he’s turned a true-crime story into a novel. Amazing.

I have nothing really fantastic to say today. Lots of ideas in my head. I just wanted to chime in; record my thoughts about today. My younger brother’s baby was born about two weeks ago. A boy; their third child, second son. I hope we will see him this weekend.

Our second son has big homework due today. We are letting him ride his own wave this semester after banging our heads against the wall for the first semester. We will see how he does. It’s the hardest thing in the world: hoping they find a passion and letting them figure it out. Letting them fail so they will learn how to succeed. It’s a lot. It’s how I figured it out, honestly. My parents did lots of pushing and steering and nagging. I hated it. “You can’t rush a genius,” as Mom always said, sometimes exasperatedly and sometimes with love.

It’s still snowing. I am really glad of it, frankly. People complain of it, “It makes me late for work…” and “We’ve had enough…” I dunno. Why fight with Nature? I love how it all settles after it falls, so quietly, gently and kindly. Firmly encouraging us to slow down and relax.

downy snow.

downy snow.

Thank you.

I Have Two Teenagers Now. How to Stop the Madness.

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My second son, Thing 2, turned 13 today.

For some reason, I’m not totally blown away by it. Probably because he has been prepping me for it for about 12 years.

I don’t like to really write about my kids on my blog; I like to write of them; there is a distinction. My children have their own stories to tell and I don’t ever want this blog to be a reason why they would feel exploited or have them be the pedestal or shoulder upon which I stand to be seen, heard, noticed.

I write to my dear second son, who is so unique and special in our family.

Dear Thing 2,

The world is in a state of flux. In your lifetime’s small window terrorists have attacked our country and we theirs; we have been in a war as long as you’ve been alive and more and more people are dying of gunshot in public places. Just yesterday horror struck a shopping mall not an hour from where we live. The day before that, three teenagers who were minding their own business walking alongside the road were struck down by drivers who were bent on drag racing in the middle of the day on a busy suburban street; they too lived in Maryland.

I think about the world I am leaving you. I have a long time to go before I leave you, as far as I’m concerned, but I still wish things were simpler.

This is sounding rather depressing, isn’t it? Well, I don’t mean it to sound so sad. Despite what I say, research has shown, somewhere (and statistics can always be shown in one light or another to benefit someone) this is the least-dangerous time in recorded humanity. Piffle.

What I want it to do is to remind you that when all the world has lost its shit (I can say that to you now), that you can stop the madness. You have a light inside you, dear one, that can bring you peace and that can make people smile. You can be and already are a beautiful human being. Friends will come and they will go. Don’t try to save a friendship that has done all it can; learn the lessons you can from it and thank it for enriching your life. Romances fade; love is eternal. Stick with your God-given talents; they will take you far and will always be there for you.

I think about the day you were born. I can’t help it on a day like today: it’s cold out like it was then. The sky is confused. The sun shines behind me but I see gray skies behind the bare trees which stand so tall outside the windows of our cozy house on our little street. This is the first place you’ve ever lived. This is the only place you’ve ever lived.

When you were born, you almost flew out of me you were so ready. I know, “ew, MOM, DON’T…. UCH…” but I will. You were one eager son-of-a-gun. The doctors caught you, just in time, and immediately, you started to howl and curl your tiny body. You were so strong, and so fierce. You reminded me of rope that sits on a dock beside an ocean liner. Your voice, full and real and sweet was so alive, so strong that there was no doubt that you would not only make it, but that your passion would be the biggest part of you. It’s ok though — you are a soul, just like I am and just like everyone else is — and you were just trying to find your way then, as you are now.

Your skin is gorgeous and smooth. Your eyes are bright like copper pennies and your love you wear on your sleeve. Your smile is ready and your kindness knows no bounds. Your imagination gets you into trouble on this one-dimensional world; be sure to keep it alive but also try to tolerate we less-evolved persons who inhabit your planet. Owning our shortcomings makes us bigger people.

You move like a cheetah on the soccer pitch. When you think no one is listening, I hear you sing with passion and a sense of tender gentleness that I didn’t think your body possessed because you live so largely and you feel all your feelings.

The world is a crazy place, young Thing 2. Being 13 just means you’re going to hear more about it, but don’t let it get you down. Do what I do: go inside your beautiful head, say a few prayers for the crazy in the world and then go out and make people smile. Tell a joke, make a friend, sing a song, dress like Batman for no reason and wave at the cars passing by; do the things you already do. Don’t listen to those who want to bring you down to meet them. 

I realize now that what I think is an education is actually a burden for you. Your brain is not wired the way the school system thinks it should be. You are still that piece of rope on the dock — you have so much energy inside you that I know, when you set your mind to something, you will achieve it. Just make sure it’s legal and ethical. That’s all I ask.

Cure cancer. Bring an end to poverty but keep capitalism alive. Make a video which makes people laugh. Write a song that brings people to their feet or to their knees. Keep it real. Be real. Keep evolving, never stop growing and learning.

There’s a song I love. John Mayer’s “Stop this Train.” It’s all about life going too fast. On days like today, when you, my middle child begins his teenage years, I want only to jump on the tracks and stop the train.

I am left with only one more son to hit his teenage years and then that’s all we’ve got… besides new puppies and marriages and babies you might make, this is what I have to look forward to in terms of my engagement as a mother on this planet. It’s not that I’m sad, it’s that I want you to live your life so fully, Thing 2, that I want all your fears removed and when you kick them to the curb, I want to take them and put them in a black velvet bag, stomp on it and push it into a cannon, the old-fashioned kind they have on Bugs Bunny versus Yosemite Sam cartoons and light the fuse and shoot it toward the moon, where Marvin the Martian, like on your hat, can vaporize it with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator before it gets there.

I love you Thing 2. Never stop being you.

-Mom

Thank you.

Letter to Thing 3

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Dear Thing 3,

It never fails. On the days we walk to school and I wish I had my camera, I never do.

Today was such a treat to be with you. Do you remember? The sun, in its autumnal slant, so surgical and bright, like a laser, but weaker than in summer was still strong as there were no clouds. Frost had cured on the grass blades and the top cover of the fallen leaves we encountered on our walk out to school today and you asked me, “Where does the frost come from? It’s so sparkly.”

“It’s like a billion diamonds on the ground.” I said.

“Just for us,” you said.

“It’s from the moisture in the air; the dew. It freezes on the leaves and in the morning, we get diamonds.”

“They don’t last long, these diamonds. There are so many of them! It’s like a field of them!” you said and then fell silent. We stopped to look at a few. We moved our heads around to see more sparkles.

You will be 10 tomorrow.

It seems like every milestone is a new milestone in your life. That doesn’t make sense. I guess I just mean that it’s all so much. You’re the last one.

10.

Ten.

Two complete hands. The end of the two hands.

Before we left, I considered my camera / phone. I decided to leave it at home, amidst the breakfast smells of pancake and coffee. I prefer to be present, free of it. As much as you see me tinkering with it, T3, I really am better off without it.

“How many days are in a year? 365? I thought that there were only 364 days,” you asked as I helped you with your pilled black knit gloves today, the ones I bought in bulk at the Amish auction all those years ago with our friend, “RICK!”

“Well, the going rate these days, is 365. I believe leap year makes it 366, but I will admit my facts on that are loose, so I’m not entirely sure although I do believe 365 is the predominant number. Ready?” I asked, holding open the door, but thinking to myself back at my own childhood and remembering the 364/365 proposition more than 365/366.

“Can I have lemon cake and chocolate frosting?” you asked.

“Why? And WHAT?! Who eats that?! Only goofballs…” I said.

“This goofball wants that,” you said.

I looked at you funny, pretending to be offended by the mention and I could see your smile fade. You were a little crestfallen. The joke had gone too far. You asked me, “Mom… can’t I have a lemon cake with chocolate frosting?”

“Absolutely you can.” I said and your smile returned.

On the way down the street you asked me, “What’s attachment? What did they mean about ‘not getting attached’ to that otter in the video?”

You were talking about “Otter 501,” the story about a stray newborn otter in Monterey, California.

“It means no eye contact between the trainers and the otter; that’s why they wore those welder’s masks and ponchos, so the otter couldn’t see their eyes. Did you notice they didn’t talk to her either? She could learn their voices and prefer one trainer over another trainer. In animals, it’s called ‘imprinting’ but in humans, because we believe we’re so different than animals, we call it ‘attachment.’ It’s basically falling in love with the otter, which could get in the way with her ability to go back to the ocean.”

“I would be attached anyway to that otter,” you said. “Helmet or not. I love her from my tv.”

Speaking of attachment, we didn’t take your dog with us today. He wasn’t ready to go. When I returned, he seemed fine with the temporary abandonment.

10.

It all goes too fast. Way too fast. I want it to slow down.

I was so compelled by the frost on the leaves, and my urge to remember this moment, that when I came home I picked up my camera and went back out to try to capture some of the sparkle but suspecting all the time that it would be the inverse of what we hear about supernatural phenomena: that it’s not viewable to the naked eye, or in this instance the iPhone. I suspect that I will need my big, actual camera to take proper pictures of the sparkly leaves. But here are a few unsparkly leaves…

there is no sparkle, but there is beauty in it; look at those crystals! "They're free! They don't cost anything!" you said when you saw them.

there is no sparkle, but there is beauty in it; look at those crystals! “They’re free! They don’t cost anything!” you said when you saw them.

Here’s another cool frosty leaf:

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I want you to live life beautifully, T3. I want you to ask questions, always.

Do you remember overhearing me and Dad talking about “the silent treatment” this morning? You asked me, “What is the silent treatment?” and I told you. Then you asked me why I was talking about it and I told you. You asked me, “Why would anyone do that? Why not just talk about your feelings? We don’t all have to agree…” and we talked about that. Then you came to a conclusion all by yourself when you said, “Well, giving the silent treatment is cruel.”? My heart swelled when you said that. “It’s easier said than done, to not give the silent treatment, bud…” and you didn’t agree.

Life has miracles and wondrous moments happening right in front of us every day, all the time! There is no reason to think it is boring, we just have to be willing to open our eyes. You’re pretty good at that already; it’s just that as we age, we tend to forget those things. I hope you never do.

As I ascended the hill on my second walk back home this morning:

This is a very nice way to start your day...

This is a very nice way to start your day…

I saw this. I was so glad I went back out to try to take some sparkle pics.

the leaf blowing…

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it all seems so ordinary… no big deal…

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but it’s like a dance to me. the leaves fly up and then they waft down. they fly up and roll and curl and flip. sure, it’s a man working a leaf blower, but the LEAVES, T3… watching them. that.

Watching the leaves billow and plume … it could do it all day. It seems weird, I guess, to be so enraptured by such an everyday thing, leaf blowing… your mom’s eccentric views, but to me it’s like a ballet between the gardener and the leaves. It’s poetry in motion.

The leaf-blowing man must’ve thought I was with the NSA or something. I hope I didn’t worry him.

When I came back home, the house was warm and expectant. It still smelled of maple syrup, coffee and pancakes. The dishwasher was still running and the lights were on under the cabinets. Laundry, as usual, was waiting to be folded or put away. I came to the conclusion yesterday, T3, that smells tell me how busy I’ve been. If I smell laundry in the dryer, pumpkin bread in the oven and tea in my mug, I’ve had a busy day. These are the smells of progress.

I didn’t want to waste a moment, I had these thoughts fresh on my mind. I find that it’s hard for me to concentrate these days; I’m still so sad about Mimi. So I wanted to get these words off to you as soon as I walked in.

After I took off my hat and gloves and put my coat away, I turned my way into my office / guest room and Gandalf, that massive gray barn cat of ours leapt off the bed and scurried out the door; I could hear his back claws grab whatever they could of the carpeting to ensure a speedy getaway as he careened and serpentined out of the room. It was like he was saying, “Oh crap! Busted!” (Because I can’t stand them when they’re on our beds.) He and his sister are irritated with me: they are both as big as watermelons and I’ve cut back their kibble rations to half of what they’re used to. Lean times ahead for the kitties, I’m afraid. I know they’re not ballooning up from us; it’s all the chipmunks they’ve hunted.

Well, even though tomorrow is your 10th birthday, I’ll tell you a secret that your auntie T told me one day when I turned 45: it’s not really your 10th birthday. It’s the first day of your 11th year. When you were born, that was the first day of your first year. The last day of your first year was the day before your first birthday. You’d been “1” all along. When you turned 1, it was the first day of your second year… and so it goes. So today… is the last day of your tenth year.

I love you, Thing 3. Happy birthday.

Mom