Duchess Kate: No Rest for the Royal?

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Nary a hair out of place, Duchess Kate stepped out of the private hospital wing and into the media frenzy. She looked no different (and no less gorgeous) than when we saw her last, only this time the baby was not in her belly but in her arms. Perfectly coiffed, perfectly dressed, perfectly perfect. Isn’t that how we all felt having just produced a human? At least that’s what she claimed–she is feeling what any new parent experiences. Um, not quite. I’m pretty sure my experience, the ordinary birthing process, was not even close. Perhaps the only commonality is that underneath all of her glam, I’m fairly certain that some of her royal areas are seriously smarting.

Birthing is birthing, whether you’re pushing out king or commoner. But from there nothing is the same. Most moms struggle to shower and dress. We don’t have a personal hairdresser meet us at the hospital. On top of always having washed hair, I’m guessing that Duchess Kate won’t walk around smelling like sour milk–or worse. If she ever does feel like a real new parent she won’t ever let us see it.

This likely won’t change even as her regal offspring grow. Sometimes I think I have yet to emerge from the new parent haze. Eight and a half years in I’m as frazzled as ever and my spawn are no more civilized than when they first arrived. Last night’s dinner was case in point. It’s as if they weren’t in camp all day with the amount of energy they were able to expend popping out of their seats. It was like a prolonged pee-pee dance but without the biological urgency. Thing One was spewing bits of egg that finally stuck to Thing Two’s elbow. Thing Two had chocolate pudding up his nose–only after trying to lick it off his finger. Apparently we still haven’t discovered the meaning of a napkin. And then there was the miniature polar bear flashlight that took an unexpected plunge into the cup of milk.

“IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!”

It’s always an accident.

Except when it’s intentional. Between the two were are in a perpetual state of behavior modification!

I love a good irony. Yesterday when the world was waiting with bated breath (or some of us realized we could set the DVR to CNN) to catch a glimpse of this royal little angel my darling child went off to camp dressed as a red-hot devil. It was alphabet soup day; she chose D for devil. Why?

“That way I can be naughty.”

There’s something to be said for spirited children: they keep you on your toes. I don’t have time to be tired. I’m just glad that I don’t have cameras chasing me around in my haze. Poor Duchess Kate isn’t so fortunate. One day after the immaculate introduction of Britain’s Prince George she’s captured on camera with her flowing mane thrown into a less-than-fabulous ponytail and presumably tired eyes guarded by over-sized sunglasses.

Rest up, Kate, it’s only just begun. If raising a devil is hard work, rearing a future king is simply unimaginable.

 

 

Can You Teach an Old Mom New Tricks?

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These are my toes. They are so far away, and the older I grow the more distant they become. Each morning is a reminder that the questionable flexibility I may have had in my youth is ever fleeting. Never has that been more obvious than in this last week. My kids started a camp which offers transportation–fun for children and parents alike! While we wait for the adorable Brian who drives Van #5 we play games on the lawn. Popular favorites include Toilet Tag and Dead Man, both of which are renditions of the traditional tag. Even inventive names cannot distract me from what is painfully true: I move with the agility, fluidity and swiftness of a tree stump.

A while back my sister-in-law encouraged me to purchase a Groupon deal for Reformer Pilates. Certainly the plan was to enjoy the torture together. However, her work and my kids seem to be in the way. Damn responsibility! So I had to go it alone last week when I tried my first class.

Sporting my beloved Nike spandex shorts, the actual pair that predates the existence of Lululemon, I skulked into class. I wanted to fly under the radar–unlike the bedazzled, Botoxed mom who looked years younger than her accompanying teenage daughter. She was there to be noticed–or rather her enhanced bosom with dangerously large nipples were there to be noticed. My only goal was to make it through the class without becoming permanently tangled in cords and springs.

With just slightly more grace than Tobias Funke I emerged relatively unscathed. I declare success! So much so that I will go back. After all, I do have to be able to reach my toes if only to keep them trimmed. My daughter–the same one who “washed” her hair without shampoo for two weeks because she failed to tell me she had run out, and also the one who constructed a challenge for herself to see how long she could wear a single pair of socks–informed me that my nails were nasty. She took it upon herself to clip them.

Now, I may not be able to school my kids in tag, but dammit I need to be able to keep my toenails in order! Somehow I’m pretty sure that’s not what drives Nipples McGee…

Summer Lovin’

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Sixteen years ago tomorrow we shared our first kiss. Or at least I think we did. Forgive me as time challenges memory. We saw fireworks–literally. Overlooking Boston’s Back Bay we took in the July 4th Pops Spectacular and also celebrated the beginnings of us. It was likely the last time I stayed up late enough for such a display. Four years and a few days later we were married atop Vail Mountain.

This “holiversary” (think Chrismukkah) is witness to our union, friendship and partnership. Like the novel One Day (sorry Anne Hathaway but you ruined the movie for me) the course of an entire year can be examined on a single day, thereby revealing the passage of time and the evolution of a relationship. The day itself may be mundane or remarkable, depending on the year. In 2005 we greeted the day in the hospital, following the second repair of our firstborn’s heart. In 2011 we scattered some of my father’s ashes at the very spot that he gave me away. Other years have been recognized with a simple outing to the community pool or a patriotic small-town parade. Last year involved many, many boxes and an equal measure of stress.

This is the year we reclaim our adventurous spirit. The summer we met–way more fit and a lot less tired– we’d swim in Walden Pond and bike 30-plus miles for our favorite ice cream. We’d walk along the Charles into downtown Boston for a movie or we’d wake pre-dawn to compete in some sporting event…and perhaps even make it to the podium. Then of course we’d eat more ice cream.

How are we going to earn said ice cream this year? We’re doing it SoCal style. That’s right– we are taking ourselves surfing! Forget romance. But I can guarantee comedy. I only wish I could document this destined-to-be debacle for you. You’ll have to rely on your imagination for that.

With the kids in camp on Friday we’ll have a few hours to play, just like we did that summer sixteen years ago.

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The Upshot of Swimming with Sharks

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Above tranquil water at the Cove hovered a healthy marine layer. June Gloom they call it. Where did the water, land and sky converge? Unknown, and I wasn’t going to swim far enough to find out. My mission, simple enough, was threefold: 1) Test out my cozy new wetsuit  2) Avoid marine life  3) Cross “tackling fear of open ocean swimming” off the Bucket List. The results: Done, Done and Done.

The swim itself was surreal–and much more enjoyable than anticipated. The water was warmer than expected (and no, I didn’t christen my wetsuit the old fashioned way as I wasn’t sure I’d keep it). The kelp forests were more abundant than envisioned. The sea life was more active than imagined. I noted plenty of fish and even (gasp!) a shark–though not a man-eating one I am certain. I did have a face-to-face encounter with a seal, also enjoying his morning exercise. Equally startled by one another we locked eyes and then amicably parted ways.

In hindsight it all sounds peaceful. But let me assure you that my thoughts prior to and upon entering the water revolved around seal diarrhea and shark attacks. I’ve witnessed the former and heard tales of the latter, and there I was electing to put myself in the middle of both. Images of these eliminated any lollygagging on my part. Get in, swim hard, get out.

Two weeks later I ventured out on a bright, sunny morning a few miles up the coast. Concerns of seal diarrhea were replaced with some anxiety about contending with an actual surf. I have raced in the nastiness that is the Hudson River and many murky, bacteria-laden lakes, but I’ve never had to break through the surf to reach the open water. New is what keeps it exciting (or so I tell myself).

Pummeled only once or twice I came to enjoy the challenge. Going with it rather than fighting against it, I finally relaxed. Eventually I emerged with fingers and toes–and everything in between–attached. I’ll even go back for more, especially now that my wetsuit has been officially christened.

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Poop Patrol and Other Reprieves

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With fridge stocked, laundry folded, sports gear organized and diorama complete, I am outta here! For the next four days my husband is tackling everything from bedtime routine to poop patrol (canine and otherwise). Meanwhile, sweet visions of alone-time dance in my head…even if it is on an airplane. So long as nobody around me barfs, I am in for a solid few hours of relative relaxation.

Tomorrow, as I curl up on the plane with my long-awaited library copy of Reconstructing Amelia, I’ll suppress thoughts of the inevitable piles of dishes, clothing and dog fur that will welcome me home. My husband has made it clear that his definition of a successful mom’s reprieve is that the kids are returned to me 1) alive and 2) happy. Nothing else matters. Literally.

I’ve organized the weekend for him the best that I can. Now it’s up to him to handle hockey gear and t-ball tears. He will have to venture into lunch-box packing, but it’s always good to dabble in something new. If he’s lucky, the school lunch menu will be in his favor and he’ll have to create only one.

They’ll have fun. After all, certain little birdies revealed that there will be treats at Starbucks and ample television viewing. Not to be outdone by them, I just might go a little nuts myself. Imagine– me noshing on a pack of M&Ms and not sharing with ANYONE?!

Mother’s Day truly cometh a few days late!

Leaning In, Cleaning Up

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Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In wants to see a world where women run half of all businesses and men command half of all households. That’s equality, she says. Clearly she hasn’t met my husband. I shudder to think of the disaster we’d face if we turned the household over to him. He’s the first to admit that he couldn’t do my job.

Sometimes I think my darling husband plays dumb just to get out of the mundane tasks. It’s remarkable that he can’t tell the difference between clean and dirty dishes in the dishwasher. His solution? Don’t unload those in question and just stick the newly soiled items in, then rerun the machine. Imagine this Harvard grad with a Master’s degree unable to discern washed from unwashed? He earns the big bucks for solving tricky business quandaries and yet he is stumped by the dishes.

My gender doesn’t make me more qualified for this role. My efficiency does. I have always been able to multi-task. And I’m pretty darn good at it. I work from home so that I can tackle everything that needs to be done: client calls often happen while laundry is folded; emails are sent while the sheets are dried; medical appointments are scheduled while  aforementioned dishes are sorted. And my loyal companion, Roomba, roams all the while. Meanwhile off the deck in my home “office” I gaze out towards all the things I’d rather be doing.

So, unlike Ms. Sandberg, who suggests that women are filled with self-doubt about whether they are good enough to succeed in the work place, I question why someone–namely me–who has so much potential isn’t enjoying promotions and paychecks?

The path that I have selected is far from lucrative. And needless to say my sabbatical isn’t contributing much to the household’s funds–yet. I am currently dabbling in several projects–some may pay off, others not so much. My latest labor of love is trying to entice agents with my children’s book creation. It’s a quirky story that celebrates unconventional dreams and plays with traditional gender roles. Thus far it hasn’t fetched any takers.

Doesn’t anybody realize that if we want to affect change we have to engage conversation with the youngest audience? As the leader of the household I see this—not the omnipresent chores–as my real job all day, every day. It would certainly be nice if the COOs rolling in millions would capture the attention of youth instead of aiming to teach old dogs new tricks, like doing the dishes.

Ugh. Boston.

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Ugh. Boston.

A direct quote from one of my most brilliant, articulate friends. It’s all we have to say because we cannot find the words. Again. As a nation we are left speechless in the wake of yet another tragic, disgusting event that leaves us to wonder what has happened to humanity?

All week I have been careful to keep my kids from media coverage. I was relatively successful until this morning when the radio in the car announced the latest in the unfolding of events in Boston, Watertown and Cambridge*–my former stomping grounds.

Immediately my 8-year-old questioned what had happened. I explained in my best don’t-scare-the-children version that people in Boston had been hurt earlier in the week by a big explosion and that the police were looking for the people who had caused it. Too quick is my child. She pointed out that one of those people had died. Then she point-blank suggested the other be killed as well.

Is this what we have come to in our morning commutes with our children–our babies? How do we go from belting out Katy Perry to discussing bombs, terror plots and capital punishment?

I thought last week’s tackling of boobs and internet safety was challenging. This is far more twisted. I can’t take back what my kids already know, but I can have conversations that really make them consider right and wrong, and how they should foster the good in themselves and see the best in others.

Meanwhile, it’s an uphill battle, but I will do whatever I can to keep them young at heart for as long as I can. Directly after I bid them farewell I went to their school library for some weekend reading. What could be better than to escape into the worlds of Ramona, Beezus and Captain Underpants?

*I have posted this image previously, but couldn’t resist using it here as well. No matter what evil has invaded the city Cambridge will always be this to me. My thoughts are with you all there.

YouTube is Evil

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Can you hear Don Henley right about now? Never did I think as a young teen at summer camp that his slightly cheesy yet ever relevant classic bidding farewell to fairy tales would best summarize this particular juncture of my life. Still, somehow here we are:
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence…

It’s what happens when you have a curious, precocious child who absconds with your mobile device to explore the supposedly taboo. I had no idea what was happening upstairs until 1) I realized my phone was missing and 2) hours later I went to look up something on the internet… and up popped breasts so large they could have busted the glass on my phone. Mine eyes! Mine eyes!

I scrolled through the history of what had been viewed and let’s just say that Edith Wharton was way, way ahead of her time with Ethan Frome’s appetite for pickles and donuts. The difference being, of course, is that 100 years ago we were left to conjure up our own images, not the twisted documentations of disturbing minds posted on YouTube and similar sites. And those gems could not be brought to life by the touch of an innocent child’s finger.

Indeed the sun has set on our innocence.

My best defense needless to say is to take away the privilege of iPads, iPods, iPhones and iEverything. But that is a temporary solution. And anyone who knows us, our usage–very much G rated–is pretty minimal for starters.

The real issue to address is the curiosity, and do so appropriately. Our kids already know a lot. A LOT.  For example, the mystery of life had been inadvertently revealed in the opening scene of Black Beauty a while back. By the way, I highly recommend it to any parent as a template for that conversation.

Who doesn’t remember poring over What’s Happening to My Body? In our house I had the “for Girls” version and my brother had the “for Boys”, and we were forbidden to look at one another’s. Just last week on the plane my husband noticed a tween sitting in the row ahead of him sheepishly reading the American Girl version: The Care and Keeping of You– the Body Book for Girls. Ironically, the plane ride before that he sat next to a woman less covertly drooling over Fifty Shades of Grey. What would Edith Wharton think?!

On the evening of the discovery at hand, when my blood pressure returned to normal and after we had a lengthy talk with our darling child, I revised my to-do list for the week. It now reads:

1) Smack the hell out of a few hundred tennis balls                                                              2) Cash in on my gift certificate for a massage                                                                     3) Visit Barnes and Noble for some appropriate body-book reading material

Only, if only I liked wine…

 

 

I Left My Health in San Francisco

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Has anyone seen my immune system? I seem to have misplaced it somewhere between here and San Francisco. If you see it lying about, please send it my way. I’m desperate to have it back.

The first weekend in February I piggybacked onto a business trip of my husband’s–something I have long since dreamed of but never had done. And to San Francisco of all places– a geographic destination that had been off-limits in my college-seeking years because someone (who shall go unnamed) didn’t want me to meet a California guy and relocate there. Ooops.

Last thing I remember I was running along the Embarcadero, dining with dear friends, touring Chinatown, indulging in Ghiradelli, and not feeling guilty that my kids were nowhere in sight. But payback’s a bitch. A really large one.

I should have a t-shirt that reads: I Went to San Francisco and All I Got was Pneumonia.

I’ve emerged from the worst of it (I hope) and have kept myself busy with convalescing, taking my meds, relapsing, taking more meds, and gazing longingly at the outdoor opportunities that tease and taunt. I feel a bit like a kid with a chocolate allergy who is paraded through a candy factory.  God forbid I ever endure a serious illness or debilitating injury–my whining quota has already been used up.

Here I thought moving to Southern California would render me tan, fit and delusively invincible. Such is not the case. I’m less Katy Perry’s California Gurl (daisy dukes, bikinis on top) and more There’s Something About Mary’s  sun-dried neighbor (if only she wore a top).

With each sunny day that comes and goes I remind myself that there are more–plenty more– to enjoy. I’m convinced that this sun and warmth have melted my immune system, but hopefully that’s a temporary side effect of adjustment. It’s still a dream of mine to work with an organization such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation– I just have to wait until I am not so challenged myself.

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