Roots

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Blessed are we

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Who return

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At long last

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Whence we came.

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In honor of my father…

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And those who ventured before him.

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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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Mangled Hearts

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Eight years and a couple of weeks ago I had a baby. She was perfect– except for the critically imperfect heart. Whisked away to the main Duke Medical Center, she underwent an emergency procedure on her walnut-sized damaged organ. We followed her there as soon as I could discharge myself, and we met the team who would save this tiny life. As the strikingly young and handsome doctor briefed us before the surgery, he began with the harshest of words: Your baby might die.

There I was– bleeding, swelling, sweating– with head spinning. Would you believe that over the course of the next hours I actually tried to convince myself that it was OK if she didn’t make it, because I never had the chance to know her anyhow? I’d like to chalk this up to postpartum delirium and circumstantial trauma, as opposed to terrible parenting and awful moral character.

Handsome Doctor emerged to update us that the procedure went as well as expected (weeks later we learned that this was his youngest patient yet– that normally this procedure isn’t done on babies only hours old). He had been cautious, and projected he would need to go in for a second attempt within a couple of weeks or several months. For now they’d watch and wait.

Later in the evening we went to visit our daughter– of whom we couldn’t see very much behind the tubes and wires. Clad in a tiny diaper and a purple cap with two pink hearts, she was sedated, intubated and medicated. But that little heart was beating. We couldn’t hold her, but we touched her and marveled at her– just as any new parents would. Days later, when she was at last no longer sedated, she broke free from the swaddle and ripped at her tubes. At that moment we knew we had a fighter.

Despite some additional complications, which included a giant blood clot, we brought her home eight years ago tomorrow. We’d have to inject her twice daily with blood thinners (yes, right there on the kitchen counter) and we’d be in and out of the hospital and doctors’ offices for months. But there she was, and here she is, a fighter still.

Each year around Christmas I send off two holiday cards– one to the doctor from North Carolina and another to the New York cardiologist who performed the second repair. I know not whether they actually receive the notes, or even if they care to. Nevertheless, I include a photo and a brief update to document their masterful achievements. Not only did this child survive, she has thrived. From swimming to skiing to snowboarding to horse back riding to playing tennis to bike riding to skate boarding to competing in triathlons, this kid has no limits. Imagine what she would do with an undamaged heart?!

Also each year on her birthday I bake a cake, as does any parent. But mine is always in the shape of a heart. I have a compulsion, I suppose, to make whole what I originally created as flawed. This year, the cake didn’t quite slide out of the pan, and we were left with yet another mangled heart. There were some tears involved, until we reminded the guest of honor that her own heart doesn’t look so pretty but it gets the job done. She’s old enough to know that she has a special heart, one that goes lub-dub-squish, and that we love this about her.

Our little girl has a heart of infinite capacity. It’s imperfectly perfect.