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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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…

 

 

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.

How Does Justin Bieber Do That?

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His music is oddly pleasing, his hair intriguing and his man-child biceps endearing. But what fascinates me above all else regarding Justin Bieber is his massive Twitter following! Is he really that profound? Or eloquent? What is it that well over 33 million people–mobile devices afire–scramble to read?

Perhaps that’s just it: I don’t understand. Twitter and tweet– it’s all lost on me. And when it comes to social media I thought that I could continue to live in blissful ignorance for a while yet. I’ve long since been vocal about my resistance to joining the movement unless by necessity. Of course by necessity I mean  having to help my kids navigate the scene. I figured that would buy me some years, and maybe somehow this would all pass and the pendulum would swing the other way drastically so we could raise our kids without all of this crap technology.

Well, that’s not gonna happen now is it?!

Last week came the brutal awakening. Parents were notified that the second graders were now on Twitter. They’d be sending out tweets (as a group) from social studies, with the first informing us how, according to creation stories, the snake came to have no legs.

Oh, dreaded day!

With my son home sick and napping, I, the reluctant laggard, set up my Twitter account so that just in case my almost-eight-year-old daughter wanted to chat tweets I’d be one step ahead. Fast forward to the car ride back from school, when she asked what we had done all day. With pride and (feigned) enthusiasm I revealed my feat: setting up Twitter. Her response: What’s that?

Now not only did I have to join Twitter, I also had to explain it. My explanation involved birds, and announcements and mass communication and loads of (presumable) misinformation. I even brought Justin Bieber into the conversation to sound relevant. In the rear view mirror I could see her processing thoughts. Her response: So, if I wanted to announce that I were pregnant, then the people in China would know?

Holy S—!!!  Beat that one, Justin.

Can’t we just leave tweeting to the birds?

Lessons from an Unlikable Suspect

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My mom’s done it. My mother-in-law is still doing it. And Pukey Pukerson’s mom showed us how the real pros do it. What is it exactly? That would be resourceful outsourcing, all in the name of a successful vacation. This year after an epiphany on the slopes I joined the ranks.

I entered parenthood thinking that I was going to be the cool mom. Among the many activities I enjoy, I’d swim, bike, ski, play tennis, horseback ride– you name it– with my kids. I’d even teach them myself. Bring on the bonding opportunities!  (And of course they would appreciate them all.) The strategy seemed to work with my daughter, whose athleticism and risk-seeking tendencies favor such endeavors. At seven, with only a handful of “real” ski lessons under her belt, she not only keeps up but often leads the way down the hill. We’ll be chasing her in a season or two.

Then we put skis on my son. He’s a whole other animal– cautious, reserved and a little bit less than agile. My moment of defeat came on the first run. Half-way down the bunny hill I extricated him from between my knees and encouraged him to slide down just a few yards to where I would catch him. With that, he slumped to the snow– melting like the Wicked Witch when doused with water. Having duck-walked back up to him, I struggled to bring him upright. From that angle I just couldn’t lift 52 pounds of wet noodle. That’s when I knew: I would have to outsource to ski school.

Heartbroken (yes, both of us) we made our way to ski school the next day. That’s where we met Pukey Pukerson. This poor kid was waiting for his mom to purchase his ticket when his semi-digested breakfast reappeared all over the floor, his jacket and chin. His mom, completely unfazed, took some tissue from the counter, swabbed his coat, dabbed his face, then made a light attempt to remove the evidence. The result was a sizable and stinky stain on the carpet where the barf residue mixed with tissue filaments had seeped in. With that Pukey Pukerson was off to ski school.

There I was– the horrified and now nauseated witness– left to wonder doesn’t she know the universal rule that requires children be fever and vomit free for 24 hours before returning to school, camp, day care and so forth? Not 24 seconds, lady.

I mean really, what kind of mother sends her barfing child off to ski school for the day? The really hardcore, resourceful outsourcing kind. Nothing, especially not a little puke, was going to keep her from big plans for herself that day. Suddenly I didn’t feel like the worst parent ever, sending my own son through the rainbow arches of the ski school entrance with quivering lower lip. Now I just hoped for the sake of his very sensitive nose that he wouldn’t be in Pukey Pukerson’s group.

This incident was life altering for me. Not because of the trauma I suffered watching the kid vomit nor the aftermath. Rather, from Pukey Pukerson’s mom I gained invaluable perspective. It’s OK to take care of the self sometimes, even if it seems that in the moment it’s not in the best interest of the child. It just might be what he needs for long-term success. As a parent I do need to outsource from time to time. (Fortunately finances prevent us from doing it all the time because I can see how it could be completely addictive.)

I now see how outsourcing the family during vacation actually promotes successful family time. At long last it makes sense why my own ski-adverse mother agreed on and even looked forward to a family ski week. What fun was that for her, sitting around waiting for us all to return from the slopes? Therein lies the answer. She had time for her– and sitting by the fire alone, reading the paper alone, sipping coffee alone, enjoying a book alone, was vacation in and of itself.  She is the unsung genius of successful family vacations.

To that end, my mother-in-law is no slouch either. She still outsources– her retired, stay-at-home husband that is. Many a winter day she is asked to drive not just my father-in-law but also his cronies both to and from the slopes for an afternoon of skiing, burger-eating and beer-drinking. What?! Why on earth would she, a self-respecting woman, agree to this?! I silently pitied her for years, questioning doesn’t she have anything better to do with her time? Again, therein lies the answer. This alone time is the precious commodity, and being master of the car pool is the no-brainer trade-off.

We should all thank Pukey Pukerson’s mom. Not only has she schooled us in the art of effective and relentless outsourcing, but she has also made us look pretty darn good as parents!

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