Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My "Holiday" celebrations - a Letter to My Friends and Family

My Dear Friend,

      When you visited my house, you seemed confused as you looked from the mezuzah to the wreath on my door.  When you walked into our family room, your roaming eyes took in the countless Hanukiah on the table, then jumped across the room to the lights strung across the banister and the holiday tree sitting in front of it.  Then you saw the dining room table, decorated with crafts from the girls' preschool years and other Hanukkah gifts.  There were questions in your eyes and when the holiday music came on, I could see you wonder.  I'm sorry that my mixed-up, crazy way of celebrating the holidays has confused you, whether you are Jewish or not.  But I have my reasons.  Some of them might even be good ones.

As I gear up for the holidays this year, which seem to have snuck up on me, despite my best efforts to be prepared, I realize that the picture I present of the holidays to the outside world must be very confusing.  I am Jewish and I celebrate Hanukkah with my family.  But I was not born Jewish and my extended family still celebrates Christmas.  My mom has a tree and depending on where we are and what our holiday plans are, we sometimes have Christmas dinner with her, complete with gifts.

My house is decorated for Hanukkah, but that is where things get a bit muddy, because there are other "holiday" decorations there too.  To some, they might be considered "Christmas" decorations, and thus, the confusion, so I thought I'd try to clear a few things up.

As I mentioned, I was not born Jewish.  I was raised in a family that believed in G-d, and that went to a Bible church, with no particular denomination.  We celebrated Christmas and even went to services on Christmas Eve, but the holiday never held as much religious significance to me as it might to others.  We had a manger scene that we put out on top of the piano each year, and of course knew the story of the baby Jesus (and even did holiday pageants at church), but the day itself was usually about presents and food.

During my childhood and into my teen years, there were a few things that happened which made me question my connection to organized religion.  (Another blog post for another day.)  In college, I studied other religions (even Islam) and dated guys who were Catholic, even going to church with them.  Nothing seemed to fit quite right.  And then I found Judaism.  Many of my questions about G-d and Heaven and various other theological quandaries were answered, in a way that made sense to me.

While I was studying for my conversion, I was troubled by the idea of letting Christmas go.  I spoke with another woman who had converted many years before and asked her how she dealt with the "loss" of the holiday.  She told me that she thought about what it was that she liked so much about it and came up with the cooking and baking, singing carols and songs and giving gifts.  She realized that those were all things that she could continue to do, whether in her own home as part of her Hanukkah celebration, or with friends as part of their Christmas celebrations.

When I sat down and really thought about it, I came to the conclusion that my difficultly in letting it go was because of what the holiday represented to me.  Family.  My dad's family is huge and the holiday get-togethers were always large gatherings of aunts and uncles and cousins, crammed to the rafters at Grandma's house.  Christmas meant a big tree in the basement (that we would go out and cut down a few days before), piles of presents underneath and the smell of a ham cooking in the oven.  I can still hear the clatter of dishes in the kitchen and the murmur of voices all around the house - with the occasion cackle of laughter from someone or other.

When I moved to LA, I was not able to get back home for as many holiday gatherings as I wanted to, so I started to collect things to connect me to those feelings.  I put together a Winnie the Pooh holiday village, to remind me of the snow and the lights.  I would get a tree and decorate it and put presents underneath for myself or friends.  And I would bake and play Christmas music from November to New Years.

I moved to LA 18 years ago and I converted 14 years ago.  In all of that time, I have continued to search for ways to make the holidays mine and to still pay homage (in a way) to my own memories of  the family that I do not get to see as often as I'd like (or that is no longer with us).

The Winnie the Pooh village sometimes makes an appearance.  Yes, the characters have holiday lights on their houses, and Christmas trees, but it is the characters that draw me in.  They remind me of several very close friends I had in college, who were there for me when I needed a family close by and who got me through some very difficult years of growing into an adult.

The little holiday tree in the corner is for my aunt.  She paints extraordinary ornaments and decorations, which happen to be of Santa, yes.  But the tree is for her.  I used to put them across my mantle, but have run out of room.  The little pre-lit tree is perfect, until I outgrow that. (She is still painting.)  I do not consider it a "Christmas" tree and having it does not make me any less Jewish.  (There are also a few Hanukkah items on the tree.)

There are menorahs.  Oh, are there menorahs.  (Or, more correctly, Hanukiah.)  I have the very first one that I bought, for just a few dollars, the first year I celebrated Hanukkah.  I have the Winnie the Pooh one that Ray and Ronnye bought me the first year I celebrated with Rob's family.  And the list goes on.  In addition to the ones we light, I now have several that the girls have made in preschool or Hebrew school, some that we can light and some we cannot.  But we display them every year.

Many of the decorations are for the girls.  They love looking at holiday lights around town and so a few years ago, I started putting holiday lights out in my yard and on my garage and bears holding a Happy Hanukkah sign.  There is a Tigger, too, that happens to have a Santa hat on, but like I said before, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger are a direct link to my college years and some very close friends.

My wish is not to confuse my friends and family or other visitors to our house.  I do not want them to wonder if I'm Jewish or not, or whether I celebrate both holidays- which at home, we do not.  The girls open presents each night of Hanukkah.  We do celebrate Christmas with my mom (this year, in Vegas) and Santa sometimes stops by with a little something for them wherever we might be. (This confuses B quite a bit, because the rest of the year, she is convinced that there is no Santa.)  But we are Jewish.

My decorations (both inside my home and out) are my own way to connect back to my childhood and to remember my family and to honor the memories I have.  I don't think it confuses my girls, because I explain to them the reasons why I do certain things or have things in the house.  They don't wonder about celebrating Christmas (although they do sometimes wonder how Santa gets into the hotel room in Vegas.)  For now, it works for us.  And, as it happens - so far this year, I haven't been able to get Pooh's village up and out.  B keeps asking where it is.  Maybe next year.

To all of my friends and family, no matter how you celebrate the holidays, I hope that it is a happy one for you and your family, and I hope that you all have a very Happy New Year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

No, You Can't Take Dance Class.

Why? Because I'm not giving up any more of my time.

That might sound like a harsh message, particularly when delivered to an 8 year old girl.  But considering how much I say "yes" to my daughter, it stands to reason that "no!" needs to work itself into some of the conversations.

This conversation started much like many others, with her asking about things that I used to do, as we were in the car with be driving her to Hebrew school on Sunday morning.  We were discussing classes I took a few years ago (dancing...of a sort) and she ended the interrogation with "Can I take dance classes?"

Simple answer: no.

Her dad and I have had this conversation with her several times.  At the tender age of 8, her schedule is already packed with various activities and adding one more thing would break the bank.  Gymnastics on Monday, voice lessons on Tuesday, and Hebrew school on Thursdays and Sunday.   Add to that my volleyball league on Monday nights, basketball league on Sundays, Rob's baseball league on Sundays and a myriad of evening meetings for networking, office things and Temple business.  Our schedule is packed to overflowing.

Some parents might look at this and suggest that we take a little less time for ourselves and give a little more for our daughter.  In a perfect world, that might be a viable suggestion.  But our world is anything but perfect, and the list above does not take into consideration that her dad and I both work full time and have another daughter in preschool.  It also doesn't include her at school after-school theater group (which she loves.)  I also draw from my own experiences, which were limited where extracurricular activities were concerned.  I heard the word "no!" more times than I ever care to count, which is perhaps why I say "yes" to my girls as often as I do.  But I also recognize the need to draw the line.  There is such a thing as "too much" for our kids and our kids do need to hear the word "no!", so that they develop a healthy understanding that life does not always hand them what they want.

Sidebar - we are currently dealing with this with our 4 year old, who flops herself down on the ground in tears whenever we say "no."  It does not matter what the question is, if the answer is "no," she throws a fit.  And throws whatever is in her hands.  Usually something solid.  And at me.

Back to the 8 year old - I would be happy to sign her up for dance, or whatever other extra activity she would want to try, if she gave something else up.  (In my mind, I am thinking that gymnastics is not long for her world - she is already incredibly tall for her age and by the time I hit 6th grade, I was too tall for the uneven bars.  She is definitely following in my footsteps on that one.)  However, I refuse to add one more thing to her schedule, if it means having to give up something of mine.

If you think I am being selfish, you are probably correct.  But I will not apologize for that.  My daughters need to see me doing things for myself, even if it means that they do not get to do something.  I want both of my girls to grow up to be strong, independent women, who value their own self worth.  In order to do that, they need to see me taking time for myself and taking time to do things that I like to do, even without them or their dad.  Sometimes, it is as simple as going to get my nails done, by myself.  The example they see is that it is o.k. to have things that you like to do, that no one else is involved in.  Yes, I can share those things with others (the girls like to come to my games and watch me play), but I am not there for them.  I am there for me.

I hope that both girls develop interests in things that they will continue to do into their 20s or 30s or 40s.  I hope that they recognize the value in holding on to some of those favorite things, and realize that sometimes it is o.k. to want to be alone or to do something by themselves.  I hope that they understand that they do not need to share everything with their spouse or mate, and that in keeping a bit of themselves, separate from the other person, they are making the relationship stronger.

Yes, that is a bit down the road. (O.k., hopefully a LONG way down the road.)  But I think that it starts now.  By seeing me or their dad maintain a little of our individuality, they understand that it is o.k. to take some time for themselves.  Then when it is time for them to have their own families, they won't feel guilty about it. Well, they might  feel a little guilty.  But that doesn't mean that they will say "yes" to the dance lessons.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflections - 13 years

I just got into the office, after the Patriot Day Celebration at B's school.  As I write this, I consider the word "celebration" and wonder if it is the appropriate word.  After all, with the day marking such a horrible and tragic event in our Nation's history, is it a celebration?  Commemoration?  Regardless of the word, we mark the day.

As I stood behind one of the kindergarten classes, I smiled at the "oohs" and "aahs" as they craned their necks skyward to watch the Boy Scout Troop raise the flag.  Their excited chatter over seeing the flag unfurl was charming and quite a contrast to the group of police officers, fireman and other enforcement officers standing to my right, tall and straight, arms raised in quiet salute.

If you think about it, none of the children at the school were alive in 2001. (B, born in 2005 is in 4th grade.  Assuming the 6th graders are 2 or 3 years older than her, they would have been born in 2002 or later.)  While so many of us know where we were on that particular day, our children wonder what this day is all about.

I remember this day in 2001, 13 years ago.  I was driving to my job "over the hill", from Canoga Park to Beverly Hills.  I had worked there just 4 months and was still learning my way around and getting to know the people I worked with.  I don't remember what time I got in my car, but as usual, I turned the radio to "Jamie and Danny" on Star 98 (or maybe it was still "Jaime, Frosty and Frank" at the time?) as I hit the road.  I clearly remember Jamie, close to tears and with a tremor in her voice, saying "we still don't know what really happened, but we want you to know that we love you guys."  She was talking to the listeners.  I switched the channel to Kevin & Bean, to find just Money and "Doc on the Roc" on, giving updates on the situation in New York.  I was stunned.  I don't remember much of what I heard on the radio over the course of my 45 minute drive, but I remember quietly crying and wondering what was next.  When I got to the office, my coworkers were quietly walking around, seemingly dazed.  Through huddled conversations with others, I learned that one of the partners had a daughter living in New York City and he had not been able to get in touch with her.  (He was finally able to reach her and she was fine.)  As it became apparent that no work would be done, the partners gave us the option of going home.  Wanting to be with other people, rather than alone in my apartment, I headed to Rob's parents' house in Northridge.  I spent the day on their couch, watching the news stations.

Over the next few weeks, the horror of what happened that day continued to unfold and the uncertainty of our future with it.  Would there be other attacks?  Should we begin to stockpile food and water?  Would our lives as we know it change drastically?  For us, life went back to much the same as it was before, albeit with a few more hugs, a few more "I love you!"s called as we walked out the door, and a bit more patriotism.  But for others, their lives were irreversibly changed, forever marked by this day.

Having walked near the footprints of those buildings just two months ago, I marvel at the strength of New York City and its people.  While I'm sure many continue their daily lives in quiet remembrance of a friend or family member lost, of the horrors of that day, the simple fact is that they continue their lives.  They have not let this day get the best of them.

When we note this day, we remember the lives lost, the victims and the heroes, the first responders and all who helped in some way, whether it was in New York, Washington DC or that field in Pennsylvania.  We remember the swell of patriotism and the renewed spirit of the Country.  We hope.  We hope for a time without worry of these types of attacks.  We hope to never have to experience anything like this again.  We hope that our children do not have to live through anything like that.  And we thank G-d.  For our lives, for our family, for our country.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Turning 40 Bucket List

2  and a half years ago, my older sister turned 40.  Last year, my other sister turned 40.  Yes, as luck would have it, I'm next.  No dodging this one.  Back in 2012, I read a blog by a woman who was approaching her 39th birthday, and in celebration, she created a bucket list of 39 things that she would like to do before her 39th birthday.  Inspired by her list, I decided to create my own list, as I stared down the barrel of my own 40th birthday.

As I sat there, some 30-plus months ago, I struggled a bit.  What do I put on this list?  I wrote a few things down that I've long wanted to do, such as sky diving or bungee jumping, and then there was that violin of my grandfather's, sitting unused and in need of repair, to learn to play.  But many of the things on the other woman's list were things that I had already done - take a cruise to Europe, climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower, swim in the waters of the Caribbean.  So what to do, what to do.

If you look back at some of my posts from 2012, you'll see that I worked on that list.  But I never did get to 40 things.  At one point, I amended it and tried to come up with 20 things to do before my 40th birthday.  I don't have that list in front of me, so I'm not sure what was on it, but I'm guessing I haven't hit many of those goals.  And here I sit, just a mere 23 days from the "BIG" day.

I've known that this day was coming.  Some people say that big birthdays "sneak up" on them, but there was no sneaking for me on this one.  As I said, with 2 older sisters, each a year older than the other, you know when things like this are around the corner.  Also, as one of the youngest members of my high school graduating class, and with the access that Facebook now gives us to one another's lives, I have watched many of my friends tackle the dreaded 4-0.  But perhaps it is not so "dreaded" as it once was?  Some of my friends have kids going off to college, or even having their own children, while others might still be looking for that Mr. or Ms. "Right."   Who is to say which of us is doing it right (or wrong) when it comes to aging?    When my Mom hit 40, she had a 20 year old (and a 19 and 18 year old too.)  I'm pretty sure I would not have been able to handle that timing myself.

But still, my list looms, almost mocking me as the date approaches.  My 30th was interesting - it fell on Yom Kippur, which meant an entire day of fasting, in celebration of my birthday.  I was worried that I would end up with a massive headache by the time the cake came around late that night.  This year, my day once again falls on a holiday - the first day of Rosh Hashana.  So while I won't be fasting on my birthday this year, I will be sitting in Temple for the day.  (And then catching a flight to Las Vegas, but I digress.)

Although I didn't complete my list as I had hoped to do, it was occasionally in the back of my mind as the pages of the calendar flipped by.  Then, a few months ago, I stumbled across something that made me laugh a bit and stopped me in my tracks.  Rob's grandmother passed away at the end of April.  While preparing what I wanted to say at her funeral, I went through several of my old journals to see if I had written down any stories about trips, or even something about when I met her.  In the midst of all of that, I came across a list I had made in April 2001, a mere 13 years ago.  The list was "Things I'd like to do before I'm 40" and it had the following:

- learn to play the violin
- write a song
- write a book
- compose music (at least one piece)
- take horseback riding lessons
- sing on stage in front of a crowd
- see Paris, London, Hawaii
- visit Poland - Auschwitz
- learn to read Torah
- blow the shofar at High Holidays
- sell candy and cookie baskets (even if its only one)
- make my t-shirt quilt
-decorate a wedding cake.

 I laughed a bit when I saw the list and marveled at how things had changed.  Where was I at in 2001, that my almost 27-year old self would create such a list?  I was not yet married, and not even engaged to be married.  I did not have children.  Rob and I had been dating for about 2 and a half years and I had been a practicing attorney for almost 2.  Life certainly looked different.

My 2001 list kind of put my 2013-2014 list into perspective.  The things that I looked forward to doing then, in anticipation of a birthday then 13 years away were somewhat different, based on my life experiences to that point.  How did I fare on that list?  Well, there are a few things I can absolutely cross off, such as blowing shofar at High Holidays (although having done it for many years now, I'm not sure why I ever wanted to do that, haha), and seeing Paris and London and Hawaii (actually, all of them at least twice!).   A few others, I can cross off because while I did not accomplish them specifically as written, I think I've accomplished the spirit of what I was thinking at the time.  For example, over the past few years, I have sold several crafty-type gift baskets at holiday boutiques and fairs.  That counts.  Also, while I have not decorated a wedding cake, I've done several birthday cakes for my girls (some with several layers) and also did birthday cakes for Grandma Trudy (some of several layers.)  That counts too.

The t-shirt quilt still sits in a box in my spare room, waiting to be put together.  I've learned to read a bit of Hebrew and can follow along in the prayer book, but can't chat Torah.  I got my grandfather's violin refurbished and restrung but have not taken any lessons to learn to play it.   I attended a birthday party with K and rode a horse around the ring with her in front of me, but have not taken any lessons.  I've written countless chapters of novels in my head, but have not gotten them down into a book.  And I've had several dreams where a song gets stuck in my head and I tell myself to remember it, only to wake up and have it disappear into thin air.  These are the things on my list.

When I look back at those wishes, I see that they are a bit more "down to earth" than my current bucket list.  I still want to sky dive and I'd still like to bungee jump, but at the same time, I have other things I'd like to do, such as plan a few Bat Mitzvahs for 2 little munchkins I call my own.  I'd still like to see Poland, but I'd also like to see the world through my girls eyes.  (Having seen Paris with B when she was 3 and a half, I can't wait to see more of the world with them.  Her story about the Eiffel Tower and L'Arc de Triumphe giving hugs was just too cute!)

So my lists remain.  I've got my "old" list, that my 27 year old self made, from 2001 that I'm still working on and I've got those few things that my 38 year old self added to my "new" list.  Even if I don't get to cross any of them off in the next 23 days, I'll keep at it.  Who says that 40 has to be "old" or that I have to accomplish any of those things before then?  After all, age is just a number, right?  Bring it on, 40, bring it on.

Friday, July 25, 2014

You did WHAT!?! - Parenting Dilemma

I wrote this last month and for some reason did not publish it.  Here you go.

A few days ago, I did something I swore to myself I would never do.  I took money from one of my children.

When I was little, my sisters and I each had a silver barrel piggy bank.  Every Christmas and birthday, we would usually get one or two crisp new dollar bills from an aunt, and at other times a few quarters here and there from the Tooth Fairy.  We would carefully "hide" our money away in our piggy banks, perched on top of the old piano by the furnace grate.  I say "hide" because the money was not truly hidden, and everyone knew where to find our piggy banks.  Each time we got something to add to it, we would clean it out and count our loot, carefully stacking the bills and organizing the coins before putting it all back.

Our family was not well off.  By today's standards, we were probably lower class, not even scraping the bottom of lower-middle-class.  My dad worked hard, driving a rig for Pennzoil and my mom alternated between staying at home with us, when they could afford it, and working when they couldn't, running a fabric store and later as a secretary in a real estate office.

We lived on a farm and grew vegetables all summer to eat in the winter and while we never lacked for the necessities of life, there were quite a few things that we wanted, but never got.  (I still wonder what Santa did with that Barbie's Dream House that was on my list for years.). In my mind, the money in my piggy bank was mine, to do with what I wanted.  I don't remember anything specific now, but I'm sure at the time I had grand plans for how that money would be spent.

Such dreams went put the window in the cold light of reality, as dreams sometimes do.  I distinctly remember one night at home, when Dad asked where our piggy banks were.  (A rhetorical question, we were sure, since they were in plain sight where they had always been.). His response to our reply was to ask that we bring them to him.  Several minutes later he had taken a few dollars from each of us and returned the banks to their spots.  Several minutes after that, he left to go to the store.

The details of what else was said in response to our protests or mom's reaction are lost to time.  I do remember how, at first, we thought he was joking, only to realize he was not when he left the house and our money was not returned.  I vaguely recall being told that the money was needed to buy milk and bread, and only now wonder if he used it to buy cigarettes as well.  There is certainly no way to know.  But I distinctly remember how I felt when he took that money, and I remember telling myself that I would never do the same thing to my own kids.

As I sit here now, an adult with children of my own and responsibilities, I certainly understand the pressures of parenthood.  I can appreciate the worry when the bills come and add up to more than the last paycheck.  I appreciate it even more now that I own my own business and have to pay everyone else first.  What if there just isn't enough to go around?  What do you do?

The girls have savings accounts, both with some money given to them for birthdays and holidays.  I only half jokingly tell them that they have more money in the bank than I do.  They don't really have a concept that it is there, or how much there is, and it has always generally been an unspoken agreement between Rob and I that their money would be theirs for a car or college or something they wanted when they got older.  That money has always been figuratively untouchable.  I don't consider it when I look at our balances and I never thought I would consider it when it came time to pay bills.  Until Monday.

I mentioned before, one of the struggles of owing your own business is paying everyone else first.  This becomes more of a struggle when your clients don't pay you in a timely way and you end up juggling your business responsibilities and your personal ones.  This time, with no way to avoid either, I made a tough decision to dip into the untouchable well.

I still cringe when I think of it, but at the same time, I do not think there is anything "wrong" in what I did.  I used some of one of the girls' money to pay a bill.  I did not use it to buy clothes or go out for drinks or dinner.  I used it to pay a bill that was going past due and had no other way.  Part of me thinks "there is always another way." At the same time, the defensive part of me thinks that I have purchased so much for them over the years -books, toys, trips to Disneyland and everywhere else- that are "extras", that this washes out in the end.  I can't decide which side I ultimately fall on, especially since I know how it feels and swore I'd never do that.

One slight difference between my piggy bank story and this one - my dad took the cash from my bank, right in front of me.  I borrowed money from my child without her knowing it.  It doesn't change the basic event, but I think it does make a difference in how it is perceived.  She has money -cash- in her wallet.  I think if I had taken that, particularly while she was looking, it would have been more difficult.  Is it easier on me because she likely will never know it is gone?

I am hopeful that when my clients pay me what is owed, I can pay the rest of this months' bills and pay back the money we borrowed from the kids.  I am also hopeful that monthly cash flow rights itself well enough that I won't have to struggle with this dilemma again.  It seems strange and slightly odd to me that I would have to borrow money from my child.  Then again, when you consider all of the things I have bought for them "just because" (aside from food, clothes and a roof over their heads), maybe a little "give and take" in that department isn't so strange after all.

But that doesn't mean I don't still feel guilty.

You bought it, now use it!

This morning I needed a note card to give a tip for a counselor at camp.  With the girls already out the door and in the car, I ran back in and up to my craft room, picturing in my mind what card to reach for.  On a particular shelf, completely packed full, are several boxes of note cards that I have collected over the years.  I reached for a box featuring a storybook character and for a moment, I hesitated.  Do I really want to use this card?  What if I need it for something else later?  Shaking off those thoughts, I told myself "if you don't use it now, when are you going to?" and pulled the card out, put the box away and ran back downstairs to the car.

As we headed off to camp, I thought a bit more about my quick personal dilemma over the note cards and wondered where else in my house I choose not to use things and why.  I was reminded of the story written years ago that used to circulate by email chain (and now probably still pops up on Facebook or other social media once in awhile), written by Erma Bombeck.  The story came after someone asked her if she would do anything differently, if she had it all to do over.  Erma wrote a letter in response, proclaiming that she would no longer leave "good" things in the cabinets or save things for a "special occasion, but instead would use those nice things every day and cherish the memories created in doing so.  A link to the letter (with story on Snopes.com) is here.  http://www.snopes.com/glurge/bombeck.asp

Looking around my craft room and even my house, I wonder sometimes what I'm waiting for.  Growing up, we had a cabinet with "good china."  I do not remember a time as a kid when those dishes were ever used.  The cabinet that they were kept in had a particular smell and if I think about it, I can just recall it.  It wasn't musty, but it was a woodsy smell that did not fade over time, mostly because the cabinet was rarely opened.  After my dad passed away and we moved to a new house, we started hosting family dinners at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  Those dishes finally got some use.  Of course in doing so, there were cracks in some and some that broke completely.  But we have memories of family gathered around the table eating, and memories of the men gathering in the kitchen to wash the dishes (hand wash only!) and even memories of a dog or two sitting on the floor waiting for scraps to fall.  If we had left the dishes in the cabinet, would we have those memories?

When I got engaged and was registering for wedding gifts, I registered for a set of "good china" and "good silver."  I also added various silver trays and bowls and things to my list.  We were blessed to have many friends and family purchase those things for us and now they sit in a cabinet.  One of the reasons I started having a large Passover gathering after Rob and I got married, was because I wanted to use my china and did not want it sitting in the cabinet.   After last year's water heater debacle, and the purchase of new dining room furniture, I had to move all of that china and silver into the new cabinet and was again struck by how little some of it is used.

I also unearthed place mats and napkins that see relatively little use.  For a time, I would buy sets of place mats and napkins when they were on sale at Macys or Crate & Barrel, loving the idea of dinners with color coordinated linens serving as the base.  It was a lovely thought.  The reality of life with kids is that they want plastic "Frozen" or "Dora" (or their own handmade) place mats and could care less about your matching, color coordinated efforts.  Cloth napkins need to be washed (and ironed) to retain their crisp look and who has time for that?  Paper napkins are so much easier.  And things get spilled.  BBQ sauce does NOT easily come out of white place mats.

I could probably mentally wander through each room of my house and identify things purchased with good intentions or lofty dreams of decorating wonder, but that have sadly sat unused on a shelf or in a cabinet, collecting dust, waiting for just the right moment.  I won't bore you with the details.  I will tell you that I have resolved to be better about it, to stop buying things that I wouldn't use right away, to only buy things that can survive my kids.  I resolve to clean out those cabinets of unused things and either make more use of them, or sell or donate them to someone else who can (or wants to) use them.

Of course, the main offender in this story is my craft room.  Yes, the room itself is the problem.  You see, it sucks up my craft hoard, making me forget what I have.  In forgetting what I have, I don't use it and just buy more.  I need to clean the room out.  But at the same time, I need to recognize that for as beautiful as that paper or sticker or whatever is in its original form, it will be much more beautiful when it is showcased with a family picture or a memory caught on film and packaged in a scrapbook.  The beautiful paper is nice when it is tucked on my shelf in a box with others like it, but when it is cut or torn and connected with memories of our time together, it becomes so much more.

So get out there and use those "special" note cards.  Take a page from Erma and use your good china tonight for dinner, even if you aren't having guests and even if you're just having hot dogs and baked beans.  Choose to live life more fully, and include the things you have surrounded yourself with.  After all, if you don't, who will?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Observations From This Past Weekend

I started this on Monday and now it is Friday.... I guess the week got away from me?  In any event, back to my thoughts from last weekend, as I trip into this weekend.

It is 10:15 on a Monday morning and I am still not through my weekend emails.  I thought I was being "good", putting the electronics away this weekend and not checking email too often.  I took in a baseball game, I played with the girls, we danced at Preschool Prom (more on that later) and I arrived at work today with far too many emails in my Inbox.  And I'm still cleaning them out.  An hour later.  UGH!  Sadly, most of them are junk, but I still have to go through them.  Of course, while I've been working on cleaning out the emails from the weekend, another 10 or 12 new ones have come in.  It is a never ending battle.

You can't force a 3 year old to say hello to someone.  I know this is no big surprise to the parents of toddlers out there, but sometimes grandparents and aunt/uncles/close family friends get frustrated when this happens.  I try bribing and cajoling and just about anything else I can think of, but at the end of the day, if she doesn't want to, it isn't going to happen.  Think about it.  All day long, our toddlers/ preschool-age children are told what to do:  when to nap, when to get up, what to eat, where to sit, ... and the list goes on.  Yes, they sometimes disagree, but if we really want them to move, sit, eat, etc., we have our ways.  This is the one spot where they have some power and control and there is nothing Mommy or Daddy or anyone else can do about it.  (Other than steal kisses, of course.)  This is especially true when said child has not napped and got up early.  No amount of begging will get that kid to give love if she doesn't want to.  Side note on this one - when K does this to teachers at school (doesn't want to say hello, acts shy or curls up to me), they start to tickle her and get her to laugh.  Very rarely does she stay sad or upset or hiding and she will usually start to giggle and engage with them.  To the grandparents/ aunts/ uncles and friends out there who are sometimes hurt by her unwillingness to say hello, maybe a little joking around is in order to get her to engage.  I'm not saying it will work all the time, but maybe it will get her used to you a bit quicker than when you get offended and walk away.  I'm just saying.  (Because if you walk away upset, she has won and she has power and she will use it again and again.)

Preschoolers need naps.  Again, something that all of my parenting friends out there already know.  What am I talking about - I know this.  Unfortunately, knowing something and getting something to happen are two completely different things.  K did not nap yesterday (Sunday) because between helping with set up for Prom and getting B to Hebrew school and getting showers and hair done and everything else.... there just wasn't time.  (Didn't help that Prom was at 3:30, but that's another story.)  K didn't nap and by 5:30, she had had enough.  Not only tired, but cranky and even snarling at us.  There were moments of laughter and dancing with her Daddy and having fun, but anytime we asked her to do anything, she went right back to captain cranky pants.  Fun.  But she slept well last night and made it through the night with no accidents (and no Pull-up.)  She was very excited.

Preschool Prom - Don't knock it until you try it.  Several of our friends from preschool were posting things on their FaceBook pages regarding Preschool Prom yesterday.  Several of their non-preschool-parent friends were posting sometimes scathing comments about the idea.  My advice to those of you not "in the know"?  Don't judge what you do not know.  "Preschool Prom" is actually just an end-of-the-year dance where all of the families are invited to have an hour and a half of good fun.  We charge for tickets, because the Preschool Parent Council needs money to provide various programming to the kids throughout the year.  We also offer an "Art Gala" (each child does a piece of art that the parents can then buy) and we also offer a Silent Auction.  Yes, it costs money.  But do you think that the crayons your children use come free?  And the bark that cushions their little butts when they fall off of the monkey bars ain't cheap.  Is it cheesy?  Of course.  But is it fun? Absolutely!  And who would not want to see a crowd of 20 little ones, cheerfully screaming out "Let it go!" at the top of their lungs.  No they don't get limo rides to the dance or go out to fancy dinners.  Some of the girls get their hair done (what girl wouldn't want her hair done for the big dance?), some of the Daddies buy their dates flowers, and the kids really get a kick out of dressing up.  (One of the little boys even brought flowers for the girls in his class.)  So please do not rain on our parade.  Yes, we call it a "prom" and get dressed up and dance.  But we aren't hurting anyone (you naysayers) and at the end of the day, it raises money for our children's school.  End of story.

Kids can make baseball games REALLY long.  Rob and I took the girls to a game on Saturday and luckily for us, the game started at 4:10.  Our seats were already in the shade and so even though it was hot, it was not unbearable.  At the end of the game, Rob commented that the game had taken a little over 3 hours, which is fairly good for time.  (How many of us have sat through those 4 or 5 hour games?  I have.)  With kids, however, time seems to drag no matter how well your pitcher is pitching.  Between trips to the bathroom and the concession stands (and the ATM) and the souvenir stores, it can be daunting.  Of course, if the munchkins are bored, it becomes that much for difficult to get them sit still.  (And then they want more food or another trip to the bathroom.)  I love my girls and I love taking them to games.  But sometimes, I think I would have a bit more fun if it was an adults' night out.

____  I'm sure there were more "observations" from the weekend and there may even be a post-it note somewhere with them scrawled on it.  Unfortunately, I have forgotten what I'm sure were witty and funny comments about the life of a stressed-out, maxed-out mom and her brood.  (Yes, even with just 2 kids, it can be a "brood.")

Some observations from the week?  The subconscious can be a real pain in the backside.  Yesterday morning I woke up from a crazy dream where I had been trying to spank K (for writing all over herself with a blue marker - she had even taken off her cloths to write on more skin), and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a good smack in.  I was troubled by that dream on several levels.  This morning I woke up stressed out because in my dream it was 11 a.m. and I had not made it to the office yet.  In real life, I had told someone that a document would be ready by 11 a.m.  So my subconscious was freaking out worrying about it, which manifested into a dream where I wasn't even at the office yet, by 11.  ARGH!

This weekend looks to be another busy one, lots of planning and events and various things, as we slide into the last week and a half of school.  (B is done on the 17th, K is done on the 18th.)  Then I have to figure out what to do with them for 3 days.  yikes!   Between school intersession and summer break and Jewish holidays, I didn't really want to get any work done this month, did I?

Happily counting down the days until our trip to NYC!  Just bought my Top of the Rock tickets last night and already scored our tickets to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty.  Beyond excited!

And one final thought.... today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  10 years ago, while on a family trip, I had the opportunity to visit Normandy, just a few days after the 60th anniversary.  It was a moving visit and one that I'm sure I could have made last for several days.  I would have loved to wander the French countryside and visit with locals, soaking up the history.  I walked the beaches where so many sacrificed themselves, stood in the German bunkers that looked down on the beaches and walked the silent paths of the cemeteries.  So many from that time are gone and few are left to recount the stories of bravery and heroism.  I hope that we, as the next generation, can adequately preserve those stories and memories.  The old quote is that those who forget history are bound to repeat it.  Let's hope that we never forget and that it is never repeated.  (And to end on a bit more humorous note, that quote holds true for parenting too.  If you forget it after your first, you are bound to repeat it with your second.)

May you all have a great restful, fun, adventurous, quiet, crazy weekend.  (You pick one.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

I have a knot in my gut.  Before lunch today, I booked our flights to New York for this summer.  Last week, I booked the hotel.  The knot in my stomach is because I only booked 2 flights and the hotel has been notified that there will be 2 guests.  Yes, this is a trip without children.

Since that moment almost 9 years ago when a little girl screamed her way into our lives and that moment when number 2 showed up 5 years later, we have taken few steps without them in tow.  B took her first overnight adventure without us just a few months ago, at a sleepaway camp with her Hebrew school class.  I think she did much better over that weekend than Daddy and I did.

Rob and I have gone on trips before.  A few years ago, we left B at my Aunt's house (for cousin's week) and took baby K to Washington DC.  She happily rode around in her stroller while we saw the sights.  When B was a baby, we took a few weekends here and there to Vegas and one to Tahoe while B stayed with Rob's parents or a friend (who is a favorite auntie of the girls'.)

This time, we are going to be gone for more than a weekend and we will be more than a few hours drive away.  Perhaps that is the cause of this knot?  Do I feel guilty that I will be off enjoying the sights without them?  Am I worried that they will remember the time Mom and Dad went to the Big Apple and did not take them?  Maybe I feel bad because we are foregoing a "family vacation" in favor of Rob and I taking this trip.  Maybe I feel bad because B wants to see the city almost as much as I do.  (K says she does too, but she will say almost anything if B says it first.)

On one hand, I am looking forward to a few days of sightseeing without worrying that someone is lagging behind and without having to hear "I'm Hungry!" or "My feet hurt!" or "I have to go to the bathroom" every 10 feet.  I am looking forward to being able to have a nice dinner out with my hubby and have more than 1 drink without having to think twice about having to get up to get someone to school in the morning.  On the other hand, this is the first time I have left both girls home without one of us around for more than a day or two, the first time we will be a significant number of miles away and not immediately reachable.  And of course, part of me worries about the unknown but I quickly squash those thoughts and put them away.

It is hard as a parent to remember to do things for yourself.  As we get wrapped up in the excitement of our children's new discoveries and milestones, we sometimes forget that we were once our own people, with our own interests and likes and dislikes.  It is good to remind ourselves of that once in awhile, and to remind ourselves that it is not selfish to want to spend even a few days with our spouse without the little hands reaching in between the hugs or the little feet kicking us under the covers.  It is good.  I am not being selfish.  It is o.k. to want to take a trip without my kids and to enjoy myself in their absence.  It is good.  It is o.k.

Now can someone please tell me how to get rid of this guilt?!?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Disrespectful Daughter?

We arrived at last night's baseball game a bit early, having given ourselves time for traffic and to get into the parking lot and find our way to our seats.  We sat with the girls and watched the field crew finish up their last bits of raking and then watched as Minions took the field for a "first pitch".  Then the in-stadium announcer asked us to rise and remove our caps for the National Anthem.

Since K had already crawled up onto my lap, I stood up, holding her and waited for the performer to start.  As she started singing along, I happened to glance over at B.  She was standing there, slightly slouched, arms akimbo (I never thought I'd be able to use that word in my writing) and seemed to just be waiting for the song to be over.  I reached over, grabbed her right hand and put it over her heart.  She laughed and dropped her hand.  I gave her a stern look, reached over and again put her right hand over her heart.  She sort-of laughed the second time and still moved her arm down.  Then I swatted her backside and Rob gave her a look.  She still did not get it.

I waited until the song was over, and leaned over to her.  I was trying not to be too loud and trying to keep my "upset-ness" (Is that a word?) in check.  I calmly explained to her that she needed to respect the flag and our country by putting her hand over her heart, that her grandfather and great-grandfather (and many aunts and uncles) had fought for this country, and that I never wanted to have that discussion with her again.

Later that night and into this morning, I kept thinking about what happened.  I do not think that my 8 year old set out to be disrespectful.  I do not think that she doesn't care about our country or her freedoms or her rights.  I do think that she possibly just did not understand the gravity of what was happening in that moment, or my reaction to her actions.  I decided to chat with her a bit about it today.

On the way to the dentist's office, we had 15 uninterrupted minutes (no K trying to join the conversation) and I brought it up.  I explained to her that we live in a country that has many freedoms that others do not enjoy.  I explained that it goes beyond basic freedoms, because we are women and in many countries, women cannot drive or go to school or work in various professions (such as law) like I do.  I tried to (gently) explain to her that just the simple act of me taking her to the dentist without a man in the car was impossible to imagine for women in some parts of the world.  I said that our freedoms demand respect and that you show respect by standing during the anthem, and putting your hand on your heart, just like during the Pledge of Allegiance.

I could see her in the rearview mirror and like many times I have serious conversations with her, I had to wonder if she was listening, or taking what I said to heart.  Thinking that I might have more of an impression on her with something "closer to home," I mentioned that in countries, girls are not allowed to go to school - even elementary or high school.  I said that last year, there was a little girl, age 15 or 16, who believed that all kids should have access to an education, and some people tried to shut that little girl up because they did not agree.

I mentioned that her grandfather (my dad) and great-grandfather and many other aunts and uncles and cousins had fought in wars and battles, because of people that believed not everyone should have the same freedoms.  I told her that in World War II, her great-grandfather fought against Hitler's armies and that Hitler believed that Jews did not belong on the earth.

Like I said, I'm not sure what got through to her.  I can certainly understand that it is hard for an 8 year old to see her mom happy and laughing one minute and then ultra serious and upset the next.  But I explained to her (in the car this morning), that there are a few things that really set me off, and a lack of respect for the flag and our country is one of those things.  (I cannot stand to see people sitting during the national anthem, or not taking their hats off - that drives me absolutely nuts!)  I finished our discussion hoping that something got through.

As we were leaving the dentist's office, B said that there were a few things we talked about this morning that scared her.  When I asked what, she said the part about the little girl who was hurt and the part about having to wear long, black clothes all day and keep covered.  I apologized first - nothing that I said was meant to scare her, and then I suggested that she focus on the good things that come with freedom, and the benefits of living where we live.  But with that comes responsibility to be respectful and to acknowledge certain things, like the flag and our national anthem.

Only time will tell whether or not my little chat has any impact.  I hope that the next time we are at a game somewhere and the national anthem is played, that she will rise and place her hand on her heart without thinking about it.  I hope that she will remember our discussion and that she will be proud of her country and her freedoms.  Of all of the things I hope for my little girls, this is a big one, I think.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why I like "Frozen" and Am Not Ashamed to Admit It

I like the movie Frozen.  There, I said it.  I'm not afraid to admit it and I will happily wander around town in my Olaf t-shirt, singing "let it go!" at the top of my lungs.  I know many of my contemporaries are so tired of the songs that they want to rip their hair out every time they hear a note.  The movie was just released on DVD yesterday and already their eyes are bleeding from the repeated viewings their children have made them sit through.

Countless hours have surely been spent by some parents combing through the aisles of Wal-Mart, Target, JCPenneys and the Disney store looking for the latest and greatest toy, and probably even more time hanging around on eBay, waiting to put in a last minute bid on that plush Olaf that everyone seems to want.  Disney seems to have dropped the ball big-time on the merchandising for this one, but we can talk about that later.  Today, it is about me.

Before we even saw the movie, (several weeks before it even came out in theaters) Olaf and Elsa moved into our house.  This is what happens when Daddy takes K to the mall because Mommy and B are at a Girl Scouts event and Daddy doesn't know what to do with K.  A trip to the mall almost always includes a walk through the Disney store and K convinced Daddy to buy her Olaf (the 12" plush version.)  Not wanting B to feel left out, K picked out the plush Elsa for her.  Over the next few weeks, we would hear from our girls how much they wanted to see the movie, every time a trailer came on the Disney channel or we saw a billboard or poster.

Seeing the movie late in November did not dampen the girls' ardor for the movie and I knew as they walked out signing the songs that we were in trouble.  The soundtrack quickly joined our collection and made its way to both Rob and my iPods and various books followed.  For Hanukkah and Christmas, Anna and Elsa dolls appeared, along with an Anna plush to match B's Elsa plush, and of course, the costumes.  I happened to track down the Else costume in B's size at JCPenney's before Hanukkah, along with Anna for K.

In the midst of all of this, the girls were (and still are) singing and smiling and engaged.  They know the words, they know the characters, and they love the story.

As a Mom, I love seeing this, but these are not the only reasons why I am drawn to this movie.  As a child, the Disney movies I was introduced to all included some type of damsel in distress.  That was the mold and model and there did not seem to be anything wrong with that.  (If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)  Forget Dreamworks or Sony or any other animation company.  They did not exist.  Disney was the only game in town at that time and they stuck with what worked.)

You've probably seen the video or pictures or articles that circulate on Facebook, giving the pared down version of the princesses and why we should not be so quick to glorify them.  It is funny and has more than a hint of truth, but this is more personal.  Much of what I saw as a child, was girls who had things that I did not - money, a big house, a pet tiger, beautiful dresses, a fairy godmother, the list goes on.  While I felt I had a certain kindred spirit in Cinderella, especially on those cold days when I was forced to trudge through several feet of snow to haul firewood, I never had a fairy godmother show up and shuffle me off to the ball in a pumpkin.

And the men.  Of course all of the Disney stories I grew up with had a prince, a rescuer, a guy to solve all of a girl's problems.  Although I probably knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I did not really need a man, I always wanted one.  A romantic at heart, those movies fed my need to have someone sweep me off my feet and take all of my cares away.  As a young girl, I doubt I identified with that part of the story as much, but it certainly laid a foundation for that high school girl that I grew into, looking for love in all the wrong places.  I had no idea of my own self worth and really had no concept of how a girl was supposed to function in life without a man by her side.  I think much of this was sub-conscious, but it was there nonetheless.  (It did not help that I lost my dad at 14, so really never had a guy's input into the whole "dating" thing as I got older.)

So what it is about Frozen that speaks to me?  One part is the sisters.  I have 2 and although we fought like cats and dogs sometimes (have I ever told you about the time Candy threw a potato at me?), we still have that bond, which has grown stronger (I think) as we've gotten older, despite living so far apart.  With B and K, I see that bond.  Yes, they fight like cats and dogs, but at the same time, B is very protective of K and K tries everything she can think of to be included in B's world.  I only hope that as they get older, they appreciate each other.

Beyond that, I love what the movie tells my girls.  It is o.k. for a girl to go out and try to save the day.  It is o.k. for the girl to tell the guy "no, it's o.k., I've got this.  You stay here and keep the home fires burning, I'm going to save the world."  I love that my girls have a strong example (besides me, of course), of a girl charging headlong into the fray and slaying dragons (or giant snow marshmallows.)  Because we know that at these ages (3 and 8), they aren't going to listen to a thing Mom says and would rather do what Disney tells them to do.  And as a reformed (not quite) choir geek, I love the music.  I love that my girls walked out of the theater singing the songs and that I find myself singing them even after the kids are out of the car.  I love that the music was good enough to make it seem like a large production and that they are already considering making it into a Broadway show.

So that's my reasoning, in a nutshell.  Just don't ask me how I feel about Disney's merchandising on this one and the efforts to locate more plush Olaf dolls.  (We keep ours hidden sometimes, because we don't trust the world not to try and steal it. He didn't get to go to Disneyland the last time either.)  Come and talk to me in a month or two, when our dvd copy is a little more worn out.  I might be singing a different tune at that point but for now, I still like the movie and I'm not afraid to admit it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

But I used the Backboard!

I wrote this a few months ago and for some reason never posted it.  The season I was writing about ended with us losing our first (or maybe second) playoff game.  The next season started after the first of the year and we are back in the thick of things, still shooting and still fighting with less-than-helpful backboards.

Two days ago I played in my Sunday league basketball game.  By some bit of chance (and a little bit of skill), we made it to the playoffs.  The team we were facing was familiar to us, we had played them several times before.  Depending on the make-up of our team on any given Sunday, we are sometimes tough and scrappy competitors who keep the score close (or win), and other times we are a hodge podge, barely 5 (and many times just 4 of us) who try to at least keep the score respectable.  On this particular day, we were 5 and we played scrappy. 

For those of you who might have seen me play once upon a time, you might recall that although I'm tall, I'm considered "slight" by some.  I have even been known to spend time as a shooting forward, rather than a true "center."  My college coach was convinced that I needed to "put some meat on those bones" and would send me to the weight room after practice to "bulk up."

These days, I'm the tallest on my team and sometimes the tallest on the court.  Depending on who we are playing, I can post up and get a few good moves to the basket.  Not so much for this game.  One of the opposing players is tall - taller than I am, and has a longer reach. Not many people can make me feel short, but she does. I'd guess that she's 6'4" or maybe even 6'5" (or maybe that's just my imagination.) There were a few times when I got position, boxed out and jumped. Only to come up empty handed. It's like they always say, "you can't teach height." 

Despite having an opposing player who was taller, I did manage to get the ball inside a few times (either on passes from my teammates or offensive rebounds.)  But my shots were just not falling.  The rims at the Burbank gym where we play are horrible.  There is no finesse to most shots, and sometimes I can only stare open-mouthed at some of the "junk" that falls.  It really is a crap shoot.   But I had to laugh (to myself) because several times, my teammates thought to offer me advice.  One of my favorites, "just gather yourself and go up strong."  Oh, if I only had a nickel for every time I've heard that one in my life.

There were several others, having to do with my height, or the ability to draw the fouls if I drove to the hoop, and I just smiled and nodded.  I could blame it on the hoop or the other team, but sometimes the shots just didn't fall (and sometimes they were just bad shots - off balance or just tossed up poorly.)  Despite my best efforts, my shots weren't falling.  Much to my frustration, I was using the backboard, as I was taught.  Grrrrrr.

I smiled a bit too though, because I remember hearing some of those very words from my high school coach and the assistants and sometimes even the older players.  Words that were drilled into my head starting in the 8th grade come floating back when I play these days.  And perhaps some of these words are more than just snippets for the court - perhaps some of them are life lessons?

My 7th grade hoops career was less than a blip on the radar screen.  I made the team (if you consider "making" the team being kept with 29 other girls) and managed to get on the Court for about 20 seconds at the end of a game, where I racked up 1 stat - a turnover.  I battled back in the 8th grade and made the team (of 8 or 9 girls), legitimately.  I'm not sure if it helped that I was "Trixie's little sister" (she was well on her way to becoming one of the few freshmen who played varsity), but I made the team. (I worked my butt off, too.) 

During one of our practices, our Coach, Mr. Root, said something that has stuck with me to this day.  "one dribble nowhere."   The next time you watch a game (high school, college, pros - any level), look for the "one dribble nowhere."  It's the player that gets a pass and immediately puts the ball on the floor, bouncing it once and picking it up.  They have now isolated themselves, taking away the ability to move on a dribble or effect any change in the play.  Their only option now is to shoot (if available), or pass.  But if they are out of their range, and have no one to pass to, they are stuck.  He coached us to avoid taking that "one dribble nowhere" and went so far as to suggest that we don't put the ball on the ground unless we know where we are going and are prepared to get there.

Once again, a basketball lesson that can be used in "real life."  How often to we take one bounce and pick up our dribble?  At work, with our kids - in our planning.  Do you take a step in one direction, but then stop? 

That favorite of my teammates recently, "go up strong" can also be used in real life.  How many times do we approach a situation and rush headlong into it, arms flailing about and hoping for the best?  Would we be better off if we paused for a moment, gathered all our strength and then made the shot?  Would it help?  Could it hurt?

Studies have been done to tell us that people who were athletes in high school or college tend to perform better in high stress situations and tend to excel at some positions where non-athletes might struggle. (Yes, someone, somewhere paid someone else money to figure that out.)   The part of those years that I find most helpful sometimes is that voice in my head, screaming the mantra of those long-ago days.  Usually, it is my high school hoops coach, who very rarely raised his voice, (if he got a technical from the bench, you knew something was going horribly wrong), his words still ringing in my ears some 22 years later.  The "Glory Days" are long gone, but the lessons learned on the hardwood can still apply today.  And I will still try to use the backboard, even if it has an odd bounce.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Catching 40 in the Headlights

Every once in awhile, I catch myself.  40 is just around the corner, and I'm not that "young" anymore.  Sometimes, it blows my mind to think that I have a child who is in the third grade.  I'm not old enough for that, right?  Of course, to keep things in perspective, I remind myself that at 40, my mom had 2 girls in college and another (me) finishing high school, aged 20, 19 and almost 18.  I'm definitely not old enough for that, right?

I remember being in 7th grade and thinking that the juniors and seniors looked so mature.  I still look at my senior picture from high school and think "I look so young!"  I also think "boy, were we ever clueless."  Even now, when I see people who were just a few years ahead of me in school, I still think they look so much more mature than me.  How is that possible?  And yet, when I look closely in the mirror, I see those lines that will never go away, I see the signs of the time on my face.

My generation has an interesting place in history.  We used to have to look things up in books and encyclopedias, sometimes waiting for weeks to check something out at the library.  Our news came from daily papers and the 6 o'clock evening news (on one of three channels.). Our children have never known life without instant gratification, and it is all hand held.  They get their news instantaneously, sometimes even before the dust has settled.

My generation has witnessed technology develop at an alarming rate and watched society struggle to keep up.  Our children are teaching our parents how to use computers.

And here I sit, struggling with the idea of age.  It is just a number, right?  You're only as old as you feel, right?  And yet, somehow, on some of those days, I feel much older.  At 31, my body bounced back pretty well from child number one.  The weekly or even bi-weekly trip to the gym was sufficient to keep things toned and healthy.  At 36, after child number 2, the spirit was still willing but the body...not so much.  Now bruises last longer, falls are harder, twists and sprains hurt more and seem to take longer to heal.  We have turned into those "weekend warriors" we used to laugh at.  No longer the indefatigable varsity athlete, we are only half joking when we ask for an oxygen tank on the sideline.  We really do know what Bruce Springsteen is talking about in "Glory Days."  We really did have a friend who back in high school was a big baseball player, or another who could turn all the boys' heads.  Now we are raising kids and hoping they aren't half as stupid as we were back then.

A small irony in my own struggle with the annual dousing of the flames of wax is that my little one is getting older.  Now in preschool, I sometimes find myself wishing she would walk faster, be able to keep up, and not need the stroller or the nap.  Then I look into that little face, remind myself that she is only 3 and hope that the clock will slow down and that those calendar pages will stop turning quite so fast.  I want more time with her just to play and snuggle and not have to worry about after-school activities or what someone said in class or bullies.

Can we just stop the calendar for awhile?  I'll avoid the "big 4-0" for a little while longer and my baby will stay my baby for a few more precious years.  That  is o.k., right?  As I sit here typing this, my knee hurts from playing basketball yesterday and I'm somewhat dreading the need to train for a 10K run coming up in a few weeks.

I suppose that if we continue to have birthdays it means that we are alive and well.  If we continue to have them surrounded by friends and family, that means we are blessed to have those relationships that many may not.  If our children are there to help us blow out the candles, we are perhaps even more blessed.

Marketing people like to say that 40 is the new 30 (who else tells us this stuff).  I'm not exactly sure what that means, but if it means that at 40, I can be a mom with a career and still have a life of my own and be "hip" once in awhile, then I guess I'm o.k. with that.  I will continue to go to rock concerts even though some of them are too loud (my ears must be getting old) and I will continue to ride roller coasters and laugh and giggle my way through Disneyland.  Of course, as an added bonus - as B and K get older, I can embarrass them just a bit, too by doing those things.  Because I'm not that old, yet.

To my friends who have already hit 40 this year or will be doing so in the next few months, I'm right there with you.  Still younger, but there with you.  And we've got this.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

The evidence of our "wild and crazy" night is still littered around the house.  As I sit here at a quarter to twelve, having just gotten out of the shower, I can only shake my head at the quality of our celebration.

Rather than loud music or the sound of people talking or laughing, our night was filled with a chorus of hacking coughs, sneezing and the girls fighting because Mommy and Daddy were both still too sick to referee.  No confetti or streamers at this party.  Instead our floor, coffee table and night stands are strewn with wrappers from cough drops and crumbled tissues that missed their mark on the way to the trash can.  And as much as we enjoy a nice glass of wine or whiskey, our "spirits" for the evening were ginger ale and Robitussin.  It was a party for the ages.  I cannot remember a New Year's Eve in recent memory so quiet, except possibly the year B was born, when we both fell asleep watching Bond movies on a loop on cable.  

It might have been because of the busy weekend and first part of the week we had, moving our offices to a new location and it certainly didn't help that I have been sick off-and-on for about 3 weeks.  December certainly was crazy and I am looking forward to getting back to some sort or "normal" routine in the coming weeks.  It could also be that because I was sick, Rob did a lion's share of the heavy lifting on Sunday (with his dad and brother) while I went home to sleep, and then he ended up getting sick.  It has been a perfect storm of imperfection.

If nothing else, the down time (is there ever really down time with kids) has given us a few minutes to look back on the year and marvel at what we have done.  The firm is still going and has moved to bigger space.  We have been blessed with so many friends (personal and professional) who have helped us by sending referrals or just being there to chat if we need it.

Aside from bringing home the latest germs to test out on us, the girls are healthy and thriving in their schools and "social" lives.  We are truly blessed and have had a good year filled with fun times, trips and family.  

We are looking forward to this new year and all that it will bring us.  And we wish all of our friends and family a very happy and healthy and wonderful New Year!