Friday, April 27, 2012

Five for Five: Listening

Listening to your three rambunctious children

shouting their goodnight's and love you's,

whispering in bed instead of sleeping,

the sounds of their cascading giggles,

is a beautiful lullaby for mothers,

and one I would not trade

for any golden treasure on Earth.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Five for Five: Age

I heading towards the big 4-0 in a little over a year.  I know I should not be too worried.  Forty is the new thirty.  I have over a year to get over it.  I understand all of that.  Really, I do.

But I have a son who is going to start middle school in the fall.  I have a son who will begin Kindergarten in the fall.  I can't be young and have a middle school-er, can I?  I mean, do you remember what your parents and your friends' parents seemed like when you were twelve?  I'll say it for you: ANCIENT.

Somehow, the idea of a middle school aged kid and a Kindergartener shouldn't go together.  I mean, they are both monumental milestones.  Forty: a monumental milestone.  I am a little freaked out.  


And I kind of feel sorry for my husband.  

Can you imagine what things are going to be like?  Mommy is turning forty and running from a midlife crisis in sensible (read: old lady) shoes while her baby is starting school for real and her oldest is going through pre-teen, emotional, pre-adolescent bullshit. 

Yeah.  Life will be grand.  Please note that this statement is oozing in sarcasm.

So I have done what any sensible woman would do (besides wonder how the hell I got to here).  I booked a cruise.

I know what many of you who have followed my blog for a while and remember last year's ill-planned cruise are thinking.  But I was smart this time.

I know no one in my household will be making a major religious sacrament.

I know that everyone will have testing in April. 

I know when the last day of school is in 2013 (no eye rolling, please.)

I made sure we leave two days AFTER the last day, making it virtually impossible to screw this up.

Except that we won't be celebrating my fortieth on the ship, because my big day is the day before.

Nor will we be celebrating my husband's fortieth (as he is quick to point out, I am eleven days older), because we get back before his big day.

And I'm okay with that.  I want to be in the comfort of my own home, frantically packing for five when it hits. 

I wonder if it will hurt.

I guess my biggest problem is that my mind cannot accept this.  I don't feel older than 25, at most. And maybe there is the crux of the issue.  In my head, I am 25.  My body says otherwise if I carry too many groceries at one time or I try to scoop my sleeping five year old to bed.  My body screams: NO!!  You are not 25.  You are there.  Where you thought you would never be.  You are arriving at middle age.  Shit.

It took me most of my life to finally be comfortable in my own skin.  I have a better clue of what I am doing now in most areas of my life.  I can live in my own head now; the noise has considerably gotten quieter.   I have finally found the courage to be the person I thought I could be.  I have challenged myself physically (6 half marathons in a year, yo!).  I have pushed myself to do the impossible (have you tried to keep three boys clean, groomed, fed and entertained while holding down a full time job?) and still manage to want to try new things (like assisted handstands in yoga or getting up each morning and doing it all again).

How can it be that the calendar says what it says?

I suppose that it is the amount of milestones that we will be celebrating in early June 2013 that has me grasping.  A son finishing his first year of middle school and inching towards 13.  A middle son ready to start his last year of elementary school.  A baby boy finishing his Kindergarten year.  Mom AND Dad reaching middle age.

Any of these, by themselves, are enough to have you reeling, even just a teensy bit.  If broken up into chewable pieces, you can savor each one separately, brace yourself for the next one.  But all of them simultaneously is a lot to get used to in a short amount of time.

This passage of time is relentless.  You don't get to just stop at your favorite part and linger for a while.  It goes by FAST and furious.  Good and bad.  All of it.  The photographs chronicle.  Looking back, it seems like 5 minutes ago.  And that's the cruelty.  There is no time to lament.  Enjoy it NOW.  Or it will seem so five minutes ago, but really be five years ago in the blink of an eye.

And, really, that's all age is.  Time.  Time your ticker has been ticking.  What you have done with the time you have been allotted.  What you have done with the body you were assigned.  What you are going to do to make up for the things you wish you had done differently. 

Age means that you know the difference.  You have the wisdom to discern, to change tactics, and make it okay.

In the end, the extra little lines that make their debut slowly on your face, you've earned.  I would rather have earned them smiling, laughing my ass off (if ONLY that were true!), and etch them deeper in my face by continuing to live on my terms.

I mean, 40 is 30 with ten years experience, right?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Five for Five: Pictures

Scraggly circles with wriggly smiles.  Hair sticking straight up, reed-like arms and legs.  Bodies made of round circles and noses that take up half the face.  Oddly shaped rainbows, the Earth the size of the Sun and families where Mommy is stick thin.  For an added touch, the artist's name is scrawled in capital letters, nearly overtaking the space around the picture.

A house full of pictures that chronicle a lifetime of memories.  Smooth skin and curly hair, clavicles that stick out and thin thighs that are long forgotten. A blushing bride with a poufy veil.  Bright smiles of a honeymooning couple.  Round, pregnant belly awkwardly posed in front of a mountain of welcoming gifts.  Brand new screaming babies.  Proud, anxious parents.  Grandparents in awe of their grandchild.  First toothless smiles.  Wobbly first steps.  Vacation shots at the beach, mountains, national monuments. Children with lost teeth. 

There are haphazardly framed photographs in every corner of my house.  Carefully chosen, they reflect moments that linger within my heart.  They chronicle the evolution of my life,  motherhood: from fearful first-time mother to more at ease mother of three.

For some, a picture might be a way capture an image of an event, now forgotten.  For me, they are a reminder of how far we have come as a family, how far we still have to go.  Pictures of John and I during our Senior Year of high school, as engaged college students, as married homeowners.  They help concrete the reality of things that have been buried in the recesses of our often overloaded minds.  They remind us of a simpler, more innocent time; one without the many responsibilities that shackle us in adulthood, that serve as a reminder that we were once younger and thinner.  Maybe even cooler.

The pictures that mean the most, the ones that I treasure the most are the ones made by the subjects of many of my photographs.  My children's pictures line bulletin boards in the kitchen; hang proudly, framed in our bathrooms; serve as inspiration at school, where they are displayed next to phone lists and emergency procedures.

The pictures that my sons have drawn throughout the years serve as a measure of how far they have come, and how far they have yet to go.  The ingenuous depictions of our family, rendered in pencil, crayon, marker or finger paints hold a special place in my heart.  No matter what day I have been dealt, what crisis I am wading through, a quick glance at Joshua's parade of smiley faces, or Andrew's freehand Mickey's or Matthew's latest blueprints for a new invention is sure to put a spring in my step.

What I have found the most rewarding of all is to sit and thumb through my old childhood pictures, usually flanked by my boys. Their laughter at long and thankfully forgotten fashions and hairstyles, their wonder as they see that their mom was indeed a child herself, their surprise at seeing their grandparents and great aunts and uncles much younger is an experience.  Seeing myself, through their eyes, is necessary.  They don't see the baggage that I carry: the worry if I am doing a good job mothering them, the sadness I feel when I look at myself in some pictures, remembering a day long gone by, another lifetime ago.

It gives me an opportunity to reflect as I sit and look at my own children's multitude of digital shots over the years.  The wonder of how much time has gone by.  How much they have grown and learned.  The bittersweet knowledge that this leg of the journey is fleeting; they are become independent individuals. 

It makes me wonder why there are so few pictures of me with them?  Is it that I am always the recorder of the moments that make them giggle, frozen in a snapshot for all time?  Am I participating enough, yet always hide behind the lens?

Yet, in the moments of self doubt, when I wonder if they are okay, a small, or medium, or large hand will quietly slip unexpectedly into mine. 

Yes, they are okay.  I have the photographic evidence.

Without a camera, my eyes focus on the owner of that hand within my own.
And my heart snaps the picture.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Five for Five: Words

From the day I strung my first sentence together, it seems as though I have never been at a loss for words.  It was the words of the countless books I read as a child that kept me from going mad within my desperate surroundings.  It was the enchanting tales of other children, stuck in situations far worse than my parents’ unhappy marriage, that allowed me to dream that everyone deserved some happiness in their lifetime.  Some got their happiness in steady drips throughout their lives; other got a jolt of it in the later half. 

As I got older, words- lots of words, kept my mind busy.  It helped drown out the vicious voice of my ever critical subconscious forever chastising me.  If my words made you laugh, your laughter soothed me.  If I made you laugh, I couldn't be all that bad.

I know that the ability to communicate is an incredible gift.  But in my life, there have been times when words have been inadequate, at best.  Walking down the aisle and seeing my smiling groom waiting for me.  Finding out I was pregnant.  Seeing a tiny blip that was my unborn child's heart.  Seeing my firstborn son for the first time.  Witnessing my father passing from this Earth.  Finding out I was pregnant a second time. Seeing my second son for the first time. Finding out I was pregnant a third time.  Seeing my precious last baby's face for the first time.  

The list is endless...

How can you put into words the emotions that threaten to pull you under, both in good and bad ways?  In that raging sea of emotions, words are like flotation devices; they help keep you above water, but they will not swim you to shore.

But what good are words if they are mindless sounds that escape bodies, with no real purpose?  What happens when there is no feeling, no meaning behind them?  What is the point?  Yet, I have been responsible for more noise pollution than I am comfortable to admit.  I am not proud of myself.

Perhaps it was having children, but I began to look forward to the brief instances when there was a bit of quiet in the house.  Granted, too much silence (is there such a thing if you are a parent?) would put me in panic mode.  Surely, anyone who has a child knows that too much quiet usually means a hurt child, a super-clogged, overflowing toilet, or an unauthorized masterpiece on pristine walls. 

Still, silence amongst adults was incredibly uncomfortable. 

And then, a gift.  I was assigned a single classroom to myself.  No teaching partner to share the space.  Planning time with no one in the room with me.  I was forced into quieting myself.  I learned to cope.  I used the time to acclimate myself to just being. 

It became a spiritual exercise, and one that would come in handy.  Observing.  Listening.  To listen to my own heart.  To trust myself with my own decisions.  To finally become comfortable within my own skin.

I had finally found the silent Ying to my loquacious Yang.

And, in that silence, I finally found my voice.

I found that words are powerful.  You don't forget the throb when someone's words cut through your soul like a knife, so I choose my words cautiously.

You don't forget the delight when someone makes mention of something you have done with no intention of recognition, so I make a point of reminding people of the good within them.

You don't forget the joy you feel when you hear "I love you" from those you hold dear, so I make sure I say those words as often as I can, while I can.

And in the meantime, I listen.

And the words will come, as they always do. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Five for Five: Change

It seems like an eternity since I sat here, in this place, writing about my life.  A year ago, I was working on recertifying for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and was knee deep in the aftermath of birthdays, a cruise, a communion, state testing and finishing up that damn box to send away.  But I had no idea how many things would change in next 12 months.

My unmarried, childless uncle had a MAJOR health crisis that landed him in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation facilities for the better part of three months.  My sister and I, with five kids in tow, had to clean up his mess.  It took us from May through December to get everything straightened out: from housing to finances, legal aspects to just general " you're going to be okay, okay?" stuff.  A summer from hell would be a very pale description of what those months entailed.  In the midst of all these changes, I had no words for this space.  That was the hardest part of the change, and the one I found the most difficult to swallow.

In the fall, my already frail mother was diagnosed with an incredible rare form of stomach cancer.  Her successful surgery had major complications that landed her (and us) into ICU for a week.  The drain of this next challenge, and the physical changes my mother would now be faced with in her recovery made it impossible to sit in front of the computer and write.  Six words was all I could manage, some days with incredible difficulty.  Again, I would look at my blog, which had once been this source of incredible pride, as something I had abandoned because of life.  And if I wrote of these changes, they would be really real.  And even though I was living through them, I was not really ready to accept them.

The good news: everyone is okay now.  We've experienced some hiccups, but nothing more hair-raising than that.

The real news: Something in me finally clicked and made ME change.  Not in some wild, crazy, I am going to run away and join a circus kind of change.  But for someone like me, who changes at a turtle's pace,  this is BIG.

I've decided that getting older is fine.  It's better than the alternative.  And I want to be one badass old lady and give my kids years of endless  memories.  I want to get even and spoil the hell out of my grandchildren.  I want to get those kids riled up, sugared up and indignant that their parents don't let them get away with shit, and when it hits the fan, I want to climb into my two-seater convertible and drive off into the sunset, waving and blowing kisses to my angels,  planning my next visit.

I've decided to welcome the teeniest of wrinkles that now embrace the outer corners of my eyes when I smile or laugh too hard.  I will not find the grays that now spot more areas of my scalp.  I will thank the Lord above that I have never had to endure chemotherapy and hair loss at a young age like some of my friends.  I have earned every line, wrinkle and gray hair.  They are medals of honor.  The chest heading south is another story, but hey, that's why we have underwire, padded bras, no?

I am TRYING so VERY HARD to change my mothering.  By saying yes more when I can.  By living in the moment more.  By realizing that this is it.  My oldest is on the cusp of adolescence.  My baby is starting kindergarten.  THESE are the best times.  Right now. 

I am learning to be who I was meant to be, who I want to be.  Not a preconceived notion that I must act this way or another because I am a mother, a wife, a teacher.  I am authentic.  I should act as such.

The hardest changes are those affecting my children.  Each one of them is changing, morphing into these incredible people that can be alternately incredibly sweet or defying difficult.  Their physical changes as they mature are hard to witness as a mother who loved the tiny baby stage.  Their emotional growth is difficult to keep up with, as I alternate between goddess and devil's mistress.  Growing up is hard.  For kids.  For parents.  But oh, what a ride!

The biggest lesson I've learned this year is that change comes, whether you are ready or not.  It sometimes helps not to be so dead set against it.  It also helps immensely if you have people around you that love you and are willing to assist you.  It is extremely important to value the ones you love (and generally make you seven kinds of ape-shit crazy) when you have no crisis at hand, so you are ready for the crisis when it comes.  And people, it ALWAYS comes.  Trust me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Matthew, January 2002- Where has the time gone?

My mercurial boy is growing quickly.
Mood swings threaten, take us under.
You yearn for freedom, I ache.
My heart wants nothing more than
to hold you in my arms,
as you sleep, make everything better.
Your bed barely holds you now,
as you change before my eyes.
Your existence still holds me enchanted,
and my heart holds every smile,
like a priceless treasure carefully guarded.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Your protective hand over my fragile one
Makes me remember that I'm loved
and that I can accomplish anything.

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Friday, April 6, 2012


Like a boomerang,
you always return.
I am complete.
My heart full.

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Wishing all of my readers a very Blessed Easter and Passover!