Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A New Canvas

I swore I would never do it again.
Have another baby.
It wasn't that I didn't want another baby.
I just didn't think I could handle another awful, complicated delivery.
And for some short time I thought my son might be an only child.

But slowly the fear started to give way to hope.
That I could be strong enough.
Be courageous.

I thought this time around I would do things differently.
Ask more questions. Feel more empowered.
I made a rockin' "Labor and Delivery mix" on my iphone. Enough songs for 30 hours or so. A tune for every kind of contraction. From Lady Gaga to Bruce Hornsby to Aretha to the Grateful Dead. I read a lot of books. Talked to all the right people.

Then two weeks ago today, as labor seemed imminent, I started googling wacky stuff, like, "Labor and delivery mantras." I felt like I needed a good mantra. I found one that was short and simple:

"Give me the strength.
Give me the endurance.
Give me the courage."

Perfect. As we drove to the hospital in the glistening sun, I remembered these words.

The contractions were mild, but regular, so it seemed like the arrival of our son was nearing. The doc checked me and told me to walk around the hospital for an hour to help the labor progress.

That sounded like fun.

"Do we have time to grab some coffee?" my husband inquired as we exited the doc's office.
"Um, I guess," I said.

Next thing you know I'm a mile down the road at the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru, hoping my contractions don't start to speed up furiously like you see in the movies.

We headed back to the hospital just to be safe. We walked the perimeter of the hospital parking lot a few times. I reminded my husband that I was Rocky Balboa and he was to be my revered coach, Mickey, in the delivery room.

"Should I yell, 'Get up, you sonofabitch!'" he asked.

"The nurses might throw you out," I told him. "But that's the spirit, yes."

After an hour, my labor had only progressed minimally. But they sent me up to LABOR AND DELIVERY, checked me in, and gave me a room in which to breathe, walk, and prepare for my son's birth. My nurse suggested rocking, rolling, and other new age hypno-birthing options which were discussed in the birthing classes I was too afraid to attend.

While "Coach Mick" emailed on his laptop, I got down to business of my own. I walked, repeated my mantra, "STRENGTH, ENDURANCE, COURAGE," and rocked my hips from side to side while planting my feet firmly on the ground. In the midst of radiating pain up my back and front, I channeled the energy of women around the world. I envisioned a woman in labor in the Sahara, another woman standing in a rice paddy, another woman delivering a baby at the top of a mountain. Then I pictured myself running a marathon, with all of these women cheering me on, holding "Go, Stacy!" signs for me along my route. Finally, I felt them all in the room, whispering to me, "Strength, Endurance, Courage."

If they could all do it, surely I could too.

And this is how I got through 18 hours of labor.

By the time I was ready to push, it took just 5 minutes and my "coach" was right there by my side.

"You did it!" he yelled as our son made his way into the world.

"You have a new canvas now," he told me, feeling the baby's velvet cheek.

Now it's time to add the color.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Open Letter to the Lady at the Farmers' Market and the Lady at the Apple Store who offered me their unwanted condolences for expecting a second boy

Dear Ladies,

I don't know you and you don't me.

Yet, when you noticed the basketball "hiding" under my shirt and asked if I knew the baby's sex, and you learned that I have a 2 and a half year old son, and was expecting another son, you felt the need to sigh heavily and say:

"Oh, maybe next time you'll have a girl."

Maybe, Farmer's Market Lady, just maybe, next time you won't feel the need to add your two cents when I'm having a lovely conversation with the man at the deli counter who is slicing my turkey. Maybe you won't assume that I'm having a third baby when I HAVEN'T EVEN HAD THE 2nd ONE YET! And maybe you won't assume that I was "trying for a girl" this time.

And, you, Lady at the Apple Store, you felt the need to pause, blink back a tear in your eye and say to me, a perfect stranger, "It's okay, it's okay," when I revealed I was carrying a 2nd boy.

Thanks so much, Dr. Phil! Of course it's okay. And, it's not just okay, it's fabulous.

Do you crazy ladies know the infinity pool of baby boy clothes that I am swimming in here at my house?

Do you know the fleet of boy vehicles that I have just waiting for another driver to hop on?

Do you know the vast store of little boy counterinsurgency tactics I have picked up in the past few years?

Do you know that I have a toddler who is counting the seconds until he meets his little baby brother? Do you know he can't wait to buy him stuffed animals and take him for walks to the park and zoom cars down the hallway with him?

Do you know how much joy and excitement and laughter and insanity and life that our son has brought to our lives?

Do you know how thrilled we were in that ultrasound room when we spotted what was undeniably a boy part?

Do you know that not all families need both a boy and a girl to be complete? Both are wonderful, but so are families with two boys or three girls or one child or no children at all.

So, please random ladies (and men too), please stop offering condolences to me and people like me. It is so inappropriate.

However, if you spot me in the supermarket a year from now being headbutted by BOTH sons or perhaps worse, now THAT is an appropriate time to offer your condolences to me - or at least withhold judgment when I push my shopping cart with both sons in it 20 feet away from me and pretend that I'm the mother of the quiet little girl who is checking the sugar content of the cereal box on the shelf next to me.

THAT would be appropriate.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Attention All Super Heroes, Please Report to the Principal's Office

My little guy is about to head off to preschool in a month and the list of rules circulating is already starting to worry me a bit. It's not the drop-off requirements (no yapping on your cell phone) or lunch packing suggestions (a cold pack included) that have me anxious. It's not even the implied ban on head-butting (a favorite pastime which my son has abandoned, but for special occasions).

The explicit rule from my son's preschool that shocks my conscience the most was right there in print when I perused the orientation pamphlet the other day:

"Action/super hero clothing are not permitted to be worn at school as it promotes hyperactivity in the children."

I stopped and read it again. And again. And again.

Really? Banning super hero clothes at a preschool? I think Amish schoolchildren have more freedom of expression.

I started wondering how exactly super hero clothing "promotes hyperactivity in the children." When a two year old dresses in a Hulk tee-shirt, do the other toddlers turn green, instantaneously develop bulging muscles, and start ripping their clothes off? Does a three year old Spiderman scale the school walls during circle time? Do children encourage Superman to fly off the jungle gym at recess?

I am dying to know what kind of alarming incidents the school has encountered in the past that would necessitate such an encompassing ban on superheroes on school premises.

I'm wondering if this rule is really just discrimination against boys cloaked in other language. Gender profiling, if you will.

I mean, don't tell me that princess clothing and tiaras couldn't start a flash mob situation in preschool. Three year old girls would be chucking plastic "glass" slippers at one another and smearing fake lipstick on each other's faces. And if such a riot were not enough for an all out ban on princess clothes, surely the school might consider the fact that princess clothes promote unrealistic expectations about love (much in the same way that rampant porn online does for teenage boys).

As I toy with the parameters of the "superhero ban," I wonder if a cape would be considered a threat? How about an eye mask? What about face paint? Does Lightening McQueen qualify as a "super hero?" Your Honor, I argue in the negative.

My little boy hasn't even started school yet and already I want to push the limits and test the boundaries as much as I know he will. I've heard it before and I'll repeat it again. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Only problem here: it's gonna take a whole gaggle of pint-sized superheroes to eradicate this injustice.

I'm not sure yet if I'll send my son to school in his Spiderman tee-shirt or perhaps something more subtle, like a "F_ _ _ the Rules" tee-shirt (I believe this to be constitutionally protected political speech per the Supreme Court ruling in Cohen v. California).

All I can tell you is they can't ban THIS Wonder Woman from the car drop-off line. I can assure you that once the other moms see me in full super hero regalia, you can bet your ass that all other rules are out the window: the moms will be on their cell phones during drop-off (a big no-no): "DID YOU SEE WHAT SO AND SO WAS WEARING THIS MORNING?!" They'll forget to put a cold pouch in their kids' lunches (god forbid), and they may possibly head-butt their steering wheels, wishing they had come up with such a fashion forward Wonder Woman outfit first.

As for now, I'll remain vigilant, like any good super hero's mom would.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Let's Get it Started In Here

I'm not sure if iTunes has found a way for fetuses in utero to download new music, but I swear there is a bumping sound track blaring inside my belly. And someone is having a party.

To say that there is dancing going on at the oddest hours of the day and night does not begin to explain it. Baby #2 is doing back flips, the Moonwalk, the Cabbage Patch, the Running Man, and every other dance move from the past 20 years. This kid is rocking out with no regard for my internal organs. He's moshing in the mother of all mosh pits, river dancing up my rib cage, head-banging, rump shaking, poking feet, feeling the beat.

He's a rock star already.

And all I want to do is ask him politely to lower the volume and intensity so I can get some sleep.

I hate to be a buzz kill, but I'm calling "5-0" on this hooligan.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Good Morning

It's 7 a.m. and I'm lying in bed, listening to my grandmother snore as peacefully as a newborn. She's sound asleep next to me and I realize this may be the first or second time ever that we've shared a bed.

I'm sleeping in her bed because it's 4th of July weekend and we have a full house at the shore. And by "full house," I mean 17 family members are all under one roof, which may be a record for us.

I'm wondering how my husband has slept in the daybed on the third floor and I giggle at the image he suggested of him sleeping in bed with us, spooning Gram. I guess it's good he's on the daybed.

I hear the waves of the ocean tumbling gently upon the shore outside the bedroom window. Then I hear my little two year old man start stirring in his Pack n Play crib which is in the corner of Gram's bedroom. I see him through the crib's mesh side rolling on his side, huddled in his blankets, sucking his thumb. He smiles before he even opens his eyes. I want him to see my face before he wonders where he is, calls out for me, and wakes Gram.

He sees me smiling at him as soon as he opens his big brown eyes. I wave at him from my spot in bed. He waves tiny fingers back and sings, "Mommy."

I hop out of bed and gather him up, two blankets, monkey, thumb in his mouth and all. He's warm and cozy. "You want to come in bed with Mommy and Grammy?" He smiles. "Yeah."

I place him carefully like a prince in full regalia in the middle of the king sized bed. He is curled up inches away from me and then rolls onto his other side to see Gram. He's inches away from her. "Dat is Grammy," he says pointing at her, almost grazing her nose. She smiles even before she opens her radiant green eyes. "Good morning, doll," she whispers to him.

When I was pregnant with Will, I had a dream about a baby boy lying side by side with my late grandfather. The baby in the dream was in a glass bassinet, the kind they place newborns in right away at the hospital. And, my grandfather was lying in a hospital bed, perhaps the last one I remember seeing him in before he died. In the dream, I thought, "There he is, lying side by side with his great-grandfather." It was very comforting.

But, here we are now, some two and a half years later, and this isn't a dream at all. This is life. As good as it gets.

"There he is lying side by side with his great-grandmom," I think to myself. I realize that he is one of the luckiest boys in the world. And, for me, just a silent observer, tied to these generations with profound love, I am extremely lucky too.

One day, this will all just be a dream, but for now, this indeed is a very good morning.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

That's what Martin Luther King Jr. once said.

So when I heard of the injustice surrounding a harmless high school prom proposal, I could not sit by quietly. No, I had a bone to pick with the administrators of Shelton High School in Connecticut.

I had never heard of Shelton High School, nor the young man, James Tate, who had single-handedly revived chivalry. But I didn't care.

"I'm gettin' on the horn, and I'm calling the school," I announced at 8:30 the other morning to my husband. I had just caught a glimpse of a segment on the Today Show about a high school senior who was banned from his prom because he trespassed on school property, climbed a ladder, and wrote in tape on the school building:

("HMU" means "hit me up" or "call me")

"Really? Is this REALLY how you're starting your day?" my husband asked, rolling his eyes. He took a deep breath as I punched the numbers into the phone, while I fed our son Cheerios.

"Yes, with whom may I speak about the decision to ban James Tate from the prom?" I inquired. I spoke as if James Tate was my son or perhaps my nephew.

A lady on the other end of the line snorted, "You can talk to me, I guess."

"Okay, great," I replied. "I have to say, I have never heard of a more romantic, creative, and innocent gesture," I began, "and banning him from the prom is just completely excessive and wrong."

"Well, I DISAGREE," the school secretary/hench woman interjected.

"You may disagree, but seriously, there are teenagers doing TERRIBLE things every day, and all this boy did was ask a girl to the prom. He didn't hurt anyone, didn't damage any property. I mean, come on, one day of suspension is enough! I have to imagine you guys are going to reconsider this decision to ban James Tate from the prom?"

"I don't think sooooooo," the secretary sang with glee.

"Well, you're making a huge mistake," I said and hung up abruptly.

"Why did you hang up so quickly?" my husband asked, now fully invested in my battle for justice for James.

"She had no authority. Maybe I'll call the superintendent later."

Within 24 hours, James Tate had hundreds of thousands of supporters, and people from as far away as Scotland and Ireland were emailing his school, petitioning for his cause.

And, guess what?

The school administrators reversed their decision. The school's headmaster suggested that the international circus surrounding her unpopular decision to ban the teen from the prom interrupted the educational mission of the school, and therefore, she would reevaluate Mr. Tate's punishment. She did not acknowledge that she made a mistake.

But here's the bottom line: every email, phone call, television segment and supportive voice helped right a wrong. Maybe one teen boy's plight to get to prom is the most inconsequential injustice in the world that you can imagine, but it's the principle that matters.

If you have a voice, use it.

Power to the People!

And, James Tate for Prom King!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mommy? Mom-my, Mommy!

"Is that your favorite word?" I ask my two year old son.
He giggles in the backseat, sucking his thumb and fuzzing his monkey's ears nearly off, so that Mr. Monkey now resembles a bat.
"You're singing that 'Mommy song' AGAIN?"
"Yeah," he sighs.
"You just want to tell me how much you love me, right?"

We sit side by side on the sofa and he leans into me, snuggling up close. I feel his hand tap on mine, his monkey bouncing gently on my cheek. "Monkey's daaancing," he says, with an English accent on the word "dancing." "Monkey's happy."

I kiss his still chubby cheeks hundreds of times a day. "You're just the best little boy, you know that?" He sighs. "How much does Mommy love you?"

"To da moon and back!" he yells.

I want to tell him how charming he is, how much he makes me laugh, how proud I am of him, how much he has made me a better person, what joy he has brought to the world, what magic he posses and passes out like candy.

I can't wait to celebrate Mother's Day with him, but then again, we celebrate that day every single day of the year. I want to thank him for that.

I want him to know that he brings the color, charisma, and yes, the choas to life. He is the exclamation point, the hope, the innocence, the adventure, the most beautiful vista, the heart and the soul.

Of all the things that I have helped create or will create in life, he is, by far, the best.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brown Bear, This is Your Wake-up Call . . .

In the midst of my hibernation during the first trimester of my pregnancy with my son, my husband declared that he had renamed me "Brown Bear." It was so fitting that I considered changing my name legally, again, but I thought I might face unwarranted discrimination should I apply for a job.

Like a true brown bear, I ate and slept. Mainly slept. I nodded off an hour after I arrived at work and five minutes after I got home at 6 pm. For the night. I slept for 14 hours regularly and was only upright to wander to the bathroom 5 times.

When Brown Bear came out of hibernation, it was with renewed energy, enough stamina to pack up an apartment and move out of the city, even drive a Home Depot truck during the move. It was bye bye, Brown Bear.

But, Brown Bear came roaring back this past February. And, a brown bear who has to chase her wild cub all day long really knows how to hibernate. She can drive a car while snoring, bath a baby half-asleep, doze off on the treadmill. She can sleep for 3 months straight.

"Excuse me, Brown Bear, I need your insurance card . . . " the receptionist said yesterday.

Fine, maybe she said, "Stacy," but when she jolted me awake in my ob/gyn's waiting room, I heard "Brown Bear."

"I think you already have it . . . "

"That's right, I need a urine sample. I knew it was one or the other," she said, handing me a plastic cup.

"Random question," I started, "I heard a rumor that Dr. M. may be leaving this hospital."

"Oh honey, people have been screaming at me on the phone for days. It's true."

"Well, where is she going?" I asked, a bit stunned. This lady had just confused my insurance card for a cup of urine. I thought maybe she was just confused again.

"Nobody knows," she whispered.

"Well, I'll just ask her when I see her," I said.

"No, honey, she's gone already."

"Wait, WHAT? I'm here to see her today."

"No, she's already left the hospital - and she's leaving the practice completely. You'll see Dr. C. today" the receptionist continued.

Just then a nurse called my name. I'm no medical professional, but maybe she should have taken my blood pressure BEFORE they told me my doc was AWOL!

If Brown Bear needed something to seriously wake her up, this was it.

By way of background, I had switched to this doc less than a year ago, needing a fresh start with someone new. I had envisioned this doc, Dr. M, being my best cheerleader in the delivery room, receiving holiday cards with my baby's face on them, perhaps coming to Rosh Hashanah dinner sometime.

Now she was gone. Without a trace.

I started thinking about how I could track her down. I remembered how Bill Murray played a psychiatric patient who stalked his therapist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, in the movie, ""What About Bob?" "Dr. LEOOOOOO MARVIN!!!!" He followed him on vacation, to his home, everywhere.

Maybe if I can find Dr. M., I can put a GPS bracelet around her ankle or Lo Jack on her car and keep it in place for the next 6 months. Maybe I can move in her spare bedroom or go on vacation with her family.

If you can't tell by reading this, truthfully, I am over the flood of emotion that nearly drowned me when I heard the news of my doc's departure yesterday. Today, I am on a mission simply to find her, tell her how much she means to me, bribe her if need be. I understand that things happen in life and even when you're with an ob/gyn for years that doesn't necessarily mean she'll be in the delivery room when the time comes, but I at least need Dr. M. on speed dial.

Know what I mean?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

"What's in mommy's belly?" I ask my 2 year old son.
"A BAY-BEE!" he shouts, arms in the air, smile across his face.

"But, Auntie, how do you KNOW?" my 6 year old nephew grilled me the other day, as only the son of a good lawyer could.

I tried to explain to him in general terms, "Cause the doctor said so," without mention of the white stick with two pink lines, the waves of nausea, minor aneurysm-like headaches, exhaustion, and all the rest.

He wasn't quite satisfied with my response. But, today, I have proof.

It's a picture worth a thousand words.
Of a healthy baby.
A younger sibling.
A boy or a girl.
The next child in line to a family full of love.
A playmate to cousins.
A grandchild to the proudest grandparents.
A great-grandchild.
A spark
of hope
in the midst of a season
that has at times seemed hopeless
for our extended family.

When we saw our baby
in the picture
on the monitor
in the hushed
dim room
we saw
one thing:


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Return of Wonder Woman

I'm having a Halloween party and you're all invited.

I have loved Halloween ever since I was a little girl.

I love the costumes, the glitter, makeup, masks, and of course, the candy.
I love the spooky decorations, the parties.
I love it all.

The best Halloween costume I ever had was a Wonder Woman costume that I bought when I was a senior at Michigan. My friend, Tracey, and I drove 30 minutes outside of Ann Arbor to a Halloween Superstore for the perfect costume.

Mission accomplished.

I found a Wonder Woman costume, complete with a bodysuit, cape, bracelets, boot covers, and a tiara. It was actually a child's costume, fit for a 7 year old, and no, I'm not exaggerating. You can ask Tracey.

I chose it because I thought it was a more accurate representation of Wonder Woman than the adult version, despite the fact that I could not zip up the back. I hoped (incorrectly) that my red cape would cover the open zipper and shield my half exposed backside since the leotard (as you can imagine) became the equivalent of a g-string.

The first time I put that costume on, against my better judgment, I ran into the frigid Michigan night without so much as a coat or gloves. I ran 5 blocks to a raging house party. It was a magical night.

I loved my child-sized Wonder Woman costume so much, I tried it on for my sister that following spring when I came home from college.

"Go outside in it, I dare you," she said.

The next thing I knew, I was locked out, with my sister hysterical inside the front window. Instead of banging on the door and giving her what she wanted, I began galloping around our circular driveway, with my cape swirling behind me, waving to confused neighbors as they drove by.

This October, I think it's time for me to bust out my Wonder Woman costume once again.
I don't expect to be able to zip it up. I don't care.
I'm going to rock it anyway.
Then I'm going to race (or fly) to the hospital.
Possibly secure local news coverage -
and become the first woman in America to deliver her baby dressed as Wonder Woman.

Now that would be some Halloween party, right?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Mishigas

There is some speculation brewing that I cheated while filling out my NCAA college basketball brackets for the ____ Law Firm pool. Of course, there wouldn't be any such speculation if I was not completely crushing the hoop dreams of the partners, associates, their family and friends. Although I am not currently in the lead, I am dunking past the competition with the most potential points.

I am gearing up with my black socks, black sneakers, baggy shorts, and Fab Five swagger. And I am ready to cut down the net.

But, before I do, I would like to put the rumors to rest. Carol, please stop losing sleep. I did not cheat. It would not have even been possible for me to cheat. I spent a total of 10 seconds choosing my picks online. (How can I be so sure that I used only 10 seconds to make my choices? Because 10 seconds is the allotted interval in which I get anything done in my life that does not directly concern my 2 year old son. I go to the bathroom in 10 seconds, wash my hair in 10 seconds, and when that 11th second ticks, I have a toy car driving up my leg - or the shower door - whichever it may be. Time is up.)

And, if I were so inclined to cheat, trust me, I would have entered a pool with a much higher prize than the mere $140 offered by the ______ Law Firm (I'm not giving them free press here).

Although $140 is obviously chump change, I have a totally different perspective on the possibility of a payout should I win. I am going to collect that $140 as partial severance which the firm failed to pay me when they set me loose on "eternity leave" some time ago.

And, it is going to be quite a shanda.

Mark my words. Next year, there will be new rules requiring that ____ Law Firm pool applicants be actual law firm employees or direct blood relatives. The partners will completely ban ex-employees, such as me, in a manner as ruthless as the deletion of our names from the Firm Phone List without any mention of our departures.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy my road to the Final Four and beyond. Carol and all of you others, watch out, I'm coming for you!

I may not be a college basketball savant. But I am the brain behind the brackets. (I use the term "brain" loosely, as my total final game score prediction exceeded 200 points, which caused my husband to scold me that I was thinking NBA, not NCAA!)

However, now that I find myself closing in on victory, it's clearly my time. Pay me my severance and then sever me from all future pools.

I can accept those terms, Your Honor.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Spark

I have been a writer ever since I penned a story in 2nd grade about my uncle being hatched from an egg which was left by aliens on my grandmom's doorstep. I was seven then and everyone in my family raved about what an imaginative yet accurate portrait I had painted.

It wasn't until my senior year at the University of Michigan that I actually took a creative writing class. I hoped it would force me to write the stories that were already swirling around my head.

My professor, Gabrielle, was a 30ish grad student and a super talented writer uninterested in coddling her students. She was serious about the need for learning the mechanics of writing, but also open to breaking the rules once you understood what the rules were.

When I sat down with her in a private conference to review my work, she said of my short story, "This is something. This is really something."

I was stunned.

"There's a big writers' contest coming up and I want you to enter this," she continued. "You need to go home and polish it, because the deadline's next week."

I raced through the Diag with a grin from ear to ear. It was a legitimate stamp of approval. I had never considered submitting my work anywhere up until that point.

But, a week later, I did just that. And, although I did not win a coveted Hopwood Award, it didn't matter. I was thinking in a whole new way.

The last week of class, Gabrielle invited me to come hear her read from her manuscript in front of a large audience of her grad school peers and professors. Hers was a remarkable tale which documented everything from her lesbian relationship to her part-time job as a stripper at a blue collar joint on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. I was floored.

After graduation, I wondered what had become of Gabrielle. Then, I heard through the grapevine that she opened a restaurant, Prune, in the East Village to rave reviews. Next, she was writing a column for the New York Times Food and Wine Section. Then, shockingly, she married a man and started a family. And, finally, recently, her memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, at last, debuted.

I have been waiting for this memoir since I heard her early musings in Ann Arbor in 1997. Gabrielle is wildly talented and her tale is worth your time so I hope you check it out.

I thank Gabrielle Hamilton for being the first objective reader to say to me, "This is something." And, I thank her for showing me the vast possibilities.

I don't think I'll be opening a restaurant in this lifetime, but who knows about the rest.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Merry Go 'Round

One month ago, my son didn't want to ride the merry go 'round. He wasn't feeling well on that particular day.

"Mommy, carry you," he kept saying, pulling at my leg. I held him while standing for the duration of the carousel ride, not an easy feat.

But, the other day, he was fired up about the merry go 'round back at the Please Touch Museum. He told me he was ready to ride his own horse.

I placed him up high on the painted wooden saddle and fastened the seat belt. His big brown eyes looked up at the top of the carousel, at the painted horses next to him, and rested, smiling at me. The merry music began blaring from the speakers and we were set in motion. I held onto him so he wouldn't be startled by the start of the ride, but he was fine.

He rode up and down, holding onto the pool, laughing aloud. This was his first time on the merry go' round all by himself.

I thought about a family friend, "Drew," who was deathly afraid of merry go' rounds until he was nearly 9 years old. "Stacy, please take him and show him it's not scary," my dad urged me once at the Ocean City Boardwalk. I was about 10 years old.

I hopped onto the horse next to Drew, who was a ghostly shade, and rode backwards, switched directions mid-ride, stood up on the horse, then reached precariously off the ride to grab a golden ring. Drew laughed and laughed and was no longer afraid. "Now, you have to teach him to ride a jet ski!" my dad laughed as we climbed off the ride. "His mom is afraid of EVERYTHING - and she has made HIM scared of everything too," my dad whispered to me as we strolled along the boardwalk. She later died of cancer and I often hoped Drew was not shaken back into the mindset of fearing the ride.

My little boy squeals with joy as the colors fly by, the music peaks with intensity. I watch his face with such pride.

The past few weeks have been far from a merry go 'round for our extended family. It's been a terrible roller coaster ride, with death-defying turns and no end in sight. Our beautiful two year old niece is in the front seat, her health hanging in the balance. While her incredible parents cling onto her with unyielding strength and love, we've all been along for the ride. We all want her back on a more serene ride. And, thankfully, in recent days, there are glimmers that our niece has her sights set on the merry go 'round once again.

My little boy brings me back to this ride, here and now. He says to me, "Dah so fun, Mommy!" The merry go 'round spins around and around, he rides his horse up and down, the colors spin by in a dizzying dance, the music rises and falls. I lift his little hand and kiss it. "Yes, love, the merry go 'round is the best!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

License and Registration, Sir . . .

Here's a snapshot:

Me, skipping out of the toy store carrying my best boy.
My best boy carrying a new green Thomas the Train named Alfie.
A teenage clerk trying to keep our pace, carrying a shiny new tricycle.

We pass by school children in uniforms and it hits me that in a few years, he will be THAT age. No longer THIS age, where he's debating which he will drive first: the train or the trike.

"Happy birthday, buddy boy."

"How 'bout da' scooter too?" he asks. "Scooter" could have been "backhoe," "gondola," "bulldozer" or a dozen others. He is a transportation savant and often has dreams about driving the ice cream truck.

"Maybe when you're bigger, okay? Today, we're going to ride your new tricycle!"

"Good idea, Mommy!"

Enjoy the ride, baby boy . . .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rock Out Wit' Cha Crock Out

Some (or rather, none) of you have asked how my culinary skills have progressed recently. It's now been approximately 19 months since I've been on eternity leave and in that time, you'd think I would have mastered something other than how to defend against a toddler's headbutt or conquer a Mount Everest-sized pile of clothes in need of laundering. You'd think I'd be a natural in the kitchen.

And you'd be dead wrong.

I STILL cook unidentifiable objects and pass them off as chicken breasts.

I STILL substitute when I don't have the correct ingredients at my disposable. "Can I use Swiss Miss cocoa mix when a recipe calls for cocoa?"

I STILL use my husband's simple phrase, "It's not . . . terrible," as my barometer of a meal well cooked.

But, recently all that has changed.

I had the brilliant idea that a crock pot would change my life. The commercials on TV said so. And I totally bought in. I decided to purchase one for the annual Biscardi Christmas polyanna. I figured since I thought it was a great gift, someone else would too.

Only once the polyanna began, I had second thoughts. As I watched one of my brothers-in-law open a box revealing a large plastic "PIMP" cup, I realized I needed to take matters into my own hands. The chance of me randomly picking a gift better than that shiny new crock pot was slim to none. So, I opened my own gift and feigned excitement.

"Hey, I just saw you wrapping that gift 10 minutes ago!" one of my brothers-in-law outed me. I didn't care.

The Biscardis, they know how to cook. They didn't need this bulky appliance cluttering up their kitchens. I was confident that if Obama himself came knocking on their doors, they could wip up a meal fit for a president in seconds. I, on the other hand, could possibly host Bo Obama, the family dog.

Needless to say, I was the grinch who stole my own Christmas polyanna.

Now it was time to get crockin'.

Here is the thing about a crock pot. You just SHOVE anything and everything into the pot and let it cook. Oh, wait a minute! That's what I've been doing for years! This was the perfect appliance for me.

The beauty of the crock is that your meal comes out perfect no matter what you do! (assuming you've put in ingredients that mix well together and/or followed a recipe).

Clearly, I need a recipe and the internet is chock full of crock pot recipes. I am fairly skilled at penning a shopping list, driving to the market, and racing through the store and check-out 20 seconds before a toddler meltdown.

My trouble with the crock pot is that I still need to handle raw poultry and meat. In years past, I donned surgical latex gloves when picking up raw brisket or ground beef. My crock pot has somehow given me the confidence to go bare-handed, but it still makes me want to barf.

Yesterday, as I was cutting chicken, I realized that I say, "Ew, yesh, ew," throughout the entire process. And, it's a real process because I like to cut off anything that looks remotely suspicious on the bird. So, if a recipe calls for 2 lbs of chicken, I need to buy about 4 lbs because the rest of it I want to chop off, shove down my garbage disposal and never think of again.

Once the chicken was cut yesterday, I was golden. I added chopped onion, chopped celery, cream of chicken soup, gravy, seasoning and I was ready to crock and roll. I put my crock pot on "low" and let it cook for 5 hours. After that, I added some carrots, baked some biscuits, and I had a Betty Crockeresque meal ready for my husband and son.

It was perfection.

Nobody was poisoned.
Nobody was making a bowl of cereal as a "2nd dinner."
Nobody was saying, "It's not . . . terrible."

It was delicious.

And, I'm declaring it right now, on this 9th day of February, in the year 2011: I can officially cook.

Thank you, glorious crock pot.


Monday, January 31, 2011

A Bris and a Funeral

Within the past week, I've received the best and worst kinds of news.

A friend's baby was born.

And a cousin died.

In the past four days, I've attended a bris and a funeral.

A bris, welcoming a new baby into the world. A funeral, saying goodbye to a man whose life was cut way too short.

We looked at the perfect newborn, with spiky red hair, and rosy cheeks, bundled up in a white blanket and we blessed him and thought of everything that awaits him in his lifetime.

And, we looked at the casket, and listened to the words of his 6 children (most of them teens), now without their father. We thought of everything that he had done, all of the lives he had created, shaped and touched in his short lifetime.

The moyel at the bris talked of future milestones that this beautiful baby boy would experience.

And the rabbi at the funeral talked about all of the milestones this middle aged man had experienced.

The proud parents stood side by side, wiping tears from their eyes. They said the baby was named after a dearly departed family member.

The grieving children talked about how their dad made time to take each one of them on their own vacation with him every year. They read letters and emails he had written them, telling them how proud he was of them. He had written to one son on his 21st birthday, "You're good at basketball, but you're sick (great) at life! That's the most important thing, to be sick at life!"

The bris ended with great relief and joy; the funeral, with great despair and sadness.

Next week, there will be another bris, a new baby born, and another funeral, a life extinguished. It goes on and on and on and on.

One big circle.

So, knowing that we're on this brief journey, what are we to do?

In the words of my dear cousin:

"Be sick at life."

Monday, January 17, 2011

And In This Corner . . .

The lights are dim, the TV bright. "Ni Hao, Kai-lan" is on and Kai-lan is teaching my little boy how to say "thank you" in Mandarin.

He's sucking his thumb, but I can see from his eyes that he's smiling at her too. He's debating whether or not he wants to take his thumb out to practice his Mandarin. He opts against it and flips his stuffed monkey around by his raggedy right ear, flicking his finger back and forth.

I close my eyes
all of a sudden
slams into my head
with HIS head.

On purpose.

I want to say "No, No! No, thank you" in Mandarin, but it's too late.

It's a WWF tournament.

In my bed.

"No headbutts!" I yell, (in English), laughing. "Headbutts!" he repeats, smiling his trademark devilish grin.

"You're troubl-icious!" I tell him. "That's it! I'm changing your middle name."

He jumps on top of me and hovers over me, menacingly. "Ai-plane ride!" he screams.

"No, ai-plane rides, Coo-Coo," I say. I toss him on his back onto the bed.
His hair is mashed on one side like a deranged Justin Bieber and he's right back up, smacking me in the face with his baby paws.

"Hey!" He giggles uncontrollably. "Heeyyyyy!" he mocks me. I flip him on his back and flips over in 2.1 seconds. He attempts a second headbutt.

"No headbutting!"

I level him again and he starts coughing/laughing.

I grab his sippy cup from my bedside table.

"Okay, calm down. Take a sip," I tell him, holding it up to his mouth.

Great, I think. What kind of idiot stops the match to hydrate their opponent?
It's like I'm Apollo and Mick at the same time.

He's hydrated. He's back. He's like El Nino ripping through my bedroom.

He bounces up and down on the bed.

"Sit dowwwwwwwwwwn!" I yell, but it's too late. He flies off my bed and lands on the back of his head. On the floor.

I scramble and pick him up. He's crying and I'm almost in tears.

Great, I think. What kind of idiot cries when his opponent gets knocked out of the ring?

We wipe away his tears together and get cozy back in bed. "Come on, let's watch Kailan," I say. He's clutching his monkey in one hand, he's got the thumb in his mouth, his feet covered with a blankie. He's curled up in my arms and all is right in the world.

Without warning, his head moves towards me like a boulder flying 60 mph.

Great, I think. What kind of idiot would continually risk life and limb by sitting this close to a wild, unpredictable, bull?

A mom.



Champion of the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Throwing Stones

The tragedy in Arizona has rocked the nation this week and now it seems as though everyone is throwing stones, trying to make sense of what is clearly senseless violence.

In the days after the massacre at Columbine, I wrote down my thoughts which are very similar to my thoughts today.

What Remains

Two boys enter, eyes wide
will their plan go off?
a hail of bullets
snap bang pop
are they fireworks?
screaming madness
chaotic masses of teenagers scramble
hide like soldiers
hunted like animals
boo, laughs the gunman, as a bullet splatters a brain
cuts short the life of a star athlete
a popular student,
a boy
a friend
somebody’s son
hooting and hollering
who’s the next target?
who believes in god?
who’s to be spared?
can they get them all?
thousands of lives shattered in agonizing moments
frantic voices whisper desperate pleas
last loving words into cell phones
images flashed over airwaves
millions hear dark voices
"I hear the gunmen,
help us please! i’m calling from under my desk"
a teacher lies bleeding
"hang on hang on," his students cry
a final look at his children and he
lets go
camera crews in the midst of chaos
is this a primetime movie?
no, it’s breaking news, breaking news: "Bullets ring out at another American school"
call in the analysts, the shrinks, the gun owners, the priests, where are the goddamn parents?
a boy shot in the head hurls himself out a second floor window
a girl screams out the pain of the nation
"he put a gun to my head"
are they animals?
Satan worshipers?
or mentally ill boys?
somebody’s child becomes a murderer
others are left like rag dolls in twisted horror
tears, questions, and no answers
lost dreams
children who never grow out of their teens
pointing fingers
parents cry out why? how could this happen here?
who’s responsible?
the day after, a child goes off to school
"am i safe, mom?" he asks
thousands of moms lie
secretly cry
for a better day.


And one more thought on the political circus that has overshadowed the terrible events in Arizona. This one, from the Grateful Dead:

"Throwing Stones"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.

Picture a bright blue ball, just spinning, spinnin free,
Dizzy with eternity.
Paint it with a skin of sky,
Brush in some clouds and sea,
Call it home for you and me.
A peaceful place or so it looks from space,
A closer look reveals the human race.
Full of hope, full of grace
Is the human face,
But afraid we may lay our home to waste.

There's a fear down here we can't forget.
Hasn't got a name just yet.
Always awake, always around,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Now watch as the ball revolves
And the nighttime falls.
Again the hunt begins,
Again the bloodwind calls.
By and by, the morning sun will rise,
But the darkness never goes
From some men's eyes.
It strolls the sidewalks and it rolls the streets,
Staking turf, dividing up meat.
Nightmare spook, piece of heat,
It's you and me.
You and me.

Click flash blade in ghetto night,
Rudies looking for a fight.
Rat cat alley, roll them bones.
Need that cash to feed that jones.
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Commissars and pin-stripe bosses
Roll the dice.
Any way they fall,
Guess who gets to pay the price.
Money green or proletarian gray,
Selling guns 'stead of food today.

So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Heartless powers try to tell us
What to think.
If the spirit's sleeping,
Then the flesh is ink
History's page will thus be carved in stone.
And we are here, and we are on our own
On our own.
On our own.
On our own.

If the game is lost,
Then we're all the same.
No one left to place or take the blame.
We can leave this place and empty stone
Or that shinin' ball we used to call our home.

So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

[Bridge two:] Shipping powders back and forth
Singing black goes south and white comes north.
In a whole world full of petty wars
Singing I got mine and you got yours.
And the current fashion sets the pace,
Lose your step, fall out of grace.
And the radical, he rant and rage,
Singing someone's got to turn the page.

And the rich man in his summer home,
Singing just leave well enough alone.
But his pants are down, his cover's blown...
And the politicians throwin' stones,
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And it's all too clear we're on our own.
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Picture a bright blue ball,
Just spinnin', spinnin, free.
Dizzy with the possibilities.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.