Tuesday, January 20, 2015

5 p.m. on a Tuesday: A Dinnertime Short Story

In the beginning, there was quiet. And then there was noise.

Out of the blue, the 5 year old remembered the time her baby brother ripped her puppy dog folder (in October 2013).

She promptly complained and sought retaliation by ripping up his Lego Duplo instruction book.

The baby brother helped. (He likes to rip. He also cannot read. And being just 2 years old, is not attached to physical possessions, in the same way the 5 year old was attached to her puppy dog folder.)

There was quiet.

BUT, the 8 year old saw the ripped Lego logo as it fluttered to the floor. The Lego logo looked like it, perhaps, belonged to the instructions for the Lego Friends Cruise ship. which we abandoned building in 2013 (apparently it was a rough year).

Immediately, the 8 year old thought her younger siblings had plotted against her.

Naturally, she bit the 5 year old.

Naturally, the 5 year old was a bit enraged and began screaming.

So the baby brother,  caught up in the moment,  hit both his sisters and threw his pacifier into the toilet (along with a handful of pennies, two gum balls and a juice box).

Before I could even gather my thoughts or utter the words: "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?," there was quiet again.

Then, all three, turned to me and said, "We are starving. Why haven't you made dinner?"

Friday, January 16, 2015

(Un-) Faithful Friday

I think there might be a hashtag called #FaithfulFriday. For approximately 467 days, I've promised myself I would write one faith-filled post every Friday, as a way to be social media savvy, part of the Twitter faith conversation and to end my work week with some faith and perspective.

I have never written a #FaithfulFriday post.

Never, ever, never. Well, once, for a paying client. I am often faithful for cash.

I've written in Yoke before about how I am a bad Christian--and boy, oh, boy, sometimes I can be the worst. I've received some not-so-loving emails and messages about classifying myself as a bad Christian. At first, I was really excited. It was a sign someone in the universe was reading my blog.

But, truly, I was hurt and so hurt that a couple times, I cried in secret. (note: I only cry in secret. Or if others are crying and it seems socially acceptable. I do not cry at funerals. I never cry at weddings. I am an ugly crier and I am vain.)  Disclosing my secret crying is not a request for empathy or sympathy. It just happened.  My faith is critically important to me. When I write about God and Christ and my bad Christian-hood, I do it after I pray for the meditations of my hearts and words that I type with my fingers to be the truth, inspired by God's role in my life.

To tell me that I need to examine my Christianity and my faith because I am a horrible person is to tell me that I am praying and listening to the wrong guy.  Then suddenly, I am questioning my very faith---I worry that I am not actually hearing the word of God, but I am hearing my own sinful voice.

The funny thing with believing in God, is that your faith can be shaken even when you are behaving at your most faithful. I often think there is a very fine, nearly invisible line between the good of God and the evil of the Devil. When you are close to one, you are close to the other. You must proceed with caution and with the faith that God will pull you back on the right side of the line.

I am unfaithful in my faith. I am sinful in my heart. I am sinful with my time and talents and energy. I am a bad Christian. I might be a bad person sometimes too. I am not faithful on Fridays or Tuesdays or Mondays.

But, none of this is God's fault. The God I love, shakes his head at me when I act like a jackass. The God I love, weeps when I really mess up. The God I love, loves me more than I can imagine. There is nothing that can permanently separate us from His love. He is always faithful. Even when I am not.

Author's Note:
When I searched for Bible verse about being unfaithful, everything was about marital infidelity. Who has time for that? I'd like to meet them. They are probably also wearing matching socks and get their hair cut twice a week, at a salon. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Afraid of Heights and Smiling: Ten Years Later

In 2005, I am 27 and vacationing, with Mike. 
In 2015, I am 37 and vacationing, with Mike. Oh and three children, that are my children. 

In 2005, I am vacationing in Breckenridge Colorado and while, I am smiling in the picture, the lift has just stopped moving and I am dangling in the air, ready to jump to end my horror. I keep reminding Mike not to drop my camera. 
In 2015, I am also smiling, yet horrified a gust of wind will send my toddler son into the Grand Canyon. I spent most of the trip reminding Mike not to accidentally drop a child into the canyon.

In 2005, We do not have any children. In fact, I dislike children and refer to people with more than one child as breeders. 
In 2015, We have three children. I still dislike children; yet I find myself constantly surrounded by them, so they are starting to grow on me. I have been called a breeder by at least 17 people.

In 2005, I work managing, launching and fundraising for an Australia based non-profit that gives glasses to blind people in Africa. My job is stressful. Sometimes I dream about running around ripping glasses off people and breaking each pair under my foot. I have a weird hatred of glasses.
In 2015, I have 45 jobs; but really I am a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in public relations, marketing, organic baby food pitching, writing and teaching yoga. I love sunglasses. I never think about breaking eye glasses; however I have broken all our wine glasses (by accident.). So I drink wine out of a water goblet.

In 2005, Mike and I have been married for like 2 years. 
In 2015, Mike and I have been married for like 12 years. 

In 2005, We live in a bungalow which we lovingly restore on the weekends and often entertain friends (without children). I spend Spring gazing out of the upstairs bedroom windows at a gorgeous magnolia tree and thinking that someday, maybe, when I like children, my gorgeous, well behaved children will gaze at same tree dressed in Lilly Pulitzer.
In 2015, We live in the same bungalow and gave up lovingly restoring it in 2006. On the weekends, Mike often fixes things that have suddenly exploded or just refused to perform the work they were designed to do.  Everything needs to be painted. Sometimes I call our bungalow, the shanty house.  My children often wear their Target clothing and color the magnolia tree with sidewalk chalk, while hacking off branches. 

In 2005, I get my hair cut and highlighted once a month. I have a hair cut that reminds me of Jennifer Anniston on Friends. I wear high heels and suits to work, daily. 
In 2015, I get my hair cut approximately once a year. I color my own hair to cover the grays. I wear yoga pants and giant sweaters. Sometimes I wear high heels while my toddler naps and strut around talking on the phone to my mother. 

In 2005, I get pregnant, twice. First, an accident which ends in a miscarriage and thwarts my plans to go to Kenya for work (probably better, would have stolen and broken glasses from impoverished people). The second pregnancy, a miracle,  which ends in gorgeous Lily in 2006. 
In 2015, I have given birth to three children. Lily was a 29 week preemie; Chloe was a 31 week preemie and then Nicholas, the surprise child, is delivered full term (and would have remained in womb until he was 17 years old.) I think of that miscarriage sometimes and remember a psychic once told me I would have four children. I guess that I do, sort of. 

In 2005, I find the thought of childhood cancer depressing. Mike attempts to tell me about Alex Scott and Alex's Lemonade Stand. I think he secretly gives a donation. I cannot fathom a child dying from cancer, so I decide to never think about it.
In 2015, my first thought every morning is of childhood cancer. My second thought is about lemonade and Alex Scott. My prayers every night are for children who are dying and for my child, who has survived. I still cannot fathom all of it, but I will never forget it. 

In 2005, my goals were to grow my career, find a nanny, travel the world, change the world and live an exciting grown up life. 
In 2015, my goals are to grow my career (and nurture my children to find their own life paths), find a nanny (somethings never change), travel the world (with my three children), change the world (specifically, to end childhood cancer and share God's love) and live an exciting, youthful life well into my 90s.

This post was inspired by Mama Kat's Writing Prompt. 
Find a photo of yourself taken 10 years ago and display it on your blog along with a current photo. How have you changed since the day that photo was taken?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shake it off: Mothering A Two Year Old Boy

Sometimes, I forget that I have a son. I don't actually forget about him. I just sort of misplace the memory that I am boy mom or something.

Saturday night we were out without him. I was talking to a woman about being a girl mom and she said: "I have all boys. You would not believe how attached they are to me."

And I said, "Must be annoying. Glad I have girls," while gesturing wildly at my daughters dancing around with their dresses over their heads. (We were at a black tie event. They are 8 and 5. And it was late. And I think one of them accidentally drank my gin and tonic.)

Anyway, I came home, paid the babysitter and then remembered that the babysitter was actually staying with my son. You know, the one I forgot to mention in casual conversation (I cannot ever be Facebook friends with that woman.)

I think these weird senile moments occur when you have three children. I think.



The boy is always touching me. The touching is lovely when we are all snuggled up reading a book about diggers and trash trucks (heartwarming!). It is also a real heart-melter when the touching is a hugged apology for putting the camera in the toilet. It is sort of lovely when the touching brings an end to one of the endless tantrums over travesties like not being allowed to eat TicTacs for dinner.

(My mother fed the boy TicTacs in November. It has ruined my life.)

However, most of the time the touching is hellish. Sometimes, I am pinched because I did not respond prior to him completing the first syllable of his wail of "MAAAAAAMAAAA" and provide him a TicTac   Organic Rice Cake. Going to the bathroom and closing the door is a giant NO-NO in this house; the boy flings his body against the door screaming. (maybe he thinks I will drown in the toilet like the camera?) Other times, I am simply walking to the kitchen to get a glass of water and suddenly, he begins to fear that I am leaving him forever and attempts to climb up and inside my pant leg like a giant prehistoric insect.

But, most of time, he is simply blocking the front door with his entire, rage filled sweet 2-year-old little boy body because he is suffering from paranoid delusions that I might run away to the Island of Sodor to be with the choo-choos  without him (when really, I just need to take out the trash. Also I hate those whiney Thomas trains. If I was running way, I'd go to the Sofia the First castle. Obviously.)

Older, more mature mothers have told me that I will miss this--the love and clinging. I don't buy it; I don't think I will miss this psychotic kind of love that leaves me shaking him off my leg like he is a rabid dog. I don't think I will miss the pinching. I don't think I will ever be sitting on the toilet thinking: "Gee, I wish someone would come and bang on the door and scream!"  I know I will not miss the paranoid delusions and someday, I will take my freedom to bring the trash to the curb without drama for granted.

Most likely,  I will block out all the memories of the clinging.  It is what traumatized people do--they will themselves to forget, so they can get about their business of appearing un-traumatized.

And really,  since we live in New Jersey, I know my momma's boy will hug me and worship me forever because that is written as a requirement in our state constitution.  (it is why our taxes are so high.)

For now,  I have to just shake it off. I have to shake off his lunacy and tantrums. Then I have to pick up that little bugger and hug him close.

After all, someday, he will leave me (God willing) and begin stalking  loving another woman.

P.S. I now have Taylor Swift stuck in my head. And so do you. . Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, blah, blah. Just shake it off! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Family Tree: Con Sister

I have a half sister.

No one has ever really met her. My daughters think of her as a mythological beast; my husband has never seen her face.

My sister was only nice to me once in my whole life. She visited my father one summer when I was 8 and took me to mall to pick out a birthday gift for myself. I picked out a pen bracelet that was cream and covered with tiny little red hearts. I loved that bracelet. I slept with it; wrote everything I could with it and told everyone my big sister bought it for me. My big sister took me shopping at mall.  I had a big sister with beautiful hair and cool clothes and a boyfriend.  The hearts wore off the bracelet from my constant use and adoration.

I always wanted my big sister to love me. That pen was the symbol of a dream coming true.

Then I found out she paid for it with money she stole from my mother's purse.

That was the day I decided I did not have a big sister. My father simply had another child.

Beth Ann is a con artist and a thief and a flimflam artist and a vile, dishonest human being. Stealing from her step mother's handbag to con her baby sister into believing she loved her is her standard con.  She is good at it--the ultimate sales woman.

I never called her to tell her our father had died. I dutifully took down the last known number we had for her; knowing all along I would not call her. Her legend and her shadow kept an entire branch of my strange half-family away from my father's funeral service.

So I decided they were no longer my family anymore either. They were simply family that once existed in my father's life.

Shadows, really.

Last week, Beth Ann resurfaced. A man called to say he had been feeding her and had spent a lot of money on her. These calls have happened my entire life--sometimes it is a "minister" calling to tell my father to help her. Other times it is her new "husband." None of these people are real, they are simply people that Beth Ann willed to exist. The minister, well, he was definitely a man she met at a truck stop. And her husband, was a man she picked up at a bar.

The man this week, well, she most likely stole from a church to con him into believing she was a poor, broken woman with just pennies to spare.

When people ask me, are you an only child? Or if they knew me a little more: is it just you and your brother? I just want to say, "yes!" But my 8-year old self always wants the truth to be a little different and before I know it, I am telling a joke about my sister being a con-artist as if I am on some funny dramedy on cable about a quirky dysfunctional family. As if I had memories of hair braiding and stealing her diary and shopping at the mall and fighting and laughing.

I have none of those; try as I may to con myself into believing those memories exist. I simply have an old broken, pen bracelet that has run out of ink with the hearts worn off, from too much wishing.

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 in Review: Freedom, Family and Friendship

With three kids, the year flies by at such a rapid pace, I feel like I am desperately trying to hang on for dear life. Plus, I have developed some sort of out-numbered-by-the-children induced dementia and find myself forgetting things. Daily.

I asked Lily what some of the highlights of 2014 were and she said: Nothing.
I asked Chloe and she said: "School, being with my cousins, just school."
I asked Nicholas and he growled, pointed at me and threw a toy.
I asked Mike and he said: "Nicholas being born." Note: Nicholas was born in 2012.

As usual, my family is absolutely no help. 

Since I know everyone is breathlessly awaiting the intimate memories of my personal life, here's my memories from 2014. (Note: Something of these things could have happened in 2013. Remember, I am nearly senile.)

1. This year marked seven years since my oldest daughter was diagnosed with ependymoma, a vicious, vile type of brain cancer. Lily was 14 months old at diagnosis. She is now "nearly 9," and for the first time in seven years, I heard her oncologist say:

"Lily is a survivor. See you in two years. Send me pictures. "

2014 gave us freedom.

2. It also marked our 6th Annual Lily's Lemonade Stand for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. It was our top fundraising year so far and because of the amazing friends, family and sweet strangers, we raised $12,619. In July, I was nominated for a Bloganthropy Award for my work with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (the biggest, most humbling honor ever.)  Our lemonade stand is so much about paying our blessings forward. I will never know why our child survived when so many children have lost their lives.  We know we cannot squander this gift and lemonade will help us find a cure) (Pssst: There is still time to donate. . .and help us tip the scales over $12K. . Just head over here and take advantage of the last minute tax write off! )

3. To wrap up Lily's accomplishments: my daughter ran in three 5ks (two with me and one with Mike), learned how to read chapter books, danced in her 4th dance recital and FINALLY got that Newborn Nursery doll she has begged for "her entire life." We also celebrated her 8th birthday with an off-the-hook, epic glow in the dark party.

4. My year would never be complete without my darling beautiful Chloe. Chloe continues to be the source of pure joy for my heart. She also ran in two 5ks, danced in her 3rd dance recital and began to learn how to read. Chloe turned 5 and we celebrated with a Cinderella themed party at Enchanted Dreams. From her raspy voice (which just gets better age) to her quick, intelligent mind, Chloe is the ham in my sandwich.

5. This was the year Chloe began kindergarten and I was left home alone with Nicholas. It has felt like a restart to motherhood. It has been terrifying, trying and above all, the most fun I've ever had. The boy is all boy, with a side of devil and the sweetest kisses.  Nicholas growls, dances like he is in Saturday Night Fever, tackles kids twice his size and is the child who completed our family in the most surprising of ways.  We celebrated the boy's second birthday in true manly style with a Digger/Dump Truck party.

6. This summer I launched a business with my fabulous writing partner Lindsay Podolak. Tigerlily Creative Media is the answer to something I've been searching for my entire life: the chance to write for a paycheck. My father always told me I needed to start a writing collective. And here I am, writing. (PS Hire us!).

7. Early in 2014, my brother David moved from my mother's home into a group home with other men with similar developmental disabilities. This was an answer to a prayer and David is thriving. Every grown man deserves a home of his own, away from his mother. David got that. I know my Dad would be happy to see his boy settled.

8. Celebrating 11 years of marriage, Mike and I also celebrated our 20th Christmas together. I've known Mike since we were kids and now we have three. His life is a blessing. His love is a gift. And the fact he puts up with me is the best luck, ever.

9. We took the most epic vacation, ever. Beginning in San Francisco with my best friend Karen, we traveled to Yosemite, Mammoth Valley, Death Valley, Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Antelope Island and Salt Lake Lake City.  These places are like glimpses of heaven--a view into the Universe. We are lucky to have the resources to share these treasures with our children. We are blessed to have the time and the energy to make it happen.

10. The joys and struggles of my friends are their news.  I've been blessed to watch so many of the people I love excel and laugh and live life in joy. I've been inspired by many strong, powerful women who are fighting battles. And most of all, everyday I wake up with a full inbox, text messages that make me laugh out loud and too many beautiful friends to count.  My friends stop me from giving into my natural introversion and remind me what is important in life: people. Where would I be without my friends?

Well, I'd be talking to myself on a street corner and laughing out loud alone in Walmart at 11pm. (I SWEAR this has NEVER happened. Despite what my children might tell you.).

Cheers to you 2014. Happy 2015. (I hope this is the year I get that automatic wardrobe dresser robot machine that Judy Jetson had. #SendTheFuture )

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DIY Fingerprint Thank You Notes (Nap Time Pursuits Link Up)

This post may contain affiliate links.

'Tis the season for gratitude!

This week, I am taking some time to prep homemade thank you cards so I can be ready to acknowledge all the wonderful gifts and blessings we've been given this Christmas season.  These DIY Fingerprint Thank You Notes come together in a snap and feature talking snowmen. I wanted to make something wintery, but not too Christmasy. I also like a touch of whimsy and I think I am pretty clever, hence the speech bubbles.

Using fingerprints and ink pads is such a simple way to great a very personal and homemade stationary. I have this amazing book, "Ed Emberley's Fingerprint Drawing Book."

The book has endless ideas for making art from your fingerprints.  It is such a great craft resource on my book shelf. (Everyone should order a copy right now for the New Year!)

These fingerprint thank you notes take just a few minutes to put together. You can customize the speech bubble on the front and write your words of gratitude on the inside.

You will need:
A selection of colored Sharpies or other markers for embellishing
Light blue ink pad (I love the Ink It Up! ink pads from A.C. Moore. I used "French Blue.")
Blank note cards and envelopes (Or even paper folded into a card)

  1. Stamp your snowman using your fingers (or your kids fingers, if they cooperate.). I used my thumb for the bottom snowball, my index figure for the middle and my pinkie for the top.
  2. Then embellish. Add eyes, a carrot nose, arms, a scarf, a hat and of course, some coal buttons. Then had the speech bubble. Some cute things your snowman could say:

"I loved it!"
"You made my day!"
" You know who rocks? YOU!"
"That gift made me melt."

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And thanks for reading Yoke!