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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

…And it will make them happy?

Before answering that question, let me set the stage. My girls are at the beach with their 15 year old cousin. They’re having a fabulous time, until Lindsey cuts her foot somehow. Unlike most people, Lindsey has somehow figured out how to cut her foot on the top of a toe, not on the bottom of her foot. (My children have always shown immense creativity when it comes to injuries!)

Blood, water and sand made for a dramatic wound. The amount of blood left Lindsey in hysterics. My niece had her hands full, then she noticed Nora was on the verge of wailing herself. So my niece suggested that Nora head over to the nearby playground, to play, catch her breath, calm down, so that the lifeguard and my niece could tend to Lindsey.

Nora ran off for all of one minute. Then she raced back to her sister. “Lindsey!” she shouted. “Look – I have an inchworm to make you feel better!”

And it did.

So when faced with hysterics, find yourself an inchworm. It’s just the thing for calming down hysterical little girls. At least in my world, it is!

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I was on the phone the other day, talking with a friend of mine. My husband was out on a bike ride, so I was on the phone while alone in the house with children.

(Can you see where this is going?!)

I’m at the stage where chatting on the phone with friends is as rare in my life as large diamonds, but my friend and I were chatting about a dear friend who had died last weekend. We were both overwhelmed with the news and, frankly, we were both a little teary.

Clearly, this was an important conversation.

Then, suddenly, all hell starts breaking loose upstairs, where my children have been sent to get ready for bed.

It is difficult in my house for my children to get ready for bed without proper supervision. There are all sorts of battles that can erupt – over who gets the toothpaste first; who stands where at the sink; who gets to use the toilet first, etc. and so on.

From the sound of it, there was a major war going on upstairs. And I am rather irritated because I am alone without the hubby to help and I want to be talking on the phone with my friend about my dear friend and all hell is breaking loose and from the sound of it, if I don’t go upstairs to stop the war, there may be casualties.

Then my son comes down, giggling hysterically. “Mom,” he says, ” they’re fighting about who farted the loudest!”

My two six-year-old girls, dainty flowers that they are, were at war over the sounds of their farts. Not sure if the louder fart was the winner or loser in that battle, but there you go. A new battlefield had been established. And there was a sound and fury to the war that had grown exponentially in just moments.

I decided to plunge into the fray. I explained the situation to my friend, who was astonished to have our conversation about grief interrupted by a story about farts. I went up into the battle zone with the phone so she could hear.

When I entered the bedroom, it was obvious the battle had shifted from farts to beds. One girl had pulled down the covers of the other girl’s bed. Both were screeching at the top of their lungs.

I held the phone up so my friend could hear it all. And she heard my girls screeching the exact same thing to me. “Stop looking at me!” “Stop LOOKING at me!”

And because they are identical twins, the tone and sound of the statement sounded exactly the same – as if one person was fighting with herself.

My friend and I couldn’t help it. We both burst out laughing. And we both knew that our dear friend who died last weekend would have laughed the loudest. In this moment of grief and loss, laughter rang out, and I was reminded once again that life is complex. Emotional. Contradictory. Life is war and anger and love and grief in one room. And life is laughter. Never forget the laughter.

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To be frank, I thought the idea of the “montessori graduation” to be a bit overwrought. Caps and gowns. Pomp and circumstance.

For people who were six years old.

I thought the woman in front of me was a tad overdramatic when she started tearing up before the ceremony started. A teacher darted in with a kleenex. It was all a bit sloppy.

Then the music started. Pomp and circumstance played by the music director, who is also our neighbor. The children walked down the aisle of the little church above the classrooms, dressed in their bright green caps and gowns.

And the tears started to flow! My tears! Cynical me, crying at the pomp and circumstance surrounding the montessori graduation.

What a shock!

Then I saw my girls.

And I was in awe.

They looked so big in their graduation gowns. They looked so beautiful. Their smiles were spectacular.

And thus the tears flowed some more.

“Mooooooooommmmm!” said my son. He was embarrassed by his mother’s tears, as boys usually are by such things. But not surprised at all. He knows me all too well.

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My girls had their very first school concert the other day. They’ve been seeing their brother’s concerts for years now and thus were THRILLED to be standing on stage the gym floor, belting out some tunes.

This year, the theme was kind of like a sock hop. Poodle skirts were worn by those girls whose mothers had lots of time to acquire/make them. My girls wore the other costume – jeans and white shirt.

Sigh.

However, my twinges of guilt over not supplying the poodle skirt vanished with the first note of the concert. I love watching school shows! I love them more than just about any other kind of entertainment. School concerts are filled with top performers and wiggly children and shy people who would rather be anywhere else than singing in public in front of a large audience of parents. (I had fallen in the latter category as a child – my heart goes out to the children who hate to perform!)

Three classes were represented at this show – 2nd graders, 5th graders and the kindergarteners. They placed the kindergartners next to the fifth graders. It was fascinating to see the growth we can expect in the next 5 years. The older girls were so tall and poised and beautiful. The kindergartners were so small and tiny.

In the kindergarten group, one girl in particular was not enjoying the show. She cried; she held her arms out beseeching her mother to rescue her. And well into the first song, the mother obliged, and the little girl was whisked away.

The little girl next to the shy child decided that she really didn’t want to participate either. She didn’t cry; she didn’t wait for her mother to rescue her; she just casually walked off the risers, done with the show.

That left the boy on the end standing alone. And when the kindergarteners all sang “Stand by Me,” and placed their arms around their neighbor, this boy had no neighbor to embrace.

So he stood there, singing passionately, and stretched his arm out, pretending to embrace the neighbors who’d fled.

A hilarious moment in a night full of emotion.

My girls were nervous prior to the show. I could tell. But they rose to the occasion. They sang. They did the dance moves. They embraced their neighbor when it was time to do so.

But in my mind, the night belonged to the little boy who didn’t let the absence of a neighbor inhibit him from performing as directed. He stood; he sang; he embraced the air; he was completely engaged in the show.

And the first school concert for my girls was a concert that was wonderful to watch.

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Ronald Howes, Sr., the inventor of the Easy Bake Oven, died just the other day. He was 83 years old.

Truth be told, I’ve cursed out that inventor on occasion. I don’t find much that is easy about the Easy Bake Oven. I never had one growing up – for whatever reason, our family bucked the easy baking trend that Mr. Howes had foisted upon America back in the early 1960s – a trend that has lasted for more than 40 years.

But this Christmas, the Easy Bake Oven had gleamed brightly as an object of desire for my girls; it was one of the few things on their wish list (alongside a dream catcher and candy necklace); the sale price at Target prior to Christmas made it an imperative purchase.

So even though my girls are five-years-old (a tad young for unsupervised baking) “Santa” felt compelled to bring them an Easy-Bake Oven to share. Thus, we became one of the 20 million families that can claim ownership of an Easy Bake Oven.

The first hint of trouble came when we opened the box on Christmas day, a day that has been set aside for family and celebration, not for shopping. On this day, we discovered that the oven did not come with a heat source – i.e. no lightbulb included.

Channeling Gertrude Stein
Now there are philosophers that will say that a lightbulb is a lightbulb is a lightbulb, but when the lightbulb for the Easy Bake Oven is missing and the oven won’t work without it, then the lightbulb is an issue.

In our case, the missing lightbulb was an issue we skirted until December 26th, when two hopeful little girls REALLY wanted to bake a cake. So “Santa” went out and got some bulbs for the oven and the easy baking commenced.

A Darkening Mood
Only it was not so easy. The mixes seemed dry and crumbly. One mix, the S’Mores packet, required the baker to pat out graham cracker squares to put into the round cake pan. I didn’t understand this concept – patting out square items to place in the Easy Bake Oven’s very round pan.

But we made S’More squares out of that dry, crumbly batter. And we shoved those little pans into the Easy Bake Oven, one pan at a time. And we attempted to commence the baking process.

Instructions said you had to make sure to place the pan in such a way that the oven doors were closed. But lacking a window to look into the oven, I discovered it was difficult to tell exactly where the pan needed to be to get maximum exposure to the lightbulb. So we shoved the pan and peered in through the sides only to realize we’d shoved the damn pan right out the other side.

So we had to pull out the pan and try it all over again. Frankly, it was an irritating process and I wanted very much to move on with my day. However, two little girls eager to eat some Easy Baked goods made it impossible for me to quit the Easy Bake process.

None of this seemed easy to me. The process was so challenging that I began to wonder how the hell this product had lasted for 40 years on the market. How could something so irritating be so enduring?

An Enduring Legacy
I started asking around. And what I found was remarkable. All the women I knew who had an Easy Bake Oven as a child loved it. They LOVED it.

That’s what my girls were telling me as we baked. They loved it. They really really loved it. And I realized that even though there was nothing easy about the Easy Bake Oven, it was something little girls loved doing. And thus, though I loathe the process, I know there will be many Easy Bake Oven activities in my future.

And I have Ronald Howes, Sr. to thank for that. He’s a man who gave millions of little girls a toy they loved to play with. And that is truly a wonderful legacy – to create a toy that brings happiness and the promise of something sweet to the children who play with it. So even though I’m not a true fan, I will be using Ronald Howes’s invention to create memories with my girls that will endure long after our Easy-Bake Oven experiences come to an end.

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“All politics is personal,” so the quote goes. The decade of the “aughts” – the 2000s – is known in some circles as “the lost decade,” the decade where our nation elected a president based on the ruling of the Supreme Court, lost a surplus, gained a deficit, held prisoners of war without charges, saw the vice president of the United States advocate torture as official policy.

For me, the “aughts” also represent my first decade as a mother. My son was born in the waning moments of the 20th century, arriving nearly two weeks early and in time to ring in the New Millennium.

His life has been my joy. Motherhood has been one of the best jobs I’ve had in my life. Not perfect, not easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but rewarding in ways I never could have imagined.

My son is 10 now, a tall boy, eager to do well in math, learning a musical instrument, loving legos, exploring downloads for his iPod. He already knows how to use a computer (something I never touched until my early 20s.) He’ll never experience an “album” but will create his own playlists on his iPod. He’ll never roll down a car window manually; he’ll probably never drive a stick shift.

When I was his age, the great enemy of the US was the USSR, a nation that he’ll only read about in books. The solar system held nine planets, not eight. Pluto was big enough in those days to be thought of as a planet, not as the “dwarf planet” we’ve come to know today.

When I was his age, the twin towers in New York stood tall over the American landscape. Terrorism existed, yes, in other parts of the world.

My son’s world is different than my world was when I was 10, but the basics remain the same. Doing one’s best is how we should approach our activities in life. Family and friends remain a much-needed staple in a successful life. Looking forward into a future that will bring inevitable changes to the world we know today, I wish for a safe, secure and successful environment for my children and my children’s children.

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I recently left the world of freelance for a job in an office. Love the work. Love the people I work with.

Hate the fact I’m not working in my basement any more. Hate the fact that I have to pack A LOT OF ACTIVITY into the weekends, activities I used to be able to spread out during the week. When you work for yourself in the basement, your time is truly your own.

When you work for a company, your time belongs to them. Such is the sacrifice we make for a regular paycheck with decent health benefits…

Thus I found myself last Saturday with two little girls and a vast list of chores to accomplish. And what I REALLY wanted to do more than anything was get a manicure so that I would look kind of groomed when I participated in a major client presentation the following Tuesday.

In dropping off my dry cleaning, I realized the nail salon was open ahead of schedule. I took a peak inside, and they said they’d polish my daughters’ nails for just $3.

A price point I could NOT resist.

Nora was gung-ho from the get-go.

Lindsey, usually the fearless one, wanted to stick to me. But when she saw the darling little flowers the manicurist had put on Nora’s nails, she wanted some of that for herself.

And thus I found myself having a mani-party with my daughters. I loved it. I never had the chance to get a manicure with my mother; but I’ve already had the chance to beautify myself with my girls.

It was a blast. An investment in a manicure that reaps enormous dividends in my memory. Looking forward to doing it again…

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