Family

Losing and Gaining: Never Easy

Nope – this isn’t a post about a woman’s constant struggle with weight gain….it’s quick  and not too “emo” so,  sit for a minute.

Yair

Yair Shapiro, zt”l

2 weeks ago, our cousin was on a day trip, hiking in the desert, when he fell from a 50 meter cliff to his tragic death. This was not some remote cousin who popped up once a year for a family get-together, this cousin called 3-4 times a week sometimes 3-4 times a day and stayed with us for holidays and weekends. This cousin was well-recognized around the neighborhood and everyone who met him from what I’ve heard only had the nicest, even if most-generic, comments about how pleasant he was.

He was single, though he tried throughout the years to pinpoint the kind of women he was looking for to make a lasting relationship and family with yet he was unsuccessful. He got lonely and depressed like most of us did, watching others move on with their lives and loved ones while we were single and in search of…Mr. or Miss Right. We encouraged and suggested new activities that might help him meet different women, we listened and understood the frustrations that come along with not knowing the future, and we set him up with good women from good families and he mostly had good experiences, just never seemed to click with anyone specific for a long-term relationship to blossom.

He was bright and knowledgeable with an outstanding memory of all things in history but struggled with learning disabilities though it never seemed to slow or deter him from his academic goals. Reaching for higher degrees and publishing an article in his field were no small feat but he was dedicated to his research even though he understood that meant he would need to find a partner who could appreciate his was a labor of love, not one that would bring great financial reward. He was not in it for the fame and fortune, he was proud of his accomplishments and yearned to be respected for his work and nothing more.

He was a grateful cousin, always thanking me for hosting him for the holidays, weekends, meals, and conversations. He brought gifts that were thoughtful and useful and always tried to bring something he knew that would put a smile on my face. He challenged my husband when discussing religion or politics and laughed with my children about sports, t.v. shows and movies. In every conversation he would inquire about the health of my parents and my in-laws, how the children were doing in school and if I had had a hard day.

The hardest thing to overcome was the finality. Not having one last opportunity to say what was truly in our hearts to one another. Sure, every conversation was honest and he knew how I felt about him because I would tell him just as often as he would tell me. However one never knows what they would say if they knew they had only one last time to say anything, until after, and then it’s too late.

2 weeks ago, we lost a cousin but gained perspective. To lose something so dear in such a shocking way?  We may never recover. Time will heal the pain and with every new, “life without Yair” moment we will look back and smile because he was so good to us. The biggest lesson I learned, even though I knew it all along, was to act like each day may be my last. Not in a morbid way, rather,  that each action towards others is something to be taken seriously. Be the very best version of yourself all the time so that when you leave this world, others will only have kind words to say and not feel regret or anger. Smile even when you feel sad. Put someone else’s needs before your own. Surround yourself with positive energy.  Measure your words. Think before you speak. Apologize when you are wrong. Hug with intensity. Love with a full heart.

A Sweet New Year

ew

Fishheads

We did it. I did it. I survived another year of mad-dash cooking for the High Holidays. There was the fish head, and there were sweetened boiled beets, and carrots and leek and gourd and dates, pomegranates – ooh yeah – what a messy treat, can’t forget those. There could have been black-eyed peas but they just look creepier than a fish head to me, so I opted out. These are the foods we eat on Rosh Hashana that are symbolic to the blessings we ask for.

appleThat and of course apples and honey – the fam favorite! I made sure to pick the prettiest apples I could find.

And then I cooked like never before. There were round challot and long challotchallah and then one with sprinkled cinnamon-sugar and one with chocolate chips and one with a fish-tail braid…plus chicken wingsroastwings and a French roast and then honey-mustard cutlets and steamed broccoli, edemame, squash kugel (pie)lunch, potato kugel  and basmati rice, salmon, salad, couscous, chicken with sweet potatoes, garlic salted green beans and the list went on!!!! There was 3 pots-worth ofsoup hearty chicken soup and of course there was dessert. There was a whip-pie that found its way into the freezer, Ben & Jerry’s and an assortment of Sharon sorbet plus DH’s red velvet cake and an apple pie. I mean tons of food! Too much food! I felt so bloated, in a good way though after every meal it was worth all the effort. 

 

The beauty of all this prepping and eating and celebrating though for 3 days straight meant that I was really looking forward to Yom Kippur. The fast days of ALL fast days. The Holiest Day Of The Year! I was going for the ultimate cleanse. No eating for 25 hours and you know what? I was only a smidge hungry. Before the fast, there was another meal to prepare but I kept it fairly simple.  And because I felt bad for my daughter who suffers with Celiac’s Disease I made her these Betty Crocker gluten-free cupcakes that my sister-in-law was kind enough to bring to us all the way from the States. They were plain yellow cupcakes that I jazzed up with Duncan Hines vanilla frosting and good ol’ colorful jimmies. I placed then in the fanciest cupcake holders I could find  and the result was awesome. She was in heaven, after not being able to eat the apple pie, the whip pie or the red velvet cake – I made it up to her with these.cupcake

What a way to start the new year. Hoping it’s a sweet new year for everyone. SHANA TOVA~!

Honoring Our Past

handYou may not see what I see, because perhaps, you never met my grandmother. Genetics are a weird thing. Bits and pieces passed down through the gene pool end up popping into a new person and changing with them as they grow older. There were a couple of small photos my mother once had hanging on our metal oven wall with a magnet of her and me looking VERY much alike as children. Weirder than that was a picture my paternal grandmother hung on her wall *also happens to be my absolute favorite* of my great-grandfather centered between my uncle and father in a beautiful moment captured in black & white. Underneath, tucked into the frame was a color photo of my great-grandmother centered between my brother and myself. Seriously, my dad and I look like twins. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE that I look JUST like my mom and JUST like my dad at different ages, when they themselves look nothing alike? Early on I learned about genetics since I was the only one in my immediate family with blue eyes. My maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather passed them down to me bit by bit. And then, there are moments when I look in the mirror and there is a glimmer of my mother looking back at me. Or I am washing the dishes and I see her hands soaping the pot. But most recently, I was reading a novel and there was something that hit me beyond words. There staring back at me was my grandmother’s hand. Though she had longer more elegant fingers, always clad in shiny rings that seemed to be slipping off (she was always cold) and her hands always smelled of Jergens or Shower to Shower powder, sure enough there was that moment.

Today is a day we honor the past and hope for our future. My grandmother was American and though I have no personal familial stories to tell of atrocities and triumph of my own (though my grandfather was an American paratrooper in WWII) , my Facebook feed is full of old black and white/sepia photos of grandparents and great-grandparents who suffered through the Holocaust. My friends, all adding their own personal stories, have helped me to connect to a reality I know nothing of, only learned about since I was very young. Looking at their pictures I try to find the resemblance either in my friend’s faces or their children’s faces. I search for the depth in their eyes and search for answers. What was going in their day-to-day lives? How did they manage to survive? What could they have possibly told their children? How did they get past these atrocities and rebuild their lives to produce some very large families and continue their G-d given heritage? I hope I never need to find out for myself.

Today, we honor their memory with a siren that blasts for 2 straight minutes while the whole country stands still. Cars stop on the side of the road, drivers get out of their cars and silently bow their heads. People in offices and stores, children in school, workers in the fields, everyone stands respectfully until the siren ends remembering the fallen. Throughout the country memorial candles are lit and programs and ceremonies are held. Holocaust Remembrance Day (or here in Israel it is known as יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Day) is a national memorial day. 

 memorial candleWe are a resilient nation, conquering the wrath of our enemies, proving triumphant and victorious over evil hateful nations that wish to destroy us.

We are a simple people wanting nothing more than to be just what we are. The Chosen People, which has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. “You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) Children of Israel (Exodus 6:6). A people of the land  (Genesis 12:7). My memories of my grandmother are sweet with mostly no sorrow. What will we pass down to our children? What will they remember about us? These are the questions I thought about today. How about you? We continue to honor our past and always hope for a brighter, more tolerant tomorrow.

A Look Back – Thanks Facebook

Having the flu – which really should be called “burning golf balls in your throat and an elephant sitting on your chest”  – but I guess flu is shorter and easier to say…stinks.

However, being in bed the majority of this week has enabled me to watch over 60 ( I think, I lost count but definitely at least 50) look back videos.

Dear Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team,

imagesHappy Birthday Facebook!

I LOVED the gift you gave to us – a video that encapsulated the posts that we published since we began our FB journey. Of course based on the algorithm you programmed, our pictures or posts were placed in the video  – so while some videos were overly beautiful and made most of us weep for the sweet moments they captured, they were not all moving pieces. However, If we were naughty, and deleted some photos, because well, lets face it, no one needs to see a picture of your bagel that you ate last year and felt the need to share it with the world – that’s not  ‘video’ material is it? We were punished. No video for you. Just a bunch of weirdly random pictures that we could not even share is what we got.

And I am so very disappointed, see, I saw my video and it was great, well-rounded and shared some old pictures of me and my classmates, some of my old co-workers with one of our special needs volunteers,  some great children moments – as well as me and some friends in group shots, but there was none of my husband – which I was so sad about. So I changed my profile picture to one of my favorite couple shots of us thinking, this is just going to make it amazing – and then – nothing. Just a weird grouping of random stills I sent out over the years with no ‘Share’ button – just a thank you from Mark Z and his team.

That got me thinking and as I scrolled FB to see, there were others like me, at least 2 others and there was no do-over. It had me thinking about G-d. ( I know I’m ill and feverish so it may have been between pills when this came to me).

G-d sometimes give us do-overs, but sometimes the algorithm is the way it is. Something set and that’s the end of it. I was called an idiot for not getting the flu shot. Well, okay – I didn’t want to inject some flu in me so I wouldn’t get a worse case of it – those are the breaks. Maybe I am an idiot sometimes, but I try not to be, and that had me thinking back to Facebook.

Sometimes I share a lot of nonsense. Watching so many other people’s videos I learned a few things about the way we choose to ‘share’. Here is what I learned about myself and Facebook:

  • I will try to stop sharing pictures of food that I cooked or baked. It’s really not that interesting and I already write a blog – so I might as well stick those shots in a section called – “”Hey, I cooked something and I want you to comment on how it looks” or something dually self-promoting.
  • I will think about sharing only the moments that matter. Not because it’s fake or gives the impression that my life is perfect, on the contrary  – no one has a life that is all vacations and dinners at fancy restaurants. Well at least not any of my 600 some odd ‘friends’ on Facebook – well maybe just one or two of them do – but I digress. I should be more selective about what I share.
  • We all seek attention.  From the tiniest hang nail and paper cut (no matter how annoying or painful) to the proudest moments as parents and biggest personal achievements, we put ‘stuff ‘ out there in the hopes that someone will comment, connect or make fun of us. Sharing is caring and can be fun and even sometimes helpful. But are we using this tool solely to seek attention? Maybe.
  • Having pets is okay, I guess.  Just because I’m highly allergic to all your furry friends, means I’ll never own one and am cautious about accepting invitations to your homes. Even when I’m there my first reaction is to back away and cringe – but I know some are great companions and good for children.  So I’ll watch your cute dog videos. They all look so harmless in your Look Back vids.
  • Facebook connects people. And that’s the reason I started with it anyway. Living far from family has its advantages, sure, but not when you miss a Thanksgiving dinner, or a wedding or even worse, your elderly grandparents. Will grandpa chat with you and you can only see his chin the entire conversation? Yup. so when Skype or Facetime fails with the ol’ folk, there is Facebook – where you can automatically share videos and pictures and messages. And then every ten years get your own recap video.

So thanks Facebook, for giving me an opportunity for a do-over. But if anyone on staff reads this – can you rig it so I get to see my video again? Thanks.

Love, Cheri

The Time Has Finally Come, Shalom

When your Facebook feed is full of similar commentary it means one thing. It’s THAT big a deal. When people feel the need to share and pass on information it means that it was important enough to them to spread the word. They want the world to know whats on their mind. Today is all about Stella Frankl. Sure, its been a few weeks now of intermittent messages from Yarden keeping us all updated on the deteriorating situation, what the family needs and doesn’t need, but until today even though he begged us not to, there were some of us praying. Praying for Stella to be the holiday miracle of Chanukah 2013.

Yarden, her beloved, dedicated husband was begging us to pray for it to end, but I couldn’t do that, so I hope he can forgive me one day. I prayed that G-d have mercy on the family, that He deal with Stella in the most compassionate of ways, that her soul be taken when He is ready. But I never, not once, prayed for it to end quicker. I put all my faith in G-d thinking, knowing, believing that His decision is justified at all times though a simple servant like me can never begin to understand how the pain and suffering for those of us left behind is effectual.

So our beautiful, wholesome, cherished Star has breathed her very last breath. There are countless tears across the world today dropping down from red weary eyes, mine included. Now I understand why the word Shalom has three meanings. For those who don’t know, it means, hello, goodbye and peace.

The first time I met Yarden, he was looking lost (to me anyway, he probably knew where he was) and I introduced myself and invited the new family to a Shabbat meal. When they came to my teeny apartment, already jam-packed with toys and boxes and years of kids stuff/kitchen stuff/ it all faded away, as Stella’s smile and Yarden’s humor illuminated the space and so began a friendship that lasted 8 years and counting. Many gatherings at kindergarten shows, Sabbath and holiday meals, bar and bat mitzvahs, all the fun times! Then some of the more serious times. Almost 6 years ago, I was hospitalized. Stella made a visit to me with another close friend and I can  not begin to even describe how amazing that visit was. I was in such a low place. Depressed and lonely and then there they were, no one else came to visit, other than my husband, and it was awful, truly awful…but that moment stayed with me always. Those 2 friends who made the effort to travel to an inconvenient location just to sit with me fills my heart with gratitude. The same shared friend visited Stella every week as she became bed-ridden. I tried to keep my distance and visited only twice. I felt that there were so many women wanting to be with her that I’d not overwhelm the family, I’d visit when she asked. And the last 2 times were priceless, filled with laughter and smiles.

This blow is so overwhelming. I posted many times to Facebook for people to pray for my friend. And they did. People spread out all over this world prayed and followed Yarden’s journey through reading his blog and now feel a part of what is missing in our lives as if they knew her. So many people have been affected and never once even met our dear friend Stella. I wish I could write more for there is still a lot to be said, just not with this many tears blurring my vision.

We will all miss you so much, as we say in Hebrew, Tzeischem L’shalom, Go in peace. With love, Shalom.photo

When Did All The Potatoes Rot?

This did not just happen, by the way, this is my life, day-to-day. Small scenarios just like this one. Today, I felt like documenting it.

It is unfair, I tell you. One minute they were fine, the next bruised and stinking up the vegetable cabinet. The house, being closed up all day, incubated that stink so that when I came home and opened the door – booyah! I was hit with the most horrific smell that I could remember. I felt like retching. I felt like running. I felt ill. Why potatoes, why? Was it my fault entirely? I thought I left you enough air. I bought you with great intentions for mash, or to fry and even bake but you turned on me so quickly.

And such is my corny life. Moms, who work, need to – no make that, MUST blame other factors when things go wrong. On the one hand, everything is our fault but on the other, if I am to blame for one.more.THING I’ll go mad. Yes, I will. Legit mad, not like, oh, I broke my nail after a manicure, *sob*. Like red-faced, dragon-breathed, holy-cow-take-cover mad. And then just like that we’re back, smiling and having found inner peace/our happy place. As a newly married woman I recall a phone conversation with my sister-in-law (Please forgive me, I love you). She was pleasant – then crazy, screaming at one of her 10 (at the time) children, then back to pleasant. I thought her behavior was absurd – so Jekyll and Hyde. Then I had children and completely related. I remember having a conversation with one of my best friends deciding whose house we were going to commiserate at since our children were small and misery loves company, when I looked over and saw my 2 yr. old poking my baby’s eyes. So I started screaming something like, “that’s naughty – stop that right now!” (Yeah, like a 2-year-old cares – negative attention is just as good as positive at that age). 3 seconds later I came back to the conversation as if nothing happened – when it was her turn, “no, no, NO – do NOT spill the milk on my carpet!!!” And then she came back to the conversation with, “Anyway, so how fast can you get here?”

I often find myself wondering when something goes wrong, (oh, and by the way? that’s like every other five minutes). Was it me? Was it something I said? Or did? Or felt? Or thought? A look I gave? I look I tried to hide? Was it my breath? Did I even brush my teeth today? I often get distracted (not that I don’t think dental hygiene is extremely important). But, as you’ll probably connect here, moms NEVER get any private time. If I had more private time I could probably be more organized and avoid having things go wrong, Alas, it’s almost inevitable, the second that bathroom door shuts? Someone is wailing or whining or crying or banging or begging to see you. They NEED you. They have to have that conversation right at THAT moment.

*Sigh*

Take 2. Children are such a blessing. They make some trouble for us entering the world and until they figure this life-outside-the-womb thing it’s a bit rocky, but then when all things have calmed down, they bring absolute joy to those lucky enough to be around them. Their cherubic angelic faces brighten the day with their toothless gummy grins and smelling like vanilla or lavender as we rub our lips over their precious fuzzy heads. They make us laugh when they try to stand and fall with a plop and slow-mo roll-over mid-air as their weight pulls them down. They lift our spirits when they make up words like “agaza” and you’re supposed to know that it means ceiling fan. Their make your chest swell with pride when they finally get down the hill on their bike without falling or getting the solo in the school concert or graduating or offering to help when no one asks.

And then, someone touched someone else. Heaven Forbid. Should THAT ever happen, here is the method I generally subscribe to and am convinced that until there is physical contact in a non-playful way – it’s a must use. It’s called conflict resolution. It’s something I learned in a particular college course, in one of the many business classes I took for Business Management that taught the topic of supervisor-subordinate mediation but works as well peer-to-peer.  (I know that sounded super smart  – sometimes I use the old noodle for more than remembering to make dentist appointments). I learned that wherever choices exist there is potential for disagreement. Throw kids in the mix, well – you’ll get sibling rivalry a lot! Knowing how to deal with a given situation when a disagreement occurs is a life lesson worth teaching. He did not HAVE to touch her – but of course he did. She did not have to have ketchup-breath, but of course she did. And this is how it begins, a he-said/she-said scenario with escalated voices and flushed cheeks leading up to an inevitable shove or push or kick or imaginary swipe of a fake light saber in the general vicinity causing tumult and wreaking havoc. (And breathe mommy, it’s almost bedtime). After giving these children an opportunity to sort out their differences in a safe and non-partisan area, using indoor voices, I promised French Fries to all who made amends. And it was quiet. Was it bribery or a reward? – Do I consult my last copy of Parenting circa 2010? All I knew is that it worked. And it was quiet…until I opened the cabinet and remembered there were no more potatoes. Dammit.

A This Is Your Life Moment

Well, I’ll be…

To quote the group  Men At Work: “Last night I had the strangest dream” – only it wasn’t a dream. It really happened. As a guest at a wedding, I was overwhelmed by the sense that it was the makeup for the perfect prank and I was getting Punk’d. But the wedding was as real as the unique guest list that had people from my past and present converging all at the same place at the same time.

How often is it that in the same social environment you’ll have your:

Appliance Guy

Architect who designed your home

Children’s teachers

Co-workers

Student Adviser from the year abroad post-high school program

High school crush

Neighbors

Colleagues

Computer tech guy

2 bosses

ex-boss turned friend

lady that you were GOING to buy your wig from but didn’t in the end who the last time you saw was not married and watching our kids play on the same softball team together NOW married. – that one made me happy 🙂

It was really weird for me.  But weddings are great like that, I guess.

But more than it being like an episode of the TV show, This Is Your Life, it was a— this is your ‘life moment’.  To me there are a few ‘life moments’ that really get me all worked up, and while I was proud of myself for not crying, my chest swelled with emotion as I watched the bride and groom smiling at each other under the stars, then looking out to the sea of people invited to wish them well with the sun setting behind them. Watching the father of the bride glow with pride *and maybe trying to capture his own life moment* smiling from ear to ear, getting the crowd to clap along when the music got festive, and encouraging all those around him to dance. He even did cartwheels!

These are the things we forget when we go about our day-to-day lives. That glowing charge of lovey-dovey-ness because the kids got sick or we missed the bus, kind of gets lost until someone’s birthday or anniversary arises as a reminder – hey buddy – it’s time to buy roses and chocolates…or diamond bracelets or a fancy island weekend getaway. (I dream big). All I really wanted this year was a light that stayed on for the duration of the Sabbath that  I could cover without causing a fire – and I got it, though there is nothing really romantic or lovey-dovey about it. Perhaps next year I’ll ask for that weekend getaway ;).

So, while I continue working days until 5PM, making dinners and bathing kids, switching loads of laundry, ignoring the sink of dirty dishes, helping kids with their homework and making doctor appointments, I realize that these labors of love are my life moments. Sure, they’re not all glamorama, but they are mine. Watching my kindergarten cutie on his third day of school made my chest swell with pride as he skipped up the ramp and waved goodbye. Watching him sleep, as I did with all my babies, gives me those goosebumps and kissing their warm necks as I wake them from slumber gives me that same gushy feeling. I just need to remember these moments when I see the wrinkles form around my eyes and the grey creep out at my temples for before I know it, there will be my own child-bride that I watch move to the next stage of her life.

I just spent the last hour cuddling with, kissing and hugging my children before bedtime. Now go and do the same. Make a mental note to create a life moment for yourself and a warm and fuzzy memory for them.

Round 2: The Crying Mom

In less than a half hour I am leaving work to take my 12-year-old for a biopsy. Sadly, this is the second time I am headed to the same hospital for such a procedure. A little while ago, my 8-year-old needed one as well.

They both are super small for their age and after we checked the younger one and followed doctor’s orders we saw immediate improvement. However the experience was cukoo-kachoochoo. I was nervous about this little person going under and was a crying mess the whole 20 minutes the procedure took, the whole hour it took for her to wake up and then some more for no apparent reason as we sat and at ice cream when all was said and done.

Today, while I am prepared, and know what to expect I am still kind of anxious. No mother wants to have to witness their child in a hospital setting, even for minor reasons. My brain knows I want the best for her and this will determine why she has stopped growing, hopefully. But I am still sitting here with butterflies in my tummy, but making like it’s no big deal – she is super nervous but also has her game face on.

I am psyching myself up: Mantra station? Arrived. “I will not cry”, “I will not cry”. 

In other non-medical related news – I am juggling like mad to make this week work smoothly. While I still have some major projects at work, it seems that my personal social calendar is getting in my way. Today the hospital, tomorrow, working late so leaving early – balancing the shopping somewhere i the middle, Wed. night a wedding, and Thursday – well, Thursday is a big day. I may need to take off entirely. My husband, who is turning 40, is going to pick up his parents at the airport, while we, the busy bees at home, will be prepping for his “surprise” b-day party. He knows I am planning something, he’s just not sure who is going to show up. Surprise! Not many. It seems as if August has cleared the block. Most of his closest friends seem to be out of the country, working, or on vacation. Poop.  So there is family and pizza and Duncan Hines on the menu – which to me sounds great – I just hope he’s not too disappointed. If this is a bust – guess who’s crying? Yours truly. I just can’t seem to help it. There’s a lotta’ stuff that goes on and well, I’m a sensitive girl. I had this great idea for an 80’s themed birthday cake but was unwilling to splurge for the extravagance so I am thinking I may try that on my own, hee-hee I see “FAIL” all over that – but we’ll see.

All in all my mind is preoccupied with tons of things that are mostly good and I am pleased with the fact that the positives outweigh the negatives. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if I start crying for the good things too – I need more clothing with pockets so I can carry tissues with me wherever I go.

Note to self: make time to go shopping. 🙂

When Really Sad Things Happen

This week has been so incredibly confusing and I am literally exhausted. Emotionally spent.  Every day we are tested with life’s ups and downs and we deal with things as they hit us.

On a “normal” day, kids wake up late, the cereal gets knocked on its side spilling its contents  all over the kitchen floor, an ice pop melted brings piles of ants parading through your home. You miss a bus, your hosiery gets snagged on a zipper, you get a paper cut, you have a migraine. You catch a glimpse of someone flying a kite, a child runs back to give you that one last hug, the flowers in your garden are blooming. You reach the bottom of the laundry basket, your boss gives you a compliment, your kids make dinner, you lost a few pounds.

When something negative and unexpected happens though, you kind of get stuck in this OMG moment. It throws you and can affect the rest of your day in a way that is confusing and upsetting and even if you have other reasons to smile, the day is slightly tainted.

A couple of days ago this world lost a soul that never knew the power of evil. She was well cared for, loved from beginning to end, and the amount of lives she touched just by being born reached international proportions. Her life was not an easy one, filled with daily challenges and we all prayed that each day would bring her comfort and better health.

So I sat shocked as I read the email. I was unprepared for the final blow. How was it possible? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. What happened? Why did G-d do this? We all prayed daily for this to have a better outcome. We all waited for the miracle. I was so sure it would be okay. There was this lingering confusion as the day progressed. One one hand my friend lost her 2-year-old, but I had to prepare for another friend’s wedding, at the same time my father was en route for a medical procedure. All 3 events, the funeral, the procedure, the wedding all happening at the same time of day threw me into emotional overload. My happiness was tainted yet I never cried. Until today.  Today, nothing in particular happened. There were no parties, there were no surgeries, the dust sort of settled and I had time to process it all.

My heart is so heavy and I am terribly saddened that my friend’s baby has left this world.  I had the privilege when I was visiting the states to visit her in the ICU, to hold her hand, to sing to her. It came as no surprise that my friend offered to drive me all the way home.  I could have taken a train I told her, just drop me off at a station…but she would not have it. Ever since I have known her, she ha shad a way of giving of herself that is all about helping others. She organizes and plans and succeeds in producing amazing results. Be it money for the needy, activities for children, a night of special treatment for busy moms, all while raising her own children, all while caring for this special needs baby, and supporting her husband’s academic achievements. I am positive that no one’s life is ever completely stress free – though some live an easier life than others.  She has always been an example to me on how to spend one’s time wisely and to the fullest…but this, this is heart-wrenching. There never seems to be enough words to express sorrow to another mother suffering the loss of her baby, never having gone through the same situation. I cry for the opportunities this child never had. I cry for the parents who, even with having 2 other children who are healthy, will never see this beautiful baby thrive.

I have these picture in my mind that I cannot stop thinking about. Pictures they posted on Facebook so we, who live far away, could follow their lives, that are sort of like a slide show that keeps playing over and over again. One of daddy holding her and she was smiling. One of big brother with both baby sisters at his sides. The one of her with her birthday cake and flowered headband. There is a part of me that is relieved for the parents. There will be no more nights of worrying if she’ll stop breathing or running for emergency surgeries. They can focus 100% on healthy children that are thriving and continuing to grow steadily. While they have a horrible week of mourning ahead of them, knowing they have touched the lives of so many people there will be no shortage of visitors during this time, offering them comfort.

However, I am not there. I can not offer any hugs or hold anyone’s hand. I can sit here and cry. I can not begin to imagine how it feels to lose the life of a child. Just the thought is so overpowering, I break down and cry. I know G-d is compassionate and that this child suffers no more. I pray that of all the people going to pay their respects there is some comfort for the grieving family.  I pray that they are in a place of acceptance and are comforted by the fact they no one needs to suffer this unfairness any longer. It is evident based on the time and effort these parents took to care and love this child, that they did everything in their power to protect and get the best medical experts to monitor her life. We were updated and given the opportunity to share in their lives. We were blessed to be a part of her life. I had many friends praying for this soul and to have to share the news to them, the thought was daunting – how do I tell them? So many responded with words of shock, of sadness, of apology and never even met my friends and their baby.  The power to touch so many lives is amazing.

To know that I had this small impact and the message reached so many people to help in any way they could give me some small comfort. I will share these thoughts with the mourning parents and I look forward to sharing happier messages in the future.

The Very Happy Ending. By cheriblevy

Welcome to story time kids. Sit down while Aunt Chubby tells a tale of Frustration.  This is a story about mind over matter. 

Once upon a time the naughty body clock woke mommy up at 5:45 AM. This made Mommy very grumpy, but as hard as she tried, she could not fall back asleep. Her eyes were so itchy and she kept rubbing and rubbing them. This was terrible, and left Mommy with very red swollen eyes. That sure felt awful.

She decided to get dressed in some of her favorite clothes. This would certainly make her feel better. She had a  long drive to work and there was a lot of traffic. This made Mommy grumpy again. She finally made it inside and sat down at her computer and began to work.

Then she realized that there was no ink in her printer. And then she remembered that her computer was also not connected to the main printer. Even though she complained and complained for weeks to the person in charge to fix it, she was still not connected. Wow, Mommy sure was grumpier now.

Suddenly her telephone rang and she had to rush back home and pick up her daughter at school. Nina, who was 8 years old needed to go to a new school for 3rd grade, where there was a special class to help her with reading and spelling. But when they got to the new school, all the Mommy saw was children running around, acting very wildly. The teachers tried to tell them not to scream, run, blast the music or interrupt the adults talking, but they just didn’t listen. That was really bad. Nina was frightened and thought this maybe was the worst idea Mommy ever had.

Afterwards Mommy took Nina back to school and hugged and kissed her and whispered in Nina’s ear that there was still one more school to see, not to worry. Nina felt better and hopped off to class with her friends.

Mommy had to drive all the way back to work. She was happy at least there was no more traffic. Even though her eyes were still very itchy and even started to water, she tried to keep her fingers from rubbing them. That would have been very dangerous. When she returned to her desk, Mommy thought all about their trip and felt a little sad for Nina but had more work to do, so decided to save those thoughts for later. She worked and worked and worked some more. At the end of the day, she knew she had to go food shopping. Too bad Thursdays were the busiest day in the market. She’d have to wait to find  a parking spot, navigate her way through the busy aisles, make sure she bought Nina’s special cookies in the lane for gluten-free items, and then wait in the very long line to pay, unload the groceries into the car, return the cart and drive all the way home. Once she got home, she’d have to unload the groceries from the car, climb the stairs, empty the bags and then start dinner for the children.   Even though it would very late, Mommy was planning on making pizza for dinner, that would make everyone happy.

Mommy was going to be really tired at the end of the day. Waking up so early and keeping so busy can make someone get grumpy, especially with itchy red puffy eyes, but it’s important to remember one thing. To Smile.

When we smile it forces us to feel happy. When we feel happy and share our smiles with others, it makes them happy. So kids, if you see someone having a grumpy day, all you need to do is smile at them to help make them feel better. Even if they say something like, “Your computer should be fixed by Sunday or Monday, or maybe even Tuesday”. Even if you don’t believe that’s true – you’ll feel better because the other person is smiling at you when they tell you. So the lesson for today is,  don’t worry be happy. Turn that frown upside down. Smile and the whole world smiles with you.  And when that doesn’t work, eat ice cream.

Just Breathe

Finally, an official diagnosis. It’s not terrible, it’s manageable. But it’s a disease for life – which means she’ll have to maintain a serious diet…forever. That’s depressing – but people with serious food allergies deal with this all the time. I am thankful it’s not worse.

Basically my 8-year-old has been diagnosed with Celiac’s disease. She is at stage 3 (there are only 4) and there is damage to her stomach lining. As it happens, I have at least 3 neighbor’s who have children also with Celiac’s disease so I’ll be going to them for recipes and support I imagine. The silver lining is the doctor said after a few months of adhering to the strict diet the damage to her stomach lining is reversible. She’ll start to grow and not be teased that she is a baby anymore because of her size (I hear growth is almost immediate after a proper diet is established).  We all need to be tested as well, I fear another daughter will also be diagnosed as she is quite smaller than her peers – but at least they’ll do it together.

https://i1.wp.com/assets4.designsponge.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/rosie_the_riveter1.jpgThat was yesterday.

Today, after meeting with the psychologist from school, we have a final assessment that our 8-year-old is quite intelligent and has tons of motivation but she lacks in language skills, in both languages so she suffers tremendously in school. We are trying to get her into a new class, a smaller class so that she won’t get as lost or feel frustrated that she can’t keep up. The problem may be that even if she qualifies to be in the class, it may not be held at her current school, where she has her sisters to rely on when things are too much for her to handle. We’ll have to wait and see, if there are enough students in her current school to warrant a special class, then she wins. If the majority of students are from another neighborhood then she’ll need to switch schools to where the majority go. That makes me nervous. She’ll need speech therapy. She’ll need to read more books and play more language based games, we’ll try to make it as fun as possible, which means lots of extra TLC – lucky girl.

Lastly, she has a hearing problem. Well, well, well. No wonder she is not thriving in school! She has a belly ache half the time, she can’t hear what’s going on and when she can hear she doesn’t always understand.  My poor girl.

We will be vigilant. We will see the speech therapist, the ENT, the dietician. I will enter the health food store, regardless of its funky barn-like stench, I will learn biology and what this really means so that I can offer her the best information and choices for her to flourish and blossom.

https://cheriblevy.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/be3f6-apple.jpgAnother day, another hurdle. To add to this emotional roller coaster I started eating better myself. Tired of the roly-poly me, even though she is so jolly, Chubby is watching her weight and even exercising, alert the media! Just kidding, please don’t = even though I love watching The Biggest Lose (Australia) – I wouldn’t want to be a contestant. So even though I still have not surpassed that major desire to wolf down a sugar packet, I am making smarter choices and taking smaller portions, but I am still kind of cranky.  I want to love healthy food…but I don’t. Not yet anyways. I know it will come, I know I need to keep the pantry stocked with better choices and the fruit and veg bin full at all times – this will help me from grabbing something I shouldn’t eat. Now that I’ll be consciously watching my daughter’s diet, I think this will help me overall as well. Fingers crossed people. The longest I ever stuck with any diet was a week.

Being Mommy

I got to play mommy yesterday. 

Eh? Don’t I do that ALL the time? I mean, all.the.time.

Yes, even that second after I shut the bathroom door inevitably there’ll be a knock and a whiny “I need you right noooow!” high-pitched screech coming from the other side of it.  Like when I am on the phone with a teacher about a serious kid issue and there is another one interrupting me every 3 seconds. Also, when I claim I need to rest for a few minutes until the Advil kicks in, and even the noise of poking and pointing is too much to bear. I am always mommy. 

But.

Then.

There comes a day when they are sick or are having procedures and you see them in a vulnerable state and they really need you, that’s when you really feel it. When they ask you questions about why their bodies are changing or to help write a recommendation for their project on ‘family’ is when you know that only you have the answer they are looking for. You are the only one that can comfort them and help them get to where they need to be.  That’s when Mommy feels like MOMMY…like SUPER MOMMY – like chocolate chip cookies with milk, mommy. 

For me, that was yesterday. While waiting for my daughter to wake up from a local anesthetic I watched her little face and the linen’s movement for signs of her breathing. Every minute felt like an eternity. Holding her little finger, looking at the tape holding in the IV,  listening to the beeps of whatever machines were doing their things behind me, I was at the brink of crying too many times. It was like I was holding my breath the whole 40 minutes and then she started rubbing the tubes away from her nose, and I exhaled.  Relieved. One hurdle down. 

1 hour after returning from the hospital I was out taking my son, with a feverish head and stuffy, sneezy nose, to the doctor. We entered and after the prognosis went directly to the pharmacy for his antibiotics. He was sad and I was there to make it better with home-made chicken soup. It really does heal the soul, because it sure made me feel better about the whole day.

I was able to be there in a way they really needed today, and as any mommy knows, that’s what it’s about. Selfless actions day-to-day. Sure the never-ending errands are part of that along with the carpool runs and cheering for their teams but when the cheeks are flushed and they eyes are watery and the smiles are sparse, that’s when we do our best work. Our most memorable work. At least that’s what I remember most and I hope they do too.

Cookie Crumbs On My Cheek

Sure. I can be a goofball. That’s why the tag line on my blog is ‘Silly Ol’ Me’. But I can also be serious.

Today there was a brief moment where I wished I could stop time. I’ve had these moments before. A few times as a teenager, a couple more as a young adult and most often as a mom.

The first time I can recall I was 18 years old. I was up in the Catskills (upstate NY) and was working as a camp counselor for one of the hotels. It was very Dirty Dancing-esque. We lived in bungalows behind the lake and every day we would break for a few hours to wash up and dress nicely for dinner. I would take this extra time, waiting for my turn at the shower, and hike a path behind our bungalow. It was as if all my senses were heightened. My feet would crunch on the fallen leaves, I’d jump over tree stumps, I could hear the trickle of  water in the distance, I could feel the sun radiate on my face. I crossed a makeshift bridge of old wood planks precariously dumped into the small rivulet and climbed a small cliff. I’d sit with my feet dangling over the edge overlooking the most beautiful uninterrupted space. Nature had a way of turning this small piece of hidden land into a place of natural tranquility. I’d close my eyes and listen to the sounds of birds, or rustling in the leaves by some hidden chipmunk, or the water that was below me. I’d take deep long breaths and feel any tension release from my shoulders or forehead. I’d open my eyes and shut them, repeating this action, taking mental pictures so that if ever I needed, I could see that place in my mind, conjure it up whenever I needed to go to somewhere peaceful. Time stood still. This song reminds me of the thoughts I used to have as I sat there wondering if my current boyfriend would last and if not, who would be the guy I’d finally fall in love with for the rest of my life. Of course there have been many more moments like this one where I just wanted to capture forever.

This morning was one of those moments. It’s no secret how much I love my youngest son. Grabbing him whenever I can to kiss his ample cheeks before time escapes me and he grows out of these last stages of babyhood. Since he turned 5, he has been surprising me right and left and everywhere in between. He is so bright and interested in knowing everything. He speaks more clearly every day asking questions, inquiring if he can help me cook in the kitchen, and today he got dressed by himself. While it is age appropriate and I am proud of him, it was a moment for me that I thought, hey can we slow down? My baby is acting all independent and my breath caught in my throat. But this was not the moment.

We were in the car dropping him off at school, while my husband waited for him to climb out of the car, I wished my little man a fun day. He turned back and said he just wanted to hug me. He climbed to the front seat, grabbed on and hugged, then took my face in his hands, turned my face to the side and kissed my cheek, then gave me a really tight squeeze and jumped out of the car.

I flipped down the mirror behind the visor to apply lip gloss when there on my cheek were the remnants of his cookie crumbs he’d been eating on the way. Oh my, I teared up watching him skip away, climb on my husbands shoulders and happily go off for the day. I stared back at my reflection and had one of those moments. I shut my eyes and opened them once again, repeating this two more times so I could take mental pictures. I just sat there looking at my cheek for a few minutes more before I wiped away the evidence of his love. Wishing I could just stop time for the smallest bit and stay in that moment.

So, while this bittersweet time ebbs away I still look forward to seeing my children age and amaze me. My heartstrings pull as I watch them grow and thrive each in their own way. Time stands still for no one, in my own way I try to hold on to these small moments. When all my chickens leave the coop I’ll have my mental images and will be able to smile while I revisit those precious moments.

Paco

 

When The Answer Is No

I want. Gimme. It’s not fair! I hate you!

I remember saying these things at one point in my life. I also remember the responses.

You can’t have. Not now. No, it isn’t. That’s okay. 

When we want something so badly sometimes our vision gets blurred and we see that ‘no’ as a roadblock to what we feel we deserve or need or just simply really want. 

Most parents will see the above and connect. Cranky (or spoiled) children who want more candy, or to stay up late, or beg for a million unnecessary reasons to get out of their beds at night will make mom and dad super annoyed. Parents have a certain amount of patience and when it runs out, watch out kids…that is the end of the world as you know it. 

What happens though when it’s the adults that are the ones asking or begging or declaring? 

I want. Gimme. It’s not fair! I hate you.

What happens when the answers are the same? What happens when G-d answers this way?

You can’t have. Not now. No, it isn’t. That’s okay. Will there be a time when He says, enough is enough? The answer sometimes is just, no. But those who believe in G-d know that He has compassion and even if we reject Him and feel hatred towards Him, He is forgiving, just like any decent parent as long as we show remorse.

I want to be financially stable. Gimme a chance at a job that can actually support my family. It’s not fair that I need to ask for help month to month.

I want good health. Gimme a sign that this will pass. It’s not fair that I must endure this pain. 

There are lots more examples. When frustration turns to bitter anger the downward spiral begins breeding hatred. 

No one likes to hear the answer no. Why must honest and good people be denied? Denied the opportunity to get a second interview? Denied health benefits or tax breaks? Denied a credit card? Denied a scholarship? Sometimes it seems the hurdles are so hard when they should feel easier. A hardworking individual must sometimes bear larger burdens than those that are born wealthy or healthy. 

Were misguided children, or those that were constantly indulged any better off than those that were constantly denied? No they, both breed a negative response.

There needs to be a healthy balance between receiving what we need and what we want. While its important to have goals and desires, we must also keep these in check. We must know there are limits and that sometimes there are things beyond one’s control that may determine what the end result becomes. Sure, the ‘don’t let anyone tell you your dreams are not attainable’ message is a good one. We set for ourselves time frames. When we don’t achieve the response we are looking for, in the time we allot for ourselves, we can get discouraged but need to have a good support system. Perhaps a friend or a colleague or a parent that whispers in our ear, ‘okay, that didn’t work – now let’s try something else’.

There is always a lesson to be learned. In everything. We may not like the process, in fact it may be painful and hard to understand or see the clarity until the dust settles and there is that light at the end of the tunnel…or someone wins the lottery… or gets the kidney. 

Not everyone believes in G-d. Not everyone is as deserving as they think. As upsetting as it is to hear or feel the answer ‘no, not yet’, we deal with it. Bang some tables, kick some doors, scream, cry, dwell…until we calm down. We reflect, we reorganize our thoughts, our actions, and begin again, differently. We are an ever evolving species and as smart as we get, the more we know, the harder it is for us to come to grips with the unknown.  It makes the negative reactions/responses/remarks that much harder to absorb and digest.

These are the times and the things that make us work harder, think better, and eventually succeed. Either getting the raise, winning the odds at the lottery, meeting the right doctor, asking please, being polite, waiting our turns, closing our eyes at bedtime, or just simply accepting that ‘no’ as another opportunity to work on ourselves, our behavior, our interactions with each other. Perhaps this is a time to accept that there is a higher power than ours and we must succumb to the fact that we don’t always have the answer because we are not meant to find out. 

I think it’s okay not to know everything about all things. I am curious and the older I get the more I want to know. But I also accept that I don’t deserve to know or to get everything I may want. Sometimes the things that we want so badly, a baby, a promotion, a cheese cracker, may not be good for us. Only after the fact do we most often have clarity. This is what makes it so hard. I often think, if I could just know what the end result would be whether it be for the good or the bad it would make the process of enduring it that much better.

I just reminded myself of the labor and birth of my first baby…the unknown was far worse. Not recognizing what a contraction would feel like or the amount of time it would be from beginning to end…of course these are all part of a very positive outcome, but the pain in between – that was awful. This is not meant to be a holy piece about G-d and Rebirth – or anything religious, it’s a piece on endurance and acceptance. Sometimes though we try to do things differently, the answer sometimes will still be, ‘no’. And that just needs to be okay. 

 

What’s In A Name?

 

https://i0.wp.com/www.fisher-price.com/Resources/images/bio-jake-justice.gif Jake Justice was born to rescue. That’s what his Fisher Price bio says. My oldest son LOVED to play with his Rescue Heroes as a 4-year-old and his little brother, now the same age, spent all morning maneuvering these weirdly big-footed heroes in all sorts of dangerous positions.

My older son also managed to rename our neighbor and friend, Jacob. He was known from that moment on as Jake ‘N Justice. 9 years later though we rarely see him, we still refer to him as such.

Fast forward 10 years and my younger son managed to do almost the same thing. It’s so weird! It’s not exactly the same thing but like I mentioned, almost. We had a friend over whose name is Mattan. For some reason though, our little guy named him Byona. It’s not even remotely the same. What was our 4 year-old thinking? We kept correcting him, telling him our friend’s name and he was not budging though, he called him, referred to him, and got upset when we didn’t call him Byona.

As parents, sometimes we remember to write down all the funny mispronunciations our children say as little tykes so that when we look at their baby books we’ll smile and remember when…sometimes we don’t. Oopsies.

There are some other wacky things ‘The Baby’ has come up with too. A ceiling fan is called an agaza. We have no clue why. At first we thought maybe he was speaking Hebrew…nope, it’s just his made up gibberish. Even now, when he is older and knows the proper words for certain things, like a fan, he refers to it as the silly name he came up for it, for whatever reason. I wonder if we’ll ever find out how he decided on them. I think it’s really important to let children use their imagination and we should respect some of their choices. We all call it an agaza now. Yes, we are weirdos.

While I listened to him play with his Rescue Heroes this morning I thought of Jake N’Justice and of Byona and all the other amazing people who have come and gone in the last 9 years since moving to Israel. There is Big Benji (because he is so tall) and Pardo (his {not-really} original last-name), Mo (but everyone calls him that), Shawtay, Barbar, Melish, Sammy (short for Samantha), Talz, RAF, Naider, Goalie, Veevs, and so many others. While thinking about everyone and where they are today, I realized the apple does not fall far from the tree.

I made up some of these nicknames too, and while I KNOW why I chose (or other’s chose) those names, I realized it’s because we share a bond. We give nicknames to those we love, or at least that’s why I do it.

My own nicknames have included, Junior, Booger (I never liked that one much, but it’s close to what my maiden name sounds like), Cherold, Ippy-Louise (oh those Greek and Roman literature classes in college…), and many more that I called my friends like Shwez and Chachi.

I like nicknames, each of my children have one. I think of them as terms of endearment. While this post is not wrought with emotion or attempting to be funny, it’s making me smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I miss all those people and look forward to a time when we can all be together, here in Israel, as neighbors and continue to make many more memories.

Wishing everyone a great weekend, Chubby

 

Booyah, Baby!

 

#5 always says “Booyah!” which makes me smile, he is sooo my kid. He’s almost 5 and he started singing everything, which I love. However, what I didn’t love (even though it was mad funny) was while we were sitting around the table eating our festive Friday night Shabbat (Sabbath) meal together as a family, my loony 5-year-old was running laps around the entire bottom floor singing, “I’m the fastest man in the world, eva, eva”, (aah the New Yorker in him). With a grand finale every time he’d plop in a sort of smash and roll onto the couch only to pop back up seconds later and start over, and over, and over. There was a day of singing, “Degel Yisrael” (which means Israeli Flag) over and over the same tune as “the fastest man in the world” song, and my favorite, the “booyah, baby” day.

He looks innocent – but he’s been wreaking havoc. We’ve played trains and cars and cards and blocks and built a zoo and a castle and read books. Everything gets tossed! Clean up has become a reinvented game. How many blocks can you throw into the bin? How many books can you carry to the shelf? We do a countdown…How many things can you clean up before I count to 10?  And so on…I asked him to count with me. I got a variation of 1,2,3,4,8,9,5 or 1,2,3,4,9,10, leben…we need to work on that.

He is the absolute love of my life (I say that about all my babies though) and I just want to kiss his face all day and we have come to a standstill here. He refuses to let me kiss his nakey (which means his skin). I am a repeat offender though, he gets pretty mad and points to the top of his head and shows me a visual of where I am allowed to kiss. I ignore him and then he gets more upset which secretly makes me giggle inside…does that make me evil?

There are days, even though I absolutely adore him that I am not pleased. Like the Bar Mitzvah picture day. He ran around refusing to settle down (what, you say? he’s normal??? I say boo, anyway). I just wanted a nice shot of all of us and when I begged him with the promise of lots of gumballs – this is the picture I ended up with.

Yes, that’s him there on the left. His whole body language, anguished pained look on his face tells all. He’s 5 and just wanted to run around. I’m not. I just wanted ONE BLEEPING NICE PICTURE!

He is in this in-between stage. He wants to do everything himself, he needs my help because he caaaaan’t by himself. Here is a classic example:

Mommy: Yes, you can go to the bathroom yourself

#5: No, I need your help.

Mommy: Fine, let me just  flick the light on.

#5: No, I can do it by myself.

Mommy: Because you’re so big.

#5: Yeah, I’m so big.

Mommy: You’re so big, you can even go to the bathroom by yourself.

#5: No, I’m little.

Mommy: I’m confused. You just said you were big. 

#5: I’m little for the toilet and big for light, okay?

Mommy:  Okay, I got it. Are we done here? Can I flush now?

#5: I can flush. I’m big to do that.

Mommy: Okay let’s wash up. I’ll move the stool over.

#5: I can get it, I’m big.

Mommy: I thought you said you were little

#5: Mommy, c’mon I’m big for that, you know I am.

Mommy: Fine, I’ll just turn the water on.

#5: I can DO IT!

Mommy: You’re not letting me do anything. You’ve done it all, because you’re so big. Why am I even here?

#5: Because I need you. I’m little.

So even though I was completely and utterly frustrated, I loved that last line and went overboard with the kisses. He needs me. He hated the kisses on his nakey. But he giggled through it with an angry face. His fake angry face.

In the end I was pleased with the fact that we got one picture that I could say without editing I’ll keep for the wall. It’s not perfect. The Bar Mitzvah boy lost it after the zillionth shot. It’s going on the wall anyway.

Booyah, Baby!

 

Losing to Iris Melman

We’ve gone over the fact that as a middle child, I suffer from Middle Child Syndrome and that I am the lucky #2.

I like being the #2.

You don’t HAVE TO BE THE BEST. You try as hard as you can and that would be good enough. Why? Because someone else is striving for perfection, ALL the time, because they have to. It’s expected of them. #2 has to be really good and sometimes (or in my case – have a complex about) trying to beat out #1 and making that top spot some of the time. I am really competitive when it comes to my brother, in the recent modern technology age we can fight for the winner position by playing on-line games with each other. As children, Chubby never won, because big brother was taller, stronger and it came easier for him to win at games. That felt rotten, but now I’m older, wiser, and accept that being #2 aint so bad.

At only 5 years old this little writer won the 2nd Place in a Beauty Pageant. Yes, I did. Located at the Holmdel Swim and Tennis Center, bashfully standing in front of many half-clothed kids and other various pool-people in the 70’s, Chubby won a ribbon, an elephant pin, a flower, and got to take a picture with a creepy-looking clown.I have no idea who this lady is with me in the photo – but we are matchy-patchy – maybe it was fixed? I was pretty cute…again, I don’t think there was any talent portion of this contest, I just stood there and looked like my little self.

I look back at this photo and wonder how my parents got me to do this. I was so shy! Funny how my 4.5 year old now sometimes puts his pinkie in his mouth when he’s nervous! Side Note: I know it’s the 70’s, but this photo looks like a snapshot from the Brady Bunch. I look like a brunette Cindy Brady!

I loved that elephant pin. I have no idea what I said or who this guy is. Maybe Lifeguard of the Week?I enjoyed the win. Even if I came in 2nd place to Iris Melman, featured below with said creepy-clown-guy.

Honestly though, I’m the one with the flower, the envelope and the brown-bagged package and ribbon, while Iris Melman just has a brown bag. Seems to me, that I look like a first place winner, but that’s how the story goes.

In life, we try as hard as we can to succeed. It doesn’t matter who wins or comes on top (unless you are in the Olympics, I guess, or a spelling bee). It’s important to be part of the action, be part of the game, the race, the contest, the challenge. I like being #2. It means that I tried really hard and that there is room for improvement.

I enjoy the task, the challenge of knowing that there is more to learn, more to grow, more to experience. Of course, its nice to receive complete adulation from a crowd of nakeys just because you’re cute. (I do not recommend any of my readers doing it now though, the 70’s were a weird time). If I leave you today with one message it’s this:

It’s okay to come in 2nd place. 

It’s a healthy, safe spot that can encourage growth, and inspire to bettering oneself. It’s been my spot for a really long time and I am happy to share it with you, unless we are playing Words With Friends…I’ll dominate you for sure! Challenge accepted.

The Fishy Kiss

Happiness comes in many variations. I have always been a big fan of the fishy kiss, it makes me happy.

Sure the Eskimo Kiss and the Butterfly Kiss are good options as far as fun kissing goes, however, I have been captured on film more often than not with the fishy-kiss-look. Here I was 18 years old and super classy. That’s my friend Robyn at her graduation, we were a year apart and she had been one of my closest friends in high-school. We did everything together, had a zillion sleepovers, had quadrillion private jokes, gave each other the case of the giggles and could make eye contact and know what the other person was thinking. We’d send each other friendship cards and she’d make me the best mishloach manot (a Jewish tradition of giving your neighbor 2 cooked foods with different blessings) around the holiday of  Purim. She’d fill a huge basket with jumbo sized chocolate bars and bags of chips and jumbo sized Mike and Ikes…it was heaven. Likewise, when she turned 21 I gave her a huge bottle of Absolute Vodka with lots of pretty ribbons, we got each other, almost always.

Over the years we kind of lost touch, reconnected for a bit because we lived in the same town as married couples and then had sporadic email correspondence once I moved countries.

As teenagers we would often go to her sister’s house for the weekend to ‘get away’ and we would always be bombarded by her nephews who were real cuties and we always fishy-kissed which would cause them to giggle. It works on my kids today, still. I love watching their faces try to make the fishy lips and when we finally connect – the smiles and giggling are contagious. Someone captured the oldest nephew giving me a fishy kiss at my wedding but it doesn’t look kosher so I’ll leave that one out. Of course, he’s like 20 today so that could embarrass him!

They were 4 sisters and I loved everything about their house. Even though one sister was married with children and not living at home I still felt like a part of their extended family. I was invited to all their affairs and I can still walk their old house in my mind. I can visualize the painted portraits of the girls as children that graced the wall of the dining room, I can remember the smell of the upstairs bathroom, I remember her younger sister coming home from a trip in LA where she saw the pilot show of FRIENDS, I remember hanging out in their pool, lounging on their deck, making tuna sandwiches, watching movies in her basement, everything! We even spent 2 summers in the Catskills together and “studied” abroad for 1/2 a semester. She forced me to get my driver’s licence when I was 20. We’d travel to work together and even once, the car broke down on the highway and we had to go on foot to search for a phone to call for help. She’d drive because I had no license and I’d throw quarters out my window over the top of the car to try to hit the toll booth basket. We made mix tapes and got our nails done. We did everything together!

Life has a funny way though of separating you from your good friends as you choose different paths. While she went back home and studied locally and married one my classmates, I went off to NYC to meet lots of new people, make new connections and branch out of my cocoon. Even though you move on its vital to hold on to old friendships, to remember who you were and how that helped you to become the person you are today.

As we grow older we see certain events though various lenses. While some of my friends have had parents that passed on or they themselves struggle with still finding out who they are and where they fit in, I feel my sensitivities are heightened to their emotional needs. I have always been an emotional person. I cried at Kleenex commercials…the fabric of our lives…and at movies…ET phone home…crying is nothing new to me. It does not embarrass me, I dunno’ maybe it should.

But today I cried, and not because I was at the dentist and she hurt my face, or because the bill for 10 minutes of work/pain was pretty steep but because I found this picture.

There is another fishy kiss picture with my dad that I came across and that made me think of Robyn as well. She just recently lost her father and now that both her parents are gone I feel emotionally overwhelmed for her. I  emailed her my sympathies and we’ve been in contact, but I wish I could just give her a big hug.

We often find solace in, and seek comfort in solid old friendships. I know I feel this way about her even though we never speak on the phone and we are probably really different as adults than we were as kids. It is my hope that my children are creating those bonds as they grow up.

We steer them in the right direction, we bathe them, we dress them, we try to make sure they look presentable so at least they look appealing enough to make friends. Once they are out on their own though, they are…out on their own. I watch my children as their friends come to pick them up for activities or to just hang out and I am pleased. Most of their choices are solid. There is the occasional argument, but that’s normal, especially with girls, and they make up quickly.

I just hope that one day my girl’s will find their Robyn. Someone dependable. Someone trustworthy. Someone they will laugh with so hard they may tinkle their panties (can happen to anyone!). Making this kind of friend is pivotal in your life. If you haven’t already, I say, what are you waiting for? Let the fun begin. You’ll thank me for it. I promise.

Supermom’s Cape

“Every Day Is Mother’s Day”. So said my principal in elementary school. Mother’s Day to most people translates into a day in America when moms get treated to breakfasts in bed, spa days with manis and pedis, and fun homemade cards colored with hearts and funny stick children smiling.

I always joke about lending out my cape to other mom’s when I see they are having a really accomplished day. More recently though I question what being a supermom really means. I know that I feel great when I manage to catch up on the laundry or clear the sinks of dirty dishes but my kids could care less which is obvious if we take a look into their rooms. So I guess what I truly am on those days is a decent housekeeper or at best mediocre. Being a supermom is subjective. Children are the judges and more often than not I fear it has nothing to do with the fact their clothes may smell like a fresh meadow or spring blossoms but whether we listened to their story about the mean teacher and the terrible homework assignment. Even if it takes them 10 minutes to get through a 3 minute retelling of their day because they use fillers, with lots of ‘um’s and ‘like’s – it can make us crazy but for mom’s like me with lots of patience, yeah, it can be trying sometimes as well, relax.

On days that I manage to tick off my list of things to do like shopping, cooking, dentist runs, laundry and cleaning it never fails. I reward myself by saying stupid stuff like: “Feeling like supermom!” or “Supermom strikes again!”, when in reality I just did a bunch of domestic stuff. No, I’m not diminishing those at all. When I was a stay-at-home mom with a part-time job (just so I didn’t go completely bonkers) I always told whomever would listen that it was by far the hardest job I had ever had. And I meant it.

Tonight, though I grumbled about it, I was to attend my 4th, in a week’s time, evening activity for one of my children. One night was the girls school singing competition, which was loud, held outdoors and got real chilly. My girl’s classes came in 3rd and 1st place so it was quite the squealers delight for the car ride home. There was the end of the year party for my 4-year-old son’s nursery class where my husband signed me up to bake a cake which is the WORST possible volunteer option, I mean we could have brought a bag of pretzels! True story, and thank you Duncan Hines. We sat on those teeny chairs for teeny tushies and the back of my knees got sweaty – so unpleasant, but at least he participated and even smiled a few times, and it was caught on film! Another night was the choral performance where my daughter’s face was covered by a big pink flower of the headband worn by the girl in front of her. That room was STIFLING and at the end I ran out and sent my daughter home with another mom so that I could go to the end of my business class – not a shining mom moment. I bailed on my eldest and made my husband attend an evening about family roots – phew – dodged that bullet of boredom.

Tonight, though I grumbled about it, was the dance competition. Only one daughter participated but another joined me to watch the performances. All the girls looked adorable. The music was entertaining and fun. The groups had quick turn around times and it was really a nice night out. I got to sit in the bleachers with lots of my friends that I’ve seen more this week than I’ve seen all year! What made it extra special though was while the judges were deciding the winners, music played and mothers and daughters and sisters and grandmothers were out on the ‘dance-floor’ giggling and swinging and spinning and swirling. I have no rhythm as mentioned previously and probably looked like a big idiot, but we had fun. We danced to Cotton Eye Joe, the Chicken Dance and a bunch of other things that basically I just jumped and clapped and did a few jazz-hands to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I dosey-doed with my 2 girls and we laughed.

My girls had big smiles. It was because I was there for them. I participated in what was important to them. Giving your children your time and attention is priceless. Am I Carol Brady? I do juggle everyone’s schedule and aim to send everyone out the door with clean clothing and brushed hairdos. But I have no Alice. Carol Brady was Carol Brady because she had an Alice. Then again, Alice is not the mom, she is the hired help to keep things clean and orderly. Sure she gave out hugs too because well that’s just good writing. But it didn’t make her a supermom. Tonight I wore my cape proudly. I haven’t had it for a while, so I thank whomever borrowed it last for returning it just when I needed it.

https://i1.wp.com/nerdapproved.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/super-mom-action-figure.jpgI found these action figures online, if you can call them that. I wish I had these toys as a child. Both these women are supermoms, I’m just confused why the toy-makers would create curler-in-the-hair mom looking grumpy while she’s holding her screaming baby. We should be teaching our young daughters early on that motherhood is just as amazing as it is difficult so while the stereotype here depicts working mom is happy, I’d much rather see curler-hair-mom smiling with her crying baby and working-mom grumpy with a happy baby. The message should be that we are happy moms who love mothering, even though it’s difficult at times. You can take it or leave it, I don’t aim or ever wish to be anyone’s prototype for the perfect mother. We all make mistakes from time to time, like when the baby rolls off the bed, bonks their head because we forgot they started to roll or not to leave the diaper creme tube open within reach of chubby fingers and come back to a Desitin facial. True stories. (insert awkward smile here)