Presidents of us.

We were talking about what it means to be the President, what they do, what qualities they should have and what the kids would do if they were the President of the hands-down best, but still beautifully and tragically flawed like a legendary warrior or any of the lead characters in Twilight, country on the planet.

Here are my notes. These kids have some good ideas.
P (almost 7), S (5) and R (almost 3).

P: Presidents should be old, because you have to live a long time to know the right thing to do sometimes.  When you’re little, you might know but it’s better to be old. Mama, I can’t wait to be old, but I don’t want you to die. I’m going to be a mother of one [holding up one finger for emphasis] baby when I’m old.  But I want you still to be here.  You’ll be here, right? [This kid dips my heart in gooey sweet caramel every day and takes a giant bite, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.]

S: America is the best country on Earth, but there might be another good country on Pluto which is now a planet again because it [holding up one finger and demonstrating that she listens to her teachers far better than she listens to her parents] is round, [now, two fingers] orbits the sun and [three fingers and a bent pinky at 90 degrees] moves in its own circle [balled up hands circling her face as if she is the sun, which she kind of is to me…when she’s not whining].  They thought Pluto was NOT a planet, but they took a closer look [closing her left eye and looking through a pretend magnifying glass with her right] and, whaddya know, it is a planet.  Um.  Um.  What was the question again?

R: Um. Scooze me. I need food. I soo hungry. [What he lacks in diction and verbs, he makes up for in adorable politeness.]

P: Presidents make rules, right? They should be smart so they make the right rules. If I were the President I would not let people use dangerous machines. [This is a reference to my day job, and a story for another time.] I would also say you cannot cut down anymore trees because if you cut down all the trees, the dangerous animals [I think she meant endangered, but who am I to say?] will have no place to live and it will be a really crazy bad idea because we need trees to breathe. [Man, how I love this kid.]

S: Yes, there are no trees on the moon which is why we can’t breathe on the moon.  Also, wait.  Um.  I remember what I was going to say.  The President should be big like Daddy.

R: I’m big.

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These kids are gonna thank us someday.

My kid so desperately needs a haircut. He looks like a yeti, from the ears up. The rest of him is thankfully fur free. But looking at him and his porcupine mop-top this morning, with his array of half-eaten breakfast choices spread before him, I thought, Hey, despite the hair, he’s damn lucky.

His appearance leaves something to be desired at the moment (namely a pair of gardening shears), but he’s got a lot of stuff that so many other kids lack. And I may not be the perfect parent.  I may or may not have dropped him when he was 6 weeks old on to a hardwood floor (the ER nurse was incredibly kind at 3 am, “don’t worry, ma’am, it happens all the time”). And I may or may not have whispered to him, at 13 months after he finally fell asleep following 3 straight hours of rocking (physically and lyrically–after exhausting my meager catalog of lullabies I was singing my own renditions of the best rock songs of the 60’s), that he was going to drive me quack-sh*t, ducking crazy someday–only I may or may not have whispered the bald-faced curse words rather than the PG version.  I think about this little not-quite Mommy Dearest moment often and hope that his subconscious failed to absorb the exhausted menace in my words.

But the truth is he’s got a mom that would do anything in her power to keep him safe, and happy, and fully stocked in the breakfast pastry category.  So, I’ve decided to let go of the kiddie-coiffure failure and my many other parenting transgressions of the past 7 years.

I have another kid who has resorted to keeping her own calendar.  I shared this fact with a colleague in the elevator yesterday as we were both scrambling to make the clumsy transition from litigator to super mom at the end of a harried work day. Continue reading

Blurry is good.

[So, I wrote this a few weeks ago…but couldn’t push publish at the time.  Sometimes I feel like I write too much about the ache of missing my mom.  It’s not unique.  I’m not unique.  That kind of loss is something that we all will experience, or already have. Still, I figure that if the point of this whole exercise is to create a record of these moments and stories in a format that my kids are more likely to find someday than the tangible and scattered pieces of my own mother’s story that I find tucked away every now and again in old suitcases, journals and book jackets, then I should just put it out there.  This is for them.  The three people I want most to know her and me–even long after I am gone.

And I want them to know that my sister and I were lucky to have one of the great ones, and lucky to have her as long as we did.]

***

This morning he was screaming and banging the kitchen floor, like a life-size Joe Pesci in [insert the name of any mob movie here], because he wanted the salt shaker.

“Salt! Salt! I want dat salt!”

Arms flailing, feet stomping, red-faced and tear-streaked. I finally put some on his hand and he licked it.

“Yuck, dat’s disgusting. You not nice, mama.”

I kissed him anyway and he ran off to wreak mini-gangster havoc somewhere else, no longer interested in the shaker.

Continue reading

A different relationship with disappointment.

I didn’t coin the phrase. A wise, beautiful woman who helps lawyers achieve their goals, kind of like a fabulous fairy godmother (for a fee), said this today in a meeting at which we were making an honest assessment of our successes–and disappointments–of the last year.

She asked me to articulate some of my greatest achievements of 2014 and I was stymied. After some coaxing and reflection, I realized it was a great year in so many ways. But my first thoughts were mired in the disappointments. They poured into my thinking chamber and I was drowning in a failure flood. It’s just so easy to focus on the the stuff that sucked, on the moments I sucked, on the times when I was told in sometimes gentle and well-intentioned but still painful ways, you suck.

The meeting was great and emotionally charged, sad and hopeful. It was important.

Our fairy godmother was speaking truth and we were responding with truth. And I came away with so much to think about further, so much to do–all with the aim of doing less of what sucks and more of what doesn’t. I came away with the notion that disappointment abounds but I’m not going to dwell in it anymore.

I’m going to move on from it and not wear it like some ill-fitting shapewear that is riding up in all the wrong places and squeezing the breath out of me. I’m going to learn from it, make a new plan and be kinder to myself. To be as empathic to me as I am (mostly) to others and to be happy.

Coaches, consultants, yoga instructors and self-help authors are full of the kind of phrases that end up set in weird fonts over Facebook pictures of serene waters or close up shots of pale pink roses.

Energy follows intention.

There’s no such thing as luck.

Every disappointment is an opportunity to make a positive change.

They’re all true in some sense or another. Some are worth 30 minutes of pondering while typing out a blog post on your iPhone. And some are worth repeating or tacking up next to your office computer. Some, not so much.

Today though, I’m thinking about disappointments in a new way. And, if I’m lucky (in the self-made sense) and my energy follows my well-designed intentions, this time next year I’ll say to the same group of fabulous ladies (without any coaxing or coaching) that last year was a great year–with more successes than suckage. And I’ll be telling the truth.

Who needs friends?

My then-4 year old announced proudly from the back row of the minivan, “I have lots of friends, but I don’t need any of them!”

We were discussing my still-6 year old’s efforts to make new friends at summer camp. The older sister was stoic. She’d “almost made a friend” that day, but that almost-friend ran in to a full-on-friend midday so the new friendship fizzled. She’d try again tomorrow, with a new friend prospect, and her stated strategy was to be herself and “find a friend that likes math games as much as [she] does.”

It was equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming to hear her process her feelings about friendship out loud. Her sister’s response, eschewing all need for friends carried the same balance in my heart. I was proud of her independence but I was also quick to tell her she was wrong. As wrong as you can be about anything. Like as wrong as a same-day-only free ticket to an all you can eat sushi, store-bought hummus, unpasteurized soft cheese and Champagne tasting buffet for a first-time, 12 weeks pregnant lady.  (I say first-time, because…well, I would have taken the ticket the second and third times around).

She surely didn’t need a lot of friends, but I guaranteed her that she did in fact need some–or at least one.

Friends, I told her, are a necessity. Everyone comes to a point (or a thousand points) in life, when a friend is the difference between being tossed overboard and clear sailing. Friends can carry you over a bridge when you are frozen with fear of falling, or wake you up when you’re unconscious in a sorrow or shame-induced zombie slumber–these are the kind of points in life when friends come in handy. And those points will come, no matter how self-sufficient you are. Continue reading

When it’s time to say goodbye.

I completely lost my shit on the phone.  Hello, ma’am.  Are you there?

Yes, I’m here.  I just can’t breathe.  I am calling the vet for a recommendation for at-home pet euthanasia services and I cannot make the words come out of my mouth.  I can’t say euthenasia.  It sounds like a lost continent.  I’d rather be on that continent.  Even if it’s like a tundra, where even a bug is meat.  I’d rather be standing on the battlefield between two warring tribes of outermost Euthenasia than saying the word euthenasia in reference to my sweet, first, canine baby.

Oh God, that tundra thing is something my mom used to say.  The tundra: where even a bug is meat.  Where did that come from?  I can’t even remember the context.

I can’t.

I can’t say goodbye to Hudson.

But it’s time.

And I’ve been here before.  Saying goodbye when I was absolutely not fucking ready.  Feeling all of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief at the same time in one debris-flying tornado of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I said the word.  I got a recommendation and I made the appointment.  We are going to say goodbye soon.

Here comes the tornado again.  Damn it to Euthenasia, that hell-hole of a continent!

And there goes any chance of making 2015 a less potty-mouthed year.  Good thing that was someone else’s resolution that I was thinking of stealing.  I’ll have to make another–maybe something more positive. Something not stolen. Yup, not stealing is a good start.

So, here’s to more laughter, more love, more making and revisiting of great memories with creatures big and small, and more ice cream in 2015.

Here’s to sweet Hudson.

Hudson, Me, Mom (with Sassy in the oven) and Peanut leading the charge.

Hudson, Me, Mom (with Sassy in the oven) and Peanut leading the charge.

Old dogs, new tricks, toy guns and peace, love and understanding.

Mommy, what’s a gun?

My five year old asked this question after I demonstrated how our sweet 13 year old puppy can still recall the tricks she learned from the kids who regularly played on the porch of our Baltimore row house.  The porch was large and had a huge glass window looking into our living room.  Our dog, then only a few months old, would sit in the window and watch the world go by.  Sometimes the world stopped to play with her–the world in the form of 3 or 4 boys whose ages were between 5 and 8, as far as I could tell.

The boys would hang out on the porch and talk to her through the window.  Sometimes I was home, and would go outside and offer drinks and snacks.  They were sweet kids, never caused any trouble and always said thank you.  They giggled a lot.  And they knew something about guns.

They taught our dog to roll on to her back and play dead when someone made a shooting a motion with their hand.  Bang, bang. She’d drop, tongue hanging out to the side, eyes bright and waiting for praise.  It was only mildly unsettling and mostly cute.  I thought it quite amazing that they could teach her though the window.  I thought that it is was only appropriate that my dog would learn such a thing in Baltimore.

Now, there are no kids hanging out on my porch, except for my own.  They are 6, 5 and 2.  They don’t watch the news and we try to prevent them from watching television shows or movies with any sort of, even comical, gun violence.  Yet they live in a house with guns, with a father who is in law enforcement.  Still, they haven’t really seen a gun.  Ever.  You see, it’s entirely possible to believe in the need for stronger gun laws and own a gun.  Life…and politics…they aren’t so black and white. Continue reading

I could never live in a place without creaky floors.

Not long ago, I drove past the first house we bought together.  A Victorian row house at the top of an inclined street, in a neighborhood more inclined to wrong than right.  Two blocks in any direction and the neighborhood was completely different, far better or far worse.  Baltimore is a funny city that way.  It’s an old city, lovely in all the ways old places are lovely. With grand national history and not-so-grand personal stories behind every centuries-old brick wall and cobblestone paver.  It sometimes felt like such a sad place, with more loss and hurt than feels possible for a place so small.  

Still, I love that city and miss its markets, and row houses, painted screens and Old Bay scented air.  I miss our friends.  And I miss that house.  I miss the way it sounded.

Continue reading