He never stops moving.

He’s 3 today. He never stops moving. He is a blur of belly laughs, robot arms, laser hands, tiger pounces, whole-face smiles and astronaut blast offs. He loves his sisters with as much force as he hits them back.

He loves Mary Poppins and does a fair rendition of the chimney sweep “Step in Time” dance sequence. In his spare time, he goes hexagon hunting and keeps a running (but shifting) tally of how many he’s seen.

He doesn’t stop for pictures.

I’ve been trying to take a decent one since he woke up yelling, “it’s my buurrff day!!” at 4:27 this morning. This will have to do.
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California Dreaming

My mom did not have any traditional lullabies in her repertoire.  House of the Rising Sun, American Pie, Hotel California. These were the standards.  I’ve carried on this tradition with my own kids and added a few, but nothing from this century. The Joker, some Rolling Stones, and the Greatest Love of All.  This last one made it into the rotation in the predawn hours one morning when I was reaching for a song that I knew all the words to, one that would be just long (and boring) enough to finally put a teething little insomniac to sleep.

When I was a kid, I listened to Whitney Houston sing that song over, and over, and over again on my Easter egg-colored little boom box.  I laid on the floor with the lavender machine in front of me, repeatedly pushing the pastel play and pause, rewind and stop buttons. Testing the resilience of the thin cassette tape, and carefully re-spooling it with my fingers when the brown plastic loops would go slack.

I was singing it again last night as I rocked my almost 3 year old back to sleep after a nightmare.  We sat in same chair that I’ve rocked all 3 of the kids to sleep in.  But it’s too small for this function now.  The boy is half my height and the two of us together in the chair looked like a sloppily twisted soft pretzel version of the Madonna and Child.

This time Whitney’s call to action, her plea for us to let the children lead the way and show us all the beauty they possess inside, left him curious and unfortunately more awake.  There was a running commentary and stream of questions as I sung off-key.

Mama, why no walking in da shadows?  Is it dangerous?  Walking on ice mountains is dangerous. I like shadows. Can we make shadows now?  What mean “dignity”? Let’s search for heroes.

Lullabies are no longer sleepy background noise in our house.  They are songs with words and meaning, and the little person–no longer a baby–sprawled across my body was asking for more. More information. More context and definition. More time with his mama in the middle of the night.

I was rocking and thinking how much I love that I can give him these things in this too small, loudly upholstered in black and white floral chair–the same chair that my mom held his sisters in.

He’s clever and he loves his mom.  I was thinking about how my mom so loved cleverness and would have, so very much, loved him.

I was thinking about his Grammy and Granddad and his Pop Pop, aunts and uncles and Great Aunties.  All of whom rocked him and his sisters before him in that chair.  All still here, cramming themselves and one or more kids into that chair, rocking and reading with them from time to time.

I was thinking about how easy it is to get lost in wanting something or someone you don’t have, and how lucky our family is to have so much past and present love around us.

I stretched the blanket to cover his feet dangling over the side of the chair and told him to close his eyes so he could listen to a new song.  I went with California Dreaming.

Found on Etsy.

Found on Etsy.

St. Patrick is not nonsense.

Peanut: I heard that Saint Patrick played magic music and all the snakes left the land, but that’s nonsense because there is no such thing as magic music.

Sassy: ‘Scuse me Paige, but it’s not nonsense. Remember, the Ancient Egyptians played music to make the snakes calm down and not bite the queen so maybe it’s not magic but it’s not nonsense.

Mo: I LOVE snakes!

Peanut: He liked four-leaf clovers too. We should decorate the house with them.

Me: Actually, the story goes that it was a shamrock…a three-leaf clover–

Peanut: What story?

Me: The one about St. Patrick.

Sassy: So this is all just a story?!? What are we talking about then? I’m talking real stuff.  Really real stuff about Egypt.

Me: St. Patrick is real stuff too.  It was just a very long time ago so it’s hard to know now which parts of the story are real and which are not.

Sassy: That stinks.  They should have used hieroglyphics.

Mo: My shoe needs fixed.  It’s broken.

Peanut, 7. Sassy, 5. Mo, 2.

Choose your tail and make it happen.

Snow is exciting for kids, with the construction of snowmen and the whoosh of fast sleds. But snow is dreadful when it’s accompanied by arctic temperatures that make spending more than a few minutes outside dangerous. This winter we’ve had to explain the phenomenon of frostbite and ask the question, “is building a snowman worth losing a finger?”

The answer was, “yes.”

So, as the mounds of white taunted them, we barred the doors and hoped the siren song of winter would be muted by the theme from Wild Kratts.

Today, though, is beautiful.  A balmy 36 degrees–but it’s Monday.  School calls and outside diversions will have to wait.  We hope that we’ve turned the corner on this winter and that we will no longer have to stretch our imaginations to create more inside games.  We’ve hosted carnivals, markets, restaurants and even a kind-of TED talk series for a captivated, stuffed animal audience.   My favorite of the inside games, though, was not one that was created with parental support–or supervision.  It wasn’t even a game really.  It’s more a state of mind.

The tail store.

My 5 year old crafted a selection of tails from pipe cleaners.  The almost-3 year old got in on the game too.  But one tail was not enough for him.  He sported a dual tail apparatus while running endless laps through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

“Look at me!  I’m running. I so fast.  My tails are so fast. Do you see dem?”

The oldest was nonchalant about the tail thing, not partaking in the donning of tails but offering creative advice along the way, “I think you should use the purple for a dragon tail…..Yes! That’s it. More dragon-y.”

But the 5 year old was serious.  After creating a whole collection of tails, Sassy Bottom Baubles Spring/Summer 2015 (look for them in next month’s Vogue), she disappeared for a while in her room.  After a few minutes she came looking for tape, and I obliged.  Normally, a request for tape made outside of the scope of communal arts and crafts time and without explanation means something is broken, ripped or otherwise destroyed.  But, I was tired and lacking in motivation so I didn’t protest when she zoomed by me, on all fours, with the roll of tape in her mouth.

A few more minutes went by and I began to wonder about the quiet and fear for the safety of the pet fish who have taken up residence in her room.  I walked in and found her working carefully to affix a selection of tails to her dresser.  She turned to me, face beaming like the sunshine we all longed for, “It’s my collection.”

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“This way, I can choose what kind of tail I want, whenever I want,” she explained. “When I feel like being a tiger, or a mouse.  When I want to be a kitten or a cheetah, I pick one and put it on, and Taa-Daa…I’m a tiger.”

“I love it,” I told her. “They’re beautiful.”

And they were.  They were beautiful.  A simple and simply glorious depiction of the way kids can feel empowered to be something or anything they want.  She wants to be a tiger, and an astronaut, and a dancer.  She does not see any of these as impossible.  She is not afraid to make her dreams known.  To give them voice–and tail, for all the world to hear and see.

I want her to stay this way.

I don’t want her to be quiet about what she wants.  I want her to express her dreams and make them happen.  Unless that dream is to build a snowman when the thermometer reads “LL”–lower limit–i.e. so cold the damn thing cannot even tell you how cold it is.  Quiet and a little less relentless would be good in that situation.

Or maybe not.

Necessity and dreams are the parents of invention. With an adequate supply of pipe cleaners, she just might invent some newfangled snow gear before moving on to her career as an intergalactic ambassador of tiger dancing.

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