Monday, August 19, 2013

First Day

Kindergarten, first day ~ August 19, 2013
Her hands. Tan, fumbling, bitten-on fingernail sweetness clenched onto the skinny laminated sign, so determined. These soft sturdy fingers curled around the letters L I L A, while her body lunged for that corner chair with metal feet and green canvas harness. This prized seat was just the same as every other in the room, save for one thing: Its location was special. The name sign quickly and haphazardly slapped directly in front of it was the guarantee that Lila, fighter for 5-year-old causes bigger than life, would sit by her best friend's side for one whole week. Her first five days of Kindergarten would, now most assuredly, be spent sitting right next to her twin.

I am blessed to bear witness to the tiniest moments, like this one from Friday's Meet the Teacher night, and it's become an old, familiar feeling. My heart lurches into the past and the future all at once, leaving a lump in my throat that's gone in an instant. Catching these moments in the palm of my hand takes practice, because it's like catching sand. Fleeting, sparkling, then gone. So when I am able to hold on to the second or two, and grasp the significance of the whole of all of these moments, my memory bank becomes richer, my heart happier.

Today, the sun isn't up yet, but I'm stretching into my white jeans and positivity-inspired, tangerine-colored tee. This was going to be a happy day: Kindergarten. First day. New beginnings. Bright tees and great seats. And I overheard a quiet sunrise conversation on the couch:
"Are you nervous?"
"Why not?"'
"Why should I be?"
"Well. What do you think is going to be different about Kindergarten?"
 "We're going to meet a lot more friends and there's a different playground. And maybe homework."
I held their hands when we walked the short distance to their new classroom from the car. Let go of their sweet, warm palms when it was time. Said goodbye. Have a wonderful day. I love you. Got into the car. Turned on the ignition, then waited for these hand holding hands of mine to stop shaking.

Turns out, it was a happy day for all of us. And tonight Lila looked at me, held my face in her hands, and said, "You did good."
To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour ~ William Blake

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


The past few months have been bursting at the seams with things to do. The jumble of work, camp, events, appointments, and everyday bullshit like Target runs and broken appliances makes for a busy, busy life. I find myself asking, Did I truly contribute anything of value to this planet today? What have I accomplished this week that really made a difference to someone? I know that I help companies with my writing and marketing, and that my children are protected from harm, are well-fed, and have enough warm clothes to be able to sport fur-lined boots at Publix. In July. And I really do contribute enough to Target in any given week to help them stay in business. But this busy-ness is starting to make my chi off-kilter and my mellow harshed. I wish for more serenity, less rushing... I want to slow down but offer more. There is this deep desire to be entirely in the moment, enjoying whatever is going on right now, versus plowing through a task, only to have another task impishly grinning at me from the horizon. I yearn for zen.

We bade farewell to our grinning tasks last Sunday, and took the buoy and the gull to the beach. While we enjoyed the warmth of the waves and the salty air, I couldn't help but notice how mismatched and broken our beach paraphernalia was. Anyone unlucky enough to sit in the navy blue beach chair is sadly forced to lean way over to one side on his/her elbow in order to prevent tumbling over. The cooler handle won't push down all the way, our biggest beach bag is still way too small (necessitating 3-4 additional bags, oftentimes of the grocery variety), and our towels are circa 1998. Oh, and I have one swimsuit that fits and is from this decade. All of this hot mess lumbering across the beach is a spectacle to behold.

I told Ang that I will know when we've seriously got our lives in perfect order the day we hit the beach with a perfectly organized beach ensemble. Like this:
Because I feel like it's only when the rest of our lives becomes organized -- only when every piece falls into place and we are experiencing full-blown spiritual, professional, and personal Namaste -- that we'll have the time and means to put together such a stellar beach setup. Until then, we'll be tripping over the cooler and sticking our elbows into the sand.

All of this said, I want to be able to provide as much serenity and organization for the kiddos in our home as is possible now, so I've been on a mission to do so. Lila has been saying odd things, of late, intimating that she doesn't believe she is a good reader... Aside from us trying to convince her that this is very far from the truth (because it is!), it leads me to believe she may need a confidence boost in the form of a pretty little book nook for her room.

So, what was once this...
is now this:
And this little corner...
turned into a place where Lila can now get her book ON:
 [Side note: Lila's favorite part of her new book nook is not the canvas I painted with preppy rugby stripes in her favorite colors. Nope. Neither is it the bookcase I spraypainted watermelon and hand stamped with an Indian print block until 1 in the morning. Oh, is it the cute little reading stool I successfully bartered down to 75% of its original price at Home Goods? Nah. Her favorite thing of all is the fluffy faux sheepskin rug in the unfortunate shape of a penis.]

With our twins, there is always a yin & yang, tit-for-tat, Libra-esque thing going on from the second they wake up until their fuzzy towheads once again rest upon their dinosaur and ballerina pillows. In other words, AJ was jealous as all hell of his sister's brand new book nook. Little did he know that I'd already planned to create a 'schoolwork station' for him. (My efforts to convince him that our decision to update his digs was in no way a response to his fit of jealousy is a whole 'nother story.)

No befores, here. Just imagine an ugly, cheap red polyester curtain hanging from a tension rod before, replaced with this:
I really should paint the oar holders white, and I really ought to tie off those ropes a bit neater. But, judging from the length of time that horrifying red it's-only-to-cover-the-window-'til-I-buy-cute-rugby-curtains-from-PBKids-next-week window panel hung around (3 years), I'm guessing we're looking at the final reveal, here.

Oh, and I painted another ugly thing. We had a beat-up brown bulletin board I transformed into this:
I included this pic, too, because I think it's funny I got a dog bed for AJ's reading lounge. (Don't judge.) I asked my sister the other day if she found it odd that I aim to have my children nurture their love for the written word on a penis rug and a dog bed.

So, the kids' rooms are organized and offer serene little reading spaces. Zen Jen is back in the hizzouse and, while I've got an entire gang of tasks waiting for me around the corner, my newly nourished chi is sitting right here beside me... nudging me to get a new swimsuit.

H A P P Y   W E D N E S D A Y

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rodeo in Lebanon

I'm an outlaw, not a hero. I never intended to rescue you. We're our own dragons as well as heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves ~ Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

There's no question when it comes to my affinity for Tom Robbins. My (since '87) beloved friend Halli Sue introduced me to Still Life With Woodpecker a lifetime ago, and it's been a source of what is real and true for me... in an escapism kinda way. I mean, the main characters in this gorgeous novel are Leigh-Cheri, a redheaded vegetarian liberal princess and former cheerleader, and Bernard Mickey Wrangle, an outlaw bomber with a penchant for tequila known as the Woodpecker. Leigh-Cheri believes it is everyone's job to make the world a better place. Bernard thinks that life is meant to be lived and, on occasion, shaken up. This fictional-not-really story takes place inside a box of Camel cigarettes, cozied up to my very own life's philosophy: be kind. leave a mark. give, at the very least, an awkwardly too-big hug. and enjoy the ride.

So imagine my delight upon hearing of Johnny, a real-life one-man Wild West show in Lebanon. You read me right. I was bee-boppin' along in my grocery-getter listening to an NPR story on the Hezbollah in Lebanon and bam!, Johnny calls in to save the day. Here's a guy who apparently produces the only rodeo show in the Middle East and called in to add his thoughts on the Lebanese people and his experiences there.

OK, just Googled this to see if I could get a quote*:

JOHNNY: ...The people have been nothing but welcoming and wonderful. I guess, my one experience with Hezbollah is that during my trick shooting, I use blanks and, of course, can't get them in that country. I use blanks filled with a wax bullet for audience safety. So I get real bullets on the black market and take the bullets out and make them into the blanks that I need for my show. So basically...
JOHNNY: ...people always ask me what I'm doing, you know, with these, and I tell them I'm disarming Hezbollah one bullet at a time.
CONAN: Johnny, thank you very much. Be careful.
JOHNNY: I will. Thanks a lot.
*NPR, February 26, 2013

Johnny basically opened up my world, once again, to the probability of the existence of Wild West showmen in Lebanon, tequila loving outlaws, and redheaded vegetarian princesses.

I live my life embracing the coexistence of the crazy and the mundane. (I truly have no other choice.) My life is this mix. In my vision of this mortal box of Camels, some of us are trying desperately to make the world a better place; bombers exist; shaking up is necessary; tequila drinking and cheerleading should be required sports; and escaping, just a little bit, to embrace the possibility of rescuing myself from bullshit dragons and saving others from boredom is quite the outlaw's dream.

And so it goes... I've got this rodeo I wouldn't trade for the world. One filled with disarming bullets, and loving all of the outlaws and the princesses.
It's never too late to have a happy childhood ~ Tom Robbins

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Graduation outfits at the ready.
Pre-school graduation: What a silly little event.

Mind you, I prepared. Lila and I searched the Internet far and wide for the perfect dress ('far and wide' meaning 'Gap Kids and Old Navy'). AJ was fine with a bow tie or tie, no matter ~ so long as Red Sox colors were involved. I charged my new camera, Hubs and I took a shower and a few hours off, and we drove a mile down the street. Not a huge deal.

See, I never did the preschool thing. And for me and my Upstate NY ilk, even Kindergarten graduation celebrations were unheard of, unless one considered walking back on the last day of school and jumping into the errant neighbor's pool as an 'event'. Preschool graduation is foreign to me.

I've never been overly sentimental. I just feel like it only serves the person who is outwardly displaying their emotions. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not a stone. I will ugly-cry with the best, dammit. "One Tree Hill" found me crying in reverie and into a beer at a U2 show a few years back. Sinead breaks me. The end of the movie "Once"? Stop it right now. This...) But five-year-olds 'graduating' from a voluntary school (albeit with the best teachers I've ever come across)? Come on...
You'd think it was a police lineup... except for Joseph.
Singing a 'goodbye' song...
The four girls, in a class of 18...
Yep. Only pic I've got of both, and not in focus, to boot...
I'm excited for Lila and AJ to start Kindergarten. This is a great moment. Time to move on, and move on up, I say...

Came back from Chipotle Grill (after several meltdowns from said graduates and an odd twinge in my neck... a strange sadness that angered me, as well) and the kiddos happily jumped into our bed with Ang for a movie. I stayed in the living room and looked through a photo album from one of our treasured Martha's Vineyard trips:
Well. Thank God I'm not sentimental.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams...
~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, May 6, 2013


Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free ~ Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mom Roles in Crazy

If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane ~ Jimmy Buffett

I've only been at this job for going on about six years now, and I'm still facing a huge learning curve when it comes to being a Mom, in that I spent my first (and apparently, clueless) 37 years not being one. Nor was I ever an older sister, daycare worker, teacher, wildlife trooper or warden for an insane asylum. While I knew certain items like Protector and Feeder were in the Mom job description*, there were other proficiencies I've honed thanks solely to the trials and tribulations of being a parent to two increasingly psychotic active five-year-olds. And for what it's worth, Mom and Mom-in-Training happen to be the very same thing. Who knew? (Answer: Not me.)
 *Disclaimer: Dads ~ I don't have the credentials to discuss your job particulars, but I'm sure most, if not all, of these items will sound familiar to you...

I've found, along the way, there are myriad roles I've taken on as Mom. Here they are, in no particular order or preference:

t h e   f i n d e r
As Mom, I have become inescapably adept at finding lost things. Mind you, I can never find my car keys to save my freaking life, and I have zero idea where my beloved Target faux leather jacket is at this given moment, but if Lila loses her silver sparkle headband from Christmas '09? I'm all over that fashizz. When AJ can't find his special TMNT undies? ...the only pair (out of five) that happens to be missing from his drawer when we're already ten minutes late for school? The one with Donatello on the back that will undoubtedly save my son from the unimaginable horrors of a Donatello-underpants-less day? I know exactly where they are! Why, they're at the bottom of the orange LL Bean tote we brought to the beach two Saturdays ago, of course. I know because I've been meaning to clean that sucker out, as I've been tripping over the damn tote every time I jump over the dirty clothes pile in the laundry room on my way to re-fluff the load in the dryer. (Fifth fluff's a charm, I say.)

Every experience we've had that in any way involved tangible items (other than our unclothed selves) has become a mnemonic device for me finding said items at a later date. In this way, I am so fortunate to constantly relive the littlest of moments... and to also find the location of turtle superhero underpants in T-minus-4 seconds.

t h e   m a g i c   c h e f
Oh, how I used to cook! Appetizers were my favorite. As a single chick in my early 30's, I'd throw tiny dinner parties for friends, starting off with my go-to grilled shrimp. I loved sipping an Amstel, rocking around my (albeit lonely) kitchen to some Macy Gray, and rolling the bacon-wrapped little guys around in rosemary and balsamic vinegar in preparation for an epicurean delight.

Entrees? Get outta town. My favorite recipe was Martha Stewart's 'Whole Roasted Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sage'. (I used to make this for Ang when we were first dating.) I gently loosened the skin, carefully placed the rounds of cheese in a decorative pattern under said skin, pressed a sage leaf into each round, stuffed it with herbs, trussed it with butcher string...  

Upon having children, I've graduated to chugging a Cab and inventing culinary treasures like 'Pirate Booty Sprinkled Tunafish' or '7pm Cereal ~ with Carrots.' Where pre-kids I'd bought meal-specific groceries and created dinners inspired by Williams-Sonoma catalog recipes, my efforts of late have been primarily focused on:
  • What meal can I magically make appear out of basically nothing? 
  • How can I offer my brood sustenance while pushing off grocery shopping another day? 
  • What goes well with Steamfresh corn?"
t h e   r e f e r e e
Yesterday, I jokingly posted on Facebook that my children had finally succeeded in driving me to Crazy. Today, I'm wondering if they actually did, in fact, manage to push me ever so slightly into a new world of Mom-insanity. Just a little bit. I love them to the moon and back, and I'd jump in-front of a semi for them, but seriously with the constant "He took my crayon!" and "She called me a Crisis!" ? I mean... how shall I not book a hotel in Crazy? Here's just a snippet from yesterday's ongoing match of Lila vs. AJ:
Lila: Mom! AJ just took my crayon!
Me: AJ, give it to her.
AJ: It's Crayola, and she said I was a crisis. 
Me: Don't call your brother names.
Lila: AJ said I own the ugly brown bunny, but it's his!
AJ: It's not my brown bunny! It's Lila's ugly bunny! 
Me: I...
Lila: AND! I got stitches!!!!! [crying now]
Me: Lila, that was a year and a half ago.
Lila: But I GOT them. And they'll never leave my head!
AJ: Lila! You got the stitches taken out, remember? Remember when you went to the doctor and it hurt soo much and you cried and that nurse had to hold you down?"
[Lila attempts smacking AJ]
Me: No hitting! And AJ, that's wasn't very nice to say.
[moment of silence]
Lila: AJ is a crisis, you know.
Good times.
t h e   p a s t o r   &   t h e   z e n   m a s t e r
I'm finding the kids' questions and worries to be increasingly deep. If I had a penny for every time someone's told me, "Ha! Just wait 'til they're teenagers!", I'd at the very least be able to afford a therapist for when that time comes. But I get it ~ the bigger the kid, the bigger the problems. And apparently, so too come the more serious questions, as in Why did God make humans? Seriously.

My answers to these spiritual questions are rather simplistic, as in God made humans so we could love and take care of the Earth and the creatures and each other. Hm. Maybe that's not exactly simplistic, but it satisfies their curiosity, for now... Their worries currently involve friends not getting along (Lila), bad dreams/scary things (AJ), and Why are some people bad? (both). Again, with all of the above I employ as much zen as I can. I don't want them to be scared, but I want to answer their questions truthfully and in an age-appropriate manner. (There, did that sound like I know what I'm doing? Because I don't.)  

Perhaps I need to read up on child psychology, the soap opera that is a 5YO girl's relationship with other girls, and how to continually bring all conversations back to some sort of spiritual oneness. In the meantime, I'm happy when I can make serious conversations end up with dance-offs to the Black Eyed Peas.
t h e   f e m i n i s t

fem·i·nism  /ˈfeməˌnizəm/Noun: The advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Wow. Who knew little girls would it get into their heads, and at such an early age (!), that they somehow can't do what boys can? It's ludicrous, and I don't know where it comes from. I'm sure media plays a part. Maybe schoolmates? Perhaps an extremely confident and competitive twin brother has something to do with it? Regardless of the genesis of such nonsense, I've been dispensing consistent reminders to both of my kids that Lila can do anything AJ can; soccer is not just for boys and ballet is not just for girls; etcetera and ad nauseum on that; girls can be just as fast, smart, fill-in-the-blank as boys; boys can be just as fast, smart, fill-in-the-blank as girls... And that the aforementioned can and should be accompanied by the exclamation "Girl Power!", with a superlative fist-pump, as needed. Phew. Equality's the goal, here. Five-year-old feminism at its finest.


t h e   g u y ' s   g i r l
I was never a boy. Regardless of the following horrific hasty gender-alizations (see: my flat-chested self in Jr. High, my stellar math scores in high school, my awe-inspiring ability to chug a pitcher of Schlitz at PSU, my love for "Dumb and Dumber" and "Tommy Boy", along with my hatred for romcoms), I was never a boy. But I loved boys. And I love my son. And I'm infatuated with AJ's present/future strong, smart, handsome self. His sister will learn that boys rock. His mom and dad will cheer for him at his t-ball games, soccer games, baseball games, track meets, and possible synchronized swimming meets... awhhh, hell. AJ's got a twin sister and a feminist Mom. He's doomed to a life of girl power fist pumps. (And support for whatever it is in life he wants to do and be.)

And so...

I know that we all play many roles in our lives. I'm loving the roles I play. And for all of you who want to join me in Crazy, jump in! And remember to bring your sparkle headbands and superhero undies. If they're lost, I can find them. And I make a mean tuna-hotdog casserole.



Monday, January 7, 2013

My Own Self

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. 
         ~ Agnes Repplier

Lila made up a new song, something along the lines of: "I can do it myself, myself, myself, myself, myself, ... mah self, mah OWN!" She wrote the words, Ang 'put it to music' on the piano, and we sing it constantly, much to her own self's distaste. 
Lila truly is pissed when I even whistle the tune. 
I hum it and she struts away, clamoring "Whatever!" and admonishes me with the wave of her sparkly pink fingernails and glitter-adorned wrist.

The other night, I followed her...

Me: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to embarrass you.
Lila: Me, too.
Me: I love you.
Lila: I love you, Mommy. But I am myself, my own. No making fun.
Me: Promise.

My Buddha.