Thursday, December 29, 2011


Christmas vacation.  Here we are.  In the thick and in between Christmas and New Years with a delicious stretch of time to recover from both holidays.  The month leading up to Christmas is brimming with food and cookies at every turn, seasonal indulgences and late nights.  It’s a holiday marathon.  I loved most of it – and I feel proud that as a family we didn’t go overboard with presents for the girls or each other and kept the expectations reasonable and focused on our family.  Christmas Eve day my dad, Sophie, Katie and I cooked up an Italian feast of manicotti, meatballs, sausage and tiramisu.  We had a great day topped off with naps on the couch for all and Cliff and I high-fived each other for a job well done.  We made it through all of the Nutcracker rehearsals and performances, school celebrations and every present got wrapped. 

So much of preparing for the Christmas holiday - and most regular days for that matter- require enormous amounts of planning.  I feel as though everyday is planned –lunches in the morning, getting dressed, working, monitoring screen time, making sure the girls each eat a daily healthy dose of fruits, veggies and proteins. 

I am happily exhausted from a successful year (knock wood and sign of the cross because I am a superstitious Italian) of keeping the girls relatively healthy, smart and growing.  They may not know more of a foreign language than counting 1-10 in Spanish, but they take ballet and basketball, they don’t watch too much television, they have friends and run around and ride their bikes in the neighborhood and they like broccoli.  The bar is sometimes set unreasonably high for a parent in the 21ist Century.  But this is the time I live in so I do my best every single day.

However, this week I am taking a vacation from it all.  I am saying “Yes” to hours of old school Looney Tunes, “Absolutely!” to another cookie and “Sure, why not?!” to the jumpy house place.  I am putting on my cozy sweatpants by three in the afternoon and I am not going to berate myself for eating cookies with the girls or the copious amounts of wine I have happily consumed.  We all need a break from the everyday.  Sophie and Katie need it.  I need it.  And it will not stunt their intellectual and emotional growth if they watch Sponge Bob Square Pants for the afternoon and eat mac & cheese three days in a row.  Right now, it may just enrich them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Moms in the City - Do you see what I see?

My Moms in the City column that ran in the Portsmouth Herarld today.  Enjoy!

The girls and I were driving home from basketball practice a few nights ago.  It was dark, illuminating the holiday lights adorning people’s houses.  “Katie, you say ‘ooooooh’ every time there is a display on your side, and I’ll say ‘ooooooo’ every time there is one on my side.  That way we know which way to look at the cool lights!”   Those girls had a rip-roaring time, oooooing and ahhhhing at all the houses.   The car vibrated with excitement and the two of them squealing – “Ooooooo!  Lookit!  Ooooooo!  More lights – those are red!  Purple!  Oh!  My!  Gosh – it’s a huge Rudolph!!  Mommy keep driving so we can see more houses that make us go, Oooooo!”

            As we finally pulled into our driveway after taking the long way home, it looked naked and empty with just the one, lonely outside light. Apparently Sophie and Katie were thinking the same as I was, because they started chirping, “Mommy, why don’t we have lights?  Can we put up lights?  Can we do it this weekend – PLEASE!!!??!”  I wasn’t running out to get a blow-up Santa, but our house needed a little Christmas cheer – and I was excited and ready to get our decorating on.

This year - for the first time - we put up outside Christmas lights.   In the past it seemed as if it would prove to be a herculean task, given all that is required to be a human being most days, let alone a human at Christmas time.  When the girls were babies, we were in such survival mode that anything extra – meaning a step above just decorating the tree - was enough to put me over the edge.  I must confess, I think there was a year when we didn’t even put up a tree. Negotiating a toddler who has the walking abilities of a drunken sailor at best plus a delicately adorned Christmas tree compounded with the thousand and one, “no touching, just looking please” that I robotically commanded everyday was too much.  It was the tree or my sanity.  Luckily my sanity eked it out that year.

Thankfully, those days of baby desperation are long past, because I have two girls who fully believe and at the very least expect a Christmas tree.  In our garage, we unearthed bags of white lights that we had left over from decorating the tent where we held our wedding reception.  We decided to wind them around the hydrangea bushes in our front yard.  At some point along the decorating process, I slipped inside to get dinner ready.  Cliff and the girls took over, testing lights, seeing which bulbs worked, plugging things in, and stepping back to admire their progress.   “Babe!”  Cliff called to me, “Do the girls and I have enough time before dinner to run to the store to get more lights?”  “Momma!”  Squealed Sophie, jumping and clapping, “We need more lights!”

There is no guarantee what holiday moments the girls are going to remember.   It is a good chance that they won’t remember the meal I cooked or maybe they won’t remember a single present they received this year.  But I do hope they remember the excitement of driving to the store with Cliff to get more lights, so we could have a house that when kids drive by they say, “Ooooooo!”  I know I will remember this one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Inspiration Monday - err...what day is it?

I have humble expectations of myself to post a weekly Inspiration Monday.  Once a week, I write about what makes me smile and gives me that lift – a little tickle that gives my day to day some wings.  I have been cranking along, feeling good – and getting a rhythm with my writing.  They say writing is a muscle – if you don’t use it then it gets flabby.   I feel as though I am getting some nice tone and definition right now.  Right on I say.  Keep on truckin’. Sunday night I had an idea for this post that I was excited to work on.

And then the final push of the holiday has descended upon this house.  Did you know that I have two children?   They are eight and six and they believe in this guy named Santa and his flying animal friend Rudolph.  They are coming to town – soon.  So are my parents and my dad’s homemade manicotti. 

We have a few things to do around here -happy, fun, festive things.  But a few items to cross off the list and the to-do’s are occupying a large portion of my brain space.   I think at this very moment I am inspired to keep the mood light and moving forward and to embrace all of this.  And cut myself a little slack in the knowledge that I will not be writing the great American novel this week.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Here's another topic I have an opinion on

A little something I wrote for a great site  - femamom  about the Plan B emergency contraception.

 At least it's easy to get tampons and astroglide - for now

Monday, December 5, 2011

Inspiration Monday - This is what keeps me laughing at the supermarket

Many years ago, I had a friend who had a boyfriend named Brett.   Brett had a unique, smokey, quality to his body odor, that we called, “The shish-ka-bob”.  One Christmas season we were hanging out, laughing about Brett’s particular aroma and all things smokey.  We started making up new lyrics for songs and this line just stuck for The Christmas Song.  I can never, ever hear it without singing it…

“Brett’s nuts roasting on an open fire…”
We never got beyond the opening line to complete the song, so I repeat this line over and over throughout most of the season
Go on – see if it doesn’t stick in your head.  Happy Holidays!

Oh, and go over and wish my partner in crime Dorothea at My Mommy Bites a Happy Birthday!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Inspiration Monday - Zen and the art of raking leaves

The leaves came down late in the northeast this year.  Typically by Halloween the leaves are making their final stand, but by my birthday one week later, the trees are bare and the weather has shifted into a classic raw November.  (This is where you can cue the cheesy Axl Rose sway and start humming the chorus of November Rain.  I do every year.)  But this year, the weather has remained positively balmy and the leaves held on tight.  This is alright by me.

Over the weekend my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday.  I thoroughly enjoy this holiday because there is no pressure for presents or from the church I don’t belong to anymore.    All that is expected is to reflect on what goodness I have, to say thank you to the Universe, I love you and to eat and visit with family and friends. 
Sunday afternoon Sophie went to shoot hoops with Cliff and my dad.  My Mom and Katie were happily playing “Lost Kitty”, which involves my Mom “discovering’ Katie under the covers of the bed.  Katie then explains how her past owners threw her out a window and how she needs a home, and my mom adopts her.  They spend what seem to be hours chatting and grooming, and drinking endless bowls of pretend milk, ending with the two of them getting dressed for the day and Katie studiously watching my mom apply make-up, talking and chirping away. 

It was during this time, on an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving weekend, that I slipped into my backyard to quietly tackle the piles of leaves that were finally released from our grand oak trees.  I don’t mind yard work - especially when it is entered into on these rare and easy terms.  My nose wasn’t running from the cold weather, I wasn’t pressured to have-to rake because a snowstorm was on the way or I had a neighbor who was giving me the hairy eyeball from my mess of leaves.  My girls were both happy with Cliff and my parents. 
So I just raked.  I worked up a sweat.  I let my mind drift and float and wander and fly around.  I thought about past Thanksgivings, and being in high school and the tingling excitement of college friends coming back for homecoming and being together at a party – and that feeling of there being no past or future just the joy of the moment.  I thought of being in college myself and the magic of coming home and seeing friends that I sorely missed.  I thought about loved ones, who I will never see again, and the mischief we got into together and how good it feels to keep memories fresh.

As I thought about the past and allowed my thoughts to flow into the future, I found myself not worrying.   I have unfairly saddled myself with an endless list of worries and what-ifs since I have become a grown-up and a mother.  It is understandable, but a pointless use of my precious energy.  As I raked and thought about the future I had fun with the possibilities and the lofty goals I want to accomplish.  And instead of worrying that I wasn’t going to have time to do it all or the luck that I think I need, I just raked and dreamed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Inspiration Monday - Run Sophie Run

Since September my oldest daughter Sophie has participated in an after school program called, Girls on the Run.  Their mission is “to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experienced based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”    

 Each week, teachers led a group of fifteen third – fifth grade girls through discussions and activities designed to help build their self-esteem and connect them with a positive community of girls.  They talked about how to deal with gossiping, being left out, and ways to build self-confidence.  Along with this social piece they built in a running program -the end goal being a 5k event.  Every girl needed a partner to run with them.

 On Sunday, Sophie and I participated in the Girls on the Run 5k event together.   I followed Sophie’s lead in how to pace ourselves – and we walked most of it, with some running sprinkled in.  We listened to music, we talked a little bit, and held hands for most of the time.  Cliff and Katie were there to cheer us on, loud and proud with cowbells and a handmade sign.  For the last leg of the 5k, Katie joined Sophie and me and we crossed the finish line, all three Lazenby girls together.  It was really hard not blubbering with pride.
I am impressed by Sophie’s eight year old tenacity to be a part of a program that met twice a week for ten weeks, culminating in a 5k.  I am so grateful that my daughters have a program like this available to them.  I would have benefited from a program like Girls on the Run when I was eight. 

The other great boost the event provided was to get my butt out there again, running on a consistent, weekly basis.   I didn’t start running until last winter and when I tried it, I found it empowering to pound away, pushing myself and get sweaty and my heart pounding.   The fact is as long as I have music pumping away in my ears, I will run – and I love it.  It is simple and it makes me feel good.

So here’s to Girls on the Run, the teachers who made it happen and the girls who participated and completed this incredible program.   And here’s to pushing myself a little bit harder.

Katie looking up to her big sister.  Sophie showing off her medal.  And the sign made by Cliff, decorated by Katie.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Moms in the City - Beyond the Real Housewives of New Jersey

[This Moms in the City column was published in the Portsmouth Herald. The archive of past columns can be found here.]

When I began this column in July of 2008, I wrote about going away for the weekend. It was the first time in ages, maybe even since the girls were born, that I had actually left for days to be with friends. I came to the realization that I needed to fuse together who I was before motherhood and the woman I was becoming after the rush of toddlerhood. I knew I was putting myself back together differently than I was before — I had realistic expectations — there was no turning back into who I used to be.
I wanted to make sure I retained the essence of myself that I felt I had lost in the early years of baby raising. I felt so much more desperate then — desperate for time, space to myself, desperate to put the pieces of myself back.

At the time I first wrote the column, my girls were barely 3 and 5 and I was still potty training Katie. Sophie was just ending preschool, Katie, was just about to start. At the start of this column I had yet to shed my post-partum baby weight. This summer, I proudly rocked a bikini for the first time in years. And the truth is — it does not feel like yesterday. It does feel like two years have gone by. Think of all the mundane heaps of laundry, dishes and trips to the grocery store in two years.
Add onto that all of the triumphs and disappointments with children, a marriage, friends, family and everything in-between. A great deal happens in two years.

The good thing is — many things remain the same. Cliff and I are still the main planets that Sophie and Katie revolve around. We haven't moved or changed jobs — these are constants that I am grateful for.

I love being able to reflect on who I was struggling to be, while I was still in the throes of full-time stay-at-home parenting. It is great perspective to realize that the struggles that seemed so monumental at the time — like potty training or negotiating a Mommy and Me group are a distant memory. Maybe those early baby years were like being in high school — intense and brief where it is difficult to grasp the idea that one day soon they will be over. I don't glorify high school or taking care of babies. I wouldn't want to go back to either time in my life.

At 8 and 6, Sophie and Katie are real live people. They are smart and funny and amazingly they have the same personalities as when they were 3 and 5. Some days when I slow down I am awestruck that I have elementary school children with after-school activities, homework, and their own path of negotiating friends. It all feels so very grown-up. I go to PTA meetings , which is something my 20-something self never imagined doing. Two years later, getting away for a night out or a weekend with friends is much easier. I am back to working outside of the house for the first time in seven years, and happily I realize that I write more now than I did when I was that 20-something who couldn't imagine herself as a mother of two. Let's see what the next two years bring.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inspiration Monday - AHS

When Lost was over last year, there was a gaping void in my television viewing landscape. I was  devoted to Lost – Cliff and I would spend hours discussing the episodes each week and I faithfully read this blog, Long Live Locke, which provided thought provoking, insightful and witty analysis of each episode  So, I have been a little down and nothing seemed to fill the space left by Sawyer, Kate and John Locke. And Desmond.  Mmmmm, Desmond… I believed in those characters - I respect the writing on Lost – it seemed as though the writers took the position that the audience was smart, and that we cared about what was happening. 

To fill the hole left by the smoke monster, Cliff and I took up watching, True Blood.   Perfectly entertaining.   I’ll keep watching it, but I am not obsessed or inspired. And then I came across…

American Horror Story.   Or more specifically, Jessica Lange as Constance on American Horror Story.   My, oh my.

I am hooked on this show – it has elements that I love in smart, escapism T.V. like great actors and dead, creepy twins, but I wait each episode just to see Jessica Lange.  She is the most brilliant, sadistic and sexy southern belle I have ever had the pleasure of watching.   I have loved her since Tootsie, but I sadly wrote her off years ago after viewing her new face in the movie, Big Fish.  I do judge great actresses when they get such obviously bad plastic surgery.  I assume that all actresses have some work done - but her face made me sad.  It was Bruce Jenner too much.   But now, with American Horror story – wow.  All is forgiven. 

Whoever writes for her is from the twisted school of Tennessee Williams meets Stephen King.  I am in love with every line that she delivers.  She steals the show – and that is saying a great deal when she is competing with the juicy likes of Dylan McDermott’s bare ass.  Have you seen?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bless this Mess

I know I run the risk that it is pathetic and potentially boring to post about the overwhelming mess that is my house.  Maybe even sadder is the fact that this domestic havoc is in the forefront of my brain and I cannot see anything else.  I feel like a domestic nincompoop because of my inadequacies in taming the papers that have mushroomed on every available surface and the grit that is pebbled all over my floors.  Everywhere I look I see visual chaos - stacks of books, clothes that need to be folded and put away, drawers that need to be emptied out and organized and pictures that need to be artfully hung.
I fear that I am one pile away from being a guest star on Hoarders.

I may be slightly exaggerating - It really isn’t that bad.  There aren’t vermin making habitrails out of piles of O magazine.  I am not clutching to cracked Christmas ornaments and baby clothes crying that someday my daughters will want that shit-stained onesie for her own child.
The party of summer is over, the mêlée of the girls successive birthdays in August and September is complete (except for Katie’s thank you notes – Arrrgh!) and the groove of school is upon us. My house is a mess.  A time-consuming, fixable mess that I resent having to clean.

I'll get to it later.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Inspiration Monday - Feelin' Fosse

Today is the debut of a weekly post for my blog - Inspiration Monday.  It will feature whatever is getting my juices flowing, or makes me dance or feel like myself.  It could be music, a book I am reading or maybe a pair of boots that make me feel like I can kick some ass.   I am inspired by the challenge of searching out and cultivating what inspires me.  Too often grown-up life can be filled with drudgery and an endless list of have-to-do's.  We all need to feel giddy and - inspired.

 Being my birthday, it is a time that I look back at where I've been and look forward to where I am going.    I have two pieces of music and performance that represent those feelings. 

The looking back is a clip of Liza Minnelli in the movie Cabaret.  There was a time that I was obsessed with all things Liza, Cabaret and anything by Bob Fosse.  Watching with song, I realized that this is still the case.  I love her dance, the song, and truth be told, I would wear that outfit everyday if I could.  We all have our comfort zone - and Liza's outfit hits it for me.  I get a zing watching it too, because I am still the girl who first discovered the magic of Liza and Fosse.

The second one comes from my friend Deb - she introduced me to this video and I cannot stop watching it.  I don't really know any other music by Bat for Lashes, but I cannot get enough of the song and the sinister vibe of this video.

What inspires you this week?

Monday, October 31, 2011

I had some time to think without the televsion to distract me

Inspired by the recent snowfall and power outage, coupled with my impending birthday, I have become a bit reflective.   I now realize a few crucial points about the person I am – in the cold weather…

I may love watching Little House on the Prairie - but I do not in any way want to live like Laura Ingalls in the 21st Century.  I like my heat cranked up, television, Pandora music and light switches. 

Most of my parenting life is ruled by having to change at a moment’s notice.  There are many daily situations that I am very go with the flow – except when it comes to losing power.   I lose all sense of…sense.  I hate waiting on the unknown of, “When the frick am I going to be able to take a hot shower??!!”   I hate losing power in my home.  It makes my home cold, and uncertain and lonely and a place I don’t want to be.  This then makes me sad because I love my home, so I feel betrayed.  And cold and edgy.  And then I am at the mercy of some repair person and I have to wait God knows how long for my gosh-darn heat to come back.    And then I yell at the girls, making me feel guilty and like a bad mother.  A cold, shivering, edgy, guilty, bad mother.

I don’t really care for the smell of a fireplace in my house.  To me, a fireplace is a dirty, smoky, pain in the ass.  There, I said it.   I’d give you my fireplace if I could.    I know this goes against the hallmarks of living in New England, and all of the seasonal, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but inside it’s so delightful.”  And when the weather gets blustery, people up here just love putting another log on the fire and getting cozy.  Not me.  I’ll just turn up the heat, thank you very much.   I enjoy a fire enough if I am at someone else’s house or in some ye olde rustic setting, but not in the living room of my ranch house.   When I was growing up in New York the local television station, WPIX,  would show a loop of the Yule Log burning away on Christmas Eve.    That’s my idea of a fireplace in my home.

I am not a hardy New Englander.  So in the colder months I will continue to remember the advice that a friend who is Swedish said to me, and I hold it dear in my New York heart – “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Excuse me while I go buy some more silk long underwear and furry outerwear that I will keep on until May.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It ended up

Cliff sends me a text this afternoon.  It says this, “Free flu vaccine today at the high school.  Can you take the girls.”  I did my normal, which is think for about a second and I answered quickly with my first reaction.  “I’m gonna see if there is another free one coming up.  I don’t want to deal with a crying kid today.” 

            Cliff gets his flu shot every year, as do the girls.  I skipped my shot last year and I came down with the bona-fide flu. The girls still talk about how sick I was, “Remember mommy, how you couldn’t get out of bed for two days?  Remember throwing up?”  Oh yes, I do remember and with these girls around, I will never forget every sweaty detail. 

 I know that the shot is no guarantee that I will remain unscathed by the flu and copious amounts of hand washing does a lot of the heavy lifting of the staying healthy process throughout the snotty winter.  I have no moral objections to the flu shots, so I line up every year to get them for the girls.  I just didn’t want to get the shots today.

It’s raw and rainy outside and the girls had no after school activities.  I had sweet and simple plans to make chocolate chip cookies, do homework, give them a bath and go shopping downstairs.  (When we are doing the seasonal clothing switch to see what they have grown out of I try to make this tedious process fun, by calling it - going shopping downstairs.)   It takes a chunk of time and stamina because the girls have to try on bins of clothes that we have stored in the basement.   For some reason, Sophie and Katie have embraced this ‘going shopping downstairs’ song and dance, by pretending to go in a dressing room and shaking their butts around to prove that something fits or not.  At some point there are piles of clothes on the floor that Katie dives into, rolling around pretending to be a cat and Sophie gets all mushy and nostalgic seeing clothes that no longer fit her long, muscular body.

I wanted to be a fun, easy mommy today, making cookies, cuddling and watching Dancing with the Stars.  I didn’t want to be the mommy who picks them up from school with the declaration, “Guess what we’re going to do today?  Flu shots!  Yeah!” 

So when I picked up the girls, I had it in my mind that I was going ahead with my easy mommy plan.   We come home for the traditional afterschool snack/feeding frenzy and I decide to drop a casual, “Hey girls, we could get flu shots today at the high school.  But I think we should go another day.” 

Do you know what Sophie chirps?  “I wanna go!  Mommy!  Ooooooh – let’s go today!  I love the high school!”  Then Katie, who I thought the word “shot” would reduce her to quivering mush, chimes in, “Let's go – and get it over and done with!  Come on.  Will you hold my hand?” 

Who are these people, excited to get flu shots?   Their father’s daughters apparently.

 We went to the high school and I got a flu shot too.  We all held hands.  The day ended watching  Dancing with the Stars – and somehow, I came out as easy mommy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I think I need to buy some dark chocolate

Some days are just, meh. The past few have been like that.  Why have I been a little low you ask?  Well, there are always the ongoing energy draggers, like child-herding and meltdowns in the Payless shoe store and the ever-present, constant have-to-do’s of daily adult existence.  (Did I just call myself an adult – that really is enough for a girl to feel down.)

But what is currently weighing on my mind is the hugeness of the task in front of me -of trying to get this blog and writing life some wings.  

I have moments like right now, when I am reading other writer’s fantastic blogs.    I am amazed at the discipline of posting multiple times a week.   I see that they have hundreds (thousands!) of people liking them on facebook, advertising all over many of their blogs, twitter feeds, plus the regular jobs and daily loads of laundry that they must do and I wonder, how do they accomplish all of this?  I know the answer can be simple, hard work, decent writing and a cleaning person once a week.  And I have two out of the three.  But this is when I do a dangerous loop-de-loop and I spiral down with self-doubt and I wonder, does the world really need another blogger?  Where do I begin?  How late do these people stay up every night if they post four times a week?  Am I PMS-ing?

I am not trying to have a public pity party on the woe is me express, nor am I fishing for empty compliments like the annoying skinny girl asking her friends at the sleepover party, “Is my butt fat?”.  Just having a moment.   You know how that is.   

I write to connect - I have stories to share.   I write to be heard and to be myself - I have never wanted to write anonymously.   I admit, my creative life inspires visions of grandeur and dreams of travelling the country on a book tour.   I imagine Tina Fey and me going over last minute changes to a script at Silvercup Studios in Queens where she will be as inspired by me as I am by her.   For the moment though, I am grateful for each person that reads my words.  I do jumpy claps when ever another person likes me.   If I keep on writing it, more will come – with a dedicated effort every day, some more social media savvy and a big dose of self-confidence thrown in there for good measure. 

And someday soon, a cleaning person once a week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Maybe she has been listening to me all these years...

In the mayhem of school morning get ready time., Sophie looks at me and declares, “Mommy, I am bringing my diary to school to share with Abby.”  My instant reaction, accompanied by a finger wagging, neck pop and lock is, “Oh no you are not.  That is your private diary.  That should not leave the house.”  Sophie tosses back, “Relax Mooooom.  I am just sharing with Abby and she is my friend.  She’s bringing hers too – she will be disappointed if I don’t bring it.”  We were at a standstill.  Sophie wanted to bring her diary and I was adamant in my position that diaries do not belong in school, mainly because,  “It could get into the wrong hands.  People can be mean.  They will read it and make fun of you and use it against you.”

   If we were being filmed for observation by a wildlife documentary show, this is the point where David Attenborough would whisper, “In her zeal for protection, notice how the mother bear defends her position and tries to maintain her dominance.  Unfortunately she is oblivious to her young cub’s attempt to assert her new burgeoning independence.  Let’s watch and see what happens.”

 All I wanted to do for Sophie was use this as a ‘teachable moment”.  I wanted her to understand how special a private diary is to a person.  How happy I was for her that she wrote down her thoughts , and BFF’s and BFFFL and lingo third grade girls use to express themselves.  I also wanted to prevent any of this private information from getting out into the general school public.  I wanted to protect her from something that could happen.

This is where my position that morning went awry.  I was the one that needed a teachable moment, the one that says I cannot prevent bad things from happening to my girls, and the embarrassments that happened to me as a kid won’t necessarily happen to Sophie and Katie.  I needed to remember that in certain situations,  I cannot tell Sophie what to do.  I have to learn how to trust her to make up her mind.   She could get burned sometimes.  That’s life.  I can’t prevent bad things from happening to her.

                As she stood in front of me -defiantly respectful - Sophie  lays this final push on me, “It’s my body and my diary.  I can make decisions about my body and nobody knows my body better than me.   That’s what you tell me.” 

                The standstill was broken and she brought her diary to school.   Nothing happened.  No one stole it and announced her eight year old crushes on the loudspeaker at school.  Her friend didn’t whisper about her behind her back.    But now she knows that bringing her diary to school is not allowed.   

Monday, September 26, 2011

Clean-up in Isle 5

It is one of the last warm days of the season.  A sweet gift that Mother Nature placed gently in my lap with a pleasing smile and a little wink – because we know that this is the end of summery weather.    Just around the New England corner it will turn chilly and well, you know what happens next.  And don’t say ski-season – because I don’t ski.

Knowing that today was going to be warm and sunny and everything that I love, I had a day planned around this seasonal swan song.  I wasn’t called into school to work, so I was going to get my house stuff done and out of the way and spend a good chunk of the day writing.  And then – I was open.  A walk and some yoga on the beach and then I was going to take the girls afterschool for ice cream downtown.  My intention was to be productive and be outside.  I was going to go to the beach – and be super fun mom with ice cream treats by the water on a warm, sunny day.

And then, I received the dreaded phone call from the school nurse. 

“Hi Stephanie, this is the school nurse.  I have Katie here.  She threw up in class.”

“Really?  My Katie?  Are you sure?”   (I could feel the nurse rolling her eyes at my question.)

“Yes, I’m sure.  You should come get her.”

Of course I got her.  And she was looking pale and pasty and droopy– nothing like the bouncy girl that I kissed goodbye on the lips an hour prior.  She looked like a little girl who just barfed in a waste paper basket in her class – apparently her teacher had quick reflexes.  (Thank You!)

As I helped her out of her dress, into PJ’s and settled her in on the couch with a blanket and the throw-up pot, I had to resist the internal urge to feel a little pissy about the situation.  “Damn,” I thought to myself, “This is not how I envisioned my day.  It is too gorgeous to be inside with a barfy daughter.  Rats!”  I mumbled and grumbled and tried to get over it.  It’s not like she planned on getting sick to be a brat and ruin my plan to walk on the beach.

Isn’t this the beauty, the reason why I have a flexible job – so when I get the barf call I can drop anything and zip right over and scoop up my girl?  Isn’t this part of my job description – no matter how beautiful the weather or planned out my day. Sometimes it all has to stop and I have to change everything I thought I was going to do.  As I worked out my mood I came to realize that it is one of the aspects of parenting that I am good at – I am a flexible person.  As much as I need to work on organizing I am very adept at being adapdable.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cruise Control

This house is quiet and it is kinda freaking me out.  For the first time in nine weeks I have been alone in the house for hours at a time.  The girls are in school - that beautiful, exciting, noisy place for six hours.  Even though they are in there for six hours, somehow it translates into feeling like only about two for me.  Similar to the human/dog years ratio.  For every three hours the girls are out of the house it only feels like one.

                I am not in any way, shape or form begrudging this blissful time alone.  What I am experiencing is a temporary adjustment period.  I am not all weepy when dropping them off at school, clutching and sniffling into their clothes while they are at school.  But there is a little getting used to moment for me.

 I spent two months being a drill sergeant, camp counselor and chirpy Julie McCoy cruise director every moment of the day.  From the moment I woke up it was a steady, forward motion – “Girls, get on your bathing suits, put yer sunscreen on!  Let’s make lunch, pack it up, find your flip flops, and turn off the TV! ” The girls responded with a similar barrage of demands, “Momma!  Can we have ice cream, momma watch me jump in the water!  Momma did you see that perfect hand stand!  Momma I need a Band-Aid!  Momma!”   

Every day the girls asked the question, “What are we doing today?” I answered clearly and consistently.  We went to the beach and the pool and visited friends, went through cases of sidewalk chalk, ate ice cream and picked blueberries.  We squeezed every ever-lovin’ drop out of our summer– we are all tan and happy.

                And now, my motivation in the form of two highly energetic daughters has changed.   I have to be my own cruise director – and that is not so easy.  I feel hung-over from the summer.   Every day I want to do everything and nothing.  I want to read all afternoon.  I don’t want to spend my time cleaning, but I want to clean that damn shelf in our living room that makes me grrrrr every time I pass by it.  I want to get back into yoga. The list for the cruise director is endless.   For today, I was able eat lunch without talking to anyone.  Baby steps.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eight is Great

My darling, powerhouse of a first born daughter, Sophie, turned eight years old this month.  To quote her card, “Eight is great!”  It really is.  She is the epitome of girl power self confidence.  School is an amazing place and math is not intimidating but an exciting challenge.  She rides a bike with no hands, and when she grows up she wants to be a basketball player and go to graduate school.   I want to preserve this moment in time for her – before girls become catty and she thinks her butt is too big and she still thinks that I am cool and beautiful and I have the answers to her all of her questions.

Since her first birthday, I have always felt that it was a very important day for ME.  I gave birth.  I experienced a life changing and defining moment.  My soul and girl parts will never be the same again. Sophie was just there – she has no recollection of her birth-day, but I surely do.   

 Until this year.  Something shifted inside of me.   I was able to look at her, not as my daughter that I can lay claim to and think, “Look at what I did today!” But as Sophie - an energetic eight year old girl who is excited about her birthday, a special day just for her. 

It has taken me eight years to understand that Sophie’s birthday is about her.  It is not about what I experienced that day.  It is all about celebrating Sophie.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Writer's Block

I love the season of summer.  I love all things beachy, chloriney and sandy. I don’t mind being sweaty and hot and I dream about the summer in the dead of winter.   If I didn’t have to do the dishes and make three meals a day, I could write a book of sonnets professing my undying love for the fleeting season of summer.  Since June, I think we have consisted on a diet of hot dogs, ice cream and Fritos. 

But I have come to realize something – the summer wreaks havoc on my creative life.  When the girls were in school and I was working part time, I settled into the best writing groove I have had for years. I wasn’t a prolific writer by any stretch.   I wasn’t following the Artist’s Way and writing three pages upon waking and then settling into a thousand words a-day by noon rhythm,  But for the first time in years I could write a few times each week  – by myself.   I didn’t have to feel pointlessly guilty by plopping them in front of a show or feel drained by trying to write at 10 pm after a full day.  It was decadent to write at ten in the morning without a child in sight.   Sadly at the zenith of summer, I have come to realize that  I have barely written in the past five weeks.  My last post was in June.  My journal has cobwebs. 

I try with all my might to not complain about the stretch of summer vacation for the girls.  I don’t want to be that hag mother at the pool bitching about the heat and rolling her eyes when her kids ask for another snack, asking out loud to all the mommies at the pool, “How many more days until school starts?” 
 Although, how can any person not get a little nuts.  Sophie, Katie and I spend fourteen waking hours with each other, every single day.

I fear that I am becoming dangerously close to being that crazy lady.  I already had a moment last week in the frozen food isle of the supermarket, where the girls were pecking me endlessly with, “Mommy, mommy, mommy.  I want Coco Puffs.   Mommy, Mommy, mommy.  I want to push the cart.  Mommy, mommy, do you need any tampons?  Mommy, mommy…”  I stopped my full grocery cart next to the Hot Pockets.  I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, and said, out loud, “Dear, sweet baby Jesus and Mother Mary.  Please give me the strength with these children.  Give me guidance Mary.   Help me have patience with these creatures, so they understand that I am human, and not a machine and I will not get them Coco Puffs.  Help me get to the checkout line.  Help me not leave my children at the Market Basket.  Thank you Jesus.” 

I called the babysitter.  She is playing Uno with my girls right now. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We're here! We're queer! Get used to it!

I discovered my kinship for gay men when I was at Emerson College.  Emerson was dedicated to the arts.  It was a place where performance ruled and people got to re-invent themselves and some magic happened.  From my point of view, it was a safe place where people could discover and explore being gay.  I befriended many of these guys and we danced the night away, watched and studied every move Liza Minnelli made in Cabaret.  We went to parties, trying to out do and out funny each other at every turn.  They sharpened my funny bone and helped make it what it is today. 

After my brief, but wondrous stint at Emerson I moved back to New York City, where, you guessed it, my love for all boys gay continued.  They were everywhere and I couldn't have been happier.  The guys I meet were creative, scathingly funny and loved to go out and have fun - traits that I admired and thrived on.  My jobs seemed to draw them to me.  I worked one summer as a bar-tender at private parties on Fire Island.    Another job I had was the office girl for a small PR firm owned and operated by gay men.  One Halloween my husband and I dressed up as Axl and Slash from Guns-n-Roses.  I was Axl, and I wore a flannel shirt, bandanna in my hair and a pair of white, skin tight bike shorts. To give the costume that final touch of authenticity,  I stuffed my shorts to re-create Axl's sweet and prominent bulge.  We went to a wild gay Halloween party that night -  I got felt up by gay boys all night long.

Ahhhh, those were my gay salad days.  I miss those days so very much.

I don't know what happened.  I moved out of the city stopped working in restaurants, had a couple of kids and here I am now, without a single gay friend in my town. 

I'd like to think for a married woman with two kids, I have a happening and solid social life.  But, I am missing my gays.  There is nothing in the world like a gay friend - and I need one -one that lives in the same town as me.  I have been on the search lately - I feel as though I am looking to pick some gay men up for fun and friendship.  But either my gaydar is sorely out of practice or there just aren't many rotating in my circle.  I have come across a few gays, but either they live too far away or the timing wasn't right.

Then at the supermarket last week, I spotted a gay couple - with a kid!  I tried to pace our food shopping together, but that didn't work because I didn't want to look like a stalker.  I kept trying to find a reason to talk to them, "Oh, I love the peaches they have in store right now, so tender!"  But everything seemed forced.  I even considered walking up to them and just laying my cards out on the table, "Hi!  I'm Stephanie!  I love Elizabeth Taylor and Rufus Wainwright and I really would love to be your friend."  I wasn't feeling it.  By checkout time, our paths never crossed and I wistfully watched my chance at gay love drive away.

 These guys could be militant right-wing Republicans for all I know but I haven't stopped thinking about how I am going to talk to them next time I see them.  It is not that big of a town.  Everyone has to eat, they will be at the supermarket again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The big "O"

  Our neighbor's daughter was selling magazines as a fundraiser and she never comes to hit us up for anything, so I felt compelled to buy.   I broke down and I bought "O" the Oprah magazine.  The magazine choices were slim and I despise any sort of parenting magazine for many reasons. I am convinced that their purpose is to make you a paranoid freak about your child's health and give you an inferiority complex that you are never a good enough mother.   My primary distaste for parenting magazines comes from the abundance of recipes that make food into an object.  It isn't enough to just feed your children healthy and daily.  These magazines pressure mothers into thinking we are supposed to entertain our children with each meal.  My hackles are raised at the sight of  'pine cone treats' which is some cracker, cheese, almond concoction to represent a pine cone, "spooky fingers", with red nails made from fruit leather or any sandwich made into animals or smiley faces.

 It depresses me to know that there are writers (ahem!) who have been trying to get their work published in a national magazine, so they can get paid, and the editorial board at Conde Nast is deciding, "Hmmm.... we could run this funny and poignant piece about women being supportive of each other at the playground or we can do a story about Halloween and make grapes into eyeballs!  Eyeball grapes it is!"

 I open the latest "O" and one of the feature stories is about the women behind the scenes at the Oprah show.  I start looking at their makeover outfits and doing the traditional scoffing at the price of the dresses (because really, who pays $620 dollars for a dress?! Not even my wedding dress cost that much). 

Then I start reading their job titles and ages of the women featured in the article.  Senior Supervising Producer - 43, Production Designer - 45, Senior Booking -39.  As I read on I started on the dangerous and unproductive downgrade of questioning and comparing myself to these women.   Before I knew it I had begun the traditional questioning of,  "what the heck am I doing with my life?" and ending with "why don't I have a Very Important Job like them -  and we are the same age!?"

I don't know why I make that wrong turn into the valley of comparing my life's journey against another.  It is one thing to be inspired by accomplishments and set goals for myself.  That sounds healthy and productive.  It is not productive to keep going over in my head stewing that I am not a senior producer for the Oprah show, and how come I am not going to a television studio everyday working on some seemingly glamorous job.  The thing is, it's not like I ever had dreams pursuing a career as a television producer - so I am not sure where this jealousy is coming from. 

Or maybe I do know where it is coming from.  I have gotten into the bad habit of comparing myself to others and telling myself the untruth that 'they' are better than I am.  That she is more successful and better.  Maybe it started when I became a mother and all of the bravado and cocky self confidence I had in my 20's was crushed.   I was so unsure of myself as a new mother.  My brain was filled with a constant internal voice of self doubt.  I was convinced that every other woman out there was giving birth with less tearing, breast feeding better, skinnier than me, their houses were cleaner and generally happier and more joyful about mothering than I was.  I resented any mommy blogger or writer out there who said she wrote with their baby perched happily on her lap or grabbed what ever time they could write while their baby napped.  My first child napped in about the time it took for me to take a crap and when she was on my lap, I couldn't write if you held a gun to my head.

 I don't think I wrote a sentence for two years or said a kind word to myself either.

Years later, that droning self-doubt in my parenting abilities has slowly evaporated.  I am feeling that confidence again - it is like a muscle that I have to work at every day - and boy was it flabby!  I kick-ass and I remind myself of this fact on a daily basis.   I laugh and do that old Saturday Night Live sketch with Stewart Smalley, where I say, "I'm good enough.  I'm smart enough.  And gosh darnnit, people like me!"  But I do have to work on that demon of comparing myself to others.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mundane Monday

When Sophie was an itty bitty and Katie was a twinkle in my eye, we all took a trip to visit friends who had two children.  Their kids were potty trained, going to school kinda kids.

 I love staying at a friend's home, because you spend some good meaty time together.  You are like roommates on good behavior for a few days, negotiating eating, cooking and bathrooms.  I enjoy being a guest (and having them in my home) because I snag a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a family. I can see what they have in their fridge, how they discipline (or don't) and a new aspect that I discovered on that visit - how laundry was handled.

At some point I had to put some clothes in the drier that got wet from the pool.  Simple enough.  I entered the laundry area, and I was floored by the huge, overflowing piles of clothes that spilled everywhere, from the tops of the washing machines, to the floor and out of various hampers.  Surveying the area it wasn't clear what was clean, dirty or a sedimentary layer from the Paleozoic area.  I tossed my damp clothes into the drier and stole one more look at the mayhem. I stood in the hallway viewing the carnage, mentally wagging the finger of  judgement at my friend's laundry room.

I talked about this wreck of a laundry room for weeks after the visit.  I made sweeping pronouncements to my husband that we would never, ever let our laundry situation get that far our of hand.  "I mean, we have a washer and dryer right in the house!  It couldn't be more accessible than that!  Walk three feet, toss some soap and clothes in - boom - we're done!" 

It is easy to be judgemental.   I did it more when the girls were little and I was unsure of my own strength.  I hadn't built up the self-confident parenting muscles that I have today.  I still judge though - it is a bad habit and I am cutting down.   Really.

But back then,  I was so clueless.  I had no idea the shit storm of dirty clothes that would follow with two kids.  At the time of laundry judgement Sophie was a baby.  There were barely three of us in the house. We hardly made a mess.

Cut to -  my day today and the large slice of humble pie I ate and the hulking giant of laundry that needed to be slayed.   I spent three hours this afternoon sorting, folding and washing clothes.   A small dent was made before I had to stop and pick up the girls at school.  I just came back from round two.  One more hour and I have destroyed the laundry beast.  At least this time I had a glass of wine to drink to ease the pain of the calluses that formed on my fingers from all of the folding.

 Now we have the problem that since every single piece of clothing in the house is clean - we don't have enough drawer space to fit it all.

So to my friends whose laundry room I judged - I am sorry. If you guess it is your home that I am writing about - I owe you a few rounds of drinks - and the free reign make fun of me the entire time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

As the days go by

A good friend called me this morning.  We have known each other since we were single and untethered  and luckily we embarked on this parenting journey at the same time.  We live a parallel existence, miles apart.   We talk often - we are a life raft for one another in this often overwhelming storm of mothering. 
"Give me some inspiration Stephanie!" she said.    I laughed.  I snorted.  I picked up the 409 and got to cleaning the crumbs and smears of peanut butter on my kitchen counters.  I usually clean while we talk, because I hate the drudgery of cleaning.  I talk on the phone while I clean so I can be distracted by the soul-suck of daily housework .

"Give me inspiration - Wow!"  I said, "Right now, I don't think I have any.  I am knee deep in just regular living.  We have yard work to do.  Laundry to fold.  Kid birthday parties to attend.  Everything is so...regular.  Normal.   I am not inspiring.  Not right now." 

It got me thinking about that great Talking Heads song, Once in a lifetime, that I have found myself often singing since I became a mother.  When the girls were barely two and a newborn, and I was in the endless custodial world of diapers and onsies and healing from birth I would find myself bleary eyed staggering through the house singing , "This is not my beautiful house!  This is not my beautiful wife?!"  The song got me through some low times.  I find myself turning to it again, but a new line keeps playing on repeat in my head, "You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

When did this normal existence happen?  How did I get here?

 As much as I fool myself into thinking that I am still this subversive, city dwelling twenty something, I am most certainly not.   I am a married woman with two children.  My husband and I have been together for 15 years.  We have a mortgage.  I drive a Subaru station wagon.  I belong to the frickin' PTA!  I cannot get more regular and normal than that.

 It is a mind-trick, this normal adult existence.  I carry around with the me the dorky, awkward eighth grader that I was and other times I am the girl in her 20's who rents an apartment and waitresses and I have all the time in the world to figure out who I want to be when I grow up.  Maybe I am starting to experience that time quickening phenomenon.  The cliche is true -  life speeds up.   And since forty is a reality, I know that sooner than I realize, fifty will be here.  And that is a whole other world of adulthood - there is no denying your age at that point.   I still have a threadbare safety net of youth left.  My kids are in elementary school, I can pass for thirty-nine.  But not for much longer. 

My questioning should not be confused with being unappreciative.  I am deeply grateful for our health and home and the butterflies and the financial fact that we can afford to buy organic foods and shoes when we need.  I love that the girls and I ride our bikes in the morning to school.  I love the ritual of afterschool snacks and dinners together.  And even though I could do without the housework, I love our home that Cliff and I and the girls are creating together. I have no desire to pack us all up and live off the grid in Canada.  I am happy with where I am. 

 I am simply dumbstruck with the feeling that this normal life seems to have snuck up on me.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Last week the girls and I took our annual tri-state area spring break road trip. For the past three years, I pack up the car and visit my parents in Connecticut and then fan out to various friends in the New York tri-state area.  I have close, generous friends who open up their homes to the three ring circus of the Lazenby girls. I try to be a good house guest, bringing food and wine and my own bedding. I love this trip and I want to be asked back by my friends.

 Part of my purpose of the trip - besides trying to fill a week off from school - is to expose my girls to my homeland and the people that I come from.   This corner of the Northeast is not multi-cultural  - it is very white.   I feel that it is important for the girls to get into a city and hear some noise, see people in different colors and hear forgein languages being spoken. It is a good lesson for myself too, in how to handle questions on the subway asked in a loud kid voice of - "Mommy, everyone in here has darker skin than us - do you see?" I see.  And it is true. 

 I started this trip years ago because I needed to prove to myself that I could still get a glimmer of that person I was before I had children.  I did it to prove to myself that I could be independent. Even though I was with them every moment of the day, taking a trip like this was the great duality - I was in a place where I remembered the free, childless person I was, yet, I was very responsible for these little people that were my children. 

It takes balls and planning and patience to road trip for a week with young children. Most day I have two out of the three.  We don't have video screens in the car, so we do it without movies or downloaded television shows.  The girls pack books and pencils and notebooks and with the advent of Pandora we can sing Katy Perry and Madonna for miles and miles.  I may love my dirty rock & roll, but having this girls has allowed me to indulge in my love of sugar pop music. 

This trip is important because it gives me a break from being a daily task master.  A barking sargent, hoisting them (and myself) out of bed and getting ready for school.  I feel as though I say "No" too much as a mother.  No to junky snacks, no to play dates because it is a school night, no to television.  As a mother, I am constantly monitoring, the girls and myself.  I am monitoring their manners, how much organic fruit they eat, how much sleep they get.   On these trips it is good reminder to myself that saying "YES!"  is fun for the girls - and myself.  

 Sophie shared with me her journal that she kept for our road trip.  Do you know the moments that stuck out to her for our week away?  The fact that at the aquarium she and Katie got Doritos and popcorn from the vending machine!  She thought staying up late with me and our friends to watch American Idol was "so cool!"  That although he was "wicked bummed" that she had hiccups at the Museum of Natural History it was "way awesome" that they got ice cream with sprinkles from a street vendor and they could sit on a bench and watch the people go by. 

"Yes" is a great word.  This trip really was a great reminder to use it more often in my daily life as a mother.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Oven Lovin'

For the past few years I have been cooking with an oven that works intermittently at best. My range has only two working burners. It started three Christmases ago, while I was roasting some sort of huge hunk of meat, and my oven began beeping with an ominous repeating display of F-5.

What F-5 meant was my oven just stopped working and I had eight people at my house to feed and the roast beast was medium raw at best.

Over the years I have learned how to adapt to my stove's incompetence. I know that once I turn my oven on, I may have to keep it on for hours at a time, because once I turn it off, it is done for the rest of the day. I have kept my oven on for eight hours at a stretch. I have been cooking on a daily basis, for my growing and always hungry family of four with only two burners. It has been a frustrating experience, because I really do enjoy cooking and feeding my family and friends. Some people out there that hate cooking. I am not one of them. (My hatred for CLEANING however will be another post!)

When owning a home, there is a never ending list of working parts to purchase and maintain just to keep the house treading water - such as a furnace (a luxury in New England) and washing machine. Unfortunately, the stove worked it's way down the list. We knew we needed a new one, but I kept muddling through, crossing my fingers while cooking our traditional Thanksgiving lasagna that F-5 didn't appear and shut the entire operation down.

Until the last six months. That frickin oven has taken a nose dive. The remaining two burners began to do what I called, "The Big Finish". I would turn the burner off, there would be a pause, and then, there would be a final poof! of blue gas flames. Safe. Very safe. And then the oven. I could not use it if I had the burners on - it was one or the other. And then when it was on, it would be inconsistent at best. Sometimes it stayed on long enough to roast a full chicken dinner. And then sometimes it would stop after 15 minutes, leaving me to slow roast brownies for hours using only the residual heat to complete the task.

I could not take it any longer. I meet Cliff at the door one Friday night like a crazy lady, screeching to the tune of "we're not going to eat dinner until 11o'clock tonight and if we don't get a frickin oven pronto! We're going to be eating take-out until it happens!"

And now, after much research and haggling on my part with salespeople (I love the haggle!) we just had a gorgeous, shiny, black stove delivered first thing Thursday morning.

I have to admit, it is taking some getting used to. The power and precision of the four burners. The oven turns on and off. And on again! I find myself a little clumsy when cooking. My rythym is off. It is like having a new lover. We need to get used to each other. It keeps catching me in the corner of my eye. I giggle when I walk by - I have even caught myself saying, "Oh, hi. Well, lookit you here. All new and wanting to be touched. I'll be right over." Excuse me for a moment. I have some cooking to do.