From Maine to Miami

When my husband first began meeting my extended family he had one question: what’s with all the turtlenecks?

“We’re from New England.” I explained.

When he spent more time with all of us, further questions arose about ‘itchy sweaters’ and handkerchiefs on call at all times and wool blankets. When he would visit my hometown in the winter, he would shiver and seem truly confounded on why any human being would actively choose this existence. The summers on the beach there helped explain the desire to live in New England on the water, but still, it clearly didn’t suit him.

Trying to get him to process that the first two and a half years of my life were spent in a town of 100 people in the White Mountains of Maine was no easier.

Once we began our own family we stayed in his neck of the woods – Washington, D.C. and then ended up in New York City and New Jersey. All somewhat of a compromise temperature-wise.

But then I made a decision for our family: we were moving to Miami. (Pitbull’s publicist clearly received my related press-release and knew it would make for a catchy summer hit.)

I know, you’d think the poor shivering soul would have been the one to make such a wild (and warm) decision, but it was me, with all sorts of motivations for family health and well-being.

Here’s what I didn’t take into consideration: my body – literally formed by my mother while living in the snowy mountains, whose first breaths were taken in alpine air, which was then raised where the winters chilled you to the BONE – was not made for tropical heat.

My body told me this for the first two months here in Miami. My ears and neck literally crisped up, no matter how much sunscreen I applied. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing perhaps my old turtlenecks could’ve come in handy…

These burns combined with relentless heat rash, creating a burning itchiness on my ears and neck and back that I could not sooth. My body was furious with me. And through it all my husband has been joyful, “I’ve never breathed better in my life! My skin feels so great here! I feel so healthy!” He was made for this.

The temperature has dropped to the 80s and I’ve learned to do this adult thing called ‘drying your hair’ which then allows for it to cover my neck and ears. It will all be okay.

But if you hear me tell an adorable little tale about a girl who made her way through the M’s of the East Coast – Maine, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Avenue (DC), Maryland, Manhattan, Maplewood, all the way to Miami – just know the truth is never as simple as the ridiculously alliterated tale at a cocktail party. (As I’m typing this I’m also suddenly making sense of so many awkward smiles when I tell stories at cocktail parties.)

So here I am, all the way from Maine to Miami, shivering in a very air-conditioned  Starbucks, wishing I had on a sweater. Preferably with a turtleneck underneath.

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Control and Chaos

I keep beating myself up about the fact that I haven’t made this blog a priority.  Whenever someone mentions that they wish I would post more I mentally kick myself for not focusing on this space and building it into what I know it could become if I nurtured it more.  I mean, that is obviously after I mentally question their stability for wanting to read even more of my strange ramblings.  I am always full of excuses when I return here after too long of an absence.  Although they truly aren’t excuses, they are valid reasons.  There are seasons in life and I’m in the trenches of my season of raising young kids.  Anything thrown in my path relating to that takes precedence over…well, anything else.  I have less friends, my husband and I go away together less (‘never’ counts as ‘less’, right?), my hair sees a styling tool about once a month, and this blog is tended to sporadically.  Do I wish I had more time for all of those things?  Of course.  But I know that there will be many seasons in my life where I will have time for those things…and will probably pine for the time when I was too busy making lunches, buying more shoes (WHEN do their feet stop growing?! It’s pure insanity.), and yelling at them to stop drawing on the palms of their hands to pause and straighten my hair.

Still, I am trying to find balance because what are we as women if not masochistic beings always trying to ‘have it all’?  There are two other moms on our street and we are starting a book club.  This kills two birds with one stone, as I will be forced (gladly) to spend time with friends AND (hold onto your hats, guys) read books!  Also, I have managed TWO mani/pedis in the past month.  And my husband and I do manage to hang out every night, which is something until we can figure out how to finagle that elusive weekend away just the two of us.

I’m really trying.

But the writing has found it’s way to the back burner, surrounded by flames of guilt.

(Okay, my descriptions may be a little overzealous when I’ve been away from a keyboard for this long.)

Thankfully (WHY isn’t there a sarcasm font yet?!), life this year has had a way of forcing me back to writing.  It’s the best way for me to process crappy or stressful situations and there have been plenty in 2013.  Cancer, surgery, failed friendships, cancer in people I love, a surgery for Xavi (not blog fodder; it sucked; he’s fine now), packing while pregnant (NEVER again), unpacking while pregnant (NEVER again), and renovating while pregnant (only SATAN would want you to wash dishes in a tiny bathroom sink for two months while subsisting on pizza and bagels).

I have referred to the baby growing inside of me as the light of 2013 many times.  His arrival is the happy moment we have been waiting for.  So when I saw the doctor last Friday and she sent me for an ultrasound later that day at the hospital, I was unnerved to say the least.  We were told after the ultrasound and some monitoring that my amniotic fluid levels were high and that he had moved from head down to breach.   They wanted me to come back on Monday for another ultrasound once I was technically 39 weeks.  To say that this weekend was anxiety-filled would be an understatement.  I just wanted to know if he was okay and what our next steps were.  Instead, we waited.  Okay, and I may have Googled possible causes or results of extra fluid.  Horrible idea.  Medical information really should be banned from Google.

We went for another ultrasound today and as far as the baby’s well-being is concerned, all the news was great.  Somehow my fluid levels are completely normal now and while he is still breach, the position of his neck is less concerning.  However, his position in general and movements basically make a manual version impossible and simply waiting for labor to begin will almost certainly result in a last minute c-section since the chance of him suddenly moving into head down at 39.5 weeks is unlikely.  So, we are scheduled for a c-section delivery this Wednesday.  Baby boy is cutting it close with not being a creepy Halloween baby.  Sorry to all the Halloween babies out there.  But…yeah.

All of this has been more overwhelming than I would have thought.  For the most part, we were just really concerned about the health and safety of this little guy.  But frankly, I am also bummed that after two drug-free births I now have to be totally drugged up and cut open.  Oh, and a tiny bit terrified of that whole cut open thing.  How many times do I need to get sliced, 2013?!

I am totally going to have appendicitis on December 31st if I understand this year’s sense of humor.

This year has done a good job of teaching me that we can’t control everything.  Or even most things.  You can never know what is waiting around the corner, good or bad.  And you can never know how a situation will truly play out, no matter the level of your own preparation or planning.  I know a c-section isn’t the worst thing in the world, but this is almost certainly our final pregnancy and coming at the end of an intense year, I was hoping it would be the peaceful event we had planned.  So, let me just put this loudly and clearly into the universe:  I get it.  This lesson has officially been learned.  I am not in control of what happens in life, only of how I respond. I. Get. It.

Now can you please teach me something a little more fun in 2014, like ‘Sometimes you magically lose weight without trying!’,  ‘You can’t win a contest you don’t enter!’ or even a lesson about the importance of fitting in showers more than twice a week?  I’d just like a break from this whole ‘I’ll cut you’ theme.

For now, we are an excited little group over here, waiting to meet our new son, brother, grandson and nephew.  I’m not sure I’ll have it in me to post right away afterward, but will try to at least put a photo of Facebook.  Although, if I do post, you are in for a real treat.  You think I’m a goofy open book?  Imagine me on pain meds mixed with the high of holding my new baby.  That blog post would BLOW YOUR MIND.

Let me just say that whatever you are into: prayers, vibes, thoughts, energy…we will take any and all of it that Wednesday goes smoothly and that this baby boy is healthy and comes into the world safely.  If you want to throw in there that I see less scalpels in the coming year, that’s cool too.

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First Day Failure

The photos had already been pouring in on Facebook and Instagram.  The First Day of School was upon us.  Since our sons didn’t start until the 9th, I had a week or two to see  tons of adorable ideas plastered all over social media.  Bento box lunches, lunchbox notes, handmade signs being held by pudgy hands underneath proud grins, declaring which grade they were about to begin. Not to mention perfect little outfits and Pinterest-worthy back-to-school breakfasts.

The truth is that I want to do all of those things, I try to do all of those things and sometimes?  Sometimes I even succeed.

But this year?

Oh man. We failed.  We failed so hard.

The failure began the night before, really.  We had planned to get them into bed early but somehow stories weren’t over until 8:45 and Xavi didn’t fall asleep until after 9:00.  This was a bad omen, but I chose to ignore it.  As the night wore on, what had seemed like an innocent slightly sore throat turned into a raging, raw, swollen throat disaster.  I couldn’t breathe, swallow or sleep.  Around three am, while on a trip to go spit in the bathroom sink, I heard heavy footsteps behind me.  Thinking I woke up my husband, I started to apologize but he told me that he couldn’t sleep either because his ear was in excruciating pain. We all woke up excited the next morning.  Okay, the adults couldn’t wake up since we never technically went to sleep, but we were truly excited.  As the boys showered, I went into their room to lay out their First Day of School Outfits.  But wait…oh, that’s right, I hadn’t bought any!  They made do with decent shorts and year-old navy polos.  To add to the excitement, my husband was going into work an hour late so that he could be there to see both boys off on their first day.  Yay!  We haven’t had breakfast together as a family in months!

Shoot.  Breakfast.  Why hadn’t I planned ahead for breakfast?!  Carlitos wanted a shake but I didn’t want to wash out our big blender in our tiny bathroom sink. (Have I mentioned our remodeling has left us without a kitchen for almost two months?)  Xavi wanted cereal but I realized we didn’t have anymore paper bowls or plastic spoons. (Later, I realized I had already unpacked our real bowls and spoons.  And that my pregnancy brain is now functioning at about 35%.)

Eight minutes later and I was rushing through the front door with fresh, piping hot…muffins and breakfast sandwiches from Dunkin Donuts.  Yeah, not so healthy, special or hearty.

As we yipped and yapped in circles at each other to Hurry up!  Put on your shoes!  Find your backpack!  Brush your teeth!  Put on pants!  (That last one was directed at me.) I suddenly remembered that my kids consume food even when not in my care.  And that things like ‘lunch’ and ‘snack’ typically fall to, you know, their caregiver.  As you can imagine, Carlitos’ bento box contained no veggie concoctions that resembled Lego airplanes.  In fact, it didn’t even contain any protein, because I had planned on sending nuts and suddenly realized I had no idea if it was a nut-free school.  I later found out that it is nut-free so at the very least I had a Winning Mom Moment by not accidentally sending in little pieces of deadly matter with my son on his first day.  That’s a plus.

As we pulled up to Carlitos’ school, it dawned on me that I didn’t know where his letter was that told us his teacher’s name.  I managed to recall what area of the front lawn he was supposed to report to and that the teacher’s name began with a Z.  Thankfully, that was enough.  Xavi and I stayed in the car so he wouldn’t have to re-buckle in before we sped to his drop-off.  I watched from the car window as my husband proudly walked Carlitos to the correct spot and waited for the teacher to come out and gather her ducklings in a line.  Just as my husband returned to the car, out of the corner of my eye I saw Carlitos sprinting toward us.  We both yelled for him to stop, scared he might keep on running across the street in order to reach the car.  He stopped and I immediately saw the freaked out look on his face that tells me tears are on their way.  My husband rushed over to him and walked him back up to the front door, where he had to pass him off to the principal since parents aren’t allowed inside during morning drop-off.   It turns out that somewhere in between his teacher saying ‘I’ve got him!’ and then walking inside, Carlitos had moved into a nearby line from a different class.  The poor kid had never stepped foot in the school before and had no idea what to do.  My husband was upset with himself for walking away before he actually saw Carlitos enter the building, but I am just so thankful we hadn’t yet pulled away.

By the time we were ready head toward Xavi’s school we were running ten minutes behind schedule.  We both also had distracted minds as we hoped that Carlitos had found his way into the correct classroom and wasn’t roaming the halls lost and crying.   With the mayhem, we ended up being late as we pulled up to Xavi’s school so again I sent my husband in with him and went to go park the car.  By the time I got inside Xavi was already playing and, ahem, too busy to even give his mommy a kiss goodbye.  I know it’s much  better than tears and clinging, but it also wasn’t quite the relaxed, special moment I had hoped to savor.

My husband and I looked at each other, shrugged, and started back to the car. Before we left the parking lot I made him try calling Carlitos’ school.  They were so helpful and called the classroom to confirm that yes, Carlitos had in fact made it into the correct room with the correct teacher and was not upset at all.

I hung up, looked over at the father of my children, and burst into tears.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “you still have one more on the way.  You won’t be alone for long.”

He didn’t understand at all.  And yet, he understood perfectly.

So, in case you noticed that my Instagram feed didn’t have my sons standing next to a chalkboard with ‘Preschool!’ and ‘First Grade!’ written on it as they beamed smiles from underneath perfectly parted and slicked hair, now you know why.  There was no perfection this year.  We simply managed to get them there.  By the skin of our teeth.  No frills.

We took them to Benihana that night to celebrate their first days, both of us pretty much white-knuckling it through as his ears throbbed and my throat swelled.  It was the least we could do.  I am hoping that any memories they have of their first days of school in this new town revolve around onion volcanoes and shrimp tails being flipped into chef hats.

And next year, well, next year there will be a chalkboard and brand-new shirts and maybe even a sandwich shaped like a robot.


We will do our best.  And at the very least I am hoping I can provide some breakfast cereal in bowls with spoons.  Like a boss.

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I’d Rather Just Know What’s New With YOU

I distinctly remember smiling last night as I thought of two excellent blog post ideas.  Things I really wanted to talk about and that would be fun to write. Once I got Xavi down for his nap today, I rushed to the computer…and realized I had no recollection of either topic.  Zilch.  Why I thought I could keep two complete thoughts in my head all night with ‘thyroid/pregnancy/moving/mom brain’ is beyond me.  Frankly, I’d like to wipe that smile off my face.

Of course, it shouldn’t have been so long since my last post anyway.  But you know me, I am nothing if not full of excuses!  Wait – that sounds horrible.  Oh well, I admit that it’s true.  It has been a long month and a half since our move.  There was packing, moving, helping the boys adjust, and so much work being done on the house.  It is all cosmetic, but it is still taking way more time than I imagined.  (I think I heard from one or 6 thousand people that remodeling a home will always take longer and cost more than was planned.  Turns out, they were correct.  Hate that.)  I would really just be happy if we could use our kitchen. My stomach can’t handle another bagel or muffin.  Neither can my chins.

And also if there were only, say, five shades of a light neutral with green undertones to choose from, rather than five hundred.  That would be cool.

First world problems aside, it has been fun gardening, letting the boys run around their yard and play on their new swing set (!!!), swimming at the town pool and using paint fumes as an excuse to go spend lots of time visiting the grandparents…who happen to each live at the beach.

I am also having a serious struggle with time right now, amidst all of this chaos.  I want it to speed up: I can’t wait to hold this baby in my arms instead of on top of my bladder, my fantasies currently consist solely of making steel cut oats, soaking beans, blending breakfast smoothies,  and roasting vegetables, and I keep having urges to go for a run or dip into a kickboxing class.  But I also want it to slow down: Carlitos is about to be in first grade and Xavi in his first year of preschool and these are the final months of my final pregnancy.  I want to savor the next few weeks and months.  Not to mention, my crows feet have been much more noticeable lately, so it would be great if time could slow down on a larger scale also, please.  I mean, if you’re listening, Father Time.  (Who am I kidding?  He’s not going to sympathize with a few eye wrinkles.)

Honestly, I have just been trying to manage this home remodel, be a decent mom and wife, and keep my weight out of the 500s.  I’m scraping by, guys.  Which has left very little time for much on the friendship front beyond texts and emails.  I guess it’s good I have less friends than ever, eh? (No, it isn’t a technical error that the link took you to Huffington Post.  Yes, I am still pretty giddy about it.)

That is pretty much the extent of check-in I can handle right now.  You totally got more time from me than anyone else has received in the past two months, so don’t start ya whining.

Here is a better idea, anyhow: Why don’t you share how YOUR end of summer is going?  In all honesty, that would make me* day.

*Despite appearances, I do actually proofread posts before putting them up.  So, I did see that I wrote ‘me’ instead of ‘my’ but I think it is due to the lengthy intro I wrote in complete pirate lingo for Carlitos’ upcoming birthday party.  My brain hasn’t stopped speaking Pirate since I wrote it.  Which means it was an organic mistake representative of me in this moment and not a typo.  Which means it stays.  If you don’t like it, yar probably a son of a biscuit eater.  Don’t make me give ye a taste of the cat!

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Leaving Brooklyn…In Style

We are so ready for this move to the suburbs.  So, so ready.  We did our time in Manhattan and then in Brooklyn.  We tried our best and have wonderful memories of both, but it is time to follow the other ‘three child families’ to the land of grass and guest rooms.  For us, the choice is clear.

But that doesn’t mean saying goodbye is any easier.  It’s always hard, no matter what excitement awaits you on the other side of change.  I have already explained the ache we felt about saying goodbye to Carlitos’ kindergarten teacher.  Our final playground play date with his classmates and neighborhood friends wasn’t any easier.  Following these adieus, we then planned a proper sending off from the city itself for our final weekend as New Yorkers.  The truth is, we will actually be able to get into the city a little bit faster from New Jersey than Brooklyn, so it isn’t as though we won’t be back often to explore.  There is just something different about coming in from another state, rather than another borough.

As luck would have it, Carlitos’ baseball team was scheduled to walk across Citifield at a METS game last Friday, the beginning of our final weekend before leaving Brooklyn.  Talk about a New York memory!  Although, it’s mostly a memory we will have to hold in our minds, since our child somehow didn’t hear us yelling his name from about three yards away, hence no actual photos of his face.

But you can see that ahead of time he was quite excited about the night…

The rest of the night was perfection, filled with hot dogs, peanuts, beer and some great plays by the METS.  Even the METS’ loss didn’t dampen the evening, as they were playing against The Nationals – a team with a special place in Carlitos’ heart since he was born in DC.  (Which you will learn within 5 minutes of meeting him.  He will find a way to slip it into conversation as quickly as someone who ‘went to school in Cambridge, MA.’  Not everyone is as proud of being a DC native as a Harvard  grad, but I respect his loyalty.)

Late Friday night the boys’ tias (and tio) arrived, bracing themselves for a 6:00 am wake up call from some very excited nephews.  The combination of a visit from family and our final weekend as Brooklynites, led us to pack our weekend with multiple activities, many that we had been meaning to get to and would finally check off our ‘NYC bucket list.’  Sesame Street allowed our guests a little extra time to sleep in, but by 8 am we were all tearing into bagels and a variety of schmears from Terrace Bagels (Our local bagel shop, which is touted by many as the best bagels in all of NYC, and certainly in all of Brooklyn).  We then headed off toward the subway to make our way to Roosevelt Island – a location we kept meaning to visit during the past four years.  When you have spent over a week in a steaming hot city, even the smallest addition of greenery and waters edge breeze makes you feel refreshed and recharged.  We strolled to the Amish Farmers Market I had read about to see if we could find treats for a picnic lunch on a grassy knoll overlooking the water.

Reality check:  I poked and prodded everyone along at a faster pace than they would have liked all the way to the market, as I feared it would close before we got there and then we ultimately found a grassy knoll to sit on overlooking the river and Manhattan, but it definitely still harbored broken glass and probably a used condom or two, just like any other grassy area on the big island across the way.

We picked up pickles, olives, freshly pressed juices, olive bread, rolls and jam and nibbled away while the boys climbed nearby trees.  Sometimes things don’t need to be idyllic to still be perfection.

(Despite the awkward face, Xavi actually loves olives just as much as the rest of our family…if not more.)

We then (truly) strolled back to the other end of Roosevelt Island in order to catch the air tram back into Manhattan.  Did you know that the tram to Roosevelt Island is simply one ride on your Metro card?!  I find this fact mind-blowing for some reason; and it certainly means everyone should check out this quiet little island getaway at least once.

Okay, Xavi doesn’t comprehend the word ‘stroll’ but the rest of us were definitely ambling along and soaking in the views and the beautiful weather.

We continued our NYC experience by taking a subway ride down to Chelsea so that we could stop at Doughnut Plant before heading over to The High Line.

Subway Style #1

Subway Style #2

Energized with sugar tinged doughnut flavors like Tres Leches, Rainbow Raspberry, Creme Brulee and Lavender, we headed toward The High Line to make our way to Chelsea Market via sunlight, native grasses and flowers and Mexican Popsicles, rather than oppressive heat and the delectable odor combination of dead rats/urine/BO that marks any walk along a NYC sidewalk in summer.

And were finally met with the cool indoors and food aromas of Chelsea Market.

We showed our family all of our usual favorite haunts, which included the kitchen supply store (Insider Info: Apparently after 3 pm their bakery closes and there are bags of bread out on the counter for customers to take for free.  It was the best rosemary roll I’ve ever had and a pretty good whole wheat baguette to boot!)  Then we all poured into The Filling Station, where we put ourselves into a vinegar and salt coma/craze from our tasting frenzy  (boys = craze, adults = coma/vinegar sweats) and left with plenty of containers of truffle salt, Ghost Pepper salt and pomegranate and apricot vinegar.

After being overcome by the spices in one of the stores in Chelsea Market, several people in our group requested Indian food for dinner but the best place my husband could find was down in the East Village…21 blocks away.  I had a bad feeling because I have learned that any time you make a decent-sized trek for a specific restaurant which you have never tried before, it somehow never meets expectations.  Long story short, we ended up at some tapas place in the East Village instead and it was pretty horrible on all fronts.

A subway ride back to Brooklyn, a buffalo chicken pizza from our local pizzeria and a few six-packs of beer (plus a pint of ice cream for the boys and I) and we were all happy campers again once we reached home.

Should have just gone with the pizza all along.

Somehow, it still all seemed perfect.  We went to new spots and old favorites and even managed to have some classic New York experiences like failing to find the right place for dinner, despite there being more than 4,200 restaurants in the city.

Sunday involved brunch at Westville in the West Village, where we devoured perfect egg dishes and a multitude of market sides made with every type of vegetable you can imagine.   Then we checked out the Pride Parade, which felt very poignant, considering DOMA had been overturned two days earlier.  There were certainly plenty of flamboyant characters in mesh and sparkles,  but the parade itself seemed much more subdued – comprised of many politicians, large companies such as Coke and AT&T, and floats that celebrated groups like SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) with many older couples being cheered so loudly it brought tears to my eyes.  The whole thing gave me chills – in a good way – and I am so happy that we were able to be there with family and the boys to witness a celebration that had such added meaning this year.

The rest of the afternoon was spent making snacks and relaxing at home while watching Wreck it Ralph until the tias and tio needed to journey back to Maryland.

Even though Monday through Wednesday was comprised mostly of me packing while the boys watched enough TV to make their brains truly turn to mush, we did sneak in a few more goodbye activities.  In between doctors’ appointments in the city, we visited The Museum of Natural History, since the ‘Dinosaur Museum’ has long been Carlitos’ favorite (and I think it’s quickly growing on Xavi, too).

And on our final day in Brooklyn, we took a packing break to walk to our neighborhood deli for sandwiches which we took to our local playground for lunch.  The boys had time for a few figure eights through the sprinklers and attempts at the monkey bars, before we headed back home.  We indulged in one final ice cream from our Italian Ice shop to keep us cool as we walked back.

The final week in Brooklyn was entirely bittersweet.  Again, we really aren’t moving very far and to be honest, none of this is the life I anticipated in any way, so it isn’t as though we are leaving a life I had always envisioned.  But we have made the best of our time in NYC and Brooklyn and somewhere along the way that turned into genuine love for the people and places that make New York what it is.  I sometimes forget that even though living in New York was a blip on the screen for my husband and I – as seasoned gypsies – it is where Carlitos has lived most of his life, and Xavi all of his.  It makes me feel at peace knowing that they had the send off they deserve as we depart from what they know as their hometown.

Even if I know we will be back often to visit both friends…and decent bagel shops.

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What it Means to Defend Paula Deen

I am a bit of a Facebook whore-ette.  (It’s not a vulgar word if you add ‘ette’ to the end of it, don’t you know.)  Many of you already know this.  I love to share and I love to be privy to the details of others’ lives and I love feeling connected to the outside world since, ironically, motherhood can often be an isolating experience.

Lately, I have seen many of those silly Facebook images getting passed around with a photo of Paula Deen and the question, “Should Paula Deen be forgiven for something she said 27 years ago?” “Yes = Like”

Mind you, ’27 years ago’ is bolded in a bright color.

In related news, I have been screaming at my computer screen a lot.

Here’s the truth, I have plenty of friends and family that are quite conservative, despite my personal liberal leanings. (Okay, the word ‘leaning’ is being used…liberally.  Made myself laugh on that one.)  I still love or care about these people.  I don’t find it necessary to delete them from my Facebook feed or my life and surround myself only with those who feel exactly the same as I do on all topics.  I do mostly scroll quickly by many of their posts or links, sure, but I can usually tolerate a difference of opinion, even when I believe very strongly in my differing opinion.

However, these Paula Deen posts are entirely maddening to me.  Their tone and ultimate message may not be any more conservative than other things posted by people I know, but it is the complete dumbed-down simplicity of the issue that has me yelling at the computer.  My husband isn’t on Facebook, but he reads a lot of newspapers and speaks with many people each day.  (Other common ways of communicating and figuring out what’s happening in the world if you aren’t a Facebook whore-ette like Yours Truly.)   Last night he mentioned to me that this whole ‘in support of Paula Deen argument’ was driving him nuts.  “You mean the ‘so she said one stupid word 27 years ago‘ argument?”, I asked.  (I didn’t mention that I had seen it on Facebook, as I have to admit that referencing my Facebook feed as an example of information-gathering to a man who won’t even be in the same room with reality TV makes you feel pretty silly.)  YES!, he responded.  Then we both kind of erupted with the same exact points at the same exact time.

We may have differing opinions about Facebook, but I love being married to a man who I can easily debate about many things, while knowing that on heavy, important topics we almost always get each other and are on the same page.

So, as I sat here fuming at my Facebook feed for the past few days, willing myself not to type something furious and snarky to any individuals, I thought to myself, “But however can I speak my mind without directly attacking those who are posting these silly things?”

Oh, that’s right, you have a blog, ya big dummy!  Use it to speak – not just about Mommy Sobbing and recipes with feta and urine (God, why is there so much urine?) – but about things that matter to you, about points that you want out there swimming around on the internet, giving counterpoints to memes that make you want to scream.

So, here is the thing guys, this whole ‘Paula Deen thing‘ isn’t about one stupid word she said 27 years ago.  People want to say that many others have used a word they regret many years ago.  This is probably true.  But guess why all of those people aren’t having it brought into the glaring light of 2013 in a printed transcript while on trial?

Because they aren’t on trial for being racist and sexist in the workplace. (These kinds of statements are the kind that deserve to be in bold, for future reference.)

Paula Deen is not watching her empire crumble because she used the n-word 27 years ago, as if someone randomly mentioned that fact and then Walmart decided to cut ties with her.  An employee of her and her brother’s restaurant brought a lawsuit against the two of them with multiple specific examples of racism and sexism in the workplace that they run and in several cases, enacted directly by Paula and Bubba to their employees.  It was during this trial about current examples of racism and sexism that it came to light that she also admits to using racial slurs in the past.

To clarify: The trial is not about a racial slur she used 27 years ago; The racial slur she used 27 years ago became one fact that supported the case against her regarding her offensive behavior today.

Beyond the frustration of hearing so many people simplify and water down this complex situation into a tiny spec of truth, twisted to make it seem insignificant, is the disheartening argument of  ‘everyone says (or has said) offensive things like this in private!  What?  Are we all racists?!’


I went on a date during my bachelorette days in Baltimore.  As we were driving home from the movies my date suddenly exclaimed, “Uh oh.  We are passing through n-ville!  Lock your door!”

I’m sorry, what did you just say?

“We are driving through n-ville.  This whole neighborhood is full of n-words.  Lock your door.”  (he didn’t censor himself, even the second time).

I was in shock.  Sure, I had seen tons of subtle racism in my life and had heard people tell jokes that were offense or make statements that left me uncomfortable.  But this was extremely blatant…and on a first date. This guy had no idea where my views lied and he felt comfortable throwing out words like that, assuming that because I was white I would be okay with it.  The little he did know about me was that I was a teacher in Baltimore and had spoken about how much I loved my students.  So I guess if he had half a brain he could have figured out that some of my students were black and that if I cared about them I probably wouldn’t want to hear that word.

My first response was to tell him that he was gross for speaking like that and that I wanted him to just take me home instead of out for a drink.  Now, he was the one in shock.  We had a heated discussion the whole drive to my place, during which he told me that I was being too sensitive and that this was how all white Americans spoke and felt.  He went on to tell me that he was positive that everyone from random cab drivers to my own father all spoke this way, whether I wanted to admit it to myself or not. Why he felt the need to bring my father – whom he had obviously never met nor knew anything about – into it, I have no idea (except I guess he was trying to convince me that all white people felt the same as he does), but it only made me that much more furious.  By the time we were near my home he asked, “You sure you don’t want to grab one drink?” Oh dear, this guy was a racist piece of crap, condescending and clueless. YES, I am sure! He then told me I was making him feel like some sort of monster, even though he was still sure that he was in the majority and I was the over-dramatic one.

And that is what I keep thinking as people try to support Paula Deen with claims of ‘But we have all said things like this at some point!”

Um, no, I don’t recall every dreaming up ‘slavery’ as one of the possible design themes of my wedding.  Sorry.

I have comforted a white friend immediately after she was held up at gunpoint by a black man.  Guess what word she never used?

And I know many people who have managed to run businesses for many decades without ever hearing complaints of racism or sexism from their employees.

It is 2013.  Enough is enough with trying to say that racist comments are no big deal and at the same time claiming racism is dead.  (Because somehow it seems to be the same people saying both things.)

Racism isn’t even close to being dead.  And the only way we have any chance of killing it is if we all admit that it is still peeking it’s ugly head around many corners every day.   Instead of trying to make yourself feel better by including all of us in your ‘we’ve all done it’ defense, how about you work on changing yourself instead?  How about we all make sure that our kids never hear us speaking disparagingly about other groups so that we can finally raise a generation that comes closer to actually being able to say racism is done.

Because when your kids hear you defending actions by a public figure like Paula Deen they become ingrained with the idea that those words and those ideas are okay.  If your kids are white that means they will continue to treat others that way and feel just fine about it.  If your kids are not white, it breeds the kind of self-loathing that is hard to undo.  (Because yes, not everyone posting things in defense of Paula Deen  is white or has white children.)  They are either learning that it is okay to treat others badly, or that it is okay for others to treat them badly.

Either way, we shouldn’t feel okay about teaching our kids those lessons.

And how about, when discussing something as deep and life-affecting as racism we use some intelligence and factual evidence, rather than a simplified meme that doesn’t even begin to touch upon the real point.   If you’re going to perpetuate racist behavior by defending racist behavior, at least do it with some intelligent dialogue so that others can feel comfortable responding with their own fact-based opinion, rather than resorting to shaking their fists at a stupid Facebook meme.

Or writing lengthy blog posts in order to lower their blood pressure.

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Graduation Celebration! (ie. Cryfest 2013)

I feel a ramble coming on.  You’ve received fair warning.

There is something about having kids that makes life crystal clear, with all of the complexities of simultaneous joy and pain.  But it also blurs the lines.  It leaves you raw, which allows for so much more joy to press itself up against you, soothing you and making you smile.  All of you that is left so open and vulnerable to the world seems to feel more pain somehow too, though.  The slightest brush of someone or something else against your raw exterior can cause a sadness that it wouldn’t have caused before.  And it’s all happening at the same time.  *Deep breath.*

I know I have spoken about this phenomenon before many times on the blog.  It is woven into so much of my writing because it is woven into my life in a way I can’t remove and am still in awe of, even five years after starting on this path of motherhood.  In years like this one, where ‘lumps’ in the road have popped up (cancer humor!) it all becomes that much more clear…and blurry.  And in times like these, as kindergarten comes to a close and we prepare to move to a different state, I seriously feel like I am walking around as one, giant, fresh wound, unable to barricade myself from the intensity of these mixed emotions.

Okay, the pregnancy hormones could be playing a tiny role also.

I feel sad about leaving mommy friends and about the boys leaving friends, but I know that we will still see some.  Also, we are all so excited about this new house (read: YARD) and town that it is hard to be too depressed about leaving Brooklyn, even if our Borough President tries to make us feel guilty for doing so.

But the kindergarten thing?  Oy.  I am struggling with this.  Partly because it represents such a huge jump age-wise for Carlitos.  He is going to be in a real grade next year.  I know time is now going to begin passing even faster than it already has.  I just know it.  And I can’t handle it.

The other problem is how stinking amazing this year was for Carlitos.  For all of us, really.  In the insanity and confusion that was this year, Carlitos’ class was a constant.  I knew he had free, hot, delicious lunch waiting for him every day, along with friends who loved him and laughed at his goofy voices and faces (unlike his mommy who told him to tone it down daily once or twice), and the single, most amazing teacher I have ever encountered.  Every day, I knew I could count on her filling his brain with gobs of knowledge and an impressive skill set, showing him love and thoughtfulness, and holding him accountable.  She has the magical tri-fecta down pat and frankly, it made this year pretty magical.  Carlitos began this year not knowing how to read.  Period.  The kid did not know how to read.  His mother (ahem, the co-founder of a children’s literacy program, yes) had chosen not to teach him.  At the time, I felt more of an urge to hone his social skills to the best of my ability and take the boys on as many ‘field trips’ and adventures as possible while they were still home together.  It was time to bond as brothers.  I figured he would begin to learn in kindergarten.  When the year began and I realized several other kids in his class already knew how to read, I panicked.  I felt like a horrible mom who had failed her kid.  But guess what?  He is reading at a second or third grade level at this point.  If not beyond that, when I think about the books I see him poring over half of the time.  He is also counting money, writing ten page stories, ‘sciencing’ anything within sight (plus our galaxy and dinosaurs…obviously), and learning about other cultures and figuring out his own identity in ways that are so exciting.   His growth this year has been in all directions, including depth.  And I owe such a huge portion of that to his teacher and to the incredible experience he had with his classmates this year.  I don’t know how to say good bye to all of that and to a woman who has given our family so much.

The joy is there too.  I am so proud of Carlitos and happy that he made it through his first real year of school with such aplomb and strength.  I am so happy that he loved it and that his first year left the positive imprint in regards to education that I had hoped it would.   It makes me smile when I see him with his little school friends, bonded by their time together during such a special year.  Yes, the joy is definitely there as this school year comes to a close.


Some goodbyes just really kill me.  The last time I felt like this was when our nanny moved back to Mexico, which makes me realize that there is possibly a connection.  I seem to feel really attached to people who play a strong role in caring for my children and aiding in their formation as healthy, smart, strong and happy little human beings.  As a parent you make as many choices as possible regarding your children’s well-being and development, but sometimes you don’t have a choice as to who enters your child’s life in a position of influence.  So when someone comes into your child’s life and has such a positive effect on them, when your child begins to love them, when you can tell that they begin to love your child, well…I guess it’s hard not to become attached by your gratitude.  For me, at least.  Apparently. I mean, as all these stupid tears and stuff seem to be saying.

So I am just doing my best to absorb the happiness and sadness simultaneously.  I have come to realize I don’t have much of a choice as far as that is concerned so I may as well accept it.  And figure out how to laugh while crying, I suppose.  Kidding.  I am already really good at that.

Let’s just hope Carlitos has someone equally as spectacular next year, who pushes him and loves him in genuine ways that will make me cry when saying goodbye to her, too.  And that Xavi has that as well as he begins pre-school. (Be prepared for a tear-filled post on that day.)

Also, is it too much to ask for if I hope that we don’t move again for at least five years?  I don’t think my heart – or my sanity- can take it.

In the meantime, happy graduation to all of you and yours!  I hope you are getting through this season of change and goodbyes with less tears than this crazy pregnant lady!  (And with more celebratory champagne! You have officially been given permission to have an extra five glasses glass on my behalf.  You’re welcome.  But please return the favor next Spring.  I will be the life of every graduation party in 2014!)

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Healthy Habits

Kids are often the litmus test for how sane, healthy and functional our society is.

Kids’ bullying is becoming more frequent and harsh?  Kids are shooting other kids with guns?  Kids are overweight?

They are learning all of this.  It is not coded in our ‘American DNA’ in case that was your theory.  Kids demonstrate learned behavior.

Learned from us.

Thankfully, that means something very hopeful: we have the power to change the unhealthy habits of our kids.  Of a whole generation, really.

So, let’s start with food.  Because, as any teacher knows, it is much easier to teach your students shapes or verb conjugation if they have had breakfast.  A healthy breakfast, not Hot Cheetos and Mountain Dew.  And as any parent knows, it is hard to get your child to wake up in a good mood if all they had for dinner the night before was a cracker because they didn’t want any of the fish stew you made.

A small disclaimer: My kids eat pretty well.  They eat decently-sized portions and about 98% of the time, they eat whatever is served to them by yours truly.  Yes, that includes fish and veggies.  However, this does not mean that our family knows what we are doing.  It doesn’t mean I don’t have my own food issues.  It doesn’t mean my kids eat enough vegetables every day or that they don’t have candy and ice cream loaded with sugar and dyes.  It doesn’t mean we are as healthy as we could and should be.

You know why?  Because I am just a mom, trying to do her best and using common sense whenever it comes to me.  (I think we all know how often that is.)  I am not perfect and I don’t usually know what the heck I am doing.  I am hoping thinking many of us are in this boat together.

You know who does know what they are doing?  Someone like Laura Cipullo, who has the letters RD, CDE, CEDS after her name.  Guys, I don’t even know what those letters mean.  That’s how far away from being nutrition-qualified I am.  But I looked them up and it means she is a Registered Dietician, Certified Diabetes Educator, and a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist.   So when she writes a nutrition and exercise program called Healthy Habits that is geared toward children, we should probably put down the brownie and listen.

I was able to get a sneak peak at this program and as a mom and an educator, it was exciting.  It is an 8-week program that is so simply organized and color-coded that a child could figure it out!  Wait…which, I guess, is the point.  The format of the book and program was definitely created for classrooms, organizations, or groups.  However, if you home school – or are simply a Type A mom – this program would be a really fun experience for you and your kids.  There is one topic a week, with clear information to be taught and then fun activities for the kids to complete centered around that topic.  The weekly topics include: Food Coding, Hunger and Fullness, Simple Snacks, and Encouraging Healthy Habits.  The program comes with many handouts to help complete some of the weekly activities that help reinforce each week’s lesson.  Honestly, it got my teacher juices flowing a bit and I am going to try some of these lessons and activities with my own kids.

As much as it was exciting to read through this booklet, it was also a little disheartening.  It made me realize that I still have a long way to go in the healthy mindset I give my children as they head out into the world, making their own decisions about their health.  Also, I realized that my own relationship with food is not something that could be described as healthy.  There is a chart included that describes the body’s signals about hunger and fullness.  I hate to admit that I reach a “Ten: You’re super uncomfortable with belly pain and pressure.  It feels like your stomach is stretching.  You need to rest in order to digest.” way too frequently.  The only thing she forgot to add was “You feel like you are going to vomit and ask someone nearby to please roll you out of the restaurant.”   As I said in the beginning, kids’ behaviors are learned from us.  If I want my kids to make healthy choices I need to be their model.  This booklet was a wake up call that not only could I be doing more in terms of truly teaching my kids how to think about food in a healthier way, but that I need to follow these same guidelines if I want them to look to me for guidance.

There are so many aspects of being a good parent.  Of raising a productive member of society who is happy, fulfilled and healthy.  It can be overwhelming and leave you not knowing where to begin.  I think our kids’ health is truly the best place.  Everything else radiates out from there when you think about it, doesn’t it?  This program is definitely a smart and easy place to start.

Here is the link so that you can find out more about Laura and her books: Try suggesting her program to your child’s school, troop, local YMCA, or even team.  Heck, or just get together with a few other moms and do this program as a group!

We are all in this together, this whole ‘raising the next generation’ thing.  I’ll put down my brownie(s), if you put down yours.  I think we can find better ways to show our kids what ‘happiness’ means and that it doesn’t (always) lie at the bottom of a pint of Talenti Salty Caramel Gelato.

*Legal disclaimer: Although I was given free access to view this booklet as press, I was not compensated financially in any way.  The opinions given are mine.*

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Joining Clubs

2013.  This year has done it’s best to beat us down.  Well, actually, I guess cancer tried to beat us down.  Actually, to be more specific, Thyroid Cancer has really come at us with a vengeance.  Yes, the past couple weeks we have been dealing with a second case in the family and additional family members having biopsies done.  I can’t really speak much more about it because it is someone who is possibly even more private than my husband, but I can tell you it is someone we love an incredible amount.  I can tell you this is a club I wish we weren’t in together.  And I can tell you it is not fun to watch.  Also, I can tell you to PLEASE have your doctor check your thyroid at your next appointment!

Obviously, a baby is a blessing and a joy and a highlight in anyone’s life, but when one year is packed with cancer (which always brings it’s posse of pain, fear and sadness with it) a pregnancy during that same year feels even more special.  It is wonderful to have something exciting to focus on.  The special role this baby will always be able to claim as our bright light during a dark year will almost entirely eclipse the fact that their arrival will also turn Xavi into a Middle Child. (A scary thought, indeed)

So in the vein of focusing on this little ball of happiness in my tummy, I should let you know that all of the tubs and boxes of polo shirts, sweater vests, tuxedos, blue onesies and swim trunks we saved were worth it.


Or as the technician put it, “I guess daddy only makes little boys!”

To be transparent, I had been hoping for a little girl.  However, when I really thought about why, the reasons were all somewhat shallow and vain.  I wanted to buy tutus.  I wanted to see what a female version of my husband and I would look like.  I wanted to see my husband melt.

But here’s the truth: 1.   I already have plenty of nieces and friends with baby girls for whom I can continue to buy tutus in every color of the rainbow decorated with every variety of glitter.  2.  My husband and I paid $2 twelve years ago at Dave and Buster’s to have a photo machine tell us what our future little girl would look like.  We had to name her Agnes.  Yikes.  3.  My husband melts over any baby, truth be told.  He especially melts over our babies.  I can’t imagine number three will be any different, no matter what the gender.

Plus, as everyone keeps reminding me, I get to be the queen and the princess.   Jewelry?  Flowers?  Spa treatments?  I never have to learn how to share! Bwahahahaha…

I also love the look of respect and admiration I get when I tell someone number three is also a boy.  I mean, not that I did anything spectacular or intentional to create all boys.   I didn’t really have a choice in the matter so I’m not sure I deserve any extra respect, but if you know me, you know I will certainly take it!  I especially love the look I get from other moms of all boys.  It’s like I just joined some special club.  Frankly, I am very excited to be a member.

But seriously?  Thank GOD we are about to live in a house with an arts and crafts room, a basement and a YARD.

And as I was at the ENT yesterday, watching him put a scope up Carlitos’ nostrils to see if a foreign body was the cause of all of his green mocos, while simultaneously preventing Xavi from flipping backwards off his chair as he focused more on his new truck, rather than where the seat ended and the fall to the floor began, I made a mental note to practice driving the route from our new home to the nearest hospital.

I also reminded myself that I am the luckiest mom in the world.   We’re ready for you baby boy #3!  (Well, except for that whole ‘name’ thing, obviously.  I’m sure* we’ll find the perfect name in time.)

*Almost sure.

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The Kids Will be Okay

All weekend I felt it building.  Fear, worry, sadness.  By Sunday night it peaked into what I can only describe as an anxiety attack. My heart was racing;  I could feel it strongly beating in my chest so very quickly.  I couldn’t catch my breath.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  My whole body was tense. I kept envisioning horrible scenarios…and then berating myself because obviously to think them would somehow make them become a reality.  Haven’t you ever read The Secret?

Eventually, after several hours, my motherhood exhaustion and pregnancy fatigue conspired together to knock me out.  But even as I awoke early Monday morning, I was still a mess.  The physical aspects were gone, but the worry and concern and panic were still there.

What set all this off, you ask?  A trip to an exciting locale I have been dying (ugh, poor word choice) to visit for over a decade:  Mexico City.

Well, that sounds lovely, Annie.  Why did you turn into a panicky disaster?  Oh, because we are going for a week.  WITHOUT the boys.  Yes, this is our very first time away from the boys and we are just diving right in with a week away from them…internationally.

As my Obstetrician said to me when I told her how panicked I was, “Why on earth are you going to another country and for a whole week as your first trip away from your kids?  You’re supposed to start with a weekend away somewhere where you can get back in a car within two hours.”  The ‘duh’ was not technically stated, but very clearly implied.

The things nobody tells me ahead of time.  I swear.

So, I squeezed both boys extra, extra tight for what was probably an inappropriate amount of time Monday night.  I told them I loved them a million times and ways.  And then I told them some more.  I kissed them on the perfect bridges of their perfect little noses and on the their perfectly dense little fingers and cheeks.  Then I told them I loved them again.

We left cards for each of them to discover at breakfast the next morning once we were gone.  And I vowed to bring them back the coolest little Mexican trinkets and goodies we could find.

Since almost all medicine and definitely all varieties of whiskey and tequila are off limits when you are pregnant, I had to use sheer will to get myself out of the apartment at 3:00 am Tuesday morning and onto that plane to Mexico.  Well, sheer will and my frugality.  Do you know how much flights to Mexico city, a nice hotel for a week, black tie outfits and six other event outfits add up to?  More than I was willing to just throw away.  Plus, it is my husband’s best friend getting married and he has been an important part of both of our lives for about 13 years now.  We both had to be there.

Clearly, I must care about this guy because I not only left my babies for the first time, but also spent eleven hours traveling on two airplanes, in two taxis, and all on only about three hours of sleep.  While pregnant.

(You know how you can add ‘in bed’ to any statement or fortune cookie quote and make it instantly dirty and hysterical?  ‘While pregnant’ works the same way after any statement, but to clarify just how stinking difficult and extreme the situation was.)

In any event, it was actually really nice to travel alone with my husband.  We read magazines!  And books!  And listened to music! That stuff never happens when you are flying with kids.  You know what else I did?  I watched the in-flight movie.  Guilt Trip.  Not intelligent.  Me, not the movie, that is.  (Although the movie was no philosophical brain-bender either.)  Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogan, mother and son, go on a road trip.  I cried no less than three times.  Thankfully, both my husband and the woman next to me were asleep and missed this embarrassing moment.  Although, you know I told my  husband as soon as he woke up anyway.   Seriously, if you’re wondering, don’t watch anything mother/son related if you are a mother who just left her sons for the first time to board an international flight.  Bad idea.

As you can imagine, the boys on the other hand, are having the most amazing time ever.  Did I mention my parents are the ones at our home taking care of them?  And on Thursday they switch with my in-laws?  Yeah, the boys are getting to do, eat, drink, and have anything their little hearts desire.   If my mom didn’t confide in me that not only did Carlitos read both cards aloud Tuesday morning, but that both boys wanted to read the cards again Wednesday morning, I would wonder if they missed us at all.

We have now been in Mexico City for less than 24 hours and we have already bought two little items for the boys and emailed back and forth with my mom about their activities and well-being  a good 75 times.  My heart hasn’t raced and I haven’t felt total panic.  Everything is going to be fine.  We will have an exciting week and they will be well cared for and have a blast.

But man, if I couldn’t see this truth Sunday night.  It truly felt like there was  no way anything other than disaster would come of us leaving the boys.  So, if you are reading this and ever find yourself feeling that level of panic about leaving your kids, know that you are not alone.  And also remind yourself that it will be okay if you do travel without your kids.  And you won’t even have to wake up at 6 am!  Although you probably still will…

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