Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tonight, I took the boys out to eat and when we got to the restaurant, Eli had to use the restroom. We waited for ladies room' room for so long, that I decided to just take them into the mens' room....which was filthy. Upon seeing the mess, I said, "This is awful! It's gross!". Ethan shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, we're men. That's what we men do. We make messes."

It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

Other signs that I live in a house full of "men":

1) Ethan and Eli requested "spaghetti tacos" for dinner the other night, which were surprisingly good...and they are made just like they sound...a bunch of spaghetti shoved into a taco shell. If you make it for your kids, they will think you are the best mother. Ever.

2) After his shower the other day, Eli smooshed his bottom up against the glass shower door, leaving a butt print on the steam that had collected on the glass. He turned around proudly, smiling from ear to ear and exclaimed, "Look what I made!".

Never a dull moment I tell you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Earlier this week, this post about Eli's love for Barbie and plans to dress as Rapunzel for Halloween was still fresh on my mind when I was introduced to someone new.  We got to talking and somehow the subject of toys came up and I told her about Eli's love for and obsession with Barbie and his plans to dress as Rapunzel on Halloween.  "So what!?", she said, almost a little too emphatically.  I could tell by her outburst that she either expected me to gripe about how embarrassing this was and wanted to appear superior to me, or she was trying to impress me with her solidarity to my cause.

She went on to tell me about a family member whose son wanted to take ballet classes and that the dad was okay with it, despite his son being the only boy in the class.  The story continued to a point in time when the dad asked the son what he liked about ballet and the boy said that the teacher was really pretty.  "That's my boy!!", the dad replied.

After she finished, the woman beamed, clearly so proud of her show of political correctness, liberal viewpoint and open mindedness.  As if she let air out of a balloon, she breathlessly went on to say, "Maybe he's putting one over on you and already his this all figured out...that he actually LIKES girls and thinks their pretty so is using this as an excuse to get closer to girls."  

First, I wasn't so sure Eli's thinking went along such complex channels.  Second, I knew that this was supposed to somehow serve as a comfort me.  I didn't feel comforted because I didn't need to feel comforted.  I felt irritated. I don't need to conjure up some delusion or justification about Eli's motives for his preferences in order to be comfortable with them.  He will continue to be himself and I will continue to support him.

Just today, at TJ Maxx, Eli asked if he could buy something.  His choices varied from a pair of fairy wings, a package of kid-size plastic kitten heel shoes and a plush purple poodle that doubles as a stuffed animal and a purse.  He finally settled on a Polly Pocket.  For a moment, I wondered if I was feeding into him somehow and leading him down his path rather than following him.  But, as I pondered, I realized that I am equally eager to seek out the things that Ethan likes (in his case it's Lego, Indiana Jones and Star Wars) and so my enabling is the equal opportunity kind.

Will the dynamic of all of this change when Eli grows older if these preferences continue?  I'm sure they will.  Drastically.  And I'll deal with that when it happens.  But for now, if he wants to bring a pink thermos to pre-school (which he does) then I will simply enjoy the open hearts of three-year-olds and be thankful that none of his classmates seem to care about the color of his thermos anymore than I do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My youngest child does not go anywhere without a Barbie doll or (preferably) a Rapunzel doll in tow.  This may not sound unique.  Until I point that he's a boy.  And quite honestly, I don't care a fig that he loves all things Barbie, Rapunzel, pink, purple or sparkly.  But I think other people do.  I can't tell you the number of times that we've received sidelong glances, overheard snickering or watched as people pointed and giggled.  Quite honestly, this doesn't upset me - yet - mainly because Eli isn't old enough to notice.  I do, however, feel a sense of shame on behalf of the type of person who would make fun of a three-year-old.

On the other hand, there are a fair share of people who tell me how impressed they are with me and Adam because we let Eli be exactly who he is.  I don't see this attribute as noteworthy or impressive at all.  I see it as my responsibility as a loving parent.  After all, I don't think twice when Ethan, my oldest son, asks to buy a Lego set.  In fact, I take pride in his creativity and enjoy watching him build complex and elaborate structures.  Why should I treat Eli's passions any differently?  (See photos of Barbie's adventures.  Barbie goes camping, Barbie goes to Hershey World and Barbie goes to the first day of school.  Barbie gets around.)

Eli, who had a year-long fling with Thomas the Train, has never embraced cars, tractors, trucks or other toys commonly perceived to be "traditional" boy toys.  His Barbie obsession began when he was hospitalized with Salmonella poisoning.  We were laying in his bed watching t.v., both of us feeling pretty miserable for very different reasons.  A commercial for a Barbie doll came on and Eli sat up and clapped, smiled brightly and said "I want that!".  Who in their right mind would say no to something that produced such a joyful and honest reaction?  And thus, his love for Barbie began.  (Or as he bluntly says it, "I just like girl toys!")

At first, Ethan had no comment. But as Eli's collection began to grow and once we were no longer able to leave the house without at least one blond beauty tagging along, Ethan began to say things typical of an older brother such as "EW!  Barbie!  Disgusting!!!! (Insert gag noise here)."  I did my best to put a swift and solid stop to this kind of teasing.  "How would you like it if we made fun of you for playing Legos?  It's unacceptable.  Period."  That pretty much quieted the peanut gallery.  Every now and again, Ethan will offer some sort of choice comment, but after reading the book Princess Boy to both kids, Ethan has really stepped in as Eli's ambassador to Barbie and all things pink and sparkly.  In fact, he chose to gift Eli with a purple, glittery plush unicorn.  And just the other day, I overheard him ask Eli if he wanted help taking off Rapunzel's dress so Eli could make her swim in the bathtub. still my seems I am doing at least one tiny thing right (for now).

However, most recently, Ethan told me that he would be really mad if someone made fun of Eli's Halloween costume this year....because Eli will be sporting a long blond wig and lovely purple dress and going as Rapunzel (that, or a witch, but am pretty sure Rapunzel is eeking ahead as the top contender).  I have to admit, I think Eli will be the absolutely most adorable and perfect Rapunzel hitting the neighborhoods this year.  Is this unconventional?  Maybe some people think so.  Do I care?  Not a lick.  Does this sound familiar?  It should.  This post by Sarah Hoffman on her popular blog, Nerdy Apple Bottom, has been all over the media.

Mothers like Hoffman know what I know.  We can't make or unmake our sons gay.  And we don't want to.  Being gay - or even just being interested in toys that seem non-traditional for a certain gender - is irrelevant when it concerns the deep and unabashed love we have for our children.  Eli is who he is.  Just like Ethan is who he is.  The love I have for them is fierce, tremendous and tender.  I love them without boundaries and without conditions.  And my job as their mother, in addition to teaching them kindness, acceptance and responsibility, is to be their biggest supporter.  My job is to empower my children be who they are, not hold them back (especially if it's out of fear of what someone else might think or say).

As far as Halloween goes, I figure two things will happen.  One is that when Eli is older and I show him a picture of him in his Rapunzel costume, his cheeks will burn at the memory and he'll say "Moooooom!  Why did you let me wear a dress?".  Or, second, the photo of him in a dress will be unremarkable and dismissed without comment.  Either way, Eli will remember that his mother never admonished him for his preferences, openly supported him in his choices and loved him unconditionally.

By the way, Ethan wants to be the freaky Scream guy for Halloween, which quite frankly concerns me a heck of a lot more than the Rapunzel costume.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I still have yet to teach Ethan to tie his shoes (remember this debacle?).  This is mortifying.  So, in effort to teach him this important, yet elusive, skill, I bought him a book that shows the step by step instructions on tying shoes and includes red and blue laces which, theoretically at least, should make the tying easier.

I left the book on the table and Ethan picked it up and began reading.  I could hear his sweet, little voice reading the words as he turned each page. Then I heard his voice take an irritated tone as he proclaimed, "Jesus, shoes are always untied!!!".

I was horrified.

I ran over to Ethan and demanded to know why he would think it was okay to say that.

He looked at me steadily and said, "I said that because that's what the book said," and proceeded to point to the sentence he'd just read.

I peered down at the page he was holding open for me and read "Jesse's shoes are always untied."

I haven't stopped laughing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday mornings aren't exactly for relaxing in our household.  By 8 a.m., Ethan and I are typically already up, dressed and on the road, to drive across town so he can attend his weekly religious school class at our synagogue.  The first two years of this have run relatively smoothly, with Ethan obediently and without complaint, hopping into the car, satisfied with attending his three hour class and with the 45 minute drive there and back.

This year has been a different story.  Each Sunday morning is greeted with groans, complaints and questions about the necessity of these classes.  But this has all been manageable and fairly easily diffused with the purchase of chocolate milk and donuts to enjoy during the car ride.  Until this morning.  Until Ethan told me that not only did he not feel Jewish, but that he did not want to be Jewish and that he did not see anything about him that was Jewish.  Ouch.  Seriously, ouch.

I was, quite literally, speechless.  Mostly because all of what he said was completely true.  And all my (and Adam's) fault.  It has been obvious to me over the past year or so, that our Jewish practice has taken a backseat to the rest of our life, and I, knowingly, brushed the fact that it bothered me aside.  We used to enjoy Shabbat dinners (admittedly, only semi regularly) as a family, but more often than not, we attended Shul most Saturdays.  But that stopped and somehow, I let the rest of our life get in the way.  Between Cub Scouts, soccer practice, soccer games and ironically, religious school, time seemed to become such a precious commodity that I allowed all the places where I wanted to fit things in to become full with other things.

Some of those things I can control, and to be fair to myself, some I just can't.  And sometimes, I just have to prioritize to the best of my ability.  Ethan's soccer team had games on Saturday mornings, during services.  Ethan loves soccer, his coach and his team and it wasn't something I was prepared to ask him to give up.  But Friday nights are usually free and I suppose we could've been lighting the Shabbat candles and sharing challah together.  While I spend countless hours volunteering my time by serving my synagogue (and find it very rewarding), I see that it's not touching the rest of my family the way it's touching me.

Adam and I have had many conversations where we have agreed to refocus ourselves on living Jewishly.  And we have seriously fallen short.  And it never seemed to have a negative effect on our life.  Until today.  By Ethan saying that he didn't feel Jewish and didn't want to be Jewish, he unknowingly laid down the gauntlet.  This is something I must try to change.  It's not enough to learn about being Jewish, we have to live it.  And regrettably, we haven't been.

I also understand that as a seven-year-old, Ethan isn't able to grasp the importance of what he's learning in his classes right now.  But I also understand I can't ask him to try his best if Adam and I aren't trying our best.  I can't ask him to be happy about giving up his Sunday mornings to participate in Jewish life if Adam and I aren't fully participating in Jewish life.  (There seems to be nothing more shameful - and nothing that results in faster action - than having your child point out your flaws...and being spot on.)

A Jewish friend of mine once said that there is nothing convenient about being Jewish.  And she's right.  There isn't.  But my hope is that one day, Ethan won't see being Jewish as an inconvenience, but rather as something that brings him peace and happiness.  But it starts at home.  And it starts today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I've fallen and I can't get up.
Actually, I can now, thanks to my beloved chiropractor.

I fell down the stairs last week.
I wasn't even walking down them,
but rather, standing on them.
I was standing on one of the steps toward the bottom
and I went from standing on the step
to finding myself on my bum on the floor.

Initially, my back and neck hurt a little.
And now my back hurts more than a little.
More than a lot, actually.

I don't like to complain about health stuff,
but this kind of pain should only occur
if you get a sweet, tiny baby at the end of it.
Instead, I have this G-d awful medicine
that takes the pain away but makes my stomach wonky.
And get makes me really, super itchy and it makes my eyes feel all burny.
(I believe "burny" is the official medical term for it.)

But, thanks to my magical chiropractor, I can lay off the meds tonight
and perhaps even get away with going to bed with just a few Motrin.

In the meantime, I have doctor's orders to avoid 
any and all vacuuming, sweeping and laundry basket carrying.
I might have to fall down the stairs more often.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Our summer adventure has come and gone
and our "fall" schedule is in full swing.
(Not sure I will ever get used to our "fall"
starting in August
down here in the South.)

Ethan started at a new school this year
and it's a bit of a drive for us
(his old school was less than a mile from our house)
so we leave pretty early in the morning.
After leaving the house before 7 a.m. 
every day for the past two weeks,
I have made a startling discovery.
I like mornings.
I repeat: I like mornings.
Coming from me, this is practically earth shattering news.
Historically, I have been a night owl
but there is something about the morning that I am growing to love...
The dew, the cool, foggy air, the pre-stirring quiet...
Being out and about before everyone else
makes me feel like I have a sweet little secret.

As much as my mind loves mornings now,
my body hasn't quite caught up
so there's still a bit of a mad rush to get out of the house on time
since I hit the snooze button four times.

To stave off craziness in the pre-dawn hours,
I prepare as much as possible the night before.
I pack the boys lunches/snacks, 
I put their bags on their hooks by the door,
I pack up breakfast so they can eat it 
during the 20 minute car ride.
I even put two teaspoons of sugar in my travel coffee mug
and put it under my coffeemaker.

I have to admit, gathering up the boys' things
to prepare them for their day is one of my favorite parts
of being a mom.
I love making sure they have what they need,
love seeing their treats packed neatly in their lunch boxes,
thinking of them thinking of me at snack time
while they munch on their animal crackers.

It kind of makes me wish I had a lunchbox of my own!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Last week, I did a quick hike up to the top of Kennesaw Mountain.  I live not too far from the mountain and drive past it daily.  I love to see how the view of it changes depending on the season, the weather and even the time of day.  No matter what sort of day I'm having, or what my mental state is, I always take a minute when I'm driving past to notice how beautiful it is.  It is one of my favorite spots to be in the cooler weather, but last week, it was stifling and hot.  I don't like the heat, but I knew it was one of my last chances to go before the summer really kicked into high gear...not to mention I'll be in New Hampshire for the next seven weeks.

I normally like to take my time and enjoy my surroundings, but on this day my goal was to get up and back at a good clip without stopping, without sitting.  I had a lot to do that day and was really squeezing it in (it was the last day that both boys were in school before summer break started) and honestly, I just had to prove to myself that I could still set a goal and reach it.  (I still a feel a bit like I'm floundering since leaving Kennesaw State and I need to make sure there is more to me than clean laundry and a tidy house.)

I was up and back in about 37 minutes.  (Which I thought was good, considering the heat and the fact that it had been a couple of months since I'd been up the mountain).  I even jogged a little bit, but quickly realized that I could very well pass out so promptly stopped.  (I hate running....I don't even know what came over me to make me run in the first place.)

I bid goodbye to the mountain (until at least September or October when it cools off a little bit) and am now counting the days until I can take morning walks on the beach!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Last week, in preparation for our drive up the East Coast, I visited the AAA office. It was partly out of necessity (I wanted to get physical maps in the off chance that my GPS both on my phone and in my car crapped out during the trip) and curiosity. I remember my grandparents talking about the AAA offices when I was growing up and I have to admit, with all the travel tools available online, I was sort of surprised to find that AAA still had local offices and that the advent of the Internet hadn't deemed them obsolete.

I had predicted that I would be the youngest person in the office. This prediction was only partially correct. There was a gentleman that walked in with his college-age daughter while I was waiting for my "road travel counselor". (The office was surprisingly huge with small little areas marked with signs that indicated the various aspects of traveling that the office handles...Travel, Road Travel, Insurance,

Anyhow, the man made a grand entrance, barging through the double glass doors, arms spread wide, cheerful voice booming in a British accent: "Hello! Cheerio!! We would like some assistance please!!"

The receptionist returned the greeting in a British accent (she had JUST checked me in and definitely did NOT have a British accent when speaking to me). "Ooooooh!!! Helloooooo!!!! Are you going to Lun-dun!?"

Man: "Oh, indeed! We AAARRRREEEE going to Lun-dun!"

Receptionist: "Will you be visiting the Queeeeeen!?"

At this point, am beginning to wonder if I have stumbled onto the set of a Monty Python movie.

Man's daughter: "Dad, could you turn off the British accent, please?"

(The Monty Python man's daughter turned out to be one of two people that were younger than me in the office that day. The other was the travel counselor that helped me...I presume they hired him because of his technology skills.)

After they were checked in, they sat down in the waiting area where they proceeded to have a heated debate about the number of pieces of luggage they could bring on their upcoming trip to London.

Man: "I think one carry on will be plenty."

Girl: "Dad! I cannot bring two weeks' worth of clothes in ONE carry on."

Man: "All we'll be wearing are shorts and t-shirts. One carry on is definitely enough."

Girl: "What if we go somewhere fancy!? What if we go to Harrod's!?"

Did you know you can also buy luggage at the AAA office?

(This picture is blurry because I was trying to take it without anyone seeing that I was taking it...)

When it was my turn, I explained where I was driving to (New Hampshire) and what I wanted to do along the way (avoid Washington D.C. and NYC and also stop at Sesame Place). Antiquated or not, I have to hand it to AAA, they were really helpful. I was given two regional maps (Southeast states and Northeast states) with my route (avoiding D.C. and NYC and stopping at Sesame Place) highlighted and even stamped in the exact location where I am to put down one map and pick up the next map, several tour books with restaurants, hotels and points of interest (not as useful since I can do all of that online and from my iPhone, but still nice to have) and also the highly anticipated TripTik, as discussed in this post.

The TripTik, a small, bound notebook, has turn-by-turn instructions, each on a new page, so you can easily flip through the book while on your route and know exactly where you are without having to fold and unfold maps or squint to find your location. I know I have technology at my finger tips on this trip, but I worry that I could lose the charger for my phone or that the built-in GPS on my car will take me right through Manhattan during rush hour or that Eli will be playing Barbie Fashionistas on my phone during a point where I was supposed to make a crucial turn and we'll wind up in North Dakota instead of New Hampshire (as long I'm going north, I must be going the right way...?). I want to relax on this drive, not white-knuckle the steering wheel full of anxiety.

I think we're ready. (In terms of directions anyway.)

Now, if only AAA could help me with the packing...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I am not a morning person (though I really, really, want to be...must add this to my to-do list). This is unfortunate because Ethan seems to bring up topics that have led to some of our most important conversations in the car on the way to school. To date, we have covered gay marriage, whether or not my mother and father love each other anymore (they've been divorced for decades), how babies are made (bought myself some time for that one by telling him that I'll tell him when he's ten), what Botox is and why people use it, and most recently, why we euthanize pets. I should point out here that our home is just one mile from Ethan's school. I would also like to remind everyone that these are not topics raised by me. I can barely see in the morning, never mind having the brain power to examine and theorize the long-lasting emotional effects on divorced couples.

Getting back to the whole pet started off innocently enough...

Ethan: Mommy, remember that dog you had when you were little? How did it die?

Me: Uh...well...she was very old and very sick and couldn't really walk. (Hold my breath hoping this ends the conversation as we are coming up on the carpool line, but deep down know that Ethan knows I haven't answered the question).

Ethan: But, how did she DIE?

Of course he wouldn't settle for some vague, wave of the hand response. He wants details (wonder who he gets that from) and of course he needs them at 7:20 a.m. before I've even had my coffee. I explain that when a dog is very sick and in a lot of pain that the owners will decide, along with the vet, that it would be better to not allow the dog to continue living. I told him how the dog gets a shot and gets put to sleep and doesn't wake up again. I wait for all of this to be absorbed.

Ethan looks at me with giant eyes and says, disgusted, "You killed your dog!?!? That's horrible!"

Eyeing the carpool line because I am dangerously close to the door of Ethan's school and knowing I can't send him into the building thinking I am a cold-blooded murderer, I stammer through an explanation about how it is really much more compassionate to do that if you know the animal won't get better. And I remind him that it's not called killing, it's called putting the dog "down" or "to sleep". He looks at me suspiciously and appears to accept what I have to say, but for good measure asks how I felt after Jessie died and wants to know if I cried.

Me: "Yes, I cried. A lot."

Ethan: "For how long?"

Me: (feeling like am on a witness stand instead of in my minivan) "Days. I cried for days. I still cry every once in a while if I see a dog that looks like her."

Satisfied that I am showing adequate remorse, Ethan hops out of the car and disappears into school. When I pick him up that afternoon, he doesn't mention it again. That evening, when Adam got home from work, Ethan blurts out, "Daddy! Did you know mommy killed her dog!?".

Monday, May 16, 2011

On Saturday night, I was listening to the noises coming out of the shower. Adam had Ethan, Eli and his iPhone in there with him and all three of them were singing Usher at the top of their lungs. This joyous sound made me smile and reminded me that I'm never sure what kind of craziness I'm going run into each day, but let me assure you, where this is a Slipakoff boy, there is something silly happening.

For instance, Thursday night I went to check on Ethan before I went to sleep and he was snuggled under his covers cuddled up with the cup of caterpillar larvae meant for his butterfly garden.

The next morning Eli said to me as we were getting ready to head out the door, "Are you ready old lady?". Lucky for Eli, I was still swooning over the fact that he calls plums, "plumPs", so I barely raised an eyebrow at being referred to as "old lady", though I am desperately hoping that this doesn't become a habit.

And on the way to school, Ethan heard a commercial about Botox and asked me what it was. When I explained that people inject something into their wrinkles to make their face smooth, his eyes got wide and he was quiet for a minute. After a silent moment, he piped up from the backseat, "Oooooooh! It's just like the magic flower in Tangled except without needles!". Leave it to Ethan to decipher the social commentary behind Disney movies.

Like I said, I never know what I'm going to get.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tales of a Road Trip

Each summer, as soon as the last day of school comes and goes, I begin packing up the boys in preparation for our summer-long trip to New England.  This year's summer plans aren't much different.  But there is a twist.  This year we are driving.  Which is not a big deal.  I know a lot of people who pack their kids in the car and take long road trips.  But for me, it's a bit out of my comfort zone.  My aunt Susan (Aunt Sue, as she's affectionately known around here) has volunteered to drive with us since we will be leaving my husband behind to enjoy the quiet house work all summer long and I'm not sure I am quite adventurous enough to manage the drive solo. And somehow, with the two of us in the front seat, the trip seems so much more exciting. This idea we've cooked up is going to prove to be either really great or really stupid. Time will tell.

My GPS tells me this journey will take about 20 hours. I'm sure many people could do this in two days. I am not many people. We have allotted five days, not only because I get really sleepy when I drive, but also because we want to take our time to see and do interesting things along the way. I've started borrowing books from the library, looking at maps, small ways to begin planning for our big adventure.

I bought one book called Cross Country, written by Robert Sullivan, that chronicles his adventures of driving, well...cross country. It was meant to inspire me, and so far, I've been able to snag a few tidbits of helpful information such as using my local AAA office to have them put together a "TripTik", a binder with maps, hotels, restaurants, attractions, etc., all available on our route. This is something I was going to pull together myself, so if I can commission AAA to do it for me for free, even better. But are there even any local AAA offices anymore??? The whole concept of using AAA as a travel planner seems very 1989. And if these offices still exist, will I most definitely be the youngest person in it?

Other than the helpful hints I've been able to garner, I may have to return Cross Country to the library largely unfinished. As one Amazon reviewer commented, it's a bit like watching someone else's home movies...not all that interesting but I feel like I have to politely push through to the end. Not to mention, Sullivan and I are clearly not cut from the same cloth. In the first few pages he says he thinks he can make 3,000 miles in 3 days. As for me, I'm just hoping to make it to our destination in one piece at some point before it is time to turn around and go back home!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Raising Redheads

Thanks to Deb at Raising Redheads ( for featuring me as a guest author today!  The article I wrote was actually originally written for Deep South Moms, but can be found in the guest article section of Raising Redheads.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tales of a Late Bloomer

I have interesting relationship with this blog.  It is something, like my faith, that I am sometimes far away from.  Yet, when I come back, it's still there, just the way I left it.  Without wavering, without judging.  Welcoming.

I've made vows to myself to write more regularly, but then life gets in the way.  Something comes up.  I'm supposed to be somewhere.  The phone rings.  The laundry is done.  The oven timer is going off.  It's time for soccer.  It's time for cub scouts.  Someone can't find their socks.  And it seems when I feel pressured to write something, that's the exact moment when my ability to manipulate the written word into something that anybody would actually be interested in reading completely abandons me.

I have all sorts of reasons for writing on my blog.  The first is to keep a record of moments that are meaningful to me, moments that I want to remember.  The second reason is to keep my family and friends close to me.  To let them see, even if I'm not with them, what my life is like.  To let them see a piece of me, of my family.  Another reason is that something that somebody reads might mean something to them.  It might change their opinion, it might change their perspective.  It might make them feel less alone in whatever struggles they might be going through.  Maybe they can identify with something that has happened to me and they can feel better about managing trying times for themselves.  Another reason is to help me sort through issues.

If you've read my blog, one issue that you know that I've used this platform to sort out is to go back to school or to stop going back to school.  And I've really struggled with this for the past three years.  It seems I never solve the problem.  It's just something that seems to circulate around in my head, a cycle that never stops.

The truth is, I did recently have to put an end to the cycle when I forced myself to make a decision to withdraw from school in the middle of the semester.  I cried.  I mourned.  And for a brief moment, thought if I re-enrolled that I would feel better...though I've been down that path a few times and know better. 

I know what you're thinking.  You've heard this before so why was this time so different?  This time, I made the decision swiftly and surely.  I made it in the midst of a crisis, while my youngest son was in the hospital with salmonella poisoning.  During day two of his seven day hospital stay.  The same day that my professor emailed me and congratulated me on getting the highest grade on my organic chemistry exam.  (My son is fine now, by the way.)

I made the decision in that time and place because I knew if I made it then, it would stick.  My sweet husband begged me not to make a hasty choice, telling me that no one should ever make a decision in the thick of crisis.  I told him I disagreed and said that a crisis is exactly the time to make decisions.  During a crisis is when your priorities are brought to light and are made clear to you.

While I know I made the right choice...a choice that I have made several times before...I am now struggling with the feeling that I'm floating freely, without any anchor.  And quite frankly, that free-floating sensation scares that crap out of me sometimes.  When I was in school, I was anchored at the library, in the chemistry lab.  And now, at home, I'm the one doing the anchoring.  At school,  I found my sense of self in achieving the objectives I set to get me to the next thing (nursing school).  Right now, there is no next thing.

I'm just here.  Doing everything and doing nothing at the same time and the dichotomy of those emotions unhinges me a bit sometimes.  It unhinges me because I don't know where it leaves puts me in a gray area and I don't do well with gray.  The irony (and the challenge) is that I'm not seeking a solution to this emotional hiccup...which is fortunate because I don't think there really is a solution in the near and not so distant future.

I have always known I was going to be a late bloomer, only now I've realized exactly how late the blooming is going to be taking place.  And despite my ranting, I am okay with that.  I find a sense of peace knowing that one day, at the end of what I hope is going to be a very long life, I'm going to look back and not have any regrets about any of the decisions I made.  So while they might not be the decisions I want to make,  I have faith, unwavering faith, that at some point in my life, I will see that they were the very right decisions.

While I know I will continue to look out on the horizon and ask "What if?", there is a part of me, a very big part of me, that is relishing in the moments with my boys.  I joke with Adam that I'm too young to be retired, but I'm thinking that what I'm going to find is that my work has only just begun.

I hope to continue to share this journey with you here on my blog.  If you're joining me for the first time, I can promise that you will never see daily updates from me.  But I can also promise, if you check back with me after a while, what you will find is a story about my life, about my family, about something that has moved me deeply enough that I think it could move you, too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Morning in Ixtapa

My husband and I recently went on an eight day trip to Mexico.  We spent a few days alone on the west coast in Ixtapa and a few days on the opposite coast with some friends in Cancun.  It was a wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating getaway.

On our last day in Ixtapa, I found myself both sad to leave it behind (it was amazingly beautiful, certainly the most beautiful place I've ever had the good fortune to visit) but also looking forward to the next leg of our journey where we would be greeted with more sand, more sun and our dear friends.

That particular morning, I went down to sit on the beach.  It appeared that I was the only one awake in the entire hotel, except for the bustling employees, who were busy preparing for the day.  The beach is isolated from the rest of the resort, its rockiness not all that inviting.  But to me, on that morning, it was gorgeous and majestic, the silence and solitude interrupted only by the roar and crash of the ocean waves lapping at my feet.

The beach is set into a cliff, so it has a crescent-shaped wall of rock around the perimeter, with a mouth open to the sea.  I felt protected by those walls as I looked out in the never ending stretch of sea water, a deep, deep blue, that I found both inviting and intimidating.  Is this how it is meant to be with G-d as well?  Feeling him protectively at my back as I move about the life that is open and stretched ahead of me, that I find simultaneously inviting and intimidating, that both beckons and buffets?

I meant to bring my Bible with me on that morning, to read G-d's word while sitting on this beach, this place created through the work of G-d's hand, a place where I have - perhaps through my own stretching and straining - have managed to connect to G-d in a way I never have.  I am not a person who reads the Bible daily, nor am I entirely sure that I will become that person (though it is how I started several days of my vacation).  The Bible was forgotten in my hotel room, but I found I didn't need it that day.

I opened up my thoughts and listened.  I felt the sun on my face, felt it warm me, saw the colors change through my closed eyelids.  I thought about the sun and how it got there.  Do I think G-d put it there?  Not exactly.  But I do think that G-d, in some way, made it possible for the sun to exist.  I likened it to when I bake blueberry muffins from a mix.  I didn't make them from scratch, but I did "make" them.  I stirred the mixture, poured the batter into tins, placed the pans into the oven, took them from the oven to the table.  So perhaps G-d didn't "make" the sun, but I think he provided the mix somehow.

When I opened my eyes, the world around me seemed crisper, clearer, a different hue.  Because of the sun's light against my closed eyelids?  Because of G-d?  Both?  Does the *why* even make a difference?

I sat for a long while, watching the waves beat against the rocks.  Despite their force and ferocity, watching the waves was soothing and calming, humbling and invigorating.

I talked a bit to my dear friend from my congregation who is sharing a similar path that I am in my quest for a closer relationship with G-d.  I told her how easy it was to feel connected to G-d while surrounded by such beauty.  I told her I worried about returning home and struggling to create that same humbled feeling, that same awestruck connectedness...and she challenged me to work on ways to find that same beauty, that same emotion in my daily life and to not give up on feeling it simply because I was back in my familiar surroundings.

So that's my goal for the next few weeks.  Right now, I'm sitting on my back porch, looking at the lake and the trees.  I built a fire...which I was quite proud of until the fire starter log burned away and the flames flickered out almost as quickly as they started.  I'm listening to birds and crickets (and to the traffic roaring by and my neighbor's dog barking), but I'm trying.  It isn't easy, but I'm trying.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where Are You?

I've recently begun participating in workshop-slash-discussion group titled, "Ayeka".  Ayeka is Hebrew for "Where are you?".  It is the question that G-d asks Adam, when Adam is hiding, having eaten from the forbidden tree.  The purpose of the workshop is about how find out what you might be hiding behind, how to bring G-d into your daily life and how to develop a relationship with G-d and to embrace the transformation that those changes can create.  This is something I need and something I want...but it is also not for those who might be squeamish talking about their feelings.

The first session, which included about ten women, started off innocently enough, with a dear friend of mine leading our discussion group and setting us all at ease.  But we quickly learned that we would be asked to bare our souls to this group.  We laughed, we cried, we shifted uncomfortably in our seats, still grateful for this process that we began, some of us already friends, some acquaintances, some strangers (though, not anymore).  Bare our souls we did, jumping right in feet first, no looking back.  It's exactly what I need and it came at exactly the right time.

"Where are you?", is the first question asked in the Torah, but it is also a question I have been asking myself lately and I think, like Adam, that I may be doing some hiding of my own.  After a lot of careful thought and some digging, I realize that what I hide behind is simply more questions.  Two questions to be exact.  "What's next?" and "What if...?".  By looking ahead to see *what's next*, I'm missing out on what's in front of me.  In preparing for the various scenarios of *what if*, I'm forgetting to see what's happening right now.  Constantly looking for a schedule to adhere to, a goal to reach, a finish line to cross...that's got to change.

So by doing that, by focusing on the *now*, will I suddenly feel closer to G-d?  Unfortunately, I doubt it'll be so easy, so I'm guessing there are probably a few other things that I'm going to have to do in between.  And frankly, the thought of that freaks me out a tiny bit.

Why?  Because it's outside of my comfort zone.  It sort of seems like I'm reinventing myself and that feels strange.  Plus I don't really know how to do that, don't really know the first step to take.  I've never been a person who feels like they have a personal relationship with G-d and I don't really know what that will even look like.  I like to be able picture things, and I can't picture this.  I know I try to listen to G-d and sometimes I know I can hear him, but to think of that in terms of a relationship?  I'm going to have work hard to wrap my head around that.

But what I do know is that I want to see how it feels, want to see how it changes me.  Which is why I'd like to share it here, to document the changes that take place as a result of this workshop, to see what happens when I take time for me and for...well...G-d and for our relationship.  (That totally feels weird to say, I won't lie).

I'm thinking of it as my very own mini-version of The Year of Living Biblically, only much less hard core and without the publisher's cash advance (and also without the wit and humor of A.J. Jacobs).  Nonetheless, I hope you'll stick around and see where it leads me.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tales of Tying and Crying

We recently bought Ethan his first pair of sneakers that tie instead of Velcro.  Since Ethan is probably the only first grader left in the world who doesn’t know how to tie his shoes and I am the world’s worst teacher (no really, I am), this choice was not a good one for our family. 

After a very harrowing and unpleasant shoe tying session, and after both of us had dried our tears, I apologized to Ethan for not being more patient and explained to him that I just wasn’t very good at teaching people how to do something new.  “Yeah.  I kind of got that,” was his response.

So…unless Adam can start coming home from work well before bedtime to take over this shoe tying teaching business or we want to spend our weekends cooped up inside making bunny ears with our laces, or I want to spend my life savings on therapy for Ethan, I realized something had to change.  So, I found a great pair of slip on sneakers that don’t require any tying (or any other special skills that I am unable to teach for that matter).

I gave the new sneakers to Ethan the other morning.  He was thrilled.  So thrilled, in fact, that he performed a commercial of sorts while he put on his shoes.  “You just take them out of the shoe basket, put them on the floor, slip your foot in and presto!!!!  You have your shoes on!  No tying!”.  His voice rose an octave with each statement of delight.

Before I had time to go crawl in a corner and cry due to the failure of my parenting, complete laziness and inability to teach my son a necessary life skill, his excitement continued.

“You know what else would make your life so easy besides slip on shoes!?  The Twin Draft Guard!  If you ever start seeing your dollars start sliding under the door, just get the Twin Draft Guard and presto!  No more dollars slipping out by accident!”

Bewildered, I was certain I had heard incorrectly.  I looked down at the door and it looked pretty secure and draft-free to me…why (and how) would dollar bills slide underneath the door? 

“Dollars, Ethan?”

“Yes, your dollars.  They just start flying underneath the door and slide outside.  And then you lose them.  The lady on the commercial got a Twin Draft Guard and then she didn’t lose any more of her dollars.”

Then I realized he must have seen this:

I LOVE that the metaphor was lost on him.  His sweetness and sense of innocence made we want to giggle and cry at the same time.  I wish I could capture that forever.  And I also have to wonder… do you think the Twin Draft Guard people make any sort of mechanism to help with shoe tying?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tales of Where I've Been and Where I Am

I set out to write a very different post tonight than the one I'm about to write.  

When I logged into Blogger, 
and saw that October 27th was the last time I posted, 
it gave me pause.  
It was not only that it had been almost four months 
since I had anything to write, 
but my blog didn't even *look* the same.  
All the pretty images and borders were all gone 
and replaced with ugly "this image no longer exists" messages.

But it was the "this image no longer exists" messages that I found serendipitous.  For a few reasons.  

First, the post I was going to write tonight 
had to do with a workshop I am participating in 
that I am hoping will pull me out of a mindset 
that I have allowed myself to settle into 
that I no longer want to be in.
I had convinced myself I was starting to make some progress
and when I reread my last post from October, 
I was somewhat frustrated (completely ticked) to see, 
that thanks to my own words, 
there is proof positive that I am 
in EXACTLY the same mindset today, on February 24th, 
that I was on October 27th. 
That was the final straw for me.  
There it was, glaring at me, in black and white.  
My own self-pitying, over-analyzing, whining crap 
staring me dead in the eyes.  
And I'm sick of it.  I'm over myself.  

So the message "this image no longer exists"?  
Well, I want that to be true.  
I want this ridiculous mindset I'm in, 
this *image*, to no longer exist.  
This inner struggle I've had about 
going back to school, not going back to school, 
blah, blah,'s got to end. 

(And  you should feel grateful that I'm saving you all a lot of boring detail by not telling the latest tale of my recent tangle with organic chemistry and a hospitalized - and now healthy - little boy.  If I'm sick of myself, I have to imagine my close friends and loved ones have to be sick of me clamoring on and on too!)

So, saddened as I was that 
my beautiful blog was no longer beautiful, 
I loved that those are the words that I saw, 
garish and offensive as they were.  
They reminded me that not everything about me 
should be a perfect picture, 
and that growth and change are not seamless and tidy 
and don't always happen behind the scenes.  

And the message that "this image no longer exists
suits me right now. 
It fits. 
It's a great starting point for my journey 
of allowing myself the freedom to let go 
of my need to get to *what's next*.  

And that's partly why I have this blog...
to show my inner struggles for all to see 
(because we all have them and isn't it nice to know 
that we're not alone?) share what I know (not much) 
and what I don't know (a lot) 
and to share the process of learning, 
of tinkering with my thoughts, 
of cleaning up my messes, 
and hopefully, 
celebrating my small victories along the way.

Stay tuned...there will be more to come.  
And I promise I won't make you wait another four months.