Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Facebook Note that Started it All

Back in February, right after school started, my mind drifted in math class and I started to fantasize about being interviewed by James Lipton of "Inside the Actor's Studio" fame. This fantasy is on par with winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in the shower (the shampoo bottle stands in for my Oscar) and only slightly below my fantasy about taking an Australian beach resort vacation with Mike Rowe (dirty or clean, eh, Cara?).
When I posted this in the Notes section of Facebook, my Cara was so impressed with my comedic writing style, she mentioned starting a blog. Ta-da! Peanut Butter and Jelly was born.
So, here's the note that tied Cara to me bloggily until she runs away screaming (and she can run pretty fast):
The Inside the Actors Studio Questionnaire
I mentioned I daydreamed about being interviewed by James Lipton during math last night and realized the most wonderfully self-indulgent thing I could do is translate my daydream into a Facebook note. Here goes:
James Lipton: "We begin our classroom with the questionnaire that was first used by Marcel Proust and then brilliantly by Bernard Pivot for 26 years. And now, Amy will suffer."
Amy (blushing and giggling self-consciously): "Phew." (shakes herself mockingly like a dog coming out of the pool and pretends to crack her neck.) "Okay, here goes."
James Lipton: "Are your ready now?"
Amy: "Lay it on me, Daddy." (students in audience laugh)
James Lipton: "What is your favorite word?"
Amy: "It's a tie between 'dude' and 'Mama.' 'Dude' is a great word. It can be mean anything. Plus, if you say it with a flat, Midwestern accent, it's even funnier than if you say it in your normal voice."
James Lipton: "What is your least favorite word?"
Amy: "I hate, hate, hate the word 'redneck.' It's gone from a noun to an adjective to an excuse. 'Oh, don't mind him. He's a redneck.' I do use it though."
James Lipton: "What turns you on?"
Amy: "Orlando Bloom . . . is he here?" (Amy cranes her neck around like a meerkat and the audience laughs)
James Lipton: "What turns you off?"
Amy: "People in anguish."
James Lipton: "What sound or noise do you love?"
Amy: "Oh, god. I dread this question because my answer is so trite, but it's my daughter's laugh. I mean, when she's laughing really hardcore, that's the best sound ever."
James Lipton: "What sound or noise do you hate?"
Amy: "People in anguish."
James Lipton: "What is your favorite curse word?"
Amy: "C*cks*cker!" (Amy claps her hands like a little kid as James Lipton looks on with a fatherly and bemused look on his face) "I know most people say 'f*ck,' but 'c*cks*cker' is such an under-used gem of profanity, how can it not be your favourite?"
James Lipton: "What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?"
Amy: "I'd like to be a novelist. Or Queen of England. All the prestige, no real responsibility, and all the hats you could want."
James Lipton: "What profession would you not like to do?"
Amy: "I wouldn't want to be an old-fashioned delivery person: like a milkman or iceman in turn of the century New York City. I mean, talk about thankless. Out in the heat and the cold and if something's wrong with the milk or the ice melts, who gets blamed? That c*cks*cker, the delivery guy."
James Lipton: "If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?" Amy: "Come on in. Your Aunt Margie is making margaritas over there with Queen Elizabeth the First."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why Does Guilt Have to be Synonymous with Parenting?

Cara's last post was amazing. So true. So honest. If you haven't read it, you absolutely should. It's what every busy parent--whether single or in a couple--can read and nod their head, saying, "Yup. Yup. Yup. I'm totally there. Totally." But it also made me wonder: Am I a good parent?
Ask anyone whose known me, I adamantly repeated this mantra from age 13 to age 29: "I will never have kids. I hate kids. No kids for me." But when Lizzie made her presence known by positive-izing no less than 8 pregnancy tests (don't judge me: I was alone and scared and peeing over and over again on over-priced plastic sticks in my dad's bathroom), I just sighed and resigned myself to the fact that the jig was up and it was inevitable. I mean, I'm Irish-Italian, for gods' sake, I should have had 4 babies by age 29.
Now that Lizzie is 3 and pretty independent when it comes to her little ways and her little life, I can heave a sigh of relief. No more constant, up-her-butt care that comes with an infant. I could give her a colouring book and some crayons, a cup of juice and some apple slices and I'm free to Facebook and surf the Web study and do homework. I feel guilty when I find myself reading some useless article on Yahoo instead of playing an endless game of Tag or Hide and Seek with Lizzie, but sometimes I just physically or mentally can't do it. Most of the time, I let Lizzie do her own thing and entertain herself a lot because I don't want her to have to be one of those kids that needs to be constantly entertained by others.
I shared this view of Detached Motherhood (I like to call it Independence Through Neglect, a phrase I stole from Gabrielle from Desperate Housewives) on a website I used to frequent called Cafe Mom. You would have thought I said I wore a skinned puppy fur coat while boiling babies to make soup. I was attacked and vilified by the women on there, who said everything from I was a terrible mother to that I deserved to have my child taken away from me. All because I didn't hover over her and play with her from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed.
We all know that you can say anything to anyone using the anonymity of the Internet, but the judgement from those total strangers stung. So what did I do? I dove into being such a SuperMommy, I actually started to annoy myself. In fact, because of my over-mothering, Lizzie went from being a cheerful, independent little lovebug to being a whiny, mean little monster. I turned myself into her personal slave, running and fetching and cajoling and begging and delivering her wishes so quickly you would have thought I was competing for some land speed record. After about 3 days of that, I was sick of her being a little brat and she was pushing my overly-snuggly self away, saying things like, "No, Mama. No more hugs please."
I worry about any parent--mother or father--that has devoted themself totally and completely to their child or children. And I'm not talking to normal kind of devotion: I'm talking about those parents whose whole life revolves around their child to the point that if someone glances at their kid at a library storytime hour, they start a letter-writing campaign to the head librarian to get the offending parent banned from storytime because their little AngelFaceDarlingBaby might be scarred for life for getting a dirty look.
That last thing didn't happen to me. I was just--um--using it as an example.

TGIF

Balancing two children and a full-time teaching job is pretty rough stuff.

I never feel fully prepared for my job. Papers sit ungraded for weeks and lessons are planned at the very last minute. Keys are left at home, passwords are forgotten and deadlines are missed. I'm late for morning help, behind in my curriculum and I can never seem to find a pencil.

At the same time, I never feel fully engaged as a parent. My kids spend nearly nine hours at daycare/preschool. NINE. The morning is a delicate fusion of mad rush and gentle coaxing. Getting the kids out of their nice, warm beds and comfy pajamas in order to be at their respective schools by the ungodly hour of 7:30 am. Prying toys out of their little hands and shoving waffles down their throats as we stuff their arms into jackets and strap them into car seats. We drop them off, give them kisses and hugs and don't see them again until around four o'clock that afternoon.

Some weeks are better than others. Some weeks we almost seem to make it all work. This was not one of those weeks.

The brief time we spent as a family was earsplitting. Liam was crying. Will wasn't listening. Liam was screaming. Will was acting crazy. They were fighting over toys and snacks and sippy cups. Liam demanded to play with staplers and scissors and kitchen utensils; preferring to just dump his eleventy billion toys all over the floor and throw them against the wall rather than actually play with them. Will was running in circles, refusing to share or clean up and talking shouting like a baby, giving us his best "Max" impression.

From experience in my work, I've learned that when a lesson goes badly, the students are rarely to blame. It's usually the structure of the lesson or the decisions made by the instructor that are responsible. I have a similar attitude towards parenting.

Bill and I were tired this week-- mentally and physically. We didn't get down on the floor and play. We didn't pull up a chair and color. We cooked and cleaned. We gave baths and changed diapers. We dolled out snacks and brought down baskets of toys from shelves too high to reach. We warned and yelled and gave time-outs, but ultimately, we weren't in the trenches as usual. We were counting down the hours until bed time, wishing away the few precious hours that should be most important.

So I'm renewing a promise that I often make and occasionally forget. Dishes and laundry can wait and dinner can be grilled cheese or pancakes and eggs. Mental baggage from work can be checked at the door. When patience has been depleted at the end of a school day, it must be renewed. When energy is exhausted, it must be restored.

Next week will be better.

And in the meantime... thank God it's Friday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Newest Obsession

Over the years, I've had more than a few obsessions:
New Kids on the Block

Titanic--more specifically, Kate and Leo

British sitcoms (this is the cast of the classic As Time Goes By)

And more than a few have hung around:
New Kids on the Block

Titanic--more specifically, Kate and Leo

British sitcoms (this is the cast of the hysterical Gavin and Stacey)

But now a new obsession has surfaced that is krunking all over my past obsessions. Well, maybe except the Brit coms. Still love them.
NBC has a new show called Who Do You Think You Are? on at 8 pm on Friday nights. If you've seen me expound on it on Facebook, I won't bore you with all the details again. It's really just a big commercial for Ancestry.com and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Since the show's been on, I started to construct a family tree and I've pestered my poor maternal grandmother for so many details about our family history, I think her head is spinning:
"What was your mother's maiden name?"
"When did she die?"
"Where did she die?"
"Where was your father born?"
"When did he die?"
"Where did he die?"
I doubt these are questions that are easy for her to answer. Her father died when he was only 63. My maternal grandfather is the first in his Irish immigrant family born in the US. His family history is even more sketchy and a very sensitive subject. The IRA and English authorities are involved, according to family lore.
So, I have this tree sitting on Ancestry.com and I've been adding to it little by little, gleaning information from my grandmother and my great aunt. The last names on my grandmother's side are so similar (Brogan and Bagan) that it's impossible to keep who's who straight. I made the mistake of giving my whole family cart blanche to move names and dates around on the family tree willy-nilly and I panic every time I get an email saying, "Oh, So-and-so isn't there. He's there, so I moved him." I also put the wrong birth date down for my sister, so I got a scathing email from her about that. I've been getting her birthday wrong since Day 1 (January 21st? January 22nd? Oh, I don't know), so I don't know why that was such a big surprise to her.
I've also entered NBC's Ancestry.com sweepstakes. The Grand Prize winner gets $20,000 in travel money (Send me to Ireland! Please!!), an 8 hour consultation with an expert genealogist, 5 experts in fields relevant to {my} personal family history to help {me} learn even more and an Annual World Deluxe subscription for {me} and 5 family members. Let me tell you: that Annual World Deluxe subscription is nothing to sneeze at. For a year, the price (billed all at once, not in monthly increments) is $300. Considering my family are from both Ireland and Prince Edward Island, Canada (eh? you hoser), that subscription would be a lifesaver! Of course, the idea of flying to Ireland on Ancestry.com's and NBC's $20,000 tab to drink Guinness and Irish step dance with pasty, redheaded leprechauns in pubs--I mean, research my family--sounds like a sweet deal.
PS:
In the middle of this post, I panicked again and clicked over to Ancestry.com to delete certain peoples' ability to alter the family tree. Now it's like Christmas: "Here's the tree. Isn't it pretty? Now DON'T TOUCH IT."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The D-word (Part Three)

Two notable things happened in the beginning of April.
We started a blog and my son's first pet died.
Launching a blog with three posts about death isn't exactly what I planned, but that's what happened. The previous posts are here and here.




Will meets Tank on his fourth birthday.

We came home from visiting family two Sundays ago with our arms full of Easter candy and tired babies. I ran upstairs to grab pajamas for the kids and I couldn't help but notice Will's fish bowl. The water was cloudy and Tank was swollen and swimming on his side.

I sent Bill up to take a look. I hadn't wanted to get Will a fish in the first place. I never had pets growing up and the idea of cleaning and feeding another living thing on a regular basis just wasn't too appealing. When we made the purchase, it was decided that Bill would be in charge of all things pet-related.

"Not good", was his assessment as he came back down the stairs. He had taken a look and changed the water, but he felt that Tank's hours were numbered.

We explained to Will that Tank was sick. Will considered the situation seriously, staring at the water and asking questions before we tucked him in for the night.

"Is Tank going to die?", he asked.

We answered him honestly, telling him that Tank was very sick and that he might get better and he might not. We assured him that we had done everything that we could do and that we would check on him throughout the night.

Within an hour, poor Tank had sunk to the bottom of his bowl.

Bill flopped down on the couch next to me so we could come up with a plan he could watch the latest episode of Pawn Stars. (Don't get me wrong, Bill is 100% involved in our parenting decisions. It's just that he knows that I tend to change my mind at least twenty times before we're set on a plan.)

Our initial plan was this: Bill flushes Tank. Will wakes up the next morning. We explain that we sent Tank out to sea... to get better with his family. (Any kid that's seen Nemo knows that 'all drains lead directly to the sea'.) This seemed like the best choice. We'd spare our four-year-old the death of his pet and give Tank a happy ending. Although this seemed like the most positive option, it wasn't sitting right in my gut.

So I Facebooked. And Googled. And Twittered. It seemed as if most people, including the pros, thought that honesty was the best policy. Losing Tank might be a valuable life experience and lying to Will might only confuse him and impede his development.

It was hours later and in retrospect, Bill might not have been fully awake when I explained all of my findings to him. I felt that we should be truthful and supportive. Flushing Tank would probably not be a good idea. Maybe we could bury him in the backyard. Bill seemed to agree. I mean, he did say 'okay' a bunch of times.

The next morning, I was making pancakes in the kitchen and Bill was in the family room with Liam. Will came down the stairs and I could hear him ask, "Did Tank die?"

And then... Bill launched into the Nemo story. Not the plan. Well, the revised plan anyway.

"What?", Bill said as I bounded into the room. Will was sitting on the couch staring at us and it was pretty evident that we did not have our story straight.

Will began crying and saying that he missed Tank and that he didn't want him to be in the ocean. He wanted Tank to get better with us.

Bill got up and signaled that I was a crazy lunatic person I should just take over.

So, I did my best at damage control. I explained to Will that we didn't want him to be sad or upset, so we were planning to tell him that Tank went to find his family. Then I told him that we changed our minds because we knew that he was a 'big boy' and he would understand. So I told him that Tank was sick and couldn't get better. I told him that Tank had died.

It seemed that he was less upset at this idea. I think he had felt abandoned at the idea that Tank had 'gone to find his family'. He seemed to accept the truth much better.

Bill returned and we talked. With a little guidance, Will came to the conclusion that his Nana was taking care of Tank in Heaven. We would bury Tank in the backyard and we'd make a special stone for him. We could get some flowers. And when a little time had passed, Will even asked us to get him another fish.

It's nearly two weeks later and Will's fish bowl still sits empty on his desk. He flies past it throughout the day, coming and going in search of toys or books or games-- busy with all of the things that occupy a typical four-year-old's life. He pauses to remember Tank now and then; to ask a question or tell me that he misses him.

Watching him reminds me of a quote I once read: "Death is not a period, but a comma in the story of life."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Break and Going Back to School as a Grown-Up

It was back to school after a week off for Spring Break and I feel like I missed the fun somehow. I never went to a "real" college, so I never had the thrill of going away with my sorority sisters/drama club geek friends/slacking losers who spend too much time getting high and playing video games (pick which friend group you think applies the best) to Daytona Beach or Myrtle Beach or Virginia Beach or Palm Beach or whatever hell 'beach' kids go away to. Although, I have watched Spring Break "documentaries" on MTV and it just doesn't look like a lot of fun. I mean, if I wanted to put on super-slutty clothes, pund back too many fruity drinks, and grind away to really bad dance music, I'd just go to the Bamboo in Seaside.
I do have to wonder at going back to school at my age. I like to joke that I decided to go back to school because I got the bank statement and an advert from the school in the mail on the same day, but the story goes more like this:
Erick and I were driving down to New Jersey. We had been discussing our trip's budget and found out that we had even less to spend on fun stuff (ie: decent food and a trip to Point) than we originally thought. I had been out of work for a while--not wanting to take another night job at the mall--so money was more than tight. Lizzie was sleeping in the back of the car, Erick was driving while furiously punching the radio buttons on a search for a decent station, and I was staring listlessly out the window, feeling like a total loser because I wasn't bringing in any kind of tangible benefits. Route 81 through Pennsylvania is riddled with billboards (mostly of the John 3:16 and Poconos Rule! variety), but this time a different sort caught my eye. A 900 foot high perky blond woman wearing a "nurse's uniform" was smiling glassily down at me, advertising the local technical school for whatever hilly part of PA we were slogging through.
Wearily, I murmured, "Maybe I should go back to school."
Erick leaped at me: "Really? Would you? I think that's a great idea."
Surprised by Erick's enthusiasm for my half-assed suggestion, I figuring that would be the last time we'd talk about it. I was so not that lucky. Just a few days after we got back from New Jersey, I got the aforementioned advertisement in the mail for the Elmira Business Institute. It had to be a sign.
So, at 30-blank years old, I signed up for school 4 nights a week, studying to be a medical assistant. I'm still not 100% sure what a medical assistant is, but I do know that with my course of study I could have a real career and not have to stammer through the answer to "What have you been up to, Aim?"
You don't have to be on the Dean's List to know that that's a good deal.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kitchen Counter, 2 AM

The other night, at about 2 am, I found myself face down in a pile of drool on my couch. I've been falling asleep on the couch lately. I'm not proud of it. As a grown adult, I should know about the importance of a good night's sleep.

But the house is so quiet when everyone else is sleeping. There's no crying or whining. No fighting over firetrucks or sofa spots or chocolate milk. I can read or relax or watch television without any interruptions. There's no Transformers to transform or diapers to change. No noses to wipe and no legos to fish from a mischievous toddler's mouth.

So I attempt to fight off sleep... conk out on the sofa well before midnight... and collapse into bed in the wee hours of the morning. I am, therefore, cursing myself roughly four hours later when the kids are ready to rise and shine.

I snapped this photo the other night, in one of my drowsy stupors. I like how it captures some of the things going on in my present day life.

First, in the foreground, we have Bill's watch and keys along with the mail he was reading that evening. We actually have a place for all of these things, but why bother when it's just so easy to toss them on the counter. Ahem.

Next we have the big, red, frat party plastic cup. After years of listening to me nag about our carbon footprint, my husband still insists on buying and using these hideous things. Although they are technically disposable, he never actually throws them out.

In a sweet attempt at romance, there's the glass of wine that Bill had poured for me. Sadly, you can't drink wine when you're sound asleep. You also can't fulfill all your 'wifely duties' and you will be reminded of this repeatedly the next day.

There is a container of cookies, leftover from an earlier playdate. I will need to either hide these, toss these or bring these to another playdate in order to avoid eating them.

Nearby are the paper towel roll and baby wipes. Nothing soothes a cranky toddler like a paper towel roll. It's like magic. And with two messy kids, we have baby wipes in EVERY room of the house.

On to the sink full of dishes. When your kids are up by 6 am, there's plenty of time to do the dishes. Enough said.

Then we have the dreaded sippy cups. They have this 'no-spill' technology which translates as 'pain-in-the-ass-to-clean'. Generally, I put off cleaning them so often that I am frequently rinsing out rancid milk and regretting my careless ways.

In the background is my water bottle, which I carry around all day, telling myself, "You're not hungry, you're thirsty. You're not hungry, you're thirsty. You're not hungry, you're thirsty." Then, at some point, I am inevitably shoveling M&M's in my pie hole.

Note the fresh pineapple in the background. I love fresh pineapple. It's sweet and it's juicy and it's a real time-suck to cut up. I buy it, I stare at it, I promise that I'm going to make the time to prepare it and then I wish that I had just bought apples instead.

There's my Keurig and a full container of Cheerios which are must haves with a sink full of dishes and a 20-month old who is up at the crack of dawn.

Lastly, there's a garbage bag in the bottom corner of the photo. Due to kitchen-size constraints, we have a tiny garbage can under the sink that is forever overflowing. It seems as if we're always taking out the garbage leaving it on the floor to be dealt with tomorrow.

Someday, when my house is quiet and my kitchen is clean, I think that I'll look back on this photo and smile. Life is exhausting and messy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Observations on Country Living II, or In Honor of Mom

video

The audio is insanely low, but I think we can all get the joke. Love you, Oliver (Mom)!

Observations on Country Living

Living in the country has taught me a few important things:
1) International Harvester tractors don't go over 5 miles an hour, but that doesn't stop farmers from driving them down the main roads, blocking up traffic for miles.
2) Cars that slide off the road in inclement winter weather stay parked in roadside ditches until spring comes.
3) Barns are more important than houses, sporting concrete floors, heating, air conditioning, and electricity while the family of 7 live in a trailer the size of my bathroom.
4) Farm animals smell really, really bad. God help you if you're downwind on a hot day.
5) People don't have street addresses. They refer to their homes' locations by their name: "I live up at Brown's Farm. I'm Farmer Brown." If you ask for their street address, their eyes spin around like they're having a grand mal seizure.
6) Teeth? Yeah, those are optional.
7) Being a farmer doesn't mean you eat right. Most farmer's kids live on a diet of Mountain Dew, Chocodiles, and Cheese Doodles. I've seen their grocery carts.
8) Nascar is God. And Dale JR. is the second coming.
9) Bathing, like teeth, is optional.
10) If you're watching a movie and there's a beautiful, Victorian-style farmhouse with a wrap-around porch and the barn is a stroll through a green meadow while fluffy white sheep and glossy black and white cows frolic, it's a set.
Here's the perfect example of a "set" farm:

Here's the perfect example of a "real" farm:











Can you tell the difference? You can? Excellent! You're one step closer to living in the country.

The D-word (Part Two)

I'm writing a couple of posts on my four-year-old's questions about death.
Part One is here.

Major holidays almost always include a trip to the mausoleum. Bill's mom passed away in 2000 and we visit the cemetery pretty regularly. We've always brought Will along with us. As a baby, he would gaze up at the statues and stained glass from the baby carrier. As a toddler, he would stumble around in the wide open space-- giggling and pausing to hear the soft music playing in the background. At the age of three and a half or so, he would follow his dad's lead-- kissing his hand, putting it to the marble plaque, and bowing his head a little. Before too long, he began asking questions.

At first, it was the basics.

"Who is Nana?"
"What happened to Nana?"

So we explained the family tree. Explained that Nana was sick. Gently explained that Nana had died. He seemed to get it. He seemed satisfied.

Then one day came the question: "Where is Nana?"

I should have seen this one coming a mile away. Will was already asking questions about life and death. He had been exposed to death in some kids movies and the concept seemed so mysterious to him.

I wanted to be better prepared. I wanted to know what I was talking about. I wanted to explain how different people believe different things. I wanted to be honest, admitting that I really don't know what happens.

I was kicking (and am kicking) myself for not having my spirituality together before having kids. It's not easy to be a good guide when you're a little lost yourself and not so firm in your faith.

But all that came out is, "Nana is Heaven". This was followed by a brief, but descriptive fairytale about a beautiful place where people go when they die.

And then came the onslaught of related questions.

Where is Heaven?
Is it above or below outer space?
Will I go to Heaven?
Will you go to Heaven?
Will you know me in Heaven?
Will you find me in Heaven?
Will my eyes work in Heaven?
Can I eat fruit snacks in Heaven?
Is there school in Heaven?
Are there toys in Heaven?
Will my friends be in Heaven?
Will I be old like great-grandma when I go to Heaven?
Will I be able to see Earth when I'm in Heaven?
Will I be a ghost?
Will I be an angel?
Will I be in Heaven forever?
When I die, can I come back to life?

Every question seemed to be delivered with an anxious curiosity. I wanted to reassure him and realized that there was no way I could admit that I really didn't know the answers to some of these questions.

So I answered the questions as thoughtfully as I could. And in my son's eyes, I am a complete and trusted expert on life and death. He fully believes everything that I've told him and it's interesting to hear him repeat the details back to me.

"Nana went to heaven because she was so sick. Now she is happy and isn't sick anymore. She loves me and watches over me. When I go to heaven, I'll see her."

He has complete and total faith in everything I have told him.

It is amazing and refreshing and... is it completely crazy that I am just a little bit jealous?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Planet Goes Missing

We fear that Liam has eaten Mercury.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The D-word (Part One)

One day last year, I picked Will up from school and noticed that the kids were watching Land Before Time. I had seen the movie as a kid and vaguely remembered it as a cute dinosaur movie. A few days later, I purchased the DVD and added it to our collection in the van. Will was three at the time and I remember being totally caught off guard by this scene...


As the t-rex fight scene came to a close, I instantly remembered what was about to happen. I remember floating my finger over the fast-forward button, thinking that I could easily zip past the scene. He might have let out a, "Hey!" and then become easily distracted by whatever came next. When the movie was over, I could shelve it up high in a closet and replace it with an old-faithful, Elmo in Grouchland. I could protect my baby's innocent and perfect view of the world. I could avoid the whole Littlefoot's mommy is sleeping and not waking up and why is she not waking up and what happened and who's going to protect Littlefoot and now he's all alone and is she sleeping, is she coming back and mommy, mommy, mommy...

But for whatever reason, I avoided the proverbial easy button, and let the scene play out. This was Will's first official introduction to death and loss.

As time passed, our DVD collection expanded to include similar scenes.

There was Mustafa, killed in a stampede as Simba watched helplessly. I'll spare you the YouTube video. Just two words: crumpled whiskers. Sigh.

Then Nemo's mom.

And then Optimus Prime (after I assured my boy that robots never die) "became one with the Matrix"...


He flat-lined for crying out loud.

Then there was Obi-Wan Kenobi, struck down by Darth Vader and evolving into some sort of Force Ghost.

And somewhere along the way, there was the Thriller video. (I'm not exactly sure why we showed him this video, but we did.) Decaying corpses moaning and rising from the ground with outstretched arms will definitely spark a four-year-old's curiousity.

These were Will's first introductions to death and dying.

Now, nearly at the age of five, we are getting past these fictional accounts and beginning to deal with some real life stuff.

(To be continued.)

Did you or your child have a similar first introduction to death or loss?
Feel free to share comments below.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Another Friend-less New Jersey Visit

Home to New Jersey for a weekend visit means many things: seeing family, sleeping in Dad's house, going to Point regardless of temperature, and eating decent food. What it doesn't involve is seeing friends. Going home for the weekend and not seeing friends is getting really old, really fast. It sucks to see all the messages on Facebook, saying "If you're around, we should get together!" and know that it would never happen.
The only problem is finding a venue for the get together. Everyone that I'm friends with has kids and trying to get everyone to get sitters at the same time on the same night might cause a major babysitter shortage in the Monmouth/Ocean County areas.
Meeting at bar is a little young and do I really want to get wasted in front of my high school friends and fall off the stage at Bar A while dancing to "Dive in the Pool"? (http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDglvdlwsIA)
Meeting at a restaurant would be a recipe for too much yelling down the tables at each other and how many tables does TGIFriday's let you push together really?
So I nominate my dad's house for the gathering. It's big. It's spacious. It's got a backyard we can lock the kids in while we pound back margaritas and talk about how we were all going to marry the New Kid on the Block of our choice at one time or another (huh--but what will the guys do?).
Now, all we have to do is convince Dad to give up his house on the Saturday night of Mother's Day weekend to a bunch of shrieking, overly-excited wild children. And their kids.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cara's First Post

I am currently in the middle of a most blissful and amazing two weeks known as Spring Break.

No dragging kids out of warm beds to be at daycare by 7:30.
No lesson planning, paper grading or reasoning with apathetic seniors.
No shuffling between housework, cooking and childcare duties in the few precious evening hours that we're home as a family.

Instead, I have two weeks time. Time to play, time to relax, time to go places and do the things that I've been meaning to do. We've spent hours with Bendaroos, legos, play-doh, crayons and stickers. We've visited a museum, a theme park, a playground and the beach. I've sorted out closets and toy bins and junk drawers. I've read, run, and napped. And now, I've blogged.

I started a blog last year, when I was a stay-at-home mom and thought I'd have the hours and energy to keep it up. I never considered myself a 'writer', but the adventures of raising two small boys seemed to write themselves. Blogging was therapeutic, as it allowed me to contemplate and share my everyday successes, failures, joys and frustrations. Unfortunately as the year progressed, my small part-time tutoring job became a more-than-full-time job and I was unable to keep up with writing.

Amy putting the moves on my man. Circa 1992


Sometime along the way, I reconnected, ala Facebook, with Amy. I met Amy in middle school-- back when I had some atrocious bangs and a horendous pair of denim shorts. Back when I thought it was safe to ride my 10-speed through a deserted path in the woods that connected our neighborhoods. Back when Amy would fill countless composition books with original stories and back when we'd exchange intricately folded sheets of notebook paper filled with funny gossip and anecdotes.



So here we are, almost twenty years later. My atrocious bangs have been grown out and highlighted. My mini-van has replaced my 10-speed. Daily Facebook exchanges have taken the place of our "For Your Eyes Only" notes. And I am pleased to report that I have not worn denim shorts (or a black floppy hat) since the summer of 1994.

We now have husbands and kids and houses and jobs.

We also have some stories to share and hope you're along for the ride.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Newest Endeavor

So, most recently, Cara told me I was hysterical--a comic genius, as it were--and we needed to start a blog. Okay, it was a little more like "We should start a blog." She was responding to the insanely self-indulgent Note I wrote on Facebook about my Inside the Actor's Studio fantasy (maybe I'll re-post it here at a later date). I loved Cara's old blog. I read it all the time and I think she captured her life perfectly, giving old friend a little glimpse into being a teacher, tutor, and mom to two active boys.
I loved the idea of starting a blog. I immediately started having Julie/Julia Project and Cake Wrecks fantasies. I mean, who doesn't want to start a blog that becomes an Internet sensation first and then a force unto itself, spreading into movies, books, and fame. In the Peanut Butter & Jelly movie, I want Mayim Bialik to play me.
I mean, everyone who knows me knows that I'm a cross between Kathy Griffin and Janeane Garofalo (who really aren't that different, if you think about it), so contributing to a blog should be crazy-easy for me. Right? Right?
Yeah. No.
So far I've had to tear myself away from the first paragraph to do these things:
1. Pour myself a cup of coffee before I fell over. I was up until about 3.30 am last night studying for an anatomy and physiology midterm. I did take a few breaks for my own sanity: At midnight I got on Facebook to play Vampire Wars and rant in my status. At 1am, I watched Ugly Betty on NBC West Coast.
2. Slice up an apple for Lizzie, even though she just ate a waffle, grapes, and apple slices for breakfast an hour prior.
3. Chase a very naked Lizzie around the house because the slicing of the apples was obviously just a ruse so I'd leave the room and she could get--and I quote-NAK-KID!!
4. Scoured the house for more quarters to do laundry.
5. Sing and dance along with Lizzie and Team Umizoomi on Nickelodeon. What? I'm a mom. I have no shame.
So, how am I going to keep up with the blog and my oh-so full life? Same way I always do: Neglect something stupid and unnecessary (like dishes) and blog, blog, blog.