Friday, October 3, 2014

One Special Thing

Clown costume circa 1979. Don't blame my Mom for the makeup - I insisted on doing it myself.

When my siblings and I were little my Mom would start taking orders for our Halloween costumes at some point in the late summer. 

For months she would work on crafting our outfits. She'd tear pictures of whatever superhero or historic figure she was attempting to recreate out of magazines and pin them over her work table for reference. Then she's work late into the nights, sewing up intricate recreations. 

The year I was Wonder Woman she spray painted perfect gold cufflinks and spent a full day affixing gold stars onto the polyester blue short shorts she'd made herself. Another year I was the Statue of Liberty and my mom hand-dyed sheets green and researched the correct lettering for the cover of the giant book I'd carry around covered in green construction paper.

Halloween costumes were my Mom's one special thing.

And that is exactly the small piece of parenting wisdom I want to share with you this week: 

You can kind of convince people you're a SuperMom as long as you manage to master just one special thing.

Let's face it - for the vast majority of us being a genuine SuperMom is totally out of question. I mean, sure, anyone can have a run of good days where you're staying on top of the laundry, you're judicially using discipline in favor of screeching at the kids, and you're remembering to brush hair and avoid yellow shirts on picture day like a boss

But it's a house of cards, people. Because we all know that the moment you start patting yourself on the back and basking in your own mom-awesomeness -- that 's exactly when things are going to start crashing and burning.

You're going to burn the dinner. Or you'll forget to pack the cleats on soccer practice day. Or you'll accidentally leave one of your kids at the gas station and government agencies will begin wondering aloud if you should have ever been allowed to reproduce in the first place...

…at which point you'll be forced to consider leaving your offspring in a basket in front of the fire station for some competent mother to raise as her own.

But fear not non-SuperMoms! Your one special thing is here to save you! Because SURE, you may not be particularly great at remembering what day it is, or preparing healthy meals, or sitting through endless games of UNO without plotting someone's murder -- but you ARE awesome at making fantastic Halloween costumes!

Or, I mean, whatever your one special thing is. 

Mine is birthday cakes. 

It's not even birthdays -- just birthday cakes. I'm not that good at buying presents, and the parties I throw tend to be slapdash affairs in which I hastily invite some neighbors over three days beforehand for pizza and juice boxes. 

But the cakes -- they're really, really good.

A few weeks before each of my kids' birthdays they decide on a cake theme. Then I hop into action: I research cakes on-line, I purchase cake topper figurines, and yes, folks, I MAKE FONDANT.

I've made a shark cake:

Please note the use of Oreos to capture the dead eyes of the soulless killing machine

A "Fire Chief Car" cake:

"NOT a fire truck! I want a Fire Chief car!"

"Where the Wild Things Are" cupcakes:

Disregard dirty laundry in the background - that has nothing to do with any of this.

A "Toy Story" Cake:

Pixar owns our family

A Lightening McQueen cake:

Owns us.

And this year an "UP" Cake:

Should really have bought Disney stock.

The kids love their cakes. They look forward to them all year. They get into lengthy debates about which cake theme will be best and each year when the cake is unveiled there is much happy laughter and odes to Mom's real life Supermom-ness!

Which is nice because most of the non-birthday days of the year my superbness is kinda dormant. But I feel pretty hopeful that when my kids look back at these years they aren't going to remember burnt dinners and forgotten cleats the way they remember those cakes -- in the same way I remember my Mom hunched for hours over that sewing machine making my Halloween wishes come true -- and doing her one special thing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Home Again.

Well, it took us two full months but we are FINALLY home.

Four years ago we decided to move. One year ago we decided it would be this June. And two months ago we packed up our home in Los Angeles and hit the road for what turned out to be points HIGHLY unknown.

After almost 5 weeks with my in-laws in Texas we headed for New York because we'd been assured from all sides that closing would "happen any day now".

Yeah, closing totally did not happen "any day now".

Instead we spent the next 5 weeks entirely adrift with our three children under six.

Ever wanted a sure-fire test of who your real friends are? May I suggest targeted use of the phrase:

"Hey could me and my husband and kids come crash with you for a while? Until when, you say? Hmm, not clear really. Can we leave it kind of open-ended for now?"

It really separates the wheat from the chaff, I tell ya.

We ended up hunkered down in my amazing wonderful never-to-be-repaid cousin's basement for the better part of a month, eating off of paper plates and spending roughly EVERY WAKING MOMENT shouting at the children, 

"Don't touch any of the things!"

By day, desperate to get the kids out of the house, we'd spend hour after hour at the Paramus mall. We hit up the indoor playground so often the staff knew us by name. My children subsisted on a steady diet of Smoothie King and Wendy's cheeseburgers and each day I began to regret each my life choices just a little bit more.

As September approached without much hope in sight of ever signing ownership papers, I realized that desperate measures needed to be taken. My cousin was returning home from a month at the beach with three kids of her own in tow, which meant our days in the basement were numbered. My tolerance for a mall-based existence had been whittled away to less that nothing, and I was genuinely worried about what effects an all-cheese-meat and pulverized fruit diet was having on my children's systems. 

And so I decided I would have to give the kids away.

On a Saturday morning in late August I drove my husband and children to La Guardia airport and shipped them back to Texas. I came home and immediately began the important work of calling mortgage brokers and tearfully informing them how my children had been ripped from my very arms because I had no house to call my own!

They totally didn't care and let me know that until the ConEd hold on our electrical box was resolved I could basically go eff myself.

So yeah August? It wasn't all that great for me.

But I'm happy to report a MAJOR SEPTEMBER TURNAROUND. We now own our new house! My family is once again whole and under the same (non-basement-y) roof! My kids are at some point soon going to get on a reasonable school schedule and most importantly…..


Thanks for waiting out my long absence. I look forward to a great Fall together. Please if you haven't yet joined us on Facebook come over to and join the good times.

See you next week with a blog entirely unrelated to my move-related woes (there may be some unpacking-related harangues, though -- no promises….)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Diamonds in the Rough

On account of our in-flux housing situation my fivesome has spent the better part of the summer hanging out in Texas with my in-laws. 

I've spent time in Texas before, but never like "surprise, you'll be here for six weeks!" time, and so I've had to do quite a bit of improvising.

You know what's not all that easy when you have three kids under six?  IMPROVISING.

Back in LA I clung to my weekly schedule like a life raft. Some weeks it seemed that a strict adherence to schedule was truly the only thing that allowed me to maintain the smallest shred of sanity.

I ran a tight ship, people, and it worked for us.

But now I find myself in a small and for the most part unfamiliar Texas town where our first three days were pretty much devoted to the not-so-fun activities of:

"Let's make Nana's china dolls fight each other!


"Why are these goldfish in the fountain when they could be having so much more fun in the living room!?!"

So I've been working like a madwoman to fill the dyas for my energetic offspring. I've been running all over town assaulting librarians, nature center employees, and theater ticket takers demanding fliers detailing their summer program offerings. We've hit up olde-Westy towns, we've seen the singing zoologist perform, we've hit up the splash pad, and we've thrown at least six birthday parties for my eldest's favorite stuffed animal.

And it's been fun, and sometimes terribly, horribly un-fun, and sometimes both at the same time.

Take last night's attempt at a "living room campout". 

My boys had been begging for a campout, so we decided to do a trial run by letting them sleep in sleeping bags in the living room.

We set up a comforter tent, told ghost stories and roasted marshmallows on the stovetop.  WHAT FUN!

Until they decided that the blanket over the coffee table wasn't REALLY a tent and that we needed OUR tent. I attempted to explain in my best calm mommy voice that OUR tent was, in fact, on a moving truck probably somewhere near Ohio and was not available.

In response there was a lot of crying and carrying on accompanied by light inter-brother fisticuffs. It wasn't long before I found myself shrieking at the kids to "Get under the coffee table and be quiet already!!!!!" 

Things quickly went downhill, 

"This table tent is too small!" 

"He's touching me!"

"I don't have my toys!"

"Now I have my toys and he's grabbing them!"

By 9pm the super fun campout was in an irredeemable state of disarray. The kids had abandoned the tent. Brother #1 had relocated to the loveseat and Brother #2 had taken up residence on top of the coffee table with a pillow over his head.

I was laying down on the couch, my role at the campout having devolved to simply letting out an angry "SHHHHHH" anytime a camper made a sound of any kind.

Eventually my big guy started snoring and my four-year-old, in spite of his best efforts to "STAY UP FOREVER!" was getting noticeably drowsy as he continued to roll a truck back and forth from his perch atop the coffee table.

As I sat watching him, the motion of the truck got slower and slower when he finally looked at me, his eyes blinking heavily, and reached out his hand to hold mine.

We laid there like that  -- our hands linked in the gap between the coffee table and the couch: My four-year-old, who won't give me kisses anymore no matter how I beg, who resists any cuddles that are not artfully disguised as wrestling moves, and who hops out of bed in the morning before I get a chance to lay down with him and tell him how much I love him. He somehow, on the unlikely night of the disastrous indoor campout, hit some magic moment before falling asleep where holding his Mom's hand and just looking at each other seemed like the perfect thing to do. 

After about three minutes he let go, let out a big yawn and said in a small voice, 

"Love you, Mom."

Then he rolled over and fell asleep.

A perfect moment in a summer full of chaos. 

Which, in my experience, is just how these things go.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Perspective Lost

When my father was a young man he had surgery to remove a large growth from one of his lungs. Because the medical technology of the time was neither all that medical nor all that technical, part of his recovery required him to abstain from water for the better part of several days.

When visitors would come to see him during this period my father recalls being overcome by a single obsessive thought: 

"Why aren't they drinking water???? These people - who are PERMITTED to drink water - why would they just sit there SQUANDERING the gift of water drinking?!? WHY???"

Eventually, when the sight of people abstaining from water became too difficult for him, Dad began refusing visitors altogether.

It's the kind of perspective problem I've been facing this month as I try to move my family cross-country.

We're in the process of leaving Los Angeles, where we've lived since before the kids were born, and relocating to the suburbs of NYC.

Packing and selling one house, finding another home 3,500 miles away, figuring out what to do with the kids in the meantime, hiring movers, saying goodbye to beloved friends, researching school districts, keeping up with the laundry while trying to discourage the kids from adding their Sharpie art to freshly painted walls - - - it's all been pretty overwhelming. 

Then things went from "pretty overwhelming" to "altogether terrifying" when, on the eve of piling the children into an airplane to head Eastward, we learned that our intended house in NY had failed inspection and fallen through. 

I'd planned everything so carefully. We'd chosen the NY house during Spring Break so that we'd be ready to close just as school wrapped up in LA. The Los Angeles house was already on the market and empty of furniture. A moving truck with all our belongings inside was rapidly progressing Eastward on what I could now only think of as "the move to nowhere".  The five of us were already committed in every way to our leap off the West Coast cliff but now it appeared that our East Coast soft landing was crumbling beneath us.

I panicked.

Friends and family urged me not to lose perspective. "This too shall pass!" they offered helpfully. "You don't find the perfect house - it finds you!" they said. But I found it difficult to hear them through the fog of despair I felt now that my children and I were destined for a life on the road as traveling vaudevillians.

I gave into the fear.

Unable to face the realities of my situation I indulged in ill-advised snacking binges. I hid from my troubles by becoming over invested in the basest of reality television offerings (Would Tori forgive Dean? WHY DID I CARE?) I tearfully pined over the house we'd lost. I angrily rejected my husband's suggestions of alternate plans. Then, more sobbing.

I lost my perspective entirely. Because you know what I've discovered? Keeping one's perspective when things are going in the crapper - - -  is next to impossible. 

Just like water is all you think about when you can't have it, finding a house for your family when you've just sold your only other one is a subject one is LIKELY TO OBSESS OVER.

To be fair, at present, things are kind of looking up. We have a lead on a new house. We went ahead and left Los Angeles and are hanging for the summer in my husband's Texan hometown in hopes of making our way East this August. 

The kids are having the time of their lives. They're visiting with family and learning to touch nature from their fearless Texas cousins. The new house we have an offer in on has a bigger yard and you might even say (in a VERY small voice) that things may be working out for the best.

And I mean I'd love to tell you that this has all taught me a valuable lesson about how worrying is a total waste of time and that next time I'm just going to keep on sailing through the hard times with a positive attitude - sure that it will all lead to a greater destiny somewhere down the road!

But I mean, it hasn't. What is has taught me is the simpler lesson of, 

"Don't attempt to buy a house with water easement issues."

In closing PLEASE send good vibes that our new house that we've put the offer on comes through.

If it does not next week's blog will likely feature a "Host SFD and Her Family for a Month!" contest. ALL APPLICATIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED! 

Stay tuned…..