Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Tragedy

I've been sad. Incredibly sad. And angry. Like spitting nails angry. My emotions aren't different than any other parent in the wake of last week's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I've cursed. I've cried. I've prayed. I've talked. I've written. I've read. None of it brings me true peace because, honestly, how could it? What can you possibly take away from tragedy like this?

Nothing. At least not right now.

When bad things happen, though, I've learned to simplify.

I do small things. I focus on what I can do.

My husband was sick. Like many men, illness to my husband is all-encompassing. As a woman, wife and mother, I need to be REALLY on-my-ass sick to stop. So, I'm not generally sympathetic when he catches a cold. And he knows it {I think the eye rolling gives me away}.

This time, I went out and bought him  his favorite matzoh ball soup. I nurtured him. I listened to him ache and pain. I hugged him.

My daughter issued her usual complaint about school and homework. Instead of my automatic response to try and pep her up, I let her complain. I said I understood school is hard. Sitting still all day long is hard. And that she does not have to always like it. I get it. And I hugged her...long.

My toddler woke up grumpy from his nap and instead of hustling him on to our next errand, I held him. Kissed his head. Stroked his cheek and sang. {I actually started giggling midway through the singing because even to my own ear...yikes.}

I played airplanes with my 4-year-old for an extra long time. And that's something. Because I can't stand playing airplanes. ;)

I offered help to family members that needed it.

I spontaneously invited family to dinner.

It all felt good. Those small things. It didn't take away the fear, but it did allow me to focus on the moment and pulled me out of that overwhelming, weighty sadness.

And, really, that's all I can do. At least for now. 

One day soon, though, I'll be ready to march...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What People Say

Shit-talking. Not nice. Not behavior to model for your kids. But I do it. I try to curb it, but then I find myself talking trash about the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or a neighbor who I think drinks too much.

I was out with a friend last night who clued me into another mom who had been talking about me at a recent party.
"That R. She's going to burn out. She's working. She's doing stuff in the kids' classrooms. She's going to burn out."

It was harmless. It wasn't a horribly mean thing to say. But it was a judgement on how I live my life. It didn't come from someone I am particularly close with or even like for that matter. And I don't find it to be a true statement. I rarely feel like I'm on the edge of burning out. Tired, yes? But breakdown? No. Yes, I juggle a decent amount of stuff in life, but that is all by choice and I am grateful for those choices.

You buying what I'm selling? Good.

So if it's not true, if I do indeed have my shit together, why did it sting to hear that about myself? No matter how much you say you don't give a rat's ass what people think of you...

Well, you know. We all give a rat's ass. Or maybe half a rat's ass. And maybe more than we care to admit to ourselves. That's why we don't walk around naked burping and farting at nice restaurants. We care. That's why we teach our kids not to pick their noses or slurp their soup. We care.

Do I seem crazed? Do I look like I'm losing my shit with too much on my plate? Am I not doing a good job as a mother? Am I not doing a good job in my career?

Funny how just a little harmless shit-talking (that really, truly in my head I know means nothing) sent me straight into thinking, analyzing, evaluating and judging myself.

Because that is really what's underneath all of it: Any shit talking I do about anyone else, I do way more about me to myself.  Another friend of mine recently talked about her need to be perfect. How she is hard on everyone else around her, but 10 times harder on herself.

Ding, ding, ding!

And it's not like I sit there and say "You suck! Try harder!" It's more like "Ugh, why can't you be more patient?" or  "Shit, the laundry didn't get done" or "The kids have been eating carryout three night in a row this week" or "I should have followed up with that client a bit more."

It's not an uncommon trap to fall into. When I was younger, it was called "ambitious." As you get older it can morph into "neurotic."

So, as we come up on Thanksgiving, I am making two promises to myself, at least for today (because you can only focus on the day, hours, minutes, seconds in front of you, no?):

- No shit talking about anyone else.
- No shit talking about me.

Ready, set...go.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Picky, Picky, Picky

A friend told me recently that one of her goals as a mother was to make sure she raised gracious children who were pleasant to be around. It got me thinking...about my own child-rearing ideas.

Any parent would be lying if they say they didn't have some ideas on how they were going to mold their children into good, smart contributing members of society. They are, in essence, a reflection of who you are as a person, right? That is why the term "mommy guilt" even exists. You did a good job raising them, therefore you are a good person. They fuck up? You fucked up. Yes, yes, yes, they are their own people. They have their own lives, their own paths, their own personalities. But still...

As you spend all those years feeding them, wiping their noses, giving them baths, reminding them to say "please" and "thank you," teaching them the good in telling the truth and the not-so-good in lying...the line gets blurred. The line between what you give them and what they eventually choose to take.

For me?  I want my kids not to be picky eaters. Picky eaters represent a number of things to me -- close-mindedness being one. I want them to embrace the world. To know that the world is big and scary and wonderful and exciting...and theirs.

We are a biracial family. I want them to be open to different cultures because they are the beautiful product of what happens when you not only learn to love another culture, but make that other culture part of your family.

To me, food is a huge part of that. You don't want to eat different  types of food? You don't really want to know the world.

And would you believe, after all those lofty ideas and notions...I have a picky eater. A really, really picky eater. I'm talking won't even try stuff. Turns his nose up. In fact, wrinkles it in disdain if what is put in front of him isn't pizza or chicken.

My lot is not unusual. This country is filled with picky eaters. I go to pick up my son at preschool and can easily spend a good 10 minutes with other moms talking about how our kids won't eat jack shit. There are even studies and books about how we are raising a country of picky eaters.

But, I was never, never, never a picky eater (see that halo? I'm shining it extra bright for y'all). How could I have raised such a son-of-a-gun when it came to food?

And there's the rub of it all, folks. We offer the same food to all our kids and two out of three of the kids at least try the food. We give our kids the lessons and options and consequences we think are good and right for them, and they do with it what they will. Even at age four.


We have cut out snacking, which I have to say helps with the pickiness. Extreme hunger wins...even with the pickiest eaters. Oh and my husband was a picky eater.  But you wouldn't know it today. When we travel to Thailand, he goes balls-out. This gives me hope.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Lots to write about. Plagued as of late with thoughts of my mother...a lovely cocktail of regret, loss and helplessness. Yes, it's loads of fun. But hugs from my husband (who lets me bawl like a baby whenever the mood hits) and from my 7-year-old daughter (who now knows that mommies can sometimes miss their mommies too) do help.

And then there is this. Life with them. The blessings all around me. I omit sharing much of the daily preciousness with my mother because talking is...difficult. A chore. But I will tell my mother about this video. How her grandchildren are such good brothers and sisters to each other. I don't know that she will understand, but I will tell her anyway. Maybe I will play it for her over the phone?

For now, though, it's one of those moments that lifts me into the here and now because it's just so flippin' funny and cute. And sometimes that's what you need in life when things get you sad...funny. And cute.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Boys a' Laughing

Sometimes your kids remind you of each other. Like the way they laugh...

Remember this? (And yes, I will do anything to make a baby laugh.} Well, it sure looks a lot like this. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Not Just Smellin' Roses

My 7-year-old daughter asked me the other day what I  would change about the world. I gave some not-very-creative stock good-parent answers: world hunger, war, more hugs.

Her response?

No, no, no. I meant what would you change about the world like when you open the door and look outside?

Ah, the physical world.

Before I could answer...

I know what I would change. I would have all the grass and trees be made of Nutella. So, I could just go outside and take a huge bite. I wouldn't have to spread it on bread or dip anything into it. Just bite right into it.

This is why I am grateful everyday for those loud, crazy little people in our house. I'm not stopping to smell some nice, sweet roses.

I'm take a huge bite out of a Nutella tree.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Do I Really Look Like That When I Talk?

Apparently...yes. I promise the story I was telling was that good.

by Marley V.

Instagram-med. You can find me @dcstylefactory.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


"You could seriously write a book," she said after listening to me recount my month-long trip to Thailand. My friend wasn't kidding. I could.

Although there is so much to digest, think about, write about and feel, right at this very moment, I keep thinking about my family. I've written about my mother before on this blog and I am not going to sugarcoat what it was like to see her after two years. The woman I knew as my mother is gone. In the place of the beautiful, hardworking, sweet, kind, understanding, devoted and often stubborn woman I knew all those years growing up  is a grey-haired one with tired eyes, withered legs, a nearly  unrecognizable face ravaged by illness and a mind that won't let her remember.

She can only lay down or sit up in her wheel chair propped up with a band wrapped around her chest. She needs help to use the restroom. Her caretaker sings her songs to calm her.

No one ever, ever in their wildest dreams can imagine their invincible, infallible parents like this. To say I cried when I saw her? I walked in. She was laying down on the bed. I looked into her  eyes, held her hand. She squeezed back a little. I managed to say, "I'm here mom. It's me." I am not sure I even got the words out because I wasn't breathing. And that was it. That is all I remember. The rest is a blur. No audible crying, but just tears that wouldn't stop. Just a rain of tears streaming down my face. I couldn't wipe them away fast enough and eventually I gave up.

The next morning, I got up and hurried downstairs with my daughter who is seven. She immediately wanted to see her grandmother, which surprised me a little. I'm not sure I knew  what to expect about my kids' reaction to seeing my mother. I had explained to them that she wasn't doing well. They know she is in a wheelchair -- they have only known her to be in a wheelchair. They know she is not like their other grandmother who does arts and crafts, pushes them on swings and reads them stories. But I knew I wanted them to see her. Be with her. Answer their questions about what was wrong with her. Explain to them that she wasn't always like this.

So down we went.

My mother is sitting in her chair. Her caretaker feeding her a pancake breakfast -- made by my father. {I later find out he makes her an American-style breakfast every morning.} She turns and smiles at me. She knows me. I go in to hug her. She hugs me back. If I would have known that moment -- that one moment -- would be the only time of my visit that I felt my mother remembered me...

The next morning was different. I asked her if she knew me. She said "Of course! You are my niece!" I laughed. How silly! I am her daughter.  She was joking. She would remember.

The next morning again I went down. I hugged her and said good morning. Again, "Do you remember me? Do you know who I am? I am your daughter." Her eyes welled up with tears as she declared in a shaky voice, "My daughter!" Her eyes stared back at me and then past me. Confused.

In that moment, I knew. I knew I would have to remember for the both of us. I would have to let go of who she was and love her for who she is. She isn't that mother anymore. She never will be again.  I thought of my daughter. Not pained by memories of her grandmother as a vibrant, healthy woman -- she has none -- but living, feeling and enjoying her grandmother today.

The next morning I got up early. I went downstairs, again with my daughter, and fed my mother breakfast. I coaxed her to open her mouth, chew, swallow. I asked her if it tasted good. I told her I loved her.

We went on her morning walk with her and my father. My daughter pushed the wheelchair for a while. And then I did. We sat at the end of the street. We were quiet. We talked. We held hands.

And that's when I began to see the beauty.

Seeing the tragedy is easy. Seeing the beauty? That takes some work. But I was starting to see it. And it looked like this:

There is a blogger that I love. She coined the term "brutiful" to describe life -- its brutality and beauty. That word kept ringing in my ears the entire trip. Life is pain and joy and disappointment and bliss and turmoil and peace. Why do bad things happen? For the same reason good things do. But if we drink it all in -- sometimes sipping and sometimes guzzling -- we may come out the other side with something more. I can't describe that "more" in words, but I can tell you that it exists somewhere between your top of your stomach and the bottom of your throat.

Oh and please don't misunderstand. I will cry again. I will be angry. Furious. I will want my mother back the way she was. But for now, at least right now, I can feel it...that indescribable "more."

And I smile.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fun Friday!

Every Friday, my daughter's swim team has their "Fun Friday" practice. They do some swimming, but mostly they act goofy, horse around, and do lots of smiling and laughing.

So, in the spirit of "Fun Friday" at our family's pool, I am going to attempt to regularly post, each Friday, something silly, sweet, or goofy that makes me smile about the past week whether it's a picture, something a kid said to me, something that happened with work or all of the above.

And to get us started is today...watching my daughter getting thrown in the pool by her coaches...and then giggling uncontrollably afterwards. No better way to start off your weekend.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Unsinkable

Today's text between Mama (that would be me) and Daddy (that would be my big strong man).

M: Nate took a huge dump in the bath.  He cried in shock. I cried.

D: What?? He's never done that before.

M: It's horrible. A shit bath. A bath of shit. The two older kids are losing it. Screaming their heads off.

D: Because of the deuce?

M: No because they just found out that the world is in fact round...not flat. And that Christopher Columbus was a racist. Yes because of the dooce.

D: Ugh

M: When you get home just give me one straight to the head. I. Can't. Deal.

D: Ugh. Ugh. Well three kids and only one crap in the bathtub is I guess not bad odds.

M: Bite me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happiness Is...

a sunny day

an open field

a few giggles

maybe a couple of sticks

and one sweet baby boy...

Monday, June 25, 2012

If You Don't Yell at Your Kids, You're Not Spending Enough Time With Them

it was one of those. couldn't get those two in bed fast enough. their bickering. their whining. their questions upon questions upon questions -- all nearly did me in.

and i lost it. not sure what it is or if i ever really had it.  if i did, it definitely not only fell by the wayside last wednesday, but exploded then crashed and burned in a fiery blaze leaving me a pile of ashes.

all over sorry. as in the board game.

i could feel my shoulders slump and my body cave as my middle child asked to pull it out. i was already in, shall we say, not the cheeriest of moods so the thought of playing a board game with my 4-year-old  -- who may go down in history as the world's poorest sport -- felt like being asked to eat a shit salad.

but, there we sat. with our men. i got to be red and yellow. he was blue and green. he decided, right off the bat, that his men should start at the "home" spot -- where you're supposed to finish. fine. let's start at home. but just so you know, that sucks. and it's not how the rest of the world plays the game.

i picked a card and moved my men from the home spot down several spaces toward "start."

"you're cheating!"

what? not only am i forced to play a boardgame in a world where rules and common sense don't exist, i am also playing with a human being who believes the only way i'm not cheating is if he is winning. 
if i was in any sort of giving, nurturing state of mind, it wouldn't have mattered. the kid is 4. he just learned to wipe his ass a year ago. and he's still not that great at it.

but, things didn't play out like they should. like they should if you're kinda, sorta the one who's supposed to be the bigger person?

still, instead of doing what was going on in my head (something like me flipping the boardgame and letting pieces fly while yelling at the top of my lungs, "cheating?!? how do you feel about cheating now? want a piece of me?!? now go practice wiping your ass!"), i decided to excuse myself and let him play the game on his own.

it really was the kindest most loving gesture i could have made in that very moment because if i had to start at "home" again and then listen to how i was cheating just by picking a card that fortuitously moved me forward in the game, i was doing to implode. as in explode inward.

plus, i had to make dinner. so, baby in toyroom; oldest kid (who had earlier been banished for insubordination, excessive whining, excessive tattling and excessive excessiveness) in her room writing why she was mad so we could discuss it later in a calm, rational way (yeah, right);  and middle kid playing army men with the little plastic pieces from sorry boardgame in dining room, blissfully unaware that he had nearly witnessed his mother exploding from the outside in.

oh, and p.s., husband was not going to be home until 8 p.m. score!!

i started to make tacos. all i wanted was to get through our tacos so we could go get ice cream. it was in part an effort to bring some levity to a day that we were all slogging through. but truth be told, i was the one who really needed that scoop of vanilla ice cream with extra chunks of butterfinger. it was really the only thing that got me through the morning. and then the afternoon. and then the late afternoon. and then the early evening and then the evening. promise of ice cream.

glorious ice cream.

i was finishing up the tacos when i asked jack to please clean up his game because we were getting ready for dinner. i was sweaty from cleaning up off the floor the 100 water bottles i had bought from the grocery story earlier in the day, the contents of our tupperware drawer that had been splayed across the kitchen floor, and the innards of a full bag of pretzels that now littered the foyer area where the culprit -- my 1-year-old -- sat cheshire-like amidst his "creations."

oh and icing? my oldest in and out of the kitchen giving me "you're a mean mommy" dirty looks punctuated by "but mama! but mama! whyyyyyyy can't i play on the i-pad?"

shoot me. immediately. and while you're at it, take this sledgehammer and kill all ipads and iphones.

i finished the tacos and asked my 4-year--old to paaalease clean up his game...again. but this time, i prayed. actually more of a pleading. a sacrificial offering to the gods on mount olympus to puppet my preschooler into cooperation.

"why do i have to clean it up? you're the one who got it out. you should clean it up."

the gods obviously weren't listening.

i walked calmly over to my child and proceeded to lose. my. shit. salad.


i don't yell like that much. i boss for sure, but yelling? not so much. when i do, though, man is it scary. those kids hit the ground running. and although i feel bad because they are freaking out, it can be a rather effective and briefly satisfying way to get shit done.

needless to say, that sorry game got scooped up right quick.

but it wasn't over. next up? the oldest. she came down with her drawing of "feelings" so we could talk about it. and there it was: a picture of a pig's head with "mean mommy" scrawled next to it and a big "NO!" under it.

it actually was not an inexact likeness based on the swine-like scream i had just emitted over the uncleaned boardgame.

and ladies and gents, we have round 2:


not a shining moment for any of us, but considering one of us is an adult...well...

tears, tears and more tears. chaos, chaos and more chaos. mean mama, mean mama and more mean mama. and the baby in his highchair, the only one eating tacos (i somehow managed to feed him while losing my noodle -- a  sign not of a good mother, necessarily, but a real one) right in the eye of the storm -- laughing and smiling at the madness of it all.

i got dinner on the table. marley actually set the table. jack actually helped. we all actually sat down. and ate tacos. in silence. after we finished, i said this:

"you guys, i am sorry that i screamed."

i really wasn't.

"it's not a nice way to tell you i'm mad. sometimes mamas get super-tired or in a bad mood and throw temper tantrums too. but i should have given myself a time out before i started yelling."

they both looked at me with wide eyes.

from the 4-year-old: "i'm sorry i don't like cleaning up. it's really boring."

and from the 7-year-old: "it was not a pig."


"the picture i drew. it was not a pig. it was just a mad face because i was feeling mad. did you think it was a pig because the nostrils were big? I made the nostrils extra big because that's how they get when people are really mad."

sigh. hug. sigh. long hug.

"let's go get ice cream. i love you guys. i'm sorry."

we left the mess behind us (literally -- the kitchen and dining room were a wreck when my husband got home) and ate ice cream.

when we got home, even though i was exhausted from the day and just wanted to put them straight to bed,  i read to them. it wasn't perfect ("mama. why are you reading so fast and your voice sounds like a robot?"), but it bookended the day.

i kissed them goodnight and promised them that although today was rough, tomorrow was a new one.

and if all else fails? there's always ice cream...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Better Late Than Never

i started this father's day tribute yesterday, but we were so busy actually time to blog. so today, we started thai school/camp for the two older kids and the wee one is sleeping...AND i folded the laundry. AND i started dinner. AND i returned two clients' phone calls. so, now, my dear husband, you get center stage here on me blog.

it seems aeons ago that you were this guy...

and now you're this guy...

there was lots in between...

one thing remains the same: those kids are damn lucky.

i love you...happy father's day!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

First Days of Summer

with m out of school, our summer days have just begun. with a particularly busy spring (that has given me a new-found respect for professional event planners and fundraisers), i experienced first-hand the old adage: life is as complicated as you make it. 

i love my job and pursuing interests outside of being a wife and mother, but i am glad that for right now, all that has calmed down and  there is this.