Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Christmas Full Of Memories

My husband and I got married in October of 2005. Christmas arrived quickly that year and we decided we were going to go cut down a tree.  Here’s something I didn’t know, a tree in the wilderness may appear smaller than it actually is. We were living in a two bedroom condo at the time and my husband wound up having to cut the tree on our tiny little deck in order to just fit it in the door. Fun times. The neighbors must have loved us.



Once we got the tree inside I realized I didn’t really have any ornaments to decorate it. So I did what anyone would do. I rushed out to Target and stocked up on a bunch of cheap, but pretty enough ornaments so that our poor, cut up tree would look like an actual Christmas tree. Once the lights were on, our tree looked great. Lights fix everything. I had three nice ornaments on the tree. Two of them we had bought on our honeymoon and one of them I had made at the local mall for our “first Christmas” together. I decided that by the following year I would have a real grownup tree. You know the type of tree I’m talking about. It’s the one in all the magazines. It’s the one that Martha did herself. It’s the one you pin for future reference. It’s usually color coordinated. Spoiler alert it is not the tree I have.

My plan had been to go out at the end of the Christmas season and stock up on the expensive ornaments that would surely all be on clearance. Only I didn’t do that, because well the best laid plans as they say. Before I knew it Christmas was over and winter turned to spring. Who thinks about their Christmas tree in the spring? Not this girl. Summer arrived and in a blink fall followed, as did our anniversary. We went away for the weekend and I decided to buy an ornament in a local shop. What I didn’t know then is that with that one ornament I would begin a tradition that would carry on for our family, making our tree what it is today.

In the years that followed, I began buying an ornament on every vacation or special trip we took together. I went back to the same place I had bought our “first Christmas” ornament and had one made when we got our dog, then again when our oldest son was born, and again when our youngest was born. They closed after that and I’m so happy I was able to get all of our special ornaments from them before they did.


When we go away somewhere my husband knows that I will not leave until I find a shop that sells local ornaments. I have an ornament from our first trip with our oldest. I have one from my husband’s fortieth birthday. I have many from our summers in Lake George. I always write the year on it before packing it away.
Every year when it comes time to decorate the house for Christmas I am completely stressed. All I can think about is my long list of things to get done. I imagine my family grows pretty tired of hearing me talk about how much I have left to do when we literally just finished our Thanksgiving turkey. I can’t help myself. I’m one of those people who complain when I feel overwhelmed. I will admit it’s not my best quality. I try to surround myself with people who are the “glass is half full” type because when my glass is empty I need someone to help fill it up a bit.

This year wasn’t any different. My list is long and my patience was running thin. I spent a good deal of time telling my husband it was never going to all get done. “I’m only one person. We don’t even have a tree yet. When I am getting all the shopping done? Do people really need a card from us?” He’s gotten pretty good about just nodding along and ignoring my Christmas induced insanity. We finally went to get our tree. He put it up the next day and got all the lights on it. He took all the boxes of ornaments down from the attic and suggested I decorate the tree in peace and quiet the next day while they were all out of the house. I agreed.

The next day I opened the first box and pulled out our “first Christmas together” ornament. Suddenly I was brought back in time, eleven years ago, before our kids when we were newlyweds cutting down a tree together that would wind up being way too big for our condo. I started laughing just thinking about it.
 The next ornament was one from Hawaii and I remembered our blissful honeymoon and how eleven years has certainly aged us but I wouldn’t change a thing. Next it was an ornament from Lake George 2015 which was the last summer my grandmother was with us for that trip. I cried thinking about how much I miss her, but I smiled thinking about all the wonderful memories we have with her. 


Ornament after ornament brought me somewhere back in time. They are all representations of a time that has passed, but each and every one of them mean more than I ever thought they would when I bought them. It is amazing how the sight of something as small as a Christmas ornament can bring up so many emotions. As I picked up each one I instantly had a picture in my mind of the trip. I saw my oldest at two playing in the sand of Cape Cod.
I saw my youngest at two beaming with excitement on his first steam boat in Lake George.
I saw my husband and me holding hands as we walked the Cliff walk together in Newport Rhode Island.


I moved on to all the homemade ornaments my kids have made over the years and I was reminded about just how fast time moves. My grandmother always used to say “Don’t blink Jen. It goes faster than people tell you.” I blinked. She was right. My oldest is eight now. Looking at his little face on a gingerbread man that he made when he was three reminded me just how fast time is moving. I remember him giving it to us. I remember laughing and telling him it was adorable.
My youngest is five and I remember the Santa face ornament he gave us for his last Christmas in preschool.
The ornaments with their faces on them are my favorite. They are frozen in time. I may never get another one of my eight year old at this point. So I cherish the ones I have. They are worth more to me than the most expensive ornament on the clearance shelf. The same can be said about the Popsicle stick ornaments and the toilet paper roll snowmen. They are priceless.


When I was done decorating the tree I realized just how lucky we are.  My stress was gone. If nothing else gets done that’s okay because everything we need to celebrate Christmas is represented on our tree. I will never have a Martha tree and I’m good with that. I don’t need a tree meant for the magazines. I want a tree meant for our life. I will continue to buy an ornament everywhere we go and date it accordingly. One day when I blink and the kids are out of the house starting their own traditions, I will have the ornaments to bring me back in time, to bring me back to days that might not have seemed big at the time but will surely be worth remembering.  I will always enjoy Christmas and I will forever cherish looking back onto Christmas pasts. After all Christmas is about making memories with those we love and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that than with a tree full of memories. 


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Saying Goodbye To Santa-In Memory of Ray Beesley

Do you remember the magic you felt as a child at Christmas? There was so much to love about this time of year you undoubtedly sported a permanent grin from Thanksgiving to December 26th.  After all, you were a kid so Christmas was stress free and chock full of excitement. When I think about the things that made me happy as a kid I quickly remember baking cookies with my mom and sister, visiting relatives and playing with my cousins, watching Christmas movies in my footy pajamas, neighborhood parties, school parties, and ripping open every new delivery of Christmas cards from friends and family.  I loved all of it.

Of course the most excitement came from knowing that Santa Claus would be coming soon. Every year my parents brought us to take pictures with Santa and the whole way there in the car I would practice what I was going to say when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I would inevitably get nervous and only remember one of the things I had practiced, but either way I left there full of excitement. It was pure joy. It was innocent, magical, and a time of never doubting in jolly old Saint Nick. As we all know, that innocence sadly fades with time and age. Last week I posted a great story on Facebook about my friend’s son starting to doubt Santa. An amazing man named Bob, who just happens to look exactly like Santa, stepped up and took a picture with her elf to show her son. He had only been there to service the furnace but he left there restoring her son’s belief and giving her one more year of magic.

Everyone loved the story. A couple of days later sad news hit a local garden center. The Santa from the garden center, who everyone had loved, had passed away.  Facebook was flooded with story after story about Ray Beesley better known to most as Santa, and his amazing heart. My friend forwarded me a story from a friend of hers and as I read it with tears rolling down my face, I just knew I had to share it.  We wound up connecting on Facebook and she gave me the go ahead to share her story. Get a tissue and be prepared to feel the magic of Christmas all over again.  This is Amy’s story.
Anyone who knows me knows my sincere affection for this man. He was more than "Santa" he was a genuine, gentle, sweet, compassionate human being. I have to share the reason why I fell in love with Christmas again after I thought I never could.
When my son Zach was diagnosed with Autism in 2004, I fell into a
deep, dark depression. The holidays were especially hard. Seeing the magic of
Christmas through your child's eyes is one of the joys of being a parent. I didn't have that magic. Zach didn't care about Christmas, didn't care about receiving presents, and he didn't care about the Christmas tree or any decorations. One day while shopping at the Wayne Town Center, Santa was just coming back from break, and there were no lines. I decided to have his picture taken, purely for a photo op. He wasn't able to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas or tell him if he was a good boy. It was strictly a “What the Hell” moment. I thought maybe I could get a cute picture. I wasn't feeling the magic of Christmas at all. When his session was over, Santa stood up and hugged me real tight. I will never forget how he told me in his sweet gentle voice, "God gave him to you, and he wanted you to be his mom.  You are a special mom. Santa loves you, God bless you Mom.”  It was almost like he knew! There I was sobbing in the middle of the mall hugging Santa so tight I thought I was going to break him while Christmas music was playing. Ray Beesley saved me that day; he gave me back the magic of Christmas. We went back every year. He always remembered us. He never let us wait on line, always waved us to the front. He always remembered Zach's name. I knew he was ill in the spring so last week, I stopped at the religious store and bought him a Saint Jude coin to give him when we saw him this weekend. Sadly, we never made it. This man will never be forgotten. I only wish he knew what a huge impact he had on our lives. To everyone else he was Santa, but to me he was a blessing!
Rest in the sweetest of peace "Santa."

Amy's son Zach and Santa

I realized after reading Amy’s story that the magic of Christmas doesn’t fade as we get older. We somehow just lose faith in all of it. We have so many other things in our lives to deal with that we struggle sometimes to find the joy in the simple spirit of the holiday. Ray gave that spirit back to countless people. Amy’s story is only one of thousands that have been popping up on social media. This man was undoubtedly the real Santa. When I think of Santa, I think of a kind, gentle, giving person who listens when someone needs him and knows exactly what people need. He didn’t need Amy to tell him what she wanted for Christmas. He knew. He knew she just wanted to feel the joy of Christmas with her son. She wanted him to feel the excitement. She wanted to feel the magic. Ray gave her that. He didn’t rush her and her son Zach through a line of crying kids. He stood up and looked at her when she needed it most and told her she mattered. He told her she was more than good enough and he hugged her.  

There are real Santas all around us. Bob showed me that last week and Amy’s story further proved it to be true. You see Santa is real. He is the kindness we find in a person we don’t know. He is the joy we see in our children. He is the spirit of Christmas. Christmas is not about stressing out trying to find the hottest sold out toy. It’s not about getting your kids to smile perfectly for your overpriced card (guilty). It’s about finding time for people. It’s about finding time for love and kindness. It’s about letting those around you know that they matter to you.

Ray Beesley taught us that every year. There was a reason his lines were so long and it wasn’t just because he did in fact look like the most perfect Santa. It wasn’t just because every child on that line believed he was Santa. It was because every parent believed it too. It was because if only for a moment the stress seemed to lift and we were able to once again feel the magic. We walked into that building as adults full of stress thinking about our long lists and all the things we had left to do, but we left feeling the magic and joy of the season. We left not only full of joy as we watched our children smile and skip to the car. We left remembering the child we once were and even if only for a couple of hours the innocence of the holiday returned to us.

Ray left us all too early but I for one just know that he is somewhere else bringing the joy back to so many who have missed it for all too long. Ray “Santa” Beesley had bigger things to do and there is no doubt that he is doing them as only he could. Thank you Ray. Thank you for reminding us about the true meaning of the Christmas season. Thank you for allowing us to Believe
My boys with Ray "Santa" Beesley




Sunday, November 6, 2016

Ten Steps Towards A Real Friendship

There are times as a parent that I find myself looking at my kids and feeling a little bit of envy towards their youth. After all they have more energy than I can muster after a full night of sleep and an entire pot of coffee. They also have the endless ability to use their imaginations and act silly while receiving zero judgment (people look at me funny when I run around my yard chasing bubbles). They still believe in the good in everything. They don’t have adult responsibilities to ponder as they desperately try to fall asleep at night. No. My kids get in bed and blissfully fall asleep while dreaming about ice cream and a game of kickball, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Childhood should be chock full of innocence and smiles and void of stress and sleepless nights.

The one thing I don’t envy though is navigating through the ups and downs of unestablished friendships. If there is anything that I have learned in my forty years it’s how to know the difference between a real friendship and a fake one. I no longer have the patience for nonsense or fair weather friends. Age and experience have taught me a thing or two about friendships over the years. I haven’t escaped without a few cuts and bruises, mostly to my pride but I’m better off for it.

I think one of the most important lessons we can teach our children is how to be a good friend.  I want my kids to be able to recognize a good apple from a bad apple in the bunch but I also want them to know what it takes to be the good apple. It’s not always easy and if we are being honest I haven’t always been a good friend when I should have been, but with life lessons and maturity I have learned what it takes to be a good friend.

  1. Be a good listener. Good friends take the time to not only hear your words but to really listen to them. No one wants to talk to someone who is always talking. Take a breath. Listen. It means more than you realize.
  2.  Show up. It sounds easy but not many people do it so when you find someone who shows up without being asked you have found a friend. Be that friend. Show up for the good stuff. Show up for the bad stuff. Just show up. 
  3. Stand next to and up for your friends. When someone is your friend you don’t always have to agree with them but you should always want to stand up for them. 
  4. Don’t talk about them. Talk to them. If you have a problem with one of your buddies tell them. Don’t tell everyone else instead of them. Real friends tell each other when they’ve done something to upset them. Be direct. Be honest. It says a lot about your character.
  5. Celebrate their achievements. You and your friends didn’t learn to crawl or walk at the same time. Your successes are going to ebb and flow. It might take you a little longer than your friend to find your success but be happy for them. Cheer them on and they will return the favor by rooting for you. 
  6. Embrace them during their failures. Life is about learning. We cannot learn if we don’t fail along the way. When we fail we need someone to tell us it’s going to be okay. We need someone who will tell us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep trying until we succeed. Be that person.
  7.  Believe in your friend. Believe in their dreams. Believe in their hopes. Don’t minimize any of that because in doing so you deplete the air from their balloon. No one wants to be friends with someone who sucks the air out of their balloon. Balloons make people happy. 
  8. Allow them to be who they are and be the real you whenever you are with them. Real friends don’t have to change themselves to be friends. They love each other for exactly who they are. They love the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t always have to like your friends but if you are real friends you will always love them. 
  9. Be silly, be vulnerable, cry, laugh and have fun with your friends. Don’t be the fun vacuum. No one wants to be friends with someone who walks into the room and sucks the fun right out. Don’t be afraid to have fun. Don’t be afraid to laugh until you cry, and definitely don’t be afraid to cry when you need to. Friends who are willing to show emotion in front of each other form a deeper bond because of it. The things you laugh and cry about will change as you grow older but the bond will remain the same.
  10. Call your friend out if they need it. You know who they are and you know who they want to be so if you see your friend headed down a path that will take them far away from both of those places call them out on it. You might lose them for a little while but they will come back.
Life is about making connections. The bonds we form and the relationships we build enhance the life we lead. They take work but they shouldn’t feel so hard that you are exhausted from them. The relationships worth fighting for and working on will not always be obvious to you, but when you realize one is, I know you will both give them your all. The thing is, every person who comes into your life comes into it for a reason. Some will leave you and some will stay, but each one will teach you something about yourself that you wouldn’t have known without them. Enjoy the simple things. Take in the moments. Don't worry so much about the years and the memories because in the end the moments that you show up for will make up the memories that you will look back upon for years. 






Wednesday, October 5, 2016

To My Last Baby

When the doctor announced you were a boy and gently laid you on my chest I didn’t know at the time that you would be my last. When you wrapped your little hand around my finger and our eyes met for the first time I had no idea that it would be the last time I experienced a bond so new. When I brought you home and rocked you in the nursery I didn’t know at the time that you would be the last baby to make that nursery a home.  Looking back, I realize that just like the firsts were so very special with your brother, the lasts were just as special with you.

It’s ironic that when I first found out I was pregnant with you I was both excited and yet somehow still nervous.  I was so very afraid there just wouldn’t be enough of me to equally love you and your brother. Oh how wrong I was. The moment you were born I quickly figured out that I didn’t have to share my heart with you both, instead my heart grew bigger. It grew so big that I immediately knew having “enough love” was never going to be a problem of ours.


There of course came a point in time that I did in fact realize you were the last puzzle piece. You were the part of our family that was missing and with you our family became complete. Of course with that epiphany came the realization that you were the last baby. I want you to know that being the last baby comes with a great deal of responsibility and honor. You see your brother paved the way. He was our first, but you my love, you are our last. Your brother started our family and you completed it. The engine of the train leads the way, but without the caboose the train would be missing something. You are our caboose. 
In case you should ever start to doubt just how much you mean to me I want you to take this letter and keep it with you always.

My dearest caboose,
My love for you was big from day one and only grew bigger.  I wasn’t always good about writing down your milestones but each and every one of them is etched in my mind and they will remain there…always. The first time you called me mama, the first time you laughed, the first time you crawled, the first time you walked, and the very first time you ran and didn’t look back right away.

I remember the smell of your head. I remember the softness of your feet. That is love. Love holds onto these little moments. I remember your first day of preschool and in a blink there we were at your preschool graduation.

I remember putting you on the big school bus for the first time and knowing you were ready but doubting that I was. I wasn’t.  I remember comforting you when you were scared and sharing in your excitement when you hit your first baseball. I remember your joy of art projects and spending my days picking up scraps of paper remnants while my feet stuck to random pieces of tape. I remember knowing that I would surely miss them both.

I remember the way you passionately called every child in your class your friend before saying their name when you would tell me a story about them at the dinner table. I remember the way you looked up to your brother. I remember the way you just wanted to play with the big kids. I remember when you became the big kid. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t.

I remember the way you gave everything your all. I remember knowing you were always going to try your hardest, you were going to love big, and you were going to always be a giant light shining in the dark.

I remember the many times I smiled with pride and hid the tears as to not embarrass you, but they were there. They were always there.  With every step, every turn, every milestone you amaze me. You make my heart continue to grow.  One day I will be standing in a sea of parents watching our babies graduate from high school. I want you to know that the tears are my way of trying to let go of the baby who first wrapped his hand around my finger and the smile is my way of letting you know that it’s okay. It’s OK, because in letting go you somehow make my heart continue to grow.  In the end your brother is the engine and you are the caboose, but I am the engineer and once I get you both safely to where you are going my job is complete, which is ironic because my dear caboose you completed me.  

"and 
she loved
little boy
very, very much
-even more
than
-she loved
herself."

Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree










Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tomorrow Will Be Better

When I was a kid I was convinced I could save the world. The funny part about that is not necessarily the naivety of me thinking I could save the world, it is the fact that I had no idea what the world needed saving from. When I was five years old I loved everything about everyone. I went to kindergarten and adored my teacher. Her name was Ms. Langer and she wore lavender skirt suits with lavender pumps to match. She was every five year old girl’s idol. She was quite literally mine.

My days were filled with school bus rides, finger painting, nap time and music. They were full of laughter, playtime, and a complete feeling of being surrounded by a giant bubble of love and security…only I didn’t know that then. There was this boy in my kindergarten class named Wally. He was different from the rest of us. The year was 1981. Wally acted out often in class. He talked back to the teacher. He cried. He screamed and for some reason the teacher always sat him right next to me. The first day that my idol of a teacher sat him next to me I was upset. I thought that she was doing it as some type of punishment. I thought I must have done something wrong to deserve sitting next to the worst kid in the entire kindergarten class. When it came time for snack and milk Wally smiled at me and then proceeded to spit an entire mouth full of milk directly in my face. He was promptly sent to the principal and I was quickly ushered over to the sink to wash my face. When my father greeted me at the bus that day and asked how my day was I quickly responded with,

“Not good. Wally spit milk at me.”
My father looked at me and said, “Oh is that right? He spit milk at you?”
“Yes. He spit an entire mouth full of chocolate milk at me daddy.”
“Well it sounds like Wally was having a bad day. 
  I bet tomorrow will be better.”


The next day at snack time Wally looked at me and sure enough he spit milk at me yet again. He was sent to the principal and I was walked to the sink to wash my face…again.
           
            “How was school honey?”
            “Not good. Wally spit milk at me AGAIN.”
            “Did you ask him why he spit milk at you?”
            “No. He went to the principal before I could ask him. 
             Spitting milk is gross.”
            “Of course it is honey, but maybe Wally is sad about something.”
            “Sad? I don’t want anyone to be sad.”
“Maybe Wally just needs a friend. Maybe he just needs someone to smile at him.”

The next day I went into school and I sat down at my desk. I looked at Wally and I said hello. He looked back like a deer in headlights and he said hello back. We wound up becoming “chore buddies” for the remainder of the year. We fed the hamster together. We handed out milk together. We barely spoke, but we said hello every morning and goodbye every afternoon. He never spit milk at me again. At the start of first grade my teacher sat Wally next to me and I asked him how his summer was. He smiled and said it was okay. My family and I moved at the end of that year and I have no idea what happened to Wally after that. I worried for the first half of second grade about who Wally was sitting next to and I hoped that they were being nice to him. I hoped that he was able to find someone to be his friendly smile throughout his day.

The remainder of my elementary school days were happy and middle school appeared faster than I could have imagined. Once I got into high school I became obsessed with saving the world. That’s right. The world. I was super realistic. Homeless? I was going to feed and shelter every one of them. Sick? I was going to fund their treatments and find their cures. Equality? Is that even an issue? Everyone is the same no? Everyone is the same? Apparently not. To me though the answer was simple, the answer was yes. We are all human beings and we are all the same.

I had many an argument at the kitchen table with my father about all of it. If it had been up to me my parents would have been running a shelter out of their kitchen. We would have been handing out money to those who needed it and not questioning them on their way out the door. As I spewed my ideas of saving the world, my father explained to me how the real world just didn’t work that way. The very man who had told me to go ask the milk spewing kid how his day was going told me I just didn’t get it. He was right. I didn’t get it. The world was much more complicated than I realized at the time. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t that my father didn’t want to raise me to be someone who wanted to save the world and help people, it was that he wanted me to understand not everything is that simple. He wanted me to realize I was setting myself up for giant disappointment. He wanted me to realize not every person needing help was a milk spitting five year old.

My father is a man who drops everything to help anyone. In 1986 the towns around us were hit by a major flood. My father dropped everything to help those families by working on their homes in his spare time. He was the guy who would stay two hours late at work because one of his employees needed someone to talk to about the sudden death of their mother. He was saving the world in his own way while trying to prevent me from giving too much of myself and getting nothing in return.

Fast forward to today. I’m a mom of two boys. I still want to save the world only now I know how impossible that is. Now I know the problems are so much bigger than me. They are so much bigger than simply asking someone how they are doing. Right? They are bigger than that? Yes. They. Are.  Now I want to save the world because I brought two additional humans into it. I brought two boys into a world I don’t understand and I love them more than I ever thought humanly possible. If there was ever a time for me to save the world it would be now. It really isn’t that simple though.

The other morning I turned on the news and I stood in my kitchen and cried. I cried because I feel helpless. I cried because I want it all to stop. I cried because I thought about my five year old self and how I just wanted everyone to be OK. I just wanted everyone to be happy. I thought about the fact that I now have an eight year old and a five year old and how all they want is for everyone to be included. They are good kids who feel sad when someone else is sad. They feel joy when someone else feels joy. They feel and I never want them to lose that. I never want them to lose the ability to feel empathy. As far as I’m concerned empathy is not an optional human emotion. It is a vital human emotion.

We have become a society with our faces buried in our phones. Our emotions are expressed through our Facebook status or a quick Twitter update. Our Instagram shows our life in pictures and our Snap Chat tells our friends how we feel about them. How can we raise a generation of empathetic, emotional, human beings when we have taken away all the tools they need to be those people? You see the only tools you need to be an empathetic human being are your heart, your brain and your ability to feel things.

In the last week I have watched people I know fight on Facebook. I have watched people share videos of idiotic media personalities sharing their opinions on what is happening in our country because WE have forgotten how to find our own words. I have watched people tear each other apart. I have watched people attack each other over their appearance in Facebook pictures because they didn’t agree with the words the other one typed. I have seen people attack someone else’s children because they assumed they only sided with police or they only sided with Black Lives Matter. I have seen enough to make me want to quit, only I don’t know what I would be quitting. We can’t quit society. We may want to…but we can’t.

You see somewhere deep down the five year old in me wants to pull my chair up to the milk spitting kid and just smile. I want to ask him how his day is going. I want to tell him he is not being judged. I want to tell him I will be his friend. I want it to be that simple. I want it all to be that simple. Despite the fact that my father warned me that simplicity was something adults were not blessed with I wanted to believe otherwise. I wanted to believe that life was simpler than adults made it out to be. As far as I can see we complicate everything. We make it harder than it needs to be. We are doing it all wrong.

I am a mother. I am of the belief that I am supposed to be teaching my children to become empathetic, loving adults and in doing so I realize that they are in fact teaching me. Children are our reflection. They do as they see. The thing is everything is a mess right now. It’s a big old mess. Stop sharing someone else’s opinion. Just stop. Instead find a way to reach out to an actual human being. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to be a police officer in our country right now or to be married to or the mother of or the child of an officer for that matter. I also have no idea what it feels like to be black in our country. I have no clue and for me to spew opinions as if I do, would just be ignorant. So here is what I will say. I stand with you. I stand with all of you because it is not my job to judge. It is not my place to argue or shout words that will not make any of this better. All I can offer is empathy and love. 

All I can hope is that at some point we will all find a way to make this better not just for us but for the generation to follow. I can only hope that we all want to create the best reflection for them to emulate. We can do this. We can be better. We can find better words. We can be kind. We can and if you find yourself saying you can’t then YOU are the problem. We can find a way to wipe the spit milk off of our stubborn faces. We can find a way to look at the kid spitting the milk. We can look him in the eyes and we tell him we see him. We can tell him we really see him and we can change more than we realize.








Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Bittersweet Goodbye To Preschool

Bittersweet. People use the word all the time but when you find yourself in a situation that fits the word, it is often more bitter than it is sweet. It’s often difficult to describe our emotions when we find ourselves in one of these “bittersweet” situations. More often than not it is because we are in uncharted territory. We are navigating waters we have yet to travel and it feels almost impossible to determine our exact feelings when we are having a difficult time getting our bearings. This is parenthood. The milestones we reach with our children are bittersweet. We want them to grow. We want them to change. We want them to succeed. Those are the sweet spots. It’s the letting go we are forced to do in the process that it is bitter. After all wasn’t it just yesterday that we held them for the first time and whispered in their tiny little ear how we had never loved anyone this much? Sure it was. To us it will always be yesterday.

My youngest is graduating from preschool and while that sounds like the smallest of the milestones to some, it is one of the biggest to me. You see preschool was a magical time for us. It was a time that he got to go out on his own without me for a little while, but was still right with me every step of the way. He left me to learn his letters, numbers and colors. He left me to play trucks with his friends. He left me to put puzzles together and have snack time with his pals. He left me to play dress up. He left me to make hand prints on paper and watch butterflies come to life. He left me skipping with a backpack that was way too big for him to find out which one of his new friends had brought in cupcakes for their birthday. He left me, but only for a short time. The moment I picked him up he told me all about every minute of his day. He told me all about story time. He told me all about that funny thing that Frankie’s brother did. He told me everything. Every. Single. Thing. I don’t know much, but I know enough to know it won’t always be this way. Preschool is a short two or three years but it means so much more than the time reflects. As we come to the end of this journey I realize it is not just an ending for him, it is one for me as well.

To the moms I met in preschool,
We might not have realized it at the time but we met each other at the sweet spot. We came together at a time of innocence. Our children knew each other before they knew anything about the big wide world that is awaiting them. Our children did not care about where any of us came from. They only cared about snack time and play time. They cared about who had a great story to share. They cared about the kid who was crying because he missed his mom. They cared about the child who was absent and wanted to know why and when they would return.

They didn’t care about what their friends were wearing to school. They cared about their friend who couldn’t have nuts and made sure to remind their mommy to bring a snack she could safely have. They didn’t care about what their parents drove to school. They cared about knowing who their mommy was and making sure they didn’t leave if she was running late to soccer. They didn’t care about what their last name stood for because they were just so proud to be able to recognize it at circle time. They embraced one another’s differences without having to point them out. They encouraged each other to be themselves. They were inclusive. They were the epitome of innocence. They never cared about status. They never cared about the exterior. All they ever cared about was each other.

The end of this time is bittersweet not only for us, but for them even though they don’t realize it now. They were able to enjoy a time of innocence with zero judgment. They were able to be who they are without anyone telling them they should change. They were confident. They were proud. They were kind. They were helpful. They were what we all wish on a daily basis we had the courage to be. They were true to themselves.

Ironically we got to experience that too. We were a group of moms thrown into a school without knowing each other, but because we had children who were judgment free, we too were able to remain that way. We were able to show up at pick up every day and talk to one another without issue. After all we have children who are not hurting each other emotionally or physically. We have children who set an example. We have children who have yet to be exposed to the hurt of the outside world. Here we thought we had popped the bubble by enrolling them in preschool only to realize we have been happily living inside one all along.  I want to tell you all that this is a time I will forever treasure. My son will grow and move on and he may from time to time mention a pal from preschool. I want you to know that when he does I will look back on those memories with nothing but fondness. I will look back at a time when we all held the innocence of their age. I will look back at the special days, soccer games, music classes and field trips and I will smile. I will remember my son just like this because of all of you. We have no way of knowing what the future holds for our children, but what we do know is that the past will hold a treasure of beautiful childhood memories.

The ironic part of our preschool experience is the realization that we can learn so much from them. If we were somehow able to bottle up the innocence and have it carry on through high school and adulthood it would be amazing. If we were able to show adults what is really means to act like a kind human being, our kids would be the example. Sure High School gets all the glory but Preschool is the place where innocence still lives. Preschool is where judgment doesn’t exist and love is a word thrown around with meaning. Our kids are graduating preschool but I hope they carry the lessons they learned there with them forever.
All my best,

Jen

Learning to swim on his own.





Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Trip To China-The Day I Had To Take My Kid To The Gynecologist

When you become a mother all humility pretty much goes out the window. It starts when you’re in labor and from what I can tell it continues until your kids move out of your house. I no longer get privacy when I pee, shower or change. I was considering bolting the door closed but I have the sneaky suspicion that they will find an open window or a way to propel in from the roof. Kids are good at finding you. They really should work for the FBI.

My kids are getting older so we have actually started to lay some ground rules about not walking in on mommy in her granny panties. I mean good grief I don’t need an entire preschool class getting a full on description of my underwear during circle time. I still have nightmares about the time my oldest walked in on me peeing before preschool. He asked why my penis looked funny to which I replied, “Honey mommy doesn’t have a penis. I have a vagina. Now can you please get out so I can finish and we can go?” I remember thinking I handled it perfectly. Crisis averted. Therapy avoided. Then we walked into preschool and he told all the moms in the lobby that his mommy has a penis on the inside. “It’s so weird. You can’t even see it.” He’s almost eight now and I know he doesn’t remember this but I’m fairly certain there are a few mothers from that class that still talk about me at their book club while clutching their pearls.

My oldest is pretty good about boundaries and privacy. I think it is because he is suddenly realizing he too would like some privacy while using the toilet. I’m glad to have him on board. My four year old on the other hand still doesn’t get it. He would gladly greet the mailman in his underwear. He still thinks it’s ok to pee in the backyard even if we have company. I thank potty training during the summer months for that one. Now when I tell him it’s unacceptable I’m often met with, “But the dog does it.” It’s hard to argue with a four year old. Their thoughts make complete and perfect sense to them and trying to argue with them is like banging your head into a brick wall over and over and expecting it to collapse. The wall will still be standing but you will wind up with a massive headache.

I can tell you any advances I was making with teaching my four year old about boundaries were thrown out the window this morning. Today I had to do something that I have never had to do. I had to bring him with me for my annual exam at the gynecologist. Yes. That’s right. He had to come to the lady doctor with me. First off let me just say that in our house we have always referred to body parts by their real names. Despite the fact that the word vagina has been said in our home, the four year old still thinks it’s called a China. I know this because the other day on the way to school he asked me if all girls have a China. I told him yes and he then proceeded to name every single girl and woman we have ever met in our entire lives and repeat, “Fill in 80 names here has a China.  We hit every traffic light that day because of course we would.  

This morning I carefully explained to him that he was going to have to come with me to the doctor.  Ladies you all know how hard it is to get an appointment with the OBGYN especially if you see a group and you want someone specific, so cancelling was just out of the question. I told him he could pick a special snack to have afterwards if he was good. I told him he could bring his iPad. I have never hoped and prayed more that my child would stare at a screen than I did this morning. I told him it would be quick. He agreed to all the bribes and we were on our way. When we arrived there was what seemed like an unusually high amount of pregnant women in the waiting area. Now I know that this is where pregnant women go to get checked, but I’m telling you it seemed like every other chair had a pregnant woman sitting in it. The four year old turned to me and with a lower than normal voice (thank you Jesus) said “Geez mommy why do so many ladies here have babies in their bellies? Is this where you come to get one put in? Are you having a baby put in today?”

“Mrs. Lizza can I have you fill out an updated information sheet for me.”
Again thank you Jesus.
Before I knew it I was being called in for my exam. This is where it gets dicey.
The nurse weighed me (can I at least take my damn shoes off) and then she asked me to give her a urine sample.
 4yo: “What’s urine?” Volume level: 400
 Me: “It’s pee honey. Be quiet and follow me.”
 4yo: “Ewwww. You have to give her your pee???”  Volume level: 850
 Me: “Yes. Come into the bathroom and close the door.”
 4yo: “How are you going to give her your pee? In your hands?”
 Me: “No. In a cup.”
 4yo: “A CUP??? You mean that thing. It’s so big. Do you have to fill the whole thing with your pee?” Volume level: 1,105.
Me: “Honey, please. I can’t pee with you being so loud.”
4yo: “Why not? Is your pee scared of my voice? Because that would be weird.” Volume level: 2,200.
I then proceeded to hand my bucket of fearful pee to the nurse and walk into the exam room.
4yo: *Pointing to foot stirrups* “What on earth are those things?” Volume level: I’m sweating.

The nurse handed me my paper doily to keep me warm (laughable) while wearing my open in the front gown. I didn’t need the paper doily today though because I was sweating from the fear of the future therapy bill for both me and my son. All I kept thinking was oh my God we are going to have to remortgage the house for the therapy bills. We might have to move. Circle time. Oh for the love he has circle time tomorrow.

The nurse then proceeded to ask me what my husband and I were using for birth control and all I could think was THIS. We are using this very day as our birth control. It will work for now and all of eternity. She looked at me and asked if I wanted to speak in code. In code? Is there some secret code language for mothers who have to bring their child with them to this appointment that I don’t know about? Could someone have handed me a pamphlet in the waiting room? I don’t know code. Instead I proceeded to mouth my answers and much to my delight she understood me. God bless her.

She told me the doctor would be in shortly and told my son he could sit in the chair against the wall facing the stirrups. Now I was really sweating. I was considering high tailing it out of there because I was picturing him going into school and me getting phone call after phone call from every mother in the class. As I put the gown on, my four year old was laughing. I looked at him and said,“OK honey. It’s not funny. I have to wear this.”
4yo: “What is it? It has a big hole in the entire thing. It doesn’t even make sense. You won’t let me wear those jeans to school anymore that have a hole in the knee.”
Just as I was about to tell him he could wear them to school every day for the rest of the year, the doctor walked in. She talked to him for a little and then to me. She stood up and looked at me and said OK well what are we going to do with him? Hmm.
“Hey buddy, come with me I bet the nurses have some work you could do at the nurses’ station.”
4yo: “YES!! Awesome!”
Me: “YES!! SO Awesome.”
Her: “Yeah I don’t need to be the reason he needs therapy.” *Wink*
It was like she was in my brain. Oh thank you Jesus. My four year old does not have to witness my annual China exam.

She came back in and we laughed and laughed about being mothers, having boys and dealing with things our husbands simply could never understand. As I walked out my son was sitting with the nurses sorting through stickers for all the kids who come in with their mommies. I told him it was time to go and he stood up with a smile. The woman in front of me was expecting and she was making an appointment for her next ultrasound.

Volume Level 200,000: “So Mommy did you get one of those put in today or what?”  He starts kindergarten in the fall so thankfully he will never have to come with me to the China doctor again