Kindergarten Bound, Smiles All Around

“How do you feel?”

“Are you sad?”

“Nervous at all?”

I’ve been asked the same question (or variations of it) umpteen times in the last couple weeks.

And my answer, for some reason, is always met with surprise.

“I’m excited!” I reply.

The responses containing the least amount of skepticism generally sound like, “Oh, really?”

“Yep, really.”

My question is, am I supposed to be sad? Surely, it’s OK to be sad; I understand where my friends and loved ones are coming from. I guess I’m just missing something.

Personally, the idea of my child officially embarking on her educational career is thrilling to me. I am the child of generations of school teachers. I love to learn. I see my daughter flourish when she is not stuck to my side and reliant on my help. I see her transform when she rises to life’s challenges.

But most importantly, I am being gifted the chance to be present to watch her struggles and triumphs. I am here for her entrance to school. We have each other as we embark on this transition, and for that I am thankful and excited and blessed.

So, no, we aren’t nervous. There are smiles all around over here (but let’s chat again when it’s time for college 🤐).

Best of luck to everyone going through a similar transition 💓

Splish Splash, We’re Having a Bash!

When little lady asked for a mermaid fifth birthday party I knew I had to go big. Not because I’m one of those moms who always has to go big, but because FIVE is big. In fact, it’s huge.

But you know what didn’t have to be? My budget. Yep, that’s right. All decor you see in this post arrived at a total of under $115. Photo booth, centerpieces, backdrops, and more, all for just over a hundred. Here’s a break down of all of the mermaid magic that I made from simple household items and inexpensive goodies from Amazon.

Bubble-riffic Photo Backdrop

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Photo courtesy of Life of Mom

Supplies:

– Green streamers (dark and light)

– Scotch tape or doubled-sided tape

– 5′ x 4″ cardboard slice (I used the top of a display board which I also used for all the signs at the party – see below)

clear balloons

-photo booth props

Instructions:

Tape randomized pieces of streamers in desired length all along the piece of cardboard, then drape over other side, and adhere with one more piece of tape. Blow up balloons in varying sizes and adhere to top of cardboard. Hang on the wall and viola, you’ve got a backdrop!

I even made a sign for it, which is optional, but only cost me about an extra two bucks. Supplies included glitter glue, glitter, and the same display board I bought for the backdrop.

Item cost: $35 (although some of these supplies will be used elsewhere)

Mermaid Tail ‘5’ Centerpiece

Supplies:

green foil cupcake liners

– cardboard

– pencils & ruler

hot glue & gun

Optional supplies:

pipe cleaners

coffee filters

– 1 marker (to be disposed eventually)

shells

Instructions:

Trace the desired number on cardboard, then cut it out. Also prepare a base to attach the number to. Cut each cupcake liner in half, then glue in a alternating pattern from the bottom to the top of the number. Glue the number onto the base and use fortification if necessary. Color the base blue, then cover with hot glue.

Optional instructions:

Coffee filter coral can be made from dyed coffee filters (open a marker and stick one end into water, allow all of the color to bleed in, then dip dye the filters). Other coral pieces can be made from pipe cleaners. Then glue them in!

Item cost: $5-$20 (depending on what you have at home already)

Fishnet Photo Display

Image via DeaVita

Supplies:

net

clothes pins

earthquake putty

– photographs of the birthday girl throughout the years

– shells

Instructions:

Hang, pin, and enjoy (this is a great way to add easy, themed decor!)

Item cost: ~ $15.00

Centerpieces

Supplies:

blue mason jarsblue mason jars

flameless tea lights

– sand

– shells

– flowers from Trader Joe’s (optional)

Instructions:

Place sand in jar, and flame less candle on sand. Close the jar to avoid spillage. Add flowers for more fun!

Item cost: ~ $25.00

Guppy Grub

Supplies:

– goldfish

blue sixlets (cheaper than M&M’s)

glass fish bowl

– serving spoon

Instructions:

Mix, pour, enjoy (this is a crowd favorite, for sure!)

Item Cost: ~ $15.00

Trendy Little Letterboard

I know, I know. It’s so trendy. Like, too trendy. But it’s little, cute, and it makes a statement, which is kind of my life mission. So, when I found this cheap one on Amazon I couldn’t resist.

Item cost: $16.95

Total Cost: <$115!

Relatedly, if you’re in the LA area and would like more information on the wonderful company we hired for our outdoor play, Pump and Splash, see their website.

Lessons From Mom

As performed in the live show Expressing Motherhood in May and June of 2018

There are things our parents choose to do that stay with us forever. These actions, good or bad, teach us the lessons we carry into adulthood and especially parenthood.

Like the time my older brother found a wallet filled to the brim with cash. I was four and he was seven, but as children of a single mother in the eighties, we already knew the value of a dollar; Mom was never one to shelter us from our reality. I remember my brother handing her the leather square in the narrow aisles of a pharmacy. Mom had just tearfully admitted to the clerk she had only enough money for one antibiotic regimen, but two sick children. After she grew a bit sharp with her tongue, as she sometimes did, she was given back the prescription slip and turned away. Only moments later the Universe delivered her a wallet full of money.

I remember Mom looking around, then stuffing it deep underneath her arm in one swift movement. When we arrived home, she unearthed it from her purse, then began counting out the bills onto our hand-me-down coffee table. When she finished at just over a thousand dollars, she pulled out the Driver’s License within the plastic protectant and picked up the phone beside her. We waited with baited breath, unsure of what her next move would be.

“Operator? Yes. Can I please be connected with a ———– from Studio City?”

Moments later she was chatting with a very worried man who wanted to know the whereabouts of his wallet and missing mortgage payment. She offered him her work address and told him to pick it up the next day, but not before confirming how much dough he expected to be returned to him.

When she had replaced the receiver in its plastic cradle, my brother asked, “Why didn’t you return the wallet to the pharmacy if you weren’t going to take any of the money yourself?” To which she replied, “I don’t know if they would have returned it with everything inside. But, I knew I would. I don’t take what’s not mine, because that would be assuming we need it more.”

And at a very young age of four, I learned what my mom’s credo was: honesty must come before anything, including my own needs.

Speaking of Mom’s honesty, I’ll admit it wasn’t always my favorite. She had little filter, and people were often made uncomfortable by her. For example, she once wrote a letter that would be read to my entire sorority at a graduation-related event, which she knew when set out to write it. Despite this, she described in the note how I matured early, as well as that by the age of five, was already concerned whether I’d “get my period by college or not.” See? You’re uncomfortable. So, yeah, I didn’t always enjoy her openness.

But if Mom’s actions taught me anything it’s that the world needs honesty, even if people have trouble digesting it. There was the time she beat me to picking up the phone, and Corey Feldman was on the other line. At the age of seventeen I began running his website, and over the next four years would help him a great deal with local appearances. But, in this moment, he was my boss, and Mom was my very uncool parent who I obviously still lived with.

When Mom realized the gruff voice on the other end belonged to Corey, she was thrilled. She cooed,”Hey Corey! We actually just finished watching one of your films.” She hit the speaker phone and winked at me playfully.

“Oh, yeah?” he replied. “Which one?”

“Amy? What was it called?” Meanwhile, I have turned a ripe shade of red and was silently begging for the phone. But I whisper my reply nonetheless, “Edge of Honor.” She repeats me, and for a moment things seem O.K. because, hey, she hasn’t embarrassed me. It’s a miracle! Then she concludes, “You looked really drugged out in it.”

My heart fell into my stomach, and I instantly tasted bile. I held my breath as my recently exciting social life flashed before my eyes.

Corey waited a few beats. Finally, he replied, “Well, that’s because I was.” And with that, the floodgate opened. He talked about his difficult childhood and former addictions, and Mom listened. Just before Mom finally disengaged the speaker and handed me the phone, Corey asked her to attend an anniversary screening of The Goonies as his date. Much of the cast would be there, and he was inviting her to sit with them.

And, in all my years as one of Corey’s assistants, this would be the most Corey ever opened up. Thus, driving home Mom’s point that transparency is the most healing policy.

Mom’s emphasis on honesty was the most recurring lesson I ever received from her, and I suppose it is what led me to this point. To being a mother that strives to create children who are fair and thoughtful. And to pursuing a career that is intended to inspire mental health and a more accepting world. But, every parent leaves their children with indelible memories that turn into life lessons.

Maybe my children will be up here in a few decades talking about me, and with any luck, it’ll be positive. Maybe your children will be up here narrating what you did with your time as a parent. What will our actions teach our children? I wonder what sort of world they will create together with these lessons.”

To listen to this via Podcast, click here, but please pardon my opening night jitters.

This is 5.

Today began like any other day. We spent far too much time looking for our shoes, even though I remind both kids to use the under-the-stairs cubbies each time they take them off. We argued over what shirt would be worn in order to be warm enough in this weather. And just when tension was rising, Charlotte turned to me and said, “Mommy, I’m going to make you a card.”

My face lit up, thinking perhaps my recent lessons about starting with kindness may be working. Then she continues, “How do I spell, ‘I don’t love you?’”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton was right. Words have the potential to do much greater harm than weapons. Such a simple sentence, yet it cut straight to the heart. My first inclination was to be hurt and sad. I told her so, and I saw her face drop even more, which was not my intention either. She had wanted to hurt me, sure, but she hadn’t really understood the levity of her chosen words.

And that soon became today’s biggest slap in the face. Not that she was hurt enough to say those words, because she really hadn’t been, but that I have a child old enough to even want to formulate a proverbial slap in the face.

I officially have a big girl on my hands, this I know now. Which, as my initial sense of feeling unloved is over, shocks me. And also saddens me in its own rite. I have been guilty of rushing this parenting thing along from the getgo.

“I can’t wait for them to sleep through the night.”

“I can’t wait for her to be potty trained.”

“Ugh, the moment the paci is gone is the moment I’m free!”

But the busier life remains, the hastier time seems to wane. And parenthood can make even an empty schedule full in an instant. So, there went five years and with that barb, “I don’t love you,” they feel incredibly distant.

I shed a few tears, I’ll admit. She saw me crying. What she didn’t understand that I was no longer really hurt, just grieving her babyhood.

So, I chose to be open with her. I told her she hurt me, and saying that sort of thing wasn’t OK. But, that wasn’t really why I was crying. I told her that she is my daughter forever and I am her mommy for just about double that. And that it was already going by in the blink of an eye.

She hugged me. We made up, and by the time I dropped her off at school we were belting an MJ duet at the top of our lungs. I realized that this snarkiness may be 5, but that 6 will be here before I know it. And although time does not discriminate the speed at which it seems to progress, it does give us the gift of retrospection and introspection. And a lot of make-up hugs.

The Bend and Snap

Every one has a modus operandi, a way they conduct themselves.

The more adulting I’m forced to do, the more I realize I tend to employ what I (or Elle from Legally Blonde 2 may call) ‘The Bend and Snap.’ And the more I think about it, I recognize many of my friends who do the same thing.

Imagine a bow and arrow. The more resistance you apply to the string, the more tension it will absorb. And, finally, when it can no longer harness anymore potential energy, it lets one of its arrows rip. Which can be dangerous, especially if you’ve been aided and abetted by your hormones, wine, or a girlfriend.

I do this a lot. I’ll allow the issues to pile on to my shoulders, or I’ll take on more than I can handle, until I break under the pressure. If we’re being completely honest, this is modern adulthood, plain and simple. Going and going, until you just can’t go anymore.

I have no magic solution for this overexertion, except knowing your limit. And if you feel your bow being pulled too tautly, give yourself some slack.

One thing that helps me control the cycle of give and “break” are trips to the gym. The workout helps me clear my mind and focus on replenishing my energy. But everyone is different; the important thing is knowing what refills *your* soul. Whether your “me time” consists of reading a book, going to the spa, or just vegging on the couch with a beer and a movie, make some time for yourself. We all need a little reminder to be kind, especially to ourselves.

Freckles & Perspective

She hunches over, furiously scribbling on the paper taped to the floor. It is there to catch excess paint from the ceiling, but the men have packed up for the day, and I see no harm in decorating the barely marred surface.

“Why not draw on the floor?” I had proposed when her tiny body got antsy after dinner and before bath.

I’m not sure any idea has ever sounded better. “I’m going to draw Daddy!” She proclaimed proudly. “He’s one hundred handsome,” Her voice tapers as she doodles and day dreams about the first man to steal her heart.

Moments pass, and I peer over her shoulder to see her work. Daddy’s rectangular body isn’t accurate, but it sure is adorable.

“Wow, great job,” I encourage her.

She smiles, “Thanks. Oh! I almost forgot.” The cap of the pink marker raps against her lips as she ponders aloud, “Does Daddy have freckles?”

“A couple, sure, but not too many,” I reply.

Chock full of gumption, she retorts, “Well, this is my drawing and I like making freckles. So, he’s gonna have a lot.”

Her arm works quickly as her marker dots the paper, and I cannot help but promote her artistic spirit, “There’s no arguing with that logic.”

“Don’t worry,” she adds, “I won’t give him as many freckles as you. You’ve got one million freckles.”

“True,” I once again agree.

“But, Savta Dasi (the Hebrew word for grandmother combined with my mom’s nickname) had INFINITY freckles. More freckles than anyone on the planet!” I watch her tiny face brighten as her reflections revive my mother’s memory. A silly grin spreads across my face.

In the midst of my grief, I have found my greatest sadness over memories Mom and I never got to make. I suppose that’s the biggest pain in all grief: time lost.

But, then life has this beautiful way of reminding you (even in conversations about freckles) that your ultimate merit is not found in how long you live, but how long your your sweet memory persists. For Mom will be gone eleven years this September, and my daughter only turned five in June.

It is moments like these that surely define our lives. That remind us it is less about how long we live, and more about the weight of our impact on the world. 💓

Go with the Flow

I am an extremely anxious person by nature. I always have been. When I became a wife my anxiety doubled, and the day I became a Mom I think it must have quintupled. That first glimpse I took of my infant daughter I instantly fell in love, and then only moments later I began to worry – would she sleep? Would she latch? Would we have a secure attachment? I read article upon article that told me what my child may be like and how I could work with each scenario. But as it turned out, she did latch and she also slept, and we were madly in love with each other from the getgo (with some occasional setbacks here and there on all accounts).

Then came teething – would we both survive the pain and infinite outbursts? My friends warned me that it would be Hell on Earth. But, here we are – still living to tell about it. Oh, and let’s not forget sleep training. It was a shit show not because of anything pertaining to my daughter or her schedule, but rather because I couldn’t sleep in the days approaching this first attempt at the modified CIO method her pediatrician had supplied me with.  My anxiety was so high; I had been scared out of my mind each time one of my parent friends shared their own horrific experiences. And the millions of articles about how CIO is basically neglect didn’t help either. But soon enough, Charlotte was “trained” (after only two nights) and my worry was all for naught.

Then came time to wean. I was completely beaten down by all the bad experiences I had been warned of over time – the stories of mastitis and women still breastfeeding their children at the age of four because weaning had never been too successful. And then one day, when Charlotte was eleven and a half months old, she just stopped breastfeeding. She wasn’t interested any longer, so she quit cold turkey, and my months of anxiety had once again been a total waste.

And so it went with her waves of picky eating, welcoming her brother home from the hospital, starting school, getting a big girl bed, etc. With each passing milestone, I slowly learned that my rituals of anxiety surrounding them were the absolute worst thing about  them all. Each time I had to guide Charlotte through one of these huge accomplishments, I noticed that if I simply allowed things to happen naturally with little intervention on my part, things went a hell of a lot smoother. I’m not saying that it was all perfect, or even enjoyable. What I’m saying is – I’ve learned to trust my own maternal instinct and the fact that I just know my kid. Screw everyone else’s experiences. They aren’t parenting my daughter.

So when C turned two and people started asking me about potty training, I had no answer. I’d know when she told me she was ready. Months went by, if I asked her if she wanted to use the potty, the answer was always a resounding, “No!” And so, I assumed I’d get her out of diapers when the little guy entered the world, and I stopped worrying. Soon enough baby brother arrived, diaper box stacks seemed to be reaching new heights in both children’s bedroom, and I canceled my Amazon size 6 diaper subscription preemptively. I thought, “hey! little guy is in a diaper, big sis won’t want to be in one, too.” I was wrong. But, I didn’t worry.

Then she started school. I figured she’d watch her friends use the potty and want to do the same. Nope. I had to renew my Amazon subscription, and she kept refusing the potty she had received for the holidays four months prior. The school year finished (C had only started attending in late April), and summer session started. I ordered pull-ups instead of diapers this time. Maybe she’d want to be potty trained? My husband was asking non-stop when we’d try to train her. Friends were asking. Family was asking. The pressure was on. But, still – I stood fast and waited until I could sense Charlotte’s readiness.

The day after summer session ended, knowing we had two weeks off before school commenced again, I told her she was going to learn how to pee and poop on the potty.  And she said, “OK!” And that was that. I was met with least resistance because she was apparently ready. It wasn’t at three years and three months, this magical deadline people told me she’d hit. And it wasn’t at two and a half, the age people had informed me was “average.”

So, as I started to prep for potty training, I naturally educated myself on some suggested techniques. In the literature I found, I was warned not to use food as a reward if and when she pooped and peed on the potty. I was told to use stickers. I told C she would get a sticker if she used her toilet. She told me, “I don’t like stickers. They rip too easily. I want M ‘n’ M’s.” Ok, fuck stickers then, I said (I mean, not out loud, of course – I wouldn’t want her saying the F*** word… again). M ‘n’ M’s it is.

I also read that I should supply her with her own cute, little toilet. In the end, she was almost fearful of pooping on Minnie’s face (I don’t blame her). After that, we chose a kid’s seat that attached to ours, so she could feel like she was actually learning to use the restroom, and not vegging out in front of the TV and pooping Idiocracy style.

Amidst all the rest of the inane advice, I read I was to strip my daughter naked for three days and make her earn her underwear. I was informed I should not leave the house at all in those three days. I was told to never ask if she had to go, but rather make her attempt to use the toilet every two hours. I was told to reward her on each marked two hour attempt, but never in between (unless she actually goes potty). I was told it would be messy, hard, and likely months would go by until she defecated on the potty.

Amidst training, her only accident occurred on Day #1. But, she also peed in the proper place an infinite amount of times. She was SO proud of herself. We went out to dinner the night of Day #2. I didn’t put her in a pull-up, and she used the restaurant restroom. I stopped rewarding her with M ‘n’ M’s on Day #3, and she stopped reminding me she deserved them. The thrill of being potty trained was enough for her. I listened to her and she listened to me. We collaborated on a very hard lesson.

Fast forward about a year and in retrospect, potty training wasn’t all that messy (a slightly urine-soaked couch never hurt anyone), nor was it painful. All because I said “fuck it” to the warnings, the cautionary tale-tellers, and the rules that have been designed to serve the “average” kid. We waited until we both felt it was the right time, and I trusted my instinct based on my child.

In the end it took her two and a half days to be fully potty trained, and only two weeks later we swapped her out of diapers at night. Since that final ditching of diapers, she has had three accidents total (when she’s just having too much fun to stop and pee ::side eye::). So, what’s my potty training advice/hack? Just listen to your child and go with the flow (pun intended)*.

*Results may vary because kids do, duh. 🙂