Friday, May 7, 2010


In 2002, Andy and I retired my mother in - if I do say so myself - a rather spectacular way. We bought her a brand-new, three bedroom condo in the "it" retirement community in South Florida. Then, Andy, Jonah, Erika, Matty, Keri and I all snuck down to Tamarac, and we threw her a big suprise party in it. She thought she was going to a little cocktail party thrown by a friend of a friend, and she walked in, and there we all were - her kids, her cousins, her friends. In an instant she learned both that she had a new house, and that she could quit the crappy secretarial work she had been doing since my parents separated when I was seven. It was amazing watching her at the party, speechless, trying to stay upright while her world lurched beneath her. Her life would never be the same after that, and I remember being just a little bit jealous, because I thought then that I would never experience that kind of life-changing moment.

Until Friday, April 16, when we went out to dinner with Keri and Matty and our friends Lauren and Brian to celebrate Lauren's birthday (I thought), which was that very day. Only I walked into a surprise party celebrating my 40th birthday (which isn't until May 24). Now, a surprise party on a big birthday like 40 wouldn't in itself be a life changing moment, but it was the faces I saw as I looked around that truly stunned me. First I saw Jessica, one of my best friends from junior high, who lives in Seattle, and with whom I hadn't spoken for more than a year. Next to her was Anne, another of my best friends from junior high, who lives in Chicago. And as I was hugging Anne, I heard a laugh I recognized instantly - Katrina, a dear friend I met in childbirth class when I was pregnant with Jonah and who now lives in San Francisco.

Everywhere I turned I saw incredibly special people I rarely get to see: Jamie, from DC, who was inadvertently left off the guest list until Andy called her in a panic the night before the party, but who came anyway; Hylton, one of my two favorite poker buddies, from Connecticut; Joey, the other one, from Maryland; my cousins Darlene and Wayne, who not only came from North Jersey but did so even though they were mired in preparations for their daughter's bat mitzvah the following weekend; and two of our favorite couples, Dan and Lynne, also from North Jersey, and Drew and Meera, from NYC. And that's not even counting all the wonderful local friends who were there. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement of the highest order.

It's not that I didn't know I had good friends before that night. But I guess I hadn't realized, literally, how far they would go for me. Life is busy; my old friends and I don't gab on the phone like we used to. When we do talk, a couple of times a year, we have so much to catch up on, so many cute stories about our kids to share, we gloss over our frustrations, our disappointments, and our failures (or, at least, I do. It wouldn't surprise me if my amazing friends don't experience any of these). We just don't rely on each other the way we used to. And so, we don't have many opportunities to show the people we love how much they mean to us.

In February, I was invited to a surprise party for my college roommate, Alycia, who lives outside of DC. Andy and I had plans for that night, but no state dinners were involved, so I assume we could have gotten out of them. I didn't go because it seemed too far to go for one night, and because I reasoned it would be more fun to go on a day when I could have Alycia all to myself, rather than share her with 50 other guests, most of whom I didn't know.

Now, I'm sorry. From now on, I will make that drive, or take that flight. Because seeing as clearly as I saw that night, knowing with absolute certainty that, no matter what happens, I will never be alone in the universe - well, if it didn't change my world the way my mother's was in 2002, it certainly did change my worldview. And I can't wait to have the chance to do that for someone else.

Thanks everybody!

Monday, May 3, 2010

This Is Not My Beautiful Child

Okay, you can laugh now.

Remember when I wrote this about how wonderful Molly was? How sweet? Easygoing? That Molly is gone, I'm afraid, replaced with a strong-willed, stubborn, devil-child.

Maybe I'm exaggerating. Slightly. But at just one month shy of her second birthday, Molly has entered the Terrible Twos with a vengeance. Only problem? Molly doesn't realize she's just 2. She thinks she's 8.

Thanks to my sworn enemy good friend Sally, whose own not-quite-2-year-old daughter Maeve is already in underwear, Molly has discovered the joy of the potty. The joy of sitting on the potty. The joy of throwing toilet paper in the potty. The joy of washing one's hands after going to the potty. And, of course, the joy of screaming "PEE ON POTTY!" at the top of one's lungs. She has, on rare occasion, peed on the potty. And I hate to discourage her when she asks to go. But I wasn't planning on potty training her for another year or so. The truth is, she still probably won't be trained for another year or so, but I'll be trained to take her to the bathroom every time she asks for the next 12 months.

Actually, I'm surprised she even asks to go to the bathroom; everything else she insists on doing herself. Getting dressed or undressed. Taking off her diaper. Buckling her carseat. Climbing the stairs, combing her hair, brushing her teeth, putting on her shoes... You get the idea.

In an ideal world, we would have plenty of time and patience and I could watch without cringing while she tried to unscrew the toothpaste cap by turning it first one way, then the other, loosening, then tightening the cap. But I have neither. And invariably, every time we're getting in the car we're rushing to get somewhere, so there isn't time for Molly to climb into the car herself... hoist herself into her seat... put her arms through the straps... etcetera... etcetera. If we do have time, and she screams that she wants to do it after I've already put one arm through the straps, then she'll remove her arm from the straps, then do it again herself. "Good job," I say to her through gritted teeth. Hurry the f**k up, I think to myself.

I love that Molly is independent and wants to learn to fend for herself. That will certainly come in handy later in life. But right now? It's really annoying. Can't she be sweet and pliable for just a little while longer? At least until she actually turns 2?

 "Nope," says Molly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why We Do This, part 147

Andy and I are very particular about the sports we want our kids to play. We love tennis, running and swimming because they're aerobic (unlike golf) and because there are plenty of opportunities to compete at any age (unlike, say, lacrosse or field hockey). Soccer requirs too many people, plus a soccer pitch, which makes it impractical . . .

. . . unless you live here. Our critical mass of eight kids makes soccer . . . practical. Additionally, we have a real, regulation soccer pitch not a hundred yards from our front door, courtesy of our neighbors, who probably spent more than most people spend on their houses to take their relatively flat field, flatten it some more, and install official goals and boundary marks. And they're happy to let us use it, since their kids, one of whom is already in college, rarely play.

Now that the evenings have grown brighter and warmer, we're trying to get the kids up to the field to regularly practice their mad skillz. Or rather, we're trying to get Matty to take them up there. After all, he is European, which makes him perhaps not as naturally gifted as a Brazilian, but way more suited for the job than the rest of us Russian/Polish Jews in the house. At least he knows what a "corner arc" and a "dangerous play" are.

And so far, we're satisfied with Matty's coaching. He organizes a few casual drills for the older kids, and when the younger kids start rolling around in the grass or picking flowers, he grabs their attention by kicking a soccer ball as high in the air as he can, and letting them chase after it. I'm not sure what the technical purpose of this last part is, but it certainly makes Aaron, Gretchen and Ronan shriek in excitement, as the ball plummets out of the sky towards their heads. Maybe this is what's meant by a "dangerous play"?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Disneyworld Redux

For Hanukah this year, I convinced our mother to take Declan and Ronan to Disneyworld instead of buying them even more crap to clutter the house. So it was that in the middle of January the boys and I boarded a plane for "sunny" Florida. (Note use of air quotes to denote sarcasm. It was not sunny. It was cold. 50 degrees cold. Not lounging by the pool weather, which is really all the kids wanted to do.) Mom wanted the Disney part of the trip to be a surprise, but they were still plenty excited to go to visit Grandma.

In fact, after a week in Florida that included two expensive days in Disney, I can't really say for certain which part they liked more--the Disney part or the South Florida part.

At Disney, the kids were impressed by the majesty of the Magic Kingdom...

...then stood in line for an hour to meet some friends.

But their favorite part, by far? The hotel.

Did the kids have a blast at Disney? Of course. But they also had a blast on the beach... in the cold rain...

At the museum...

And petting an armadillo...

...after riding an airboat in the Everglades.

It's funny, because all the kids in the house talk about Disneyworld like it's some kind of mecca. But once there, the trip becomes like any other outing that requires planning and scheduling and demanding that the kids stop playing with all the toy guns on sale in Adventureland if they want to ride Pirates of the Caribbean five times. As much as Disneyworld is all about the kids, they still need the structure to get through the day.

I did, of course, let the kids sketch out our itinerary and choose which rides to go on, but if I really let them do whatever they wanted we'd never eat something that wasn't at least 50 percent sugar, go on any rides that had lines longer than three people (read: all of them), stray more than two feet from any of the 47 pin vendors strategically placed around the park, or go to the bathroom. In short, being in Disneyworld is pretty much like being any where else: They're whining, I'm nagging, and we're all getting annoyed with each other. We can do that in South Florida for a lot cheaper. We do that all the time at home for free.

So I don't see any further Disney trips in the near future.

(Molly says, "We'll see about that.")

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Ever since Ronan first rolled over, showing off his amazing core strength, everyone in this house pegged him as the one true athlete likely to come out of it. I have no idea where he gets it, but Ronan is seriously built. He's got a six pack, sculpted shoulders, the whole nine yards. Pretty sweet for a 4-year-old.

Declan, on the other hand, was never much of an athlete. So when he started devoting his life to dress-up, we weren't too surprised. When he (and I) suffered through one season of soccer and he vowed, at the ripe old age of 4, never to play it again, it wasn't much of a shock. And so we guided Declan toward the activities a child of his nature might enjoy: Art. Drama. Guitar.

But apparently Declan and Ronan never got the memos on what their respective roles ought to be. While in Ireland earlier this month, Declan got bit hard by the soccer bug. And the running bug. And jumping bug. Before Ireland it was the swinging bug, and he would hang from the rings on the playground, flipping himself over and over and over until he was dizzy from the effort. Now Declan never walks when he can run and begs his father to take him outside after dinner each night to kick the soccer ball around.

He has become, dare I say, athletic. Or at least, athletically inclined.

Ronan, on the other hand, has become... not-so-athletic. He joins his brother and father on the soccer field, but instead of chasing the ball down the field, he practices his superhero poses. Ronan is now the child constantly in dress-up, pretending to be Superman. Why run after a soccer ball when you can fly?

I'm constantly reminded of how wrong our early expectations of our kids turn out to be. Anyone who met Erika at the age of 3 would have seen a girl constantly in frills, destined for ballet classes and braids. But 9-year-old Erika has no patience for such things; she wears yoga pants and t-shirts daily and must be reminded to brush her hair each morning. Hilary has long seemed most at peace with her nose in a book; exerting any further effort seemed to exhaust her. But now she's fallen in love with soccer as well.

I'm confident that Ronan will outgrow his obsession with dress-up, just as his brother did last year and his cousin did years ago, and look to more age-appropriate, costume-less pursuits. He may not be the athlete we all predicted him to be, but then again, perhaps he will. He is playing Tball this season, with enthusiasm if not expertise. After all, in baseball you get to dress up.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ronan's Ink