Monday, February 27, 2012

Wall Art Haiku*

Oh, Mother of S--t!
Who crayola-ed up my walls?
So pissed I can’t breathe.

Fury rises up.
Our home - just like Fred Sanford’s.
Why me? Why our house?!

Can I rub it off?
Are these these the washable ones?
No! Crap! FML!

Check the computer.
Surely someone’s figured out
a way to fix this.

Yay! A remedy!
Spray WD-40,
then wipe it away.

Now where is that stuff?
In some box of tools and junk,
I hope to find it.

Okay, say a prayer.
Aim the nozzle at wall art.
Wipe it to hist’ry.

A sigh of relief
I can hug my little child,
and continue on.

So ends this saga –
“Wall Art Debacles.”  Next time -
a frame around it.

*If you enjoyed this brilliant (wink, wink) haiku tale, check out Date Night Haiku!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mom in the Spotlight: Nicole Shaw

Nicole Leigh Shaw was a girl from Jersey with a fabulous mom, step-dad (not the wicked kind), and witty, supportive sister and brother. Now she's a mom from northern Indiana. 

 "Is there any chocolate in the house?"

There were a few stops along the way. She met her husband in New Jersey, but he whisked her off to North Carolina to the Raleigh 'burbs as soon as they were married in 2001. From there they landed in Boston, then the Boston 'burbs, then the Atlanta 'burbs, and now, by golly, the Fort Wayne, Indiana 'burbs. 

Nicole and her husband tried to procreate way back in North Carolina, but it didn't take until they moved into a teeny condo in Boston. That baby was Bee.* Bee showed up six weeks early and perfectly healthy, if a bit tiny (a good match for the size of her city "nursery"). 

When they moved to Georgia they got in a family way again with identical twins. Beans* and Zippy *were only four weeks early, and perfectly healthy, if a bit tiny. 

One can only guess they were very drunk when they decided to try one more time while still in Georgia. Baby number four is Roo, who was neither early nor tiny. 

Nicole writes about all of these people either because they let her or they aren't old enough to stop her.   

Nicole's been writing and editing for 15 years: news journalist, magazine columnist, academic journals editor (Oxford University Press), and humorist (Nickelodeon's However, she didn't really start relishing her writing until she began blogging in 2007. It started with a personal family blog and it lead to an outpouring of truth, mommy injustice, and the stay-at-home way on Ninja Mom Blog

How many children do you have? How old are they?  Boys? Girls?
I have four kids -- I cheated by having twins in the middle -- Bee (girl, 7), Beans and Zippy (girl twins, 4), and Roo (boy, 2).  Sure, my belly looks like a ForceFlex garbage bag, but at least I'm also sleep deprived!

Where were you in your career when your children were born?
I was floundering. I had been flirting with writing and publishing for over a decade. I was a news journalist, a business travel magazine columnist, and a production editor for academic journals.  Somewhere between earning a paycheck and following my husband (happily, I might add) around the country for his jobs, I forgot I wanted to be writing creatively.

When my first was born in 2005, I was doing freelance production editing for academic journals. Dry, dry stuff.

How did you plan to fit motherhood into your work life?  How did your plans square with the reality of raising a family?
I was actually pretty grateful to have been freelancing when I got pregnant. We'd recently relocated (again) to Boston at the time and I was trying to figure out my next move. Turns out my next move was gaining 42 pounds over the course of 34 weeks (my first came early). Cheese fries were a huge help in my goal to become wider than I was tall. That and the baby growing in my cheese-fries cavity.

They say that the more children you have the easier it is.  I have an almost two year old and a just over three year old, and using socially acceptable English, I’ll say that I strongly disagree. What’s your take on this?
Ha! That's good. Using socially acceptable English I'll say it's like all things, you give some, you get some. There are trades offs. I think you, momma, are in that ugly place I call "two much." Two kids are just enough to take up so much of your time and sanity that it's a miracle more mothers of young children aren't on death row. My solution was to skip two and go straight from one to three kids, and then pile a fourth on top. Sure, my house if filthy, my wardrobe is terrible, and I shower on a schedule that can roughly be called "monthly." But they really do play together. They take some of the attention off of me. Just enough for me to steal their holiday candy. I don't think it's easier, because children, one or a hundred, are the dictionary opposite of "easy."

In the name of time management/prioritization, what has completely fallen out of the picture?  In turn, what have you managed to keep up with in spite of it all?
Laundry is largely a lost cause, as is organizing anything that I can't keep on my person at all times. For example, I organize a drawer, a closet, a snack, and it's in tatters as soon as I turn my back. On the other hand, I write A LOT. And read a fair amount, too. I've managed to make room for those things because they improve me. Laundry just makes me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry and balling socks.

How Nicole handles life. The PB won't open?
Stab it with something sharp. 

What’s the last major thing you did for yourself?
About two years ago I went home to New Jersey by myself for a weekend. I saw family, old friends, and brought only pictures of the kids and the Hubster. I missed out last year, but do plan to make getting out for a weekend by myself a yearly ritual. The Hubster is in favor. I'm in favor. Now I just need to update my passport and take this thing to the next level.

Blogging, though extremely time consuming, fills a need for those of us who do it.  It is a priority.   What’s your writing/blog promotion schedule like?
It is a priority, but it's decidedly after my family and my sanity. I only hold myself to blogging at least once a week. I can't allow it to be a point of stress. Pouring the breakfast cereal some mornings is all the stress I can handle. So, I try to blog only when I have something to write about. I was on a more rigorous schedule, but it was interfering with that little high I get every time I publish a post I really want others to see. When I force it, I'm unhappy. When I allow myself to work out the ideas I'm jazzed about, it's better for everyone.

Do you check your stats like someone with an eating disorder gets on the scale?  I do. Just want to see if I have company…
Stats, me? Oh, no. I'm too much of an artist to be bothered by the pedestrian—hell yes, I check my stats! I stalk traffic sources. I wonder when the Russian spammers will give up trying to sell Cialis on my blog. It's tough sending a post out on the Internets. Gotta make sure it's making friends.

Why did you start blogging?  What would be blogging pay dirt for you? 
I was going crazy. It's that simple. I was nuts with diapers, and crying, and crying over diapers, and moving to new states (AGAIN). I needed to do something selfish that was about me and how I wanted to interact with the world outside my suburban walls. And while I was doing it, I remembered that I wanted to be a writer when I grow up.

I hit my first spoonful of pay dirt this year. I got a gig that pays. I blog for American dollars at, a Nickelodeon enterprise where moms can laugh and point. LOL, if you will. Next? More of the same. More gigs, more American money. And I do have visions for this novel-length memoir I'm dreaming of. . .

 I love your new feature “Character Assassination Carousel.”  How did you think of this?
Thanks! Actually, it started a year ago. I was visited by an old business colleague who told me I'd hear from three more ghosts over the course of the night. No, I kid, that was Scrooge. I was taken to a magical land full of little people, a talking tin man, a scaredy-cat lion, all on the wings of a hurricane.

It really started because I loathe that Shel Silverstein travesty, "The Giving Tree." Really hate it. It makes me foam at the mouth. I knew I wasn't alone and that other books rankled other parents. The "Character Assassination Carousel" was born.

Want to write a piece for the Carousel? It's open . . . just say the word.
They call me Thumbelina.

Advice to beginning blogging moms?
Decide who you are. Are you using your blog as an online scrapbook? Are you a diarist, noting each sniffle, each art project, each new milestone? A crafty mom blogger? A baking mom blogger? A giveaway maven? Or are you something else altogether? A blog is about the content, first and foremost. Makes yours exactly what you want it to be and you'll amass readers, not just followers.

Best this-should-be-in-a-movie mommy tale?
During my second pregnancy, in the way early weeks, I went in for an ultrasound because my cycles were irregular and they wanted to get a handle on just how pregnant I was. While I waited for my turn I sat next to a first timer who had just discovered—at 20 weeks—that she was having twins.

My ultrasound showed that I was indeed with fertilized egg, but it was too early to really tell how far along my pregnancy was. They asked to me come back in a few weeks.

On the drive home I called my mom. "Mom, that girl, she has no idea what she's in for. She was smiling and happy. You know what will cure her of all that joy? Twins! Poor fool."

Three weeks later I was far enough along for them to tell me my egg turned into twins. Poor fool.

(Note that in the movie version Matt Damon is my husband and I'll play myself. We will kiss. A lot.)

Your parenting style in 5 words or less.
Sometimes TV's the best babysitter.

Sometimes you get food stuck in your teeth. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where the?

Um, Hel-loooo

Where the focaccia are you?

Girrrrllll,   I needed a stiff  drink!

I'm having a cocktail.

, that is

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why It's Hard to Meet Friends

The following is a guest post from www.

Ever wonder why it’s so difficult to meet other mom-friends? It seems like our parents' generation didn’t really face this problem, so what gives? Well, here are a few reasons why we believe it’s harder than ever to form lasting mom friendships:

1.     Nowadays, our extended families are often spread all over the county. Gone are the days where grandma, aunt, and cousin could come over and help out. The instant local family support network has almost vanished as people have moved for school, jobs, or any other reason.
2.     Women these days are having kids at a much wider range of ages. When we were born, most women had kids around the age of 22 or 23. Today, you find everything from 18 to 45 which explains why it can be so hard to find moms you relate to.
3.     Our sense of community is changing. Before having kids, many of us don’t form close relationships with our neighbors – we tend to pay more attention to our circle of friends from school or work.  Few people put in the investment and energy into making close friends nearby, simply because we didn’t need to.
4.     We just don’t have the time or energy! With nearly 60% of moms juggling raising a kid and continuing to work, our lives are hectic. We spend much less time with our friends and have even less time to dedicate to finding new friends. And for those moms who have left the workforce, many moms can feel isolated while being at home with a baby.

So what’s a girl to do? Here are some tips that we think can help you maintain your existing friendships and help you build new ones!

1.     Use technology! Moms sure are busy and don’t always have time for long drawn out phone calls. Using texting as a quick way to send a friend a note and let them know you’re thinking about them. Same with an email. It’s a great low-pressure way to stay in touch.
2.     Try finding other ways to relate to moms who aren’t your age. Sure she may be 5 years younger than you, but maybe you both own your homes and can share a sympathetic ear about how awful it is getting your deck redone.
3.     Reach out to your neighbors. Start by stopping the car when you drive by and see your neighbor out for a walk and say hello. If you and your kids spend a fun afternoon baking cookies together, take a plate over to your neighbor.
4.     Be proactive. How many other moms do you see throughout the day and share a passing courtesy “Hello”. Next time you see her, extend an invitation to meet for coffee. She’ll probably be grateful that you made the first move.

These are some short and simple tips, but remember that every journey begins with a single step. Making small changes can lead to great things down the road!

If you would like to read more or want to meet new moms in your area, check out It’s an online service that lets you build a profile and then matches you with moms in your area based on personality, preferences, and parenting style. Sign up for MomAmi and put the code MomsNewStage in the message line to receive a one-month free subscription. Also, you can check out their blog at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bitch, Please!

Because I never met an act of procrastination I didn’t like, I was scanning the YAHOO! news before getting to my mail.  The singer Shakira was attacked by a sea lion.  Oh, dear.  Then I saw something that really piqued my interest.  A mommy list. 

“10 Signs You’re a Type-A Mom” by Emily Liebert for GalTime.


Within two lines I was in Ralph Macchio’s Karate Kid stance, where though hobbled he’s balanced on one leg, the other in a high front parallel attitude (pardon the dance lingo) ready to kick, his arms over his head like an angry Count Chocula.

Another mompetition I’d entered unwittingly. And this lady had me beat!  Her kids were 10 months apart, by virtue of adoption and then good luck.  And I thought I had it tough with kids 18 months apart!  She presented herself as a parenting expert who kept company with other perfect mothers, wives and authors. Well, you go on with your bad self, grrrrl!  From what I could see in the ten points listed, this chick was insanely organized, an adept multi-tasker and was on a daily basis well-coiffed, well-groomed, and fashionable. 

At first I thought she was being a little tongue-in-cheek. No.  She was SERIOUS! But then I thought about it.  Instead of enviable, her boasts were sad and scary.  The precursors to misery. 

Simply put, to need that kind of control over everything and everyone, a gal’s gotta be wound up a little tight.  Those La Perla panties must be more snug than an effing tourniquet -- enough to make an upper class Supermom bust a cap in someone’s a--. 

I mean not wanting to have your kid have a goody bag?  Really?  Those little simple surprises are so special to kids.  Enough to make their day. Sure it’s stuff I probably wouldn’t buy for them.  Sure they don’t need it.  If something’s is unsafe you can get rid of it.

And for the record, thank you very much, I am the mom who put the pencils in the Valentine’s goody bags for my 3 year old son’s class.   And here I thought I was being good by not providing candy!

Those who can get and keep their kids on a perfect schedule, doing the same thing at the same time daily, are amazing.  More power to them.  But as I mentioned in my first post on the subject of mompetition  ( these people need to realize that they are lucky to have docile kids!  A household of small children is not the military.  While that might be the pinnacle of orderliness for a family, it’s also soulless and insensitive. Invariably, something runs late, someone has pooped, someone’s rhythm is off.  With no sense of time, kids dawdle.  And lest you squash like a cockroach their innate sense of “smelling the roses,” sometimes they should be allowed to do so. The essence of motherhood is flexibility. 

A tree that doesn’t bend breaks.

Then I read the “all you have to do is a little light reading and follow the rules.” My stance went from Karate Kid to that scary guy in Deliverance with a crossbow.  I could have got my kids to sleep by reading books?  What a brilliant idea!  Wish someone had told me about that one!

News flash, lady. Children are not DVD players.  There is not a one-size-fits-all manual.  I tried everything in every book.  My kids began to sleep only after 6 months after crying it out.  Your child’s great early-sleeping habits don’t make you perfect. 

And yes, everyone wants her husband to get it.  Lord knows I do.  I really, really do.  There are days I’d gladly pull out my eyes to get him to do things my way. But he’s not a dog and I can’t train him.  We try to talk amicably about what we’d like from each other.  We push each others’ buttons.  But we know we’re both great parents, doing our best with very little time.  My J thinks I tear him up in this blog.  He needs to see post so he’ll know that other dads have it way, way worse, and that his disheveled little wifey is both enlightened and a kitten compared to some.

So apparently, type-A Mommy’s home looks like the vision of  HGTV’s Genevieve Gorder.  Many rooms in my house look like they were designed by Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen.  When A-Mom multitasks it results in a symphony (although I’ve got to say that “emptying the dishwasher, changing a poopy diaper and working your I-phone” is "Ooooooh-I-just-love-amoebic-dysentery" gross!), while I burn dinner and have a child fall off a chair.

Now here’s the thing – why should anyone actually believe that their ability to multitask, get a mani-pedi, put things in those nifty Container Store plastic bins, and order others around makes them a better mother?  Those things are part of mothering, sure, but they pertain to managing a household and taking care of oneself.

Perfect parenting is something else altogether.

To be that so-called perfect parent I’d like to hear how you never yell at your kids.  How you consistently employ a firm, yet sensitive strategy to counter undesirable behavior.  How you have an arsenal of crafts ready for a rainy day. How you allow for spontaneity and curiosity and extreme dilly-dallying. How you’ve figured out a way to let your kids help you make dinner, without dinner taking 2 hours to make.  How you put your kids to bed lovingly, without wanting it to take no more than 3.8 seconds. 

How you don’t need a stiff drink at the end of everyday.

Things like that.

As for the other stuff, if that’s winning the mompetition, if that’s being perfect, then bring on the bungling.  I’m happy to have lost.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Guest Appearance

Playdates:  Double dates for moms.  

Mom's New Stage is taking her dancing shoes over to the blog at Mom-ami.  Mom-ami is an online service that lets you build a profile and then matches you with moms in your area based on personality, preferences, and parenting style.  In a nutshell, it's Match for moms.  Brilliant!
 Today's post is a little anecdote about making friends.

Or not. . .

Click on over!

Yes, you! 



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hey New Mom, Meet Hyde Park!

The coiner of the phrase "Mulatto Heaven" and
a few small friends enjoy HP's Promontory Point.

1.     It IS Mulatto Heaven.  Seriously, this 'hood is ground zero for mixed race families, gay parents, and single parents.  Getting the bad stares here is rare.  It's an oasis, so much so that when you leave you forget that this diversity is far from the norm.

2.     Sure there are conservatives here, but for the most part we're either liberal, progressive or so to the left crunchy you crack your teeth just lookin'!

3.     Hyde Park's retail clothing situation is pretty much non-existent.  Unless, of course, you want a t-shirt with Obama's picture on it.

4.     The Hyde Park Parents Support Network is a blessing.  You can buy, sell or borrow any child-related item.  You can get advice on anything from introducing solids to why, despite your ardent pacifism, your son is a budding Ted Nugent.  And, you can witness passionate neighborhood cyber-battles about letting dogs into parks and the suggestion that if you're concerned about schools you should move to the 'burbs.

5.     Expressing disdain for beloved all-American rituals like trick-or-treating or the Super Bowl will earn you, at worst, a massive eye roll, and an unspoken "get over yourself," as opposed to being accused of treason and run out of town.

6.     It's a gem of a village in the part of Chicago that most people assume the worst about - the Southside. Everyone knows everyone - two degrees of separation at best. If you want to get out of HP Produce (a scaled-down, neighborhood version of Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) without fifteen stop-and-chats, consider wearing a Yosemite Sam Hat and some Groucho Marx glasses.  

7.     You knew this already, but it's the president's hometown. How cool is it that his multimillion dollar home is steps away from Section 8 housing?

8.     The only thing separating an elite college preceptorial from the neighborhood moms' book group is wine.  Lots and lots of wine.

9.     As you can see from #3, Hyde Parkers see clothing as purely functional. We might as well walk around wearing barrels. If you rock it frumpy, or embrace the no-style lifestyle, then this is the 'hood 'for you!  We save the fancy stuff for visits to other parts of town.  Consider the following typical exchange:

Mom #1: (dressed in her just-shy-of-pajamas momiform) "Wow, you look great - makeup, skinny jeans, cute boots!  Where are you going?
Mom #2:  "Yeah, I'm meeting a friend on the Northside."
Both: (nodding and grinning knowingly)  "Ooo-oooh...."

10.  Sure, it's a college town. But with the exception of a few Greek domiciles, it is the life of the mind, baby.  A few popular slogans describing good ol' U of C are "Where Fun Comes to Die," "Where the Squirrels are More Aggressive than the Men," and "Where The Only Thing That Goes Down on You Is Your GPA."

11.  Bixler and Butternut Playlots.  Where it is the norm for parents to actually talk to each other, and where for the benefit of the children who play there, people deposit no-longer-needed toys that range from misfit status to perfectly good. 

12.  It's not Highland Park or Lincoln Park. Far from it. If a Prada garment found itself here, it might suffer an existential crisis. As far as I know, there is very little hopping into bed with other people's husbands, but there is definitely a gossip circuit.  Surely, SOMEONE could do a real housewives thing here.  Maybe on PBS?  What have I been smoking, you ask? Okay, fine.  I'm done now.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mom In the Spotlight: Alexandra Beller

Alexandra Beller (MFA: U of Wisconsin at Milwaukee 2006; BFA in Dance U of Michigan 1994) is Artistic Director of Alexandra Beller/Dances. As a member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (1995-2001), she performed in over 50 countries and throughout the U.S. She helped to create “The Belle Epoch,” (Martha Clarke and Charles Mee). She was a 2-year Artist in Residence at HERE Art Space, and has also been an AIR at Dance New Amsterdam.
Alexandra is on faculty at Dance New Amsterdam and has taught at the Atlantic Theater School, The New School, 92nd St Y, and at universities throughout the United States. She was a visiting artist at APA, CCDC, and DanceArt in Hong Kong, D-Dance Festival in Korea, Den Nordsk Balletthoskole in Oslo, Henny Jurriens Stichting in Amsterdam, Open Look Festival in St. Petersburg, Bytom Festival in Poland, and Cyprus Summer Festival in Nicosia. She was a guest choreographer at the U of Michigan, Rhode Island College, The U of South Florida, MIT, Texas Woman's University, Connecticut College, Texas Christian University, and Bates College, among others, and received an NCCI commission from Montclair State University in 2003/2004.
Alexandra’s choreography has been presented at and commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop, 92nd St. Y, Aaron Davis Hall, Danspace Project at St. Mark's, Joyce SoHo, P.S. 122, WAX, HERE, The Connelly Theater, SUNY Purchase College, Dance New Amsterdam, Symphony Space, and Jacob’s Pillow and has been commissioned by companies in Arizona, Michigan, Texas, Korea, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Maine, New York City, Florida, Boston, Rhode Island, New Jersey and elsewhere. Her company has toured through Michigan, Massachusetts and New York and received The Company Residency at The Yard in 2004 .
Film work includes “Romance and Cigarettes” by John Turturro.  She was the collaborator and subject of a series of photographs by Irving Penn, "Dancer," (Whitney Museum, Houston, Chicago, Sweden, London, St. Petersburg, Paris, Japan and other locations globally). Alexandra is also a part time dance critic and writes reviews for Recent projects include performances at the Henry Street Settlement, Bytom Festival in Poland, and Open Look Festival in Russia as well as a choreographic commission in Oslo, and a NY season at Dance New Amsterdam. Upcoming events include the premiere of her evening length work, “other stories” at ICA in Boston, and a subsequent tour to The Southern Theater in Minneapolis, and residencies in Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, and Amsterdam.
Alexandra helped design the Choreographic Investigation Course at Dance New Amsterdam, a new training ground for emerging dance makers, and teaches regularly in the program as well as serving as a mentor for many of the participants. 

How old are your kids?  Boys? Girls?
2 boys. One 5 years old and one 3 months.

Where were you in your career when your child(ren) were born?
I was 33 years old, post touring career with a large company, mid choreographic/teaching career with my own company.

What were your plans? How did your plans square with reality?
I don’t think I really was able to plan since I didn’t have any idea what it would feel like to have kids, but I did hope to be able to continue to grow my company, and I was able to succeed in doing that after the kids arrived.

How does being a choreographer, an artist, play into your parenting?
I like that my kids get to witness art on a daily basis -- that the people, my colleagues, with whom they associate are all artists. And of course, I think an artistic perspective helps me parent creatively.

Has being a parent changed your dancemaking at all?
It makes me much more aware of the financial illegitimacy of art-making. It makes me both value and de-value the act of making art at alternate moments. It makes me more efficient with my time in the studio. It makes me dream faster.

You are a well-known and sought after teacher and choreographer.  What are your childcare arrangements for teaching, touring etc?  How do you make this work?
I always brought my first with me. I have never toured without him. He has been to Poland, twice to Russia, five times to Amsterdam, twice to Oslo, and all over the US. I get local childcare on tour, which I arrange with the presenter in advance and pay for usually out of pocket. Sometimes at universities they give me a work study student but normally even in the States, I pay for it.

As a regular woman, I was elated by my pregnant body.  Like many women, I had nude pregnancy photos taken. As a dancer, however, I’ll admit to finding my body rather upsetting, to put it mildly, both aesthetically and functionally.  Nudity is often an element in your work, and in the final days of your more recent pregnancy, you performed nude.  Can you share a little about this choice? 
I actually made the decision to perform in order to force myself to appreciate the beauty of my pregnant body, since I had gotten very down on myself during this pregnancy. Obviously I appreciate the miracle that is pregnancy, but I definitely suffered from body image issues, especially in the beginning before I was telling everyone I was pregnant, and at the end when I was ginormous.

Many mothers would like remain viable in their art form, not to mention satisfy their creative hunger.  The demands of motherhood and running a household, however, often leave little energy and time for this.  You, apparently, are succeeding at both. For the love of God, woman, share your secret!
I try to arrange for most of my work to be during the school times. In the beginning, I brought the baby with me so there was less time away and I could nurse at the studio on breaks. I’m quite tired. I phase my art-making so that it is not a constant going, but I will make a show and then take a break to spend better quality time with the family, then make another show. I try to take vacations. Bringing the family with me on tour helps me justify going, but makes it hellaciously tiring. I’m fortunate enough to be married to a man who supports my career and makes enough money himself that I don’t have to bring in a full half of our income.

What is the best thing Lucas, your older son, has said to you?
There are far too many to count.  I have a five page record of his words of wisdom.  But here is one of note:
Hubby (to me): "Does she like boys or girls?" 
L (interrupting): "I think she likes boys AND girls because she likes people, and boys and girls are people." 

Can we codify this somehow?

Best FML mommy moment?
Getting locked out of the apt I was sharing with my then 2.5 year old in St Petersburg Russia w/ no phone and only “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I love you” in Russian.

And here’s a recent one: Just the other night I was breastfeeding my 3 month old at 5 am when my 5 year old wakes up with a tummy ache.  My husband is in Australia for work. I am contorted to attempt a simultaneous tummy rub and breastfeed when he throws up all over the bed and me. Dumbfounded…

Your parenting style in 5 words or less.
Spontaneous, Magical, Loving, Democratic, Realistic   

To TV or not TV?
Hell yeah. But sufficiently guilty about it.

As parents we create a rich fantasy life for our children, both to stimulate their imaginations and to shield them from certain harsh truths.  Any household “tales” come to mind? 
The biggest one lately is simply telling our five year old things that the baby is thinking… (“Ivo really wants to sit next to you!”) And Santa was big this year. We already told him Heaven was only a theory…

What advice would you give women who are embarking upon their journey as mothers, but want to remain strong contenders in the dance world?
It sounds incredibly cheesy, but follow your heart. I was incredibly surprised that if I really checked in with myself I could figure out whether I needed to devote myself more to career or more to family because my heart would ache for the one I was neglecting. Now, granted, there is not enough time to devote oneself as fully as one would like to both, BUT if I really was honest with myself I would figure out where my energy really wanted to be.

Note: Alex typed this written interview one-handed, with a baby on her lap, and at one point also on the breast. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mother On, Little Camper...

I was scanning the lotion aisle, on a Sunday evening jaunt to CVS, when I heard.  The phone rang.  A restricted number.  My heart sank. 

It was Janice*, my father's wife.  Daddy died that morning.  

A small, quavering, "Oh!" escaped my throat and my eyes filled.  I managed to hold on to my two tubes of Eucerin.  I listened to how he had passed. How his cancer had returned him to the hospital, and how difficult it had been for him to breathe.  How he had suffered. How he waited for Janice to return before taking his final rest.  

Still clutching the phone to my ear, I wandered the aisles, both feebly and desperately, in search of relative solitude.  Janice did not yet know when the funeral would be.  Perhaps later in the week, perhaps the next Monday.  Graciously, she asked, "Would that be good for you?"

I told her it would.  "I'm so glad that he had you," I sobbed.

"We had each other, dear," Janice reminded me.  We talked a bit more before hanging up.  

Home, home. I needed to get home.  Whom could I call? My mom? J? Bestie?  Should I drop everything and run out of the store?  How would I leave the kids to get to a funeral in the middle of the week?  I found an empty place in the stationery section.  Before a wall of tape and paper and envelopes, I put my scarf over my face and wept.  

I felt dizzy.  I needed to clear my head. I took a deep breath.

You are a mother. Going home without what you came for is not going to help ANYTHING. You will leave here with what you came to get.  You will go to the produce market as planned.  You will not cook - you will order dinner.  Go.  

I finished gathering what I needed, went through self-checkout and left the store.  Outside,  I hunkered down, focusing only on putting one foot in front of the other to get to the produce market.  I finished buying yogurt and milk and bananas with as little human contact as possible.

I managed to walk back home.  It was almost 6 p.m., and the kids were still asleep.  I told J.  I cried again in his arms, then rushed him to get our dinner order underway before the kids woke up.  He asked me if I wanted to lie down.  I refused.  How could I with two children running around our condo during the witching hours? With my thoughts racing?  Lying down with my head in such a bad place would feel like torture -- way worse than summoning the combination of energy, good cheer and patience necessary to take care of small children.  

I managed to conjure up the drive to mother.  Although I picked at my dinner, with J's help, I supervised the kids, played with them a little and did the whole bath and bedtime ritual.  I managed not to lose it with all the expert stalling performed by both my littles.  I explained to Riley that Mommy felt sad because her Daddy had gone to heaven.  That he wouldn't be back.  To which Riley replied matter-of-factly, "That means he won't get to see me."

"Or Aria," I added. 

I continued through the night, through my week, in the straightforward manner of Riley's answer.  I washed dishes and shopped for and prepared meals.  I kept things at least as clean (or not) as before.  I got myself and the kids to where we needed to be.  Several of my friends and students couldn't believe I was at work on Monday.  Not going definitely crossed my mind, but I couldn't afford to stay home - emotionally or financially.  Maybe it was not wanting to deal with the pain that would come with stillness.  Surely I was still in shock, but I didn't feel that I had the luxury to check out.  

As an adult -- and especially as a parent-- life goes on.  

And as it turned out, going to work - teaching and moving - was a relief.  Even though I hadn't planned class, I was able to rely on the powers of improvisation and get some decent movement out there.  It was one of those times I felt extremely lucky I didn't have a desk job, or else I'd have been sobbing under my desk.  A colleague let my students know that I had had a death in the family.  I turned away to cry for a few seconds and then started playing BeyoncĂ© for my jazz warm-up.  I always tell my students to let dancing take them out of their heads when they're having a hard time emotionally - to let it be their therapy.  

Last week I lived by example.  

It's not that I didn't deal with my feelings.  I did cry. Often.  In the car alone.  With Hubby.  With mom. On the phone with Bestie and with another dear friend who lost her father a little over a year ago.  When someone gave me a hug, or when my partner teacher and students wrote me a card.  The oddest part was having this huge grief, and trying to proceed as normal in public.  The hardest part is conducting yourself like everything is fine when it literally feels as though there is a hole in your heart.  Whom do you tell?  Even among friends and colleagues it felt indulgent and overexposing to reply honestly to the question, "How are you?" 

I am still learning how to answer; I am learning that grief comes in many waves and in many stages.  Also, I am trying to remember that not dealing with grief will come back to haunt me.

Last week was divided my life into before and after. In the initial shock of losing a parent, the grieving, the planning/logistics, and in the emotional intensity of the funeral and interment, I have seen how much strength it takes to straddle mourning and caring for children, who are so full of life.  I feel blessed to be able to lose myself in the unavoidable distraction of parenting.  Again, life goes on.  And, also we fulfill an obligation to the generations before.  

I do have this strength, I think. What I need is wisdom, to come to terms with the past - with regrets and might-have-beens - while moving on, and nurturing my family into the future.

*Name has been changed.

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