Friday, May 30, 2008

Summertime, summertime, sum-, sum-, summertime!

After many months of waiting, summer finally arrived!

Indulging mommy's request to take a "nice" photo

Her turn going down the slide

Getting ready to go down the slide


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Rain, rain go away

Rain, rain go away

Yesterday, we had really weird weather. One minute, it was bright and sunny and the next, a thunderstorm would roll through. The girls were outside playing in the pool. Hearing thunder in the distance, I made them come in and within minutes it was pouring like crazy. They huddled on the couch under an umbrella for "safety."

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Mom! She's blinking at me!"

Ever since my daughters were old enough to understand basic concepts, I have repeatedly told them, "Honey, you can tell me anything. Anything that's bothering you - you can tell me. I'm always here for you."

And it seems they were listening. Lately, my house is full of information.

"MOM! She's poking me!"

"MOM! She took the doll I was playing with!"

"MOM! She's playing with the door again!"

"MOM! She's sitting on the book I want to read!"

"MOM! She won't let me sit on the bed with her!"


The crowning jewel came Saturday at my mom's house. After telling them both repeatedly that they were not allowed upstairs, I realized that they'd snuck up there without permission again. I stomped up the stairs and before I even lay eyes on them yelled out, "You aren't supposed to be up here and you know it!"

When I entered the room in which they'd holed up, Peanut looked at me, eyes filled with guilt, and said earnestly, "MOM! Loaf is upstairs."

"You're upstairs," I answered back matter of factly.

Without missing a beat Loaf declared, "Mom, Peanut upstairs first."

Oh. My. GAWD.

Today, I actually told them, "unless someone is bleeding, I don't want to hear it," which goes completely and utterly against my previous you-can-tell-me-anything stance.

Then, about ten minutes after I talked with them about tattling, Loaf tattled on Peanut. Peanut's response? "MOM! Loaf is telling on me."

I used to read about tattling and wonder why it got so much ink in parenting books and blogs. It seemed like a pretty insignificant problem in the world of parenting. BOY WAS I WRONG. It is a huge deal. Enormous. It is the size deal that drives parents slowly insane and makes them long for the days when they did not have to deal with such petty, ridiculous crap.

Seriously, what am I supposed to do with this? Do you have any ideas? Come on, you can tell me. So long as your suggestion doesn't start with a whiny "MOM!" I'm open.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

An eye for an eye (or a hoof for a flower)

When I was five-years-old, my parents took me to the movies to see the theatrical re-release of Bambi. Ten minutes into the movie, when the hunter’s fatal shot ended the life of Bambi’s mother, I burst into hysterics and had to be removed from the theater.

I’m sure there are people scattered all over the Berkshires who to this day remember the screaming child from that night. (And of course, we were seated in the front so it was a undoubtedly a loooonngg walk for my mom and dad).

Many years later, I find myself living in a part of New Jersey that is overrun with deer. They decimate gardens. They run out in front of cars on a regular basis. I myself have almost collided with a deer on two separate occasions and have resigned myself to the fact that if I live in this part of the world long enough, eventually I will hit one.

Deer are a huge problem here. It’s not really the deer’s fault. Only a couple of decades ago, this part of N.J. was mostly woods, field and horse pasture. Those natural spaces have given way to one subdivision and housing project after another as suburban sprawl has radiated further and further from the nucleus of New York City. Where else are the deer – who were here first – supposed to go besides backyards and roadways?

But still, it’s a problem. Anyone who lives out here and wants any type of landscaping is left with two choices: Plant a limited amount of boring plants (think boxwoods and evergreens) or put up an eight-foot-high deer fence.

My first year here, I planted a number of “deer resistant” plants only to wake one morning to learn the hard way that a herd of deer will eat almost anything when hungry enough. The tears shed that morning were not quite as severe as the ones in the theater in 1975, but it was close.

After that I tried a number of deer repellents including noxious smelling sprays (including coyote urine – I don’t even want to think about how that was collected), human hair and clanking cans tied to bushes. Nothing worked, so four years ago we installed a deer fence and I’ve been a happy gardening fool ever since.

Well, almost ever since. It seems that we have a breach in our security. Two weeks ago, while strolling through the yard I noticed that all nine huge, mature hostas planted around the trees on the far side of the yard were eaten down to two-inch stems. Every lovely leaf was gone.

Could rabbits have done that?I wondered. I already knew the answer, but I didn’t want to believe it. Then three mornings later, I opened up my curtains to see six deer standing in my backyard.

I yelled out a few really choice swear words that I save only for times when I am most supremely pissed off and it’s like they KNEW there was one mad gardening mama in the vicinity – off they bolted toward the woods. Since then, we’ve been trying to figure out how they are getting in. There are two suspicious spots where trees fell on the fence. We repaired them, but huge logs remain giving the deer a nature-made step stool into our yard.

Every morning I open the blinds, hold my breath and carefully scan the garden for damage. While we were in Massachusetts this weekend, they got in and ate the tops off every single phlox plant in my yard. About two dozen of them. All. Gone.

I hate when I see them dead on the side of the road, because I feel that’s just a waste of life. But as for hunting? Yeah, I’m not really so much opposed to that anymore.

If I ever let my girls watch Bambi, I don’t think I’ll have the same tears to shed. Venison anyone?


Saturday, May 24, 2008

No place like it

Thursday afternoon, driving north on the Taconic State Parkway. We rise in altitude first over the Taconic Mountains and then into the Berkshires.

After a bit over three hours, we enter Massachusetts and my body sighs and thinks, "I'm home."

I haven't lived here full time since 1987. I haven't had a mailing address here since 1992. But when my car crosses the border and I look around at the peaks around me (so lush and green right now, amazingly vibrant in oranges, golds and reds in the autumn and pure white in winter), at the wide expanses of fields of cows, horses, or wildflowers, at the array of blue mountain lakes, I know - without a doubt - that this is the place I will always think of first and foremost as home.

I'm not sure I'll ever live here again. After over a decade in NJ, I've put down roots there - my job, my friends, my home, a proximity to New York City that I love - each tethering me to the area and making it harder to imagine moving back here.

And yet, being here is a breath of fresh air. I sit in my mom's kitchen and soak her up as much as I can. My children nuzzle against her while she reads them stories. I gaze out the window and see nothing but trees for as far as the eye can see. Later today, we will head out into my mom's backyard to play in the sun.


Tomorrow, we will retrace our trip in the opposite direction, heading south and watching the landscape change again. When we pull into our driveway, I will smile in relief at being back in our own home. We will unload and unpack and settle back into the good life we've made there. And start looking forward to our next trip north again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Someone's been eating blueberries

I wonder who it could be?

Someone's been eating blueberries. I wonder who?

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Monday, May 19, 2008

To my dear, dear college friends:

Hi friends,

I know a lot of you read my blog. At least that's what you tell me, and my site meter seems to confirm that. (Your towns in places like New Hampshire, Maryland, western New York and Florida all regularly appear there).

So let's do a little test, shall we?

I've been thinking about you all a lot today. I miss you. We don't get together or chat as much as any of us would like, but I understand that's because we're all busy. Most of us are parents and even those of who aren't have active, demanding, full schedules.

But today I thought of you even more than usual.

Do you know why?

Are you ready for this? (Get ready to be shocked and awed).

we graduated from college 17 years ago today


I thought, briefly, about keeping that bit of information to myself. I thought maybe some (or all) of you had forgotten that little anniversary. It's easy for me to remember because tomorrow is my husband's birthday and I remember graduating the day before. May 19, 1991. A date that will live in infamy, at least for me.

I thought, briefly, "Why make everyone else wallow in this sad bit of information? Why not just keep it to myself and spare everyone else the painful realization that we are all nearly two decades out of college?"

But then I thought about the old days, when we'd push each other's buttons (in good fun, of course), name-calling and gently poking at each other. I remember when we were all turning twentysomething and we made it a point to send the most obnoxious "old age" birthday cards we could find to each other. I got a lot of those cards. A lot.

Payback is a bitch, baby.

::evil grins::

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: My girl

My girl

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A growing tradition

I come from a long line of women who seek therapy in the cool, deep dirt of their gardens. Grandmothers, aunts, and of course, my mom are all avid gardeners. Their homes were/are surrounded by flowers. Their summer salads were/are punctuated by tomatoes and cucumbers that they’ve sown in a patch of dirt a few feet from their back door.

I recall my maternal grandmother’s peony bushes, full of fat, pink flowers every spring. Their lush fragrance filled the air for several feet in any direction. In her backyard, she grew vegetables that my cousins and I picked and ate straight from the garden.

On the other side of my family tree, my great-grandmother filled pots of colorful annuals and lined her steps with them. Rose of Sharon bushes grew high along the front of her house. My father’s mom had a lush patch of lily-of-the-valley that hypnotized me with its beauty.

Even in marriage I’ve connected with gardeners. Mark’s mother’s home is surrounded by a riot of color and beauty from May to September. A physical wall of daylilies brings joy to the entire neighborhood each year.

I have inherited this love. The gardening gene thrives in my cells, prompting me to begin plotting out my spring projects while snow still blows outside my window and bringing me delight at the first signs of plants coming to life after a long winter sleep.

When we bought our house in March 2001, I knew almost nothing about gardening and the beds around the home were a neglected, weedy mess. I had no idea what I was doing, but I forged bravely forward, planting with no clear plan or direction. Things shot up all over the place in willy-nilly fashion. Tall plants were in the front of the border while shorter ones were hidden the back. All the July bloomers ended up in one place resulting in a short-lived burst of color with nothing else blooming for the rest of the season. A bunch of plants withered away from lack of sun as others fried in the heat of August.

But I’m a fast learner and by the next summer, I had a plan in place. I moved some plants, divided others and began the traditional May draining of my wallet at the local nursery.

I learned about full sun and part sun and shade. I learned about spring, summer and fall bloomers. I learned to space things by color and size. I stopped pulling the relentless weeds and laid down thick black weed tarp instead.

And last year I hit paydirt:


American Goldfinch sitting on a Rudbeckia flower

Summer garden with butterflies


There is still a lot of work to do. Whole beds off the driveway in the back remain neglected and overgrown. But it’s good to see such hard work pay off.

The best part of all is realizing that both of my daughters seem to have inherited the gardening gene as well. At the annual nursery wallet draining last week, they happily followed along, helping me pick out flowers, asking questions with great enthusiasm (“Oh Mommy, what’s this plant?”) and pulling the wagon as we piled it high with flowers, herbs and vegetables (a new experiment for me this year).

When it came time to put them in the ground, they were right there with me, digging with their tiny shovels, wearing the teeny gardening gloves I picked up for them in the dollar section of Target.

I used to relish gardening time as my alone time. For me, digging in the dirt in solitude was one the finest forms of stress release.

But on Sunday morning while the three of us filled a huge container with tiny herb plants, Mark stepped outside to marvel at us.

“This is so great,” he said. “You’re giving them a lifelong love of gardening.”

There is no better tribute I can offer to the fine women of my family than to ensure their passions and pursuits live on for another generation. So far, it appears the odds are very good.


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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Reason 873 why I am blessed

From the Mother's Day Tea at Peanut's school.

Disclaimer: Sorry for the poor quality. This was taken with our regular digital camera and not a true video camera.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Smile!

Smiley girl

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.
—Mother Teresa

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

A moment in time

In four months, Peanut will turn five. She is all energy, all the time—a constant whirl of arms and legs. A persistent hum of chatter and song.

So today as I worked at the computer, I was surprised to find her standing next to me, her small hand on my arm.

"Hi Mom," she said, resting her head against my shoulder.

"Well, hello. What's up?" I inquired expecting a request for a snack or a drink.

"Nothing. I just wanted to see you."

I lifted her into my lap and she curled into it like a large kitten. Placing her ear against my heart, she closed her eyes and lay still against me.

"Are you OK?" I asked. "Is everything alright?"

"Yes, everything is fine, Mommy. I just wanted to be near you."

We sat like that for several minutes, her head resting against me, one hand flat on my chest. I rocked slowly back and forth and stroked her hair. Every now and then I leaned over and placed the softest of kisses on her forehead.

"You know, when you were a baby, you used to sit like this all the time," I told her. "You even slept like this."

She said nothing, but pressed in harder.

"It's so nice. I'm so lucky to have this moment with you to remember what you were like way back then," I continued.

She sat up, smiled at me and without a word, hopped off my lap and ran off. I sat in my chair and watched her go. For several minutes, I did nothing but relish the moment, trying to burn its sweetness into my permanent memory.

I hope to teach my daughter many things as she grows, but today she taught me something: Remember to slow down, stop, enjoy and cherish what you have. Even if only for a moment.

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Maybe not twice as easy, but certainly twice as nice

I'm participating in a virtual baby shower for three fine ladies of the blogosphere who are about to have their second babies: Her Bad Mother, Chicky Chicky Baby and Mrs. Chicken.

For their shower, the organizers have asked moms to share their best advice about going from one child to two.

Peanut was 19-months-old when Loaf was born, still a baby herself in so many ways, and I have to be honest and say it wasn't always easy at first. But in 100% honesty, I found motherhood much easier overall the second time around. I knew the drill so to speak, having a better sense of what was required to keep a baby happy throughout the day, but more importantly, I was more confident.

I struggled, horribly, with breastfeeding Peanut. It is nothing short of a miracle that I nursed her a full year because I endured eight weeks of toe-curling pain each and every time she latched on in the beginning. With Loaf? I had no issues at all.

Of course, there were other challenges: Loaf crying inconsolably while Peanut pulled at my leg. Peanut's jealousy and first tantrums. Having no time to shower, eat or rest. But despite it all, we made it through and are all doing well today. So here's my advice for the mommies-to-be. I hope something here helps ease the transition for you:

1. Take it moment by moment—The first days/weeks will be hard, but only in bursts. When those difficult times strike, take a deep breath, stay calm and remind yourself "this too shall pass." Take a few seconds to assess the situation (whose need is most pressing?) and then address it accordingly. And most of all remember you can handle everything: you're a mom!

2. Don't try to be Supermom—Your house will likely be a mess. You will realize it's 3:30 p.m. and you haven't brushed your teeth yet. You'll still be in your PJs when your husband comes home from work. And you know what? It's all OK. You can clean up the house another day. You can all eat cereal for dinner. You can take a quick shower when the kids go to bed (if you have the energy; if you don't, that's OK too). In other words, eventually it all gets a lot easier, but in the beginning, don't stress out about things that don't matter in the short-term.

3. If you are going to nurse, learn how to do it lying down—This saved me. I nursed Loaf at night, in my own bed, lying down on my side so that I could doze a little. It made a huge difference with handling sleep deprivation.

4. Get a Bjorn or a sling and use it—The sling and Bjorn saved my life. Seriously. Loaf never wanted to be put down and cried the minute her backside hit any surface that wasn't human. So I just wore her All. The. Time. Was it perfect? Nope. But it at least allowed me to fix myself and Peanut a sandwich or fold laundry or do whatever needed to be done with both of my hands free.

5. The kids are important, but so are you—Finally, listen to your own body and its needs. You will need to rest and recover. You'll need a break. You'll need to leave the house sometimes - even for 30 minutes - with no kids and no guilt. Put a video on for your older child, and ask for and accept help from others (including your husband). You can't look after the wee ones if you aren't taking care of yourself.

OK one more thing: Enjoy every moment. I'm shocked by quickly time has flown. Yesterday I had a toddler and a newborn and today I looked up and they were both preschoolers - 4.5 and 3, bounding around my living room pretending to be horses. Every day is a gift. You are very, very blessed.

Thanks to Kristen, Julie and Liz and the Playdate posse for making this shower possible.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Unfair and unbalanced and that's just the beginning

Last night we watched the O’Reilly Factor on Fox (a.k.a. “Faux”) News.

Now, to be clear, I hate both Bill O’Reilly and Faux, (and I'm not the only one), but O’Reilly was interviewing Hillary Rodham Clinton and, well, how can you not be curious about that? It’s the political equivalent of watching a caged fight between the Montagues and Capulets.

Must see TV, indeed.

I’m not her biggest fan, but I will say that Senator Clinton handled herself well. She stated her positions clearly and eloquently and appeared calm and good-natured throughout the interview. (I have to give her huge props for that alone because I don’t think I could sit with the very rude and arrogant Bill O’Reilly for more than two minutes without smacking him in the head).

Now comes the problem. Faux News’ “analysis” of the Clinton interview has been running non-stop since it aired.

And by analysis I mean, “A right-wing commentator squashes Clinton’s opinions and ‘sets the record straight’ by explaining just how very wrong she is.” Lather, rinse, repeat throughout the day.

When I first heard about Clinton’s interview on Faux, I was trying to decide if it was a good campaign move or not. On one hand, it would expose her to a new audience. Maybe some of Faux's more moderate viewers would be won over.

On the other, O’Reilly’s style of interviewing often includes interrupting, correcting, and shouting down anyone he disagrees with. And appearing on the show gives it credibility and weight that it does not deserve.

With the interview over (to O’Reilly’s credit, he didn’t shout, though he did interrupt her numerous times), I’m left with a bad feeling. Clinton has handed Faux the gift of her positions tied up in a pretty bow and from here on out they plan to repackage them over and over to suit their own agenda.

With rights to all that footage, Faux can replay it ad nauseum and have one Faux-sanctioned commentator after another critique Clinton’s viewpoints, appearance, demeanor, style and intelligence all under the pretext of “analysis,” from now until November.

With no one there to represent the Democrat’s viewpoints, Faux is sure to make mincemeat of – regardless of what you think of her – this very smart woman’s statements, watering them down, tearing them apart and spinning them all in the name of “protecting” the conservative way of life in America.

Fair and balanced? Clinton joked about the news organization’s infamous slogan, but as a former journalist, I can’t do it. Faux is a propaganda machine, and a good one that. And Clinton just played right into its hands. I’m really quite surprised she couldn’t see this coming.

Or maybe she just thought they’d take the high road for once. Hope you’re not too disappointed, Senator, because I am.


Congratulations are in order!

I just have to wish one my most favorite bloggers in the whole wide world hearty congratulations on the birth of another beautiful daughter!

If you don't read her blog, you should. Her words, full of raw emotion, flow like poetry, softly reaching through the screen to pull you into her amazing world. I'm so looking forward to reading about how life in her home changes now (when she's up and on her feet again, of course!)

Congrats again, Amanda!