Friday, August 29, 2008

It's August 29. Do you know where your summer is?

I sit here, looking at the little digital calendar on my computer trying to comprehend the fact that, for all intents and purposes, the summer of 2008 is over.

Oh sure, there’s still this weekend – a nice long one at that – but if summer were a politician, she’d be the lamest of lame ducks: powerless and wasting away. A figurehead at best.

We had a good summer and certainly had some fun moments. But I can’t help feeling like too much time was spent running, running, running.

Into the car. Off to the gym. Go to the grocery store. Do some work. Surf the web. Clean the house. Pull some weeds. Cook and eat dinner. Take a bath. Go to bed.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Looking back, it seems like summer slipped through my fingers like sand through a sifter and now it’s gone, never to be reclaimed. Too many days went by without really enjoying them and that’s a damn shame because my girls are growing up too fast. Already, they push me away – at times preferring to play on their own vs. with me. So this past week, I made a real effort to slow down and soak up what’s left of summer ’08 with them.

My house is a disaster, because instead of cleaning up every day we read. We sat on the kitchen step, arms wrapped around each other, and watched birds eat from the feeder. We went to the library, and instead of flipping through People or Self, I read story after story to them. We sat on the floor and colored. I cut my computer time way back and made an effort to do more of my work after hours so I could be with them in what’s left of this fleeting season of leisure.

It was nothing grand or extraordinary - just simple pleasures, easy joys. I plan to repeat it again this week because when it’s over, Peanut will be out of the house five days from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Loaf will be gone three mornings until 11:30 and my house will be quiet once again.

Soon after, the days will chill, the leaves will fall and before we know it, we’ll be bundling up in boots and coats and longing for days past when we chased fireflies and picked flowers and ran in the yard purely for fun.

I’m hoping to add a few more memories to that stockpile so that we all have something to draw upon in the coming weeks. Or years. Whatever the case may be.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: The popsicle

Popsicle girl

Click here to see who else is wordless today!

Labels: ,

Monday, August 25, 2008

This post has been brought to you by the letter A for Annoying


I'm just going to say it.

I hate Sesame Place.

I really, really do.

Last Friday, we made our fourth trip to that little sliver of hell childhood paradise tucked away in Eastern Pennsylvania. And the reality is, we could potentially go back again next year? Why?

Because we are insane our kids love it. They love it. Their little faces light up at the sight of Elmo, Bert, Ernie and the others. Their eyes double in size and they don huge smiles. They run up to the characters with their arms outstretched, wrapping them tightly around the characters' legs, barely able to contain their delight.

Meanwhile, we stand around cursing the heat and the lines for EVERYTHING (is that place ever not crowded?) and the never-ending rape and pillage of our wallets ($15 for parking? $2.79 for bottled water? C'mon!) Not to mention the constant stress of keeping an eagle eye on the girls in a loud, confusing, crowded environment.

I always leave there 1. thanking God that we still have two kids and 2. exhausted to the bone both mentally and physically.

Though I will say that this year, for the first time ever, we actually got to ride some of the rides (as crowded as it was, it seemed not quite as packed as previous years and some of the lines were actually palatable. Also, both girls finally meet the height requirement for the roller coaster and many of the water slides).

And let me tell you - a roller coaster is fun. A roller coaster with your favorite five-year-old snuggled up next to you laughing and shrieking with joy is pure ecstasy. That was the highlight. The hook that will bring us back again (probably) for another round. I know it, and the park's planners know it. But I don't have to be happy about it.

Here are a few of my (grainy, cellphone) pictures:


Loaf before the Abby Cadabby Treasure Hunt show. See? Happy, happy. How can I resist?


"The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire . . . " OK, not really. But wouldn't that be funny?


Elmo and Abby Cadabby: the equivalent of a yapping dog at 3 a.m. to adults; crack cocaine for kids.


Peanut is enthralled.


Loaf is either awestruck or is thinking, "What the f*@#!!?" Tough call.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: You're invited to a princess tea!

We had a very special birthday here this weekend:

The royal cake


The banquet hall


Her Majesty: The Birthday Girl


The honored guests


The royal guests

Ready for cake

Click here to see who else went wordless today!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The eyes have it

Last week, I attended a very cool event about the importance of eye exams co-sponsored by BlogHer and LensCrafters.

Trying on my frames

Check out my review here. And then go schedule an eye exam toot sweet!

Labels: ,

Attention all photographers!

The very awesome Aimee from Greeblemonkey is sponsoring a monthly photo contest called Greeblepix, so I thought I'd throw one of my favorite photos into the ring.


Loaf trying to grab the camera during a bath


She'll announce finalists tomorrow. Be sure to check out everyone's pictures!

Labels: ,

Silence is golden

This morning, Mark left to take the girls up to Massachusetts to see my mom, stepfather and brother, who is visiting from California. They will be back tomorrow. I had to work so I couldn't go.

I arrived home a while ago to an eerily silent house. I plunked my keys down on the table listening to their odd metallic echo in the living room. Usually, I am greeted by running footsteps and squeals and cries of, "Pick me up! Give me a hug!"

I walked up the hallway noticing how every sound - from my own shoes on the hardwood floors, to the flick the light switch in the bathroom makes, to the click click click of the burner on the gas stove right before it fires into blue heat - is oddly amplified. Everything is clearer. And most of all, everything seems foreign. The usual swirl of activity that fills the final hours of my day is gone: No chatter, no occasional clink of utensils on plates, no laughter, no whining. And most of all, no mess. My house is as neat as it was when I picked it up almost 24 hours ago.

I paced around the kitchen - the extremely clean kitchen - waiting for my dinner of leftovers to heat up and wondering what to do in such a strange, quiet house. What would I do to fill my time tonight with no cleaning to do, no baths to give, no stories to read and no teeth to brush but my own?

And then it hit me.


I'm going to break out a glass of wine, sit my ass on the couch and catch up on magazines. Or maybe I'll just surf the web all night. After I eat half a bag of chocolate and the rest of Peanut's birthday cake. I may even (gasp) take a bath! Alone! With no one banging on the door. And then I'll curl up in my bed and SLEEP ALL NIGHT LONG. By myself! No little people poking me in the arm in the middle of the night telling me they are scared. No small child crying out for water in the wee hours.


::happydance! happydance! happydance!::

Now if you'll excuse me, I must log off. I've got big plans for tonight. Sleep tight!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

I thought I knew

Five years.


It doesn’t really seem possible.

She was born on a Sunday, five years ago today, changing our lives forever.

I labored in the hospital thinking I was very prepared. Our home was stocked with diapers and wipes, teeny socks and hats and onesies that looked more suited for a teddy bear than a person, rattles, feeding supplies and a stack of books to help us feed her, bathe her, put her to sleep and diagnose illnesses. I had no idea none of that would matter because there is no substitute for my own instincts and in the middle of the night no book would help me comfort my crying child.

Nothing could prepare me for the challenges of parenthood – from the soaring highs to the lowest lows. The daily grid that necessitates the constant changing of hats: disciplinarian, soother, entertainer, negotiator, counselor, decider, enforcer, protector.

I thought I was a wise woman, educated and well read. I was successful in my career. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I had no idea how often I’d find myself wondering what I was supposed to do next or second-guessing my decisions. I didn’t realize that children aren’t scientific case studies whose outcomes can be predicted with research and data.

I thought I knew what love was. I have loved parents and aunts, cousins and grandparents. I have loved friends and pets.

And I loved a man. I loved him deeply. One day, I married him and our love grew even stronger.

I thought I had dipped into love’s deepest wells, but I’d only been swimming on the surface. I had not experienced the depths of love that are so dark and cold and terrifying. I didn't realize love could put every fiber of my being on edge, keeping me up at night wide-eyed and worrying about horrors both real and imagined. I didn’t know love had the ability to overcome me – holding me in its grip and making me shake for hours after my child ran toward a busy road or teetered unsteadily at the top of a tall flight of stairs.

I also didn’t know how boundless love’s joy could be. It is a love that’s delivered daily with wispy curls toppling over eyes, giggles from the center of the soul, eyes sparkling, footsteps running, voices yelling, “Mommy! Mommy!” and arms wrapped tightly around my neck.

I didn’t know any of this until she arrived – all six pounds, three ounces of her— five years ago today, changing our lives and catapulting us from “couple” to “family.”

I thought Mark and I were joined when we married, but she bonded us together in a way that made marriage vows and rings seem superficial and silly. She shaped and molded us into two new people with different values and perspectives who would never go to sleep at night again without thanking God for being so infinitely blessed.

She is a joy.

An adventurer.


A clown.


A princess.


An artist.


She is full of life.
She is full of love.


Our love.

Happy fifth birthday, baby girl.


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lost in a storm

Watching my children grow is an ongoing contradiction where perceptions shift suddenly and endlessly like sand in a windstorm.

At times, they seem incredibly small. When Loaf undresses, I study the delicate curve of her shoulders, the way her back feeds into a tiny waistline. Her face still holds a measure of babyness; her round cheeks fold around rosebud lips.

Peanut is bigger, but not by much. Her legs get more coltish by the month, but she stands at roughly half my height. Her voice is soft and pure, sometimes barely audible above the whir of the engine in the truck.

They are both small, delicately boned and at times seem achingly vulnerable.

I watched them today in the pool at the YMCA – their last swimming lesson of the summer. Loaf is easily the smallest child taking lessons in the Monday-Wednesday 3:30 timeslot. She dogpaddles (sort of) around the pool with just her nose and eyes visible above the glassy surface. If the instructor were to let her go, she would sink to the bottom – no part of her visible in the four-foot water even if she stood straight and tall.

Peanut clung to her instructor as she moved her out to a five-foot depth – not confident enough to let go and try swimming – really swimming - on her own. I could hear her pleading, “Don’t let me go! Don’t let me go!”

They are so tiny, I thought watching them in the Y’s enormous pool – two teeny fish in a very big pond.

Less than an hour later, my perception shifted.

We left the Y and went to a local playground – one Mark has taken them to, but I’ve not. They love this park with its castle theme. They head straight for the side of the playground labeled “Designed for 5 to 12 year-olds. Play with caution.”

And within minutes they are climbing up rock walls to landings high above my head. They scale a fake boulder then fearlessly leap off to the ground below – even sticking the landing.

Most remarkable of all, they slide down a tall “fireman’s pole.” The entry point requires a daring step off the platform of at least a foot. There is a moment – a long moment – when they are suspended in space with one hand clutching the pole, the toes of one foot wrapped around it, while the other two remain planted safely on the platform. In that moment, I stand below, breathless, arms stretched high, face turned up, wondering if I could really catch them if they slip.

And then they go for it – a fantastic leap that results in both hands grasping the pole, each foot twisting around it - and down they come, slowly at first and then gaining momentum and speed. I finally exhale when both their feet meet the ground again.

My God, I think. Look at all they can do. Look at how big and brave they are.

And so it goes as I navigate their childhood. At times their growth catches me off guard. One moment, they are pushing me away with a firm declaration of, ”I can do myself!”

The next they rush toward me, arms outstretched, fearful and small, needing to be lifted up and comforted.

The constant shifting from independence to reliance leaves me breathless. The continual change keeps me on edge – standing motionless in the midst of a twisting storm, never knowing what’s next. Never quite finding solid ground of my own.

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why we don't go to restaurants

Everyone warned me that motherhood brings on selective memory. For example, about .00872 seconds after delivering, you will forget about all of the ails of the last nine months and begin telling people (especially other women) what an easy pregnancy you had.

No one is trying to be deliberately deceptive; it’s necessary to ensure survival of the species. The same is true with many aspects of motherhood. In order to stay sane and get through life, you need to forget some of the hard facts about your children’s behavior. Case in point: restaurants. Every time we go to a restaurant with the kids, it’s hugely stressful.

Take today.

We took a cruise through the country. It was a lovely day and we meandered along, stopping here and there until we were a good distance from home.

The snacks I packed were long gone, and it was lunchtime. We tried for a deli or pizza place, but no luck. The best we could come up with out in the sticks was a little pub-like restaurant in an old farmhouse. The menu was family friendly and they had about two dozen high chairs stacked up by the door, so in we went.

It began well enough. Since this was an old house, there were multiple dining rooms and the hostess sat us in an empty one. Peanut happily colored on the kiddie placemat and Loaf was engulfed shuffling the sugars and Sweet ‘n Lows. But things went down hill very quickly. The milk I ordered for the girls came in cups with straws stuck in the center of them.

Now, a Smarter Mom, a mom with Long Term Memory, would have immediately transferred Loaf’s milk into a sippy cup. But I am not that mom. And in less than two minutes, we watched helplessly as Loaf tossed said cup to the floor. Milk splattered and a large pool formed under her highchair. Since we were in there alone, we began mopping it up, grabbing napkins from every empty place setting around us. Still there was milk – a lot of it – left on the floor. I spied a stocking shelf in the corner loaded with napkins, grabbed about 50 of them, and soaked up the rest of the mess. I stashed the clean extras in my purse while Mark walked out of the dining room carrying the milk-soaked napkins cupped in both hands (I’m still not quite sure what he did with them, but he returned empty handed, which was good enough for me).

Over what I thought I was sure to be the worst moment of our outing, I sat back in my chair, only to notice that in the chaos, Peanut had wrapped her lips around the saltshaker and was sucking salt out like a vacuum. I immediately thought about the number of germy hands that had touched that shaker over its lifespan (STOP! Stop thinking about that! Got it? STOP!) not to mention the negative health effects of too much salt.

I snatched the shaker away and tucked it on the corner of the table to the right of my placemat (along with the ketchup bottle, my drink, Mark’s drink, and most of the silverware). I started wondering how I was going to find room for my plate with all this crap stacked out of The Child Zone.

With the focus back on Peanut for a second, Loaf had grabbed one of the crayons, peeled off the wrapper and was chomping away on it. Her lips were coated with bits of blue wax.

As Mark swabbed her with yet another napkin from our secret stash, the hostess walked in with another party and seated them one table away. “Miss, we have no napkins,” one asked. I instinctively looked at the ceiling.

As they settled in, Peanut suddenly piped up at the top of her voice, “ANTS! Look Mommy, ants!”


She was excitedly pointing at an army of tiny ants drawn on the back of kiddie placemat (uh – maybe not the best choice?). I said in my louder than normal “I want the people at the next table to hear me but I don’t want them to think I’m trying to let them hear me” voice, “OH, YES! ANTS! ANTS ON YOUR PLACEMAT. HOW CUTE. RIGHT THERE, JUST DRAWN ON YOUR PLACEMAT. JUST DRAWN THERE. YEP. ANT DRAWINGS.”

Good God, where was the food?

Finally, it arrived. And for a few minutes, aside from the occasional ding of silverware hitting the floor, there was peace at the Gav table. Then Peanut had some type of coughing fit—deep hacking coughs. The people at the other table looked over suspiciously.

“Too much salt, Mommy.” (Says the girl who only moments ago was sucking it straight from the shaker.)

Peanut was eating French fry after French fry off my plate, while her $6 turkey sandwich (half of which was cut into cubes on Loaf’s plate) went largely untouched. And Loaf was doing even worse, refusing to eat at all. Mark was busy playing the airplane game with her, but she literally wasn’t biting. He managed to get in a chunk of tomato. And then suddenly, with a loud “POOT” sound, it came flying back out, followed by a “SPLUCK” as it landed on the floor next to her chair.

I got up and grabbed a Styrofoam box from the stocking shelf and dumped the remains of her sandwich into it. Upon returning, Loaf told me - rather loudly - "Mommy, I gotta use the POTTY. I gotta POOP."

The people next to us shot us another suspicious look.

I scooped her up and went into the ladies room, which was just off our dining room. In the time it took to go, Peanut and Mark finished eating and were standing outside the rest room. I walked out. “The whole hallway stinks,” Mark hissed. He was right. In addition to losing the insect themed kiddie mats, this place needs better ventilation in the ladies room. But really, that was the least of my concerns. I was beaten. A broken woman. Utterly defeated. I walked back to our table to grab my purse and surveyed the destruction.

Bits of food were all over the table and floor. In the center of the table rose the Mt. Everest of rumpled greasy napkins. I tidied up as best as I could, shoved a couple more bites of my unfinished lunch into my mouth, gulped some water and walked out.

We left the waitress a 30 percent tip, the least we could do given the mess.

If the events of today’s lunch were to remain as fresh and sharp forever as they are right now, we probably wouldn’t eat out again for 15 years. But they will fade in time, and we will venture out again.

Which is why I’ve put this experience in writing—on the internet—where it will remain on my permanent Mom record. Next time, I’ll have no excuse.


What about you? Do you have any restaurant horror stories to share? Write a post about it for today’s PBN Blog Blast, sponsored by Burger King.

You might win a $250 VISA check card to take the family out to dinner. Or hire a baby sitter so that just you and your Significant Other can enjoy a meal in peace.

This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by Burger King Corp.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

A perfect day "down the shore"

Sunny skies. Foaming surf. Water rushes in. Squeals of joy.

"Hold me, Mommy! Hold my hand! Tighter! Don't let go!

The surf pulls back and feet disappear in the wet sand below. Pebbles rush away and then forward again. Laughter.

Down the shore

The smell of sunscreen and salt. A cool breeze blowing off the vast water. Cold drinks and fresh fruit.

Toes digging in sand. The delight of finding a gleaming white shell, followed by an iridescent blackish-blue one.

Examining their sea shells

Her favorite shell

Buckets and shovels dig holes big and small. Mounds of sand pile up. Castles made and destroyed, then remade again.

Buckets of fun

Rest. Relaxation. Peace.

Dad takes a break

Fun. Dreams. Excitement. A perfect summer day. Memories that last a lifetime.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 08, 2008

Across an ocean and over a day: good thoughts for an Olympian

As I wrote in June, my brother has been involved in judo since age 5 and is ranked 3rd in the nation in his weight class. He tried out for the Olympics twice. He missed having a spot on the U.S. team both this year and in 2004 by the skin of his teeth. He was crushed, but he’s a trooper and is handling it well.

However, his long-time girlfriend Sayaka Matsumoto made the Olympic team this year! She’s been in Beijing for a week and has been sending daily e-mails with all kinds of fascinating, behind-the-scenes commentary.

Judo is not a very popular or well known sport here in the USA, but it’s huge in most other parts of the world. If you’ve been following any of the Olympic coverage, you may know that there is a woman from Japan named Ryoko Tani, who is possibly the most famous and decorated woman judoka in history.

Well, Sayaka just learned that she will compete against Ryoko in her first match tonight at midnight eastern time. Her division (48 kg women’s ultra lightweight) is one of the first to compete in the games. The match will be broadcast here live tonight at midnight. The medal rounds will be broadcast on the same site at 6 a.m. on Saturday.

Because Ryoko is so famous, the match also may be rebroadcast on television on Saturday. Judo rarely gets television coverage during the Olympics, so if you happen to see it, give Sayaka a little wave through the TV. She is an absolute doll – exactly the type of woman I'd like to see my daughters grow into: sweet, smart, hard-working, honest, dedicated and tough.

And if you think of it, send a little good karma her way today. She’s going to need it. In her own words from her most recent e-mail message, "I'm very, very excited about the tournament tomorrow, especially since I am fighting Tani first round. What a great way to enjoy my Olympic experience. Ronda told me today, "Tomorrow if the first day of the rest of your life," and its true. Please send me positive thoughts!!"

You've got it, Sayaka. A thousand good thoughts and endless admiration.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Time travel with the Gav girls

Take a little journey back in time with me to three years ago this month. Peanut was just shy of turning two and Loaf was not quite four months old. Peanut was less than impressed with her new sister and Loaf refused to be put down for more than 10 minutes at time, so I enjoyed most of August wearing a Bjorn or sling with a hot lump stuffed into it.

I was a swollen, sleep-deprived, hormonal mother, trying to figure out how to make everyone happy and feeling like I wasn't doing a very good job of making anyone happy. Somehow, we all survived.

My girls three years ago

Peanut says: Send her back!!

Loaf at 3.5 months old

Awww, but look how cute she was. You can clearly see why we decided to keep her.

Bouncy seats: Not just for babies anymore

Bouncy seats: Not just for babies anymore. (You can practically hear the legs on that thing groaning under the weight of the nearly two-year-old girl.)

When will she do something interesting?

Peanut says, "No, seriously? When is she going back? She's really boring.

Click here to see who else went Wordless today.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A dream worth forgetting

This morning, very, very early this morning (3:42 a.m. to be exact), Peanut had a nightmare.

She raced into my room, her feet pounding on the hardwood, rousing me from sleep.

"I'm scared, Mommy, so scared," she whispered standing by my bedside. I lifted her into bed. She was trembling, actually trembling, and she reached over and clutched my right hand tightly with her left.

"It's OK, you're OK," I cooed to her in the dark. "You're with Mommy now. You're OK."

Still, for a long time whenever I glanced over at her, the moonlight spilled into the room just enough for me to see her eyes, wide and green, staring up at the ceiling. Every now and then she'd squeeze my fingers as if to be sure I was really there next to her.

I dozed lightly rousing every so often to look at her. Finally, near 5 a.m., she fell back to sleep. Her grip on my hand lightened, but she didn't fully let go. And sometime after that, I fell back to sleep too.

When I woke again, the room was bright with morning sun. Peanut was sitting up next to me quietly turning the pages of a book.

"Hey," I said to her. "Good morning."

She turned to me with a vibrant smile and eyes and placed her hand on my forearm. "Hi Mommy. I didn't think you'd ever wake up."

After a few more minutes I asked her about her dream.

"Do you remember what scared you last night?"

Her face went blank and she turned her eyes to the ceiling trying to recall what sent her to me in such a state.

"I don't know," she said after a few seconds, shrugging her shoulders. "I can't remember anymore."

The fear was gone and memory of it completely erased. It was the answer I was hoping for. I don't know what caused her to come running to me, shaking in the middle of the night. What alarmed her so much that it took over an hour for her to settle back to sleep. What made her cling to me for comfort. But I'm so glad that whatever terrified her so has been erased from her memory.

And with that, we rose and started a new day together.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 04, 2008

Things remembered

I wish I had a camera, I thought yesterday as I watched the girls run through the yard. Every now and then they’d come running back to me to check in, arms outstretched, Grand-Canyon wide smiles stretched across their face, the sun hitting their hair and lighting it up around their faces.

I’d lift them by the armpits one at a time and swing them around in a wide circle, their feet swinging straight out from my body, their squeals of joy mixing with my laughter.

Then I’d set them down again and off they’d go – galloping around the yard pretending to be horses playing in a vast apple orchard. A few minutes later they’d race back to me and we’d repeat the ritual of lift-spin-giggle again.

It was late in the day – after 6 p.m. and the sun was low in the sky casting long shadows across the yard, giving everything the hazy orange glow that only comes on summer afternoons.

I’d gone out for most of the afternoon – a brief Mommy hiatus taken at Mark’s insistence. I browsed through Barnes & Noble leafing through books and enjoying a few hours of quiet time.

Upon returning home, my daughters rushed out of the house, barefoot with flowery sundresses bouncing around their legs. I received a huge hug from both of them and then off they ran into the yard neighing like horses. The few hours out of the house did me a world of good. My mind clicked along, happy to have been away, but even happier to be home again with them.

I wish I had a camera, I thought again, watching them go. I wish I could freeze this moment, this gorgeous day on film to remember always.

Now I realize I’ll never forget it.

Labels: ,