Cry Me a River..It's Okay, I Can Swim.

On April 19th, as millions were glued to TVs, radios, cell phones, awaiting news about the Boston bombing's second fugitive, many of us still had to go through the motions of everyday life. In my house at 2:30, like usual, Eldest strolled through the door. It was his last day of school before Spring Break. He had his report card (full of A's!) in his hand. I was thrilled, relieved that we made it through another term.

The sun was finally shining. It was almost 70 degrees -- a first for us here in New Hampshire. Three of Eldest's friends came over. They were all so happy to be outside in the sun, off from eighth grade for nine wonderful days.

And then.

Sirens. Coming from everywhere. Loud, screaming wailing sirens. Police flying by, ambulances, fire trucks.

My mind turned to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston -- the most wanted man alive in America at this moment -- because I'd been listening to NHPR all day, praying for the people locked in their homes, hoping for some type of peaceful ending to this horrible week we'd endured.
The kids stopped playing to watch the chaos as emergency vehicles flew by -- and then they continued to play a throw around game of lacrosse. I looked at them and thought, Ahh, as it should be. They shouldn't be concerned with Dzhokhar and the nightmare happening over an hour south of us. They should play. I, on the other hand, had to go get Middler from school and was hoping my two minute drive over, while listening to NHPR, would bring some closure to the news story.
I made my way to the school listening intently. Nothing new. Just the same awful factoids. Awful. Thinking of friends and family in Boston not knowing what is going on, where this guy is, or what other explosives are waiting at any random location.

I walked up the sidewalk to the school. As I chatted about the news with some Mom friends while waiting for our kids, we were deafened by the sound of a helicopter overhead. We looked up into the blinding sun and I realized it was the Dart -- the medivac helicopter that transports people badly injured to Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital. Someone was in trouble.

I greeted my little guy with a huge hug and smile as he yelled "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT'S SPRING BREAK!?"

Our two minute drive back home was loaded with questions about what we were doing that night, the next day, when we would go to the park, where we should we go with our time off, what kinds of exciting things should we plan? It gave me a smile knowing that no matter what is going on in the world, if you have little ones, they bring you back to a sense of normalcy through their innocence, and you have to keep going, planning and moving forward.

I pulled into my driveway to find my 13-year-old and his friends huddled together, looking at their phones. This scenario, as many of you with teens know, is not uncommon since they are always on their gadgets, usually laughing at funny apps, texts and social media. But I got out of the car to find the look on Eldest's face to be somber.

"What's up? Is everything okay?"

He started to tell me that two of his friends were walking home from school when they were struck by a car that swerved off the road and up onto the sidewalk. A dozen kids were also walking home and witnessed the accident. And boom -- the texts between these middle school kids began -- a constant barrage of scary information.

I stood in the driveway contemplating what happened, and heard the piercing sounds of the Dart overhead. It was coming back for the second young victim.

We waited for answers and the whole community prayed. These were our kids who were hurt, not biologically, but we are a tight-knit group. We, the parents, have been in this together since the first day of Kindergarten, through all of the holiday concerts, and Little League, and Friday Family Bingo nights, parades, plays and what-not. Those sidewalks are visited and traveled on by all of our kids; it could've been any of them. On Friday, it was two lovely beautiful souls in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We remind our kids to walk on the sidewalks to stay safe. And now our sidewalks aren't safe either? Horrific. We prayed for a miracle, if there is such a thing, and we hoped that this was all somehow going to find a peaceful resolution just like we wished for the standoff in Boston.
Hours passed, texts ran rampant. My husband and I tried to stay occupied in front of the TV, watching them corner the fugitive in the boat in some poor man's backyard.
Then, Eldest yelled for me from his room. I ran upstairs to find him with his head in his hands. "They keep texting R.I.P. Lily...," he whimpered.

"Nooo honey... So many people are texting... You can't rush into anything; just wait until we know for sure. I'm sure everything is going to be all right." And I hugged him and doubted myself and thought I don't know that for sure, but I said it anyway.
I was startled out of our hug by the phone. It was my girlfriend, verifying the rumor. One of the girls hadn't made it. Eldest read my face and sat straight up. I made my way over to him. He buried his face in my shoulder and cried. He stayed there for a bit and finally pulled back to regroup. We were quiet, sitting in the dimly lit room.

Not too long later, I took him down to meet some classmates at the scene of the accident. Just a stone's throw from the school, a path taken by school kids all the time. The kids stood in a large circle and hugged each other and cried and cried and cried. And we parents stood together, quietly, with an understanding among us that we were in this together -- and it was hard.

Lily was kind. She was everyone's friend. She was the kind of kid that they all knew and could honestly say was nice to them. Her face lit up the room and her laughter was contagious. And she was gone. How can these middle school kids process this nonsense when we couldn't process it ourselves?
The driver who hit the girls, rumor has it, was texting and she rode up onto the sidewalk. It's not up to me to judge. I'll leave that for the police and the investigation, but she will have to live with a mental death sentence, knowing she ended a precious life and maimed a thriving 14-year-old girl. If she was texting... I can only hope that people will learn from her and stop -- stop texting while driving. Stop. Stop. Stop. Whatever the case ends up being, I'm sure her life will never be the same either.
Over the weekend, we went to the school where grief counselors were on hand. Eldest and his friends pulled together, sometimes quiet, sometimes chatty but always somber and always heavy. The kids walked down to the scene again and left flowers, teddy bears, candles and posters, in honor of their friend that they lost, and their other friend that remained in critical condition in the hospital.
The bridge on the corner at the scene of the accident looks over a flowing river of water that pours into one of the area's most beautiful lakes. The kids cried. Their tears fell into the river and were enough to make it overflow in a way and I thought to myself, Let it out kids, cry a river, it's okay, we will swim again. We will swim again -- even if it is in a river of tears from so much unnecessary, unexplainable sadness. We will swim again even if I have to put you on my back. It's okay, I will do it. We will carry you. And my mind went back to Boston and the voices saying "We will run again."
On Monday, exhaustion hit me. I'd been strong all weekend, and it finally caught up to me. As I sat quietly, while my husband took the boys for a bit, I thought back to my baby shower when I was pregnant with Eldest.

I got clothes... so many clothes.
Teddy bears and books.
Silly advice: Sleep when they sleep! Try to breastfeed! Don't try to breastfeed! Let them cry it out! Don't let them cry it out! Your life will be forever changed in the best way! It's the most rewarding job in the world! Advice, advice, advice.

But no one tells you that someday you might have to answer questions that don't have answers.
No one tells you that you'll have to swallow so many tears to let them cry theirs.
They will fail to mention that you'll have to comfort kids during a time when comfort is elusive.
They won't say how to make nightmares go away or how to mend broken hearts.
They won't tell you that sometimes when you say "everything will be okay," you won't believe it yourself.
They won't tell you that you'll have no way to protect them from the evil lurking at a race's finish line on a joyous spring day.
They can't tell you or me any of that -- for it would break our spirits, and we wouldn't learn how much courage we, in fact, do have as parents.

We wouldn't learn that we could swim with them on our backs in a river of tears.
We wouldn't believe that we could find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
We wouldn't see for ourselves that it's okay to be at a loss for answers as long as they know we are there, holding their hands, while we wait for closure that may or may not come.

I remembered opening the little blue polka-dotted bag that held a sweet little stuffed lion at my son's shower, at a time when I never could have imagined it would be the same lion staring at me from atop his dresser as I held my son while he mourned the loss of a friend. But I drew courage and breath as I looked in the lion's eyes, and was reminded that as a mother, we will always find the strength we need to in even the toughest hours.

This post is an outlet for me to be strong enough to walk with him through the days ahead, through the funeral and memorial and the last months of his eighth grade without his friend Lily.
God Bless You, Lily -- and send us a few rays of sunshine by way of your beautiful smile whenever you get a minute. We could sure use it.


With Quiet Courage...

This morning, my 6 year old ran downstairs with a joy and excitement I haven't seen in a while.

Mommy, it's here!  Spring is finally here!

Nevermind that Spring in New England technically arrived weeks ago.  It has been cold, icy, windy, awful since the first day.  Our hopes for warm sunny, tulip filled days were shattered.  We waited and waited - but it didn't come.

Finally, today, the sun is shining, the clouds are few and far between, the sky is a gorgeous blue - and we have a renewed hope that we were not forgotten.

Kids have a way of keeping hope alive.  They have a way of being a renewable energy source in our severely depleted souls.  We only need to look in the faces and eyes of our children to find good, to find innocence, to find unconditional love.  We cannot let them down - just as they never let us down.  Every morning after yet another unfathomable disaster, their purity renews us and reminds us that we must keep our chin up, our hope alive, and our strength- in the face of chaos- unwavering.

I hope you can find strength, courage and love in the days ahead - no matter how your life was touched by this tragedy in our beloved city of Boston.  Find a quiet courage to stay positive for your children, for your families, for your spouse, for your friends and neighbors.  Nod and smile at people you see today, extend a kindness, and know that by doing that, you are holding hands with humanity and proving to evil that it will not take over our lives.

With quiet courage, humility and love - we walk together one step at a time,

"In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life”
― Nicholas Sparks
"Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.
— Eleanor Roosevelt
You Learn By Living (1960)


My Most Truthful Work Resume

If playing with lightsabers while drinking coffee and doing Yoga were worthwhile skills to put on my resume, I'd be hired in an instant!
Ever wonder what your most truthful resume would look like?  Especially when you've been a SAHM for years and years and almost forgot what it is really like to work outside of the home?  I was making a mental list of my skill set the other day - just for fun - and of course with the most sarcastic thoughts involved - and thought it might be fun to just be brutally honest and write it down.  Now, I am back to work part-time - if you can call it that - since I do work for my husband in his office of our family I can poke a little fun of myself and working with him.  Hope you get a giggle or two at the skills I've mastered from over a decade of parenting.  What would YOUR resume look like?  In the comments, I'd love to hear your mission statement, your ideal work environment or your special skills set...anything you want - enjoy!
222 Domesticated Drive
Parentown, PA 00007
Mission Statement:  I am a 50%-er who is ready and willing to give 75% to a prospective employer outside of the home.
My Ideal Work Environment:  A place where I can go to clear my head, be left alone for the first 1-2 hours to drink my coffee and read blogs, and spread 4 actual hours of work over 8 to reach maximum salary with minimal effort.
Professional Profile at a Glance
    Sleep Therapist    Nurse    Janitor    Chef    Nanny    Maid  Chauffeur    Back Rubber/Massotherapist    CNA/LNA skills    Party Planner   Coach/Life Skills Leader    Motivational Speaker    Lightsaber/Jedi Master   BooBoo Technician and
Many More...
Somewhat accomplished Mother of three with wide range of odd skills.  Seeking to transition from full-time 24/7 Parenting Job to 40 hour work-week job outside of home, preferably with a lock on the restroom door.  Outstanding dictatorship-like leadership-qualities, with a specialty in behavioral solutions and tantrum-avoidance.  Not particularly organized, but possess a strong awareness and idea of where most of the important things are kept, and excels in filing documents in the circular storage unit to avoid clutter.  Though amongst children under 13 for the majority of the past decade plus, boasts amazing interpersonal skills with basic, monosyllabic words and sentences. Strong expertise in multi-tasking and rushing through projects at the last minute.  Specializes in conflict and dispute resolution, time-outs, and homework project management solutions.
Important Key Facts, Skills and Accomplishments
*No Fear of Toddlers
I have raised three boys through toddlerhood, survived the terrible twos and threes, overcame the demands of the fours, dealt with the tantrums of the fives, sailed through the sloppy sixes, and so on.  I do not let children smell  fear on me.  I often
have the upper hand and demand respect while succumbing to their repeated pleas for something they want.  I have lived through the highest pitched screams, stopped them from jumping off of a crib, negotiated deals, reversed their thinking, and closed even the most difficult deals.  Skills - these are the skills brilliant, brave women are made of.
*Resilience and Mental Strength
I helped break three children of their pacifiers, was able to withstand years without a full night of sleep, have gone without hot meals and can text and cut meat with one hand (and not my dominant one).  I have given birth three times and laughed in the face of contractions (post-epidural, but who's questioning that?)  I can literally shower, apply my make up and dry my hair in 5 minutes and 38 seconds.  (Embellishment for dramatic effect).  I have been known for my swift, cougar-like reactions to midnight vomiting and can change soiled sheets and put fresh ones on in the dark, again, in under 5 minutes and 38 seconds.  *cough*
*Keeps Priorities in Check/Self-less in Nature
Once I fell down a flight of stairs and proceeded to cook a entire Greek meal for friends and family while barely able to feel my right arm. I've also been known to give my 1/2 eaten donut to one of my children if they caught me eating it in a broom closet.  I no longer have 100 pairs of shoes and matching purses, but have scaled back to 50.  Ok 75.
I am 100% dependable, unless one of my children gets sick - and someone is always sick - amiright? Any employer can also  count on me to run out mid-morning for coffee and danishes, as well as lunch, and afternoon coffees.  I will not, however,  pick up your dry-cleaning because then you'd just be taking advantage of me (unless I have some to pick up already - then, no problem).
Completed necessary requirements to graduate, with a special focus on note writing and MASH future predictor-surveys.Special focus/talents in Sale Math and Percentages off of clearance items.  Excelled in Sorority party planning and social graces in university.
Special skills in dressing on a college student's budget and eating out for less.
Extracurricular Activities:
I pride myself in little to no strenuous activity and I would not consider myself 'outdoor friendly.''  I am an avid walker - and an even more avid talker.   I would have to say my favorite extra-curriculars are shopping, getting pedicures and massages, and coloring my hair.  I have little time for any of that with the kids so most of the time my daily hobbies include Geocaching-like indoor expeditions in search of lost Legos, climbing loads of laundry, and emptying the dishwasher with Olympic discus-style form and speed.
 (Please feel free to contact the following people for glowing references on my abilities and skills)
~My 13 year old:  Please contact by text only.  He will tell you that I am great with last minute late -night projects that are due the next morning, baking dozens of cookies the day of the bake sale, and organizing my time wisely enough to get him to all of his extra-curricular activities.  Gripes and touchy subjects include i pod apps, bathing/personal hygiene and flatulence at the most inappropriate times.
~My 6 year old:  Please contact in person on the playground with pre-determined time set by teacher.  Do not ask him about my cooking.  He is a picky eater and will not give you the truth about my abilities. Other off-limit topics include his blankey, nose picking, and his butt wiping issues. Safe topics for include:  nighttime back rubs, administering of medicines via medicine dropper, ice cream sundae toppings organization skills as well as scooping very cold ice cream with grace and ease.
~My 4 year old:  Please contact him via LeapPad - you know, the device I spent 6 days on ebay shopping un-victoriously for when you couldn't find it in stores - yes that one.  Off limit topics: Bathtime, not being picked for Lineleader, and bedtime.  Safe topics:  Ninjago, Legos, Santa Claus and Star Wars.  You won't get much out of him other than his mom is pretty awesome but has a weird amount of facial hair, and jello-y thighs.
~Our Pediatrician:  This is one of the only people I've had very strong interactions with on a monthly basis and sometimes more.  He will vouge for my undying love for my kids, he will tell you I follow directions well, I am diligent, quick to pay my invoices and ask really good questions.  He will also tell you that I ended my senseless research on WebMd per his advice and that I am logical and witty, even under the worst conditions.
Please note:  No professional references are available since I have been out of the race for so long.  I have little to no adult skills to brag about unless you consider my high tolerance for pain during sickness because I cannot afford to be ill or my household will shut down.  This is good for your concern of my using sick days.  I can vomit and then go on to do six loads of laundry without blinking.  My previous employer will tell you that I put the 'ass' in assistant like no admin she's ever had before.
The ability to sing a song or quote a movie for almost any occasion and/or work conversation.  Some Jedi-Mind trick skills, but only on children. Swift and fearless with a plastic lightsaber.  Extremely fast scrolling fingers can buzz through FB newsfeeds with ease, read texts quickly, and I can type 100wpm and text about 8 wpm.  Not that I'll need them at work, but my baby's bum-wiping skills are impeccable.  I would also be able to somewhat graciously clean up urine that is not mine from the workplace toilet seat - just out of habit and good hygiene alone.  I  have the ability to down about 3 cups of extremely hot coffee in about 5 minutes and 38 seconds.  I am also very good at looking like I am working behind a computer screen, but actually online shopping or bidding on high-end knockoffs on eBay.
Please call or email to set up an interview at my convenience, definitely not on Mondays or Fridays, and I find most Tuesdays I am irritated and groggy, other than that, I am flexible.
Cheers and laughs,


To Keep..or Not to Keep. That is the Question.

If I'm being honest, I'm one art project shy of being on Hoarders.

The other day, I was busy zooming around the kitchen trying to prepare a rushed dinner before everyone was off to their different sports practices.  I had given my littlest one a small project to do in order to keep him occupied long enough that I could complete my already -difficult task.  He sat at the table, eyebrows tightly knit, tongue slightly out of his mouth, tiny fingers pinching the crayon just like his preschool teacher taught him.  He was serious - so serious - as he drew a few stick figures as colorful and as neat as possible for a four year old.  By the time I was done with dinner, he was just finishing up as well, when suddenly he threw down his last crayon and almost fell out of his seat in order to rush to my side to show me his masterpiece.

"I DREW OUR FAMILY!! " He shouted with so much enthusiasm and pride.

Sure enough - there were 5 stick figures.  Each one of them a different size and color with big awkward round circles for eyes.  He narrated over my shoulder and explained who was who and why.  I couldn't help but giggle when he said, "and that's you mommy - I drew you in black because you have black hair, black under your eyes, and you love to wear the color black." I can't really argue with that.  Sadly, however, I was a bit alarmed that he drew my arms sticking out of my ears, and my legs (the only portrait I own that shows me with long, skinny ones where there is actually light in between my thighs) starting just under my chin. The one really great thing about my part of the drawing was my big red smile.  Whew.  When he thinks of me, he pictures me happy.  Score one for mom and her large red happy lips.  My husband's legs took up half of the paper and he towered over all of us as if he is on stilts.  He has a very very small head - much smaller than mine, and his arms remind me of the dinosaur in Meet the Robinsons.  Clearly, he got the lack of Art skills from me - yet another thing I did not have to graciously pass down to my children. I giggled under my breath.  It was just too funny not to.

I don't know why,  through the rush and panic of trying to get dinner ready and on the table in time for everyone, that I was actually graced with the ability to take the time to notice how he drew that photo with care and thought, or the look on his face as he planned out the sizes and colors of each family member, or when  he was done, the bursting joy he felt en-route to showing me his masterpiece, but luckily, today was a day that I recognized the beauty of it all.  Something so seemingly simple like a drawing - a task given to merely keep him out of my hair while I get my task done - that, if taken a minute time out - I could see and understand the joy he felt - and in turn made me feel.

"Mommy, I drew you with red eyes because sometimes your eyes are red and crackle-y"  Ummm that would be because I haven't slept in 13 years thankyouverymuch.

That night, as everyone left with my husband for practice, I went over to my big drawer of school projects.  You know that drawer - or place - or pile - or spot in the closet where all of your kids' art and crafty stuff go because you don't really have the heart to throw them away  - but your fridge space is already occupied and you don't know where else to put it?  Yes - that drawer.  I had 3 years of pre-school stuff in there and a few odds and ends from my 13 year old as well.  As I sorted through them, I tried to imagine their faces, filled with expressions from serious to excited as they made them with pride and concentrated so hard to make something I'd be thrilled to get.  Did I give them the reaction worthy of their efforts when I picked them up? Or was I too stressed that day to feign the joy they were hoping for?  What would've made me squeal with delight over an art project?  I tried to think of my responses to them and gave myself the benefit of the doubt that I gave them enough of a reaction to placate them for another day.  Too often I've tossed those art pieces aside on the front seat of my car, with a mini-eye-roll thinking more clutter.  I mean, the day my youngest brought home a clump of what looked like Playdoh topped with a chess piece and a feather, sprinkled in sequins - I thought, really? What the hell am I going to do with this thing?  And yet I specifically remember that was one of the projects he was most thrilled about giving me.  How about the 1/2 dozen violets I've gotten for Mother's Day?  I still have two of them because I feel too guilty to throw them away.  They are dried up nothings now with a pot covered in pink metallic foil with faint markings that say Happy Mother's Day from different years.  Don't these teachers  (God bless them!) know that my job is to keep my children alive and thriving-  not plants?  I mean, how does anyone keep these little plants alive for years? Some of my Overachiever friends line them up on the window sill and display them with pride, while I don't even try to cover up the fact that mine have shriveled up and died.  I can't help it - if they don't have a voice to remind me to feed and water them, chances are, their days in my kitchen are numbered.  Once again, I can only hope that my reaction to them giving me this tiny violet was enough to make me worth as a Mother.  I think I did ok.  I think I kept my oh no, not another violet worries to myself. 

Anyhow- my point is, what seems like a silly little drawing or art project to us, took time and effort for them to make.  (Ok, we all know that sometimes, when they are in a mood, they rush through a project and scribble and barely put any effort in, so there are exceptions to this, as with anything!)  As the years go by, the projects will vary in shape and size, in effort and skill, but the thought, whether it was put there by a teacher or by our kids, is there, and the intent is good.

So as you're doing your Spring Cleaning (*cough, cough, chuckle, giggle*) and come across these artsy fartsy projects, keep in mind that your little one had you in their little thought bubble above their little noggins and find a place for it - for they have a place for us in their hearts forever.

Cheers and Love,