Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Land of Elementary School Tears

I can’t remember a time that both kids were happy at school drop off and not crying. I’m emotionally tapped. This has to end.
I posted that on Facebook the other night with the caveat: Please no comments about how I will miss this time. Maybe one day, but for now I reside full time in the land of elementary school tears and it sucks.
The comments I received were so caring and understanding. Sometimes Facebook is really fantastic. I put something desperately into the void and wonderful community came out of it.
Everyday I drop off, I have to walk away from arms outstretched and the saddest little voices crying my name: Mama! “Powerlessness. I remember,” someone commented on my Facebook post. That’s it exactly.
I get inside my Mom Blogger skin and think about what I should wisely say in a post about this: Let them miss me. Let them cry. It will be okay. And so will I.
But that Zen-like rational is not helping.  All I can think is: I hope this is not doing permanent damage when I walk away. Does it seem uncaring to them? Because their screams are layered with feelings of abandonment. I also realize that this is not as dyer as my imagination makes it out to be. Of course they will be okay! It’s school drop off. This is not Sophie’s Choice.
They don’t do this when anyone else drops them off either. So of course I’m like, “Ah ha! It’s because I’m the sucker and this is a manipulation.” But it’s not. Because they get nothing out of it that they want and still do it. I don’t give in to their crazy demands of staying home from school (Smirker screamed for an hour one evening “I wanna be sick!” over and over again to get out of going to school in the morning and continued when she woke up) or sitting with them on the carpet with the rest of the Kindergarteners for the morning lessons like she wanted (Just sit with me mom!). I walk away without looking back feeling like a cold calculated criminal. I get sad looks from the other parents (whose kids are NOT crying by the way).
So the only real conclusion to draw is this is happening because I’m the best mom ever. Sigh. It really is a burden sometimes. I know I’m so amazing, girls, and so much fun to hang out with, but come on! I kid, but…. Moms really do rule the day. Moms rule. Dads are cool.
So I came up with a plan, a ritual if you will.
“Okay guys, I have an idea,” I said to the girls one night at bedtime. “School drop off have been hard….”
They both looked a little guilty and ready to turn on the tears.
“It’s because we miss you sooooooooo much,” Smirker said.
“We LOVE you mom,” Love Monster said.
“What will make you feel a little better when I have to leave you at school?” I said.
I was sitting on Smirker’s bed and she was playing with my hair. I looked to Love Monster first.
“I will bring my Tiana from Princess and the Frog! I’ll hug her because she reminds me of you,” LM said.
“Great!” I said.
“And I’ll bring the Sidekicks book because if I get sad that makes me smile.” LM finished.
She is obsessed with Dan Santat’s book Sidekicks.
“Smirker?” I said
Smirker was still stroking the front section of my hair. “I would like this chunk of hair. It’s so smooth and soft.”
Okay, pyscho. Yep she really is my daughter. Is this so bad that we are resorting to chopping off a chunk of my hair so my daughter won’t miss me at school?? My witchy baby.
“I like where you head is at Smirker, but NO.”
She opted for a picture of LM, her and I.
The next morning we were ready.
I took LM to her line outside and she immediately clutched Tiana to her chest and and sat down to read Sidekicks. “Bye mom!”
Smirker looked a little more shaky. She clutched the picture, staring at it while sitting on the carpet when her teachers started class and I slipped away relieved.
No tears. That day. It’s still a little shaky. But at least we have some tools now.

Both girls especially Smirker are in the stage that if I’m near them in any way, they are glued to me. They have to have some kind of contact. On my lap, holding my handing, laying on top of me, sitting on my shoulders. Anything. They want that physical contact all the time. I am totally in that time, that sweet spot, where Love Monster and Smirker aren’t afraid to show me how much they need me, want me. Need to have me near.

Will I miss the Land of Elementary School Tears? NO. NOT EVER. But will I miss the no holds barred outpouring of love and emotion for me, their mom? Yes. I know as they grow up they will need to separate. They will un-cling and yearn for independence. I’m prepared (as best I can be) for the opposite of what is happening now. When they will push me away. And I know that will not mean they don’t love me any more. But I will miss those times of unabashed need of me. But for now, they cling. I will hold on tight (except at school drop off when I have to be the “worst” and leave them in the best school in the world).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015



“Smirker never wants to hug me,” Love Monster said.
I was playing catch with Love Monster and Smirker in front of our home.
Love Monster is very huggy. She is so super cuddly and I love it. And what she said reminded me of something.
“You know what’s funny? It was opposite when you were babies. When Smirker was a baby, all she wanted was to be held. And you, you were moving so much, so busy, you didn’t want to be held at all.”
Love Monster dropped the ball she was holding. She looked at me. Her face was stricken. She ran inside crying. I triggered something.
And I knew what this moment was. I’d been dreading it.
I found her inside. We sat on her bed and I let her cry into my chest for a while.

“I don’t want to be different, mama,” she said.

“Oh babe,” I said.
She cried a little longer before saying, “You know my friend at school? Her friend tells her not to play with me, because I make her do stuff.”
LM does get bossy. She has about 5 million ideas for things to do and gets excited about sharing them. And the way she expresses it can be overwhelming and in your face, all part of the ADHD. Not that that’s an excuse. It’s something we work on a lot. Be open to other people’s ideas. It’s okay if things don’t go according to plan.
For example, days like mother’s day are her favorite kind of days. These days are also worrisome, because if things do not go according to her plan she falls apart. She stayed up late the night before writing out a schedule of things we would do, coming out from her room periodically asking what my favorite things I liked to do were. In the morning we went down the list. In the living room she had stations set up around the room labeled with sticky notes: The art station where I was told to pursue her art binder for a few minutes. The card station where we played a skylanders game. The lego show where she had the lego elves do a little play for me. A writing station where she had me fill out a Venn diagram, Love Monster on one side, Mama on the other, and Us in the middle. We each wrote two words describing what we love about each other and wrote a poem using those words. There was a reading station, a coloring station (coloring page made by LM). What a day. Don’t you love how that brain works? I love how that brain works. And sometimes she is proud, but then there are other times where she feels different.

And I know this is very normal. For most kids. There is a desperation to be like everyone else. Accepted. The same is safe. The same feels right. I think it’s a human thing. We all feel different at some point and want to feel the same, when in the end, the differences are what’s amazing right?

“I don’t want to be different, Mama.”

Children don’t reward being different. I remember that. Boy do I remember that. And I want to take that pain away from her. After she had gone to bed, I cried on the couch. How do I explain to her that being different is good? It doesn’t matter what other kids say. Love what you love. Do what you do. Is this one of those things she has to learn by herself? Would I have believed my mom if she told me? No I would have thought she didn’t understand.
 Love Monster is so great. So great. The differences are wonderful. They are. Please believe me, Love Monster. We all want to be accepted for who we are, but that doesn’t mean we need to be the same.
That night I whispered in her ears as she slept, “You are perfect. Different is good. Different is amazing.”

I let that seep into her ears, hoping my words turned into beliefs. Kids might, for the most part, not love "different." But I can encourage her. Talk to her. Reward the different. By being myself too. And maybe one day I will hear, “I’m proud I’m different Mama.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Donna Day

Bones don't walk. Bones don't talk.

Those words (paraphrased a bit here) stuck me after reading Mary Tyler Mom's Donna's Cancer Story.
The words break into my thoughts and I'm grateful. It's one of the first things I think of when I think of Donna. Donna was a smart little girl. If you have read Donna's Cancer Story you probably remember those words also. Some of four year old Donna's final revelations.

Bones don't walk. Bones don't talk.

There is so much wisdom, comfort, sadness all wrapped up in those words. For me they are a reminder of this:

Don't look away. Please. Donna's Cancer Story changed me. I will forever champion for these kids. I hope you will too.

So today on Donna Day, I ask that you open your heart and consider how you can help. Read her story. Check out St. Baldrick's. Pediatric cancer research needs funding. If you live in Illinois I believe you can donate when you do your taxes.

Mary Tyler Mom and dad also started Donna's Good Things to honor Donna and help kids with cancer find some good things.

Donna died on October 19, 2009. This beautiful, vibrant spirt left this world. But her spirit lives on through her mother, father and brothers. Through their dedication to cancer research. Through her story. I am in awe of all them.

If you are in the Chicago area, go to this St. Baldrick's event! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mother-naked goes to #lovelydinners

Two food, one fashion, one photography, one mixology and one lifestyle. All bloggers. And me, the mom blogger. One of these things is not like the other (or are we?).  Ragan Brooks ( and Molly Schoneveld ( invited me to their Lovely Dinner, a gathering of bloggers, to enjoy food, great company and talk blogs. I’m pretty sure my shirt had a hole in it, because I haven’t bought nice clothes for myself in a while. My photos on my blog are fuzzy and blurred because my kids won’t sit still. And these ladies’ blogs are absolutely full of beauty! How do I fit in?? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

And as much as I just painted myself as the odd one out, I wasn’t at all. Over amazing cocktails by Jordan and Jocelyn (, we talked about the most rewarding things about having a blog and the biggest challenges. It was interesting to see how similar our insecurities were.

I left my belly full of amazing food and drink and inspiration brimming over. I vow to dress better now that I obsessively read Veronica's blog ( I love photography, I want more of it in my blog. And the food…. Can I eat like that every day? Thank you Ragan! What an awesome group of women. Their blogs are full of beauty, but so is mine. I know I can string words together pretty damn well. 

Photography by Christine Chang

                                                              decor by Molly Schoneveld

                                                              Me (and my hole in my shirt) 
We all left with some yummy granola made by Pamela Salzman! Perfect for breakfast.

I made dessert!
                             Balsamic Black Pepper Strawberry Shortcakes

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
5 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup chilled heavy whipping crew
1 large egg, beaten 
Balsamic strawberries (recipe below)
whipped cream: 1 cup of heavy whipping creamed beaten until stiff peaks with 2 tbsp of sugar

Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 425
line baking sheet with parchment paper

place flour, 4 tbsp of sugar, baking powder and salt in food processor. Using turns, pulse to blend

Add butter and pulse until butter resembles large peas, about 5 1-second intervals. Add cream and pulse another five 1-second intervals until moist clumps form. The dough will not completely stick together.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Gather dough into a ball. Do not overwork it. Using as few strokes at possible ,roll ito a  8 X 4 inch rectangle about 1 1/4 inch thick. Cut length wise in half the crosswise into four equal strips. forming 8 square/rectangle biscuits. Transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes.

Brush top of biscuits with egg glaze and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until biscuits are golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.

Serve with strawberries and whipped cream!

Balsamic strawberries
2 pounds of fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered.
5 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 large pinch of fresh ground black pepper

Mix strawberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar and black pepper in a medium blow. Let macerate for 30 minutes and stir occasionally.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sometimes the answer is easy

Sometimes the answer is easy.

Why did it ever seem hard?

Love Monster called me into her room tonight. Smirker was asleep. This scenario rarely happens. Smirker is usually the one up long after Love Monster is snoring. Fighting sleep. Using every last excuse to avoid dreamland, but not tonight.


I barely heard it over the TV. I wasn’t a scream like the usual tattle-tale tone or demand for water. It was listless and half asleep. I walk into the room, not even sure I really heard anything.

“Mama, you’re here,” Love Monster says.

My hyper, fast talking Love Monster was hibernating. A calm half-asleep girl is here. I walk in and I see it as plain as her my little pony PJ’s. She wore her vulnerability like a ball gown.

“Mama, I miss you so much. I hate that I always miss you.”

This was the end of a very tough week for all of us. Work was crazy. Things were tense and off all over the place in my life it seemed. And every morning at school Love Monster cried her eyes out when I left. It’s over a month into second grade and it suddenly felt like the first week of kindergarten all over again. She would crumble into a sad mess and I had to walk away. It sucked. Bad. But I would pick her up after school and she was back to her hyper, happy self. The other day I dropped her off at her dad’s and she wouldn’t let me leave. She paced the driveway like a caged animal screaming not to leave, that she missed me. I sat and held her on the front steps for a while. Rocked her. While she said over and over that she hated she wasn’t with me all the time. I sighed. Divorce. This is one of the damages that comes with it.

I asked her about all this stuff later after she calmed, after I had to walk away.

“I hope you didn’t stay sad long. Why were you sad babe?”

 She brushed it off. “Nope didn’t stay sad long! Oh mom! Did you know we’re going to see Wizard of Oz….”

And she was off. That subject was closed.

But now, in the dark of night, she is talking to me. And boy, am I listening.

“What is it babe? Why are you sad? I’m here.”

“I just miss you.”

“I know honey.” This isn’t just about right now.

“I miss you. I need you,” she says.

“I’m here, babe. I love you. I miss you too when I’m at work. When you’re at papas.”

“I just feel like I don’t spend enough TIME with you. I need you.”

And there it is. The tears are flowing for both of us now.

It wasn’t until my friend pointed it out to me that I realized what this was. I remember feeling this way when I was young. Feeling like I lost myself. Feeling my autonomy really for the first time. That I am not just a part of my parents. That you are your own person. It’s scary.

She pulled me down to her chest, holding me so close as if she was trying to make us one. “Just stay with me a couple minutes. I miss you so much when I’m at papa’s. I miss you so much when you are working. I miss you so much….”

She trailed off. I didn’t know if I wanted her to finish that sentence. She didn’t. But…

 She misses me even when I’m here.

 “I’m here. I’m always here.” And I stayed and snuggled. “I love spending with you. You’re fun and smart. Funny. You’re wonderful honey. Everything about you.”

Her love language was clear. It always had been. Spending time with her was EVERYTHING. It didn’t matter how much I said, “I love you.” I had to be there. She is constantly saying, Play with me, come here mom, look at this, watch this with me.

There is this obvious fragility, vulnerability I see in Love Monster. I don’t think it’s obvious to most. I don’t think. She’s tall, athletic, boisterous, loud, outgoing in everyway. A little tornado of awesome. But there’s a facet that shines like a beacon. Something that came straight from me. “Take care with me.” It says. “Don’t be fooled by my confidence.”

At school I see that confident girl run up to a classmate, “Hi!!!!!” And I’ve seen them brush her off. It sucks. Hard. I want to grab that kid and say, “Hey! Love Monster is so much damn fun! She will enrich your life kid!!!” But I don’t. And I see her move past it like it’s nothing. And then I realize I am that damn kid.

“Mom! I have to show you this!”

“In a second, I have to do this one thing….”

Busy is bullshit. I mean it’s not. There is real stuff we have to get done. We have to go to work. We have commitments. And it is important we parents do things for ourselves. Follow dreams. Follow through. Attack life. That is a good example.

But sometimes…. Sometimes it’s important to take time to sit with them while, a long while, they will show you how they made a funland in Minecraft and they have a Minecraft chicken named Jeffery who just had babies names Lucien and Constan, make cupcakes, be silly, tell stories, blow bubbles…. Sometimes I feel like I fail them.

I am here. I am. I think about you constantly.

                                      (Photo courtesy of Smirker who loves to take my phone.)

This missing you streak isn’t just with Love Monster, lately when they are at their dad’s I miss them achingly. Sometimes I pretend we are telepath’s and I have conversation with them in my head around bedtime. Did you have a good day, sweets? Yes, mama! Goodnight my love…. And tonight? Tonight the girls called me to say good night from his house. Well that…. That make my freakin’ year.

This is the time. They are little sponges who actually want to spend time with their folks. That window is pretty damn small I think.

I was driving home from work the other day, editing this blog post in my head, when The Who’s The Kids are Alright came on the radio. I love this song. And I started crying. It’s not really a cry worthy song, but the lyrics took on a new meaning at that moment.

“The kids are alriiiiiiiiiight, the kids are alriiiiiiiiight….”

And they are. They are smart little things. They tell you what they need. Pay attention. Daughters need their mothers in a way that’s hard to describe. Be there.

Sometimes the answer is easy. Pick her. Pick them. They are the most important things. Always.