Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Rocks - Part III - Doing Some Good

For the past week or so, I've been reading Clement Clarke Moore's Twas Night Before Christmas to my 3 and half year old son (a gift from his Grandma). He loves it and asks me a hundred questions about everything having to do with Santa and the old phrases in the book (Mommy what's a sugarplum? What does it mean to fly away like the down of a thistle? Ahhhhh, sweetie, let's just keep reading about Santa and the toys he's bringing the good girls and boys!).

Although I've loved these moments with him, I've also been somewhat conflicted by the idea of taking him to this make believe place. In some ways, I feel like I'm lying to him and when he figures out that there is no such thing as Santa Claus, he'll look at me with a broken heart and say "mommy, why did you say all that stuff when you knew it wasn't true?" Aren't I the one that should always tell him the truth? Aren't I misleading him knowing that he will eventually be disappointed?

You see, I didn't grow up with Santa. I'm the oldest child of immigrant parents and was always treated like an adult even when I probably should have been treated like the little girl that I was and protected from the harsh realities of life. I never remember feeling like a carefree child.

I think that's why I love Christmas so much (ergo my Christmas Rocks series I and II). It's a time where the spirit of love, joy and wonderment is in the air and everyone can participate in it. I love being able to create that spirit for my children. And that's why I've decided that I would tell my son all about Santa! I want him to believe in the miracles and magic of the season and to experience that innocent wonderment and pure joy that Santa can bring.

So in addition to reading him the stories about Santa, I've also been talking to him about writing Santa a letter. I hadn't really thought through what we would do with the letter until I saw this great post by Deb from Missives from Suburbia.

It was like Deb had written the post just for me (thanks Deb!). As she outlines in her post (go over and take a look, she has a prize!), this year, at every Macy's across the county there will be a mailbox to collect letters for Santa Claus. When you bring your stamped letter to Macy's, addressed to Santa at the North Pole, and drop it into Santa's special letterbox, for each letter received, Macy's will donate $1 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation up to $1,000,000. Macy's will then deliver the letters to the post office.

How great is that!? So, even though I hate shopping malls (I do everything on-line, surprise surprise) and also hate mailing things (where are those damn stamps?), I will be going with my son to Macy's to mail his letter to Santa because it will be so fun for him and will help a great cause.

Now I just have to get him to wheedle his Christmas wish list to just one page! :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Famous Encounters of the Schmoe Kind

Tonight's post was inspired by my friend Kate's story about how she almost met Tom Cruise!

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV and LOVED going to the movies so to meet (or almost meet) any famous person was a giant thrill (and to be honest, probably still is today). So I love stories about how regular schmoes like me or any friend of mine meet movie stars.

So, in honor of Kate's story, I thought I'd share a few stories of my own about how I met or almost met a few famous people.

1. Clint Eastwood - When I was about 14 I volunteered at a charity fashion show that his daughter was in. I was leaning against the back wall watching the show when I realized that Clint was standing right next me. He was so tall! I just froze. I didn't say anything and didn't move until about 10 minutes later when he walked away. Don't worry, it gets better.

2. Richard Gere - I was about 17 and waiting in line at the San Francisco airport to get on a flight to DC and Richard Gere was standing right in front of me. He was pretty handsome in person and not as short as I had heard he was. As we slowly walked into the cabin, Gere (I can't call him Richard...yikes) stopped to put his stuff away in first class (of course) and I was standing right in front of him as he was taking his sweet time. I was so excited on the inside but determined to look nonchalant on the outside. In fact, I went a step further by looking at my watch and huffed with annoyance at how much time he was taking to put his stuff away. Yes, I wanted him to know that I had more important places to be than standing in front of him watching him put his crap away (ya, right!).

3. Dweezil Zappa - OK, this is one of my favorites! I was about 22 and waiting in line at a United counter in LAX waiting to get on a flight to Chicago. This curly haired guy was standing in front of me with a guitar. At the time, I had no idea who he was. I was seriously late for my flight and agitated at how slow the line was going to I started complaining out loud about the airline. He turned around and asked me where I was going and we ended up talking the whole way through the line. I'm not sure but I think he was flirting with me with his big smile and his cute laugh. Anyway, we finally got through the line and went to our separate ticket counters. After I finished checking in I looked to see where he was and saw him with a girl. Since he was with someone, I decided to just go to the gate. I waved goodbye to him as I left. He waved back with a big smile but as I walked away I saw the girl give me a seriously dirty look. A few weeks later, I was watching TV and I saw him and her together on some entertainment show. I was shocked. The girl at the airport was his longtime girlfriend, Lisa Loeb.

4. Richard Grieco - This one makes me cringe, even after 22 years. I was 15 and flying from Palm Springs to my hometown. I was already sitting down in coach when I saw him getting on the plane. At the time, he was on a show called 21 Jump Street with Johnny Depp. I had a GIANT crush on him and was beyond myself at seeing him on my flight. The whole flight I rehearsed what I would say to him. I had my napkin and pen ready for his autograph. I mustered up all my courage and got up in the middle of the flight and walked to the front row to ask for his autograph but when I got there I saw that he was fast asleep. I went back to my seat feeling incredibly foolish. I told myself that when we landed I would get that autograph come hell or high water. But by the time I got off the plane he was long gone. I searched the baggage claim and he was nowhere in sight.

But the story does not end here my friends. Oh no, it gets much more mortifying. It was late at night when we landed and my dad had come to get me. We went outside with my luggage and he told me wait for him while he got the car. A minute after he left, I noticed Richard Grieco sitting on bench by himself. My heart jumped a beat! I was SO excited. This was my chance and I wasn't going to let it slip away again!

I pulled out the napkin and pen from my pocket, walked right up to him (Oh yes I did!) and said "Hi, I think you're the sexiest man on TV, can I have your autograph?" The second after it came out of my mouth, I regretted it (and have ever since). He just took the napkin and pen and said casually "thanks, what's your name?" I told him and he signed my napkin. He then proceeded to ask me (15 year old girl) where were the good places to go out at night in the city. I had no idea. I suggested a few places that I'd hear about. He then asked me what I was doing THAT NIGHT!!! I froze for a second not knowing what to say. Then I snapped back to reality, told him that my dad was bringing the car around and that I had to go home. I then quickly scurried back to my spot and waited for my dad who came a minute later to take me home.

I replayed that night in my head for weeks (maybe months). It was both exciting and mortifying. I wish I knew where that napkin was today!

OK, that was embarrassing...now it's your turn! Any famous encounters? You have got to share! :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Rocks - Part Deux

As promised in my Christmas Rocks - Part I post, here a few more things that make me smile about this season:

1. Cheesy Christmas movies. The cheesier the better. Lifetime channel is especially good at these. I love watching Christmas specials, classic Christmas movies, and Christmas theme sitcoms. Bring on the Christmas miracle tears!!

2. Santa hats. I really enjoy wearing a Santa hat out in public. I've been doing this for years, I've worn it to school, to work, to friends' houses, shopping (yes, I'm that ridiculous person at the drug store wearing a Santa hat!). It just makes me feel festive and happy.

3. Christmas cards. I LOVE getting Christmas cards (hint, hint, to those of you that know me personally). Unfortunately, I'm terrible about sending them but love receiving them. I really try every year to get them out in time for Christmas but end up inevitably sending them late (it's still OK if as long as they get there by New Year, right?).

4. Snow. I know this is not directly related to Christmas but the two together makes me happy. I remember making a few snow men while growing up and loving every minute of it. If it snows, I'm going to try and muster up the energy to get outside and show my boys how to make an awesome snow man (this might be a little too ambitious but I'm going to give it a shot!).

5. Santa Claus. This is the first year that my oldest son can understand the whole Santa Claus thing and it's been fun telling him about it. My brothers and I never had that growing up and even though it doesn't feel completely natural to me, I still love the whole idea of Santa Claus and will try my best to bring the wonder of that night to my boys.

6. Ornaments. Ornaments are one of the best parts of the entire Christmas decoration madness. I love bringing out the box after the tree is securely in its spot. Taking each one out and deciding where to put it on the tree is such a fun ritual and now with the boys, it's Kodak moments all over the place. Every years, we get a few more from my mother in law which is so fun for the kids. This year for the first time (again I'm probably being unrealistically ambitious here) I'd love to sit with the boys and make a few. If you have any good ideas for simple ornaments that we could make, please let me know!

7. Free Pass. I'm kind of a corny person by nature but I try to hold my corniness back most of the year but during this season I feel like I have a free pass to be as corny as possible! Singing foam snowmen? Sure, why not!

8. Being Nice. I love that during this time, everyone is just a little nicer. We smile more at each other, say hello to total strangers more and even throw in a Merry Christmas here and there!

9. Red. This might sound silly but I love seeing the color red everywhere. Especially those big red bows they have everywhere. And I wear a lot more red - sweaters, scarves, socks, hats (including my Santa hat) - which makes me feel extra festive!

and finally,

10. Books. I really enjoy reading Christmas themed books to the boys. They are so fun to read and the boys just love them. Last year a friend of ours gave us Olivia Helps With Christmas from the Olivia series and it ended up being one of our favorites. It's SO cute.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Going Against The Crowd on Jennifer v. Angie

A few days ago I wrote a list of seven random things about myself. One of the items was my preference for Angelina Jolie over Jennifer Aniston. Well, since writing that one item, I've seen the reaction to both my post and the post of my friend Kate from The Big Piece of Cake written today on this issue and it has made me a little crazy.

What I'm about to say, I say knowing that it may alienate most if not all of my handful of wonderful readers (I seriously love you even if you disagree with me). But I thought it would be better to get it off my chest than be a coward and stay silent.

Brad and Jennifer were married. Then Brad started working with a woman named Angelina. Brad and Angelina formed a bond during their work. Brad left his wife Jennifer and married Angelina. Brad and Angelina spent their life (and incredible amounts of their time and money) helping others (the examples are numerous and truly inspiring) and having and adopting beautiful children. Jennifer was crushed by the divorce and spent her time making good-to -very- mediocre movies and making bad choices in men. I mean really, John Mayer? Have you heard the things he says about women? He's a total player, immature, partier and THAT's who she chooses to date, break up with, then date again?

OK, based on this scenario I do not get why women rally behind Jennifer like she's some kind of saint and vilify Angie with such force.

I find it abhorrent that women are so quick to blame the other woman and don't say a damn thing about the guy. To me, it's very sexist. HELLO, it was Brad that decided to leave his wife and go with another woman. Also, what if it was Brad who went after Angelina? Is it her fault that Brad was attracted to her or that they felt a connection? Maybe Brad and Jennifer had issues with their marriage long before Brad met Angelina and he would have left her anyway?

I think it's such bull that Angelina's assumed to be the predator. But EVEN if she was the predator, he could have said no, just like millions of men that get hit on by women every day but say no because they love their wives (yes, these men exist).

Listen, Angelina Jolie may not be an angel - but she's not the devil either. And she can't be held completely responsible for someone else's hurt feelings. Brad Pitt was committed to that marriage - not his new girlfriend. And the press is the one that has dragged this on for years - not Angelina Jolie.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Sad Walk Away From Your Baby

This morning when I left my son at preschool I had a little breakdown.

The tears were not for my own child. They were for total strangers. For a child that I've never met and a mother that I had never seen before in my life.

A new child started in my son's preschool class today. As I walked up to hand my son over to the teach, I saw a mother and her beautiful little girl coming towards the teacher. The little girl began to cry before her mother even started the separation ritual that we all get to know when we leave our children at preschool.

Even after my son had already gone in (he's used to the routine by now, hug-kiss-go), I still stood there watching the little girl crying and desperately reaching for her mother who was slowly walking away from her. I looked at the mother and saw that familiar expression of devastation, loss and determination.

I turned back to the little girl and she was still crying her little heart out and struggling to get out of the teacher's arms. Every fiber of her being seemed to be saying, "please don't leave me here alone mommy! I need you. Don't abandon me."

I was frozen in place watching her pain. And as her tears were rolling down her chubby red cheeks so were mine. My heart just broke for her. So scared. So alone. So young. And also for her mother who had to let her go and watch her little girl in so much pain.

I remember the sadness and heartbreak I felt the first time I left my son in preschool as if it was this morning. And I don't look forward to leaving my other baby next year for his first day of preschool.

So for now, I will just cherish having my youngest at home and not having to watch him cry his eyes out as I walk away from him so that he can start his independence.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Christmas Rocks - Part I

This is going to be the first in a series of posts on how much I love Christmas!

I love everything about the entire Christmas season but here are a few of my favorites:

1. Building your own gingerbread house (I've never done this before...we usually buy one...but this year, I'm determined to build one with the kids. Feel free to send me advice on how to do this because I have NO clue!).

2. The tree (who doesn't love a Christmas tree? Every year, including this one, I insist on the real thing and every year by the end of the season, I understand why people buy fake ones!).

3. Christmas/holiday music (I can't get enough of it...especially the classics by Sinatra, Elvis, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby etc.)

4. Decorations (I love decorating the tree, the fireplace mantels, the front door, the stairway...basically anything that will bring more cheer to the house).

5. Joy (the feeling of joy throughout the season is palpable and there is a real spirit of generosity and kindness which I find inspiring).

6. Cookies (again I've never made Christmas cookies before but this year I'd love to make a few kinds with the kids. Please send me your favorite Christmas cookie recipes...I promise to try and make them and report back to you how I do!).

7. Presents (this is not my favorite part since I'm a terrible shopper but I really like giving the people I care about something special for the holidays...this year I'm going to try to do more handmade or photo/writing based gifts).

8. Parties (we don't go out that much but during the holidays I love getting all dressed up -bring on the red lipstick!!! - and going to fun holiday parties).

9. Lights (I love the lights everywhere - streets, trees, building, windows - I don't understand why we don't do that all year round? It's so fun and festive!).

and finally....

10. It's the perfect excuse to eat, drink and be merry!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Bedtime Dance

Do you do the night time dance?

The nightly dance with your children. The tug of war of bedtime.

In some ways, it was easier when they were babies, when they couldn't talk back to you or debate the merits of staying up past their bedtime.

Now they can talk and think, and the combination of the two produces some interesting exchanges. The creative excuses to stay up a little longer both make me laugh and drive me crazy. The eternal thirst of these little ones, "I need some waaaater mommy!" How much water could their little tummies possibly hold?

You finally finish the umpteenth book or song and you're just about to cross the bedroom threshold to glorious freedom when you hear your child's sweet (whining) voice, "mommmmmeeeee, one more book (or song, or I need water, or I need the lights on, or I need to tell you something, or I want daddy...)."

Suddenly they want to discuss the world's mysteries with you and you're torn between listening to your child's creative delay tactics and saying goodnight and closing the door behind you.

I listen when I'm feeling patient and easy and close the door when I am in the rules-are-rules frame of mind.

How about you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Living The American Dream

I always wanted to be an American.

My mom often tells the story of how when I was five years old, I walked into a grown-up family discussion about how my mother's brother could do certain things that my mom and her sisters could not and interrupted everyone by stating loudly and firmly that I thought it was not right that "boys and girls were treated differently."

You see, I grew up in a country that provided different rights to men and women by law and by culture. And even at five years old, I knew that it wasn't right. My mom teases me about how I embarrassed her during that gathering and numerous others with my outspoken manner and my fearless attitude. At that time children were to be seen and not hear (let alone heard interrupting adults talking about serious family matters) but from the beginning I wrote my own rules.

I wanted to be American before I even knew what that really meant or would entail. I wanted freedom. I wanted equality. I wanted to be treated with the same kind of respect that I saw being bestowed upon the men in my country.

I wanted the dream.

Thanks to my parents, I had the opportunity to come here and live that dream. The dream of opportunity, of dignity, of self reliance, of equality and most importantly of freedom.

I never take for granted what this country has given me.

I waited many years for the chance to vote and now that I have that right, I don't take it for granted.

I vote because it's my right, my privilege and my duty as an American.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Goodbye to A Rose

Tonight I said goodbye to a friend. There were no tears, no sad faces, no dramatic gestures, just a hug and a few nice words.

But her departure will leave a big hole in my life and the lives of the other women in our playgroup.

When I met her, I was having a hard time in my life. My first son was nine months old and I was newly pregnant with my second son. I had hardly had time to get myself back together from giving birth, breastfeeding and adjusting to being back at work part time when I found out that I was pregnant again. We wanted to have another one quickly but it was still a surprise that it happened so quickly. My second pregnancy was difficult and I felt sick, tired or angry most of the time. I had also just moved into a new neighborhood and didn't know a soul.

Luckily, a friend of my husband's invited me to an afternoon playgroup during one of my days off. I remember walking in and feeling like the new kid in school, a little nervous and hesitant about my new surroundings.

I don't remember much about that first playgroup gathering but what I do remember is that one of the women in the group went out of her way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. This woman slowly became a friend and confidant.

For the next three years, she was one of the bright spots in my life. She pushed me to do a lot of fun and interesting things that I would not have done by myself (I'm a little bit of a homebody). Also, because of her, I met an incredible group of mothers that showed me how a group of women from different parts of the world with completely different life experiences could come together to form unique and beautiful friendships.

So I'd like to say thank you to her for all her support over the last three years and wish her lots of luck in her next adventure.

I will forever be indebted to you for all you have done for me and my children!

Goodbye my friend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Woman of Substance

Do you have a friend that inspires you?

Recently, a woman entered my life that has impressed me with the way she lives her life. And it has been a really pleasant surprise as I'm not that easily impressed.

I expect a lot from myself and also of others in my life but she has surpassed my expectations:

She lives her life with a free and open spirit.

She loves and embraces cultures that are different then hers.

She is kind without compromise.

She is smart without arrogance.

She is strong without aggression.

She stands up for the people and ideas that she believes in while still respecting the views of other.

And she is grateful for the great family and love she has in her life.

I'm thankful for her friendship and her example.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Need My LOST Fix!

I just saw a preview of the next season of LOST and it rocked! I got goosebumps and was so excited about seeing the next season...until I heard "coming in 2009!"

What? Why are they doing this to us? Why drag it out so long?

They treat us like we're crack addicts, making us beg for just a little taste of that crazy suspense and twilight zone buzz.

I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with the show. My husband and I started watching with the very first episode, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.

I love it SO much that if it's on, I am totally mesmerized and completely focused on the show(don't even try and talk to me!). BUT, by the end of each episode, I get so mad at myself for watching. I'm all anxious about what will happen next and what it all meant. Then I start hating the producers for the twists, turns and complete nuttiness that they thrust upon me. For goodness sake, just tell us what the hell is going on already!!

Every time they open one door, before we have a chance to really enjoy our delicious moment of clarity, ten more mysterious non-sensicle (that's not a word, is it?) doors appear before us. It makes me crazy...but hungry for MORE LOST!

Last season, I told my husband that no matter what I say to NOT let me watch any more episodes. But both of us got sucked in for yet another season.

So now I have to WAIT UNTIL 2009? Are they TRYING to drive me crazy?

If any of the producers happen to stumble onto this post (don't laugh...anything is possible!) I'm begging you, give us more clues, give us more of Jack and Sawyer (Kate's good too but I need my Jack and Sawyer time!)....just give us more LOST and make it quick!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Regrets, I Have A Few

What regrets do you have? I have quite a few. I know regretting things you have done or more importantly not done in your past is completely counterproductive but I can't help thinking about them sometimes.

I love those movies where the protagonist says that they don't have any regrets because everything they've done has brought them to that particular moment (or to the love of their life) or made them the person they are today.

That's not me. I am happy with where I am in my life and feel very lucky to be here but I certainly have regrets; big ones, little ones, short ones, very long ones, trivial ones and life changing ones...basically many many regrets.

I wish I had had the wisdom early in my life to do some things differently. To live my life with much more discipline, courage, and strength.

And now, with the realization of how precious and short life is, I wish I could go back in time and tell my much younger self to be all the things that I now know are so important.

Listen to your gut instincts.

Don't be afraid.

Watch less television.

Do more for others.

Don't feel guilty about enjoying you life.

Respect yourself more.

Paint more.

Write more.

Watch LESS TV!

Sing more.

Dance more.

and finally...


Friday, October 24, 2008

Today With My Boys

Today was one of those days that makes all the bad days worth it. The bad mommy days. The days where the kids are just beyond unruly and for some reason one or the other is at all times completely unbearable.

Today, the boys were both lit up with joy and ideas. They talked to me and each other and shared their thoughts about the world.

Today, I didn't raise my voice ONCE (I know, it doesn't sound like a huge accomplishment but unfortunately for me it is...with two toddlers running around it's not unusual for me to raise my voice at some time during the day).

Today, I watched my boy take care of his little brother.

Today, I was 100% sure that I made the right decision to stay home.

Today, I was not waiting for my husband get home in the afternoon so he could help me with the kids.

Today, my son showed me the kind of man he could become.

Today, my baby's giggles made me giggle even harder.

Today was a good day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Freedom of Silence

There is something so uncomfortable and absolutely exhilarating about silence - no noise, no book, no task, nothing to take your mind away. Your only companion is the silence.

Most of us don't experience real silence that often. In fact, some people are so used to filling all the space in their lives with some kind of noise or distraction, the very notion of total silence is as foreign to them as a country they've never visited.

But even for those of us that do want it and even yearn for it, silence can be hard to handle. At first it's a little bit of a shock to the system. You reach around with your eyes, your ears, your skin for something to grab onto, a noise, a task, a moving story but find nothing. When you realize that you have put yourself in a state of non-distraction, you become agitated and uncomfortable.

Then as you slowly get comfortable with the emptiness like your eyes adjusting to a darkness, you start to gain clarify and discover a kind of freedom. Freedom to explore your untouched thoughts. To go places that you hadn't been in a long time or visit new places you never thought to look.

You start to enjoy this journey and realize why you yearned for this time. You swim around in it and go from one treasured thought to the next not knowing how long to stay with each. You soar through the sky with joy and dive deep into dark places.

And then suddenly, without warning it's all gone. One of life's many distractions has grabbed a hold of you and is demanding your attention. So you answer the call and get back to the world as it is usually lived, with wonderful gifts for your senses to enjoy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From Talking to Doing

Do you ever feel like you've lost your way? Like you were on track to accomplish something great and somehow you lost your drive or direction?

I have all these great dreams about what I want to do with my life creatively and intellectually and then somehow I get lost in the daily chores of being a mom and wife (both of which I love being) and weeks go by and I realize that I haven't even made one step forward towards any of those dreams.

Then I see something or hear something that lights a flame under me and makes me want to jump in again with full force.

I guess the difference between the people that achieve their goals and the ones that just talk about it is just the doing part. You would think that once you realize that, it would be easy to go from the talking to the doing but it's harder than I ever expected.

So, here I am again reminding myself that it's important to push forward with your dreams and goals no matter how many times you give up or doubt yourself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Mother's Touch

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things was when my mother would play with my hair. Just her touch would feel better than anything I knew in my life. I never forgot that feeling. As I grew up and moved away from home, I always yearned for it.

Later in life, during my visits home, I would seek an opportunity to lay my head in her lap hoping that she would just stroke my hair for a few minutes. Her touch still felt comforting in an indescribable way and would take me back to those moments in my childhood.

My mother never knew how powerful those touches were or how they comforted me like a warm blanket throughout my life.

Every time I think about those moments with my mother, it reminds me that the smallest gesture from me can mean a lifetime of sweet memories for my children.

So when I'm brushing their hair out of their eyes or rubbing their backs when they're not feeling well, I'll try to remember that even if they don't show it, they may take those moments into their adulthood as moments of love and comfort.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Right Thing

A few weeks ago, during our nightly call, my mother and I started discussing a topic that we’ve debated before and can never agree on.

“It’s the right thing to do,” I said firmly. “The boys need me!”
“They already have you,” she pleaded. “They don’t need you every minute of every day. You have a great career where you’re respected and valued. Don’t give that up.” Then she said with a sigh, “I would have loved to do something with my life.”

My parents left their country in the middle of a revolution and came here to give their children a better life. Raising me and my two brothers in a foreign land wasn’t always easy for my mother but she never let it show. While my father went to work during the day, she stayed home to take care of us. A home that was a million miles away from everything and everyone she knew. But that didn’t stop her from putting her heart and soul into creating a loving home for us.

Every day after school, I would sit at the kitchen table and tell her my tales of junior high hardship. And I had a lot of them, being the new foreign kid in school. She would listen to me while she was preparing dinner or folding the laundry and comfort me in the best way she knew how. She would tell me how lucky I was to have a good family and remind me that I should be thankful for that, instead of seeking the approval of my classmates.

Or course, at the time, I didn’t see it that way. All I saw was that my mother didn’t understand me. I wanted desperately to fit in with the other kids. “Why can’t I go?” I would say with pre-teen angst, “everyone goes to sleepovers here, it’s NO BIG DEAL!” But she was adamant. “No sleepovers,” she would say in her heavily accented English. No boys calling the house. No TV in my room. No make-up.

I was angry a lot during those early teenage years but every day after school I would still tell her my tales and she would still listen.

I had no idea that while I was going through my life-is-so-unfair mini dramas, my mother was dealing with her own obstacles: learning a new culture, a new language, and a new way of life. Despite these hurdles, she powered through -- raising three healthy well-adjusted children.

Through those first few tough years of transition, she kept the family together, the house clean, the cloths pressed, our lives organized and had an amazing meal on the table every day. I never thought about how all that got done or if it was hard for her. I didn’t understand what it took to be a stay-at-home mom. That is until I had my own children.

To her, I’m doing it all, working and taking care of my family. But I have it so easy compared to her. She doesn’t know how much I admire her strength and the way she made it look so easy. The way she sacrificed for us every single day. They way she loved us even when we didn’t deserve that love. And the way she was there whenever we needed her. How could I express in words how much that really meant?

“You’re wrong mom,” I finally said “you did do something. You did something amazing. You were there for me and that meant everything.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Piano Fingers

“Read the book!" "Read the BOOK!" My son keeps asking me in his very loud outside voice. As he's asking me, he's also poking me with the book. After having spent most of the day running errands, picking up after the kids, making multiple meals and squeezing in some work, I should be ready to spend some quality time with my son. But I'm not. I'm just tired. "Not now, sweetie," I say softly with a hint of frustration, "maybe later." My eyelids feel heavy and all I want to do is just lie down on my bed.

"Read me a book mommy!" He says again. They don't give up do they? I look over at him ready to say no but he's looking straight at me with his big brown eyes waiting for my response. I freeze for what seems like minutes but is only a few seconds. Then I snap out of my semi-coma and realize that my SON is asking me to read him a book and I should listen to him. So, I take a deep breath, sit down on the floor next to him and say "OK, sweetie, why don't you jump into my lap and give me the book." His face lights up and he comes tumbling towards me.

As I read the book to him (the same book I've read to him at least 100 times) I can feel him relaxing into my arms and resting the back of his head against my chin. He is concentrating on the book with singular focus. All of a sudden, as I'm reading the story, I feel his little fingers tapping against my knee as if he's playing the piano.

For a split second, I stop reading and concentrate on his fingers. The pause is too short for him to notice. I continue reading, but now most of my focus is on his little fingers and the delicate way they are connecting with my knee. With each word, the frustration and fatigue melt away and I feel the kind of pure joy only your child can give you. Without realizing it, I'm smiling as I read the end of the story. I don't want it to end. I want him to keep tapping my knee with his little soft fingers.

"Read it again mommy!" He says. "Of course, sweetie. Let's read it again."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's A Work Call

My heart is pounding. I just got off the phone with a senior government official regarding a work matter. The fact that she's called me today means that this is a critical issue for the government and for my company. She said she couldn't discuss the full matter right now but could she call me back in an hour. I said yes. I then sat back down on the lawn chair and continued to watch my son play in the sandbox with his friend. I'm not officially working today but when you're a part time working mom, you know that there is no real "day off." At any moment you might have to switch gears.

I always find those moments surreal. When work and family intersect with such force. My heart is still pounding but as I watch my son play, it takes me a few seconds to remember why. Oh, yes, the important work matter. There was a time not long ago when I would have gone into a total tail spin if something like this happened. I would have scooped up my son and gone right home so I could get "on-line" and start making calls. I would put the work first. I would worry myself silly thinking about how the important matter de jour would play out and how I could help fix it. You see, I'm a FIXER. I take things on and I fix them. That's just what I do. I latch on to the issue with my teeth like a bulldog and don't let go until I've finished it off. Or that's what I used to do.

Today, I stayed in the lawn chair and let my son keep playing with his friend. As my mind was racing about the matter and how it would play out, my face and body sat relaxed and talked with my friend whose house we were invited to for the play date. About half an hour later, my son and I walked home holding hands. A short time after lunch, I got the call and switched full force from mommy to professional. The issue was hard and I had to make some difficult decisions and phone calls. Then I started the worrying. I had done all I could for work but my heart kept pounding and my mind kept racing.

Then I remembered all the times that a "critical" issue had popped up on one of my days off and I wasted hours worrying in front of my computer screen or checking my blackberry just to find out the next day that it had resolved itself somehow. Well, today I was not going to let that happen. I forced myself to rethink my usual routine in these situations. So I sat down with my son and started to help him build a giant tower with his favorite widgets!

Every time the "thoughts" crept into my head, I looked at my son and forced my mind to think of him instead of the work. Sometimes I would succeed and other times I failed.

In the end, I'm just happy that I succeeded part of the time and build one kick-ass tower with my son!