I’ve been saved!

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Look, I’m Jewish. I have no identity problems. I’m not self-loathing (at least not for my religious preferences). I was raised Conservative with one set of Orthodox grandparents. We keep kosher, fervently observe all Jewish holidays and celebrate Shabbat every week.

But I have to confess something. I find tremendous comfort in Christian rock music. Whenever I say that out load, my Jewish friends, family and colleagues are shocked and dismayed. “You’re kidding, right?” is the most frequent response I encounter. But it’s the truth and I’m not afraid to say it.

Sure there are plenty of songs to which I don’t relate. I check out at the explicit Jesus references and any talk about “our father who died for our sins.” But most of it is completely aligned with our own Jewish spiritual philosophy. Songs about “hanging on,” “believing,” “never giving up,” I can’t see those as heretical or anti-Jewish in any way.

My affinity for Christian music bothers by family — a lot. I try to play it in the car sometimes when I’m shuffling the kids to and from clubs, appointments and Hebrew school. I think the positive, uplifting messages will seep into their unconsciousness and improve long term coping skills as they inevitably meet with obstacles and disappointments in life. That’s all well and good until an unsuspected reference to our savior and king surfaces. Then the jig is up. “Mom, will you stop with the Christian music. It’s just weird, OK?”

Then they inevitably remind me of my 2007 trip to Sedona when they were 7 and almost four. It was New Year’s Eve and I was driving with the boys to meet some friends for the holiday. It was cold and snowy but I had plenty of daylight and I knew it was a relatively short trip. Of course once it started to get dark, I realized I’d been driving for over three hours and that I might have made a bum turn or taken a wrong exit. 

When I finally found a safe spot to pull over, I was slightly hysterical and began sobbing into the steering wheel. As we sat there in the cold car somewhere on the side of a road, me weeping and the boys growing ever more anxious, there was a sudden tapping on my window. I looked up and saw the kindly countenance of a woman motioning to me to roll down the window. I did so and she asked me if I was okay. I admitted between whimpers that I was not. “I’m trying to get to Sedona,” I sniffled. “But we’re lost, and I have no idea where we are.”

She took my hands into hers and said, “May I pray to Jesus with you?” My boys watched with wide eyes as I emphatically said, “Yes!” Then she offered up a prayer to the big guy asking for him to help us find our way and to protect us on our journey. She pointed me towards a neighboring town which I later learned was Strawberry, AZ and with renewed hope and vitality I set out to find our path to salvation.

I was able to get us turned around and back on the road and managed to successfully make it to our cabin in the woods just slightly late for dinner. But the more people to whom I related my redemption tale, the more I was met with uncertain stares and stifled laughter. “What?” I said to friends and family whom I could tell were holding themselves back from full throttled chortling at my experience. “I got where I needed to go. That’s all I’m sayin’.”

As we move ever closer to the holiday season this year, I encourage all to count blessings, believe in miracles, and stay open to inspiration, from wherever it may come.

Matzah, Marvel and Maternal Remorse

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“Where are you going with those?” I ask Eli, my twelve year old son, as he suspiciously tries to slink out of the house for school carrying three unopened boxes of leftover Passover matzah. “Um…nowhere,” he answers. “Bye mom. Have a great day.”

“Wait just a minute, Eli,” I’m not ready to let this go. “Why are you taking three boxes of matzah to school after Passover?”

“I thought they were leftover.” He chirps.

“Yeah… So what?” I challenge.

“Alright mom,” he confides. “But if I tell you you can’t get involved. Promise?”

These are always my favorite intros to any conversation with my kids. Promising not to get involved isn’t something I’m apt to do easily.

“I promise nothing,” I say. “Now what’s with the matzah? And if you miss the bus you’re walking to school. So start talking.”

“I’m selling them to a friend.” he sheepishly confesses.

“Selling them? For how much?” I inquire.

“Fifteen dollars,” he tells me.

This is the part where I go berzerk. “Fifteen dollars? Who would buy matzah for fifteen dollars? That’s insane.” I grab the matzah and insist that it is not being sold to anyone. “If you want to give your friend the matzah that is perfectly alright. But you are not selling it to him for any amount of money.”

“But mom, we made a deal. And you always say ‘a deal is a deal.’ He wagered with me willingly. I’m just fulfilling my side of the bargain”

As I delve into this, I learn that Eli has been making money on the side selling a variety of useless items to his pals who only want Eli to play more advanced PS4 video games with them. Eli has a limited number of players, and since his mother is a meanie and wont splurge endlessly on Disney Infinity and Marvel superhero characters for the PS4, Eli has had to turn to his own ingenuity to raise the funds to support his virtual reality video habit.

“Joey begged me, mom,” Eli pleaded. “He just really wants me to be able to play with him and I don’t have the Star Wars Battlefront Seasons Pass. Can I please go now?”

Then I pulled out my ace. I was sure I had this one in the bag. “Well Eli,” I say, “If you feel that selling something like matzah, that you didn’t even pay for, to Joey, or any other friend, for way more money than it’s worth, is the right thing to do, then you go right ahead. Just make sure you feel good about yourself and what you’re choosing to do.” Ha. This was a page from any good Jewish mother’s parenting book. I felt the guilt dripping off each word as it slowly and purposely rolled off my tongue. No way Eli would collect the cash and exploit a pal with this jolt of maternal consciousness infecting his psyche.

But alas, even sure things sometimes go awry. When Eli came home from school he laid down the fifteen dollars from Joey along with all of his Chanukah and birthday money  and asked if he could use my amazon account to purchase his Star Wars Battlefront Seasons Pass. “Mom, I tried to tell Joey I didn’t want the money,” He explained. “I swear I offered to just give him the matzah for free. But he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He insisted, mom. Really.”

I reluctantly gave permission for Eli to buy the Season’s Pass and have been pondering this decision ever since. I’m plagued with guilt over taking another child’s money to pay for a game I wasn’t willing to buy for my son myself. I am deeply perplexed about where Joey so easily scored $15. Did his parents know he was subsidizing Eli’s PS4 practice? Would they think we were shameful people, taking money from their 12 year old son? Maybe they did know about it and were under the impression that we were from some sort of underserved North Scottsdale barrio. Maybe they believed their son was merely giving back to his community as they had undoubtedly modeled through their own charitable endeavors.

The more I mulled this over, the more awful I felt. But I had set this up for Eli to make his own decision and I fiercely believe in allowing your children to make choices and live with the consequences of those choices. I told him to follow his conscience and he had. Only his conscience didn’t lead him to the conclusion I had hoped it would. Now what?

“Is there anything Joey wants that his parents wont give him?” I asked after a few hours of hopeless deliberation. “Maybe we can get him something, you know like a toy or a PS4 game?”

“Mom,” Eli chastised, “Joey has everything. There’s nothing we could get him that he doesn’t already have.”

“But maybe there’s something he’d like that he might not buy for himself?” I pushed. “It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just something to let him know we appreciate him and his friendship.”

“Well,” I could see the wheels turning in Eli’s head, “He really loves his gecko, Emily. Maybe we could get him something for her.”

“OK, that’s a good idea,” I said, “What do you think she might like?”

“Hmmm…” he looked at me coyly for an extremely long moment. “I know. How ‘bout a PS4 controller? They don’t use joysticks anymore so Emily could play with us. I know they would both love that.”

In the Disney Marvel Battleground Universe, I think I’m being set up for a gigantic Hulk smash.

Hummer

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When my son, Levi, was 5 years old my husband and I temporarily lost our minds and  spent a ridiculous sum of money on a mini version of a Hummer for him to drive around the neighborhood. This car was totally amazing. Now that I think about it, perhaps it was part of our financially strapped, joint mid-life crisis. We couldn’t actually afford a pair of Porsches or a duo of Lamborghinis for ourselves, so instead we settled on a mini Hummer for our five year old. We thought we were pretty great parents that year.

Of course as all parents, who have ever watched their children ignore their plethora of play toys and opt instead for a bevy of beaten up pots and pans to play with, can guess, Levi was not at all interested in this outrageously fabulous vehicle. We spent countless hours trying to interest him in the Hummer. But no amount of creative cajoling could entice him to set foot in the  birthday mobile.

Finally, one day I was making dinner and I glanced out the window and saw him climb into the Hummer and turn the key. I was elated. I called my husband to tell him the great news but by the time he picked up the phone, Levi had exited the vehicle and was talking animatedly to himself just a few feet away from where he’d begun. I hung up the phone and raced outside to question his curiously short road trip.

“I just needed to get to the office,” my five year old explained. Then, like a chip off the old block, he gently invited me to go back inside,“I have work to do, mommy.”

I returned to the kitchen to finish dinner. After about a half hour of “office work,” my son hopped back into the Hummer, turned the key and drove for about three seconds until he reached home and entered the kitchen. “Hi mom, I’m home from the office,” he chirped brightly. At that moment I realized that no matter how good our intentions, kids find enjoyment in the activities they love and not necessarily in the ones we adults think they should. We could’ve bought my son a mini Boeing 747 and he would only have used it as a vehicle to act out whatever adult behaviors he was working on at the time. That’s just who he was. He pretended he was a grown up and loved to mimic grown up behavior. We came to understand that it was his way of making sense of the world around him. He never played for the sake of playing. Levi is what you’d call an “old soul.” He’s always wanted to be an adult and we were foolish to think that a souped up Hummer would change that.

He loved sitting in my car pretending to drive. He loved acting out swim lessons with me as the student and him as the teacher. He loved dressing up like his dad and going to the office to see patients. No matter how many ways I tried to get him to drop the grown up scenarios and play for the sake of playing, kid stuff like that just wasn’t in his repertoire.

He is now a 15 year old young man with a compassionate heart, a solid work ethic and a yearning to take on the world as a full-fledged adult. Levi is who he’s always been so it shouldn’t be hard for me to accept his burgeoning adulthood. But today as we sat in the AZ Motor Vehicle Division waiting for him to take his written learner’s permit test, I found myself struggling with a different set of emotions.

I’ve heard hundreds of parents tell me, “Enjoy the moment. They grow up so fast.” I’ve always found that kind of unwarranted advice to be more of an annoyance than a comfort. And I’ve always sworn to never unload that piece of counsel onto other parents. But today I’m wallowing in the reality that they do grow up so quickly and within what feels like a nano-second, they are ready to venture into the world without you.

As parents it’s our job to find ways to remain relevant in our kids’ lives. Hopefully we wont always be their primary care-givers. But when that role ends, how do we morph into something that still matters, that continues to resonate with who they are and enables us to maintain connection and purpose? The reality that kids grow up and leave home has always been there. It’s just so incredibly painful when you stand toe to toe with that truth.

Levi drove home from the MVD. It was his first time driving on major roads and his first experience in rush-hour traffic. We’ve been practicing in parking lots and around the neighborhood for a few months so I knew he was ready to test out his developing skills.

He did a great job. Well, aside from that one turn. But more importantly, he and I are renegotiating our relationship and learning from one another about how we can navigate his journey into full adulthood while still balancing my need to be his parent and guide his growing independence. It’s not always easy. Sometimes he’ll erupt into a toddler type tantrum. Sometimes I do the same. I still have a lot of parenting to do. I’m not sure that ever actually ends. But we’re growing up together and it’s a pretty amazing journey.

Baby you can drive my …bus

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“Why aren’t you at the bus stop?” I sleepily barked at my 15 year old son, Levi, as I pulled on a sweatshirt and emerged from another night of tossing and turning. “It’s 6:20. I can’t drive you to school. I have a breakfast meeting…”

“Mom,” he calmly reassured me, “Relax. My regular bus driver is out this week. There’s a sub taking his route. She’s not my regular driver, but she’s very nice. She has to run her own route first so she wont get to my stop until 6:42. I spoke with the dispatcher earlier this morning.”

“You spoke with the dispatcher?” I asked with complete incredulity.

“Yeah,” he said, “After waiting at the corner for 25 minutes in the cold last week, I decided to look into things and learned about the change in drivers. Apparently Ernie is out having some minor surgery. So Sheila is filling in. I expect Ernie will be back on Monday.”

“You spoke with the dispatcher?” I muttered still struggling to comprehend the reality at hand. How is it possible, I wondered,  that a child of mine could be this organized, systematic and methodical? These are not skills that I possess in any quantity. His creative spirit, sense of wonder and off the charts enthusiasm smack sharply of all things me. But this…this…unbridled resourcefulness and time management talent was his and his alone.

“Well, have a great day,” I announced as I  started my coffee, still pondering this amazing occurrence. He gave me a quick peck on the cheek, grabbed his backpack and headed out. “You too,” He said. “Hope your day is amazing.”

Two days later I had all but forgotten my son’s shrewd ingenuity and was focused instead on his typical teen boy behavior; the atrocious mess in his bedroom, his laundry littering the floor, his sassy come backs to…almost everything.

“You haven’t heard about my ridiculous morning,” he started as I annoyedly shuffled his breakfast dishes into the dishwasher at 4:30 in the afternoon. “You know, Levi,” I griped, “I’m not your maid. You know better than to leave dishes in the sink. I have more important things to do than clean up all day after you and your brother.” I was frighteningly sounding like my mother and hating myself in the process.

“Sorry,” he chirped casually, “It wont happen again.” This was a vow I had heard thousands of times before.I took a deep breath, thought about what was really important, and said, “Tell me about your ridiculous morning.”

“Well,” He began, “I was at the bus stop at 6:15 today. My regular driver was supposed to be back. But there was a big Cox truck right at the corner. There was another sub and I guess she didn’t see me behind the truck and she just drove right by me. So I immediately called the bus company and spoke with the dispatcher on duty. I told him what had happened while I was running to the final stop in the neighborhood. It was about a half mile away. But I ran hard. I told the guy to radio the driver and let her know that she’d inadvertently passed me and that she should wait for me right outside the back gate. So that’s what they did. Of course she was

irritated when I finally got there and said, ‘Next time, be out there on time.’ To which I respectfully replied that she clearly had not received full explanation of the event. I clarified that I was there on time and that she didn’t see me and drove right past me. ‘Oh,’ she reluctantly acknowledged, ‘Sorry.’”

Again I was stunned by his problem solving capabilities and take-charge attitude. I had to concede to myself that had this happened to me I would undoubtedly have headed home, woken my parents, and insisted on someone driving me to school. This was a young man, unlike any teenager I have ever known, who saw a problem and instead of turning  it into his parent’s responsibility, relied upon his own quick thinking and inventiveness to remedy the situation. This is a kid, I realized, who can make it on his own.

That thought was both empowering and crippling if truth be told. I felt a deep sense of pride and admiration for Levi’s self-reliance and strength of character. At the same time, there is a minute sense of loss when a parent recognizes that their offspring really can survive and thrive without any assistance from them.

“You’re one amazing young man,” I told Levi as he shoveled in the remainder of the last bag of cinnamon pita chips I was saving for myself. He looked a little like Cookie Monster with the crumbs carelessly cascading from his mouth. “Thanks,” he said smiling broadly. “You’re a pretty amazing mom too.”

Secret Porn

 

imgresI resent Victoria Secret. I really do. I didn’t used to. I mean all the time I was single and even when my kids were little I enjoyed voyeuristically paging through my VS catalogues and imagining myself lounging in soft silk pajamas or underdressed in a matching fuchsia lace bra and panties. But suddenly the catalogue looks very different to me and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Yesterday I went to the mailbox to pick up the usual suspects; bills, bills, and more bills.
I admit I haven’t looked through the catalogue in years. As a working parent it’s hard to find the time to indulge in perusing anything that doesn’t have an immediate need or pose some kind of an instant threat. But dazed by the 110 degree heat, I melted into my car and paged through the VS book with the AC blasting.

After a few pages of scantily clad blonde bombshells I realized that my old friend was no longer welcome in the confines of my home. My once enjoyed bathtub soaking companion, dear readers, is pornography at this particular juncture. The sexy undergarments, the bare backs and shoulders, the frolicking fresh-faced, barely teenage youngsters who populate the pages, these images are woefully inappropriate for the 14 year old young man I have living under my roof.

Suddenly I wonder if my husband enjoys looking through the catalogue. I have to inquire, I think, although not entirely certain I am ready for the answer. But other questions race through my mind. Maybe I should openly give the book to my son. Maybe this offers a healthy way to explore his budding sexuality. There are no hidden PlayBoy magazines under a bed in my house, no dog-eared Hustlers hiding in linen cabinets. Maybe the Victoria Secret catalogue is today’s version of acceptable pornography where young men learn to yearn for unrealistic objects of desire with Barbie-like bosoms, rock-hard abs and lengthy, lean, airbrushed legs. Maybe I should walk into the house and hand over the VS catalogue as if it were a right of passage, an appropriate learning tool, a sexuality text book of sorts. Or perhaps I should just leave it lying around somewhere, half hidden, half in plain sight. Allow my son to discover the visual contraband by himself. After all, that seems less…weird. I mean mom-sanctioned porn is just…icky. Right?

Or maybe I should just shred the darn book and allow my son to grow into the man he’s going to be without having to aid and abet the situation. I mean, surely he will find his own images to gawk over without me having to provide the pleasurable materials. Maybe I should casually toss it into the recycle bin, all the while knowing that it will be hunted out and removed from the refuse pile and relocated to my son’s messy bedroom for timely usage.

Why is sexuality such a weird subject for parents to talk about? I feel awkward just bringing it up. I wouldn’t go out and buy pornography for my kid. But here it is, tasteful, marketable, enticing, boldly just waltzing into my home via the front door. Do I destroy it? Share it openly? Discuss it’s attraction and fairly unrealistic images of the female body?

I thought being a parent was supposed to get easier as kids get older. I don’t know where I got that. Maybe I’ve just been telling myself that to get through it. It surely isn’t the case. Bigger kids, bigger problems. Once again, I find myself wondering if I’m even up for the task.

Walk between the raindrops

imagesI’m sitting at my computer writing. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and there is a sudden and torrential downpour that seems to appear out of nowhere. I’ve just poured a cup of tea and for a moment I’m enjoying the beauty of the rain, the wet wind that brought it in and my toasty state of comfort as I sip on my Earl Grey. Then suddenly it dawns on me that Eli, my 11 year old is getting off the bus from school right about now and will be drenched to the bone after running the 3 blocks from the bus stop to our house. OMG, this is a job for Super Mom!

I bolt away from the computer, grab my keys, wallet and flip flops and run out to the car to save my son. Sure there have been numerous rainy days when I’ve been at work or in meetings at this exact hour. Granted Eli has managed to run home in the rain on multiple occasions and not met with any serious harm. But it is this moment that I convince myself is the make or break moment of motherhood. “A good mother,” I think to myself, “Will race to her son and whisk him out of the elements and into her warm dry SUV.”

I speed to the bus stop like an expectant father whose wife is about to give birth. I will get there before my poor helpless little boy has to step into the cold harsh rainy reality that awaits him. As I pull around the corner I see the bright yellow school bus approaching. “Yes,” I think with great pride in myself and awe in my maternal instincts. Eli steps slowly, cautiously off the bus. The other children follow him close behind. Surely he will see my Bali Blue vehicle stopped right next to the school bus. He looks at me and I think I see deep disappointment in his eyes. “But I’m here,” I want to say to him. “I got here just in the nick of time.”

Then like a flash he is off, racing away from me towards home. I honk. He continues to run, as if he is literally trying to avoid me.  “I’m faster than him,” I think and I speed up to catch him. I roll down the window. “You don’t want a ride home?” I ask pleadingly. “Nah, mom. I want to run in the rain with my friends. See ya at home,” he says and I watch him as he laughs and dances under the big wet droplets of rain with his pals.

I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to dance in the rain, to appreciate the adversity of inclement weather, to know that it’s okay to get wet sometimes because you are going to dry off in the end and the sheer act of getting wet can be fun and satisfying in and of itself. Sometimes we grown ups worry too much about frizzy hair and drenched sneakers. As famed greeting card mogul Vivian Greene once said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Thanks for reminding me, Eli. I love you to Pluto and back

I am a monster

UnknownI am a monster. It’s true. I just woke up a soundly sleeping 14 year old boy and made him climb out of bed, put on some clothes and distribute a pile of laundry to its owner. What has happened to me? Visions of my mother keep floating into my psyche. I remember her wrath about dishes left lying in the sink, her frustration about my slovenly housekeeping, her utter ire about the constant state of my bedroom’s distress. I thought she was an idiot. “Don’t you have anything more important to care about?” I used to lament. I hated her when I was a teenager. Her life seemed…well, menial and insignificant. Why would anyone care about how messy my bedroom was or a few misplaced dirty dishes? I was convinced she had wasted her life by becoming a housewife and mother and was appalled by the choices she’d made that I swore I would never make.

Cut to: here I am in Scottsdale, AZ with two kids, a husband and a fucking house that looks like it’s been hit by a tsunami. I work…outside the home. But barely make enough to pay for the internet connection. I can’t stand the way my kids and husband carelessly leave the kitchen and I told my son before I left for a meeting tonight, “I will wake you up if you don’t clean the kitchen and  put the fucking laundry away.”

So I come home and lo and behold the kitchen is clean and the stupid pile of laundry is still on the living room floor. I’m a firm believer in “mean what you say,” or your credibility isn’t worth shit. So I go into Levi’s room, shine a flashlight on him, rip off his covers and say (in a very calm but stern voice) “Sorry to wake you. But there’s a pile of laundry on the living room floor and I told you it needed to be delivered to its rightful owner. I said I would wake you up if it wasn’t done. So here we are.” He tried to just roll over and ignore me. “I’m not going away,” I said. “You need to put the laundry away.”

“Can you give me 30 seconds?” he asked in a voice much deeper than I’d expected. I’m sure in his head he was declaring me the bitch from hell. And maybe that’s who I am. But I said, “Put away the laundry or I will wake you up and make you put away the laundry.” I had no choice really. Think about it. How can you parent if you make idle threats? You lose all authority.

My job is to create good men out of sweet but self-centered little boys. I’m doing the best I can. But sometimes the job feels monumental.

Naughty? Not! Parents are heroes!!!

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I like to write about my kids. My eldest son, Levi, is totally into it. When I write something that isn’t about him he mopes around like a wilted Lily. But my younger son, Eli, would rather remain quietly hidden amongst the desert Lantana than be singled out in print. When they were younger it was easier. Now that they’re 14 and almost 11 I feel like I have to ask permission before I write or publish anything personal. It’s seriously cramping my style.

But this time I found a story about good parenting that isn’t my own. It isn’t my own because I don’t have the guts to be a really good parent. If you’re not living under a rock you’ve likely heard about the parents who sent back their 11 year old son’s Nintendo Wii U Console with Super Mario Kart game with the following reason “Son was put on the naughty list, had to watch it being returned.” It sparked a flurry of comments on Reddit and all across the net, most parents claiming it almost abusive to humiliate the child this way. Um…am I the only sane parent left on the planet? This is brilliant!

Christmas presents are a privilege, not a right! If these parents found their child’s behavior to be sub-par, they had every right to return his Nintendo Wii U Console with Super Mario Kart game. What is wrong with parents today? Abusive? I’ve been reading the comments on Imgur where the boy’s folks posted the image above. Some said that since the boy had already opened the gift it was too late to send it back with the “naughty” note. Too late? I’m sorry, but in my world if your kid misbehaves and you want to take away something he’s had for the past 12 years, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s ridiculous how manipulated we parents have become. We don’t want to “shame” our kids or cause them any pain, blah blah blah. When kids are rude and disrespectful we give them our iPads and tell them to keep quiet. That’s the real messed up message we send, present company included.

Take back your role as parental leader and guide. If you see this move as some kind of parental abuse of power, get a backbone. This is good old fashioned parenting at its best. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s inspiring. In fact, I’m going to pry my kids’ kindles out of their grimy little paws right after I post this. Bah humbug!

Captain AmeriMom to the rescue!

DSC_3355Senator, I am no June Cleaver. I don’t claim to be a spectacular parent. If anything, I see myself as overwhelmingly flawed and barely able to maintain a home, organize a family, and see to it that my kids get wherever they’re supposed to be at any certain time on any given day. So when my 10 year old son, Eli, announced that he wanted to be Captain America for Super Hero Day, which happened to fall on Halloween this year, I thought, “Oh well, here’s another lost opportunity for me to come through as a mother.”

I had a busy schedule the day before Halloween and Eli’s pronouncement seemed like an overwhelming burden for which I had neither the time nor the money to shoulder. But at lunchtime I found myself at a Party City store combing the aisles for Cap’n America. To my good fortune, there was a child-sized costume for $19.95 and a shield for only $24. Wow, what a bargain. I could buy one or the other and still have money for groceries. We’re living on a strict, Dave Ramsey type budget these days and I’m looking at $30 in my wallet to get us through to the 10th of November. Okay, be responsible. I cannot spend $44 on a tin shield and flimsy muscle tee that he’ll wear once and discard. No. I am not gonna do it.

I successfully left Party City and went on to my lunch and afternoon meetings. But with an extra 15 minutes and Good Will right across the street from my 2pm, I thought I’d duck in and see if there happened to be a slightly used version of my sought after super hero. No such luck. But for $1.99 I picked up an old dart board and a red shirt and threw them in the back of my car.

I couldn’t wait to get home and start working on my creation. I googled Captain America, looked at the picture and concluded that this was a hopeless endeavor. Then, in spite of myself, I grabbed some old t-shirts, a bottle of fabric glue and pulled out my painting supplies. I spent the next three hours recreating the Captain America ensemble I’d downloaded from the internet.

For those of you who don’t know Eli, let’s just say he can be hard to please. If 99% of his day goes well, he’s the kid who focuses on the 1% that didn’t. So as I worked I couldn’t help but wonder how he might react to my home-made outfit. I imagined multiple scenarios, kind of like my own version of Borges “Garden of Forking Paths.” In one, Eli sat weeping as he gazed upon my makeshift costume. In another, my happy little boy stood toe to toe with a cadre of 5th grade bullies taunting him that he looked nothing like Captain America. My final parallel universe shot two decades into the future. I envisioned Eli, in therapy, as a grown man, feeling overwhelming remorse for rejecting his mother’s costume and consequently her love so many Halloweens ago. There was no version of reality that could have predicted Eli’s actual response.

It took me a moment to realize that someone was watching me. I looked up and saw Eli standing in the archway of my office staring at my creation. “Whoa, mom,” he sputtered. “That is the coolest Captain America costume EVER! I love it! Thank you so much for

working so hard on it.” The genuine delight and appreciation in his eyes filled me with so much joy I could hardly contain myself. I told myself to act cool, to not appear too needy. “Oh…I’m glad you like it,” I replied trying to sound indifferent. “Just threw it together for ya.”

He wore the costume all day at school and couldn’t wait to hit the streets for trick or treating in the evening. On the way home from school he told me over and over again how much he loved it. This was a massive victory on my front. But just as I began to celebrate my success he piped up from the back seat, “Mom, there’s just one thing I need to tell you about the costume.” I felt the full weight of disappointment descend as the wind slowly seeped from my sails. “Yeah?” I tentatively acknowledged, “What is it?” “You’re gonna need to reglue a couple of the stripes on my t-shirt,” he smiled. “Cause I am definitely wearing this costume next year!”

Ode to Oxy-Clean




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728bd38f67a206f93744ac6a8fc053bfFor my son, Levi’s, 14th birthday his grandmother (AKA Bubby) took him out on a clothes shopping spree. She bought him an entire wardrobe of adorable shorts and cool t-shirts. Now everyday my son gets ready for school and looks like he just stepped out of a Macy’s catalogue. (It’s maybe not Abercrombie and Fitch to which most teens might aspire, but he looks great to me and feels positive and happy each morning as he strolls to the bus stop.)

Cut to: Yesterday. I’m doing the laundry. (Do I need to say that this is my least favorite job on the planet?) I do tend to scoop up whatever piles are lying on my children’s floors and stuff as much as I can carry into my huge front-loader. After the 59 minute hot wash cycle I mindlessly transfer the wet load into the dryer, hit high heat and run for the computer. It wasn’t until I began to unload the dryer that I realized, yet again, that my darling son had left a red ink pen in his pocket. The brand new cargo shorts he’d gotten for his birthday were covered in ink splots as was the entire dryer drum. Luckily no other clothes seem to have been affected. But I was literally sick over it.

He’d worn these beautiful shorts once. Now they were totally ruined. I contemplated how to ground him, whether to berate him, how to somehow make a valuable lesson out of the senseless waste. It’s not like he hadn’t made this mistake before. We’ve had broken pencils that have clogged up the dryer and cost us an expensive visit from the GE repairman, erasers that have stopped up the washer drain, etc… I talk till I’m blue in the face. I know the answer is to let my boys (14 and 10) do their own laundry. At least I wont be so distraught by their carelessness. But every time I try to adopt that kind of hands-off policy, I end up caving after their rooms get inundated with dirty laundry and neither of them seem to care that they’re wearing filthy underwear for the fourth day in a row. I get the “Love and Logic” thing that says, eventually they’ll decide to do their own laundry or their peers will avoid them because of the stench. But I can’t seem to let it get to that utter point of disgust.

I tried Oxy-Clean stain spray on the shorts. My mother-in-law swears by it. But the bright red splotches didn’t even fade. I figured it was hopeless. I mean I’d already washed and dried the shorts in high heat thereby sealing the ink stain into the shorts, a cardinal no-no in stain removal strategy. I showed the shorts to my son and threatened to show his Bubby. “Please don’t!” he begged. “She’ll be so mad at me.” “But why did you let this happen?” I beseeched. “I don’t know, mom,” he sadly replied. “I just forget that I put things in my pocket. I don’t do it on purpose.”

I’d gotten my answer. I can’t say that it made me feel better. But it did remind me to lighten up a little. I suddenly remembered my fourteen year old self defending my carelessness around leaving the second floor lights ablaze as I bounded out the front door for the 10 zillionth time. My poor father just standing in the doorway, a look of perplexity on his face. “I just forget, Dad. I’m really sorry.” And I was. I didn’t mean to hurt him or make what mattered to him seem totally insignificant. It just wasn’t a priority and nothing he said or did could change that. Maybe that’s the sad truth. As much as we parents try, we can’t infuse our children with a sense of adult priorities and a willingness to meet those priorities. They are, after all, still kids. Eventually they’ll move out and we’ll miss their dirty laundry, left on lights, and unmade beds. That just seems to be how life works.

But there is an incredibly happy ending to this woeful tale. You see, I thought about dying the shorts red since they were already spotted with the deep crimson ink. At least the shorts would be wearable and the waste of good money would be reversed. But instead, in a fit of passion, I dumped a capful of bleach into the slop sink, stopped up the drain and immersed the shorts beneath a two inch layer of milky colored Clorox. When I returned the next morning, the ink spots were virtually gone! The khaki green color of the shorts hadn’t faded one iota. But the ink was barely visible.

Emboldened by my Clorox ingenuity, I then started to rub out the remaining hint of stains with a combination of Shout and Oxy-Clean spray. With each vigorous rubbing, the stains seems to lighten until I truly couldn’t see them anymore. What an accomplishment! I had managed to rid my son’s shorts of all remnants of red ink. I felt like a million bucks. And then it hit me — hard. I am actually rejoicing giddily over a laundry accomplishment. Dear God, what has become of me? I’m a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Michigan, an award-winning journalist, an accomplished professional actor and spokesperson. But I am literally elated to have gotten a stain out of my son’s cargo shorts. My, how the years change one.

The bottom line is this: No matter how hard we try, we are destined to become our mothers, our fathers, and all of the practical guides and guardians we railed against vehemently in our youth. “Turn off the lights!” “Empty your pockets!” “Don’t leave the empty box of Nutrigrain bars in the pantry!” Whatever your personal bugaboo, sometimes it’s easier to simply acknowledge that kids make mistakes and truly it wont be long until you’re all alone in a big house, with extra closet space and barely enough laundry to do a single load. Appreciate the ink spots while you can. And yes, celebrate the small successes and unexpected Oxy-Clean triumphs with jubilant adandon. Life is too short to ignore your victories, no matter how trivial they may seem.