Saturday, December 28, 2013

zoo




Some families go to the zoo to peacefully convene with wildlife.

Our family goes to add vocals to the wolverine fight, and pummel each other with snowballs.

All's fair in love and snow.

We may or may not have hit some passerbys in the process.

Little sisters are always fair game to use as an emergency shield.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

many faces of rico

After 40 years of a furry face (FORTY freaking years people), Rico finally decided to shave his beard and mustache.

One would think that after four decades of basically wearing a whisker mask, that he would appreciate the feeling of cool air on his bare skin, kisses on his cheeks, the fact that there aren't spare bits of salsa imbedded in his beard after dinner at Chipotle - but noooooooo, he immediately had shavers remorse.

In my attempt to help (because that is just the kind of wife I am), I offered to pencil in a few ideas with eyeliner.  Here is what we came up with - let us know if you have a favorite.

merry little christmas




Me, in my new hat from Kooka, thinking about how Christmas day will feel.
While Facebook was teeming with photos of everyone's perfectly coiffed kids making gingerbread houses, or Christmas jammie videos, or whatever it is they do on the 24th of December, for the first time in forever, I have been dreading Christmas Day.

There are several reasons for this:

1) Two of my kids leave on Christmas day. Their dad scoops them up (as he should) and takes them over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house (and yes, she does actually live over the river - Mississippi to be exact -and through various woods inhabited by many a timber rattler - you can see all three from her kitchen window).

2) My dad loved Christmas - more than anyone I've ever met. Knowing that he's missing out on this one - or rather, that we are missing out on him, is much harder than I thought it would be.

3) My brother moved to Florida. And while FaceTime opening Christmas gifts sounds all cool and Apple-commercial-ish, it's not the same - it's just not.

4) The past four Christmas Days have ended up with me crying over dinner in a Chinese restaurant, with Yoda poking at some unidentifiable flavored jello and Rico rubbing my arm between bites of cold lo-mein, saying. "It's OK, this is what we jews do every Christmas day."

5) Yoda sitting here, sibling-less, grandparent-less, cousin-less with two exhausted, mildly depressed parents, who can't even figure out what to make for lunch.

Ug.

Gram beating Rico at Chinese Checkers.
So instead we go gangbusters on Christmas Eve. A trip to Gram's house in Wisconsin, spirited games of Chinese Checkers and Hungry Hippos, a visit to Uncle Ken's where Yoda gets to say hi to her cousin Josh and his dad "Doughnut Head", candlelight service at Church, appetizer dinner at home, presents, cookies for Santa, oats for the reindeer.

It's quite a wonderful day - and I am grateful for it. And that is all I have to say about that right now.


Hungry Hippos at Grams House


Christmas Morning Princess vs Villain battle

Thursday, December 19, 2013

the beginning of the end





I always wondered how this would go down.  

Being a mom is all I ever wanted out of life. Other kids dreamed of being doctors, pilots, firefighters, and while I grew into aspirations of my own (foreign diplomat, talent agent, prizewinning writer - hey two outta three ain't bad), it was always with one caveat. 

Kids.

I remember my own mom asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer was quick and emphatic, "a mommy."  

"Yes," she said, "and what else?"

What else?! What else could there be? It was everything I could dream of to hang homemade stockings by the fireplace each Christmas, give baths with strawberry shampoo, toast perfect grilled cheese sandwiches every Sunday after church, read princess stories, and and snuggle somebody I loved each night before bed. There was nothing more glamorous, more glorious, more fun, more anything than being a mommy.

Nothing.

Which is what I told her, and what she wrote on my Kindergarten vocational aspirations: "Just a plain old ordinary mommy."

When Punk was born, then Kooka, then Yoda, my life was finally how it was supposed to be.

And just now, I am getting glimpses of how it will end.

Punk has a girlfriend. 

The extent of a 9th grader dating (at least in our house) consists mostly of sitting next to each other at lunch, texting lines from your favorite Disney flicks back and forth and sitting next to each other at a g-rated movie - still, even with this, I am beginning to understand how it feels to have your child move on.

There is the race to be excused from the dinner table so he can call her back. There was giving up family movie night to sit by himself in the school auditorium to watch her play viola in the orchestra's Christmas concert. There is asking for advice on how to make a good impression on somebody's parents. (My advice: be yourself - your best self, but yourself. Parents can smell insincere asshole a mile away). The same kid who wouldn't loan his starving sister a dollar for bowl of gruel, is spending his allowance on a gift that his gf would, "absolutely love."

This is how it feels to know that someday we will not be his family, to know that someday, we will not be who he comes home to, who he shares his secrets with, who knows more about him than anyone else. That will not be me.

It sucks. And it is ripping my heart out little by little.

But for as heartbreaking as it is, I am astounded, thrilled, at the kind of young man he is to this girl (at least for the moment - this is 9th grade after all). He would rather have her here to visit, but he knows that it is his responsibility to make her parents comfortable with who he is, so he is manning up over winter break to meet her parents and four older brothers. He's admonished her ex for making inappropriate comments. He is the kind of boy that I hope his two sisters bring home when they are in high school.

So while my heart is breaking just a little more each day, it is also full of joy for the kind of life he is aiming for, the kind of relationships I hope he will cultivate. So far he is quite a catch.

déjà-vu

In some ways it is like raising Punk all over again.

She wakes up in the morning and she is not herself.
Never - not ever.
And heaven forbid we should call her by her given name.

"I am Mulan today."
"I am being Belle."
"I am Princess Anna, and you will be Princess Elsa."
"Where is the prince?"

Lately she has been obsessed with the new Disney movie "Frozen."  She spends her days beckoning our seven pound mutt -  referring to him by his Arctic-reindeer name, "Sven".  We shovel snow for fun, drink cocoa and braid her hair into two french braids in a vain attempt to make my Greek baby look as Nordic as possible. She can often be found laying motionless in the middle of the living room, feigning death until someone brings her back with "a kiss of true love."  Doesn't matter whose kiss really - mine, the prince's, Sven the poodle's - whatever.

When Punk was three we couldn't even go to the grocery store without a fist-full of straw in his pants so everyone knew he was the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.

I thought he was one-of-a-kind.

At least this time I'm only picking up dropped tiaras, and re-braiding hair.  Calling around for fresh straw in the middle of December was tougher than it sounds.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

number 5

As Rico says, "with five kids it's always something."

And it is.

Today it was the children's hospital with Yoda. She has pneumonia. We are lucky - she is healthier than many kids - we know that.

Still, seeing your baby in a breathing mask is never easy.




Monday, November 18, 2013

Punk's run as Mr. McQueen


Punk has been rehearsing and performing in Urinetown The Musical. He'll have a little more free time now, but still we are sad to see it end.  We've  both been working with some of those seniors since they were 4th graders.  The past two weekends looked a bit like this:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

today

The day goes like this:
Punk wakes up. He's sick.  I figure he's exhausted, but he's got a 7 hour rehearsal, so we head out.
It's worse by the time we get to the school, so we check in with the director before heading out for a strep test.

The doctor says the rapid test is negative, but and I quote, "HOLY, OH MY, UGH!"  The throat looks hideous, and he should take antibiotics in case the rapid test is wrong.  He'll call us on Monday with the culture.  If the culture is negative, it could be mono.  We leave the office with the reassuring words that, "It's definitely something."

Yee-ha.

So we load up on juice, and head home.

We are not there for ten minutes, when Kooka comes upstairs.

God knows what is on her face, but it is bad.
Arms too.
Knees.
Shoulders.
Hives.

So we run back to the doctor.  Same guy sees us. It hasn't been 20 minutes since we left. He checks her out. She has a wheezy cough, little fever. Rapid test is negative, but apparently her body reacts to this virus with hives. He sends her home with Zyrtek, and orders to rest.

Home again, home again jiggedy jig.

I check on Punk, remind him to gargle with salt water.  He does. Comes back up the stairs, mouth covered in blood, saying "I think I am legit spitting up blood."  He is.  Two days ago this would have looked cool - this morning not so much.

I call the doctor again.  He's says to stop gargling.

We have house guests.  I'm afraid to tell them what's in the basement.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

weekends at our place



So this is what we did on Saturday.  Me, Punk, Kooka, even Rico and Yoda were in the loop.  We spent the whole day at the studio with Broadway actors, Hollywood coaches, make-up people. Rico and Yoda delivered lunch, and ran teachers to and from the Orpheum in Minneapolis. It was a long, gloriously fun day.  It was the kind of event that makes me happy that I started this crazy business. The kids were wonderful, the teachers fabulous, and the day raced past before we knew it.

Punk was pretty excited when the actor from Broadway's Wicked chose him as one of the Broadway Bound performers.  (He did perform a rather rousing rendition of Telly from Matilda, at which point Kyle said,  "Wow, I just. I just don't even have any critique. That was just really good. Really good.")  Punk was thrilled.  It was extra cool that his BGFF Hannah was chosen too.

Here's a pic:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

why i hate public school

Yeah I do.

It's not a popular statement, and my kids don't read this enough for me to worry, so I'll say it again.

I F-ING HATE public school.

Oh yeah - and that last sentence was fraught with about 37 less swearwords than I've actually used in the past 30 minutes.

Don't bother reminding me about the wonderful benefits public school provides - I know, I get it.

But I've also HAD IT UP TO HERE.

Here's why:

Juggling three kids schedules is hard enough right.  But no, it's not three kids' schedules.  It's three kids, two of whom have 9 teachers each, at least 3 co-cirricular advisors (not to mention extras that our family deems important, church, piano etc.)  By my estimation, I am now juggling approximately 37 people's schedules.  Oh yes I am.

One teacher says I must watch a 12 minute video tonight, or my kid will get an F on the assignment.

Another teacher says that if my kid is not dressed in black shirt, black pants, black belt, black tie, black socks, black shoes he won't get an A on his required performance.  Kid can't drive himself, and black oxfords don't exactly grow on trees in these parts, so that's another 4 hours out of my day. Hell, come spring I think I'm just springing for a black full-body tattoo.  Kid can go stark naked from here til senior year - he'll never outgrow it, and it's save me another 6 trips to Kohls, or the mall, or God-knows-where.

Another teacher requires another video be watched.  Said video cannot be watched on the brand new iPads the school provides - because guess what? . . . I-pads don't support flash!!!!! So that's another 20 minutes for me to stop my work, find this video online and let the kid watch it.

Between two kids there are four tests tomorrow.  Oh - but we can't study for them, because the study guide for it was handed out today, and it's not finished yet.  "Why," you ask?  I would be more than happy to explain.

Because there were three hours of after-school rehearsal today.  And after that, a performance.  We stayed for the entire thing instead of just leaving when our kid was done, because A) that would be rude and B) we were reminded at least three times by teachers that it would be rude.

Long story short - kid gets home at 10:30 has two tests to study for, two assignments due tomorrow, 6 pages of study guide to finish and then study.  Other child has four pages of homework, and an early wake-up call tomorrow.  Bear in mind, they've already been at school - at SCHOOL EVENTS since 7:45 AM!  For those of you not keeping up with the math  - that's 14 HOURS STRAIGHT.

Yes -let's recap:

They have been in school for nearly 14 hours.  They have three hours of homework left and about 30 minutes of it is supposedly stuff that I am required to finish.

W.
T.
F?

Now - any ONE of these things would be ok.  I could even let two slide - but seriously?  Is there absolutely no dispensation for the fact that we have been at the school's beck and call for 14 hours and then we aren't even allowed to shower or sleep until 3 hours later?


Yeah yeah - school's great - you get out what you put in, blah, blah blah.
We have a great school.
We do.
Great teachers.
But seriously.
Something's got to give.

And it is probably my sanity.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

independence

Tonight my baby moved from her toddler bed into a twin sized, fully bonafide big-kid-bed.

I thought this would be harder.

I thought that much like the first two, I would sob audibly while dismantling the toddler bed and last vestiges of her babyhood.  I thought I would stroke the mattress longingly, recalling the very first time I laid my brand new daughter to sleep in her own home.

Yeah.
Not so much.

Instead, I took her shopping, and despite my control freak issues with bedding matching curtains, matching dresser knobs, matching closet valances, matching pillows - I let her pick out her OWN bedspread.

No big deal you say?
Punk is 14. He chose an orange pillowcase when he was 11, and he had to beg.

Why am I like this with number 3?

I'm not sure, but I have a guess.

As much as I know that she is my baby, that her childhood is racing past me faster than Usain Bolt can run to the fridge - as aware as I am, I am also aware of this:

I will not be her mother as long as I will Punk and Kooka's. Whether she is 20, 40, 60 or 80, she will be on her own much sooner than either of them. She will have to trust her instincts, trust herself, trust that she is OK without her parents before any of her siblings do.

I think that is why with this kid, I don't mourn the passing as much as I celebrate the growth - which is maybe how I should have spent the past 14 years as well.  Of course there will still be tears, still be moments of tender, bittersweet emotion as she grows up, but today I am celebrating her independence - and taking bets on whether she'll fall out tonight.




Saturday, October 12, 2013

facetime

I had my first ever facetime chat with this girl tonight - it was her first too. There was no particular reason except she wanted to show me cupcakes she made, and tell me about how she finally got her hair to curl perfectly.  I am so going to  miss her when she grows up and moves away for real.



number 3

Who she is:

Tentative.
Silly.
Lover of bananas, loather of tomatoes.
Wants to be a dinosaur when she grows up.
Best hugger in the house, but don't ask for a snuggle - it won't last longer than 4 seconds.
Sharer.
"Please" and "thank you" sayer.
Smart.
A tremendous fan of daily excursions and "the red store" (Target)
A reader of lots of words.
Singer. "If you like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, if you like what I'm singing, if you have half a brain."  We still don't know where she learned it. She's not telling.
Best plie's in ballet class. Will only do them at home.
Instigator of bike rides with Daddy and ice cream at "Hogan Brovers."
Sleeps with a new stuffed animal every night, so "nobody feels bad."
Cautious.
Kind.
Funny.
Obedient.
Can count to twenty, but sometimes there are two sixteens.
Bath hater.
Comedy lover.
Three.





Thursday, September 5, 2013

old


So I'm teaching an open hip hop class tomorrow.  Its been a while since I've said, "Yeah whoever wants to walk in the door -come on in!"

There is usually some sort of syllabus, some age breakdown, some sense of "I'm probably better at this than you are - or you wouldn't be here."

But not now.  I am not scared - but I am old.

Tomorrow, I will spit out this choreography and some 11 year-old will kick my ass with moves I MADE UP.

I hope so. In the meantime, I keep watching stuff like this, and thinking - yeah, I can still do all of that.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

shark

Today we spent hours with paint and googly eyes and rubber cement and scissors.

It was the first time in a long time that I could breathe.

I think it's because everything I was meant to be was right at the kitchen table.  There were no worries, no competition, no way I could mess things up. Just me. Just Yoda. Just being a mom.

It's pretty impossible to mess up a paper plate shark.




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

how we do it

I've had a lot of people ask how we roadtrip.  Not the logistics of packing, and eating and keeping three kids happy in a van for seven hour stretches, but how we can do it - how do we make this fit into our lives.

The short answer is that we are both teachers - one at a college, one at arts center, but it's more complex than that. The long answer is that neither of us ever stops working, so that we can stop when we need to.

Convoluted, I know, but it's something like this:

Rico and I both own our own businesses.  It's a blessing and a curse.  It means we set our own schedules, but it also means that there is nobody to pick up the phone when we're gone, nobody to answer emails, nobody to collect money.  So we do it on the road.  For me that means, emails, scheduling, creating ads while Rico drives.  For him it means taking calls, processing orders, and cell phone meetings while traveling across I-80.

What this really means, is that even though it appears we took a month off to travel, in reality, we probably had a total of 5 days without emails, calls, or putting out fires of some sort.  It was a crazy life - but it gave us moments like this:



Who can complain.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

finally

  I wish there was more to write about the last two days.  It would be easy to say that we did nothing but speed through the Midwest towards home, but that would only be partially true.  

There was a stop at Tony Packo's in Cleveland where we had fabulous chili-dogs and Kooka and I ended our search for the world's best mac&cheese (truly, that good), an overnight in Utica, Illinois at Grizzly Jack's resort, home of an adorable waterpark and the sketchiest amusment park I have seen in all of my days. There were hours of playing Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Hercules in Hotel pools (casting by Yoda who  always placed Kooka as the sea witch, Punk as Hades, me as the Beast and herself as the beautiful princess). There is much singing of Matilda songs, and much playing of name that tune via satelite radio. 

The real reason that there is not much to say, is that I am finally exhausted. It has been exactly one month since we left home. We miss our house, our beds, our neighbors, our dog. But the reality of a new school year is stating us in the face, and none of us are happy about it. 

Homeschooling, we miss you.




Monday, August 12, 2013

road trip video

For whatever reason, I can't embed this video from the hotel computer (or hit the space bar enough times to make it actually work).  But if you've been following our adventures, here is a two minute video taste:
HOLIDAY ROAD

road trip chronicles nyc

  I don't know if I have the mental fortitude to delve into my love/hate relationship with NYC. It's been almost a month on the road and it may take me that long again to process everything we've done. 

While I do that, here are some of our highlights:

A ride on the Statten Island Ferry - a free cruise past the city and the Statue of Liberty. 



Dinner in Chinatown and dessert in Little Italy with Rico's sister's family. (The limo was not our transportation, just a handy backdrop). We ate chow fun, spare ribs and rice noodles at Big Wong's - oh yes we did, and forget about hoping that would go right over the kid's heads. Punk couldn't wait to get there so he could text his friends a picture of the sign.



An afternoon on Broadway, where we saw Matilda. We ended up sitting next to Matilda's mom and family during the show, which made it even more meaningful. Even though we chose this show more for Kooka, Punk is the one who sat rapt, studying everything, memorizing all of the funny lines, and trying to figure out all of the special effects. They'd both seen Broadway Tours before, but this was their first show in New York, and they both loved it.


A tour of the American Museum of Natural History. (Home of Night at the Musem). We saw Rexy (which Punk and Kooka have a special love for, since their art tutor's daughter created Rexy for the movie), the fake Easter Island head, a real pachycephalosaurus skull, and a stuffed Dexter the Monkey.


Punk outfitting every historical figure he could find with and iPod. This one even stopped the sidewalk traffic while other people took photos:

A stop in Washington Park where we played in the fountains, watched street performers and had our minds read.



Lunch at Katz's deli, where we discovered that Punk loves pastrami, rye bagels look just like chocolate donuts, and two sandwiches and a hot dog can cost about $60.

Friday, August 9, 2013

road trip chronicles NYC

 

 So here we are, in the crush of humanity that is NYC. There are downsides - air that smells like cigarettes, exhaust and every disgusting human smell imaginable, garbage all over the place, the fact that traffic lights and crosswalks are pointless - you just cram yourself into the middle hoping that the other people provide some sort of cushion for the taxis that will inevitably hit pedestrians.







But there are upsides too: cheap pizza, playing in FAO Schwartz, and best of all, Kooka getting to take a class at Broadway Dance Center. The age limit at BDC is 13, but they let Kooka into a second level theatrical jazz class and she was thrilled. She was the youngest in the class by at least a decade, but held her own, had a great sense of style, and most of all a great time. Whomever her dance teacher is, is probably very proud. Her teacher Liz P., was awesome and performs on Broadway in West Side Story. We had to snap a sweaty picture for posterity:


Tomorrow is more of NYC. I've been a few times now, and well - we'll just see what tomorrow brings.

road trip chronicles - Woodstock, ny

 

 Days 20-23 were spent with what Rico and I like to call "chosen family". For the past three years we've celebrated major birthday milestones with Uncle Frank, Aunt Sharon, "Ick" and "Ruff." They are all such kind, gracious and fun people to be with. Kaia adores them, Noah says they are "really cool" and aside from the crazy nicknames she's doled out to Eric and Stephanie, Yoda is in love with "Daddy's friends."

We spent four days in the town that never grew up - Woodstock.  It was exactly how I supposed it would be, quaint restaurants, guitar decor all over the town, candle shops, tie-dye, homemade ice cream stores, t-shirt shops with marijuana leaf garland, and bongs, which Punk recognized (from health class people, from HEALTH class), and Yoda asked me to buy for her. I caved and bought her a tie-dye shirt instead, which I'm sure will go over much better at pre-school show-and-tell.






Our home for the stop was Birchwood, a sprawling countryside farm house (sans farm). It was the kind of house people dream about when they say, "I'd love to live in an old farmhouse." (Because, lets face it, nobody actually wants to live in the house from Wizard of Oz.) They want to live in a place like this: 5 bedrooms, sunroom, porch, swimming pool, glorious kitchen, all updated and refinished. It was absolutely stunning, and we were so grateful to "Ick and Ruff" for sharing it with us. 



Punk and Kooka had their very own rooms, which after traveling together for over a month was a welcome respite for both.

Kooka helped Frank make his famous macaroni and meatballs, and everyone had seconds (Yoda had fourths). 


There were burgers on the grill, and ice cream cake, puzzles, swimming, hikes to waterfalls, good conversation, more pizza and and lots of laughter.

For the first time in the history of road trips, I did not feel the need to google venomous snakes of the area before we left.

My bad.


Rico decided to take us for a hike to a local swimming hole. The forest was lovely, there was a beautiful little waterfall, the water was crystal clear - so clear, that I was able to scan the entire lake up to about 4 feet deep, and assess that there was absolutely nothing swimming in it, except for two small minnows, and the picnicing family that beat us there. It quite picturesque.  I held Yoda's hand as we waded into the shallow, stony stream, and didn't think a thing of it when she said, "It is wiggling and swiggling right by us like a big snake."

Sticks wiggle in the water. 
Blades of grass wiggle in the water. 
She's three, what does she know.

But then I hear the words "snake" and "water" coming from the shore, and it all clicks. Leaving Yoda standing alone, I let go of her hand, and leap out of the water faster than Michael Phelps jumps in. I didn't actually see it, but according to reports, it was almost two feet long, and somewhere between 3-6 inches from my leg. Rico chastised me for leaving my baby behind (it was 2 inches of water), and only saving myself.  But take a look at the five other capable adults who stood on the banks and laughed while some sort of New England spitting cobra passed within a hairs breadth of us. (Rico swears it was just a northern water snake). I didn't notice any of these guy jumping in to make the sacrifice either.



 Mind you, this group includes a scientist, a nurse, a godparent and the kid's OWN FATHER! It's not like I was traveling with a women's church choir. They are all perfectly capable people. I would wrestle a bear for any of my kids, the least they could do is give me a hand with the snakes.

The rest of the day was comparatively uneventful (at least for me). We had leftover meatballs and ice cream cones, did some laundry, stayed up late and agreed that four days flew by much too soon.  

We are off to NYC today, where Punk wants to see movie spots and Kooka wants to dance on Broadway. We'll see who gets their wish.