Sunday, July 24, 2011


It's mid-July and I am just now getting a full pool day with you and your sister. Slathered in sunscreen, wet hair tangled into the strap of your goggles, you smile broadly as you glide over to me on your noodle. You take my hand and point to the waves licking the far side of the swimming pool. "Those waves are from me, Mama. I did that." You look serene, which is not a word I would use to describe your summer.

No, Rachel, you have not been serene. You have been a lot of things, and you have expressed each feeling quite acutely. Because when you feel, you feel. Your anger shakes your body and your sorrow collapses your face and your happiness sends your auburn eyebrows sailing toward your hairline.

You have been contentedly residing deep inside your imagination for two months now, creating intricate plots for your toys, which are acted out with a ferocity I often confuse for distress. You light up at the sight of a small square of cotton packing, explain "I want to use this for something," and disappear back into the playroom.

You have climbed under my covers in the early morning. You have cooed and snuggled with me and your father. You have dropped everything to seek quiet moments in my lap. You have rolled your eyes and moved over to make room for Anna.

You have been frustrated with your role of younger sister. You have railed against Anna's constant nagging and ordering. You have cried bitterly when she didn't want a playmate. You have competed for parental attention, computer time and the last popsicle. You have had to be patient. You have screamed and stormed and slammed doors.

Your emotions are close to the surface. You are your mother's daughter.

And like your mother, you love the water. While your sister practices cannon balls and demands I time her underwater swims, you hold my hand and tilt your face up toward the sun and smile. And I kiss your lightly freckled cheek and tell you, yes baby girl. Those waves? They are from you. You did do that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I was 23 the first time the world ended. Alone, lost, confused, I climbed into bed and succumbed to the darkness. Sleep was my escape from depression, binge eating was my answer to anxiety. Miserable, I made my first trip to a psychiatrist who stabilized me with medication and tried to match me with a therapist. So began a journey that apparently will never end. Because there is no cure, only treatment, so I get to navigate these dicey waters for the rest of my life.

Over the years I've ridden a roller coaster. Never quite as bad as that first bout, but other times where my world has felt like it was ending. Where I was just that hopeless. Periods of time lost to my symptoms, sometimes foreseeable (right after having a baby), sometimes not at all (waking up one morning in a blind panic for no recognizable reason). There have been therapists, though none that I have ever really truly connected with. There have been medications and side effects and honeymoon periods and adjusted dosages and oh, the money I have spent trying to find the right cocktail to keep me from going back to the dark bedroom.

I didn't want to blog about it. For one thing, others have blogged about the issue so beautifully and honestly and thoroughly. What do I have to add? For another, I didn't want it to become who I am or what my blog is about. I'm already a cliche - a mommy blogger. And a mommy who not only drones on about my kids but also whines about her mental health issues? Who needs that? But, here's the thing - it IS who I am. And obviously it affects my writing - look at the date of my last post.

I withdraw. It's my pattern. I don't answer my phone and sometimes I don't even listen to my voice mails. I overeat, I don't eat, I sneak bowls of cereal when the house is sleeping. I cry and get overly emotional at songs on the radio. I snap at my kids and criticize my husband. I start blog posts and don't finish them. I self-loathe for not being able to finish my blog posts. I drive everyone around me crazy. I realize I drive people crazy and so I withdraw further.

All these years later I still find myself wondering if some of these habits are actually mine or if they are symptoms of the illness. Or if it even matters. I hope I never get back to the darkness of 23. I've spent the last 16 years trying to make sure I stay out of that particular forest. But still, I withdraw.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Just when I thought winter "break" was going to kill me

Today is the last day of the hideously misnamed winter "break." My girls loved the extra time with each other and have for the most part played together well but the last few days have been dicey. They were sniping at each other and bickering and stomping their feet and I'm pretty sure whining is now an Olympic event named after my children.

So tonight we prepared backpacks and set out clothing and packed lunches - which I'm sure will be eaten in their entirety, EYE ROLL. And as I was winding down with Anna, she noticed a woman speaking Russian on the television and asked about the subtitles.

"Do those words say what she's talking about? What is she saying?"

"She's saying thank you to God for everything turning out well."

"GOD?" Anna asked, clearly surprised. "She knows about God?!"

"Well yes, honey. Most people know about God. They might think different things about him, but they know about him."

"Wow! I thought it was just us."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A complicated and confusing thing

It is a known and probably medically documented fact that throughout my premature labor with Rachel, I repeatedly expressed my fervent desire for my children to be at least a full year apart. Rachel had her own plans and was born a little over two weeks before her big sister's first birthday. Thus began the most unpleasant of our family traditions: The Sixteen Days of Injustice. Wherein Anna laments loudly and often about how terrible - indeed painful - it is to have a sister who has the nerve to be the same age. Observance of this period involves whining, backtalk and general crankiness. There is no cure or effective treatment. We just have to wait until the storm breaks every year on December first.

Anna turned six. SIX. And she talks about Rachel having nerve. As we left the house in the morning we walked outside into the first snow of the year. Fat snowflakes fell onto Anna's excited face as she declared that Hashem was celebrating her birthday too.

After school Rachel went to Grandma's house so that I could pick Anna up without her pesky little sister. We went to three different stores to find her the right pillow pet, then hung out at home together. First she put on some makeup.

Then we washed it off. Except for the lipstick of course.

Then she agreed to pose for me like a six-year-old.

Then she got silly outside with the snow and Sienna, her new pillow pet.

Then it was off to Grandma's house for the party. She asked that Grandma make her birthday cake and she wouldn't say what kind of cake she wanted. "Surprise me," she told my mom.

Family favorite Heath bar cake! Perfect.

And finally, she threw Mommy the "put the camera away, woman!" look, signaling an end to the festivities.

Throughout the day Anna commented several times that she didn't feel different. She didn't want to feel different but she didn't feel six yet and she wasn't sure how she felt about that. "It's just a really complicated and confusing thing," she told me.

Welcome to life, kid! Happy birthday Anna.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Scene from the drive home

I am driving with three five-year-olds in my car. Strapped safely into their car seats in the back, they still find a way to huddle and whisper. Giggles float toward the front of the car and I can't help but ask about the source of the hilarity.

Tali, a good friend of the girls, tells me that she's going to say to The C Word. I have to know, so I ask what she thinks the c word is. "Crap!" she says, and the laughter explodes.

Not to be outdone, Anna announces that she is going to say The D Word. And what might that be? "Diarrhea!" she screams, and the girls can barely contain themselves now.

Rachel chimes in and yells, "I'm going to say The F Word!" And that is? "FUCK!"

And scene.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rachel turning five

Rachel turned five last week. Before she went to bed on the 14th she made me tell her again about her arrival into the world. She knows that her story is different from her sister's and she enjoys hearing about how Daddy held her first, how she had to go to the special care nursery for a week but got well quickly and was home in time for Thanksgiving. After the birth story I tucked her into bed and we said goodbye to four.

At 5am on the 15th I hear her whisper into my ear, "Mommy? Am I, am I, am I... am I FIVE?" I opened my eyes and saw the anticipation in her face. When she got the answer she was waiting for she giggled in delight and climbed into my bed for birthday snuggles.

I let her choose how the day would go. At school she got the standard preschool celebration. A crown, of course, and cupcakes to hand out to her classmates.

After school we went shopping for her present. The girls have been nagging me for weeks for pillow pets. So Rachel got hers, a purple unicorn she named Uni. She is in LOVE.

After that she wanted to hit the local playground. As it was 47 degrees, we had the whole place to ourselves. She got to bounce,

strike a pose,

tackle her favorite dinosaur,

and even fly a bit.

When we could no longer feel our fingers, we went home for a viewing of The Little Mermaid, something Rachel hasn't asked for in almost a year. Then we went to visit the great-grandparents where she allowed herself to be showered with affection.

After a dinner of cheesy eggs and chocolate chip pancakes, the princess was presented with an ice cream cake.

After a few bites she mentioned that her tummy hurt. So she put on her new outfit and lay down on her new pillow pet.

Ten minutes later she threw up. And end of celebration.

Vomit aside, it was a wonderful day. Sometimes I wish I could afford a huge castle bouncy party and all the toys my girls can scribble onto their lists. Then I see how ecstatic Rachel gets over a stuffed animal and time spent in an abandoned playground and it brings me back to reality.

This kid is amazing. She is creative and hilarious and fierce and confident. I can't wait to see what five brings. Happy birthday, Rachel.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who's on first?

I've mentioned previously how much I enjoy the conversations I get to overhear or take part in with my class of three- and four-year-olds. This week was a pretty hectic one all around and today in particular was pure chaos. At the end of the morning I was on the playground with the last few children waiting for their parents when a little boy unsure of his carpool situation approached me.

"Morah Meredith, are you taking me home?"
"No, your mommy is."
"My mommy is taking you home?"
"No, your mommy is taking you home."
"Oh. Is someone taking you home?"
"I'm taking myself home."
"You're taking your cell phone?"
"Sweetie? Have a great weekend, ok?"