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Slip-Sliding Away!

May 28, 2012 16 comments

I’ve lamented many times before in this space about the concerns I have, the effects all of our new-found technology is having on our youth. I worry about what our kids might be missing in the great outdoors when they’re all cooped up inside, flexing only their fingers in an up-down or side-to-side Wii motion. I worry that they are barely challenging their brains, while their little thumbs fly nimbly across the tiny keyboards of what used to be talking devices but are now mostly used to send text messages in an almost unrecognizable English language. I pine for my own childhood, remembering how much we did with so little, fearing our children are losing the know-how to “making fun”.

Will they even know what “eye to eye” means without thinking of Skype or “face to face” without thinking it is a reference to Facebook ten or even five years from now?

Because of my worries, I make a concerted effort to put my kids in situations and environments where they have to think for themselves and not let Google do it for them. To that end, my post is a little late this weekend as I’ve been busy watching my children have a great time in the great outdoors!

I suppose we could have fought the traffic and crowds and made our way to a Six Flags park only a few hundred miles away like so many other folks. After all, the forecast promised beautiful weather for us New Yorkers, this holiday weekend.

I chose to take them to our little patch of heaven Upstate, instead.

Six Flags eat your heart out! It turns out our 100% kid-made, Slip-n-Soapy-Slide provided hours and hours of wet fun-filled laughter, and entertainment and I am happy to report my worries have been replaced with faith. Faith in our kids. Great faith that kids will be kids during any era! Faith, that when removed from and relieved of, the technological pressures of text-ing, Facebook-ing and Skype-ing and left to their own devices, kids do in fact resort to using their imagination and creativity! Yes, I am happy to report it’s not gone at all.

It just lies in wait for an opportunity to burst onto the scene and show itself.

It was a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend filled with reading, puzzling, grilling and sliding! It was also a time to remember the great sacrifice of those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice that makes such a great weekend possible.

How was your Memorial Day Weekend and what did you do?

Photo Credits #1-5 Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com All Rights Reserved.

Moms: Their Insanity, Their Super-Powers and Their Blessings

May 13, 2012 13 comments

“Mothers are all slightly insane.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

It’s true.

Once you’ve brought your bundle-of-joy home and realized that the temporary sleep adjustment period is really sleep deprivation with staying power– like, a few years staying power — you barely catch a few much needed ‘ZZZs before you find yourself entering the realm of unnatural attachments; your child’s affinity for a favorite toy, binky or blanket perhaps, turns well, ugly. Your little tike’s obsession usually rears it’s head for the first time, when you forget, it, which is usually on a very long car ride and it’s usually, way too late to turn around and go back for it after you finally realize what it is, that your child is convulsing over in their car seat. It, you quickly learn, is the one and only thing that can make long car rides enjoyable or absolute hell, lest you forget it. Shortly after this stage comes the era of repetition which could last for several years. Be it a word, a song, a story, a movie or all of the above, moms have heard it, sang it, told it, re-told it and watched it, over and over and over again, a zillion times, all before their little one has reached the ripe old age of five.

And that is only the beginning. Slightly insane is an understatement. 

Another truth: the myth that moms have super-powers, is not a myth.

There is a certain inexplicable, ESP-like knowing that comes with the insanity of motherhood that all moms possess in varying degrees.

My mother could see it in our eyes.

L – I – E, she would say, I see it right there in your eyes. Now, tell me the truth.

How could a kid argue with that? The jig was up and the truth was told. It’s all in the eyes and she also had eyes in the back of her head.

When my kids are in awe of, or aghast by, something I know that they thought was in their own little vault, I merely look at them and say,

Who am I?

Over the years, they’ve learned there is only one correct response to that question when I ask it.

 The Mama.

That’s right. I am, The Mama. They know it and The Mama, knows.

It’s true, mom’s just know things, especially when their kids need them. There’s an instinctive inner nagging that just doesn’t quit when one of my kids is in need.

It’s a super-power that comes with giving birth; a natural brain-radar for knowing or being in the right place at the right time with the right people for finding out. It never fades either. To this day, when I‘m upset or in need or retreating and trying to hide from the world for whatever reason, I can be certain of one thing: my mom will call or show up or find me in my darkest hour. And no matter how much grief I give her or how much I lean or unload on her, she is ALWAYS there for me — still.

At 74, she continues to be an amazing power of example.

When I count my blessings and I often do, the fact that she is still with me and such an integral part of my and my children’s lives is right up there with my children’s health. Being a mom is not only a blessing in my life, it is the biggest privilege of my life, an honor that I don’t take for granted and am constantly working to improve upon. Motherhood requires insane amounts of patience, understanding and perseverance and all too often, I find myself falling short or being short when what was really needed was a little more time or just an ear and not an opinion. The beauty of being a mom thankfully, is that it is a lifetime gig with a chance to do better tomorrow.

Children are adaptable, forgiving and full of surprising, heartwarming rewards.

Recently, it occurred to me, that every time I make dinner for my 13-year old son, he “thanks” me before leaving the table.

Thanks for dinner, mom.

And the other evening, my 11-year old daughter didn’t want me to spend too much money on knitting needles for her. Knitting needles! I know NOTHING about knitting. I bought them anyway.

“Oh mom, these needles are so beautiful – thank you!”

Seriously!?

Making dinner for my son is a pleasure and I was spending money on my daughter’s new hobby and passion for knitting, not playing video games, KNITTING!

It can’t possibly get any better than that.

Here’s to moms EVERYWHERE, their insanity, their super-powers and their blessings!

Dinner For Two

April 22, 2012 18 comments

I have a standing dinner-date every Thursday with the same guy for the past five months.

Truthfully, I was the initiator. In fact, at first he resisted. I insisted. And although it started out a little shaky and often felt tentative right up until the last-minute, somehow, he always “showed-up“. In the beginning clearly, it was to appease me, more than likely out of a feeling of obligation. I understood. I gave him space. There was a lot of silence at the beginning too, not exactly awkward; more like “dead air”. I let him breathe and get used to the idea of spending time alone with me. I searched my brain for stimulating conversation and tried to bring up things I thought would interest him.

I have an amazing relationship with my daughter for which I am very grateful. My reluctant dinner-date — who also happens to be my 13-year old son — and I, have struggled quite a bit over the last two years. Living life on life’s terms and dealing with all that’s come with it, has taken its toll, created confusion, distortion and a disconnect between us.

Grappling with how to get him back, I tossed, turned and weighed many possible scenarios over and over in mind. I kept coming back to this weekly, dedicated time and space, this  Dinner For Two.

At some point, you have to listen to your heart, trust your instincts and take a leap of faith. I had faith in him and me and the mothering and nurturing I’d done for the first eleven years of his life. And even though it was very difficult for the first few months, I never gave up.

Neither did he.

You can bore through hard things and get to the other side, as long as you don’t give up.

Patience and perseverance paid off. Time has healed.

It occurred to me this week, that now, it’s a given and there’s no doubt that we’ll have dinner on Thursday, just him and me. It’s become part of the schedule, part of the “routine” of our week.

It’s something I look forward too. It’s not however, something I take for granted — not for one second. I cherish and appreciate this time well spent; this time where I can just be my boy’s mom.

There are no more awkward moments of silence. Our discussions spread across a wide range of topics these days. I’ve learned a lot about various basketball, football and baseball players as of late. He asks me about my day and my interests. He’s forthcoming with the happenings at school.

It’s not perfect, nothing is but we’re connected again and I’m grateful.

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” — Agatha Christie

Photo Credits #1 & #2: Google Images

Boy, Oh Boy!

April 15, 2012 10 comments

While it’s absolutely true that a pregnant woman wishes only for a healthy baby at the end of those “joyful” nine months of having your body completely taken over by a foreign being, it is just as absolutely true that pregnancy does weird and inexplicable things to a woman’s way of thinking. Crazy thoughts invade an otherwise rational woman’s mind and have a way of resting there awhile  – at least they did for me, anyway. During the majority of my pregnancy with my first child, I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was having a girl. I just knew it. There really wasn’t another option. No further discussion required — thank you. In my mind’s eye, she was going to be just like me. By the time I was rounding out my seventh month, I had her name and future completely mapped out in my head. I fantasized often about the things we would do together; what I would show, teach and tell her. It was a neat little perfect package, wrapped sweetly in pink, frilly, feminine love.

It wasn’t until much too close to the eleventh hour of my due date that panic struck one day while I was trying to picture what my baby girl would look like and imagine her holding my hand, when the truly frightening thought occurred to me…

What if it’s a boy?  A boy??  A boy.

It couldn’t possibly be a boy. I knew nothing about boys –let alone caring for and raising one.  I dismissed the thought, immediately.

What came next of course, was the blessing of a healthy, baby boy whom I instantly fell in love with. In addition to the miracle of birth, there is that instantaneous bond that forms the moment mother and child see each other for the very first time, it’s the bond that creates an unconditional love, forever. That once horrifying “what if” thought evaporated as if it never existed and the focus immediately turned to…

I love you and I will try my best for you — always.

That’s how it was for me anyway. And so, the journey began. Enter Spiderman, Scooby-doo, pirates, dirt and worms in my fridge; fishing camp, building rockets and traps, collecting bugs, catching frogs and conducting experiments. The journey is thirteen years in the making now and includes football, soccer, basketball and baseball too.

Between two kids and three teams, practice and games, I’m either on a baseball or a soccer field three or four times a week these days, not exactly what I envisioned when I first began to fantasize about my children, better for sure and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Besides, a few years after the boy arrived I found myself rounding out my seventh month of a second pregnancy, this time, fantasizing about the brothers that would build an empire. In my mind’s eye, it was a solid little package, neatly wrapped in bold testosterone.

I was certain of it.

Until of course, she appeared, all soft and sweet and smiling-like.

A girl! She was a girl! What on earth would I do with a girl??

Tell me, were you surprised or did you find out what the gender of your child would be?

OUR LIFE IN 3D

April 8, 2012 2 comments

Please read my latest entry over at OUR LIFE IN 3D where this week, my friend Andy, invited me to Guest Post!

“I’ve never Guest Posted before so when Andy asked me if I would, I was a little nervous. What would I write about?…….”

Click inside the quote above or on the link below and please, feel free to check out Andy’s site while visiting!

OUR LIFE IN 3D 



Categories: Family, Life, Parenting Tags:

Slipping Through My Fingers

April 1, 2012 9 comments

This week my daughter turned eleven.

Last night she had her first ever, awake-over sleep-over party.

Slipping Through My Fingers

~ Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning

waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile

I watch her go with a surge of that well known sadness and I have to sit down for a while
the feeling that I’m losing her forever

and without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
that funny little girl

slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
the feeling in it

slipping through my fingers all the time
do I really see what’s in her mind
each time I think I’m close to knowing
she keeps on growing
slipping through my fingers all the time

sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
barely awake I let precious time go by
then when she’s gone,

there’s that odd melancholy feeling
and a sense of guilt I can’t deny
what happened to the wonderful adventures

the places I had planned for us to go
well, some of that we did, but some we didn’t
and why, I just don’t know

slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
the feeling in it

slipping through my fingers all the time
do I really see what’s in her mind
each time I think I’m close to knowing
she keeps on growing

slipping through my fingers all the time
sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
and save it from the funny tricks of time

Slipping through my fingers

Slipping through my fingers all the time.

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning

waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile……………

Mama Mia!

Categories: Family, Life, Love Tags: , ,

Impact

March 18, 2012 11 comments

Two years ago this Spring, I stood in a courtroom and read to the judge, the Assistant D.A., the lawyers, the offender, his family and the rest of the court room, a statement outlying the immediate impact the offender’s actions had on our family. Standing by my side was the parole officer assigned to our case. That September, she started a Victim’s Impact Panel in the county I live in. Normally, such panels consist of victims of alcohol related crimes. This new panel is comprised of victims of felony crimes. Twice a year since then, a small group of speakers is assembled at our Police Station’s Community Center to share our stories; what happened and the impact of what happened on our lives. I’ve been asked to speak three out of the four times the panel’s been assembled so far.

What do you do there? Is the audience only criminals? Are the police there?

These are some of the questions my soon to be 11-year-old daughter started asking me last Tuesday when I told her I would be speaking on the Panel again and wouldn’t be able to pick her up from school Thursday.

Well, I said, I tell them what happened and how it affected our family and yes, the audience is just criminals. They’re convicted felons and armed officers are scattered throughout the room.

How come you didn’t go last time? She asked.

 Because Brian was there. I said.

In our case, Brian Quain, was the offender. He’s the young man who’d been breaking into our house repeatedly for more than six months two winters ago. I wasn’t called to the panel last time because protocol says the victim should not speak if the offender is attending.

This is Brian Quain. Our neighbor. After 6-months of not knowing who was invading our privacy & our home, we installed a motion sensor camera that ultimately sent this image to my husband’s email while he was actually in our home.

Did Brian have to go last time?

Yes. I said. It’s mandatory; part of his sentence.

Can children go? She asked.

No.

 Do the criminals get to speak at the panel? 

No. They’re not allowed to speak at all. They can write a question for us on an index card, pass it over to an Officer and we can choose to answer or not answer it. When we’re all done speaking, we leave the room.

The audience members sit three to a table. There’s a questionnaire in front of them that they have to answer before they can leave. The Officers in the room collect them and bring them back to us.

 Then what?

We go to a different room and talk. There’s a person there that helps us work through any hard parts and then we get to look at the questionnaires.

What kind of questions are on the questionnaire? She wanted to know.

Oh, things like, what crime did you commit? Are you paying restitution? Who was affected by your crime? What do you think the impact of your crime was on your victim? Which of the victim’s stories impacted you the most and why and if you had a chance to say something to your victim now, what would it be?

Many members of the audience are “impacted” by my story because of the effects this continuous home invasion had on my children. Apparently, most criminals don’t like it when other criminals mess with children.

Neither do I.

It’s been exactly a year since I spoke on the second panel. This time, I found myself less emotional overall and more thoughtful in my words. I’m less consumed with what happened and more focused on the impact.

I realize now, I have an opportunity to convey a message:

Your misguided, thoughtless, selfish actions have devastating effects on multiple lives. Grown men are left jobless, on medication and fighting insurance companies on a daily basis to cover medical expenses as a result of what you did. Young girls are constantly looking over their shoulders now and making plans to move out-of-state before your release from prison for fear of your return. Families who lived quietly and privately on your street are left with anger and confusion and are torn apart. You have compromised our ability to TRUST.

You DO NOT have the right to mess with people’s lives, especially children’s lives and most especially, MINE.

It-is-NOT-Okay.

And, if I can’t tell Brian Quain directly —  (there’s a five-year Order of Protection against him for each member of my family while he’s on probation) I’ll tell others like him.

And I did.

When I told Brian’s dad he should see the images of his son burglarizing my home he said “Oh, no. I can’t” Really? My children saw them. They didn’t have a choice.

This time on the panel, as I told my story, I passed around theses pictures of our 21-year-old neighbor invading our home. These are the same pictures that were sent via email from the camera we had set up in our living room to my husband’s computer; the pictures my then eight-year-old daughter saw when the police were buzzing through our house the day Brian was arrested coming out of it. These are the pictures Brian’s dad just couldn’t look at when I told him he should see what his son looked like when he was creeping around our home, for months, uninvited.

So much has changed in our lives since and as a result of, what happened.  I don’t hold Brian completely responsible for all that came afterwards. There’s no doubt however that the fracture of our family was in part, collateral damage. The harmony that once resided in our home was disrupted to say the least. The sense of safety we enjoyed there for nearly 17 years, obliterated.

“You can’t let an event in your life define who you are. It’s not what happens to you but what you do, when something happens, that becomes part of your character.”

 These are my words. I keep them on my About page and often revisit them to remind myself of what I believe to be true; to help me to continue to move forward.

To keep moving forward.

Mom? Did Brian have to fill out one of those questionnaires? Hannah asked.

Yes, I said. I’m sure he did. They all have too.

She paused for a minute, slowly looked up at me and said,

Can you see his?

Heart stop.

Can I see his?

The possibility hadn’t occurred to me.

I don’t know.

Why don’t you ask the parole officer if you can? she said.

Heart stop –again. God, I love this child.

Brilliant.

Could I ask? Would I ask? Did I ask?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Before meeting for the panel, I called the parole officer and asked her if it would be possible for me to see Brian’s questionnaire.

Even though Brian Quain didn’t respect our privacy two years ago while he repeatedly ransacked our home, our bedrooms, our closets and drawers, I am going to respect his and not say what the parole officer’s response was or whether I did or didn’t get to read Brian’s questionnaire and find out who he thought was affected by his crime and how or what he would say to us if he had the chance, now.

Related posts: My Edward, Life’s Terms-Not Mine, Unsolicited Journey

Photo Credit #1: Hope

Photo Credit #3: Trust/Google Images

Photo Credit #2, 4 & #5 Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile. Not to be reproduced or reused without express permission.

Wax On, Wax Off!

February 26, 2012 10 comments

Normally, I find name-dropping to be rather tacky but let’s face it, being greeted at the door by Justin Timberlake is something you want to share and given the opportunity, tell me, what woman in her right mind could resist telling e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e she knows that she gave George Clooney a kiss on the cheek?

Certainly not me!

While I’m at it, I will say, The Pitts were there, although not looking as well as I had imagined. Angelina was having what appeared to be a very-bad-hair-day and Brad, well, let’s just say, Brad did not look like himself, at all! Same for Madonna. It’s true she looked absolutely fantastic at the Superbowl but sadly, this was not the case when I saw her last week. I almost didn’t recognize her! Admittedly, I was disappointed but the dazzling and most debonair, Denzel Washington more than made up for them. Yes, beaming as only he can, the crowd that encircled him was mesmerized by him.

Ah, Denzel!

The Jo-Bros were c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y adorable and even Miley Cyrus was looking her best but hats off, yes hats off indeed, to Diddy“P”  looked perfect!

Being a fan for more than one reason and, even at the risk of embarrassing my 13-year old son in public, I couldn’t NOT take a picture with Edward, I mean Robert Pattinson.

After all, he is My Edward.

I don’t always travel in circles such as these, only on very special occasions, like when I’m spending the entire day in New York City with my boy, eating falafels on Ludlow Street followed by crepes at none other than the Creperie on MacDougal. It was just after that, that we decided to spend the afternoon with the likes of sports legends, Eli Manning and Michael Jordan.

Where else but at the famous Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum can you find such a stellar gathering of celebrities eager and willing to pose for a photo or patiently receive a peck on the cheek by an unknown passerby such as myself?

Have you visited any of the Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museums?

Photo Credit #1:  Denzel Washington Wax Figure at Madam Tussauds

Photo Credit #2:  P. Diddy Wax Figure at Madam Tussauds

Photo Credit #3:  Madam Tussauds Signage by Karen Szczuka Teich

It Smells Like Updog!

February 19, 2012 8 comments

It smells like updog in here!

Updog?

Yes. Updog.

What’s-Up-Dog?

Oh, not much!

Come on, you know you’re laughing. Let’s face it, that’s funny!

That’s also the kind of humor you get subjected treated to when you spend a long weekend with two teenage boys, a 10-year old girl and her 9-year old comrade. Oh, and there’s the girlfriend of the thirteen-year-old (yes, I said, girlfriend) who makes her presence known with the constant text-ing that is revealed through his ringtone which loudly and annoyingly announces:

“Excuse me boss, you have a text message.”

Every 5 to 10 minutes.

I truly feel like she came with us.

It started with a simple statement. Me, telling my kids I was taking them up to our place in the woods for this President’s Day long weekend. Before I could be consulted, a cousin was quickly added to the mix and then a friend.

It became the perfect blend of a very unlikely pairing of people.

It takes two-hours by car to go through the Catskills to get to our destination, a place I usually go to for serenity. The car-load spent their time partly singing Katy Perry’s Fireworks (over and over again) and partly playing Truth or Dare.

I love kids. They’re so honest, especially when they’re playing a game like Truth or Dare. They feel completely obligated to tell the truth.

It was basketball on the driveway. Tacos for dinner. A game of Striker on the ancient but still functional game-cube. Ice-cream at the Penguin. Man-hunt in the dark with flashlights, in the middle of winter, while it was snowing. Hot cocoa with whipped cream. Playing monopoly while watching Jeremy Lin magically maneuver the ball on the court against the Hornets and tea and cookies before bed.

These are the things kids’ dreams are made of.

It’s good to take a break from life, if you can. I’m extremely fortunate to have the place to escape to and these fabulous children to escape away with. I’ve been laughing-out-loud now for nearly three days straight. It’s a privilege to be the fly-on-the-wall, allowed to listen in to the lively conversations that span the wit and humor of the seven-year-age-difference between the youngest and oldest in this motley but most-loveable crew, thrown together by chance and circumstance. They’re truly making the best of it.

Sometimes, the best times are had with the least amount of planning.

It’s been an incredibly difficult time for my kids, in particular these past two years. There’s been lots of upheaval and turmoil and change and it has been a very long time since they’ve been in a relaxed enough environment where they can just  have fun. It’s a joy to witness.

But it’s the never-ending laughter that I am so grateful to hear.

Seeing your kids laughing and happy is what parents’ dreams are made of.

It’s the middle of a strangely warm winter but nothing warms a mother’s heart more than to hear the echoing of her child’s laughter.

Photo Credit #1: What’s Up Dog Hat

Photo Credit #3, 4 & 5: Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

All About Football

February 5, 2012 10 comments

This week, it’s all about football. As it should be.

Super Bowl Sunday after all, boasts more than 100-million viewers. And that’s not including those who will for the first time, be able to get the game streamed-live through their computers or on their androids through Verizon’s NFL Mobile app this year. Many viewers will tune in simply to catch the commercials that are selling for upwards of $3.5 million dollars for a 30-second spot. Others will gather in front of their screens or phones, to watch Madonna during half-time, in hopes of witnessing something spectacular. Super Bowl Sunday has something for everyone.

Like baseball and apple-pie, football is a staple of Americana.

My 13-year-old son played on his first football team this past fall and admittedly, I entered the season with a fair amount of trepidation and skepticism. I had my doubts to say the least and even cried foul! on parental interference after witnessing arguments amongst parents and overhearing less-than-encouraging remarks spewed from a dad’s lips to his son’s ears from the stands during a scrimmage. And of course, there were those few pre-game injuries that left “worry” all over me. But it wasn’t about me. It was about letting go and supporting my boy’s passion. Thankfully, the drama was quickly squelched when his three coaches gathered parents and players together and put forth a team “code-of-conduct” that had the distinct air of –if you don’t like it, you can leave– attached to it. This, for the most part, put the ka-bash on future parental outbursts. These men meant business and would stand for nothing less than 100% from everyone. Parents included.

I’m okay with accountability.

As a parent you try to teach your child to take responsibility, be fair, honest and work hard to achieve their goals. For the first two weeks of practice, my boy came home bruised and swollen, dirty and tired. He endured grueling 3-hour practices everyday during the month of August and three days a week from September until the end of November. He was expected to maintain a passing grade average and had to submit school reports to his coaches for review. The integrity of his coaches gave me a new-found appreciation for the game, overall. Along with game-play-strategies, life lessons were taught and there was an in-your-face demand on each player, to show up ready to give it their all, every time.

I am also okay with placing high expectations on kids who are capable.

Knights @ Marist College against White Plains. My boy is center #22.

The emphasis was on the team and while they absolutely protected their quarterback, they also hailed the guys that ran, blocked and threw for him. Maybe this isn’t news to you all but it sure was for me. The best part is that while I had my suspicions that I was liking what this sport was doing for my son’s overall character, the real evidence surfaced in December, when the football league gave him an award for maintaining a 92% or above, average during the season and later that month at his parent/teacher conference. Students participate in their conferences at his school and after his adviser acknowledged his ability to keep-up his schoolwork while playing soccer for the school and the town, as well as Pop Warner football, simultaneously, he asked my son what he felt football did for him this season. I was pretty blown away, not to mention proud when he came out with something that closely resembled this:

When I started to play football I wanted to be the one to get the touchdown but I realized that even if my part in a play is small, if I don’t do my best to execute it, it could effect the whole team and whether or not we win. If we all do our part, we all will benefit from it because we’re a team.

Coming from the boy who proclaimed he would be playing for the NFL long before he every wore his first pair of shoulder pads, I was impressed that the importance of being a team-player was one of the values he came away with. He got it.

He’s since changed his mind and no longer wants to be an NFL player but he will always be a superstar to me.

This year I’ll watch the game with a slightly different eye, one that sees beyond the price of a 30-second commercial spot or the half-time glitz and glamor. I will actually watch the game and the players and hope to see some of the determination and heart that I saw these young boys display week after week last fall, to where their efforts propelled them into the NFC Pop Warner Conference Championship. This year, I’ll look for strategy behind the play and know that it wasn’t achieved without hard work and pain, camaraderie and trust. There’s more to it, I’ve learned, than just running a ball from one end of the field to the other.

Whether you’re a Patriots or a Giants fan, sit back and relax!

Enjoy the game and may the best team win! Whomever that may be…..

What We’re Made Of

January 29, 2012 17 comments

The memory of the ice-skating shop I referenced in last week’s post and the brilliant recall of its name, The Skate Exchange, which was revealed to me in a conversation I had this week, stirred-up some childhood memories that will no doubt come in handy.

Tell me a story, mom.

Every night when I lay with her for a few minutes at bedtime, my ten-year old daughter still asks me to tell her a story. She’s not looking for Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks, she wants to hear about my childhood, like how we used to jump fences when we were running from Dobermans in the gravel yard and whose kiss was the best when I played Spin-The-Bottle in the 7th grade. It’s fascinating to her and very different to how and where she’s being raised. Nestled neatly in the suburbs, an hour-and-a-half outside of the big city, there are no sidewalks for her to walk to school on, no empty lots to take a shortcut through, no bicycle to ride to a friend’s house. She doesn’t hangout on the street corner where the local deli is or come home when the sun goes down. She gets driven everywhere.

Beacon Hall ~ The building I grew up in.

She has no idea what it’s like to live in a five-story apartment building, in the summer, on the 4th floor, with no elevator. I’m not sure she even knows what a dumb-waiter is or can imagine how we used it to send garbage from our apartment to the basement or pulley-up groceries and kids occasionally. Nor can she fathom the advantages of apartment-living, how great it can be for trick-or-treating and getting a game of kick-ball together, on the fly, with the gaggle of kids that resided within. Her entire class of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders combined don’t make a whole team. Woods with trails where deer live is her backyard. In-door pools and lakes are where she swims. She’s never seen a beach laden with tar that could only be found on the rooftop of an apartment building.

Tar Beach. It’s where we carried heavy, wet loads of wash to, two-flights-up because we had no dryer and because that’s where our and all the other tenants’ clotheslines were. It’s where you could go to escape from your crowded apartment and find solace for a while, maybe even meet up with a neighbor and chat a bit.

In the summer, the sweltering heat would leave a steamy haze over the roof’s flooring, partially melting the sticky-gooey-black glue in the uneven lines where the tar was laid extra thick to patch up cracks or small holes. If you were foolish enough to go up there barefoot, which we so often were, you’d quickly scorch the bottoms of your feet, leaving them blackened and raw, after a desperate attempt to find a shady spot somewhere across the rooftop to rest and cool your toes on. Sometimes we’d bring a towel and a bottle of Johnson’s baby-oil up with our load, choosing to fry for the hour it took for the clothes to dry. It was a fast but painful way of getting a “tan”, as we always ended up red instead of brown at that hour’s end. Those were the worst of burns.

Tar Beach was where we brought our lawn chairs to watch the fire works on the 4th of July. It was the temporary home to Secret Servicemen and government snipers when President Nixon’s motorcade drove down Main Street, right passed our building in 1972.

President Nixon's Visit to New Rochelle in 1972

And it was from our Tar Beach that a woman in her early 40s purposely plunged to her death, landing in the same asphalt parking lot behind our building where we played our kick-ball games. Her name was Virginia Coombs and her mom was the Bubble Gum Lady who lived on the 2nd floor. All you had to do was knock on her door and when she opened it, she’d hand you a piece of Bazooka bubble gum from the drawer of a little wooden table she had against the wall near her apartment door. No words needed to be exchanged, expect  “thank-you,” of course. She knew why we were knocking.

I didn’t know the Bubble Gum Lady had a daughter who’d been married.

I was eight or nine-years old when that happened. A few hours after her death, two men came and shoveled her remains into the bed of a red pick-up truck. I know this because I watched them do it from my bedroom window. I had to figure out how to process what I saw, myself because no one ever explained to me what happened to Virginia Coombs that day.

I chose to pray for her.

I still do, which is why I remember her name.

 Tar Beach. It was from there that if no one was home when we got home from school, my siblings and I would climb down the wrought-iron fire-escape to a 4th floor, bedroom window in order to get into our apartment when we forgot our key. I remember doing this and being petrified while doing it too. I’m afraid of heights. It’s only a miracle that none of us fell and perished, ourselves.

Maybe there really is something to the old saying, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

I think it’s the experiences of our childhood and how we process them that help define what we’re made of; the good, the not so good, the scary, the sad, the joyful. All these things contribute to who we are as adults. Our childhood helps build our character. It’s there, where we learn to use humor to protect ourselves, where we learn about compassion and empathy and most of all, love. Sometimes the purest kind of love can stem from that spin-the-bottle-kiss that you remember so fondly. The kind that lasts a lifetime.

My daughter will never have the same kinds of experiences I had. She’s not meant to.

She has her own.

But she loves to hear about mine and through them, some of them anyway, I hope she’ll get a glimpse of what helped me, make me, who I am.

Photo Credit #1 Beacon Hall

Photo Credit #2 Clothes Line

Photo Credit #3 Nixon in New Rochelle 1972

One With It!

January 22, 2012 6 comments

I’m not a skier, although one day, I intend to learn. It’s on that list I’ve started creating. The one containing all those things I used to be afraid of but now seem somewhat determined to master or at least try, like horse-back riding and riding a motorcycle.

Skiing is not a sport my parents were familiar with when I was growing up, let alone could afford. My dad however, was an excellent ice-skater. Each year he’d take us to a little shop in Larchmont, where we would trade in the previous year’s skates for “newer”, bigger-foot-sized ones and have our blades sharpened. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the sparks flying from the blade-sharpening machine that was operated by the elderly man wearing goggles. The shop was on our way to Playland in Rye, NY, where there’s an ice-skating rink that the New York Rangers hockey team used to practice at and where my Dad taught us how to skate. Despite my Dad’s not-so-warm-and-fuzzy demeanor, somehow he was able to convey encouragement when teaching me how to skate; somehow the message came through loud and clear: I can do it. I can do it and I did. Maybe it was just by example, as I clearly remember how aesthetic he appeared gliding along the ice the way he did; like he was connected to it; like he was one with it; like he owned it.

My kids ski. It’s part of the curriculum at the schools they attend and for at least five Fridays in a row each winter since age five, they ski. My kids ski and I don’t. But I tell them and text them the same thing each time they go since the first time they went:

 Be one with the mountain. One with the mountain! You can do it! Feel it. Own it. It’s yours!

It’s my mantra for them and it never occurred to me that they might actually “hear” me saying it. Probably in the same way it never occurred to my Dad that watching him coast so gracefully across the ice was so encouraging to me. It never dawned on me that is, until I found myself meeting up with my 10-year old skier in the ER last Friday night. For the first time since she started skiing, she took a bad fall while helping a friend and wrangled up her lower back muscles pretty badly when her butt smacked against the ice that was hiding beneath the soft, white powder. An X-ray needed to be taken, just to make sure.

 “It’s your fault!” she said as I entered the hospital room. “You didn’t tell me to be one with the mountain this morning.That’s why this happened!”

Really? Fudge.

There goes that “no instructions, no rule book” thing again when it comes to parenting. Any parent can attest to it, it’s a figure it out as you go along gig. “They” don’t come with manuals. You don’t always know what will impact their lives until perhaps it’s too late. And rest assured the one time you forget to do what they expect you to and something happens, it will be your fault!!

You try your best and hope for the best.

It’s never pleasant for a parent to be called onto to such a scene. But I’ve been down the ER road with my kids before, enough anyway to know it’s better to err on the side of caution than not. I took it in stride. And thankfully, nothing was fractured, this time.

#15 ~ That's my boy!

When I got called out onto to the same scene three days later however, I was not exactly “taking it on with a smile”. Once a year I can handle, twice in the span of three days; not so much. This time, it was my boy who had taken a knee in his abdomen during a fast paced, aggressive game of basketball at school. Internal bleeding or a damaged organ was the fear but thankfully once again, my child left for the most part, unscathed. Never a dull moment. That’s the one thing all parents can be certain of.

Maybe I should have told him to “be one with the ball, Noah, one with the ball!”

For the record then and so there’s no mistake about it and hopefully no more visits to the ER, this year at least, I’m saying it now loud and clear:

Be one with it, guys, whatever it is you’re trying to do! You can do it! Feel it. Own it. It’s yours! Be one with it!

Did I mention it was my Dad’s birthday today? Happy birthday to my not-so-warm-and-fuzzy, but you got the message across anyway, Dad.

It had an impact. Thanks.

Photo Credit: #1, #3, #4 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Photo Credit #2 Playland Ice Rink

Categories: Family, Life, Parenting

9 Is An Awkward Number

January 15, 2012 13 comments

I was elated when I signed the binder in August to unit #9 in the development I now live in.  Aside from the surreal-ness of the event itself, I’d never negotiated the price of a home with a Realtor before and frankly, all things considered, I was quite happy with what we were able to agree upon.

There was just one, okay maybe two snags….

I was trying not to think about it but my 10-year-old conscience couldn’t let it rest.

I love it mom. I really do but I don’t really like the number nine. It’s awkward, nine.  You know?

I know.

And there was the matter of the huge, electrical box that was smack-in-the-middle of the hallway downstairs. I guess I overlooked it in my excitement but it looked terrible.

The model didn’t have that.

You can put a picture over it,” the Realtor said with a tooth-sparkling smile and a twinkle in his eye.

Yes, I was elated that night and I couldn’t sleep.

No matter how much I tried to ignore it, that damned electrical box kept popping into my head and let’s face it, 9 is an awkward number. Well, it’s not my favorite anyway. It just didn’t feel right for us.

It was the model that grabbed us when we first saw it on one of our many apartment hunting, house-dwelling-seeking adventures last summer. No one was around but the door was open when we stopped by, so we let ourselves in to explore and it truly was, love at first sight. It also seemed like a pipe-dream, an impossibility. But somehow, it came about. It was the model that we loved. It was the model that we wanted. So the next morning I called the Realtor and told him I changed my mind. I would not be taking number 9 but I would take the model with a few changes. Done. Number 9 was not meant to be. Number 7 was and number 7 happens to be my favorite number.

Native Americans believe that upon birth an animal’s spirit enters into that person and becomes their spirit or totem animal. This is the animal that is with you and guides you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Both of my children and myself in fact, were taught the process of finding our totems from a Naturalist who taught many kids at their school. He also taught them how to track people and animals in the woods, build a shelter from twigs, branches and leaves and camouflage themselves for protection. Not bad things to know, considering we live in the woodsier part of our state.

The duty of your spirit animal is to keep you strong and wise as well as to help you excel in matters of attributes given to that animal.

My daughter’s spirit animal is the Doe.

A Deer is an animal of love, tenderness and swiftness. The deer is a messenger of serenity, can see between shadows and hear what isn’t being said. They are a power animal, a symbol of gentleness, unconditional love, kindness and innocence. The deer teaches us to use the power of gentleness to touch the hearts and minds of wounded beings who are in our lives.

                  This doesn’t surprise me.

Two years ago I took my daughter into one of those “dark” shops in a small town, Upstate USA, where they sell black velor capes and you can buy mixtures of healing powders and herbs. A place where you can purchase all kinds of crystals and where they burn incense. We went for our first hennas and when the woman took Hannah’s hand to make the drawing, she seemed a bit startled and paused. She looked at Hannah and asked her if her hand always tingled like that. Hannah seemed surprised the woman noticed and answered “yes”.

The woman looked at me, smiled and said, “She has healing hands.”

Also, not surprising.

So what do I make of this? Well, maybe it’s a coincidence that my favorite number is seven and that’s the number that sits on our front door now. Or maybe it’s a coincidence that my daughter’s spirit animal is a Doe and the street we now live on has Doe in its name. And maybe it’s even a coincidence that the first evening we were here together we saw an actual doe in our back yard from our living room window.

Maybe.

Or maybe what’s meant to be will be, there really is a master plan and even if we can’t find it, it finds us.

What do you think?


Photo Credit #1: Google Images Number 9

Photo Credit #2: Google Images Lucky Number 7

Photo Credit #3: Google Images Spirit Animal

Photo Credit #4: Google Images Healing Hands

*The Doe as a totem: Source ~ Ina Wolcott’s Shamanism

Categories: Culture, Family, Life, Love Tags:

Birthday Wishes

January 8, 2012 23 comments

My horoscope keeps telling me to go forth in the way I intend to be. It says with Jupiter in motion, I’m headed into the “luckiest” year in a decade, one that holds the promise of growth, stability and love. ~ Bring it on!

Even though I only blog once a week, the topic doesn’t always come easily or show itself readily. Sometimes it jumps out at me at the beginning of the week and by Friday, I’m in edit-mode. Other times, I’m at a loss. Lately, my weeks have been filled with events, expected and unexpected, and it hasn’t always been clear to me what to write about. When the topic isn’t clear, it often means there’s something tugging at my insides, gnawing at my thoughts, wanting to be recognized and released and for-whatever-reason, I ignore it until I find myself scrambling to put something together at the eleventh hour, a place I do not like to be but where I finally allow whatever it is to surface.

This week I felt stumped — again.

There is of course, the huge elephant in my room that I could write about. The senseless event that occurred at my new house, during the first week of my move that I can’t seem to find the meaning or message in. It’s so freakishly bizarre, that I can hardly process it. I can’t wrap my brain around it, let alone write about it —yet anyway. And, there are always those thoughts and feelings that linger in my mind that are too personal to reveal or express to the blogging world. Those are best kept private and close to my heart. I often struggle with not wanting to get too personal in my blog but needing to be true to whatever it is that I am feeling strongly about at the time.

When I finally sought advice from my ten-year-old editor, she told me to write about my birthday which was this week. She’s truly insightful although this seemed too simple. I rejected the idea until I sat down to see what words would flow.

My birthday.

She was right. I received so many warm, lovely wishes from old and new friends; people near and far who I often think about. I was surprised and touched by some. I heard from people I love and miss – a lot. I took a risk, spoke a truth and it was reciprocated in kind. It gave me pause and cause to think about my happiness, what I want, who and how I intend to be.

I had dinner with my family. We talked. We laughed. My kids came home and played Dance Central 2 on XBOX-KINECT. It was fun, a real treat for me to watch them dance, giggle and enjoy their time together.  It was the BEST gift I could ask for.

It was simple.

Life comes with so many complications, trying to keep things simple, is my resolution this year. It’s the theme that keeps replaying itself in my head. My birthday and keeping it simple is what’s been strongly on my mind this week, that which would not go away, bringing with it messages that tugged at my heart.

There’s something to be said for the attitude we maintain and the thoughts we allow to occupy our minds. It takes effort to stave off pessimism and not wallow in the comfort of one’s own sorrows, the could-have, would-have, should-haves, that can easily take root and grow in our current state of being– if we let them.

At this end of one year and beginning of another, I can’t help but reflect upon what is now and the possibilities that can be. I’ve come to realize that choosing to create my own happiness takes resolve, hard work and starts with keeping things simple. I’m staying away from the could have, would have, should haves and going forward the way I intend to be, leaving nothing out of my realm or reach, becoming closer to the person I used to be; bursting with color, energy and excitement about the possibilities that lay ahead of me.

Photo Credit #1: Capricorn Woman-Google Images

Photo Credit #2-4: Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithsmile.com

Categories: Family, Life, Love Tags: ,

Drinking Hot Chocolate Takes Skill

January 1, 2012 10 comments

Everybody has their limits.

After all the build up and anticipation, it’s hard to believe that another year of fancy-feasts and holiday-hoopla with friends and family, attending parties and opening presents have come and gone inside the span of just about two weeks. Throw moving from one house to another into the mix of merriment-making and you may find yourself like me, teetering on the fringe of insanity because even though I am truly 100% exhausted, like that crazy “Energizer Bunny” I seem to push myself to just keep “going and going” until my body refuses to go any further, rendering me motionless, forced to stop and (gasp!) relax. That’s exactly what put me in my PJs and drove me to my bed just shy of 6pm a few nights ago. I couldn’t go on for one-more-minute. With my daughter in tow, we set ourselves up to catch up on all of the Once Upon A Time TV-episodes from the new ABC series that we missed, by being away and being busy.

Just after the first episode, Hannah asked me for “hot chocolate”. Rarely do I indulge in drinking hot chocolate myself, let alone drinking it in my bed but since I had no intention or strength left for making dinner, I figured, it was the least I could do and did what any good mother in my weary position would have and said, “sure”. I put the TV on pause, dragged myself out of the comfort I had just settled into and made us each a cup, the only way I know how; piping hot and piled high with whipped cream.

Toward the end of the 2nd of 4 episodes, I began to feel a lot better, in a jittery-caffeinated sort of way and realized we had both sipped through the white mound of sweetness that lead to the pure-chocolate-heaven that filled our mugs.

“Pause it!” I said unexpectedly, and she did.

With a burst of sugar-ized spontaneity and false energy, I jumped off the bed and ran out of the room to retrieve the red-topped can of Reddi Wip from the fridge in the kitchen.

 “Mom, what are you doing?” she called from the bedroom.

Ignoring her, I made a mad-dash from the fridge, back to the bedroom and apparently, in my crazy, creamy, sugar-filled stupor, I forgot just how exhausted I really was. With can in hand, just as I rounded the corner from the kitchen to the hallway, my slippery, sock-covered feet hit the hardwood flooring at a speeding angle that sent me crashing into the wall and smashing my whole-self down, breaking the skin of my elbow and jamming my ankle awkwardly into the point where plaster meets wood. It was a ridiculous effort to break my fall without letting go of the chemical-laden can containing “REAL Cream” that I couldn’t seem to live without.

Success! The can was saved but my body ached as I lay there moaning for a minute, hoping there was no blood and that nothing was broken. Hannah poked her head out of the bedroom, barely holding back her laughter at the sight of me sprawled out on the floor holding the can up in the air.

“Mom, are you okay? What the heck are you doing?” she asked before bursting into uncontrollable laughter; the kind that makes you snort and sends liquid squirting out of  each of your nostrils if  you’ve just taken a sip of something, which she had.

In the throes of pain and hysterics, I feebly got myself back up, limped my way back into the bedroom and wordlessly poured clouds of dairy whipped topping back into our mugs until they were over-filled and the can sputtered, forcing out its last drop of “REAL Cream”. I resumed my position on the left side of the bed and with a great sigh, started licking my Reddi Wip. I was the power of example as Hannah proceeded to do the same and we sat, pleasantly making our way through another mountain of sweet, white fluff, once again, warming our bellies with chocolate goodness.

Silence ensued.

Three-quarters of the way into the third episode of Once Upon A Time, Hannah looked over at me with a huge smile on her face and said with confidence,

“Drinking hot chocolate takes a lot of skill, mom.”

Yes, it does, my dear. Yes-it-does.

I always try to be cognizant of moments like this, ones that end up meaning so much. Had I not been so exhausted that my body forced myself to stop, I’m not so sure we would have found that precious time to spend together. I wouldn’t have shared that hilarious laughter with my girl and I could tell it meant as much to her as it did to me.

It was the true magic of the season showing itself. I got it. I’m grateful.

And it was very simple.

This past year has been chock-full of complicated, unexpected occurrences and while many of the events of the days behind me are a bit of a blur now, the future, even with all it’s imperfection and uncertainty really does look a little brighter, a little clearer and feels a little calmer.

I don’t think I’ll be making any elaborate New Year’s resolutions this year. I think I might drink a little more hot chocolate than I usually do and run a little less in my socks on hardwood floors but mostly, I think I’ll just try my best to simply, keep it simple.

How about you?

May your year be filled with lots of peace, love and joy!

Photo Credit #1 Energizer Bunny

Photo Credit #2: Hot Chocolate

Photo Credit #3 & #4: Reddi Wip Google Images

Categories: Comfort, Family, Laughter, Life, Love Tags:
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