Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Better Late Than Never

May 15, 2011 10 comments

I was slightly preoccupied last week, what with having to break into my house and all.

I didn’t get a chance to really acknowledge Mother’s Day or the millions of moms out there that make their children feel as special as my mom still makes me feel, even at 46-years of age. Maybe it’s because she used to tell me that all the time when I was growing up.

“You’re special you know.”

I believed her too, ’cause well, she’s my mom and everything your mom tells you is true. It wasn’t until well into my adulthood that I learned she used to tell my brother and sister the same thing. I wasn’t upset. I was glad they grew up feeling the same way; special.

When I had my son twelve years ago, I was ill prepared. After all, what did I know about how to take care of a baby, let alone a boy? Enter, Nana. My mom only lives 20-minutes away but after Noah’s birth, she slept at my house for two weeks anyway. When she left, I cried, even though I knew I was going to see her the very next day. She had just retired from the bank. How lucky, for me! For the next two-and-a-half years, we went from Fishkill to Redhook and everywhere in-between, in search of the best places for lunch and the best playgrounds for my boy to explore in. Precious, happy times.

When Hannah was born, my mom was in the delivery room. They share a unique, unbreakable bond and have been partners in crime ever since. Nana is the first person Hannah calls when she’s sick.

“Can you come and watch me today?”

“Of course, love.”

is the reply, 99.9% of the time, no matter what she has planned that day.

Selfless. She never makes you feel like it’s a bother or an imposition. She operates from the purest point of unconditional love. A gift she gives freely, a quality I strive to emulate.

She’s an awesome babysitter for sure but truth be told, day or evening, the chances of you coming home to find her asleep and your child wide-awake, “shh-shing” you as you come through the door, are more than high.

“”How long has Nana been asleep for?”

is usually my first question.

Nana is famous for accidentally, “letting the cat out of the bag”, realizing it in the moment and immediately trying to take it back. For example, she once left a message on my answering machine that went something like this…..

“Hi love, I guess you’re not home. Okay, well, I’ll see you at the surprise party on Saturday. (pause) Oh, wait! I didn’t mean that! (pause) I don’t know what I’m talking about, there is no party. I don’t know when I’ll see you again. Bye. It’s mom.”

One of my favorite things about Nana is how much she loves to laugh. Seriously, my kids and I  purposefully try to make her laugh because once you get her going, it’s very contagious and really hard for her to stop. If you take her to a funny movie, be prepared for all eyes to be on you, when she literally doubles over in laughter. Take her to any other kind of movie and chances are, all eyes will still be on you when she starts snoring after she’s fallen asleep.

For a time, mom had a German Shepard named Schatzie who was abandoned on a highway, picked up by my brother and left at mom’s house for an extended “weekend”, that lasted several years. People often joked about how she must have given birth to Schatzie because she treated her like she was her fourth child. People also joked about how Schatzie used to “walk” my mom, rather than vice-versa. Schatzie was huge, carefully eye-ing anyone who approached my mom or came too close to her; often trapping me in my car while barking ferociously, when I’d come to visit.

They loved each other dearly.

Nana’s 74 now and while she’s adamant about NOT having a face book page, she does read my “block” faithfully, when she can get to it, that is. Even though she subscribes to it, for some reason, she can never “open” it from her computer. I finally told her,

“Mom, just google my name and it will come up.”

So, the other day she went to Google and typed in:  “google Karen Szczuka…” Guess what?  It came up.

I was able to visit my mom for a while on Mother’s Day and it occurred to me, as it often does, just what a blessing it is to have her around. I don’t take her for granted. I’m grateful. I love that my kids love her and I love that she loves them as much as she loves me. She makes them feel just as special. I know this to be true and I guess that’s because she’s so special.

She’s kind and thoughtful and she’s my mom.

She’s been a wonderful power of example in so many ways, I suppose it’s better late than never that I say,

“Thanks for being my mom, Mom! I love you.”

I hope you and the millions of moms out there who make their kids feel special, had a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Please, tell me something special about your mom.

The Mother of All Ironies

May 8, 2011 12 comments

There’s no doubt life is hard and riddled with uncertainty and while I really do try to “take the world on with a smile”, sometimes it takes everything I’ve got.

I live at the beginning of a cul-de-sac, the first of nine homes that make a horseshoe. A few weeks ago my neighbor who lives two houses down on the left came to our door and asked me to step outside for a private conversation. She recently discovered that someone had been trying to break into her house — again. She also informed me that the alarm went off in the home of the family that lives directly across from her the same week. The police responded but found nothing.

Honestly, I can’t say I was surprised. I’ve had a feeling for a while now that something was weird in the neighborhood–again.

My neighbor was visibly upset when delivering this news. Who wouldn’t be? It’s unsettling to say the least, especially, if it’s happened before. If you’ve read my posts: My Edward, Life’s Terms – Not Mine or Everything Must Go, Including Me!, you know that my home was burglarized a year ago this past winter at least eight times that we know of.

She too was repeatedly burglarized during that time and sandwiched in-between our two homes, lives the 21-year old perpetrator.

Similar to the over $10,500 worth of items taken from my house, nearly $13,000 worth of jewelry and cash went missing from her house. Unfortunately, the two detectives assigned to her case were unable to connect the dots to my case and closed hers. Interestingly enough, these are the same two detectives that were convinced my then newly turned 11-year old son was the culprit.

I at least, receive monthly restitution checks from this bad boy living next door. And, in addition to the 6-month house arrest sentence he served (silly really) there is also an order of protection against him for each member of my family, for 5 years. Not that this is remotely comforting, the boy violates this order every day, simply by living next door. Indeed, we share grass.

The story of our burglaries from start to capture and arrest is undoubtedly a fascinating one that I hope to put on paper one day but for now, I’m simply mind–boggled by the twisted sense of humor the universe seems to have and its reluctance to let me, let this craziness go!

Tell me, what do you think the universe is trying to say when I come home with my children after a late dinner out, only to find that my house key, when inserted into the front door lock, goes round and round in an endless loop, prohibiting our entry? This being the new lock we had installed just over a year ago, after break-in number five and the first sign of a violent act in our home.

Seriously, how many times has your dead-bolt failed and what are the chances of something like this, happening to us?

Unfortunately, it was 10:00 pm on a Saturday night and although the locksmith has a 24-hour emergency number, that “mailbox” was full.

The good news is that for the most part, our house is now like Fort Knox. The bad news is that after an hour of brainstorming, trying a variety of things including the unsuccessful removal of a window air-conditioner and a desperate plea from my 10-year old daughter……

“Mom, please, it’s cold out, can’t we knock on their door and ask BBQ to help us?”

…we were literally forced to use one of the same methods my neighbor used, to break into our house.

BBQ is the pet name my kids and I have affectionately given the convicted felon living next door. The first B stands for BAD the second B is the first letter of his first name and the Q is the first letter of his last name, hence, B-B-Q. It’s an attempt to interject levity into an otherwise somber situation. It’s similar to our use of the endearing term we have for the police, which is “po- po, as in,

“Hannah, the “po-po are here to see you again.”

(See 1-9-1-4 for clarification of that reference.)

Anyway, I’ve purposefully tried to defuse the fear my kids have had of BBQ with humor and emphasize instead, just how pathetic he was to steal such things as tooth-fairy, birthday and Halloween money from children. It’s a coping skill. My kids get it. I’m sorry that they have to.

Clearly by the way, BBQ had to have heard us (through his open windows) last Saturday night, walking around our house in the dark, trying to break-in.

Is this not bizarre? Truly, for me, this was the mother of all ironies.

We broke in, by cutting the screen door to the porch with the house key that was no longer of use to us. We slipped a few fingers through the tear and unhinged the latch. Once inside the porch, we removed a screen to an unlocked window. I was elected and with the help of my two kids, climbed through.

It’s befitting that on Mother’s Day I would express how proud I am of the way my kids handled themselves; without panicking and working together to come up with a solution. They’re thinkers and have learned how to appreciate the power of humor in a tight spot. My daughter giggled her way through taking pictures, while my son took great delight in pushing my leg through the window.

For us, the situation was surreal. We laughed our hearts out.

Don’t get me wrong, even though we laughed, smiling about this really is difficult and it’s taking everything I’ve got, NOT to rationalize why I’d like to see the boy next door receive a good old fashioned “butt-kick’n”.

But I won’t go there, here.

Back to the universe. Within a three-week time period, we received news of new robbery attempts, our new dead-bolt went, non-functional and we were forced to break-into our own home.

For me, the message is clear:  It’s time to leave.

And to that end, the wheels (and there are many of them) are all in motion. Slow motion perhaps but in motion none the less. In the meantime, I am grateful for how resilient my children continue to be while the universe continues to play with uncertainty.

To all the other grateful and proud moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

Everything Must Go – Including Me!

April 10, 2011 5 comments

“The only thing constant in life is change.”

François de la Roche Foucauld

This June, I will have lived at the same address for 19 years. It’s where my kids were born, learned to swim, catch a ball and ride a bike. It’s where I greeted trick-or-treaters and decorated for the holidays, where I chose to put my career aside to become a stay-at-home mom; planning day trips, hosting play-dates, pool parties and birthdays. There are no regrets. I wouldn’t have had it any other way for my kids and while many things have changed over the past 19 years, my address remained a constant.

Now, that’s about to change.

In preparation for this event, my daughter and I are having a MEGA lawn sale. For weeks we’ve been gathering items to be sold and we’re selling, EVERYTHING! From the attic to the basement, she and I have been cleaning house. We’ve gone through every closet, including the ones we used to hide in, from Nana, when she’d come to visit during the toddler years. We went through boxes, like those filled with plastic play-food my kids served in the restaurants they’d “open” on a weekly basis. We emptied drawers that housed costumes, like the one this “craft-challenged” mom fashioned out of a black pillow case by cutting holes in it for arms and eyes and then just putting it over my two-year old son’s head. (Who makes a ghost costume out of a black pillowcase??) He LOVED it and wore it all-year-long.

We cleared shelves full of games we played so often, so long ago. The ones they are too big for now. We even found the Spy-Alarm my son put on his bedroom door a few years back. Meant to be a deterrent, to keep his little sister out, a blaring alarm would sound if anyone (usually me) tried to enter his room without knowing the code. Of course, she figured out the code, every single time. He finally gave up and took it off. We’ve washed, sorted, bagged and tagged everything from Cinderella, Belle and Snow White dress up outfits, to books, baskets, Barbies and blankets. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to say “hello” again to so many treasures that have been resting in the dark for such a long time.

A heartwarming experience on several levels, working with my daughter has been a real treat. She’s been a driving force behind this endeavor and has been pretty amazing about giving up much of what she’s amassed over the past 10-years, even willing to say “good-bye” to Pooh.

“I don’t really play with him anymore. Maybe some other kid will. You know mom?”

I’m taking as little as possible with me. I don’t want to bring things from this house into my new home. Much of the sentimental value attached to a lot of our stuff was robbed a year ago, along with the over $10,500 worth of cash, jewelry and small electronics that walked out the door or should I say, climbed out the window, that winter. That whole occurrence plays a large role in why this house doesn’t really feel like a home anymore — to me anyway. And it’s not really what was taken, as much as what was left behind, that brought me, to this point of needing to go.

It was the constant discovery of yet another missing something that left behind feelings of anxiousness and wonder. It was the months of worry leaving behind so many sleepless nights. It was knowing that a “stranger” was watching our “comings and goings”, mine in particular and taking advantage of the “goings” by taking his time to root through our precious closets, boxes, drawers and shelves, our bedrooms and private things and taking our things, that left behind feelings of anger, fear and helplessness. It was the repeated invasion of privacy, more than eight times in four months, that ultimately left no love-loss between this house and me. Much as I tried, I just couldn’t continue to make it a home anymore. After a while, I didn’t want to.

In her little heart of hearts, I believe my daughter is as eager to leave as I am. She gets it. She always has.

A home should be a sanctuary, a haven, a warm peaceful retreat from life’s daily stresses. Honestly, it could be in a cardboard box, as long as it’s a happy place to be. A home should be and feel safe. When it doesn’t, it’s time to go.

I’m ready to go and to let go, eager to get on with this next adventure and continue life’s journey. And although I may not be taking many things with me, I will be taking all of those treasured memories that resurfaced while going from the attic to the basement. Those, I will keep forever in my heart.

Everything else, must go! Including me.

(And Edward of course. He goes where-ever I go.)

Tell me, where are life’s changes taking you?

I’m A “Bet-Nee” Wanna-Bee

February 13, 2011 1 comment

A friend of mine is writing a book. It is a labor of love that she has been mulling over in her head now for the better part of 10-years. It also happens to be a fascinating story that is very near and dear to our hearts. She’s finally at a point in her life, where she has the time to focus and can sit down and write. A couple of weeks ago she asked me to go to Pearl River with her to interview a woman I know for her book.

At just over four feet tall and weighing in at about 105 lbs. Betty, is an absolute powerhouse. Her hair is short and a soft golden, auburn color. Her eyes are a sparkling blue. Her smile is slight but constant. At lunch, Betty is all go; non-stop chatter, breaking her beat only long enough to take a sip of her Pinot Grigio with ice. It takes her one-hour to drink one glass of wine and you can count on her drinking at least two, probably three. At 82, Betty is single. She likes her coffee “dark like her men” and is looking for “a rich man, with a bad cough and one foot in the grave.” I sat across from Betty, studying her, marveling at her quick wit and sharp memory.

She talked about her childhood and the various jobs she held at the Industrial Home (orphanage) that she grew up in, during the 1930s, in Ireland. Catholic nuns ran these homes with little love and no money and while thousands of girls, ages five and older were accepted into them, Betty’s case was unique. She was the only infant to be admitted into her “home”.

“I was the pet you know. They (the nuns) called me Bet-Nee.” She told us proudly. “The other girls knew I was the pet so when they wanted something, like to wear long socks or play in the field, they would send me up to ask for it.”

After 3 1/2 hours of being mesmerized by Betty, I finally asked for the check. Upon its arrival and without hesitation, Betty grabbed it from the waiter. Slightly shocked, I watched in awe as my friend, who was sitting next to Betty, tried to wrestle the paper out of the tiny woman’s, tiny hand, unsuccessfully. (“She’s really strong!” my friend later told me.) Betty did not give up the check. My friend and I are a bit old school, and there is no way we would let an 82-year old woman pay for lunch so before she could get to her wallet, I handed the waiter my credit card along with a “look” that required no verbal explanation. He was off and Betty was pissed.

She admonished me, profusely.

I have no desire to upset an 82-year-old woman, so when she insisted we come back to her house for a minute before heading home, there was no back talk. We obliged. Once inside, she took us into a spare room and showed us a beautiful portrait of her parents that she has hanging on the wall. Her mother died shortly after she was born. Her father was too poor to care for her and with the help of his sister, brought Betty and her sister to the Industrial Home. After a few minutes of chatting, Betty disappeared into the hallway. A moment later she popped back into the bedroom carrying a short, pale blue, wool, winter coat.

“Here.” she said gently and handed me the coat, “I never wear it. It should fit you.”

I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. Puzzled, I looked deep into Betty’s sparkling blue eyes for clarity and in that instant, she gave me, a “look”  that required no verbal explanation. I was humbled.

I took the coat from Betty and thanked her, profusely.

My lesson was learned. Old school or not, I would not disrespect this gesture. I would not say “no” to Betty twice in one day or perhaps, ever again.

In short, Betty’s story about growing up in the Industrial Home was indeed a heartbreaking one to hear but she is not broken and there is no bitterness in her words. “We did the best we could with what we had.” she said. Her attitude is remarkable and so is she. And I can only hope and pray to be like her, one day.

So yeah, I’m a Bet-Nee Wanna-Bee.

Hello, Mother Ship? Please, Come Back! Pick Up Your Alien Child And Return My Son!

February 6, 2011 5 comments

I have a boy. He’s twelve. I don’t write about him much or post too many pics of him because a) he does not want me to and b) I suspect the boy living in my house right now, is not really my son. My angel boy I believe, was abducted by the Mother Ship and an alien child has been left here in his place.

It became apparent about a year ago when I began to notice this strange being emerge from my little boy’s body. Not quite the butterfly blossoming from the cocoon process, more like it’s reversal. The first real hint I had that something was amiss was when I started to detect a rather foul odor coming from my son’s room.

What in God’s name could that be? I thought.

Not even dirty, sweaty socks could smell that bad and that smell, certainly couldn’t be coming from a human child! The next thing I knew, I was buying Axe’s Phoenix scent deodorant for an 11-year old! Who knew they put cologne in deodorant these days? OUT, is your basic Speed Stick. Then came the request for “boxers”. Boxers!? What was wrong with the super-hero briefs he’d been wearing all these years? Shortly after that, came the hair and I’m not talking about the hair on his head either. Honestly! I don’t think there is a single part of this alien child’s body that doesn’t have hair on it!

Excuse me, but I would like my baby’s smooth, silky, velvet-like skin back! Clearly, this hair ball sleeping in my boy’s bed is an impostor!

The alien child also comes with an attitude and has a frog stuck in his throat! He barely speaks English and when he does, it’s the same two words mumbled over and over again, “I dunno – I dunno”, regardless of the question being asked. Otherwise, I’m lucky if I get a grunt or a nod.

And another thing, I liked it quite better when my boy looked up to me. Literally. Not vice-versa. In the past 12-months this imposter has shot up nearly eight inches and grew a hearty set of abs! In clothing, he went from a size 14 boys to a men’s small! How is that possible? He’s twelve! Perhaps it has something to do with the amount of food he consumes. Six tacos in one sitting! Enough said.

“Hello, Mother Ship? Please, come back!

Pick up your alien child and return my angel boy!”

Sigh. Nothing has prepared me for this shocking occurrence. I thought that when it happened, it would be a gradual, peaceful thing. I thought I’d have more time to adjust and accept. I don’t even think there is a course I could take that could teach me what I need to know right now. I suppose there are books but quite frankly, after reading Alfie Kohen’s Unconditional Parenting, a few years ago, I was left rather traumatized. EVERYTHING he said NOT to do, I had been doing for 10 years. Let’s face it, there’s no undoing that kind of damage!

My Angel Boy

Thankfully, the eternal optimist in me has hope that one day I will see my angel boy again or at least an older variation of the one I miss so much. I have faith that the foundation he was reared upon will help him find his way back, when he’s ready, in-tact and unharmed from this awkward growth period. In the meantime, I realize that even the alien child sleeping in my son’s bed now, needs a mom to care for him, too. So, I will do my best to be patient with his sometimes odd and infuriating ways. And I will try to love him even when I feel like, well, strangling him, in the hopes that somewhere out there, there’s an alien mom on a Mother Ship doing the same for my angel boy.

Tell me, has your angel boy also been abducted by the Mother Ship?


Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names…Can Break My Heart!

January 30, 2011 15 comments

“You know Mom, he’s lucky I didn’t squish him like a bug!”

That’s what my 9-year-old daughter came home saying the other day after spending an afternoon at a birthday party. The “he” who is lucky “she”, didn’t, squish him like a bug, is a 10-year old classmate who was also at the party. “He” is her pal, her chum, her friend. He is her partner at school when pairing needs to be done. He is also the boy who tried to hold her hand when the lights went out in a Star Lab dome, but that’s not why she wants to pummel him.

There are some things you just never forget: getting an award, your first sleep-over, punching a fella in the mouth for asking you to marry him (in first grade!), the soft, warm lips of a shy boy’s sweet and gentle kiss during a game of spin-the-bottle and of course, the first time someone embarrasses you in front of a group of friends by calling you a “name“. For me, it was buoy. And in 4th grade, I didn’t have a clue. So in a naive and unsuspecting way, I asked the boy who had just referred to me as a “buoy”, what that was. “You know,” he said, “it’s that round thing that bounces up and down, bobbing in the water, a buoy!” That was followed by what seemed to me, to be a roar of group laughter. Painful. I forced a smile and walked away. I’m sure I could have flattened him but my heart had sunk to my knees and I was too hurt to react. Sadly, I never forgot that feeling.

Like her mom, my girl is made of hardy stock. She is strong, confident and independent. She’s out-going and adventurous. She loves to laugh. Also like her mom however, she happens to be very sensitive.

“He called me fat in front of all my friends at the party” she said. “He embarrassed me. We were laughing about who would make the best Pińata and he said, ‘Hannah would, cause she’s fat!’

My heart immediately sank and broke, for her.

“He’s lucky I didn’t squish him like a bug! And you know I could.” were the next words out of her mouth.

She’s right. She could.

“Well then,” I said, “maybe next time, you should.”

Okay, maybe that was wrong.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names…..

Honestly, I would have preferred he threw the stone. That wound heals faster.

We spent a long time that evening discussing potential reasons why her friend might have said that about her. Insecurity. Bravado. Maybe he was trying to look “cool” in front of the other boys. Perhaps he didn’t mean it and it was just a poor choice of words. Most likely, he like, likes her. No matter how much we dissected it though, the result was always the same. She could get past the word. She knows she’s bigger and taller than the other kids in her class. She accepts that her body is changing, maturing. It’s the betrayal she is having a hard time reconciling with. He’s her friend.

It was after midnight when she came into my bedroom and crawled into bed with me that night. She snuggled up close and whispered, “Mommy, why did he do that? I thought he was my friend?” Cue the breaking heart again. She slept with me for the first time in years. And it was a big wake-up call to me as a parent and an adult, just how omnipotent words can be. Life is hard enough without us hurting each other with the things we say. And I’m reminded of how critical it is for me to set the example, practice kindness, show compassion and be forgiving.

Words may not be able to break a bone but they sure can break a heart. The flip-side of that is to know that words also have the great power to fill a heart! So in the end, my advice to Hannah was to have, an open heart.

We are after all, only human. We all make mistakes and good friendships are worth keeping. So, when the boy came to school the next day and said, “Hey, I was only kidding. I didn’t mean it that way. I can’t believe you thought I was serious!” That was all she needed to hear to buddy-up again and put it behind her.

Besides, she told him that if he EVER does that to her again, she is going to “SQUISH him– like a bug!”

Photo credit:  Squashed Bug, Broken Heart

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