Tag Archives: motherhood

It’s the Little Things

The last couple of days have been filled with little things that make me happy.  Just going home to Connecticut means visiting with aunts, cousins and a cantankerous 95-year-old grandmother that would stop speaking to me if I photographed her at this stage in her life.

It also includes a mandatory visit to the grocery store of my childhood, which happens to be the coolest place on the planet to buy food.  I get a kick out of watching my kids make a beeline for their favorite items in a store that’s enthralled me from the first time I watched the milk go into the half gallon carton we’d later bring home.

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We later enjoyed the comfortable hospitality of the aunt-in-law’s beautiful Brooklyn brownstone.  That was actually not a little thing.  Having a relative with the space to put us all up saved the expense of hotel for four people. Yay!

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Come Thursday morning, we were back evaluating colleges in weather that teased us with threats of rain that thankfully never came.  Cloudy-turned-to-sunny is another little thing that makes me happy.

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I had the presence of mind to save my arthritic knees for pounding the pavement farther down the highway in Philadelphia and simply watched my boy wander around the Redmen’s Queens campus from the top of a very large stairway.

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After fighting the insanity of New Jersey Turnpike traffic, we arrived fifteen minutes late for the last tour of our trip.  But we managed to catch up with the groups just as they were leaving the auditorium and beginning the walk around the campus.  Perfect timing – a little thing that often feels huge.

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Another traffic battle through Philly’s rush hour brought us home to a water heater hose repair and more than an hour of separating preservable photos from the ones that had to be discarded.  The upside, of course, was a visit with old pictures and warm memories.

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Bottom line at the end of a whirlwind trip: it’s the little things that make for life’s big days!

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Leaking & Looking

The day started with the hot water heater literally showering boxes of photos in the basement, with a profoundly poor-timed leak.  The four of us were on our way out the door for Aaron’s college visits but delayed the departure to spread dozens of pre-digital memories out on the family room floor.  Here’s hoping the pictures dry well enough to be worth keeping.

Rather than be bogged down with depression over drenched photographs, I spent the day taking dozens more of a child who grew much too fast and is a measly year away from moving on.   He’s still looking for where he’s going next, and we were along for the ride.  Actually, we were the ride.

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Keeping Up & Staying Cool

Not much to say tonight.  Just feeling happy, joyous, free… and exhausted.

Kung fu this week has been high-flying, painful, satisfying and fun.  Keeping up with Siheng Brandon is an exercise in futility for my old bones, but it’s awfully fun to watch.

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Equally sweat producing was the beginning of the tours of college campuses that being the mother of an incoming senior brings.  As luck would have it, it was 100 in the shade as we pounded the pavement of Terp territory.  Here’s hoping next week in my beloved New England and New York will be cooler!

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It Talks, We Construe

Thursday afternoon, I’m anxious.  Then, he’s home.   He gets off the plane taller, more philosophical, more fluent in Spanish…

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and psyched to go to kung fu.

Friday afternoon, I’m frazzled.  I’m going to multiple stores for a slew of necessary shopping and a medical emergency.  Then, it’s time to go to work.  It’s the moment I’ve been waiting on since mid-April: the return to teaching.

Friday night, I’m dejected.  There’s only one sign-up for the Friday class and the 7-year-old is a no show.  I tell Aaron about the class that wasn’t when he gets home from work and ask absentmindedly while climbing the stairs, “You think the universe is trying to tell me something?”

“I think the universe is just speaking,” answers the president of the philosophy club.  “It just talks and we construe things however we want.”

“Well said.  I’m going to have to steal that.”

Long day, disappointing night, and one thought remains: I’m so glad he’s home.


Rituals and the Rolling Stones

“Hola, Mommy!  Como – How are you?”

It was like manna from heaven, the sound of my boy’s voice, replete with a Spanish accent and brimming with a level of excitement I hadn’t heard in him in a long time.  There was no need for me to ask if he was enjoying himself at his Spanish immersion program.  It was clear.  If he was bothered by four days of mandatory silence with the outside world, it certainly didn’t show.

I put him on speaker phone and all of the females of the family peppered him with information and questions.  He answered rapidly, with only thirty minutes total to talk to us, his father and the girl he started dating before leaving for a month, but I could see the smile on his face through the phone, nevertheless.

He has the same smile today as the one he was born with.  It’s still there, though it’s been studded with teeth now for quite some time.  Occasionally,  a certain tilt of his head coupled with the mischievous rise of a corner of his mouth brings his infant self flying back into view.

I listened to him tell us with giddy giggles  about his ritual of racing across campus at dawn to get thirty minutes of kung fu training in before his regimented day begins, and I thought, for perhaps the tenth time this month, where have all the years gone?  Wasn’t it just a few years ago we had our own morning ritual of dancing outside his crib to the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction?”

Nope.  Not even close.  It was almost a lifetime ago.  His lifetime.

I’m going to need a bit more of mine to get over that.  Sigh…

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Delicious Irony

I had a tournament yesterday.  It meant so little to me that I neglected to mention it beforehand on this blog, where I subject readers to all things kung fu in my life.  The obvious question is why it meant little to me.  The obvious answer is that the whole competition thing has become old hat.  That’s not it.  In fact, the DC tournament’s “seniors” division is actually 36 years old and up.  That puts me up against several more competitors than when the division is 44 or 45 and up!  The challenge is too healthy to be boring.

I started learning White Eyebrow at the beginning of February, and aside from time spent in June correcting the walk (which I was only told needed correcting the same day I left for Florida with Ava), I’ve taken to the form pretty quickly and could easily have learned the whole thing by now, were that Sifu’s inclination.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t do White Eyebrow at the D.C. tournament.  When I registered for it, I expected to know the whole thing by the time the day arrived.  That disappointment was a big reason the tournament felt like a chore, as I stretched out for my events, and felt even more like something for which I should have just forfeited the entry fee after I messed up the end of Lian Huan Tui.

Then, the God of my understanding decided to whip out the fantastic sense of humor that makes so many ironies just delicious.  At this tournament in which I competed merely not to have wasted the money, I scored a personal best with long staff that I can’t possibly beat in the future.  I should now retire the form from competition, having seen not one but two 9.9s out of a panel of three judges.  The third judge scored me at 9.7.

Frankly, I think they were ridiculously generous.  Though it felt overall like it was my best performance of the form, I was conscious of not having the proper grip on the staff when I began the spins, which made the spinning slower than it should have been.  Obviously, the judges didn’t care.

So I guess we can never know what’s in store for us, despite what we may expect, and even if in a low mood.  Just showing up can sometimes do the trick.

The only thing to dampen the moment was the absence of my son and fellow kung fu fanatic, who had taken off that morning for a month of Spanish immersion at a college in Vermont.  That, too, dampened my competitive fire, as I knew he wanted to compete as well but had other obligations.

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Congratulations to my daughter for electing to compete in the more difficult advanced division, while allowed to compete with the intermediates.  She took home third and second place medals – and a great deal of personal and parental pride.

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And thanks to her father (bushy-haired guy staring at her in upper right hand corner) for coming out to support her – and having the presence of mind to capture my personal best on his phone!


Cookies and Curses

It finally happened.  My family and my clothes arrived at a destination on time, but my long staff did not.  It makes sense that it would happen in Orlando.  As good at their game as Southwest is, they still have no control over how long it takes TSA to inspect a plethora of oversized baggage coming into one of the tourist meccas of the country.

I’m deducing that that’s why my staff didn’t come in on my flight.  But it also didn’t come in on the next flight from Baltimore.  I know because I was still in the airport when the next flight arrived.  I was told to get out of line at the lost baggage office and go look for it in the next drop of Baltimore luggage.  So I had to spend another half hour in the airport when it didn’t come on the second flight, and I still needed to report it.

The night felt ungodly at times.  It included: landing in a thunderstorm with my stomach in my throat; temporarily losing my beloved staff (it arrived this morning); experiencing one of the longest car rental processes ever; having the GPS on my phone insist that my motel was thirty-two minutes away when I knew it should be less than ten; having the front desk man be nowhere near the office and having to track him down by website and phone in order to check in; and, finally, having a cut-rate bar as the only open source of food at midnight that didn’t come in a cellophane bag.

What saved the night and my sanity was an adolescent daughter who’s as impatient and demanding as I am – only she doesn’t have the necessary filter we adults all know we’re supposed to act like we have.  At one point in the airport, after the second flight didn’t deliver my staff, she looked at my dejected face and just silently reached out and bear hugged me.  I thanked her and told her she was being great, even though I knew she was hungry.  With a grin and in a why-are-you-surprised tone of voice, she said, “That’s because you gave me cookies.”  Bringing cookies for the flight may have been my smartest decision in a long time.

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Later in the rental car, sitting in darkness by the side of a highway ramp trying to figure out what was wrong with my GPS, the hungry girl I would have expected to finally be flipping out through no fault of her own just looked out the window and said: “It’s like we’re cursed or something.”  Her delivery was priceless.  I had to laugh.  And with tension relieved by laughter, I cleared out the address, re-entered it for the third time, and for reasons only God understands, it finally gave me a route that was seven minutes away, not thirty-two.

It was remarkable.  I remembered the cookies, but she remembered that sometimes I need her, too – to do the best she can not to add to a problem.  She remembered, and she came through.  What a blessing on a cursed night of travel.


The Now

Next week I take my soon-to-be-teenage daughter for a week-long program at a Florida university that will hopefully feed her love of science and technology.  At the very least, it should make use of her aptitude for the two.  It could be the beginning of an ongoing relationship with a college that has multiple summer programs for middle and high school students who may be a good fit to eventually attend the university.  But the closer we get to departure, the more my mind wanders away from the matter at hand.

This will be my second trip to Florida this year; the first was for the kung fu tournament in Fort Lauderdale back in February that I celebrated at length in this past post.  It will also be the second since the trip to clean out my mother’s closet back in November of 2007, four months after she died.

We will be about twenty-five minutes from her old house, in a city where I spent a fair amount of time with mother before my daughter was born.  The last time the whole family was there together, my girl was barely four years old.  For her, this trip is mostly about the now.  For me, it may be as much about memories as anything else.

I’ve entertained doing my best to stay in the now by having a good time with my girl when camp lets out for the day and auditing a local kung fu class while she’s occupied in the lab.  But a good time with her would have to include trips to the beaches and piers she remembers almost as well as I do.  It will require a little frolic in the past.  And frankly, I’m a bit scared.

I’d rather not be reduced to a puddle by nostalgia.  That would be incompatible with the well-honed image and attitude of rock-solid Mama Bear that my daughter sees in me – as I saw in my mother.  Mom lost hers only days before the coma.  I’ll be grateful to have mine hold up through the week.


All Right With Limbo

For better or for worse, it seems I don’t have as much to say these days.  I’ve inadvertently taken to posting every other day for about a week now, and I have conflicting feelings about it.  I’m busy giving time and attention to other projects, like further indulging the baker in me, and enjoying it. I’m also spending some non-kung fu time screaming at the television as the latest overpaid pitcher gives away the game with one strike left in the inning.  (Pick a team, and it seems to apply.)  But the overachieving student I always was equates not posting with ignoring homework, and that’s just not something I did very often.  So it feels strange.

Perhaps the exact nature of my blogging state is that I’m locked in limbo – and thus lacking the source material that once came in daily like the tide.  I’m waiting to teach again, waiting to learn more of the new form, waiting for the next competition.  Waiting.

But here’s the thing: there’s an upside to waiting that this lifelong monument to impatience finds pleasantly surprising.  In between training, spinning myself dizzy, mother duties with the adolescents and – oh yeah – working the job that pays the bills, there’s more time for chats in the kitchen with my boy and planning a summer camp week with my girl…

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and noticing more life on the streets in a neighborhood I spend as much time passing through as actually living in.

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There’s something to be said for waiting.  But only when I take the time to do it right.

And only when it doesn’t last too long. 🙂


Not for Anything

In the fall of 2000, right around the time then-Governor Bush’s drinking history became the October surprise of the presidential campaign, my three-year-old boy was earning the nickname “the littlest techie.”  I was one of the senior producers for an entertainment company that was starting a news division, and shortly after the job began it came with the unexpected twist of requiring that I commute back and forth from DC to NYC for several months.  They let me bring my son to New York and into the studio with me for part of that time, after I tore into an underling over a minor mistake and apologized with the tag line, “I miss my son!”  That was the first business trip of motherhood for me.

While it was a nightmare in many ways, it also enabled me to live well in Manhattan – a place I’d always wanted to live, having grown up right over the state line in Connecticut – on someone else’s dime.  It’s certainly been true since then that all work travel comes with similar fringe benefits.  Still, as time moves on and the children need me less, these trips remain hard to make – and I couldn’t be more grateful for the difficulty.

For nine years now, the four of us have engaged in martial arts training as a unit. There’s never been a time when just the children attended or just the parents.  One of the four has taken leave to either physically repair or mentally regroup, but we have always returned to our place in the family ritual.

Kung fu is at the center of our life routine.  It is the thing all four of us plan around.  It is the reason we’ve spent an enormous amount of time together, been present to watch each other grow and change, hurt and celebrate.  There might have been another activity to bind us, but I can’t imagine what it would have been.  I share love of baseball and football with my daughter, love of fine dining with my son, love of all three with my partner.  But we couldn’t afford to do any of those things outside the home three to four times a week, and at least one family member would probably want to sit out.  Martial arts was the activity we wanted to do that we could do, and it’s helped maintain an amazing relationship that I wouldn’t exchange for anything.

Tomorrow I leave on a business trip that includes a free evening in Beverly Hills to do as I please, and I’d rather stay home with my family.  I’m sure that’s crazy to some.  It feels awfully lucky to me.


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First of Many

My daughter always calls me on the way home from Sunday visits with her father. These days, I’m often still cleaning up from training at the gym or just starting the evening’s dinner when she calls. In that event, she leaves a voicemail telling me that she had a good day; she’s tired; she’s only a little bit hungry; she loves me; and she hopes I like her message. That’s almost verbatim. Her Sunday call is a perfect example of the tendency toward repetition and habit that people on the spectrum are known for. But this Sunday’s call was different.

In this call she told me how her father’s decision to play Dungeons & Dragons with his younger son and our eldest (who joins in by Skype before leaving for work) prevents her from really spending time with him. It was obvious information that I was previously aware of, but I’d never heard her express it with the terms and tone she chose that day. She spoke with analysis, instead of complaint, and sadness, instead of irritation. She sounded as if she’d turned the first of many corners onto a higher level of maturity. She sounded so markedly older, I saved the message.

I thought about us girls being together in Pittsburgh just one day earlier, how young she’d seemed waiting impatiently for her event to be called, and how proud and confident she was after scoring so well. It seems a stretch that the one and a half minute it took to perform long staff in public for the first time would add some maturity to her. But who knows? Earning a black sash definitely changed my brain chemistry. Maybe her kung fu milestones are changing hers.


Journalist, Sijeh, Baker, Mom

The title of this post most succinctly describes who I am, in no order of experience and certainly not in order of importance. Still, they are me. As my children approach their last years in senior and junior high school, I find myself thinking often about these descriptors, wondering if the newer additions to the list can ever take center stage.

Journalist and mom are the two things I wanted to be from as far back as I can remember. I got my first paycheck for the former a year out of college and became a mother five years into my career. From minute one, being a mother has filled me with unmatched senses of wonder and responsibility. I would move Everest one fistful of dirt at a time for either of my kids, if I had to.

Most of my time in print and television news and public affairs has felt almost as touched as my life as a mother. I’ve met and produced interviews with countless VIPS, including former U.S. presidents. So, I could leave my career tomorrow feeling that nothing’s been left undone. And I wish I could.

The career has satisfied my intellect and does a good job keeping the children in all that they need and most of what they want. I’d like to do something more soul soothing now, which brings me to the remaining items on the list.

I’ve been baking since I was a child, taught by my mother and grandmother, but I didn’t do so with regularity as an adult until my mother died in 2007. I could now fill a very large bakery with the number of pies, cakes and cookies I’ve made since then, for one simple reason: when I miss her acutely, I bake. It’s an activity that satisfies an emotional need.

I’ve perfected so many recipes, it’s been suggested by more than a few that I sell what’s coming out of my oven. But that won’t pay the mortgage – at least not from my oven. And if it did, it wouldn’t leave time for kung fu and being a sijeh.

I need not explain the importance of being a sijeh, a kung fu black sash. Most days, my blog is about just that. It is among the most soul-soothing components of my life, as it satisfies a host of needs as well. It is, in fact, a way of life. But it, too, will not pay the mortgage – at least not any time soon.

And so I continue on with what does keep the bills paid and the children fed, while grabbing the kung fu clothes daily and the mixing bowl weekly. Neither can play a larger role in my life for the foreseeable future, but these parts of my persona that have grown considerably in recent years are as much a part of me as the things I always wanted to be.