I am a writer and a Mommy. I am a devout Jew. These are the most important books I have read: The Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu, Stephen Mitchell translation. Spiritual Divorce by Debbie Ford. Living Inspired by Akiva Tatz. My kitchen would suggest I'm a closet carny, as would my love of Branson.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Happens When the Power Goes Out

I keep thinking about a Facebook post by Gavin the other day.  He said something like, you come across 1 asshole in the morning and nothing else happens the rest of the day - it means you came across 1 asshole.  You come across 5 assholes in the day and you're the asshole.

Lately, I am feeling a little like the punchline of that joke.  It's not a good feeling.

Tonight when my power went out suddenly and for no discernible reason and I walked outside and confirmed that there was no power on at other houses, for a moment it felt good to have no power.

Like the world just stopped.  I liked that feeling immensely.

And I really liked what happened next.  I was not the only one who went outside.  All of my neighbors went outside.  I met my new next door neighbor for the first time and a couple one street over and then I walked over to the street parallel to mine to see all the emergency vehicles.  There I saw a hundred people who live right near my house who I have literally never laid eyes on before.

Everyone had come out of their houses.

All of these couples and families, people with babies and little kids - everyone was walking toward the mess to see why our power was out.

My power has gone out twice since I moved here and both times it was because someone crashed their car into a power pole.  The first time it was right by our house.  Today's was a worse accident; the pole was down on the ground as were the power lines.

The firemen looked very stressed seeing all the people gathering.

But how amazing would our lives be if we didn't have any power?

We would all know each other, meet each other, spend time together.

Do you know why everyone ran out of their houses at 7pm when their power went out?  Because it's warm out and light out and there is nothing to do in a house without power.  There is nothing to watch, nothing to see.

You naturally go outside as long as there is light - and there were all of my neighbors who I never, ever see!

So I'm going to have a huge party I decided.  I'm going to rent a jumpy house and I'm going to make flyers and invite all my neighbors over all up and down my street and the streets to the south and just ask people to bring some drinks or a snack and we will hang out and pretend our power is out.

I'm really going to do this.  Maybe for Memorial day.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Gems

I realize that there is no pleasure like holding a baby or watching your small one grow, learn their first words and take their first steps.  I am experiencing this joy right now.  Just today Jacob sent me a voice message via Toymail.  "Hi Mom," he said.  At first I thought it must be my 10 year-old but sure enough it was the baby testing out stringing a couple of words together.  This stage is one of my absolute favorite and I do wish I had more time with him.

People always say little kids, little problems and big kids, big problems and as my big kids start to get really big I start to understand exactly what this means.  But people never explain the deep, profound pleasure that kids begin to give you as they get older.

My son started showing an interest in learning to code over a year ago, saying he wanted to be a Web Developer like me.  I've spent some time showing him websites and books where he call learn HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS and I'm incredibly humbled.  There is no bigger source of pride than your child wanting to be like you in any way let alone looking at what you do in your profession and wanting to do that too.  Especially a child that can easily surpass your skills because he is so much smarter than you as I have noticed all of my children are.

Lately I have somehow been granted a similar joy from my daughter. One of my deepest loves is for signed languages and recently my daughter decided she wanted to learn ASL.  This made me so happy and I started teaching her, but the other night we had the chance to take things to the next level and it was really one of the happiest parenting moments I've had so far on this journey.

I picked her up from Hebrew school and we drove to a nearby mall to the food court to join an ASL practice group.  We were both so excited as we made our way to finding the few others there to sign together.  She wasn't shy, watching and taking it all in and joining right in.  She tried out new signs and followed the fingerspelling.

This is soul pleasure.  To share something so personal to me that I love so dearly with my sweet daughter, this is the pleasure of parenting your children as they grow up.  I so look forward to her learning more and more signing and sharing this with her.  I am so proud of her and of all my kids.

Feeling very blessed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sharing Children

I am lucky.
My ex and I aren't best buddies.  We don't chat with each other or talk about anything other than our kids, but we can talk to each other.  We don't always agree on what to do for the kids and our interests are certainly not often aligned but we can tell each other our concerns without worrying about what the other will say or do.  We try to support each other.

I know people who aren't so lucky.  Some people have an ex who is so angry and hurt that there is nothing else they can see.  They can't hear anything their ex says because of their own violent feelings of disappointment and frustration.

I am lucky because I genuinely trust my ex.  I know he loves the kids and does his best.  There is nothing else I could want or ask for.

And he listens to me.  I'm kind of an overprotective Mom in some ways, or just a Mom who prefers time with my kids over time to myself.  I'm sure it's hard for my ex.  I'm sure he wishes he could start his new family without considering me and forget all about me.  I really understand that and I want to make it easy for him to start his new family as much as I am able.

I have been incredibly lucky,  I always feel like I've failed my kids by getting divorced but I realize that they are lucky too.  They have a wonderful Dad who is kind to their Mother even still and they will soon have a lovely step-Mom.  They have the most wonderful step-Dad who takes such good care of them, being incredibly humble about it.

I feel for those people who struggle with their hatred of their ex, their disappointment and frustration to the point of being blind.

It's a challenge we all face at different times in our lives.  To see the good in people.  To trust people.

Every day I am reminded that we choose the way we see things.  We choose our reactions and we choose our thoughts.

It's easy to get caught up in drama when someone presents you with their madness but it's best to let people wear themselves out by giving no resistance.

I'm trying to practice this path of not resisting.  Giving in to difficulty when it arises.  It feels amazing.

I see people who struggle miserably with their exes out of fear or anger and I wish I could give them the ability to see things with fresh eyes.  To look from another perspective.  See the good in your ex.

See the good.

Monday, March 16, 2015


This kid has pooped on the floor a lot.  The first time I remember him doing it he was just over one and it was the 4th of July.  We'd had a party in our backyard and it was warm out.  He was inside a make-shift playpen and for some reason he was naked.  Everyone had left and we were cleaning up.

I looked over as he was standing there pooping on our driveway.

I am pretty sure I thought it was funny.

I've now lost count of how many times Jacob has pooped on the floor.  All I know is that if I take off his diaper and take my eyes off him there will be poop on the floor.

He always gets very upset about this.  Tonight it was just a diaper malfunction and it wasn't the first time that's happened but it's the first time he came running over to me to tell me about the poop.

He really doesn't want there to be poop.

There is just a lot of poop.  Every day.  I remember so vividly how amazing the potty training went with Noah and Chaya.  I figured it all out and worked with each kid to accommodate issues and reach the goal of diaper freedom in a straight line and in short order.

But what to do with this kid?  He loves his potty book and he loves potty songs and potty videos but his potty chairs are things to put toys in or things to dismantle and throw around the house.

If I show him a toy peeing in his potty he wants to drink the water.

Let's face it, this kid is exceptionally disgusting.  He regularly puts shoes in his mouth, gets in our shower and tries to drink the water around the drain, sticks his hand in his poop every chance he gets, will kiss anyone on the lips who passes his way, will eat sand at the beach, the list goes on.

I've often thought he was a puppy rather than a boy but he is the most beautiful boy.  I know one day he probably won't poop on the floor anymore.  I will try harder to cherish these sweet moments with my youngest son.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


I got some feedback on my post yesterday saying I should put aside my feelings for the sake of my son.  And then I did some study last night with my Torah partner.

The book we are reading is very difficult to grasp.  The basic concept is that the world, and more specifically "nature" is a mask to hide Hashem.  I can't paraphrase or summarize why Hashem does this.  It's so complex; just read Akiva Tatz's book and see if you can grasp it.

But here is a concept that I have heard over and again and read about last night.  When you are faced with something in your life that gives you pain, it is Hashem whispering in your ear, "now's your chance."

If someone hurts you, for example it's a chance to elevate your soul by reacting with kindness and understanding instead of anger.

I want to be a good person and I think that means being nice to people who aren't nice.  But, I also want my children to have the value that family comes first.  If anyone hurts a member of your family, that isn't ok.  I want my children to have the attitude that if someone is unkind to their sister, brother or parents that isn't someone they want to know.  We stick together and look out for each other.

Back to this concept of the world as a mask.  Hashem is everything.  There is nothing else.  Our physical existence and all of the natural world is a mask, through which we can elevate the spiritual world by choosing to act in holy ways.

Every action we take in the physical world has an impact, a reaction in the spiritual world.

As I read this book and try so hard to digest and understand it I find it no coincidence that I have just been to Venice and that tomorrow is Purim.

This is a time when up is down and what was hidden is revealed.  Everything is not how it seems.

And I am reminded that one never knows what is really happening beneath the surface of things.  The world exists by the grace of Hashem - every moment is miraculous and it is only a lack of faith that leads you to anger when you are hurt.

I am reminded to trust in Hashem, that he reveals things to you in various ways, shows you things you need to see and although it hurts when it is not what you want to see, you must trust that is is for your good and be grateful.

Monday, March 2, 2015

What Not to Do to Divorced People

I got divorced in 2008.   It was a quick divorce and our kids were small.  We had a lot of wonderful friends who were good to us back then.  I never realized how good they were until recently.

Over the four years we lived in Kansas, divorced and raising our kids together, our friends were good to both of us.  They had parties and still invited each of us.  They hosted Jewish holidays and invited both of us.

Most of the time my ex and I got along and we did a lot of things together with our children because, after all, we were still their parents and they still wanted to be with both of us.  We didn't want them to feel the pain of wanting to be with both Mom and Dad but not having that option.   It was not always possible, but we managed to regularly do things together with our children.

I remember once being invited to join a Passover seder my ex-husband was going to with our kids.  It was so lovely for the kids to have both parents there and it was so nice for me to be invited to join.  It is always painful to be away from my children.  Even for one day, even 7 years later.  This invitation was a kindness I'll never forget.  These people are real mensches.

And this kind of thing happened over and over again.  Our friends did not "pick sides" or make one of us feel unwelcome.

We had good friends.

Three years ago I remarried and we managed to keep our divorced family together by all moving to the same town across the country.  As much as I could I brought the kids back to visit their friends.

But recently someone I thought was my friend treated me in a way that I would never treat someone else and it made me realize how good people were to us in those years we were in Kansas.

On my Kansas trips, I barely have time to see friends because I am there visiting my family and my husband's family and that is a lot of people.  But I usually went out of my way, as did my parents to meet up with one family to make sure my son could maintain a friendship with the son of people I considered my friends.

Yet when it came time for their son's Bar Mitzvah, somehow only my ex got an invitation.

These are people I thought were my friends.  The last time they were picking up their son from a sleepover at my parents house I asked when their son's Bar Mitzvah would be so that I could buy plane tickets and plan to attend.

If only they'd had the nerve to tell me right then, as they told me the date, that I wasn't going to be invited.

It was extremely hurtful to find out it wasn't a mistake that I didn't get an invitation to the Bar Mitzvah of a child I have been bringing my son to visit over the past three years.

They said they didn't have room for me, someone they have known for many years, while my husband's girlfriend was invited.

I realize now that this is what might normally happen in divorce.  People decide they want to be friends with one person in a couple and not the other.  They don't care what impact it has on the children.  That the kids are hurt by this kind of behavior.

In 7 years, this was the first time someone I thought was my friend made me feel like they chose my ex over me by telling me I was not welcome somewhere that my kids were invited, that only their father was invited.

It's sad, and I hope those who are reading this make better choices with the divorced parents they know.

Even when people are divorced, when they share children they are often still a family of sorts.  In our case, my ex and I often attend the same events for our children.  We are friendly to each other.   I view his girlfriend as part of our family.  I have always been happy to welcome her at all of our family gatherings, even when their relationship was new.

I am still reeling from the extreme unkindness of people I thought were my friends.  Who actively doesn't invite people to their child's Bar Mitzvah?

To be clear, a Bar Mitzvah is a community event.  I'm not talking about being invited to a party - I don't care about that.  But to actively tell someone they shouldn't show up at a Shabbat service - what kind of people behave like that?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Wild Card

I remember thinking I'd have an easy delivery with Jacob.  I'd had a very easy one with Chaya.  The Doctor did warn me though.  She said that the third baby is a wild card.  You had a quick labor with #1 and a quicker labor with #2?  That doesn't matter, she said.  Third kid's a wild card.

Jacob has been different in most ways from my first two babies.  To sum it up, he always keeps us guessing.  I worried a lot when he didn't say Momma or Mommy or anything like that for the longest time.  I knew it was probably because he hears Spanish 50 hours a week and then English the other 40 he is awake.  But still.  It was a huge relief when he really started talking - just over a month ago.

I love the way he sings and appreciates music and dancing more than I would ever expect from a 1 1/2 year old.  And I love the way he jumps in the air even when it's on the couch or off the back of the couch.

My dear, beautiful wild card, he is the biggest joy - but Jacob is 20 months old and I'm having a lot of trouble accepting that he has zero interest in using the potty.

Potty training is one of my favorite things to do with a little kid.  I don't know why but I love teaching a kid to part with diapers.

I can't remember how my first child got interested in it or even when but I know he was practicing by the time he was this age.  He was in underwear (having a lot of accidents) by this age and he was completely done with diapers day and night by age 2 1/2.

With my daughter, I wrote down the day she said to me: I go pee potty.  She was exactly 18 months old.

The only thing I really did with those two was talk about it.  Day in and day out from the time they were 1 I would say, do you have to make pee pee?  Want to pee on the potty?  Oh, you went poo poo. Should we put it in the potty?

Sorry this is gross.  It's free therapy.

I feel like it might be that I haven't been around much - I didn't work full time when Noah and Chaya were babies.  For Noah I was there part-time and for Chaya I was there full time.  And I'm all about potty training.  It was so easy with them.

I have no idea what happens with Jacob and Rosa in terms of trying for the potty but I think she does try.

The thing is, I really thought Jacob would be even easier than the first two to potty train.  From the time he was born he would cry when his diaper was full of poop and sometimes even when it was just wet.  I couldn't believe a tiny baby would care but it really made him happy to get a clean diaper.  In fact, by the time he was just over one he was bringing me the wipes the minute he finished pooping!

I thought this kid would be so easy to train.  Just start telling him all about it.  You don't like poop in your pants?  Poop on the potty!  You don't want poop on you?  Poop in the potty!

As soon as I started telling him this he quit telling me when he was poopy.  Instead he would go hide to poop and run screaming if he said I wanted to change him.  Is this my fault?  Am I mean?  Did I sound like pooping was awful and make him feel bad about it?

One day I tried something.  I said, I know you want to keep your poops.  You made them after all! But you can make more later.  He calmed down and let me change his diaper.  Does he really want to keep his poops?  Who knows.

I just don't know what to do now.  I kind of gave up even asking him about peeing on the potty.  We have potty seats upstairs and downstairs and a tiny urinal next to his bathtub where I show him his rubber duck peeing and he just says, agua!

At this point I am feeling quite a bit of despair.  Do I buy him the potty books?  Do I get potty elmo? Do I get another potty seat?  Do I leave him alone?  Switch to cloth diapers.  The truth is I have become one of THOSE Moms.  The ones who do nothing because it's too hard so they miss the window.

I don't want to miss the window!  That's my entire and complete theory of potty training.  That when a kid shows any interest in using the potty you train them and you put up with any and all accidents because the kid is ready to pee in the right place.  If you miss that window, the kid learns it's just fine to pee in their pants and then it is so hard to train them, especially at night.

I know Jacob knows when he goes to the bathroom and that is all that is needed to potty train. Nothing else.  If the kid knows when he is going to go, you train them.

So, you don't believe me?  Well, every night before bath when we take off his diaper he will happily pee on the floor next to the tiny urinal.  And if I leave him with his diaper off for five minutes he will poop on the floor.  Every time!

The kid knows how to pee and poop when he wants....  Do you get my agony here?  I feel that I am in the window and I'm floundering around and going to miss the window!

Maybe it's because he is behind on his language skills.  He speaks Spanish better than English and I don't understand the sentences he says in Spanish.  I know some of the words and I know the English words he says but when he says sentences I have no clue what he's saying.  He could be saying, I need to take a shit right now.  Take me to the bathroom.  I would not know.

What do I do?  Do I just take all of Saturday to hang out with him diaperless and when he starts to pee bring him to the potty and then give him candy?

Oh, that's the most important step in potty training.  Give the kid candy every time they go to the bathroom until they are all the way trained.  Kids don't go back to peeing in a diaper when you stop giving them candy.  They just think you are a weirdo for a day or two and then they forget about the candy.

I'm really torn.  I feel like Jacob totally gets the short end of the stick in all ways.  I am not home with him, I barely have the energy to play with him when I am home (the kid knows how to use an ipad - that's how bad of a Mom I am).  And the most incriminating evidence of all - he has not even started potty training.

I can't make peace with this.  Next week my parents are coming out to watch him for 7 days.  He better be potty trained when I get back!