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Now that was a pretty big fork.

When I was in my 20s, I did standup comedy.  For years, I didn’t tell people about this part of my past, and in retrospect, I have absolutely no idea why.

For people who know me well now, the fact that this is a hobby I once had probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  I think my ability to make people laugh is one of my best qualities.

I’ve only recently begun thinking about the time I spent doing standup because I happened to be in the room when my kids were watching America’s Got Talent earlier this week.  A (very funny, by the way) standup comic auditioned for the show, and when I saw her name, I thought she might be someone I’d performed with a few times doing warmup shows at a New York comedy club.  I found her on Facebook, messaged her, and heard back within an hour.  I don’t think she remembered me, but yes, this was the club where she’d gotten her start.  It was her.

My kids know I did standup, but having performed with someone my kids saw on TV (and thought was funny) definitely boosts my street cred (See how I’m using their vernacular? That boosts my cred too. Unfortunately, using the word vernacular takes it down a notch).

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I don’t think often about the days of doing standup, but seeing this comic on TV did get me wondering.  I don’t know that I really made a conscious choice to stop doing standup.  I just sort of petered out.  It was lots of fun, and it felt amazing to stand on stage and have people laugh at jokes I’d written.  But at the same time, there were things that just weren’t for me.  Again, for those who know me well, I’m a morning person, and late nights are definitely just not my thing.  Unfortunately, comedy clubs are the kind of place that get going after dark.  And those nights when I was just a little “off,” there was a drunk heckler in the back of the room, or I did new jokes that just fell flat? That didn’t feel as amazing as getting the laughs.

So, when I saw this comic on TV, I wondered, what would have happened if I’d taken that fork in the road instead of the one I did take? Would I be writing this blog from a fabulous home in the Hollywood Hills, waiting for my driver to come take me to the set of my sitcom? Would I be on tour, selling out big venues? Would I be sleeping in dingy hotel rooms, doing standup in small comedy clubs in the middle of nowhere? Would I be, as my fellow comic has been, earning money delivering groceries around Los Angeles, still doing standup at night, and hoping that America’s Got Talent would finally be my big break, more than 15 years later?

I don’t know, and I’m happy to say, I’m really okay with not knowing. Would I have regretting never trying my hand at standup, something I’d always wanted to do? Probably. Do I regret walking away from it, instead using my sense of humor to teach my kids difficult lessons, keep my students engaged, and get myself through hard times? Not for a minute.

Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day.

It’s been 12 years since my first Mother’s Day as a mom, and while I know that the first one seems like it should be the most meaningful, for me at least, it definitely hasn’t been.

I’ve had 12 years to think about what being a mom means.  I know that in comparison to lots of other moms, I don’t have a lot of years under my belt.  I know I’m not an expert on parenting, but I’ve become an expert in being a mom to my own kids.  And I’ve learned that (again, for me, at least), being a mom just keeps getting better. And that I continue to learn more every day about being a mom.

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I’ve learned that one of my kids has figured out how to leverage his cuteness to negotiate everything from 5 more minutes of awake time to convincing me to tie his shoes (even though he’s known how to do it himself for 3 years).

I’ve learned that while I want to put on a jacket in 50-degree weather, an adolescent boy will say that he’s perfectly comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt.  And I’ve learned that this is not a battle I’m going to choose to fight. Eventually, if he’s cold, he’ll put on more clothes.  Even if it’s not for another 10 years.

I’ve learned that little kids will eat just about anything if you put it on a toothpick.  And that sometimes, that trick works for grown men too.

I’ve learned that there’s nothing better than one of my own kids giving me an unsolicited hug or “I love you.”

I’ve learned that parenting isn’t fair. You’re going to give way more than you get, whether that’s in work, worrying, sleep or back scratches. But I’ve also learned that it is beyond worth it.

I’ve learned that when it’s my child’s heart that breaks, I feel it too.

I’ve learned that many of my own quirks and shortcomings have, ironically, made me a better parent. That I have nearly endless patience with my kids when they worry about things that worried me as a child.  And through them, I’ve learned to retroactively forgive myself for not being the perfect child I thought I needed to be.

I’ve learned to be thankful for the different things I enjoy with each of my boys.  My older son and I watch silly TV shows together, eat pancakes at diners, play music together and make sarcastic jokes. My younger son and I love to read and snuggle together, will try every kind of sushi, and have a catch together outside (hint to my delightful family: I could really use my own baseball glove if you haven’t picked me out a Mother’s Day gift yet!).

I’ve learned that each of my kids has inherited different personality traits from me, which I sometimes simultaneously admire and despise. One son loves to read, while the other could sing all day. One son is desperately hard on himself, while the other worries that the house will burn down. One son can’t keep his backpack or room neat, while the other has a fiery temper.  Both of my kids, thankfully, have a well-developed sense of humor.  I don’t know what I’d do without that.

I’ve learned that I’m not a perfect parent.  But I’ve also learned that I don’t have to be.  I do my best, and sometimes I screw it up.  Sometimes I screw it up pretty badly. But I apologize for my mistakes, learn from them, move on and try to do better the next time.  It’s the same way I tell my kids they should live their lives.

Oh, and I’ve learned that the two little boys and one grown-up boy in my life are the best things that have happened to me.

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Whatever.

I’ve been married for a little over 16 years.  I’ve learned a lot in that time.  About men, mine in particular.  About myself.  And about learning to let certain things go for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

The most recent example: I had a week between the time I broke my ankle last Monday and when I had surgery on it this Monday.  It was actually nice to have the time to get things organized, prepare, and make arrangements to get the kids where they had to be this week, since I shouldn’t be driving yet.

Know what Dave did on Sunday?  He took Michael up to his room and spent about 2 hours with him, moving his clothes between his dressers and closets, getting rid of a few shirts that he’d outgrown, and putting some new things up on the walls.

Really??!

But here’s the thing.  Michael likes things organized, so he was happy to do it (and delighted to show off the end result to me later).  I realized that Dave felt the need to do SOMETHING.  He couldn’t really help me, he’d already gone food shopping and on a Costco run, and the laundry was caught up.  So, you know what I did?  I stayed downstairs, kept my mouth shut, and let him do something that made him feel better.  Did I think it was something that would make a difference for any of us after my surgery?  Nope.  Is it something that I would have done if I were in the same situation?  I really doubt it.

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But what I’ve learned over 16 years is that sometimes, Dave is going to make a decision that is different than what I’d do.  And what’s more important is that I’ve learned to be okay with that.

So, when Dave folds laundry in the living room, leaving piles of clean underwear on our beautiful piano (!), I realize that it’s going to be put away by the end of the day.  I just hope that nobody stops by unexpectedly before it does.

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Man down.

I broke my ankle this week.  Unfortunately, there’s a back story …. in October 2012, I missed a step in my house, and dislocated and broke my ankle.  I spent a weekend in the hospital to have some hardware put in, and had two subsequent surgeries in 2013.  The last one, to remove the hardware, was just in December.

On Monday, the dog kind of wrapped herself up in the backyard, and I ducked outside to help her.  A lot of the snow has melted, and unfortunately, there was one small patch (and I mean SMALL –  probably no more than about 10 inches square) of ice on our patio.  I slipped on it, fell and twisted my ankle.  I thought it was sprained, but took myself for an x-ray, and they told me it’s actually broken, the same bone as before.

Yesterday I went to see an ankle specialist, who told me I need yet another surgery to repair this break.  It should be sometime in the next few days.

I’m incredibly upset.  Sad, pissed, and defeated.  But I realized I’m probably not as depressed as I’d originally thought, because when I finally got out of bed this morning and dragged myself into the shower (lucky for us, we still have a shower chair from last time – yay?), I figured I should shave my legs, because it might be awhile before I’ll have access to that left one again.

So, as much as I’m inclined right now to wallow in self-pity, I decided that a more productive exercise would be to try and find the positives in what is generally just a lousy situation:

1- I can probably wear really comfy yoga pants every day for the next 6-8 weeks, and because I will be on crutches and have my leg in a big cast, nobody will judge me.

2- I won’t have to pick up any of the dog’s poop for the foreseeable future.

3- I broke my left ankle, which means I can still drive.  Thankfully, I never did master driving a stick, because then I’d be screwed.

4- Automatic upper-body workout.  A person can get some nice triceps by dragging their sorry behind up the steps, if they do it right.

5- Lots of hugs from my boys.

6- Adorable, unbridled 8-year-old enthusiasm about helping me make lunches, getting dinner ready, and just generally keeping the house together.  And that adorable face insisting on bringing me my crutches, and telling me that he needs to sleep in my room tonight because Dave is away overnight and someone needs to keep an eye on me.

7- An inability to spend too much time wallowing in self-pity, because my kids are intermittently upset about their mom being hurt, and I want them to know that we’ll all be okay.

8- Amazing friends and family, who have stepped up and offered to help again (even though they just saw my family through this 16 months ago), and will hopefully continue to help me keep things in perspective with humor.  One friend warned me to look over my shoulder because it seems that someone is out to get me.  Another called me a drama queen for breaking my ankle only to upstage a serious illness that she’s facing.  Two others have already dropped off meals to sustain us.

9- A rare few hours, just me and my dad, because he’s the one of my parents who seems to have lost the coin toss and drove 45 minutes to accompany me to pre-surgical appointments today.  Somehow, I was able to get through all the medical stuff in just an hour and a half, and was able to enjoy a lunch out, just me and my dad – also pretty rare.

So, here’s my plan – I’m going to try my best to keep this in perspective (sure, it kind of sucks to break your ankle twice in 16 months and have 4 surgeries on the same joint in less than 2 years, but it’s still no more life-threatening than it was the first time).  I’m going to do my best to find the humor when and where I can.  And I’m hoping my friends, neighbors and family won’t get bored of giving us a hand here and there when we need it.

Wish me luck.

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I see where this is going.

Michael had his first sleepover at a friend’s house last night.

He’s 8, and had a few unsure moments at home yesterday before it was time to go.  But when his friend’s parents came by to pick him up, he grabbed his stuff, hugged us goodbye, and didn’t look back.  He was happy and tired when I picked him up this morning.  Just like it should be.

sleeping bag

I’m at the same time relieved, delighted, and and frankly a little sad.  Because Michael is our youngest, and in my mind, still too little for sleepovers.  But not really.

And at the same time Michael was sleeping at his friend’s house, Matthew was also out, and we knew he’d be dropped off late – around 11:00 p.m.  Now don’t get me wrong – it was REALLY nice to have a quiet house, sit on the couch with Dave, have a glass of wine, relax and watch football together.

But it was kind of weird, because usually when we have time alone together, we are out somewhere, and the boys are home.  I realize that as the boys get older, this is going to be more the norm – they’re out later than we are, and we’re home, pretending that we haven’t fallen asleep on the couch.

I know this is the natural progression of things, and I plan on letting my kids grow up the way they’re supposed to.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  Honestly, not only do I not mind the mess, noise and chaos that can sometimes accompany a home with kids, but I kind of enjoy it.  And sometimes, when they’re not here, it feels just a little too quiet.  But don’t tell them.

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I’m thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I am thankful every day for family, friends, and my wonderful life.  But today I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the many other things in my life for which I’m thankful:

thanksgiving

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  And a Charlie Brown Christmas.  The Great Pumpkin one – meh.

Oxi Clean.  Without it, my kids would be walking around in clothing covered with a delightful array of grass and chocolate stains.

Coffee.  Really, need I say more?

That first dog snuggle of the morning.  The doggie morning breath, not so much.

Comfy jeans, cozy flannel pants, fuzzy socks and too-big sweatshirts.

Coffee.  Yes, I am THAT thankful for coffee.

Things that make me laugh out loud – reruns of Big Bang Theory, posts on DamnYouAutocorrect, and my husband trying to play Just Dance on the Wii.

Bacon.  Actually, not really.  I don’t really like bacon (don’t tell anyone).  But I think I might be the only one who doesn’t, so I figured I should just put it on my list.

Cinnamon rolls, Black Friday circulars, and the Thanksgiving parade on TV.

Happy Thanksgiving, and have a wonderful day.  Be thankful for all that you have.

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The problem with holiday cards.

I was thinking about the slew of holiday cards we send out every year, as well as the many that arrive in the mail to us (some, along with those holiday update letters, but more about that later).

I look forward to getting holiday cards – I like to see how faraway friends’ kids have grown each year, and it’s fun for the boys to look at pictures of nearby friends.  We display the cards we receive around a window in our family room.  And we send out a card every year, usually with a picture or two of the boys that comes from a fall backyard “photo shoot” that Dave does with his fancy schmancy camera.  What people don’t see in what’s usually a cute picture would be the hour we spent trying to get the boys to sit still, stop poking each other and making funny faces, or the swearing Dave did when the camera died in the middle of this mess, because he doesn’t use it that often and it wasn’t fully charged.

silly

This year, we used some vacation pictures for our holiday cards.  And even without the photo shoot, it was no different.  Sure, we had a nice picture of the four of us in a nice place.  But nobody could see the exhaustion on our faces from the 3-hour time change from home or the argument we’d had trying to figure out where to park that morning.

And as for those letters that some families include with their holiday cards, let me just say – blech.  I’ve never thought about actually sending one with our holiday cards, but just for fun, I’ve thought about different ways I could approach writing one…..

1. Dear family and friends:  Well, we survived another year.  Barely.  I continue to drag myself out of bed to teach college classes where an occasional student will nod off in the back of the room.  Things are going great for Matthew in middle school.  Unless you count the day I spilled coffee on his binder and wrecked the cover of a group project.  That wasn’t so great.  Michael is learning a lot in 3rd grade.  I even got to have a meeting with his teacher where she told me about a story Michael had planned to write about Santa getting drunk in a bar.  And Dave has had the opportunity to travel to wonderful and exotic locales for work.  Like New Hampshire.

OR…..

2. To our most cherished friends and family:  We are delighted to be sending you this letter after yet another fantastic year for our family.  You’ll see from the photo on our card that we enjoyed a lovely vacation together over the summer.   Master Matthew and Master Michael continue to excel in school and in their many extracurricular activities.  I continue to shape the lives of young people through my teaching adventures, and Dave receives accolades for his work.

And then, what I’d really like to write:

3. Here we are again, friends.  Another holiday season, another year that has passed too quickly.  We continue to count our blessings every day.  Yes, our boys do well in and out of school.  But wanna know what I really want to tell you about?  The time I spied Matthew lifting a 4-year–old neighbor off a friend’s trampoline at our block party.  When I glanced outside and saw Michael tying his friend’s shoes, because he knows this friend has a little trouble with it.  The day we drove home together from camp and Matthew told me that the best part of his day was helping the counselors out with the little kids.  Is it always easy?  Nope.  But in these small moments when I know that Dave and I have the privilege of helping these wonderful people grow up, it’s all worth it.

Happy holidays.

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I am a rock star.

There aren’t too many moments where I get to be a total hero to my kids, especially as they’re getting older, and my heroic efforts are sometimes met with a roll of the eyes or a sigh that I can only interpret to be sarcastic.

But last night, I got to save the day (can you save the day at night, or did I save the night?).  Dave has been away on a business trip, so I’ve been parenting solo.  Sometime after midnight, Michael came up to my room, shaking, having been awoken by the beeping of a smoke detector with a low battery.  On a side note, why is it that 90 percent of the time, this does NOT happen in the middle of the afternoon, but shocks someone out of a deep sleep with that annoying sound??

Smoke detector

Smoke detector (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, since our house was renovated relatively recently, we are up to code with our smoke detectors, which means there are several on every level of the house, and one in every bedroom.  I know that’s a good thing in the unlikely event of a fire, but it’s incredibly annoying in the much more likely event that I’m going to have to stumble around in my pajamas, trying to figure out where that infernal beeping is coming from because a battery is dying.  Michael, who was still shaken by being woken up, insisted on following me around the house, until I figured out (after just 3 beeps – yay, me!) that the battery needed to be changed in his room.  I’ve learned to keep the 9 volt batteries in an accessible kitchen drawer, found something to stand on so I could reach, and had the whole problem solved in less than 5 minutes.  Oh, and the other kid slept through the whole thing.

My victory was met with a sleepy “thank you,” and a tight hug from a pajama-clad 8-year-old.  Could there be anything better?

The majority of my triumphant parenting moments these days revolve around finding lost stuff.  A few weeks ago, I found an iPod that had been missing for several weeks.  It was left on a bookcase, under a piece of paper.  You would have thought that, based on the reaction, I’d found Michael Jordan or a big stack of cash under that piece of paper.  But I’ll take it.

Now, I do realize that if one of the smoke detectors on the higher ceiling in my bedroom needed a new battery, I’d kind of be screwed, but for now, I’m going to focus on my victory.

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Hello, I’m your child’s teacher!

It’s that time of year again.  There’s a chill in the air, the sun is setting earlier, I’m sneezing from who-knows-what flying around, and we’ve spent two late evenings this week in overheated classrooms with a bunch of other parents who don’t even seem to be trying to resist the urge to distract themselves on their phones while their kids’ teachers are telling them what to expect from the next 10 months.

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It seems a little more straightforward in elementary school.  The teacher (who, by the way, probably hates back-to-school night because odd as it might seem to you, she is a whole lot happier trying to corral a bunch of runny-nosed 7-year-olds into their seats than she is talking to adults whose suit-covered behinds don’t even FIT into those seats), has enough time to show you adorable drawings on the walls, and give you a little show-and-tell about this year’s confusing spelling program, and some sort of diorama your kid will be crying about in a few short months.

You’ll sign up for an individual conference next month, where you can find out if your child is as weird in school as they are at home.

Now, back-to-school night in middle school seems to be an entirely different story.  Given that middle schoolers are a somewhat mysterious brood, prone to periods of silence, followed by periods of intense information-sharing and questioning, it’s possible you know a lot about your middle schooler’s teachers.  Or nothing.

You can expect to be squeezed through crowded hallways of confused, lost parents, looking for the Language Arts room.  The confusion is frequently interrupted by, “Lisa! Over here!!  Oh, my God! I haven’t seen you in so long! How was the beach?”  Followed by, “Excuse me, sorry! Excuse me,” while Lisa prances across the hallway to kiss her friend and they both pull out their phones to see when they can get together for coffee.

This is all happening in the approximately 37 seconds the parents have to get from one class to the next, because if parents were actually given an appropriate amount of time to get around the building, we’d be there until midnight.

You can likely expect to be greeted at the door by a foreign language teacher.  In a foreign language.  This makes me exceedingly uncomfortable.  Our son takes Spanish, and it’s not like I don’t understand when Senora Whats-Her-Nombre shakes my hand and says “hola.” But I’m never sure how to respond.  I’m pretty sure she speaks English, so I could say “Hi,” but given that she’s started the conversation in Spanish, I feel sort of obligated to go along with her and pretend that I’m bilingual.  But I’m afraid that if I say “hola” in return, she’s going to ask me a question or say something I don’t understand in Spanish.  So I just sort of look at her, quickly break eye contact and go sit down.

You can expect that, unless you are an engineer or accountant, your child’s math teacher is going to use a term like “absolute value” or a word like “quadratic” that is going to make you feel afraid enough that you may ask the teacher now if she can tutor YOU, because if your child asks you ANY question about math this year, he is going to find for sure that you’re really not as smart as you like to pretend you are.

When the Phys. Ed. teachers announce that every 7th grader is required to have deodorant in their gym locker, you’re going to think a lot of things.  Like, is there any parent who has never gotten a whiff of their own 7th grader and not figured that out on their own?  Or, please let it not be my kid who needs to be spoken to because he has forgotten to use the deodorant I know he brought in the first week of school.  Or, how is it possible for a teacher to tolerate being in a room full of sweaty 7th graders?

When back-to-school night eventually ends, you hope the sun hasn’t started coming back up again.  Because you still have to get home, get any straggling kids to bed, and start worrying about a math midterm.

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Where’s my walker?

I had a realization in the middle of last night that Dave and I are beginning to settle pretty firmly into middle age.

It wasn’t a dream, or our kids calling us old, or anything like that.  I was awoken around 1:00 a.m. by Dave, asking if we had any Tums.  I sent him to the cabinet where we keep them, asked him for one for myself (apparently, at our age, chili for dinner – even when I make it without beans – is no longer a good idea), and then I got up to go to the bathroom.

The past few nights, we’ve had that awesome cool fall weather at night, and I was oh-so-comfy when I woke up, curled up in my long sleeves and pants.  But once I returned from the bathroom a mere 90 seconds later, I got warm.  I loosened the covers.  Then I got up and changed into a t-shirt.  Then I got hot. Then I got up and changed into shorts.  Then I pulled the covers off.

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I think you know what I’m getting at here.

For some reason, I started thinking then about when Dave and I were dating, and we could stay up past midnight.  I didn’t sweat in my jammies, and we didn’t wake up with heartburn. I’m fairly certain we could also tolerate chili.

That said, though, I wouldn’t trade this phase of my life for a stronger stomach, or a flatter stomach, or a good night’s sleep.  I love my life and my family.  I love that Dave wakes up in the morning and has to walk down the steps with two feet at a time, like a toddler, until he stretches out a little.  I love that I’ve started to stash reading glasses in my purse and on every level of the house, because a little extra light just isn’t cutting it anymore.  I love that three years ago on my birthday, Michael (who’d just turned 5 at the time), said to me, “It’s funny that you’re 43.  You really look 44.”

I love that when we DO wake up in the middle of the night, that Dave’s there to laugh with me about problems that, in the scheme of things, we’re lucky to have.

So, okay, I could kind of do without what’s starting to look like weird wrinkles on my neck, but whatever.

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