#LilyRules

Every parent thinks his or her children are special. We all believe that our kids are the brightest, most beautiful, loving creatures on the planet. I’m certainly no exception to this. My kids are all of those things and more – to me. I recognize the gifts that each of my daughters possess. I admire each of them for theses gifts, and the way they choose to use and present these gift to the world.IMG_6401

I have experienced my motherhood journey in what seems like two different lifetimes. I became a mom to Allie and Sam when I was young – young and immature. I kind of grew up with them. Boy, did I learn a lot along the way. When I became a mom to Lily, some 13+ years into my first motherhood journey, I was in a completely different mindset. I had much more parenting experience under my belt, and with that experience came a whole lot of maturity and wisdom. This has allowed me to parent Lily with a very different perspective. I appreciate the ride that Lily and I are taking as mother and daughter in a way that I could not with Allie and Sam. This time around, I’m better able to filter and focus on the more meaningful things in my life.  I’m able to let go of the rest.  For this reason, I see Lily as special.IMG_8063

Lily is the piece of my life – of our entire family’s lives – that I didn’t know I was missing. I hardly remember a time when she wasn’t here. She is my ray of sunshine on the cloudiest of days. She has reminded me that life is to be lived one experience at a time. She has taught me the importance of allowing yourself to be “in the moment,” and that trying to rush through results in missing out on the tiny yet important facets of life that are so often taken for granted. I see rain clouds but Lily reminds me to look for the rainbow.

I admire Lily for her strong sense of self. I aspire to be like her. She is not concerned with impressing anyone with her clothing, possessions, or interests. Labels mean nothing to her. Her sense of style can only be described as akin to the lead character, “Blossom,” from the 1990 television sitcom of the same name. If it looks good to her, that’s all that matters. I am proud of her for not succumbing to the pressures of society to conform. She has a very highly developed sense of humor and a very “black and white” sense of right and wrong. Her perspective on life, while always interesting, is often eye opening and thought provoking. I hope that you will find her outlook, which I will share with you in this continuing series, “#LilyRules,” as humorous and enlightening as I do. I have my own personal little Aesop living with me.

 

Lily’s take on marriage and adoption…

Conversation Between Lily (7) and Allie (21):

L: I don’t want to get married.

A: Why not?

L: That’s just a lot to handle.

A: Good point.

L: I still want to be a mom, though.

A: Well, you could just adopt a baby.

L: What does that mean?

A: Well if a mom has a baby that she can’t take care of, she can give the baby up for adoption. Then you can adopt a baby and become the mom.

L: Yes! I’ll do that! I’ll adopt a baby!

A: That’s a great idea. Lots of babies need homes.

L: But what if I can’t find the adoption place?

A: I’m sure you could just look it up.

L: Oh yeah. I could just check how to get there on Waze.

My takeaway from this conversation – knowing where you are going is often as important as knowing why you’re going there. #LilyRules.

Mother’s Day Reflections

My parents are both in their 70’s (my mom would kill me if I revealed her true age here).  They are considered relatively “young” among senior citizens.  Dad is typical for his age in that he is beginning to confuse his memories, often mixing up myself and my oldest daughter in the context of the past.  He catches himself, or recognizes his error when we point it out to him, and moves on.  My mom, on the other hand, is a bit trickier to deal with…..

Mom, Lily, and Me

Mom has many physical ailments: 2 different kinds of arthritis, fibromyalgia, trouble absorbing nutrients as the result of a previous gastric bypass surgery, a thyroid condition, and necrotic bones in both feet.  All of these conditions are difficult enough to deal with alone, but when you put them together it becomes one giant medical nightmare.  The number of pills she takes on a daily basis is astonishing.  She also has monthly infusion therapy for her arthritis, and a shot to help ward off osteoporosis.  She has appointments with doctors of various specialties near constantly.  She has always been on top of things with her own medical care, seeking second opinions when necessary, and always keeping us informed.  But about three years ago, my brother and I noticed that she seemed to be “off her game” a bit.  As we watched, the steady decline became more noticeable.  We were worried.  In what can only be described as an intervention, my brother and I insisted that she have neuro-psychological testing completed. If she was beginning to show signs of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, we wanted to know right away.  And if she wasn’t, we knew a baseline test would be helpful in assessing changes later on.  After much insisting, and yelling and crying, and with little assistance from my father, Mom was tested.

Testing revealed a deficit in the prefrontal cortex.  This is the frontal lobe area of the brain involved in complex behaviors, specifically involving planning.  Mom’s issue was in “sequencing.” She has trouble giving directions or following a recipe, for example.  This was a deficit, but considered “within normal range.”  No official diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, but I was worried.  Mom was tested again 18 months later after suffering a series of seizures caused by a medication (ironically enough, it was a medication that is often used to treat seizures).  This revealed a steady decline in the same area, but nothing that was outside of the normal range.

This doesn’t sound that bad, right? Except that my mother is of above average intelligence.  That alone is enough to make the situation way worse than it seems.  How, you ask? Because she’s smart enough to know how to cover it all up.  She has the strength and fortitude to pull it together in front of friends and family and physicians.  When I insisted that I attend certain doctors appointments and spoke of my concerns about her, most people looked at me like I was crazy.  Clearly the woman I was referring to was a weak, feeble, shell of a person and not the picture of robustness and resilience that I was sitting next to in the exam room.  The frustration I felt was beyond description.  My mother led the brigade against me.  She told me I was worried for absolutely no reason, she mocked me and called me “warden,” or “mother.”  I cannot tell you how much this stung, and still does.  This was the woman I looked up to, the woman who told me I could do anything I set my mind to, who helped me in my darkest hours to overcome setbacks that I thought would kill me.  She is a “Brooklyn girl” through and through.  She swore to me when I moved to Staten Island that she would NEVER follow me.  But when I was widowed in 2003 with two very young girls, she swallowed her pride and moved to Staten Island to be closer to me, to help me raise her granddaughters.  So now here I was, a woman of the same hardiness and resilience, trying to return the favor, and she basically called me crazy.  My knee jerk reaction to this was to pull back.  Fine, you’re in control? Go for it.  Mess it up on your own.  Or, as a true “Brooklyn girl” would say, FUCK HER!  But once my boiling Sicilian blood simmered down, I realized I couldn’t do this.  This is my mother.  I have to help her.  I have to make sure she’s being cared for appropriately.  This, my friends and readers, has been an uphill battle.  And it continues.

Mom and Dad have been married for 52 years.  I say each year on their anniversary that I remain shocked that one of them is not currently serving time for the brutal murder of the other.  On the outside, they don’t seem to like each other very much.  They revel in catching the other one in a mistake – of any kind – and rubbing their noses in it, very much the way one might do to a dog that peed on the living room carpet.  However, if you spend enough time with them (and God help you if you have to), you will see glimmers of genuine affection between them.  Underneath all the bickering and nastiness, they really do love each other.  Now with that being said, you would think that Dad would be a great ally here.  As John McLaughlin would say (and I know I’m dating myself), WRONG!

Dad is the poster-child for the path of least resistance.  After 52 years of marriage, he avoids “the fight.”  I have the ability to say whatever I want to my mother.  I say it and go home to my own house, without her.  I don’t have to deal with any reperFullSizeRender 5cussions, any lingering attitude or resentment.  Dad does.  So he chooses not to engage.  I can’t say I blame him too much there.  But it does make my job that much harder.  When my brother and I threw a fit because mom was still driving, Dad literally stood by and monitored our argument. The woman has necrotic bone (that means dead bone!) in her feet and has noticeable trouble following sequences – she should NOT be driving! Dad’s response: “Well, she doesn’t go far.”  Great, she kill herself or someone else in an accident locally.

I find myself talking to Mom the way I do my 7 year old.  Everything is a negotiation.  Negotiating with a 7 year old, by the way, is like negotiating with a terrorist.  I now possess a full and complete understanding as to why our government refuses to do this.  Simply put, it’s futile.  It’s a losing battle from the start.  In return, Mom often behaves like a 7 year old.  She’ll say yes to appease me, agree to things to get me to shut up and leave her alone, only to then go behind my back and do what she wants to anyway.  Clearly this is where my stubborn streak comes from.  It’s maddening.  It’s frustrating.  And, it’s hurtful.  I’m trying to help and I often feel like I am being destroyed in the process.  In a car ride recently, I was lamenting to Sam about the situation.  I turned to her and said, “If I ever do this to you and your sisters, please just shoot me.”  She smiled.  Allie yelled at me,”MOOOMMM! Why would you say that to Sam? One day she’s just gonna shoot you and when we get upset she’ll say ‘What? Remember that time in the car when she said…’”  Allie was exaggerating, but probably not by much 🙂

Anyway, this is my conundrum: how do I make sure that my mother is protected and taken care of, that her needs are being met, without humiliating or denigrating her, and also allowing her to fully participate in making decisions about her own life with the dignity and respect she deserves? In addition, I am going through a grieving process of sorts.  The woman of strength and fortitude that I described is slowly but surely slipping away.  The mother I knew, who would always try to swoop in and save the day, the woman who took care of her own children while also taking care of her dying mother-in-law, is all but gone.  Lily will never know the “Grammie” that Allie and Sam knew.  She will never have sleepovers with her grandmother or go shopping together in the mall, not the way Allie and Sam did.  This makes me sad.  The relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter is a special one.  I had that kind of relationship with my grandmother, which is why I named Lily after her.  There’s a meme I’ve seen on FullSizeRender 6Facebook a lot, that says that no matter how old you are, you still need your mom.  When I see that now, my heart sinks.  I feel that way often.  I just want my mom.  I want to share my problems with her and have her tell me that everything will be fine.  But it won’t happen.  It can’t happen.  My mom is less and less herself with every passing day.  I feel alone and often unsupported.  I find myself avoiding spending time with her, in order to avoid facing the reality of her existence.  When this happens, I feel guilty.  Today is the best she will ever be.  And every “today” will be like that.  I’m wasting precious time.

On Mother’s Day, this weighs heavily on my mind and my heart.  I always spend the time around Mother’s Day reflecting on my own motherhood journey.  This year I’m also reflecting on my role as a daughter.  Am I a good daughter? Have I done enough for my mother?  Have I missed something?  I also imagine a conversation, way in the future, between my own girls.  It goes something like this:

Sam: Mommy is insane.  I can’t take it any more.  Allie, you have to take her.

Allie: I always take her!

Sam: Let’s make Lily take her.  Lily never takes her.

[Lily’s phone rings]

Lily: If I have to take her, I’m putting her in a home.

While slightly amusing, the thought of becoming a burden like this upsets me.  I’m the mom.  I’m supposed to take care of my kids, not the other way around.  Which brings me back to my own mom.  If I were in her position, would I have enough humility to admit that I was “slipping?” Would I deny what was going on or confront it head on?  If I was, indeed “slipping,” how would I want my girls to handle it?  Would I even know when something was wrong? If I didn’t, would I believe my children when they point it out to me?  The answer to all of these questions is a completely honest, “I don’t know.”  I’m not sure how I will react or behave.  People have a tendency to believe that we know how we will react in certain situations.  When we hear of someone else’s issues or problems, we say, “Well, if I were her, I would….”  Sometimes we’re right.  But most of the time we’re wrong.  You won’t know until you get there.  And, unfortunately, neither will I.

J.D. Salinger wrote, “Mothers are all slightly insane.” I know, for sure, that I am.  For the sanity of my children, I hope to be able to recognize and confront decreases in my mental and physical capacities in the future. And if I don’t, they can always throw this blog entry in my face.

Why I Also Celebrate the First Day of School

My unknownlast two posts were about how difficult dropping off at pre-school and college (and everything in between) can be. Today I sat to write about the somewhat well known mom ritual of celebrating, amongst ourselves, the day the kids go back to school.

For my family, summers are meant to be relaxing. Students and teachers are “off.”   Summers are laid back. No school schedules. All after-school activities are on hiatus. In my house, summer means sleeping late and staying up late – for adults and kids. It means dinners aren’t often planned until the last minute and leftover macaroni and cheese is an acceptable breakfast. It means we are almost always available for impromptu get-togethers and parties. It means everyday can be pajama day. It all sounds pretty good, no? Well, hang on a second. This can also translate into a boredom disaster. We are used to a constant buzz of activity in my house. We run from school to dance or karate or soccer. My six year old will often say, “Where are we going now?” as she jumps in the car, as she’s just used to being in the car often. The lack of routine in the summer can be too long. The truth is, I had looked forward to the down time of summer. I was ready for school to be over in June. I was ready for “laid back and chill.” And so were my daughters. Kids need that break as much as we do.   We had no family vacations planned. Lily didn’t want to go to camp and I didn’t want to get up early to take her so I didn’t fight her on it. Sam is sixteen, so she had plans of her own. The result of all of this purposeful lack of planning was a gloriously relaxing July. My cousin was in town from Florida. I was able to plan lots of family and grown up time for us. It was beautiful. Then August hit. Boredom set in. Lily was in need of stimulation and she made that painfully obvious. I arranged play dates with friends and special shopping excursions. Her sisters even took her out “Pokemon-ing.”   And while it was still very difficult for me to leave my oldest at college for her junior year, I am now I’m ready for the hustle and bustle of the new school year. Continue reading

For My First Baby

As we drive off to your junior year at college…..

Allie,

As I sat down to write this post, I thought I would be writing about how dropping your daughter off at college, even for the third year in a row, is just as gut-wrenching as the first day of pre-school drop off. And it most certainly is. I’m feeling as broken hearted now as I did that first day I dropped you off at pre-school – and then also kindergarten and high school.

Then I started thinking… I’m a very sensitive woman, as you are. I feel things, good and bad, very deeply. Other people like us do exist. So I’m probably not totally off my rocker for feeling this way.   I know you know I’m proud of you, and not just of your noteworthy accomplishments (of which there are many). I’m proud of the woman that you have become. You are intelligent, caring, nurturing, considerate, empathetic, giving, courageous, humorous, kind, affectionate, forgiving, and brave. You are an inspiration to me in so many ways. The way you handle yourself, how humble you are, how you always hold your head high. You are the bravest woman I have ever known, without a doubt. You proved this to me, and the world, when you were only six years old. Continue reading

The First Day of School

My cousin is dScreen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.12.16 AMropping her only child off at school today for the very first time.  I dedicate this post to her, and to moms everywhere who are bringing their little ones to school for the very first time xoxo.

 

Chris,

I know how nervous and overwhelmed with emotion you are right now.  Dropping your daughter off at school for the first time is a milestone – and a nightmare.

I could tell you that you’ll be upset but it won’t be that bad.  I could tell you the you won’t be thinking about her every minute of your day.  I could tell you that you won’t have the urge to call school, “just to check on her,” over a thousand times today.  But I’d be lying.

The first drop off is gut-wrenching.  It feels like your heart is being ripped out of your chest.  You will doubt every decision you have made – from the choice of the school all the way down to her first day outfit.  You will doubt yourself as a mother, asking yourself these questions, and many more, repeatedly:

  • How could I just hand my daughter off to TOTAL STRANGERS?
  • What if she gets hurt? Will they know how to calm her down?
  • What if she has to go the bathroom but is afraid to talk to the teacher and has an accident?
  • What if there’s an asshole bully in her class and he/she hurts her?

I wish I could take all these fears and anxieties away from you.  I’ve lived this scenarios three times over.  And the bottom line is this: IT’S HARD.  But hard is not bad, it’s just, well, hard.  There’s no away around it, only through it.  You’re experiencing another “rite of passage.” This is another step on your motherhood journey, a journey that you and Emma will walk together.  You will guide her on this journey.  But, sometimes, she will guide you.  She will help you discover strengths you didn’t know you had.  You will feel a love so deep that you think it’s the most it could ever be – and then it will grow even deeper.  She will teach you more about life than you can even fathom at this moment.

So the best advice I can pass on to you is to allow yourself to feel a sense of gratification today.  You grew this life in your body.  You taught her how to eat food with utensils, how to “go potty,” how to say please and thank you, and I know you taught her how to stand up for herself (old school Brooklyn style). YOU gave her all the skills she will need to succeed in school.  Be proud of the job you’ve done!

There will be tears, hers and yours.  But you will make it through.  I wish I could be there with you, to offer more support than this simple letter.  Just know that if I could be there, I’d be walking behind you with a box of tissues – and a big pitcher of sangria. 🙂

You will ROCK the first day drop off.  I know it.

Love you to the moon and back.

Love,
Anj

Hope

A simple, socially acceptable, four letter word.  Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 1.50.01 PMI probably use it more times a day (in my head alone) than I realize.  It’s much more powerful than a word like “wish.”  I’ve wished for many things in my life.  As a kid, I wished for tons of stuff: specific Christmas or birthday presents, a puppy, a boy to like me, to get a part in the school play….. This list is endless.  As I matured, I wished for more “practical” things: a passing grade in a difficult class, not getting caught coming home after curfew, not getting carded at the door of the bar. 🙂   But what sets hope apart from wish is that the word wish implies something that is unlikely or unattainable.  I’ve wished that my first husband hadn’t died.  I’ve even wished that he could somehow come back.  I’ve wished that my daughters would never experience the pain of heartbreak, whether from a boy or false friend.  I’ve wished that my parents would not get old and leave this world – and me.  All things that, while perhaps motivated by the greatest of intentions, are unlikely and unrealistic.  Which brings me back to hope.  Hope implies possibility, however small.  That’s why hope is powerful, because at your core, when you hope for something, you believe in the possibility of it becoming a reality.  Here is a list, in no particular order, of some of my greatest hopes:

  1. I hope that good will triumph over evil
  2. I hope that my children will know that I’ve tried my best, always, to be the best mother I knew how to be to them
  3. I hope that my older girls will keep the memory of their father alive for their children and grandchildren
  4. I hope that people learn that running away from a problem only makes it worse, not better
  5. I hope that someday peace will prevail on earth
  6. I hope that feeling true love is something that everyone gets to experience at least once in their lives, and that it is reciprocated
  7. I hope that people understand that their actions can often hurt other people, especially those they love, and that they take great care in avoiding it and making it right when it happens
  8. I hope my children recognize and appreciate the sacrifices that I’ve made for them – and that I’d do it all over again if I had to
  9. I hope my girls realize that who you are on the inside is more important than what other people see on the outside
  10. I hope all girls everywhere realize that obsessing over how much your body weighs is largely a waste of valuable time
  11. I hope that each of us recognizes that we have gifts to share with each other and the world, and that we use them to exact change and help others, in big and little ways
  12. I hope all the people I love know that my love is genuine, and though many of these people are gone from my life, my love for them will always remain
  13. I hope that humanity has the strength and the grace to face and take responsibility for their actions, and the wherewithal to do what is necessary, even when it seems impossible

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, reader (see what I did there? I added another hope).

What do you hope for?

Things I Love About Being A Mother

  1. Unsolicited hugs and kisses
  2. A constant barrage of “Look what I made for you…” art projects
  3. Reading bedtime stories
  4. Having stories read to me
  5. Being asked for advice
  6. Being asked “Can I help you, Mommy?”
  7. Wiping away tears
  8. Being the loudest cheerleader at the game
  9. Experiencing the joy of Christmas morning through the eyes of my children
  10. Breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day
and most of all, being called “Mom.”
When I was pregnant, I thought I knew how hard being a mother was going to be.  But it has been a thousand times harder.  I also thought I knew how much joy being a mother would bring me.  But it has brought me AT LEAST a thousand times more joy – and for that I am the most grateful.
Happy Mother’s Day to one and all.