Awkward Convos with Kids: The Umteenth Installment, Family Dinner

Me: Ok. So tell me something you learned today.

J: We’re learning about physics in science.

Me: Cool! Can you explain it?

J: It’s all about motion like what goes up must come down and objects in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an opposite force.

Me: Right. Like your seatbelt.

J: Or a windshield.

K: Well that’s morbid.

Max: I learned that rotation of mass plus friction equals curve.

J: Like a curve ball?

Max: Yes. In theory.

K-Mad: What’s a boner?

Max: Not anything appropriate to discuss at the dinner table.

Me: I’ll explain it, but I’m just curious, where did you hear that?

K: Some of my friends asked if I knew what it was.

J: This is cringy.

Me: Ok. We’ll discuss those details later.

K: So do you know what it is?

Max: I do.

Me: So what is it?

Max: It’s when a boy has an erection.

K: I still don’t know what that means.

J: It means hard.

K: What’s hard?

Me: A penis.

K: Why would a penis be hard?

J: May I be excused?

Me: Are you done eating?

J: I lost my appetite.

Max: I wonder why.

K: That’s what I want to know. Why?

Me: There are lots of reasons but the main science reason is so the penis can enter the vagina for reproduction.

K: And it needs an eruption?

Max: An erection.

J: The eruption comes later.

K: I’m really sorry I asked.

J: We all are, K-Mad.

Max: Soooo I’m just gonna clear the table and pretend we only discussed physics and not biology tonight at dinner.

J: We all are, Max. We all are.

PTSD

I don’t talk about it often anymore. It doesn’t rule over my daily life as it once did. But it’s always there, just beneath the surface.

The flashes of that day when a fire truck drives by and a lump forms in my throat and my eyes well with tears. The nightmares that come less frequently, but still haunt spasmodically sleepless nights. The feeling of my left eyebrow not being quite right. That spot on my right arm where I whacked it on the banister, dashing out of the front door while escaping an explosion with two toddlers tucked under my arms sometimes still gets itchy, even though there are no visible scars.

All of it, smoldering just beneath the ashes…

I’ve gone to therapy to discuss it at length. I take daily medication for depression in hopes that my brain will rewire itself back to the way it was before, knowing that the medication will probably just be part of my forever now.

And most days I’m fine.

My sense of humor is still intact, though there are still jokes I can’t utter aloud out of fear of complete misunderstanding and judgement. Like when I’m grilling and it flares up and I want to sing at the top of my lungs, “This! Grill! Is on FIRE!” in my best Alicia Keyes voice. I mean, c’mon! That’s funny! But also, no…

My ability to deal in reality over irrational fear has never wavered. The attention and care I am able to provide my family with has remained strong throughout this whole ordeal.

And then I open my email… “How to stop wasting money on one-size-fits-all insurance. Only pay for what you need…”

What I need? What I NEED? WHAT. I. NEED?!?!

I think you mean WHAT. THE….$&?!!!!!

In an instant, the smoldering ashes explode, ripping off every layer of protection I have carefully regrown over the last decade.

How many times must I unsubscribe or mark as junk? How often must I call and politely request that you permanently remove my email and street address from any and EVERY list you have other than your DO NOT CONTACT EVER list?!?! Seriously, who the HELL is in charge of THAT list? Because he should be FIRED.

The thing is, my criminal case was DIRECTLY tied to the civil side, which is a HUGE RED BURNING FLAG in my non legal opinion.

Eight months after the fire, insurance denied our claim. We prepared a lawsuit and filed it within the 12 month statute of limitations. Three weeks after we filed our civil suit, I was indicted for arson. The timing is more than a little suspicious and we had to stay our civil suit and focus on the criminal injustice.

After 5 years of purgatory, and 6 years post-fire, the deal made with the Passaic Country Prosecutor was that I would to have plead guilty (to a crime I didn’t commit) and neither Brian nor I could ever ATTEMPT to recoup anything from insurance in order for me to receive probation, a chance for expungement, and a promise that insurance would not sue us.

I should have requested that they not be permitted to HARASS me.

So…. What do I need?

I need for them to stop contacting me through any and all forms of mail. I need my TV and radio/pandora to automatically skip their false advertisements. I need for them to NOT exist in my hard earned peaceful reality.

I need a lawyer to represent me pro-bono who will light a match under the injustice system and demolish Big Bad Insurance for harassment, mental anguish, and punitive damages…

…Or a million dollars post tax (plus interest on full amount for 10 years) because that’s the estimated amount our home, property, and all of our belongings probably equalled but we’ll never know since they NEVER FINISHED investigating, adjusting, and itemizing OUR CLAIM!!!! That would be nice too.

And then I take a deep cleansing breath of fresh air, put on my smile, and start regrowing all over again…

#whatineed #burninhell #ptsd

Dealing with the Devil, 4/3/17

There’s an old saying in the legal world that I am all too familiar with now: You can indict a ham sandwich. That phrase has been repeated to me by several attorneys over the last 5 years when everyone scratches their head in utter confusion and total disbelief at my reality. The point of the cliché is to show that our criminal justice system is severely lacking in actual justice.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is not something a prosecutor must prove before bringing a case to the grand jury, asking for an indictment. The grand jury process is merely a way for the prosecutor to ask whether or not there’s a chance, no matter how unreasonable, that the suspect possibly committed the crime in question. The defense is not generally present during the hearing and the prosecutor selects what evidence he wants to present. Exculpatory evidence, evidence that casts doubt on the prosecutor’s case, must also be presented, if the prosecutor took the time to properly investigate its existence. The grand jury may ask questions, often having no background or basic knowledge of the crime in question. They then have the task of handing down an indictment or not. If an indictment is handed down, the suspect is charged, and the process towards a trial begins.

Historically, prosecutors held themselves to a high standard, crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s to make sure a complete and thorough investigation took place before bringing the case to the grand jury. Not wanting to indict an innocent person was a high and moral standard. However, in recent years, a more laissez faire attitude has become the norm and many prosecutors leave the decision making up to the grand jury, with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well, it was enough to get an indictment from the grand jury,” shirking all personal responsibility. It’s easy to understand, in today’s hyper-impulsive and judgmental media frenzy, how easily a jury can be persuaded. Hence why you can now indict a ham sandwich… It’s quite unkosher.

May 20, 2011 was absolutely the most horrific day in my life. It began like any other Friday morning, with me getting ready to host a weekly Mommy and Me. However, minutes before my friends and their children arrived, I heard an explosion and I grabbed Jordyn and Max, and ran like hell, stopping only when safely on my neighbor’s front yard to call 911 from my cell phone. From her kitchen, moments later, I witnessed the flames, already pouring out of our attic.

The entire day is on a constant loop in my nightmares as it plays out in slow motion. The boom, the flash of heat, the carpet flying back, smoke detectors blaring, Jordyn running towards me, screaming in fear. Where’s the phone? I need to call 911. Grab your cell on the dining room table. Grab the kids. Run. Run! RUUUUUUN!!!!!!

The hours, days, weeks, and months that followed were no less harrowing, beginning with that night, when Brian and I met with the detectives who were investigating the fire. We both voluntarily went to the station to answer questions and help out as best as we could. After 2 hours of questioning Brian about the layout and contents of our basement, I was called in for questioning. For 3 hours I answered questions, hardly having anything to do with the events of the day. By the end, I was silently wondering what the hell was going on and if I needed an attorney. The statements Brian and I signed are mere fractions of the actual conversation/interrogation that took place. My fear was then realized when the detectives brought Brian back in to tell him, “Your wife did this. See if you can get her to confess.” After that, we immediately “lawyered up.” That was the exact moment I stopped trusting the police to serve and protect. That was also the only day, to our knowledge, the detective stepped foot in our home to investigate anything.

Over the next few weeks, as my belly grew full with Kennedy, we tried to deal with insurance and get to the bottom of what happened:

• We learned that immediately after the fire, the gas company had dug up our entire street and had found 2 gas leaks on our neighbor’s lines, one of whom had been complaining to them about the smell of natural gas for over a year.
• My phone records did not show the call to 911, though the police had a record of me calling in the explosion. We later learned that 911 calls do not appear on a regular cellular statement and must be subpoenaed.
• Our attorney hired a fire investigator and his findings were that the cause and origin could not be determined based on the lack of investigation from the detective. Basic protocol was ignored and experts were not called in to rule out possible causes. He hadn’t even obtained a record from the gas company. We examined pictures from the aftermath and were left with more questions about the detective’s lack of investigation and common sense.

Insurance was less than helpful and by August, it was clear that they were no longer even attempting to itemize our loss, or handle our claim. Other than placing us in an apartment, they were of no assistance and in September we were interviewed in an Evaluation Under Oath and waited some more.

In December, the insurance company offered Brian a deal: If I confess to arson, they will cover the claim for Brian and the kids. We had until January to decide, but we immediately refused. Our claim was denied, based on the falsehood that they believed I never made the 911 call, thereby committing insurance fraud. We filed a complaint with the insurance commissioner and hired a civil attorney to assist us in a lawsuit against insurance.

Weeks after we filed suit, which was almost a year after the fire, I was indicted for second degree, aggravated arson. The timing of the indictment, in comparison to the law suit is beyond suspicious, and due to the indictment, the civil suit was postponed, pending the outcome of the criminal case.

The prosecutor offered a plea at the time, which stayed on the table for the past 5 years: 3rd degree arson, non-custodial, mandatory counseling. In the legal world, that’s known as a sweetheart deal, and it is, if you’re guilty. If I took that deal it would mean freedom from jail, but it would also mean that I would be a convicted felon not to mention that it could allow insurance to pursue a case against me for fraud. No deal.

I was subsequently arraigned, where upon I posted bail, and have been enjoying the presumption of innocence ever since; another legal cliché that I could do without.

Over the next 5 years, my case switched judges 5 times, went through at least 7 prosecutors, and a trial date has been set and postponed no less than 4 times.

And that brings us to today, April 3, 2017.

Today, I will state under oath, that I started that fire, even though I did not. I am an innocent victim yet I will knowingly and purposefully make this statement in order to clear my name of a crime I didn’t commit. Today, I am making a deal with the devil.

After becoming the oldest case on the docket, for a myriad of reasons, the court has decided that my case needs to go away. So a new deal was brokered.

The term in New Jersey is PTI, pre-trial-intervention. The basic deal is that I plea to the crime and in 12-18 months, with good behavior, the case is dismissed and I can file to have the record expunged, as though it never happened. In addition to this, insurance will also be signing off on this deal, so that they cannot pursue me, and we can never recoup our loss. This is the Keyser Söze of all deals.

So why am I telling you this if it can all just go away? I am telling you this because, while I am eager to end this unimaginable nightmare, I honestly believe that it is my civic duty to let you know how unjust our system is. This is why innocent people confess. This is how the system is rigged to protect big business. This is what I honestly believe happened:

I think the detective was lazy and never did his job thoroughly. He then told the insurance company that I did it and they tooled us around for a while wondering when the police would arrest me. Insurance waited as long as they could, also never completing a thorough investigation, and wrongfully denied our claim. Once we sued them, they put pressure on the police to indict, claiming to be the innocent victim of fraud, knowing that once I was indicted they would be free and clear to never pay a dime because all of our finances and attention were now turned towards my defense. And they were right.

If I do not accept this deal, I am faced with the conundrum of going to trial and any remaining finances will be used to defend me. If I am convicted, I stand to receive a harsher sentence and longer jail time, after not accepting this deal, and appeals can cost two to three times the initial trial. Even if we win at trial, all of our finances would be depleted and there is no way we could ever afford to sue insurance, not to mention the additional years it would take to get through civil court, plus longer to see any money, should we win against them.

The irony is that as a middle class white woman, I am the least likely to get convicted, a privilege and statistic I am well aware of and do not take for granted. I am also well aware that we can pursue my defense and prepare for trial, knowing that a better deal or even a complete dismissal will likely occur as the trial date nears. However, by that point, we will have used up our savings and retirement and will again, be left with nothing to pursue insurance or rebuild our life with…

We do our best to protect the kids from the details of my case, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Last week, Jordyn overheard a conversation and as I was tucking her into bed she asked me, “Momma? Is this going to be done soon? Can you really just be done without having a trial or going to jail?” “I don’t know,” I answered honestly, “Our attorneys are trying to find out all of the rules on the new deal to see if it’s something we can agree to, but it might mean that I have to lie and say that I did something that I didn’t do.” “But if you won’t go to jail, then isn’t it ok to lie this one time?” “Well, that is something I need to consider. But how do you feel when I think that you did something wrong, even though you know you didn’t?” “Not good. Like when I get blamed for a mess in the playroom but I didn’t make it.” “Exactly. I didn’t do this, but I’ll have to say that it was somehow my fault.” “Momma? I won’t tell anyone if you have to lie. I just don’t want you to go to jail. Who would take care of us?” The tears streamed down her cheeks…And that’s when my decision was solidified…

The risk of not accepting this injustice is just too great.

So today, I am accepting a deal with the devil. God forgive me.

Pearls

Nine and half years ago I got my first real taste of our injustice system. You can read about the details in the drop down menu tab “The Event” but the very basic story is:

We had a devastating house fire that I ran from carrying my then 2.5 years old and 15 month old while being 14 weeks pregnant, minutes before I was expecting a house full of my friends and their toddlers for our weekly Mommy and Me class.

The gas company responded with a more than normal response such as digging up our entire street and replacing caps, lines, meters, and valves after over a year of neighbors complaining of smelling gas.

The police responded with an investigation (or lack there of) that lasted less than 24 hours. And our insurance company followed suit by never completing a full investigation to our knowledge and taking the detective’s word that I burned my own house down and thus, denied our claim.

Three weeks after we sued insurance for wrongful denial, I was indicted for aggravated arson and the insurance claim was put on hold.

I was initially offered a deal from the prosecution to plea down from a second degree felony to a third degree felony with no jail time and mandatory counseling. But I’d be a convicted felon. No deal. For 6 years my case was moved around from judge to judge, and prosecutor to prosecutor while I showed up to court every 6-8 weeks for a 2 minute appearance.

After 6 years of nonsense and 7 years after the loss, my case became the oldest on the docket and a new deal was brokered. I was offered pre trial intervention that stated that if I plea and don’t sue insurance, I can be on probation for 12-18 months, have a chance to expunge my record, and insurance won’t sue us.

Let me be clear that the fact that our civil lawsuit was completely intertwined with the criminal case is abhorrent. I was handcuffed to committing a crime in order to be free from a crime I never committed.

Let that sink in…

So here I am now, a college educated middle class Caucasian Stay at Home Mom with no record. Life is generally great for me now and I truly can’t complain about my personal day to day. And yes, agree or not, that is privilege.

Tonight, in preparation for Election Day, I went looking for my pearls. My grandparents gave me and each of my cousins a set of pearls for our bat mitzvahs. Years later, my boyfriend, now husband, added a ring to the set when we went to Disney and I picked an oyster in “Japan” at Epcot.

I rarely wear my pearls but they are extraordinarily sentimental to me. We had them cleaned and restrung after the fire after finding them in the charred oriental jade and wooden jewelry case my uncle had given to me, again, for my bat mitzvah.

My pearls sit in the same plastic bag the jeweler used to return them to me and have been untouched in a drawer since we moved into this house 5 years ago.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find my pearl ring and I knew there was only one place it could be, if it survived the fire.

I opened my bottom drawer in my closet, gingerly lifting the bag out and placing it on the floor. The scent of smoke and ash wafted up as I opened the bag to reveal the charred box. I slid each drawer open, revealing the imprints the fire left around each piece of my jeweled memories.

I sat and examined each burnt item in the box, tears flooding my eyes, soot blanketing my hands. The ring, unfortunately, was nowhere to be found.

As I sat there sobbing, a clarity overwhelmed me knowing that my grandparents and late uncle would be proud of me, the choices I’ve made, and the one I’m making tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will don my pearls in honor of RBG and in memory of my grandparents. I will vote for the rights of my friends who are justified in demanding equality. I will vote for the future of my daughters to always have control over their own bodies. I will vote for a system that is truly blind to color, religion, orientation, and gender, and one that is honestly just.

Tomorrow, I will finally put out my charred jewelry box to the curb while taking out the rest of the trash at the polls. It’s time to let it go.

Tomorrow, may we all begin to heal our nation’s great divide.

Working From Home During a Pandemic: a photo montage

The kids’ last day of in school education for the 2019/2020 academic year occurred on Friday March 13. During the month, while we effortlessly (insert guffaw here) transitioned to online education, Brian and his staff continued to enter NYC, the epicenter of the contagion, each day and tirelessly worked to ensure that the company employees were able to work safely and remotely.

On April 14, 2020, Brian’s first day working from home, he got up, showered, and proceeded to put on business attire, down to the shoes. I snapped a pic, joking that he didn’t understand how working from home is supposed to work, and from there, things just kinda kept going.

Below is a photo montage and original captions of Brian, working from home. As the pandemic continues and working from home is his new norm, I will continue to add to this collection when possible. It is definitely a work in progress.

4.14.20 Day 1:
Today was his first day working from home. Taking bets on how long the suit lasts…

Day 2, working from home: no jacket and started out in slides but then changed to work shoes to “break them in.”
Someone needs to break HIM in…

Day 3 of working from home: the suit is back

Day 4: Jacket required, tie optional
(Not sure he knows it’s Friyay)
#fancynancy

Day 5: Sunday Salutations vs Monday Meetings… plus proof that he owns more than just suits and golf clothes
#alldressedupandnoplacetogo

Now this is where it started to get fun…

Day 6 of working from home:
Suits & Sorcery
#notsohiddenmickey

Day 7: I triple dog dared him to keep the hat on for his meeting with the president of the company…he declined. #nofun #whysoserious

Day 8: You’re welcome
#Moana #IslandDreaming

Working From Home Day 9:
The Unbirthday Suit
#AVeryMerryUnbirthdayToYou #DownTheRabbitHole

Working from Home Day 10:
The seclusion may be getting to him as he’s gone a bit batty.
#BatDad

On April 28th, daily jokes, memes, and props entered the mix whenever available, after I repainted and reorganized the office…

Day 11: Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirates life for me…
#swashbuckler
Daily Joke Answer: A pirate’s favorite letter be an arrrrr, but their true love be the c.

Day 12 of working from home:
I’ve got the magic in me
#HeWhoMustNotBeNamed
Daily Joke Answer: You’ll find Dumbledore’s army in his sleevey.

Day 13, working from home:
#seussical
Daily Joke Answer: Puss in Boots

The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play
So he sat in his suit
On this wet quarantine day

He sat and he stared
At his computer and zoom
He talked and he listened
To Cara & Lou

When will this be over?
When can we go back?
It is his job to work out
The best plan of attack.

Will it take a week, a month,
A year, maybe more?
We have no way of knowing
What else is in store.

Unless it is safe,
Until it is sound:
He keeps his staff safe.
He won’t mess around.

So he sits and he works,
All dressed up at home;
Planning on his computer
And talking on his phone…


Working from home, Day 14
#TopOfTheMorning #DressYourLuck #MayDaymayday
DJA: If it’s a French fry.

There once was a man who was quarantined
Working from home on day fourteen
He dressed every morn
Business attire was worn
For he claimed ‘twas more comfortable than blue jeans


Working from home: Day 15
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…
The galactic planets, suffering from a relentless contagion, banded together to stop the spread, protect life, and search for a cure…
Meanwhile, the supremely misinformed leader of the United Federation…
…Nah. Too easy…
May the 4th be with you!
#maythe4thbewithyou #maytheforcebewithyou #workfromhome #covid19 #stayhome #thisistheway
DJA: To get to the dark side

Trabajando desde casa día 16: Olé!
#cincodemayo #tacotuesday #its5oclocksomewhere
DJA: Inchilada

In related news, here’s some history about this popular holiday that does NOT celebrate Mexican Independence, as most people believe. Have a read:https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.history.com/.amp/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo


Working from home, day 16:
It’s a jungle in here!
#exotic #coolcat #tigerking #calvinandhobbes
DJA: Nothing. He’s already stuffed!

Working from home, Day 17:
TBT to draft day.
#flyeaglesfly #latetothegame #getyourheadinthegame
DJA: A bald eagle

Working From Home Day 18:
Welcome to District 13
maytheoddsbeeverinyourfavor #hungergames #taskforce
DJA: A yellow jacket

Working from home: day 19
The party continues…
#happybirthday #thedayafter
DJA: Age

Working from home, Day 20:
All aboard the crazy train!
#toottoot #trainwreck #offtherails #offtrack
DJA: Because they’re not a conductor

Working from home, day 21:
Mahna Mahna
#muppets #singalong #quarantinelife
DJA: Swine Language. But her first spoken language was pig Latin.

Working from home, day 22:
Bringing it way back today
TBT #OswaldTheLuckyRabbit #DisneyOriginal #MickeyMouseClubHouse #Hopper
DJA: To find Pluto

23 days…it took 23 days for him to NOT shower & put on business attire. He claims it’s bc all of his conferences today were phone only and that he has to cut the grass later. Whatever the reason, my work here is done…
#workfromhome #whereswaldo #wheresbrian #isthatasmileisee
DJA: So he won’t be spotted

Working from home Day 24:
In planning the company’s “return to office” strategy, Brian was attempting to think outside the box…it’s not going well…or is it?
#thefarside #thinkoutsidethebox
#deconstruction #reconstruction #adapt
DJA: A map

Working from home, Day 25:
Not the mask he thought he was getting, but I think it’s purrfect.
meow #hissyfit #covidcatastrophe #thundercatsho!
DJA: None. The other 9 were copycats

Day 26 of working from home:
Trying to keep things light for his Board Meeting.
#rainbowbright #sunshineandlollipops
DJA: In prism

Day 27, working from home:
Brian is beginning to doubt his house…or at least his housemates
#resort #sortinghat #muggledup
DJA: Because they’re both cauldron

Working from home day 28:
On this Memorial Day weekend we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to those who have served, continue to serve, and to remember those who gave their lives protecting our freedom.
#memorialday #landofthefreebecauseofthebrave #remember #stayhome #staysafe #stayhealthy
DJA: Liberty

Working from home day 29:
Brian, trying to keep his coworkers safe, is fervently researching other companies return to work strategies, unconvinced that this is the right thing to do at this time as much of the scientific data shows a high possibility of a second wave that will be even more deadly than the first: “Coronavirus. Very dangerous. You go first.”
#namethatmovie
DJA: Because their career was in ruins

Working from home, Day 30
This pretty much sums up how his day is going as you can tell by his face:
“Wrong sir, wrong! Under section 37B of the contract signed by him. It states quite clearly that all offers shall become null and void if…et cetera et cetera…It’s all there black and white clear as crystal! You stole fizzylifting drinks! You bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized so you get nothing! You lose! Good day sir!
#candyisdandybutliquorisquicker #somuchtimeandsolittletodo #snozberries
DJA: Recess pieces

Working from home day 31:
After yesterday’s stress, Brian is taking a bit of advice from Elsa today, while embracing his inner (and outer) Anna.
#letitgo #frozen #bewarethefrozenheart
DJA: Because she’ll just let it go

Working from home, day 32:
From princess to villain…
#allinadayswork #maleficent #hornsforhairdontcare
DJA: Malefiftycent

Working from home, day 33:
When the coach lets you know that the season can finally start!!!
#softballdad #softballlife #playball
DJA: They touch base

Working from home, day 34
Brian, fervently following the news, is trying to keep his company abreast of any and all potential problems…
#PartonMe #bighairdontcare #DollyPartonMemeChallenge
DJA: She was tired of working 9 to 5

Working from home, day 35:
Some days the return to work protocols all makes sense, and some days it’s all gibberish.
#lostintranslation #thatsnothowanyofthisworks
DJA: Because they always get lost in translation

Working from home, day 36:
Drama queen 🎭
#phantomoftheopera #pastthepointofnoreturn #masquerade
DJA: Pasta Point of No Return

In related news, this popped up in my fb memories today and was totally “operapropo” for today’s theme. Originally posted 6.5.13 when the kids were 4, 3, & 18 months old. I still remember it as though it was yesterday:

So I pull up to a red light and there’s a gentleman in the truck to my left. He smiles at me, a skeevy kind of crooked grin and just then, Lady J rolls down her window revealing the chaos in the back seat:

K-Mad in the middle with both legs in the air trying to reach her siblings and laughing her maniacal laugh. Maxman pushing her leg away and shouting, “No Kendy! Pwease stop!” And Lady J happily singing, “He’s here! The phantom of the opera!”

The man looks horrified and turns to face forward, both hands gripped tightly on the wheel, and speeds off as the light turns green…


Days 37-41, while Brian continued to work from home, the kids and I took a brief hiatus for the week.
#DownTheShore #HappyPlace #ToesInSand #BookInHand

Working from home day 42
Happy Holiday Week!
#christmasinjune #jinglethis
DJA: Because he likes to hoe, hoe, hoe!

Working from home, Day 43
Light it up, up, up…
#getlit
DJA: Hanukkah lasts for eight nights. Dragons ate knights.

Working from home day 44
Irish you good luck getting through the rest of this year
#luckoftheirish #shannanigans
DJA: Paddy O’furniture

Working from home day 45
He looks more like Lord Farquaad than Queen Esther, but I can only work with what I’ve got.
#purim
DJA: Polly-Esther

Today, the last day of “holiday week”, in lieu of a funny picture of Brian, I ask that you learn about and celebrate Juneteenth, the day that the slaves of Texas learned of their freedom, two and a half years AFTER the
Emancipation Proclamation.
Today we celebrate that every person in these United States are free. Tomorrow, we continue the path towards equality.
Please visit www.juneteenth.com for more information.
❤️🧡💛💚💙💜💗🖤🤎🤍

The Event

Dawn woke, like every other day, to the sound of Riley watching Blue’s Clues on Nick Jr. in her bed. Scott had already left for work but made sure their two and a half years old daughter was happy with her sippy cup of milk in Mommy and Daddy’s bed while Dawn continued to sleep for just a few extra minutes.

Dawn could hear Harrison in the baby monitor, breathing rhythmically, still asleep, so she quickly got up, took a shower and got herself ready for the day before helping Riley dress and tending to Harrison, who was now awake and happily jumping in his crib.

The house phone rang as Dawn was changing Harrison and she raced into her bedroom to answer and back towards Harrison’s room.

“Hello?” she answered. “Good morning!” Dawn’s mother greeted from the other end, “How are you?”

“Good! Just getting the kids dressed and heading downstairs for breakfast. Then we need to get ready for Mommy and Me.”

“Excellent! And what project are you planning for class today?”

“Eh. Just finishing up our alphabet pictures and then the usual circle time songs, snack, and free play. I’m hoping it doesn’t rain so we can play outside, but if not, we’ll just use the playroom.”

“Sounds great!”

“Yup. It should be good. Oh! We had a contractor walk though yesterday to put together an estimate for converting the alcove into a nursery. Should have the estimate next week.”

“That’s great, Dawn! How are you feeling?“

“Much better! No more morning sickness. Happy to be at the turning point. Hey, Mom, can I call you later? Harrison’s diaper needs a little more attention than I initially thought.”

“Sure thing, Dawn. Love you.”

“Love you too!”

“Woooo-boy! That is one full diaper, Bud!” Dawn exclaimed as she hung up the phone and changed Harrison. “Dat’s a tinky diapa!” Riley giggled, pointing to her brother and crinkling her nose. “It sure is a stinky diaper! Into the bin it goes!” Dawn laughed as she tossed out the diaper and lifted Harrison, giving him shower of good morning kisses on his delicious cheeks.

“Do the binky toss, Bud!”

Harrison tossed his collection of pacifiers into his crib and toddled down the hallway towards the stairs. Dawn returned to her room and stripped her bed before opening up the safety gate and heading downstairs with the kids for breakfast.

Once the kids were strapped into their seats and eating, she headed to the basement to quickly move the clothes from the washer into the dryer and start the load of sheets. The phone rang upstairs so she ran up the basement steps and into the kitchen.

“Hi, Scott,” she panted to her husband, “What’s up?”

“Just calling to say good morning. You were up late last night. Everything ok?”

“Yeah. I was just talking to Hope and printing out everything for Mommy & Me today.”

“Is Hope stateside? How’s she doing?”

“Yep. She’s in LA for a few days. Flies back on Monday. She’s good. She has exams coming up but I know she’ll nail them. They moved her up to first class!”

“That’s awesome! And are you set for today? Who’s coming?”

“Just the normal crew. I have a few things to do before everyone gets here but I’m pretty set. I’m just ready to be done with this alphabet project so we can move onto more creative projects.”

“Oh! I gotta go. I have a call coming in. I’ll call you later!”

“Ok. Love you! Bye!”

“Love you. Bye.”

“Who is coming today?” she thought and checked the evite RSVPs on her cell phone again. She took a few minutes to mindlessly scroll through Facebook before placing her phone on the dining room table, next to the alphabet craft material she had set out the previous night.

Dawn continued getting the house ready for her friends and their children who came each Friday morning for a little Mommy & Me class Dawn led. She was excited to get back to the weekly sessions after canceling more than a few during the first trimester of her third pregnancy. Fourteen weeks in, and the fog and constant queasiness was finally lifting. She loved the second trimester.

After cleaning up in the kitchen Dawn turned on The Hunchback of Notre Dame for Riley and plopped her on the couch to watch so that she could finish up her chores.

Her final chore was taking out the trash and recycling. As she was heading back up the deck stairs and into the dining room through the sliding glass door, Dawn scooped up Harrison, who had followed her outside onto the deck.

She walked into the living room and placed Harrison on the floor before beginning to remove her sneakers. She was ready with a few minutes to spare.

As Dawn began sliding off her shoes, there was an explosion and everything started moving in slow motion at the speed of light.

Smoke detectors were blaring from everywhere. A hot rush of hot air blasted past her face, blowing the carpet in the living room back. Dawn turned toward the kitchen and continued turning, looking for the phone on the shelves next to the television, knowing she needed to call 911. It wasn’t on the cradle. Smoke and ash were filtering out of the vents that flanked the TV wall. Riley was running towards Dawn, screaming in fear. Harrison, still at her feet, was crying.

She took 4 steps through the kitchen and dining room door frames, grabbed her cell phone, turned around, hoisting both kids into her arms and ran like hell out the front door, slamming into the screen door and banister on the front steps. She didn’t stop until she was on the front yard of her neighbor’s and began dialing 911.

“911. What is your emergency?”

“My house! My house! There was an explosion!” Dawn was incoherently screaming to the operator.

“Okay, Ma’am. You need to calm down. I can’t understand you. You said your house…”

“Yes!” she wailed, taking a deep breath. “There was an explosion. I think there’s a fire. I see smoke. My house!”

“Okay, Ma’am. Are you out of the house? What is your address? I’m sending emergency vehicles there now. Is there somewhere you can go to safely wait?”

Dawn’s neighbor AnaLucia rushed out to help her and the kids, ushering them inside her home as Dawn dialed Scott at work.

“This is Scott.”

“Our house!” Dawn sobbed as she walked toward the kitchen in AnaLucia’s house. Looking out of the window, flames were pouring out of the rafters above their bedroom. “Our house! It’s gone. It’s all gone!”

“I’m coming home,” Scott said.

Dawn watched in shock as the fire trucks and volunteer fire fighters began to arrive. There was a man in jeans and a white t-shirt running down her driveway to the back of the house and back to the front again calling for the hoses. Smoke filled the sky.

Dawn’s phone starting dinging. Texts from her friends starting coming in. “I can’t get to your house. The street is blocked. There must be an emergency near by.”

“It’s my house. My house is the emergency. My house. It’s all gone,” was all she could text back.

She sat down on AnaLucia’s front steps to call her parents. The sirens were so loud, yet mumbled in the background of the noise inside her mind. She didn’t even know what to say. She called Rivka, her best friend. “I know you’re at swimming with Peyton but my house is gone and I don’t know what to do. My house is gone. It’s all gone.”

She walked out and stood on her neighbor’s yard, still holding a shoeless Harrison while AnaLucia held Riley. The neighbors were starting to gather around and watch.

She cried. And stopped. And cried. And stopped. Trying to be brave for the kids. Trying to be ok. Trying to be strong.

The paramedic came to take her blood pressure. It was understandably high. But she was fine. She sustained a large bruise on her arm, probably from running into the banister when she fled the house. But that was it. She and the kids were fine.

An ambulance pulled down the street and Dawn and the kids were escorted inside to wait. AnaLucia asked if Carlos, her husband, could pick up anything for her or the kids. He was already on his way and stopping for diapers and wipes for Harrison. What else did we need?

“Um. No. We’re ok…actually, yes.” Dawn realized that she had nothing. No binkies for Harrison, no sippy cup for Riley. They didn’t even have shoes on. Her wallet, her car keys, the diaper bag. She had nothing.

She glanced out of the rear ambulance window just as her chimney fell on top her car.

It was all gone…

Balanced

(6.30.19: 12yrs)

You are the untucked side to my hospital corners

You are the the collared shirt to my yoga pants

You are the beer to my wine, the whiskey to my vodka, the coffee to my tea, and the Gatorade to my water.

I am the marathon in your golf game

I am the veggies to your steak

I am the spend to your save

I am the test in your patience

I am conservation. You are conservative.

You are law. I am equality.

I feel the passion. You search for facts.

I am the storm. You are the calm.

We take the time and make the effort to listen to and learn from one another. We celebrate and argue together. We agree to disagree. We don’t have it all figured out, but we’ll figure it out together.

We are a balancing act, acting as both the support and security net for each other. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am…still smiling

Convos with Kids: Old School

The scene: Malt Shoppe

Young server to Max: Excuse me sir, but you need to remove your hat when inside this establishment.

Max complies.

Max, after thinking about it: Mom? Why do I need to take off my hat but Jordyn and Kennedy don’t?

Me: That’s a great question! It has to do with some very old school rules on etiquette and manners. Men had to remove their hats when entering a building and women didn’t. I’m honestly not sure why or when it originated. We should look it up.

Max: Well I don’t think it’s fair.

Me: I honestly don’t disagree with you. In fact, when I was in high school, my teacher made a guy in my class remove his hat but not me. They got into an argument over fairness and he wound up getting a detention for arguing with the teacher. I felt horrible even though it wasn’t my fault.

Max: Yeah. But you probably should’ve taken off your hat too. But that still doesn’t make it fair or change the rule.

Kennedy: Well, ya know, boys can go topless at the pool and girls can’t do that so that’s not really fair.

Jordyn: But would you really want to be topless?

Kennedy: No. I don’t want anyone to see my nickles, but why is it ok if boys show theirs?

Max: Maybe it’s because boys don’t make milk in their breasts.

Jordyn: True. True. But usually only moms with babies make milk. Like our mom stopped making baby milk because we don’t need it anymore.

Max: Good point. So why do boys even have nipples?

Kennedy: Maybe it’s just for decoration.

Jordyn: Maybe it’s so they look more like women.

Max: Maybe the next level male people won’t even have them.

Jordyn: Mom, is that possible with evolution?

Server, approaching carefully: Um, can I get you anything else?

Me: An expert in history and evolution?

Convos with Kids: Parental Guidance

The following conversation took place at a family event while the other adults sat across the table, enjoying their own conversation…Thanks for the help…

Max: I’d really like to see that movie Little

Me: You mean the one where a grown up turns into a child again?

Max: Yeah. It looks like it’s SO funny.

Me: I agree but it’s not for you.

Max: What? Why? It’s rated pg13 and you let us watch pg13 all the time!

Me: The “pg” stands for parental guidance. Daddy and I do our best to guide you to appropriate movies. While Marvel and DC movies are pg13, we think you’re ready for the content. The content in the movie Little is a bit too mature for you, so no. You can’t watch it yet.

Max: Then can I see Deadpool? It’s a Marvel movie.

Me: Absolutely not. It’s rated R and the content is 100 percent not appropriate for you.

Max: Is there kissing?

Me: More than kissing.

Jordyn: Like sex?

Me: Yes. And horrible language, and a ton of gory violence.

Max: Like the f word?

Me: Worse

J: Like s-h-i-t?

Me: Way worse

J: Worse than h-o-e?

Me: Yes. And how do you know that word?

J: From Penelope*

Me: Do you know what it means?

J: Penelope said it’s when a girl has sex with a lot of different boys. Like if Amelia* had sex with Griffin* and then with Adam* and then…

Max: Or it’s a tool. Like for digging in the garden.

Me: It is a gardening tool. And yes, Jordyn, that is a terrible name to call a girl who behaves that way. Name calling is never ok. And besides, while you may not agree with her choices, they are hers to make. She is in charge of her body, just as you are responsible for yours.

J: Is there a word for a boy who has sex with a lot of girls?

Me: There is not a mean word for boys who make those choices. In fact, quite the opposite. While girls are often insulted for that behavior, boys are often celebrated.

Max: Well that doesn’t seem right or fair. I’m never calling a girl that. Girls need to be respected too. Plus, I still don’t understand why anyone would do that a lot.

Me: I’m proud of you for recognizing that, Max. That’s very mature of you.

Max: So now can I see Deadpool?

Me: Nice try, Bud.

*All names of children have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of my children’s friends/peers

Convos with Kids: Lenten Shabbat Recipes

Kennedy: Wait, are we having salmon for Shabbat dinner?

Me: Yep

K: But why? We usually have chicken for Shabbat.

Me: It’s lent so we can’t eat meat on Shabbat for a few weeks.

K: But you’re Jewish

Me: Daddy is Catholic so we respect his religious practices

K: But salmon is meat! It’s fish meat!

Me: According to Judaic law & Catholic law fish isn’t considered meat. I don’t know why so please don’t ask until I’m not driving and can google it.

K: But why?!?! Fish are animals so salmon is fish meat!

Me: I’m so glad you pressed the issue. I realize that it makes no sense. I think it’s because fish don’t produce milk. I know there are more details but they escape me for now.

K: Fine. But I only like salmon sushi or bagel & lox. Not cooked salmon!

Me: I hear ya. But this is what I’m making for dinner. You don’t have to eat it, but that’s what I’m making, along with asparagus, rice, and spinach salad, like I said before. You can eat whichever part you want but I’m not making you a special dinner. You know I don’t play that game.

K: Well, can I have goldfish instead?

Me: One, Goldfish are generally pets and not food. Two, I already told you we are having salmon. Three, what are you talking about? We don’t have goldfish.

K, looking forlorn, folds her arms and sulks: We do in the snack closet.

#touché

Happy 3rd Lenten Shabbat! The first week I defrosted corned beef until I realized it was lent so I ordered sushi via Grubhub. Totally worth the last minute save. Yum! Last week we had dominoes pizza at a Cub Scout pack meeting and it was deliciously not nutritious and I enjoyed every bite.

This week I finally got it together. Below is this week’s recipe. Hope you give it a try and let me know what you think.

Spinach Salad: 5 minutes prep to table

Rinse, drain, and toss the following into a bowl

-baby spinach

-chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

-salad cut hearts of palm

-marinated artichoke hearts

-chopped baby cucumbers

-chopped apple

-Italian seasoned crumbled feta or crumbled blue cheese

(No additional dressing is needed because of the marinated artichoke hearts and cheese but I’m sure a balsamic would be lovely if you must)

Rice:

I usually use brown rice or quinoa but got out voted this week. I season my plain white rice with Jane’s Krazy Mixed-up Salt, and add fresh chopped parsley* right before serving. High in bad for you carbs, but zero net gluten. Pick your poison. (*Pro tip: Make sure you floss after brushing if you add the parsley…but also because you should floss after brushing anyway… don’t be lazy. Your gums will thank you.)

Asparagus:

Tried something new this week. Mixed reviews from the peanut gallery, but I LOVED it! Hashtag nomnoms

-bake asparagus* in a shallow pan at 375° for about 10 minutes (I spray a touch of oil on the bottom to prevent sticking and season with a bit of krazy salt but neither are necessary, though quite delicious) I like my asparagus bright green and crunchy. If you like yours more well done, keep it in longer.

-sprinkle shredded mozzarella on mozzarella and place back in oven just long enough to melt cheese

-drizzle balsamic glaze atop cheese & asparagus

-live life to the fullest and enjoy every bite

*Dog owner pro tip: save the ends of the raw asparagus and chop into treat size bites for your pup. It’s delicious, nutritious, and helps clean teeth and freshen breath.

Salmon*:

-Season with juice of 1/2 lime, 1/2 lemon, and old bay

-Grill…or bake if you must.

*We use wild caught Alaskan with the skin on and the kids (ok, us too) LOVE the crispy grilled skin. High in good fats and omega 3s though the charbroil may or may not be carcinogenic so there’s that.

Dill-Dip

Blend the following in a nutri-bullet or whatever whatever gadget is closest… (though all ingredients can also easily be mixed by hand)

-Juice of 1/2 lime & 1/2 lemon

-1 avocado

-1 container of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

-1 bunch fresh dill

-fat free 1/2 & 1/2 (maybe 1/4 cup?)

-old bay to taste

Serve atop or to the side of salmon. Also makes an awesome dip for fresh veggies. While Kennedy may not have had the salmon, she loved the dip and is looking forward to including it in her snacks and school lunches, though she did mention that it’s probably not best with goldfish.