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

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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.

Convos with Kids: Condiments

The following conversation is part of a larger ongoing child-driven conversation about puberty and everything that comes with it. We consistently answer all questions with age appropriate honesty and use correct anatomical language. That being said, most of these conversations catch me off guard and are quite awkward, albeit highly entertaining. Enjoy 😉

Jordyn: Mom, what’s a condiment?

Me: A condiment is something you use to add flavor to your food like ketchup, mustard, relish, or mayonnaise.

J: No. That’s not it. You know how I have that book about how babies are made?

Me, realizing she meant condom and not condiment and trying to keep my cool: Yep. We haven’t read it in a while.

J: Well the book said something that goes over the penis and I didn’t get it.

Me: Yes. That’s a condom. It’s a latex cover that goes over the penis to prevent the man’s sperm from entering the vagina. It can prevent pregnancy and can also prevent people from accidentally getting each other sick through intercourse.

Max: So a condom is a penis cover and condiment is a food cover. They’re synonymous!

Me, chuckling: I think you missed the point, Dude.

Max: So then is a condom a synonym with a balloon since they’re both made out of latex?

Me, laughing and thinking back to my childhood when one of my sisters may have made (extremely slippery and highly fragile) water balloons out of some condoms she found in my parent’s bedroom and my father’s subsequent reaction: No. Not even a little.

J: Well anyway, I was looking through the book last night about the S-E-X part.

Me: Okaaayyyy…

K: Mom, does S-E-X spell six?

M: Uh! Kennedy, the number six is S-I-X. S-E-X is sex.

K, upset with Max for correcting her: Well I don’t know what that is!

J: Kennedy, sex is when a man’s penis goes into a woman’s vagina to make a baby.

K: Eeeewwwww. I am NEVER doing that!

Max: Me neither. That’s gross. Besides, I don’t want to have a baby.

Me: Well that is totally respectable and absolutely your decision to make. Your bodies, your choices.

J: So the book said that sometimes people have sex even when they’re not trying to make a baby.

Me: Yeeessss….That’s true…

Max: But why? Why-in-the-world-would-anyone-do-that?

Me: Max, I’m honestly not ready to answer that for you right now. Let me think about the right way to discuss it with you and we can come back to that another time.

J: But that’s what a condom is for?

Me: Yes

Max: But not a condiment.

Me: Correct. Hey! Let’s clear the table and finish getting ready for school!

Thoughts from a 10.5 Mile Jog:

Mile 1: My legs are so sore from the last run so just try to do that loop in reverse but it’s ok if you don’t make it that far.

Mile 2: Oh hey! My quads are loosening up and I’m a whole minute per mile faster! Sweet!

Mile 3: Maybe I can just add a mile to the last run. Nothing too crazy. Don’t be a hero. Take a right here.

Mile 4: Well, I made it this far. Might as well keep going. Run, Forest, run!

Mile 5: Where the sidewalk ends, the adventure begins…that would be an awesome & inspirational quote. You heard it here first.

Mile 6: I totally forgot to put on glide. Can I just run with my hands on my hips the rest of the way? I must look so odd. Maybe lip balm will help instead. Hey! It does!!!! And now I’m minty fresh!

Mile 7: I’ve never been so happy to see a port-o-potty.

Mile 8: The only way to get away from the mosquitoes is to run faster and like Phoebe. Oh look! A turtle!

Mile 9: Hello? Yes-I’m-running-but-now’s-a-good-time-to-walk-so-I-can-talk-for-a-bit…

Mile 10: Is that my mailman? Bet I can beat him back to my house.

Mile 10.5: Saturday. Same time, same pace?

To Do

Dawn glanced at her to do list, laced up her shoes, filled her water bottles, slid them into her fanny pack, and turned on her running apps, heart rate monitor, music, and headed out the door.

This wasn’t the first time she laced up in the last 2 months. In fact, for the last 8 weeks Dawn had been getting dressed to run almost daily, yet something always stopped her, needing her attention, allowing her to put it off another day.

“Not today. Today has to be the day,” she thought as she began jogging away from her house, “You have less than 3 weeks to get your ass in gear for the half. All you need to do is finish. Next year you can work on breaking records. Just go.”

Her modest goal for the day was a 5k but after taking a 2 month hiatus from running, she wasn’t sure how it would go down. The last 2 months swam around her head as she listed all the reasons she hadn’t run:

  • An old knee injury that had flared up after a fall and possible mild concussion while on vacation
  • Back to school
  • Chairing a very involved fundraiser
  • Running the school store once a week
  • Putting together the school directory
  • Getting the house in order after a summer away
  • Dealing with the NJ Board of Education who was trying to revoke her teaching license
  • Needing yet another new attorney after learning through a google search that her previous lawyer had been disbarred…

“No more excuses. Just run. You need this. For the race. For the kids. To get back in shape. To prove to yourself that you can. For the peace of mind and clarity running brings you. For you. Just go.”

And so she did.

Dawn let her music rhythmically carry her through the first 2 miles. Her pace was slow but she kept running, dragging her extra 50 pounds of stress and laziness behind her, step by step. “Just go.”

During the next 2 miles her back straightened and she held her head high, taking in deep cleansing breaths and exhaling, allowing the wind to blow away her doubts. “Just go.”

Her phone started to notify her about her volunteer duties and current events as she pounded uphill towards her descent home.

Ding: who is opening the school store this week?

Ding: what will this vote mean towards midterm elections?

Ding: the fundraiser is doing well but not as good as last year

Ding: we finally have your file from the previous attorney and got an extension on the response to the Board of Ed

Ding: pay the bills

Ding: what will this vote mean for women and for our future

Ding: how are we on volunteers for the fundraising event

Ding: call you probation officer even though you’ve completed your probation but your phone seems to ignore your monthly request to delete this notification forever so you don’t really need to call him but here’s a reminder to when you did…

“Just go,” Dawn pushed on, ignoring the rest of her world, for just a brief moment in time.

And so she went…for 7 miles of peaceful selfishness so she could get back to her world to tackle the rest of her to do list, already feeling refreshed and accomplished for the day…

Book of Life

September 12, 2018

Dawn’s day started like any other: alarm clock blaring, hitting snooze an extra time, and slowly stumbling out of bed and into the shower before the kids and sun rose.

When Dawn stepped out of the shower she heard the faint beep of a smoke detector battery nearing its end.

“Great,” she sighed, as she wrapped her hair in a towel and went to investigate. She climbed onto her bed and gingerly stepped into the nightstand thinking, “Please don’t fall. Please don’t fall,” as she reached up to try to pull the detector out.

“Super. It’s stuck,” she thought as the nightstand wobbled a bit. “This is all I need. To fall and knock myself out so that the children will find me dead on the floor with a smoke detector in my hand, naked with nothing but a towel wrapped around my head. This is not how I planned to begin the 10 days of repentance.”

After finally unhooking the smoke detector and removing the battery, she left it on the nightstand and got dressed, making a mental note to have Scott replace it that night.

The rest of the morning, though rushed as usual, went off without a hitch and Dawn was able to get the kids to school on time.

As she drove to her appointment to have her car serviced, a morning dove swooped down. In the milliseconds she watched, she knew the bird would expertly avoid her car.

Unfortunately, the dove didn’t seem to notice her presence and flew head first into Dawn’s windshield. Dawn sadly watched in her rear view mirror as the bird ricocheted over her car and landed on the road behind her.

“This year’s not looking good for forgiveness for me,” Dawn’s thoughts again trailed to the upcoming Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, “God I hope I make it into the book of life.”

After returning from her service appointment, Dawn went out back to check on her garden. As she walked down the deck stairs, she passed through an unseen web and, allowing her irrational fear of spiders to take hold, tripped down the remaining steps, landing her ass-down on the ground with a twisted ankle, a flash of her life, and looking up to the heavens asking her family members for some understanding as her heart raced with adrenaline.

Dawn hobbled back inside and upstairs to her office. The garden would have to wait. She’d just take it easy, ice her ankle, and finish inputting school directory information and working on the PTO kickoff fundraiser she was chairing. “That way, God forbid I don’t make it to Yom Kippur, at least everything can still go on without me,” Dawn giggled, amused at the absurdity of the day so far.

When it was time to leave for school to pick up the children, Dawn walked into the garage and was overwhelmed by the smell of gasoline. “What the hell?” she thought, as she opened the garage door to allow the vapor to escape.

Now it was starting to get real and Dawn’s earlier amusement turned to fright.

Dawn climbed into her car, put her key in the ignition and stopped.

She flashed back to the fire and everything she and Scott had learned about natural gas, gasoline, flammable ingredients, and ignition after that horrific day. Everything she never sought to know was forever etched in her long term memory.

Dawn now knew that gasoline in liquid form does not ignite, but the vapors do as her unrelenting fear latched on with an unrelinquishing stronghold.

She stepped out of the car, shaking, her stomach inching towards her throat. She walked outside and dialed Scott at work. Her call went straight to voicemail which meant that he was in a meeting. Tears started forming as her eyes burned with fear.

She went back into the garage and sat in her car for what felt like an eternity, trying to convince herself that turning the key would not spark an ignition of flames.

“You can do this. You can do hard things. You will not blow up. You will be ok. Dear God, please let me be ok.” Dawn spoke aloud to herself as she held her breath and turned the key…

July 12, 2013

The kids and I moved back in with my parents in February, 2012, after insurance had denied our claim from the fire.

Jordyn was 3 1/2, Max had just turned 2, and Kennedy was just 3 months old.

I was nervous about how it would all work out. My mother and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. We’re so completely opposite and yet, exactly the same. Seriously, how was this ever going to work?

Mom & Joe got the house ready before we moved in. They got Max an adorable toddler bed. Little drawers were ready for the kids’ clothes. Closets and cabinets were cleaned out: for clothes, for food, for toys…for what little we had, they provided a space and a place.

We pulled into the driveway on a rainy Sunday and began to unload. It was awful. How can I be back here again? How am I supposed to live in my parent’s basement as a married woman with 3 small children? How can I get by without Brian and his rocksteady support during the week? Will Jordyn and Max be alright sleeping 2 floors up from me? Who will help them when nightmares or stomach bugs strike in the dark of night? Will they be ok without Daddy? Will I? Will Kennedy recognize him when he comes “home” on weekends?

It was an adjustment at first. We all needed to get into the rhythm of a new routine. We needed to find the right groove.

The “rules” for Bubbe & Zayde’s needed to change because we weren’t just here for a holiday or a weekend visit. Certain food items needed to be tossed except for really real special occasions. Jumping on and off beds and sliding down the banister would have to be curtailed.

It was frustrating. I felt like there were times I couldn’t parent my own kids the way I wanted. I felt like Mom was over stepping her boundaries and trying to parent for me. I felt like I was being watched and judged. And that I was doing the same. I felt like we were invading and taking over.

I held my breath when Mom reprimanded my children for acting out. I was pissed when she rewarded them with cookies for no reason whatsoever, knowing that once the sugar took effect, bedtime would be a nightmare.

I was relieved when she called to say that I was on my on my own for dinner and bedtime, free to do it all my way. Yet, when the time came, annoyed that she wasn’t there to help.

And exhausted…my goodness, so unbelievably, bone tired, exhausted.

And so was Mom. In addition to working a full day, running an entire agency, she was helping Jordyn and Max at night when they woke in fright at 12, 2, 3 & 5am. And she was getting them dressed and fed in the morning so I could tend to Kennedy. And taking them to school. And helping with the evening routine of dinner, bath, books and bed.

Mom and Joe traveled to the shore on weekends not only to give us our own family space but also to catch up on their own, well needed, rest…

As the year went on, it became easier. There was a fluidity and rhythm that took over. There was an understanding and a sense of comradery and support, both spoken and silent.

Routines became routine. I learned to loosen my reigns and learn from an experienced pro. Mom learned some new school techniques and added them to her expertise. There was patience, understanding, respect, and bonding.

Weekends were spent doing family things together. Time became a valuable treasure. Communication was imperative and open, (and technologically advanced). We learned the true meaning of quality.

Mom and Joe have gotten to see the kids grow up before their eyes. They have seen Kennedy grow through each stage from newborn to toddler. Mom potty trained Max and painted Jordyn’s nails. They garden together, take long walks around the ponds together, feed the horses together, laugh & sing & dance together, play & tickle together, have grown together, and have made so many memories…together.

I am so very glad that during this uncertain time, we have had such an amazing opportunity and incredible experience.

Thank you, Mom & Joe, who helped make your house our home.

Mother’s Log: a week with no kids

July 11, 2018: Day 2 of Solitude

Yesterday’s excursions left me wiped. My whole body is grateful for a day of rest and sleeping in.

So far the only accomplishments of the day are making the bed, making a vegan “chicken tortilla” soup, boiling beets for a beet & goat cheese salad, and taking the girls’ bikes to the shop to have the brakes fixed.

My new sunglasses and flip flops have arrived and I could not love amazon prime any more.

Heading to the beach to read and possibly nap… I have no worries, guilt, nor regrets…

Mother’s Log: A week with no kids

July 10, 2018: Day 1 of complete Solitude

8am: Instead of sleeping in today, I wake at a reasonable hour. It’s odd not having to make breakfast, clean up, or listen to any sibling rivalry, imaginative games, or the echoing crash of the marble run on the stone floor that reverberates in your head like a pin-ball. I thought I might miss all of that. I do not.

8:13am: I finish my coffee and unsweetened cashew milk. (It’s gross but healthier than happiness, I suppose.) I dress and leave the condo without even making my bed. As someone who thrives on organization, this, surprisingly, does not bother me one bit.

8:27am: I head out to the boardwalk on my bike, so far not having a uttered single word to a single soul. I head toward Atlantic City at a decent speed, only using my voice to let others know when I am passing them. Music blasting in one ear and the freedom of not shouting at my kids to stay to the right, pass on the left, and to plan ahead is magnificent.

9:56am: I just got back from the ride. End to end, it was a 17 mile trip. Not quite as long as I had wanted but more than my tailbone and lower pelvic bone were prepared for. They are quite angry with me, as is my non-thigh-gap.

10:03am: Damnit. I really do need to make the bed. And I guess I’ll fold the pile of laundry that’s been sitting in the guest room for 2 days.

10:38am: Spoke with Brian. He’s having a busy day at work and would love it if I came home to surprise him. He keeps asking. It’s cute and annoying at the same time. Either way, it’s not gonna happen. I love him, but I’m really enjoying this solitary.

11:34am: I mount up again and ride another 4 miles to the bay. My ass hates me. So do my feet, because I am wearing flip flops and manage to literally flip one off coming to a stop, therefore using my bare foot to land. See kids? This is why we don’t where flip flops when we ride. Duh.

11:58am: I’m going on a 2 hour solo SUP excursion in the bay. The waivers have all been signed and the young gentleman gives me directions on which way to paddle based on the tide and wind. I am so excited!

I follow his directions and paddle north, watching the wildlife of turtles, small jellyfish, egrets and other marina birds, crabs, and a plethora of jumping minnows during the low tide. It took all of 40 minutes, but I decide to head back.

12:49pm: Unfortunately the tide may be coming back in and the winds have changed so that my efforts are meaningless. I am paddling as hard as I can and am staying in the same place, possibly moving backwards. What. The….

1:46pm: I have been nonstop, hardcore paddling for an hour. The wind is so strong that if I stop, I will be pushed backwards and therefore cry.

I paddle towards the docks where the surf shop kid said it would be easier. The wind and waves knock me into the docks. This is not easier. He is a kid and knows nothing. I paddle back out, attempting to make a beeline for the surf shop, which is now in view. I glance up to see the damn water tower behind the surf shop smiling as it mocks my efforts. I’d like to give it the middle finger but I’m afraid to stop paddling.

Just keep going. You can do hard things. Hopefully you’ll have a 6 pack and toned arms by morning…Dig. Dig. DIIIIG!

2:00pm: My 2 hours is up, and by my calculations it’s going to take me at least another 2 to get in. The buoy in front of me is not getting any closer and the osprey nest to the left of me is still to the left of me.

I see another SUP heading towards me. Shit. It’s the kid from the surf shop paddling out to “rescue” me. Lovely. He approaches my board just as a boat whizzes by, causing me to lose my balance, my sunglasses, and my dignity. I climb back up, fall again, climb back up, and allow the kid to tow me in for a bit. This is not how I expected this to go.

2:17pm: We finally made it back. My whole body now hates me from the day I put it through. I inquire to the surf shop kid how often this happens, thinking it must be often. “Twice a month” he responded, humiliating me even more, “But it’s usually from inexperience, not from Mother Nature, so you’re good,” He tries to make me feel better. It does not work. At. All.

2:21pm: I hop back on the bike and ride the 4 miles back to the condo. Once I arrive safely, I hop down and manage to break my flip flop, which was already in poor condition. I go upstairs, order new sunglasses and flip flops, shower, and decide that relaxing on the beach can wait until tomorrow…I need a nap.

On Daddy’s Shoulders

I watch in awe as you carry our world on your shoulders as if it’s nothing to bear.

You swing them up so gently as their tiny hands clutch to the safety that you provide.

They bounce with delight as I marvel at your strength, ever solid, never waning.

They rest their little legs, take solace in the throne you have provided, and feel like royalty for this moment.

The smiles on your faces brings reassurance that all is alright, everything’s going to be okay, life is still good and sweet and wonderful just the way it is, in this moment.

To the untrained eye, it’s just a ride on daddy’s shoulders. To me, it’s everything that’s right in our world. To our children, it is their world…

May your shoulders always be this strong and may our children know that you will always be there to carry them when they are in need. And please know that you can forever lean on mine for extra strength, courage, and support.

*this poem was originally written on Father’s Day, 2014