Monday, December 6, 2010

All I Want For Christmas Is...

The Little One has been at it again, and I'm just too proud not to share. She wrote her own letter to Santa this year, for the first time ever. (That's a rendering of her and the Big Man there at the bottom.)

As expected, there's plenty of girlie stuff on her list. Ponies and princesses figure prominently. And she's been awfully nice, so chances are Santa will fulfill her wishes.

Me? My wish list is pretty much checked off already. I have a happy, healthy kiddo who's having a blast playing with words. As a Mama writer, that last part is pretty cool. I have some jobs I'm digging big time, including local fashion and food beats for an online paper. I even interviewed Rachael Ray recently. I'm also plugging away on my book. (I know, I said I'd finish it in 2010. I didn't. But 2011 is my year. I can totally feel it.) And, I am blessed with the love of some truly spectacular people. Supportive, hilarious, incredible, brilliant people who dig me as much as I dig them. All this, despite some major across-the-board downsizing over the last twelve or so months.

This isn't the worst way to end a year, especially one we embarked on without much more than the determination on our backs.

So, Santa, your work with me is done this year. Save the cashmere gift set for the next gal. I'm cozy enough as I am. But, if you could throw in an extra tiara or set of crayons for the Little One, she'd be so happy, she'd probably write you a thank you note. All by herself.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Early Childhood Literacy: The Freudian Stage


What can I say? She sounded it out all by herself.
I await the inevitable call from her preschool teacher.
Hey, at least she's spelling.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Soul Garden

Ladies, I've reached the six-month mark of single-mamahood.

The sky hasn't fallen. We're not living on a park bench. We even have a little garden growing on the balcony of our new apartment, a feat I never managed to accomplish as a stay-at-home-mama in a house with a lovely and generous yard.






We have tomatoes, rosemary, cucumbers, lavender, basil and other lovelies growing right outside our sliding door.

But, in addition to vegetables and herbs and flowers, what we are cultivating is a sense of joy, independence and possibility. What we have built together, mama and daughter--what we're growing--is a result of us and our intrepid nature. What we're doing, we're doing on our own, and well.

To be sure, we owe much to friends and family and the support they've so generously provided. A word or two of encouragement, an hour or two of free babysitting--it's all integral to this step in our journey.

The last six months have been a logistical and emotional roller coaster. We have entertained both comfort and hardship. We have stumbled, and we have collected ourselves. Our bootstraps are worn out from tugging. Our gardening tools are well-used. And we have moved forward.

Now, six months out, despite being in the midst of a mad heat wave, the forecast is favorable. We can do this. We're doing this. To persevere, it doesn't take a house, or a man. It doesn't take built-in bookshelves or a gourmet kitchen. A padded 401k--does anyone have one these days?--is not required. All it takes is the determination to do so.

Little One, you are my garden. Your future is what I am cultivating. I promise to promptly pull any weeds that threaten to inhibit your growth--our growth.

Our growing season is now. Together, we will reap the fruits of our experiences.

The time is ripe.






Sunday, June 20, 2010

All the Single Mamas

Well Mamas, Happy Father's Day.

It's a funny thing, Father's Day, when you're a single Mama. Especially the first one on your own. What to do? Wine with lunch? Dress all in black? Pedicure? Yoga? Fly to Vegas?

For my first post-kiddo, unattached Father's Day, I did not fly to Vegas. (There's always next year.) It was actually kind of low key. A mixture of chores, errands, some down time and--gasp--writing!

Right, I know, I make my living tossing words around for others, sure. Lots of words, for lots of others. But today, in honor of my single mother-and-fatherhood, I relished in the gift of a few kidless hours and used them to write for myself. It's incredible, the power of a few thousand words, added to a few thousand more. If I keep this up, I might actually finish my book! Too bad I won't make Oprah's show before she hangs up her mic.

Having the time and space, though, reminded me just how hard we single Mamas work. Not that I needed reminding. Ha. No, rather, I had a moment or two to reflect on just how flipping hard single parenthood is. Hard! (I thought this over while I took an indulgent 20 minutes to blow out my hair. It was kind of fabulous.)

Please don't misunderstand: I love my kiddo. Pick an appendage, I'd saw it off myself to save her discomfort. But having a few hours to myself, to be a grown-up and throw myself into what I love, well, that didn't suck.

So, to all the Single Mamas out there, I hope you were able to celebrate yourselves today. It isn't easy, what we do: blood, sweat, tears, tantrums, the lot of it. (I don't even want to get into what high school will look like.) If you didn't have the opportunity to celebrate yourselves, let me honor you here: it takes guts to do what we do. It takes strength and creativity. Our days are never over and there is rarely a moment when we are off duty. But our perseverance, our determination and our blind and reckless love for our kiddos see us through. We are Superwomen.

Single Mamas, I salute you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Power of Positive Thinking: We Rock

When you hear the term "daily affirmation," it can conjure up some pretty silly images. (Remember Stuart Smalley?)

But just watch this little girl put some serious affirmations to work in front of her bathroom mirror.



Sure, it's cute--"I like my elephants!"--but it's also pretty powerful, especially when you consider the state of the self esteem of young girls (and grown women) in this country. It kind of makes me realize the level of responsibility I have to make sure I build the Little One up, every day, in every way.

My new goal is to get my kiddo this jazzed about herself and her life. While I'm at it, I could probably take a cue from little Jessica myself.

I do like my life. And I can do anything "good." So can my Little One. I think we'll spend some time after school today reminding ourselves just how much we rock.

Just don't look for us on YouTube in our pajamas.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hey, Ho, Let's Go!

We were up early today. When I heard the first "Mama?" I think the clock read 5:58 am. There's much about the arrival of summertime that I await with gleeful anticipation. The earlier wake-ups brought on by the earlier sunrise, though? Not so much. Come high summer, it can feel a little bit like I'm living in the Land of the Midnight Sun with the hours the Little One keeps.

Anyway, as I stumbled my way through coffee making with both eyes closed, and while the rest of Fairfield County Connecticut was resting comfortably in bed on this Sunday morning, the Little One was bouncing in our kitchen.

"I wanna wear my dress!"

"Baby, I can't see anything because I haven't had any coffee," I told her.

"I wanna wear my dress!"

"Kiddo, it's the middle of the night. We haven't had breakfast. Or coffee. Anyway, your nightgown is like a dress," I offer. The coffee maker comes alive. Thank God.

"I. Want. To. Wear. My. Dreeeeesssssssss!!!"

Confession: I had no idea what she was talking about. Or rather, I made an assumption. I assumed she was asking to wear a pink crinoline number she wore on Easter. It's her go-to "look, I'm a princess," outfit. I'm happy to let her throw it on, but usually after we're finished with oatmeal or jam or other sticky, breakfasty things.

"Maybe after breakfast," I tell her.

"Noooooooo!" She collapsed in a heap on the kitchen floor, writhing and screaming. Certainly the neighbors heard and now assume I'm running some kind of satellite secret prison for the CIA.

"Kiddo," I stepped over her to pour myself a cup of coffee. "Really."

"But (sniff) you (gulp) promised (wail)."

I promised? The caffeine hits my bloodstream; my command of the English language is returning. Despite the rush from my morning fix, I don't remember specifically promising she could wear that dress today.

"Which dress do you mean, baby?"

"The beautiful one," she said, her bottom lip trembling. Well, that clears things up.

"Why don't you show me," I suggested, now that both my eyelids had come unglued. I followed her into her room, where she pointed to a new sundress, hanging on her closet door. A dress that I had, in fact, promised she could wear today to a friend's barbecue.

"Sure, honey, you can wear that," I said, taking the dress off the hanger.

"I don't want to be late for the barbecue," she said, pulling the dress over her head. One the most amazing tricks an almost-four-year-old girl can pull off is the immediate materialization and evaporation of tears. On her face there is no evidence of my CIA secret prison tactics. Incredible. "That's why I woke up early." She spun around twice, checking the twirl factor of her new dress. Apparently satisfied, she said, "I'm ready. Let's go to the barbecue."

Clarity washes over me like so much Colombian dark roast. She's so excited about this barbecue tonight with 2 of her best friends that she literally cannot wait to go, even if that means showing up 11 hours early.

"Oh, kiddo," I said, hugging her. One of the very best things about kids this age is the unbridled enthusiasm with which they approach everything--tantrums, barbecues, princess dresses, a dandelion-covered lawn--everything. Their capacity for joy, or any other emotion, is so much deeper and wider than anything we allow ourselves to feel as adults. They experience the world in ways that are so immediate and so intense. Sure, sometimes this approach isn't the most effective. Writhing and screaming on the floor of one of my client's offices, for instance, probably wouldn't get my contract renewed.

However, there is much to recommend this authenticity. Can you imagine--do any of us remember--what it feels like to see dandelions growing in a field and feel excitement? When was the last time you were so jazzed about an event that you woke up early and hopped out of bed, raring to go, 11 hours before you were expected?

Yeah, I don't remember either. But now that I've finished the better part of the pot of coffee I made this morning, I'm throwing on my favorite sundress too. I think the Little One and I will grab the camera and look for a field where we can pick some dandelions. Maybe we'll offer them as a hostess gift at the barbecue. We kind of can't wait.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's My Birthday, Too, Yeah

Well, this week is my birthday week. But hold onto your Botox vials, ladies; this year, I'm trying to look at things a little differently. (At least when I'm not standing in direct sunlight.)

Recently, I attended the birthday dinner of a dear, beautiful, and loving friend. Her spectacular (and highly literate) husband gave a toast, which included the following poem, written by my most favorite of favorites, e.e. cummings:


silently if,out of not knowable
night's utmost nothing,wanders a little guess
(only which is this world)more my life does
not leap than with the mystery your smile

sings or if(spiralling as luminous
they climb oblivion)voices who are dreams,
less into heaven certainly earth swims
than each my deeper death becomes your kiss

losing through you what seemed myself,i find
selves unimaginably mine;beyond
sorrrow's own joys and hoping's very fears

yours is the light by which my spirit's born:
yours is the darkness of my soul's return
--you are my sun,my moon,and all my stars


Right?

But beyond the (obvious and enviable) romance, there was a deeper message my friend's doting other half wanted to impart: the idea of a birthday being not only the day one is born, but the other "births" that person's life inspires, be they of the flesh, the mind, or the spirit.

So, I'm thinking that this April 4th, I might try to spend a little less time with the magnifying mirror, examining my skin's evaporating elasticity. Instead, I'd like to turn it into an occasion for inspiring other births in the people whose lives I'm blessed enough to encounter, and for thanking them for the births they've inspired in mine. Births of curiosity, love, kindness, compassion, and generosity, for instance.

See, I'm pretty blessed. I have many people in my life whom I cherish deeply. Some are new in my world, some I've known (almost) since I was born--or at least since I was young enough to feel invincible. So this year, I think I'd like to actually use "my" day to tell each of them how much they mean to me, and to thank them for the love they've helped me give birth to, each in their own, very particular way.

That's kind of my plan this year. Gratitude and love in abundance.

Anyway, it's cheaper than another glycolic peel from my dermatologist.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hello? Is This Thing On?

Well, Mamas, it seems I've taken an unexpected--and unannounced--sabbatical.

Had I more foresight, I might have warned you that I'd be checking out for awhile.

But who knew that single motherhood was this overwhelming? (Probably at least a few of you did.)

Well, I'm happy to be back and to issue a report from the front lines.

Yes, the dark circles under my eyes seem to have taken up permanent residence. (Thanks, Stila, for having this Mama's back.) And yes, my Little One has had to make some adjustments to her schedule. We both have. The transition hasn't been seamless and we're both learning quite a bit about resilience, patience, and Nick Jr. On Demand.

The good news?

We're doing just fine. She still eats her vegetables. She's reading and writing her name, along with a few other words. (She's still three, so this is big news!) She still loves Mama, Papa and everything she loved prior to our "big adjustment."

The transition hasn't been without its bumps, to be sure, and we're not without bruises. But together, we're making it happen, and happily.

So, Mamas, I'm back. Musings, updates, anecdotes and silliness to follow.

Just don't ask me why I look so tired.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

V Day

I kind of totally forgot about Valentine's Day this year.

It's not really a holiday I generally count down to anyway. But this year? Oblivious.

This lead to something of a scramble yesterday, when I read an email from the Little One's teacher, reminding all of us parents about the Valentine's Day party for her class this week.

Having made the complete transition to Single Working Mama, I have less time to sit around with doilies and glue sticks than I did six months ago. Plus, I'm still a Room Mom for the Little One's class, which means I have to kick it in for the party. I needed to come up with 20 Valentines, plus three for the teachers, and some heart-shaped party stuff.

So, when I read the email, I panicked a little.

See, the party is this Thursday. My work schedule is nuts until then. When the hell would I have time to glue doilies together with construction paper hearts for every kid in the Little One's class?

Clearly, I wouldn't. I won't. I don't.

So, I did the only thing I could do: I headed to the Supermarket and tried to find the least offensive, least nauseating, mass-marketed Box 'o Valentines I could.


Yeah.

We ended up with the Disney Princess Valentines. The Little One Loves them. Me? They kind of make me throw up in my mouth a little.

There is a silver lining to this story, however. When we got home from the Supermarket, my kiddo couldn't wait to tear into those Disney Princess cards. She set herself up at the little table in our new kitchen, got out her markers and started writing her name. She was signing her name on each card! We've been working on that, and she works on it at school, too, but I had no idea she'd become so good at it! She's like a professional Name Writer or something.

I hugged her and told her how proud of her I was. Then I told her that she's my Valentine, that she's the best Valentine I've ever had. And I meant it.

"You're my best Valentine, too, Mama," she said, hugging me back. And while that won't always be true, this year it is. What's better than that?

Nothing, Mamas. Nothing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Vote Joy!

Good morning, Mamas! You may have been wondering where the heck I've been lately.

Well, I'll tell you. I've been hard at work on several projects, the most exciting of which I want to share with you. Many of you know about my love for and support of Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation, whose mission it is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

Some of you may also know about the magazine I work on for Joyful Heart, entitled Reunion.

Well, we've entered Reunion into the Pepsi Refresh online grant contest. We've put our blood, sweat and tears--and our joy!--into winning this grant, so that we can bring our magazine, and the sense of healing and community it provides, to hundreds of thousands of survivors nationwide.

Why the heck am I telling you about this? Because the way Pepsi Refresh works is kind of like American Idol--except it matters. See, you need to vote online for Joyful Heart to get this grant. You can vote today and every day this month. It only takes a second. But in that second, you bring Joyful Heart closer to winning the grant. And you bring survivors a step closer to a sense of healing and possibility that Joyful Heart wants to bring.

So vote today. And every day this month.

Thanks, Mamas.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Save the Children: Haiti

Heart wrenching reports of despair and miracles continue to flow out of Haiti, in the wake of last week's devastating earthquake. The expected comparisons to Katrina or the Asian tsunami continue to attempt to frame the discussion and international understanding of the disaster. And the usual suspects are making the anticipated inflammatory remarks. (Honestly Pat Robertson, if that's how God operated, he would have dropped an anvil on your head a long time ago.)

But beneath the rubble of media coverage lies the real suffering of millions.

So what the heck can we do about it?

Kick in some cash to a trusted organization, for a start.

Save the Children is bringing relief--food, clean water, medical aid--to this devastated region. But they need our help to keep doing it. And it couldn't be easier. To donate $10--that's two venti lattes--to Save the Children's efforts, just text "SAVE" to 20222. That's it. You're done.


To read first hand accounts of Save the Children's relief work in Haiti and to see what your dollars can do, check out their blog, Voices from the Field.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Amy's Harvest

So, you think mid-January is the wrong time to turn your thoughts toward gardening? Yep, me too. Until my talented and horticulturally advanced friend Amy taught me a thing or two, that is.

Did you know that late February is an ideal time to purchase seeds for your spring planting? (Plan early, avoid the rush on cherry tomato seeds.)

Were you aware that good gardening requires planning and that there are online tools to help you map out your growing space?

Had you any inkling that you can organize your garden around the phases of the moon? (This process doesn't even require any eye of newt of or toe of frog!)

Luckily for all of us, Amy has finally decided to spread her knowledge around like so much compost; she's writing her own blog now, called Amy's Harvest. It's worth a peek if gardening is your thing--or if you're trying to make it your thing.

And look for Amy to be guest blogging here soon with tips on gardening with Little Ones.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Reentry

A week at Grandma's house has done much to thwart all my good child-rearing habits. As usual.

A script from this morning:

Little One: Good morning, Mama. Let's watch something on TV.

Mama: Why don't we have breakfast?

Little One: Yes! Cookies and TV!

Mama: How about eggs and then maybe we could paint something together?

Little One: (Face collapsing into a tremendous pout, with tears on the verge of overflowing) But Mama, Grandma always lets me watch TV. You're a naughty Mama. I want to go back to Grandma's house. You're so mean! (Threatened tears now materialize and overwhelm. A brief stint face down on the kitchen floor ensues.)

Mama: ...


Thanks, mom.