Posts tagged " motherhood "

On Mom’s Spring Break

April 5th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

It’s been a month since I hauled my suitcase up the narrow, steep stairs, slid the key into the door and stepped into the tiny, dark apartment that belonged to a stranger.

29 days since I sat on a West Village fire escape with a cup of hot coffee resting on the railing, at 4am, jet-lagged, watching loud friends in their 20s stumbling in high heels, hailing cabs.

28 days since from the same spot, I heard the blond woman, hair a mess-she’d obviously fallen asleep somewhere-loudly whispering into her cell phone, recounting the events of the night. I

27 days since I met up with an old friend and to the random melodies of magical jazz, filled the scarce silence with stories that we chose to tell.

26 days, since I walked the city for 12 hours, getting on and off the subway as if it were a free Disney extravaganza, and I, 10-years-old.

25 days since a late-winter blizzard buried New York under a few inches of snow, emptying the streets of anyone but brave tourists in soaking sneakers, subways transforming into makeshift homeless shelters for the day. I, schlepping bags of precious underwear and t-shirts I’d just bought, because not a minute can be wasted, through the evil storm.

24 days since I began to wonder when I will miss my son, when the separation anxiety that crippled me on my last trip will take over.

23 days since I accepted that it will never happen, that he’s finally old enough to be away from me, that I’m finally ready to remember who I am, even if for a few fast days.

22 days since I walked around Barnes and Noble and Union Square, taking deep breaths, as if I could keep their air inside me until next time.

21 days since I gave thanks to Saint Patrick’s Day parade traffic that kept me from getting to the airport quickly, for even Queens’ highways looked beautiful that day.

21 days since I wanted to stay forever, 21 days since my four-year-old boy ran to me with a bouquet of flowers bigger than him, 21 days since I realized a new chapter had begun.


On Getting It

November 23rd, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I just made a stir fry that puts the world’s worst cook to shame. And I cook well. Yesterday, I burnt my son’s rice, threw it away, put on another batch and forgot to add water. I threw my phone into the kitchen garbage and spent half an hour calling myself, hearing it ring, unable to find it, crawling around the floor as if it could be was under the floorboards. I put a pack of spaghetti in the fridge. I’ve forgotten to take a shower, until it’s so late, I can barely move.

You see, I, a full-time mom, got a part-time job.

After four years of doing little else but tending to my one bundle of joy, I had it all figured out. The day-to-day part at least. Somewhere in year three: enter feelings of uselessness, boredom, resentment, lack of intellectual stimulation. See, no matter how rewarding it is to be a stay-at-home mom, I was always something else before that. I talked to people with a vocabulary of over 50 words, I created, I learned, I got paid. I longed to regain that part of myself. And then I did.

I’m not that far along, but the difference in me is tremendous. I don’t complain about waking up at the crack of dawn, after all, it’s the only time to shower. I miss my son, I can’t wait to go pick him up from school to go collect acorns and snail shells. I don’t get angry when he whines, because he rarely does, bouncing off my positive energy. Kids do that. I read bedtime stories with the dramatic capabilities of a Broadway star. The house is a mess, the fridge holds the bare essentials (milk and wine), and my personal hygiene is that of a single mother with newborn triplets. But I catch myself smiling. I hear myself breathing. I see myself finding time for things I didn’t have time for before, worn down by my lethargy.

I don’t go to an office, I work from home, but I bought a pair of black dress pants. Just because, maybe, I’ll need to wear something without holes or I’ll need to go somewhere where jeans and sweats are frowned upon. Or maybe I’ll put them on and sit on my kitchen floor writing, keeping an eye on the oven cooking my baby’s school lunch for the next three days.

This being a woman thing, is a complicated matter. But while writing this, I successfully followed the boiling instructions on a pack of noodles: boil for 4 minutes.

I’ve got this.


On First Love

October 7th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

We all think we remember it, that first love, I thought I remembered mine, but I’m starting to believe that our first true love stories may happen much earlier than we realize. They happen before we are even conscious of what love is, which is what makes these stories so real. Pure.

There’s a boy and a girl, I’ll call them B and G, they met a year ago in preschool, he was barely potty trained, barely spoke a word. She, a little older, ran away from him, then immediately to him. They shared an interest in trains and bulldozers, they shared a classroom, they shared the sudden flood of knowledge that only kids their age stay afloat in, grow from.

He began to speak, order her around, she bit his hand, then his arm, but he didn’t want to let her go, and with the guidance of his mom, forgave her. They each chose a bicycle, and at recess, rode with noone but eachother.

The summer split them apart, yet each asked for one another every day.
“Mommy, I miss G,” he said every night.

G came to school earlier than scheduled that year, the morning after a long flight, jet-lagged and exhausted, but demanding to go. They saw eachother and hid behind their moms’ legs for a second, then let go, and headed to the play dough station.

Their moms try to bring them to school at the same time each morning, so one or the other doesn’t stick their head out the car window looking to see if the other has arrived, so that one does not sit in the corner quietly until their friend finally comes in, and at the end of each day, they choose to embrace. The kind of embrace where you have no idea what it means, don’t care if anyone is watching.

It’s raw, unfiltered, forgiving, endless, unafraid, unknowing.

That’s what love should be, that’s what it really is before our egos outgrow our hearts, before we forget what it means to forgive, before we believe that one companion is not enough, before other people’s voices begin to have the power to influence our minds.

I find myself having silly, immature, romantic cliche thoughts. I imagine them as teenagers, still bound by this unconscious love, and wishing that we could all, as adults, feel like this forever. Hoping that maybe at least they will. So this raw love, it must still be here, buried somewhere, enticed to unearth itself as I watch two little people live what we all would die for.

On the Privilege of a Cold

September 30th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

When I was younger, I rarely got sick. But when I did, I openly succumbed to the day or two that it would take me to get over it. I remember laying in bed, taking something like NyQuil to zonk me out, sleeping it off with nothing but the buzz of the TV in the background, maybe someone waking me with some chicken soup, and then life went on.

That was obviously a long time ago. The pre-child era.

Here’s how a cold or flu go in the current era.

One day, I go to school to pick up my son. The two kids that the day before had rivers of snot running down their cute little noses, has multiplied, the multiplication includes my son. He whines and moans and groans on the couch for a couple of hours a day, fever-free, and at school, symptom-free, and is soon back to his normal cheery self.

I wake up the next day unable to move, breathe, think. I take him to school, the teachers see me, and split to different corners of the room.

“You go rest,” they say from afar.

“Yeah, ok,” I say. You know nothing.

Your kid gets sick and everyone is all “Oh, careful you don’t get it.” What does that even mean. They will drink from your glass. They will drool on you. They will sneeze in your face, cough everywhere.

I spend six days planning what time I need to pop two Advil to go to the supermarket, cook, pick up my kid, and put him to bed without the pills’ effects having time to wear off. I eat vitamin C until my stomach issues a warning to stop.

“Do you have a fever?”someone asks.

Of course I don’t, I’ve taken so much ibuprofen that fever never even had a chance.

I cook meals that taste like nothing to me but like too much of something for everyone else. After-school cartoon marathons become the norm, as I lay under a duvet in what is still summer, surrounded by toilet paper rolls because I’ve run out of Peppa Pig tissues, which my son cuts into little pieces to make forts and blankets for his teddy. Bedtime stories are constantly interrupted by nose blowing and coughing, but as he falls asleep, I know tomorrow I will be better.

But I’m not. I begin to research strange viral outbreaks on the internet, thinking I may have missed a news story, yet nothing, so I go back under the duvet and watch a movie, simply because I cannot do anything else. Nothing.

“Are you better, mommy?” he asks today, noticing that the duvet has been replaced by a thin blanket.

“Not really, baby,” I say.

“Here, take teddy, you will feel better,” he says covering both of us with a sheet of toilet paper, intertwining his fingers with mine.

On What I Will Miss Most

September 15th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

As I find myself slowly waking from the stupor of early motherhood, falling into back into the rhythm of toddler-free humanity, I already know what I will miss from these exhausting, yet miraculous years.

The smell of Crayola crayons.
Soft couch pillow forts.
The pain of him running and ramming into my chest when I open the door to pick him up from preschool.
The feeling of those tiny hands wrapped around my neck, “I missed you mommy” whispers tickling my ear.
The magic of the words “disonaurs” and “sumic.”
Referring to boiling spaghetti as cooking.
Getting away with putting elastics in his hair, while accepting his refusal to get a haircut. Because it does not matter.
The freedom of things not mattering.
The sound of that pure, innocent laughter.
The awe and amazement of everything new that I see through his eyes.

There’s a reason all mothers say their kids will always be their babies; the touches, sights, sounds, and smells are so potent and powerful during the first years, they last forever.


On Praise

September 9th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Imagine you’re a painter, the only painter in the world working on one specific canvas, with paints that are different to everyone else’s, a paintbrush that is like no other, and with each brushstroke, your art takes on a life of its own. Your painting is unpredictable, yet it is in your hands to make it into art.

Now imagine this painting is a child. And there you have it, parenthood.

We all know that raising a kid is challenging, demanding, and a completely different experience for each parent. It’s by far the hardest job we will ever have, because this job lasts all day, all night, for years and years, it’s never complete. We constantly feel like we are failing, doing it wrong. There is a constant feeling of incompetence, constant questioning of choices, and even the moments where we feel accomplished are soon clouded by more questions.

There are a myriad of mothers groups supporting eachother, cyber-patting eachother on the back for the amazing job we’re all doing, we all know that no parent is perfect. But I don’t think there is anything more soul-melting, encouraging, and uplifting than hearing words of praise about your kid from someone outside your immediate circle.

“He makes us laugh,” she said and went on tell the story. “He’s amazing, whatever you have done, you’ve done it right.”

Her words sounded like someone was telling me that I’ve just won a Nobel Peace Prize, saved a village of starving people somewhere in the chaos of Africa, rebuilt Aleppo, and found a cheap cure for all cancers. Now, as I write the words, I see that while they were kind and true, their meaning is nowhere near what they made me feel. They were simply what I needed to hear.

So I thank you, wonderful woman, for giving me the strength and inspiration to continue brushing color onto my unique canvas.

On the Road Ahead

September 7th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

A year ago, I pulled the door of my son’s preschool shut and my eyes swelled with tears of fear and pride. His first day, his first time alone. Today, I slammed that green, iron door behind me, and if it had not been raining, or if my husband hadn’t been with me, I would have torn off my clothes and run around the block screaming Aretha Franklin’s “Freedom.” Instead I drove through morning traffic, serenely, road-rage free.

Back home, I first sat on that toilet for ever, for reason other than that nobody appreciates alone time there than mothers of young children. Then I roamed the house, didn’t make the beds, didn’t do laundry, didn’t even wash the morning milk bottle. By 10.30 I thought a day had gone by, so I went to the supermarket and bought myself food, smirking at the women with toddlers in their carts demanding candy at the register.

Evil, I know.

By 2pm, my living room had turned into a jock’s paradise; an on-going brainless TV marathon, plates of half-eaten food, feet on the table, house clothes.

Pick up is an hour later this year, so by the time I got to school, I missed him more than I do when I leave for days. He didn’t run into my arms as he did every single day last year. He grabbed me by the hand and begged to stay a little longer, he wasn’t done making angels out of play dough. He’d eaten all his food, had no bathroom accidents, which still haunt me from the sudden forced potty training of last September, he wasn’t tired because it wasn’t nap time, he was simply happy. As was I. Our kids our exclusively ours for such a short period of time if you look at the grander picture.

I have a feeling that this year I will finally be human again. Not the me I was before this now three-year-old came into my life, I’m not striving for that, for I am so much more, thanks to him. But it seems like I will finally find out what else I can add on.

On When You’re So Over the Family Vacation

August 20th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

So there I am, legs hanging out the trunk of our car, parked on the shoulder of a national highway, looking for the grapes. I find them and wash them using a plastic bottle of water. I’m wearing normal clothes and shoes for the first time in ten days, not a cold, wet bathing suit, yet the wind and dust raised by the speeding cars disrespect that, covering my legs and feet in stains.

The first few days were magnificent, carefree, happy. For the kids. We’d gone to an island where our fiends and their kids already were. By day six, I was done. I never again wanted to change a wet bathing suit on an excited, giggly, sun-kissed child. Or a cold, tired, whiney one. Our beach towels that were originally, soft and fluffy, but has turned into a salty planks of cotton wood. Sand was everywhere, on the floor, in our beds, in the shower, in my bra. I’d dipped my head into the water a total of two times, the wind had blown and turned my hair into a artful bird nest, I knew it would remain so until my hair mask and I were reunited at home.

At least all children’s palates begged for spaghetti and rice, limiting our time in the kitchen. A few slices of cucumber and tomato, and we no longer felt like a bad parents. Soon, bedtimes became painful, pre-dawn risings even more so. On the last night, I feel asleep in a chair. A feat I had not accomplished in 40-odd years.

So on the shoulder of that highway, a highway which in many countries would be considered a side street, I was happy to wash some tiny village grapes while buses of tourists sped by. My son whined in the back seat, faster mommy, I’m hungry, I miss my friends, I want to go back to our village and swim in the sea. I handed him the fruit, dreaming of its alcohol-infused juice in the fridge at home. We drove off, and I turned back to look at him. His blond hair was blonder, longer, it covered his twinkling eyes, his white skin a light shade of bronze, his little feet kicking my seat to the rhythm of the music, while he swallowed the sweet grapes.

It was his first time, his first real summer vacation, and even though I’m over it and the next ten to come, I only hope he remembers every moment of it, because none of it, was for or about me.

On When it Gets Easier

August 15th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

There is a mother of a newborn on the beach, her sunbed is next to mine, she is skinny, nervous, exhausted. Her husband had taken the infant to sit on the warm sand just a few meters away. She keeps getting up, running over there, coming back. They change the baby’s diaper three times in half an hour.

I try to read, my three year old is playing with daddy in the water, but I can’t concentrate, her stress is bringing back memories of the first months.

Motherhood comes less naturally to some of us. It takes us longer than others to get used to living for another soul, to become selfless, to learn to parent without constant stress, to learn to embrace what we’ve created.

“Excuse me, is it ok if I put this here, there is no shade anywhere else,” she mumbles. It takes me a few seconds to register that she is speaking English, pushing the stroller through the sand.

“Of course,” I say, trying to make more room for her on the crowded beach.
“I feel like I’m invading your space,” she says. “This is Greece in August; there is no personal space,” I smile. The look in her eyes is lost, speedy, she struggles to place the stroller in the perfect spot as her husband places the baby inside.

“Don’t worry, I remember how it is all too well,” I tell her.

“Oh, good, I suddenly don’t feel so alone,” she says.

She pauses, takes a step back, “Does it get easier? Please tell me it gets easier.”

I want to laugh, at myself mostly, having asked that question so many times. I know I should tell her it just gets a different kind of hard.

“It does,” I say instead. “I promise you, it does.”

On Fried Chicken Dinosaurs

August 5th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

The first two years of motherhood, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and coming to terms with the fact that we will never sleep again, come to teach us that life’s grandest magic is brought through discomfort and pain. Feeding young children comes to take all magic, joy and hope of that life, away.

Just as our precious angels move onto solids, learn to scoop up rice with their spoons, one fine day they decide that the only acceptable food is spaghetti exactly like you made it yesterday.

At first you ignore the problem, thinking that they’ll get hungry enough and eat their lentils, but they don’t. (My son ate bananas for six months.) You begin to google child-friendly meals, run around town looking for the perfect ingredients, while stuffing your screaming kid with candy, try to involve them in preparing the food as these smart sites suggest, they eat nothing, you try again. You are calm, together, you know you shouldn’t make a big deal out of this, it’ll only backfire. Until while trying to carve a dinosaur out of a chicken nugget, you suddenly are not. You find yourself trying to stuff food in their mouths, begging them to at least lick it, threatening them with no snacks. But nothing. You scream. You cry. You throw the chicken across the room.

You miss your mommy.

And they still win.

You boil the spaghetti. Exactly like you do every time, there are only so many ways to prepare that intricate meal. You give in. Hell, you even serve yourself a plate of the tasteless empty carb. And silently slice a cucumber and put it on a side plate, because you still believe in miracles.

“Yuck. This spaghetti is yucky, mommy. I want spaghetti with rice.”

I retain my cool.

He stuffs the cucumber in his mouth.

“This cucumber has made me stuffed,” he says, cucumber still in mouth, leaving the table.

Two seconds later, he’s standing in front of me, holding his plastic snack bowl with both hands, looking into my eyes like one of the orphans in Oliver Twist.

“Mommy, I’m starving. I need cookies.”

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.