Posts tagged " summer "

On Beautiful Monsters

August 2nd, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

So, what’s up, primary caregivers of beautiful monsters who ask you questions and demand to be fed stuff for at least 12 nonstop hours a day? How’s your summer going? Good?  On vacation? How’s that working out for you? Relaxing on a beach and having candlelight dinners with your partner?

NO?

Me neither.

It started well. I followed the “let them be bored” mantra that has swept over the already exhausted population of summer parents. It seemed like a valid concept, but they forgot to mention that letting them be bored can be more tiring than entertaining them. But I stuck to my guns, pulled through, drank the KoolAid, felt proud of my accomplishment. His boredom led to a fascination with tiny Legos. Currently, I have an airport landing strip running along my living room floor, which I’m not allowed to move. There are heliplanes, fire truck garbage trucks, and bulldozer cranes on display, for anyone who dares to come visit us, which truthfully is pretty much noone.

During rest time, we began by watching “Sid the Science Kid.” The past week, two farting and burping larvae in the gutters of New York have been playing on Netflix all day. I have stacked my New Yorkers back into a corner, unread, and reached level 1000-something in Farm Heroes, which besides slowly killing my brain, has also affected my eyesight. A random burst of noise from the plastic electric guitar or our favorite harmonica, usually signifies that rest time is over. And it’s Lego time again. Today, I suggested we sit together while he builds his vehicles, and I read a few pages of my book. He eagerly agreed. We all know how that went.

Basic errands, such as buying two liters of milk a day for my growing angel, take hours instead of minutes. It’s reached the point where two different shoes on feet is completely acceptable, as is trying to carry Teddy, a coloring book, a sticker book, a fire truck and a little plastic bag of tiny Legos in tiny four-year-old hands and dropping them multiple times on the way to the car. All of these things end up in my handbag by the time we reach the entrance of the supermarket. The supermarket, another horror, was the place I began to teach my kid the value of money not so long ago. You know, the old song and dance about how we can’t buy things all the time, nor can we buy yogurt that comes with Smarties just to eat the smarties and throw the yogurt away. And then claim that we ate something healthy. Not so slowly, this deteriorated to us leaving with him carrying his own little bag of stuff. Tomorrow, when we go on the milk/wine run, I will offer to buy him something.

Then we have the lunch/dinner situation. When school closed, we sat down and made a schedule of each week’s balanced meal. I don’t know where that schedule is, actually, I ‘m not so sure anymore that we made it. And today’s lunch featured a donut from Starbucks.

Bedtime begins shortly after lunch time, for me at least, for that’s when I start thinking about it.

“Mommy, I want to do something exciting! Mommy, what are we going to do today? You know, like the zoo, or the trampoline, or the beach!”

We did all of those, multiple times. The zoo in 35 degrees celsius. The beach, where by 11am, there are hundreds of school-free little monsters, louder than mine. Grapes covered in sand, sand stuck in little pink gums, three bags of crap to haul back and forth from the car, hours to spend in the warm, shallow waters while getting a special back tan that leaves the rest of you as stark white as you were in December. The trampoline that opens at 3pm, not an ounce of shade, but a four-year-old doesn’t care, until sweaty and exhausted, he passes out in the car on the way back and bounces off walls till way after bedtime.

Bedtime, yes, that’s where this began. It finally happens, and you feel like something magical has occurred. You suddenly have options, such as do I shower, do I clean, do I pour wine now or later, maybe I should have a glass now, then shower and have another one, do I watch half an episode of a girlie, brainless show before the spouse comes home and assumes that that’s what I do all day, or do I play some more Farm Heroes?

You pick one, and then your partner comes home. Excited to tell him about your day, inspired by the fact that you have spoken to nobody all day but your child, you begin to recount things completely insignificant to anybody with any inch of sanity. When I personally do this, my husband sits and stares at me, blankly. As if wondering why he married me, or if this is really the person he married, or counting to ten, or 100, until he knows that I will stop rambling. Because really, I don’t have that much to say.

The highlight of my day today was running into my OBGYN at the local mall and explaining to my unprepared child that this is the woman that brought him into this world. Yesterday, it was telling the cashier at the supermarket that my mom is coming at the end of August. She doesn’t know my mom. Or me. But she asked. Probably something irrelevant to my answer, but she was a grown up, and she looked pretty sane.

I sit here now, in the silent darkness, with what I think is a tiny yellow Lego piece floating in my glass of wine, a slinky hanging off the banister, and another month ahead of me, and as every night, try to relive the amazing things that happened today. I taught him that “passing gas” is a much better version of “fart,” he made his first phone call to his best friend, he blew up his first balloon, walked around his room (way past bedtime) in the tacky, furry fuchsia flip flops he made me buy, and he hugged my neck right before he fell asleep with his little beautiful arms. My husband will be home any minute, and I think I won’t have to tell him about the OBGYN, at least not until later, because I’ve told you. Good night, primary caregivers of beautiful monsters. September is right around the corner, and some of us still have a family vacation to survive.

On Hookers, Bras, and Struggles

July 14th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 2 comments

It’s 4pm on a hot summer day and I stand a block away from my house, hiding in the shade of the shadow of a stop sign, waiting for my son’s school bus to drop him off. A man drives up, in his 30s, flashy Mercedes, shirt, tie, pop music, and tells me to get in.

I’m 43. I’m wearing baggy jean shorts that have survived motherhood for over four years, my hair is in an unruly, smelly pony tail, I’m sweating, miserable, grumpy. Why he mistakes me for a hooker is beyond me. Maybe it was because I was leaning on the pole. But with that logic, any woman who leans on anything on a street is a hooker. I’m no MILF, no cougar, none of those flattering names that women my age are given by damaged members of the opposite sex. And definitely not remotely appealing at that time of day to the undamaged ones.

I live in a country, in a world, where a man slaps his wife in the middle of a sold-out concert that’s raising money for the hungry, and she sits back down next to him. In the country that founded democracy, at the stadium that saw the birth of the modern Olympic games. All I can think of is what must happen at home, for a palm across the face to be accepted in front of 20,000 people.

A six year old girl wants to wear a bra. Probably because some other kid in school convinced her mom it was ok to wear one.

An 11 year old, a crop top and hot shorts. Because 11-year-olds are 20-year-olds of my generation.

Neither see the reasoning in their mothers’ objections. Both innocent enough to not realize that society has already sexualized them, stripped them of their core identity, or not even given them a chance to form one.

I watch the bad excuse for a man that the American people elected to lead them this week, and squirm. I’m like those bugs that turn into balls when they’re scared, roly polies, that my son is so fascinated by. I watch him blatantly demean the first lady of France. I wonder what she replied to his ageist, sexist comments behind the scenes, and hope that she used wisdom and swear words.

People keep writing parenting advice articles to moms to teach their sons to respect women. It’s not the moms who need to do that, it’s the dads. And by respect I do not mean open doors and pretend to listen to their opinions. I mean raise them in an environment where at no point in time, in their entire childhood, are they even given the of hint of the possibility of the idea that any woman is a lesser or weaker than they are. It’s that simple, it’s common sense. I know plenty of dads out there more than capable of such a feat. And many more, capable and insisting on the complete opposite.

But we’ve come so far, the voices of women everywhere shout at me, angrily. Yes, angrily. Because we are still angry. How can we not be? Is this a fight we can even win? If so, why is it still such a fight? There are so many of us, we are all screaming, our words fading as if background noise to deaf ears. And so many more of us, choosing to remain silent.

 

On all That is Really Left

July 10th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

There are days like this, when there is nothing left. Days when I’ve eaten plain spaghetti without salt for lunch, sprayed with questionable ketchup for the last two bites, wore unmatching clothes, left on nail painted on my hands. When pulling my bra through my sleeves as I rest my back on the hard floor, is even too much. When I no longer have answers for countless questions, especially ones such as “mommy, why do all children grow up.” When a morning at the beach day felt like a week’s worth of manual labor; hauling gear, changing wet bathing suits, reapplying sunscreen, digging holes, fetching juice, washing sand off the grapes, feet, hands, feeling my back burning as I spend hour two in the shallow water chasing a beach ball against the current,  on my knees.

It’s only the middle of summer and I already know nothing is left, my strength was gone before it started.

I promised myself I’d be better than last year, I’d be more patient, more organized, I’d allow time for boredom, spend time outdoors, blow my fuse at least half an hour later than normal, insist on healthier eating habits without nagging, limit screen time, and all this while not letting the scorching Greek summers dictate our day. No wonder I was tired before it all even started.

Today, all I managed, was the beach. With only one incident of voice raising. For safety reasons.

I know I’m not alone, there are a million moms on the verge of a summer vacay meltdown every second of the day. And for most of that time, we, I, are alone. Even if someone is with us.

By bedtime, our patience has reached superhuman levels, our fuses have burnt out, faded, we can almost smell them sizzling. The lights are off, the stories have been read, the mess almost tidied up, and we lay there, sit there, waiting for the melodic sound of their sleep breathing, they all have a different tune, and suddenly they’re out and we are free.

But free to do what?

“But grown ups don’t play, ” he says before he finally falls asleep. And then decides, “I’m going to play when I’m a grown up.” Hugs my arm, turns his back and goes to sleep. My arm is twisted, hurting, but it’s the sweetest pain. And all that is really left.

On the Beach

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

And then, there came a day, when my kid and I lay next to eachother on beach towels, and talked. About the yummy strawberries that formed a bright red clown mouth around his lips, the five insects that he discovered in the schoolyard that morning, about how beautiful the beach is, how good the sea makes us feel.

Just when I thought, yet again, that I cannot do this anymore, that it’s not easier as they grow older, but a different kind of hard, another one I have to master, to adapt to, before the next appears. Just when I thought I was doing everything wrong, again, having forgotten that last time I felt this way, something just as magical happened to ease the way.

“Get up, mommy, I want to see how you run down the beach,” he says. “Like those two grown ups there,” pointing at the elderly sun-kissed couple, fitter than me in my 20s, jogging through the waves.

He’s up before me, running, screaming with glee, his little feet splashing, dots of wet sand a mosaic on his back. “Come on, mommy, this is the most amazing beach ever!” He runs toward me and wraps his arms around my thigh, I tug him back to our towels. We lay back down, me on my back, he on his side, looking into my eyes as if he expected me to do something to make things even more magnificent. The beach was full of people, but there was only us.

Parenthood will never be easy, it will rarely be bearable, I know that now, but I will forget it, too absorbed by frustrations of daily life.  My son is only four; we have an ocean to swim through, but I will have myriads of chances to be reminded by it’s sudden, rare, engulfing, unmatched beauty.

The moment was over quickly, as he demanded juice and ice cream on the way back to the car, tired, whiney and red-eyed, he sat back in his car seat and eventually fell asleep. I pulled over on the side of the road, switched off the music, took off my seatbelt, turned around and stared at him.

On the Beginning of Memories

June 17th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Most schools closed their doors this week, while most moms have swung open the doors of immense panic, sending themselves into a frenzy, brainstorming summer activities and plans to keep their kids occupied for the next two months. Myself included.

I found the largest wading pool that could fit on our balcony, sprinkled it with dozens of colorful rubber ducks. And this morning, took my last breaths of freedom. Then, a few hours ago, while staring at my pale, flabby body as it served as a bridge for Stef to swim under in the lukewarm water, I realized something. Summer is short. It’s nothing compared to the time I’ve spent this year trying to get him to go to preschool without crying, leaving him hanging off the doorknob wailing, cooking and packing lunch boxes, refusing to let go of naps, and watching him magically grow from a baby into a little individual. A kid who has a best friend, a favorite teacher, invites to parties, a wall full of artwork, a mind exploding with new words and ideas, constant questions, and hands and feet that can suddenly shoot baskets and kick soccer balls.

These will be my memories of this amazing year. And this summer may be the beginning of memories for him, for his lifetime. He’s three, images and moments will start to stay with him forever. The experiences we share will shape him as he grows, mold him into who he will be as an adult. I want him to remember laughter, grass, hugs, water, surprise, bicycles, friendship, safety, love, love, love. And at this early stage of his life, I want my face present in every memory he has.

There is no activity plan or camp for any of that. There is only everyday life. I will lose my mind, I will yell, I will count down the days to September. But I will also jump into that wading pool, and soak in every second, for before I know it, all I’ll have with him, will be fleeting seconds. And hey, maybe I’ll finally get a tan at the same time.

On Greece

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

Every year, sometime in the beginning of the summer, I have an intense, short love affair with the country I call home. It begins when the sea’s odor first seeps into my nostrils, when chills run up my spine as I sink my feet into the wet sand, when the sun setting in horizon seems an arm’s length away, when the breeze sets my salty hair, when all I hear is laughter, near and far. Tomorrow is not glim, it’s not ridden with abusive taxes, Troikas, Angela Merkels, inadequate governments, strikes, protests and poverty. The beauty of this country has the amazing power of making it all disappear. Like a tanned, gorgeous lover, whispering in your ear, holding your hand, talking till sunrise.

The affair is short-lived, as all perfect affairs tend to be. This kind of love doesn’t stick around forever; beauty is passing, sounds, odors and feelings change, become dull, ordinary. As you grow older, you learn to not fall for the same facade. Greece and I, on the other hand, seem to meet for the first time each year, and I, as if a teenager with amnesia, immediately embrace it for all its glory.

 

 

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.