Lately, I can’t stop dwelling on the positive and negative impacts social media and the 24 hour news cycle have on our lives, and how much they’ve changed our behavior, interactions and treatment of each other.
It started last week, racing through Grand Central Terminal, when I looked up and caught this sign hanging in a shop window. I was feeling very cynical, having just scanned many of the 140 comments posted in response to a NY Times story concerning our neighborhood – most of them snarky with assumptions made about people they didn’t know. While I understood their anger and opposition, my heart went out to a mother who was singled out; and I couldn’t help feel that reading those comments would be hurtful.
Only a few years ago, we may have read the paper and tossed it in the recycling bin or mailed in a letter to the editor to prompt further discussion. Now everyone, instantly, has their say; often without filters or the thoughts we’d take to a face to face conversation.
Does knowing so much about everyone, up front, make it easier to pre-judge and miss an opportunity to connect on some other common ground? Let’s face it, if you knew all the details of your barista’s date last night, would you still smile while ordering your Starbucks and say hi? Or, does knowing all the political views of that mom selling PTA tickets make you run the other way?
Later in the week, I also caught a segment of the Today show (at the gym!) talking about creeping. Yikes! If you’ve ever, intentionally (or not), lingered on i.e. dug up a friend’s social media account or rummaged through their friends’ pages – you’ve done it. Who hasn’t innocently (or not) clicked on a friend’s Facebook page and, before you know it, your knee-deep in their vacation pictures of Aspen or Mexico? Or, you can’t stop obsessively checking your boyfriend’s ex’s social media posts. I mean how much time are we wasting people?
After all this, generally, creepy behavior, my sister-in-law’s post, Don’t Look Away on A.Joanne, restored my hope for the positive impacts social media has made. She highlights a tragic story about the rape and killing of a 7-year-old girl in Pakistan, Zainab Amin. When the #JusticeforZainab hashtag went viral, it shifted the tide on the long-held culture in Pakistan, of shaming victim’s (and their families), while abusers go unpunished. Using social media, people expressed their outrage, bravery and willingness to speak openly about their own abuses, pressuring the local government to finally pursue her killer. No doubt this was inspired by the current success of #metoo in shaking up Hollywood, media, sports, politics, education etc, for a long overdue end to sexual misconduct and outrageous behavior.
Not too long from now, Luca will want to join this world too. By then, I can only hope he understands that to be truly “social” is to personally connect with others; to remember to act with those qualities listed on that sign and expect real friends to do the same back! Now if only they would post it on social media too!
With the arrival of another new year, on January 2nd, Maxine and Laurel turned three! That only three years ago, one day past a similarly frigid New Year’s Day, they came crashing into our lives, blatant and unexpectedly early (in typical fashion), is still staggering.
Starting with the initial, shocking news; so much of it still seems like a blur. I remember heading to midtown for, by all accounts, a “routine” sonogram early in their pregnancy. Relieved and gloriously thankful for the success we seemed to (finally) attain after several years trying for a second child. Between another failed pregnancy, my mom’s breast cancer treatment, a move from our apartment (and, later, back to the same buiding again), there were some stressful years where we, seriously, questioned if we were too old to start over with a newborn. We made the decision to start fertility treatment a year prior, and now decided this would be our last attempt.
I wanted Luca to have a sibling. As an only child, my parents did everything to make sure lots of kids were around and I wasn’t alone. So, at least during elementary school, I barely noticed or cared that I didn’t have a brother or sister. But, around the age of eleven or twelve, our close family friends’ got divorced. I assumed we’d always do everything together and things would never change. Skiing in Vermont, summer vacations in Montauk, holiday parties, and bar-b-ques. But, after their parent’s separation and subsequent move out of the neighborhood, I barely saw those friends again. Even as a child, the realization that blood is thicker than water hit me hard.
Back at my doctor’s office, anxiously awaiting the thumping of one little heartbeat, I recalled, with dread, a similar moment years back. At that time, I stared at a much grainier screen, excited to hear the pumping, so strong only weeks prior, now just appearing as an empty, black, stagnant, and silent screen. Myself, as a much younger woman, naive to the statistics on miscarriage, confused that maybe the machine wasn’t functioning properly.
But this day would be different. Still in my daze, I heard my doctor mention something about there being “a development” and my heart stopped. Having come this far, again, I didn’t think I could bear disappointment knowing it would close the door for us. “Sorry?” I stumbled, unsure that I heard him correctly and what he meant. “I’m hearing another heartbeat,” my doctor said cautiously. I cleared the lump in my throat, “What, exactly, does that mean?”
A quick Google search on the likelihood of having identical twins shows the odds being 1 in 10,000. They develop when one fertilized egg divides into two, and seem to occur entirely by chance, regardless of twins running in the family.
My initial shock inspired panic. Realizing that, even in our attempt to avoid the possibility of twins by using only our healthiest single embryo (in their quest for success most doctors push to use at least two, resulting in many fraternal twins), that our little one split on us, despite our intentions. Sensing my fear, the nurse reminded me of our blessings and added that her mom had twins at 40. “But, I’m going to be 45,” I choked back.
She was absolutely right; Maxine and Laurel are an unbelievable blessing, bringing us pure love, joy, chaos, laughter, exhaustion and fun while rounding out our family. Meanwhile, our initial fears weren’t even close to the reality of how much work they are. Everyday is like running a daycare. But we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The chaos was immediate. From even before they arrived, when my water broke, suddenly and unexpectedly, in the middle of the night. My last doctors exam had assured me I had, at least, another week which would get us close to 35 weeks (still early, but safe). Well, they weren’t waiting.
By midnight on New Years Day, most of our friends in the building, were still away on holiday vacations. My family, not expecting any news, just returned back home from Christmas with us, and never heard our middle of the night cell phone calls. With time critical, we raced to the hospital, taking poor Luca with us. At only seven, he was so patient and supportive, waiting all those hours with me overnight; then having to sit, alone, in the waiting room when they took me in for what turned into an emergency C-section.
When the girls finally came home from the NICU, only two weeks later, the real fun began… and it hasn’t stopped since. We were blessed with two, healthy, spirited, strong and beautiful little girls that would, forever, change all of our lives and give Luca the siblings he always wanted.
As with every new year, when people reflect and make resolutions, this 2018 I will try to remind myself that it’s never too late to try or begin something new. And, to never give up. No excuses. Whether it’s telling your story, getting back to my blog posts, pursuing a new career, making up with an old friend or family member, starting your exercise plan, learning a new language, or just doing something that you’ve been dreaming of for a long time – just go do it. It may change your life, forever! It did for ours.
So, I finally, stepped up to accept my, unfortunate, duty as a parent to train my girls to use the potty. Indeed, freedom from the endless loop of changing diapers, was motivating, but secretly, I hoped to avoid or just ignore it. Would it really matter if they were still in diapers in first or even third grade? Aren’t there worse things to worry about? Sooner or later they would figure it out on their own. Then, we learned that ski school and camp wouldn’t accept them for drop off, untrained. Alarmed, we had a hard deadline in January and had to get to it.
Back when Luca was young, and I was a fresher faced mom, I, enthusiastically embraced these challenges, reading up on all sorts of advice. Unfortunately, all the experts were aligned. Lock yourselves in for three days, take off the diapers, and let it all go. Well, after the shit hit the fan, or in this case, the floor, I was done. NO WAY could I cope with that for 72 hours. Since I had committed to getting rid of diapers, I put underwear on him and continued for another few torturous days; sitting him down every half hour, me next to him, hoping for a miracle.
Fast forward seven years and, despite technology’s evolution (I didn’t even have a smart phone, let alone iPhone, back then), they still don’t have an app for this. Overwhelmed with two of them, I opted for a laid back approach and promptly amazon primed two pink potties, a portable potty for the playground (Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus), two cases of pull-ups, about 20 pairs of disposable underwear, candy, stickers, and extra bottles of wine to set about my task.
It’s been a frustrating few weeks, but real progress is happening. Maxine took the lead, being the most consistent with usage, supported by her utilization of algorithms to calculate optimal candy accumulation per pee or poop, manipulating timing for optimal rewards. Though I am very proud, one downside has been her determination that it’s not worth her time if she needs to do her business during reward blackout periods occurring daily before 7:00 am or after 6:45 pm.
Laurel was also catching up, but mostly on how she can guilt me into also earning candy for doing absolutely nothing but crying and screaming when Maxine gets her rewards. Though painful, I had to wise up to her manipulation and hold her accountable to, at least, sit on the potty to earn a candy treat. Luckily the prospect of a special new Doc McStuffins, or as she calls it, Stuff McStuffins back pack had her in a frenzy. She only needed one poop on the potty and it was hers.
It was an arduous few days when Maxine earned the coveted prize, before Laurel, and, to Laurel’s envy, wore the backpack everywhere, even to bed at night. Luckily, after dragging both potties, the portable potette (which came in very handy during a nature walk on Shelter Island), and everything else we needed for Thanksgiving, to our house in Bridgehampton, we had a breakthrough. After catching Laurel sneaking off behind the sofa to do her business, Mark yanked her into the bathroom. In a critical moment requiring excellent timing and aim (both rare for my husband), to her shock, Laurel nailed it right in the potty.
Anxious to see her rewarded, I jumped the gun. Once she had that backpack strapped tightly on, she immediately went on strike. After two long days, it took the fear of loosing her prize and possibly spending the afternoon with a fictitious babysitter to motivate her back to action. And, while there have been some slight mishaps, I am confident she has turned a corner.
Among so many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, having the worst of this job behind me, for the last time, is certainly one I don’t take for granted.
Luca, our only child for 7 years, turned ten on October 14th! Somehow, he still manages to be the sun we all orbit, even with all the chaos his sisters’ create. From his first moments the kid’z been fawned and fussed over, cherished, adored, and overly spoiled. Not that he doesn’t deserve, almost, every moment of it. He’s given us more laughter, love, pride, and pure amusement this past decade that I could ever express in words.
Like most kids, he lives for birthdays and holidays where presents are involved. Which BTW, when did Halloween, Easter, and Valentine’s Day become holidays for relatives to send gifts?
As parties go, this year’s wasn’t over the top but, with little free time on my hands, it was stressful nonetheless. By the morning of, I was still unsure how, after committing to provide transportation, I was going to get 13 of the 16 kids coming from FIDI and Tribeca to Indoor Extreme Sports in Long Island City, Queens, during rush hour, on a Friday night.
I also needed to pick up the cake, assemble gift bags, and make sure a sitter was lined up for the girls. Bottom line, I put a lot of work in with little time and help, save for my mom who ran with me to Party City on the eve of the party, while Mark was enjoying a guys night out.
At this age, Luca’s expectations for additional gifts, on top of, yet, another birthday party needed a serious adjustment. We checked out his Amazon wish list and promptly nixed 3 more giant nerf guns (how many Nerf Zombi Strike FlipFury Blasters does one kid need?), and a tactical vest kit (sorry, NO). Since he would be showered with gift cards from all of his friends, we picked a few listed items, including a pair of random headphones.
But, always wanting things to be perfect, I fretted that, for his turning double digits, I didn’t have that one special gift. I thought,”rather than just any old headphones, why not buy him a cool pair of Apple Beats.” Now, desperate to have them for tomorrow, the 14th, Grandma and I sprinted to the Apple store knowing we still had to get the cake and grab the girls by 1:00. Considering the kid looses everything, I opted for a, slightly, cheaper pair, rather than dropping $300 on wireless ones. Miraculously, I got the last blue ones in stock, and coupled them with a matching iPhone case as a gift from his sisters. Feeling pleased, I ran to pick up the cake.
On Saturday morning, with Luca anxious to open his gifts, I couldn’t wait to surprise him with the upgraded headphones. But, no sooner did I hear, “Is this it?”, after he surveyed the few boxes we brought out, “I can already tell you didn’t get me a nerf gun,” he said, choking up. Defensively, I reminded him how many he had and maybe he could use his gift cards (ie, his own money) for more.
He was acting very childish, but I knew he was tired. Rather than let it go, I became incensed when I saw him sulking on the couch. Before I knew it, I was laying into him, “Didn’t you just have another birthday party, with transportation for all of your friends, and a beautiful soccer ball cake? I went out of my way to buy you something special.”
Clearly we were both out of line but, as the adult, I should have been able to let it go. Hell bent on making my point, I rambled on throughout the morning, exhausting us both. Unlike Mark, somewhat, the, detached, voice of reason, I also couldn’t bare living with Luca’s disappointment, however misplaced it was.
Later that day, it all blew over, and soon Luca was rocking out with his Beats, thanking us lavishly. All was right with the world again, until later that week. As he stepped off the bus, on Friday, he turned to me, his voice seeming to crack a bit, “Mom, why didn’t you buy me the wireless ones?”
I mean, what is it with kids? It never ends.
I’ve been avoiding you completely but it’s not you; it’s me. Actually, more like the non-stop distressing news. Feeling inspired to share anything interesting, witty, or remotely funny these days in the wake of Harvey (not just the storm, but now the movie mogul too), Irma and Maria, has been all but impossible. If only they were characters in a love triangle on some cheesy Fall lineup, but anyone living in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, St. Martin, Anguilla, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Cuba etc., sadly, knows otherwise.
Then came news of a 7.1magnitude earthquake that stuck in Mexico, and, as I write, California’s wine country is in ruins with more that 52,000 acres in Napa Valley and Sonoma completely consumed. If the environmental news wasn’t horrendous enough, it just kept coming. It’s been barely two weeks since we had the horror in Las Vegas. And, of course, Harvey Weinstein’s rampant sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood just broke days ago.
The awful news is constant, and I’m barely scratching the surface. It can be a real struggle to make light of my day-to-day when the gravity of this stuff weighs you down. The onslaught of natural and human disasters must be wake up call. Regardless of your politics, we may have been able to mitigate, or, possibly, prevent some of the devastation had we taken steps against global warming, to diminish intense climate change and it’s resulting catastrophic storms that have now become our new normal.
Common sense gun control may have also prevented another deranged lunatic from killing dozens. How many more innocent people will be victims before we act? It’s outrageous for people to continue leaning on our 2nd Amendment Constitutional right to bear arms as an excuse to ignore the need for gun reform. The Founders wrote our Constitution at a very different time in history, when America was a mere babe only just gaining her freedom. Common sense gun control won’t take away guns from avid hunters and enthusiast who practice safe sport. But times have changed and it’s absurd to consider our Founders’ anticipated sick people shooting rounds and rounds of semi-automatic fire into crowds at concerts, school children, shopping malls, churches, movie theaters, holiday parties, and college campus.
If, even, one more mother could still hold her son or daughter tonight, or two more homes on St. Martin could have withstood impact from a weaker Irma, or three fewer people died from drowning in Houston from a less severe Harvey, or four fewer homes were taken by the raging fires that burned in Northern California, than maybe even the slightest of our efforts, as a country, would have been worth it.
A week or so ago, on one of the last, precious, nights of summer, my son and I re-watched the movie Toy Story while the girls slept upstairs and Mark was back in the city. Knowing that another summer was behind us, Luca was entering 5th grade, coupled with the inevitable chill in the air and overt recognition of time passing too quickly, I practically wept while watching and sensing the ache and rejection in Woody’s heart while he, inevitably, was being replaced by Buzz Lightyear as Andy’s favorite toy.
Maybe because turning 50 is really only a year and change away, or that Luca wanted to pick out all his own school clothes this year, and even my girls are revealing tidbits of maturation, this year’s back to school season hit harder. I can’t help but wonder if I’m entering the Autumn years of my life.
While the days can seem long, the years are short. And, watching kids grow up is like some sort of clock, forcing you to take stock as to where you fit in with all of their movement; questioning whether I am quietly slowing down. With the chaos that the twins bring, Luca’s homework, soccer and social schedule, I barely have a minute to think straight. But when I, finally, do get a quiet moment, it can be haunting.
There’s always something wistful about watching the days shorten and feeling the air become crisper. It’s a beautiful time of year on the East coast, but I’d gladly relish more time to breathe in the salty ocean air, soak up the warm sun and sand, and feel that unforgiving heat penetrate my skin, chasing the girls around the playground. The innocence and ease of long summer days, late dinners outside, fireflies and fireworks are abruptly replaced by brisk mornings at the bus stop, parent teacher meet and greets, and a never-ending string of frantic texts about homework, school projects, and soccer transportation.
As with every transition there comes reflection and lately I’ve been preoccupied with an assessment of my own “value” outside the home. Having just turned down a freelance opportunity that would pay me for my writing, I can’t help but feel slightly unsettled. I started freelance work when Luca was in school but since Laurel and Maxine came along, just don’t have the time. Being home with them is tremendously rewarding. But knowing I could earn a paycheck for writing, again, did provide a brief, if not fleeting, moment of pride too. Hopefully, when the time is right, something else will come along.
As the series progresses, Woody eventually makes his way back into Andy’s heart, only to get accidentally donated to daycare in the 3rd movie; instead of the intended destination of attic storage. When Woody and the gang manage to escape and find their way back, he does get chosen by Andy to go off to college; but we have no sense of what his future holds. Sequel or not, I guess that’s usually the case.
This may sum up the reason for my silence, but it does give, slightly, the wrong impression; one of relaxation. As a backstory, two years ago, when the twins were born, we bought a summer home for a place to get the kids out of the city in the summer, spend some more time with nature, ride bikes, boogie board, yada, yada, yada. We knew we needed some extra space, and crashing at my parent’s house, on summer weekends, with three kids, wasn’t going to work. And, for the most part, our time here is filled building memories with family beach days, barbecues, fresh seafood, dining el fresco, enjoying local berries and corn, and excessive amounts of Wolfer Summer In a Bottle, Rose’.
But, during the weeks in August, when I’ve been out here with Luca and the twins, alone, it tends not to be all sun, beaches and rose’. Well, just maybe not all beaches; and NOT ENOUGH ROSE’.
Upon our arrival last week, Max and Laurel immediately conspired that it was time to stop napping all together despite that they are only two and a half! And, just like that, as I was getting used to consolidating, ie cramming my writing into their hour and a half midday nap, along with other mundanities like cleaning and doing laundry, that precious time evaporated. Anticipating a full on crisis, I, luckily, found a morning drop off program at our beloved Children’s’ Museum of the East End, and enrolled them pronto. Thank god, after fully protesting on day one, they now love going to “my little camp” every morning. While it’s been a lifesaver, and managed to shaved off from 9:00- 12:00 daily, I still need to fill the remaining eight, non stop, hours from noon until bedtime! With two 2.5 year olds, it can be a very LONG day!
Grandma and Grandpa were also visiting us these past two weeks. With Mark gone, having the support of my mom on some long, hot afternoons at the park with the girls was a blessing. Grandpa also helped, a little, by entertaining them outside with the hose when their end of day crankiness (both the girls’ and Grandpa’s) typically amped up. But, initially, the girls sensed a situation they could manipulate to their advantage, which played out well for them those first few days.
With two extra adults fawning all over them, they weren’t sure if I still had the balls to instill time outs and strict bedtimes with grandma and grandpa looking over my shoulder. Possibly there was a new sheriff in town? And, like clockwork, there was a notable uptick in calculated tantrums and considerable limit pushing to throw us all into a tailspin. A lot to take after already suffering, mild, heatstroke from hours in the sun at every Google mapped playground available on the east end.
Thankfully, Luca loved the Hampton Country Day Camp, which managed to exhaust him all day with plenty of kids his own age. I can’t express my gratitude enough for providing peace of mind for his contentedness, along with their knack for distributing the optimal number of foam Thumbs Up and Starfish Awards (currently piled up on our kitchen counter), hosting super awesome bus karaoke and enough competitive sports to keep him fired up and ready for his 8:50 am pickup every morning.
With the Hampton Jitney or L.I.R.R. Cannon Ball Express delivering Mark back to us on Friday evenings, I, gratefully looked forward to another weekly family outing at Almond, Bridgehampton where Chef Jason executes impeccable cooking, someone else does the clean up, and, our friend, Jack, expertly, chills another bottle of our favorite rose’.
Last weekend we had tickets to two of the hottest, most exclusive, most famously attended, can I say ‘bestest’ summer events of the Hamptons. No, I am not going retro and referring to Sean Comb’s aka P. Diddy’s All White Party (so y2k and, sadly, no longer a thing). Nor am I referring to one of those, notorious, Hampton’s $10,000 per plate Hillary Clinton Fundraisers (we all know how that ended). And, no, we weren’t up all night hang’n with the hipsters at Montauk’s Surf Lodge (though I am definitely not ruling that out)!
Give up? All right, so maybe you missed it. We made the rounds with appearances at the Children’s Museum of the East End’s 9th Annual Family Fair, Animals A to Z! And, later that night (a’hem, actually around 6:30), hitting the Taste of Two Forks aka Dan’s Taste of Summer. Come on, people, this is real Hamptons’ partying!
Yes, in lieu of Rose’ All Day, we opted for sock octopus crafts, giraffe party hats, kangaroo sock races, pony rides, unicorn milkshakes, and very clucky pinatas. And, with sponsors like the people from Casper Napmobile, Sensible Sitters, and Hamptons Tumblebus, we knew we’d be walking outta there with some super hot swag in our gift bags! And, they did not disappoint. We’re talking regulation size Sauders & Associates frisbees, enough water bottles and sunscreen sticks to get Luca through the rest of summer camp, and 15% coupons for discounted babysitting with Sensible Sitters. Who could resist?
But, the true VIP action started later that day. Not quite 2:00 am, but just before sunset. Celebrating its 7th year as the creme da la creme of the East End summer events, Taste of Two Forks highlights the fare of Long Island’s North and South Forks, with tastings from top restaurants and star chefs of both sides! Set on the stunning waterfront property of Fairview Farm in Bridgehampton, Mark and I (thankfully with no kids, sock crafts, or unicorn milkshakes in sight) toasted glasses of local wine and fresh margaritas while watching the sun set over Mecox Bay and tasting everything, many times, from Noah’s, The North Fork Table and Inn, The Maidstone, Duryea’s Lobster Deck, The Frisky Oyster, etc, etc.
Maybe a far cry from the clubbing and late nights back in the day, (I think we were home by 10:00), but all in all, not a terrible way to spend the weekend. Now back to the social calendar to see what’s coming. Next up, Family Visiting Day at Sports Camp. Gotta get my gown.
With our 2nd annual trek to Lake George taking seven hours, instead of the alleged four (not my idea to leave the city at 4pm on a summer Friday), to drop Luca off for 10 days of sleep away camp, I’ve been thinking that this could be his last summer camping away. Car travel is never easy with the twins, and, though she, miraculously, made the full ride on Friday night, Maxine, got car sick on the short, but windy, hilly drive up to the camp for Sunday drop off, just as we were pulling into the parking lot.
I grew up on Long Island, only 80 miles from Manhattan, but what is it about the city and sleep away camp? It seems like everyone goes. It wasn’t in the plan for Luca but, last summer, when 4 of his friends, who all live in our building, were going together, I couldn’t refuse. It’s, undeniably, a great opportunity to gain independence, play zombie tag and gaga out in the wilderness, hike, sail, and swim in the lake while bunking with friends in a cabin . . .who wouldn’t want to go? Sign me up.
But so far, this summer has been consumed with planning, transporting, or packing for various summer camps. And, while I love that Luca is somewhere in the wilderness, hopefully not dangling from a cliff or contracting lyme’s disease, and completely detoxing from technology (not allowed), I wish he was closer and didn’t require a full staff to complete the required paperwork, medical forms, and round trip driving.
I don’t mean to complain. I know I’m lucky to be able to send him. But all this schlepping, packing, and planning for everyone’s whereabouts during these precious 8 weeks is taxing. Rather than relishing the downtime with no homework or having to wake early for the school bus, we are, or at least I am, frantically struggling to align schedules, pack and unpack suitcases, label underwear (not mine) and make sure we don’t loose anyone.
With a 7 year age gap between Luca and the twins, I need to ensure he’s has lots of activities, and time with friends, so he’s not spending all summer being dragged around to assorted playgrounds and toddler classes with the girls, or begging me to play Clash Royal all day. But, keeping all of them engaged and contented is a handful. Between martial arts camp in the city, sleep-away camp up in Lake George, and sports camp out East in long Island, we are all over the place (not to mention that he better be prepared for American Ninja Warrior some day).
When the girls get a little older, I look forward to not having to over schedule everyone’s summer break and, hopefully, just spending some days at the beach, going to baseball games and exploring museums like I used to when Luca was young. But, try dragging toddler twins and an active 9-year-old to the Natural History Museum by yourself everyday. So, until then, it’s what needs to be packed, labeled, and whose going to watch the girls next Friday so I can spare them an eight-hour round trip drive back to Lake George for pick up? I sure hope my husband can come home from work early!