Friday, July 22, 2011

That's one way to change the mood around here.

A sincere thank you to the burglar who attempted to break in through our basement last night.  What is your address?  No silly criminal, not to return the favor, we want to add you to our Christmas card list!  See, you found the one way to get our minds off of Sasha's heart surgery.  A good ol' fashioned break in!  Round of drinks for everyone!

But silly silly burglar, you might want to try a house that doesn't incase the following menagerie:
A fretful mother who is still awake at 2:00 a.m.  An off duty NYPD cop with a loaded gun.  And lastly, an alarm system.

Next time I will leave out a warm apple pie.  Thank you for the much needed diversion.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

True Grit. And I ain't talking cowboys.

I think anyone who decides to write, whether in the murky blogosphere or wrapped in the prestige of the New Yorker has a fundamental decision to make before putting pen to paper.  Or fingertip to keyboard.  We ask ourselves, in my case repeatedly, just how honest we want to be.  Honesty that has nothing to do with lies or embellishment.  Are we going to share our lives, the good and the grit, or are we going to play it safe and write about things more outside ourselves?  I could write a celebrity gossip blog that would put Perez Hilton out to pasture, doesn't mean I want to or should.

Being the type who prefers to hold my cards close to my chest, the thought of sharing (or even worse, oversharing)  can feel like one looooong bungee jump.  This, above all other reasons is responsible for the long gaps between posts.  Trying to tow the line between being interesting with a dash of wit (I try people, I try) and telling you what I really think about can be exhausting.  It can feel like work, and this isn't exactly paying the bills.

Despite all this, I'm going to start to write about some more serious stuff going on in our household these days.  I think there is something for us both to gain by my doing so, but hell if I know what that is as I write today...

Many of you are aware that Sasha had major heart surgery when she was 4 days old.  It was the kind of heart malformation that is rarely seen, and has a 90% fatality rate.  I'm going to spare you the tears and tediousness of the details.  Just know that Sasha showed what kind of stuff she was made of when at 4 days old and 4 lbs, she sailed through.  Not a single infection, not a setback to be had.   One month later she was home and I started to breathe again.

A year later she was diagnosed with mild aortic stenosis.  Not a complete surprise considering this heart defect often accompanies Williams Syndrome.  Years passed.  I prayed, I bargained with God, I did Reiki on Sasha, and when check up after check up passed without it getting significantly worse, I thought we had escaped the grasp of another open heart surgery.

Skid...brick wall...slam.  Wash...rinse...repeat...

Monday morning as I sat at my kitchen table I felt a wave of fear ripple through my body.  What the fuck was that?  Nothing had happened, all relationships and responsibilities were in check and at peace in that moment.  It didn't make any sense.  Then I remembered Sasha had her cardiology check up that afternoon and I just knew.  I probably just lost some of you who are thinking I'm going for dramatic effect.  I'm not.  If you've known me for a long time, and you really "see me", you know that of which I speak.  To all others, just go with it for now.

So when a few hours later the technician who was performing Sasha's echo said she had to step out for a moment, I should have been prepared.  I wasn't.  At least not really.  To get through the day to day parenting of a child you worry about dying, you have to lock some facts and fear away.  Push it down from our brains and into another part of our body.  I know where my lock box is.  It's tucked right under my throat and from time to time will press hard on my lungs to the point I can't suck in air.  When Dr. Steinberg came in the room looking far more tanned than any cardiologist should,  that lockbox bore the weight of ten boulders into my lungs.  Breathing would have to wait awhile.

Sasha's stenosis, the pinching in of her aorta, has gotten much worse over the last 4 months and will require surgery very soon.  Open heart surgery with a bypass machine.  I HATE YOU BYPASS MACHINE.  I mean, I love you for doing the work for Sasha's little heart while the surgeons will patch, stitch and sew.   I hate you for making me worry you will not relinquish your job when it's time to give authority back to Sasha's pure heart.

So.  This is where we are now.  I want the summer to be over and I want Sasha to be at her 1st grade desk at Primrose school.  I want this to be a distant memory that we will once in awhile talk about when we are brave enough to go back there.  What I want most is to just go through the fucking surgery myself.  Crack open my chest bone with your electric saw.  Forgo the anesthesia if it sweetens the deal.  Just leave the 6 year old alone.  Please.


OK, then let's play 'let's make a deal' once again.  Let's raise the stakes for good measure.  You let my daughter sail thru open heart surgery once more, and I will raise both of our children to have faith and love in God.  I think you know I would have done so anyway, so how about this:  Our family will perform service on a regular basis in our community.  I once heard Sgt Shriver talk about this being a basic responsibility of all Americans and it stuck with me.  I wish I could say we had been doing this all along, but time passes and what is not imperative slides off the bench.

So do we have a deal?  I hope so.

Monday, July 18, 2011

McMansions, Spandex, and Brie. Oh My!

Three years ago next month we moved from Park Slope in Brooklyn to Westchester, Katonah to be exact.  I am still not exactly sure how we ended up in Katonah.  Neither Z-Man or I had ever been here before we decided to make it the ONLY place in Westchester we would look for a house.  We knew of one family who had made the same exact move a couple of years earlier.  They seemed happy enough, so hell, we would be happy too!  This was pretty much the extent of our thoughtful contemplation and neighboorhood research.   Instead of calling us morons, let's choose to check the box that reads "Silly first time home buyers", deal?  I could expound upon on all we overlooked when choosing our first house, but this should give you a pretty clear picture:  The first May we were in the house we had a premature heat wave.  I turned to Z-Man with all the innocence of a newborn fawn and said "Honey, turn on the AC please?"  He kind of stalled for a minute, I guess trying to recall some of the information we had learned BEFORE we bought the house, and said "Oh yeah, we don't have central AC".  Now, being the apartment dweller I was for many years, this was not particularly alarming to me (oh, the adorable innocence...).  I would be happy as a clam with window units!  Old school style, I'm down with that.  Z-Man agreed and went to search out the best windows to plant our soon to be purchased AC units.  It was not a good day in Katonah when Z-Man had to tell me our oversized and horizontally sliding windows would not accommodate ANY air conditioning units!!! Insert horror movie genre scream here.

I will spare you the sweaty details of the next TWO summers.  Let's just say that I can cross "Sweat Lodge" off my bucket list.  We came to our senses and had central AC installed this past Fall.  Yes, that would be after I spent a hot summer pregnant in this house.  Apparently Z-Man and I lose any sense of logic as it applies to a free standing dwelling.

I still struggle with life in the suburbs.  Sometimes the struggle feels like I am a Gladiator in the Roman Coliseum.  Sometimes it is just an uncomfortable little whisper that says "what the fuck are you doing here, Woman?  There isn't a decent cheese shop for 20 miles,  get thee real Camembert!".  
I have come to terms with many parts of suburban life, or really Life Not In the City.  See, for me the struggle isn't so much about what I have now, it is more what I gave up.  I like having a car to drive to the supermarket and load my provisions into afterwards.  I just wish the food was from Balducci, not Stop and Shop.  I revel in having the space to store enough Christmas ornaments to decorate the Rockefeller Center tree.  I just wish I had a Starbucks downstairs instead of a basement.

My two biggest gripes with a suburban life still eat at me, despite my best efforts.  The first is this:  Many people in the suburbs seem to be suffering with a case of the "Still Not Enough's"  Me included (at times, then I punch myself in the gut until I snap out it).  Suddenly a 2800 sq ft house isn't big enough.  Doesn't everyone NEED a 4000 sq ft house??  This isn't the Middle Ages for Heaven's sake!  And while we're at it, my 3 year old luxury SUV isn't as brand spanking new as my neighbor's!  Where is the justice??  Obviously this exists in the city to some extent, but it is different.  It is more hidden.  Maybe that is because the cars are in a parking garage instead of a driveway.  Maybe because there is nothing a city dweller is more scared of than a 4500 sq foot gaudy McMansion.  I'm no sociologist, but I think I am on the right track.

My second gripe, and the one I vow to never, ever get over or accept is this:  When the HELL did workout wear become accepted street clothing??  NO, it is not OK to spend your entire day in clothing meant to wear in a gym!  If your outfit contains more than 5% spandex, it is to be removed BEFORE you exit the gym and enter the supermarket.  Understood?  Jeans, cardigans, and the like are your friends ladies, no need to be scared.  I promise.

I am aware of the somewhat condescending tone of the last part of this blog post.  Forgive me.  We are all works in progress, no?  Please send any hate mail to my manager at  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ruminations on Mob Wives

Am I the only one strangely captivated by this show?  I guess I can answer my own question- Hell No.  This show is attracting a massive amount of media attention from every outlet- everything from Good Morning America to CNN.

Part of the allure for the audience is the feeling we are peeking into a lifestyle that by definition is inclusive and secretive.  Another part, and the reason the show ultimately works, are the larger than life personalities of the stars of Mob Wives.  In particular Renee Graziano,  who is the daughter of Anthony Graziano. He is doing time for being the consigliere of the Bonnano crime family and is not speaking to Renee as a result of being part of the show.

Put simply, Renee is one tough bitch.  She grew up being the ultimate Mafia Princess, and still lives by the code and principles that govern mob families.   Not an episode goes by without Renee lecturing about Trust, Honesty, Respect, Loyalty.

Assuming the multitude of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter can be used as a reasonable indicator, then it is Renee that viewers most connect with.  And let there be no doubt that the majority of the viewers are women, this despite the underlying violence that permeates this lifestyle.  She has the sort of personality that draws people in- she comes off as super confident, funny, and the life of every party.  While this makes for great television, it is not the reason she is so popular with her female fans.  

Here is the hook, and this is why Renee will be the breakout star from this show:
When Renee goes on and ON about Trust, Honesty, Respect, and Loyalty, that message resonates with every woman who has ever been in a relationship.  Renee grew up knowing that her father would break the knees of any man who treated her badly.  Find me a woman who has suffered at the hands of some jerk-off and didn't secretly wish for his ass kicked, and I will show you a liar.  Renee grew up with the expectation that the men in her life would protect her at whatever cost.  All girls should grow up with that sense of security, and it doesn't have to lie in an undercurrent of violence.  As women we should demand Trust, Honesty, Respect, and Loyalty from our significant others, and too many of us can't summon the voice to command it.

Obviously my feelings about Mob Wives are complicated, something the network was banking on when they decided to air such a program no doubt.  On one hand we are entertained, on the other hand we know these women have been connected to men who have committed crimes.  We love it and yet feel guilty.  If good art (and yes, even a show like this is an art form.  Maybe not high art, but nevertheless art) is supposed to elicit an uncomfortable feeling in the viewer, then Mob Wives is already a critical success.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Every Mother's Day since Sasha's birth has been special, but with the addition of my son this day feels profoundly better than I could have imagined. Teddy didn't come easy, he was born on the fourth round of IVF. To those of you who have been through IVF, you understand what our family went through without additonal explanation. Those of you that have not experienced IVF, count your blessings (or healthy eggs and hearty sperm). IVF sucks balls. IVF is the last circle of hell. Until it works that is...

Giving birth to a healthy baby was like winning an Oscar, scoring the winning touchdown at the Superbowl, and finishing the NYC Marathon rolled into one. It was the accumulation of three years of our efforts. Holding a healthy newborn sealed a wound that had been torn open six years prior. I love both of my children fiercely, but they came into this world much differently. I needed Teddy as much as he needs me.

On this Mother's Day I want to celebrate giving Sasha a brother who will protect her long after I am gone. Today I will again thank the Universe for allowing me to give Z-Man the best Christmas gift of his lifetime*.

Happy Mother's Day everyone. Especially my friend Gina, who gave birth to a beautiful baby yesterday. I know our boys will be the best of friends. That thought just scared the bejesus out of me, actually. Let's try to keep them away from some of our past indulgences, I just had visions of margarita's in the sippy cup.**

*For those of you just joining me, Theodore Magnus (is that not a name of a guy who can kick someone's ass?) was born on 12/25/10.

**For those of you without a sense of humor, I was joking. Please do not call Child Protective Services on me. At least not on Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

One Smile

Before you judge, let it be known I do not usually dress my daughter like a cheap burlesque dancer. This picture was taken before a dance recital, and was chosen to accompany my post for one reason only- my floor looks relatively dog hair free and clean.
Sasha has many wonderful gifts and quirks, much like a typical six year old. She also has Williams Syndrome. If you don't know what that is, Google is your friend. I jest...Williams Syndrome is a genetic syndrome that manifests in many ways. Some are pretty cool- Williams kids tend to be super outgoing and happy. Happy for the sake of just being happy, not based on getting the newest toy, or eating easter candy for dinner ( although that last one makes me very, very happy). I think of Sasha as a weather vane for other people's emotions. She is more empathetic than most 40 year olds. If you are sad, she will do everything in her six year old bag of tricks to make you smile.
Other parts of having Williams Syndrome simply SUCK. Sasha has had major heart surgery, has had her share of smaller surgeries, and has all sorts of delays. We visit the local hospital all too often. I will leave the details for another time, but Z-Man likes to tease me on how unpopular I am at our local Emergency Room. Z-Man and I basically play good cop/bad cop during these ER visits. I act like a bitch from hell until I feel Sasha is getting all the attention and care she needs, while Z-Man calmly talks to the doctors and nurses. I would like to tell you I feel bad about the way I act in these situations, but the truth is I don't. In those moments I am Mama Bear and anyone who gets in my way is getting mauled. This didn't serve me too well when I broke my back in March. I don't think it is coincidental I waited 2 hours just to get some painkillers. I guess the nurses doled out justice to Bad Cop- but don't worry, just like bed bugs I'll be back.
Having a special needs kid means there are going to be good days and talk me off the ledge days. Today was all set to be the latter. Another specialist visit, another recounting of every illness over the last six years. Blah, blah, f*cking blah.
Right before we left for the doctor visit, I checked my email. My mother had forwarded me a portion of a college essay written by one of her neighbors who met Sasha last summer.

A ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day.

This is what the email said:

One Smile
Have you ever looked at someone's smile and instantly known that you have changed their life and they yours? You can tell by an expression if someone looks up to you like you are their hero just by their smile. This past summer I had the opportunity to experience this feeling first hand. I met a five year old girl named Sasha. One day I saw her smile at me and immediately my heart melted. Sasha never asks for anything in return she just smiles even when things are difficult for her. When kids her own age wont play with her, she smiles, she loves, and she inspires. She inspired me to become a better person, a five year old girl has changed my life just by one smile.

Today was a very good day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

You say Kaftan, I say Caftan

I have decided to rock a lot of Caftan's this summer. I think they are perfect. They remind me of Morocco and I will feel exotic sitting on my deck in decidedly non-exotic Northern Westchester. There are a couple of gorgeous options online on Neiman Marcus, and a couple of cheapo options courtesy of Calypso for Target. Speaking of Calypso for Target, I plan on buying the entire line. Sold. No questions asked. The little girls dresses are BEYOND. The line for Women is perfect for knocking around town with the kids this summer. When I lived in NYC, Calypso was my fave, fave store. When Z-Man and I first started dating his (now our) dog Mario ate a full length lavender cashmere cardigan I had just acquired. As my revenge I convinced Z-Man to have Mario fixed. Bye-bye Calypso cashmere, bye-bye Balls.

If I happen to magically lose the rest of the baby weight, tone my legs and belly without actually spending a minute in the gym, then screw the Caftan. I am going to be in shorts so short you can see my c-section scar.