Friday, November 20, 2015

Vegetable Soup

Today would have been my grandmother's birthday, so to honor her memory I made her delicious vegetable soup last night and told this story to my kids.
Once, back in the olden days (sometime in 2003), we went to see Grandmom Joyce at her tiny, perfectly clean house in Trenton, NJ. My uncle and my cousin were also there visiting. They're both vegetarians so when we asked what was for lunch, Grandmom Joyce said: "vegetable soup". When we sat down to eat, it was clear that the soup had about 6 pounds of delicious, tender pot roast in it. My uncle looked confused.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The ongoing struggle w Imposter Syndrome

I originally wrote this in 2010 and came across it today. I really needed to read it. My life has changed a lot in the past five years, but for better or worse,  I'm still the same. So I updated this post to reflect my current reality in the hopes that someone else might feel better knowing they're not the only one out there pretending at life.

Ever since I was a kid, I've felt like a faker. A big phony, as Holden Caulfield would put it. And that feeling persists. Throughout my life, on the occasions that I’ve done well or had people praise me for something, one part of me has always sort of felt like: “Well thanks, but if you had any idea of what I was really like…”  Let's be honest - I'm not what I seem.

I've always been awkward like that. I wore the wrong clothes, and I always said something completely random that made people wonder if I'd recently suffered some sort of head trauma.  I tried too hard when that wasn't cool, and I didn't care when I was supposed to.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Eulogy for My Grandmother

My grandmother passed away this afternoon. The last few months of her life she was very ill and sadly, her family and dear friend were in conflict around her, as sometimes grief and fear do not bring out the very best in people. I will not dwell on that. Her family loved her and now in her absence, we continue to love each other. 

She had a long life, spent entirely in Trenton, NJ, which (if you know Trenton) is an accomplishment in itself. She saw the world change so much in her 90 years and showed me that having fun and doing things your own way are not the providence of the young. She loved the Yankees and especially Derek Jeter. She was an amateur trash talker (Yankees fan, so obviously). She travelled, she gambled a lot, and won more than a normal person should. 

She would occasionally say things that were both inappropriate and hilarious (for example, anything that was a big mess she would refer to as a "Polish picnic"). She introduced me to really good Italian food, and taught me to cook the things that will bring me home for the rest of my life, no matter where I am.  

She conditionally baptized me as a Catholic against my parents' wishes and didn't really care that it bothered them. She was there for me as a little kid when I really, really needed her. I knew her well, but also not all, as her life was mystery to me (like the time she handed me a red formal dress and said: "Oh, I wore this to President Johnson's Inaugural Ball - take it."). 

She appreciated being comfortable and the value of home. She always insisted on having the best she could get. For some reason, she thought I was the best. As her favorite grandchild, she saw only the best in me (even when I did not deserve it) and the strength of her love allowed me to see her and know her at her very best. 

I will miss her, and always be grateful for her, and am so glad she is no longer suffering. I pray that she rests in peace and that for her sake, there is both casino gambling and major league baseball in heaven.

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013-2015

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Staying in My Own Lane

Last week I had to bribe my son to swim backstroke. He hates it and as a result, he'd refused to do it since the beginning of this year’s swim season. With the prospect of money on the table, he was willing to give it one last try. 

Watching him race, I could see how much he'd improved, but he was still dead last in his heat. Though he finished strong, he got out of the pool hanging his head. He'd taken 14 seconds off his backstroke, which is remarkable, but in that moment all he cared about was the fact that he'd come in last. Had he been in a different heat that night, he might've won or come in third. In either of those cases, he would've felt pride in the accomplishment of getting so much better. Yet there he was, humiliated, hating a moment that should've been cause for celebration.

How did we get here? How did we land in this spot where (to quote the immortal sage Ricky Bobby) “If you’re not first, you’re last”?  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

10 Things I Learned from Actually Doing a Swim Practice

From Memorial Day until late July of every year, my family is consumed with summer swim team, also known as the Water Cult. For the past couple of years, the swim coaches have offered a "Masters Swim" for parents, many of whom are former swimmers themselves. The emails have been inviting us parents to join in for years. I have always deleted them.

This year, however, I have succumbed to the positive peer pressure of my friends, who are participating because they care about "fitness" and "health". I feel that my presence has downgraded the entire experience for everyone and that the practices should now be referred to as "Masters" with intentionally sarcastic air quotes. I mean, the only skills I've mastered are the world's slowest backstroke and how to be consistently ten minutes late to practice.

But it's been a fascinating learning experience that has made me appreciate what my kids go through every day and also how truly great the sport is. So here are 10 things I learned from actually doing a swim team practice:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Experiment: Apple Cidar Vinegar vs Stomach Flu

Last Friday, roughly 25% of the second grade at my kids' school was sent home with a nasty stomach bug that had kids puking in buckets in their classrooms. OH HELL NO. Parents received an email co-written by (no kidding) the Principal and the health department, with guidance from the CDC on how to handle such an infectious outbreak of nastiness.

I dubbed it #PukeFest2015 and of course, my friends, it has hit home.

My 4th grade son woke up the day before yesterday feeling sick, and has been periodically puking ever since. He's actually doing a lot better today, thank you baby Jesus, but we live in fear that this highly contagious virus will spread to other members of the family during this - the last week of school.

SIDEBAR: The last week of school is not all coasting, watching videos in school, and eating popsicles. The last week of school here is an activity-filled, non-stop, shit-show that requires to-the-minute scheduling and includes things like:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What the hell is going on?

Last week I wrote about my grandmother's health crisis. It's been a challenge to process everything when absolutely nothing is certain. The uncertainty is making us all feel... Off balance. Stressed. For me, this manifests itself as a constant stomach ache. I have moments where I feel fine, where I get absorbed in my daily life and responsibilities, and then it hits me. My vision blackens around the edges. My core contracts. I feel shaky.

This is so hard because we all love her. But there is conflict. I don't know what to do. I'm trying to make sense of it. I have no idea what the hell is going on. People who are scared and in pain sometimes grasp at things that in broader context, don't make any sense. I want to yell at them for that. I also want to cut off all contact with them. I also want to comfort them and make sure they're ok. I want to run up there and take care of every last detail. I also want to pull up the drawbridge, hug my babies close, and pretend none of this is happening.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Coming to Terms

So this week is horrible. Last week was also bad. My grandmother holds a very special place in my life and she seems to have taken a permanent turn for the worse. She is in the hospital and as of Monday, is no longer mentally competent. Death and dying seem to bring out the worst in some people and this situation is no exception. There's conflict between her family and her primary caregiver. I’ve thrown my hands up in the air, not because I just don’t care, but because there is literally nothing I can legally, physically, or emotionally do to change anything in this situation and once I accept that, I hope I'm able to calm the hell down and start to process my grief. 

She's still here but she feels lost to me. I feel a little lost myself.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Horrifying Conversations with Mini: Eggs

Last week, my Daisy girl scout troop participated in an event called “Cupcake Wars”. I should have known, given the name, that something horrifying would be said. Mini is after all (and always shall be) my precious cupcake baked by the devil. Perhaps the name was some sort of cosmic literary device - foreshadowing. A nomen omen, per se.

My older daughter’s 6th grade troop was running the event, so the young ladies in charge of coordinating and steering the little kids were all well known to Mini (as they’ve been her sister’s friends her whole life). This becomes important later.

First, let’s begin with the actual cupcake decorating portion of the evening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Washington Post's On Parenting Blog

I've had a couple of stories run on The Washington Post's website and I'm waaaayyy overdue putting looks to them on the blog.

Here's a post about the extremely serious and widespread teen sex trafficking problem in Northern Virginia and the sex ed curriculum for grade schoolers.

Here's a post I wrote about talking to your kids about the Ebola epidemic. Bear in mind it was written when people were freaking the freak out that we were all going to die, I was trying to talk folks off the ledge.

I'll post more as I write more stuff for them.

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013-2014

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

I poop glitter.

I was walking through the Wal Marts yesterday and I saw this little beauty on clearance. Before I even knew what I was doing, I had whipped out my phone and taken a picture of it. About 30 things were running through my head simultaneously:
  • No, it does not really say that. 
  • If I don't take a picture then no one will believe that this is real.
  • I would buy it but nothing that poops glitter is coming inside my house.
  • Cleaning up regular glitter is a goddamn nightmare, so poop glitter probably takes all day.
  • The only way that you can poop glitter is if you eat glitter and if that rabbit is eating enough glitter that it becomes his primary marketable characteristic, then he's an idiot.
  • That doll looks vapid and vaguely medicated, like she doesn't even realize it's a rabbit on the end of the leash and not some small breed of large-eared dog. 
  • She looks like the kind of asshole who would buy a glitter-egg pooping bunny for Easter then abandon it at a kill shelter before the first of May. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I'm a HUGE nerd who loves my job

I show this version of Maslow's Hierarchy every semester.
So some of you may know that I teach undergrads at a college that I could never have gotten into myself because I made bad choices in high school. I haven't written much about it here, maybe because it's my real job and worlds colliding and all that.

I teach Public Health. The class I teach is a great fit for me because it's a survey course, which means we cover hundreds of years and topics in one semester. As a result, the course content is (as my dad would say somewhat derisively) a mile wide and an inch deep.

By now you know that I'm also a big dork who dearly loves things like Totoro and Korra and Marvel and Harry Potter and too many other geekish things to list here. But I love Public Health the most. Oh my gosh, you guys. I want to talk about drug resistant gonorrhea all the time. Did you know that many of the US-funded Ebola treatment centers in west Africa have never treated a single patient?? Social determinants of health are my jam, you guys.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Proposed Titles & Concepts for Barbie Movies

This one is Mini's favorite. It's not my favorite.
(image from
My husband, the attractive yet curmudgeonly Cap'n Coupon, took the kids and I out to dinner and for some reason, we all started talking about Barbie movies. Mini loves them and we have about a million of them on DVD from when Lina was little. 

I hate to admit this. But we all have our favorite Barbie movie. I like many of them in spite of myself. I don't want to, OK? But I do. The songs are often very nice. Also, there's surpassingly good voice talent in a  lot of them (Angelica Houston and Martin Short, for example). 

And it's not just me, either. Once long ago when people still went to BlockBuster on Fridays and that dictated how happy their weekends would be, I went to rent something. Standing in front of me was an enormous biker in head-to-toe black leather with a large, faded out neck tattoo. In one hand was his skull helmet and in the other was a copy of "Barbie in Swan Lake". 

He caught me looking at it and shrugged. Then he said: "My 4 year old loves it and honestly, it's not that bad!" and I was like: "Oh I know. I like that one. Have you seen Barbie in the Princess and the Pauper? That's also good." And we chatted about Barbie movies for the duration of our wait in line and it was lovely moment.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentines for the Real World

(Originally published 2/1/2/13) 
Last night I went to Target and I got distracted by the card section. I decided to buy my beloved Cap'n Coupon a nice Valentine. But I could not find one - not one - that I even remotely liked. And then I made the mistake of looking at how much they cost.

HOLY MOTHER OF GANDALF. When did greeting cards start costing upwards of $5? If I bought my husband a $6 greeting card he would be like: "What are you doing? Are you trying to upset me? Why don't you just write 'Happy Valentine's Day' on a $5 bill and then throw it away?"

So I decided to come up with a series of Valentine's Day Cards for the real world. The Cap'n even helped me a little.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Some things to Remember When Grown Ups Let You Down

We know a couple of families who are going through divorces right now. No matter how well it's handled, it's hard on everyone. Sometimes both parents are amazing and do everything right. Sometimes it's a total poop show on both sides. Sometimes we're tempted to pick sides and declare a good guy and a bad guy. When you're a kid, those distinctions are horrible because both sides are literally a part of you. Pick a bad guy and suddenly all the parts of you that come from that parent feel... bad? At least, they feel confusing.

Since this seems to be the year of me having difficult conversations with my kids, I thought I would share a few things with our collective brood(s) of children about my experiences as the product of divorce. Really though, this is for any kid who is currently reaching the conclusion that one (or both) of their parents are not the people they thought they were and perhaps more importantly, are not the people that they need them to be.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Nerd Crafts: Sneakers

Remember when me and my kids made super geeky Halloween costumes? Well, we have come to dearly love nerd crafts. Last month, I saw this image in my Facebook feed and showed it to my oldest daughter and she was like: OH YES. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

from FanBoy Fashion
We did this over winter break and it was really fun. If you guys are getting pounded by snow days and feel like you're going to lose your mind, I'd like to humbly suggest picking up some cheapo sneakers and some fabric Sharpies (regular Sharpies work, too) and making an afternoon of it. We had a blast and nobody whined or yelled at each other for like - at least 45 minutes. All supplies cost about $30 and we all ended with a sweet new pair of kicks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Horrifying School Projects with Mini: The Snow Globe

As many of you know, Mini is now a big girl who goes to kindergarten. The kids in her class are precious and adorable and kind. Her wonderful teachers have made me love them so much that I may marry them. She is learning many interesting things. She has however developed a very tedious habit of questioning everything I tell her, raising one eyebrow and looking skeptical. Then she surreptitiously tests the things I tell her to see if they're true. All of this serves as a backdrop to this story.

I went to go pick her up a little early today and noticed that each of the children in her class had completed a lovely project called "If I were Trapped in a Snowglobe with my Buddy". The results of these projects were proudly displayed in the hallway, where everyone could admire them. There was a picture of each child and their buddy under a clear plastic plate, with white stuff around the edges to make it appear that they were happy creatures inside a snow globe. Underneath the photo, they were supposed to write what they would do while trapped in the snow globe with their buddy. Most of the responses were really sweet. They said things like: "We would make snow angels!" or "I would go sledding with my buddy!"

But not Mini. Of course not. Here is what she wrote:

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