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So, I am sinking into a slight depression – as is my way during presidential election cycles. From watching the news, I now feel like a storm system. In an effort to keep the beast at bay, I’ve been gardening, house-hunting, and building up my business. Crickets chirping, brain empty. It was the Sarah Palin frenzy that did it for me. And then the horrible hurricane news and my mind is distracted by thought of friends far away. So, searching for some connection, I am pulling myself up back from the brink to share this poem with you:

Out with the new, in with the old,
goodbye skys of blue, hello clouds of gray.*
Not everything is imported to me! Urppppppppp!
FFFF! Exuse me? Thank you!
Iced tea, imported from nothing (no fair!)
Coffee imported from mud (no fair!)
Towels imported from Turkey (no fair!)
And turkey imported from Spai-ai-ain.
blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah!
I need less! I want nothing fabulous!

*a dip in the mud.

(original poem from my son, Isaac who is 9. It is his property, reprinted with permission here, by me, his mom. All spelling errors left unedited, by me, his mom. Apparently the slight overuse of parentheses is genetic.)


And yes, Isaac, whom we call Thinker around this blog, has lots and lots of thoughts on the matter. They often stay inside is busy brain, but every now and then make a somewhat startling appearance, in dream, story, song or verse. What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you have poetry feedback for Thinker?


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I grew up in a college town. There I went to a pint sized prep school that had almost all the trimmings. It had a quirky artistic feel to it – perhaps brought forward to defend itself where it completely lacked in athletic prowess (meaning equipment, brawn, coaches, property…). Our school was, in fact, slowly going broke, though we didn’t know it. We always had the theater, however.

For a while I took my music lessons at school. I don’t remember if I stayed after school or if I was getting pulled out of class or if it was in fact part of the curriculum. The lesson room was just off the chapel. It was really just the hallway between the chapel and the chaplain’s office. Someone had pushed a piano in the corner and there were two stools. It often smelled like incense from what we as kids called long chapel, but was really the Thursday Eucharist. The other 4 days were short meditations or hymn sings. Long chapel’s incense lingered in this little space. To get there, one had to tumble down the back stairs, or march down the front stairs and pass by the headmistresses office – uniform perfect, no shuffling of feet – on the way there one could hear the tail end of some other student’s lesson. One could perch on the top step — the chaplain’s office being in some limbo between the basement and the first floor – and wait listening to the whatever wind instrument was being played (strings/suzuki went to the 7th floor, where they practiced in what can best be described as a very large closet full of stringed instruments. SUZUKI was printed boldly on the door. Wind instruments players had no door on our hallway and I believe piano students were taught in the real music room, which was in the real basement of the building, reached only by the main stair case.)

For a short time I took my lessons at home on the family piano- our church was almost overpopulated by Julliard students earning cash while trying to make it in the city. Most were not born educators, which was why the music school was my very favorite place to take my lessons. Its creaking stairs took you on a journey past other players rehearsing, practicing, struggling and breakthroughs. The way the orchestra sounds when it is warming up was just how the music school sounded to me all the time. I did not practice as much as I could have. I was often late, running the 10 blocks south on Broadway, flute clutched to my chest, papers flapping, but I did love the perpetual feeling that we were back stage. It was a behind the scenes pass to a world I didn’t expect to enter, more serious and older students concentrating, earnestly perfecting their pieces for the next recital. Walking in and out I felt the shiver down my spine that comes just before curtain as you sit in the theater with the lights dimming low. Something wonderful was just about to happen for someone.

This week I went back to music school. My son has been taking viola at the community division of a local university’s well renowned school of music. He has been most often shuffled off their by husband in the early evenings and often enough by one or the other of his grandparents, while I mind the home front of toddlers sleeping late into the afternoon and messing up their bedtimes, or not sleeping at all and being way too cranky to be brought along or left behind by their mama. Today, very near the term’s end, I decided that I would go to music school with Thinker. It was an innocent decision. I hadn’t met his teacher yet. I hadn’t heard him with piano accompaniment. I wanted to get away from cranky non-napping toddlers!
And suddenly, I was back at music school. The sound of other musician’s rehearsing, all their varying skills and abilities leaking out onto the institutional flooring and filling the cracks in the painted cinder block walls, well it just about knocked me over. I snuck myself into a tiny rehearsal room, perched on a chair and knit while Thinker played May Song and Allegretto with piano accompaniment from his very nice (and young!!) teacher, feeling for all the world just like some kid’s parent – and this is not news, but strange to be feeling it all the same time I am feeling just like a kid myself with my papers discombobulated in my music folder, running those 10 blocks downtown and looking all the while uptown for the M104 bus that might save me and keep me from being 5 minutes late if only it would catch the next green light.

And just as I came to the end of my knitting row, our lesson was over and I found my feet back on the cement floor of somebody else’s music school.

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I grew up in a college town. There I went to a pint sized prep school that had almost all the trimmings. It had a quirky artistic feel to it – perhaps brought forward to defend itself where it completely lacked in athletic prowess (meaning equipment, brawn, coaches, property…). Our school was, in fact, slowly going broke, though we didn’t know it. We always had the theater, however.

For a while I took my music lessons at school. I don’t remember if I stayed after school or if I was getting pulled out of class or if it was in fact part of the curriculum. The lesson room was just off the chapel. It was really just the hallway between the chapel and the chaplain’s office. Someone had pushed a piano in the corner and there were two stools. It often smelled like incense from what we as kids called long chapel, but was really the Thursday Eucharist. The other 4 days were short meditations or hymn sings. Long chapel’s incense lingered in this little space. To get there, one had to tumble down the back stairs, or march down the front stairs and pass by the headmistresses office – uniform perfect, no shuffling of feet – on the way there one could hear the tail end of some other student’s lesson. One could perch on the top step — the chaplain’s office being in some limbo between the basement and the first floor – and wait listening to the whatever wind instrument was being played (strings/suzuki went to the 7th floor, where they practiced in what can best be described as a very large closet full of stringed instruments. SUZUKI was printed boldly on the door. Wind instruments players had no door on our hallway and I believe piano students were taught in the real music room, which was in the real basement of the building, reached only by the main stair case.)

For a short time I took my lessons at home on the family piano- our church was almost overpopulated by Julliard students earning cash while trying to make it in the city. Most were not born educators, which was why the music school was my very favorite place to take my lessons. Its creaking stairs took you on a journey past other players rehearsing, practicing, struggling and breakthroughs. The way the orchestra sounds when it is warming up was just how the music school sounded to me all the time. I did not practice as much as I could have. I was often late, running the 10 blocks south on Broadway, flute clutched to my chest, papers flapping, but I did love the perpetual feeling that we were back stage. It was a behind the scenes pass to a world I didn’t expect to enter, more serious and older students concentrating, earnestly perfecting their pieces for the next recital. Walking in and out I felt the shiver down my spine that comes just before curtain as you sit in the theater with the lights dimming low. Something wonderful was just about to happen for someone.

This week I went back to music school. My son has been taking viola at the community division of a local university’s well renowned school of music. He has been most often shuffled off their by husband in the early evenings and often enough by one or the other of his grandparents, while I mind the home front of toddlers sleeping late into the afternoon and messing up their bedtimes, or not sleeping at all and being way too cranky to be brought along or left behind by their mama. Today, very near the term’s end, I decided that I would go to music school with Thinker. It was an innocent decision. I hadn’t met his teacher yet. I hadn’t heard him with piano accompaniment. I wanted to get away from cranky non-napping toddlers!
And suddenly, I was back at music school. The sound of other musician’s rehearsing, all their varying skills and abilities leaking out onto the institutional flooring and filling the cracks in the painted cinder block walls, well it just about knocked me over. I snuck myself into a tiny rehearsal room, perched on a chair and knit while Thinker played May Song and Allegretto with piano accompaniment from his very nice (and young!!) teacher, feeling for all the world just like some kid’s parent – and this is not news, but strange to be feeling it all the same time I am feeling just like a kid myself with my papers discombobulated in my music folder, running those 10 blocks downtown and looking all the while uptown for the M104 bus that might save me and keep me from being 5 minutes late if only it would catch the next green light.

And just as I came to the end of my knitting row, our lesson was over and I found my feet back on the cement floor of somebody else’s music school.

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The year Thinker was born was, May 8th fell on a Saturday. My labor had begun early, slow and light on Friday afternoon. I spent the afternoon in our townhouse style apartment. When Matt got home from work I was excited. This was in fact our first pregnancy, our first baby. The previous summer I had had enough of the pill and was happily pregnant two months later. I gained lots of weight, fell nauseated and incredibly tired for 4 months. Then I felt wonderful, up until the very end of the pregnancy, when I felt incredibly large, weepy and unable to get a grip. Even early labor was a relief, and it intensified as the evening wore on. Knowing what I know now, I never would have gone to the hospital when I did. My labor was at a tipping point, but hadn’t tipped on its own yet. I was really fine at home, but off we went, bags packed, nearly midnight, cheerfully succumbing to the hospital process. The nurses were surprised I was 4cm dilated. Young and healthy, I was not expecting a lot of medical intervention in my birth. I just hadn’t imaginatively considered the need/desire for it. It was a complete blind spot. When things slowed down and the interventions started, I was existing on two levels. My conscious speaking brain did not feel invited or welcomed into the decision making. Underneath, there was a deeper knowing that rejected all of it, but the part of me that was accessible to the OB floor resident could not access that part of me that wanted to say ‘go away and leave me alone.’

Instead I got pitocin, which I had a very negative reaction to. I can hardly think of anything I have experienced that was more painful (and I have since vaginally delivered two babies with no epidural). The pitocin had me literally writhing around in the bed, my belly jerking into the air with each contraction and flopping from side to side in the bed. I tried to get up, put the pain laid me flat. Matt and I were both unprepared, shocked. No one had warned us of this potential.
I have since learned the following:
A. Not everyone has that experience, some women tolerate pitocin just fine. It was probably not common so the staff were unprepared to cope with me. Some women have had the epidural first so the pitocin doesn’t feel that bad. Other women just seem to not go crazy on it.
B. They could have just turned it down a little to see if it still created progressing contractions without all the sobbing I was doing.
C. It’s possible they didn’t do that b/c they are so accustomed to epidural use that it is easier for them to see the epidural as the cure for that problem, rather than re-considering the source.
D. Some women do not feel pelvic pressure through an epidural, my was wearing off, that was probably very good; they are actually much better at epidurals now than they were 9 years ago. The know more, they time them better, the can control them better. Less poker, more relief without the vegas style shrugs when you ask questions.

In any case, the epidural allowed for sleep and some much needed emotional recovery. I was happy to push him out, but confused by all the counting. The directions of when to breath and not breath. I could feel plenty of pressure so I couldn’t understand why they thought I needed to be shouted down. In any case, again the part of me that was having that thought was not attached to the part of me that was still able to talk.

Also, I have since learned that:
A. Directed pushing is standard hospital procedure. There is no way they would have known that I was miserable with it.
B. It “works” – ie babies come out. Babies would probably come out without it too, but since it is standard procedure, very few hospital nurses, OBs or residents know that.
C. They weren’t really yelling at me. Apparently, I was not really in trouble and they meant to be encouraging. They are hopelessly unprepared for those of us overstimulated by counting.
D. This is actually representative of my whole birth experience at that hospital – I got the birth that particular hospital gives to most of its moms – and perhaps that is what they want – quirky me, wanted something else, but had no idea that I’d be rendered speechless with the intensity of the experience.

Thinker was born on Saturday at 4:31pm, with a vacuum assist, as I was falling asleep between contractions/pushes and everyone was hemming and hawing about all the blood. It is no fun to see your doctor dismayed when you can feel your baby’s head in your vagina, but my husband was prepared for this moment and knew that if I could access that part of me that could talk, I’d chime in that I’d prefer (strongly) to avoid a cesarean (as we could see the baby’s head and all) and could we possibly try to assist the baby with the vacuum. God bless the man, everyone’s eyes lit up, like he’d just reinvented sliced bread and wasn’t it so charming. So they went to get the baby suction cup and I pushed and the OB switched a lever and he let out a big wail, so hearty, they told me to look up and I looked at the ceiling, but they meant down and suddenly he was on my chest, a whopping 8lb 12ounces, explaining my incredible circumference, as that takes up alot a room on a person who is 5′ 3″. He was gorgeous and after an initial fuss about low blood sugar, the rest of our night was perfect – in the way that one feels perfect lying in a hospital with 3 or 4 stitches in your labia, learning to breastfeed for the first time and not doing a very good job because you and the baby are so sleepy and you just want to be happy and the feeding makes us fuss. It was perfect and we woke in the morning to Mother’s Day in the maternity ward, where I fainted several times while being forced to stand up and walk to the bathroom – at which point we realized we had better send for help – so my younger sister arrived from Boston (how I wish these pictures were digital as we look like teenagers being sent home from the hospital with our new toy baby!).

That particularly Mother’s Day was so idyllic, as my sleepy new born waited til the following day when we were home to wake up and be hungry. At which point he cried for three days until my milk came in. I sobbed giving him a bottle of formula – which is like comedy to me now in some ways, as you must know – but in other ways I see I was grieving the birth, all its moments of drama and fear – and what was all that bleeding about? – and the very next two weeks were among the hardest of my life, but I somehow don’t remember them that way, because I had an amazing, amazing person to love and nurture and also I was carried by a younger sister who is intuitive an empathic that she postpartum doula’d be without saying much of all – my tucks were on ice, my baby perfectly swaddled – and I mean perfectly, Heather, you need to make you tube videos of your technique for the public – I always had a cold drink and my husband was home for ten days killing bees who entered the house, being a line backer at the door when I couldn’t cope with company and in general admiring everything about me and our baby – and then there was the beer, imported beer, my mother had me drink when on day 5 my milk was nowhere. Half an hour later, our hunger problems were over and the child grew.
By the time he was 2 months old he weighed 14lbs 12oz. I thought nothing of driving 6 hours with him to my mother’s wedding and staying in a house of her friends. . Our postpartum time was behind us and I rarely look back. His babyhood was idyllic and textbook – learning to take naps, learning to not hate the carseat. He ate up milestones and baby oatmeal and made me a Mother.

In many ways, Thinker is still all over my mothering. Tonight he and I played Dragonology. I tucked him up in bed and returned downstairs to put laundry in (exciting, I know). I heard the kettle and was about to pour tea, when I jumped as he had slid so quietly up to my side to inform me that Little Bear was crying very loud and that wasn’t like him and maybe he had lost his passy and he just wanted to come down to tell me. In the meantime, I banged by knuckle right onto the kettle. The blister is forming, but I remain grateful for the extra information about the loud, uncharacteristic crying of the teething two year old and potentially missing passy. At times, I wish he’d take a break from his self-appointed task of making me mother, making me a mother, making me a better mother, making me mother better. I see he isn’t actually making a critique. He just has a need to make sure I am working with all the information I need to make it go our way.

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I’ve just been noticing Thinker – nearly 9 – skirting the truth instinctively, unnecessarily, & easily. He covers well, gives that blank what could you possibly mean stare, and generally frustrates my every attempt at getting to the bottom of whatever pickle we find ourselves in. Mostly I feeling like we are part of some sort of sociological parenting experiment. What ought we to do? Let him get away with it to save face occasionally? Confront him each and every time and press for 100 % honesty? Pretend we are stupid? I hate the idea that I know he is not being honest and that we have no way to break the boundary between us like two young children shouting no I didn’t, yes you did, is not, is too. At times, I walk away in frustration.

The art of exacting truth seems like a slippery slope. I hate to be too harsh, shame him or cause him to think he isn’t anything but lovable just as he is. Of course, most of the time he is avoiding truth telling (we are dealing with very many outright lies, if you know what I mean) he is anxious about what will happen next. Will he be in trouble for staying on the computer past time, for being too harsh with a much younger sibling, for not pulling out the troubling homework until very late in the week it is due? Will he? Of course he knows the answer. It is a pain avoidance strategy. I’d like to spare him, but growing up is painful. Doing hard homework is painful, asking for help can be painful when you’ve been very competent with your spelling up til now. Losing computer after dinner can be painful, but if you spent over your time earlier in the day… you see how this works & so does he. He is doing what children doing, pushing up against the boundary.

It isn’t just pain avoidance though. I see him acting in social situations – Julie mentioned this earlier in the week – I sense he is putting this on to feel more loved, more valuable, more important. If we don’t confront it then he will have learned that he should fake it till he makes it, at home and elsewhere. On the other hand, he has to find his way in the world of peers and in the world of other grown ups – our kids own certain grown ups and never, ever are anything but their true real selves with them. These grown ups know who they are and have seen the very, very best and worst of our darling brood – other grown-ups, especially to Thinker, are a challenge. He senses they have an interest in him as belonging to Matt and me. And he hates that feeling. He really hates it. Good thing he is one generation removed from being a clergy offspring. He’d have needed to be paid to speak to people at coffee hour (true story) This same sense may also be why I blog about him less than my littler kids. But that’s a whole other post in defense of the good sense of mommy bloggers. Maybe later in the week?

Lastly, I hate to start compromising about the truth as we head towards adolescence. A very nice friend of mine pointed out that 9 is half of 18. Thanks, I’m not nervous at all. I think of adolescence as a time best survived by all parties with compassion, patience, humor and mutual respect. Honesty is sort of a pre-condition to all of that isn’t it?


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I’d like to thank the Momocrats for creating a meme that didn’t involve random facts, that does involve giving bullies a smack down and affords me the perfect lead in to tell you about the story of my maiden name – which is, in fact, Rosenblum.
Look here is my dad, Carl:
Somehow he manages to look just like a New York Jew riding the subway even when surrounded by his grandchildren in my suburban living room. He’s really from Philly, though.

Until 1996, my last name was Rosenblum. I grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan with that name. The only thing remotely remarkable about that was that my dad was the minister of the mid-sized Presbyterian church on the corner. As far as I could tell this bothered neither the congregants, my schoolmates, nor the rabbi who lived in our apartment building. It did make for a rather long story. Most people didn’t ask and if they did, there was really no short version to tell, so they got the long version.

My father’s father was a Rosenblum, both of his parents were Jews. His name was Louis and he married a lapsed Irish Catholic, Mary. They had 5 children in a Philly suburb and my dad was the oldest. Somewhere along the line – funny that – a pastor in the neighborhood came to the house, because my father’s younger brother had showed up at Sunday school with a friend (probably for a prize, teachers are not above bribery). Anyway, a boy with the last name Rosenblum had showed up at Sunday, so the pastor went to the house – not sure why, to see what was up? to smooth any potentially ruffled fathers? In any case it must have been the very early 50s in suburban Philly, because my grandmother, apparently, had not the slightest idea that Jimmy had gone to church. I don’t suppose she would have cared much. As a family, they went neither to church nor synagogue. They weren’t practicing anything, so if Jimmy wanted a Sunday School prize, no harm no foul.

An aside here, I wish I could so blithely loose track of my children and assume if they showed up for supper, they were fine. This is perhaps the only thing in the whole world that makes me nostalgic. I am not nostalgic by nature, but this one thing gets me every time. Call me crazy, but I am a mother of three boys in the suburbs.

In any case, the Irish looking suburban mommy and the neighborhood pastor had a funny exchange that resulted in him leading an Old Testament bible study in their home. Old Testament, because Mary had said they were Jewish. So, some neighbors came, I think, and the upshot is that some people in that household became Christians. Mary was one of them. She was neither as non-practicing nor as Jewish as she claimed. Something or someone was compelling to her about the Christian faith and she raised her kids from that point on as Christians. With Louis’ ornery personality, it is possible any complaints he had about God, the pastor, the church and everything else just got jumbled into the mix about complaints about the government and the prices of groceries going up. My dad tells me Louis did get baptized at one point. Mary could be really quite persistent, or something.

Both shiksas in the family did a great job keeping our Jewish heritage as part of life. Louis’ sister got my mother Jewish cooking lessons as a gift. We always knew our story, we knew our holidays, our wonderful, wonderful Jewish foods. My mother had a gift for making it fun and our Rosenblum heritage was very real to us. We moved to New York when I was a young child and everything about this mixed up story just jumbled into the breathing, beating creation that is New York. It made sense there.

My oldest child’s first name is Isaac. He is not a Rosenblum – except for all the ways that he is a Rosenblum – brainy, wordy, funny, quirky and some crazy mix of introverted and extroverted. He does not look like a Jew the way my father does. The way I sometimes do. But Isaac is his name and it means “he laughs,” which he does. When he was four, we took his then very baby brother on a stroll in a neighboring town that we adore. It has a wonderful old time town center with sidewalks and shops. It was a 5 minute drive and a world away from life on a boarding school campus. This town has a greater percentage of Jews than some surrounding neighborhoods. It is perhaps one of the many things I like about it – one of the tiniest little ways this city girl gets her New York fix without the traffic.

Making our stroller encumbered way into the Starbucks I was stopped by quite an elderly woman who admired my kiddos and asked their names. I indicated Isaac and she pounced.

“Are you Jewish?”

I knew in an instant there was no good answer – that I had about a one in a million chance of getting out of this gracefully. Quickly I assessed my options. A “yes” would be a quick “lie” and hopefully get us out. On the other hand, it could precipiate questions of our faith, practice and synagogue -which we don’t have. A “no” could go just a badly and felt just as false. Isaac is a semitic name.

I went for the impossible. A quick version of something that can only be a long story. A story of a journey of faith and family, choices and connection, community and isolation. There is no short version, but I gave it a whirl:

“On my dad’s side, ” I smiled.

Whiplash is what came next. Standing there on a sunny day, stroller in hand, 4 year old tugging on my arm towards cookies, in a small town I love, amidst the outdoor tables of the starbucks, I got smacked.

“What, are you too ashamed to admit it, you Jewish bitch?”

Everyone looked up. My kids went silent. I swallowed hard and came out swinging.
“Pardon me, I am ashamed of nothing. I told you the truth. If you want to talk about shame, you should be ashamed for speaking to me that way in front of my children.”

Shaking, I made my way in to the Starbucks. The people at the cafe tables looked away. I rehearsed it in my mind. Could I have done something different to elicit a different response? Was she Jewish and took offense at my distancing myself? Was she a bigot and really thought that way about people? I mindlessly handed over the cookie to Isaac. He seemed relatively oblivious. I decided to not. go. there. if I could help it. But I hated knowing that ugliness had touched him – and the baby too, innocently sucking on his passy, begging for cookie crumbs. How sad, how tragically sad. Will they have to keep explaining as they grow old?

To wrap this up, we left the Starbucks 10 minutes later. I wanted to keep strolling. Isaac was happy to eat his cookie on the go. The woman was standing on the street. So old, a little stopped, shorter than my 5 feet, 3 inches. She looked ashamed.

“I am sorry, m’am. I am.”

I breathed deep and thought of the faiths I inherited, of the the forgiveness central to both. Some blood must be spilled for it to happen – a lamb’s or a Messiah’s – and on that day, to some extent she was offering hers. She had stood and waited at the outdoor cafe with people staring at her. Someone always pays with forgiveness. To forgive someone, I must pay too. She offered up her apology. In righteousness, I could have given further vent to my anger, demanded explanations, or more. It did hurt a bit to not pick that road on that day. It cost me a little something. I held tight to both faiths and offered what I could in the way of absolution.

“I appreciate your apology,” knowing the rest of forgiveness could come later, taking hold that of the fact that I had not caused this, but I could help heal it. In a world where no one has time to stop, the long story must get told, even if it is uncomfortable, politically incorrect and has no ending yet.

visit the momocrats for the scoop on this meme about a time when someone tried to beat you down on account of your name. Then, be ye tagged!

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