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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Themeless

A few little things I've been wanting to write about, none of which are developed enough to be their own post, but all felt worthy nonetheless.

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A month or so ago, Max started using a checklist he'd written on our dry erase covered basement door. The list was of all the things he needed to do before leaving the house each morning, and contained mostly run-of-the-mill items: brush your teeth, put on your shoes and socks. Then he created a row where he could mark off the numbers of days he completed everything on the list, which then grew to a month, which grew to the entirety of second grade. "When do I get to stop?" he asked me. "Never kid. You never get to stop. You have to do those things for the rest of your life."

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Around 9:15 on a Friday night, I'd already gotten into bed and was watching an episode of "Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce" when my neighbor texted that my camp counselor from when I was 10 was sitting in her kitchen, and did I want to come over? I was stunned by the invitation, but I threw my clothes back on, walked down the four houses, and spent a couple of hours catching up with my neighbors and someone I hadn't seen in decades. The amazing thing was that it wasn't the slightest bit awkward, yet I'm sure that if I'd known about it in advance, I would have stressed over it for some reason.

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I traveled around Philadelphia for three days this past week, though none of my meetings were in Philadelphia itself. I was all over the suburbs and in New Jersey and Delaware too, which I find fascinating. It's not really my job to know where I am, as I am taken around by various sales people who cover the territory, and my story is largely the same no matter who I'm talking with at that moment. But I couldn't stop looking out the window as we drove from town to town, as it was just so different from the other trips I've taken so far. I feel like it's expanding my view of our country, and I'm grateful for these opportunities to see places I wouldn't have gone on my own.

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I read this post on the NYT Motherlode blog, "Parents of Teenagers, Stuck Taking Out the Emotional Trash" last month, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The gist is that often teenagers unload their problems on to their parents, and then the teens feel much better while the parents sit and stew and try to come up with (generally unwanted) solutions. I don't think this pattern is exclusive to teens though, as I know I've unloaded my problems on others, not wanting a solution, but perhaps wanting empathy. I seem to be entering a new phase of life, though, where the problems of my soon-to-be-teen aren't the only problems that seem to be getting heavier. My own friends are going through a lot, and I often feel ill-equipped to help. I'm not a therapist, a physician, a financial adviser, an expert in scenario X, Y or Z, but I can try to be a good listener. It often doesn't feel like enough, but maybe sometimes, it is.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Twelve

Her shirt says "one of a kind." And she is.

Today, Hannah Ruth, you are turning twelve.

When I took the photo above, one Sunday morning before religious school, I knew I'd use it on this post. It's the perfect representation of you at that moment: long hair, nerdy glasses (though you just got contacts), hairbands on your wrists, a phone within easy reach, hot chocolate and a killer smile. I'd do almost anything to keep that smile on your face.

You say ten was the greatest year of your life, but eleven was pretty good too. It was hard to say goodbye to elementary school, but you've made a fantastic transition to middle school, earning straight A's (and an A+ in math!) while keeping up with new and old friends. You spent the year singing, with many solos at school and in All City choir, and in "Annie," "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" and soon, "Joseph" and "Oklahoma." Lots of singing in the car too. You got Invisalign, danced to "Shut Up and Dance," and started practicing for your bat mitzvah, now just a year away. You spent all summer at camp, and then saw your phone "blow up" with texts on the day school team assignments were announced.

You are "Grey's Anatomy" and and North Face and Converse, both sparkly and non-sparkly. You are a million pillows - emojis, mustaches, the letter "H" - on a full-size bed with a chevron duvet. You are constantly switching purses and walks to Newton Centre on early release days. You are organized and patient and somehow still allow your brother to be your very best friend, but with many others sharing a close second ranking.

Each year, you continue to break my heart, just a little, as you get ever older. I'm never going to be ready to let you go, but I know I'm raising you to be strong enough to leave. This next year will be the biggest juggle you've encountered yet, but I know you can do it. I'm so proud of you and thrilled to be your Mom. Happy birthday, kiddo.

(You can also see letters for ages seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Word of the Year: Nachos (Yes, I'm Serious)


I'll admit that it was just a joke at first. I tweeted that my word of the year should be nachos, since I found myself having nachos for the second time in less than a week. That's not typical for me; nachos are not a core food group, after all.

I've been thinking about my 2016 word of the year for weeks, without any luck. Last year's word, "choose," was a bit of a dud. I did make SO MANY choices this year, and like I predicted, some of them were difficult choices. I thought the more definitive "choose" would guide me towards picking the right thing, towards making those tough calls, and it did, but it had a negative connotation that I didn't find very motivating. Prior words of the year "more" and "impact" had the positive vibe I was going for with this exercise. "Choose" did not.

Another part of my hesitation in selecting a word for 2016 was that I'm kind of project-less. In the last six months, I thought I'd come up with something that I found personally enriching, but I haven't found that thing yet. I'm surprised to be getting to 2016 without that thing in place. I realize, too, how much I need that thing, because without it, I've noticed I can let other parts of my life (namely work) take over to a degree that isn't great for me. I'm struggling with finding that thing, my project, and I've been hard on myself about that.

During this past week of vacation, the kids and I spent a lot of time cleaning and de-cluttering their bedrooms, assembling new furniture and not leaving the house much. After a few days of this, we went bowling at one of those places where they bring your food to the lane, but we timed it badly and couldn't get a lane when we arrived. We ate our lunch at a regular table, and given the wait time, I ordered nachos to make the meal take longer. An appetizer with lunch isn't something I do often, but the nachos were really, really good. The perfect thing to have that day. And then I ended up at a mall food court Taco Bell a few days later, again a very rare experience, and found myself ordering nachos again.

Suddenly, the nachos took on a bigger meaning. They weren't just nachos, they were word of the year nachos, emblematic of what I want in the coming year. It's not just about nachos. I want a little less typical, a little less core, a little longer lunch time, a little more perfect thing for that day. A little less hard on myself, a little more fun just for the sake of fun. The recognition that "impact" and "choose" are big and important, but that spontaneous moments of nachos can be big and important too.

So it may seem silly, but yes, I'm going to order my engraved rock with the word "Nachos," but more than that, I'm going to try to document my "nachos moments" over the coming year. I'm going to shoot for one nacho moment a week, and see how I do. I need a little less serious all the time, and hopefully a rock saying "Nachos" will help remind me of just that.

Happy 2016.

(You can see my prior word of the year posts: 2013, 2014 and 2015.)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Eight

A laptop and the fifth Harry Potter book. Who is this grown up?

Today, Max Benjamin, you are turning eight.

There will be less fanfare today than in prior years. No major counting down of days happened - you can make your own calendars now. You got your present from us in advance, a new desk that you picked out and helped assemble. You chose not to have a party this year, but an experience instead, and somehow, I kept it a secret for as long as possible.

Seven had its ups and downs, but you took the downs with typical Max spirit. You were hospitalized for pneumonia last February, but you had THE BEST time while you were there. We took you to the White House and the Lincoln Memorial (Abraham Lincoln is your personal hero). You were a French class pirate, and finally passed the four foot swimming test. You missed the builders when the renovation was over. You took piano, beat box and basketball lessons, and spent play rehearsals correcting everyone in "Joseph."

You loved the Disney movie "Descendants" and dressed like one of its characters for Halloween. You proved that Netflix binge-watching isn't just for adults. You love Legos and art projects, and do really well in school and religious school (your teacher calls you "Rabbi" and it's the perfect nickname). You started reading the Harry Potter series this fall and you're already on the fifth book. And while I know I say it every year, somehow, your sister is still your very best friend. The fact that that is true feels like one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, yet I know it's really all about the two of you and the respect you have for each other.

Eight is going to be big. No more car seats for our family. You'll be tall enough for the big rides and water slides when we go to Disney this February. You're going to overnight camp with Hannah, and while you're signed up for two weeks, you think you might stay for four. I'm not sure how I'll get by without your hugs for all that time, but you've promised to use your best handwriting on at least one letter home. I can't wait to read that letter, and to keep watching you grow. I love you. Happy birthday, buddy.

(You can also see letters for ages three, four, five, six and seven.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Long December

Well, as I predicted in my last post, I made it through 30 days of posting every day only to not write a word for almost two weeks.

Okay, that's not entirely true. As I also wrote in my last post that I mostly wanted to get back to writing for me, and then promptly wrote a post that I'm trying to get published elsewhere. We'll see how that goes. #batmitzvahangst

So, basically no writing for all of you here at BSB. While I can't blame the weather, at least this time around, December remains one of my least favorite months. It's not all bad, but it's generally long, dark and too busy, until it abruptly halts when the rest of the world shuts down for Christmas and I have nothing to do. Thought I really do appreciate how well the weather has been holding up so far this month. I kinda like you, Global Warming.

My last work trip, approximately 36 hours in Tel Aviv, Israel, can only be summarized as surreal. Less than two years after my last trip to Israel, which that time was 20 years in the making, well, it was just weird to be there for only business purposes. I got driven around to all of my meetings, and only had about an hour of free time on my own, which I spent walking along the Mediterranean. It was beautiful but I was tired and lonely. I hope the next time I make it back there, the circumstances are different.

Then after a couple of hectic days getting acclimated back to the real world, Hanukkah began. (Remember my December Non-Dilemma post? I've seen so many like it this year.) The kids were very happy with their presents this year, including two-in-one tablet computers of their own, so that we're all no longer competing with each other for computer time. This had come to a head this year as both kids had a lot of homework on the computer, and so Marc eliminated that arguing with refurbished laptops. We had some very excited kids.


We had our annual latke dinner with Julie, Mike and Maya, attended a Hanukkah party at synagogue where Max sang with his chorus, and one with Marc's family in Connecticut. We also fit in a middle school chorus concert and an all-city chorus concert this past week. I'm always happy to have eight days to celebrate, but I'm always happy to see the eight days come to an end too. I've just stuck our wax-covered menorahs in the freezer, hoping it helps ease off the wax. Maybe I'll be a bit more prepared when we get back to this next year.

The other big news around here is that Hannah was selected to be an understudy for her middle school musical, "Oklahoma!" She gets one performance as Ado Annie, and then spends the rest of the shows as a farm girl, but she is over the moon to have gotten such a big role as a lowly sixth grader. It's a ton of rehearsals and a huge commitment, but I am so proud of her. She's really adjusted well to all of the extra work of middle school, and I'm sure this will be an exciting challenge for her.

We're also looking forward to seeing both kids in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the end of January. Max has taken it all very seriously and I think he could do a one-man production of it. I wonder where he gets that from... ;)

How are you holding up this December?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Made It - #NaBloPoMo 30

It's my last post of National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I've enjoyed getting back to writing every day, even if it's only been a few words, but I'm also ready for it to be over. Traveling this week, Hanukkah next week, and general end-of-the-year chaos would make this very hard to sustain into December.

This time, I have no great insights to share with you all. I've just made it through. I've loved reading along with a few of my friends who did this insanity with me, but I look forward to reading their posts anyway. Reading them every day didn't make it any more or less enjoyable. I've discovered that I have about 75 readers I can count on for a daily post, which is interesting. Some of these were so boring, or so short, that I didn't even throw out the link. As I've learned from doing this before, I rarely feel the urge to share these posts more than once. I think it also means I've shared fewer things on Facebook and Twitter overall, and I don't feel like I tried to tackle anything in a serious or in-depth way this month. I just wrote.

I hope that it's okay, that just me writing is enough sometimes. I do think that's what I wanted my blog to be anyway. Just me writing. I think I got a bit lost in some grander ambitions over the past few years. Not that they were bad things, but maybe beyond the scope of what I really want to do. I've had a few people recently say things to me like, "you work in the theater, right?" or "you're just a blogger, right?" and I felt like they were stabs in my heart. I'm proud of the work that I do here, and did for Listen To Your Mother, but it shocked me to realize that people had no idea what I do in real life (it says it right there, on the right-hand panel, for those of you who don't know). Not that I'm super-descriptive about it here, but I'm proud of my real, paying job too. I think I realized that competing to get the so-few freelancing and paid opportunities that are out there meant taking an opportunity from someone who really needs it, and I don't have the energy for that right now. I know when the lightning strikes, when I do write something special, and I'll save my energy for those moments. I don't think I want to fight so hard to make those moments happen though.

So maybe I did learn something from NaBloPoMo, after all. Maybe just me, writing, is enough for me.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Night Before - #NaBloPoMo 29

The view from my last hotel. The next one will look nothing like this.
I'm leaving for another business trip in the morning. It's my third trip in about three months time, and it's starting to feel more normal to pack up my suitcase and go. Even packing, which you all know I dread, didn't seem as bad today.

I've been really looking forward to this trip, and I really hope it's a success. But I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about how it's going to go, and about things that I'll be missing at home. I'm nervous about all that I'll be coming back to as well, as things turn super-busy for the last few weeks of the year and Hanukkah begins and then it's the kids birthdays and and and.

I'll feel better once I'm in the air, or even at the airport gate. This in between time, when you're ready to go but can't leave yet, is hard. My mind is already in the game, but torn about wanting to be home. I wonder if I'll ever not struggle with wanting to be on to the next thing.