Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Game Day

It's School Vacation week
That week when as a parent, I feel pressured about indulging Lucy in as many activities and and attending as many events as possible
In the days leading up to Vacation Week, I scour the internet and the local Groupon site looking for things to do that wrap culture, education, physical activity and together time all in one
Really, what I want to do is just hang out at home, watch movies, read and maybe play a game or two
But instead, I am frantic in trying to find things to do
I feel this overwhelming need to schedule whatever days we have off together right down to the minute to ensure we make the most of it all while trying to appear spontaneous and free spirited
So here we are, February Vacation
Saturday we started off super strong
My friend and I took our girls to the Theater - not the movie theater but the real live theater with real people
Lucy was super impressed
Even more so because they were selling Sour Patch Kids at the Concession stand
We spent the afternoon visiting then made dinner together
We capped off our night watching basketball
Day One was full of culture and out of the house time along with socializing
Off to a strong start
Sunday we spent in Rockport and Gloucester
We wandered through the little shops in Rockport, ate lunch at The Causeway and then wandered around Gloucester all whilst educating Lucy on fishing as an industry, rocks, the tide, the ocean and, we got a walk in
Capped the night off yelling at Syracuse as they fell to Georgia Tech
Education, a little bit of culture and physical activity
Day Two and we're still holding our own
Day Three, President's Day nothing planned but we had options!
We had grandiose plans to get out and do something fun and exciting and borderline cultural/educational
We kicked around another outdoor excursion, a museum or possibly Disney on Ice
We lounged in bed until 9ish
Lucy and Sean played Star Wars Operation while I did a bit of work
Then, still clad our in our PJs, we started a game of Cat-op-oly and yes, it is just what it sounds like: a cat version of Monopoly
The properties were cat breeds and the utilities were cat accessories or characteristics
We figured while we were playing, we'd decide what to do for the day
It started off as every game of Monopoly does in every household: giggling, teasing, friendly heckling which turned to a bit of trash talking
Then the shit got real
Lucy had a property Sean wanted
She was broke, I was slipping her money under the table from my own bank
He dogged her until she was reduced to tears and crying as she handed over her favorite property (read cat breed, it was a Maine Coon)
He was ruthless
There were more tears, deals being brokered, rejected and reneged
There was pressure to sell, yelling, and finally, a bankruptcy
Lucy lost it all - literally and figuratively
She absolved her corporation selling out to me before collapsing on the couch emotionally spent and exhausted
Sean and I kept going, with Lucy back at my side as a team, until finally, he took me for every penny and property I had
I was broke, homeless and mortgaged up to my eyeballs
Sean stood with his hand out stretched as I owed him $1400 in rent for landing on his property that was as built up as it could be
I looked on the floor to make sure I had not dropped any money, tried to figure out if I had any properties worth anything to pay him with instead of cash and I'm not going to lie, I almost stole from the bank just to shut up my sweet husband who had morphed into a smug Trump like Real Estate Mogul right before my very eyes
But I had nothing
I was tapped out
 I gave up and admitted defeat
Lucy took refuge on the couch hiding under the blanket
Sean let out a whoop and rolled around the floor in his play money and property cards gloating
The game had started before 11 and ended at 3:15
Day Three of Vacation:
No culture
No physical activity (unless you count jumping up and down and waving cash in people's face as physical activity)
We did not get out of the house
Hell, we did not even get out of our PJs or brush our teeth
And I am not sure reducing your 7 year old to tears over a game of Cat-op-poly can really be counted as educational even though were some math lessons in there
Day Three, we've crashed and burned

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Whoopie Pies

For my friend Cathy:

When I was a kid, you were one of my favorite people to hang out with - even though you were a grown up
Youth group and snowmobiling with you are two of my most distinct memories
And let's not even talk about the time you somehow managed to sneak us all out of the house dressed up to get our picture taken for Mum and Dad
You were such a huge part of our childhood - you were always there when we (I) needed something
Some of my fondest memories are just hanging out at your house in your Mum's kitchen watching her bake - she always wore an apron and I feel like there was a cigarette in the ash tray in the corner of teh counter along with an open soda can (although that could have been my Mum with her Tab!)
Shirley Chalmers could bake up a storm in the second smallest kitchen in Orrington
Loretta's was of course the smallest...but that could have been because of all the kids crowded in there with her
I thought Shirley was magic when it came to decorating cakes
But I swear, the best thing to ever come out of that little kitchen on the Snows Corner Road were the Shirley Chalmers Whoopie Pies!
I was never so excited when your Mum let me help me make the pies and then fill them with cream
I remember when she gave me a copy of her recipe
She wrote one out for my mother and I asked for one too
She asked what I was going to do with it - I was, after all, just a kid
I said I would make them when I had my own house just like she did
I remember Shirley chuckling at my request, sort of muttering and shaking her head
But she wrote one out for me any way
It was on one of those little cards that was imprinted with From the Kitchen of Shirley Chalmers
I kept that card for years Cathy!
And when I finally had my own place, I hung it on the side of my refrigerator in a clip with my favorite recipes
It has moved from Maine to New York to Illinois to Massachusetts with me
I also have cards in my mother's writing (though not her pizza recipe...I would never even attempt that one!) and my Aunt Nell's writing
I cherish those cards
I think having recipes handed down generation to generation is a beautiful gift
But I think to have it in the writing of someone who was a part of your life is an even more beautiful gift
Friday, there was a bake sale at Lucy's school
Lucy loves Whoopie Pies as I do
She asked if I would make them for the sale
I do not have to be asked twice
So I went to the clip and flipped through it looking for that little card
It was not where it should have been
I frantically flipped through it again
It still did not appear
I flipped through my recipe box (because yes,I still have one of those too)
I still could not find it
I pulled down my cook books and flipped through the pages hoping I had used it as a book mark
I still could not find it
I ended up making cookies
One time I thought I had lost a recipe Aunt Nell gave me and I cried
Not because I lost the recipe but because I lost her handwriting
It was not a recipe I make often...but she had written a couple notes on it and made hearts and little smiley faces....she signed it With Love, Aunt Nell
And, it was one of the last recipes she wrote out for me before she passed away
I've lost my recipe Cathy .... the one the infamous baker, Shirley Chalmers wrote out for me when I was probably 11/12 maybe 13 years old
And I am gutted
Not just because I lost the best Whoopie Pie recipe but because it was in her writing
There's something about having something like
I am not quite sure what it is or how to express it.....
Shirley's writing, that recipe, reminds me of when I was a kid...when I thought I would always be a kid and you would always be down the street and our parents would always be young...
And when I got to hang out with you and Sheena
And snowmobiling
And your brother
And Orrington
And your Mum
And you
It makes me miss those days
It makes me realize how lucky I was as a kid to be surrounded by people like you
It makes me miss being a kid
So if it's not too much trouble, think Shirley would share the recipe with me again?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Valentine Bandit

In early August 2012, on a gorgeous Sunday morning, I went to Courtney and Eddie's Wedding Shower
Sean and Lucy spent the day together
I came home with cupcakes for Sean and Lucy
They came home with a 4.9 year old, black, short hair domestic called Ziggy
From the moment Ziggy entered our home, it was as if he had always been there
And it was not long before he and Lucy became, well, Lucy and Ziggy
Lucy follows Ziggy around
Ziggy follows Lucy around
They read together, sleep together, watch TV together and eat breakfast together
He hops up on the sink, she turns the water on for him
He sticks his face in her cereal bowl, she moves the spoon so he can get at the milk
He stands in front of the pantry door begging for a treat, she says lovingly uh uh uh Ziggy! No treats! You know what the Vet said! 
She keeps this up until she thinks I'm not watching then slips him a treat and makes him promise not to tell
We walk in the front door, he's there to greet us as she is calling out to him to let him know we're home
Lucy worries about Ziggy when we're away and misses him terribly 
She misses him so much she'll often request we cut our trip short so we can get home to him 
We don't but its the thought that counts
Lucy and Zigs even fight
She scolds him, he meows right back at her
He drags one of her toys around the house in his mouth, she snatches it back and tells hims to play with his own toys
She pets him a little longer than he wants to be, he gives her a swat
He's swatted, swiped and hissed at her 
She's swatted, swiped and yelled right back
He's even scratched her a couple times
And when that happens, her bottom lip quivers, and she fights back tears as I know her little heart is breaking 
Then she'll demand we take him back to the kitty farm we got him from
So I agree and start to gather up Ziggy's things 
She reminds me not to forget his favorite toy 
So I scoop up that favorite toy (no Mumma, not that one! The other one!), announce to Ziggy he's leaving and promise Lucy as soon as Daddy gets home, he'll take Ziggy back

Which makes her cry harder
Ziggy hears Lucy crying and comes over settling down next to her 
She's still crying so he moves closer to her, leaning against her leg
She ignores him
He pushes against her again
She still ignores him and says I'm really mad at you Ziggy!
He stands up, leans against her rubbing his head and meows
She finally gives in, buries her head in his neck and says I forgive you Ziggy Boy but you really hurt my feelings!
He nuzzles her again with a big meow and and she accepts his apology
And they go back to being Lucy Goose and Ziggy Boy
Once, Ziggy had to have a biopsy done 
He had to be put to sleep of course and a section of his back was shaved and he had stitches 
When Ziggy came home, he had to wear the cone of shame for a few days
Lucy was beside herself when she saw him 
And when he tried to eat and could not, she nearly lost her shit
She had tears in her eyes and her voice cracked as she sat on the floor feeding him kibbles one by one and muttering words of comfort and love to him

I am not sure what squeezed my heart more that day: the thought of something being wrong
with Ziggy, how much Lucy loved this kitty or what a great big sister she would/should have been
Ziggy has acquired a a multitude of nick names over the past few years:
Ziggy Boy 
Ziggy Boy Sykes if he's really in trouble
Fatty Boom Boom 
Count Chub-u-la
Sir Barfs-a-lot
Count Zig-u-la
Ziggy Bo-Biggy
Zigmund Zigaby 
Chubby Chubster
Sometimes Lucy will holler Where's my Best Kitty Boy? and he'll come running or lumber down the stairs to see what she wants
Or if he's being fickle on a given day, she'll ruffle his head and say Whose my Grumpy Cat?!? in a funny sing-songy voice to try and cheer him up
Lucy loves and adores this cat 
And this cat loves and adores her right back
On Valentine's Day, as dinner was cooking, we exchanged Valentine's with each other
Cards for Daddy from Mummy and Lucy and a heart full of Kit Kat's, Twix and mini M&Ms
Cards for Mummy from Lucy and Daddy with a heart full of Hershey Kisses with hazelnuts and sweet tarts
Cards for Lucy from Mummy and Daddy, a stuffed cat, a heart full of Kit Kat's,
some Skittles and M&MsA card for Ziggy from Lucy along with two new toys
We sifted through the mail and pulled out a few more cards to be opened
The last one was a card addressed to Lucy Sykes, no return address, post marked Boston, MA
We did not recognize the handwriting
She ripped it open and screeched with delight when she realized it was a card from none other than Ziggy!
She waved it in front of Ziggy (because yes, he was sitting on the chair next to her) and squeezed him in thanks and in love
Sean and I looked at each other and exchanged, in silence, through head shakes, furrowed
brows, shoulder shrugging, hands turned upward and finger pointing,
Not me was it you?
Nope, not me!
Then who?
I have no idea!
What the hell?
Beats me!
Lucy continued to hug Ziggy who got all the credit for her favorite Valentine of the day
We don't know who did it
We honestly have no idea
Not because we can't think of who would do such a thing
The opposite actually
We can think of so many who would in fact do such a thing because those are the kinds of people we are lucky enough to be surrounded by
I posted this on Facebook hoping to find the person - or at least in our message of gratitude reaching him or her
I hope it did as you deserve a heartfelt thanks
So if it was you, if you are the Ziggy Valentine Bandit, thank you
Thank you with our whole hearts and heaps of gratitude and love
Your gesture, such a sweet simple gesture, brought a huge smile and giggle to Lucy's face 
And after the week she's had, it was just what she needed
Also, it earned Ziggy a treat 
(Mumma! I think Ziggy should get an extra treat for being so thoughtful and sending me card!) 
So I'm pretty sure he's even more grateful to you than she is
You made Goose's Day - and you made ours, you truly did
I hope you continue to brighten the world each day with gestures like this......I'll be sure to pay it forward!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Suck it Up Buttercup!

Lucy loves the snow
She loves the snow so much, sometimes, she just goes outside and lies down in it....like she's going to make a snow angel but she doesn't
She just lays there with her eyes squeezed tight and her mouth open to catch any falling flakes
This kid loves the snow

Lucy has recently discovered she loves ice skating
Sean has been taking her to an outdoor rink up in Lynnfield and she has an absolute blast
So she was over the moon when I told her that during February Vacation, one of the field trips she'd be taking with camp is to an ice skating at a rink

And Lucy loves Karate
Kicking, chopping, kiai-ing, board breaking...she is never so proud as when she earns another stripe for her belt or moves up a color
Her ultimate goal is to become a black belt
I have no doubt she'll get there

Lucy is pretty much in constant movement
This child fidgets enough to power a small country

You know what else Lucy loves?
Playing ball in the house
She loves bouncing the balls off the furniture, the walls, and her Dad
She'll kick a ball across the room and then chase it down with a tackle
She hops on her Yoga ball and bounces
Then lays on her back and tosses it in the air
She is constantly bouncing or playing with a ball

We try not to let it get to us
But sometimes, the constant bouncing on the floor or the couch or the wall drives one of us to say through clenched teeth (with loads of love)

One time, a few years ago, the three of us were playing ball in the house
I got a little over zealous and threw it at Sean really hard
He moved out of the way at the last second

The ball missed him and instead, hit a little plaster mold of Lucy's teen tiny 2 year old hand prints
It was a  Mother's Day gift she had made for me at Day Care and was proudly displayed on a little easel stand on the book shelf

That mold hit the ground and shattered into a million pieces
As did my heart
I was devastated and sat down on the floor and cried

On that day, I declared, as any responsible mother would and should,
No more playing ball in the house!

But, we've not been great about enforcing that rule

If you look closely at the wall (pick a wall, any wall),  you'll see the imprint of some kind of ball:
A splat ball
Or a super bouncy ball acquired out of one of those little dispenser in the lobby of the grocery store
Or a tennis ball
Or a soccer ball
Or a squishy stress ball
Or a playground ball
Or a titanium metal ball

You put a ball in this kid's hands and she can't help but toss it, kick it, and/or bounce it

Last Thursday was a snow day, no school
So Lucy came to work with me
"Her" desk is right next to the window
She spent a better part of the morning watching the snow fall and counting down the  minutes until we got home so she could go outside and play
We headed home mid afternoon -  just as the snow picked up and visibility dropped
On the drive, she asked if she could change and go outside right away

Her request was denied
She pouted and begged and pleaded
I continued to deny said request

But why?

Because honey - it is too dangerous!
The winds are wild kiddo! The snow actually hurts when it hits your face!
Plus, you can't see anything, which means the plow trucks and other people will not be able to see you (we live in a cul-de-sac, we literally play in the street)
So no honey, not today, maybe tomorrow......

Lucy pouted
It is not too dangerous!

It is pal and I said no so end of discussion please....I'm just trying to keep you safe

We did not go outside and play when we got home

In hind sight, it may have been safer

Instead, when we arrived home, we prioritized what we had to get done (Lucy's animal project, pick up the house, pick up the playroom, laundry, pack for surprise weekend trip to Maine) and got to work

So Sean picked up the living room, I sorted and started the laundry, and Lucy finished sketching out her animal project for school

Then, we all went to the basement to pick up the playroom
And by pick up I mean Sean and I needed to put away the last of the Christmas bins still stacked in front of the closet door
As he and I did that, Lucy was goofing off behind us

And by goofing off, I mean she was playing with a ball in the house

Sean and I were talking when all of a sudden, Lucy lets out a scream and crumples to the floor crying

What the hell happened??? one of us yelled

We checked her for blood - no blood

She's crying so hard she can't answer

We finally get it out of her
She went to kick the ball, missed and hit the chair with her right foot

My toe Mumma!! My foot!! Did I break my bones???
She wailed and cried and carried on

We looked at her foot
The top of it was red as was her middle toe - from impact we assumed

Can you wiggle your toes kiddo?

Yeah but it  hurts

I pressed on her foot
She winced
I pressed harder, she yelped
I pushed on her toes
She cried

But I declared You're fine! Hop up! Walk it off pal, you'll be OK!

But Mumma it hurts! she yelped as she tried to take a few steps

Honey come on...it's not like its broken! Look! You're moving your toes just fine!

Because yes, I am not sure if you heard, I am now an MD....Mom Doctor

Plus, as all Mums know, if we speak in a bright, chirpy, positive voice, nothing is wrong!
How can anything be wrong or broken or hurt when my voice is this fucking bright, chirpy and positive?!?!?

So Lucy hobbled upstairs and we put ice on the top of her foot

And we made her work on her animal project for the next two hours

When she'd get up to walk somewhere, she limped
At least three times she lamented about how much her foot hurt

Sean and I would look at each other, roll our eyes and chuckle at how dramatic she was being

By the time she went to bed, we noticed a little bruise on her foot
We grimaced a bit but told her it was fine

By the time she woke up Friday morning, the top of her foot was black and blue and swollen
Her middle toe was also swollen and had a ring like bruise around it

It was another snow day so I took her to work with me

At work, I had her elevate her foot and kept ice on it most of the day
She winced every time she put weight on her foot
At one point, she accidentally hit her right foot with her left 
She fell to the floor screaming in pain 

So I called the doctor 
And we took her in to be checked
And they took x-rays and referred us to an orthopedic doctor 

We went to the ortho doc early Saturday morning 

He looked at the x-rays and confirmed what they saw:

Lucy fractured her toe in spectacular fashion 
And there is a slight little hairline on the top of her foot but not really worth mentioning as its more bruised and swollen than anything   

So they taped her toes together
Gave her a little boot thing to wear (really to protect her foot and keep her from bending it)
and gave her crutches to help her walk (because she is supposed to try and not put weight on it)

Then they gave us the following instructions: No activities, ice and elevate, limited weight on the foot 

What do you mean by activities we ask?

The doctor asked Lucy what she did for activities
And then repeated the list back to us word for word:

No gym 
No recess
No sledding
No playing in the snow
No ice skating 
No running, no jumping
No playing ball in the house
No karate 

And try to keep her from bending her foot 
And keep her weight off it 
Elevate and ice it while you're at it 
We do not want her to re-injure or injure the foot more than it is 

For how long we ask
I'm thinking he'll say a couple days, three tops

Two - three weeks 

You mean days? I ask

No, says the Doctor, I mean weeks



No activity for two-three weeks???!?!??

That's right he says
There is not much else to do in situations like this; you just have to rest the foot and let it heal
It'll get a little worse before it gets better 
And the more she uses it the longer it takes to heal 
So no activity and we'll follow up in a couple weeks 

Sean and I exchange a look
A look which says how in the name of all that is sacred and holy are we going to keep this child inactive for two-three weeks? 

This child moves as much in her sleep as she does when she's awake


The doctor is now directing the conversation to her 


Do you understand what I'm saying?

She cocks her head to the side

You can't do anything until this foot heals OK?
No activity - I don't want you to hurt it worse than it is 
So no gym or recess
No sledding or ice skating 
No playing in the snow 
Try to keep your weight off it and rest it 

Karate? she asks 

No! says the doctor, especially board breaking and kicking
No activities for two-three weeks Lucy, you need to rest that foot
And be extra careful at school OK? 
No horsing around, running or jumping with your friends

OK she says as she hops off the bed

We all react 

Lucy! You have to be careful honey!

She grimaces as she smiles

I forgot she says sheepishly

We left the hospital and stopped to get coffee for us and a donut for Lucy 

She and I waited in the car while Sean went inside 

Hey Mumma 

Yes honey

Remember that time I broke my leg and you told me to walk it off?

You did not break your leg Lucy!

I could have!

Well, you didn't!

Hey Mumma

What honey 

Remember that time I fractured my foot and you told me to walk it off?

Just kidding Mumma! 


Hey Luce?

Yeah Mumma

Sorry I told you to suck it up Pal...

It's OK Mumma, you didn't know ....

Well, I am sorry honey....

It's okay Mumma....but I bet you wish you had let me play outside.....

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Are you there Judy Blume? It's Me, Maria

Tough drive back from Maine today
Because the weather sucks, I have to pee, we need to go grocery shopping, we're still 40 minutes from home and Lucy's been cranky since Saco
But then I saw two things on my feed that made me smile
This was one of them
Judy Blume, you have been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember
You've made me laugh, cry, think, repent and dream
When I was younger, I wanted to write just like you
I'm not sure I'll ever get there so instead, I just keep re-reading your books (I just finished It's Not the End of the World)
I used to keep a journal
I started each entry with Are you there Judy Blume? It's me, Maria
Your got me through puberty, crushes, my first broken heart and being chubby
I wrote you a couple fan letters hoping we'd become pen pals
We never did
But I still think you are the coolest
I mean your books have been challenged and banned because you wrote about periods and sex (alone and with someone) and racism and stuff no one can talk to kids about without getting red in the face
But you spoke to a whole generation of kids without batting an eyelash
And I think you helped change the way that generation spoke to their kids about growing up
And I think your impact will be felt for years to come
So thanks for being there for me Judy Blume....even though you never wrote back, I knew you were there
Happy Birthday

Oh Crap!

A couple weeks ago, Sean had a minor meltdown
More like a panic attack
I forget where we were or what brought it on but it suddenly occurred to him next year, he turns 50
He pretty much freaked out
So Lucy and I, being the loving girls in his life, teased him relentlessly for the next three days
Tomorrow is Sean's 49th birthday
Tonight he went off to racquetball so Lucy and I went out to get balloons and pick up his last gift
When we returned home, I busied myself with wrapping his gifts and Lucy dug out paper and pencil to make a card for her Dad
She made it all by herself....
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