Handmade Birthday, Part One

Sophie’s birthday party was a success.

And that’s about all I’ll say for the moment, because I’m sick as a dog (hopefully not sick as a pig — I think this is just a summer cold). I have a long, involved post in my head about the whole notion of the DIY aesthetic and why we find it so meaningful in these times. But right now, I need to find a clear surface on the couch and crawl onto it. Ray took the girls to another birthday party, so I’m actually home alone on a Sunday afternoon. Unheard of.

I’ll leave you with the artwork my mother did for the invite to Sophie’s party. More to come.

sophie bday pic



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They Invited Everybody…

…and everybody came.

I don’t know if the latter will hold true, but the former certainly is. Sophie’s entire class is invited to her birthday party tomorrow. No matter what she tells you.

Yesterday afternoon — after the local NPR commentary I did about her birthday was long in the can — my friend Vicki (mother of Anyssa, a classmate of Sophie’s) texted after school:

So, I talked to your daughter and asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she told me that I couldn’t go to her party and I asked her why? And she said because I was a boy! But it’s ok for Anyssa to go! But she gave me a kiss said bye!

Whoops. Someone clearly needed to have another talk with Sophie. In fact, I better go. I see that Ms. X just called.



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What Does Your Heart Tell You?

sophie heart shirt

Yesterday morning, Sophie demanded choices, as she always does, so I yanked two tee shirts out of her very disorganized drawer.

Funny — one was a tie dye with a heart in the middle. The other, her “Sweet Heart” tee. She chose the Sweet Heart. I love that shirt, too. It’s got a fairly realistic looking heart on it, covered in sprinkles, designed by a way-cool local artist named Roy Wasson Vale. (He got his start painting signs at Trader Joe’s! You can find his stuff at MADE: www.madephx.com)

Sprinkles and hearts, two of my favorite things. I don’t usually like to think about anything medical (Grey’s Anatomy aside), anything that points toward our mortality, but as a mom I have been forced to look at — and appreciate — the heart. Sophie had open heart surgery at 4 months and 4 years, and yeah, I’ll admit it, I have a bit of a heart motif going. I figure your kid goes through that, you can get away with being a little sappy.

Sophie’s heart is strong. (I hate even typing that — hold on while I knock wood. OK, I’m back.) Ray took her to the cardiologist on Tuesday for a 6-month check up; so it’s funny that those heart shirts emerged the next day. Sophie doesn’t talk much about her heart surgery, though sometimes she likes to recall the dramatic moment when she came out of the anesthesia and croaked, “apple juice, apple juice.” (Not my own favorite moment to recall. That sucked.)

Sometimes we do talk about her heart. Tuesday evening, I took the girls over to an end of the year open house at the school, then we grabbed a bite with Ms. X. As I tried to take Sophie out of her car seat at the restaurant, she announced, “I don’t love you! I love Ms. X.”

I know Sophie loves me. She was tired and cranky (full moon hangover?) and just trying to play me.

But I try not to encourage such behavior (I hate the game my girlfriends I used to play called “Pick Between” — use your imagination — when applied to an almost 6 year old’s loved ones) so I tried something new.

“Hey Sophie,” I said. “Stop and ask your heart if there’s room to love BOTH Ms. X and me.”

Sophie pulled the neck of her dress wide (darn, that’s a cute hand me down), stuck her head inside, and did just that. She emerged with a grin.

“My heart says love both you and Ms. X!” she announced triumphantly. And we went inside to get our El Pollo Loco.


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I have a blog to recommend. And not just because Joyce, the mother of Sarah and sometime co-author of http://sarahely8989.blogspot.com/, was kind enough to link to Girl in a Party Hat the other day.

Joyce writes eloquently about being a mom of a grown daughter with Down syndrome. And Sarah writes eloquently herself.

For a while now, Ms. X has made this blog her own required reading. She often tells me, “This will be Sophie someday!”

I can only hope.

I kicked myself after posting the other day about the ghosts of the future I see often. Robert Polk’s Ryan and Joyce’s Sarah — those are the role models I’m going to focus on from now on.

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Moving Pictures

And now presenting….. my YouTube debut.

Oh yeah, and the girls’ dance recitals.

Sadly, I screwed up when trying to tape Sophie’s “official,” costumed performance, but here she is — second from the right — in her rehearsal. Truth in advertising: The other kids are 3 and 4. Sophie did do really well, but I want to be honest — she’s much older than her classmates (though not any bigger!)


Annabelle performed twice. This is part of  her ballet piece. She’s on the left, in front. I’m trying to track down tape of her jazz performance, which was, frankly, priceless. She’s not so shabby here, either!


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Shame on the Moon

Saturday morning, Sophie gave Annabelle a tittie twister. It left a mark.

Sunday  morning, she drew (with something appearing to be just short of permanent marker) on a chair, my bed and the couch.

Sunday night, Sophie, Annabelle and Ray emerged from a convenience store — they’d run in to buy milk — and I noticed Sophie was carrying a bottle of Diet Coke.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” she said (rather, “Happy Smother’s Day!”).

“How cute! You bought me a Diet Coke,” I said to Ray.

He looked at me, then at Sophie, then grabbed the Diet Coke and headed back into the store. First shoplifting offense.

Let’s hope the full moon is gone today.

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Happy Mother’s Day to the Best Mom in the World, MY Mom

The other day Ray grabbed a plastic tumbler from the cupboard and silently handed it to me. I looked inside. It was dirty. Very dirty. Really gross, actually. I’m not sure what dried in there but whatever it was, the dishwasher didn’t make a dent. And I hadn’t noticed when I put it away.

“You know,” Ray smirked, “you have a little bit of your mom in you.”

I hope so.

True, my mother keeps an, um, casual house. Her mascara’s often smudged, her glasses a bit askew. Sometimes part of a shoulder pad (circa 1986) can be seen peeking from under her blouse. Tonight at dinner, she opened her purse and exclaimed (loudly) that her wallet was missing — as crumpled Kleenex tumbled to the ground and errant receipts practically exploded out of her small red leather Coach bag. I looked over at my dad. He looked back at me, completely unaffected. Sure enough, within 10 seconds she’d opened another compartment and screamed, “Got it!”

I inherited all of these traits from her. My car looks like a toy bomb exploded in it. I decide several times a day that I’ve lost my car keys. And that dirty tumbler’s only the beginning of my housekeeping woes.

I just wish I got the good stuff. Because there’s plenty of it. As I mentioned yesterday (and probably many times before that), my mother is a ballerina. She runs a big studio and you only need to go with her to the local mall to see how popular she is in this town. (“Susie! Susie! Susie! the teenage girls cry, chasing her down in the food court for big hugs.) She’s a damn good ballet teacher, too.

She’s an artist. A really good one. Like, you can even tell who she’s trying to draw. My house is filled with portraits of the family and our animals, and she only needs a half day’s notice to whip up a birthday invitation.

And my mother has a great personality. She’s goofy and charming and real. This has served my father well in his career. Not long ago, a friend who’s known him for years on a professional basis called to say, “Oh my god, I just heard your father tell a joke! He DOES have a sense of humor!” My dad’s not humorless so much as silent, so my mother’s spent almost 45 years of marriage filling in the gaps.

She is selfless and loyal and only wants to please everyone. (Sorry, Mom, I made you sound like a dog, there, but it’s true.) She is nice to even the most curmudgeonly members of my father’s family (sadly, her parents both died quite a while ago, and her one brother lives out of town) and she will drop anything to help my sister and me.

She adores her grandchildren and she’s the best Scrabble player I know. What’s not to like?

My mom shines on a regular basis — like the time she rented a Mickey Mouse costume so she could properly present the kids a Hanukkah gift of a trip to Disneyland or all the times she comes to the girls’ classes and teaches the kids the “dancer’s alphabet” or every single birthday my sister and I have ever had (we swear she ruined us for our husbands) — but once a year, she really sparkles.

Once a year, she mounts a full ballet production with the kids from her studio — the kids 8 and up, a group Annabelle will soon join. Yesterday my girls danced with the little kids at 2:30. At 4, my mother presented Coppelia.

I can’t remember the last ballet of hers I missed. Maybe when I was living back east, so it’s been almost 20 years. It broke my heart, but yesterday I had to race away from the recital to another performing arts venue. It was a big day. Sophie’s ballet debut, and my 7th Annual Mothers Who Write reading.

I’ve been co-teaching a writing workshop for moms since Annabelle was three months old. I wasn’t so sure about the idea of excluding non-moms, at first, and some days I’m still not. But what happens in the class — a simple writing workshop, mostly memoir with a bit of poetry — is downright magical. And once a year, our current and former students gather to put on a reading of their work.

This year, there were some scheduling conflicts — my mom’s ballet and my reading were within two hours of each other. I couldn’t stay for the ballet. And my mom couldn’t come to the reading. (I can’t recall the last one she missed, if any.)

This morning, we compared notes on the phone. She was thrilled with her students’ ballet and I was darn happy with my students’ reading. Truth be told, for both of us, yesterday was as important a day as today — even though today we actually got to see each other (we took the girls for mani/pedis and then my dad and Ray joined us at the Desert Botanical Garden to see the Chihuly show).

Driving home last night, thinking about Mother’s Day and my mom’s ballet and my reading, it occured to me that maybe I am a tiny bit like her — in a good way, this time — rushing around making programs and booking auditoriums, collaborating with co-teachers (in my case, my good and talented friend Deborah Sussman Susser), nurturing students and celebrating creativity.  

And on my best days as a mom, maybe I’m a little bit like her then, too.

I hope so.


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