From time to time when Dr. J has been on call overnight, I’ll pack up the kids and head over to the hospital for a visit. Little M gets some much needed Papa time and Dr. J gets to take a break from a very long shift.

So, this last night after grabbing an ice cream bar from the cafeteria, we headed for the atrium. While Little M enthusiastically tried to fill her Papa in her day’s events and stuff her mouth full of ice cream at the same time, I took in the sights.

A few couches over sat a women clearly going through a contraction. Rubbing her back and muttering into her ear was a very nervous looking, soon-to-be Dad. Very discreetly I kept watching, a smile stretching across my face as I remembered being in that exact same position only eight months ago. Even after the contraction finished you could feel their nervousness mixed with anxiety. They were not smiling; that would come later. But, they were clearly supporting each other. Soon, they got up and slowly walked over to another set of couches where the cycle repeated.

I then glanced over to the strange, dandelion-like fountain in the center of the atrium and there I saw a mother holding a young boy wrapped in a white blanket close to her chest. I could only tell it was a boy because of the spider man pajamas since he was very pale and had no hair. Next to them was a rather large IV. One by one he was taking pennies out of a Ziploc back and throwing them in the fountain. The mother was laughing as she rocked her little boy and repeatedly rubbed him as if he were chilled.

Suddenly my thoughts drifted from new life to sickness and for a split second I allowed myself to feel what it must be like to be that mother and it made my eyes water and the hair standup on the back of neck. I looked away quickly and gathered my thoughts. It is too uncomfortable and just downright unfathomable for me to even ponder.

So there was my family, sitting between these sights: two women struggling for the life of their children, unsure what the next day will bring. Three of us mothers, doing the best we can for our children in all our different phases. This is truly the toughest job in the world.
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When I was in the middle of a huge contraction during the labor of my first child, my husband thought he’d try and help me find my happy place. So, there I was, one hand slowly breaking the bones of his, while my other bent the metal bed rail. My face flushed and sweaty, while I tried my best to breathe: “hee, hee, ho…hee, hee, ho…hee, hee, ho” Amidst this, Dr. J began to carefully describe the streets of Venice, Italy: the music, the buildings and starry skies. This was a beautiful highlight from our honeymoon years before and he guessed that this would definitely be my happy place.

Unfortunately, all I wanted to do was scream at him to SHUT UP and STOP TALKING YOU BLATHERING IDIOT! But, of course, that wasn’t possible what with the searing pain and breathing. Finally, after the contraction passed, I was able to whimper: “Please stop talking now. My happy place is my bed at home. Now, here comes another contraction.”

Yeah, I too am surprised that I didn’t resort to physical violence. Who knew I was so strong?

My point is that when it comes to getting through labor, or any other painful situation, my happy place has always been my beloved bed. One of the perks of wintertime is that I get to haul out my heavy down comforter and sleep under its weight and warmth, sinking ever further into my feather bed.

Oh, bed, how I love thee…

I’m also what you call a night person, always been. When my babies were infants, this proved to be advantageous since I was able to stay up at night with relative ease to try and calm them. But, once my kids figured out the whole sleeping thing, then I, as a night person, got screwed.

This is because kids love to get up early. Everyday. Rain or shine. It doesn’t even matter if they went to bed at 11:00PM or if you clubbed them over the head with a heavy object.

Not that I would ever do such a thing….regularly.

As a result, I’m now forced out of my happy place each and every early morning; early meaning: I-need-to-actually-turn-on-my-light-to-freakin’-see early. Ugh.

My daughter clearly does not take after her mother. Instead, she seems to revel in the morning hours. Like clockwork, she comes bounding in, smiling and giggly, and then pulls herself up onto my happy place. Then, she begins to poke, prod, pound, and peel the covers off me.

I love my daughter more than words can say, but I’ve seriously considered selling her to a band of gypsies…or perhaps the local zoo.

At any rate, I’m at a loss as to what to do. At one point, I even considered moving the coffee maker upstairs to my night stand so that I could at least sip a cup of mommy juice joe in the face of this daily onslaught.

What once was my happy place has now been desecrated by the very beings I brought into this world. I’m sure there’s some irony in all of this, but frankly dear readers, I don’t give a damn. And the cruelest part of this tale is that until Toys R Us starts carrying toddler size shackles, there is no end in sight.

Sniff…sniff…Good bye happy place, until we meet again.
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One of the best memories I have from childhood is a day when I was about ten years old. My folks had scrimped and saved and purchased a twenty-two foot sailboat, which we christened “Tradition.” In my eyes, it was the QE2 (the Queen Elisabeth 2, a seventy ton cruise ship, which visited our Island every year).

This really was a perfect day: The winds had been steady enough to keep the boat on an even keel and all day the sun bathed the salt air in warmth. I spent most of the time at the bow, my legs draped over the side with my toes straining to touch the crests of the waves.

As we began the run down the sound to our harbor, my Mom began serving the lobsters and salad she had carefully prepped in our cramped galley. Juices dripping off my chin, and a smile on my lips, I looked over at my Dad, who stood with one hand on the tiller and the other wrapped around a lobster claw. He smiled back and said those words, which have stayed with me to this day:

“Dani, I want you to know that it never gets any better than this, only bigger.”

And he was right.

It’s amazing how bigger continues to be defined as better in our society. Most recently, I witnessed this on the show Extreme Makeover Home Edition. No, I don’t normally watch it, but for some reason the TV was on that night and Dr. J and I just wanted to unplug. It was almost over and Ty Pennington screamed: “Move that bus!” There before a small family was a 5300 square foot house. It was so over the top that it defied explanation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping folks who are going through a hard time. But, this house was so big that the family couldn’t even afford to pay the taxes or utilities on it. They had to be given a check to cover those expenses. Now, I have to ask, do they really need a 5300 house? Wouldn’t they have been just as happy with something half that size and much more manageable?

From SUVs to McMansions, I’m getting tired of the gluttony. When did we as a society loose sight of what it means to be happy? As long as you have a sense of stability, a person is not going be any happier in 5300 square foot house then a 1500 square foot house. Hell, when I was a kid, I spent most of my summers in a small camp/cottage by a lake that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. Yet, even now looking back I wouldn’t have changed a thing – not the games of matchstick poker, the late night skinny dips, the canoes which double as water slides or sailing battles. It’s the experience that matters, not the size of the materials.

Yet this basic common knowledge continues to elude us as consumers.

My only hope is that Little M and J someday get also get opportunity to sail down the sound with my father, salad dressing dripping off their chins, the smell of salt in the air and learn the lesson that eludes the majority of us, Americans: Bigger is not better.
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One night in college I was hanging out late at night with my boyfriend and bunch of his friends. With nothing better to do and a deck of cards and bottle of tequila at our disposal, we made up a drinking game, aptly titled “Chug That,” which at the time we thought was rather witty.

Sad, isn’t it?

Anyways, the rules of the game couldn’t have been simple. Each person took a turn as a dealer; while the players would each get to guess the face value (the suit didn’t matter) of the card at the top of the deck. If the guesser was wrong, they did a shot. If the dealer revealed the card that had been guessed, then they did a shot. And around and around we went.

I remember the room filling up with laughter as we each took our turns. I also remember realizing that everyone but me was counting the cards. This is what you get when you play cards with a bunch of guys from MIT. Well, that and a lot of conversation revolving around Dungeons and Dragons, but again, that’s another story.

Near the end, I remember thinking as I perched on my bar stool and tipped the bottle back yet again, that I was surprised at how great I felt considering the amount of alcohol I had imbibed. In fact, I felt wonderful. Carefree. Totally in control. Yipee.

You see what’s comin’ don’t you?

I then, of course, hit the wall, or more appropriately, the floor after falling from my stool. A “major ouchie” as I’m fond of saying nowadays. Then, things started to get really hazy.

Not long after that I gave up trying to sit on the stool; but quickly learned that standing wasn’t my strong suit either. Another shot later, I began to reconsider the necessity of staying on my feet all together. Just way too much exertion.

Ahhhh, college. Those were the good ol’ days.

Sigh.

My point?

I want you to know that I’ve officially reached my Parental Tequila Moment.

The hubs hasn’t had a day off in almost three weeks and I was actually been hanging in there, running to playdates, playgroups and playgrounds with energy and efficiency.

(Dear readers, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that this my excuse for not posting or visiting your sites lately. This and the fact that I’m officially hooked on Laurell Hamilton’s Vampire Novels as of late.

I even whipped up dinners with one child slung on my hip while the other careened at incredible speeds through the kitchen, all while screaming at the top of her lungs.

I then hit the wall.

Actually, I hit the bathroom, using it like an escape pod, kinda like that Jodie Foster movie, “Panic Room.” I even took a glass of wine and book in there with me and then proceeded to sit on the toilet for over twenty minutes.

Sure, my legs were numb by the time I peeled myself off the seat, but I was done. Exhausted. Couldn’t take anymore.

So, as I stood looking in the mirror, listening to sounds screeches and little feet running past my door, I realized that it may have been over a decade since that Tequila burned down my throat, but some things never change.

When you hit that unexpected wall, in the end, you always end up in the bathroom.

At least this time there won’t be a splitting headache or the faint smell of vomit to arouse me in the morning, but a preschooler with her favorite stuffed lobster and love of Golden Grams.

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My two year old loves to say a prayer at mealtime. Instead of the typical bow of heads before a meal, she prefers to plunge into her food, tasting the goodies scooped onto her plate, before reaching over to my seat with her buttery hands.

“Hold hands Mommy? Say a prayer?”

When I grew up, we didn’t pray before a meal unless it was a holiday, and even then it wasn’t always adhered to. Religion was confined to Sunday mornings, when we were dressed up and whisked to St. Theresa’s. My father almost always stayed home.

I eventually took communion, sipped wine from a chalice and even confessed more than a few sins. But, these actions were based on tradition, rather then my belief. It was my mother’s eyes that I searched for, not something divine.

As I grew older, church was no longer an expectation, so I stopped going. Then I had kids, a couple of them, and with each birth brought an expectation of baptism. Suddenly religion was back and I was being called upon to take an oath to guide my children down a spiritual path. Never one to lie, I decided to try my best.

My husband, in contrast, grew up in a family of devout Methodists, who pray before every meal, even in restaurants. I remember how awkward it felt the first time I held hands with his Dad in prayer over a plate of crab cakes at Ye Old Union Oyster House in Boston. I could feel the looks from other patrons.

Overtime, I got used to the perfume of sirloin and baked potatoes, mixing with blessings and thanks. And later, I even felt a strange sadness when a beautiful meal was simply ingested without so much of a pause or moment of reflection.

So, without formally deciding to, my little family started holding hands and praying during meals, even in restaurants. They are simple prayers really, giving thanks for the food and for family. And after the obligatory, Amen, our daughter always cheers.

Leave it to the youngest to remind you to take time to appreciate the little things, even if it is only a plate of food.

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