Saturday, December 21, 2013

HOPE

Hope, I've begun to hate this word. Hold on to hope, don't give up hope, hope for a better whatever. Yada, yada, yada... Normally I smile and thank the person for the blanket response, how could they possibly know better? That's what you say when there is nothing else to say and you want to bring comfort to someone. But it feels more like a set up to be let down, or a silly fancy for the young at heart rather than anything comforting or tangible. I just couldn't do it again. Maybe it was the open accepted space of this particular yoga class that when asked, allowed me to feel the freedom to speak my mind. I just didn't want to start class in a lie. He meant well, as everyone who has uttered these words to me over the last 16 months has. It's what you say when bad things happen, as if the idea things might get better allows you to keep moving forward unchanged by the redirection of your path. But you can't. The good and the bad shape our spirits and the path gets moved and you have to adjust, adapt, and change. There are circumstances where hope doesn't get a voice. You smile and move forward all the while the voice you push down is anger and sadness and if you have to face the disappointment of hope it might just be the thing to tip the scale. Every time I hear it I feel like I've been kicked in the gut. So today I told a yogi I don't believe in hope. He was so gracious, so accepting of my feelings that I actually felt relief. It felt good to speak my truth, but it's not entirely true; I have not given up hope. I have so many hopes and dreams, they've just lost the ability to hold any weight in how I feel today. Screw hope, give me love. That is real, tangible, and something I wake up having and go to bed with every night. The only thing that brings me comfort. I am living moment to moment, hug to smile to bedtime kisses. Pain and heartache and joy and laughter never felt sweeter. As long as I have love, hope can stay in the corner. You're not out; just moved to the penalty box.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Epic Fail

So yea kill supermom and those of us who strive for it. But even striving to do the best you can can end up an epic fail. Trying to save money and make the holiday's more about giving and love and less about dollars spent, I set about making snow globes as gifts for teachers and grandparents. I waited too long to order cute little figurines off the internet and my first excursion to Michael's proved this project was going to be difficult. Normally my mom would be there to help, she's Martha before Martha made it big. And she could have directed me to the perfect thing, but this project I am flying solo. The sales ladies were no help and offered more of what wouldn't work but no ideas on what might. I left pretty devastated and feeling lost. Next up I tried a local craft store and found more luck. Even found the glycerin to make the glitter fall more slowly. I found cute little candy cane swirls, snowmen, and trees! Perfect little scene so I thought. I set about making these which took several days as the glue needed to set at each stage that when I had them all lined up looking great, I smiled and said I did it. It worked! Maybe just maybe I could create something on my own and I couldn't wait to show them off. I even sent one to a grandparent as the twins celebrated the holiday early with them, so confident it would hold up. HA! Well they didn't. Those dumb tree's were metal and rusted and turned those beautiful snow globe scenes into dirty nasty sewer water. So here I am no gifts for their teachers and embarrassed to call papa and say just throw it away. My mom knows why, would have stopped me given the chance. I would have been frustrated but knew she was right and we would have gone back to the store and tried again. Before I ruined 12 cute mason jars and a boat load of tiny snowmen and and candy cane swirls. So today I quit. I will try again for supermom status but today it's enough already.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Handmade Lotion



I first got this idea from pinterest as a shaving cream. At Christmas time, I like to do something little for each of the kid's godparents. Nothing too fancy or expensive, just a thought and a reminder of those special people in their lives. Here is the original I used Rosemary Mint Shaving Cream. Now it came out great and was super easy to make. I tried shaving my legs with it and while it worked was not my favorite thing to do. In a pinch or for a quick touch up though, it was great! My husband also tried shaving with it and was not a fan. I have gotten him to use it on his dry elbows, yay!

After I had the twins I started getting these random (or so I thought) rashes. On my ring finger, under my lip... never putting together that the same thing could be causing it. Around the same time I started getting a headache. And I say A Headache because it never went away for over 2 years. Literally woke up with it and went to bed with it, every day. Some days were better than others, and most often the pain would fluctuate like a roller coaster. I had an MRI, Cat Scan, put on anti seizure meds, barbiturates, pain killers, and eventually nerve block injections that dulled the pain to a low 2 but never stopped it completely. Most days I pushed through, but some were rough to say the least. I couldn't wear my wedding ring anymore and we were in discussion with a jeweler to make some changes, thinking maybe I was allergic to the metal or something. But before we went and overhauled my ring we decided I should get allergy testing done to be sure the change in rings would work. Well, that was fun. 7 day patch test that marked hundreds of possible allergens on my back and I couldn't scratch or bathe. Fun times. Since I suppressed the rash on my finger and lip the dermatologist wanted to brush me off, but after some persistence she agreed to do the test and was quite humbled when the results were in. I am allergic to a chemical called chloroxylenol with about 10 other possible names and narcissus (daffodil's) which is commonly used in fragrance, but because fragrance is a blanket term there is no way of knowing what the specifics are. So pretty much anything that lists fragrance as an ingredient I can't use. Also this chloroxylenol is an anti-bacterial agent used in almost everything from detergent to toothpaste, to cleaners. I was given a printout the size of a textbook with known "safe" products. After 3 hours in the store searching for brand, type, and whatever; I haven't ventured past my original findings.

Even the original rash cream I was given had it in it. So I stopped using that obviously. The most miraculous thing happened. My 2.5 year headache started dissipating the day I stopped using that cream. My lips went thru withdrawal for weeks because of the prolonged steroid exposure as the Dr. never told me anything other than use this when it flares up and stop wearing your ring, you're a mother now anyway. And after a month my headache was all but gone. We had spent so much money searching for an answer as to why, so many specialists, and then more to alleviate it, and in an indirect way found not only the answers we were desperate for but a new plan to eliminate this "chronic tension headache" I was diagnosed with. In actuality I was poisoning myself. I saw so many Dr.'s all of which knew I was using this cream continuously for years (thru a pregnancy as well I was told it was perfectly safe to use) and not one had a red flag to the length of use, nor the fact that it was a steroid. Seriously I still fume about it if I let myself. My daughter is healthy and happy but I still worry that she may have been exposed to that kind of toxin without so much as a warning to me.

Little by little I am beginning to make my own products. Ones that I know are safe without all the added chemicals, fragrances, and junk that makes up 90% of the accessible products on the shelves. My daughter seems to have the same reactions to products. Even the baby lotions out there bother her and me even though my list says they are safe. So I use this for myself and the kids. A little goes a long way and it leaves your skin so silky without feeling oily, smelling sweet without the use of chemicals. You can buy all these products through the internet (I usually use amazon) at a fraction of the price you will find in a store.

Handmade Body Lotion

1/3 cup raw African shea butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup sweet almond oil

(You can do any combination of scents that appeal to you -- lavender, orange, the list goes on)
10 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops rosemary essential oil

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the shea butter and coconut oil, stirring until just melted. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heat-safe bowl.

Add in the sweet almond oil and the essential oils. Stir to mix. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill until solid.

Remove from the refrigerator and whip using a hand beater or a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Spoon into a jar with a top and keep in a cool, dry place. Makes roughly 8 oz.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Walk Through the City - Pt 1

New York City! Center of the universe and my first true love. The energy, the abundance, the memories evoked by walking a familiar path from my past. One of my closest friends played hookie with me and her sweet husband took lead with the kids so that we could go play...

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Guess I'm That Mom...

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love dressing up. As a child my best memories are running around my neighborhood Halloween night and being thrilled, excited, and a little scared. Living in NYC Halloween was epic; ridiculous costumes, watching the parade from a fire escape, and dancing the night away. As a parent it is a new excuse to enjoy the holiday, dress the kiddos in matching outfits. Then the parties and having fun with friends and their kids. Brilliant. Still one of my favorite holidays.


This year they are very much into deciding what they want to be (boo hoo) but, as my kids get older I dream of convincing them of the fun of coordinating costumes... pink ladies and t birds, Scooby Doo and the Gang, rat pack and hollywood icons... my list goes on.

Never have I cared much about the candy aspect.  I would hold onto that candy almost until the next Halloween, eating only a piece or 2 a week, mostly because I forgot about it. I would hide it from my big sister who loved to steal my best stash, so my hiding places would rotate trying to stay one step ahead of her. I would catalog my candy according to quantity to type. No doubt my love of spreadsheets began here as I would try to prove she was stealing it. Sibling fights and all, to be truthful I didn't really care about it I just needed to know it was being taken, and then I'd get mad that SHE took it. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with this fun tidbit.

Since becoming a mama, food and nutrition has become increasingly important to me. The more I learn about how the body is designed to utilize and process different foods and the affects of chemicals, pesticides, dyes, and sugars (to name a few); the harder it becomes to give them to loved ones as well as myself. I took my son and systematically the family off sugar maybe a year ago. He just doesn't handle it well. His eyes go blank, he looks like a zombie, he can't stop moving, and his behavior goes completely wacky. It was one of the few days that we allowed them to have dessert and we split an ice cream sandwich between the twins. About 10 minutes later Frankie started rocking and jumping and physically couldn't stop himself. I tried holding him and he still couldn't be still. He was so upset and kept saying 'I don't want to be wild anymore mama'; it broke my heart.  I promised him and myself to help him. So our quest of a no sugar lifestyle began. It's not perfect and I am still learning. I believe in moderation, and I can let it go once in a while I promise. I add something new when I am ready to experiment again and it has been a slow transition to find alternatives to what is forced upon us. I started with making no sugar ketchup. He eats a TON of it. Ketchup on his ketchup is an understatement. Then I added in a soda free of dyes and sugar; that is now affectionately referred to as "Jenny Pops". Then cookies. It took a few try's and involving the twins in the baking experience to even get Frankie to try them. Once he did though, he was hooked! I make a big batch once or twice a month and freeze them in small quantities. Then one or two nights a week we get cookies as a treat. To say I'm ecstatic that they love these doesn't even come close. So when Frankie's room mother requested a no nut, no dairy, no HFCS treat for the Halloween party I jumped at the chance to test them out on kids that were accustomed to what is considered normal cookies. I so wanted the kids to try them and love them, they are delicious! Whether the kids heard me say they were sugar free, or the look of them were different, or the domino effect of one kid not liking them; I couldn't say. Since we've cut sugar to next to nothing in our daily diets maybe our taste buds are skewed. Which ever reason they were a big fail on my part. Then, there sat Frankie with the biggest smile on his face loving every bite of his cookie. I could have run over and covered him with kisses. Don't worry, I restrained myself. Then after school as we were headed to the car, he says out of nowhere. "Mama, guess what? I love your cookies, they're the best!" I thanked him all the while choking back the tears. I was so incredibly proud of him. Since we had a bunch left over they get them for snacks and extra treats and every time now he says, I love these cookies mama! Such a sweet boy.

So my love of dressing up and wanting my kids to feel that excitement running around after dark getting candy runs deep. I don't want them to ever miss out on a great life experience. But my anxiety of them consuming that much candy (masked poison) kept me up at night literally. I was searching for a way around this pile of GMO, dyed, processed sugar, crap; when I found the Switch Witch (thank you FB!!) For those of you who don't know who she is, the Switch Witch LOVES candy, so much so that she is willing to trade prizes for it. Brilliant. I ran out to the dollar store the next morning and was ready to plant the seed when I picked them up from school. They tested her out after their Halloween party at school, each putting 4 pieces into a bag. They became worried about a witch being in their rooms so we settled on next to the front door so that she wouldn't know where they were sleeping. The next morning they ran to see what she brought them and were ecstatic to say the least, by Halloween night after consuming quite a few pieces they dumped their entire stash in for the Switch Witch. I was shocked and proud and so happy this worked. They woke up today to books and puzzles, and figurines and couldn't be happier. Brilliant.

So the other thing that was bothering me was actually handing out the masked poison to other kids. My husband had bought the usual goodies and I just couldn't get over the dread of personally handing out something I am so against. Again, I started looking for a way around this that was reasonable and affordable. To my kids a treat can be a new bouncy ball, tattoos, glow sticks, etc. All of which I had in mass quantities, left overs from various goody bag fills. I threw it all in a Halloween bowl and headed to a neighbors house to start the festivities. The kids had a blast running around the neighborhood, excited about what they got at each house and loving the freedom of such a wild night. I loved it. As we hung out with the littlest ones too young to brave the rain and wind, we handed out treats for 2 houses. I could be hated or not by the kids receiving an atypical treat, but I felt better that I was one less person giving out candy and making the holiday solely about that. I'm not judging anyone by saying this, I am just trying to do what I feel is right for my kids and those around me. I love a Reece's peanut butter cup as much as the next guy. But I've found a way to enjoy one without the GMO's, sugar, dyes, and chemicals that ruin the treat. My new indulgence when I have a craving... Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups! Made with organic, whole food ingredients; I can have my cups and eat them too. I would have no problem handing these gems out, but at upwards of $2 a pop, not a real option. So tattoo's and dinosaur squirt guns, glow sticks and bubbles, are my treat to your trick. Jokingly, (I think) my neighbors's teenage son heard about my "treats" and said "Oh, you're that mom." I certainly don't think I look like 'that mom' in my head but maybe it's time to reevaluate that visual. Well, yeah I guess I am. I hope that my kids will continue to look at me with that same proud look Frankie had eating my cookies. My next challenge is to figure out a way to make them look as good as they taste. Could take a while, but success will be sweet.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NO Sugar Homemade Ketchup


Ketchup is a staple in our house. Frankie puts 'ketchup on his ketchup'... I could list the items but really any way to get him to try something or even eat at times is with a pile of the yummy stuff. When I embarked on the challenge of eliminating processed sugar from our diets, one of the biggest culprits I found was ketchup!! So after many attempts and many requests for the recipe, I have finally nailed it (according to Frankie).My only suggestion would be to start with 2 Tbsp of honey and add to taste; we like it on the sweet side so we use a little more. I use a Vitamix to blend together, but you could easily use a food processor or even a regular blender should work. This makes a decent amount and fills one of these plus an extra batch to freeze.

NO Sugar Ketchup

2 cans tomato paste (organic preferably with no added ingredients - BPA free)
2 cups water
1/3 cup vinegar
3 Tbsp sweetener (I do a combo of honey, pure maple syrup, and molasses to taste)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt and pepper

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mama said there'd be days like this...

I didn't cry when the twins walked for the first time, or spoke their first words, or even on the first day of school. I am happy, excited even and right there cheering them on feeling so blessed to be their mama. I celebrate their victories one milestone at a time. I am eager for what's next and when they have grown and learned a new skill I am so incredibly proud. 

Today though, as I sit here and write this; my heart is breaking. We've been having issues with our listening skills around here. Seperately the twins are dreams. They do as they're told, are so sweet and helpful; wonderful, wonderful children. Even together there are long spans of time that are uniquely delightful and so much fun. But then when it's not, it's really not. The competition, the fighting, and the constant negotiations would give the best trial lawyers out there a run for their money. Some days it seems impossible to solve their disputes and not cause too much damage to their young souls. So I try taking myself out of the equation. After all, they are 4 and perfectly smart enough to know right from wrong, notwithstanding they also know how to tug on mamas heart strings. I try to sit out and let them resolve their own arguments, but they don't. It becomes a tattle tail tornado that has no truth or fact and just lies lies lies spewing from those sweet innocent faces. How do you navigate thru these moments? I can't watch them every second and if I don't see what happens then who do you believe hit who first, or who stole a toy, or who has more milk, or who can grab mamas attention the most and hold onto it by any means necessary? Do you punish them both then? At what point do you realize things are not working and make a big parenting move? 

As we teach the twins a hard lesson on consequences and responsibility for their behavior; I realize that of all the firsts this is the one that will make me cry.  With young twins it's hard to follow thru for the sheer fact that you can't leave one home alone! So then they both have to miss out, which is so not fair. So we tend to create a situation where they can make it better thru a time out, good behavior, or an apology; but lately it just seems that they know that that's the only consequence, and big deal. There's no real threat of them missing out so they act like (and kinda are) the boss. Well that's all about to change... I hope.

It's our natural instinct to protect our children, to make everything ok again; not be the ones causing them to hurt. I feel the ache in my heart and the anxiousness for what the day will bring. Deep down I was praying this moment would be unnecessary, but I can't make any more excuses. I know how devastated they both will be, one because they will miss out and the other because it will be equally traumatic to leave their buddy at home. At the end of the day they are best friends and seeing each other upset instantly will bring the other to tears. Their hearts are big and they LOVE each other. Overshadowed in a second by the realization that they now have the opportunity to taunt and tease the other about the fun they will have. You may say all young kids/siblings have problems listening, fighting, competing; and you're right; but there's something about 2 at the same age, 2 at the same mental and emotional state that makes this a fine line to toe. When you have to make a decision in a second on who to believe, bedtime shenanigans while each has a hundred things to do or say to delay the process, and the whining/crying demanding crazyness fighting for your attention from morning til night... This is not the dynamic I want in my home, not the relationships we want to nurture and grow as parents. So united we stand, hoping our hearts can make it thru a little tough love in order to reset acceptable behavior and expected consequences... Ha... Can we go back to 2 babies please?? Life was so much less complicated when it was just the demands of 2 newborns and not life molding decisions.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

9/11 Memorial


I am lucky. On so many levels. I will list them all in due time, but today I will focus on something that I don't talk about often. I don't talk about it because I never felt I had anything to add to the conversation that wasn't already better said or better left unsaid. I'm still not sure I do, but this is my story. 

My (incredible) husband and in laws hung with our kids, and I was able to visit my beloved city recently; alone to just be Jennifer for an entire weekend. I hadn't been to ground zero for a very long time and felt that I needed to pay my respects to the victims, New York, and my life within it all.

I lived in New York at the time of the attacks, just a year out of college and on the path to fulfilling my dreams of a professional dance career. I am lucky. I survived. I am not a loved one of a victim, and I didn't lose anyone I loved that day. I was at a safe distance away. I spoke to my mom that morning after the first plane hit so she knew I was safe. She was able to tell family and friends I was ok. I am lucky. I never felt that I had any right to feel anything about it because so many more suffered far worse than I. 

Around this time every year I get sad, really sad. It's not even a conscious choice and most times I don't realize why I am feeling down until the day is upon me. You just push it down and keep living, until it boils to the surface. I remember a Halloween party I attended in my hometown in 2004. There was a costume party and the winner was dressed up as Bin Laden. I was furious and went ballistic. I couldn't believe people were glamorizing evil in such a flippant way. I was sobbing uncontrollably and ended up at a friends place. I could tell they were at a loss of how to console me, but that just made me cry harder. We were in such different spaces, they could never truly understand. I felt so alone with the pain. So you push it down, ignore it, keep moving forward. Until it comes crashing in like waves and I wait for it to dissipate with the tide again.

It took 10 years for it to really catch up to me and on that anniversary I was out of country, away from my family and I was overcome with sadness and pain that I could hardly contain. I was staying with friends in London and hearing their stories helped me open up about mine. I saw the effects of someone else's pain who was nowhere near New York at the time. It is rare for me relate to someone about it who wasn't there, and for the first time in years I chose to share my story with them; two of only a handful of people I had ever talked about it with. All the emotions became very overwhelming and combined with missing my family it shook me pretty hard.  The volcano was gearing up to blow and that day in London, on the 10 year anniversary, was that moment.

I remember every detail, every decision starting with the night before. It starts playing in my mind here like flashes. How I ended up back at a diner on the upper east side instead of going to an insider favorite near the towers; in the wee hours of the morning. On late nights I most often stayed with my two best friends living in midtown, but I chose to head home to Astoria that morning. My mom waking me a short while later praying I was home safe in my bed, the last phone call for hours that got thru to me. Crawling up my wrought iron headboard hovering in sheer terror as the first tower collapsed, and then the second. I couldn't tell you how long before I came down. Waiting to hear if some of my closest friends down in the area were all safe. The cops thinking I was nuts for going back into the city that night. But I was desperate for familiar faces and human contact. Riding the subway when they finally lifted the lock down and staring at my fellow passengers, everyone silent. That moment frozen as we went below the water to emerge in the city. Walking out to desolate streets. Meeting my friends, all of us like zombies unable to express what we were feeling. Not leaving each others sides for days.  Even writing this I can feel it in my heart as if it is still happening. A fear I hadn't known until that moment, but will forever be within a thoughts reach. I remember the months of walking by the armory with a wall of missing people flyers, thousands. The candlelight vigil's happening all around the city of people gathering and coming together not to figure out what the hell just happened but for compassion and camaraderie. Searching the newspapers for familiar faces, firemen and financial people who were my regulars for years at the bar I worked at. Slowly surfacing, needing to share their story. I remember all of them, their stories on a loop playing back like an old film movie. The anxiety every time a fighter plane flew overhead, or the heavy guns and military presence everywhere you turned, or watching low flying planes. Panicked they might be headed into anything nearby. I remember sitting on the uptown bus imagining the buildings falling on top of me, what it would feel like, how/if I would survive.

In 2003 I was on tour in China and I remember being on stage performing and I couldn't get it together. I felt awkward and I was completely disconnected from it, as if in a foreign body. Auditions started to feel more like a chore and I stopped going to class. I couldn't see the point and it all seemed really silly to me. Dance seemed frivolous and completely indulgent rather than art.  All I really know is that I felt differently before and after the attacks; like I lost a part of me. I tried hard to get it back, to not "let them win" but I just didn't have the same passion anymore. Not that I realized any of this at the time. I was bitter and resentful, and made some choices that I'm not entirely proud of.

 Travelling to Africa, changed my path again. For the first time since the attacks, I had left New York for an extended period of time and was able to let go of the fight I didn't realize I was fighting. I felt at peace there and I knew that if I didn't make a change I would blink my eyes and wake up 10 years later so far from where I wanted to be. Walking away meant believing in today and having faith that it would lead me in the right direction.

My parents gave me the strength and support to walk away and change course. They always told me it was my choice and leaving wasn't a failure. I never questioned their love or what they would say. I only knew they would love me and support my decision every way they could. I am sad they were never in a Broadway theater to see me perform, or that I never got to fly them to Paris to see my opening night; but it had run its course and the time for change was upon me.  I'm sure they had a million questions, but respected me enough not to ask. And at the time I couldn't have given any answers.

I had gotten quite good at suppressing it, but thoughts of that time in my life had been haunting me alot that year. Bin Laden was found and killed, I had recently moved away from family and friends again; and I couldn't stop examining the decisions that brought me to where I was today. After some soul searching and help I realized for the first time that maybe I had survivor's guilt or PTSD or maybe even both. At first I couldn't accept that, still struggling with it, but with time I am learning to let go of the guilt and allow myself to open up about it. It took 10 years to begin the process of understanding the effects of such a tragedy on my life and I am still coming to peace with it all.

Going to the memorial was a moment I needed to take. I went with a friend, a great friend; one of the only people I know that understands what can't be put into words.

------------------------------------------------

We were put off by the tourist feel of entering the memorial. Felt as if we were in line to visit numerous other attractions in the city. There were more than a few people taking selfies at the fountains that made me want to rip their camera's out of their hands and throw them, but gazing past that it was remarkably peaceful and beautiful.




A pear tree that made it thru the attacks that day, nursed back to health and then survived hurricane sandy. Fittingly named The Survivor's Tree.




Quiet waters fueling a powerful waterfall. The bottomless hole in the center matching so many of my feelings about that time.



The white roses placed on the victims names on their birthdays. Such a simple gesture but one that reminds me I am not alone in my thoughts.


The coldness of the stone the names of souls lost are etched in.

Many there to reflect, gather, remember, and keep the conversations going; the ripple effects still visible. Finding peace through this tragedy seems impossible at times. Among many things, I used to believe that if you work hard you can make anything happen. It's just not true. I lost my innocence. The reality of evil bringing about understanding in a brutal way. I want my kids to plan and dream and fight for what makes them happy, but to know full-heartedly going in that it is not a guarantee. It can be derailed in an instant. It's how you channel those moments that will define your life and hopefully guide you back to happiness. 

I still feel the pain as real as ever, but I am finding peace. With that comes the ability to live in the moment and enjoy life in spite of the sadness. This year I'm starting a new tradition of lighting a candle in the morning and letting it burn til end of day. The peace and calm of the flame to quiet my mind and free myself to be happy. 

Being happy is ok, more than ok it's what we all should strive for. I look at my kids and I try to freeze the moments in my mind; with the hope they will be the ones that I recall in an instant that make my heart hurt with love. The feel of their cuddles, watching them learn and the pure joy in their souls, this incredible family I have. These moments are happening each day and I get it. I am a lucky girl. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Walk Through the City - Pt 2

On day 2 we headed back into the city around lunchtime to meet up with another one of my favorite ladies. She traveled down from Mount Kisco by train to frolic in the city and we rendezvoused at the clock in Grand Central. During my years in NYC passing by this magnificent space was common practice, but it still took my breath away every time. Still does.

We headed uptown on foot, chatting and enjoying the gorgeous weather.
         
This is one of the first spots I ever visited and I think there's a picture of my dad and I below it somewhere. My parents and I had driven out on my spring break to visit Marymount Manhattan College and explore the city. I loved it immediately, loved the school and the seriousness of the program. I remember thinking if I can get in here, it's life changing. It was intimidating and being pre-Giuliani, very dirty. I loved it all, but no way did I think I would go there. I decided to audition anyways, mainly to see if I was good enough. Although the magnetic pull of the city never really left my thoughts after that trip. And after a 2nd visit I was hooked. I was accepted into the BFA Dance program with a Presidential Scholarship that made it possible for me to chase after my dreams.


The Plaza Hotel is magical. Very special memories flood in walking by this stunning building. Meeting my roommates parents for the first time at dinner here dressed in, wait for it, a leapord minidress. Yea, I know, but to my defense it was New York in the 90's and after a year and a half of 8-10 hour days in the studio and a lifetime of dancing I was in pretty good shape and able to pull it off. I hope... They embraced me anyway and it still makes me smile. I also celebrated my 21st birthday here and had my first legal cocktail in the swanky Oak Room.


The entrance to the children's zoo in Central Park, a must see next time we visit as a family.


I love Central Park and on a Jennifer weekend it was top of the list. I love the architecture and detail surrounding every bridge and entrance way throughout the park.


The fountain in the background is where the kid in the movie ransom was taken. I can't help but think of it every time I'm here. It pops in my head immediately. Beyond that its a great place to relax and there are always people around soaking in the rays and peace.


The border that brings you down a long path and into Sheep's Meadow. This is by far one of my all time favorite spots in the park. 


On a sunny day it is the place to soak in the rays, touch grass, socialize and just enjoy the beauty of the skyline in the distance surrounding the park. We met another one of my favorite people here along with his beautiful wife, baby girl, and MIL. It was so sweet to share in a Saturday in the park with their family.


The other reason I love it here. The corona guys.


Here's a moment I would like to put in my pocket and pull out on the really hard days.


On our way out we added one more surprise guest!! She saw on FB that I was in town and actually sought me out. It was pretty humbling to have her and her husband just show up like that. Here are my lovely ladies exiting the park, musicians creating a soundtrack of the perfect day in New York.


The West Side is gorgeous. I still wished I had had the opportunity to live on this side of the city. If you don't believe me take a look at a couple shots captured on our walk to The Boat Basin




There are those special people that no matter the time or distance between, when you see each other it's as if nothing has changed. You just pick right up with a great dynamic, catching up hearing about their lives, loves, and pursuits. This city is a feeding ground for inspiration. The energy and drive that moves the people in it is pretty amazing. The time always goes too fast. The day flew, but by the next morning I was anxious to get home to my family. I'm not sure if it's being older, or a parent, or what, but I appreciate the moments so much more now. I feel them and I hold on to them close to my heart. And this day, in this city, with these beautiful friends is one I will treasure for a long time to come. 

Those I didn't catch this trip, I say till next time! And your always welcome in Cleveland :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Conversations with 4 yr olds

Veronica (very sad): Mimi and papa have to leave.

Mama: I know honey. Should we lock the doors and take them prisoner?

Veronica (with a huge smile and nodding ferociously) yes! 

Then pausing asks: do they have a key?

-------------
Mama: Frankie they won't like it at school if you talk back.

Frankie: I won't talk back, I'm a gentleman.

Veronica: Me neither! I'm a woman!!

Mama: I think you mean lady.

Veronica: Yep that's right, I'm a lady.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Farmer Chuck and our CSA


I've seen pictures on Facebook of my friends CSA baskets and I had no idea what it was. I set out to research it and fell in love with the concept. My time in New York definitely turned me into a foodie and when we had to start making choices on the foods we would feed the twins I started to learn about eating whole foods, less processed, and the many reasons to choose organic as much as possible. The more I learned the more educated choices we began making. CSA (community supported agriculture) therefore was the obvious next step. Once we were settled in our new home I set about finding one with a local pickup location, ability to get more than produce, and a farm I could bring the kids to to see where the food they were eating comes from.

Murray Hill Farm is everything I was looking for equipped with a modern day farmer that you could sit and talk for hours with. Farmer Chuck was kind enough to let us visit on his one day off as that was the only time that worked for everyone.


We rolled up to a quiet farm with chickens grazing peacefully all around us. The twins were so excited they could hardly contain themselves! Farmer Chuck was great!  He's our kind of crazy and we chatted as if we were all old friends. He took us to the hen house where Veronica shocked us by climbing up and helping gather the eggs with Franklin holding the basket. We saw sheep and turkeys and chickens oh my! And although Frankie was a little nervous by how loud the chickens were he still went in each house to hold the basket, not touching the eggs of course. 




We went up to the store to pick out our goodies and to say we were like kids in a candy shop would be an understatement. Ohio pure maple syrup, raw honey, garlic, peppers, a full basket of fruit and veggies, whole chickens, grass fed beef burgers and of course a dozen of the eggs the twins collected. Veronica devoured a peach at the farm and begged for another when we got home and the apple king would have eaten the whole lot if we let him. 


The yolks on the eggs were so full and meaty and we immediately fried some up for dinner. 

There is something to be said for eating local and knowing where the food you are nourishing your family comes from. Eating organic and partnering with your community farmers is fulfilling in a way I never realized. Plus it was more delicious than what you find at the grocery store. If you don't believe me try it out for yourself, I swear everything tastes better local!  I am proud of the way the twinnies embraced the farm and I have a feeling we will know Farmer Chuck for a long time to come.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

My First Entry

So I've struggled with what my first blog post should be about. Meanwhile letting all these moments pass by that I want to write about!! Then a perfect event happens that brings us full circle and it all made perfect sense why I waited til now to write. This is my journey that led me to starting this blog and sharing my life as a full time mom of twins plus one. This is a long one, in the future most will not be so winded, I won't promise that though...

I grew up in a small town in Michigan and from a tot I was obsessed with dancing. My mom found a dance studio to try, little did she know we would end up basically living there for the next 15 years. I lived and breathed dance, 6 days a week. Classes, company, rehearsals, teaching. My studio was not your typical dolly dinkle school of dance, we didn't care about the shiny costumes all my friends were wearing at their recitals because we made ours, we created our own world of exploration in that studio. You see Happendance is about so much more than steps. It's a place to explore ideas, emotions, events; you name it we danced about it. My mentor, Diane is the type of woman you gravitate towards. She is so committed to her craft, art, and students. She was my guide to finding my love for the stage, for travelling, and a deep passion to go out and affect the world. She left me with a quote around the time of my high school graduation that has been a standing motto of mine since. We were hovered around her in our comfortable circle and she asked us to think about where we wanted to be in our lives in ten years. For me that was easy; dancing with a company and travelling from city to city. I never saw myself truly getting married but I wanted a baby at some point. One that would travel with me and grow up in a dance studio. I know not everyone's idea of perfect but at the time it was mine. Next she said to forget it, wipe the slate clean. She told us as long as we always "Follow your Bliss" we may not end up where we think we should, but we will end up where we're meant to be. In the moment it resonated with me but at the same time I never thought I would end up anywhere differently. I have thought of that conversation at every major turning point in my life. It has been a beacon, a guide on how to make decisions. I am so thankful that my mom sought out and believed in such a different approach to dance. She was right there with me until I could finally drive, and even then she was still my biggest supporter.

At 18 I ran to NYC, went to college at Marymount Manhattan College and pursued my career in dance. I was lucky again to find a group of like minded dancers in school and we continued performing together after graduation. Throughout my career these shows were definitely a highlight. Rehearsing in Central Park or a loft in Brooklyn, and performing wherever and whenever we could. It didn't matter because we were creating art together and we were inspired. I only wish that it was enough to sustain me. I loved every minute of it, but the business side of the industry, among a few things took it's toll on my love for the art and I started to lose my passion. I went to South Africa with one of the best ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and toured her beautiful country. I was there for 6 weeks and literally road tripped around the country, spent time on her family's gorgeous farm, touring Kruger Park, sun downers in Cape Town, team USA at the Cape of Good Hope... One of the most incredible journey's of my life.

One of my most vivid memories on the trip is of the sky. It was huge, no gigantic, actually I don't think there's a word for it. It went from your toes on the left, overhead, and all the way down to the toes on your right.Now maybe because I had been living in New York for 8 years that any sky would be huge, but even so I was in awe and was struck by the enormity of it. I truly felt so tiny in this world, so insignificant. That trip, I realized how unhappy I had really been and knew I needed to make a change. Within the year, I would leave New York. Anyone who knew me at the time, was in utter shock upon my revelation and ultimately my decision. I worked hard, held numerous jobs to fight for my dream, and had no intention of going anywhere anytime soon. Back from Africa and my whole world was shifted upside down. I knew I needed to follow where my heart was telling me to go. The hardest part was leaving the family we had created there. I moved to Chicago at the end of the year. I meant to only take a short break from dancing. To "find out who I was without it". But the truth is I don't think I ever had any intention of going back. Not at that time.

It's been more than a few years since that coming of age moment of my youth, and of course she was right. The picture I had painted for myself doesn't exist, and I am thankful for that. I am married to my best friend and partner in life. We have a beautiful family and are just starting our journey together. These are the sweet years that I know one day I will long for again.

I went home recently for a reunion my studio, Happendance was having. I struggled about going, 3 kids -- 4 year old b/g twins and a 10 month old, I live far away, we were in the midst of moving, yada yada. This has been a tough year for my family, and I'm tired and a bit drained to be honest. In spite of all that, I felt compelled to go, I couldn't imagine missing it. It worked out that my husband would be busy working all weekend and I haven't been home since Christmas, so I was due. I took my oldest daughter to see the current students perform at Jazz Fest (to say she loves to dance is an understatement. "She doesn't walk thru life, she dances" to quote my husband.) At the reunion I was so happy to see a few old friends and of course Diane. Many gave testimonials that felt as if they were reading a page from my own heart. I felt a sense of community and family in a way that I haven't felt very often. On a side note, anyone that has a child interested in dance in the Lansing and surrounding areas, please head this way. You will be giving your child an incredible gift. The new CEO, Missy Lilije, is someone I am honored to say I danced for and with. I couldn't think of a better person to succeed Diane. She has the same level of commitment, drive, and talent to grow Happendance and continue evoking change in peoples lives.

I read this blog titled Am I a dancer who gave up? right before I went to the reunion. In it the girl talks about a young student asking her if she had any breakdowns when she gave up on her dreams? Ugh, pretty harsh and it cut thru me to the core. I have definitely struggled at times with my decision to walk away. But I loved her answer to that question and it changed the way I view myself. It has been many years since I was on a professional stage but I am still a dancer, I always will be. I looked around to the women before me, that I only knew as girls, and I was so proud to be apart of that group. There is a business owner whose an artist, a teacher, a doctor, a director, a mom. All artists trained to go out into the world and do things differently. I left with a renewed energy and desire to approach life the way I know in my heart I want it to be. The world needs full time moms, ones that are artists too.

It's been nearly 10 years since I was in South Africa and came upon a fork in the road. I am so glad that I listened to that beacon and followed my bliss without knowing what that was. I am far more blessed than I could ever have dreamed of. I am ready to own that now and to pursue life as a mom who's also an artist, wherever that may lead.