Archive for Family

20 Oct 2011

There’s Apple Juice in Heaven

16 Comments Family, Personal Crap, Toddler

It comes with the territory of having a smart kid; a kid who isn’t satisfied with “yes” or “no” answers, a kid who likes details, who looks inside of things and turns them around in his head over and over until they make sense. You have to expect it from a kid who likes to know everyone is happy and no one is in a bad mood, or angry, or sad.  A kid who totally understands when you take his chocolate dessert away because it’ll make him cough harder. (As long as you replace it with a frosted sugar cookie.)

We told G on Saturday that our cat, Sonny passed away, and for two hours he was untouched by the news. But as soon as he digested it, the questions came.

“Will we see him again?”

“Is he still sick?”

“Was he old?”

They were easy questions at first. The great thing about Garrett is you just have to be honest with him. We always are. Yes, the shot will hurt a little but then you’ll get a lollipop. No, you can’t bring your blanket to the restaurant because God knows what’s on the floor of those places, and if it touches the floor I’ll have to wash it 30 times.  No, this isn’t mommy’s original nose.

But the questions got harder. And somewhere between honesty and fantasy lies spirituality. This is the first time I had to share any of my beliefs with my son, and the first time I wasn’t sure about how honest I was being… Because I don’t know the truth.

“Am I going to die?”

“Yes, we all are.”

“What happens when we die?”

“Well, I think we go to Heaven and we get to do a lot of fun things.”

“Do they have houses? And food? And drinks? And refrigerators?”

“Yes to all of those.”

Then he said this:

“I’m SO EXCITED to get to Heaven!!”

I put the brakes on.

“Whoa!! Slow down, sweetie. Don’t rush to get there. You should stay here as long as possible.”

“But Heaven sounds fun!”

“I’m sure it is, honey. But it’s fun here, too. I would miss you if you went there, so let’s all stay here for a while.”


Then he got sad and said he didn’t want to die because he wouldn’t be able to play with his Transformers. (He only has one Transformer. And it’s on loan from his cousin. But apparently it’s the one possession that’s making him want to stay here.)

We talked about Grandpa Art and how he’s probably taking care of Sonny, then he asked if we could call them. I told him he could talk to them whenever he wanted but we wouldn’t be able to hear them talk back. I told him when people die we don’t get to see them again, and that it’s harder for us then it is for them.

He wanted to know what Heaven looks like and if we could look it up on the computer. I told him no one knows unless they’ve already gone there, but we could draw pictures in the morning of what we think it looks like.

He asked if Russ and I are going to die, and when. I told him we’d hopefully all live until we’re 100 years old. Then he said over and over how he didn’t want to ever die and I told him it was so long from now that we don’t have to worry about it. I distinctly remember those childhood fears. They’re still fears of mine, but they’re a lot less raw and scary.

It was a hard conversation to have. It tested all of my parenting skills. And I know we’ll be talking about it for a long time. It is in these moments, when we’re faced with these challenges, that we parents wonder how much we’re screwing our kids up. Because, we are. It may just be a little bit, barely detectable, but it’s most likely bigger than that. And if we didn’t screw them up this time, we’ll do it the next time, when they ask us about love or marriage or oral sex or drugs or alcohol or geometry.

But it is in the deepest part of me that I long to look my son in the eye and share with him my truths.  I promise to not shy away from the tough questions, but to face them head-on and answer them. I want him to know that he is worth the painful conversations and the uncomfortable silences. I will do my best to not screw him up too badly. Or I’ll die trying.

06 Sep 2011

Guest House

26 Comments Family, Personal Crap

My brother’s guest house is Spanish-style, like the main house. It sits back behind the pool area next to beautiful, green grass.  The inside of it looks like a cabin you would find in the mountains; blonde wood covering the walls, Indian rugs on the floor, a small bedroom with a single bed, a lovely bathroom and a small kitchen with a retro-looking, turquoise fridge.

There are pictures on the walls; one of my dad’s Junior High class. He’s in the upper left corner with a wry grin on his face. Next to that is the framed menu from the deli my grandfather owned in the late 50’s. There are photos of my brother and sister-in-law at past jobs, pictures of dogs who aren’t around anymore, framed mirrors, and many books. The bedroom holds a lamp with a lovely shade and fresh linens in a wicker chest.

This is the house where my cousin came to die.

In his early 20’s my cousin battled and beat Hodgkins Lymphoma, and changed his life. At the time he was a stoner, a surfer, and a punk. When he was well again, he became a vegetarian, a staunch supporter of vitamins, and a very hard worker. After years of building houses and work as a general contractor, he went to school to become a chiropractor because he wanted to help people who were in pain. He practiced in that field until last November, when he was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. He had just turned 59.

My cousin is only 11 years younger than my mom, by virtue of her sister being 13 years older than she. My mom fell in love with him the second he was born, and always looked at him more as a younger brother, than a nephew.

He fought this cancer valiantly, doing all he was told to do and believing with all his heart that he’d be back to work by now. He charted his calories, making sure to take in at least 2000 a day, so as not to become weak. He walked, he checked his Vitamin K intake, he dealt with the nausea and the frustration of chemo.

Two weeks ago it became clear that his fight was over, and my brother and sister-in-law immediately offered their guest house, it’s bright skylight and cheery decor a welcome change from the hospital he has been in and out of, and the village apartment the hospital provided so he could be close to chemo. A welcome change also from the apartment he still rented over an hour away from where we all live. My brother and sister-in-law invited my cousin to their home to die close to his family in the San Fernando Valley where he grew up.

Today I was there a lot. I went back tonight and sat on the couch next to the hospital bed that hospice set up. A caretaker and hospice nurse were there, checking vitals and monitoring his breathing, which is slowing. I pulled a book from the shelf and started reading, “My Name is Asher Lev”. The first 20 pages were depressing as hell, which actually seemed appropriate.

Watching my cousin die is different from watching my dad die a year ago. I don’t know if I can describe all the ways it’s different right now, but maybe someday I will. I feel like a bit of a veteran now. It’s all less scary, but not any less surreal. My cousin is not letting go as easily as my father did, and I know he has his reasons for that. I can’t imagine what my mom feels, watching her nephew, her brother, leave. Their relationship is special. He even told me so on Tuesday.

I am amazed by the generosity of my brother and sister-in-law. It’s a big thing they’ve done. Their kids, who are 10 and 13, are finding it difficult and sad, but they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was the right thing to do. My nephew moved his drums out of his space and my niece hung a big sign on the wall welcoming him there.

Death is an interesting thing. I’m starting to see it as just one of the many phases of our lives. It is inevitable. It will come. There is great beauty in it. And great sadness.

I listened to an Adele song on the way home tonight, because nothing beats a sad song when you’re blue. I know I’ll always remember this time, this sadness, and this beauty. I will carry it with me like I carry my father, but in a different place. And I promise I will be even more grateful, even more joyous, even more aware of all of the bounties of life.

This is it, folks. Use it well.


I wrote this post Saturday night, three days ago. My cousin lost his battle at 1:30 this morning. Or maybe I should say he won the war. It was the first time in six days that there was no family around him sharing memories, crying, or laughing. I’m positive he waited until it was just him and the nurse. He hated being a bad host, as he told me many times on my visits with him over the last year.

Funny thing: Until he was diagnosed, I only saw my cousin about two or three times a year, on birthdays or holidays. He lived over an hour away and worked crazy hours, six days a week. Since he got sick, I saw him at least once a week, usually more. I think we learned a lot about each other over the last year.

He told me at least three times in the last month to be grateful and thank God every single time you wake up healthy.

I hope your journey is a beautiful one, Bill. I hope you’re surfing and that you have ten big dogs. I hope you get to see your dad and Grandma and my daddy. I promise I’ll remember to be grateful. Every day.

To my readers: There is no need to say you are sorry. I am more happy for my cousin that he is free of his pain, than I am sad. I know this will be hardest on my mom and on my cousin’s sister. For the rest of us, we will miss him dearly but we feel blessed for all the time we spent with him since he was diagnosed, and we are so glad he is out of pain. I mostly wrote this so you could use his advice and be grateful for your health, your family, and your time.

06 Jun 2011

11 months

10 Comments Family, Personal Crap

Last year on July 14th my father passed away.

Yesterday my family and my parents’ closest friends met at the gravesite for a Jewish tradition known as “unveiling”. It traditionally takes place any time after 3 months from the date of the death, but usually around 11 months, never longer than a year.

The tradition involves unveiling the grave marker, saying some prayers, and letting anyone speak who has something to share about the deceased.

It was a very difficult morning.

I hadn’t been to the cemetery since the funeral in July.  I pass it a lot on the way to friends’ houses or work. Whenever I do I think, “Hi Dad”. Then I think, “Why did I just say that? That’s not where my dad really is. That’s just where his body is.” Then I think of him the day he died. Then I think of the funeral. Then I get angry for thinking of him like that and I remember something great about him like his smile or his laugh or his unwavering love and support. Then I cry. It always, always happens that way.

So yesterday was my first visit back there. Russ and I dropped G off at a friend’s house because we didn’t feel he needed to see us cry like that. We’ll bring him there when he’s old enough to grasp it. As we stepped out of the car we were both overcome by how surreal it is that he’s gone, that it’s been close to a year, that life continues.

My brother ran the ceremony that had been lovingly researched and printed up by my sister-in-law. We sang and prayed and then we spoke of my father. My brother, myself, my mom, my cousin and two of my dad’s best friends made short speeches.

I basically said that, even though I truly ache every day to see my dad again… Even though I am sad and I miss him so much… It is a testament to him that this last year has still been happy and wonderful. My dad was so positive and full of joy and he would be devastated if we didn’t honor him by following in his footsteps. So we have.

My dad’s best friend said that my father was the bravest man he ever met. He was brave in how he faced his illness, how he faced his death, and in how he loved his family and friends. I will remember those words always.

The ceremony was about thirty minutes and it was a perfect, fitting tribute to him.  It’s another tradition that someone smart once of thought of, because it was at the same time sad and joyous, celebratory and cathartic.

An unveiling is supposed to mark the end of mourning and the beginning of “getting back to living.” I am not ready to stop mourning, but I got back to living a long time ago. And that is because of my beautiful dad.

I love you, Daddy. For always.

01 Jun 2011


13 Comments Family, Toddler

Yesterday was our first family trip to an amusement park. Yes, I know. G-man will be four in September and he should have been to Disneyland three times already. But we don’t necessarily feel that way. We are more of the mindset that spending an exorbitant amount of money to take G somewhere before he’s old enough to appreciate it is just plain silly. So yesterday was our first foray into the amusement medium. We chose Knott’s Berry Farm and we went with our very good friends and their fantastic kids.

We bought the tickets on-line a few months ago and they just happened to expire today. Translation: We had to use them by yesterday! It was $99.00 for the three of us and it was well worth it. It was a great day to go. No ride was more than a 5 minute wait and it was a perfect 75 degrees.

I stressed the night before, looking up sites where I could get info on taking a toddler to an amusement park. I like to over-prepare. So in the morning, I packed up G’s Ironman backpack with a full change of clothes (warmer than what he had on), including socks and underwear, a long-sleeved shirt and sweater for me and a jacket for Russ. Oh, and a first aid kit. And three kinds of sunblock. And a hat for G. And tons of hand wipes. And clorox wipes in case anything needed a wipe-down. And tissues. I used about 5% of what I brought. But I COULD HAVE needed all of that stuff. You never know. G did don his sweatshirt for about an hour of the day, much to our dismay. It was quite warm and the train we were on made it even warmer. But he insisted on his sweatshirt on, hood up, and sunglasses. It was very unibomber-ish. Odd, no?

Camp Snoopy has every toddler ride you can think of: planes, race cars, hot air balloons and trains. It took G a little while to warm up. His friends have already been to these types of places and they were ready to go. G chose to watch them on the first couple rides. Then we decided to just go for it and get on the log ride. I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure how he would react but, as we tend to do as parents, I pretended I was nothing but excited about getting in one of the logs.

Our little guy was NOT happy in the pitch-black tunnel part of the ride, but he loved the rest of it and was clearly full of adrenaline when we got to the bottom of the water slide. And just like that, he was no longer an amusement park newbie. After that came the race cars, the giant merry-go-round, the pricey lunch, lots of walking around, snacks, Icees, lollipops, the hot-air balloon ride, the coal mine ride (this did not go over well. It was mostly pitch black with a loud announcer you couldn’t understand and creepy mannequin-like coal miners. not good. not good at all.), a train around the park that bandits jump on to (G liked this only after one of the bandits gave him several high-fives.), a stagecoach ride, more race cars and hot air balloons, and finally, after eight hours in the park… A fried chicken dinner.

Right around 1:30, smack-dab in the middle of Garrett’s normal nap time, he was ready to pack it in and come home. He could’ve curled into a ball in the middle of the park and gone to sleep. But we knew we had to rally on, and we encouraged him to do so. For the next half hour he kept asking if we could go home but with a little sugar and a lot more rides, he got his second, third, and fourth winds.

G fell asleep about twenty minutes from home, but still insisted on a shower before going to bed. The first thing he said to me this morning, when he woke up at 6:15 even though he partied for 12 hours yesterday and had no nap, was, “I had a really fun time at Knott’s Berry Farm, Mom.” I think that might have been one of the best parts of the whole thing. And we had a damn good time, too.



06 May 2011


10 Comments Family, Personal Crap, Toddler

Tonight, we traced letters. I did the big ones, holding his finger in my hand and making silly sound effects.

Schoom! Scronk! Flink! That’s a K!
Zip! Meow! That’s a Q!

He did the lower-cases on his own, perfectly imitating the sound effects.

Watching one of his shows, he asked me what a megaphone is. I explained and showed him a picture.

Thanks for explaining that to me.
You’re so welcome, bud.

It was that kind of night.

I took out this part of the post because I feel like I’m getting thoughts & sympathy that belong to my friend’s family, not mine. It’s her experience, and one that I haven’t even been close to… They have been in my thoughts and prayers and they have kept me updated. I will ask her if she’d like to guest-post her experience at a later date.

02 May 2011

WhY Chromosome? WhY not?

22 Comments Family, Newborn, Pregnancy

This is what I wrote for Listen To Your Mother. The show was yesterday and it was a blast.

When I found out I was pregnant, I prayed for a boy. “Please, God. Please let it be a boy. I don’t know what I’d do with a girl. I understand boys. Please, God.” Girls scare me. They always have. Where boys are filthy little balls of energy, girls are judgy, cliquey little bundles of emotion. And I’m pretty sure they hate my clothes.

For the 11 weeks before genetic testing was to take place… Yes I had genetic testing. I was 35. My eggs were 35. And I had to make sure the kid was my husband’s. So for the 11 weeks before the genetics test I danced back and forth between desperately wanting a boy and feeling guilty for not wanting a girl. But then telling the girl to stop being such a little princess and get over it. “Oh God, please make it a boy.”

When I finally went for the genetic test I realized I just wanted a healthy baby… boy. Shut up! I’m being honest. The test was horrible and terrifying and I held my breath for the next 48 hours, praying that nothing had gone wrong or hurt the beautiful boy who was growing inside me.

A week later, I got a call from my doctor. My heart raced as I pulled the car over to call back. This is it. This is it! “Lisa?”, he started out. “YES! I’m Lisa!” “First of all”, he said, “the baby seems very healthy. Everything looks good.” I started to cry. I had a healthy baby inside me. I hadn’t expected that to hit me so hard. A healthy baby. Oh my god. I was going to have a baby. Only two years previous I hadn’t wanted anything to do with it. I didn’t even really like kids or understand what to do with them. I didn’t get why parents thought their filthy little monkeys were so cute or interesting or anything but petrie dishes and snot monsters and little bags of flesh who ruined my restaurant experiences on no less than 13 occasions. And now, here I was, in my car in Toluca Lake right by the Trader Joes, on the phone with my doctor who just informed me that my pending snot monster was healthy. “Do you want to know the sex?”, He asked. “YES!! PLEASE!” “Well… It’s a boy.” OH  MY GOD THANK YOU SO MUCH I HAVE TO CALL MY HUSBAND!!!!! I screamed into the phone and hung up.

I immediately dialed my husband’s phone, knowing he was in a meeting but praying he would answer. “Hello?” he said. “RUSS?”, I said. “YES.”, he said. “IT’S A BOY!!!”

Now, at this point I was apparently hysterical and insane and so all he heard on his end was, “IT’S A MWAH!”

“WHAT??”, came the reply.

“IT’S A MWAH!”, I repeated, completely perplexed at his lack of understanding. Clearly the kid was already hurting our communication.


I took a deep breath. “It’s. A. Boy, honey. We’re having a little boy.”

His jubilation on the other end made up for the incredibly frustrating previous 10 seconds. We celebrated, he went back to his meeting…… And I called my doctor back. The receptionist answered and I asked to speak to my OB. “He’s with a patient.” “Can I just ask you a favor? He told me my baby is a boy, but now I’m afraid I heard him wrong. Could you just look at my file?” The 26 seconds that followed felt like at least 38 seconds. When she returned to the phone, she assured me there was a boy in my uterus. I thanked her and hung up so I could thank God for answering my selfish prayer. “God, thank you for my healthy baby. Thank you for my beautiful husband and this glorious day. And thank you for knowing that I’m ill equipped to deal with a little girl. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving it.  Oh, you know what I mean.”

On September 18, 2007, I had a perfect little boy. He has made me something I never knew I wanted to be: A Mom. And to be a mom is to be an emotional wreck, an anxiety-ridden freak, a goofball, a nurturer, a chef, a story reader, a story writer, a bather, a lecturer, a teacher, a friend. To be a mom is to step aside, to create confidence, to cheer from the sidelines, to pray harder than you ever have. To be a mom is to know such great happiness that it physically hurts sometimes, and to want more than you have ever wanted for someone other than yourself. I am more fully who I am now then I ever knew I could be. I am Garrett’s Mom. And I am blessed every day.

But God help the bitch he brings home. I do not deal well with girls.

26 Apr 2011

G and Grandpa

16 Comments Family

Two nights ago, Grandma Joan cooked dinner for the first time since Grandpa Art passed away.

Russ, G and I went to her house for some tri-tip, broccoli, and kugel.

There was something bittersweet about sitting around the kitchen table. It felt odd and yet so familiar.

The food was good, the conversation lively.

After we ate, Grandma brought pens out for G to draw with.

As he worked, he uncapped another pen, then another. And as he was about to draw a new picture, my mother and I stared in awe as he meticulously arranged the caps, just so, side by side. My father did those sorts of things. He’d arrange his silverware before meals so the ends were perfectly aligned. My father is clearly alive in Garrett.

A week ago G said to me, “Mom, did Grandpa Art die?”

“He did”, I told him.

“He’ll be at Grandma Joan’s soon”, he said.

“I hope so”, was my reply.

Well, he showed up that night. He certainly did.

25 Apr 2011

Cat Woman and the Missing Jacket

18 Comments Family, Toddler

We’d made it all the way out to the car in the mall’s parking lot, upstairs outside of the food court, when I realized we didn’t have his jacket.


I was running late to get home to get ready for a thing I had to get to.

“Come on, buddy. We have to go find your jacket.”

“We lost it?”, he asked.

“Well, I’m sure it’s either in the playground or the burger place.”

“Cat Woman?”

“Yes, Robin?”

Lately I’ve been Cat Woman, Russ has been Batman and G has been Robin. I find it fascinating that he chooses to be the sidekick even when Russ isn’t with us. My son is nothing if not consistent.

“Will you pick me up?”

“Of course! Meow.”

G is big. He’s about 40 pounds, but I think every one of his pounds weighs a pound and a half. He’s solid. It’s getting harder to hold him for long.

I speed-walked through the mall, holding him in my arms, smelling his hair. I know it’s cliche’, but I honestly can’t help but do it when I’m holding him. I put him down to get on the escalator.

“Thank you, Cat Woman.”

“You’re welcome, Robin.”

“Cat Woman”?

“Yes, Robin”?

“Are we going to get in the Bat Mobile when we find my dressed?”

Sometimes G refers to clothes as “dressed”.

“Yes, Robin. We will.”

“Am I driving, or are you?”, he asked.

“I’ll drive this time and you can fight the bad guys from the backseat.”

“But all the bad guys are good now!”

“Oh! Then you can just tell me which way to go!”

“That’s a great idea!”

The jacket wasn’t in the playground so we walked to the other end of the mall to get to the burger joint. Again, he wanted me to carry him and I obliged. My arms were hurting pretty badly and I put him down once to rest them. But these moments are fleeting. And, just like breast-feeding and lullabies and baths in the sink… soon carrying my son will be a thing of the past. He’ll keep growing, and I’ll stay the same. Those physics just don’t add up to me being able to lift him for more than another year or three.

We found his jacket at the restaurant, and we ran side by side toward the Bat Mobile. Half way through the mall he asked once again to be picked up. I scooped him into my arms, continued to run, and got us into the car.

It is in these moments of “nothing special” that I find the most joy and melancholy. I am so hyper-aware of my good fortune, getting to spend time with this amazing child. And I am so aware of him speed-walking toward becoming a big kid, a young man, and then a man. I hold him in my arms, and he holds my heart in his. He always will. Even when he’s too big to pick up.

22 Apr 2011


10 Comments Family

Wednesday at 5:48 PM, I got off the plane and walked as fast as I could toward baggage claim.

About 20 minutes prior, I had ducked quickly into the bathroom to see if I could do anything about the two pimples that popped up during my second flight, due to the 10 DAYS IN A ROW of very heavy makeup. Couldn’t they have waited until after my husband saw me for the first time in 2 weeks??

Figuring there was nothing to be done, I continued along my way.

At the end of the escalator stood my handsome husband with my beautiful boy in his arms.

They say kids change daily, and I swear it looked like Garrett had grown an inch and had become a college professor. As we waited for my luggage, Garrett charmed the executive producer of our show and met other fantastic folks I had worked with. He and I did some of our slo-mo boxing and were getting some weird stares.

In the car, G asked me to sit near him and even asked me to cuddle! That rarely happens. The car, by the way, had been washed and waxed. Nice.

When we got home, I immediately noticed it was spotless. Russ had spent a lot of time cleaning, doing laundry, shopping to stock the kitchen, and changing sheets. He and G had picked out some beautiful flowers for me, too.

Yeah, I have a pretty amazing husband.

The last two mornings, waking up with my family has been even sweeter than usual. G and I were up this morning alone for three hours, pretending to be bad guys fighting criminals, boxing, hanging laundry and laughing.

Now he and Russ are laughing and playing sword fight with baseball bats.

Tomorrow is the rehearsal for the Listen to Your Mother show. I can’t wait to meet all of these awesome women.

I’ll be working the next two weeks IN TOWN. I bet it’ll feel like an absolute breeze. And I’ll get to kiss my boys goodnight every night.

Counting blessings. This could take a while.

23 Feb 2011

Big Boy Bed

6 Comments Family, Toddler

Last night while Garrett and I finished our dinner, Russ transformed his crib into a big boy bed. It’s really the same bed, except the front was taken off and replaced with a very low rail so that G doesn’t roll out of the bed, which he would do because he’s incredibly restless.
So, just a quick change and it’s a big boy bed. Garrett was very excited.

Plus: I no longer have to lift him in and out of bed, which is getting hard on my back.
Minus: I no longer get to lift my baby in and out of his crib.
Plus: He can get out of bed by himself.
Minus: He can get out of bed by himself.

This is one of those times where it’s super clear that yet another phase has ended. With each new phase, we take a moment to mourn the passing of time and to celebrate our son growing up. He is becoming such a big boy.

So, last night was his first night in the new digs, and he did great going to sleep. At 12:45 AM, however, he called me in and wanted to come into bed with us. He had a fever yesterday, so I thought maybe this was just him not feeling well. He rarely wants to get into our bed. I brought him in and we all cuddled together. Three hours later we were still trying to get comfortable and fall asleep. No joke. THREE HOURS. He was moving and talking and asking questions. At one point I caught him trying to put one of our pillow cases over his head. There’s nothing like giving a lecture about the dangers of putting things over your head at 2:30 in the morning.

At 3:45, I had had it. I told him he had to go back into his bed. He said he would, but would I please come sleep on his floor for a little bit? I said I would. I woke up, very sore, on his floor at 8:00 this morning. He slept until 8:30, a full two and a half hours later than he usually wakes up.

It was a rough night for all of us. I’m still not sure if it was because of the new bed or because he wasn’t feeling like himself. We’ll have to see how tonight goes.

I kept him home from school again today, just because we were all so sleepy and, well… He’s got a big boy bed now. And I want to spend as much time with him as possible while he still has a little baby left in him. My baby. My big boy. I gotta go play some Iron Man with him now.  Or Iron Boy. Iron Baby? Hmmmm.