You Should Eat Cake

FullSizeRender-5-smallYesterday was National Chocolate Cake Day. To be honest, I am more than happy to celebrate any National ____ Day when the ____ in question is delicious dessert. Thanks to Jude’s school calendar, I never have to miss out on these important holidays.

Because Jude stayed home with me in light of the snowpocalypse that wasn’t, he missed out on his serving of chocolate cake in school. And I just couldn’t have that on my conscience. So, we drove over to Panera and bought a chocolate cupcake (that counts, right??) and planned to attack it after dinner.

Jude specifically requested a candle, which I thought was the perfect touch, and after yelling “Happy Chocolate Cake Day,” and making a wish, the treat was divided, and we dove into the decadence.

“Mommy,” Jude whispered after taking a few, hesitant bites, “I don’t know if I like chocolate cake.”

My mouth was already stuffed with my portion of 520 calorie heaven, so struggled to get out the words, “That’s okay, sweet feet.”

To be fair, Panera chocolate cupcakes are pretty rich. He’s quite used to their vanilla offerings, which come complete with sugary candy on top in whatever shape suits the season. And he did just finish eating a cookie. So, I packaged up the remainder of the confection and maaaaaybe ate a few more crumbs. For good measure.

I am a big fan of Jude’s monthly school calendar, primarily because it keeps me up to date on the most important days of the year. Some of the celebrations are invented in-house (i.e. favorite color day and pajama day) and others are of the national variety, but each one serves as a reminder to commemorate even the simplest things, like hugs and chocolate cake. Because cake! Amiright?

IMG_1378But also because I want my Jude to remember that Christmas and his birthday are exciting, but so are pretzels at the mall and building snowmen, and Fridays. And if he can learn to find happiness in the margins, the holy-crap huge amazing moments will be the cherry on top of an already sweet life.

PS: It’s not too late to celebrate The Day After National Chocolate Cake Day.

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National Hugging Day

Today is National Hugging Day. I know this because it’s listed on Jude’s school calendar next to a graphic of Snoopy hugging Woodstock. So it’s totally legit.


I’m looking at you, National Chocolate Cake Day.

I was reading an article earlier today that indicated people need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth. Jude is my official hugging partner, but he’s at the age where he sometimes says, “I already hugged you,” if I ask for too many. Even the cats are like, “Really??” So basically, I’m barely surviving.

In thinking about all of this, I could not help but wonder how many hugs the average person gives and or receives in average day. I tried asking the general question on FB, but the results were inconclusive. One friend enjoys a significant amount of hugs, one asked if his dog counted (um, YES), and another said he didn’t get enough hugs (though he does love them). So clearly–and shockingly–this wasn’t the most scientific approach. And I’m still left wondering.

There are plenty articles out there about the benefits of hugging, just like the one I referenced earlier. So yeah, hugs feel good and they are good and they make your life infinitely better. But why don’t we hug one another enough? Is it the touching? The intimacy? The worry that we’ll be rejected? The fact that we take each other for granted too often and thus end up skipping the hug?

Back in July, I posted the following:

When I dropped Jude off at school today, two of his friends ran toward him and gave him the biggest, most enthusiastic hugs. Wouldn’t everything in the world be better if we never stopped doing that with each other?


I was interested in taking a picture of our hug. He was interested in a selfie. 

So, I guess it’s been on my mind for a while, and today, on the huggingest of all holidays, I’m reminded that I just don’t get or give enough hugs in the course of my day.  If I had to self-diagnose, I’d say my biggest impediment is that I’m an anxiety-filled lover of people, simultaneously craving human interaction while also being terrified of it. And since I’m woefully behind the daily recommended dose of hugs, I will have to find away to amend the problem*.

At least I know that tonight, after he’s bathed and relaxed for a bit, Jude will ask me to cuddle him in his chair, something we’ve been doing since he was an infant. We’ll read and then sing “In My Life,” which he’s retitled “You More,” and then he’ll hug me and his sweetheart, Minnie Mouse, until he falls asleep. And then I’ll sit there long after he starts to snore, soaking up the extra-long hug for as long as I can, hoping that the sheer length and depth of it will make up for all the lost connections of the day.


*There are some hugs I do not like to receive**. They include:

1. The stinky hug. If someone is stinky, I just can’t. Maybe I’m a jerk, but I am just paranoid about how I smell and thus, would like to avoid the transfer of stink where possible.

2. The weak hug. This is someone who barely makes an effort to hug you by remaining stiff or refusing to move their arms or lean in to the hug. It just makes me feel weird.

3. The hug and lift. A hug is a hug. Why anyone feels the need to lift the person they’re hugging, I’ll never understand. As a short person, I hate this. Hug = yes, please. Lift = stop it.

4. The over-hug. This is the opposite of the weak hug. It is given by someone who is so uncomfortable with hugging that s/he overcommits by pressing her/his body uncomfortably against yours or just doesn’t know where to put the arms or can’t determine the appropriate squeeze ratio. The result is strange for everybody involved.

5. The never-ending hug. A nice, long hug is good. It’s great even. But in some circumstances, an extra-lengthy hug is just too much, particularly when I start to let go and then realize the hug is still happening, forcing me to re-hug just as the other person feels my pulling away and attempts to stop the hug just as I re-commit.


**Maybe this is my real problem.


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282 Steps

In an average day, I take about 4,000 steps. If I run on the elliptical machine or engage in a power-shop at the mall, it’s much higher, and on the lazier days, that number shrinks by at least a thousand. I know this because my phone tracks that sort of thing, and I have become borderline-obsessed with checking up on my step-status throughout the day.

Yesterday just so happened to be an all time low for me in terms of movement. I took just two hundred and eighty two steps, give or take the ones that happened when I wasn’t holding my phone. It was a freezing, snowy day here in the northeast, and Jude and I decided to stay inside all day, hibernating. I didn’t even get out of my pajamas until 9:30 pm, when I showered and got back in to a fresh pair of sleepwear.

Unlike most days, when my steps are mostly mindless and unremarkable, inspired only by my need to get from here to there, yesterday’s steps were purposeful and deliberate. What I really wanted to do was lie on the couch all day, cuddled under a blanket, so anything I did accomplish felt intentional.


In lieu of being physically active, we read books, built a car with Mega Bloks, destroyed said Mega Bloks car, and built a home for a stuffed panda out of Mega Bloks (actually, I built the home while Jude cuddle the panda who was “sad” about being shelterless). When the power went out, we pretended to be a kangaroo mom and baby and sat together under a blanket, telling improvised stories about the Grinch. After lunch, and the return of electricity (hooray!), we built a fort (which Jude calls a “hotel”) and made a make-shift road out of a carpet remnant for his Lightning McQueen car (“Mommy! Push me!”). Later, we made Play-Doh trains and had a light saber fight with rolls of wrapping paper and just generally had a good time being silly.


I did no laundry and watched no TV. I didn’t even go out to get the mail. I will admit that by eight pm, I felt the need to zone out to Parks & Rec and catch up on all my Words With Friends/Soda Crush games, but in all, I felt happy about the way our snow day unfolded, even with all that inertia.

I try so often to pack our schedule with big or small adventures–anything from train rides to trips to the mall. I have this insane need to busy myself all the time, filling my days and nights with activities that are sometimes important and fulfilling, and other times, meaningless and meant only to keep me moving.  So when I finally got in bed last night and checked to see how many steps I hadn’t taken, I was reminded that sometimes, it’s just good to hang out in slippers all day, doing nothing (and everything) while the world slip-slides past me on the cold and icy road outside.

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You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

It was two days after Christmas, and I was tired of baked ziti. I know. What sort of a person gets tired of baked ziti? But three days in a row of it, and I needed to get out of the house and have something else for dinner. So we decided on a restaurant not far from my parent’s house in New Jersey and made the twenty-minute drive.

On the way there, we passed Wemrock Farms, a farmer’s market I’ve seen dozens of times in the last six months, but this time, all I could think about was Dad. The last time I saw him, we met at another restaurant near my parent’s house. It was a halfway point of sorts–he was coming from Staten Island after having flown in for a family party from Orlando, and I was driving in from PA and planned to go to the beach with my mom the next morning. It was June 2013, shortly after Jude turned 2.

It was a long lunch, and a good one. We had a nice time and a good chat. I worried about the way he looked, which was not well. He told me all about one of his favorite shows (Castle). I thought it was funny that he encouraged me to watch it, then spent much of the lunch spoiling the plot twists. But I didn’t mind listening to them.


He made it to NJ earlier than he’d expected that day, he told me, and so he drove over to Wemrock Farms for some apple cider donuts. Or was it apple cider? I wish I could remember.

Before we said goodbye, he asked me if I’d take a picture of him with Jude in the parking lot. I thought he’d want to come back to my parent’s house and was surprised that he didn’t. So I took a sweet photo of two of them, kissed him goodbye and went over to my mom’s house. In some small way, I am happy our last time together was so pleasant and special in it’s own, quiet way.


I didn’t know I would never see him again. In fact, when I got the news of his death, I was packing my things to visit with him during our stay in Disney. And these were all the things that flooded my mind as I turned down Wemrock Road. They’re painful, unexpected things that welled up in my eyes and my heart, but I pushed them down and away because I didn’t want to cry in a car full of people or at all, really.

The last time I saw my grandfather, it was a different matter entirely. Though he’d been diagnosed with stage four cancer the year prior, his Alzheimer’s disease had advanced, and he was in rapid decline by the end of August. Seeing him suffer was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, and I hated to say goodbye. I was leaving for a four day trip to Las Vegas, and my mom believed that I’d see him when I returned.

He wasn’t. And it was devastating. I wish I’d said more, and I think I’ll never forgive myself for it.


Photo credit: Amy Pinard Photography

I spent most of the Christmases of my life with my grandfather. I have a video from just last year of Jude playing catch with him. They’re both giggling uncontrollably, just totally enjoying one another. I don’t think I can watch it anytime soon, but I love that they met each other and loved each other so much.

It was a shit year. I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to say it. I’m happy to say good riddance to 2014, for the reasons above and some others. It was difficult and sad, and I’m still recovering.

But it wasn’t all sadness and loss.

In 2014, I was lucky enough to join the ComedySportz Rec League (competitive improv for amateurs), where I met the kindest, coolest, funniest people. We performed six shows together and learned so much, but the best part of the experience was the feeling of being genuinely accepted. I love the friends I met in the Rec League so much more than I can express, and I can’t wait to do it all over again. The confidence I gained from that experience lead me to perform in a Fringe Arts show (that I helped write and produce), take long-form improv classes (where I met more people I adore), and audition for an ensemble (and I am still shocked to say that I was cast).


I still can’t believe the opportunities improv has afforded me, and I am constantly in awe of the talented and hilarious people I get to meet and perform with on a regular basis. It is dream-kind of stuff for me, and it helps make everything better.

Though I didn’t do as much writing as I’d like, I did get help editing my novel from Betsy, and I have gotten tremendously helpful advice on my query letter from Carol and Robb. And I even made headway on a new novel that I hope to complete in 2015.

There were other high points, like running three 5ks with my dear friend Karin, and a story I told at a local story slam was published in a book. But best of all, Jude was funnier and sweeter and crazier then ever. I got to take him to Disney and to the beach, and we went on so many fun day trips together. Being his mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I look forward to continuing all the fun and laughs we have together in the new year.


Photo Credit: Devon Anne Photography

I am eager to begin 2015. Next week, I begin a sketch writing class, and the week after that, my house team premieres. On January 30th, I will see Jack White at Madison Square Garden. So, I’m cautiously optimistic.

No matter what 2014 brought all of you, I hope 2015 is joyful, prosperous, peaceful and so, so happy.





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I wasn’t going to be one of those “Elf on the Shelf” moms.

It just seems wrong to let Jude believe I’d buy a doll for the express purpose of spying on him and reporting all of his misdeeds and tantrums back to Santa. I mean, what kind of a monster am I?

I was secure in my decision, too, until I experienced a weak moment last weekend at the hands of the Target machine. I had been wandering the aisles for a while, letting my eyes glaze over the rows of glittery holiday items that I don’t actually need but somehow always want, and that’s when the boxes of elves appeared. There were tons of them, waiting for adults to take them home and start up a new tradition with their little BFFs.

I surprised myself by picking one up to examine it closer, and that’s when I began to wonder if my hesitance to join in the elven games was somehow depriving Jude of a shared experience with his peers. I pictured him standing around with a group of friends as they traded stories about their weird parents and the sadistic elf they brought out every year to shame them into behaving. I realized in that moment that Jude deserved his own story, and by God, I was going to make it happen for him. I put that elf in my cart, and I never looked back.

So, I guess I’m a little bit of a monster, but no more so than most other moms, right?


Tiny-smallUpon further reflection, it occurred to me that Tiny—our new Elf on the Shelf as named by Jude—is just the next natural step toward my depravity. I spent a healthy amount of time last year promising to “call Santa” each time Jude misbehaved last holiday season. This meant not only threatening the action with words but also sometimes picking up the phone, fake dialing, and then fake tattle-taling. I am proud of none of this, and even more embarrassed to admit that it worked so well. Hey, whatever it takes to get a toddler to put his pants on, amiright?

So Tiny is just an upping of the ante, or so I thought. It was nice at first, having a scapegoat in the house: “Jude, if you don’t go up and take a bath, Tiny is going to be very upset. Do you want to upset Tiny?” All of a sudden, Tiny was Tony Soprano. Actually, Santa is Tony Soprano. Tiny became more of a Paulie “Walnuts,” if we’re being technical, but whatever. The point is, it was dirty work, but Tiny was up for it.

And then I went a bit too far.

Jude was acting like a complete and utter maniac in the mall on Sunday. To be fair, this occurred after several hours of marathon Christmas shopping, during which he was pretty great and accommodating. By the time we took a break to eat dinner, he was ravenous and exhausted, so it should not have surprised me when he ran out the door to the mall rather than into the restaurant, without wearing his jacket, of course.

“Jude!” I was also beside myself with hunger and fatigue and had no patience for toddler hijinks. “That’s it! I’m calling Tiny right now!”

That’s right. I was threatening to place a fake phone call to a plastic-headed, stuffed doll so that he would report my child to Santa during his nightly, magical trip to the North Pole.

“Hello Tiny?” I said into my phone after pretending to dial. “Jude is not behaving nicely.” Those are stern words, Mommy. Look out.

“No, Mommy!” Jude said. “Don’t call Tiny!” The quiver in his voice let me know that my evil plan was working. Once again, Tiny to the rescue.

“He says he is not happy right now,” I said, rubbing it in.

“Mommy, no!” He jumped and flailed his arms in protest as I led him into the restaurant against his will.
I’d like to say it was my own desperate need to eat that prompted my actions, but that would be a lie. I enjoyed making Tiny the bad guy. I liked raising my hands in the air and saying, “Hey, I’m just following protocol, buddy. I’m just a pawn in Santa’s game.”

I’m not just a monster, I’m sick.

A couple of days ago, Jude wanted to watch TV in the living room rather than get his shoes on to leave for school. I explained that this was not possible, which made him quite frustrated. In response, he held out one hand, using the pointer finger of the other to jab at his open palm.

“Boop-beep-boop-boop-boop,” he said as he pressed. He was mimicking my fake dial. I was simultaneously amused and appalled. “Hello? Santa? Mommy’s not being a good girl,” he said with his open palm to his ear. “Boop,” he said, removing the “phone” from his head and pressing at the center of his hand once more to hang up, satisfied with the report he just delivered.

The student had become the master.

As I suspected, purchasing Tiny was not a great idea. In fact, it’s much worse than I anticipated. He’s reduced us to the sort of petty snitches that are pretty much guaranteed to end up on the naughty list. At this point, I’ll let him ride out the season. I can’t say that I won’t invoke his powers when the need arises. I mean, I did threaten to text him last night when Jude wouldn’t go to bed—I know. I KNOW. But, after this Christmas, Tiny is going back in his box where he can spend the rest of the year thinking about what he’s done. Maybe, if he’s lucky, I’ll think about letting him out again next year, but I can’t say I like the person I become when he’s around, so he’d better watch it. I wouldn’t harm him on purpose, but if something were to happen by accident, well, let’s just say I don’t know if I’d intervene.

I need help.

Posted in Happy Life, Toddler Life | 6 Comments

This Time Last Year

The other day, I received an email from I was sitting in a car dealership, waiting for a shuttle to take me to work while my car was being inspected/repaired. I get so much junk email from the various stores that feed my second greatest addiction: shopping. (The first is Diet Pepsi .) So when I first saw the email, my instinct was to delete it, and that’s just what I was about to do when I focused on the subject line, referencing something about a birthday gift card. It was not my birthday, so I became curious. Did I have an old gift card that was about to expire? So I went ahead and opened it, and that’s when I was really taken aback.

AmazonThe email was a reminder. Last year at this time, I purchased a birthday gift card for someone, it told me. Wouldn’t I like to do it again?

The gift card being referenced was one I sent to my dad for his sixty-second birthday, and as much as I would very much like to send him another, I can’t. Dad isn’t having a birthday this year.

On the evening of June 4th, we were getting ready for a trip to Orlando. Jude’s birthday is on June 7th, and we were going to celebrate his third with Mickey Mouse. My dad moved to Orlando when I was about eight, so we were planning to work in a little visit with him, too. He was going to spend the day with us at the Animal Kingdom on Sunday the 8th, though I knew I’d most likely see him before that for dinner. The last time I saw my dad was the June of last year when he met Jude and I for lunch one afternoon. Growing up, we saw my dad once a year, so the gap in time wasn’t unusual for us.

I had so much to do for the impending trip, and I was feeling the stress. At about seven o’clock that night, I was planning on planting some flowers my mom bought me so they didn’t wilt while I was gone. In fact, I was wearing my grungy clothes, frantically throwing last minute items into my bag and crossing items off my list when I got the news that my dad died earlier that day. He didn’t show up for a social engagement, so a friend went to check on him and found him lying still in the garage. He hadn’t been in the best health in the last couple of years, but this was a shock, the kind that felt like someone carried a brick wall into my bedroom and dropped it on top of me.

All I could do was could myself into a ball, shove a pillow into my face, and scream. I screamed and screamed and screamed until I couldn’t make any more sounds. I felt so mad, and I needed to get it out, so I called my poor mom and yelled at her for an hour. About nothing. About everything. Even though she and my dad had been divorced for decades, she was hurting, but she let me go anyway.

After a while, I went outside to plant those flower even though I was distraught. I couldn’t just let them whither. I didn’t even bother putting on gloves, or worrying about where I was placing them. My nails and palms turned brown as I jabbed through the mulch and dirt to make way for the New Guinea Impatiens and Begonias.

My dad did not want a viewing or a funeral. His final wishes were to have a party at the bar he frequented, where the patrons and staff were like family to him. The party was held a few weeks after my trip, and because I had just been there, I was not able to return. So my closure was helping to sort through the things in his house one last time before a cleaning crew came through and emptied what was left.

I told myself this was okay. I told myself that I was just a fast processor of things like this, and I went back home and continued to trick myself into believing it.

But the problem is that I am too often flooded with thoughts or moments that threaten to poke holes in my carefully constructed barriers, and that’s just what this email from Amazon made me feel. It was a reminder I didn’t need. Like death, grieving is inconvenient. It never fits neatly into plans or seems to care what else is happening in a person’s life, good or troubling.

This morning when I turned on my computer, I got an alert from my calendar. Dad’s Bday Tomorrow, it reminded me.


October 23rd is going to be here every year, and it will never stop reminding me. Though the emotions might lessen over time, it will always be difficult to not send a gift or to call and wish him a happy day. It will always be hard to know that we left things unfinished, he and I, and that this is the way it will always remain.

When the loss stops being so ever-present, maybe the reminders won’t be so profound. Maybe his birthday will come around, and I will welcome the memories. Maybe it’s better for those around us to have things like birthdays and holidays anniversaries so that they can hold onto a piece of what is no longer there.

For now, though, it kind of sucks. And so does Amazon.

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What Jude Said

I often find myself wanting to write posts about my son because he is the central focus of my life. I think about him almost every moment of the day, and he’s the person with whom I spend most of my time.

But, as much as I want to show everyone in the world how amazing and funny and adorable he is, I also want to stay true to the theme of this blog, which means I want to talk about all the ways in which I try to live a happier life. Some days, that means I’ll want to talk about Jude, and on others, I want to zoom the lens in elsewhere.

Because my brain is filled to capacity with Jude stories, I decided to free up some space by creating side blog called What Jude Said. It is quite literally a collection of the humorous things he does and says each day, and I thought that by preserving them in one space, I’d have a better chance of remembering them. Also, I hope readers might find it entertaining.

Please follow us on Tumblr or check back often for updates using the link in the Millions of Suns header.

Happy Saturday!

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