surviving Sandy

If you’re reading this, you probably have power, which is more than several million of us can say. Sandy came, and all the dire predictions turned out to be understatements.

We rode out Sandy in our twelfth-floor apartment in New York City, since our neighborhood is far uphill from the Hudson River and there was no chance of our building flooding once the rain forecast came down. I was at peace with that decision until they closed the subways, then the tunnels, then the airports, then the bridges, and Manhattan felt a little too island-y for comfort.

Then I was nervous, though I tried not to let the kids see it. They found the whole thing a lark– when we woke up Tuesday morning and still had power, Maggie said hopefully, “But we might still lose power. I mean, we could.” In our neighborhood, Sandy was just another storm– until you remember that the subways are closed, and will be closed for days, and so you really can’t go anywhere.

At least the buses are coming back– if you can find your stop, that is.

this is where we wait for the bus every morning

 

Despite the levity of this picture, we were all awed by the destruction we saw just in our neighborhood- and again, we were almost totally spared.

Riverside Park, a block from our house

 

My kids didn’t have school last Friday for teachers’ conferences. Now NYC schools are out for the third day in a row, and with no subways and no power below 34th Street, I’m thinking the whole week is a wash at this point. We’ve made muffins, done art projects, watched Fred 3: Camp Fred a few times, and we are stuck in a tiny enclosed space and well, Parents of Schoolchildren Want Their Lives Back, as the Wall Street Journal explained this morning.

I know I am lucky to be bored, to be enduring the survivors’ giddiness of my children. All I have to do is check my Twitter feed to get a cold-water dose of reality. (That’s how I’ve kept myself busy for the last several days: tweeting like I have been deputized by FEMA to do so.) We have it better than most of our friends outside the city. We have power, we have running water. We have WALLS. My friend in the suburbs is bringing her four children into the city today to join us in our cramped apartment becuase at least the lights are on. And since today is Halloween- and Halloween is cancelled- we’re going to put out some candy and put on their costumes and try to make it feel sufficiently trick-or-treaty. I’m not worth my mom badge if I can’t figure out how to get these kids a little candy tonight.

Tell me how you and yours fared during Sandy.

 

nothing but unimaginable

Today is a weirdly gray day in New York City– looking like the heavens are going to open up at any minute even though no rain is predicted. The skies are the very definition of gloom. And it feels right, because today all of us– especially those of us who live in New York City– are in total shock over the horrible loss suffered by the Krim family. It was, as the New York Times put it, “a scene of almost unimaginable horror,” and I’m not going to bother repeating the details because if you’re a parent you know them already.

It’s the Upper West Side details that get to me, of course: their house number, on a block well known to me. The art classes the mother taught, in the same playground where my children play. The mother turning to the doorman in her confusion (which may sound strange only to those who don’t also live in a building with a doorman, there to protect them, protect their children, from the dangers of life in New York City). And the blog Marina Krim kept, doting on her three young children’s every move, “near getting cheesy,” as she put it, at explaining just how much she loved them.

Most familiar of all: the nanny, part of their lives, part of the family, someone the Krims trusted implicitly. Over at Babble, my friend Marinka wrote about the predictable and disgusting trolls commenting online that this is what happens to people who don’t raise their own children. (Missing the point that this mother did stay at home– not that that should make it any more or less tragic.) I think that’s a regrettable but human impulse at work there: we look for the unlocked side door that gave the evil access so that we can say, well that would never happen to me.

But this? This shouldn’t have happened to ANYONE. It is nothing but unimaginable. Let’s band together and do the right thing here. As Lisa Belkin wrote today on The Huffington Post:

When there are no words, that’s when they are needed most. The way to use them now is to send heartbroken condolences to the Krim family. And tell your children you love them.

Marina, Kevin, Nessie, we are so sorry for your loss.

birthday party, old-school style

When you live in New York City, you can outsource just about everything child-related. And I do mean everything, but most of all? Birthday parties. In any New York City neighborhood, there are dozens of storefronts dedicated to giving your child (and all seventeen classmates you are obligated to invite, at minimum) the best pottery-throwing or robot-making or Broadway-babies-rendering birthday ever.

So what do my kids pick? All three of them? Every single year?

A party at our house.

Which, I hesitate to remind you, is an apartment, with long-suffering downstairs neighbors who can really only be expected to tolerate so much.

And so, while I wear our “house parties” like a badge of my laid-back non-Manhattan parenting style, that is only after I beg, BEG my children to please reconsider whether we can’t have their party at Chuck E. Cheese.

Nope.

Yesterday was Maggie’s fifth birthday party. “I’m having a cowgirl party,” Maggie had announced months ago, “and it’s going to be at our house, and it will be everything cowgirl.” As the party neared, and I pressed her for details on just what a passel of cowgirls might do for two hours that didn’t involve running around our apartment and screaming, she repeated: “Cowgirl stuff, Mommy.”

At this point I turned to the When Did I Get Like This? Facebook page:

Once again, I am sorry this is turning into the Why I Love Facebook Blog, but seriously y’all: I had 50 ideas in 50 minutes.

Pin the Tail on the Donkey! Hot Potato! Simon Says! Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button!

I made a list of all the least-messy-sounding ideas (nothing involving frosting or glitter glue, sorry). I was all set! I had hours worth of ideas! Freeze Dance would take up about 45 minutes all by itself, right?

Cut to me, in our living room. Twelve five-year-old girls in bedazzled cowboy hats stare up at me.

ME: Okay, everyone! Let’s do Freeze Dance!

ALPHA GIRL: I hate dancing.

ME: Does everyone know the– rules…

All the little girls have turned and looked at the Alpha Girl, sitting on the couch, arms folded.

ME: Okay! Let’s FREEZE DANCE!

I turn on the music. No one dances. I break out in a flop sweat and consult my list.

ME: We’ll do Freeze Dance later! Line up everyone! Line up! Let’s play… Button, Button!

It occurs to me I have no idea how to play Button, Button. Nor do I have a button. I look at my watch. I have another hour and forty minutes to go before we can cut the cake.

It is a bad idea to be both the host of the party and the entertainment for the party. If you’re the mother of bride, you hire a DJ. You cannot take twelve little girls, one at a time, to the bathroom and to the kitchen for drinks of water, when you are also overseeing and judging the pass-the-pumpkin-with-your-feet relay. Perhaps you already know this. I’m mostly writing this for myself to read before next year’s party.

But we survived, and we had a ball (at least my kids did).

We kicked it old-school, and I’m proud.

How about you? Do you still throw parties for your kids with pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and fruit punch? Or do you save your sanity and go to the local bouncy castle wonderland? 

 

 

on dreaming big

The play I’ve been developing with my best friend for the last three years, The Best of Everything, opened this week. And something amazing happened.

We got a rave in The New York Times.

photo: Sara Krulwich, New York Times

 

That’s me in the blue dress. Kind of bad-ass, don’t you think? (If you overlook the static cling.)

The review was written by Ben Brantley, widely regarded as the most powerful reviewer on the planet. On his word alone, a show can run for years or close in a week. For better or for worse, that’s how the theater world works.

How it doesn’t work: that said most powerful reviewer would ever choose to review a small little show like ours. But he came. And he liked it. And he chose to endorse our show.

Things are happening really quickly now. Our little show has become one of the hottest tickets in town. (We just added two performances, by the way, so if you tried to get tickets– and couldn’t– there are now more available.)

After next weekend, who knows? The theater is booked so we have to leave. We’re working hard to get the show a future life. We’re also trying to stop and take in where it is– already beyond our wildest dreams– and to be very grateful.

Blogger Ann Imig (who created Listen to Your Mother) is celebrating her fourth “blogiversary” today. Her words and her creative spirit have given her a new career that she couldn’t have imagined.  But this past weekend at the fab-and-tiny Creative Alliance ’12 conference, she had a major aha! moment. Here’s Ann, writing to herself…

You’ve found such contentment in this phase of your life four years later, that even though you no longer have to wear 30 pounds of kids on your person at all times, you went and replaced it with a boulder named All Down Hill From Here. Sheila made you realize you’re more than one big idea and listening to her flipped on your DREAM BIG switch again.

YES. Yes, don’t all of us (particularly mothers of the beyond-preschool set) carry around that boulder? It’s all downhill from here. For me, it was telling myself I couldn’t kickstart the acting career I back-burnered a decade ago– and that if I did, it meant the last several years that I’ve spent writing and blogging and creating that part of myself will have been wasted.

But I can do both. I’m more than one big idea.

No way it’s downhill from here.

Speaking of dreaming big- Listen To Your Mother is currently accepting applications for new cities for 2013 shows. This was Ann’s dream, and in three years it went from one city to ten. If you’ve ever watched the incredible video channel and thought “God! I wish they’d do this in my town”… well, you may just have had your next big idea.  

 

where I’ve been: The Best of Everything

Blogging 101: do not abandon your blog for two-and-a-half weeks without telling your readers where you’ve gone…and if you’re coming back.

Here’s where I’ve been.

That’s me in the blue dress. This morning a friend told me he wasn’t sure that was me in the picture because “my body looked so girdle-y.” (That’s because I am wearing a girdle. And stockings. And a wool dress. In 90-degree heat.)

Before I became a mother, and a writer about mothering, I was an actor. I still am, although three pregnancies in five years does a number on your cast-ability. But for the last three years, I’ve been working on an adaptation of Rona Jaffe’s 1958 novel, The Best of Everything. It’s the original chick lit, some say. I like to call it the Fifty Shades of Grey of fifty years ago (and a heck of a lot better-written).

My partner in crime in this venture is my oldest friend, Julie Kramer. We went to high school together, she was a bridesmaid at my wedding, and along the way, we’ve created four shows together. The Best of Everything is the fifth. We open tonight in New York City. I absolutely could not be any prouder.

It’s meant a lot of time away from my kids. It’s meant a lot of nights going to bed after midnight and getting up at six a.m. to get them ready for school. It’s meant putting everything else in my life (blog much?) aside for a while. And yes, I feel bad about what I’ve let slide over the last two months.

But this morning Maggie’s pre-K teacher told me how much she loved the preview performance she saw last night. And Maggie blushed right to the roots of her hair, so delighted about that, so proud of her mom. And I remembered: it’s okay to have my kids see me doing something I love. It’s okay to give them a reason to be proud of me.

If you’re in the NYC area, or will be before October 20th, it is my extremely biased opinion that you will find this a funny, moving, thought-provoking, martini-swilling look at how much things have changed for women since 1952– and how much they haven’t.

So please come. And if you do- stick around after the show and say hi. After celebrating our “opening night” till dawn tonight, I’ll take the weekend to recover, and return to this blog with renewed vigor next week.

(P.S. The blogging world opens many doors. The associate producer of this show is Holly Rosen, whom fellow bloggers will know well as The Culture Mom. She’s done an amazing job, and it’s thanks to this amazing community that I got to meet her.)