Category Archives: Parents

And all of sudden my baby is turning FIVE!

Maya at her ballet performance, 2014

Maya at her ballet performance, 2014

“That’s right, mom, in four months, I’ll be five, then I’ll be six.”

Me: “Can’t you just be happy being four for awhile?”

My kid: “No, I can’t wait to grow up!”

My younger kid (who is two): “Me too!”

Me: “That’s it, no more growing up!”

My older daughter: “Mommy, it’s okay, if I didn’t grow up, I could never start kindergarten.”

Nothing is more exciting than the moment you are growing your family. Nothing. From just the two of you to “baby makes three” and then the remarkable moment that “baby makes 4.” For a long time you will be marveling at the creation of these little people, who grow while they sleep, who show up in the morning one day — both of them — running, talking, laughing, fighting — pushing you to “get you up.”

Need a change of pace, a change of stasis? Try adding a person to your world. When you have a baby you are adding a person to this earth and it’s a miracle.ImageImageImageImage

It’s a miracle. It’s remarkable — and it goes quite quickly, so quickly you will barely have time to marvel at it….you are so busy cooking them dinner and buying them new shoes. Take the time my friends. Hold them close. Cuddle and love them, even in those angry moments (me — every single day – ha) — and “be not sad that the baby time is coming to an end, but be happy that it happened in the first place, or at all. “This is a quote from my good friend and wonderful actor, Amy Dickenson. I think this just about sums it up. Many of my friends have kids going into kindergarten. Our babies are turning five this year and we can’t stop the tears, they just flow in those moments when, for example you walk in to pick up your little girl from her very last day of pre-school…forever. You know it, the teacher knows it but your daughter, it will take weeks to sink in fully. You exchange a look with the teacher and you see that the she also has tears in her eyes as she has watched these little kids, who were toddlers still when they arrived, turn into such smarty pants. Maya talks about things that I never would have dreamed of at 4. “Mommy, is that person speaking French? We never speak French anymore.” I didn’t even know the word “French” when I was four – unless we were talking about French bread. Maya has a favorite planet. She mixes colors. She speaks Russian “better than mommy.” And sometimes, I catch a glance of her to my right, out of the corner of my eye, and I’m shocked at how grown up she is already is. I see long, slender legs…and her beautiful little face. Sigh. What hell is coming to us? I await.  For now, I will still relish in her little-girl-ness. I’ll enjoy her tea parties and “cooking” and her utter excitement with the world.

To all my friends who are having babies this year, remember that it goes fast. You will barely be able to recall them as babies in a few years. It’s just the way it goes. Take a lot of pictures and savor the moment. I did. I do. By the way, I still have a two-year-old, but she thinks she’s four, but she’s still two. She’s still silly in the way that two year-olds are silly. Still wakes up at 7 just to “get in mommy’s bed.” I’m actually tired at 7. I’m not awake yet, but it’s okay, my little one. You can be next to me.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly in True West

The world lost a great actor today, but New Yorkers lost one of our own. I don’t know how else to put it. When I saw this terrible news of his death trending on Face Book today and someone said that it was a hoax, I was so hoping and praying it was true. I just can’t imagine that I am never going to see Philip Seymour Hoffman work his undeniable magic on the live Broadway stage. I’m pinching myself and feel so fortunate to have seen his work on the stage and not just know him from film. I think his movie roles are amazing, sure, but to me, they are nothing like the stage performances I’ve seen him in, that have frankly shaped and changed my opinions about theater. On the stage, he was, quite simply brilliant.  From my first few weeks in New York City in the spring of 2000, I started, rather accidentally following his career. Back in 2000, when I put my two feet on the soils of gritty New York, for whatever reason, the first theater show I decided to attend was “True West”. I had no idea who Philip Seymour Hoffman was and I certainly didn’t know the groundwork for the city yet, how to get around or who was who in the theater world. Shortly after seeing the intense production, however, one of my girlfriends back then had a thing for “this actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman,”  and as I remember it, she hung out with him a few times at some theater parties. So his name came up in my social circle, but I can’t say that met him, not back then.

In 2001, I waited with my friends all night to get free tickets to see “The Seagull” with Meryl Streep, Kevin Klien and Natalie Portman.  He was too old for the role he was playing. I remember that Meryl did a cart-wheel on stage. The show was spellbinding and inspiring.  Philip’s older age (he didn’t look 19 at the time) or looks didn’t matter, he nailed the complexity of role of Konstantin.  At this point, PSH could play anything. I was watching a master at work. He had this raw grit, full of pain, suffering and compassion. He made you root for the character. Had Chekhov been alive, I’m sure he would have approved of the casting. PSH’s palpable love and biting anger at his mother played by the amazing Meryl Streep was raw, seething, pathetic and powerful all at the same moment. After the performance, I was sitting with my friends in Central Park and chatting about the play and life over wine and cigarettes. The sky above us lit up by stars. Though surrounded by trees in the park, the city lights and buildings burst through all around us like a shadowy castle. Just above us, tiny flickering bulbs of the fireflies. The evening, down to our crazy fatigue and Hoffman’s ruthless performance was absolutely magical, one of my favorite New York moments.

In 2002, the summer after my first year of playwriting graduate school at the Actors Studio/New School for Drama, where classes were held in the West Village, I was writing a lot and hanging out at local cafes. No matter where I was, I often looked up from my work to see Philip getting a coffee right in front of me. About a month later,  I saw him in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on Broadway.  His award-winning performance ran the gamut: overpowering, raw and gave me chills. The whole play was moving and poignant but he helped tell the sad story of the brother, Jamie who was so charming and had so much potential but was so helpless and doomed to a life of debauchery and drugs to dull his pain, just like his mother. Philip was the new fabric, allowing old plays to take on darker life for New York audiences.  Then I met Philip, and he became part of my New York experience as my neighbor. My boyfriend Dmitry (now my husband) and I moved to West Village in 2002 and we frequented the same coffee shop as Philip Seymour Hoffman and his posse, Joe on Waverly Place. So I’d often see him, just hanging out, chatting with friends, sometimes alone, just chilling.  I can’t say that his grit and just thinking of him acting on the stage and then seeing him, sometimes chatting with him, didn’t affect me as a writer, I think it did. I met his girlfriend Mimi and cooed over his eldest son when he was first born. I saw him in a new light: as a loving father. The last time I saw him at the cafe, now nearly five years ago, I was very pregnant and our entire conversation revolved around child rearing in New York. He laughed and said “I’ll probably never see you again you’ll be so busy.” I can still hear his cracking laugh. We moved downtown, and it’s true, I hardly ever go to Joe, but I do get there once in awhile, but I never saw Philip again. The last show I saw him in was “Death Of A Salesman” on Broadway in 2012. The critics and I somewhat agreed that perhaps Mr. Hoffman, at 45 was too young to play the beleaguered, tortured father who should have been at least 55 or 60 since his boys were in their thirties.  I can remember thinking, why does Philip want to play this part now, he has years to play the older dad? I couldn’t help but feel that he stole the part away from older actors who could’ve done a fine job in the role. Perhaps he really wanted to play the role of Willy Loman, one of the greatest roles in the theater…and yes, he still nailed the role despite being too young for it. Maybe he knew he’d never live long enough to play the part at the appropriate age, maybe he just wanted to seize the day and do it NOW. As the New York  Times reported today so eloquently, we will miss seeing him all those wonderful parts for aging men.

My friend called me this afternoon, the one who used to study acting and hung out with him at theater after parties. I couldn’t talk because I was with my daughter who is now a chatty four-year-old. But I’ve been thinking about him all day, and into the evening, my heart actually ached. The World lost a giant movie star today, but New Yorkers lost someone who was part of our fold; part of the fabric of our city.  He was the most amazing stage actor I’ve ever seen, and he was my neighbor.  He was such a talented human being and he was so lucky to do what he loved and to be able to show the world his talent, to let us see old plays in a new light. To his family, to his partner Mimi who just lost her love and the father to her children (as a mother, I just have to say how awful and terrifying this would be — and I’m just hoping that she is surrounded by love and light right now) and to his children, the youngest who is just five, who just lost their father, who died with a fucking needle in his arm, I’m just so sorry. My heart breaks for his extended family, close friends and for his theater company.  I mean, what a tragedy and what a sad, and somewhat theatrical and tortured end to such a legend.

Stopping to smell the (frozen) Roses

Image

Two and Four.

My kids are two and four and my life is very busy, and I’m enjoying every minute…I’m enjoying it more than I did when they were 1 and 3 and more than when Lilly was first born and Maya was just two. Maya turned two 12 days before Lilly arrived. My life during that early time was in sweat pants, hair in a bun, tired beyond belief and tired. I can remember nursing Lilly and Maya would be screaming for me in the other room. I remember breaking my foot when she was six months old and limping around pushing the double stroller. I remember with pain and annoyance that my husband ran a Triathlon that year and that he was never around. He left me one weekend when I was deathly ill with the two kids. I thought that I might die in the night and my two-year-old might have to save the baby. I was out of my head. I tried to tell a producer and director who were trying to meet with me about a project how miserable I was and that trying to “make a deal with me” was probably a bad idea. I was in a fog.

Things are better now. They still scream for me at night, my two year-old, Lilly especially, but it’s overall less. I hear screams and I put Homeland or Parenthood on pause. Maya at the same age gave me/us I should say me a much harder time. So Lilly gets a set of parents that take less shit…hopefully. And mommy is in a better place.

Lilly takes a “tots” ballet class at 9:30 on Monday mornings these days.  We never get there on time, but even the remaining 30 minutes that we are there, Lilly enjoys the mommy –and-me time she gets very much.

“Ballet?” She says as we head the direction of class. “Yes,” I say. “Just you and me,”…”No Maya!” She says. And we dance…and she wants to be held. She’s the littlest one in the class. The other mothers and babysitters who are with the slightly older girls all look upon us with a certain “Oh my god, she’s so cute.” It’s true, and of course, I’m seeing this with the rose-colored glasses that she is my kid, but she is pretty cute. She runs to me after each solo exercise with such glorious excitement and yells “Mommy!” I open my arms and swallow her up. And I remember that two years ago, I was doing this with Maya, and it’s funny, because she also ran to me in the same way – with complete and utter excitement and got the same giggles and smiles from the other parents. And I know, unequivocally, that these moments with my two-year-old are absolutely precious. A gift, a joy, and I’m so happy that I’m in a better place and I’m allowing myself to stop and to use a cliché “smell the roses.”

Image

Just some thoughts about parenting

It’s hard to believe that last year I had a two-year-old who still sucked on her pacifier, slept in a crib, had awful tantrums and wore diapers. I also had an eight-month old baby. Only a year later and they are already so big, so independent; only one in diapers, one who sucks a pacifier and only one in a crib.

Maya, my almost four-year-old talks like a teenager and seems to have such a confident grasp of concepts; and my little one wants to be big. She’s so darn cute and coming right along. She says “Vadi” for water, the Russian word for it. Yup, she’s coming along. This summer, it’s me that is stalled. Without proper time set aside, I lose myself in parenting. I have a marketing client (I do), who I’ve mostly ignored all summer. I have a playwriting career (I do) and in the summer and winter I simply don’t….have…time. Normally when you have a job, it’s a job and there is a set time that you go do that job. For a mom that works from home, who doesn’t have both kids in school or a day care, where do you get this “time?” You beg, borrow, steal…you pay for it. So it’s a lot to figure out. How do I spend the time that I mostly have to pay for? 

And then, during the summers and winters, I have so much less help that there are days and days that pass by where I don’t get a break, a moment of thought to myself, and I just give in to it…to this parenting thing, and I’m okay with that.

I realize I’m not working a normal job (9-5) for a reason and I know why. I don’t have full-time help for several reasons and I know why. The truth is, I am here in this moment flipping through the channels trying to find Olivia because I want to be here…

When you are a parent you have so many moments of “Wow, oh my god…this is amazing….This is so hard…Why am I sweating so much? Do I really have to bend over to gardenfairylillyget that? Oh yeah, you have learned to put on your own jacket….Please don’t jump on that….Break that…Eat that….Don’t talk to me like that!….Why is it raining and I am pushing a double stroller? And then, it’s over – Pre-school…pushing a double stroller…your parenting time, or maybe your life. So you better enjoy every rainy day, every fight, every tear…every cuddle.

Five Things I’ve Learned (about being a mom that is).

So now that I am six months into being a mom of 2 what have I learned? A lot, Here’s five short lessons from my first half a year of having two little ones.

#1.) Time Management 101. I had heard this one before, but 3PM is too late to do anything. Maybe not for the rest of the world, but for us moms 3PM is LATE. Are you kidding by 3PM I am pooped! Note to self: Please get a sitter in the am.

#2.) Poopie Diapers! Everyone’s favorite topic, I know. But when you have kids you talk about it a lot. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this one out. Don’t throw poopie diapers in the diaper pail. Put them in plastic bags and throw them out — as in out of your house — immediately. For 2 plus years I wondered why my daughter’s room was so stinky.

#3.) In case of Emergency!  Not packing a diaper bag? No worries.  You don’t really need it — or do you? One day I took my 2-year-old out to a birthday party in Brooklyn. It was just the two of us. We were having so much fun. She seemed like such a big girl now, holding my hand and walking beside me.  Ooops. I forgot somehow that she wasn’t potty trained. She talks so well that we just ran out the door and whoops! I was calling my husband: “Hurry up with that diaper, Oh my god.”

So after that day I decided to make a little emergency pack in my regular purse for both girls. Oh, I am so, so organized I thought to myself when putting it together. In a plastic bag I put the following: 2 diapers – one for the big girl, one for the baby, A small bottle of formula — just in case — a nipple for the top that is still the wrapper, something that can be used as a wet wipe in an emergency, hand sanitizer and a small Luna bar for mommy. Again, so frigging organized right?  You don’t know how many times I’ve eaten the Luna bar or pulled out the hand sanitizer. Hmmm…what’s missing from this awesome emergency baby packet? Today I knew. A pacifier. Argh! (This is where I swear).

Okay, so I took both girls out to a mama lunch with mama friends this afternoon with our babes. It was my two-year-old’s nap time, but I thought, she can make it, right? Wrong. She wanted her pacifier and I had been out on an audition earlier and only had my purse with me. Poppy had brought her to school. We weren’t thinking about what we didn’t have.  I looked all over and there was no pacifier to be found. A pacifier could have calmed the savage beast that my daughter turned into. She was out-of-control, like I hadn’t seen her since she was 15-months-old (the good old days I call them). As soon as I got the girls home, I put a pacifier in my emergency pack. What else am I missing? Not sure yet.

4. Are you a mom who auditions for commercials? Sometimes I still get invited to audition for commercials. I was an actress — yo. And I used to be pretty cute. But that was BEFORE I had 2 kids back-to-back. I don’t even look like a mom now, I look like a creature who came out of a cave who is starved and certainly due for a hair cut. As my husband so sweetly put it: “At those castings they are looking for fake moms.” You know, super hot, skinny moms who have perfectly gorgeous whitened teeth. Yes, of course I realize  that some of those skinny bitches are also moms. They probably put a fire out on there way there too. Whatever. My current size is actually the size of a plus-size model, but model I am not. I look so tired that I hardly recognize myself. I guess my agent hasn’t seen me lately (hope he doesn’t read this – ha!). Truth is, I like going out to these auditions, even if I most-likely won’t be cast, at least not in my current state. It’s a small reminder of my old life, the old me. You know the me that once had a job in an office. The me that dressed up to go out of the house once in awhile and looked put together.  More and more I catch myself going out in clothes once reserved for bedtime, or uh Target shopping in California. To go out in NYC wearing sneakers when your are not on your way to a workout is uh, not cool. It’s a New York City faux-pax. At least for me it is, I mean was. Now I’ve got a baby sleeping right in front of my closet, so I just grab whatever is there that might fit me. Turns out, nothing fits. It’s all either too big or too small. And my hairdo these days – pulled back mom do. But I’ve been rocking this look for years.  The difference? I go days without washing it now, or even brushing it sometimes. The other day I found that I had grown a dread lock. Yes, seriously. My hair also grew long when I wasn’t looking.  I guess when you don’t have time for hair….it’s time to pour perfume oil on your dread locks?

So I’m all set for my “mom” audition today. I got up pretty early, had time to shower and really put my face on. I nearly saw the old me behind those long dreamy eye lashes. I looked pretty good. I combed my hair, but didn’t really have time to blow it dry, so I put it up. Wet. I swear it looked good when I left.

When I got to the audition and saw all these beautiful versions of me with their perfectly coiffed  blown dry. I realized I had made a mistake. Hmm. Maybe I should wear my hair down?  Oh, can’t do that, it’s wet and I forgot to bring a comb. (Note to self: put an emergency comb in that bag).

What was I thinking? You don’t go to an audition with wet hair. I also had the baby in the carrier on my chest. She fell asleep and I had to go on camera with her there. Oy. Well, she at least covered my fat tummy. I’m not exactly waiting for my phone to ring.

5. Do something for yourself every day. Like today, I’m doing this blog. This is fun for me. Ah. Feels good.

A mom of two

I remember one day back when my daughter was maybe eight months old. It was around 10 in the morning and raining out, so I took her to a story hour at the library next door to my apartment in New York City. We were late, so by the time we arrived the story hour was over. There was a mom of three there. Her 4-year-old was sitting calmly next to her, a 2 year-old on her lap and a 3-month-old on a mat on the floor. She was beautiful, full of love and life. She somehow stayed calm, reading a book to all, while touching the young baby. I was awe-struck at her mothering. I sat nearby with my baby and I wanted her to wrap both of us up in her love. As a mother of just one, I didn’t quite feel like a mom. Not compared to that supermom.

Back then I was just getting used to my life as a mother of one. I really had no concept of what it would be like to have 2 of them.

This past October, just 2.5 months ago I had baby number 2. Lilly Emme Paperny was born. I’ve been wildly overwhelmed by — wow, just having a second baby. I’m also so busy. Mon dieu. How did our mothers’ do this? I mean, how did they do it? Motherhood has to be the hardest and the most unappreciated job in the world.

Meanwhile, I am feeling old and tired. My skin looks dry — and it is dry. I’m breastfeeding like crazy and I’m dried out. I feel like I’ve been through a war and I’m on autopilot. I have no “evening” because my baby only sleeps for 4 hours before I need to breastfeed her again. It’s exhausting. I’m on edge. And I don’t feel like anyone understands. Perhaps they do, perhaps it’s just tough. I want 20 massages, I do!  And then I stop and ask how have women done this for centuries? We are amazing. My mom is amazing.

At some point I’ll have more time. At some point my little girls will be grown. And then I’ll be sad. I’ll miss them as babies. My two-year-old is just hilarious. The things she says, the looks she gives me — her songs, her dances. What a great age. And little Lilly, oh my gosh. She’s so sweet, so alert.

So now I’m a real mother because I have 2. I have “children” not a child. I have context because I’ve just raised another infant from 0-2….

I am also more than just a mom. I am. I’m a playwright. I have a new job waiting for me when I’m ready. And when will that be? Right now…is right now.

Stranger Danger

The horrible story of Leiby Kletzky, a lost Brooklyn boy walking home from day camp who was killed earlier this week is just so awful and depressing, and I am just thinking about his poor family.  But as a parent myself to a precocious little girl it has me wondering what am I going to do? How am I going to teach my daughter not to walk away with a stranger?

It’s just so hard to believe that this little boy wasn’t abducted, he just asked for help from the wrong person.

This made me think back on something scary that happened to me when I was 6 years old.  First off, I grew up in the country and yes, my mom had talked to me about strangers. Probably because  I grew up in the country and wasn’t flooded with strange faces,  I think I was indeed more afraid and aware when someone was a stranger. I can remember  being fearful of my step mom because she said she had been to France.

Living in a big city like New York, I think about how many people and situations our children are exposed to, which is both good and bad.  At the playground, in elevators, on the street in cabs, etc, we (as parents) are always talking to strangers and so are our children.

One day long ago in a small city near our tiny town my brother was playing soccer at an elementary school, one that was, at the time unknown to me. It was a cold, foggy Saturday morning and my mom was sitting in the car with some other soccer moms chatting and laughing, so I guess she let me out to play — right in front of them in a playground. Sure, I played for a few minutes, but kids get bored and soon I had wandered off toward the school buildings, probably excited that I would soon be old enough to go to real school myself.

Before long I was lost and because of the fog, couldn’t remember the way back.
Out of the blue, a man appeared.  He asked me if I was lost. I was.
He said that he was a teacher and that he would show me the way back.
He held my hand.
As soon as he held my hand, I realized I had made an error. I was immediately uncomfortable and I had a feeling that he wasn’t a teacher.
We walked by a classroom and he pointed to it through the window and told me that this was his room and that he studies little girls bodies. I was very scared, and knew I was in trouble. I also knew that he wasn’t taking me back to where my mom’s car was. But I didn’t panic. I didn’t scream. I acted as normal as possible and actually continued chatting with him.
But I started thinking of how I was going to get away. I was looking around for where I could run, where anyone was. Where I could see people, hear people.
He took me to the back of one of the buildings and asked me to put my hands up against the wall, which I did. Then he asked me if I could take my clothes off.
I told him that I couldn’t easily do that because I had all my ballet clothes on underneath my clothes and I even showed him (I was wearing a pink ballet outfit with tights, all underneath my clothes) . He was not pushy. He calmly asked me if I would  take my pants off. I had the same response about the ballet costume and showed him again.
Then I heard voices, laughter. I looked to my left and I could see the other playground and that there was a girl was on a swing. From where I was standing, I could just catch sight of her when she’d swing to the back, because half the swing could been seen from behind the buildings where we were standing. This was not too far from us, maybe only one building away, and I realized that I was not completely alone and I needed to do something, anything.
So I pretended that I knew her. I yelled “Suzi!” Of course I didn’t know her or her name. I said to the man, “there’s my friend.”
So he said that I could go. And I ran over to the other playground. I waited until I felt safer and then walked along the sidewalk down to the other end where my mom was parked. I told my mom and her friends what had just happened and she drove me immediately to the police department where I gave an account of the story and a description of the man. They later caught him. He was a repeat pedophile who had molested other girls.

I realize that I was incredibly lucky and I learned a valuable lesson that day. I was a very independent, gregarious child and apparently before the age of 6, I used to get lost and walk away with anyone, despite what my mother had told me about strangers. When I was only one my parents lost me at the beach one day,  and turned to see my floating away in some wave. I was saved by a woman walking by who happened to see me.

This man could have taken me into the woods that were directly behind the school without a fence, or to a more private place. He could have been more forceful. This could have gone a completely different way, and I realize that I am lucky to be alive to tell the story.

One thing that struck me from my memory of this event is how easily I got confused and lost. Another is that I did have an awareness that this man was a stranger and I knew something was off right away, and I started looking for exits/strategies.
Outside of talking to our kids about “not going away with a stranger” maybe we need to talk to them about what to do if they become lost. What to do if they get in a bad situation. It’s easy to see how a lost child would reach out to someone who looks like a safe adult.  That’s what happened to me, and that’s what happened to this little boy from Brooklyn. Don’t forget, it’s very scary to be/feel lost to a small child. And there may not be a police man around.

My daughter is too little to talk to her about this yet, but yes, I am very scared. She is precocious and already runs away from me. She will be a handful when it comes to wanting her independence.  Sigh.

I plan to have this discussion with her as soon as I think she can understand.