Americaversary

I meant to do this yesterday, on my true Americaversary, but you know how it goes… We spent the past two days in NYC and by the time I had a moment to sit with my thoughts when we got home, I was too tired to put finger to keyboard.

But I feel like I should mark time with this post, even if it’s not going to be a very elaborate one. (For that, keep checking Full Grown People that will publish my essay on the topic soon.) So, 20 years ago yesterday, I arrived in America. Clearly, I didn’t know back then that I was here to stay. It’s weird to think back to that time, to starting college, to being by myself for the first time ever. But I made it through. I wasn’t alone in it at all — my family and lots of friends helped me get to where I am.

It’s a complicated thing to be an American and it’s even more complicated to love America — especially these past two weeks or so. But there is a reason people from all over the world still come here searching for success, happiness, opportunity. There is still magic here, even if as an immigrant you end up with a sort of boring, average life like mine. (Ok, maybe my life is not that boring or that average.)

Yesterday I took Sam to see the Statue of Liberty. He wanted to go and it was an awesome experience to share. I am not sure how much of it he understood — I feel like he was sort of storing information in his little brain for further exploration at a later, unexpected time. He was more excited about the gift shop than the plight of immigrants. He is a true American, isn’t he?

liberty

 

So this happened….

I don’t care what anyone says: seeing your name in print never gets old. Sure, online publishing is awesome and quick and popular. But nothing beats the feeling of crinkly newspaper print between your fingers. Love it.

wapo

My 4-year-old loves toy guns and I don’t know how to parent that

mcmullinThere was a standoff in our living room this morning. A group of knights attacked a group of pirates right there by the coffee table. There were several casualties, including horses that needed immediate attention while armed policemen waited nearby. There were reports of slain dragons, a princess who fainted, and a child was driving the rescue truck. A police helicopter was hovering over the scene.

It was mayhem.

This type of violence is not uncommon in our living room these days. My son is 4 and a half and he likes to play with soldiers and pirates and policemen. And swords. And guns.

I grew up in Europe where I knew exactly one person who owned a gun. I never actually saw said gun, just heard that one of our neighbors liked to hunt. The  police came to question us before issuing his weapons permit.

In fact, I never saw a gun until I met my father-in-law a few years ago. He lives on a farm in central Pennsylvania, and the cabinet next to his bed is filled with shotguns. He uses them to hunt and to shoot sick animals or unwelcome groundhogs. One time when we were visiting, he left his shotgun casually leaning against a car we wanted to drive. Seeing my husband pick up and move the gun made me queasy and uncomfortable. What if it goes off? Do guns do that, just by accident?

Read the rest on The Washington Post site!

NY, NY

It is such a cliche to love New York, no? Is there anyone out there who does not find it magical, inspirational, annoying, and irresistible? I mean, sure, there might be some people who hate the place, but I haven’t met that person yet.

For the first time in my life, I live close enough to “The City” that it’s not really a big deal to pop in and out for a day. It is awesome. I love it that on the roads I travel most around my neighborhood there are signs pointing to New York City. It is always tempting to make that turn and just head there for no reason.

I was sort of joking when I suggested to a friend that we should go bra shopping in New York because… well, because why the hell not? Thankfully, she took me seriously and on Friday we took off and spent the day shopping, walking, talking, eating.

It was glorious.

In no particular order:

1. Number of bra and panty sets purchased: 3
2. Last time I owned matching bras and panties: Never.
3. Earrings: 1 pair
4. Fancy hair thingy to get away from boring ponytails: 1
5. Size of steak we shared at Wolfgang’s: Who knows? It was ginormous.
photo-2 copy

 

6. Manhattanhenge! 

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7. And on the other side of the street: crazy Moon!

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8. Cigarettes smoked: 2
9. Last time I smoked a cigarette: 15 years-ish, at least.
10. Blisters on feet after walking all day: 2
11. Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity: YUM. Must be some kind of witchcraft.

And finally: finding a new friend in a new city and traveling so well together: totally and completely priceless. Calendar marked for our next trip!

This is how we sleep

When my husband is away on a business trip, Sam and I share a bed. I tried to fight it, but then the business trips became too frequent and Sam and I spent less time not sleeping than sleeping. It just wasn’t working.

Last night he snuggled in next to me — all cool and sweet-smelling from his bath. We read some books and then curled up under the covers. It was barely 8 o’clock but we were both tired and cranky. I rubbed his back then he rubbed mine with is pudgy hands.

Then came the question that I’ve been getting a lot these days: “Mama, will you marry me? I want to marry you.”

I was half asleep and this is a conversation we’ve had many, many times before. I took the easy way out.

“Sure,” I said.

Silence.

“Mama, why are you so fat?”

I chuckled awake and pretended to be offended. I laughed and said: “You know what, I don’t think I will marry you after all.”

“No, no, Mama, I don’t mind! I don’t mind that you are fat!”

And strangely I didn’t mind either.

LOVE

Sam is in love.

Miss Asia is about 18, tall, with beautiful long, black hair. She is a new teacher at his preschool and she is not even his teacher, but that didn’t stop him from picking her as the one. All it took was one afternoon of playing with spray water bottles on the playground and he was smitten.

“I love you and Miss Asia,” he told me that afternoon, with a special emphasis on the “and.” He later told me that he thought Miss Asia was as pretty as I am. Then a few days later we had to make a card for Miss Asia. Sam picked out a piece of white paper and a red pen and stood next to me as he dictated. “Miss Asia, I love you so very much. You are beautiful. I love you so, so much. Love, Sam.”

Confession time: I did not write those exact words on the card. As soon as he said them they felt so raw and honest and… I am not even sure what. It wasn’t jealousy that made me write “I love playing with you on the playground” instead of “I love you so very much,” but some kind of a protective instinct that wanted him to guard his feelings and not put everything on the table.

I feel foolish about this now, but at the moment it felt like the right thing to do. And then I wondered: at what point in life do we lose the ability to put our feelings out there so purely and so honestly? Is it after the first heartbreak? Or is it earlier? Is it somehow learned, ingrained in us like good manners? I want Sam to feel overpowering love and passion, just the way he feels it now. And I want him to be able to express it freely and without reservation, like it is the most natural thing on earth. Because it is.

But I don’t want him to get hurt or be made fun of by anyone. Somehow we all learn to be “smart” about love — about who calls whom first, who makes the first move, when and how it’s safe to say “I love you” for the first time. It seems like there are so many rules about dating and love. Rules that in the end don’t really protect us from disappointment or heartbreak.

So maybe the five-year-old is right when he puts all of his cards on the table and allows himself to be swept up by this great, big, mysterious thing.

I should learn from him.

How Can I Help My Son Adjust to a New City?

new-home

It is one of those mornings. Sam woke up early and now he is in my bed, snuggled as close as possible, twirling my hair around his fingers. His breath is warm on my cheek and his long limbs are wrapped around me. “I don’t want to go to school, Mama. I don’t like my new school. Nobody loves me there. And the toys are boring,” he says.

I turn to him and hold him close, trying to find the right words to comfort him. It is not easy.

My little guy is having a hard time. To be honest, we are all having a hard time, but Sam is the one who is new to this world of changes and challenges. We just moved to a new city and he started attending a new preschool. We are away from family, from the familiar, from the routine.

At first, everything was exciting: the new school, the new classmates, the new teachers. There were new toys to explore, new books to read, new songs to learn. As we worked on establishing a new life, it was fun to explore things together. Just going to the grocery store was an adventure.

But now it seems the honeymoon is over and Sam is more and more aware of what he is missing from our old life. He talks about the friends he left behind, his favorite children’s museum and playground, our old house where he was born. We visit often because his grandparents still live there, but sometimes I am not sure if returning “home” as he refers to it is helpful or if it’s just making the adjustment even harder.

Read the rest at Kveller!