Friday, December 11, 2009

A Claus-et Case

Dear Zen Mother,

Every holiday season I am filled with dread. The shopping, the cooking, the relatives – it’s so much to handle. What can I do to minimize the stress?

Eliza from Newburyport

Dear Eliza,

Time alone is your best friend. My advice? Head straight to a quiet little tea house with a good murder mystery and allow yourself to dream that you too could murder people, given the right set of blunt objects. Other than that, please know you are not alone. In fact, I recently came across Mrs. Claus’s diary from a few years ago. It may comfort you to read some of her entries:

November 2 – Dear Diary, today we kicked off the holiday season with political correctness training. As part of our inclusion campaign, we will light Rudolph’s antlers on fire for each night of Hanukkah.

November 8 – Dear Diary, here’s what I want for Christmas: A bathroom I don’t have to share with 400 little elves. I caught them drawing on the mirror with my new Bobbi Brown lipsticks. Next time I catch one of them in my makeup bag, I’m flushing him down the toilet.

November 17 – Dear Diary, the big man just informed me his mother is coming for Christmas dinner. Well that’s just great. He goes flying around the world Ho, Ho, Hoing, leaving me to entertain the old bag. I guess he’s forgotten how she deserted him as an infant so she could live at the canasta table in Atlantic City. I am not playing naughty and nice with him when he gets home.

December 2 – Dear Diary, while the big guy and the elves worked on the sleigh in the garage, the sugar plum fairy and I decided to make cosmos and watch the DVD set of Sex and the City. It was a real hoot until the sugar plum fairy slipped into her glass and got trapped under the lime wedge. Note to self: Choose someone who weighs more than six ounces for a drinking buddy.

December 13 – Dear Diary, I needed a break from all the cooking so I sent Dasher down to Boston Market for some takeout turkey dinners. He threw a hissy fit about the smell of roasting meat lingering in his scarf and called me insensitive. To make up for it, I promised to get his hooves done before the big night. Why is everyone around me so high maintenance?

December 22 – Dear Diary, If one more little brat emails us about the supercharged, superbionic, superexpensive, super toy they want for Christmas, I am going to jump in Santa’s sleigh, fly down to the kid’s house, and stuff him up the chimney.

December 24 – Dear Diary, well, tonight got off to a rough start. The sleigh had trouble lifting off the ground with all the extra coal on board for the Bush Administration, and the big guy left the workshop without his Blackberry and with only half the toys. I told the elves to load up Mrs. Claus’s flying Hummer. According to my GPS system, I could catch him in Vegas before midnight. And guess what? I found him at the canasta table.

December 30 – Dear Diary, another holiday season has come to an end. I put the retirement brochures on the big guy’s chair, just in case. But I know we will be back again next year. Happy New Year to me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Zen Mother Resurrected

It appears there is a movement afoot to raise me from the dead. Hmmm, will there be chocolate? 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Dear Zen Mother,

We are about to have our 3rd child and our car is not big enough to hold all of us. I hate the thought of buying a minivan. Besides purchasing an SUV, can you suggest an alternative vehicle?

Lindsey from North Carolina

Dear Lindsey,

You can’t dig to China, there is no Santa Claus, Rhett Butler never comes back for Scarlet and I have no alternative to offer a growing family other than the ubiquitous, suburban, home away from home, minivan. And let me add, I feel your pain.

Several years ago, I was pregnant with my third child. It was a day I’ll never forget. After running some errands, I pulled into our driveway in my sporty, Scandinavian-made car. My husband stopped his yard work and said, “You know, three kids, two baby seats and a hockey bag will not fit in your car. We should get a minivan.” From behind the wheel, I stared at him in disbelief. Seeing the look on my face, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s no big deal, is it?” I resisted the temptation to run him over.

For the next six months I tried to figure out a way to fit all the kids, their gear, the dogs and my work stuff into the car. Since my husband was now locked in the front hall closet, I did not need to accommodate his large frame. I spent hours in the garage unbolting, moving and bolting seats. I removed the convenient storage bin, the spare tire and the glove department. I hired an engineering firm.

One afternoon, while soldering the dog crate to the ski rack, my husband came into the garage and asked me if I would like to go out for dinner. While curious as to how he cut the rope holding him upside-down in our maple tree, I decided to accept his peace offer.

I should have suspected him right away. He took me to a crowded restaurant so, you know, I wouldn’t make a scene and announced he was trading in my car for a minivan the next day. As you can imagine, I was full of questions. “How could you do this to me? After everything my car and I have been through? Is nothing sacred to you?” I could have thrown a drink in his face. I could have screamed. I could have broken the dishes, but considering my husband would be spending the night next to the compost pile, I took pity on him and acquiesced. After all, our third son was due any day.

In time, I learned to adjust. Even my fantasies adjusted. I no longer dream about Hugh Jackman singing to me. Now, I dream about Hugh Jackman singing to me while I’m driving a pale yellow, 150 horsepower, 5-speed convertible Volkswagen Beetle with 17-inch alloy wheels and anti-locking brakes.

My tale ends well. The minivan has been indispensable to our lives, and when I throw dinner scraps out the window to my husband, I let him know as well.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Miracle on Ice

Editor's Note: With all the talk about hockey moms, evangelicals, and lipstick-wearing dogs, here is one from the archives. Enjoy!

Dear Zen Mother,

My kids want to play ice hockey. I’m terrified they will get hurt. How can I deter their interest?

Debbie from Newburyport

Dear Debbie,

Be forewarned, you may be interfering with a higher calling. In our town, there are two religions. One is celebrated at a church, the other at the local hockey rink and what God has created let no man put asunder.

Our divine encounter occurred in the middle of the night. A cherub resembling my five-year old boy appeared at my bedside. “Mom,” said the angel, “all I want to do is play hockey.” I bolted upright and screamed, “Noooooooooo!” but the apparition was gone. My husband awoke and asked what was wrong. “Jack wants to play hockey,” I said. “That’s ridiculous,” said my husband. “He doesn’t even know what hockey is.” We tiptoed into his bedroom. There was our little angel, sound asleep, with an autographed picture of Wayne Gretzky tucked under his arm. We fell to our knees in reverence. It was time to join the faithful.

“You have to be the bow,” my sister explained when I told her of the night’s celestial event and my subversive plan to sign Jack up for Irish Step Dance instead. “Gibran wrote, ‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.’ Jack will do what he wants. You can only guide him at this point.” I hung up on Miss I Quote Obscure Writers but she had a point. “Be the bow,” I repeated.

Our journey to enlightenment started with hockey registration. A jovial coach explained the schedule to me. If I understood him correctly, I would be spending the next 342 days driving to various hockey rinks in North America. Overwhelmed, I muttered my new mantra: Be the bow. I took the schedule from the coach’s hand and drove over to the sporting goods store.

Once there, I met the zealots: hockey moms, women who can style their hair, apply lipstick and tighten ice hockey skates in a single bound. “New this year?” asked a pretty redhead as I stared at a row of hockey sticks. I nodded. “You’ll need the right safety gear,” she said. The woman proceeded to list a dizzying array of hockey equipment: shin pads, elbow pads, shoulder pads, mouth guard, neck protector…I thought I might throw up in the $85 hockey bag I just purchased. I wondered if it was too late to interest my son in Origami. Be the bow.

Sunday morning arrived. We dressed Jack in his hockey uniform and buckled him into the back seat of the car. He looked like a small turtle in an oversized shell. I burst into tears. “I can’t be the bow!” I wailed. My husband understood but covered my mouth with hockey tape all the same. We arrived at the rink and Jack skated off without waiting for a kiss from his overprotective, bow-less mommy. From the stands I watched him learn to turn, stop and skate backward. It was time to scrimmage. Within seconds of the face-off, Jack had the puck and was skating toward the net. I stood, ripped the hockey tape from my mouth and screamed, “Put it through the five hole!”

I have no idea what I said but two hockey moms stood up behind me and yelled, “Amen!”

Monday, September 01, 2008

Over Exposed

As a general rule, I try not to take my children out in public. I also try to limit the number of visitors I have to my home. This greatly reduces the chances of the Charmin display catching fire at the end of Aisle 7, or the Mary Kay rep being asked to hold a poisonous snake since mommy is busy trying on smelly creams. By diligently adhering to this “less is more” philosophy I have saved the planet from disaster at least 26 times. Al Gore should be calling to thank me any minute.

Of course, children need a little something called “exposure” so they can develop beyond the constitution of your garden-variety asparagus. And since I am not a very good gardener, I decide it is time to venture forth into the world with my three boys in tow, and a pad of sticky notes for impromptu “I’m sorry my child broke your priceless Henry Moore sculpture; My college art professor said his work is overrated anyway.”

The outing is a visit to our local children’s theater – a charming, outdoor stage company that presents classic fairytales. Today they are presenting Hansel & Gretel. By intermission, I have given the boys five time-outs, picked bubblegum out of the pigtails of the little girl in front of us, and responded to the very rude man behind me, “Well it’s a little late for birth control now, don’t you think?”

Halfway through the second act, exasperated and suffering an asthma attack from saying, “That’s one, that’s two…!” I decide the woodcutter’s wife was on to something. I grab the kids by their collars, stomp on stage, and throw them into the old witch’s oven with a sticky note that reads, “Sorry to interrupt your delightful interpretation of H&G. I hope you enjoy the children. The middle child can be tough. Use extra salt.”

But the stage manager confronts me before I could leave the theater because, and I should have known this, you can’t place children inside a pretend oven on a stage during a performance unless the kids are cast members.

So we return home to our sanctuary where explosions can be contained to a fifty-foot radius, and visitors are limited to the mailman, who was relieved to learn Tarantula bites are not fatal, and my mother, who loves her grandchildren unconditionally as long as their hands and feet remain in view at all times.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Weighty Issues

Dear Zen Mother,

I have reached a “certain age,” and now I seem to be expanding along my midsection. Dieting does not help. Any suggestions?

Weighty Issues

Dear Weighty Issues,

Embrace your curves, love yourself unconditionally, and accept what each day brings you. BAH, HAH, HAH! Just kidding! Suck it in, girlfriend! Buy Spanx®, duct tape, OSHA-certified steel scaffolding – anything to hide that awful middle-age midsection. It’s so unfair, isn’t it? One day you’re running around in a little red bikini (okay, so you were five) and the next, well this happens…

I got behind the wheel of my car the other day and was stunned to see a roll of fat growing up and over my seatbelt. I exclaimed, “What the hell is this?” alarming an elderly man in a silver Toyota parked next to me.

“I’m eight pounds,” it answered.

“What the . . . Are you talking to me?”

“Yes, Robert De Niro, I’m talking to you.”

“Well, you can’t stay.” I unbuckled my seatbelt, opened the door to my minivan, and pointed to the sidewalk. “Get out!” The elderly man sped off, with a worried look.

“I’m afraid it’s not that easy.”

“Why’s that?” I huffed. “I didn’t invite you here.”

“Oh, like you didn’t. Ben & Jerry’s at one in the morning, cheesecake, sausage piz-umph!”

I wrenched the seatbelt tight across eight pounds to shut it up, and drove furiously through town. But everywhere I stopped, eight pounds was there. At the bank, eight pounds was there. At the supermarket, eight pounds was there. At school pick-up, eight pounds was there. I drove everywhere, hoping to leave behind eight pounds.

“Get away from me!” I yelled into my lap at a stoplight (unfortunately, the elderly man in the silver Toyota was in the next lane and was now convinced I was having an argument with my crotch).

“There’s no reason to be rude,” eight pounds replied.

“Is there anywhere you are not?” I asked, exasperated and desperate for a solution.

“Sure,” replied eight pounds.

“Tell me! I’m running out of gas.”

“The gym. I hate the gym. I never show up at the gym.”

It was at this point I embraced my curves, loved myself unconditionally, and accepted what each day brings me.

“C’mon eight pounds,” I said, giving the roll a loving little pat. “Let’s go buy some Spanx®. Would you like a donut?” The traffic light turned green. I winked at the elderly man in the next lane and drove off.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Return of Zen Mother

It's been a while, folks, but I can't hold her in much longer. Yep, that's right! Zen Mother will soon return, dishing out her most inappropriate advice. Got a question for Zen Mother? Send it to She'll pass it along ; )