Please switch to airplane mode

Leaving now. Luv u

It’s 5am. I was just falling back to sleep. But I reply:

Luv u

Four, five, six hours later:


K. Thanks

He travels a lot. Almost every week, at least three days a week, all over – Seattle, Cleveland, Dallas, Chicago. He takes red-eyes so that he doesn’t have to waste a day, often going all the way to New York for one meeting, returning to San Francisco the same day. There are days when the exchange above is the sum total of our interaction. At least I know he’s alive, and somewhere. Airplane wifi is the greatest invention ever.


He’s always traveled, even before we were married and we were living in South Africa with our parents. He would travel to the U.S. and we would have blow-out phone arguments at $2 a minute because I felt alone and abandoned, and he was in meetings all day and couldn’t call exactly when he said he would, and there were two continents and ten time zones between us. I’m sure our parents thought our engagement would be over before it had a chance to begin!

And now there are days when neither of us even notices that 14 hours have passed with no contact. Not because we don’t love each other, or don’t care to talk to each other, but because of L.I.F.E. It was evening, it was morning. And it was good.

Before Kids (B.K.) I hated being alone when he went out of town. Days were busy with work, friends, yoga, dog walks – but the nights… yuck. Long. Lonely. Monica, Rachel, Ross and Joey were pretty good company (remember the one with Fun Bobby?), along with Dr Ross, Nurse Hathaway and nebbishy Paul and Jamie. That was fifteen years ago – I didn’t know to really savor my alone time. B.K.

Six weeks after our first child was born, he went out of town – far out of town. To Taiwan. My mother-in-law sent a sweet email: “Nicki, now you won’t be lonely when he travels.” She was referring to the baby who would keep me company, and to the as yet unknown three future babies who would join us when he left on the gazillion future trips.

I wasn’t lonely – she was right. I was completely stressed out. I had to do everything myself and by myself, from morning till night and through the night. No relief from crying babies, changing diapers, preschool drop-offs, grocery lists, bedtime stories, teething pain blah blah fucking blah. I think I hated him… and then loved him more than ever when he would finally come home.

Until the night of the revelation.

Kids all bathed, fed and miraculously asleep by 7.30pm – thank you very much, there’s nothing a mother can’t do single-handedly! – I inhaled a bowl of cereal for dinner (fish sticks and apple slices have never appealed to me), got into bed, and watched Private Practice… by myself. Alone. Not lonely. Happy! He hated that show, always gave me a hard time about watching it. But that night, I didn’t have to answer to anybody about what I was doing, and why I was doing it. No unrealistic expectations about who was reading to whom, whose turn it was to clean up the kitchen. Only me to expect anything of – so I did it. Or I didn’t. And got into bed. With a book. Or Don Draper. Easy.

He never travels on the weekend. He always makes it back home in time for Shabbat dinner. It is easy, and we’re all used to it. His weekday schedule is unpredictable, and I never know if he’s going to be in town from one day to the next. So I assume he’s not. No expectations equals no disappointments equals happy wife equals happy life. And if he can accompany me to the JCC event, even happier wife.

But I’ve noticed something lately. Something I didn’t notice before. Or it wasn’t there. Or I wasn’t paying attention while I was wiping noses, and cleaning up after the dog, and keeping that one awake while putting this one to bed.

He anchors me.

When he’s not in town, I am not quite here either. I get it all done, and I eat my cereal, or skip dinner, or go out with my girlfriends, or attend the barmitzvah solo. And it’s easy. And even fun.

But I feel like a big red balloon that’s been let go, left to float above the leafy trees of responsibility and accountability. It’s big and blue and airy up there – and kinda scary. Actually, a lot scary. Not because if anything happens to the kids, G-d forbid, it’s all on me. Not because if anything happens to me, G-d forbid, one of those kids will have to figure it out for a bit. Not because it’s exhausting, emotionally and physically, being mom and dad for those days. All of that is true, and for single parents everywhere that is indeed the reality every day, not just some days.

It’s scary because I’m alone with me. I switch to airplane mode. I disconnect.

Because, after 16 years, four kids, one dachshund, two countries, a bunch of schools and home loans and jobs, two minivans and a gazillion flights, he is the tether that keeps me grounded. Gives me perspective. Keeps it real. Even when real is not pretty. And those blow-out arguments are still happening, with stakes now way higher than $2 a minute and we are breathing down each other’s necks instead of transatlantic phone lines.

But pretty or not, real feels better than auto-pilot.

If it’s Thursday it must be LA. But that seatbelt sign will go off.

And airplane mode will switch to fully functioning 4G.

Longing for a letter – no app for that

I texted 17 people yesterday. About five texts per person. Let’s call it 100 texts altogether. I have no frame of reference – is that a lot? Or average textage for a day? I don’t use my thumbs yet. I’ve been texting on an iPhone for just five years, so I still pick out the letters with one hand. I’m pretty fast. But if I used my thumbs I bet I could double my daily output!

Arranged Thursday’s carpool, scheduled a dinner for next week, confirmed the location and time of my meeting today, checked in on three friends, thanked a mom for having my son over, had a real-time “conversation” with another – just another day in the texting-life of me.

You can’t beat this mobile, portable mode of communication for convenience, efficiency and immediacy. It rocks! In the frenetic whirlwind I call my day, it’s the only way to keep all the wheels moving, on the fly, while never missing a beat. And I don’t have to talk to a single person to make any of it happen. (If only the pediatrician and school secretary would allow me to text them, I really would never have to make calls!)

I stay in touch with friends and family all over the world within seconds, send a photo of the book recommended to show I’m reading and love it, did you watch “Downton Abbey”, say thank you for having us over last night, for schlepping my children, for dropping off the surprise orchid just because. With all the gratitude, and intention and sincerity that comes with saying these words in person or on the phone. Because as much as I don’t have the precious minutes to momentarily halt the rhythm of my chaos, and say the words out loud, neither does the recipient of my message. We are human, and we love to be connected, and to feel the love and the thanks and the community – but we are busy, too busy. And this is how we all do it in 2014.

U, ur, lol, brb, abt, omg, ltr… in the US we say xo, and in the rest of the English-speaking world they say xx, and does X mean something different to x, and what if it’s xxx, or xoxo? Did Ryan not text me back about picking up the boys because he’s in a meeting, or because he’s mad at me? Smiley face or emoji? It’s an efficient way to communicate, but also the fastest way to miscommunicate. It’s too quick, too instantaneous. As if instantaneous could get any more immediate! Did u say non-fat or regular latte? Hello? Answer me now ordering, long line behind me. Why aren’t u answering?

A swirling blizzard of short-hand words, coming down faster and faster in a blurring flurry.

When I was 11 I started writing letters to my great-aunt in Delray Beach, Florida. Long, newsy letters on pages of pretty writing paper. For at least ten years, all through high school and into college and beyond. “Dear Auntie Bea…” And she of course replied to every one. On those blue aerogrammes or on pale pink onionskin paper, that weighed nothing so wouldn’t cost too much to mail. “My dearest Nicki…” in her spidery scrawl.


Those letters took a long time to travel between Pretoria, South Africa and Delray Beach. I would reply as soon as I possibly could – once I had read it in the quiet of my bedroom, or at the kitchen table, I would sit down after dinner and homework and write her back. She signed all her letters, “Oceans of love…”

Her words would fall like gentle snowflakes, and once they had settled around me, I could reply. Thoughtfully. Mindfully. Taking breaths between sentences.

I do love communicating in the 21st century – I wrote about it just a couple months ago. Besides the essential texting, and the Instagram which gives me access to a part of my boys’ lives they would never allow me otherwise, Jon Lovitz actually read the blog I wrote about him (or so he says) and then tweeted me (or his publicist did), and how cool is that?!

But there is tension and confusion in the immediacy of our communication today. Too much potential to read between the lines, to take things the wrong way, to respond too quickly. No space to breathe. Or to think. No time to connect to ourselves, never mind to each other.

Across the vast Atlantic Ocean, a decade’s worth of letters slowly traveled back and forth carrying simple truths of stories, hopes, wishes. I am longing for a letter like that again, for the space to breathe, and to feel the snowflakes settle around me.

Text me, I’ll send you my address :).

Oceans of love.


Letters I received after writing this blog 🙂

Baby, I’m yours

My little guy loves to stroke my arms. And snuggle his face into my neck. “You smell good,” he says, looking up at me with his liquid brown eyes, “Your skin is soft.” His apple cheeks lift up as he grins at me.

His little nose sniffs at me whenever he can – as I help him into the car, he leans toward me a little. When I sit on the couch looking through a magazine, he comes up and smells my shoulder. “I like your smell,” he says with a smile, and runs off. Jo Malone Red Roses. Tide laundry detergent. Just plain old soap. It all coalesces into eau de Mommy for him. Powerful potion.

He rubs his small hand on any length of my exposed skin he can find.Over and over, with gentle, repetitive four-year-old rhythm. My neck, my forearm, my shoulder, my shin. I know he likes the feel of his mommy’s skin – which is soft because it’s getting older, losing elasticity, wrinkling a little bit. I used to love feeling my grandmother’s neck for the same reason – turkey skin she would say, and I’d giggle thinking of her as Granny Turkey, but also because I didn’t know how else to respond, it was like turkey skin! He loves to feel it because it’s soft but also because when he touches his skin to my skin, catches a whiff of Red Roses, it means I’m really his mom, and I’m here, right next to him, for now and for always.

But I hate being touched like that, by anyone. Those featherlight fingertips running up and down my arm make my skin crawl. I can stand it for barely two minutes, before I take his hand in mine, pull him into my lap for a squeeze and suggest he build a Lego tower, or go find his brothers. “Okay,” he says cheerily, all smiles and brown eyes.

He’s my baby, the youngest of four over an eight-year-spread. We didn’t really plan on having four kids. As the story goes, I thought we’d kinda start talking about it… right when I discovered I was pregnant. We didn’t feel we were quite done with three (don’t ask me why, I really couldn’t answer without sounding like a kooky, mystical palm-reader trying to earn a fast buck), but theoretical exploration of having another seemed like the right thing to do. Let’s talk about it.

Ha! Man plans, G-d laughs… 

Even while I knew we were in for a wild ride, I could never have predicted the extent to which adding another beating heart under our roof would drive me over the edge! And he wasn’t a difficult heart to care for – easy baby, no issues with eating, sleeping, developing, growing. Thank G-d. But he was another live being, needing something, many somethings, from me.

Thankfully we all doted on him, took turns playing with him, feeding him. His brothers and sister adored him. Even if I wasn’t available, there was always someone taking care of him. And in a big family, the youngest has to learn to roll with it – more than anyone. Sometimes I couldn’t feed him right when he woke up, because his siblings had to get to school. Or his afternoon nap would last no longer than ten minutes as they and their friends noisily pounded past his bedroom.

And almost five years later he still rolls with it. If there’s nobody in the kitchen, he fixes his own snack. He learnt to dress himself way earlier than his siblings. There’s usually someone to play with him, but he’s more than happy to enter the world of Ninjago alone. As he makes himself tea in a sippy cup, I jokingly say there’s a fine line between independence and neglect – but he has learnt to be independent because there’s not always somebody there to do it for him.JedTea

And most often, that somebody not there is his mom. I am schlepping the others. Or helping them with their homework. Or making one of the 800 school lunches I will make this year. Or being a mom to a 12-year-old, which is very different to being a mom to a four-year-old. Or I’m writing. Or reading. Taking a break from the chirping cacophony of “Mommy.”

Often I have no patience for him: his sister is upset or his brother is stressing about his paragraph on Mark Twain, and I don’t feel like watching the ninja move for the tenth time. Or I’m running late, and I shoo him out the door, but he wanted to go round the back and meet me at the car, and now he’s crying because he really, really wanted to do that. But I don’t have time for a tantrum right now, just get in the car. I don’t even listen to him as he wails, “You never let me do what I want to do.” I couldn’t be further away from him.

But he is always here for me. Urging me to be present. When the house is too quiet (it happens on occasion), and I can’t listen to my own thoughts any longer, I wander into his bedroom, and watch him happily playing by himself. He looks up, all smiles and brown eyes. I sit down on the floor and he climbs into my lap, buries his face in my neck. He strokes my arm for two minutes, and then I hold his little hand in my slightly wrinkly one.

“You’ll always be my baby,” I tell him.

“Not when I’m a dad,” he says, laughing.

“Even when you’re a dad.”