Monday, February 15, 2016

InstaPerfect is a Warning Sign

It started early at 7am on Day One of our family beach vacation: "Mom, what are we doing today?"

“Go to the beach,” I tell them, pointing out the front door towards the breaking surf.

“No way. It’s 50 degrees outside,” they answer.

“Read, draw, play cards, actually talk to each other,” I tell them. Or argue. Because that ends up being the most likely thing they figure out to do. Family vacations are brutal. Some are better than others, but my job never changes - I'm required to be the concierge, the coordinator and the go-fer all rolled into one person. I’ve got the entire family looking for guidance on how to spend down time. And with work 24/7 (Alpha), water polo and violin (Olivia), lacrosse (Jackson) play and practice, guitar and chorus (Teddy), no one in my family knows how to have down time except Charlie (who is always on down time).

By Wednesday Alpha is beyond done with the togetherness of doing nothing. Grabbing the keys to our only vehicle, he makes a beeline for the front door explaining, “I need to make some calls so, I am going to head out where there is better reception.”

Marooned, with four cranky over scheduled kids, panic sets in. So I do, what I promised I would never do. I start to create my perfect Peters vacation on Instagram for the world to see. Call it escapism. Call it masochistic. Call me delusional. Think what you will. I chalk it up to survival.

It starts with a sunset, with Teddy throwing a stick (at his brother, not in picture) on the beach: “Sunsets are beautiful, even when it’s 50 degrees. #PetersPerfectvacation #lovingfl.” It was 40, with 35 mph winds. After getting blasted for the ten minutes we watched the sunset the Peters race back to the tiny beach bungalow to continue the vacation's #1 activity - arguing. The feedback immediately comes in. “Is that white sand?” “Gorgeous.” It makes me feel better. Who needs reality?

I post the most magnificent picture of the swamp we toured on an airboat. The sky (with just the right amount of clouds) is reflecting in the water, the lilies and seagrass, remarkable wheat and green. “Making the most of Liv’s water polo tournament. #FLeverglades #PetersPerfectvacation.” In fact, Alpha was working and I piled all four kids into the car to drive across Florida (4 hours across a straight, flat boring stretch known as Alligator Alley) to drop Liv off at a tournament. We squeezed a 2 hour Everglades trip in just to be faced with the shockingly long return trip 4 hours that felt like 8 back.  “Your picture is perfect,” read one of the comments. It should have made me pause.

The next day I capture Jackson rrunning with the seagulls. I post another beauty. “Flying home. #PetersPerfectvaction #itsablast.” Wishful thinking. No airplane in sight. We are spending another 48 hours in Florida with the entire Baby Boomer population of America before heading home. “Heaven” was one of the comments back to me.

“Mom’s addicted to her phone,” Alpha tells the kids. I was perusing other perfect picture possibilities, tuning out the card game in an ice cream shop we had found in Sarasota. Little did he know, I was the token dealer 100% of the week for gin and just taking a break.

There was a debate going on in my head whether to post the older kids kite boarding (otherwise known as standing in water holding a kite, while listening to instructions for two hours in the cold water). I had a few good ones where they were in their wet suits with the sail behind them. It gives off the impression we were never in an ice cream shop arguing while playing cards. We are that sporty family everyone envies, the one that does extreme things on vacation. Successfully. I could make all my friends feel terrible about sitting in ice cream shops on vacation. Just by pressing share.

“Oh my god,” I say.

“What?” Alpha asks in alarm. I look up from my phone.

“Seven days in, I don’t hear arguing.” Looking around the ice cream table at my happy sunburned crew, feels good. “It’s a nice moment,” I tell them, slipping my phone into my pocket as I pick up my cards.

“Mom’s got a couple aces,” Charlie announces. “I saw them.”

It’s bumpy for sure. Coming off the hectic schedules of four kids who would really rather be with their friends than each other. But once the dust settles, and the tan sets it, we are all better for it. Calmer, rested and happy. It turns out playing cards in an ice cream parlor really is the perfect vacation.

So good, in fact, a picture could never capture it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Alpha’s Sensitive Side

I thought I was good. Really good. After all, my track record speaks for itself. My old neighbor in Santa Barbara was despondent and helpless. Recently divorced, she felt like her life was over, that no one would ever find her attractive. So, one night, I grabbed a bottle of wine and we sat in front of her computer writing her profile. “I don’t think I would have done this without you,” she told me as I proofread my incredible write up. Day One on Match she went out on a date and game over. She is still with the same guy (who is amazing) eight years later.

Perfect record. One for one.

So when a friend of mine in Greenwich wondered out loud if she would be alone the rest of her life, I was all confidence. “I've got you covered. Let me write your Match profile,” I told her. “I am really, really good at this.” To ensure authenticity she invited friends that knew her well and over the course of two bottles of wine, a lot of laughter and chatter, I wrote something I was convinced would maintain my perfect record. It was perfect and certain to attract equally perfect men.

A few days later, I ran into her on the street.

“How are the pings? Do you have enough time to answer them all?” I asked her with a knowing smile.

“Nothing,” she replied.

“Nothing?” I looked at her in complete shock. That was not the answer I was even remotely anticipating. “Nothing at all?”

“A lot of hits on the page, so I know I'm getting looked at and they're reading the profile, but no, no pings.”

Hmm..not one ping means something is wrong and it can't be her looks. Her pictures are amazing, reflecting how beautiful she is. So clearly it has to be the write up. But we all approved it that night. Even clapped at the finish.  It's hard to admit but there's no other explanation, the writing isn't working.

It was time to call Mars. Venus needed some help, fast.

That night just after dinner, I hit on him. “Alpha, I know you are busy but I need you to look at this Match profile I wrote.  Can you give me the male perspective?  What do you think about this woman? Would you ask her out? Give her a ping?”   I watched intently as he read it, and then re-read it.  I didn't like the pursed lips on the re-read so I readied myself for the bad news.

“Yeah, no. I wouldn’t date her,” he said definitively.

“Why?” I asked. We wrote about being smart (educated at Harvard), and self-deprecating, and loved by her kids. All the stuff that makes a woman attractive.

“If she is so smart, why didn’t she see her marriage was falling apart? If she is self deprecating why is she telling me? She should make fun of herself about that. Plus she is really active and outside all the time, where is that in the profile? I never see her with makeup on, guys love that but the pictures don't show that side.”

Alpha rolled his sleeves up and went to work. In minutes, my soppy, negative, aloof victim tone was gone and what emerged was a happy, lively woman who was ready to have some fun with her life.

I sent it back to my friend noting, "Alpha thinks this is the way to go."

“OMG, this is me! How did he know?” she asked in the email.

It was a humbling moment. I looked at Alpha and he looked at me. I had been the writer when we first met 15 years ago. Now he writes all the time. And he has gotten good. Really good.

“You know what Alpha?”

“What?” he said.

“ Writing Match profiles for me really turns me on,” I told him. “Shows your sensitive side.”

“We make a good team.”

Even better the write up is working. My friend is getting pinged all the time. Team Peters is 2-2. I love that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

We Are Just Like Tom and Gisele

It’s always a mad rush to get dinner on the table. And to be honest, four kids (each in different activities) makes it pretty tough to pull off. Many times, dinner is started (but never finished) before jumping into the car racing to another activity. We are beyond rushed. It is mayhem. I consider it a major achievement, worthy of an MVP award, as I get the main course on the table, even if it is only lukewarm. If there are any side dishes, there is a victory celebration. Truly.

How many more excuses can I make for not putting a fully balanced meal on the dinner table??

“OMG, there’s broccoli?Charlie shouted  the other night. “HAND IT OVER!” With amazement, I watched him pile his plate with a mountain of the green stalks.

I’ll admit, I felt slightly guilty even while trying to justify my choices. We eat everything that Gisele and Tom have banned in their house. Pasta is most nights (it's quick and filling). Lots of creamy dairy sauces (high in calcium and protein). Waffles with chocolate chips in the morning (at least I use dark chocolate).

“Mom, could you please make some eggs with toast?” Jackson pleaded with me the other morning. “I am really tired of chocolate chip waffles.”

Really? A 14-year-old doesn’t want chocolate chip waffles?

My entire upbringing I was forced to eat sprouted avocado sandwiches on whole wheat bread. On special days, I might have found carrot sticks and hummus as a snack. I would do anything to trade for the salami sandwiches on white (the frito chips where a pretty awesome get as well) but nobody would trade with me because I had nothing. Nothing.

So, in some weird way, I have done everything to give my kids what I couldn’t have. Sugar cereal (at least it's all grain). Cookies (home made not store bought). Ice cream (made with organic, hormone free cream). Buttered noodles (butter is much better for you than the poly-unsaturated stuff).

And you know what I get back (talk about karma)?

“Mom, could you please make a salad tonight with some avocado?  Can I have some fruit with my waffle? Could we have those roasted bell peppers you made six moths ago? Can I have hummus and pita for lunch?”

Now, The Peters could be a freak of nature. But I think the small control group that I have assembled for the last 14 years proves a few things about teaching your kids to eat right.

Don’t make them choke down vegetables. In fact, do what I do, deprive them of that whole part of the food pyramid.  Never have a vegetable available. It becomes exotic. Overkill on sugar. A plate of cookies sits on our counter for weeks, I have to throw them out. That, never, ever, would have happened in my sugar free house growing up.

 I had the kids write their New Year's resolutions. Teddy wants to sleep more. Charlie wants to be a better person (). Jackson wants to be a better lacrosse player. Olivia wants to be a kick ass water polo goalie. I told the kids I would try to get healthier food on the table.

“Thank God Mom!” Jackson exclaimed. “But can you stick to it?” Teddy looked skeptical; Charlie hopeful and Olivia nodded her head in agreement.

I’ll try, even though it goes against my nature. Watch out Tom and Gisele. The Peters are going green.

Monday, November 23, 2015


I have football fatigue. Sure, you may say, that is the way it should feel at the end of a sports season. But I really, really have football fatigue.  It started at the beginning of the week. When I dropped Jackson off at practice, I was handed a fistful of markers, Championship Week! Lets show our Gator pride,the team mom told me. I was all in. This was our first season as a football family and we were going to the championship!?! I was ready to throw myself into the spirit.

We started off the week with gusto! 

That night Teddy and Charlie helped me turn our car into the Gator mobile. Fear the Swamp!we wrote on the back. Go Gators!and “Gator Nation” covered the sides. So fun. What was even better, my neighbor was going to pass our driveway every single day, and they were on the opposing team, the Generals. I couldnt help cracking myself up about it.

Nothing like a neighborhood rivalry.

Tuesday morning rolled around and I opened my front door to walk the kids to the bus. In the clear, bright morning light “GATOR NATION” was screaming at me. I felt like putting on sunglasses. Parking the car at the grocery store was worse. There was no hiding the Suburban there. “FEAR THE SWAMP” started  feeling slightly offensive.

By noon, I couldnt take it anymore. Katie, its Mara. Did you see my car this morning?I asked my neighbor.

Not a chance.  I was too busy screaming at the kids before school, why?she asked.

Okay, seriously? I am driving a car that says ‘Gator Nation’ on your behalf and you havent noticed?” I asked her.

I guess I haven’t.”

Wednesday was the worst. I tried to sit tall as Hasidic Jews stared at me in bewilderment as I drove through Brooklyn (of all places). I looked like a crazed Florida fan. Really, its normal, I wanted to say. My son is in the championship. But even that sounds kind of lame.

I'm not sure what balloons have to do with football
On Thursday, I was driving all over Cos Cob delivering the requisite orange & green balloons to tie on Gator players mailboxes.

Mom, what did you do today?the kids asked me at dinner. When I told them, they looked bewildered.

What do balloons have to do with football?my football player asked me.

I am not sure.

By Sunday, I was almost too emotionally spent to go to the game and cheer or do the gator chomping arm thing. I had read all the inspirational emails to gear up (there were at least nine a day over the course of the championship week). I had peaked early. I felt like the deflated balloons blowing in the wind of our mailbox.

So my moral? Dont get caught up? Paint your car? Tie balloons to mailboxes? Read inspiring emails? No, Id do it again. Id just wait until Friday before the game