Pumpkin Jack

This story received an honorable mention in the 10th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest by https://susannahill.com/.

PUMPKIN JACK Word Count: 100

Jack couldn’t wait. His parents said tomorrow they’d go pick the perfect pumpkin to carve.  

While everyone slept, Jack crept out of the house in his skeleton costume and mask to nab the biggest pumpkin in the patch. The unwieldy orange orb slipped out of his arms and cracked open! From the spilled flesh and seeds, sprouted an orange witch. “Because you couldn’t wait, I’ve put a spell on you. At midnight you’ll turn into a pumpkin.”

On Halloween morning Jack’s parents found a pumpkin outside the door. “Jack will be delighted. Let’s carve it up before he wakes up.”

The Toothless Vampire

This story is brought to you by the 10th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest by https://susannahill.com/. And inspired by my own toothless vampire.

THE TOOTHLESS VAMPIRE word count:100

Val had lost her two front teeth. How can a vampire trick-or-treat on Halloween without her front teeth?  Her cheeks reddened with embarrassment. No one would even know that she was a real vampire. 

She tried cousin witch’s “wart growth” potion…but it didn’t make Val’s teeth grow. 

Her friend, Skeleton, tried to pull out his teeth and give them to Val, but they wouldn’t budge. 

She had no mask so she put a sheet over her head and crept to the first house. 

Knock-Knock. 

Plunk. 

Something dropped into her bag. She peeked inside: candy teeth! Perfect!

Contract Signed for YOGAGIRL debut picture book

This is my yoga girl falling out of Tree Pose. We’ve read lots of adorable picture books about doing yoga poses together including Zoo Zen and Good Night Yoga. But I wanted to let my yoga girl know that yoga is actually way more than just poses. In fact, yoga can be a superpower.

In YOGAGIRL, a shy new girl has no idea she’s a superhero.  Too many worries make it hard to make friends. In PE, the class practices yoga. The new girl is crushed: “I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible or strong or graceful.”

With an exhale, a magical elephant busts out from inside her. He whispers the secrets to yoga’s real superpower: to quiet her mind. As her thoughts become still, she transforms into YogaGirl and is able to show other kids where their elephants hide

At a time when kids are constantly looking outside of themselves for validation, YogaGirl helps kids align themselves with an ancient yogic philosophy: “All you need is inside.”

I immigrated to the US from Russia in the 1980’s, a time when Russia was viewed as the evil empire. As a child I was teased for being Russian, for my thick curly hair, for my kielbasa sandwiches when everyone else had PB&J. I wrote this book because I want to empower young girls to believe they don’t need external approval to feel good about themselves. They don’t need a mask or cape to know they are capable of being everyday superheroes.

I wrote the first pass at the manuscript almost 3 years ago. It went through many iterations (including 900 words in rhyme) and many rejections. I had no idea there was a entire generous and kind #kidlit community out there. I took a class at the Children’s Book Academy (highly recommended https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/) and learned so much. I met so many wonderful writers and critique partners through SCBWI that helped me fine tune and refine the manuscript.

Thank you Callie Metler-Smith and Mira Reisberg for breathing life into YogaGirl.

Skeleton in my closet

Shhhh, I’m hiding in the closet.

My brother copied my costume and ate my Snickers, so I poked a fork through his jack-o-lantern’s face.

My eyes adjust to the dark.

Usually, I only see skin. 

Today I see bones.

What about the rest? 

Where are feelings buried?

I hunt for the hiding place of the force that grits my teeth, clenches my fingers, grips my jaw.

It hurts to hold it in. I ex-h-a-l-e and as a long breath escapes, the anger goes with it- the way dad lets air out of bicycle tires. A wave of sadness pushes its way into the empty space.

Water flows down my cheekbones. Are there secret bags of tears stashed behind my eye sockets?

I freeze. I hear my brother seeking. 

He is stumped and this invites DELIGHT to sneak in and squeeze out of my throat, shaking me to my bones. It pulls the corners of my lips up. Rattles my stomach. I like this feeling best, but I can’t breathe I’m laughing so hard.

I bet I look 

s-

   s-

       s- silly in 

he-

      he-

           here. Hiding my skeleton in the closet. Aha-ha-ha. 

Nine Weeks Going on Nine Months

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Yes I’m pregnant again and I may not sleep well or eat well or behave rationally but I know this territory well. I may only look 9 weeks pregnant but I feel like I’m 9 months and this time around it’s my party and I’ll waddle if I want to.

For full article as it appeared in sheknows.ca click here:

http://www.sheknows.ca/parenting/articles/962411/being-pregnant-the-second-time

 

9 weeks going on 9 months

The second time around everything is more clear. I know what to expect. Perhaps a little too much because at 9 weeks I’m wearing my pregnancy like a badge of honor, already feeling like I’m 9 months pregnant.

I waddle. I shouldn’t be waddling I’m not heaving a twenty pound sack of potatoes in my belly, but something about waddling feels comforting. I remember how to waddle. I do it well. “As a pregnant woman reaches her third trimester and her baby’s size and weight increases, it is not uncommon to see her adopt ‘the waddle’. “ says Patti Quintero, prenatal yoga expert and doula. “Since the baby grows forward pressing away from the spine, her legs start to externally rotate in order to make more room in the front of the pelvis.” Sometimes when my husband asks me to fill the dog food bowl or take out the compost I like to waddle over and put my hand on my lower back for added effect. Yes, I can do that because I’m pregnant again.

I feel like my belly is the 9 months large. Its just a feeling. They tell me the baby is like the size of a grape and maybe I’ve gained a whole pound but my belly remembers- its like a deflated balloon just waiting to be filled up again to its full potential. The thing that is most likely making my belly stick out is the bagel I ate I in secret, gluten inflaming my insides like a growing chia pet. I feel so pregnant that I’ve already relegated all my normal clothes to the back of my closet and really truly believe that I cannot possibly fit into anything except yoga pants. I don’t even try. If I have to dress like a human for something I wear my pants unbuttoned. Yes, I can do that because I’m pregnant again.

I am ready to have crappy sleep. I pee five times a night. I remember peeing a lot at the end of my first pregnancy but I have first-trimester amnesia. “Pregnancy requires that you increase the output from your heart which then in turn increases flow through the kidneys, increasing the amount of urine produced. This coupled with a normal increase in water weight means more visits to the bathroom even in the first trimester” says Dr Kathleen Valenton, MD. But the truth is once my bladder gets empty I can’t get back to sleep right away. I remember this happened towards the end of my first pregnancy. I was nervous about birth, delivery, being a parent. This time around, I feel like its known territory, a landscape I can navigate. And yet good sleep eludes me. I know its early but I build my palace of pillows. I lay on my side, I am pillowed up: left and right and up and down. I will surely get sick of this, I should wait til I can’t sleep on my back, til my back is stiff and my hips ache. But I start the palace of pillows now and leave my husband with stray feathers. Yes, I can do that because I’m pregnant again.

I eat whatever the h&*% I want and just try to take that Nutella away from me. Before I knew I was pregnant I noticed a slight change in appetite. Once it was confirmed, all bets were off and along with spinach smoothies infused in folic acid, I sprinkle in a few gummy bears (because I’m pregnant!), an order of french fries with my fish (While baby is getting its DHA kick I get 1mg of iron. Ha), and yes I need to stay up all night making a freezer full of orange creamsicles. “When you have cravings, just remember to listen to your body and choose the healthiest version of what you think your body (and your baby) wants” says Jamie Saginor, Certified Health Coach “Try frozen grapes instead of sugary popsicles, or frozen banana in a blender instead of ice-cream. Although striving for perfection is impossible and stressful when you’re pregnant, you should know that the less sugar you eat, the better for your mood, your blood sugar levels, and your baby. You’ll also have less chance of developing gestational diabetes.” But sometimes I eat chocolate and peanut butter for breakfast. Yes, I can do that because I’m pregnant again.

I’m moody so deal with it. I have given myself permission to bitch and moan and say whatever is on my mind. I can do this because I’m pregnant. I can complain and whine and pout… I could…but even my husband’s patience has limits. My mom has been helping me out with our daughter and if I want her to stay around I know I’ve got to check out of Hotel Crazy Town. And then there is my daughter who usually laughs at me when I a start acting weird… so I laugh too. But sometimes she looks genuinely disturbed which snaps me back to the present reality of savoring every delicious moment of my daughter as an only child. That might make me cry. And yes, I can do that because I’m pregnant… again. 

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Checkered Past: I reveal some skeletons in my closet

 When I was younger I was a vampire, I showed my boobs, did drugs, I was a scream queen of the month…

For Full article click here:

http://www.allparenting.com/my-life/articles/971667/checkered-past-a-mother-reveals-the-skeletons-in-her-closet

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Mother’s Love

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I love my mother- that’s why I’ve been in therapy for most of my adult life. I would show up at the therapist’s office wanting to talk about men, relationships, my career, but somehow the conversation always ended up circling back to my mother- mamichka as I called her in Russian. Mamichka had a strong opinion about everything and my therapists concluded we needed more separation. Separation was difficult as we were always a close family, perhaps too close.  Doors were opened without knocks, mail was opened no matter whose name was on the envelope. I did have my own room and my own bed but often found myself coming into my parents room at night and sleeping in their bed with them. My therapist named it the double spoon- my father laid on his side, I spooned him and my mother spooned me. It was warm and cozy but highly discouraged by my therapist. It was fine for a while but by 23 it was time to make a change.

When I was a little girl mamichka always told me I was beautiful and  smart and talented  – that I could do anything I wanted in this world. I learned the caveat was I was beautiful as long as I looked like she wanted me to, and could do anything as long as she deemed it worthwhile.  Nature had dealt mamichka the card of beauty but mamichka, with the help of modern science fashioned herself to her own liking.  Viewing her daughter as an extension of herself, at 14 she dragged me to a doctor. Surprise! Its a plastic surgeon “you have trouble breathing, right sweetie?” she kicked me under the table. I sat dejected in the car on the way home… I was confused, I thought I was pretty, mamichka always told me I was pretty, why did she want to change my nose? With some courage and determination to stand my own ground- and probably due to insurance rejecting the claim that I had trouble breathing, my nose remained untouched.

My hair was another story. Mamichka was (unnaturally) blond and had straight hair. I had a dark Jew-fro. Perhaps it was due to the scar of living in Russia but Mamichka insisted on taming the wild mess. She dragged me around town to different hair stylists for jerry curls, hair relaxers, or perms. Late-night infomercials provided a playground of potential products for her to rectify the offensive fro. To convince me of my potential beauty she pasted photographs of my face on top of pictures of models in the Victoria Secret catalog. If only I had the right hair…

As much as she had trouble accepting me with this crazy curly hair, she certainly would not accept any daughter of hers being a clown. In Russia, my parents were friends with many famous actors, directors and artists. I grew up loving poetry, art, and theater- acting, dancing, singing,  and painting my way through school. Instead of reading Dr Seuss before bed, my mother read Pushkin, Anna Akhmotova, Tolstoy, Solzheniztin. She blamed herself of course, she should have read me math books. Then I would have become a doctor or a lawyer instead of a gasp… a CLOWN! Actually I’m an actor. But Mamichka was only interested in when clown school would be over and when I was going to stop clowning. 

However her all time favorite subject was worrying about my becoming a spinster so she took matters into her own hands and without my knowledge set up a  “G-Date” profile for me (with her Russian accent the G and J are sometimes confused). She wrote to men, set up dates, encouraged me to go out with these men she found before I was too old and “nobody would take you.” (I was 25 at the time). She really wanted me to have a family. To experience the joy of having children. Just like I wasn’t interested in the nose job or being a lawyer, I thanked her for her um… interest- and continued on my path.

Years later, in the three am darkness, in the bed I share with my husband (whom I did meet online but on my own), I wake to the thump of my daughter’s foot hitting my husband’s head in the middle of our double spoon. She’s only a year and half old but already the curls on her head are becoming unruly. I brush her hair before my mother comes over, trying to ward off the inevitable. “Why are you touching her hair?” my mother protests, “its beautiful wild and messy.” My mother puts her hand on the sprouting curls and messes them up more. My mother, who disowned me for a short time when I decided to pursue a career as a professional actress, insists that we find an agent for my daughter. She even takes her on auditions.

I sigh at the irony and look at my mother, holding my daughter in her lap, reading her the numbers book she bought her and think- she was right. My mom was right about the joy of children. She couldn’t have explained it to me before in the same way you can’t explain the experience of chocolate to someone who’s never had it. Its more than sweet melting darkness, I look at my daughter and the love I experience is beyond words that create poetry from the beating heart that struggles daily. What strikes me is how lucky I am. Yes I have this crazy love for a little girl who’s toothy smile makes my heart sing, blah blah blah,  we’ve all heard how love for a child is amazing. What amazes me is that there is someone out there in the world who loves me in this crazy way. That my smile and button nose and wild crazy hair makes her heart sing. That she truly wants the best for me, wishes me well, is genuinely happy when I am happy. That I am the recipient of this indescribable gift: a mother’s love.

To read the entire post in sheknows.ca click here

http://www.sheknows.ca/parenting/articles/961793/learning-what-a-mothers-love-really-means

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Everything I need to know about life I learned from my 1-year old

My 1-year old has mastered all the basic survival skills in just one year… now she is  teaching me everything she knows.

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Read the whole article here: http://www.allparenting.com/my-family/articles/970162/everything-i-need-to-know-about-life-i-learned-from-my-1-year-old

The Return of Aunt Flo

Aunt Flo hasn’t visited for quiet some time. Eighteen months to be precise. Then one afternoon I found her waiting on my doorstep, ready to stay.

Read the whole article here: http://www.allparenting.com/my-life/articles/969779/the-return-of-aunt-floImage