May 2012 archive

Rosetta Stone

Abe says new words every day as if he’s known them all his life. The only trouble is, I’m the only one who knows what he’s saying. Friends and professionals have assured me this is normal. Here are the things he said today:




And here are the translations:
But you totally knew that, right?

Flying High

I got home late last night after a long day of traveling. I have questions about the way flying works now. Like, for example, security is like a hot nightclub with a secret code to get in. The cool kids and slutty girls already know exactly what to do to get in, OR they know a guy who knows a guy so they can skip the line entirely. There’s nothing explicitly explaining all the steps you have to take in order to get through, so you look like a boob with no shoes on and your shirt half unbuttoned when someone pushes you to the back of the line repeating, “Please put your sunglasses on the belt and try again.” I mean shoes, belts, sweaters, bulky watches, computers, toiletries, water bottles…You have to remember all of this stuff in order to breeze through. I fly almost once a month and I still usually forget at least one of these things. But the woman in front of me (who is ALWAYS in front of me for EVERY trip) hasn’t gone through a security line since 9-11 and has no idea that you have to completely unpack and disrobe in order to keep the line moving. Shouldn’t there be a detailed outline of how to get through security ON YOUR TICKET so it’s not a total moron-athon for 30 minutes (or 60 if you’re at LAX).

Why do they even put zone numbers on plane tickets? EVERYONE is in some elite club, first class, or Zone 1. By the time they even call Zone 2, it’s down to me and a guy who didn’t understand how to read his ticket.

I can’t comprehend how it could take so long for people to walk onto a plane, put a bag in a bin, and sit down. It took almost 45 minutes to load a standard-sized airplane, all the while the captain continued announcing the urgency of our taking places in a timely fashion so as to beat the incoming thunderstorm. Common sense would tell you that if you have an aisle seat, you probably shouldn’t set up a small wood-working shop immediately upon taking finding your spot if those next to your are still empty. You’re just going to have to pack the whole thing up and lay it all out again when they get there. At 5 feet tall, I usually throw my bag on the floor, stand up on the seat, and raise my carry-on up and over my head to keep the line moving. Otherwise, I’m doing the girl thing, “Oh, do you mind helping me? Hehe! I’m so small! Sorry everyone else who packed bags they could lift!” But I see other people who all but apply for new credit cards on their iPads while loading onto an airplane with no regard for the screeching halt they’re bringing the rest of us to.

Do you NOT NOTICE when your arm is clearly poaching on my already small seat territory? How do you not feel those invisible boundaries and how insanely uncomfortable it is when you cross them? You have under the seat-in-front-of-you space; put your feet THERE. Not on MY side. And if you’re going to use your tray table, please remind yourself you have elbows. And they’re on the same plane as my boobs. Oh, and if you are in an aisle seat and decide to take a nap, be prepared to get woken up. And don’t act all snotty about it.

I don’t check bags unless I’m traveling with Abe so I don’t have much to say about baggage claim, except that it looks like a small piece of hell on Earth.

The one good thing I can say about traveling by plane is that I get to listen to complete, often smelly, strangers talk my ear off in a confined space with no way of ignoring them unless I’m acting like I’m deaf.

No, wait…




Growing Up

When I was 22 years old I moved to Iowa and worked with a small town theatre to create a children’s theatre program. I ran a majority of the program myself, making it up as I went along. It’s one of those things that, in hindsight, I really don’t have any idea how I did. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. It was all common sense and flying by the seat of my pants. That was eight years ago and I can safely say it was one of the best times of my whole life (despite it being one of the hardest).
When I left Iowa to move to LA, the hardest things to leave were my roommate (who is now one of my best friends) and my “kids”. I remember sitting in a front row seat in the theatre, staring at the kids with tears streaming down my cheeks. I felt, in a way, like they were mine and I didn’t know how I would survive everyday without their sunshine.
As the years went by and I grew further and further away from my theatre life (because I thought I was supposed to?), I always kept in touch with my kids. I watched them grow via emails from their parents, short visits as I swung through the midwest, and eventually Facebook. And in September of last year, I decided I would fly back to Iowa to see them graduate high school. I tried to buy a ticket and could not afford what was the most outrageous ticket price I’d ever seen. There was no way I could afford the trip and, since the kids didn’t even know I was planning on coming, I just gave up and thought, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
Fast forward to Monday night of last week. I got an email from one of their parents offering to help me pay for a ticket. Overwhelmed, overloved, overjoyed (as one Stevie might say), I immediately and graciously accepted the offer. I bought a ticket on Tuesday morning, flew in late Thursday night, and drove to their little coffee shop on Friday afternoon. I stood outside the back door with more anticipation than I had on my own wedding day. What if they weren’t as excited as I was? What if they looked at me casually and said, “Oh, glad you could make it”?  But, thankfully, the looks on their faces were like nothing I will ever feel again. Pummeled in the corner of this coffee shop, I experienced a massive hug from a little group of incredible 18-year-olds, taller than me, and nearly exploded.
I spent the later hours of the evening last night sitting in a little bedroom, cluttered with clean and dirty clothes, DVDs, graduation gifts and sheets that never made it to the mattress. I listened to the people my kids had become, learned who they wanted to be, and found out some of their deepest feelings (which, if you recall 18, are very deep at that age). One of them asked if it felt weird to be “hanging out” with them. “No,” I responded, “because you are now just amplified versions of the little people you were eight years ago. And I’m not your teacher anymore, I’m a peer. A friend.”
Today I attend more graduation parties, and tomorrow I watch them walk. They will go on to their own respective schools and conservatories and become the people they’re meant to be. And the best part is that I will be lucky enough to continue to know them, continue to guide them, continue to laugh with them, and continue to grow with them because of a bond we made when I had $30 to my name and a folding chair for a couch. I really am the luckiest.


Mrs. Can’t Clean

So I’m not gonna lie, I have a cleaning lady. She comes every 2 weeks and stays for the entire day. If I could pay her to come once a week I would. If I could pay her to come everyday I would. I love having a clean house. And I love paying someone else to clean it. Does this make me a bad person?
But having a cleaning lady brings out the worst in me, because now I don’t clean. Because come on, I pay someone to do it and she’s going to be here in a few days…if I do it now, what’s the point in paying her to do it in a few days?! Amiright?!
This argument might work if she came more frequently than once every two weeks. And because she doesn’t, here’s what happens:
1. I will tiptoe through the house (if I’m not wearing slippers) to avoid stepping my bare feet into crumbs and sticky spots for 6 straight days instead of sweeping/mopping.
2. I will leave a scummy spot on the shower door despite the fact that I can just reach down and wipe it with a wash cloth while I’m in the actual shower.
3. I will stare at a dusty table and let it get dustier.
4. I will walk past Abe’s hand prints on the big mirror in the hallway until there are 17 separate sets of high fives staring back at me.
5. I’ve already demonstrated that I will leave completely random objects all over the house until they just resign themselves to the fact that they will never go home.
6. I will let the dishes pile up for 2 days in anticipation of the cleaning lady coming.
7. I will let bugs accumulate and die in our beautiful clawfoot bathtub instead of just rinsing them out.
8. I will leave a load of clean, dry towels in the dryer for days so she can fold them for me.
I just read this entire list to myself after writing it.
I’ve never felt more attractive.

You’re a Good Mom

I appreciate the way moms acknowledge each other on Mother’s Day, but I’d also like to invite you moms to acknowledge yourselves and the work you do. Be selfish for a second. What makes you a good mom? 
Here’s what makes me a good mom:
  • – First and foremost, Abe is still alive and healthy. This is the BEST indicator of my being a good mom, right?
    – I tell Abe I love him all day long, constantly.
    – We have dance parties to inappropriate music that I would never admit to playing.
    – I make my son clean, whole-food meals everyday (even if it means he gets stuck in the no-no chair).
    – I buy him a matchbox car every time we go to Target.
    – I surround him with people who love him and care for him when I’m not around.
    – I don’t babyproof all the cabinets, even though it means pots, pans, and bakeware everywhere.
    – As conflicted about it as I am, I let him play with my bras.
    – I let Abe see me struggle so he knows it’s OK if you’re not always OK.
    – I reciprocate all kisses even when they are covered in lunch, dirt, or unidentified stickiness.
    – I take care of myself, even when it makes me feel selfish.
Happy Mother’s Day, moms. I hope that whatever you are doing today, you take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge yourselves. You’re a good mom. Much love.



Pick Your Friends

I had an AMAZING opportunity to have lunch with 2 women I went to high school with today. In all honesty, I can’t remember actually seeing them much since high school; coolness level: OFF-THE-CHARTS. All of us have children under 2, so lunch was covered in spit up, sippy cups, and maternal anxiety. It was a beautiful experience to sit next to these woman, see how much they’d grown, what kind of mothers they are, and how incredibly inspiring they are.
At one point during lunch, one friend noted how life doesn’t just change when you have a child, your identity changes. I’ve written about re-defining who you are as a person after you have your child quite a bit but she brought up another point I’d yet to consider: who do I want my tribe to be now that I have a child? That is a difficult and sticky path to walk as you internalize the differences between what you wanted in a friend before and what you want in one now. You have to choose so wisely who you bring into your life, into your child’s life, or your child will end up in therapy way sooner than you’d anticipated (because, come on, they’re going to therapy either way to blame you for something…)
So what do you look for in your After-Baby friendships?
Here’s what I look for:
1. Complete and total unconditional understanding when I’m late, tired, confusing, or spaced out.
2. Laughter, mainly when it’s inappropriate.
3. Judgementless presence when it’s clear I’m a 3-alarm disaster.
4. Die-for loyalty.
5. The ability to drink me under the table (or high-five me when I drink you under the table).
Alright, number 5 may have carried over from the Before-Baby friendships list.
Now you…


Bite Me

I worked for 5 hours straight at Starbucks today, which was actually a fun change of scenery. I was almost late to pick up Abe from school because I got so comfortable.
I raced into Abe’s classroom where the other moms were already gathering up their kids and bags and lunch sacks. Abe saw me and shot me his unbelievably amazing smile and then I giggled and fell down and ran in circles on the floor. I scooped him up and hugged him, waiting to let his teacher (Nini) know I had him. She eventually made it over to me and Abe cooed, “Bye bye, Nini!” Nini giggled and fell down and ran in circles on the floor. Then she stood up and said, “Erin, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Oh, sure!” I said, still looking at my big brown-eyed boy.
“Out here? In the hallway? Alone…”
The…in the…what?
“Yeah, just follow me out here…”
Ok. Let’s play “write down all of Erin’s thoughts between the time she heard those words and the moment she made it into the hallway.”
Does he have a scratch on him she thinks I inflicted?
He has a bug bite on his toe. Does she think we have an infestation?
She figured out I’m a terrible mother. She finally figured it out.
Did he eat his own poop?
Oh my God they found out how many hours of Mickey Mouse I let him watch on a daily basis…
So, what’s going on, Nini?”
Well, I have to tell you something. And Abe didn’t do anything wrong.”
This could be good or bad depending on if she thinks eating your own poop is “wrong”.
“Ooook. What happened?”
“Well, Abe was in the buggy with his friends and another little friend…got excited and…bit Abe on the shoulder.”
“Oh, oh ok. A friend bit Abe. Ok.”
“He has a mark on his shoulder and I needed to fill out an incident report. I have to ask you to sign it.”
“Sure, Nini. No problem. I understand these things happen. He seems OK. Thanks for letting me know.”
I called my husband to let him know this happened, still reeling from the out-of-control slide show of horror in my head about all the things the talk in the hallway could have been about. I calmly let him know that it was no big deal and Abe was fine. His reaction was completely different. He immediately wanted to maim the 22-month-old that dared to lose control and bite our son. MAIM HIM. WITH ROCKS AND HIS FISTS. I was completely blown away by our different reactions. I thought I was a terrible mother and couldn’t have cared less about some kid biting my son. My husband wanted to kill a kid.
I realize we are going to go on to learn more about our different parenting styles based solely on gender norms, but this soon?  This different?! I became a nervous nelly and my husband became the hulk. HUSBAND SMASH. (In fairness, we did see The Avengers over the weekend…)


I think everyone has some kind of addiction. Addiction might even be as simple as having a routine for some people, thereby creating stasis and control in life (and aren’t we all seeking stasis and control??). I have never pinned myself an addict. I don’t drink regularly (unless I’m acting in a show, as I learned these past 2 months). I don’t eat until I’m sick, or purge. I don’t have an urge to shop, keep everything anyone has ever given me, or work 24-hours a day.
But I’m fairly certain I have recently uncovered my truest addiction: people. I crave human interaction.
I know that all people require connection for survival. But if I don’t talk to someone, eat lunch with someone, have a good laugh with someone at least once a day I feel incomplete and I fight for that high. I will create conversation with the woman getting into her car next to me in the Walgreens parking lot if it means a momentary connection. I’ll do just about anything I need to to get a fix. This is the reason why I was incredibly depressed, and medicated, after my son was born. There was no interaction, I begged my husband to come home from work early everyday (which, as you can imagine, didn’t inspire him to come home early), I stared longingly at people in stores and parks hoping they would notice I was completely alone and in need of anything but solitude.
I do my best to keep my addiction from being completely self-serving. I consciously think about ways to make someone else’s day better when I interact with them. No matter what the behavior, you’re always either contributing or contaminating, right? I work hard to contribute at all times (that’s what Recklessly Radiating Joy and making good Joices are all about). And it’s a thin line between making someone feel good to gain personal attention versus making them feel good to make a connection, so I have to be careful that I’m not acting when I radiate that joy. It has to be authentic for the connection to be real.
On the grand scheme level, obviously this isn’t the worst or most self-destructive addiction I could have. Does everyone have an addiction? Do you? And if you don’t think you do, could you pick out something in your life that’s relatable to an addiction? (And don’t say chocolate or coffee. Those two are universal and only prove you’re breathing.)


First, I love you coffee.
So beautiful.
I was thinking about something today while my child was having a playdate and refused to stop touching me because I might leave him forever and never come back. I think he saw an episode of America’s Most Wanted one night when he couldn’t sleep and it totally scarred him because if that’s not the reason he’s acting like this then WHY IN THE HELL AM I SUDDENLY ABANDONING HIM EVERYDAY RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?!
I spent the first year or 15 months of Abe’s life finding ways to make our lives easier and tolerable. And I now realize that all I was doing was buying things.
Gas? Buy Mylicon.
Colic? Gripe water.
Waking up from naps? Sound machine.
Punching himself awake? Miracle Swaddle blanket.
Until a certain point you can literally buy a solution for any problem. But then toddlerhood hits and you’re no longer able to create tolerable conditions by going to Target. There is nothing I can buy to demonstrate to him I will be coming back at the end of the school day to pick him up because I’m his mom and that’s what I do, short of a Tupac-hologram-style concert at the preschool starring me. I don’t know how Jews feel about rap.
So I’m working on making things Toddlerable. Yes, I made that up. I am trying to keep us busy and being kind and compassionate when there is no way for me to communicate to him that the garage door closing does not mean we will never leave the house again. But I’m also accepting that if my child needs to climb in and about my chest cavity in order to feel safe while having a playdate with our friends, then I will Toddlerate that for the time being. It goes back to committing to where you are, right?
Wait, unless there is something I can buy to make toddlerhood more tolerable. Is there? Is there a secret section of Target you guys know about?

Collards and Tilapia

Someone asked me how I made my collards and tilapia for dinner tonight (posted on Instagram: erincohensmile). Super easy.
First, I buy tilapia in bulk from Costco and freeze it in filets. I get 3 dinners from 1 package. Second, I buy bagged collards because that’s usually all I can get in bulk unless it comes in my weekly organic bag drop off guy.
While I had some olive oil and garlic warming slowly in a non-stick pan, I tore up the collards and got rid of any and all stems in the bag. Then I put the collards right into the oil with some salt and pepper and spun it all around to make it shiny. I added about 1/2 cup of homemade chicken stock and let everybody hang out for about 5 minutes, heat at about medium. Then I poured the remnants of a bottle of red my mom left on the counter, probably about 1/2 cup. Perfect amount. I left the heat the same until liquid was almost entirely evaporated and took the collards out of the pan.
I dunked the tilapia in olive oil and brown rice flour, salt and pepper. I turned the heat up to high and added lots of coconut oil to the same pan (ONLY HAVE TO WASH ONE PAN!). I dropped in the fishies for 3-5 minutes on the first side. I flipped them, let them hang out fot a minute, and then added about a cup of chicken stock to help loosen everything from the bottom of the pan. After almost all the liquid evaporated I zested a lemon and threw in a bunch of pine nuts I had leftover from a salad.
I removed the fish and squeezed a lemon on top, added the collards on the side and viola. Dinner in about 20 minutes.

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