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Upside Down, You Turn Me

Things have been pretty smooth lately. Which is why I shouldn’t be surprised that Monday things went upside down. I didn’t feel well all day- nothing specific, just a general malaise. I had plans to get a lot done, especially some writing, but all I managed to do was force myself to go to the grocery store. I walked in the door into that special kind of chaos that happens when you mix the witching hour with two overtired kids and a mom that had been out running errands. I don’t know about your kids, but for some reason mine go crazy when I’ve been away from them for a few hours. The babysitter swears they are calm, and then I walk in the door and the crazy gets cranked up.

I push open the door with my hip, balancing my keys and a bag with a carton of milk and a bag with eggs in it. The dog, a 100 lb wiggler, starts pushing his head into me, while jumping side to side with his back legs. My daughter rushes in. “Momma’s here, momma’s here,” she squeals and starts twirling. “Hug and kiss, hug and kiss, hug and kiss”, she chants. My son begins with the questions. “Mom, can you come look at my new office? Mom, can I write a contract on your computer? Mom, can I have a snack? What time is dad getting home? Can I have a play date?” All. At. Once.

I manage not to yell. I remind my son that anything he asks me gets an automatic no until I can come in and get settled. I drop the groceries and the keys, hold the screen door open so the dog can get out from under my feet, and scoop up my daughter for her hug and kiss. This is all it takes to ruin my planned evening of tacos and early bedtime, a fire and watching the Ohio State vs Oregon national championship game with my husband. Because I had not closed the gate.

I chat with the sitter, get all the groceries inside, check out all of my son’s creations, and get the kids settled for a few minutes so I can put away the groceries and start dinner.

The doorbell rings. My neighbor, John, says he just saw my dog run out of our backyard and down the street. Shit, I think. The gate. It’s dark and raining and cold. It’s also rush hour and we live a few houses away from a very busy street. That the dog always tries to cross.

My first thought is annoyance, that I have to go look for the damn dog. I don’t have time for this, frankly. And then I look at my kids. My son has a frown and my daughter’s eyes are big.

“Wider is gone? Doggy gone? Oh no poor Wider! Poor doggie!” says the little one as she twirls.

“Where is he? Will someone kidnap him? What if he’s hit by a car? What do we do? Call the police?” His voice has gotten very high. Then it shifts into the faux deep voice he puts on when he’s trying to act like a grown-up. “Actually, I got this, I’m calling 911”, he says and heads to the phone, his little hands on his hips. Rider has recently begun sleeping in my son’s room, at the foot of his bed. My son does not like to be alone, and the presence of the dog has made our bedtime routine a whole lot easier. My son has started saying Rider is his dog. He feeds him and talks to him, and takes him on patrol.

My heart sinks when I realize not only that this affects me, but this is really going to affect my kids. I stop my son from calling 911. I pick up my daughter and tell my son to follow me. We go out into the dark and cold and scream for him. Often he’s just next door. But after checking all of our neighbor’s houses, I am actually starting to get worried.

My husband texts me. Something blew up at work, he has to work late. Damn it. Just then, my neighbor Sarah comes out. She offers to take my kids to her house while I go look. A small something softens inside me, a tiny relief to not be completely alone in this. My son happily runs inside her house, but my daughter won’t let go of me. So I throw her in the car and we drive the streets, windows down on this cold and rainy night, yelling and hoping.

My daughter is worried but also gleefully repeats whatever I say. “Rider! Rider dog! Where are you?” I say. “Wider! Wider, good wittle doggy. Where are you?”, she shouts. We drive the dark streets and I am really worried now. I stop and ask people if they’ve seen a big black dog. Every time we cross the busy street, I brace myself to see a large lump on the road. I see nothing. He’s disappeared.

We drive home and I go to collect my son. I tell Sarah it’s been one of those days and I still have to unload the groceries. She instantly says, “Let your kids eat with mine.” I start to say the expected “Are you sure?” but instead just say “Thank you”. The thought of dinner almost undoes me. She takes them in and I go home. Put away the sweating ice cream and milk. The taco meat and shells. My house is too quiet, no kids and no dog. This is how things happen. A normal boring evening gets turned upside down by one action.

I go back to Sarah’s. My kids are eating macaroni and cheese and broccoli with hers. We sit and chat. I keep my phone out, hoping and praying someone will call. Bedtime without Rider is something I can’t think about. Sarah and I chat about the nothingness of our days, the sameness and the shared rolling of our eyes a balm to my chapped nerves. This is what great neighbors do, I think.

The phone rings, someone has found our dog. I run out in the rain to grab him. Two women are sitting on a corner, five blocks away, with a wet and stinky Rider. One noticed him on her way out to do an errand. She stopped and got out of her car, grabbed him and called the number on the collar. And then waited in the cold and dark.

I over-thanked them, got the dog in the car, collected my kids and got home. The house was a mess, but the kids were fed and the groceries put away. I corralled them upstairs, baths and bedtime stories, rocked one, laid down with the other and listened to him talk about his day while Willie Nelson crooned underneath it all. Rider thumped his tail, exhausted from his adventure.

I went downstairs and collapsed on the couch. I was too tired to grill the veggies I planned. It was too late for the fire. I made some soup and put on Downton Abbey instead of football. And closed my eyes and gave a small prayer of thanks. For people that care. For John for letting us know that Rider was gone. For Sarah who knew instantly what I needed and offered, who fed my kids and calmed my nerves and never made me feel like a mess of a bad mother. For Rebecca and Renata, who interrupted their own busy lives to return my dog. Each and every one of them didn’t have to do a single thing. John and Sarah could have just stayed in their warm houses. Rebecca certainly could have seen a dog running down the street and assumed it would find its way home. I’m not sure that many people would inconvenience their own lives at 6 pm on a rainy, cold Monday evening in that way.

It reminds me that we need to honor our instincts to help, to get involved. I’m not sure I always do, but after seeing how one small thing made such a big difference in our lives, I’m vowing to do better.





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The Weight of the Passing of All Things

“Being alive, it seems, means learning to bear the weight of the passing of all things. It means finding a way to lightly hold all the places we’ve loved and left anyway, all the moments and days and years that have already been lived and lost to memory, even as we live on in the here and now, knowing full well that this moment, too, is already gone. It means, always, allowing for the hard truth of endings. It means, too, keeping faith in beginnings.”

~Katrina Kenison, The Gift of An Ordinary Day

Oh my, oh yes. Reading this heart-filling gem of a book right now (finally). The page preceding the above quote had me in tears in the middle of the cafe where I was having breakfast. It starts: “I wish for everything back that ever was, everything that once seemed like forever and yet has vanished”. Go read this book.

Happy New Year! Here’s to allowing things to end gracefully, and being filled up by beginnings.


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Thanksgiving 2014

Another Thanksgiving is done and gone. My Thanksgiving week was uneventful, typical, wonderful. We spent the holiday at my parents’ house and it struck me as I was in my childhood bedroom- I have spent every single one of my Thanksgivings either in this house or at a local family member’s house- except for the one semester I spent in London. That is almost 40 Thanksgivings, just like this one. I know things will change soon, and a new tradition will rise up where this one once was. I am grateful for the lovely ordinariness of this week. A few details, for the memories.

1. The stunning riotous color of the trees on the four hour plus drive. It is a long and boring drive, an hour too long with little kids, but I was startled by the beauty the entire time. I swear I have never seen such color in Texas. I’m not sure if it’s a change in weather patterns- usually it is hot and then it is cold but this year we’ve had more gradual and earlier chills- or if it’s that I’ve never noticed it before. But I cannot remember such showy and glorious fall color. I don’t know how people that live on the East Coast get anything done, being surrounded by something so beautiful. The whole weekend I sounded like a broken record- “LOOK at that tree! It’s so beautiful!” over and over. I have approximately 200 pictures of trees on my phone. The earth is amazing.

2. On the drive we let my son have the Ipad for the entire drive, whereas he usually has limited screen time. I have mixed feelings about this- on the one hand, it gives me peace on the drive. But on the other hand, I have wistful memories of staring out the window on long drives, of composing stories in my head, of daydreaming, of just having time to think. At one point in the drive, I looked back and he was staring out the window, almost listless, which is rare for him. I asked if he was ok, and he said “I’m great Mom, I’m just dreaming.” Beyond grateful for daydreaming, and that my son has found it for himself, and that all this technology hasn’t completely dulled the urge to dream.

3. I pulled something in my upper back on the morning of our drive (I think I actually pulled it trying to put on a damn Lululemon tank in the dark when I wasn’t quite awake- those things are evil). Regardless I could barely move, couldn’t lift my arm, couldn’t turn my neck. I had a gym appointment and went anyways, almost in tears. Luckily they have a PT on staff and he worked on my back to the point where I could manage to make the drive home. So grateful for his expertise, and for his help.

4. My back was in bad shape from Tuesday till Saturday. But the best thing about being home is that my parents are there. And no matter how old I get, they still take care of me. I am ever so grateful for my mom and dad, for letting me sit on the couch with a heating pad while they entertained my overexcited, wild children. My mom made me dinner, my dad handed me a glass of wine, but more importantly, no one made me feel bad or lazy for just sitting there. I am grateful parents never stop being parents, and that mine take such good care of all of us.

5. There is a wooded area behind my parents’ house. My son calls it the “spooky forest” and is relentless in wanting to go down to the spooky forest, everyday, twice a day if we let him. He is very into police and forest police and the army and he likes to go hike the small trails and pretend to be on patrol. It’s adorable- but someone has to go with him and no one wants to. My dad took him, my brother took him, and finally one day it was my turn. It was one of those stunning days- warm, cerulean bright blue sky- and I had no reason to say no. We set off, my husband, me, my two-year old with her three loveys, and my son in his ranger hat and his homemade badges. Luckily we had the good sense to just wander and enjoy it and we went deeper than I ever had. It was so beautiful back there, and I almost missed it. We met many dogs and horses, saw squirrels and birds and animal tracks. We found a tree with a huge hole in the trunk that looked like it was straight out of The Hobbit. We found a park and wide open fields and shaded twists and turns. It was spectacular, and it’s right in my backyard and I never knew. What a miracle that no one has torn it down and built more houses. Grateful my son forced me into the most beautiful walk. Grateful I slowed down enough to notice it.

6. My favorite part of the holiday was putting the kids down, curling up on my parents’ big, cozy couch and watching a movie with a glass of wine. This year I watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the first time. It was as funny as promised, and Steve Martin and John Candy were a magical duo. But what I loved most was that the whole point of the movie was just to get home and be with family. The very last scene is simply Steve Martin’s wife coming down the stairs and seeing her husband with tears in her eyes. They embrace and that’s the end. No need for big action or for a come-uppance or anything monumental. Grateful for movie-makers like John Hughes, and so very sad he is no longer with us- what an amazing talent.

It was an absolutely ordinary Thanksgiving, but one for which I am profoundly grateful. We saw family and a new baby, we laughed and shared stories and drank wine. We watched football and movies. We let my kids stay up too late and have pie before breakfast and let them crawl into bed with us when they woke up far too early. We got my parents’ tree out and began decorating for Christmas. Goodbye Thanksgiving 2014, it was a good one.

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This Writing Life

One of my favorite things is a peek behind the curtain, if you will, at other writers’ writing life and process. Writing is such a solitary practice, and it is fascinating to me how we all approach and try to tame such an unwieldy and unpredictable process. I was tapped by Dina Relles of the blog Commonplace to share mine. I was a bit apprehensive, as I don’t have much of a process these days, but Dina’s wonderful and real answers about her writing life inspired me. Read Dina’s answers here.


I write short stories. I am currently revising a piece that I kind of hate, but am determined to see it through. Some days I am convinced I am not a short story writer at all, but I do believe that all writing is practice and will hopefully lead me to where I need to be. I have never submitted any of my stories- based on both fear of rejection, but also a sense that they are not done yet, or at least not anything I want published. My goal for this year is to get over that. I had this belief that I would “know” when a story was ready. I thought that when I felt joy or happiness or pride upon reading my completed story, that’s when I would “know”. I am starting to think that I will never “love” any of my stories, and it seems other writers feel the same.

I also inconsistently post on this blog. I do not have a certain schedule or process- ideally I will post once a week. I “retired” from my job in April and this summer has been all about transitioning into being the caretaker parent, full-time. It has been a much more all-encompassing experience than I anticipated. I am shocked at the little amount of free time I have, even with school and baby-sitters. But more than that, I tend to shy away from writing here. I am in awe of those blogs that have such style and voice, that are so authentic. I feel like a fraud here. I constantly feel that I should just step away (who would notice?) and concentrate on creative writing. But I find I can’t. There is something so compelling and rewarding about blogging- and even more so, the blogging community. I just can’t quit. 🙂 So I need to step up and commit to writing here more often.


I am not even sure what my work is, so that is hard to answer. What I envision for this blog is less parenting tales, less essays on how to do things- I don’t have any certain expertise- and more a place to tell stories. I am not sure I am there yet, but that is what I love. And I’m not sure that this blog is any different from any others in the mama/writer category. I hope to just add to the conversation, to be another voice out there in the wilderness, another person listening and saying “yes, me too”.

As for creative writing- this is where I am stuck in the process. I am slowly but surely finding my “voice”- it  is so difficult to strip away all of the influences and what I feel like I should write, and just let my stories speak. When I get there, then maybe I can answer this question.


Well. Isn’t that the big question? Why do we do what we do? For me, writing is first and foremost a primeveal urge. On a basic level, I just feel this need to do it. It is almost physical- as if the words and thoughts and questions have weight and they begin to swirl and gather mass if I ignore them. The only way to “release” the weight is to write. As for what I write and think about- for me, it is twofold. First, it is a basic attempt to freeze moments in my life. There are so many moments that slip away, that I forget about if I do not write about them. The other day I found a letter to my daughter when she turned one- I never published it, and even though it was only a year ago, I was startled by the details of her, details I had already forgotten. It was like a fossil- a beautiful snapshot of time. And when I read it, it was like I unlocked time, for just a moment.

Secondly,  I write- like most- to discover, to question, to provoke. To make myself actually slow down and think about the world, my world, my role in it. I love this poem by Billy Collins called Grand Central:

The city orbits around eight million
centers of the universe
and turns around the golden clock
at the still point of this place.
Lift up your eyes from the moving hive
and you will see time circling
under a vault of stars and know
just when and where you are.”

For me, writing is a way to stand still and recognize time, a way to find out just when and where I am.


Short stories- It works best for me if I finish a complete draft in one sitting. Not a good draft, but just take the idea and let it go. No editing. Letting it veer off into bad and cliched places. I am not a type A person, but I love editing. One of the best things about being a (former) lawyer, I suppose, is that I get a thrill out of taking my red pen and slashing and rewriting. Rewriting is where my good writing happens, but I have to let that initial surge burn itself out. I have a ton of stories I’ve started and didn’t get to finish, and they just linger. I lose that writing rush that I need to get the story to take shape. I edit a lot. I’m still editing every story I’ve ever written.

For the blog- I get an idea, and then I try to find time to write it here. I don’t do a lot of planning and research, and I honestly don’t have much time to edit (which is probably obvious). I try to take the pressure off myself when I write here, and just throw thoughts and ideas and feelings down and hope they resonate in some way.

I don’t have a set time to write, I just try to squeeze it in around the edges of my life.


Almost everyone I can think of has already participated, so I’ll throw this open to anyone out there that wants to participate. Leave a comment, and I’ll visit your blog and tag you! Or just participate and let me know so I can read your thoughts.

Keep on keeping on,

xo A.


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Undertow (Just Write)

10:51 a.m. Sitting at my dining room table, all quiet except the hum of the fridge, the intermittent rain, and the roar of lawnmowers. This might be the first time I have been alone in my own house in I can’t remember how long.

I keep saying these last few weeks have been hard, like I am expecting them to be better. This has been an especially long cycle of hard, and I don’t really see any change on the horizon. I keep writing about the same things, but these same things are weighing me down. For the first time in a long time, I feel very overwhelmed by motherhood. It’s always overwhelming, in the busyness and intensity, but I mean overwhelmed like I am caught under a large wave and I’m not sure when I will be allowed to come up for air. Usually one kid is going through a phase, then the other, but both seem to be going through transitions at the same time, transitions that has turned my generally happy and independent kids into very emotional and clingy ones. At the same time, I seem to be going through a seismic shift in being. It’s all a little much.

On the micro level, these days are hard to get through. On the macro level, underneath everything is my slightly hysterical realization that it’s moving too fast, and that these are days I will long for too soon. Every minute I spend with the kids is slightly torturous- my two year old is becoming quite successful at the terrible twos, and my five year old is uncharacteristically exhausted and emotional. Both want me to be physically next to them at all times. And yet, I am so aware of how very little time I have with them where they will want to be with me. A friend in a writing group said it changes in a day. One day the door shuts, and that’s it, you will never see your kid naked again. I laughed, because it’s funny and how it should be, but why does this make me so sad?

I keep waiting for the rhythm to reveal itself. (Sidenote, why is “rhythm” so hard to spell right????) Summer’s rhythm was easy to pick up and follow and I thought fall’s would be too, especially with school and set schedules and such. Instead every day feels untethered. My preschooler is learning days of the week. One day he gets them all right. The next day I ask him, what comes after Friday? He frowns and puts a finger on his chin in mock concentration and says, ummm Monday? Yes, that’s how I feel. Saturday doesn’t seem to be following Friday. The rhythm is jumbled, out of order.

I keep thinking of a final exam I took in a music appreciation class in high school. The final exam consisted of my professor playing a single section of a Philip Glass piece of music, and playing it over and over and over for the hour and a half. Our only instructions were to write what we heard. I don’t remember the song, but I do remember it sounded like breaking glass, and only breaking glass. It did not sound anything like music. At first, it was intrusive and almost unbearable. But after an hour, what at first were random and unknowing bursts of sound, seemed to rearrange themselves and a peculiar kind of beauty emerged. A song, a rhythm, something beautiful out of something jarring.

One of my favorite things is the “Just Write” link-up on The Extraordinary Ordinary. The idea is you just write, freely, with no plan or editing. This post is just some random thoughts on a rainy Tuesday, and was very liberating, and very necessary. Check it out!


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Keeping It Together

Last week. Starbucks was crowded so I was sitting at the communal table next to two twenty-something girls. I covertly watched them- their messy hair, big sunglasses, last night’s mascara casually smeared in the right way. The black-haired one sighed, and pushed her purple sunglasses up higher on her head. “I really need to get my life together”, she said. “Yes,” the other one said, “we really do. I mean, we’re like so far from together.”

I smiled because I remembered how many times I’ve said those words. For the first time since I turned forty, I feel proud of it. I’m not making fun of these girls- I achingly remember the uncertainty of my twenties. I knew nothing, the shape of my life and what it would contain was maddeningly blurry and insubstantial. I wanted a plan, I wanted to know who I was, I wanted to know it would all be okay. I wanted to know I would not end up alone and in a job I hated, or not alone but with a guy that constantly withheld love for weeks or months and then poured it out on me all at once in a way that was intoxicating but too much to handle, or with a guy that bored me, or with a guy that was perfect for me but in a job that was suffocating and paid me no money and we would live in a crappy apartment in West Hollywood for the rest of my life while all my friends bought houses and had babies. Basically I was afraid of not knowing what I wanted, and then not ever getting anything right because I didn’t know what to ask for. I spent hours with my best friends, endlessly discussing ourselves and the different versions we were trying on, the lives we were auditioning, the lives we wanted or didn’t want, the lives we feared. This is what twenty should be- trying to get it together. Trying to identify what it is that you want, and then stitching it together with that other thing that you discover you need, and so on. Searching each thread for the right job, the right city, the right man, the right career, the right passions, the right life.

As I was listening to these girls, I was also reading Lindsey Mead’s awesome ode to turning 40 (This is 40) and nodding along. As Lindsey says,  these are the  “in between years, the thick, hot heart of life’s grand pageant, busy and rich and exhausting, overflowing with demands, responsibilities, and love”. I nodded along, yes, because I feel so in-between, in the middle, at the top of the roller coaster; and yet, I also feel like I’ve arrived somewhere. I’m not trying to get my life together anymore, I realize, I am just trying to keep it together. I want to tell my twenty-five year old self- relax. You will find the right husband, you will find the right-enough career path to get you where you need to be, you will have a house you love, and friends you cherish, kids that will complete you and tear you up in ways you didn’t know you needed, and a passion for something that makes everything make sense. But when you find it, you have to keep it all together. Life with kids is messy and someone has to make sure everything doesn’t unravel. And that’s you, that’s 40.

My life is together, as in I have gathered all these people and things that mean so, so much to me, and I hold them against me every night. But what my twenty-five year old self did not know is how scary a life together can be. Because now I have so, so much to lose. I can’t breathe sometimes with the weight of knowing this. It’s the ordinary things that remind me.

It’s O’s shoes kicked haphazardly across the entry rug, I’s baby dolls and trail of diapers she has taken from my bag and used for her own babies, Mike’s computer bag perfectly organized and zipped in the same place every night. I look at these things and I feel it in my chest- the flutter of love that can swirl itself into a tornado of fear if I let it. This daily litter of books and papers and mail and sippy cups and crayons and Lego’s and tiny shoes is the evidence of my life, and sometimes they haunt me, these things that are useless without the people they belong to. I don’t know what it is about a child’s shoe that can send me running upstairs to lie down next to O, to make sure he is still breathing, to make sure he is okay, to make sure he knows he is loved. In the still of the night, everything seems to breathe with what ifs.

It’s the drawings I found on the shower door yesterday morning. As the steam enveloped the shower, a princess, a castle, the moon, a heart with my daughter’s name inside it, all bloomed into life. I wasn’t there, but knew my husband had drawn these to please our daughter. I could see her, standing in her mermaid pajamas, her round tummy, her crazy swirling curls, her gap-toothed grin, holding her purse and her baby and her loveys, shouting “A princess! The moooon! Again, daddy, again!”. Evidence of love, of this life I share, evidence of everything I have pulled together.

It’s 3 am last night, and a shout from upstairs, and a bad dream and holding him close and noticing how he doesn’t fit quite as well anymore, but still little enough that my arm around him can keep the bad dreams at bay. I lay there longer than I had to, holding him, trying not to cry, keeping it together.









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Five. FIVE. Happy five years to my first-born Leo, my sunshine child. Five was always the magic cut-off in my head, a clear dividing line between baby/toddler and big kid. And you are. The other day I walked by the bathroom where you were washing your hands, and you were standing on the ground, no stool required. When did that happen?!? “When did that happen?” I asked you. You shrugged and said “Oh Mom, I’m bigger now”. In the car later that day, as you buckled yourself into your car seat, I told you that I wanted you to stay five, forever. You just looked at me with a wise smile, then laughed and said, “Oh Mom, you know that’s impossible”.

Yes, I know it’s impossible. Today you are five years and 4 days already. The march towards six, seven, twelve, will never cease. But today you are five, and you can’t blame me for wanting you to stay. Five, for you, is a joy; a perfect mix of little enough to need me, but big enough to do things on your own.

You are still our little mayor, an extroverted social butterfly. You love people, all people, talking to everyone you see and meet. Recently at your great-grandmother GG’s memorial service, I found you sitting at a table filled with GG’s bridge friends. You were chatting and drawing pictures. I asked you if you wanted to come sit with me and the other kids, and you said “No, Mom, I’m sitting here with my new friend Gladys, I’ll find you later”. And you sat with these old ladies you had never met before for over an hour, telling them about your life and asking about theirs. Then you found some little boys your own age and walked up to them and said “Hi, I’m O, let’s play”. And you did, playing chase and hide and seek for hours. What I love most about all of this is your confidence and complete certainty that everyone is someone to make a friend and that everyone wants to talk to you. You talk to anyone and everyone, with the same brightness and desire to make them happy. It is a true gift you have, and I hope you never doubt it or quash it.

You are mostly a rule-follower and people-pleaser. You are a thinker and a questioner. You want to know about everything, and you want everyone to be happy. You are a way-too generous big brother. Your little sister is two, so she does things like hit and throw tantrums and want every toy you have, and then she mixes up the play dough or colors on walls. And without fail, you are her defender. You tell me it’s ok, you don’t mind she hit you or broke your toy, because she’s only two. You are the first to hug her when she cries. And you like to be the first to go into her room in the morning and you climb into her crib with her and read her stories and make her giggle. She adores you, as she should.

Five is countless hours planning your extensive LEGO city, and countless other hours building and tinkering, making things better. Five is an easier bedtime- a few books, some Willie Nelson music, a chat, and then door shut, with your dog at your side. Five is being big enough to go on Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror at Disneyland, but still being afraid of being alone. Five is endless questions. Why are vampires pale? Why is the earth invented? Why does God only have a son and not a daughter? Why is crap a bad word? Can I say heck? Is hell real? Why are windshields made of glass? They should be made of invisible bricks. And so on. And on and on and on and on.

You love a girl named Emma. You aren’t sure she wants to marry you, but you hope she does. You bring her flowers to put on her car seat, and you want her to be happy.

You are really really really into: LEGOS, police, firemen, the army, play dough, coloring. You have really blossomed this year with coloring and drawing and writing. You got glasses for reading and you look so cute and handsome in them. You work really hard, and tell me you should never give up, always try harder. You were very determined to learn to swim this summer so you could go off the diving board when you turned five, and you did it. You are a fantastic swimmer and I love watching you swim.

You are a true joy in my life. No you aren’t perfect, but every day I thank God and the universe and science that your particular set of genes was the winning combination that became you. I watch you with awe because you are so unlike me, and yet so like me. You are the very best of me and your father, and I think the world is a better place because you are in it.

You are five, and you are a wonder. Thank you for being my most awesome kid, and I love you.



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August (and everything after)

We were away recently, in California visiting Mike’s family and squeezing in two days at DisneyLand. Feels like I left in the middle of summer and came home to find the end of summer already here. Even though it is hotter now than ever, even though school doesn’t start for another two weeks, even though our local pool is open through October, all of a sudden I feel the shift. It’s happened. I’m always always surprised by it, even though I should expect it by now. August is such a strange month; it feels slow and languid, but starting about now, there is this undercurrent of awareness that occasionally reaches up and pricks you in the middle of a lazy day. It says “hurry up hurry up, my days are numbered, fall is coming, do you feel it?” August is nostalgia for days that aren’t over yet.

Last week was a whirlwind. I learned so much about myself and about my parenting- traveling does that to you. It somehow amps everything up so that it is all intensified- the good and the bad, the exquisite beauty of parenting and the terrible emotions it can bring out. I swung so quickly from grabbing M’s hand to witness a breathtakingly sweet moment with our kids, to leaving the room due to the sudden surge of anger and helplessness that occurs when both kids simultaneously whine and cry and act so terribly that you wonder why you ever bother to take them anywhere. Traveling is so many of these moments stacked right on top of each other. I can’t tell you if we had a wonderful time or a miserable one. We had both. So many pure moments, and so many hard ones.

The rest of August will be a blur- Mike’s birthday, O’s birthday, last week of summer, school starting for O, I’s first day of preschool. Lots of firsts and lasts. I’m tired of applying sunscreen, but not ready to leave our lazy days of swimming and late sunshine. At our swim club, you have to be five and be able to swim across half the pool in order to go off the diving board. O has been preparing for this since June. He couldn’t swim in June- now he’s practicing his freestyle and backstroke and is a real fish in the water. August 18 (when he can jump off) has felt so far away, and now it’s here. The days of summer have a sameness- an insubstantial repetition, and yet they stack up to so much- the summer O learned to swim, my first summer at home with the kids, the summer we took both kids to Disneyland, and so on. Like always, our life stories are happening around us, and this chapter, the summer that O turned five, and I was two, is almost finished.


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These Are Days

It was a hard week, filled with more bad days than good. That Tuesday was a good day. I was up before the kids, which meant I was alert and happy to see them when they got up. I made eggs, and turkey sausage, and the little one helped. She actually cracked the eggs for me (with only minimal shell removal necessary), then demanded milk to add, then stirred. I am amazed at what they know and can do when you let them. While I cooked, the two of them played with play-dough and there was no yelling or whining or pushing. I had the Willie Nelson Pandora station on, and the song “Pancho & Lefty” came on. “This is my favorite song,” my older one said, and sang every word. “It is mine, too”, I told him, and sang along, while the little one reached for me and said “Mama, hold you”. I held her,  and she said “Dance, Mama!”, and so I did. It was one of those moments where you can feel a memory forming, of singing Willie Nelson and dancing in our old ugly blue kitchen, on a hot July day, just an ordinary morning that turned magical. It was one of those days.

That Thursday was a not so good day. I was tired, and slow-moving, and frankly tired of deciding what to feed the kids. They got out the play-dough again, but this time there was yelling and pushing, and after three, four, five times of asking them to stop, asking them to them to sit down, to get their feet off the table, to eat their dinner, to stop giving food to the dog- after all that, I yelled. Loud. Scarily, even. Both kids froze, the older one immediately did what I had been asking (like he always does) and the little one went into hysterics and reached for me to comfort her. Even though it is sometimes the only way they will listen, even though I know that other parents yell, and it does not make me the absolute worst mother in the world, I feel like it. I feel dirty and uneasy and anxious and filled up with all the wrong things. I hugged the little one tight, and took small comfort in the fact that a hug from me is all it takes to make things better for her. The older one came over and put his arms around us, and said he is sorry, and he is ready to listen now, and I felt even worse. Look at these fragile little things, astonishingly mine and left in my care, and how could I let myself get so angry and yell at them? But I did, because it was one of those days.

I have this t-shirt, that says THESE ARE THE DAYS, in bold black letters on weathered white. When I was visiting my parents, there was this moment where we were trying to go somewhere, and we were late, and I finally got the kids in the car. The older one started whining because he wanted to bring his most favorite LEGO ever, and also he needed some water (after I had already asked him if he wanted water) and could he please have a snack? Then of course the little one starts screaming because- well, she’s two, so who knows. I think it was about Cheetos.  I feel the frustration building and just as I’m about to lose it, my mom bursts out laughing and points at my shirt. “What?” I ask her, expecting some remark about how my daughter is just like me. “These are the days, right?” she says.  I look down, and laugh with her. We joke about me putting the shirt on during bad days, looking at myself in the mirror and chanting “THESE are the days, These ARE the days, These are THE days” over and over, in an attempt to remind myself, to make it true.

I didn’t buy the t-shirt as some gauzy reminder of how fleeting these days are, or as a tribute to the song. I bought it because it looked vaguely French and nonchalant and cool, and I thought I would look nonchalant and cool in it, with some boyfriend jeans and maybe a hat, or a braid. Instead I usually wear it with yoga pants, my hair in it’s customary ponytail. I certainly don’t look French. But still, I do notice the words now, and it is true, these ARE the days. Days of what, it depends, but they are the days I am living, the days I have: good, bad, boring, exhilarating, tiring, frustrating, monotonous, magical, everything.

There are lots of blog posts and essays out there imploring us parents to make every minute count, to enjoy every.single.minute, because these days as a parent with small children are so precious, because we will miss these days when they are too quickly gone, because I am lucky to be their mother, because because because. And what I feel like saying to these people is WE KNOW. We know how precious and how fleeting and how messy and how beautiful and how hard it is, because we are down in it, living it every single day. We are aware, even in the moments where it gets to be too much or we let ourselves yell, we are aware of the privilege and pressure of parenting. We don’t ever forget. Life with small children is so interminable- intense and insistent. It is always pressing on you, the knowledge of your children, even when they are not there. The absence of their presence is equally pressing. It is always, always THERE.

Another day that week all of us went to Toys R Us to make a birthday list for O. All was well until it wasn’t, and I began what is so far the worst tantrum of her life. I tried to ignore her, I tried to cajole her, I tried to distract her, I tried to bribe her, I tried everything. Her screaming only grew louder and then she began hitting me and yep, we became those people, with that kid. I picked her up and took her outside to sit in the car, where her tantrum continued for another ten minutes at least. As I was sitting there, waiting her out, I thought of the “enjoy every minute” people. I wanted one of them to be sitting there with me, in the passenger seat, witnessing this little miracle. How, exactly, do you enjoy every minute of a tantrum? Hold your significant other’s hand, lean into each other and smile, proud to be witnessing it all? Take a picture or a video for Instagram? No, it sucks and it’s okay that it sucks, and it’s okay to be annoyed and tired and overwhelmed in those moments. It was just one of those days.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the yelling, because it was been a yelling week. And I have a few friends that have had some hard days as well, and we talk about it, and we promise to do better and we laugh and send each other “enjoy every minute” quotes. I hate it, I do, but…well, I have to find some way to understand it, so here goes. What if the frustration and yelling, the bad moments, the lessons we learn, is all part of the privilege as well?  It’s part of what makes up the shared territory of parenting, it’s what makes us all part of the same tribe, part of the secret language and sorrow of this world. We know it’s going too fast. We know that every day is another last, another step away from us. I feel it in every moment, yes, even in the angry ones. When I give myself a break, I think that perhaps the angry moments are just as profound as the beautiful moments- these are the moments in which I grow and learn, where I am forced to confront the things I don’t like about myself and try to hide in the dark corners or under the bed. These are the moments in which maybe I can make a choice to do better. And also to teach forgiveness, and how to comfort and maybe how to handle anger.

At the end of that week,  we we were finishing our day at the pool. O had a swim lesson, and then the littles were eating dinner. I was tired and ready to get home and end the day, still had showers and bedtime ahead of me. I just wanted them to be quiet and let me enjoy the fading sunlight. And then O asked to sit at another table, alone. He has never done that. I said no, of course not, and he started whining. And I gave him my grown-up, reasonable answer which made him cross his eyes at me and growl (this is his version of rolling his eyes, I think). And in that moment, I realized how even though it will be nice to sit quietly at the adult table when the kids inevitably move over to their own table, I intensely did not want that to happen yet. “Well if you move over, then what about planning your birthday party? And didn’t you want to talk about what to put in your LEGO city?” He perked up, and said “Oh, yeah, of course” and then continued on talking, his words spilling over themselves as they always do, the familiar cadence of his particular phrases and mispronounced words soothing me, reminding me that right now, this is exactly where I want to be.

It’s like this, at the end of these days. Every day is a new chapter in our story. And only you get to decide how to tell that story. What I chose to remember and hopefully have time to write about, the moments that I describe and the lessons I take away, those are the stories of my life. If you remember the magic of your morning, that’s your story. If instead you want to dwell on the yelling and the mess, and how you are always always late, then that will be your story of parenthood. For me, I will remember the magic, but also recognize the mess. Because the mess can contain it’s own magic- the magic of noticing and awareness. If every morning we were singing Willie Nelson in the kitchen, I wouldn’t notice it. But after a messy day, a little kitchen dancing can break your heart and fill it back up again in one moment.

So yes, these are the days. Days of boredom and lightening giggles, of dancing in the kitchen and blowing bubbles in the bath, of hitting and screeching but also of unprompted hugs. It is days filled with gymnastics and swimming and art camps, and then a stormy day spent entirely inside, the older one creating intricate LEGO cities by himself, and the younger one sitting on my lap, eating Cheetos and yelling “Oh no! What happened!” at the soap opera you are secretly trying to watch. It is two hour long epic bedtime battles one night, and the peaceful perfection the next. It is shockingly well-executed family dinners one night, and frozen pizza and wine at 9:30 pm the next, thankful for Mindy Kaling otherwise you’d be crying instead of laughing. It is all of it, the mess and the magic.



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Slowing Down For Happiness

It is a stormy June afternoon and I sit here trying to write adequate words for my anniversary. Seven years ago today, we were married under a clear blue sky, beside a river, and in front of a grand old tree. 

Marriage is so much, and so complicated, and I can’t find the right words to contain how I feel. It is simply this: I have entwined my life with the best man I know. He is smart and kind and hard-working and funny and a great dad and he makes me laugh. But the way I feel about being married to him is so much more than that. It is that we have created something, joined forces and made a world and a home and a place that is only ours, a place that I didn’t know existed and now can’t bear to exist without. So I’ll leave it to Mary Oliver, who always has the right words. 

Coming Home
by Mary Oliver

When we’re driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we’re weary,
when the buildings
and the scrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place — the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea —
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything — the headlights
like lanterns
sweeping the blackness —
believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.


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