I see you. I hear you.

"I see you got that tape off yourself, Z!"

"I hear you E! You're mad that I took that rock out your mouth!"

Of all the things I say over and over again, every day, "I see you" and "I hear you" are probably the ones I've worked the hardest on and am proudest of. Sure I say "I love you" a lot too, and though it's often heartfelt, the truth is it's sometimes rote and other times selfishly fishing for connection. I also say "I'll be right there", "I can't understand the whining" and "Please don't put a shopping bag on your sister's head and then try to lead her around by the handle" a lot too but those aren't always said in the nicest tone.

This particular verbal tic started when I was taking a state funded parenting education class back in Pasadena, where we started out as dazed new moms who needed a place outside of the house to go once a week to watch our children gnaw on each other while we talked about how hard it is to be a mother and wound up, several years later, still dazed, still needing a place outside of the house to go once a week to watch our children gnaw on each other while we talked about how hard it is to be a mother. The classes were actually incredible informative, with presentations on everything from car seat safety to post partum depression.

One day, our teacher instructed us to abolish the phrase"good job" from our vocabulary. In it's place, she urged us to use "descriptive praise", basically describing what you see your child doing in a positive tone of voice without any need to evaluate it for them. So instead of "Good job sliding down that slide!", I would say "I see you slid down the slide!" with just as much enthusiasm.

It makes sense to me that the empty phrase "Good job" eventually gets filtered out, that to children it sounds hollow and meaningless. After reading "Punished by Rewards" a year ago and then, just recently, "Nurtureshock", I am even more committed to finding ways to talk about my children's behavior without resorting to bland compliments. And so, for me, "I see you _______" has become my version of Mom Mad Libs.

"I hear you _____" comes out of my mouth pretty often as well, though less as praise and more about teaching my girls how to communicate their needs, opinions and feelings. This is murkier territory because rather than labeling what I can clearly see, I must guess what my daughters are feeling and I'm aware that my words can have a powerful suggestive impact. But I want them to know that I hear them, and I want to help them name and express their feelings. So I muddle my way through it, hoping that my effort to hear them is what matters most.

Though I sometimes fear that my Mom Mad Libs are a little too ... precious? Academic? I really do believe in them. These phrases strike me as being at the heart of what it means to be a parent, or a spouse or a friend for that matter. In any relationship, first and foremost, we must truly see and truly hear.

Isn't that what we all want, anyway? To be seen and heard?


Now I get to update my blog

It seems that a lot of us moms are looking to experience and appreciate the moment more. We want to move slowly, be present, experience joy.

In the daily grind of child-rearing, there is no harder task.

It struck me this past weekend, when I was temporarily liberated from my day-to-day reality, just how much of motherhood is, for me, about living in the future. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I'm going to do next, who's due for a poop, who's going to be tired in 10 minutes, when a snack will become a necessity, whether I'll have to buy wipes when I go to the store later, do we have anything remotely edible in the fridge for dinner, and on and on and on.

I'm often so busy putting my mind into the future, into my refrigerator, into my kids' bladders, bellies, minds that I lose sight of what's happening with me, right here and now, and it all becomes a demanding, monotonous blur.

When we woke up in our hotel room last Saturday, CG and I had nothing we had to do until the wedding at 6:30 that night. We could eat what we wanted when we wanted, and take as long as we wanted. We wandered through boutiques with aisles too tight for a stroller and merchandise too tempting and fragile for little hands. We attended only to our own needs and whims, walked at our own pace. We went to the bathroom whenever we needed to, WITHOUT COMPANY.

I can't remember the last time that was my reality. Though I did miss my girls, I relished each moment of freedom like an exonerated prisoner. There were so many treats in that weekend, the whole thing felt like a true, blissful vacation.

In attempting to carry the feelings from last weekend over into my day-to-day bottom-wiping, tantrum-soothing, laundry-doing life, I keep thinking about a chapter from a book I'm reading called "Awakening Joy".

(I'll pause while we all retch at that title for a moment. I usually do.)

The authors suggest that we retrain our inner monologue so that instead of rushing from one thing to the next with the thought "Now I HAVE to....", we replace it with the more appreciative "Now I GET to...." .

Appreciating each moment of last weekend was simple; there were so many new, fun things I GOT to do. When faced with yet another sink full of dirty dishes and a toy and dog hair strewn living room, it's not so easy. But when I try to train myself to think this way, it really does shift my mood.

Now I get to do the dishes.

Now I get to nurse E.

Now I get to pick up Z from summer camp.

Now I get to make us all lunch.

Even if it sometimes makes me feel a little Pollyanna-ish, I'm learning to appreciate and be grateful for every part of my day to day life.

Even the laundry. (Well, okay, I'm still working on that one.)


The toast I didn't give at my friends' wedding

B and D, I've loved watching you two tonight. You always seem to be touching in at least two places at all times. Your eyes and lips and fingers and elbow creases find each other magically, magnetically, effortlessly. Your joyful grins spring forth as if from inexhaustible wells and, while I know that is just who you both intrinsically are, I also remember what it it felt like to be so happy that a grin wasn't big enough, to feel sore from smiling at, and because of the incredible existence of, your beloved. I'm so happy for you that you found one another, that you are getting to experience this moment of exploding possibility and deep connection.

I also imagine that there may be other moments in your future. Moments when this connection might feel like a distant memory. Moments when maybe B's up all night, every night, with a teething baby and D's putting in long hours at work and has a cold that no one wants to spread and so you go days, maybe even weeks, without kissing or sleeping in the same bed or touching. It may be hard to imagine now, but disconnection happens so easily, so fast.

One day, in the midst of exhaustion and tedium and your third load of daily laundry, you might find that it's just so much easier to turn away from one another. To start to build walls behind which you can retreat, launch ammunition and be right.

That is, of course, the exact moment you must turn toward each other. You must dare to be vulnerable. Dare to be wrong. Dare to be connected even when the connection hurts and you don't know how to make things better. Dare to say, "I love you and I want to make this better. What do you need? What can I do?"

I've been married for almost eight years and the only thing I know for sure is that it starts there. It always starts with what you can do.

You are embarking on an incredible journey together. May your path be smooth and may you easily find each other's hands when the path gets bumpy. May your days rarely be dark and may you light the way for one another when it is. May your well of connection run deep and may you be strong and brave and generous when the well runs temporarily dry. May your footsteps always come back into synch when life- random, imperfect, unpredictable life- pushes them apart.

May you one day, just when you need it, go to a wedding so full of love that it makes you remember your own joyful connection.

To the journey of marriage! To love! To B and D!

(To us!)


On Father's Day

Dear Z and E,

So far this blog is the most permanent record of the details of your childhood. And since I'm writing it, I probably sound like I'm the sole center of your universe. The sun. You've probably noticed I use the pronoun "I" a lot.

But this isn't a universe, this is a family. And you have two people here who would do anything for you, who love you beyond measure. Your father and I, we, are the center of this family and if it doesn't always sound that way, that is my fault.

Sometimes this blog has made your father uncomfortable. So I often pull back from including him in it too much, out of respect for his privacy. This probably makes it sound like I shoulder all the burden, that I carry the full weight of parenthood by myself. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your father is our rock. He plays with you and works hard for you. He delights in you, worries about you, wonders at you. He can be ridiculously silly and calmly serious. He is our fixer, our voice of reason, our compass.

He is exactly the father I knew he would be when I married him almost eight years ago.

On Father's Day, celebrate with me how extremely fortunate we are to have him.


your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Up and away

I just packed a bag that's suspiciously light. There are nursing pads but no nursing bras. There is a breast pump but no bottles. There are clothes but none of them are size 12 months or 4T. No diapers, no wipes, no plastic toys, no board books, no monitors. Just a bag with some clothes, some books (YAY!) and a few (Okay, 6. But there's still more room! 7!) pairs of shoes.

On Friday we leave for a weekend away from the girls. Even the hairy one.

My mom arrives tonight, bless her heart, and she will be armed with all the ammunition she will need to survive her tenure here: new toys, loose TV rules, and several boxes of mac and cheese. I know she'll be fine. I know the girls will be fine. I know we will be fine. But I can't stop the worrying that feels protective, necessary, unstoppable.

At night, instead of sleeping, I engage in a furious round of every neurotic mom's favorite game: What Horrible Things Could Happen. The fact that CG is planning on flying us in a small plane only adds fuel to the insomnia fire. CG is a safe, uber-competent pilot. And I know that, statistically, flying in a small plane is actually safer than driving but it doesn't always feel that way when I am watching the ground fall away beneath me as our little metal pod rattles and yaws and rises into the sky. No matter how we get to our friends' wedding though, the thought that something could happen to us when we are away from our girls feels terrifying in that very special it's-not-just-my-life-anymore-now-that-I'm-a-mom way. I'm no longer scared of what it would feel like to have something horrible happen. What keeps me up at night is what it would mean for our girls to lose us.

(It doesn't help that I just read Anna Quindlen's latest novel "Every Last One". JEEBUS. Her writing is as smooth as always but I wouldn't recommend this book if you are at all prone to mom-related neuroses.)

CG and I desperately need this vacation. Barring any last minute germ infestations (*knock wood*), we're going to have a blissful two and half days together. We need this time to reconnect with each other, to remember who we are as a couple when we aren't tag- teaming as parents. To wake up in the morning with no needs to attend to but our own. To have uninterrupted conversations and private bathroom visits. To share several meals in a row where we both can remain seated the entire time. To dine and dance and celebrate with friends who knew us before we had a dog and kids and a house with a white fence out back.

I just hope I can let go enough to enjoy it.



I was clicking through a few drafts on this here blog the other day when I made a strange and unsettling discovery: I've "published" 499 posts. This is my 500th post.


When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I had read only a few blogs, didn't have a laptop, had never shared any personal writing with anyone (except for the diary excerpts that I scribbled in long letters and emails to friends who loved me anyway).

I still don't know what I'm doing (OBVIOUSLY). I still use the free blogger template. I don't have ads. I barely "use" Twitter. I don't know how to play the game of blogging for sponsorships or ad money or anything like that and I don't really care to learn. I write because I love to, need to. I do it here because of all the connections I've made.

I've come to know and care about so many strangers through this blog. I've stayed in touch with far flung friends through this blog. I've been moved by your comments, on and off the comment page. And though I sometimes go weeks without much to say, I have a hard time thinking about NOT blogging, which is a very odd statement when you think about it.

Like reaching any milestone, hitting the 500 mark makes me take stock. Last year I started searching for ways to preserve bits of this blog because I don't have any backup to these posts that are the closest thing to a family scrapbook my girls will ever have. I haven't printed them out or put them anywhere other than these "pages". So I started to work on a "blog book" so that I can easily show these pages to my girls one day. I never finished it and I need to pick it back up again. I tell myself that I'm doing it because I want to have something physical to show them but I won't lie, printing and binding these pages into something permanent and tangible would be mostly for me.

And something else has happened. Somewhere along the way, somewhere in the middle of 499 posts, something in me shifted. I have always loved reading but now have to admit that I love writing too and I want to learn how to do it better. It feels scary and embarrassing to admit this to you, but I'm doing something I never thought I'd do: I'm joining a writing group.

It feels fitting that our first meeting is tomorrow.

Thanks, my friends, for coming on this ride with me, for however long you've been on it, for however long you stay.

Here's to the next 500.



"'Dis?" E says, grasping my nostril firmly between her fingers.


"'Dis?" She asks, stabbing at one of my eyeballs.

"That's Mama's eye."

She pushes my cheek, turning my head so that she can plunge her fingers into my ear and ask the burning question I currently hear 3,000 times a day: "Dis?" With only three words in her repertoire, our conversations are just a tad bit repetitive these days. (The three words: "hi", "'dis?" and "dada", aka. OF COURSE, MOM, YOU'RE CHOPPED LIVER.)

"That's my ear," I say and take her hand in mine to try to settle her in for her last nursing session of the day, which is- after all -why we're here in her room, in the nursing chair, at 7 pm. I place her at my breast and give her her cue to focus: I sing.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high....

she insists suddenly, pinching my lower lip between her fingers. I will not be swayed. I will stay focused. This is serious business.

I keep singing.

...thereth a landth that I heard of thonce in a lullaby.

My pause between verses is her chance to grab for the brass ring: my tongue.

SomeWHEH oveh the wainbow, skies ah bwue....

She starts to giggle as I keep singing my lispy song. I'm still singing and she's still not really nursing and then we're both giggling, our laughs and my song muddled by the pieces of each other we have in our mouths.

The giggles die out eventually, her hands finally find a restful spot on my bra straps and there is silence as she settles in for a moment to nurse.

Suddenly she pulls off, perhaps realizing she has yet to meet her "dis?" quota for the day, and asks, thumping her hand on my chest like I'm a questioningly ripe watermelon,"'Dis?"

"That's my chest."

"'DIS?" She thumps harder and asks again, I guess not liking my answer.

"This is Mama."

"'DIS??" She's getting pissed now; I'm not understanding her.

"This? This is Mama? Mama's chest? Singing? Do you want me to sing?" I wish I had tea leaves to read or divine signals to interpret or HECK I'D TAKE A MAGIC EIGHT BALL. But I can only guess. And I guess that she wants me to sing.

and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true....

"Dis?" E 's voice is muffled, her mouth still around my nipple, and she pats my chest softly, the tired finally showing through. Still the question is burning in her brain, not letting her go. "'Dis?"

"This is love, E. This is Mama. This is Mama and E and this is love."

She closes her eyes and drops her head and hands back to rest on my chest. I reduce my song to a hum because it suddenly dawns on me that she likes the vibration of my voice, that it really isn't about the specific words after all.


Some days/Other days

Some days, I am so deeply grateful to be a stay-at-home mother. Preciousness and gravity hang from every wipe and hug and cup of milk. I can almost physically feel the fleeting nature of time and so I relish the gleeful toddler cackles and bizarre preschooler dialogues, awash in gratitude for my supreme good fortune.

Other days, I long to be somewhere else, doing something, anything, else. I feel my brain disintegrating inside my skull with every turning page of "Goodnight Moon" and imagine each dendrite drying up like a worm on hot pavement as the 'wheels on the bus go round and round', squashing every single crispy one. I feel time dragging on in an endless parade of laundry to be done and wiggly bottoms to be wiped and crusty dishes to be washed.

Some days, I hug my children enough, and, still, can't hug them enough. I use words I am proud of and set limits with reason and respect. I watch with admiration and pride as my children walk and run and follow rules and use their manners and make me think and feel and wonder at the beauty and intensity of life.

Other days, I yell too much, just too, too much. I grit my teeth and roll my eyes and use words I am ashamed of, even if it's only inside my head. Some days I look at my children and wonder if they will ever be grateful enough and then I hate myself for needing their gratitude.

Today is one of those other days.

I just hope that tomorrow is one of the some days.


The return of the nap

When Z's nap disappeared last summer, it was a bad, bad time. "Disappeared" is the wrong word, really, because it implies a quick, painless, invisible exit and when she stopped napping it was actually long, drawn-out and wretched.

We wrestled for months with her naps. Some days she would finally succumb to a nap, only to whine about not being tired and having an impossible time getting to sleep at bedtime. Other days she would stall and tantrum and NOT SLEEP her way through nap time only to fall apart during dinner because she was SOOOO TTTIIIIIRRREEEEDDDD.

It didn't help that I was still learning to juggle two kids, was without CG (my partner, my rock, my tag team IT'S YOUR TURN NOW BEFORE I EXPLODE buddy) and in the middle of our cross country move. I would BEG Z to nap and ran her ragged in the morning trying to tire her out, but some days she just couldn't. And I couldn't fathom how I would EVER LIVE without her nap time every day to free me from our constant interaction and my sweaty vigilance. If she isn't actually asleep, I can't use that time to get things done because I need to be close by so that she doesn't wake the baby.

After the move, Z was still struggling with it but by mid-fall we had a no-nap routine and an early bedtime and she has spent the better part of the school year with a daily, scheduled 45 minute-long quiet time. She stays in her room, she plays with her toys WITHOUT ME and when her clock turns green, she may come out. We linked her video time to her quiet time behavior. If she is actually reasonably quiet and stays put in her room, she gets TV time later that day. If she doesn't, she doesn't. This has been amazingly effective, though there are days every couple of months when she tests the boundaries and I think PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME TAKE AWAY YOUR VIDEOS BECAUSE I LOOOOVE THAT TIME AS MUCH AS YOU DO and she still pushes and I have to take them away and then we both cry THE END.

But I've come to LOVE her quiet time, almost as much as her old naptimes. Because I needed to be close by, especially in the beginning there were many times I needed to intervene, I couldn't run around the house doing other things so I decided to make her quiet time coincide with E's second nap and I spent the entirety of it curled up in bed with a book. For 45 minutes every day, I've gotten a true break, a reading respite that I wouldn't have allowed myself if she was actually sleeping and therefore safe for me to tend to the bills/refrigerator/laundry.

Now, of course you've seen this coming with this incredibly long lead-up and the whole "return" in the post title and everything, she's napping again. Every day. For a couple of weeks now.

W. T. F.

It started with her being sick, I think, and after she woke up from a sickly, sweaty nap feeling all better, I told her that she would be able to stay up a little later since she napped. DING DING DING lights went off in her little head. You mean if I nap, I get to stay up LATER??? And so a naptime was reborn.

And it sucks. It's completely messed up our afternoon activities, her bedtime is SUPER late, and, since she's asleep, I no longer feel like I can just sit and read. I should really be getting things done. Right?

Screw it though. Today, what I got done was one chapter from my book and this blog post.

The nap is dead! Long live the nap!

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