We have entered a stage in our house that I fear will be a long one: the stage of wishing for two of every single toy. Which, of course, isn't reasonable or practical but still every single time the girls are going toe to toe over some broken toy telephone that no one has played with in over year, I think "Where did we get that?", which inevitably leads to "Should we get another one?" and then, because I'm equal parts imaginative and desperate, "Can I pull another one out of my ass RIGHT NOW to stop the screaming?"

But even if I were able to conjure up another deeply precious broken toy telephone, I know the fighting wouldn't end there. Oh no. Then they're be some blow-up about whose broken toy telephone was MORE precious, the new old one or the old old one. And one of them would surely look slightly different and therefore be the better of the two and then we'd be right back where we started, with me going slightly insane from the whining.

E is two years old and, therefore, deeply in the MINE stage. Everything she sees is hers. Everything she wants is hers. And, especially, everything that her sister is currently holding is HERS.

We went through this MINE stage with Z, of course, but when she was two, she had the benefit of living in a house where every single toy WAS hers. As CG and I were not about to fight with her over the stuffed dog in her hands, there were precious few instances of her battling over toys.

E, on the other hand, entered a house where every single toy belonged to her big sister. We rarely bought toys for Z, yet we managed to acquire a stunning number of them simply through gifts and hand-me-downs and some universal plastic toy osmosis. We have a decently stocked playroom in the basement and the Useless-Toy Fairy has to visit regularly in the dead of night to take the lamer toys to never never land.

I do not want to buy more toys just so that E has the same number of toys as her older sister. I also am having a hard time asking Z to share all of these things that were specifically given to her. Because, of course, she remembers everything about her toys. She can't remember where she put her lunch bag or her shoes or her favorite head band but BOY HOWDY she can tell you that that long-ignored plastic bracelet that I want to throw away was from the goody bag of so-and-so's birthday party and she needs it to remember that day and she (suddenly) can't bear to be apart from it ever.

Z has helped clean out her toy bins before, which is always an excruciating process during which she claims to adore things she hasn't played with in literally YEARS. We've talked about how we need to make room for new toys and have space to find and enjoy the ones we have by getting rid of old ones, either by giving them to her sister or to "kids who don't have as many toys".

We've also started talking recently about how we, as a family, share most of the things in our house. We each may have a few things that belong just to us, that we don't share, like our toothbrushes, eating utensils, a few special stuffed animals/dolls. But the rest of our things really belong to the whole family. Even the toys.

There's something bigger I want to get through to Z, and I'm not sure if it's possible at this age. That these possessions only have the value that we place on them. That we can chose whether something is valuable to us or not. That letting something go doesn't have to mean letting go of the enjoyment you had with it.

And that the two year old will let you have the red straw if can convince her that the green one is the one you really want.


Old Wounds

They say that parenthood can help you heal your own wounds from childhood. I always assumed that applied to extreme situations. People who were beaten as children - they can cuddle their kids instead! Or people who were called bad names - they can use gentle words with their kids! And their inner child is healed! Huzzah!

But what about the tiny wounds? The minor ones we forgot about? The ones we do to ourselves?

Can those heal too?


I still tell Z stories about me when I was little. And they often pertain to issues of our time together. It is not lost on either of us that I sometimes make them up or at least embellish, and thankfully she no longer insists that they "actually happened". But more often than not these days, I have real stories to tell. Because I struggled with many of the same things, little and big, that she does.

Watching her wrestle with similar challenges can be painful. But healing to, as I relearn what I forgot I knew.

Sometimes, I learn something new, for the first time.


When I was in middle and high school, my two best friends were singers. They sang in church and choirs and school musicals. I joined them at the tryouts for our school musicals, because I wanted to dance and because I wanted to belong to the chummy theater-kid group.

Unfortunately, I had to sing to gain entry.

Though I eventually made it in, my audition keep me up at night for days beforehand and the resulting squawking played in an endless loop in my head for years afterward as part of "Why I Suck, The Greatest Hits Edition."

One day, the week before opening night for Hello Dolly, I was asked to mouth the lyrics, as I often stood front and center as a dancer but my off key voice was hopeless and distracting to the other performers.

I never really sang in front of other people after that, unless I was intentionally singing terribly, which I always do during Happy Birthday. Because it's my signature, you see! It's not because I'm trying to cover up my discomfort! I swear!

Other than that, I rarely sang as an adult. Not even all by myself in the shower or the car.

Then I had Z. I was supposed to sing to her, the books said, and there were all those Mommy and Me-type classes where I felt a little sorry for the teachers belting out "Old MacDonald" for the 1000th time, all by themselves, as I mouthed the words along. So I started singing to Z, quietly, privately at first, unsure how I'd sound or how it'd feel. Eventually, singing became part of our daily lives. It's a veritable tuneless Sing Off in here.

Z hated being strapped into her car seat and stroller as a baby and toddler and would scream and scream, unless we sang to her. So we did, endless rounds of every song I learned from Mommy and Me. Somewhere between "The Ants Go Marching" and "The Wheels on the Bus", I discovered something that surprised me: I LIKE to sing. Like, REALLY like to sing.

I'm still not great, I know. But I do it all the time with my girls now. Even in front of other people.

"Mom? I love to listen to you sing!" Z says frequently these days.

Every time it's like a healing balm on a tiny wound I had forgotten I even had.


Baby girl

We walk up to the door of her preschool classroom, the one with her name printed neatly on a yellow daisy, a single flower in a large paper bouquet. We both knock, her soft knuckles banging into the wood, mine lightly rapping.

There is loud crying on the other side of the door. The kind of crying that makes me want to turn around, cancel my dentist appointment and snuggle with my girl for the rest of the morning. Instead, we smile at each other and then at the teacher who opens the door and welcomes us in.

I kiss the top of her head and wave goodbye. She walks in without glancing back at me, looking instead at the boy with tears streaming down his face.

The door closes behind her and I walk away, the wails of someone else's baby ringing in my ears.


When I come to pick her up, she jumps into my arms - this girl, she's a jumper - and we cuddle for a minute. I sniff her hair, ask her about her morning, gather her things.

In the car she sings a new song, one I don't recognize, and it makes her laugh to hear me guess at the lyrics and title.

"Duckie goes shopping? In a barn? With a shoe?"

When we get home, she's yawning repeatedly, ready for lunch and a nap in that order, or possibly the reverse.

She wants "hum - hum, pret - pret and nofing else!" and I put hummus and pretzels and nothing else - besides a few baby carrots and maybe some cucumber slices and OH LOOK a sugar snap pea! - on her plate. She pushes our seats together so we are touching and grabs one of my hands to cuddle with while she eats. Half way through the meal, this closeness isn't enough and she climbs into my lap.

I think about CG and how we agreed that our kids needed to sit in their own seats during meals, no exceptions. I think about Z and the battles we had with her at this age, ending several meals when she refused to stay seated.

I think about this as I let E sit on my lap and we feed each other, pausing to give and receive kisses and nose nuzzles and giggly hugs. I let the guilt slip away, there is no one else here. She needs this closeness. I need this closeness. No one has to know.

When I tuck her in for her nap, she stretches almost all the way across her crib and I think it's past time to take the side off her crib but I'm just not ready yet and I close the door and walk away, the tune about Duckie going shopping ringing in my ears.


If only it were that simple.

We are in week two of school. I am sitting in a mostly clutter-free living room, the dog asleep at my side. After spending the first hour of E's naptime cleaning, tidying, doing dishes, prepping dinner, paying bills, and emailing, I am here. Sitting in front of my computer.

With a blank screen and a baby monitor hissing the almost silent noises of my used-to-be-a-baby.

I wanted this time to write. I was so looking forward to having this time - the mornings when E's in school and the afternoons when E naps and Z is still in school - to not only get things together in the house but to get things together IN MY LIFE. Chief among the things I wanted to do: write more.

If only it were that simple.

So far I've managed to pack my free time with long overdue doctor's appointments (Pap smear and mole check ahoy!) and assorted house projects. The free hours are much more easily frittered away than I realized.

I wanted to find more space in my day for this blog, but also for bigger things. I have an idea that really excites me for a novel (Ambitious!) and I have written exactly none of it. I have ideas for posts that I could market as a freelancer. I have written none of them.

I will start today. With this blog post.

Hmmm, maybe it is that simple.

(And the toddler, on cue: "Mommyyyyyyy!!!!")

(Inspired by Jennifer at Playgroups are No Place for Children and Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary.)


Love the message, hate the messenger

When I first heard John Mayer sing "Your Body is a Wonderland", I , like most other warm blooded females, felt my heart, my brain and my nethers sing in tingly harmony. I mean, the man is celebrating his beloved and her body and their lurve discovery in a sensitive, woman-centered song. What's not to like?

Then came the interviews where he spewed sexist, racist, homophobic crap and I basically can't listen to any of his songs anymore.

"If you want love, we'll make it" now sounds less like a loving invitation and more and more like an lecherous imperative.

I know we are all multi-faceted creatures, capable of a stunning combination of positive and negative behavior. But what do we do with someone who, let's say, produces great art but is a raging asshole in the rest of his life? How do we reconcile the beauty in someone with the "My dick is sort of like a white supremacist" beast? Does one cancel the other out?

I'm currently having this problem as I read a particularly helpful book. It is filled with information about the ways that children learn and how we can help them capitalize on their particular set of strengths and manage their particular set of weaknesses. After reading many books that jump into the alphabet soup of labels, it's been a welcome revelation to read this view: that while we all have weaknesses, only some get labeled, only some will show up in school. Our job, as parents and teachers, is to help our kids understand how their own unique mind works and find a life path for which they are well suited.

This book was recommended to me by a dear friend who works with learning disabled kids as The One to read, though she warned me of its author's issues first. I've begun making a mental list of the friends who might benefit from its information. As I read, Dr. Levine's tone is warm and engaging, especially as he invites us into his sessions where he celebrates a student's strengths while also helping them manage their weaknesses.

But, also as I read, I cannot get out of my mind that Dr. Levine was charged with sexually abusing over 50 of his former patients and eventually committed suicide in 2011, the day after he was formally charged. Every anecdote, every patient he writes about with such apparent care and wisdom, could be one of the ones who now accuses him of abuse.

I know he was never proven guilty. I know he maintained his innocence, up to and including his suicide note (Why, yes, I did Google his suicide note. Technology for the anxiety-producing win!). But after reading enough reports from the accusers, it seems like an awful lot of smoke to not be coming from a fire.

It is not my job to determine his guilt or innocence. But as I continue to read this book and find more and more wisdom in its pages, I am increasingly sickened that such a person might also be capable of something so horrible.

What are we to do with the message when the messenger is deeply, deeply flawed?


The last drop of baby shampoo

Dear E,

Before your older sister was born, I went to Target to pick a baby shampoo. I read ingredient lists and tried to care about the potentially dangerous chemicals in each bottle but mostly, I surreptitiously took the caps off and sniffed the heck out of them.

It was no contest, I knew instantly which one I wanted to sniff on my baby's hair and skin for the next few years. It smelled of honey: sticky, sweet and clean.

Your sister got baths every night before we realized that this routine was responsible for drying her skin so badly it flaked off in her sleep no matter how much cream we slathered on.
It was hard to let that part of her bedtime routine go, mostly because smelling her soft clean hair made nursing her in the wee hours bearable.

I've bought the same baby shampoo countless times since, and though you started off your life getting far fewer baths than your sister (the blessing and the curse of being the second child, my dear), you also always emerge from your baths with the faint scent of honey.

But lately, you and your sister have been wanting to take showers, standing up, washing your hair in the spray. Your sister's hair is full and thick and getting longer and more tangled by the day and it's obvious at five that she needs some heavy duty conditioning, so last week I pawed through my stash of leftover toiletries and gave her some grown up shampoo and conditioner scented with jasmine and anise.

No more honey for her.

You, not to be outdone, wanted whatever your sister has and begged for your sister's big green shampoo bottle as soon as I reached for the thin one with bees and honeycomb on the label.

I insisted, it's the honey shampoo or nothing, kid.

But then I realized the bottle is almost empty. And I don't think I'll buy another bottle.

I'm trying not to want to stunt your growth, but it's hard, you see. Letting your babyness go feels like letting go of a special kind of love, one that I won't ever feel again, not like this.

You start preschool this week and we're both nervous. When we visited last week - met your teacher, played with the toys - I kept finding fault in everything. Your teacher didn't say much to you! Your classroom is a little small! One of the moms was loudly pushing her daughter to perform for the teacher and say all her colors and sing the alphabet! Clearly, this place SUCKS.

I sat there, smiling at you, jabbering about how this is fun! and you'll love it! and all I wanted to do was scoop you up and run out the door and bury my head in your honey scented hair.

But it's time. You're ready. I'm ready.

And there's only one last drop of honey shampoo left in the bottle.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


It Looked Better In My Head

If I ever had a design/organization blog - and this is EXTREMELY unlikely, as you are about to see - it would be named "It Looked Better In My Head".

Example A: My corner cabinet/Lazy Susan.

I carefully chose contact paper I liked! With nice colors! To cover the hideous old rusted shelves in this cabinet!

And with it's mismatched edges and ripples, it looks kinda WORSE!

Mistake #2: My bedroom.

When we bought the house, the walls of the master bedroom were bright mustard yellow, the curtains were dark brown. I wanted a serene space with gray-blue walls and a lot of light.... except when I sleep when it must be PITCH BLACK.

We had a bunch of the rooms in the house painted while we moved, so we randomly chose a gray blue while in a new-baby-while-moving-across-the-country haze. It's a tad more baby blue than I wanted but when we arrived, all I cared about was it wasn't mustard yellow.

When we moved in, we kept the previous owners' plastic-y dark brown curtains up because we didn't have other options. I grew quite fond of them for the sole reason that they kept the light out pretty well and with a three month old, having sleep possible at all hours is paramount. Also I think I like dark brown and light blue together (In my head it's so restful!) so I convinced CG that we should spend a serious chunk of our decorating budget on buying nice, new curtains. That are ALSO POOP BROWN.

(I don't know what I was thinking.)

(I was thinking I liked sleep.)

(Every time CG closes the curtains, he mutters "I hate these curtains".)

On the third hand: Our bathroom sink

Our bathroom has one tiny medicine cabinet that fits basically nothing and two cavernous under-sink cabinets that become toiletry black holes so we wind up putting most of our every day toiletries on the counter in a messy disorganized heap.

So. I went to Target and bought a slew of clear (makes the space look bigger!) plastic (easy to clean!) bathroom organizers (buying "organizers" instantly makes me more organized!).

Now, behold the beauty of:

Same clutter: now in little plastic boxes!!

Next up: help me title my cooking blog.

a. The Accident Prone Chef
b. Cooking with Jenna, and a Hazmat Crew
c. Your Flesh Might Burn But Your Cookies Will Be DELISH

I have a gift for burning the inside of my arm.

Look! It's a match set! (And these are just from this week! Every week it's something new broken, burned, shattered, cracked, melted, or accidentally set on fire. Lots of content!)

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