My mom said to me a few months ago, "This stage of mothering is about preparing you for my death."

It was a reasonable thing to say, even though she's an incredibly fit and healthy 67 year old, because we lost my father in law a year and a half ago, a sudden and devastating loss that his family will wrestle with for many years to come.

It was reasonable for her to say this because, of course, this preparation will take quite a long time.

Then, a week and a half ago, I got a phone call from my mom as she lay in the ER awaiting treatment for what would eventually be discovered to be a perforated appendix. She was heavily medicated but lucid enough to tell me not to come. There was no need. They would just take it out and she could go home.

But it wasn't that easy; there were complications. She's still there. So I went to her on Saturday, just long enough to sit with her, massage her head, and walk slow laps with her around her hospital wing.

No matter how rationally you understand the fragility of our physical bodies, it's a shock to see a parent sick, weak. Mortal.

We like to think we know what to expect, but like a snowstorm before Halloween, we never know what to expect. If we're lucky, we might see things coming a day or two ahead, a forecast, an inkling of the change to come.

If we're really lucky, the change is a small, unexpected storm. The snow will melt tomorrow and the flowers will still be there, underneath.

My mom is teaching me about positivity and humor and how together they create resilience. She's teaching me about mortality. And about letting go.

I guess I could consider this part of that preparation for her death. But I don't want to.

I just don't want to.



Apparently, E has read the Two Year Old Job Description.

She only wants to do things for herself things that are forbidden and/or dangerous, otherwise she'd like to be carried and entertained constantly thankyouverymuch. She is uninterested in being buckled, wiped, brushed, or instructed in much of anything. She sings to her own reflection in the toilet handle as she flushes it over and over and over again.

She scribbles on the wall with a pencil and when I try to redirect her to some paper, she walks into the bathroom to draw on the wall in privacy. When I take the pencil away from her, she pulls her stool up to the counter to slyly fetch another one. When I take that one away and redirect her to another activity, she'll wait a few minutes and then sneak off to pull another pencil stub from thin air with which she'll happily decorate the couch.

It helps to think of this kind of behavior as normal. It helps even more to think that it is part of her learning necessary information about the world and how it works.

I remind myself of every cliche from every parenting book: Her job is to test me. What seems like unreasonableness and general jackassery is how she is learning about the world and her power in it.

If learning about the world and all its rules is her job, am I her boss or her coworker or some poor tired underling silently counting the minutes 'till quitting time?

Or am I some combination of the three?


CG drives off each morning with Z in his car, while E and I hang in the doorway, waving, blowing kisses, making the "I love you" sign with our fingers.

After dropping Z at school, his workdays are filled with meetings; sometimes the meetings are back to back to back with no breaks and no chance to prepare for the next or process the last.

Some days, he dreams of quitting his job and being a flight instructor. Some days, he feels so very lucky; he not only found a job in a terrible job market, he found a pretty damn awesome job where he does high level science-y things.

He comes home to dinner on the table and girls ready to talk about their days or throw themselves in a fit at his feet, he never can predict. He comes home to a few hours of constant co-parenting, to dinner and Candyland and books and bedtimes, his car ride home the only buffer between his two very different but important jobs. He comes home to a wife who greets him with a meaningful kiss or a weary grunt, he never can predict.

I remind myself of just how demanding his job is, and I stoke the fires of gratitude nestled deep in my belly. I remind myself of how hard he works so I can stay home and how present he is with us when he gets home.

I remind myself of all this so that I don't imagine his workday as a relaxing bastion of calm yet stimulating adult interactions and resent the crap out of him for it.


Z has started to read and write, like some kind of person. I knew this would happen eventually but watching it unfold is still ... magical. It's like when your baby starts to talk honest to goodness words and you suddenly see them as some little magician or spectacular acrobat performing an impossible feat.

How did she do that?! How is it possible that someone who once couldn't reliably get her fist in her mouth can now read and write her own stories?

She is so serious about her work, which in Montessori is what they call ... everything they do. Her reports from school are mostly glowing, she works hard, she's progressing quickly. She proudly shows us her thick stack of stories and math sheets and labeled pumpkin drawings that come home every week and we ooh and aah over them with real appreciation and wonder.

Tell me about this work. When did you learn all the parts of the fruit bat?

Then she throws a fit about cleaning up her toys and the spell is broken. I bite my cheek to keep from yelling "Are you freaking KIDDING ME?! You are one of the luckiest children on the face of the earth who's only job is to LEARN and you are complaining about picking up a few measly dolls?!?! Dolls that were, just so you know, possibly made by little fingers who aren't allowed to go to school and whose parents aren't able to buy them much of anything let alone lovingly remind them time and again to PUT THEIR COPIOUS SHIT AWAY."

Instead, I calmly remind her that her job isn't just to learn at school. Her responsibilities at home are just as important: we all contribute to keeping our home peaceful and running smoothly.

She flops and whines and stomps and I'm worried she doesn't really get it at all but eventually she starts this onerous work of cleaning up her embarrassingly large array of toys, this most important work of learning to be a decent human being.


In all my time as a SAHM, I have put the emphasis on the mother in that acronym. I think of myself as primarily here for my children, for our relationship, for the bonding and care-taking that we as a family value so deeply.

In our current reality, though, now that Z is in kindergarten and E is in preschool three mornings a week, it's becoming obvious that I am mostly a housewife. A domestic engineer. My work is primarily about keeping our household running.

I only flinched once while typing that!

(Okay, maybe twice.)

A great deal of my time is spent procuring, cleaning, organizing and purging household goods. I buy and recycle and scrub and tidy and file and throw away, all day long. I stem the tide of of the kindergartener's "collections" and process the high volume of artwork. I regularly have to bring order to the pantry, the linen closet, the top of the washing machine, the girls' toy containers. When, due to illness or busyness, I stop this process for a day or three, we are instantly covered in dolls, papers, dishes and - OH MY YES IT'S A CLICHE FOR A REASON - laundry.

It doesn't look that bad, until you realize I just emptied it YESTERDAY.
(I think we need a bigger laundry basket.)

Some days, I have my head so far up my laundry pile that I cannot see past it. Some days, I swear I would love my family so much more if they could just stop producing laundry or dishes or both for ONE MEASLY HOUR. Some days, the relative merits of Spray & Wash vs. Oxyclean is the deepest my thought processes go.

(Team Oxyclean, all the way.)

I vacillate between trying to find meaning in the drudgery and just getting it over with as quickly as I can. I can be all zen and slow and deep or I can just be done already and go read "Divergent" like I really want to.

(Seriously. If you like dystopian YA novels, Divergent's your next favorite book.)

I had such high hopes for how much free time I'd have when E started preschool. Remember? I was starry-eyed with the potential.

What I have actually done with those preschool hours: seen a number of doctors for various minor issues, exercised a bit more, tackled a few small house projects, and run the usual errands more efficiently. Yep. That's pretty much it.

I am often struck by how quickly the preschool time goes, how little I can actually accomplish in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Every preschool day, I glance past the loftier someday to-do list and feel the stronger pull of my mundane everyday to-do list. If I cross all those things off during preschool hours, I'll have the afternoon to spend enjoying the girls instead of running them around town in the car or pushing them away as I fold laundry. Creating more relaxing time with them is hard to pass up. That is why I'm home isn't it?

It seems I can try to cram more in - more writing, more ambition - or I can slow down and do what I'm already doing calmly and well.

What does it say about me that I'm not sure which track to take?

I want to have work that isn't just about this house. I want to have work that isn't just about my children. But I'm beginning to realize that even when they are older and busier, all the work that this household requires isn't going to just disappear.

I am so blessed that I am able to stay home now. I am so fortunate for the material comfort we possess that makes it possible.

I stoke those fires of gratitude too, as I never want to forget how lucky I am, even as I hunger for more, that vague, unhumble, distinctly un-zen-like more.


The Mommy Potty Book

(With thanks and apologies to Joanna Cole and the Parenting with Crappy Pictures blog, both of which are inspiring and brilliant in totally different ways.)


My Apologies

Dear Z,

Sometimes I am sorry you were born first. It just doesn’t seem fair that you were born to a mother who knew so little about babies, who was anxious and fearful so much of the time. There were nights when I would look down at you and just cry, from overwhelming love, yes, but also from fear and crushing responsibility and abject terror. I’m sorry to say that my tears have fallen on your face more times than any other person in the world, except probably my mom.

(I am sorry, Mom.)

I am sorry for loving you so much. Sometimes I feel the burdensome weight of my love for you, my first born, the way I sink into your good moments as if they have everything - anything - to do with me, the way I covet your hugs and kisses because I know they aren’t given easily and therefore, are so very precious.

I’m sorry too for the gaps and snags in my love. The moments when my best self is not in charge, when I just can’t find the strength to lead with love and care. The imperfections that make me human affect you in ways I wish they didn't. I know we are both good enough and that is good enough but damn, I wish I could be just a little bit better sometimes. For you.

I’m sorry for sometimes forgetting how little you are. For expecting you to always be my “big girl” and for letting your verbal abilities, which have always outpaced your emotional maturity, fake me into thinking you are older than you are. You should be allowed to curl up and be little sometimes, too.

I am sorry for that time I grabbed your shoulder roughly and you looked at me with fear in your eyes and my teeth were set so hard I'm sure you could hear my metal fillings grinding out a tinny percussive song. I hope you forget that moment and I promise to remember it enough for the both of us.

I am sorry for apologizing for things I shouldn't and missing things I should.

I am sorry to say that these apologies are only the ones I could think of today, while you watched a Dora.

Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Dear E,

Sometimes I am sorry you were born second. It just doesn’t seem fair that you were born to a mother who felt stretched beyond her capacity, torn by her responsibilities for two little people who both needed so much from her. There were nights when I would look at you and cry when I realized I had pretty much ignored you for most of the day, dragging you around in your car seat, strapping you to my back for hours spent in the playground/playgroup/grocery store/kitchen. That I didn’t even have the time or energy to do anything differently made it even worse, somehow.

I am sorry for loving you so much. Sometimes I feel the burdensome weight of my love for you, my baby, the way I cradle you like you are an infant even though you are so big now, the way I greedily gather your kisses and hugs, so freely given and never, ever too much, and never, ever enough.

I’m sorry too for the gaps and snags in my love. The moments when my best self is not in charge, when I just can’t find the strength to lead with love and care. The imperfections that make me human affect you in ways I wish they didn't. I know we are both good enough and that is good enough but damn, I wish I could be just a little bit better sometimes. For you.

I’m sorry for forgetting how big you are sometimes. For expecting you to be “my baby" too often, for too long. I'm sorry for sometimes failing to see that you are getting bigger every day and are capable of handling the expectations and responsibilities of a big kid.

I am sorry for the time I left you strapped in your car seat, screaming, just closed the car door and cried myself for quite a while before I opened the door again and took you out. I know I did the right thing for myself at that moment but I really hate when the right thing for me is not the best thing for you. I know you won't remember that, as you were just a baby. And I know I will remember it enough for the both of us.

I am sorry for apologizing for things I shouldn't and missing things I should.

I am sorry to say that these apologies are only the ones I could think of today, while you watched a Dora.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama



My friend and I are in the part of the gym reserved for stretching, lying on our backs, right legs in the air. Mine is pointed up at the ceiling, knee straight, hers is in a similar spot but her knee is bent, her leg is shaking, and she is howling.

"You're so flexible! I used to be flexible!" she laments, glancing at me.

I hear this often from friends and I never know how to respond.

I'm not actually that flexible, for a former dancer?

I know, right. I used to be more flexible too?


Mulling my options, I say nothing and chuckle in what I hope is a supportive way but is probably just ambiguous and weird. We breathe together, imagining what our sixteen year old bodies could do, or what we think they used to be able to do, or what we wish they could have done. I close my eyes and fight the urge to push further, instead letting my shoulders drop just a little of their near constant effort.

Next to us is another woman, a girl really, with her ipod dialed up to DEAFEN and one leg up by her ear. I try to keep my eyes on my own mat but inside my head I can't help but enviously imagine, for the millionth time in my life, hip sockets that are carved open, nearly flat like dinner plates, rather than the curved, deep cups that are mine.

I also guiltily imagine her in fifty years, with hearing aids.


I was sixteen when my hips and knees started to bother me. I was dancing most days of the week, spending hours on pointe. Standing at the barre, forcing my toes out to form a straight line with my feet, I was acutely aware that my body was never meant to do this, even more so than most bodies. My natural turn-out is closer to ninety degrees than the desired one eighty; my knees and ankles twisted and torqued to make it happen, more or less, but I wasn't fooling anyone, least of all my hip sockets.

In college, I took the train down to New York City to see a highly esteemed doctor whose office walls were crowded with a thrilling photo gallery of famous ballerinas and sports figures.

"You're a dancer?" he asked incredulously, looking at my x-rays. "Your hips are built for marathon running, my dear, not dancing."

"Yeah, well, I'm not a ballet dancer anymore, mostly modern now, so...."

"Still. Wow."


"I'll give you a prescription for physical therapy but at a certain point, your limits are your limits," he shrugged, resignedly handing me a piece of paper.

As I walked down his hallway to leave, this time ignoring the brilliant faces of ballerinas I've admired since I was a little girl, I balled up the paper in my hand. Though I would later carefully smooth it out and send it through the proper channels to get as much help as I could for my poor battered hips, right then I just wanted to squash his words.

Squash them and throw them away.


We are fully into the swing of the school year and it's still study in adjustment. Z is clearly tired by the end of her school day and laments how little time she now has by herself. Every day it seems something brand new and yet completely, exhaustingly old blows up in our faces.

Recently it was suggested to us that we start experimenting with less structure in her home life, giving her a safe space to practice dealing with a world that is unpredictable and chaotic. Messing with her schedule is something we have been loathe to do since she was a small baby and loudly expressed her dislike of change and variety. Most of the time, we eat and sleep and play in timed chunks specifically calibrated to maximize the potential for smooth transitions.

"So she's not fond of change and she's struggling with flexibility and transitions? Hmm.... who's she like?" I was asked.

"I have no idea," I said, smiling cheekily at my obvious lie.


Last week Z woke up sick. From her first wincing swallow, my mind raced ahead to every cancellation that would be necessary in the next few days. My list started with the kids' cancellations and progressed quickly to the total reorganization that my life and personal plans that would need to happen with a sick kid at home for at least a day or two.

It took me a few minutes to realize I was writing a to-do list instead of bringing Z a spoonful of honey and giving her a hug.

I resolved - again - to hug first next time.


My limits are there. They are real. My emotional structure, like my hip structure, feels restricted and compressed most days, frustrating me even as I stretch myself up to its' edges.

I don't fear the wrinkly sagging of old age nearly as much as the deep, entrenching rigidity.

I know it is my job as a parent to help Z accept who she is and reach past what she thinks she's capable of. To teach her that her personal limits are strengths, are weaknesses, are real, are worth accepting, are worth stretching past.

How do we simultaneously teach, and work on ourselves, acceptance and ambition?

I know I will never, ever get my leg up to my ear. I know I will always struggle when my day changes course suddenly.

But that doesn't mean I should ever stop stretching.

Blog Designed by: NW Designs