My notebook

I like to keep a notebook and pen beside my bed. I don't mind writing on the computer, and lord knows spellcheck greatly improves my spelling, but I've always liked writing free hand, especially late at night or early in the morning.

That is, after all, when most of the ideas come. They're little and quiet and always come when my brain is a mumble jumble and I'm not sure I remember how to walk and wasn't I just in Paris pulling a tuxedoed Ewan McGregor into an embrace?

I try to leave a notebook next to my bed to catch those fleeting ideas. The notebook lasts there for a week, maybe two.

Before the girls get to it.

It's usually on a weekend, when we sleepily pull them into bed with us, released from our weekday fear of messing with the sacred cow of our morning routine. We, the adults, envision an hour or two of quiet cuddling with our adorable soap-scented brood. The children apparently see an excellent trampoline and two semi-comatose punching bags.

We never learn.

They last for maybe 4 minutes of lying beside us before looking for entertainment. Singing songs at a later-in-the-day-please volume, pulling bookmarks out of books, debating the relative merits of Sprout TV shows are just the beginning.

Drawing with a nearby notebook and pen eventually enters their minds.

Sometimes, I give up my notebook willingly, giving them just a page at first, and please not any of the ones I've already written on.  Other times, I tell them the notebook's mine, for grownup writing, and they're welcome to get their own paper and crayons from downstairs.

Which they won't do unless I accompany them, thereby completely ruining the whole stay in bed scenario. The sad truth is, I usually just give up and let them co-opt my notebooks.

It suddenly occurs to me that I have other options. Like leaving a notebook and pencil that's just for them on my side table.

(AHA! And see also: DUH!)

Next time I go shopping, I'll pick up a notebook for them and put it by my bed, right beside this new one that welcomed me home this weekend as part of a fantastic Crappy Day Package from Di over at Motherhood Is Painless.

This one is mine, all mine.


The Whispering Mama

I lost my voice here in Arizona. I must have picked up a virus on one of our flights; by Tuesday my throat was scratchy, my voice fading. By Wednesday morning I could only muster a whisper.

(Oh, and I also picked up viral pinkeye and several volcanic zits. I'm quite a sight right now, I assure you.)

I thought the laryngitis would remedy itself quickly, as it usually does. But here it is Thursday afternoon and I still have only the softest whisper of a voice.

It's made me realize that, as a mother, I sure do an awful lot of talking. And I'm tempted to put the emphasis on the awful.

Imagine this scene:  you are the lone adult in a car, driving your two children home from a rodeo parade. The children are hot, dusty, overtired, oversugared, OVER.  They begin to bicker in the back seat and someone takes someone else's prized whosewhatsit and soon there is screaming and crying that seems like it will go on forever.

Now, normally, I would raise my voice at a moment like this, uttering some calm, wise chestnut like "I DON'T CARE WHO STARTED IT, CAN'T YOU SEE I'M DRIVING HERE?"

I might even yell.

But I couldn't do that, you see. I couldn't even speak loudly enough to be heard over the din. So, for once in my mothering life, I did nothing in the face of loud bickering. Absolutely nothing.

I was silent.

I drove the car.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next:  they stopped bickering and before I knew it, their voices turned to laughter.

What. The. HELL.

This laryngitis has shown me how much I normally talk to - and AT - my children. Many times over the last few days, I've thought about saying something to one or both of my girls, to guide their choices, to remind or cajole or insist on behavior that feels vitally important. But I can't. So I sit and watch. Or, if it's really serious, I put a hand on a shoulder, get their attention and shake my head gravely.

They always understand what I mean.

I am astonished to learn that I really don't NEED to talk to them so much; in fact, the last two days have shown me it's often better if I don't say a thing. My not talking has given them space to figure things out on their own. The resolution is slower, louder, and, of course, messier when they figure things out for themselves with little to no intervention from me. But it is all theirs.

Once my voice returns, ANY DAY NOW, I hope this lesson stays with me: silence is a reasonable - even powerful and empowering - mothering choice.


To the cacti

Tomorrow we'll get on a plane - well, two planes - and make our way across the country to Arizona, where CG was born and raised.

When we moved here to Virginia two and a half years ago, we decided the only way our California-wimpy selves could survive winter would be to head to his parents' place in Arizona - or some other warm place - every February, when the snow had just started to outstay its welcome.

(Now, of course, we are afraid we might actually miss the only real snow of the whole winter.)

Last year we went to Jamaica for a week in February, courtesy of my parents. This year we will spend a week with my mother-in-law in Tucson, going to the rodeo, the playground, the desert museum, all the while reaching our faces to the sun like a couple of lizards.

It feels important to us both to take the girls there, not during a busy holiday but during a time when you can focus on the landscape, a time when you can spend days just puttering around the yard looking at the cacti. If nothing else, CG hopes the girls will know that a saguaro isn't just a picture on the wall.

I thought we'd do this every year, assuming we could afford it. But planning this trip has brought a sad realization: this may be our last year of February trips. Next year, when Z is in public school for first grade, there will be a lot of pressure to keep her in school, with no absences for family vacations. I don't know why this surprises me but it does. Didn't I take trips during the school year that weren't an official school break? Aren't trips to see family, not around a school break but when we really, actually, want to travel, an important part of childhood?

As it is, Z's kindergarten will roll along without her; they're taking their first field-trip, to see a play, while we are gone and she is heartbroken about missing it. Yesterday she loudly lamented her unfinished art project that will languish and "be lonely" next week when the other kids finish theirs. She worries that she'll miss the rest of the lesson on the heart, "a very important organ, Mommy," she informed me indignantly.

Yes, she is excited to go to Arizona, but she is also suddenly aware of life going on here without her and she doesn't like it.

I have a sense that this trip is an end of an era, the era when our family made vacation choices based almost solely on what worked best for the grownups.

Though I am excited for Z to start public school next year, I feel like we are in a raft the top of a churning rapid. The school system will have its way with us and we will do our best to navigate the waters, keeping our little raft, our little family, intact along the way.

School means we most likely will not be taking week-long trips in February any more. 

Here's hoping this one is a last great hurrah.



"Mommy? If you're not sure you believe in God, what do you believe in?"

"I believe in love, Z, that much I know for sure. Love. And, you know, for a lot of people, God is love."

"....Huh? I thought he was a man!"


I have friends who hate Valentine's Day. They think it's a fake holiday, manufactured by corporations interested only in giving you another reason to part with your hard earned dollars.

I understand this inclination; I do. I resist the commercialization of most holidays and am forever striving to celebrate them in ways that are meaningful to - and representative of - our family.

Which is why Valentine's Day in our home is all about homemade treats. And love.

I believe in love. I believe that love is a more powerful force than hate or fear. I believe that all that is lost, can be found through love.

And I believe that love, in all its forms, must be celebrated.


I was sitting on the couch with my husband one night last week, sewing some felt valentine hearts for the girls to search the house for on Valentine's day morning.

"Hey, you gonna make anything for me?" he says lightly, a twinkle in his eye.

"Yee-s,"  I say indignantly, making a mental note to think of something, anything, to make for him, too.
There may or may not be naughty fortunes in a few of these.


"I got VALENTIMES!" E shrieks, raising her paper bag from preschool. "From my FRIENDS!"

She couldn't be more proud and shows them to her sister before clutching them to her chest.

"They're MINE. I love them," she says before giving each and every one a gentle kiss as her sister puts the finishing touches on her handmade valentines.


We are baking heart shaped cookies in the afternoon sunlight and listening to "All You Need is Love" and laughing and I think I am the luckiest person in the whole world.

And then there are tears and struggles over who gets which stool and whether someone dropped flour on purpose or accident and in the mayhem I forget to set the timer so this batch is overdone and . . .

I sing "All You Need is Love" a little bit louder.


Happy Valentine's Day, my friends.  I hope you are celebrating in whatever ways stoke the love in your heart.



Her tears come quickly. Out of nowhere. They usually burst forth right alongside loud words and a spastic body and a twisted up face.  For her, frustration must take many, many exits in its release.

They come every day, I think. Though there's probably been a tear-free day or two here and there, I honestly can't remember a day that didn't include them. Every frustration, every banged knee, every thwarted ambition has the potential to bring them out. Sometimes they are gone just as quickly as they appeared. Sometimes they linger like an oblivious, unwanted house guest.

And I am, as ever, caught between parenting ideals. I want her to be tough. To muster a steely strength that can keep her focused and calm as life throws her the inevitable speed bumps and road blocks. At the same time, I also want her to love and accept who she is, every single part of her, including her own darkness. I want her to feel safe and understood and deeply, deeply okay being just as she is. 

Even - especially - when "as she is" is extremely sensitive.

In pursuit of resiliency, I am sometimes heartless, answering a BANG! OW! WAHHHHHHHH! with nothing more than a raised eyebrow and a wordless pat on the head. I have been known to look down at her tearful face with weary resignation, as if to say: What is it this time? I have, on occasion, reminded her that when she screams and cries so often, over relatively tiny events, she is training me to ignore her yells.  Which means if something truly awful were to happen someday, much like the townspeople and the boy who cried wolf, I may not heed her call.

I'm okay with this approach most of the time. I like to imagine that my calm, impassive reaction reflects back to her that minor bumps and bruises are all in a day's work and not such a big deal after all. I don't know if it really does. I can only hope so.

But sometimes, when I look at her tear-streaked face - really look - I remember. I remember crying over anything and everything. I remember tears that came from nowhere and everywhere all at once.  I remember physical discomfort as being impossible to bear, emotional discomfort as nothing short of torture.

I remember being five and being completely and totally at the mercy of my own tear ducts. 

Those are the times that I engage with her, probably more than I should. I can't will myself to turn away from her pain.  I can't help but reach out to her.

To say: I know.  Let it out. 

And:  It's really, really okay. 

Blog Designed by: NW Designs