Friday, October 4, 2013


My paternal grandparents got married when my grandmother was 18 and my grandfather was 28. Their marriage lasted, as was standard, until both of them died, two years apart, nearly 70 years later. They lived, until it was impractical, on a small farm in a small town in rural Maine. My grandmother was elected town clerk after stints as school lunch lady and post-office counter clerk -- I remember standing in awe in their parlor as she presided over the wedding of two young people who had put on their very best clothes for the occasion. They knew absolutely everyone in town and all the towns around, though they were not social. But still, once they took me and my brother to a Guy Fawkes party and I met one of Maine's slightly famous (more aptly, infamous) authors. I was impressed, but my grandmother was not, as the writer was a slattern and overly dramatic (her words). They had two sons, barely two years apart, both popular athletes who played football in college and went on to start their own businesses and marry pretty, petite women. My uncle's wife killed herself when my three cousins were very small. My grandparents took in my uncle and my cousins until he was ready to stand on his own again. My uncle and his second wife took in my grandparents when they became unable to keep up their own house.

Never once did I hear my grandmother complain about her circumstances, which to me, as an arrogant young person, looked circumscribed. I thought that my grandmother was missing out on the world: she only ever traveled once to Boston, and once to Washington D.C., in her entire life. I wanted bigger and better and more and moved to bigger and better and more cities, traveled to Europe, had dumb misadventures, and grand-ish true adventures, never got married, bought an old farmhouse on the edge of a small city, and had two children out of wedlock, and though I am sure my grandmother must have had opinions or judgments about my life, which looked nothing like any life she ever knew, she never once offered any. She was unfailingly supportive and proud of all of us cousins (her one trip to Boston was for my college graduation) but of course I didn't think she would understand anything about me and my life so after my tween years I stopped telling her anything of any import.

My grandfather passed away the day after Christmas, almost 6 years ago now. He told my grandmother he was tired, laid down in his twin bed next to hers, and never woke up. His memorial service was very well attended. In the spring following, we had a family gathering in the tiny rustic graveyard where that side of the family lies. I remember being utterly stunned when my grandmother wailed over my grandfather's gravestone. They'd had a full lifetime together after all, one which I imagined to be fond, but not overly. Lots of hard work, and probably very not romantic. But there she was, in her nineties, keening like you'd see in a movie with young lovers were separated by death or other dire circumstance, and my dad and uncle had to hold her by her arms so she would not fall down. Suddenly a rush of memories came flooding back to me: the way my grandfather had always fondly chided my grandmother about bustling around the kitchen while we were all sitting down and eating. The beautiful and impractical flowers he tended so she could cut them for her vases around the house. The way he never failed to thank her for the delicious meals she cooked day in and day out. The way she always asked if he could hear the baseball game, which would remind him to turn up his hearing aid. The way she slept through years of his tremendous snoring and while they did have separate beds, they never once had separate rooms. There was never any outward drama, or noisy fuss. I never once heard a raised voice in that house.

That was a whole life together.

The weekend I asked Tim to leave my house, a very good friend of mine was in town. My friend came over a couple of nights into my fresh single parenthood bearing a bottle of Jack Daniels and three pints of Ben and Jerry's. I was grateful for the gesture but also thought that I very much needed to keep my wits about me. I had no idea what my next move would be, had lost my voice, and had allowed myself to cry exactly once for about 5 minutes, when I was in the shower, after I put the girls to bed. I decided I didn't need numbing. I didn't need crying. Somehow I would forge ahead without all of the dramatics that had marked every single breakup or disappointment in my life, previously. And so I have done, to a large extent. That impulse feels right, still.

What I mourn now, during any slivers of time in that kind of head-space, is not the particular man or that particular relationship. As I have mentioned (repeatedly, I know; sort of like someone saying "so-and-so, my husband" in the weeks after the wedding, to get used to it), I am happy with my life right now and looking forward to the next chapter. But damned if I am not sometimes bummed out that I will not have a whole life together like my grandparents did. Sometimes I wonder if I should have married my high school boyfriend, as we were planning, and just taken the lumps, or maybe I should have at least taken the leap with SOME one SOME time during all of my gallivanting. It's easy to be revisionist, and I know all of my choices afford me the opportunity to be (hopefully) a better parent and (hopefully) a better partner in the future. The girls would not exist as they are in any of my alternate universes and that is a sad thought. But I do wonder: what choices will they make, or not make, once they learn about the turns of my life? My life and my choices were largely reactionary, based on wanting MORE than my grandmother, MORE than my mother -- who never really hid her resentment that she had married so young and mothered so young. MORE than so many of my classmates, who never left Maine, or even my hometown. What will my girl's antidotes be, for having a mother who had children after so much MORE? What is the antidote for not even being able to remember your parents living under the same roof?

Tuesday night in yoga class, while I was starting to get into full wheel along with the rest of the class, the teacher came over and put a strap behind my shoulder blades and lifted up and forward. I felt my chest expand, almost painfully, and my feet almost left the floor. I am only just newly able to get into full wheel again. Before I left Brooklyn, before I met Tim, before I had my babies, I loved full wheel. The pose is open and expansive and somehow in these intervening years I collapsed in on myself and lost the knack for it. I let myself get mired in self-pity, depression, pettiness (I changed the last three diapers/you went out the last two Saturdays) and forgot: how open, how expansive, the sweep of a whole life. How wonderful and precious to have lived a whole life together. Maybe I won't have that.  Maybe my girls won't. Maybe they will. And after the pose is done and the teacher moves away to the next student I lie on my mat, with my heart almost painfully open, and think of my grandparents, and tears roll down my face. And then I get up and and shower off the tears and sweat and two days later write it all down without knowing, really, how to end. Probably because it isn't an end.

xoxo, A

Thursday, September 19, 2013


It all started because I am dumb about technology. No, wait. It started before that. While I was gestating Little A., so many moons ago, I worked for a funny little nonprofit. My officemate, the super sweet Celeste, mentioned this funny little show one of her friends was performing in. My ears perked up, because, as I have mentioned before, performing dance is in my all-time top-ten favorite things to do. But I was pregnant and new in town and and and and...the timing was wrong. I couldn't even go SEE the show because the timing was wrong. And then my life got a little more complicated. And then I got pregnant again and my life got a lot more complicated. And I resigned myself to never doing a lot of things that I might have always wanted to do. And I missed myself, but not critically. And and and. 

Fast forward to this summer. This summer when everything went all to pieces but even the tiniest little pieces, stuck back together with scotch tape and sometimes just scotch, are so much better than the whole used to be. A dear friend mentioned the show again, somehow, in passing. Maybe while we were at the gym, or at the playground. Between diaper changes and tantrum management, the show stuck in my head this time. I am in pretty good shape, I thought. I should maybe just start taking dance classes again, I thought. And then one night, while scrolling around Facebook on my phone, I sorta-kinda accidentally pushed this check-mark icon next to an audition announcement (I thought it was to open the event page). And a couple of friends noticed and "liked" that I was going to go. And then other friends asked, "Are you really going to go?" What the hell, I'll go, I thought.

AND SO. I got cast, you guys. I am IN that funny little show. Except it's not little. Every weekend between now and Christmas I am in rehearsals. Usually both days of the weekend. Usually for at least two hours. And then there are SEVEN shows over two weekends and our family calendar looks INSANE. Of course I have the guilts for leaving the girls for all those hours, but in the grand scheme of things? Nearly all of that time, they will be with their dad. And that is really good. And it is just a few weekends out of an entire year and our lifetimes. Yes, I am crazy for even thinking of it, but AWAY WE GO.

Last weekend was the first weekend of rehearsals. This week, I bought an extra giant bottle of ibuprofen and only today, 4 days later, have I regained pain-free function of my neck (turns out burlesque involves a lot of hair-whipping. Who knew?). But leaving that rehearsal on Sunday afternoon was the best. I felt like...myself. The myself I ignored for years. The myself I hope someday my girls will tell each other old familiar stories about, with at least a small amount of pride and self-recognition. Because myself is kind of grabbing life by the balls right now. Myself: taking care of business and having fun. What a concept, huh? I'm not saying it's perfect: my house is smells funny and the girls' hair is always a mess and we are probably going to have grilled cheese sandwiches AGAIN tonight. But we are also having a lot of fun, and I am keeping an eagle eye on everyone's emotional well-being and who cares if the socks don't match. We are all sleeping, eating, and growing.

So, again, I bring you the profoundest-blogger life lesson: JUST DO THINGS. I mean, I am the first person in history to realize this, right? WHERE IS MY GODDAMN BOOK DEAL.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Familiars (1 of 3)

Most evenings, in the tiny sliver of time between supper and tub, I run out the back door to to check on the chicken ladies. I drop off any peelings or cucumber-end snack might be left from our meal, secure the coop, bring in an egg or two, etc. A little moment to myself before our bedtime routine/chaos. One night, for some reason, I waited until after the girls were both tucked in and quiet, so it was a bit later than usual. The sun was setting all pink and gorgeous. I had a glass of wine at the ready and some Parks and Rec on the Netflix queue. So, you know, it was gonna be a good night. As I approached, the chickens were bawk-bawk-bawking around their little enclosure and looked at me with some alarm. But they are ALWAYS alarmed, and ALWAYS bawking, so I thought nothing of it. I threw some spinach into the pen, and turned on the little flashlight app so I could poke around for eggs. And heard a rustling, crunching sound. I turned my light toward the sound. In the corner of the coop where the nest was that week, the light revealed a pile of really soft-looking glossy black fur. A cat in the coop? The fuck? I thought. And then the cat moved and showed me its equally soft looking glossy white-striped back because NOT CAT! SKUNK!!1!!!! SKUNK!!!!!11!1!11!11

Yes, ok. I live in Maine, but in the suburbs! Why are all the animals in my face all the time? Anyway, luckily, the skunk didn't register my presence, and continued crunching away at the egg pile.

I don't know if I have ever moved so quickly plus silently in my life, you guys. Without even knowing fully how I got there, I found myself in the middle of my back lawn, dialing Tim on the phone. I explained the situation and his words, his REAL ACTUAL WORDS were: Wow! Well, that's probably the worst thing that could happen, huh? Well...don't go back in, I guess? So...very...helpful. We agreed that he would block any potential entry points the following evening (we are doing a sort-of nesting deal, post forthcoming). I spent the next half hour googling "will skunks kill chickens." And finally realized the sheer force of my worry would not actually keep the skunk from killing my chickens, went inside and forced myself to have my relaxing evening. To brace myself against the possibility of returning to a coop full of headless birds the next day.

The skunk did not kill my chickens that night. Praise baby Jesus.

So. In the following weeks the skunk and I got into a routine. I would race out to the coop after bolting down my supper, collect any eggs, and race back inside. Every third night or so, I would leave the eggs there so the skunk enjoy a tasty snack that was not the blood of my flock. Sometimes the skunk would beat me to the coop and I would find nothing but empty shells. We even bumped into each other a couple of times but somehow I never got sprayed, and it never got spooked off.

And one night, while I was sitting on the back deck, I watched the skunk squeeze itself out from under the coop. You know how cats fit themselves into impossible spaces? It was like that, in reverse. Its narrow head stuck out of this teeny-tiny hole under the corner of the coop, and then the rest of its bulk shimmied out after. Twice the size of a housecat. Fluffy and silent. I watched the skunk squeeze itself into another tiny opening to get into the coop. The chickens didn't even raise an alarm. I stayed outside until the skunk went back into its basement apartment, and went in myself.

One evening not too long after that, our beloved Brooklyn friends were visiting. And suddenly there was a smell. A SMELL THAT YOU COULD TASTE. If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing REALLY fresh skunk spray -- well, it is...thick. And...oily. It clings to every part of the inside of your nose, pungent as fuck. It's otherwise indescribable. We had to close the windows. And the smell was still so strong that it kept me awake.

And the next morning, just up the street from my driveway, was the body of a skunk. Of course I can't confirm if it was "my" skunk. But. We have too many eggs, now.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Every Little Thing

Over the past few weeks the girls and I have put on some major mileage and had so much fun and are basically squeezing all the adventure we possibly can out of these few precious weeks of summer our New England climate gives us. And summer is loving us back.

Brooklyn: We walked to three playgrounds in one day (!), I had too-much wine and wonderful catch-up time with my girlfriends (!!) and then we took a FERRY to HEAVEN (!!!) and it was so absurdly magical that I had a little lump in my throat for most of the weekend.

Parenting at the same time, in the same place, with old friends, is amazing. You see them in a best, new light. And you also see that you are the same to them, and they are the same to you, even though everything is different.

And. As with most things, once you are actually doing the thing, it just...unfolds. I was in a mild twist about having the girls in the car for so long and general traveling solo-parent-style. And, of course: There was a grating 45-minute stretch of whining (the mamuuuuh mamaaaaaah maaaamuuuh sob sob thing that makes one wish ears were never even invented) instigated by my darling eldest before she took her own trip to Nap-ville, at the beginning of the 3rd hour of driving on the way down. As per my "breaks every 2 hours" rule, we had just pulled back on the road from our Big Treat fast-food lunch when the whining began. I wanted to shove their new Minion toys (which Baby G. promptly christened "my pickle-bull" after "despicable") into my ears. But then my big girl gave in to her fatigue and slept the entire rest of the ride to the CT grandparents' house and proceeded to have the best times ever for the rest of the weekend. There was one night wherein we all couldn't fall asleep for shit, and then slept like crap. There was a terrifying thunderstorm on the way back during which I discovered 1., the wipers on the car are inadequate, 2., the defrost on the car is inadequate and 3., when you are on a busy highway and you can't see past the front of your car, and you just have to pull over praying that everyone will let you do so, your hands can shake so hard that it can take upwards of 15 minutes to calm them so they will not also be inadequate. I could have done without those parts, but then, we could have just not gone, and none of the good stuff would have happened either.


Portland, Maine (with beloved houseguests): Not one but TWO trips to the best ice cream shop/petting zoo ever. A golden afternoon at the beach. Magic-hour suppers on my back porch. Three adorable little girls playing together. Not one, not two, but THREE amazing good ol'fashioned late-night hangouts with my girlfriend who is, no contest, the best person in the world with whom to destroy your liver. Resultant hilarious hung-over parenting afternoons. And the aforementioned precious chance to share space with an old friend, who is also a (great) mom and a (great) wife.

I had a little Gretchen-Rubin-esque epiphany during that week. You know how some people just make you feel wonderful and like yourself? Your best self, in the most Oprah-manner of speech, but in an effortless way? These people are your "inflators" and you should cling to them always, and make them fly hundreds of miles to see you and your children. Guilt them into it, I don't care. Just get them into your space. And you should drive or fly hundreds of miles to see them, also. The other kind of people are "deflators" who make you feel bad and fuck them.That is what I learned that week.

Northport, Maine: For a few years now, my family has been heading up the coast of Maine for our family business's association retreat. This sounds like it should be boring, but it is not, not by a long shot. The first year, Little A. was just barely there: I had confirmed my pregnancy the very day before we drove 4 hours to Bar Harbor and I spent the whole weekend bobbing around in that heady mixture of joy and panic that is the beginning of pregnancy and also wondering if everyone would notice my avoidance of wine and blue cheese. This year, our fourth year, I finally got the whole weekend RIGHT. I hired one of Little A.'s beloved teachers, Miss Alicia, to babysit. My brother and his kids were also coming, and Miss Alicia knows them very well also. Alicia was fantastic all weekend - she required absolutely NO instruction, she was up for anything, and she can drive a golf cart. (I have a ridiculous inability to drive anything smaller than a car. So stupid! I need to get over it.) So, A+ childcare choice.

The drive up to the resort was rainy and sleepy, but the weather also meant very little traffic. I would only give myself an A- for transport because my car broke down that morning, all full of our stuff, but then I got to drive my dad's fancy Audi, so maybe I get just a regular A.

Friday evening there is always a lobster bake/ridiculous dance party. The girls were happy to learn the Macarena and hang in the bounce-house until bedtime (A- for much later than usual bedtime). My dad started drinking CC over ice at 6 pm and didn't stop until well after he had danced with my mother - TWICE - to "Blurred Lines." That was a scene, my friends, that I will never forget. I will never forget. I also might have taught my mother how to dance "Gangnam Style," but there was no video recording so let's just pretend it never happened. I might have been drinking rum. Weirdest-wedding-ever-dance-party: A+!

Poor Baby G. succumbed to a tummy bug overnight on Friday, so I spent the pre-dawn hours  changing both of us out of multiple pairs of barfed-upon PJs. Friday-into-Saturday, I'm afraid, gets a D. But Saturday officially dawned bright and lovely and we all went to the beach (A) and with plenty of Tylenol and cuddles, by afternoon, the Baby was just fine (B+). And all the grownups went to a wine-tasting (A), which was fun except day-drinking should be followed either by more drinking or immediate napping and I did neither (C+) and by 9 pm that night I was DONE. My brother and his wife were DONE too, so they took me down the mountain in their golf cart, collected my nieces from my cabin, and we all went to bed early (A+). But that was OK too. We all slept like champions and drove home the next day without incident (A-).

Weekend cumulative average: A

And this weekend, well. For the first time ever, the Green Team is splitting up to have separate adventures. Little A. is spending the weekend with my parents, and has already told me that she is going to "take Nana on all the rides at Santa's Village because otherwise Nana might not have fun. And Grampa can take pictures." Baby G. is going to her first Red Sox game with her dad, CT grandparents, and uncle. And I am headed up the coast again for a little getaway of my own. This will be the first night I have spent away since Baby G was born. I am going to miss the dickens out of those girls but oh, oh, oh. SLEEPING IN and other adult-y things, how I have longed for thee.

I used to hate summer. Indoorsy, bookish nerds with an aversion to bare skin don't fare well with heat and sweat and tourists all around. But now I can see what all the hype is about: it's fun. FUN! Summer is a stupid and highly inappropriate Daft Punk song blasting out of your car window and all three of us girls singing along. Summer is ice cream dripping down your chin. Summer is the perfect light reflecting off the slick of low tide. Summer is a little black dress under fireworks. And I'm paraphrasing myself here, but around these parts, Summer 2013 is delivering fun, on all fronts.

So, what did you do on your summer vacation?

xoxo, A

Friday, August 2, 2013

I Didn't Even Know I Had a Belfry Up in this Piece

On Tuesday night, a few hours after I fell into a wine-y, swoon-y kind of sleep, I had a very strange dream. In my dream, it was 3 am. I awoke in my bed, and looked around my own room, just as it was when I went to sleep, Little A. snoozing next to me. A bat was swooping and darting around my room. Round and round it went, skimming over the covers, banking turns off the angled walls, stirring up the air. The cat jumped off the bed and went to investigate. She made a couple of prrts! but then just sat in the middle of the room and watched the bat's hectic flight pattern, SWOOP-retreat-SWOOP-retreat. And as quickly as the night visitor came, it disappeared. I heard a thump, maybe in the closet. The cat trotted over to the closet, but quickly returned to her place on the bed. And we all went back to sleep.

I told my mother about the strange dream and thought nothing more of it. She has been having strange dreams this week, too. There must be something in the cosmos. So the usual Wednesday thing happened at my house, and I put myself to bed early.

And then it was 1 am. And there was a shadow on my ceiling. And it was THE FUCKING BAT WHICH WAS NOT A DREAM BAT AT ALL BUT A REAL FUCKING BAT IN MY BEDROOM.

Jesus Christ, you guys. I am all for bats in nature. They catch bugs! They are a valuable part of the ecosystem! Bat houses! Yay! But in my bedroom? Swooping my bed? Getting close to my FACE.

No. No no no no no no. NO TO THE POWER OF INFINITY.

As is typical in these midnight fright scenarios, for a few long moments I froze and watched the little fucker swoop around. Nothing like waking up in a cold panic to get the old adrenal glands pumping. What to do. What to do about a FUCKING BAT IN MY BEDROOM. I willed my limbs to work. I turned on the light. The bat flew out of the bedroom.

Aha, I thought. Bat rodeo. I grabbed a pillowcase, thinking maybe I would throw it on top of the bat if it landed somewhere. Like a net! I have successfully employed this method with unruly cats and toddlers, but not flying things, so it would be an experiment. The cat and I paused on the stairs to watch the bat swoop around the living room. Once I saw it clear that room, I followed, flapping the pillowcase in front of me as a sort of shield/bullfighter cape thing. While also trying very hard not to shriek or otherwise raise an alarm that would wake the sleeping children.

And so, that was the game. The bat would fly into a dim room. The cat and I would follow behind, the cat with her tail in the air, me with my trusty pillowcase flapping in front of me. Finally, the three of us made it to the kitchen. Which is next to the dining room. Which is where there is a giant door to the deck. Which was my hope for a flying-rodent-free abode.

The bat landed on a window and tried its damnedest to scrabble out through the screen, and then just rested there for a moment. I raced over to the door and opened it as wide as it could go, and then tried to send psychic signals about the nearness of the open door. I flapped my pillowcase and turned lights off and on, trying to find the right level of dimness to encourage a scared, tired, and probably hungry bat to FIND THE FUCKING OPEN DOOR ALREADY.  The cat sat in the middle of the kitchen and deigned to raise one paw at the bat as it flew past her on one of its tumble runs. Then she looked at me and asked for a treat. Fucking cats, man.

Once, twice, the bat made a crazy circle around the perimeter of the kitchen. On the third pass, it took a sharp right a few feet in front of me and flew straight out into the darkness. Out into the OUTSIDE. Out into its OWN DAMN HOUSE.

And so I successfully, luckily, got the bat out of my house. It took me an hour or so to get back to sleep after that, and all day yesterday I had the PTSDs around bird-shadows. I'm over that today (I think).

SO. Let it be known to all that I am a bat-wrangler extraordinaire! Both girls slept through the night and never had a clue what drama a flying rodent wrought in their home.

I dearly hope I will never have to employ that particular skill-set, ever, ever, ever again.

xoxo, A

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two! Sleeps! 'Til Brooklyn!

We are coming up on some exciting weeks around these parts. Long weekend adventures to my favorite city to see a favorite auntie and her adorable son, a week-long visit from another favorite auntie and her beautiful daughter, and in a stunning trifecta, Little A.'s favorite teacher will be babysitting ALL the girl cousins during our weekend retreat to an amazing spot, all on the books. Oh and we can't forget the tentative quick trip to Boston to say goodbye to some good friends. In between we'll hit the beach and the pool and stay over at the lake. So, yeah, we love August, in advance.

My good friend (and obviously one of my biggest inspirations -- thanks for all the writing prompts, Lynn!) recently shared her feelings about traveling with kids. Hell on earth, she says. And I can definitely see where she's coming from. About 2 hours in to our 3.5 hour flight home from a recent trip to Florida (which had a whole host of problems, really deserving of its own post), Baby G. got restless and spent a good 45 minutes slapping and poking me. It wasn't malicious, really, but really. Slapping. Poking. Jumping. All the while increasing her vocal volume until people started turning around to see what the fuss was all about. Finally I dumped her into my dad's lap and hissed YOU TAKE HER NOW and went to stand by the bathroom and pretended not to know any of my travel party for 15 minutes. There might have been a quick glass of wine involved but I'll never tell.

So. Was it relaxing? No. I was utterly exhausted by the time we got home. But was it worth it? Yes. I can safely say: yes. Though I didn't get to loll on a chair and read trashy magazines or even have one fruity cocktail without wondering if someone was going to drown or get sunburned or wake up and need tending, there were so many lovely moments. Watching the girls through my fingers as they run away from my beach chair to the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, holding their grandfather's hand. Discovering the tiny baby coconut that would become Little A.'s prized possession. Reconnecting with a dear friend while our little girls slept all piled into the same room. And all of our trips are like that. Tiring/exhilarating. Stressful/amazing.

So I'll start packing tonight, for my first solo road trip with the girls. Even though I know there will be moments of hell during our 6-hour drive, once we get there, and on the way home. Even though I just spent an arm and a leg on road snacks that will be eaten within the first 45 minutes. Because we need to walk to the coolest playgrounds in the coolest neighborhood in my most favorite city in the whole wide world. Because I don't want Little A. to think Maine bagels are actually BAGELS. Because I wouldn't miss the chance to see my dear friend and her boy play with my girls. Because I need to sit on a roof with my girlfriends and see and hear the same sights and sounds of my long-gone self-centered single gal days. Because I love to travel, and goddammit, so will my kids.

(Wish me luck, though, seriously.)

xoxo, A

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lather Rinse Repeat

Last night I had an out-of-body experience. I floated up to the ceiling of Little A's room and saw myself grab and rip to shreds a magazine. Not just any magazine, no, but her most favorite magazine in the whole wide world. It was 8:02 pm. It was hot as fuck. She was tired. I was tired. She had just deliberately spit on the floor, after 45 minutes of outrageously wild behavior -- running away, crying, laughing hysterically while kicking her legs every which way including at my face, throwing books, and so very much SHRIEKING, in the tub and in the baby's room and in her room and right next to me, directly into my ear, as I sat at the top of the stairs frantically trying to collect myself and wondering what the fuck do I do now and can I maybe just go out onto the deck and come back in 30 minutes -- and it was my very last straw. We both heard the glob of spit hit the floor and she looked at me with mingled dread and defiance and I didn't say a word. I exited my body, which slowly got up from her bed where I had been trying to just talk to her or get her to breathe or somehow get things back under control and walked directly to the magazine and picked it up and ripped and ripped and ripped. And she wailed and tried to punch me and said I was the worst mother in the world and that I hated her and that she hated me. And I wanted to wail and I felt like the worst mother in the world and I hated myself. And I spiraled back down into myself and sat next to her and held her still-small fists and just said this is out of control, we have to get it under control. I love you and could never hate you. I should not have ripped your magazine. This is out of control. We have to get it under control. I love you and could never hate you. Over and over, a chanted prayer/wish/mantra. And we did get it under control. And I should not have ripped her magazine, and she should not have shrieked in my ear. And we talked about all the scary feelings we were both feeling in that moment. And we talked about how many changes we've been through in the past few weeks. She misses her dad being around, she misses her old teacher at school, and she doesn't like her new teacher, and her cousin doesn't want to hug her at school. Big hurts and little hurts and they all fucking hurt. And I should not have ripped her magazine. I absorbed all of her hurt sobs into my body and they have settled somewhere around my heart and there they sit, so heavy.

After 15 minutes of talking and crying we went back into her sister's room (where the AC unit is) and I made her a special nest next to where I was going to sleep and we laid down together and I rubbed her back until she fell asleep. And then, finally, lying on an improvised bed between her and her sister in the dark and cool room, I cried too. Silent, guilty, stinging tears.

My oldest girl. So much like me, and so mysterious in the way any other person is. I love her with every cell of my body and her very existence fills me with joy and we dance together and play and joke and most hours are delightful but also she makes me more angry than anyone I have ever known. Since our last breakdown/breakthrough her behavior has changed. She is still excellent at school but every other night or so is a struggle. Last night was extreme, really extreme, and just after she fell asleep the skies opened and a thunderstorm rolled through just to prove the point. Thanks, Universe. I get the message. She is not protecting me anymore, I think. She is just at one of those ages, I think. She is processing the separation, I think.

This is hard and weird, guys. I am 100% convinced things will be better because of the changes I affected to our family. And in so many ways, they already are. The knot of tension and uncertainty that lived in my chest for the past two years has disappeared for one. It has been replaced by other knots, but they are MY knots and I know how to work on that shit. We are eating better and dancing and singing and doing more fun stuff. There is less stress in the house, period. We just have to get past this hard part to get to really really good but I also have to get cozy with the notion that the hard part might last a little longer than I was expecting because there are more agendas at work than just mine. And my guiding philosophy of keep on movin, don't stop, might not work for everyone in our little family. I have to just stop and be with first baby, this tough cookie, this spitter, this cuddler, and singer and painter and dancer, right where she is. And I have to just stop and be with her sister, my last baby, our 5-second tantrum-er, and goofball, and toothbrush-obsessor, right where she is. And I also have to just stop and be with me, single mother, don't wanna to go to sleep because this is my time-er, story-teller, hugger, comfort-giver, magazine-ripper, right where I am. I just need to be nice to all of us, including me. I am not letting myself off the hook for that asshole move, but by god I am going to go out tonight and allow myself to recharge so that particular brand of assholery will not reoccur.

We are here: facing off and shouting threats and throwing our plates to the floor and pulling hair and in time out. We are here: going to the beach and having cupcakes and wearing princess dresses and painting toenails and having breakfast dance parties. We are here.

xoxo, A

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

My good friend (and super talented bloggess) Lynn wrote this lovely piece today. A topic top of mind and close to our hearts these last weeks, so I'm writing my thoughts out here, too.

When we found out Greg was sick with stage-4, metastasized pancreatic cancer, it was a shock, to say the least. He was so young and so strong. He was Tim's boss for several months, a couple of years ago, and they had remained fairly close. You know, beers-once-a-month close. And suddenly, here was this young, strong guy, living under a death sentence. 6 months, they gave him. And Greg, although he and his wife didn't characterize it as "fighting," boy, did he fight. He gave cancer the middle finger in the form of energy work, chemo, immunity treatments, clean eating, etc., etc. He did everything and he and his wife navigated the whole process with amazing grace and strength. And the fucking disease got him anyway. He passed peacefully at home right around the 6-month mark.

Living with animals gives us training wheels for the whole death talk. When Little A. was around 5 months old, our beloved Black Kitty died, peacefully, at home. He was old and sick but mostly like himself until the end. We buried him in the backyard, after making up a special box filled with a cozy blankets and treats. We gave him farewell pats and shed a few tears over his body, all together as a family. She was too young to talk about it, of course, but I wanted her to see that we would miss him and remember him and that was hard, but also that everything alive dies. A fact of life, albeit a sucky one. Since then we have lost another cat, a few chickens, and two fish, to causes natural and not. My grandmother passed away while I was pregnant with Baby G, and of course most recently we have talked about Greg. With every passing and as she grows, the level of discourse naturally becomes more sophisticated and more self-reflective. The questions range from why do we stop breathing when we die to where did Fifi Fishie go when she died to when will YOU die, Mama?  Her questions are hard to answer and I feel it would be doing her a major disservice to duck them. Or to sugarcoat the answers.

We stop breathing because our bodies get tired or too hurt and besides we don't need our bodies anymore when we die, I say

She went out of her body. We put her body into the ground and she stays in our memories, I say.

I am not intending to die for a long, long time, but no one can really plan that. I exercise and eat healthy so my body will stay strong. But I can't promise to live for a long, long time. What I can promise is that when I die I am going to be with you, inside your heart, I say. 

I say these things and will keep saying them and hope she understands. She seems to understand.

My heart was heavy on the day of Greg's memorial service. I had stayed up late making the chocolate cream pie I would bring to the service, so I was tired and feeling many feelings about how the whole thing would be very hard on Tim and, how, in spite of our separation, I wanted to support him because he needed it and I was the only one who could. So, I stood beside him with tired legs and a tired back and rubbed his back while tears streamed down his face, while we listened to many, many people fondly reminisce about Greg. There were plenty of tears from everyone because goddamn it, a good guy was stolen from all of us. But also there was laughter and love and light and a shitload of pies, because Greg loved pie and there was another a way for us to honor him: through the baking of the pies and the happiness of our bellies after eating said pies, all filled with love and sugar. When we got home, Addie asked how the party was. Because she insisted that it was a "party." I said it was a little sad and a little happy and she said It was sad because Greg died. It was happy because you love him and ate the pie you made and wore your pretty skirt. Did you know I got to have A CHOCOLATE SUNDAE with Nana and Grampa? And then she rampaged around a bit and went to sleep.

Little A. has made a little shrine to the ladybug husks she finds in her room and calls it "Ladybug Heaven." She notices all the little lives around her and wonders when they will die and does not seem scared. I wish for her to never be scared of life and all its hard, unfair implications.  She wants me to sing I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I'm living, my first baby you'll be, three times every night. We add a footnote that she will be my baby even AFTER I am living. I want her to feel everything, not be closed to life, to be realistic and know I will always be here, even if I'm not. And that she will always be here, even if she's not. That is a prayer for both girls as they fall asleep (I have many): Don't be afraid, because I am here. Don't be afraid, because you are here. We will love on each other forever. And pie helps, so take a big slice.

xoxo, A

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Crouching Frog, Hidden Tiger Mom

So many milestones in this parenting gig: baby's first smile, the first steps, the first time she gets herself dressed. And then there's one milestone that isn't on most development charts but means so much to me: baby's first JAZZ HANDS!
Super serious jazz hands at that.
I came to dancing too late to be any good. At best I am a "nice mover" who can fool people into thinking my performance is, like, real actual dancing. But dancing is my favorite thing. FAVORITE. There is something most amazing about this utterly non-verbal communication through movement, to me. My head is filled every second of every day with words. My work is mostly moving words in different directions. In my downtime I like to read other people's words. Dancing? NO WORDS. But you can still make someone laugh, or cry, get chills, or fall into awe.

(I am not similarly into mime. Just wanted to clear that up.)

Little A. had her very first dance recital this Saturday. It was a classy affair, with real costumes and real lights in a real big theater and all that. I was expecting to tear up, or flat-out sob, at the sight of my first born \onstage in her wee ballet slippers and tights and stay-put hair-do. I got all of the moisture out of the way at the dress rehearsal. And I am such a sap that I weep at the high-school aged kids dancing too, because they are SO GOOD and they work SO HARD and their parents must be SO PROUD and UGH SO MANY TEARS. That was not a surprise. Giving birth rewired my brain. I never used to cry, period. It was just not my thing. Now I am that person who can never wear mascara or if I do I have to spend a great deal of time looking at the ceiling so my ready tears won't turn me into Alice Cooper. So yeah, tears, no big shocker.

What WAS a surprise was during the week before the recital, I went all Tiger Mom on my poor kid. Let's try it one more time! I heard myself say, over protest and groans. It's so much MORE fun and beautiful if you do the choreography the way Miss Elizabeth taught you! I heard myself say, as she flung herself around in her pre-bedtime sillies. If you want to just dance around you can do that here at home, not at the classes that cost a lot of money! I heard myself say, as she and her sister started to booty-shake every time I turned the music on.

Geez! Chill the fuck out, lady! She is 4, no one is expecting perfection, you're going to take all the fun out of it! 

Yes, you're right. But also? There is a part of me that wishes my parents had pushed me a bit more, who had not let me quit everything the moment it started getting hard. I was (am) willful and stubborn and might have made their lives miserable, but now I am sure I would appreciate mastery of...well...anything. (And as I remember it, I made their lives miserable anyway. I was not a delightful teen.) As I am a half-decent dancer, so am I half-decent at: painting, clarinet, Spanish, etc., etc. The "Dabbler" patch in Girl Scouts was my jam. But dabbling is ultimately dissatisfying. I don't want to teach my girls to dabble. But when do these lessons start? Is 4 too young? (Is almost 40 too old?)

Then the night before the recital, Little A. got sick. Really sick. She had a fever, couldn't eat her supper, and just laid there on the couch like a sad little lump. I was afraid it was strep throat and she would miss her recital and be even more sad and mad and we'd have a miserable weekend. But Saturday morning she woke up, stretched, and said I feel a LOT better! Is it recital day today? I said It sure is! and she said YAY FINALLY! and counted down the minutes until she could get on stage. She seemed a bit nervous before dress rehearsal. She didn't want to talk or hug, unusual for my little barnacle. But then when it was showtime, she did her little routine the best she'd ever done. She found her mark, sang along, hit most of the moves at the right time and didn't smile but claimed that she had fun. And her friends and fans brought her flowers and she was bursting with pride and when is my next recital mama? Can we put these flowers in vase in my room??

And I am tearing up writing about it. GODDAMN YOU HORMONES. So, anyway. I am not so worried that I will smother her enjoyment, not anymore. Because she is going to love what she loves. And I am going to love watching her do it. And I am going to love pushing her to be her very best, even if she doesn't always love it, until she is better than me at everything and I go broke getting her the best teachers. She can use the money she makes from winning the EGOT to put me in the finest nursing home.

CROWDSOURCE PARENTING TIME: What do you guys think? Do you push your kids or just let them be? Is it a personality thing? And, p.s., how on earth do you find the time to do the things YOU need to do to be a more chilled out parent, in general?

xoxo, A

p.p.s. Dress rehearsal video! Little A. is the little froggy closest to the camera.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ding dong, DOMA's dead


While there are still many, many things in this world that royally blow and cause me to question my selfish desire to bring babies into being, well, this makes me happy.

One afternoon Little A. was hanging with me on the couch while I was looking at the Facebook. An old high school friend of mine had put up some wedding photos and I said OH, look at my friend Melissa and her wife! They are both the brides! Don't they look like princesses? Little A. pondered a moment and then said, Yes! But...where's the boy? So we had a quick discussion about how some girls marry girls, and some boys marry boys, and some girls marry boys, and it's all good, because LOVE.

And she just accepted it and moved on, looking for the next hilarious kitty video in my newsfeed.

Even better? I bet I won't even have to have this discussion with Baby G., because same-sex marriage will just be an everyday thing when the idea of marriage enters her consciousness. So, Supreme Court, thanks for making my parenting easier. And thanks for making the world just the tiniest bit better for my girls.

xoxo, A

p.s. Texas, you're ok today too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Single and Ready to Ming...errnevermindkthaxbai!

In a fit of busting through to the new-normal let's just GO so very typical me-ness, I set up an online dating profile. While no stranger to online dating, having gone through a year or so of it when single in Brooklyn...well, now, yeah, it's different. Of course it is. But really. So so very different.

Back in my day--imagine this said with my one arthritis-crooked finger pointed just past your head, and a wistful look in my crow's-footed eye--a likely fella would look at your profile, read it (the whole thing, tl;dr didn't exist in those days), write a charming email, and await your equally charming reply. I had a rule of three - if I was not asked on a date within 3 exchanges, on to the next candidate! and I had some great dates, and some not-so-great-but-pretty-good-stories-dates, and overall it was a fun supplement to meeting people organically (drunk), while out with friends (drunk), at your local pub (drunk).

Well, now, our society's taste for instant gratification means that dudes can 1. See when I am logged onto said dating site, 2. See when I have looked at their profile 3. Instant message me through the dating site.

Argh. This pretty much removes all the pen-pal charm from the process, and makes it into this high-intensity speed dating style crapshoot. I've had fellows try to guilt me into replying to their (boring) emails by pointing out that I had looked at their profile - the equivalent to a creepo dude continuing to hit on you because you walked past his chair on the way to the bathroom. One guy kept insisting don't be shy! chat! c'mon! during the 30 seconds I was online at 11 pm one Wednesday. ELEVEN PM. Anyone with half a brain knows a mom is not going to be up for witty repartee at 11 pm on a weeknight. And then for his stunning death-blow, he sent me a frowny-face emoticon to close our non-correspondence. WHAT A FROWNY FACE I CAN'T EVEN.

That being said I have had some genuinely nice interactions and one super hilarious chat session, and have been asked on a few dates by guys I would actually consider dating! I'm a wicked catch, yessah!

Here in my neck of the woods, eligible bachelors way, way outnumber awesome single ladies, by a lot. This is very different from NYC, where the rare single man (who was not totally insane, narcissistic, immature, or just plain weird) was a jewel fought over by dozens of single ladies who would totally cut a bitch to get on that. Just like searching for an apartment or a job, competition was fierce, and fearsome. Most of the girls had Brazilians and great jobs and at least two degrees and were size less-than-zero. I did more than ok, under the circumstances, but it got tiring, being one of way too many boxes of cereal under the shockingly toddler-like male gaze of the average NYC bachelor. Here, the dudes are like hey you have teeth and hair and stuff I will totally date you! Which is slightly overwhelming, especially when I notice their profiles claim they neither have nor want children or are only interested in the younger demographic.

Not to mention, now there are dudes like "pee4urbutt" and "dominantwhore" out there. WHAT PEE4URBUTT I CANT EVEN.

Not to mention, I have two kids, and how do you date with kids? Is there a book on this? Like a really detailed book that explains how to do handle the logistics? Is it gross to go on dates while your ex is with the kids? Is that the only way it's done? Ideally I want to meet another single parent, and preemptive, pre-sleep ruminating about coordinating schedules and visitation and babysitters and bringing a stranger into my kid-upheaved house gives me the serious shpilkes.

So yeah, in conclusion, I am hanging up my dating shoes (that never even got out of the house) for a while. The flesh is willing but the mind, is weak. Or something. I'll keep my profile alive in theory, in case someone truly irresistible comes along, but for now, this mama's off the market.


Just kidding. 

The end. (For now.)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Trix are for Kids

The baby has been waking up at 5:30 am this week. This is, indisputably, way too early. She stands up leans against the corner of her crib like a bored softball coach against a dugout and says "Maaaaaama. MaaaaaaaMAAAAaaaa-aa-aa. Maaaaaamuuuuuuuuh? MAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAAAAAA!" until her sister also wakes and rescues her from her cage and they both tumble onto my bed and we have nice cuddles while I attempt to shake off the cobwebs from the previous night's late-night* escapades.**

THIS morning was no different. The girls rolled on me and gently squabbled while I closed my eyes and pretended that this method of rest was just as refreshing as that actual hour of sleep that I was missing. I mean, at least we are all still horizontal. About 40 minutes of this and everyone's tummies sound a call to action and the getting-dressed hullabaloo begins. Little A. goes into her room to choose her latest fashion-forward stripes/prints/stripes leggings-under-shorts-under-dress combo. She's into layers, for realsies. She proudly shows me her outfit (halleluiah but it is nice when they can finally dress themselves) and asks if she can pick out MY outfit for the day while I am getting my contacts in and etc in the bathroom. I let her do this sometimes, and then work around the fact that she usually picks two exercise t-shirts, a push-up bra, and a fancy skirt. I said, sure thing, just make sure you get me some underpants and socks, ok? And she said yaaaay and brought the baby into my room. I continued brushing my teeth and washing my face.

Moments later, Little A. gleefully runs back to the bathroom, waving something purple in the air. MAMA LOOKIT WHAT I FOUND IT HAS A RABBIT ON IT LOOK HOW DO I TURN IT ON WHAT IS IT DO I TURN IT ON LIKE THIS?? My heart dropped and I made a sound like aaugguhhhgghherrfff. Of course. My lovely firstborn stood in front of me, waving around my lovely first vibrator. I squeaked out, hey that's mama's can we put it back where we found it actually no let me have it.

She gave it up easily but not without several dozen questions. Most of which I answered with mmmmmhmmm or by repeating, yeah it's for massaging but then she latched onto that idea and said but I love massages too can I try it pleeeease? Pleeease? Pleeeease??? So I just went straight for the power play and said, no it is only for Mama, when you get big you can maybe buy one with your own money. And so she asked how much it cost and maybe she had enough in her piggy bank and....

All of the above took place in the 15 seconds it took for us to get back to my bedroom. Where I discovered...even worse...

The baby. With my OTHER vibrator (both are from a long-ago time, when boyfriends gave me sex toys for Christmas. For my last two Christmases, my boyfriend got me nonstick pans. Oh, but how life changes.). She was waving the smaller, but also purple, device in the air shouting OPEH-IT! OPEH-IT! Which is her way of asking either to open or turn on or otherwise do the thing that whatever thing she is holding is supposed to do that she can't figure out how to do. I said as calmly as I could, no, Mama can't opeh-it right now. Let's put these right away in this super high drawer and never mention this to anyone especially not your teacher ok! 

And predictably as soon as I wrested the toy away from the baby she opened her mouth and howled.   I had to think of a way to distract her real quick. Fortunately there was a screwdriver up on the bureau as well, so I handed that to her. One of those small ones. Not too sharp.

How many more questionable parenting decisions can one make before 7 am, you would be completely justified in asking yourself, dear reader. I will say that at least THIS morning, there were none more. I quickly dressed myself and we went downstairs for a peaceful, healthy, and blessedly normal breakfast. But just to be safe, I checked everyone for rogue unmentionables. Lord knows I am not up for Pastor Brian seeing any more of my private collection.

And with that! I wish you a happy humpday.

xoxox, A 

*11 pm
**watching Parks and Rec while avoiding weird guys' emails on OKCupid

Friday, June 7, 2013

Written on the Body

The day after I asked Tim to move out, I couldn't speak. I was literally rendered speechless; for almost two weeks I was queen of whispers. The girls though it was hilarious (and it actually is good for parenting, when you can't raise your voice, we discovered).

My voice is back, mostly, but my car-singing ability seems to be permanently compromised. Dammit.

While we were on vacation, I lifted Baby G up and out of the bed and felt my neck go "click." For the rest of the trip, right-side-looks required my entire torso to come along for the ride. Extra bonus good times: watching the girls in the pool, airplane travel, Baby G sleeping on me on the bus.

Yoga has always been my go-to modus-exerciseus (and I require a lot of exercise, like a puppy), but now I want to run. I want to run and run and run and run. Or do hard things that have kicking and burpees and stuff like that. And then I want to eat an entire pizza and immediately go to sleep. One drawback of solo-parenting is there is no one else to do the chores.  Or, more accurately, no one else to point to/commiserate with when the chores don't get done. The girls are too small to run to the grocery store to get toilet paper, or to fold their own laundry. Pro-tip: these things have to be done ALL THE TIME. Like EVERY DAY. Phew.

We lost a friend this weekend to cancer, and another admired acquaintance is terminally ill. This certainly puts all my woes into perspective but does nothing to diminish my flashes of rage (at my situation, sometimes, sure, but mostly at the general not-fairness of the universe on behalf of those lovely men and my beautiful daughters). I can feel the rage-ball, hot and heavy, resting somewhere around my solar plexus, ready to burst out Alien-style at the slightest provocation. The only victim thus far have been my sunglasses (thrown to the ground in a kid/paint/mess related tantrum).

I am turning 40 this year, and have to think about these things: mammograms, skin checks, genetic testing for the cancer gene.

On Wednesday a dear friend invited me to join her footsoak/massage birthday gathering. I felt nervous for feeling pleasurable sensations, afraid of relaxing and relinquishing the tight hold I have on my body and emotions for these last weeks. I sank into my chair and closed my eyes and hoped I would not spontaneously start sobbing or farting or whatever. I didn't, it was lovely.

Both girls have been having lots of trouble getting to sleep at night. Little A. is afraid of shadows. She has come into my room almost every night asking "please love me up until light-time" or "can you cuddle on me until morning" and of course I can't say no but then she has also wet my bed twice and there is a limit to the number of times I can turn the mattress. 

I close my eyes and imagine myself in room, on a bed, in the magic hour light, with clean sheets and curtains softly blowing in the breeze. Someone very handsome is waiting just out of sight. I close my eyes and imagine myself floating up to my ears, in a lake, under the stars, alone. My girls are sleeping peacefully in a room together somewhere very nearby.

I lace up my sneakers and run and run and run. I get in my car and sit at my desk. I go home and tend to everyone and watch TV and go to bed. I can feel our next phase just right there. Let's please just get there, already.

xoxo, A

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Lady Bunch


So --


So, OK. Here is my advice to you: don't have children with someone you barely know. Just don't, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Don't be like me and presume everything is going to work out for the best. I mean, what is even the best?

5 years and innumerable arguments, reconciliations, threats, cold shoulders, "really hard trying," long conversations, hot tempers, lonely nights, grumpy mornings, peaceful weekends, shitty vacations.

One last breach, one terse dismissal, and we're done.

I am officially a single mother of two. Tim is moving out, officially, this weekend. I am:


and rinse and repeat and collapse into bed. 

I am one of these weird people who adores change. Give me a map and a key to a new apartment and I am in heaven. So, that part, the change part, of the whole thing is not scary to me: it's exhilarating. I get to set a new normal for me and my girls. We are working on new routines. We are figuring out short-term and long-term plans. We are not moving, in spite of Little A's repeated requests to do so (chip off the old block, that one), at least not for the summer. Nothing is *actually* changing except for Daddy being less present. The dog might be taking it harder than the kids, for the moment.

Here's the thing, also. There are these two small humans (and a dog and a cat and 5 chickens) who are entirely dependent on me to be OK. So I am OK. I am not even faking OK. I am absolutely OK and focused on the future and getting through this tough part with minimal scarring. 

The girls and I went on a trip to Longboat Key, Florida, last week, and spent loads of time in the sun, without their dad. It was a perfectly-timed glimpse at our new life. It was fun, tiring, exciting, and filled with hugs and kisses and tears and tantrums and SUPER late bedtimes and meltdowns and swimming and everything.

More than fine.

So here we are: the Lady Bunch (aka the Green Team, per Little A., when we are crushing our new routines and working together to get where we need to go metaphorically and in reality). We are going to be just fine.

We are going to be just fine.

We are going to be just fine.

xoxo, A

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Doogie Howser, Esq. (aka: Mama Got Lawyered by a Four-Year-Old)

I may have mentioned before that my elder daughter is one of those kids like you read about. Her diet consists of carbs, cheese, and fruit. And chicken nuggets. I swear, when she was a baby, she ate EVERYTHING. (So don't blame this shit on me, uppity foodie-mom bloggers.) Like her sister now, she would happily down whatever you put in front of her, and then ask for more: Parnips? Great! Saurbrauten? Delicious! Grilled salmon? YAY CAN I HAZ SECONDS???

Right around her 2nd birthday things started to change. She discovered that she had a measure of control, directly surrounding her plate. And she loved it. She gleefully wielded her veto power over everything green, non-vegetarian, non-cheese-based. And for the most part this has been OK. Annoying, but OK. She'll happily drink smoothies that contain spinach or kale or whatever - I don't have to add the greens under cover of night, even -- and is everso slowly, as we leave behind the reign of terror that was THREE, she is adding new things to her menu. Green beans, carrots, chicken burgers. So, yeah, it'll be fine, I tell myself. My brother ate nothing but chopped sirloin and spaghetti for about 3 years of his life and he is a strapping fellow with good teeth and a shiny coat and all that, I tell myself.

But one area over which *I* have very little control plagues me yet: the school lunch. The girls' daycare offers a kid-friendly, fairly nutrious meal every day. And we the parents are expected to provide snacks, which is also no problem, though I am spending a small fortune on Kashi bars and portable yogurts and such (entirely my own fault: I am lazy and don't clip coupons and can't abide going to more than one store to bargain shop). HOWEVER. My picky girl recently confessed that she is bringing her snack into the lunch room with her teacher's permission, and is eating her snack foods instead of lunch, most days. And then she gets something from the snack cabinet of the school, as many of the other kids do, and also a share of the cooperatively provided fruit, for her afternoon snack.

ARGH I SAY ARGH. Snacks all day long make me go ARGH. I am sure her caloric and vitamin-ic needs are being met. She's growing and her teeth are not rotting out of her head but here I must draw a line in the sand. I have a bee in my bonnet. Etc. So this morning Little A. and I had a little debate.

OK, says I. We are putting these things in your lunchbox for SNACK. They are SNACKS for SNACKTIME and only for SNACKS. You eat the lunch that daycare provides for LUNCH at LUNCHTIME, yes?

She replies, But Miss A. said it was ok for me to bring my lunchbox in and have this food anytime!

Then me: That might be what your teacher said, but Mama is saying what is in your lunchbox is for SNACK and the lunch food that daycare serves is for LUNCH. I will tell Miss A. this lunchbox is snack-only stuff.

But Mama! 

And then she delivers the death-blow of logic. This is called a LUNCHBOX. Why is it called a LUNCHBOX if I can't have the food for LUNCH?

Dudes. I was stumped. I stammered. Well, maybe we need to call this a snackbox yes let's call it a snackbox and then it's your She just looked at me like, yeah, right. She spared me the eyeroll, but then ate her go-gurt on the way to school and carried her food-carrier into her classroom with an air of triumph.

(And here's the humblebrag conclusion you've been waiting for....)

Yes. This is going to haunt me, but I am so proud. She outwitted me! With a contextual definition! And I am so very screwed. Because I have gotten dumber with each year and each child. And they are going to keep getting smarter. There is not enough coffee in the world to catch me up to the fast-firing synapses of a shiny new brain. Help.

xoxo, A

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Prodigal Panties

Or, I pretty much forgot how to exhale last week so writing something even remotely off-topic was impossible but this really did happen so you get to hear all about it now. 

So I have mentioned before that the girls go to daycare in a church. This is fairly, but not terribly, weird for me: they come home with Bible study drawings in their backpacks and both adore saying their blessing in the car. Well, baby G gleefully chimes in on the AAAAAAH-men! but Little A. proudly recites the whole thing* while compelling her sister to hold her hand from across the bench seat. It's...mostly harmless, as far as I can tell. They are learning lessons in gratitude, courage, humility, and sharing, which is never bad so I am not so incredibly concerned with the larger context. Tim is a confirmed atheist and has a harder time with it than I do. If they start bringing home anti-choice or gay-bashing pamphlets, we'll change things up, is my opinion. But a just little bit of Jesus, applied correctly, never hurt anyone. Right?

Anyway, this post is not meant to discuss my kids' spiritual upbringing. This post is meant to discuss my rogue underpants.

One morning last week we all got up a little bit earlier than usual, got our act together a little faster than usual, and got on the road before schedule. Ya'll know a smooth morning is somewhat of a miracle and deserves notice. So notice it I did, and thanked both of the girls for such a nice morning before I dropped them and gave the good-bye kisses and hugs and then the extra good-bye kisses and hugs and then the very-last good-bye kisses and hugs (which are the ones I can't resist and why I am always late for work and why it is lucky my children's grandfather is my boss). And strolled out into the parking lot to get into my car to drive off to the office.

On my short walk to the car, I noticed a little scrap of fabric on the ground, halfway between my car and the front door. Right in the middle of the parking lot, basically. The fabric looked oddly familiar. It was a pretty little pattern. How odd, some kid must have lost her doll's dress or something, I thought. I got closer and realized:

Wait. Those are my underpants. Those are my underpants right in the middle of a church parking lot, the little blue stripes and flowers on the boy briefs** looking inappropriately jaunty in the glare of the sunlit pavement.

What. What? WHAT??!?! HOW???!!!??!?!

I glanced around quickly and assessed. There was no one dropping-off at that moment and only one car was headed into a parking spot. No one would know it was my underwear if I picked them up right quick. Who knows how many parents or OMG maybe the pastor*** saw my underpants!

Anyway. I stuffed them into my pocket and proceeded to my car in the strangest walk-of-shame ever. As far as I can guess, the underpants must have been static-clung to somebody or other's pants or coat and happened to fall off right at that inopportune moment. I am thankful that it was in the parking lot and not inside one of the girl's classrooms, where Little A. would have had no hesitation in offering them up for an impromptu show and tell.

SO. Lesson learned: Check ye for rogue undergarments or mortification shall be yours. I can't think of a corresponding Bible verse (maybe there is something in the Book of Mormon, I know they have weird undergarment ideas) but I am still going to cross-stitch it onto a pillow.



*Thank you, God, for our food, our family, our friends and our teachers. Amen! 

**Little A. picked them out for me, on a Christmas shopping trip with Tim. This post just keeps getting better, right? Please don't call DHHS.

*** The pastor seems to be one of those cool-dude pastors. He drives a Jeep emblazoned with adventure-lifestyle stickers in the winter, and a Harley in the summer, and wears jeans. So maybe he is like a rock-star, totally cool with stray panties from heaven.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

So Good So Good So Good

On Monday the girls and I had a simple and perfect day. The sun was shining and strong enough for the first playground-without-coats adventure of the season. Little A. made best best friends with a girl named Lillia somewhere between the swings and the slide. Her mom and I chatted while the kids swirled around our legs. The other woman's accent was lovely and hard to place - a very slight Eastern European inflection that is rare around these parts. We are a fairly homogenous bunch, we Mainiacs. Anyway, their little family had to leave in a hurry when their youngest member started tantruming in anticipation of leaving, and I wasn't able to get any contact information. I felt a little bad about it, but also excited that my big girl was proving -- so unlike me -- to make friends easily and casually.

We came home for lunch, both girls napped while I did a little work, and then because it was so lovely and spring-y and because Little A has 20/20 vision for anything ice cream related, we went up to our local soft-serve institution for the first cone of the season (on our way home, in the midst of a busy intersection made busier by a huge construction project, she noticed CARS in the parking lot of the ice cream place. WHY ARE THERE CARS AT LIBS? she demanded to know. Our afternoon was decided in that moment).

Some good friends joined us in a DOUBLE BONUS move and after we said our hellos and when Little A. was out of earshot a bit, Brian said someone blew up the Boston Marathon. My heart stopped and my brain went in several directions before I said, intelligently, Huh? What? Is there not a shitton of security there? And how do you blow up a marathon? It' know...long? No one knew much at that point.

And so we had our ice creams and then went home for more outside fun with bubbles and in moments when the girls were otherwise occupied I stole glances at Facebook and the Boston Globe online. No one knew much then either but I needed information, information, more information. The sun was shining, and people were dying, and no one knows why.


I can safely characterize my relationship with that little city as "complicated." It was the center of the universe to us during high school, where all the coolest bands played and where you could buy the best posters/shoes/t-shirts. Then, after a stint in the midwest, I went to college there and lived there for a few years post-graduation but never quite clicked in with the place. I didn't understand its people, who seemed (mostly) so cold and unwelcoming, in comparison to the friendly city of Chicago which had been my home just prior; its public transportation, that shut down just when you needed it most; its bars, which tried so hard to be cool but just...weren't. I made a very small group of friends in college who then proceeded to shun me for reasons just beyond my grasp. I found a nice boyfriend and we moved in together, but it never felt quite right. And then I made a bunch of stupid, reckless choices and lost my mind for a bit. And then I slowly pieced it together and found a new clan and spiritual home at a local dance studio. And then there was 9/11.

The sun was shining that day, too. I remember the head of the literary agency where I was working running into our end of the office, out of breath, saying Oh god, just turn on the TV, turn on the TV. And we all watched in horror for a few minutes or an hour and then they sent us all home. No one knew anything at that point; there was no twitterverse to spread news true or false. Just this loop of footage no one of our lifetime will ever forget. I decided to walk home because the idea of an underground train was too scary. I walked up Boylston Street from the Commons to Copley, with my face in the sun. The city is very pretty, in parts, the parts you see on TV: the swan boats and the shining skyline and the wide river with scullers zipping along like skimmer bugs. I noticed all of that beauty on my walk and suddenly knew with an awful clarity that someone could destroy it all in a second. That someone had tried to destroy my most favorite American city. I decided during that long walk home that I was going to move to New York City. The sun was shining, people were dying, and no one knew why.


A couple of months before I moved, I was running errands downtown. I turned a corner and almost literally stumbled onto the finish of the Boston Marathon. It was very late in the day; the finishers were the slow runners. Or the walkers. Where I would be in a marathon, surely. But there was still a small crowd of onlookers cheering folks across the finish line. The Marathon, while a Super Big Deal in Boston, had never crossed my consciousness before. Huh, I thought, look how nice these Bostonians are being. That's weird. The only other time I remember open shows of support and joy in the city was when the Pats won the Superbowl in 2001. I stood watching the cheers and the folks collecting their medals and blankets for a minute or two, then gathered up my backpack and started to cross. Then a Boston cop said hey miss, you can't cross here and I probably scowled at him and went to go eat a bagel.  We've all seen the photos now. The chaos, the smoke, broken people hauled away in policeman's arms or on gurneys. Why, we are all asking. Why?


Why? Because a small but very determined group of people hate. They hate not-them. That's why. They hide behind stone walls and religion and conspiracy theories and the internet. 

During a chat with a friend, a far-away friend who is very dear, I had another epiphany. We are connected, but not connected. Not really. And I am far from the first person who has realized this but, whatever, it was my epiphany. Because of the internet, I can stay "connected" with my friends all around the country. Because of the internet, I can see what my high school crush had for breakfast. I can also, if I so choose, find a group of people who strongly believe that our President is a Caucasian-hating Muslim bent on destroying our nation. Or who believe that gay marriage will destroy the moral fabric of our society. Or that single mothers are worse for the same than prostitutition. On the internet, the old cartoon goes, no one knows you're a dog. I am personally culpable for allowing some of my relationships erode because I can "connect" on the internet. You know me: you read my blog, you saw my Facebook post, or my Instagram snap, you know me. I read you, too, so I don't need to call or write you a long email or make the effort to see you. I know your life.

But I don't. I can't walk up to you at the playground and see your face light up when my kids run to give you a hug. I don't see the pained reaction of the blogger who I decided it would be clever to point out misused a punctuation mark in an otherwise fine post. I don't see the look of disappointment from my friend who is a public policy expert is when I toss off a knee-jerk political statement on my Facebook page.

We don't see each other anymore, and it is way easier to not see. There was a brief interim of connection, a respite from ironic meanness, post 9/11, and now immediately post-each tragedy, there is a boom of helping, of reaching-out, of oneness and all that jazz you hear in your yoga class. But it's temporary, and crisis-driven, and we so easily sink back into our complacency, our chairs inside of rooms lit but the glow of screens.

It's not that I think if the terrorists, whomever they are, could see our faces, and hear our voices, and watch us love our children, they would suddenly stop thinking we are the enemy. It's more that all of these terrible recent events are making me want to connect, really. And to parent differently. To limit my own internet time and not let it bleed into bathtime, bedtime, dinnertime. To travel and live in different places instead of doing a Google image search. To visit our neighbors instead of sending an e-card. To go to museums and farms and beaches and the woods. To walk the streets in our own little city instead of driving everywhere. To make efforts to nurture relationships and to let my kids understand that it's worth it. To make sure they don't fear saying hello to their neighbors, or chatting with the person next to them on the bus, or approaching someone who really needs help, or walking up to the othergirl on the playground around their own age and say Hi, wanna swing with me?

We can give them all the lessons in the world about how to be safe and cautious, but when it comes down to it, I think perhaps a bigger danger is being too safe, too cautious. Don't walk in a park at night has been replaced by never ever ever talk to anyone unless you know them

I want my kids to be different. I want their world to be different. A smaller world, a more connected world. Maybe, just maybe, if we could raise a generation of people who really see each other, so they feel connected to each other and the world immediately around them, it will make it harder, just a tiny bit, for them to destroy the beautiful places others might hold dear. To destroy each other.

We'll see.

And in the meantime, I am sending all my love to my far-flung friends, in Boston and beyond, and holding my daughters a little tighter.

And sending up a prayer: Please be well, please let me see you for a long, long time.

xoxo, A

Thursday, April 4, 2013


So, it was like, 3 months ago that this happened, right?

How could it be a whole year? I can feel in my bones and my body and my heart (which are all old) the long stretch of days between the first terrified months after bringing her home and now, but if each year is going to go progressively faster what is going to happen when she is 6? Or 10? Or tween? I am scared.

One of her favorite things is "Freeze Dance!" and I would like to Freeze her. Just lift the needle off the record for a long moment or a few months so I can absorb and appreciate and memorize her Four-ness. She is a pain in the ass and won't listen to a word I say. She is hilarious and thoughtful and creative and feels everything so intensely. She (still) loves purple. She can pack her own snack and take herself to the bathroom and oh oh oh she is not a baby anymore, not even a little bit. Except for in the middle of the night, when she is scared and comes into my room. She drags a blanket and a stuffed friend across the floor and after a quick cuddle to calm the fears she climbs herself into the (way-too-small) pack and play next to my side of the bed and sleeps there until morning. Tim is not so keen on this habit, but I can't bring myself to make her stop.

In the mornings the baby comes in for her milks and then leans over the side of the bed to call her sister's name and wake her up. We are all delighted to see each other.

And then 5 minutes later someone pulls someone else's hair or beeps someone's nose too hard and then there are tears and someone is sent to her room or loses her TV privileges and cries and then needs a hug and then we all get dressed and have breakfast.

This was the first year Little A. really seemed excited for her birthday and all that surrounded it. Every night before bed we counted down the days to her party, and the days to her REAL birfday (the day after the party), on our fingers. She was eager to help with the cleanup and the shopping for the party. And especially eager to get at the presents that kept appearing in our entryway. So we are making a week of it. Last Friday she opened a present from my mom, her Nana, who winters in Florida, while we Skyped with my mom. Saturday was the arrival of her Grammie and Pop and a big-girls ONLY! manicure. Sunday was the super fun Fairy-Princess party and egg hunt and then Easter dinner at our friends Jenny and Brian's house (Jenny is Little A's favorite person). Monday was waffles, dance class, and more presents from Mama. Tuesday, she celebrated at school with a friend whose birthday is the day after hers. Last night, we had tacos and a dance party. Tonight, Tim is taking her out for a very special Daddy-Daughter Dinner Date. And there is one more present from the far-away land of Chicago making its way to us as I write. We're living in celebration station and no one really wants to leave.

So. Happy new year to my most favorite person in the whole wide world (first baby category).


xoxo, A

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Instant Karma

So yeah, I spoke too soon. I spoke waaaaaaaay too soon there.

Who was reading my little blog? Why did they have to karma little ol' me? What did I dooooo?

(Answer: everything I did romantically until my mid-30s, probably earned me enough negative karma that I'll be working that shite off for the rest of me life)

I posted that Pollyanna post over there, went for a quick run to celebrate a lazy boss-less day at work. Went contentedly home with my adorable girls singing in the car. Went to my grandmother's for dinner, all warm and fuzzy. Put the girls to bed, and watched some House of Cards. Contemplated the wonder that is Claire Underwood's hairdo. Went to bed myself. Life was good! Spring had sprung! Extra hour of sunlight! Etc.


At 5 am Baby G. woke up crusted in her own vomit and...other stuff. Suffice it to say, she got sick in the night, and then somehow fell back asleep. And woke up screaming, as is quite reasonable under the circumstances. A shower and some new jammies later she was tucked into bed next to me.

And then at 6 she threw up in my bed.

Fortunately Tim was planning to be home so I was able to go to work. Yay! Work! No one threw up on me at work!

So we had a sick baby on our hands and I stocked up on Pedialyte and the makings of the BRATY diet that would be her menu for the next week or so. Friday night was predictably low-key. Then Saturday morning I went off to my Zumba class only to drag my weak, dizzy, nauseated ass home 25 minutes later. And so help me I could not move from a horizontal position all day. Baby G and I took a couple of long naps and I fell asleep on Little A's floor for 3 hours after putting her to bed. I was sick as a dog, a prisoner of germs. Housebound.

And we had booked a babysitter. You parents out there know how precious and wonderful and amazing, the mere idea of BABYSITTER. It was going to be our first night out since Baby G's birth (sad but true, we are notsogood at that date night thing). Yes, there are worse things. But we burned a BABYSITTER night. Sigh.

And then it snowed. A lot.

All told I spent 4 days trapped inside with the entire family. How did the Ingalls family do it? Those long winters all spent indoors, looking at the same people, hearing the same whines, blowing the same noses? I would never have made it. As it was I was never so glad to wave bye-bye to my adorable progeny and head off the to blissful silence of my basement office. And then I found out my grandmother spent the beginning of the week in an advanced state of dehydration due to our stupid germs. Argh.

TL:DR takeaway: don't tempt the fates. Shut your fool mouth, and also buy whiskey. And Pedialyte.

xoxo, A 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pie in the Face

So. I have typed the opening to this post 6 times. Type type type. Delete delete delete. Type type type something else. Delete all that. Times six. So this meta-opening will have to suffice and I will launch into my story in medias res as if Homer himself was guiding my pen.

So. You can think you know someone, but everyone -- everyone -- is full of secrets.

Two nights ago, Little A. had a very rough night. She's stormy these days; whether it's her age or household stresses or fatigue or illness (oh constant germiness of winter, you are tiresome and please fuck off) or likely a combination of all plus a dash of mommy's lack of patience, who knows. Stormy, she is. On this particular night, the storm gathered around a typically contentious subject: the washing of the hairs. This kid HATES to get her hair washed. HATES. As if it were pouring acid, or red-hot meteorites, onto her head. Most days, I just let it go. But this night, I got a bee in my bonnet. Her hair was already mostly wet from "swimming" in the tub. One quick cup of water over the head, some shampoo, and another quick mermaid dunk, and we'd have clean hair for the week! No problem! Let's do it!


And instead of caving in, I just went ahead and washed her hair. I tried to be gentle and cajoling but at a certain point the shampoo just had to be rinsed out and water got on the face and Oh. The rage. The screaming. The tears. The splashing and kicking and rage. It was completely out of proportion, yes. The howling and hitting would have been more in line with someone, I dunno, running over your family pet, or stealing your beloved.

The tantrum lasted all the way through Skype'd good-nights to Daddy, pajamas on, tooth-brushing. Finally, as it always does, the Incredible Hulk left the room and in its place a tired little girl needed a hug from Mama. I was happy to oblige. Suddenly, the tears started up again, but with a softer, sadder quality. I asked what was the matter. And this kid. This kid who has been nothing but shockingly amazingly wonderful (because she was incredibly attached to me prior to baby's arrival) to her little sister for the 14 months she's been on our planet, reluctantly, painfully said I wish it could be just you and me, Mama, no Baby G. I miss you so much Mama. And she started crying again, probably thinking I would be horrified at this admission, and that she would get in trouble. Guilty sobs.

OHFUCK PARENTING MOMENT. I thought. These are happening more frequently as the girl gets older and more articulate and oh god I need to read more books about kids because I am surely going to mess her up for life. But also, I could just answer honestly and from my heart and maybe that will work?

So that's what I did. I told her that I missed those days, sometimes, too. That it was so nice to have a Baby G in our family and to love but that we sure could use more "just us" times too. That I appreciated her honesty and that I love her so much -- even more when I see what an awesome big sister she is and that my heart grows 10 sizes every day because I am so proud of her. And we had more tears and a big hug and I tucked her into my bed for a special JUST US Mama-and-Little-A sleepover and we all slept like champions and the next morning was the smoothest we've had in weeks.

After the storm.
 Oof. In my excitement over her "good" behavior with her little sister, and my smugness in thinking that *I* had somehow masterfully engineered the smooth transition into big-sisterhood for her, I never once thought she was behaving, well, how she intuited *I* wished she would behave. I am certain her loving behavior towards Baby G is genuine, but she has never once expressed jealousy or acted out, as would be expected and completely normal for the deposed. Not once! Seriously! But those feelings were lurking there under the surface, and burst out in a painful, guilt-ridden confession during a crisis about something else entirely. 

Oh. Ha ha. Um. Yeah. That kinda reminds me of somebody: me. Quick, someone write a book about how to successfully parent me. Here's your working title.

Hey Girl, You Sure Seem OK, but There Really is Something Wrong, Right?:
How to Crack that New-English Veneer and Get to the Healing Truth.

And in the meantime, pass the Pinot. There's a whole lotta winter left to go up in this piece.

xoxo, A

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Leaking Out My Ears

There is a moment every evening, after I have (finally) gotten both girls to sleep, after the chores (finally) are done, when the house is quiet. At that moment I think: now is when you can write. WRITE SOMETHING! C'MON JUST DO IT! I cast my ear up for sounds of wakeful babies. Nothing. The silence grows and grows and I find another pot to wash while ideas for posts and more posts and maybe even a little short story starts leaking out my ears and...

...And then I turn on the TV and watch for an hour or two until I decide to go to bed.

Why am I ignoring the internal prompts? I *almost* signed up for a poetry class. I *almost* signed up for a dance performance. But for each moment that presents as ripe for creative expression, something equally urgent insists that I turn my brain off and do nothing. It, frankly, does not feel great. I fear the house is growing stale and unmagical for the girls. I fear my soul has shriveled up into a dried pea. I fear...well...a lot. But mostly I fear that if I stop to examine all of my fears, confront them in writing, I will spontaneously combust. So, you know, no pressure.

Mother's little helper #21 -- matching jammies. 
I think I need more Vitamin D. February is so very...February-ish this year. January was too. We shall carry on, because we do. But goddamn wouldn't it be nice if it was a bit less of a slog. Ugh. My head is still up my butt. And it's dark up in this piece. Help!

xoxo, A