He never stops moving.

He’s 3 today. He never stops moving. He is a blur of belly laughs, robot arms, laser hands, tiger pounces, whole-face smiles and astronaut blast offs. He loves his sisters with as much force as he hits them back.

He loves Mary Poppins and does a fair rendition of the chimney sweep “Step in Time” dance sequence. In his spare time, he goes hexagon hunting and keeps a running (but shifting) tally of how many he’s seen.

He doesn’t stop for pictures.

I’ve been trying to take a decent one since he woke up yelling, “it’s my buurrff day!!” at 4:27 this morning. This will have to do.
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California Dreaming

My mom did not have any traditional lullabies in her repertoire.  House of the Rising Sun, American Pie, Hotel California. These were the standards.  I’ve carried on this tradition with my own kids and added a few, but nothing from this century. The Joker, some Rolling Stones, and the Greatest Love of All.  This last one made it into the rotation in the predawn hours one morning when I was reaching for a song that I knew all the words to, one that would be just long (and boring) enough to finally put a teething little insomniac to sleep.

When I was a kid, I listened to Whitney Houston sing that song over, and over, and over again on my Easter egg-colored little boom box.  I laid on the floor with the lavender machine in front of me, repeatedly pushing the pastel play and pause, rewind and stop buttons. Testing the resilience of the thin cassette tape, and carefully re-spooling it with my fingers when the brown plastic loops would go slack.

I was singing it again last night as I rocked my almost 3 year old back to sleep after a nightmare.  We sat in same chair that I’ve rocked all 3 of the kids to sleep in.  But it’s too small for this function now.  The boy is half my height and the two of us together in the chair looked like a sloppily twisted soft pretzel version of the Madonna and Child.

This time Whitney’s call to action, her plea for us to let the children lead the way and show us all the beauty they possess inside, left him curious and unfortunately more awake.  There was a running commentary and stream of questions as I sung off-key.

Mama, why no walking in da shadows?  Is it dangerous?  Walking on ice mountains is dangerous. I like shadows. Can we make shadows now?  What mean “dignity”? Let’s search for heroes.

Lullabies are no longer sleepy background noise in our house.  They are songs with words and meaning, and the little person–no longer a baby–sprawled across my body was asking for more. More information. More context and definition. More time with his mama in the middle of the night.

I was rocking and thinking how much I love that I can give him these things in this too small, loudly upholstered in black and white floral chair–the same chair that my mom held his sisters in.

He’s clever and he loves his mom.  I was thinking about how my mom so loved cleverness and would have, so very much, loved him.

I was thinking about his Grammy and Granddad and his Pop Pop, aunts and uncles and Great Aunties.  All of whom rocked him and his sisters before him in that chair.  All still here, cramming themselves and one or more kids into that chair, rocking and reading with them from time to time.

I was thinking about how easy it is to get lost in wanting something or someone you don’t have, and how lucky our family is to have so much past and present love around us.

I stretched the blanket to cover his feet dangling over the side of the chair and told him to close his eyes so he could listen to a new song.  I went with California Dreaming.

Found on Etsy.

Found on Etsy.

Choose your tail and make it happen.

Snow is exciting for kids, with the construction of snowmen and the whoosh of fast sleds. But snow is dreadful when it’s accompanied by arctic temperatures that make spending more than a few minutes outside dangerous. This winter we’ve had to explain the phenomenon of frostbite and ask the question, “is building a snowman worth losing a finger?”

The answer was, “yes.”

So, as the mounds of white taunted them, we barred the doors and hoped the siren song of winter would be muted by the theme from Wild Kratts.

Today, though, is beautiful.  A balmy 36 degrees–but it’s Monday.  School calls and outside diversions will have to wait.  We hope that we’ve turned the corner on this winter and that we will no longer have to stretch our imaginations to create more inside games.  We’ve hosted carnivals, markets, restaurants and even a kind-of TED talk series for a captivated, stuffed animal audience.   My favorite of the inside games, though, was not one that was created with parental support–or supervision.  It wasn’t even a game really.  It’s more a state of mind.

The tail store.

My 5 year old crafted a selection of tails from pipe cleaners.  The almost-3 year old got in on the game too.  But one tail was not enough for him.  He sported a dual tail apparatus while running endless laps through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

“Look at me!  I’m running. I so fast.  My tails are so fast. Do you see dem?”

The oldest was nonchalant about the tail thing, not partaking in the donning of tails but offering creative advice along the way, “I think you should use the purple for a dragon tail…..Yes! That’s it. More dragon-y.”

But the 5 year old was serious.  After creating a whole collection of tails, Sassy Bottom Baubles Spring/Summer 2015 (look for them in next month’s Vogue), she disappeared for a while in her room.  After a few minutes she came looking for tape, and I obliged.  Normally, a request for tape made outside of the scope of communal arts and crafts time and without explanation means something is broken, ripped or otherwise destroyed.  But, I was tired and lacking in motivation so I didn’t protest when she zoomed by me, on all fours, with the roll of tape in her mouth.

A few more minutes went by and I began to wonder about the quiet and fear for the safety of the pet fish who have taken up residence in her room.  I walked in and found her working carefully to affix a selection of tails to her dresser.  She turned to me, face beaming like the sunshine we all longed for, “It’s my collection.”

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“This way, I can choose what kind of tail I want, whenever I want,” she explained. “When I feel like being a tiger, or a mouse.  When I want to be a kitten or a cheetah, I pick one and put it on, and Taa-Daa…I’m a tiger.”

“I love it,” I told her. “They’re beautiful.”

And they were.  They were beautiful.  A simple and simply glorious depiction of the way kids can feel empowered to be something or anything they want.  She wants to be a tiger, and an astronaut, and a dancer.  She does not see any of these as impossible.  She is not afraid to make her dreams known.  To give them voice–and tail, for all the world to hear and see.

I want her to stay this way.

I don’t want her to be quiet about what she wants.  I want her to express her dreams and make them happen.  Unless that dream is to build a snowman when the thermometer reads “LL”–lower limit–i.e. so cold the damn thing cannot even tell you how cold it is.  Quiet and a little less relentless would be good in that situation.

Or maybe not.

Necessity and dreams are the parents of invention. With an adequate supply of pipe cleaners, she just might invent some newfangled snow gear before moving on to her career as an intergalactic ambassador of tiger dancing.

These kids are gonna thank us someday.

My kid so desperately needs a haircut. He looks like a yeti, from the ears up. The rest of him is thankfully fur free. But looking at him and his porcupine mop-top this morning, with his array of half-eaten breakfast choices spread before him, I thought, Hey, despite the hair, he’s damn lucky.

His appearance leaves something to be desired at the moment (namely a pair of gardening shears), but he’s got a lot of stuff that so many other kids lack. And I may not be the perfect parent.  I may or may not have dropped him when he was 6 weeks old on to a hardwood floor (the ER nurse was incredibly kind at 3 am, “don’t worry, ma’am, it happens all the time”). And I may or may not have whispered to him, at 13 months after he finally fell asleep following 3 straight hours of rocking (physically and lyrically–after exhausting my meager catalog of lullabies I was singing my own renditions of the best rock songs of the 60’s), that he was going to drive me quack-sh*t, ducking crazy someday–only I may or may not have whispered the bald-faced curse words rather than the PG version.  I think about this little not-quite Mommy Dearest moment often and hope that his subconscious failed to absorb the exhausted menace in my words.

But the truth is he’s got a mom that would do anything in her power to keep him safe, and happy, and fully stocked in the breakfast pastry category.  So, I’ve decided to let go of the kiddie-coiffure failure and my many other parenting transgressions of the past 7 years.

I have another kid who has resorted to keeping her own calendar.  I shared this fact with a colleague in the elevator yesterday as we were both scrambling to make the clumsy transition from litigator to super mom at the end of a harried work day. Continue reading

A different relationship with disappointment.

I didn’t coin the phrase. A wise, beautiful woman who helps lawyers achieve their goals, kind of like a fabulous fairy godmother (for a fee), said this today in a meeting at which we were making an honest assessment of our successes–and disappointments–of the last year.

She asked me to articulate some of my greatest achievements of 2014 and I was stymied. After some coaxing and reflection, I realized it was a great year in so many ways. But my first thoughts were mired in the disappointments. They poured into my thinking chamber and I was drowning in a failure flood. It’s just so easy to focus on the the stuff that sucked, on the moments I sucked, on the times when I was told in sometimes gentle and well-intentioned but still painful ways, you suck.

The meeting was great and emotionally charged, sad and hopeful. It was important.

Our fairy godmother was speaking truth and we were responding with truth. And I came away with so much to think about further, so much to do–all with the aim of doing less of what sucks and more of what doesn’t. I came away with the notion that disappointment abounds but I’m not going to dwell in it anymore.

I’m going to move on from it and not wear it like some ill-fitting shapewear that is riding up in all the wrong places and squeezing the breath out of me. I’m going to learn from it, make a new plan and be kinder to myself. To be as empathic to me as I am (mostly) to others and to be happy.

Coaches, consultants, yoga instructors and self-help authors are full of the kind of phrases that end up set in weird fonts over Facebook pictures of serene waters or close up shots of pale pink roses.

Energy follows intention.

There’s no such thing as luck.

Every disappointment is an opportunity to make a positive change.

They’re all true in some sense or another. Some are worth 30 minutes of pondering while typing out a blog post on your iPhone. And some are worth repeating or tacking up next to your office computer. Some, not so much.

Today though, I’m thinking about disappointments in a new way. And, if I’m lucky (in the self-made sense) and my energy follows my well-designed intentions, this time next year I’ll say to the same group of fabulous ladies (without any coaxing or coaching) that last year was a great year–with more successes than suckage. And I’ll be telling the truth.

Who needs friends?

My then-4 year old announced proudly from the back row of the minivan, “I have lots of friends, but I don’t need any of them!”

We were discussing my still-6 year old’s efforts to make new friends at summer camp. The older sister was stoic. She’d “almost made a friend” that day, but that almost-friend ran in to a full-on-friend midday so the new friendship fizzled. She’d try again tomorrow, with a new friend prospect, and her stated strategy was to be herself and “find a friend that likes math games as much as [she] does.”

It was equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming to hear her process her feelings about friendship out loud. Her sister’s response, eschewing all need for friends carried the same balance in my heart. I was proud of her independence but I was also quick to tell her she was wrong. As wrong as you can be about anything. Like as wrong as a same-day-only free ticket to an all you can eat sushi, store-bought hummus, unpasteurized soft cheese and Champagne tasting buffet for a first-time, 12 weeks pregnant lady.  (I say first-time, because…well, I would have taken the ticket the second and third times around).

She surely didn’t need a lot of friends, but I guaranteed her that she did in fact need some–or at least one.

Friends, I told her, are a necessity. Everyone comes to a point (or a thousand points) in life, when a friend is the difference between being tossed overboard and clear sailing. Friends can carry you over a bridge when you are frozen with fear of falling, or wake you up when you’re unconscious in a sorrow or shame-induced zombie slumber–these are the kind of points in life when friends come in handy. And those points will come, no matter how self-sufficient you are. Continue reading

When it’s time to say goodbye.

I completely lost my shit on the phone.  Hello, ma’am.  Are you there?

Yes, I’m here.  I just can’t breathe.  I am calling the vet for a recommendation for at-home pet euthanasia services and I cannot make the words come out of my mouth.  I can’t say euthenasia.  It sounds like a lost continent.  I’d rather be on that continent.  Even if it’s like a tundra, where even a bug is meat.  I’d rather be standing on the battlefield between two warring tribes of outermost Euthenasia than saying the word euthenasia in reference to my sweet, first, canine baby.

Oh God, that tundra thing is something my mom used to say.  The tundra: where even a bug is meat.  Where did that come from?  I can’t even remember the context.

I can’t.

I can’t say goodbye to Hudson.

But it’s time.

And I’ve been here before.  Saying goodbye when I was absolutely not fucking ready.  Feeling all of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief at the same time in one debris-flying tornado of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I said the word.  I got a recommendation and I made the appointment.  We are going to say goodbye soon.

Here comes the tornado again.  Damn it to Euthenasia, that hell-hole of a continent!

And there goes any chance of making 2015 a less potty-mouthed year.  Good thing that was someone else’s resolution that I was thinking of stealing.  I’ll have to make another–maybe something more positive. Something not stolen. Yup, not stealing is a good start.

So, here’s to more laughter, more love, more making and revisiting of great memories with creatures big and small, and more ice cream in 2015.

Here’s to sweet Hudson.

Hudson, Me, Mom (with Sassy in the oven) and Peanut leading the charge.

Hudson, Me, Mom (with Sassy in the oven) and Peanut leading the charge.

Old dogs, new tricks, toy guns and peace, love and understanding.

Mommy, what’s a gun?

My five year old asked this question after I demonstrated how our sweet 13 year old puppy can still recall the tricks she learned from the kids who regularly played on the porch of our Baltimore row house.  The porch was large and had a huge glass window looking into our living room.  Our dog, then only a few months old, would sit in the window and watch the world go by.  Sometimes the world stopped to play with her–the world in the form of 3 or 4 boys whose ages were between 5 and 8, as far as I could tell.

The boys would hang out on the porch and talk to her through the window.  Sometimes I was home, and would go outside and offer drinks and snacks.  They were sweet kids, never caused any trouble and always said thank you.  They giggled a lot.  And they knew something about guns.

They taught our dog to roll on to her back and play dead when someone made a shooting a motion with their hand.  Bang, bang. She’d drop, tongue hanging out to the side, eyes bright and waiting for praise.  It was only mildly unsettling and mostly cute.  I thought it quite amazing that they could teach her though the window.  I thought that it is was only appropriate that my dog would learn such a thing in Baltimore.

Now, there are no kids hanging out on my porch, except for my own.  They are 6, 5 and 2.  They don’t watch the news and we try to prevent them from watching television shows or movies with any sort of, even comical, gun violence.  Yet they live in a house with guns, with a father who is in law enforcement.  Still, they haven’t really seen a gun.  Ever.  You see, it’s entirely possible to believe in the need for stronger gun laws and own a gun.  Life…and politics…they aren’t so black and white. Continue reading

I could never live in a place without creaky floors.

Not long ago, I drove past the first house we bought together.  A Victorian row house at the top of an inclined street, in a neighborhood more inclined to wrong than right.  Two blocks in any direction and the neighborhood was completely different, far better or far worse.  Baltimore is a funny city that way.  It’s an old city, lovely in all the ways old places are lovely. With grand national history and not-so-grand personal stories behind every centuries-old brick wall and cobblestone paver.  It sometimes felt like such a sad place, with more loss and hurt than feels possible for a place so small.  

Still, I love that city and miss its markets, and row houses, painted screens and Old Bay scented air.  I miss our friends.  And I miss that house.  I miss the way it sounded.

Continue reading

Thankful for all the things.

I’m thankful for my family, for the ones I get to hug everyday and the ones I get to hug every month or so, and the ones I haven’t hugged in years.  I’m thankful for the memories, the good ones that make the corners of my mouth turn up in unconscious glee and sentimentality, and the ones that are hard to relive.

I’m thankful for my senses.  All of them, but especially smell.  I love the smell of a roasting chicken (sorry veggie friends), sea-soaked air tinged with cocoa butter, the smell of my children’s necks in that small curve between the bottom of their hairlines and top of their backs–where the primal loveliness lives, and the smell of cigars (sorry everyone) and tea rose perfume.  I remember how everyone I love and have loved smells, so again…I’m thankful for the memories.

I’m thankful for football, the Real Housewives, and peace and freedom.  This is a crazy world and I’m so grateful to live in a corner of it, geographically and metaphorically, that is peaceful.  So peaceful that bone-crushing sport and mind-numbing, makeup-covered cat fights are entertainment.  Of course there is real conflict too in my small corner and neighboring places, and pretending it does not exist is beyond silly–it’s dangerous.  But I’m thankful that there are more ways and places to find hope than there are reasons to dwell in madness.

I’m thankful for friends who lift me up, and extend their hands and their hearts in all kinds of ways.  The ones at work who make a pretty stressful job seem not so bad, the ones I don’t talk to enough but who I think of often, and the ones who are not just like family–they are family.

I’m thankful for my 10 year old coffeemaker and the sound it makes every morning as it pulverizes and soaks those blessed beans into sweet, caffeine-drenched goodness.

I’m thankful for my husband who disagrees with me all the time, and tells me I’m wrong about so many things but manages to do it with a look in his eyes that tells me there’s no one else in the world he’d rather disagree with.

I’m thankful for my kids’ teachers and caregivers and the love they show to these three maniacs.  And to me.  For teachers who bring magic into their lives and make them feel safe and smart and loved. For our Ewa.  Our crazy, wonderful, I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-you-think, every day faithful babysitter.  The woman who I trust implicitly with my kids’ lives, the woman who holds them like they are hers and held me, like I was hers, when my mom was gone and never lets me leave the house with my hair wet.

I’m thankful for my sister, who technically was covered in the first stanza, but deserves one all her own.  Because she shares my heart.  And because all the best and worst-but-important memories include her face, looking up to me, crying with me, holding my hand and one of my trembling and poorly shaved legs as my oldest daughter made her way into this world and laughing so hard she peed her pants with me more times than I can count.

I’m thankful for my babies.

I’m thankful that I ordered what is hopefully the last of my Diaper Genie refills this week.

I’m grateful for all of you who read my drivel.

Love and peace to you all.

Meg

The Brood, circa 2013.

The Brood, circa 2013.