Things to Know, Part 2: Leaving Home

You are tiny now, little girls with faces so small I can hold them in my hands, and hands so small they can still curl around my fingers. The smell of baby powder and shampoo still dominates my life, mixed in with milk and now bubble gum toothpaste.

It will not always be this way, my lion cubs. Life, your life, will call you, come for you, and claim you, one day. You will not, despite what you say now, want to live with me forever, you will want to have a home, a family, of your own. And that home may not be down the street, or even across town from me and Daddy.

You will see, as you grow up, that I get homesick. The lush grass of Papa’s backyard, where I spent my childhood, the wide acres of my uncle’s ranch, the smell of horse and saddle leather and hay, somedays I want that more than I want anything else.

But I would have withered at home. Under the nearly over-bearing guidance and watchful eyes of my family, I would not have dared to dream. I would not have picked my camera back up, I would not have tried to plant flowers, or cook a Thanksgiving dinner out of dishes I had never even tried. I would not have dipped my toes into the Atlantic Ocean in January. I would not have sat for hours getting those butterflies you are so fond of inked into my skin.

I would have married who I was supposed to, lived in the house I was supposed to, raised children like I was supposed to. I would have put my cameras up for a stable job, I would have cooked and cleaned and kept a perfect house. I would have withered away.

Wildflowers do not grow indoors, my babies. They have to be outside, in the sunshine. And the rain.

Being away from home, I have grown. I am not the baby of the family, but rather a lioness, leading my own family, sometimes battling with Daddy, but forging my own path in life. I want that for you, and I know that will only come if you leave home. You will not grow, you will not challenge yourself, you will not dream big dreams, accomplish them, and then find new dreams, if you stay here with me. Remember Rapunzel in her tower, after she was finally brave enough to leave, she found a big world waiting for her. That’s the same world, waiting on you.

So when the time comes, I will cry. And you might too. That’s ok.

But you will, no matter how many tears you shed, find yourself packing up, and finding your path.

If you do not have the courage, and strength, to find your own life in this world, I will have failed you as a parent. If I teach you nothing in life girls, I want to teach you how to be strong, on your own. I will never leave you, never abandon you, but you will have to leave me. It is the natural order of things; all babies leave home to make families of their own.

And if you are afraid to do that, then I have not done my job as your parent.

So when the time comes, I want you to run out into the world, conquer what you can, and leave the rest for someone else. Build your own home, whether that is down the street, across the country, or across the world. Just save me a spot in the guest bedroom.

If you get lost, follow your heart, it’s the best compass you have, and you will come back to Daddy and me, if you need to take a break from the world.




The Night Before School

When you have a baby, when that monumental moment in time comes, and you literally bring your child into the world, the doctors, nurses, your family and friends, they all forget to tell you one thing. That you are taking a piece of your heart, and putting it into a being separate from you, and that with each nap, with each play date, with each breath they take, they are pushing further from you.

All those firsts you look forward to, first smile, first time baby rolls over, first steps, they are firsts that will separate your child from you. From the moment you give birth, you are separating, the act of giving birth is the first step in letting your child go.

Tomorrow, Sprout starts Pre-K. Like everything we have done so far, and everything we will do for the foreseeable future, she’ll be at home. The school corner has been cleaned and organized, I put together a new Circle Time board, and she has new crayons and colored pencils. When the store did not have the color glitter glue she wanted, I bought clear and added glitter to make her preferred color. I bought her a new backpack, even though we use that more for trips than school, she has a lunch box and a thermos, and I had to promise her tonight, during bath time, that I would pack her lunch in it. So we’ll have school in the living room, and she’ll eat lunch at the kitchen table, out of her lunch box. Or maybe we’ll sit outside.

But she’s starting Pre-K. And all those First Day pictures, and the cupcakes, and the certificate (of course she has a First Day Certificate), and all the projects. They’re other ways of letting go. When she mastered holding her scissors the right way, and told me she was a big girl, I was in the middle of feeding Pudge. It didn’t hit me until later, when I was picking minute pieces of paper out of my carpet, cut neatly, that I realized she had done it again. Taken another step away.

Those fingers that are holding safety scissors will one day hold real ones. She’ll put together college projects, work projects. Those fingers might sign laws into effect, might write legal briefs, might guide a rocket to Mars. Might dig holes for flowers, or cut silk for a designer dress. But she gained another step on the road to independence, when she remembered Thumb Up Top, Pointy End Out.

Your children are not really yours, they belong to themselves. Sprout has belonged to herself since she made her entrance into the world, serene and calm, watching the world through foggy eyes. The face that echoes my own at that age, the eyes that are duplicates of mine, they are hers. She belongs to herself, and she is slowly but steadily learning that.

I can hear her now, “Slow and steady wins the race Mama. Just like the tortoise in the story.” She still calls me Mama, and I dread the day that turns to Mom. I’ve liked being Mama, even when I get tired of hearing that name. Mama is the world of littles, of little fingers and toes, of nursery rhymes and rock me to sleep and I’m scared let me come sleep with you. I like this place. I know this place, of little girls, of toes barely big enough to put paint on, of untangling hair first thing in the morning, of frilly dresses and bare feet on a warm day. This place of Sesame Street and You Are My Sunshine is the place I have been the happiest.

Really that’s it, I don’t want them to grow on me for purely selfish reasons. I am happy.

I am tired. I am exhausted. I want a hot shower and a days’ worth of sleep and someone to cook all the meals for a year. But I am happy here, in the land of littles.

And my girls are determined to lead me out of this place, where I am happy. I am sure the next stage in motherhood will be happy too. But this stage was where I met happy, where I learned that I could meditate with a baby in my belly, or in my lap. That in the moment meant coloring in a princess themed coloring book with my pajamas still on, and coffee growing cold on the counter. This stage taught me the healing powers of a baby asleep on your chest, on the peace and contentment a child could bring. I like this stage because it has healed me, as much as I have raised my children through it.

So this is why, as I pulled together what we’ll need for the week, I found myself crying. We are ready, we have everything we need. I am not ready.

My littles are leaving this stage, and I would happily stay here for a lifetime.


Little Architect

This was supposed to be summer vacation. This was supposed to be the summer Sprout learned how to be bored on her own, and come up with marvelous things to do. I envisioned her building forts out of  blankets and sheets, filling up her drawing books with the best work since Picasso got into Cubism, creating sticker pictures, playing Doc McStuffins with her toy collection. And she did that. And then…

Two weeks into summer break, and she was coloring on the walls. I mean that in the literal sense of the word.

I realized I do not have a child who can just be on her own, who can figure out how to amuse herself. Let me rephrase that, who can figure out how to amuse herself in ways that do not involve destruction or the permanent markers she snatched from my desk.

So I started coming up with activities to do. Some of them were home school activities, simplified for easy play. We’ve done more arts and crafts, used more glue, paint and glitter than I care to reminder. Or can get out of my carpet.

But I had a box of packing peanuts, saved from a delivery, sitting on the top of my fridge. And I had toothpicks. Putting them together meant nearly an hour of building, taking things apart, and rebuilding. I should have done this on a sheet, to avoid the risk of stepping on lost toothpicks. Or even better, I will do this outside next time, and I will not have to worry about toothpicks getting jammed into small toes. Or my toes. I’ve had to go the ER once to get a piece of toothpick out of my foot, years ago, I don’t care to do it again.

But she was occupied. She wasn’t in trouble, wasn’t scheming to do something she shouldn’t or playing with something she shouldn’t, or pestering the cats, or any number of the Do Nots. I try to avoid the Do Nots as much as possible, but there are times when you have to have a Do Not. But on this afternoon, I forgot about the Do Nots, and let her build. And build. And build some more.


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At 6 months

This is what 6 months looks like. Rolls of fat, chubby thighs, sitting up, babbling, and putting everything, and I do mean everything, in her mouth. Sprout at this age had delicate features, a pointed chin, a button nose, and over-large ears that she still hasn’t grown into. If I played the word association game, the word elfin brought me right to Sprout. But say Pudge’s name, and I think of round. Round cheeks, a round belly that pokes out over her diaper.

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I have these small little laughing Buddha statues. And he is all round belly, and big smile in every statue. From the moment I opened the box, I thought of Pudge, with her big toothless grin, and that belly, pushing against her onesies, and hanging over diaper. She is unapologetically chubby, perfectly content her roundness, and happy with her life. (As long as she isn’t hungry.) I’ve learned more about body positivity in the past few months, as she started to go from tiny newborn to pudgy baby, than I have my entire life time.

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She’s not too good at sleeping yet, she wants to get up after bedtime and play for a few minutes, and then go back to bed. I try to be in the moment during those times, especially once Sprout has gone to bed. I try to imprint the weight of her head on my shoulder, the squeals of laughter, the baby talk, to memory. The dark circles under my eyes, testament to the amount of sleep I’m not getting, are slowly making their way down my face. By the time the girls are in college, I am convinced my face will be nothing but puffy, dark circles.


But these moments will pass quickly. It feels like yesterday I was gingerly getting out of the car, and carefully unbuckling a tiny newborn from her seat. In reality, half a year has gone by.



Things To Know, Part 1

To My Girls,

You are tiny now as I write this. Sprout, you are a tangle of long legs and curly hair that you won’t let me comb out, and attitude and temper tantrums that would make the greatest divas in history proud. Pudge, you are a round ball of baby fat and drool; this happy baby who loves a good snuggle, and who looks just like her big sister, you demand a meal when you are hungry, with every ounce of your chubby being, and you are not happy until you’ve gotten it.

I am able to protect you now, I am able to shield you from the bad stuff of life. The problems you will face, as you grow up, are easily explained away, if I have to explain them at all. For the most part, thanks to an over-protective Daddy and a Mama who can outdo a lioness, you are surrounded by nothing but good in life.

But that will change.

One day I will not be able to explain away a problem, or a challenge. One day you will see things and learn things without me to censor it, without a hand to cover your eyes or your ears, or a shoulder to hide behind. It is my job to get you ready for that day. When you are in the thick of it, when the world is screaming at you, when nothing goes right, I want you to remember a few things.

  1. Be who you are. Be who you are to the core of yourself. Be who you are to center of your marrow. Be who you are, all the time. Do not let anyone change you. Do not change for anyone. Be yourself.
  2. Trust yourself. You will have wonderful instincts. Follow them. If going on a date with someone gives you the heebies, then leave the date. If you don’t feel comfortable going somewhere, then do not go. If in the pit of your stomach, you get a weird feeling about doing something, do not do that something. Whatever that something is.
  3. Be strong. Life is hard my babies. There will be trials and tribulations along the way that will threaten to break you. You will always have a home to come to, you will always have a Mama who will support you and guide you when you need it. But some paths in life you will have to walk on your own. Be strong on that path.
  4. This too shall pass. When you’re struggling, when life is coming at you from every direction, and you have no sense of balance, remember, this is temporary. The same sun that came up on your worst day, will come up the next, and the day after that. Just hang on until the storm passes.
  5. Use a condom. Or birth control. Better yet, use both. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Do not stop this until you are sure, as sure as you can be, that you’re ready to be a parent. And do not stop until you are positive your partner is free of anything that can make you sick. If this means you exchange test results, when so be it. Every time girls, every single time.
  6. It is better to beg forgiveness, than to seek permission. You will never be able to please everyone, and if you try, you will only end up hurting yourself. Do the best you can, and most importantly, do the best for you. If that means you have to ask for forgiveness later on, than that’s fine. But do not ask permission to do the best for yourself. Do not ever ask permission to do good for you.
  7. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Mama does not speak softly, and for this you will need to look towards Daddy. Do not let violence be your first response, use as much diplomacy as you can. But when all else fails, remember how to throw a punch (Daddy will teach you), and if you go down, go down fighting.
  8. Never surrender. Never take prisoners. Never. Do not ever back down, especially from something you believe in. If you believe in it enough to want it, believe in it enough to fight for it. And keep fighting for it. Leave a trail of people in your wake, those who tried to keep you from your goals and dreams, leave them bleeding and broken behind you, as you fight for your place in life.
  9. Never leave a man (or your sister) behind. You two are sisters, with all the emotional baggage that means. There will be times you hate each other, there will be times you fight and scream and yell at each other. You’ll probably use the phrase “I hate you”, but you better never mean it. You two are unique in the world, you are the only children Daddy and I have. You’re it. And there is a day coming, way down the road, when you two will be the only ones left. No one will love you like your sister does, and I speak from experience. Do not leave each other behind, do not give up on each other.
  10. Do not ever under-estimate the healing power of chocolate. When life has become nothing but shit and you cannot handle a single second of it, eat chocolate. Remember all the times I healed your skinned knees and elbows with Hershey Kisses, and get some chocolate.
  11. Beauty is only skin deep. You are both beautiful little girls. You will grow into beautiful women, I am sure. And this stops at your skin. Your actions, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, if you keep your word, are much more important than any shade of lipstick or nail polish. Do not rely on the looks you see in the mirror, they will fade. Your ambition, your drive, your brains, will carry you further than any pretty face ever could.
  12. Cook your meals. Not to get a man, plenty of people will tell you that you need to cook to catch a man. Forget that nonsense. Learn to cook to feed yourself. Learn how to read a recipe, what to substitute and when, cultivate your taste buds. Food needs to nourish you, in more ways than just the caloric one. And remember, everything in moderation.
  13. Do not forget to have fun. Do not lose the same spirit that has you giggling at each other while getting Mama’s car worked on. Do not lose the ability to laugh and play at 5 in the morning. Bubbles and coloring books are something you should keep in your house, at all times. Do not under—estimate the healing power of a game of football in the back yard, where you can run your cares into the ground.
  14. Do your laundry. I hate this chore. But clean clothes make you feel better. Whether you do a load a day, or all on one day, do your laundry. Do not run around in a shirt that has yesterday’s dirt on it.
  15. Love is precious. Do not give your heart to a man, or a woman, who does not deserve it. Your heart will heal, but the breaks will leave scars. Be choosy in who you pick. But when you do find love, love with everything you have. Hold nothing back. Put your whole heart into loving someone.

My precious girls, you are the center of my universe. You are the only thing I have ever done perfectly right. I will always be here, I will always be a safe place to fall, if you need it, a shoulder to cry on, and your biggest cheerleader. If nothing else, I hope you remember these things, I hope I have ingrained them into you, by the time you leave my nest, so that they are second nature to you.

And one more: Never forget how much I love you.



For Every Mama

Motherhood is difficult. Parenthood is hard, but I can only speak from the Mama perspective. This shit is hard. And we Moms seem to love to make it harder on ourselves, dividing ourselves into camps, working vs. stay at home, breast feeding vs. formula, cloth diapers vs. disposables, attachment parenting vs. schedules… the list goes on and on and on.

I could probably write a thousand words detailing the groups we Moms split off into. And probably write a thousand more words about how we fight between these groups, and amongst ourselves. Motherhood seems to have become one giant fight to the top, for Mom of the Year.

Let’s be honest, there aren’t any awards. At 3 in the morning, when you’re changing a blow-out diaper and your baby is screaming, at 7 am when your oldest peels your eyelids back and reminds you of the park trip you planned today, at 9 pm, when your pre-teen reminds you of the project they have due first thing inthe morning; there are no awards. There is only work, more work, and hard work. There is only a slog through laundry and feedings and middle of the night wakings, bad dreams, skinned knees, too much candy and not enough good food.

Here’s where I stand…

I’m for a baby in a clean diaper. If that’s a cloth diaper, good for you, remember to use something on babies skin before you put the diaper on. If that’s a disposable, good for you, I’ve got a ton of coupons laying around if you need one.

I’m for a baby with a full belly. If that’s a formula fed baby, good for you, again I’ve got coupons I’ll share. (Only the Enfamil ones. The Good Start ones are all mine.) If that’s a breast fed baby, good for you, remember to use nipple cream before your tatas get chapped and uncomfortable.

I’m for a baby who sleeps. If that is in a carrier, good for you. I’ve got two, and they get heavy use. If that is in a swing, that’s good, ours gets a lot of use too. If that’s in a crib, or on your bed, in your arms, or in the car seat, good for you.
I’m for babies, and kids, who are stimulated and educated. If that means you pack your kids off to school, good for you. Lunchables are a God-send when you’re scrambling to get a lunch packed. If that means you homeschool, good for you, you don’t have to worry about staying in your pajama pants while at the drop-off line.

I’m for stay at home Mamas, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, this is work. The hardest part for me is not being able to separate, having nothing for myself, that is just mine. It is so easy to lose your identity. But I’m also for working Mamas. You see, I need you. I need you to show my girls that there is more than one way to raise a family, that you can work and raise happy kids. So if you’re home, good for you, and if you work, good for you.

I’m for the Pinterest Mama, who finds something to do, and does it perfect. Who has a home decorated with painted Mason jars and ideas you’ve found. I’m for the non-Pinterest Mama too, who can’t work a glue gun, and don’t like to crochet. You do you.

I’m for a happy Mama. If that means you don’t co-sleep, or do; if that means you breastfeed until baby is older, or went straight to bottles, or some combination of in-between, good for you. If that means you have a live-in nanny, a sitter, or ship your kids off to daycare, Nanas, or the zoo (kidding!!), or whatever you need to do to stay healthy and sane, good for you.

I’m for Mamas who finally take time to get their toes done or hair cut, or who curl up with a book and read long into the night, whatever you do for a break.

I’m for a happy, healthy family. I’m for a family that plays together, eats together, lives together. I’m for walks in the park, muddy puddle stomping, flower picking, cotton candy eating trips to the carnival, face painting, beach trips, amusement park rides, baseball games, dance recitals, and all the other stuff we do with our families. I’m all for family time, however you define it.

I’m for each family making the absolute best decisions they can, for each other, all the time. I’m for parents who put their all into parenting, even when they’re tired and need a break. I’m for Mamas who have mastered the 5-minute shower, who know Good Night Moon backwards and forwards, who run multiple schedules at once.

I’m for every Mama, out there doing the best she can with what she’s got, worrying about her kids, trying to make it through the tough times and trying to savor the sweet moments. I’m for the Mamas who have given up everything, only to find new things. I’m for the Mamas who sees her imperfections, but remembers her strengths. I’m for every Mama.*

I’m for every Mama.

Happy Mother’s Day.


*Provided what you’re doing is safe and healthy.