Monday, March 25, 2013


I spent this weekend crawling from bed to the couch and back again in a haze of Gravol and ginger ale. The 3 girls had a lighter version of the same (more vomit, but less crawling).  There’s nothing worse than cleaning up their messes when you’re choking back your own sick. Wretched stomach bug.

sick day
Naturally, our little Energizer Bunny, 2 year-old S has been healthy and raring to go. On Friday afternoon he played in the rain puddles on the deck, still wearing his PJs, while his sisters and I watched bleary-eyed from the couch. Tracking mud in, throwing his toys and random items of kitchen ware over the railing and screeching for our attention whenever we drifted off. Stellar parenting.

Daddy’s arrival home was greeted with a family wide sigh of relief. He brought Subway sandwiches and ginger ale. He popped the littles in the bath and bundled them off to bed, while I watched Netflix and dozed off again. My hero.

C was devastated to miss a friend’s birthday party that afternoon. Normally I would roll my eyes at her over-dramatic reaction, but I had my own taste of tragic unfairness having to text my sister to find someone else to go with her to the Opera the next night. I had been SO looking forward to it. It’s NOT fair!

We consoled ourselves by watching an old video. That’s right, a video: a clunky black rectangle that goes in an old-fashioned machine called a “VCR.” These “videos” are so outdated that they can be bought for only $1 at the thrift store and are eagerly handed down to us from friends. We have stacks of old movies in our storage room – REALLY old according to our girls, like, from the 90s. Cause that’s how we roll.

This was C’s introduction to Jane Austen. Gwyneth Paltrow as the irrepressible and often oblivious, Emma. I had tried to draw my girls into the fold before this, but they weren’t at all interested in the strange costumes, stilted language and bizarre customs. But this time she was intrigued. We discussed the class system, gender roles, courtship rituals and, of course, the amazing hairstyles. The next night we watched Newsies and tackled poverty, child labour, unions and cheesy dance moves.  Teachable Moments FTW!

It wasn’t the weekend I had planned. And I sure won’t be looking to repeat it anytime soon. One of the hardest parts of parenting is the unrelenting nature of the job. It used to be that my sick days were about ME, but now they’re about everyone else. Rearranging the plans, leaning on friends and family, using what little energy you’ve got to change diapers and sing lullabies and scrape a meal together… because you can’t take a day off of being Mommy.

But it’s not all sacrifice and sucking it up.

I’m blessed to have a man who jumps in as much as he can to carry the load. And maybe he doesn’t do it all
the right way my way, but it gets done, and he works his ass off to take care of us. And maybe he isn’t a natural caregiver, but he’ll drop everything to get me what I ask for (including the middle of the night, no questions asked). But it’s a good lesson for me in spelling out what I want/need instead of expecting him to notice (because he really doesn’t).

I’m blessed to have pre-teen daughters who still want to spend time with me. And maybe those days are fleeting. And maybe both they and I are too busy and distracted most days. But I enjoyed some of the best mother-daughter talks we’ve had in a long time, lying side by side with a plastic bucket between us.

I’m blessed to have an 8 year-old who thinks it’s fun to take care of Mommy every chance she gets. And maybe the blanket she pulls up over my head isn’t as gentle as my pounding head requires. And maybe she wakes me up when she climbs in bed behind me and pulls the pillow out from under my head so we can “share.” But those snuggles are worth it and the loud, off-key lullaby she
shouts sings to me is too.

I’m blessed to have a busy, noisy 2 year-old who stayed healthy. And maybe it’s just a matter of time. And maybe he seemed like more work than ever this weekend. But I’ll take a happy, dancing, climbing on my head, aggressively affectionate boy any day, because there’s nothing worse than a sick baby.

It was easier being sick Before Children. It was certainly quieter. I’m not going to lie. I miss that. Still… though the lows can feel so much lower when you have all these little
responsibilities blessings in tow, the highs are so much higher, and that’s what keeps me pushing through. Well, that, and ginger ale.

So here’s me, finally feeling better. But I just noticed that my shirt’s been on inside-out all day. Guess I’m not 100% just yet.


Friday, March 22, 2013


I’m tired of it. The saintly, June Cleaver-ish, I-simply-exist-to-service-my-children-and-husband ideal that I keep running into. There’s a religious version. And an organic-hippie version. And a sleek, modern-day tiger-mom version. And yes, even a special needs, therapy-is-our-life version. Their parenting may look very different from each other, but they are all entirely consumed by it. And it’s not just the women. They’re martyr parents.

martyrmomIn this day and age, parenting is the last bastion of acceptable nobility. We no longer expect to lay down our freedom, our identity, our dreams… our lives on the altar of marriage, or country, or vocation. But when Jr. Me arrives on the scene, we’re prepared to gift wrap all of the above. And pat ourselves on the back for doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of selflessness. It’s something our culture could use more of. It’s something I could use more of. But good parenting is about a lot more than sacrifice.

To clarify, I’m talking to good parents here. Not the pseudo-adolescents who barely show up, much less engage their offspring. Nor the workaholic yuppie with a trophy child they stash away until family photo day rolls around.

The rest of us. Most of us. Regular folks who desperately love our kids and feel desperately overwhelmed and underqualified a lot of the time.
To compensate, we read more. We do more. We sleep less. We are the hardest-trying generation of parents who have ever lived.

And sometimes we forget that good parenting isn’t about giving more, it’s about being wise.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long haul. And we need to conserve our energy and recharge our batteries from time to time. That’s not selfish; that’s smart.

The Center-of-the-Universe is subpar housing. No one should live there. Certainly not an impressionable child. The most miserable adults began as children who believed they deserved what THEY wanted, when THEY wanted it, no matter the cost to others. It is good for children to wait, to pitch in, and to sacrifice for others, especially their parents. It builds this old fashioned thing called respect.

Kids grow up. Ouch. I know. And it happens so fast. Which makes you want to soak it in as much as you can (unless they’re really whiney; then you send them to visit the Grandparents). But someday when they need you a little less, or when they are grown and gone, your life will go on. If you have no life anymore, you are in for a shock. You are more than just a parent.

Life is happening now. Life can’t be put “on hold” until your busy child-rearing years are over. Although we are technically “adults,” we are still growing and learning and becoming. If we neglect ourselves we will be stunted phsyically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. One of the worst mistakes a parent can make is to sacrifice the health of their marriage to the immediate needs of the shortest family members. In the end, everyone suffers for that.

Whatever stage in life you are at, whatever unique circumstances you find yourself in… find something that is your own. In those first few crazy weeks/months, that might be nothing more than a quick, hot shower. Take it. Own it. It’s good for you. And that’s good for them. A good parent has their own life.

The week our baby girl was diagnosed with Down syndrome, we met with the hospital social worker. She handed us stacks of brochures and articles and tax benefit forms. But the best thing she gave us (apart from heartfelt congratulations) was this advice:

“Don’t change your whole life for her; let her fit into yours.”

Down syndrome will always be a part of her life, but we don’t build her life around it. Down syndrome will always be a part of our lives, but we don’t build our family around it.

Nor do we build it around our son’s adoption or his special needs. Or our eldest daughter’s consuming passion for dance. Or our 10-year-old’s absolutely-essential, must-have-or-she’ll-never-be-happy-again, latest trend/toy/hobby/obsession. In our family, everyone gets to have a life.

A good parent gives selflessly and sacrifices and often puts their kids first, but NOT always. A good parent has hobbies and friendships and goals and needs. A good parent goes on dates and takes long hot baths and reads books and takes holidays. A good parent can say NO, and a good parent actually does.

So here’s me, and I’m my own person.


Friday, March 15, 2013


Once upon a time, before the advent of the smart phone (gasp of shock and horror… yes kids, there was life before the iPhone), busy women, like myself, were forced to rely on their own over-burdened memory to get things done. Appointments. Phone numbers. Grocery lists.

It was all too much for this daydream-y, flustered brain to recall. Writing myself a note was only half the battle. Far too often I would proceed to misplace the paper, along with the ever-so-crucial piece of information I needed to remember. So discouraging when the worn shredded scrap was found at the bottom of a purse or pocket or diaper bag days after it was needed.

I learned to write my important notes somewhere impossible to lose: my own arm.
At the peak of busyness, my skin was a criss-cross of inky blue impressions. The tribal markings of a suburban soccer mom. Appointments. Phone numbers. Grocery lists.

I don’t write on my arm anymore.

Until this weekend.

I decided to revive my old tradition – with a twist. This important reminder is permanently inked on my left wrist… where I will see it frequently… so I will never forget.


B’Tzelem Elohim
in Hebrew

Because I forget this about myself all the time.

About my family and friends.

About the people I meet everyday.

The ones who I barely notice. The ones who cut me off in traffic. The ones who inspire me. The ones who irritate me. The ones we write songs and speeches and made-for-tv movies about. The ones in prison and rehab and reality tv. The ones who are just like me. The ones who live a world away.

Every single person is one of us. There is no them. We all have something in us that resembles the One who made us.

If I remember this… If I look for it… If I call it forward… in myself and in others. Maybe then, I will love and live the way I’m meant to.

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature
 So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings; he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.

Genesis 1:26-27 (MSG)

So here’s me, and to preemptively answer the most frequent question about getting a tattoo: YES, it hurts, a lot. But it’s worth it to me.