Alert, alert: off-the-chart parental stress detected. Seek Peanut Butter immediately.

Imagine a parental stress continuum. At one end is the mythical and totally unatainable smiling happy family lounging on a white couch.  At the other end: stress-eating peanut butter out of the jar at midnight.

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Folks, you can guess which end I’m at right now. (There may or may not be a sticky peanut butter spoon in the sink from last night.)

Ever since Irma decided to come to town –which I am now realizing was nearly three and a half weeks ago (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE)–life has been something, let me tell you. We had a lovely labor day where we were like, huh it looks like maybe a hurricane is forming or something, anyway, can you pass me some chips? And then Tuesday we we were like, huh, we should stock up on water shouldn’t we. Oh everyone is sold out? Cool, cool. From there it was off to the races.  Should we stay or should we go. Will there be enough gas to get us where we need to go. Will the sharknado destroy our house? (No, because there was no sharknado, sadly.) Will we all be stressed out and tired of living in a series of hotel rooms? YES YES WE WILL. Will daycare be closed a super long time? (OF COURSE IT WILL.)

And–this question needs no answer–will all this in some way impact my four year old??? 

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Why yes, all along this journey there was a bright-eyed and sensitive four-year old absorbing it all like a tiny little sponge. OH MY DEAR LITTLE SPONGE WHO NOW REFUSES TO SLEEP. And has been acting out, angry, defiant, and in one especially low moment spit her toothpaste foam onto my feet. 

It’s been a trying week to say the least. She hasn’t wanted to sleep, insisting that mama be with her. All week we were trying to solve the puzzle. What is UP with our kid? We asked her, are you scared to sleep? No. Are you afraid of monsters? No. (Spits on my feet.)

Meanwhile in adult-land, I’ve talked with several friends who agree with me that we (ADULTS) are just now starting to feel back to “normal” after Irma. By the way, you should get a load of my crazy kid, what on earth is up with her?!

Funny how hard it is to see what is often right in front of us.

And then, last night. Nearly midnight, I sat on my daughter’s bed with her, not saying much. Just chilling out. I’d finally surrendered to the situation. It was what it was. She wasn’t going to sleep, she wanted me with her, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

Guess what happened. As she flipped through a book she started telling me that she’d been having nightmares. She couldn’t remember what exactly, but she was scared to go to sleep. Simply by being and letting her be she was able to let it out. Shake it off, shake it off (to quote the wise Taylor Swift). She went to sleep shortly after that.

Maybe she needed a week of letting off steam before she could reveal the fears underneath it all. Maybe I was too wrapped up in my own stress to be able to just sit and be with her until that point. It doesn’t matter in the end. We did what we had to do to get through it. We’re doing our best to get back to normal.

Regardless, I’m happy to report we’re no longer at peanut-butter-eating-out of the jar status. We have lowered several notches to the piled-up-laundry and copious-coffee-consumption levels–definitely an improvement, and definitely another inch closer to ‘normal.’ For that I’m grateful.


P.S. Shameless plug alert–  speaking of hurricanes, I’m donating 50% of the proceeds from Etsy shop sales through Sunday to support Puerto Rico recovery efforts. The funds will go to the Sierra Club’s Maria Fund that supports just and sustainable rebuilding for the most vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico. You can donate directly here as well.

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17 easy steps to sleeping in as a parent!

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  1. Wake up to child staring you in the face.
  2. Curse as you realize your spouse is fleeing to the spare bedroom.
  3. Cajole child into chasing down other parent.
  4. Hide under covers.
  5. Yell across house to “remind” spouse he has dodged early wake-up approximately 1,572 times this week.
  6. Cheer for joy as spouse gets up with child.
  7. Run to spare bedroom.
  8. Wake up to see child staring at you while holding a toilet bowl brush.
  9. Reassure your child that yes, they can clean the toilet this morning as promised last night. (WEIRDO CHILD.)
  10. Yell across house to tell spouse to help child clean toilet.
  11. Wait for it. . . spouse can’t find the toilet bowl cleaner. Yell the location of the cleaner.
  12. Discover a dog has joined you in the bed. Realize soon it will be a child.
  13. Get up and lock door.
  14. Wait for it. . .child wails upon discovering door is locked.
  15. Wait two additional minutes for child to return to tell you “Daddy is making you coffee!” A SNEAKY PLOY TO GET YOU UP.
  16. Lie in bed wide awake smelling coffee.
  17. Admit defeat. 

 

Happy Saturday morning! At least I have a clean toilet AND coffee! 

Did I miss any steps? Share your own. Solidarity sisters.

Feeling frazzled? To-do list too long?

Take heart. I bet you have it together more than you think.

For goodness sake, it’s not like you still have Christmas decor lying around in your shrubs in July!

In my defense you can’t really see it from the street. And I even unplugged it seven months ago! (Maybe six.)

(People seriously hate this place?)

I’m currently sitting by myself reading a Sunday NYT and drinking iced coffee. There is free wi-fi and all the children here belong to other people. It’s air-conditioned and there is an endless supply of twizzlers and US Weekly mags.

What is this heaven I speak of? Why, I’m at my regional airport, about to travel solo for a work trip. They pay me to do this can you even believe it?

Hashtag blessed.

How to Plan a Party for your dad (according to the 4-year old)

  1. Rush home from pre-school, grab your mother and pull her into her bedroom. Dogs are allowed to stay. Dads are not!
  2. Get on the bed and lay down on a pillow, telling your mother in a conspiring tone, “we need to lay here to talk about SURPRISING* DADDY!” Cross your adorable little feet. Watch your mom’s heart melt.
  3. Ask your mom to purchase a “pinn-atta” and declare that you will fill it with “all the candy!” Decide that purchasing two pinn-attas might be a good idea. (More candy, which you will eat! Cackle with delight.)giphy3
  4. Remind your mother approximately 1,546 times that you need to make a cake. Offer to help blow out candles. Decide that chocolate ice cream must be purchased.
  5. In hushed tones, tell your mother to hide your rainbow drawings from preschool. They are a surprise for daddy’s birthday!
  6. Repeat daily until your father’s birthday. (Currently twelve days away.)

*There is no surprise party, but don’t let this detail derail any and all plans for surprises. The more surprises the better! Same goes for pinn-attas. And candy. And cake. Speaking of cake, did you remind your mom to make a cake??! 

The contents of her Frozen backpack (age 4)

  • A naked Moana doll (they are always naked)
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Poor moana is always missing her clothes. (Photo found online.)

  • oak tree twigs of varying lengths (quantity: 2)
  • a penny (she loves coins)
  • a small glass jar for placing her collections

File this away to Things I Don’t Ever Want To Forget about My Daughter at Four.

I’ve got (pancake) skills

I made the mistake a few weeks ago of making bunny-shaped pancakes at Easter and now my four-year-old thinks I’m capable of great pancake feats. Hence her request today for a “horse-shaped” pancake. She even wanted it to have “nooves” (she was struggling to remember the word hooves.) 

Hooves?!

Well, my lil’ cowgirl running around naked in her red cowboy boots was too hard to say no to. I cautioned that the hooves might be a level of detail not capable with the pancake medium. She shrugged and was like, ok but please still make a horse pancake?

You all, this might be stating the obvious but it’s hard to make pancakes look like horses. 

Me to kid: here is your horse pancake! Just know that it kind of sort of looks like a horsey.

Kid: I see it!

Me (not believing her): yeah!?Where do you think the tail is?

Listen you guys, she found the “tail”!


I have officially won motherhood today.

UPDATE: I forgot to add that after she ate her pancake she brought over a plastic toy horse and said, “Mommy, this is what a horse looks like!” Like I didn’t know. Like my pancake didn’t look like a horse or something. 

A song for my mother, a year later

Tomorrow will mark a year since I sang a song for my mother, an experience that still gives me goosebumps. Everything about that experience was infused with loving grace. I’m writing another post for tomorrow, but in the meantime I thought I’d share that post from last year.


There I was, palms sweating, all eyes on me. My heart was racing. Around me, new friends (very new)—most of them twenty, thirty, even forty years older than myself—urged me on.

“Will you consider it?” They asked.

Would I consider it?

I knew in my heart the answer was yes, even if my sweaty palms said no.

I was at choir practice, and these new friends were fellow members of the choir that I recently joined, which is part of the church that I recently joined. (You know, working on building my village and all that jazz.)

In the way that only deep, deep pain can motivate us, I recently came to the realization that I can’t do this life-gig solo. I need a village. Comrades. Partners on the path of self-actualization

I needed a faith community .

Seeing as I’m liberal-but-leery-of-organized religion, I naturally decided to check out our local Unitarian Universalist church.  Their mission statement is “Love. Grow. Serve.” Who can’t get behind that? They describe themselves as an “open-hearted multi-generational community” and that is what I found the instant I walked through their doors. love-grow-serve

The people I’ve met in this faith community include a baby-boomer hippy guitarist, a young physics professor, a Jewish grandma, a seventy-year old blue-bird enthusiast, a musical theater professional, and more. (And, they literally greet you with homemade muffins and coffee. In fact, they give new members the yellow mugs, so they can find you and say hello. It just so happens the yellow ones hold the most coffee, which also makes me love them.)

I immediately knew I wanted to join the church choir. Their Director is young and talented. The choir is small and half their members are snowbirds who return north for summer. In addition to needing more warm bodies, I had a hunch they would also benefit from having a few more members who could read music.

So there I was, at the second practice of my new choir at the new church I joined.

There are precisely four sopranos including myself. Judy, who carries a Monet Water Lilies tote and a tin of cough drops, sits to my right and watches out for me. She found an extra binder of music and shared her post-it tabs with me.

I was enjoying the practice. We were rehearsing the old Appalachian hymn “Bright Morning Stars” for Mother’s Day.

Our Director announced she would need a volunteer to do an a capella solo for the first verse, then we would add another part with each subsequent verse.

I absentmindedly scanned my music. I wondered who she had in mind to sing the solo. I was sort of relieved, in fact. Thank goodness I’m new, for surely she didn’t have me in mind, I thought to myself.

And then Judy tugged my arm and pointed to me. My palms started sweating. A lot. 

“Will you? Will you consider it?” she asked?

I looked up and all the others were smiling kindly. Wait, what? They were serious? Several altos nodded and smiled at me. I looked at the choir director who was smiling, waiting for me to reply.

It was then that I heard myself say yes. 

It is hard for me to describe how much this moment stirred me. I have always loved singing. From as long as I can remember I have sung in a choir. In middle and high school I took voice lessons and competed with other awkward pre-teens in various music festivals, singing with girls’ ensembles and honor choirs and on and on.

Recently, the most singing I’d done was in my shower or dancing with my pre-schooler to Yvis’s Yogurt Song.

And here I was, nonchalantly saying yes to SING A SOLO. In church. My voice, alone. What on earth was happening?

I was still wrapping my head around this fact as our Director paused to tell a story about this particular hymn. She explained how she had performed the song with a group of inner-city youth, most of them living on public assistance of some form in a very low-income area. She said how she talked to them about the meaning of the lyrics, how the song is about a parent’s sacrifice for their children.

It as at this point in the story that she said, that one of her high school students began whispering. Being the great choir director that she is, she cleared her throat and asked the young woman, “Excuse me, do you have a question?”

The student looked up and told her, “My parents are dead.”

At this point my eyes welled with tears. It turns out, of course, that the song is actually a metaphor, and it was about the eternal love of a parent toward a child even beyond death. The choir Director said she explained this to the student, how the song wasn’t literal but in fact about how the love of your parents goes beyond death, and perhaps this young woman’s parent’s were watching over her. Loving her still.

Well, at this point I didn’t know how I was going to sing this song about dead mothers. On mother’s day of all days. With my own dead mother up in heaven like that precious child’s. 

None of this mattered. I seemed to be carried by the energy of this group, and I suddenly found myself moments later singing the solo it out into the empty church. I finished and heard the choir members begin to clap.

Judy turned to me and said, “that was beautiful.”

The choir director wiped a tear away.”I don’t know why I’m so emotional today but that really moved me.”

Not only did I get through the song about dead mothers without crying, but I sang the whole thing fairly effortlessly.

And here is the crazy thing: I have always dreaded and hated solos. I have a traumatic memory of me singing at a competition when I was maybe fifteen years old, totally breaking under the pressure of performing in front of others. (I was perfectly fine in the comfort of the pianist’s living room when we had practices.)

Singing out loud, alone, used to be too vulnerable. I was fine blending my voice with others. Exposed and in the spot-light, I would wither and crack. My outsides didn’t match my insides. Or maybe they did, because I felt cracked inside too, I hadn’t yet embodied my voice, and was many many years from that being the case.

And so I circle back to today. This weekI sang effortlessly. I suppose you could say I found my voice. 

Today is Mother’s Day. I will put on my pretty blue dress, my heels and my mother’s jewelry. I will go with my daughter and husband to my new church, where I will sing a solo in front of my new, multi-generational faith family.

And I will sing out about how the love of our mother’s transcends death.

I will sing a song for my mother.