I don’t think I’m tall enough for this ride…

Spoiler alert: I use the word “boob” in this post. You may want to excuse yourself now.

Here’s an old cliche: Life is a roller coaster.

Everything seems up and down for me lately; I live with extremes. One moment I’m savoring a predawn cup of coffee and reading about what Gwyneth Paltrow packs for a flight to London (as if) and the next minute I’m juggling two cranky kids, one of whom wants to be permanently attached my boob and the other who can’t decide whether or not he wants jam or honey on his peanut butter toast.

Today when I left the house there were crying kids and diapers that needed changing, and let me tell you, it was wrenching. Then I drove in relative peace and quiet to my office (the fifteen minute drive to work is the only time I am truly alone). Then I advised a few students, none of whom have the faintest idea what they are doing. Now my office is quiet and I’m boiling water to make coffee. I drink a LOT of coffee.


I sit down at my computer to write. I open the file that contains my novel and get downright giddy as I nail a sticky plot point. Then I open the file containing feedback from my editor on the academic book I’m writing and I feel like jumping out the window. Then an email alert pops up and I see that I have another stupid and pointless meeting tomorrow. Academics love to call stupid and pointless meetings at the last minute. Then I take a peek at a fashion site to see what all of the hip people are wearing this fall.


I used to think of this way. You enjoy the ups and endure the downs. When you’re miserable you think, “This too shall pass.” Then I saw the following quote:

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

If we wait for life to get good before we enjoy it, we will be waiting a long time, and it will be over before we know it.

I felt a sense of peace when my five-month-old woke me at three o’clock this morning. I brought her to bed and smoothed her sweet fluffy head and let her nurse. I was deeply, deeply exhausted. I started thinking about all of the things I have to do, about all of the things I want to do, and about all of the things I will probably never get a chance to do. And then a voice in my head said, “You’re doing the most important thing you could be doing, right now.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I take care of my children. They love me and need me and I will be the center of their universe for such a short time.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I grade papers. My students value my feedback and I have the opportunity to help them become better writers.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read and swallow the difficult feedback I get from my editor. This will make me a better writer. My editor values me enough to keep pushing me through this project.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read People Magazine and drink Starbucks. We all need downtime and mindless entertainment.

When we took Oscar to the fair this year we put him on his favorite ride, a little red roller-coaster made just for kids. Last year he loved it. This year he cried helplessly in fear for the first few minutes of the ride. It was so hard to watch! Then something happened. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and endured. Finally, he looked around and smiled. And when he got off the ride, he wanted to go on it again.

A Conversation Between Oscar and the Moon

Yesterday evening we were walking and Oscar said, “Look, the moon!” He actually calls it the “moom.”

“Hey Mom, talk like the moom.”

“OK, Oscar. Hi Oscar! I’m the moon. How are you?”

“I’m Oscar! Why are you coming up?”

“I come up when the sun goes down.”

“Why you not turn your light on?”

“It’s still light outside. When it gets darker I will look brighter.”

“You want to come to my house?”

“I can see your house, but I can’t really come there.”

“OK. Just don’t come inside, OK?”

“I won’t come inside. I have to stay up here in the sky.”

“What’s inside you?”

“There’s nothing inside me. I’m solid all the way through like a rock.”

“But who’s driving you?”

“Nobody is driving me. I go around the Earth on my own.”

“OK Moom! Night Night! Love you! Bye bye!”

“Goodnight, Oscar. Love you too.”

“Say bye bye.”

“OK, bye bye.”


“Mom, I miss the moom.”


Mono No Aware

“Mono No Aware” is a Japanese word that means an awareness of the impermanence of things and a gentle wistfulness at their passing.

I came across this word recently in a book I was reading, and I love the complexity and truth of its meaning. Not simply an awareness of the passing of time, not sadness or nostalgia, but something a little more delicate and bittersweet. I love “a gentle wistfulness at their passing.”

This is what it means to be a mother.

I remember feeling this acutely when Oscar was a newborn and I would nurse him in the rocker, watching the sunrise and feeling exhausted and elated at the same time. I whispered to myself over and over, this time will be so short, and it will never come again.

I was comforted with thinking that maybe this wasn’t the last time. As Oscar outgrew each stage I enjoyed the moment, but thought, probably recklessly, that we would be here again, with “the next one.” In fact, I never felt a sense that time was passing too quickly, and it’s only when I look at photographs that I realize that Oscar is no longer a baby. Now, when he climbs into my lap he’s all elbows and angles and bruised shins and dirty feet and dusty hair.

And now I have Aria. She is “the next one” and probably “the last one.” This time I know it’s going by fast. Too fast.

Yet, there is no alternative. Time flies. The alternative is a frozen childhood, but that means death, which is much, much worse. Life means moving forward swiftly and irrevocably, and we cannot hold onto it. The passing of time is “Mono No Aware.” It is beautiful, inevitable, and exciting, but also bittersweet and a little wistful.

I am the mother of two small children. It is exhausting and overwhelming and I love every minute of it. Every day, every minute, I soak it in. The sights, sounds, and smells. The gentle neediness of small hands, sticky fingers, Oscar pulling me down for a third kiss goodnight, Aria snuggling up to me in bed to nurse at 5:00 A.M. The way Aria smells, and the sound of Oscar talking to himself as he plays with his little cars. It will all be gone in the blink of an eye, but no matter what I do, I can’t grasp it and contain it.

Like the changing of the seasons. I will mourn the loss of summer at the same time I turn my face up to admire the autumn leaves.



Summer with Oscar and Aria

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m now the mother of two.  In so many ways my love for my children has grown exponentially, so that my heart feels like it will burst. But in other ways my heart feels like it has been cleaved in two. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is leave my son at home with family for three days while I went to the hospital to have my daughter. Three months later it still breaks my heart to leave the house and leave Oscar behind. For so long, over three years, he was my little buddy, my little companion, and we went everywhere together. Now I have to take the baby everywhere, because she is so small and still nursing all the time, and the logistics of taking two kids with me forces me to leave Oscar behind more often than not.

I will be honest and say that it’s not easy having a three-year-old and a newborn. Oscar is the love of my life, and I still look at him like he is a miracle and a dream come true. How am I lucky enough to be the mother of such a magical little boy? He is so funny and smart and sweet and affectionate, saying things every day that make sad that time goes by so fast. Other times I can’t wait until he is in college.

Sometimes, when Oscar is playing, he will turn to me for no reason and say, “I like you.” He also asks, “Are you happy, Mom?” This question makes me sad, because I am often tired or stressed around him, and also because I have always been such a people pleaser, anxious and worried about everyone around me, and it breaks my heart that Oscar has become this way too.

He is so funny and sweet, singing the ABC song in the bathtub, asking for three kisses and a “big hug” every night before bed. Then, as I go to turn out the light, asking in a tiny voice, “One more, Mom? One more?” When I come home from work or running errands, he says “You back? I missed you.” If I take a shower or start packing up my work bag, he senses I am going to leave and says, “You staying?”

Oscar is three, and can be very frustrating and exhausting. He wants to talk to me about everything, and it’s not enough for me to say, “OK,” or “That’s nice.” He wants a full demonstration of active listening skills. I have to look at him, repeat exactly what he just said, and offer my own insights. If I try to multitask, frantically answering work emails or grading papers on the computer, Oscar will get impatient and upset. “Mom, talk to me, talk to me!” I’ll pause what I’m doing and say, “What do you want to talk about?”

He will smile and say, “Oscar!”

Right now Oscar loves trains, cars, trucks, playing in his sand box, getting dirty, and eating peanut butter and jelly; but also broccoli, zucchini, carrots and chicken. He loves Elmo and Cookie Monster, but also Curious George, Frog and Toad, Little Bear, the Hulk, and his baby sister.

His baby sister Aria.

Oscar will ask, “Where’s Aria?” or say, “I want Aria.” He loves stroking her hair, holding her, waving toys in her face, and making obnoxious noises about 1/4 of an inch from her nose. He has already mastered the art of being an annoying big brother.

Aria is three months old today. For the first month or so, she would sleep all day and want to party all night. She would nurse happily at 2:oo A.M. and then look around and say, “Why is it so dark? Why the long face?” She would be perfectly content as long as the light was on and I was sitting upright gazing lovingly into her little face. Try to sleep, or turn out the light, or even lie down, and she would tell me all about her hurt feelings. I would say, “It’s not all about you, Aria.” Aria would say, “Oh really? Try this: whaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

Luckily, in the past month, nights have become so much easier. Nursing is a piece of cake this time around, after the hell I went through the first three months of nursing Oscar. Recovering from the c-section was easier this time around, mainly because I knew what to expect. Three months later my incision site still hurts if I sit up too quickly or twist a certain way. I have a seven-inch scar to remind me of two of the most magical, beautiful, happy, terrifying, exhausting, and physically painful days of my life.

Sometimes, driving along in the car, Oscar will declare, “Aria came out of Mama’s tummy!”

Both of my children came out of my heart. They took a piece of it with them. They will be there forever.



Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…

Ah, sleep deprivation. I’d forgotten how bad it is. It’s a unique form of torture and I wish congress would pass a law to put a stop to it. Luckily for me, my little torturer is very cute, so I forgive her.

We are not accomplishing a lot around here lately, unless you consider eating too many carbs and downloading blogs to the Kindle to be an accomplishment. I can really pack away the egg sandwiches and spaghetti! I might write a new diet book: How To Lose The Pregnancy Weight…Never! As for blogs on the Kindle, what a revelation! I’ve been devouring books and novels, but figuring out how to subscribe to and read blogs has been life-changing. Reading other blogs always makes me want to be a better blogger.

So far this summer my days have been structured around feeding Aria, entertaining Oscar, trying to get enough work done at home to keep from getting fired, and struggling to keep the house from sliding into chaos.

I have a huge to-do list, which includes finishing a report for work, getting a chapter to my editor, catching up on prep and grading for my summer school class, prepping my fall classes, writing articles for this blog, taking pictures of my babies before they grow up, and doing something that resembles exercise.

I am aching to get back into my own writing. I miss writing. This blog calls to me. My novel calls to me. I’m finally beginning to stretch my creative brain in the sunlight after a long, cold winter and I’m starting to get ideas for articles, stories, and poems.

Now, if I could only get some sleep!

But Mr. Sandman brought me a dream more real and wonderful than any I could have imagined. He brought me this:

Letter to Oscar–Month Thirty

Dear Oscar,

Two and a half years ago I left our house with a bulging stomach and returned with a bursting heart.

I remember the first time I saw your face, especially your eyes, and I wondered what you would be like. Little did I know that your personality would begin revealing itself that day, the day you were born. Within hours of your birth you were looking around with those enormous dark eyes, soaking in the world. You are the most curious and playful person I have ever known.

Your energy and love of life are infectious. You run up to me, take my arm, and say, “Mama, up…peas?” How can I say no? You take me in the other room to show me that an elaborate drama has unfolded involving matchbox car pile-ups, train derailments, and plastic frogs trapped under furniture. You point and say, in plaintive tones, “Ooooh nooo!”

You know the way to the playground, the way to the library, the way to the store, the way home. Your sense of direction at two is better than mine at forty. You express all kinds of interest and disappointment depending on my route. When I turn onto the street that takes us to the playground, you shout “Yay! Whee! YAAAAY! WHEEE!” When I head to the library, you say excitedly, “Oh, play? Play? Books! Yay!”

You just finished up swimming lessons, and while at first you were timid in the water you became more and more adventurous, eventually loving to jump off the edge into my arms, again and again until you were a wrinkled prune, even when I dunked you underwater every time. But my favorite part of swimming lessons is that every time you got back in the water, you gave me a kiss.

You are energetic and outgoing, mischievous and melodramatic. But you also love browsing through piles of books, “reading” them intently for almost an hour at a time. You put your arms around my neck and squeeze, kiss my cheek while I read to you, and cuddle in my lap with your blankie. You are smart, funny, sensitive, and very, very loving. I hope that never changes.

Whatever you become, you will always be my baby boy and the greatest gift I was given in this lifetime.

Love, Mama


This is Oscar on the couch with his beloved blankie.

Mornings are my favorite time (even though I’m tired). It’s a time when the day has not yet solidified and become a to-do list. It’s a time when Oscar likes to snuggle.

The memory of a cozy bed still lingers.

The house is quiet and still somewhat orderly.

We have a little ritual with the first diaper change (although I wish we could put this off until after my first cup of coffee).

He shows me his belly button.

And I show him mine.

Breakfast: toast, strawberries, yogurt.

On this particular morning Oscar also ate a bowl of granola and a plate of cheese and crackers. Sometimes he eats more than a grown man. Sometimes he eats one bite of food before declaring himself stuffed for the day. He doesn’t actually say these words, he just shakes his head, hands me his plate, and insists I put it out of site immediately. He won’t allow there to be any food in his site that he doesn’t want to eat.

He also won’t allow there to be any food on his fingers.

If I don’t drop everything and wipe his fingers on demand, he will wipe them on me. Or cry at the injustice.

Once breakfast is over (it can last minutes or hours) Oscar usually settles in with his toys. This is my absolute favorite thing, watching him play and imagine and think and create.

Sometimes he’s content to play like this for a long time. Other times he pats the floor next to him impatiently, wanting me to join in. Sometimes I get some work done. Sometime I have to leave him, which is the hardest thing I do on any given day. Sometimes the morning blurs into afternoon and I wonder where the day has gone.

He is my morning. He is my life.

For you…

I want to blog every day, no matter how small.

A photograph or a thought.

I’m getting ready to move into a new decade,

and it’s time to start living

a little more.

I want to be

a better mother

a better writer

a better photographer.

More present,

more aware,

more grateful.

I want to do this for me,

for us,

and mostly

for you

my son

who has given me everything…

Letter to Oscar–Month 24

Dear Oscar,

It’s been a long time since I wrote one of these for you, because I had no idea that being a mother would be so all-consuming and that it’s near impossible to be a mother and be anything else at the same time.

Every day you make you me happier than the day before. How can I express this? It’s like climbing a mountain. Each time I reach a new peak and see a new breathtaking vista, you take my hand and lead me to a place that is even more beautiful.

In the 37 years I lived before you were born, I had no idea that I could laugh as often, cry as hard, fear as much, or sit so still, inhaling your scent, which to me is life itself.

I love nothing more than closing my laptop, putting away my books and papers, and sinking to the floor to help you with your puzzle, watch you mull over your flashcards, or sit unmoving as you drive cars and airplanes up and down my arms. Every time I have to walk out the front door without you, my heart is cracked in half.

You don’t say many words right now, but you are so smart you take my breath away. I love watching you find the letters on refrigerator that match your flashcards. I love watching you concentrate while solving problems and I love watching your face light up as you laugh at something on tv.

I quietly mourn the loss of your chunky thighs, baby roundness, sweet lightness, and your once ability to curl in a compact bundle against my chest. You now want to walk instead of being carried, but you still want to hold my hand.