Wednesday, December 30, 2015

HuffPost Live: Being Mindful of Kids' Screen Time This Holiday Season


We are knee deep into winter vacation and the tug of war between what Phil and I view as acceptable screen time and what the children deem acceptable rages on.

Instinctively, I like to indulge my kids in Minecraft and Mario (within some reasonable boundaries re: time) while I hide somewhere in the house, guilt free, with my own device. But my own personal goal this holiday season was to encourage their own interests and to find places where maybe I could learn to engage on some of this stuff too – learning to play and participate with them. It’s a role shift for me, one where I'm mindful of evolving into more of a digital mentor for my children. My thinking on this point was inspired by a recent article in The Atlantic urging parents to "reject technology shame." For more on this, click here.

Have you had any tech struggles this holiday season? What kinds of gadgets and devices did you buy for your kids? Come join me over at HuffPost Live to discuss navigating the delicate balance this holiday season between our kids and screens.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Almost Eight


Hope is in a phase right now. Frankly, it’s one that I had completely forgotten we’d already visited two times over before. Until I opened that car one chilly December morning to take her out of her car seat and found her barefoot.

She is in the taking off her shoes and socks while we drive phase.

I’d completely erased from my mind that this was ever a thing until I looked down at those pale pink little piggies staring back at me. Of course, Dylan always did this wherever we went. And Ruby too. And how it would frustrate me to have to stop and put back on the shoes and socks every single time no matter how short the trip or how cold the day. It used to annoy me but now, staring down at her feet I realize, whatever moment you’re in never lasts nearly as long as it feels. This is both the most beautiful and terrible thing about any single place in time.

The other day I went back and read through tons of old blog posts, now spanning nearly three years. It was amazing. Less because of what was published where, but especially because of those earlier posts that I wrote – why? Why did I write them? Partly not to lose my sanity. Partly to send out a signal looking for someone else to say, yes I too understand. Partly because I didn’t want to forget.

But I did. You do. I forgot what those early snow days were like, I forgot the moments of shopping in the grocery store in our pajamas and princess costumes. Inevitably you do leave the sleepless nights and the painfully early mornings. But you leave those other little moments too. Like most things, you never know when your last shoeless ride will be your last. But one day it just is. One day they are older. And so are you.

Tomorrow you are eight. EIGHT. How can this be?

Eight years ago at this exact moment I was 36 hours into the induction that wasn’t, certain that this was as hard as mothering was ever going to get. It’s almost laughable to think back on it now. I was so impatient to move past that moment in time, to rush through the end of being pregnant with you that I pushed for an induction when you were so clearly not ready. In hindsight, neither was I.

And now you about to turn eight. I am terrified that if I don’t write some of it down you won’t remember and neither will I. Every year I busy myself with holiday cards and Hanukkah presents and birthday parties. Every year I strive to just get through this place in time. But it occurred to me that one day sooner than I’d like they’ll be nothing to rush through. Perhaps I busy myself to not become overwhelmed with how emotional this time is for me, to not help but go back to that place in my mind’s eye when we were both so much younger. When your grandmother showed me how to hold you and give you your first bath. Don’t get me wrong. Things weren’t necessarily better back then. They were just different. It’s a space I both long and fear to travel each December. Back to your new wrinkled self and her arms and my own wonderfully stupid young mothered self.

Each year I rush through it and now the eighth night of Hanukkah is upon us. Your 8th birthday is nearly in the books. We’ll celebrate your sister today and I’ve got her cake in the oven. There are a million things to do but I’m here in my bathrobe with my laptop and coffee writing it down so we don’t forget.

You love Pok√©mon and Gravity Falls and Football. You are amazing at video games. You love Minecraft. I am buying you less and less toys each year. I guess you are playing with less stuff. But you love a good game of pickup basketball, baseball or football. You’ll go throw the ball around any old time. You love cards just like your Dad. You are great at remembering the rules of all of the games and get mad at me when I forget all the different games. You love to read like I always did and when I see you curled up in my chair with a good book and my face, I can’t help but narcissistically see my own little self curled up right there. You are reading The Hardy Boys right now. You love rules and order. In this way you are like me I suppose. You are afraid to step out of bounds and that’s not necessarily bad. Although it’s taken me most of my life to realize that it’s okay to challenge them once in a while. It’s okay to go on to the fifth book if you haven’t read the fourth. It’s okay.

You love to organize stuff and this you most certainly get from your Dad. You have to have everything on your desk a certain way. I appreciate that. I’m even envious. Your desk has two Lego Minecraft sets, your baseball trophies, and your Jets page a day calendar that you got for Hanukkah, and your football proudly displayed in the corner. It also has a picture of you and your sister that you keep taking down but I keep putting it back up. No matter how much you fight, you need each other in your lives (and on your desks).

Even though you are eight, you still like to creep into our room and our bed if only for a moment early in the morning. I admit when you were so little and we were so exhausted we didn’t always enjoy this. But now when I feel your cold toes and the way you lean into my warmth, I welcome it. I know we are on the other side of that hill. It won’t be too long now, I’m sure, before you’re too big for that. When that time comes, I’ll have to find another way for us to lean into each other.

I heard the weatherman say this morning that for the first time since December 25, 1977, there would be a full moon on Christmas Day. A cold moon he called it. The last time this happened, my mother was 33 years old. She had a 6 year old, a 5 year old, and a 3 month old. I was that baby. Time moves just like that. Doesn’t it now? We’re all seemingly just hurtling through space pretending actually to make sense of any of it. But really we’ll blink and it will be the next cold moon, December 25, 2034. I’ll be 57. And I’ll have a 27 year old, a 25 year old and an almost 21 year old. It seems best not to rush.

So the cake’s ready and I’ll leave it a bit. Sometimes you need to let things set and cool. Happy almost 8th Dylan. I won’t ask you to slow any of it down. Just don’t forget.

Friday, November 20, 2015

With Liberty and Justice For All


Not often, but sometimes when my father in law is feeling particularly wistful, he will speak of what he remembers. He remembers learning to swim with his sister on the banks of the mighty Tigris. He remembers the bountiful fruit trees that benefited from the rich soil of her banks, bearing the most beautiful and fragrant fruits. Pear trees, grapes, pomegranates. If I close my eyes, it all sounds so sweet, and aromatic and exotic.

He is describing for me his childhood in Iraq.

When they were still young, both my husband’s parents and their families left their homes in Iraq. They left everything they knew, and a land that by all accounts, was beautiful.

Why? Why would you walk away from everything you have and everything you love?

Because of fear. They were Jews. And at a certain point, being Jewish in Baghdad had become a dangerous way of life. It was clear: they were no longer welcome in their own home.

In America, my mother in law went on to study and get her Master’s degree. She became a teacher and for 30 years taught high school English to students at all levels. She literally changed their lives. She cared and worked hard for her students. My father in law went on to join the army. In 1968, he went to Vietnam. His reward? Two permanent hearing aids from the VA, and the opportunity to give back to a country that offered him and his family the opportunity to live freely, in its truest meaning, without fear of being convicted of the crime of being Jewish.

I’m thinking about them as I read the headlines today. On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a bill to block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. unless they pass even more stringent background checks than are already in place to vet refugees entering the country. The bill received broad bipartisan support. That this bill will also pass the Senate is unlikely and that Obama will sign it is even more unlikely, but what it does do is spread fear.

Are you scared about what is happening in the world right now? You should be. It is a scary time. I’m scared too. But you should also be mad at the leaders trying to sell you on the idea that a bill like this should make you less scared. The refugee process to enter America is incredibly stringent already. Is it possible someone could infiltrate it? It is. Although it’s equally possible that 19 men, all from countries that the US publicly declares are our allies will learn to fly planes, hijack them, and orchestrate the single largest domestic terrorist incident in recent history. On 9/11, 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia (one of our strongest allies in the Middle East), 2 were from the United Arab Emirates, one from England, and one from Lebanon.

Do you know how many 9/11 hijackers were from Syria or Iraq? Zero.

Do you know who most likely helped orchestrate the attack in Paris? A Moroccan born Belgian.

I want to be clear that if such a bill had passed all those years ago, my family would cease to exist. This is not an abstract argument. I would have no husband. I would have no children. My children only exist because this country gave my mother in law a chance to study. It gave my father in law a chance to serve. It gave them the opportunity to make a family. To have a life.

My husband is a first generation American. In every way, my children, my whole existence for getting up in the morning and breathing, is true because many years ago this country opened its doors to his parents and grandparents. Our story is not unique. I cannot imagine what my street, my neighbors, the office or grocery store would look like if suddenly all of the faces, the branches from different trees that grew out of the seed of liberty, if they disappeared. All of us are immigrants. Unless you are Native American, every single one of us came from someplace else. We came seeking the promise of something better. We were fortunate to inherit a legacy of freedom.

Ask yourself, when we go into those countries to “westernize” them, what exactly is the message we are trying to spread? That in a true democracy, you must close borders and spread fear? That you must isolate groups of people based on their religion? That you must persecute them and label them? I mean, I’m no scholar but I’m not sure how vastly different that is, from what my husband’s parents ran from all those years ago.

How does that old saying go? Those that don’t remember history, I’m afraid are destined to repeat it.

We’ve been here before. And I know you are scared. I am too. But whatever you do, understand that excessive measures to stop beleaguered sick, war-torn, women and children from Iraq and Syria from entering our country are unlikely to guarantee us safety. It’s a numbers game. And there are no guarantees.

In the meantime, we have to remember what it is we’ve set out to protect. In his 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech, FDR tells us exactly what we’re fighting for. He describes how we must persevere to fight for freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Today, all of this is still true. This is what we are fighting for. And this is what refugees seek.

There is an old Benjamin Franklin quote that reads, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Indeed this conceptualization that liberty and safety must co-exist, is one deeply engrained in the fibers of our nation. It is the very basis of our uniquely American understanding, one I can only hope we never forsake, of what it truly means to be free.

 

Below are some facts about refugees:



And ways to help:


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hello Night. Goodbye Phones.


Each night, away from the din of 24 feeds and news cycles and the idle chatter that surrounds us, my husband and I are working to rediscover some piece of the sacred and not yet lost art of communicating with each other without interruption.

For a while now we have been trying to enforce a pretty simple rule we established for each other: no phones in the bedroom. There is all kinds of science and data that reinforce why this makes sense in terms of falling and landing in a generally more substantial and satisfying mode of REM. But even if we didn’t know about all of those studies there are all of the more obvious reasons why we should: because even if we silence all notifications it is nearly impossible to resist the lure of possible work emails, because it is a rabbit hole time suck, or because it inevitably places me in the same physical space with my husband even though he and I are mentally in vastly different circles with at least 400-1000 of our not so closest friends parked right between us on the bed.

We know it makes sense for them to go.

It came up because we were having one of those conversations that you need to have from time to time in a committed relationship. I swear if I close my eyes we are still in our now long gone twenties and just meeting for the first time. We were flirty and giddy, with almost no actual responsibilities. And then it felt like we blinked and there was four moves, a mortgage, three kids, two jobs. Somewhere along the way our idle chit chat became more Western Union style updates – cub scouts on Wednesday. Bring home dinner. Meeting before school. Don’t forget the flu shots. Stop. And in between was life and none of that was bad. We were focused on the house and our kids and careers. We were focused on not getting swallowed up by the tsunami of logistics that comprise the very nature of day to day life. And at night, sapped of physical and emotional strength, we would fall into bed with often one or both of us staring into those tiny little phones looking for false hope, for the promise of a way to unwind, somehow forgetting that was what the other person was there for.

Back when we were first married, when our first was still an infant, things seemed slightly less auto-pilot-y. Maybe because back then we did not realize how desperately we would come to crave silence and the opportunity to not answer to anyone else’s needs. Maybe back then we didn’t’ remember how satisfying and comforting it actually was, more than the glow of our gadgets, to lean in to each other each night. Back then we didn’t have smart phones. It would never have occurred to us bring anything like that into our evening hours together. It wasn’t an option so we didn’t seek it out as a distraction.

We would unwind together.

So why is it so complicated now to choose each other over our devices? We stare into them seeking so many things: someone who accepts us as worn, relishing the opportunity to lurk and peep through life rather than participate. We bathe in the less complicated glow of online affection. I know we could call each other out on our flagrant violations of arbitrary rules we imposed on ourselves, but it feels like it would be more meaningful to have each of us model it, and choose it. To choose the intoxication of real human warmth and compassion, to choose each other. To consciously decide to switch off the autopilot and feel the exhilaration and terror, the weight of our feet on the pedal. Deciding to go nowhere or somewhere, but to do so as we decided all those years ago one incredibly sticky July night: together.

Finally I just asked: “Why aren’t we doing this? We said we were going to and we didn’t. Why not?”

And we both came up with lots of mostly inadequate excuses for why we needed to keep the phones close, but not check them. What if there is a work emergency? What if we need an alarm clock? What if we need to know the weather? For each reason we ultimately concluded, albeit reluctantly, that none of that stuff constituted anything worth prioritizing and that there were legitimate ways of retrieving most of this information without smart devices (hello old school alarm clock!). Then we talked about a podcast I’d listened to recently featuring Sherry Turkle, the author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. In it she talks about how even when silenced, phones can still create real problems when it comes to human engagement and emotional intimacy. To be honest, there were many times that our phones were there, and we were not on them. But what Turkle argues is that this detail doesn’t matter. The very presence of the phone suggest to the other person, I am ready at any moment to opt out of being here with you for something better. Subsequently, we never fully engage with each other in way that is particularly meaningful. I know she’s right. Even when we’re not on them, we feel them. They had to go.

So we agreed to it. And my phone now sleeps with the fishes. Literally. It sleeps next to the fish tanks in the kitchen. Phil’s phone lives downstairs by the printer. And the other night we spent our first full night in a while completely phone free. Not surprisingly, we literally missed absolutely nothing of vital importance. We lay in bed together and Phil watched the Mets and I read my book with my head on his chest and honestly, I’m not just saying this. It was nice. And weirdly, I was way less anxious. Because I completely lacked the impulse to turn over and check something. Maybe that’s my own issue with self-control. But honestly ask yourself, how many times do you check that thing each day, each hour, each minute? How much time is there in your day for white space, the opportunity to just let your mind wander or, of equal importance, to let your heart wander, without fear of getting interrupted or overshadowed by an unsuspecting ping?

It occurred to me the other day that right now, my husband and I are truly in the middle. Ten years ago we were planning our wedding. And ten years from now, we'll be planning our son’s graduation from high school. And right here, at these sacred crossroads, is the middle, where things can sometimes feel monotonous in a way that is equal parts comforting and unsettling. We need these precious evening hours together. Here in this autumn of our lives, we are grateful for the opportunity to remind ourselves of the vibrancy and randomness of our own thoughts and hearts, and to find a soft place to land in each other.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Why It's Important to Find Time for Yourself: A Podcast with Real Simple Editor Lori Leibovich


How does the saying go? The days are long but the years are short. As a parent, my relationship with time has never been so complicated. But increasingly I am shifting my thinking to focus less on the minutes and more on me. How can I make small yet meaningful investments in my own physical and emotional well-being that will give me greater capacity to face each day? I hope you’ll have a listen to this podcast where I was so excited to have the opportunity to discuss this with Real Simple editor Lori Leibovich and time management expert Laura Vanderkam.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Washington Post's On Parenting: Clock Management and Parenthood


Perhaps the question was never, “Am I ahead or behind?” but rather, “How am I?”

I hope you’ll come join me over at The Washington Post where I’m musing on how to make the most out of each day. So how do you manage your clock?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Can We Please Stop Picking All the Weeds?


A few weeks ago I was sort of lurking behind the scenes in one of those Facebook groups created to share business referrals within my suburban town. A homeowner was having a horrendous problem with her lawn. Could anyone recommend a landscaper? Someone who could finally rid her of those unsightly weeds?

In response, she received plenty of referrals of places to call from other home owners, but there was one comment buried within the midst of all the others that stood out.

“I wish people would stop making their lawns so pretty. Those damn fertilizers are chasing everything away. We used to have butterflies in this town. We used to have ugly lawns and butterflies. Now we just have nice lawns.”

This morning I woke up and I looked out at my perfectly nice lawn and turned on the news. More people are dead. They didn’t have to tell me anything about the shooter. I expected I already knew exactly what he was like. He was young. And angry and isolated. Here we are again. 1 shooter. 10 dead. A regular day. Another school.

Oh, I know. This is the part where I’m supposed to yell and scream for gun control. It’s not to say I don’t still think we need to get so many guns off the streets. I do. But the part that stays with me about these stories, the part that leaves a pit in my stomach every single day I put my kids on the school bus and think about Sandy Hook because I do – I think about Sandy Hook every single day that I say goodbye to my children - is that bad people will always find a way to do shitty stuff. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop them, but the inability to predict the randomization of it all, of not knowing when someone’s fuse will light? It haunts me.

The thing about the suburbs is that everything is so nice here. We want to make sure our kids are in class with their friends so that they are comfortable. We cut the bad parts off of the apple. We re pave the streets. Again and again and again. We are turning ourselves inside and out to make everything so nice for our kids, so pretty. I wonder if we’re really fucking that one up.

Because we know the truth. We know that life is equal parts pain and pleasure. Do we tell them this? Do we own this? Or do we let it sneak up on them until it eats at them as if a piece of that rotten fruit, making them think they are different and bad because their insides don’t match the smooth and perfect world that we raised them up in. Kids today seem to know how to do everything at a staggeringly young age. My seven year old can do PowerPoint. My five year old can Google stuff. But I’m wondering if I’ve really sat them down and said, sometimes all of it will suck. And you need to own that. And talk about it.

We need to tell them that sometimes you get the class with none of your friends in it. That’s okay. Talk to the kids you might not have otherwise. Learning to build new relationships will be one of the single biggest determining factors in your future success. Sometimes kids won’t look nice or smell nice or be nice. Do your best. Be your best. Reach out anyway. Sometimes be someone else’s light. Even to the shitty kids. It’s easy to be nice to the cute kids. The real work is learning to reach out to the dicks. Learn how to accept other people’s light. Learning how to ask for and accept help will be your second biggest factor in determining your future success.

And don’t be afraid to own your own potential to be a dick. Because once in a while each of us is. And the only way we learn is if someone calls us on our bullshit. Care enough to call your kids on their bullshit. Kids, care enough to own your bullshit.

My mother in law is fond of calling my husband a weed meaning you could throw him just about anywhere and he would thrive. Indeed she is right. And it sets me to wondering if I shouldn’t do my part to work harder to raise my kids to own their thorns, their inevitable rough patches. I need to resist that manicured suburban instinct of mine to try to pluck the bad parts out of their life. I need to let them taste the shitty part of the apple. Because sometimes life is bitter and brown.

Maybe then, when we all acknowledge that life isn’t quite as glossy as we are working so hard to make our children think it is. Well, maybe then they’ll stop being so pissed at us for selling them a bill of goods.

And maybe then the butterflies will finally come back.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Unravelling


Do you know this feeling? The feeling of choosing to give so much of yourself over to the people you love so that you carefully evade the difficult process of discovering who you really are?
Come join me over at The Manifest-Station this morning, where I’m talking about why we do and don't choose to disentangle ourselves from their love, and what it feels like to unravel.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Raising a Mets Fan


It is a balmy mid-summer night and my family is huddled together on the bed watching the Mets. In between innings, we flip back and forth to another channel featuring a documentary on Billy Joel and his last concert at Shea. He is singing one of my favorite songs, Summer Highland Falls. It’s either sadness or euphoria, Billy croons.

It’s an oddly fitting backdrop for the evening as the Mets head into the 14th inning. Indeed for experienced Met fans, it’s usually sadness.

The bases are loaded. Lucas Duda is up. So far he is 0 for 6. Most of the family hurls insults at the TV in part because they are mad at Lucas Duda and in part because they believe (though would never admit) that if they are really angry and believe the worst in him, some mix of karma and superstition will change the outcome of his at bat. The count is 2-2. I see my husband and son. They are cursing and praying for the young batter at the same time.

He strikes out.

My son clutches his head and falls to the floor in sports induced agony.

There are many things I treasure about loving and raising a Mets fan. I love their distinctly curmudgeonly outlook on life tinged with a reluctant yet persistent belief in what’s possible. I love their under doggedness. Being a Mets fan (and similarly loving them) means you know all too well that many times the story does not end the way you want. But it doesn’t change your ability to believe in the happy ending, no matter how much you hide that belief.

It means you are proud of every one of your pitcher’s awkward at bats because you are keenly aware that most of us are destined to play more than one position in this life. Everyone has to try their hand at something that feels less than comfortable now and then. Indeed, most of life happens in the National league, not the American.

It means you are painfully loyal, and that you carry your history and lore with you in every swing and miss. It means that you will keep swinging knowing that on the 20th try you just might get a hit. You don’t ever really give up because no matter how crabby and cranky your exterior belies you to be, you secretly and not so secretly believe.

This is the best part of the Mets fan. As childlike as the playful little apple that pops up in Citi Field whenever they hit a home run, there is a near childlike quality to the Mets fan’s belief system. It flies in the face of history and logic. It fuels them. It is the stuff of legends and greatness. It is the chase of it that propels the best of us down our most spirited and creative paths in life – the chase of possible greatness. It is the chase more than the destination that is built upon the good stuff. Mets fans uniquely understand this.

To a point. Although the destination – another World Series – that might be nice too.

I remember vividly my destination the night I fell in love with my #1 Mets fan. It was a career and a Master’s degree. I was focused. I was so focused that I almost didn’t see what or who was right in front of me on the sidewalk that evening after my first class in graduate school. Unbeknownst to me, my one day husband was walking on that same stretch of sidewalk in the opposite direction. We stopped to talk to a mutual friend and ended up meeting each other. The rest, as they say, is history.

The more I think back on it the more I am sure that for every different reason, another fan wouldn’t have stopped. Too proud, too goofy, too hopeless. But he wasn’t a Yankees, Royals, or even Cubs fan. He was a Mets fan. And somewhere deep inside there was a little spark in him that believed in the possibility of more than an innocuous chance encounter. We built a marriage and a family on that spark. And we are proudly raising another generation with a taste for the chase of it.

It is the top of the 18th. Dylan is rooting hard for the Grandy Man, Curtis Granderson, one of their best hitters. He doesn’t disappoint and gets on base. I literally can almost feel it. That tiny flutter in his heart. That glimmer of hope. Maybe it’s possible.

I don’t smile or speak. I curse everyone and everything. I remind all us to be realistic. They have left an epic 25 men on base. Why, in the 18th, will be this be different? The third baseman steps up and hits a sacrifice bunt, allowing Granderson to advance and run home. The Mets score two. They quickly retire the next three Cardinal batters. And after 18 innings, they pull out the win over the then first place Cards.

As a family, we exhale. We know that in this season of baseball and in life, nothing is promised and everything is mostly but not always earned. In a world of hard knocks, there is still a childlike quality in the best of us that beats in tender yet scarred hearts. We are equally prepared for the possibility that one warm summer night, in 6 hours and two sac flys, you just might win the game and run home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

4 'How To Be a Lady' Lessons My Daughters Won't Be Learning From Me


So pleased to collaborate with BlogHer on this piece that is very near and dear to my heart. What lessons do we pass down to our daughters and why? Come join the discussion to find out which ones I won’t be sharing with my girls.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Craving Fundamentals

Sometimes when I am driving in the car, I will grip the wheel very tightly. I feel the leather slip between my fingers, its relative heat radiating off the bumps and groves of its rippled, manufactured skin. I like to linger there, perhaps too long, and to strangely take stock of the seemingly obvious fact that I am clutching a steering wheel.

I am holding something. It is right here. In my hands. I can look at it and touch and turn it. I know what it is. And if I show it to you, you too will agree that this is a steering wheel. Inexplicably as a parent, this is increasingly meaningful to me. As a parent in the age of Internet and social media, this is life, and air. Everything is opinion. Nothing is fact. I need to know what is real.

Sometimes I will spend all day with my kids and I will give every ounce of my physical and mental self and all of it will end with “you’re the worst.”

Why? Because I asked her to put on her water shoes, or I asked him to buckle his seatbelt, or I asked the baby not to floss with the car keys. It doesn’t really matter the exact nature of the alleged crime. I’m left feeling empty.

I’m the worst. I tried so hard. Still, I’m the worst.

So then I go online after bed because the mindlessness of the Internet is a balm on my irritated and tender soul like nothing I’ve known. I read three different things all telling me to put on bikini. Or don’t put it on. Or put it on my daughter. Or don’t. Because bikini wearing for anyone is bad and anti-feminist. Or bikini wearing is pro-feminism.

Almost everything I read is made up of slices of individual frames of reference. Maybe it always was. The Internet is a massive time suck that exists somewhere in this tiny chasm between both total permanence and impermanence. Everything is shaped and adjusted. Nothing lasts. Nothing is longer than 140 characters. Everything can be deleted except when it can’t. It is a giant candy colored existential brain fart. Objective truth seems to either not exist or at the very least is not relevant.

Life begins to feel a bit disorienting. It feels the way those pilots do when they fly into the straight line of the horizon forgetting too easily which blue is air and which is water. We begin to think they are interchangeable until they aren’t. That’s what it feels like when I worship too long at the altar of opinion:  my children, the blogosphere.  I begin to lose my view of the horizon. I crave fundamentals.

Isn’t it amazing how the universe has a way of sending what you need when you need it?

Enter Sister Gloria Jean.

My son wasn’t feeling well so I took him to the pediatrician. On the way out, the children noticed a car backing up and moved out of the way to avoid it. After the car parked, the driver got out and approached.

“You don’t need to worry. I could never miss children with hair that color. They are beautiful. Just so beautiful. My name is Sister Gloria Jean, and you have just beautiful children.”

She looked older. Not old, not elderly. But older than me, enough extra years on her to know more than I even realize at 37 that I’m missing. She was proud, with her hair curled, and a bright purple dress. In every way she was a complete stranger, yet for a reason I cannot explain the children and I drew closer to her. With no expectations, we leaned in.

“I can tell you are doing a good job. I can see they are alright with each other. That is because of you,” she joyfully exclaimed.
 
Amidst the scorched earth of motherhood, a veritable desert of unsolicited compliments, I greedily absorbed her kindness.

“You must know more, you have years of experience. What is the secret to all of this,” I asked, as if hoping that the universe had sent me some blissful key to parenting in the form of a brightly dressed stranger in a parking lot.

She didn’t answer. Instead she said, “Tell me their names.”

One by one they answered. The little one is Hope, I answered for her.

“Hope! Why you in the Bible baby! But only one thing is more important in the Bible than Hope. That’s Love.”

“That’s your answer. That’s all you need baby. Just love them. Just love each other. Just let them know that no matter what happens, they can always come home to your love.”

And then she bent down and asked if she could give them a hug. My children who correctly so do not normally feel comfortable embracing people who they don’t know, one by one stepped forward to wrap their arms around a complete stranger. Even the baby stepped up. When they were through, I found myself shyly inching forward.

“Of course Mama. You need one too.” Her embrace felt tight and familiar. It felt like kindness.

We climbed into our car. Lips sticky from the lollipops, our arms and hearts heavy with genuine human emotion. I gripped the steering wheel until the whites of my knuckles began to show. Her words were comforting, like the well-worn cotton of your favorite blanket and the cool straight lines of hard and simple truths.

It isn’t that complicated. I just need to love them.

With our sights on the clean and clearly visible lines of the horizon, we headed toward home.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

#iamwriting


I have been struggling lately with the space both physical and mental to make time for writing. I have a lot of excuses for why that is. But more than not, I think the reason I haven’t been writing is largely the same as the reason I ever did: it’s scary.

Writing prompts are short themed sort of micro essays that give you an opportunity to free write on a suggested topic. No pretense, no fear, no editing, no excuses: just write.

Today I decided to take 10 minutes out of my day to try this prompt by Dina Relles at Literary Mama. I am grateful to the Charlie Brown special on the television, the baby’s nap, and a one sided and protracted Monopoly game that conspired on this rainy day to make this possible. Today’s prompt centered at what bubbles up when you return to a place that holds memories for you.

So I thought to myself, where else do you go in the summer? Come join me at the beach….

 

*****

As a young girl, I never worried about the tide coming in too far or too fast. It was a foolishly held belief that is possible only when you are very young that I would somehow always be able to find my footing. I watched the top of the rock carefully to see how far the water was rising and looked for my mother on the shore. At the beach, I felt small and free. I would float amidst the seaweed and motor boat oil that drifts to the top in protected waters. When something like water that is meant to be free flowing is surrounded mostly by land, the feeling that a beach should have is largely an optical illusion. At the shore, you should stand at the edge of the water and feel as though there are no limits, no land. Everything is dangerous, yet possible. For children like myself who grew up on the shores of Long Island Sound, you buy into the flawed principle that life is entirely full of safe harbors. That we will always be swimming where we can see land. Until you can’t. The disorientation of adulthood, of realizing that our hearts almost always beat outside our own bodies and fully without knowledge of safe harbor on the other side of the expanse that is life, is utterly terrifying.

Now, as an adult with my own children’s hands held tightly in my own, I see that shadowy lump across the water for what it is: the promise of the unknown. The only guarantee we have on this journey is uncertainty. The motor boats rev their engines and the bar in the distance plays a cover of Dave Matthews’ Crash. The lemon ice mixes with the sand on my lips creating a savory yet sweet and gritty paste that I hastily run my tongue over. It is comforting to know there are certain things you can always count on, like the way sand manages to find its way into every crevice and orifice of your body, and the way it tastes. Amidst the endless brightly colored throws and buckets and discarded cigarette butts, there is a blanket of children’s laughter that wraps itself around me and takes up nearly the whole expanse of tiny shoreline. I look down at the flesh and curves of my babies beside me. I pray that they will not fall victim to the flawed expectation that shelter provides: to the assumption that there is one likely outcome and that passage through protected yet murky waters will necessarily prove safe.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Solo


Whenever my husband travels for business, I have the same thing for dinner almost every night. I will own that it is so disgusting that I will not eat it in front of him or my children. It is always post bedtime when I sink into that delicious and rare moment in time that is uniquely my own space. I take a bag of pretzels and dump them out on a plate and then I cover them with a slice of American cheese which I then microwave.

Everything about it is wrong.

It tastes amazing.

I suspect that the actual taste of microwaved processed cheese melted on top of pretzels has little to do with gastronomic pleasure and everything to do with the taste of freedom, the taste of what it feels like to not be wanted or needed or touched. It tastes like the freedom to unravel.

Mentally, sometimes I picture that this is what is happening at the end of these days that are both centuries and mere moments long. That after a day of logistics and questions and to dos and toys and tasks and dishes and laundry and diapers and none of which are bad, I literally imagine myself wrapped in their love and tasks, like gauze slowly winding and tightening itself around me all day long. I wear it proudly, like a corset. It keeps me cinched in, and from instinctively pursuing things that are hard and emotionally complex. I am not sure this is bad. But at night, in the dark when no one is around and the cheese is still bubbling on the pretzels, I literally unravel myself. Layer after layer. I am scared that if I unwind too much too far or too fast, I will reveal what I fear to be true. That there is nothing underneath my corset of loving. That the process of loving and doing has become so all consuming, that I am losing the person at the center of it.

The next day, pre-dawn, I smuggle myself out of the house much like a cat burglar to go for a sorely needed yet far too rare early morning jog. It strikes me as strange how much I feel like I am getting away with something, escaping while they are all still asleep. Why does love always come with this requisite push and pull? I need them close, I need more, I need myself, I need escape.

As I run, the sounds of Bon Jovi and vintage Sambora fill my ears. I think of the lost art of the guitar solo in all of its faded glory and perfection: equal parts embellishment and improvisation. Another bygone relic of my 80s youth, it gave that band member used to working so hard to blend in, a rare moment to give everything to just the opposite: standing out. It is so easy to blend into their needs. But in doing so, have I missed my chance to solo? Am I using this season of mothering as an opportunity to love or hide?

The next morning the kids are up characteristically early. There is no time for my pre-dawn jog. We are in the driveway by 7:30AM. Everyone is still in their pajamas. My girl takes off on her bike and I follow with the baby in the stroller, me shuffling along down the street in my striped bathrobe. I am only marginally surprised and slightly saddened by how comfortable I am walking down a public street in my bathrobe. Next door, the neighbor is getting into her car for work. She looks so professional. I feel embarrassed and untogether. But I wonder, what would I look like put together? It would involve more than pants. How do I give love without becoming love? What more do I need? What more is there to me? What lurks beneath my all-consuming love for them?

I don’t want my neighbor to see me so I go into the garage to get the baby’s toy car and push her in it. I hide behind its broken tire and her needs.

Several hours later, that same baby mercifully gives in to her nap. In the silence that fills the house, I feel my volume amp up. I carefully creep toward the computer and pry it open. Though I am nervous, I approach as many have done so before me: with little thought and full feeling. Equal parts improvisation and embellishment, I move my hands lightly and quickly amongst the keys.

Carefully pulling back the layers of them, I greedily go in search of me.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

An Old School Summer

I’ve always had a fairly ridiculous memory. I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that much of the way I passed through many of my high school and college exams was to memorize rather than process the information. But the way I would memorize it would be to literally transcribe every single word. I would copy everything down. There was something about the process of transcribing that changed the way I was able to take it in, to remember it.

When I write words down, they go in the vault. They become part of my official mental and emotional record.

I started this blog in March of 2012 and made a commitment to write here every month. I’ve always called my blog “cheap therapy.” It gave me an opportunity to examine moments and feelings in my life on another stage. Here, I could dissect them and reflect on them in ways I was not otherwise able to do so. But there has been this other thing at play over the past few weeks and months.

My husband, always my best editor because of his ability to be exceptionally candid about my writing and to just generally see through my bullshit, said it best last night: “You’re restless. It’s something. I can feel it. You want to start something. You want to dig in.”

It’s ironic really. Here I’ve been trying to write for weeks now, and almost effortlessly he was able to find the one word I’ve been searching for: restless.

I’m restless.

Because of this, I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from writing out my feelings, and just spend the next few weeks and months immersed in them. I’m going to just summer my way right through this restlessness.

I hope I’ll be back here, to you, to anyone who has ever come to read this blog. I’ve truly enjoyed writing it. That said, I plan to continue writing. I’ll be moving offline though and kicking it old school. This summer, number one on my bucket list is letter writing.

Just the other day Dylan got a little note from a friend in the mail. I knew that look of delight on his face when the postman brings you something special that someone took the time to write just for you. It’s antiquated and slow. But, it’s nice too. That idea that someone sat down with some special, fancy paper and took the time to tell you how they are, ask about you. To share a piece of themselves just for you. I’ve spent three years sharing my words with all sorts of folks which has been wonderful. I’m going to take the summer to write some letters and share them with just a few.

I’m kind of excited to dig into this more micro approach to writing. To slow everything down. It’s just what I’ve been craving. To me, it is everything summer is really supposed to be about anyway. Slowness, richness, lots of flavor. I am hopeful it is the cure at least in part for some of this restlessness.

So it’s so long for now. I’ll post here from time to time on great pieces I’ve read that I want to be sure catch your eye. Or maybe you’ll even find me in one of your mailboxes someday soon. Hopefully, I’ll be back here in the fall with some great summer reflections, and cool stationary finds J

Until then, here’s to a great summer. I wish you long days and even longer nights full of warmth and color and flavor and all of the people and places you need to really feel alive.

 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Baby Steps


My daughter and I shuffle carefully over the bridge. She is still trying to figure out how to maintain her balance while she walks. Each step is equal parts small yet deliberate. Slowly, we make progress. She is almost there but still she needs me and my one finger, more to mentally reassure her than anything else.

Just one week shy of my 7th Mother’s Day as a Mother, I am standing inside the circle of seven years without my own mother today. And from such a strange vantage point as it always has been from nearly the moment I became a mother, it strikes me how much both grief and motherhood are exactly like this: slow but deliberate steps forward.

Each year at this time, the blogosphere is filled with pieces about what we’ve learned from our mothers. I’ve written extensively about the wonderful lessons I learned growing up with my mother. But not every lesson we learn from our mothers happens when they are living. Only now, seven years inside the circle of grief, does it occur to me that one of the biggest lessons she taught me is that a mother’s love is not in any way limited to the span of her life.

I look down at my daughter and wonder. Long after I’m gone, will she still feel me? When there is no one to quite literally grasp on to, how will she find her balance? How will she steady herself?

As we walk we pass a mother and a boy that she is pulling in a wagon going in the opposite direction on the bridge. The boy calls out, “What’s your baby’s name?”

“Her name is Hope,” I call back, as we both continue in opposite directions. And indeed she is just that.

It is this cyclical nature of daughters becoming somebody else's mothers which fills me with a kind of hope for the future, enabling me to continue forward. It makes less painful the notion that there are no arms outstretched to encircle me if I can reach out and bring three little ones inside my own grasp. It is in this space where I inherit the world she once filled and where I find peace. That is love. That is her love. And it never dies.

Hope keeps trying to turn around and look for the boy in the wagon. But I whisper to her, you cannot go back. You must go forward. Inside I know this is true and has little to do with our passage on the bridge. I point to her daddy and brother and sister. “Let’s go toward them!” I shout encouragingly, and we toddle along together slowly making our way.

She wobbles and steadies herself. She holds tight to my finger. The sun is high and her grasp is strong. The opportunity to be her mother will be finite, but my love for her will not. Long after I disentangle from her grip, I know she will still feel me.

 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is How We Rest

I am hastily straightening out the covers on my children's beds. Ruby’s bed takes little effort to pull together. When she sleeps, she hardly moves. Dylan’s bed has no blankets and half a sheet. Things were wild in there again last night. It was clearly another restless evening.

Dylan has always been my most restless sleeper. Relentlessly curious, he tosses and turns throughout the night, waking pre-dawn. He spends most of the night awake and thinking.

My husband and I are always in search of the next great thing that is going to “cure” him of this tossing and turning that often leaves him bleary eyed the next morning. We have invested a near silly amount of time and energy researching special blankets and sound machines and sleep masks and anything else we can think of. But all of this stuff circumvents the central issue: that he fundamentally views sleep as an extended length of time to swirl about in his own head about people and places he loves or misses.

It is an inherited trait. Indeed he comes from a long line of over thinkers like me and my father. Much like Dylan, there is almost always a running thread of questions, concerns and to dos that uniquely pulls at my mind and heart when it is quiet and dark. Indeed, in the most narcissistic and sometimes unfortunate ways, our children all too often reflect some piece of ourselves. They are like tiny dressing room mirrors with the horrifyingly honest fluorescent lights. Whose patterns am I fighting to change? Mine or his?

Truly no amount of sleep masks, rainforest music or sleep training will, I suspect, ever change Dylan's inherent restlessness. It never did with me. I begin to wonder if the problem all along has not been Dylan's inability to rest, but my obsessive need to control this piece of him and how he "should" do this. I am the one who needs to rest, to let this issue rest and let him settle into himself. 

I was thinking about this the other day when I took my youngest to her baby class. Another baby climbed up on a trampoline and then immediately dove off of it without warning. The mother seemed shocked and unprepared and said, “When should they outgrow this? This need to just jump without warning?”

I looked equally shocked. In 37 years, I’ve never outgrown this instinct. I still jump without warning. It’s just how I’m wired and as far as I can tell, all three of my children are wired exactly the same way. We don’t outgrow our instincts. We grow into them, into ourselves. This is what we're doing here: teaching our children how to build a life and social construct around them that makes sense for how they are hardwired. This makes much more sense and requires substantially less energy then trying to rewire them.

Somewhat ironically, last night I lay awake in bed turning much of this over in my mind. My body is wrapped up tightly in my blanket while my mind floats and dances and swirls above me. Maybe it's not the wrong way to do night time. Maybe it's just me. It's a relief to think this way, to finally lift one of life's many "shoulds" off of my shoulders. My pillow feels cool against my the back of my neck, and I let myself sink into it.

Suddenly, I find him at the foot of my bed. It is 1:45AM.

“I’ve been trying to sleep all night,” he says. “I just can’t.”

I start to say, “You should be asleep.” But I catch myself. Instead I say this:

“I understand buds. I feel the same way.”

I tuck him back in with his special blanket and sleep mask and his favorite stuffed animal and promise him he doesn’t have to sleep. He just has to learn how to get comfortable, to settle into himself.

This is how we rest.

 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Clock Management

About a month or so into our relationship, Phil took the meaningful next step of asking me to meet one of his best friends. They had a kind of friendship that spanned the test of time from childhood to adulthood, and came with its own language and shorthand. 

Soon, they started talking about clock management. It was a throwback reference to the hours they would spend in front of the NBA as children, watching teams manage the final minutes and seconds of the game. Are you ahead or behind? Do you hold the ball and use the clock to your advantage, slowing the game down, or are you eager to make up points and try to race the clock while time seems to speed up and away? In a nutshell, this is clock management. I had not spent my formative years watching the NBA or on a court. The concept of manipulating time in this way was as foreign to me as their secret bromance language with each other.

Now, nearly ten years later, I think often about that conversation and how much more acutely I am aware of clock management. This house is my court, and I am working those minutes on the clock each and every day. Am I ahead or behind? Time is the one thing I just can’t seem to get my arms around on any given day.

Time.

As a parent, my relationship with time has never been as complicated as it is now. The days are so short and yet so long. All I want is for everyone to go to bed and then they go to bed and there is still more to do. I trip across a box of baby clothes that everyone has outgrown that is on its way down to the basement. It makes me long for that time. But I’m too busy trying to make up minutes to get the last lunches packed to spend too much time being nostalgic for what’s already been lost at my feet. I seem to spend the entirety of my day both trying to stop it and speed it up simultaneously.

But perhaps now I finally see that the crux of the problem is that I really can’t do anything about any of it at all. I will never be able to squeeze any more minutes out of this day, or this moment. And in fact it is this rather singular focus on it – the fastness – the slowness – the “is”ness of it is that is exhausting me. But I can control and renew my energy.

This mind shift is the central argument of an old Harvard Business Review article that I’ve been rereading recently called “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” This quote in particular is the one turning over and over in my head: “The core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story.” As the authors describe, “… energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit.”

I think about what I store on any given day toward my energy stockpile. When Hope was born, I promised myself that no matter what I would start every day with a shower and a cup of coffee. I would make sure I had those precious sips or that 3 minute shower each and every day. No matter how much I needed to slow the clock or speed it all up, I would find this time to give my body and mind the jolt it needed to launch myself into the day.

It is my emotional and spiritual buckets that are trickier and more difficult to wrap my head around. I have a harder time connecting concrete actions to things that renew and nurture messy things like feelings. Also, these are the two that are legitimately always easier for me to de-prioritize. I need to get to the grocery store, change that diaper, do that load of laundry, or pick everyone up from school. I’ll prioritize my spirit later.

But what the authors argue is that if you legitimately find ways to prioritize and renew yourself in each area on a daily basis, you will actually be infinitely more productive. They contend that the key to being productive and successful has everything to do with the investments we make toward becoming our most well rested, happiest, healthiest, and generally well rounded versions of ourselves and little or no correlation with how much time we spend or try to spend on our to-dos.

It is a stunning takeaway, this idea that the key to clock management might have little or nothing to do with the clock at all. Perhaps the question was never am I ahead or behind, but rather, how am I?

If I take time to write, it might mean I miss playing super Mario with my daughter. But if I give myself these 30 minutes now, the next 4 in the shower and 2 more with my coffee, what will that investment mean on the whole for the day? Maybe it will mean I have the energy or strength to plow forward and face as much of the inevitable transactional and task oriented stuff that life generally throws at you. Or maybe it means I will be happy enough to not care whether or not I get it all done. Either way, it beats the hell out of trying to beat that clock.

So this morning it’s 9:32. That precious cup of coffee is still warm but mostly empty. The baby is taking a little morning power nap while the older two indulge in weekend Wii time. Daddy is at the gym and mommy is alone with her thoughts and her laptop. Quiet, predictability, coffee: I mentally visualize filling up some of those buckets. The shower is up next. I know that by 10AM the baby will be up and the video games will be off and we will all be thrust into the usual hustle and bustle of our day. I whisper a silent prayer to myself for the opportunity to renew and recharge. I’ve got my coffee, my softest bathrobe, a fresh towel, and at least 28 minutes of uninterrupted showering/thinking time coming at me.

And let us say Amen.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Witching Hour

What do you wish you’d known before you brought your baby home? I’m over on the TODAY Parenting Team Community page discussing my reflections on what I wish I’d known as a first-time parent. I wish someone had warned me about the witching hour.

Click here to read more and join the conversation!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Jenn-eration up on The Washington Post


I hope you’ll take a minute to hop on over to The Washington Post’s On Parenting page. This week I’m sharing my reflections and questions there on what makes a productive parent, and how do we distinguish between busy versus productive.

 Come join the conversation by clicking here!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Logic of Dinner

If parenting as a whole could be summed up through a single snapshot in time, that time would be dinner. It is nightly reinforcement of a central parenting principle that at no time should the amount of effort you put into anything correlate with the amount of joy, interest, education, and/or nutritional value that your children get out of the same moment. There is simply no connection between how much I try and work, and how many eat it at all, or how many spontaneously induce vomiting to evade the whole situation (in fairness, this only happened once but was nonetheless impressive in its own way).

Here’s the thing. Now that Phil and I are doing this the third time around, we are ever so slightly more comfortable in our parenting roles. That is to say we don’t overreach. We know our limits. As parents, we know what we can pull off. Low expectations don’t mean we think less of ourselves as parents. It means we are realists who understand the math. Extraordinary effort does not necessarily equal guaranteed happiness or satisfaction. If scrambled eggs are consistently better received than the beef stew that took 4 hours to make, why would we make beef stew?

Look, there are moments, both in life and in dinner, when we try. And sometimes, just sometimes, we see a tiny morsel of reward. It is the look of joy when they try or taste or do something new. It is that trip to the museum with all three during a school vacation day when there are 8,000 people there and two of us and three of them and everyone wants to go in a different direction and we pull it off somehow even securing a nap for the baby to boot. We are awesome. But we don’t slow clap for ourselves for too long. Because we know that more than not, the success of that day had to do with random chance, not effort. And that when we attempt it the next time under the exact same set of circumstances we will get an entirely different outcome. Everyone will cry the whole time. No one will nap. The baby will eat a Lego. Dinner is in many ways exactly this: a nightly ritual where more than not, the outcome will be decided by random chance more than effort.

You know, the other day it broke 30 degrees up here in New England. This was something of a milestone as it hasn’t been more than like 5 degrees for ages. So we were all outside and Dylan was digging a tunnel, and Hope was playing in the snow (fine – eating the snow) and Ruby was digging a hole with a shovel and Phil and I looked at each other and realized that parenting perfection happens in those rare moments when logic trumps your nonsensical desire to overreach. When you let them play with empty boxes and shovels and eat snow. When you let them be.

Take Hope for example. Sometimes I forget myself and I’m all “lets learn shapes and colors or play with this toy!” and she just looks at me like forget you, I’m going to eat my sock. So the other day we spent an hour dumping q-tips out of the container and putting them back in. It was AWESOME. I mean, if you were 1 year old it was awesome. So really, why should dinner be any different? Dinner is really one big exercise in dumping out the q-tips. We aim low and keep it simple. No one gets hurt.

I had my plan for dinner last night. Black bean and cheese quesadillas. Dylan and Hope fell for it. Ruby, like almost always, was on to me. In this way, by the way, dinner is also the perfect snapshot of parenting. There is always that one that will defy everything you throw at her. I mean, she doesn’t eat macaroni and cheese. What the FRESH HELL? Anyway, I digress.

So immediately she sensed that there was a non-yellow food in her midst that was slightly mushy and interfering with her ability to enjoy dinner. So she sat there systematically pulling out every single individual black bean and as she did that, I tried to stuff them back in. And for about 20 minutes we did this and I was all nonsensical parent – she must try beans! Ruby, no dinner unless you eat some beans! I will not yield my position!

And then 20 minutes later I was like oh just eat something, and she scraped out all the beans and ate the mangled tortilla left in its wake. The entire exercise was actually a useful reminder that she is resourceful and to just let her be; that regardless of how hard I try she'll get what she needs, when she needs it. This, by and large, is the prevailing wisdom that guides us through the rough waters that is dinner. 

I do think it's useful to set some reasonable goals for mealtime and remember that fundamentally, the odds are not in your favor with children either at dinner or generally speaking in life. So don’t try too hard and just enjoy it. My dinner time goals at this point are to use as few pots and pans as possible, to get some consumption of mildly nutritious food by most parties, and most people sitting for most of the time.

My dinner time goals involve lots of mosts.

So last night I got 2 of the 3 kids to eat mostly nutritious foods and the third to eat something. And they mostly sat except when the baby passed gas in the middle of the meal and everyone fell out of their chairs laughing.

And that my friends, I’ll take as a win.




(See her face here? It’s as if she’s saying is that the best you can bring? Sadly Hope, the answer is yes, that is the best I can bring.)

ps: here are some great recipes that we either regularly use ourselves and/or that folks offered up and we tried. All our kid-tested, require low parent effort, and were mostly enjoyed (except for Ruby – because, obviously).

A bunch of these recipes are from this blog which is one my new favorite places.

This is my new favorite go-to approach to fish. I sprinkle a little bit on shrimp and then usually don’t do the rest of the stuff she says but just toss with buttered noodles. There was this one time I sprinkled it on some white fish (like a cod or something of that ilk) and tried to smuggle it on as fish tacos. Like one of them fell for it but it didn’t really fly. In general, it’s a great seasoning with fish and the recipe will enable you to set some aside for next time in a jar or Tupperware or whatever so that you can just reach in to your cabinet, throw some on and voila.

This is also becoming a regular in our rotation as well. I do a version of this that uses less ingredients because I am lazy. I use 1 lb. of ground chicken, one egg, ½ cup of seasoned breadcrumbs and ¼ cup of ground parmesan or pecorino. I bet it would taste really good if you made this the real way. But it also tastes totally fine in this short cut version too. And I almost always have all of this stuff in the house. If we get fancy we serve it on grinder rolls with a little bit of canned sauce and some melted mozzarella on top like a meatball sub. But that’s only if we’re feeling fancy.

Other stuff we make fairly regularly:

One of my favorite chicken dishes: boneless skinless breasts, one bottle of Russian dressing, one mix of onion soup mix and one jar of apricot jelly. My mother called this her 1-2-3 chicken because it was just that easy to make. My friend and I call it an old lady recipe because it kind of is but also, who cares because it is tasty and 4 out of 5 will eat it.

Turkey burgers: I got lots of good recs for this and I can say that this is consistently the only thing I make that everyone eats (EVEN RUBY!!!) There are lots of ways to make this yummy but if you want to play it safe, just mix one egg and some seasoned bread crumbs with some ground turkey. Maybe some garlic salt if you are feeling really fancy and then make into patties and broil.

Have you noticed a pattern? Do all of my recipes involve one egg and breadcrumbs? I feel like this is true. Man I am bad at this.

Pizza: We buy store bought dough that we roll out and sprinkle lightly with shredded mozzarella, some oregano and parsley, maybe a pinch of garlic salt. My secret weird pizza ingredient is that I also toss on some textured vegetable protein. It is made from soy and the version of it that I buy looks like a spice and has kind of a nutty taste to it and will just bulk it up a bit so it isn’t just carbs. In our house we don’t add sauce because sauce is RED. God forbid!

Noodles: Several people recommended this one-pot recipe which I can say we tried and was delicious. 4 out of 5 of us ate it which is a good enough win for me. I also tossed some carrots into the liquid to soften them up for the baby because I fear making a second pot. This worked! We skipped the basil because that is GREEN which might have been scary, and added in a healthy dash of pecorino at the end. Yummy and easy. Win win.