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Category: heart melter

It Will All Be OK: Assurances to My Infant Son

Nicholas-June-8-2016

It’s shortly after 8:00 pm, and my six-month-old, Nicholas, is inconsolable.

He’s been changed, fed and burped. He’s been read to in a soothing, upbeat tone in comedic contrast to his panicky, bloody-murder shrieks. He is up on my shoulder, snug in his sleep sack, wailing away as I gently pat his back.

My voice drops to a half-notch above a whisper as I nuzzle my mouth next to Nicholas’ ear.

“It’s all gonna be OK,” I promise, unconvincingly.

It will all be OK. This, like all moments big and small, shall pass. You’ll settle down, do your adorable little stretch-yawn, and sleep. And when you wake up, you’ll have the benefit, exclusive to infancy, of having remembered none of this trauma.

It will all be OK. Considering the desperate or downtrodden environments into which you could have been born, you lucked out. You have two married parents, each of whom has good jobs. You

A Promise To My Daughter (Regarding Donald Trump)

photo by: NAGANO TOYOKAZU

Dear Sophia,

Even now, days after the election, I’m struggling with what to tell you about Donald Trump.

We’ve talked about him before. We laughed at him at first; you thought his hair was funny. You thought the way he spoke was annoying and I agreed.

Then he became the Republican nominee and we started to talk about what he was saying. We talked about how he wants to build a wall to separate people. About how he thinks that only people who look and think exactly like him deserve to be treated with respect and equality.

We talked (without going into much detail, because you’re only six) about the things he said about women and the things he had done to them. Even then, I didn’t take him seriously.

I thought I was setting the groundwork for a lesson about how the bad guys, the ones who think and say these kinds of things,

The Working Parent: Finding “Get To” Instead of “Have To”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hills_alive/6706870821/in/photolist

I’m a parent. But this isn’t work. This is my family. This is what I’m working for.

College Tour: You Can’t Go Home Again

Photo by: Ken Zirkel (Flickr CC)

As our Corolla rounded the last turn on the Maine country road, unresplendent now with foliage as ground cover, my alma mater’s monolithic athletic complex cropped up suddenly, separating the boondocks from academia.

The gym was my savior in the bitterly cold Maine winters, when even on a sunny day the sun was a slacker. Unlike a lot of my outdoorsy classmates who loved the winter for the skiing, skating, snow-shoeing and snow-yellowing, I was an indoor guy. I would have gone stir crazy without nights of pick-up B-ball with my friends in the cozy gym. It was a luxury to work up an enjoyable sweat in a -15 degree world.

But the real fun was getting back to my dorm in the Martian environment that awaited outside. The athletic complex was a campus outpost, several icy walkways and parking lots from the dorm. Even dressed in my artic parka, the trek

Sunset on the Beach

Bo-Sunset-Beach-for-GMP

Mourning Prince… and My Youth

Mourning Prince.. and My Youth

 

Last Sunday evening, around the time I should have been feeding my kids dinner, a sudden urge to poses a Prince T-shirt came over me. Purple Rain had played at the Target Center in Minneapolis, my hometown, to a crowd of 5,000 people mourning Prince. I knew they were selling Prince T-shirts in the parking lot and inside the stadium.

All weekend I’d been thinking about a Prince T-shirt. I had to have a Prince T-shirt and now.

I sent a few texts asking some friends and acquaintances were they thought I could buy a Prince T-shirt in Los Angeles. I wasn’t opposed to driving. The texts started coming in. “Ahhs! The Ultimate Gift Store.” That’s a good one. I called Ahhs!. No Prince T-shirts. “Venice Boardwalk!” Fantastic. Why didn’t I think of that?

It was close to 6:40 pm at this point. I explained to my husband my urgency for a Prince

Where There’s a Will…

special needs girl

She had done it a thousand times before. When Emma was younger, she would carefully and slowly roll her body down the two steps of our sunken living room.

But as she got older, she evolved into scooting down on her bottom with some semblance of graded control. It was a sight to see. Her four-foot, seventy-five pound frame propelled itself by pushing off the floor with the back of her hands while simultaneously pumping her legs, much like a caterpillar. She never took to the hand splints that were custom-made for her when she was little to keep her wrists straight and to prevent the contractions that partly defined her life.

Even as a small child, she was not going to be restrained. She somehow always managed to remove the limiting splints—using her teeth to pull apart the velcro. Survival was the name of the game for Emma, from the day she

Good Intentions

boy questions

In the rush of getting the kids into the van, to travel to three different places in order to make it to work on time, My middle son, notorious for wanting to play in the driver’s seat (much to my chagrin) had opened the driver’s side door.

I felt an instantaneous surge of discontent and as

Found Heart

A heart made of rocks by a creek.

Holding On

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roland/254481373/in/photolist-ouhrT-4Rpopg-8ZYcxi-K3z4v-vWViM-bXxdXm-Uysq-hS8jb1-5Gn9AU-obv8q6-8c2Qne-rmArRs-fYGk5-7WsDG8-ek2mes-724ARX-5zM9LZ-5DPXgo-7enmvo-oom1Mf-8mjUSf-c2v1jN-qihZr3-usryf-4uaqGB-rgqZXk-aLPLs-qAzFpp-5MW23a-7X4KRw-9bpCS-2fqC2-oDHG1r-81Fk59-fmehmd-op6vdo-7CeDhn-9fgYLg-3Mzwp-6GjMfQ-k3iA6-9aDaa-MxynM-29g2A-cPvNh-2Yx2Jo-aUkFSH-aK6aEX-jGgBW-8eWrt2

He’s too old to need this. He shouldn’t need to be cuddled and huddled to sleep. But I do it. I shouldn’t need it either. But we’re simpatico this way.

Like him, I too am refusing some transitions now that I know there’ll likely be no return, no future facsimile, no one ever who will need me this way again. It’s really hard early on, but it’s also so simple. The hours are neverending but the repeated need–once the electricity is on, the fridge is stocked, the house is clean and warm, the bum is wiped, powdered and covered–is just love. Hugs and kisses and cuddles. It’s all I need really. Its what he gives me in exchange for everything I can provide him.

I’m getting the better end of the deal. It’s not even that close.

He was sleep trained before. At least this part. The “going to bed” part of the

Aftershocks

red heart on the palms of a woman

“I can’t believe what you went through,” my friend said, welling up with tears after reading an essay about the molar pregnancy* I had ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t believe it either. All I wanted was a baby, but I got cancer instead. When that clusterfuck of a pregnancy–my first one–robbed me of everything I believed to be real and good and safe and normal, the earth tore open and swallowed me whole.

Still, her sympathy caught me off guard. Even though my molar pregnancy is a topic that often comes up in my writing, it doesn’t elicit the tremors of misery that it once did. The experience undoubtedly shaped the person and mother I’ve thankfully become–in good ways (perspective) and in bad (anxiety)–but it’s no longer a wound that throbs. It’s a memory of an awful thing that knocked me down, but also of one that taught me

Le(t)go

Phot by: Pascal

It’s been a while since I stabbed my foot on an overpriced plastic building block.

They used to litter the hall and creep between the sofa cushions. It was as if they were summoned from thin air. No matter how many drawers and containers we had, they couldn’t handle the deluge. After a warning I would vacuum them up, small boys running in front of me to rescue the very best ones.

Once they had been returned to the bins, they inevitably sunk to the bottom which led to furious digging, blocks flying, kids whining. And there were creations. Some clearly vehicles, others… not quite identifiable. There were orderly patterns and haphazard towers. Each windowsill held a new version of imagination come to life in plastic. Until it held the next one.

We moved across the country a year ago and the boys carefully collected each block from under the rugs and the

First Day of School, Here So Fast

First Day of School

It was finally here, that moment I had been counting down to all summer long: The first day of school. At the end of May it seemed so far away, but mid-August came quickly.

My daughter was bouncing off of the walls as she talked ninety-to-nothing about school. I almost shushed her so she could eat her breakfast, but I knew Kindergarten was already going to be a big adjustment for her.

She was going to have to sit still and be quiet. I didn’t know if my spunky five year old could do that, so I decided to let her jabber through breakfast.

I pulled the heavy door open to the elementary school, and hurried my daughter inside. The familiar smell of the school filled my nostrils, the mugginess surrounded me, and my mind wandered back twenty years ago to my first day at this very school.

Twenty years ago, I was scared,

First-Time-at-Sleepover-Camp Blues

photo by: Preston Ciere

While a good portion of the country is already gearing up for “back to school”—I hear there are some that get started in mid-August—we are still in the throes of summer over here, with a good month and change to go.

And this summer, I’m dealing with something I’ve never had to face before.

My son is at sleepover camp, and I am bereft.

It certainly wasn’t my idea to send him. I was hoping he wouldn’t even know there WAS such a thing as sleepover camp, and if that failed I was hoping he’d think it sounded awful.

It sounds pretty awful to me: Cabins and mosquito nets, bugs everywhere, a dirty, cold lake, no family around, no phones or computers, lots of group activities… I’m sure I’ve had nightmares like that. I may have had one last night. But to an eleven-year-old boy, everything but the no computer and no phone part

Letter To My Daughter On Her 7th Birthday

Photo by Dana Schwartz

Today was your birthday. Last night I kissed you before bed, hugging you close while your little brother made siren noises and flapped his arms like a wild bird. I whispered in your ear about your special gift, the one you gave me, when you made me a mother seven years ago.

Your annoyance at your brother–completely understandable because, boy, is that kid loud–began to fade and a sweet smile spread across your face. I told you about the night you were born, a story you’ve heard dozens of times, and you drank it up like a thirsty bird.

How I was lying in bed, frantically going over my labor notes from class, wondering how on earth I was going to have a baby, when suddenly, I felt a stabbing pain in my abdomen, and bam, just like that, it was on.

“Did it help to read the notes?” you asked, brow furrowed.

This Father’s Day, Appreciation for my Co-Parent

photo by John McElhenney

I’m divorced, with two wonderful kids (ages 14 and 12). This Father’s Day, I’m giving respect and love to the mother of my children. She’s a hard working, strong loving and efficient woman. As our kids’ counselor said, “It takes two strong parents to raise such smart and happy children.”

She’s always been clear about providing the best experience and opportunities for our kids. Maybe that’s how the divorce came to light for her. Somehow, along the way, she decided that “apart” would be healthier for her and for the kids.

We did our best, but we didn’t anticipate some of the changes that would take place in our marriage. We don’t always deal with them very well. At least now, the arrangements will be spoken and negotiated in the open.

We had money issues in the marriage. We have money issues as co-parents. Perhaps it was this issue that caused the divorce

Mommy, Sing Me My Song

girl in bed

Bedtime makes me want to hurl myself in front of a moving vehicle, stab my eyes out with hot pokers, and hogtie my children to their mattresses. Their reasons for getting out of bed, not going to sleep, and needing me to be their pseudo-pacifier are absolutely endless:

My tongue is sad.

I hear a panther in my room. He’s playing checkers in the closet. Can you make sure he doesn’t touch my Elsa doll?

I need to tell you a secret. I have to poop. Huge.

Have you seen my booby trap?

Where is my diaper doo? No, the one with the little green flowers and kinda smells like my feet.

I slept for a million minutes already. It’s morning time now.

There is only one part of bedtime I relish and truly love: Singing their baby song.

Their baby song is just that. A song

Puke: A Love Story

Photo: Bob McGrath

It was mysterious and somewhat surreal: our two year old vomited at least three times in his crib during nap time without making any kind of retching sound, without crying, without any indication whatsoever.

The monitor was on and we didn’t hear a thing. I happened to be home early from work and our babysitter, Emily, was still here. We went in after his nap and were shocked to see him COVERED in puke. From his hair to his socks. His fingers, his face. The sheets, the crib, the wall, the floor. It was was truly everywhere.

He wasn’t upset, until he saw the mess… and saw us react. (Actually, I think we kept it very cool, considering the volume and scope of the situation.) Emily whisked him to a bath and I started to clean up his room. He has been lucky so far; he hasn’t been sick like this.

And, by

These Are the Days

photo copyright of Freckled Cat Photography, http://www.freckledcatphoto.com/

My favorite days at home with my girls–ages 5 and 8-months–are the days when we go slowly. The days we lie on the floor of our kitchen and try to teach Annie to crawl by crawling around ourselves. The days I sit in the rocking chair in Annie’s sunlit room, with both girls on my

The Best Gift I Gave My Daughter Was Her Little Brother

little brother gift

I am an only, adopted child. I knew one day I’d have children, but if pressed, I wasn’t sure when. If you asked my parents, they would’ve said, “Michelle just isn’t going down that road.”

I thought we’d have one child, maybe two? I didn’t know if I could even bear the thought of two.

I knew nothing about having siblings. How do you handle fights or the competition? I wasn’t sure how many souls would fill our family.

But the best gift I ever gave my daughter was her little brother.

Riley was born exactly two and a half years after Avery. His name was supposed to be Nalu, but he didn’t look like a Hawaiian wave. We hemmed and hawed and finally decided on Riley. It was the moment when we left the hospital that I turned to my husband and said, “It’s a unisex name just like Avery, and ends in