Monday, December 2

six months in

Our little chicken recently turned six months. Six! I feel like this declaration ought to be followed with the usual musings on how fast time flies, where does time go, doesn't it seem like just yesterday he was a wee newborn, etc etc... But no. It feels pretty much exactly like it's been six months. Six hard, beautiful, transformative months of really, really shitty sleep.

But it's been slowly getting better and, some days, dare I say it's a bit easier. We made a big switch a few weeks past, moving Cash from our bed, where he'd nurse Lionel Ritchie-style (ALL NIGHT LONG), to his own crib, and he's taken to the change admirably. Miraculously, even. My quality of sleep is slowly improving, and there is more freedom and space in our days now as his sleep schedule is regulating. But even such a positive change can leave us reeling. One night early in this transition, with both boys in bed, asleep, by 8pm, my husband and I were circling around the house in a confused daze: what? no playing tag with the cranky baby? now you're it, now you're it? We hardly knew what to do with ourselves. I'm sure it won't take us too long to figure out.

One of my mama friends, who already had two kids, told me when I was pregnant with Cash that the first six months are the hardest. We're over that hump now, and I feel I'm breathing a little bit easier. While having two small boys has been exponentially harder than I thought it would be, and in some ways I did not anticipate, still, as I'd hoped, there were some ways in which it was easier than adjusting to life with our firstborn.

Here's how:

Lesson 1: You're already broken in

This was my greatest hope heading into the life of a mama of two: that all of the hard, hard work of learning to identify as a mother I did with Silas would pay off. And it did. While learning to mother two children is one hell of a learning curve, there's a lot you've already figured out. You've already given away all of your time. You're used to being interrupted. You know you're not the mama you thought you would be, and you've settled into being the mama your family needs you to be, and you know that's a much better thing. You and your partner have more or less figured out your roles as parents and partners. Your house is already trashed. In some ways, life with two doesn't look so much different than life with one, because you're already broken in. Which is good, because...

Lesson 2: You've lowered your expectations

...because life with two kids is a whole new ballgame. In fact, often it doesn't even look like the same sport. While this is wildly disorienting, and will shake you to the core of your being, one thing it won't do is be too much of a surprise, because you've learned the first go round to let go of expectations. Or, at least, to not take your expectations too seriously. You already know it won't look or feel anything like what you thought or imagined. You've already learned the hard way that most of your unhappiness stems from wishing hard for what you don't have and failing to embrace what you do have, which is this moment, your body, your breath, your baby, unvarnished, just as it is. You've learned the freedom that comes with accepting life as it comes. You know it's just that simple. (You also know that simple doesn't mean easy.)

Lesson 3: You know to wait it out

This may be the biggest one. I remember so keenly, holding a small, sleepless Silas in the dark hour of night and thinking, and really believing, that I would never sleep again. It felt like dying. While I could reason that there was little chance that this would be true, that Silas would grow up and no longer need me to soothe and feed him back to sleep, because I hadn't experienced it, I couldn't conceive of how this would possibly happen, so completely was I caught up in the discomfort of the moment. But once you've witnessed one child go from nursing all night to sleeping all night in his own bed THANK GOD, you know this: this new baby will, too. You know this baby will learn to sleep, eat, walk, will wean and speak, and often with very limited input from you besides your willingness to wait it out and let things unfold in their own good time. You know what's needed is less of your thinking and more of your patience. And so you wait, and in doing so, you get to relax a little. 

Lesson 4: Things change

You know to not get too comfortable with anything, good or bad, because your children are both evolving at lightning speed, and what holds true today may be history by tomorrow. Adaptability is key to survival, which is true as much of parenting as it is of the evolution of species. Change is the one true constant. Now you're more willing to plug your nose, jump in, and go with the flow.

Some days I look back at the first few months of my son's life and wonder, how did we manage to survive? But the fact that we're here is incontrovertible. And one more thing is true: I can hardly remember what it was like to have only one kid, just like I cannot fathom what my life was like before I had children. We are now a family of four. I am a mama of two. Life is sometimes hard, sometimes messy, sometimes scary. But it's always beautiful. Always.

Tuesday, November 26

3 practices for a sane & smooth Thanksgiving (redux)

We're just a couple of days away from Thanksgiving here in the US, and so I thought I would re-post what I shared last year: my best practices for having a Thanksgiving day that leaves you feeling grateful and pleasantly full, instead of cranky and depleted. My husband and I usually host at our house, and we're ahead of the game this year as we've already got the fridge deep-cleaned. This weekend I made some pastry dough and homemade veggie stock and I'm looking forward to a long day of cooking and eating and enjoying family come Thursday. When I follow the following steps, cooking can be a deeply grounding and nourishing experience, even before I've put a morsel of food in my mouth. I hope it will be the same for you. Happy Thanksgiving! I am deeply grateful for you, for taking the time to stop by and read my words. It means so much.

1. Start with a good breakfast.  This falls into the "do as I say, not as I do" category of advice. Inevitably, I get excited about what needs to get done, jump in, and all too soon find myself famished and spent, a state that can be hard to recover from. Next time I hold a big gathering at home, when I am planning my menu, I will also plan what yummy, sustaining thing I'll be having for breakfast that morning, to ensure that I start the day fueled up and ready for the long haul.

2. Begin with a clean kitchen. I can't stress this enough. The morning of the big day, my husband usually does all the dishes, as well as clears all the old, dead leftovers from the back of the fridge. (Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.) This ensures that a) we have a fresh and clean space to begin with; b) all our dishes are ready for prepping and serving food; c) we have adequate receptacles and space to hold those all-too-important leftovers. I'm always amazed what a big difference that makes, both to the smooth running of the day, and to help with a relatively painless clean-up after all is said and done.

3. Take a yoga break.  Usually, once either the stuffing or the roasted root vegetables are in the oven, I sneak away for 20-30 minutes to take a "yoga nap." This means either this pose or this pose, an eye pillow, and earplugs. Yesterday, since I am pregnant and a day in the kitchen inevitably takes its toll on my low back, I also did parts of this sequence (#17). (Yay for not being pregnant this year!) This is the very best advice I can offer you: take some time out to rest and refill your well sometime in your big prepping day. Sure, you could fold napkins or iron linens or sweep the floor instead, but I promise you that your guests will notice your shining, rested countenance much, much more than they will your shining kitchen faucet. You will be able to be more present with your guests and actually enjoy their company, and isn't it what the big day is all about?

BONUS! If you are still in need of some menu inspiration, here are a few roundups of recipes from my favorite food bloggers. Bon appetit!

I'm curious: do you have any big-day tricks you can share? What are your plans for this Turkey Day? Are you inspired to incorporate a new self-care routine into your to-do list? I'd love for you to share how it went!

Monday, November 11

I dared

Nine years ago today, I dared to sent an email.

It was 2004. Blogs were barely blogs back then--remember when we had to do all of our own HTML? the days before drag-and-drop web design? Online dating was in its infancy, too, and I, whom my friend Matthew liked to call a Luddite, was weary of both. But it was this friend Matthew who urged me to start a blog and, almost in the same breath, told me he's found the perfect guy for me.

He was a poet and a philosophy major and liked the same bands as us and had the same sense of humor. He lived in Texas and Matthew had met him on a message board.

I'm sorry I said, but Internet guy from Texas? That is so not happening.

Still I started a blog, and checked out this guy's blog , and true he was funny and deeply intelligent and dude could write. It was clear to me that if we'd lived in the same city, this would be someone I would try to date. But he was still the Internet guy and he was still from Texas. So no.

Many months passed.

One day, after a conversation with a work friend who was having great luck dating boys she'd met on Lavalife (!), I decided to check out the site.

None of the boys could spell or punctuate properly. No dice.

But then I reasoned with myself: if I was now desperate enough to scroll through Lavalife to try to find a love interest, couldn't I maybe give this Texas Internet guy a try? I knew at least he could write.

So I sent Daniel an email. The subject line was Belated Hey. This wasn't the first email exchange we'd had--we'd struck up a small correspondance via our blogs--but this is the email that started it all. The email I sent thinking, What if? Thinking, What the hell. Today is Rememberance/Veteran's Day, but in our household, it is referred to as Belated Hey Day.

I remember the email as being just barely flirtatious, and containing a Czeslaw Milosz poem. His email back was mildly flirtatious, and included another Milosz poem. And we were off.

This was before Skype, before Instagram. I wasn't even on Facebook, didn't have a cell phone. I don't think we ever did instant messaging. I think I had dial-up Internet. It was, basically, the dark ages.

I lived in an adorable, uninsulated little cottage overlooking a horse paddock and a pond under pines on Vancouver Island. The water stank with sulphur. It was one of the happiest and loneliest times of my life.

Over one short month, we wrote breathlessly and fell in love.

On my birthday (December 16th) we decided we were "a couple," whatever that means when you've never met in person and live 1,900 miles from each other.

Just after Christmas, we said I love you.

On March 12th, he walked off a ferry and we embraced for the first time. Later that day, we kissed.

Less than a week later we were engaged. We got married on August 8th, 2005.

We have not lived a single day since in which we didn't delight in each other. We have a home and two beautiful boys. We have a love and friendship stronger, deeper, and more beautiful than anything I could've wished for.

I"m still stunned and grateful we ever managed to find our way to each other. I can't imagine my life without him in it. I don't want to.

And all because I dared to take a chance on the Internet guy from Texas.

Isn't technology great???

Tuesday, November 5

seasons change

This post has been lingering in my draft folder for over a month and it speaks of a weather change that occurred weeks ago. But this is NaBloPoMo, and it's late, and I'm tired, and it fits in with today's prompt, and hey! Here's a cute picture of Silas eating a pumpkin. Enjoy!

We got the most wonderful gift here in Central Texas this past weekend: a cold front.

Summers here are so terribly, terribly hot, and drought conditions have prevailed over the last several years. After months of temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s, and hardly a drop of rain, by late August it starts to feel like cool, crisp days will never return. Then, all of a sudden, a day like last Friday comes. It pours hard and steady over an entire day, and instead of the usual post-rain humidity,

So this weekend found us doing things we hadn't, couldn't have done in a long, long while: sitting outside, mowing the lawn, jumping in puddles. Opening doors and windows and shutting off the AC. It's suddenly, eerily quiet in our home, but it also feels larger, more open. Nearly every Central Texan in my Facebook feed glories in the freshness of these days. On Sunday morning, I even pulled on some socks. SOCKS! I hadn't worn socks in probably six months.

All of a sudden, possibilities open up: we could go for walks. We can play outside. We can enjoy a dinner out under the trees with the kids and be perfectly comfortable and happy. Today I had lunch outside, sitting on the shaded grass in a park. You get this feeling that life from here on out will be different and--dare we hope?--better.

It all makes me think that parenting, like weather, cycles through its seasons. When our babies are small or when our toddlers are learning about boundaries by testing them, it may feel as hot and oppressive as July in Texas--and as endless. The hope of September and October and pumpkin spice lattes feels so distant as to be impossible. It's hard to remember that things can, in fact, change overnight. Parenting our first child, we are slow to learn this. But that is one of the great gifts of a second baby: this time, we know how quickly things can change. Our little one's tooth pierces through the painful gum, or that elusive roll-over maneuver is finally achieved, and suddenly he sleeps through the night. (For a while, anyway.) There comes the day when you discover you no longer need the Ergo infant insert and suddenly wearing baby feels a whole lot lighter and easier. You notice the 3-month clothes hardly fit anymore and realize you're well on your way to your baby's first half-birthday.

In these extreme seasons, in weather as in parenting, it may feel as though the changes are very slow in coming. But when they do come--because they do, always and inexorably, come--it's so surprising and refreshing to find ourselves on the other side of what feels like it happened overnight.

Just a reminder--for me, for you--that whatever season you might be finding yourself in, you can trust that changes will come, that nothing is static, that relief is on its way just as sure as the next cool blowing breeze.

Monday, November 4

happiness is...

Inspired by Amanda, on a soft morning after a hard night, when my parents took the boys to daycare and I got to stay home in PJs.

:: the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, hot & foamy, of my morning cup of coffee ::

:: a quiet house on a gray morning ::

:: the freedom and utter luxury of crawling back into bed ::

:: finding my perfect breakfast: fluffy eggs with butter and a splash of cream, spinach, avo, spicy chimichurri sauce, with grapefruit juice ::

:: more coffee, and poetry ::

:: a well-stocked and tidy fridge, clean kitchen counter & sink ::

:: reading a book I really like, with another one waiting in the wings ::

:: knitting again ::

:: soup & stew season ::

:: sitting for meditation in the morning ::

first thing I see

The end of the day comes, once again pinned under a nursing baby and I think, I have to blog, then I think, I don't think I took a single picture today. So often the days whizz by, not without beauty or joy, but their sheer force and speed carries me along without pause, and the small moments go not necessarily unobserved but often unrecorded. There she was though, in my camera roll, little Scout and her morning pause, looking out. A shot taken, likely, when I was also pinned under a nursing baby. And soon it was too late, I was too tired, posting didn't happen. Such is the nature of things these days.

Playing along with Amanda and Karen.

Saturday, November 2

be present

I collect them like stones, like pretty shells carried back from the beach. They are mantras, manifestos, codes of honor, words to live by.

To pay attention: that is our endless and proper work.   -Mary Oliver

These are our few live seasons. Let us live them, as we can, in the present.  -Annie Dillard

You can only love the life you wake up to.  -Karen Maezen Miller

These are my darlings, my dearest. The stones I've worried smooth from fingering, hand in pocket, again and again. I gather comfort from their meaning. They all whisper the same thing.

Wake up. Be here. Be now. Be present.

It's so simple. Where else would I be? It's the hardest thing. I'm hard-wired to run away, my thoughts like wild horses carrying me far and fast. I reject, push away, dig in my heels, protest.

Anything but here, now. This chaos. This energy I haven't chosen. This uncomfortable feeling. This exhaustion. This fear that I am not, will never be enough. These boys growing up too fast and not nearly fast enough. This boredom.

But, also, precisely: this. This moment. This feeling. This breath. This body. This embrace. This mess.

If I learn to chose it, truly and fully, I gain everything.

And so I practice, like a little girl with her scales, saying yes. Small yeses that will grow into big yeses. Embracing the moment, just as it is. Accepting myself, just as I am.

Learning. To be present. For my life.

Learning to choose my life. Over and over again. Every day.

My endless, proper work.

Playing along with Amanda's November Prompt-A-Day.

Friday, November 1

and so, to begin

Months sneak up on me. We were 10 days into October before I realized I hadn't turned the page on my Nikki McClure calendar. My baby boy is almost six months. Time escapes my fingers like so much sand, even as each minute of each day slithers slow as molasses. And here we are. November.

I hadn't considered jumping on board with NaBloPoMo until about an hour ago. But Karen wrote about it. Andrea wrote about it. My dearest Amanda has drawn up a lovely list of prompts for each day. And I had such an amazing experience playing along with Christina this summer, showing up to write a paragraph each day. So, why the hell not. November--here we go. Once a day.

The truth is I can use something like this right about now. A little bit of structure. A little bit of motivation. Something entirely mine, and at the same time something that is bigger than me. The truth is there isn't a single piece of my life that doesn't feel like a total mess right now, and I don't know which end to first pick out of the tangle and begin to unravel. This is a good a place as any to start.

To show up. Daily. Fully. To tell the truth. More than likely with Lorde loud in my headphones, ignoring the chaos all around. Making space for the order of letter, black on white, lined up, making words, making sentences. Making sense out of these days. This life of mine. Making it mine.

Monday, October 7

In which the worst doesn't happen, and what that might mean

Last week, my husband went out of town for a work conference, and I was left to solo-parent both boys for three days. Yeah. I'l give you a moment to let that sink in... Three days, two boys, one mama. That ain't good math. To make matters worse, our daycare was closed on Wednesday, one of the two regular weekdays my kids attend, which would make for a challenging week even if my husband were home.

For weeks leading up to this I was in a constant mild state of freak out. I was so worried about how hard it would be, and what if the baby didn't sleep? (He didn't.) What if one of the kids got sick? (They didn't.) As the actual days neared I cranked up the self-care to fill the well, called the babysitter to come help out for a few hours around dinner and bedtime, lined up some playdates, and crossed my fingers. As the day of my husband's departure neared I was somehow strengthened to discover I would have new episodes of Sister Wives and Louie to watch on Netflix. (It's the small things. Also: don't judge. I like to mix it up.)

And then he left. And nothing terrible happened. Sure I was tired. Yes it was hard. But it was so much less hard than I had anticipated or feared. Really, it was just fine. We went out and hung out with friends. The baby napped sometimes, sometimes he didn't. I drank my coffee and wrote my morning pages and even folded and put away some laundry. More than once did I feel like Super Woman. It only got unbearable in the last hour--the longest hour--before my husband came home, delayed by traffic.

Have you ever had the experience of bracing to push open a door you expect will be heavy or stuck, only to find it yielding easily, and stumbling on the other side from lack of effort? That's a little how those three days felt. I had a similar feeling this summer when I flew to Montreal by myself with both boys. I spent weeks of intense anxiety and planning leading up to the trip, and it went just fine.

My inner frantic planner would very much like to believe that the amount of fretting I do prior to such an event is directly proportional to the ease with which the event flows. And to some degree it might be true that by expecting the worst, I set myself up to be pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn't occur.

But, this time, I am left with bigger questions. It occurs to me that, more than likely, it was always gonna be fine. Why? Because I have the resources needed to handle whatever situation presents itself. I am beginning to suspect that all the planning and list-making and late-night worst-case scenario rehearsing stems from the fact that I doubt my own powers--my strength, wisdom, resiliency, equanimity. I am starting to clue in to how much I live in a place of can't: can't handle this, can't do that. And that this doubt is not simply a healthy recognition of my own shortcomings, but a way to hide from all the strength and goodness that lies within.

And so, I wonder--what would happen if I lived in a place of owning my own strength, resiliency, power? What would change in my day-to-day life if I operated from a deep trust in my inner resources? What would I take on if I wasn't afraid I don't have what it takes? How am I holding myself back as I believe in this story of who I am? What other story is waiting in the wings?

I don't know--yet. I hope this is the beginning of finding out.

Monday, September 30

pancakes on Sunday (with a recipe)

I cherish our weekends as a family. Not just because, by Friday, I am wore right out. I see our weekends as an ideal time to create a family culture: to develop routines, rituals. To cultivate a rhythm of "things we do" that we can all rely on, look forward to, create memories through. So far, what we've come up with: Saturday morning tacos, and Sunday morning pancakes.

On Saturday morning we headed out to our favorite little taqueria. Silas pestered the waitress as soon as we walked in: "Tacos! Tacos!" He proceeded to eat his egg taco like a little piggy, face-first. Then my husband took the kiddos to the playground while I went grocery shopping. Perfect Saturday morning outing.

Sunday dawned dark and stormy. I declared it a two-coffee-pot morning. I escaped to the bedroom for a little bit of writing. I like to gather myself to the page early in the day, weave together thoughts and feelings and intentions into something usable, into something that can shape my day. It's the place where I start--figuratively and literally. My days flow so much more smoothly when I've taken the time to consider how I want to feel, what I want to so, what's truly important to me. Our weekends are so much more rewarding when my husband and I take the time to talk through our wants and needs. On Sunday morning, that's easy. Our wants and needs merge into one demand: pancakes.

I've been at it for several weeks, birthing this Sunday morning pancake tradition. The very first week, taking pity on a battered and blackened banana, I scrolled through Pinterest in search of a recipe for banana pancakes. They were beautiful and yummy. Silas helped me make "poo-cakes" by standing on the kitchen stool next to me, and scooping and dumping flour in and out of two little bowls. This, I said, is how we'll do Sunday mornings.

The next week, I doubled the recipe, to disappointing results. I'd had too much coffee, not enough protein, and the pancakes remained stubbornly undercooked in the center. Too much banana, I guessed. The next week, same thing. This time I cursed the recipe and vowed not to use it again. My husband said he didn't care for the banana anyway, and reminded me of a great cornmeal pancake recipe from our favorite cookbook, one we used to make back in the day but hadn't had in ages.

This week, we were going to get it right. I was determined to make pancake-making easy like Sunday morning. I took my cues from earlier weeks: I ate something prior to pancake making (an over-caffeinated, hangry cook doesn't make for fun flipping at the stove), I used a trusted and true recipe. I had already done my scribbling and wool-gathering earlier because I knew that after breakfast, the energy of the day would have shifted and the window for desk-time would have closed. I was rested and ready. I mixed the ingredients, stirred the batter, let it sit. I put on a Ray Lamontagne/Josh Ritter station on Pandora. This would be our week.

It was. The pancakes were delicious: corny in the best way, a fantastic vehicle for butter and maple syrup. The flipping was swear-free. We eased from table into the day pleasantly full: of pancake, of each other's company, of the loveliness and grounding of making traditions together, of hand crafting what it means to be a family, our family.

I love the weekends. I already cannot wait for the next.

Cornmeal pancakes (adapted from ReBar Cookbook)

2/3 cup + 2 tbsp fine cornmeal
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp melted butter or oil

extra butter or oil, for cooking

Stir together the dry ingredients in one bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the rest of the ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, gently stir together, and let sit for 5 minutes.

 Heat a pan or griddle to medium-high heat. Add just enough butter or oil to cover the surface. Drop the batter 1/3 cup at a time on the hot surface, flipping once bubbles appear on the surface and the edges start to dry. Continue to cook for a few minutes on the other side. Serve immediately.

Serves two adults and a toddler.

Monday, September 16

better than sleep: morning pages

If you've ever had a newborn, you know that phases don't last. There is no sense in trying to get used to anything, good or bad, because these little beings are set on a light-speed course of evolution, and what feels like the norm today will be ancient history in a day or two. So I feel sheepish even writing about this, but...

Over the last few days, baby Cash's slept on in bed after I get up long enough for me to have my coffee and write my morning pages. It's been bliss.

Around 6am or so, he becomes restless with me around. He's at the breast like I would be with an open bag of chips: I don't want any more but I just can't stop myself. I could roll away from him and sleep on my husband's side of the bed, who's up by now, but by some miraculous force of will I roll myself out of the warm bed where I've had too little sleep, stumble in the dim bedroom towards the kitchen for coffee. Then, coffee in hand, I curl up on the couch. And I write.

Like I say, it's been bliss.

All I ever want in life is a cup of coffee and time to write in my journal. If you follow my Instagram feed, you'd know this already, as I seem to have only two subjects: my two boys, and my coffee and journal. I've been an avid journaller for close to twenty years now, and a coffee fanatic ever since I gave birth to my first baby. I've gone in and out of writing morning pages over the years, but it's a practice I return to over and over because it's so potent and, well, pleasant.

On the few days when my baby boy has given me this incredible gift of time, I've been happier, more relaxed, more focused, and I attribute this largely to being able to write in the morning. Even when I didn't write out specific intentions or plans for the day, I feel clearer, my decisions are more in line with my heart, and I move through my days with more purpose. I think it has to do with just having the time to do what I most like and want to do first thing: to paraphrase Karen Maezen Miller, it's a little bit of attention given to myself to I can give the rest of my attention away. And the familiar act of putting pen to paper and moving my hand across the page puts me in touch with who I am at the very center of my being, with who I was even before I was a wife, a mother, a teacher. When I remember who I am, I know what to do.

So, whenever he gives me the opportunity, I will roll away from my son in the earliest morning. I will forgo whatever extra sleep I could scrounge because, when it comes to allowing me to have days that flow sweetly and with ease, writing my morning pages is better than sleep.

Monday, September 9

the practice of being mama

I've written before about the reasons why I think it is so important for mamas to meditate. Since I am currently working on recommitting to the practice, I though I would revisit the subject.

The practice of doing nothing

As a mama of two littles and main nest-fluffer of the household, there is something I need to do nearly every moment of every day. Even my own self-care can sometimes feel like a "to-do." Meditation, even if just for five minutes, can be extremely beneficial and refreshing since it is the practice of doing nothing. For whatever amount of time passes between one bell and another on my timer app, there is nothing I need to be doing but just sit there, breathe, and know that I am breathing. I don't need anything; nothing or no one needs me. There is space to just be, a precious and rare commodity.

The practice of placing attention

I love this quote, attributed to Mark Twain: "I've had a lot of trouble in my life, and most of it never happened." He is pointing to one of the deepest truths of Buddhism, which is that most of our suffering is due to unskillful thought patterns. I see this clearly in my life as a mama. Most of the difficulty lies not in having a baby who won't nap, or a toddler who wakes up said baby after he finally falls asleep, but in the thoughts that inevitably arise as a result: I can't believe this happened again. Will this baby never sleep? Will I ever get anything done? When will my life get back to some semblance of normal? I should've never had a baby! Mostly our unskillful thoughts have to do with the past or the future, are riddled with doubt or fear. Very seldom are we preoccupied with what is actually going on in that very moment. If we were, we would see that we have all the resources we need to handle whatever situation is presented to us. The practice of meditation, which asks us to place our attention on the breath, over and over again, trains us to place our attention on what is useful, on what is skillful: our breath, this very moment.

The practice of starting over

We've all blown it, to varying minor or spectacular degrees, and have felt like giving up. I've screwed up, and there's no making it right again. In meditation, it is expected that we will veer of course, that the mind will stray from the breath and follow some random train of thought down the rabbit hole. The success of our practice, if there is such a thing, is measured not by whether or not our mind strays, but by the gentleness with which we bring it back on the right path. It matters absolutely not whether we do this once or a dozen or a hundred times over the course of one sitting period. What matters is the gentleness with which we invite ourselves to start over again. What if that was how we measured our days, too? By the gentleness with which we talk to ourselves? By how we grant ourselves the grace to start over?

Curious about starting your own mediation practice, or returning to the cushion? The Open Heart Project is one of the best resources out there to assist you in your practice. I hope you'll give it a go--if you do, let me know how it goes!

Friday, August 30

your efforts matter

I am writing this for you today, in case you need to hear it. I know I do.

Your efforts matter.

They have not gone unnoticed.

All the small gestures, they add up. All the little things done with big love. You may not always think that they do. It may not feel like they do.

But oh, they do. I promise you.

Please allow others to reflect the goodness that is your own true self back to you. Believe in the good that they speak of you.

Allow the love in their eyes, the smile that lights up their face when they see you, to hold deep meaning. To touch that soft, bruised place in your heart.

Maybe they are able to see the truth of who you are better than you can right now.

Do not sink into that place of sadness. Do not doubt your own worth. Believe you are enough. If you believe, it begins to be true. Just like that.

Your efforts matter. They have not gone unnoticed. Trust this.

Wednesday, August 28

small gestures

I recently finished a personal challenge to show up on the blog to write a paragraph each day for 30 days. Those particular 30 days corresponded with traveling to Montreal alone with my two young boys, where we would hang out at my parents' house and escape the brutal Texas summer for a few weeks. This kind of disruption of routine is one I generally struggle with. I like the predictable rituals of my days at home, and cling to such rituals even more so now, in the difficult first few months with a new baby. I knew it would be a challenge to show up daily to write, but I did manage to do so everyday, and that is something that I am enormously proud of. Aside from the fact that the exercise yielded some writing which I am very happy with (which it did), the sheer fact that I showed up and honored that commitment to myself, every day of those 30 days, no matter what, means a hell of a lot to me.

The challenge wrapped up just in time, too, because upon returning home I got waylaid by mastitis AND a respiratory infection. I was so, so sick--dizzy spells, high fever, chills, sweats, the works--for a solid week. Antibiotics eventually had to be brought in. I felt so bad that the illness sucked the will to self-care right out of me. I didn't even want to do any of the things I usually do for myself: write in my journal, enjoy a hot shower, practice yoga, sit for meditation. I didn't even have the energy to want out of my misery. I barely drank any coffee. Those ten days or so have been some of the darkest of my whole parenting career. I'm barely just starting to get back to myself.

I'm starting small. Re-establishing my evening routine--shower, yoga, sit, and a nightly gratitude practice--is my first line of defense. Then, slowly rebuilding in other ways, too. Checking in with myself for a daily intention in the morning, doing some mindful movement as the sun begins to shine. Two solid bookends to my days.

And I am continuing with my commitment to writing. What made it easier to show up each day of the 30-day challenge was that I didn't have to wonder whether or not I would write. I'd already decided I would, and that fact pushed me through resistance every single day. And I realized that, no matter how tired or cranky or blah I felt, if I made myself show up, something beautiful would rise up to meet me. It was surprising and illuminating each and every time. Why not continue? So I am committing to write for 10 minutes each day. 10 minutes. That's it. Let's see how this goes.

The truth of it is that these small gestures are all that is available to me, here in the weeds up to my eyeballs with learning what it means to be a family of four. It is so easy to lose myself in the daily spin and grind. But, more so than ever, it is important that I do what I can to hold on to those things that support me in who I am at the core, even before I am a wife, mama, homemaker. It is vital that I keep investing in myself so that I can be invested in my sons and my husband. It is necessary that I be at home within myself so that I can make a home for all of us. When I have the least amount of time for them, and when I have the best reasons to give them up, are the precise moments when it is most important to honor these small commitments to myself.

Here's to starting over. Please tell me, I'd love to know: how are you recommitting to self-care these days? What small gestures are you making towards living your best life?

Saturday, August 17

"30 paragraphs in 30 days"

I can't quite believe I'm here, on day 30 with a 30th paragraph. It's amazing to me that I've managed to show up, everyday, despite travel and disruption of my littles' routine. Despite fever. There were so many good reasons NOT to write but I did anyway, and this fact means so so very much to me. I feel so much power in having accomplished this, having honored this commitment to myself. I'm thinking a lot these days about what it means to be me and also be a mom. How to write, exercise, practice self-care in the midst of my days filled with the care of two small boys, a home, a marriage. What is possible? What is desirable? I still don't know the answers to these questions. But over thirty days of simply showing up I have taught myself that what is possible might be bigger than I thought.

Friday, August 16


Fever. Giving myself a pass tonight. Though I have so much to say. Now for some ice cream and tea.

Thursday, August 15

"creating space "

It's hard to believe that today was only one day--it felt more like two or three. Slow to get going in the morning, testing the waters of being a solo mama of two again, after two weeks of vacation. Epic toddler nosebleed onto both of our new white shirts. Reuniting with our friends again. Vacuuming as quick as I could the bloated black dust bunnies in every corner. Quiet at naptime, making my lunch, cramming so much into that first hour. Making a black bean, mango, avo salad while Silas was in deepest toddler happiness, watching Magic Schoolbus and eating "crunchies". Arranging a new vignette atop the mantelpiece. Late trip to Target for dog food and new underwear. Coming home just as the husband was unloading the new-to-us couch from the truck. Bringing said couch into the house, creating new visions for our living space. Such an epic day of homing, of creating space for the days and months ahead. Carving hope.

Wednesday, August 14

"back together"

We flew home. Two poop blowouts on the plane. Texas humidity. The house a wreck. Bad news that my youngest won't be able to start daycare in the fall after all. The start of yet another plugged duct. But there was also a lavender-scented shower and fresh groceries and some hope for tomorrow. That I'll be able to start putting this life back together.

Tuesday, August 13

"not ready"

Tomorrow it'll be time to leave home in order to return home. I'm all packed, but I'm not ready to go.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Monday, August 12

"first movie"

We took Silas to his first movie in the theater today--Planes 3D, though he refused to wear the glasses, and didn't want us to wear them, either. We didn't know how he'd react, he can be pretty categorical when it comes to new experiences, he's either all in or won't go near it. Though he was still in a post-nap daze he took to it with ease, eating the snacks I sneaked in for us and taking off his Crocs just as he does when we get in the car. There was only one other family in the theater. He didn't much of his usual chatting. The movie was frankly awful, but I was delighted the whole time because he was so engrossed in the images of flying airplanes. I had that feeling, like this is why people take their kids to all manner of horrible overwhelming places like Disneyworld and such. Anything to see that look on your kid's face.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Sunday, August 11

"fresh supply fever"

Every year around this time, it grips me. The fever for fresh supplies, Moleskine hacks and planner templates. The true stationery addict continues to jones for new stuff as September nears even when she is long out of school. Recently a dear and awesome friend went to New York and scored a stash of my favorite Muji pens for me. Today I spent the better part of two nursing sessions scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration. I was unable to get away to score a new pocket Moleskine, though I was dying to. My current one suffered water damage and has been mostly unloved, but after dinner I pulled it out anyway and started to mess around with washi tape and drawing lines, trying to come up with the best container to hold the shape my future will take. My two boys return to Mother's Day Out in two weeks, and I will have two, TWO six-hour days a week to myself. Oh glory. From my current vantage point it is an enormous expanse of uninterrupted time to myself, but my hopes and goals for that time are so lofty that I will need A LOT of planning and supplies to corral and whittle them to size. I feel like a schoolgirl, putting protective paper around textbooks with tight spines and the sweet stink of ink, flipping through the chapters of all I have yet to learn, excited and a little bit scared of what lies ahead.

Saturday, August 10

"which day will be"

There is more than one way to change a life. It's not always possible to change countries or move houses. Sometimes all you can do is change your couch. We drove to Ikea today, joining the Saturday throng to sit on couches and choose which one we'd prefer to watch the gleeful mess of our life from. Thousands of miles away but just days from our return, we talk about clearing space, making space. August has acquired a tang of fall at this latitude north, school's around the corner, we hear whispers of change. What will we turn the page on, what will we begin. In the evening I took a walk to shake out the cobwebs, down the bike path and to the park, up the big hill to watch the sun set behind the bridge. Warm scent of clover released by each of my footsteps. Tonight our oldest went to sleep without much of a fight on a mattress on the floor next to the play yard he's been sleeping in. You never know which day will be the start of something new.

Friday, August 9

"stepping into what might be"

Making friends with my body again after a second belly birth is a slow and shy process. The immediacy of two boys' everyday demands is mediated through my skin and bones. Aches proof in my muscles of both the hard work and passivity that is nursing an infant. My hips and pelvis remind me each morning that being the bowl that holds two growing lives means stretching into never being the same. I long to step back into routines of mindful movement but am constantly struck that there is no "back" to return to. What my body once was is gone; what does that mean moving forward? Today, it meant getting a bang trim. Buying coral pink polka dot skinny jeans because why the fuck not, who knows who I am anymore, maybe I am a woman who wears such things. I am a woman who shaved her legs. Who is stepping into what might be.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Thursday, August 8

"a kind of celebration"

Not the day I was envisioning--not even close. Moments of sleeplessness so awful all you can do is laugh about it. But isn't that a kind of celebration, too: to bless the disaster with laughter, to be bored together on an aimless drive so the boys would nap, both of us looking out at the road ahead, wherever it may lead, along for the ride. (And, at the end of the day, there was chocolate cake.)

Wednesday, August 7

"ten and eighty"

Ten minutes at Starbucks, the parking lot glistening with rain, about to go pick up my love, whom I haven't seen in ten days. I love how a little bit of time and distance suffice to revive the butterflies in my stomach from way back in the beginning of our story. How his voice on the phone comforted me like when it was the only thing I knew of him, that and his wit and kindness and deep intelligence, all that was conveyed through our e-lationship (his term.) Tomorrow we celebrate 8 years of marriage. Eight years, two countries, two boys, one house, finding each other and then, together, finding ourselves. Tomorrow we'll sleep in until 8am (!), go out for breakfast alone together, rekindling, enjoying quiet together over coffee, sinking into the ease of just being together and needing nothing more. And then we'll talk, as we do, about everything and nothing, about the ten days and eight years just past and the ten and eighty years ahead. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, August 6

"the kind of day"

It was the kind of day I dream of when I think of spending time here in the summer. Clear blue bowl of sky, sitting in the shade of the magnolia tree, eating baguette with butter and blueberries, writing, reading thin delicious French books. The kind of day when I am buzzing with caffeine in a good way, when my shutter finger twitches and clicks as my eye catches on everything. The kind of day when I spend ten minutes on the mat, when plank and dog and half-moon pose remind me how good it feels to stretch and open my body, how in yoga asana forms follows and serves function and how this may be a clue as to how to develop a new relationship to this new post-second-C-section body. The kind of day with a little bit of wine near the end and sunset and pie and two little boys playing and laughing with my family. The kind of day that is good.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Monday, August 5

"all I want"

More blueberries, more magical sparkly light under the grape arbor. Scoring the awesome sour cherry candy I used to buy for a penny a piece at the store in front of my high school and sneakily eat out of my pocket all afternoon. Going out for coffee by myself, having a hard time choosing between sun and shade on the patio at Starbucks. Choosing sheltered shade, keeping my yellow scarf on, iced decaf caramel macchiato which is my jam. That's all I want out of life these days: coffee, my notebook and pen, and an hour. Toddler's hard crash after yesterday's crazy, hot tears and clingy arms. How I love the deep long hugs, even though they come at the price of him being totally beside himself. Counting the hours until my love, their dada, join us here. A little over fifty. I can make it. I can make it.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Sunday, August 4

"there and back again"

There were epic skies and epic cries. Two and a half hours of road time there and the same amount back, trip bloating to almost twice that length the way only trips with children can. We ran out of water and stopped to buy squeaky cheese curds and change diapers in the open trunk of the car. It got cold, real cold for the season, and we all played out our versions of tired: wailing, running, stressing. The "there" was a supposed surprise gathering for my father's 60th birthday. I saw almost all of my family in the way I have for the last 13 years: all at once and not long enough, barely time to say hello and kiss cheeks and say what a pity it is that we don't get to see each other more often. I am left wondering how to love two far away places, and the people they hold, at the same time. What belonging means, to me, what it will mean for these boys of mine. Showers, a rainbow, sunset, blueberries and shows on the iPad. An epic journey in one day, there and back again.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Saturday, August 3

"back to the beginning"

Small mercies: Over The Rhine CD in the stereo of my parents' car, the one they released the year we bought our house, driving around my hometown, memories laying track on top of memories. An iced coffee from the Starbucks' drive-thru, the baby finally quiet and asleep in the back, deciding to go cruise by my old high school. Had felt trapped in the house, trapped in my head, and feeling expansive now as I'm sure I felt as a sixteen year-old, hitting the road. Drive under the green teaching arms of the tall trees lining the school's long driveway, thinking how weird to have gone to Catholic school when we're such secular people, the shrines dotted on the grounds so strange and so familiar all at once. The campus has grown so much, as I have, but there is still that same door where we used to smoke between classes, even in winter, how weird that we were allowed to do that. Stopping in a park by the St-Lawrence river to type out this blog post, baby stirring in the back, another Over The Rhine album and the caffeine kicking in. Even a trip down memory lane leads back again to the beginning. Time to drive back home.

Friday, August 2

"just this one line"

Last night I barely slept. It's not a vacation until everyone's sleep schedule is a complete mess. Tonight I'm showing up, but my paragraph is just this one line: I'm tired.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Thursday, August 1

"the sleep yet to be ours"

Breakfast came early: 4:30am to be exact, both boys inexplicably awake. I settled one on the bed and sat the other one in front of a show. This hour is why Netflix and tablets were invented. From the kitchen downstairs I grabbed a bowl of my favorite fig & date Greek yogurt, and a limp and damp croissant from a crinkly bag. Coffee would have to wait. I went back upstairs to my childhood bedroom, demure and sedate now without the images of Madonna wallpapered on every inch of wall. Now the room where both my boys were awake and where we would greet the early morning sun together, the cumulation of so many dreams I didn't know then I had, not until I held them in my arms. The sun rose. Silas toddled downstairs with his grand-maman, I picked up Cash and together we went back to bed. There was more sweet sleep yet to be ours.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Wednesday, July 31

"into the arms of what we know"

The boundaries blur at the edge of our days and the hours stretch outwards in all directions. At first I relax in all that ease. But soon I am like my newborn was, fresh from the womb and desperately missing the comfort of that warm restriction. My limbs flail like his, helpless, looking for something to define my space. I carry fatigue from hour to hour looking for a place to set it down. My boys boys forget how or when to fall asleep. In the brightness of the afternoon the time for play is endless, drinking lemonade and eating blueberries, and routines are the furthest thing from my mind. But come bedtime, vacation can't hold a candle to the comforting rituals of home. We all long to lay back into the arms of what we know, close out eyes, and finally sleep.

Tuesday, July 30

"eyes made new"

I love waking up in a different space, even if it is the least exotic of places: my childhood home. Here I have a most unique perspective, that of seeing the most familiar with eyes made new by having been away. The first morning I am quietly enthralled by the fresh way in which the light lands on the breakfast table, across the parquet floor. My shutter finger rejoices. Everywhere I look there is a tableau begging to be celebrated and preserved. Is there a better combination than comforting and refreshing? Today, I believe that there isn't.

Monday, July 29

"the picture I didn't take"

The picture I didn't take: looking at myself in the mirrored ceiling of the third elevator of the second airport of the day, traveling alone with my two small boys. Baby in the carrier in front, backpack on my back, one hand on the stroller in which my toddler sits. The caption? LIKE A BOSS.

Sunday, July 28

"tomorrow is the day"

Night has fallen. The bags are packed. Almost all the items have been checked off the list. There is no more planning, no more preparing. Tomorrow is the day: my boys and I will take to the skies, to go spend two weeks with my parents in Montreal, to visit family, to enjoy a true northern summer with grass and rain, not a Texas scorcher. I would be looking forward to it all so much if I wasn't terrified about the two flights alone with the two boys. But I know that fear only lives in the future. Once I step on that plane, I will be breathing that moment, that now. It will no longer be that which I fear but what I am living through, bringing to bear all of my resources of calm and grounding (not to mention all the new toys and snacks.) I'll get to find out whether everyone is right: whether it'll be just fine.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.

Saturday, July 27

"with a lighter heart"

Three of them showed up to class today, heavy with baby: her fourth, her first, her second. Outside the air is thick with humidity, the day dense with clouds. Inside the studio I just turned on the AC and the room is slow to cool. The heaviness is visible on each of their faces; each of them has traveled a hard week before making it in front of me to the mat, and they all express how happy they are to "just be here." I see the relief echo in their bodies. We move slowly, steadily, breathe deeply, over and over releasing what isn't serving us. I wasn't sure it was a good idea to teach a class so close to the trip, the thing that weighs heavy on my mind, but once again being in the teacher's seat is a welcome remedy. To be present to their concerns relieves me of my own. To listen to them allows me to forget myself. And as has so often been the case, the lesson I teach is the one I most need: that, in the end, you cannot prepare for every eventuality, you can only prepare yourself. For their final relaxation I rubbed the massage oil into my hands, releasing the fragrance of rose and geranium close to their nose, each in turn, and applied a gentle touch to their necks and forehead. I went home, and, later in the day, began packing with what I like to think is a lighter heart.

Linking up with Christina Rosalie's Just One Paragraph.