Marshmallows

I buy marshmallows in preparation for the event I don’t want to think about.

I pick them up randomly; they are not on my grocery list, but yet they are – an imperative to help my family through a troubling time. Who would have thought something with so little nutritional value would help heal souls?

We hear the news on a Thursday morning – our dear friend Carolyn has passed away. She passed away late Wednesday night, peacefully.

We are sad all of Thursday. Coincidentally, the fish dies, and we have mourning for that too; we have bad days at work and school. We are a family that misses our friend – Aunt Carolyn, our family friend who’s seen our children since they were babies. Aunt Carolyn, who taught my husband to drive at 16. Aunt Carolyn – who had been one of my confidantes and probably the best supporter of my writing efforts. Aunt Carolyn – the person who truly put people first and was always there to help. Aunt Carolyn – the one with whom an open door literally meant that “just call so I know you’re coming” and was always excited to see you and talk to you. Aunt Carolyn – the “old lady” that in my mind, was never old – always curious, still going out and drinking wine with her friends (in her later years after her husband died-it was always with the guys.) Aunt Carolyn – the one who could get lost in a paper bag (she owned this happily) she was so terrible with directions (right there with her) and finally, Aunt Carolyn – a kind, warm, loving and lively soul who never let you forget how much she cared about you, loved you fierce.

So, that evening when we were all in states of disappointment, exhaustion, sadness and just beat down by the world, I pulled out the marshmallows. Months before, we had introduced Aunt Carolyn to our culinary masterpiece, PB&J with marshmallows in the middle. I know, I know – too much sugar. But at times like this, you think about just how short and sometimes unfair life is, and by golly, having a little white cloud in your PB&J seems foolishly hopeful and happy, and sometimes that’s not a bad reminder on how to live life.

One of the last visits with Aunt Carolyn before she got sick was an indoor picnic – where we brought our culinary prowess of PB&J & marshmallows and of course, she acted like a kid, excited beyond belief; that this sandwich was of course the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was delicious, she said, happy as a clam and full of joy like she’d just been to the finest restaurant; just the thing she needed, she said, and made my children so excited to be around her, she was so enthusiastic and childlike about it all.. Gosh, how I miss her.

So on Thursday night, full of a mess of so many emotions, we sat and ate PB&J and marshmallows, in remembrance and honor of such a dear friend. All of us, silently  hoping that we’d done justice to the love she’d shown us; that we were able to send all that love back to her too in equal measure, with hope that she had carried this with her into the great wide yonder.

And just like that, marshmallows have become a little more elevated in our household. And of course, have a permanent place on our grocery list.

Godspeed, Aunt Carolyn.

Price of Admission

I wrote this because, well, dishes and bottles.

One night I was standing at the sink doing dishes and thinking about how life seems to revolve around cleaning dishes and cleaning bottles lately, and I was sort of over it.

I started lamenting the fact that I ALWAYS have to do dishes and I ALWAYS have to clean the bottles and I ALWAYS…you know the drill; the ALWAYS and NEVER sickness that crops up every once in a while usually late in the evening when your defenses are down and you are bone-tired and perhaps a little more cranky than usual but you’re not sure you’re willing to admit that to yourself yet.

I imagine I’m not the only one who’s been through the whole bitter vs. grateful aspect of what feels like never-ending dishes pile or baskets of unfolded laundry or the countless other chores that are more constant than anything else in this thing called life with a family.

So, after I lamented to myself a little bit, then felt sorry for myself a little bit (well, a lot bit, if we’re being totally honest here), like I indeed was Cinderella confined by my evil step sisters to the sink, I remembered suddenly: Hey self, I chose this. And hey, self also: it isn’t that bad. After about 30 minutes of reminders to myself, I told myself to more or less get over it.

And then I realized (too late, as I often do) that maybe I need a teaspoon of my own medicine that I so freely give my kids: that with everything in life, there is a rose and a thorn. And learning that perhaps bottles are my personal thorns in the great, big, bold, beautiful rose that is having a baby. And the price of admission for having a family is dishes, and the price of admission for having a chubby, chortling happy baby is constant bottle washing.

And so out of that—I thought a lot about life. And voila!  This sort of poem (or whatever you would call this) about the price of admission for living a full life.

Price of Admission

Skinned knees, hurt feelings, jelly side down, broken hearts and those darn clam shell packages.  Socks with holes in the most inconvenient places. Crying jags.

Bad moods, overcast skies, laundry piled high, dishes. Missing keys, too much mail, pants that are too tight. Burned toast.

Late running appointments, over boiling pots, stepped-on toes, bitterness, children that are bedtime-allergic, shoes that still haven’t stretched out. Unwanted pounds. Selfishness. Ego.

Exhaustion – by things, people, money, traffic, yourself, noise, computers, politics, that earworm song that you can’t get out of your head.

Indescribable joy, unbridled pain and suffering, boredom. Equal parts pain and joy, unequal parts pain and joy depending upon your constitution.

Pets.

Sunshine.

Bubbles and ice cream. Days where everything goes your way. Autumn.  Tea in the morning and sun that still shines brightly no matter what.

Butter. Love. Rainbows. Innocence, like a child arguing whole heartedly with you that a unicorn really does exist. Hamburgers. God. Children. The cool part of the pillow. Wonder. Fireflies.

Naps. Books. The simple act of blowing a dandelion.

Sleep and purring cats.  Warm socks and silent nights. The sound of stillness. Eating cake for breakfast. Long walks, the beach and road trips. Hot baths. Exhilarating freedom.

Babies crying, dog poop found inside the house, spilled milk, Lego embedded into sole of foot. The kind of sick that involves vomit or the other thing. Or, on lucky days, both things. Confusion. Heartache. Not sure whether you’re tired, angry, or hungry, or all of the above.

The gym. Which really, could go either way if we’re being completely honest about it.

Middle aged spread. Fleas. Mosquitos and other annoyances. The kid that won’t eat anything green. Potholes. The strange crust that forms around the toothpaste tube opening that only very OCD or organized people seem to be able to avoid completely. Whining. Sadness. Weeds.

Being able to feel the breeze on your face, smell the newly cut grass in the air, barbecue. The first corn of the summer. Fat, round chortling babies.

Tenderness, warmth. Comforting campfires and long stories. Brushing the tendrils of hair out of your child’s sleeping face. Patience. Learning to be a beginner. Plump peaches. Quiet.

Hope. Kindness and mercy, especially in the face of something traumatic. Lending a hand. Mercy. Happiness that radiates up from your toes. Concerts. Living out loud. Learning to let go of who you were.  Wide toothy smiles.

The solid notion that life indeed goes on, which most days presents itself as laundry to be folded and dishes to be done.

The End.

Mother’s Day Recap

Mother’s Day Recap

I woke up to someone calling from the bathroom about a (pee-pee) related accident.

There were disagreements about what we were wearing and how we were doing our hair.

Nobody seemed to be a fan of breakfast, and the baby was hungry and clingy most of the morning.

Thankfully though, we made it to church (albeit late) but at least we had all calmed down and we were past yelling and being grouchy with each other, which felt like a small miracle given the morning’s events.

At lunch there were jokes, silly toddler insights, earnest trying to be kind and patient, forgiveness of morning sins, and a deep-seated of joy of just being together for a good meal.

Until the baby started crying. Crying-crying, the needs-to-be-taken-out-of-the-restaurant crying.

And to me, this is the perfect Mother’s Day. Could I deal without all the hassle, attitudes, diaper changes and I don’t wannas that seem to flow through my life right now? Of course.

But then I wouldn’t have the sacred role of being a mother, and being able to see everyone at their best and worst and have the privilege and honor of loving them all anyway.

We are raising small humans, which despite all of the things, ALL of the things (those things that I throw my hands up in the air about and the constant subject of many quick prayers) is a gift. A big, luxurious, crazily wrapped gift, but still, a lovely gift.

5 Gifts to Give Yourself for Mother’s Day

Yes, 5 gifts to give yourself this Mother’s Day.

Especially if you are a mother with a young family.

1. Grace.

Truth: We all need it, and especially those on the first line of defense (read: moms of toddlers) need lots of it, in huge serving sizes. Give it to others, your little ones, most importantly to yourself often.

2. Plastic, wipe-off placemats.

I know, I know, they are tacky and I can’t believe I’m saying this either. And usually they come in polarizing primary or fluorescent colors, and may or may not have Dora and Batman (or another crazy theme, like ants on a picnic table) scattered across them. I know, I get it–they are not cute.

But you are only in this stage once, this children-are-so-small-and-tender age, and with that, to some degree you have to let things go so you can enjoy them while they are still small. And to me, that means being able to clean up at least something quickly. There will be time for beautiful table settings later, I promise. And yes, preaching this to myself as I wipe down said (hideous!) placemats. Fist bump, sister.

3. Letting go of the need of perfectly snapping the freshly cleaned lovely little onesies at the bottom, all 3 snaps, snap-snap-snap, before you hang it up or fold it and put it away. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

4. Saturday morning hair forgiveness.

That crazy mess of hair that is either rolled up in a bun, pulled back in a cap or a ponytail, or somehow just out of your face so you can run after your kids, cheer from the sidelines at their early morning soccer game or run to the store before they wake up.

Whatever it looks like, it’s cool. You’re doing the best you can to be the best mom your can be, and sometimes that means that the fancy braids and whatnot that you’ve been pinning on your style board just won’t be used on Saturday morning. And that’s okay.

5. When all else fails, a hot bath and/or a massage.

Yes, you’re allowed.

Happy early Mother’s Day, mamas.

Heaven Help Us

Heaven help us when the little ones get sick.

All I want to do is cradle them, wrap them up tight, all swaddled up, like I did when they were so tiny and fragile. I want to hold them and rock them until it’s all better.

It’s hard to do that when they are bigger, have opinions, are the grumpy sort of sick people, and are all arms and legs that don’t fit so well into a receiving blanket.

And heaven help us when they get the sort of sick that includes the throwing up piece; it’s enough just to not gag myself and be valiantly calm and caring without holding my nose.