.sitting in the middle.

This week is brought to you by the word “untenable.” The great lesson of the last seven months seems to be learning to make space. We’ve learned to make space for Louis as a new family member, and our love and capacity has grown exponentially as a result. We’re learning to make space for the big emotions, for uncertainty, and for insecurity right alongside the space for independence, intimacy, and affection. It’s felt akin to learning to juggle on a roller-coaster. On the days I nail it, I feel nearly limitless. Other days, I feel like I’ve dropped all of my stuff in a big disheveled heap and I’m just holding on for dear life. In the last four weeks, I’ve had two real job offers and I’ve had to turn both of them down because of some facet that would have been simply untenable to our family right now. It’s a hard hard gamble to say “No thank you” to a sure thing in favor of ‘what might be.” It is true that I have some potentially serious irons in some interesting fires, but they will take weeks or months to materialize, if at all. As such, I’m just taking it day by day and trying to keep my eyes and ears as open as possible. In the meantime, I’m grateful to have work that (while not particularly lucrative) does keep a roof over our head and food in our bellies while we await the next chapter. I can’t say that I love the liminality; that would be an untruth. However, I do appreciate the person I’ve grown into who can sit with this unknowing, as that has been a skill I’ve lacked in the past.

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In other news, B starts preschool in the morning. Our baby is beginning preschool! How did this happen!? He’ll be there fifteen hours a week total, as it’s a part-time Montessori program. Still, this is the beginning of a whole new level of independence and external influence. We are admittedly excited for him and nervous for us.

Also, we took both boys to their first nighttime adult concert last week out-of-state. With their noise canceling headphones on, Lou slept through the whole show and Bram stayed awake and alert throughout…even getting to meet the band afterward. Such a fun trip (sans the hysterical infant in car seat portions). I have a really funny elevator story concerning R and B for another post.

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And not to be left out, Louis has decided he would like to be walking now. To be clear, he’s not yet. But he has fully mastered crawling and is now moving on to pulling himself up to stand/cruising. He’s still quite shaky on his feet, so we aren’t expecting that he’ll take off anytime soon, but he is a powerhouse of striving for it. Such a sweet bluebird he is.

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Notes on NGPhood

When I mentioned awhile back that I was sending a care package to a soon-to-be non-gestational mom, a reader asked if I might share what I offered in that package. I wasn’t going to do it (simply because it felt personal), but then I realized that lots of us are NGPs, and that if I did I could solicit YOUR advice too! So if you’re a non-gestational parent, and you feel called, please comment here about what you most wish you’d have known when you first became an NGP. I think non-gestational parenthood is a profoundly sacred, stunning, largely undiscovered terrain, and I love welcoming people to it. Help me welcome this friend and other readers?

So here, with minor edits, is what I came up with.

9.9.14 (and 9.26.14 and 9.30.14, but who’s counting?)

Dear E,

As I write this (hahaha: as I started this. two weeks ago…), Bram is asleep in our bed and Lou is resting on my chest. The Bird is cutting his first two teeth, so he’s in a lot of pain and needs triple the usual snuggles (which, let’s face it, is already a lot). You are mere weeks (days? minutes?) from meeting your first son for the first time, so though these boys keep me crazy busy, you’ve been on my mind a lot lately.

I read once that 80% of American women bear and raise children. In that same study, I read that less than 2% of women adopt. I’m not sure we have statistics yet for women like us. Though it’s growing, I know it’s not a big number. I’ve come to love the intimacy I sense amongst the mothers in our small community. It makes me feel like we’re a tribe, and like our job (aside from caring for our children, of course) is to care for one another. When I think about what kind of caretaking might have been most meaningful to me when I was about to meet Bram for the first time, the word that most comes to mind is reassurance. So – though you are a different person with no doubt wildly different needs from me – I thought I’d pass a little of that along so you could carry it in your back pocket in case you ever find yourself in need.

First of all, gestationality aside: you’re about to be a parent! Oh my goodness, the great good fortune of that. Because beloved friend: being a parent is the best thing in the world. It is fierce and unmatched. You can call me anytime to tell me that Tata [Bram's nickname for her baby] is the smartest kid on the planet, or the most exhausting, or both of these things at once. Really: 2 in the morning, just pick up the phone. Even years and years from now. I want to hear all about it.

But that “years and years” part brings me to this, which is the most reassuring thing I’ve ever learned as an NGP, and which I wish I’d known all those years back: this is a marathon. It’s, like, a thousand marathons, one right after the other. It’s as far from a sprint as a grain of sand is from the entirety of enormous Russia. So everytime you panic about something you wish you could do more of, or a moment you don’t think you nailed, or a time when you have to leave for work and Tata and K are both in tears (sorry, K) and your heart is breaking because it’s way too much to balance, know this: that moment is just one grain of sand in all of Russia. Everything will come. I needed it All At Once at first, but now I know that it just comes. And it’s okay to let it.

And then there are those other parents: the ones whose uteruses and breasts are involved. People will say hurtful things that make you feel less important than K. Because he’ll (likely) be nursing, he’ll go through phases where he only wants her. Like J, you’ll sometimes think you’re missing it while you’re at work. But those moments will be so short. Because then there will be phases where he laughs with his belly the second you walk through the door and you’ll think the world could stop right then because you’ll never be any happier than in that one moment. I mean it: your heart will explode, but somehow, miraculously, you won’t die. And then he’ll start saying your name. And touching your face while looking into your eyes. And only wanting you to do bedtime or bathtime or boo-boos or that one particular book for the eighteenth time that night. And when he’s a toddler? Well, all of our kids only want to be with you then: you’re the toddler whisperer. I guess I just mean that when I look back, I remember the moments that hurt me. And I think J does too. But it goes on, day after day. It goes on and just when you start to feel like some piece of it is just how it is, it changes and the landscape blows you away. And the sweetness washes everything else away: exhaustion, insecurity, doubt. Gone with the feeling of two little arms wrapped around your neck or the sound of a giggle.

The absolute truth is: I used to worry that I wouldn’t have the bond J had with the boys because she carried and nursed them. Now that’s just funny. And I used to worry that they’d never love me the way I love them. And now that’s funny too but for a different reason: because they won’t. They couldn’t. It’s not their job. And that’s not because I didn’t carry them; it’s because their only job is to be loved this fiercely, with everything I’ve got so they can learn how to grow up and love with their whole hearts too. It’s the first kind of love I’ve ever felt that has nothing to do with balance or reciprocity. And the freedom in that is mountainous. It’s so big. Whatever J and I – whatever you and K – have to pour into our children: that’s what matters. The rest of it just unfolds. And even while you’re off helping others to heal and serving the world, you’ll be growing love for this little boy. He is so lucky to have you as his mother.

So a couple of small pieces of advice. Take what you want and leave the rest, of course:

  • When he’s born, do lots of skin-to-skin. They’ll tell you that it’s gestational mothers who most benefit their kids; ignore them and take off your shirt. Feel his not-even-yet-washed skin against yours; you’ll never ever forget it. And then do it every day for weeks. When you get home. In the quiet. The second you walk in the door. The whole time K showers or makes dinner. For as long as you can. His soul will rush into yours.
  • Make sure your doula knows that she’s there to support you too. Make sure you have advocates in that room. You’ll be too vulnerable to advocate for yourself the whole time, and it is your job to be strong for K, not for anyone else. Other than K, your only job is to meet your baby.
  • Find a thing that’s just yours. A book. A baby carrier. A couple of songs. Rocking him to sleep at night. Whatever it is, hold on tight to it and don’t share. K will have nursing. Find your magic thing.
  • Be vocal with friends and family. Be clear about what you want to go by with Tata, and speak up when people say something that excludes you or when you need alone time with him and everyone else needs to go away. Even with K: speak up. It was hard for me at first to be honest, and so my attempts were ungracious. But this is new territory for so many people, and they need help learning. Speak up for your own motherhood, and everyone else will follow suit.

Finally, the contents of the NGP Care Kit that I meant to include with this letter, but your lady is scaring me into thinking your kid is coming before a real package could get there, so these are now the things I recommend bringing to the hospital just for you:

  • Ibuprofen (Because dude: if your wife has back labor you are going to ache for YEARS from giving her counterpressure. And because ain’t nobody there gonna wonder if you might be in pain.)
  • Dried lavender satchel (Because you might need to step out of the room and breath in and find your center sometimes. And why not smell some lavender while you’re at it? I’m sending this at least in the hopes that it gets there on time.)
  • Pen and notepad (Because there might be things you just don’t want to forget. And you might forget them because: dude. Meeting your KID.)
  • Granola bars or the equivalent (Do. Eat. You’ll need your strength.)
  • Lifesavers or the equivalent (Because one or both of you will need quick sugar.)

That’s it. You have everything else that you need. You are going to be amazing. Welcome to motherhood, my non-gestational sister. I was once told that the sweetest thing about NGPhood was that you got to choose to love your kids. I think that’s crap. I think the sweetest thing is discovering how wildly limitless your capacity to love is, that is has none of the cages they tell us it has, that there is no choice. That we, in the end, are just built of love.

Let me know how I can be here for you in the coming weeks and months and years.

With all of my heart,

R

an offer

J has a job offer on the table.

And we are stumped.

But you people who read and write nice things to us know us in real and intimate ways, so I am laying it out here for you. Because you are wise and insightful, and because neither of us feels like either of those things right now.

So here goes.

If we made a “pros list,” this is what would go on it:

  • It’s an offer. On the table. Right now. Who knows when another one will come along.
  • They really want her. She would be a rock star. She even has experience in the field.
  • It would be exciting because it’s a new venture here in our little town, and J would be a part of getting it off the ground.
  • It has upward-mobility potential.
  • The pay is what we need it to be.
  • The company shares many of our values (or at least seems to share them based on what they do).
  • The benefits are great.

If we made a “cons list” here’s what would go on it:

  • It would require a couple of months of on-the-road training, which would be exactly as insane as you would imagine that to be with a nursing infant and a toddler. This would mean months spent in a hotel, in strange cities where we know no one, with me commuting back for the first few weeks to teach my once-a-week class (which itself would require finding childcare in at least two different towns which are each at least five hours from here). I would be alone with the kids full-time while J trained, and we would live in a hotel.
  • The upward mobility would require a willingness to leave the town we worked so hard to decide to stay in. It would likely require at least two moves with very little say over where we would have to go. And depending on the cost of living wherever they sent us, the raises may not even be that significant (because where we live has the lowest cost of living possible for anywhere we would actually be willing to live).
  • We would have to delay B’s start of preschool, which I would actually be happy to do, but we’ve really been preparing him, and we’re already contracted so they may still require us to pay for those months.
  • J’s instinct is that it won’t build her up. That though she would be amazing at it, it would make her feel not so great about herself.
  • If she did work up in the company, she would likely have to travel a lot, which she doesn’t want.

But it’s on the table. And if she turns it down, there’s nothing on the table. And we’re really treading water, so that feels scary and irresponsible. J keeps getting this old saying stuck in her head: don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens. But maybe there’s no miracle. Maybe that’s what we’re supposed to know by now in our lives. Maybe we are terrible decision makers.

Wisdom to offer? I’ll pay for it with cute-kid photos.

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sometimes you just sort of lose your shit

So a thing about stay-at-home parenthood is, there’s no time to process. You can feel all sorts of ways, but you pretty much have to keep it together because of the tiny humans. So when J found out yesterday that, though she was their top choice, she didn’t get the job (because they’re not filling it right now), we muddled through with a smaller reaction than our disappointment warranted. Because of the tiny humans.

Enter: my office hours today. Which, because my children were not with me, and because (thankfully) no one came, I cried straight through.

And enter: my wretched listening skills when a friend came out to me and I focused instead on why she isn’t out to her parents. (You know: instead of saying “Yay! Yay for the gay!!”)

And enter: an absolute bitter-fest of a text exchange with a wildly patient friend about how much injustice there is in this country and how unfair unfair unfair things feel some times.

And So Much Crying for the one tiny hour when my babies were both asleep (even if one was asleep on me).

And when my mom said, “well of course you’re upset, baby, you’ve probably been really holding it together for J!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry more because: um. I hadn’t. Poor J.

Then I took the boys to watch a construction site near J’s work. We’ve been watching it for over a year and it’s nearly complete. And it’s going to house something that really should change the world but really won’t change the world. But those construction workers did change the world because: there was no building there and now there’s a building. And stairs. And sidewalks. And interesting ones at that. And it was sunny but autumnal. And I remembered that I’m not classist and therefore don’t have to lose my shit if we stay broke awhile longer or if neither of us ever ends up with a fancy job. And I thought: B could grow up to be a construction worker and really make things and that would be AMAZING. And in between feeling like an ass for being such a crazy lady with my friends all day, I felt SO GRATEFUL that I don’t feel that way most of the time. Entitled. Deprived. Wronged. Because even though there’s plenty about what I was feeling that’s true, feeling it wasn’t helping.

What did help was all the chalk art we did on the sidewalk near the construction site when J got off work.

And the college kid who played his harmonica for B.

And the fact that my friends will probably forgive me.

And when J insisted we go out for tacos instead of home to cook.

And when Ages and Ages’ “Divisionary” came on at the taco place and I asked them to turn it up and they did. And when B heard it his face made clear his utter believe that the world is MAGICAL.

And it is. It’s unjust too, and it’s unfair as hell, but people build buildings where there didn’t used to be buildings. It’s magical.

She still should have gotten the job.

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(Also magical: the Bluebird in this Gayby rainbow romper passed down to us from the moms over at Insert Metaphor. Which is to say also magical: GAYBIES!)

equal parts feathers and razor blades

Once upon a time, in a post written just over four years ago, a future mama and a future pomo were waiting to learn if their third attempt at conception had been successful. And that future mama vowed that despite her instinctive resistance to hope – despite her clung-to-like-a-security-blanket conviction that it was better not to get too attached to something until you knew you really had it – she was going to just believe in that baby. Heart on the line. The whole thing.

And of course there was no baby. And when a baby started to grow the next month, that future mama and that future pomo just believed in her. Hearts on the line. The whole thing. And when that tiny still being came, they learned some things about hope.

We are not the humans we were four years ago, when I first sat down and wrote this post as an invitation to a new way of living. For one thing – despite naming the blog – I only grasped the “blossom” piece back then. The “breaking” part took time to learn about. And I know a lot more about those ponies now. And the peaches. I know how momentary that light breeze is, and how important it is to have breathed in so you can remember the smell when it’s gone. At least remember.

My feelings about hope are trickier now. It makes me queasy. It brings up ghosts. I still believe in the value of the vulnerability it demands. The honesty of the fall. Its centrality to real-live life. But believing in and inviting are whole oceans apart from one another.

All of which is to say that we’re waiting for news on a job that could make a real difference to us. Not a baby this time, but another kind of new way of life. We have been waiting for about three weeks. And the waiting is hard. And so – instead of deciding to feel one way or another about it – I thought I’d reach out a little so the waiting could be less lonely. And I thought I’d write a small love list so that the waiting doesn’t appear more powerful than even it is.

So: Waiting In Love. September 2014. Happy four years to Breaking Into Blossom, by the way. Thanks for helping to make this space safe for both the breaking parts and the blossoming. What gifts: this space and these years.

1. That right now our Bluebird (who is cutting his first two teeth and cannot, therefore, be put even momentarily down, and is, therefore, sleeping on my chest, justifying my writing of this blog post when there are quizzes to grade) is wearing the corduroy bib overalls that my dad bought Bram when he was just a tiny Bug. They are softer with wear. And my dad once held them.

2. That Bram sees everything now. Every Little Thing: numbers, letters, engineering concerns, narratives, rhymes and stories and rhythms. He has memorized all the words to Ages and Ages “Divisionary,” and he sings them (including “diligently” and “irrelevant” with more heart than can possibly even fit in that kid body of his. He is approaching Three and Awake and So Present with a speed that is as dizzying as it is sweet. I could listen and watch forever.

3. That my mom came this week, comes most weeks, bought us a new steamer because our old one (which she bought) stopped steaming and we spend a lot of time on our otherwise dirty ole’ floor.

4. That there’s a new pizza place in town that is almost – if you squint your eyes and open your heart – as good as my beloved Charleston EVO. And that this one has GF crust and vegan cheese. And that consequently, B ate his first not.made.by.us pizza today. With olives and pineapple (to my basil and more basil and fresh-pulled mozzarella and J’s All The Ingredients).

5. That three of our overgrown flower beds are now weed-free and Creeping Myrtle-full. Creeping Myrtle, which I’m told would take something atomic to kill. Yes ma’am; that’s my kind of ground cover.

6. That the air smells like autumn and the sweaters are out.

7. That the boys’ Aunt Laura is coming for a visit next Saturday. Will have lunch with us. Will probably read a nap-time story to her nephews. Will make us feel even better about life.

8. That dearest friends sent us Isa Does It by the brilliant vegan Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and that I’ve made some twenty-five things already and am in love with nearly all of them (and her writing, and her photographs, and the divinity of her cooking, and her lack of fear of salt).

9. That other friends are due any week now with their first son, and that, if I ever finish it, that baby’s non-gestation mama will get the kind of letter and care package I would have loved to receive as I grappled with my fears before Bram slipped into my hands.

10. That I am here. Living this. All of this. Even when hope is equal parts feathers and razor blades.

to be verbs

Last week, my wife described me as shy. It melted my heart. This is because I am shy, but I’m not sure anyone has ever described me that way before because I also love people, so when I’m with them I gather myself up and seem pretty gregarious. But there’s something about being known for who you are and not just who you seem to be, isn’t there?

This comes at the end of J’s summer hours, of the emotionally rich (if economically troubled) stretch of time in which she works only half-time and spends so so so much of each week with us. Hopefully (really really hopefully) this is the last summer we’ll get this luxury because (hopefully) she’ll be firmly planted in a new job when July next comes round. But – though it has taxed us financially – it’s hard to feel anything but gratitude for this time to slow down, to really rely on my co-parent, to immerse ourselves in this work and these babies together. And unlike the end of her maternity leave with Lou (when I was sort of ready for her to get back to work because being home All The Hours makes her a little batty – she will tell you this – and because I need Systems and Routines that are hard to come by with two of us), I am really pretty bummed to have her heading back to full time. It has not been perfect, but it has been nice. She is an amazing Pomo, and even when it’s gotten overwhelming she’s taken the time to tell me that she’s impressed by my ability to do this work day in and day out. Again with the feeling seen. I am pretty lucky.

But now summer is over. J is back to work and I’m listening to our new sitter play with the boys downstairs. Next week I’ll have to leave for office hours, but this week I get the luxury and reassurance of hearing her sing with Bram and seeing her wear the sleeping Bird. She’ll be with them for two small stretches a week all semester (well, two with Lou and one with Bram), which is good for them and for me, though I am terrible terrible terrible at letting it happen. But I start teaching tomorrow night so I’m up here putting the finishing touches on my syllabus and thinking about who Teacher Me is these days. We’ve made the (financially risky) decision to have me teach only one class this semester. This will be great if J finds the right new job, and pretty impossible if she doesn’t. But I believe in her and really: I need to scale back. Teaching almost constantly for the past year with very little childcare has been TOUGH. When I first decided to leave my tenure-track-job search I thought it was just about timing, as in: I would WANT a tenure track line if I could get one in a couple of years, but not now, not when my babies need me, not during this short, fast, critical time. But I’ve come to understand that in some ways, motherhood and serious academia aren’t compatible for me. I look forward to working more someday, when my kiddos are all in full-time school, but even then I think I need a job I can leave at the door because my brain, my soul… there’s already so much I can’t ever put down. But the question is: where does that leave teaching? Last year, teaching was okay. Just okay. Never thrilling. Often frustrating. I wanted to give less at every turn. So this year, with only one class, I’m experimenting with investment. How much can I pour into my students, who FOR SURE deserve everything I’ve got. How much can I give and give and give and still come home and give and give some more. Forty-five students and two kiddos. How expansive and generous can I be without tipping over into Too Busy and Too Much (which is not an option given how I want to parent)? I’m feeling open to finding out.

And all of that has me thinking about what it means to BE these things. Mothers. Parents. Teachers. Wives. The Things We Are. I took a tea phone date with a beloved lady the other day and asked her about a decision she’s been grappling with: whether to or not to have kids. She has a thriving and deeply meaningful career and a partner to whom she is committed and it sounds like she’s leaning towards not having them, at least not now (which is maybe to say never). She is wise and self-possessed and though our paths are different I feel connected to her in sensing that we’re both on the path that’s right for us. But that phrase – whether or not one “wants kids” stayed with me in the days after our conversation. I always spoke of it that way: that I “wanted kids.” And that I “wanted a tenure-track job” and that I “wanted a PhD” too. But those notions, the ones about “having,” are starting to feel a little Not Quite It to me. So I’m trying now to think of these decisions in terms of verbs and not nouns. Not that I “want a big family with lots of kids,” for example, but that I “want to mother several children.” I want the work of that. To Be a Mother. To Be a Wife. To Be and Daughter and a Friend. Here’s how I see this shift functioning: if I “want a child,” or “want more children,” then it puts expectations on the people who come into my life to fill that role. I have certain expectations of who and what it is that I want. Same thing about wanting a wife, which is like wanting a possession, which implies a kind of ownership over how the person who fills that role behaves and who she is. But if I want “To Be a Mother “and “To Be a Wife,” then it’s about me. Because the verb, the action, is all mine. It takes the pressure off of my existing children and my wife and my (hopefully) future kids to be any particular way. In choosing to mother (the verb), I am choosing to subordinate myself to the work of motherhood. To give what it asks of me because I chose the work. To surrender to what it brings – which can’t be known – because I chose it. I chose to mother. I chose to be a wife. I chose not to pursue a prestigious career because what that would ask of me is not, for me, on the table. I like thinking about it this way, thinking about who I want to be and what I want to do and not what I want to have. Because the motions our bodies make every day – our movements – those things are what create us, right? It is rubbing my child’s back and singing to him when he wakes up at 2am that makes me a mother, not anything at all about the person whose back I’m rubbing. NGPhood has been a great teacher of this gorgeous fact, freeing me from expectations that could have otherwise stopped me from seeing my children as they are and not as versions of me. Anyway: what to be. Those are my news questions.

But enough of that because: oh these people whose backs I rub!

Lou is five months old already. He is barrel rolling and talking up a storm. Seriously: this baby loves the sound of his voice, as do his moms and brother. We’re all pretty sure he’s a screech owl. He remains laid back, but he has a funny temper. He’ll be in the best of spirits and then bam: mad on you. Really, don’t try taking a rattle from him. Consider yourself warned. But oh: he laughs. He laughs with his belly and his heart. And he loves his brother like nobody’s business. He loves us too, but Bram is a God to him. And for the most part, B reciprocates. I am stunned by how much they have already become brothers. So, time is flying by; I mean, our Bird is almost half of a year which is itself halfway to two. This morning I looked at him and saw that he had grown. He does things and I miss them. He is perfect and I love him fiercely for being my second child, and for teaching me what that means (hint: it has a lot to do with honesty and letting go of perfection).

And Bram. We got the most generous scholarship package from the Montessori School near us and we accepted. This means that at the end of October, our little boy will go to preschool three hours a day, five days a week. Preschool, y’all. Sometimes I cry from the heartbreak of not having him with me fifteen hours each week. Like, all school year. Other times I cry with worry. Because: that’s school, man. That’s school and he’s just a little boy, surely, still. And other times I cry with pride because: he is so ready for this. I do know that. The calm, quiet, focused work space. The rituals. The gently guided independence. The social interaction that is not loud and chaotic but kind and communal. Montessori is right for the person he is and the family we are. But still: there’s a lot of crying, and almost none of it is the toddler.

So that’s all. We’re eating all the tomatoes and getting ready for pumpkin patches. We’re listening to Ages and Ages. We’re mostly thriving. Love to you all as you meet this new season. Autumn. For me it’s the sweetest.

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the No-Love List of 2014

I’ve had some interesting thoughts about parenthood lately. I will share them here soon and they might be of service.

THIS post, though, is not that. Y’all have read my Love Lists before, right? You know I’m the gratitude-filled Pollyanna type? So I don’t have to be that way now? Because what I’m feeling is a No-Love List. Please tune out now if you only like me for my bright side ways. 

1. People who ring my doorbell multiple times during Bram’s nap. Ring it and HOLD IT. Ring it as if they are bleeding and only I can save them. Ring it not to be saved, but to sell me something. Trust me, evil door-ringers. You don’t want me to answer the door. I practice gentle parenting, which means that even if you manage not to wake my children up I will come at you with all the anger and frustration that I manage, somehow, to suppress during my two-and-a-half year-old’s many meltdowns. Save yourselves. Move on down the road.   

2. When my toddler wastes food. Food is a big deal to me. We buy it from farmers. From our co-op. We spend a lot of time thinking about it and planning for it. We spend WAY MORE MONEY than we possibly have on it, so important do we believe it to be. I spend hours preparing it: almost everything from single ingredients, working to teach Bram in his Learning Tower, paying attention to smells and sights and textures. So when my child decides, as he did today, to smear pesto risotto all over the table and floor (with glee), I am angry. It is a button for me. Don’t waste this food. It will not engender kindness. To wit: today, in one of my lowest parenting moments of all time, I did something petty. I asked Bram to put all of the smeared risotto back on his plate, and when he refused, I ate (with glee) one of the all-fruit rolls he’d chosen as a treat from the farmers market last weekend. I was almost giddy with the revenge of it. He, of course, lost his shit. I gave him the last bite in a moment of parental defeat.   

3. Our cat Iris. Who I should love, so kind is she to my babies. But Gods Help Me, she is high needs in a house that is full of high needs and where too few of those needs are mine. For starters, we recently learned that Bram is highly allergic. And in ongoing-battle-news, her litter must be scooped seventeen times a day to keep her from peeing everywhere. This – for the mama who has two potties to regularly dump, and cloth diapers to constantly change and wash, and a big toilet to occasionally clean – is maddening. Add to that the fact that she is enormous and insists on sleeping ON ME even when at least one and sometimes two children are already there and you’ve got some resentments brewing. Which are followed immediately, of course, by guilt. Because who doesn’t love their cat? I am worse than people who ring doorbells during nap-time.  

4. This job market climate. J is having a tough time and she would be a catch for any of the jobs she’s applied for and it is hard. I can only imagine (and shudder at) what this must be like for families who’ve been laid off. At least we’re treading water. Still. No love for this job climate.  

5. That even now, a year later, I can’t walk down the stairs without remembering the fall. Pretty much every time. And I walk down the stairs a lot. Carrying things – people, laundry, things – a lot. Spatial trauma, friends. I would say it’s for the birds if I didn’t like birds so much.     

6. Drivers who use our street as a cut through and therefore drive about seventy miles an hour past my house. THERE ARE CHILDREN HERE I shout after them as if they possibly care about the nearing-middle-age, unshowered, Crazyville mom they (maybe) glimpse in their rear-view mirror. But slow the hell down, people. Jesus. You’re worse than people who wish their cats away.   

7. The miles between me and some of the people I love with whom I am desperate to share coffee or wine or movie dates. 

8. Yard work. I hate yard work. Seriously, if you live near me and you like yard work: want to trade? I will come clean your house top to bottom every other week if you will come pull these weeds. Or edge. Or something. Just: you come be outside and I’ll come Monica Geller the hell out of your house. Takers?

9. Not being alone with J. I miss her. Or I think I do. We’re coming up on five months without leaving the Bird and it’s getting hard. I’d like to look at my wife. Even when she annoys me I like the look of her. 

10. The news. Always, but right now. I just can’t even. Not and stay present for these little people.  

Pollyanna Epilogue: Bram woke up from nap early as I was beginning to draft this today. He was crying; we’ve been having lots of bad dreams lately. Lou was sleeping on me while I wrote, so he got dragged upstairs and somehow stayed asleep. He somehow stayed asleep when I came back down too, by the way, because he is a saint-baby. Anyway, through his hysteria I finally discerned that Bram wanted “Pomo’s Game” to help calm him down, which means that he wanted me to name his body parts one by one while he tightened all the muscles in them and then relaxed them. Feet, then legs, then belly, then arms. Little meditative soul. Then he took three deep breaths. Really, he counted them. Then I started to sing and he started to cry. “What’s wrong now, Bug?” “I wanted to yawp!!,” our child cries. Seriously, he wanted to do a few of Walt Whitman’s “barbaric yawp[s].” So we did. We yawped. Four times each. Then he said, “I want ‘Graceland’ now.” Which means Paul Simon. That kid. He’ll knock the No-Love List right out of you.