To the Other Mothers on My Facebook Feed

What you’re seeing is just a slice of my life as a mother. A minute. Scratch that—a second. The seconds I want you to see.

Here is a picture I snapped of my kids sitting on the windowsill looking for birds (really wholesome, right?).

looking at ducks

About five minutes before this the big boy was grabbing a hockey puck from the little guy screeching, “He cheated!” (he’s two years old, ahem). And a second later the two-year-old was in a ball on the floor because his puck got stuck beneath the air hockey table and he couldn’t get it out, and of course would not accept help from anyone else (“I do it meself!”).

But for that one second, on the windowsill, they were still, talking to each other about birds and ducks and snow, actually enjoying each other’s company. And I was watching them enjoying each other’s company, and I was enjoying that. So I took a picture of it, and shared it with you.

Sometimes I tell you about the times they drive my crazy, too. I make light of it, usually. I make fun of their juvenile ways. Thank you for listening to my vents. Maybe some of you think I vent too much. But a lot of the time, I want to share the loveliness of these children with you.

I am not doing so because I want to show that I am a better mother than you are, or that my kids are happier or better behaved than your kids are. They most definitely aren’t.

Some of you I don’t see a lot, some of you I have only met once or twice, a few not at
all. I am sharing because I want to emphasize the beauty in our lives. For myself. I want to focus on that. There is plenty of the other stuff. I probably spend 80% of my day cleaning up, preparing food, breaking up fights, explaining rules, clenching my teeth, sneaking bites of chocolate. I find it therapeutic to savor the moments of calm, beauty, insight, and love.

And I enjoy seeing these pieces of your life as well—the sorrow, the frustrations, the hilarity. Your lives are beautiful, every aspect you show me.

But I know for sure that you are not showing me everything. Of course not. The world has gotten too big. I wish we could all just gather together on our stoops and chat at the end of the day. Social media is awesome, but it’s no substitute for that.

I know that sometimes you don’t remember this. Sometimes you are truly struggling, and my moments of celebration might feel like daggers in your heart. I’m sorry for this. I know how easy it is for mothers to compare themselves to each other.

For any time my sharing has made you feel that way, I am sorry. You can unfollow me, unfriend me, whatever, and I truly won’t take offense. I know we’re all just trying to get through.

But I want you to know that you are a courageous, interesting, fucking awesome mom, whatever you think of yourself.

So let’s take it like it is. I am so glad to share with you, but my life—oh, it is much deeper, complicated, and messier than I could ever—or would ever—want to show you. And so is yours.

And that’s exactly as it should be.

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Why I post pictures of my children breastfeeding

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I love to take pictures of my children. I share them with family and friends on Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes I share them on my blog, if they fit a post. In some of them, my children are running and playing. In others, they are sleeping (I love watching them sleep, after they’ve finally fallen asleep!). In some of the pictures, my younger son is nursing.

Some have expressed surprise that I post the breastfeeding pictures publicly. There are a few reasons why I do it, often without a moment’s thought.

Breastfeeding—like so many aspects of parenting—is wondrous and fleeting. It’s something I want to savor, remember, and share. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of nursing a child, looking down at him looking up at you, you’ll know what I mean. It’s pure peacefulness, a milk-drunk smile, a love-struck gaze between the two of you.

I am not concerned about my children growing up and feeling unhappy about pictures of themselves breastfeeding being out in the world. My children have grown up thinking breastfeeding is normal. It’s not something to gawk at or look away from. It’s just something we do, like playing Legos on the carpet, reading books, kissing boo-boos. Would a child who saw a picture of himself drinking from a bottle feel uncomfortable? I was raised to feel comfortable with images of babies breastfeeding—including the many photos that my mother took of my sister and me—and I believe I am instilling that same comfort in my own children.

But it’s bigger than own my life: I share the breastfeeding pictures to make it normal to others, to contribute to a needed change in how we view breastfeeding in this country.

So thrilled to have this piece in The Washington Post. Click here to read the full article.

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30 Reasons My Toddler Wakes Me Up in the Middle of the Night

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You could say I’m a lazy parent when it comes to nighttime. I’d rather have my kids in my bed than have to get out of bed and tend to them. Probably at this point, my toddler would sleep better if he didn’t have me near him to bump into, and to remind him of his boob addiction. But, alas, every attempt at nightweaning that I have tried (OK, I don’t try very hard) just makes the two of us more exhausted, and when I’m exhausted, I just give up.

Then, there are a few precious weeks of decent sleep, and I think, “This isn’t so bad. He’s practically sleeping through!”

But then the crazy begins again. And I’m so tired I pour orange juice in my older son’s cereal (he used wake up as much as his brother, and now sleeps like a log, so there is hope). And I write a post chronicling all the many reasons I have been woken up in the middle of the night by my toddler in the past week.

Here it goes…

1. It’s too hot.

2. It’s too cold.

3. He wants to show his grandma the part in the book where the crane lifts the ice cream truck up into the air.

4. Boob.

5. Seltzer (is mine the only toddler who drinks seltzer?).

6. The seltzer I gave him an hour ago lost its fizz.

7. Water.

8. The water’s not cold enough.

9. Boob.

10. “I just need you, mommy” (stop melting my heart when I want die I’m so tired).

11. He wants to go back to the wedding we went to three weeks ago.

12. “Where’s Daddy?”

13. We need new batteries for his toy drill (thanks for the reminder, buddy).

14. Boob.

15. Other side.

16. “There’s no milk left, Mommy!”

17. “Where are you, Mommy?” (as I mentioned, I sleep right beside him).

18. “Don’t take me to the place where there are snakes” (this was many months ago, and he showed no fear at the time).

19. “I want a lollipop!” (half-awake, half-dreaming).

20. Kicking me in the head.

21. Kicking my husband in the head.

22. Kicking his brother in the head.

23. Can’t find his socks (he never wears socks to bed).

24. “I just need your milk, Mommy!” (I have been playing dead for the past few minutes).

26. “Can I please have your milk, Mommy?” (heart melts again—and where did this kid learn manners?).

27. “I want to watch TV” (NO!).

28. “No, Mommy, it really is morning.” (Have you ever tried arguing with a  two-year-old?)

29. “I want a granooool-ya bar.”

30. At 7am, when it really is time to get up, and I’m attempting to untangle myself from his arms: “I just want to sleep, Mommy.”

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Gestation

This morning, mud on my morning walk. And now, the sun shining bright enough to fill the room where my son is napping with a soft, margarine light.

Spring is near.

I am looking forward to walking—running—on sidewalks clear of snow. I am looking forward to just running, not having to navigate over snow banks, ice patches. But I will miss the frozen bay, its bright white glow. I will miss the empty tree branches that rest their hands against the shoreline. Black against white. There is a clarity there, a predictability that gives me solace.

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Last winter was one of the most difficult in a while. So much snow. Days canceled. Kids sick with every imaginable illness. The apartment on the market, trying to keep it clean for showings—constantly clearing away the salt that collected in the entryway, the muddy shoeprints, the extra dust born of days on end spent at home.

Last winter left me panicked. I didn’t like the unpredictability of it all, the loss of control.

This winter, I told myself to try to let go. Illness and snow would happen. There was nothing I could do about that. I just needed to surrender. And remember that it would pass. It had to. It would. There was nothing to be afraid of.

I let it gestate in me, that knowledge. And it was better. It was. Not always. I panicked some this winter. I felt the weight of the dark days. The illness came. The snow came. But I was less encumbered by it, less afraid.

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For this, I am grateful. The simple fact of asking, of making that intention.

I think it was around the same time that I asked to write. To write every day. I signed up for Jena Schwartz’s class just as winter began. And I did it. I did that. And in between, I wrote. Every day. Every damn day.

Now I’m back. Writing again with Jena and a new group of beautiful writers. What good fortune. Just in time for new life to spring up all around me.

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If you can’t tell, I highly recommend Jena Schwartz’s online writing classes. They’re for anyone who wants to write, experienced or not. Any kind of genre. All you have to do is show up. No judgment, just support. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Right Now

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Right now my two-year-old has a cough and a cold.

Right now he can’t sleep alone so he calls me in.

Right now I am tired and my muscles ache.

Right now my face is buried in the top of his head, his fine hair bristling my eyes.

Right now he needs me this much.

Tomorrow he will need me less.

Every day after this day he will need me less.

Right now he doesn’t need to nurse, he just needs my body against his.

Right now I smell him.

There is no way to describe it, but it is entirely him.

Right now my older son is asleep in his bed across the room.

I don’t remember how he smelled at two-years-old, but I remember loving his smell, inhaling it.

Right now I realize how deeply I miss it.

Just the two of us, alone together.

Right now the snow is melting and another storm is moving in.

Right now other mothers are lying in the dark with their children.

Or without their children.

Right now I’m trying to consume it all—

This vast, cold night in early March.

These boys.

My tired, tender aches and longings.

The heat creaking.

The way our lives move up and out, stir and become still.

Right now I am listening to sleep rush over us all.

Cloaking us in memory.

Reaching for us in waves.

Salt in our eyes.

Brine in our dreams.

Shine Your Light. Stamp Your Feet. Rock On.

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My two-year-old is entering what some might call a developmental leap or a growth spurt or a wonder week or a . . . whatever. To me, it’s just another week of extreme fatigue and frustration mixed in with oh my god this is all rushing by so suddenly I can’t breathe I love him so much.

How do I know this thing is happening? Well, it started with sleep. Or, ummm, lack of sleep. As in, “it’s 2am and I want to play and watch TV and pull on your lip and pick off the skin.” (I know it’s gross, but that’s really what he did.)

And then came the 4:30am wake-ups, followed by the mornings lying on the floor crying when we said he couldn’t have a lollipop for breakfast. Or lunch. And then when he finally did get one, the lying on the floor crying that he couldn’t have three.

You get the picture.

Now sleep is better, but the growing, the changing, the explosion in his brain and his body—it’s still very much happening. He’s going to be two-and-a-half next month and if I remember correctly from when my first child turned two-and-a-half, this is when the fun stuff begins. And I mean this genuinely, in a way.

Yes, he is testing boundaries. Yes, he is running up the block from me when I tell him he needs to stay. Yes, he is walking onto the snow banks when we are trying to get his brother to school on time. Yes, he is trudging through the snow-filled empty lot next to our house even though it’s 3 degrees and he’s not wearing boots and I just don’t have the energy or the stamina to go fish him out again.

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But the reason why is because his world is expanding. There is a beautiful world out there of snowy freedom and frozen frolicking. Before, he took the narrow walk to school, but now he’s captivated by all this sparkling stuff in the periphery of his vision.

Don’t we all remember those desires for true and utter abandon? When we just wanted and wanted and didn’t give a damn about what anyone else thought? That’s when we fell in love. That’s when we discovered poetry. That’s when we hiked through the mountains alone. That’s when we dove into the lake naked at night at the very end of August.

Oh, he wants and he wants and he wants. He is luster and light and longing. He doesn’t care if we have time for it, if he’ll catch frostbite, if his mother has been surviving on 5 hours of broken sleep for days, and just can’t chase him again. His passion is too high right now.

It will die down. We will find our way to talk about when it is and isn’t appropriate to have candy or snowy adventures. I will be relieved and rested again.

But all of it breaks my heart a bit. I wish I could just let him have everything he desires. Of course I know I can’t. I know it is my job to lovingly show him the boundaries of this world.

I look at him, two years old, with the fire beginning to ignite in his heart. His body pulling and twisting out of my arms. His is the passion we must all remember we have, even as we learn to be measured, cooperative, kind-hearted citizens of the world. He is our reminder never to forget this incredible charge we all have buried somewhere inside.

When I pick him up for naptime, as he drifts off in my arms, he calls out mommy, mommy, even though I am right there, holding him tight. All morning he was unleashed but now he is tethered to me, his hands encircling my head and gripping my ponytail.

Oh the moving away, and then the gathering in that happens on and off throughout childhood. Two steps forward, one step back.

This morning he shouted that I must “go away” as he bounded onto an island of snow on the way back from dropping off his big brother at school. I shot this photo of him, and only noticed later how the morning sun shone a spotlight on him.

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Oh, my daydreamer. My tender, unhinged, bright, fierce soul. Here we are. I am spending my days witnessing this trembling in you. These desires you don’t quite understand yet, and certainly can’t control. I am tired. But I am trying to let you feel it all. I’m trying to let you be as free as I can. I have these few extra minutes to stop on the side of the road. I have these few extra mornings. I have these last shreds of patience.

So shine on, dear soul. Stamp your feet. Shout it. Rock on. I’m here watching the show. It’s a good one.

Meditation: Child Sleeping

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If you lie there
after the boy has fallen asleep
and listen to the hiss
of the radiator
and the blizzard
slowly slashing
against the window
if you lie there
your hands
your arms
empty of children
teeth clenched from a day
of nursing
picking up toys
making oatmeal
cleaning up oatmeal
brushing teeth
wiping butts
holding hands
letting go
if you lie there
long enough
and breathe
just breathe
you will hear
the long
deep
slow
guttural
sigh
of the boy
falling deeper
into dearest
darkest
sweetest
succulent
tangled
broken
ancient
sleep

 

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