His hair shone like sunlit wheat in the light of the lamp. Flecks of dirt dotted his scalp, remnants from a dirt-tossing frenzy before his bath, small points to ponder, periods to bring your complete thoughts to a close. Across his nose and cheeks, more flecks danced, freckles not to be washed away, not even with a better scrubbing than he got at bath time. His mouth was shut, and his breathing was so quiet as to seem silent. Partially open, his eyes registered nothing. Heavy and still he lay cradled against my chest, so different from the dirt tossing, somersaulting, climbing-wall climbing, swinging, book studying, block building, sister taunting, sister loving, pea throwing, noodle eating boy of his waking hours.

This peaceful boy, who both is and isn’t all those things, sleeps.

Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were sailboats on brownie cupcake seas. Nearby, small polar-bear bags enveloped chocolate chip cookies – two, the number of cubs to which a mother polar bear usually gives birth. Above, Sriracha cheddar angels flew near gluten-free cheddar bats, blurring the line between visions of darkness and light. Heavy and earth-bound, pound cakes, crusty and golden, kept company with a moist yellow cake four layers high frosted with deep chocolate, covered in swirls pulled down from Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Sailing the seas of brownies

Sailing the seas of brownies

The combination bake sale and lemonade stand to raise money for our local park was a delicious scene, crafted with care by all sorts of local parents. Children, including mine, crowded nearby, helping to attract customers with their sheer exuberant presence – or their sign waving and instrument banging/shaking/clacking. WIth faces painted, they helped the crowd attract a crowd. They meandered down to the as-of-yet-unimproved playground, swinging and running and playing. They were semi-autonomous children in a small town, fulfilling their right to loose supervision. They were happy.

The fiercest tiger grins

The fiercest tiger grins

We were happy, too, but it wasn’t the best part of yesterday – even when we found out that we’d raised over $1500.

The first shift

The first shift

After the sale was over, we headed down the mountain for a birthday party at a local gym – and in this case, I mean a gymnastics gym, one filled with joy-inducing equipment like a long trampoline, like a runway for kangaroos, and bars, which, yes, might be good for a monkey, and a ball pit, which would get any self-respecting dog drooling. There was bouncing and climbing and crawling and pizza eating, all with friends, and present opening (we gave the gift of Press Here by Herve Tullet, a favorite at our house), and when it was all done, we were sent on our way with goodie bags.

This, too, was a good part of our day, but it wasn’t the best part, either.

The best part waited until we were home, our little family of four, with goodie bags opened and scattered: long balloons, good for making animals (the house specialty: a snake, no twisting required), with a hand-held pump, and two glow bracelets apiece.

The balloons were a little bit of magic, like children, growing quickly before our eyes.

But the bracelets held even more magic.

I pulled up Girlpool’s album Before the World Was Big, and we turned off the lights, the better to enjoy the glow of the bracelets. Boy put a bracelet on an uninflated balloon, and they took it from there. He twirled the bracelet, and it glowed, a shining light in the darkness. Girl tried it with two, and with Girlpool’s spare guitar playing and singing, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in a single line, the web was spun. It was magic, and I was caught. The lights spun and twirled, and, with only their imaginations to limit them, Boy and Girl continued to spin their ephemeral web of light. Small circles, large circles, pairs of bracelets or one, just alone, attached to a balloon, rope-like – I could have watched until my eyes grew heavy or until Boy and Girl fell into a heap, joyful and spent.


As it was, the album ended, the spell was broken, and Daddy turned on a light in the kitchen, the better for eating snacks. Regular life always hovers at the edges of the perfect moments, waiting to intrude, often with great impatience.

But it was there. Rather, they were there: the perfect moments, the perfect children, the perfect light, the perfect darkness, the perfect family. Maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re ever perfect again; maybe it’s enough that it could happen, and that it did.

The rules:

1. Be a good listener.

2. Follow directions quickly and quietly.

3. Raise your hand to speak or to get help.

4. Make smart choices.

5. Keep your teacher and your friends happy.

There are five. Those are they. I want to see the day when the rules also say something like this:

  1. Try something new (and positive) each day.
  2. Compliment someone else on something he or she has done well.
  3. Do something that will make you feel proud of yourself.
  4. Create something each day.

What else would you add?

It’s 10:11 a.m.

Girl started school at 8:00.

This has been a very, very long morning.

Girl is, according to the schedule, learning phonics. Every day. From 10:00 – 10:30. That should be easy since she already knows how to read.

What IS the point of education, really? Socialization? The ability to think creatively? Learning skills? Becoming a good citizen? Putting up with “learning” things you already know and learning patience? As a teacher, I didn’t spend much time thinking this matter through in the same way – of course, I wanted to be supportive, to get my students to think for themselves, to get them to be better and more critical readers and writers. I never saw it through the eyes of what someone else might hope for them, though. Being a parent changes a lot of things.

Here’s the school’s mission statement:

“The mission of ___, a caring and supportive center of learning excellence, is to assure that each student acquires the knowledge and life skills necessary for being an accountable, productive member of a democratic society.”

I’m not sure that that really sums up the whole of my goals for my child’s elementary education. I’d never suggest it’s a school’s job to do a parent’s job, but this seems to be leaving out whole areas of importance, like joy and creativity, cultural understanding and openness to new people and ideas, among other things, and the ability to think independently.

When Girl woke up this morning, she said, “I’m excited for my first day of school!” She paused, then added, “I’m nervous, too.”

After breakfast, and after peeing three times (she only ever pees once in the morning), she said, “My belly hurts.” I told her that sometimes, when we’re excited and nervous about something, we feel it in our bellies.

I hope that, as the day progresses, what she feels in her belly is more akin to excitement, some joy and creativity, and the thrill of new friendship.

It’s 10:21. Ten more minutes done.

Daddy guest post (thanks!):

Bedtime snuck up on Girl again tonight, and she needed to pee before she could settle down and sleep. Her trademark sing-song drifted out of the bathroom as she sat on the potty, mulling things over. When I went in to extract her from the bathroom and send her off to bed, she looked up earnestly and said, “I’m not so sure about going for the whole day tomorrow. Maybe I should just stay until lunch and then come home before nap time. I’m not a good napper. Yeah, maybe I’ll just ask my teacher if I can come home after lunch.”

She and her Mama share a mind sometimes. Mama isn’t exactly eager to let others watch over her girl for seven hours a day, five days a week, and Girl isn’t so sure about it, either. We’ll have to wait to see where these tentative steps into unfamiliar territory lead, but Girl summed things up perfectly as she snuggled Mama in bed: “I’ll miss you tomorrow.” We’ll miss you, too, love.






Girl doesn’t look so different from one to the other, does she? She smiles, she has sparkly eyes, her hair’s a little messy. They’re only taken about fourteen hours apart.

There’s a big difference, though, that’s not so clear to the naked eye: in the first, she’s still my preschooler, the home-with-me-93-to-100%-of-the-time-most-weeks girl. In the second, she’s the home-with-me-only-79%-of-the-time-most-weeks girl. She’s a kindergartener who just completed her first day of elementary school (wearing the dress of her choice).

Yesterday, Girl began kindergarten.

It was only for thirty minutes at most, but it was her first day nonetheless, and I got to be nearby in the hallway the entire time.

I don’t think I’ll get to spend all of her school days in such close proximity. After August, we’re not even supposed to walk her to her classroom.

She’s excited, but I feel less certain, walking on this precipice dividing her previous life at home and her soon-to-be life at school. I can see the appeal of homeschooling: you set the sorts of freedoms and controls that fit your needs and beliefs. You shield, you expose. You work to maintain the joy that “10:00 – 10:30: Phonics” every day may not be able to.

My heart is so full that there’s not much more to say – and yet look at what she says in each photo without any words. Hello, I see you, I greet you; hello, I see you, this heart is for you.

I love you, schoolgirl.

On a whim (and for the bargain price of ten cents), I picked up Madeleine L’Engle’s Everyday Prayers at our local thrift shop a couple of years ago.


I love it. Yes, I’d prefer it if it only used “God” instead of “Lord,” but even as is, with its 70s illustrations (by Lucile Butel) and orange cover, it’s worth a read (both for its intended audience – children – and the grown folks who love them). It’s a reminder that prayer can be like an informal conversation, full of observation and wonder and whimsy.

“My Bath”

My bath is the ocean
and I am a continent
with hills and valleys
and earthquakes and storms.
I put the two mountain peaks of my knees
under water and bring them up again.

Our earth was like that-
great churnings and splashings,
and continents appearing and disappearing.

Only you, O God, know about it all,
and understand, and take care
of all your creation.

Tonight, Boy decided that he’d take on the role of the creator or perhaps that of the earth, one who creates the churnings and splashings. He picked up the book (it’s one he goes to again and again – he also loves to pick up Sophie’s World!) and, instead of turning to a page, he flung it into the tub. The tub which was full of water, ready for a Boy, not a book. For a brief moment, it was an island, a quiet place of prayer in a stormy sea. I quickly rescued it from the tempest. He did not seem sorry.

Boy is sweet at night, adding prayers for everything from the grandparents to the clock to lots of things in between.

from “Bedtime”:

Good night, God.
Take care of us while we sleep,
and you have a good night, too.

Everyday Prayers now sits beneath a heavier book, drying back into what I hope will be something close to its previous form. The boy sleeps, and I have to hope that God understands the nature of little boys – and is, as Madeleine L’Engle wrote, having a good night, too.

L’Engle, Madeleine. Everyday Prayers. New York: Morehouse-Barlow Co., 1974. Print.

Sometimes there’s so much going on, I don’t know which way is up: our parents’ health, our parents’ moving, travel plans, possible moves, events in the lives of family and friends, and so many other odds-and-ends of things that in the end it all seems odd and up in the air.

It’s usually pretty clear which way is down, though. Down is the direction of the toilet – and we stopped in a UGO bathroom THREE TIMES today. We weren’t even going to go there (although the fact that we did explains the popsicles, chocolate-covered strawberries, and cashews now at our house), but Girl needed to potty. We shopped a little, then Boy needed to potty. We finished shopping, then Girl needed to potty again. Not to be outdone, Boy used the facilities twice more before we left the bathroom that third time. (His diaper remained dry for about two hours! Sure, it was wet after the half an hour drive home, but it’s a start.)

But that’s not even the best of our toilet stories for the moment. Two days ago – or was it three? – Boy announced, “I peed like Daddy!” He’s taken to standing on the little stool in front of the big potty, which is a big change from all the sitting he’s been doing. After finishing, flushing, and washing hands, he came out, grabbed his daddy by the hand, and said, “I need help getting my undies!” and pulled him to the bathroom. Boy’s getting better about dressing himself (“I like to do it my own self” is a favorite line when putting on a shirt), but sometimes he needs help. The undies in question, however, were nowhere to be seen. No undies on the floor, no undies on the stool. No undies in the bathroom, period. “I want my undies!” he cried. He took Matthew to the toilet. And that is where they’d gone, taking their final journey, may they rest in peace: down the toilet. “Even if they could come back, you wouldn’t want them,” Matthew told him. Nope, he wouldn’t.

Sure, we told him not to flush things down the toilet (last week, he unrolled nearly a whole roll of toilet paper, said he’d roll it back up, but instead started putting it all in the toilet. Yes, it clogged the toilet, even after the not-so-wet bunch was transferred to the trash can). No, we don’t support the idea that clothing is disposable. Yes, parenting can be tiring.

What we do appreciate at this point, though, is that they TELL us. I could have done without the extra bathroom trips this afternoon. I’d prefer to keep our clothing in the house and not somewhere in a pipe outside (not very useful as extra storage). For now, however, I take comfort in knowing that our children share their experiences, let us know their needs, and don’t really keep things from us. If we can keep what should go down down and what should stay up up, then we’ll be doing OK.

But maybe we’ll need to go underwear shopping soon.

Up and then down

Up and then down

Yesterday was Tuesday. Seven days of swim lessons were behind Girl – this year. Last year, after two weeks, I was ready to sign her up for the next session to further her progress.

“Wait ’til next year,” Coach Max said then. “She can’t do anything else until she’s ready to put her face in the water.” He might have said it would be a waste of time to sign her up for another session, but memory can be a strange and fuzzy thing.

Oh. Scratch that plan. One round of swim lessons in 2014: yes. One swimmer: no.

She’s five now. I wish I could say that she’s taken off, that she dips her head below the water like an ice cream cone being dipped in chocolate. I can’t. Or if I can, it would be a disappointingly dunked cone, one that would make a little kid sad. However, she did touch the bottom of the pool yesterday, fully submerged, before popping above the surface. One fully covered cone!

I told her that she was doing great, of course, because she was. “Only two more days left!” I said on our way to the car.

“Tomorrow is our penultimate day!” she announced.

“Yes, it is,” I agreed. “Yes, it is.” Leaps and bounds, this girl, leaps and bounds. Make that splashes and bubbles.



“When geeses aren’t honking, they cry,” Boy informed me tonight as he was going to bed.

“Why do they cry?” I asked.

“Because they have to leave the sea.”


“I’ll bet they miss it.”

“Miss it. They’re sad.”

How could he know that the geese feel that way? I don’t doubt it. We saw two Canada geese fly overhead today. Maybe he heard them honking to each other and knew what they were saying? Either that, or he misinterpreted his bedtime song tonight; instead of hearing “When I am king, dilly, dilly,/You shall be queen,” perhaps he heard “When I’m honking.” The chances are close to 50/50.

Tomorrow, as I turn 41, I leave the sea of my 30’s even further behind. Maybe I’m a little sad about that – but with such a thoughtful Boy and an equally thoughtful Girl, I guess I’ll choose to spend my time honking instead.


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