Nursery Song

Today, my daughter recounted for us a story she’d read about a pregnant woman who put headphones on her belly so her baby could listen to music. When my children stopped laughing, I told them I’d done just that when I was pregnant the first time.

I’d read somewhere that if you play a song for your baby in utero, it will help soothe her after she’s born. Something with a strong beat was recommended so baby could hear it through the white noise of the womb. It seemed pretty low-risk, so every night before bed I would put the headphones on my belly and play this song for my daughter:


After she was born, it did work pretty well to calm her when she was crying. So did running the vacuum or the hair dryer, but this way was more pleasant for her dad and me. As a toddler my daughter called it her “crying song,” but the actual title is “Captain Badass” by Songs: Ohia.

Today, my children giggled at the title, of course. When I played the song for them, they weren’t particularly impressed—“Okay. Can we eat lunch now?”—but I loved it as much as I ever had.

“Will you stand up for your one chance? Will you stand up for love?”

Halloween Pie 2016

It’s Halloween once again! This year to celebrate their third reading of The Lord of the Rings (including an audiobook and a read-aloud by each of their parents), my daughter dressed up as Legolas and my son dressed up as Aragorn. I provided transportation to the thrift store and the funds to purchase items, but the design and assembly of the costumes was otherwise all them (thank goodness; I am not a costume person, and this development dramatically reduced my Halloween-related stress).

The costumes might change, but not our tradition of charting their candy haul. Here’s how it all broke down this year:





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Keep on Rollin’

I’ve got Black Water by the Doobie Brothers stuck in my head, and I’m glad about it.

For at least the past five years, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am. Consumed by my roles as wife and mother, I can’t seem to recall who I was before, and lately I’ve become more and more anxious because I can’t envision who I am outside of these roles.

Just contemplating doing a “role stripping” exercise in a book I read recently prompted a nightmare in which I was cleaning my empty house. It was a place where I used to live with my spouse and kids and now I was vacuuming white carpet enclosed by white-painted walls and afraid to turn around because I was certain there was a malevolent presence lurking just behind me, laughing at my fear.

I don’t have to pay a therapist to analyze that dream. Read More

How to build a house in an afternoon.

I share genetics with some very crafty people.

When we were kids, my mom would hand-sew our costumes each Halloween, often creating the patterns herself or dramatically modifying existing patterns to bring into reality the costumes of her imagination—a tree (with a nest and birds on top), a rabbit in a hat, a black widow spider, a butterfly with wings so giant I had to fold them and walk sideways through doorways. Now that she’s no longer winning storybook parades vicariously through her children, my mom newly decorates her dining room table each month to match the holiday or season. Read More


To Drink Deeply

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

-from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Over breakfast, the kids and I decided that we’d do our lessons, eat a quick lunch, and then arrive at the wildlife sanctuary early so we could take a hike and enjoy the weirdly warm December weather before our nature class.

We worked well and ate lunch quickly, but by the time we were on the road, we’d somehow lost most of the extra time we’d figured in. We discussed it on the way and decided that if we didn’t mind being a few minutes late for class (which we didn’t), we’d still have time for a quick hike.

We pulled into the parking lot with twenty minutes to spare. Perfect! We jumped out of the car, ran to the office to check in and let them know we might be a smidge late, and then hit the bathroom.

By the time we were at the trailhead, it was five minutes until class.

How the heck had we lost fifteen minutes? Read More

Halloween Pie 2015

Categorizing and graphing my kids’ candy haul has become an annual tradition. And my kids, as nerdy as their parents apparently, cheer more for making pie charts than they do for the candy itself.

Here’s how it all panned out this year:

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 7.43.05 PM


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As in years past, my more-selective daughter had less variety in her candy bag than her brother did, but for the first time, my son has more total candy than his big sister.

Here’s the trend since 2013:

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 8.01.12 PM

Perhaps my son’s hands are closer in size to his sister’s this year, or maybe he’s less inhibited about displaying gluttony, or maybe people just like six-year-old sharks more than they do ten-year-old ninjas.

It’s also possible that our daughter’s relatively small haul is a reflection of her waning interest in trick-or-treating. As she said as I was tying the old t-shirt around her mouth and nose as part of her ninja costume, “I’m looking forward to trick-or-treating, but I’m just calm, not excited like I was last year.”

Then she added, once again proving that she’s my daughter: “And that’s good because I feel much better feeling calm than I do feeling excited. Feeling excited kind of makes my tummy hurt.”

Whether you like feeling excited or you prefer to feel calm, I hope your Halloween is as sweet as you’d like it to be!



My constant companion is anxiety—with just a smidge of depression—that I keep in check (mostly) with diet, mindfulness, journaling, an hour or more of exercise each day, and one massage a month. It works, mostly, to keep the eddy of worry from swirling into panic, but it’s a delicate balance and when my spouse goes out of town and I’m left with all of the responsibilities, my barely-held-in-check anxiety goes into hyper-overdrive.

I’m wound so tight, if you bumped into me, I’d twang like a guitar string. Or I’d deck you, just because I’m in this perpetual fight-or-flight thing that has me screaming at drivers who randomly try to give me the right-of-way even though they have a stinking green light and are going straight and if I turn left in front of them and at that moment someone decides to pass them, I’m in an accident and it’s my fault because I didn’t have the right of way. I don’t care how much you blink your lights and wave your arm, there’s no stinking way I’m turning in front of you because you have a green light! Green means Go, and following that rule is what makes the world work and keeps us from descending into chaos. Chaos!

When I’m not in the car, I indulge in escapism—part of the anxiety package deal—and since I’ve got urchins to care for and I can’t literally escape, I “escape” via the Internet. Doing this, it doesn’t take long before I find the posts about about how wonderful gratitude is. Science has proved that gratitude is the secret to being happy and not-anxious, so if I just give it a try, I’ll be calm and fine, and everyone else will be spared my shitty moods.

But gratitude doesn’t work that way for me.

Whenever my spouse is out of town, I think about my mom and how she had three kids compared to my two and how my dad was on cruise with the Navy for six to ten months every other year rather than a week or so three or four times a year, and you know what? It doesn’t help.

Yes, I am grateful that the guy who scoops the cat litter and brushes the little kid’s teeth before bedtime and does the dishes so I can be alone before 9pm is only gone for a week rather than ten months. I’m grateful that I can leave him a voice mail or send him an e-mail any time I want to, or, if it’s a big emergency, I can call his hotel because I know where he is, unlike my mother who wasn’t allowed to know beyond the most general descriptions where my dad’s aircraft carrier was.

Admittedly, I would feel more grateful if my spouse didn’t tell me about how great it is to sit in his kid-free hotel room drinking beer and watching football, and I’d also be grateful if he didn’t micromanage my handling of Garbage Day remotely, especially not while the kids are fighting with each other in the background and I’m trying to figure out what these maggoty things are all over the basement floor. (Turns out they’re acorn weevil larvae from the acorns we collected week before last. Public service announcement: don’t collect acorns with cracks or holes in them unless you like fat little grubs eating their way through the plastic bags you stored your acorns in.)


Even feeling grateful that the grubs weren’t something that would infest anything we have in the house because all they care about is acorns doesn’t make me feel better. (Okay, maybe a little better.)

Despite the promises of science, I’m able to feel anxious even while feeling grateful.

What gives? Am I just contrary? Not trying hard enough? A scientific anomaly?

Nope. Digging just a little deeper I found this:

In a study looking at the effects of sleep and gratitude on depression and anxiety in patients with chronic pain, researchers “found that after controlling for the amount of sleep people got, gratitude still had an effect on lower depression scores. This means that regardless of their levels of insomnia, people who showed more gratitude were less depressed. With anxiety they found a different result. After controlling for sleep, gratitude showed no effect on anxiety. So while higher gratitude led to less anxiety originally, this is simply because it helped people sleep better, and sleeping better improved their anxiety.” (emphasis mine)

As it turns out, I’m not a freak of nature; I’m just a victim of the oversimplification of the results of scientific studies. (For those interested, here’s the abstract of what I think is the original article referenced in the link above: “The differential effects of gratitude and sleep on psychological distress in patients with chronic pain,” by Ng et al, published February 2013, in Journal of Health Psychology.)

Tonight after I put the kids to bed maybe I’ll turn off the computer and go to bed myself, feeling grateful that I’m getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

Yep, I’m sure it will happen just like that.


To Hell With Date Night

I have a confession:

I hate Date Night.

Seriously. Hate.

I love my spouse, but really, Date Night is just too much pressure, especially because we live in such a lame city with no live music or theater or decent restaurants. No improv or stand-up places. There’s candlepin bowling, but then you have to put up with the other bowlers. And we’ve done that already anyway.

We’ve gone hiking, but we do that with the kids and it’s getting dark so early now, I’m worried we’ll surprise a skunk, which would make for a memorable Date Night, but not a terribly fun one.

Last time we had a Date Night, we went to the lawyer’s office and signed our wills and then went grocery shopping. Read More

Wrapsody Bali Baby Breeze gauze wrap-style baby carrier. This pattern is called "Morgaine."

No Easy Way

Wrapsody Bali Baby Breeze gauze wrap-style baby carrier. This pattern is called

Wrapsody Bali Baby Breeze gauze wrap-style baby carrier. This pattern is called “Morgaine.”

My spouse and I had just signed our wills, a task that had been on our to-do list since I was pregnant with our daughter ten years before, and were so excited to know that our kids would be going where we wanted them to go should we both kick off before they reached adulthood, we decided to celebrate with a trip to Whole Foods.

It was a hot date.

As we stacked kale and cans of beans on the conveyor, the mom in the line beside ours was soothing her infant, who was clearly not content with being in the stroller. She jostled the stroller and said things to him in a sweet, Mommy voice and he gradually calmed down.

“I remember those days,” I said. “My daughter hated the stroller. I ended up wearing her every time we went anywhere because she would cry so hard.”

“That must have been so hard!” the mom said.

I didn’t know how to respond. I’d shared that little tidbit as a way to show her empathy, but had she thought I was trying to get empathy from her? And I was a little confused, too, because I’d worn my babies not because I liked the more difficult path, but because it was easier for me than using the stroller.

That’s not to say it was easy. I’d clearly unnerved my fellow shoppers at a variety of businesses by swinging my baby onto my back and strapping her on with the mei tai or Didymos wrap. And getting items from the bottom shelf was a challenge with an extra twenty-plus pounds on my back. I’d never figured out how people with stroller babies used a public restroom. I just wore my babies into the stall with me. My biggest challenge was making sure my pants were fastened under the carrier strap around my waist. (Sometimes I met that challenge, and sometimes…)

But whether we wear our babies everywhere or use a stroller or carry them in the car seat bucket, parenthood is just hard.

After two kids, I recognize that the easiest path is one of surrender, but actually surrendering is often the hardest thing to do. When my daughter was screaming herself red in the stroller in the middle of Staples or on our otherwise pleasant walks under the eucalyptus trees in the California spring or in the nursing bra section at Target or sitting in the lactation consultants’ waiting area, one thing was clear: I was doing it wrong. Everyone else seemed to be doing the exact same thing I was, and yet their babies were smiling or sleeping or at least not wailing.

It was an act of surrender to dig the sling out of the garbage for the fifth time and attend a La Leche League meeting for a tutorial. I was crying “uncle” and stepping outside of the mainstream, using products I couldn’t buy at Babies R Us, and leaving the bucket in the car.

It wasn’t the first surrender—I’d already surrendered to the science fiction way in which my body had expanded and shifted over ten months; I’d surrendered to the reality that my baby hadn’t read the baby manuals and seemed intent upon never, ever sleeping; I’d even surrendered to watching “The 700 Club” at 2am when I was up nursing my finally-quiet infant and the remote control slid out of my reach from inside the elaborate arrangement of pillows and rolled-up towels that made nursing possible in those first weeks—but it was the first conscious choice I’d made to surrender.

My baby wouldn’t stop crying when she was in the stroller or car seat bucket. My baby would (sometimes) stop crying when I was holding her, therefore, I needed to find a way to hold my baby constantly and still fulfill my need to use my arms.


Once I’d made that surrender, other surrenders became easier. When I had my second baby, I just assumed I wouldn’t get more than four consecutive hours of sleep for the next four years. I was pleasantly surprised when it took much less time than that, but it really helped to have low expectations. I didn’t even buy a car seat with a removable bucket, nor did I attempt to establish a sleep schedule. I just wore the baby to gymnastics class and preschool story time and Costco and play dates and the zoo and anywhere else my four-year-old’s schedule took her, and he napped whenever he could.

That first surrender, though, was the tough one. The only reason I was able to make it and sustain it was because I found a group of families to show me that there was another way to do things and to offer me the community I needed to make me feel like less of a freak.

In two of the three states in which I’ve been a parent, that community came from La Leche League. Where I am now, LLL is different, and I’ve not felt the connection with the local group that I have in other places. I miss that community of outside-the-mainstream mothers and that chance to offer a different way of doing things just by taking a trip to the library with a kid on my back. Now that my kids are older and I no longer nurse in public or wear my kiddos to show another way of doing things, I try to offer a verbal picture of that other way of doing things when I see a mom struggling. Not that she has to do things the way I did, but maybe just by seeing that there are options, she can feel more confident that she’s making a choice rather than feeling trapped in just a single way of doing things.

But with the reaction I got from that mom in Whole Foods that day, I suspect that people see those kinds of comments as just another criticism of the way they’re doing things. Maybe I’m doing more harm than good by making these comments. Maybe that’s not the kind of community people are seeking.

Or maybe the new crop of moms just want to—and perhaps have to—find their own way.


The Ring of Power

I was on the phone when my six-year-old ran into the room, grabbed my hand, and began working my wedding ring off my finger. Once he’d wiggled it free, he looked up at me and grinned conspiratorially then put it on and hid behind the bed.

This has been happening for the past week or so and is a symptom of the Lord of the Rings mania that’s gripped him since we read the books together (and pointedly did not watch the movies). Apparently, my wedding ring is the Ring of Power, and he uses it to turn invisible at bedtime and cleanup time.

When I asked him why it is I don’t turn invisible when I wear it, he said in what I think was supposed to be a British accent, “It only works with its true ownah.”

But I wonder sometimes if my wedding ring really does make me invisible, or at least makes it possible for me to be invisible. We’re past the era of me being “Mrs. Husband’s Name.” My spouse and I both hyphenated our names, each taking the other’s last name and tacking it to our own, but people generally attribute my original last name to him, leaving me essentially invisible name-wise despite the hyphen.

And although I could easily fall back on the “Mrs. Husband’s Name” formality or take my spouse’s last name in a non-hyphenated form, our marriage allows me to be invisible in other ways.

I can let my spouse’s name be the only one on our utility bills and on our mortgage, making me largely invisible to creditors.

As a stay-at-home parent, I am invisible in the work world.

People in some of our social circles see us as such a package deal that they talk to one of us as a representative of both, and because my spouse is taller, louder, male, and more approachable (he smiles more and doesn’t scowl when he’s thinking), he’s usually the one who gets talked to.

Mostly, this is more an asset than a liability. Every time someone asks the question about which superpower you’d prefer—flight, x-ray vision, or invisibility—I always pick invisibility. I prefer to be anonymous most of the time. I prefer to let my words speak for themselves without my name and personality attached. I prefer to be able to leave when I want to and have people walk past me when they’re looking to gossip or engage in political machinations.

I actively do not want to be famous. If I’m known, I want to be quietly known as someone solid, someone who can be depended upon, and as someone who cares more about outcome than about getting credit.

Until my wedding ring became the Ring of Power, it didn’t occur to me that by marrying I’d actually facilitated this invisibility.

I don’t think it works the same way for my spouse. His visibility doesn’t seem affected at all by our marriage. If anything, he’s got more piled onto his identity, carrying me and our kids in addition to his career.

I wonder how this works in same-sex marriages. Is there always an invisible spouse and a visible spouse? Is this a male-female dynamic, or just intrinsic to coupled relationships? Or maybe it only happens in relationships like mine in which one party is happy being invisible.

What do you think? Is there an invisible/visible dynamic in your relationship? If so, to what do you attribute it—individual personality/preference, societal expectations, or something else?