No Matter What Love

We are raising our kids in a difficult time, aren’t we? I have no comparison. I haven’t raised kids in any other era; however, as each headline pops up, the latest terrorist bombing on Quetta Hospital in Pakistan 8 days ago killing 70 and injuring 130; the shooting and killing of a black man in Milwaukee, WI, and the riots and police protests that have ensued, following the innumerable hate crimes against humanity that have already played out. With each attack, my heart aches for those suffering, and my eyes dart towards my three fortunate kids, playing soundly in the living room. I look at each one of them, and I am thankful they are here and that they are healthy. With each injustice I hear about or read about, my responsibility mounts, and I wonder how I will discuss these tragedies, these inequalities with my three children. These three children that play with their hearts filled with love and their lives filled with boundless energy and childhood adventures.

In two weeks, my two eldest will start kindergarten. I’ve been thinking a lot about what tools I want to equip them with as they begin this new endeavor. We’ve been doing a lot of role-playing. Sometimes, I will play the role of being the bully, one of them will play the friend being bullied, and the other will play the role of either the bully or the bullied. We take turns with these roles. Then we talk about what was said, how it made us feel, and what we could have said or how we can all help each other in these difficult encounters. We talk about why we think a bully would say the things that were said, and how we can help the bully so maybe next time he or she will be nicer. We’ve talked about how sometimes people bully others because they are different. Maybe because they don’t understand someone else that is different. For example, we’ve talked about how sometimes, the food we eat, is different than a lot of foods other people eat. We chat about how if someone makes a negative comment about what we are eating, we can respond, “That’s okay, it’s probably just something you haven’t tried, but this is something that I grew up eating and I really like it.” Except, interpreted and translated through their minds, it comes out something like, “It’s okay, this food is something I was born with.” We’re working out the details, but what’s important to me, is that they start to process this information and react to things in ways that convey tolerance, acceptance, and kindness. We are starting with food (because my son is obsessed with food) but I’m hoping to branch out from here.

I recently read an article that the discussion about race should start with your children now. There is not a time you should be waiting for; by not talking about it, we are allowing them to form their own prejudices and allowing that to be okay. I read on about how kids are noticing these differences and making their own assumptions and categorizations. I had never thought about this, and this was alarming to me. But as I thought about it, I thought back to conversations between my son and daughter. How they would talk about kids in their pre-school classes, and one of the things my son would ask my daughter at 4 years-old when trying to figure out who in her class she was talking about, was, “Well, was she wearing pants or a dress or tights today? Did she have a bow in her hair? What color was it? Is she white or brown?” I never thought much of it. It was a descriptor to him like any other descriptor. But if he was noticing this, then yes. Maybe it was time to start talking more openly about race and inequalities.

Max and Sofia. I want you to know that I love you no matter what. I have loved you since the day you were born. There are times when I may be disappointed or mad about your actions, but even at those times, I love you. I would love you if you were tall or short, had long hair or short hair, had white skin or brown skin, had brown eyes or green eyes. I would love you if you wanted to play soccer or football or no sports at all. I would love you if you wanted to dance or do gymnastics or sing or none of the above. I would love you if you loved to read or do math or crafts or science projects. It just wouldn’t matter. I would love you. No matter what. It is mom’s no-matter-what-love promise to you. I think a parent’s love is the best kind of love, because all you have to do is be born, and mom and dad will love you no matter what. It is really that simple.

I think it is at the core of being human that makes someone want to love others and be loved by others. Love is the most powerful of things and is at the core of it all. Let’s extend the love between a mom and her child to the love between other people. Every person is someone’s child. Mommy is A-ma and A-gong’s daughter. Daddy is Grandma and Grandpa’s son. And A-ma and A-gong love mommy not because my hair is black, not because I have brown eyes, not because I like to run and read and write, but they loved me even before they knew all that about me. When I had no hair, and all I did was eat, cry, and sleep. And that has never changed. Grandma and Grandpa love daddy not because his hair is blonde, not because he wears glasses, not because he likes to run and root for the Cubs in baseball, but because they have always loved him.

The best kind of love is this love. The no-matter-what love. Why is mommy telling you so much about this? Because, this is what I want you to look for in every single person you meet at school. I want you to see that every friend in your class is worthy of being loved by someone no-matter-what, just like you. It may be their mom and dad. Or maybe they don’t have a mom, or don’t have a dad. Then maybe their no-matter-what-love comes from their grandma or grandpa. Or maybe from their aunt or uncle. Or their brother or sister. Or maybe they have two moms or two dads and that’s where their no-matter-what-love comes from. Or maybe they have a mom and no dad or a dad and no mom. Every story of your friends’ families will be different. I want you to notice all these differences. And I want you to know that no matter if their skin color is white or brown, hair is black or blonde, eyes are brown or green, no matter if they are tall or short, like math or recess, science or music, they are just like you where it matters. You can be mad or disappointed or happy about their actions, but they are people that deserve no-matter-what love.

Sometimes, you might see other kids that don’t see this about others in your class, or maybe they don’t see this about you. They may bully others or make fun of others because of what they eat, because of what they wear, because of their skin color, because they believe in God or they don’t believe in God. It happens to kids and to grown-ups too! I think that is because they forget that we are all the same in the middle. That we all deserve to have someone love us no-matter-what.

It makes me panic that I cannot be at school with you every day, telling everyone that I love you, and that everything that makes you different is what I love about you, but this is a part of growing up, and this is what everyone else in your class is going through. You are going to learn about everyone’s differences, and I want you to notice them, I want you to think about how they are different from you and how they are like you and know that everyone is worthy of love. If you get nothing else from this year of school, focus on this. Focus on opening your eyes to all the differences and know that everyone is worthy of no-matter-what love.


Dinner Prep

11:19 pm. I am stirring butter and marshmallows in a pan making my kids rice krispie treats. Since my kids had these little morsels of sugary bliss at their grandma’s house last weekend, they have been asking and asking about rice krispie treats. So, I thought, might as well give it a gander. My first attempt at this delicious treat. Um, why was this my first attempt at making this delicious treat??? Prior to this, I had been cutting onions and carrots and setting up the Crockpot to dump beef stew contents into in the morning. 11:19 pm may be an odd time to start making dinner and treats for the next day, but you find time when you find time, and it turned out to be a glorious hour of uninterrupted, quiet, peaceful, no 2-year-olds-to-trip-over therapeutic cooking session.

Now. Don’t start thinking I am some modern-day Betty Crocker type. HA. Many days look more like Jimmy John’s drive-through windows or frozen chicken strips and frozen green beans. By the way, it truly does freak me out how fast Jimmy John’s can make a sub. Ironically, it equally irritates me when I am at the JJ drive-through and I am not getting freaked out because they are taking an absurdly “normal” amount of sub-making time.

I digress.

My point is that, like most, I fiercely love my family. And even when I am not there, even when I am working evenings or days or at meetings or interviews or with friends or out with my husband, I want them to know that my heart is always with them. Last week my daughter had dance camp. Every night, no matter if it was 10 pm or 3 am, I would pack her lunch for the next day. I could only be there one of the five days to pick her up and drop her off. She asked me yesterday, “Mommy, on the days you weren’t there, who packed my lunch?” “I did.” I told her. Her heart erupted into a smile that peaked through her almond brown-eyed, button-nosed face. It wasn’t so much that she was blown away that the amazing chef behind her ham and cheese sandwiches was me, I think it was more that every day, no matter if I was physically present or not, I was thinking about her, I was the loving hands behind her (sometimes soggy) lunch. I’m going to hold onto that smile. I’m going to hold on to that smile so freakin’ tight as I launch into another epic stretch of shifts.

I don’t know which is tougher. Days I am home or days I am not. Because, man, both can be seriously tough. I do know that the days I am gone, my heart aches. To damper that ache, I make dinner at 11 pm at night. I love knowing that tomorrow night when I am at work and not there, they will eat yummy beef stew with carrots and onions and potatoes that I prepared. I imagine their faces lighting up when they see they get an after dinner dessert of rice krispies with sprinkles. Yes, sprinkles. What the heck. They are not usually sugared up kids. And let’s be honest. I won’t be the one herding them to bed tomorrow night. (Sorry Husband, Love of my Life) I’ll only be the hero that put their all-time favorite sprinkles on an already sickly sugary treat. Winning.




Today. Love is Greater than Hate

My heart is breaking today. It has been breaking with every news alert that flashed across my cell phone throughout the night. Every alert of another human life fallen made me feel anguish, desperation, bewildered, devastation. From the recent mass shooting in Florida to the bombings in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia to the recent lives lost in Minnesota, and Louisiana, to the shooting and killing of police officers last evening in Texas . . . What has happened to our sense of humanity?

We mourn for the families of those who have lost lives. We weep for the joys and love these shootings have haphazardly and suddenly ripped from their families’ daily existence. We hope for peace during these tragic, senseless acts that leave their communities feeling hollow. We hope for unity in this fragmented nation and world of ours.

I find myself asking, is this rock bottom? Please let this be rock bottom. How much more can we escalate with hatred? With anger? With our inequalities? With our attacks against one another? How many more lives? Devastation is reverberating through our nation, and reactions span the spectrum from disbelief to anger to outrage to deep anguish.

As I plugged along the overnight shift, with news alerts flashing across my phone stacking on the heartbreak and terror occurring across the nation, I am reminded of my last patient of the morning. She was a kind woman who had gotten her hand slammed in her back door and came in with a bloodied finger. As I washed her finger off and started to stitch it back together, the background news she was watching was reporting about the events of the night, of the officers that had lost their lives. About the presumed shooter that was now dead. There was anger and hatred in the man’s voice that I could hear giving a speech. He was saying how police officers have been made targets, ultimately faulting our president. I listened while hunched over the bright light shining overhead, carefully pulling together wound edges with each stitch. The woman said, “I just worry about my grandbaby. She is 10 months old. She is my world.  Do you want to see her picture?” Of course I wanted to see her picture.

In the midst of all this hatred, we turn to our loved ones. We worry about their future. We feel heartbreak for those that can no longer worry about their loved ones’ futures. In the midst of all this, I remember the love. During this hateful, angry broadcast, I will remember this woman’s love for her granddaughter and the picture she eagerly presented of her granddaughter in that adorable ruffle-butt swimsuit, proudly standing while holding onto an oak cabinet.

None of us can predict where we go from here. We hope that we will start to unite. Start to heal together. Start to propagate love. And this starts with you and me. This starts with us and extends to those around us, especially to our children.

There are a few things I am absolutely intolerant about with my children.

  1. Acting unkindly towards others
  2. Disrespect
  3. Acting without compassion

I have zero tolerance for these things. There is absolutely no circumstance in which hateful, disrespectful, heartless behavior is valid and acceptable. My kids know that any such behavior will be met with their mother’s wrath. They know better.

And here we are. As a nation of Americans. Propagating hate. Propagating disrespect. Trying to find the right steps forward in the aftermath of heartless crimes.

The one thing I take solace in right now, is that there is love and it will shine through. I will continue to teach my kids that color is just a color. That sexual orientation is no different than being right-handed or left-handed–it is a part of who we are. That females and males alike are competent and strong. That religion of any spectrum is faith that helps each individual guide them through life. That love is greater than hate.

That love is greater than hate.

That love is greater than hate.

That love is greater than hate.


A Work Day That Ends in Sushi

Previously published on:

My husband and I waited seven years to get married; in those months after we became engaged, before I even picked my dress or wedding colors, I had already started planning for the family that occupied our daydreams. We’d have three kids; I was sure of it. We would have two boys and one girl. Of course, our baby girl would be the youngest so she would have two older, protective brothers. They would come on cue two years apart.

Instead, I picked my strapless A-line dress, we settled on red roses and ivory linens with gold trim, we got married, and we had six miscarriages.

I would get pregnant, and just as we would allow ourselves that hopeful glimpse of the first trimester final stretch, I would miscarry. It was crushing. Yet it became a cycle that I became all too familiar with. My emotions became a pattern of predictability: excitement, anxiety, devastation.

By my third miscarriage, the emotional strain of losing each baby I had lovingly carried  brought me to the point of buckle-at-the-knees desperation . . . followed by a sinking relief. I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to wake up another morning asking, is my baby’s heart still beating? I would let my anxiety wash away, replaced by a heaviness in my heart, and almost a strange sense of peace. It was a dark place to be, but a familiar dark place. A place that I could control.

In the midst of uncertainty, I even developed a miscarriage routine. Routine was something I could do. And something I could do well, on my terms. It was a way to say, “I got this.” Even if I didn’t.

 I would realize I was miscarrying, and continue through my day. Continue to care for other people, to smile and joke, when inside, I was hurting so much. I was thinking, “I know you are hurting, patient-in-my-emergency-department, and please be assured I will do my best to take care of you, but you see, what I can’t tell you is that my baby is dying and I am hurting too.”

My baby is dying right now as I stitch up this cut on your finger. My baby is dying while I try to figure out why you are having abdominal pain. My baby is dying while I tell your loved ones you are having a heart attack. My baby is dying and I can’t take care of her the way I can take care of you.  My baby is dying and no one knows it but me.

After work, I would call my husband, then stop to get the sushi I had craved since learning I was pregnant. I would go home and focus on the pain of my cramps, because that was exponentially easier than acknowledging my broken heart. When everything passed, I would mentally brush my hands off and ready myself for the next time. That was my routine. My miscarriage routine.

I was riddled with guilt over everything about it.

During this two-year period, I felt like a failure. I felt like a weak woman. I felt I was doing something wrong. I felt it was my fault. I felt guilty. I felt inadequate. I felt out of control. I felt ashamed. I had never felt so vulnerable and nothing had ever felt so personal.

A year into the process, I went to an infertility specialist and received the million-dollar work-up. Nothing was wrong. How could nothing be wrong? But test after test confirmed that, “Congratulations! Nothing is wrong!” Translation: there is nothing we can fix. I was started on this medication and that medication, because “It’s worth trying.” I was hopeful, but hopeless. I was exhausted from this constant testing of my emotional strength.

And then it was our seventh pregnancy, and this time–twins!!!! Twins!!! My excitement was quickly followed by a flood of anxiety. My husband and I kept our news to ourselves. We held our breaths.   We had been through this. We tiptoed around our fears, whispering to one another, stifling the excitement we held in our glances towards one another, and we waited. And waited. And my belly grew. And I had no cramps. And I had no bleeding. And I saw their heartbeats. Time and time again.

The infertility specialist said we didn’t need him anymore. I sat still in his clean, slightly-dated office, in the same blue upholstered chair with its thin wooden arm rests, the same chair I had sat in for two years, staring at the same framed picture of him and some big fish he had caught with his nephew, and I weighed the heaviness of his words. Then I broke down in wave after wave of tears. We didn’t need our infertility specialist anymore.

We passed three months. And four months. And five, and six, and seven, and eight!!!!! And two healthy beautiful babies were born.  They are beautiful to this day. I stare at them sometimes, and marvel at how they came to be.

Sometimes when I am tucking in my five-year-old daughter at night, I tell her, “Do you know that you are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined?” What I mean to say is, everything about her existence is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

When we decided to have a third, I was ready for the journey. I was nervous of going through the process again, but having had our twins, I knew it was more than worth it. The day we decided we wanted to try again, I put up my defenses against my own emotions.

Five weeks later, just like that, we found out we were pregnant. I braced myself. I was fearful this would become another pregnancy that would fall victim to my routine. I went in for ultrasounds every week. Week after week, there was a heartbeat—I couldn’t believe my ears. And then our beautiful baby girl came into our lives seemingly seamlessly. It was too good to be true, but it is true.

These three beautiful babies of ours.

I realize now after eight pregnancies and three babies and innumerable dreams for our family, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There never was. There was nothing I failed at.

 These days, when I see the chief complaint of “possible miscarriage” show up in my emergency department, I want to see that patient. Not because I can provide better care than my colleagues, but because I want to share my story. Mother to mother. I want to give them hope and I want them to know they are not alone. I am unashamed of the tears that fall from my face when I share in their grief and acknowledge my own. I want them to know it is okay to grieve and natural to feel defeated, and then it is okay to hope again when you are ready.

Sushi has once again become my favorite food. When I eat it now, it doesn’t taste the way it once did. I don’t feel like I am swallowing heartache, loss, and failure. These days, when I stop for sushi at the end of a long day, I bring it home to share with my three children and husband. We talk about what was good about our days, what could have been better about our days, what we look forward to tomorrow. It has become our family favorite meal.  No words can express what these days that end with sushi mean to me now.

I am thankful for everything I have been through. It has given me what I have, it has given me who I am, and it has given me what I have to share. And most of all, it has given me and my husband our beautiful, healthy children.

Sweet Claire is Two!

Oh, Sweet Clarabelle! Today you are two! My heart can barely take it! I never imagined having a girl like you, and everything I could never imagine makes me so proud of the little girl that you are. You are Sass. You are independent. You are daring. You are brave. You will do it your way. You walk with confidence and the cutest diaper waddle strut. You are on a mission, and nothing will stop you. You will climb up the biggest ladder to go down the biggest slide, and if Dad tries to hover over you, you will be sure to speak your mind, and tell him, you got this. It makes your dad sweat, but it makes us so proud that this is who you are.

Even better than this fierce independence, is this crazy innate compassion you have for people. Since you learned to walk, you have learned to walk up and comfort your family when they are sad, not feeling well, or just plain tired. You will run and grab blankets for your grandparents and siblings when you think they don’t feel well or when they are sleeping. You try desperately to cover them in the blanket you found, and pat them ever so gently. I think about this weekend, and how your brother awoke from his nap a groggy, still sleepy guy, snuggled in my lap. You grabbed a blanket, put it over him, and patted him on his hair. You subsequently stopped mid-play, three times, to check on him. “Ok Dax?” you would say, as you offered him a stuffed animal, a toy, his water bottle in your effort to cheer him up. Whenever your dad sneezes, whether it be right next to you or from a room down the hall, you always turn his way and say, “Ok Daddy?” When you see your big sister crying, you squat down and put your face in hers, and babble soothing words and kiss her on the cheek. When you bounced a little too hard on my legs, and I let out a grunt, you stopped to ask, “Ok Mommy?” When you saw two dogs fighting at the park, you murmured, “It’s ok.” Oh, sweet, Claire, where does this huge heart and sense of compassion come from? It is truly amazing, and there is nothing I love to watch more than you watch over our family, with those little grunts of effort as you try to lift a huge blanket up onto the couch to cover your grandma when she is napping.

I love to try and guess what kind of girl you will be. Will you be a tutu-twirling, dancing, singing, pink princess like your sister? Or will you gravitate towards sports and getting dirty outside? I think what you have proven to us thus far, is that you cannot be categorized as any one type of girl. You love your bracelets and necklaces and headbands (or, your sister’s bracelets, necklaces and headbands.) You love being chased, tickled and swung upside down. You laugh with pure joy when you slide down the slide and fall in the mud, yelling “OW!” as you pick yourself up and giggle and climb back up to the top. You try to climb on your brother’s bike to take it for a spin, leaving your tricycle as if it is too baby for you. You are your own girl, and no one is going to define that for you but you. And all we can do is follow along—nothing could make us prouder.

You have already grasped the concept of sarcasm. I suppose there is no way you couldn’t, being part of our family. Your favorite thing to do is offer us your favorite foods, “here go, Mama”, and when I reach for your sticky, wet handful of raisins, you pull away and smile that devious smile promptly stick the handful in your mouth, erupting in fits of giggles at your trickery.

I have to bite my lip when I witness how you handle adversity. When you get in trouble, and you are sent to time out, you protest, you cry, then you settle down. And when it is time to come out of time out, you have the biggest grin on your face, trying to disarm your disciplinarian. Or sometimes, you waltz right into time out, defiantly, as if this was the plan all along, and come out, head held high, smiling as if there is nothing that you are not in charge of about this situation. Sometimes, when we are warning you that your time to listen will be over in “1, 2, . . . “ you chime in with us at “threeeee” before you decide to listen, as if we are prepping together for the next big step to finish the squash on your plate.

How can one girl be so fierce, and yet so full of fun-loving energy and compassion? We don’t know how you do it, sweet girl. But I can see it in your father’s eyes. You have your parents by the heart strings. Your brother and sister adore you, want to take care of you, and love you. We cannot imagine our lives without you.

Happy birthday, Sweet Clarabelle. Keep braving forward, and we will keep chasing after you, proudly trying to keep up with your every, independent step.

We love you always.

When The Village Is Not Available

As Previously Published:

Last night was parenting misery at its finest. My husband was out of town, our part-time nanny and our back-up part-time nanny have both recently had changes in their schedules and are no longer available, my in-laws wouldn’t have been able to make it to our house in time, my close friend emergency contact was at an event and unavailable. So there I was. My village unavailable. Three kids. Hit with the worst migraine I can recall having in the last four years. The last time I had a migraine this awful, our previous full-time nanny had changed her dinner plans, come over for the last hour of the kids’ day, to just tuck them in because I was too debilitated to make it another hour. I awoke from that haze of a migraine to see the dishes in the sink washed, the house picked up, the kids in bed, and blissfully clean quietness. If I wasn’t already in love with our nanny before, I certainly fell hard for her at that minute, right then and there.

Well. Now the love of my life has moved to North Dakota (my former nanny—not to be confused with my husband), and there I was. Sharp, stabbing pain coursing through my left eye to the back of my neck, the nausea warning me as to what was to come, the dimmest light making me feel as if I was staring into the core of the freaking sun, barely able to keep my eyes open. I profusely thanked my type A self for pre-prepping dinner for the kids. I plated their food and poured them their drinks, then curled my throbbing, pounding, close-to-vomiting self up on the couch. I called out orders from the couch to my newly promoted baby-sitting five-year-olds. “Is your baby sister done with her food? Is she eating? Can you get her some fruit? Can you make sure she doesn’t stand up in her high chair? Can you make sure she doesn’t stick her fork up her nose?  Can you get her milk?” I had been so proud of my aspiring Martha Stewart self for making the most adorable fruit skewers with peaches, blackberries, grapes, and strawberries. Now I was cursing myself for making those damn fruit skewers, imagining my 21-month-old stabbing her unsupervised eye with a skewer. Thank goodness for my doting son that plucked each piece of fruit off the skewer for her and put them on her high chair tabletop.

It was five o’clock and I was on the verge of breaking down wondering how I was going to shuffle my kids to take a bath, brush their teeth, get in pajamas, and make it to the end of the night. I could barely move. The voices of my boisterous five-year-olds had never sounded so LOUD; they were like splitting daggers hitting me in my left eye. If I moved, I might throw up. If I spoke, this intolerable pain was going to become worse. I could feel her adorable, piercing brown eyes staring quizzically in my direction, wondering why her mama was curled up in the dark on the couch and not eating with her. She just kept saying, “Mama. Mama. Mama.” To which I answered sparingly. My five-year-old baby-sitters finally told me my 21-month-old was done eating. I took a deep breath (mostly to pep talk my stomach contents to stay within the confines of my stomach), mustered up the last drop of energy and cleaned her off. She kept saying, “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked at her nose. Sure enough, she had stuck a corn kernel up her nose. Had she ever done that before? No. Did I have any energy to react? No. I took some tweezers and pulled it out. “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked up further. Ah yes. Another corn kernel jammed up the crevices deep into her left nostril. I thanked myself for choosing to go through the years of schooling and the years of training that made me a master of foreign object removal from toddler noses. If this was the pinnacle of my MD degree, it had made it all worth it. I removed it. Checked one more time. No more corn kernels. I reminded myself that next time I asked my five-year-olds to babysit, to add to the list of sub-standard expectations, “Can you  make sure she doesn’t stick food up her nose?”  I gave her a meek talking to, using half my energy to speak to her and half my energy to keep my nausea at bay. It was 6 o’clock, and she usually goes to bed at 7. But hey, what’s an hour. So she went to bed at 6:15 because I had no more left in me to make it another hour. I was lucky to be able to put her into pajamas, a night-time diaper, and to remove one of her pigtails.

I called down to my five-year-olds to come upstairs, get their pajamas on, and we would reconvene in my bedroom. I announced it was a bath and tooth-brushing national holiday and no one was getting proper hygiene that night. They lounged in bed with me, and watched indulgent amounts of cartoons—My teacher says TV is really bad for your brain. Duly noted, my dear daughter. Thank you for the public service announcement—while I curled up under the covers, and made a cameo appearance only to expel my stomach contents in the bathroom. In never before recorded history, I asked them to please tuck themselves into bed. They rolled with the punches. My son hugged me, kissed me, “tucked me in”, and turned off all the lights, and hushed his sister, “Be quiet. Mommy is sleeping. Stop talking to her.” And without much more fanfare, I heard their doors click closed and silence. I felt so, so thankful that the day was over, even more thankful for the best kids I could ask for, and laid in the dark willing this fierce pain in my head to subside.

The pain did subside, and today, I am back to myself. I remember a colleague saying that a sick child was no excuse for not coming to work. That everyone should have a back-up to their back-up to their back-up. Well, some people are not so blessed with a village to take care of their kids. And while I am that fortunate, sometimes, the stars just do not align. I am so lucky that for me, these moments are fairly rare. I don’t know how you do it, parents out there without a village. But I am in absolute awe of how you make your family work, whatever your family looks like. Keep it up, all you parent warriors. It isn’t easy, but man, if your children are fed, their teeth are brushed most of the time, they take a bath some of the time, then hey, from where I stand, you are killing it.

A Plea From My Fifth Grade Self

I sat there, heartbroken.  My first fight with my fifth grade best friend.  I can’t exactly remember what it was about.  Her choosing another partner for a project?  Me sitting by someone else during a student assembly?  All I remember is coming home from school, head held low, heart heavy, feeling conflicted and unsure.  My fifth grade self experiencing the growing pains of friendship.

I remember sitting on the couch after school, feeling listless.  My mom was busy in the kitchen making dinner.  I remember her haphazardly wiping her hands on a kitchen towel, her hands still damp, when she asked me, “What’s wrong?”

My eyes welled and a building army of tears threatened to charge forward, as one single drop went rogue and rolled down my left cheek.  Between dramatically sucked in breaths of air, I told her about my fifth grade heart broken day.

My mom, half-heartedly listened.  Then she smiled and said, “Oh Cindya” (she called me ‘Cindya’), “This is just a little fight with your little friend.  Friends come and go.  It is not something to be so upset about.”

I realize now she was right.  A trivial tiff between elementary kids.  Definitely nothing to be devastated over.  Yes.  There is a litany of worldly issues more worthy of our time.  However, in that moment, to that fifth grade version of me, there was no “seeing the bigger picture.”  Her comments only added to my insecurities and rejection on that day.  I vowed to remember that.  I vowed to remember that while my emotions may be a childish reaction to an inconsequential event, they were my emotions nonetheless, not to be dismissed.  I vowed to remember how I felt in that moment and to remember its importance when I was a parent myself.

So that is what I remember.  I sure don’t remember the fight.  And ultimately, my mom was right.  My fifth grade best friend is now a Facebook friend whose adorable pictures of her sons I like when I see them.  I wish her a happy birthday once a year when FB reminds me.  So yes.  It was not something to be upset about.  And yes, some childhood friends come and go.  And yes, there are innumerable experiences and issues that have since come to light that have much more significance than that day’s events.  But, as I dive into parenthood, I remember the voice of my fifth grade self.

The issues of your children may seem trivial to you.  You, as an adult who has gone through so many more life experiences.  You, as an adult that realizes how incredibly lucky your children are to grow up with what they have.  You, who are aware of so much more that is going on in the world that needs our efforts and attention. You may think that it is important to have those discussions of everything that we are fortunate to have and about the more worldly issues to provide your child a more global awareness outside of her trivial fifth grade world.  You may even think, it would be the perfect opportunity to discuss how confrontation and adversity is a part of life and this may be a moment to build on your fifth grader’s strength and character.  Well, my fifth grade self is telling you, this is not the time for that discussion.  At this very moment, what your child needs is your attention.  Your empathy.  Your validation that these emotions they are feeling are real.  That reactions and processing new experiences, good or bad, is worthwhile.

In not minimizing their emotions, you are in turn not minimizing them.  You are supporting them and reinforcing their confidence in how they navigate this moment’s challenge and conflict.   Let them know it matters, because to them, it truly does.  It matters as part of their growth regardless of whether this issue is fleeting or ultimately forgotten.

Help your child build the confidence to acknowledge these experiences that will help them mature and start to solidify their own sense of self so they can join you in tackling the bigger issues. And every other day, please do talk to them about the things that we are facing as a nation and beyond.  Teach them that they are part of a global picture.  But right now, go ahead and let them feel.  Let them be a fifth grader.

Until Our Boats Meet

When you are in school, from the minute you step off that big yellow bus in kindergarten to when you roam those high school halls a seasoned senior to those undergraduate days traversing your college campus, there were always your people. There was your best friend in third grade there to trade you her Hostess cupcake for your three Oreo cookies at lunchtime. There was your friend in sophomore geometry class kicking your chair to pass you that emergent note that couldn’t wait until after class: Meet outside the cafeteria after 5th period? There was your physics lab partner who you hysterically laughed with after she snapped yet another rubber band while trying to create that impossible suspension bridge in Thursday afternoon lab. There was even your roommate in your early 20’s, who never judged you when you ate yet another can of Spaghetti-O’s for dinner, because, well, she was eating the last bowl of Cup O’ Noodle soup.

And then you finish school, you find a job, you find yourself in the midst of adulthood, not yet feeling adult, and maybe you get married, and maybe you have kids. And then, all of a sudden, when you were least anticipating it, your people have changed. Your people are now crying, irrational, small little beings that need your constant attention, your constant assistance. You thought you knew mood swings, but wow, your two-year-old’s sudden change of attitude when he realizes the cup you gave him was purple, purple. The world-caving-in tantrum that ensues . . . You’ve never had this happen with any of your people in the twenty to thirty years of having people. The other of your people decides she will no longer sleep through the night. Because, after trying it out for the last 6 months of her life, she would prefer to regress to how life was in that first year of life, because, why not? And so now, you and your people are a hot mess. You and your daughter are sleep-deprived, and your son, well. HE GOT A PURPLE CUP for lunch. There is no coming back from here. You quickly do a sweep of the room. Is there anyone else here? Will anyone be casually walking through between classes or to catch up with you after lunch? No. It’s just you. In your house. With your people. Not until dinner time will another familiar, reasoning face walk in the door. So there you are. Hiding in the pantry, sneaking those Oreos with no one to trade them with, just to get a minute alone without your people.

And we wonder why we feel lonely.

Our days are packed. Packed with commitments, whether it be work outside the home, work inside the home, taking care of our families, embracing all the responsibilities of adulthood. But one thing that we need so very much is now missing. And that is the presence of friends and your people that related to your life on a daily basis. Wasn’t that calculus test ridiculous?  I’m pretty sure I made up the answer to every question!  Were you as bored as I was through that guest speaker’s presentation?  Can you believe what that guy said in class?

All of a sudden, you are not spending most of your days with people that are in your same boat. Instead, you are spending your days with little people trying to sink the boat you are emphatically paddling to keep afloat. This boat you are desperately trying to keep moving forward, and tidy, and with regulated screen-time. It is a tough boat to be on, and without all the people that used to row alongside you, its not only tough, but also lonely.

I have always valued my friendships, but I was never aware of the value of mom friends at this season in my life. This season when you can feel so alone in your struggles to just make life run in a semi-smooth fashion. So many days, I feel like I am tackling these battles myself. Facebook and parenthood memes tell me I am not, but it is hard to remember when you are in the midst of an emergency bath time evacuation of your three children after realizing your youngest has proudly demonstrated her ability to be potty trained and produced her #2 while sitting in a haven of bubble gum scented bubbles.   “Mama, poo poo bath!” She exclaims. Wow. What I would have given to have someone with me at that moment to tackle the logistics of how to . . . or at least to laugh with at in that moment of hysterics . . .

Do you ever catch yourself screening people you meet, wondering if they could be your friend? Your person? Wow, you have three kids? Ages 6 and under? Hmmm . . . where do you live? Not to be too forward, but could you be my best mom friend, please?? I want to blurt. Instead, I nod, and smile, and finish our small talk in the bread aisle at the grocery, and move on, because I have exactly 20 minutes until I have to leave and pick up the kids. But I do wish . . . I wish you could be my friend, and maybe make me feel less lonely, be my buddy to commiserate in the hilarity, the exhaustion, the constant juggling of this season of adulthood.

I guess what I have to say, is that friends are hard to come by in this season of our lives. For those of you who have found your mom friends, your people that aren’t walking runny-nosed, spirited beings with sticky fingers, I know you are thankful and I am happy for you. And so envious.  For those of you like me, that still chat a little bit longer than is comfortable with that person you meet in the store, you are not alone. We are not alone in feeling lonely. It’s okay, and we will keep our separate boats afloat until we find each other.




My Mistake: Imperfections are Real

Previously Published:

Since having children, I’ve started living my life in unexpected ways. I’ve changed my attitude and daily life in ways I never imagined I would or could. I’ve done these things to be the example I want to be for my children.  I’ve dug into my inner confidence and shown them that I am confident in who I am, I am confident in the body I was given and take care of, and I am confident in what I do. I’ve tried to show them I will put forth my strongest, best efforts, and that I will never shy away from responsibility. I try to show them I am passionate about what I do.  I try to show them the importance of a work ethic. I try to show them the importance of resiliency.   I try to show them that nothing matters more than love and your family.

Today, I realized that in all my efforts, what I’ve failed to show them is that imperfection is part of who we are and that it is okay. Please don’t get me wrong.  I am far from perfect, and I am the first to acknowledge that. I have insecurities, I am more likely to win the “most improved” award on any given day than “most likely to succeed”, and there are a million things I wish I could learn to do. But, in the eyes of my five year olds and 1 ½ year old, their mommy can do anything. They know that there are some things that mommy is better at, that daddy is better at, but they truly believe, we can do anything. And what I came to think about today is perhaps I am doing them a disservice by nurturing this impression.

This past week, our nanny that had been with us for four years before she moved, came to visit for a week. Today, she left to go home. Minutes after she left, we were driving away in the van. I looked back at my five-year-old son, and saw him biting his lip, blinking his eyelids rapidly, red circles forming around his eyes. My sweet, sensitive boy was sad and missing our nanny. When the van stopped, I crawled into the back seat, and wrapped my arms around my sweet boy. His tears brought tears to my eyes. I was just as sad as he was that our nanny had left. “I know buddy. We all miss her right now.  Look what you’ve done. You’ve made mommy cry.” I chuckled lightly. I saw my son look at me, wide-eyed, startled at what was happening. I realized then that my son had never seen me cry. Me. Sap that cries at every “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” episode. Me. Sap that cries at every Ellen DeGeneres give-away clip. My son, searched my teary eyes in panic, to make sure that everything was still right, that I was still me, and this was going to be okay. I smiled at him, “You know, buddy. It’s okay to cry. Mom cries too.” He looked at me unsure, and continued to stare, slightly bewildered, but slowly became reassured as I smiled through my tears and joked with him.

I realize that in trying to be an example to my kids, I have ignored a huge part of life and living and success: failure and imperfection.

I haven’t set my new year’s resolution yet, but I suppose my new year’s resolution, and maybe my new parenting resolution is to show my kids real life.  Show them the bad with the good. Show them the challenges I face, the failures I confront on a daily basis whether they are big or small. Show them that tears happen. That disappointment is part of life.

Without showing them I’m not always the best, I can’t show them how I regain my confidence. Without showing them my mistakes, I can’t truly show them strength. Without showing them my imperfections, I can’t show them how I try my best. Without admitting that I have to do things I don’t like to do, I can’t show them how I own my responsibilities and pursue my passions. Without telling them about the challenges I face, I can’t show them the importance of a work ethic.  Without telling them about my failures, I can’t show them the importance of resiliency. Without all these things, I can’t show them that no matter what, there is still love and there is still our family.

I guess what I want to say to my kids is, sorry. My bad. Let’s try this again tomorrow. And that’s okay.

This is the Time of Our Lives

Previously published:

My baseline default mode for the last five years has been “frantic.” I gave birth to my amazing twins, and if I thought I was “busy” before, I was sorely mistaken. The kind of acrobatics I came to accept as normal with juggling life and these “darling” newborns of mine was nothing short of chain-my-right-arm-to-a-40-pound-weight-and-ask-me-to-balance-a-stack-of-fine-china-on-my-forehead kind of acrobatics.

I remember a conversation I had with a colleague who confessed that he was not yet ready to have kids. “I’m not ready to give up my freedom,” he said. I didn’t think twice about what he said, really. Not ready? My ovaries have been rioting with their readiness for years! This conversation faded over my pre-baby months, and resurfaced with a vengeful vigor post-babies as I began to understand exactly what “give up my freedom” truly meant.

Giving up my freedom meant holding onto my full-three-hours-ago bladder just 10 more minutes (or 15 or 60 more minutes) while I finished changing my daughter’s dirty diaper, got their snack ready, and wiped up that weird stain on the carpet, and—is that another dirty diaper I smell? Dear lord, children! This is not a race to fill up the diaper pail!

Giving up my freedom meant forgoing brushing my teeth today because I had just finished breastfeeding the twins, and my daughter was already asleep, but my son was bright-eyed and ready to goo-goo and da-da-da, until of course, my daughter started to stir and wake up again.

Giving up my freedom meant staving off the surfacing panic as I came to the realization we were out of diapers in 3, 2, 1…and I needed to go to the store with both my infant babies.

Giving up my freedom meant date nights with my husband—wait, I can’t stop rolling with laughter. What are date nights with my husband?

I never knew what “I’m not ready to give up my freedom” meant. I could have smacked my colleague. Why hadn’t he shaken me ferociously and waved his hands frantically in my face while shouting and knocking some insight into my head so I truly knew what he meant? And by the way, was he some kind of secret sensei for figuring this out without ever having experienced it himself? Or was I just blinded by my ovaries?

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” is an ever-changing phrase these days. As my infants grew into little toddling an-injury-is-a-step-away cuties, it was a game of chase and keep track and forgo finishing that sandwich you have been craving for the last six hours. As they became so smart and so verbal, it was a game of respond to their every demand for blueberries, milk, their favorite stuffed dinosaur and clap vigorously at their potty-training-in-training achievements. Today, it is a game of “why?” and congratulatory compliments over their new family portrait with house and tree and sun.

I think back to before I had kids and how much that is all I longed for—to have a family. These idealistic daydreams I had of family life, of Janie and Jack-clad children playing sweetly with their not chipped or half missing set of wooden Pottery Barn Kids blocks. I think about the things that kept me busy before kids, that I still try to accomplish with a fraction of the attention and energy I paid it in the past. I think about my constant struggle between enjoying my kids and maintaining this person in this life I lead before them. And then, it all came together. I came to realize that maintaining this pre-children life was no life to be maintaining, because it wasn’t my life.

This is my life. This is our life.

This is the time of our lives—this life that my husband and I have nourished and that is the center of our world. These three kids of ours, that are constantly in tow, like our very own pack of three little ducks clipping at our feet. And it is a full life and an amazing life. And this is what I yearned for and am so, so lucky to have in all its imperfections and all its fullness.

When life changes, let your expectations change. This is the time of our lives. This is the time of our lives when the dishes can wait in the sink after dinner, because it is the holidays and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is on TV, and you are so excited to share this part of your childhood with your children.

This is the time of our lives, when my hair might (will) still be wet when I pull it back, because there are kids filled with joy who want to be a part of my day right now. There is my daughter who wants to show me her latest dance-twirl-robot move in her pink tutu with stars and flower-print leggings and princess slippers. There is my son who has 20—make that 40—questions during a football game as he discovers his love of the sport, and I discover the unexpected love I have for witnessing his flourishing passion for something.

There are their questions and commentary and the way they process and regurgitate information and memories when we engage in undistracted conversations that make me marvel at how their brilliant minds are growing.

There is the time when I step on another Cheerio and resist the urge to run for the vacuum and Swiffer WetJet, because my 18-month-old squeals in delight when she sees me break for the vacuum, thinking instead that I am coming to chase her, and she takes off in the cutest diaper-butt shaking baby sprint, clapping her sticky hands with pure glee. Why would I want to do anything but chase her? There are still the occasional 3 a.m. wake-ups when I pick up this sweet, sweet baby of mine and indulge in her warm tired body, snuggling on my chest as she falls back to sleep, burying her head deeper into my shoulder.

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” these days means that I will never go back to those pre-kid days and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is the time of our lives. The time I always daydreamed about, and now it is life and it is reality. This life is bursting at the seams. It is love. It is full. It is joy. It is tiring, exhausting, unrelenting. But it has never been better.