What the F have I been doing?

Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 2.38.44 PMI mean…its a fair question.

Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 2.35.57 PM.pngI have been dieting again. Keto this time. Same diet new name. In my twenties it was Atkins. A few years ago it was low carb. Now it is Keto. All three involve me melting cheese on a plate and eating it with a fork, drinking heavy cream, and consuming lots of red meat. It could be called the cow diet but then the pigs and chickens would be unfairly left out. Bacon. Eggs.

It sounds horrendously unhealthy. And yet…I have lost 45 pounds. I have stuck to the low carb plan since late July with a pretty baguette length break during our trip to France.

Other than dieting I have been busy with everyone’s third favorite subject. Volunteering at Middle School. Hey Denver join us for a lightly Star Wars themed Gala on May 4th.

Wait, while I’m talking to you Denver…check this out.

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It is my new project. I have a partner which makes it less lonely and more collaborative than this navel gazing blog. We are also looking for contributors. I am going to make you click through to learn more.

And hey Vermont: the Palmers are coming at you very very soon.

And hey other readers: sorry I have taken a sabbatical from writing about sex and parenting. Now that I have semi-retired is there anyone out there who wants to write about used underwear?

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Boob squashing and Anal probes

Lets go ahead and pretend I (you, everyone) will live to 90.

That means I hit my official middle age on Sunday.

I have big plans to continue my birthday month with some boob squashing, anal probes, slicing and dicing, and speculating the speculum. Happy happy birthday.

In light of the newest news about turkey breast causing colon cancer I started thinking, naturally, about colonoscopies. Luckily for me I have not one but two friends who are gastroenterologists. One in particular is the best kind of doctor friend. He stocks TUMs and reassurance in equal measure. We celebrate a love of food and drink together. At least we used to. I texted him after reading the article. (I don’t recommend following the link if you enjoy, well, anything cured.)

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 8.33.29 AMOn a side note I had to find this link (forwarded by my mother) amongst family obituaries, climate chance news, and an email that was titled READ/WEEP about the supreme court, Louisiana, and abortions. It is possible I need to send my mom some links from the onion to balance out her WEEPING. I will accept any suggestion for upbeat links that don’t include cat memes.

When I wrote to my non-alarmist MD friend I was hoping for some version of “remember the margarine scare- just keep on keeping on with your expensive “nitrate free” Applegate Farm turkey breast.” Instead he told me to go get a colonoscopy. Because the new age for colonoscopies is 45. And I am now 45. Happy happy birthday.

Having already scheduled my dermatologist growth check  (which is not height, cause I am busy growing weird skin stuff, not inches that allow me to reach above the fridge), I decided to move on the the GYN (dropped the OB because, 45 happy happy birthday.) I searched everywhere. Calendar, email, even my online medical records. Although I was able to celebrate having written down the password for the account, this is a triumph, I did not find anything about the gynocologist. I have been there. I even wrote about it. Yet no record at all. Luckily I was scheduled to bring Leo in for his 3 month dental cleaning (you read that right) which is in the same building as my primary care doc. I figured I would wait in line, have them look up my history and get a recommendation for a colonoscopyist at the same time. Efficient.

They tried. There was nothing. So I took their recommendations for the probing (x2) and headed upstairs to watch Leo squirm beneath the gritty toothpaste.

Sitting atop a stuffed Nemo toy I looked up the listing for the Digestive Health Center. I was only looking for the phone number, but instead I glimpsed the Google rating. 2.2 Hm. I wouldn’t get into an uber with a driver with a 2.2, perhaps this was not the office for me. Because I love comfortable conversations I asked the hygienist if that rating sounded low to her. “No.” She told me. “It’s not like it is a hair dresser or a nail salon where the reviews matter.”

Nemo and I sat with that for a bit while I checked out her hair in a greasy ponytail (no judgement) and tried to see her fingers but they were gloved and deep inside my son’s mouth. It seemed time to dig a little deeper.

I looked up 10 colonoscopy places. Their ratings ranged from 2.1-3.0.

It is possible that no one likes colonoscopies. Happy happy birthday.

On our way home we stopped at Subway. I got a tuna salad. Leo got turkey breast. It is a long time until he is 45.

Sadly it turns out that the website that hosted my skin post is no longer. (Perhaps it made it to 90?) So I have added The Garden of Delights post here:


ethan-sexton-1085981-unsplashI might have a “black thumb” when it comes to the raised flower beds that surround my sunny yard, but if you take a close look at my skin, you can revel in a veritable garden of delights.

The best things my body ever grew were my boys, but these days I have moved on from human gestation to the growth of cutaneous curiosities. I have the typical skin tags and small calcium deposits that every self-respecting woman sports; I also have a wide selection of moles and blood-filled, three-dimensional red dots that are less common but still in the repertoire of reality. A step less appetizing, however, are my flat-lying and flapping brown bits.

There is an adage in planting that goes: “the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.” Wow, have I leapt since the years of my youth—in fact, I’ve leapt so far that I now have a punch card to the dermatologist.

As the doctor peers at my naked self, she names things in Latin. What I call a “dot,” she refers to as some multisyllabic symptom of hormonal imbalance. On it goes: I give her a tour of my skin garden, pointing out the perennials and annuals, from hairline to armpit to underboob. She touches and names them all, then dismisses them with a shrug. “Nothing to worry about,” she says, pulling off her gardening gloves. She seems a little disappointed that I don’t have anything particularly spectacular, but still impressed by the mere multitude of my marks.

Generally, growth is considered a good thing: meditation, yoga, therapy, and journaling all catalyze personal growth. But personal growths? Those are a bit different.

I have ignored almost all of my epidermal friends in the past, just as my doctor expects me to. I think of them as constellations, unfathomable and ever-growing. Once I grew a blueberry, that grew into a grape, that then grew its own blueberry. I called it “my thing” and thought of it as the sister I never had. When I felt really alone, I would talk to her. Then, one day by the pool, a ten-year-old friend of my son tried to pick her off my back, thinking she was a mislaid piece of fruit from our snack. I’m not sure which of the three of us was most mortified, but that was the end of her.

Today I am battling back, lying prone, waiting to be cut and cauterized. The dermatologist is suited up with gloves and glasses and shears. In the brightly-lit office, she leans between my legs, the way only a select few have in the past. She oohs and sighs. Things are very interesting down there. Much more interesting than I prefer.

A few moments and it is over.

Except, of course, that it is never over. Once you start growing things you never stop. So I will keep most of them—my stars, my sisters, and my skin tags—and sit patiently while my kids connect the dots. Gardens aren’t for everyone, yet they seem to be for me.



5,468 days.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 8.11.41 AMHe stands, arms outstretched, holding my towel out for me to step into.

“I am your towel rack”

But are you my heated towel rack I ask him. We had left the bathroom store

Wordlessly he brings the towel to his mouth and begins blowing on it like he did when our boys lost their mittens in the Vermont winters. He would be crouched down scratchy face to shiny one. Both of his large hands would wrap around the little dimples one and he would lower his face and warm freezing fingers.

“You are my footrest”

I tell him. Just an hour ago he joined me on the love seat picking his way through dogs and tea mugs and throw blankets. He lifts my legs and slides into the newly emptied seat. Then he re sets things. Pillows as props, dogs back on laps. With one pat for the blanket and another for the dog he has become one with our snuggle. I wiggle my toe in greeting and request and his hand wraps around my foot, fingers landing in the arch and squeezing it just so.

It is a trick to wedge yourself into a small space and make it even better after your arrival. One of my sons know it. The other doesn’t.

“I can be your bra” he offers now, hands empty of the towel but still reaching towards me. I wriggle out of his grasp. It is astounding how much he loves the physical me. I know I make him laugh and talk about his fears and am a wonderful mother to his sons. But this body? I can barely look at myself. When I get dressed I pull on a wiry torture device and drape myself in soft shapeless clothes. I am never happier than I am in elastic waisted pjs hugging a pillow to my belly, it’s softness disguising mine. This man, my husband, does not see me this way. He is always reaching out. Sometimes I worry what the boys will think if they round the corner and catch him burying his head in my chest or squeezing my butt with both hands. He is stroking my arm slipping his hand up its cuff to touch my forearm with his finger. “Your skin.” He says. “I love your skin. When I look at my skin it is to notice it’s dryness, it’s ability to grow weird bumps, or it’s wrinkly-ness. My hands are the first part of my to give up any shadow of youth. Sometimes I slide the skin taut and smooth and wonder where all of the time goes.

“No bra?, I can be your blanket” He is draped over me, gently pushing me to the bed. But he can’t be my blanket. Not right now. I am usually out time keeper and I have slept on the job, we are headed out to dinner and a concert and we will be late if we don’t leave.

“You are my Uber driver” I say as we head down the staircase. He picks me up after a night out, he drops Oliver and me at the theatre, he brought me to and from jury duty. He has logged thousands of miles driving me down new and old streets. He almost never gets lost. Even when I question try to question his neat perfect navigation skills he is patient. If I can’t see the mountains I don’t know which direction we are facing. As it turns out there are two locations of our tile store each 35 minutes away from our house. One south. One north. When I drove to the store I asked them why they had changed the location of their front desk. I’m pretty sure this was not the first time they sent someone to their second location an hour south. Steve only laughed a little.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 8.14.00 AMAt the restaurant I don’t guess his order. Usually I do but this time we consult. We will be trading bites and my meal has already been selected. Celery root soup (shared) pork belly(shared) over green curried garbanzo bean purée (all Steve) and chicken with frisée and cauliflower gratin.

Usually Steve is my chef. We enjoy shopping and planning meals together but he is always the one to cook them. He turns on music and spins his way through the kitchen like no one is watching. Or, more like he has just the audience he wants. The eyes of his family grateful and amused as he makes something special that 2.5 of us will enjoy.

Tonight we are out though so “he is is my co critic”. I discuss service. They seated us at a four top and left all four roll ups and share plates through three visits to the table. The soup arrived quickly. They made me a custom cocktail (sadly no simple syrup) but left me guessing as to what it was when they dropped it. Steve had things to say about the beer list. This is a fantastic restaurant. He was surprised to see “pug Ryan’s” from a Dillon on the list. “It’s not even the best choice in Dillon,” he days of the town with two breweries. From Vermont they feature Magic Hat number 9. He does not need to comment. “I guess I’ll have wine” he tells me. It has come to this.

I don’t mean to slam Rioja, the food was fantastic. The decor wonderful and apparently the wine list was great. This time though John seemed more interested with the lady with the hip haircut at the lounge table next to ours. So our service didn’t live up to the rest of it. Plus, it is fun to critique, at least if we do it quietly and we don’t ruin our own experience looking for flaws.

Then coffee, decaf for me. “Decaf” I told John. “Decaf…coffee?” He asked me, confused. Yes… I answered also confused. When he left the table I asked if ordering “decaf” is out of date. I am old now. He didn’t think so, reaching out to cover my wrinkled hand in his strong one.

We have the inevitable confusion over what to tip the valet. $2 seems to little $20 too high. Where are all the fives and tens at tipping time? We are headed to the concert. Edie Brickell and the not so new bohemians. Because bladders shrink with age, and because, decaf, we head to the men’s and women’s lounge. Afterward I am a bit braggy. “Our lounge had an ante room, then a sitting room and THEN the toilets.” “Yes,” he tells me. “But did your lounge have a 70 year old cowboy change into his tie died Edie Brickell Shirt?” Why no. No it didn’t.

“He is my usher.” We walk down the aisle with his hand gently in the small of my back.Steve is doing his super loud concert clap and I am plugging my neighboring ear. “I want her to hear it up there” he says. It is an oddly intimate concert. The room is a third full and people are moving forward like toddlers at story time. As she sings mostly new songs she is giving us their backgrounds. Here lyrics are less tight than those first albums. She is riffing. “Sometimes I feel the darkness. But it comes and goes quickly. Like a song” Her voice is following her words. Listing up as her mood does. I have been looking at Steve who is looking at me more than the stage. His eyes are crinkled in the corner. Our hands together on his lap. He doesn’t know the words so I whisper my favorite lines to him. “I don’t lie…I exaggerate.” I have to cross his body to whisper in his good ear and he is holding onto me lightly.
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“He is my tuck in service” At 9:30 he tells me that the ratio of my yawns to songs have a correlation. This is him giving me permission to leave anytime. We sit through a few more new ones. I am trying to pick out good lines but I am tired now so we head home.

“He is my remote control” I think, as I hand it over. We are in bed after our night out. Oliver has reported on the PTSA meeting we have missed while out at the concert. Leo is so tired that when he goes to lay his head on the table he guesses the height incorrectly and it thuds to the surface and make me wonder whether we should wake him at night to ensure he is not concussed. “Anything but football” he tells me” So he lets me pick. Driving the control as well as he drives the car and we settle in to end our 5,468 days together. 15 years, one week early.

But mostly …

He is my heart, beating, somehow, outside of my body.

When to break the rule(s)

We don’t have many rules in our house and the ones we have are filled loopholes. Still I managed to break my prime directive today. I will save that for last.

We wait until everyone is at the table to start eating.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.19.44 AMScreen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.22.35 AMPretty much.

We are allowed to eat vegetables with our fingers while waiting. Leo had a sad day when he realized peppers were a fruit. Yet we allowed it. This is a loophole to a loophole. Picture Escher and Archimboldo together in a vegetable mobius. Vegetables and peppers with our fingers are fine. It is possible that the bulk of vegetable intake in our family happens while Steve very slowly completes arranging his plate. It takes patience and a love for broccoli to get our meal started. Both of which are in short supply in our house.

We turn off our screens at 9:00pm.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.47.24 AMExcept if Flash is new. Or if you are older than 13. Or if you are reading Percy Jackson for the 1,000th time on your chrome book. Or if you are a cat. Other than that it is a veritable black out on Ash St.  Except the house lights, which somehow find a way back on even after we have gone upstairs for the night. Perhaps it has to do with bringing the chrome book downstairs to charge to get ready for the school day. Upstairs hallway light, check, downstairs hallway light, check, bathroom light (just in case), dining room light, and kitchen lights plural which confusingly have to be switched from two opposing walls yet somehow were worth the effort to turn on. Maximum light equals minimum monsters. The upside to the nighttime sun is that when the dog wakes us to pee at 2am none of our six feet trip going down the stairs.

We have rub buggies instead of punch buggies.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.45.57 AM“Rub buggy yes rub back” Now get your mind out the gutter. In our family spying a VW results in a back rub. Except for when your brother incorrectly identifies a rub buggy. Where it results in a back karate chop that you call shiatsu. You are full of shiatsu.

We trade off cooking healthy dinners.

If you accept the definition of trade off as 15:2:1:1. Steve:Oliver:Anna:Leo. That sounds like an alternative version of alternation. Right? Another variation? Healthy. Oliver makes turkey tacos with sliced pepper and guacamole and hot sauce with shredded romaine. Assuming you count peppers as a vegetable (ahem) we have a protein, healthy fat and vegetable option. Leo can grill. Also in question: cooking. Its possible that on days that I am not eating the Keto diet the cooking that I do looks a lot like purple hearts blue stars…eat the rainbow. Am I right?

We share.

Often we overshare. There was the time I told Leo about Hitler before he was two and he decided he wasn’t going to be Jewish. There was the time I explained an erection and my boys told perfect strangers that their penises were “practicing.” There was the time I wrote a blog post about…On reflection maybe it isn’t “we” that overshares. Steve shares his work calls. I get to feel his pain during conferences that are 50% made up words. Most of them are acronyms…some though just suck. “Solutioning” We already have a word for that. It is called solving. I would like Steve to be more selfish about his work calls. Then I could be less annoyed about language. Says the woman of the partial sentences. Leo is very good at sharing our colds. He says he would rather be sick than stop kissing us on the lips. So soon he will be sick over kissing us on the lips. Sometimes sharing can be sweet. See below. (This was only partially staged. They did it on their own but I made them pause to take the picture. So I could share this moment.)

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We are polite to strangers.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 10.19.22 AMExcept that Leo’s nickname for Oliver is stranger (just check his iPhone contacts) So there are times when his attitude to this particular stranger is less than polite. Much much less.  My boys know how to say please and thank you and they often are complimented for this most basic skill. It makes me worried about the rest of the world that they can make servers and check out clerks swoon with three syllables. However some strangers are challenging. It is possible that one particular Target worker likes to talk about dreaming about her husbands boobs. While handling my new (heinously uncomfortable whilst somehow not supportive) bra. It is very difficult to stay straight faced in this situation. If this isn’t a loophole I don’t know what is.

No one bails you out if you forget what you need for school.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 10.26.41 AMExcept this morning when your mother brought your chrome book to school for you. Not sure that this should be a loophole. Seems like this is the very point of the rule. This is a rule for a reason…the less I do the more my kids do. Here is how I am going to forgive myself. This is a first for both of us. I have never bailed him out. He has never been bailed out. When I arrived in the lobby he gave me a kiss on the lips. In front of 200 sixth graders.

It was worth it.

Does your family walk the straight and narrow or color outside the lines?

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How a depressed mom talked to her kid about suicide

Opening my eyes at 6:20 this morning I am happy to be able to straighten my legs and stretch. For once the 8 pound dog isn’t taking up a third of the bed. Despite my efforts to unplug I realize my phone is in my hand without even making a choice to pick it up. I decide to start the day at an inbox of zero. I almost didn’t swipe right on the letter from the Denver Schools. For some reason I opened it, expecting to be invited (along with 45,000 of my closest friends) to sit in on a superintendent meeting.

Instead I read about a 9 year hold boy taking his life allegedly because other fourth graders bullied him about being gay. The note also referenced an unnamed teenager who was hospitalized and in critical condition because of a self inflicted gun shot.

These times of sorrow and grief call on us to take the time to reflect on what we can do — both small and large efforts, individually and as a community — to consistently support our most vulnerable children. We must do everything possible to protect our children.- Denver Public School letter 8/28/18

Fifteen minutes later our bed was made and Oliver was lying across it on his side, blue fuzzy jacket on. He wears this jacket to cover his stomach. He is worried people notice his weight. Now though he is not worried. He is cooing at a picture of a puppy in a burrito. He is 13.

This summer he sent his father and I a long text which started about screen time and ended somewhere darker. (He has given me permission to share this text.)

Ok so I’m writing you this text because I honestly don’t know if I can just clearly say and explain this in person.
I think my recent increase in screen usage stems from two main things and some other factors that all combined to result in this overuse.
The first thing and probably main culprit is puberty, it affects everyone differently and I believe that for me the hormonal swings are mainly amplifying my already present anxiety and introvertedness this makes it so right now interacting with others not only completely drains me of energy, but actually freaks me out and scares me. Additionally mood swings have generally brought me to darker places then ever before and lowered my general happiness and energy which only gets worse when I spend all day on screens.
Also I believe that summer and it’s extensive freedom and no real purpose has made my lifestyle worse in other ways, my sleep is completely off and I’m eating more unhealthily then ever. But mainly I’m lost, I don’t have school to distract me or focus, on and while I do have Colin here I left a lot of my life in Denver. As much as I love it here right now I’m struggling.
Of course this could just be a negative mood swing, but there is certainly a serious problem and I need to fix my life right now, but I just don’t think I can do it alone. So I want to ask for help, because I’m worried about where this might go. I’m sorry for causing you trouble.
The opening of this text gave me a valuable insight. Oliver is clearly able to think about and analyze his feelings (see above.) But he DOES NOT talk about them.  After I got this text this summer I suggested to a few friends that they invite their kids to text them with problems if that was easier than talking. Guess what? It was. Screentime might have started as his problem, but it was part of his solution as well. The night we got this text Steve and I sat down with Oliver right away. As much as my 20 years of talk therapy made me want to turn this into a difficult conversation about his mother I decided to follow his lead and write instead of talk. I asked him to break down his concerns into different areas and gave him paper and markers to draw and write. He wrote SLEEP, EXERCISE, FREE TIME, MOOD, SOCIAL ANXIETY, and EATING. Then I asked him to list what these things would look like in their very best forms. His mood began to change. Listing them out into small steps made them seem like something he could tackle. We picked two areas to work on that week. Sleep, and social stuff.  He gave himself two challenges. Getting into bed at 10:30 with lights out and laying in his bed waiting for sleep. And texting 3 friends. Within days some of this mangled mess of concern started to clear up.
Of course we also talked about therapy (I am a HUGE proponent) and I have a recommendation lined up for him, but we decided to wait a bit and see how things shake out. We also started a book group reading Freeing Your Child From Anxiety. We only met twice and then we just started drinking wine. I kid. It was ovaltine.
In any case Steve and I responded with lists and plans and Oliver responded to us.
This was not my approach this morning.
I walked over to the bed, rested my arm on his fuzzy blue shoulder and told him the facts of the letter from DPS.
“There are two sides for us to think about.” I told him.
He rolled up to sitting, eyes on mine.
One, of course, is keeping ourselves safe. You know I am depressed. You know I am in treatment. You know I take medicine and have therapy and have faced some real darkness. But despite that I am here with you and even when I am sad I am happy every day that I made it here. Even when I feel loathing or unaccomplished I can still go to sleep glad that I made it here, to you. I want that for you.” I tell him.
He is nodding.
“This summer you told us you were in a dark place.”
He has cast his eyes down. Maybe I should be texting this. But I continue.
“Sometimes you are not kind to yourself. Sometimes you expect to get 100 on an assignment and a 70 feels like a whole piece of your identity has been taken away, instead of just three incorrect bubbles on a computer.”
He is looking at me now. We have spent the past two nights with him in tears, me telling him that he is more than just a grade and him almost believing me.
“There are lots of worries in this world. Some are about problems that we should try to solve, like not getting enough sleep. Some are anxieties that we can notice and try to treat like background noise, like feeling as though being 15 minutes early for school is not early enough.”
Now he has a smile.
“And then there is that dangerous worry. When all of our fears and upsets come together and tell us the big lie that no life is better than this life. I know that feeling. I tell him. I will help him. If he ever feels like he wants to be numb and do nothing I will understand. I won’t tell him that he is just 13 and all of this is just temporary.  I will get him treatment. I will slash away the things that feel as if they are closing in on him. I will give him a break from responsibilities.
Because at the worst of times our only responsibility is to stay alive.
He hears me. He is patting my hand on his shoulder.
There is another side too. I tell him. The side where you can save a life other than your own.
I used stats the article I read this morning that said LGBTQIA teens are three times more likely to report attempted suicide and four times more likely to commit suicide. Amongst those who didn’t have an attempt they cited having just one person helped.
He can help. He can tap into his incredible well of kindness. He can recognize people who are fragile and stand by them. Even just physically. He can remember that also people’s pain can be buried into a small ball invisible to everyone but corroding them from the inside out. Smiles, eye contact, greetings. These little things add up. After all, we all want to be seen.
I finished with this second part and he was sitting up straight.  “I can do this.” He tells me. I am scared of talking to people but I can smile. I can sit at a different desk or lunch table. I could make someone a drawing. Maybe once a week.” He likes this.
So once again, despite my emotional speech, we have landed at a behavioral approach. It is not the way I would do it. But it is his way. And I imagine there will be some kids over the next week that feel seen by him and maybe will see him back, and maybe at night when they are lying in the dark there will be something about their day to enjoy instead of nothing. And that is something.

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Fear and upsets come together and tell us the big lie that no life is better than this life.[/Tweet]

11 steps for the lazy parent to crush the first day of school

Missing water bottles, bedhead,  a healthy breakfast that works with a nervous belly, parents popping champagne. The first day of school is a struggle and a celebration. After 11 years of practicing lazy parenting Steve and I have finally tipped the scales from tantrum to terrific (and yes, I am talking about me.)  Even more importantly, so have our boys.

What does the first hour of our day look like?

  1. 1.Waking up. The boys have been managing their morning alarms for five years. For some reason last night Leo asked me to wake him at 6:30. I pictured entering his surprisingly clean bedroom and heading over to his warm cocoon and giving him a kiss. His eyes would open into their almond shape and crinkle instantly into a smile. Instead I forgot him.  It was a horrible feeling, but it had been years since I had the responsibility of waking my boys.Leo calmed me down, his hand patting my shoulder. “I have plenty of time Mama, its really not a problem.” But I was still nervous, he had not yet done his hair, an exercise that can take between 5 seconds and 5 days.
  2. 2.Eating a Healthy Meal. Eating. Cooking. Not eating. These are the demons that haunt me. I am currently on a very low carb diet (for, like, the eleventyth time) and find breakfast almost impossible. I don’t like eggs. But I eat them. And feel very sad. The rest of my family loves eggs. So Oliver came downstairs muttering about protein. “I really want to make something that gives me energy for my day.” “Do you want me to make you eggs?” He asked me. Thats right. He asked me. I believe I might have grimaced. “OK, no eggs” he continued. “What about turkey sausage and oatmeal? You can have the sausage…” So Oliver got things going and I sat at the counter occasionally (or constantly) apologizing to Leo about forgetting to wake him. Leo likes to eat last so he polished off the sausages, had some cheese, peaches and warm orange juice. You read that right.
  3. Grooming.
    Would you seek hair advice from this guy?

    Oliver announced that he was going to brush his teeth for a second time. “I don’t want to have a mouth that smells like sausage” he announces striding from the room. “That’s what she said” I hiss to Steve. Somehow Leo doesn’t hear me. Side note- I met someone new last night and she was talking about vacations. She was giving a mixed review of a cruise (mixed seems generous to me, and David Foster Wallace.) Instead, she declared, “I really prefer things more rough and dirty.” My tongue is still bruised…it was the hardest..that’s what she said. Next Leo left to do his hair. GULP. Not two minutes later he returned. “That is some of the best hair you have ever had.” Oliver declared. I looked at Oliver’s bed-head, wondering how much credence Leo would give his opinion. He didn’t need it though. “I know” Leo said. “I KNOW” It didn’t look much different to me than any other day. Since I make it a policy not to talk about looks (except maybe blackheads (lowers regular head in shame)) I gave no response to his hair.

  4. Tidying. The boys loaded their dishes in the dishwasher. Apollo got to rinse the sausage plate. He didn’t load it in the dishwasher. For the record he doesn’t mind sausage breath.
  5. Gathering stuff. 
    I’m surprised the dog didn’t make it into the backpack..

    Oliver is standing at the counter. “I am going to check my backpack for the fourth time” he tells us. He lifts the flap of his messenger bag. Leo and I are both biting our tongues. Mine is still sore from last night. That’s what she said. Leo wants to tell Oliver that a messenger bag is not a backpack. I want to ask Oliver how inanimate objects might have left his bag in the last three minutes. Oliver is making satisfied sounds. Pencil. Back up pencil. My tech contract. Notebook. I don’t need to ask Leo what he has in his backpack (yes. backpack.) He has given me the tour. He has: hand sanitizer, water bottle, six decks of cards, phone, packs of pencils, rainbow eraser, full sized electric pencil sharpener, three notebooks, 16 highlighters, and “room for more.” Not sure what more might be, but always good to have an abundant mindset. Except maybe with carbs. Mmmm, Carbs




6. Waiting. Now we are waiting. We are 30 minutes ahead of schedule which will get the boys to school 20 minutes early. Time for a backpack check? Or eleven?

Do you see the deck of cards?

7. Leaving. That’s it. They leave to walk across the street to school, one with a backpack and a whole bunch of cards, the other a messenger bag with 2 pencils.

Was this11 steps?

Why no. It was not.

Because we have practiced meals and packing and waking up eleven thousand times. This is finally where the work of being lazy pays off.


What DID I do?

  • Drink tea
  • Flip through a house book
  • Get reassured by my 11 year old.

What DIDN’T I do?

  • Prep any food (including my own.)
  • Handle any school supplies.
  • Wake my kids (whoops.)
  • Help with a hairdo.
  • Match a water bottle top to a water bottle.
  • Dig wrinkled clothes out of the laundry.
  • Push anyone out the door.
  • I also didn’t eat toast. But that is for another post.


Wondering how we got here? It started early.

Over the summer back in the pre school years we had them gather lots of things, almost like a scavenger hunt. Then we had them select the things that went with them to school. Then they laid them out step by step and took pictures of them. We then made the pictures into a visual checklist and they got themselves ready for school. Lazy parenting sometimes takes a lot of work.





Interested in learning even more? Read this blog. Or this book.


How to handle a bad hair day.

Just go to the coffee shop naked. No one will notice your hair.

I considered it. I really did.

I’m pretty sure I have never had a “good” hair day. My hair is neither long nor short, it is neither light nor dark, it is neither straight nor curly. After years of just being blah my hair has given up. It has decided simply to leave me.

So as my chin hairs grow thicker and glossier with each passing day my head hair is following a pattern baldness that makes me question (once again) the level of testosterone in my body. Except it is not really a question. The level is high. High testosterone provides both beard and balding. But at least I can avoid the side effects of those medicines designed to combat low T.

I stood looking into the mirror preparing for my big morning at the coffee shop. I adjusted what might be called a lock of hair on another woman and tried to arrange it in a vague version of a comb-over. My hair was a bit oily. This was not a problem but an opportunity. I had recently purchased my second attempt at a dry shampoo. What better time to try than right now.

The dry shampoo I had in Denver was a powder that I shook onto my head from a bottle like baby powder (which, btw, is now on the list of cancer causing personal products.) This shaking resulted in as much powder on the floor and my clothes as in my hair. The powder that did go in my hair was, not surprisingly, white. When I brushed it through from scalp to ends as instructed I ended up like I was wearing a George Washington wig. So I resembled a woman posing as a man with fake women’s hair. It looked as good as it sounded. After the first attempt at the powder shampoo necessitated an outfit change I got smart and applied the shampoo before I got dressed. That resulted in so much powder on my body that I had to shower to get it off. So I washed my hair. All told the dry shampoo did in fact result in clean hair so I would have to say it worked.

I am sorry to say I forgot this magical product at home. What did I do? Find a quality replacement. Slowly browsing the large collection in the salon (don’t worry it was for Leo, I have been cutting my own hair for 8 years) I opted for a spray version. F the ozone layer. The water I was saving by not showering probably netted out as much environmental benefit as cost. Plus I think they might have fixed those spray cans by now. Truth?

So I stripped down as one does before using dry shampoo. Sure the shower was a six inches away but was I going to be bothered with all that waiting and water and washing and rinsing and then repeating and then drying? Hell no. I had the perfect product for my needs. I gave a tentative spray. It hit my cheek. At least it was the cheek on my face. On my second try I did reach my temple. It was a religious experience. Then I sprayed the other temple. First try! I am super good at this. I paused then decided the top of my head was thinning AND greasy so it deserved a spray too. Done. I waited. Things seemed oddly sticky. Probably I hadn’t used enough. I lifted the can again and instead of short bursts I channeled the ladies taking their beehive hairdos from cotton candy to helmet strength. On I sprayed. Mostly on my head.

I stopped. Things felt oddly cold and wet. Wait that was just Apollo nosing my feet to try get a sample of the shampoo. Not tasty. The hair too seemed weird. It was as sticky as Leo’s slime.

So naked, hair both oily and sticky I weighed my options. Shower or go to the coffee shop naked?

There of course is another option. I could pick yesterday’s clothes from the laundry basket and head to the coffee shop a bit rumpled and look pretty much the same as any other day despite my efforts at beauty.

So dressed and coiffed I headed in to town. The crowd of people were impressed at my dedication.

On a totally unrelated note “No Poo” is in fact an entire line of products. Not just dry shampoo. It features hair spray and curling product. Designed to be used on wet hair. Not that I would have any reason to know that.

The life and death of being a parent

I am looking down at my shoes when I see hers. My flip flops have faded to a color that blends with my pale feet.  Into my square of sidewalk leaps a pair of converse high tops. I look up, but not too far, to see a frilly dress, a freckled smile and mis matched pigtails. One is low the other is high and the girl runskipwalks quickly past me. She is headed to one of her last days of one of her first years of school. I get a bit of that almost summer feeling and forget my flip flops.

Half a block behind her I see her parents. They are walking hand in hand. The mom is wearing the same shoes as her daughter and is holding a coffee mug in her free hand. It  makes me smile. This walk is just a bit of their day. I imagine them headed home, her mug still half full, to eat toast at a sunny table. They are a few steps beyond me now and I hear the mom call out “Stop” in a relaxed sing song. Then a little louder. “Stop” And finally it is piercing. “STOOOOOPPP” I turn at the sound, her mug crashing to the ground as the two of them sprint forward towards the edge of the broad road. Its canopy of trees has filled in, the houses lining it can best be described as stately. The three of them are in a tangle in the sloping curb. I see the mom gathering up the girl whose face is stone. The father is holding on to the mother as she screams. I have my phone out. It has just taken a moment.

Then come the tears. Before I have dialed 911 I realize the tears are from the child, not the parents.

The girl is fine. She was stunned and now she is crying. I’m not sure she knows how close she came to a car.  It almost doesn’t matter though. I can imagine her parents’ bodies. The rush in their ears. The thundering thud of their hearts. It is strange that trauma has a sound.

I am holding her coffee mug. It is empty and its handle is chipped. I run my thumb along the chip. Such a small mark really. I imagine they will keep the mug. It will be dry in the cabinet tomorrow. This moment will be forgotten, but somehow imprinted on the mom.

It is so hard to love so hard. I am flashing through time next to incubators, calls that turned out to be meaningless from pediatric oncologists, a son covered in blood in Steve’s arms as I stand at the door of the ER. In a moment I am scared of the other times that we haven’t yet lived.

I am holding out the mug but they are walking away from me, the three of them together hand in hand in hand.

I don’t want to interrupt them.

I set the mug on the sidewalk, its chipped handle facing the direction they will walk when they return from dropping their girl at one of her last days of one of her first years at school.

This is the truest part of parenting. Where the tangle of love and fear can stop life in an instant, even if it is just for an instant.

What happens when a piece of your family is gone?

I am holding the iPad at an angle so it is the boys’ faces reflected in the screen not my own. Steve’s face looms over me at this angle. He is fumbling for his ear buds so we see first his nose, then the lapel of his linen suit, then the ceiling of the covered Tokyo walkway. While he apologizes I watch the square in the corner where his sons’ faces are angled towards him. Their brows are smooth, Oliver’s hair, wet from the shower, flops over one side of his face. We are getting it cut in two days and I will miss this mop.

Finally Steve is ready.

“Can you hear me?” He asks. Because of course he did.

We can, and we could before, it was he who needed the earplugs. Oliver asks. “Can you hear US?”

He can.

The boys ask him questions. “How was your flight?” “What was your day like today?” I remind them that it is morning in Japan. Leo laughs. “I can never get used to that.” Steve tells us he is taking a bullet train today and the boys like the sound of that. Oliver tells Steve that both boys have done well on math tests today. I speak for the first time, a faceless voice off the screen, adding that they hadn’t actually gotten the test results back…just that they both FELT good about the test. “That’s a good first step.” Oliver tells me. “Yes” Steve agrees. “It’s a good first step.”

Silence. It is hard to keep a conversation going over Facetime even if everyone wants to.

So we cut to the round of “I miss yous. I love yous.” Then the part I hate. The hanging up. Its not that the Facetime call brought him into our life or us into his in any meaningful way. Its choosing to disconnect that I find hard. It was the same problem that found me asleep next to my phone at 1am on school nights in highschool. It is hard to hang up. I have my finger a quarter inch from the screen. Leo is still saying “I love you” I know that this can go on for a while. Saying it many times seems important to him. Oliver is more efficient, he feels there is the same meaning in one expression of love as in many. He is waiting patiently for his brother to finish his ritual. I try to catch Leo’s eye to get a signal that we are ready to end the call and he gives me a short nod. I add in one last “miss you” and tap the screen right as Leo is saying “I love…” Steve is frozen in front of us, somehow looking at the camera instead of to the side where his own image would have been. I feel terrible to have cut Leo off but he has moved on. He is “driving” the remote and he has started up the Flash. Facetime has ended and the boys have dropped right back into our lives. I, however, am waiting for a bullet train in Japan.

It has been a year since Steve’s job increased his travel dramatically. At the beginning I was scared.

I was worried about the stuff of life. The dinner and the lawn mowing. But Whole Foods and Leo have stepped in. I imagined myself bumping the giant toter trash cans down uneven driveways and spilling compost all over my feet. It has not happened. Oliver takes out the trash, and even though he has two left feet he has managed to keep both of them clean over dozens of Friday pick up days. I was worried about who would wipe Oliver’s butt when he broke both of his wrists and in that case it WAS me that had to do it but it wasn’t that bad. Being a parent gets you used to lots of shit.

I was worried that I would miss him. And I did. And I do. But I CAN go to Whole Foods alone on Mondays. I can have lunch with a friend instead of with Steve. I can have sex by myself. It is less fun but also requires less clean up. These things that seem impossible without him are not. They are possible, they are just less good.

I know couples where one of them travels for work and the other was home with the kids. For years I heard their stories and thought I could never do that. I could never deal with 8 feverish limbs and snow days trapped inside. I couldn’t handle math panic attacks and emergency room visits alone. As it turns out I am not alone. My boys are old enough to help AND to keep me company. We plan our meals and our evenings. Clam chowder and lettuce (I’d call it salad but that would require it to have more than one ingredient) on Monday with UNFILTERED water. The orange indicator light on the fridge has left Leo stressed. Outdoor poker on Tuesday with chicken sandwiches, fruit and carrots. The carrots might have been dumped unceremoniously on the table in their bag but they tasted the same. Just ask Apollo. The dance performance at school on Wednesday will go well with our regular pizza game night. Oliver objected- dance performances are NOT the same as games, but this one is a who-dunnit mystery (yeah, I don’t understand either) so we will be there. Thursday is haircut day. I tried to talk Oliver out of it, pointing at his head and saying it looked hip. Oliver said he didn’t care what his hair looked like so I could cancel if I wanted. Leo told me that the word hip was, well, not hip. Friday Steve gets home.

Like I said, it is fine.

Why then did I berate Steve in the shower Sunday morning before he left? He stood there, tears hidden by the streaming water but shown by his red eyes. “This was not what I chose.” I hissed at him. “I told you this isn’t working. I told you I wouldn’t keep going this way. What have you done to change things?” He looked back at me. “Have you looked for another job? Have you tried to negotiate the travel?” He lowered his red eyes. The fact that it was mother’s day gave my anger that little extra fuel that I needed to have it come out as mean rather than constructive. The last time we had talked about his travel it had been a talk. I might have cried a little bit but I hadn’t lashed out at him. I felt bad but not badly. This time I knew he was heading away from home hurt. I wanted to take it back. Sort of.

As I open my eyes this morning at 6:02 my first thought is the luxury of the dog being (almost) far enough away from me that I can’t feel him. My second thought is “how many more days?” I am pretty sure it is Wednesday so it is two or three more days depending on how you count. For the record Steve always counts as if it is the least possible time, me as the most. So early on Wednesday morning with a Friday late night return would be three days to me and two to Steve. I have finally agreed to count nights as our benchmark so I guess it is two. Two more days. Or at least two more nights.

Please note laundry in basket is clean and folded.

For the first time in a year I realize what my problem with Steve’s traveling is. It is not missing big family brunches (I kid you not as I am typing this Oliver enters the room and asks if I want him to make me peanut butter toast and bring it up to me in bed (So I am typing in bed. So what?)) It is not missing an alternate chauffeur to the haircuts (OK it kinda is, they go to a hipster place with no parking way way out of my bubble) It is not even missing Steve himself (at least most of the time.)

It is that my life has turned into counting and waiting.


Wednesday isn’t just today when I will meet my cousin at Steep and work on my Design Learning project. I might get work done, I might enjoy a lunch or a walk with a friend. Perhaps I will even figure out Who dunnit at the dance performance (still, no idea). Through all of this I will be waiting. A piece of me will be missing, keeping me from being a full participant in my own life. That piece will be both dreading and hoping for Facetime, it will be calculating how many hours ahead Tokyo is, it will be standing beside Steve as he waits for his train.

I will be broken into two parts, the one living, and the one counting the hours.



Things that happen when you are 44

Since I don’t expect to live past 88, 44 seems like a good as age as any to review some realities of mid life.

    • You can’t remember if it is Wednesday. Sort of like answer C on multiple choice tests Wednesday is really the best guess. Spoiler: It IS Wednesday.
    • You require specialty pillows, ear plugs, and Tums to sleep. Might I suggest the melt aways. And special women’s earplugs. Those two X chromosomes really prefer pink plugs.

  • You notice agism as much as gender inequity. Steve: “We are pulling out of the Nuclear deal.” Me: “Tell me something unrelated to Trump and how screwed we are.” Steve: “Geena Davis’ fourth husband is divorcing her.” Me: “First Hollywood ditches her then her younger husband. What has she been in lately?” Steve: “Let’s ask IMDB” IMDB: “Nothing relevant.” Me: “Well she is 62. 62 is even worse than 44” Steve: “Is that a thing?” Me: “Its even more of a thing than fifth grade continuation. There are like three actresses that can be cast over 60.” Steve: “Hellen Mirren Helen Mirren Helen Mirren” Me: “And Dame Judi Dench.”
  • You bald on the top of your head whilst growing beard hairs. Even if you have two X chromosomes. Totally unfhair. (Stop underlining my puns autocorrect.)
  • You talk to your devices. And not just the ones who want to be talked to. “Alexa: tell Siri she sucks.” Siri: “Sorry, could you say that again?” Alexa: “As many times as you want Siri” Siri: “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”
  • The kids seem like the parents.  I am mindlessly sitting on the couch playing 2048 (6×6 survival if you want to be like me.) Oliver: “The equation for 2048 is y=2+ 2to the x.”( Except I can’t remember what he said. Let’s pretend that was it.) Me: “uuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh” Some vague echo of memory is stirred and then disappears. Oliver: “I love equations.” Me: “uuuuuuuuh.” Oliver: “Do you want me to make you eggs?” Me: “I’m not sure I’m eating breakfast.” Oliver: “Mama, Breakfast gives you the fuel you need for your day.”
  • Lots of foods and drinks give you stomach pain. Spinach. What could be wrong with spinach? My system says spinach sucks. Eggplant. Ouch. Bell peppers. Ditto.  C’mon these are VEGETABLES. Red wine. That is supposed to prevent breast cancer. And make me feel European. Instead it gives me a migraine. Chocolate. Dark chocolate is a veritable super food. Yet I can’t sleep if I eat it. Milk. Totally off the table. Not going to explain it here.
  • Belly bloat isn’t the only reason elastic waist pants seem good. Lets just blame the vegetables. You know what makes me feel middle aged? The fact that Chicos starts to seem like an actual option for clothing.  What could be better than wide legged linen pants an oversized t shirt and a toe length cardigan? Maybe some slacks and a blazer? I know- add oversized jewelry. That’ll spice things up. This all pairs well with Dame Judi Dench’s hairdo.
  • Fun activities include: weeding, checking the status of the little free library, comparing the weather in the places you have lived, decanting bulk goods into jars, making shopping lists, re-writing shopping lists, and figuring out equations. Well, except for the last one.
  • Hey Steve, looking for ideas for mother’s day: Might I suggest?


life. I’m sure you have your own to add. Please do…