Tuesday, February 25, 2014

first tooth.

My oldest lost his first tooth.  I know in the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal.  But for us, this is the biggest of deals.  My oldest's firsts will always be tied to my firsts as a mama: the first time I watched as he opened his eyes, nursed, rolled, spoke, sat, crawled, stood, it goes on and on. His firsts are my firsts. This is the first time I have guided a little person through their excitement over the sensations of a wiggly tooth, their anxiety over whether or not it will hurt.  Each first for him will always be a first for me, and so this tooth right now is a big deal.

There are times as a mama when I think I am barely surviving.  I have high expectations and Pinterest-worthy dreams of how milestones will unfold for my children, only to have them fumbled by the reality that I am only human, and milestones pass with little more than a nod of the head acknowledging them.  But this tooth, this milestone we did right.

I forgot just how long it is between when a tooth begins to loosen and the time it actually falls out.  When the tooth first started to wiggle I mentioned helping my son make a tooth pillow, an idea he cherished.  Weeks went by and each time the pillow was mentioned there were meetings to attend, or classes to teach, or activities planned.  I thought surely this was going to be another failed milestone.  The tooth would fall out and there would be some makeshift pillow and a promise broken.

This weekend we woke early and set to work on the pillow.  My son designed the applique, picked the fabric, and aside from the applique, sewed it entirely himself and this mama could not be prouder.  The pillow was made and carried with him for two days wherever he went.  Tonight at dinner, as his tooth dangled, I promised him if he turned it once it would come out.  And it did.  There we all were as a family, sitting down to dinner, sharing in the milestone of our first lost tooth and everything about it was simple and perfect.  There are times as a mama I feel like I am barely surviving, and then there are times like this moment where my oldest baby is fast asleep with a tooth tucked in a pillow made by his own two hands, guided by his mama's love, awaiting a magical visit from the tooth fairy when I feel everything is just right.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I love Valentine’s Day.  Not because I get lavish gifts or chocolates from my husband; we don’t actually exchange gifts at all.  I love Valentine’s Day because it is an excuse to get crafty and to tell the people in my life that I love them.  I slow down, I look at them a little longer and I take stock of what loving them brings to me. 

About six years ago, I attended a friend’s wedding in the summer. I had just had my first child, finished grad school, and moved back east after three years in Colorado.   During the reception a friend asked me, “What do you want to do?”  While it was a simple question, it sent me into a tail spin.  My friend was asking me now that I was back in New England, what was I going to do for work….I had just finished my master’s and had decided to take some time off from working to be home with my son.  I didn't know what I wanted to do next and this very question was one I had long been avoiding, so I answered in a way that could be viewed as either profound, or profoundly ridiculous. I confidently stated, “I want to be a lover, I want to spread love.”

I could see my friend mulling this unexpected response over. On the inside, I was reeling.  I blamed it on my new mom brain, I blamed it on my anxiety over my decision to stay home, I played it cool but I was thinking to myself, I no longer know how to engage in adult conversations.

What I know now, that I didn't realize then, was that motherhood changes you and something had indeed changed in me.  I had always kept my feelings under lock and key; I chose a feeling of safety over vulnerability.  Motherhood makes you raw and vulnerable.  What I was trying to express that day was that becoming a mother had opened my heart in a way I had not predicted, and I wanted to continue to live and to love from that place. 

I believe, and what I hope to pass on to my children, is that Valentine’s Day is a day to be a heart warrior: to be brave and live from an open heart; to look at those around you in a new way; to appreciate them and the gifts their lives provide your own.  And so each year on Valentine’s Day, we get artsy and craftsy, and we get honest.  We tell the people around us that we love them and more importantly, we tell them why. 

My son resisted this idea at first.  He told me it would be embarrassing because his friends would think he loved them.  “Don’t you?” I asked.  I let it go and the next day when we came back to it his appreciations flowed.  They were sweet and genuine and a true window into the relationships he is forming with his classmates.  As he shared his appreciations and we talked about what it means to be a heart warrior, or someone who spreads love, I thought to myself that yes, this is exactly what I want to be.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

simple gifts.

Throughout the holiday season, the Shaker song "Simple Gifts" played in my mind over and over again.

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

These words have always seemed sweet to me, but for some reason, this year, they seem to resonate a truth deep within.  Much of my young adult life was spent turning, moving from place to place, searching until finally, I came down to where I was meant to be.  I landed in these hills of Western Massachusetts that whispered to me the first time I visited, "You are home."  Shortly after moving here I met my husband and together in the years since we have built a life together based on simplicity, love, and community.

As I begin this New Year, I look around at my home, my children, my husband and our community and I feel that I found myself in the place just right. Right now, in this moment, I am living in the valley of love and delight. My life is not perfect, not by society's standards, but it is perfectly my life, the one I am continually creating with my family. I could begin this year to resolve for more, for bigger, or better; but instead I resolve to continue the path of simplicity and to be grateful for all of its abundance.

Wishing you all love and delight in the New Year!  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I used to come here to practice.

Before I had children I regularly practiced yoga and meditation, and I am so thankful I had them both as a foundation before I became a parent.  Before I had children I would come to my yoga mat as a place to challenge myself, to find my edges, to learn how to yield.  I used back bends to practice opening my heart and to experience vulnerability, arm balances to practice finding my breath and acceptance during times of challenge, handstands to gain new perspective on old limitations and ways of seeing, and I practiced savasana, the final resting pose, to practice letting go and to embrace the fragility and ultimate end of this life.  I loved this practice and I am so thankful for it.

My time on the mat is much more limited now. I get bite-sized chunks of time where there used to be weekend long retreats.  My practice has changed, because I have three new teachers. I look no further than my own children on most days to find places to be challenged, to come right up to my edges, and to learn where and how to yield.  Each and every day, parenting gives me plenty of places, of opportunities, to practice.

 Nowadays, I practice opening my heart through cuddles, and songs, through the feel of a small hand in my own, or a head on my shoulder as we read a beloved story. I practice finding my breath through our morning rush out the door, through diaper changes with an unwilling toddler, through tantrums in the supermarket, through the endless requests for water and snacks and stories and more water that precede every bedtime, and while cleaning up the mountains of toys, clothing and books that multiply underfoot.  I practice embracing new ways of seeing each and every time there is an opportunity to abandon a fruitless power struggle and see a situation from my child's point of view.  I practice letting go when I watch my five year old go off for his first day of kindergarten, or as my four year old no longer wants my help for, well, anything, or as my baby begins to wean.  And I am reminded each and every day of the fragility and ultimate end of this life.  Our awareness of this becomes ever present when we become a parent.  We are reminded of the preciousness of life each time we tuck our children in at night, each time there is a fever or an accident, each time we kiss them goodbye and watch them move away from us and into their own lives.

Parenting is my practice.  And each day presents itself with more than enough challenges for me to work through, to breathe into, to grow from.  I do not always face the challenges with grace or gratitude, but that is why it is called a practice. I was blessed with three beautiful teachers and while I do not always like their teaching methods, I do feel immense gratitude for their presence in my life.

While I do still make it to my mat on a regular basis, my yoga practice has changed.  Where my mat used to be a place for me to challenge myself and to encourage growth; my mat has now become a place where I come home to myself, to experience the quiet voice of my soul, to be compassionate and to give myself a place of retreat from all that practice.  And when I do make it to my mat to practice, my teachers are often right there with me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

lost in translation.

My mom has a stone outside of her house with a quote saying something like, "Friends are the family we choose for ourselves."  It's true.  As we move through our lives, we surround ourselves with people who mirror to us our best selves.  They know us, our best qualities and our flaws, and they love us, the whole of us. One by one we meet these people, and one by one we create our family.

After my husband and I had been married a year, we traveled to Costa Rica for our honeymoon.  We backpacked for five weeks around the entire country visiting national parks, coastal towns, and urban centers.  We ended our trip spending two weeks with a host family volunteering to patrol beaches at night and tag nesting sea turtles.  Our host family assignment was random, but as fate would have it, we would truly be placed in the home of family.  We were placed in the home of Etelgive, and over the next two weeks our families would become intertwined.   That was over seven years ago.  In the years since, we have returned twice bringing our babies to meet their abuela.  My relationship to Etelgive is like no other in my life. She is like a mother, a sister, and a dear, dear friend.  She loves me, my husband and our children loudly, unconditionally and without apology.

There is one catch to my friendship with Etelgive: we do not speak the same language.  While I can understand quite a bit of Spanish, my ability to string together a sentence rivals that of a three year old.  Over the years, through our friendship, I have learned that there is a language deeper than words. There is a language of the heart that can connect us in our humanness beyond the language of words.

My husband, who speaks Spanish fluently, has always been amazed at our ability to spend time together, to understand one another, so deeply, without words.

Today my phone rang, and I would have given anything for some words.  It was Etelgive, and she was telling me something over and over again.  I couldn't understand her words, but in the language of our hearts, I could tell that hers was broken, I just couldn't understand why.  I ended up telling her that we would call her when Brian got home from work. He would understand the words. He would bridge the gap.

Etelgive lost her son.  Her heart is broken.  I listened to her words which I didn't understand, but I could hear clearly the heartbreak and deep sadness in her voice.  As mothers, we all speak a language of the heart. We all know what it means to have the indescribable love for our children, the kind of love that makes our hearts burst at the seams when we see their sweet sleeping faces or when they wrap their arms around us unexpectedly and tell us they love us.  We also know in a very distant way the incredible heartbreak it would be to lose a child.  We can only dip into that sorrow out of fear the depths would swallow us whole.

I sat on the phone and listened.  I listened to my friend, my family, and the distance between us felt huge. You often hear people say, "I don't know what to say," at a time of loss.  I knew what I wanted to say, but I did not have the words, and so I strung together my three year old sentences.  I told her I was sorry and that I loved her and I trusted that beyond my words, her heart would hear my own.

Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

folk lore.

There is old folklore in New England that if you catch a leaf as it falls from the tree, you will have good luck in the coming year.  Each fall, I try to catch at least one leaf as it makes its way down to earth.  Call it lore, call it superstition, call it magic, call it for what it really is: fun.  If you haven't ever tried to catch a falling leaf, do try it.  Leaves don't fall in a pattern that makes any sense. Some zig and zag, some rocket down to earth in a straight line, and some stay up in the air for a very long time, enjoying a slow, graceful ride as they make their decent.

My children and I have spent much of this fall with our hands up to the sky, running around aimlessly, giggling uncontrollably in the hopes that one colorful leaf will grant us a blessed year.  As an adult, I catch my leaf each year on the first day or so and then I watch as my children are determined to seal their fate in a partnership with nature.  I love watching their determination, and I admire that they never lose sight of the joy or the silliness of this pursuit.

Today Amelia caught her leaf and she beamed with pride as she showed it off.  The leaf is already lost, returned to the earth, but the satisfaction of a job completed will stay with her.  I love the fall.  I love that this time of year teaches me over and over again to stop and breathe in the beauty before me, for it truly is breathtaking.  The fall reminds me to play, to jump in leaf piles, to stomp through leaf-littered trails, to chase a wild leaf's descent.  The fall reminds me that the true beauty of a season, of the earth, of our children is not in its form, but in its essence.  All things change;  leaves fall, landscapes change, children grow, but their beauty, their essence, remains imprinted upon our hearts.

I will continue to watch with joy as the leaves change and I will watch with the same joy as my children chase the last of these falling leaves.  Just as this fall will end and I will say it was much too short, so will my children's childhood.  I want to savor it and breathe it in and I want to witness their rapidly changing form while holding on to the essence of this magical time.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

under construction.

Our home is under construction. It has been in some form of construction for the past three years, but about nine months ago we started tearing down walls and any sense of normalcy for the foreseeable future.  This most recent construction project started on an idyllic snow day with a spontaneous decision to tear down a closet. The closet lead to a decision to tear down a wall, and then another, and now after five years of living in this house, my husband and I have a room of our own, almost.

In the meantime, the rest of our living space is under construction.  I love envisioning what the space will become someday, but for now I find myself frustrated by the feeling of projects everywhere and a sense of cozy home nowhere.  In the moments when I feel like I can't take it anymore, I turn to my children.  You see, my children are my Zen masters.  They teach me how to live: how to be present, how to accept what is, how to let go.

In one particular moment of frustration as we were ripping up carpet and subfloor and our "home" was slowly disappearing before my eyes, I watched as my two girls ran in circles around a dresser in the middle of our family room.  They ran and laughed and saw the bulging, half-removed carpet as a new obstacle to navigate.  They have no attachments, no ideas of what a home "should" look like.  For them, home is where their people are.  Walls are coming down, carpets lifted, but that is all just cosmetic.  The heart of our home, our rhythms (however unrhythmic) and ourselves remain.  My children take all of the changes in stride and I am looking to them, learning from them to do the same.  So as I look around to find a cozy spot to sit and well, there is none to be found, I head to my almost-finished bedroom and I look through photos of our past projects to remind myself that this too is temporary.  We have done this before, we have lived under construction and we have come out better in the end for it.  Cosmetically, yes things are better, but our sense of who we are and what truly matters, our sense of home, is deepened.