Tulips “From Sophie”

Sophie and I had a rough night tonight. One of my failings as a parent is to threaten and then not follow through. For example: “Sophie, if you scream like that one more time you lose dessert after dinner tonight.” Sophie screams. “Sophie, I mean it. If you scream one more time you lose dessert after dinner tonight.” Sophie screams. “Sophie, I’m serious!” Sophie screams. “OK, no dessert. You can get it back if you don’t scream for the rest of the night but …”

Seriously. Super Nanny would have a field day with me.

Anyhow, I promised myself, after a particularly rough weekend, I would start following through. And tonight, I did. There were a lot of tears. But I held my ground. Long story short, Sophie went to bed tonight without “stay up time,” without a snack, without books. I sat in the hallway and painted my toenails. She laid in bed and cried. It was horrible. But also good. Very good, for both of us. I was less friend and more parent. I followed through. I think, I hope, we’re in a better place now.

Andy went grocery shopping tonight. And came home with tulips. “From Sophie.”

Tomorrow I know Sophie will be overly loving, with her constant “I love you’s” (her “thing” as of late) and snuggling on the couch. Even if tonight she screamed “never” to me no less than three times. Am I doing this right? I wonder. Have I messed up? I worry. And then I look at the tulips. And listen to the words Andy says to me.

It will be OK. I am doing OK. We are all OK.

Sometimes, being “mean” is necessary and needed, I know. Still, that doesn’t make it any easier.

“The flower that follows the sun does so even in cloudy days.” —Robert Leighton

An Early Spring

It’s cold tonight. This should feel normal—it’s March—but it’s not normal. Not this year. Sophie’s birthday is Friday. In my very first blog post, here, I wrote about spring. It arrived while I gave birth to Sophie. But this year, it came early.

It’s a gift I’ve gladly welcomed. I like winter. I like seasons. But this winter has been so mundane. Chilly. Rainy. Slushy dustings of snow nowhere near enough in volume for a snowman (this, despite Sophie decorating our front door with snow-themed stickers in an attempt to make it snow).

Early March I found myself in the attic, digging through bins for summer clothes. Fearing it would get chilly again I haven’t packed the winter clothes away. As such, every bedroom is filled with boxes and bins, and the closets are becoming a mis-match of seasons. The boys still wear different sizes. And both wear smaller pant sizes than they do shirts. So I’m dealing with four different sizes, lots of hand-me-downs (which I’m so grateful for) and numerous seasons. The task to sort it all out has become so daunting that I’m avoiding it, which is just making the entire situation worse.

The flowers that graced our backyard trees eventually fell. To there.

And here.

And everywhere. Some nights, at dusk, I watched my children play as a warm breeze blew petals around, as if soft pink were falling from the sky. It was so idyllic.

I mean, at one point they were sliding down the slide into a pile of petals. 

A gift.

The previous owners must have loved birds for there are gorgeous birdhouses all over our backyard.

All three of my children love to feed the birds. They each take a turn with a small, metal bucket and spill seed all over the feeder, Tucker and grass. And laugh.

Lately Sophie has perched on top of our play set pretending to be a bird. She tweets, loudly, talking to them.

We found this lovely nest. There are two cardinals that swoop low while we play outside. I love that. The children love that. Tucker really loves that. Sophie recently found two red feathers in the yard, which I later discovered she decided to store in a plastic container full of M&Ms. “So the boys wouldn’t take it.”

Of course.

Today was chilly, though, as was tonight. The boys, however, played outside in their sandals. They had no choice. Last week I took all three children to Stride Rite for summer shoes. Another woman was there, with a daughter a little older than Sophie, twins a little older than my boys and a newborn. (I can’t imagine.) Every time the salesperson asked any one of the six children to run around the store to try out a pair of summer shoes, the five remaining children followed suit. It was loud. Totally chaotic. And there were boxes everywhere (in part because I asked the woman to kindly try several different sizes/widths for each child considering the boys will only have one pair of shoes each and they’re expensive and I want them to be exactly right). I know. They had to hate me. Anyhow, as I was rescuing tights hung on a wall from James while simultaneously stopping Owen from going into the back room, I noticed the salesperson collecting our boxes. I had assumed she put the boys’ winter tennis shoes in them. But that wasn’t her job. That wasn’t her responsibility. And frankly, she was probably exhausted from the 30-minute chaos before. So I paid for the shoes. Left the store. All three children rode home in their new sandals. Sophie’s winter shoes somehow made it into a box. The boys’ did not. And the boxes sat, in our entry, for two days before I opened them and realized what I had done. I called the store. They were there, with dirty socks still stuffed in them. And I still need to pick them up. But the idea is kind of exhausting to me. So I haven’t. But I should. I’m sure the boys had cold toes today. And I’m sure the people who work at Stride Rite don’t need two random pairs of shoes, and dirty socks, lying about. Tomorrow. I will tomorrow.

New sandals. The wisteria is blooming. I’m (slowly) cleaning out winter-ravaged leaves from beds. Open windows have allowed us to air out the house. The children are happier. Dirtier. And the inside of the house is cleaner. Calmer.

A gift.

“Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.” —W. Earl Hall


It had been a trying day. It was one of those days in which the tiniest bump or the smallest “no” or the wrong song prompted tears. Every diaper was a “seriously? again?” diaper. No one ate well. No one napped well. A toy no one was playing with became the toy everyone wanted to play with the minute someone picked it up. There was whining. Barking. Screaming. It was too cold to go outside. I was frustrated. And exhausted. I think we all were.

I messaged Andy asking him what time he was going to be home so I could have dinner ready. The kids start melting down around 5:30pm. Andy is usually home by 6pm. If dinner is much later than 6pm, I truly believe the kids believe the world is ending. It’s as if the slightest hunger pains turn them into little crazy people but if I give them a snack, they won’t eat dinner and then they won’t sleep well at night. So we shoot for six o’clock dinners. And Andy responded and said he’d be home at 6pm.

So I made dinner. I held (a crying) Owen the entire time–except when opening and shutting the oven door. James either clung to my leg or rolled around the floor, screaming. Sophie continually begged for “more TV” and “gummies,” both of which I kept saying “no” to.

At 6pm, dinner was done, dished out and on the table. Everything for the boys was cut. They had whole milk in their sippy cups. Sophie had the items she liked cut cut and the items she didn’t like cut not cut on her favorite plate. One percent milk was in her favorite glass. I had made up plates for Andy and me, and poured drinks for each of us. We were ready to eat.

No Andy.

Now, before I go on, I know that he works very hard at his job. I know you can’t expect someone to be home right at 6pm when they say 6pm—sometimes you’re late getting out of the office, sometimes there’s traffic, sometimes you have to stop at the gas station, sometimes your favorite song is playing on the radio when you pull into the driveway and you have to sit there and listen to the entire thing—I get that.

But at this point Owen had thrown his entire plate on the floor and was standing up in his highchair, even though I had strapped him in. James was dripping his milk (seriously, why make a sippy cup if it’s going to drip when turned over?) all over Tucker and laughing. Sophie was upset because at preschool she learned that she shouldn’t eat her snack until everyone had their snack and therefore us eating before Daddy got home was simply not polite. Tucker was barking, either because milk was being dribbled all over him or because I hadn’t had time to feed him dinner yet. And then, I looked at the microwave. 6:00pm changed to 6:01pm.

I was furious. He said he’d be home 6pm and it was now past 6pm. Where was he? (By the way, you are now entering my brain.)

6:02: OK, things happen. Probably just a little bit of traffic. I’m sure he’ll walk in the door any moment.

6:03: If he even stopped for gas I’m going to be so mad. Does he not know how difficult things get around here at this time of night? For once could he just wake up early and get gas before going to work? If I want to shower that’s what I have to do—wake up before anyone else wakes up so I can clean myself, something he gets to do oh so luxuriously every morning while I’m dealing with three hungry kids and a hungry dog and the coffee, which he gets to enjoy so leisurely on his way to work. Does he have any idea how I drink my coffee? Half the time I don’t even know where the mug is because I continually put it down to pick someone up or stop a fight or read a book or change a diaper. My coffee is always cold. I mean, seriously, when is the last time he’s had cold coffee?

6:04: Speaking of cold, I’m sure his dinner is cold by now. I probably should put foil over it or put it in the oven or something. That’s what a good housewife would do. Dear God there I go again with “housewife.” I don’t want to be a “good housewife” or a “desperate housewife” or a “real housewife”. I studied journalism in college, not housewifery. I should be worried about deadlines not CRAP!!! I have an article due TOMORROW! After today, after all of this I’m going to be up until the middle of the night working because I can’t start my work until he gets home and seriously, where the hell is he???

6:05: Maybe he’s not coming home. Maybe it’s all just too much for him, too. This is bad. Very, very bad.

6:06: Of course he’s coming home. It’s bath night. He knows I can’t handle bath night on my own even though he loves to point out that he has no problem bathing all three on his own. He was probably just talking to someone he works with about something he read on Reddit and lost track of time and isn’t that nice, that he gets to talk to grown people about things he gets to read during his spare time. This is not fair! This is simply not fair.

At 6:07 I heard the front door open. Tucker immediately bounded toward the door and all three kids started gleefully yelling “Daddy! Daddy’s home! Daddy!” Normally this almost makes me melt with joy but on this day, I was furious. Now that the kids were so joyful he would have no idea of the kind of day I had, thinking I was just exaggerating. So I was mad. And ready for a fight. My entire body was tense with anger.

He had the nerve to show up with a dozen white roses.

Not only that, he also picked up some more children’s Tylenol, without my asking. He remembered we were out, knew the boys weren’t feeling well and teething, and so he stopped by the store on the way home so the boys—and we—could have a better night’s sleep.

It was the line. In the grocery. It was long. That was why he was late.

I was so flustered. I was still mad but, looking at the roses, I realized it wasn’t him I was mad at. Not for being seven minutes late. I was mad at the day. Mad that no one was happy and mad that I felt like I had failed my kids that day, because they weren’t happy. I needed to release my frustration not at him, I realized, or even on him, but by him. I could certainly tell him about my day. Vent about it. But he didn’t deserve to be punished for it. He did nothing. Except show up a few minutes late, because he was buying medicine for our kids and roses for me.

I don’t know how he knew but he did. I smelled the roses and although still frustrated, still exhausted, I calmed. They instantly calmed me.

“Where did you get the flowers, Mommy?” Sophie asked.

“Daddy gave them to me,” I said. “Aren’t they pretty?”

“They’re beeeaaauuutiful,” she said.

And they were.

They’re in a vase, slightly wilted now, next to the antique clock my parents gave to us on our wedding day. The statistics aren’t so great for couples with multiples. And things aren’t necessarily carefree for us right now. We have three children under 4. We both work during the day—and it’s work I love, caring for my children. I’m grateful I’m able to do it—even if it does make me a housewife. But we also both freelance at night. And pick up toys at night and do laundry at night and scrub toilets at night and take out the garbage at night because there’s no other time to do it. Just like every other parent of toddlers I know. And it’s exhausting. But short-lived.

The skin on Sophie’s wrists and ankles are peeping out of her shirts and pants. James matched colors correctly the other day. Owen has started to talk in sentences. My husband, who in our early dating years rarely surprised me, showed up with a dozen roses. And instead of taking out my bad day on him, as I was ready—and am prone—to do, I kissed him.

We all grow.

And as long as we keep picking up that little brass key and winding our wedding clock, the hands will continue to go around and around, with a tick tick tick I find so comforting now—in fact, without it, I think our house is too quiet. Just as I imagine my dinner table will seem, 20 years from now. But with a little work, and a lot of love, I believe there will still be someone sitting across from me, in part, thanks to the simplicity of roses and in part, thanks to the simplicity of some things being left unsaid.


“I worship this tenacity
And the beautiful struggle we’re in
Love will not elude us
Love is simple.” —K.D. Lang/David Piltch

The Ocean in a Jar

When we arrived at our Ocean Isle beach house, my sister, Katy, gave each of the kids a Mason jar to fill with sand and shells. She decorated the lids of the jars and each jar had a tag around it that said, for example, “Owen’s First Beach Trip, Ocean Isle 2011.” I loved them. She is so creative like that.


Early August, while the boys were napping, Sophie and I decided to make all three ocean jars (the boys, sand, breakable jars and fragile shells do not mix—so we decided to make theirs for them, and then put them up high in their bedroom to enjoy from afar, until they’re older). First, we dumped all the shells on the kitchen table.


Next, Sophie filled the jars with sand.


Then she picked out the shells she wanted for each jar, and put them in. Although I wanted to, I stopped myself from telling her how much sand, which shells I thought were prettiest, and where and how I thought they should be placed. Rather, I let Sophie make them completely on her own. As such, she filled them so full with sand. And then she simply threw any old shells in, not caring if they were upside down or right side up. Some, she even buried. But they are hers. And her brothers. And she loves them. And I’ve always told myself that if my children want to color outside the lines, I will let them.

You can see the finished ocean jars above. Also, this is what our kitchen table looks like on a daily basis—a basket overflowing with art supplies, rolled craft paper, Alphie, a plastic bowl full of paint, a glass of water with Queen Anne’s Lace in it, a glass bowl with two Impatiens in it (Sophie loves to pick flowers and give them to us as gifts), the ocean jars and a big glass bowl filled with the extra shells.

I love a beautifully decorated table. If I had the money, I’d have a vase overflowing with fresh flowers on my dining room table always. And I’d throw dinner parties, often, ones that allowed me to do clever things with place settings and the centerpiece. But lately, I’ve been finding just as much joy in a hand-turned wooden bowl filled with clementines (which Sophie eats at least four of daily, now that she can peel them herself) on our formal dining room table. And I absolutely love the mess of our kitchen table. Especially because it’s not a mess of bills or freelance work or dirty dishes. Rather, it’s a mess of art and creativity and play. And I may not have believed this about me five years ago but these days, I’d pick a tiny glass bowl with two floating Impatiens in it, picked by the daughter I love, over a big bouquet any day.

Thank you, Aunt Katy, for the ocean jars. We had so much fun finding the shells and making the jars, and they’re a keepsake I know the kids will love, always.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh