fort thomas

James & Owen’s 1st Day of Preschool

I have a lot I want to write right now but it’s too much. I can’t put my thoughts together. Sometimes, three-year periods bear little change. Others start with you in the NICU with two little people who—combined—weigh less than your cat and end with you watching them walk down your front walk wearing backpacks.

This picture pretty much sums up the morning. James has just found out that we aren’t going to be in preschool with him (we thought this had been made clear much earlier—apparently not). Owen (who is usually our more timid child) is thrilled.

Check out their personalized handmade backpacks. Andy’s aunt Susan made them by request—contact her here if you’d like backpacks, totes, diaper bags, clothes—she can make anything. (The boys love their backpacks. Thanks again, Aunt Susan.)

At one point Owen clenched his fists and just stood on our porch shaking his arms—he was so excited.

James is (sort of) smiling here only because I was making an absolute fool of myself in our front yard, trying to get him excited/cheer him up.

We drove.

James cried.

“Preschool will be fun, James. OK?” Owen said over and over again.

At Country Hills Montessori (the same preschool Sophie went to—the one we fell in love with) we were supposed to kiss, hug and go. Owen knew what to do as soon as he walked through the doors—where to put his backpack, where to wash his hands … Sophie had talked through all these steps with both Owen and James all summer long.

Owen didn’t look back.

James clung.

“What should we do?” I asked one of the teachers, who was at his level, holding her arms out to him.

“Kiss, hug and go,” she said.

So we did.

After I peeled his fingers off my wrist.

We heard the sound of his cry all the long walk back to our van.

(Parenting can be hard.)

The first day was only an hour long.

I spent it at Fort Thomas Coffee, with a latte, coffee cake and a copy of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.

I have long designated this future kid-free time as time to work on my freelance projects, excited about the possibility of not editing at midnight. But today, this first day, I designated this time as mine.

I didn’t read, though. I wondered if James was still crying. I uploaded Instagrammed first-day-of-preschool pictures to Facebook. I wondered if either had had an accident. I ate my coffee cake. I wondered if James was still crying.

And then it was time to pick them up.

Mrs. Richter gave me a thumbs up while helping load another set of twins into a mini van in front of me.

They had done well.

They came out, all smiles and waves, wearing the same clothes I had sent them in, excited to tell me everything—excited to go back.

I thought of the NICU, the times I kissed, hugged and had to go. How hard that was. How hard this was. And then how OK and, ultimately, good it all was, too.

The night before, my parents stopped by for a last summer hurrah—Coney Island, Skyline, Graeters. My mom gave me a gift—a beautiful Liberty print handkerchief, with hand-rolled and hand-sewn edges. (It has since seen some use.) And a card, with this written on it:

“Opie: Cage sure looks awful empty don’t it Pa?

Andy: Yes son, it sure does. But don’t the trees seem nice and full?”

Sophie’s First Day of Kindergarten

She said she hardly slept but I know that’s not true. I know that, because I hardly slept and I checked on her several times throughout the night, catching her fast asleep in her bed and later, in the early hours of the morning, in our bed.

When she did wake she wanted to go.

“It’s not time,” I said. “It’s too early.”

“We’ll walk slow,” she said. “Really, really slow. I promise.”

I showered and dressed. She put on the outfit she had picked out the night before, the one we had gone shopping for the week prior, the one I actually took the time to iron last night.

Andy clasped a new necklace around her neck, one that Grandma had made. I clasped an identical one around my neck. I gave them to her the night before, and explained the idea behind a worry stone. She chose the pink heart to be her worry stone. She rubbed it.

“Do you think we might rub it at the exact same time tomorrow?” she asked.

“I bet so,” I said.

We read The Kissing Hand.

Back to this morning. After we had had our cereal, and as I was pouring my coffee into a thermal cup she said, “You’re going to take that with you, right?” The idea of sitting around waiting for me to drink a cup of coffee was just too much.

“Yes,” I said.

We took pictures on the front porch. Owen and James sung their goodbye song to her. And we started to walk.

She clutched my hand and skipped. And yelled “wa-hoo!” several times during our walk. I love her life wa-hoos.

Halfway through she stopped and reached for her necklace, but not for her worry stone—rather she reached for another, silver, charm. “This,” she said, “is our excited stone. It’s what we’ll rub when we’re excited.”

I squeezed her hand and smiled.

We continued to walk. More parents and children donning backpacks filled the sidewalks. The entrance to the school was packed with children, parents and siblings.

She ran into friends made during preschool.

The principal opened the doors. Everyone poured in. There were balloons everywhere. I was delighted to learn that, at least on this day, we were able to walk her directly to her room.

Sophie became more quiet, her mouth sometimes set in that butterfly mixture of anxiety and excitement.

We found her classroom.

Her desk and her name tag.

Her cubby.

I hugged her goodbye.

As I left, she was rubbing a stone. I don’t know which one.

Despite the thick fog, I put on my sunglasses. And breathed deeply. And wondered why I was so teary. I knew I would be a little teary, but honestly, I didn’t expect the need to constantly wipe my cheek the entire walk home.

Andy was completely perplexed by all this.

“It’s just the start of school,” he said.

But it’s more. It’s the start of something new. She’s part of something bigger now. Daily she’ll experience, learn, see and do things I won’t ever know about—as she should.

And part, I think, is that she’s now doing something I vividly remember doing. And I’m done doing that. And she’s just starting. I saw the look on her face, that butterfly mixture of emotions and remembered. Something about our walk to school together this morning really reinforced the cyclical nature of life and the life seasons so many of us are lucky to experience.

My tears this morning weren’t because I was sad that I wasn’t spending this morning—and many future mornings—with her. Rather they were from someplace deeper. That place is mostly filled with joy and gratitude. But pockets of sadness hide in the corners of that place, too. It’s a deeper sadness, something bigger than “I’ll miss you.” Rather it’s a sadness that what she’s experiencing in life right now I’ve already done. And someday, she’ll have done it, too. And while I’d much rather move forward versus go back, the finality of our life phases can weigh heavy at times. So I think about what Kahlil Gibran wrote, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Now, I’m fine. Completely and totally (mostly) fine. And so excited to walk back to the school with Owen and James, pick her up, and ask her questions all the way home—or at least until she tires of me asking them.

Goodbyes, to people, to periods of time, are hard. But those goodbyes make the hellos even sweeter.

“The Universe is one great kindergarten for man. Everything that exists has brought with it its own peculiar lesson.” —Orison Swett Marden

A Walk in the Woods

This morning was gorgeous. We left the windows open overnight and as such, our house was filled with outdoor morning sweetness—chirping birds and cool breezes.

The children’s attitudes, however, were less than gorgeous. There was whining and crying, and fit-throwing when Andy left for work.

In my mind, I couldn’t understand how they could be so cranky when so much outside beauty was pouring through the tiny holes in our window screens. I knew this line of thought was unreasonable but still, I was irritated.

So, I decided to immerse them into the beauty of the day in way I haven’t yet attempted with all three of them by myself.

“We’re going hiking,” I said.

Their moods instantly improved.

We went to Tower Park, only a couple minutes from our house. I knew they had trails there as we, as a family, had walked some of them during Fort Thomas’s annual jack-o-lantern walks. But we had never hiked them on our own.

The kids loved it. They pointed out everything—mud, sticks, different leaves, bugs, squirrels, the sound of an owl.

And then, we spotted them—two beautiful deer watching us, perched on a ridge just above us. (I failed to bring my camera and was only able to capture sunlight with my phone.) The kids were quietly ecstatic, trying their hardest to be quiet so as not to scare the deer away.

We continued hiking and like something out of a children’s book, the deer followed us, we down below, they on the ridge above.

We walked through the woods for a good half hour, which was about the time I started to wonder if my assumption that the trail would loop was, perhaps, incorrect. I called Andy. He tried to figure out where we were on the trail map. I told him where we started. He said that was impossible, according to the map. So the four of us turned around, walking back the way we came.

Sophie led the way, yelling back to us every time she encountered something we might want to know about.

“Here’s a rock bridge!”


“Balance on this tree root!”


“Don’t step in that mud puddle!”

James fell on a rock once. Owen forgot to watch out for that mud puddle and ended up with a mud-soaked sandal. Sophie loved to lean precariously over edges while I fretted.

It was perfect.

Parenting ruts are so easy to fall into—especially in later summer when there is no school and vacation has come and gone. But then, a morning like this morning happens. A morning when you discover a treasure in your own backyard, in your own little town, in our own little world, previously unknown.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” —John Muir

Fort “Thomas”

James had a meltdown in the van tonight. Why? I told him we live in the city of Fort Thomas.

“NO, Mommy! Thomas is a SHOW! It’s NOT a city!”

When I tried to tell him otherwise, he just screamed louder.

This lasted for 20 minutes. (And he still doesn’t believe me.)

“Parenthood remains the greatest single preserve of the amateur.” —Alvin Toffler

A Morning Spent Sledding With Friends

a snowy, early morning view from our deck

Madeleine, Sophie and Charlie

Angel and Mya

Zoey, Madeleine and Mya working hard to get back up the hill

Andy and Owen

Andy took the boys home, and Sophie and I went down the side of the big hill a couple times—she loved it.

James spent most of the time holding a cold piece of buttered toast begging someone to take him home.


the trouble with sledding



Angel and Mya

Angel and Zoey

down, down, down


Sophie and Madeleine


Sarah and Jack

I like that there’s a local sledding hill. I like that we can wake up and meet our friends there, Sophie’s friends there. I like how, when it snowed again earlier this week, Owen, while looking out the window said, “It makes me happy, Mommy.”

Snow makes me happy too, little man.

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?” —J.B. Priestley

Woodfill’s Big Top Festival (Year Three)

I love everything about this festival. I love how kid-centered it is. I love how inexpensive it is (although as the kids get older, we’re discovering it becomes more and more costly). I love how everything is run by volunteers. I love how all the money earned benefits the school. I love how excited my kids get over cheap plastic rings and lollipops. I love that we can walk to it. I love the community feel of it. I love that afterwards, we can walk to a local park and meet good friends and then walk to Anita’s with said good friends for good Mexican food.

I spent most of my childhood living in houses on land. That land was surrounded by more land and everything was so open. Views, from everywhere, included fields and tree lines and yard, yard, yard. Often, in Fort Thomas, I feel closed in. The neighbors (as much as I love them) seem too close. The traffic from 27 sounds too loud. The lights from the gas station on the corner seem too bright. The fact that there’s a pseudo-junkyard behind our privacy fence, which you can see from our second-floor windows when the leaves are down, drives me insane. I lament how few stars I can see—my children can see—and that it’s impossible for my children to play tag football or softball in my backyard. As much as I’m crazy-in-love with my house, I wish I could move it to LAND. (Although, while I’m wishing for things, a first-floor laundry room and garage would be nice, too.)

But there are advantages to living so close to the city. A short work commute for Andy (something I strongly believe in). Sidewalks. The ability to walk to parks, restaurants, the library, school, the local Y, farmers’ markets and shops. A sense of community (we will long be newcomers in Fort Thomas but already I feel like I know—and am friends with—many). Accessibility to everything Cincinnati has to offer (the zoo, museums, restaurants, sports, the river). Afternoons and evenings spent like the one pictured here.

It could be better, I say. But I think, no matter where I was, I’d think it could always be better. I’m working on that, about myself. It’s slow-going. And the truth is, it could also, easily, be a lot worse. Practicing, working on, gratefulness.

“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.” —Robert Fulghum