The First Homework Assignment

For years, I assigned homework. Every summer before school started, that homework board was prominently placed in my classroom. In the fall, once students trickled in, I would color code assignments with my brand new dry erase markers. I would implore my students to copy my words down in their planners. Special protocol was put in place to hand work in every morning and I’d chase kids around who hadn’t completed the tasks I so clearly laid out for them. Students were all over the place in their proficiency of this task; some completed their work with diligence and pride. Others looked at me as if I had just appeared from outer space when I asked them about their assignments. Phone calls were made to parents; meetings were scheduled with administration. I did not understand how this could be so difficult.

I did not understand the effect of homework until I had my own child. As a matter of fact, homework graced the Clark household in a rather surprising and unexpected manner. This fall, we sent Harrison to pre-k. Things were going great; I was packing his lunches with care each evening. He was bounding into my arms after school proclaiming that he had a fantastic day. Addition and subtraction problems were recited at meal time. He could write “Mom” all by himself. He was loving pre-k and so was I. Then one day, as I routinely went through his Take-Home folder, I found it. In the midst of his colorfully drawn pictures and a lunch calendar, there it was. A cockroach could have crawled out of his backpack and I probably would have been less frightened. I guess I knew it would come to this. I thought we might get through kindergarten at least, though, before the torment and doom reigned down on our house in what can be known as the first Homework Assignment.

As someone who was the responsible party for assigning homework for YEARS, you would think that I wouldn’t have had such an adverse reaction to it, but I have to be honest: my heart was heavy; there was a lump in my throat, and I teared up at the thought of even one moment of the precious time I have with my boy after school being dictated by someone else.

The assignment was easy enough; Harrison was asked to illustrate a picture of himself. He could add things found around the house like wrapping paper or buttons. It was quite a nice assignment, to be honest, but I couldn’t get past that terrible feeling, the realization that so many times parents must have had convulsions as they pulled out their students’ homework planners to find some spelling packet or reading assignment they needed to ensure their child completed. To me, it was another THING that needed to be done. Add that to the laundry pile, the dishes, and scrubbing the toilet. One more THING was taking me away from snuggling with my kids, or reading to them, or spending an extra few minutes giving them their baths. This particular assignment was to be a family task, so in reality we were all together for it. But it is still hard to know we have a little less freedom with our, well, free time.

I value school (good thing, right? Because, you know, I teach at one). I value my son’s teacher. A LOT. She’s pretty much on rock star status around here. I value the work she does, and as a fellow teacher, I understand the (sometimes) NEED to have homework. However, I can say without reservation that this experience has changed me completely as a teacher and I will be much more cognizant of how homework assignments affect families. As a matter of fact, last week, I ran into the parent of a former student and actually told this story to him. Then I apologized for all of the nights his sons had homework from me that maybe could have been avoided if I had stopped to think about the impact it had on families. Being a parent is stressful enough without this aspect added in.

We received a second assignment already this year. I put the paper on the fridge and stuck the due date in the back of my head. On Friday night, Harrison said, “Hey Mom, I think it’s time to get started on my homework.” I almost broke my neck when I snapped back to see who this responsible and eager creature was sitting at my kitchen table. And there it was, my second revelation of the school year: this homework was helping me see what kind of learner my little boy is turning out to be. I know I can’t be there in class with him every day now. I won’t always be able to hold his hand through everything, but right now I’m being given an opportunity to watch him grow and learn in a new way. Just because I understand what’s going on, doesn’t mean I am adapting well. img_4784-1I think this is what they call “growing pains”.

I’m Baaaaccckkkkk

I have returned from the abyss. But only for a few hours, folks, because it’s a school night.

The writing has been nonexistent lately due to this strange idea I had late last spring. I thought I should go and get myself a job. If you’re wondering why a woman, whose family is financially stable and completely happy without her employment might go and do such a thing, you clearly are not in the throes of raising a toddler and pre-schooler. The fact of the matter is that being a stay at home parent is a completely different kind of hard from any I have experienced. When I applied for this new position, I had visions of 30 minute lunches and uninterrupted bathroom breaks dancing in my head. I would be HELPING people! I would be teaching the future of America!

But, you guys, it’s still hard. Teaching is hard. Being away from the kids is hard. It has been a difficult transition for all of us. This new configuration has provided for some very interesting experiences thus far. Here are a few. 

Justin expressed to me the difficulty of getting the kids out of the house in the morning. He said I simply would not understand how frustrating it is to get them to daycare (after I dressed them, fed them, packed them, and brushed their teeth). Naturally, I had to feign surprise. After all, who let the valet driver go that has been taking them everywhere for the past four years?! We shoulda kept her around.

Since I’m teaching high school now, I’ve been learning all sorts of new things. Many of these things I cannot publish. I can say that my students are already incredibly adept at the inner workings of the legal system. Everyone says you learn best by experience.

You can only get cell phone reception from my classroom if you’re hanging halfway out the window.

Sixth graders and twelfth graders are not much different. As a matter of fact, all of my former tactics work with the bigger kids just as well as with the younger ones.

No matter how early I wake up to work out before I have to leave, Harrison wakes up earlier. I can’t even win at 5 am.

A student spent a good five minutes trying to ask me if I had a discman he could use. It took so long because he truly did not know the difference between a walkman and a discman, and described both as “that thing you put an 8 track into”…

In Pre-K, Harrison’s class operates on a green-yellow-red system for behavior management. Several times I have considered using this for my own classroom.

There are new words that the kids use these days, including: “legit” (meaning actually, or really), “same” (to refer to one who has had a similar experience or feeling), and “‘magine”, which is short for imagine; meaning ‘wouldn’t you know’ or ‘can you believe it?’ I find this one-word vocabulary to be incredibly in sync with their appreciation for and obsession over texting, and the desire to communicate with the fewest words possible.

Grumpiness is all around me. The students. My kids. It’s like everyone is a constant state of PMS. Speaking of which, I accidentally flung a tampon across the desk today when I was pulling out my materials to teach math class.

Ella informed me the other day that she held hands with a boy at preschool. Because Ella is Ella, it was not a matter-of-fact comment; rather, it was a “What are you gonna do about it” comment. Sweet Jesus, people. She is only two.

Harrison has already lost his winter coat and it is not even winter yet. That kid is one hell of an over achiever.

Packing lunches sucks.

Well, folks, I do apologize for taking such a hiatus. I’ve missed this. And, naturally, with a whole repertoire of new stories, I really should bounce back soon here once I get my schedule under control.

The Time We Went to Pittsburgh Part Two

You’re probably wondering how on earth we survived the plane ride from Portland to Pittsburgh, but if you read about part one of our journey, then you can probably understand that the plane ride was cake in comparison. No, Ella did not earn a baby doll for good behavior as she was promised, because, well, she needed to have good behavior. Screaming about wanting to get out of her car seat throughout both flights did not count as good behavior to us. Luckily, bringing her car seat solved the problem of her Houdini-ing her way out of the plane seatbelt, which really any fool can do. Those things were NOT meant for creative two year olds.


Once we arrived in the airport, Justin’s first task was to show the kids a statue of the dinosaur and tell them that the dinosaur would eat them if they continued to be naughty. Actually, I don’t know what he said exactly because I was too busy laughing at their scared faces while they stared up at the statue to really listen. But that is what I imagine he told them.


So I found my brother by happenstance purchasing a hot dog at a concession stand in the airport. Like, I literally just ran into him while coming back from the bathroom. I was thinking that this trip was going to be easy peasy if I found my ride that fast, and by accident! If you don’t know my brother, there are a few things you should know before understanding why this trip had so much promise. 1. He is a social justice activist. He loves standing up for what he believes in, and this sometimes involves police and other speed bumps. 2. He represents United Steelworkers unions all around the country to make sure they are treated fairly. I don’t exactly understand what this entails and it may be a cover for a secret agency that I believe he works for. 3. He somehow made me the black sheep of our family even though he’s the one sitting in trees, protesting, causing mayhem, and not calling our parents back-ever. Yeah, I don’t understand it either. 4. Most importantly, he loves Harrison and Ella fiercely. His niece and nephew are arguably the best things that have ever happened to him. That being said, he planned extensively for this trip. For example, here is one of his texts: “Can I bring Harrison and Ella to a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest if I promise no one gets arrested?”. It turns out that our flight times conflicted with this protest, but no worries; he had plenty of other things planned. Apparently so did they.

The first task was fitting an extra large bright pink suitcase along with a double jogging stroller in the trunk of Patrick’s Impala. I have no idea how they did it, but Justin and Patrick made it work.

We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some provisions. Harrison and Ella had their hearts set on the vending machines that spit out plastic junk for a quarter at the front of the store. Justin decided to indulge them and they each got a rubber ball. On the way back to Patrick’s, Ella kept trying to chew on hers. After several reminders to not eat the plastic toy, Justin took Ella’s ball away. To this, Harrison replied, “Dad! I’m not putting balls in my mouth!” And then we died.

Once we arrived at Patrick’s, the next challenge was child proofing his house. I lie. We did no such thing. We had cocktails. Patrick has two sets of stairs and a deck that falls out to an abyss, but we just simply hoped for the best. Everyone is still with us, so we did alright. Harrison was delighted that he got to camp out in his uncle’s room, and thanks to melatonin, both kids were out cold at a reasonable hour. By reasonable, I mean 9:30. Patrick had the distinct pleasure of seeing 5:00 am two mornings in a row, but I think he will survive.

Snack time in our household is kind of like 24 hours a day, but when I’m out at other people’s places, I try to hone in on a reasonable time period for my kids to eat. Patrick didn’t happen to have any plastic plates or bowls, so we took our chances with some ceramic ones. Ella promptly dropped one of them and it shattered all over the floor. Instead of being concerned, however, she ate her potato chips (yes I am health mom of the year) through the debris. From that point on the kids ate their food off of tupperware lids.

That night we ordered out because we knew better than to try to take the kids to a restaurant. Also, we thought it was incredibly amazing that you can order delivery for ANYTHING in Pittsburgh. Even tacos!

Our first adventure the following morning was the zoo. We had an amazing time there-if you’ve never been to the Pittsburgh Zoo, it’s a good trip to take. Harrison spent the entire time talking about the hippopotamus. Spoiler Alert: There is no hippopotamus at the Pittsburgh Zoo. We have no idea where he got this idea, however, we could do nothing but ignore his comments because we were in fear that great disappointment would ensue, and who wants to disappoint a kid at the zoo? Well, we tried our best, but unfortunately, we as evil parents and caregivers, let the kids ride the rides on the way out of the park. After they each picked two rides, they then chose temper tantrums, which weren’t on our menu, but, alas, they persisted.

By the time that was over we decided that we should just head back to Patrick’s place for naptime, but not until we stopped at his work first. He really wanted to show off Harrison and Ella to his coworkers, but as I imagined, his job is REALLY a top secret government spy agency and no one was ACTUALLY in the office at the time. Well, there were two people there who we got to meet but they were obviously spies as well because they came into Patrick’s office with stickers and glitter. They proceeded to parade my children around the office and allow the kids to sticker and glitter all sorts of things. Then they got out the megaphone. Harrison was in absolute heaven.

We went down a few floors and found Maria. Maria happened to be on a very important phone call (probably with the head of the spy agency. Patrick said it was the president of the union. SAME THING.) but she waved us in and signaled to the white board. The kids had a ball with that, but as you know, kids like to color outside the lines. In this case that meant Ella wrote on the wall instead of the white board. Maria seemed really nice because she didn’t completely mind that Ella did this; however, that reminds me that I need to purchase some magic erasers and send them to Pittsburgh.

After all of this fun and excitement, we went to lunch. On the way we found some fountains and we got in trouble for running in them, although Patrick said it was a good idea. After all of this clamor, we managed to make it home and have the kids take a nap (sort of).


We put Ella in the guest bedroom and all was quiet for quite some time, so I thought it was safe to go check on her. When I found her she was surrounded by empty granola bar wrappers, which she evidently snagged from my carry on bag. The joke was on her though, because that was it for snacks on the way home.


Our next Pittsburgh experience was taking the kids on the Incline. It was Justin who drove Patrick to distraction at this event, because he kept insisting that we all call the ride back down the Decline. Patrick tried without any luck to convince Justin that both the trip up and the trip down were called the Incline. At the top of the hill, we all had treats: ice cream for the kids and beer for the adults. We were joined by Patrick’s friend Hannah, who reads Live From Timeout and apparently wanted to see it all for herself. I am proud to report that we left her in one piece, and she was the only person who did not have to escort Harrison to the bathroom up an obscenely long staircase at the restaurant where we dined. Next time, Hannah, next time.

The following day, we decided to do a Ducky Tour. If you’re unfamiliar, these amphibious vehicles drive on roads and float in water. They’re great fun, especially, I assume, if it’s not pouring rain. I couldn’t tell you though, how much fun they would be on a nice sunny day, however, because our experience entailed the aforementioned weather. Harrison got to drive the boat, and Ella was asked by the driver no less than seven times if she’d like a try, but she curtly refused. Harrison kept telling the driver he wanted to turn the boat around and go back home, but the driver ignored his requests politely.

Because it was raining, we had few options left for the rest of the day. Ella’s only choice was a nap, but the boys all went to the Carnegie Museum of Science. Patrick says he’s never seen anyone so excited about anything in life as Harrison at a museum. Despite his apparent enchantment with all things science, Harrison reported back to me that the best part was eating popcorn at the Omni Imax theatre.

Our flight home was very early in the morning on Sunday, and although Harrison’s internal clock is set for about 5am, he decided to sleep in that day, through all of our preparations for departure, only to rise JUST before we packed up the car. I know Patrick was secretly hoping he could keep one of the kids, but we ended up taking everyone back.

The Time We Went to Pittsburgh (Part 1)

The latest adventure our family had was a trip to visit my brother in Pittsburgh. Patrick loves his time with his niece and nephew, and he usually spends a lot of time planning their time together so that plenty of chaos can ensue. This trip did not disappoint. There was chaos everywhere, and as a matter of fact, it all started before we even got out of bed the morning we left.

“Oh shit,” I heard Justin say as he read his emails beside me. I hadn’t even opened my eyes yet, and I already had reason to worry. When he does this my anxiety level instantly rises because a million bad things race through my mind. Does he all of a sudden have to work this weekend? Were our bank accounts hacked? Is someone sick or dead? It turns out that the airline changed our connecting flight so that we now had a four hour layover at the Laguardia Airport. This, to me, is not a crisis. This is a simple little blip on the radar screen of crisis. I actually do not mind a bit of time in the airport because I like to get myself settled: No need to rush through security, some time to go to the bathroom, scope out the shopping, and sit and relax before the plane boards. Needless to say, Justin does NOT like downtime. He somehow managed to change our flight again so that we now had a 45 minute layover. Visions of running through the terminal danced through my head. But it got BETTER.

Since Justin loves to maximize his time, he had planned to take Harrison and himself to get haircuts on the way to the airport. This was a planned event. We talked about it. We decided when we would leave the house. I was cool with this. But as I started loading the bags into the car, I noticed that Justin was in the garage. With power tools. Then the power tools made their way to my van. “What could we possibly be doing with power tools on our way to the airport?” I thought. Mind you, I knew better than to ask. My Xanax was already packed away. I knew I couldn’t handle the truth, so I just let it go.

Once we got into the car, the real fun started. Our first stop was to Dunkin’ Donuts. We don’t have one in town, and every time Justin leaves the peninsula, he HAS to get a coffee. The kids also see this as a time to fill up on donuts. By the way, we found out that Harrison can’t have sugar, but that’s a story for another day.

Come to find out, the power tools were so Justin could break into a shed that we actually own at our old house. Nothing like a little criminal action before you go on vacation. Justin is reminding me that it wasn’t actually criminal because it was OUR shed, and he simply lost the key. He also is reminding me that our lawn wouldn’t get mowed while we were gone if the lawnmower remained locked in that shed. I was afraid I’d let it slip to airport security that we broke into a shed on our way to the airport and then we’d be arrested. But that’s only because my meds were stashed in my suitcase, and sometimes when I get nervous I overshare. It turns out that TSA does not care what you did before you got to the airport.

After this, it was time for the haircuts. The plan was for Ella and I to go to the coffee shop (Yes, I had gotten coffee at Dunkin’ too; don’t judge a girl and her caffeine.) and Harrison and Justin to go to the barber shop. Since Ella just had a donut, she was completely unimpressed that she wasn’t allowed to have any treats at the coffee shop. We got out of there with little incident, despite her disappointment.

So then Ella and I walked back to the car, which was parked outside the barber shop. For some reason, Justin and Harrison had decided to go to a DIFFERENT barber shop, and were now three blocks away. This is only a long distance when you have a two year old in tow who insists that she “walk by myfelf”. Justin sends me a text telling me where he is and notifying me that Harrison’s pants keep falling down. He wants to buy him a belt. Today. Right now. On the way to the airport. No big deal right? So we walk BACK up to the other barber shop and then meet up with the boys to buy a belt, because we have “plenty of time”. Meanwhile, the barber gave Harrison a lollipop for his good behavior. Justin learned from the last time that he had to ask for a lollipop for Ella as well (because, fairness); however, the barber WOULDN’T LET HIM HAVE ANOTHER ONE. This, my friends, is what we call an injustice. On we go to the store to get a belt, except that the store has no belt for four year old boys. It does however, have LOTS of toys. Ella happened to find a baby doll that she NEEDED to own. If I was given a reprieve in the coffee shop for her disappointment, I was punished twofold for making her leave that store without the baby doll. Justin promised Ella that if she was a good girl on the airplane that Uncle Patrick would buy her a baby doll in Pittsburgh. (It turned out that there was no need for Patrick to buy any dolls that weekend.) So now, still 40 minutes from the airport, we have a little girl who is distraught at the unfairness of life and lack of baby dolls in her world, along with a little boy whose pants won’t stay up. Instead of just heading to the airport at this point, Justin decided to pay some bills. So, we went to TWO different banks, and then just for fun, Justin told me he needed to stop at the grocery store. I was just about to lose my mind at this point. He returns from the grocery store with flowers and a balloon for his sister because it happened to be her birthday. Try telling a two and four year old that the balloon in the car is NOT for them. Try it. I dare you.

Our next stop was to my sister in law’s place of employment where we delivered flowers and the balloon very quickly because even Justin recognized the value of time at this point in our trip.

We had just enough time at that point for me to spill my coffee on my shirt (it was the Dunkin’ Donuts one-that’s what I get for going commercial brand-the coffee shop one stayed nicely in its cup and in my mouth) before we arrived at the airport. The good news is that we made it just in time to board the plane. Justin perceived this as enough time to get another coffee and go shopping in the airport bookstore. I actually boarded the plane with a double stroller, a car seat, two toddlers, four carry on bags, and no husband. He eventually made it and could not understand for the life of him why I was exhausted and frustrated.

I am exhausted and frustrated all over again, so you’ll have to check back to read about all the damage we did when we actually landed in Pittsburgh. That city will never be the same.

Angry Mommy Fail

So the other day we were in the minivan headed to someplace undoubtedly fun and exciting when, before even getting out of the driveway, Harrison started in on one of his screaming fits. These fits usually come unannounced and it will go from silent to “my entire body is on fire” hysteria in no time.
“WHAT is the matter?” I asked, annoyed, without bothering to look back. Usually these meltdowns are rooted in dismay that an action figure dropped on the floor of the car or the sudden realization that he forgot his” most favorite toy ever” that he just found that day, although it’s been in our home for months. Sometimes it’s because his sock is twisted, and I think the best one was the time we forgot to put a bandaid on his imaginary cut.

Anyway, despite the high pitched screaming I was completely unalarmed-and unsurprised-that today’s crisis stemmed from Harrison’s water bottle “not working right”.

The rule is that if Mommy’s driving, all problems and needs must wait until the car is fully stopped in a safe location. I can say right now that if my children are going to adhere to all rules as well as they do this one, we’d better book some slots in the county jail right now. After a couple calm reminders, the screaming did not cease. I knew it was time to do something drastic. I decided it was time for Angry Mommy.

I stopped the car in the road, got out, put my mean teacher look on, opened Harrison’s door, snatched his water bottle, and threw it in the front seat. I slammed my door shut and buckled my seatbelt. For three seconds, nothing but stunned silence was heard from the back seat. “I showed him who’s boss,” I thought smugly, as I continued to drive up our dirt road. All of a sudden shrieks of laughter came gurgling up from the very depths of my children’s bellies. I was a little shocked that they were laughing at Angry Mommy, because I clearly meant business. I mean, I had even used my mean teacher look and everything. That’s when I heard it, clear as day, the whooshing of open air, my tires spinning over the gravelly road. Angry Mommy drove away without shutting Harrison’s car door.

“I love riding with my door open, Mommy! This is so fun!” I’m thinking my point was completely lost on him. I had just inadvertently given him the best car ride experience of his life.

“My door too, Mommy!” chirped Ella. Well, clearly, everyone is going to be hating their water bottles again real soon because THIS was very exciting.

So the moral of the story is, if you want to be taken seriously by your children, do NOT leave the car door open when your vehicle is moving. I’m pretty sure that might be a good rule to go by in all situations, but, hey, we’re all works in progress here.

I Want Them To Love

As a mom and a teacher I am scared to death regarding the recent hate shootings. I’m scared for my kids and for my students. I am terrified that it’s all too out of hand now and that my children will not live in a world where they can love everyone and anyone. I’m afraid they’ll see the news and get some idea that this is all ok and acceptable.

I’m worried that they might not respect others. I think I’m most worried that I won’t know how to teach them the right way to live, and that is with love and respect.

Growing up in Elmira, New York, I had a unique experience when it comes to being exposed to diversity. In my elementary school, there might have been one kid who wasn’t white. But when I got to middle and high school, I was surrounded by a very colorful group of people. The four other elementary schools in that district were much more diverse than my own. You’d think my first 11 years of life in Elmira were quite different from those next 7 that followed. But they weren’t. I found good friends everywhere I went, always.

I’m not going to throw out this colorblind thing to you, because that’s not how it works. I’m going to tell you that color and race did NOT matter, but it definitely made things more interesting. For example, one of my best friends growing up was Laotian. Jimmy and I met in seventh grade French class. Obviously our families had vast differences. I went to Sunday School, and he took a summer off to travel to Laos and become a Buddhist monk. (He was always trying to one-up me…) Our parents adored each other. My dad thought Jimmy might be able to keep me out of trouble because he was strong and fierce. His parents thought the same of me. Not that I was strong and fierce, but that maybe my good sense would help steer Jimmy away from chaos. (They were both wrong.) Jimmy was there when I broke up with my first boyfriend. He showed up at my front door with a milkshake and a hug. He and his cousins watched hours of Dawson’s Creek with me until I felt better. Did I know my friend looked different? Did I know he had a completely different religion and background? Of course I did. But I also knew that his mom made the BEST sticky rice in town. There was a time when Jimmy was attacked and his strong sense of religion was also attacked. It was my dad who Jimmy approached in a time of need. My family would have done quite literally anything for Jimmy, back then, and I’m sure we all still would now.

Every Christmas Eve or Christmas night, after the family stuff was over, we would call the Nelsons. The Nelson family had a bunch of kids the same ages as my brother and me. We went to school together, and most of our extra-curricular activities involved one of the Nelson kids as well. They might be the most fun people in the entire world. Guess what? They’re black. Did we notice? Yeah. Because out of some genetic anomaly, those Nelson kids had the MOST GORGEOUS hazel eyes you have ever seen. My home was filled with Mrs. Nelson’s beautiful smile and Mr. Nelson’s hearty laugh on those holiday nights. Us kids caused enough mischief to have fun, but not enough to lose our Christmas presents. We loved each other, plain and simple.

Not everyone I knew celebrated Christmas. Our next door neighbors, the Rachlins, were Jewish. Well, they still are, but they’re not our neighbors anymore. I remember asking tons of questions about Hanukkah, and one year I got to see the menorah being lit. Norah, who was my brother’s age, happens to LOVE Christmas. We always giggled at her excitement about it because it was kind of like a cat who wanted to be a mouse. We were lucky enough, though, because back then in school you were allowed to talk about religion and we learned about each other’s backgrounds. It was fun and exciting. And it was completely necessary.

As you can probably deduce, my parents taught by example. If we had a friend we thought was worthy of our time, they were welcome in our home. It didn’t matter what they looked like, or what religion they practiced. There was only one time I remember having to talk about racial and ethnic differences. Back when we thought dating in middle school was a real thing, I had my eyes set on a nice boy named TJ. TJ had sparkly brown eyes, dark skin, and a huge smile. He had a hop in his step and he was always happy. In terms of life experience, TJ was worlds ahead of me, but he liked hanging out with my family and me. My parents would drive to the other side of town to TJ’s grandmother’s apartment and pick him up to spend the day with us.

One day, my dad sat me down alone. This happened rarely, but when it did, I knew he had something important to talk about. Dad told me how much he and Mom loved having TJ around. He said TJ was a really nice young man and he was happy that we spent time together. But then he told me that sometimes, people might not understand why I liked TJ. He said some people might not like me BECAUSE I liked TJ. I was FLOORED. Dad didn’t tell me this to deter me; he was preparing me. He was preparing me for what I might see on the news 22 years later, with people shooting other people because of their race and their sexuality. And the ironic part of it all is that it is based on TJ’s respect for me and for my family that I have continued to this day to scale the level of other’s treatment toward me and those I love. His kindness was unprecedented and I have yet to meet more than a few people who are as inherently good as him.

How do these shooters know? How would they know which people are good and which people are bad, unless they sat down with them, talked to them, LISTENED to them? How would they know who it’s ok to shoot if they hadn’t invited those people into their homes and gotten to know them? What if one of those dead officers would have been the first person to involve your little brother in a conversation? What if the black man in the car with his girlfriend and her child read amazing bedtime stories? What if one of those people was the only person who genuinely wanted to hear your dad’s law school stories on repeat?

If we’re not opening our eyes and our hearts, if we’re not letting these people into our lives, how do we know what we’re missing?

You know what? I just want my kids to love people. All kinds of people. Everyone. And when this kind of crap happens, the shootings and attacks, I want my kids’ hearts to burn and I want them to stand up for all the people they love and make this world a better place. I don’t care if they can’t recite the alphabet yet or if they can’t for the life of them put their shoes on the right feet. That’s not important. I want them to BE KIND and to LOVE.


How do you look when you are parenting?

I lugged her through the parking lot; she was an overtired heap of a thing by four p.m. With no nap and a day full of adventure on the ocean, my baby girl was spent. When she wants to be close to me, she has a way of tucking her arms into herself and bunching her legs up as I hold her. It’s endearing really, because I think she’s trying to recreate the feeling she had when she was swaddled as an infant. Today, however, I was carrying her like a sack of potatoes. She was writhing in my arms, tears streaming down her face, hair in knots from the ocean wind.

We had spent the day fulfilling Justin’s dream-well one of them. Along with wanting to own a ski chalet, travel the world, and ride across the country on motorcycles, he has also always wanted a boat. This was the one fantasy we could fulfill at present; with the kids so little, the other ideas are out of the question for the time being. Now that we have the boat, I’m predicting that all of our free moments will be spent on it, or cleaning it, or fixing it. So far, my prediction has held true. If you haven’t taken small children on a boat, I will paint a picture for you:

A two and a four year old child, both eager to explore land and sea, are running up and down the bow of the boat. Your heart jumps into your throat when you realize there is a tiny railing keeping them on board. They are ceaselessly climbing the ladder, and wrapping their tiny hands around the steering wheel. “No! Don’t touch that lever!” and “You need your life jacket on!” are called out from concerned parents. Wails of discontent come from the children when they are required to sit still, and cries of excitement are heard when an ocean resident pops its head up from the water. It is an exhausting experience for everyone involved, but especially for the mom, whose one responsibility is to keep the children aboard while her husband is captaining the ship. You’d think the confined space would make it easier to keep track of the kids, but their boredom sets in quickly at having to sit still while the boat was moving and it was nothing short of exhausting to wrangle them the entire time.

It is no wonder then, that by the time we reached land, Ella had had just about enough, and so had I. I was so relieved to be off the boat that the anxiety quite literally floated away the moment I reached the dock. Despite my child’s temper tantrum through the parking lot as we neared the car, I was calm for the first time since we departed onto the waters. I was holding her, smiling, because I was finally feeling confident again. You see, I am not a boater. I am not a sea farer. I grew up in Upstate New York, and although we did visit the ocean regularly, it was to dip our toes in the waves, not to drive out into the wild blue yonder. I can care for my children on land, but in the water, I am a basket case, constantly worrying. “Just get her back to the car,” I thought, “and she can rest there. We’ll be home soon.”

I was approaching a group of tourists as we walked through the parking lot of the marina. They all smiled at me sympathetically as they saw my baby girl in her fit. Even though I was feeling like a frazzled mess due to that kind of behavior from her, I smiled back. One of the women made a comment that will stick with me forever. She said, “I know this part is hard right now, but you look beautiful doing it.”

I walked away thinking that it is incredibly odd that anyone could find beauty in a wailing child with a snotty nose being hauled back to the car by her disheveled mother. I know neither Ella nor I was looking quite exemplary, with her in a hot mess and me just barely hanging on. And then I realized what it was: I was comfortable here. I was secure. I knew I could handle this disaster, even though it wasn’t easy. That woman wasn’t looking at my frizzy hair and my sunburned skin. She was a fellow mother looking at one of her own kind, recognizing that I KNEW I was going to get through. She saw the beauty that is giving your whole self to another tiny human being.  And because she said something to me, I saw it too.

Say it, fellow moms. Compliment those ladies you see who are getting through. Build them up. Look into their eyes and see your own reflected back. It’ll make us all better people and better parents.

I will get on that boat again with my children. I will brave it. I may not love it. But I’ve been reminded-and I will remember-that I can do it.