Author: Stephanie

I read the news today, oh boy.

This is a terrorist act. Photo By Ryan Kelly, Daily Progress
I realized about twenty minutes into our time at the playground, surrounded by children’s laughter, that mine were the only white kids there. There was no value attached to this observation, the day was mild and sunny, not too hot, not too cool, just right for a bunch of kids to climb and scream and swing and slide. Oh yeah, there was a zip line too. The reason we were there. Maybe that’s privilege for you, not immediately assessing the racial breakdown of any situation.

My oldest spun around and around with three brand new friends, boys about his age, their faces a blur of smiles and giggles, while one just slightly older and taller pushed them on the tire swing.  They took turns spinning each other so fast I had to look away before I felt dizzy with both feet firmly on the ground. Their laughter and screams of delight louder every go around. My six year old worked hard standing on tip-toes with another boy exactly his height as they struggled together to be just big enough to truly do the zip line. My baby girl, made a beeline directly for two girls, probably 7 or so. She always wants to be where the big girls are. I worried she was cramping their style as she is only three and they were clearly playing a game together, but when I tried to distract her so they could play alone they already knew her name and said it was okay, she was cute. They wanted her with them, and I sat on a wooden climbing apparatus and smiled as they adapted their game and helped her go up and down the slide for twenty minutes straight.


I looked around at the 25 or so kids and felt the oddest mix of wanting to cry and yet feeling hopeful. The kids, man. The kids are alright. They didn’t care one bit who was black and who was white. It’s the adults who are messed up.  They were the same age and at the same place and within moments had learned who liked baseball or basketball. Teen Titans Go or Loud House. Nats or Orioles. The important things. They ran and played until everyone was tired and thirsty.


As I left one of the women with them complimented my daughter’s hair and mine. “Exactly the same”, she smiled and I made her laugh when I said “I just told the salon to make mine match!” and while we laughed we told one another to have a wonderful day.


Last night I watched in disbelief as men carried Tiki Torches, perhaps gotten on clearance at Walmart or Pier One, through Charlottesville, VA. They surrounded a Church. They screamed horrible words at people there to pray for peace. For love.


Things kids just know.

Denis Leary’s voice rang in my ears. “Hate is taught. You know what my three year old hates? Naps. End of story.”

Today I cried as I watched white men in khakis, white polos and MAGA hats, arms extended proudly proclaiming “Heil Trump!” I watched them wave Confederate Flags, Nazi Flags, I watched someone purposefully drive a car directly into those there to say no, White Supremacists, we don’t want that here. I watch them in their tactical gear, some in bike helmets and elbow guards, perhaps hoping there will be a roller blade race later, screaming they want their country back.


But it’s never been ours, we stole it.


I see pictures of black officers being taunted and their deaths called for, and still they stand and protect these monster’s right to free speech. A man on instagram with the username CumRefugee calls me a slut. I’m at a loss. I get a message on FB asking me to “calm down”. I reply, you are free to look away. Perhaps also, look at why you want me to calm down.

The President of the United States speaks and blames both sides. He has a literal Nazi and a White Supremacist in his staff. How much longer can we pretend this isn’t the game plan? I hate him.

The news breaks there is a fatality. Is this death the first official life lost in our new Civil War? I tell my husband if they come to Maryland I will be there, and I know he worries. But I want my kids to see me standing up for what is right.


I won’t calm down. I won’t quiet down. People are dying. There is a young man with locs wearing a yoke and chains and it takes my breath away, moments later I cannot help but laugh as I see two middle aged white guys carrying wooden shields attempt to fight and fall upon one another in a pratfall that would have made The Three Stooges proud.


I don’t have an answer, how to get to these Nazis and Klansmen, for the media can vacillate on naming them all they want, we know. How to show them a fundamental belief system they’ve been taught is faulty and is causing death. How to show them love is better.


But I won’t be quiet. And if you need me, I’ll be driving out the darkness with the light I will find at the playground.


Because kids, man, they get it.

Max’s Birthday Letter (late)

18447674_10154288921985876_7315162523581789159_nDearest Max,

How are you nine? Nine is, so grown. I remember nine. Nine is big kid problems and more complex schoolwork. Nine is an official pitcher on your baseball team. Nine is…not little.

I am struggling with it. You are not. I am constantly amazed at your growth. You are aware of your anxiety and your struggles, but you take them in such stride. I worry constantly about you in social situations but it is needless. You take off at the pool for the deep end making friends, playing Sharks and Minnows for hours.  When there is a joint activity you THRIVE.  I truly believe you are the bravest kid, courage is being scared and doing it anyway and sometimes that is an all day activity for you. But at the pool, on the baseball field? No fear. All skill and fun. There is nothing greater than that.


You continue to be a kind hearted kid. It’s one of the things I treasure most about you. You take kindness seriously. This last year you dealt with a bully, and he got to you quite a bit in your heart. It was hard, and one day after a particularly bad encounter you sat in the backseat of the van and we talked about it and you said “He must really be having a hard time to be so mean”. I agreed. Surely he was. He was in pain, you thought. I nodded, both heartbroken that my sweet boy was having a hard time and lifted that even at this age you understood that others can act out due to their own pain. It’s not right and it’s not fair but it is human, and you got that.  You take our motto “You are not going to like everyone, everyone is not always going to like you. But we must always be kind.” seriously.  I appreciate that about you and work to protect it.

This year you  started to thrive academically, we were able to figure out  some of how your magnificent brain works, and your amazing school got you set up with people to help you achieve all you can. You are a math whiz. You seem surprised at your own smarts sometimes. I always joke that you are a Super Secret Amazing Reader and your test scores showed that this year.  You have a speech disfluency, due to anxiety, and now you are getting help with that, I knew that this added to your not wanting to read aloud in class or in front of others. But you own it now and it is amazing. At the Author’s Tea this year you proudly read your work and when you got stuck you simply looked up and said “sometimes I stutter.” No big deal, sometimes you stutter. Sometimes you don’t. Joe Biden stuttered too. Didn’t hold him back, won’t hold you back. No sir.

Growing up is hard and sometimes you get angry, I know it’s hard sometimes to control your temper and we fight about this, but we are a team and we have your back.

Your art is just…incredible. I love to see how you create and draw. How you see things. You and your brother and sister can draw all day and none of you have ever had any use for coloring books or the like. Plain paper, thank you.

You continue to be obsessed with Five Nights at Freddy’s. I hate it, you love it. You love it because, well, it’s a THING, and also because it is scary but doesn’t scare you. Anything that empowers you, I am for. And while I do not care for it I do care for the creativity it has inspired in you. You create cardboard puppets with articulated jaws and draw endless variations on the characters working on each one’s facial expressions and perspectives. I am constantly amazed with the art you put out. I hope you never stop creating.

You continue to love music but are much more interested in sports right now. The Beatles have taken a backseat to basketball. Baseball is still your first love and you want to play football but mama won’t let you. Sorry. I gotta protect that beautiful noggin and that glorious brain! We compromised on flag football. So we are both happy. 20479453_10154539299725876_2245592579082296432_n

You are still my homebody, you would stay home all the time if I let you. You are THE GREATEST big brother ever, your patience with Piper knows no bounds and while you and Huck are getting to a place where you fight sometimes, you love him so much. You sometimes still crawl into my lap for a snuggle and I stop everything for our cuddles and talks.  It’s hard to believe we are halfway to 18 and college. It’s been a blink of an eye and honestly, even the hard moments, have been full of joy.

You are the very heart of our family. I cannot wait to see what this year brings as you continue to spread your wings. You KNOW yourself, and sometimes, okay often, I just need to back off and trust you.

I love you so much Max. Happy Birthday.

I feel bad about my tankini.

me back in the day. I thought I was fat.

me back in the day. I thought I was fat.




I bought a tankini. I mean, I see them everywhere and they look cute on other women, comfy, easy to use the loo in at the pool and of course, they give great coverage to those of us who have, shall we say, some extra padding about the middle and are self conscious about the bum? Yes, let’s go with that. I’m padded.

I bought a tankini.

And the moment I put it on I felt bad about it. For some reason to me, the tankini felt like I had tossed in the last towel. Like, that’s it. I’m no longer a woman. I’m a MOM.

It felt shitty.

Suddenly, and without warning it hit me; this is it. I am a middle aged suburban mom. And that moniker, that thought, was diminutive. Disheartening. I am so much more, aren’t I? Is everything that made me special gone? Is this it? Is the tankini a woman Invisibility Cloak?

Because, of course I love being a mom, not just a mom but their mom. It’s the greatest experience and even when I’m exhausted and they’re cranky it’s still rad. It’s just that everything is different, including- especially my body.

I also love my mom-bod. After years of abuse it somehow managed to build three totally rad, bad ass, cool small people that I not only love more than anything in the world, I like. So I love this bod. 35 pounds heavier than it was, flabby about the middle, my adorable formerly pieced belly button is now stretched and kind of an outtie thanks to diastasis recti (the gift that keeps on giving…as in giving you comments from strangers asking how far along you are). I love it. I am utterly at home in it; but I am also completely uncomfortable in it.

How do I dress this body? Nothing fits like it did. What’s that saying? I wish I was as fat as I was when I thought I was fat? That. And fat or not, it applies. I used to grab clothes off the rack, not even trying them on and go. I knew what worked and what didn’t.

Now? Not so much. I am far too old for the juniors department, and I’ve no desire to spend a ton of money to look like I’m homeless (I’m looking at you Urban Outfitters). The “women’s” department is too old for me…I am not ready for stretchy pants and resort wear. But JCrew? Loft? Yes. But…I have a three year old. Are shirts that must be ironed, really applicable to my life? This is why Target has the market on moms. I can grab Capri Suns and a sundress. It’s both awesome, and depressing. Am I the girl who can’t even take a half an hour to go to an actual clothing store and find something? Don’t I deserve that?Is that selfish? But then again, that Mossimo top is kinda cute…Then there is the real issue: I don’t look like myself. I don’t like how things look on me. I am out of sorts. Will I ever see a picture of myself again and like it? Am I so vain?

Then the mom-guilt kicks in. Mom guilt is like Miranda Priestly “Millions of girls would KILL for your job” and don’t I know it. So many friends who have lost babies or had trouble getting pregnant, staying pregnant. Do I even have, I don’t know, the right to feel wonky in my own body, now that it’s performed it’s miracles?

What do I want? Other than to get over myself and accept my new awesomely heavier body?

Right now all I want is a cute bathing suit, even a tankini, in a matching pattern, or at least a bottom that isn’t black or navy. Apparently it’s cute bikinis but if you want one piece or tankini it’s mostly black, navy, maybe a blue and white pattern.

Bikinis are fun! One pieces…well we might as well put you out to pasture. Maybe I’ll just go ahead and get an old fashioned swim dress.

Because for reals, I feel bad about my tankini.

Piper’s 3rd Birthday Letter

Every year on their birthdays I write my children a letter. This is Piper’s third birthday letter.

PicMonkey Collage

Dearest Piper,

You will hear me say this many times over your lifetime but it seems as if you’ve just been born, but also as if we have never been without you. You, my sweet girl, were what we were missing.

I’m late with this letter because I have really been struggling with it. You are three now, no longer a baby, and I admit it is so bittersweet. There will be no new baby to replace your warm little body in my arms, as there was with your brothers. Our family is complete, I feel no baby fever, my three babies are the perfect ones for me and I feel no loss to not having another. So that makes your leaving this phase behind you even more final. You are the last baby I will ever have, and now? You are no baby.


You are all girl. You are strong, and willful, and so powerful I am in awe of you. You know your mind, you know what you like and what you don’t. You do not suffer fools easily. In fact, at all. You are all pink, frilly, delicate and sweet…until you need not be. Then you drop the hammer like no ones business. I know that society will want to encourage the sweet, the pink, the frilly,  will want to cultivate the girly, the small and the quiet. So I have vowed to cultivate what is innherrent in you. The baby bad ass that you truly are.

You can play by yourself for hours with your tiny shopkins, or PJ Masks toys. You love a good dollhouse. But your favorite thing in the world is your brothers, and their toys from the horror game Five Nights At Freddy’s. In particular, some weird ugly chicken named Chica. You love Chica. You and Huck play FNAF and you pretend to be Chica. You have Chica plushies (which is nothing but a rad name to make grown ups feel cool owning stuffed animals, but whatever) You and Huck are inseperable, you play together all day and fight as often as you play, but you cannot be away from one another. If you should happen tomake a friend at a park or church, or even our little cousin comes to visit and you play with her, Huck gets so jealous! You are his Pippi! You love it.

We always joke that between the two boys you have it covered. Max dotes on you, gives you his brand new toys the moment they arrive, even if he has waited for them, even if their are chica! He praises you and makes a big deal out of every accomplishment. Absolutely everything you do is perfect in his eyes, and on the off chance that he does get annoyed with your little sister antics, they are short lived and he cant’t wait to snuggle you again.

Huck? Huck started out as brother boot camp, he is rough with you, sometimes too rough, but you go back for more. Huck encourages your toughness, you fight back, and frequently you win. But it’s not all roughhousing, he is your stalwart playfellow. You develop games together, you create and paint together and oh, how you laugh together.  He is still young enough to watch your shows and share your interests. And when the three of you are laughing together, especially when I hear it from the other room, I swear it is the happiest moment of my entire life.

You start school in the fall and you are ready! You know your ABCs though it can be a bit dodgy about the middle, but you smile that smile and we all tell you it was perfect. We are suckers for our Pippi.

You like your hair down, no ponytails but we force you to have one so your hair won’t be in your face. You will only wear pink. You love your pink sparkly jelly shoes. Minnie Mouse, Owlette, and Puppy Dog Pals. Bunny is still your very favorite and you sleep with her every night. You love going to movies and swinging in the red swing. I confess, I don’t swing you enough. You still sleep with me at night, and I will be sad when that ends. You snuggle up close and I can smell your sweet hair and your soft breathing and it just stops me in my tracks that I got a girl.


We say it all the time, the boys your father and me, we are so glad we got a girl.

You are our girl. And we love you so. You are precious beyond measure to us, and no one better mess with our girl.

Cause you can take care of yourself. (but if you need back up, we got your six)

SIX; Huck’s birthday letter

Every year on their birthday I write my children a letter to mark the year. This is Huck’s sixth birthday letter.


huck mugshot collage



My dearest Huckleberry,

SIX! You were so excited to be six you woke up at 4 am and simply couldn’t get back to sleep.  Six is a real live big kid! I cannot help but smile every time you cross my mind which is often. “I’m six right now!” you said joyfully in the morning and then again on the way to the movie theatre to celebrate with Captain Underpants. It was so pure that we couldn’t help but awe at your comment.

That’s you. Pure joy. Whatever it is, you are all in! And your birthday? Well, you bring the party!

I am not sure there is anything in the world that can instantly transform my mood like your patented Happy Dance. Snoopy has nothing on your happy dance!

In January we had a house fire and you were in the kitchen when it was burning. Of everyone in the family you have had the hardest time with it. You cannot be alone right now, you get very scared, afraid even to go to the bathroom by yourself! I am sorry it took me so long to realize what was going on with you, every beep from the microwave, every noise from the coffee maker, and heartbreakingly when the smoke detector went off at Ma and Bob Bob’s house panics you and my heart hurts that I didn’t instantly understand instead of brushing it off. You tend to shake things off so easily that it took me too long to understand how affected you were by the fire. Ma and I take turns sleeping with you and snuggling you at night until you feel safe. Every day you feel more confident and we will do whatever necessary to ease your fears. There is something extra painful at watching our happy, spirited little man be so scared. Again I am so sorry it took me so long to understand.

No one in the world loves hugs more than you do. You are still the snuggliest, sweetest little man in the land and you are happiest cuddling close to someone. You love CARS and chose to postpone your birthday party for two weeks so you could have a movie party for CARS3. You love to draw and create, sing and be silly, and more than anything you love your brother and sister.


When Max pays attention to you and you two bond over Five Nights at Freddie’s (which I hate), or he compliments you on a drawing you’ve done, I see you absolutely bloom.  But the real story this year is you and Piper…you and she are best buds, you two cannot be parted from one another right now. You fight and play together all day, and if she tries to talk to someone else or play with someone at the playground or movies you get so jealous, you run up and hug her! It’s really sweet. Listening to you guys laugh and play is absolutely one of my favorite things in the world. You both ask for popsicles in the bath and I know there will be at least 30 minutes of fun for you guys. You make up games and stories and set up rocket ships and beaches all day.


You rocked Kindergarten this year. You make friends easily and bring home all kinds of fabulous stories about them. Kindergarten has a LOT of crushes this year! You love learning, though reading is frustrating to you. This seems to be getting easier now that you got glasses! And listen, the glasses? Are KILLER. You picked them out yourself and we all just thought you made the greatest choice! I love how you swing them down and hook them over one ear when you need to see close up. It’s so cute and resourceful!

Your favorite color is still orange, you go crazy for Panera, and you still love hats. You ‘dare’ people to do things all the time, that aren’t actually dares. Like “I DARE you to give me dinner”, you no longer say ‘mine’ instead of my, but you do still say ‘childrens’ instead of child. You have the cutest way of phrasing things, you’re basically the cutest thing ever.

You are my best model, you love to post for pictures and ask for more! You are charming, sweet, silly, smart as a whip and you do not do anything halfway.

You bring the party.

And I am so glad you brought it to me.

Happy Birthday my sweet Huckleberry, you are my sparkler! My little firecracker and I am so glad you are my kid!
I love you!!!!


On raising a girl …



A woman whose name I never got and whose face I cannot remember though I can picture exactly where she was seated as the stylist blew out her said said “you will never regret it is you do, but you might if you don’t” The overheard topic was babies. Should I have one, specifically, should I have another baby. I longed for a third baby, just one more. Honestly, it was as if I could feel her little soul floating over my shoulder whispering in my right ear “well, I’m waiting.”

I knew she would be a girl; though I made the nurse on the other side of the line tell me three times. “I have boys” I said repeatedly “Are you sure?” “99.9% sure, Mrs Dulli. These tests are nearly foolproof” I could hear her smile through the phone as I rested my hand on my already swollen belly, at just ten weeks it was hard to believe, and the boys danced around me in the living room. Still, I told her, I wasn’t buying anything until I saw it on the monitor. Seeing is believing. 2 months later there she was, crystal clear on the big screen TV monitor. Perfect, and wiggly, definitely a girl. “BRING ME ALL THE PINK!” I joked to my husband as we left the high risk doctor.”Yeah!” He replied “Let’s Pepto Bismol the whole place!”

Tonight, nearly three, she snuggles in the nook of me and cries a little as she falls asleep. She almost always cries, sounding as if she is in pain, as sleep takes over while I shhhhh and stroke her hair. She frequently wags a finger to the ceiling and says “no, no, no, no!” Sometimes she is so upset that I tell that ceiling to leave my baby alone; she doesn’t like it. Eventually she sighs and grows heavy against me. She smells of apples , her hair softer than silk. Her beloved, ratty Bunny held close as her breathing becomes deeper and deeper. I look up, past the ceiling and beg God to keep her safe. All of them. My three.

But my girl. I know what happens to girls. So especially my girl, I ask God. Protect her. Keep her safe.

And God forgive me for what I will do if someone truly hurts her. If someone does to her what was done to me, to so many of my friends. To so many strangers on the internet who share and support. Varying shades and levels of abuses and traumas. The systemic breakdown of self esteem and self preservation. The undermining of knowing we are right to say no. To fight back. We teach our girls to be small, then we punish them when they are overtaken.

She is now small in stature but not in spirit. She is tough; she has two older brothers who both protect her and put her through boy boot camp. She is all girl, pink and sparkles and ballet; but mess with her and she will neck punch you before you know it. She’s a tiny pink bad-ass. I say past the ceiling to God, I vow that I will not let this be beat out of her. Every day I watch as the world rolls back progress. It is terrifying.

I turn my head, inhaling her sweet scent and kissing her delicate forehead and ask one last time for her protection. And for grace and temperance for myself.


The Empty Corner



We raced our bikes for hours. Two bad-ass little 9 year old girls still all long limbs and confidence. Nothing beat out of us yet, we were free from body hate and helicopter parenting wasn’t invented yet so our parents pushed out the door to exercise those long limbs in the sun as we screamed with laughter and our muscles felt joy at working and nothing else.

She lived on a double cul de sac. Two circles at either end, slightly elevated and the middle connecting section slightly lower. It was essentially the world’s best place to live if you liked to race figure eights for hours. We did. Race all morning, come in for lunch, race all afternoon. A little boy our age and grade also lived there and though his name was Brian we called him Booger. I’ve no recollection as to why, but I’m certain we owe him an apology.  We had spent the early morning torturing Booger and not letting him play with us, so it was after lunch that as we raced our bikes in faster and faster figure eights we noticed a large rubber spider on the road, in our path.

Booger. We thought. It would be just like a boy to put a big rubber nasty spider in our way thinking it would scare us. Boys are so lame. But we were scared. Pick it up, my friend said, we will ring the doorbell and toss it at him. You pick it up, I shot back. I was never a big fan of things with many legs, especially ones the size of an avocado. This went on for a while as we stood there in the sun, staring down at the spider, straddling our bikes, contemplating.

It’s belly looks like it’s moving! She said. Must be melting, I responded. Then, for some reason I reached a toe, newly clad in grey Nike tennies with a pink swoosh, out toward the spider and gently touched it. It was instantaneous, it appeared as if the abdomen peeled and baby spiders were everywhere. It was a swarm. I mean within a split second they covered the street and were on our bikes and legs.

This was no rubber spider. Booger had been notoriously wronged. He was not the culprit. We dropped our bikes and ran screaming back to her house at the other end of the crazy 8 racetrack where her father, hearing our screams met us at the door, took one look at us teeming with baby spiders and immediately turned the hose on us. In the sunlight it appeared as if the road undulated with a million spiders moving and crawling over the entire section. Our bikes were covered. I’m certain this is an exaggeration of memory, but I am also certain If I were polygraphed on this, it would read true.  Her father bravely rescued the bikes as her mother wrapped us in towels and ushered us into a nice warm shower and gave us clean clothes and then made popcorn. Our bikes met the same fate with the garden hose as we did and were none the worse for wear.

There is a Daddy Long Legs that took up residence in a high corner of my bathroom almost a year ago. She is small and barely moves, though I assume she is getting enough to eat. (I’ve assigned her sex as female as she is in my bathroom!)  For some reason, I feel fondly towards this little spider, despite my abject fear. I check on her in the morning. There she is and oddly it makes me smile. She is alone, I guess spiders don’t have friends over much, and sometimes, despite myself- knowing it is insane- I say good morning little spider! I hope you had a good night and ate some yummy bugs! I’ve no explanation for feeling a connection to a Daddy Long Legs just kicking it in a ceiling corner, but she makes me happy. I know, crazy.  She is part of my daily routine, and her presence is calming and happy.

She’s gone. She’s simply vanished, probably having reached the end of her natural life span though I’ve found no evidence of her demise. One day she just wasn’t there. Every morning I look for her and nothing. That corner seems so empty. My heart misses her. It’s silly and strange, but the world is so crazy right now I looked forward to that consistency I guess. That tiny little creature, just hanging out. Living. And if she could hear and understand she would probably say “Hey, crazy lady. You know you’re saying good morning to a spider, right?”

I miss a spider.

Life is weird.

The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree.


I fucking hate The Giving Tree. Like I haaaaaate it, you guys.  I truly think that Tree is partly responsible for the downfall of society. Controversial statement, I know. Stick with me..

So, The Boy is all I want this and I want that and I’m bored and I’m tired and I want mooooooooore. And The Tree is like sleep in my shade, eat my apples, take my leaves, my branches! Chop me down! My life doesn’t matter! And The Boy is like YES!  Then The Boy/Rude Man Baby is like Oh! I am so weary! and The Tree is happy to offer up her GRAVE. Come and rest upon my rotten bones! I am so desperately happy that you threw me this scrap of attention, even though you forgot my birthday and you never call. I am so glad you are here!

And the Man Baby is…asleep.

And The Tree was happy.

No. No Rude Man Baby. No.

I believe in sacrificing for my kids. I left my sister and newborn nephew and moved all the way across the country because Maryland is a better place to raise children that Los Angeles.

I lived with my in-laws on PURPOSE for probably longer than we should have because it was best for my son.

While my children are adorably coordinated in Gap Kids and Gymboree, I buy my clothes at the same store I buy my groceries.

We go without so our kids can have more. We want them to have better lives, easier lives, isn’t that the goal? But do we have to sacrifice ourselves into nothingness? And is that what’s best for our children?

It’s not that I don’t understand where The Tree is coming from, I want to give my kids everything. I want to put them in a happy bubble where whatever they want or need is immediately given to them and they never know disappointment or worse, pain.

But when my kids lose their left shoes (why is it always the left shoe?) almost every morning before school, my heart wants to tell them “hold on sweethearts! Mommy will find it, everything will be okay”. But I don’t. Because, no. I say ” where did you leave it last? This is why we have these baskets at the front door. When you take your shoes off, just toss them in the basket and you’ll know right where they are!” I say this every day, possibly for the next few years, because I know if they remember that I casually mentioned that I might take them to ToysRUs this weekend eventually they will remember to put their shoes in the basket.

Here is where my inner Tree monologue gets a little conflicted. I know it’s hard to be young, there is so much to learn but OMG every morning with the shoes! The going to school process is the same

So, I keep chipping away at it.

I also say abusive things like “You know where the cups are. You can get some water.” when faced with the millionth “I’m thirsty!” or “you have young, strong legs. Go upstairs and get your kindle your damn self!” I don’t say “damn self” of course, because I am not a total monster. And of course this has to be age appropriate. I don’t expect my 2 year old to do the same things as my almost 9 year old. I don’t say these things because I am lazy or mean, though sometimes it feels this way. I do thins because I want them to be able to identify a want or a need they have and take care of it themselves if they can. I also want them to know how to ask for help if they need it and that needing help isn’t a failure. So I don’t want you to think I don’t help them or support them. I do.

Truthfully I just want to cover them with love and kissed all the time.

Sometimes I do. I can be a Smother Mother to the extent I put Beverly Goldberg to shame. Which might be why my oldest loves that show so much, he identifies. I have stormed school offices, demanded things from doctors and insisted everyone cave to my plan for my child because dammit I am RIGHT, and no one better mess with my babies.

Perhaps what I hate about The Tree is that if I could do that all the time, I would. But it wouldn’t be right. Because Rude Man Baby.

If we do our job correctly, we parent ourselves out of a job. If we encourage, require and show by example, perhaps our kids will not only be able to get themselves a drink when they’re thirst but ask others if they would like one as well. 

If we do our jobs correctly perhaps they’ll be able to find both their shoes and get to school on time, and then college on time, and then a job on time, and then church on time, and then God willing, the hospital on time. Perhaps then, when they place that sweet grand baby in my arms I will embrace my inner Giving Tree wholly and completely without exceptions and my sons and daughter and their partners will roll their eyes at one another as I sneak the kids ice cream with sprinkles for breakfast and they will whisper to one another:

I fucking hate The Giving Tree.

How Hillary Clinton and a Barista named Aaron kept me going.


16195130_10153984448085876_8882475005335036163_nIt was shortly after the election day, I was devastated. Like many others I had put my daughter to bed whispering , hoping I did’t jinx it. “Tomorrow when you wake up, it will be a whole new world.”

I jinxed it.

I didn’t lie to her. It was. It was a world where a sexual predator with no experience won over a woman more qualified than he could ever hope to be. Despite the medias non-stop barrage that she was was unpopular, Hillary Clinton was and is beloved. I know because we showed up to vote. We called, we wrote, we joined FB groups, and mobilized in her defense fighting inflammatory lies on line with facts. We canvasses and campaigned our hearts out and I stand by our love for her because all of those groups are still going. We haven’t abandoned her, or our love for her. We struggle for the words to  capture what she means to us, how she has inspired us, and we share with gusto when someone writes a piece that does so. We love her and voted for her enthusiastically and unapologetically.

We got the message loud and clear from the media, it was cool to love Bernie. Uncool to love Hillary.

Good thing we don’t care about being cool.

Hillary took to the woods, as well she should have, but those of us with daily jobs and small children had to keep going.  I was so depressed. Everywhere I went I was met with sympathetic eyes, sending messages of “me too”.  My town became smaller then. Because we were sending one another signs that we felt the same.  It felt like someone we loved had died and everywhere we went we encountered more mourners. We wandered around in a stupor of disbelief.  For those of us of the female persuasion it felt like we had come so close, so close, only to be told not only do we have to be PERFECT (she was a “flawed” candidate) but that by a tight margin people voted in a man who is a walking trigger warning.

My husband held me in his arms while I cried many times.  He reassured me we would be okay. I insisted other’s wouldn’t be. He told me he understood and we would be more involved. He told me it wouldn’t be too bad and didn’t even get angry when I told him he just could never understand.

After that I ate a lot of cookie dough.

Then, like a mystical creature, a Hillary sighting! Happy, relaxed, healing in her Technicolor Dream Coat (Hill, call me, let’s shop.) There she was, chatting with fellow hikers, visiting restaurants in her neighborhood. Interacting and living. If she can do it, so can I.

I reveled in every Facebook post and Instagram story that appeared. When she began speaking again I knew I was validated in my love for her. And I wept over how lucky we would have been to have her.

We didn’t just want A woman president. We wanted HER.

I run through the Starbucks drive-through frequently. I’m about as basic as basic gets and my two big weekly outings, as a work from home mom, are the ubiquitous Target and Starbucks. So, it was as I pulled up to the window I offered a weak smile to the young man taking my card. “How are you?” He asked out of routine. As an oversharer by nature I said “Well I am going to the march and that’s basically all that’s keeping me going.” He looked me dead in the eyes and said “I hear ya.” “What are we going to do?” I asked him,  all of probably 22 years old . He is 6 feet tall and strong, people might call him a thug if they saw him in a hoodie, but he was a  lifeline that day. We talked about how upset we were. How we were in this together. Right then I felt better. We are in this together. This young barista knows I have his back. I know he has mine. We joked about joining the resistance a la Star Wars and then at a later Drive Through chat we laughed about how we had done just that.

I look forward to seeing him. I once made him laugh when he said “I heard you over the speaker and said ‘I know her!'” I responded “it’s me! Your friendly neighborhood outraged stay at home mom!” His laugh filled my heart right up.

We chatted politics and smalls wins we have had. I want to ask him more about himself but there is rarely time. Everyone wants their double shot espressos and Flat Whites and I don’t blame them. I want my soy latte and I want it now. I can never thank Aaron for the gift he gave me that day in December when we first started speaking. How I think of him as a nephew, a son? I can only hope I helped him a little bit too. I know he helped me. He does every time I see him in the drive through and we talk.

When I feel down and like the Jackson Pollack like flinging of destruction coming at me is too much. I think of Hillary Clinton and of Aaron.

Then I get up and get going. I got some resisting to do.




You might be a Garbage Person if…

Unless you are the elusive unicorn mom who allows absolutely zero screen time (and I salute you if you are she), then at some point your children have been entranced by these videos of people opening toys on YouTube. From there it’s an easy trip down the Rabbit Hole and suddenly, even with all the parental controls that ever controlled, you kids end up seeing something they shouldn’t.

Here is my adorable daughter enjoying a break from her second birthday photoshoot. With my iphone.

Here is my adorable daughter enjoying a break from her second birthday photoshoot. With my iphone.

Now, I know what you’re going to say, it’s my job to make sure they don’t see anything and you’re absolutely right. The onus is always on us to guard our children. But I want to talk about the nefarious garbage people who make horrible videos for kids. And I am not talking ridiculous consumption of toys horrible, I’m talking about hearing the dulcet tones of the Peppa Pig theme followed by “I’M GONNA RAPE YOU IN THE ASS!” when they announce Daddy Pig horrible.

There is an entire community of grown adults who make these videos reenacting scenes with kids toys and making them horribly perverted. Yes, freedom of speech and expression, totally. Absolutely. But the end game seems to make sure they are in the video stream with the sweet-if cloying Disney Collector and the channels where people use the toys to teach colors and numbers. They specifically target kids. They enjoy this. They want the kids to see this filth.

My husband has his office in his home. I am a writer and photographer so I am frequently either writing or editing on my computer. My children’s school uses websites for math skills and english exercises. Pretending devices aren’t a part of our lives would be silly. They are. And as I do work from home there are times when I have to take a call, submit an article or deliver a gallery and it has to be done THEN. For that there is only one thing that can ensure ten minutes or so of time for me. And that is damn toy videos on YouTube. The next thing you know I hear that Owlette has been knocked up by Gecko from PJMasks and Catboy is pissed and wants to beat the shit out of Gecko.

If you’re not familiar with PJ Masks these characters are LITTLE KIDS who fight crime in their jammies at bedtime.

My oldest today came to me with all manner of questions about Santa. I was unprepared as, you know, it’s Spring. He happened upon videos of parents telling their kids Santa isn’t real. Everyone handles this differently, and as for me and my house we do Santa. Like, big time whoa we do Santa. I am ALL IN for the Santa experience. I myself am not entirely sure the big guy isn’t just hanging out at the North Pole with the elves. I once met Ed Asner and I swear he is moonlighting as a plain human 364 days a year.  I mean you guys, I am not kidding. The twinkle in his eye is pure magic.

I knew we  would have this conversation eventually and as of now he is “Leaning towards” me being Santa, but as he showed me the videos all could think was :

You people are garbage people.

Now, every Halloween I am accused of having ‘no sense of humor’ when it comes to the Jimmy Kimmel videos of the parent’s stealing the children’s candy.  I think a lot of things are funny, even the kid fail videos my kids’s show me. But making our kids cry on purpose? Taking something from one smaller that us? That’s not funny to me. That’s bullying. That’s what we are supposedly trying to teach our kids not to do! So go ahead, call me a pussy. I’ve been called it every year when I say it’s not cool…I can take it.

But I maintain if you knowingly set out to expose children to horrible things by making disgusting videos with kids’ shows and toys, or if you try to ruin childhood for others. Well then, you might be a garbage person.

And by might, I mean you are. Garbage. Person.