All she wanted for her birthday was to make homemade sushi and donate $100 to WWF to save the tigers. I bugged her for over a month for more ideas. Two years ago, another 11 that I know well, wanted her own MacBook, an iPhone(with Instagram), the latest American Girl doll, and a party for 20. Now that 11 is honestly pretty dang sweet and outward thinking, but she has always wanted a little bit more and wanted to be a little more grown-up. Always in a hurry.


This 11 has no problem staying little. She has no need to be one of the cool kids. She probably doesn’t even know who the cool kids are. She doesn’t care if she has the right hair or clothes. She wears her sister’s hand-me-downs without question. She’s in no hurry. Ever. A true stop and smell the roses girl. I have so much still to learn from her.


She’s true and sweet and silly and kind, and will wait to grow up when it’s time to grow up.


And her favorite birthday gifts(besides the donation), were the pie in the face game, a puzzle that was too easy, and a Style Me Up coloring book for ages 5-8. Screw that ageism crap.


Yet while she wants to stay little, she’s the first to offer to help – to cook, clean, unload the dishwasher, feed the cat, clean her room, walk the dog.


She’s a good kid with a beautiful and generous soul, and I’ll keep her close and little and sweet for as long as she lets me. The time to be little and innocent is short. She has so many years coming to be all grown-up.


So for now – Happy 11 sweet Esther. We love you.


Kid Update #2

Mommy blogging again here today. Let’s talk about sweet Esther.


Esther is still sweet. Crazy sweet. Typical middle child sweet. I told her she needs to be louder and squeakier so we hear her more. But she isn’t. She lets her sisters be demanding.


Esther asks for nothing.


She didn’t even get a birthday party this year as her day was mixed into packing and moving and the busy. I still feel the guilt. But Esther doesn’t complain.


Esther is a cat lady in training. She loves the cats. She would have 40 cats if Jed would let her. She also constantly searches websites for dogs. She wants a dog. Maybe five dogs. And hamsters. And a guinea pig or two. Fish. More cats. She wants to be a vet when she grows up. I think she will just start her own rescue agency and rehome pets. Or just keep all 200 pets for herself. She’ll need lots of Febreeze in her house.


Esther is still dancing. She is always smiling – whether she’s on stage or not.


Esther moved schools this year. She’s struggling a bit. She’s making friends quickly, but the schoolwork a bit more demanding. Esther would rather spend her time looking at animals online than studying for a history test. But she’s adjusting.


She has become even more interested in cooking this year. Her favorite shows are Master Chef Jr and The Pioneer Woman. She also watches HGTV with me and has great decorating ideas.


Esther will be 11 this winter, but she still wants to snuggle with me and hold my hand. I’m wishing she stays little just a bit longer. I don’t think she is ready to grow up either. Eloise has always been in a hurry to grow up while Esther has always wanted to stay little.


Esther will take care of us when we’re old and need our diapers changed. She’ll put us up in one of her rooms with her 300 cats.




She is 10

Esther turned 10 last weekend. Her birthday was met with complete chaos in our lives. Instead of being able to spend weeks(months) planning a party, gifts, and a cake  – her day was met with last minute dinner plans, store bought cupcakes, an emergency trip to American Girl for a gift, and an IOU for a slumber party/birthday party once we are settled in our new home.


And for the first time ever in my seven years of blogging, I didn’t even do a birthday post for one of my daughters on their birthday.


Instead of focusing on the birthday girl last weekend, we instead MOVED, both worked full-time, and had a very very very sick five year old.


But Esther, being Esther, smiled right through it. While the girl loves a good party, nobody is as flexible or forgiving as Esther.


On Monday I received a text from a friend. Her daughter came home from school and said to my friend “Esther is always so happy. Even when she’s a grump.” I smiled and nodded because it’s so true. I don’t know many people who are as happy as Esther.


We have drama(3 girls) in our home, but the drama never comes from Esther. I’ve decided to use her as a barometer for when things are really bad. Because if Esther is unhappy, well then there must be a real problem. The rest is probably just noise and angst if Esther is still smiling.

She bookends our days and nights with smiles and hugs.


I call her my beautiful dreamer.


May she dream and smile forever.


Happy (Belated) Birthday, sweet Esther. Sorry for the shortest post ever…but you know – moving, work, and a sick sister. Forgive me…again.



On Broadway

I watched Esther in a play today. Her first non-classroom-at-school kind of play. For years I’ve tried to convince her to do theater. She’s a good singer, a great dancer, has a face that lights up a room, and expressions to match. Her most amazing attribute though is her ability to quickly and completely memorize ANYTHING immediately. She’s one of those people that you meet once and she immediately knows your name and probably your sister’s name, and where you were born. I wouldn’t put it past her if she actually knows that names of all of the 1500 students in her school.


But she has resisted my efforts to gently push her into theater. She’s shy at heart. And an introvert. And one who hates being in the spotlight, and honestly has some serious doubts on her abilities.


So she very reluctantly tried theater this Fall. I even gave her an out. Typically once my kids sign up for something – I have a “no quitting” rule and they must fulfill the sessions that we’ve signed up for. Even if it means crying on the sidelines for five weeks(BEEN THERE!). But I told her that she could quit if she really felt uncomfortable.


But we didn’t have to worry about that, because theater has turned into one of her favorite things. And today she said that she has realized that she really likes acting and wants to do more.


I’m so proud of her for stepping way out of her comfort zone. And for finding something she loves.


And maybe one day she’ll love seeing her name in lights and know that sometimes it’s okay to own the spotlight now and then.


What’s something that you would love to do but are afraid to try?



About That Blogging Every Day

In case you missed it. I did not blog this weekend. And here after I promised you that I would blog each and every day in 2014.


our house

But here’s the thing. Esther turned nine on Friday and the thought of burying her birthday, her face, her joyful jumps and a celebration of her just seemed so wrong.


And while we did fun things and had a lovely weekend – there was nothing I wanted to write or post or capture that trumped our celebration of Esther.


How could I bury this on my little blog? And yes friends in Florida, this is the road in front of our home from November til March. Pavement is an urban legend.


So I did not write this weekend. I wanted Esther front and center for as long as possible. It seemed like the right thing to do.


I’ve enjoyed blogging every day for the past two months. And yes, I made it for exactly two months. It’s given me the motivation to really write every day, to get my camera out more, and to dig deeper for stories for share. The exercise of blogging every day has been amazing.


But it’s also hurt me. Because of the burying of posts. Some posts, some writing, some photos – but most importantly – some people deserve a heck of a lot more than 24 hours.


So as I sat down to write on Saturday, all I did instead was stare at Esther’s sweet and joyful face at the top of the page, and I stopped typing and just took her in. And let her stay there. She needed a longer celebration and nothing I would write could outweigh her coming into our lives nine years ago. A three week early surprise of laboring all night, a placental abruption, an emergency ride to the hospital, to a c-section before I could barely get undressed, to a chubby and healthy baby girl in my arms.


And with Esther, and then Astrid’s miraculous arrival almost five years later making us the family that we are… well keeping my computer closed and just enjoying the five of us in our house during this(hopefully) very very cold last weekend of below zero temperature seemed like the right thing to do.


Blogging every day has given me the discipline to write more and realize that I do have stories worth telling. But living every day has given me the grace to know when it’s better to just let our stories happen while keeping my hands busy wrapped around my children instead of typing on a page.




I’ve never been this close to a middle child before, but now that I have one, well there’s a lot of truth to the myths you hear. And my empathy for Jan Brady has grown by leaps and bounds the last few years.


Our middle child is our ultimate peace maker and friend to all. She cherishes her sisters’ love and appreciation and gives to each of them endlessly. She lets Eloise control the wheres, whys, whats, and hows – what the plans are, where they are going, the games they play, and when they do it – almost always on Eloise’s time. And she lets Astrid take most of the snuggles, the long bedtime routines, controlling the shows for the baby cartoons, the space on mom’s lap, a big slice of her attention for the last four years.


And this middle has done it with grace and acceptance and a smile for most of her life.


But nine is changing things. She’s using a word I’ve never heard from her. NO – to her sisters and to us. She’s giving herself permission to voice an opinion when she’s never expressed one before.


Typing that sounds awful.  I hope it hasn’t been. She has just always ‘gone with the flow’ and has seemingly done it with a laugh and a skip in her step. Now I wonder if that was okay or if she’s been bottling up her angst for years.


Not that she seems angry now. She just seems strong and is using her voice.


And saying no more often. As well as voicing what she wants to do and what’s important to her.


When I think about it, even many of her toys and interests were all things that Eloise liked, and I think she felt like she was suppose to like and do the same things.


But today, Esther is nine and she wants you to know…


She doesn’t like riding horses. Sure, her sister is obsessed, but she’s not interested.

She loves all animals and honestly(and don’t tell her sisters), our cat prefers her over anyone.

She hates the Rainbow Loom – and all jewelry making – and all small motor type toys. Her hands can’t do the things that her sister’s can – and instead of ending up just getting frustrated, she is just saying “I’m not interested in that.”

She loves books about fantasy and sci-fi and wishes her sister would stop suggesting realistic fiction to her.

She doesn’t like riding a bike. So stop asking her to learn.

She’s an amazing tap dancer and she doesn’t care that you like jazz better. Tap is cool.

She likes scary movies. She wishes her sister would just go to bed earlier so we could watch more. Eloise hates scary movies.

She likes to ski fast. She hates to turn. She likes to just go straight down as fast as humanly possible.

She doesn’t care if her hair is messed up, her clothes don’t match or if her shoes work with her outfit.

She’s a good friend and loyal to the core.

She likes fruit and sushi and all vegetables and steak. She wonders why Eloise and I don’t like meat.

She doesn’t like math even though she’s good at it.

She’s very affectionate and still tries to fit on my lap. You can see the sadness in her face when she doesn’t.

She randomly comes up to me and touches me, hugs me, and tells me that she loves me. She doesn’t care who hears.

She doesn’t care about technology. Has never used a laptop and has never asked to, and is the last person you’ll find using the iPad.

She’s the first in the kitchen to ask if I need help making dinner or setting the table. And the first to volunteer to fold laundry.

She likes to go to bed early and stay in bed late into the morning. Like wants to sleep in like a teenager. The girl likes to sleep.


She never asks for anything.

But now I need to do a better job of asking her what she wants to do, what she wants, and what she likes.

I don’t want her to live a life of just going with the flow, as the peace maker, as the middle.


Because our Esther is such a pure and special person that needs to be heard.


And at nine she’s finding her voice. My job is to help her use it and to guide her how to make it louder.


Because nine is just the beginning.


Happy Birthday Sweet Esther-Boo. I love you so much it hurts.





Back To School

The big kids went back to school this week.

First Day Of School

And I miss them.


Or Astrid misses them. And Truffle – dang Truffle cat misses them a lot because now Astrid has no one to play with, so Truffle has to wear stuffed animals on his back and try to put together puzzles. And he’s really bad at puzzles because he doesn’t have thumbs. So he was fired yesterday as Astrid’s playmate and she asked me to step-in.

Save me!

Save me!

I also suck at puzzles. Also, I’m horrible at playing Little People. And her dress-up costumes don’t fit me. She also doesn’t think I’m very good at reading. You see she and Eloise were trying to get through all of Roald Dahl’s books this Summer and they didn’t quite finish The BFG yet – so she asked me to read a chapter. And I guess I really suck at reading…so Astrid told me to stop because Eloise does voices better and I’m super boring.


So I’m apparently not good for anything but fixing snacks and wiping her butt.


Other than that – Astrid wishes that her sisters never had to go to school.


I’m feeling that way too. I miss them. We had an amazing Summer. From roadtrips, to camps, to days at the pool, and cool nights of riding our bikes to ice cream – this Summer might go down as one of the best.


Which just means that I am going to plan for The Super Sucky Summer of 2014 – because I don’t want to miss my kids next Fall when school starts again.


Because it hurts.


But the girls are back in the school-grove and seem crazy happy just living their fancy school lives without us. They missed their friends I think. And maybe they were sick of me nagging them to clean their rooms.


(Eloise is wearing jeggings and booties from Justice, a top from Nordstrom and we hand-painted her panda nails)

Eloise loves fifth grade and has an awesome teacher. In Eloise’s words – and in one really really long run-on sentence “Seriously, my teacher is amazing – she is super strict – which is so awesome because you know I love class control and someone who is organized and structured and keeps the crazy boys inline – and she’s is totally that kind of teacher…AND the best part is that we get homework every night – even weekends and we have to write a three page essay the first night of school – this is like crazy amazing and I really love my teacher and it’s going to be the best year ever and I’m going to my room now to do my homework so don’t bother me and I hope we get even more homework tomorrow and I’m going to work on some extra math tonight because I am going to try to get placed in 7th grade math this year because I want more work and to learn more and always be challenged.”


Mon Dieu.


(Esther is wearing a dress and jacket from Justice. Sandals are Lelli Kelly)

Eloise loves third grade and her teacher is also super amazing. Esther didn’t have much to say except that she had two recesses and they had grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch. Also, her old boyfriend is in her class and she giggled a lot about that because she still likes him, but he likes Ruby better now, but Ruby is Esther’s friend – so it’s okay that he likes her. And she played with lots of friends at the playground and they chased and stuff and she needs to wear bike-shorts under her skirt tomorrow because she wants to climb on top of the monkey bars. Also, they had popcorn for snack and Maggie got cool new shoes and she’s looking forward to music class.  Also, a boy said bad words on the bus, so she moved seats. Obviously.


I think maybe Esther also had math, reading and other such school subjects – but those were not mentioned.


So happy school year everyone!


Finish Strong

“Did you win, Mommy?” Were Astrid’s first words as she walked in the door Saturday at noon and immediately reached up so her arms could wrap around me. “I missed you.” She whispered as her mouth met my ear.


“No, Baby, I didn’t win.” I answered. “But I wasn’t trying to win. I was just happy to finish strong.”


“Oh Mom, that’s too bad.” Esther said as she hugged me around my waist and I kissed the top of her head.


Eloise gave me her typical kind of ‘lean-in to touch shoulders with me, almost a high-five, bend her head down to meet mine, and then turn away quickly’ pseudo tween hug and said “Good job anyway, Mom. Do you know the person who won?”


Their innocent faith in my abilities made my heart grow 50 sizes in that short, shared moment. Because honestly winning was never in my game-plan, training plan, mind-set, physical abilities or truthfully even a pipe-dream that I’ve ever had.


I just wanted to finish the race with a decent time, not last, and without poop in my shorts.


Kind of like I just want us all to reach bedtime each day alive..and maybe clean. My goals are small, short-term and I hope doable.


That’s how I tackle motherhood, because frankly the daily defeats would leave me frustrated and depressed.


So my mantra each day of motherhood is just to finish strong.


I mean sure we want good things each day – a favorite meal, a new book, to run around outside in the sprinkler with friends and to go on a bike ride. Maybe we got to watch our favorite show, taught our cat a new trick or went out for ice cream.


Good things happen along the route each day of our race – the fans clap, we get water, someone yells our name tells us we are doing awesome. But that still doesn’t make me win or even give me the will to want to win.


It just gives me the will to keep going – even on those very hard days and miles that I just want to quit – one foot in front of the other, waffle toasted, one more dish put away, shirt folded, bo0-boo kissed, pictured colored, lunch packed, lap snuggled, tooth brushed, goodnight kiss.


Because this motherhood road is long and winding with finishers medals that look like clay hand-prints for Christmas trees and smudges on light switches..and juice boxes remains that we drink instead of champagne.


And I will never be a winner in this race – but for my children, I vow to try to always finish strong for them each day. Because they believe I can.


And to hopefully I will do it without poop in my pants.


Oh Canada!

I love my children dearly. I love each of them just so much that sometimes I’m overwhelmed with this strange and crazy I love I have for them. Like I want to hug them up and tackle them with kisses and awkwardly have my 10 year old sit on my lap in front of her friends kind of love because seriously, they’re delicious.


And my middle girl, my Esther, well she reciprocates love more than the lot of them put together. And I know that’s some horrible math, but Esther sucks at math most the time, so we’re just going to pretend that sentence totally worked.


Esther would sit on my lap all day if I let her. She’d smother me in kisses and hugs and run her hands through my hair. She’d sleep next to her baby sister and give her unlimited kisses in front of any friend. She’s the first to run into our arms and usually the last hug I get before bedtime.


But I’ll be damned if that girl is just not very graceful and does just some pretty innocently silly things.


When Esther was two and a half she was brushing her teeth while twirling in a new dress. She slipped and fell on top of the toothbrush in her mouth. It punctured the back of her throat and she stopped breathing and lost consciousness. I was a crazy lady as I revived her and waiting for the ambulance. She was fine, but all twirling while brushing became a no-no in our home.


Exactly two weeks after the toothbrush incident, Esther slipped while walking and slammed into a neighbor’s swing-set. She broke all three bones in her left arm. CPS was called to talk to me in the hospital while I waited for Esther’s arm to get set. Two visits in two weeks is noticed.


A month later, while still in a cast, Esther tripped in a parking lot causing major gashes on both knees, her good hand, cutting her lip open and bruising and turning her front teeth black.


I sat with her in my arms in that parking lot saying good-bye to her as I knew for sure I would now be arrested. This two year old child surely needed to get some better feet under her.


I was not arrested, and we went six years without an incident. Wrapping her in bubble-wrap, getting her interested in activities like knitting, reading and baking also helped.


Until this past Sunday night.


“Mom…” Esther said quietly with tears already forming in the corner of her eyes. “I have something to tell you, but I don’t want to tell you because you will be so mad.”


Oh Esther, what’s wrong? What happened? You can tell me anything at anytime. I will not get mad.


“Mom, I can tell you are already mad at me!!” Now sobbing.


Esther, why would I be mad? You must tell me what’s going on?


“Oh Mom, I swallowed a penny! You know that special Canadian penny I had with Queen Elizabeth on it? I loved that penny.” She bawled.


Esther, how did you swallow a penny?


***Eloise interrupting the conversation “OMG really Esther – you are EIGHT YEARS OLD and you SWALLOWED A PENNY?!?! Seriously, OMG seriously LIKE OMG.”***


“Eloise, leave me alone!” Esther screamed.


Me giggling now – Really Eloise, that’s not helping.


“Mom, I just had it in my mouth for like an hour because it was really cold and I wanted to suck on it to see if it would get warm, but it never really did no matter how long I held it in my mouth. So weird. And then I was going to take it out, but instead I swallowed it. I want my penny back. I want Queen Elizabeth back.” Esther continued to sob.


Esther, do you know what year was on the penny.


(Frantically Googling “My child swallowed a penny.” “My child swallowed a Canadian Penny.” “My child swallowed Queen Elizabeth.” “My child swallowed a Canadian One Cent Coin.” “What are Canadian One Cent coins made out of?” “Will a penny kill my child” “Can my child poop out a penny” “Do I have to save my child’s poop?” “How will we know when the penny is gone?”)


“It was like 1982 or something like that.” Esther confirmed.


Oh good, they used copper on their coins in Canada until well into the 90s. I think you’ll be fine. Just hang with it for a few days and then you will poop it out. But let me know if it’s bothering you at all this week.


“Can I have it back when I poop it out?” Esther inquired.


No, I’ll find you another early 80s Canadian one cent coin this week. But please don’t put it in your mouth, okay?




This is the first picture of Esther that I posted on my blog nearly five years ago.

Five years ago, my three year old Esther loved dressing up in tutus and playing with toys. My Esther is eight today, and I’m happy to say that tutus and toys still occupy a big space in her life. As they should.


Esther is the epitome of innocence because I’m sorry, but eight is still rightfully deep in ‘little girl land.‘ Let her eat too much chocolate cake, have extra whipped cream on her cocoa, and invite her Polly Pockets to the coffee shop.

Esther is excited for her birthday. Not because she’s all that excited to turn eight – but because she likes a good celebration. You just have to go back and watch her enjoying her fifth birthday and you know pure joy.


Because if you haven’t noticed yet – Esther is a small package of huge joy.


And I worry for her. People who hold that much joy are easily hurt because they don’t believe bad things could ever happen. Their optimism is unending..until it’s not.


I admit I hold Esther with a little extra care than I do my other daughters as her reality is just different than that of her sisters. She requires a few extra hugs and snuggles and homemade cupcakes on her birthday as store-bought just isn’t ever right.

Esther is a light in this world that I hope shines bright for another 100 birthdays. Because her giggle should last through several lifetimes.


Sometimes I think that her giggle could help end all wars and help feed the world. It’s that powerful.


How do we bottle that?


How do we bottle that innocence of a child this pure and good and give a little to everyone.

Because if we did I know the world would be something so much brighter.


Bright like my eight year old with the light in her eyes that shows us that the future must be good.


It has to be.

For her.


Happy Birthday sweet Esther.


This Is Childhood – Seven

Esther runs down the sidewalk towards me. Her ‘just off the bus’ look – disheveled braids, peanut butter dried on the side of her mouth, an off-center headband, a backpack sitting low and heavy off one shoulder, her skirt slightly turned to the side, the side-seam now showing in the front, worn-at-the-knees bright pink leggings, and her most noticeable attribute, a wide smile always on the verge of laughter as she lunges at me for a full-body hug and a kiss – including an “I love you mom!” for all the world to see and hear.

She turns eight this week.


At seven she is as unique as her mismatched leggings and shoe choice; and as colorful and imaginative as her pink headband and her non-uniform braids.


She is seven. Yet her seven is nothing like her sister’s seven two short years ago. While I’ve now enjoyed nearly 730 days of ‘sevens’ in my house, there’s no stereotype I can share with you that perfectly captures this magical age.


It turns out that seven can be complicated.

For one child, seven is second grade, spending more times with friends, starting sleep-overs and giggling with girls in the lunchroom while declaring “boys are still quite stinky.”


For another, seven is second grade, not worrying about the other girls, including boys in her list of best friends, and never sitting in the same spot at lunch.


Seven for one can mean starting to care about what other people think, insisting on wearing the ‘right’ clothes(and starting to shop at Justice, dear God), listening to the ‘right’ music, and fretting about what ‘he said/she said’ while realizing there is drama in the real world, not just what you see on Dance Moms on Tuesday nights when your mom lets you stay up late to watch non-quality TV.


Because seven can mean a more liberal bedtime…and an appreciation of non-animated shows.

Or seven for the other can mean not having a care about those things, living with your head in the clouds of happy oblivion while wearing twirly skirts, tights, Mary Janes, big bows, and watching episode after episode of Doc McStuffins with your baby sister.


Esther is snuggled in my arms. We are squished together on a chair. Just us, her blanket, four Pillow Pets and our cat. “Mom, do you think I’ll ever see a real unicorn, because that is my one big dream you know.” Esther says quietly as my lips meet her cheek. “I hope so Esther.” I say as I close my eyes and truly see her with the white unicorns in a green field with rainbows shining above her in the sky. “I dream of the land of unicorns where you will play one day. Anything is possible.”  Eloise, the former seven year old across the room interrupts us, “Mom, you’ve got to be kidding! Don’t encourage her!”


Because that first seven meant knowing all the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” While this seven means that you dance with your little sister in the living room during Yo Gabba Gabba and don’t mind anyone hearing you when you say you have a ‘party in your tummy…so yummy, so yummy!’


Seven for one questioned Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, if the world is really round, her bedtime, what was on her plate at dinner, why homework was really that important, the logic behind snow-pants when it was below zero, and the reason why my hair was turning grey.


Seven now means writing letters to Santa, drawing pictures for the Tooth Fairy, dancing with unicorns, dressing up as a Disney Princess, and using her Crayolas to color my hair pink and purple – because nothing is prettier than pink and purple…even when you are 44 it seems.

Seven the first time in this house meant moving up to more complicated chapter books; getting lost in Harry Potter or Anne of Green Gables under the covers in her room with a little bitty book light while she should have been sleeping.


While this seven is learning to appreciate a good non-fiction book, researching animals, the human body, the Presidents and the solar system, spouting random facts at the dinner table. Daily we ask her “How in the world did you know that?”


For one of my sevens – it was mastering the jump rope, hanging upside down on the monkey bars and easily getting her legs over on a cartwheel.


For my other – she’s given up on cartwheels(“They’re overrated!”), gets frustrated by the jump rope, finds herself separated from the group of girls in the neighborhood because she can’t physically keep up yet. She’ll be in the next yard over with the two and three year olds playing ‘Ring Around The Rosie’ and pushing them in swings.


I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner while my kids finish their homework at the table. Esther gets up, grabs an apron, while asking if I need help cooking. I give her some simple instructions and the ingredient list and she goes to work on the salad. I stop my work and notice how she doesn’t even need a stool to reach the counter anymore, how she can cut a carrot with the sharp knife, and how the mess of her salad preparation is so minimal compared to a year ago.

Both of my sevens could reach the glasses, pour their own milk, make their own snacks and even remember to clean-up after themselves. And both of my sevens remember to ask others if they also want something from the kitchen.


Both of my sevens liked playing with dolls and their little sister, noticed a friend who needed help and went to the aid of strangers, still slept with a blanket and vied for snuggles on the couch with me.


Because they were still only seven.

So if I may put an umbrella over seven, let me say that it’s one of my favorite years.  It’s the year that children become more coordinated with their bodies as they further develop their minds and gain an acute awareness of the world around them.


Sevens are on a never ending quest for more knowledge and skills.


Thus seven can be exhausting, and it makes you realize that very soon they will know more than you do, can do what you can do, and as they snuggle on your lap you notice their legs have turned long and lanky, their butts bony, and any ‘baby’ about your baby is officially leaving.


I’m folding laundry and Esther wraps her arms around me from behind. She gives me a hard squeeze and an “I love you mom.” I turn to return the hug and ask her what that was for. “Just because you are my mom and I like to hug you” she replies. I kiss the top of her head that now reaches high enough so I’m not even really bending down anymore and say jokingly “Promise me you’ll feel the same way this week once you turn eight, okay?” She giggles as she pulls away, “I’ve decided that I’ll never be too old to love you.”

I’m holding my seven year old to that promise.


Honored to have my turn in our ‘This Is Childhood‘ series. The This is Childhood writers are Aidan DonnelleyKristen Levithan, Nina Bazin, Galit Breen, Allison Slater Tate, Bethany MeyerTracy MorrisonAmanda Magee, Denise Ullem, and Lindsey Mead.


Monday Monday

I’m going to take five minutes to write this post. I know I have five minutes maybe because Astrid is asleep again thank god, Esther is still in bed, Eloise is eating two waffles and drinking a glass of milk, and the cat that is sick or something(did I mention this) just threw up a few minutes ago so he’s good to go for the next half and hour because I’m cleaning up cat puke off of some soft surface because puking on hard floors is so 1796.

Eloise is no longer sick. I can’t decided if Esther is sick anymore. Her eyes look bad and her cough is bad, but she’s functioning so we will decide when I wake her again in 10 minutes.


Astrid is still sick. Day 5 – so I’ve finally decided to take her into the clinic today with the other thousands of people who have the flu right now. Sometimes I question my parenting style. I’m one of those parents who avoids going to the doctor for as long as possible and hope everything works itself out. None of my kids have taken an antibiotic. No ear infections or seriously illnesses. Eloise hasn’t seen a doctor since she turned five and got all of her shots for kindergarten. I’m currently knocking wood on my forehead.


So making an appointment today is giving me the shakes and sweats because it’s really not a place I want to be. But it’s time. Maybe. We will see when she wakes.

Also I think I need a vet appointment because the cat puking is honestly the most concerning.


I keep seeing all of these posts about New Year Resolutions and One Word for 2013 and Goals and Such and it’s honestly made this week a difficult one for me as someone in this house has been sick for for the 10 days and goal setting, planning, even dishes are difficult right now.


That’s the thing about motherhood – you can plan plan plan and set goals galore for yourself and your family  – but when someone gets sicks – everything comes to a standstill and you just survive and do what’s right. And spend your day wiping noses, filling water cups and mopping up puke from the floor.


Work deadlines pass unanswered with only my apologies. Sorry.


And you are thankful for good friends who bring a meal and a bottle of wine.


And count small blessings like the premiere of Season 3 of Downton Abbey. And that no one threw up during it. Okay, well the cat did once. Damn cat.

And I am trying to make a promise to you today that this is the last time you will hear about the sick.


Or the cat.


Tomorrow maybe the weather or the price of a head of lettuce? Do people still buy heads of lettuce?


Oh, and if you written something much more eloquent than this(hasn’t everyone) and you live or can travel to the Twin Cities for our May 9th Listen To Your Mother Show – our call for submissions IS OPEN until the end of this month. Visit our site to get the details and submit your writing about motherhood. You don’t have to be a mom or even be a woman to submit. Just have a mom, know a mom and write something about motherhood that you want heard.


Monday Monday <—I’m going to slay you and move on now.


The Still

Esther fell asleep in my arms last week. She’s seven and I don’t think I’ve had that pleasure since before she started kindergarten. But she was sick and exhausted and what I thought was just needing a quick snuggle before settling down for bed turned into her body getting heavy on my lap, her cheek smooshed against my chest and my kisses firmly available for the top of her head.


We sat like that for three hours until I needed to get to bed myself, or perhaps to pee. Her big sister was away at a friend’s house for the night and her baby sister was already in bed. When do I have this kind of time for my middle.


So I piled up blankets on the floor with extra pillow – and of course towels and the tupperware puke bowl – and we slept side by side through that night and the next while the sick consumed her.


And I gave in and let it consume me too. Groceries were not purchased, the computer remained off, my phone was left in the kitchen, the crumbs piled up on the floor, and the laundry became a growling entity in the hall that I pushed back with my motherhood magic(dirty looks and cursing and undying ignoring) until my guilt flew away.

There were many things I wanted for Christmas this year – new Uggs, a photography workshop, a winter coat, some new silver earrings, good tea. But I received the gift that I was not looking for, and that is more contentment with the chaos and learning to sit still. Two polarizing ideas yet so very related when it comes to motherhood.


Because as lovely and quiet as my children are – our house is not a place of buttoned up shirts, spotless counters and hairless sinks. And the more I wage the war on keeping our lives clean and organized and acceptably presentable and controlling the chaos while never sitting still, the more I find myself angry because living is none of those things.  And a home being used 24×7 is quite frightening on a Thursday morning at 9am.


So don’t come for coffee at that time.


And while I’m not going to ‘let things go’ and I will continue to organize and clean and grocery shop and cook, I’m going to let a little more happy chaos in my life. And welcome more evenings on the couch with a child in my lap.


And realize that the still and the chaos are the important things in my life right now and it’s managing the beautiful dance between them that will set my mind free.



I’m Near

Esther was late coming out of school today. Cars were leaving one by one by one. The walkers were gone. The bike rack empty and still no Esther. Esther my early bird. I was just moments away from going in or sending Eloise in or all going in because it was starting to feel weird.


And then we saw her. That Esther. That Esther that bounds down the steps with extra hops, her pigtails flying, her face in a smile, her Skechers lighting up with each bound. She jumped in the van and everything seemed okay until I asked “what happened to you, my love?”

She started sobbing and lunged into my lap as she explained how she got lost on her way out of school and could not find the exit(insert blond joke here) and then finally found someone to help her. Eloise was laughing in the backseat between my SHUSH and STOP to her and my shhh shhh to Esther as she regained her composure.


And I thought about how brave she was to hold it together until she found me.


I have this little thing that I do everyday. At 6pm I make the girls finish cleaning up the dinner table and dishes and finish their homework and all that good stuff that goes on in the dining room. I heat up the last cup of coffee for 55 seconds that I saved from my morning pot and then take it into the family room and turn on the 6pm news(like old people do).

I say the exact same thing each day to my kids as I walk by the dining room to the family room “I’m watching the news alone for 15 minutes. Nobody talk to me.”


I’m sure there is eye rolling as I pass by.


And each day at 6:03 Astrid sneaks into the family room and stealthy lands on my lap against the arm that is not drinking coffee and says to me “I came to be alone with you.”


Eloise doesn’t have much to say to me most days. We’re in the stage of “fine” and “good” and “nothing.”


So I try to act(not hard) really silly just to make her crack a smile. She calls me weird but sometimes admits that she wants to be weird like me but will dance better than I can. Whatever.

But every night as I tuck her in(please let me tuck you in for a few more years) and I kiss her forehead and start backing out of her room she says “Oh mom there’s something I forgot to tell you about today.” And then she goes on for like 15 minutes about her day.


Just because I’m near.


Just write.


In The Middle

So Esther has decided that she wants to run for President. She eagerly watched the debate with me last week while her older sister acted like someone was trying to pull her toenails off because we were making her watch ‘boring news stuff’ – so I assume she must have been missing the latest episode of ‘Good Luck Charlie’ or something equally as important. (Maybe Obama was also sad to be missing that episode…seriously..so sad).

Esther had a news article to read, summarize and present in school this week and she insisted on finding an article on the Presidential election. I tried to sway her with the latest fashion news from Paris’ fashion week..but she could not be swayed even though I was all like “but look at the amazing new Spring fashions – it’s shift dresses again with some sheer accents” and she was all like “but mom, let’s focus on what’s important!” and I was all like “you are never watching a debate again!”


Thank goodness we can still share Project Runway together, so there’s that.


I think all presidents and leaders should be middle children. Middle children are compassionate, understand the power of compromise, have amazing communication and negotiation skills, are very independent and are self-starters. They are highly trained diplomats, popular, kind and creative. They are survivors.


Some famous middles that have proceeded Esther in greatness are Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Princess Diana and Bill Gates.

Maybe in 50 years someone will add Esther Duncan to that famous list when they are in the second grade.


In the meantime though I just wanted you to know that Esther ran for class Student Council Representative and she WON and I’ve never seen her smile so much(or talk politics so much). She is taking her duty to her class and school very seriously and wants you to know that she is the voice of her people and could not be more honored to represent them.


She even mentioned that she needs to wear her best dress every Friday for the Student Council meetings because it’s best to be professional.


So at least she is still kind of talking about fashion.



Dirty Laundry

Esther’s homework assignment was to make a contract with her teacher about what time she would commit to do her homework each day, for how long she will do her homework each day, and explain and draw a picture of where she will do her homework.


It was a pretty easy assignment as the girls immediately do their homework when they get home from school. They sit down at the dining room table after unpacking their heavy packs and get right down to work. (Mainly because I won’t let them go play outside with their friends until homework is done).


When the homework is done they run into the kitchen with their completed work as they rush outside to play with friends until dinnertime. It’s getting weirder as they get older. I get about 30 minutes of this ‘homework time’ to try to get a sense of their day before they are gone again.

I looked at Esther’s drawing of the dining room table – you know, where she does her homework. And I could not understand what all of the weird piles were on the table, on the chairs, on the floor.


I called her back in to ask her what was in her picture – when her task was just to draw where she did her work – the dining room table.


“Well Mom, that’s all of the laundry that’s always on the table waiting to be folded, hung, and put away.”


“But that’s not part of the table!” I corrected her.


“In my mind it is Mom.” She looked confused as to why I would even ask..and then she continued “But I don’t mind the laundry on the table because it’s not like it’s dirty laundry or anything. Drawing a picture of clean laundry is perfectly acceptable.”


Okay then.


Just write.


Hold the Door

When we were leaving Jamba Juice yesterday Esther walked out right ahead of me as she always does because she pushes open the door and then stands behind it holding it so I can push Astrid out in the stroller.  I don’t have to ask her to do this. It’s a reflex. When you have a younger sibling who is often in stroller you learn the dance of getting in and out of places and that door holding is one of your jobs.  You also know the significance of this job because when other people hold the door for you, you thank them profusely.  My kids automatically thank anyone who holds the doors for them (without me asking them to) and almost every time that stranger holding the door looks right at me and says ‘your kids are super polite..thank you for that.’


So yesterday Esther is going out the door and I am walking after her. She opens the door and then a 10ish year old boy budges in front of me and out the door the Esther holds. His father watches him do this and sees me coming up behind and I stop and tell the dad to go ahead of me so he’s not separated from his son. Esther is standing there still holding the door. The dad looks at my daughter and back to me and I smile and tell him to go. He doesn’t and waves me ahead. So I walk through the door and kiss the top of Esther’s head as I walk by and thank her for the door hold. I keep walking and Esther keeps the door open for the dad.  He tells her to go ahead. She says no, that she’s got the door for him.  He walks through and tells her ‘thank you’ and then ‘that’s the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time..I don’t get the door held very often’ and Esther says ‘it’s a simple thing and everyone smiles when you do it.’

Which is true. Has anyone ever frowned at a door holder?


Sometimes I think my kids would stand there for hours holding the door open for people. Because it’s a joyful job. I worry at times. Am I teaching my kids to be a doormat because I’m constantly telling them to wait their turn, to let others go first, to not be first in line ever, to give up your last cookie to someone who needs it more. But maybe instead of a doormat I’m just teaching them to be a doorman.


Anyway, trust me on this. Hold lots of doors tomorrow. Go out of your way to hold doors. Hold doors all ding-dong day.  It’s life-changing. A simple gesture of looking outside yourself.


Just write.