Father’s Day 2017: The Moth Radio Hour
My first audio story!
And it would’ve been so easy, you know? I could’ve just said, “Nope. I’m good to go.” I mean, this is my dad. Don’t we lie to parents all the time?…
But it was bigger than that. I knew it. I knew that if this was my passage into adulthood, I wanted to be the kind of adult who didn’t make excuses or weaseled her way out of things by telling half-truths. I wanted to be real. I wanted to look my dad in the eye.”
May 12, 2017: Postcards from Motherhood
Like you, I love to capture a moment on camera. At sporting events and birthday parties and vacations, my phone is in hand, ready to document the good times.
But recently I have realized that photos are not all that great as memory keepers. In fact, the more I look at photos of something, the less I actually remember of the moment. It’s almost as if my brain has said, Oh, good, you captured that moment. I can move that out of here to make space for things you don’t have documented.
Pretty soon, when I try to remember what happened, all I see in my mind are the videos or pictures of what happened.
My father-in-law died of dementia. And if you’ve ever watched someone fade into the fog of forgetfulness, you know the urgency we all feel to never forget this moment is warranted, even while we know that memories are fleeting. So how does one capture the memories? How does one not forget?
May 1, 2017: The Secret
Then your eyelids begin to droop. Your breathing becomes shallow, almost silent, and your head becomes heavy and begins to melt into my arm or my shoulder or my breast. Your arms become floppy and your legs rubbery. Sleep has almost enveloped you.
This is my favorite part.
I look down at your face, so calm. Any frustration or fear of the day has drained. Your skin is porcelain; your round, relaxed cheeks like peaches, and your little lips form a perfect triangle. Sometimes they quiver and the corners jerk into an unconscious smile that quickly plays across your face and disappears. Then you sigh in gratitude, in trust, in complete comfort.
I feel like crying. I flash forward to ten years from now, eight months from now, two weeks from now, even ten minutes from now when you will no longer need me to walk you, to comfort you. Soon you’ll be able to put yourself back to sleep, and later I will no longer be able to give you all the peace you need.
April 14, 2017: What I’ve Learned from Making 10,000 Meals for My Family
I sat down and calculated this morning. Counting breastfeeding–which I think counts–my husband and I have fed our children well over 10,000 meals.
Let that number sink in a little. And I bet, if you sat down with a calculator, your number wouldn’t be far behind and maybe way ahead. (My oldest is 11).
Have you heard the theory you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to become really good at something? Well, surely this can apply to these 10,000 meals. And although I’m no cooking expert, I have learned a thing or two. Well, 20 things, actually. Here they are–in random order.
December 23, 2016: Deseret News: Motherhood Matters: My Mother’s Fingerprints.
“…I have not failed a test in many years, but as I left the fingerprinting place I could sense the distinct taste of failure — a little disbelief mixed with an incensed, whiny it’s not fair — how was I to know you’re supposed to have smooth fingerprints?!
Once in the car, I looked at my hands more closely. Are these old lady hands? Can this problem be solved with the right hand lotion?
The truth is I have my mother’s hands — overworked, baggy knuckled, a bit bony, sinewy hands. They are cracked but not dry, and they are skinny but not delicate. These hands are tools, not accessories.”
December 4, 2016: Spiritual Sundays: God is Riding Shotgun
“The problem with being a religious person is one has to use a spiritual GPS. Even though God is a lot like AAA (24-hour road assistance, only a phone call away!), He doesn’t give away free maps of the road ahead. He doesn’t give you a big picture. You get the assurance that you will be guided. You can believe your actions are part of a larger plan, but you will not get the confidence of knowing exactly where you’re going. He gives directions one turn at a time.”
August 5, 2016: Don’t Fix the Pains of Summer
“I looked down at my son’s legs, tanner now in the summer than they had been in the spring, full of multiple mosquito bites that he had itched to scabs, a big road rash on his knee where he had fallen off of his scooter and a smattering of mystery bruises on his shins.
But his legs tell another story, too. They tell a story about the gifts of summer, sometimes wrapped in a slightly painful package.”
May 6, 2016: Three Ways to Share the Load
Recently, my daughter, who is ten, called me into her room to show me how she had arranged her doll house. She has a number of small animals that live in her dollhouse. There are LOTS of baby animals and a handful of adults animals.
She started giving me the tour:
“Here is the nursery. I made these little beds out of cardboard. And this mom is reading books to the kids before they go to bed. And this is the bathroom. This mommy is giving the twins a bath. See how I made bubbles out of cotton balls? And down here is the kitchen. This mommy is making some dinner and these kids are playing at the table while they wait.”
And I asked, “Where are the daddies?”
Without missing a beat, my daughter said, “Oh, the dads are in the living room. They’re watching TV. And look, these guys are playing a card game. I made tiny cards for them.”
I was taken aback a little. First of all, her dad is not a “watching-the-game-while-mom-makes-the-dinner” kinda guy at all. My husband is hands-on dad who always makes time to help with the bedtime routine. Heck, he’s the breakfast maker in our house. Every morning. We trade dinner making duty and he’s not afraid of cleaning a bathroom.
So where did my daughter get this idea that these tiny critter ladies should carry this load all by themselves?
March 18, 2016: Hold the Pose: What Yoga Taught Me about Motherhood
I find myself impatient when I’m trying to hold a pose. Inevitably my nose itches relentlessly or a spot on the left side of my forehead, somewhere near my part. And I yawn. Yawns wash over me like rogue waves when I’m trying to breathe rhythmically. This is to say nothing of my hamstrings and other major muscles that just refuse to open and relax, no matter what I do.
But there I was every Tuesday and Thursday, trying to sink deeper into Triangle pose, working to extend my Half Moon pose, wishing to unravel my hamstrings in Downward Dog. Why? Because it was free. And because I liked the idea of wrestling with a pose. I liked not doing a half-way job for 60 seconds and then moving on to the next thing. I wanted, desperately, to peel back the pose to its core.
Lately I’ve been wondering: what if this philosophy could be applied to everything? What if, by holding onto the very thing we are itching to let go of, or by letting ourselves sink deeper into something that is already boring us, we could reach a core, a center, an essence?
February 19, 2016: Teaching My Kids to Honor their (Grand)Parents
Like many people, I do not live in the same city as my parents. This makes my heart ache a little. And because it’s so expensive travel, I only get “home” once a year. This makes my heart ache a lot. So, these choppy video calls are my kids’ connection to their grandparents. I do this for them–because I want them to have a relationship with my parents. But I also do it for me.
On the surface, it may seem like these video calls don’t really have much to do with me. I love my parents. I enjoy chatting on the phone with them or exchanging texts. I don’t need the video calls to have a relationship with them. But I have vested interest in showing my kids that I’m making an effort to include them in our lives.
You don’t have to be a religious person to know that “honor your father and mother” is a glue that holds our society together. The reality is, families take care of each other. That includes the little people in our lives and the older people in our lives. And it’s never too early to start teaching my kids that the generations in our family are linked, even if it’s mostly through choppy video calls.
December 18, 2015: Consider the Winter Solstice
To celebrate the longest night of the year—the day when the solar year bottoms out and starts to climb back up again—we go outside and light a fire. We stand around it, stamp our feet a little to chase away the cold, and something magical happens. My “to do” list drops out of my mind. I breathe deeply. I look up at the stars and the rosy faces of my children lit by firelight and I feel totally and completely calm. The house—full of half done projects and baked goods and decorations that are starting to droop—can feel too chaotic. But the fire is peaceful.
Sometimes we invite friends to join us. Sometimes we sing Christmas carols. Sometimes we talk about what we hope for next year. Usually someone will remark how cold and dark it is just steps away from the fire. But mostly we sit and stare at the flickering flames. Fires have that kind of power.
August 20, 2015: Be A Man
I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe that instead of telling our boys to toughen up, we can show them how to be mentally tough and still emotionally tender. I want to teach my son to battle sadness, hurt, disappointment, fear–all of those hard emotions we all have to face–with strength, not denial. I want my son to be confident, not calloused.
But most of all, I want to raise the kind of boy who, when he sees his friend crying because he struck out, is brave enough to put his arm around his friend and say, “Striking out stinks. This game is not easy. But you’ll get it next time.” That’s a tall order for an 8-year-old, but not for the man I hope my son becomes.
June 30, 2015: Video Games Are Not the Enemy—They are the Messenger
Watching my children play a video game—I get it. It feels good to blow up pigs and figure out the angle you need to sling shot those little birds. And while I’m trying to help my kids feel mastery in the long-term (graduating from high school, learning an instrument, playing a sport) I know that we could all use a little short-term competency boost now and then. So this summer, to lure them from the laptop, I want to give my kids a chance to show me, and themselves, what they can do. So let’s do it together. Can they cook brownies? Can they build a clubhouse? Can they pick out the Angry Birds Star Wars theme song on the piano? Who knows? I’m betting they can.
May 19, 2015: Helping Your Shy Child
My children have always attracted labels. When they were babies they were “clingy.” When they were a little older they were “mama’s boys!” Now their teachers tell us they are “such quiet students.” Total strangers think nothing of saying things like “What are you? Shy?!” As if shyness is akin to leprosy.
It’s not. Shyness often accompanies an introvert who hasn’t quite learned how to navigate her need for solitude and companionship. And truth be told, I think shyness is a really wonderful quality. I never had to worry about my toddlers disappearing on the playground. I’m sure my preschooler is not taunting anyone. And will my kids ever get in trouble at school? They would, literally, rather die.
April 21, 2015: The 21 Day Motherhood Challenge
I’m prone to “mommy fatigue”–a feeling of just wanting to plunk the kids in front of the TV and bury my head under the covers. Or counting the hours until bedtime so I can finally just be. And sometimes, when I feel this way, well-meaning friends have urged me to relax, take “me-time”, and basically stop trying so hard. That may work for some people, but for me, I’ve found the more I mentally check out, the less joy I feel. Instead, l remember Sarah and the way she threw herself in to make the most of her time. I so want to make the most of my fleeting time as a mother, even when I feel worn out. When I feel fatigue creeping in, I take a deep breath and redouble my efforts to metaphorically grab a hold of my toes and start pulling.
What does this look like? For me, it’s taking time to do the things that I love to do as a mother. I love to read to my kids and sure enough, if a few nights have gone by without bedtime stories, I start to feel cranky. I also love to make delicious food and if we pack our lives so full we don’t have time to have a proper meal, I start to feel overwhelmed. I love to learn new things with my kids and if we haven’t started a new goal or investigated a question in a while, I start to feel that combination of self-doubt and pessimism that accompanies “mommy fatigue.”
It seems counter-intuitive that if you are feeling low energy that the answer might be to dig in or work harder. But in my case, the things that make me feel better–cooking, reading, following an intellectual whim–actually involve working harder on the things that really matter to me rather than giving myself a break. When I do the kind of hard work that energizes, not drains, I break out of that mommy fatigue.
February 27, 2015: Going Back to Work
Maybe you’ve had this feeling before. It hits you, right in the middle of registering your youngest child for kindergarten. Or late at night, after everyone is sleeping soundly after having brushed their own teeth and turned out their own light. Suddenly you realize, My kids are growing up. And I have….TIME. Quiet time, “me” time, non-interrupted time. What am I going to do with it?
For me, parenting is a long list of learned skills. Blabbering at babies, for example. Although I was a little unsure about what to say to my first daughter, I quickly found the more I looked her in the eye and talked about whatever, the more she smiled and cooed and generally made my insides turn warm and buttery. So I tried to do it more. By the time my second baby came along, I changed his diaper a lot like my mother-in-law. And with my third, I’d become a full-fledged manic baby talker who doesn’t just talk to her own babies but any baby within earshot.
I like seeing this growth in myself. It reminds me to be patient and hopeful. It encourages me to remember that parenting is a skill, not a just condition of life and like any skill, with thoughtful determination, I can hone it and become better.
November 7, 2014 The Teen Brain
Our brains don’t come with an owner’s manual, which is a real shame. And surely neuroscience cannot be reduced to “if/then” statements. But I think as mothers of teenagers and soon-to-be-teenagers, it’s worth thinking about their brains in light of their biological development. It helps me be more patient, more understanding, and ultimately more amazed at the way they are growing. I feel so lucky to be a part of it.
October 10, 2014: Taking a Shot on the Goal
But then the impossible happens. Someone breaks away from the crowd. She kicks it out in front of her and as she chases the ball down, she is suddenly close to the goal. She takes a shot!
Only to miss. Just another shot on goal. All that work down the field for nothing!
Or is it?
As I listen to the coach encourage my kids, I realize the agony and the ecstasy on the field is teaching me some good parenting lessons. My life is a million small shots on goal. Usually, I shank it to the side or I overshoot the goal. Does this mean that I’m wasting my time and energy? Is this all for nothing? I hope not. When I think about those metaphoric shots on goal, I try to follow remember the encouraging words of some of my favorite life coaches:
October 23, 2014: As a Mormon, How Can I Comfort My Jewish Mother-in-Law?
While he is gone, my mother-in-law is here and in need of lots of kindness. But knowing the best way to support her is hard because the one thing that tenuously sustains me, my faith, I can’t offer to her. But I so want to offer something.
In the past, our relationship has bridged many differences: the difference between being raised in a high-rise on Coney Island, and being raised on a farm in Idaho; the difference between pastrami and Jello salads; the difference between kissing boo-boos and “walking it off.” But this difference between us—a belief about the afterlife versus a lack thereof— feels harder to bridge and much, much more important.
September 19, 2014: What Happens When Your Instincts Are Wrong?
So, humbly I tried what I read over and over again. Don’t make a big deal of it. Don’t react. Just clean it up and say, optimistically, “Let’s try again.” And, of course, like magic, my son’s potty training issues began to evaporate.
Well, let me clarify: my emotional rollercoaster was over. He still had accidents, but they were much less frequent. They still included the little heartbreaking question: “Mommy are you very mad at me?” (An emotional scar that I hope heals soon.) But they didn’t make my emotions turn upside down, so I could stop counting them.
And I learned a valuable lesson–again. What happens when your instincts are wrong? Does that mean that you are a terrible mother? No, it means you are a person who is trying to do the very important and very hard work of raising a human being. No one person can possibly know how to do this gracefully and perfectly. But together, when we draw from the collective wisdom of mothers, we can help each other do it well.
September 12, 2014: 3 Reasons I Don’t Pay My Kids an Allowance
Dave Ramsey says that you should begin teaching kids about money — primarily by paying them for household chores — as early as preschool and “no later than 3rd grade.”
Suze Orman warns that if I give my kids a “no strings attached” allowance I will encourage them to be “entitled,” a term that has been search engine-optimized to get parents riled up.
But I’m not buying it. My kids are young (my oldest is going into the 4th grade) and I think, at least for for now, that the lessons they would learn from getting an allowance or being paid to do household chores are more damaging than the potential gains in financial literacy. Here are a few of those dangerous lessons:
August 14, 2014: Parenting Like A Teacher
Teaching is essentially acting. If things go terribly in one class, you have five minutes to wipe that frustration off your face and start fresh with a new group of kids. That’s not easy to do.
Parenting is the same. I’m so glad my kids have a limited memory. They forgive and love me seconds after I have yelled at them. They don’t hold a grudge and give me the cold shoulder because I lost it. How can I not do the same? If my son poops in his pants, I have to put on his big boy underwear and believe that this time, yes, this time it will work.
Because, in a family, every day, every moment is new–a new chance to optimistically try again, genuinely love harder, and press forward believing in the ones you love and in the life you are building together.
You don’t have to be trained teacher to do that. You just have to be a mom. Which you are.
August 1, 2014: Emergency Substitutions
Don’t have time for a shower? Substitute a dash of baby powder under the armpits and across the chest, and a hat and pony-tail holder.
Don’t have patience? Substitute two deep breaths and a handful of chocolate chips.
Don’t have a urinal for your potty training son? Substitute one rear tire on your car. If you open the back door, no one will see.
February 20, 2014: My Home Is A Workshop
What words come to mind with this workshop? In progress. Busy. Hard work. Dusty.
These are the words I want to describe my house–yes, I’ll even take “dusty,” because I want my home to be a workshop. I want it to be a place where we are building great minds and forging strong people. And I want to welcome the dust (both literal and metaphorical) that comes with construction.
February 3, 2014: Bonding with Girls
It’s harder to “bond” with a grade schooler. Our recreational lives don’t exactly match up. She likes to play Barbies. I like to write. She likes to jump on the trampoline. I like to play volleyball. So, it seems like we intersect most at instructional time–like chore time, practice time, the before-school rush. These interactions don’t quite build the relationship I want.
But when I think about traditional “bonding time” or “girl time” it seems to all too often fall into gender stereotypes. Girls like shopping! And painting nails! (And boys like baseball games!) I want to this bonding time to do more than entertain us. I want to show my daughter that women (and men) are more than stereotypes. I want more than that for our relationship.
So how do I do it?
January 23, 2014: Built to Last
What does mothering endurance look like? To me, I ask myself these questions to gauge my mothering endurance:
Can my love endure through my anger?
Can my patience endure through this tantrum?
Can my faith that this problem will be solved endure through the twists and turns on this trial?
Can my kindness endure this thoughtlessness?
Can my confidence in my kids endure this setback?
When I find myself lacking in my mothering endurance, I turn to running to remind me of how to build it. Here’s what I know about endurance:
June 17, 2013: Child’s Pose
No, if I were writing a yoga book, I’d make it for mothers. And the directions I would give for my favorite series,“Child’s Pose Flow,” would go something like this:
Before you begin, pick stray bits of play dough from your yoga mat. Announce your intention to do some “mommy exercise,” and point all children in the direction of the toy train table.
Firmly plant your feet on your mat, and as you focus your breath, imagine that your feet are rooting you to the earth. Inhale and exhale.
Reach up high, and slowly exhale as you bend over at the waist. Stay in this relaxing pose for five breaths or until the cat starts batting at your hair.
March 30, 2013: All Hail the Kangaroo!
I want my kids to feel a sense of belonging. It’s why I tell them family stories. It’s why we celebrate Passover and Easter. It’s why I make them the same raisin-filled cookies my grandma used to make.
I want them to know that what they do, here and now, is part of a larger story– that who they are started long before they were born. Most of all, I want them to believe deeply that they are a part of a whole and that they will never be alone in this sometimes lonely, disconnected world.
I suppose I could laminate this sentiment on a piece of paper and stick it on the fridge, or I could just take down the kangaroo mask and do a little dance. I hope when my kids get older and someone asks, “What’s your family like?”, they’ll reply, “Well, we’re the Roos Kangaroos!”
March 24, 2013: Spiritual Sundays: Matzah and Motherhood
The Exodus is an old story, brimming with metaphors and themes: new beginnings, a release from bondage, a God who works miracles. But the one that always speaks to me as a mother is the one I crunch into with that matzah:
When the time comes, you don’t have to be totally prepared. You just take what you have and go.
Motherhood is like this. What mother has ever felt totally prepared when she finally holds that slimey, solid, hot, little newborn in her hands? She feels overwhelmed—with happiness and hopefulness and awe—but decidedly not with confidence.
It doesn’t matter. She IS a mother. She brings what patience and love and know-how she has, and she just does it.
I’ve read this book many times. Each time I read it, I find specific nuggets of practical wisdom that I can immediately incorporate into my parenting. It’s hard to pick just one. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how I can take more time and honor my children’s struggle a little more. When my preschooler struggles to zip up his sweatshirt, I try to say, “Zippers can be tricky!” instead of saying, “Let me do it.” When my grade schooler talks about how she wishes that she could pass her times test, I say, “I remember times test as being pretty stressful. What do you think would help you learn them better?” Instead of saying, “You’re so smart. You’ll get them. Don’t worry.”
December 31, 2012: Keeping that Christmas Feeling
Community service makes me uncomfortable. And my kids are naturally shy so forcing them to do something with a bunch of strangers is, well, stomach-turning. So I’ve mostly avoided it or resigned myself to writing an occasional check.
But keeping in mind that “nobody can do everything but everyone can do something” and “every little bit helps” and all those other pat phrases I use to motivate myself to stop being overwhelmed (or lazy?) and DO something, I set a goal last January to do some sort of community service each month for 2012.
December 15, 2012: The Power of Pause
I miss the way nursing a baby pushes the pause button on my day. Whatever I needed to do in that moment–freezes. To be sure, I’ve done my share of nursing while reading/cooking/typing/hair brushing/eating. But I’ve also thrown up my hands and said, “That’s it. I’ve got to nurse this baby!” I’d plop down in my big comfortable nursing chair, snuggle in, and take a deep breath. I’d just pause.
Now that I’m not nursing any more, I have to remind myself to take those pauses. It’s not in my personality to be silent and still. But I want to have those moments because I have found time and time again that these moments are where the magic of motherhood lies, waiting.
November 22, 2012: Thank You Notes
My first real experience with thank-you notes came when I got married. Sure, I had sent a few here and there before that, but I had never really caught the spirit of gratitude that inspires a heartfelt thank you note. My wedding was the first time I was truly overwhelmed with gratitude. So many people, many whom I barely knew, were so kind to us.
But now as I look back, I’m embarrassed to say that although I wrote very nice thank-you notes to distant relatives and friends who generously showered us with gifts, I did not write a note to my own parents.
Why is that? Why is it so easy to look past the members of our immediate family when we count our blessings?
November 18, 2012: Spiritual Sundays: There is Enough Oil
I often feel like my oil pot is in danger of running dry. Being at home full-time seems to take a lot of resources that I’m not sure I have in abundance. Will I really have enough patience? Will I have enough creativity to fill our days? Will I have enough courage to learn how to do new things? Will we have enough money to make ends meet? Will I have determination to re-enter the workforce?
And the answer to all these questions is a resounding YES! There is enough and then some. When we go to the right Source, and we enlist the help of those around us, and we move forward in faith, there is enough oil.
October 27, 2012: Follow Lalo
That’s pronounced LAH-lo. Doesn’t it roll off the tongue? Isn’t it fun to say. That’s Lalo. He’s fun.He gets that from me. I’m fun. Or I used to be more fun. Then I became a mom and I got crankier and more worried and suddenly felt responsible and weighed down by all the emotions that are the opposite of fun.
Thankfully, kids are tiny factories of fun. They churn out fun ideas day and night. And Lalo is the Rockefeller of Fun. He helps me remember, in a big way, some of the rules for living a fun life.
August 13, 2012: When Me Time Doesn’t Work
The flight attendant pauses by my seat during the oxygen mask demonstration. “First put on your mask and then help anyone who may need assistance,” she says. As always, this makes me feel guilty. Someone once used the oxygen mask metaphor to explain how important it is for a mother to prioritize her needs. And I know, I know–I’m supposed to take some “me time.” So why do I hate doing it?
Why does it make me so happy when my kids get along? Why does it drive me crazy when my kids fight? I don’t know why, but I do know reacting emotionally just escalates the problem. So I try to react creatively, deliberately, and differently than I have in the past. I’m the adult, so I can.
As with so many parts of mothering, the “easiest” thing to do is not always best. We can do what comes naturally and put on our referee uniforms and bark out orders like “knock it off!” or we can think a little deeper and try something new. A peaceful house, especially in the summer, is worth it.
July 6, 2012: The Tightrope Walker
Motherhood is like a three-ring circus. You are the juggler, the lion tamer, and the clown. Some days you have to be a contortionist, and other days you feel like you’ve been shot from the cannon. But the one act mothers do over and over again is the tightrope walker.
When we talk about balance we often refer to time management, but that’s just the opening act. The more daring feats of balance, the more breathtaking lines that we walk are the emotional high wires we cross. They are the dizzy high-wire acts that leave us feeling unsure and insecure. It’s not easy to perch somewhere in the middle–not too far to one side or the other–but when we’ve found it we know the stillness of balance. And the only way to find that peaceful balance is to get up and try again and again to perform these feats of motherhood:
(1) The Amazing High-Wires of Motherhood
(2) The Death-Defying Act of Walking the Tightrope with a Spouse
(3) The Incredible Tightrope of Raising Children