A Whole Hand

She was one.


Then, two.


Next came three.


Followed by four.


And, now five.

img_9225It’s Millie’s fifth birthday today. She was once a baby and now she’s not. She’s five.

At five years of age, Millie’s favorite thing in life is stuff. Food also ranks pretty high up there but mostly it’s her “stuff” that she treasures most. It seems like such a distinctly Girl Thing (the boys aren’t like this) but Millie surrounds herself with little odds and ends from every corner and crevice of the house. She fills her bedroom with random cardboard boxes, an array of Lego pieces, torn slips of paper too important to toss, broken toys, extra blankets, costume jewelry, innumerable barrettes and hairbands, bread bag ties, instruction manuals, rocks, flower petals, stuffed animals, American Girl catalogues and an assortment of other flotsam that all takes up valuable real estate in her small space.

I’ve never known a child to be so content surrounded by so much chaos. But, Millie is. And, although we certainly try, I can’t fault her for her belongings. Millie has an incredible imagination and each of her treasures has a place in it. Her mind turns an Amazon delivery box into a three part play and a lowly piece of wobbly furniture becomes a fully stocked writer’s desk. She spends hours upon hours in her bedroom creating a world with all of her special things. Everything makes sense to her even if the rest of us find the accumulation of crap maddening.

Sometimes, when Bob and I check on her at night before heading to bed, we find she has relocated to the floor to sleep; a selection of her favorite items surrounding her head. Sort of like a halo made entirely of junk from the recycling bin. We try to tuck her in the best we can, removing the piece of cutlery from beneath her arm and the produce rubber band from her wrist.

A couple of months ago, I tried to get Millie to tackle her messy bedroom. As I stood there, chastising her for the condition of her room, she looked at me, pointed a finger in my direction and said, “But, Moooo-oooom. This is my fun zone.”

Indeed, Millie. Happy birthday to the biggest fan of fun I’ve ever known.

High Emotions

Back-to-school time on Facebook is pretty much my most favorite time of the year on Facebook. It’s so fun to see how all of my friends’ children have changed over the summer. I adore seeing everyone’s kids all squeaky clean and polished up for the new year. Hair is combed, shoes are tied, backpacks are still in one piece. It’s great to see how happy everyone looks before the devastating realization of daily attendance sinks in.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend proudly posted a back-to-school picture of her two kids to Facebook. She mentioned how she was looking forward to getting back to a routine with school finally in session and how exciting it was to have a little time to herself again after a busy summer. Basically, neatly summarizing how most of us moms feel when late August rolls around.

But, because Facebook’s fine print apparently states that all comments posted must be completely ridiculous, an acquaintance of my friend stated in response to my friend’s lovely photograph how sad it made her to see so many moms so eager to send their children away to school. How upsetting that forced separation seemed. How the distance would just be too much for her. How she just couldn’t ever imagine being apart from her babies. How the whole prospect just made her want to cry.



My thoughts when I read her comment can best be summarized as:




In addition:


I mean, I’m my kids’ biggest fan but even I’m all, “SMELL YA LATER” when the first day of school rolls around.

I don’t seem to be built with the same genetic code that makes other mothers super emotional over big milestone moments. I can sympathize with their feelings and I absolutely don’t begrudge them their sentiments (of course not!) but I just don’t share them. I am always happy to see my children growing and maturing and learning how to empty the dishwasher all on their own because mama deserves a little help at this point.

Sure, I shed tears over plenty of things: certain episodes of The Good Wife, a particularly delicious dinner that I didn’t have to prepare, the day that my youngest child learned to wipe her own behind, when they sing It is Well at church. My heart isn’t made of stone. But, I absolutely never get worked up over my own children’s increasing independence. I am completely on board with them growing up. I guess I just pragmatically assume that was the goal of having them to begin with.

So, when the boys headed back to school a couple of weeks ago, I was excited! The first day of classes I was all:


Then, I was kind of tired from the dancing so I gave myself the rest of the week to lounge around, in pajamas, exhibiting questionable personal hygiene, while eating a large amount of nachos because, well, nachos are really tasty and this past summer was really long.

THEN, week two arrived. I took a shower, hopped off the nacho express and decided to do something with my life. Task number one: The Great Back-to-School Purge wherein I eradicate ten weeks of accumulated summer detritus from Henry and Charlie’s bedroom when they are not around to voice opposition. I grabbed one of those outdoor garbage bags, donned protective headgear and headed in to clean out and organize every corner of their shared space. I threw out old summer camp loot, VBS crafts, torn up magazines, broken army figurines and an alarming number of raisins(?). Then, I set about to switch some furniture around to make more space for Lego pieces. Because it’s all Lego all of the time around here.

In rearranging the boys’ room, it made sense to weed out some of the older toys that they no longer play with. I dragged bins out from the closet, bins out from under the bunk bed, bins out from a couple of dark corners and piled everything into the center of the room in an attempt to create some sort of a donate/recycle/trash sorting system.

Only, I didn’t get very far.

One of the bins I found contained all of the big Tonka trucks we’ve purchased or been gifted over the past decade. There are garbage trucks and fire trucks and tow trucks and even a crane and no one plays with them anymore. They never come out of their bin. They have been occupying precious space on a shelf in the boys’ closet for more than two years now.

Something about seeing those trucks for the first time in such a long time, remembering how the boys used to play with them non-stop, remembering how they would drag them all over the house, scooting around on their knees, leaving tracks in the carpet, making fire engine noises, picking up pretend garbage, remembering how many times I tripped over them, kicked them in frustration. Something about those trucks and thinking about those baby boys and their little baby hands with their baby knuckle dimples, thinking about the years that have passed and how big they’ve grown and how Henry will be in MIDDLE SCHOOL next year and how everything is changing and, oh, my, suddenly I was all, what is this moisture coming from my eyes?


It had to have been their dusty room. I certainly didn’t spend the better part of an afternoon crying over the sunrise/sunset moment of finding a bin of oft-neglected Tonka trucks. Other moms do that, other moms on Facebook. The emotional ones. Yep, it was definitely the dust.

Then, the boys arrived home from school, tossed their man-sized shoes all over the floor, started eating everything in sight and retreated to their shockingly clean room to fight over Legos. They were less than receptive when I asked them to please stop growing while hugging them uncomfortably tight.

I don’t even know what is happening to me anymore because I couldn’t bear to part with the trucks. I tucked them all neatly into a trunk in our bedroom. I don’t imagine they’ll get much use but no one is allowed to give them away.

And then, last night, I snuck into the boys’ room after they had gone to bed just to watch them sleep. It’s kind of smelly in there because boys, it turns out, are super stinky but it was nice to be able to stare at them when they couldn’t yell at me to “stop being weird.”

My robot interior appears to be crumbling.

How to be Nice and Change the World in Ten Easy Steps

1. Do you see that elderly man wearing a black cap with gold lettering on it? The one walking gently through the crowds towards the counter line at Chick-fil-A? He’s a veteran. That’s what the hat says. He’s probably seen things and done things that are hard to imagine. All in service to his country. To you. You should buy him his chicken sandwich. Even if it feels weird. Do it. And, remember to tell him, “Thank you for your service.”

2. Be honest with others. Are you struggling with something? With someone? With life in general? I bet if you shared your struggles, you’d find someone else that is struggling with similar things, too. Maybe they’ve been through what you’re going through. Maybe they, too, have been sad or mad or disappointed or stressed. Talking about our struggles helps. Life is hard and complicated and expensive and messy and if those are the only parts you’re feeling or seeing lately, talk to someone that will listen with an empathetic ear. I bet you’ll feel better.

3. This one’s important. Learn how to merge properly in traffic. You know how when you’re driving on a two-lane highway and you see a sign that your lane is closed ahead and you immediately get over into the other lane so you’re properly positioned for the lane closure? And then, when you get to the merge point right before the lane closure, someone zips up beside you and tries to cut in to your lane at the last minute and you refuse to let them merge and then you honk and they honk and then you rage and curse at them and try to do the quick math in your head on just how much your insurance rates would rise if you hit them with your car? This has happened to you, right? Listen, you need to know, THEY’RE RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG. It’s called a zipper merge and it’s the most effective and efficient way of keeping traffic moving when there is a lane closure. Everyone is supposed to drive in both lanes down to the merge point and then we all zip into place into one lane at a moderate speed. We can do this, drivers! We can get this right! We can be less angry behind the wheels of our vehicles!


Courtesy: Minnesota Department of Transportation because Minnesotans are super nice and probably all know how to merge properly.

4. Can you hear that child screaming in Target? Can you hear that loud, piercing, high-pitched wail that is making you glad that whatever is making that noise does not belong to you? Well, when you round the corner and find that kid’s mom and her flailing, tantrumming toddler, you should make eye contact and give her a nod or a wink. Something that communicates solidarity in this motherhood thing. Or, a quick, sincere, “You’re doing a great job.” I know it may feel awkward but it may also make that mom’s day. Heck, maybe even dig around for that extra fruit snack in your bag and offer it up. Parenting is challenging. We’re all fighting the good fight.

5. Look, do not vote for the orange man with The Hair. He is not nice. He is the opposite of nice.

6. Don’t tell a woman to smile. (We hate this.) Or, tell her she looks tired. (We are always tired because we are busy fixing things.) Or, ask her when she’s due. (This is never, ever safe.) Basically, be careful what you say to or about women. Think things through. Your words matter. Just like we matter!

7. Ask for help when you need it. Whatever “it” may be. This can be so hard. It’s hard to admit that we need help from others. It’s hard to ask for help. But, people want to help. You should let them help! Conversely, if you see someone else that needs help, help them! Or, offer to help them. They may not want your help but your offer lets them know that someone cares. That someone is willing. That someone is there. Teach your children to help others. Normalize service. The burden is lighter when it is carried by many.

8. Wiping off the kitchen table doesn’t literally mean wiping the crumbs onto the floor. You have to wipe them into your hand. Also, you can’t nest the spoons in the dishwasher. They won’t get rinsed! Likewise, you can’t overload the washing machine. Your clothes won’t get clean and will emerge in a giant tangled ball of… not clean clothes if you stuff it full with the entire contents of your laundry basket. Wait, this kind of went off the rails here. This is pretty much all directed at my husband. I’m sorry.

9. Know that the basic hopes and dreams you have for yourself and your children – health, safety, happiness, success – are the same basic hopes and dreams that people of all races and religions and ethnicities and backgrounds have for themselves and their children. Even if their families, their marriages, their homes, their neighborhoods do not look like yours, the feeling of wanting the best for themselves and the people they love is pretty universal. We are all so similar in that regard. It’s worth remembering.

10. Be generous of spirit. Be generous with your time. Be generous with your resources.


The sunset a couple of weeks ago because it’s important to remember that we live in a beautiful world even when it doesn’t always feel like it.