Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Axel, Unplugged

When Axel was 2, we tried to ditch the pacifier. We ceremoniously collected all his "mimis" in a blue IKEA bowl, waved bye-bye and semi-successfully diverted all his pleas for the rest of the afternoon by offering boatloads of gummies, lollipops and other treats typically reserved for Saturdays. By bed time, we knew it was too early to "high five" on another milestone, but we were definitely optimistic.

At about 2am, we quickly realized that unless we were prepared for endless days followed by sleepless nights, reconsidering returning the beloved Mam would make our lives not only pleasant and lovely, but populated yet again by a happy little guy.

So we acquiesced.

Many moons and a birthday later, we tried again. This time, we recruited the help of Aunt Filippa who immediately FedExed a copy of a perfectly illustrated book, where the main character spends agonizing moments deliberating over which toy to relinquish for her paci. And while Axel never fully understood why anyone would opt for a yellow stuffed duck over a suckable mimi, he seemed to really relate.

On the designated day, we once again collected all the pacifiers (this time in a yellow bowl, just for kicks) and explained to the little guy that, as a reward, he could head to his local Wal-Mart and pick out anything in the whole store!

It still kills me that he returned with a yo-yo. 

But anyway ... not only have we not heard peep about his beloved mimi since this momentous day three weeks ago, we've also been introduced to a brand-new Axel. To call him "chatty Cathy" is an understatement. From the moment his eyes pop open to the very last second before delirious dreams, he talks. He explains. He ponders. He wonders. And mostly he wants to know why he can't have a hot air balloon.

And as if leaving the mouth free to babble was somehow related to his legs, he's suddenly become super fast. Daring. More adventurous. And -- shocking to everyone -- almost as wild and crazy as his big brother.

Love this newly discovered little dude. Shenanigans included.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And So It Begins

Curtis and a few of his cronies started golf lessons last week. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, four 5-year-olds invade our local private club's driving range, putting green, bunker and -- as of last week -- hole number four. Under the guidance of a "professional" they supposedly learn tricks and tips and, obviously, have boatloads of fun.

Last week, I nonchalantly inquired what he'd learned.

"Nothing!" he defiantly muttered, which normally wouldn't be cause for concern since the new status quo in our household involves a few similar sentiments which all pretty much translate to: parents are totally clueless!

Anyway. I prodded and pried, and finally, figured it out.

Ever since the lessons started, Curtis feels his swing has deteriorated. His grip is currently "messed up." His backswing is "like a lame L" and, as so oftentimes happens in this lovely game, his confidence is buried somewhere in the depths of a fairway bunker.

Not one to take matters involving golf lightly, we grabbed his sand wedge last weekend and hit the backyard. Axel, of course, in tow with his hand-me-down 7-iron.

Three minutes later everything was crystal clear: Curtis's swing, was indeed, "messed up."

Luckily for our big guy, his mamma is a seasoned albeit nonchalant player, and within a few minutes, we had it all mostly corrected. This was all accomplished between assuring Axel, who clearly also needed some tips, that "yes, your arms are straight!"

Here's the tricky bit. We still have three more lessons left. And both Curtis and I now have less than a sliver of confidence in this "professional" who will most likely continue to try to use kid-unfriendly tips for the remaining days. 

So when Curtis expressed his legitimate frustration over the confusion bound to occur on the range over the next few days, I paused only momentarily before I offered the following advice:

"Just pretend, buddy."

"What do you mean, Mamma?"

"I mean that when he tells you something that doesn't make sense, just ignore it and keep doing what I've been teaching you."

Evidently, this was the funniest thing I've ever said, because Curtis hasn't stopped laughing since.

I, on the other hand, suddenly realized that I just encouraged dissing a teacher. Which will probably backfire one day. But for now at least, Curtis is back to driving that ball straight and far.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Within all the mommy blogs and parenting ilists I devour, there's this common debate around things that are difficult. And, since competition is evidently just as inherent in adults as our littles, it's tricky not to read it all and avoid taking sides. Some days, according to those in the weeds, being a stay-at-home mom is mentally draining, exhausting and ceaselessly challenging. Other mornings it's the working crew that has the toughest beat: juggling making lunches, planning dinners and handling the emotions of drop-offs and pick-ups nestled between conference calls and quarterly performance reviews.

I wear both hats.

And honestly, I think both sides are equally true.

But that's not the point. Ultimately, regardless of what defines you -- as a parent -- the same tricky situations, melt-downs, and lovely snippets will punctuate your day. What's becoming more and more clear, as my kids grow and tempt and explore, is that our attitude is what cements everyone's experience.

Thing is, while theoretically a flooded bathroom is pretty easily cleaned up and leaving five minutes later than planned really has zero impact on the rest of the morning, when you're in the moment, it's easier to see that one, little measly tree than the beautiful forest. And just like playing dominos on a perfectly waxed hardwood floor, when one black-dotted, white rectangle begins to tremble and ultimately crash, the rest will definitely follow.

So the lesson?

Back to basics: spilled milk shouldn't result in tears and handed-down lemons have amazing culinary properties.

Focus on now. This minute. Today. And don't worry so much about messes, piles of laundry or mud-streaked tiles. There's always time to clean.

But playing in the sun is way more fun.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


It's completely dirty. Covered in pollen from our flowering pine trees, streaked dust on the passenger side door, 'Curtis' outlined in old grime, his first official graffiti -- which as an aside, I clearly let slide since he so aptly spelled his own name, even the tricky 'r' perfectly legible.

But that's just the outside.

Inside is a bizarre yet somehow kid-comforting conglomeration of discarded Cheerios and gummies, playground woodchips and beach sand, and -- for some unknown reason -- mis-matched long-forgotten shoes. If you peek between the front seats, you'll probably see the remnants of an old cheese stick, bubblegum wrappers and scraps of paper with doodles and scribbles which, to a 3-year-old, clearly depict monkeys and rocket space ships.

The front dash has Easter's slightly lopsided art project and one of three 'driving to school' CDs currently in rotation.

And the cupholders, their original function long since forgotten, contain all kinds of edible remnants, cool stick fragments and special rocks that for obvious reasons can never be tossed and must always remain -- just in case we need them one day.

Meet my car. My lovely, messy, and usually a bit stinky child-preferred mode of transportation.

It's been cleaned. And detailed. And expertly vacuumed -- once, the car seat covers were actually removed and -- gasp! -- laundered and dried.

But mere hours later, or so it seems, we are back to status quo. And honestly, we -- the kids and I -- like it that way. We like knowing we're never too dirty after an afternoon at the park to worry about creating new Nissan messes. We find coziness and comfort in the slight old-sock smell that is forever perpetuated by two pairs of feet that can never seem to keep shoes, or socks, on after a long day at preschool. And we plainly adore that no matter where we are headed, we can usually find some hidden treasure within its grimy depths to entertain us.

Pappa's car on the other hand, is spotless. And while not nearly as charming as my tried and true shuttle, it definitely has its own appeal.

Especially on date night.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


When you come crashing down the hillside on your scooter, reeling at the turn, skidding to a stop right before the curb, I appear calm.

When the swing is mere millimeters from flipping upside down, your laugh echoing through the trees, I am the epitome of serenity.

When you "drop in" with the 20-year-olds at the skate park, I blink momentarily, waiting for the cry, the scream of terror -- which never materializes -- and I exude peace.

When you run, run, run out the back door, jumping over rocks and stones, climbing a much-too-skinny tree, yelling out 'look at me', I applaud, beaming outwardly.

But on the inside. Oh my. On the inside I cringe, I squirm and I hold my breath.

And then I remember:

This. This is life as a mother to boys. Who yell and shout and lunge and revel in anything remotely dangerous.

And so I prescribe myself a daily dose of "they're fine" and "don't react" -- and continue to watch and marvel at the stunts which so effortlessly punctuate our afternoons. And mornings. And evenings.

Love you guys. Even if you do make my heart skip a couple of beats.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Best Fish Tacos. Ever.

A few months ago, we took a fantabulous two-family five-day trip to Palm Springs. Four adults, and four boys, six and under. We played. We swam. We jacuzzi-ed. In the evenings we took turns cooking: chicken nuggets, pasta, tuna salad with crackers and sliced cheese for the minions.

For us: expertly-prepared and divinely seasoned steak, fresh fruits and salads, and fish tacos the most deliciously moist, cilantro-fied and lime-kissed halibut tacos I have ever eaten. 

Normally, I don't write down recipes. At best, I half-guess cups and tablespoons and simply throw in dashes of herbs and pinches of flour, tasting as I go, ultimately ending up with a delicious result, but never exactly the same as a previous iteration. But these were so so good. 

Hence, for posterity's sake, le recipe, courtesy of my lovely friend, Flour Girl Wedding Cakes.

salt & pepper
1 bunch cilantro
2 or 3 limes
3 or 4 cloves garlic
olive oil

Cut halibut into bite-sized pieces and throw in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Zest one lime and squeeze the juice of the others over the fish. Chop the cilantro, and add to the bowl. Mince or press the garlic, toss it with the fish and other goodies then generously drizzle with olive oil. Marinate for 2-5 hours in fridge. When ready to devour, throw in sizzling skillet until nice and yummy! Serve in tortillas (obviously) with guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, more squeezed limes and hot sauce.

Monday, May 06, 2013


"We're not helping raise children -- we are helping raise adults."

Teacher Beth delivered that, as well as a few other eye-opening lines -- during preschool graduation last week. Her point wasn't that kids can't be kids. On the contrary, with 30 years of guiding little ones under her belt, she truly understands the crazy fun and delirious wildness inherent in being under the age of six.

The focus, which despite the crying babies and mumbled "be quiets" from the parents actually trying to listen, was rather on being consequent. True. And consistent. On delivering clear guidelines and sound principles and exemplifying that manners and kindness and an attitude of respect-your-elders still very much applies today. 

All parents know, this is no easy feat. We have fantastic days when time-outs are applied fairly and calmness exudes, even during the most trying moments. And then there are those other little blips. The ones that keep you, as a parent, awake late into the evening and the ones that result in unappealing "what ifs" and "shoulds" and perfectly crystalline hindsight.

Despite knowing that nobody is perfect, least of all those of us trying to herd little guys onto a positive and productive path, it's still so important to remember that being a responsible adult doesn't mean you're perfect. 

It does mean that you should have an open mind. A willingness to listen. And the honesty to admit that while love can certainly conquer a lot -- it takes more than that to teach your kids how to live, laugh and grow.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

A First: Graduation

Dearest Curtis:

Wow. Just about three years ago, we dressed you in a preppy white, collared shirt and plaid shorts as you entered your first morning as a 'Woolie' with Teacher Maria. You learned how to count to 15, the alphabet song and how to get dressed 'all by myself.' We traded diapers for Super-hero underroos and -- despite your Mamma's initial protests -- cut off those blonde baby curls so you could apply hair gel in the morning, just like Pappa.

A few months later, you left the cozy confines of that tiny room and moved on to daily circle times with Teacher Brooke, shorter naps (yes!) and a more rigorous curriculum. You cherished being the daily 'special helper' -- mostly because this meant organizing the lunch bags, being first in line and getting to peek out the window and meteorolgically declare the weather to the rest of the class.

And now, here we are today. You're 5-and-a-half. You're tall, confident and funny. Athletic and a genius Lego builder. You've spent a full year with Teacher Franca, mastering how to spell your name, draw all kinds of insects -- spiders being a favorite subject -- and in your outdoors-oriented mind, there's never a day when it's too cold to wear a T-shirt. 

Your friends adore you. Your teachers see you as a true leader. And your little brother knows he is incredibly lucky to have you in his corner, always.

Pappa, Axel and I are so proud of you. And we can't wait to see what's next.


Monday, April 29, 2013


We own three iPads, one desktop and three laptops. Each room in our house has a TV. We have two portable DVD players. And two iPhones -- for the adults, not the kids. Excessive? Probably. Disruptive to our kids? Au contraire.

It's so fancy to say you limit your kids TV time. And while I agree that most littles probably don't need to sit in front of the telly for hours upon hours each day, there's nothing wrong with a bit of technology. iPads are awesome travel tools. The games and apps are educational, entertaining and fun. And every time our oldest watches his fellow Star Wars afficionados assemble a new Lego set he usually ensues, building cities and forts and ships for display in his room.

Thinking through the pros and cons of do's and don'ts this weekend, I remember the savvy and brilliant advice of the best pediatrician we ever had. He always recommended 'feeding on demand,' and finally one day, exhausted after months of only 90-minute boob and bottle breaks, we asked: "when does this stop?"

He replied, without skipping a beat: "When they turn 18."

So as I talk to moms about how much computer/TV/technology time we allow our kids, I am instantly reminded of Dr. Zucker's fantastic advice, and how it, too, translates here.

If you give your kids an inch, they don't always take a mile. And if you let them explore, invent and be themselves, you might just find they'll go back to tried-and-true forms of entertainment.

Exhibit A: the egg race!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lies. Little Ones.

Presenting them with a giant bowl of soy-sauce covered quinoa, I declared to the kids: "It's just rice!" And they ate it. Almost all of it. And the edamame beans at the bottom. And the corn kernels peppered throughout.

When prompted for orange soda -- a household item recently purchased to discourage pull-up-poop and incent toilet-poop -- I came up with a long-winded story culminating in: "all the bubbles in there will bubble in your belly and make it hurt."

Yes. I lied.

Moments later, my independent 5-year-old emerges from the bathroom, claiming to have washed his hands. 

"Are you sure?" I ask.

"Yes," he replies, smiling guiltily.

Being the little liar that I am, I try again: "You have one second to tell me the truth."

"I did!" he insists.

"OK," I say, relying on my own subtle technique to play truth masterminder, "If I go in and check the sink and it's not wet, no TV tonight."

At which point he darts to the bathroom, scrubbing, slathering and sudd-ifying the floor.

"Told you I did it," he casually smiles, emerging moments later, calm, cool and collected.

Just like his Mamma.

Monday, April 22, 2013


To the TSA agent scanning our bags at Sky Harbor International Airport: really? Was it necessary to sigh so unappealingly-loudly at the sight of our one measly sippy cup filled to the brim with orange juice? Was it so exhausting to pick up your hand, wave to one of your colleagues and have them perform the ever-important "liquid bomb test on child container" while two pairs of little eyes followed your every move? Might be time to pick up your trusted manual which clearly spells out that we're allowed to bring a beverage for a three-year-old. PS: seriously consider laying off the donuts and free Coke refills at the snack bar.

To the Southwest Airlines flight attendant who stuck a 10-foot-long piece of toilet paper in his pants just to make the kids laugh during taxi, only to top it off with a rubber chicken oxygen mask prop: thank you. Thank for your understanding that little things matter. And that tiny passengers strapped in for what seems like "forever" completely appreciate your attempt at humor.

And finally, to the perfectly-sized pool in the middle of Scottsdale: you rule. It's amazing what six foam noodles, two pair of goggles, and four brightly colored dive-squid can create for the five-and-under crowd. Memories. Laughter. And fearless, chlorine-filled, fun.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Perspective hits you at 10:30pm when your 3-year-old is rambling about which cars are his favorite and how he can't wait to get on that airplane and could he please have some cereal in a bowl in his bed with a cheese stick. It sneaks back sometime around 2am when you're debating if it's worthwhile to attempt crawling into your own bed, and his little tiny hand grabs onto your cheek -- checking to make sure you're still there.

The news, quite frankly, should sometimes be banned.

Burning buildings, injured children and lives forever changed. Certainly a world-wide-event, but also so not possible to comprehend, distill or compartmentalize when you're refilling chocolate milk sippy cups and rationalizing why eating gummies for breakfast is not the healthiest kick-start to the day.

It's funny how in these weird moments everything is juxtaposed: our little ones end up showing us the way. And we follow, knowing that their tiny world is still intact and perfect, decisions as simple as which rock will skip best on the lake or whether it's too windy for a favorite hat.

So today, I will follow their lead. Take the path they choose. And just revel in that.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Post

For the past 11 years, I've abided by the unspoken mantra: never blog about your employer. And although I'm less than enthralled with the home of the yodel, I have no desire to spew forth negativity directed at not my fellow nose-to-the-grind-ers, but more appropriately, those with natural light offices and super-fancy triple-booked calendars.

Nope. Not doing that.

Instead, I've been thinking a lot about focus. Strength. Meaning. And pinecones. Because when unappealingness finds its way to your cozy little nook, it's much more productive to consider the benefits. The reasons. The little nuances that most VPs, CEOs and others who've devoted their beings to the market most likely don't have the luxury to remember.

We created our own little slice of Paradise almost seven years ago. We uprooted, we left behind, and we loved. We waved good-bye to "shoulds" and "woulds" and instead embraced the freedom inherent in living in a smallish town with actual neighborly neighbors, miles upon miles of forest service land at our fingertips and late afternoons and weekends devoted only to outdoor adventures and -- gasp -- life.

With that departure from city-life, Starbucks and Whole Foods-populated neighborhoods also came the knowledge that we were removing ourselves from the ins and outs associated with the quest for climbing the corporate ladder. We considered that -- for about two minutes.

And then we raised our glasses on our ever-quiet back deck, glimpsed the sun setting through the pinetrees, and discussed the best approach to tricking the woodpeckers into thinking our house was less edible.

Fast forward to now. Today. This life we have. These kids we adore. And the world we are so excited to share and live and love with them.

It doesn't involve commuting. Or car-pooling. Or early morning alarm clocks and rushing out the door. We have time to play outside in the morning. To run down the bike path to the lake after school. And on those lovely Spring and Summer evenings, an after-dinner treasure-search hike is what we know and love.

So. Dear Yahoo!: Thank you for the past. Now, if you'll excuse me, my future awaits.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Three Years Ago

We didn't think it would be possible to love another little being as much as your big brother. We had no idea how a tiny infant would fit into our Batman-costume-filled afternoons and superhero-stunt mornings.

But then we met. It was 10:45am and I knew in that very instant that unless you, my darling Axel, made an appearance in the next 20 seconds, I was going to get up, crawl out of St. Mary's and be the only woman in history to cancel birth during labor.

And then you cried. And we cried. Well, Pappa almost fainted -- as he did when Curtis arrived -- but I was prepared for that the second time around.

Fast forward through Yo Gabba Gabba fetishes, sleepless nights and a persistence perseverance of the love of OJ and here we are, just days before your third birthday.

Now you're tall and funny, sweet and loving and always adoring of your big brother. You love your scooter, the battery-powered Thomas ride-along and any pants that can be labeled as "cozy." You're admirably addicted to dressing yourself, even if it means spending long minutes wrestling with your outfit before it agrees to be pulled on. You still have your "babies" in a corner of your room, but it's been months since you've truly played that game.

Now it's more about being faster and best and bestest. About keeping up with Curtis during backyard bughunts, emulating any iPad games so effortlessly played by big brother, and -- through it all -- staying forever loyal and true to Apa and Mimi, although the latter is saved for bedtime snuggles.

My most favorite little baby brother, Axel: happy delicious birthday. And thank you for adding a little empathy, coziness and three-year-old smarts to our every day.