A Day in My Life Ten Years…Ago

About a year ago, I was standing in a Lululemon store in Charleston with my friend Mary, and we both became engrossed with reading the dozen or so “Ten Years From Now” statements on the wall. Basically, we gathered that they ask their employees to envision what their lives would look like, ten years from that date (just assuming here, I’ve never actually worked at Lulu though I am fond of the way their clothes suck 5 lbs off my backside). Most of the vision statements sound like this:

“It’s ten years from now, and I wake up to the giggling of my three young children downstairs, making pancakes with my hot, fit husband, who still has a 32″ inch waist and the boyish charm I first fell in love with. I open my eyes to take in the magnificent view of the mountains/ocean/and a rare, majestic eagle swooping from the clouds- you know, just a typical Saturday. I’m not scheduled to teach yoga that day, so my investment banker honey can cater to all my needs while I enjoy a mimosa brunch he’s planned and prepared, delivered on an heirloom silver tray by my gorgeous, smiling, well-behaved children.”

Or something like that. This is actually shockingly close to one of the visions we saw.

Mary and I read each one with a giggle. And not because we were judging- truth be told, exactly ten years ago I was just weeks away from delivering my very first baby, and it’s entirely possible that I would have written almost the exact same vision (minus the yoga, I never fancied myself a yoga girl). In my pictorial vision statement, my life would be like this:


You know, despite the fact that  I never have and never will be a 6 foot Brazilian model married to Tom Brady, cheerfully pushing my adorbs kids on swings at a park (Is this a public park? I sooooo don’t see Gisele ever subjecting herself to the germs present in a public park. I wholeheartedly believe she shoved the nanny out of the frame and removed her gloves as soon as she spied a photographer). 

Ten years ago, I never would have let myself see what a real Saturday looked like: two children arguing over the tv at 7 am, an 8:30 soccer game where your daughter decides she doesn’t really feel like playing, so she’s just going to stand in the middle of the field and talk to a kid on the other team, followed by a… Wait for it! Trip to Lowes to buy something really exciting, like a valve to fix the toilet in the kids’ bathroom or some touch-up paint for the inside trim. Vision vs. reality.

Ten years ago, when I was nine months pregnant and swollen like a tick in the North Carolina heat and my ankles were the size of tree trunks, I still managed to envision a perfect life a decade from then. In reality, those ten years have included two job losses, the death of Dan’s father, a serious health scare for Madeline. There have been fights, hurt feelings, the slow death of friendships you thought would last forever. Several big hurts and a million little ones that make up the fabric of our day to day life. No one is bringing me breakfast in bed on an heirloom platter.

But you know what? My husband unfailingly rises each morning to help get the girls ready for school, which, to me, is so much more valuable than all that fattening French toast (I still don’t do yoga). And my youngest child may be out there yukking up a storm instead of scoring 12 goals in each soccer game, but God love her, I look at her and think about how darn cute she looks with her hair in braids, and how incredibly blessed I am to have a healthy, happy kid. And on that trip to Lowe’s, we stop for a bagel  as a family, run into some friends whom we sit with, and we do what every family does to get them through the mundane aspects of a non-glamorous morning.

We laugh.

You see, my life is perfect, even when it’s not. And trust me, I often need to remind myself of these words, because there are moments when this is difficult to believe. But I remind myself to let go of how I thought things were supposed to be and embrace all the wonderful things that are- the good, the bad and the ugly- and my life isn’t too far off from my vision ten years ago.

Minus the mountain view.

“There are random moments-tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms- when I feel a wave-like rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead.”  ~Elizabeth Berg




When the Days are Long and the Years are Short

So, today was the first day of school, which had me pretty much feeling like this…


*Editorial note: this is not really me. I would NEVER wear those pants or shoes, plus my husband, thankfully, has more hair. In addition, if it were me, those glasses being clinked would be mimosas. Straight up OJ on the first day of school? Please).

I’ll be honest- this summer was tough. My work schedule increased from past years, and I didn’t have as much time to spend with the girls, who grew terribly bored. One of Molly’s favorite summer pastimes was to sit outside the French doors of my office while I worked, parading our dog Mr. Butters by in a series of bizarre outfits (he’s a ladybug! Oh wait, now he’s dressed as a Copacabana dancer!) It was waaaay too easy to become annoyed and stressed with them. School couldn’t get here fast enough, I thought.

So when the time came this morning, I snapped the obligatory pictures, wrote sweet notes to tuck into their lunchboxes (I’ll probably forget to do that tomorrow), and put the girls on the bus. Then I sat down in my kitchen to enjoy the quietest cup of coffee I’ve experienced in months.

Then I got on with my day. Headed into the office, swung by the grocery store. It was there that I noticed a couple of college-aged girls pushing a cart up the aisles. You see, in addition to the first day of school at Davidson Elementary, it’s also the first days of school at Davidson College. So in our little town, the college kids are descending. Even if you don’t notice them at first, you’ll catch sight of the dozens of Budweiser and Miller Lite trucks pulled up in front of the Harris Teeter, unloading their wares, celebrating their own company’s version of Christmas.

“I think we’re going to have to rearrange the fridge,” I overheard one girl say. “Do you think we can all share things like mayo?”

And, completely unexpectedly, I felt the unmistakable prick of tears in my eyes.

Because it made me realize that, like that, my girls will have grown up and be headed away to college, and they’ll have traded their backpacks and sneakers for a cart full of mayonnaise (and probably Miller Lite).  With kids, the days are long and the years are short.

This morning, they were standing on the front steps, modeling first day of school clothes and excited smiles, and I was feeling so excited to get them off to school. A few hours later, I’m pushing a cart down a grocery store aisle and experiencing what feels a lot like…grief.

For each child, the first day of school is a beginning, the sweet prelude to hundreds more beginnings that they will experience. Our kids have their whole lives ahead of them- their first kiss, their first job. To them, the world is limitless, filled with possibility.

But as parents, we are beginning our endings. Never again will my kids stand on the steps to start first and fourth grade. Never again will I see their faces light up when they feel sand between their toes for the first time, or wrinkle with distaste when I make them try quinoa. I suddenly ache for those moments back, and it hits me in the strangest of places- like the aisle of a grocery store.

The grieving process is not finite, even when it’s a small grief like this. So, we do what we must- we move forward. Begin, again and again, the process of letting go. It may be painful for us to realize what a thief time can be, but it can also help us to live with more awareness- to glean joy from small, unexpected moments. That’s what I set out to do this afternoon with my almost ten-year-old, who sweetly snuggled up to me and asked to be held. By taking quiet joy in the moment, I hope I am creating a memory of warmth for her. So she can have many more joyous beginnings in her own life. So she grows up to be secure, well-adjusted, and happy.

So she’s free to begin the whole process again.


“By the time I recognize this moment, this moment will be gone.” ~John Mayer


Sororities, Past and Present

When I was in college, I joined a sorority.

Were we a bunch of “woo” girls?  You know, the ones who are at a party and lift their drinks and yell “Woo!” Absolutely. It was a sorority. When you pledged, you took an oath to “Never disparage a Sister” and also, “To ‘woo’ whenever possible.”

There were several things that my sorority taught me (Don’t fear, I’ll keep this PG-13, folks). 1. An effective method of getting college-aged girls to attend a meeting is to lure them with free pizza. 2. The best way to contract a cold/strep throat/a strain of Bird Flu is by talking to hundreds of girls over the 2-week period dubbed “rush.” 3. The feeling like you belong, truly belong in a group provides great comfort. It’s like a warm blanket. (We can also apply this to cults, but let’s not go there).

From my experience, everyone in the sorority played different roles. There was the funny one, the helpful one, the one who would listen to you as you sat on the floor at 2 am and ate pizza of a questionable age (again, with the pizza. It’s no wonder I gained 15 lbs).

When I graduated, I thought I’d never again make those same connections with a group of women. Of course, there would be friendships, but I didn’t think I’d have another group of woo girls.

But I was lucky enough four years ago to move into a neighborhood and pledge another kind of sorority. There was no rush, no pledging, and our conversations could be a bit less exciting-more “How do you know if your child has a milk allergy?” rather than “Who should I ask to Winter Formal?”

But it represented many of the same core values that my sorority did, albeit we were a much smaller group. There was still a girl who could make me laugh. One who listened to me over-analyze, and didn’t roll her eyes once. One who gave great advice.

Ironically, in this little neighborhood group, we are all the mothers of daughters (some have sons as well). Perhaps that’s what brought us together in the first place, as we can all lament the highs and lows of parenting little drama queens. Or perhaps it was the offer of wine and a chance to make fun of contestants on the Bachelor each Monday night. Either way, we found each other.

So when Keri, one of our “founding members,” announced she and her family were moving to Atlanta, it felt a bit like someone de-pledging. You’ll miss that person’s laugh. You’ll miss the role she played in the group. And then you realize, no it’s not those things. You’ll just miss her.

You hear a million stories and quotes about love, and marriage, and family. Society would have us believe that these tenets are far more significant than the power of female friendship. But I disagree. Of course my family is the most important aspect of my life, which is exactly why having a group of girlfriends is absolutely necessary. Because before we were wives and mothers, we were women. Women who giggled and talked and shared dreams and “wooed” whenever it was absolutely necessary (and some times when it was unnecessary as well). We existed simply as people. As we grow older, our edges are dulled as we grow into the roles we’ve chosen to play- wife, mother, employee. But really, none of us are just one thing. And we remind each other of that fact.

I will miss Keri, and feel her absence in our litle group . Of course we’ll stay in touch, the same way I do with so many of my dear Alpha Phi sisters. And I’ll look back at our fun times together, as well as our many talks, and value them the same way I do those college friendships. Like a warm blanket, one in which you can wrap yourself up in when it’s cold. And it gives you peace.



“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”~CS Lewis

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Last Night I Killed the Tooth Fairy

I hate the parenting moments you’re unprepared for.

Madeline, aged 9, had expressed her early doubts about Santa back around the holidays, which I casually dismissed and changed the subject because I wasn’t sure how to respond. Then I read this letter- http://www.cozi.com/live-simply/truth-about-santa- and decided that if she asked again, I would answer as eloquently and articulately as that mom did.

The problem was… I didn’t have my Cliffs Notes handy last night. I wasn’t fully prepared for the situation I walked into, as is so often the case with children.

Maddie had lost another tooth while we were up North visiting family a few days ago, and insisted on waiting until we were home to put it under her pillow. We didn’t wind up in NC until much later, after one flight was canceled and another delayed for hours. Everyone was tired, cranky, and it was late. And plus, teeth are gross. Who was the sadist that decided a child should rip out a body part in the hopes of trading it for a buck? Ewww.

Dan tried twice to sneak in and replace the tooth with the dollar (cheap I know, but the irony is we’re also paying thousands for the child’s braces), only to find our darling daughter awake and waiting. The third time she grew hysterical, accusing her father of being the tooth fairy.

What does one do in that situation? She obviously had an inkling of the truth, and understood the sheer impossibility of the logistics. As a parent, do you continue to feed her dreams? Or let her down gently? It seemed to be a lose-lose scenario.

And so, when she demanded to know if it was us who put the money under her pillow, I told her the truth. Yes, it was us, but that didn’t mean that the tooth fairy wasn’t real. We simply did the work for her.

“Well, do you put the presents under the tree at Christmas, too?” she sniffled.

Yes, we do that too, I said. We do Santa’s work. We buy the gifts and wrap them for you to open. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t magic in the world. Just because we can’t see the Tooth Fairy or Santa or the Easter Bunny doesn’t mean they don’t exist, we just have to look for that magic in other ways. We need to believe in things that we can’t see, can’t quantify. We need to keep our minds open to things that are beyond our comprehension, lest we become skeptics with hardened hearts.

When you are 3, your world is a wonderful place. Kisses can cure boo-boos, fairy dust is as common as the sand beneath your feet. As we grow older, we are smacked with reality. It can be an ugly lesson.

And so, I hope my answer was the happy-medium for an almost ten-year-old girl. Because it is what I believe to be the truth. Yes, we buy the gifts and stuff the Easter baskets and lay the money under the pillow. But despite that, I honestly believe that magic exists. What parent could watch their child come down the stairs on Christmas morning, her face bathed in the light from the tree, and not believe in magic? Or in more everyday matters… the peals of pure laughter that escape from their lips like the chime of a bell. Their delight in discovering a wild strawberry patch growing in the yard. The way their eyes light up when they hear the ice-cream truck around the corner. Magic exists…we simply need to sharpen our own senses to be more aware of it.


“Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.” ~Laini Taylor

Roots and Wings

To begin with, a quick “thank you” to the many people who reached out last week to see how we were all faring with Maddie away at sleep away camp. In many ways it was a looonnngg five days, since, if you’re a reader of this blog you know that when we dropped her off, Madeline was scared and crying, trying desperately to put on a brave face. We could send one-way emails so that she could hear from us every day, but she was only allowed to communicate with us via snail mail (which we received today. Apparently the camp post office has actual snails working there). So the difficult part was trying to figure out if she was having fun.


I try to refrain from giving tips on this blog, since we all know that I’m just making up this parenting thing as I go, but I did want to share advice from a friend I spoke with for a Charlotte Parent article I wrote last winter, about camp communication. She said that she told her son to give a “thumbs up” in pictures if he was having a good time. That way, each night when she checked out the photo galleries (most camps will post pictures on their secure sites each evening and try to have shots of all campers), it would be their secret “signal” that he was okay. I told Madeline this same thing- and experienced massive relief when, in the first photo of her, she was smiling and giving a huge thumbs-up. In hindsight, I should probably have told her that she did not have to do the thumbs up in every single photo…



…as she did start to resemble the Fonz on the third day. To mix things up Dan sent an email and told her to throw him a peace sign.


I guess it’s a good thing she wasn’t there longer; we would have had her throwing up gang signs. But anyhoo, this put us totally at ease; she looked like she was having a great time and I figured there was no way she was going to want to come home.

What happened Friday evening when I picked her up is a moment I’ll replay in my mind over and over in the years to come. Seriously, I need to revisit this exact scene the first time she brings home a failed test/breaks curfew/ tells us she’s joining the circus.

Maddie sat in a small crowd downstairs, and when she caught sight of me, literally tore past the other kids, tears streaming down her face, and jumped into my arms. It took her a full minute to gain enough composure to speak, and then in her little high-pitched voice said the seven sweetest words in the English language: “I’m just so happy to see you.”

Of course, I cried. How could I not? There was the overwhelming relief that she was safe, healthy and coming home. She later told us that she had a really good time, recounted tons of adventures, and said that it was “a great experience.” But she had been homesick every day.

“I can’t tell you exactly what I missed so much,” she said. “Just the feeling of being home.”

At first, I was torn about this statement. Though I’m happy she deems her home a place to be missed, we want her to grow up to be independent and adventurous. But after further reflection, I think all of us, child or adult, would feel this way. When we are out of our comfort zone, we long to be somewhere safe and predictable. Our homes are more than just walls, they are safe havens. Whether we are pulling warm sheets from a dryer or simmering marinara sauce on a stove. Caring for our gardens or laying our heads on our pillows. Our homes evoke feelings of being safe, content- at peace. I’m glad that my child views her own home this way; I hope as she matures that she’ll understand that she can wander away for a while- and it will still be there for her return.

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”   -Maya Angelou



On First Aid Kits and Letting Go

Today we dropped Madeline off at her first sleep away camp. It didn’t go exactly according to plan.

Let me back up. Way up. As a kid, my only experience with sleep away camp was one night at my hometown YMCA, in which the girls tossed a pair of my underpants around the tent. I left the next morning. Sans underpants.

That memory was skillfully buried in a grave alongside a few other cringe-worthy incidents (slipping on a tomato in a crowded college cafeteria was one), until a few years ago, when I had a discussion with a friend who is a college counselor at an elite private high school. I asked him how he and his colleagues prepared their students for the trials and tribulations of the real world, when those kids had spent so many years in a protective bubble.

“Sleep away camp,” was his reply.  “It takes them out of their comfort zone.”

So I began to look at sleep away camp a little differently. I started to think about how good it would be for my girls to try something that was new, different, maybe even a little scary. And how that could help them grow.

Maddie was totally on board with the idea. And this summer, just before she turns ten, seemed the perfect time to put the plan in action. We chose a camp about an hour away, that was only five days in length as opposed to others that had a minimum two weeks. Plus, she’s going with three of her friends from school, which put her at ease.

For the last two months, all she’s done is talk about how excited she was. We went to the orientation, where she checked out the cabins. She tried archery, which she absolutely loved. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that maybe she should pick another sport; instead I sent up a silent thank-you that the Hunger Games are purely fictional. I wouldn’t count on her to take down any of her own meals.

She was so excited about the whole adventure that I forgot who she is deep down, and why I wanted to send her there in the first place. Because the truth is, she’s a sensitive, emotional kid who has never really ventured out of her comfort zone. She’s never had to. When we finished checking in and a counselor announced that it was time to say our goodbyes, she turned to me, panicked, and started crying.

“I’m not ready yet,” she whispered, clinging to me. “I’m scared.”

My heart broke a little, just then.

In the end, I know that she’ll learn she can do hard things. Even though she’s scared, she’ll get through this. It’s what makes us well-adjusted, and confident, and brave.

I’m scared too. I’ve had a hundred awful scenarios run through my head as to what could happen when she’s away from us. Often, what is best for our children is letting them go, letting them learn and discover who they really are. But it’s not always easy. When they are small and easily wounded, our instincts are to make them better. It’s difficult to understand that sometimes it’s best to allow them to feel that pain. So they learn how to apply the salve to their own wounds. So they know how to do it again in the future, when you aren’t there.

I hope we’ve given her enough of a first-aid kit. I hope she’s able to fix herself up when she’s feeling banged around. I hope we’ve packed that kit with enough band-aids and Neosporin. Because it’s up to her to do the rest.


I promise I wasn’t being cruel taking a picture of my visibly-upset child. Her sweet friend Ella was comforting her here. May we all have friends in life who step in when we’re in need.

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” -William G.T. Shedd

Worst Summer Mom Ever

A few weeks ago, there was a cute blog entry that went viral entitled “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.” And its author, Jen Hatmaker, waxed philosophic about the agony of completing end-of-year tasks such as nightly reading and checking backpacks.

It was cute. I chuckled. I related.

Now I’m officially one day- ONE DAY PEOPLE!- into summer vacation and already counting down until I can again experience those halcyon days which involve making lunches and completing homework and then- oh, happy day- putting my daughters on that beautiful yellow bus that takes them to school.

Because I suck as a Summer Mom. This is not a sudden realization. I think I first drew the conclusion three years ago, after Maddie completed kindergarten. A few weeks into the break I found myself standing on my soapbox, preaching about what a terrible role model Candace from Phineas and Ferb is. I mean, enough already with the googly eyes for Jeremy; how am I supposed to raise strong, independent daughters with these kinds of messages about female empowerment?

Hmmm. Well, maybe I could start by not allowing them to watch six episodes of Phineas and Ferb a day.

A typical summer day for us goes something like this- the girls wake up well before 7, turn on the tv, and trade shows until I drag myself out of bed around 7:30. Go ahead and judge, but trust me- we’d have far bigger issues if I awoke with them and tried to engage in something like a craft at that pre-caffeinated hour. Then we have breakfast, get dressed and head somewhere like the library, which would take all of an hour. A trip to the park until, slick with sweat and irritable, we head home.

And now it’s…11:45. AM.

Lunch, minimal arguing over who got the bigger cookie, then quiet time in their rooms while I get some writing done/do laundry/clean the kitchen. Now it’s…1:00.

And they’re bored. And we still have half a day left.

So, the day drags on. And around 6:30, I’m done. Ready for lights out.


Right now, it’s 6:30.You can see how light it is. And how truly thrilled they are that I made them get their pajamas on. Also, that Maddie wears a really creepy night mask.

See, it’s not that I don’t love my kids. I really, really do. But there are just so many hours in these long summer days, and I can’t possibly fill each one with a creative activity that engages their minds and sates their curiosity. And the thing that makes it worse are the moms who tell me, so sweetly, how they treasure each and every moment of the kids’ summer vacation. Don’t do that to me, Moms… I already know I suck! And truly, I am going to wonder about the kind of kool-aid you are drinking if you really mean that every-single-moment part. And what that kool-aid is spiked with.

Because, personally, I feel like too much together time is just as detrimental as not enough. When Maddie was born, I took a year off of work, thinking I would stay home and bake cookies and bond. Turned out, I burned more cookies than baked. And though I would never trade that time with my baby, when I returned (part time) to work, I was a much better parent. Because I knew I had less time with her, so I made the time I had count. I was present, engaged. And I loved it.

That’s how I feel when they’re at school. They go, I get done what I need to, and when they step off that bus, I can be fully (well, mostly) attentive. I love fixing them a snack, listening to them tell me about their day, snuggling up with a book. But… the summer is tough. I don’t have the same amount of time to take care of the things I need to, and we all wind up on each others’ nerves.

So…I’m going to aim high this summer. I’m going to be passable Summer Mom. I’m going to try and pick small moments to savor, and focus on those. Shake off the rest.

Breathe. And maybe a glass of wine. Make that two.

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”-John Steinbeck