My 3 Little Birds- Reflections on the MOMents of Motherhood Reflections on the MOMents of motherhood Thu, 03 May 2012 14:00:21 +0000 en hourly 1 When They Fall Apart Thu, 03 May 2012 14:00:21 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds Yesterday afternoon a four year old fell apart in my arms.

Long face.

Real tears.

Cries of It’s not fair.

His older brother was off to yet another play date. A school friend. The big boys had abandoned him after playing here after school. The two eight year olds had been kind: they’d shared the Star Wars ships and Bakugans and video game controllers.

They’d graciously taken turns with my four year old, helping him across the backyard monkey bars, waiting for him to catch up on training wheels.

But when they left, he could no longer pretend that he was one of them. He was back to being the little kid.

My husband is a middle child. He identifies with our four year old and knows how it feels to be left behind.

His older brother going off to do big kid things while he watched from the bedroom window.

Both his brothers, more interested in sports than he ever was, trading baseball cards and tossing a ball in the yard.

My husband assures me that he’ll be fine. He has to learn how to cope, he tells me on the phone.

But as the oldest, I’ve never faced this particular kind of sadness. I’m experiencing it for the first time through my son’s eyes, and there’s no doubt about it: it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting him.

Some aspects of parenting are glorious.

The pride that swells when they reach a milestone.

The love rushed down the minute they were born.

But others, like the vicarious sting of little boy heartbreak, are almost too much to bear. 

As parents we all have a need to protect our kids, but we must weigh it against their need to learn lessons on their own.

To experience pain themselves.

To inoculate them from future heartbreak by introducing it one tear at a time.


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The State of the Nest Wed, 02 May 2012 15:22:13 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds Four pm and the house is chaotic.

A sick toddler has refused to nap, and two boys, plus an extra, run wild with the buzzing energy of a school day afternoon.

Laundry lies unfolded, draped over the arms of chairs and across tabletops.

The doorbell rings. The dogs escape. The upstairs toilet overflows.

I’m tempted to walk away and not look back. I want to peer into the windows of neighbors to compare the state of my nest.

I know what you’ll say. My house is the same. We all have bad days. Life with kids is messy, complicated, and loud.

But is it, really?

Even on typical days there are times I go to bed still spinning with stress: spelling words. Missing forms that should’ve been submitted yesterday. Grocery lists and birthday presents and pressure to keep up with it all.

Last night as we made our way upstairs for bed– ascending, as my father would say (as in, It seems that it’s time for me to ascend), my husband lamented aloud: It never ends.

He’s right. But somewhere in even the craziest days there are quiet moments with a book, a little girl on my lap.

A love note from a boy who has just learned to write his name (and in fact, those seven letters comprise the note in its entirety).

The philosophical musings of a third grader who’s processing what it means to dream and wake.

There are moments.

In them I can safely say that the state of my nest is just as it should be.



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The Mixed Messages of Culture and Motherhood Tue, 01 May 2012 23:20:12 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds Woodland pathI remember the moment so well, when an older woman saw in me who she was once herself.

Three years ago I was struggling to adapt to life as a mother of three. I recognize now that I was most likely depressed but at the time, all I recognized was that I was a mess.

An exhausted, unshowered, stressed out disaster.

After several days indoors I forced myself to take my children on a short walk around our neighborhood. I coaxed my 6 year old away from the millionth episode of whichever unsavory Cartoon Network program he was watching.

I found my toddler’s shoes, wiped his nose, and managed to get the stroller from the garage. Even though I was overwhelmed by the effort it took to accomplish these tasks, I strapped my newborn to my chest and we were off.

Pushing my two year old in the stroller, we started across the street to the public path along our little creek. Before we made it to the other side, there were rumblings and grumblings, whines and protests.

The six year old insisted we go back home to retrieve a toy.

The toddler was hot and wanted a drink.

And, as though she were expressing her opinion on the matter, the newborn- predictably- pooped.

I persisted. We were going on a walk whether we wanted to or not. I had something to prove to myself. I was going to get a grip, and a walk was the symbolic first step.

{Please continue reading at Toddler Times}

Photo Credit: Flickr


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The Strength of a Mother Mon, 30 Apr 2012 22:42:55 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds The fever broke in the night. She awoke, her wet hair clinging to her face in strings. I rolled her over, patted and shusshed.

I’d hoped we’d spend today as we usually do. Tending to her baby dolls. Reading her favorite books. Making a chalk-drawn tulip garden on the sidewalk.

Instead we spent it in the space between sick and all better. Recovering.

We’d spent the weekend on an impromptu family getaway. We’d had fun, caught the ice cream that dripped from chins when the sun warmed it. We’d slept in the air conditioned cocoon of a hotel room and left a tip for the unlucky soul who’d face the wake of what we’d left behind.

While the rest of us slept my two year squirmed and cried with fever. Then in the earliest of morning hours the unmistakable barking cough that is croup.

At two she doesn’t understand what it means to be sick, to recover. All she knows is that on days like this one, her little world becomes smaller and that it feels good for mama to rub her back.

The pink blankie makes a perfect pillow.

The Cinderella sippy cup holds just the right amount of crushed ice and apple juice.

Mama’s lap is always available for cuddling and she’ll sing to me quietly even if I don’t ask.

When my oldest child was a baby I worried endlessly. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m a mess. What if I make a mistake? 

The first time I was called by the daycare center that he’d gotten sick and told I would need to take him home I fretted for the entire drive there. That night I was home alone with him and had to call a friend to stay with us because I was too scared to stay with him alone. What if he stopped breathing? How high a fever is too high?

Thankfully he made it through the night and so did I.

Since then there have been too many sick days to count. There have been trips to the ER and IVs in bags. There has been vomiting in the back seat and frantic calls to Poison Control. There’s been ringworm and the swine flu and weird rashes that itch.

And with each sick day I’ve endured, each night spent sitting vigil at the bedside of a child, there has also been strength. Intuition. It was there all along– I just didn’t know it.

Now, when I face the seemingly insurmountable, I remind myself that I have the strength of a mother. The fever will break, and tomorrow will bring a brand new day.

Thinking of my fellow Babble blogger Diana Stone who is reminding us all about the true strength of a mother.

Photo Credit: Flickr


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In Defense of the Mommy Blog Fri, 27 Apr 2012 15:30:06 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds Mommy bloggers need to get over themselves, wrote the woman in the comment section of the online article I recently read. They act like they’re the first generation of women who’ve ever given birth.

It’s a common criticism and one that I’ve heard countless times before. These women need to close their laptops and take care of their kids instead of posting potty training tips or recipes for gluten-free graham crackers.

They’re so self-important.

Won’t the children resent them when they’re older?

Can’t they find something better to do with their time?

To a certain extent I agree, at least in that we need to approach blogging with consideration and strive for balance– like everything in life. There are certainly mommy bloggers who are guilty of self-importance, but it’s hardly a universal truth. All of this makes me wonder what it is about mothers in particular that make us such a target for vitriol in the blogosphere.

It’s a careful dance, this business of blogging while mothering. 

You’ve heard me say it before: women need to search for themselves in the the stories of their children. They need to find value in the way motherhood shapes them, too. But to discount mommy bloggers entirely is missing a key point: telling our stories is nothing new. It’s just the medium has changed.

Vintage Portrait of a Mother holding a Baby Child on the Patio Outside Photo Credit: Beverley and Pack/Flickr

My mother-in-law and I have marathon phone conversations. A phone call that begins with me asking for a soup recipe can cover more territory than a hound on a hunt.

It’s in our blood, this sharing of experiences, this relating that we do. Connecting is the currency of women, particularly in the realm of motherhood. Before there were blogs there was conversation at the bridge table. There were strolls in the park. There were long walks to the well.

There were letters between far-away sisters and Sunday drives with best friends.

There were frantic calls to mothers when the baby wouldn’t sleep. There were postcards and telegrams and family lore of things passed down.

There were stories. Tradition. There was comfort in the knowledge that it had all been experienced before.

That is the power of the mommy blogger: the ability to comfort with words. The ability to relate to unseen readers who follow our stories and sort out their own.

And while our current generation may not be the first to have raised children, this experience connects us with every generation who ever has. The stories are the invisible threads.


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The Validation Trap of an Online Life Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:21:13 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds There’s a line between telling a story and exorcising demons, and it’s thin. It curves around the edges of the truth the way a tight dress hugs the hips. Suggesting, not revealing. Containing the words without saying too much.

This line has been on my mind lately, snaking a path through my day. I heard it hiss when I wrote about smoke signals. Warning signs. The house that was burning from the inside out. It raised its head to strike and I backed off, afraid.

There is value in the sharing of the painful details of our lives, but blogging isn’t a confessional. At least not to me. I’ve grown increasingly troubled by the lengths to which others will go to be noticed by the internet masses, and not just in terms of personal over sharing.

The toxic blogs that serve only to “call each other out.”

The negative and catty, the crass and unashamed.

The controversy-seekers and drive-by trolls.

I see the underbelly that’s really exposed.

We all have a need to be needed. It’s tempting to get sucked into the validation trap, particularly for those of us whose work appears online. We’re applauded for our honesty, our bravery, our willingness to face fears in the light of the the laptop screen. We’re fed by the feedback we’re given, the little inbox ego boosts and traffic spikes.

You write what I’m too afraid to touch.

You say what everyone else is thinking.

Before long that validation steps out in front. We write for response. Reaction. We stop being producers and assume the role of consumers. It. Consumes. Us.

As for me, I’d rather stay on the safe side of that invisible line.

I’d rather encounter the snake after he’s shed his skin, when the molted epidermis lies across my path like a ghost.

I’d rather keep those demons where they belong, behind the line of fire that consumes everything that’s in its way.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet/Flickr


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{In Between} Mon, 23 Apr 2012 15:21:06 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds The boy perches on the arm of the chair where I’m sitting, a sugar-ringed mouth and wearing the war paint of play. Grass-stained knees. Dirt under the fingernails. A self-applied tattoo in the shape of lightning bolt.

He is made of lightning, all sparks and energy. He twirls my hair with a sticky pointer finger and begs me to read him a book. Not any book– this week’s obsession, borrowed by his brother from the school library: titled simply, Farms. It’s mostly a picture book, oversize photos of tractors and trowels, oxbows and hand-cranking churns.

I take time with him, my lightning bolt of a little boy, enjoy a rare moment of sitting still.

He is my middle child. My second son. The boldest of the three, he travels in flips and kicks and doesn’t possess an inside voice. He’s bull headed like the stubborn ox, kicking up dirt when he should be driving the plow.

His older brother joins us on that overstuffed chair, competes for space like a suckling pig. I pull them in close. There is room for you both.

Have a Heart Desaturated Free Creative Commons

As a mother, I wasn’t broken in softly. My oldest, who was my child long before it was decreed by a judge, officially joined our family two months after the birth of my second son. I went from zero to two children in a span of eight weeks.

For a long time as a family, we lived in between. In between visiting and staying. In between one child and two. In between Auntie & Matty and Mom & Dad.  In between guardianship and adoption and what it means to be a mother.

This is the reason I do what I do. Mothering is more than the stacking of plates and the drying of tears. It’s more than the breaking of water and the slow rhythm of labor.

It’s in between love and fear and worry and bliss. It’s the pause in between the beating of the heart, the invisible string that connects without breaking.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography/Flickr


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A Fortune in Pennies Fri, 20 Apr 2012 20:34:05 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds In the car the other day– I forget where I was driving– I fiddled with the satellite radio dial. This is unusual for me, since I typically listen to only a handful of preprogrammed channels: The Blend (a sort of modern Easy Listening), The Spectrum (playing the music of 30-somethings in minivans), or NPR Now.

This day, though, I’d had enough of Elton John, Coldplay and Terry Gross, so without taking my eyes off the road I turned the dial.

Two women were talking about the place where art and family life intersect. I was drawn in. One of the women, a painter, described her work.

Galleries beg me to increase the price of my paintings, and sometimes I consider it. But when a school teacher from Seattle or somewhere contacts me to thank me, I know I’ve done it right. Because the people who buy my paintings couldn’t afford to buy them if I raised the price. I make art accessible to people in that way.

It’s a tricky thing, I’m sure, to place a price tag on your own creation.

What’s the price of your time? Your materials? Your message?

All I know is this: the schoolteacher in Seattle is forever endeared to me. I imagine her saving her pennies in a blue mason jars until finally, finally, they all added up.

All that saving was worth it, she thinks at the end of the day. To her, perhaps, they were a fortune in pennies.

This week at Babble:

(I would so appreciate you taking the time to visit me there)

What I Really Want for Mother’s Day- A round up of fun, easy, and free (!) Mother’s Day ideas.

Toddler Tea Party Inspiration – I’m planning a tea party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday. Here’s my inspiration.

My Fake Country Album and Other Fun Facts – My “about me” post at Babble.

Life’s Heavy when You’re Three – A hilarious video of a temper tantrum. It’s eerily familiar.

Food for Thought: A French Approach to Educating Kids about Eating - This is so fascinating to me. More to come on the issue of adopting a more “French” approach to mealtime at my house…stay tuned!


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Smoke Signal Thu, 19 Apr 2012 23:43:20 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds The summer I turned twelve the house next door burned to the ground while we were at church. We were visiting family in Tennessee, a place so remote it was identified first by county, then town, then which rural road ended in that particular plot of land.

The house next door belonged to my cousin’s Nanny, a seventies split level with two shades of siding, an old metal swing set out back. Even a small child’s swinging caused those metal poles to disengage from the earth below, then dig back in as the swing dropped down.

Like all toys that whisper mortality, it was thrilling for a while but soon grew tiresome. Predictable. There was that one half a moment- a second, really- when injury was in question, but it never managed to deliver.

We’d eaten our breakfast in that kitchen the morning of the fire. We didn’t know it then but while our Corn Flakes turned to mush in those styrofoam bowls, the house was burning from the inside out.

It smells like plastic’s burning, my cousin had said. It did because it was.

That was the year that everything burned. I stood behind the fire line, still a child who skipped to school, still a girl with a brown braid halfway down her back.

It smells like plastic’s burning. Her words surfaced in my mind for years, a warning sign that no one heard. A red flag. A kind of smoke signal that rose high in the Tennessee sky, and broke apart before anyone bothered to notice.


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Check Minus Motherhood Thu, 19 Apr 2012 14:21:37 +0000 ML@My3LittleBirds Every six weeks it comes by surprise. Sometimes he hands it over, sheepish with shoulders that slump in admission of a need to improve. More often he blurts out the amount of money we owe him: Two dollars for As, one dollar for Bs.

He does well, this child, and exceeds expectation, but the road here was long and littered with stones. We hacked at them one by one till they wouldn’t damage the wheels.

My husband was the kind of child who didn’t need to be told to study; his grade cards were grids of As. As a boy he sat in his bedroom till the woods fell dark, memorizing, rereading, perfecting the art of the mnemonic device.

The chemical properties of elements.

The conjugation of irregular verbs.

He’d fuss at his fun-loving family downstairs to Keep down the volume. I have an exam.

I forgot about the test. Lost the science book. Crammed at lunch in the choir room. The school counselor told my parents that perhaps their expectations were too high. Not everyone is college material, you know. (I showed her.)

When we marry, join our lives, see two lines on the little plastic wand, we think only of what’s ahead. We don’t stop to consider how the paths that led us here weren’t always the same.

He has his way and I have mine; we meet in the middle on that road of expectation and somehow make it work.

There is no standard measure for motherhood. No way to evaluate the decisions one by one. We try, we fail, we put band aids on the knees when they bleed.

As a mom, I have check minus days. I burn the toast and give in to the whines. I forgo the spelling words for a moment of peace. I sabotage my husband’s decisions and end up sabotaging myself.

But most days I’m Better than Expected. Good. Outstanding.

Most days I hand over that imaginary grade card proudly, palm up, ready for my reward.


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