Category Archives: Parenting

9 1/52

I’m feeling guilty about this, my Levi, and you don’t even know anything about it. I wrote your brother a blog post on his birthday. I meant to do one on yours, and the day got away from me. Then the week turned into one of those weeks, and here I am, a week late.

That’s one of the things about you, though. You forgive quickly. If I brought this up to you, you’d say, “That’s okay, Mom,” and give me a hug. I love that, though I try not to take advantage of it.

You told me the other day that you can’t wait to be ten. I’m not sure what’s magical about that number. Maybe the double digits. But I’m asking you, sweet boy, to enjoy nine while you’re here. You are learning to do all sorts of things, and you think you have way too many chores. I have bad news: the chores do not become easier at ten. Or at forty. The gross things are still gross, and there are more of them. (If you’ve never caught vomit in your hand to keep it off the carpet, are you really a mom?) Lots of things are really good when you’re a grownup, but the hard things just get harder.

Nine is fun. Your front teeth are still too big for your face, and it’s still adorable. You can do things on your own, but you are not too cool to shriek with glee when you see one of your best buddies at the store unexpectedly.

You will leave me someday, and probably all too soon. I won’t know where you are all the time, and how you’re doing, and whether anyone has been mean to you that day. I’ve joked that my favorite time of the day is bedtime, and I do treasure the quiet of the house when everyone else has gone to sleep. But I also love the knowing. I know you are safe, and I know you are warm, and I know you are okay, because I saw you there under your comforter with my own two eyes.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry for eighteen, or for ten. Please, enjoy nine. I plan to.

Cake for breakfast, on the actual morning. Because I am not always heartless.

First and Third

Here we go!

I know lots of moms are sad today, and I support their right to the sadness. But I’m good. Besides getting a nice regular routine back, this will be the first time in quite a while that we aren’t paying for regular childcare. I would make the standard jokes about it being like getting a raise, but we just started making payments on an orthodontic plan, so it’s more like just a relief.

First try at a picture.

Elias is a little nervous. I don’t know what Levi’s face is about.


Balancing their stuffed-to-the-gills backpacks on the way down the lane. I told them they’ll never be this heavy again. Until they start bringing rocks home again, I guess.

Thumbs out so the bus driver will see us.

She did.

And they’re off.

I think I recorded first-day conversations last year, and I decided to continue the tradition.

L: Mom, why do we have arms?
Me: So we can keep our hands with us all the time.
L: Oh.

E: Why do we have to wear nice clothes and stay clean on the first day?
Me: I just like your teachers to know it’s possible.


Seven years ago, in the evening, I was leaving a board meeting for a chorus I was singing with, and my cell phone rang. It was our caseworker. “Baby was born,” she said.

She’d called the house a couple of times, finally rousing Paul from sleep for a confused conversation. He’d managed to wake up enough to convey the information that I was at a meeting just a few miles from the hospital. She’d caught me in time, and I could go and see the baby, if I wanted to.

I did.

So off I went, entering through the ER department because it was after hours. A busy nurse pointed me vaguely in the direction of the OB wing, and I explained who I was to the nurse guarding the door there. There was a side room in the hall stuffed with unused-at-the-moment equipment and some chairs. I settled into one, the plastic creaking as I shifted during the wait.

And then there you were. The scrawniest little brown boy you’ve ever seen, all huge dark eyes and wild black hair and chicken legs. I could not have imagined at that moment that at five, you’d nearly be able to knock me over with an enthusiastic hug around the legs.

Scrawny or sturdy, I fussed over you from that moment. Were you eating? Were the nurses holding you enough? Most of all, would you truly be mine forever? Would all the right papers be signed, the Is dotted, the Ts crossed?

I fuss over you still, over your health and your heart and your sweet little soul. You are almost never sick, and I wonder whether we brush you aside too often because we’re worrying over your brother. You are stubborn as sin, and I wonder how to help you learn to channel it into persistence instead of petulance. You are the most curious combination of temper and tenderness.

You are seven. You love your family and your duckling and you hate not being able to do everything Levi does. I cannot freeze you here in this moment, when you are reaching and stretching and learning to do without me, but still need sleepy cuddles in the morning. And I wouldn’t if I could. Not really.

But I will write you down, and I will take your picture. And I will answer the question you ask me the same every time. Every day, every year, every decade, whenever you ask me, and whenever you don’t. Yes. You will always be my baby.

Happy birthday, Elias. Thank you for being part of Us.

Also At the Circus

So I posted about strawberry shortcake on Sunday night, and everything was great and everybody was having fun, and then someone dropped a psychological stinkbomb or something, and Levi and I were both mad, and Elias was scared and my sister was uncomfortable, and Paul was trying to sort out what had actually just happened. Honestly, I don’t know. Still.

I got up and left the table, because when this happens and I stay, things usually get worse. Leaving also escalated the situation. It seems like the only possible way for me to avoid scenes like this would be a complete personality transplant.

Full disclosure here. At the circus: great food. Also at the circus: sobbing nuclear meltdowns, mostly but not exclusively on the part of the children.

Lovely, truly.

I could pack a week’s worth of clothes in those bags under my eyes. HOT.


So, I make killer shortcake. Also, I yell at my children, and my stovetop is probably going to be declared a federal disaster area.

I’m not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me or try to make me feel better. I’m telling you because we are all in this together, but we don’t seem to know it. I’ve talked to so many women who think everyone around them has got it goin’ on. Every one of them thinks she is the only one who cannot pull herself together.

I really think the only way to change this is to be a little vulnerable with one another. Start small. Tell one person. Don’t start with the scariest thing. Start with the laundry, like, “I am so behind on the laundry that my children are running naked from the shower to dig through the clean clothes pile for underpants.” 95% of the time the person you are talking to will look relieved, because THANK GOODNESS someone else is a mess too.

We are all just trying to get through the day. Sometimes the only thing we can offer each other is the assurance that we are not alone.

Be brave. Go first. You can always take with you the knowledge that at any given time, two of the three rings at this circus are a disaster. It’s not just you; at the very least, it’s you and me.

Camp Report

Well, we all came through camp with flying colors.

My friend Wendy texted me on Sunday morning. Wendy has known me more than half my life, so she knows that I have never attended any camp except outdoor ed in the sixth grade, and also that I am likely to check off all the required items on a list and pay little attention to the optional ones. I identify this as a basic survival skill, but it does mean that I sometimes miss some fun stuff. Instructions about camper mail were in the optional category on the list from camp.

Because Wendy is a very nice person, she said, “I’m sure you know this, but …” and then informed me that receiving mail at camp is A Very Big Deal. Like, multiple letters. Even for a two-day camp.

Oh dear.

So I engaged the reliable relative network and texted my sister, who promised to show up at the house that afternoon with two letters. I handed Paul and Elias writing implements and paper after they ate their lunch, and a few other people came through, too. Despite my total ignorance about the importance of mail call, Levi had a pretty good haul, really. I’ll start earlier next year, though.

Not pictured are the letters from my sister, which didn’t make it home. He did say he ripped some by accident.

Mary Lou didn’t want Elias to feel entirely left out, so she also showed up with a form letter for Levi to fill out and leave for his brother.

Elias did actually sleep in Levi’s bed during the two nights. But not because he missed his brother because he did not miss his brother. He was very clear on this point.

This was the face that greeted me at pickup. He wants to go back next year, please.

I went into the dorm room to pick up his stuff, and he informed me that his toothbrush and toothpaste were definitely in the bag because he just found them that morning! And he is much older than when he left, because now he knows he can stay up late (TILL TEN!!) if he has to. Both his group leader and the nurse gave a great report. Because there were no tablets or TV to occupy him during his vest time, he was allowed to take a friend to keep him company in the nurse’s office. She said the only time he wasn’t completely cooperative for her was during his inhaled treatment when she told him he was not allowed to talk. I said that was surprising really since he isn’t much of a chatter normally.

Bahaha. Just kidding.

Elias had some jealousy to process and can hardly wait to go to his camp day now. He doesn’t get to stay overnight, but at least it’s something.

I did fine, really. Someone asked me on Monday how Levi was doing and I said, “Well, the nurse hasn’t called me, so I assume everything is awesome.” And it was.

As we were tucking them in Tuesday night (significantly before ten, thankyouverymuch), I asked Levi if he was tired. No. Of course not. He was not tired. He was very clear on this point.

He slept for eleven hours straight.


This is me, not freaking out.

We just dropped Levi off for overnight camp. He’ll be gone two nights. He has been apart from us overnight before, but it’s always been one night, or he’s stayed with my sister. This matters because if he’s gone one night, we can manage all his treatments around being gone, and if he’s with my sister, well, she knows how to do his treatments nearly as well as Paul and I do. But he’s going to be gone two nights this time, so he’s going to need to do a lot of this himself.

I don’t think I’d be worried at all if it weren’t for his cystic fibrosis stuff. I am sure I’d have a little twinge. I had a little twinge the other day because I hugged Elias and I think he grew like three inches in a week. But Levi doesn’t have social anxiety, and he’s not worried, so I don’t think this would be a big deal.

Everything is going to be fine. I know this. There is a nurse on staff. I explained everything in case Levi needs help. I left an instruction sheet. The nurse has my phone number. (I highlighted it. In two places.) The camp is close by; I could be there in less than 40 minutes. And he’s going to do fine. He’s been doing a lot of it at home himself anyway. Honestly, if everything went pear-shaped and he didn’t get any of his meds or treatments for two entire days … well, he’d have some digestive problems. He’d be pretty uncomfortable. He wouldn’t die.

I am happy he’s going to do this, truly. I talked to him about it earlier in the spring, and the first thing he said was, “OH! Can I take my sleeping bag!” He could not be more excited. There will be a bunch of kids from his Sunday School class there, and he’s pretty pumped about that too. He needs to be able to do this stuff, and not live in a little plastic bubble in our house protected from all germs.

My logical brain knows all this. My logical brain is fine. 

My lizard brain, the one that just reacts and doesn’t want to hear about your stinkin’ logic, just knows that MY BABY IS LEAVING AND I WON’T KNOW IF HE DID HIS VEST AND GET HIM BACK HERE RIGHT NOW.

This is me freaking out just a little.

But here’s the thing. I don’t actually have any control over this anyway. I don’t have any control over the progression of his disease, or any other dire thing that could befall him. Saying this out loud is terrifying, because if we all exercise hard enough and eat enough kale and take the right supplements, we’re going to live forever, right? I mean, we don’t really think that. But we kind of do. We kind of think we’re the exception and the horrible thing will not happen to us.

We are not the exception. Doesn’t that just bite?

So this will be my two-day experiment in letting go. Not of Levi. Not even of control. Just of the illusion of control. 

Levi’s fine. Here he is with his friend Malachi. 

I made them stop so I could take this picture. Levi turned around and ran away as soon as I was done and never looked back. Mom who?

Elias is going to miss his brother. 

But he’ll be fine too. He’s hanging out with Auntie tonight, making chicken nuggets and salad with cranberries for supper. I heard a rumor there was a special dessert. 

Paul and I are going to get Chinese food. All by ourselves. We’re extra fine. 

I’ll report back after I pick him up on Tuesday. I’m sure there will be lots of stories. I’ve half a mind to start the recorder on my phone in the car on the way home and just let him go. I’m not sure my one brain and two ears will be able to keep up with the torrent of chatter, and I don’t want to miss anything. 

Backpack Treasures

Yesterday and today, all the stuff from school came home in backpacks. Besides random Pokemon cards (the boys were thrilled), I found such delightful things.

You guys. From the beginning of the year until sometime in February, Levi apparently kept a journal at school. I cannot even handle it.

my least favrit seasn is summer because there is no snow. We also haft to swim more and I Don’t like to swim. We also haft to do more farm work.

my saddest molmen was wen my drother punched me right in the fase.

He had some problems with Bs and Ds. These aren’t even the best entries, I don’t think. Just the ones I found right away. It’s fantastic. I almost threw it away without looking, but I thought maybe there would be blog fodder in it somewhere. Thank you, readers, for existing, so that I looked in this notebook. I would never have known that his dad is his role model because he lets him play the computer for 30-45 minutes every day.

I am dead. Also, I am never throwing it away. I’m going to bring it out at his graduation. And his wedding. And I want to read all the other second grade journals.

Elias showed me his special treasure himself. Everyone signed his notebook, including his teacher. (I’m not sure if this was his idea or the teacher’s. His narrative is unclear.)

Levi had the same teacher for kindergarten, and we will forever get her name wrong, because she wasn’t married when we first knew her, and we are creatures of habit in this house.

And also there was this.

This is cute in sort of a standard way, but that is not why I love it. It tells me when he’s going to graduate high school without having to count in my head, but that is not why I love it.

I love that his construction paper face is brown. I know it’s a small thing, but in an overwhelmingly white district, I love that his teacher took a little extra time to make sure he matched his own emoji. Thank you, Mrs. Beichler. We love you, too.

It was a pretty good year.