Touch. Listen. See. Smell. Feel.

We set out on our walk to do these things: examine the spring grass, take fresh air into our lungs. The park down the road is perfect for such excursions. It’s a small strip of land enclosed by privet with a few trees and shrubs and lots of open grass. Technically it’s a private park for the surrounding residents, but nobody has turned away our raggle-taggle band yet. With Moira strapped to my chest, I let Maggie go on ahead. She climbs to the top of a pile of sticks and leaves a careless landscaper has left behind, the wood damp and mulchy in our noses. I keep my distance; while I’d love to point out every robin’s nest and budding branch, she needs the independent play more–she needs to take it into her senses and leave my side. How many piles of dirt were in my two-year-old childhood? More, I fear, than hers.

Walking back along the road, we pass a house under construction and a laborer smoking a cigarette. While I find the smell of the chronic smoker disgusting, I actually find the odd puff of smoke pleasant. It reminds me of my father; a bit of cigarette smoke in a working-man’s truck, Old Spice, cut through with Barbasol. He’s not a cologne man, but that was how I knew him when I was small. I finger my keys as I watch Maggie run ahead and think of how I always knew my mother was there, keys jangling when she came to pick us up from this activity or that. How long did she carry that one leather brown purse? A year? Five years? Even after nearly twenty years of chronic sinus problems, I know when a leather purse has held original Trident; mint on suede and the metallic hint of keys on a simple fob and I know my mother. When Maggie is following her children through the park, how will they know her? What secrets lie in Moira’s scent for her babies to follow?

And how will they know me? The smell of coconut oil on my hands as I rub their skin? A compelling bitter roast from my ever-present coffee mug–no sugar to sweeten my cup? And what words will these smells carry? What will they feel, see, hear when the past calls to claim them? The good with the bad, surely–my best intentions are not always equal to my sharp temper, despite my constant struggle to keep it in check. I have never–will never–laid hands on my children in anger, but sharp words do escape. They’ll carry that with them like the vanilla notes of my favorite perfume.

Maggie stops ten feet behind and I cajole her into following me, promising her stars–pasta stars in sauce, from a can, a convenience lunch treat she gets when I’m feeling lazy. My creative urges are legion, but almost never extend to food preparation. Highly processed food with the guilt-easing “organic” tag is fine now and then. Even the promise of such a treat isn’t enough to break her concentration: she has focused on a young tree, freshly planted, still supported by a planter’s post. The world around her ceases to exist as she wraps her arms and then legs around the trunk. I take in the curve of her back and the length of her fingers, seeing how every inch of a toddler is built for exploration. Every molecule in their bodies radiates vibrant purpose. Extending a long, curled tongue, she leans in and licks the bark.

I say nothing. For her, I’m not even there. Nobody is. She uses her focus to discover a tree as new to the world as she, exploring the world in all the ways a child knows how. It would be impolite of me to intrude.

Moira stirs on my chest; my baby, my love. I whisper to her, as I always do and know I shouldn’t, to stay little and small and next to me forever. I have to stop doing that, because I know perfectly well that it’s such an unfair thing to ask–she will march on without me, and best that she do so with no guilt or remorse about leaving her mother’s side. One day she’ll be conquering wood piles and looking at trees with her sister, and I’ll have to be content with the memories of how I saw them, felt them, knew them when they were small.


Monday Five

Five thoughts not individually worthy of a full post:

1. Geraldine told me she thought I looked like Jennifer Lawrence and that night I dreamed I was in The Hunger Games, except we were all rather flabby. What’s with the excessive realism, dream?! My subconscious doesn’t think I’m badass, huh? I’LL SHOW YOU…right after my morning scone. Wait, what?

2. Speaking of badass, or potentially just “bad,” I have a list of tattoos that I want to get during my next trip to New Hampshire. My first four were done by the same shop and I feel like permanent inking is just not the sort of thing you want to shop around. There’s the one I want for the girls, the labyrinth for travel, and a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire. The poem is going to go on my side in order to remind me when I’m 70 that there was once a time that I liked my side enough–after two babies, no less–to want to gaze upon it often.

3. That’s assuming I make it to 70, and Tom and I made it official: we have wills and guardians and all that stuff wrapped up in a neat little legal package. Maggie will be three next month so, um, yay for procrastinating not coming back to bite our children in the ass? The caveat that I would like my ashes interred in a Chock Full O Nuts can whilst I await commingling with Tom’s ashes was not put into writing, but Tom has his orders. Otherwise, my ghost will spike every romantic effort he makes after I’m gone until he decides to act right. Hmm, failed porn title: Paranormal Cockblock.

4. The thing currently shaving years off my life is the four-month sleep regression. Parents: at four months of age, your baby is going to turn into a jerk. Yes, even your cute one. Especially your cute one. Developmental milestones and perhaps the onset of teething will screw up their sleep patterns and feeding habits just when you were starting to feel okay again. It is cruel and horrible and you just have to grit your teeth until it’s over.


5. I GOT NEW BOOTS. My calves, while strong and handsome and capable of mighty feats of strength, are not what you might call “feminine.” For years I have searched for a knee-high boot that would fit around them without special alteration or the insertion of elastic panels by a professional cobbler. Boots seem to measure for a 14″ calf, whereas mine are around 16.5-17″. For you, Dear Reader, I shall pray that you never know the insupportable indignity of clicking the “wide shaft” search parameter on shoe retail websites or the desperation that leads you to ask your gay DJ friend if he knows any drag queens who might offer shopping tips. But amazingly, Uggs does make a standard boot in addition to those sock-like canklemakers that are their bread and butter, and now I own very classy knee-high black leather boots with a solid tread, furry lining, and that only pinch at the top a little tiny bit and that match every dress and pair of jeans that I own. It’s my springtime miracle.

And just for fun, a photo: Maggie tucking her little sister in for a nap, mere moments before she collapsed on Moira in a fit of huggy toddler joy. Moira only pulled her hair a little in the ensuing struggle.


I wanted to post. I was technically doing nothing last week, but my hands and arms were totally incapacitated. Now that I’ve dug myself out from under the pile of sick children and have shaken some feeling back into my extremities, I now find myself…without anything to say. Such is the trouble when things are going well at home and interesting travels are on the horizon but not yet completed: it leaves you with a dearth of content. That’s okay. It can’t be All Miss Chippy, All The Time.


Last Sunday temperatures climbed into the high sixties, which was truly a joy to behold. The crocuses are almost gone, the daffodils are up, cherry blossoms on the way, and the newborn lambs have been sighted in the pastures around town (and, it must be said, they look like they will be exceptionally tasty in a few months). Maggie needed the fresh air desperately–we all did–so we hung out in the backyard all day tidying up winter’s leavings (Tom), watering the herb pots (Maggie), and being lazy in the sunshine in various states of undress (me and Moira).

She had an outstanding hour and a half soaking up vitamin D and chasing her taggie blanket around in a circle. Moira hasn’t quite gotten all the way on to her belly but can execute a fantastic 360 spin just by thrashing her legs. Her continual shrieks of joy indicated that being naked on a warm day was something she might like to do regularly. While you’re cute, kid. Do it while you’re cute.


It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my parents. From this distance it would be easy to give them a snow job about how things are going here; they’d have no way of knowing if the rosy picture I paint is the truth. Fortunately, all actually is well. If there is any unhappiness in my life, it’s the result of the suffering of other friends and family and not anything in my immediate sphere. My parents will be making their first trip to England to see us next week. Maggie has grown several inches in height and several leagues in pure Stubborn Toddler Attitude since they last saw her, so this ought to be fun. Moira tipped the scales at 15 and a half pounds at yesterday’s weigh-in; my poor father complains that they got cheated out of a newborn to visit.

Considering she was over ten pounds when she was born, I’d argue that so did I.


Regarding the weigh-in: rather than head to a clinic full of sick people for a well-baby visit every month, the NHS encourages us to get the baby weighed once a month at the town’s children center or at the library during the “community health visitor drop-in” day. We go to the children’s center, which is a government-run facility full of informational pamphlets that hosts several resources–La Leche League and breastfeeding info sessions, toddler groups, story time, tons of parent education books to check out, all free. It’s a warm, sunny, cheerful area full of quality wooden toys laid out in an attractive Montessori style. If you’re maybe not a person of means, it’s a clean, safe place to take your kid for free and maybe learn a thing or two about early childhood development. During the drop-in hours, you can talk to a health visitor about any developmental concerns you have, get their weight checked, and hang out in the company of other families. My inner socialist loves this: this is the sort of friendly, encouraging, educational space for parents and children that taxes ought to pay for, because what is more universal than a fussy baby driving you crazy at 4am? I suppose if you’re rich you can pay for a night nanny, but most of us know what it is to pace with a child in the darkest hours; it feels right and equitable to send us all to the same spot to have our questions answered and our children weighed like prized fair produce.

So what’s making you happy this Friday?

Libris 52: Update 1

It is MARCH, Y’ALL! I’m proud to say that I’m still rolling right along with my resolution to read 52 books in 52 weeks. Knocked out an easy three with The Hunger Games trilogy and several volumes of Sherlock Holmes stories, which had the benefit of being both easy to read and free. In the “knock you on your ass” category we have The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (I think I am the last person on the planet to read it) and a volume of Rainer Maria Rilke’s letters called, fittingly, Letters to a Young Poet. 

Nine weeks in, I am enjoying myself enormously. My mind feels clearer; my imagination sharper and freer. It’s absolutely made me feel more centered (in accordance with the seventh habit: “Sharpening the Saw”) and stimulated in the best possible way. This has challenged me enough to take the endgame more seriously and commit to what I mentioned earlier: 51 books in 44 weeks and then knocking out Infinite Jest in the remaining eight. I love David Foster Wallace, and that book deserves my full focus. I know I can do it.

What’s on tap right now? A technical art history volume regarding how the pigments of various media were created (ochre! lapis lazuli! …bat guano? Bat guano!), a Harlequin romance novel just for funsies, and I recently found out that my library carries copies of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy for Kindle. Booyah.

The book that I finished most recently was Lydia, the follow-up to Tim Sandlin’s GroVont trilogy and his earlier book, Western Swing. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say this: go read the trilogy if you haven’t. Read Western Swing after that. And then go read Lydia. I will say that I’m an obstinate reader; I willfully ignore what’s coming for maximum shock value and then I reread the book. I almost always read books twice–once for the experience of the plot and once to savor. Lydia knocked me out emotionally in a way I haven’t experienced since I read Garp nearly 10 years ago.

What are y’all reading now?