Tuesday, November 21, 2017


First Day of Bard Pre-school - 153 Weeks

Ren. He was there. - 153 Weeks

This kid. Going places. - 154 Weeks

Pausing at the grocery store to sing Ren's new obsession, "It's the End of the World as We Know It."
The next morning Ren asks, "Mommy? Can we go to Target and get a Michael Stipe doll?"  - 155 Weeks

"Sunny days...sweeping the clouds away...on our way to where the air is sweet..." - 156 Weeks

THE. COUNT. OH EM GEE. - 157 Weeks

At home, Ren LITERALLY play-pretends posing for photos with his favorite friends.
I think it's paid off. - 157 Weeks

In some ways, visiting this sign in the hotel would have been enough. - 157 Weeks

Daddy, I got this. - 157 Weeks

Daddy, you got this. - 157 Weeks

Au revoir fare city... - 157 Weeks

Friday, November 17, 2017


How can we have this much fun when there is so much suffering in the world? - 149 Weeks

Dude, I'm ready. - 150 Weeks

First Tinkle - 151 Weeks

Late Summer Dinner - 152 Weeks


Mommy Starts Grad School, Ren Starts Undergrad - 144 Weeks

Rendependence - 144 Weeks

What's Up Doc? - 145 Weeks

"I'm going to take over the world." [said in a whisper] - 146 Weeks

Get 'em started early... -146 Weeks

Last Day of Montessori Summer Camp - 147 Weeks

Goddard Love - 148 Weeks


Puzzle Master - 140 Weeks

Three Days in NYC - 141 Weeks

Montessori School Picnic - 142 Weeks

I Am Iron Man - 143 Weeks


Front Facing Kid - 136 Weeks

Front Facing Family - 137 Weeks

Front Yard Foreshadow - 138 Weeks

Front Wheel Drive - 139 Weeks


"I wanna push the button." - 131 Weeks
Story Time at Starr Library - 132 Weeks
No really, kids, it's fun. 133 Weeks
Deep Thoughts - 134 Weeks
1st Play: The Gingerbread Man, starring Ren as the Baker - 135 Weeks

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"One day son, this will all be yours."

130 Weeks

"Once you've established your plan and we can see that it's working, then I'll feel comfortable charging you," said the nicest smartest money lady in upstate New York.

After Ren was only a few weeks old, I called a highly respected, local financial planner referred to me by a friend. We've met with her four times now and have accomplished maybe ten-percent of the advice she's given us each time... because we forget... each time. It's kind of like joining a gym every six months just to go through the equipment orientation.

This time, while we admitted we still had not set an attorney appointment, as recommended, to discuss our last will and testament, we were proud to share that we'd finally called to get a new password to the financial website that locked us out after too many log in attempts. Big steps towards our future. Giant.

Ren, we leave you everything.* If you can find where we put it.

*This is probably our actual last will and testament.

Say My Name, Say My Name

129 Weeks

"He's very verbal." We've been hearing this a lot from people who notice word-things that come out of kids.

Ren lives with actors. Someone is always talking. (Especially the dog.) So when you ask Ren if an inanimate friend has a name, he is quick to say one with confidence. From the perspective of toddlers surveyed at exactly our home address, this is common. He's got a stuffed shark named Daca, a finger puppet named Bladdie, and every snowman we've built is Wawa the Snowman. He's a very happy soul.

To me, this is how to do life. I just have to remind myself I'm the one who is supposed to share the rules of the world while also encouraging creativity. Regional language from exactly our home address might confuse the schmadas over at the piffty piff.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Too Much Love

126 Weeks

As a kid, I can remember sometimes being forced into a family hug from someone older and stronger, female. Sort of stuck, knowing I was obligated to fulfill a longing, I'd let her squeeze. And while I sometimes couldn't breathe, it was nice to be needed and sometimes I could just relax into the embrace, tight and safe and all encompassing.

My stepmother always had a hand on me when I was young. My face, my back, my feet. She always gave loving gestures. She still does, with her fingers at the ends of my long hair. Her hugs are always there when I need one. Like little gifts I can open whenever I want.

Motherly female affection, unlike any other relationship, seems to contain physical expressions that are instinctively more meaningful than most. Touching each other is not really something we gage openly unless we are talking about mother figures. It's a common descriptor in casual conversation. "He really shouldn't have belted Janis in the conference room, but, you know, his mother wasn't very affectionate."

I often (or not often enough) credit my stepmother with having taught me to give graciously selfless, unbounded unconditional love. I have always admired her affectionate ways. While I know like many women, she aches and craves that soul-satisfying embrace one can only receive from the small, the furry, the pudgy cheeked naked baby butt into which you'd sink your teeth if it weren't for being hauled away in a straight jacket, she's always careful and respectful not to use people for her own fulfillment. She's very affectionate and opens her arms when people come running, but she doesn't run after them like a misunderstood hug monster. I try to do the same.

At least I thought I did.

On a recent car trip, as I leaned over to kiss Ren (again) he said, "Mommy. Put your whole face in the front seat."

I only bite his butt every couple of days now.

You know you're a mom when...

128 Weeks

I'm a theatre gal, I should know better, and I hail from a culture where you'd rather drown yourself than suffer the shame of having been intentionally rude to someone, anyone, especially innocent children... and, yet, for almost exactly ninety minutes, I let my son stand on my lap in the middle of an audience in order to watch his first live production starring characters he thinks are his friends. I will lay on my deathbed cringing in torture while hearing small echoing voices say, "Mooommmmyyyy. I caaaannnnn'tttt see....."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Day in The Life

127 Weeks

At the hospital Ren is diagnosed with pneumonia and the next day the doctor calls to tell me Ren also has the flu. Greg is on a silent retreat and unreachable for 11 days.

You know that moment in the great eighties movies...

Back from a tropical vacation, happy parents pull a luxury car into their middle-class garage just as the last beer can flies... in slow motion... across the living room... right into the waste basket...

Tan and smiling, the unsuspecting parents open the front door, set down their suitcases and see their teenage son quietly reading on the couch. (Of course they don't notice the book is up-side-down.) Only moments ago that couch was almost set on fire by a crazy party-crashing motorcycle gang... the camera pans down... under his seat cushion... a garter belt gently swings...

Yeah, this week was like that. Only I didn't spend the whole time dancing around the living room in my underwear and sunglasses. And when Greg got home, I made him sit down and listen to every painful detail of our crazy house party, down to the vomit on the emergency room floor.

Ren is still asking for "tambourine" (tangerine) popsicles in bed. He's not sick anymore but sometimes you just gotta say, "What the $%&*."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

There's no place like home.

103 Weeks

"I thought you'd call more."

"Believe me. I wanted to call more."

"We missed you."

"I missed you too. Very much. So much."

"Do you feel better?"

"I... yeah... I do..."

It was September 2016. I had thought it was a smart idea, flying from New York to Texas—going to my 25th high school reunion and gathering what my step-father left for me from my mother's belongings—in one weekend. It was a good diet.


Breakfast with Greg and Ren. A long(ish) farewell.
Work, then the airport.
After three delayed planes, land across the country in the middle of the night.
My young, bachelor cousin and I find each other wandering around the airport parking lot.
I sleep on his couch.
It reminds me of childhood Christmases.


Cousin goes to work. Early.
I shower, walk back to the couch, and realize by the light of day his living room decor includes a cat dish by the Lazy-Boy and a large trashcan by the bookcase.
I text his permission to "move a few things around."
The cat disappears.
Cousin gets home from work and thinks he's opened the wrong apartment.
I introduce him to feng shui then we head out for drive-through and a Uhaul.
We pull into the storage facility where my inheritance was abandoned.
It's late afternoon and 93 degrees.
It feels like another planet.

I asked for old home movies, journals, and the three antiques my mother used to point at every so often and say, "when I'm dead, that's yours."
I fantasized about finding a letter, sealed in a golden envelope with words in calligraphy: "For My Dearest Daughter, Jennifer."

Cousin and I pull up the doors and we are met face-to-face with a canvas tote hanging on a halltree hook.
At the bottom of the bag is my mother's hospital gown, socks, unused toothbrush, lotions, and a small plastic container with her dentures floating in fluid.
Cousin hugs me and reminds me that sometimes people are cruel.
We lift things our muscles have no business lifting.
Sometimes we call out for "THE TEETH" to stop a rolling furniture dolly.

At dinner I sit across from cousin's great stories.
I drop him off to talk the cat out from under his bed.
I nearly take out the car port as I wave a teary goodbye.

On the road again.

In the middle of the night my headlights shine on an angel standing in a suburban road and directing me like I'm hauling a plane.
I almost take out the tree in her front yard.
The angel is someone with whom I've lived so often we call each other sister.
It feels like old times.
Her husband and kids have been asleep for hours.
I'll sleep when I'm dead.


After breakfast, sister and I unpack the Uhaul into their their garage.
We discover the cedar chest is full.
I open it. There's no magic letter.

In one day I tour Austin saying hello to friends from college and high school.
I come back to sister's at midnight.
The truck door is fixed and she's left me a gift on the guest bed.
I wake Greg with a call and my heart aches for home.
I send an email to a friend in New York.
He tells me I'll never be a writer if I can't spell Hemingway correctly.


Heavy eyelids and heavy biscuits are my early morning meetup with another college buddy.
I drop off the Uhaul and almost take out the dumpster by the back door.
Shower and shave.
Sister drives us four hours back to the town I left two days ago; to the place where I graduated 25 years ago.
It still feels like another planet.

We meet up with first loves and joke awkwardly under a wall of talking fish.
My heart pounds as I sit in the presence of generations of founding friendships.

Our reunion starts at a bar and ends around a swimming pool and a table of year books.

A glance in a visor mirror reminds me anti-aging cream doesn't work.
I look around the car and go back in time with the same faces in each seat and Duran Duran on the radio.
I insist we go to IHop.
The sun rises with bittersweet hugs and knowing looks.
We'll always be from here. This moment. Each other.


The hotel sheets are barely wrinkled.
Sister packs us up to drop me at the airport and drive herself more hours home.
(Her official appointment letter to sainthood is in the mail.)
I insist we go to IHop.
I order the exact same meal and wonder why the exact same waiter isn't surprised.

"Y'all'er gonna have to mover your stuff. It's going to be a tight flight."

I can't wait to see Ren's face when I give him his souvenir cowboy hat.

A souvenir from my past.

Where I'm from will always be in my heart, but I'm not from there anymore. I'm from where ever Greg and Ren hang their hats.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Steam Brain, Dream Brain

125 Weeks

"Clickety clack, clickety clack..."

"Mommy. (Turning back from the third page to the first page for the third time.) Start here."

"Buggy, let's get through the whole story first."

"Mommy. Go back. Go back again."

Ren's desire and capacity to memorize has actually frightened us. We are terrified. We can't keep up. A friend gave Ren a new book about trains and five days later, I shut the book, turn out the light and Ren asks me to sing him "the Steam Train, Dream Train" song. I'm thinking perhaps this actually exists. The book is a New York Times best seller, catchy rhymes. Then I recall months ago we made up a Goodnight Moon song because, yeah, what two year old doesn't compose music to their favorite memorized books? Doesn't everyone do that? I haven't memorized beyond the title. I'm not paying attention to the words any more. I'm reading them for the thirtieth time while I think about groceries, bills, bettering my time management skills, my shrunken boobs, work, sleep, plays, old Frasier episodes, work, new mascara, work, jelly jars, and karate.

"Mommy. Sing it."

I start making up a tune and repeat "steam train... dream train..." and commit to it like some kind of weird lullaby mantra or acting exercise circa 1978. He laughs and says, "No, no, no, Mommy," and with another chuckle and patronizing tone says, "Mommy, let me teach you. I'll teach you."

Ren proceeds to recite the first three pages of this book—at least 20 lines of rhyming verse—to a tune he's making up on the spot. I start choking on inadequacies that have been trapped in my spine since high school, bad hair color auditions in Los Angeles, the time I put "bilingual" on the back of my headshot because I thought ordering extra cheese in Spanish was the equivalent.

Ren is already humoring me. He's already pitying my pathetic attempts to entertain him with rusty skills and take-my-wife jokes. I don't have much more than that to offer...

I'm good at cleaning puke off a variety of things before they stain.

And I can cross my eyes one at a time. That's pretty rare.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Room at the Haunted Inn

124 Weeks

Be impeccable with your word. 
Don't take anything personally. 
Don't make assumptions. 
Always do your best. 
     -The Four Agreements 

Greg introduced me to this Toltec wisdom years ago. He loaned my father a book about it and since then, you cannot have a conversation with my dad without hearing the utterance of at least one agreement. PERFECT stuff of granddad lessons alongside standing up to bullies and the fine art of finger pulling.

When Greg isn't traveling for work, we alternate nights tucking Ren in bed. One evening, it was my turn and Greg happened to arrive home from a journey in the middle of Ren's evening ritual. In the darkness, Ren asked for his daddy. I told him Greg had come home, but that he would see his Daddy in the morning because Daddy was going to go to sleep too.

This is our staple explanation to assure Ren we aren't abandoning him for mysterious grown-up all-nighters, and also to enforce that "nights are for sleeping, days are for playing." Of course, our household doesn't actually shut down at 8:00 p.m. every night. The adult-on-duty sits in our room next to Ren's until we're sure Ren is asleep and won't be woken by the stairs made of wood that actually scream.

I tuck Ren back in, sit on our bed in the next room, stare quietly at a book, the ceiling, the laundry basket I know I should be emptying but am afraid creaking floor boards will keep Ren from dozing. A few minutes later Ren calls out asking for another hug. Something is on his mind. He mentions his father and again, I assure him they will reunite in the morning. Ren settles. I go back to zombie sitting.

"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy, I need you!" Another hug. Another reassurance. 

"Good night my Bug. I'll see you in the morning."

"And Daddy too."

"Yes. Daddy too."

"Mommy... Daddy isn't in bed."

"Oh. Yes. You're right. Did he wake you up?"

"Daddy is downstairs. He's looking for a place to sleep."

I comfort our thoughtful little wonder by explain Daddy has a few things to do before he comes up to bed and tuck him in one last time. Sitting in our room, I listen to the monitor and wait for Ren's gravid breathing to signal my decent down the staircase that also serves as intimidation for provincial wildlife. As Greg and I greet, I tell him it's time to give Ren the truth as impeccably as possible for a 2-year-old brain. We can't have Ren thinking Daddy has to sleep in the neighbor's stable when he gets home after dark. There's plenty of places to sleep in our house, as long as no one moves once they lay down.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Back to the Future

123 Weeks

While Greg and I seem to be only slightly older than the parents we meet, I hail from a place where most of my friends' kids are becoming teenagers. They send warnings from the future. I remind them the future is now.

I have always thought I'd be good during the teen years. My own maturity level and tastes stopped developing in 1989. I've had almost thirty years practice honing tedious dramas and expressions of angst. I catch myself saying I look forward to being around my little rebel in ten years, except, it only recently occurred to me, he won't be looking forward to being around me. I keep forgetting I'm the one he will be rebelling against.

Good. I can take it, and every kid needs a mom who can. No matter how many times Ren shouts, "Go away Mommy! I'm NOT pooping!" I'll be here for him with badly written poetry and unlimited Erasure ballads.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Freaky Fridays

122 Weeks

On occasion Ren and I will call Daddy while he's traveling, or his Gigi and Papa-son on FaceTime. What an amazing tool—to be able to get to know your family by seeing them in real time as they sit in their lives across the country. Since Ren has picked up on the fact that many important things happen on that device we call a "phone," he's excited to FaceTime people because it means he gets to use the almighty, special, instrument that is "NOT A TOY." We have a pretty strict no-screen policy, however, we let Ren look at a few pictures on Greg's phone for a few minutes every Friday. We feel it will be a good transition into moving images, like "Sesame Street" or age appropriate cartoons. There is a particular favorite photo of Spider-Man on which Ren practices zooming to see his favorite superhero's feet. For some reason. It is frightening how powerful a pull that small screen contains. We're all addicted. Why would it be any different with a new mind? Ren absolutely loves his once-a-week with Greg's phone. Every morning he wakes up and tells us it's Friday.

Tonight we got a double dose of FaceTime. Daddy in a car from Boston and then Gigi and Papa-son enjoying an afterwork cocktail. Both conversations were lively and fun. Ren insisted on seeing everyone's feet in both conversations and then the evening ended in a bizarre melt down over a puzzle piece with an image of Count Von Count's feet being shoved at the camera so he could see them on the screen. I don't think I could type that sentence any more clearly. It was as strange as it reads.

Children get obsessed, I know. I remember. I'm still grateful to be free of my sticker collection habit. Every single day was about my next sticker. Hell, I'm glad to be free of last week's obsession with yogurt. It's human to desire. But I'm not even sure what is developing here with Ren. I look forward to looking back on this and seeing the seed of wherever it goes. I just hope its more like a career in imaging technology and podiatry for Olympic athletes, not foot fetish cosplay films. I think I actually know people who do the latter. I need more friends in the medical industry.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Suffering the Fools on the Hill

121 Weeks

"He's very smart. Very aware. It's just that when he doesn't want to do something, he tunes me out."

"Yeah. He does. Ignores us."

"OK. Maybe we can work on that at home."

"When we finish an activity, he doesn't want clean up."

"Yeah, he doesn't."

"OK. We'll have him clean up more at home."

"He gets very focused. Very involved in what he's doing and he doesn't want to stop."

"Yeah, he won't stop. The other kids stop. He won't stop."

"Right. OK. We will make that more of a priority. To listen. Right, honey? Honey?"


Ren can read my mind. He reads his father's too. He's a kind soul, though. He doesn't use his superpowers for evil.

For the most part, Ren makes informed choices. I wouldn't describe him as a leap-before-you-look kind of kid. Fear of the unknown is the only card we hold. That, and cookies. He trusts our true desire is to keep him safe... mainly because we are constantly averting our dialogue to reflect this. "Let's see if you can put the fork on the table. It will hurt the inside of your nose. Please put the fork on the table so we can keep you and your nose safe. Let's not... We shouldn't... Mommy and Daddy's job is to kkeeeeeePPPPPP YYYOOOOUUUU SSSAAAAAFFFFEEEEENNNNOOOOO NOOOO NOOOTTTT IN YOUR NOSE!!"

The books told us not to say "NO!" Do you know how difficult that is? Whether or not you have a toddler, spend one day, one hour spinning a negative thought, much less, dialogue toward the positive in any conversation. You turn into a slow-talking, high-pitched, condescending robot that makes a pageant contestant sound like a TED speaker.

The twos aren't terrible for the two-year-olds. They find all of this very amusing. In every new teaching moment, we are choking on our emotional instincts while searching for simple, friendly-yet-assertive words. Our negotiations have Greg and I looking like we're dismantling an explosive while only being able to speak the words, "bathroom?" and "change for a twenty?" We are tourists in a foreign land. There is no reasoning when you don't know the language. There is only luck. Distraction and luck. And kindness. On Ren's part. He has to let us win every so often. We can reach the cookies.