Lost and found: My kid

Here we are in Baja, just off Isla Espiritu Santo, and I'm teaching Kip how to snorkel for the first time.

Here we are in Baja, bobbing around in the Sea of Cortez near Isla Espiritu Santo, and I’m teaching Kip how to snorkel for the first time.

I lost track of my youngest son Sunday afternoon. At a crowded beach on Chicago’s North Side, I looked around and discovered Kip, my soft-cheeked, sweet-spirited, strong-willed, face-caressing, twinkly eyed, soulful, viking-metal-loving, sun-bleached blond of a four year old was missing. “Where is Kip?” I asked his buddies, my husband, my friends. “Have you seen Kip?” He was completely out of range. Friends scooped up babies, grabbed tiny hands and, all together, combed the shoreline both directions in search of him.

He wasn’t by the kayak. He wasn’t by his other little friend, who’d wandered a ways south as well. He wasn’t up in the grasses. He wasn’t on the sidewalk. He wasn’t on the wall from which he’d asked to jump earlier. He wasn’t on the playground. He wasn’t anywhere. I tried to still my worry so I could feel his energy, wherever he was. I figured maybe I could detect on the woo-woo waves whether he was in danger, and where he might be. My gut told me he was ok, but I prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more nonetheless. He couldn’t swim very well, and yet he had a lifejacket on, so after a cursory search, I ruled out drowning and my mind jumped almost immediately to “someone took him.”

I stopped a lifeguard. “Hi. I’ve lost my son. Is there protocol in place for when this happens? Anything you can do to help?” She very calmly led me to another lifeguard, who asked me what Kip looked like and what he was wearing. I told them in detail. Someone radioed someone else. My surrounding friends looked at me with concern. They hadn’t found him, either.

Charlie, my oldest, who has beautiful intuitive gifts, looked shaken. He had been running down the beach yelling, “Kip!” I grabbed his hand, knelt down, looked into his eyes and placed my hands on his heart. “Charlie. I need to ask you to do something really huge. If it feels ok to you, drop down into your heart, close your eyes, look in the center of your forehead and see if you can see Kip. See if you can see where he might be.” He nodded his head once and closed his eyes, then opened them almost immediately and turned around. My gaze followed his. One of our friends, with a baby strapped to her chest, was rushing toward me with Kip’s hand in hers.

IMG_0501

Kip’s hands. Oh, his sweet hands. They hold delicate things so softly and grip cameras just so to snap photos like this one, on the Ambar III last April.

I promptly lost all composure.

I ran to my amazing little boy, scooped him up and wrapped my arms so tightly around his damp lifejacket, hand on the back of his head as though he were a newborn. He sobbed into my neck. I sobbed into his cheek. We both held each other and heaved.

“I was so scared, Mommy,” he bawled. “I couldn’t find you anywhere.”

“I’m so sorry you were scared, my Kippy. You’re ok now. I was so worried about you,” I cried and cried. “I am so happy you’re ok. I am so, so happy you’re here in my arms. We are going to do a better job of keeping our eyes on each other from now on, ok?”

“I just wanted to give Maya these stones I found,” he sobbed even harder. As we suspected, it seemed he’d gone on a mission for his favorite girl. “I was trying to find sea glass to give her, but I didn’t find anything good. I kept looking, but could only find these ones. And they’re not even that good!” He opened his cool little hand to reveal two stones, which were warm from his careful guarding.

“Oh, buddy. She’s coming back from the paddleboard with her daddy right now. Would it make you feel better if you could see her and give them to her?”

“Yeeeeesssssss!” he cried. “I want to give her these rocks I found for her.”

I don’t know how that amazing little six-year-old girl knew to be thrilled with the nondescript rocks he brought her, but when she approached moments later, he presented the two smallish stones and her face completely lit up.

She said something like, “Wow, Kip! Thank you so much! I love them!” Right then, his face cracked into a big smile and everything we’d just experienced seemingly washed away from his being.

My recovery wasn’t as quick. It felt as though I’d aged a year in however many minutes it was I thought he might be gone. My eyes hurt. My heart felt tender. Brian couldn’t fall asleep that night. But hours after we returned home, I was able to go into Kip’s room and curl up next to his sleeping body, safe and sound. And that felt absolutely euphoric.

He gave her a couple unremarkable stones, she gave him this hug. His heart is full.

He gave her a couple unremarkable stones, she gave him this hug. His heart is full.

To be clear, this is not a cautionary tale

I don’t need to tell you to learn from my mistake and make sure you watch your kids closely at the beach. Because, if you have kids, or even friends, or cats, you all probably do that already. That’s why I’ve omitted the details of the moments before we noticed he was missing—they’re inconsequential because we obviously weren’t en pointe, and mistakes happen. To everyone. It’s really obvious that if we’d been keeping a closer eye on the little guy, this wouldn’t have happened, and any amount of ridiculing you could throw down would pale in comparison to what’s already been unfurled in my own head. (you’ve met my inner mean girl, yes?)

But I do want to drop a tiny piece of preaching

I was surprised by the response of passersby once I had Kip safely in my arms. When Laura found him, the countenance of the lifeguards and the surrounding people who’d worn masks of concern moments earlier shifted completely. They glared at her as she ushered Kip back to our spot on the sand. As I hugged my baby and cried, the lifeguards looked me up and down, cocked their heads and darn near rolled their eyes at me. On the way toward me with Kip in hand, one woman even snarled at my friend: “Happens fast, doesn’t it?”

Ouch, bitches.

Unfortunately, this was a bad thing that happened. We effed up, and it could’ve gone much worse. Thank God, our beach companions and the pack of concerned little kids who searched for Kip, everything turned out ok and I was supremely supported in the emotional aftermath despite the weirdness of strangers.

Next time it turns out ok for someone—anyone—would it be possible for all of humanity to hide their disgust, pretty please? Like, maybe try tapping into a loving or compassionate place and saying something to the tune of, “I’m so happy you found him,” or “Oh, wow. We were concerned. Glad he’s ok.”

As the cropped t-shirt of one woman strutting down the beach an hour or so later read in huge block print, “Shit happens.” It sure does, I can attest. To everyone, I might add. (Even to generally type-A, hypervigilant parents.) And, when it does, an outstretched hand and little compassion goes a long way.

Kip parties on. And now understands a bit more about the importance of staying with his grown ups.

Kip parties on. And now understands a bit more about the importance of staying with his grown ups. Note: This was second his costume change at our block party this summer–he washed off *most* of his face paint and threw on this Hawaiian get up from Aunt Andrea so he could really tear it up. And, of course, by “tear it up,” I mean stub his bare foot on the curb and rip his pinkie toenail off. This kid has given me too many a fright this summer…

 

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The good and bad of birthdays, and the gift we can give ourselves and others every day.

See? Historically, I relish my birthday no matter what. You wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid, too, little sister? Aw, I hope you get one on your special day. But stand aside because it's MY birthday and I'm gonna enjoy it. Smile!

Do you see? Historically, I relish my birthday no matter what. You wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid, too, little sister? Aw, I feel a little awkward about this, and I sure hope you get one on your special day. But, shhhh, stand aside because it’s MY birthday, this is MY gift and I want to make sure Mom gets a pic of me with Henrika Lily. Wait, no. I think I’m going to name her Jenny Henrika. I’m turning 7 today, so I can totally change the name on the Cabbage Patch Kids birth certificate. You know, I can actually do anything I want today. It’s my birthday. I’m the star. Sing to me! Feed me cake! Give me ice cream! Let me open presents! Cheeeeeeese!

I turned 35 two weeks ago. Appreciation and surprises rolled in from near and far. People made me smile, laugh, blush and feel overcome with gratitude because I can’t believe they love me so perfectly. (cookie bouquets, haikus, notes, flowers, jewelry, cars pulled over on the side of the road and technology given to kids to make space to talk to me, oh my!)

And, yet, there’s the other side of birthdays, and it didn’t elude me. There were tears. Not because I’m getting older—although I was once told by someone who is obviously mistaken that 35 is a woman’s tip toward the downhill slide—but because of this: My journey sometimes feels way harder than I want it to be. And, though I know this journey is all for the greater good, even my birthday couldn’t relieve me of its present weight.

I didn’t get why I was feeling so heavy on my birthday, the ultimate festival of awesomeness for a hardcore Leo, and I felt generally very awkward, alone and socially inept all day. I just wanted to hide and not have to face anyone because I simply wasn’t “myself,” and I was definitely not playing the part of the happy-go-lucky birthday girl I felt I should be.

So I called up a friend who’s always good for spiritual refreshment. Cin is a poet of some renown (check it) and always has a fresh way of seeing things. She said, “Everything is just extra on your birthday. Ouchy things feel extra ouchy. Wonderful things feel extra wonderful. This is kind of how birthdays are. They’re extra everything.”

So this is obviously, like, "extra" fabulous. This is me on my 35th birthday, post-tears. If this is the downhill slide, I'm wearing tight jeans and big necklaces the rest of the way.

So this is obviously, like, “extra” fabulous. This is me on my 35th birthday, post-tears. If 35 marks the downhill slide, I’m totally wearing tight jeans, Blanche Devereaux jackets and big necklaces the rest of the way.

One thing we can learn about being a friend, from a comedy writer

So, yeah, on the topic of those “extra” kinds of feelings and friendship, I read this really cool Cracked.com article the other day. (Hey-oh, David Goldstein, thanks for the share!) It’s called “Robin Williams and why funny people kill themselves.” It paints a vivid picture of why comics develop the gift of funny, and how they often feel compelled to hide their dark stuff throughout their lives, sometimes all the way up until a self-inflicted end. It’s insightful and it’s sad. And I hereby declare it required reading.

(Aside: My inner circle does not need to read the article because they already know. They miraculously like me even when my need to process is incessant, my forehead vein is sticking out and mascara is streaking down my cheeks. Which is doggone decent of them.)

Anyway, David Wong’s boiled-down advice to friends of funny people is this:

“Be there when they need you, and keep being there even when they stop being funny. Every time they make a joke around you, they’re doing it because they instinctively and reflexively think that’s what they need to do to make you like them. They’re afraid that the moment the laughter stops, all that’s left is that gross, awkward kid everyone hated on the playground, the one they’ve been hiding behind bricks all their adult life. If they come to you wanting to have a boring-ass conversation about their problems, don’t drop hints that you wish they’d ‘lighten up.’ It’s really easy to hear that as ‘Man, what happened to the clown? I liked him better.’”

It got me thinking. I wonder what would happen if we substituted different personality traits in for “funny.” Nice. Smart. Strong. Empowering. Sexy. Snarky. Motivational. Witty. Holy. Wise. Tough. Passionate. Ornery. Creative. Cool. Shiny.

What’s your schtick?

I’m not funny, so the applications of Wong’s article aren’t an exact match, but, like you, I am a bunch of other stuff (warm, open, caring, playful…) These are real things about me, and I generally try to be my real self at all costs, but sometimes other qualities (over-thinky-ness, overwhelm, hard-on-myself-ness, perfectionism, fearfulness, etc.) take the stage. On those days, I feel afraid of what might happen if my shiny self doesn’t present.

Will you still want me?

I’m not sure you will. So I can identify with Wong on this point. I’ve seen it before—that moment when someone you consider a friend isn’t quite sure what to do with a state of being that’s not your modus operandi—you get the glazed-over eyes and emotional detachment and end up feeling dumb for venturing from your usual shininess, or whatever it is you think they like about you. And so you bottle it up around them and, next time, you’re darn sure to put on the face you think they want to see.

Feeling dumb after showing your real self sucks. And it veers awfully close to feeling un-liked or unloved or isolated. Which, in some cases, can be a slippery slope.

So my point is: If funny people feel required to stay funny because that’s what’s expected of them, as Wong asserts, others may feel it behooves them to maintain X, Y or Z persona for the same reason. And it’s just as damaging. We must break this pattern. All of us. I’m talking to you.

The shiny mask keeps things nice and pleasant, but behind the mask, we feel glaringly alone walking around in the world. You tell yourself people don’t want anything to do with this heavier, lackluster version of you. You keep your sunglasses on.

And if you remove the sunglasses? And the mask?

Well, I can’t say I’m skilled at doing this myself, but all I know is that when someone takes off his or her sunnies and lets me see their heart and soul, no matter what shape it’s in that day, it gets pretty awesome. Unfortunately, most of us walk around with some masterful masks, which may cause us to miss out on potentially expansive connections.

Recently a friend I’ve known for almost a year shared one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard. It was a tale of unending loss and grief in his life. In our relationship of pleasantries and passing conversation, I never could’ve guessed he’d been through such tragedy. After he laid it out there, he apologized for telling me, for weighing me down. But, on the contrary, I felt both more alive and more connected with him. I’m not sure how this works, but something about the honor of becoming privy to the trials of this guy as he was processing some deep feelings was ultimately very, very uplifting. And, as a result of being let in and letting him into my own world, I am now way more into what’s beneath his facade than my experience of him from the past 10 months. It took some time to develop a friendship, as it usually does, but the dude is now in my heartspace.

Another example: I was recently shaking it with a big crowd at a festive occasion, delighted to have run into a much admired friend I hadn’t seen in a while. As we hugged, shimmied and bumped booties on the dance floor, I asked her how she was doing and she responded so simply, to the tune of, “Well. Here I am. I haven’t done this (insert her deep desire) yet, and I want it so bad. So, I’m happy for these people, but I’m really not doing so well at the moment.”

The honesty. The authenticity. The courage. The vulnerability. The real, pulsing life being laid out there in an unlikely space. The power of it all will take your breath away. At the time, when each of these friends opened their hearts and showed me what was inside rather than what they thought they should display, my heart opened, too. And what came next in each instance was infinitely better than whatever I was doing or planning to do the moment before they got real with me.

This chick--let's call her "Tiffany" in honor of the artist who created her--is all, "Hey, Fish. I'm kinda blue today. Do you still wanna hang out? No? Ok. I'm just going to descend, then."

This chick–let’s call her “Tiffany” in honor of the artist who created her–is all, “Hey, Fish. I’m kinda blue today. Do you still wanna hang out? No? Ok. I’m just going to descend, then.”

It’s awesome when people get real.

On one end, the willingness to let down the walls and just be who you are, whatever it is, in that instant, is a pure, glistening gift.

On the other end, compassion, sincerity and general openness is equally as valuable. For example, at a BBQ last weekend, someone I don’t know as well as I hope to one day circled back to a nonspecific comment I made weeks ago about a tough time I was having. She asked me about it in the most sincere, caring, understanding, open way, and it instantly brought me to tears. She might as well have said, “I see you, I care about you and I’m here for you.” It’s ballsy to jump into someone’s world like that. I’d call it heroic, even. But now I know that if I want to reach out to her and be my stripped-down self, I totally can. What a gift. Happy Birthday to me.

So, what if we were genuinely open to allowing the people in our lives to be however they are on any given day? And what if we were authentic about our own feelings as well? When we’re not our usual shiny selves, what if we could just be ok with that? And not worry about how others might receive us? And not feel icky about their response, if unfavorable, to us on these days?

I think we can try for all of this.

Kip frosted this cake for me all by himself. Because it was my birthday cake, and because he loved frosting it so much, it was extra-extra delicious.

Kip frosted this cake for me all by himself. Because it was my birthday cake, and because he loved frosting it so much, it was extra-extra delicious.

But back to my birthday.

Birthdays feel like the New Year to me. They’re a chance to look at your life, at what you’ve created, and reflect on what you want to manifest in the coming year. I’ve got a rough sketch in my head of how I might want my 36th year to look. It’s pretty bold and there are a lot of unknowns, and being true about my feelings and wholly accepting of others is on the list.

But if it ever gets to be too much, I could take the tongue-in-cheek advice from my burst-of-goodness-and-wisdom-and-laughter friend, who rocked an extended text convo with me the day after my bday. Here’s a sample:

Her: That pic of Kip and the cake summarizes how blessed yet awesome you are. I hope your day is as rockin as yooooouuuu!

Me: You are so right. 🙂 It was an up and down day (birthdays are kinda like that sometimes), but overall definitely rockin. Thanks for your kickass love!

Her: Ummm, yes, birthdays are bittersweet, emotional, thought provoking in maybe not the best ways…why is that?! … I hope wine punched those thoughts in the ass…ha!!

No filter. No mask. Let’s just feel what we feel and be who we are today, tomorrow and every day after. And, if friends aren’t ready to embrace the real you when you’re “not yourself,” don’t let it get to you. Be that person anyway and go for a cup of the fancy tea, a talk with your closest friend, a nice yoga class, a long run, an Epsom-salt bath or, yes, maybe even a glass of wine. You are not alone. You are divine. You are loved. A tough day—be it your birthday or otherwise—doesn’t have to mean a downhill slide. It can mean your very blossoming.

 

The great girlfriend lip gloss interrogation

My first-floor toiletry essentials.

My first-floor toiletry essentials.

There’s a basket on the back of the toilet in the bathroom off our kitchen. In it are bathroomy things like tissues, hand lotion, nail files, tampons (plus pads for visiting preteens and old-school girls out there), a hairbrush, Altoids, moisturizing face mist and a selection of lip glosses. These are things for which I’m not willing to risk general destruction of property by my children were I to run up to my boudoir and leave them alone for two minutes. So, I keep them handy.

During a party, some girlfriends commented on the basket, and then cornered me about the lip gloss. They observed that I always have it on, even while away at camp with another family for Memorial Day weekend.

“Wait! I was really good about not wearing any makeup while at Family Camp,” I protested.

“You were really good at making sure you had lip gloss on,” the camp-witness friend quipped.

Was I really wearing gloss at camp?

I clearly slowed it down with the eye makeup, but was I really wearing gloss in the camp hammock, and everywhere else?

I don’t want to believe that I glossed my lips out in the wilds of Michigan, but I can’t confirm I didn’t because the habit of swiping a wand across my pout is so ingrained that, in hindsight, I frankly don’t know what the truth is. She’s probably right. Ack. What does that say about me? Something bad? Something good?

“So what is your deal with lip gloss?” they asked. “Where does that come from?”

I gave them a story, one of them sweetly declared that I always look so nice, we moved on and then, the next day, I thought about it some more. And—taaa daaa!—I uncovered the following layers to my own personal lip gloss tale…

Level 1: I just love lip gloss. It’s girly, it’s fun, it’s shiny and I like it.
Level 2: I have this really luminous friend who always wore lipgloss. It inspired me, I thought she always looked really nice, so I picked up the habit and ran with it.
Level 3: I learned it by watching my extraordinarily lovely grandma, who even at age 93, doesn’t go a day without sprucing up. Makeup, clothing, accessories, nice shoes, the whole bit. I wasn’t afforded the indulgence of being girly as a kid and young woman, so now it’s my turn to relish femininity. Like grandmother, like granddaughter?

She even looks good mashing potatoes.

She even looks good mashing potatoes.

But when I reeeeally think about it, I can trace the habitual use of lip gloss to a very specific conversation with a very specific human being: my then-suitor, now-husband. Which brings me to the deepest level…

Level 4: Because I wanted to look like a “Fox girl.” For him.

When I first met Brian, the Fox News Network was young and not yet freaky business, and all the anchors were polished to the nines, right up to what he affectionately called “Fox girl lips.”

“What are Fox girl lips?” I asked him, young, impressionable and yet unsure of what it meant to be a real woman, at age 22.

“I don’t know…they just all have really shiny lips,” he explained. “They must use some kind of special lipstick or something.”

I knew enough to know that this “special lipstick” was called “gloss.” So then and there, I decided lip gloss was the surest way for me to look like a Fox girl. Because, having studied so many issues of Teen magazine and later Cosmo, I was an expert in deciphering casual comments from guys, and I assessed that’s what Brian liked. And I wanted to be what he wanted. And now, almost mindlessly, 12 years later, I have the right shade of lipstick and gloss for almost every occasion, and I’ll be darned if you catch me with naked lips. What’s more, sometimes I do look like a news anchor. (Thanks, Lemon Tree Photography.)

This is but a sampling of my lip-sprucing collection.

This is but a sampling of my lip-sprucing collection.

Lip gloss aside, I’m in a place right now of looking earnestly at who I am. I think all of us are, really. On a cosmic level, that’s what this age is about—finding out who we truly are.

What is my true nature? Who am I, really? How can I authentically be myself and act from my heart in everything I do? Who do I want to become? What do I want my life to look like, present and future? How might I soar while simultaneously empowering my loved ones? How do I want to live? How can I manifest the best possible life for myself and my loved ones?

You may have your own version of these questions; they are not small ones. And because habits are more telling than we often give them credit for, neither is this one: Why do I so diligently brush on lip gloss?

Do I actually “love” lip gloss? And for whom am I wearing it? Is it really who I am to wear lipgloss, or is it just a holdover from my days of figuring out how to be what someone else wanted me to be?

Habits are sticky. They hang around unbeknownst to us. We all have the stories we tell ourselves if people ask about them, but very rarely do we thoughtfully consider our habits and determine whether we wish to change them. For whatever reason, the simple question of “what’s your deal with lip gloss?” set me off on a crusade to examine my own drives for this and one or two other habits.

Long story short, it doesn’t matter where I end up falling on the lip gloss issue. Whether I decide to keep wearing it because I actually do love the girliness of perpetually glossed lips or I decide to abandon the shine because it no longer serves me is inconsequential. In this 24 hours of self-exploration regarding cosmetics usage, I am ultra-clear on one thing I hadn’t consciously noticed about me before the girlfriend lipgloss interrogation: This practice of morphing myself into the person he, she or you want me to be is a habit that no longer holds stock in my being. And that new awareness makes any time spent under the microscope worthwhile.

So, I encourage you to climb onto the glass and look deeply at what’s there. If you have any epiphanies, message me. I want to hear about them so I can cheer you on.

Are you there, Goddess? It’s me, Margaret.

We remember this book cover, don’t we, girls?

My tried-and-true crew of goddess-friends recently got together to celebrate the summer solstice and, naturally, conversation turned toward periods. You know, as it’s prone to do at a girls night*.

(*ASIDE: Surprise! I was being ironic. As lavishly liberated ladies, it’s actually quite rare for us to discuss our periods when we get together. Usually we stick to talking about organic baking and our favorite bras. Haha. Tricked you again. We actually did discuss bras—the fact that no woman should waste her breasts on anything but a sexy one. But, really, normally we just have pillow fights in our panties.)

But about bras, this vintage La Perla longline will do just fine.

Turns out Cin was in the process of plotting a coming-of-age ritual for a dear friend’s daughter. The questions started flying: How old were you when you got your first period? How was that for you? Who helped you through it? What did your mom do? Did you have any idea of the amazing gift you’d been given—to create life—at that moment? Were you able to fathom that, in all this mess, you’d just received the world’s most wondrous superpower?

We all reflected on how glorious it might have been to be surrounded by a bunch of loving women when our bodies decided to go off the effing reservation. Because that’s how it seems when you’re 10 or 13 or 16, or whatever, and you have fertility rushing from your body for the first time.

My mom was pretty great—warm, loving and matter-of-fact—about the whole period thing, but it certainly wasn’t, like, a celebration. I was given some Ivory soap, some pads and a big hug. “Welcome to womanhood,” she smiled sincerely. She was sweet and I felt like I’d joined a new club, but it was shocking. And solitary. I was young—I got it on vacation in Colorado on my 11th birthday—so it was also a secret. If anyone had found out about me getting my period while riding Mademoiselle, the spunky brown Bay, up the mountain toward the old abandoned sheepherders’ cabins on the Jacques’ ranch only to notice blood through my jeans, I might’ve killed them.

So last week when my babysitter’s 11-year-old daughter revealed with an uncomfy grin that she couldn’t swim today, I went in. “Is it because…?” I asked her. Her mom was sitting right next to me, and she leaned toward me, smiling. The girl nodded.

“Oh, honey, that’s wonderful!” I beamed. She and her mom beamed back. The glow of her beautiful face was unforgettable. I started gushing. “Congratulations! I’m so excited for you. This is such a big deal. You know that right? You now have a superpower! You can create life, you are infinite, you are connected to all women throughout all time, you are a goddess, you are a queen.”

This isn’t how most of us feel about our first period, but this is how I want girls to feel about coming of age.

I stopped, glancing at her mom, who was smiling from ear to ear. “I mean, of course just because you can create life doesn’t mean you should—you’re so young—but you have a gift, the gift of womanhood. Wow, honey, I’m so happy for you.”

She beamed so brightly, her lovely features completely absorbed in the joy of my reaction. We hugged. She pressed her flawless face into my chest and wrapped her arms tightly around my waist as we embraced. When I pulled away, her smile was so big, and her eyes so wide. She searched my face and I knew what she wanted to ask.

“You know you can swim,” I started. “If you want to, right?”

Her mom jumped in, talking really fast. “I never learned how to use those things, Emily. Can you teach her? Please? Would you mind?”

Oh. My. Holy. Can I teach your luminous, sports-loving daughter how to use a tampon so that she can swim today because it’s hot out and she really, really, really wants to? Would I mind?!

“It would be such an honor,” I said, with tears in my eyes, for sure. “Thank you for asking me!”

We tucked away on a sidewalk behind the bushes at the park and I rifled through my purse for a tampon. Even though my little boys already know all about periods, they and their buddies were curious about what was going on with this unlikely pow wow, which mortified the new young woman. They eventually lost interest and gave us the privacy we wanted.

This was kinda what the scene looked like. But at a park.

We sat in a circle and they listened, rapt, as I explained how to use the magical thing that would allow her to swim with her friends even while on her period. She was so excited about it, and her mom seemed relieved to find someone she knew who could teach her daughter about this thing. It was awkward, so we laughed a lot. It was the kind of laughing that starts out nervous, moves to a crescendo of sincerity that acts as glue between those sharing it and culminates in a deep, comforting sigh. Eventually, after doing my best to answer her questions, I gave her one for the road—it was all I had in my purse—and we re-engaged with the park around us.

On some level, I aspire to heal my own girlhood, fraught with stifling, subverting and frequent invisibility, by seeing, uplifting and empowering the young girls I get to know now that I’m a grown-up.

It may say something strange of me to get so excited about taking part in an aspect of this lovely girl’s initiation into womanhood, but my feet didn’t touch the ground the rest of the afternoon. Naturally, as I happen to be in a season of making intentional effort to experience gratitude for all the things going wonderfully in my life, I felt overcome with thanksgiving for this girl, her mom and the favor they so generously asked of me.

And, bonus, I now have the perfect story to tell the ladies at our Fall Equinox celebration. Right after we discuss casserole recipes and hair conditioner.

Smoothing into summer with Sensory Kids

We’ve made it through the first full week of summer. Gone are my leisurely mornings of quiet work time while both boys are in school; here are the days when every single moment is filled. From 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. or later. There’s not much room for anything besides engaging with them in every way I can devise and fending off their nagging for various electronic devices.

In an attempt to keep my sensory kid, in particular, feeling secure in this transition from school structure-o-rama to easy breeziness, I’ve created a summer rhythm. Every morning starts with “reading time,” in which my will-be first-grader and I practice reading one book. The rest of the day is fluid, save for the fact it holds one centerpiece activity the boys can count on:

Monday = Beach Day

Tuesday = Play Date Day

Wednesday = Culture Day (failed this week, but big plans for a tour of Chinatown and a return visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art in the next two weeks.)

Thursday = Pool Day (it was freezing yesterday. And rainy. But we’ll try again next week.)

Friday = Tag Day

This way, both boys have something they can expect to anchor each day. If I’m being dramatic, I’d say it makes them feel safe and prevents meltdowns, but really it’s just nice to know what comes next. I think we all can agree on that.

So far, I have managed to hit umpteen kid baseball games, host a playdate with five boys on a slack line and exercise lack of responsibility by taking down some serious sauvignon blanc with some mama friends at the end of said play date. I filled up a plastic pool in the back yard, whipped up my grandma’s unstoppable pie crust and turned it into blueberry pie. We played with my parents during a delightful long weekend, visited the Chicago Botanic Garden for the first time and laughed over the boys’ nonsense texts to Daddy. We’ve played tag with a bunch of sweaty kids at the park twice and hit up three street fests including Taste of Randolph, where Charlie and I developed a new love for the band, My My My. You will love them, too. Check it: http://www.mymymyband.com/music

All in all, summer is starting off harmoniously and the transition from kindergarten/preschool to summer-ness has been far less dramatic than the end-of-school transition in years past. If you have a sensory kid and have come up with ideas for how to make sliding into summer comfier for the whole family, email me or leave them in the comments section. I’d love to hear!

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Ballers

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I used to be precious about this antique couch.

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Slackliners

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The boys tried to make it like the real beach. Pretty pool.

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Reading time

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I am obviously not a pastry chef. But it tasted good.

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Very happy boys with their grandparents at the botanic gardens.

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This hat is intended to save me from botox and juvederm, or whatever stuff the ladies in their mid-30s are doing these days.

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Cracking up at ridicu-texts.

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Having a track coach for a grandpa has major perks.

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Batmen at Midsommarfest

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Have street fest, will party.

Is it summer yet?

Summer

I’m ready for some summer. In a perfect world, this is what I will do everyday–after I swim in the lake, build sand castles on the beach, write a brilliant book proposal, play tag in the park, eat beautifully crafted picnic lunches, add mint to my cocktails, dig for bugs with the kids, make popsicles, mash up bright green pestos and curry pastes from my herb garden, walk the dogs, grill flank steak marinated in fresh herbs, watch the wisteria bloom, spray children with the garden hose, eat tomatoes and burrata, sip prosecco on the patio in the afternoon and try to tame the rapidly increasing tan I started in Baja, pictured here, last April. My favorite season is upon us. Three cheers for summer. Wishing you many a splendid hammock siesta.

Missing Mexico in honor of 5 de Mayo

Sea of Cortez selfie

Hard to believe this is where I was a week ago. 30 feet down in the Sea of Cortez literally swimming in my favorite color and streaming rays of sunlight. Today my cold little toes are tucked into wooly slippers beneath my desk. Also, I have the sniffles and the tip of my nose is an ice cube. It’s all got me contemplating the time-space continuum. Might I be able to beam myself–if only in consciousness–back to Baja for a quick hit of the sea, sky, mountains, desert, dear friends and vitamin D? All is as it should be but, as grateful as I dearly am both for the vacation we just enjoyed and for the totality of my life in Chicago, I’m missing the Baja love on this ultra chilly Cinco de Mayo.