All kinds of messy

Maybe my world has been a little too messy in the past year and a half.

Too outlandish.

Fast.

Complicated.

Out of the ordinary.

Full of compartmentalizing, fear, prayer, stardust.

Nonsensical.

Raw.

Magical.

Hard to explain.

Gritty.

Alarming.

Secretly hilarious.

All has been just as it was supposed to be. Still, I haven’t felt ok telling the stories. It hasn’t felt safe.

Didn’t want to hurt anyone.

Didn’t want to bore anyone.

Didn’t want to expose anyone.

Didn’t want to expose myself.

Didn’t want to live my life online.

Didn’t feel like defending my thoughts, actions and explorations to a critical world.

Why would I drag anyone through the details of hedonistically dating around, striving to stand on my own financially for the first time, coddling my children through the unfairness and pain of so much huge transition, figuring out how to work full-time after years of stay-at-home-mom-ness, falling in love, blending families, starting a completely new life?

Messy.

It all felt like a little too much to share. A little too shamey. And yet falling in love is traditionally something you really, really want to shout from the mountaintops. It was my shame at love finding me so soon after the end of my marriage—more than a year later, but still—that kept me quiet. “She’s obviously rebounding,” I heard the voices in my head say. “What is she, crazy?” “Apparently she can’t handle being alone…”

I knew in my heart none of those statements was true. But, out of fear, I kept all the deliciousness of my unfolding relationship with Clive to myself, my sister and my closest friends.

feet

I wanted to share, though.

I wanted to write about things like how, behind closed doors with him, I could never decide whether I wanted to keep talking, exploring the mental/spiritual/emotional, or to shut up and explore the physical because both aspects were so tantalizing and so electrifying I couldn’t possibly choose. (Sidenote: After acquainting myself with Emily After Dark, I had discovered how rare a find this truly was…)

I wanted to marvel about how we conversed about God in similar ways. That we actually shared parenting ideals. That his executive mind magically contrasted with his dreamy inner life. That he challenged me and pushed me to grow in all manner of pleasant and less-fun ways across all manner of themes.

I wanted to tell about that time we played tag in New York and I couldn’t catch him, even when I was sprinting my fastest—both of us breathless with laughter—until I almost got him and instead tripped over his heel, did an endo, smashed my face into a patch of grass, threw my neck out, grass-stained my white jeans and he was sick to his stomach for hours fretting that he’d hurt me bad. (I was fine. We all know I’m not dainty.) But the way he cared for me in those moments after my embarrassing fall…so tender and wonderful. Now we laugh about it. I do so love his laugh.

I wanted to rave about how much fun we had sharing a giant plate of cheese fries and dancing to 80s music with my friend, Amin, at a summer street fest. That, as a former tennis pro, he’s teaching me how to play the game I’ve always wanted to learn—and loves doing it. How he declares I’m “majestic” even first thing in the morning and pauses everything to look in my eyes to make sure I really am fine when I say I am. I want to tell the world we talk and laugh into the wee hours because we don’t want to waste time sleeping.

And then there was that day he told me he wanted to learn how to meditate, so he’d signed up for the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) lessons. (Sidenote: In my 10 years of being a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda, not one person has ever signed up for the SRF lessons as a result of knowing me—until Clive.) I wanted to write about how it felt when I walked in on him reading the first meditation lesson to find his giant smile thanking me for the introduction and knowing we truly shared our path to God.

And, of course, the vision of him sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the wood floor outside his bathroom in Lincoln Park when I emerged and informed him I wasn’t pregnant and, smiling his sweet half-smile, he said, “You know, it would’ve been OK if you were.” And then, four days later, how elated he was when I took another test, and then two more, that told us I was, in fact, very unexpectedly pregnant.

parents

I may or may not be disproportionately this much larger than my family of origin and my children in real life, but they all love me regardless. Also, it turned out they, and my sis and her family, were all as elated as Clive when they heard the unexpected news.

Very unexpectedly pregnant

As good as it was, I couldn’t shake the fear. How would it look once everyone knew I got pregnant within a month of dating a new guy, my first committed relationship since marriage? How irresponsible of me!

Almost as bad, how would the outside world respond if I actually admitted that I wrestled—so painstakingly—with whether to stay pregnant?

On discovering the news, I cried with fear and dwelled in permanent nausea every day for two months. Despite being wildly and yet groundedly in love with an all-around wonderful man who wanted our baby and a life with me and my boys more than anything in the world, I was so scared. Scared to find I was not in control of my life. Scared I’d worked so hard for freedom and now I was committing both to a baby and to a new partner all at once. Scared my sons would feel abandoned if I had another baby. Scared of the pain of childbirth. Scared of the postpartum reality. Scared the allure of our relationship would fade with my growing belly. Scared of the sleep deprivation that comes with an infant. Scared of derailing the professional life I’d fought so hard to start. Scared of reversing the liberation for which I’d given up almost everything I knew.

None of this felt like a story worth sharing. I could hurt people, hurt myself.

Eventually I did something to this point I hadn’t done much in my life.

I called my mom.

Something compelled me. I knew I needed her. I expected her to tell me to march myself to Planned Parenthood. Instead, she burst into tears.

Decisively and lovingly, she said something huge, not in these exact words, but the gist was: Don’t just think of this as a baby. Soon that baby will be a child. Then that baby will be a big kid. And then he or she will be a teenager. And eventually you’ll be talking with him or her on the phone like I’m talking to you right now. You need to have this baby. I know it seems crazy, and I don’t know why I’m feeling this way right now, but I just have the strongest feeling God wants you to have this baby.

I had that feeling, too. And, yet, through tears and nose blows, I debated her.

“But what will this do to the boys? What will people say about me? I’m going to hurt so many people. I’ve struggled so hard to be OK on my own. This is going to derail everything. Everyone is going to think I’m crazy.”

She told me that when a baby is born, everyone is flooded with love, and so it would be with my boys and everyone else who counted. She told me it didn’t matter what other people thought, that she and my dad loved me. She told me families could look a lot of different ways, and I could do whatever I wanted. She told me I’d worked hard enough for long enough in enough different ways and it was ok to enjoy and embrace Clive’s love and all that came with it. She told me I was not crazy.

“Sweetie, all my life I made decisions because I was terrified of what my mother would think. My mother made decisions because she was terrified of what everyone else would think. We are not going to do that anymore. That ends here.”

poolside

Clive snapped this of me, baby bump and all, poolside on a late-summer getaway in the lakey, piney hills of New Hampshire. Do I look like I care what people think of me? Thanks, Mom. (Sidenote: Warm welcome to the forehead vein who now likes to make an appearance when I laugh, cry and rage.)

Worrying about what people think of me? That ends here.

It turns out people have asked my friends why I’m driving a new car—a whole other crazy part of this new abundance—and pry “who’s the guy?” when they could just ask me directly. Moms at school have pumped my nanny, who has no idea who they even are, for details and she has alternately appeased them with a response, changed the subject or told them that I’m her employer and that we have a professional relationship. (BS. She knows everything.) “You know people are talking about you, Emily,” she said. “But don’t even care what they say. What they think does not matter. Those people have no idea how good it really is.”

It’s more than a little creepy to think people in my community might be talking about me, about my sons. I’m still working on letting this stuff roll off and living my life without fear of external perceptions. Without fear of being a curiosity, or an outcast.

And it’s true. My world is too messy to write about. Messy, messy, messy. But if I don’t tell the stories, how will others experiencing similar situations know they’re not alone?

We’ve all got messes. And if I’ve learned anything at all so far, like finger painting, brownie sundaes, moves into bigger spaces to accommodate bigger love and dances in the rain, if done sincerely and with love, a messy life is a rich life.

new-family

My sweet, growing family, and one of the Blue Men, who show us how artful a mess can be.

 

Emerging, ready to share again

I haven’t written publicly in some time because—once again, and much differently than I might’ve drawn it up if I could’ve—I’ve been going through some stuff. So has almost everyone else I know (mad props to ’em), so I know I’m not special, even though my mom and dad laughingly proclaim I have had the year of all years, but here’s some of my latest meanderings nonetheless…

Embarking on a hardcore regimen of weekly therapy for several months. I wanted to revisit the landmarks I blew past in my sprint to survival following the separation. I retraced my steps. I looked at everything I missed. My therapist encouraged me to “sit with my feelings” rather than immediately look for the silver lining that would make sense of stuff that made no sense. I saw and felt things I can’t believe I dismissed as I was dashing to make all the pieces of my new life fit together. It was painful as eff. But I finally came to the finish line, a freer, more grounded, wiser person.

Navigating an evolving social circle. Assimilating to the glaring void of raucous social gatherings with couples and families was a thing for me. With the change in marital status, one or two of my social circles changed drastically. It was a little lonely sometimes. Not just for me, but for my boys. Thankfully, my dearest friends never left my side and I discovered new ways to be social.

Searching hungrily for single moms who’d “get it.” Couples and families comfortable enough to hang out with just me and my boys while my life looked heaps different than theirs…that was hard to come by.

Working very un-summery hours. Not ideal, but my Kindle peops show me deeper layers of their awesomeness daily. Someday I’ll write an entire blog post on that.

Reconnecting with my first love, for whom I’d longed over the course of my lifetime, only to discover that once we candidly revisited all our long-lost feelings as well as those that lingered, our connection was much bigger, much purer, much more powerful and much more about lifelong divine friendship than about meeting at a California beach house for a steamy weekend rendezvous.

Deciding to end my frivolous yearlong dating bender. I intended to create space for something bigger. (The dating life couldn’t have been more indulgent and fun, but it was time, almost exactly one year to the day.)

Meeting Clive. Sure enough, I met someone bigger—so much bigger—approximately one very intense, self-reflexive, heated-conversations-with-the-Universe month after I asked for it.

Falling in love. And clearing myself for reals of some major blocks to true intimacy.

Finalizing my divorce. Even though we hugged before, during and after the proceedings, that shit sucked. Super ouchie.

Embracing the unicorn. Opening my heart, mind, life and family to a wonderful man and his wonderful son was a big, big deal. (Note: He’s even better than I hoped he’d be—and thank goodness he doesn’t own a yacht or a hedge fund. Soon after I wished for that in the Bahamas, I discovered first hand on a few persistent dinners with ostentatious bottles of wine and bombast to beat the band that those dudes are insufferable.)

Leaving the house. Moving out of the home in which I became a mother, fought hard for a marriage, surrendered the marriage, and struck out on my own as a single, working mom… Tough.

Apartment living. Moving into a two-bedroom apartment with window a/c units and coin laundry in the basement.

Never fucking having enough quarters.

Also, becoming pregnant.

Yep.

Boy, does life surprise me sometimes.

I’ll spare you the details, but the baby all up in my uterus courtesy of my beloved is one determined human. I’ll be honest, it felt downright biblical at first. I could almost hear God’s (really deep, booming) voice saying “Emily, you thought you would never do this again, but you are going to have a child. My will be done.”

The weekend before I found out, I said a special, very intentional prayer:

“Please give me the courage and the wildness to embrace the magnitude of unknown blessings on their way to me now.”

I knew something big was coming and, sight unseen, I knew I wanted the strength to receive it. That’s what I get, I suppose. Nonetheless, I spent a couple months agonizing very ungraciously in what I call Freak Out Town. I had some furious, incredulous, bargaining words with God; I pushed Clive away; I retreated into my own self-reliant world; my tummy was always upset; I was exhausted and withdrawn; I cried a LOT.

Then something clicked and…

  • I allowed my enthusiastic, supportive, delighted, in-countless-ways-magnificent, prayerful, tuned-in, awesome father, top-of-the-line-luxury-model babydaddy  more completely into my heart, into my life, into my sons’ lives and onto the path we are now unconventionally forging together with our conglomeration of children.
  • Second, I stopped trying to understand God’s plan and simply concede to it.

With both of these moves came joy and contentment like I can’t describe.

Like any recently divorced, pregnant, yet unwed, flying-by-the-seat-of-her-pants woman and mother, I have my moments—for example I would really like to give fewer fucks about what people think about me over here, but the creepy hard stares at my belly and the mouth-agape responses to my unexpected news sometimes do bother me.

Nonetheless, the prevailing sensation in all of this—and in my family, coworkers and close friends—is marvel.

Also love. So much love.

The looks of love

By the looks of things on social media, the love was flowing this Valentine’s Day. And, to my delight, Love (let’s capitalize it, shall we?) looked different for everyone.

It wasn’t just flowers, a hot date or a perfect marriage on display. As seen on Instagram and Facebook, which have been known to dampen one’s enthusiasm about one’s own life on occasion but valiantly took the high road yesterday, Love included kids, pets, lovers, friends, parents, grandparents, sports, self and more. I was struck by the outpouring of self-love, friend-love and love of what is, whatever that was. At least in my feeds, I didn’t see a single person lamenting Valentine’s Day, regardless of their lot in Love. But I saw a whole lot of nurturing of varying kinds.

I have more than a couple friends who kicked it alone, and relished it, more power to ‘em. Others partied. Others worked. Others traveled. Others cuddled up with partners, kids and/or dogs. One friend unexpectedly ended up apart from her loved ones and surmised that God was her Valentine this year. “If you want to come over for a glass of wine,” she invited. “God and I will be here just hanging out. We’d love to have you.”

I’m a girl who loves quirky twists as much as I love Love itself, so seeing my friends stake their own claims on a day filled with all kinds of weird expectations kinda ruled.

For me, Love included a yoga class and long shower, pretty flowers from Brian and pink buttercream, sincere conversations and hugs, Thai takeout and family snuggles. After dark, as I drifted to sleep way too early with my arms around two boys who dampened my chest with drool, I thought, This doesn’t look like a traditional mass-market, gender-normative Valentine’s Day, but it’s kinda perfect.

It was a major scene at the store Friday. Kip wanted to pick out some jewelry for me. Charlie wanted to as well. I politely refused. They raised hell. "I just want to get my mommy someping as beautiful as she is, ok?!" Kip cried. "Wet me just pick someping beautiful out for you!" It was loud. I almost cried, too. He selected this bedazzling bracelet and Charlie chose the earrings and necklace. "The two little owls are me and Kip," he said. "And the big owl is you. You can wear these and think of us, all together."

It was a major scene at the store Friday. Kip wanted to pick out some jewelry for me. Charlie wanted to as well. I politely refused. They raised hell. “I just want to get my mommy someping as beautiful as she is, ok?!” Kip cried. “Wet me just pick someping beautiful out for you!” It was loud. I almost cried, too. I pointed him to the clearance rack. He selected some glittery Halloween earrings and this bedazzling bracelet and Charlie chose the earrings and necklace. “The two little owls are me and Kip,” he said. “And the big owl is you. You can wear these and think of us, all together.”

The scene of the sweetest Valentine's Day party ever, at the home of my pal, Lyz, who has found favor in heaven for welcoming five extra boys and their mamas into her very pretty house and arming them with frosting and sprinkles.

The scene of the sweetest Valentine’s Day party ever, at the home of my pal, Lyz, who has found favor in heaven for welcoming five extra boys and their mamas into her very pretty house and arming them with frosting and sprinkles.

We did a little family cupcake decorating.

We did a little family cupcake decorating on the big day. As you can see, Quinn men take their cupcakes very seriously.

No such thing as too many toppings.

No such thing as too many toppings.

Cool things I did while burning up with enterovirus this Thanksgiving

Over my Thanksgiving holiday, I was so sick I did a bunch of stuff I never ever do:

I shivered with a high fever for two days.

I lolled in satin pajamas and a fluffy robe for three days.

No mascara. No lipgloss. (No photos.)

I reluctantly uninvited our Thanksgiving dinner guests.

I left the kids alone with tablets because I was too lethargic to do otherwise.

This was way more our holiday weekend reality than I'm proud to state openly.

This was way more our holiday weekend reality than I’m proud to state openly. They were giddy about my negligence.

I took two steams, heady with eucalyptus, with the kids.

I backed out of birthday drinks for one of my favorite friends.

I skipped yoga.

I sat, no, reclined a lot. On couches, on kitchen stools, on chairs, my bed.

I bought only like three things at Whole Foods.

I had one serving of Thanksgiving dinner—I haven’t skipped seconds since I was about 7.

I mainlined essential oils in little capsules (doTerra flu bomb) and inhaled apple brandy fumes from an oak barrel like it was my job.

I didn’t have a drop of anything fermented all weekend, unless you count apple cider vinegar in water.

I offered minimal coaching as Brian strung the lights on the Christmas tree. (he totally nailed it without my “help,” btw.)

Charlie picked the tree this year, Brian strung the lights, Kip showed heartwarming enthusiasm for decorating the tree and I vacuumed an obscene amount of pine needles.

Charlie picked the tree this year, Brian strung the lights, Kip showed heartwarming enthusiasm for decorating the tree and I vacuumed an obscene amount of pine needles.

I took naps.

I watched the movie Chef twice. And, when Charlie woke up coughing in his own feverish state one night, I let him watch it with us.

Which leads me to why being crazy sick over my favorite holiday wasn’t the worst thing in the world…

After the movie, Charlie and I sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch in the dark, feet up, devouring the Seattle segment of Dave Grohl’s documentary series, Foo Fighters Sonic Highways. Just the day before while driving, the boys and I had discussed Dave Grohl, the grunge sound and various artists of the genre, which was new to both boys but somehow irresistible to them, so Charlie was ripe for this documentary. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have let my six year old digest that many f-bombs and images of head-banging in one sitting. He was completely rapt (a new style of music? angry guitar riffs? mosh pits?!?!) and fascinated with the artistic freedom of the likes of Grohl, Kurt Cobain, Motherlovebone, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, etc.

As a practice, I try not to expect my boys to love the same stuff I do because I want them to feel free to like what they like, not compelled to succumb to Mommy’s tastes, but I discovered my kid can geek the rock out about music. (cue the hallelujah.) If I hadn’t been sick and weak and stricken with a rare 102-degree fever, I never would’ve let my ritual 7-o-clocker stay up that late with me. But we bonded like thieves over this documentary in our dark living room till almost 11 p.m. So, all thanks to the enterovirus, which made its way decisively through our house in five days, Charlie and I have at least one blissful Thanksgiving memory and a possible lifetime of shared music nerd-dom.

Final night of our couch-tv-movie-tablet bender, and it looks like we're almost out of the woods.

Final night of our couch-tv-movie-tablet bender. Here’s hoping we’re out of the woods.

New heights of connectedness (i just love trampoline puns)

Thumbs up for jumping

Thumbs up for jumping. This is what joy looks like for us.

My boys were off school Friday and because physical activity is their love language, we went to a giant warehouse filled with trampolines. We call these sorts of outings “Mommy-Charlie-Kippy Time” and, on this day, we were going to make it count.

“Are you going to jump, too?” the woman behind the counter asked me.

“I totally am,” I replied, maybe too enthusiastically. She raised an eyebrow and gave me a free wristband.

We walked extra fast to the shoe cubbies, removed coats and gloves and boots and socks, and then the three of us, holding hands, skipped up the stairs to the 6 & under section.

Getting ready to play

Getting ready to play

We were all so excited. Mommy-Charlie-Kippy Time translation: We party.

We started jumping. Charlie threw balls at my torso and cackled. I chased Kip and he guffawed. We had the space mostly to ourselves, so we went all out. Big, arms-flapping-in-the-air jumps. Spins in midair. Pink cheeks. A neverending game of dodge ball. Belly laughs. Funny faces. Ninja kicks. Lots and lots of ninja kicks.

Jumping!

Jumping!

I was the only parent jumping like a kid and, weeell, I admit it felt a little funny. Most of the other moms and dads sat on the bench with their phones and their Starbucks, a role I myself have nailed many a time. But not this time. I made the decision to engage in a major way with my sons, to meet them where they were and to relish the time with them.

I got a few glares. I got a few stares. It seemed to help when I jumped with my back to the gallery. (Looking back, I kinda can’t believe I subjected those moms, dads and nannies to all that full-frontal jumping for as long as I did. Poor souls.)

Kip catches air.

Kip catches air.

I considered bowing out and telling the boys I was going to hit the sidelines with the rest of the parents, but it’d been a while since my teeth got so dry from smiling that my lips stuck to them. How long do you have to smile before your teeth go bone dry, I wonder? All I know is that, in one hour of jumping, I smiled that long a lot of times.

So I kept jumping. Because my kids were giddy. And because they couldn’t get enough of leading me to the far corner to show me their trick jumps. And because, together, we were experiencing mega pleasurable depths of joy and connection.

And so, despite my assumption that bouncing tatas were not a fan favorite among moms in Lululemon, I kept on ninja kicking with my kiddos. And, before long, a bunch of other kids were ninja kicking all around us. The glow on all their amazing little faces—and particulary on Charlie and Kip’s—as they looked to see if I saw their kicks made me smile even bigger.

Soon the jump fest came to an end and, as we were tying shoelaces and zipping up jackets, Charlie said something that made all my embarrassment and potentially offensive jumping completely worthwhile:

“Mommy, this is the best day I’ve ever had,” he said, grinning. “I’m going to remember this time today with you for the rest of my life.”

After that, we took our Mommy-Charlie-Kippy date out for chili cheese fries. Definitely the best day ever.

Chili cheese fries.

Chili cheese fries.

72 ways to show real love now

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I’ve been learning whole lot about love, in all its many forms, in the past year. Thanks to lots of you, I have a broader picture of what love can look like, as listed below.

Here are 72 ways to show someone love today.

  1. Bring them homemade peanut butter cups.
  2. Pass along a book you’ve read and think they’ll love.
  3. Give them your recent Us Weekly
  4. Tell them you love them.
  5. Suggest they do something that’s good for them.
  6. Book a flight to go visit them.
  7. When they mention it’s been an emotionally intense day, respond by saying “Oh, how exciting!” in your most sarcastic voice. And laugh together.
  8. Pray for them.
  9. Teach them something you know how to do.
  10. Ask them to teach you something.
  11. Be warm and kind to their children.
  12. Send them a text when you’re thinking of them.
  13. Offer them homemade soup.
  14. Give them space to say something important and potentially heartbreaking to you, and treat them lovingly even if it hurts.
  15. Boldly say something important and potentially heartbreaking to them. Be there for them after if it hurts. Why? Because, delivered with love and with a golden heart, truth can heal.
  16. Give them a symbolic gift to assist them in their journey.
  17. When it’s the right thing to do, release them.
  18. Comment positively on their Facebook status.
  19. Enter their messy house and make yourself comfortable.
  20. Let them talk your ear off. Ask questions. Remain engaged even if you’re (justifiably) tired of talking about it.
  21. Call to check in. On the phone.
  22. Compliment them on the delicious dinner they’ve made you. Repeat.
  23. Tell them they need more sleep. Suggest they go to bed earlier.
  24. Hold them.
  25. Take something off their to-do list just because you can.
  26. Turn on Drunk History because you know it’ll make them laugh.
  27. Make them a cup of coffee or tea. Just the way they like it.
  28. French braid their hair.
  29. Let them be uncool around you.
  30. Whatever it is they geek out on (we all have something), ask them questions about it.
  31. Scratch their back.
  32. Beam at them.
  33. Make fun of them in a good-natured way.
  34. Keep their secrets.
  35. Hug with vigor. Hold on tight.
  36. Send them a long-distance song dedication over email, text or social media. All the better if it includes a lavishly produced hip hop video.
  37. Bake something and give it to them.
  38. Sing them a song.
  39. Remind them how _______ they are. (insert the most called-for adjective.)
  40. Let them take care of you in some way.
  41. Make plans to get together.
  42. Call them on the phone to request they actually pretty please do come to your party even after you’ve RSVPd that you won’t be there.
  43. Share something really deep and really personal with them. Trust them with the knowledge.
  44. Ask them for help.
  45. Share a poem that makes you think of them. Bonus points if you can’t find the translation, so you send it in its original language.
  46. Watch their kids.
  47. Tell them the truth.
  48. Surprise them with their favorite treat.
  49. Introduce them as someone who’s important to you to someone who’s important to you.
  50. Go for a walk together.
  51. Share a story about a way in which they impacted you positively—one they may not even remember.
  52. Ask them how they’re doing, and stand by for the response.
  53. Like their instagram pics. Better yet, say something nice in response to one.
  54. Show them your real, true, unveiled self, inside and out.
  55. Let them see you without your makeup on.
  56. Say glowing things about them behind their backs.
  57. Share their business, blog or favorite cause on social media.
  58. On their birthday, let them know how happy you are they were born.
  59. Make your favorite comfort food from childhood and share some with them.
  60. Teach your baby how to say their name.
  61. Invite them to share in a holiday with you.
  62. See their greatest weakness, and then guide them to see where they are strong.
  63. Be up for hanging out even when you know they’re down.
  64. Hold their hand.
  65. Review their resume. Offer honest feedback.
  66. Ask them to review your resume.
  67. Get them home safely.
  68. Pat them on the back.
  69. Brag about them to your friends.
  70. Give them a nickname. The best ones are those that make the person feel like a goddess or a king or like they have some kind of superpower.
  71. Tell them something you appreciate about them.
  72. Look them in the eyes. Smile from your heart.

Field trip!

First graders descend the stairs to the bus.

First graders descend the stairs to the bus.

The last time I remember riding a yellow school bus was coming home from a fraternity party in college. Fifteen or so years ago. Me, hazy and giggly, wearing a skimpy fake fur dress my date had made for me; feet muddy from dancing barefoot; hair wet and curling from beer rain; trying to shake from my memory the dirty-dirty song the girls had been instructed to memorize while pre-partying together before the guys arrived. (Thanks, men of DU. I still know all the words). And, of course, my date, who had turned the dance floor into a slip-n-slide an hour earlier and was still wearing his Viking helmet, probably passing out on my shoulder. Aside: Hard to tell from this story, but that guy was—and is—so great. One of my faves.

Today I rode a yellow school bus again. Aaaand, it was a bit different. This was my date, and I was chaperoning his class field trip:

Pulling up to the Chicago History Musuem.

Charlie looks on as we arrive at the Chicago History Museum.

Incidentally, it’d been even longer since I’d been on a field trip. I was excited. We went to the Chicago History Museum and I had five kids in my stead. We called ourselves Team Awesome. Some highlights:

This is most of Team Awesome. They could not stop hugging each other. First graders heap themselves in piles like puppies every chance they get.

This is most of Team Awesome. They could not stop hugging each other. The affection is constant and so sweet. First graders heap themselves in piles like puppies every chance they get. With no awkwardness between them–when does that change?

-Riding on the bus next to Charlie, both of us radiating joy that we were having this experience together. We sat so, so close and smiled the whole way there. We had some fun conversations, and then we didn’t…

Him: What else do you want to talk about, Mommy?”

Me: I don’t really feel the need to talk. I’m just enjoying being with you right now.

Him: (smiling) Me, too, Mommy.

-Six children clobbering me with hugs at once. I almost fell over. So much love. My heart smiled.

This girl always makes my day. Today she offered up that she likes hanging around me because I'm loving and nice and fun. I mean, come on. How can you have a bad day after hearing that? Hugs all around!

This girl always makes my day. Today she offered up that she likes hanging around me because I’m loving and nice and fun. I mean, come on. How can you have a bad day after hearing that? Hugs all around!

-One of my best girls shared her peanut butter sandwich with me.

This little missy just glows. No wonder Charlie likes lunching with her. First-grade friendship is so pure and so smiley.

This little missy just glows. No wonder Charlie likes lunching with her. First-grade friendship is so pure and so smiley.

-I noticed one of the kids in my group had been in the bathroom a long time. When I went in to check on her, I found her dabbing her soaking wet hair with a paper towel. “I like having wet hair,” she told me. “It’s easier to comb and it looks so pretty.”

-A couple other moms were as excited as I was to be on the field trip, so we took a selfie.

-When faced with a giant, empty ballroom, some kids will dance and other kids will race. Both groups will be loud and probably get yelled at by a docent or security guard. I lost all control over them after about 1.5 hours.

-Charlie surprised me by staying close to me, listening exceptionally well and keeping his hands to himself almost all day. Until the fiddle music started and he kicked his buddy’s shin doing an exuberant jig.

-In the sensory room of the museum, there’s a kid-sized hot dog bun in which the kids can lie down, be the hotdog and have their friends put Chicago-style toppings on them. It’s only a matter of time before the boys spike onion pieces on their friends’ faces and the girls whack boys with the pickle spear.

Bosom buddies in a bun, Chicago-style. (Moments later, three girls jumped on top of them, to a chorus of boy-voiced groans.)

Bosom buddies in a bun, Chicago-style. (Moments later, three girls jumped on top of them, to a chorus of boy-voiced groans.)

It may be a while before I get to chaperone a field trip again, which is probably all right because today was every bit as exhausting as it was energizing. Ready for a long nap…much like I was after the last school-bus ride I remember.