• 11 things I’ve become obsessed with during quarantine.

    Friends, you know me. You know that we are still quarantined, or socially distant, or in the red zone, whatever you want to call it.

    You know that COVID-19 is making me feel like a bad mom.

    There has been a lot of womp-womp-ing over here, and so, as I sit here in my living room, my favorite room in my house, enjoying the light that pours in from the windows and the world around us, I have decided to share an upbeat post.

    I bet you didn’t know I had it in me!

    As I’ve mentioned, we’ve been in a strict quarantine bubble with my parents, and there is this thing my dad does, not infrequently, and this thing is that he says, “You know something? _______ has been one of the greatest finds of quarantine!” or “I have to say, ______ has had a a major renaissance during quarantine!” or, he posits, “Do you know what was COMPLETELY UNDERRATED before quarantine?”

    (each time, as if he has not already said it. Love you, dad!)

    We tease him (because he is, in fact, unintentionally funny), but he is also correct. We have discovered and re-discovered some things during this period of isolation that have made said time better, happier, more delicious, more fun, and, dare I say, tangy-er!

    Yes, of course we’ve baked banana bread; I’ve enjoyed every bite of my bestie’s delicious sourdough when she’s dropped it on my stoop; I spent two weeks tie-dying every white thing I could find; we watched Tiger King. 

    Here, I am talking about the things that are not on a quarantine Bingo card. Well, mostly.

    And, because they may make your life similarly peaceful and tangy, I’d like to share with you

    11 things I’ve become obsessed with during quarantine.

    1. Iceberg lettuce

    I know. It has been reviled in the lettuce world. No nutrients! Colorless and flavorless! The lettuce they use in gross, camp salad bars!

    Oh no, my friends. Say what you will, but I have gotten into iceberg lettuce and if loving it is wrong then…what is that you say? I cannot hear you over the loud sound of my chomping these crisp, delicious bites of lettucey goodness.

    I keep at least 3 heads of iceberg in my fridge at all times, and though washing and drying lettuce is laborious, it is so worth it. I chop it up into fine, little bites, and munch away. More on this, soon!

    (P.S. if it is any indication of how much I adore iceberg, I was just going through the running list I’ve been keeping so that I could, at some point, share these things with you, and I had accidentally listed iceberg TWICE!)

    2. Cardenas Lambrusco Red Wine Vinegar

    I have to hand it to my dad. He was right. Red wine vinegar HAD been underrated (by me, at least). Until I tried Cardenas Lambrusco Red Wine Vinegar. We go through this by the case. Unlike other vinegars, it is not sour. It has a bite, but just enough. It is sweet, tangy, and is currently bffaeaeae with my iceberg lettuce. I have been making the same salad every day for the last two months, and it never gets old:

    Iceberg Lettuce, a peach, peeled cucumber, cracked pepper, a little olive oil, a lot of Lambrusco Red Wine Vinegar.

    It is dreamy. I have no idea why.

    Let me just say, last week we had run out of the good stuff, so I used my Whole Foods Brand red wine vinegar and I could not even finish the bowl. Too sour! Not my Cardenas.

    3. Top Chef

    Let me be clear: I watched the first seven or eight seasons of Top Chef religiously.

    The Season 2, Marcel head-shaving incident will go down in history as one of the most dramatic reality tv moments ever, and Kenny and I are devoted members of Bachelor Nation. The night before that well-teased episode was set to air we literally could not sleep, giddy with anticipation.

    Ahh, life before spoilers.

    Then, we fell off. Until one of my favorite podcast hosts started talking about the new Top Chef All Stars season, and, by some stroke of luck, Kenny agreed to start watching with me, in real time, just like the good old days.

    It was everything we wanted and more. Cozy, nostalgic, delicious, dramatic, suspenseful, inspiring, heart-warming, I could go on and on and on. Just in case you will, in fact, take my advice and watch this most recent season of Top Chef (All Stars, Season 17) I shall not spoil it, but let me tell you, I had a very exciting interaction with the winner before they were the winner and I now own merchandise that has to do with the winner and a package of food from the winner just arrived at my door, so I encourage you to watch so we can discuss this and you can also enjoy the cozy, inspiring, nostalgic, happy deliciousness.

    (Top Chef has also been the gift that keeps on giving, as all of the seasons of the show are available on Hulu, so we’ve gotten to re-watch and catch up since we resumed our love affair with the show.)

    4. Coffee

    I’ve been a tea girl for as long a I can remember.

    Chai was almost a verb for me, “Hey, wanna chai?”

    And don’t get me wrong, I still love it, but I’ve pivoted. I’ve gotten basic.

    I’ve realized that with enough sweetener and creamer it is not only delicious but crave-worthy.

    I like my coffee hot, but flavored similarly to coffee ice cream. Light and sweet. BUT, when Kenny makes it with with AeroPress I can even drink it black. It’s that good. Why someone would choose to drink it black instead of with milk and sugar is beyond me, but it no longer disgusts me. We chemex. We use a machine. We have Nespresso pods. I am almost like a big girl!

    Which leads me to my next discovery which is…

    5. Oat Milk

    I get it, I get it, oat milk has not only been a thing, but it has been THE THING.

    I am late on this! I am often late on things. I refused to get emojis until I turned 30, if you recall. I still don’t have Uber.

    But oat milk, oh yes. You were right.

    I have a complicated relationship with milk and so when I am trying to avoid it things (like coffee!!!!) become tricky. Vanilla almond milk is fine in smoothies, but it just does not taste good to me in a latte. Enter: Oat Milk.

    It is creamy, the flavor goes beautifully with my coffee, and I would drink it straight. It reminds me of soy milk, which I also love but do not often buy, and I don’t know why I am telling you this, because you certainly know way more about oat milk than I do, as you were not, in fact, late to this oat milk party, but now you know I know, ya know?

    6. Puzzles

    This is TOTALLY new to me. I talked about my love of puzzles just last week, and this love has only grown. I won’t repeat myself. I will, however, say that I tackled two 1000 piece puzzles in this last week

    (Love Lives Here puzzle and All Good Things Are Wild and Free puzzle).

    I have a crazy idea about puzzles, but I think I’ll keep that one up my sleeve.

    7. Professional home self tan kit

    I don’t think I have ever felt less cute or confident in my life.

    Hyperbole or not, I hardly ever think, “Oh! That looks great!” these days and I have been my own very harsh critic.

    Cue: Flawless Bake By Sophia.

    Full disclosure, Sophia is my friend, but I paid for my kit, this is in no way sponsored, and the fact that Sophia is my friend simply allows me to confidently vouch for her skill, style, and immaculate cleanliness. I ordered my first ever home kit by Sophia right before my 35th birthday in April, as a little treat, and I have used to twice since. Let me just tell you, it has done wonders for my mood.

    I mean it. Something about the subtle, natural glow (that I did not mess up and I mess up everything like this) made me look healthier, less like I’ve been indoors and sullen since March, and was a “self care” moment, when such moments are scarce. I used to treat myself to bi-weekly manicures, and have not been since February, but let me tell you that tanned, bare-nailed hands look much better than pale ones!

    If you are looking for a similar burst of confidence, I cannot recommend this enough! Sophia is amazing (you’ll want to be her) and she will drop to you, ship to you, FaceTime with you, work with you, and you will feel better.

    8. Spice House Spices

    Another Robb Fox find, here, and I must give the man credit where credit is due.

    When he told me he was buying a set of spices from Spice House I was, to be honest, mildly skeptical and somewhat indifferent.

    I was also completely, totally wrong.

    As someone who has never liked dried herbs, I will tell you that this set of essentials is so good we have purchased two more sets during quarantine. My personal favorites include the sweet curry, garlic powder, celery seed, dill weed, onion powder, and cumin. You have no idea how big this is for me. I think you’d enjoy, as well!

    9. Organization

    Look, I cannot say I find the process to be meditative. If I could outsource it, I would. I get that some people like the act of purging, placing, folding, etc. but I am not one of these people. It is, still, a chore.

    But, alas, I have been stuck at home for eight months, and the clutter and disorder was really getting to me. Messiness gives me anxiety and my anxiety is already so high. I read articles and followed Instagram pages and made some Amazon orders and let me tell you, tackling one, small area or project at a time has been manageable and the rewards have been awesome.

    I bought different kinds of bins, set up two donation pick-ups, dropped bags off on my best friends’ stoops, and went to town (again, one one, small space at a time). I recommend this.

    Now, every time I look in my pantry to see neat rows of snacks all organized by type and size, with each type of item in its own, sorted bin, I feel accomplished; less anxious.

    10. Audiobooks

    Late in 2019 something embarrassing occurred to me: during the year prior I had WRITTEN more books than I had read.

    I was mortified!

    I was also completely unsure of how to find time to read when I had children and dogs and a husband and a pandemic to keep an eye on.

    Audiobooks, for the win! I have been “reading” with my ears nonstop, even replacing my beloved podcasts with audiobooks (from all different genres). Not only do I find these books enjoyable, but having read more than one book makes me feel accomplished. Imagine that!

    I often share my book recommendations over on my Instagram page, so you can follow along there. I have been really into junky, fluffy, easy thrillers lately, but this summer I also read some non-fiction pieces (ranging from Andy Cohen to Bob Woodward) so I have a lot to recommend.

    11. Putting it out there

    Ok, this is not new, and I would not say I am “obsessed” with this, but I want to use this opportunity to thank you.

    You have allowed me to continue to put it out there, whether “it” has been my twirling, magical dance parties with baby Belle in 2010 or “it” was the bleakest days of my postpartum depression, and you have followed along, supported me, and given me an incredible sense of solidarity.

    In this case, though, I want to thank you on behalf of my kids. I put myself out there a few times this summer, with their permission, and I admitted (on social media) that we are still “staying home” as a family, and that it can be lonely. I shared that Beau is obsessed with Minecraft, and could use a virtual buddy to play with. I explained my kids’ unique school situation, having gone back to public school just last year, right before quarantine, and how we all long for connection. I know that by sharing my clear, potentially controversial viewpoint on the pandemic I am opening myself up to criticism and judgement. I am, potentially, further isolating my kids.

    But, by putting it out there, I found some brave, bold, honest, good, kind people who, I now know, are my people.

    Moms who also want to set up Minecraft dates for their kids and with whom I now text daily, about Minecraft, yes, but also about motherhood, health worries, and life.

    Parents who are working to welcome my kids to their school community.

    Strangers who tell us that what we are doing is helping others to stay safe, giving us a sense of purpose during this sea of worry.

    If you are also staying at home, reach out. To me! To someone. The loneliness is crushing and it does not have to be.
    If you are not, reach out! To those who wish they could, also, be out having fun but, for one reason or another, cannot.

    It is hard to display vulnerability. But, when you do, you often reap the sweetest rewards.

    ***

    There you have 11 of the things I have been obsessed with during this period of time.

    As I finished typing that last paragraph I realized that I left some incredibly important items off the list (my daily yoga practice, if you can even call it that, Beau’s newfound love for basketball and The Sixers, sweet munchee cheese, to name a precious few), but maybe I’ll just use those missed opportunities as a chance to connect in the future. See #11.

    I hope you have as happy of a day as is possible, considering. For many, it is the first day of school! You’ve got this!

    For others, change looms in the air. We’re in this together!

    Now, go make yourself a delicious iceberg salad and eat it in front of the television as you start season 17 of Top Chef as you wait for your sunless tan to develop. Just don’t trip on the puzzle piece!

    xx,

    B

  • COVID19 is making me feel like a bad mom.

    (What I have done for the last 2 months: yoga every day.
    What I have not done for the last 2 months: felt, in any way, relaxed, calm, peaceful, or zen.)

    ***

    try (verb): 
    make an attempt or effort to do something; an attempt to achieve or attain.
     trying (adjective):
    difficult or annoying; hard to endure.
    Has any other homonym been more applicable during this pandemic?
    If so, forgive me. My brain is oh so tired. (And, while your’e at it, please give me bonus points for remembering the difference between a homonym and homophone!)
    We are about to enter into another novel phase of this novel time of this novel virus,
    and I am scared. The two hands I wrote about in May are not just full; they are unkempt, unmanicured, weathered, and they are trembling.
    I have shared a lot of how I am feeling on my Instagram page (particularly in a highlight called RL Talk COVID, if you are interested), but compared to my normal level of openness, honesty, and verbosity, I’ve been quiet.
    I have spoken about my anxiety and hypochondria, shared my worries for my kids, posted metaphors about how, for me, the idea of schools reopening now feels like trying to shuttle kids in school busses during a severe blizzard.
     What I have not yet shared? The thing that is so hard to consider that I, most often, do not; the thing that hit me, just yesterday, during a teletherapy session; the thing that is just as novel to me as this virus and chapter in history:
    COVID19 is making me feel like a bad mom.
    Allow me to explain.
    There are so many things that make me feel like me. 
    In “normal life” I am proud to identify as many things at the same time. While being a mom always tops the list, I am also proud to be a wife, and an author, and a blogger, and a friend, and a daughter, and a sister, and a singer, and as part of a rock and roll band, and an advocate, and as a speaker, and as a gardener, and as someone who faces tasks head on.
    As COVID19 began its perilous spread, each of these things began to fall. Some were in deafening collapses. Others were silent.
    This one hurts the most.
    All of my external identifying factors began to disappear.
    (As swiftly as the disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer bottles on store shelves? Too much? Too much.)
    My second bookBaby Ever After, came out right before the pandemic reared its head. I was an author with a book that could not be promoted properly. I could no longer blog, as I had mommy school to teach. I had a singing gig lined up for July, along with my incredible guitar teacher, and I would be able to play for the first time ever in public. We all know how that went.
    All of my attention had to be harnessed inward, or at least to the inside of our home.
    I tried to keep our spirits up. I tried to keep us connected. I tried to keep music in the air.
    In the past, even in my darkest days, I could still host a raging dance party for my kids.
    I could twirl them around, play them like a guitar in my arms, set the amp to blast music so loud that it felt like the house would shimmy and shake along with us. I could keep my kids happy.
    I could overcome.
    I’d done this before! I had worked through a crisis! Even when I hated myself during those miserable months of postpartum depression, I loved them enough to keep them happy. I over-functioned, in many ways. I couldn’t do many simple things (you know, like feed myself), but I could plan elaborate costume parties, perform in rock concerts, make kale smoothies, enroll both kids in the right schools, participate in fun classes, and jump in ball pits. I even got them their own ball pit! (Note: I have never been good with germs).
    I was on top of my shit.
    I could persevere through my own suffering just enough to give them all they wanted and needed and then a little bit more, leaving exactly no reserves left, but it was OK. It kept us afloat. It wasn’t ideal, but they were smiling and thriving and nothing mattered more.
    It was trying, but I was trying, and, most of the time, my tries were triumphant.
    All of this is to say, motherhood was this one, salient, impenetrable thing I could always fall back on. I’ve been blogging here for ten years, and during that time I have been open about many of my struggles and alluded to others, but during all of these times I still felt like a MOM. A mommyish mom. A good mom.
    And that feeling, the one thing that has been my buoy, is gone.
    Right now, as this un-summery-summer is drawing to a devastating close, I feel more lost than ever before.
    Adrift.
    I do not even know which direction in which to paddle my arms.
    With little leadership, no uniformity, limited data, inadequate supplies, and a poor sense of direction I am trying and trying and trying to tread water, because I do not know what else to do.
    When I look in one direction, I see red hazard lights blaring.
    “Stop!” They indicate. “There is danger, ahead! We do not know exactly what this danger is, but it is bad. It is so bad. We know it is probably even worse than we think, but we will not know for a long time, but trust us: you should be scared! Oh! And make sure to scare your children, as well! Not, like, scar them scare them, but make sure they know the gravity of the situation! Stay. At. Home.”
    When my head whips in a different direction I see the flags from mental health organizations, hanging soberly.
    “It is OK to not be OK,” they read. There is profound compassion and obvious good intentions.
    The flags wave in the wind, but I can still make out their words.
    “Kids need other kids!”
    “Kids are suffering!”
    “Kids aren’t meant to be alone!”
    “SAVE THE KIDS!”
    This is so confusing. Both directions are telling me to save the kids, and all I want to do is to save the kids, but I cannot do both, and I do not know which direction in which to head, and I should know.
    A good mom would know.
    The sound of loud music thumping draws my attention to yet another direction.
    A pool party! In the sea! How about that!? It is almost as if science doesn’t matter and a pool can exist in a churning ocean! WHOA! These people either know something about science that I don’t or…
    …wait, I cannot think straight, the music is too loud.
    As I try to make out the figures at the party in the distance I realize that it is hard because they are so close together.
     They are raising glasses of colorful drinks, throwing arms over shoulders, laughing with unmasked mouths.
    What. the. fuck?
    “Come hang with us, kids!” The partygoers shout. “We have candy! New friends! Fun!”
    It is as if I am looking at a reality so different than my own that, although there is something vaguely familiar about the scene, it is impossible for me to comprehend. It feels like something I must have dreamt about, a long time ago.
    And then there is yet another direction in which I feel myself being pulled.
    I hear laughter, there.
    Laughter feels better than the blaring of red sirens, or the somber flag-waving, or the thumping party music.
    When I turn my head in that direction I see the most startling sight of all.
    I see little Becca, on stage, dressed as a cat, with perfectly applied cat-person makeup, belting out a song into a microphone.
    It is a scene from my fifth grade play (which was, obviously, “Cats!”)
    I see a montage of scenes from my youth, in which I am talking to, and laughing at, and playing with my friends, who are still, to this day, my best friends. We are making shared memories. Doing things that we will, I know, still be talking about almost three decades later, as we reflect back with fondness and warmth.
    It is this direction that finally knocks the wind out of me.
    I can barely tread water anymore. I want to throw up.
    It is in this direction that I am seeing everything that my kids cannot have. It is in this direction that I feel that I am failing Belle and Beau most. It is in this direction that I am reminded of all the ways in which, despite my best efforts, my trying cannot triumph any longer.
    ***
    Despite the mounting uncertainty, there are three things I know to be absolutely true right now:
    1. This is hard for everyone. No one likes this.
    2. I am extremely privileged. I have a partner, a home, resources, access to care, and so many advantages. I am aware of and grateful for my privilege every single day.
    3. I love my kids so much that, just sitting here and typing those words, I feel a physical ache in my chest and stomach. I love them so much that it hurts. I love them in ways that I never thought possible. I love them more than I did yesterday.
    If only that camaraderie, that privilege, and that love were enough.
    Right now, everything feels surreal and impossible. Like a choose-your-own-adventure nightmare.
    Make a choice, face the consequences. Pick between multiple bad options.
    How can I do my best to keep my kids physically healthy and mentally healthy right now?
    Do I prioritize their short-term and long-term physical safety, which, if compromised, I cannot necessarily control or treat, or do I prioritize their happiness, over which I feel like I have a slightly better handle?
    Do I keep them enrolled in their pubic school, the school where they have both finally found a safe home, knowing that we are at the school’s mercy? Do I sign them up for the year-long virtual school, so that things will be consistent, but will no longer allow them to be part of their home school community?
    Will they learn? Will they grow? Will they feel confident?
    Does the school know what they’re doing? Will they reopen in person? What metrics are they using to determine the safety?
    What about the teachers? The teachers who are my friends? What about the teachers who have helped our kids and loved our kids and devote their lives to them? How do we keep them safe?
    Will my kids be the only ones stuck inside, alone, while their peers POD up into discrete groups?
    Will my kids be ok without a POD?
    Is anyone being as cautious as we are so that we could even entertain the idea of a POD?
    How do I find out?
    Whom can I trust?
    Am I making the right choice?
    What if I allow them to see people and someone gets sick?
    What if they get my parents sick?
    What if someone dies?
    Would I really send my kids to school during an unprecedented, dangerous blizzard?
    Will they ever make memories like I did in “Cats” or did I (and not COVID) rob them of the joys of childhood?
    Will they resent me? Does that even matter? Would I even blame them?
    Why is this so hard for me?
    Why is everything so hard for me?
    Why do I have to be such a whiner? Will people read this and roll their eyes at me? Chide me for complaining?
    Will I be more alone than I am now?
    Will that negatively impact the kids and their ability to socialize?
    Why can I do better?
    Why can’t I just be a good mom?
    ***
    I have said it before and I will say it again: We are the lucky ones. I said it about my postpartum depression and the fact that I survived. By the skin of my teeth, I did, but I did.
    I was able to order school supplies. My sister gave me the furniture from her old apartment and it is cool and functional and allowed me to set up classroom areas for both Belle and Beau.
    But, as we all know, it is not about the infrastructure, it is about what is inside.
    Right now, we are a family who does not see other people indoors. We still do not go into any public places, except for visits to the doctor that are necessary and unavoidable. We have our groceries delivered and wipe down every item with disinfectant. We do the same with takeout, and only order from restaurants that are not currently allowing for indoor dining. It is an arbitrary rule, but one that gives us a small sense of control.
    We try to get outside every day, but some days, like yesterday, the kids did not leave the house. They were down, and it was a vicious cycle. I took some time to water the plants in my greenhouse, but it no longer feels like my sanctuary; yesterday it felt more like a chore. I cannot identify as a gardener anymore. My plants are yielding a stunningly small amount of fruit this year.
    How fitting.
    This is the best I can do, as I keep treading water, spinning around in every direction, reading, researching, evaluating.
    Trying.
    I do not know when things will change, how much worse they will get before they improve, or how much my anxiety is influencing that grim internal forecast.
    I do not know if I am making the right choices, and that is something I may never know.
    There is no one right choice, after all.
    Every choice exists on a spectrum, as a shade of right and a shade of wrong. I’ll try to look at it as the former.
    Today, I do not feel my best, but I do not feel my worst.
    I do not feel like a great mom, but I am hopeful it will change. As COVID19 evolves, so will I.
    Today, though, unlike most days, I was a writer. A blogger. An advocate for my children and yours.
    I hope that counts for something.
    At least I tried my best.
  • My children have a different accent than I do

    “Now, everyone, take out your R and J,” said Mr. Segal, as he paced, slowly but excitedly, at the front of the classroom.

    It was 2000.

    Mr. Segal was my high school English teacher, and he emanated passion an inspiration as only supremely gifted high school English teachers do. I was lucky enough to have him for both my Freshman and Junior years, and he changed my life as only supremely gifted high school English teachers can.

    I remember looking up from my desk at my young, beaming role model feeling perplexed.

    “Take out my orangade?”

    I was not being fresh. I did not understand what he was talking about.

    He chuckled, in a way that was so warm that I remember it today, as only supremely kind high school English teachers can.

    “Only in Philadelphia would this be a point of confusion! Your R AND J. Romeo and Juliet.”

    Mr. Segal had come from Chicago, and his very first period as supremely gifted, kind, warm, talented high school English teacher at Lower Merion High School was also my very first period as a supremely overwhelmed, hopeful, excited, nervous high school student.

    He explained to me that it was my unique accent that made “R and J” sound like “orange ade.”

    (Now, say it out loud three times fast.

    Hey, maybe it’s the January 30, 2020 version of Laurel and Yanny!

    YOU NEVER KNOW!)

    This memory has always tickled me, and though I do not have THE Philly accent, I certainly have A Philly accent.

    I kind of like it. I would be proud for my kids to wear it, along with their Eagles sweatshirts and other jawn.

    And that is why earlier today, when Beau asked me about my seventh favorite color, I realized I needed to make a public confession about a startling observation:

    My children have a different accent than I do.

    I do not understand this. How does this happen?! We live together. They used to live inside of me. And yet, when describing the color that sits between REHD and YEH-low in the rainbow, they pronounce it as:

    ORE-uhnj

    (or, as I like to say, incorrectly.)

     This comes up not infrequently. The topic was raised, again, just hours after the debacle with the color that you get when you mix red paint with yellow paint as Beau and I talked about The Bachelor.

    Our conversation went something like this:

    Beau: “What’s your favorite season of The Bachelor?”

    Me: “I don’t know! What’s yours?”

    Beau: “I like The Bachelorette. I like Hannah’s season when Hannah picks Jed. But, they broke up, right? Because he had a girlfriend. They never even got married, did they?”

    Me, silently, to myself, in my head: “You just said so many words differently than I do! This is more confusing than Hannah choosing Jed AND bringing Luke P. to the final four!”

    Me, out loud, to Beau: “Nope. They got engaged, but they didn’t get married.”

    And this is when we began our discussion about the final word in that sentence; you know, the thing that some people do after they get engaged, and sometimes there are brides and/or grooms and vows and rings.

    My children say this, as most people I meet say this, by pronouncing the word MAH-reed with the first syllable sounding like the name of a female horse.

    You thought Laurel and Yanny were tough to decode? Hold onto your hats (which are CLEARLY pronounced HAAAHTS)!

    A quiz for you:

    1) How do you say the word above, like when two people tie the knot?

    2) How do you wish someone a pleasant Christmas (a time when they may eat, drink, and be ___)?

    3) How do you say the name of Jesus’ mother? The girl who has a little lamb with fleece as white as snow? The gardener who is quite contrary?

    For many of you, 1), 2), and 3) are pronounced the exact. same. way.

    My children are like many of you.

    This confuses me, deeply. As I might have mentioned, my children have a different accent than I do!

    For me, the three words above are pronounced discretely and differently and like this:

    1) You get MAH-reed.

    2) MEH-REE Christmas!!!

    3) I don’t even know how to spell out Mary, but it’s something like Mare-ee and that’s that.

    Look. I am an extremely tolerant person. I am not judgmental and I think that people have fundamental rights to be who they are. There is one exception.

    In the anecdote above, when Beau asked me about Bachelor Nation

    (and right before he told me that if he went on The Bacehlorette he’d use “Hey, girl” as his limo entrance line)

    he did not say HANNAH. He said Hannah, with the “HA” part pronounced like the HA in HANd.

    Fine. Tomato, tomah-to. Orangeade.

    But, I find it egregious when my daughter mispronounces her own name. .

    HER NAME! Her name that was given to her with such love and care and sentimentality.

    Annabelle Lily.

    When she tells me that her name is AENNabell I try to invoke executive privilege.

    (Too soon? Tooooo soooon, but hey, aren’t we all just trying to cope?)

    “I GAVE YOU THE NAME! I KNOW HOW TO SAY IT!”

    And when I go off one of these calm but passionate tirades, and mention the fact that Jared Haibon, from Kaitlyn’s season of The Bachelorette and all the Bachelor in Paradises, says these words like I do, and every time he says the word “paradise” it makes me love him and an angel gets her wings, they snicker together, and team up against me, and start to pronounce things with long, over-exaggerated, drawn out vowels.
    “AHHHNAHHHBEHL!”

    And then I question whether or not they are here for the right reasons.

    ***

    This isn’t one of those posts with a neat bow, or poignant message, or sleek date card envelope.

    It is a lot of little things. A snapshot in time. A journal entry. A nod to my favorite teacher. A tribute to my high school during a week when my high school needs it more than ever. A cherishing of my kids. A silly ditty. A reminder that while I try to encourage my kids to veer away from binary thinking, when you are faced with the choice between Tyler C. and Jed, there really isn’t a gray area.

    ***

    “Mom,” Beau asked, as he cuddled into the nook in my underarm.

    (I pronounce this UHN-der arm. You may pronounce it ARM-PIT.)

    He yawned and looked up at me with sleepy eyes. “Remember when Arie chose Becca and they got engaged but they didn’t get married and he broke up with her and then proposed to Lauren?”

    I nodded, bursting with pride. He might not say his colors correctly, but he is well-versed in Bachelor cannon. I know, in my heart, that Romeo and Juliet will soon follow.

    He did not have a follow up question. I think he just wanted me to know he knows.

     MEH-ree Pub Day Eve, to all.

    And, for what it’s worth, I heard both Laurel and Yanny.

    xx,

    B

    Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 8.24.30 PMHe might look sweet, but, really, he’s suh sweet.

  • Dear babies

    Dear babies,

    First off, I know that you are not babies. 

    But, I also know that when I feel one of you reach for me in the middle of the night,

    or smile as you greet me with sleepy, almond-eyes first thing in the morning,

    or kiss your eyelids as you slumber,

    it’s just like you are my little babies all over again.

    It has been a long time since I have written a post, babies, but I realized that if I dictate a post and then put it into this little window here it allows me to share things with you without having to violate my “screen break” rules.

    When I wrote about how hard it is to be a parent, we were only just embarking upon this new chapter in our lives.

    I thought being a parent was hard THEN! It has gotten harder.

    As always, it has also gotten more magical; remember, that is why we all have two hands.

    We had an emotional summer, with storms that shook our house, both literally and figuratively.

    But, I am not writing to you to dwell on the hard stuff. We know the hard stuff.

    I am writing to you to memorialize the special stuff.

    When I started writing this blog, a whole nine years and three months ago, it was my way of chronicling life in real time. I did not want to forget any moments. Thousands of posts later, I still want to keep this online baby book, for my babies who are not really babies at all.

    But, like I said,

    and in the words of Mariah,

    you’ll always be my baby (babies).

    It is a cloudy, September afternoon. Beau, you are downstairs with daddy, eating “Taylor ham, made from bacon pigs, not pig pigs, hot, but on a cold plate, extra floppy.”

    You crack me up, kiddo. You just said to daddy, “You know, if you want, you can make me some Taylor Ham. And, you know, if you want, you can give me a bowl of Rice Chex and an icy cold glass of milk. And, you know, if you want, you can give me the Rice Chex while the Taylor Ham is cooking.”

    I never want to forget your mastery of language, and the quirky-adorable-hilarious-brilliant way you say things.

    (Recently, you got so mad at your sister for tricking you into smelling a yucky essential oil.

    “It’s on my hands!” you shouted to me.

    “It is on my hands, but it is hovering over my hands and up to my nostrils! This is horrifying!

    I smell like an ANTIQUE SHOP!“)

    Belle, you are in your room, and I just brought you a mug of hot cocoa with whipped cream and an inappropriate slogan. Some people would judge me for giving you something like this (both the cocoa and the inappropriate mug), but you guys know that even though I sometimes say “bad words,” I never say the worst word: hate. As long as you abide by that, I am cool with you knowing a lot of words. And having hot cocoa as an appetizer.

    You continue to amaze me, sweet girl. This morning, you asked us if you could make us breakfast, and brought daddy a green smoothie in bed. You have such a big heart.

    ***

    I just got home from physical therapy, and I had an experience there that made me think of you.

    I did not want to forget.

    I was having my bad back pain, and some nerve pain was shooting down my arm (this happens a lot lately – something that I am less eager to remember, but still) so my physical therapist decided to try a new position on me.

    She sat me on a raised mat, and pulled her stool right up to me so that she was facing me, just inches away. She pressed into my belly, next to my rib, with her hand, and told me to lean into her hand as I bent forward. This made my arm hurt and my hand get tingly, so she told me to place that arm over her shoulder as I leaned in, like a half hug.

    As I sat there, leaning into my physical therapist, I was immediately brought back to the operating room at Lankenau Hospital, at that very same time in the afternoon, on a Thursday, almost six years ago.

    I was getting ready to receive my epidural -

    which means I was actually getting ready to meet you, Beau -

    and I was scared.

    That is the truth. I was really, really scared.

    Anna, the medical student assigned to my surgery, told me to lean forward and drape my arms over her shoulders. She instructed me to lean into her, and to hug her, and she held me, gently, as the anesthesiologist put the medicine into my back.

    ***

    Even though this summer was a doozy, there are some really special moments I want to remember.

    Beau, I cherish the time we spent “chit chatting” on the unicorn float. The hours we spent there, being cozy in the sunshine on the black and white striped towels, talking about horror movies, and Pokemon cards, and life, were some of the most lovely moments I have ever had. I loved finding Lemon the white frog with you, and teaching you to play baseball in the garage, and watching you do flips and handstands in the water. I loved playing charades with you, especially as you’ve become an expert on Titanic, The Bachelorette, and the characters from Donkey Kong.

    Bellie, I loved our s’mores dates on the front patio. I am so proud of you for so many reasons, including your love of absolutely charred marshmallows, burnt into oblivion. I had the best time playing basketball with you (you and Zeyds against daddy, Bubs, and me), and hearing you sing “Arabian Nights” in your play, and sitting on the porch swing with you as you helped to edit the picture book. I loved watching “Now and Then” and “The Sandlot” with you for the first time, and I agree that you’re totally a Sam, with maybe just a little Teeny mixed in.

    My favorite memory of all, though, I think, is from the last night of summer at Fox Hollow, when the four of us played “Truth or Dare” in the hot tub. I bet you didn’t expect me to actually jump in when you dared me to sing, “Shallow” on the ledge of the deep end! I loved listening to music, and watching the lights change colors, and watching you make each other laugh in the way that only you two can.

    My dear babies I love you more than I know how to convey. My brain is still healing, and so this is not my most eloquent piece of writing, but it captures a few moments like grainy polaroid pictures; they aren’t the highest quality, but they are often the most raw and real. I will keep working really hard to get my brain back to normal so that I can write polaroid posts by choice, rather than by necessity.

    Beau, I think you’ve just finished your exquisite dinner (extra floppy pork roll FTW!) and Belle, I am going to snuggle up with you, Tina Turner, Twinkle Ra Ra Rainbow Ta Ta, and Pinkberry, because you told me that you’re still not feeling so hot. And I will kiss you, because I do not care if I get your cooties.

    They are my favorite cooties.

    You are my favorite things in this world.

    Dear babies,

    as they say, life can be tough, but so are you. So are we.

    And, when you read this, I guarantee I will love you so so so so so much more than I do right now.

    Because I love you more with each breath.

    Love XOXO,

    Mama

  • Babysitting

    originally published on this here site, over four years ago, and I still feel the very same way!
    Photo circa April, 2014 — Beau’s former signature move. Today, he is still just as crafty, he is just a lot taller. 
    Or, as I like to call it, “Why everyone who wants to be a parent someday should babysit (and not for the reasons that you think”).
    I know what is going through your head. You think that I am going to advise you to do a lot of babysitting before becoming a parent so that you can see what it is like to be responsible for taking care of kids. How children can lead to levels of exhaustion and fear that would impossible to describe without having experienced it firsthand.
    No.
    That is not what I am thinking at all.
    I was just carrying my 28lb toddler while trying to simultaneously hold my kale smoothie (which he was drinking from my straw) and a covered cup of hot cocoa (The smoothie makes me cold! Hot beverages are dangerous around babies!) and I was thinking about how today my “work day” will be 10 hours long. Today, during my shift, I will be a cook, a cleaning person, a mediator, a clown, a nurse, an IT specialist, a detective, a photographer, a chauffeur, a dishwasher, an actor and a human jungle gym. I will not be getting paid.
    I managed to get the smoothie, cocoa and kid safely up the stairs and my thoughts continued to swirl as I snatched tiny socks up off of the floor, straightened a mini bookshelf and changed a diaper. As I continued to do task after task, all while trying to keep my son, toothbrush and glasses out of the toilet and the toilet paper out of my son’s mouth, I had the same refrain echoing through my head:
    “I used to get paid for this.”
    And so, here is why I am now determined to spread the word to all of you: If you have yet to have children and plan to (either imminently or in the future) then take my word for this. Babysit. Babysit now. Do it as much as you can. It is an amazing job. This is why:
    1. You get paid to play
    Even if you have the best, most high-power job–you know, like one where you go to meetings and write emails (as I have said, I do not totally understand a person’s job unless you can dress up as that person for Halloween)–I am sure that you can find a few minutes out of your week to play with some kids. You can give piggyback rides and play hide-and-seek and, at the end of your playtime, someone is going to hand money to you.
    2. The Snacks
    If you are babysitting, that means that you get to spend time in someone else’s home, which means that you get to raid someone else’s pantry. And, in all likelihood, a person with kids has good snacks. Of course you don’t buy Birthday Cake flavored Goldfish at home. You still shop at Whole Foods. But while babysitting you get to have snack time and enjoy double-stuffed Oreos, Pop Tarts and those little bags of gummy fruit (those are just examples of what is in my cabinet currently, but the possibilities are endless). And then there are meals. If you are babysitting during breakfast hours, imagine your cereal options. And what lunch is better than a PBJ with a juice box?
    3. You a hero
    As a babysitter, you do all of the things that parents simply do not have the time or energy to do. You do art projects. You make up creative games. You can take all of the receipts that you’ve been meaning to throw out of your purse and roll them into balls and throw them. That is a solid half-hour of entertainment, and you get to simultaneously “work” while knowing that someone else will be cleaning up your (literal) paper trail. You take kids to the park. You can pretend to be the bad guy. You let the kids use the bathtub as a pool. Because, why not? It’s fun.
    And it’s only for 20 minutes.
    4. Cash
    Babysitting is especially lucrative because you get paid in cash. And not only do you get paid in cash, but you have an hourly rate, which means that if you are watching children for 3 hours and 15 minutes you will inevitably get paid for that entire extra hour. No one wants to piss off the babysitter.
    5. You get to go home at the end of the day/night
    As a babysitter, you are there for the honeymoon period. You aren’t responsible for cleaning up the giant mess that you and the kids have made because “you were having so much fun!” and so you just “ran out of time playing!”. You don’t have to be the main disciplinarian, as special rules apply when you are over (“Yes you can stay up an hour late, but just for tonight”). You may have to deal with some of the yucky realities of the different things that can come out of children’s bodies, but only for a bit. You can handle one nasty diaper. You can handle it because you can go home and pour yourself a drink and put your feet up, because what’s one diaper when you have Bravo to watch.
    So, if you are someone who does not have children, I suggest that you babysit, as it is the second best job in the world. You get to receive wet kisses and warm snuggles and you are responsible for helping to shape a human being. You build bonds and you have inside jokes and you can eat yogurt from a tube. Babysit. Babysit whenever you can. Because someday, perhaps, you will have to do everything, and more, and you will be doing it without pay.
    Except…
    It really is only the second best job. I haven’t had all of the jobs (see above; I cannot be a consultant because what the hell does a consultant wear? A French Maid, however, I could be!) but I have worked professionally as a teacher and writer and I have performed as an actor and singer, but nothing in the world compares to the moment when you, as a parent, walk through the door, after your child has been with his babysitter, and your wild maniac of a toddler comes barreling towards you, chanting, “Mama! Mama!”
    Yes, being a parent is the hardest job in the world. I see you brain surgeon shaking your head (by the way, I know how to dress up as you, so ha!). You are responsible for saving lives. Well, so am I. And not only am I responsible for making sure that my kids are safe, but also happy, secure and confident. I have to instill values and carry more weight than I ever could have imagined, both literally and figuratively.
    I hope I have made myself clear and that you think of me when you are dunking your cookies in milk while playing Candyland and getting a big hug from little arms FOR PAY.
    But, for now, I have must run; My son’s face is covered in a mixture of Oreos and snot.
    Is this part of motherhood fun? No. But is it worth it? Yes. Without a doubt.
  • #honestmotherhood

    “I am calling this post #honestmotherhood, brought to you by this thing I try to do called honest motherhood.

    It is when I share things about my life — motherhood in particular — that are honest and raw and occasionally unflattering and sometimes comical.

    To get off on the right (honest) foot, I have to admit that I have now gotten to the point where after almost 8.5 years of writing this blog I have to search my own site to make sure that I am not writing a duplicate post! I have written extensively on the subject of motherhood and all of its charms (and cray) and it is quite fun to take a trip down blog-memory-lane, as there are moments that, without this site, I would have forgotten. For instance, I know that I have spilled kale smoothies in the past few years, but I did not remember just how times and in how many locations a kale smoothie has been spilled. Together, on here, we have laughed, cried, face-palmed, danced and raged.

    Why? Because I always try to #keepitreal and share about #honestmotherhood in a way that feels both respectful to you and respectful to my family. This means that I will never tell a direct lie, but it also means that there are areas of my life about which I do not write. There are things I keep private about my kids and my friends and that is because this blog was my decision and so their stories (when more than just kale-smoothie-related) are not mine to tell.

    But, some are funny enough and innocuous enough that I can share them, because I think you will find them funny, too.”

    …is what I wrote on August 10.

    I then got a call from my bae about her ridiculously “Becca-ish” morning and everything got derailed in the best way and I stopped writing about #honestmotherhood and wrote this post, instead.

     The funny thing is, I have no idea what happened on August 10 that inspired me to write about motherhood, honestly, and that is because every single day I find myself having “hashtag moments” (#hashtagmoments?) about which I could write an entire zany, honest, maybe tear-jerking or maybe laughter-inducing post.
    Isn’t that what life is like?

    For instance, on September 6 I posted this to my instagram page:

    Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 12.07.02 PM

    rebeccafoxstarr I need to keep it real. I need to make a confession: today, I did many things, but I failed in one huge way; I forgot to take care of myself. I’m now paying for it. Today, I had pretty bad hip pain, & yet I still limped my way up to the 3rd floor of my kids’ school to take my daughter to class; I had appointments & meetings; I worked & I parented; I neglected my basic human needs and it was all fine and good until it caught up to me, quite abruptly, in a most undesirable moment. I picked up my kids from school & my daughter told me that she needed a binder for class tomorrow. Instead of turning right to go home (where I would have had access to food, drink, Tylenol & rest), I turned left & limped my way around Staples, with 2 kids & 800 school supplies to wrangle. At one point I crouched down (for wide ruled paper) & I couldn’t stand back up. I type this with tears in my eyes. I started to feel faint & as my kids rummaged through the $5 bin for Pez & slime I said, “You guys, stop. I’m not feeling well.” When I stood up, I saw that someone I know – another mom – was standing right before me & she looked at me with such incredible empathy and offered to help me; to find me a snack (thank you, R) & I apologized to her for my moment of weakness. I finished our shop while eating a granola bar with my one free hand and when we finally got home I really thought I was going to pass out. I drank & sat & then had to make a really hard phone call. I had to call my mom to tell her that I was feeling sick, & she said (100% correctly) that I couldn’t go to the Eagles Home opener with my family. With my dad. My heart hurts, because this it is all my fault. I’m so sorry. Today, I messed up. I’m writing this to remember; to hold myself accountable. With regret xx, B **

    It was a total #honestmotherhood moment and, since then, I have tried to be better about taking breaks and taking time, but I have been far from perfect. That’s the honest part.

    But, this week was its own animal. Actually, Thursday was an animal inside of an animal.

    Ahh, yes. Thursday was a friggin’ pregnant animal. And we’ve come full circle (#motherhood).

    On Thursday, I woke up with my eyes matted together. Sorry for the horrific graphic, but I could not open them, when I did they would not stop tearing, and with once glance in the mirror I saw that I had, what we often refer to as, pink eye,

    though, in my case, it was more “red eye”

    as I tend to be an overachiever like that.

    Taking care of two children and getting them to school by 8:30 in the morning is a feat in and of itself (for me), as it involves outfits and meals and more meals and hair styles and more hairstyles and all of these things are extremely hard to do when you do not want to touch (lest you infect) your children.

    But, it got done, and I got myself to the eye doctor, whose exact words were, “Wow, this is impressive!”

    Major case of viral pink (red) eye (0r, in his words, conjunctivitis) and explicit instructions to do over-the-counter treatments, stay home, rest, and avoid parenting. Along with my red eyes I also had some aches and a general feeling of malaise. When I asked him about the concert tickets I had that night (to see the David Byrne masterpiece at The Mann) he said, “If you go to that show tonight I will have a line out my door tomorrow of the people you’ve infected.”

    Hard stop.

    No concert, no family birthday dinner Saturday night, no Eagles game Sunday (again!!!!!!!!!) – just red eyes.

    I was able to take it easy for a whole two hours before my phone lit up with the phone number of my kids’ school on its screen. My husband had so kindly offered to pick them up, and this was the very end of the day, so I was more surprised than alarmed…

    …until I picked up.

    “Hi, Becca,” said the dear, kind nurse, whom I adore. “Don’t worry, nothing is wrong,” she continued, so sweetly (and also with the words that automatically mean that something is, in fact, wrong; albeit not an emergency, but otherwise, she would not be calling. I held my breath.

    “But, I do have to break some news to you. Belle has head lice.”

    Hard stop.

    I grew up with a sister and for the majority of our lives we both had very long, flowing hair. During those 33.5 years I have both lived in fear of AND successfully avoided head lice. It has been a “thing” for me and every single time I hear about someone having lice I cringe and then sigh that it is not me. For some reason I figured that with Belle now in 3rd grade and being 33.5 I was in the clear.

    No. No no no no no.

    Despite the fact that I was “not supposed to parent” I spent the rest of Thursday doing hardcore parenting. I had to call the emergency lice phone number (you’re welcome) and got the emergency lice product and we did all of the things. We treated Belle, combed out her hair, treated Beau, combed out his hair (he did not have lice), treated me, combed out my hair (I did not have lice) and then, worst of all, I had to wash my hair for the second time in two days. I had JUST washed and dried my hair the day before for Yom Kippur and, as someone who washes my hair once a week (at most) I was almost as horrified by the extra hair wash as I was by the nits. #honestmotherhood

    I do want to pass this information on to you, however, as it is very important and will be the best news you’ll get if your child ever has head lice: you don’t have to go crazy cleaning your home. Lice lives on heads, not on furniture. It is a myth that you have to bag up and burn all of your belongings. It is a myth that your couch and crevasses will become infested with lice babies. It is a myth that you have to do major housekeeping backflips. I took the “extra measures” explained to me by the lice expert and simply took anything that could have touched Belle’s head (her pillowcases, stuffed animals, blankets, throw pillows, etc.) and threw them in the dryer on high heat for a few cycles. I boiled the hair brushes in hot water. I may have been a bit overzealous in my cleaning, however.

    Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 12.29.53 PM

    R.I.P. Mason Pearson hair brush.

    (FWIW, this is what it looked like before.)

    By 6pm I had sterilized the house from my conjunctivitis germs, sterilized our heads and home from Belle’s lice cooties, and had a scalp covered in olive oil and rosemary.

    Not only did we have one yucky and highly contagious issue that day, but we had two yucky and highly contagious issues!

    I tend to be an overachiever like that.

    If I am being honest, as that is what this post is all about, it is actually a little embarrassing to write about unsavory things like pink eye and lice and even though we’ve cleared up the latter and I’m working on the former, I still think that you might think I am gross. Like when I have caught myself eating a stray M&M from my son’s carpet and then, just after swallowing, realized the horror of what I’d just done.

    I’m an animal. Like Thursday. #honestmotherhood

    ***

    All in all, Thursday was a tough, overwhelming day but it could have been so much worse. Yeah, I lost out on the chance to go to an amazing show, the ability to say, “Yes, I have indeed kept a lice-free-home!” and my favorite hair brush, but we were all safe and generally healthy and when I brought the whole gang to the lice treatment center salon the next morning, just to have the expert double check for us (I can still proudly say that I, personally, have never had lice, thank you), she told me that this was hardly anything.

    Thursday was sucky, unglamorous and exhausting for me, but, in talking to some of my close friends, it was for them, too. Whether it was because of a job shakeup, an upcoming trip, a baby with insomnia, marital issues, mental health crises…we all had our shit.

    On the spectrum of hard days, mine seemed to be on the pretty easy end. That’s #honestmotherhood for you. It is all about perspective. Sometimes it serves to remind you to be grateful for your health (and that a call from the school nurse could be oh so much worse), to savor clean sheets, and that spending over $100 on a hairbrush is just patently ridiculous.

    ***

    Today, two days later, Belle is totally lice-free (though my hair still feels like olive-oil and I do NOT want to wash it for the third time this week), my eyes are more pink than red and we got to spend the morning running around with a frisbee and soccer ball in our backyard; in the sunshine.

    Things can be sucky and sunny at the same time. That is why I have two hands.

    It won’t always be pretty, but I would not have it any other way…

    except for the lice. I’m fine with never having lice in our house, again.

    #honestmotherhood FTW

    Clear eyes (ha!), full hearts (for sure!), can’t lose.

    ***

    ** This week I changed my instagram handle from @mommyeverafter to @rebeccafoxstarr, so please join me for your daily dose of all things RFS and Co.

  • What do you see?

    Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? 

    I cannot tell you how many times I have said that line, whether it was in reading a bedtime story to my children, teaching a “Baby and Me” or an after school theatre program in my former life as a teacher, or in creating a curriculum aimed at building confidence in young people. Eric Carle is an iconic author, and his whimsical stories are matched with a signature artistry on every page of his books. I can remember my mom reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to me; and that it made me very hungry.

    All of this is to say that when I got an email asking me to review a new rug collaboration, the Eric Carle Elementary Kids Collection, for Home Dynamix, a company with which I have collaborated several times before, I was ecstatic.

    Eric Carle plus interior design? #winning

    And, the timing could not have been more perfect. Since moving into my “new” house, we have slowly and methodically been working on each and every room (in ways big and small) to make them our own. One day I will have to do a full Before/After post, because it’s pretty cool, but most of the work we have done has been cosmetic. You know, paint and light fixtures and decor. Except for the basement. This Fall we did a full, huge, unplanned basement renovation, and it has been life changing.

    Long story short (ha!) some unexpected issues arose in the basement – issues that involved water in places it should not have been – and we had to take the previously partially finished space down to studs. Our old basement used to be like this:

    IMG_4818

    IMG_4771

    IMG_4770

    What do you see?

    It was actually a large amount of space, but it was configured in a way that never really worked. We used it as our kids’ playroom, but, basically, you’d walk down the stairs to this long, narrow-ish room (that you see above; someone once referred to it as a bowling alley) and then there were two separate rooms on the right, the first one being an old darkroom with a full sink set up and the second being more of a workshop/wine storage area. It was big, but not usable.

    Oh, and in the bottom two photos you might be able to see the fully operational SAUNA that had been installed in the room? It might sound lovely to have a 2-person cedar sauna in your home, but to us, sauna = deathtrap for small humans.

    When the “water issue” occurred it was extremely disruptive and even a little sad, as we had to throw away ALL of our children’s toys, many of which were very sentimental. Like, the fairy tent you can see, above, which was Beau’s gift to Belle when he was born. But, it gave us the chance to have a fresh start.

    Because every single bit of wall/ceiling/floor needed to be removed, it gave us the chance to open up the room, and I was able to design the family mecca of our dreams. A place for us to watch tv as grown ups, a large, open area for the kids, and a good amount of space in which they could just run wild.

    Now, when you walk down the stairs, you see specially designated areas for different uses, but we’ve maintained a feeling of openness throughout. It is hard to capture just how much space my kids now have in which to run (/I have in which to do cartwheels) but, for us, it is perfect. I feel incredibly lucky.

    IMG_3640

    And it is ours. I poured my heart into this project. When we found that enormous support column behind the walls, I hand picked each piece of wood in order to create that modern, white molding.

    So, here is the cozy den area:IMG_3704

    IMG_3635 IMG_3634 IMG_3633 IMG_7679

    See? COZINESS!!

    IMG_7488

    IMG_7350

    I must say that our contractors are fantastic, and did everything soup to nuts. For instance, they built me a giant storage closet so that I can keep this space tidy and these kids occupied.

    IMG_9889

    And, for the grand finale, the kiddo area:

    IMG_3636 IMG_3637

    But, I might be saving the best for last.

    Do you remember how I started this post?

    Our basement’s finishing touches are from the Eric Carle Elementary Collection. I was given the option between many rugs, and I let my kids choose (they chose the one I wanted!) because this is their spot.

    In fact, when the rug first arrived, my son CARRIED IT AROUND for the entire evening. He decided that it should go in our kitchen. My daughter agreed entirely. I had other ideas.

    image1

    Ready?

    IMG_3638

    A world map rug! Isn’t it fantastic? IMG_3639

    Along with the rug, we got these amazing, coordinating, softest pillows for these kid-sized orange egg chairs. They’re whimsical and nostalgic, just like the books I love so dearly. And, if you know me, you’ll know that I am somewhat of a throw pillow expert. The Eric Carle Collection is perfect for our space, as it is fun (for obvious reasons) but also functional, as it helps with the space planning, designating that as the “kiddo area.”

    IMG_3631

    I mean…

    IMG_3632

    For our family, the world map rug made sense, but just to give you a little peek at some of their other rugs:

    EC_ELEMENTARY_ECEM07_RS_08_20180102 EC_ELEMENTARY_ECEM05_RS_20180102 EC_ELEMENTARY_ECEM02_RS_20180102

    Because I would never endorse a product in which I did not fully believe, I am going to share with you that the Eric Carle Elementary Collection is a wonderful addition for a home, a classroom or would serve as the perfect gift. I say that with confidence because it is also incredibly well-priced.

    And the awesome folks at Home Dynamix/SOHOME Market are giving you 10% off of their entire site, with no product limitations! As much as I adore the Eric Carle collection, if you’re looking to do a non-kid-related-makeover, they have everything, and are featuring other incredible collaborations from the highest end designers (think Christian Siriano and Nicole Miller).

    Just use the code: EverAfter10off 

    when you check out. To be clear, I do not get any type of referral fee for this, they are just being generous and I am just being honest. I just like to spread the love when I can.

    So,

    What do you see? 

    A life-changing space, giving our family a cozy den in which to hibernate, an open playroom in which to create

    and fantastic design elements to educate, enjoy and cherish.

    I see nostalgia, whimsy, comfort and love.

    And, as it was said by Eric Carle himself, “We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.”

    I could not agree more, Mr. Carle. I could not agree more.

    ***

    This post was written in collaboration with Home Dynamix. As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

  • a squeeze kiss and ice cream trucks.

    In August, I told my son about the fact that I’d had severe postpartum depression after he was born.

    I did not use those words, of course; rather, I told him that “I got a little sad” and he understood it and did not understand it and it was a pretty good balance.

    In January, my book came out and I told everyone about the fact that my story was much worse than what I’d previously shared on this blog.

    Since that time, I have been lucky enough to have had many interviews; on tv, in magazines, the newspaper, on the radio and for other blogs. I am honored and humbled by this. In fact, because I can’t think of a better place to share this, I will speaking, on stage, about my story at this year’s national March for Moms, in Washington, DC, on May 6, in front of the Capitol Building.

    This has been more amazing and fulfilling than I ever could have imagined, but…

    this also means that I have had to say, over and over again, “when I was pregnant with my son, I was not OK and after his birth I lost my will to live.” It is my truth, and I share this in an effort to help others, but every single time I say this — a story that I have told for over four years now — it hurts. It hurts because of the guilt I feel and it hurts because I love him so much and I wish that, though our situation was in no way my fault, he had gotten a better version of me.

    I just wrote a whole post about the things you do not know about me, but there is one more thing that I have not really shared. For a very long time, since my son was born, I have been scared of little boys. It is not that I did not trust myself with them, as I always loved my son and only wanted the best for him, even in my darkest of days, but I have had this weird mental block. I had one child, and though it was hard at times, everything was sparkly and tutu-ish. I had another child and though it was love-filled at times, everything was dim and hellish. When handed a little boy to hold and love, I have been scared, since this time in 2013, that I would not be able to.

    I have been so scared.

    ***

    My son and I took some time to get into a groove. We always shared a bond, but he was a daddy’s boy, or a bubbie’s boy, or a Boppy’s boy, and he would always choose me last. I was OK with this. I am sure I thought that I deserved this. He did not get the best of me, and so why should I expect him to want me? Let me be clear: if you were telling me this I would talk and talk until I convinced you that this was your own projection, stemming from unnecessary guilt.

    We can always see others more clearly than we can see ourselves, right?

    But, lately, we have found a place for us and only us. He and have this special thing going. They are little things, mostly, but they are precious gems; he wants me to be the one to put him to bed at night; he wakes me up with an inside joke; he invented “squeeze hugs” and “squeeze kisses” just for me. When he is hurt or sad, he comes to me to console him or to kiss his boo boo or to make him feel better. Because, now, finally, I can.

    I have also learned how to communicate with this most stubborn child of mine. The trick was so simple, really: I had to go into his world. I had to learn his language. When trying to work out a problem with him, I could not try to rationalize with him in the same way that I was able to parent my daughter. I had to compare our situation to the different superheroes and supervillains, which means I had to learn about all of the superheroes and supervillains. I have even learned about Star Wars. When I am in his world, I can work out a problem while building a LEGO vehicle for Lex Luthor and, most of the time, he responds.

    Today is his first day off for spring break because, yes, my children have two different spring breaks. Woo!

    In some ways it would have been so much easier to have them off from school at the same time. Not only would they be able to entertain one another (which they do so well) but I would only have one week of major scheduling disruption. But, in other ways, I am grateful for this individual time that I have with each of them. Last week with my daughter was wonderful. I am looking forward to this time with my son. And it is hard. He wants to play with me, and not just roam the aisle of Home Goods looking for velvet pillows and the perfect white shower curtain. Playing takes effort and energy and he completely dictates the rules of the game. Every game.

    Today, after a tricky Monday morning (because it is the Monday morning after spring break and it’s a Monday!), all I wanted to do was curl up with a movie and a mug of tea. I have a winter in my step, so to speak.

    Today, however, is ice cream truck day. This means that we spent our time post-sister-drop-off playing with two, matching ice cream trucks. I went into his world, answering him when he told me what deliveries we would go on next. “Sure, boss! Nancy wants the vanilla ice cream with caramel? Let’s give her mint chocolate chip with chocolate sprinkles, too!”

    Every “road” had a “not do sign” (his latest interest — he wants to know what every “not do sign” says) and so we had to figure our way out of a street closure or huge house in the middle of our route and so we invented giant horns to beep and, when it got really dicey, he explained that when the doors to our ice cream trucks open they can turn into airplanes, so they can fly.

    I made the effort to get into his world and show enthusiasm, but after a rather treacherous time trying to deliver strawberry ice cream to Henry (but not “Horrid Henry” just another Henry), I needed a little break.

    Perhaps it was the stress of the early morning hitting me, or the fact that I genuinely miss my children when they are not with me, or that I stayed up way too late last night or, just, other life things, but, as soon as I left ice cream truck world, I started to feel emotional. Not the best. I was bummy, and I wanted to feel better.

    I came back into the room where my son was playing with his trucks by himself, and I asked him if I could hold him. I inhaled his scent, and rocked him, almost like he was a baby.

    “Sometimes I need a little bit of extra love,” I explained to him. “Boppy always gives me a big hug to give me love from her heart. Do you think you could do that for me?”

    “How about a SQUEEZE HUG?” he suggested. And I let my little 4-year-old hold me. And when I broke our embrace, he looked me in the eyes and asked, “And how about a squeeze KISS?”

    He, quite literally, kissed my boo boo. He consoled me. We were a team, no less than any other mother and son, or loving parent, or ice-cream-truck-co-drivers.

    He asked if we could play some more, and so I sat down, told him that, “I’m back from my break, boss!” and he gave me the next stop on our delivery route.

    The moral of this story is not anything big or flashy. It is not something that anyone else could even see on the outside. But, to me, it means everything. It is that, despite the guilt I feel, and despite the times I missed, I did the best I could, and I am still doing the best I can, and that seems to be enough for this little guy. We can both go into each other’s worlds, when necessary. We can both be there for each other in a way that I did not realize, before.

    And, this morning, all it took was a squeeze kiss and ice cream trucks.

  • At peace

    I thought of something, today. Something that I do not think you know about me:

    when I feel most at peace.

    If you were ever to ask me this question, I think that my initial, instinctual answer would be something like,

    “When my whole family is together under one roof, all safe and accounted for, I feel most at peace.”

    But, as I was driving to my daughter’s school this morning,

    the fifth time that I have shuttled to and from her school in the past two days (literally five, each way, so that’s ten car rides),

    a thought popped into my head. It stopped me in my proverbial tracks.

    Snorkling.

    The times when I have felt most at peace, in my entire life, is when I have been snorkeling.

    I can picture myself, on one of our trips to St. John, hopping off of a boat in the middle of some random part of the ocean, and swimming away from the rest of the crowd. I can feel it.

    When I am snorkeling, nothing else – nothing in the entire world – exists. I dive as far down as I can go, gliding with schools of brightly-colored fish, and navigating around the intricate coral and pointing to “omg this creature!” and “this electric yellow is the coolest color, ever!” and I get lost. In the good way. I am not thinking. I am just being. The only thing I can hear is the sound of my own breath. It is the closest that I can get to true meditation.

     It is when I am most at peace.

    And so this morning, as I tried to map out the day ahead in my head, I realize that I am most at peace when I am under the water, with a mask over my eyes and fish on either side of my body…

    and that is exactly the opposite of how I feel right now.

    I am so far from the cool, blue fish.

    ***

    I spent a lot of time yesterday apologizing for my absence on here. Yes, some exciting things have been going on lately, but they’re ALL BECAUSE OF THIS. As I tried to explain, I identify as a blogger - and yet, I have not blogged.

    It is almost embarrassing.

    I am so sorry.

    And then, some not as exciting things have been going on. Some of them are little things. Kids getting sick. The power going out for five days. The heat going out for six days. School being closed. Some bigger things, too.

    Just, a lot.

    Sometimes, when I am feeling a lot of feelings, I write and I write a lot and it is therapeutic and I feel virtuous.

    Other times, I retreat. I shut down. I assume it is how people feel about exercise, right? The longer you go without lacing up your sneakers and going for that run, the harder it is to motivate? But, when you do, you always feel better?

    That is writing for me.

    Over the past 7 years and 9 months I have been known to go on a “wri-atus” at times and that is OK. Or, it has been OK. Lately, though, this has been plaguing me. I have been having that guilt thing. It has created extra noise in my head, when my head is already so filled up with things – like work obligations and school obligations and wonderful book tour dates and “did I get a present for the birthday party today?” and “did I book my train to Boston?” and “did I eat, today?”

    The noise can be deafening. I cannot hear my own breath. I am so far from the cool, blue fish.

    I am not at peace.

    ***

    Please accept this blog post as my most sincere apology to you. If we are friends in real life, or if you are reading this in the Czech Republic or Vietnam, I mean it just as sincerely. I am grateful that you take the time to visit this blog and that you carve out moments of your own day to read my words. If I have been slow in returning emails or remembering to send a text or answering a Facebook message (because, no matter how many times I say it or try to fix it, my Facebook messenger thing does not work properly and I end up missing out on SO MANY THINGS and I come off as rude, but I can’t see the messages!) or if I have not had time to nail down that coffee date or phone call or web-interview or Smule-session (babe, I swear I am trying!), I am so sorry. It is not you. It is me. It is not reflective of my love for you. It is not an indication of any lack of respect or gratitude.

    It is that I have run out of bandwith.

    I haven’t made the time to stop and smell the roses; to swim next to the cool, blue fish.

    ***

    I have some very cool things coming up. As of today, I have six book events in the next 6 weeks, I have some incredibly exciting opportunities on the horizon and I am still in awe that WE got here; that we get to do this.

    And, at the same time, I have a household to run. Kids to care for. Relationships to tend to. Another construction project or two to manage (not by choice – by frozen pipe, thankyouverymuch).

    In the past day I packed lunches, drove to and from a child’s school 18 times, worked, networked, volunteered in my daughter’s class as she (so beautifully) portrayed Anne Frank in their Notable People Convention, worked on music, fixed the arm of a broken Transformer, made more meals than I can count, ran errands (THIS IS HARD FOR ME!!!), played referee when my kids had an epic fight about what game to play (Belle wanted to play “Mommy and Baby Christmas” and Beau wanted to play “Mommy and Baby Halloween Parade” and so, finally, we landed on “Spooky Christmas”), paid bills, dyed both my daughter’s hair and a streak of my own pink, and, as I type this right now, I am being beckoned downstairs to be with my family.

    And that is what I should do.

    Because it might not be swimming by a coral reef in St. John, but this is my home, and the other place where I feel most at peace. I can hear more than just my own breath, but sometimes that is OK, too. Especially when the noise is a child’s joke, as opposed to a shouting match over Mommy Baby Christmas Spooky Parade.

    Once again, I am sorry for my absence, I will be making it up to you, and I thank you, in advance, for your understanding. Not to be all Michael Jackson, but I love you.

    I appreciate you.

    I am grateful for you.

    Mad love and electric yellow fish

    xx,

    B

     

  • Mommy Gut

    As humans, we are often told to listen to our hearts.

    We are told to pay attention to our “inner voice” and that its words should reign supreme over all else.

    There is an actual movement surrounding a greater effort to pay attention to our feelings, and while this is something that I would ordinarily get behind (and, in some ways, I do), it is also scary for me.

    It is scary AF.

    You see, I do not like the idea of “intuition.”

    This might surprise you, seeing as I am one of the more superstitious you will meet, and those things seem to correlate, as they imply a certain amount of control that we, as humans, either try to or think we have.

    No form of intuition, however, scares me more than the one that involves the thing that was given to me when I first became pregnant with my daughter; the thing that grew, along with my belly, instead of the third arm that would have been SO MUCH MORE HELPFUL!

    The Mommy Gut.

    Why is the idea of the mommy gut so scary to me, you ask? Because it can be loud, or it can be quiet, but it is not always right, and it is impacted by both anxiety AND data, and, most of all, because I do not know when it is right, so I do not know when to (or not to) listen.

    And that is terrifying.

    You might be aware of the fact that I recently wrote a book about prenatal and postpartum anxiety, among other things. In it, I tell the story of the night my daughter was born, and how, had I not listened to my “mommy gut” and gone back to the hospital to have her checked, and had I not insisted on an unplanned c-section that evening…

    I cannot even bear to complete that sentence.

    But, before that night, when I was around my sixth month of pregnancy, I remember, so vividly, my first experience with the notion of the mommy gut and how, though intended to provide me with comfort, it filled me with utter anxiety. It was a cold day on the playground at the school where I was teaching. I was supervising my class on the jungle-gym and having some small talk with some of my colleagues. As they were all mothers, I decided to turn to them with something that I was chewing over in my mind.

    “Hey, can I ask a question?” I opened up to my friends. “I haven’t felt the baby kick as much this morning. But, there are times when babies are more active and then times when they are less active, right?”

    And that is when it happened. One incredibly kind, well-meaning colleague said, “You have a mother’s intuition so just listen to what your gut tells you. You’ll know if something is wrong.”

    That scared the shit out of me. Let’s say I didn’t listen? Let’s say I missed something? Let’s say I listened all the times, but then the one time when I should have listened I said to myself, “Ok, calm down, all of those other times you freaked out and it was nothing, so I am sure this is nothing, too…”

    …because there is so much anxiety swirling around in any and all of these situations and it makes it very hard to determine the difference between “mommy gut” and fear.

    ***

    On February 3, the day before THE SUPERBOWL, my daughter woke up with a fever and dry cough. She had been complaining the day before of a headache and dizziness. But, the thing is, my daughter complains a lot. When I pick her up from school, I ask, “How was the nurse, today?” as a running joke, because it’s always something.

    But, as soon as she woke up that Saturday morning, with no other symptoms than those that I shared above, I knew she had the flu. No one in her class had it. She had been vaccinated. But I just knew.

    And when the nasal swab thing tested positive for Influenza Type B I felt simultaneous relief and dread.

    I was right.

    I was not scared because she was sick. I was scared because I had a feeling that something was wrong with her and that feeling turned out to be correct. BUT, I get scary feelings a lot of the time. So does that mean that they are all going to come true?

    She was home sick for over a week with the flu, and we spent a ton of time cuddling, got the Tamiflu administration down to a science (I told her that her bite of a roll and sip of orange juice before and after her shot of Tamiflu was similar to something I would teach her in 13 years, but that it would involve salt and a lime!!!) and, a few days later when her brother and I also got sick, we decided to just camp out and home and ride it out.

    However, there was a little complication. We were supposed to leave on February 10 for a tropical vacation. This would have been one week after her diagnosis, 4 days after my son’s and just too soon and too scary, for me. My daughter had been counting down to this trip for months, sending daily text messages with my dad with the number of days shrinking from 100 to 30 to 11 to 4. She was sick, and not getting worse, but not really getting better, and I had an incredibly hard decision to make. Could I put my kids on an airplane, so that they could breathe in recycled air, breathe out air that could be germ-filled, possibly with fluid in their ears, only to be on an active vacation that they were far too run down to enjoy, and away from medical care that I knew and trusted?

    I wrestled with this decision and it was brutal. I tried, desperately, to do what was right, and not just what was safe. I worked to tease apart my anxieties about traveling in general from the actual facts of the situation. Was it reasonable to cancel a trip, disappointing my children, because of the flu? Certainly. Was it the right call? That was for me to decide and I was told, over and over, to listen to my mommy gut.

    Something about the trip just did not feel right. I could not put my finger on it, but there was something wrong.

    After a lot of deliberation and a large amount of sneezed-in tissues, I made the final call.

    Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 1.46.22 PMI still asked everyone I knew if they thought I had made the right choice.

    Now, days after we would have returned, after some additional, unexpected life circumstances came up, not limited to a bout of pink eye and some additional sickness-related-symptoms, I am completely confident in the decision we made to cancel the trip (and, instead, had the best time ever in the Poconos, but I’ll go into that, later).

    The night before we were supposed to go, I shared this on my Instagram. It was the right call.

    But was it because my “mommy gut” informed my decision, or because I listened to my human brain?

    That is a rhetorical question.

    Here is the real truth. In thinking of the instances in which I used that mommy gut, I can point to many circumstances in which my instinct was correct, despite what others, including professionals, were telling me.

    Like the time that my daughter was so sick that she could not stop sleeping and would not eat or drink, but the doctor said it was not, in fact, strep. I knew it was strep. I brought her back in the next day, after a whole extra day of suffering and, what do you know, the first test had been set inaccurately, giving her a false negative. She had strep.

    I knew it all along.

    Or the other time I knew she had strep, just a year ago, and was told over the phone and upon examination that it was not strep. “BUT, oh we will just test her anyway to make you feel better…”

    …it was strep. Again.

    I knew it all along.

    The examples above can be chalked up to the mommy gut thing, or they can simply be, “I know my kid well. I know that this is what she looks like when she has strep. I have data, because I have been her mom for almost 8 years.”

    IT IS SO HARD TO RECONCILE.

    ***

    Today, more than ever, we are reminded of just how scary it is to be a parent. I mean, it is scary to be a person, but, in the context of this post, and with what has gone on in our country in the past 8 days, it feels scarier than before. Every day, I have to kiss my kids goodbye, send them to school, and I hope and pray that they are kept safe while they are not with me. I hope that they don’t fall down the stairs or cut themselves or…

    I cannot even bear to complete that sentence. Once again.

    I wish this were a post that could be wrapped up and presented in a tidy bow, with some revelation or kernel of wisdom at the end. The truth is, it is more of a diary entry than anything else; more of me working out my feelings, but this time on the computer screen and not just in the confines of my own mind. If I feel this way, and if I fear the mommy gut, others must, as well. Right?

    Or, am I doing something wrong?

    Is there some magical answer of when to listen and when to say, “Ok, shush, I have an episode of Grey’s to finish,” because if there is, please tell me.

    But, the answer cannot be, “You will just know.”

    ***

    Thoughts and feelings are two different things. They are completely different. But, what I have learned is that they are sneaky little buggers, and they can, so often, masquerade as the other. As I try to remind myself, there is no correlation between the amount I believe that something is true and the actual truth. So often, we invent stories, and convince ourselves that they are true and the line between thoughts and feelings (and anxieties) continues to blur.

    Yes, I have been able to accurately diagnose my daughter with ailments several times. But, what I did not mention is that there have been countless other times when I have taken her to the doctor and her ears were not filled with fluid and her rash was not whatever scary rash I had pulled up a photo of from Google Images. We just don’t remember those times — the times when we are wrong — as often as we cling to the times when we are right.

    Because the latter? They swirl around, together, and feed off of one another, and make nice little homes in our bodies. Right in the spot where I can feel my anxiety physiologically; where I somaticize my woes.

    In my stomach.

    The place where pits grow. The place where my thoughts are digested. My butterfly-filled stomach.

    Or, to call it by another name, in my gut.

    My mommy gut.