The Final Mylestone (subtitled: It's over when the skinny boy plays the recorder)

Lately, I recoil at the idea of writing here like a skittish old cat, not trusting the sound of my voice, unwilling to venture even one foot forward. So I pad back into the shadows, waiting for a clear coast or a courageous surge. Neither of which seems to be forthcoming.

This won't be a dramatic goodbye. It isn't a screeching halt. The stories I've told here are the slow dripping sand of an hour glass. It's been a very long time, and we've had a good many stories. I just think it might be time to turn the glass over, to start again.

More than five years of life I've simmered here in words, boiling it all down in search of substance, like a pound of beans that soak and spin and cook for hours on end. Eventually, the water evaporates and the beans grow tender. And you can't leave the burner on forever, not unless you want to ruin the beans and stink up the house. You guys, these days my words are at most a mist, and my heart is fall-apart tender. It's just time.

After I figure out how to preserve the blog in print for my own benefit, I plan on taking it down completely.  It might as well be purged from Google search results before the kids hit their teen years and need therapy. Really, I think my recent discomfort with this space is almost entirely driven by the need for more anonymity, a little shawl of it for me and a complete cloak of it for my children.

Whether with the help of ink or the internet,  I'll continue to write. And if you're so inclined, you can follow any future online writing here. (It's really just a placeholder right now--not much content yet. But I've set it up so you can subscribe via email or a reader, and then when I get going again, you'll hear about it automatically.)

This is probably the part of the show where I should get all weepy and sentimental about the very last milestone on Mylestones. Because we know it's not over until the fat lady sings and the sappy mom cries.

But I hate to be so cliche, so I fired the fat lady and cast a skinny eight year old boy to play us out with a jaunty tune on his recorder. I'll spare you the audio and just tell you it's Hot Cross Buns, and it would totally make you cry.

The End.


And then I played doll house

Even with my own children, the two people in the world I am most predisposed to love, even with them I fall so incredibly short.
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal....Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Yesterday I startled myself with the sound of my own voice, sharp and exasperated, volume rising with every word. I don't even remember what I was yelling about, only that it was maybe the fifteenth power struggle of the day and I was so over getting lip from my stubborn six year old.

After our collective meltdown, I kept hearing that passage in my head (yeah, that one, the "love chapter", the cliche wedding reading, the one I like to quote to my kids when they aren't being nice to each other). And somewhere in the hours that followed I came to a humbling conclusion.

I don't love my children. Not consistently. Not the way I should. 

Sure, I adore them and enjoy them. I find them delightful at times. I would go to any length to protect them. I'd die for them, if it came to that.

And what's ridiculous is how I say I'd give my life for them, yet I struggled to give my daughter just thirty minutes of my Sunday to play doll house. (Have I mentioned how I hate playing doll house?) I became irritable and resentful when their needs and requests conflicted with my own. And I'd rather not give examples, but suffice it to say: my heart wasn't patient, and my voice wasn't kind.

(By the way you guys, falling flat on your figurative face? So not fun. I don't recommend it.)

I can correct their behavior, even quote verses while I'm doing it, but have not love. Clangity clang clang.  I can feed, clothe, read, drive, teach, listen, speak. But if I do it resentfully, irritably, impatiently, without love at the center. Yep. Clangy McClangerton.

So I asked my little girl to forgive me. I told my son I'd messed up, that I hadn't modeled what love was supposed to look like, that I 'd been selfish and impatient.

They forgave me, like they always do.
I told them I loved them, so, so much.
And then I played doll house.

Just writing today, with Heather. 


Taking cover

Ever since she unwrapped her very own Hello Kitty umbrella from Nana and Papa, she's been asking me about the forecast. "It might rain tomorrow, right? Well, can you just check your phone again, just in case?"

This morning, she insisted on riding the bus. She insisted on bringing her umbrella. Her brother wasn't ready when the bus came, so I drove him, arriving at the same time as the bus. I watched from several yards away as my little girl stepped off the bus, not a drop of rain in the sky. I watched her struggle to open up her umbrella. When she finally, proudly unfurled her newest accessory, you couldn't miss her wide smile from a mile away.

I saw her strut toward the school doors, umbrella twirling. I was too far away to see for sure; but it seemed as if when she passed the police officer--the man in blue who's been greeting the children at the front entrance since Monday--it seemed like he tipped his hat to the little girl with the wide smile and the pink umbrella.

I was grateful to see him there, comforted even. Whether it does anything to deter the danger, I don't know. We still control so very little of our days and of what might fall from the sky.

But sometimes, it feels good to take cover, even when the rain isn't falling.



She skips nearly everywhere she goes. This particular time it's to the fridge and back.

"See Mama, I'll show you. Here's my schedule. NO gym on Tuesdays. So see! I can wear my fancy shoes and fancy dress tomorrow for my birthday!"

Still skipping, now waving the yellow paper. It's only a few yards, a few seconds, but it's enough for me to choke back tears.

"C'mere, Darlin'. Give me a hug. I can't believe you're gonna be SIX!"
"Well, I can't believe you're gonna be 88!"
She waves her magic words, abracadabra, turning watery eyes into belly laughs.
"I'm not that old, silly goose!"

I hug her, probably too tightly. I read too much detail today, saw too many faces that looked far too much like hers. And I don't know whether I want to sob with grief because those children are gone or cry with gratitude because mine isn't.

So I do both.

Six years old is a delightful, beautiful, sound-out-chapter-books and skip everywhere age.
Six years old is believing in Santa, bossing the dog around and buttering your own toast (or at least making a valiant effort).
Six years old is knowing exactly which tights you want to wear, but maybe still needing just a little help to put them on.
Six years old is hands cupped over mouth in excitement, hands on hips in defiance, hands laced in mama's when the path feels momentarily too big to tread alone.

Six years old is where I find most of what's right with the world.

My little monkey is six. 


What Jane Austen, mint M&Ms and skating parties have in common

You know what's better than a Jane Austen book? A Jane Austen book dripping with sarcasm. I found her satire Northanger Abbey in the freebies section of Good Reads and thought, "Hey, I can add this to that collection of classics on my iPad that I intend to read during the kids' piano lessons but never do because I'm mindlessly trolling Facebook instead."
(See also: that one summer I resolved to finally read Middlemarch in its entirety and made it a whopping five pages before I found myself clicking through a virtual shoe rack to confirm my suspicion that all of my dressy shoes were so dated that the hipster types are probably already wearing them ironically.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey. This quote:
"To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can."
I know, right? I don't care if you weren't a big Jane fan before. You pretty much have to love her now.

I'm going to share a quick little list of things I'm thankful for, because unique and original and totally not cliche are the top three ways to describe me. I know because they were the first three words I found in that whimsical word search activity going around on Facebook.

(Does anyone else have the urge to create and distribute a much meaner version of this little game? Like, throwing in a few insults and expletives just to keep it fair? Stuff like lazyarss or narcissist or puppyhater or whyaren'tyoureadingMiddlemarchyoushallowlittleloser? No? Yeah me neither. I don't even have to time to think up such silly ideas. I'm too busy reading Middlemarch.)

But back to the thankful list. (Please for the LOVE, back to the thankful list). No particular order and by no means exhaustive:
  • for free classics, clean water, warm coats, and that mint M&Ms are back in season
  • that the roller skating party is over, that my five year old had the time of her life at the aforementioned party, for her fierce independence that had her waving me off within minutes of standing up on skates
  • for my sensitive little eight year old, for books that sweep us into story and sway even a tired old mom into reading just one more chapter long after lights should be out, for his self awareness and sense of humor, for our 20 minute chats while we circle eight times around the track
  • for friends who bring me back to who I said I wanted to be, to what I said I believed, for those who walk (and sometimes run) with me through the mess, who make me laugh so hard I can barely remember why I wanted to cry
I've opened the floodgates. I start typing and I could go on forever. Gratitude is crazy that way--you can start by saying you're glad about Boston cremes and Christmas Ale and then with each thing you list, the spiral stake twists deeper and deeper until you are grounded in gratitude, unshakeable, discovering that the grace and goodness of God spans from the most trivial to the most trying places.

So what are you thankful for today? Open the floodgates, my friends.


The doubting season

Every day the darkness creeps in earlier and earlier. And no matter how fervently I believe in a sun still out there shining--somewhere and surely bright--because I see so much less of it, well, it makes me wonder. I want to see that beautiful brilliant sun with my own eyes, but I'm not in the right place to see it. After all, this is Ohio we're talking about. So I trust it's still out there. But 95% of the time, I don't feel as if it really is.

From Sara Miles in Take this Bread:

"In large ways and small, I wrestled with Christianity: its grand promises and its petty demands, its temptations and hypocrisies and promises, its ugly history and often insufferable adherents. Faith for me didn't provide a set of easy answers or certainties: It raised more questions than I was ever comfortable with......
But this is my belief: that at the heart of Christianity is a power that continues to speak and transform us. As I found to my surprise and alarm, it could speak even to me: not in the sappy, Jesus-and-cookies tone of mild-mannered liberal Christianity, or the blustering, blaming hellfire of the religious right. What I heard, and continue to hear, is a voice that can crack religious and political convictions open, that advocates for the least qualified, least official, least likely; that upsets the established order and makes a joke of certainty. It proclaims against reason that the hungry will be fed, that those cast down will be raised up, and that all things, including my own failures, are being made new.....
Faith, for me, isn't an argument, a catechism, a philosophical "proof". It is instead a lens, a way of experiencing life, and a willingness to act."
I think about God the way I think about the winter sun. There, always. And shining brilliant. It's just that sometimes I'm in the perfectly wrong place to see even a speck of it. So I trust, and wait for summer.



When I think about this space, I see wet leaves sticking to a tractor, more rusty than red. I left it out in the rain, uncovered, unvarnished. If I'm not going to put it to use, I should at least cover it. But when I see it outside my window on my way to doing something else, I only sigh. I'll take care of it tomorrow, I think. And now it seems only an eyesore, something I should clear from the yard.

I began telling stories here before she was a year old, before he was potty trained, before big girl beds and little boy bikes, before I felt like something other than an overtired mother, before I remembered who I was.

I used to write my way to calm and connection. I found both here, tilling stubborn soil until it became ground from which I could grow. This weekend I spent the better part of the day with a local friend I first met through blogging. Our whole families were together for nearly six hours, and it felt like fifteen minutes. If this was the only fruit that grew from this space, it would've been enough.

But there was so much more.
I found mythic moments in the mundane.
I found ways to laugh and smile when I wanted to cry and hide.
I found my voice.
I found I wasn't alone.

My children are eight and nearly six now. Unfathomable to me, but true. I started telling their stories five years ago, and out of their stories, found the courage to tell my own. But it's not that I've run out of stories. It's just that so very few of them feel like they are mine to tell anymore. I feel an increasing urge to shield my children from overexposure.

As for my own stories, I'm struggling to find time to tell them, so engrossed I've become in living them. Maybe that's a sorry excuse on my part. Maybe I'm just not brave or diligent or dogged enough to keep tilling the soil. Maybe. But whether my reason is one of wisdom or cowardice, this seems like it might be the season to let the earth lie fallow.

I won't shut this place down, not yet anyway. I'll continue to write as I feel the urge, when I find the time. I just came here today because, well, because I felt like I ought to explain why there's a rusty old tractor in the yard.

Just writing today, with Heather.


In which I make peace with being crazy (aka: the race report)

Even though the last time I checked this was supposed to be a blog about the children, it seems I've allowed myself some editorial license and made it all about me, me, me and also me. A surefire way to discourage readership, no doubt. In the meantime, the kids have been saying and doing all sorts of cute and memorable things, but I'm going to save those stories for another time because I have some life-altering riveting , (what, not even mildly interesting?)  news to report.

I confessed last week to being a sand bagger, particularly when it comes to running. It goes something like this:
1) Set easy, achievable goals.
2) Achieve them, easily.
3) Feel proud of yourself for roughly 24 hours.
4) Celebrate that night with guacamole and margaritas.
5) Repeat cycle.

For some reason (cough--Salty--cough), I decided to break this perfectly enjoyable cycle and start a new one. It goes something like this.
1) Set difficult, seemingly impossible goals.
2) Work your tail off only to miss the goal by a small enough margin that you start to believe it IS achievable.
3) Feel permanently more proud of yourself for digging deep and failing than you ever have for sailing into easy success.
4) Immediately begin scheming about the next opportunity to meet aforementioned stretch goal.
5) Celebrate that night with guacamole and margaritas. (Because clearly, there are some parts of the cycle that don't need fixing.)

Coming off my spring half marathon, I decided my next goal was to shave two minutes from my time to come in around 1:45. My stretch goal was to run a pace under 8:00 minutes per mile (roughly 1:44:30).

But then I met Salty.
And we started running together.
And she started giving me advice.
And I started listening.
And it was all uphill from there, folks...

So when I toed the line in my fall half marathon yesterday, I was shooting for a sub-1:40 and a 7:38 pace. (What the whah? Four years ago I was patting myself on the back for finishing a 5k under a 10 minute mile pace. So yeah, the question who the freak do I think I am comes to mind.)

I'll cut to the chase (which I probably should've done five paragraphs ago). I gave it everything I had in the half marathon yesterday, and missed my stretch goal by 2 minutes. Official time was 1:42:02, a 7:48 minute mile pace. But with the race in its first year and a relatively small turnout, that time turned out to be enough to win my age group and place 6th for women overall. I'll take it!

Several times over the course of those 13.1 miles, I desperately wanted to back off the aggressive pace. The course had several hills--the sort of hills that when people ask "is this the hill you want to die on?", you pipe back a resounding "YES!".  There was also the matter of the wind, the kind of wind that makes Mary Poppins curse and severely complicates forward motion.

The last mile consisted of a long, low-grade incline against 20+ mph gusts. My shoes turned into bricks and I felt fairly certain that paying money to put myself through this torture was one of the most ridiculous and insane things I'd ever done.

But you know what else is insane? Running a half marathon at a faster pace than I could run just ONE mile at HALF my age. So yeah. I think I can make peace with being crazy.


In which I'm going for it

I'm going to race a half marathon in a little over a week. Not run it--race it. I've set an "A goal" that scares the shitake out of me, and while it's nowhere in the vicinity of a local elite time, it requires me to step up into "an elite version of myself" (as a fellow runner so eloquently put it).

I'm scared. Which is weird and makes me feel ridiculous. Because it's just a road race. Nothing's on the line. The outcome doesn't matter in any way, shape or form. I can't explain why I care as much as I do, why I'm holding this goal so tightly. The caring makes me feel foolish and vulnerable and like I should make a joke about how I run simply for the love of margaritas and cheese. But the truth is I (mostly) gave up alcohol and ice cream for the last two weeks in hopes that better nutrition would mean I could run faster. See what I mean? I simply can't explain why I care this much. (Giving up ice cream? How seriously messed up is that?)

I'm a lifelong sandbagger with a penchant for avoiding failure and life along with it. And this race, well, it's quite possibly the first time I've ever, of my own volition, stepped up to the start of anything knowing there is as much a chance of failure as success.

I feel like I'm flirting concurrently with disaster and breakthrough. I have only a vague idea of what my limits are, but know with certainty they'll be tested when I race next week. I know that if I do it right, it's going to hurt for the better part of 13.1 miles. I know that if I do it right, I'll be making the ugly face for so long that there's a high probability of it freezing that way. (Again, the sane 1% of my brain has to ask--why am I doing this!?)

I'm scared. About a race that has zero meaning in the overall scheme of things. And yes, it's weird and makes me feel ridiculous and melodramatic. But it also makes me feel alive and excited and maybe even slightly courageous.

So no more sandbagging. I'm saying it here so I don't wuss out. When the time comes to toe the line, I'm going all in.


Monkey {Just Write}

There's a reason we've called her "Monkey" since before she was born. She began by swinging from my ribs, and every day since, she's squirmed, flipped, wriggled, leaped, launched, twisted and cartwheeled from one hour to the next.

She swings by her knees when she wants to feel free, and climbs me like a tree when she wants to be held. 

When she was around three years old, she insisted she wasn't just Monkey anymore. She was Monkey Princess, and we were instructed to address her accordingly. She mimicked her brother's karate forms with a rendition of her own "Monkey Princess Form", in a tutu of course. I recall a good deal of kicking and arm flailing, with an occasional shout of "Mooonkeeeey Priiiinceeeessss!!!" and then a hurling of her tiara like a Chinese star halfway across the playroom. Being the wise parents we were, we took the tiara away until she was old enough to refrain from using it as a weapon.

At four, she gave us the okay to drop the princess label, so we're back to calling her plain old Monkey again.

I bemoan to my friends about her insistence on wearing a dress 360 days out of the year. I contrast my hatred of pink with her love of it, my tomboy leanings with her girly-girl obsessions.  I joke that I have to take her over to Auntie 'Chelle's to get her hair done or her nails painted, because lord knows her mother doesn't have a clue. I exchange mortified looks with her father when she says she'd rather  be a cheerleader than a soccer player.

Truth be told, she baffles, exasperates, and bewilders me.
Truth be told, she amazes me.

I love you, Monkey.

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