Defining Motherhood

One Mom's Attempt to Find Meaning in the Madness

Uncelebrated Milestones

MILESTONE: a significant point in development

How did the creators of baby books decide which milestones deserve to be identified with a date and which achievements should be tracked? They were clearly glass-half-full sorts who believed new parents should focus only on the charming – food instead of farts, sleep instead of slobber, babbling instead of blow-outs.

New parents stand camera in hand waiting for that first smile, but nobody grabs the camera for the first eye roll. Why not? Both express emotion. Both are clear, non-verbal feedback. Yet, only one makes it into the photo album.

We eagerly anticipate first words. We spend hours mouthing the syllables we want so desperately to hear and when, by chance, our offspring stumble on the magic combination of consonants and vowels we rejoice and claim them as our name. Mama. Dada. But, when rhyming sessions lead from animals that quack and vehicles built Ford tough to vulgar copulation slang, nobody celebrates.

When our toddlers reciprocate our frantic waiving or repeat our overly cheerful “bye-bye,” we beam. When our kindergartener mimics a one-finger salute or showcases our traffic jam vocab in front of Grandma, we cringe.

When our kids whisper in Santa’s ear for the first time, we smile.

When our kids ask “Is it really just you?” we frown.

This week, Son entered the kitchen without preamble and asked, “Is the Easter Bunny real or do parents just buy stuff for their kids?”

The way I was going to deal with this in my head (you know, before it was actually an issue) was different from how I dealt with it in the moment. In my head, I would just come right out with the truth. In my head, if kids are old enough to ask the question, they are old enough to hear the answer.

In my kitchen, however, I stammered. I wasn’t willing to lie or squander my credibility on a fictional rabbit.  I surprised myself by being equally unwilling to be the one to confirm the truth.  So, I punted and answered his question with a question.

“What do you think?”

“I think it’s the parents,” he said casually before leaving the kitchen.

In my mind, the realization that the magic and mystery was really all just post bedtime shenanigans by his parents would be sad for him. But, instead he took it all in stride, as if he had suspected for quite some time that it was all too good to be true.

Son emerges from this latest milestone unscathed while I grieve the loss of innocence and wonder.

Cadbury Eggs: From Stash To Cash

cadbury egg

STASH: an amount of something that is stored or hidden

CASH: money paid for goods at the time of purchase or delivery

Yesterday morning, my darling children arose and dutifully waited for Husband to get the video camera before diving into their baskets. Son literally stood in freeze-tag form until he heard the “ding” of the record button.

Following the basket unpacking ceremony, Son and Daughter joyfully scampered throughout the house retrieving hidden eggs. It was then that we discovered the Easter Bunny’s first mistake.

Son: “I didn’t find any of the eggs we dyed. What did the Easter Bunny do with those?”

Answer: He hid them in the fridge still in the cartons. Tricky bunny.

Only later did I discover the Easter Bunny’s second mistake.

Me: “Did the Easter Bunny leave any Cadbury Eggs for the grown-ups?”

Answer: No. He did not.

This year, the Easter Bunny forgot to reserve any Cadbury Eggs for the woman of the house and instead included all available eggs in the hunt. This resulted in two happy children and one disappointed wife.

While disappointed not to have any eggs of my own, I was hopeful that the children I am raising – you know, the ones I’ve taught to be kind and generous, aware of the needs of those less fortunate, willing to make sacrifices for the sake of fairness – would gladly share an egg (or two) with their mom.

Me: “Could I please have one of your caramel eggs??

Son: “Sure! You can have any candy you want. I’m selling it for a dollar a piece.”

In case you were wondering…a Cadbury Egg bought twice does indeed taste just as sweet.

Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinquain

CINQUAIN: a five line stanza

It’s still poetry month. Cinquain is a fun form to play with. A cinquain poem has five lines with two syllables on the first line, four on the second, six on the third, eight on the fourth and two on the fifth.

I’ve posted a combination of old and new cinquain poems below:

Sharp toys

In the kids’ room

Lying in the darkness

Patiently waiting for a foot

Ouch! $h^t!


Stop it

Stop the beeping

Who bought my kids this toy?

What did I ever do to him?




Needs a sick day

But that is not allowed

So I will rise and pack your lunch

With germs



With one last push

Or a sterile scalpel

Regardless, you end up with a



I said

That two was hard

That was only because

I hadn’t yet met three or four

Oh, my!


You work

Inside the home

I work outside the home

The location doesn’t matter

It’s work


Who said

Mother knows best?

This mother sure doesn’t

Sometimes I don’t even know good


Where I’m From – Imitation as Flattery

IMITATION: a literary work designed to reproduce the style of another author

Inspired by Galit Breen, I wanted to try my hand at imitating George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From.”  Here it goes:

I am from homemade Halloween costumes, hair scrunchies, Tang, Tab, and blue milk slightly past its expiration date.

I am from a suburban split level with the owner’s longing for country living evident in the barn inspired color scheme.  Mind the front steps, they wiggle from one too many stomps as The Cowboy left in anger.

I am from dandelions and forget-me-nots lovingly harvested and displayed in mason jar vases with the same fanfare as the neighbor’s roses and dahlias.

I am from Thanksgiving confessions, and alcohol confrontations.

From Carney, Montague and Montgomery; from first names used for baptisms then stored away until the next legal form.

I am from lies told to make a better story and truths withheld to keep the peace.  From “Do what I say, not what I do” and “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”

I lived through the pendulum of religious fervor swinging from kneeling benches and Latin homilies to raised hands, foreign tongues and the casting out of demons.  I passed through all the pews in between until I landed in a still meadow with a songbird choir.

I’m the combustible combination of Ireland and Scotland; fueled by potato starch and heavy pours.

I’m from brothers who staged my kidnapping when I was young and walked me down the aisle when I was grown.  I’m from a father haunted by the ghosts of war. Prone to strike upon waking, he is best brought out of slumber by a shoe thrown from a distance.

I am from a family that chooses moments not mementos to pass on as a legacy to future generations.

I move nimbly through this earth with little to pack but much to carry.


If you want to try this (and I hope you do), here is the TEMPLATE.

I Need Faster Shoes

PF Flyers

RACE: a contest of speed

It wasn’t that long ago I had to let Son win races. Now, “let” is not part of the equation.  It must be my shoes.  Please check out my latest essay on Brain, Child Magazine’s Blog about when our kids leave us behind.

While you do that, I’m going to go shopping for a pair of P.F. Flyers.

Red is the Color of a Midlife Crisis

picture from Fine Art America (Bill Gallagher)

picture from Fine Art America (Bill Gallagher)

MIDLIFE CRISIS: a period of emotional turmoil in middle age caused by the realization that one is no longer young and characterized especially by a strong desire for change

My friend Noelle is a talented poet and all around delightful creature. She wrote THIS poem recently (the link takes you to an audio version where you can hear her read the piece) and it made me want to play with color. So, I did:


Red was the color of the Corvette

That never met

His need to reclaim his youth

Red was the color of the heels and skirt

She wore to work

The day she caught – and held – his eye

Red was the color of the fingernail

That left a trail

Down his arm after a hallway passing

Red was the color of the heavy pour

That opened the door

To what if

Red was the color of the message lights

On the nights

He worked late

Red was the color of the therapist’s card

As she worked hard

To save this thing he claimed to want

Red was the color of the roses he bought

When she sought

Evidence of his remorse

Red was the color of the clock digits

That timed her fidgets

On the night he didn’t return

Red was the color of lace worn by the other

And the puffy eyes of the mother

Of his children

Red was the color of the blush

Their natural flush

One from passion, one from shame

Red was the color of the intersection signs

That in her mind

Became a message from the universe

Red was the color of the Corvette’s tail lights

On the night

He was dismissed

An April Acrostic


PLUVIOPHILE: a lover of rain

April showers bring…National Poetry Month! To honor the first day of April and the coming season of showers in Seattle, I offer this acrostic poem:

Procrastination suits a day filled with puddles

Letting things soak just a wee bit longer and

Uttering internal promises to get to it all right after I declare

Victory over the final chapter in this book that has

Inspired me to remain pajama clad well past what polite society deems


Pitters and patters are the melody for this

Happy afternoon filled with games and the harmony of laughter

I watch water absorb in the soil

Like relaxation absorbs into me until I am saturated and ready to

Embrace the sun again

March Reads

READ: to look at and understand the meaning of letters, words, symbols, etc.

levels of life

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

This is a short book in three sections: exploring ballooning in the first section, photography in the second, and then giving the reader an intimate view of personal grief in the third.  Barnes’ style appeals to me more than his content, but his style is enough to make me enjoy reading about things (e.g. the history of ballooning) I wouldn’t otherwise.  The rawness of the grief expressed in the third section of this book was so ugly and unguarded that I felt uncomfortable – like I had seen the author naked without his knowledge.  Words and truth are powerful tools.  To be able to reveal painful truths with beautiful words is an incredible gift…and Barnes has it.

silent wife

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The book opens with a revelation that the wife will murder the husband in just a few short months, then backtracks to tell the reader about those months.  With a big reveal at the beginning, I expected more nail-biting suspense along the way.  There wasn’t.  Harrison tells a sordid tale with clinical coldness.  It didn’t work for me.


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

The book equivalent of a chick flick – light, frilly, and immensely enjoyable.  I devoured this delightful story in a day – rooting for each and every one of the likeable characters.  You aren’t going to spend hours discussing the nuances of this book, but you will smile while you read it.

womens work

Women’s Work by Kari Aguila

A dystopian novel by a Seattle author that pictures a world in which women have taken over and banished all men except spouses and sons.  This was our March book club selection.  I liked the characters and wanted to like the book…but I couldn’t buy into the idea that if women took over to right the historic wrongs of violence and gender inequality that they would create a society in which known men were treated like 1950’s housewives and strange men were treated like dangerous beasts.  The premise was simply too much of a stretch for me.

tell the wolves

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka

Easily my favorite read this month, this book was recommended by a dear friend.  This novel was deeply moving.  I had to re-apply my mascara when I was done reading.  I imagine this will be assigned reading for future generations.


Looking for Alaska by John Green

While I didn’t like this book as much as The Fault in Our Stars, I still loved Green’s writing, characters and plot. The book tackled lots of big topics with fresh insights and tender dialogue.

bird by bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

I felt like the only writer who hadn’t read this book. I’m glad to have finally joined the club and look forward to putting on airs and saying “You haven’t read Bird by Bird?!” in an overly shocked tone next time I find a writer who hasn’t yet thumbed through the pages of this fabulous book. Anne Lamott alternates between patting you on the shoulder and punching you in the gut throughout this book filled with wisdom, encouragement, and a solid dose of realistic expectations.


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I picked this book up from the National Book Award Finalist display at Powell’s on a recent trip to Portland. I appreciated the author’s willingness to tackle a tough subject and enjoyed the snarky but accurate insights about highschool from the narrator, a victim of sexual assault. However, because the narrator is so emotionally shut down, it was difficult for me to connect with her or invest in the outcome of her story.

My Inner Erma

HONORABLE MENTION: an award or special praise given to someone who has done something extremely well but who has not won any of the official prizes

I am excited to announce that my essay received Honorable Mention in the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers Competition.  I admit, I really wanted the monetary compensation and entry to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop that went to first place…but the pat on the back still feels good.

The “S” Word

In a combination that defies medical explanation, I am both hard of hearing and excellent at eavesdropping.  Motherhood requires both traits.  The former is most helpful during night time hours; the latter is handy during playdates….[Read More]


Six Essential Parenting Vocabulary Lessons

VOCABULARY: a sum or stock of words employed by a language, group, individual, or work or in a field of knowledge

I have an essay on Brain, Child today that will teach you the difference between words you may have mistaken for synonyms before children. Check it out.


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