Saturday Lessons on LEGOs and Saying Yes

Posted on August 31, 2014

I woke up this morning to Finley spooning me. Her face was close enough that my hair fluttered as she sighed. I kept my eyes closed because I wasn’t ready. She ran her finger up and over my shoulder again and again. I listened, the house was quiet but for the ceiling fans running.

“Where are your sisters?” I murmured softly enough that she’d know I still wasn’t committed to waking up.

“Briar is downstairs, when I looked for Ave I couldn’t find her in her bed. Did Dad leave?”

I nodded, she hugged me tighter. I cracked an eye, she beamed at me. I tried to keep it open, but the pull of sleep and the resistance to all that the day would hold was too strong. She was still as I drifted off again. Dreams and thoughts chest bumped in my mind, good sleep was over.  I opened my eyes.

“You ready?” I asked her. She nodded. “Me too,” I said.

As we got breakfast together Finley rattled off all the things we were going to do. These were things I’d said to her as I tried to get her to go to sleep the night before, most of them preceded by, “Maybe we’ll…

“So, ok, girls. Are you listening? Girls? First, mom is taking us to the market, you know, for cider and a heart cookie. Then we’ll go to Friends of Phoebe to donate for Mae. Then we’re going to a park. Then we’re coming home and mom is going to build a fort in the backyard and we are going to play faeries and tell stories. We aren’t getting a cat at Phoebe’s but we might, right mom?”

I looked at her sisters and said, “We’ll see.”

I made good on my promise when we got to the market, they looked like the Cheshire cat as they held their heart-shaped, rainbow sprinkle cookies and clutched cider and chocolate milk in their hands. They followed me, weaving through the shoppers in the pavilion. They helped me pick green beans and onions, pickles and baguettes. By the time we got to the park we were tired and it was getting hot.

We darted from the swings, to the monkey bars, and then over to the natural playground on the other side of the park. They called out character assignments, I was Queen Clarion, guardian of all of Pixie Hollow. Ave was a fast faerie, Fin was a water faerie, and Briar was, very nonchalantly, a Tinker.  “Do you not want to play?” I asked her.

“No,” she said softly.

“You embarrassed, sweets?”

“No, not at all. It’s just that I kind of want to wander and maybe just sometimes float in and out,”” I rubbed her shoulders and then ran, tiptoe-style down the hill while calling out, “Faeries, faeries are you all alright?” We played like that for a while before making our way back to the other side of the park.

“Mom, I’m kinda hot. Can we leave soon?” Briar asked as we walked down the ramp of the wooden ship.

“‘scuse me,” came a voice below us. A boy, maybe 5 or 6, was leaning on a railing and looking at Briar. She started to side-step him.

“Ek-thk-use me,” he said deliberately, stepping toward Briar. “I kinda need some help. Do you know how to LEGO? Because I don’t really know how to LEGO and I got a kit at the store and if you could help me it’d be really thuper,” his lisp ducked in and out of his words. His summer-worn tennis shoes scraped at the ground and the spikes on top of his head reminded me of a dinosaur back.

Briar looked at me awkwardly. “Honey, I think he really wants your help. You think you might like to help him?” I knew she was hot and, frankly, we don’t really ‘know how to LEGO,’ but she nodded. “Sure.”

“Great,” he said as he led her to a bench.



They sat with him for 20 minutes building the TIE Interceptor, Briar read the instructions aloud, while Ave found the necessary LEGO pieces. I asked a few times if they needed help, “We’ve got it, Mom.” It was strange not being the one who stepped into fix it, it was also intoxicating to watch my girls help this little kid. I played with Fin while they finished building.

“Ready to go?” I called as Briar and Avery bid the little boy and his ship goodbye. “Yes!” they shouted as they ran toward me. “Can we go to Friends of Phoebe now?” I nodded and drove toward the shelter where we’d gotten Mae. We spent twenty minutes visiting the kittens and thanking Kim, the owner, for giving us the best cat we’d ever known. She accepted our donation humbly. The drive home was quiet.

“You guys want me to build that fort that we talked about?” They nodded quietly. When we got home I set them up with a snack as I went out to build a fort. It was still hot and I was tired. I wanted to curl up next to a fan and just be. I sat down with my heap of curtains and tapestries and looked up at the sky. The clouds rippled like meringue. A breeze floated through the yard and I got a whiff of forever, that scent of my own childhood mixed with hope for the season ahead. I stood up and started tying knots—time to build a forever fort. We all needed it.

“Girls, it’s ready,” I called. They came thundering out, “Really?”

Fin screamed, “Oh, girls look!” We all climbed in together.

A Start

They walked around, claiming their spots and marveling at the way the light came through the different fabrics. The breeze was a co-conspirator in the magic, fluttering the different walls as if on cue. Finley ran and got a stack of books.






After we read and as the light began to change, we cuddled up close. “Can we braid your hair, mom?” Briar asked. “And can I twist it, because I can’t braid. It’ll still look amazing, mom,” Finley gushed. I smiled as Ave said, “You go ahead girls, I’m going to take the picture and then edit it. I’ll make it look great.”







It was a long day and a good day. The platitudes of the years being minutes resonated and yet I found that the energy I gather from those moments of breathing in forever and from seeing my daughters muster the wherewithal to keep going, even when they’re ready to collapse, expands the minutes. We find and build our own fluid minutes and within them capture memories that will live on forever.

All the Flavors—sad to happy to wow

Posted on August 25, 2014

“We’re going to try and have an adventure, ok?” I gently cajoled.

“Really, what is it?” They asked. I shook my head, “I want it to be a surprise.” They blurted out guesses that quickly began to make my plans for an afternoon at the county fair seem kind of lame.

“Nope,” I said trying to keep my spirits up as I weaved defensively through the weekend traffic.

“Mom, is it ok if I take a nippy-nap?” Finley asked quietly.

“Sure, of course. Do you feel sick?” I asked worried.

“Yes, do you feel sick, Fin? Are you going to throw up, because if you are we should stop,” Briar said in a mixture of fret and lecture.

“No, I’m just tired.”

I wondered if I was trying too hard. Sean was going to be home after midnight and another day of going it alone with the flowers on Mae’s grave stopping us all in our tracks made me think getting out would be a relief. The thing is I am hopeless at getting places; my inner compass and instinct always guided me left when I should go right, south when the destination is north.

We got a little lost, but I didn’t lose it, not when Siri, who I only used at the girls’ insistence said, “Boy, that’s quite a distance from where you are,” and not even when the farmer on the side of the road, in response to my question, “Can you tell us how to get to the Washington County Fair?” began laughing.

An hour into what should have been a 30-minute drive, I let go of expectations and just tried to give myself to the current of the day. It was hot. There was a dramatic wrenching right of the steering wheel in bumper-to-bumper traffic to beat the tide of car-sickness. There was the lingering veil of loss, missing Mae and wishing that Sean were with us. Oh, and the last leg of summer, I’m-kind-of-sick-of-you, sibling rivalry. Then we made it.

We walked a half a mile from the parking lot to the admission gates. It was easily another half a mile to the rides. We stopped to see the animals. The girls gasped and exclaimed, the big girls reading aloud the signs of each animal’s lineage. I smiled, proud.

“So this is why you had us not wear our new shoes, right mom?” Avery asked as she side stepped a large pile of manure.

“Yup,” I grinned. We walked through the tents and barns remarking on the smells and sounds. Avery snapped pictures with her camera, Briar lingered at each pen holding her hand up gently and whispering to the animal, “Yes, yes, don’t you, don’t you like this? I love you. Yes, yes, I do.” It’s hard not to wince at how unwaveringly she wears her heart outside of her body; free to anyone she meets and startlingly open to hurt.

Despite a large breakfast and snacking before we left, the girls quickly needed a bite. I shepherded the girls past onion blossom shacks and fried dough wagons. I reminded myself that we were at a fair. “Chicken tenders, girls?” They squealed. After buying the food I scanned the area. “Mom, are there tables? And shade?” Fin was still off from the car ride.  I found a patch of grass and shade on the ground behind a ticket boot and beneath a ride called, “Chaos.”

We sat over plates of greasy food. Sweat pooled in my shirt, both sides, and I struggled to enjoy an experience that I had little control over.


“Is it good?” I asked as they dipped French fries in little plastic cups of generic ketchup while Counting Crows crackled from the speakers on the ride above us. “Awesome! Mom, look, that lady lost her shoe. It flew right off!” I looked up and sure enough there was a bare foot whizzing by.

“Wow,” I said.

“Can we go on the Scrambler now?” Ave asked.

“Sure, Fin and I will stay here. When you’re done let’s pick one that she can do too.” They ran off nodding. Finley and I watched and laughed as they zoomed close and away; a blur of whipping hair and flapping hands.


Next we hoofed it to the slides, I was grateful for the three lanes, “Look, we can do it together!” They sidled up next to each other in the line, claimed their carpets from the ride operator with a cigarette wedged between his lips, and made their way up the rickety steps. I chided myself for thinking of tetanus, germs, and mange as they bubbled over about who would take the teal one and who would be pink or purple.


We broke apart so the big girls could ride something called “Rock and Roll” while Fin and I rode the Ferris wheel. I may have mentioned rides don’t come naturally to me, which seems to enhance the girls’ enjoyment of the rides. I teetered between terror, remorse, and relief that I said yes.

As our supply of tickets ran down we bought more. I declared each ride, “the last one, ok?” We’d walk along with them counting quietly, “One, two, three—thank you mom!” and me saying, “Ok, one more, pick one you all want to do.”

A headache nipped at my temple and I took a slug of water. As I gulped it occurred to me that I hadn’t cried all day, hadn’t yelled either. I gave Briar and Avery the last few tickets and asked Fin if she wanted to sit with me. She nodded and slipped her hand under my shirt and rubbed my waist.

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 8.54.17 AM

We left slowly, weaving our way through the barns again. Goats, bunnies, pigs, cows, horses, chickens and ducks. We walked past monster trucks and motorcycle displays. We passed through food tents, 4H booths, and hand washing stations. When we got to the parking lot they asked to take a courtesy cart to the car.

“Sure,” I said. Their heads whipped, shocked. I am usually very much a, “Nope, you have to walk,” kind of mom. It was hot, the car was so far away, and the cart was right there. They hopped on as excited as if it had been another ride.

As the man drove of us over the bumpy field I slipped away in my mind, reflecting on how it was ok, we were ok. It’s ok that we aren’t happy every minute, or eating clean at each meal. Getting sticky and sweaty is a part of summer; climbing the walls and getting car sick are all a part of this whole thing.

Just like with the laundry room, I found myself pretty proud that I braved an unfamiliar drive with all three girls and let go of (most) of my worries. It was fun and we all needed it.

Have you learned any life lessons this summer?

Avoiding an Idle Mind

Posted on August 24, 2014

This week was awful. My disbelief and heartache were unrelenting and compounded by Sean’s absence. I needed escape or purpose or both because everything felt hopelessly out of control. But what to do? I drew upon a combination of needing to change things and remembering that I am capable.

Our laundry room has long been the root source of my unhappiness. I mean, the laundry just never ends and the room never fit. The shelves in the cabinets were too short, too shallow, and the wrong height. The wallpaper border always made me feel like I was living in someone else’s house. I loathed the dirty blue color and the entire room came to feel like a jail cell.

I decided to redo it; all of it. I researched shelving options. I knew that I wanted to be able to store hampers and quilts. Our kitchen renovation did away with the place where I stored all the medicine and first aid supplies, so I wanted something to fit that bill too. I also needed a system for the broom and mop.

I took a big old breath of “Why the hell not?” and got to work. You can see the transformation right down there.


My heart still hurts and laundry is still a chore, but somehow taking control of the space and giving it touches that make me smile soothed me. Oh, and pushing past my fear and doing it myself made me feel incredible.


Do you have any spaces in your house that make you feel heavy? Or that make you feel light?

Scattered Thoughts

Posted on August 20, 2014

I have a few closet admissions—I’ve always like Rick Astley, not leaving the house on Sunday is something that I cannot abide, I have never gotten R.E.M. (the band, or sometimes even the sleep),  I kill spiders, ants, and other crawly things, but I almost always try to save moths.

Here’s the thing, the only part of those admission that really matters is R.E.M. Because at the end of the day, particularly these past few weeks, everybody really does hurt.

In Ferguson.

In Gaza.

Next door.

In bed next to you.

Across the country.

In the penthouse.

In the encampments.


In person.

In Syria.

In school.

At the office.

In Hollywood.

In silence.

Places I couldn’t find on a map and people I might never know, all chock full of pain.

This post crystalized so much for me as this story that has amplified so much divisiveness in our country, cast a light on our government, media, and many of our own unspoken assumptions, rolled into another day. It shifted things for me in a way that helped me understand that though I may not think a thing has anything to do with me, it does.

I’m tired of the constant sorrow flow in the media, the daily hammering with negative stories, and I don’t mean to do that here. I’ve read the FB status that says that anyone posting hideous images or stories of violence will get unfriended to keep feeds kid-safe. I get that, but I also think that there is a responsibility to bear witness.

We are, as different as we may be, in this together. Shame and anger are both riding high. I barely understand how to get through all the moving parts of being a mom and a business owner. I don’t know how loud I am supposed to speak about Ferguson or the other layers of things in my life that when I really think about it seem like crap.

Yes, the media is salacious, it’s their job to hook viewers. I don’t always agree with how they do it (we canceled cable in part to get away from it). I said on twitter the other day that sometimes it’s hard to know when to wave your “Don’t give a fuck card” and when to stand up and declare that you in fact “give all the fucks” and are ready to stand your ground.

I think that we have to push through the awkward of saying we didn’t know how much other were hurting or that we are hurting; raise our voices to say that things aren’t ok or that we want to do the hard work of trying to make them ok. Through it all we have to find, either within ourselves or in the support of our friends and family, the courage to be ok with the way forward involving a little bit of fear.


I don’t mean to speak for anyone with the use of the word ‘we,’ I am just hoping that all of us can get to a place that allows us to say and believe in a concept of we that connects us in kindness.



Day by Day

Posted on August 13, 2014

There isn’t much that calms me down, which as I get older is becoming a problem. Stress tangles inside of me, festering in knots that I can’t find my way to untie. The furrows in my brow deepen, the acid pings and gurgles from my stomach grow to a roar. My worry launches itself from the laundry piles to the greens that are going bad in the crisper, to the jumble of ill-fitting and tired underwear in my dresser, to all the things I want to do with the girls but can’t get to because I have to be at a meeting and I still have to do a grocery shop, and for-the-love-of-all-that’s-good-why-is-time moving so fast?

“You just have to lower your stress, Amanda,” Sean will say. I completely agree, but knowing how to fix it and not feeling more stress at the thought of having to reduce stress is beyond me.

Exercise charges me and clears my mind, reading can distract me from my worries, swimming offers me quiet, but the hurdle of feeling like these things are selfish trips me up.

Do it for your health, which makes you stronger for the girls and more capable of managing the rest of your day.

Do it for yourself. Just do it.

Sometimes I do, but it doesn’t exactly make me feel calm. The only thing that really lowers my shoulders and soothes me is gardening. I love the ritual of watering, the unwrapping of the hose, feeling the water surge through in that first spray, and then guiding the arc of water from my hand to little plants. I revel in the sensation of my fingers in the soil, the gritty feel of the earth in my hands, even beneath my nails. The smell of the grass nearby or of the marigolds soldiers that keep the bugs at bay, it fills me with a sense of belonging and when the chives tickle at my legs or the cucumber leaves catch on my hands, I feel capable. I made those. I will nourish my family with these.

This week the first of three bulbs that I planted sometime earlier this year finally began to bloom. I couldn’t remember what color they had been, or even the kind of flower. The excitement of seeing that something actually grew and transformed from the odd, craggy lump, to a burgeoning creature made my heart race. I checked on it every day, until this morning when I tiptoed around the curving stone stairs and it finally revealed the full blossom to me. The payoff for my patience was intoxicating and the sight of the water droplets on the petals felt as if they were cleansing me too.



I hope something new opens for you, whether it’s a fresh start, an opportunity, or a wildflower on a walk. I hope you’ll come back and share what you discovered.