Category Archives: parenting

A Llama Situation; How to Pet a Llama; Her Name is Belle

So you know when you’re just walking into a barn and your husband calls and you look up and say, “Hey, I gotta go” and he keeps talking and this thing in front of you has those weird scary bottom fangy teeth sticking out and its ears are backIMG_3607.JPG

and the small child at your feet, who just yesterday was SO HAPPY when you took him to the cookie bakery after school


is starting to whimper, and you’re feeling a little nervous, too, because Fangy Ears-Back Llama-creature is coming at you

and the farmer walks by and says, “Oh, she’s fine, don’t worry, her name’s Belle,” and keeps walking

and it gets closer and you say into your phone, “LOOK, I HAVE A LLAMA SITUATION, I HAVE TO GO”


(why is he still talking, why does he not understand, I’M HANGING UP NOW)

and you hang up and pick up the whimpering child and agree, when the child says he’s a little scared of the llama, that this is not the friendliest-looking animal you’ve encountered together

and you remember that every other time you’ve been here, the other farmhands have said to stay back from the llama, just give her some space

and outside the barn, away from those freaky teeth and flared-back ears

you ask the farmer about the llama. She’s very friendly, apparently, and likes kids, but she hates hands and hates being petted and hates being touched anywhere near her head and doesn’t like hands at all or anyone reaching for her and no, yeah, she likes chldren but do not reach for her or put your hands out or try to touch her

(ok, so, that would have been nice to know)



But her name is Belle and she’s 25, really old for a llama, the youngest of 13 siblings, and her bottom teeth stick out to help her scrape bark from trees. And though she is free-range, she never crosses the road.

Small child and I bid her farewell and then I let him pick out almost anything he wanted at the farm store, which amounted to asparagus and celery, because I said no to the $7/pint blueberries.

And that was our Saturday morning llama situation.

The Big Apple Circus is in Town! [Review]

backdropThe Big Apple Circus is here in Boston for seven weeks with their new show, LUMINOCITY, and we were lucky enough to go on Saturday!

The kids loved it. We all had a good time. The Big Apple Circus is a good old-fashioned circus, with people doing tricks. Acrobats! High-wire acts! Horse and pony acts! Dog tricks! Clowns! A proper ringmaster! A flim-flam man (that’s right: a flim-flam man—don’t you just love that word?).
joykidsMost impressive, perhaps, were the Russian acrobats, whose core muscles—unlike the rest of us soft mere mortals—were apparently made of steel.

Necks of steel, too!

Necks of steel, too!

The high-wire act was pretty impressive, too.

She is standing on a chair way up in the air on a tightrope...calmly.

She is standing on a chair way up in the air on a tightrope…calmly.

Most fun (for us, at least, because humans launching humans is just fun to watch) were the sensational Dosov Troupe, who used a teeter-board to burst each other into the air….including people on stilts, who—once airborne—somersaulted and landed on their feet—I mean, on their stilts!

See that blur just above and to the right of the chair? It’s a person. He is about to land, quite neatly, in the chair.

From Big Apple Circus themselves:

Venture within the hubbub at the heart of Gotham, where the restless tide of humanity rushes through canyons of skyscrapers and shoals of billboards: The dog-walker, whose rowdy pups perform amazing tricks! Businesswomen who arrange to meet, soaring high above on a double trapeze! The rube, a clown-prince among peers, celebrating the mirth of life! Revelry at New Year’s Eve, with teeter-board acrobats flying like fireworks! and a chic couple of wire-walkers suspended mid-air for the event! The humble repairman, climbing the ladder of his imagination! The mounted policewoman, directing a cavalcade of steeds! The flimflam man with his quicksilver moves! The food cart vendor, juggling his produce! Construction workers assembling athletic poses of incredible strength! The celebrated Big Apple Circus Band, under the baton of maestro Rob Slowik, provides the lively musical soundtrack, and your cosmopolitan Ringmaster, John Kennedy Kane, will conduct your tour through this luminous cityscape. Run away and join the Big Apple Circus this season for a dazzling, unforgettable spectacle of wonder, merriment and joy!

(There was no double-trapeze act, but maybe that was just our show.)
In short, the circus is fun and family friendly and small. “No seat,” they like to brag, “is more than 50 feet from ringside!” It’s not too loud or flashy. It’s just a plain old good time. Details:

  • Big Apple Circus presents LUMINOCITY at City Hall Plaza from Tuesday, March 25 through Sunday, May 11, 2014.
  • There are concessions for sale, including cotton candy (what’s a circus without cotton candy?), hot dogs, and beverages (adult beverages, even!).
  • The Big Top is heated in cold weather, and air-conditioned when it’s warm…The show runs for 2 hours, including a 15 minute intermission. For more ticket information, group sales, inquiries about wheelchair–accessible seating or for additional information please call the Ticket Info Line at (800) 922-3772.
  • The Big Apple Circus is a not-for-profit performing arts and outreach institution committed to invigorating the communities we serve with the joy and wonder of classical circus. Tax-deductible contributions made by corporations, foundations and individuals enable the Big Apple Circus to bring its special magic to diverse audiences through its outreach programs — Clown Care[SM], Vaudeville Caravan[SM], Circus After School[SM], Circus For All!® and Circus of the Senses® — as well as its critically acclaimed performances.
  • More details, including how to buy tickets, can be found here. There are weekend and weekday shows, including midday weekday shows if your kids aren’t in school!
  • The Government Center T-stop is closed for construction, so you can walk from a different stop (not far from Park Street or Haymarket or else park in a garage for a discount. Details on that are found here.
It's right there on City Hall Plaza!

It’s right there on City Hall Plaza!

Don’t miss it. It’s fun. It’s the circus!

[Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to the show for review purposes. All opinions are my own.]

Busted for Free-Range Parenting: What Did the Cop Say?

Today I left my child outside the library alone.

Rather, I parked the stroller, in which my child was napping*, on the landing outside the library door. The entryway is glass: glass wall with glass door, tiny lobby, then another glass wall and glass door. It was a cool day, and he was bundled in his jacket and mittens, with a blanket tucked around him. I did not want to wake him; he needed the sleep. He was perfectly comfortable as he was, and I knew if I brought him into the library he’d wake up because it is so warm in there. And noisy. It’s more of a kids’ community center than a library, and schoolchildren spend afternoons there, playing games.

Also, I’m a firm believer in fresh air and cool air, not sleeping in a hot place with recycled air. And I’m half Icelandic, Iceland being a country where it’s totally normal to park strollers with sleeping children outside in all weather.

There wasn’t time to go home and really get anything useful done, so I decided to stay, and I parked him right outside the door.

I understand we are not in Iceland. But still. Quiet side street, early afternoon, not much foot traffic…and here’s the important part, the part that really matters: I found a seat right inside the door, near the door, with a direct line of site to the stroller. I grabbed some magazines and browsed through them, glancing up very frequently (so much so that I couldn’t really read) to check on Ben. I could see his feet, totally still. My biggest concern was that he’d wake up.

Because I was watching him the whole time, I watched the reactions of people who came in and out. Some took no notice of him. Some people noticed there was a child in the stroller, looked up, saw me, and gestured/mouthed something to the effect of, “Is he yours?

Yes, I’d nod, and they’d smile and relax and continue on their way. One man, however, looked at Ben for awhile as he came in and then looked around outside the library, not inside. Then he came into the library and did his thing. On his way out, he looked around the lobby again. Had he just looked around, he would have seen me, watching him and watching Ben.

Soon enough it was time to go pick up my older son. Ben was still asleep. I wheeled him around the corner and down the main street toward the school. Three blocks later, a cop car pulled over next to me. I didn’t think anything of it until a police officer got out and approached me.

“Ma’am, excuse me, but were you just at the library?”

“Yes, we just left there,” I said.

“We got a call. Did you leave your baby outside unattended for five minutes or so?” he asked.

I smiled at him. “Oh, it was much longer than that! But he wasn’t unattended. I was in a chair right by the door, and I had my eye on him the whole time.”

He looked confused. “Oh, OK,” he said. “We just, you know, got a call.” He didn’t seem to really know what to say. Which was fine, because there was nothing really to say. He started heading for his car.

“Well, it’s good people are concerned,” I said. “Thank you, officer.”

He nodded and got into his car. Half a block away, another police car was pulling over but then pulled away from the curb. I’m guessing he, too, was looking for me.

I suppose we got lucky—not in terms of safety, because Ben was not unsafe the entire time—but because in some places mothers have been arrested or at least detained for such things. I know there are degrees to which we feel our children are safe, and I know some people would never leave their children away from their side for a minute, even if they had the child in full view. Others desperately wish they could just leave the sleeping child in the car for a minute while they run into the bank. I think we’ve gotten, as a society, really out of control when it comes to perceived danger. I’m not going to debate crime statistics here or get into arguments about the risk of stranger abduction.

As I said, he was never out of my sight. I’m guessing it was that man who made the call. And you know what? I don’t blame him. He didn’t see me. He’s the only person who did not look into the library for some reason. It’s good to look out for children.

But it’s also good to look around carefully to see if someone is, in fact, watching the child.

Have you ever left your child unattended, even in the “in plain view” way in which I did? If not, was it concern for your child’s safety that stopped you? Or fear of judgment?


* He doesn’t normally nap. After being sick with a stomach bug yesterday morning and spending much of yesterday sleeping, he’d awakened, famished, at 4 a.m. this morning and had been awake since. I’d expected him to fall asleep after lunch today, after his busy morning at preschool, but he no longer takes naps at home, so off to the library we went to pass the time until it was time to pick up my older son from school.

The Grief with No Cause

I’ve been feeling like I’m grieving: a deep heavy sorry, quick surprising tears. This has been going on for a month. More. I wake with a heaviness, an aversion to the day. My eyes sting quickly and often with frustration, tension, emotion. I’m short on patience, short on memory. I need to grieve, for someone has died.

I suspect it is me.

The grief has been here before, settling on me, and it usually indicates that my depression is back. But, before now, I’ve never been so high-functioning through it as I am this time. I have to be. There are children, who need breakfast and clean socks and flossed teeth and packed lunches. There was moving to a new town. A preschool application (no, for real, that’s how it works—you have to apply to preschool around here and even have the former preschool teacher or daycare provider fill out some long enormous form about the child). Financial aid applications. Taxes (to submit with the financial aid applications).

One client did not send their 1099 until the very last possible day, the very end of February, but our taxes were due (for financial aid) February 15… and it arrived the day our mail slipped through the forwarding system and went to our old apartment. I’d do our taxes now except we have not finished moving, and I need to spend my days on that. No, and that is not my story to tell, though I’m working my ass off to make it happen, long days in a basement churning with what looks like broken suburban dreams: fishing poles and beach chairs and camping gear, various auto fluids, yard toys, extra furniture. We don’t have room for it all in the new place; nor do we need it. We really expanded there in our former home, with the big yard and the run of the place. Here we’re compressed, houses close together, little storage. Impossible to be our free-range shouty reclusive selves.


This needs a new home by Monday, if we can chisel it out of the snow.

I felt happier by miles when my last project finished, an especially difficult one for me (harder with the snow days, the moving, the designated work time sucked away to tend to matters of the home and family). I’ll be freer still once taxes are done and we’re fully out of the old place, all of which will happen by Sunday despite doctor appointments and two days with kids home from school.

Basement of suburban dreams

Basement of suburban dreams

My left hip is out right now, literally, meaning my leg is turned out. My foot is turned the wrong way. My stride is off and I cannot support weight on my bent left leg. Running is out right now. I’m broken until I see my chiropractor tomorrow to put my SI joint and the rest of my hip structure back into place. I think, if you care to hear, this is because last week’s race stressed an already-stressed hip flexor or quad, which ended up pulling my SI joint out, causing intense pain, which I tried to fix at home, so now the SI joint is no longer screaming but the hip and leg are totally f*cked up.

Not running kills me in so, so, so many ways. It doesn’t help, here in my low point, that my friends are getting faster than ever, PR’ing in every race, every distance, while I get slower and now can’t run at all. My nonrunning friends are landing great jobs. Another friend, from my MFA program, just got into an exclusive writing group. Everyone is celebrating their awesome, because they are all awesome skilled, fast, honest, excellent-writing people. And I’m, you know, cleaning stables right now. Bitchily.

Despite feeling like “always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” I’m very happy for them. I have some super-powerhouse running friends, and I’m proud of their dedication, natural speed, and how their hard work is paying off.

I wanted to take some time. “Slack tide,” my sometime therapist calls it, and she approves of the idea. Time to settle into our new home and unpack, finish the big tasks on my plate, find a job. Time to not make many demands on myself.

It’s hard to talk about much here, in this space, at this time, because I can only tell my own story but I’m obviously so enmeshed with others. It is, at present, blurry and messy and painful and boring and tedious and stressful, and it will wash out to smoothness soon enough, I hope. I’m trying to hold on, to ebb and flow with it all, to finish this week’s horrible big impossible push, and then next week I will actually be able to start applying for jobs. Full-time jobs. Sorry, children, sorry, husband, but it’s time. We’ll all have to figure out how to shift our schedules and tasks a little bit.



The Most Beautiful Day: One-on-One Time, or Parenting with Intention

Yesterday, Max and I dropped Ben off at his new preschool (LOVES IT) and then continued on for our own adventure day, our last before he begins his school years. I was really looking forward to the one-on-one time with him; I very rarely get it.

We walked to the subway and rode it into Boston. We sat outside enjoying coffee (for me) and muffins on the Common. We threw coins into a fountain; we spent forever at a playground, me inventing an obstacle course on the structure and Max following the directions (“Climb up that! Down the chain ladder! Up that blue thing! Across the bridge rail!”) with delight.

frog lounge

lounging with a frog

By pure and joyous luck, the Swan Boats were still in operation for the season and about to open for the day. Then the subway back to our town, a quick lunch outside, and we caught the shuttle up the hill and picked up Ben right on time.

The joy of one-on-one time with just one child, with Max, is indescribable. Our day was easy and fun, no frustrations. I was able to be totally focused on him, not overwhelmed with trying to manage both kids, not trying to tune out by turning to my phone (email, Facebook) as escapism. I was wholly present, and it was amazing.

No annoyed voice. No yelling. No cajoling or threats or countdowns. No commands. No frustration. Just two happy people having a great adventure together, smiles and laughter all day.

I look forward to some of the same with Ben soon, as he won’t be in preschool every day. I love one-on-one time with him, too, and it too is so rare. Because I’ve been with both of them, not just one of them, for months and months and months (when I’m with them, that is; I’ve been working and have had a fair amount of childcare to that end over the summer), I’d forgotten how lovely and easy it is to just be with one child. We interact in a totally different way.

I know I was also being so present partly because we had a very full day planned (including swimming lessons in the afternoon, then heading straight back into Boston, at their dinnertime, so I could do bootcamp to kick off Planet Shoes #Fit4Fall campaign). (The boys did amazingly well for that, considering they ate dinner on the subway and stayed up way past their bedtimes.) I was trying to keep things easy for them all day in the face of such a big schedule at the end of a barely-structured summer.


Yes, they ended their LONG day seeing things like this on the beautiful new Greenway, with a huge bunch of balloons given to us by the kind Planet Shoes people!

But having one-on-one time with Max was such a beautiful gift, especially as he starts kindergarten tomorrow (and, I feel, will be off and gone, to be next glimpsed at his college graduation as time continues to whiz by).

Max got a balloon hat, a muffin and lunch out, and subway rides, and a Swan Boat ride, and some mid-afternoon PBS Kids (a.k.a. “television”), and swimming lessons, and a huge bunch of balloons. Ben got a fun day at his new preschool, the same mid-afternoon PBS Kids (Wild Kratts, if you must know), an evening adventure, and the same huge bunch of balloons.

But who was the luckiest of all yesterday?

I was. By far.




Relishing the Last of Summer: Burning the Entire Candle

We’re running out of summer fast, though the final two weeks stretches long ahead of us.

I keep breaking my own rules and policies. It started when we went to Iceland back in July (I swear, I’ll get a post on visiting Iceland with kids out soon!). We were traveling, right? To a different time zone, where the sun didn’t set until around midnight, right? So bedtimes got quite lax.

And it was fine.

Once we returned home, well, it’s summer! The children, I’m sure, stayed up late and did things out of the ordinary plenty in the first part of August, but lately I feel like we’re on high speed toward the end of summer.

We went to the Cape for several days of fun at the beaches (ocean and pond). I took the kids out in a kayak. Back home again, we’ve gone to the local pond nearly every day to swim. We had a flurry of blogger/social media events which included a Hood ice cream party (#MeetHarvey, to introduce their new ice cream bars—yum) at a wonderful playground with a water feature. The kids enjoyed the treats, the water, the other kids, and I enjoyed hanging with some fellow local bloggers and catching up a little (plus, those Hood people treat their social media friends right!!).

Last weekend, we went on a last-minute camping trip. I was concerned about the state forest campground we ended up in, about not being prepared enough, about sleeping together in a tent, etc. I needn’t have worried. The boys had a great time riding their bikes up and down the camp road, having tons of freedom, hiking a “secret” trail to the lake, and then going for a night hike after dinner, headlamps on as they ran down a trail through the forest.

Back at our campsite, we let them eat too many s’mores, perhaps, because you’re only young once. Then everyone slept hard and fast in the tent, waking to enjoy a morning campfire (I mean, why not?). After we struck camp, we drove to Mt. Monadnock, where we hiked to the summit and down again, five often steep miles round trip, with lots of bare granite face to scramble up using hands and feet.

Max did it all on his own, very excited and proud. I was thrilled for him. Ben needed to be carried at times, especially on the way down, where he nearly fell asleep riding on C’s shoulders (note to self: get a hiking carrier). We found a diner for dinner, then (despite my quite Capricorn objections, it already dark and we were more than an hour from home on a Sunday night) we stopped for ice cream. Of course.

The next day, it was a full day at the Museum of Science, including a planetarium show and the butterfly garden. Tuesday, I made a last-minute decision not to catch the last family concert of the season at the lake, because the boys were tired. Wednesday, to the lake to swim, and today, off to a local pool to swim.

On top of this, my work has really picked up, with some heavy deadlines coming up. I’m hoping to pick up some other fall projects as well.

On top of all that, twenty pounds of peaches sit in my kitchen waiting for me to turn them into jam before C and I head to New Hampshire tomorrow for a weekend backpacking trip with some friends.

We’re not at a frantic pace, for sure, though it may sound like it. It’s actually fairly relaxed, just super-spontaneous. The boys are with the sitter for the morning and with me from right after lunch, on. I make sure they’re eating dinner by 5:30 or so. But oh, life is short, and time is short, so we do whatever they want in the afternoons. Errands can wait, for now.

Though I know we need to get back to an earlier bedtime in order to facilitate earlier wake-up times (hello, back-to-school!), for now, we’re just enjoying life and each other. I’m certainly enjoying the rhythm of things, having mornings to work and afternoons with the boys.

And it feels great.



Get Back-to-School Ready with P&G (Giveaway)

Ready for back-to-school!

Ready for back-to-school!

School starts, for us, in a few weeks. I thought I’d messed up Max’s kindergarten registration (and it didn’t help that the registration office always seemed to be closed, so I couldn’t confirm), but I can happily say that he’s in. All paperwork has been filled out and filed. My firstborn is about to begin his school years.

We’re excited, and neither I nor Max is nervous about it. He is looking forward to kindergarten and school and learning and new friends, and I am looking forward to all of that for him. He’s so ready.

And Ben is starting a new preschool, a place he’s really excited about and that I think will be a great place for him to grow and play and learn.

However, I know that shifting from the long, slow, spontaneous, relaxed days of August to a new school year (when we all have to be up and out the door by a certain time, lunches in hand, backpacks holding whatever is supposed to be in them) is going to be tough.

Some of my favorite local bloggers, getting ready for back-to-school!

Some of my favorite local bloggers, getting ready for back-to-school!

Ironically, Thursday I was headed into Boston to meet with some fellow bloggers, including Audrey McClelland of Mom Generations, to talk about back-to-school stuff with Proctor and Gamble. I’d be dropping the kids off with the sitter at 8:30 before heading out for the day. Naturally, Ben ended up sleeping way too late (I hate to wake a sleeping toddler whom I know is tired). I scrambled to pack their lunches, only to find out we were out of bread and pretzels and, you know, everything except apples.

Audrey McClelland giving us some back-to-school tips.

Audrey McClelland giving us some back-to-school tips.

So that was a fun morning, and I got to MiniLuxe just in the nick of time. See, the conversation was taking place at this great nail salon in Boston, where Proctor and Gamble had invited us to get pedicures, enjoy pastries, and chat about getting back into the school routine. Well, it turned out that we — at least I — didn’t talk about back-to-school stuff. We chatted and relaxed and caught up and laughed. A lot.


So much fun, and so relaxing!

Which is fine, since the point of it all, really, was for parents to be sure to take time for themselves and relax a little before climbing the mountain of tasks known as Getting Ready for Back-to-School: buying school supplies, making sure all your paperwork is in, finding out classroom assignments, buying new clothes and backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes. But oh, there’s so much more!

Fact: Bloggers are always working, even when they are supposedly at rest.

Fact: Bloggers are always working, even when they are supposedly at rest.

For more tips on getting back-to-school ready, check out P&G’s Back-to-School Checklist on P&G Everyday. I learned a few things from the site, things I wouldn’t have considered. I knew some obvious ones: start working on an earlier bedtime a week or so before school starts; get clothes and lunches ready the night before; and….um….hey, we’re just starting school for the first time! Give me a break!

But the checklist has other things I hadn’t considered. Cleaning out closets? De-cluttering your home before the new school year starts? Deep cleaning rooms? It all makes sense, but I hadn’t thought of it!

For many more tips, check out their full checklist.PG_products

To help ease your transition back to school, one lucky reader will win a $50 electronic gift card to the Proctor and Gamble eStore!! You may or may not know that they own several great brands, such as Cover Girl, Olay, Tide (those useful stain pens!), Cascade, Pampers, Duracell, Gillette, Venus, and more. So many back-to-school lists ask parents to bring in tissues, hand sanitizer, wipes. What better way to buy them than on the P&G eStore? With this gift card, you can get everything you need for back-to-school and every day.

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All prizes to be delivered by sponsor.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. While this is not a sponsored post, I did receive a (fabulous) pedicure, gift bag, and gift card from Proctor and Gamble. Many, many thanks to P&G, Flour, and MiniLuxe for a great morning and excellent pedicure!

Materials Science, Etymology, and the Natural World

Question we have had to answer on Saturday:

“What color is air?” I said, “It’s colorless” just as C said, “Blue,” and we did that gesturing thing over Max’s head. C pointed at the sky. He usually gives accurate answers but he wasn’t quite up to it at that moment, I think.

“Why does the milk come out before the cereal does?” I had poured Ben’s cereal and milk from the bowl I’d given him* (which he deemed offensively too large) into a smaller bowl. Max observed this and wanted to know why the milk poured out of the bowl before the solids fell. Great question, child! I don’t take physics or materials questions before my second cup of coffee, however. Sorry!

“What holds the ground up?” For real, Ben? He aimed this one at C, as in, “What holds the ground up, Daddy?” C looked at me: “You want to field this one?” I snorted. “Nope. He asked you, honey, not me.”

That last one was easier than it sounds, because we were standing on a road but a stream came out under where were standing. As in, it was a mill stream that is underground/in culverts much of the time. We were standing on top of the culvert, and Ben knew the stream was running under us, so he was really asking (I think) what kept us from falling down into the water. C and I answered that one together, in the end: “Concrete and rebar!”

That’s just a small sample of what we have to answer lately. Max has a ton of really good questions lately. He’s observant and curious, qualities I want to foster, but man it’s not easy. Like when I’m driving or biking. Or when I want him to go to bed but don’t want to shut down his thinking if he has questions. Sometimes he wants to know why two words mean the same thing, or what a certain word means. He wants to know the characteristics of various materials. Really, he wants to know everything.

It sure keeps me on my toes. Also, to be honest, sometimes I feel stupid. I hope I don’t come off as blindly unknowing as I feel sometimes.


* Sometimes we give in, sometimes we don’t. Don’t judge.

A Day Without Kids

These days, we have about two friends left. We don’t get out much, and we don’t do much of anything that we used to do (mountain biking, climbing, skiing, literary events [me], movies, anything). C was never terribly sociable, as far as I could tell, but I was, but that all fell apart–I mean, um, changed–once parenthood hit.

Our last remaining IRL friends-who-aren’t-parents-and-whom-we-knew-from-way-before-we-had-kids suggested skiing this weekend. I pulled the kids from school and daycare, brought them to my mom’s, settled them in, and drove home tonight…to find that due to poor communication, our (childless) friends thought that either day this weekend would work for us, so they have other plans tomorrow.

Are you kidding? When you have kids age 2 and 4, and you want a full day of skiing in the White Mountains without said children, you don’t just go when you want to. You don’t just gather your gear, load the car, and toss in some trail food. You orchestrate.

You convince your mother that a weekend on her own with two small children will be grand. You convince your attachment-issue preschooler that a sleepover at Grandmother’s will be wonderful. You work out all the details.

Then you find out that instead of doing some cool backcountry tour with some friends, you’re on your own with your husband for the day. I’m an early riser; he is not. His friends we’d been planning to ski with are patient with him; I am not. We’re each willing to explore new trails with one or two more people who are also confident about risk and following maps and compasses; with just each other, we are not.

Also, honestly, tonight I am dying to sleep completely alone, by myself, without waking in a pile of children. I want to get up and work instead of dealing with a tantrum about who got his milk in the green cup instead of the yellow cup.

I want a weekend day of not refereeing anyone or anything.

A day of skiing would be nice. A day home alone, in the quiet, to work and declutter and clean the house, would be amazing. I know C and I could then go out on a date for dinner, but we probably wouldn’t, because not having to deal with bedtime would be so wonderful and delightful that even Netflix and toast would make for a fantastic evening.

We don’t have friends anymore. That’s what it comes down to. We somehow lost all our friends since we became parents. We were overwhelmed. We were tired. We can’t always get childcare .

We’ve lost our interests and hobbies and friends.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We’ll get out skiing somewhere, I think, so we don’t spend the day home. It won’t be one of the days of yore, of hitting the road early and hitting the trails hard, but right now what I want most is some time alone, in quiet.

Is that really pathetic, or is that normal for a parent?


How NOT to Tell Children About the Death of a Pet

When I was seven years old, my beloved orange tabby, Fred, who followed me everywhere and slept on my bed and whom I totally adored, vanished. It was a Wednesday.

I cried and cried and cried and cried and cried and cried, missing Fred terribly and not knowing when he was coming back. Finally on Saturday my parents told me he’d been hit by a car and killed. On Wednesday.

I think they were hoping I’d forget him or something. Now that I have kids, I understand they probably really didn’t want to have to tell me about it.

Once I learned what had happened and that he wasn’t coming back, my grief eased immediately. I mean, I was still completely sad that he was gone, but what I remember as most painful was the Wednesday through Saturday period, pure pain and sorrow, not knowing. I don’t remember feeling so lost and broken after finding out he was dead. I was mad at my parents for a little while, and it’s a story I told for years (why? I don’t know. I’m not the most socially smooth person. I probably thought it was relevant somehow).

We lived on a farm, and we lost many more cats to the road. A few dogs, too. The loss of a pet sucked horribly each time, but my brothers and I were not afraid of or unfamiliar with death. We had a small cemetery of pets under the apple tree in the backyard; it included many cats, some dogs, a few goldfish, and maybe a chick or two, also.

[Misty the horse got buried in the back field, right where she died of old age, with the help of a backhoe; she was far too big to haul up toward the house.]

I had pets in college. Some I lost to the road, since during my last year of college I lived in a little house by a busy road. The house was known as “The Flute House” and was on the Merchant-Ivory estate (as in, James Merchant and Ismail Ivory, the movie guys (A Room With a View? Howard’s End? Those guys). They lived in the main house. A motley crew of us (don’t get me started) filled in the outbuildings. Our house was closest to the road.

It was horrible. We lost so many cats. That house has a million stories, involving Thanksgiving and homemade crack and amazing fresh basil omelets and fried lettuce and heroin and fly fishing…*

And one night, in 1995, I was in the kitchen, drinking beer. Our yard backed up to a large farm field; it was a rural area. At night we listened to the coyote packs howl. Out in the darkness, I heard an odd squeaking, tiny and regular. It got closer. I yelled for one of my housemates, my best friend at the time. “Em! Come ‘ere! What is this?”

She came and stood in the open sliding door with me. The squeaking got closer and closer and a tiny kitten trotted toward us. Tiny. It trotted right past our feet and into the house and aimed for the bowls of pet food on the floor (at the time, we had two puppies and several cats).

She ate and ate and ate, all the cat food and some puppy food, until her stomach was the size of a tennis ball. She settled in with us nicely, fending off the puppies, holding her own with the cats, and eating everything in sight. She’d climb into an open pretzel bag and hang out there, licking and crunching pretzels.

I moved out, eventually, and she came with me. Her name, at that time, was Karl. It still is. Long story, but I wasn’t the one who named her.

I eventually brought Karl to Maine to live; we lived in a back shed on a farm. She brought in chipmunks as playtoys; she killed every field mouse, vole, and shrew in the vicinity and left parts of them at my doorstep. She got in a terrible fight one night with something (fisher? raccoon?) and I went out and scared off the other animal and she was terrified and bleeding (but ultimately fine).

She was 14 pounds of pure muscle with attitude.

When we moved to the city, Karl had the ability to stare down other animals. She’d escape my apartment to beat up the neighbor cats; she scared a frequently-visiting bulldog into looking anywhere but directly at her. Poor Rosie would sit there, her eyes downcast, then shifting to the side, the ceiling….making sure not to make eye contact with my alpha cat Karl.

Curled up nearby, sleeping, as she often is these days.

Karl’s much older now. You do the math. Her kidneys are failing. My vet charges me $160 for a urine test, $2/can for the food she doesn’t eat. After initial testing, we don’t see the point of going much further. We give her subcutaneous fluids three times a week or so. She doesn’t love that. She doesn’t eat much if we don’t do it, though.

She sleeps a lot these days.

She looks like she weighs about 4 pounds (it’s closer to 5 and a half, but still: skin and bones).

I don’t think it’s her time yet, but that time is getting mighty close.

So I decided to warn the kids.

They love her. Max seems indifferent much of the time, but Ben is always after the kitty. A few nights ago, fearing the end was very near, I had a talk with them about how the cat is really old and ill and not feeling well and might not be with us much longer. I’d have to take her to the vet soon. I guess I made the point clear, because Max wanted to know “how they kill kitties.” Ben, on the other hand, laughed and said, “That’s silly! Kitties can’t ride in cars!” and thought the whole idea was very funny. Max wanted to know how they made her die and why she couldn’t just die here with us.

I had to try to explain what exactly they do at the vet’s office to put her down.

I think I handled the whole thing badly, in retrospect, though at the time I thought I was doing a great thing: preparing them for the death of a pet. After all, it’s better than having them get home from preschool/daycare to find the cat gone, right?

If you think “yes,” well, I don’t know. Now they’re into the cat all the time. I was hoping the kids would go to my mom’s for a few days (Friday/Saturday) so I could work and then go hiking for my birthday, but Max is refusing to go. He says he wants to be with the kitty. I promised that the kitty would be fine and would be here when he got back, the stupidest promise ever. I cannot guarantee that. I don’t know when we’ll need to make the call.

I know in part he’s always reluctant to go to my mom’s for a sleepover without us (oh, attachment parenting theory, I don’t like you much sometimes!), but this time he’s using the cat as an excuse, and he is very solicitous of her since our macabre little talk.

“Shhhhhhh,” he said the other night at bedtime story time on the sofa. “The kitty is sleeping. We have to be really quiet. Don’t wake her up. She’s sick.”

Ben, for his part, periodically talks about how kitties can’t ride in cars unless maybe you put them in a bag, and he wants to know when I will bring the kitty to the vet.

So. Not telling your kid about a dead pet is pretty scarring; trying to prepare the child in advance is obviously not the solution, either. I almost have to put Karl to sleep now, just to get it over with, even though the vet said she might last another six months.

I don’t know if I can last that long, what with all the questions and separation anxiety Max now has for the poor cat.

* Let’s be clear. They weren’t MY drugs. I’m not gonna name any names, but my roommates, you know…Maybe this is worth another blog post.

Have you ever had to handle the death of a pet when you had small children? What did you say?