When Being a Mother Isn’t Enough

Today I’m posting over at my new blog, Writing at the Table, about two sensitive topics that are near to my heart – my children, and also, my writing.

The title is Being a Mom is NOT Enough (For Me) and I hope you’ll pop over there and check it out.

Also, don’t forget about my contest to win a free copy of Dani Shapiro’s incredibly inspiring book, Still Writing. All you need to do is subscribe to my email list and voila, you’re in the running not only for this book, but for the next three I’m giving away!

books for contest

Below is the beginning of my post… 

Being a Mom is NOT Enough (For Me)

Writing those words is not easy. Feels a little taboo, like something a mom is never supposed to admit.

Then there’s the whole people pleaser part of me that doesn’t want to make anyone mad. But this idea has been sitting on the back burner of my mind for a while now, simmering like a pot of water. Steam is escaping out the edges and the lid is rattling. Time to look inside.

… head over to Writing at the Table for more … 

Advertisements

Time for a Change!

Oh, it’s been on the horizon for months now, I’ve hinted at it, and now, FINALLY, it’s happening. Please don’t panic, I’m not going anywhere – well, not entirely true, I’m going somewhere, but I do hope you will come with me to… dum da da dum…

My new blog!

Writing at the Table, writer + mother feeding my dream and my family

writing at the table screenshot

For three and a half years now I’ve been blogging here at celiac kiddo. Recipes and rants, I used to say, but it’s been more than that (I hope so anyway!). I wrote from my heart about having a child with celiac, about living a gluten free life in a gluten loving world. Over the years I grew a small but solid band of readers, and I am so grateful to every single one of you.

flickr photo credit, shimelle laine

photo credit: shimelle laine via flickr

I hesitated to make a change for a while because I didn’t want to lose anyone, and let’s face it, change is scary. Well, it is for me.

But I’ve been shifting and drifting on the blog for a while now, as you may have noticed, writing more about my life and less about celiac. I’ll still be posting gluten free recipes because feeding my family (body and soul) is as much a part of my life as writing is.

I am a mother and a writer.

ivyland railroad kids and mom

Part of the reason I’m starting this new blog is to show how the two can be integrated, how for some of us, they have to be.

I hope you will join me in as I turn this corner of my blogging life. But if not, please know that I appreciate the time you spent here! I realize that you can’t please everyone, or write for everyone, so I’m letting go of my fear and leaping into the future.

photo credit: Brian Smithson via flickr

photo credit: Brian Smithson via flickr

I’ll be posting weekly here and on Writing at the Table for the next month or so, to ease the transition, but I would be SUPER psyched if you subscribe to my email list and/or follow me there. 

CONTEST! WIN A FREE BOOK!

As a fun little incentive, I’m having a month-long contest running the first four weeks of December. Each week I’ll randomly select one person who subscribes to my email list to win one of my favorite writing books!

Enter to win, the first drawing will take place and be announced on Tuesday, December 9th!

 

The first is “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro, an incredibly inspiring and practical book that helped reinvigorate my writing life.

still-writing

If you’ve already read it, you can gift it to a friend! It is the holiday season, after all.

*This contest includes my entire email subscriber list, so if you’ve already signed up you’re eligible!

Thank you dear readers for all your support over the years, and please let me know what you think of my new blog!

(Also, I’d love any advice or tips on transitioning from one blog to another from those who’ve done it before, since this is quite new to me.)

A Mother’s Lament (and a Promise for Cake)

Be warned: I’m about to go wide and deep. Down low, where the sun don’t shine, etc. So, if you’re here for the sugartastic kickass confection I promised for a few weeks now, the amazing Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake I made for Bunky, please scroll All The Way Down. Thanks. See you there.

And now, for those of you who are still here…

My daughter, that sweet wild handful of mine, known here as Bunky, just turned six years old.

bunky at party

She is finishing kindergarten and she is growing UP. Fast. It’s like a race to the finish, but there is no finish for a parent (ideally), and I feel like I’m running behind her, struggling to keep up, trying so hard because I can see her tangled blonde ponytail swinging in front of me like a metronome and I can see the sun shining on her still soft skin, but not as new as it once was, and I see the dirty bottoms of her heels, flapping out of her crocs, and oh my god she’s nearly out of my reach.

Bunky last year, after preK graduation.

Bunky last year, after graduating from preK.

That’s the goal, I know. Letting go. Not pretending to own our children. To respect them as miniature humans, growing like fruit on a tree, ripening before our eyes. We can’t keep fruit from falling off the tree. If we do, it will rot there. So, we let it fall and hope it won’t get too bruised when it hits the ground.

My kids are out right now with their dad at the playground while I wait for the worker guys to clean out our dryer vents. I was doing dishes when my husband buzzed and told me to come to the front of our apartment to get Bunky, who had to use the bathroom.

I slipped on my shoes and went into the hallway, past the dryer vent guys, stepping over the snaky green hose they’re using to suck out all the lint and crap that has been collecting and gunking up the pipes ever since they came here last year. She runs to me all smiles and using her goofy baby voice, goes pee, asks me to wipe her (!) and I do (!!) and then tells me she can run down the hall herself, out past the dryer guys, over the snaky hose, and I’m smiling trying to be all cool, like sure, you’re six now, you’re a big girl but I’m still your mom and I have to make sure you’re safe, and I see her almost but not quite rolling her eyes (soon, coming SOON) and saying, but mom I can do it, I’m old enough.

I compromise and walk down the first part of the hall with her, telling her to be careful not to trip on the green hose and then she is about to turn the corner. “Do you see dad out there?” I ask and she nods, and in a flash she’s gone, her still little but not as little legs running off, dotted in the bruises of being a kid, but with a glimmer of the future, too, when they are smoother, less knobby, lean and strong and gorgeous (to me) but perhaps lacking in some way to her (alas).

She’s gone and I walk alone back to our empty apartment and go straight to my phone to text her dad. “She’s on her way. Did you get her?” And nothing for a few seconds and my heart starts to speed up as I imagine all the horrible things that could possibly happen in the span of seconds when she turned that corner and disappeared from my view. An entire horror movie of things. The silver car she saw that she assumed was her dad’s, what if it wasn’t? I start to panic. (Because kidnappers are clearly just waiting outside my apartment for little girls who think they are big kids to run outside to meet their dads in matching cars.)

“I’m sure you have her, but text me anyway,” I write to my husband and I wait.

Unable to do anything but imagine more terrible things, and I can’t help but think about the terrible nightmare I just had about Little Guy, who disappeared when I turned my head for a SECOND and how I felt so much panic and horror in that dream, and I was a wreck, a total mess, crying and screaming and freaking the F out about never seeing him again, about how it was all my fault, about the terrible things that happen to children that should NEVER EVER happen to children, or adults too of course, but children, never ever ever. When he woke me up from that hellish dream, all squirmy and hot and irritable in bed beside me, I was SO relieved that it was only a nightmare and that he was safe, I rubbed his back and helped him fall back asleep, and when he woke me up several times after that, whimpering and sweaty from his own dreams, I didn’t feel annoyed, just grateful.

Now, waiting for my husband’s text, I can’t do anything. I can’t do the dishes or touch the computer or eat my gluten free bagel, I just stand there, heart thumping, and I wait.

Then the text comes. “I got her.”

And I nearly cry with relief, and laugh a little at my dramatic thoughts. Then I stop laughing and shake my head, and I think: why, why, why did I ever think having kids was a good idea?

What kind of crazy f-ed up, selfish a-hole has kids when so many horrible things can happen to them? When you can’t keep them protected and safe forever? I wonder, not for the first time, why didn’t anyone tell me this before I had kids? And then, for the first time, I realize, someone did warn me. And that person was my mom.

I remember being a kid, probably a teenager, and my mom talking about how awful the world can be (what kind of awful, mom? No answer) and if she knew then what she knew now maybe she wouldn’t have had kids. BAM. Did I hear that correctly? I may have tried to clean out my ears because frankly I was horrified. I was her kid, and she loved me, so what the hell was she talking about? This was totally not allowed and against all the rules, and I promptly disregarded what she was saying, chalking it up to nuclear war or earthquakes, never for a second thinking beyond that, deeper than that, darker than that.

But of course. That is what she meant. The deepest fear and deepest truth of being a parent is knowing that you can NEVER KEEP YOUR CHILD TRULY SAFE. Even when they are babies and you carry them everywhere, there are NO guarantees. OhmygodwhatthefuckhaveIdone?!

Sidebar from YOU: Enough of this horrible doomsday crap, where is that gluten free rainbow birthday cake that you promised us?!?!

You are pissed, I know. I’m sorry. I warned you.

So. I do the dishes and talk to myself, to my mom. I say, now I get it, mom! I understand what you were talking about, and as sad as this realization is, it’s kind of awesome too, to have a connection with my mom like this, and she’s been dead for almost seven years. I love that I can still learn from her.

I start to make deals with God, or whoever, because this is what I used to do as a kid and I’m feeling a little like I did then, when things felt so bad and out of my control that the only thing to do was to pray, even if some of those prayers were pretty selfish (the kind about growing boobs, for example) and even the not selfish ones (please don’t let my mom’s multiple sclerosis get any worse) and I was kind of sure even back then that they would not, could not, be answered.

But I’m making deals anyway. I’m saying, please God or whoever, let my dear Bunky and tender Little Guy grow up safe in the world, let them experience the normal range of pain and heartache, the kind that you have to feel in order to be human, in order to feel the flipside, joy, but please please please keep them safe from the other stuff, the kind of stuff that nightmares are made of, the kind of stuff that happens to other people’s children, please let mine be spared. Selfish. Totally. I know.

And I also know there are no guarantees, no deals I can make with anyone to keep my children safe, but I say it anyway because it’s all I can do.

My daughter is six years old. She is beautiful and terrible all at once. She throws tantrums, still (sigh) and she has emotions that are so powerful, so big, she’s like a miniature tsunami, and watch out, she will explode on you, and many times I don’t have the patience or the presence of mind to help her and I yell or shut down, but I’m trying to be better because she needs me to be better, and I love her.

Every now and then, like this morning, I make it through her storm with love in my heart and in my voice, and I hold her while she is screaming and kicking me, trying to hurt me, telling me she will hurt me, and I say, completely calm, “I love you, you can’t hurt me because I will always love you, but I’m holding you because I won’t let you hurt yourself,” and I repeat some form of this for a while, until I feel her body stop fighting so hard, the slaps less forceful, and then she is calmer, still pissed as anything, but calmer, and I let her go and she gets up and walks away talking shit, but I know she feels my love and I know she doesn’t feel shame about her big feelings (she gets them from somewhere, after all, and I know that shame myself) and she grumbles and groans, but she is safe.

Little Guy gets worried about her, but he also feeds off my energy, so while she was railing, before I went to her, I talked to him about his sister’s big feelings, about how she will be okay, and that she needs to be loud sometimes, and he nodded – so wise, this boy, I’m not even kidding – and he was calm too, instead of yelling and holding his ears, and we ALL got through it in one piece, which doesn’t always happen (like the night before, and the day before that).

Being a parent is HARD. It’s hard to feel love for your child when they are screaming at you, hitting you, hating you, but you have to dig deep and find it, remember that look on their baby face when they were sleeping, when their lips were full and dewy and pursed, like a sweet rose bud, and their face composed, relaxed, and soft.

corn nap

Think about the look on their face when they felt fear, their eyes wide and scared, their bodies shaking, their mouths wrenched open in pain. Think of whatever you have to think about to remind yourself how small they are, how young, how vulnerable, how much they need to be loved. By you.

Now. For that cake…

bday cake layers

Oh, hell, come back next week. It’s a boxed mix and about seven tubs of Betty Crocker frosting, for crying out loud. I will post pretty pictures and funny directions. I just can’t do it now.

Postscript, to all the people who don’t have kids, who may be cursing me for writing this post, and to all the parents who don’t want to be reminded of this horrible bullshit:

Most of the time, pretty much 97% of the time, when you’re a parent, you don’t think about this stuff. You can’t. Because it would make you ape shit crazy. Because you would wrap up your entire family in bubble wrap (something my mom used to joke about, hmm, not such a joke). Because 97% of the time, you’re on autopilot, getting shit done, driving kids places, making meals, reading books, playing legos, wiping butts (not forever, hopefully), bandaging cuts, wiping away tears, baking cookies, and having dance parties.

You shelve this stuff, you bracket it, because you have to. It’s only in those rare fleeting moments, where you read a post like this, or see or hear something awful in the news, or have a nightmare, and then suddenly your heart skids to a stop and you have to hold onto something so you won’t fall down.

Most days it’s business as usual. And sometimes that business is annoying as anything, and sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s just the crap in between. All you can do is hang on tight, because being a parent is the ride of your life.

bunky 6 bday

How I Write, or, Pulling a Blog Post Out of My…

beginnings

I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of girl. The whole peeking around the curtain thing is exciting (please don’t read into that line, this is a family blog). I’m talking about the process, people. The artistic process.

Writing can be such a solitary practice. By nature it has to be, unless you’re one of those collaborators (lucky you). But for most of us hunched-over-screens-all-across-the-globe kind, it’s solo stuff. Which makes it doubly more fantastic to read behind-the-scenes about writers.

That’s probably why I’m totally enamored by this Writing Process series that I discovered over at one of my favorite blogs, via one of those “blog hops.” (WARNING: rambling sidebar happening now – I’m sorry, but I have a hard time getting behind the “hop” name, since for me it conjures up such a bizarre juxtaposition of frogs, bunnies, and 50s dances. But moving along…)

Inspired by this, “hop” I decided to write a bit about my own practice. Specifically, my blogging practice, because my fiction one varies, as you might expect. I’m more flexible and fancy free with blogging, which may or may not be a good thing.

So, here’s the thing about me:

I’ve never been much of a planner. In writing or life in general. I’m more of an instinct girl. Inspiration turns me on (again, not in that way, come on!). I feel a stirring, sense a seed (WHOA, no terrible puns unintended, I swear) and I go with it. Sometimes I fall on my face, other times I soar.

Like right now I’m thinking the above paragraph is a bit of a face plant, but I’m leaving it since time is of the essence. Which, ultimately, leads us to my biggest challenge in writing ANYTHING:

I have no time.

Seriously. Sometimes I don’t even let myself pee. Well, not until it’s a real emergency anyhow. I forget to eat, shower, and brush my teeth because I’m often too busy feeding, bathing, and brushing everyone else’s teeth (not my husband’s, just to clarify).

mom humor

Since I don’t have time to pee, I don’t have much time to do anything else.

So how do I write blog posts (let alone anything else)? Well. To clarify, when I say “no” time, I really mean extremely limited, and when it occurs, it can be interrupted at any moment. I write when Little Guy naps and Bunky’s at school. Both have to happen at the same time. I write when I have a babysitter, which is for about three hours one morning a week. I occasionally write at night after I wrestle LG into bed – but sometimes this doesn’t happen until 10pm. Not even kidding about that.

For example, right now it’s early evening and I’m writing this while Bunky takes a shower and Little Guy is dancing to the Frozen soundtrack. I’m standing in a corner of the kitchen (where I can see LG out of the corner of my eye since we live in an apartment) so he doesn’t see the computer because if he does, he’ll want to watch Frozen videos on it, or play Thomas the Train games (torture). Right now he’s asking me to help him because he’s spinning in circles and threatening to fall into the train table.

Thirty minutes later… okay, I’m back. It’s mere seconds until the bedtime bomb explodes so this will be brief. I quit earlier so I could dance with my two-year-old son to “Let it Go” while we both belted it out, in pale comparison to Idina Menzel’s version, but rather adorably if I say so myself.

Yet, you can see how the time thing is not on my side.

So, here’s what I do. Here’s the HOW.

I write in PIECES. A little here, a little there. It can take me weeks to write a post. Some days it’s all I can do to upload some photos.

What also helps is to THINK about my posts in advance. I do some of my best thinking in the shower (maybe because I’m alone?! Though not recently since LG has become a shower-addict). I think when I’m waiting for Bunky at school pick-up, when LG is falling asleep. Thinking helps. I can formulate my ideas, take notes on my phone, maybe even think out loud. Ever see a woman pushing a stroller talking out loud to HERSELF? Might be me. Some posts are written entirely in my head first.

It’s a piece-meal process that took some getting used to. In my early blogging days (as in almost 3 years ago!) I used to get a little OCD about finishing. I’d start a blog post and feel this NEED to finish it. And when forced, inevitably, to stop, I’d get upset. I quickly realized I’d have to change my ‘tude because my life was not going to be changing any time soon. Interruption is a parenting byproduct. To get upset by it is futile and exhausting. So, I got used to it. I started to expect it. Knowing it may take a dozen (more or less – this post took exactly 12!) little moments to make up one post, makes it easier to put the computer away when I have to.

Now, there are some times when I have a chunk of time – when the sitter comes and during LG’s naps. He will sleep at least an hour, maybe two, and sometimes if the stars are aligned, three (!). Something Bunky NEVER did, so I really and truly treasure and appreciate his nap times. I try to squeeze out every single minute of them. For writing. Dishes, laundry, and sadly, dinner planning often get sidelined. Sorry, but I have my priorities.

LG sweeping laundry

Yup. He’s “sweeping” the laundry.

When I have my block o’ time the best thing I can do is PLAN AHEAD. Meaning, THINK AHEAD. If I think about what I want to write about, what I’d like to accomplish – be it finishing a blog post or a scene in my novel – I am better equipped at making it happen. If I force myself NOT to go online (not for email, not for research if possible), I am more productive. If I make an effort NOT to look at my phone for vital texts (I don’t actually get vital texts, but sometimes I forget this), I get more done. When time is of the essence, you do all you can not to waste it. I spent a good decade or more putzing around the computer, with entire DAYS at my disposal, and even though my time is so incredibly limited (in comparison), I might actually be writing more. Crazy, but true.

It seems obvious in retrospect that this blog, Aliventures, should have made my Top 10+ list, but here are two great posts by this lovely UK writer who is also a mom. The first is about making the most of your writing time. Along the lines of what I wrote, but without all the rambling. Second, this inspiring post about whether to call yourself a writer when you’re not writing. I definitely could’ve benefited from reading this when I was too exhausted by new motherhood to think about writing, and feeling crappy because of it.

So, go forth and write (or not). Write in long luxurious stretches, or short choppy ones. Write while “hiding” in your kitchen, or compose gorgeous prose while you shower or go for a run. Steal a few minutes to jot down some notes when your boss isn’t around or your kids are watching TV.

Please, share your tips and tricks for getting those words to appear. Despite the chaos of life. I’d love to hear them.

 

Happy Chinese Gluten New Year

I have about a million things to tell you, but no time to do it. Between getting back on my play date game (which I was never on, apparently) and researching play schools for Little Guy (which he says have to be “blue”), I have had about zero time to update.

Fancy play date picnic.

What snacks look like when I’m on my play date A game. Of course this only happened once.

In my spare time (i.e. LG’s naps) I’m attempting to edit my novel AND take an online real estate course. By the time LG passes out at 10pm (yes, because of the long and vitally important naps) my brain is completely zapped. I’m lucky if I can stay up long enough to watch the last season of Breaking Bad, which I’m woefully behind on (no spoilers please) and gives me nightmares. I kind of wish I never started the show. It’s like a train wreck, and I can’t look away even though I really want to. At least there’s Jesse.

One of the many stretches of the show's imagination.

One of the show’s many far fetched concepts.

Anyway… another thing that kept me and my brain busy recently was Bunky’s first class trip of the year, which happened to be a celebration of Chinese New Year… at a Chinese restaurant. UGH. Sure, they have rice noodles. But most are doused in GLUTEN. I kind of freaked about this for a while. Why do class trips have to be food related? And not just food related, but completely food focused. What about kids with food restrictions, life threatening allergies, celiac? Why not take the kids to a museum or an indoor play space? But no. It had to be Chinese food.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to Lilli and Loo, the only GF chinese I've heard of.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to Lilli and Loo, which apparently has great GF options.

I had planned on making Bunky a similar menu including lo mein, but ended up giving her leftover baked ziti (always better the second day, B says and it’s true), chicken noodle soup, and GF fried rice similar to this recipe. Dessert was Turkey Hill Vanilla (GF – I called ahead and checked online), so at least I didn’t have to worry about that. Or so I thought. More on that in a bit. Here’s a clue:

Ours was not GF, obvs.

Ours was not gluten free, obvs.

Backtracking a bit, when my husband and I first heard about this trip, we were both angry and deflated. Angry about the concept, deflated that our kid might feel left out – again. We debated about not sending her to school that day. We considered giving her a choice. But neither felt right. She’d definitely feel left out if she didn’t go, right? And I don’t want her to think opting out is the automatic response

Food related activities and celebrations will be part of her life forever, and she has to learn how to navigate them, not hide from them. But I realize now how important it is that I don’t hide from them. That I teach her how she can enjoy these events. That they may be challenging at times, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid them.

Homemade brown fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

Homemade fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

And so I worked my butt off to make the trip a success, to help her feel included, amid all the oohs and ahhs over the fragrant egg rolls, fried wontons, shrimp dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

I used my best British accent when serving her our food, grabbed a soup bowl and spoon before they could gluten-ize it, and kept an eye out for flying crumbs and roving gluten-y fingers. The kids are her table were sweet, and I kept an eye out for their needs as well, but mostly my attention was on Bunky. It paid off. She had fun, I think.

She ate everything I brought, and we donated some extra soup to a friend.

She ate everything I brought, and then we donated some extra soup to a grateful friend.

I feel like I was pretty chill during the whole thing, except for one teensy weensy moment at the very end when the waiters brought out trays of gluten free vanilla ice cream in plastic cups… with gluten fortune cookies on top. I might have said, “Oh shit” but I’m not sure. I leapt out of my seat and asked for a plain ice cream. One waiter tried to pry the cookie off and hand the cup to me, but I said no.

Luckily, I had packed some Lucy’s allergy free cookies in my bag, just in case. So while Bunky waited for her uncontaminated ice cream, she happily munched on a cookie. Then I used the rest of the cookies to make her a gluten free ice cream sandwich. Score.

Lucys-Cookies1

Loving the new Snack and Go combo packs!

She was also thrilled with my stop at the local Hello Kitty store. (Oh holy moly, the store was AWESOME.)

I easily could have bought way, way more.

I easily could have bought way, way more cute stuff.

All in all, it was a success. Not every event will go so seamlessly, but it’s nice that this first one did.

Up next (as in tomorrow) – first sleepover. Say WHAT?!

(Luckily my sweet little homebody will be coming home in the evening. At least that gets me out of figuring out breakfast. Geez.)

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to work on the recipe posts currently simmering in my brain. There’s GF gnocchi (not homemade), one pot dinners, and Risi Bisi, a rice cooker dream.

How do you handle non GF friendly events and outings? Do you bring your own food, eat beforehand, or skip it all together? If your kid has celiac or a gluten intolerance, how do you help him or her feel included?

A Word and a Winner

Happy New Year’s everyone, and yes, I’ll get to the “word” portion of this post, but first – a winner for my first ever giveaway!

Completely random fishbowl drawing.

Completely random fishbowl drawing.

Kath from the fabulous blog, Minuscule Moments of Inspiration, is the lucky recipient of our random drawing for the book, Gluten-Free Me! A book about celiac for kids, which I reviewed the other week.

Gotta love the mismatched Hello Kitty pjs.

Gotta love the mismatched Hello Kitty pjs.

Please try not to notice how I misspelled my abbreviation of "minuscule."

Please try not to notice my misspelled abbreviation. Handwriting doesn’t come with spellcheck, unfortunately.

Congrats to Kath, but also a huge and genuine THANK YOU to all who entered. After reading everyone’s comments, I really wanted to give everyone a copy. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more reviews and giveaways in the future. Stay tuned.

Now, for the word… Or rather, many words leading up to the word…

Last year I decided instead of making a resolution I’d chose one word (inspired by this blog) to define and inspire my new year. The word I picked was, nurture. When I was first thinking about this post, it didn’t seem like I had made much of a dent in my goal. After all, one salon hair cut, a handful of manicures, and one Sephora.com make up order didn’t seem like much. But when I gave it more thought, I realized I had done a better job than I gave myself credit for. (Typical.)

What had initially come to mind was the superficial kind of nurture (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I also made time to nurture my dreams and goals. For example, in the fall of 2013 I attended a writer’s conference where I didn’t know a single person and spent two days immersing myself into a world I had been afraid to reenter.

lwcnyc

I spoke with literary agents about my novel manuscript (hiding in a safe, oh the irony!) for over five years and even read the first page of it during a panel. I was absolutely taken aback when I received some positive comments. And later, after an agent gave me her card I went into a bathroom stall and did a silent scream/happy dance. When I got home, I felt giddy, invigorated, determined, scared, and excited. I pulled out the manuscript and read it through for the first time.

I read Dani Shspiro’s inspiring book, Still Writing (I can’t recommend this enough) and felt like she was speaking to me. There is a passage in the book about procrastination, ah you old false friend, that hit a nerve for me. I didn’t want to procrastinate anymore. I started to feel an urgency that had escaped me before. Time was passing by and if I didn’t start taking my writing life seriously now, when would I?

During this time I decided to work with a life coach – something I never thought I’d do, but I’m so glad I did. Brainstorming ways to improve ME.

If all that isn’t the definition of nurture I don’t know what is.

So, what could be my word for 2014? I thought about balance because I’m struggling to find that right now between mothering and writing. But balance didn’t feel quite right. That word evoked a scale, a shifting of weights, an unevenness, the impossible task of making everything come out even. But most times in life it doesn’t. One side will always tip higher or lower. Since I’ve never been good at multi-tasking, I started to feel anxious. How could I do both? But then I realized something obvious and freeing: I can do both – just not at the same time.

As Kath wrote in her poignant New Year’s post, I See You, I’m a mother first and a creative second. I can’t afford to be lost in my head thinking of plot points or researching dialogue techniques while my children vie for my attention. Both of us lose if I try to multi-task. I’m resentful for being interrupted and my children are resentful at being seen as interruptions.

What Bunky and I can do when I'm present.

What Bunky and I can do when I’m present.

I just read Joan Didion’s wrenching memoir, Blue Nights, a follow up to her equally gutting and flawless, The Year of Magical Thinking. Spoiler alert – kind of, while the first book is about the sudden death of her husband and the illness of her daughter, the second is about her daughter’s death and Didion’s own mortality. She spends much of the book in the past, exploring and dissecting memories of her daughter, Quintana. Part of her wonder and pain revolves around how much time she spent working (i.e. writing) during her daughter’s young life. It’s not so much about regret, but about lost chances. The lost chances of not having been as present as she might have liked for her daughter. Here’s a quote from the book that struck me (italics are hers):

Brush your teeth, brush your hair, shush I’m working.

I get it. I do it. I want to think about my writing, I want to jot down some notes. And sometimes I do. But often at a cost.

What a tug of war us mothers go through.

All this aside, what about the word? I considered perseverance, which is something I will need to finish the edit of my novel and keep writing. But again, no. Too cumbersome, too bulky in the mouth, in my mind. I know, I’m nuts. It’s an English major thing.

Then while helping Little Guy go down for a nap, a time when I’m alone with my thoughts (unless I reach for my cell phone) I figured it out.

open

I imagined what my word should look like, and I saw myself standing with my arms wide open, reaching as if to embrace my children, reaching for the sky. I want to be open to being a present mother, to being a present writer, open to all the possibilities of life.

What do you think your word might be? What does it look like to you?

Gluten Free Breakfast Goodies and a Dose of Nostalgia

Bunky starts kindergarten on Monday. I’m coming out of denial, finally. Celiac letters have been written, teachers have been contacted (and they got back to me pronto, which is promising). Her outfit – three quarter sleeve purple dress with black stars – has been selected (by her, pretty much the second she saw it at Target). She is ready.

Me, not so much. But that’s okay. I’m kind of realizing that’s how it goes. Times passes, kids grow up, leaving us parents gasping for air. How did time go by so fast? Wasn’t my girl just a baby in my arms (screaming her brains out)? Oh, I hate when cliches are true. It’s annoying.

baby bunky

When Bunky was a baby we took her to the local elementary school for an evening screening of the movie, “Yellow Submarine.” At the time the song was a huge part of our lives since we played it about seventeen (or more) times a day, often on high volume, as it was one of the only things that could stop our colicky infant from shrieking. It didn’t always work, and when it did, it was a temporary fix, but it kept us from going completely insane. I remember sitting in an audience and watching all the children skittering across the wooden floor, dancing, laughing, and talking with their friends. They looked so big. My husband and I glanced at each other over our baby’s downy head and smiled. Our girl would be going to school here, someday. But in the moment that had felt very far away.

Now, here we are.

Summer girl

Since B has celiac, I’m on lunch and snack and holiday and birthday duty all year long. That’s a lot of food planning for a person who is not such an awesome planner. On top of all that, there’s breakfast to consider. I’ve talked about B’s addiction to Cocoa Pebbles (thanks to her dad, also an addict). Not only is it like eating a bowl full of sugar, she’s starving an hour later. Not ideal for any day, but worse for school. She does love chocolate yogurt pops, which are healthy, but not very filling. So what to do? I found two winners that are now in my freezer waiting for launch.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin muffins, modified from this awesome recipe on Cakes n’ Bakes.

gluten free pumpkin chip muffins

Here are my adjustments:

  • I skipped the cream cheese filling and added chocolate chips instead.
  • My flour blend is about 60/40 whole grains (millet and sorghum) to starch (potato and sweet rice) and I added a teaspoon of xanthan gum.
  • I went light on the ginger and nutmeg and added extra cinnamon.
  • Instead of 1 cup of white sugar, I went with 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar and 1/2 cup of white sugar.

I plan on posting my modified version soon, once I completely eliminate the white sugar. I may sub all coconut sugar or try some maple syrup. Ideally, I’d like these breakfast muffins to be as healthy as possible, but with enough sweetness so my kid will eat them. It is a waste of time for me to make them uber healthy if she chokes on them. You realize I’m competing with Cocoa Pebbles here. Not easy. But possible, because she LOVES these muffins! I had to hide them in the freezer so they wouldn’t disappear by Monday.

My other breakfast success, a Nicole Hunn recipe for Gluten Free Oatmeal Bars. She calls them an after school boost, but I’m going with before school.

They taste way better than they look.

My changes:

  • Almond butter instead of peanut butter, cause that’s the way I roll
  • Just chocolate chips, no raisins or other healthy dried fruit
  • 6 tablespoons of honey seemed like a lot to me, so I used 4 – plenty sweet

Bunky said she liked them, but we’ll see what happens when I slide one in front of her at breakfast. I also plan on packing small squares of them in her lunch. They are delicious and full of protein and oats, yum.

See these ladies?

felt dolls

Very popular summer craft project around here. Felt pieces glued on cardboard dolls. I draw the hair and dress patterns and Bunky cuts and glues. I will miss making these with B during Little Guy’s nap. But time marches on and school is fast approaching.

Yesterday was the first day it really felt like September. The sky was a crisp blue and the breeze was a perfect blend of cool-warm. We walked to the playground marveling at the perfect temperature while newly fallen leaves crunched beneath our feet. My girl was thrilled to wear one of her new school sweaters and pants.

The kid loves summer, but she is ready for autumn, for apple picking and gluten free donuts, for Halloween and Little Guy’s birthday. She reminds me of my mom, whose favorite season was fall, who lived for the cooler temperatures, fall foliage, and country drives, who loved pumpkin picking and Thanksgiving.

It makes sense that my mind is heavy thinking about my mom right now. It often is, but more so with this kindergarten milestone approaching. If she were alive I would be able to talk to her about releasing my girl into big kid school, we would be able to commiserate as mothers together. I could tell her that I get it now. I could thank her.

But since I can’t, I will hold her close in my heart, thinking of her, imagining her doing the same thing over three decades ago, as I wave goodbye to my daughter on Monday.