January 16th, 2014

The End

This will be my last post here on Toddler Summer. It’s sort of bittersweet. This spot on the great big Internet is where I found my blogging voice. But this space no longer fits me. I feel penned in by the idea of toddlers and summer and that isn’t what I write about, really. Not who I am anymore. I’ve compiled all of this into two really large books. And seeing all I’ve written over the last four and a half years amazes me still. No wonder I feel like I’m running out of things to say.

I’m excited about new writerly projects. A blank internet canvas to once again make all my own. New ideas to jumpstart my inner narrative again.

I hope you join me as I get started there. It might be different. It might be more of the same.It might be a bit of both. But it feels good. A fresh page of a brand new notebook.

My new site is named after a favorite line from a favorite book. It is called This Here Now and you can find it here. I hope you will click over and read my first post there.

And if you forget where to find me? This site will redirect for a while starting tomorrow.

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January 6th, 2014

Crossing The Monkey Bars

January. She’s five. She stares up at the monkey bars and wonders what they are for. Hangs from one and drops down. I tell her that she can cross them, power herself from one to the next, propel her body forward and reach on to the next bar. She doesn’t want to try.

February. She climbs up and looks at the monkey bars. Hangs onto one and asks me to hold her tightly as she tries to reach from one to the next. I support her weight as she reaches hand in front of hand in front of hand.

March. She takes to one bar at a time. Pulling up. Hanging upside down. Flipping her body over. Panicking me a bit. Growing in confidence. Trying out new tricks. Getting stronger. Asking less for help.

April. She reaches out in front of her, the bar just close enough that her small fingers can grab on. She holds on tight, but when she tries to push herself forward she cannot, dropping instead to the ground and deciding not to try again for a while.

May. She crosses the bars with some assistance, her hands moving fluidly from one bright yellow rung to the next. She can’t fall because I am holding her up.

July. She wants to try to cross without me. I stand under her, pretending I’m strong enough to catch her if she starts to fall. She does one and drops. She tries again. Two and drops. Again. Three and drops. Again and she’s all the way across. She drops to the ground and runs immediately to do it again.

August. She can do the bars a few at a time. I watch her, my eyes her security blanket in case she loses her confidence or her grip. She crosses from one side to the other and turns around to do it all over again. She won’t let me close enough to even seem like I’m helping. She is strong enough to do it herself.

September. The other bars on the playground rotate, spin you around to reach the next circular bar. The first time she grabs on tentatively to the cold bars and as soon as she lets her feet begin to dangle in the air, the bar swivels and she falls to the ground. The movement took her by surprise and she’s happy to move back to the other bars. The ones she’s conquered.

October. She watches carefully as other kids cross the bars, memorizing their movements and momentums, committing their shifts and rhythms to her muscle memory. I’m not there at all during recess to help her. She tries and tries and tries again until she comes home, running through the door, to tell me that she’s done it. She crossed the difficult monkey bars without me. All on her own.

November. She suspends herself from the bar, showing me her tricks. She can go forwards and backwards, right handed and left handed, reaching, spinning, powering herself along a path she couldn’t imagine just a few months before.

December. She has callouses. The monkey bars are her home.

January. She’s six. She crosses the monkey bars on her own, like so many other things. She is six and I don’t have to hold her up or urge her forward. I don’t have to watch her or catch her. She was five and she learned and grew and became so much more her own person and so much less dependent on me. I see it most as she hangs in mid-air, as she crosses the monkey bars like it’s no big deal. A year ago it was.

“Is she yours?” they ask as she shows off her skill. Yes, I nod. Yes she is.

Crossing the Monkey Bars

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December 31st, 2013

Wishes and Giggles

We were in the car, Nora and her friend, waiting for a red light to turn so we could make our way back home. I said something aloud about the highway, not really meaning for them to hear. It was something mundane, like the name of the highway or the fact that there was likely traffic.

Immediately they turned my mundane into six-year-old-hilarious. It was words turned in on themselves in a way that only six-year-olds can do. The perfect combination of silly and punny and funny and just plain nonsense.

That was it. Fits of giggles ensued and they didn’t stop.

It was the second time it had happened in the last few hours.

I kept thinking they were done laughing but then one of them would look at the other or glance a certain way or make a certain noise and it was all lost to the giggle fit again. The kind of giggle fit where stomach muscles ache and smile muscles get a workout and you wonder if it will ever end. If you’ll ever breathe a full breath of air again because you just can’t. stop. laughing.

I need more giggle fits in my life.

I sat there, hands at 10 and 2, smiling as hard as I could, and I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted the car to be filled with fits of six year old girl giggles and I wanted to catch the bug. I wanted to giggle like that at something that was so unfunny to adults. I wanted to look at a friend and not say anything and just feel the laughter bursting back out. Uncontrollable happiness.

That’s what I wish for everyone in 2014.

Uncontrollable happiness.

New Year

 Linking Up with Heather at The Extraordinary-Ordinary for JustWrite!

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December 25th, 2013

Scenes From A Merry Christmas

The squeals of joy on Christmas morning never get old.

It’s a day of skipping naps and riding bikes and dressing dolls a thousand and one times. Of saying yes to eating all the m&ms and watching Elf for the fourth time in as many days. Merry Christmas!


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December 23rd, 2013


“Do some people not believe in Santa,” she asked in the car yesterday.

“Yes. Some people don’t believe in Santa,” I said, feeling a rise in my heart rate as I wondered if this was it. If it was here and now in the car on the way home from the grocery store that we’d have this conversation. I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter, looked at Miles and decided he was clueless enough to what was going on, glanced in my rear-view mirror at her as she started out her window.

“Well, I do.” She declared.

And I breathed an ironic sigh of relief.

On Friday morning I sat in a classroom down the hall from my own talking with another teacher about the whole Santa thing. The whole weird and complicated way I feel, and pretty much have always felt, about lying to Nora about Santa. I know many people wouldn’t call it a lie, but many days that’s what it feels like to me. Maybe I’m weird, but I have a love/hate relationship with the Santa myth. Since the first year where Santa threats just felt wrong, we don’t really use Santa as a threat. We don’t talk about the “he’s always watching” aspect of Santa often – though Nora herself does bring that up. Ever since both kids cried at the mere sight of a mall Santa, we haven’t sought out the guy to tell him our wish lists or snap cute photos.

Yet, he is a distinct part of our Christmas tradition. I enjoy so much planning out what Santa will surprise the kids with. I look back on last year, when Nora realized Santa had set up a slide on her play fort and how utterly amazed she was, how she was sure only Santa could have pulled off such an endeavor in the middle of the night, and I want her to hold on to that for as long as she can.

I want her to believe in magic. In possibility. In kindness and goodness and generosity.

The last thing her teacher handed her on Friday was a letter from Rudolph, handwritten by a fourth or fifth grader onto Christmas stationary. “You are on the good list,” it declared, “But still make sure to be nice to everyone, especially your parents.” How could a reindeer write that, she asked as soon as we got in the car. I had no answer to that, even Rudolph doesn’t seem that talented. So I made up a story about each reindeer having an elf with the same name with him. So it must have been the elf who wrote it.

She stared at that letter, simultaneously amazed and deep in thought.

She’s asked more questions since that car ride home. Made more declarations of belief that now seem like lines to convince herself that he is indeed real. I can see her brain working over the questions, holding on to belief because she wants to, not because it makes any rational sense to her.

And in a weird way, that makes me feel better. I feel better that she believes in magic, in the way that the impossible could maybe be possible for just those certain hours of that certain day. I feel better that she may on some level know that Santa himself isn’t real, but that all that he stands for, all the reasons parents perpetuate this myth, are indeed worth staking a belief in.

She asked again tonight before bed.

“Mom, why do some people not believe in Santa?”

I told her I wasn’t sure exactly, but that I was pretty sure most people believed in all that he stands for. I’m pretty sure most people believe in the spreading of kindness, the joy of generosity. They might not believe in Santa, I told her, but they still believe in all the magic that comes from having a good heart.

It took me until I said it to realize that I believe it too.


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December 16th, 2013


There’s something about this time of year that makes me remember. I remember sitting for hours upon hours on my left side, on the couch or on our bed. I remember taking my blood pressure over and over and over again. Counting kicks. Shifting around to get comfortable and then wondering what this all would be like when it was over.

Are you ready? Everyone would ask.

And I was never sure if I was.

Maybe it is reading so many birth stories lately of blogging friends who’ve just become mothers. They seem to remember so clearly what I have only foggy memories of. How many pushes it took. How long the contractions lasted. The music playing. The first words someone said after the baby was born.

I don’t remember those things anymore.

And I didn’t write them down.

I remember details in spurts. Memories triggered by a twinkle in her eye, a word softly spoken, a story to be told.

Six years ago I was on bed rest with early signs of preeclampsia. I sat in our dining room that had become our whole house as we aimed to finish our remodel before our baby was born. We had a kitchen and a bedroom and a dining room filled with a couch and a TV and Ken’s office and all the things we thought we’d need when a little one decided to join us.

We had a small tree in our unfinished living room, pine needles falling on paper-covered floors.


I sat on the couch and listened to hammers and watched the painters scrape fifty years of paint off the boards just outside the window. I got dressed and sat. I read. I watched TV. Friends came to visit.

Are you ready? Everyone asked.

No. I don’t think I ever felt ready.

It was too early. She needed more time. We weren’t done with the house. Her nursery was incomplete. I wasn’t done.


But I wasn’t in charge of my body.

37 weeks and she was here.

And suddenly I was ready.

She was here.


In the weeks leading up to her birthday, I stare at her, study her. I look for the splay of her arms as she’s sleeping, the set of her eyes, the spots on her skin that have been there since the day she was born. I study her year in her eyes, her years in her smile. I look for hints of who she’s always been and who she will one day be.

She sits nuzzled up close to me, asking questions and reading me stories and telling jokes. And I flashback to the days I sat on the same couch in our unfinished house and had no idea what motherhood had in store, had no idea how I would always feel not so ready and totally ready for the challenges of motherhood.

I look at her and I tell her that I can’t believe she’ll be six. I marvel at the power of time to move so quickly and so slowly all at once. I hold her hands in mine as we walk and sit and I try to memorize again their shape and size and feel. I want to remember them. This small. This stained with marker and calloused from monkey bars. I want to remember the sloppy paint she put on her nails all on her own. I want to remember what five felt like.






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December 11th, 2013

Six Word Wednesday

When asked to write a story in six words, Ernest Hemingway responded: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” The idea of telling your story in six words is powerful to me, so I’ve started this series of six word blogs. What are your six words?

six word wednesday

What are your six words this week? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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December 10th, 2013

Same Road






There’s a problem here. A pattern emerging that isn’t quite what I want it to be. An early early morning pattern of rising and calling. “Mom! MOM! Come get me!”

But it isn’t time yet. I’m not ready yet.

I’m tired.

And he is too.

This Road

The funny thing is, I’ve been here before. With another certain small person who also liked to wake before the clock struck 6, before my eyelids would open willingly, at early hours that call for coffee and more coffee and maybe some more coffee after that.

You’d think that being on this same road, at the same hours, not that long ago, I’d know exactly how to navigate. I’d have the path figured out. Maybe I should have left myself some more breadcrumbs along the way.

But I didn’t.

And all week I just crossed my fingers that this was a joke. An even more temporary temporary phase.

This can’t be the new normal? Right?

Until I realized that it probably is.

This morning was the earliest. 4:10. I coaxed him back to sleep for a little while, but he screamed again an hour later and I took him out of the room in fear that he’d wake Nora at that same horrible early hour.

All day I dragged. Tired even though it was Ken who got up with him this morning. Miles fell asleep on the way to school, which he never does. He’s tired too. He shouldn’t be getting up that early.

This Road

I have to fix this, I kept thinking.

And then I remembered. I found one breadcrumb that led to an idea.

I’ve been here before. And this little light? It was my helper.

Will it work again? Who knows. But we are trying it.

And crossing fingers really hard that this second time down this same early road is about to come to an end.

This Road

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December 9th, 2013

So You Want To Be A Teacher?

I’m never in an office. I don’t clock in. I am always around people. And I learn something new every day. I’m a teacher. When students and friends tell me they are thinking of teaching and ask for advice, there are usually five things I tell them to practice.

So You Want to Be A Teacher?

So You Want To Be A Teacher?

1. Learn to Juggle Good teachers hold many balls in the air at once. Multiple courses they teach, the hundreds of students on their roster, the role as educator, mentor, sometimes-counselor, professional, learner. Sometimes all the balls stay nicely afloat. Other times it takes a bit more work to keep them there.

2. Limber up – Be Flexible The fire alarm goes off during the most important part of your lesson? The field trip that day runs late and half your class is missing? Your lesson that sounded so good to you on paper is totally not working at all with the students sitting in front of you? It’s ok. You can make a new plan on the fly, adjust your ideas, start over. You’re a teacher.

3. Summon All Your Patience My high school English teacher gave me the same award when I was in his class as a sophomore and a senior: Most Equanimity. I am even-tempered, not much rattles me, especially in my classroom. My students comment that I am patient, that I respect their idiosyncracies and don’t lose my temper over the small stuff. The “choose your battles” mantra of parenting applies in the classroom, too.

4. Remember You’re a Learner Too I tell the students on the first day of school and the parents on Back To School Night that if I could be anything besides a teacher for the rest of my life, I would be a student. I watch as the jaws of the students drop and as the parents mostly all nod their heads in understanding. The secret that I don’t tell the students the first day is that I really am a student. Each class of each day teaches me something new. I can’t imagine a job as challenging as teaching. And after 13 years in the classroom, I have learned more than I ever imagined I would.

5. Prepare To Be Inspired Many people go into teaching because they want to inspire students. The truth is, the students are the ones who really inspire us. I leave work each day inspired by the stories my students share, the many insightful discussions I’m lucky to facilitate, the sometimes endless flow of papers written by students who are truly engaged in their world, the conversations about books to read outside of class that spark or rekindle a love of reading. Teachers might walk in the room wanting to do the inspiring, but good teachers quickly realize that it works even better the other way around.

So You Want To Be A Teacher?

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December 7th, 2013

Creating a Paper Chain of Goodness – My Elf On The Shelf Alternative

I don’t elf on the shelf. For many reasons, most of which were spelled out really well in this post by my friend Michelle,  my house is elf free. Last year Nora was begging for an elf and I held out, instead creating what is now one of my favorite new “traditions” of the holiday season. And this year, there has not been any elf-envy.

Christmas Chain of Good Deeds

Last year a packet of paper strips in the Target dollar bin caught Nora’s eye. We put them in our cart, not knowing what would become of them. In one of our many I-am-not-buying-an-elf conversations, Nora and I came up with the idea of writing one good deed a day on the paper strips and creating a “chain of goodness” for our tree. I wrote a bit about this last year too.

It was one of my few moments of mom genius.

This year, we are doing it again. We found slightly fancier red and green patterned paper, cut our strips and stuck two behind each door of our advent calendar (along with the candy for each day). Each night before bed, Nora grabs the strips and a marker and we sit down to talk about the good things we’ve done that day. Some days she has to think hard to come up with something. She has made the rule that she can’t write “I was good at school” because she “does that every day anyway.” And I love that so much.

Instead she thinks about the things she’s gone out of her way to do: helping Miles play a game, playing a game with a friend even though she didn’t really want to, helping with dinner. Miles isn’t quite old enough to get it, but we fill out a strip for him too – his mostly have to do with listening and sharing and being a giant goofball.

This year, when we opened up the box of tree decorations, last year’s chain was there. It was slightly crumpled, but looking over all the good that we recorded from last year was pretty awesome. And so we hung it on our tree, above the one we are creating this year, and I hope we’ll get to do that every year.

I don’t want to welcome an elf into my home for the month of December, but I do want to talk about good deeds. Our chain is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

Christmas Chain Of Goodness

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