Monday Morning Opportunities

My Grace awoke before four a.m.

She was quiet for a while and we both lay there thinking.

There’s a lot to think about that early in the morning waiting for a little person to go back to bed. I’m unsure of her thoughts, but here are some of mine…

How I am headed to my quarterly dermatologist appointment at 8:00 a.m. and how I hope there is no lidocaine involved with today’s visit.

How my babies are no longer babies, but when they’re asleep I take advantage of their slumber by holding hands and fingers that are still baby soft. It’s a quiet opportunity to relive that baby time, long since passed.

Or a few weeks ago when Grace was sick and fell asleep on the sofa and my mind said that she was still a baby and that I could carry her to her bed to sleep. But how I had neglected to recognize that she’s not a baby, rather a forty-four pounder.  It’s not as easy to move that kind of sleeping lump without tussling it awake.

How she and I were up until eleven that night prompting yet another blog post.

How Tara’s tumblr  photos of gratitude beads reminded me that I’m lacking in pink accessories. I had just been going through my jewelry mess and took note of that; lots of blue, but no pink.

My fantastic weekend begun with a five-mile run that turned into a nine mile run, reminding me how seriously strong I am despite less running as of late.

The outdoor yoga class I went to yesterday in the bright sunshine that made for a burning hot yoga mat cooled off with water poured from Starbucks cups.

How I really enjoy Elizabeth’s yoga style (straight forward, directionally clear, and always with a smile). Yesterday was my second class with her.

How I also like that she looks like a real woman; not stick thin, but healthy and beautiful.

The peace on the marriage front that proceeded the crazy making of Friday.

How Brian let me sleep until 9:15 on Sunday and then gave me time to wake up by letting me sip my coffee and driving the girls to Peachie’s himself.

And the absolutely beautiful weather; sunny, low humidity, warm with a cool breeze.

But too much cake. White frosted cupcakes and a coconut pie. Oh, they were good.

And how today is the sixth day of the green smoothie challenge, which makes me not feel as guilty about the cake gluttony that occurred.

At five Grace whined that she couldn’t sleep. I tried to coax her back down to no avail, so we grabbed her woobies and my phone and snuck downstairs in the dark.

I made coffee and looked at it as an opportunity to write, which wouldn’t have happened had I waited for the 6:20 bell tolling and the mad rush that would have transpired as I tried to gather the kids and myself for a speedy exit at 7:45.

Opportunities must be taken when they appear.

Good Morning?



Kindness Continued

I had trouble sleeping last night. I woke at midnight and then again at two and when I heard the bells tolling on my phone at 5:20 this morning I decided to be kind to myself and hit the snooze.

It was also my effort to be kind to the hubs who was tired himself from the past few weeks of Saturday morning early wake up calls so that I could leave to meet my running group.

When I woke again to the bright overhead light and little girls playing fairy (wings and all) it was 6:55 a.m.

The WannaBeasts were surely all lined up and ready to go. I had a pang of envy, but overall I knew that I needed the rest, especially after yesterday and what turned out to be the Princess Party from h-e-double hockey sticks.

My girls were so excited to wear their Cinderella dresses that Santa Claus had brought for them at Christmas. We had just read Fancy Nancy’s Tea Party book and were up to date on the proper etiquette that big girls demonstrate when being invited to such occasions.

The moment we walked in the door past the balloons and into an unfamiliar room full of other little Princesses, my girls turned into cling-ons and I had to drag them through the house like barnacles attached to my white Hudsons.

They wouldn’t speak or play or eat or participate. They declined the tiaras and the magic wands and looked at me like they were about to get shots or be left with a witch or forced to wear pants with buttons.

To no avail, I tried to get them to join the others at the tea-table set with circular peanut butter sandwiches and Goldfish and bright pink frosted cupcakes. I ended up sitting between them and had nice conversations with the other little girls brave enough to stay at the party without their moms.

The moms that had stayed looked at me with pity. I could imagine what they were thinking, but they were kind. I was embarrassed.

I unwrapped cupcakes for W and the little one next to me whose name I didn’t know. She felt safe enough next to me to ask for help once her cupcake had split in two. I told her to pick a side and eat it first and that eventually the other side would meet up in her belly. I wiped W’s pink face with a wet paper towel and spoke to L about her darling haircut (her first).

When Rapunzel showed up at the door and all the children went to dance in the living room, my two were busy pitching a major fit in the dining room.

I grabbed my keys, said, “Happy Birthday,” to K and left after allowing the hostess to give the girls a party favor, which was promptly removed from their possession once in the car.

I strapped them into their booster seats and in my most stern mommy voice told them of my disappointment and unhappiness with their behavior. We went home and I cooked dinner. They were sent to their room for a major time out.

I spent the next while thinking about my goal to be kind and wondered how I’d been so in this situation.

Small acts of kindness are easy; smiling at a stranger, holding the door for a mom with baby carrier, saying, “Happy Birthday and Thank You,” to the hostess of a party.

Kindness with your kids (or husband or parents or friends) in the midst of temper tantrums is more difficult to do.

As hard as it was to hear them sobbing in their room and trying to manipulate their way out, the kind thing (the right thing) was to set the limits to give them structure for their behavior.

Hopefully the next time we’ll do better.

It’s the best we can do.

Old picture. They couldn’t find their glass slippers yesterday, so they wore their Crocs. I love a party dress with a more casual shoe!
White Hudsons with the triangle back pockets. They look great from the back, which cannot be said for all white jeans. Did I mention that I ended up covered in the bright pink frosting? Kindness tested….
Bright Pink Frosted Cupcakes
These cupcakes are from The ones at the party yesterday looked just like the bright pink ones in the front.

Free Bird Anxiety

Today I need to escape my kids, my husband, my house, my routine, and the repetition of the life I’ve created.

My head tells me that it’s a good thing.

Sunday morning yoga class is always good.

A trip to the toy store for a birthday present without my four-year olds in tow is great.

I’ll pick up the wrapped end of year teacher gifts without having to rush.

I want to sit at Starbucks where I’ll drink an iced Venti unsweetened green tea and get some undisturbed work done.

I don’t know on what. Maybe I could make sense of the Adsense craziness that is a new blog issue? Maybe I’d finish up my yoga article? Maybe complete the cover letters to publishers?

My heart tells me to stay; that it’s selfish to leave.

I shouldn’t be this eager to leave.

Maybe it’s my own fault for the way it’s been set up?

I’ve never gone out for girls night.

I’ve never left my kids overnight.

I co-sleep.

I am the one in charge of the children and I don’t have control over whether or not they are stimulated and played with and loved while I am gone.

And upon my return will the house still be standing or am I setting myself up for an afternoon of double duty; double kitchen cleaning, double toy putting away, double the mess removal?

The directional pulls to go or to stay fight me as I type.

Time has ticked too long and I know if I don’t move now I won’t go.

I’m off to shower to get ready for this day.

Still, I can’t help but wonder, do free birds really feel free when they are let out of their cage or do they fly around in circles waiting to get locked back inside where they know that they’re safe in the familiarity of home?

Wish me luck.

Caged Bird by Laura Hughes.

Wild Horses Wild Time

The timing of our little vacation was perfect.

The place we chose, six miles past a paved road in the land of wild horses made it easy to forget the outside world. We four by foured it all along the sandy dunes to get to civilized land, since the roads aren’t paved that far down the Barrier Islands of North Carolina’s coast.

I spent my days sitting on the beach watching the girls play, giving me a chance to read a real book with real pages (as opposed to the audio versions), while Brian manned his fishing pole.

It’s funny how a break from reality lifts the doldrums (monotony you don’t even realize until you escape) and everyone is so much more peaceful.

The wild horses have added to the mystique and magic of the place.

They’ve been living along the shores of the Outer Banks since the 1500’s, descendents of the Spanish. We know this because we read up from books lining the rentals’ shelves. They had been pushed off Spanish ships that were sinking and their tough stocky bodies mixed with determination to live gave them power to swim to land.

The horses have survived longer than the Colonies and Blackbeard the Pirate and now roam the beaches, heads down nibbling sea grass. Every morning we would watch to see them coming up over the sandy hills and at dinner time we’d crane our necks to catch a glimpse as they’d disappear through the trees to where they’d sleep.

I managed to run one day, despite a nagging pain in my left calf. I probably should have given myself a few more days to nurse the leg (sore for a week already), but I couldn’t resist a beach run with the horses.

Beach running, I’d forgotten, is much tougher than running on nicely paved streets. My attempt at five miles turned into three with a half mile walk up the dunes back to the house. When I returned I was dripping with sweat, but stuck my legs in the hot tub anyway, hoping the heat would loosen the pull.

Amazingly, it felt much better the next day and tomorrow I will attempt a street run as soon as the kids are dropped off at school.

Yesterday, Brian’s old friend Uncle Al drove up from Raleigh and it was great to see him playing on the beach with the girls and their dad.

I watched from my chair while the boys got my daughters started with drippy sand castles, which kept them occupied for long enough that I was able to get all the way to page two hundred fifty in my book. Have I mentioned how much I’m loving The Help? It’s about a writer and a story she must tell and I’m delighted by the surprise (I can relate more than a little).

Last night I left the guys to party it up with Crown Royal and Coke and only had to come up once to tell them to turn down the music. They were having a good time, but I chose to  spend my evening in a wicker chair next to my sleeping girls, while putting the finishing touches on the piece I sent to

The piece I was working on, entitled Infertility, Hope and Mother’s Day, turned out fine. It was a difficult one to write, but sometimes I need to be reminded of how much I wanted my monstrous monsters. If it doesn’t get published there, I’ll post in Mommyland.

It was early when we got up this morning and not at all a beach day. I attempted to get something posted, but the 10:00 check out time made it impossible.

We are home now. I’m back in my writing chair.

Back in the saddle tomorrow in regard to my diet and my running, school for the girls and work for their dad.

The saddle. It’s a good fit, but sometimes I wish we were more like those horses we left trolling the sandy dunes; wild, free, with nothing to do but laze and graze. Those horseys have no idea they’re on a permanent vacation.

They were so excited their feet left the ground!
Mommy hearts S+G. G was on the cusp of a temper fit. Notice her stomping out my letters. Four year olds!
When the horses got closer we’d back away and let them pass. This time was special because there was a pony in the pack. You can see him right against his mother.
After the beach. Trying to be like my awesome bloggy friends who take pictures of themselves to document their fab fashion finds. Loved my Kayce Hughes Tunic, but I’m afraid I’m hopeless in the self-photographing department.
Lesson to mom’s with smallish children. Avoid teaching them how to take pictures using your iPhone. You will spend precious time erasing two hundred plus pictures of Chi Chi and Chi Chi and rental house mermaids.
Sweet Sandy Soph.
Grace. She throws a mean tantrum, but most of the time she’s a real lovey.
Usborne Activities Fairies Sticker Book. These things are an absolute lifesaver for children on vacation. The girls would work on them for hours. The Ballerinas, Sports and Pirates books are great, too!
Heading Home Happy.

Monteray Shores on Dwellable

The Source of Writer’s Block

I’ve succumbed to a bit of writer’s block since Sunday. Everything written has been tossed due to its scattered nature and ineffectiveness. I haven’t been able to get it together, though I’ve tried over and over again.

It’s a shame for a writer when the blockage rears its ugly head. There is nothing more frustrating.

I’ve been busy, too, and the abundance of good stories have led me back to the computer for try after try.

Yesterday I Skyped with my eighty-six year old grandmother whom I only met this past Thanksgiving, but whom I love like I’ve known my whole life. I’m learning to see my physical self a little more clearly through my relationship with my biological family. It was telling when Grandma complained about her medicines making it difficult for her to take off some extra weight she’d been carrying. It seems that our weight stickage is a genetic issue for all of us and I will probably continue my own struggle with the scale until I’m an old lady myself (rocking on a porch petting cats, no doubt).

On Tuesday I visited Target with my big girls who were being rewarded for their own tush wiping (finally) with big girl cups (the baby ones are being phased out). It’s a happy day when mothers finally get their kids potty trained. It’s a whole separate party when the kids no longer need assistance in the wiping department. A new sense of freedom all around.

Last night my husband’s friend Neal came over to install a couple of ceiling fans. I popped up excitedly when he entered the house with his daughters’ new husband, who incidentally is from Nepal. Vinod and Alecia met during her first year of college when she was visiting and volunteering in a Nepali orphanage. They fell deeply in love, these two from opposite sides of the world, and I’ve watched their story grow through uploaded images on facebook.

Neal’s daughter isn’t even out of college and yet he and his lovely wife Marcie have embraced this beautiful boy and the marriage of their eldest daughter. When Vinod called Neal, “Dad,” while handing him the proper screw for fan installation my heart melted a little. I love a good love story; a real one not found in a book. What moved me as much as the love story between the kids was the love involving the family. Baring witness to great parenting and the embracing of children’s dreams cannot be pushed aside or ignored. It’s an extraordinary love that when seen must be acknowledged.

It’s funny how the words can flow when I get a grip on what’s been bothering me causing decent writing to get stuck in the deepest corners of my head.

Christine, from Love, Life, Surf  posted a piece that I read this morning about being labeled.

This week, I too was faced with one of the labels that I can’t seem to come to terms with.

This is the crux of my issue; the source of the block.

On Monday I went to visit to my doctor who has been there for me through ultrasounds with absent heartbeats, D&C’s, crazy pills and way too many tears. That much history gives someone enough knowledge about a person to have frank conversation.

Needless to say I was anxious about the visit.

That morning I put on mascara, which I never do because it hurts my eyes,  in an attempt to look together. This was dumb, because all the reasons that I’m not together were imprinted in my file; proof of my past heartbreaks and medications and the reasons for them all permanently etched in black ink.

Everything was going fine until she went to check my weight.

“You don’t want to know what you weighed a year ago, Martha. My experience with you is that you eat when you’re sad. What’s going on?”

She’s efficient, my doctor, I must give her that.

Without missing a beat I put on my biggest smile in an effort to convince her that I had everything under control.

“I’m not sad!” I exclaimed.

“I ran a marathon!”

“I’m not taking Metformin anymore!”

“Brian and I are getting along!”

“Yes, we’re having sex!”

“Yes, I’m getting sleep!”

“No, I’m not depressed!”

“I’m blogging! I write! I’m doing things that make me happy!”

It all came out so fast; a high pitched attempt to convince Dr. Polly that I was totally A-Okay.

Driving home I was shocked by not only my behavior, but that feeling deep inside that pointed to self-loathing.

Am I a fraud? I blog about healthy living, yet I was just faced with all the ways I’m not.

In my anger I began to repeat the mantra, “I am more than a number on the scale!”

She hadn’t come out and labeled me fat, but the silent judgement rang in my ears.

The more I thought about it, the more anxious and angry I became.

I got home and the typical response to those kind of feelings took hold.

A chocolate chip cookie here, a bowl of ice cream there, a handful of marshmallows have no fat, dark chocolate is good for you, have a little more.

Food as comfort. Dammit. There it is.

Jenny C. may not be happy with me at my weigh in this morning, but it will be good to talk to someone about this pattern that I so easily slipped into in the moment my control of life seemed unmanageable. The moment that it wasn’t shiny and happy and not just perfect.

Perfection. None of us fit that description.

Happiness. It isn’t possible to be so all the darned time.

Managing. Living the best we can and recognizing our weaknesses.

Forgiveness. Believing that we deserve it, even when all signs point to the lack of perfection.

I am a work in progress.

I am more than a number on a scale.

I am a writer. I am a mother. I am a daughter and a wife. I am strong. I run. I care about people. I don’t lie. I am fair. I have worth.

With the post finally written I’m going for a run.

I feel best when my body is in motion. Somehow when moving the labels have less ability to grab hold and the fresh blood that surges through my body gives me renewed peace and comfort to be exactly who I am.

Writer's block.
Writer's block.
~overcoming writer's block
Overcoming writer's block.
Muscle weighs more than fat. It's true...
Maybe. Maybe not.

Girls in the Sun

When I was fourteen, after a fun-filled day with my friends where we slathered ourselves in baby oil in an effort to get Ban De Soleil brown, I walked home and flattened my towel on the grass in our backyard. The sun had moved from its place high in the sky and I lay stomach down dozing in the warmth of the afternoon.

I still remember the prickle of the grass coming from underneath my towel. When I woke, my head was turned to the side and it took a few minutes to find my focus. Blinking lazily I watched my beach bag and listened to the sounds of the ocean waves in the distance. I was rested and warm even though the sun had moved over the house. Content, I stayed there for a while embraced by the end of a beautiful summer day.

I think about this often, because it’s one of those times where my pleasure filled every last cell of my being. How many times are we granted a memory like that? A memory attached to pure bliss that stays with us forever.

It seems ironic now that my memory was really truly being etched into my cells. Melanoma must have begun during those years and didn’t show its face until my pregnancy hormones (and maybe the infertility drugs, too) sent my body into cancer cell turnover overload.

As summer nears closer, as the weather warms, and as the Internet is inundated with (Oh my gosh I want everything) summer fashion, I am reminded of the importance of caring for one’s skin.

We should all be wearing sunscreen. Melanoma is a gene and you can have deep gorgeous African skin and you can still get the disease.

To all of the beautiful moms across the Earth, I implore you to teach your kids about the dangers of the sun. It’s not a lesson that they will hear, though if you spend your own summer getting cooked to a crisp. You can chase them down with Coppertone, but if I learned anything from my years teaching other people’s monsters, it’s that kids learn by what is modeled.

Wear a beautiful hat. Be chic in a gorgeous long caftan. Get sporty and adorable in an Athleta rashguard or J. Crew’s fab striped board shorts. Boden always does great tunics. Free People and Georgie make amazing beach pants and even Lululemon does UV running tops. The choices are endless and your skin (and dermatologist) will thank you.

As a result of my sun soaked adolescence, I now have a hideous scar (one of many, but the one most difficult to conceal) across my back, near my neck. I try to hide on a daily basis. I have hated it for the over four years I’ve had it and have endured steroid injections and laser treatments hoping to make it disappear.

It isn’t going anywhere.

A few nights ago after watching episode two of The Big C where Laura Linney’s character (in the last stages of her own melanoma fight) tattoos a large C over her scar, I’ve decided to do the same.

When you see it, please ask me about it. I’m not afraid to share. I want to feel proud and I think it will help.

Would I change that dreamy afternoon memory (or any of those delicious days cavorting in the sun) if it meant no cancer?

No way.

The only thing I would change is my insecurity about not knowing who I was and my inability to feel beautiful in my own….. skin.

My wish for the fourteen your old me and what I hope for all girls everywhere is that we can find the beauty within ourselves to not have to change what God has given us.

Oh yes, and I would have slathered my unblemished skin with sun cream.

Hindsight is so twenty twenty!

Calypso Yellow Cotton Terry Caftan.
Buddha Beach Pants
Buddha Beach Pants. It’s not funny how badly I want these.
Calypso cotton sarong. Wear over shoulders or over knees when sitting on the beach.
Wide-stripe board short
J. Crew Striped Board Short. Even I realize that it’s unreasonable to be totally covered all the time. A good dose of sunscreen and a few hours in shorts is healthy. Just re-apply.
Athleta Intrepid Sun Shield. Comes in five colors. I like the zipper to help cool your body when it gets really hot.
Athleta Summer Shape Tee. I have these in a few colors. They are UPF50.  A staple at Althelta, you can always get them on sale.
Real Board Short from They run a little small, so go up a size. Great for teenage girls; they’re kind of cool looking. I’m no teenager, but I have these and they’ve lasted a bunch of seasons.
Gap Sunhat. I tried this on in the store and was surprised by it’s cuteness. The big brim and the fact that it isn’t too floppy make it a winner.
 Whole Hearted Rashguard - Roxy
Roxy Rashguard. Zexy, I think!
caftan! caftan!
Caftan. How cute is this?!
beach pants
Billabong Beach Pants
Tunic #beach season
Emerson Fry New York Beach Tunic.

Flexibility in Mommyland

The plan for today was to head to the library for a new batch of books and then off to Target to hunt for big girl underpants.

Before we were to head upstairs to get a move on, we tidied up the play kitchen collecting the mess of cut up paper from coloring books that made better cutting templates. This gave us an opportunity to talk and we made the group decision that it was a better idea to stay home in our  pajamas and play.

New books and underpants can wait.

Sophie remembered the Lilly Pulitzer paper dolls hiding in the hall closet and I took them down from their shelf. I was wary because the plastic colorform clothes that stick to the dollies sometimes come off the page with their paper still attached causing frustration and (in the past) tears. They are awfully cute once the dollies do get dressed and so far I’ve only had to de-paper a goldfish bowl and a mini patterned journal.

It seems we are growing into the activity. Small hands are doing their very necessary work and I’ve been given a moment to do mine (type, edit, post)!

Flexibility in Mommyland is key and often the second choice plan for the day turns out to be better and more fulfilling than the first.

The goldfish bowl.
Little hands doing work.
I have a love/hate relationship with Lilly Pulitzer. It may require a post of it's own.
Grace's doll. I'd wear that outfit, sans the bow. The background is a classroom. Cutesy, no?







Nothing Gold Can Stay

In September of 1983 I turned eleven. I was in the seventh grade. For my birthday party I wanted to take my friends to see the movie The Outsiders, which we’d probably already seen eleven or twelve times. The film directed by Francis Ford Coppola spoke to the stuff which we had not yet been exposed; serious themes of love and hatred, socio-economic distrust, death and murder to name a few. Being cast with cute teenage boys was (I think) its initial appeal.

Afterward, my parents took the dozen or so of us to Ernesto’s on Clement Street (in San Francisco) for pizza. The memory of that night has not faded with time.

When we entered the restaurant a gaggle of girls with bright red eyes and puffy faces there was no doubt that what we’d experienced was powerful. We’d cried and sighed and reached for each others hands. Despite the difficult themes, we loved every minute of the entire movie; the evidence not totally clear by the sight of our tear smudged faces.

Yesterday, my grown up girlfriends and I watched as a row of fifth grade girls filled the seats in front of us in a darkened theater, all of us eagerly waiting the start of The Hunger Games. 

Their arrival prompted a discussion between my friends and me regarding whether or not the movie was appropriate for their age.

I had to think about it, but my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

Even so, today I’m still thinking about my response, which has prompted this post.

My kids are little and everyday I’m faced with the challenge about what I choose for them to see or do, to eat or say. What is allowed?  What is okay?

How did my mom make her decisions? How did the parents of those kids in the movie come to the conclusion that their kids were ready?

The girls in front of us at the movie yesterday demonstrated all of the appropriate behaviors of children being faced with some pretty serious subjects like the end of our civilization, death, murder, love, power and redemption.  They giggled when Katniss kissed Peeta in the cave and sighed when they watched Gayle’s breaking heart.

For me, the movie didn’t pack the powerful punch that the book did because it lacked Katnisses beautiful internal thoughts, which made the reading so special.

I wished I could have had a round table discussion with those fifth graders to see how they felt when it ended and I watched them carefully as my friends and I left to say our own farewells.

The kids were smiling and laughing, texting and hugging; not a puffy face in the bunch.

Children today may be more mature than they were when we were young. They may be less or more connected due to technology. Their bodies might be growing faster because of the gunk in the food they eat and they might watch more t.v. All of this might be true.

But when you are ten or eleven or twelve you are still a kid who not so long ago came into this world as gold.

The Outsiders quotes the famous Robert Frost poem entitled, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

The girls in front of us yesterday may be a few years younger than my friends and I were the night of my eleventh birthday. They probably are more mature, but are still little girls based on the short amount of time they’ve spent on our Earth.

They may not have cried at the end of The Games, but I’d venture to say if they watched The Outsiders today they’d be just like my friends and I were twenty-nine years ago; wet faced from filled up hearts with day dreams of life and love to come.

Because that’s what little girls are made of.