When I was a classroom teacher, I was often plagued with the most bizarre occurences.  Random moments when I’d wonder if that really just happened.  Funny moments, really.  The English major in me knows that this particular humor is brought about by incongruity or “a conjunction of opposite or unexpected situations in a way that evokes humor.”

Like the one time I found a pair of pants on the floor of my classroom and had to hang them up on the chalkboard with an arrow that asked, “Whose pants are these?”

Or the time I rewarded a class with a party for winning a canned food drive, and I passed around a sign-up sheet for the food list, but when it came back to me, it only listed three items: “omelets,” “Jagerbombs,” and “Oreos.”

Or the time I found a stunning drawing in my own image left on the dry-erase board after class.  The incongruity of a kindergarten-compatible drawing penned by a high-schooler.

Or of course the subtle humor of some pimply-faced adolescent scribbling “Shakespeare sux” in the margins of MacBeth.  Because that kid certainly knows enough to claim such a thing.

The list goes on.  Whether they mean to or not, kids are funny people when they aren’t driving you insane.


And I kind of thought those sorts of bizarre and humorous moments were present in my life because of my daily interactions with 150 high-schoolers, but now that I am home with a toddler, it’s a daily occurence again.  I mean as I write this, there is a roll of toilet paper in our downstairs hallway; watercolor paints, a tape measure, and a random cord on my dining room table; and alphabet letters thrown in to a pan with a wire whisk resting on my kitchen floor.  And I do clean the clutter occasionally, I assure you.  But the randomness follows me everywhere, I swear.  Incongruity at its finest.  Just this morning I found Jude pushing a hand-me-down pink baby doll stroller with a serving spoon buckled in where the baby ought to be.

Like the pleading eyes of my poor dog juxtaposed with the joy on Jude’s face when he forces her to submit to some play time.  For all their annoyances, these dogs put up with a lot from us.

Jude also got a harmonica in an Easter basket, and he stumbles around playing the blues like some troubled old homeless war vet or something. And I don’t know what it is about that scenario, but it cracks me up.  Someone who knows nothing of trouble in the world and fills his days munching on cheese crackers now spends his time staring aimlessly out a window and playing the blues.

He’s also discovered that his favorite word is “cheese,” only he says it with this high-pitched and desperate “sheeeeeeeese” that you can hear a mile away.  And he asks for “sheese” at least five times a day, typically when it is not mealtime or snacktime, but the thought has graced his mind and he comes racing and pleading to me.

The “sheese” face is half-cute and half-scary.  Yesterday we were reading a book about a runaway sheep, and he jumped up from our cozy spot on the sofa, screamed “sheeeeeeeese” and ran to the refrigerator door.  Must. Have. Cheese. NOW.  The hilarity of screaming CHEESE at various moments throughout the day is not lost on me.

Incongruity at its finest.

I mean even toddler temper tantrums, painful though they are, are examples of this.  When the fretful moment has passed and I regain sanity to really think about what has just happened, I laugh a little remembering that handing someone the yellow crayon instead of the blue one he was grunting for resulted in flailing on the floor.  Next time I ask Scott to pick up something at the store and he forgot it, I think I’ll respond the same way.  You forgot coffee creamer?  OH MY GODDDDD, the horror!

My three-year-old niece is staying with us a couple of days a week, partly to help my sister out with childcare and partly to have a playmate for Jude.  I love watching all her delicate little mannerisms and girly habits after spending time with my rowdy boy. But then she plays her favorite game which is to “be a yion” as she says.  Or growl like a scary lion.  So here we are with this blue-eyed girly-girl making a loud, guttural growl and trying really hard to make a mean face.  Incongruity at its best.

And I’m realizing toddlerhood might be the funniest source, but it isn’t the only source of incongruity in my life.  I’m full of some contradictions as well.

As of last week, I am grinding my own grain in the kitchen and baking all of my family’s bread, yet I still love my cupcakes and can’t stay no to another cup of coffee or a margarita.

I’ve had major issues accepting television as part of our daily routine around here, and I tend to take it too seriously as a drain on a little brain’s budding intelligence, yet I adore the beautiful half hour I spend in the kitchen every evening before dinner when “Backyardigans” sing happily in the next room.

I revisit Blake and Shelley like old friends and ache for books in such a tangible way, yet I have been plowing through the same novel for weeks and know much more about Seuss than Renaissance drama at this point in my life.

Today I long to hit the road with my nomadic little family and jump at any opportunity that would have us moving and leave Jude learning on the canvas of some foreign city, but the next day I’ll decide I need to deepen some roots right where we are and my rocking chair on the front porch is all the exploration I need.

I think there was a time when I viewed these incongruities as something I needed to fix or make a decision about, but as I get older, I’m learning to accept them for what they are.  I can do pretty much anything I want, just not everything I want.  Or not all at the same time.  And sometimes that leaves me with one foot in and one foot out, straddling some fence and trying desperately to throw the other leg over.  And, students, since this has been a lesson on incongruity, I’ll leave you with a literary quote from a wise Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”   For now, I love my multitudes.

Beginnings and Endings. And Traveling in Between.

I love to travel.  Love it.  Seeing new places, eating new food, cramming clothes in a suitcase with plans in my head.  For various reasons – namely money and real jobs – I am not as extensively traveled as some I know, but pre-Jude, Scott and I would take trips whenever we could, some not far from home, and some a little farther.

2008 - Europe Trip 341
in Bruges, Belgium three years ago

It’s so hard to try and imagine how your life will change after having a child.  I think it’s actually pointless to predict it because parenting is something that, for me anyway, kind of evolves on its own.  I expected to drop the baby off at Grandma’s house often for a night out or a longer trip away.  I expected to want “me” time really frequently.  I expected to feel a little trapped and overwhelmed in this role. But life surprises you sometimes and things don’t always progress the way you expect them to.


So when we first began to talk about a trip to celebrate my thirtieth birthday, I never even thought about leaving Jude at home. Not that couple time isn’t a good thing, of course. But he’s so young and so a part of us that I jumped in with both feet and dragged a toddler to Costa Rica.


I know everyone has varying opinions on this, but I love traveling with a baby. We took him to Seattle when he was nine months old, and things went well, so I wasn’t really thinking about any reasons not to take him this time.  That said, as I began to plan the trip and share details with others, some people told me in not-so-confusing terms that they thought I was crazy or even unfair to my child to drag him along.  I did it any way, and I’m so glad I did.


My thirtieth birthday trip to Costa Rica was such a fun adventure.  But I learned a few subtle lessons, too.

As we landed in Liberia and waited in line at customs, I saw two young couples arriving from the states as well. The women were complete from head to toe with beachwear on their backs, coordinated luggage, and glossy lipstick. Obviously four childless folks vacationing together with grand plans of piña coladas at the shore and deep tans to bring home as souvenirs. And as I looked at them with my toddler in the carrier on my back, I glanced at a shadow of my former self. One without worries of proper water safety and preserving the sacred nap time. One who remembered to wear lipstick and didn’t find my bra hanging out of a stained shirt after a four-hour flight with a busy kid.

And those travel days with fewer worries and more time?  They were lovely.  I’ve cruised the Seine at night with Paris illuminated before me.  I’ve strolled Nantucket’s cobblestone streets with not a single concern in my mind.  I’ve lingered far too long over a bottle of wine with friends in a restaurant that would never work with my child in tow.  I’ve sipped tea leisurely in Grantchester Orchard with a stack of school books in my bag.  I’ve walked the gulf sand with girlfriends and cold beer and silence punctuated with some of my life’s best conversations.  And all of those moments were just as perfect as they sound, lasting stamps in my mind.

But here we are at a new place with some pretty beautiful moments as well.






Was every second of the trip perfection?  I’d be lying if I said so.  There were no fewer than three tantrums on the plane ride there.  There was a rushed dinner that felt far too long because we traded off toddler-duty, walking rounds to satisfy a tired and cranky boy.  There was the constant need for a pacifier so that he’d stop eating random, potentially dangerous things.  Relaxing poolside is impossible when he’s vulnerable and can’t swim, and admittedly I relished the glorious hour of naptime when I lounged and read alone under the hot sun.  Traveling with a child is not for the faint of heart.  But then again, neither is motherhood.  Just when the newborn haze wears off, you get the hang of things, and then the mobility begins and you wonder how you got here.  You find a way to make it work though.  Now I just look for a playground in walking distance from my relaxing beachside margarita.

Our first day in Costa Rica, we were poolside next to an older couple from Indiana.  They commented on Jude’s cuteness, and we began talking.  They spoke of grandchildren back home they missed, the ten-day tour of Costa Rica they were ending, and the beautiful sights they’d seen.  And as we spoke, I realized something.  Life moves on.  And these stages, however easy or hard they may be, only last for a little while.  Right now I have this wiggly daredevil who wants to run and scream and play, and it’s fun but exhausting.  Soon I will have an active swimmer who won’t stress me out so much in the pool or make a scene in a restaurant, but I’m sure I’ll miss chubby little hands and feet.  And later still, I hope to travel with a teenager who can hold his own in a conversation with me and understand the historical significance of some of the world’s greatest places.  And much, much later, we’ll have those childless trips again, wandering city streets and seeing sights without worrying about taking care of someone else.

So I guess if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this few weeks of my thirtieth year it’s that this might be the end of certain parts of my life, but it’s only the beginning of a lot more.  That and I love belonging to my little family, whether we are near or far.


Reset Button

We have a phrase around here, and I am not quite sure how it came about, but I say it all the time. When Jude is whining and moping around or the inevitable toddler tantrum comes out, I always ask him if he needs a reset button. Or sometimes it comes out as “Where’s your reset button, Jude?” or “Look, let’s do [insert fun thing here] and push the reset button.” I’m not sure he really knows what it means, but it totally works.

We have lots of reset buttons – walks in the neighborhood (which I miss with this winter weather), reading a favorite book, dancing to music, digging out a long-forgotten toy, a spontaneous trip to the library…..

Lots of things can reset the tone for the day and work as a distraction from “the grumpies” as I affectionately call them to Jude.


I might not cry loudly when I don’t get my way or throw myself on the floor in a crazy fit or hit my favorite toy when it’s not working the way I wish, but sometimes I desperately need a reset button, too.

Usually little things work for me – cooking a favorite meal, taking a long bath, crafting a little while on something, watching a television show uninterrupted, reading, listening to a really great song on repeat a few times.  Sometimes though, my funk calls for more, and I bring out the big guns – a solitary trip to the bookstore, an evening out with girlfriends, an indulgent purchase.  This weekend I pushed the big buttons for sure.


When I was a teacher, I was lucky enough to have some great colleagues I adore. Sharing my humor and often my perspective, these girls heard me whine and complain about many a bad day.  Disciplinary problems?  I talked, they listened.  Scary parent conference?  They commiserated.  Dry and boring lesson? They offered ideas.  I loved that we had a “crew,” and we all knew someone was there to defend us or encourage us.  I also loved that we had a bi-weekly (sometimes more often than that, maybe?) margarita date that was a sacred hour nobody could dare contend with.  For years you could find us on most Thursday afternoons, sitting at the same table and probably laughing at some of the same things over and over again.  I don’t want to know how many pounds of guacamole we’ve eaten over the years or how much of my paycheck has gone to that establishment, but I’m sure it was cheaper than therapy and way more fun. It was the ultimate reset button. I’d walk in on Friday morning a new woman, and a better teacher, than I’d been the day before.

But life gets busy.  I quit my job, obviously, so that bi-weekly date wouldn’t happen for me anyhow. Plus budget cuts and longer hours and all that comes with it doesn’t allow for as much socializing as it used to for my former colleagues, so it’s been a long time since we’ve sat at the same table and shoveled queso in our mouths as we ordered a round of drinks and commiserated about something.  Or laughed about something as it usually goes.

And last weekend?  We made time for it again after a much-too-long absence, and I drove away feeling a little lighter than when I arrived.  Happy hour with old friends is a rest button that solves almost any problem.  Some of our conversations have changed, but much of it is still the same, and I love that.

Then Saturday morning I waved Jude and Scott off to Gymboree so I could indulge in a facial, and if you live in the Atlanta area, you have to make the trip here.  I drove about forty minutes north, and it was worth it.  Rebekah totally knows what she’s doing, and it feels so good to take care of yourself sometimes, you know?

I think as moms (or wives or friends or students or daughters or whatever the case may be), we sometimes forget that you have to fill the tank to run somewhere. So much of my life is reacting and comforting and fixing problems, and I love that role.  The changing diapers, the wiping a nose, the cuddling and rocking to sleep – those things are beautiful and fulfilling in their own way, but it also takes a lot from you.  I sometimes push aside my own need to reset and think oh, I don’t need to do that or I should be doing this instead or the ever-present I don’t need to spend that money when I am not bringing any money in. But if we don’t fill the tank, we run on empty.  And for me, that doesn’t lead to anywhere good.

So I finished this weekend feeling happy and content and full so that I can give more happiness and contentment and fullness to my little family. Do you have favorite ways to fill your tank?  What’s your reset button?

Dry Spell

Usually I have a million things swirling in my head and no time to sit and write them down, but it’s been just the opposite lately.  Things are good.  Life is progressing.  But I can’t seem to find any worthy way to put much in to words. This page is really little more than my own journal, but lately I can’t seem to think of much that I would even want to read, much less all of you.

So let’s see.  It was incredibly warm and sunny in Atlanta this weekend. Yesterday brought us well in to the 60s here, and the sun was glorious.  If we have a day like this every couple of weeks, I just might make it to spring.  It was also Scott’s birthday, and we headed out for some bubble blowing and vitamin-D soaking.  I snapped a photo or two, and when I uploaded them this morning, I found this.

Can someone tell me who that is?  Because, ouch, that cannot be my baby.  I know everyone says this, but it goes so fast.  He still needs me for lots of things of course, but he’s showing his independence a lot these days as well, and it makes my heart simultaneously swell and break at the same time.  My only solace is knowing that I will have another child one day and there will be more newborn and baby time to come, but inside I wonder what women do without that crutch to fall back on.  I just might have a dozen babies.

Except not really; I’m as exhausted as I am happy.

I tend to think, oh I should do [insert necessary household chore here] or maybe this week I can finish [insert important unfinished task here]. And then he’s asleep at night, and all I want to do is somehow recover from chasing him all day which usually means reading some semi-trashy historical fiction or knitting some more.  I just cast on this handy bag, but it’s quite large in scale, so all I have is this so far.

Really it’s a little more than this now, but I’ve yet to upload a more recent photo.  It’s odd that I disliked knitting so much before and now I like it, but for now, I’ll just go with it.  It’s soothing and repetitive in away that relaxes me, and with a project like this, $20 will probably get me a month of entertainment because it’ll take me a while to finish.

So that’s about all I have to say today.  I chase a toddler by day who is just as tiring as he is delightful, and I cook and knit and read at night. I think I just summarized my life’s work in one very boring sentence.

On the bright side, girls’ night on Friday at what used to be our beloved weekly margarita spot and then a fabulous facial scheduled for Saturday!  This time of year, it’s the little things that get me through.

Random babbling. And a toddler recipe at the end if you actually read that far.

I’m warning you that there is no cohesion to this post at all.

Randomness #1: Christmas is ten days away, y’all. Countdown is on and we are busy busy around here.  Presents are purchased, but I’ve got A LOT of wrapping to do, and the cards remain un-mailed. For some weird reason, Jude is just as fascinated with the reflection of our tree as he is with our actual tree.  Weird kid, that one.

Randomness #2: I made red velvet cookies this weekend. They are very good.  I have 2 left in my fridge.  I will eat one tonight with a glass of chardonnay and NO APOLOGIES.  I got hungry while writing and already ate one.

Randomness #3: We are coloring here sometimes. We try to color everyday, and sometimes he really gets into it and feels all proud when I ohhh and ahhhh over his lines and shapes.  But mostly he just likes to carry the crayons around the house.  Not doing anything with them at all, just carrying them.

Or other times, he tries to eat them.  Purple and yellow are his favorite colors in case you wanted to know.

Randomness #4: Today he put the right pieces in the right place on his little farmyard puzzle, and I freaked out in classic over-reacting, stage mom style. JUDE!!  OH MY GOSH!!  YOU ARE THE SMARTEST BOY EVER!  YAY YAY YAY!  YAY! JUDE! I heard myself and am fully aware of how ridiculous it sounded, but I don’t care.  There are moments that feel pretty phenomenal, even if every other mom has that same moment.

Randomness #5: Why does my kid try to eat everything?  [He is fourteen months old today, and I swear he’s been doing this since month four.]

I mean everything.  (Yep, that’s a Christmas ornament.)  And then when I give him a little kid’s toothbrush to chew on, he looks puzzled and offers it back to me or carries it around the house but doesn’t dare put it past his lips?

Randomness #6: I’ve been wearing the same perfume for 10 years, and I want something new. Any suggestions?  I hate florals.

Randomness #7: I love how bath time is like a reset button for the day.  No matter how cranky or tired or cooped up and stir-crazy we feel, bath time is always pleasant.

It is a little weird that he likes to chew on a washcloth though.  I have to bring 2 cloths in the bathroom – one to wash with and one to give him to chew on while I’m cleaning him.

Randomness #8: We had a little playdate last Sunday afternoon, and I was overwhelmed with the cuteness.  Watching two kids interact can be so funny sometimes.

These two are less that three weeks apart in age, and we mamas already betrothed them long before they were born, but I need to work on little man’s chivalry.  Jude came on a little strong.

Randomness #10: That same mama sent me a great recipe a while ago that I have used and frozen again and again.  So when she told me that she’d been experimenting with different ingredients, I couldn’t help but try to mix it up a little.  The result was a parmesan-veggie-nugget-type-of-thing that Jude is loving.


  • vegetables (use anything, but I used yellow squash and zucchini with some leftover potatoes.)
  • about one cup of breadcrumbs (I used Italian.)
  • 2 eggs
  • about one cup of shredded cheese

It’s easy!

  • Grate one green zucchini and one yellow squash.  Place grated vegetable in a colander because it’s watery and needs to drain for about 30 minutes.  Squeeze out remaining water
  • Melt a little butter in a pan, saute the vegetable for a few minutes to flavor and soften it.  (At this point, I added a small serving of leftover mashed potatoes from dinner the night before, just to use them.  Totally optional, but a great way to use leftovers.)
  • Toss vegetables in a bowl with grated cheese, breadcrumbs, and 2 beaten eggs.
  • Stir and mix it all together until it’s combined.
  • Make small ball and squish it flat so it has more of a cookie shape.
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  • Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

These freeze pretty well and are really versatile.  (Hence my loosey-goosey recipe.)  Use any vegetable you want. The main idea is that cheese, breadcrumbs, and egg will make anything stick.  I did mine somewhat large, by the way, so he could eat one as a snack or side to lunch or dinner.  You could do them a lot smaller though – like traditional chicken nuggets, for instance.

Thanks, Samira, for the original recipe and inspiration!

Randomness # whatever we are on, I’ve lost count:  It’s freezing in Atlanta and across much of the country, from what I see. A heavy fuzzy blanket, house slippers, and un-addressed Christmas cards are calling my name. Stay warm!





Surviving and Thriving. Crafting not Cleaning.

The husband is still in Paris, and I am surviving – despite detailed accounts of his decadent chocolate dessert or play-by-play explanations of buttery breakfast pastries.  Or that gorgeous photo he emailed of the Notre Dame Cathedral all decked out for Christmas.  But Jude and I? We’re getting by on this side of the ocean.

I’m staying busy which helps a lot. On Monday evening, I attended a community meeting about the very real possibility of a birth center here in Atlanta. Woohoo!  Not sure what that VBAC status will be with the issues surrounding liability insurance, but even if I am never lucky enough to deliver there, I am truly excited about the possibilities for Atlanta women.  …. On a side note, as I sat in that meeting surrounded by lots of faces I’ve come to know in the past year or more of my life, I feel really grateful that my path has led me to so many strong women.  The “earthy birthy” movement in Atlanta is so active, and I love having these women as sounding boards and mentors for all sorts of parenting issues that extend far beyond labor and delivery.

So the rest of this week has included a birthday dinner on my husband’s side of the family and some visiting and playing and lunching with friends, and tonight I get to visit a tiny little baby and catch up with girlfriends over hot chocolate and doughnuts, so really Paris, you and your fine wines and beautiful architecture can suck it.  [I don’t really mean that, but I’m trying here.]

God knows there is plenty to do around the house, but it’s Christmas time and I’d rather make bigger messes crafting or cooking than clean up the existing ones, you know?

Exhibit A: Jude’s new flannel board. It turns out that $6 at Hobby Lobby and a little work can buy you a super fun and easy way to learn shapes and colors.

365.191  happy things #4

I simply wrapped black flannel around some foam board, hot glued it in place, and cut colorful shapes to go on it.  The felt easily clings to the flannel, and Jude really likes rearranging them.  Kinesthetic learning, as my teacher colleagues would call it.  Perfect entertainment for a cold day.

Then there’s been the baking, the browsing cookie recipes, the last minute gift buying on Etsy, the drinking too much coffee.  Effectively staying distracted and having a good time in the process.

Nothing else to share here, really.  Except maybe some finished scrapbook pages for Jude’s SECOND year book.  It seems so weird to say second year.  We’ve waved goodbye to babyland for sure.  Toddlerville, here we are.




So that’s pretty much it for us this week.  Surviving in the cold on this side of the Atlantic. Crafting but surely not cleaning.  Husband returns tomorrow and lots of cozy slow cooker meals and general laziness planned for the weekend.  Happy weekending to you, too.

It’s the holidays.  Go bake something.


evolution of a little man

You know that picture of the monkey slowly turning into a man? Everyone has seen it as a visual representation of Darwin’s theory.  You know the one.

I’ve realized recently that I am living the same thing, only on a much faster scale.  The similarities between my son and a caveman are astonishing.  The grunting, the sometimes crawling sometimes walking, the fits of anger or happiness that overflow with absolutely no filter.  The complete disregard for how to act in public.  The way in which he eats with both fists, food flying in every possible direction.  And here I am, just following him around all day.  Watching him watching other things.

His curiosity is astonishing, and no doubt it drives every little action and decision he makes all day.  Poking here, tinkering there, prodding and playing and trying to figure things out.

A curiosity, in fact, that is so strong it seems to almost kill him at least 8 times a day.  And that’s where my job comes in, I guess. No, you cannot eat that thing that will become lodged in your throat.  No, you cannot place your finger in the electrical outlet.  No matter how many times you try, my answer will always be the same.  I will always pick you up, move you to another distraction, and hope you forget it for at least 5 minutes.

Truthfully, supervising this evolution is exhausting at times. I relish a quiet cup of coffee before the rest of the house is awake.  I savor every moment I am lucky enough to pee alone. I cherish the minutes I have the energy and time to write here.  Motherhood is tiring indeed.  Here’s the thing though, this evolution is breathtaking as well. And to miss a second of it would be criminal, so tired or not, I can’t help but love it. The coming of age of my little caveman.

As a classroom teacher, the best part of my job was surely watching students grow from one year to the next.  The shy awkwardness and braced teeth of a freshmen.  The overconfidence of a sophomore.  Soon the insight starts to make its way through to the surface as that junior becomes a senior.  And viola, college is around the corner, and before I know it that kid that I had to explain the sex jokes to while we read Romeo and Juliet is a grown-up.  With her own ideas and values.  With his focused perspective and maturity.  It was incredible to witness.


And here we are with the same thing, only much faster and much closer to my own heart.  We ditch the bottle and before you know it, we are preferring the sippy.  We are slowly but surely working on the weaning.  …… and mama, if you didn’t already know I was a big boy, you should know by now since here we are on a Tuesday morning sharing a smoothie on the kitchen floor.  Drinkin’ from my straw.  Playin’ with my letters.

Little caveman gets a little more civilized everyday, it seems.  Those eyes know more than his mouth can say, I know it.

And I’m evolving a little as well, I suppose.  I’m recording so many little moments on this journal and that alone is changing my perspective everyday; I’m valuing and savoring some tiny minutes that I think would run right past me unnoticed if I didn’t write things down here for you.  I’m watching a little caveman grow up, and I’m enjoying the sights.  Tiring or not, motherhood is beautiful.