What I Wish Other Parents Knew About Living With Food Allergies


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I’m guilty.

Years ago, when my daughter was young, I did it. I took her to the playground and offered her a snack with peanuts in it – a peanut butter granola bar, say – and let her wander off. I didn’t watch and I didn’t pick up after her. And inevitably, I’m sure, she dropped some; maybe on the ground, maybe on a piece of playground equipment. A little peanut time bomb, lying there casually waiting for someone to pick it up.

Knowing what I know now, the memory haunts me. Did a little toddler come along and, with his penchant to put everything in his mouth, pick it up and give it a try? Did my carelessness cause an innocent child to suffer? Am I paying now, in some kind of karmic way, for my wrongs?

There’s a new study out confirming that early exposure to peanuts can actually prevent allergies. I have a very mixed reaction to it. On the one hand, I feel vindicated: Years ago, when my daughter was born, even before this was commonly accepted, it made sense to me. When it came time to introduce her to solid foods, peanuts – and all other allergens – were on the menu. Other parents looked at us like we were crazy, but we saw countries around the world with low incidence of food allergies and they were all places where “allergenic” foods are routinely eaten. So we fed her Pad Thai with peanuts and shrimp and the girl has no food allergies.

Then my son came along. Continue reading

Relocation NYC: One Month In


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Well, we’ve been here almost a month and it’s certainly been an adventure. A bit of culture shock, a lot of fun, and the occasional rude New Yorker. In case anyone is remotely interested, here are my off the cuff observations on life in the City so far. (Some of this might be specific to our neighborhood, the Upper West Side.)

  1. Everything is bigger. All the public spaces feel so huge: the parks (hello, Central Park is gigantic!), the museums, the rivers, the bridges (those iconic bridges!), the buildings, the boulevards.
  2. Except that everything is smaller. All the interior spaces are, well, tiny: the apartments, the kitchens, the grocery stores, the restaurants. I mean, there’s a grocery store down the block from us that’s the size of about half the vegetable department in our old store in Chicago. How do they do it? The aisles are about a foot wide. Seriously.
  3. This city was not built for stroller life: in large part because of those small interior spaces, life with a stroller is difficult here. They don’t fit in the grocery stores at all. And you can’t just walk to a restaurant and leave your stroller by the table or in the entranceway. There’s no space for it. So you better have a stroller that folds up and be ready to fold it quickly. Because:
  4. Everyone is in a hurry. Seriously, get to that restaurant and need to take a minute to gather your things out of your stroller before folding it up? Forget it. The hostess, five servers and everyone else waiting will be staring at you like you’ve just broken every single New York rule.
  5. There are no automatic doors. Random, but true. I’ve seen maybe three automatic doors and not a single handicap button. (Both of which are all over the place in Chicago.) Just another way life with a stroller is difficult. On the other hand, life with a stroller is great because:
  6. You can walk everywhere. And I LOVE it. We’ve hardly left our neighborhood because everything we need is right here and it’s so fun to be truly living that kind of urban lifestyle. And the times we have left (for museums, brunch with friends, etc) it’s been super easy to take the train, because:
  7. The trains are awesome. I love the ‘El and all, but the trains in NYC are way better. It helps that we live a block from a stop, but it really does feel like we can get just about anywhere we need to go. Except the Upper East Side, but there are buses for that.
  8. Life without a car is fantastic. I’ve taken maybe three cabs and we rented a car to go to the beach for a day. But other than that, I haven’t been in a car in the last month. It’s awesome. I don’t miss it at all. It feels so freeing to not have to worry about strapping the kids in and traffic and finding a parking spot and remembering to fill up the tank. Walking is so much easier.
  9. No alleys/garbage on the street. Of course, walking is slightly less fun on garbage day, when there are giant piles of garbage everywhere. I always knew this and always appreciated the alley system in Chicago, but it really is true: garbage collection on the sidewalks is super gross.
  10. No garbage disposals. And speaking of garbage, there are no garbage disposals in NYC. Why? I don’t understand. Seriously, can someone tell me why??
  11. New York is hilly and that’s awesome. I grew up in Wisconsin, so I love hills. But Chicago is as flat as they come and even though Denver is near the mountains, it’s pretty flat too. Walking through the city and climbing up hills and then rolling down into valleys is so neat.
  12. It’s feels so European. Especially up here, on the UWS. Little sidewalk cafes, people speaking foreign languages everywhere, standing on the ridge overlooking Riverside Park. It’s really like nowhere else in America.10665975_1468153540117569_902851447_n
  13. Trees. It’s Manhattan so you automatically think “concrete jungle”, but there are actually trees everywhere. More trees than in Chicago, for sure. Huge, old trees that look like they’ve been there for a hundred years. I can’t wait for them to start changing colors.
  14. Dog walkers. Obviously there are dog walkers in Chicago, but I’ve never seen anything like what they do here: one dog walker with ten or more dogs, leashes all tangled up, walking along or lounging on the sidewalk. Archer just about loses his mind from joy every time we see them.
  15. Boring architecture. There are obviously some iconic buildings in midtown and downtown, but overall I think the architecture here is pretty boring after coming from Chicago. The buildings are so flat and plain. But there’s a certain charm, too, and I can see how you’d come to love them.
  16. The ENERGY! It’s the quintessential New York word and it feels cliché. But it’s true, so what can you do? There is just so much energy here! Look, there are probably millions of people doing nothing, but there are also many more millions of people doing millions of amazing things and you see them all around you and you just can’t help but get swept up in the energy. I feel so alive! I absolutely love it!10540250_627723707345221_1267229721_n

There’s more, I’m sure, but these are the biggest things that have stuck in my mind over the last few weeks. As we get more settled in and more used to the city, this will become my new normal. And I may just notice other new and different things as well. So here’s a snapshot of life at one month in.

Breaking Radio Silence

I haven’t felt much like blogging lately (as you clearly know). It feels like a lot of pressure: there are classes and groups and ideas about blogging; ways it should be done, stories that should be told, arcs that should be followed; it feels like it has to be substantial if I’m going to bother doing a whole post. Sometimes I have something to say but it just doesn’t feel like it deserves an entire post. So lately I’ve been doing something else: writing longish posts on Facebook. I’m not sure how much I’ll be back here (though I may change my mind again and suddenly take up blogging whole-heartedly. I’m trying to put less pressure on myself generally), so if you’re interested in keeping in touch, please come join me on Facebook. You can follow me here.

Here’s a sampling of some things I’ve posted recently:

Well, it’s officially official: we’re on the move again! This time we’re moving to New York City! We’ll be living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan and I’m so incredibly excited for our new adventure. We’ll miss our family and friends terribly, but we can’t wait to make new connections and experience new things. My life is never boring, that’s for sure!!

(Oh yeah, we’re moving. Again. More on that later. On the Facebook.)

Thoughts on Awakening:

Almost exactly six years ago today I stood on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro after six long, cold, hard days of hiking to get to the top. That moment was the beginning of a transformation that would affect almost all aspects of my life. It was a moment of awakening and though the darkness shuttered my eyes many times in the days and weeks and years that followed, I had felt the joy of standing with my eyes open to life and I could never go back to the numb sleepwalking I’d done up until that moment.

My life has changed in almost every way since that day. At the time, I was working 80 hours a week at a job that I hated, I was chronically fatigued and in nearly-constant pain but for the numerous prescription drugs that I took, I suffered with depression and my coping mechanisms were self-destructive and harmful to my work and relationships, I ate pure crap and had no understanding of how it might affect me apart from my pant size (and often skipped eating to keep said pant size low), I walked through life in a fog of thoughts that I wasn’t even aware of, and I stayed in toxic relationships because I didn’t believe I deserved any better.

Today I’m pursuing my passion and though parenting keeps me tired, it’s a healthy tired borne of hard work and it sits above a well of energy that keeps me buoyed. I take no medicine and I’ve come to realize that healthy food is the best medicine of all. I’ve left behind my self-destructive behaviors and learned a whole new set of coping mechanisms that I can draw on for the rest of my life. I feel positive about my body and I eat in a place of joy and gratitude for the food and my health. I practice mindfulness and the quiet space that I find when I consciously let my thoughts fall away is one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever had. And I’m married to a wonderful man who’s given me the two most beautiful children I could have ever asked for.

What was that moment of awakening that caused so much change in my life? Read more here.


Thoughts on Memory:

Today I took the kids to the stables where we kept our horses when I was a child. I hadn’t been there in almost twenty years, but it was exactly the same. The barns, bright red and white against the blue sky, but faded pink and beige when you look up close; the arena, dusty and dim; the outdoor track, complete with a young woman riding loops, sitting pretty in her shiny black English saddle; and the pastures – oh, the pastures! – endless and green, dotted with pale white clover, a deep, still backdrop for the horses, mostly grazing calmly, except that one, rolling joyfully in the dirt then standing, front legs first, one then the other, then slowly push up the back legs, knee to foot, and a pause as she gathers to collect herself, and in that pause you’re not sure she’ll make it and then, boom, she’s up, shaking herself in a manic shimmy as the dirt rises off her in a cloud.

We walked through the main barn, past horses flicking flies off with their tails, teenagers brushing down their tired horses, a pat on the withers as the horse flinches to let the steam out of his tired muscles, a woman mucking a stall. Everything so familiar – the sights, the sounds, the place itself. But like Marcel Proust searching for lost time, it was the smell that really did it. It smelled exactly like it did when I was a child: the musty sweet of manure, the gritty dirt, worn for years into the walls and floor, the hay, broken apart in the stalls and drifting up into the air, the leather of tack and boots, sweaty and soft from overuse, the fresh grass, wafting down the hall from outside through the open doors, the horses themselves, salty sweat and sweet and hot breath and earthy damp.

As I stood in that barn I was a child again, all long legs and unfettered optimism and courage I didn’t know I’d had. And I was me, now, today. We were one, in that barn, with my daughter and my son gazing, amazed, at those horses, and I think, though I didn’t have a chance to ask her directly before the present moment brushed away the past back to where it rightfully belongs (saved but not-often-accessed, not cluttering up the moment that we’re living in now); I think she was proud of me, that child I once was. And I think she was happy I came by for a visit.


Girls are messy, naked, farters, too


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I see it all the time: lists, articles, and blog posts explaining to me how to be a mom to a boy. As though boys are a different species and my time parenting Adeline will have done nothing to prepare me to parent a boy.

Now look, Archer is only nine months old, so I may come to eat my words. But so far, parenting him has been – in the grand scheme of things – exactly no different from parenting Adeline at this age. I mean, sure, he sleeps better, he’s way more chill, he hardly ever cries, and he’s hitting his gross motor milestones later than she did, but then, that’s exactly the stereotype of boys. Oh. Wait. I remember when Addie was a baby, my friends with boy babies were always talking about how they were such boys because they loved balls and knocking things down. Um, so did Addie. Those are pretty typical baby interests.

The latest is this blog post about being a mom of boys. The lady has four boys, so I’m sure she knows her stuff and gets boy behavior magnified in a way I never will. But reading through her post, all I could think was, “This is exactly like parenting Adeline.” For example:

#1: You must love bath time. Um, last night Addie had to have a bath before bed because her hair was sticky all over from some unknown substance, her hands and feet were filthy with dirt from playing outside, and she had a strange combination of sticky food and dust coagulated on her face. Girls get dirty and need baths too.

#2: You must think farts are funny. Last week I knelt down to help Addie pull off her pants and she farted right in my face. And laughed about it for at least ten minutes. I rest my case. Continue reading

Foreshadowing and the Universal Story


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The other night, after finally getting both kids to sleep, David and I sat down to watch a movie. It was some kind of action thriller type thing, with some quiet dialogue scenes but also some really loud action scenes. The kids were asleep upstairs and usually we can watch whatever we want and it doesn’t wake them up, but the sound mixing was bad in this one and if we had the volume up high enough to hear the dialogue, the action scenes would end up extremely loud. So I had the remote and I would turn down the volume whenever a loud scene came on. As we watched I realized that I was actually able – with about 95% accuracy – to turn down the volume before the loud scene came on.

Because I knew what was going to happen. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Sometimes movies or books get criticized as being “predictable” – and it’s often leveled as one of the worst things a story could be. With good reason: if you can guess the main plot points and the ending after watching just a few minutes of a movie or reading a few pages of a book, what’s the point in watching or reading? Half the joy of a story is the surprise, the mystery of what’s going to happen next, how the storyteller is going to work this all out.

Yet, consider the other extreme: a story where you have no idea what’s going to happen, either in the ultimate plot or scene to scene. The first thing that comes to mind is David Lynch, Mullholland drive or Inland Empire era. They are so scattered and random that each scene feels like an assault. The viewer has no idea what to expect, and so is thrown about from here to there, adrift on a sea of bizarre and unexplainable images. Now don’t get me wrong, I kind of love David Lynch. The bizarre images are thought-provoking, there are interesting themes and startling ideas, powerful juxtapositions and a mood that sinks into your skin and stays with you for days. But here’s the thing, it’s not a story. Continue reading

List of YA Agents to Query

In my hunt for an agent for my book, I’ve decided that anything that could help can’t hurt. So a little good karma? Yeah, send it my way. On that note, I’m sharing my list of agents to query (including the ones I already have queried) in case it will help anyone who’s also going through this harrowing process. These are agents that are looking for YA, although the agents themselves or others at the agency are also often looking for a lot of different kinds of books. I’ve also included a link to the submission guidelines and what they ask for. I’ll keep updating as I find more agents (this is definitely a work in progress at this point). And please, if you know of others, let me know!

Agent Agency Submission Guidelines Requirements
Andrea Brown Andrea Brown Literary http://www.andreabrownlit.com/how-to-submit.php Query, First 10 pages
Katie Reed Andrea Hurst http://www.andreahurst.com/literary-management/about/katie-reed/ Query only
Beth Campbell Bookends LLC http://www.bookends-inc.com/submit.html Query only
Jordy Albert Booker Albert Agency http://www.thebookeralbertagency.com/submissions.html First ten pages
Emily Forland Brandt & Hochman http://brandthochman.com/agents Query only
All Browne and Miller http://www.browneandmiller.com/Query.html Query only
Brittany Howard Corvisiero Literary Agency http://www.corvisieroagency.com/Brittany_Howard.html query, synopsis, first five pages
Kaylee Davis Dee Mura Literary http://deemuraliterary.squarespace.com/submission-guidelines/ Query, synopsis, first 25 pages
Diana Finch Diana Finch Literary Agency https://dianafinchliteraryagency.submittable.com/submit Query and first ten pages
Amy Boggs Donald Maass Literary Agency http://www.maassagency.com/submissions.html query, synopsis, first five pages
Bridget Smith Dunham Literary http://www.dunhamlit.com/?how-to-submit,4 query and first five pages
Ethan Ellenberg Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency http://ethanellenberg.com/submission-guidelines/ query, synopsis, first 50 pages
Lisa Grubka Fletcher & Co http://fletcherandco.com/about/ Query and synopsis
Melissa Sarver White Folio Lit http://www.foliolit.com/melissa-sarver-white/ Query and first ten pages
Emily S. Keyes Foreword Literary http://forewordliterary.com/foreword/emily-keyes/ Query and first ten pages
Diana Fox Fox Literary http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/fox/ query and first five pages
All Full Circle Literary http://www.fullcircleliterary.com/Submissions.htm query, first ten pages
Nikki Terpilowski Holloway Literary http://hollowayliteraryagency.com/submissions/ Query, first fifteen pages
Jamie Bodnar Drowley Inklings Literary Agency http://inklingsliterary.com/Submission_Guidelines.html Query, synopsis, first 10 pages
Eddie Schneider Jabberwocky Literary Agency http://awfulagent.com/submissions-2 query, synopsis if desired
All Jill Grinberg Literary Management http://www.jillgrinbergliterary.com/ Qery and first 50 pages
All John Hawkins & Associates http://www.jhalit.com/#Submissions Query and first three chapters
Kathryn Green Kathryn Green Literary Agency http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/kathy/ Query only
Kate Schafer Testerman KT Literary http://ktliterary.com/submissions/ query and first three pages
Hannah Bowman Liza Dawson Associates http://www.lizadawsonassociates.com/submissions/hannah-bowman.html Query only
Caitlen Rubino-Bradway LKG Agency http://lkgagency.com/submission-guidelines/ Query only
Kahtleen Rushall Marsal Lyon Literary Agency http://www.marsallyonliteraryagency.com/submit_work.asp Query only
Clelia Gore Martin Literary Management http://www.martinliterarymanagement.com/clelia-bio.htm Query and first ten pages
Christa Heschke McIntosh & Otis http://www.mcintoshandotis.com/submissions.html Query, synopsis, first 3 chapters
Adrienne Rosado Nancy Yost Literary Agency http://www.nyliterary.com/www.nyliterary.com/__Submission_Guidelines.html Query and first three chapters
Kristin Nelson Nelson Literary Agency http://nelsonagency.com/submission-guidelines/ query only
Suzie Townsend New Leaf Literary http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/2010/01/submission-guidelines.html query, first five pages
JL Stermer NS Bienstock http://www.nsbienstock.com/pg/jsp/general/agents.jsp Query only
All? Pippin Properties http://www.pippinproperties.com/submissions/ Query, first chapter, short synopsis
Maria Vicente PS Literary http://www.psliterary.com/submissions.html Query only
Laura Zatz Red Sofa Literary http://redsofaliterary.com/representative-categories/ Query only
Rebecca Podos Rees Literary http://reesagency.com/agentssubmissions Query and first couple chapters
Claire Anderson-Wheeler Regal Literary http://www.regal-literary.com/submissions/ Query and first ten pages
Thao Le Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency http://www.dijkstraagency.com/submission-guidelines.html Query, synoposis, first 15 pages
Nadeen Gayle Serendipity Lit http://www.serendipitylit.com/index.php/component/rsform/form/10-submission-fiction Form online – synopsis and fifty pages
Rosemary Stimola Stimola Literary Studio http://stimolaliterarystudio.com/submission-guidelines/ Query only
Jessica Negron Talcott Notch http://www.talcottnotch.net/queries query, first ten pages
Beth Phelan The Bent Agency http://www.thebentagency.com/submission.php Query and first ten pages
John Cusick The Greenhouse Literary Agency http://www.greenhouseliterary.com/index.php/site/how_to_submit Query and first five pages
Roseanne Wells The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency http://www.jdlit.com/submitpages/roseannesubmit.html Query and first ten pages
Lucienne Diver The Knight Agency http://knightagency.net/manuscript_submissions/ Query only
All The Stringer Literary Agency http://www.stringerlit.com/submissions/ query, first five pages (online form)
Amy Tompkins Transatlantic Agency http://transatlanticagency.com/agents/submissions/ Query and 20 pages
Kezia Toth Union Literary http://unionliterary.com/submissions/ Query, synopsis, full manuscript
Taylor Haggerty Waxman Leavell Literary Agency http://www.waxmanleavell.com/submission.html Query and first five pages
Stephen Barr
Writer’s House
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/sbarr/ Query, ten pages
Leigh Feldman Writer’s House http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/leighfeldman/ Query and first ten pages



Also, here’s an even more comprehensive list (but I can’t vouch for its accuracy).

1 Month and 10 Rejections


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“Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.”

After much consideration, we’ve decided not to pursue this project. Ultimately we didn’t feel that this project was right for us

“Unfortunately I don’t feel I’m quite the right agent for your project.”

And seven more.

That’s 10 rejections. I’ve been querying my book for a little over a month and so far I’ve received ten rejections and not a single request for more pages or a full manuscript.

This morning I checked my email as I always do upon waking up. Just a few junk emails. Nothing special. I ate breakfast, I took a shower, I got dressed. It had been maybe 20 minutes and I checked my email again. THREE rejections. Three rejections in twenty minutes.

When the rejections started coming in a few weeks ago, I told myself that I wouldn’t let them bring me down. I would “celebrate” every rejection by sending out another query. And until today, I’ve done it every single time. But three rejections in one day? I think I’ve lost my ability to celebrate.

I’ve tried different versions of my query letter and they’ve all been rejected. How many more times can I rewrite this thing? No more times. That’s what it feels like right now.

I recently watched a TEDTalk by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she says that the best way to deal with failure is to go back “home” – go back to whatever it is that you love doing. In other words, I should go back to writing.

I’ve tried. I have a new project that I’m working on, here and there, when I have the time. But it’s hard to commit to it with the first one hanging over my head, its failure a low grey cloud, fogging my mind, dampening my creativity and making every day more hopeless than the last. The fog is so thick, I can’t see five feet in front of me.

I certainly don’t know how to find my way back home.

Three Months of Archer

Because it’s been way too long since I posted photos of the most beautiful boy in my life. Continue reading

Stage 526 of Writing a Book: Letting It Go

David said something to me the other night that kind of shook my world. He said, as I struggled through changes on my book and lamented how far from even decent it was, “Are you still finding any joy in this process? Because if you’re not, I think you should take a step back. The joy of writing is how you got this far, and I don’t want you to lose that. It doesn’t really matter whether you get an agent, or get published, or make any money. You’ve come this far and as long as you found it joyful, nothing else matters.”

I’m hoping you won’t be surprised when I say that the whole thing brought me to tears.

Because the truth is, I have lost the joy. I’ve been so focused on perfecting it – round after round of changes, rewriting, edits; compiling agent lists, who to query, when to query; writing the impossible query; failing to write the even more impossible synopsis – that I’ve stopped loving it. I haven’t done any other writing – it’s why I haven’t posted here in months. I haven’t even really been doing much else, because all my free time I want to devote to the book.

And I hate it.

So today, I’m letting go.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up. I’m just letting go of my book. I sent my first query letter yesterday, and I just sent another one. The book is not perfect. The query letter is not perfect. The synopsis still is not even written. But I’m letting go.

For now.

Because the truth is, I know that finding it joyful is important. But I also know that nothing worth doing is ever easy. And that every success follows at least some struggle. So I’ll give myself a break. I’ll let it go for now. And when I find the joy again, I’ll come back for more of the pain.


Parenting Hurts


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Parenting hurts: physically, emotionally, body and soul. I ache for my children, because of my children, on behalf of my children.

My back hurts from carrying my little five-month-old sack of potatoes around the house all day, and from carrying, almost as often, my long, gangly, heavy three-year-old, because even though I know she’s big enough to walk, I know she’s small enough to need a carry every now and then.

My head hurts from trying to figure out the right way to do things – the right way to nurse, the right way to sleep train, the right way to discipline.

And my ego hurts from realizing that I have no freaking clue about any of it. Continue reading

Four Months


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Hey there! It’s been awhile, but here I am. First of all, Archer is now four months old. (Well, actually almost 4.5 months by this time, but cut me some slack, I’m trying to get back into things.)

Four Months

He’s doing all the typical baby stuff, like chewing on everything and reaching for toys and even getting a little miffed when he drops toys or Addie takes them away. Which she really almost never does, because she honestly loves her little brother and she’s more likely to be giving him toys or covering him with hugs and kisses.

Archer is still kind of a giant. At his four month appointment he was sixteen pounds, which puts him at the 50 percentile for weight. But he’s at the 95% for height! To which everyone, of course, says: “He’ll have to play basketball!” Better that than football, is all I can say.

He’s still a chill boy and also incredibly happy. He’s ticklish and I love making him smile and giggle with little neck kisses. All of which is to say, I’m pretty over the moon. I mean, how could I not be? Look at those eyes! Continue reading

The Somersault


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“Do you want to learn how to do a somersault?”

Addie still has her ballet outfit on – leotard and tights – and she’s running around, pretending to be a gymnast. She vaults over my legs, upper body first, legs following, her body slithering down to the ground like it’s no big deal. It seems only one step removed from a somersault.

“Yes! Yes!” She squeals in excitement. It’s contagious; where a moment ago I was sunk down into the couch, exhausted from a night awake with the baby, suddenly I’m smiling and full of energy.

I clear away her toys from a spot on the rug and kneel down. “I’ll show you first,” I say. Then I plant my hands, roll my head forward onto the ground, and . . . freeze. Continue reading

Making this house a home


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We moved into our new house almost exactly three months ago. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then – unpacking, a homebirth, and life with a newborn – and I just realized that I never shared any pictures.

So I snapped a few with my phone, including some with the fun new panorama feature. These were all taken when Addie was at school, so that any given room would stay clean long enough to take a picture of it. Because when Addie is home, the entire house is basically chaos all. the. time. Continue reading

Writing a Novel: One Year In


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A little over a year ago – early October 2012 – I got the idea for a new novel. I wrote a first drat in a feverish 5 weeks and I was high on creative energy and grand ideas. Then I started revising, which I didn’t love, but I got on with it.

Six drafts later, things started to feel stalled. I didn’t think it was as good as it could be, but I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what was missing. On June 17th – four months ago – I took it to the Write by the Lake conference in Madison, Wisconsin. And my eyes were opened, forcefully and painfully, by my group leader and the other writers in the group.

I left the conference with a clear picture of what was wrong with the book, but a million messy ideas of how to fix it. Then we moved into a new house and I had a baby and the book was pushed to the back of my head.

I tried to revise at times, but I couldn’t focus and my efforts were haphazard and uncertain. Major plot changes are necessary and I couldn’t wrap my head around all that would entail. I was lost and confused.

Luckily I have my amazing writing group and they’ve kept me honest. When Archer was three weeks old, we met in my dining room, Archer alternately lying in his swing and nursing in my arms at the table, and I forced myself to recommit to my book.

It is, right now, 91,000 words of jumbled mess. Plot lines that don’t connect. Characters who have been changed in one part of the book but still need to be adjusted in other parts. Scenery that needs to be updated to the new feel of the book.

And revising is a struggle. Unlike last year, when I had a solid chunk of time to commit to writing while Addie was at school, I now have a newborn to contend with. I write while he’s napping (for 30 minutes – 20 once you subtract the inevitable delay on Facebook), or for five minutes while he’s content to sit on his playmat. I write between changing diapers and trips to the grocery store and trying to keep Adeline entertained.

Part of me feels like if I could only just get a few solid hours to work, I could make real progress. I want to use that as my excuse. But I’m done with excuses. I’ve been working on this book for a year now and I need to put my big girl boots on and kick the shit out of it.

Novel, consider yourself warned: I’m coming for you.

Why I Didn’t Circumcise My Son


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When I found out I was having a baby boy, my first thought was, “There’s a little penis growing inside of me. That’s weird!” My second thought was, “And I’m going to have to protect it.”

Protect it from cultural and religious traditions that would pressure me to cut off half of a perfectly normal and natural body part. I felt instinctively and from the beginning that I would never circumcise my son. But when he was born, and I saw the perfect little penis that millions of years of evolution had decided was healthy and reproductively necessary for baby boys, I felt even more protective.

And yet, I still feel like mine is a decision that needs to be defended. Or at least, defending it feels like something that I need to do. The easiest way is probably to respond to all the arguments for why I should circumcise him.

1. “If you don’t circumcise him, he won’t look like all the other boys.” I have two main responses to this criticism. First, it’s not factually true. According to the CDC, nationwide the rate of circumcision is about 54%. It varies state by state, with some states (especially on the west coast) with very low rates and some states with much higher rates. My state’s rate is about 50-50. He’ll look like about half the boys his age. Not bad.

But more importantly: really? If your baby boy had a larger nose than normal, would you get him a nose job in infancy so that he matched all the other boys? (If your answer is yes, we need to have an entirely different conversation.) People look different. Some women have larger labia than others, so much so that it’s noticeably different. No one is talking about routine female infant circumcision so that all girls look alike. (Well, some people are, but we’ll get to that later.)

And also, if the worry is that the circumcised boys will make fun of my intact son, allow me to just throw this out there: Parents of circumcised boys, can you go ahead and teach your boys to be kind and thoughtful individuals who wouldn’t tease someone just because he happens to have his entire penis?

2. “If his dad is circumcised, he needs to be too, so that he looks like daddy.” Continue reading