Why I’ll Never Complain About Turning Another Year Older



I just had a birthday, and at this point in my life, the celebration is mostly for my kids. They gleefully plunge candles into frosting, and enthusiastically help me blow them out. (We don’t put the actual amount because that might be a fire hazard.)

The real truth is I don’t keep track of candles anymore. (Honest, just ask my friend who one year calculated my age as we drank wine on my couch, astutely pointing out that I was, in fact, one year younger than I thought!)

My lack of age awareness isn’t a sneaky way to avoid acknowledging that the years have continued to creep up. Mostly, it’s laziness. If I’m completely honest, my brain is so busy with calendar dates, vet visits, field trips, hot lunch orders, and the ever-present needs of my children, that keeping track of how old I am is not high on the list.

But the biggest reason I don’t keep track is that I’m unconcerned with the number of candles on my cake, as long as I get to keep adding more.

Growing up, I saw firsthand the fleeting nature of life. I lost several family members to cancer, including my mother. She turned 30 in the hospital after accepting a terminal diagnosis for which there was no treatment.

In my 20’s I was terrified I’d be dealt a similar fate due to genetics and superstitious foregone conclusions. So sure was I of my impending death, that for much of my life, I lived in fear of my 30th birthday, looming over me like the End of Days.

To my relief, I turned 30 without incident and am genuinely grateful for each year since. Over time I’ve seen friends face their mortality, lose parents to cancer, and struggle with the unimaginable ache of watching their children become chronically ill.

Months after having my first baby, I watched my husband nearly die in front of me. He was just 33 when he almost left this life for good, without ever knowing our newly born son.

Now, we are lucky to be raising two boys, who together have provided us with more than our fair share of trips to the ER, sometimes propelled by heart-thumping, gut-wrenching, please-let-my-kid-be-ok, fear.

At the risk of oversimplifying and sounding trite (which unavoidably, I do). I’ve come to realize that this life we are living is a gift.

Each time life has flaunted its impermanence in front of me, I’ve thrown out all my hopes into the universe and asked for more. More hugs, more laughter, more time, more years. I want as much time as possible with the ones I love, which inevitably means growing older.

We can look at aging as something that is happening to us, beyond our control. Or we can view it as a badge of honor, and the awesome privilege it is. Whether we focus on the destination or the journey is up to us.

The wear and tear of aging is evidence of all the living we’ve done; marking our bodies with keepsakes, reminding us of where we’ve been.

My scars are reminders of the times I tested personal limits, pushed boundaries, and learned about caution, risk, and judgment.

My freckles mark the carefree, sun-filled summers and mid-day hikes of my 20’s, tanning my skin and taking me to the tops of mountains and the shores of lakes when time stretched wide open, and there was nowhere I needed to be.

My once toned legs have been softened over the years by fewer gym visits and more giggling bodies piled onto my lap for bedtime stories, or late night starry-skied cuddles.

My tummy, at one time lean and flat, found its purpose as a safe-haven for two little humans to evolve from tiny bundles of cells into babies, my babies, ready to enter this world. Now squishy and round, it serves as a soft landing for tickle fights and frequently a pillow for my wildly-coiffed boys, while they watch clouds shift in the sky on lazy-park-Saturdays.

The lines on my face tell the story of my experience. Happiness, gratitude, sadness, fear — and everything in between — are the rivers of emotion that, over time, formed grooves around my eyes and mouth, leaving a map of how this life has shaped me.

It’s tempting to pine for a re-do of the years behind us. Given the chance, would we push pause? Preventing distance from forming between our youth and our inevitable end game— when we won’t have the luxury of lamenting another candle on our birthday cake.

I continue to welcome the candles and embrace the privilege of age. Each birthday is another year I get to be here, living this life, surrounded by friends who support me, a husband who accepts me unequivocally, and my children who have taught me more than I ever knew about unconditional love.

If I’m lucky, I’m somewhere near the middle of this journey.

So bring on the wrinkles, belly jiggles, and gray hair. Each has brought me wisdom, peace of mind, and the unmatched comfort I’ve found in my own skin, age spots and all.

When I blew out the candles this year (wedged between squealing children) my wish was the same as always — to take another trip around the sun and add more candles to my cake.

This post was featured on HuffPost 

Things I Say to My Kids That Really Mean “I Love You”

Here is a picture of my kids 🙂

And a link to my latest post on Popsugar about all the sneaky ways I tell my kids I love them! 

Warning: Contains Sarcasm and Potty Humor

Our Eyes Adjust


My 3-year old and I have this deal at bedtime—two stories on my lap, five minutes of cuddle time, and a big ‘double hug’ goodnight. Each time, as I flip the lights off after stories and make my way to his bed, I am stopped in my tracks. It’s always darker than black and I can’t see. Even though it happens every night, I am never any less surprised. Every time, I have to take a minute and let the ambient light filter in before I can navigate through the darkness to his bed, and snuggle in beside him. Once my eyes adjust.

Adjust. Adapt. Move forward. It’s in our DNA; we evolve. Our beds, once warm with same-sized bodies and newspapers strewn about on lazy, Sunday mornings are now filled with miniature, ever-wiggling versions of ourselves, tiny feet in our backs, alarm clocks that never give us enough time to meet the demands of our day-to-day, and exhausted partners desperate for sleep, who don’t kiss us goodnight anymore. We barely even remember where we started. Our eyes adjust.

Our tiny babies, once so miraculous and novel, who filled us with meaning as they smiled for the first time, just for us; become burdensome as we struggle for sleep and  time to ourselves. They grow into bigger, saltier versions of themselves, challenging us at every turn, pushing us away and daring us to love them anyway. Instead of their cribs, we pick them up from school. Barely meeting our gaze—we know not to ask about their day. We hardly recall when they were once perched in bulky carseats, filling the air with non-stop-words. Our eyes adjust.

We get so busy living, we actually forget the moments that once shaped and defined us as parents. I don’t remember the last time I sat in a rocking chair with my shirt pulled up to my neck and sleepily nursed a child. Or the last time I zipped up footie pjs or snapped a onesie. I don’t remember the last time my oldest child held my hand or kissed me goodbye at school drop off. And I can’t remember the very last time I set him down and never picked him up again. Our eyes adjust.

New firsts crowd out the lasts so fast we don’t even have time to notice. Our lives fill up with milestones. Tiny, pudgy hands, are now lean, capable fingers; effortlessly playing piano keys and guitar chords. Clumsy toddler steps become swift and sure, as they steal home plate or kick the winning goal. Our laps, once filled with lift-the-flap bedtime books are instead dinnertime discussions of heroes and wizards who face complex moral dilemmas. Four protective stroller wheels transform into sturdy two-wheel bikes; shiny helmets and independence gleaming in the sunlight as we watch them ride away. As accomplishments pile up, trophies and schoolbooks replace finger-painted pictures and carefully constructed clay figures on bedroom shelves. Our eyes adjust.

If we’re lucky, the mundane takes over and we sail through the middle of life. Because darkness can strike unexpectedly, as my friends and I have seen all too well. Divorce, illness, saying goodbye too soon—to parents, friends, or God forbid, a child. In a blackout, the best you can do is stop, breathe, and wait for the ambient light to come. And it does, eventually. Me too, I’m here, I’ll wait, When you’re ready, I’ll listen. It seems insurmountable, but the darkness will lift. Our eyes will adjust.

We move forward. We move on. Some days we are so shiny and new, the future is bursting with promise. Other days we are caught off guard. Maybe it’s an old photo in the junk drawer, the look on someone’s face, a familiar smell, a memory that catches our breath, or the love-worn item we discover under the seat of our car—now forgotten and obsolete, but once full of context. Or it’s the stranger from Craigslist in our garage, thumbing through our kid’s old sleep sacks and checking the tread on tires of a worn down stroller, miles of memories, asking, “How much?” For a minute we lock eyes with them and envy where they are, looking ahead at what we’ve left behind. We close our eyes and soak it all in.

But when our eyes open, we are right where we belong; buttering the toast, feeding the dog, filling our car with gas, picking up way-too-big-and-sweaty bodies from baseball practice, or loading our old memories into someone else’s trunk in exchange for $60.  We move on from the moments we are caught in the dark; stopped in our tracks. We wait. We breathe. We count. And before we know it, we can see again and move forward in the direction we were heading.

Across the dark bedroom floor, to the bed with the little, warm, squirmy, not-yet-grown-up body, waiting to wrap themselves around us. Once our eyes adjust.

This post was featured on Mamalode 

Thoughts on Phantom, Snape, and Sad Endings

dreamstime_s_20542150I took my 9-year-old to see The Phantom of the Opera, and I’m still recovering – in the good way. It was my 3rd time seeing it. Once through the eyes of a teenager full of angst, once as a young adult falling in love with her future husband, and now as a mother, watching her child experience something for the first time. Each time, I’m moved by the story, affected by the music, and saddened by the ending.

I wasn’t sure my son would understand the story enough to love it, or even like it, but I figured the experience couldn’t hurt. Besides, fancy drinks and concession stand goodies late on a school night, are the stuff memories are made of.

He was engaged from the start, never taking his eyes off the stage. I’d prepared him for the jarring sounds and visuals, which he got through emotionally intact. No surprise, he connected with the music. His love for all things instrumental has been present pretty much since birth. (This is the same kid who asked for a harp from Santa on his 3rd Christmas.) 

At intermission, he was full of words. He could barely get them out fast enough, “OMG the fire, the gunshots, and the chandelier!” As soon as the lights flickered telling us to take our seats, he was off down the corridor, warm chocolate chip cookie in hand, “C’mon Mom!”

From the first verse of “Masquerade,” he was transfixed. As the second half of the story unfolded, I realized I’d forgotten the intensity. He seemed okay but leaned into me as we saw the Phantom’s backstory explained through shadowy images projected on a wall. The shadows revealed how some characters had met their demise at the hands of the Phantom’s anger.

In the last scenes, the Phantom’s face is unmasked and disfigured – a startling visual for a 9-year-old. I watched my son’s expression turn to concern, unsure if he was reacting to the stage make-up, the change in mood when Christine Daae is being held captive, the intensity of the music, or the overall tension that filled the auditorium.

As the curtain came down for the last time, he clapped enthusiastically. Glancing sideways to check it was the end, hopeful it wasn’t. As soon as the applause quieted, I turned and waited to hear how much he loved it. Instead, he said, “I didn’t like the ending.”

“Why?” I asked, not expecting his reaction.

“I don’t like that the Phantom couldn’t be happy.” His face fixed in concern. I understood wholeheartedly how he felt – we’re conditioned to want a happy ending. 

Our discussion continued in the car, and at home as he was putting on his pajamas, long after bedtime.

“Why couldn’t they make it so he was at least a little bit happy?” He said pulling a plaid fleece shirt over his head. Why did he have to be so alone?” And with tears in his eyes, as he reached for his toothbrush, “Are there really people who have that sad of a life?” 

Parenting is not for the weak (or for those who like to sleep). My motto is: be honest whenever possible. The short answer was,Yes, people do have that sad of a life. But did we really need to cover the injustices of humanity at 11:30 on a school night?

My son’s a reader, so I grasped for characters he knew; hoping to insert a fictional buffer into our conversation. The depths of hardships faced by kids all over the world: abuse, neglect, poverty, bullying, would have to wait for an earlier time of day, preferably on the weekend, or when my husband wasn’t out of town.

He’s obsessed with all things Harry Potter, so I tried Voldemort.

“No Mom, Voldemort had a hard childhood, but he was bad from the beginning. He didn’t even try to be good. The Phantom was born with a different face and was put in a circus and put in a CAGE. Anyone would have turned bad after being treated like that!” 

Ok, good point. And man this kid really paid attention to the plot.

“Are people really treated like that in real life?”


Clearly, he needed more, midnight on a school night or not.

Enter brutal truth. “Yes. Some children never get a fair start. They’re born into much different environments than you and your brother. Some kids are bullied their whole lives, and it changes them, and sometimes they make bad choices out of anger or fear. And we can’t always do anything about it. The only thing we can control is how we treat others. We have to remember that everyone has a backstory – even those who act in ways we don’t understand.”

Wheels spun behind his big brown eyes. “Yes, mom, like Snape! Everyone thought he was bad, but he was so good.”

Ok, we’re back to fiction, phew! “Yes, like Snape.”

“He is actually the hero. He loved Lilly the most. And James isn’t what Harry thought; I bet Harry is ashamed of James.” 

Oh boy, we’re digging deep, and it’s not getting any earlier. “Well, yes, in some ways, but people aren’t perfect, even those we love the most. We have to accept all of them, even the parts we don’t like. And yes, even the good guys can be complicated.”

“Mom, James is a bully! And Snape loves Lilly so much that he protects Harry, even though he reminds him of James – who bullied him. And when his Patronus is a doe, it’s sooo saaad!”

Barely coming up for air, he continued, “And Mom, The Phantom was bullied and treated terribly, and the only way he could escape was to fight and to hurt the people hurting him. And no one ever loved him. It’s just so sad.” 

Why couldn’t I have just taken him to see Storks?!

I had to get us out of this somehow before the sun came up. He hates mushy stuff and kissing, but I had no choice. Because school. We needed to put a period on this conversation and go to bed. It was time to talk about the ending that started this conversation. So. Long. Ago. So we talked about the kissing. Ewww!

“Why do you think Christine Daae kisses the Phantom at the end?” He crinkled his nose up a bit, but I noticed no signs of fake gagging or grunts of disgust. 

He was thinking. 


If we were going to discuss kissing, I needed to do the talking, but he was listening.

“Well I think it was to show him he was worth loving, he was worth something, and not a monster. And in turn, he let her go because he loved her.” 

To my surprise, there was no cringing. No, Gross, Mom! Just a question.

“Mom, Do you think he ever found a friend or anyone who was nice to him? Or was he alone forever?”

Continuing with the truth-telling, I said, “I don’t know.”

And that was enough for now. He quietly climbed the stairs to his room. 

He crawled into bed (taking a dog with him to cuddle) and said more to himself than to me, “But it was just a story.” 

Yes, it was. A sad story. And his little boy heart will learn as he goes, what I already know.

The sad ones stick. The sad ones move you. The sad ones are often the most important to tell. They are the voice for those not destined for happy endings, but who deserve to have their stories told.

My son is sensitive. (Though we never use the S-word since I’ve heard it enough for both of us.) I tell him he feels things deeply. He does, he always has, which makes him complicated. I know how he feels because he gets it from me.

It’s a blessing and a curse. Just like James Potter, and Snape, and The Phantom, it’s what makes us imperfect and vulnerable, and sometimes taxing on the ones who love us most.

But it’s part of our story, and it’s the only one we know how to tell.