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 

Why Grocery Shopping Should Be The New Homework


I sent my 9-year old into the grocery store with $14 and a mission: get things for your lunch that you will actually eat!

After weeks of lovingly packing The Perfect Lunch—only to have it come home untouched—I. Was. Done. I expressed my feelings in very calm MomSpeak as I deposited his uneaten lunch contents into the garbage.

Translation: Yelled over the kitchen counter while not-so-gently tossing his lunchbox into the sink.

Reflecting on our lunch debacle, I decided he could be part of the solution. With a quick lesson on tax per dollar (and rounding up to be on the safe side), we set off to the local market, where he got out of the car and disappeared through the sliding doors, to fend for himself among the aisles of food.

I sat in the parking lot with a punchy 3-year old, unfit for public errands of any sort, feeling pretty good about not having to actually leave the car. After 27 rounds of “Wheels on the Bus,” my son emerged, head held high and with a noticeable spring in his step.

Seriously, he was beaming.

Clutched in his arms (guess he didn’t want to splurge on a bag) was a loaf of sourdough bread, a package of sliced Swiss cheese (Kosher and gluten-free??) and a jar of pickles. Not three things I would not have chosen for him, had I been the one doing the choosing.

As we headed home, I learned that he was SUPER nervous. He had to ask where the bread was because he couldn’t find it. He wasn’t sure he had enough money even though he kept track in his head. Everything hung in the balance until…checkout…whew – he even got change back!

Our outing was not a deliberate “teachable moment.” It was an act of desperation, motivated by a selfish need to avoid public places of any kind with my hungry preschooler, during the witching hours of evening – where we’re sure to cause a scene in front of someone we know.

Regardless, it turned out to be a milestone for both of us.

He learned more than how to add up money and buy gluten-free sandwich items:

He learned he could be nervous, but still follow through.

He learned how to ask for help when he needed it. (Shout out to the guy in aisle six who told my son where to locate the bread!)

He learned he could survive without me, even when scared and unsure.

Will he actually pull over and ask for directions one day? I guess with the advent of GPS, we’ll never truly know, but asking for help in the grocery store is encouraging.

Our excursion to the market taught me some things too:

He’s ready for more responsibility and independence.

He is more capable than I have allowed him to be.

After sitting with these warm fuzzy feelings for all of 30 seconds, I promptly panicked and thought of all the everyday tasks he doesn’t know how to do. Because mommy guilt.

He has so much to learn that has nothing to do with school.

News and social media are flooded with content about the emerging pushback on homework; by parents and teachers. We have similar goals: producing well-rounded kids who can function without us.

Without homework, the concern is that kids will fall behind, miss opportunities for learning, and be unable to survive the rigor awaiting them in junior high and high school. With the bulk of their days spent at school, followed by more hours doing homework – how will kids be prepared to survive the responsibilities that await them in real life?

The skills and values I want to instill in my son before he has to fend for himself in the Real World, can’t be found in spelling lists or worksheets.

In an idyllic nutshell, here’s my (No) Homework List for my child:

Add Value to Your Community – Volunteer at a local retirement home, animal shelter, or library. Have a lemonade stand. Meet your neighbors. Be kind. Think of circumstances beyond your own that you’d like to impact or change.

Do it.

Participate in Family – Help at home. Set the table, feed the pets, take out the garbage, play with your little brother and read him stories.

Ask, “How can I help?”

Exercise Independence – Do things that give you a sense of accomplishment. Practice deciding. Get in your head and reflect. Choose your clothes. Make a snack. Ask questions and handle issues on your own when you can.

I will give you space and trust to do this.

Play – With friends, siblings, the dog, by yourself. Just Play. Do sports, learn instruments, listen to music, dance, sing, collect baseball cards. Go outside. Climb, jump, challenge your body. Play board games, paint, build, invent, cut out, take apart, glue.

Get messy.

Read – Books are your friend; they can take you anywhere. Remember this when you think you have nowhere to go, or need a change of scenery.

Learn Every Day – Have an open mind. Ask questions. Listen. Observe. Notice. Think. Try new things. Look up words you don’t know. Find answers to questions you have.

Be curious.

In its simplest form, my list is lofty and loaded. And, like my child who grows and changes daily, so will my list.

To my son’s teachers: while you prepare him to meet academic challenges and opportunities, I will be doing my best to ready him for the world he faces outside the classroom.

Thank you for being intentional about my child’s homework load so that I may attempt to weave in my own lessons – in between – or maybe as part of, the 54 other to-dos that make up a day.

Meanwhile, I can be found singing “Wheels on the Bus,” with my preschooler, from my car window in the parking lot – while my 9-year old does the grocery shopping.

This post appeared on HuffPost and Scary Mommy