Kid convos to start a car ride

“Can I play on your phone, Daddy?” asked my four-year-old son a moment ago.

“Nope,” replied Daddy.

“We’re going to play Let’s Talk to Our Family,” I chipped in.

“What’s that?”

“The game where you talk to your family and see how everyone’s doing.”

“I don’t want to play that game.”

“Well, it’s either that or the Quietly Enjoy the Ride one. I guess there’s also the Mope Sullenly game,” I offered.

“How’s that go?”

“You’re too young for that one!” chimed Daddy.

“Yeah, let’s give that one another fifteen years or so.”

If only!

The jumbo-est damn glass of lemonade

My mother was a Dumpster diver.

People throw away computers, TVs, stereos, music, movies, instruments, art, furniture, unworn clothing and all manner of valuable things. My mom, understanding their value, collected them and sold them at frequent garage sales. Her finds paid our bills.

My sole remaining garage sale picture, clearly unedited

My brother salutes me in my sole remaining garage sale picture, clearly unedited

It became more difficult for her to get around as her mental illness progressed. She could only move and sell items small enough to carry on her bike. Gone were the big-ticket items that used to draw customers.

One of the last times I saw her before she died of cancer, I climbed out of a rental car and saw her new sale sign pinned to a tree in her front yard:


I immediately hated the word “jumbo.” In the context of her meager sale, it accentuated the stark divide between all the possibility present in the once-was and the grimness of my mom’s new reality. Powerless to ease my mom’s suffering, Read more…

No such thing as “just” a dog

“It’s just a dog.”

“It’s just a cat.”

“It’s not like it’s a person.”

I’ve heard these statements about the passing of a pet many times in my life, and they’ve always upset me. I’ve never known quite what to say, but have instead thought, “It seems only right you’ll never know the unconditional love of a pet. You don’t deserve it.”

Words like that seldom improve anything. But words like those written by my best friend in “The Memory of Joy in Present Grief“? They show so beautifully, so achingly, why there’s no “just” about it.

I only met Trudeau the once, when my son and I visited Mackenzie in Colorado. I was initially too entranced by the images of my best friend and son together to pay the dog much mind, but my son was captivated.

And now, I’m glad he was, because I carry a little Trudeau with me now that his own paws can no longer carry him here.


Read more…

Categories: Death, Love, Photos Tags: , , , ,

On SIDS and sleeplessness

For four nights I have slept fitfully on the floor.

As a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old, I went through an ascetic period during which I cleared my room of all possessions save a radio I kept in the window. I hung my clothes in my closet and folded my bedding there, too.

The emptiness of my bedroom was my weapon against the oppressive, messy clutter of the rest of my mom’s house; in that one place, my place, I could feel the joy of emptiness. Sleeping on a hardwood floor was a small price to pay for it.

Eventually my mom forced me to keep a mattress in my room. The mattress was the gateway for having things in my room again. Soon enough, I was surrounded by furniture and knick-knacks, and that was fine, too. I took from my ascetic days a useful ability to fall asleep on almost any surface.

Now, as I try finding sleep in my older son’s room, it’s not physical discomfort that keeps me from restful slumber.

That honor goes to worry.

rock around the clockA few nights ago, my husband and I agreed that our three-month-old son had outgrown his bassinet. His rustling up against its edges was constantly awakening him. Worse, he’d begun flipping onto his belly, dangerous on a not-so-firm mattress in a not-so-sturdy bassinet.

We assembled his crib and gave him a couple of days to acclimate to it before laying him down for his first night’s sleep in it. On Wednesday night, we laid him down for his first night’s crib sleep.

I’d already spent days reading up on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. My son’s risk and protective factors were ingrained in my brain:

  • Male: 1.5 times more likely than a female to die of SIDS
  • Breastfed: Decreased risk
  • African American: Twice as likely as a Caucasian child to succumb to SIDS, whether from genetics or socioeconomic factors isn’t totally clear
  • Sleeps on back: Greatly decreased risk
  • Second child: Higher risk than a first child
  • Smoke-free environment: Decreased risk
  • 3 months old: In the highest risk window, between two and four months

Babies who share rooms with their parents also have a much lower incidence of SIDS, perhaps because the parents are more quickly able to pick up on subtle changes in breathing and sleepy shuffling.

The question suddenly and urgently in mind as my baby slumbered anew in his crib was how long babies should share a room with their parents. That little piece of information wasn’t explicitly stated in a single article I’d read.

I searched for it specifically and found the recommendation was Read more…

Lessons from shoes

“Just follow the curve!” I exclaimed to my young son, Li’l D. “See, your foot curves this way. You need to put on the shoe that has the same curve.”

“Uh-huh,” he told me cheerfully before putting his shoes on the wrong foot.

After a few weeks of repeating this exchange, I started to say the same old thing when I realized he needed something different. Something appropriate for a four-year-old.

“See how when you put the shoes like this, it’s like they’re trying to smooch?” My son giggled as I pressed the shoes up against each other and made smoochy-face noises.

shoes love


“That’s the right way. But see how they are definitely not trying to kiss right now?” Read more…

Parenthood and juggling practice

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

Becoming a parent does not rob folks of brain cells. Parenthood doesn’t clobber a person over the head and run away with their competence.

No, most parents remain at least as smart and competent after having children as they were before. (Heck, in many ways, I’ve discovered newfound competence that only successfully navigating new challenges could have sown.)

So what the heck is going on, then? Why did new parent Sue forget about brunch? Why was proud new father Rob miles away when  your golf game–scheduled last January–was supposed to begin?

Today I call on my underutilized power of crappy illustration to demonstrate.

Behold: Deb, life juggler.

juggling 1

Caring for myself in usual circumstances isn’t so hard. There’s a routine and rhythm to things. And if I miss a meal, so what? I’ll make it up next meal.

But then I get a dog. Check it out, the mangy fella actually needs me to do things for him. Read more…

Aggression is never adorable

Sai in usual form

Sai in usual form

Yapping and growling, a tiny white dog raced across the street toward me and my 50-pound canine, Sai.

The tiny dog’s owner shouted at it from her front yard. Her words were indiscernible to me, lost to the quiet hubbub of my own thoughts: wordless prayers that the approaching dog would stop its approach, or that its owner would quickly realize shouting at an attacking dog is as useless as asking the rain to stop falling and move.

The snowball of fury reached my dog and began biting his paws. I shouted words I can’t recall as I struggled to keep Sai’s mouth away from the other dog. I was momentarily successful, but in a flash, Sai had lifted the dog in his own much larger mouth.

38 weeks pregnant, I struggled alone to separate two dogs without harming myself or my imminent second child. It felt like an eternity before the shouting woman reached us and another eternity before the smaller dog was dislodged from Sai’s jaws. Read more…


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