Wednesday, May 28, 2014

To Pickle, on her third birthday

My sweetest Pickle,

You turn three today. Finally. The question we’ve been asking ourselves these past few weeks: How is it that you’re only turning three? It felt like you’ve been there for awhile now. In preschool, you’re the only two-year-old in the three-year-old class, and your teacher’s remark to me the other day didn’t surprise me: “She’s the youngest one here, but she knows more than most in class.”

Maybe it’s a second-child thing, forever trying to play catch-up with an older sibling who could always do more. You don’t know that you can’t always do what she does, like jumping from the 7th step on our stairs into the bean bags below with the big kids, but you try anyway and miraculously escape unharmed. Perhaps it’s not that you can’t. It’s that you probably shouldn’t. “She can do it!” Your sister urged, and I countered, Not yet, she’s too little, except you had already proven me wrong.

I wouldn’t, couldn’t accept that you could do more because I think my problem is that you’re my last baby. At three, you’re a baby no more, but I still cradle you in my arms, I still gnaw on your cheeks that have now been chiseled by passing time, and I still call you my baby, even after you correct me, “I’m not a baby anymoah; I’m a wittle gal.” Oh, but you’ll always be my baby.

I love, love, love that you continue to lisp and have trouble with “r”: “Don’t woo-win (ruin) my dweth (dress)!” Your butchering of the language is a way for me to hold on to your babyhood, and it brings me untold joy - after weeks of asking, “Is I three yet?” you finally declare, during your birthday party weekend, “I is three! Dem is coming to my befday pawdy (party).” 


(And here are a few pictures from said party)

pinwheel pinwheel decor / party favors


the sky was a threatening grey, but it didn’t rain – whew!

 photo 1 (66)apparently, in these parts, no party is complete without a pinata, so when in Texas…

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it took many, many tries and a grownup’s help

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the candy frenzy

bubble time!

Where was I? Right. The funny things you say, particularly your out-of-the-blue statements, like when you turned to Little Miss and said: “You my sista; I like you; I think I’m going to keep you,” or how you don’t say sneeze, you say “bleshyou” like “I bleshyou’d into my arms, mommy”, probably from hearing all those bless you’s after sneezing that you think that’s what it’s called. It also amuses me how your life is lead by your nose as you sniff the air and say, ‘I smell sumping (something),” and you follow that scent like a little bloodhound, especially when it’s “sumping yummy.”

I am so thrilled by your enthusiasm for food, harvesting our first tomato from the garden and eating it straight off the vine, or rubbing your belly and enthusiastically announcing, “Mmm...I love cock-a-mole” when I make guacamole for dinner. You certainly have a thing for avocados and tomatoes, but your unabashed declarations for the things you adore cracks us up. But then again, why not passionately proclaim your favorite things? Your zest for life and living is contagious; we find ourselves wanting to do everything we can to make you happy because your joy sustains ours and stretches it further than we had imagined for ourselves.

smiling easter 

But that’s not to say you’re an easy child. At three, you’ve already pushed your limits further than your five-year-old sister had, even at her age now. Rules are mere suggestions to you. We will say, don’t do this, and you’ll look us in the eye and do exactly that, while watching us watch you. It’s amusing to see that look of tentative defiance on your face, the one that says, I wonder how far I can go before I get in trouble, but, of course, it’s also extremely frustrating and even scary when it comes to your safety. You sometimes only learn from experience, after shedding tears from the pain of going too far, and it scares the hell out of me, knowing that we can’t always be there to save you.

On most days, however, you’re pretty cooperative, saying “okay, mommy” this and “okay, daddy” that, which absolutely melts us, but the imp in you also enjoys being a contrarian, like when you stubbornly refuse to insert 13 in your numbers when counting to 20: “10, 11, 12, 14..”

“Thirteen” I correct emphatically.

“No! No! I want to count it my way,” you assert. “11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 42, 46,” and you break into triumphant giggles.

As difficult as you can get sometimes, it’s still a small issue because the biggest part of you is your heart, and it dwarfs everything else about you. You always want to make things right; when your sister is throwing a tantrum about something she wants from you, you often give in to appease her. Not because you’re afraid, but because you really just want her to be happy.


Like the other day, when after the hibachi restaurant presented you with a birthday ice cream and song, Little Miss was upset she didn’t get her own treat, and you consoled her: “It’s okay, Little Miss, don’t cwy. I love you. When it’s your befday next time, you can have ice cweam too okay? And it will be all better.”  

It was so incredibly sweet of you that it brought me to tears, but that’s not new; you’ve always been that way.

You’re a lover and a giver, always ready to put your arms around anyone who seems sad, even when they don’t ask for it; I can’t remember how many times you’ve held me, my large body incongruously nestled in your small arms, when you sensed I needed it. I could feel the pain or stress dislodging from my body and disintegrating with your gentle touch.

How do you do that? When you are, now, only newly three?


Always full of love and wacky cackles - not girlish giggles - you are the goofiest of goofballs, the kindest of souls. Your compassion and selflessness, especially at this age when kids are expected to be little a-holes, often astound me.

You’re also full of ideas: “I have an idea! How about a pool cake for my pool party?” you offered excitedly, just three days before the event, and we had to scramble to find you one because it was a holiday weekend and the bakeries near us were completely swamped. So we resorted to Plan B. We purchased a store-bought cake (because making one while trying to unpack our house full of boxes to get ready for the party would’ve been impossible), and your daddy flexed his cake-decorating muscles and fashioned the pool on the cake after ours, just for his baby girl. (See? I’m not that only one who calls you that.)

pool cake diy

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It took a little more effort and ingenuity, but making you happy is always worth it because you do that for us every single day, just by being you. You make me laugh and you make me cry in all the best ways.

Happy birthday my sweet little sprite, my Pickle Baby Purple Bubble Pop. You are only three, but already quite the “wittle gal”. I am so proud to be your mom; it’s a privilege and an honor to walk this earth with you.

Always and forever yours,


Tuesday, May 20, 2014


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The sun is rising, and with it, the chorus of birdsongs that begin with the melody of one bird crescendo with the brightening light. I look outside and see a patch of the blue-pink-orange-violet sky between the live oak trees in our backyard, its reflection shimmering on the surface of the pool. This is how the day begins at my new house.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about news that I was dying to share, except I was afraid to jinx it. So here it is, the big, if somewhat anti-climactic, reveal: we finally bought a house. Ta-da! Although I’m pretty sure it’s not news by now. I was so excited after the last papers were signed that I couldn’t wait to share and did so on Facebook. But can you really blame us? In the nine years that My Guy and I have been together, this is our first house. In Texas, nonetheless; our first roots in this still-strange land. And it feels pretty surreal.

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Our celebratory feast, right after closing.


After weeks of despairing that we were never going to find something in this crazy, highly competitive market, we found something we both fell in love with. How we got the house alone is remarkable, but that is a story for another day as I’m still reeling from it.

The girls are ecstatic, of course. A backyard! Heck, even a front yard. And the mother of all surprises – a pool! That part surprised us too. It was not part of our search criteria, but in almost a quarter of the showings, the house came with a pool. When temperatures soar above 100 on most days in the summer, we can understand why it’s so popular, and this family of water babies is thrilled to have one of our own.

I was a little broken-hearted about leaving Lake Michigan behind when we left Chicago, but after a few days here, I realized that we’ve swapped the vast body of water down the street for a little one in our backyard, and the effect is more or less the same. We still get to play in the water, minus the sand (yay!), and water has a calming, therapeutic effect no matter the size. Needless to say, that morning coffee by the pool? Not a shabby way to begin my day.

This is only our fourth day here, and it already feels completely different from our old urban life. For one thing, even though we have an Austin address, this might as well be the middle of nowhere. The only place accessible on foot is the neighborhood park about two blocks away. Granted, it’s beautiful with fun play structures for the girls, a large field for baseball or soccer, a basketball court, a walk/run trail, picnic pavilions, and a rocky hiking trail in a nature preserve nestled on the side of the hill. On our first night here, it was pitch black and silent outside, and just as we closed our eyes to succumb to our weary day spent moving in, the howl of a coyote bolted me upright. Did you hear that? He did. I knew it was a coyote because I’ve seen them on my drive home one late night, near our last apartment not too far from here.

This is quite a change from what we were used to.

The darkness, the deer that graze on lawns and other creatures I hope I never meet, the people who always look up from what they’re doing to wave and say hello, the neighbor who I met at the park and invited us over for a play date and chai that same evening, the 101 things to remember just to keep the pool working and looking pristine, the wallpaper in two of our bathrooms, the old faucets that my two-year-old can’t operate, the plants that need our constant attention, the tiles on the foyer that we never would have picked ourselves, the many rooms that need painting to match the colors to our taste, and the myriad house projects that are growing steadily, with wish lists and reality checks dictating our day-to-day.  It’s a different life now.

I hesitate to say better because it’s still new. It’s easy to gush and say this is the best move for us, but really, it’s too soon to tell when everything is glistening with novelty. But I’ll readily admit that there is a lot to love.  This nearly 30-year-old Texas limestone house that comes with most of what we need and that will hopefully, eventually become what we would like it to be. This amazing, temperate weather that starts in the 60’s in the mornings and ends in the 80’s in the evening. This city that seems to radiate possibilities.

And, of course, my favorite part, the one that’s at the heart of it all—our little family. As we settle into this next phase of our lives, I’m starting to see the side of us that I’ve never seen before. My Guy on his workbench in the garage. The girls who look forward to weeding the yard as a chore, which I’m sure has a lot to do with novelty. And me, Googling “how to maintain a tomato plant” that the previous owners grew themselves and realizing I should probably put some gardening tools on the list for our next run to the hardware store.



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He didn’t waste anytime – this was our first day, after our first (of many) trips to Home Depot.


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Garden nymphs who love to weed.



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Roma tomatoes – I don’t even know where to begin, but thankfully someone already has.

We are still in the throes of unpacking and wondering what the hell are we going to do with the items from our past life that don’t seem to belong here. Like a coat rack. And do I really need 24 pairs of socks? Unless I’m running, I’ve not worn them since I moved here.


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Tonight, My Guy speaks in front of a Lean Startup audience in downtown Austin, and my girls, well, they’ve never had any trouble adjusting, which is pretty incredible. I am home, alone, listening, breathing, taking it all in, wondering if I should tackle my freelance work or one of the gazillion boxes in the house. I am completely overwhelmed, exhausted, elated, mystified, and mostly grateful all at once.

But each morning I wake up, I look at all that surrounds me – the boxes in every corner, the lively, verdant trees, the messes made by tiny hands, the dishes in the sink, even the gecko outside my window and think to myself, today is a good day. And then I look at my to-do list and tackle it one item at a time, knowing that I will probably never see an end to that and, surprisingly, being absolutely fine with it.


    photo 2 (59)  Home. Where naked swimming is allowed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014



Sometimes my two-year-old runs up to me to plant a kiss somewhere on my body — hand, arm, thigh — anywhere she can reach, before going back to whatever it is that’s keeping her busy. She does this even when I’m in a different room, completely out of her sight.

Sometimes Little Miss picks up her own dish and even gets her sister’s after a meal and neatly places them in the sink, without prompt. On rare occasions, she even offers to wash them.

Sometimes even scorching 92-degree days can feel wonderful when I get to watch my girls frolic rapturously or playing quietly in water. (Exhibit A above, Exhibit B below.)


Sometimes I discover a new culinary wonder, like pimiento sandwiches, and realize that it probably would never have made it to our mealtime rotation had we not moved to this region. Apparently, pimiento sandwiches are a thing here, and after my first taste, I can understand why.

Sometimes two lollipops are better than one (oh, who am I kidding? If you ask Pickle, two lollipops are always better than one), and as a parent, saying yes, always feels better than saying no.



Sometimes My Guy goes back to Chicago for work, like he did this week, and I worry more about how he’s going to transport our favorite whiskey back from this one distillery we love than what I’m going to do with the girls during the time he’s away. Which is to say, about the whole solo parenting thing, I got this. And that feels pretty damned good.

Sometimes we all get something out of one excursion, like when we go to Lady Bird Lake downtown and I get to run on the trail while the girls play at the park with their daddy and after a spell in the sun, we cool off at the nearby springs together.



Sometimes the girls squeal with delight when we announce that they’re having “super sandwich” for dinner, which is a fancy way of saying double decker PB&J, My Guy’s specialty. And I’m glad that they react in equal fervor when I announce “It’s rainbow chard tonight!” But none can compare to their shrieks that can be heard miles away the moment we ask, “how about some sushi?”




Sometimes I get to read a classic I've never read like “Charlotte's Web” because of my five-year-old's voracious appetite for books. We started with me reading to her, but when I couldn't one evening, she pressed on herself and I had to play catch up on my own. She read the ending beside me, when we were both propped up in bed together with a book each, and (SPOILER ALERT: do not read past this if you've never read the book but intend to; skip to the next paragraph instead) she turned to me and unexpectedly said, "Charlotte dies." I laughed off my annoyance at not being able to discover that on my own and promptly explained to her what a spoiler is and why she should never, ever, ever, ever, ever do that to anyone again. But when I finally finished the book myself, I was glad I read it at this stage of my life, after many years of living, to fully appreciate E.B. White's profound love for this world and everything in it. I am also grateful that I get to revisit Roald Dahl and discover Kate DiCamillo and E.B. White with Little Miss, who now leads my literary journey in children’s literature, which I find myself falling in love with all over again.


Sometimes when carrying my gangly five-year-old, who is all arms and legs, and getting a tad too heavy for me, I suppress my need to lament where my first baby's gone and instead feel grateful for every day she is here with me.

Sometimes My Guy and I get to sneak in a mid-day date and find ourselves immersed in a conversation over an amazing bowl of ramen, excited by another great Austin find, and it’s a lovely reminder that this is why we left our corporate jobs. So we can easily take time for the things that matter.


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Sometimes Pickle asks, “Is I three yet?” and I have to catch myself and reply, “No” even when everything about her tells me yes. Except when she mixes up her pronouns, “Her is not playing with me; him is gone to work? Is them coming to see us?” but I don’t correct her because well, she’ll eventually learn, and I get to enjoy what’s left of her babyhood just a leeeeetle longer.

Sometimes it’s these little things that remind me that joy comes in many forms, and the fact that they happen even on the most ordinary of days makes it even better.


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Where did you find your joy today?