August 3, 2015
by Tricia
1 Comment

The tear-inducing magic of tidying up


I was folding my shirts into rectangles of approximate drawer height when she appeared in the doorway.

“Hi my love. I’m organizing my closet.”

She paused, looking at the clothes piled on the floor. Then she smiled. “I want to help you!”

Technically, it was against the rules. But despite evidence to the contrary, I kinda like breaking the rules. So I finished folding my tops and began to explain The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to my five-year-old.

“So here’s the deal. I read this book on how to organize my closet. You start with tops, which I just did. What do you think is next?”

“Probably bottoms!” she said with a giggle. She was right. So we dragged every skirt and pair of pants I own into a pile on my closet floor.

I explained the art of joy-based decision making and she immediately understood because if there is anything a little girl can understand, it’s joy. She gave herself the job of pile making and she named them. Happy pile. Sad pile.

As one pile became two, I began to think the rules were wrong. Her sweet, “But does it bring you joy?” every time I lingered over a pair of pants I haven’t worn in years helped move us along. We were onto the next category in no time, tumbling every dress and jacket I own into a pile at my feet.

“This one,” I said, holding a striped maxi dress that just doesn’t fit like it used to, “it used to bring me joy. But it doesn’t anymore.”  I handed it to her for the sad pile.

Her eyes grew big. “But I like that dress!”

“I did too. But it doesn’t really work for me anymore.”

We moved on until a gold satin dress rose to the top. “This dress has brought me so much joy!” I said, hugging it to my chest, “I’ve worn it to so many big occasions.”

“You wore it to the wedding!” she said. ‘The Wedding’ is the only wedding she’s been to in her short life.

“I did! But I don’t really like to wear it anymore. It brought me a lot of joy but I think we’re done.” Her face fell as gold satin landed in the sad pile.

When every item had been sorted, she helped me toss the sad clothes into a bag. But when we got to those dresses, she stopped for a final plea on behalf of  gold satin and stripes. I walked her through the goodbye ritual I’d read in the book. We held each dress and thanked it for it’s work, for the joy. I thought the ceremonial goodbye would be good for us both.

But she burst into tears.

I reminded her what we were doing. “We’re just cleaning up, and some things will go. These dresses brought me joy but don’t anymore. And that’s ok. They can go bring someone else joy now.”

“But they bring me joy!” she wailed through her sobs.

So I broke another rule. I let her take the dresses. They now live on a couple of hooks her closet.

I sometimes forget how much of my children’s lives are wrapped up around me. Not just the things I say and do, though that’s where I put so much of my focus. The knowledge of how my words and actions mold their lives is what holds my tongue when I’m about to say something I shouldn’t. It’s the inspiration for all of the good words that leave my lips. But I forget that so much of their worlds are also made of the tangibles of me. The dress I wear on a regular rotation all summer, the blankets I curl up under in the winter, the t-shirt that is my favorite lazy day uniform. These make the fabric of their worlds. They have favorites among the things I wear and they tell me so when I wear those things. They’ve begun dye threads with memories.

And, of course, I can’t blame them. I’ve saved a box-full of baby clothes for each of them. Not every outfit that ever graced their floppy bodies but the pieces that hold a special place in my heart for one reason or another. The outfits they wore home from the hospital. The dress she wore on her first Christmas. The pajamas that he lived in his first days at home. These things bring me joy when I hold them, smell them, look at them. Seeing that bit of lace peeking out of the box or running my hand along the soft fleece calls up those early memories better than anything else I know. I rest that onesie in my lap and suddenly I can feel how small they used to be, how new they were. I can smell their milky breath and see their big eyes flutter to sleep. Sometimes we need that clothesline back to moments past.

mommy shoes

She’ll probably never wear those dresses. In a few months she might forget why she wanted them in the first place. They might eventually make their way to the donation pile. Or maybe not. Maybe she’ll keep them. Maybe she’ll never wear them but she’ll keep them simply because they remind her of me. Because when she runs her fingers along the gold satin she’ll travel back to the weekend we drove to the beach for a wedding, just her and I, and she’ll feel sand between her toes. And when she wraps those rainbow stripes around herself, she’ll remember summers of long dresses and she’ll smell the grass and see bubbles floating in the air and sidewalks covered with chalk.

And she’ll feel joy.

July 22, 2015
by Tricia

We Pretend

running in the grass

“Pretend I’m the Mommy and you’re the sister and we’re going on a trip.”  She scrambles onto the couch.

“Ok. What’s my name?” I like to really get into my role.

“Rose.” She always picks Rose. I pretend I’m not curious as to why.

We sit on the airplane that is really our couch. She hands over imaginary snacks. Asks me if I want the iPad. She’s traveled quite a bit this year. She’s got this whole airplane routine down. I say ‘no’ to the iPad, thinking I’m setting an example, that maybe she’ll choose to read or color or something else entirely the next time we buckle in and get ready for take off. I don’t know who I think I’m kidding. Or why it feels important.

“Pretend it’s time to go to sleep now.” I am good at this part. I rest my head back. Close my eyes. She cuts pretend sleep short to pretend that we are there. We get off the plane. But this is where the story tends to fall apart. The fun, of course, is in pretending to get there.


I’m pretty good at pretending. Pretending, in fact, is sometimes the thing that gets me through the day without a hiccup. For example, in the past 24 hours I have pretended that I do not have a summer cold, that my throat is raw due to allergies, that I wasn’t watching her rehearse when I showed up early at dance camp, that I am totally at ease when leaving my son with a new nanny on a Monday morning.


“Pretend you don’t see us.”

She runs through the kitchen and he follows her, blankets sweep across the floor behind them. They run to the couch, curl together, and toss the blankets over their heads. She makes sure toes are tucked under, no elbow is sticking out, every hair is covered.

“Come find us! Pretend you need to put this blanket in the laundry!”

I tiptoe into the living room. I pretend I don’t know they are under there. I pretend to lay down to take a nap on top of them, to toss the blankets into the laundry. He can’t stop the giggles when he feels me near. She holds back for as long as she can. Pretending to be a blanket. But eventually she can’t hold it anymore and they laugh together.


I pretend that their growing doesn’t cause me pain. That I am more excited by her new ability to reach things she couldn’t before and do things she used to need help with. I pretend that I am only excited by the end of Kindergarten and the looming first day of first grade. I pretend that my excitement for him to begin school, for me to have my days back so that I can get back to working, isn’t mixed with longing and sadness for a time that is ending. I pretend that I am more sad and longing than I really am.


She pretends to be asleep. We bound into her room where the sun is shining through the blinds that fail at their job and he is on her bed in an instant.

“Wake up!” he shakes her, “Is time to wake up!”

But she keeps her eyes closed tight, her face at rest. She works hard to not smile or peek between lashes. This game could go on forever. So we leave her there. We get him dressed and when we come back she is still pretending to be asleep. But now she is fully clothed. We pretend she is a magician.


I pretend that I know what I’m doing. That I’m confident in my parenting of them. That I feel good about my steps and that my moves are thought out and well reasoned and planned. I pretend that I’m not winging it. In front of them, I pretend that I have all the answers.

And I pretend that I am ok. That the heaviness doesn’t wear on me. That I’m not terrified that I’ve messed them up already. That I’m not broken to tears by the all of it all. I pretend that I was built for this life. That I’m not building as I go.


She asks to listen to our road trip playlist. This is no road trip but I put it on anyway and we drive and hum along. A song comes on that reminds me of her, age three, finishing her first year of preschool,  so small and sweet and singing so boldly. It feels so long ago. I pretend that I have nothing but love for this song. That its notes and words don’t make me cry. Usually I pretend that the emotion that stirs inside me for her every minute of the day isn’t really there.

And then, I pretend I am brave enough to speak emotion.

“You know, this song makes my heart hurt.”

For a beat she doesn’t say anything. And then she asks why.

I pretend that telling her this comes naturally. I tell her that this song reminds me of her. I describe the memories it calls back, the pride, the longing, remembering the sweetness. I pretend to be wise about such things and I tell her that it isn’t a bad hurt. I pretend to have something in my eye.

She doesn’t say anything. But I can tell by her soft sigh that she takes it in. And I pretend that is good enough for now.


Linking up with Lisa for 1-word. I chose ‘pretend.’

July 15, 2015
by Tricia


I get the best parking spot. Right near the door. I have my pick in the empty lot.

I walk into the building, past the front desk. They barely look up and I avoid eye contact. I’m not ashamed to be here but I am really early. And I’m not up for explaining why.

The halls are uncharacteristically empty of people. An empty granola bar wrapper, a sweater tossed carelessly on a bench, a forgotten pair of slippers tucked into a corner. Taylor Swift’s voice streams into the hallway. So do Tchaikovsky’s melodies. Someone is clapping. Someone is calling out numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4. And 5, 6, 7, 8.

I walk up to the wall of screens and scan them for her. I start by looking for the smallest of the small. Then the pair of French braids. Her leotard is blue today. I look first to see that she is dancing. Participation is not always a given. Then I look to see that she is having fun. Lastly I look to see that she is getting it. Following. Keeping up. Then I watch. I’m well past the point of standing at the doorway while she dances, trying to catch every adorable step. Her steps are on the path away from adorable and on towards graceful, measured, and precise anyway. But I still like to watch. Truth be told, sometimes I feel I need to watch. She keeps everything tight to her chest. Watching is often the only window I have into what she’s doing, what she loves, what makes her eyes light up. So I gaze through the window for as long as I’m able. When I’m lucky, she let’s me crawl through.

But then her class pauses its steps. The teacher focuses on a tricky piece of the choreography or stops to tie an unruly ballet shoe. So I shift my gaze to the other screens. I try to separate the different tunes colliding in the hallway and match them to the images on the soundless screens. And I watch the movements that grab the notes from the air and transform them into something real and tangible.

ballet legwarmers

And it strikes me, as I sit there, how much I miss this. The buns, the leg warmers, the tights. I miss the fashion of it. And I miss the feeling of it. That magical click you feel deep inside when you know you got the step and executed it correctly. The best is when you don’t even need to see your reflection the mirror to know you got it. When you can just feel it. I miss knowing that my body could do these things. Stretch this way, extend that way, control itself. Make music take shape and form because I can feel it pulsing through me.

It’s such a fine line, isn’t it? I was delighted when she began to love ballet. Thrilled when they recommended that she come to this camp and suggested that she is good at this. That she might move up. And when, the night before camp began, she added ballerina to the list of things she wants to be when she grows up, it felt so right. I’m happy she’s found something she loves to do and that she does it well. But then I sit here, in this space because of her, dreaming of days that have past and wondering if this ship has sailed for me. And it’s then that I wonder if I’m trying to be a stowaway on her ship.

It’s one of a million fine lines in parenthood. It’s the fine line between introducing your child to the things you loved, inspiring them with things that might be a passion, supporting them and pushing them to try and do without crossing over and blurring the distinction between you and them. None of us wants to be that parent that pushes our kids along the path we’ve already paved or forces them to engage in our old dreams just so that we don’t have to admit we’ve reached the end. But that line is a strand of baby fine hair. Blink and you’re on the other side.

Her class gathers into a circle on the floor to learn the proper way to tie a ballet shoe. And I battle with myself. I’m 34. There’s no age at which you are too old to dance. My body has brought two children to the world. It is weary but also powerful. I haven’t unrolled my yoga mat in a week and fifteen minutes of gentle stretching a couple times a week makes a scant bit of difference. But any difference is some difference. The dancers swooshing across the screens make look so easy. But that’s the point. My body won’t do these things right now. And that’s why people take classes. I’m never going to perform a dance on a stage again. So what?

I pull up the website of her dance studio. I find a Saturday afternoon Contemporary dance class that starts in September. Maybe.

She bounds out of the room. Her face glows. She changes ballet slippers for sparkly Mary Janes. She doesn’t tell me much by way of details. But her bounce says it all. She loves this.

I love it too.

July 13, 2015
by Tricia

I finally watched it (my Listen To Your Mother video)

On Friday night I shares the video below with my Facebook friends. I warned them that I hadn’t watched yet. That I was nervous. And, of course, they responded with all the love. Because my friends have great capacity for love.

Riding the wave of that love, I finally watched. Just now. And now I’m sharing it again. And I’m sniffling a bit. And shaking. I’m still nervous. But this belongs here and in all the places I can think to put it. Because I’m proud of this moment. And because this story has resonated and I’m sure it will continue to. Sharing stories makes the world a better place.

Thank you again to Listen to Your Mother and Kate and Stephanie and all of the amazing storytellers who took that stage with me back in May. You and your stories are so special to me. Love to you all.

July 6, 2015
by Tricia
1 Comment

Our happy 4th

happy 4th

I almost forgot that it was a holiday.

It was cloudy when we woke up. We went out for muffins and cappuccinos because it was a holiday but then we came home. Did the obligatory Saturday morning cartoon thing during which I make grocery lists and to-do lists and eavesdrop on Sophia and Curious George so that I can jump in with pointed questions that my children never hear on the first round and answer reluctantly only after I repeat myself (Me: “Should Sophia have lied to her Mommy about letting the wee sprites in or was it good that she told the truth?” Her: “I knew you were going to ask that!”). We then darted through the raindrops for our new routine: Saturday morning grocery shopping.

And then I remembered. It was just any holiday. It was the holiday when we usually decorate bikes and parade around the park with neighbors and friends.

I checked in as we drove to the store and saw that the outlook for the parade was hazy. I checked in again on the way home, in a downpour, to find out it was on. The rain was expected to pass. The parade would be delayed but it would happen.

Now typically, such a thing would ignite a fire in me. A parade in the rain! Grab the rain boots and sneakers and raincoats and should we wear swim suits because there will be puddles to jump in?! Rain unites people, it makes memories this is going to be fun, we’ll remember it forever! Can’t you just see us looking back!? Remember that time we paraded in the rain and the ribbons and streamers on the bikes got all soggy and the stickers wouldn’t stick and we came home a complete mess but we still had a great time! Typically this would feel like an experience my kids needed to have and I’d run forth full of holiday-fueled gusto to make it happen.

But there was no such fire on Saturday morning.

There was, instead, the absolute certainty that we should skip the parade.

I’m starting to see that there is a reality that comes from not only knowing my children but accepting them. It’s not a bad reality. It’s actually quite helpful. In a split second of considering going to the parade I foresaw whining over pulling on boots and being forced to wear sneakers instead of flip flops. I saw complaints of “I’m hot” and “This is wet.” and “I want to go home.” that would ruin the peaceful morning we had already settled into. I saw frazzled nerves and uncomfortable kids and an experience that we just weren’t going to make sparkle. And I saw two kids (and two adults) who were just as happy to stay home.

After five years of trying to make my dreams a reality I am beginning to see that, more often than not, my reality is often the dream if I just lean into the curve.

So we stayed home. The boys baked a chocolate cake. My girl and I made fireworks with paint using straws and glitter glue. We decorated our playroom with festive construction paper and ate chocolate cake for dessert after lunch. Both kids were engaged, excited, smiling. They were happy. And both adults were engaged, calm, and smiling. Happy.

And I feel a little strange saying it but I didn’t feel badly about this. I didn’t feel as though I had denied my children an opportunity for fun or that I had interrupted a multi-year tradition of 4th of July bike parading, even though, technically, those things are true. I didn’t worry that I had made the wrong decision or waffle right up to the point when we should have departed. I didn’t blame myself later for raining out the holiday or not giving us the chance to be festive. I felt absolute certainty that I had made the right call. I didn’t feel guilty. I felt proud.

It can be hard enough to figure out what, of the world of possibilities, is right for our family on a grand scale and in the race of the everyday. Letting ourselves be consumed by guilt when we follow our instincts and do what we know is right is something we just don’t have time to indulge in. I’m starting to appreciate that. Doing what everyone else is doing, or even what we’ve always done, is not the way to make my family happy or help us thrive. If I’m honest with myself and if I give myself the small bit of quiet time to think it through, I know what makes us happy, makes us thrive. It comes to me simply and easily and without question.

And in this world of parenting, in which I question every other step every single day, that feels pretty good.