There are no words. But I’m trying.

Our family got news this evening that a cousin of Joe’s, who’s about our age, died this evening. She collapsed suddenly last week and never regained consciousness.

Her husband – the nicest guy you’ll ever meet – has kept us all posted from afar each day, showing astonishing grace and courage throughout. For not only is he suddenly staring down life without his partner; he’ll also have to leave a job he loves, which involves a lot of travel, and be both a harbor and a rock for his 12 year old son (who’s also currently demonstrating a level of bravery to which we should all aspire). The woman’s sister has suddenly lost her childhood’s primary witness and companion. And the boy’s grandmother, Joe’s mother’s first cousin, has had to face every parent’s nightmare: watching your child die in front of you, unable to do anything to stop it.

No one yet knows what caused Joe’s cousin, who touched the lives of so many children and adults around her, to collapse. But the suddenness of it has thrown us all for a loop. Joe and I have talked and thought about it every night – how shocking and terrifying it all is, what the latest updates have said, fun memories of time spent with that branch of the family. The tragedy has been a black cloud over our heads, haunting our waking life. (I can’t even imagine how impossible the last week has been for the immediate family.)

And despite our hope for some kind of miracle, the unthinkable has occurred. It just feels so surreal, so numbing. In this first blush of baffled grief, we don’t quite know what to do with ourselves.

Inevitably, you imagine yourself in these horrific circumstances. Not getting to see Lily and Neve grow up, or having to negotiate soul-crushing sadness while simultaneously figuring out how to comfort the girls and parent them solo. Even as hypotheticals, these possibilities unmoor me.

You also naturally think about the things you still want to accomplish and see and do in your life, since time’s not standing still; and what you might do to improve your health and extend your life.

So I’d promised myself I’d post something on the blog more than once this week, for starters, since I draw great satisfaction from the creative writing I do here, and often wish I could post more often; I’m rededicating myself to healthy behaviors (breast exams, flossing, etc.) that I tend to get lazy about; and I’m reveling and basking in the time I get to spend with Joe and to play with my crazy, giggling little daughters.

Ultimately, I’m trying, as I’m sure we’re all trying, to scrabble for positive things to come from this heartbreaking, terrible event. And we’ll continue to do so in the days, weeks, and years to come. If nothing else, this tragedy underscores the value of the time we have – which we all talk about, but seldom feel so palpably.

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In a world of pure imagination

I recently had the chance to review the stage musical adaptation of “Mary Poppins,” so I took 4 year old Lily, who – other than wondering when, after two and a half hours, it was going to end (she wasn’t alone) – enjoyed the show a good deal. But during intermission, she asked me, “How did Mary Poppins fly?”

In the few seconds I had to consider my answer options, I bypassed my knee-jerk compunction to tell the truth (I always thought I’d be that “Miracle on 34th Street” mom) and opted instead for a far more open-ended response.

“I don’t know, sweetie. What do you think?”

When Lily looked puzzled, I added, “Well, she had her umbrella up. Maybe a strong wind swept her up into the air?”

Lily nodded and said, “Yeah. Maybe it was the wind.” But she didn’t sound wholly sold.

And indeed, a few weeks later, out of nowhere, she said, “I think Mary Poppins flew on strings.”

“Oh – you do? What kind of strings?”

“On her dress,” she said, like she’d been thinking about this a while and had finally settled the matter.

“You might be right,” I said, telling myself that because we were sitting close to the stage, the wires were pretty visible.

But then some other part of me thought, with a little sense of disappointment, “Oh, God, I’m raising a Mini-me.” Continue reading

Off-the-beaten-path books we now like reading to Lily

As many of you know, Lily (age 4 1/2) is in the midst of a full-on fancy dress, girly-girl, pink princess phase. And while I’m not pushing back or restricting her that much – since I feel this IS just a phase that she’ll work through – I am doing my level best to read books with her that have, if not a full-blown feminist bent, positive messages for young girls. (I’m having a few issues with “Peter Pan,” which we started reading to her each night before I realized she’s not quite old enough, nor is the book, shall we say, kosher in its depiction of gender and race. But that’s another post.)

Since we’re lucky enough to live a few steps away from the local library (don’t think that escaped my notice when we were looking for a house), we take the girls there often, and when Lily was about two, she really got into the process of checking books out herself. The books she chose were pretty much beside the point, as evidenced by her selection method: step one, approach picture book shelves; step two, grab three books randomly; step three, rush to check them out, having not even glanced at them.

“Oy,” I thought. “This will leave us reading some real clunkers.” And it did, of course. (See this popular post about my experiences with creepy children’s books, may of them “classics.”) But it also led us to some pleasant surprises – books we’d have never found if not for Lily’s blind selection system. So between the books we’ve found by those means, and the ones I’ve taken a chance on via Lily’s preschool book order, we’ve found some good stuff. Here’s a partial list of some current favorites. Continue reading

Splitting myself in two

Neve and I preparing for a Halloween event this past weekend. She’s a cute little elephant, no?

It’s almost midnight on Halloween, 2012, and I just crept from Neve’s room, where she’d cried out moments ago. Though she was mostly still asleep as I stroked her hair, I heard the strange crinkle of foil as she shifted her body against the crib’s bars.

It took me a moment to figure out what I was hearing. But then I remembered Joe telling me that Neve had insisted on taking a granola bar – given to her by a neighbor during her inaugural, miniature trick or treat adventure – to bed. And as my eyes adjusted to the room’s dark, I started to see the baby monitor’s blue light reflecting off the foil package gripped in Neve’s fist.

Seeing that light sparked a new, small pang of sadness in me. I’d missed Neve’s first trick or treat outing – missed seeing her dressed up again in her little elephant costume – because I was accompanying Lily and her friend as they exuberantly worked the neighborhood.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time with Lily. I had great fun with her. It’s just that now, with two children, I often feel that when I spend time with one daughter, I’m potentially missing out on some great moments with the other. Continue reading