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Magic and Mud

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When we were growing up, we had a Magic Book.

I can’t remember what it was actually called, although I’m pretty sure my dad still has it on a shelf in his living room – “Treasury of Children’s Tales” or something like that, full of nursery rhymes and short stories. To my little girl arms, it was impossibly heavy, with that faux leather binding and the spine printed in gold foil.

We called it the Magic Book because it was so huge that no matter how many times you went back to it, you always found a story or a poem you’d never seen before.

Now, living out here in Central MA, my family has a Magic Field.

It’s on the way to Acton, which is where the train station, the Trader Joe’s, our pediatrician, and a convenient Starbucks are located, so we drive by it often. And the magical thing about this field is that you never know what you’re going to see in it.

Sometimes it’s a herd of sheep, way back in the corner. Sometimes it’s cows, snoozing by the fence closest to road. Sometimes it’s a bunch of errant turkeys, or a horse, or a mammoth tractor that looks too old to work but too dirty to be decorative.

Sometimes it’s a heavy veil of mist, rolling lazily over the rise and fall of the land.

This field, and others like it out here, make me absurdly happy these days.

I’m not naturally a country girl. I like the aesthetic, I think, and I love watching wildlife through the seasons. I love the idea of curling up by a fire in old house someplace in the woods after a day out in the fall leaves, or of being the first footprints to crunch through the snow – after the fox and the squirrels and the bobcats. Maybe I’m a country girl just for long, cold weekends.

But when we moved here from Salem, I had a really hard time adjusting. It wasn’t just that the nearest cappuccino was 20 minutes away. It was that I love a good sidewalk stroll, with window shopping and restaurant choices and stores you can pop into and find just the right thing you didn’t know you needed. At heart, I’m still kind of a New Yorker, and Salem was a nice little micro-city for us for a while.

The move to Bolton was jarring, and it took us a few years to finally admit that it wasn’t working for us.

I am so glad to say that the move to Hudson has been exactly the opposite. We love our creaky old house and the work it’s going to want from us to make it really shine again. We love our yard and our little downtown, with our favorite restaurant and our favorite brewery and a speakeasy that could make me forget I’m not really in the city anymore.

And we love, love that we can drive for just five minutes and still feel the awe of being a tiny speck in nature’s surround. It’s particularly beautiful to me this time of year, when the foliage is past its peak and the trees and ground have settled into russets and deep clove browns.

This morning Ella and I drove Jon to the train early, since we’re headed to Boston tonight for a family event and didn’t want to have to deal with two cars on the way home. We were the only car on the road, probably because of the holiday tomorrow.

We passed the Magic Field about half an hour after the sun came up, but we couldn’t see any light through the heavy gray cloud cover. The field and the sheep who were wandering it were smeared with rich brown mud, and the barn looked like it might cave in at any moment.

But all I could think was

Thank you, God, for all of this rustic glory. Thank you for giving us a home that straddles the best of both worlds for my city girl heart and my country girl ideals. And thank you for helping us find unexpected magic, even in the mud.

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The Day We Got Ella June

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I’ve been thinking all day about how to tell you about the day Ella was born. This story usually works best when I’ve had a few drinks and can shout out words like MUCUS PLUG and CERVICAL CHECK and CROWNING. Ugh.

Here are the main things you should know:

  1. I had promised my sister, who lived in St. Thomas at the time, that I would tell her as soon as I was sure I was in labor, on the off chance she might be able to miraculously get a flight off island in time for the birth. Despite having lost said mucus plug (ew) immediately following yoga the night before, I remained in denial that I was actively working towards having a baby until about 12:30am.

    With my husband snoring beside me, I started a texting conversation with my sister that went something like this…

    Me: Hai I think I am in labor
    Hayley: WHERE ARE YOU DOES JON KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING I WISH I COULD BE THERE
    Me: Jon is asleep
    Hayley: SHOULDN’T YOU WAKE HIM UP?
    Me: Nah, there’s probably time
    Hayley: YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE AN ACCIDENTAL HOME BIRTH WAKE UP YOUR HUSBAND
    Me: Nah, I think I’ll just let him get some rest
    …10 minutes later…
    Me: OH WAIT THIS ACTUALLY REALLY HURTS
    Hayley: WAKE UP YOUR HUSBAND
    Me: OK that is maybe a good idea

  2. Around 3:45am, we finally called our midwives at the North Shore Birth Center to say that we were having a baby. My contractions were five minutes apart, although I was thinking, “Hey, this isn’t too bad,” which should have been a tip off. We made the drive over the drawbridge, where one of the midwives checked me out and promptly announced that we were nowhere near ready – but, to be very nice and not make us feel like horrible rookies, she said we should hang out for an hour and see if things picked up at all. Spoiler alert: they did not. Home we went, just as the sun was coming up.
  3. Pop quiz: over the next twelve hours, which of the following did Jon and Danielle do?
    ) Watch the extended cuts of all three original Star Wars films
    b.) Make a delicious casserole (ziti, ground beef, ricotta, mozzarella, red sauce) to come home to
    c.) Nap in between every single contraction
    d.) All of the above

    (HINT: the answer starts with the same letter as Dora the Cat, who chased me around our apartment trying to snuggle with my belly, which was not tremendously helpful.)

  4. Around 5pm, things were getting pretty serious. We called the birth center and found that my least favorite midwife was of course now on call. She had Jon put me on the phone so she could listen to me through one contraction. “No,” she said. “Still not ready – I’m guessing 3cm dilated, I can hear it in your voice. Why don’t you try taking a bath and if you really can’t stand it, come in.”

    Needless to say, there was a lot of cursing after this phone call, but Jon ran me a bath. This was the only time during my entire labor that I thought, “Maybe this whole ‘having a baby without drugs thing was a terrible idea.’” I gave the bath all of five minutes before I told Jon we better just go in, and if grouchy midwife was right, we should request a transfer to the hospital for an epidural STAT, because no way could I take this getting 7cm harder.

    What I SHOULD have been saying was WHAT KIND OF CRAZY PERSON THINKS THEY CAN JUDGE HOW DILATED YOU ARE BY LISTENING TO YOUR VOICE because that is some nonsense right there. But anyway, we got in the car and headed back across the bridge.

  5. I traumatized a woman in early pregnancy as soon as we got to the birth center by getting hit with a strong contraction that had me leaning way over on the hood of Jon’s Subaru, which was right next to her car as she was trying to leave.
  6. Grouchy Midwife pretended to be reading a Very Important File while I had another contraction in the reception area. I very nearly throttled her, but she finally brought us around to one of the labor rooms to check on my progress.

    Guess what? YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY TELL HOW DILATED SOMEONE IS BY LISTENING TO THEIR VOICE because I was at 8cm and in transition, so Grouchy Midwife is lucky she escaped with her life. I was ready to kill anyone and anything that crossed me at that point.

  7. I spent the next few hours floating in a tub, yelling at anyone who tried to touch me or bother me in any way, and yes, still napping between contractions.

    Seriously, the napping is a superpower of mine. It’s genetic. My dad can sleep through absolutely anything. One time, I was at Disney World with some of my family, and my aunt jokingly said, “Danielle, are you sure your Dad’s not here? I just saw a guy asleep in front of the Walt Disney statue with his head on a backpack.” And I said, “OK, I will go get him.” It was my Dad, who was not supposed to be there. But he was, and he was asleep, on a bench, in the middle of the busiest intersection in the Magic Kingdom.

    Ella’s birth is basically my version of Dad’s Disney nap. I slept, 100% out cold, up until my contractions were right on top of each other.

  8. At this point, someone made me get out of my lovely bath so they could check my cervix. I don’t remember when it happened, but Grouchy Midwife had gone home to whatever cave she lives in, and a much nicer midwife took her place. Nice midwife, however, made my water break with her cervical check.
  9. Said water apparently had meconium in it, and since the birth center was governed by hospital policies, I got to take a stretcher ride across the parking lot from the birth center to the hospital’s labor and delivery ward.

    Please read that again.

    A stretcher ride. Across a parking lot. At 10cm.

    Bonus: our immediate family had gathered in the waiting area of the birth center in an amazing show of support. Someone let them know we were headed across the parking lot, so they headed that way, too.

    Now go back and put that all together for me.

    A stretcher ride. Across a parking lot. At 10cm. With me, trying not to have a baby in said parking lot, leading a parade of family to the hospital. We even got to ride in the elevator together.

    The existence of my adorable nephew is absolutely miraculous after this experience, which should have been fairly permanent birth control for all present.

  10. The parade finally ended with me and Jon being whisked off to a delivery room, where Ella June was born after just 45 minutes of pushing. She had a full head of dark hair and a powerful set of lungs. She was and is a miracle and the best thing that has ever happened to us or the world.

    The nurse on duty said I was the most controlled woman she had ever seen in labor. Which is why no one should attempt to estimate dilation over the fucking phone.

Thank you, God, for midwives, grouchy and otherwise, who have been a blessing for both of our pregnancies and the long stretch of time in between. Thank you for the support of our families, not just during the labor parade, but over the last four years of parenting adventures. And thank you more than we can ever say for Ella June, who we love more than the whole universe put together.

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The Day I Wasn’t in Labor

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Four years ago today I woke up in a Very Bad Mood.

The baby who was Ella had dropped four days earlier, so I was feeling discomfort for the first time in my entire #blessed pregnancy.

(Note to 2013 Danielle: subsequent pregnancies will be neither easy nor comfortable, enjoy this while it lasts.)

I had decided to work from home the week of my due date, since I had a two hour train commute from Salem to Cambridge and I was not interested in having a baby on the MBTA. Usually I loved working from home, because it gave me enough time to walk downtown and start my day at the Gulu Gulu cafe, with orange juice, cappuccino, banana bread, a parfait, and free wifi.

This day, though, the walk made my feet swollen and my back hurt, and breakfast gave me heartburn. The adorable hipster waitresses, who had to be maybe 20 years old maximum, asked questions about pregnancy that pissed me off, namely, “Do you feel like she’s coming soon?”

Because no. NO. No, I did not feel like she was coming soon.

I’d been on baby watch for weeks, having been told by so many people that I looked like I’d go early. And now it was the day before my due date and every possible early labor sign had disappeared. There was no frantic movement from my little ninja, there were no Braxton Hicks contractions in evidence. Nada.

“I am going to be pregnant forever,” I grumbled back at the tweens serving my food.

I grumbled all the way home, and then I grumbled some more when I found I could no longer sit comfortably on our couch because my back was killing me. I pulled out our birth ball (basically a large exercise ball marked up 150% to be marketed to pregnant people) and tried to sit on it with my laptop on our coffee table.

This was neither comfortable nor conducive to productivity but I didn’t have many options, because that day, the DAY BEFORE MY DUE DATE, HR had scheduled THREE interviews for me to phone screen candidates for my old position, which I had transitioned out of months before.

I completed two of these interviews before firing off various grumpy emails about competencies and qualifications and lack thereof. The third was, thankfully, postponed until the next day, which I wanted to be mad about but couldn’t because it was very obvious to me now that I was never having this baby.

I sat and stewed on my birth ball until Jon got home. He took one look at me and very gently suggested I should try to make it to the yoga class I’d planned on skipping BECAUSE MY GD BACK WAS GD
KILLING ME to see if it might help me feel better.

He had the good sense not to suggest it might help put me in a better mood, so I figured I could at least give it a try.

At yoga, we all went around and introduced ourselves and shared our due dates. The women all either laughed or gasped when I told them I was due the next day.

“Don’t worry, though,” I said. “I’m never having this baby.”

Our instructor asked if I wanted to move into the lucky labor corner of the room, which was rumored to have a track record of getting labor started for women who parked their mats there.

“Nope,” I said. “This baby is a wizard. She’ll arrive precisely when she means to.”

This is a Lord of the Rings reference almost no one got, and it had been my mantra for being patient towards the end of my pregnancy. That night, though, my back hurt, and I just didn’t feel like moving.

Yoga usually made me feel strong and calm, but that night I left more uncomfortable and even grouchier.

Jon was waiting for me when I got home. “Maybe,” he began, cautiously.

I just raised my eyebrows.

“Maybe you’re actually in labor,” he said.

He was, of course, right. We still had a little more than 24 hours to go, but Ella June was on her way.

There’s more to this story, but the day I was sure I wasn’t in labor is on my mind today. I had no idea then what an incredible adventure was about to begin. I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow, because right now I need to go back to watching Ella’s baby videos and crying while I sit in the play area of this Whole Foods.

Thank you, God, for your impeccable sense of timing, even if I can’t always see it. Thank you for Jon’s powers of observation, which kept me from having an accidental home birth when I missed all the signs myself. And thank you for my Ella June and her glorious little life.

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Rainbow Tea Party!

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(Note: we did not actually have these straws at the party. I WISH WE HAD THESE STRAWS AT THE PARTY WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THESE STRAWS IN TIME FOR THE PARTY GAHHH…)

Well, we spent the day recovering from Ella’s rainbow tea party. It was awesome (the recovery day AND the party itself).

When I asked Ella what kind of birthday she wanted this year and she said, “rainbow tea party,” I was not too sure what she meant. Further questioning got me nowhere, but she did stick with her decision, so I decided to just run with it. I’m sure I went overboard in just about every direction, but I have the time to do it, and after all, your favorite human only turns four once. We definitely saved a little bit of money by not renting a venue, but not a ton – the real value for me was getting to do party projects with the birthday girl and then seeing all of her friends and kid cousins enjoying themselves in our new home, which was decked out in all rainbow everything, like the world’s most wholesome pride party. Totally worth it, IMHO.

I know I promised to share some party details. I don’t have a great camera and was sort of run off my feet while the party was happening, so I don’t really have photos, but I do have a bunch of links and, of course, lists upon lists upon lists. Here goes, it’s a long one…

Food

I looked at a few (million) tea party menu ideas on Pinterest, but most were a little fussier than we were up for – tea sandwiches are pretty high-class for the pre-K crowd, and particularly for my pre-K-er, who subsists on a rotating diet of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. Also, we were aiming for a mid-afternoon party, so we didn’t necessarily need a full luncheon.

In the end, we settled on:

  • Rainbow Krispie Treats (basically just rice krispie treats made with Fruity Pebbles) like these ones. I doubled the recipe so I could cut good sized cubes out and make a little tower on our cake stand.
  • Rainbow sprinkle pretzel wands, which looked like these ones, although with smaller sprinkles. I didn’t actually follow any instructions for these, I just bought an insane number of white chocolate chips, melted them in the microwave, thinned the chocolate out with a little bit of canola oil, and hoped for the best. We did have some consistency issues on the first round, but once I figured out the right temperature, we did OK. Ella helped a lot with these, so it was a fun little project for us, even if it did get rainbow sprinkles all over my entire life.
  • Rainbow sprinkle white chocolate dipped strawberries, made with exactly the same technique as the pretzel wands, but, you know, with strawberries instead of pretzel wands.
  • Rainbow fruit pizzas, based on this idea. These were a surprise hit! I used a slice and bake sugar cookie (although not Pillsbury, I can’t remember what brand – maybe generic?) for the base, and honestly, once I baked the cookies, I was kicking myself for not making sugar cookies from scratch. I typically use this amazing recipe from The Kitchn, which is my favorite food blog and my go-to source for many recipes. But Ella has a lot of friends with food sensitivities, so I was reluctant to do anything that included almond extract, just in case. Plus, I had my hands full. In the end, the sugar cookies themselves were fine, but I lost A LOT of them because they stuck to the pan, even though I followed the instructions to a T. They also spread more than I anticipated for a sugar cookie, so they were a little wonky looking, shape-wise. Oh well. I also used store bought white frosting, since I had it for the cupcakes anyway – just a thin little layer on top of each cookie, which I used to adhere the rainbow of fruit (raspberry/red, canned mandarin segments/orange, canned pineapple chunks/yellow, kiwi/green, blueberry/blue, blackberry/purple) to the cookie. You guys. These looked horrible, and I hate canned fruit and don’t even like kiwis. They also took forever to assemble and the stupid cookies kept breaking. BUT we had not a single rainbow fruit pizza left over at the end of the party, and I put out at least 30 of these. So, take that as you will.
  • “Tea” was just apple juice or water – we’re not very fancy.
  • Hoodsies for ice cream, because this is New England and that’s what you do!
  • AND, the piece de resistance, layered rainbow cupcakes. These were a hilarious amount of work, despite using boxed white cake mix. I followed this general idea and used the egg white method for the cake mix itself. We doubled the recipe, which I found made a looser batter than the one in the recipe I’ve linked. For that reason, the layers weren’t really pipe-able, but I’m also not a super perfectionist, so that was OK by me. We (me, Ella, and Ella’s Nana) divided the white batter up evenly into six cups and then I used a variety of food coloring to make the rainbow hues we needed. I was using leftover food coloring from projects earlier in the year, so depending on the color and how well a particular shade came through, I had to improvise a bit. The red looked pretty pink before baking, and the purple was absolutely more of a gray, but they baked up just fine! Once each cup was as vibrant as I could get it, we just spooned a layer of each color into our muffin tins – it was neither neat nor consistent, but honestly they came out amazing. Once they were cool I did a quick and dirty frosting job with some white frosting (mostly because I was too tired for piping at that point in the night!) and then we dipped them all in a bowl of rainbow sprinkles. I was pleased as punch with how they turned out.

There was also supposed to be a rainbow veggie platter with veggie dip, but when I went to pull the veggies out of my fridge, my purple cauliflower and blue carrots had both gone off! So, instead, there wound up being a pile of baby carrots, yellow bell pepper, broccoli, and tiny tomatoes in my kitchen, which the adults kept going back to when they needed a break from all the food dye. You win some, you lose some.

OH AND BEER. We didn’t actually intend to provide much in the way of food or drink for the grown ups, since it was a short party and really focused on the kids. But our local brewery re-released cans of our Very Favorite Beer on Saturday, and Jon ran over to grab a case to have in for this weekend, Thanksgiving, and our open house next weekend.

You can guess where this is going, right? He decided to pop one open to evangelize at the party, and before I knew it, every non-pregnant parent at the party was sipping an ice cold Laser Cat IPA and looking quite satisfied. Chalk one point up on the board for Jon and his hops enthusiasm.

Activities

We planned the party to be from 2-4pm. I’ve never hosted a kids’ party at my house before, so I wasn’t really sure if I was over-programming or what. We also weren’t sure about the weather, since Massachusetts has gone from a really long summer into early winter with no stop for fall in between. Saturday’s forecast was for low 40s with potential rain and “wintry mix,” which meant we couldn’t plan on any outdoor time.

Which meant there was the potential for 15-20 kids being trapped in my house for two hours.

We figured we’d better have a plan, so we went with:

  • Decorate your own teacup: I got these 6 oz cups with a handle from Amazon. We didn’t need them to be hot cups, since we weren’t serving real tea, but these were the best I could do with handles that kids could actually decorate. Once we had enough kids arrive, we got them settled at a long table we’d set up in our dining room, which had some markers, some crayons, some of these paint dot thingies, and a variety of rainbow stickers like these, these, and these. This kept the kids busy for a bit while everyone trickled in.
  • And, since they were already at the table, we decided to dive right into cupcakes and ice cream! That took a while, too.
  • After everyone was done eating, we played a round of the classic children’s game, Pin the Rainbow on the Teacup. You know that one, right? Right? OK, fine, but I’m sure you get the gist. I spent an INSANE amount of time and energy crafting a giant teacup shape (drawn freehand, and pretty freaking impressive, considering I am terrible at drawing) and 20 rainbows out of poster board. Like, hours and hours. I have no idea why I decided this was that big a priority, but what can you do. We hung the teacup on the pocket doors between our dining room and living room and lined the kids up. I think usually you’re supposed to blind fold the kids and spin them around a few times before you set them loose, but I was still traumatized by the stitches mishap from last week, so we basically just asked the kids to close their eyes, which almost none of them did. We wound up with a 100% success rate, which didn’t seem to bother anyone and kept me from having a heart attack, so let’s call that a win all around. The whole thing took about five minutes, tops.
  • After the rainbow/teacup game, we decided it was worth it to brave the cold and get some fresh air before the rain started, so Jon brought out the gorgeous piñata we got on Etsy and hung it from the swing set. Again, we were too nervous about blindfolding and dizzy-ing any kids at this point, so we just lined them up and let everyone have a turn whacking away at the thing. And another turn… and another turn… Seriously, that piñata was made of titanium. In the end, Jon wound up cutting some mortal wounds in the cardboard so that the next hit did the trick. This was an excellent time waster, because it took the kids a really long while to figure out that they weren’t making progress.
  • Once the piñata did give up the ghost, we gave all the kids their goody bags so they could load them up with candy. These were just paper bags in rainbow colors, which we had already filled with little notebooks, crayon party packs, a few rainbow stickers, and a little thing of play dough (which was actually part of a giant set of play dough I ordered ages ago when we were trying to reward Ella for sleeping in her own bed – since she generally doesn’t, we had plenty left hanging around!).
  • Opening presents: since everyone was already outside, we brought Ella’s presents out to the picnic table and the kids who were interested watched her open them while the kids who weren’t got to play on the swing set. We’ve never opened presents at a birthday party for Ella before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go – turns out a lot of kids LOVE watching people open stuff (this is a YouTube thing, I hear), and it was great that everyone could either watch or do their own thing without dividing the party up into separate spaces. That being said, it got COLD and then it started to drizzle, so I feel like I owe some moms a glass or seven of wine to compensate for freezing them to death in my backyard.

Decorations

We kept these pretty simple. I got some general rainbow stuff (a rainbow tissue paper garland, a rainbow dot door hanger) from Party City, along with a bunch of rainbow colored streamers. We also got a dozen balloons in rainbow colors and one giant rainbow balloon for Ella’s chair. And, for some reason, I decided that rainbow party hats were a priority. We ordered these ones, which were super adorable but which required assembly that made them a pain in the butt. Jon AND my mother tried to talk me out of seeing this one through to the finish line, but I persevered… which was very stupid, since who has ever seen a kid happy to wear a party hat?? We threw them all out after the party, right from the places where I’d stacked them before folks arrived.

Seriously though, if the party hats were the only real fail, I’m a happy mom. Ella was a happy girl, too. At the end of the night, she was sitting with me on the couch, and out of the blue she gave my giant belly a giant hug and said, “I feel so good, mumma.”

I cried, of course, because she’s amazing, and because that’s just what I do these days. But I felt so good, too.

Thank you, God, for the chance to celebrate our precious little human’s fourth year on earth. Thank you for Pinterest and Wilton and Amazon Prime and Laser Cat, and for the grandparents and aunts and uncles who helped keep everything running smoothly. And thank you for the amazing army of friends and family who joined us for this colorful, noisy, joyful chaos and made Ella feel so loved. We are incredibly blessed.

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Him Too

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It’s rainbow party day, woohoo! I’m excited to see a horde of kids bombing around my house, and it even looks like we might be able to send them outside if they’re interested, since I think the rain is going to hold off until tomorrow. I’ll post some party details after the fact, but I wanted to write early today in case I completely crash post-party.

And, unfortunately, the thing I think I need to write about is not nearly as fun as a rainbow party.

I did the #metoo thing, like a lot of women I know. It’s been eye opening, I think, for a lot of male allies to realize that there’s a #himtoo on the other side is every #metoo – a man who did something insidious that started every single one of these stories. And it’s been interesting, and also exhausting, to watch the evolution of this moment in time.

We started with a massive number of women offering up varied levels of detail about harassment or abuse they’ve suffered. This felt to me like a very powerful wave of white noise – like someone turned up a fan that had already been on for hours and suddenly we couldn’t hear the TV over it.

We had another wave of noise with specific allegations against a rash of famous, powerful men, but mostly men who have made it clear, publicly, loudly, daily, that they believe they have the right to claim authority over women’s bodies and voices.

And now we’re getting hit with the Louis CKs and the Al Frankens.

I had an interesting conversation with my husband about this last night (while we decorated rainbow cupcakes, obvi). Jon is seriously one of the kindest, most reflective, sympathetic people I know. He happens to be a man, but he is a whole person, with whole person feelings, and one of the things that impressed me most about him when we started dating was that not only did he think it was his job to be a whole person (which I seriously think I had never encountered in a man before), he also thought it was very reasonable to expect that I was a whole person, too.

All of this is to say that, although we all have blind spots and he is no exception, it makes sense to me that he’s thinking pretty hard about what’s happening out there.

What interested me, though, was that he was surprised by the Al Franken thing. And that got us talking about how many people are surprised about the Louis CK thing.

I would love to take a poll about how many women are surprised by this. It seems to me like women have always known bad guys don’t actually corner the market on being bad guys. In fact, I’d venture a guess that a good percentage of those #metoos didn’t come from interactions with men who wear their misogyny on their sleeves. I would imagine that the vast majority, and the ones that hurt the most, come from the men we thought were on our side.

I’m seeing some debate on Facebook and elsewhere about whether or not it’s fair to compare someone like Franken to someone like Moore. To my mind, the wolf in sheep’s clothing is even more dangerous than the one who goes around yelling HEY GUYS I LOVE BEING A WOLF.

We’re lifting up a rock right now and peeking underneath. It’s gross and it’s painful and it’s incredibly necessary. And it’s also pointless if we try to give any kind of a pass to guys like Franken and Louis CK just because we thought they were guys we could safely grab a beer with.

Thank you, God, for the discomfort of this current moment. Thank you for helping us look unflinchingly at our flaws, especially when we are tempted to assign blame only to people we tend to disagree with. And thank you for helping us somehow turn this bloodletting into progress, so my daughters don’t have to be another #metoo.

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Milestones and misty eyes

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Whew, today was a big day. Ella had a dentist appointment (which I cannot believe she tolerated, after her adventures yesterday). We spent the afternoon with Nana getting ready for Ella’s birthday party tomorrow – rainbow cupcakes and sugar cookies for the rainbow fruit cookie pizzas and rainbow party hats and rainbow goody bags are now done. Tomorrow it’s rainbow veggie platter, rainbow sprinkles strawberries, and rainbow decorations. Oh, and cleaning up the actual carpet of rainbow sprinkles that’s now all over my kitchen. NBD.

I can’t believe my baby is turning four this week. I went back and watched a video from the week of her first birthday, when she was just trying on her party shoes. They were red and tiny and squeaked when she walked. There’s a clip of her running around our old kitchen babbling nonsense, with her little shoes squeaking as the soundtrack. Tomorrow she will probably want to get herself dressed in her party outfit without help and I’ll probably cry.

I’m so proud of the person she’s turning into. It’s been particularly evident this week that not only is she massively independent, but she’s also really unique. I’m biased, I know, but still.

I remember getting in the car to drive her to her first doctors appointment. We lived in Salem at the time, and we had just reached the drawbridge to cross over to Beverly when I got very emotional about this first first.

I told Jon that I was already sad about time passing and she was only a few days old. And he very gently suggested that maybe we should try to focus on celebrating milestones and new phases, so we wouldn’t waste Ella’s entire life mourning for moments that had already passed.

I don’t know why four seems like such s milestone. Maybe because I can’t even pretend she’s still a toddler now, or maybe just because of the developmental changes that are happening in leaps and bounds.

I do miss the baby Ella who went on so many adventures with me. I miss the toddler chattering away in a language I couldn’t understand but will never forget. I miss the preschooler who still humored me and let me help her sometimes. She calls herself a pre-K-er now.

But I am loving watching her quick, fascinating, fascinated mind develop. And I’m trying to take my husband’s advice to celebrate the new phase we’re headed into now.

You may still find me crying into my rainbow cupcake tomorrow, but know that I am also saying:

Thank you, God, for every Ella June minute. Thank you for the most challenging phases and the most rewarding ones. And thank you for letting me be her mom.

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Best Laid Plans

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Here is a list of the things I planned to do today:

1. shower
2. Make banana bread
3. Make beds
4. Open blinds
5. Get coffee
6. Baby appointment
7. Lunch
8. Decorate pretzel wands
9. Make Rice Krispie treats
10. Bake sugar cookies
11. Roll out dough for next week’s cookies
12. Glue rainbow decorations together
13. Make chocolate covered strawberries
14. Gymnastics
15. Make dinner (baked potato with chili)
16. Finish trimming rainbow decorations
17. Clean bathroom during Ella’s bath
18. Blog about how productive I am

Believe it or not, all of this should have been generally accomplish-able. Me and Ella are a great team.

But instead what happened was after the baby appointment, just as I finally served myself lunch, Ella slipped in the living room and cracked her little head open on the bottom corner of our couch, which doesn’t sound like something that should leave a giant crevice in someone’s head but it did.

You guys. So. Much. Blood.

It was like a blood fountain. Ew.

Luckily I am not terribly squeamish or this could have been a real disaster. Also, I knew from a romance novel I read once that head wounds bleed worse than other wounds so I didn’t totally freak out.

Ella was obviously very scared – she asked if her brain was going to fall out like daddy’s. (My husband suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, which we often use as a cautionary tale about the importance of bike helmets. This exchange makes me wonder if she thinks daddy is walking around without a brain?)

But once we got the bleeding slowed down and loaded ourselves into the car to head to the doctor’s, she perked right up.

And seriously, Ella kind of loves a good doctor’s appointment. This has traditionally been an opportunity for her to tell a medical professional or two about something very embarrassing: something related to the cats and how often they throw up, how messy my room is, how much daddy likes beer, etc.

Today, though, she just took charge of answering all of the doctor’s questions, calmly and thoroughly. I literally had nothing to add. I am basically just her driver at this point.

The doctor, who is not our regular pediatrician so was surprised by the way this appointment was going, told me that usually for kids under five they send them to the hospital for sutures, since they typically have to be sedated.

“She seems pretty calm though,” the doctor said. “Maybe we can just do it here?”

So there we sat, for about two hours, while various people applied numbing gels and administered injections to Ella’s gaping forehead. The stitches themselves were quick and apparently painless, done above a piece of that crinkly medical paper with a hole lined up with the wound while Ella and I pretended to be camping underneath.

When it was done, Ella sat up and immediately demanded a cheeseburger, fries, and milkshake, which she had obviously earned.

She’s asleep now, and I’m going to be right behind her. We’ll try again with our list of plans tomorrow – some of it might get done and some of it might not and I’m completely fine with that either way. But for now I will say:

Thank you, God, for my precious girl’s health. Thank you for helping me keep it together while we handled the situation. And thank you for talented, compassionate medical staff who treat my daughter like the whole person she is already becoming. It makes a difficult situation infinitely easier and teaches her to speak for herself about things that affect her own body. She and I both really appreciate it.