“Mommy, I’m stressed.”
And with that, I stopped dead in my tracks.
It had been a crazy morning. My husband flew in late last night from a business trip which woke me up and left me with a fitful night of rest. He was, understandably, wired after his trip and tossing and turning until morning. The kids slept in and we were scrambling to get everyone up, fed, dressed and out the door in only 24 minutes or so to have a hope of barely making it on time.
A crazy morning.
I was barking at them more than I typically do in the morning. We try really hard to keep that time calm on most days. We sip our coffee, we play Miles Davis, we work efficiently but quietly to get our tasks on track for the day. I pride myself in trying to start my kids out on a mellow foot each morning. Once they are out on that school yard, in that big, busy world, I can’t control their environment. At home, in the morning, I can. And I like to think it sets them up for a day of success.
But on this morning, this crazy morning, I wasn’t doing that. We were all tired and their lunch boxes were nowhere to be found, even though their only task after school is to put them away in the pantry. The jeans were in the laundry and of course, he couldn’t wear the other ones. The sock was missing. The dog was restless. The milk was spilled. And I found myself barking at them every minute of our 24 – hurry up! Go brush your teeth! What is taking so long?? You’re going to be late!
And at minute 29 (or so), she sat down on the stairs to put on her shoes. The car was running in the driveway, ready to whisk them away. The lunch box was finally packed and perched on its own step, ready to be grabbed. The shoes sat there, waiting. In double knots.
“My shoes are in double knots,” she said, her voice shaking from the pressure. “They’re in double knots and I can’t get them undone and I hate double knots…and mommy, I am stressed!” Her face crumpled up, ready for tears but holding them back, her fingers fidgeting frantically with those double knots.
“Mommy, I am stressed.”
And with that, I stopped dead in my tracks. I kneeled in front of her and looked her in the eyes and told her it was ok. I would undo her knots. And I would help her tie them back up. I took my time with it, ignoring minute 30 as it came and went. Ignoring the running car engine and the visions of a school bell ringing and an empty yard left behind for only the latecomers. I ignored it all and told her it was ok. All of it.
She relaxed before my eyes, letting the tension fall from her eyes, gathering her backpack and her lunch bag and heading for the door.
“Have a good day, babe,” I said. “Have a good day, ok?”
“I will mommy,” she promised. And off she went.
Minute 33. Only 687 left before bedtime. Need to make them all up to her.
Note: No, I am not intentionally turning this into a blog about dog encounters. Though maybe I should. My goal this year is simply to write. And starting with the daily occurrences that stick with me seems like a very good place to start. I can’t promise there won’t be more of them about dogs, if they keep up at this pace. I hope you like dogs. If you don’t, you should meet mine.
My kids and I went on a neighborhood walk with Luna yesterday afternoon.
My daughter was testing out the new skateboard her brother got for Christmas (looks like she is a natural like her dad) and my son and I were walking the dog alongside her, semi-conscious of the time because we had to go visit my parents and wanted to tire out the dog quickly before we left. We took our usual route, down to the end of our cul de sac, along the path that lines the playground, through the small tree-filled area where Luna likes to chase the bunnies. And we made our way to the coveted “green space,” a wide open grassy area where we occasionally break the HOA rules and let the dog run free to chase a ball back and forth a few times…until someone on the HOA sees us.
We made it up there and I saw an older man leaning up against a tree on the side of the green space, tossing a small, bright orange ball with his dachshund, back and forth, back and forth. He was doing it aimlessly, little movement in his arm or his body, no emotion in his face or his voice. The little dog scurried to and fro chasing his throws, on auto-pilot in the afternoon sun. Luna, of course, pulled us his way, curious to meet a new friend. And my rambunctious kids followed suit, full of weekend energy and friendly smiles. They asked if they could pet his dog. He said yes, his voice quiet, his eyes looking down at the ground.
Still leaning against that tree.
“This is Tutu,” he said quietly, referring to the dachshund. And his voice began to crack. “We lost his brother yesterday.”
And that man started to cry. He leaned against that tree in the Sunday afternoon sun with three complete strangers in front of him (two of them kids, no less) and he cried. He let the tears fall down his face behind his sunglasses and he let his voice give into the cracking and he cried. He was so uninhibited in his sorrow. So unabashedly real in that moment, regardless of me and my little family standing there and our dog frolicking at his feet, nudging him for attention.
I offered my condolences. I asked about his dog, how old he was, how he passed. And he answered my questions, tears still falling in a quiet stream, voice still unsteady. He had had the dog for 16 years. It was also a dachshund. He had died of cancer. He lived with the disease for seven years, survived two surgeries and fought it until the day he couldn’t fight it anymore. The man said he was trying to keep Tutu busy so he wouldn’t be sad and lonely in the house. He kept leaning against the tree and I began to suspect it was holding him up, physically and emotionally. He tossed the bright orange ball until Luna claimed it as her own and my kids took over with Tutu, basking the little guy in attention and the love of strangers. We played with Tutu and let that man stand there quietly, leaning against his tree. Tears streaming down his cheeks. Voice now gone silent.
After several minutes, we had to make our way home. The kids gave Tutu lots of extra love and Luna finally gave him back his bright orange ball and we began to gather our things to head back down that path.
“I’m so sorry about your dog,” I said to the man. “I’m so sorry for your sadness.”
“It’s ok,” he said, finally stepping away from the tree, finding balance and strength in his own two feet.
“Come on, Tutu,” he motioned to the small dog. “Let’s go home.”
And they wandered down the path. Past the tree-filled area where the bunnies live and down one of the nondescript streets filled with nondescript houses, many of them filled with dogs and orange balls and tears of their own.
And my son came by my side. “He was so sad about his dog, wasn’t he mommy?” he said, the ever-observant six-year-old that he is.
I nodded. We both looked at Luna, safely back on her leash, puppy eyes furiously searching her surroundings for scrambling bunnies.
“I hope I never have to be sad like that,” he said.
“Me too,” I replied, taking his little hand and leading him down the path towards home.
But the truth is, I hope he is sad like that some day. I hope that one day he knows a love just like that. A love that is so important to him, he will cry about it in public. To strangers. In the afternoon sun.
And when he does, I hope there is a tree there to hold him up and a six-year-old there to put a smile on his face.
I kind of feel like this is one of those years that needs to go out on a fun, frivolous note. There is too much challenge and change from the past 12 months to even try to reconcile with so instead I am sharing my five favorite beauty finds of the year to bring a little superficial distraction to the final days of 2016. Hope yours are just as frivolous.
Love + Salt hair and body mist. I have shared this one before and with good reason, it’s on my top 5 favorites list as well. It’s a wave spray made from all-natural products and it works beautifully, without the crunchy, icky residue that so many others leave behind. You’re also supporting a small, indie beauty brand when you buy it. A small, indie beauty brand that makes a really great product.
Bite Beauty. My girl Sarah at Whoorl (a must-follow if you have any interest in green beauty at all) first introduced me to Bite and I am hooked. Their all-natural lip collection is so clean you can actually eat it (my kids get a kick out of that little fact every time I put it on), the colors are gorgeous and hyper pigmented for long-lasting, comfortable wear and the packaging is sleek and cool in a simple matte black look I love. Win/win/win. The matte lip crayons are my personal favorite.
Aveda Smooth Infusion Styling Creme. My new hairdresser (at an Aveda salon) turned me onto this styling creme for my half wavy/half curly/half kind of straight and random hair. Just a small dollop on wet hair helps bring definition to my curls and waves as they air dry and leaves hair soft, shiny and just a little more refined.
Aveda Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant. Another new Aveda favorite is this exfoliant. I used the gel cleanser from the same line and I liked it, but I LOVED this exfoliant. It’s cool because it’s a liquid exfoliant – no micro-beads or grains of anything – so you just swipe it on with a cotton pad and it sloughs away dull surface cells. It’s a nice, simple alternative to a traditional exfoliant that leaves your skin feeling clear, clean and soft.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. Finally, the Drunk Elephant serum that goop built. They mentioned it a few times this year and it quickly became a cult favorite so naturally I had to try it…and I love it. I am using it in conjunction with their B Hydra Gel and that is not worth sharing (in my humble opinion), but this Vitamin C fueled serum is. It promises to firm and brighten and it’s done just that. I use a pump in the morning with my moisturizer (it’s a little sticky for a few minutes so you need to let it settle) and I swear it has left me with brighter skin and lighter sun spots. And if that’s not a good way to ring in a New Year, I don’t know what is.
Would love to know what you loved this year, too! Share in the comments if you’re so inclined. I have become a certified skincare junkie.
*disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
I went for a walk in the lagoon near our house yesterday with the kids and some friends and our dogs.
It was a gorgeous day. One of the few we have had this holiday season. It has been unseasonably rainy and chilly and very un-San Diego like over Christmas and the days that followed it and while I enjoyed the change of scenery (almost reminds me of living with the seasons…sort of), it was nice to feel the warm sun on our skin again. To see the blue water lapping away in the lagoon and the people in their short sleeves and bare legs, taking in the reason why we live here with each and every step.
We did our thing, letting the kids forge their own paths up and down embankments, always ten feet behind, lost in a world of childhood chit chat and make believe. The dogs behaved, walking confidently in stride, barely letting their puppy energy get the best of them. My girlfriend and I made small talk. About the holiday. About family matters. About the weather and the kids and the dogs….always talking about the dogs.
And then we met Maximus. Maximus was a little scruffy terrier. He was just intimidated enough by our duo of labs. Not shy enough to hide away, but not quite bold enough to say hello. Maximus was walking with a man and a woman, who was presumably his owner. And she is the reason for this post.
She was fairly nondescript at first glance. Slim, probably in her late 50s. Patagonia-style uniform from head to foot. Slightly unruly curly hair. Brown with flecks of auburn that shimmered in the sun. A pair of reading glasses that have obviously been well worn and loved through the years. A water bottle in one hand. I imagine she listens to NPR and has a “Feel the Bern” bumper sticker and a stack of Joan Didion books on her nightstand.
This woman lit up when she crossed our path. I mean, she lit up. It started with her smile. It was a mile-wide, big and open. Easy and natural. Her warm eyes crinkled with love. You could literally see the love in them come to life. She bent over to pet our dogs, giving them each a frisky rubdown, basking in their energy and their wagging tails. She spoke to them like she spoke to us. With so much enthusiasm and life. She commented on their coats, on their eyes. She commented on the weather and the trees. She told us that Max was named Maximus after the horse in “Tangled.” The kids had a laugh. She laughed along with them. A loud laugh, funny and free.
We spent maybe three minutes with this woman. This complete stranger who was just walking her little scruffy terrier Maximus down the same path by the same lagoon we walk by all the time.
Maybe three minutes.
She told our dogs it was time to go. Maximus needed his exercise. She smiled that smile at us. She smiled at our kids. She thanked us for stopping to talk in a way that felt sincere and heartfelt and true. And she and her companion and her little terrier went on their way.
And I stood there watching her go.
She was 20 feet away in a matter of seconds, but her smile remained right by my side. Her crinkled, warm eyes were still standing next to me. Her energy and her natural joy and her, for lack of a more underused term, aura…it wouldn’t leave.
My girlfriend noticed it, too. We both remarked on how we would love to have that kind of energy. Not in the physical sense. In another sense altogether. An energy that just emanated from her. One that felt pure and natural and real and truly…happy. To put it out into the world. To share it with others. How does one project that kind of ease, peace, absolute joy? Even with complete strangers? Has she always had it in her? Did it come with age? Was it Maximus? The sun shining? Her walking companion that day?
I didn’t catch that woman’s name. Only the dog’s. But moving into the new year, into a new season of change and transition and self-reflection…I will remember her. I will keep her smile and her eyes and energy in my memory. In my back pocket. In my mindset on sunny days.
Happy New Year, Maximus.
Today you are six.
Today you are donuts and cold milk and extra vitamins because you need to fight off the little bug that tried to take you down on your birthday…again.
Today you are all things Pokemon, all the time. The cards, the game, the figurines, the cartoons. If it’s not Pokemon, it’s not life. This is six.
Today you are a little bit longer. A little bit leaner. Jeans that are a little too short and shoes that are a little too small. More and more big boy and less and less our baby boy.
Today you are happiness. Your smile and your energy and your aura all radiate this contagious, infectious glee that goes with you always. You can’t keep a straight face, even when you’re in trouble…a giggle always bubbling up under the surface. You see the happy in the sad, the light in the dark and the sun through the clouds. Every day.
Today you are soaking it all in. Words, numbers, facts and figures. Your brain wants to know it all and it’s processing it very quickly. You can read, you like math (especially when it’s related to your Pokemon cards) and you can’t wait for first grade to get “real homework.” We hope you still feel that way when it comes.
Today you are full of hugs and kisses and I love you’s. Anything that brings a smile to someone else’s heart. You are there to deliver.
Today you are mac and cheese but not the kind in restaurants where they top it with breadcrumbs. Yes to fruit. Maybe to some vegetables. Always yes to chocolate.
Today you are your sister’s best friend and protector. Unless she wants one of your Pokemon cards. You are starting to find your boundaries even in the relationship that brings you the most joy.
Today you laugh out loud. And it fills my heart. You cry out loud, too. But most of the time it’s justified.
Today you are 40 something pounds and still want to be carried once in a while. But only once in a while.
Today you still sleep with your beloved monkey and I hope he sticks around for a few more years.
Today you are six. You are moving on from five and working your way towards so much more. I can’t wait to watch you every step of the way.
Happy birthday, Kai. We love you so.
I’ve adopted a new habit lately that I wanted to share.
When people ask me how I am doing, feeling, whatnot on any given day, I reply with my usual (and very true) standards: busy, tired, a little crazy…but I add an important disclaimer on the end:
“But it’s a good busy. A good tired. A good crazy.”
Yes, I am more tired right now than I have been in years. I can barely keep my eyes open past 9:00pm (and yes, my 9-year-old daughter is usually still awake then), I silently curse the sun rise every morning as it peeks through the blinds into my bedroom, and I physically need to pull myself off the couch to make dinner come 6pm every night. I am busy beyond the norm. I am inching towards the end of a very hectic year at work and it feels like my personal and family life have more demands on it than ever before. Balance has been tough to come by this year and most weeks, it feels like a constant go-go-go race to the finish line. Which leads to the crazy part. My mind, time and energy are being pulled in so many different directions right now and it’s increasingly difficult to keep up. My focus feels a little more scattered and my memory is standing me up more often than it used to. Things just feel a little crazy…a lot of the time.
But it’s the good kind. And by reminding myself of that each and every day, I started to feel it. To embrace it. To know it’s true. I am beyond lucky to have work and family and deadlines and to-dos looming over me. To have good health on our side, despite the exhaustion and the (somewhat) lazy memory. To be able to do (for the most part) all the things I set out to do at work and at home and to balance everything in a sometimes precarious but always somehow successful way.
It’s the good kind of busy. Of tired. Of crazy. And now that I have stopped focusing on the “busy” and more on the “good” it’s actually feeling that way.
They say mind over matter and I know that to be true, but first you need to get your mind on track, too. And that can start with something as simple as one little word, how you choose to use it and all the meaning behind it.
So I hope you have a good day today. A busy, tiring, crazy one. But a good one.
*image above via @Happsters.
It has been a long while since I have done a must-have round up but that doesn’t mean I haven’t found a ton of things to share with you…here are just some of my recent favorites:
Norden Goods candles. I came across this local, San Diego-based candle brand earlier this year and quickly fell in love with the husband and wife team’s branding and aesthetic and am happy to say the product stands up to the same test. I am partial to the Leucadia candle (a warm, spicy mix of vanilla, orange and rosemary) which is perched on my desk as we speak, but all of their candles, planters and home accessories are minimal in a not-too-minimal way that I love.
Drunk Elephant skincare. You have probably seen the buzz on this fairly new skincare brand on social media. And I am here to happily let you know that most of it is warranted. I came across the line via goop (obviously) and promptly ordered the cult-favorite Vitamin C serum that came highly recommended from…everyone. And I love it. I apply it in the morning after their B-Hydra Intensive Hydration gel (I like the gel, but I LOVE the serum) and it leaves my skin brighter and tighter, albeit a tiny bit sticky at first. I also swear it is helping one of my sun spots slowly fade. This one is staying in my skincare regimen rotation and I am going to add the night serum to the mix next as well. I am taking my skincare very seriously these days. Performance is key. Natural-ish is as well. Drunk Elephant delivers on both. It is not all-natural, but it’s close. And that’s ok for me right now, because I need results…big time.
Rockets of Awesome. I’ve been meaning to tell you about this one since back-to-school but better late than never, I say! Rockets of Awesome is a new shopping service for your littles that you – and they! – will love. Your kids answer a few quick style-related questions (i.e. pink – love it or hate it? dinosaurs – super cool or super lame?) and they curate a wardrobe-in-a-box custom tailored to your kids and their tastes. Fun, right? And the best part? We LOVED everything in our box. You only have to keep the pieces you want and you simply return the rest but every single piece in our box was a hit…and they have all held up to multiple wears, back-to-school nerves and my daughter’s very picky (no pink or lace, please) sartorial standards. Oh, and I love that their pieces feel unique on the playground unlike most of the other usual suspect brands when it comes to kids’ wear.
Eden’s Garden OK For Kids. I’ve been using essential oils for a few years now in our home and I have always loved the benefits, but not the guesswork when it came to safety, especially where my kids are involved. Eden’s Garden is a southern California-based oil company that I have used for a while now simply because I loved the quality of their oils and that they aren’t a HUGE brand like most of the others that feel very sales-y to me. And now I love them even more because they recently launched an OK For Kids line that features custom synergy blends that are just for kids – already diluted and ready to go. No guesswork involved. We especially love the roll-on options because they are mess-free and my kids can apply them themselves (with supervision, of course) when they need them. The blends are super cute – Bee Happy; Focus, Focus, Focus; Study Buddy, and more) – and make it easy to mix and match the right ones for your family’s needs.
Finally, Love & Salt Beach Spray. I’ve tried several “beach-y wave” sprays in my time and I have finally found the one. This spray (created by a small indie brand, which I love) is the first one to really deliver the gritty, wave-y, piece-y look for me that all the others promise. It smells lovely, leaves your hair feeling soft (not crunchy) and looks cute in my vanity which is always a factor for me. Apparently you can use it on your body as well but I can’t attest to that. My hair would be too jealous.
*Note: This post is not sponsored in any way, these are genuine favorites that I love. It does, however, contain a few affiliate links which means that if you opt to purchase a product via this post, I earn a small commission on the sale. But trust me, it’s small. And has no influence on what I choose to share. Ha.
**image above via the Norden Goods Journal. Check it out here.
I was walking up to my daughter’s school today for pick up, running a precise 4 minutes late as I tend to do, and crossed paths with a mom walking out with her son who was likely in 3rd or 4th grade (on her way out because she is apparently the precisely on-time for pick up mom I strive to be).
“So I am going to say no to that birthday party you were invited to,” she said to him, nonchalantly. “You don’t even know that boy.”
“Oh, Evan’s party?” he questioned, kicking the pebbles that crossed his path. “I know him…”
“You don’t, really,” she continued, making his mind up for him. “Let’s say no.”
I wanted to stop her in her tracks. I wanted to look her in the eye. I wanted to plead with her…
Say yes to birthdays!
We say yes to birthdays. Of course there are occasions when we’re out of town or sick or have another commitment, but if we can get there, we say yes.
We say yes to invitations from kids we barely know, kids we adore and consider family, kids we don’t see again after that school year has passed.
We say yes to birthdays.
We say yes because there are a lot of kids (or shall I say moms) out there who say no. And more importantly, there are a lot of lonely kids out there who are waiting, hoping, wishing for a yes.
We say yes because there are a lot of moms and dads out there who work really hard on these celebrations and invite the whole class – whether they know them or not. And that’s a sign of kindness, confidence and compassion that I want my kids to appreciate and embody every time we see it.
We say yes because for some kids sending out the invite (especially to kids they “don’t even know”) is a very important step. We say yes to them taking the leap, being a friend, including everyone.
And of course, we say yes to cake and balloons and pizza, too. Any time we get the invite.
I don’t know Evan. And I don’t know that mom I walked by today. Maybe her days are too busy? But maybe her son’s aren’t and he can go on his own. Or maybe her budget is too tight these days? So maybe she can just hand down some beloved books from her own son’s collection. Maybe Evan has been unkind to her son in the past? It didn’t sound like it, but if so, maybe this is the exact “yes” they both need to move past it? Maybe she doesn’t like his mom (because let’s be honest here…that is the reasoning behind more schoolyard situations than we probably care to admit)? And maybe that’s all the more reason to give the kids the opportunity to be kids, no mom strings attached.
I don’t know. I don’t know their scenario and that’s ok because it’s theirs and theirs alone. But we say yes to birthdays. And when we send out invites, we hope people say yes to ours. Because it always means a lot to our kids. It makes them happy to see their friends (close ones and not-so-close ones alike) come out to celebrate with them, to watch them blow out their candles, to eat too much pizza and go home with a sugar high. It makes us sincerely happy when they say yes to ours.
And we especially appreciate it when they are precisely four minutes late.
*image above – birthday cake cookies, how fun! – via My Baking Addiction.
The other night we were at a friend’s house for dinner and when we were leaving I stumbled on my way down their walkway, falling to the ground and twisting my ankle badly. It made that crunching noise that sends shivers up your spine and your mind straight to the ER and it happened so quickly I was on my butt before my knees or my instincts had a chance to catch me.
My son started crying, as a five-year-old boy will do when his mom is suddenly hurting right before his very eyes. My daughter rushed to my side, as a nine-year-old will, wanting to help but unsure of what to do. And I sat there, the pain almost too much to bear, trying to hold back tears and curse words in the same breath.
I have a feeling that moment will stay with them – and me – forever.
I could blame it (partially) on the champagne but the reality is that 38 has been a tough year on me, physically. For the first time ever, I have felt my age. In my skin, in my bones, in my moods. I am just a little more tired, a little more achy, a little more sensitive…than I have ever been before. I know that 38 is nothing in the grand scheme of aging. It’s an opening hurdle. Not even 40. Barely even catching a glimpse of middle age. But I feel it already. It has been sprained ankles and sensitive knees. It has been bad skin and hormonal moods. It has been 9pm bed times and champagne that hits me a little earlier in the evening and affects me a little later the following morning.
But at the same time, it has been life with a 9-year-old. It has been someone who is up to my shoulders, height-wise, and who doesn’t look at all out of place on the odd occasion when I let her sit shotgun. It is nights when we lay in bed chatting, even though the clock says 10 minutes past her bedtime and my 38-year-old eyes say it’s almost mine. It is conversations about politics and books and life that simply weren’t there when I was 30. When my knees were better. It has been life with a 5-year-old. It has been swimming in the deep end and kindergarten and learning to read and sight words. It has been family dinners where everyone actually eats the same thing and traveling through airports without a care in the world and two people who run to your side when you fall.
So while some aspects of 38 are kicking my ass (literally), so many other aspects of it, of this stage, of this particular chapter of life, are wonderful. Easy-going, joy-filled, balanced.
And I am going to try to focus on those pieces of it for now instead.
Champagne in one hand and Advil in the other.