Grandpa

My head barely covers
the worn halo on your chair
where yours used to rest.

I can see you here,
your hand on your chest
counting the last beats of your heart,
praying for God to take you home.

You lived so gently,
let me sit on your knee
until my feet could reach the floor.

Your wide farm hands
were strangely soft, covering mine
as I drifted to sleep
in the sound of your heartbeat.

I am Me

Are you your father’s daughter?
Are you your mother’s son?
Are you the oldest in the house?
Are you the little one?

Does Grandma call you “baby doll?”
Does Uncle call you “bud?”
Do you like to keep your boots real clean
or splash around in mud?

Are you a funny giggle box?
Do you like telling jokes?
Are you a star out on the stage
entertaining all the folks?

Or would you rather just be quiet,
spend free time reading books?
Will you try almost anything
your mom or daddy cooks?

Are you tall or very small
or somewhere in between?
Do your eyes look black as night
or maybe, are they green?

Do you rise up with the sun,
or stay up with the moon?
Are you a calm and patient soul,
Or does nothing come too soon?

When someone asks you who you are
or who you want to be,
Don’t be afraid to smile and say,
“I’m happy to be me!”

Simple Spaghetti Squash Taco Bake

Meet my friend spaghetti squash. She’s easy to get along with and a very good influence. She should be your friend too. Ok, I’m going to drop this metaphor now that I am going to tell you how to bake her in the oven. First, preheat to 400 degrees.

Warning! If you have knives in need of sharpening (like mine), you will want to pop your squash into the microwave for a minute or two. This will soften the rind just enough to eliminate the chances of accidentally stabbing yourself. Then cut it in half the long way (“hotdog,” not “hamburger” as my kids would say). Scoop out all the seeds and slimy stuff in the middle, leaving the “spaghetti” flesh intact.

Grab a rimmed cookie sheet (a.k.a. jellyroll pan) and add a little water to it. Place the spaghetti squash cut side down onto the water. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. (Meanwhile, start your taco meat.)

I have read several spaghetti squash recipes that say to cook it for 45 minutes. It has never taken mine that long, and you do NOT want to overcook it or it will be mushy and watery, so I tend to check it after 20 minutes and go from there. If you can easily stab a fork into it, and especially if you can squeeze the rind (USE POTHOLDERS!) to make the flesh pop out, it’s done. Scrape all the spaghetti out with a fork, then sprinkle it with salt to hold in the moisture and give it some good flavor.

Please note, this recipe is incredibly simple, but it can be time-consuming. If you make the spaghetti squash and/or taco meat ahead of time, this becomes a quick weeknight success. You’ll notice my family liked it so much, I only got a photo of half of it!

Ingredients:
Spaghetti squash, prepared
1 pound taco meat, prepared
Diced bell peppers
4 oz. cream cheese
Shredded cheese to preference
S&P to taste
Sour cream, avocado, salsa, crushed tortilla chips (optional garnishes)

Quick directions: Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Directions:
1. Prepare a 9×13 casserole pan with your choice of nonstick medium, then spread the prepared spaghetti squash on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Melt the 4 oz (half a block) of cream cheese into your prepared taco meat.
3. Add diced bell peppers to the taco meat. Mix well.
4. Spread taco meat mixture on top of spaghetti squash.
5. Top with shredded cheese to your preference.
6. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
7. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, salsa, tortilla chips, etc. Enjoy!

Enough (part II)

Your bald head fit perfectly in my palm,
and the first time you opened your eyes,
you saw me.

I had just awakened from a dream
I’d been having my whole life
to find that it was true.

It was you.

My world tilted to meet
the lazy lean of your head,
and I used my wrist as your neck.

You yawned,
the jet-lagged yawn of birth,
not yet knowing what it is to be awake.

I watched in wonder as you slept,
your first real breaths
an imperfect rhythm.

Nine months of doubt
were cast away in a moment
as my knuckle brushed your velvet cheek,
and for the first time,
I trusted myself not to fail.

Should I Have More Kids?

I can’t tell you how many hours, days, and even years I have spent brain wrestling myself over this one. But finally, I found my answer. Not with the flip of a switch, but gradually, like waiting in the half-darkness of a neighborhood bonfire, moving my lawn chair around as I squinted through the smoke, finally seeing the white hot embers of a fire in ideal marshmallow-roasting condition.

That’s how I found my answer. Spoiler alert: I didn’t find yours. If you are looking for someone to answer this question for you, let me send you a coupon for a magic 8-ball. While I don’t have answers for you, I can relate, and I will give you advice. I know what these brain-wrestling matches look like, and maybe the questions that helped me the most can help you too.

First, I want to acknowledge the privilege of being able to ponder this question. The ability to conceive a child when you want to is a gift that so many people have not been given. I write this post knowing it is a moot question for too many. Truth be told, it was one reason I felt like I should have more kids. For all those moms-in-waiting who can’t have their babies or lose their babies or continue to wait for their babies, why would I not want to have more kids? What greater gift is there than growing life inside your own body? Take advantage of that privilege, dummy! On the other hand, I am one of few women I know who has not had to face the loss of a pregnancy. And why, when I have two healthy children, why would I want to risk that? Be satisfied with what you have, dummy!

As someone who has made this impossible decision, here’s my advice to you.

1. Listen to Your Heart

I remember one mom of three telling me that after she had two, “I looked in the rear view mirror, and I just knew there was an empty seat. Our family wasn’t complete.” How magical is that? I thought for sure I would have that feeling too.
After my first, I said to everyone who would listen, it’s going to be a LONG time before I do that again. But 3 years later when I laid eyes on my second daughter, I felt it so clearly, we are definitely going to do this again. (Apparently, planned C-sections don’t illicit the same snarky exhaustion as a 30 hour labor). But here we are, over four years later, and we haven’t done it again. And we won’t. The heart may be your guide, but it’s fickle.

2. Listen to Your Head

Think about the risks. Do you or your partner have any health issues? How have your other pregnancies been? How old are you?
Let’s be real. Since I’m talking to women who already have a child or two here, please consider that you are needed. If your last pregnancy almost physically killed you or mentally wore you down to the brink of a breakdown, consider that. Your pre-existing kid(s) need you.

3. Listen to Your Wallet

I know, this is so lame. But kids are expensive! Now, if you are one of those families who thrives on minimalism, makes your own clothes, and considers coupon-cutting an exciting Sunday afternoon, kudos to you! I sincerely admire that. But for the rest of you shameful consumers like me, things add up. Sometimes it is not even the things you choose, but it’s things like medical bills or high-priced organic hemp baby formula. The point is, the expenses can be unpredictable, so make sure you are prepared to take it on. Financial stress is toxic and truly is no laughing matter.

4. Listen to Your Family

If your partner in life is adamant about having or not having more kids, you need to listen. What are they truly seeking? Why do they feel so strongly?
And of course, listen to your existing kids. It might not be in their words (if they even have words yet), but you likely have an inkling as to how full your hands are. What will be the effect of another sibling on your existing ones?
Don’t forget about the grandparents if you are lucky enough to have them. Especially if they are heavily involved with the children and/or you depend on them for childcare on a regular basis, the effect on them should probably be considered. The status of your support system (i.e. the proverbial “village” that it takes) is a key factor in raising healthy children.

5. Keep Listening

Sometimes it is hard to hear your own voice over the din of other people’s opinions. Keep trying. Ask yourself, am I making my decision for the wrong reasons? As a lawyer, I fully understand we could argue all day about what the definition of a “wrong” reason is, but as a woman and a mother, might I suggest that the only wrong reason is one that’s not your own.
If you’re not having more kids because you are terrified every time the child you have gets a cold and you know deep down that your heart can’t handle more sleepless nights, then who is to say that’s the wrong reason?
If you want to have four kids because you can’t stand the thought of an odd number, who is to say that’s the wrong reason?
If you’ve always longed for an idyllic holiday season when a big group of adult children comes home to reunite, who can say that’s the wrong reason?

I think all we can do is acknowledge that this decision will be different for each family. In the end, there are just as many pros as cons, but the weight of those pros and cons depends upon who you are, what you believe, and what your circumstances are.
For me, I got comfortable with occasionally doubting my decision not to have another kid. Some days, I can tangibly feel that doubt coursing through me, my arms aching for the weight of a sleeping baby. But eventually, it shakes off of me somehow…
I guess the high-pitched screaming about who hit who first and whose turn it is with the remote kind of helps.

The Tooth Fairy’s Request

Warning: This post is for people with all of their adult teeth only! If you still have baby teeth, stop reading NOW!

Are they gone? Ok, good. Now let me ask you a question. Why are you still torturing yourself with sneaking into your child’s room and digging around under their pillow while they are sleeping like some dentally-obsessed ninja? It’s insane!

I remember the first time I played tooth fairy. My daughter was an early tooth-loser (which apparently is expected when your teeth grow in at 4 1/2 months), and I was not prepared. The good (?) news was she swallowed her first tooth (down the hatch with a hotdog at daycare), so I didn’t need to dig for a tooth. We penned an apology letter to the tooth fairy and stuck that under her pillow instead. Still, my heart was beating so hard when I tiptoed into her dark bedroom that I was sure the sound would wake her up. It didn’t, of course, but the stress was too much. After a couple more of these late night adventures, enough was enough. I needed a plan.

Enter: the tooth fairy distress letter. I put the below poem into my daughter’s little rinse cup in the bathroom, and my tooth fairy anxiety was over. The tooth fairy’s request was as good as gold, beyond questioning, and incapable of having its terms negotiated. Please, by all means, feel free to use my method with your own tooth-losers.

Dear [Child’s Name],

You lost a tooth! Good for you!
Now here is what you need to do.

Brush it clean, shine it up,
and drop it in this little cup.

It’s hard for me to fly around
And dig through pillows ‘til it’s found.

So many kids are losing teeth.
I don’t have time to get much sleep.

So, could you please do me a favor?
It will be a real time-saver.

Put the cup somewhere that’s stable,
like in your kitchen or on a table.

Thanks for helping – you’re the best!
This will help me get some rest!

Love,
The Tooth Fairy

The Curse of the Cozy Womb

My stomach is squished
There’s no room for food
I’m constantly fighting
A very bad mood

My face has grown jowls
My pants barely fit
No energy for standing
But it hurts when I sit

My belly keeps growing
My skin showing marks
I swear as I’m walking
I’m throwing off sparks

I keep growing outward
My back caving in
It feels like this baby
could break through my skin

I see other people
Mask their confusion
When my shirt suddenly forms
an oblong protrusion

As I laugh it off as
“she’s saying hello”
I see genuine fear
That my belly might blow.

My womb must be cozy
A place of pure joy
If only you’d learn
My ribs aren’t a toy

Nor is my bladder
Your own trampoline
Sometimes I wonder
Can a fetus be mean?

My aches and my pains
Soreness and swelling
How does this make
For your comfortable dwelling?

It does me no good
To cry or to shout
Sooner or later
You’ll have to come out

I know this discomfort
Is worth it for you,
But I promise you this –
My arms are cozy too.

Dear Brother

The bike sale ended on your birthday,

and we both knew they coudn’t hide it from me.

Pink with sparkles, a horse’s mane of colors

streaming from the handlebars.

You taught me how to ride it that day –

took off the training wheels,

and held onto the banana boat seat

while I pedaled with twitching legs.

Running beside me, you guided my steering.

You knew every crack and bump on our block.

You loosened your grip,

and as tears rushed from my eyes,

I pled with you

not to let go.

My handlebars wobbled,

you smiled,

and through wind-flooded ears I heard you say,

Keep going. Just keep going.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑