Category Archives: Parenting

Wordy Wednesday: Patting Myself on the Back

Punkin’ Pie is 16.  The other day, she and I were driving somewhere – the destination isn’t important to the story – and we were having a wonderful time together in the car.  My older daughter is smart and riotously funny, and she was in rare form that afternoon.  At one point, I feared I’d have to pull over because I was laughing so much I questioned my fitness behind the wheel.

It was one of many moments of amiable companionship and loving ease that I share with my daughters, and it was glorious.

It occurred to me then, and solidified into a much more substantial realization not too long after, that I’ve won.  I did it.  I’ve succeeded in the one thing that I swore to the Universe that I would do.

I’ve been a good mother.

When I was Punk’s age, I had just about reached the edge of the cliff that my parents had been driving me toward my whole life.  When I was just a few months older than Punk is now, I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror with a full bottle of my father’s Valium, doing the calculations for how to stagger the ingestion of the pills for maximum effect and minimum discomfort.

I didn’t choose that path for a couple of reasons; chief among them were that a.) I didn’t want the bastards to win and b.) I would disappoint the people in my life – namely my adopted mother and grandmother – who genuinely loved me.  That kind of love was entirely absent from my household, though, and I understood that evening that it was either them or me, and it wasn’t going to be them.  The next morning, I began a hunt for an attorney who could execute an emancipation order to get me out of that house.  It was the best thing I had ever done in my life to that point, and I regret nothing.

Despite the fact that I had terrible models for parenting, I think the experience of growing up in the environment I did helped to make me the kind of mother I’ve become.  I knew exactly what I DIDN’T want to be, how I WOULDN’T speak to or treat my children, and what I REFUSED to allow in my relationships with my kids.

The end result?  I’ve got two healthy, beautiful, self-confident, funny, brilliant daughters.  I enjoy spending time with them, and they with me (most of the time; they are teenagers, after all).  We talk openly and honestly – and often.  They know they can confide anything in me and that I will help them in whatever way I can.  I am warm and affectionate to them, I praise them every chance I get, I ask their opinions, and I respect them for the people they are.  I’m doing everything my own parents didn’t, and I’m happier at home than they ever were.  What’s more, I’m going to enjoy a long and healthy relationship with my kids for the rest of our lives.

Parenting.  I’m doing it right.

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Filed under celebration, critical thinking, doing my duty, family matters, general kid stuff, Home and Family, messages from the Universe, Parenting, remembering, ruminating, this is NOT a drill

Happy Father’s Day

My husband turned out to be a far better father than I was expecting, and I was expecting a lot.


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Quick Hit: Punk is FUNNY

My older daughter isn’t exactly a stellar student.

It’s not that she’s not frickin’ brilliant; she is. She’s just unskilled at summoning the focus and motivation to do well in school. She falls into the category of my biggest complaint about most of my students; they were (and will be) perfectly capable of acing my classes if they’d only do the frickin’ work so I can PROVE that they’re brilliant.

Anyway, this happened today:

We got a letter addressed to “the parents of Punkin Chili” from the high school. I announce this as I’m going through the pile, and Punk says, “shit.”

Clearly, she has an unpleasant expectation of what the letter contains.

I open the letter, and the first word I see is “Congratulations!” It seems our kid “has been selected by the faculty to receive an award for academic achievement for the 2012/2013 school year.”

Punk’s response?

What?! There’s GOT to be a mistake…”

I nearly peed myself.

We find out what the award is on Friday at 1:00. Clear your calendar.

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Filed under funniness, general kid stuff, Home and Family, kid cuteness, Parenting

Birthday Love: Sweet Sixteen Edition

Punkin’ Pie turns 16 today.

Auntie and newborn PunkinAuntie with baby Punk, 16 years ago.

My older daughter is a force of nature.

She is brilliant.  Though her grades don’t always reflect it, she is sharp and observant and able to draw complex conclusions.  I’m often impressed by her insight.

Punk is a riot.  She makes me laugh all the time (even over text messages); her timing and her sense of the ironic are impeccable.

My daughter is stunningly beautiful.  I know all mothers are supposed to think that their daughters are pretty, but anyone who knows Punk in real life will tell you that I’m not exaggerating when I say that she’s a knockout.  She’s coming into her own style, too, and though I don’t always love everything she wears, more often than not, I’m complimenting rather than criticizing.

Punkin is loving and sensitive.  She’s got a keen sense of justice (I wonder where she got that!) and is able to read the mood of a situation with a kind of empathic skill.  She’s a good friend and she loves with her whole being.

I am so deeply proud of this amazing young woman, and am incredibly grateful that we can share the kind of relationship that I was unable to have with my own mother.  That, perhaps more than anything else, is what I celebrate with each passing year; she and I continue to love one another with a kind of dynamic and flexible energy that accommodates both our needs.  Punk vibrates at a frequency compatible with mine, and I’m grateful, every day, for being able to share in her life.

IMG_2497Baby Punk, +/- 1 week.  Note the creases above her nose; she looked EXACTLY like Mr. Chili when she was born, so much so that the nurse tending her looked at the baby, looked at my husband, looked back at the baby, looked back at my husband and said, simply, “Wow.”

Happy birthday, Punkin’ Pie.  I love you, love you.


Filed under admiration, celebration, family matters, general kid stuff, holiday, Home and Family, kid cuteness, love notes, Parenting, ruminating, this is NOT a drill

Memorial Monday

This is how I honor the fallen:

I teach young people to think critically, to solve problems collaboratively, to be champions for social justice, and to be morally and constitutionally opposed to violent conflict resolution.  I promote education everywhere and in any way I can.

I do everything I can to promote generosity, compassion, justice, and kindness in my own sphere.

I’m raising children who are critical thinkers, who are unafraid to show others decency and understanding, and to whom war is unacceptable.

I’m participatory in my political system.  I read.  I listen.  I pay attention.  I advocate for and support the causes that have at their core a humanist and compassionate mission.

I yearn for a time in our future when armed conflict will be not only unacceptable, but unnecessary.  I am not so naive as to believe that such a thing will happen in my lifetime (in fact, it often feels as though we’re heading gleefully in the opposite direction of that goal), but I am hopeful that, with education and compassion, we’ll someday figure out that we are inextricably connected to one another and dependent on each other for our mutual survival and comfort.  I’m doing what I can in this life to promote those ideals; I know it’s not enough, but it’s all I’ve got.


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Filed under admiration, celebration, Civics on Saturday, compassion and connection, critical thinking, doing my duty, family matters, holiday, Home and Family, ideas and opinions, memorials, messages from the Universe, Parenting, politics, ruminating, social issues, teaching, this is NOT a drill

Birthday Love

My beloved chosen daughter celebrates a trip around the sun today, and I get to write her a public love note.  Let me tell you about the baby of my heart:

• Sweet Pea is a being of light, but she doesn’t always recognize that.  The energy that she radiates, even when she’s struggling with her buoyancy, is of a sweet and ethereal kind.

• Every 20 or so steps she takes, she skips.  I don’t think she does it intentionally, either, which makes it all the more endearing.

• When I look at her face, I simultaneously see an adorable little girl and a singularly beautiful woman.

• Sweet Pea has a funny streak a mile wide.  She knows how to laugh, and to make me laugh alongside her.

• She’s a wicked thinker.  I sometimes feel a little bad about that – like me, she gets wound up about things that she thinks are important to get right that everyone seems to be getting wrong – but I’m confident that her ability to see the world critically is going to be much more a benefit than a hindrance.

• I have NO idea how to shop for her.  Her style is eclectic and entirely foreign to me, but she always manages to look cute (even when she’s wearing something that made me say “REALLY?!” when she pulled it out of the rack).

• Sweet Pea loves with all her heart.  She has moved right in to all our lives and now makes no distinction between us and her family of origin.  I cannot tell you how honored I am that this is true.

• Today is not only her birthday, but is also an important anniversary; we’re marking an entire year without any self-harm of any kind.  There are not words to say how proud I am of my daughter for finding her way out of her darkness, and how grateful I am for her continued and ever-present place in our lives.

I love you, Baby Girl.  Happy birthday, and many more.


Filed under celebration, compassion and connection, family matters, general kid stuff, holiday, Home and Family, kid cuteness, messages from the Universe, Parenting

Monday Musing: Raising an Empath

Bean is a sensitive kid.

Most of the time, that’s a good thing.  Her ability to tune in to the nuances of emotion and situation make her an amazingly astute critical thinker.  As a consequence of her awareness, she’s a fantastic friend who can offer up compassion or encouragement (or deliver a necessary kick in the rear) almost before it’s needed.  She radiates a kind of loving, matter-of-fact acceptance of people and circumstance that makes her approachable and wholly likable.

There’s a downside to being tapped in, though, and I think that Bean is starting to feel the effects of sending out more than she’s getting back.

She’s got one friend in particular who’s going through a really difficult patch right now, and Bean’s been spending a lot of her energy supporting (and worrying about) her.  I had to cut short last night’s visit with Sweet Pea and her family, in fact, when Bean called me up to the loft to look at a tumblr post her friend Iris had written about wanting to try to kill herself.  When phone calls to the girl’s parents didn’t get answered, we got in the car and drove over to her house.  When we arrived, Mom answered the door to tell us that she knew why we were there, that her husband was out chasing Iris down (she’d fled the house for the park in a fit of pique), and that she had no idea what to do next.  She warned Bean that Iris had been “furious” at her for “telling” (Bean had alerted her friend group to the threat, and they were “keeping Iris busy” on social media while we were trying to contact her grown-ups), and to expect her to be angry when she got back.  Bean was unfazed; she actually said, “she can scream and throw things for all I care.  She can tell me she hates my guts.  I just want to make sure she’s okay.”

When Iris and Dad returned, though, there was no yelling or throwing things.  Well, there sort of was; Iris took one look at Bean and threw herself into her arms.  I talked with Mom (having had some experience with this sort of thing with Sweet Pea, I felt qualified to offer some meaningful support) while Bean and Iris alternately talked and wept.  About half an hour later, after everyone felt a little safer and more centered, we took our leave.

On the way home, I suggested that maybe I should find someone who Bean can talk to about all of the heavy lifting she does for other people.  It’s good that she can be that source of energy, I told her, but she can’t expect to continue to be able to offer it if she doesn’t take care of HER energy, too.  She agreed, so this morning’s to-do list includes calling around for a recommendation for a good counselor.


Filed under admiration, compassion and connection, family matters, Home and Family, Parenting, ruminating, this is NOT a drill, Worries and Anxieties

Quick Hit: Mother’s Day

I was surprised today to come home from yoga class and find that my family had arranged a Mother’s Day celebration for me.

For me, Mother’s Day is one of those holidays; I understand the point of it, and I appreciate the sentiment, but I always felt like it was a bit forced.  The whole “Hallmark holiday” feel never really sat well with me, and though I brought my chosen mother and grandmother flowers every year on this day, that was about the extent of my acknowledgement of the holiday.  Given that attitude, I was never disappointed when a big deal wasn’t made in my household, either; a handmade card and an extra hug were always more than sufficient unto the day.

Today, though, I got a present!  My family noticed that the blender has been getting some regular use (the carafe for the thing is often in the dish drainer lately), so my husband got me one of these:


image credit

He says they’re reviewed very favorably, they’re much easier to clean than the blender, it’s easier to portion out a single serving in the cups that come with the thing than in the blender (even on really good days, I often end up with a serving and a half from the blender), AND it came with four cups, one for each of us – PERFECT!

Guess what we had for breakfast!


*Also?  I miss my mom and grandma.  Another reason I kind of dislike Mother’s Day is that it reminds me, in a kind of in-your-face way, that I’m a motherless daughter.  Blah.

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Filed under celebration, holiday, Home and Family, My husband rocks!, my oh-so-exciting life, Parenting

Quick Hit: This is Hard

Please; watch this.


I am a motherless daughter.  I cannot begin to fathom what it would feel like to be a daughterless mother.  Please, go here and sign the card for the mothers whose babies can’t bring them cold cereal, burned toast, a handmade card and a glass full of dandelions in bed on Sunday morning.


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Filed under compassion and connection, doing my duty, family matters, frustrations, Home and Family, love notes, memorials, messages from the Universe, on death and dying, Parenting, ruminating, social issues, this is NOT a drill, Worries and Anxieties

March Madness #16: What’s My Greatest Accomplishment?

I’m going to combine my posts for today.  My greatest accomplishment also happens to be one of the people I’m celebrating today.

My Bean turns 14 at about quarter past two this afternoon.


Bean in sheets



I count as my greatest accomplishment the loving, raising, and teaching of two beautiful daughters, and of having a hand in the same for the daughter of my heart.  All three of these young women are growing into adults that I am going to be proud to know, and I take no small amount of pride in knowing that the love and guidance I have given them is going to ripple out far through space and time.

Here’s Bean’s birthday love:

* My youngest daughter is wicked smart.  She continues to surprise me with her insight and observation, though by now I should be used to it.

* Bean is a fantastic friend.  She is compassionate, thoughtful, generous, and kind.

* Bean has a very wide emotional streak.  I sometimes worry that she feels things too acutely, but she’s figuring out how to manage that.

* Lest you think she’s perfect, my Bean is TERRIBLE at making plans, she’s forgetful, and she’s really kinda messy.

* I remember, the night before Bean was born, weeping over Punkin in her crib.  When my husband came in to ask me what was wrong, I told him that he’d better love the baby we were going to have, because I wasn’t convinced that I could ever love another being as much as I loved Punk. I was wrong. Bean expanded my heart and moved right in, and we have been in companionable intimacy ever since.

I love you, Beanie.  Here’s to another glorious year.


Filed under admiration, celebration, kid cuteness, love notes, Parenting