The Tale of the Small House

I often have this dream, where we live exactly where we live, but suddenly, after years of living here, I find a door or an archway or an opening into a new space. Sometimes it is an extra room and sometimes it is a garden. At first, it is a relief. I start to imagine what this new space will mean for us. Inevitably, I find the extra room is attached to a busy bank lobby separated only by curtains, or the garden is overrun with terrible, wild beasts. Even in my dreams, more space isn't really the answer. 

Love grows in a small house.

Love grows in a small house.

We live in a small house. We live in a small house in a large city with big housing problem. I can't tell you our square-footage, because I don't know it, but it is small. It's not Tiny House small, but you get the idea. 

The forest

The forest

We have two small bedrooms and one impossibly small bathroom, and yet, somehow, all five beating hearts manage to squeeze their way into it, en masse, at least once a day. Ah, the joys of family togetherness. 

O cookin' on the the O'Keefe 

O cookin' on the the O'Keefe 

There are advantages. I love my antique O'Keefe & Merritt stove more that I hate not having a dishwasher. While I hate our impossible closet situation, I love that my kitchen door opens up to some outside space with trees and room to play. They call it "the forest" and while our more rural friends would be right to laugh at them, it warms my heart, when on a cloudy afternoon, they insist on flashlights before entering its leafy depths. I love the vintage details and the craftsmanship of old construction and the way the hardwood floors creak in only predictable places. I love having a parking spot right outside my kitchen door and having a garage in which I can hide Christmas decorations, old paperbacks and my shame. I love it here: the neighborhood, my neighbors, Jim's 2.5 mile commute. Living here means he is home before 6:00pm almost every night. I especially love that. 

Living within earshot of my children has shaped the way I parent. We never had a baby monitor. There was no need. We are on top of each other almost all the time. We chuckle when O says she is afraid to be alone at night, with only one wall to separate us at all times. 

It takes organization. It takes discipline. It takes patience and compassion, and maybe I'm just rationalizing, but I really believe that love grows in a small house, or at least, ours has. 

Project Family Dinner: Week Two Update, the bye week

The Menu(ish)

1. Leftovers

2. Box Mac & Cheese

3. Scrambled Eggs

4. Taco Truck

5. Thai Delivery

so this is what failure feels like

so this is what failure feels like

The Highlights

We found a new Thai place in our neighborhood that we kind of like. 

The Missteps

We meal-planned on Sunday, but then the day got away from us. We ended up not making it to the grocery store. We foraged through the fridge and cupboard and made our way through Monday and Tuesday, and by the time we got to Wednesday it just felt futile, so we threw up our hands and took a bye week. 

The Takeaway 

Week two was a step backwards. Somewhere in the middle of it all O even mentioned that she  missed the dinners from the week before. It was nice for her to notice the difference, and for me it was nice to have the contrast. It made it very clear why this project is so important for our family. The whole week felt more chaotic and haphazard without our coming together in the evening for that shared meal. 

Clearly, the Sunday shop and some of the advance meal prep is essential. If we miss the window, the week starts off at 100mph and it is too hard to catch up.

But man, that curry was good. No regrets. On to the next.

Check in soon for Project Family Dinner: Week Three Update, back on the wagon!

Bedtime: the Battle and the War

O: I'm never going to sleep. I'm going to be awake forever. You can't make me sleep and I won't.

Tonight's bedtime was epic. It was a toy-throwing, tantrum-filled, they-are-lucky-that-they-are-cute, kind of bedtime.  It was the kind of bedtime where there had to be ice in the water, where P had to go potty three separate times, where we switched pajamas and rubbed lotion on their feet. It was the kind of bedtime where you wonder what you are doing wrong. (Best guess-everything)

It was the kind of bedtime that made me want a glass of wine.

I remember watching the sitcoms of my childhood, where parents happily bundled the adorable children off to bed: a story book, a kiss on the forehead, tucked in tight, done. That is not what it looks like over here. Maybe at some point, it will, but not now. Right now, it's a battle or maybe a war. Some nights we make ground, and feel like we might be winning. Tonight was not one of those nights.

Tomorrow will be different, maybe better, maybe worse, but they are asleep, for now. 

Somebody, send help, or maybe just more wine. 


Missing Deadlines

I write these books. Books is generous, or perhaps, write is generous. I assemble these books for my daughters' birthdays. They are full of photos from the previous year and accompanied by a story. Although, last year, for O's third birthday, I wimped out and did an alphabet book.  A is for Absolutely Overwhelmed.

Now, O's fourth birthday has come and gone and I sit staring at the computer screen with P's second birthday standing menacingly over my shoulder. I am two books past deadline. I understand that it's not a real deadline, not a publisher's-breathing-down-your-neck deadline, but rather a self-imposed, pretending-to-have-your-shit-together deadline. And I do, mostly, have my shit together. But the 26th of April has come and gone, and not only is O's 4th book not here, it's not even written. I guess my fear is that it will become too easy not to do it, that I will fall so far behind and the backlog will become insurmountable, and they'll have these two or three lovely memories from their early life, and not the eighteen-volume set I had envisioned, kind of like that baby book that is 1/3 filled out (thanks a lot Mom and Dad). And maybe it's just that, it starts to feel like another failure, and what is modern parenting, if not a series of real or imagined failures?

So this time, I've chosen not to fail, real or imagined. I've chosen to write that book, in spite of being tired, in spite of feeling uninspired, in spite of being so far past my self-imposed deadline, and in spite of the inevitability of next year's book's being due in nine months. I want them to have that record, that eighteen-volume set, and gosh darn it, I need a win. 

The first page

The first page

The upside is, after an hour or so of nonjudgmental typing, I'm about halfway done. Jim assures me the story is charming and the layout is attractive. I might even believe him tomorrow, but hey, worst case scenario, it will be the Superman IV of an eighteen-part series. 

We aren't failing. We may be succeeding in a way that is different than we imagined, but we aren't failing. Today, O told me she thought the most important thing is to be kind. That feels like a win. 

Perfection: The Enemy of Action

O: I crumbled it up because it was no good.  It was broken because I made a mistake.

O has been trying to write her name. At first, she sat happily at the table scrawling her O followed by other various squiggles, lines, and shapes. Unprompted, she asked me to write the letters out on a piece of paper so that she could practice the letters that aren't O. Within minutes, she had crumpled up the paper, frustrated that her letters weren't straight and even, like mine, angry that her V looked like a mountain and not an upside down mountain, mad that she had to struggle through imperfect before she could have perfection. As I sat there with her, explaining hard work, struggle, and the beauty that lies in imperfection, I felt like a hypocrite. 


I have been stalled. My computer is filled with half-written blog posts and titles. It is not the first time I have given up on something when I figured out I couldn't do it perfectly. It is kind of my MO. Better to give up and quit then to try and fail.  But there is nothing that puts your own behavior in more stark relief than seeing your own bad habits acted out by your children.  

So, I am recommitting myself to hard work. I will write even when it feels like a struggle. I will also, and this is the hard one for me, look for that beauty that hides in the cracks of imperfection, and when I find it, I'll be sure to share.