It’s 151,” he said, his voice tense and perplexed. “What does that mean?”


I could barely hear him. I felt like I was falling down a black hole. My vision was clouding in at the edges. I couldn’t take a full breath. The bedroom was dimly lit and quiet. A large bed occupied most of the real estate, but there was a small white crib by the window and a large overstuffed white glider in the corner of the room. It would have seemed so peaceful, a mother and baby rocking quietly in the corner of a hushed room, but the reality was much harsher, a bit like the color on the walls, a yellowish beige that was a poor choice for a small room with so little natural light. A color that, finally, on the Fourth of July weekend, I painted over in a fit of insanity, stepping over piles of laundry and screaming children with old gelato containers filled with cool white paint, painting one corner, one wall, one coat at a time, while Jim looked on, smiling bemusedly, knowing to say nothing, not even to offer to help. There is no stopping me once I fixate on something. He knew that going in. 


That night, though, the walls were still that yellowish beige. I felt on the verge of tears, or vomit, or probably both, the weight of my sweet babe at my breast the only thing keeping me tethered to the earth. 


One hundred and fifty one. I had already convinced myself that she had it. She had used the bathroom six times that afternoon. She was hungry constantly. I was envisioning the drive to the hospital, the terror on her face when it was time for the first of a lifetime of shots. It was over. My life, as I knew it, was over. 


It was late. The girls were in bed. Jim and I had been talking in hushed whispers about our concerns, until we couldn’t bear it any longer. He crept into their room and pricked her finger while she slept without waking her, a skill we had become very adept at over the past 3 months, but instead of the bottom bunk where our sweet P slept, he reached into the top, to test O, our five year old. I was sitting in the glider, nursing a three month old Q and wondering how I could leave. Leave all of it, all of them. 


Being P’s pancreas had been hard and will continue to be, but with O, my willful, challenging, brilliant, sensitive six year old, it would be impossible. We already struggled to understand each other, and starting tomorrow, I imagined the six shots a day, not to mention the obsessive carb counting and blood checks, and at least a decade of being in constant struggle over what she put in her body and when, followed by a lifetime of worry and loss of control. I couldn’t do it. It was more than I could bear. 


“Kate,” he called to me. “Kate, what does that mean?”


“Nothing. It means nothing. It’s high, but not high enough to diagnose. We’ll check her fasting level in the morning. Set an alarm, so we can do it before she wakes up.” I paused. “Jim,” I said finally, “I want to run away.”


“I know,” he said softly. 


He came over and gently kissed my forehead before he headed out to walk the dog. “I’ll be right back,” he whispered. 


The Amex had the highest limit. There were no carseats in the black station wagon. I could finish nursing the baby to sleep, and leave the powdered formula they gave us at the hospital on the kitchen counter. He had never taken a bottle before, but he would get hungry and figure it out. I could drive. I could go north. I could go south. I could follow the coast until I felt like stopping. Jim is the better parent anyway, more patient, more empathetic, more nurturing.  I’m not really cut out for this. I'm hard and demanding. I sometimes miss the subtleties that accompany normal human emotion. I could just drive into the night, roll down the windows and crank the radio, drive until I felt like coming back, if I felt like coming back. Just walk into the night, find my flip flops by the back door, and never look back, at least, until looking back felt safe again. 


An insistent buzzing from my phone snapped me out of my anxiety-induced musings. P was going low. I replied quickly to a concerned text from Jim, “I’m on it.” 


I checked her monitor, 67 and going down. Shit. Shit. Shit. 


I eased the baby off my breast and down into the crib. He had been asleep for a while. My holding him was more for my comfort than his. 


My eyes burn in the harsh light of the kitchen, as I measure an exact half cup of milk and pour it into a cup with a straw. Back in the dark of the girls’ room, I feel my way to the lower bunk. I prop her up on my arm, her body floppy and her breath sweet. I put the straw to her lips and she drinks, almost still completely asleep, a random cup of milk in the night is her new normal. It requires no explanation.  It is certainly better than the random needle in the middle of the night that awakens her all too often. She finishes, smiles softly and cuddles into the crook of my arm and settles back into a deep sleep. O rustles in her bed above us, mumbling something about the Mariana Trench.

P begins to snore softly. I breathe her in. This is my life and I am home. 


Love Makes Us Brave

O: That butterfly is just like me. She was brave, for a moment.

We were walking, just the two of us. It was quiet and calm. She even held my hand. Jim had run ahead with Q, strapped to his chest in a wrap, and P, riding on his hip. They were rushing off the beach to check P's sugar and get her a snack. O and I stayed behind to re-spool the kite string and gather up the sand toys. Along the path, on the way back to the beach house, I spotted a butterfly, not a monarch like we typically see, but a shiny black one with shimmering blue tear drops on it's wings. She landed on a shrub. Without thinking, I reached out slowly, placing my finger on the leaf in front of her. She didn't fly away, like I expected. Instead, she placed her front legs on my finger. I held my breath. As she moved her nonexistent weight off of the leaf and onto my finger, something in the air shifted and she fluttered away. That's when O said it. It broke my heart a little, even if at the time, I could not explain why. Brave, for a moment.

I've always wondered if O knows how much I love her, ever since she was a tiny baby. I would hold her for hours, singing and whispering and bouncing, but she would finally calm when I put her down. I would scoop her up and swing her into my arms as a toddler, and my fast movements would scare her, rather than delight her. She's always been cautious, slow to warm, risk averse. I tell her, daily, hourly, how I see her, and how what I see amazes me, but, our signals have always seemed crossed. The way I show love doesn't seem to match the way she receives love. This mismatch will be one of the great works of my life, learning to show her love in a way that she perceives as love, learning and relearning her love language. It is tough, loving someone like that, but it must be even tougher to be loved like that, never quite sure how to respond.  I know she feels uncertain a lot of the time. 

There are glimpses, moments when we connect, share a laugh, a look. She will, occasionally, sit so close to me that we almost touch. I can feel the warmth of her body next to me. I hold my breath. Then, like the butterfly, she's off again. Brave, for a moment, but loved, oh my sweet girl, loved for a lifetime. No matter what. I will never stop trying. 

P: Momma, my legs is tired of pokes. How about my belly?

K: Where ever you want, my love. How'd you get to be so brave?

P: Because you love me. I'm brave cause you love me with your whole heart and all your blood and even your bones. Dat makes me brave.

We were in my bedroom. I had prepped the half unit of insulin in the kitchen and was coming to administer one of her 4-6 daily shots. My question was rhetorical, just chatter. She put her hands on my cheeks, and pulled my face close, her breath warm and sweet. Her answer hit me in the gut like a sucker punch. Because you love me. At three, she said this frankly, matter-of-fact, and she's right. I do love her with my whole heart and all my blood and even my bones, and she knows. Her certainty that she is loved is why she can face the pokes and the needles and the blood in a way that breaks my heart into thousands of little pieces and then glues them back together again with pride. Love makes her brave. 

 Later on that day, I was driving down Pico, heading home from swim lessons. The day had rendered all three of them exhausted and quiet. O was staring out the window, lost in thought. P was singing softly to herself, something about corn horns (unicorns, but don't you dare tell her that is what they are really called). Q was snoring, just like his dad. As we inched our way home, my thoughts wandered back to the morning's conversation. My love makes her brave. That's when I realized that loving them, that's what makes me brave. It caught up with me in that moment, all of it, the stress, the worry, the sleepless nights, the needles, the scary lows, the hoping, the balancing, the pain of not being able to fix it, the fear of making the wrong call, the hurt that I have to inflict day after day. Tears streamed down my face. I am brave enough to face all of it and more, every day, because I love them. I love them with my whole heart, and my blood, and even my bones every minute of every day. Love makes us brave. 





You guys, Q is awesome. There is some third-baby-magic stuff happening over here. He eats when he is hungry. He sleeps when he is tired. He laughs so hard he gives himself the hiccups, and then his hiccups make him laugh, which makes me laugh and pretty soon the two of us are laughing so hard that we look like crazy people. His pancreas works, for now (more on that later). He is always happy to see me. His needs are concrete and his problems are solvable. I swear, he understands me in a way I have never been understood before. He is my buddy, my buddy who just wants to nap and cuddle. It is so much good, an island of good in a rough sea of big, hard things, a respite that I so desperately need. 


His birth was fast and furious and before T1D, I would have had a lot to say about it. I might have more to say later, but in the weeks that followed, the play-by-play of November 19th has grown fuzzy and inconsequential. I do remember that one minute I was waddling down the hallway being admitted and the next minute (no, but really, like the next minute), he was here, ushered into this world by an indomitable midwife named Felicia, who at the moment of truth, locked eyes with me, told me to close my mouth and bear down. He weighed over 9lbs and other than some initial issues with low blood sugar (more on that later) was the picture of health. In the past three and half months he has grown and bloomed into the most reasonable human I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I am so glad that he is here. 

New Normal, Part One: We Knew

We knew. On some level, we knew months ago that something was wrong. Jim and I had even talked specifically about it, one night on the couch, after she had wet her bed, again.  I believe my exact words were, "Shit, man. That would suck," but it couldn't be that. 

I was 37 weeks pregnant, and she couldn't have it. I was being a hypersensitive mom. I wasn't sure what the exact odds were, but they were small, so it wasn't that. It was no big deal. She was drinking more water, but so what. We all were. It was hot, the hottest October and November on record. She was wetting the bed, but she's three. Three year olds wet the bed occasionally, even ones who have been out of diapers for over a year. She had lost a little bit of weight, maybe. I couldn't be sure. I don't regularly weigh my three year old. She was melting down at the smallest thing, dissolving into hysterics, but again, she's three, with a new sibling on the way. I could explain it all away, but I knew. 

Two days before dx. 

Two days before dx. 

The day we came home from the hospital with Q (more on that here) I called and made a doctor's appointment, nothing urgent, just a standard check-up. She was months overdue for her 3 year old visit any way. I would ask the pediatrician to do a urine analysis. P would pee in a cup. We'd all have a good laugh about that. Our kindly pediatrician would smile at my overabundance of caution. I would be wrong and I would feel better. I was so ready to be wrong. 

We ended up having Q's two week visit and P's check up on the same day. I took Q in the morning and Jim was going to run P back in the afternoon, while I did after school pick up for O. It would be fine that I wasn't there, because nothing was wrong. Repeat after me: nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong. She was a happy, active three year old, who was adjusting to a new baby in the house. Jim called from the appointment and told me the pediatrician had told him the urine analysis looked odd, but they often get strange results from the in-office test. He would send it to the lab and call us later with the results. She looked fine to him. He sent Jim home with a packet of info on bedwetting and another one on how to help kids adjust to a new baby. I didn't feel better. 

That evening, after everyone was fast asleep, we sat on the couch waiting. I couldn't tell you what we were waiting for, but we both felt heavy and expectant. Jim decided to try to log on to P's online medical record to see if the lab results were in.  When we saw that her ketones were over 80, we knew. We knew we'd be going to the hospital soon. We knew we were in for a lifetime of blood tests, needles, and endocrinologists. We knew this was T1D. We knew because, over the past month, we had both been separately researching and reading about what happens after a T1D diagnosis, because somewhere inside of us, we both already knew. I looked up at Jim and said, "I can't go. They are going to need to keep her for a few days, and I can't go." He just held me, the same way I knew he would hold her. 

Within twenty minutes of Jim finding the lab results online, P's pediatrician called. Within the hour, Jim and P were on the way to the hospital. They had a room ready for her and the charge nurse knew we were coming, no emergency room, no wait. (Shout out to Kaiser) Watching Jim pull out of the driveway to take one of my babies to the hospital was one of the worst moments of my life, but I was only two weeks postpartum and Q wasn't allowed at the hospital over night. After they left, I ugly cried and cleaned. 

In the following weeks there has been a fair amount of ugly crying, it sneaks up on me sometimes, and significantly less cleaning. We are on a pretty steep learning curve, but we are figuring it out, one poke, one reading, one syringe of insulin at at time. Jim and I are a great team, and I feel supremely lucky that we are doing this together. Somehow, in the middle of all of this, Q is a month old, Christmas happened, and we've laughed together more than we've cried. The rules about who sleeps in what bed are just about out the window, but who needs rules about silly things like that. Right about now, I need all the snuggling I can get. 

Two weeks after dx.

Two weeks after dx.

Still, not sure how today ends, but sure that we all end up together. 

A Parent's Love Letter to LA

Dear Los Angeles,

I'm sorry. I have spent the past four years lying about our relationship. I have spent the past four years threatening to leave you, rolling my eyes and bemoaning how hard it is to raise children in a place like this. I have spent the past four years dreaming of small towns and big back yards, but there is a reason we haven't pulled the trigger. 

I'm tired of pretending. I'm done complaining about the problems and the downside. I will never again claim to wish I lived in a small town, or on a farm.  I don't. I don't even want to live in the suburbs. I want to live right where we are, in LA. I want to live in this big, beautiful, bustling, sprawling city, with its pollution and crime and traffic, because the flip side, the diversity and the culture and the vibrancy, is so clearly worth it. My children won't have a bucolic childhood. We've chosen something different for our family. We have chosen Los Angeles and all of what comes with it. 

But now that I have confessed my undying devotion, can we talk about the traffic?

Love Always,

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. 

One Step at a Time

At the beginning of the summer, we bought O a pair of purple Saltwaters. She loved them on sight. She wore them out of the store. Every day that she has worn shoes this summer, she has worn these shiny purple leather sandals. For those of you unfamiliar with Saltwater Sandals, and you shouldn't be because they are the best, they have an old-fashioned buckle around the ankle, the kind with the little metal frame and the little metal post, like the world's tiniest belt buckle. O very quickly realized she could slip the ankle strap of her new favorite purple shoes over her heel, thus removing them independently. About two weeks ago, after a frustrated ten minutes, she managed to undo the buckles independently, once the shoes were already off of her foot. Her current battle is the refastening of that tricky buckle with the strap around her ankle.

O, our neighbor Belle, and those ubiquitous purple Saltwaters

O, our neighbor Belle, and those ubiquitous purple Saltwaters

As I stand there, breathing deeply, trying to remember that the important thing is not how fast we can get to the grocery store, but rather her sense of accomplishment at completing this task, coaching her through the buckle's trickery, I hear myself saying, "That's it. One step at a time. Thread the strap through, before you put the post in the hole," on a loop, as calm as I can manage. My inside-self is cursing whoever created this buckle and placed it on the outside of  this tiny shoe, in a place nearly impossible for preschool-level fine-motor skills to manage. My inside-self is leaping and jumping and my fingers are itching to take the shoe from her hand and cram the sandal on her foot myself, but somehow, hearing myself say, "one step at a time," has begun to resonate. Sometimes she buckles them, and sometimes she doesn't. 

I'm trying to slow down, for them and for me. I am trying not to rush them through their steps, to give them the space and the grace to take them one at a time, on their own terms, at their own pace.

I am learning the value of focus and patience in my own work. I am trying to tackle the thing that is in front of me with as much focus and determination as O has for that tiny purple shoe, one step at a time. 

A Glimpse of Peace

Every now and then, I get these glimpses of peace.

It used to only happen when they were both asleep. At night, after they had both nodded off, I would breathe in the silence of the house, content that they were both right where they belonged, safe and dreaming.

Then, it started happening when one of them was sleeping, or at school, or with a grandparent. O would become engrossed with some made-up play that didn't require my narration, or P would climb into my lap, content to silently twirl a piece of my hair around her tiny finger. 

But now, and only very recently, it is happening when they are both awake. The moments are fleeting and mercurial. The slightest noise or distraction can upset them. But with increasing frequency, there is peace in my house. Sometimes, they find a way to play together. Sometimes, they are playing separately, side by side, but lost to each other in a world of imagination. Once, I even discovered O using a picture book to tell P a story, but a heated debate about who should turn the page quickly ended that and resulted in a torn book, pulled hair, and hurt feelings. 

Glimpses of peace. I'll take it. 

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. 

Sam's Story

O: I don't like his dog slobber, but I love him anyway.

When I was 19, I did a very dumb thing. Actually, when I was 19, I did quite a few dumb things, but that is for another time and place. I was living in a guest house in LA, and I got a dog, not a tiny, fit-in-your-purse kind of dog, but a real, honest-to-goodness, archetypal dog. I got him from a breeder (see, I warned you, very very dumb).  He was the last in the litter and I drove my beat-up old mustang all the way to Chatsworth "just to look," and came home with a brown-eyed, brown-nosed, very brown dog, with a white diamond on his chest and the cutest pink puppy belly ever. He puked on me on the ride home. 

I was young and short-sighted, and getting a dog was really dumb. I had a busy, unreliable schedule. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. Sam, Yahoo!, and I figured it out.  I taught Sam to sit, fetch, and potty outside. Sam taught me responsibility, the importance of showing up, and what unconditional love could feel like. Because of Sam, I didn't go to the next bar. I needed to go home to walk him. Because of Sam, I didn't go on that last minute, ill-conceived trip to Vegas. Because of Sam, when my life began to feel out of control, when I was self-isolating and being self-destructive, I still had to get out of bed and go buy dog food, and sometimes, that made all the difference. Sam is, without a doubt, the best dumb thing I've ever done. 

Somewhere along the way, I met Jim. We were working together and maintaining a strictly professional relationship. According to Jim, he first realized he was interested in me romantically when he caught himself wondering whether or not Sam would like him.  At this point, Sam has been my and Jim's dog longer than he was just mine, but I still remind him, Sam was mine first. Jim thinks, cosmically, I got Sam for him, and he might be right. 

It never dawned on me, that hot day in Chatsworth, that I was getting my children's first dog. Of course, a little research on the lifespan of a chocolate lab and a little math would have lead me to that possibility, but like I said before, shortsighted. I remember the night we brought O home from the hospital. I was so worried about how my gentle giant would react to this new tiny person in our home. He sniffed her and licked her and she was instantly his, part of our pack. That first night he whimpered anxiously whenever she cried, and ran from her crib to our feet and back again.  Now, he sleeps at the foot of P's toddler bed when she is restless at bedtime. He puts up with their clumsy hugs, eye pokes, and ear pulls. He endures the noise and the chaos of our small home, full of small people. In return, we give him as much love as we can muster and all of the food that gets dropped on the floor. 

And now he is 12, geriatric for a dog of his size. He doesn't jump on the bed anymore and I think his hearing is going, or perhaps just becoming more selective. He'll still chase a tennis ball until his paws are bloody and the other day, out of nowhere, he jumped straight up on to a three foot wall from a standing position. Some days, he still looks like a puppy. Some days, the reality of losing him hits me like a punch in the gut.  Sam and I have been together for a long time. 

Sometimes, by being sensible, we talk ourselves out of some of life's biggest joys.  Sam is my reminder to do dumb things, to take big risks. You never know how they'll play out, and sometimes, they are so very worth it.