Tag Archives: parenting

Tina Fey: A Prayer for her Daughter

This bit of writing brilliance by Tina Fey had me laughing and crying at the same time.  I think that’s the definition, in fact, of what writers want to achieve on the page.  May you, then, laugh cry.  At the end of this prayer, I have added my own:

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Amen.

From her new book.

…and now a word from me on this terrifying subject:

Laura Munson here, Lord.  I’m with Tina.  And heck, Tina’s got babies.  I’ve got a fifteen year old, and I can tell You (well You already know this, but for what it’s worth) I’ve been called a lot worse than a Bitch in front of Hollister.  And that’s AFTER I went against everything I believe in and bought her the hundred dollar jeans and the sweatshirt with the word HOLLISTER across it and braved the foul piped-in perfume and the drum-beat-amuk hip hop and got busted looking too long at the ten foot sixteen year old’s abs on the wall.  By her.  But Lord, here is where I know that I must forgive…because in all honesty, I’m sure I’m a pain in her ass.  I mean, how many other mothers out there make their daughters read up on the history of Hollister, and Abercrombie too, to see what their corporate ethics read like before they go around being walking billboards for slave labor in India, for instance?  I probably deserve what she called me.  Just like I deserved all those Necker Booters Tina’s talking about– shit leaking from neck to boots.  I mean afterall, I DID whack her in the cheek that time she bit my nipple with alligator force in one of our placid nursing sessions on the front porch swing.  So the neighbors probably saw.  And I did once bite her on the cheek when she screamed in my ear, back arched, for some reason I can’t remember but I think it had to do with throwing my cell ph0ne into the toilet.  Heck, at least I didn’t shake her.  All I did was give her a little mother bear nip on those cheeks I love so to kiss.  It’s her fault that she bruises like that and that she had to miss nursery school the next day due to the mouth shaped indigo on her face.  Isn’t it?

My prayer, God, is I guess…really more of a confession and a call for absolution.  I haven’t always been the best mother.  Yes, I cut those grapes.  And yes I lovingly cleaned those Necker Booters.  And sang with her every night and talked about You and the moon and the cosmos and wonder and awe and the infinite possibilities of who she was and who she can become…but I fucked up too.  A lot.  And now she’s fifteen, and she’s taller than I am and has elegant sentence structure and the fire to match my own.  I taught her only too well in this regard.  I tell her that she’s a natural for Speech and Debate.  She says she’s shy.  I can tell You:  she isn’t shy.  Not around her mother anyway.  So really, I guess, this is a prayer for myself.  Tina, I’ve got the baton in my hand and I’m out here in front of you.  Here to say that when you win that next Emmy or write that next bestselling book or write, direct, and star in a movie, she’s gonna find a way to reduce your deserved pride into dust.  She’ll say things to you like, “it’s not like you solved world peace or anything.  It’s not like you got Bin Laden.”  She’ll be standing at your door while you’re on a conference call with the top guns of NBC pitching them a new pilot in your home office with the Do Not Disturb sign on your closed door, and she’ll fling open the door with a piece of Nutella-slathered toast and say, loudly, “you can’t even remember dog food or milk?  Or butter?” and then slam the door shut, so that she sort of derails your pitch:  you’re not pitching a comedy this time– it’s a drama, afterall, about the prayers of mothers for their babies.  All that hope.  You’re taking a break from comedy, in fact.  Or are you. 

I pray then, Lord, for a sense of humor when I ask her to apply her biceps to putting the hot tub cover back on since my back is out.  And she says, “What’s your problem– it’s so light!”  And then from the kitchen sink I watch as she struggles with it (even though she’s stronger than I am because I gave up my gym membership so she could keep in shape all winter for soccer– while I sit in the rain and snow hours upon hours…on the soccer sidelines…not improving anything but my already flabby ass) and when she finally gets the hot tub cover on, she marches in and says, “God!  Why do you have to take the whole cover off?  Why can’t you just open it half way.  Like DAD!”  Please, in that case, God, (and do You notice how often she mentions You like You have some sort of alliance with her I don’t know about!  DO You???) remind me to not mention that my back is currently out as I spent the day weeding the garden since she complained, “God (see what I mean), our house is so disgusting I’m embarassed to have friends over!”  Please grant me the knowledge that this is just her job, this violent fledging.  She has to fledge.  It’s scary growing up and deep inside her, she knows it.  She’s about to go out in the world and get much worse than a flick or even a bite to the cheek.  She’s going to get the ass-slapping of her life, and it’s going to burn and bleed and crust over and break open and ooze and get Staf infected and lay her up for days on end in bed.  And she knows…I won’t be there to share whatever wisdom I may posess and love and stroke her hair and rub her back.  She’ll be very very far away from home.

So now, the prayer is for both of us.  May we both bleed just a little less than You prescribe.  May our dreams come alive without always having to learn the hard way.  May our pain be used for greatness.  May we posess a knowing faith in ourselves even when everybody else claims we aren’t good enough. May we remember to take walks in the rain.  Hours in bed with a good book.  And Advil when absolutely necessary.  Thank you, then, God…for Advil. 

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The Year My Mother Hit the Road

Family bike ride in Glacier National Park (photo credit Kelly Marchetti)

If you haven’t stepped into my house during the day, you wouldn’t know what it sounds like.  There is NPR on low in the kitchen, an occasional UPS delivery and thusly, the occasional sounds of a golden retriever and a black lab barking, gravel being rolled over by truck wheels.  Sometimes there’s the sound of a sump pump in the basement throbbing like a hospital breathing machine.  Sometimes rain gushing from gutters.  Sometimes errant flies caught between the window and its screens.  And from May to August, birds.  These sounds come and go and I am their only witness. 

If you walked into my home and I didn’t know you were here, you’d also hear the popcorn of my computer keyboard, right when it’s really popping there at the end, before it burns.  You’d be my witness.  You’d hear first and then see if you walked to the sound coming from the small room at the foot of the stairs, that I write.  All day.  And have since 1994 when I stopped working fulltime and became a fulltime writer.  I’d been writing inbetween jobs since 1988, but my steady writing life really began when we moved to Montana and my husband took a well-paying job running a brewery– which meant I finally had the time to put my total energy into finding the intersection of mind and heart and craft that is writing.  And then the babies came, but I still wrote during their naps and at night after they went to bed, and then when it was time for them to go to school, I had my days wide open again to write.  From 9:00 until 3:00, more or less, once first grade began for the last child.  That happened six years ago.  Since then, I’ve written and I’ve mothered. 

I get down and dirty with the tuna fish and the mayo and the deli meat and the peanut butter at 7:00 am, slicing apples and carrots and putting them into small waxpaper bags for school lunches.  I serve up French toast with warmed real maple syrup in yoga pants and a fleece and my hair in a scrunchie, trying to take advantage of the ten minute ride into school– everything always a teaching moment.  There’s a lot of philosophy and world religion and English 101 on those drives.  And then the popcorn pops all day. And then I return to the school at 3:00 to escort my children to their music lessons and sporting practices and games.  The “how are yous” from other parents are met with “I’m fine.  How are you?”  And the conversation wanders around in the field of parenting, sharing opinions and concern for local issues from the sidelines and parking lots that house our public lives.  But privately, I have another world with no witnesses save for flies and dogs. Privately, I write.

And then my dream came true.  I got a book published. And everything changed. I got to serve the popcorn.  And people ate it and wanted more.  And I went around the country serving it up in whopping portions.  It turns out, I make good popcorn.  And people paid me for my popcorn.  And then flew me around so I could serve up more of it.  And put me up in fancy hotels and drove me around in limos.  Man, I never even knew that my popcorn would really ever be eaten, much less eaten like that!  It was really really satisfying.  I’ve been told, my popcorn even has changed people’s lives.   (OK– I beat the shit out of that one.  Sorry Strunk and White. Outside of metaphor-land, I always burn the popcorn, for what it’s worth.)

Suffice it to say, I’ve been gone a LOT for a year or so.  Sometimes for two whole months.  At one point, I couldn’t remember what grade my son was in.  At another, I found out that my daughter had started Driver’s Ed.  Who wrote that check? Who signed that permission slip? The answer is:  my husband.  And it’s not like I wrote a book about a small tribe in Africa.  I wrote about writing.  I wrote about a hard time in our marriage.  I wrote about practicing what it is to live powerfully right there at your kitchen sink when the world tells you you’re a victim.  I wrote about lifelines– canning tomatoes with my children, digging carrots from my garden, picking huckleberries, learning how to breathe deeply…rather than exploding in pain and agony.  I wrote my way through this time to help myself and to help other people.  I went public with my deepest thoughts and emotions.  And even though it’s not really a book about marriage, let’s face it:  my husband was going through a major crisis of self, and I reported on what that looked like.  Not to expose him, or my children, but to expose me.  My book is about my journey– my committment to stop basing my happiness on things outside my control.  The publishing world, my marriage, all of it.  And somehow, the world wants to hear that message.  And somehow, my husband has the grace to know that our story is helping people, even though it’s no one’s first choice to be depicted in a time of personal crisis. 

When I am out of town, and even sometimes when I’m here and things are busy in this little room at the bottom of the stairs, here’s what that grace looks like:  he wakes up, gets down and dirty with tuna fish, mayo, deli meat…well you get the picture.  He signs the permission slips and writes the checks and drives the kids to school and has those conversations and picks them up and escorts them around to their after school activities.  He has those conversations with other parents in the parking lots and sidelines.  And on top of that, he works.  His work day is compacted because of it, like mine used to be.  And when I return from my travels, I can see it.  They are in a rhythm.  And it works.  I am not part of that rhythm.  I am so grateful for what he is doing in my absence and in honor of my dream come true.  He is the reason I can publicly be my book’s messenger. 

I will admit here that it’s also a haunting experience, re-entering my house and my family life and seeing how it has worked without me in it.  It’s like I’ve died and I’m looking from the afterlife into this farmhouse in Montana.  Wow, look at that– the windows got washed. The windows haven’t been washed in ten years! Gosh that’s a big pile of laundry. Has anybody fed the dogs? I’m not at all comfortable with my son going to that kid’s slumber party.  But these are not my calls to make when I am on the road.  I have to let go.  I am not home.  You relinquish a certain level of your parenthood when you travel for business or if you work late hours.  It’s like the opposite of sending your kid off to college.  YOU are in college, as it were.

I tell you all this because it matters to me that you know, if you too have suddenly catapulted out of your daily regime as a parent and are feeling…well, a little scared of what that means to your kids and spouse.  A little guilty.  A little overcome by the new rhythms of family.  I tell you this because I have compared notes now with plenty of working mothers and fathers whose work brings them far from home.  And I’m here to say that, as long as it’s not constant, as long as there is balance and regularity and a system in place that works…you are setting a GOOD example for your children.  You can have your parenthood and your job.  You can have your dreams come true in your field of work and still be a good parent.  If it happens quite suddenly…it can be a shock at first–for everyone in your family.  And there are conversations that need to happen.  There may well be abandonment issues that need to be worked out with a therapist.  I check in with my kids about this regularly.  I want them to know that I am not choosing my work over them.  But rather that work is part of life.  Knowing them, they will work hard too, and hopefully it will be doing something they love and hopefully the world will receive them into it and hold them up to their best selves.  That’s what I’m trying to do with my life.  Be my best self.  Which means that sometimes, I have to leave my family and hit the road. 

So to my family, thank you.  Thank you thank you thank you.  And yep– your mother’s back.  Brush your teeth.  Don’t slouch.  Take off your hat at the dinner table.  And no, you can’t go to that kid’s slumber party.  And to my husband, thank you for marrying me as the woman I am, and not only the mother that I am.  But p.s. I don’t do windows. Way to raise the bar! I love you.

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For Mother’s Day

For all the mothers out there, this is for you, but especially for mine.

From my Huffington Post blog

My mother always says, “Once a mother, always a mother.”

Growing up, I never really liked the sound of that.   I thought it was sort of Bates Motel.  What would I want with a mother breathing down my neck when I was an adult?  Telling me what she thought about my hair or my outfit.  Giving me unsolicited advice about my relationships or my scruples or my religious orientation or my politics.  Staying up until I got home at night and yawning the next day from worry and lack of sleep.  It sounded like trouble.  Wasn’t adulthood all about freedom, after all?

Her own mother used to take me aside and say, at age ninety, “I’m worried about your mother.  She works too hard.”  I’d stare at her in total confusion.  How was it possible for someone to worry about my mother?  She was the one who did the worrying in the family.  We were used to it.  Having someone trumping her worry felt…awkward.  Sort of pornographic or something.  I didn’t like to think of my mother as naked as that.  Vulnerable.  Human.  I didn’t like to think about her as anyone’s little girl.

What I didn’t realize was that my mother’s worry made me feel safe.  It gave me the confidence to be thankless for having a doting mother in the first place.  It allowed me to be reckless with that relationship.  I had a friend whose mother didn’t seem to worry too much about her and I loved the way it looked from the outside.  She got to have unchaperoned girl/boy parties.  She got a car when she was sixteen.  She got left alone.  I wanted to be left alone, not dragged to church and made to be a lay reader.  The mothers of lay readers were dorks.  I was so not a dork.

“I’m praying for you,” I’d hear over and over through the years.  Those words stung.  They felt condescending.  Like I was some fallen angel who needed help with her wings and my mother was some sort of mystical seamstress.  I could sew my own wings thankyouverymuch.

“Call me when you get there,” she’d say all through my childhood and into my adulthood.  I’d roll my eyes, but still, I’d call.  Whether or not I’d admit it, it felt nice to have someone keeping track.  Especially as my wings expanded more and more and took me farther and farther away.  Secretly, I liked knowing there was someone out there paying attention.  But there came a time when I stopped calling my mother when I “got there,” wherever there was.  It seemed juvenile.  Co-dependent.  Not that much different from when I’d stopped telling her that I’d had a bowel movement.  I remember that exact second as I got ready to scream it across the house in my usual fashion.  Why did she have to know this piece of information?  Gross.  I knew my way around prune juice should I need it.  That was my business.  Just like arriving safely from a trip.  She didn’t need to know my every “move.”

You can see where this is going, can’t you.  Yep, you guessed it.  Now…I’m a mother.  And now I’m praying for my children.  And now I worry about their regularity and whether they got “there” safely.  And now I need a mother worrying about me worrying about my children.  Because the truth is…no one cares about you quite like your mother.  I’ve spent the last few years traveling for business and I never know exactly where I am when I wake up.  But my mother does.  “I’ve been following you on Facebook,” she’ll say.  “I’m sorry about the pillows at the hotel in Pittsburgh.”  Which is her way of saying, Could you please send me your itinerary.  I worry.  But still, until recently, I resisted.  I resisted my way all through canceled airplanes and seven hour layovers, ten events in twelve days and 4:00 wake up calls and so many strangers and so few hours with my husband and children…until I just wanted to break a little.  Come apart and cry and rest my head on an understanding lap.  But I’m a grown up.  Grown ups don’t cry because they’re tired and miss their pillow.  Grown ups have big important work to do on airplanes with laptops and Blackberries and printed out Mapquest directions and self-important roller-bags.  They don’t need their mommies.

“I was on the phone with the airlines all day yesterday tracking your flights.  I can’t believe they re-routed you to Detroit.  Thank God you weren’t in the tornadoes.  I wish you’d send me your itinerary so I could know your exact flight information.” 

You hedge.  This is not her burden to bear.  You are a grown up, damnit.

“You must be exhausted, darling.”  And deep, old tears well up.  You are exhausted.  And you think:  are my husband and children tracking my air travel debacles?  And you say, “Actually, I’d love to send you my itinerary, Mom.  Thanks for keeping track.  It means a lot.”

You’ll admit it here:  it feels good knowing that someone is praying for you.  It feels good that wherever you are, there is a person paying attention.  Braving 800 numbers.  Making it their job to know that you “got there safely,” even if they stay up late and yawn all the next day.  You’ll be the same way with your children, even when they’re adults and have kids of their own.  Because you know now for sure:  once a mother, always a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Thank you for caring.

From my Huffington Post blog

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Are Stay-at-Home Dads Macho?

This is the third in a five part series of discussions by Laura Munson and Tom Matlack of “The Good Men Project.”

Laura Munson:

Last year, my husband was suddenly unemployed, and after many years, I finally got a book published. I was working insane hours and touring the country on book promotion and he was making breakfast and bag lunches, driving kids from school, to music lessons, to sporting events. He gave me the greatest gift anyone could have given me at that time in my life: He kept our family life normalized. Sure, the kids now got chips in their lunches, and he opted out of organic milk. But I saw what really mattered, and it wasn’t a potato chip or a pesticide here or there. It was security. It was the kind of love that men seem best at giving — at least my man. It didn’t mean there was a lot of “I love you when you sit in a dark room and type all day” or “You look sexy in those flannel pajamas that you’ve worn for two weeks.” It was a quiet knowing that he had a role to fill, and he did it powerfully. It was a perfect swap, but we both believed it was temporary. That was the unspoken operative word. Because if someone had told us when we were courting that I’d one day be the breadwinner, and my husband was going to be a stay-at-home dad, we would have balked. At 20-something I wanted to pursue my career and have him pursue his. I wanted to re-convene at the end of the day and share food and conversation and maybe snuggle on the couch while we watched a movie. In my 30s I wanted to have children and we did. Then I wanted to stay at home and be a mother and write books while my babies slept, and I wanted him to work, and be fulfilled — and then I wanted that end-of-the-day meal and that conversation and that snuggle. Life went like that and we felt lucky. But in our 40s, things changed for a while and we are better for it. I’m not sure I know what “macho” means. But if it has to do with power, then being given the space and time to fulfill my career dreams is one of the most powerful gifts I’ve been given.

 

Tom Matlack, stay-at-home dad:

Not only are stay-at-home dads macho, but all dads who show up for their kids are macho. You can’t be a dad and wall yourself off from your child. Perhaps that was the way in prior generations, but one of the greatest changes for men today is the opportunity we have to engage and learn about ourselves through our relationship with our kids.

I spent 18 months at home with my young children just after getting divorced. I only had the kids part time and I found it amazingly hard when they weren’t around — and amazingly rewarding when they were.

The feeling of holding a child, especially my own, in the crook of my neck is as close to God as I have ever been. When my life was completely falling apart around me — at least in part because I’d been working so hard that I had completely forgotten that I was a father — spending time with my kids reminded me what was important and gave me a purpose.

Machismo is about confidence, swagger and knowing what is important. Dirty Harry is macho, not only for what he does, but how and why he does it. He’s a badass on a mission to right the wrongs of the world. Dads, particularly stay-at-home dads, are the same way. They take care of their kids with a purpose. Mothers have something essential to give their children, but what dads have to offer is no less important. For those of us who have finally, fully internalized that fact, there is nothing in our lives more important than our children — and no one who is going to tell us otherwise. We will dive through brick walls — and endure being called “sissies” — to care for our kids in a way that makes up for time lost in prior generations.

Fifty years ago, women were trying to figure out how to get out of the home and into the workplace while still being good moms and wives. For men in 2011, our primary challenge is to figure out how to be at home with our kids while still holding down a job. To those guys who stay home to raise their kids: You are lucky, macho men. The dad at the playground or at the “Mommy and Me” playgroup doesn’t have to cower over in the corner. He can stand tall and do his thing, playing with his kid in a manly way, because it is cool to be a dad.

Laura Munson:

I totally agree. I live in a town where most of the fathers I know are able to show up at their kids’ sporting events and play performances and music recitals, and even school parties because of the close proximity to their workplace — if they have a work place. Here, many of the men are out of work, and their wives are the breadwinners. I also live in a town that is full of Montana “macho” men who strut their stuff all over the ski hill, and in the mountains, hunting, fishing, climbing — “getting after it,” as they say. I asked my son to define this “it.” He said, “It is doing what you love.” In this sense, being with your kids as much as possible is just that.

MATLACK:

I agree with you here. I agree macho means power, but power with intention for good. Macho men are heroic men, whether in Westerns or sports or at home. One of the biggest changes in the gender geography, as you describe so well and as we explored at length in The Good Men Project is the transformation of men as seeing fatherhood not as some kind of obligation in addition to their jobs but as the central role they fulfill on the planet—-one that can be done with machismo. The dad at the playground, or at the mommy and me playgroup, doesn’t have to cower over in the corner as some kind of freak. He can stand tall and do his thing, playing with his kid in a manly way, because it is cool to be a dad.

***

Tom Matlack and Laura Munson debate other questions about modern love:

How Important is physical appearance to long-term fidelity?

What’s more important to a good marriage — great sex or fighting fair?

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Children’s Books

I did a poll on Facebook the other day. Here was the question: What are your three favorite children’s books? Within an hour, 50 people had responded. They’re still responding. I do polls all the time because I’m curious about the collective We…and this was the one that had the most immediate and passionate  response. This not just enlightened me as to what people love to read, but what people want to share bout.

And here’s the thing: there weren’t a lot of bad guy books. My son always wonders why there has to be a bad guy in all the movies and books in our lives. Why can’t it just be easy? Why does there always have to be conflict? We might, as parents, want to answer, “Because life is FULL of conflict.” But you know…sometimes life isn’t full of conflict.

In the books that people loved, I found that there wasn’t as much conflict as love. Few mentioned Harry Potter, in fact. More mentioned Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Seuss. Sure Pooh and the rest had their fair share of befuddlements. And rising to the sky holding a balloon, bees swarming all around, is not opportune. But the books people loved most weren’t full of real evil or real villains. It was more heart language. Here is that list. yrs. Laura

Laura Munson wrote: I’m doing a poll. What are your favorite children’s books? Mine are THE GIVING TREE, AMOS AND BORIS, and…THE COUNTRY BUNNY. And FLICKA RICKA AND DICKA too.”

Then thanks to people jogging my memory, I added: A TIME OF WONDER. THE HAPPY DAY. A TIME TO KEEP. And EB White. And of course ELOISE. And so much more…

Miss Rumphius
I’ll Love you Forever
Horton Hears a Who
Tigers in the Cellar
Plum Pudding for Christmas
Ferdinand
Polar Express and Eloise
Ping the Duck
The Giving Tree
Gerald McBoingBoing
Betsy-Tacy series
The Monster at the End of this Book

The Little House
Carl Goes Shopping
The Peculiar Miss Picket
Mandy
Mary Poppins
I’ll Love You Forever
The Fall of Freddie The Leaf
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See”
Where the Wild Things Are
The Three Trees
Green Eggs and Ham
Skippy Jon Jones
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Alligator Pie book
Cat in the Hat
Jelly Beans for Breakfast

Henry and Mudge
Mr Putter and Tabby
Good Night Moon
Pigs Ahoy!
Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches and Other Stories– my favorite being “What Was I Afraid Of?”
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Mrs. Pigglewiggle
Anything Will Steig
And Barbara Cooney
The Happy Day
Ferdinand the Bull
The Five Chinese Brothers
Miss Rumphius
A Time to Keep
Emma’s Pet
All three books by E.B. White, especially Trumpet of the Swan.
Jellybeans for Breakfast
The Kissing Hand!
Llama, Llama Mad at Mama
Blueberries for Sal
One Morning in Maine
Miss Rumphius
Goodnight Moon
Make Way for Ducklings
Wrinkle In Time
all of the E.B.White books, especially “Stuart Little”
Seven Silly Eaters
A Fly Went By
Goodnight Moon
Now We Are Six (AA Milne)
The Story of Babar
The Velveteen Rabbit
A is for Annabelle

I Can’t, Said the Ant
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Sahara Special
Harriet the Spy
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Little Bear
Now we are Six
Babar…
A TIME OF WONDER
Eloise
Madeline
Babar
Winnie the Pooh
Goodnight Moon
Wodney Wat
Edward the Emu
I’ll Love You Forever
All I See Is Part of Me
Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book
Shel Silverstein

Harry Potter
Oh, The Places You’ll Go
The Tar Baby books
The Giving Tree
Guess How Much I Love You
Little Bear
Frog and Toad
Eloise
Madeleine

It’s Mine: the Greedy Book
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Now We Are Six
Epandimondas and his Auntie
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Be Nice to Spiders
Alice in Wonderland
The Little Princess
Chrysanthimum
Amelia Bedelia
Wynkyn, Blinkin & Nod
Goodnight Moon
I’ll Love You Forever
Velveteen Rabbit
What is God
A House is A House for Me
Olivia
The Polar Express
Dr. Seuss
Harry Potter

The Country Bunny
Make Way for Ducklings
Blueberries for Sal
Goodnight Moon
Judy Blume
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wind in the Door
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
The Day the Babies Crawled Away
Goodnight Gorilla
Guess How Much I Love You
The Giving Tree
The Lorax
Old Hat New Hat
Oh the Places You’ll Go
Winkin’ Blinkin’ and Nod
Now We are Six
Madeleine
When Luis Armstrong Taught me Scat
In the Night Kitchen
James and the Giant Peach
Winnie the Pooh
Trucks, Trucks Trucks
Guess How Much I Love you
The Henry and Mudge books
Theasaurux Rex
Courduroy
Miss Twiggly’s Tree
The “Fancy Nancy” books
Anne of Green Gables
The “Little House” books
Little Women
The Ox Cart Man by Donald Hall
Ollie’s Ski Trip
Iggy Peck Architect
And Now Miguel
Farmer Boy
Ballet Shoes
Where The Wild Things Are
Little Bear
The Giving Tree
Ballet Shoes
The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew

Resources:
http://kids.nypl.org/reading/recommended2.cfm?ListID=61
Esme Raji Codell’s blog: The Planet Esme Plan, http://planetesme.blogspot.com/

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A Nest in the Hand…

Every year we go to this Christmas tree farm and cut down a Frasier fir. We make a day out of it. We listen to Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra singing old Christmas tunes in the car on the way there. We laugh. The adults act like children and the children act like smaller children. We bring hot cider in a thermos and peppermint bark candy and sometimes a little whiskey for my husband and me.  We are easy on each other.

It took us a while to get our tradition right. One year, the year our first child was born, we were frazzled enough to go to a Christmas tree yard in town. We spent $90.00 on the most gorgeous Frasier fir. That sounded about right. We’d recently moved to Montana from the city. That’s about what a Frasier fir ran. I asked the cashier where the tree was from, assuming that it was at least from some little corner of Montana. “Wisconsin,” she said, smiling. Probably cut down in September, sprayed with green preservative, and shipped out here in a truck. We agreed would would NOT tell anyone where our tree was from that year.

Then for a few years, we used to go out in the woods and cut down a tree, but we didn’t like how we went from environmentalists to opportunists, stalking the perfect tree, looking suddenly at the forest like a decorator’s showroom, considering taking the full tops off 30 foot trees just for our living room pleasure. The Charlie Brown trees that needed to be thinned were not enough for our years of inherited and collected ornaments. No that had to stop. A farmed tree was always meant for one purpose, and it usually had been loved and nurtured by someone who needed the extra cash come Christmas time.

So every year we go to this farm, and every year I feel a wash of newness and simplicity. We are kind to each other on this day. We know to take it slowly, marching around in the snow, shaking hands with trees to make sure we don’t end up with a dread prickly spruce. We have fake arguments about who picked the keeper last year, who will find the prize this year. We pretend we hear its call. We let our kids carry saws when they were too young, the punchy snow so forgiving. We take turns with the cut. We giggle and clap our hands when it finally falls over in a little timber that couldn’t really hurt anyone if it tried. We love watching my husband drag it through the snow like he’s just bagged a buck that will feed our family for the winter. Like it’s a hundred years ago. And it is like it’s a hundred years ago. No one pushes any buttons. No one has anything pressed to their ear except for maybe a wet mitten. I love this day.  We all love this day.

And maybe for this reason, the last two years, something really beautiful has occured. As we erect the tree getting ready to proudly mount it atop the truck, my husband, with his dirty XL manly work gloves deep in its branches, stops and sighs and says, “A nest!” And we all peer in and sure enough, there’s a nest. “That’s pro,” my ten year old son said this year. “Of course it’s pro,” said my fourteen year old daughter. “It’s a bird nest. All birds are pros.” And that big work glove carefully extracts a tight, dried mud nest, woven with horse hair, and full of flaxen larch needles. I have last year’s nest on my windowsill in my office, and will put this year’s next to it as a reminder of what it is to receive life’s little gifts, especially at Christmas time. I like to think that nature showers those who are open to its gifts.

Icelandic lore says that a bird nest in a Christmas tree means a year of health and fortune for the whole family. I wish health and fortune to the family that meets at THESE HERE HILLS. Happy 2011 to you all from Montana.

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Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, Motherhood, My Posts

Great List of Books for Married and Divorced Folks and Parents

The kind people over at stylesubstancesoul.com have honored me by choosing This Is Not The Story You Think It Is for their list of helpful books in the fields of marriage and parenthood. It’s in good company, that’s for sure. Check out these inspiring books and this inspiring website here And feel free to leave a comment. yrs. Laura

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Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", Motherhood, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness

HAVEN Newsletter– November

The November HAVEN Newsletter went out today to email inboxes around the world. It’s so exciting how the internet has us connecting and sharing in the field of heart language. For those of you who would like to sign up to get HAVEN delivered to your email, click here. Sign up is in the left column.

Next month’s theme will be: Pilgrimage.

I’d like to share the heart of this month’s HAVEN with you here. Please share your stories in the comments section. That’s what it’s all about. My guest, the wise writer and therapist, Stephanie Baffone will be there to respond. The subject: HEAD NOISE. The stories we tell ourselves and how we learn which ones to believe…

(More about HAVEN)

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When you let go…


A friend and I were talking yesterday about how we want so much to “happen” in our family lives. That we have a hard time seeing any value in sitting around watching TV on a weekend day when there is so much to experience out there in the world. I used to be one who tried to impose this opinion of mine on my family. But I’ve learned that it only makes things worse. Begets even MORE TV watching. And what I’ve come to find is that really, it’s only a temporary thing. It’s not like they watch TV 24/7. It’s just a way for them to wind down after the long work/school week. We’re very active people, curious and creative by nature, always on the move. Sitting quietly watching TV now and then isn’t going to fry anyone’s brain or undo all those beautiful memories I’ve tried so hard to inspire. It’s a way for them to feel safe and even bond. How is it different than sitting on a boat fishing, for instance? Or in a duck blind? How is active always better than passive? I have found that the more I let go of active being the “right” way, the more active they become. This, for instance, happened last weekend. Log peeling for our friend’s cabin in the woods.
Lessons lessons, everywhere…when you let go.

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Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, My Posts

Back to School– a mother's bemoanings

Check out my Back-to-School piece on my Huffington Post blog.  Maybe you can relate…  A freshman in high school.  Another in Middle school.  Where is it all going? 

Click here to read

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Filed under Huffington Post Blog Pieces, Motherhood, My Posts