I like me.

Evie got a new helmet for her bike. It has a dry erase surface and comes with cool neon markers so you can make your own design, over and over again. Evie is 5, so this is the perfect helmet because she knows–of course–that she can make much better helmet designs than any store. Much, much cooler. So, where I would choose something pre-designed, she was all about DIY. Even for an extra $5.

She rode to school today rocking her first design. She made it last night but I had not seen the totality of the masterpiece until this morning. Her name, hearts, squiggly lines. And then at the stop light she turned her head towards the other side of the street and I saw what she had written across the right side of her new headwear: “I like me.”

I caught my breath. What an amazing thing to want to put out there for the world. Evie did not ask me how to spell any of these words as she designed, so she came up with that slogan–and spelled it correctly!–herself.

I pondered it all the way to school. I like me. I like me. Evie likes Evie.

Does she know about self-love? Did someone teach her about liking herself the way she was and it sunk in, or did she just feel that way without any teaching? Sometimes she’s so hard on herself–did she like herself just last night, or does she like herself in a deep, long-term, sweeping way? Would other kids think she was stuck up? Was she stuck up? Could she be convinced to never erase that part?

By the time I was back home, I was thinking about whether Lauren likes Lauren. She does, mostly. But she would not put it on her helmet. She might just think it very quietly after working out, or making great dinner, or drinking kombucha on the porch. She has worked hard to like herself, and there have been times of serious non-like. And some days and hours of non-like still. Remembering to like is still sometimes trained, rather than spontaneous, and quiet, rather than racing across the street in neon with training wheels.

Maybe we all start out liking ourselves, and then so many things in life happen that shake that like. And the goal is to come back to where we started.


Having two girls changed my self-like for the better (crazy since having kids changed my body and my sleep and my time…). Two amazing, powerful, fragile, brilliant, crazy people in my care, growing and learning and messing up everything every day. They have already faced some of their own “things in life that happen”–their own five-year-old and nine-year-old hardships. It is so hard to watch as a loving (rather awesome) momma. Often they just have to go through those parts of life, finding their way and waiting for a new day to try again.

But sometimes, I get to help or offer advice. Then I get to practice advising someone I dearly love how to be safe and well and happy. It’s a daunting task and I learned, as I tried to complete it over and again, that I often doled out suggestions of what I thought could bring happiness that I was not myself following.

For example, I used to be bulimic. It was long ago and I am better now (I thought you’d wonder; thanks for mentally asking), but even after recovery I used to struggle sometimes with the desire to purge after eating too much of something unhealthy. It seemed like an easy, relatively harmless shortcut to feeling in control again, and I took that shortcut every now and again, without feeling I was “unhealthy” overall.

And then one day, as I was contemplating the toilet after two donuts, or something ridiculous like that, I thought of my kids. Evie, in specific. What if she sometimes freaks out about what she eats? What if she opened up to me about her insecurity and asked what she should do if she ate too much and felt guilty?

“Go to the most remote restroom you can find. Wait until you’re alone, and gag yourself until you vomit. It is worth it to cancel out a donut. I mean, you don’t want to have eaten a donut, DO YOU?”

AHHH. I mean, I would never in a million years say that. Only a super villain in a very avant-garde Disney movie (with an oddly wide range of plot points) would say something like that to a child.

But, that was what I told myself. That was what my inner voice was saying to me. It doesn’t get much farther from “I like me” than that. I was my own super villain. And I decided it was not okay.

So I started giving myself advice as if it was something I’d say to my kids. If it sounded like something I wanted for them, it was good to do. If it sounded like I was Maleficent, well, that was a no.

“You ate two donuts? Probably they were awesome donuts, and everyone indulges sometimes. Go for a walk. Eat oatmeal tomorrow. You are okay and life is short and some days have donuts and don’t fret.”*


While my practice is not perfect, I have come so far in the last several years. I am so much kinder to myself. So much happier. Maybe some future day, I will have come so far that I will want a blank helmet, and I will make it say “I like me.” Just like my daughter.

My greatest accomplishment today was that I raise the girl under the “I like me” helmet. My goal is that she, and her sister, and their mom, and everyone else out there, can say that–and mean it–forever. <3

*I ate 5 maple leaf cookies while I wrote this post. They were so delicious. Maybe I’ll have oatmeal for breakfast. But maybe not.

I am old.

Ella asked me the other day if she could listen to a certain song. She started to describe it; “it says ‘eye of the tiger’…”

“Eye of the Tiger! Eye of the Tiger! ok!” So I start playing “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky. I am so excited that she even knows of such an awesome, old classic song, and thrilled that she wants to me to play it.  Yeah! Probably she will love classic rock. She can put this on a team mix for sports. She is going to play soccer…

“No, no, mom, this isn’t it.”

“What? Yes, this is ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ Listen a minute longer.”

“The one I want is a girl singer. It is cool. I think it is Katy Perry.”

Oh. “Roar.” Totally different.

This sort of thing is happening to me more and more often. I don’t feel older year by year, but I don’t think of Katy Perry for “Eye of the Tiger.” And I recently questioned a diagnosis from a sick-appointment pediatrician who looked SO YOUNG I wasn’t sure she could possibly know what she was talking about for small children, because she would have spent most of her time with children as a peer rather than a sage physician.

Peyton Manning just won the Super Bowl (Broncos!!!!  Yes!  I have been waiting for so long for this moment.  How long?  Since the last SB victory…16 long years.  Wha?  Nevermind.) I am glad they won, because Peyton looked decrepit and now he can retire and rest up at home.  Because he’s, like, a few hundred days older than me, so he needs a lot of sleep.

My Olympic dream is officially over when I realized that (besides not having anything else close to Olympic caliber talent in any sport) I am too old for any event but biathlon or shuffleboard and I hate those sports. (MI loves biathlon, so our family comes out neutral, in case any of you are now incensed biathletes with rifles.)

I am sitting in the computer room right now as my two kids and the neighbor play. I am wearing headphones, but there is no music playing. Because I can’t focus on typing with music directly in my ear, but they’re just so loud. So these headphones–which are not fancy noise canceling ones–just sort of muffle everything in a pleasant way. Good practice for later in life.

Where do you get rags?

This weekend I spent quite a bit of time putting my kitchen back together after we had some work done on the cabinets. As MI and I worked to restore order, we realized that not quite everything was going to fit back in (and some things had to go; I am looking at you, un-stackable, un-dishwasher/microwave safe, chipped mug from San Francisco). And so it was time for another kitchen purge.

I don’t know at what point I will stop fighting the crush of utensils and baking gadgets and instead start collecting mini spoons and never replacing my pans, like the women who’ve gone before me. I assume it will happen in due time. Until then, MI and I have to clean out our little kitchen every year to keep all of the plates and cups and tools from taking over. (Despite intense pressure, I have successfully argued to keep the Bundt pan for three consecutive years. If I ever made you a ‘just because’ Bundt cake, you now know that it was part of the strategy to justify the pan.)

One of the items we pared back this round were washcloths. For many years, we have struggled to find the ‘right’ dishcloths–one set was cheap and pilled quickly, one set was white and looked insta-dirty, the current set works well but is in shades of THE most boring brown and taupe colors. Clearly the perfect chance to convert them into cleaning rags and renew my quest for vibrant, high-quality, preferably self-cleaning washcloths.

washcloth--whitewashcloth--dirty whitewashcloth--brownishwashcloths--rainbow 2

But first I had to dispose of the old rags, you know, to make room for the new ones. With so many failed sets of washcloths, we have developed quite the collection of cleaning rags. The great circle of kitchen linens.

Suddenly, as I was throwing away old, formerly-white rags to make space for new brownish-green rags, I got weirdly nostalgic.

I remembered early, in the first weeks of our marriage when we were trying to set up our first apartment. We had NOTHING because we’d both lived either in college dorms or with family right up until we got married. So we had two suitcases of clothes and all of the generous gifts from our wedding attendees. That was it. The first night we didn’t even have sheets and we slept under navy blue bath towels on an air mattress in an unlit, frigid Connecticut apartment because it was January and we forgot to turn the heat on (good-bye college’s central heating system!). We were green at “adulthood” and “housekeeping” and there were many steep learning curves ahead.

One day in that first week, as we were cleaning the new apartment in hopes of filling it with things we would eventually buy, MI asked for a towel to wipe something down. I checked, but I knew that all we had were the fluffy, new navy blue towels from the registry, and I wasn’t about to have the thing I used after showering also be the thing we used to wipe down the top of the cabinets. (As you, savvy reader, now know, they sometimes even served as a comforter…). I told him he had to find a rag.

We looked around the barren room and then made eye contact; there weren’t rags. We didn’t have any old ripped, stained, dirty anything that fit the bill. MI finally asked, “where do you GET rags? ” I thought; then remembered that in my house growing up we used the old, ugly towels from my Grandma in the 80s and cloth diapers from when I was a baby. Hmm. No old lacey bathroom towels, no ratty clothes (we got rid of all of that when we moved in with two suitcases!), no diapers of any kind.  Hmmm…

Honestly, I don’t remember how we solved that problem (maybe the way I would today: don’t clean the top of the cabinets. Eww.)

But now, more than 10 years later, we have so many rags that I cycle through, throwing them away and replacing them with the new models. Just think: eventually, once I find those ideal vibrant, high-quality, self-cleaning washcloths, and we buy them forever more, we will have fun RAINBOW-COLORED RAGS.

washcloths--rainbow

It is kind of like being rich when you think about it; having lots of cleaning rags means we are established, we have lived, and we are thriving. Ironic, right?

That is pretty much like the whole marriage, really. After ten years, we totally have rags: things that tore or got dirty. Things that are no longer new, no longer pristine.

So  many rags, I have to sort them and get rid of the very old to make room for the new old. I’ve learned how to sort, and reorganize; share childcare responsibilities, tag team at toddler bedtime, and love in-laws; be kind when hungry and remember to use the parking brake; put away the milk after breakfast and call when I am late; to forgive and seek forgiveness every single day.

We didn’t used to have to do those things, and that time seems simpler and easier. And the “simpler and easier” from my memory sometimes gets confused with “happier”–but it isn’t, really. That is what I remembered as I sat in the kitchen with my washcloths. That early time of new marriage was when we didn’t know how to work. We didn’t have a true, established household. We didn’t have the tools we needed to make life beautiful.

Now, we do. As life gets more complicated and history grows longer and things get worn and sometimes broken, we get new rags. The practical, symbolic gift of experience.

I am grateful for them.

Even the brown ones.

Hijacking my Soundtrack

Ever since I can remember, I wake up with a song in my head. Sometimes it is a song I heard the evening before. I imagine that it must have been swirling all night through my dreams, waiting for me to wake up and hum along again.

Or the pop song of the moment, which usually is by Taylor Swift or Maroon 5, whether I like it or not. (I like it.) The mind, after all, is a sponge; mine soaks up the most frequently presented pop wisdom of the day–See proof of Taylor’s wisdom–and stores it to be called upon in a time of need.

Every once in a while, the song in my head is something older. Something from my past that I haven’t heard any time recently that I can recall. These songs always seem special, like they were buried deep in my memory and fate surfaced them for some reason it knew before I did. Songs that would be the soundtrack I needed to guide me through that day.

My mantra has long been shaped by my internal, magically selected score.

UNTIL MY CHILDREN HIJACKED MY SOUNDTRACK.

At first, it seemed natural that sometimes the alarm would go off and my first conscious thought of the day was “Rise like the break of dawn! Let it go, let it g….” I mean, I had listened to it the day before (and before and before and before) and it was everywhere, so it was bound to sneak in sometimes. I embraced it. I would belt “Let It Go” out in the car and I didn’t always stop it immediately after daycare drop off. I kinda liked it.

But then the variety stopped. It was Frozen every day. Mostly “Let It Go” in my head all the time. I found myself singing it in the elevator. I whisper hummed it in the hallway at work. I tapped it out absent-mindedly at my desk. Sometimes–don’t tell anyone this–when I was sure I was completely alone in my office hallway, I pretended to be Elsa raising up an ice palace out of nothing to a grand swelling of the orchestra. Acted. it. out.

elsa ice palace stomp

I started wondering if I should talk to other people. I wondered if it was fair to keep showing up for my adult brain–oriented* job. I wondered if I wasn’t maybe a little bit like the deluded, thinks-she’s-cool mom from Mean Girls.
mean girls cool mom

I couldn’t get it to go away, so I decided we had to drill it out. After some (months of) cajoling, we listened to something else. Sofia the First. I liked it. My Little Pony. Really liked it. Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Meh. It was just nice to have variety again. Sometimes I was signing about puny pirates, sometimes I was the Rainbow Dash-half of the My Little Pony duet on the Best Pet contest. (It’s hilarious, for real.) I had new things to think and sing and hum.

But the pop music and the old music and the songs my mom sang to me when I was little, they didn’t come back. I remember the morning my mind arose with “Choo, Choo, Chugga, Chugga, Big Red Car” from the The Wiggles (if you don’t know it, don’t google it!! Keep your innocence and feel pleased with your life choices.), and I knew we had to make deep changes.

I started asserting my rights to sometimes choose the music for the commute again, listening to grown-up stuff on headphones while I did the dishes, and paying close attention to what they were dropping in the grocery store. Didn’t matter. My soundtrack was for the under-12 set.


I read an article on Common Sense Media that made me think my sub-conscious has made this soundtrack adjustment for parenting reasons. Apparently, it’s a good idea to:

1. Model listening to tame music. Check. My new edgy is the Ursula song from the Little Mermaid, since we had to take out most of the bad-guy arias from the other soundtracks because they were too scary.

2. Ask your kids to play their favorite songs for you. Double check. The challenge for me, frankly, is to ask them not to play their favorite songs for me. They both have figured out how to operate my smart phone’s playlists and my portable speaker, so they play their princess favorites for me all the time.

3. Discuss music messages. Like how someone asks me every time “What is happening in this part of the movie?” “Why is Anna sad?” “Is this about when Merida’s mom turns into a bear?” “Why do they say ‘Kill the beast?” We even talk about the messages in the instrumental numbers. We take our music messaging seriously.


IT WILL ALL BE OKAY

In just the past few weeks, the girls have started to request some pop music on their own. Katy Perry, inexplicably, is a favorite. And instead of feeling excited, like I thought I would, I feel a bit sad. I am the person who wants to listen to My Little Pony and sing the different parts.

My new cartoon-ish mental soundtrack reflects that fact that my whole being switched over to being a mom of awesome, smart, small people; kids who are so cool, I want to like what they like. And I want them to stay little so they they can stay mine.

I am going to see if me singing Disney songs all the time can make that happen. Either it will work, or it will make them think I am crazy, kind of embarrassing, rather out-of-date, and secretly cute in my parenting naivete. I think that is the next step, any way. Taylor Swift would definitely appreciate the wisdom of it.


*That’s right. I used an ‘en dash’ for the compound modifier in my blog post. Boom, grammar aficionados; Frozen didn’t take everything in this brain.