One day…

milo and woody

…he won’t burst out in delighted laughter every time he hears the first few bars of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.”

…he won’t walk around on his tiptoes.

…he won’t fake laugh to copy Mama and Daddy

…he won’t tickle his brother’s feet and make high pitched squealing sounds (cute!)

…he won’t feel the need to LOUDLY identify every “ball” that passes through his gaze

…he won’t hold my finger and “help” me click and drag on pictures when we use the Kindle

…he won’t use sign language

…he won’t pat our backs when he lift him up to our shoulder

…he won’t giggle when we make Monka dance on the bars of the crib.

…he won’t be enthralled with plastic easter eggs

…he won’t be a baby anymore.

This hits me especially hard when we are driving.  The sound of “the Toy Story song” can absolutely change the mood in the car, and his little sweet voice lifts up and I realize “you don’t get this forever.”  I never really focus on the way time is passing because some days are short and some days are long and sometimes I feel like I’ve always been a mom and sometimes I cannot believe that anyone would leave two kids in my inexperienced care.  So time is just time right now.  I can’t really imagine how it will feel to look back, to read the gloworm letters, to remember.  But I have this really fuzzy sense that it’s going to be a sucker punch.  You’re going to wish you remembered more.   You’re going to lose some details with the passing of time. You’re going to need to write down the way he glows when you sing along with Randy Newman, because you might forget it, and you’ll never get it back.


elliott, meet florida

milo plane

ray and elliott


florida kid

ray and elliott again

papa and milo


julianna and i



milo toys


twins and bebes

mama milo

toy story to the rescue



Two weeks ago, we went to Florida.  Laurel came to help the boys and I get down to Tampa and to celebrate our sister Julianna’s graduation from college.  It was Elliott’s first time meeting his aunts (we also saw a very close cousin, Page) and we also got to meet my third sister Emily’s new boyfriend.  It was also my first time flying with two kids under two, who were both booked as lap children.  This was really kind of a disaster, so much so that I’ll probably save it for another post.  I will say that I was much less prepared than I thought I was (I had NERDS, people) and that I owe my sister Laurel a huge thank you for suffering through that with me.

While we were there we swam in the pool, played with really fun toys, sat around with sisters, went to the nail salon, had a sushi celebration, got home from the bar at 3am (I had so much fun being DD), went to the shortest graduation ceremony ever (amen), took a quiz about Julianna’s college career, tested out hash tags, and had so much fun soaking up rare family time.

I’m proud for so many reasons: in this terrible economy, all of my sisters have full-time, career-based jobs, take care of their own living situations, and support themselves in all senses of the word.  I know so much of our good standing comes from having an awesome upbringing, but still.  All of the Kauffman girls are really owning their twenties, and I feel like it only gets better from here!  Going down and getting a peek into the lives that Emily and Julianna have carved out was really good for my big-sister soul.

Anyway, I don’t know that any flights to Florida are in our immediate future.  I have PTSD.  But the trip was so, so lovely, and I’m so glad that I got to have family time and watch my sons show off for their excited family (think dancing around, hamming it up, and grinning like a fool to cheers from a room full of people).  I hope that one day we have special family times without having to deal with quite so much travel, but for now, I’ll hang on to these trips when I’m lonely for my mama and sister bears.

last week // this week no. 2

milo toy story

e man


mama milo mirror

buzz at the libraryLast week was like we turned  corner.  I don’t know if it was just in contrast to the insanity of the week before, or if Ben and I were more on the same page after spending some time talking about our family values, or if some weeks are just going to suck and some are going to go well.  Probably that last one, which is comforting and terrifying at the same time.  We watched less TV, ate more family dinners, played with bubbles, met with friends, got really into Toy Story, exercised a ton, and had the most mundane week possible.  Perfect.  Here are some good things that happened and good things to look forward to:

-I’ve been tracking my Weight Watchers points carefully, using Couch 2 5K to learn how to run again, and playing Wii Fit on my running rest days.  I spent the entire week staying right on plan, and it felt really great.  I’ve been going to meetings for about a month or so, but being fairly lazy and shifting up and down without really losing any weight, so last week reminded me that nothing is going to change until I get my ass in gear.  It might be corny, but when I run I think about Milo and Elliott, I think about running after them on the playground, I think about running a race and having them jumping up and down at the finish line, saying, ” My mom is strong.”

-Milo is really into his toys lately.  I’ve always been an “outing” mama, planning walks and park trips and library stops, but twice this week, Milo would wake up from his nap or get home from daycare, run excitedly to his Toy Story collection, and start building Mr. Potato Head or piling all the action figures into the Fisher Price dollhouse.  I would say, “Get your shoes, we’re going for a walk” and he would wrinkle his eyebrows and sit down hard.  “Do you want to stay here and play?” would be answered with “Yesh!  Yesh!”  I’m so proud that he can express himself to me and that I can squash my gogogo attitude and sit with him.  We’ve had the best slow afternoons.

-Milo is getting some help with his speech delay.  At his 18-month appointment, we expressed some concerns about how many words Milo would regularly use, and we got a referral for Early Intervention services.  He was assessed and qualified, and last week we wrote up a plan for getting him therapy to help him better communicate.  There were definitely times over the last two weeks where I felt overwhelmed- the process is very proactive, simple, and accommodating, but the idea of Milo being “behind” in any way was stressful.  I was scared that he was be frustrated by the testing (he was) or that people might treat him differently once they understood that he was getting extra help (they haven’t), but now I’ve just reached a point of excitement.  Tomorrow is our first in-home visit, and I can’t wait to see how it rolls out.

-Yesterday Ben spent a lot of time with the kids so I could have some time for myself.  Elliott came with me to a brunch with friends (he’s the price of admission to most places) while Milo and Ben went to the park, and then I slipped off completely kid-less for a pedicure and a run!  We also fit in family dinner and a family walk.  We have a busy week coming up, so it was a lovely, restful Sunday.

-We’re headed to Florida!  My youngest sister is graduating college, and we’re spending the weekend helping her celebrate.  My twin sisters and dear cousin will get to meet Elliott for the first time, and we’ll all be together, which happens so rarely.  I’m anxious and excited to fly with both kiddos- Ben is staying behind for work but LAurel will be there to help me.  I have plans to pack a special backpack of treats for Milo, and Ben surprised me with an early Mother’s Day gift of a Kindle Fire!  This will probably be the final factor that makes for a smooth ride.

This week coming up is packing, making birthday/graduation/mother’s day cards, hanging with Ben before we’re separated for a long weekend, and travel!  What made you happy last week?  What are you looking forward to?

Yay, you’re 27, congrats, go to work.

milo peep


three boys
milo supermarketThings have been wild.  News coverage, Twitter overload, trying to stay in touch with endangered loved ones.  Early Intervention, play-based assessments, diagnosis, sensory issues, baby sign language.  Family dinners, less TV, deflecting unwanted advice, keeping up with chores, dealing with an ant problem.  Baby and toddler digestive issues (read: LOTS OF PUKE AND POO).  I tweeted on Thursday: “This week has been really heavy. Which made me realize that last week was, too. Which made me realize that this is life. I’m tired.”  But I’m also done with excuses.  Because THIS IS LIFE.  There will be a weekly tragedy, annoying e-mail, childhood illness, sisterly hangout…or maybe all of them at once.

So, in the name of getting our shit together, here are some good things, happy things, positive things, back-to-business things.

-I just loaded my reader (ugh, still stuck on Google, not loving The Old Reader yet) with new blogs about Weight Watchers and weight loss.  If reading about fancy mamas who take lots of instagram pictures makes me want to be a fancy mama who takes a lot of instagram pictures, I’m hoping the same logic will extend to reading about these ladies and their work outs and meal plans.  I have some kids to chase, blah blah blah.  This just needs to happen.

-I’m also working on a family photo book for Milo, and it’s looking really cute.  I’ve hunted down and gathered pictures of our family members and edited them with the names in bold font.  One of Milo’s favorite pastimes is walking around our house, pointing at faces in pictures and asking us to name them, so I want to give him this for the cuteness factor, and to help with his new shy stage (Here is the hierarchy- 1. Ben, 2. Me, 3. Whoever is holding Elliott.  Otherwise- nervous.)

-Ben and I filled an entire dumpster with garage trash, got some quotes on a landscaping overhaul, and have been taking the boys out for lots of walks on our street.  All of these things=being friendly and more involved neighbors.  Our curb appeal is still more like curb appalling (ha HA!), but we’re getting closer to being adult homeowners.  And we finally took our Christmas wreath down.

-This is my current parenting mantra: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It’s the only thing.”  -Albert Schwertger.  Want kids that read?  Read to them…READ IN FRONT OF THEM.  Want kids that eat vegetables?  Put vegetables on the table…AND EAT THEM WITH GUSTO.  Want kids that are kind to people and animals?  DO THAT.  DO IT ALWAYS.  ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU THINK THEY AREN’T LOOKING.  My kids are still teensy, but I already know that this is going to be very important, even more so if they have personalities anything like mine.

-It’s all going to happen.  You can stress and freak out and make lists and demand things of yourself.  You can berate and dismiss yourself, make 1000 excuses, come up with a new system every Sunday night.  Or you can let it be.  And trust that it will happen.  I’m noticing chores get crossed off the list, phone calls returned, little corners getting cleaned up, all in the natural course of life.  If I’m living it right, everything else falls into place.  Honestly, I can only remember this fact when I’m sitting still during 15 minutes of weekly clarity…but it’s true.  Trust that it will happen.

(The pictures with this post are from the last few weeks, just some sweet little gems that never made it to the internet light of day.  Whenever I’ve sad, these subjects ground me right back to where I need to be.)

And the world spins madly on.



(Image credit)

Everyone has a story about the marathon.  Everyone I know either lives nearby, or their coworker was running it, or their sister was at the finish line.  Like mine.

Monday was such a great day.  We had a family walk and then I took Milo for a little park time and some grocery shopping.  As I was loading the car, I got a text from Ben: Call laurel.  There was an explosion at the Boston Marathon.  People are hurt.  I felt a pit of fear in my stomach; on automatic, while strapping Milo in his seat, I called.  Voicemail.  Called again.  Voicemail.  I started shaking and told myself she was on the phone with my mom, so I tried her.  My mom burst onto the line, “What is going on?!  Laurel just called me, crying, talking about people hurt.  She said she’s okay.”  And I laid my head on the steering wheel and started to sob.  This all took place before I’d seen a single clip of the explosion (I’ve now seen it about 50 times), before I knew that people lost their legs (At the marathon.  They lost their legs.), before I heard that an 8-year-old was gone forever (I held Elliott in a silent house at 5:30 this morning, sobbing at the boy’s picture).  Before any of the horror sunk in, the idea of losing Laurel shook me more than anything else I would see that day.

I have a plan for what I’ll do if something happens to Ben.  I know the course of action that I’d need to follow if I ever got bad news about my mother.  But if anything happened to Laurel, I would break.

She had gotten through on a friend’s phone, but hers was dead, and then we completely lost touch after cutting out in the middle of her call.  Even though I knew she was alive, not being able to reach her was maddening.  I tried (and failed) to stay calm and find a way to reach her.  Social media is such a doubled-edged sword, in good times and bad, but I was grateful for Twitter yesterday; here were real-time reports, information about the poor cell service, lists where you could try to contact loved ones or check in on runners.  People gave me comfort that I needed, and checked in to let everyone know they were safe, which was a great feeling.  There is always the danger of misinformation, but I’m getting savvy enough to evaluate sources, and in general, I wanted a forum to discuss.  We also got our first piece of information about Laurel by Facebook messaging a friend that we knew she might be with.  Social media helped my stay in touch with family up and down the East Coast who needed to know that Laurel was okay, and made it possible for Julianna and I to sit and chat and share frustrations casually even though we were 3000 miles apart.  I spent three hours texting with Laurel’s roommate, searching missing persons lists, and watching the constant stream of news.

Laurel is safe back home at her apartment.  She never was actually at the finish line, but she was only few miles away.  The T she was on was evacuated and they were getting calls from her work building in Copley Square and she was stranded and scared but safe.  She’ll be feeling the effects for a long time; her office and her gym are directly in the middle of the crime scene, the hotel she works for had lots of marathoners staying with them, and the entire city is still on high alert.

Now that I know shes completely safe, my grief and preoccupation has shifted to the people who died and the people who lost limbs and the people who had to see it.  Who where standing right there.  All I can think is that I had played with the idea of going in to cheer with Laurel; she plans to run in the near future, and I even texted her about it this morning.  And if Laurel HAD been running today, we absolutely would have been RIGHT at the finish line, double stroller loaded up with our most valuable possessions.  It makes my blood run cold to think about trying to evacuate with our little boys, and I won’t even let my mind go to the other possibilities.

I’m giving myself just today to process and say, “what if.”  Then, I will go on.  I’ll play with my kids and wash the dishes and hopefully see my sister.  I’ll give where I can and get myself back into the city that I really love as soon as possible.  I’ll cheer on Laurel and support her training in any way that I can and when she runs the Boston Marathon, myself and my family will be at the finish line, jumping and cheering for more than one runner.

Mom’s awesome. Let’s call her.

childhoodMy mom was here last week; she actually stayed with us for 9 days.  She lives in Florida, and usually our visits are timed around funerals and holidays.  It’s usually hectic and emotionally charged, but this peaceful visit was one of the best we’ve ever had.  I learned a lot about my mom, her as a young wife and her a busy mother.  I know a lot about who my mom became after my dad died, but this was the first time I’ve really asked her about who she was before.

My mom is kind of amazing because she never tells me much about parenting myself and my three sisters.  When Emily and Julianna were born, she had infant twins, a 3-year-old, and a 5-year-old, living 10 hours away from her family on a farm a quarter-mile back from an isolated country road.  Yet she has never dismissed my complaints about being home part-time with two little ones (SHE SHOULD HAVE.  I HAVE DAYCARE AND PLAYCAFES.  GEEZ).  She has watched four children grow at different rates, but has never compared our development to Milo or Elliott.  She has had to juggle her schedule to accommodate childcare and working overnights and being a wife and a mother and a daughter and a sister, but she’s never given me a single suggestion about my routine, even when I’m writing out agonizingly long paragraphs about how I NEED TO FIGURE THIS SUPER HARD THING OUT.  She knew how to handle it, but her encouragement usually stuck to, “You’re doing an amazing job.  Your children are clever and beautiful.  I’m proud of you.”

The thing that must have been killing her, is she HAS the answers; she knows tips and tricks for handling schedules, meeting other mothers, staying creatively engaged.  She knows the stresses of adding kids to a family, of feeling like you do nothing but change diapers, of wondering if they’re hitting the milestones on time.  I only found out what she knew by asking her, pointedly, “Mama, what did you do?”  And she told me.  About sharing daycare with other mothers, so that sometimes each woman was watching 6 or 7 kids at the same time, switching off so they could pick up shifts at their hospital jobs.  Of learning to shower the night before, lay out clothes, make specific charts so you don’t buy food you don’t need or forget to pay a bill or feed one baby twice and the other not at all.  She casually mentioned that she had an organizational mentor, a woman who she admired and asked, “Teach me.”  To this day, we tease my mom that she loves to send us really detailed itineraries, and after talking her, I realize that her organization started as a survival mechanism, and now it’s a part of who she is.

The thing I love most about my mom is how she KNOWS me.  Already, since she’s left, I’ve really felt on top of my game.  Part of it is how she did most of the chores for 9 days and spent a ton of time with the boys, so I got lots of rest and special one-on-one time with each of my sons and my husband.  But part of it is that I’ve already started using some of her tricks that she told me about, and prioritizing my day, and spending time with other moms who are in the trenches; her advice instantly started helping.  And yet Mama knew that if she ever gave me her secret clues before I was good and ready to ask for them, I would have stubbornly shot her down.  “No, Mama, things are different now.  Things are different for me.  You don’t understand.”  It took me 18 months of pregnancy and 18 months of motherhood to realize that she probably understood as well as or better than anyone else.

So, yeah, I’m a huge brat who can’t take unsolicited advice.  I will do the opposite of that which I’m directly told to do, with a little smile on my face.  And my mother lived for 17 years with that.  If it’s any consolation to her, I see it in Milo. When people crowd him a little too much, or think they’re going to show him the way to do something, he turns his golden head and falls silent.   This morning at the table it was fingers in his tiny bowl of cereal with milk.  He wanted to touch the milk.  I wanted him to use the spoon correctly.  And we went back and forth, sliding the bowl out of his reach, agreeing that we would try again, and his little pointer finger edging towards the surface.  Ben watched us and chuckled.  “The immovable object meets the unstoppable force.”

But I know it will be okay, because when I step back and watch him from the edge of the playground, he can breath.  When he has his space, I can see him remembering my words, stepping high over the little wall, going up the stairs to use the slide.  And then his head goes up and he finds me, and he grins, and I wave, and I realize that my biggest flaw is also one of my greatest traits, and I’m glad he has it, and I’m glad I know him, exactly like my mama knows me.

April 2013

superherosHappy April Fools day!  I was tempted to tell Ben I was pregnant again as a fun prank, but I thought I might push him over the edge and cause some permanent emotional damage, so I passed.  My mama is here for an entire week, which is a huge treat, and we’re planning to visiting some family, having dinner in the city with Laurel, and taking Milo out so she can see him action on playdates.  Here are some other plans we have for this true beginning of spring:

Nightly movie theme: This is superhero month.  Plans include the Spiderman franchise, the Xmen franchise, Avengers, Superman, Ironman, the Hulk…anything we’re missing?  I’m definitely going to pull for Keaton Batman on the nights it is my pick.

Holiday plans: This month we have Earth Day AND April Vacation!  When I was teaching, April Vacation always felt like the kick off to the countdown to summer.  This year, I want to do some fun trips with the boys- maybe even a beach day with Ben.  The Boston Marathon is also sometime this month, and I’d love to go watch a little of it with Laurel.  She’ll be running it one day, and I can’t wait to be cheering her, so getting some practice is probably a good idea.

Routine: As I get more used to Elliott, he’s gaining weight and his health is solid, and I have more emotional strength to handle the ups and downs of being out and about with a toddler and an infant, I’ve been keeping Milo home from school.  It’s getting nicer and there are fun things to do around town that I’d like to experience with my son while I have the chance to be home during the week.  I’m hoping to spend Monday volunteering at my school, Tuesday/Thursday doing things with Milo and Elliott (Mom’s groups, library, museums), and Wednesday/Friday running errands and having one-on-one time with Elliott.

Health: I just rejoined Weight Watchers, and I’m pretty excited to having even MORE structure in my life.  I like rules.  The first week on plan, I hadn’t done any special grocery shopping and already had a meal plan written, so I just did my best to track and lost 2 pounds.  I went a little wild at Easter brunch (I’m not skipping lobster mac and cheese, thank you), but it’s a new week and a new month and I’m ready.  Ben and I are also planning to start walking in the mornings before he goes to work.  I have a couple of motivators- bopping around in my bathing suit all summer, my mama’s 50th birthday cruise in November, and being a healthy example for my two little mirrors who will do what I do, eat what I eat, and act like I act for most of their lives.

Goals: This month I will read 2 new books from the library (I’m thinking The Secrets of Happy Families and something fictional and escapist), I will lose at least 5 pounds, I will paint my fingers/toes, and I will write a meal plan/shopping list before every weekly shop.  These things will make me infinitely happy, healthy, and help my family.  All four of them.

I hope your outlook for April is sunny and fortified with love.  Spring is coming, good things are on their way!

(The image above was found on Pinterest, and this site is the closest credit I could find.)