Sophie Lately

Photo of a little girl on the beach

On her goals for the future:
> Actually when I grow up I’m going to be a veterinarian and also a digger and a builder.

After I told her she ate a good dinner:
> My face was so hungry and my heart inside my tummy was saying “I’m so hungry!”

General wisdom:
> My brain helps me think of everything.
> That’s not a nice thing to say. I’ll keep it in my mouth.
> Guess who’s the boss? My brain.
> 8-years-olders don’t know everything!
> Life is what’s important for ya. Not the cereal Life, but life.

After a kiss:
> Inside your mouth did you smell my mouth breath?

Throwing a penny into a fountain:
> I wished I love you and I wished for the earth.

On love:
> All of the love things people give me, they sink into my heart and my heart grows bigger and bigger.
> I love you a hundred and a million.
> Hugs are for love.

On Christmas night:
> This is the most awesomest day I ever did!

Doctor = “dop-ter”
Iron = “i-run”
Jesus = “Jeez-its”
Remember = “buh-member”

Saying goodbye to our Bella

Bella didn’t just love the beach. She could never get enough of it.

The sand, the waves, all the birds to chase.

Here she is in her element, during our wedding week 12 years ago:

photo of black lab playing at the beach

Her ritual never changed. From the moment Bella caught the scent of salt air, she’d claw her way across the boardwalk, dragging us up and over the dunes with a leash extended as far as it could stretch.

And once that “clink” separated leash from collar, she’d bolt for the water in a flurry of sand, flapping ears and maniacal tail-wagging. Back in her young-gal days, she could jump several feet off the ground to fetch a piece of driftwood or snag a waterlogged tennis ball from the air.

So I never doubted where Bella’s final resting place would be.

Ocean Isle Beach. The west end, where Tubbs Inlet slices it apart from Sunset Beach.

When the tide is really low, the water recedes so far back you can practically wade between the islands. That was always Bella’s favorite time to sprint through tide pools and terrorize seagulls trying to rest.

Yesterday was cold and windy and beautiful. My favorite kind of winter day on the beach. And the tide was really low when we set out to say goodbye to Bella, which I took as a good sign.

The clouds had just started smothering the sun, but it didn’t matter. We walked to the point, separate but together, our little family spread out across a vast expanse of sand and shallow pools.

Sophie darted in and out of the water, scooping up sea foam, pants rolled up above her knees. Lily carefully combed the beach for sand dollar pieces. I followed Marc to the very edge of the sand, head down, tears stinging my eyes.

The wind caught my first scoop of ashes, causing it to splatter onto the wet sand. Which was awful and upsetting. So I shed my boots, rolled up my leggings and waded out to ankle-deep territory. The cold water stung, which made me cry even harder, but finally — gently — I spread a handful of ashes into the ocean. The tide quickly lifted and scattered them.

Marc stayed quietly nearby, hugged me when I most needed it, and spread a handful of ashes. The girls each got a turn too, then scraped little tributes to Bella into the sand after watching their dad carve a heart around the letter B.

photo of dog images carved into sand photo of a heart and the letter B carved into the sand at the beach

By the time we finished, the sun had completely disappeared.

But later, as I walked back down the beach with a soaked Sophie on my back, I turned around and saw this. A glorious sliver of golden sky over the inlet.

photo of beach and sky

And I didn’t feel like crying anymore.

We love you, sweet Bella girl, queen of the waves, sand and seagulls. Rest in peace.

Christmas Day

I wake to the sound of Sophie’s door creaking open.

7:15. Not bad.

Quiet little feet pad across the hall. She crawls into bed with us, but despite my best efforts, there will be no more closing of eyes. After a few minutes of forced snuggling, I cave and agree that she can go wake her sister.

The girls bolt down the stairs, Marc and I on their heels, and dive head-first into their stockings.

Then this. Lily discovering that Santa brought her #1 gift.


And Sophie, hugging her new book (they get one special picture book every year at Christmas and on their birthdays. I hope to send them each off to college with a treasured collection).


And Marc, front and center, battling through cardboard and plastic and countless zip ties, wearing the necklace Lily made him.


And then, poof, it’s over.

We crowd under the tree for a family photo. “Mommy’s Christmas wish” I tell the girls. They oblige, clutching favorite toys to their chests.

After assembling and charging and playing with new toys, and devouring french toast casserole, and more playing, we head down the street to Nonna and Papa’s house, where homemade tomato sauce simmers on the stove and Perry Como’s voice drifts from the living room.


This is one of my favorite shots — Sophie’s face when she discovers cash in her stocking.


Sweet cousins.



I get out from behind the camera for a moment (and I’m so happy I did).





So much love. And laughter and comfort. And full bellies. And happy, happy kids.

Another Christmas Day, gone in a blink. I’ll confess: I’m always a little depressed on December 26th. But the traditions and the memories — and the gift of slowing down for time together — fortify us for the new year ahead.

That’s the good stuff. I’m holding on tight.


Sophie is fiveMost every morning, she climbs quietly out of her bed and up into mine. I don’t even have to open my eyes to situate her in just the right spot, tucked under my arm, her legs curled against my belly.

She loves to go to school, but does not appreciate the value of routine. Especially when her toys beckon to be played with and her teeth have no interest in being brushed.

She is VERY independent and is constantly flexing those muscles. Which, while frustrating a lot of the time, is also quite awesome. Because she is courageous – fearless, really. Like when she told Marc to take the training wheels off her bike and wobbled and scraped her way around our cul-de-sac until she could ride on two wheels like the big kids.

Spaghetti and pizza are her favorite foods. Along with pretty much anything sweet, especially “vacation” cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Speaking of spaghetti, one of my favorite Sophie-words is “sa-lahn-ya,” which means lasagna.

Others I can’t bring myself to correct:
“calapiddar” = caterpillar
“buh-member” = remember
“mur-ee-oh” = burrito

Her big sister is the center of her universe, and she wants to do pretty much everything Lily does. All the time. She also is the only one who can get Lily really laughing good. The deep-down-in-your-belly-eyes-watering laughter.

She tells really bad jokes, takes great pride in styling her hair ALL BY MYSELF into a side ponytail and gives really good kisses (with sound effects).

She loves to build — with Legos, magna-tiles, tanagrams, her old baby blocks — and makes the most amazing creations.

She is the light of our lives. A hilarious, clever, brilliant ray of sunshine.

Happy birthday number five, sweet Sophie Muriel.

Lily lately

Lily hikingLatest questions for Siri (she calls her “Serious”):
What does cheese taste like?
How does a clock work?
Where do flowers come from?
What color is your hair?
Is Beyoncé your favorite?
Where do porcupines live?

On the rare day that her little sister doesn’t drive her crazy: 
I think I’m going to marry Sophie!

On trying an egg sandwich:
I’ll try it someday soon. And I mean when I’m 99.

After vacation: 
I am SO not ready to go back to school tomorrow. I’m going to miss waking up and having a cartoon in my face.

On her superhero creation, “Super Tootie Girl”:
My toots are really stinky and I toot on the bad guys and they pass out.

In the backseat of the car: 
Ugh! Sophie, you are so complicating!

On worst-case scenarios:
Imagine if you were allergic to cheese puffs and chocolate. What a life that would be!

On best-case scenarios: 
Wouldn’t it be so nice if you could wear yoga pants to work with a pillow strapped to your head and your jammy shirt and slippers?

When driving through a college campus, noticing that the buildings were named after people:
So that means one day there could be a Lily Maxine building!

When exasperated from being sick so often: 
Me: Are you tired of me asking you how you’re feeling?
Lily: I’m just plain tired.

Counseling a sobbing Sophie through a strep test: 
Guess what Sophie!? When I go to college I’m going to invent a strep throat laser beam in science class. So then they won’t put that horrible stick down your throat any more!

Finding beauty in the less-than-beautiful (because it’s all around)

glitter Easter eggsApril is almost here.

And at least one member of our little family — sometimes two at a time — has been sick with a stomach virus (and “cousins” of the virus, according to our pediatrician) nearly every single day in March.

So as this month winds down, I have some choices:

I could keep wallowing (out loud).

I could hug the wet blanket of depression even tighter around my shoulders.

I could polish off five boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Oh wait.

Or, I could open my eyes and be grateful.

My children are well. At last. My husband and I are well. When it comes down to it, the worst month of illness on record for our family is really no big deal, especially considering (which I do, often) how much worse our situation could be.

And, at the ripe old age of 40, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last 30 days. Such as: being averse to change does me no good.

I can’t tell you how defeating it was to plan each week and then watch it fall apart. I’d panic, re-plan, then panic all over again as those plans crumbled. So I finally (truly) accepted the unpredictability of our situation and quit trying to control it. Taking one day at a time felt so nice, on the occasion that I could really relax into that frame of mind.

Of course I haven’t magically transitioned from Type-A into someone who easily rolls with the punches, but I’ve seen the other side and I have to say it’s actually quite nice.

Also, our house has never been cleaner.

Same goes for the girls’ hands. We have a new obsession with washing hands properly, now that everybody fully understands how important it is. No more squirt-soap-rinse-and-dash for these two.

Another bit of silver lining? The snuggles.

To just be still and hold my girls was such a gift. I feel more connected to them than ever, in a new, stronger way. More worried, of course. But also more in tune with them and their little bodies.

And I can recite lines from the movie “Barbie: Spy Squad.” Which, to my girls, counts as a major win from this experience.

We might get sick again after I hit “publish” on this post. We might not (please let it be so). But it’s important to me to try to find the positive.

And to feel hope as a new month — a new season — is finally upon us.

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