on being less ‘nice’

I just discovered this deftly written New York Times article, and it made me squirm. Especially this line:

She is a beautiful kid, but she is also sure and determined in a way that is not exactly pretty. Which is fine, because God help me if that girl ends up smiling through her entire life as if she is waitressing or pole-dancing or apologizing for some vague but enormous infraction, like the very fact of her own existence.

This is me.

Not the “sure and determined” one. But the other one who wants to be liked by every single person I encounter.

I struggle with this often, especially since becoming a mother.

This evening, for example, when the drive-through attendant scowled at me as I handed over cash for the girls’ ice cream, I smiled and thanked her. Then I thanked her again when she gave me my change. And again — bigger smile, please like me, I’m really a nice customer — when she finally handed me the ice cream.

Even when people say or do things that make me uncomfortable, I continue to find myself smiling, agreeing, ingratiating myself to complete strangers in front of my daughters. I mostly want the encounters to end quickly, but instead of walking away, I engage.

I’m not sure why I continue to make that choice. To avoid causing an awkward situation? To save a stranger’s feelings?

It’s ridiculous, really. But I can’t seem to quit.

We’ll be at the grocery store when someone stops me to say how beautiful Sophie is, or in line at Target when someone comments on Lily’s outfit of the day. The girls don’t usually make eye contact with strangers (good) or acknowledge their remarks (even better), but I can’t not do it.

“Oh thank you. She has her own mind when it comes to fashion,” I say with a wink. Then I look down at Lily with a warped expectation that she follow my lead. When really, most of these exchanges could be short and sweet and — preferably — go unnoticed by my girls.

A cursory nod or quick smile would do the trick. Or maybe (gasp) no acknowledgement at all.

I don’t have to respond.

But I keep doing it. Then scolding myself.

And repeat.

So I raced through the article hoping the author would share a strategy, a solution. How do we resist the impulse to be a people-pleaser in these situations? Better yet, how do we shut it down for good?

Being kind is important to me. But indulging others — especially strangers — in unnecessary ways is a lesson I don’t want to pass on to my girls.

Awareness is a good first step, right? And I’m lucky that my girls are still little enough not to be very attuned to social cues (and usually too distracted to pay attention to these encounters when we’re out in public). So I haven’t entirely blown it.

But what better reason to make a positive change than for the benefit of my children?

This is what drives me to keep trying. To be more confident and protective of my kids and myself.

To be less ‘nice.’

Sophie lately

silly SophieOn putting on her gymnastics leotard:
“Look at me! And I have my panties on so no one can’t see my butt!”

Cooking dinner with Marc:
“What is that beautiful smell in my nose?”

Telling jokes:
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Miss Puh-tatuh
Miss Puh-tatuh who?

Being a weirdo:
“When I started eating green beans my tummy got really full and then I started eating breakfast and my breakfast turned into eyeballs.”

On the varying degrees of flatulence:
“Mama! Did you hear that? It was a whispery toot!”

Being a weirdo again:
“I like to smell all my friends’ breath!”

On gratitude:
“I’m so glad we live near the dentist and the doctor and old McDonald’s.”

On her new skills:
“Look Mommy! I can draw a person without nobody helping me!”

On best horticultural practices:
“Flowers need seeds and water and sun and love.”

From the backseat of the car (after getting fussed at for sticking stuff out the window):
“When you and Daddy get small me and Lily are going to get big and I’m going to be the mommy and Lily’s going to be the daddy and I’m going to lock your window!”


I’m not ready.

I graduated from college, got married, had kids. And turned 40 last week. Those things make me a bona fide grown-up, right?


The universe isn’t really listening. Laughing is more like it.

Everyone from my husband to a well-meaning aunt tells me that age is just a number and you can’t do anything about it so just keep putting one foot in front of the other and move on. Easier said than done. I don’t know what it is about this new decade. I just don’t feel old enough in my head to be FORTY.

I mean, I vividly remember how the first day of school felt. The thrill of holding my first Cabbage Patch Kid. The rush of driving a car for the first time. The anticipation of my prom date coming to pick me up. More than that, I remember my mom’s 40th birthday. Dad threw her a surprise party, and it was awesome. Surely that was just yesterday, right?

Aren’t I just playing grown-up? There’s no way I’m qualified to be 40. Doesn’t everyone know I have no idea what I’m doing? Am I really the mother of a second-grader? Was that a gray hair in my eyebrow?

These are the thoughts swirling around in my head. Because apparently I don’t deal well with the passage of time.

Time changed the moment I gave birth to Lily. My life propelled from a meandering stroll to a full-on sprint. The days pass entirely too quickly. Lily is going to be EIGHT this year. And don’t even get me started on Sophie, a walking, talking little force of nature.

As agonizing as those baby days were, I long for them in a way that makes my chest hurt.

I packed up baby clothes last month, sobbing in a heap on my bedroom floor. The woman at the donation center had to pry the gigantic plastic tub from my hands. Children are a constant reminder of how cruel time can be.

So many days and hours and minutes are flying by.

Another decade.

I know I’ll get used to it.

I’m so deeply grateful for my life that fretting over a number seems so silly. I’m blessed beyond measure and trying to be aware every single day of how wonderful life really is. Little moments and big ones. The good stuff abounds.

And I can only imagine (and hope for) how much more of that good stuff lies ahead.

Okay, 40. You give me no choice.

Let’s do this.

because I want to write

Hello little blog. I’m back. I missed you. I missed writing.

So it’s time to dust you off and put more permendous stuff out into the universe. Like this picture of Sophie expertly applying her own sunscreen at the beach this summer:


SO MUCH has happened since November. But I’m not going to try to recap. I’m just going to pick up with right here, right now.

This feels good, typing in the “add new post” screen. I think clicking “publish” will give me a head rush.


Who knows what or when I’ll write next. That’s the fun thing.

See you again soon.


Happy Thanksgiving (and a bit of a goodbye) from these turkeys

Thanksgiving turkeys

I’m sitting on the couch watching my girls watch the SpongeBob Christmas special. Sophie is wearing a blue princess dress over her clothes, and Lily is sprawled in “her” chair (the big brown La-Z-Boy that migrated downstairs from the nursery and that I still can’t bear to part with because there are so many memories wrapped up in it). Her black eye — from a head-on collision at recess this week — is starting to turn green. She’s forgotten it’s there. Thank goodness.

Marc sits beside me, exhausted from more wrestling with insulation and plastic sheeting and pipes under the house. We’ve just finished a dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers, and bedtime is fast approaching (praise be).

In one word, I’m content.

I’ve grown to appreciate this happy weariness of parenthood. The completion of a fun, action-packed day. The delicious anticipation of those glorious post-bedtime hours when I get a break from the nonstop tending to my girls’ needs.

My reserves fill up, and I begin to miss them as I head up to bed. By the morning, I’m rested (mostly) and overjoyed (truly) to see them again. Especially when they sleep past seven.

We’ve had a wonderful little holiday. Thanksgiving Day with Nonna, Papa, Aunt Laura and her brood; a movie date with sweet Olive; Christmas decorating; and lots (LOTS) of jammie time. I hope your holiday has been just as chaotic and relaxing and love-filled.

Every year as we turn the corner toward Christmas, I get extra nostalgic and emotional. It’s an interesting phenomenon that’s been growing stronger since Lily’s first Christmas six years ago. I take stock and reflect and think ahead to a new, fresh year. And I can’t listen to a Bing Crosby song without tearing up a little bit.

Can you tell where this is headed?

Here I am again, wanting to stop blogging. There are lots of reasons, but the biggest are those two in the photo up there (and their dad). I hardly publish any more, but this site still weighs on me. I neglect it. Then I feel guilty and throw myself in and spend way too much time nurturing it. My compulsion to document takes all sorts of forms (journals for both girls, notes on my phone, copious photo-taking, etc.) and publishing these intimacies online is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me. An invasion of privacy that I’m enabling. It’s weird.

Plus, my real job is busy and incredibly fulfilling. I’ve also started freelance writing. And I want to dedicate most of my online energy to Posy and Ann Tyer Photography and Postpartum Education and Support.

So I’m going to step away for a little while. Or a long one. I just don’t know. I’m not going to shutter this site in a big hurry, like with pretty*swell, when I lost a bunch of photos and words and my heart is still broken over it. Silly impulsive me.

Thank you for reading. Especially those of you who’ve been with us since the beginning, August 2009.

I’ll still be hanging out on Instagram, so pop by there for little updates if you’d like.

Happy holidays, friends. Wishing you love and happiness and lots of bacon-wrapped goodies.


from my camera roll: Sunday by the lake


So many little snapshots of our life hang out in my phone … and then get dumped onto the computer never to be heard from again. I share my favorites on Instagram, but there are always a bunch left on the cutting room floor that I love.

Since I have this little corner of the internet all to myself, I figure why not share here? A bajillion more photos of my kids! You’re in, right?

This batch was taken on a walk by our neighborhood lake last Sunday, where Sophie spent a lot of time finding beauty in the weeds and Lily sky-gazed while Bella frolicked and marked her “territory” every ten feet. It was the first time in a long while that I’d been outside just to be outside, and it was pretty wonderful.








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