How to Be Brave

Boy in red shirt
When my son, Wolfy was learning to walk, he would fall and then cry pitifully, reaching his arms out to be helped up.

 “Don’t go to him,” people said, “Don’t pick him up when he acts like that. He needs to learn.” 

He needs to learn what? That his mama won’t come to him when he’s hurting? That when he’s feeling uncertain and trying something new, he’s all on his own? Nope. No thank you. Those weren’t lessons that I was trying to teach. 

Instead I wanted my son to know that I am here for him, no matter what. That I’m not perfect but that I always try to do my best. So over and over again, I reached back and grabbed those little arms. I hugged the little person that changed from a squishy baby to a stout toddler and then the lean body of a young boy. I’ve kissed countless boo boos – both real and imagined. 

There is a sweetness to being so needed by my little boy but there’s a downside. 

Sometimes I get frustrated. Wolfy cries frequently over seemingly insignificant things. He can be whiny at times.  And now that he’s five years old, he’s reluctant to ride his bike and jump off the side of the pool. I began to question whether always comforting him was the best thing. Maybe I wasnt doing my son any favors. Maybe all the attention was turning him soft. 

Then I thought about my second child, my daughter Ada. She is a fearless, rough-and-tumble girl. At 2yo she’s already obsessed with super heroes and playing dinosaurs. The other day she fell off the chest-high stone wall at our house and popped right back up complaining that she had bitten her tongue. It was bleeding but my little girl shed no tears. Ada came into the world like this.  I didn’t teach her to be tough or fearless. She just is. 

And that made me realize that my other child…just isn’t. His nature is soft and sensitive. He gets easily hurt and that’s okay. 

Recently Wolfy has become obsessed with the Magic School Bus television show. The other day at the breakfast he randomly told me, “Arnold is my favorite character because he’s so brave.” 

“What makes Arnold brave?” I asked. 

“He’s always scared to do something but then he does it anyway.” 

I told my son, you’re brave like that too. Being brave doesn’t mean being fearless. It means conquering your fears. 

I know that in Wolfy’s life, many things will scare him. But that is just more opportunities for him to be brave. And my job is to support him. And kiss his boo-boos sometimes too. 

8 Reasons Raising Children in a Small Town is Awesome

raising children small town

Raising children in a small town can be challenging.

There aren’t zoos or museums or giant parks or festivals. Our town doesn’t even have its own playground. Often I am asked why I live here and why we choose to raise our children here. People tell me, “I would go crazy if I were you.” Continue reading “8 Reasons Raising Children in a Small Town is Awesome”

How Dirty Dishes Rekindled the Romance in My Marriage

rekindled marriage, this is motherhood

My husband and I didn’t notice that we were ignoring each other. Somehow in the past few years, we had slowly drifted apart until we were completely disconnected from each other.

It’s like when we brought our twelve-year-old dog to her recent check up; as she stepped onto the scale, we were shocked to find that she had somehow gained thirty pounds in the last couple of years. Of course my husband and I knew our dog had put on weight but it had happened so slowly that neither of us had noticed how unhealthy she had become.

The same thing was happening in my marriage. These slow changes just sneak up on you. Continue reading “How Dirty Dishes Rekindled the Romance in My Marriage”

A Judgmental Mother Visits McDonald’s

I used to be a very judgmental mother.

I was the perfect parent, except for one thing – I didn’t have any children yet. Well, I had one baby. One. He was a really easy baby. He smiled at everyone and was never grumpy, even when we changed his schedule. Looking back now, I realize that my life was pretty simple and I didn’t even know it. All I knew is that I was the mother of one easygoing baby and yet, I thought that I was an expert on all aspects of parenting. Continue reading “A Judgmental Mother Visits McDonald’s”

Three Terrible Days in Montreal

Recently our family took a trip to Montreal.

My husband and I thought it would be the perfect mini-vacation because it’s the closest city to where we live and even though it’s still cold outside, there is a lot to see and do. The highlight of the trip was supposed to be the Biodome, which is sort of like an indoor zoo.

The first problem occurred even before we left our house when I realized that my passport had expired a month ago. Everyone over the age of 16 needs a valid passport or enhanced driver’s license to get into Canada and back into the United States. Having an expired passport was really bad. It should have been an omen for what to expect from the rest of the trip. But we had already booked and paid to rent an Airbnb in Montreal. There was no changing the plans or cancelling. We would just have to drive up to the border and try our luck. Continue reading “Three Terrible Days in Montreal”

A Letter From the Family Dog (Guest Post by My Husband Will Eberle)

Dear family,

Fuck you.  Truly.

Remember, before you brought those feeble, pink, fur-less puppies home, when you used to care if I lived or died?  Yeah, me too. Continue reading “A Letter From the Family Dog (Guest Post by My Husband Will Eberle)”

A Letter From the Family Dog (Guest Post by My Husband Will Eberle)

A Letter From the Family Dog

Dear family,

Fuck you.  Truly.

Remember, before you brought those feeble, pink, fur-less puppies home, when you used to care if I lived or died?  Yeah, me too.

Nevertheless, I’m still here, patiently waiting for you to regain your senses and rekindle the relationship we once had.

Currently I’m literally drowning in my own fat, a once regal, now morbidly obese canine long of tooth and nail struggling to get off the couch, desperate for just one minuscule scrap of attention.  You used to stand on opposite sides of a field and hit tennis balls for me for hours. I’d gallop across the alfalfa like a Prometheus Proto-dog, glistening in the sunshine like an Egyptian god-dog emblazoned in hand-ground pigment for all time on the side of some Pharaoh’s sarcophagus.

Now I’m the thing you trip over on the way to finding your Crocs. You used to buy me raw chicken and lovingly Saran Wrap individual portions to be frozen and triumphantly presented to me each day like flutes of champagne at the Carnivàle. Now you fling a hideous glop of dry kibble in my general direction every night before flossing your teeth. Would that I was the floss in your treacherous fingers, at least then I’d feel your warm touch just once again upon my fur.

Do you remember when we used to go canoe camping together?  I’d ride in the prow like a Viking pillager, steadfastly keeping lookout for the first spit of land, the rich timbre of my bark peeling of the mountains when we found a likely cove?

Now I’m lucky if you notice me barking when you’re stepping on my tail.

I. Literally. Can’t. Even.

Let’s get a few things straight. Those new puppies you got? They’re shitty dogs. They have no teeth or claws to speak of, and they don’t even have the decency to kick dirt upon their feces, no they have the audacity to make you handle it and wipe their neither regions with dampened clothes. How absolutely vile.  Can we talk about their protection skills for a minute? Unless you’re looking for someone to protect a warm bottle of milk you’d be better off with a banana slug if intruders visited the home place at night.

I can crunch through chicken bones; I wouldn’t know who to put my money on in a fair fight between them and a graham cracker. I can swim across a reservoir; those pathetic displays can barely survive a sink bath.  It disgusts me.

But it wasn’t always like this. We used to have something truly special. Oh how I remember the delicious jangle of my leash, the brisk wind whipping through the open door, your joyous whistle. I’d bound to the stoop, your beloved and trusted companion, and we would cover miles of terrain like visiting dignitaries inspecting the estate of a great and noble host.

Life was simple. We were happy. All I needed was you, and all you needed was me. Or so I thought.

Now all that I inspect is the floor of the breakfast nook, the site of my daily debasement, where I’ve taken to groveling beneath the “high chair” of the one you have crowned, and christened “baby.”

How I despise this “baby.”  Would that she too knew the dirty oaken boards of you floor, would that her knees became accustomed to its knots, as she waited hour after accursed hour for just one morsel of pre-chewed food to drop. Would, that just once her precious dampened cloth failed to come to her aid, and she was made to live with the natural consequences of her deprivations after soiling our once lovely den.

I pray that you will come to your senses, my old, dear, friends –  my “family.”  I pray that the fog will rise from your once mighty brains, the shroud will be lifted from your eyes, and you will remember the noble dog before you.

Though it has been years, I entreat you to remember that it is still not too late.

Simply leave the fur-less ones outside –  nature will attend to the rest.  Remove the jars of putrescence vegetable mush from the refrigerator and once again fill its shelves with glorious mounds of Saran-wrapped chicken.  Throw the “diaper bag” in the nearest trash compactor so that nothing might prevent you from easily grasping the leashes and toys of your oldest friend.

We can be great again, you and I.  Just throw the ball.  You can be assured that I will always fetch it.

I leave you now as I found you, wretched and alone.  May the sun and fresh air of days to come remind you of your decency, and your duty.


Your Dog.

P.S. – I know how much you love that damp cloth, so I left you a little present in the shower.





Saturday Nights With Children


Six months ago our family began having “Movie Night” once a week.

We started doing this to try to feel more connected as a family by having our own special traditions. On “Movie Night” we eat popcorn and ice cream for dinner and watch a kid-friendly movie. We do it on either on Friday or Saturday night and it has become the highlight of our weekend. We usually pick out the movie several days in advance and hype it by talking about it all week and sometimes watching previews on YouTube. Then we go to the grocery store and let our four-year-old son, Wolfy choose the ice cream. I’ve eaten more strawberry ice cream this year than I care to admit. Continue reading “Saturday Nights With Children”

Surviving The Why Stage

Surviving the Why Stage(1)

My newly-four-year-old son is deeply entrenched in the “Why Stage”.

For the past six months he has been constantly asking, “Why why why?” and it’s driving me crazy! Seriously. I think I’ve finally reached my breaking point.

I thought I would be a better parent through this.

Ever since my son entered toddler-hood, I knew that something like this might be coming. Continue reading “Surviving The Why Stage”

20 Questions 

Do you ever wonder what your child really thinks about you?  In graduate school, I had a class with a woman who had done a survey like this with her kids. In response to the question, “What does Mommy like to do best?” her son drew a picture of her washing the dishes. It ended up being the inspiration for her to go back to school and get her teaching certification!

Simple right? Now it’s your turn. Without any prompting, ask your child these 20 questions. Write down exactly what they say. If you feel like it, post your answers in the comments. Continue reading “20 Questions “