There’s a meme that makes the rounds every so often about working out not just for yourself but because your kids are watching. I love that Liam sees me as an active person.  Last Mother’s Day, his class made “All About Mom” books. He wrote that I enjoy yoga. He knows that I run and train. I take classes in the adult side of the gym while he takes ninja classes. Most importantly, he watches me try to become better. He hears me talk about runs or races that didn’t go as planned. Last Monday, I talked at dinner about my failed attempt to PR my deadlift. When I ran seven miles last weekend, he hugged me, “Congratulations. You’ve never run that far. That’s a huge accomplishment.”

We often talk about the “power of yet,” the idea that it’s not a failure, you just haven’t succeeded yet. We remember things that used to be difficult that are easy now: climbing the wall at ninja class, place value, borrowing numbers in subtraction, etc. I’m so thankful that he understands that not everything goes your way the first time around.

This week, my college’s alumni association hosted an event at the Alex and Ani Ice Skating Center downtown.  We never go out on weeknights but decided to make a special exception for a special occasion.  Our first stop was the bumper boats, a new edition this season. Liam loved them! They were a lot of fun! We were paired up with a nice group and had a lot of laughs as we bumped into each other.

The second part of the evening was spent ice skating. I had only ice skated one other time, but I grew up roller skating and roller blading so I was able to skate around pretty easily. We rented Liam a snowman to help guide him around the ice.  Because he had never even roller skated, he didn’t realize the basics. It took a few minutes to get him to realize he needed to push his skates to the side rather than one in front of the other like he as he went. Much like teaching him to ride a bike, there were a lot of steps involved that most people do without thinking.


Liam wanted to give up, but he didn’t want to leave the event. He kept at it, holding on to his snowman, the edge of the rink, and eventually skating on his own. A younger Liam would have cried and given up. This Liam kept with it, listening to feedback, watching me, and trusting that I would not let him get hurt. By the end of the night, he could on his own. He wasn’t fast. He wasn’t smooth, but he could do it.  I am so proud of these moments when he is willing to struggle.


By the end of the night, he was done with pictures!


What I Should Have Said Two Weeks Ago

Two weeks ago, my friend’s mom passed away after a long illness. We were very close in college, grew apart after graduating, and recently reconnected. I was unable to attend the wake and have been rattling words inside my head, trying to think of the right thing to say to help ease the pain. This is a sampling of the randomness:

There is nothing I can say that will help you feel better. However, knowing that you are not alone in your grief is comforting. Sometimes, people will tell you that your mom is no longer suffering. That doesn’t make you feel much better; you wish you still had your mom here and that is okay.  It is your grief, no one can tell you how to handle it. Other times, people are afraid of saying the wrong this and say nothing. If I’ve learned anything, saying something, acknowledging the pain, is always helpful.

Grief is going to hit you out of nowhere when you least expect it. This isn’t like a cold that you can nurse better in a week or so and go on with your life. Years later, something great/sad/silly/amazing will happen and you’ll think about telling your mom, only to have the sinking realization that you can’t. When my mom was in the nursing home, I used to call my mom every afternoon when I was getting on the highway after work. Eight years later, I still take different backroads to get to the highway, simply to avoid the reminder that I can no longer call my mom and tell her about my day. While spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws, I always think of my mom’s burnt dinner rolls, look at my mother-in-law’s perfectly cooked rolls, and tear up that I will never be able to make hockey puck roll jokes with my mom ever again.  You will be able to resume day to day normalcy, but grief will come out of nowhere and hit you when you are not thinking about it.

For a long time after she’s gone, you’re going to remember your mom as perfect. It is okay to also recognize her flaws. I tell Liam about his Nana, who fought so hard to stay alive long enough to meet him, keeping to myself how angry I was when she told everyone I was pregnant long before I was ready to share my news.  Freshly remembering the pain of discovering I was pregnant only to have it go away, I didn’t want to jinx myself or have to explain to people I was no longer pregnant if that happened again. My mom couldn’t help herself, sharing the good news with everyone she could. As time passes, things that used to drive you bonkers about your mom will become nothing more than entertaining quirks.

Signs are going to come when you expect them least and need them most. Don’t question how or why they happened. Appreciate the signs that a loved one is still watching over you.

I keep putting together these words, hoping for the courage to write them on a card and send them. I don’t want to appear like I am an expert on your grief. Your grief is different than mine, which is why there is not one magic formula for recovery. Knowing that you are not alone makes all the difference.


My Own “Ride or Die” Group

I just finished reading Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes. After being accused by her sister of never saying yes to anything, she agreed to every invitation and opportunity she received. During this year, she played with her kids every time they asked, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and The Mindy Project, and gave several keynote speeches.  While sharing her experiences, I  wanted to be best friends with her.  In one of the later chapters, she discusses losing two close friends over this year. Her other friends informed her that they were never really “friends” and seemed to be upset over her transformation. Shonda (because we are on a first name basis now) categorized her closest friends as her “ride or die” friends. I immediately decided to steal the term for my own. Since entering adulthood, I’ve lost several old friends. Some were toxic and needed to be cut, others just lost touch and, when space became too great, drifted apart.

The result of my many offers to perform flower girl duties at my friend’s wedding. I still giggle when I think about this picture.

I used to mourn the loss of these people quite frequently. As they were replaced by amazing, supportive friends, I realize that some of the breaks were definitely for the best.  The current people in my life are my own “ride or die” group. They showed up even when I claimed I didn’t need them. They check in frequently and remember things that are going on in each others’ lives. We are silly, inappropriate, and supportive. We keep group messages going. After spending time with them, I will remember silly things we said or did and randomly laugh, causing Mike to glace over and humor me by listening to me recap our shenanigans. Sometimes, our sessions actually hold up and are hilarious to others. Usually, these recaps end with Mike shaking his head and smiling.


I’ve said that I had to meet Mike when I was older; twenty-two-year old me would not have appreciated him. The same is true for my friends. I needed friends who expected more of me than they were willing to give, belittled my life choices, and made catty comments about me when they thought I was out of earshot. I needed these people to understand that I hit the friend jackpot as I grew older. My yoga girls, mommy friends, and running buddies slowly became my “ride or die” group.  I thoroughly enjoyed Year of Yes and believe it should be required reading to anyone who has ever doubted themselves. Her ideas about friendship are one of my favorite takeaways. Shonda reminded me how important it is to have a “ride or die” crew. I am eternally grateful for mine!

When Your Kid Sets the Example

Part of being a parent is the constant worrying about whether or not your kid is doing okay, which is a direct measure of how you are doing okay as a parent. Liam is a great kid. He is kind and thoughtful. He was a trooper during the second half of February break. We spent three days running errands. By Friday, we were both done. To make matters worse, Friday was the day or errand errors.

Happy dog at his check-up Wednesday!


This kid and his giggles get me every time!


We took Banjo for his interview at a dog daycare.  Before adopting him, we booked two trips, so we need to find a place to take care of him while we are gone. The plan was to take him to his interview, once he passed the initial trial period, we were to leave him for three hours. We could then go up the street to get the oil changed on the car.  The problem was, he didn’t pass, causing us to drive back across town, drop him off, then drive back across town to get my oil changed.  (He had a second interview Saturday and passed with flying colors!) After forty minutes of driving, the dealership informs me they were running an hour and a half behind. We went somewhere else to take care of it, frustrated that I drove all that way for an “express” oil change.


It took two trips to the blood center before I could donate. Liam is always happy to eat warm post-donation cookies with me!

After the oil change, I drove to pick up the boots I had dropped off to be re-soled, reheeled, and stitched.  (I cannot find boots to fit my calves so I’ve been fixing these bionic boots for six years now.) My shoes that were promised to be ready by Friday, were not. At this point, I was ready to cry out of frustration. We could have been doing so many better things on this beautiful day. We passed playgrounds, libraries, and other attractions. I put my eight-year-old in the car for errands that, for reasons beyond our control, weren’t following through. We got to the Blood Center when they were not yet opened. At our next errand, replacing Liam’s sneakers, we discovered that the place where I always buy Liam his shoes closed. Yes, I completely understand that these were first world problems. What kicked me the most was the Mama guilt, mostly brought on by Facebook posts of our friends visiting Boston, New York City, and doing all sorts of fun adventures while we failed at task after task. 

Liam still smiling at the end of a terribly unproductive day!


If I were not with Liam, I would have followed my usual routine for handling stress: crying and eating junk food. As we walked back to the car from the shoe repair, two blocks up because we couldn’t find parking, I apologized to Liam multiple times for messing up our last day of vacation. He replied, “It’s okay. I’d rather be here with you.” When I told him how much that remark made me happy, he continued, “You told me I needed to clean my room when we got home. I’d rather run stupid errands than clean my room.” Liam proceeded to perform what he called his “errand fail dance.” While I was ready to cry and get frustrated, Liam found the best of a yucky situation. He managed to have the same effect on me that Mike does when I am upset. I often joke that Liam managed to inherit all of Mike’s best traits and all of my terrible characteristics; I love seeing Liam share Mike’s ability to keep me giggling, even when I wanted to scream. Liam has a gift for always seeing the positive; I hope that talent remains as he becomes an adult.

On Kind of Being a Townie

I love that Liam is able to grow up in the same area I grew up. When we explore many of the same places I went as a child, I feel that I get to enjoy them for the first time again.  I love that we get to enjoy such childhood favorites as Del’s Lemonade, Warwick City Park, and bakery pizza. This spring, Liam will make his first communion at the same church where I made my first communion many years earlier.


Somewhere, there is a picture of me in my first communion dress in front of the church. I’ve been searching high and low for that picture, hoping to recreate it with Liam.  These are three photos from my first communion that I have been able to find.

Yes, this picture is the epitome of everything the early ’80s had to offer. It is also a perfect representation of my mother’s motherhood and party planning style. First communions then were much simpler. The priest posed for pictures with children in the church basement after mass. Families went to the house for simple celebrations. There were no professional photographers or restaurant receptions.  After my first communion, we went to my house where my aunts, uncles, and cousins celebrated with me. We ate store-brand potato chips from plastic bowls and party pizza, happy just to spend time together. Anyone who knows my mom knows that, while she was the kindest, most selfless person in the world, she was not good at details.

My Aunt Dot scolded my mom for not getting a picture of me in my dress. My mom borrowed a first communion dress from the mother of a neighborhood girl who made hers the previous year. I took it off as soon as I got home from church. So here I am, freshly called in from playing in the backyard on my metal swing set, mismatched clothed and messy-faced.

The church gave each of us a plastic statue of a child at the altar. There were several plastic candles attached to the altar. In spite of everyone telling her they were not actually candles, my mother insisted they were real. She put it on my cake and lit the “candles,” covering the cake with tiny specks of burnt plastic. Speaking of cake, my mom was part of a huge family; that little cake was supposed to be enough to feed about twenty people.  Also worth noting about that cake was that I believe it was the first cake ordered for me. Typically, we made our birthday cakes, to be enjoyed at our at-home birthday parties.  I remember feeling very important that I had a cake made for me.

While I wish I had the picture of me in front of my church in my first communion dress, but I am more thankful for this picture:

Because my mom was always the one behind the camera, she left us with very few pictures together. This will be the picture I recreate with Liam in a few months.

As parents, we try to do what is best for our children. When I feel like I need to plan a big birthday party each year, complete with matching utensils and paper goods match, I remember my home parties with party pizza, hugs drinks, store-brand chips, and games of pin the tail on the donkey and clothespin drop. We don’t need to plan big, perfect events for our kids. We just need to be there to celebrate.

Valentine’s Day

I love the idea of Valentine’s Day. A day to demonstrate your love for others is great, especially if it involves being cheesy and silly. However, the idea of going out for dinner and buying expensive, overpriced flowers never seemed necessary. Early on, Mike and I adopted a goal of “non-romantic” Valentine’s Day. Through the years, we have gone to Denny’s, visited the Chinese buffet (while using a coupon), ordered pizza, and made breakfast for dinner at home. This year, we are going to make heart-shaped pink pancakes. Liam is very excited to help make the dinner, asking if we can make one for Banjo.

Even though Mike and I don’t exchange gifts, we bought Liam a stuffed dog.  It’s fun to watch Liam get excited about “telling people I love that I love them.” He made Valentines for his classmates and neighborhood friends. He gave me hugs every chance he could this morning.


Liam giving his mama some snuggles in hope of avoiding getting ready for bed.


Liam is a kind child. He thinks of others and tries his best to be a good person. He gives me hugs before bed and at drop-off but is overall is not an affectionate person. His daycare teachers considered Liam hugs a big deal. Even when he is not feeling well, he wants to sit by himself. Only when he is trying to avoid bedtime does he truly snuggle. Even though I can see through his ulterior motives, I take them, especially when he reminds me that he “won’t fit in your lap forever.” (Seriously, he doesn’t even play fairly!) However, his stinginess in physical affection is more than made up for when it comes to verbal affection. He is more than willing to randomly tell me he loves me or something he enjoys about spending time with me or being my kid. He makes cards for no occasion and slips them to me. He proclamations are so honest and forthcoming, they melt my heart.

I let Liam stay at school a little longer so I could go for a run. I did get to see the Patriots plane take off, which was cool after only seeing it on the tarmac. Liam was happy to have time to play with his friends. It was a nice day so they could finally play outside.




Valentine’s Day dinner was a hit! Liam loved his heart-shaped pancakes! After dinner, we took Banjo for a long walk.  Mike’s folks sent all of us, including Banjo, Valentines. Liam sat with Banjo to read him his card, explaining, “This is from my grandparents. They can’t wait to meet you.”

I love our low-key and easy Valentine’s Days. We don’t need grand gestures to show our love; we find ways to show our love every day.

More Random Thoughts

Every so often, the universe lets you know that your adulting skills are on point. Sunday morning, I romantically got up with Liam and Banjo, allowing Mike a rare morning to sleep a little later. When he came downstairs at 8:45 and asked time I got up, I explained that Liam and Banjo let me sleep until 6:35.  When did waking up at 6:35 on a Sunday become sleeping in!?!?That night, I brushed my teeth while Mike let Banjo out one last time. I need to get to bed, I thought, it’s almost 9:00.  Ten years ago, I would have thought nothing about going out at 9:00. Now, just being up that late is bothersome.  Being an adult involves many challenges, but I am usually caught up on sleep and well-rested.

Banjo is adjusting more and more.  He’s such a smart dog.  We have a great routine in the morning. When we go outside for our last play session before putting him in the crate and heading to school, we had to convince him to come inside. Now, he follows us when we walk to the dog, dropping his ball in the spot where we have been putting it. He’s a really good dog, so intuitive and quick to learn. He’s getting better and better on the leash.

My favorite part of having a dog is seeing Liam flourish. Liam is a typical eight-year-old. He’s learning and trying to test boundaries and see what he can accomplish. Having Banjo in our family gives Liam another purpose. He takes pride in taking care of his dog. He imitates Mike’s commands, trying to support training efforts. We often have to remind Liam several times to keep Legos off the floor. Since adopting Banjo, this has not been an issue. “You need to keep your floor clean. Banjo can’t tell the difference between Legos and dog food. We don’t want him to get sick.” Keeping his room clean is no longer about his parents telling him what to do; he has a responsibility to keep his dog safe.

I forgot how much I enjoy our morning walks. It gives us a good chance to really talk. Today, Liam told me all about Math Slicer, a game he purchased this weekend. It is similar to Fruit Ninja, but a math problem appears on the screen. Two possible answers pop up; the object of the game is to “slice” the correct answer. It is comparable to flashcards. We have been practicing addition and subtraction during our walks, quizzing Liam as we walk the neighborhood. Today, Liam spent most of our walk talking about how much he enjoys the game and that he is getting better and better and remembering his addition and subtraction. I appreciate the time to simply talk to Liam and, during our evening walks, Mike. I also enjoy getting out and seeing our neighbors. Having a dog gives us a great excuse to get to know our neighbors.

One of my favorite Fenway pictures from 2007, when we went to Fenway as often as possible!

On one of my first dates with Mike, I took him to Fenway. At this time, he didn’t know much about baseball. That would soon change. Every year since that first date at Fenway, we have made it several Red Sox games each season.  The Red Sox have been a significant part of our lives; we have had a Red Sox themed wedding. This is the first year that we have had no interest in buying tickets. The cost keeps increasing, the team is not getting any better. I am hopeful that Alex Cora will bring some enthusiasm to the team, but we will not attend unless we happen to get tickets from someone. Even though it is a conscious decision, it feels unnatural to not have a game on our calendar.

At our wedding, we asked guests to sign a jersey, which is now framed and hanging in our dining room. 

A few months ago, I wrote about how writing is helping me deal with anxiety. It’s also helping my perspective. I find myself focusing on the positive parts of my days. I’m blessed in the fact that I am pretty fortunate in terms of the life I have. I have a healthy, happy family, a job I enjoy, and an amazing group of friends. Writing and reflecting on this life allows me to focus on the positives, think about the things that are going well, reflect on what I need to improve, and formulate plans for next steps. After years without writing, I’m thankful something pushed me to return to the hobby.

Expectation vs Reality

This week’s creative writing class is reading Sandra Cisneros’ Eleven, a story about a girl whose eleventh birthday doesn’t go as she hoped. My students and I discuss the concept of expectation versus reality. They shared a few examples of toys and experiences that let them down. The cumulating activity involves rewriting the story through another character’s point of view. It is one of my favorite lessons.

This conversation led me to think about expectation versus reality.  Am I very far off from where I hoped I’d be?

Over the summer, I stopped at Newbury Comics to sell some of the crates full of CDs taking up space in our basement.  For non-locals, Newbury Comics is an insanely cool local chain of record stores. I browsed while waiting for the clerk to sort through my CD collection, remembering all the times I’ve visited this store over the past twenty years. I met Luscious Jackson there just after graduating high school, raced there to purchase REM CDs on Tuesday release days, and discovered all sorts of interesting things through the years. We now take Liam there to buy comic books.  I looked at myself in the reflection of one of the cases, examining the forty-year-old staring back at me. I happened to be wearing cut-off jeans, an Elizabeth and the Catapult T-shirt, and Converse, the under part of my hair freshly died pink. Quickly and inconspicuously snapping a selfie to send to a friend, I couldn’t help but think that seventeen-year-old me would be okay with how I turned out.

Teenaged me would have approved this!

The decision to become an Engish teacher was made in seventh grade. Nothing sounded better than being paid to read and write all day.  Obviously, thirteen-year-old me was very naive about teaching, thinking lessons would magically come to me, only to be delivered flawlessly. Anyone who has ever taught knows that, sometimes, even the best lessons fall flat. I’d like to think that this is what I expected. I have nights attached to my computer, long days of constantly being “on,” and constant concerns about how to better help my students achieve. I’d like to think that I am fair and my students know how much I care about them. Recently, a graduating student stopped by to say goodbye. She thanked me for pushing her, even when she didn’t want to be pushed. I love seeing my students accomplish things they doubted they could complete. Those A-Ha! moments are all we need to help keep us going. When I imagined being an English teacher, I’d like to think this is what I had in mind!

Teaching the Summit Learning Platform last summer

Parenting is another story. Mike and I were so naive about this as well. I swore that my future child would never sleep in our bed or wear all tacky character clothing. Then, said child was born. He was prone to ear infections, often waking up in the middle of the night screaming in pain. Once he had tubes put in his ears, he continued to wake at 4:00 every morning. By the time we got him back to sleep in his crib, it was 5, allowing Mike only fifteen minutes of sleep before his alarm went off.  Liam began coming to our bed around four o’clock each morning. The consensus was that sleep with a toddler in the bed was better than no sleep at all. For the first few years, it was easy to avoid character apparel. Eventually, he discovered shirts with Thomas, Lightning McQueen, and Dusty Crophopper. Eventually, it did not matter. Seeing the joy on his face when he received his first pair of light up Thomas sneakers made me understand why parents buy these ridiculous shoes.




Like many new mothers, I never anticipated how exhausting parenting can be. Yes, I love being a mother and would not change it for anything in the world. However, my mind never gets to turn off. It is constant thinking, considering, and worrying.

Did I get the Box Top off of the granola bars before putting it in the recycling bin?

Do we have extra tubes of toothpaste in the basement or should I buy more while they’re on sale?

Did I spend enough time with Liam today? Like, real time, talking, playing, and interacting?

Does Liam know is addition and subtraction families well enough? He’s going to start memorizing multiplication soon; he’s got to have addition and subtraction down before learning the more difficult material.

When was the last time I dusted the living room? or scrubbed behind the toilet?

While I wouldn’t change my life for anything, motherhood is a lot of work. Is it more than I imagined? I don’t think so. I do know that my concerns about motherhood before having Liam are definitely not the things I worry about now. I will chalk this up to being part of the adventure.

Making Banjo Part of the Family

We are all still getting to know each other, learning and establishing routines, and becoming a family of four. Banjo has a lot of energy, definitely requiring more work and guidance than Outtie ever did. It does make us love him more or less; both dogs are just very different experiences.  We are learning each other better each day; it is clear that Banjo is meant to be a part of our family.

Liam loves having a dog again! I think it gives him a purpose.  He used to whine when we ask him to clean his room or pick up toys, but has no problems doing it when he knows that it is crucial for keeping Banjo safe. (Random Legos on a bedroom floor don’t look very different than dog food.) Liam’s mission is to create a suitable nickname for Banjo.  Outlaw became Outtie and, sometimes, “Outtie-budoutie.”  I have no clue how that happened, but it rolled off the tongue.  Liam has quite a few nicknames, Booba, Sport/ Sportpuppy, Booba-dingo, Bug/ Buggie.  We’ve talked about nicknames, why people give them and which of his are his favorites. It also came to be that some nicknames that are mom or dad exclusive. Buggie is from Mama, Sport and Sportpuppy are Dad’s. Liam loves Banjo and he is part of the family; therefore, he must have a nickname.

Over the past few days, Liam has attempted Banjo-wanjo and Banjo-melon.  He’s really trying to make Banjo-melon happen. During yesterday morning’s walk, he explained that only the three of us can call him Banjo-melon.  I love seeing how Liam interprets the ins and outs of how the world works. Because nicknames show affection, Banjo needs one. However, Liam is learning his first awkward lesson about nicknames, that they cannot be forced.


Liam’s attempts to give Banjo a nickname remind me of Peter Klaven’s awkward nickname experiences. 


Each day, we adjust to each other more and more. Banjo has learned to make a whining sound at the door when he needs to go potty.  We put him on the leash, let him do his thing, and reward him with animal crackers when he’s finished. He settles in and takes all the belly rubs we will give him.

Banjo is getting better on the leash each day. Today, he and I went on our first longer adventure. He did a great job! We did interval; he slowed down when I needed and was more than happy to run. I’m really hoping that he can become my running buddy. The weather warmed up this afternoon,  melting the last on the ice and snow on the roads.  He and I can got in 2.24 miles before picking up Liam at school.  Banjo, with all of his energy, is smart, loving, and eager to learn. I’m thankful he is adjusting to being a part of our family.


Five months ago, we lost our almost-six-year-old lab. He had been sick for months. We tried every reasonable possibility before making the difficult decision to let him go.  Losing him proved every bit as difficult as losing a human family member; we all cried for weeks.  I wrote about the pain of losing Outtie while it was still fresh.

Last week, I mentioned receiving an unclaimed property check, something my mom pestered me to investigate for years. It was not a significant check, but enough to think about how to properly spend it. We found a way to spend it that would’ve made my mom proud!

Mike and Liam missed having a dog. Outtie left a massive hole in their hearts. Since Mike and I grew up with dogs, we know how important it is for a boy to have a dog. Our neighbor informed us of a black lab named Banjo who is available through a local rescue. We spoke to the woman in the organization, who told us he is smart and kind but also still has his young dog hyperactivity.  We went to visit Banjo Thursday night. Yes, he is high energy! While he jumps, he doesn’t jump on people. He settled down in a few minutes.  It is clear that he is smart and eager to please.

Saturday, we went to pick up our newest family member. Liam was so excited when we walked to the car that he started crying tears of happiness. While Banjo is high energy, he is smart and eager to please! Within the first afternoon, Mike had him following basic commands: sit, stay, lie down, and wait. While he sits, Mike will throw a ball, and tell Banjo to wait. Banjo will not run after the ball until Mike says, “Banjo, go!” Liam wants to teach him to raise a paw. He can catch toys in the air, but not treats. Banjo needs some work on the leash; he really wants to catch squirrels and, once he sees one, needs redirection to keep from trying to run after them. His foster said that he caught a few while with her.  By this morning’s walk, he was next to me enough to let the leash slack a few times. I am hoping that he and I will eventually become running buddies; with some love and training, I know he will get there!


Getting ready to go home!


I can’t think of a better way to use the money my mom nagged me to track down!