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The Great Parenting Experiement

January 26, 2017

It had been a little rough at our house.

We had Captain Drama, who shouted answers to all questions, ricocheted into defensive when you batted your eyelashes at him, and could, willfully and with malice aforethought, summon tears on command.

And then we had a preteen. Moody and uncooperative, and he kinda smelled funky at the end of the day. His organizational method for his room could be summed up in one word “Floor.” He responded to all requests with an indignant “Whaaaat!?”

Please feed the dog. “Whaaat?!”

Please clear your dishes off the table.   “Whaaat?!”

Please do not wipe toothpaste on your church clothes  “Whaaat?!”

Please do not leave your dirty socks on the dining room table.  “Whaaat?!”

You get the picture.

So Gabe and I came up with the brilliant plan to turn the tables. At 4:30pm one Sunday afternoon, we announced to the children that we would be trading places for the next two and a half hours. We provided them with a list of all that needed to be accomplished by the “parents” during that time including preparing and cleaning up dinner, feeding all pets, cleaning up the toys, getting ready for school the next day, etc. etc.

As the “parents” they were responsible for getting the “kids” (Gabe and I) to help out so that all could be accomplished in said time frame.

Now, begin.

First, they told us to clean up all the LEGOs in the family room. Gabe turned and went outside the play with the dog, I sat down next to a LEGO box and began assemblihg a space ship.

They tried again. Gabe was told to come inside. I was ordered to put the LEGOs IN the box. So Gabe and I began throwing LEGOs at each other.

They started yelling. I began rolling around on the floor. Gabe kept playing with the dog.

They yelled some more. I started crying and told them I can’t DEAL with this and went running back to my room and slammed the door. Gabe lay spread-eagle on the carpet, singing a song from “Frozen” and starting up at the ceiling.

At this point, about 15 minutes into our experiment, they both started crying. “I can’t do this! It’s too hard!”

Game. Set. Match. 



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Worth Repeating: When’s It MY Turn?

January 17, 2017

If you like clean and tidy, it’s best to just turn in your kids and your expectations. The two cannot coexist.



Maybv the greatest mom version inside of us is the one who doesn’t necessarily feel like showing up. The one who doesn’t want to give up the last Hershey kiss. Whoe doesn’t want to leave the weekend getaway with her friends. Who doesn’t want to get up early and taxi kids around or sit at the ball field for hours on end. Maybe the greqatest mom doesn’t want to cancel her hair appointment for a field trip or spend her spare cash on new vollyeball shoes, or give up her Saturdays for travel tournaments.

Maybe the greatset mom is the one who doesn’t always want to be…but does it anyway.


I had the pleasure to serve as an editor on this book, and I’m so thrilled to see it now in print. A truth-telling, raw and honest look at motherhood, by three women who aren’t afraid to show you their scars. This is a tough business, mothering, and while there is lots to laugh about, there’s also lots to cry about and in this book you will find both.

When’s It My Turn? A Collection of Short Stories (and Temper Tantrums)

byt Melissa Rixon, Christi McGuire, and Terri Mirikitoni

When Your Baby Isn’t A Baby Anymore

January 12, 2017

PicMonkey Collage

I wrote this two years ago.

We had our first parent/teacher conference of the year with our younger son’s second grade teacher, and as we’ve experienced every year, we spend half our time talking about older son and how he’s doing. They all rememeber him so fondly. They all are eager (as are we) to see what great and extraordinary plans that God has for this amazing and extra-extraordinary 11-year old.

But something bothered me about this conference. His grades were all equally good. His enrichment experiences were also. His only poor mark was in handwriting, and her comment to that was “I’m not concerned. I know that he’s perfectly capable, he just isn’t choosing to do so.”

Finally, I voiced the words out loud that had been worrying me for months. “By this age, we knew that his brother was a builder, a creator, and inventor. His aptitude for construction and mathematics were already exceptional. But this one…where is he exceptional? He’s good at everything, it seems, which leaves me unsure of where to encourage him. What can I do to develop his passion, his talents? In what area is he truly exceptional?”

His teacher looked at me with 20 years of wisdom and learning in her eyes and just smiled wryly, then answered.


I sat back and sighed. ‘Tis true, so true. The deadly dimples have bloomed into a full-fledged capacity for reading a room, creating humor, delighting crowds and generally charming the socks off of anything within a 20 yard radius.

This morning, as I exited my bedroom and walked down the hall after getting ready, I heard his voice from the dining room calling out to me.

“Mommy? Mommy is that you? Come see me! I have not yet seen your beautiful face this morning!”

His older brother muttered under his breath: “Nice one, Prince Charming.”

Was he charming me? By all means, yes. Did I mind? Not one iota. That boy is welcome to continue charming all and sundry, because clearly, this is HIS gift and talent and passion!

Let’s just all start (continue) praying that boy uses these talents for good and not evil. As I’ve said before, he’s either going to be president or an evil dictator. The jury is still out.

>Friday Favorites: Boys!

And this, four years ago.

Lulled by routine and structure, we find solidarity for a time. Naively, I am caught off guard – still –  when the calm breaks out into storm and once again, my insurgents are rattling locks, testing boundaries, vainly searching for weaknesses. Or not so vainly…

I am reminded of the cunning creativity of the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park. Dinos that think. Or rather, out-think.

Do you ever get what you want by complaining? I ask, annoyed.

Yes. He says, looking me dead in the eye and smirking. I do.

And finally, this….five years ago.

Eyes bright.
Cheeks rosy.
Your little face, 
my own personal sunrise,
peeps over the edge of the bed. 
Eye to eye, 
nose to nose, 
you dimple good-morning, 
curl into my side.

More puppy than boy,
you never walk.
You gallop, frolic,
tumbling from point A to point B
hops, jumps,
climbing up, climbing down,
and it always ends with a race that you always win.

Physical. Tyrannical. Volatile, and lovable.
Determined, and forceful.
A tornado of emotion, one moment furious,
the next moment laughing,
easily cajoled out of temper
by a silly face or new discovery.

Animated, you never simply tell a story.
You illustrate with eyebrows and dimples, hand motions and volume.
Fearless yet fearful – the carousel still brings you to tears.
New faces, large crowds, or a doctor’s office,
and you bury your face in my neck.
On your own turf,
you are master and captain,
boss-man and president.

Happy, angry, laughing, tears, dimples, and temper.
My baby, my beloved, my boy, my last.
My sunshine.

Here we are, on the brink of ten.

Legs growing so fast I can barely keep him in jeans. His sweet baby softness has been replaced by muscles and sinews and lean, but yet….

The dimples are the same.

The smile, it’s the same.

The easy laugh and bent to perform, the same.

When he sleeps, the eyelids and wide brow, they are the same.

The angel kiss between his brows, that darkens when he’s upset or tired, ever the same.

Morning cuddles, hot skin toasted from the swaddle of blankets, the same.

The size may be different, but the baby within the boy, ever the same.



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The Perpetual Stranger: On Being Known

January 10, 2017


Church has been a part of my existence since birth.

I was at church, cuddled and coddled and passed around, from infancy onward. In 43 years, I’ve attended just four churches as a regular participant. The one of greatest duration, the Campbell Church of Christ, has been my home and family for a combined total of 34 years.

I’ve left the Campbell Church twice. The first time, I was moving to New England – Maine – to be closer to my then-boyfriend, Gabe. I remember vividly the Sunday I left, voices lifted in worship trailing behind me as I slipped out mid-service through the side door for the airport.

The second time was seven months ago, ironically, for similar reasons. I was moving back to New England – New Hampshire – with my husband of 18 years, Gabe, and our two sons. I posted this the week we left:

For nearly 40 years I have been nurtured, loved, supported, and a few times, carried by, the imperfect, authentic, and compassionate people who make up the Campbell Church of Christ.

We leave here with heavy hearts, knowing we will never find another family quite like this one, but hopeful in the belief that God will provide us with another imperfect, authentic, and compassionate group to walk beside in this next chapter.

Thank you for showing interest in me when I was an awkward and angsty teen.

Thank you for carrying us through loss, illness, disappointments, even death.

Thank you for cheering me on through 16 years of school.

Thank you for welcoming me back as a newlywed, for enveloping my new husband into the family.

Thank you for getting us through the early years of parenthood, three moves, endless hands to help remodel and haul and landscape.

Thank you for so many hot meals on the darkest days.

Thank you for mothering me when I was motherless.

Thank you for loving my boys, for offering childcare and education that loved them and taught them and nurtured them.

Thank you for the sacrifice of literally hundreds of volunteers, for years of VBS, and camp, and Christmas programs, and so much more, just so that my kids would feel connected, inspired, and engaged.

Thank you for your transparency, for your willingness to grow and change and refine.

Thank you for the worship. Every last note, every a Capella, every keyboard, and every guitar, for four-part harmony, and Great Songs of the Church.

Thank you for looking past our flaws and failures, for empowering each of us to see ourselves as He sees us.

Thank you for all the unconditional, grace-filled love.

Never once did we ever walk alone.

We are grateful.

Upon arriving in New Hampshire, we set about promptly trying to fill that emotional and spiritual void. With open minds, we pulled into a new parking lot nearly every week, little white churches with charming New England steeples, optimistic and hopeful of what we’d find within the clapboard walls.

But we didn’t find Campbell.

Sunday after Sunday, I sat in a strange pew in a strange building, trying to warble along with songs that are somewhat familiar, looking around and seeing no mortal soul that I have ever met before. Sunday after Sunday, different strange buildings and different strange pews, but the same stranger – me – every time.

Many of those Sundays, I sniffled and gulped through the service, trying to keep myself from all-out sobbing.

I was not prepared for this schism, this painful extraction from my spiritual kin. It was agony. Longing for, but not fully understanding why, the gift of being known.

To be known – to walk into the room, and like it or not – be enveloped in bear hugs. Pestered over weekday duties. Anecdotes offered. To see faces I’d known for decades or more.

I was a daughter of that church. I even remember my first Sunday there, it was June, and my parents had just moved to the area from Blacksburg, Virginia so that my dad could attend graduate school. We slipped in the side door then, late, a bit lost, and my uncle, who was working for the church at the time, jumped up from his seat to envelope us all in a giant hug.

From that point onward, it was home.

I knew how to welcome the stranger, but I never learned how to be one.

And thus, every Sunday for the last several months, my heart cracks wide open in these places of worship. Weeks have turned into months and I’ve found that what I used to anticipate I have begun to dread. Another Sunday as a stranger. We would stay with one church a while, a few weeks in a row, trying to find a place for ourselves. The people we met were reserved, but kind. Good people, who loved Jesus.

But it wasn’t Campbell.

Even still, we’ve been blessed by the experiences of all those different churches. We took the opportunity afterward to talk with our boys about how they felt and what they experienced. Some things were very unusual to us (much to his horror, my 13-year-old inadvertently took a cup full of wine instead of juice in one communion service). In another setting, my 9-year-old noted that he was the only child in the entire service — a good indication that it wasn’t the family-oriented body of believers we were looking for.

And as so many have said before, there is no place quite like Campbell. I knew this when we left, but I didn’t fully understand.

In hindsight, I would have lowered my expectations on finding a new church right away. We should have simply attended and visited with no intention of deciding, not for several months anyway, allowing ourselves – or rather, me – time to grieve the loss. Time to fully accept, head, and heart, and soul, that we would not ever have exactly what we left behind, but we would find a family again. Realizing that wherever we go, community is what we make it out to be. It won’t be easy, to rebuild, but it is possible.



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Friday Favorites – New Hampshire Edition

January 6, 2017

Good morning, friends!

I’m going to try to be better about blogging more often. It’s a goal this year, but I’ve said that before. Let’s just see how it goes? My life has changed so drastically in the last six months – from full-time working mom to stay-at-home freelance writing mom. Not to mention, moving from one coast to the other. I’m still sorting out routines and priorities and what’s going to happen next.

As a place to begin, because it is Friday, here are some of my favorite things that I’ve grown attached to recently.


Bogs Boots

Reviews on these are apparently mixed, but I love being able ot just step into them on my way out the door to walk the dog or meet the bus. Who has time for laces? With black leggings, they are almost classy. They are SO warm, my toes are never cold. Which is a thing. Cold toes. Who knew?

The Packable Puffer Coat

With the consistency and weight of tissue paper, one would not imagine this could possibly keep a body warm in freezing temperatures but oddly, it does. So much more convenient for getting in and out of the car – I can literally stuff it in my bag when it gets warm indoors. I despise the bulk and weight of heavy coats, especially while driving or running errands. This is one of my favorite winter purchases, ever.


Cloche Hats

I have never, in my life, been one for hats. They don’t suit me, and a knitted beanies even less so. Maybe it’s the short hair, or the long neck, I don’t know. I never really needed to. In CA, I skiied in a headband. It was California! But these, I can wear, and my ears stay warm. Which is a thing. Cold ears. Who knew?


Sweater Fleece

It’s a sweater. It’s a fleece. It’s warm, and perfect for days when a coat is too much, but a sweatshirt is too little. And the long length – keeping my backside warm is now also a thing. Who knew?



Since I no longer work in an office, I’ve very few occasions to wear flats or heels anymore. When it’s not a slushy mess outside, I’m in clogs or sneakers. My pretty point-toed darlings are lined up in the closet sadly gathering dust, but my sneaker collection continues to grow. These are my latest purchase, thanks to end-of-the-year discounts and a nice gift card from friends. Cons look rididulous on my wide feet, but these are just as cute. Without the clown-effect.


Warm Boots

When the occasion demands more than Bogs or sneakers, these are my absolute favorite purchase of last winter. They are warm, they are waterproof, they have a lug sole. Which is a very high priority in shoes, these days. Flat soles are disastrous on ice and snow.

maxresdefault puddledock

This afternoon we are off to a most charming outdoor skating rink (and for me, one of the best places on earth) at Strawbery Banke, a marvelous musceum of colonial and early American homes clustered together in a corner of Portsmouth.

And puhleeeeeeze, if you are out there, and still reading, leave a comment, won’t you? Let me know you were here!



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Lessons From Hawaii: Fear(less)

April 19, 2016


When my oldest was a toddler, he loved the water.

At every opportunity, he’d run full-tilt toward any available body of water – pool, puddle or lake. He didn’t care that he’d sink like a stone, unable yet to swim, shoving me away with a “No, Mama! Let go!” Fearless and unafraid. I, on the other hand, lived in mortal terror until he learned to swim around the age of 5. Waterproof, finally, for the most part.

My youngest, however, was not born of the same bent. He was not the daredevil his brother had been. He tried new things carefully, often reluctantly.

Many times I questioned whether I was empowering him by forcing him into the new, or scarring him for life.

He was happiest to play on the steps of the pool, bundled into floating devices, ever unwilling to move into deeper water. Swim lessons were a chore, often ending with my cherub-cheeked toddler stubbornly sitting on the sidelines, refusing to get his feet wet.

Eventually, the boy did swim, but it was a slow process. As we booked our first trip to Hawaii, I prepped him that he’d have to work hard all summer to be ready for the water adventures awaiting us in the islands over winter break.

Deep inside, I was worried.

I booked our family on a snorkeling boat out of Maalaea Harbor, but anxiously questioned the crew should he be too fearful to spend much time in the water. In front of the boys, I was all bravado and excitement about our trip, but in my heart, I was worried.

The ocean is a big and scary place. Jumping off a boat into open water, the bottom of the sea visible, yet still 40 feet away, was daunting for me the first time. How would he respond? My baby, the fearful one…

As we suited up for our first plunge, we laughed and joked and prepared ourselves with fins and gear. But deep inside, I was worried. He, arms and legs poking from his wet suit, the snug fabric a counterpoint for scrawny limbs, goggles large upon his little face.


Upon our turn to enter the water, he took his giant step  without hesitation. But then, turning back toward me on the ladder, huffing in panic through his snorkel, refusing to look down.

I slipped into the morning-chilly waters and pulled him away from the boat. His eyes were wide, his breathing rapid, white-knuckles gripping my hands as I tread water in front of him.


It is impossible not to feel small in this vast blue expanse. Just tiny creatures ourselves, bobbing like corks, unmoored, untethered to anything but each other.

I drew him close to my face, blocking his view of the enormous crater rising from the sea behind us, and spoke quietly: “Just look down, baby. Just look down.”


One’s first look at a coral reef through the clarity of a mask is an astonishing thing. Finding Nemo, just below the surface, glorious color and fish everywhere.

He shook his head, gasping through the tube, eyes frantic behind his mask.

I pulled him to my face, nose to mask:

“Put your face in the water, baby. Just look down.”

He hesitated a moment more, and then…

He plunged his face into the water.


A split second later, he looked back up at me, pulling aside snorkel so he could speak, shouting one word before returning his face to the water.


His delight lit him from within like a Christmas tree. He immediately fitted his snorkel back into his mouth, and kicked away from me, swimming horizontally above the coral, a yellow floaty belt all that differentiated him from the other swimmers around us.

That was the end of it. I chased him around awhile, grabbing the strap of his belt, just to hold him near me in the great blue sea around us.

At that point, the only fear left between us was my own.  My youngest child grew older in an instant, falling in love with the ocean and all that is within it, as I had done in the same blue waters many years ago.

The rest of the day we spent in the reef. We swam in Maui’s chilly spring water until we were blue in the lips, going down for a 20’ dive on regulators and air tanks suspended on the surface. He darted among the coral crags like a fish, still small, but fearless and splendid.


I followed along behind, astonished at the experience of this blue sea and my entire family among amazing and wondrous sights hidden below the waves.

From time to time, we swam hand in hand, not because he needed me to, but because I needed him to.

His fears dissolved into the beauty surrounding us.

And mine? Well, I swallowed it along with a bit of saltwater. I could have kept him on the boat. I could have kept us all safely on the sand. But that extraordinary experience we shared together under the sea would never have been.

As usual, what scared me the most was the most worth doing.



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Lessons From Hawaii: Just Stop The Car

March 10, 2016


Last month our family embarked on what was really, our first vacation ever.

There have been trips, of course, over the last 12 years. Trips back east, in winter and summer, that counted as vacations with fun times and family. But, ever since a misguided cruise to Alaska with a two-year-old….we’ve never really done the winter break/spring break/summer vacation thing. Every trip, every holiday, has been to see family, with side trips in between.

Thus, finally, we bit the bullet this year and bought tickets to Hawaii. In hindsight, now that we are moving east in June, it might have been the kids’ only chance to see Hawaii. It’s a long flight from California as it is. Ten hours of air travel from New Hampshire – not so much.

It was, as you might expect, paradise. Blissful. We loved every moment, and even the occasional bickering of our minions didn’t seem quite as obnoxious when there are palm trees in the background and fish tacos with mango on the plate.


One evening after dinner, we returned to our condo to see a remarkably fine sunset in the making. Instead of going inside, we turned and walked across the road to sit on the sand and watch awhile.

As the sun approached the horizon, others trickled over the sand dunes, joining us along the beach. The kids played in the lava rocks at the water’s edge. Strangers asking strangers for a photo, our faces lit up by the fading, rose-colored light.


I watched as a young guy in a rusted, open-topped Jeep stopped in the road. He was quintessentially Hawaiian. Pretty sure his name was probably Kimo. Huge, muscular, deeply tanned. He pulled off to the side, climbed on to the seats, a sat cross-legged on the roll bars, his chin in his hands. Just watching.

The sun finally settled into the horizon. Strangers around us, bonded over the beauty of the moment, said goodnight and drifted away. We gathered our sandy flip-flops to walk back across the street. Jeep Guy Kimo climbed down off his roll bars and into the driver’s seat, pulling away from the sand and went on his way.

On his way to somewhere, but not in such a hurry that he didn’t have time to stop and watch the sun set.

The image has stuck with me.

I want to live the kind of life where I always have time to pull off the road and watch the sun set.

I don’t think I’ve lived that way very often. I’m a hurried person, and I forget to stop and watch, most times. Focused on the next thing, the next task, the next check box, I don’t often…ever?…stop to simply watch.

Vacations are great that way….by removing ourselves form our workaday environment, we have the time to breathe and discover that perhaps what we’ve been settling for isn’t really good enough.

There are sunsets at home, of course. Through the window over the kitchen sink as I’m cleaning up the kitchen. From the rear view mirror as I’m driving to and fro.

Watching the sunset from my kitchen windows…not good enough. Next time, I will go outside and watch until it’s over, not while I’m washing up the kitchen, or driving home.

I’ll be like Kimo and stop the car.



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