The older they get by Christina Rosalie

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My boys, they're BOYS now. Six and ten. Their birthdays passed, bookending the middle week in February with a sprinkled rainbow cake and a chocolate cake and best friends and grandparents. Balloons and a treasure hunt for Sprout. The arcade, the pool, a movie, and a sleepover for Bean. We've made it. We're beyond the beyond of early childhood. They pack their own changes of clothes for the beach; carry their own backpacks.
It does and it doesn't get easier, the older they get.
When they were babies, toddlers, preschoolers, the demand was high for every single moment, yet the moments themselves were small: A digger! A yellow dog! The injustice of mittens in winter. The fury of being asked to eat broccoli. The complexity or simplicity of falling asleep.
Now it is the complexity of being alone. The discovery of self. The absolute of independence. The hunger for protection. The need to stand out, or to fit in. Best friends, secrets, multiple choice homework assignments, and the fury of having to fold one's own laundry.
Bean hit double digits. The half way mark between now and when he'll take off into the wide orbit of his own life. Sometimes in the morning on the weekend he'll climb into bed with me and tell me about his inventions. Futuristic cars with self-generating motors, and houses with secret walls. Mommy, he says, do you know? And then he'll launch in, my mind trailing his. We're in the era of homework, cello practice, weekend sleepovers, nights when his mind spins and he can't fall to sleep. A week ago Bean fried everyone eggs. Perfect, crispy, with just enough fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. He walks to the five and dime around the corner for milk. He reads everything within reach.
Sprout became a big kid this year. Looking back at last year's birthday I still see the toddler in him. Now it's gone, and in it's place is this boy full of muscle and movement and song. Every waking second he's singing or joking or yelling. He can throw a mean frisbee, straight and far. He practices dribbling a basketball on the front walkway, and wants a hoop for the street. For him, everything is drama. His eyes wide in mock despair or bright with glee. He got a pocket knife for his birthday. Recently he's learned to strike matches; carefully lighting the candles for the dinner table every night. This morning he made pancakes with T: pouring and flipping every one.
The weekdays go by in a rhythm and blur. School and work. We do the same things. We do different things. We spend our days mostly apart. We come together in the evenings, hungry, excited, tired, impatient, eager, quiet.
As we gather around the dinner table at night they tell us stories about their days. This ritual we started so many years ago. A moment of pause and grace before we begin, then all of us there, talking, passing food. Mommy, Bean asks, what was the most interesting thing that happened to you today? He doesn't have perfect table manners yet, but he knows how to ask questions with weight. Sprout tries to remember to listen, to wait his turn. He tells exuberant stories. Finishes dinner quickly. Climbs into my lap. Always this.
On the weekends there is bacon. Good coffee. Sleeping in. Modern Love in the NY Times. A trip to the library. Some kind of adventure. Maybe a bike ride. Still, each of us craves time apart. There's not enough time for all the laundry, errands, things that pile up from the week. So then it's push & pull. Give & take.
Here we are.

The entire point is this by Christina Rosalie

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"CAN SOMEONE RUN MY BATH?" He yells from the open bathroom window. I'm outside, under the walnut tree, reluctant. When I come in, he's already naked, surrounded by a small army of his favorite Lego trucks and matchbox cars. A rescue boat, a semi truck, an "old-fashioned car."
"HELP!" he yells, even though I'm sitting right next to him, watching now as he squats down on the bathmat. Something seems to be wrong with the semi truck. Clearly, he isn't calling to me.
"HELP, BEAN" He yells again, then mutters, "I really, really need it." Behind him, the old Standard tub fills. It's one of properly deep tubs that you can stretch out in and submerge.
His voice rises above the water, "I wish I could play with that. But it's broken." In another second, the semi truck has been cast off to the side. His brother hasn't come to the rescue, off somewhere instead playing the ukelele (a new obsession) or trying to kiss his elbow as he did at dinner when he announced, "I read in a book that 99% of people cannot kiss their elbow, but that 99% will try."
Sprout climbs into the tub, easing into the hot water slowly, then begins to splash and make the strange car motor noises all boys seem to know how to make. I can't recall a single instance as a kid when I made such sounds, though I was every bit a tom boy and could climb a tree or ride my bike faster and more recklessly than any of the boys. What is it about vrrrrooom, vrrooom?
I sit for longer than five minutes, watching, though I only remember to scribble notes into my moleskin every so often, so my collective time still adds up to 5. Sort of. I so rarely sit with him while he takes a bath now, so rarely just sit and watch his antics. This is, of course, the entire point of this exercise.
I tell him that soon it will be time to get out.
"I'M GONNA DO SEVEN, TEN, NO FIRTEEN MINUTES MORE" he says defiantly, his voice at full volume. "NO! I'M GONNA DO SEVENTEEN MINUTES," he adds, as if that is an enormously long time. Then immediately he sing-song whines, "I hate this car. It's broken. I want a different car."
There's been a lot of this thin-skinned, fragile whining lately, and when I'm at my wisest, I know that that is exactly what it is. Last night, after royally falling apart and whining all through dinner, after cajoling and firmness and tears, when he finally was tucked into bed and I lay next to him in the soft nearly dark of his room he told me about the things he was afraid of: how people die, poison, prison, bad guys, robbers. His eyes growing wide.
So small still, this little one of mine, and yet so big. Wiggly toothed. Loud voiced. Bright eyed.
I'm glad I spent a handful of moments noticing so that I'll remember the ordinary sweetness of these moments long after they're gone.     The 5/5 Challenge: Day 2

The day as it was {More than Just One Paragraph 23/30} by Christina Rosalie

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I didn't write last night because I came home and completely crashed: chills, swollen glands, headache. T wondered, "What about Lyme?" and so today I went and got blood drawn. I have nearly all the symptoms. But who knows? It could be anything, everything, my body on a collision course with the reality of moving, which we are in just four short days.
Bean came into bed this morning, his hair a shock of alarming curls, his grin sleepy and sweet. "How are you feeling, Mama?" he asked, spooning perfectly into my arms. And then he lay with me and we dozed and talked about things and imagined what the future will hold. He seemed to get it, my little aquarian kindred. That this is big, what we're about to do. "It's our last weekend here," he said softly, nestling in.
Then came Sprout who has the heartiest of laughs. His dimples cause an uproar of delight in my heart. He bounces instead of snuggles. His sturdy little body burrowing for a second before he springs back up, and kisses my cheeks and nose and forehead and then dives off the bed to go play with matchbox cars.

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T leaves for work. It's my day with the boys. Bean and I linger in bed, imagining where we'll explore downtown, what colors we'll paint their room, how we'll have friends nearby. Then, slowly we get up and while I'm untangling my hair and finding jeans he goes downstairs in underpants and a sweatshirt and starts making french toast. He's got the first round frying by the time I head downstairs, and is perched on the stool by the espresso machine, teaching Sprout the steps. He pulls a perfect shot. "Iced or hot, Mama?" he asks.
We eat mounds of french toast and it's perfect: eggy, with just a hint of vanilla and cream. Then, after unloading and loading the dishwasher and packing all the cookbooks that seem to have mounded themselves on the kitchen table, we head to the car with a lab slip for blood work.
Sprout watches the practitioner closely as she cinches my arm and draws blood. Unlike Bean who wants to know how everything works, Sprout wants to know if I'm okay. If it hurts. If I flinch. (I don't, just for him.)
They took such good care of me all day.

On learning, right timing & finding directions when we need them: {More than Just One Paragraph 21/30} by Christina Rosalie

On our way to his friend's house this morning Bean asked if I knew the way.
"Not really," I said. (I have this thing called an iPhone. It makes me navigationally lazy.)
"Don't worry, mama. You don't need to know the way. You can count on me. I'll show you," he said confidently.
It's true of course. For more than driving directions. This boy is my teacher. This in-two-weeks-third-grader. This coltish legged boy with a missing-tooth grin. I've fallen in love with him all over again this summer. He's just so tender and thoughtful lately. So full of a new awareness that everyone around him has emotions and thoughts and secret goals and dreams.
I often notice him watching me subtly: for a furrowed brow, or a lightness in my voice. He wants to know, "Are you happy mama?" It matters now, differently than it ever did before.
I can feel the importance of how I am in each moment with him now. The way it's making something indelible. A blueprint of the emotional topography of woman.
It's no small thing, this. Raising boys.

Sprout gets to be the only child at dinner tonight. We sit around the butcher block counter together eating soup with grilled bread and talk about numbers. We consider "How many, and then one more?" Then we make a game of writing the numbers out, each one with their own special characteristic--5 with it's baseball cap, 3 with it's two bouncy balls.
It might seem odd that I haven't taught him numbers before: he's 4.5, headed for preschool, and I'm a certified elementary teacher.
But the thing is: the meaning of the word "readiness" is debatable in my book. In the school system, readiness is knowing your numbers and letters so that you can be ready to learn mathematical operations, write sentences, and read about Spot and Jane. Then of course, those skills are learned, because they are readiness indicators for later academic skills, and so on, each skill set building to the next level until ... what? We reach the end of school, and have a bunch of skills that prepared us for more school. Hmmm. Is that really the goal?
If, instead you think about readiness from the standpoint of developmental capabilities, then things like learning numbers and letters and reading and writing are naturally, and almost inevitably a part of the process of learning to function meaningfully in the world. Academic skills are acquired when they're needed and appropriate to problem solve and recognize patterns; to make connections and navigate complex social situations; to make order from chaos, and chaos from order. Learning is about understanding the process of innovation and excavation; leading and following, taking note and being of note.
And at the end of the day, if children are submerged in a culture of learning, with real, tangible opportunities to make meaning of their world, then things like numbers--both knowing them, and writing them--are easily acquired when they're most appropriate.
Like now. Sprout's just ready. He's known how to count to 10 and farther for a year or so (although he gets creative in the teens.) And he knows how to do simple calculations: 7 and one more is 8; if there are two cookies and four of us, we'll have to break each in half to make fair shares. He even knows how to write the number 4--which is the most important number to him, of course, since that's his age. But tonight when I teach him how to write the other digits, I wish you could his chortles of delight!
With each new number, he lets out the most triumphant laugh when he masters it. Pure gusto! Complete ease. And in ten minutes he knows and is using all the digits easily. Right timing. They're useful to him now.
Of course, it's way more just this, and has everything to do with a household where learning happens all the time. A house that is literary rich, and scientifically minded. A house where T and I both engage our kids in problem solving while doing real-world tasks rewiring an outlet, making quiche, filling the gas tank, calculating change for the parking meter, programming a website, or mapping directions. (And we're blessed with kids who are typically functioning and healthy, which makes everything simpler without a doubt.)
But I've been thinking lately about the rush that we have as a culture--to get ahead. To prepare. To be productive above all else; at the front of the pack, and ahead of schedule--and how that affects me as a creative (often leaving me exhausted). And then I've been wondering if it's not something we're tacitly teaching our children, instead of showing hem that real learning means exploration and going at your own pace, prototyping and practicing and narratively mapping meaning. For that's how children are hardwired--to learn: iteratively, intuitively, and instinctively from real-world experience.
But if we dialed it back just a we bit and rested into the truth of this:
"Don't worry, mama. You don't need to know the way. You can count on me. I'll show you." I think they'd turn out just fine.
More than fine, actually.

The hitch of course is kids {More than one Paragraph 16/30} by Christina Rosalie

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I was so intrigued by the comments in yesterday's post about shifting towards a morning habit. About writing then, and soaking up the world as the new day unfurls.
But here's the thing that I can't seem to get around--even though I want very much to go to bed earlier for all the reasons I mentioned in several recent posts... But the hitch is kids. Their existence in my world makes morning finite. There is no pushing on, if I'm in the groove. No additional hours that can be spent, past midnight if necessary if a project demands more time, or a story is taking me places.
When the kids wake up, they arrive: giggling, yelling, whining, squealing. They want things: snuggles, underpants, clean socks, cereal. They need things: undivided attention, clean laundry, reminders, mediation, affection. The hours hurtle on. Even if I awoke at 3am, I'd only have 3 hours until 6 when they typically wake, and 3am doesn't look nearly as interesting from the vantage point of waking up, as it does from the perspective of going to sleep, if you know what I mean. Nearly every parent I've talked to has said something about the "freedom" that night affords: the opportunity to exist with one's thoughts uninterrupted. And that is entirely what I love about the night: that it affords carrying on. Uninterrupted.
Earlier today Austin Kleon tweeted that this poem should be featured prominently on every creative's refrigerator. I think he's right. And I wonder, is my problem simply that I'm aiming for all three?
Is the plight of the modern creative that because we have such boundless abundance, we believe we are boundless? Our modern world offers so many choices, opportunities, options, mediums, encounters, tools, that in turn we tell ourselves we can do anything, be anything, all at once. I for one, fall for this story time and again. But time isn't fooled. And morning, wise and new, knows better too.
So, how to shift night to morning with kids. How then? Is there some middle ground, some secret strategy? Tell me, tell me.

The asynchronous art of motherhood and craft by Christina Rosalie

IMG_5883  The door opens and closes. One boy and then the other come in, perch on my lap, and accept my ample kisses on their warm necks. I wrap them in my arms, hold them close, and then gently nudge one and then the other out of my studio. This is my hour. The one I’ve sacrificed sleep for, waking before dawn to come reluctantly to page while the birds lift up the corners of the sky in song.
When they were small, it wasn’t like this. I couldn’t just shoo them out and shut the door. Their needs came before mine for years; milk and comfort, laundry and the full-body demands of little ones, arms always reaching up. Hours felt spliced into impossible fractions. Half-hour nap times were never long enough. Everything took three times as long to finish. Leaving and arriving were forever activities requiring sheer force of will and extra bags: wipes, snacks for the road, diapers, extra socks. And it all felt so terribly permanent: the way the edges of my self had blurred; my identity smudged with motherhood. The way time always seemed to come up short, as though there was an accounting: a reconciling of unequal equations. Motherhood vs. livelihood. Guilt and craft and love and art.
Now though, at 8 and 4, my boys have their own perimeters. And though their lives are still in orbit with mine, we have our own trajectories. They're becoming their own selves. They dress in the morning of their accord; pour cereal, ride bikes, and running wild in the yard. And when they come to my studio in the morning now, they go without question when I ask---understanding that part of what I do is a magic that happens only when I sit alone in a circle of lamplight, fingers moving across the keys.
They scoot off my lap, and pull the door closed. Their voices carry down the hall with the thump of their bare feet.

Somehow I had babies ahead of nearly everyone in my life, and so I’m again on the flip side, watching as many of my dear friends (and sisters) navigate the terrain new parenthood. They are sleep deprived, anxious, broken open, falling hard in love, inevitably remade by the small new person in their lives.
And even though I now have these two lanky-legged kids who spend hours doing their own thing without intervention (Bean reads street signs and technical manuals and builds complex circuits, and Sprout has suddenly started draw sky scrapers, and doing basic addition) I remember exactly how it felt then, when both of them were small.
I remember feeling like the equation would never reconcile. And like my art, and time, and leisure, and my barest truest sense of self had been exchanged for some other murky self defined by milk and moments of sweet heat and sobbing, blooming smiles, and the raw edge of desperation.

How I wish someone had taken me by the shoulders then and stared into my eyes and promised: It will all even out. Things kilter back to center gradually. And then you'll be on the other side, looking back.
There is no way to talk of this without verging on cliché. They grow up so fast.
Of course I could have never really heard it then, and likely all I would have wanted was to punch anyone in the face who might have dared to say a thing like that out loud. I was in the weeds. The days an eternity of overwhelming hours. Milestones were marked in weeks. Years seemed like a forever of time when counted in diapers. Everything felt rarified: alone time especially. And time fo art most of all.
Jamie and I talked about this a few weeks ago, when she interviewed me for her Creative Living podcast. She asked me: What's the greatest challenge that you face as a creative? The long and the short of my answer was about time. Finding it. Having enough of it. Balancing it. And how this looks like closing the door--and putting my work above them sometimes.
The thing about new parenthood in particular is that it's a trick of time. It's a fiction all of it's own weaving. It makes you feel like all is lost and gained. Like you can never have it all, and like you have it all. Like you have given everything, and are everything with this other little person in your world. Like sacrifice is inevitable. Like who you were and who you are will never align with who you once thought you might become.
But, to all the new mamas reading, this is I want to tell you: There's time enough.
It isn't a race. There is no finish line, other than the one that we cross when we leave our bodies behind. Sink into the moment and trust that the right time will find you again to do the work you love. To run the miles you crave. To make the art that makes your soul light up. To _______fill in the blank.
And I also want to tell you this: That in the instances or hour or days when you choose your work over your kids they'll be just fine. You're children do not need to be at the center of your world, to know that they are at the center of your heart. And when they see you do the magic of the work you love and come back with your own well filled, they will feel filled too. That's a promise.

Navigating motherhood and a life of creative work has been like learning to swing: there’s a balance of movement that propel you away and then back towards the center of gravity that holds you here on this earth.

Off for some weekend adventures in NYC! by Christina Rosalie

           Weekend Adventure  by Christina RosalieHappy Saturday, friends!
We're off on some weekend adventures, seeing family in NYC for a very brief slice of time--just today and tomorrow in fact. And even though my friend Dan asked, "Why are you driving 6 hours just to turn around and do it again?" there's no explaining what spring fever does to a girl living at the end of a long dirt road with wanderlust in her bones this time of year. I miss the city with it's non-stopness and hum of creative making, and I'm so excited to share a little glimpse of it with the boys. They've never been.
Bean wrote the Easter Bunny the dearest note yesterday-- he was worried that he wouldn't find them at the hotel in the city. The Easter Bunny confirmed he knows his way around the city, and is fond of elevators though, so I think we'll be fine. Bean read the note carefully and asked me to read it to confirm, and then took the Easter Bunny for his word and started packing for the trip: an eclectic assortment of things including a Go Fish game, a magnetic locking spy kit, and a set of colored pencils.
The combination of practicality and pure magic that coexists in their minds right now is what I love most about their ages. They're transportable, easily delighted, curious, sensitive, and more or less self sufficient. They are also always up for an adventure. All week long Sprout would ask, "Is it tomorrow yet?" Meaning, is it time to leave on our adventure yet?
So we're off. I'll likely take heaps of pictures over on Instagram, and probably post a few of my favorites here come Monday. If there are any places in the city that we absolutely shouldn't pass up with kids--ours, and our twin almost 4 year old nephews, do leave a note.
xo, Christina

There is no blueprint for being everything by Christina Rosalie

I don’t realize how fast I’ve been twirling until I settle down with Sprout in his blue room for a nap. I don’t realize how far away I’ve been, until I am here, next to him, with his hand on my clavicle, and his damp hair pressed against my cheek.

I’m home so rarely now, it might be the truth to say that I hardly remember how it feels.

Like this.

Like the sound of his heartbeat and the oscillating fan moving air around his room. Like my body folding into the softness of his small twin bed. Like his hand tracing the lines of my jaw bone, eyebrows, nose.

I watch as the fan stirs the mobile of moon and stars I made when I was expecting him, and feel the way who I am becoming, and who I was then are poles apart. Now, I am made of twirling parts. A dervish, with a prayer of days. A hundred lists, the velocity of now hitting me with full force.

* * *

I keep looking for a blueprint for how to do this well: Being both. Being everything. Mama, writer, artist, strategist, creative, partner, lover.

The moments overlap, unfold, tilt. I write a list of of women I admire on a scrap of paper:

Georgia O’Keefe, Anais Nin, Adrienne Rich, Patti Smith, Isabelle Illende, Elizabeth Gilbert, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, Alice Munro, Joan Didion, Barbara Kingsolver, Twyla Tharp, Meryl Streep, Rebecca Makkai, Pam Houston, Anne Lamott, Danielle Laporte, Sabrina Ward Harrison, Brene Brown.

Then I realize less than half have children. The half that do rarely talk of it; of how their lives navigate worlds, and how they must feel a certain push-pull and heartache that comes the tug-of-war between self and children, self and world, self and lover/partner/spouse.

* * *

Is there a blueprint for this life?

Is it possible to be great, to be a Creative in the broadest sense, to live deeply into the world, and still create the measured tempo of home, the rhythm of domesticity, the moments of daily bread and wonder? Some days I think so. Other’s not. I fluctuate, and now is the season when I feel most restless, like the raccoons who wend their way through the summer heat and shoulder-high corn, looking for fat kernels of sweetness.

It’s fluctuation then,that remains my constant.

And this much is all I know: Everything, even this restlessness, and also the quiet stirring air in my son’s blue room, and his childhood too, is temporary.

* * *

Still, I want very much to know: who are women you admire who navigate the tenuous line between motherhood and creativity with grace and verve?

The questions he asks by Christina Rosalie

This boy is... sunshine and rain, fragility and wonder, wisdom and ferocity. He is as intense as he was when he was a baby, but that intensity is tempered by learning: he's starting to read, to write, to discover that the world can be recorded thusly, with vowels and consonants dancing together to make words magically arise from the alphabet he's known so long.


In the car driving to school he says, "Mama, what's at the end of the universe?"

"I don't know," I answer, still bumble-headed, with not enough coffee in my veins. "What do you think?"

"Is it just blackness with no air and no dust?" He asks after a little while.

Immediately I imagine such a thing: a vast blackness. "That sounds pretty close," I nod.

And he nods too--I see it in my rear view mirror, but then he says, "But Mommy, what I just don't understand is nothing. I mean, what is nothing?"

Are there words to answer this? If there are, I do not know them and so I shrug. We're passing the blue corner of the lake that we drive by every day. Egrets, a pair of them, gray like metal, swoop like javelins towards the marsh at the edge. The sky is cloudless, the morning already hazy with heat.

We're quite now, our minds both filled with the remarkable density of nothing; its scope and weight, its emptiness and distance.

Then he says, "I have another question Mommy."

I brace for it, smiling a little. On days like this when he stares long out the window on the way to school, his thoughts are a different universe I hardly ever get to visit, and when he lets me in I'm always surprised to find myself a foreigner there, without maps or charts or directions to navigate. "Go on, what is it?" I ask.

"What is the purpose of humans?" his voice pitches up. "I mean, why are we here on this earth at all anyway? What are we for?"

This, before 8a.m. I almost laugh. "That's a question people ask their whole lives, I think," I say tenderly, looking back for his expression in the mirror. And then I add, "What do you think?"

He's quiet for a while, and then he says, "Well maybe we're here to teach the earth how to love."

There are no words, really, for the gratitude I feel, that I am his mama. That this particular teacher has found me, clad in the lanky limbed body of my 7.5 year old son.

"I think you're right," I tell him, and when we pull up to school I kiss him hard and then watch him climb out, his backback nearly dragging, and then run up to the doors of the school, sunshine trailing him. And at the very last minute he turns to me, a huge grin on his face, and then he waves.

From babyhood to boyhood by Christina Rosalie

I like to do this every so often: pause, and capture the expressions of my boys as they happen in real time. It's something that a photograph doesn't capture well: the way their looks are fleeting; the way their moods are like a New England spring: sunny, then storm-tossed, then serene and clear. I used to tell stories about Bean and Sprout here often, until the days blurred together and their growing happened faster than the record I could keep. Like lightening, they are taller, sillier, wiser, more affectionate, and every evening when I come home I look forward to the moment when one or the other of them folds into my arms, their hands dirty, their cheeks smudged, their hair wild.

Lately, I've been taking a little more time to pause and take note. Here is Sprout, at almost 3.5 years old:

Sprout is still the peach he's always been at nearly 3.5. He is boy of smiles and ready kisses. He is abundant in his warmth and contentment, his laughter, his tenderness, and in his loud, boisterous ways. He yells and waves his arms when he talks, as Italian as he can possibly be; and lately he's been known to clock his brother upside the head with a truck if Bean gets bossy on him and tries to mastermind the game they're playing. Yet he is shy and empathetic in equal measure: slow to warm to those he doesn't know, and always ready with a kiss and a heartfelt apology when things go amiss and he's to blame.

This is Sprout: an embodiment of contradictions. Shy + loud. Brave + hesitant. He is determined to fill his own water glass, or climb stone walls or tall trees; yet when it comes to putting on his shoes, or his pajama shirt, he always wants the help.

He is at the delightful age of matchbox car love right now. The patterns on our persian rug under the coffee table in the living room becoming roads; and he's content to play by himself for long stretches of time, driving his cars about on their imaginary journeys. He also loves building snug forts out of couch cushions and quilts to hide in, and boxes of any size suitable to tuck himself into. The world is small and big for him at once; and he's at it's center still: sturdy, delighted, charming, stubborn.

He is my love, my heartbeat, my wild, sweet, tender, second son.

They make my heart feel like helium: by Christina Rosalie

They do, even after the longest, most impossible days. I come home to early evening light, Clover loping across the yard with her silly Yoda ears, and these two, playing in the sandbox. And when they see me they yell and cheer, and give me grins that make everything that I've held in tension in my ribcage loosen and lift off, like glycerin bubbles on a warm spring wind.

I'm really so lucky. I have the best kids.

At whatever cost by Christina Rosalie

I have no way of knowing, that reading this piece would make the soft pulsing organ in the hull of my ribs ache with indescribable sadness.

A mother. A runner.

“I thought of you when I read this, you’ll see why,” was my friend's explanation for the link to this story in my inbox, referring, no doubt, to the fact that the school mentioned is my high school alma matter. It takes me until page four to understand that this is probably what he means.

And maybe it is because of this--that I know the geography of her life--that this piece has the effect that it does.

She was pushing Julian up just to keep him above the water. She would raise him, sink under the water herself and then reappear.

I read through to the end and feel broken open sitting in my studio among sheaves of research for my thesis, the window open just a little to let some cold spring air into the stillness of the room.

Outside I hear my boys driving a remote control car across the newly greening lawn; the car’s small motor makes a whirring sound, like a hive of angry bees. The dog barks at it every so often; high pitched, uncertain, her head tilting to the side. Then she settles down with her bone under the crabapple and watches uneasily as they run pell-mell, laughing.

The sky has been gray since dawn. All morning I’ve caught myself wishing it were different. I want the sun to come back the way it was all last week: mellow and golden and so warm the lilac started to send out furling tender leaflets.

Maybe it’s this that makes me fold in against myself when I finish reading; like one of those Leatherman tools, where everything is rendered useless in its compact state; knives and saw blades and pliers all folded against each other.

I sob.

They were less than 10 feet away from her, but in the time it took Caleb to turn back around, Rhiannon had breathed her last breath and vanished into the sea.

When the finish line is moved, runners struggle to continue beyond the expected terminus.

It isn’t just the facts of the story. Because later I go back and read other reports in local newspapers, and each reporter describes incident in the typical anonymous tone such papers tend to take on purpose so that no one becomes too alarmed: “Healdsburg woman washed out to sea.

I think it is the way piece in weaves the grief into container of tenderness; the way the author gathers the facts and turns them over and over, like pebbles on the shore, looking for understanding, that moves me to tears.

It’s damn good writing.

There was a time when I might have managed to read this piece and move on. But then I had one son, and then another, and with their births I become utterly permeable. The world slips in now through my breath; my eyes; the very pores in my skin.

Now, I cannot move on. The grief lingers in my chest all afternoon like a carrier pigeon in its wicker create. I don’t know how to release it, or where to tell it to fly.

I run and errand and when I return, Sprout, who has been napping, has just woken up and he runs to greet me, his arms held open. I press him to me and his smell his scent like it is a thing that can sustain me.

It is.

T looks up from rewiring the brake cables on his bike. “What’s the matter?” he asks, seeing my face.

I tell him, in as few words as possible, trying to be obscure so that Bean, who is puttering about at the opposite corner of the room wont hear, but he stops to listen. I tell the part about the way she held her son above water until he could be rescued and then slipped under, and Bean takes one look at me and says, “That makes me sad” and in an instant he is beside me, folding his small wiry body against my birdcage chest.

I hold him there and cry silently, with gratitude and for my tender boys; for the fact that I am their mother, at whatever cost.

Remembering my father: by Christina Rosalie

I have to use the calculator to remember: he would have been 78 today, which means the inconceivable. He died ten years ago.

None of this makes any sense as I rock back and forth in the mostly dark with Sprout on my chest. Bean, up in his bunk bed is humming along with me as I pick up a tune and begin to sing and then I realize: I'm singing the song I sang to him over and over as he lay dying. I'd sit there for hours beside his bed, watching the shadows cast by the dancing leaves of the cherry tree on the pale yellow wall.

The song is an old Gaelic blessing. I learned it in school as a child, at the end of my fourth grade year before all of us were released for the summer to climb trees and run wild. By then I lived in a tract home in the Northridge hills. There was an olive tree that spread over the front driveway, and the driveway would get stained by the dark purple fruit that would also stain our feet when we ran on it barefoot. In the backyard we had a redwood hottub that my parents could never afford to heat, but in the summer we filled it anyway and lolled about ducking to the bottom and popping back up, the water running in rivulets off our cheeks and eyelashes.

What I remember about my father from that time was his office that was separated from the house by a workshop. It had sliding glass doors that opened on to the back patio, and you could reach it by either going through the workshop, picking your way through pipe clamps and table saws, or from that sliding door. I remember watching him at work through that door, his back to me as I'd swing on the swing he'd hung from the patio veranda. It was something I did a lot, growing up: Watch his back as he worked on his computer.

My boys will likely have a similar memory of me.

"Shush, Mommy's working."

I try to sit at the dining room table and let their busy world spin around me, but like my father, I crave the silence of uninterruption; the solitude of that comes with focus.

Now I'm rocking in the tender dark of my son's bedroom. Sprout's limbs are already lanky in my lap. He's three; the years are galloping.

After I tuck him in and rub noses with both boys and kiss their cheeks, I search for a box at the back of a closet: With photo albums in it from a decade before I was born. I sift through the pictures of my father then; wondering what he must have been like in that alternate lifetime before I was even an inkling in it.

This is just it, this life: An inkling, a hundred inklings, and then blink.

Being brothers by Christina Rosalie

This is what being brothers looks like.

A jar of apple butter. A jar of peanut butter. Two spoons. A completely unsanctioned snack that was Bean's solution to the ravenous feeling they both have at about 4pm.

I decided to instead of saying no, to just hang out and watch them from behind the lens. I like doing this. Sitting back, seeing without interrupting or intervening. Just letting them be their silly selves. I love their unintentionally matched shirts; their nose rubs; their eyelashes; the way their body language is synchronized.

Best decision ever: to have both of them. Brothers rock. They have this bond that makes me feel like they're gonna be okay no matter what. I wonder if they'll feel that way about each other when they grow up? (Is that something that a parent can actually influence at all?)

Tell me about your family. Do you have siblings? Are you close with them? How did that relationship evolve?

My second son: three times around the sun by Christina Rosalie

Do you remember him then?

I do. I remember the way I loved each day of his infancy; the way his smiles exploded my heart; the way I felt always a little high with helium wonder watching him watch the world. I've said this many times, but it's true: if Bean taught me to be a mother; Sprout taught me to love the process of it.

The year Sprout was born was the hardest year. 2009; the year everything upended in our lives. The year the stock market lurched, and pitched T's old job as a day-trader into a no-man's land of guessing. The year I refused to go back to work in a classroom where test scores came meaningful learning and bureaucracy held creativity in check. The year our marriage felt like a painful off-kilter dance between two sleep deprived drunks. The year that forced me to begin to imagine a new paradigm; a new way of thinking; a new way of being in the world.

It was the year A Field Guide To Now began in my head as inklings, as drafts, as snippets here on the blog.

And it was the first year with my sweet second son.

And now:

He's 3.

He is hilarious. He is empathetic. He is shy and boisterous in turns. He is all about yelling things and gesturing expansively, true to the core to his Italian heritage one minute; and then hiding behind my leg when he meets someone for the first time, the next. There are times when he loves to lie on the rug with his matchbox cars, driving them along the imaginary roads that the patterns make; or building block castles all by himself; and other times when all he wants to do is wrestle and hurtle around the house on his tiny two-wheel bike with training wheels, singing at the top of his lungs.

He loves to sing. He loves to rub noses. He loves to laugh.

And every morning he finds me while he is still half asleep, and I am still half asleep, and together we doze for fifteen or twenty minutes, curled into each other, our cheeks and noses touching, while T showers. I adore this time. I adore this boy of mine.

He has taught me contentment. He embodies verve. He is the pure poetry of love in motion.

In the midst of everything, this: I have a 7 year old. by Christina Rosalie

There are things, a thousand in my mind like the small sparrows in the singing bush at the roadside that I pass, walking down from class to work. There are things converging, turning, passing at odd angles, like fish swimming in an aquarium on different lateral planes. There are things unresolved and just starting out; things igniting from the flint of good work and quick words. An there are moments, one in particular that matters wildly: My son is 7. My first born. Bean. This here boy: long legged, lithe, whip-smart, spoiled, tender-hearted, intuitive, dreamy, mystical, introverted, agile, goofy, kind.

With his birth-day, I became a mother, and since then, everything has been enormously, vastly different. I am more permeable, more affected by the world; braver, truer to myself, more confident, more daring. He is one of my greatest teachers, this boy of mine. Knowing him is one of the coolest things ever.


If you have children, how have you been altered by them? I never tire of hearing those stories.

I don't know how she does it, guilt, and telling another kind of story entirely by Christina Rosalie

I don’t know where I am going yet, but I know that this is the beginning. The beginning of finding true velocity: a unity of moments, a lithe tempo, a right algorithm of speed and grace.

I am still rather far from it now, in the final semester of school, with my new job already nearly full time. And I’ll be the first to admit: The days don't always offer the time I need for pondering, for the daily practice of writing, for rest. Until I’m done with graduate school, I know the hours will ignite, one after the next at a certain pre-determined heat, each one double booked, precious, full to saturation. And I'm humbled by the process. By being here again, at the outset again, new to the particular set of challenges and opportunities my life offers and asks. I spend my day tripping, sprinting, catching my balance, careening, laughing with sheer delight.

There are wins and losses: I drive Bean to school every morning; we have a part-time nanny who helps with the laundry; Sprout is finally making headway with potty training; T cooks weekday meals with the grace and kindness of saint. And I'm still trying to find an hour that offers itself for writing; time for running is inconsistent; I have a birthday party for Bean to plan, and no time to make it to the store for favors; I see my husband less than I'd like. And in the midst of it all I've realized I've somehow reached the life velocity that causes people say, “I don’t know how you do it” to me now.

I find myself shrugging at that remark. I don't know how anyone does it. We've all got our own particular mess of moments and necessities; priorities and stumbling blocks. Each life is remarkable.

But beyond that, I shrug because I'm particularly resentful of cultural paradigm from which that statement springs.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the book that spawned that phrase. Both it, and its movie counterpart have been suggested to me by no less than six women friends as a seminal narrative that “tells the story like it is.” I’ve been given two copies of it in fact, one from my mother. And I ended up watching the movie on the way back from California in the plane, but regretted my choice upon landing, as manufactured guilt clung like burrs to the back of my mind as I greeted my boys; drove home with my husband; and then helped my kids put on their pajamas and brush their teeth and go to bed.


I don’t think it is a terrible book by any means. It gets many of the details right, of a full-velocity life. The pace, the tumult, the jam-packed days. What I resent is the paradigm it perpetuates. It’s that Kate's primary emotion and modus operandi is guilt: About her work, about her husband, and her kids.

It gives fule to myth: That you should feel guilty as a woman if you work away from home; and that the smug comments of stay at home mothers are both assumed and justified. I call bullshit.

Women who work at home, and who work away from their home, and who stay at home each have the choice to frame their lives in terms of guilt or fulfillment.

Whatever you slice it, you see a different slice. There are challenges and advantages to each way of being in the world, and to tell the story of a woman who works and has children as a guilt riddled narrative does a huge disservice to all women, regardless of their childrearing status.

So as I’m writing now, about the early phases of doing this full velocity thing called life that includes work and kids and a thesis and whatever other bits fall into the mix, my hope is that I can begin telling the story in a slightly different way.

Less guilt, more fulfillment. Less culturally perceived “shoulds,” more personally perceived moments of sheer awesome.

I am at the beginning of a new phase; an epic; an adventure. It feels off kilter some days. There are days that I don’t have enough time for anything more than the barest essentials. Still, unless I read about it somewhere, guilt doesn’t factor in to the equation.

My life is asking for new definitions and capabilities. It demands that I cultivate the ability to adapt to the speed of things moving in multiple dimensions and directions simultaneously. It pushes me to imagine bigger constructs; and to see time, and speed, and distance, and success as new non-linear relatives.

My life is being altered by the nature of the work I am doing; by my expectations for myself; by the sunlight gradually softening towards spring; by my sons turning three and seven; by a dozen years with the man I love; by my thesis; and by all that is unfinished at present. And instead of guilt, what I am striving for is to acquire a certain degree of nonattachment. To do my very best, to pour my soul into the work I do, to love my boys when I am with them, to trust that when I’m not that they are flourishing, and to let go and know: Our right lives are happening now, in dynamic unison, every morning, every afternoon, every night.

So many things by Christina Rosalie

I've decided that to just roll with the fact that this post is going to be disjointed and full of juicy tidbits and no real rhyme or reason because it is the only way to get everything down on the digital page, so that I can start fresh again before my brain explodes. Because so many things. Are happening. Right now. Oh my.

I keep thinking/hoping/wishing that I'll wake up one morning with more time, but instead, I woke up one morningcame back from my trip to California to find that T had taken out a wall in our living room. Yeah. So. That goal of painting a corner of our house aquamarine that I made for my 35/35 list? Check. Flexibility as a personality trait? Check.

I'll totally post pictures just as soon as there is some semblance of semblance. My entire house has a new wide-open floor plan. Removing the wall caused all sorts of re-painting to take place. The dining room is a different color. So is the living room. The kitchen remains, for now, the same. That it will persist that way is doubtful.

I love my new job. It excites me. It uses all the parts of my brain: strategic, creative, emotional, practical. It challenges me in all the right ways. And the days pass in a blink. I watch the light move across the sky from my office window; head out for a run at lunch, and then drive home, eat dinner, put the kids to bed, and hit my thesis. Or at least, intend to.

And oh, hey! I have two birthday boys next week. When did that happen?

Exhibit A & B:

They are pretty much the coolest. They're funny and full-tilt and totally, completely different. I intend to write each of them a love letter, or at the very least, share snippets of their Birthday Interviews that I always conduct. Of note: Bean is almost as good as me at snowboarding now. I can still beat him down the mountain, but I have a sneaky suspicion it's just because I'm heavier. The kid was born to ride. He has a sort of effortless grace that I can't help but be a little bit jealous of.

This past weekend we also put Sprout on a board for the first time, and wouldn't you know, he didn't fall at all. He had crazy balance. Rode perpendicular to the slope, laughing his head off. The only problem: He had no clue how to stop.

"When you tell him how to stop Mommy," Bean told me while riding the lift, "He doesn't believe you because it just looks like magic."

"Is that how you felt when you started?" I asked him.

"Yeah, but then my body learned the magic."


Somehow, the days fly by. I do as much as the hours allow, and am learning to let the rest go. I've started running again and it is definitely a key sanity and wellbeing. Today I hit my 3mi/25minute goal. Another thing on my 35/35 list. I think I may need to revise that one.

Did you see how I tossed that link to twitter in there? Yeah, I'm on twitter a lot, and it's one of my very favorite places to share, and find insight and be inspired. It's also a place where I've been sharing little in the moment updates, at the speed of life as it's happening right now. Won't you join me?