So, people loved this TED talk about coming out of closets.  It’s about how we all have closets to come out of.  It was about courage.  If you haven’t seen the talk yet, you should.  People wrote on Facebook, “Unbelievable.” “Powerful.”  “I’ve never been impressed with a TED talk … until now.”

I, however, was not impressed or inspired.  I was uneasy.  When speaker Ash Beckham said, “All a closet is, is a hard conversation,” I cringed.  I had to turn the video off halfway through.  And then I felt bad about myself, because obviously this sentiment appeals to people.  Was I just bored and unimpressed because having a kid in preschool means that I come out to 4-year olds every day?  Well, yeah, but I also felt anger.  Where was my anger coming from?

Making pancakes of our own.

So, apparently people really like hearing a butch lesbian tell them they have closets too and that their closets are just as scary as gay closets.  I think I understand this part.  We all suffer; we hide things; we’re ashamed.  We long to hear that our pain is real and that people are all the same, after all.  Aren’t we all afraid?  So yeah, Ash Beckham, I feel you there.  Secrets are bad, being inauthentic is bad, and if you keep things inside instead of being brave, you’ll get stressed and sick and poison yourself with guilt and self-loathing.  You should just be you! Awesome!

But do we need to call every uncomfortable truth a “closet” and do we need to then, on top of that, insist that all closets are equal?  No.  It’s annoying, unnecessary, damaging, hurtful, and unkind to equate all closets — or even to refer to pregnancy as a closet.  Make your point about personal courage without stealing the language of gay struggle for a cheap round of applause at a conference and 15 minutes of Facebook fame.  Because there are important differences between misfortune and oppression.

Misfortune happens.  So do cataclysmic life events.  Divorce, pregnancy, love – they happen.  But oppression is systemic.  I mean that when you are gay, there are actual laws and systems and customs and social norms that say you are less than, that you cannot get married, that you can be mistreated for being who you are, that you cannot adopt children or that you must adopt your own children , as we did, to prove they are yours.  A relative of mine lives in a state in which he can get fired from his job for being gay.  He is not alone; 29 states allow companies to fire gay workers for no reason other than who they are. On top of the legal punishments for being gay, there’s social rejection.  To put it more bluntly, people find you repulsive, they hate you, they think you are a child molester.  They might wish you were dead.  They might kill you.  Or, if you are like two women who live near my wife’s home town, someone might come out to your house in the night and poison your four dogs.

Happy kitchen chaos.

Happy kitchen chaos.

Many of us would like to believe that we live in a time when being gay is safe.  I’ve been to the Walnut Café in Boulder, and it is clearly, decisively gay friendly.  Anyone who brings a kid in there is not going to hurl homophobic invective.  When describing the supposedly powerful moment when she came out to a 4-year-old girl while waiting tables, Beckham builds up the suspense of her confrontation and then says, “It was the easiest hard conversation I have ever had, because pancake girl and I, we were real with each other.”  Okay, fine.  Ash Beckham was real with a 4-year-old in a progressive lefty café in Boulder.  It’s a cute story.  But it’s ridiculous to suggest that gay people stay in closets because they are unwilling to “be real.”



Actually, gay people stay in closets because they could get sexually assaulted in the bathroom of their own high school.  Or because they are more likely to drop out of high school or be turned out of their homes by their own parents or, once they are homeless, be forced into prostitution to survive.  Or because they are more likely than straight kids their age to commit suicide.

Unfortunately, whether we want to face it or not, being gay is dangerous — even in New York City, even for adults.  Just ask the gay men who have been attacked in Manhattan recently, while going to a movie. Yet Beckham is so intent on connecting with her straight listeners that she makes it seem petty to mention the particulars of gay struggle.  Not once, not for a moment, are we supposed to mention that oppression doesn’t always wear a pink dress and smile back.

Bunny Rabbit.

Bunny Rabbit.

When we pretend that coming out to a 4-year-old or socializing at a relative’s wedding is the scariest part about being gay, we risk keeping our straight allies in the dark about how much we still need their help toppling oppression.  Straight allies, please don’t be fooled by this TED talk: we need your help.  We need a lot of your help because things are pretty bad.

As I wrote these words, I repeatedly watched Beckham’s talk.  At times, I wavered in my criticism.  She’s just trying to share a personal struggle and help other people grow from it, right?

Toward the end of the talk, Beckham’s call to personal authenticity rings true and clear.  I found myself nodding along.  Let’s be free.  Let’s throw down our lies and take the risk of being who we are so that we can stop wasting energy hiding and use it doing things that matter to us.  For me, the call to authenticity is embodied in a quote from the gospel of Thomas that I’ve kept near my writing space for years:  “If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you.  If you don’t bring forth what is inside you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.”



This mandate to manifest oneself is powerful.  I’m glad that Beckham is issuing that invitation to all of us to be brave, to own publicly and unapologetically who we are.  I just don’t think that we need to insist that all misfortunes are created equal.  Let’s talk about what it means to be bankrupt, pregnant, sick with cancer, Mormon, divorced,  in love, lesbian, out of love with a spouse, one-armed, allergic to cashews, a poet, a stay-at-home mom, a prostitute, an atheist, biracial, an immigrant.  We don’t need to erase the historic specifics of one group’s oppression to make everyone else feel good about proclaiming themselves.

Our pancake rules: From scratch. Buttermilk.  Maple syrup.

Our pancake rules: From scratch. Buttermilk. Maple syrup.

A lot of people I love and respect were moved enough by this talk to repost it, and they weren’t offended in the way I was.  They were gay people, straight allies, people with serious critical thinking skills and multiple degrees.  So I’d love to hear from these people.  Tell me, am I off base? Am I being nitpicky?  In what way did Ash Beckham’s talk speak to you?  Did anyone else have misgivings about her closet analogy?  If I’m just a heartless, militant lesbian mom of two, let me know.  (My armpits are a bit hairy right now, to be honest.)  If that’s what I am, at least I can be real about it with the next 4-year-old I come out to when I pick my son up from school today.


So, we had another child.  Yes!  Seven months ago, in fact.  A boy human named Hugo came into the world, altering it with his presence, displacing air, producing love, consuming milk, erasing sleep, soiling laundry, creating a sibling of Miles, and generally blowing our minds.

Hugo at four weeks.

Hugo at four weeks.

But we haven’t been blogging about it.  Why?  Because two kids is a lot of work.  Two kids is crazy.  Two kids is what-were-we-thinking-and-this-is-so-awesome-and-please-can-I-sleep-soon.  Two kids multiplies the love and the work and the laundry and the dishes and the feces even as it subtracts sleep, money, patience and memory.

Love, multiplied.

Love, multiplied.

When people ask if the second baby really is easier, I say “Yes!”  The second baby is absolutely easier.  I’m calmer and more relaxed in Hugo’s babyhood than I was in Miles’s.  I’m not as worried about messing up. Some of the logistics are familiar.  Swaddling, diapering, bathing — none of these intimidate me any more.  I know how to soothe a newborn and that sometimes the soothing just won’t work.  Now that Hugo is crawling and cruising and busting his head on the furniture, I know he probably isn’t going to get a concussion falling from his own height.  I’m not as worried about his sleep, which incidentally is going okay enough.  I carry less in the diaper bag, as my mother-in-law kept telling me to do.

But two kids is absolutely, definitely, ridiculously harder.  The sheer amount of work is greater, and I spend a lot of time rushing about trying to make our life smoother and better.  I feel crushed by the clutter.  I long for a dishwasher.  We visit the pediatrician practically once a week.  And also, perhaps because this is the second time, I keep thinking we should be doing even better than we are, that we should be getting some of our pre-baby mojo back.  I keep thinking we should be drinking out of glass glasses and going to concerts in the park and, you know, exercising.  Which we are not.

However, as great as the work is, the love is wildly, unimaginably greater.  First there’s Hugo, a whole new person to love.  And then there’s the two boys together.  When Miles and Hugo play together, when they smile at each other, I explode somewhere inside, in my guts.  I creep into the tiny room where both of them sleep sometimes to feel their breath lapping wavelike against the walls.   And there’s our new family, with its fourness.  Our family breakfast of chaos and costume changes and clattering spoons against the floor.

Second baby easier.  Two kids harder.  Family of four? Awesome.




Well, Hello There

Hi there.  It’s been awhile — don’t be mad.  A few things have changed.  Like, Miles became a huge gigantic 3-year-old.  He likes to announce this accomplishment, which comes out sounding like, “I’m free!”



Robin and I got married.  Again.

Legally hitched.

And we need a new title for the blog.  Pronto!  Why do we need a new title for the blog?  Because we are having a baby, any day now really.  Robin is gloriously, extremely, undeniably pregnant.

Forty weeks pregnant.

So  help us, please.  We can’t really have a blog called Miles and Moms once we have a new little human.  We don’t know that much about him yet, but it’s safe to say he’ll want equal billing.  We don’t have a name picked out for the kid, but we’re taking suggestions for the name of the blog.  Consider it a contest.  And the prize if you win is… being the person who renamed our blog.

Miles, of course, wants to name the baby Rainbow.  Whenever we gently suggest that we might name the baby something else, he becomes very stern and insists.  “No, I want to name him Rainbow.  Not something else!”

We hope to blog more in the near future.  Stay tuned…

My, My


"My, I'm in a basket of animals by the window."

When Miles was a much less accomplished speaker than he is now, he called Robin “Momma” and me “My-My.”  This was back in the days when he communicated most of his thoughts through sign language, and he had developed distinct signs for each of us.  “My-my,” he’d call, pressing his thumb to his chin and rotating his hand back and forth urgently. 

It was a sweet little name, but it wasn’t “Mommy.”  I waited for “Mommy,” and when it came at last, it was bold, unmistakable, gorgeous.  It was a real word, commonly recognized in our culture as signifying a mother, and I loved it so much that I hardly noticed or mourned when he gradually abandoned the accompanying hand gesture.  Finally I was Mommy: a declared mom.

Now he’s a professional talker.  His speech can seem effortless, the way he breezily says “Thanks!” when I refill his cup, or how he ominously intones “Oh no!” when something doesn’t go his way.  Robin and I smile indulgently at his newest favorite phase, “Oh my goodness!”  And the other day he said, “Where is Miles?  I am next to the table where I can look out the window and see trees.”  Um, okay.  So you are.

So it was with great irritation this morning that I complained to a neighbor about how Miles has recently gotten lazy, calling me “My.”  My!  Just one lousy little syllable.  I gave him life, and all he can give me is one syllable?  (I know that my friends whose children have speech delays will not sympathize here, and I understand that this is not a real problem of any sort.  Some people wait years to hear their child say any version of “Mom.”  I get that I will never know how hard that is and that I am not even qualified to imagine it.  Consider this a frivolous complaint.)

Because I know my neighbor is studying language development, I described Miles’s linguistic lapse in detail.  It’s almost like two syllables the way he says it, like “Ma-ee” smushed together, like he’s just skipping the second set of Ms.  But seriously?  I shop for and prepare every one of his meals, meals he occasionally declines to eat, and then I wipe his gluey oatmeal or soggy, half-masticated quesadilla off of the floor.  After he digests that food, I wipe poop off of his butt.   And he won’t pronounce a lousy M sound? 

Occasionally I try to correct or cajole him.  It goes like this.

“Can you say ‘Mommy?'” “My.” “Mommy?” “My.”

Clearly he’s comfortable with calling me My, as comfortable as he is wearing diapers rather than using the big-kid potty.  Or alternately, as comfortable as he is proudly wearing undies and cheerfully whizzing right through them as he sits at the table munching on toast.  Toast that I personally toasted.  (And guess who cleans up the urine?)


Pssst! I just peed.


To Miles, the syllable “My” is just a lovely, easy sound that summons one of his two favorite people on earth.  To me it’s a demotion. 

“Well,” said my neighbor, drawing on her coursework, “dropping the second consonant is actually very common.”  She launched into a bunch of impressive sounding technicalities about dropping the middle consonant between syllables with different vowel sounds.  When I complained that he used to say it properly, she was unmoved.

“It’s a sign of all the hard work he is doing right now with his speech,” she said.  “He’s working so much — doing so much invisible work — that he backslides in other areas, in skills he mastered a long time ago.”

Hmmmph.  I mumbled a grudging assent.

“He’s doing so much, Melissa,” she said urgently.  “As much as it looks like they’re just playing around or going ‘goo gah’ all the time, there’s work going on that we adults could never, ever do.”

Then Miles and I went upstairs.  I prepared a meal, listening to his bitter complaints as I did.

“I don’t want spicy rice!  No spicy rice!  I don’t want you to make it! Stop making it!  Just bunnies!”

“Miles, bunny crackers are not lunch.  Do you want some yogurt with your spicy rice?”

“Food yogurt, not drinkable yogurt.”

“Ok, food yogurt.  Raisins?”

“No raisins, My!  I WANT BUNNIES!”

Although Miles’s complaints showcased a new-found verbal agility, I was in no mood to celebrate.  He’s doing work, I thought?  Who’s the one making lunch here?  

I put the food in front of him,  “No rice!” he hollered, then picked up the spoon and ate the entire bowl.

After lunch, he began playing with trains and chattering to himself.  After awhile, I stopped scraping food off of the floor and tuned in.

“There was a monster.  It was a big monster.  And the train went through.  It was a big yellow one.  It was big!  The train is going in the tunnel!”


Headed for the tunnel.

Here he crouched by his beloved trains, each with its name, and pulled them up to the door of a parking garage made of a cardboard box.  He had assembled a train out of nearly every train car he owns, each piece delicately joined to the next like words in a trembling sentence. 

“The tunnel is dark.  There was something inside! It was scary.  It is inside the dark scary tunnel.  The train will go in the yellow tunnel now not the green tunnel.” He struggled briefly.  “I need help for moving it.”

I waited, didn’t offer help, and he grunted, guiding the massive, serpentine train himself. 


Going in the safe yellow tunnel.

“It is going, My, look! In the dark!”  He turned and smiled, knowing I would share in his celebration.

I did.

Goo gah, indeed.  I get it.  Okay?  I get it.  Keep on building those long trains of language, Miles.  My loves you.



Chug, chug, chug. I think I can.



Bock ‘n’ Roll


Glamor shot.

Evening.  A bedtime scene in a house in middle Tennessee.

“Chickens are sleeping?”

“Yes, Miles,  The chickens are sleeping.  It’s nighttime.”

“I will sleep with them!  They go BOCK-K! BOCK-K!?”

“Yes, they say bock bock.  Go to sleep, Miles.”


Morning.  A child rolls over in bed.

“The chickens are awaaake?!”


Naptime.  Rubbing eyes.

“I want to feed the chickens.”

90 minutes pass with no actual nap taking place.

“Bock-k!  You’re awake! Chickens!!”


Miles and I just went on a trip to visit Nana and Pah. And the chickens.  Were so.  Thrilling.  Miles didn’t nap at all after the first day, and I think his feathered friends were to blame.  How could anyone expect him to sleep when there were live chickens just outside?  Then again, how could he sleep when there were cousins to play with?  A golf cart to drive?  Cows to moo at?  Let’s just say that a good time was had by all.


Evan, Miles, Cash.



Rollin' with Pah.



"I want to feed them!"



Miles and moos.





Where's the stereo on this thing?

Life as We Wish It Were

Last week when Finn was over for the day, I snapped a few photos.  You know Finn: Miles’ mini soul mate and comrade-in-arms.   Every other Thursday, Alicia and I take turns taking both kids so that the other can go do all of the things it is undesirable or impossible to do with a 2-year-old hanging on. Uninterrupted vacuuming. Pleasure reading. Forming adult thoughts in complete sentences. 

This arrangement has worked well for us, although things can get a little wacky with two 2-year-olds.  Like the time Finn peed her pants and Miles, while I was cleaning her up, pooped all over himself and the head of my childhood stuffed bear, on which he was sitting.  Or the time one of them slammed a door on the other one’s body as part of a “game,” or the times when, instead of napping, they lay in adjoining rooms and sang the alphabet to one another for 40 minutes.  There’s Thursdays I spend the whole time saying, “We don’t strangle our friends,” and “Finn is playing with that.  Can you find something else to play with?”

But other times, much of the time, they are crushingly sweet and I think I just can’t stand how much they love one another.  It’s too much, the way Finn says “Miles!” incessantly in a tone of joyful astonishment, as though she had just discovered rainbows.  The way they initiate smiling contests during lunch and make a game of kicking one another’s feet under the table. 

Smiling contest.



Looking at the photos of the kids painting last Thursday, I was struck with the stillness and beauty of the images.  It had been an especially busy morning, with play-doh, blocks, madcap chasing, cooking in the play kitchen, Miles bossing Finn relentlessly (“Finn don’t use that block!”), and then the two of them painting, crayoning, stickering. 

These photos lacked the tumult I remembered.  In each one I saw not our life but an image of life as we wish it were: gentle, lovely, orderly.  Sunlight flooded through tall windows.  The children dipped brushes into paint, perching on their grown-up chairs with no concern for the great distance to the floor.  Their beauty pained me.  In Finn’s dangling foot I saw the precariousness of our innocence, and in Miles’ kneeling form the resilience we bring into the unknown.  The moment seemed hushed, invented, idyllic; even the bowl of fruit on the table seemed as though it had auditioned for its role. 

Whoa, you’re saying, hold on! I’ve lost you, haven’t I?  You’re asking, where do I come up with this nonsense?  It’s a picture of two kids painting watercolors!  Get a grip! 

The truth is that I am sad.  The truth is I don’t want any more time to pass.  The truth is that this photo is life as I wish it were, because in this photo Miles and Finn are painting together forever.  But Finn and her moms are moving to Boston, and we will see them only one or two more times before they go.

There will be trips to Boston.  Miles and Finn will chase one another and shriek, and all the moms will drink coffee or beer and laugh and tell stories.  Friendship will change and continue, like us, finding new forms and expressions.  Siblings will be born, and we won’t believe how much love there is to go around, more and more and more. 

But just for now, let’s linger at the table.

A Small Dose of Cuteness

Because it’s been too long. I didn’t bother with captions, but feel free to provide some. Love, R, M & M