Archive for August, 2011

Ramblin’ Man

Miles. Train. Yes.

I was dressing Miles one morning, telling him about our plans to go grocery shopping, when he looked at me and wistfully asked, “Fly?  Airplane?  No?”

“No Miles,” I said.  “We are not going to fly on an airplane to the grocery store.”

“Miles?  Car?  No car?”

“No car.”

“Train?  Miles train no?   Train mommy?!  Train!”  Then, anticipating my answer, he shook his head sadly.  “No train no.  No.  Airplane no.”

“We’re staying home, Miles.  HOME.” 

Our nation's capitol.

You know, that place most people spend their time?  Home?  The place where everything is familiar, and we usually have diapers and a cool, quiet room for you to sleep and food to eat and actual closets to contain our belongings?  That place?

No, Miles doesn’t know that place too well right now, because we have been traveling.  So. Much.  He’s been joyfully surveying the blur of the East Coast from Amtrak and Metro North, peering down at clouds from airplane windows.  He has loved rehearsing the names of our hosts in each destination.  “Nana house!  Papa house!  Sara house!  Jamie house!  RJ house! Thom house!”

In case anyone is wondering, here’s the verdict on transportation: train travel is best, preferably Amtrak, and ideally in the snack car, where Miles can spread out his toy trains and picture books (about cars and trucks and things that go, of course!) on the table.  If an airplane is necessary, getting Miles his own seat is always a better choice.  And if we ever take a long car trip again, we will, I repeat, will get a car seat that properly reclines.   (What seat does your child sleep well in?  Tips??) 

We haven’t dabbled in foreign languages or required malaria shots, but we’ve certainly been in our share of moving vehicles.   In the Spring we tackled California (twice) and Hawaii.  The summer brought us to Connecticut (three times), to Washington, D.C. (during a record-shattering heat wave and the debt ceiling negotiations), and to Georgia

On the go!

Miles and Robin went to Woodstock, NY, one weekend when I went to California.  And we had a whirlwind tour of Cape Cod, staying just long enough to see two dear friends marry before we fled home under the shadow of Hurricane Irene. 

I adore our far-flung family and friends,  and I would not eliminate a single trip from our madcap tour.  Yet as the summer wore on, I became bogged down in the logistics of packing and unpacking.  I began to crave my own bed.  And at a certain point, when neighbors would ask, “How was your trip?” my eyes would get a little foggy and vague because I couldn’t always remember where we’d just come from — and I was already preoccupied with packing for wherever we were going. 

 I suppose that, in this way, I was slightly less adaptable than Miles.  Few people can claim to be less flexible than a toddler, but apparently I belong to that elite class.  Our traveling boy did not mind being uprooted every few days.  He relished sleeping in new places, meeting new people, staying at different houses.  He still stands at the door sometimes begging, “Momma, airplane, no?  Mommy, airplane, no?  Miles, airplane, no?” 

Yards Park fountain, D.C.


"More! Goats!" (Woodstock, NY.)


Milford Oyster Festival, in Connecticut.


Falmouth, Mass.


Yay! Traveling is fun!



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Country Time

For Robin’s birthday, we visited her family in Georgia.  She comes from a small town — and when I say small, I don’t mean a town with a McDonald’s but no Taco Bell.  I don’t mean a town where the mall has a lousy selection and a cheesy fountain. 

I mean a town without a gas station.  A town of fewer than 300 residents.  A town where the only street light is the blinking caution light you roll through as you pass the abandoned mill.  A town where there is one restaurant, named simply, “The Chicken Place,” that until last year was housed in a defunct gas station with sagging old-time pumps.  In this town, Robin’s father was at various points both the mayor and the fire chief, and neither of those was his full-time job. 

It was the perfect place for some R&R in the midst of a summer of nonstop travel.  We lolled in the pool, walked in the woods, played with kids and, of course, ate and ate and ate.  Miles disappeared into the play room at Nana and PaPa’s house for long stretches of time with his cousins.  I curled up on the couch with a book for most of a day.  At Aunt Martha Ann and Uncle Bill’s house (clear across town, about a quarter of a mile away), we feasted on turkey, cornbread muffins, black-eyed peas, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, garden-fresh sliced tomatoes, creamed corn,  sweet tea and caramel cake.  Miles climbed tractors, a boat and a handful of lawn mowers.

So, basically, it was exactly like daily life in Brooklyn.  (Not.)

Into the woods.


"Miles have it?"


Nana's kitchen.


Turn signal.


Photo by Taylor Davidson.





Homeward bound.

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Peas in a pod.

On the way home from music class Friday morning, we stopped spontaneously at a large, lovely playground that we don’t get to very often.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from our apartment, so we usually go somewhere closer unless we are meeting someone.  Miles, thrilled with his good luck, clambered up a metal ladder (when did he start climbing ladders?!), chattering away in multi-word sentences (when did he start chattering?!).

At the top of the slide, he shouted joyfully, “Binn!”

Playgrounding in February.

“What Miles?”

“Finn!  Finn! Is she?  Where … is she? Where?”

I realized with shock that he was remembering the last time we’d played at that playground, almost a month earlier.  We’d played with his very best friend, Finn, and he expected her to be here today.  He scanned the playground eagerly from his perch.  Big kids shouting, tots racing through a water sprinkler, everywhere the hot sun.  No Finn.

Of course he expected to see her.  We see Finn at least once a week, and it had been much more than that since our last play date.  But Finn was on vacation with her moms.  “Sorry Miles,” I said.  “No Finn today.”  After a few seconds, he gave up, skidding forlornly down the slide.


He’s been this way about Finn for quite some time.  Like the first time I mistakenly mentioned we were going to Finn’s house an hour before we were supposed to leave.  Miles marched to the door and began banging on it, chanting her name.  In case I wasn’t getting the point, he grabbed his shoes from the bin, thrust them into my hands, and entreated, “Go!” 

For several months, I was sure he thought Finn’s name was “More.” 

“Do you want to go see Finn?” I would ask.

“More, more, more,” Miles would chant, firmly signing “friend” with his hands. 

“Are you saying more friend?”

He’d look at me.  Concentrate. “More.” (Sign “friend.”) “Please.”

Got milk?

They met at two months old in a coffee shop.  A mutual friend connected Robin and me with Finn’s moms, Alicia and Melissa, because we were lesbian families who’d had babies within two weeks of each other.  At that point, Miles and Finn were bald and squirmy grubs, rooting for the breast.  They couldn’t have cared less about socializing.  Then they moved on to parallel play, eyeing one another with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion, until their first tortured attempts at sharing.  Now their friendship is a passionate and intense toddler love fest.  He mostly calls her “Binn,” and she mostly calls him “Biles.” They’re a funny pair, both blonde and blue-eyed, running around like a couple of Scandinavian elves out of a fairy tale.  They scream each other’s names. 

“Biles!  Biles!  Biles!”

“Binn! Binn!  Binn!”



They debate the finer points of Elmo and Ernie.  They hug, they read, they giggle, they grab, they cry, they push, they chase.  

So funny!

A few months ago, we asked Miles and Finn for the first time if they would like to kiss each other goodbye.   We were finishing up a play date, and they’d been milling about, grabbing toys off the ground, turning in circles, grabbing the dogs’ tails. 

Both stopped.  They looked at each other.  And then they bolted — not away but toward each other — collided belly to belly and nose to nose, and bounced back, stunned.  Contorting with suppressed laughter, we asked if they would like to try again.  Finn smiled.  Miles approached.  He tilted his head and teetered.  Finn grasped his arm and leaned and… contact! 

The smooch train.

With Finn and Alicia, we go to the playground, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the amazing sandbox at Pier 6, the Transit Museum, the park.  Sometimes Robin and I babysit Finn, and other times Alicia and Melissa babysit Miles.  In the Fall, Miles and Finn will be together in a cooperative preschool, which means Alicia and I will be taking turns (with other parents) teaching and providing snacks. 

Best of all for me, as the kids’ friendship has developed — in between the breastfeeding, the diapers, and the snack times — Alicia and I have become great friends too.  We sneak in actual, adult conversations sometimes, conversations that help keep me sane and balanced.  On weekends sometimes we get together all six of us: four moms talking and two toddlers climbing and babbling.  In those moments, I realize just how eloquent our son really is.  More.  Friend. Please. 

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Two little monkeys jumpin' on the bed.

Play date.





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On Sunday afternoon, RJ and Robin and Miles and I stood outside our apartment building. 

“You look so rested,” RJ was telling me.  “Doesn’t she look like she just came back from a vacation? Your face looks different.”

“It does,” Robin admitted.

Which was kind of weird.  I hadn’t come back from a vacation; in fact, I’d just returned from a three-day trip in which I flew to California (with a layover in Minneapolis), attended a memorial service, slept very little, got up in the early morning dark, and flew back to New York (with a layover in Minneapolis).  On the various planes, I’d been squished in between snoring businessmen, stuck without food for hours at a time,  and, worst of all, had the window seat next to a couple returning from a fractious visit to their in-laws.  (“He was mocking me the whole time.” “That wasn’t mockery — why would you say that?” “He was mocking me.  You never notice it.”)  All of this followed by a harrowing cab ride complete with a skidding, screeching  near-death on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

I’d had, by most people’s reckoning, a brutal few days.  Yet I felt magnificent.  Why?  They were three days without Miles.

I’m not a horrible mother.  Really.  I just needed a long break, a break so long that I would be forced to stop planning, coordinating, anticipating, meeting needs.  A break in which I would be Not In Charge of Anything.  A break in which I would not wipe anyone else’s bottom, prepare anyone else’s food, wipe up anyone else’s spills, bathe anyone else’s body, convince anyone else (ever so cheerfully) to please, please, please climb the stairs or get out of the tub or let me put on your shoes or sit on the potty instead of running around naked and shrieking.  Yet as much as I needed such a break, I could not imagine taking one, and I could not imagine being without Miles for several days.  The longest I’ve been away from him is ten hours.  Leading up to my departure, I was anxious and fearful.

Then I got on the plane.  Almost immediately, I started having thoughts.  I thought about Robin dancing, my years working at a newspaper, the neighbors we had when we first moved to Brooklyn.  I thought about college and friendships, about my childhood cat, about family, about the man whose life I was traveling to celebrate.  And then I thought, “Hey, I’m back!  I’m Melissa!”  Meaning, not Miles’ mom.  Meaning, the person I have been my whole life, since I was a kid, that consciousness that has accompanied me through decades and changes of scenery.  That consciousness I’d somehow lost track of.  For the last two years my brain has been tuned to a different channel — the channel of snacks and naps and meal plans and housekeeping.  The noise of daily parenting had become so loud that I couldn’t hear anything else. 

Three simple days.  I read three books.  I listened to people.  I went where I was supposed to be.  I carried only the things I needed.  (No toy trains!  No sippy cups!)  I felt calm.  And I made a list of what I need to do to feel this way again.  It included things like nights out, yoga, back-up day care, meditation, reading books, writing in a journal.

 After the list, I turned to a fresh page and wrote one sentence.

It was: I don’t want to lose this.

This is dedicated to all those parents who are so busy doing they don’t have time to think.  Let’s figure it out together.  Let’s change the channel sometimes, if only for a few minutes.  Let’s listen to ourselves.  And then let’s gather up our partners and our children and hold them in our arms, as I did with Robin and Miles on Sunday, and let that peace emanate from us to them.

You missed me. Admit it.

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Why Didn’t I Think of That?

Sometimes kids have the best ideas.

Cattle, car.

Musical, genius.

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