You mean, like, today? I’m a trained professional.
I happy cry during the usual suspects, the milestones. Weddings.
I happy cry each First Day of School. It’s an ambivalent alchemy of tears. Anxiety collides with pride. Hope for a fresh start trickles into the fear that I’m failing them. And, for reals, I’m just giddy to get back on a schedule.
I happy cry in church, most Sundays, in surrender to the music or the message or the moment. The Holy Spirit slips out of my eyes and soaks my shirt. Case, inevitably, will lean over and say: Mom, are you crying?
I happy cry during animated features. Watercolor lessons run deep. Case, inevitably, will lean over and say: Mom, are you crying?
I happy cry as we drive into Disney, riding under the welcome sign. Every. Single. Time. (#notsorry: this is where dreams come true). Case, inevitably, will lean up from the backseat and say: Mom. Seriously?
Illuminations, Reflections of Earth, makes me misty. There’s this epic moment when all of the lanterns are burning by each country, each pavilion, and the entire lake is illuminated by this warm fire light. Then the narrator exhales a whisper, extinguishing each flame. What?!?
But it’s the sneaky happy cries I love the most. The ones that creep up on tip toe and whisk you up in all the feelings.
Like surprise notes from your boys in your stocking that say, in permanent ink, why they love you so big.
Thanksgiving. Everyone gathered around one table, hearts heavy with blessings, lips thick with gratitude.
Hugs from a friend you haven’t seen in way too long.
Landing after a rough flight.
Seeing anyone else happy cry. Joy, unhinged, is contagious.
Any story on ESPN on Saturday. If you need a therapeutic sob, watch Game Day.
All of this happy crying may sound like I’m leaking weakness. But, after decades of living on the edge of all of my feelings, I’ve learned these tears are liquid honesty.
What about you? Have you ever been so happy you cried?
It’s the first Thursday of the new year and it’s high time I spent a little time in my Thanksgiving Chair.
Some of my friends got engaged last year. Some got married, some became parents, some had a milestone year.
But, for a lot of people I love, 2013 was a broken year flooded with bad news, deflated dreams and health gone kaput. It wasn’t my favorite year because, frankly, it wasn’t an easy one. But I am thankful for it. And the more I looked back on it, the more 2013 looked up. Here’s an itty bitty smidgen of the blessings I counted.
We rang in 2013 with some of our dearest friends and hotfooted it into the new year full speed.
Tucker started reading more and more–signs, labels, recipes. And Jeff and I had to stop spelling secret things out loud.
Case’s contagious dino craze intensified.
And I kicked off what would become my busiest, best professional year to date.
I got 1 year older and I got a bike.
We celebrated my sister’s 30th birthday in the most magical way.
We danced. A lot.
We spent Saturdays unplugged at the ball park. Tucker batted.
They grew. I noticed.
We celebrated our brand new 4-year-old spunk muffin–my own personal sunshine.
We unleashed the Jedi on Star Wars Weekend.
And we joined Forces with some pretty great friends.
I started this silly little blog.
For possibly the only time this will ever happen, the boys were on the same team. Summer Flag Football.
Well, Jeff coached. Tucker played. Case chased the field’s wild peacock family.
Tucker had his first sleepover ever (gulp.) and said goodbye to his best bud who moved out of state.
I bought a fancy dress (for the first time in years, no lie) and went to a swanky industry soiree in New York City.
Because I have the best parents (a lot of people think they do, but I know that I do), they came to keep the boys so Jeff and I could celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary a few weeks early. I will always remember our trip as one of the most wonderful weeks of my life. Plus, we hit all four Disney parks in one day: Grand Slam Dunk.
I may cry tomorrow. Who am I kidding? I’m crying right now.
Tomorrow means another new school year. And this year, both of you will wear official uniforms.
It’s not your fault I’m crying. It’s those collared shirts, dagnabbit. Because they make you look so sure and ready and grown. And that makes me proud and tickled and teary.
We’ll need routine tomorrow and I don’t wear routine well. I’ll be down to minutes, rushing me, rushing you, sighing and apologizing for it. And Tucker—you’ll just smile and say, “That’s okay, Mommy.” And Case—I’ll do one small something, inside-out your socks for you, and you’ll say, “You’re the best Mommy ever.”
We’ll drop you off tomorrow, with fresh supplies and the shiny smiles of a new start. We’ll chat with your teachers and hug you and hug you again. We’ll walk away from the classroom door and the tears that I hope I’ll hold until that moment will topple and spill. And Jeff will rub my back and say, “Oh, Wife” (even though he’s been expecting this).
I know it’s a beginning but, to me, that moment thuds like an ending. I worry that I’m missing too much, that I’ve let another whole year slip away, that maybe I’ve failed you too many times. It’s an ambivalent dance; I can physically feel time racing. And I’m wonderstruck at the amazing little people you are.
This moment will happen tomorrow and next year’s tomorrow. But I know tomorrow will begin another amazing year. So this is what I wish for you.
I hope you always walk into learning with the starry-eyed eagerness that brought you to today. I hope you read all the books you can touch. Devour them. Sip them. Share them. Read them again.
If it’s numbers you love, use them. Master them. I know that I’m awfully clumsy with them, but Dad can help. Or we can always call Pop.
Tuck—you can have all the paper and pencils you want. Draw whenever you can (just not when your teacher is talking). When your teacher is talking, listen with your eyes first, then your ears. Remember that there’s just one her and a lot of yous, so be gentle.
Case—I know I’ve spent hours, maybe months, telling you not to touch everything in reach. I hope I haven’t crippled your curiosity. Keep curious. Ask every question. When you’re allowed to explore, take your time. I promise to try and rush you less.
You’re sharing the year with a lot of kids. You won’t agree with each other all the time. But you can almost always find one piece of common ground with almost anyone—even if it’s as small as having the same favorite color, the same tooth fairy fee or the same disgust for peas. Find that one thing.
Eat your fruits and veggies first. But don’t let the lunch bell ring before you’ve had your treat.
Tucker—I get on to you for being a bossy sprocket, for parenting your little brother and antagonizing and swatting at him when you think I’m not looking. But, you should know, he sees you as his fierce protector, his comfort, his best bud who always gets an extra sticker or toy just for him. And so do I. You may meet other kids who need that kind of partner, kids who need a louder voice.
Case—your silly has no limit. From food-flinging to ear-ringing, I’ve never seen someone entertain so well with a single fork. You’re our live wire with a contagious sparkle. And you’re not happy until everyone else is. This year will be no different. I hope, one day, you understand what a gift that is.
I hope you two keep an open mind and open ears. But stay locked to what you know is right in your gut.
Ugly words are never cool or powerful or right.
You (still) will not get any new techie toys this year. And you will live.
It won’t be perfect, this year. There will be messes and oopses and flubs. But we’ll look for the good, the helpers, the magic.
Because you’re still 7 and 4. I want you to laugh the length of 7 and 4. Run the width of them. I want you to create, stretch, get dirty—and take your shoes off before you come inside. I want you to have the time, the year of your lives.
And, tomorrow, when you lug in those brand new book bags, I hope you also carry in the precious assurance that you are wonderfully, wonderfully made. And that your Daddy and I love you more than you’ll ever know.
[Spoiler alert. This entire post is a Disney Digression.]
To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, Jeff and I spent a week in Walt Disney World. Jeff is Señor Scrupulous—detail-driven, strategy-happy. And he gets a little twitchy when we’re not on time. So, when we decided that we wanted to go to all four theme parks in one day, he went into a spreadsheet stratosphere.
People—we had a plan. We had a back-up plan. We had T-shirts.
We also set a few magical mandatories. Number 1: We had to experience at least 3 attractions in each park for the park to count. Number 2: We had to take picture proof with each park’s icon. Number 3: We were not going to let any rain, literal or temperamental, fall on our parade.
Because we were there smack in the middle of summer, deciding where to start was tricky. We were staying on property, so we could’ve taken advantage of Extra Magic Hours. I argued that everyone else would be starting their day at the park that opened early, so we should avoid that park. I was fraying Jeff’s logic fibers, but he agreed.
And our Grand Slam began.
We walked from our hotel, the Swan, to Hollywood Studios.
Our giddy feet were booking it and we got there at 8:45am—15 minutes before the official opening. First stop? Fastpass for Toy Story Mania.
The stand-by line wasn’t awful, so we hopped in. But after a few minutes, we got right back out. Silly rabbits. We didn’t have time to ride anything twice. We ran to Rockin Rollercoaster—which was not running yet. Doh.
But, 35 minutes later, we were in the back row of a super stretch limo, blasting through the dark, screaming Aerosmith like we’d just discovered our outdoor voice.
We had plenty of time before our Fastpass was up, so we headed to Star Tours, got right on and snuck on the speeder afterward for a photo. Cheese.
It was back to Toy Story Mania at 10:17 and we watched the clock until our 10:25 Fastpass time.
I can’t remember ever riding through that midway without a squirming youngin’ next to me. Jeff still dominated.
And we were out of the Studios @ 10:50am.
We went to see about a bus to Animal Kingdom. One finally rolled up at 11. We pulled in to AK at 11:15.
Ran. Galloped. Straight. To. Expedition. Everest. Our only chance was the single rider line. After a quick switcharoo in the holding zone, we ended up together. (Can we pause to discuss how the train’s backward fastness flops the tum tum in the best kind of awesome?)
Then it was running feet to DinoLand USA. We nabbed a Fastpass to Primeval Whirl and walked over to ride Dinosaur, but the wait was too long. So, we waited on our ride time with a fruit plate and front row seat to live African jams. Rump shaking required.
We rode Primeval Whirl, which flings you into a silly stupor.
Dark clouds tumbled in. Facing long wait times, with no Fastpass on hand, our 3rd attraction was the Dawa Bar.
With Safari Amber and Sangria, we watched the sun shower from beneath the shade of a thatched roof. Le sigh.
A teense reluctant, we left Animal Kingdom at 2:20pm, boarding a bus to the Contemporary resort. The drop off plunks you directly on the walking path to The Magic Kingdom. We were in by 3 and ran, in the rain, to get a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain.
After that, we found a sunlit table for two by the window in Pecos Bill’s, where we demolished a late lunch. Clutch.
Then we broke a personal rule. We stood through a 90-minute wait for Space Mountain. But the two 13-year-old kids who chattered easily with us and told the cast member that we were a “party of four” so we could all hop on together made every minute worth it.
We made it to Big Thunder just in time for our Fastpass. In Frontierland, we boarded another train, hitching a ride back to Main Street. I love that old train—the swaying cars, the white steam, the warm narration along the way.
We left the Magic Kingdom at 6:50pm. It was the monorail to the Transportation & Ticket Center and another monorail to EPCOT. We arrived, triumphant, at 7:10pm.
And we walked right on Mission Space. Okay. The “less intense” persuasion. Next, it was just a quick skip over to Test Track where we wound round through the single rider line.
Then, in a beguiling twilight, we stepped in to the World Showcase at 8:15pm for a celebratory drink.
My hopes were locked on Tutto Gusto, the wine cellar neatly tucked into Italy. If you’ve been there, you understand why I consider this old-world nook an attraction. It was an elegant-reds wine flight for me, Moretti for the boy, breads, meats, cheeses, an Italian love song sung table-side and a surprise dessert in the candlelight.
We left the torch-lined showcase at 9:45pm, spellbound, happy, full. It all made sense, then, that we floated back to the Boardwalk on the good ship Friendship.
I’ve never put pen-to-paper on his story before because I still can’t believe it happened. And I also have too many friends with raw hearts. But, here it goes.
Tucker’s story starts with his parents. Us. We were two plus years into our marriage, on a (mental) permanent honeymoon, broke and blissful.
We had just gotten back from Thanksgiving with Jeff’s dad in the mountains—we had four-wheeled down Spill Corn, filled up on 3 southern-squared meals a day and breathed in a big dose of pure North Carolina goodness.
Back home in Tampa, while we were unpacking, I realized that I was late.
How late? Jeff had asked. Since I didn’t keep track, we had monthly freak-outs.
Late, I promised him. He went to the store and bought a box of pregnancy tests. We watched the pink results flood across in instant slow motion. An indisputable positive.
I didn’t have time to think because Jeff said: Take another one. (Don’t worry. I still haven’t let him live down his first words to me.)
A box full of pink pluses later, we locked eyes. We grinned. And cried. We had made a person.
I could not keep my hands off of my belly. Sitting, standing, breathing. Everything felt brand new.
We made an appointment with the doctor. He didn’t need to see me until I was a little further along. But my mom was coming to visit us that weekend and I couldn’t keep it from her. We told her that she was going to be a grandma. And her elation made our surprise feel more like a reality.
To celebrate, Mom and I went shopping. And then I started having a few unsettling symptoms. So, I dialed the on-call doctor and explained what was going on.
Do you feel pregnant? He had asked me.
I was quivery and loopy and terrified. I’d never been pregnant before. How could I know what pregnant felt like?
I don’t know, I told him, apologizing. He asked me to come in first thing the next morning. I tossed and turned and clutched my stomach all night.
We went in the next morning and filled in stacks of paperwork. After measurements and samples were taken, a chipper ultrasound tech whisked us into her room so she could “take a look.” She sang out pleasantries in her outdoor voice.
Let’s take a look at this baby, she sung.
Here’s the sac, she cheered, pointing to a shape that we absolutely saw. Joy flickered.
Now, we’ll turn this on and listen for a heartbeat. She did. We listened. She was bright-eyed and wide-smiled as she maneuvered each angle—and as each hour-long second crept by, my heartbeat quadrupled. As if it could pump enough for me and the blob shape. After a few minutes, though, our tech dropped her smile and her outdoor voice.
You go ahead and get dressed and I’ll get you back to the doctor’s office.
My limbs, heavy with worry, made dressing slow and clumsy.
My hand clung to Jeff’s, our fingers laced, mouths closed, as we walked into the doctor’s office. There we sat, we two, waiting on a doctor. My doctor was not in that day. That day, we saw Doctor G. He came in, shook our hands and sat down, making it a professional point to lock eyes with both of us.
His room was cold and alien, like an out-of-date space station, and the overhead lights buzzed as he confirmed, out loud, what we already feared.
There’s no heartbeat and, with your symptoms? I think, he said just so, as if he was reporting the 10-day forecast, you have miscarried.
I took it in as if it were a spoonful of cough medicine—swallowed quick, shuddered, shook my head, answering in silence.
You have options, he had said, diving straight into his speech.
We can wait a few days just to see if your hormone levels change. You can let this happen naturally. Everything will pass, but it may take a while and I can’t tell you how long it will take. Or, we can do a procedure here—as soon as tomorrow—called a D&C. That way, you don’t have to wait through it.
He lifted his hands off of his desk as if he were throwing good options before us.
I’m going to let you talk about it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.
He left. I slumped. Jeff just rubbed my hand with his thumb. What could we say? There was nothing to say.
I didn’t cry until I opened my mouth to speak. My eyes were drowning in indecision—a deluge of hot doubt soaked my shirt and our interlocked hands.
I guess the procedure will be the easiest, I told Jeff—saying it, but asking him. I don’t know if I can do it naturally. It sounds awful.
I’m okay with whatever you want. I’ll be here with you.
So, we agreed on the D&C. He wiped my face with his shirt. The doctor came back in.
A chill raced through my veins and across the tops of my arms and seized my stomach—an alarming chill. Something whispered. Something Holy. Something snapped. Something understood.
I want to wait.
The words popped up—and there they sat—between a surprised doctor and husband.
I just—I can’t do it tomorrow.
I understand, Doctor G said, without any understanding. I’ll wait with you. But I have to tell you that I’m 99.9% sure you’ve lost the baby.
The baby. My free hand found my belly. We had to wait.
Follow up appointments were scheduled and we slipped into waiting. Grief’s breath is strange. My nerve endings felt short-circuited, unplugged. How many days ago had they tingled with shock and promise?
I stayed home from work for a few days, nursing my numbness. How could this unplanned blob shape stir so much? The fraction of ounces was lead in my gut. I couldn’t taste, listen or focus, but each twinge in my belly felt like a violent convulsion.
Jeff was spoon-feeding me smiles, trying to.
We would’ve been good parents, I cried into his lap.
We will be, he said.
We went back to the doctor. They took more measurements and blood.
And then? Then? A miracle.
My hCG levels had increased. Two days later, they took more blood. The levels had doubled.
Nerves were tingling again.
One week later, that same sweet tech ushered us into the room for another ultrasound.
There was the sac. And there, I swore, was movement. An eye twitch? A glitch?
The tech found her outdoor voice. THERE’S THE HEARTBEAT!
She turned on the sound and a strong warble flooded the room. It was a symphony. An opus. My breath quickened to its beautiful beat. We were all crying—me, Jeff, the tech. And the baby’s heart, muscular, alive, kept pounding. We had waited.
Now, Doctor G was not at that office that day. I had not seen him since we’d sat at his desk. My own doctor was there, though. He took us through the packet, the appointment schedule, the new parent track. He explained that I would see all of the doctors in the office in a rotation because any one of them could be in the delivery room on the baby’s birthday.
I did not see Doctor G throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I was angry. And I don’t get angry. Forgive him 7 times 70 times? No. That’s how many times I wanted to punch him. The memory of his face, his voice was bitter. Soul-corroding. I went out of my way to stay out of his.
I spent the rest of my pregnancy happy, healthy. I ate 3 watermelons a week and held on to my belly for dear life.
On an evening in early August, we I was watching SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE while a summer lightning storm fumed outside. I’d been having contractions all day, but now they were taking my breath away—every few minutes. Still, I insisted on finishing the show, taking a shower and putting my make-up on before we headed to the hospital. I was in labor all night, but my doctor—my own doctor—was on duty the next morning. And he delivered our baby boy.
Suddenly I was holding Tucker’s warm weight in my arms. The perfect fit. I put my palm on his teeny chest until I could feel his heart thumping beneath my fingertips.
Jeff’s lips were thick with prayer, a grateful murmur only God himself could understand.
We locked eyes. We grinned. And we cried.
What a boy.
Unreal combinations of Jeff and me, our best bits, wrapped up in one big, blonde, beautiful boy.
By the time he was two (oh, how much do you love two?) we decided that we really needed to do this again.
My second pregnancy was planned, expected, easy. I sailed through the doctor’s appointments, still avoiding Doctor G. We knew we were having another boy. And, though the world didn’t know it yet, we knew his name was Case.
I had an appointment to be induced and I planned to have Case naturally. Everything was set. We had the sweetest nurses—troopers, really—who were coaching me through labor without drugs. I was really close to being ready—in the throws of acute active labor—when the doctor on duty walked in. Doctor G.
He was not part of the plan.
I tensed to my toes, the acidic bitterness more painful than the contractions. I stared Jeff down, silently begging him to do something. Anything. He knelt next to me.
It’s going to be fine. Think about Case.
Doctor G did not recognize us. But he talked with us—with us, not at us. And then? Then? He was encouraging me. He said he’d get me anything I needed. He made me smile.
I did not want to smile.
I only pushed for mere minutes, five times, and Case was born. Doctor G was intent. He was kind. He was amazing. He melted my anger. I hadn’t realized it had calcified in my gut—an impassable block—until I felt it dissolving. Doctor G delivered our little one. And I’m so grateful he did. Because I forgave. Freely. Easily. Gladly.
Then, I was holding Case, feeling his warm weight in my arms. Jeff and I locked eyes. We grinned. We cried. And we prayed.
Tucker turns 7 this year, but this year he had his very first birthday party.
Because he has a summer birthday (and because I never want to test the elements again) he agreed on an indoor shindig. And because our daily reality goes something like this:
We went with a Lego theme. There are Star Wars Legos. Super Hero Legos. Ninja Legos. Tucker could be content to manipulate, build, deconstruct and re-imagine with Legos for hours. And there just happens to be a place in town that specializes in Lego Birthdays. Can I get a whoop whoop?
So, we sent out invitations.
And I pilfered Pinterest. There are fab freebie printables out there. My favorites were the labels we wrapped around Powerade.
Now, at our house, I’m always the potty-words police. You have to regulate with two little boys, so I usually poo poo the ew talk. But for Tucker, this was the ultimate hilarity. This and the whoopie cushions for the goodie bags.
With another free printable, we made a mask for each guest.
And we filled an assorted collection of glass jars with an assortment of white, yellow and red candy. To be all Lego-y.
Then, it was party time. Bricks 4 Kidz was ready to celebrate the birthday boy.
The venue is a comfy old home they’ve transformed into a play palace. Each room hosts a new building opportunity. So, the only thing I had to do was set up the food table. With my sweet Mom’s help, that was a piece of cake. Or donut.
Tucker’s buds jumped right in to playing while we waited on all the guest to arrive. (I need a table like this for our house.)
When all of his friends were there, we started the first activity–an outdoor Lego relay. Then everyone trooped back inside for the first build–an electric Lego car.
I’ve never seen such a polite and patient group of little people. Their fingers were twittering between parts and pieces and they shouted encouragement to teams across the table. Tuck, my thoughtful and meticulous one, was in his element with his favorite friends. Then, as the final ta-da, their motorized creations actually moved with the touch of a button. Legos have come a long way, folks.
After everyone’s vehicle had its victory jaunt, it was time for Happy Birthday.
Tucker chose donuts over cake, which was just fine with me. And I know a few kids reached for seconds (and thirds). Sorry, parents.
A-buzz with sweets, it was back to the building blocks. This time, they each built a car they got to keep. So, the selection process was a serious business.
When each oh-so-carefully-constructed car was complete, we hit the high note. They got to race their creations side-by-side.
The acoustics in that old house were built for lego car racing. Those few minutes of high-fiving and hollering made the room sing. And my boy’s excitement was electric.
But, we only had an hour and a half. So, after the races, there were goodie bags and good-byes.
I asked the boys and their Marmee (grandma) if they had a good time. And this was their response:
I’m in NYC for work this week (cue the piano and Alicia Keys). Oh, so smitten with this city.
I feel small here—beautifully small—in the best way. Here, the city’s electric current is charged by the millions of heartbeats packed in so few miles. And—whether it’s your hometown or a hotel stop—this city is built to love.
Beyond the energy and the artistry and the food (oh, the food!), I’m also giddy in the city when I get to see this guy—my baby brother and Actor Boy extraordinaire. He’s gonna make it big in the Big Apple. Meet Tim.
I haven’t traveled a ton, but traveling means trying and NYC has gifted me a lot of firsts. My first taste of oysters. My first Lambrusco. My first subway ride.
And, sometimes, I’ll see a show. (Disney Digression time.)
Traveling also makes me want to write. Write by hand, on actual paper. I’ll steal a quiet minute and let my pen go. There, on a page wedged between radio concepts and casting specs, I’ll detail everything and nothing. Sometimes, I’ll write so fast & loose that I can’t even read my own writing.
Early one morning during my first visit to Canada a few months ago, I snuggled in a booth in the hotel diner to write. It’s a 24-hour diner, so there was ketchup & mustard and honey & jam on the table. This was a place of possibility.
Toronto, sleeping just outside the window to my left, was so cold I could feel the chill seeping through the pane. The kitchen to my right was alive with warmth. A man was singing in there—low and silly and free—and I wrote that everyone should sing in the morning. He sang songs, but he sang when he talked, too. Notes instead of words. “The soup of the day is broccoli and cheese,” he sang out to the staff. And I wished he would sing out all the ingredients, too. He sang out with all the pride and joy of the person who decided that today is the perfect day for broccoli and cheese soup. I have broccoli and I have cheese and that is exactly what I’m making, thank you. And I’m going to sing as I make it, thank you very much.
And this morning, in this city, it feels like a sing-about-your-soup kind of day.