High Heeled Mama Reads: “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies tells the story of three kindergarten moms as we, the reader, try to unravel exactly what happened and to whom at the school trivia night fundraiser. We know from the outset that someone dies. We know that it is highly suspicious. And that’s all. We don’t know who died. We don’t know who did it. We don’t know much beyond the fact that everyone – through the highly effective device of witness statements and police comments – thinks they know everything only for us to realize that no one knows anything.

In actuality, Big Little Lies is a story of three kindergarten moms: Madeline, Celeste and Jane. It’s a story about moms. About women. About female friendships. About marriage. About the politics of school. Because it’s a contemporary novel about women and women’s issues, I’m sure it could fall into the chick lit category. Let me first say, I hate this term. I don’t hate books labeled chick lit – there are some damn fine books and authors that get slapped with this marketing label – I hate the term. The insinuation that a book about women is only for women. That a book that tackles contemporary topics and female relationships somehow needs relegating to its own genre. Contemporary fiction seems classification enough. But I don’t think I’ll be shaking up any marketing departments at the publishing houses with this admonition, so consider that just my own personal gift of thought. In actuality, I can already tell you my own work-in-progress would probably qualify as chick lit (spoiler, it’s about modern women, some of them are mothers, some of them have relationships, ACK!) and if it ever makes it to publication, I’ll be more than happy to have it marketed in any way that sells it. </end rant>

What Ms. Moriarty does so well in this book is make a story about day-to-day events seem compelling and intriguing and rooted in mystery simply by sharing with us up front the periphery of a tragic event in the open and then unraveling the truth of the story from the beginning, six months prior. Similar to The Husband’s Secret, Moriarty deftly switches perspectives between several key female characters. The reader gets a little peak into each of their lives, allowing us to add up as many pieces as we can, but creating a pace that only slowly reveals the actual truth. In addition to the changed perspective, Moriarty employs the use of these witness statements at the end of most chapters using the supporting cast’s perceptions to create doubt, suspicion, misdirection and often a bit of comic relief.

This book was a page turner for me. Just as I’d finish up a chapter and think, I’ll turn off the light after this one, a witness’s absurd observation would propel me straight into the next chapter. I did have one element of the book figured out, but Moriarty does a fine job of keeping us guessing throughout about who died, who did it and why. The end result is never what we expect, but I found the denouement satisfying without being cliche or trite.

If you’re a mom with elementary aged kids, I’d definitely recommend it. I think you’ll recognize a lot of the PTA politics and relate to any number of the moms in the story. If you’re a person who likes a subtle mystery sprinkled with a healthy dose of levity, this is also a book for you.

I’d give this a solid 4 out of 5.

What about you? Did you read Big Little Lies? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. Next up: A review of Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Another mystery, but oh so different from this one.

 

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Parenting in the Big Picture

I had a crisis of confidence last week. My already truncated available time for writing was being impinged by a dental appointment for one kid, a canceled after school activity for the other and some sort of malaise that had me off for about 24 hours. As I forced myself into the seat to try writing something, anything, I simply just didn’t feel good and I felt the panic start to rise. I called the hubby for a moment of venting, frustrated that this creative life I desperately want, I seemed to sabotage at every turn. It’s interrupted and pushed aside and then when I have a few hours or moments and don’t feel well and simply want to sit my butt on the couch to rest, I feel guilty. Like desperately, beat myself up mentally, ready to give up guilty because aren’t I just wasting everyone’s time and forcing us into this crazy budget tightening onto one salary for my own selfish desires?

Yeah. That.

Luckily, I’m married to a guy who is not only practical but insanely supportive of this journey I’m on and knows me better than I probably know myself. His response floored me. Not just ebbed the panic or stopped the gush of guilt or placated, but stopped me in my tracks. It was an epiphany moment that not only cleared my own vision about my specific writing challenge in that moment, but opened my eyes to a larger understanding.

What he told me was that writing was like investing in your 401(k). You invest your money, but you don’t check it every day. It’s built for the long term. You will have up days and down days, but overall, you want a pattern of growth over the long term so that when you’re ready to retire, it’s ready for you. That doesn’t mean ignore it, it doesn’t mean throw your hands up the moment it gets tough, it means that some days are good, some days are bad, but no one day defines the entirety.

Mind blowing, right? Maybe just for me.

Then, I realized, not only did this long term view apply to my writing, but it applies to my parenting as well. There are some days when I just don’t feel in it to win it. The kids are at each other’s throats. The questions are endless. The answers are ignored. The crankiness is turned up. The lack of sleep catches up. The toys aren’t right. The screen time is taken away. The patience is short. The time is fractured. The desires misaligned. The schedules busy. The fridge is empty. The weather is rainy.

Then there are days that are just magic. The complaining is limited. The helping is rampant. The hugs are everywhere. The reminding is brief. The giggles are silly. The laughter is ongoing. The playtime is peaceful. The patience is plentiful. The chatter is two-way. The games are all-inclusive.

Regardless of whether it’s a bad parenting day or a good one, it’s the long term strategy, right? The child you’re turning into an adult. The memories you’re building that have little to do with whatever homework you’re nagging about or if the dishes were piled in the sink on Tuesday. The love that you’re sharing. The stories you’re reading. The time you’re spending. Yes, there are days we just want to end, tasks we wish we didn’t have to complete, schedules we wish we could free, but our ultimate commitment, our children, is still the top priority. And so we keep trying. We put them to bed and we binge watch something on TV and shake our heads when our spouse asks if we want to talk about one of those days and we go to sleep that night and try again the next day. We pack the lunches, make the breakfasts, drive the carpools and take deep breaths. We keep trying. We learn from yesterday’s mistakes. We put away the bad day before, we work on the day we’re in and remember there are more days in front.

Then, hopefully one day we’ll look back over this long trajectory of parenthood and our kids will tell us we did a good job. Not a perfect job. But a good job. Maybe even a great job. You’ll sit around a wedding rehearsal dinner table or a hospital bed as you meet a new grandchild or a Christmas tree with paper strewn about and toys underfoot again and your grown children will reminisce and laugh and tell stories and they won’t be about the days you hurried through, the days you didn’t feel the magic. They will be about the love. The fun.

We watched our youngest in a preschool performance this morning. He’ll only do this performance once. He’ll only be five for 9 more months. He’ll only be at preschool until May. As stressful as it was to create a costume and arrange our schedules to be there on a day where I’m also scheduled to be at the older’s school later and plan and run an adult meeting tonight, it was the big picture that granted serenity — time is fleeting and I want this moment to appear in my mind’s eye when I look back, not the remainder of the day’s logistics.

So, if you’re struggling today with today, focus on the end goal. Today might be a wash. That’s okay. There’s always tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Let’s give ourselves permission to let go of the minutia and instead live our lives focused on the bigger picture, the overall portfolio of their childhood that turns them into these strangely independent, individual adults that will jump onto their own roller coasters of life. That’s the end goal. Let’s make the long term investment.

Prince vs. Princess Culture

As the mom of boys, one of the benefits is that I can ignore pretty much all things princess. Instead, I know what differentiates an excavator from a bulldozer from a backhoe (lucky me). Even though I’m not exposed to the princess thing on a daily basis, it’s still everywhere. TV shows, dress up bins, Halloween costumes, movies, Disney vacation photos on my Facebook feed. It seems to dominate the current play culture for our young girls right now. And it’s never more apparent then when I need to buy a present for a girl – my nieces or a friend’s birthday party. The toy store. The book store. The card aisle. Princesses, princesses everywhere!

I was thinking about this princess phenomena as I read an article about this cartoon gone viral. The cartoon pokes fun at Lego creating Lego Friends specifically to market to girls. I too loved Legos growing up and never for one minute thought it was a “boy’s toy.” I played with the sets I enjoyed. I built skyscrapers and houses and whatever else my little heart desired. My particular favorite, however, was one of the castle sets. I was thrilled to receive it one Christmas and loved building it, rearranging it and using the pieces in a variety of ways. Never once did I think I needed a princess in the set to make it complete.

And yet, today? Apparently we can’t just market toys to kids we have to market them to boys versus girls. And we wonder why gender equality is still a problem in the workplace?

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with princess play. It’s creative dress-up and narrative play, and I think those are both important. The Anna and Elsa model, although not perfect, is a step in the right direction for independent girls not needing a man to solve their problems (although that storyline was so unique because of what we expected – we expected the true love to be that of her prince or even of Kristoff. The true love between sisters was considered a “twist” ending because we never saw it coming. *sigh*). What I do find compelling is that there is not a comparable marketing effort for “prince” toys for boys. There aren’t any princely role models in the same vein as the Snow Whites, Cinderellas, Ariels, Elsas, Belles, Rapunzels of the world. I’m not sure I could even name one of the Disney princes. My boys pretend to be firefighters and astronauts and chefs and puppies and construction workers. They don’t play prince. Even when they play with their girl friends. The only prince they know is his purple majesty who is a regular in our dance party rotation (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen my five year old bust a move to “What’s My Name”).

So why aren’t princes an appropriate, equally engaging role model for boys? Is it because they are unobtainable? After all, you can’t “become” a prince, you are either born one or not. Sure, the same argument could be made for princesses, but Diana and Kate have managed to capture America’s attention and prove otherwise (although the odds aren’t exactly in the rest of our peasant favor). Is it because being a prince isn’t a “job?” What exactly does a prince do? Other than rescue damsels in distress that is? But by the same token, what exactly does a princess do? Other than wait around to be rescued, according to the fairy tale model? Perhaps it’s because a prince doesn’t have any cool equipment? Or he just hasn’t had the right story line? Or is it because we currently don’t define our boys based on their relationships, but we historically define girls that way?

My ultimate unanswerable question, I suppose, is why is it okay for us to foster a culture that not only accepts but seems to encourage and expect our girls to emulate women who they can only become by marrying a specific type of man – specific type of man, apparently, that boys aren’t aspiring to become? The princes of fairy tales aren’t all that interesting. Or all that kind. Or all that bright. Why should we encourage our girls to find their “princes” when they seem to be a bunch of bums?

Kids are going to be inherently drawn to toys they identify with, whether that’s by color, feel, shape or application. I played with my share of Barbie dolls. I coveted a Cabbage Patch doll the year they came out and parents were punching other parents in the aisles for them. I made my fair share of too skinny clothes with my fashion plates imagining all the fancy places I would go as a grown up in the types of dresses I created. I baked gooey, fairly disgusting creations by lightbulb in my Easy Bake Oven that I then forced my poor parents to eat. But I also had a microscope and rock collection and the aforementioned Legos. I played in a treehouse and climbed trees in the woods. I built forts and played army games with the boy across the street.

My point is that kids will play with the toys that engage them. That might be a girl who plays with lots of traditional “girly” things or a boy who plays with dolls or a girl who plays with dinosaurs or kids who play with a balance of both. Let’s help our kids find toys that speak to them and their dreams. But maybe, just maybe, we let the girls know that the real princes of the world aren’t the two dimensional ones of story books and animated films with generic Ken doll good looks and a sense of ownership post rescue, but instead are the boys who grow up to respect the women in their life. The real princes slay dragons side-by-side with the princesses and may even stay home to make sure a delicious Easy Bake Oven strawberry shortcake is waiting when she gets home from a long day of kingdom saving.

High Heeled Mama Reads: “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler

Welcome to the first installment of High Heeled Mama Reads. I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous about writing a book review. Particularly when I read the book at the start of the year and have read two books since and I was half asleep on the couch the whole time I read it with a horrible head cold the likes of which I have not seen this side of the flu (which it wasn’t, knock wood).

But I will do my best anyway.

I will admit, I love a good memoir. When I read a memoir, I want to get a little insight into the person, what makes them tick, a perspective on an event that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. I am less interested in the nitty gritty details of a person’s history and more interested in who they have become and how they stay true to that person.

My two all time favorite memoirs are Katharine Graham’s A Personal History and Stephen King’s On Writing. Seriously, if you haven’t read these books, do so. Now. I’ll wait. Okay, never mind, A Personal History is a long one. I won’t wait. You should read it carefully, so I won’t rush you. But let me tell you that it’s a side of historical events that they don’t cover in the history books, it’s a story of a grieving wife and mother, a story of a woman who took the reins at a time when the horses weren’t inclined to respond to a woman’s guidance, a story of a city, a story of a newspaper, a story about a story and it is mind blowingly brilliant. Katharine Graham quickly became one of my all time heroes after I finished reading it. On Writing, on the other hand, is a bit different and maybe not your cup of tea if you don’t read Stephen King books or don’t write. But if you have even a passing interest in either, grab this book and read it and read it and read it again until the cover is creased and worn and the pages underlined and dog eared and it’s broken in like your favorite pair of jeans. His words on writing are some of the most simple and profound I’ve ever read. I’m sure you could apply it to your own passion (insert sky diving/fishing/computer programming for writing here). Find out for yourself. Pick it up. Read it. Thank me later. (Then read his 11/22/63 and send me flowers for recommending such a wonderful, not scary, but utterly compelling novel).

Anyway, I digress.

Amy Poehler. Before reading the book, I enjoyed watching her on SNL, but admittedly never really watched Parks & Recreation. Not because I didn’t think it was good, it just never stayed on my radar and then I didn’t want to take the time to add another show into my already procrastination-fueled escapist television watching line-up. But I enjoyed Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants and really enjoyed Liz Winstead’s Lizz Free or Die last winter and thought why not start my year with another strong woman comic’s memoir?

“I like hard work and I don’t like pretending things are perfect.” From Yes Please‘s preface, Writing is Hard. 

That sums it up. Amy Poehler likes hard work, doesn’t pretend things are perfect in reality or in her own life, and that, my friends is her secret to success. The book provides insights on her improv career, what it’s like to be a woman in the comedy business, the importance of working with other women, the importance of working with other funny people (the “love” affair between her and Seth Meyers and Tina Fey is the proof in that pudding). And, speaking of pudding (gotta read it folks), the business of hosting and insanity of being nominated and thoughts on the industry’s hubris about the “importance” of award shows was probably my favorite part of the book. Watching Amy and Tina so deftly handle the Golden Globes last week, was even more enjoyable after reading this book.

I enjoyed learning tidbits about Amy’s past and experience along the way without having it dolled out like a historic timeline. I think she did an excellent job using stories to portray herself, sharing things that might not be the most tantalizing, but instead were the most revealing (her struggle with a joke that went too far and the eventual apology and all that emotional angst in between must have been terrifying to write and share publicly, but cathartic to let go of). Her thoughts on motherhood were completely relatable, her first son’s birth story was fascinating in context with what else was happening in her life. Her refusal to deal in details of her marriage was admirable and the book didn’t lack for not including that information. I did feel that it missed a bit of a narrative arc, but if you take it as a series of essays, it certainly doesn’t hurt the book (and my feelings of lack of continuity could be related to the amount of cold medication I was on and the fact that sometimes the words ran a bit together due to my watery eyes and inability to stay awake for long periods of time).

Now, here’s where I get gushy. The preface on writing alone is worth the price of admission. It was honest and true. Her voice was so strong in this portion of the book I wanted to call her and say “Yes. This. This is true. This is hard. This is horrible. This is wonderful. Wait? What? How can I do this? You did this. Truly, you did. I can do this, too. Except I’m not already fabulously funny and known and with editors. But I, too, have a sleeping child near me at any given moment, a T-ball game to attend and carpool. And I, too, said yes. Want to be friends?” The fact that I’m only 20,000 words into my work in progress (with a mere 70,000, give or take, to go), may have something to do with how much I related to her  occasional crisis of confidence while writing a book and attempting to live the rest of her life. But there it is. Amy Poehler’s preface may be my best friend. You know, until Amy and I meet and hit it off and our boys have play dates together while we drink wine and pretend we don’t hear them fighting over Legos in the other room.

I give this book a 4 out of 5.

Did you read Yes Please? What did you think?

Next up, a review of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.

 

2014 Achievements in Mothering Awards

Award season is upon us. I admit to being a victim of our celebrity based culture and enjoy a good award show with the best of them. But how many occupations actually have achievement awards, not to mention publicly broadcasted ones to millions of viewers around the world? Um….?

Well, moms, I’ve decided it’s time we recognize your unique achievements. It was a tough race this year and I’m sure I left some of you out, but know that you fall under the last category. Honestly. You do. I mean it. It was a good year in mothering!

So feel free to put on your prettiest dress, or at least a clean pair of yoga pants (add pearls if you’re feeling fancy), and enjoy the 2014 Achievements in Mothering Awards:

IMG_5154 (1)

An awesome award one of the boys made for the hubby for Father’s Day one year. As much as I would love an award, not too bummed this one isn’t mine.

 

Best Hair & Make-Up in a Carpool Line:

Your college baseball cap, sunglasses and whoever’s Chapstick was in the car’s cup holder.

Best Hair & Make-Up in a Public Place Where Eye Contact will be Made (i.e., the Grocery Store): 

Ponytail elastic and under eye concealer.

Best Performance in a Grocery Store:

The mom of multiple boys who is smiling through her gritted teeth while threatening in a quiet voice to take away all future Minecraft time if they don’t stop running, pushing each other and emptying the shelf coupon dispensers of items she has never – and will never – buy.

Best Musical Performance

The mom of the teething 15 month old who didn’t sleep last night but somehow managed to get herself and her kid dressed and on the music class carpet circle in time before realizing she doesn’t have on matching socks.

Best Performance at a Holiday Dinner:

A tie between the mom who merely smiled and passed the cranberry sauce when that nosey in-law made another comment about how she was a derelict mom for going back to work after her kids were born and the mom who merely smiled and passed the stuffing when that nosey in-law made another comment about how she was a derelict woman for not going back to work after her kids were born.

Best Supporting Actor to a Mom with an Infant/Toddler:

The Diaper Bag.

Best Supporting Actor to a Mom with a Preschooler:

The emergency stash of crayons, coloring books and cereal bars in her bag.

Best Supporting Actor to a Mom with Grade Schoolers:

iPad

Best Supporting Actor to a Mom of Teenagers:

Prayer and a stash of John Hughes movies.

Best Musical Score to a Family Dance Party:

The family dancing to Motown, heavy metal, R&B…basically anything that isn’t a Disney movie soundtrack or a kid’s band with a kazoo.

Best Non-Performance:

The mom who despite knowing she could do it better, faster and neater refrains from actually doing her kids’ science project and let’s the kid finish on their own.

Best Performance in a Restaurant:

Who are we kidding? We’re still waiting for our children to behave longer than the five minutes it takes them to inhale their kids’ quesadilla at a restaurant.

Best Direction:

Every parent who has managed to find the floor in their child’s bedroom by cajoling/bribing/nagging/reminding/begging their child to actually clean their room.

Best Achievement in Writing:

All of the moms who remembered to sign their child’s permission slips. And send them back to school. Before the deadline.

Best Dramatic Performance:

The mom standing at the door with keys in hand who is desperately trying to leave in order to arrive at their destination relatively close to the appointed time while her children are still wandering aimlessly through the house trying to track down their shoes/coats/books/homework/snacks which she asked them to find 300 times starting a half hour ago.

Best Comedic Performance:

The parent with silliest voices for all the Mo Willems characters at story time.

 

And finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:

The 2014 Best Mom award goes to…YOU! And you. And you. And you. And all of us in the trenches getting through the days the best we know how. You’ve had some pretty stellar performances this year drying tears and sledding down hills and making pancakes and kissing boo boos and snuggling under the covers and that one day? Remember? That was just plain beautiful.

So congratulations, mamas. You deserve it!

What awards did I miss? Share your best performances in the comments!

 

 

HGTV and Me: Love it or Leave it?

Growing up with a father who designs houses for a living meant we spent a lot of weekends at home shows and touring open houses on Sundays and parading through homes. When I was in elementary school, he designed for a national company and worked in an office located in the local model home. My sister and I would spend the occasional teacher work day or minor sick day playing house in a life-sized version. The home we moved into when I was in the fourth grade was one of the neighborhood’s older homes while new houses were being built on the neighboring street and a pack of us kids would explore the home sites as they went from foundations to frame outs until they finally had doors and we were effectively, and literally, shut out. By high school, dad had struck out on his own and his office was in our home. After school, I’d typically pull up a chair to the drafting table and see what he was working on, occasionally offering input or pointing out what I loved and, very rarely, hated, about what the client wanted. Watching his work go from paper to completed home has always been fascinating and a process I love.

Now, decades later, I still love perusing an open house, flipping through Architectural Digest in a waiting room or watching HGTV. It was with some amount of pride that the 8 year old seems to share my obsession with homes. We’ll look up random houses for sale on Zillow with ridiculous parameters in different parts of the country or try to guess which house the couple will pick on House Hunters or wait for the big renovation reveal on Property Brothers, Rehab Addict or Treehouse Masters (on Animal Planet). But the boys seem to be taking it with a spoonful of envy lately. They’ll see a sparkling kitchen or a swimming pool in a large backyard or a huge fireplace and say, “Ooooo, I want that in our house!”

We live in a small ranch home. And living in Atlanta provides opportunities for house envy around every turn. I began to wonder lately, though, if instead of inspiring house pride with these types of programs, I was creating an opportunity for comparison and our house was falling short.

Yes. A new kitchen would not just be nice, but more efficient. Giving each boy their own bedroom would make bedtime less stressful those nights they decide constructing elaborate race tracks and block structures is more beneficial than sleep in their shared bedroom. A guest room would certainly be well used and loved for our out of town family instead of sleeping in the playroom. A master bathroom would be a revelation. But I actually take immense pride in how we do use our available space, in how we can accommodate four family members and our varied interests in our home. I always know where the boys are and what they are up to (with two boys, it’s imperative to have an eye and ear on what is happening in the silences so you don’t wind up with your stock of TP completely used up in wrapping each other up as mummies). We are masters at creatively using space and finding storage. Instead of the boys retreating to opposite ends of a larger home when they get on each other’s nerves, we’re forced outside, reinvigorating our bodies and attitudes. All pluses to our smaller home.

Recently, while watching one of these renovation programs, B wistfully wished for a “house with stairs” (i.e., a second story) and the gourmet chef’s kitchen. I snuggled him into me and told him we already had the perfect house because it had something that no other house in the world had. He was intrigued.

“Really, mommy? What?”

“You. Your brother. Your dad. Me. And that’s what makes our house perfect.”

No renovation budget or demolition needed.

High Heeled Mama Reads

My name is Monica and I am a bibliophile. I love books. L.O.V.E. I hate when my night table is devoid of a book. I feel lonely and unmoored. I get giddy if an author responds to a tweet after I’ve gushed about their work online. They are my rock stars. I take recommending books to people seriously, knowing that books are so personal and so wanting to make the right match between friend and book. I have loved joining the Goodreads community to see what friends are reading, delving into chats about books with old college friends that have been surprising and enlightening, and seeing what folks are loving or leaving behind.

As the year ended and I compiled my list of books read in 2014 and realized what a truly excellent year it was on my bookshelf, I thought, why not share that love with the larger community. I know many of you are avid readers, too, and maybe we can have a space here where we share and discuss and breathe in deeply the boundless options of books at our disposal. Let me be clear, I am not starting an online book club. I will simply share the books I’m reading, perhaps an observation or two, and invite you to share your thoughts and recommendations so we can expand our bookshelves together.

I do love books, but not necessarily book reviews, or more specifically writing reviews. I certainly don’t mind reading others reviews. I read for the sheer pleasure of it and the pressure of writing a well thought out review seems a bit too much like high school English class and sometimes colors my reading. That being said, I would like to get better about voicing what I do like, or not, about a book. After all, as I’m writing one, it’s a necessary analytical exercise to understand what does and doesn’t work. So I will use this space as my trial ground in the book review space. And if it doesn’t work, well, you can find me somewhere reading. No harm done! With this bad head cold keeping me couch bound in the early days of the new year, I’ve already finished two books in 2015 and have started number three. That’s fast even for me! I’ll be posting some thoughts about them soon.

In the meantime, I came across this Reading Challenge list on Popsugar and thought I’d share it for inspiration for your own 2015 booklists. I intend to keep an eye on this list throughout the year to see how I do, but will certainly not use it as my only guide for choosing books this year. After all, there are just so many to choose from!

So grab your Kindle, library card or keys and drive straight to your local, independent bookstore and let’s get to reading!

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
― Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life (which I just added to my “To Read” list!).

Happy New Year!

It’s the first day back to reality after a long holiday break, the chaos of Christmas, travel to visit family and a cold that knocked my socks off so badly I’m six days in and, although markedly improved over days 1 and 2, still in need of afternoon naps and my ever-present box of Kleenex. The boys were both surprisingly easy to wake and emerged bright eyed and focused this morning. This was partially due to my get them up early yesterday and systematically wear them out all day so they’d go to bed early plan, but I think they were just as eager to be rid of me as I was of them. I love my kids, but two-plus weeks of non-stop together time is a lot even with the cousin time, parties and play dates.

It was with great anticipation and eagerness that I, too, sat down at my computer a half hour ago. The last few nights, while drifting off to stuffy-nosed dream land, I’ve been hit with scene inspiration. Fully formed somethings that were too good not to sit back up, turn the light on and jot down as quickly as possible so I didn’t lose them overnight. I naively assumed that was an indicator of a prose back-up in my system that just needed fingertips to keyboard and an empty house to let loose. Until I sat down. And I realized how early 6:15 was this morning, how noisy the dishwasher seems today, how fascinating twitter is after a break, how long my to-do list is, how quiet it is (noisy dishwasher notwithstanding) without my boys here.

The boys are my constant companions. My entertainment. My annoying coworkers. They are the distractions and inspirations of my day-to-day life. The night before any holiday break finds me anxious and nervous about how I’ll make it through so many days that need to be filled with play time and movement and food and activity with nary a moment of quiet to myself. Strangely, the night before any break’s end finds me anxious and nervous about how I’ll make it through the day without them and their silly jokes, cacophony of laughter and disputes to be refereed.

Today, I’m easing back into my own independence. It’s short-lived as preschool pick-up looms at noon, but here it is. I’m hoping that my fingers have warmed back up and will soon provide me the words I need for the work-in-progress. I’m eager to jump into a New Year with some goals that are broken out into achievable tasks with realistic (I hope) deadlines that have excited me about what’s possible in 2015. I’m shored up by happy Christmas memories and appreciative of the alone time I haven’t seen outside a 10 minute shower in the last two weeks. I’m ignoring the mess, the dust on the desk from weeks of non-use and the lure of organization projects and trying to remind my mind that this time is mine, ours, the page’s.

Here’s to 2015! May the best be yet to come.