Listen to Your Mother: Mother of the Year


It’s a common social media meme.

“Forgot it was picture day today. My child’s in his uniform with unwashed hair. Mother of the year!”

“Daughter on museum field trip clomping around in her winter boots. How do other parents know to pack a change of shoes? Mother of the Year.”

“Letting the 3yo run around our backyard in his gutchies. I’m either the best mom or the worst mom ever. #MOTY”

We all have these ‘mother of the year’ moments, times when we’re too tired to fight the fight, times when we feel we’re letting our children down — or scarring them for life.

Like that time my then 5-year-old called 9-1-1 on me for being a mean mommy.

Let me set the scene. It is a weekday evening. I work outside the home full-time, and I have three children at home, so weekday evenings are not my favorite. It’s all a big sprint toward bedtime as far as I’m concerned. At this time, my children are 7, 5, and 1.

Dinner that night is leftovers, my favorite dinner of the week. The 1-year-old is already strapped in his high chair. I keep asking the 5-year-old what she wants for dinner, and she keeps arguing with me about I don’t even remember what. (The 7-year-old is conspicuously absent from this story.)

My middle child continues to get increasingly agitated. I think it’s because I won’t cook her a grilled cheese sandwich. “Look, kiddo,” I say, “it’s leftover night. Pick something and I’ll warm it up.”

This is unacceptable.

“I’m going to call the police,” she informs me angrily.

“For what?” I scoff.

I’m going to call and tell them you are being a mean mommy.”

“Kate, I am not being mean to you. Just because I’m not cooking something new, that’s not being a mean mommy.”

Kate stomps out of the room, and stomps right back in brandishing the cordless phone.

“I’m calling!”

* exhale noisily * “Whatever.” I don’t want to deal with this nonsense.

“What’s the number again? 1-9-1? 1-1-9?”

She doesn’t even know the number!

“Kate, you can’t call the police on me.”

“I can! You’re a mean mommy!”

“Please, sit down! What do you want for dinner?”

“No! I don’t want to eat. I’m calling the police!”

“Kate, you can’t call 9-1-1!”

She looks me triumphantly in the face. *beep – beep beep*


Mother of the Year awards actually do exist. For example, the Albany Tulip Festival is giving out its 16th annual award this year. They are “looking for moms who have proven a commitment to their family and their community.” Unless they consider Twitter and Facebook communities, I am not eligible for this award. American Mothers gives out a national Mother of the Year award, plus an award for each state. Maybe I should ask to be nominated.

I would like to think that my children would nominate me for Mother of the Year. I’m their only mother, so I have that going for me. And some days, they think I’m a great mom. I bake cookies, I play board games, I read with them. When I get to say yes to my now 4-year-old son, he throws his little arms around my neck and declares, “You are the best mommy in the world.”

And in that moment, I am. I am the best mother EVER.


Although I had promptly grabbed the phone away from Kate and hung it up, a police officer did come to the house. 9-1-1 protocol is to respond to every 9-1-1 call. A very surprised Kate assured him that everything was fine. “She called you,” I explained to the amused cop, “because I was being a mean mommy.” The officer regarded my daughter with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t know,” he said. “Santa may need to hear about this.”

Later, as I was trying to explain the gravity of the situation, Kate became very distraught. “But I didn’t even talk to anyone!” she said.

“That number is for serious emergencies,” I explained. “The people on the other end of the phone didn’t know why the call was cut off.

“A bad person could’ve grabbed it and hung it up. Or if there was a fire, it could’ve been cut off. They had to send someone to make sure we were safe.” Poor Kate broke into sobs. As far as I was concerned, her punishment was those tears.


If, by some wild chance, I did win a Mother of the Year award, I would stand at that podium in my off-the-rack Target dress, and I would start by thanking God. Then I would thank my husband Dan, without whom none of this would be possible. And I would thank Gabriel, Flora, Kate, and Michael, all of whom made me the mother I am today: The Mother of the Year.


LTYM cake

ETA: I want to emphatically and enthusiastically encourage you all to view ALL the Pittsburgh videos, starting with the first. Watch the show all the way through. Heck, watch other cities’ shows!


Each story stands on its own. But together, they are amplified. You will go on a journey through motherhood, highs and lows, tears and laughter. Participating was an honor and a joy. Getting to see it again, and read the recaps, has been so much fun.

If you do take the time to watch them all, and/or another city, tell me your favorite!

Project: Food Budget, Week 2

Project: Food Budget

Farmers Market = $35
Target = $69.20
Cash Market = $18.09

Total = $122.29
Under budget by about $50

Cash Market is my Aldi’s stand-in this weekend, and as you can see I was way under budget there. I only picked up what I needed for Thursday night’s dinner.

At the farmers market, I bought strawberries, broccoli, spring mix lettuce, 2 pounds of gnocchi, meatballs, and breakfast pastries.

At Target, I didn’t just get my meatless stuff, I also did some shopping for staples. So while I was a touch over budget for my original goal, since I didn’t make a big Aldi’s trip, it more than comes in under budget.

Note: I waffled on buying eggs at the farmers market. They go for about $3 to $3.5 a dozen there, depending on which vendor you choose. Next time, I will buy them there, because they are a whole dollar to dollar fifty more at Target.

Since I’m posting on Tuesdays, my menu is going to run Wednesday to Wednesday. Here’s what I made/am making. (I’m already a week behind!)

Wednesday: brinner. Pancakes and eggs for the children, and a salsa/egg/cheese/guacamole burrito for me; Dan had pancakes and a ham/egg/cheese omelet.
Thursday: burgers and veggies burgers, salad, baby carrots, and tater tots.
Friday: Flora, M, and I ate at the end-of-the-year soccer party. Pizza, chips, cheese puff balls, watermelon.
Saturday: Another dinner “out”. We went to a graduation party, and ate there.
Sunday: sesame noodles with stir fry chicken and stir fry tofu.
Monday: gnocchi and meat- and “meat” balls. I recently discovered my children like gnocchi — nay, *love* gnocchi, and I have leapt at the chance to serve it. I made a salad as well.
Tuesday: Tacos!
Wednesday: Leftovers. We gotta clean out the refrigerator before we hit the road.

The strawberries have been doled out accordingly. Half were Sunday night’s dessert, and the other half were frozen for smoothies.

We are heading to Chicago on Thursday, next week’s P:FB post will talk more about meal plans. We will probably shop and picnic some of the time in Chicago, but we’ve also got some restaurants picked out to visit.

Let’s see how everyone else did!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

12 Things to Keep the Children Busy This Summer (Around the House and Yard)

I have the distinct impression that my children think they are going to vegetate and stare at screens for most of the summer. While I am sure they are looking forward to great swaths of unstructured time — and I will let them have such — they are also going to have Stuff to Do.

Last day of school outfits
Enjoy your last day, sweeties! Mama’s got plans for you!

I am sure they will not believe me, but: children do better with structure. It doesn’t need to be rigid. I’m not going to punish them if they decide they don’t want to build with Legos. But I also can’t have them 1) whinging about being bored; 2) asking to go a lot of places that cost money; 3) bugging me for ideas every five minutes while I am working at home; 4) asking to watch a show, go on my computer, or play Minecraft every five minutes.

1. Chores. Every day, they will have to make their beds, clear and rinse dishes, put clean dishes away, and pick a chore from the chore jars. (Water plants, sweep kitchen floor, etc.) I need to remake the chores to put in these babies, but I’m perfectly happy to do that. Somehow or another, all the popsicle sticks I had got used for other arts and crafts projects.

chore jars
Pick one!

2. Math. Flora struggled with math and science this year, and I wasn’t around to help much. Her teacher and I never managed to meet, either. Kate started the year in tutoring for math, and “graduated” out of the program this spring. We are very proud of her, and yes, she is getting a little reward.

I received an offer for this site from Amazon, and signed up the girls. They are *horrified* that I did such a thing. But doing well on these lessons (I am not sure if they are daily or not) will ensure continued access to computer and Minecraft time.

3. Drawing “camp.” The people at clearly recognize that children like to spend time on the computer, and have curated a whole lot of “camps” to help it be productive time. They ran special offers on Facebook. I saw the offer for $10 month-long make-a-drawing-a-day camp, and promptly signed Flora up. She’s going to love it.

4. Make play dough/Play with play dough. I learned to make play dough this past year for one of Kate’s school projects, and this is going to be something we do. Make a bunch of colors; play with them; store them; make more when it runs out. Cream of tartar is a major ingredient — play dough, meringue, and snickerdoodles all call for it.

5. Baking/cooking. When they are done making play dough, they can bake us up some snickerdoodles! Other things they can make: s’mores dip; chocolate chip cookies bars; brownies. We can probably start working some dinner stuff into the rotation.

6. Books. Each day they will need to do 30 to 60 minutes of silent reading. Obviously, this will be hard for M, but I figure Kate can read with him, or the nanny will.

7. Activity. Head outside for *at least* 30 to 60 minutes. I am hoping that they will get into a game or other activity, and lose track of time enough that this goes on longer than a half hour. Bike riding needs to be an option — which means I have to get my butt to a thrift store to get bikes for Kate and M. I’m saving that for after Chicago.

8. Build something. Use Legos. Or blocks. Or cardboard boxes and glue. Heck build forts for silent reading time! Another 30-minute activity.

9. Draw or paint something. Pretty straight forward. *Note to self*: buy some acrylic paint for the girls. They want to start customizing their LPS and MLP.

10. Play in the sprinkler.

11. Do a science experiment — make goo; make invisible ink; etc. Flora has a couple of good books of experiments. I’m sure there are scads of websites out there too. (If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments.)

12. Write a letter or card. I’ll put it in the mail!

Obviously, they don’t have to plow through a dozen activities every day. I’ll draw up a calendar and a schedule. Once they are done with the day’s activities, screen time is open. I am also considering raiding a dollar store for little rewards that they can earn.

The other thing I will need them to do will be to pick activities and experiments they want to do, and make sure they are supplied.

How are you keeping the children busy this summer?

Project: Food Budget: Getting Started (Again)

Project: Food Budget

A lot has changed since the first time I did this project, which comes again courtesy of Emily Levenson.

First of all, of course, all the children are older! Flora is now a lanky 10-year-old who likes nothing more than drawing and reading. Kate is an energetic 8-year-old who wants to play Minecraft all day, narrating every move. And little M isn’t so little anymore; he’s an active, curious chatty 4-year-old, who wants to be outside pretty much all the time.

Dan is still my loving man, but even he’s made some major changes in the past four years that effect the food budget.

Secondly, the way we shop has changed radically. Market District/Giant Eagle is no longer my grocery store(s) of choice. We only head to Costco once every two months or so — I think this is due to the fact that I don’t have a baby in diapers any longer, thank heavens.

Thirdly, and sadly, we no longer belong to a CSA. This was the most difficult decision to make, and it does not reflect my feelings for Kretschmann’s Farm (whose quality organic produce remains most excellent) or my feelings about CSAs in general (they are a fantastic idea). But our food budget has changed considerably, and, frankly, we were not using all the produce we were getting. Despite my best intentions, a lot of produce was still going to waste.

Flora is still mostly vegetarian, but Kate and Michael are definitely omnivores. Dan, of course, is still an omnivore as well; but since the last time I did this project, he has joined a gym, started drinking protein shakes and smoothies, and has lost 40 pounds — and he’s still working to lose more fat and gain more muscle. I’m so proud of him, and I’m working hard to make sure he stays fit and motivated.

My own eating habits haven’t changed very much, but my shopping and cooking habits have changed.

Let’s start with *where*. I no longer shop primarily at the Big Bird. I discovered Aldi not too long ago, and that is where I shop for most of our staples. The quality is good; the prices are low; and it’s a fast trip. My only criticism is that they don’t stock much in the way of vegetarian goods — I would even be happy with tofu! — so I often have to make another stop.

I round out my Aldi’s trip by grocery shopping at Target. They carry a lot of vegetarian options; their prices are still lower than GE’s; I also pick up toiletries and the like; and I have a Target debit card, which gets me 5% off the total bill. I’ve also been trying to use the Target app Cartwheel to save more as well — it’s akin to clipping coupons, without the actual clipping.

I plan to make the Sewickley farmers market part of my monthly shopping as well. This is where I will get most of my produce while I can. By only buying what I know we will use over the course of a week, I will waste a lot less. Plus, I won’t end up with stuff like fennel, which I don’t like and don’t use, or tons of herbs that I usually manage to dry but never store.

My estimated budget on a weekly basis will be:

Aldi trip: $80-$100
Target: $50
Farmers Market: $25-$40

I cook at home A LOT. Through doing Project: Food Budget in 2011 I learned the value of menu planning. I have a go-to list of meals that come together very quickly during the week. The girls are starting to help me meal plan, which is fantastic. We almost never eat out anymore. And I don’t use as many meat substitutes as I used to. With Kate and Michael eating beef, chicken, and fish, I usually prepare beans or tofu for Flora and me. We still have the occasional meal with Morning Star nuggets or Boca burgers, but not nearly as often as we used to.

Oh, another improvement (IMO, anyway): I am baking a whole lot more. Like, almost weekly, if not twice a week. My family is very happy with this improvement, although Dan wants me to find a hiding place for the baked goods. He has terrible discipline when it comes to sweets. 🙂

Here are the other bloggers participating on this round. Can’t wait to see how everyone does!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

How has your food budget changed in the past four years?

"Is It Hard to Be a Mom?"

This is the question Flora asked me yesterday as she set the table.

“Is it hard to be a mom?” I repeated.


I sighed. I hadn’t had the best day. I was noticeably weary when I picked my children up from Dan’s office. Kate had commented on it. “You sound tired,” she said. “I feel tired,” I answered.

“It’s not hard to be a mom,” I said to Flora. “It was harder when you were babies.” I decided to leave it at that.

“Oh, good,” she said. “I think I want to have two children.”

I could’ve said so much more.

Is it hard to me a mom?

It’s not hard to be a mom. It’s a delight to be a mom! If all I had to do was mother, I’d be golden.

F and K goofing
What could possibly be hard about being a mom to these two goofballs?

It is hard to be a mom, and be a cook, maid, chauffeur, and disciplinarian. That’s pretty tricky.

It’s hard to be a mom, and work 40 hours outside the home at a job that is unpleasant (at best) and occasionally makes you cry.

It’s hard to be a mom, and still prioritize your marriage in the right way. Being a good wife isn’t about the ’50’s model of a good housewife, but my marriage still has to come first. Part of being a good parent *is* being a good spouse and partner. But sometimes, that’s hard to remember. Sometimes you want to take out your frustrations on the person you’ve joined your life to instead of solving problems with him or her.

Dan and M in hammock
Why are you laying down?

It’s hard to be a mom and be a volunteer at school, show up for the activities, cheer from the sidelines, sit through the beginning band concert. It’s hard to be a school mom and fill out the approximately 4,632 forms and turn them in on time. It’s hard to be a mom when you worry if you can re-enroll your children in the school they have come to love and you realize you may need to explore a different option.

It’s hard to be a mom and pay all the bills in an organized fashion.

Mom pen
Because I’m looking for this pen half the time.

It’s hard to be a mom and be patient enough to ask the children again to do the thing you have asked them to do three, five, ten times already. It’s hard to be a mom and repeat the same thing on different days.

It’s hard to be a mom and teach the children to do chores.

it’s hard to be a mom and cobble together dinner every single night. Sometimes you just want to go out for pizza, you know?

It’s hard to be a mom and sweep the kitchen floor at 10 p.m. at night.

It’s hard to be a mom and try to figure out how to launch the next phase of your career, figure out when you are going to write and what, tack hours onto an already too full week so you can move on and earn a little extra scratch.

Being a mom is easier now, now that they are 10 and 8 and 4, and *can* do chores even though they don’t want to, and they can have conversations even though they still goof off at the dinner table, now that they can entertain themselves even if that’s a little more screen time than you originally hoped to expose them to.

I usually like being a mom now. I usually like the mom I am now.

But, yeah, it’s still a little hard being a mom when I mostly want to polish my toenails and sit on the couch reading a book.

It is hard to be a mom (or dad)?

Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh Knocks It Out of the Park

Ladies in Red: Britt, Jen, me (duh), and Tina
Ladies in Red: Britt, Jen, me (duh), and Tina

I have had some good nights, and some good weekends, and some truly amazing — amazing — blessings in my life.

Aside from my wedding day, and each of the times I delivered a child (in the words of one of the directors, Stephanie Jankowski), “out of my vagina — Like. A. Boss” — Listen to Your Mother tops them all.

It was, hands down, one of the most amazing things I have ever had the privilege to do.

Amanda Mushro (the other director), Stephanie, and producer Jennifer Hicks, did an incredible job, and maybe got a teensy bit lucky, putting this show together. The stories on the stage that night fit together like it was planned before auditions, with 13 women all telling about their experience of motherhood. All different and yet all with a kernel in the middle that was the same. The kernel of motherhood.


Amanda in peach, Jen in red, Stephanie (on the floor in yellow)... and cast member Ilene.
Amanda in peach, Jen in red, Stephanie (on the floor in yellow)… and cast member Ilene.

We thanked our directors and producer A LOT in the weeks leading to the show, in emails, on Facebook, in person, at each reading. And each time they told US: This show is you. You make this. Your story. We are the privileged ones.

And they are right. I believed them. But we cast were right too. We could not have done it without each other. We needed them to bring this show to Pittsburgh, and they needed us to do this show in Pittsburgh.

No, thank you!
No, thank you!


If you didn’t get to see the show, in about a month or so, I’ll be bugging you to go and watch the videos on YouTube — and don’t just watch mine. Watch them all.

I posted on FB here, and borrowed from cast member Britt Reints who summed up each story succinctly. I’m quite flattered that her daughter liked my story enough to call it her favorite. At the cast party, I know I heard the most about Mother Hen and Unplanned Parenthood. Erika Fricke was missed at the cast party, I’ll tell you that! I had to let people know about the outcome of her story.

I understand. After the first read through, I walked up to Erika and said, “WELL?”

Watch the video. You’ll see.


While I was nervous in the days leading up to the show, especially once I got Kate’s communion party out of the way and had to focus on the next thing, I felt like I was handling everything okay. As the show got closer, I just took each day hour by hour. Friday, that probably became every half hour by half hour.

And I was mostly fine until Stephanie got up to read her piece — during the actual show. I had eaten a little something so I wouldn’t have a sugar crash, and I was drinking water, but not too much because I didn’t want to have to urgently pee in the middle of the show. But Stephanie was sitting back down, and I realized I felt a lightheaded, and had a bit of a headache. “Oh no,” I thought. “What is happening?”

And then I realized I was holding my breath.


I’ll tell you as much as all of us women made the show — and we all did, we all NAILED our pieces — the energy from the audience gave us the impetus to read like we had never read before. As soon as Natalie delivered her first laugh line, and the audience responded, I thought, “WE HAVE THEM.” That audience was ours. They listened to us! They responded to us! I heard gasps of fear, groans of pain, sniffling of tears.

And laughter. Oh, the laughter.

Because that’s motherhood, isn’t it? Fear and pain and tears — and joy and love and laughs.


And you know what I am most excited about? It’s going to happen again. I got a text yesterday from a friend who said, “I have an idea for an LTYM essay.” I responded, “WRITE IT DOWN.” Jen, Amanda, and Stephanie have started something great, something that Pittsburgh will love and embrace and be good at, and I can’t wait until next year.

If you have a story about motherhood — and who doesn’t — think about sharing it. You don’t have to be a mother. You don’t even have to be a woman. Tell a story. Be authentic.

Thanks to everyone who supports this show, from Pittsburgh and beyond.

See you next year.

Flowers from my parents. Thanks, guys!
Flowers from my parents. Thanks, guys!

Random Thoughts: The I'm in Over My Head Edition

1. Kate is receiving her First Holy Communion this weekend, and we are having a picnic on Sunday with nearly 70 people (including children) attending. (Thank you everyone who promptly RSVP’ed after my post mentioning that!)

And I haven’t ordered food yet. So. Gotta get on that.

2. One of the things I wanted to do was make vegetarian baked beans for the picnic. We’re having fried chicken, and macaroni and potato salad, and a crudite tray, and the like. It’s hard to get prepared baked beans without bacon.

Here’s something I learned: after soaking beans overnight, you still have to cook them before you use them in a recipe.

I learned that the hard way.

I have been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. And I didn’t know that. This is my first time attempting to recipe with dried beans. So far, I’m not very impressed with myself.

I’m going to try to correct the problem this evening so I’m on track for Sunday. Wish me luck.

3. Still no dress for LTYM. I have an outfit in mind — one already in my closet. And a friend is sending a couple of things from her closet for me to try on.

4. Just for shits and giggles (why SHITS and giggles?) here’s what the rest of my week looks like: Thursday: Order food; shop at Target. Bonus: I will only have M in tow; Dan has the girls until they all come home tonight.

Friday: Attend happy hour for departing colleague. Let’s talk HIGH TURNOVER in my department, shall we? Aunt is picking up Flora (at soccer practice) and M (from daycare); Kate is attending 1st Holy Communion practice and having a sleepover. Aside: This may be a terrible decision on my part, letting her sleep over a friend’s house. I’m going to make every take a rest on Saturday to counteract any negative effects.

Saturday: Flora needs to be at a birthday party at 10 a.m. at the Warhol Museum downtown. Again, allowing her to attend this party may be another miscalculation on my part. Trying to fit in too much in one day. M and I will be strolling around the museum while she is at this party, because I’m not running all over the place. I should probably be home cleaning the house instead. But, you know, culture n’at.

On the plus side, my parents are meeting us at the museum around noon, in order to take the children back to the house, while I go to Sewickley to have hairs ripped out of various body parts. I’m pretty sure this appointment is in service to LTYM and not Kate’s 1st Holy Communion, but neat eyebrows are never inappropriate.

I’m not really sure how or when Kate is getting to me. We’re still working on that detail. She has a hair appointment, at the house, to get pretty — sorry, get prettier — for her big event at 2 p.m.

We need to be to the church at 4:30 p.m. Mass starts at 5 p.m.

I have no idea what we are actually doing for dinner. Maybe someone else will make that decision for me.

Sunday: Party day. I’m probably sending various people to pick up various things before we get started.

Another plus: I have people bringing cookies. We’re having a Pittsburgh cookie table at Kate’s party! This is probably my only smart decision of the weekend. Well, that and accepting my parents’ help, which is a given — that I would accept, not that I assume they will help.

5. Dan is going out of town the following weekend. I repeat: DAN IS GOING OUT OF TOWN FROM APRIL 30 TO MAY 3.

6. And we start dog sitting this little fellow May 2.

Oscar dog

I may be insane.

Just drop off bourbon for me and maybe do a food drop for the children. The pup will have his own supplies.

Are you in over your head this week?

The Only Thing I Was Ever Good At

I am embarking on the job search, hard-core.

When you end up in the bathroom crying after a meeting — because you have plainly stated that what is being asked of you is impossible to accomplish in the amount of time you have been given, and been solidly and utterly unheard — it’s time to move on.

Looking around at open positions is depressing to me, for myriad reasons. Not the least of which being that I may just be trading one devil for another. And the devil you know…


As I mentioned recently, I am not this job — I’ve learned better — but I am a writer. Writing is really the only thing at which I ever excelled. The only marketable job skill I have is writing. Well, writing and editing.

And it’s really the only thing I have ever wanted to do. Write. Edit to make writing better.

And I am GOOD at it. I especially excel at learning about something, or interviewing a person, and then writing about the thing or the person. Daguerreotypes. KVM systems. Wineries. Organ transplants.

I can capture a voice. I can create a voice. I can make technological products understandable and give you the information you need to know if you need to purchase them. I can tell you about a trainer and his philosophy. I can blog.

I am learning more every day about SEO, social media, analytics, and other online content. This is probably the next step in this writing career I have built — am building for myself. Providing content, performing analytics, managing social media. I still have a lot to learn, but I am learning it.

I am not a marketing guru. Do I know a few things about marketing? Sure I do. Am I learning each day about marketing? Again, sure. I’m not a dummy. But *marketing* isn’t what I do.

I just write. (And edit.)



— This is the headline and the opening of my personal favorite thing I ever wrote. I really need to get a pdf of it online somewhere.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

God So Loved the World


I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry today. (The Book Thief is better, IMO, richer. But Flora’s class read Number the Stars.)

This is from the afterword by the author. In case you can’t read it, let me transcribe it:

“… And I want you all to remember that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to and with pleasure feel he is a part of — something he can work and fight for.”

It is the holiest part of the year for my faith, for my religion. And this is the message that Jesus came to bring us: Love one another. And these are the words from a century ago, from a peasant boy who was killed for fighting to save other people — people he may not have even known, people whose faith he may not have shared.

He wanted to save them because they were fellow humans. Jesus wants us to love one another because we are all flawed people who are in this together.

It’s so simple.

Last night was the washing of feet. Jesus told us, “If you will lead, you must first serve.”

It’s so simple.

Jesus came to give us a new covenant. A new commandment.

Will you follow? Will you serve?

#PghGBE: Confessions of a Reluctant Mom

Today’s post comes from Britt Reints of In Pursuit of Happiness, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. I especially love this post because it feels like something I could’ve written myself.

You can see my post over on Orange Chair Blog, where I write about how different tastes don’t detract from a good relationship.

I have a confession to make: I never wanted to be a mother.

In fact, I suspect I wasn’t actually meant to be a mother.

I didn’t grow up playing with dolls or fantasizing about having babies. I played office—always the boss—and sketched pictures of the skyscrapers I’d someday live in. I made lists of countries I’d travel to, not baby names, and to this day I dream of growing old in a tiny apartment crammed with more books and souvenirs than grandchildren.

Despite all that, I am a mother. I have two kids, aged 10 and 15, and I love them truly, madly, and deeply.

But most of the time I feel like taking care of them the way they deserve requires me to work against my natural tendencies.

It is not in my nature to nurture. Inspire? Encourage? Motivate? Absolutely. But feed, clothe, and coddle? Not so much.

I’m a big fan of autonomy. You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and we’ll meet up over cocktails and small plates to share stories and lessons learned.

Children are not autonomous. They require active guidance and constant tending. They’re like gardens – which I am also very, very bad at.

So, I am raising resourceful children, children who can make meals from leftovers and lunch meat in a pinch and who can keep themselves entertained when mommy needs a nap, children who do their own homework and make their own beds. I know that’s not an entirely bad thing: resourcefulness and independence are good qualities for adults to have. But I worry that I’m not teaching them these skills with enough intention, that I’m really just dealing with my own shortcomings.

I worry a lot, actually.

I worry that I don’t push them enough. I worry that I don’t hover enough. I worry that they are getting the short end of the metaphorical stick because they were born to a mother who wasn’t supposed to be one.

I feel guilty for their lot in life, but I don’t regret mine.

As unnatural and unnecessary as motherhood is to me, it has also been very, very good for me – precisely because it has not come easily.

I could have effortlessly blossomed into a child-free happiness. Instead, motherhood has chiseled, ground, buffed, and polished me into a hard-fought, unnatural happiness.

Motherhood has forced me to learn skills that I might not have needed but for which I’ll forever be grateful. It’s taught me about vulnerability, strength, holding on, and letting go. It’s taught me about loving someone more than yourself.

Most importantly, motherhood has stretched me beyond my boundaries, beyond my fate, and taken me into the realm of possibilities and choice. It has showed me that we can become anyone we want, even a person we never thought we were “supposed to” be.


— Britt says, “Pbbththt.”

What do you do that you think is against your natural tendencies?

It’s especially timely that Britt got to hang out here today. She and I are both reading at the Listen to Your Mother show. I hope to see you there!