Posted by Duff

I sometimes forget that I always wanted a kid this age, so I could ask her questions like these (the following is taken from a real conversation with The Dervish at 4.5 years old):

Me: Hey, What’s up?

Dervish: Hi.

Me: So what do you want to be when you grow up?

D: What do you mean?

Me: I mean, what do you want to become? Anything you want. (Expecting to hear ‘princess’ or ‘fairy’ or ‘Doctor Sheehan’)

D: (Silence. Thinking. Mild amusement at the possibility of answering). Mommy, what do YOU want to be?

Me: A writer.

D: A writer?

Me: Someone who decides the words that go in books, like the ones you and I read. Only the ones that mommy reads, without pictures.

D: Oh.

Me: So what do you want to be?

D: A picnic basket. With a blanket inside.

Me: And will you have any special powers?

D: Yes.

Me: What?

D: Batteries.

… A moment later:

Me: So what’s your favorite color?

D: Pink. And purple. And yellow and white and blue and green and orange.

Me: Well, if you could wear any color dress right now, what would it be?

D: Pink. And purple. And yellow and orange. And mashed potatoes and peas.


Posted by Duff

You know how certain songs take you back to a memory, spotlight it, show you yourself at a different (and, in retrospect, immature) time?

Through the fantasticness that is Pandora, my Sting station plays newer Matt Nathanson alongside Sting’s mid-90’s Hounds of Winter, which probably holds minimal signifcance for many, but I know you’ve got your own version of it: the song that reminds you of the, well, sting of young, melodramatic, unrequited love.

The pain of this heartbreak is all but muted now, minus the minor time travel that dropped me into my 21-year-old self–not into the lost love of a boy,  but what it meant to be myself before I knew how things would work out. Can you even imagine what it would have been like, at the peak of your unrequitedness, to know what was to come? I probably wouldn’t have believed it, honestly. Though it would have been comforting.

Because just then, Atticus handed me a toy car, and made his way over to his train table, and smiled at me.  He had kicked me in the throat earlier that day, and spread oatmeal on the TV and unplugged the cable connection. But he also begged me for my homemade meatballs (bland) and chocolate chip cookies (when will I learn to use real butter?) and linked arms with me while I read him a bedtime story.  And told me I was pretty, (even if by accident) and often tells me he loves me (sort of, like a parrot would) and thanks me for anything I hand him.

Talk about requited, 21-year-old self. You just wait.

Posted by Duff

Please help. I’m being held prisoner by attitude over here, the preschool and toddler kinds. 

Please send advice on how to outwit them, or  keep them from killing each other. Or, at the very least, how to keep them from killing me so I can keep raising them–hopefully to be the nice kind of people that don’t harm anyone other than each other and their mother.

Also, while you’re at it, please send Spring.  Three. feet. of. snow.

And, good news is always welcome.

Posted by Duff

Several of you have commented or contacted me and let me know that you’re writers yourselves (or I know you and have read your stuff and have been giving you the hairy eyeball because YOU SHOULD BE SUBMITTING YOUR WORK ALREADY).

I know. Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants. Like a Dervish to inspire you, or a lay off, or a series of vivid and terrifying dreams that you’re being sucked into a vortex of meaningless existence because you’re not being true to the characters that spill from crevices you’d rather keep kidden. I get it. Consider me your Dervish, your layoff, your nightmare. And take a chance. Untrunk your manuscript, give it another once over, and then submit the first 150-200 words to The Guide To Literary Agents’  Dear Lucky Agent Contest.

Here’s more info about the contest.

Here’s the shove you need: Go. Submitting your work for judgement is just what your writer’s soul needs to remain vacillating between assurance of genius and paralyzing self-loathing. You’ll love it.  (And can I just say how proud of you I am?)

Posted by Duff

You’ve probably already heard about the New York Magazine article, “Why Parents Hate Parenting“, but if you haven’t yet read it, it’s worth the time.

Something that struck me about the article was the following quote:

“Did you see Babies?” asks Lois Nachamie, a couples counselor who for years has run parenting workshops and support groups on the Upper West Side. She’s referring to the recent documentary that compares the lives of four newborns—one in Japan, one in Namibia, one in Mongolia, and one in the United States (San Francisco). “I don’t mean to idealize the lives of the Namibian women,” she says. “But it was hard not to notice how calm they were. They were beading their children’s ankles and decorating them with sienna, clearly enjoying just sitting and playing with them, and we’re here often thinking of all of this stuff as labor.”

I couldn’t agree more. I said the same thing, with far less eloquence, of course, to my own mother after we’d both watched the movie. (If you haven’t seen Babies, by the way, I can’t recommend it enough. No narration, just babies, and you’ll laugh and cry and appreciate and feel humbled and understood in such a short time, it feels, well, like parenthood).

Thoughts? I know you’ve got them. 😉

Posted by Duff

If it has fur, scare it.

If it contains a tomato ingredient, eat it.

If it has a face, slap it. Then say ‘hi’.

If it is blunt, use it as a weapon. Smile. Say ‘hi’.

If it is a lap, back into it.

If it has a foothold, climb it.

If it can be fallen from, fall from it.

If it is a floor, meet it hard with your face.

If it is chocolate, scream for it.

If it is soft, press your cheek to it.

If it is a sister, irritate it. Poke it. Chase it. Sit with it patiently in Time Out.

If it is a question, the answer is ‘no’.

If it is fleece, wear it. Unless it’s a hat. Then don’t wear it. Throw it.

If it is a diaper, avoid it.

If it is liquid, pour it.

If it is oatmeal, paint with it.

If it is syrup (or ketchup), eat it, alone, with a fork.

If it is a mommy, follow it. Test it. Hug it. Scream at it. Scream for it. Pat it. Repeat.

Posted by Duff

You know the truth about toddlers: they’re explosive, unpredictable creatures.  I could weep for what Atticus, my sweet bear, has become in recent weeks.  I get screamed at a lot. And hit a lot. Diaper and clothing changes require wrestling holds and strong biceps and let’s face it, a thick skin these days.

It’s a good thing he’s cute.

I feel a little guilty, because I haven’t been enjoying our time together that much, and have been wishing away some of that time that I always tout as so precious. I feel like a hypocrite.  But really, when was the last time you wanted to spend time with someone who hits you and pulls your hair and tells you (in his own way) how dissatisfied he is with your failure to understand him? (Kind of sounds like some guys I knew in elementary school, actually, the ones who liked me).

So  I performed a test. See, the little guy is adorably honest these days, and prone to glorious exhibits of attachment that make up for a LOT.

“Atticus,” I said, “Do you want some milk?”

“No,” he said.  With some annoyance.


“Noooo.” He may have swiped at me.

“A snack?”

“NO!” This is where he backs up into things and gets mad at whatever he backs into.

So I gave up. And sat on the floor, criss-cross applesauce. And he made his way over to me, slowly. Backed into my lap, pouting.

“Atticus,” I said, barely loud enough for him to hear me. “Do you love me?”

” ‘Es.” And he leaned back into me.

Like I said, I could weep at what he’s become.