Songs For Our Babies


We’re attempting to raise a family band.

My childhood had a soundtrack. Saturday afternoons with my dad’s records on in the background: Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, Paul Simon. He had a huge boom box too, a silver and black monstrosity with a tape deck and AM/FM radio that he lugged outdoors for projects like car washing and garage cleaning, but it also came with us on summer vacations. When portable CD players were first becoming popular he would hook his up to the boom box with some kind of audio cassette contraption that I guess took the place of an auxiliary cord. He would light our small charcoal grill and blast what we called his “cooking music”, usually a group called Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (otherwise known as the band Yes minus one member), but sometimes other conglomerations of names, Fleetwood Mac or Crosby, Stills & Nash. I came to love my dad’s music. I memorized Phil Collins songs and aspired to play my flute on one foot, just like the guy in Jethro Tull.anderson-bruford-wakeman-howe-52a0c65177b8a

Unsurprisingly, my sisters and I fell asleep to music each night. Sometimes we would pop in a tape that one of us had purchased with our own money, Amy Grant, perhaps, or Bryan Adams. More often you’d find on our bedside tables an open cassette case with words scrawled in my dad’s all-caps engineer’s handwriting: Billy Joel, “Storm Front”. Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence”. Carole King, “Tapestry”. 

As we grew, my dad supported his daughters’ evolving musical tastes. When I was in my early teens he brought me to see Ben Folds Five and Beck, and even sat with me in the fourth row of a Bush concert so I could drool over Gavin Rossdale and tearfully proclaim my love for him. I could thank my dad for a million things, but the way he encouraged and cultivated my love of music is high on the list.

It was no mistake that I married a fellow music lover. When I met my husband in 2005, Phish was in the middle of a five year hiatus. It wasn’t until 2009, shortly before the birth of our first child, that I was even aware of the depth of his love for a band I knew very little about. It’s hard to say how our courtship would have turned out had they been touring at the time, but as it was we spent our dating years attending live shows that appealed to one of us or the other: Nickel Creek, Less than Jake, Old Crow Medicine Show, Tom Petty, Birdmonster.

When we married, my husband and I walked down the aisle to a Trey Anastasio instrumental. At the reception, my dad toasted us with lyrics from “Mekong,” one of our favorite songs by mid-90s band The Refreshments, who my dad and I had seen perform live when I was in the 7th grade: “As cliche as it may sound/ I’d like to raise another round/ And if your bottle’s empty help yourself to mine/Thank you for your time/ Here’s to life.” That chorus still gives me chills. It was the most appropriate way in the world for my dad to give me away, a symbol of all we shared and all I would continue to share with my new and growing family.

When our first baby was born, we named her Magnolia Joy. Matt sang her “Sugar Magnolia,” “Maggie May,” “Joy,” by the newly reformed Phish: “We want you to be happy, don’t live inside the gloom/ We want you to be happy, come step outside your room/ We want you to be happy ’cause this is your song too.”   My choice was Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, but I couldn’t make it through without tearing up: “Well, I’ve been afraid of changing/ ‘Cause I’ve built my life around you/ But time makes you bolder/ Even children get older/ And I’m getting older too.”220px-Joyphish

Her lullabies were the songs we wanted her infant ears to hear and remember always, and though the catalog has grown, she still asks for her favorites, “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Wagon Wheel,” “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” “Hallelujah”. And now there are special songs for Ceci, too, the obvious Simon and Garfunkel tune, and a new one, “Cecilia and the Satellite,” by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. When I asked her, just now, what song she likes best at bedtime, her answer was “Lean on Me”. (Alex’s lullabies, thus far, are the sound of us watching The Walking Dead while she drifts off in her bouncy seat. Such is the life of a third child. But we’ll get there.)

Like my dad created my childhood soundtrack, we are creating our children’s. There is music in the kitchen as we cook, playing while we swim in our pool, music to accompany us on the car ride to and from school each day. We dance, in our house. We sing. We usher in the night the best we can, with the sounds of our own voices. We don’t always remember to say our prayers, but we never forget to sing. I suppose they aren’t that different.

For Teachers of the Very Young


My scarecrow.

About a week ago, a note was sent home in my two-year-old’s preschool folder: Next Friday will be Scarecrow Day! Please send your child to school dressed like a scarecrow!

A scarecrow? What am I supposed to do, stuff her full of hay and hang her from a wooden pole? Put some birdseed behind her ear and see if I can entice a crow or two to come and have a seat? My husband said I was overthinking it. Put her in a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans, he said. Paint her nose brown. Boom, she’s a scarecrow.

But overthinking things is kind of my MO, so yesterday, Scarecrow Day Eve, I brought all three kids to Walmart and K-Mart (The Big K? I don’t know what they’re calling it these days) in search of a scarecrow costume, or at the very least, a hat with even a remotely scarecrow-like feel to it. In the end the only scarecrow-y hat was attached to a “Baby Bavarian” costume, complete with a sticker reading “Sippy Stein”, so I bought the whole thing. Boom, next year’s Halloween costume theme.

When we got home, I started piecing together the elements of our scarecrow costume: red plaid shirt, blue jeans, a denim overall top in size 12 months that I unbuttoned on the sides to make it large enough for a two-year-old torso, and the Baby Bavarian hat. But it needed something. I texted my crafty mother-in-law, who had the yellow felt I asked for, and in a pinch I fashioned a pair of “straw bracelets” that could sit at the cuffs of the shirt. Our little scarecrow ensemble was complete; all that was left to do was to convince Ceci to wear it. Easy.

This morning, we got her all dressed up and ready to go. Of course, I found in her drawer a super cute hat that we already owned, and of course I had already ripped open the packaging of the Baby Bavarian costume. So there’s that. But she did look freaking adorable. If I were a crow I would eat her right up. We got in the car. We drove to school. I led her to her classroom, where her tiny scarecrow classmates all looked equally edible. Her plaid-attired teachers welcomed her with an appropriate “Aww!” And that’s when it hit me.

For me, Scarecrow Day was a total pain in the buns*. It would be one thing, I reasoned, if I were doing all this for a four- or five-year-old who would retain an actual memory of Scarecrow Day. In all likelihood, though, the only evidence Ceci will have of this landmark day is an Instagram photo and this blog post. Why were her teachers making me go to all of this trouble? It just felt like kind of a lot for the sake of cuteness.

What I realized this morning, the thing that brings me to tears of gratitude and appreciation, is this: the women who care for my child for three hours a day, five days a week, do what they do knowing that their time with her will soon fade into nothing more than an indistinct impression written in the folds of her ever-changing brain. Some days I pick Ceci up from school and she can’t tell me what she did with them even an hour before. What did you do at school today? Umm, I’m don’t know. 

And yet, they plan special events, pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, a Thanksgiving feast. They hold her when she cries. Last year, her caregiver gathered her wild hair into a ponytail every single day, a mother’s job, but one that I neglected to do in my rush to ready myself for work each morning.

Is there anyone more giving of love than a preschool teacher? To change the diapers of other people’s children, help them learn to use the potty and wash their hands, to referee their disagreements, gather them onto the carpet for circle time. To teach them letters and numbers, shapes and colors, but more importantly, sharing, waiting, kindness.

Thank you, teachers of the very young. You live in the moment with our kids. The work you do to make those moments fun, joyful – maybe even memorable – it does not go unnoticed. Shame on me for making Scarecrow Day about the lengths I went to, the degree to which it put me out. What does any of that matter when a few miles down the road there is a classroom full of happy scarecrows and two smiling teachers?

*You can guess what word I wanted to use, but since the audience is preschool teachers, I went to the thesaurus. Pain in the keister? Pain in the fanny? I had a hard time choosing, but “buns” made me laugh. Clearly my kids have ruined my once intellectual sense of humor.

Let’s Get Physical!

I’m a few weeks away from my thirty-second birthday. I get to the gym when I can, push the baby stroller around the nearby track a couple of times a week when the weather is nice. I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape- my trunk isn’t overly full of “junk”, and I wouldn’t describe my “dumps” as being particularly truck-like. So it came as a surprise yesterday morning when I bent down to retrieve a pair of yoga pants from my bottom dresser drawer and felt an ominous pop in my lower back.

Expletive, I thought. Actually it was more like, EXPLETIVE!!! Throwing out my back was not an option. I had a house to clean, a baby to tote around, and it was one of those rare days when the yoga pants I had been planning to wear were actually for yoga class, as opposed to going to Target, dropping off the dry cleaning and driving through the carpool line. I know those activities don’t require stretchy pants, but I like to save my denim for special occasions.

My husband definitely has it harder than I do. At least I'm not expected to throw a  human into the air like that.

My husband definitely has it harder than I do. At least I’m not expected to throw a human into the air like that.

My children didn’t care that I was injured. It didn’t impact their behavior in the slightest. Ceci, who is well into the terrible twos, backed herself into the playroom closet, where she was clearly pooping, and refused to budge to have her diaper changed. (“No… I just going to stay in the closet for a little while.” If you ask me, a child who is capable of verbally expressing her wish to poop in a closet is probably capable of being potty trained. Add that to my list of things to do.) I had to put down the fifteen-pound infant I was holding and potato-sack my defiant thirty-something-pound toddler up the stairs and into her room to get her cleaned up while she struggled against any attempt I made to put pants on her. Because why would I want to wear pants, mom? Seriously.

In times of illness or injury I am reminded of the physical work of motherhood, which becomes such a seamless part of our day-to-day lives that we fail to notice the toll it takes on our bodies. I have come to accept the aches and exhaustion as normal, a product of endless bending, stooping, kneeling, lifting, wrestling, carrying. Even yesterday, injured back and all, I clutched six-month-old Alex with one arm while vacuuming with the other, the burning in my biceps and back preferable to her frenzied shriek each time I tried to set her down.

Before Alex was born, I wrote a post called “Why I Can’t Put My Feet Up”. I still can’t. Now that taking care of my kids and my home is my only job, I’m less forgiving of myself than ever. During the morning hours, when my older two are at preschool, I hurry from task to task, trying to accomplish everything in the small window between drop-off and pickup. It’s never enough time, so I find myself cutting the stupidest of corners.

Let’s say, for example, that I arrive home after grocery shopping. I’m starving, thirsty, and I have to pee, but somehow unloading the food takes precedence over meeting my own pressing physical needs. Just as I put away the last jar of salsa, Alex wakes up. She’s

Oh look, I'm carrying a baby around. My back is sarcastically like, "Yay!"

Oh look, I’m carrying a baby around. My back is sarcastically like, “Yay!”

hungry. Looks like my bladder will just have to wait! And the other day I was spreading peanut butter on a stalk of celery and suddenly thought of a bill that needed to be paid. I was about to drop the celery and find my checkbook when I said, out loud to myself like I was totally mental, “Stop, Jenny. Stop and eat the freaking celery!” (Confession: I didn’t say “freaking”.)

Despite the frenetic baby-holding vacuuming session and the fact that I also moved both my washer and dryer while in search of the source of a suspicious smell, my back is feeling slightly better. And it’s not because I’m taking the time to care for it and let it heal, or because I’ve audibly demanded that it get itself together.  Like a toddler who doesn’t feel like wearing pants, it just doesn’t have an expletive choice. This is life with three kids five and under. It leaves me sore, feeling about two decades older than I am. It’s difficult and exhausting. It takes everything I have, body included. My life is my workout.

The good news is, I think I’ve just found a way to justify my over-use of yoga pants.

The Career I Didn’t Sign Up For

I am not a party planner.

I have held various job titles in my life: preparer of sub sandwiches, country club lifeguard, discount store sales associate, AmeriCorps volunteer, middle school teacher. Event planning? No.

It’s not that I dislike parties. I enjoy a good themed soiree. Ugly Christmas sweaters? Saturday Night Fever?

Did I mention that I love theme parties?

Did I mention that I love theme parties?

Pimps and Hos? Sign me up! Granted, my curfew is a bit earlier than it was before I had kids, but I’m still up for an 8-9:30 p.m. shindig every now and then.

Kids birthday parties, though, are a different story. They’re in the same category as baby showers. They’re nice for the person they’re being thrown for, but the RSVP options should say “Unable to attend” and “Do I have to? Oh. Okay. I guess I’ll be there.” 

For my daughters’ first and second birthdays we stuck with small gatherings at home with family and close friends. No decorations. No invitations. I knew everyone in attendance well enough to subject them to my attempts at homemade cupcakes and frosting, which meant that I also subjected them to the high my sugar-deprived children experienced after eating said cupcakes.

When Maggie, my oldest, turned three, we decided that it was time to have a “real” party. This meant scoping out locations, deciding on a guest list, trying to find an acceptable date based on the college football schedule, and ordering enough food and cake for all of the people who didn’t RSVP but might show up anyway. Oh, and did I mention that I am not predisposed to party planning?

My plan for this party: Place cupcake in front of child.

My plan for this party: Place cupcake in front of child.

The anxiety I felt surrounding this three-year-old birthday party was tremendous. What if none of her friends came and she was disappointed? What if the people I was inviting thought my fill-in-the-blank Party City invitations were tacky? What if I left someone out that I should have included? What if we didn’t have enough food? What if I was a terrible hostess and everyone realized how socially awkward I really am? Why was I even putting myself through this? I was fully aware of how idiotic my worries were, but it didn’t stop them from giving me heart palpitations.

The party came and went, and it was fine. Nothing to write home about, but my three-year-old and her little friends had fun experimenting with decibel levels in the Chick-fil-A playground area and eating only the top layer of frosting off of the cake I had spent so much time picking out. Also I survived, so I think we can call it an overall success.

You’d think that I would have learned from that experience that there was no reason to stress out, that the whole party thing wasn’t a big deal after all. You would think that, but each year is the same. What if no one comes? What if too many people come? What if all the other parents are silently judging my choice of location or snack food, or I don’t manage the flow of party events like a well-trained circus ringmaster? Is this the only way I can show my daughter that I’m happy she was born? What is it all FOR?

This past weekend we celebrated Maggie’s fifth birthday with a bowling party. and making labels featuring clever puns for all the refreshments: Han Rolos, Seven-Leia Dip, Luke Skywater, Vader-ade. It was for her, but she doesn’t know how to read. So obviously, in some way, it was for me, too.

I had never been in the bowling alley before. The drop-ceilings in the closet-sized party room were in rough shape and looked like they might have been moved aside at some point so a body could be shoved into the space above. The bass from a lewd current rap hit gave the place a Saturday-night club atmosphere, but it was Sunday afternoon. For a moment, my arms full of pink and black decorations, I thought that I had made a horrible mistake. Bowling sounded fun in theory, but faced with the prospect of organizing fourteen children of varying ages and ensuring no appendages were crushed, I hesitated.

I’m not a party planner. Some people love this stuff; it just isn’t my calling. My calling, right now, is to be a full-time mom. Turns out, party planning is part of it. It’s one of those parts of parenthood that you don’t think about beforehand, like trimming three other people’s toenails or trying to figure out how to get a crusty booger off the wall without taking off any paint. It’s something you learn to do, even if you don’t love it.

Standing there in the bowling alley, feeling crushed by my own expectations, I made a decision. I decided, like a good ringmaster, that the show must go on. Was it pretty? Oh, no. The chaos was monumental, and there certainly might have been some silent judgment from my fellow pre-school parents, all of whom could have done a better job putting on this party than I did. But honestly, I didn’t even notice.


Happy birthday girl = mom win.

I was too busy watching my oldest daughter flit from friend to friend, offering them pretzel rods trussed up as light sabers. She was wearing a sweatshirt with a picture of C3PO and the word “Golden”. Every so often she pranced up to stand at the line and launch a six-pound ball down the lane. She waited until it completed its long, erratic journey from bumper to bumper and back again, and it didn’t matter how many pins she knocked down – she was happy. And would you believe it? Even after “Jabba the Hummus” and “Jedi Mind Twix”, I had one more pun in me: I was bowled over. Seeing the look on her face, I knew I couldn’t have planned it any better.

The First Five Years

This is where it all began.

This is where it all began.

Tomorrow my oldest daughter will turn five. It’s a day to celebrate her, to send her off to preschool with a dozen sloppily decorated cupcakes that we made together from a box, to exclaim at intervals throughout the day, “You’re FIVE, Maggie! Can you believe it?” She’s incredible: smart and inventive, thoughtful and fearless, and totally deserving of celebration.

At the same time, five feels like a significant milestone to me, a notch on my parenting belt. Five years ago today I was laboring at home after a late-night visit to the hospital where they told us, “Come back when the pain is MUCH more intense.” Feeling stupid and dejected I returned home, tried to make myself comfortable, distracted myself with Netflix rom-coms, and double-checked my bag. (Peppermint-scented massage oil? Check. Motivating iPod mix? Check.) Through the rest of the day and another night the pain steadily intensified, until I was unable to eat or sleep but surrendered to each agonizing wave until it crested and I could breathe freely for a few blessed moments.

The distance between that brave, terrified young woman and the person I am today feels vast. Five years. Not such a long time, but consider all they contain, how full they are. A lot has happened. A lot has changed.


She was three yesterday. I could swear it was yesterday.

The past five years, in brief: Maggie. We don’t know what we are doing. We ask the nurse on the mother-baby unit to show us how to change her diaper, how to bathe her. As we climb into the car for the first time as a family of three we look at each other, both thinking the same thing. Seriously? This is happening?  We don’t sleep. She screams and screams. When she’s not screaming, she’s pooping. The first time poop shoots across the room and onto the wall, I’m horrified. That doesn’t horrify me anymore.

When she’s not screaming or pooping, we record every movement and sound she makes. I go back to work. It sucks. I cry daily. Once in a while we get a babysitter, but we miss her as soon as we’re out the door. She grows. She walks. She talks. She’s hilarious, the funniest, greatest kid that ever existed. We wonder if we should stop now. She’s almost two; we’re starting to get our lives back.

I get a job closer to home. Things are good, mostly. I spend a lot of my time wrestling her into time out or into her clothes or into the bathtub, but I assume she’ll grow out of that. I get pregnant, faster than I thought I would. I am happy but nervous, more nervous than I want to admit. Within a couple of weeks I start bleeding. A lot. Somehow, miraculously, the baby is okay. She stays okay. Cecilia shows up with a thick head of hair and is loved and doted on by her big sister. Big sister gets potty-trained. Win! I go back to work expecting everything to be hard, but it doesn’t feel that way. I feel settled. We’re all pulling our weight at home, man-to-man defense. We have a system. We’ve got it all figured out. We might not get out as often as we used to, but that day will come. How about a third? We can handle that.

Ceci is not quite two when Alex is born. Maggie is four. Everyone has told me that adding a third child to your family isn’t that big a deal, they roll with the punches, they’re along for the ride. This is not true. Alex is a person. So are Maggie and Ceci. All of them believe they are deserving of all of my attention all of the time. I wish I was capable of that, but I’m not, even though I’ve quit my job. This is my job. Read them books and make them sandwiches and change fifteen diapers a day. Try to keep the edge out of my voice when responding to yet another request. Sometimes it seems like one of them is always awake, hovering in our doorway. We don’t sleep. I’m not sure we ever will again.

She's growing up. I can't stop her.

She’s growing up. I can’t stop her.

It’s hard. It’s harder than I thought it would be or wanted it to be, but I would never tell that to the young woman on the couch, jotting down the duration of her contractions and half-watching a movie starring the girl from Veronica Mars and the guy who played Leo on All My Children. She’s scared enough already.

What I would tell her, if I could, is this: You’re about to do the best thing you’ve ever done, and all of this will be worth it. Their love will turn you inside out. Your love for them will shock you. Five years later, it still does. That’s something to celebrate, too.

You Don’t Tell Me What to Do

Oh, you want me to get out of this chair? Hilarious, lady. It's not gonna happen.

Oh, you want me to get out of this chair? Hilarious, lady. It’s not gonna happen.

My girls are, for lack of a nicer word, “spirited”. Maggie has been a humdinger since day one. When she was a baby we thought her attitude was cute. Look at her all sassy, we’d say. Little Miss Sassypants. Now nearing five, cute isn’t always the word I would use. Now, refusing to comply with even the simplest, most sensible of requests has become a hobby of hers.  “Well, you don’t tell me what to do,” she’ll say, hands on her hips. “So, hmp!” As if she really thinks she’s had the final word. Just tonight, as Miss Sassypants was sassing it up, I told her that when corrected, she needs to stop answering back. “No well or butYes ma’am is all I want to hear.” She was silent a good five seconds, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “Ya ma’am.”

To a certain degree, I get it. It must be hard to be a kid and have someone else’s will constantly overrule your own, someone telling you when to get up and when to go to bed, what you can wear and what you can eat, controlling where you can go and who you can spend your time with. I mean, I feel for them. Especially because a lot of the time, I wish that I had a little more sass in my pants. (That didn’t come out sounding quite the way I thought it would…)

See the thing is, my eldest child and I aren’t that different. I don’t like being pushed around either, but I feel that way often. Not by any particular individual, but by society, that elusive force, impossible to blame or confront. Sometimes I just want to scream “I hate you society!” into the void, but then I would sound mental, and my children need their mother.

I, a woman of strong principles and clear-cut opinions about how I want to raise my daughters, feel acutely the pressure that society puts on me to violate those principles. It tells me, for one, that I can buy their happiness, and by extension, my own. Clothes! Snacks! Toys! Technology! I try to resist, my arguments ready-made. Why buy my child an $80 monogrammed, smocked dress when every time she plays outside she sprinkles dirt in her hair and calls it “fairy dust”? Because she would look so goshdarn presh? Not good enough for me. And then there’s the gauntlet of kid-targeted branding I have to walk through in every location where goods are sold. One day in Sam’s Club, Maggie begged me to buy her a twelve-pack of Star Wars Kraft macaroni. “Honey,” I responded, to the amusement of nearby shoppers, “That’s called marketing.”

Sorry, society, this is how my kids look when they play.

Does this look like a person who needs to wear anything that costs more than $5?

But it wears me down, the feeling that I’m up against something much bigger than I am. For example, let’s talk about activities. The word alone makes me shudder. I swore that I wouldn’t get sucked into the vortex of organized anything until my kids were old enough and aware enough to say, “Hey mom, I’d like to try playing the bassoon. Can we look into getting me lessons?” I wasn’t going to pay for them to go to a dance studio at age two and stumble around in circles while wearing an adorable tutu. So here we are, and my oldest, just about to turn five, is enrolled in both soccer and gymnastics. Which is fine, until it’s all three of them and four years from now we’re eating dinners in the car at Sonic in between dance recitals and play practice and basketball games. All because society told me that everyone is doing it and I didn’t want my girls to feel like the only weirdos missing out.

If you can’t tell, I’m kind of tired of society. I’m tired of being told that more stuff means more happiness, that busier is better, that I should be wearing burgundy this season because somebody important decided that it was “in”. The fact that my four-year-old already thinks she needs to be pretty in order to be somebody breaks my heart. I didn’t teach her that. I wish that I could sit my children down and tell them, “Here is what the world is going to try to make you believe. Don’t believe it. Do what you want to do because you want to do it. Wear what you want to wear because you want to wear it. Buy what you need, not what somebody else says you need. Don’t let society tell you what to do.”

So I guess it’s good, in a way, that they are stubborn pains in the ass. (We all know that’s what I really meant by “spirited”.) Maybe they’ll have more backbone than their mom, who can’t help but compare herself to the other moms – What are their kids doing? What are their kids wearing? How are we keeping up? – and whose steadfast principles are turning out to be shakier than she had once thought. Maybe they’ll be brave enough to give society the finger and say, “I’m not going to be what you expect me to be. You don’t tell me what to do.” Only society, though. If they ever did that to me, they’d be grounded for the rest of their natural lives. Because, you know, it’s the principle of the thing.

Goodbye, Modern World

There are times when I grow tired of the pace of modern life, the constant exhaustion, calendars, reminders, appointments, the expectations and demands, the hungry, unrelenting consumption of my time.

There are times when I feel I will drown in the negativity of the world in which I live. Our privileges and blessings become sources of stress, things to complain about with good-natured (but real) exasperation when we make conversation: our homes, our jobs, our belongings. What needs to be fixed, what needs to be updated. All the small ways in which we are unsatisfied.


One plus for modernity: even women can be doctors.

I think, sometimes, that even though we have it so easy, we make everything harder than it needs to be. And I dream of a simpler way. A quieter, more peaceful life, one that doesn’t feel attainable anymore. I’m stuck, I know, in this modern world, but I still can’t help wondering what it would be like, say, 150 or 200 years ago. Me, a stalwart frontier wife. Nowhere to be but in the moment and, every once in a while, at the market to barter a cow for some cloth. Think of the benefits!

If I were a pioneer woman, the following would not qualify as problems:

  • What to wear. Some stockings. A bonnet, clearly.  The beige wool dress or the grey one? Or maybe a pair of trousers? Nah, I’m not that forward-thinking.
  • My kids telling me they’re bored. Go churn some butter, children. Or run around in the woods- just make sure to come home before dusk or the coyotes will getcha.
  • Getting my feelings hurt.  I wouldn’t need to stress about why certain people never “like” adorable photos of my kids on Facebook and Instagram, but somebody else posts a picture of a loaf of bread and they all like it immediately. If I was a pioneer woman, in fact, I’d think a picture of a loaf of bread was pretty awesome.
  • Making Christmas “magical”. At Christmas my kids would be thrilled to get a rag doll sewn from leftover scraps of grey and beige cloth, or a piece of fruit, or a new hankie. They would ooh and ahh over their treasures and then bundle up to feed the chickens.
  • What sketchy ingredients the government allows in my food. My husband killed it. I skinned it and cooked it. It doesn’t get more natural than that.IMG_1565
  • My DVR will only record two programs at a time. Well guess what? When we’re sitting around the fire listening to the wind (or the wolves?) howling, we can only sing ONE hymn at a time. How’s that for inconvenient?
  • Getting in shape. In fact, I’d be furiously trying to fatten up before the winter. That sounds AMAZING.

I can think of several more compelling reasons why my life would be richer and less complicated if I were a pioneer woman, but I’m getting tired of bullet points. I wouldn’t complain about nonsense like my child’s teacher gave my “A student” a B; I’d just be happy that, for a few hours a day, a few months a year, my kids could walk five miles to the nearest schoolhouse and learn a little arithmetic. I wouldn’t be pondering whether having a fourth child might make it too difficult for my family to take cool trips; I’d be trying for my tenth little farm worker and thanking God for every day that passed without someone contracting typhus.


If my girls got these in their stockings, they’d be like, “What the heck, Santa?”

Look, I know this post is ridiculous. I don’t really want to live that life. Access to doctors that don’t bleed you with leeches is good. Childhood vaccines are good. Dental care is good. Dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, all good. I like having a car, even if I wish I had the option of walking somewhere occasionally. My life is super-convenient. I have choices! So why am I overwhelmed?

Simplicity is a choice, too. Strange that it takes strength, in our society, to choose a life with fewer distractions and fewer obligations, to remind ourselves and teach our children that less can mean infinitely more. So in the words of Hugh Grant in Love Actually – which thankfully I was able to get On Demand this Christmas season – “From now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger.”


According to my research, bear-riding was a popular past-time for pioneer children.