Someone Point Me to the Greenest Grass



I might kill for grass like this. (Oh come on, I said might…)

I think we can all basically agree that, to some extent, our culture as a whole- and I would say my generation in particular- suffers from a “Grass is Greener” complex. If we find ourselves dissatisfied with our lives, we decide that all we need is something new, something that will be just a little better and will make us just a little happier. When I was in my early to mid-twenties I found this so refreshing and exciting. In a period of about five years I lived in six different cities, had eight different housing situations, graduated from college, served a year with AmeriCorps, started teaching, got my Masters, and met and married my husband. My life felt like a giant Applebee’s menu; the choices were endless. Did I want to find an apartment in University City or the Central West End? Would I keep teaching private school or commit to public? Would roses or lilies look best in my bridal bouquet? Always planning, always anticipating, always expectant to see just how my life would change next.

The pace gradually began to slow soon after the wedding, when we moved to South Carolina. My husband began the process of establishing himself in a dental practice. We bought a house. We started a family. All huge changes, to be sure, but this time it was different. This time it wasn’t about what might be fun for a while. This time it was about what we wanted our lives to BE. Before, it was like we were driving a mountain road, not knowing what might be around the next bend, willing, at any time, to take some terrifying detour that just might pay off with a spectacular view. Now we were on a stretch of highway through Kansas. With no off ramps. Listening to some children’s song about a canary overindulging on ice cream cones, because that’s the only thing that keeps the three little girls in the backseat giggling merrily. That’s what I mean by different.

To back up a moment, my husband and I were staring down that long road when we purchased our house here. We weren’t looking for a starter home; we hoped to find something we could envision ourselves spending the next twenty years of our lives in. (Also, how obnoxiously American is the term “starter home”? Like, I‘m going to settle for this okay house that meets all of my basic needs, but as soon as I amass enough money, I’m going to show everyone how much I’m really worth!) We knew basically what we wanted and we knew our family would be growing, so we decided on a house we could grow into. As we signed our lives away, we felt the normal (I imagine) combination of dread and euphoria. The understanding that this structure belonged to us, for better or worse, that was a little frightening. I mean, yeah, we could sell it – our realtor informed us that the average person lives in their first home for five years – but we had already made the commitment. This was it.

Until. Until the pool equipment started acting up, and our heating and cooling units quit on us, and we found out we had standing water under the house, and we realized just how drafty it is living in a house with original windows, and we saw with new eyes, the eyes of people paying a mortgage, just how cheap and hideous certain aspects of our home really are.

And that’s just the home itself. We didn’t really get what it meant to have a baby and a big yard. Then another baby, and another. Our grass- and I swear this is not even a metaphor- our grass is pretty much nonexistent. There’s a greenish sort of covering in places, a mixture of clover and moss and other weeds, with maybe a touch of actual grass mixed in, but a lot of our yard is dirt. In dry weather it becomes a dustbowl, in wet weather a mud pit. A quagmire, if you will. The grass is literally greener EVERYWHERE else.


The upside? Lots of healthy dirt to munch on.

So, nearly six years into home ownership, we’re starting to talk. Is this really it? Do we need to move on? Undertake some radical home improvement? Would either of these options make us happier? Would they solve our so-called problems?

It seems to me that our dissatisfaction is coming from somewhere deeper, an underlying urge to remove ourselves from our current situation and rematerialize in a place where there is order, where things are clean and new, where the windows don’t bear traces of Nutella fingerprints and the living room carpet doesn’t have a run in it, where the furniture isn’t for gymnastics, where the contents of children’s bedrooms don’t ooze out past the door frames like some kind of living slime. What we are asking ourselves, really, is Is this it? This is how we live now? This is where all of our choices, all our excitement, has led us?

This life, this long and sometimes brutal highway that is parenthood, this was my goal all along. I need to remind myself of that. I can move to a different house, I can spend a fortune painting and fixing and refurnishing the one I have, I can break my back trying to grow grass in my yard; I can try to bring change into my life in these ways. Or I can accept that my life isn’t a thing to be fixed or tidied, and I can live here, in the quagmire.

Can My Children Live His Dream?


Back in Snow White and Aurora’s day, Tiana wouldn’t have even been invited to the ball. So we are definitely making progress.

On Friday, when I picked my two older daughters up from preschool, I reminded them that there would be no school on Monday due to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. “I know,” said my five-year-old. “We read a book about it.”

“Oh you did?” I asked. “What did you learn about him?”

“I learned that he had a dream,” she answered. “What are we having for lunch?”

What I should have done, I know, is to stop her there and have the conversation. It wouldn’t have been totally new to her. Once, after hearing the name Rosa Parks mentioned in one of her children’s songs, I gave her a little background. We talked a little bit about how some people have white skin and some people have brown skin. The pre-school she attended last year was primarily black, so this made sense to her. I told her that there was a time when a lot of the people with white skin weren’t nice to the people with brown skin.

“Why?” she wanted to know. A good question, obviously.

“Well, because they looked different. Is it okay to treat someone badly because they look different?”

An earnest head shake. “NO.”

“Did God make people with brown skin?”


“Did God make people with white skin?”


“So is anyone better than anyone else?”


Conversation over, and rather successful, in my book. I didn’t feel I could go much deeper than this with a then-four-year-old. And I didn’t want her to over-think race, either. I didn’t want her to see differences where she hadn’t before. But at some point, as my children grow, the conversation will have to continue. I know this.

It isn’t the fact that we live in the south that worries me. Racism where I live in South Carolina doesn’t feel worse, necessarily, than the racism I heard people express where I grew up in Upstate New York.  Of course, I’m not the target of racism, so I could be totally off on this. What I mean to say is that even if it’s subtle, racism has been present, perceptible even to me, in every place I’ve lived. In New York, in my mostly affluent, mostly white town, the “n-word” was a term used by teenage boys who could count on both hands the number of black people they knew personally. The optimist in me would like to believe that it was stupidity and ignorance, not real hatred, that led them to choose that word over another one. But when people of different races continue to live apart, go to school apart, worship apart – how can we chip away at that ignorance? How can we even make a dent?

Until I left the classroom this past April, I had spent the past ten years of my life in education. I have seen what middle school looks like for a child in inner-city Saint Louis. I’ve seen what it looks like at an elite private school in the suburbs. I’ve seen middle school in Greenville, South Carolina and here in my own town, and, to varying degrees, I have seen inequality firsthand. No one can tell me that race has nothing to do with it.

Listening to and reading Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, I get emotional. The future he envisioned was for his children. For ALL children. As a mother, I want my daughters to be a part of it. The events of 2015 showed us that, as a nation, we aren’t there yet. And I feel, in many ways, powerless. I’m not an activist. I have no “real” authority, but I have been charged with three human beings, and that’s more than one, right?  I want my children to have open eyes and hearts. I want them to love fully and without prejudice. I want them to speak when they witness injustice. I want them to hurt for others.

How do I teach these things? Luckily, I have help. I have a church that cares deeply about social justice. I have a husband who sets the most amazing example, who is genuinely friendly toward everyone he meets. I have friends in our school district devoted to teaching every child, no matter their skin color or situation. It will be my job to steer my children into situations where they can encounter true diversity. It will be my job to hold them to account, to remind them that goodness must, in the end, win out. Dr. King reminds us to embrace “the fierce urgency of Now.” I need to do what I can, now. Like write about something that makes me uncomfortable. Or have a real conversation with my child.








How Will I Know When I’m Done?



Please let me hold you like this forever.

As my oldest daughter grows out of her clothes, I fold them into labeled jumbo diaper boxes and stuff them into a storage area over our garage. They share the space with other infant products that seemed essential but whose use was short-lived: extra baby gates, a swing that all of my children hated, a bouncy seat and a Bumbo seat and a potty seat. When the next child is ready for a new clothing size I pull the boxes out, sort through them to find seasonally appropriate attire, and swap out the stuff in their drawers. It’s an incredibly annoying job, but someone has to do it, and it certainly isn’t going to be my husband.

A few days ago I was up there, looking for 12-month clothes and packing away the size 6-month things, when one little romper caused me to pause. It was one of the few items that I’d purchased just for Alex, my youngest, and it looked brand new: pink-and-white stripes, ruffled short-sleeves, an elephant on the front. I held it in my hand, some emotion rising in me.  The cotton was still soft, washed how many times? A dozen? And now she is done with it, moving on to her sisters’ well-worn items, each of which carry their own memories. The pair of jeans Maggie refused to put on, the sundress Ceci wore for her one-year photos.

They’re just clothes, I try to tell myself every time I go through this, but the truth is, they’re not. These boxes, scrawled in black Sharpie with 2T Summer or Bibs/Burp Cloths, are physical evidence that I can’t keep them little. They are reminders of all the things my children have outgrown, that they are even, in some ways, outgrowing me. Recently I met my five-year-old’s preschool class at the mall, where they had gone to meet Santa, then have lunch. “I don’t want you to come to Chick-Fil-A with me,” she said. “I want to sit with my friends.” Meanwhile Alex, at nearly nine months, is standing on her own, will soon be walking. And I think: Am I ready to leave babyhood behind for good?

Matt and I have never settled on exactly how many children we want, but three always seemed like a good number. He’s one of two; I’m one of three. More than that would be uncharted territory. It would mean a radical reevaluation of our lives: What would four mean? A bigger house? A bigger car? Less time for just the two of us? Let’s be honest: grandparents- even the really fantastic ones our kids have- don’t really want to watch four kids for more than a couple of hours. I’m not sure would want to watch four kids for more than a couple of hours. And yet…


I mean come on, who doesn’t want 100 of these?

I do know that I’m not ready NOW. But a few years down the road, when things have settled a bit, when all of them can wipe their own butts and put on their own socks, maybe then? How will I know for certain that my family is complete, that it’s time to drop the proverbial curtain on all this baby making talk and take more permanent measures? Will I know when I hold that tiny pink romper in my hands and feel nothing more than a mild nostalgia? Perhaps I’ll know when Maggie starts school for real and I am bombarded with papers to sign and spelling words to call out and science projects to help with. Will I know in a year or so when it comes time to decide: keep the high chair or donate it? Will God speak to me in a dream? Send a sign? How will I know for sure? Will I know for sure?

It’s a question for another day, a distant day, for a woman whose children are a little older, who has a little more information about what the future holds. By then, I may have outgrown the idea altogether. Or not…