“Wow! You going to be doing a lot of baking?” the cashier woman at Trader Joe’s said. I felt caught because as I shopped, along with the usuals, I just allowed myself to grab what looked good. I ended up with brownie mix, blondie bar mix, pumpkin bread mix, and white icing. I decided to be honest with her. “Baking makes me happy,” I said.

On the drive home, I fretted. Am I unhappy? Not really. I’m doing okay. Most moments are good moments. So what motivated me to buy all those sweets? “Food is not love,” someone said recently. I’d heard it before, but this time it clanged like a gong in my ears.

I bake because I love to, but as I pulled the car up to the house, I thought about how I also bake now for my daughters, ages 5 and 8. I want to treat them. I want them to come home from school and walk into a house filled with dogs and cats, markers and crayons, music, flowers and cookies that are still warm and gooey. I want them to take a bite (after finishing their healthy snack) and feel safe, feel release. It’s okay. It’s allowed here. It’s all allowed here. Your messy feelings about your friends, the mistake you made in front of the teacher, the fact that you didn’t wipe your bottom well enough and now you have a rash. I bake as a signal that my girls can let go. They’re safe in this house with me.

And I’ll tell them a few things about my day, that I made mistakes too, that my hard work felt arduous at times, but that because we’re home together, sitting around a table with milk and cookies, I feel great.

I look at my girls, my beautiful little beings and I feel such hope and such fear—because I could be doing this all wrong. The mom who has the no sugar policy in her house, who races in triathlons; she doesn’t think I’m teaching my kids good eating habits. Do I tell her that when her daughter comes to our house, she pries open the pantry without asking and pilfers it? Do I stop her? Do I tell?


The other day I was driving and listening to Jamie Cullum’s amazing song “Photograph.” There’s a line in it that says:

“It’s just another story caught up

In another photograph I found.

And it seems like another person lived that life

A great many years ago from now.

When I look back on my ordinary, ordinary life,

I see so much magic, though I missed it at the time.”

I want to notice the magic when it happens, like this moment, when my 7-year-old snuggled in her baby sister’s bed and read her a book. These moments won’t keep happening forever. Their childhood is but a brief stop in their long life journeys. While it lasts, I hope to be there with them, to notice the magic as much as I can, and to help them see it too.

Lesson in patience

I took my girls to buy pumpkins after school today. My older daughter wanted to find the perfect medium sized one. Each one I suggested was imperfect in some way, so I left her to search on her own. After about fifteen minutes, I told her, “Find a pumpkin NOW or you’re leaving with nothing.”

Then she found it.

The look on her face was rapt, the pumpkin fit perfectly in her skinny little arms, and I once again remembered (too late) that to be a mom means recognizing when it’s time to slow down and let the slow pace of childhood rule the moment.