five minute friday: hands

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.



“Quail- do you want to go see your sister’s end of the year show this morning?” Her face lights up as she hollers yes, jumps twice for good measure and starts to tell the baby what is on the agenda. These sisters- they are there for each other. They don’t think about it they just are.

As we press open the weighted door to the first grade classroom I spy Zuzu sitting criss-cross applesauce by a set of desks close to the door. Our eyes meet and crinkle simultaneously as we slip into the full classroom near her spot. We are headed to a therapy appointment for the Quail within the hour and Zuzu’s teacher generously offered to let Zuzu’s group go first for their Reader’s Theater performance knowing how much it would mean to Zuzu that we are there to bare witness. Her group reads “The Fourth Little Pig” and Zuzu narrates her highlighted sections from her paper script. When they finish she rushes back to the area we are seated in and presses herself as close between the two desks separating us as she can manage so that she can momentarily bridge the gap between her school and home life. As the last group finishes up and I reach to the desk to set the camera down I see the girl’s hands entwined under the desk. The Quail’s small hand gently stroking Zuzu’s skinny fingers as she grips the Quail’s leg. They aren’t looking at each other and don’t appear to be otherwise aware of each other. Except they know. They orbit each other unconsciously. Drawing each other into their days and worlds.

This unconscious grace and acceptance, it has been there since Zuzu was first made a sister. As I sat on my rumpled bedsheets in the afternoon light nursing my newborn Quail, Zuzu crawled up to us all doe-eyed cautiousness not wanting to disrupt the nursing she herself held dear. I invited her in and as she joined us I looked down to see her hand protectively hovering over her new baby sisters, expressing more than she was able to say.



Five Minute Friday: glue

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.


“Move over Quail! I was there first! MOMMAAAAA!!!!”

I hear the Quail giggle as she squishes her bottom up against the pillow my head is lying on. At the same moment Sugarplum let’s go and hollers as Zuzu climbs over her in her primal need to be in the center of us all. And the wrestling starts. Breathing in huffily, I push myself up and tuck my shirt back down. “Girls- stop it- there is room for everyone….” Zuzu cuts me off in protest of the spot next to me that she had only momentarily vacated to gather up her lovies as she clambers on top of her sisters.

This scene is nothing new. I’m used to it after 7 and a half years of parenting her on the outside after having had to pry her from my womb in the first place. Zuzu may be the oldest of the Sistred, and she may have contorted herself over the years to allow her sister’s in to her space. But she is always eyeing the spot near Momma. Be it my lap, my arms, my bed, the seat next to me at the table, on the couch, in the car or plane. She will go to the mattresses to be kept close. And her sisters- they’ve learned this pattern. They may be more comfortable stretching away from us, but when they see the light in Zuzu’s eye’s turn towards me, they will barrel in under her. I didn’t know little girls wrestled and rascaled. Their need for physical and emotional closeness often dickers with their need for mental independence. They sleep in their own room under protest. They peek through our door longingly in the wee hours of the morn. They stop their Netflix, their little pony’s, their playing of “cook”, “bye-bye, off to work” and “school” the minute they hear the bedroom door to the bathroom creak and slide under the covers with their lovies marking out their territory for snuggles.

The mornings come early and are oh so very long, but the years they are dearly short.

Clamping down my own protest to the squabble this time, I sigh, “Come around this side. Careful where you step.” I slide over to the middle of the mattress, pressing up against the Quail as she leans down to pat and kiss the baby who is feverishly kneading her blanket between us. Zuzu grabs up her monkey lovies, whimpers and spoons her angular seven-year-old self against me as I rearrange myself over the “Nah-neh! Side!” cries for nursing from Sugarplum. Lovey steps in the room and settles next to the Quail with a cup of coffee and his laptop while Zuzu turns on PBS and we all settle back for a few moments of family meditation before the weekend comes unglued.


five minute friday: write

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.



“Momma. I need a pen. I need to write down how well I did on my math test and leave it for Daddy to read when he gets home tonight.”

“Q-u-a-i-l. Good! Good job writing your name! You did it all by yourself!”

“Momma, here’s the list. I asked the Quail who she wants to come to her birthday party and then I wrote it down for you.”

“Me. Yes. Write. Name.  Me. “

They do what they see, right? They learn from what we do. Momma typing on the computer. Daddy writing the grocery list. Their teachers writing on the pro-boards. Their friends coloring in the valentine hearts. And they pick up their pens, and their crayons, and their markers and their chalk and they scribble and turn the paper and write the letters they’ve studied on the refrigerator, on the TV, in the books we read to them, in the books they are learning to read to themselves.

“Momma- let ME make a webpage. Let ME type in the webpage I want. Let ME write the list. Let ME call Gramma by myself. Let me write the story that goes with that picture”

Suddenly they are not the babies I hold, and wipe up and dress and feed. Suddenly they are individuals with opinions, and ways of doing things and rules they want to follow and enforce of their own. Suddenly they are alternate versions of myself writing their own story that I can’t put down.



five minute friday: hero

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.


It’s the giggle from under the covers as she sneaks up into the bend in my arms in the early morning shadows before I’m fully awake. It’s the self-possession of her stance as she defies my instructions to put a warmer coat on. It’s the calmness in her voice as she turns away from the car, heading into the elementary school,whispering that she is not very happy with me today.  It’s the light in her eyes as she sees me enter her room at school to volunteer for the class party.

It’s the excitement in her voice as she tells me about her school project where she has to create a musical instrument and has decided to make two so she can give Ms. Allen one as well because she knows she loves music. It’s the pride in her voice as she instructs the Quail to come with her so they can pack their lovies for the weekend trip. It’s the spirit in her voice as she softens it to talk to her sister about how to be kind and not to tell people no so much if she wants to have friends and people to play with. It’s the thump against the wall as she cartwheels down the hall with her little sisters in hot pursuit. It’s the assurance of her stance as she calls her little sister’s into her room to play school with her.

It’s the boldness of her suggestion to Ms. Debbie as she spots her coming down the daycare hall and runs after her to ask if we might could sell the Girl Scout cookies for a dollar more so we can make more money for the troop. It’s the squeeze of her sister’s hands as she pull’s them back to the side of the car at daycare pick-up. It’s the urgency in her voice as she stops me from driving to remind me to finish the buckle on her sister’s carseat.

It’s the pluck of her insistence that when she grows up she will be a teacher, a momma and then a principal to make sure everyone does what they are supposed to. It’s the tremble in her sniffle and sighs as she turns away from me to retrieve her pencil and try the timed math test over again. It’s the graceful curve in her neck as she leans down to pick up the baby whispering to her how much she loves her. It’s the running leap into his arms as Daddy opens the kitchen door at the end of the day.

It’s the rush in her voice as she lists off the numbers to Gramma’s phone in her excitement to call her with no help from us. It’s the vibrato in her tune as she unconsciously improvises lyrics for the camera.  It’s the persistence in her requests as she begs to take a shower with me, sleep with me, read to me, sit by me, come eat lunch  at school and watch another episode of My Little Pony.  It’s the thoughtful card explaining how she is giving me my childhood memorabilia back as my Christmas and birthday presents because she knows they are just as important to me as they are to her.

It’s the disappointment reflected in her eyes as she bears the weight of my overtired frustration at the end of a long day. It’s the tight squeeze of her skinny arms wrapped around my neck as she welcomes my apology into her puppy-dog pigtails for raising my voice again.  

It’s all the little ordinary details that make her my daughter, my hero day after day.


five minute friday: see

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.



“Nooooooooooo!!!!” She sits herself up and looks me square in the eye while shoving away my offering. I close my eyes silently wondering how to respond. It’s been a week now that she has slept clear through the night. No more waking to nurse. This is good. This is necessary. She was ready and so was I. And besides, we still have our regular evening intervals of comfort. She’s still my baby. At 20 months.

Make that 21.

“Do you want to just go to bed?” I scoot up to the head of the bed and pick up her rabbit lovey with its worn, soft blue fleece middle and floppy brown ears. Again she screams at me and tries to lay herself back down. “Naa-neh. Momma. Help.” 

Nursing a toddler. A very strong-willed toddler. She toddles daily now between independence and reliance. We all do. We all watch her as she moves through these next steps. Trying to see where she leads. Trying to follow her lead.

I lay back down and roll over to reach for her and again she shoves me away. Something is just not exactly right. She’s particular now. Her little mind ever expanding at a literally mind-blowing speed.  Her perfect rosebud of a mouth working hard to keep up.

Her cries of “Naa-neh” morph into “Narney”. Barney. The beloved purple dinosaur that her and the Quail agree is the bee’s knees. I pull him out of her pack-n-play along with the two Aden & Anais gauzies and the purple fleece that she routinely sleeps with.  Pulling them to her face she reaches over to her Dad who has come in during this scene and pats his arm, settles back and latches on.

For now.

For not much longer I see.


five minute friday: fly

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.


2 leavesI look down at my phone just as the digits turn to the 7 minute mark. The grin that starts to spread across my cheeks so wide and bright, it actually hurts. The grin hurts. Not my feet, my legs, my 3-times-a-momma-belly or butt. I can do this. I can run. Kicking up a pile of yellow leaves from a puddle as I turn and dart across the street I make my way back past the charming North Main houses I have been running by for the past 5 weeks.

I’m 40 now. I’m not getting any younger. Or thinner. Or fitter. Or more energized. I eat my vegetables. I drink my water and take my medication. I go to work and pay my bills. I can take care of this body of mine so that I live a long life full of the privilege of cuddling the grandchildren I one day long to have and hold. It’s not about me.

And yet it is.

I wasn’t a strong swimmer. I had to take the Red Cross swim classes more than one time to pass them in the town tunneled into the upper mitten of Michigan. I wasn’t an athletic gym student. I was the last one to come up the line of the mile run every Friday of high school gym class. As a post-college grad, my well-meaning and good-living Midwestern friends were so clever to kidnap me and pay the fee so that I would be on the soccer team they loved. Each week, pulling into the parking lot of the Big Bend studio in St. Louis, I was always huffing and puffing, ever in a hurry, to settle in and relax through my yoga class at the end of the day, despite my redundant promises to be better prepared next time

I’m not competitive. I‘ve never looked forward to sweating.

But now…

That grin was the second I’ve experienced in this past month.  It brought back the squeal of excitement as I raced across the first grade school playground jumping effortlessly onto the merry-go-round joining the schoolgirl chant, “Boys push! Boys push!” The exhilaration as my hands smoothed over the ancient metal bars on the third grade playground as my friends and I wound around them in penny-drop after penny-drop. The smell and feel of the wind streaming my brown locks out behind me as I pumped the pedals of my bicycle across town to the pool each summer afternoon. That wild and free feeling of enjoying my own momentum. My own ability to fly. To be fully present in the years of my own children’s swift growth, that’s what I want to own once again. That’s what I’m after. That’s why I want to fly. That’s why I run.


five minute friday: truth

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.



Her hand reached out and slapped mine with a quick reflex reaction to my own hands reaching out to turn off the TV. We had just gotten home from work and school and I wanted everyone in the tubby to wash off the mental anxiety brought in with cold and flu season. They know the routine. This has been an expectation for years now. But still. She has to push. She has to assert. She has to insist that she doesn’t HAVE to do what I want when I want it. In my own flash of anger I smacked back at her small hand as it struck mine a second time. The moment we touched each other I felt the bewilderment of what she was feeling wash over me. I stepped back turning the TV off as I went.

“To time-out. Now. Time to cool down.”

Her voice rose in protest as big tears leaked out of her sad eyes. Her anger had flared at me in the blink of an eye. Just 5 minutes earlier she had been leaping over the piles of oak leaves in our driveway as she chattered on about how she was chosen to run for president in her first grade classroom. The time change this past week, it means it is dark and they are tired when we pull up at home each weeknight. It means we feel an urgency to get in the house and hibernate with no obligations ahead of us for the night. It means we want to eat and read books and watch TV cuddled up together on the living room couch. The order we do that in though, well it matters to me. But pretty much only to me. I want us to come home and get done the things we have to get done before we do the things we want to do. The truth is- that’s all me. The truth is- I’m not as flexible about it as the girls would like. The truth is, I have reasons why I make us do things in the order I do each night. The truth is, those reasons don’t mean much to the independent and strong-willed seven-year-old I live with. She’s spent the day, the week, the month doing what her teachers ask. And at the end of the day spent apart from Momma, she doesn’t always want to hand those reigns of independence back over. She knows she’s capable of making her own good decisions.

This give and take as she grows, it’s hard on me just as much as it’s hard on her. How to not discuss Every. Single. Living. Thing. But how to discuss enough of the things so that she knows her opinions matter. How to teach her to respect others’ authority, while not just believing everything she hears. How to know truth when she hears it and tell it from the fiction that circles her world. How to talk and how to listen.

Our anger set the baby off. She ran to me to be picked up, only to then lean in and bite my shoulder in protest. Setting her down in a second time-out spot I turned to the Quail. She with her high emotional intelligence looked at me solemnly. “Zuzu angry. “ I nodded as her sign for angry shifted to a tracing of tears down her own dry cheeks.  “Sug sad.” These weren’t questions. They were observations. Crossing my legs to sit down on the floor in front of her she leans over and wraps her arms around my neck. “My momma.”

My momma. Their momma. I hug her back and go to call the other two out of time out, turn on the water to the tub and begin again.


five minute friday: grace

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.



The soft fleece of the blanket curled by my head being pulled out from under my cheek gets caught in my hair and I try to hide the wince of pain. Too late. The baby’s chant of momma shifts into a shriek and I open my eye a millimeter to see the red flash of the clock as it changes from 4:44 to 4:45. Just early enough to irritate me. Just late enough to wake the other girls if I ignore her request. Her third request. Anytime the first one comes before midnight I can pretty much see the future of the night without pulling out a crystal ball. We will be up again. And again. Drawing in a deeper breath I push down the frustration and lack of sleep and reach for her.


I need grace.


“NO!!!!” Her well-articulated anger pierces the otherwise quiet house and a swish of my coffee spills onto the cream carpet. I clamp my mouth shut for the moment it takes for her to throw herself on the floor in protest. “You know the routine Quail first potty, then…” I start to try again as she cuts me off with a swipe of her hand on my cheek while I’m bent  to the ground wiping up my liquid energy from the formerly cream colored carpet. I feel the heat rise in my cheeks. My anger now matching hers. I stand up, trying to not spill my coffee again as I set it on the wooden desk. This time I walk away. It’s too early to start a loud argument. And it’s too late to have a drawn out explanation for what all needs to be done in the next 15 minutes before I have to leave for work.


I need grace.


“I don’t want to wear sneakers!!! NO! NO! NO!!!!!! You don’t know anything. Ms. Young wasn’t angry at Ahlivia when she wore her sparkly shoes!!!” She kicks the sneakers I had set down in front of her minutes earlier and the bright twinkling of the lit-up toes mocks our anger as it sets off the third migraine I’ve had this week.” I start to reply with a too early life lesson about how in our house we follow the rules and it doesn’t matter what Ahlivia’s family is ok with, but her door slams before I can finish the sentence.


I need grace.


Squeezing my eyes shut I pause in the dark hallway. The Keurig presses its last drops out loudly as  Lovey’s voice appears in front of me. “Come on, you gotta go. The car is running and here, this will help.” He hands me a steel travel mug and my purse. “Drive carefully.” Just as he calls out for the girl’s to come say goodbye, their bedroom door flies open and two matching sets of bare feet come tumbling down the hall and little hands twine themselves around my legs as their voices compete with each other. Mommma. My Momma. Breathing deep I bend down to kiss their small heads and begin again.






31 for 21: Day 25: five minute friday: together

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.

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Turning off the shower and stepping out into the steamy bathroom I yawn. It’s too early and there is too much to do and my sinuses are pounding. It’s Friday and I have to be ready to leave for work in 30 minutes. I leave earlier than other weekday mornings so that I can return earlier and have a date with Lovey before daycare shuts down. Before we spend the weekend together as a family. The pain is worth the gain. But I miss the girls on these mornings. I miss driving Zuzu in to school and hearing the thoughts that are forming in her head, her life, her world. I miss being together. It’s these moments where it is just the two of us that I’m most likely to hear what she’s proud of, what she’s afraid of, what she plans to eat, and say, and do that day. It’s 10 minutes together and it tells me more about her then the other 23 hours and 50 minutes combined. 

“Does weather come from God or science Momma?”

“I’m scared that my teacher is getting married Momma.”

“Lucy is my best friend Momma. I’m going to play with her at recess.”

“JW got into purple Momma. He gets into purple more than anyone. I’m going to get into purple today.”

“I’m in the hard reading group now and that means that I get to pick non-fiction books.”

“I’m scared to be in the hard reading group Momma. The books are too hard.”

“Erika & Julia don’t want to play with me Momma.”

“I don’t like Monday afternoons. There’s no one to play with once the Quail goes to therapy.”

“I broke my record yesterday and got all my homework for the week done.”

“Everyone else is going to be lunchbox on the field trip Momma. I’m the only one with a school lunch. Please?”

Pushing a brush through my wet hair I peek through the bathroom door and see Lovey sitting at the computer with the Quail on his lap. She has her arms wrapped around his neck and his eyes are closed. The rest of the house is still.  I smile and quietly close the door shut hoping she won’t see me yet. I know that hug. It goes to who she runs into when she first wakes. When she comes to life and starts to tick off the morning activities on her small fingers. Before her will collides with our need. Before chaos and rush and petulance settles in feathering our best laid intentions.

When I finally leave the bathroom the office is quiet and I hear the sound of the small whistle float from the living room. Lovey and the Quail run through the daily “bite-bites”, the small acts that create big words. I move around the periphery of the house willing the baby and Zuzu to stay asleep and the Quail to cooperate while my coffee pours quickly and I escape back to the computer for a few minutes to be alone, before we are again, together.


31 for 21: Day 18: five minute friday: laundry

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.

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“You want to wear purple?”


She grabs my finger and starts to drag me from the Keurig, down the darkened hallway and back to her room. The Ikea dresser drawers are pulled open and the rainbow of shirts now sit half in and out. Her sister snores softly from the nest of the bed they share, tangled in the cranberry and cream striped afghan my Grandmother had made decades ago. Continuing to sleep despite the overhead light and company.

Pulling the red canvas stool over to the drawers, I settle in for the conversation. At first glance I see no clean purple shirts to make this morning’s dressing go smoothly. Pulling the reds, yellows, gray and pinks out of the drawer I start to look more closely for a purple star, stripe or polka-dot to appease her before she dives into the dirty laundry pile for yesterday’s  purple Wonder Woman shirt. Last year we would come together daily for this dance over yellow. It got to the point where as her birthday neared, Lovey and I scoured the internet for a pair of yellow sneakers. Something to support her still-learning-to-run-and-jump feet in the favored color that would keep all of our dispositions as equally sunny over the daily request as the color itself. Eventually we settled on pink sneakers with some striping. The best we could do.

Of course, then, they weren’t purple. As summertime rolled around the purple consignment sale Crocs became her daily ware and kept the mornings tantrum free. Until, the back strap broke. And we all cried just a little.

Pushing the shirt drawer closed I suggested we try for purple pants.

“Yeah! Pants. Purple.” reaching over my hands, she grabs the purple shorts on top. As I look up I try to remember what the fall forecast calls for. Here in the south, come October, our mornings are awfully chilly, but by afternoon the shorts would be fine.

As I lean down to stretch them wide for her to slip them on, her still tiny starfish hands press into my shoulders and her forehead bumps up against mine. “Momma. My Momma.” She pauses to wriggle her way into my lap, forgetting the shorts and the pressed time of a weekday morning. This time I stop and pull her up just as Zuzu starts to yawn and stretch.

“Rise and shine, and give God your glory-glory…” The childhood song rises up from my memory and throat with Zuzu’s strawberry blonde head as she crawls out of bed and presses herself grumpily into our circle. The Quail realizes we’ve shifted onto her purple shorts and starts to protest. Zuzu grunting, presses in between the Quail and I harder. Separating them, and myself from my temper; I hug Zuzu and ask what color she wants to wear today. She says it’s too early and she thinks she should just stay home. I agree it is early, but that tomorrow is a home day, today is a spelling test. Surprisingly this redirects her into chatter of her new reading group, the field trip pictures Ms. Jensen showed on the pro-board, last Friday’s flu shots and a pair of striped shorts. The Quail flings her yellow nightgown on the pile of laundry in the hall and runs to the kitchen…

”Dada. Bite-bites. No Momma.”

 Zuzu runs to the living room avoiding my instructions to start brushing her hair and I pick up the scraps of laundry along with myself and head out into the day.