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I blog for Ergobaby

Loving a Musician and His Music

When you are with a musician, you know the inside story to many of the lines and themes of their songs. It's the ultimate look behind the scenes of making the music.  I always smile at the line that sounds like "Champagne sunrise by the lake with you" because I remember the sunrise in Champaign, IL that Ash took me to 14 years ago, and the dew on the grass as we drank orange juice and stood holding hands waiting for whatever would come. What came was an orange glowing sun, stripes of pink, orange and blue, and a house and two kids many years down the road. 

When I put a song on, sometimes, my mind combs the song for things to hold on to. Sometimes it is the line itself. The memories of visiting our dear friend, Annie, in NYC when we moved to the east coast. Our 13-hour road trip to Montreal to find a canadian diamond engagement ring in January during a huge snowstorm here that resulted in the Candians laughing at us for visiting them in January and telling us the best place to buy Canadian diamonds was in Virginia near where we lived in Maryland. Sometimes it's not the lines themselves or the meanings of the songs that I hold dear. There's the music Ash performed while I met him on tour in Amsterdam and Paris before science had confirmed my pregnancy with Noah, but I was convinced a life Ash and I made bloomed inside of me. Then the tour in Japan where we hung out with Miyuki and the shows were amazing, the after parties more fun than I could ever describe, and the side trip to Kyoto where we stood hand-in-hand feeling alone in the mountains and we talked about how that exact feeling is what world peace would feel like. Ash's music reminds me of when we looked at the pictures we took in that mountain and how we felt so alone and at peace, but in truth, there were people all over around us. And how, upon realizing that we understood that must be what world peace feels like. When he told me he was ready for kids at the end of a song before he had told me in person. The times each of our children kicked furiously to the beat alone with their father's voice. The pain of the miscarriage I had between Noah and Maya and how lost I felt, and how I listened to Ebony Sea on repeat. The little boy with Cancer that would listen to Ash's music while in Chemo, and the young man that zoned out to it while his father died. 

 Ash's music gives people a window into his soul in a way that many other people never let anyone in. That coupled with the experiences, the discussions we've had and just being around him for the last 14 years means I'm that much closer to the core of him. I've long called Ash my own personal superman. Before kids, I would laugh that he was a brilliant engineer by day, an amazing rapper by night. Now, he does all of that and manages to be an amazing father. It helps that I love hip hop, and Ash is truly one of my all time favorite musicians, but not all of the memories are happy. There are tours I didn't want him to go on, lines that break my heart and so on. Loving a musician and their music means loving it all.

Ever since Ash started recording while we were together, I've annoyed him with "Is the song about me?" as soon as he walks in the door. It's no secret that with busy lives and trying to be the best parents we can be there is not as much time for things like recording. Recently, Ash has fit some sessions in with a friend, and they are creating some music together that Ash is enjoying. Earlier this week, Ash went to one of those sessions. This morning, on my way to driving Noah to school, I moved Ash's car. As I turned the key, the familiar voice of the man I love filled the car with a new beat. I only moved it across the lot, but I heard a line. "Do you know how much food costs these days?" and then "Do you know what private school costs?" I'm probably misquoting those lines. I only heard them briefly, but I know them all too well. I'm always overspending on the food budget, and Ash is always worried about tuition costs. 14 years of loving, and I still make my way into songs.

Let's all just hope that my *current* housekeeping skills didn't also make their way in to any songs.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Mommy Style

One of the things I love most in the world is quietly gathering ingredients from my disorganized baking cupboard and laying them out in anticpation of a delicious dessert. This year, I decided that I need to start taking more time for the things I love to do that are just for me more often. I've resolved to laugh even when I'm the only one who thinks something is funny, to bake more, and to write more. I need to do those things to be the best me.

Tonight, I pulled out my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I, and I giggled as I thought about which recipe should be my first. I thought back to our first wedding anniversary, and I pictured myself standing in a bakery in the St. Germain area of Paris preparing my masterpiece. It didn't take long before I came across Le Marquis [Chocolate Spongecake]. I read over the ingredients, knowing I had most of them tucked away in that disorganized cabinet. The rest lived in various parts of my somewhat more orderly refrigerator. First, I rummaged through the cabinet where I keep pots, pans, casserole dishes, and baking supplies I don't often use. I felt around for my spongecake pan that I'd know it by its ridges. I pulled it out while continuing to pull ingredients from their various homes in my kitchen.

I found some shortening and flour and began to prep the cake pan. That's when I realized I'd pulled out my Elmo cake pan that I used to make Noah's first birthday cake in place of a spongecake pan. I had a good laugh realizing this baking experience was already a little less romantic than I'd imagined ahead of time. I quickly pulled out my spongecake pan and then caught myself and used butter and flour to prepare the pan as the recipe dictated. Making the batter had to be hands down the most fun, peaceful, relaxing baking experinece I've ever had. I melted the coffee and chocolate together just as the recipe called, I created a ribbon out of egg yolks and sugar, my egg whites created stiff peaks right on queue, and then I mixed the batter together and poured it into the spongecake pan. That's when I double checked the recipe and realized that I was supposed to use a regular 8-inch pan. So I poured the batter into yet another pan after briefly prepping it with butter and flour.

Then, I waited for the magic to happen. Right on time, the top of the cake cracked as the guide suggested. I sat there laughing at the silly mistakes I had made, but glad they hadn't cost me the cake. I pulled the cake out and it passed the test for being perfectly done. A little bit of chocolate came up on the tooth pick. I waited 10 minutes for it to cool then I ran a knife around the inside of the pan like the recipe instructed. It had been a fun experience. French baking felt so much more honest and delicious than American baking. I couldn't wait to tell the world that French baking is easier, slower, more delicious and perfectly suited for me. Just when I began to dream about the chocolate glaze I'd make in a couple of hours after the cake had completely cooled, I turned the cake upside to put it on the cooling rack, and it didn't budge. I smacked the pan. Nothing. So I did what anyone would do when they had messed up a delicious dessert. I tasted the cake, and I heard French children singing about peace in the background as bit into the little chocolate delight in my hand. I scooped the rest of the cake out with a cake server and then I brought some to Ash. He liked it, but the piece I gave him looked more like a brownie. So I cut the rest of the cake up into random pieces and put away our batch of six small brownies that took me two hours to make.

Okay, maybe there would have been more, but once I messed the cake up, I decided I needed to eat half of it to make sure it was safe for consumption. I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that after the first bite, I knew the cake had turned out exactly how it was meant and that I possibly forgot the butter while prepping the final (third) pan I'd prepped for the cake. I cannot wait to make my way through more recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I wonder if all of the recipes will taste this delicious and make me feel like I'm sitting slowly sipping coffee outside at a cafe in Paris instead of standing in my disorganized kitchen in suburban Maryland. Maybe Julia Childs didn't want me to end up with a beautiful cake afterall. Maybe she knew I needed an hour or two to laugh at myself while eating half of a cake. And maybe, I should have used the shortening to prep my pan.


The Tale of Two Moms at the Airport

Two moms navigate an airport with their small children.

The first mom stands in line at Pot Belly, her shirt moves slightly as she raises her arm revealing a small sweat stain. She's sweating. The boy, around four, begins to walk away from her as she orders food. She calls after, "Son, remember the 10 foot rule." The boy doesn't slow, doesn't turn around, but instead picks up his pace, and only turns his head slightly with his eyebrows raised as he turns a corner to head out of her sight. She's holding a younger child in one of those contraptions you have attached to your body. The toddler looks happy, until the boy heads out of sight, then she begins to let out loud shrieks, "Brodder! Brodder!" She's smacking the mom's face and begins to pull her hair.

The frazzled mom, pauses, then hurries after the boy. "I said, STOP! Turn around now, our food is waiting and we need to pay." She mutters under her breath, "I'm hungry." The boy begins to run away. The airport is mostly desserted, so there are not people at any of the gates he is running towards. The woman seems to survey for open doors and stays where she is before moving briskly towards him. "Stop now! Or you will your favorite airplane." The boy comes back, hands her the plane and runs away again. "Stop now. We need to stick together or we are not getting on this plane. I'll cancel our trip. I'm serious. This is my serious voice." The little boy smiles. The toddler attached to the mom bellows, "Out, please! Now!!!!"

The mom tries to convince the boy to come with her. He's running, the toddler is getting louder and louder. The mom can't seem to calm or control anyone. Her voice is louder, but it's not effective. People around her wonder if she ever has control of the situation. An older woman quips, "They let anyone be parents these days." Construction workers in the area roll their eyes. And two young business women survey her "mom jeans" and mismatched socks as she reaches for her phone. "That's it, I'm calling American Airlines and canceling the trip. If we cannot be a team at the airport there is no one I am going to be trapped on a plane..." The little boy comes back, smiling, looking like Ashton Kutcher as he used to run out on Punk'd to tell people everything was just a joke. "Okay, okay, Mom. I'm here." He stands by her side and she breathes out. She had no idea what she was going to do if she made it all the way to calling the airline. She tries not to make eye contact with the other airport patrons who are watching her children and her like there are some sort of exhibit at the National Zoo.

The other mom breezes through security with her two young children. She's wearing the young girl attached to her and kisses the toddler's head as they wait patiently for TSA to swab the mom's hands. She smiles, holds out her hands and the agent asks, "How did you know we'd test your hands?" She quickly responds, "You always test moms wearing babies." The agents laugh. The young boy walks a few feet away. "Excuse me, sir, remember our team sticks together. What's the rule?" The little boy smiles and runs back to his mom. "At the zoo, it's never get out of mommy's sight. Is the airport the same?" The agents comment on how great the kids are and how together the mom is and send her on her way.

The kids are singing an alphabet song and laughing. As they walk together, the mom and kids are making the sounds of each letter. The mom suggests a game. "Let's play number scavenger hunt at the airport!" The little girl in the Ergo yells, "Yeah!" as her brother beams, "What numbers?"

The mom cheerily calls out, "C14!" The little girl asks to get down. "Out, please!" The mom lets her down and the two children hold hands and run together to C14. The mom happily follows. "Great, now, how about C6?" The little girl asks to get in the stroller and her brother pushes her. The game lasts a while then the small family heads to the bathroom. There the mom begins asking what each child's favorite letter is as she changes the toddler's diaper with ease, and the three of them sing out words beginning with each child's favorite letter. "D is for daddy and dandelion and daisy and doggie!" Each of them smiles, two older women come out of the bathroom, watch, remembering raising their own young children and compliment the mom on her parenting and the children on their exceptional behavior for small children. They went as far as to suggest she get the nobel peace prize for parenting.

Each of these moms is me. All of those children are mine. At any given moment, you may meet any combination of us. Being a mom is amazing and messy. Often, simultaneously.


You Can't Have My Children

For weeks, I've been up all night. Partially because sweet Maya Eve, bless her adorable daytime personality, has a less than friendly night version of her daytime self. The other reason is I cannot get Trayvon Martin's murder out of my head. I rotate from Maya's room to Noah's watching them, praying, brainstorming, writing letters and words and saying things perfectly to make people understand that they cannot have my children.

My children are beautiful. I know I am not supposed to say that, but they are gorgeous little children. There is not a day that goes by without each of them receiving many compliments on their looks. But more importantly, they are so full of life and love. They radiate love and beauty in a way that I imagined was only possible in Hallmark cards. Or as the people I argued the value of hallmark poetry with in college would say, "Thoreau, Dickinson, Angelou, Yeats and so on." They radiate light, and as I told Noah the other day after the kids received an uncomfortable amount of attention for their looks, "You are quite beautiful, but you know where you're the most beautiful?" He paused, then smiled his hand skimming his chest, "My heart, Mommy?" I nodded, "No one can ever touch that. Keep it safe."

I want you to know you can't have my children. I will not be a mother that will lose her children to your racism. When I fell in love with Ash, I remember countless people saying, "I'm not against interracial relationships because you choose that for yourself, but what about your children?" I remember each and every person that said that to me. Our children have two parents that love them 100% no matter what, no matter who they become, with everything we have. I know our family has to have a stronger foundation than other families. I know the conversations we have about educating our children are different than most other households. We worry that if our children aren't the top 1% of their classes, they will get lost in the system. I know my life is different, I know we are different, and I don't need anyone to verify that like our lives are a twitter account.

I want you to know that it isn't okay to decide my child is wrong on the playground because he isn't white and two kids are having a disagreement. It isn't okay to stare at us. It isn't okay to ask if my children are mine. That hurts them. They love their family very much, and I see my eyes and smile on each of them. If you don't, that's a problem *you* have not genetics. It's not okay for you to ever under any circumstance to voice any sort of racial prejudice or thoughts you have to my children. Or me. Do not pull them over for being black or accuse them of stealing. Don't expel them if they get in a fight at school if a white child wouldn't be expelled. Don't stop and frisk them. Don't lock your car door as they walk by. Don't shoot them. Don't hurt them. Don't devalue them. Don't tell them they aren't beautiful. Don't hurt them. Don't hurt them. Don't hurt them. Do not hurt them. Inside or out. I'm begging you.

You can't have my children when they are walking home.

You can't have my children because someone somewhere did something bad.

You can't have my children because their presence makes you uncomfortable.

You can't have my children because you are scared.

You can't have my children.

You cannot have my children because you have to come through me first, and remember, I chose this life so I'm ready for you.


The Monkey in a Banana Car

Noah's going to turn four later this month.  I cannot even believe that four amazing years with our awesome little guy have passed.  I remember the morning I willed him to come and how my water broke a few hours later.  I remember dreaming about how amazing he'd be and realizing that he was so much more than any dream I ever could have had.  The last four years have brought me more laughter and joy than I could ever have imagined.  There are times that I expect too much or I give too little or I give more than I have and so on.  I'm human.  As a mother, I try every day to love my kids with everything I have.  Some days, I rock it so much I know people are watching me walk down the street thinking, "Man, that mom has it together.  Her kids will surely be President. One in 2048, one in 2056."  (Two terms each).  And sometimes, I'm sure, folks look at me in Target making an empty threat not to let the kids have some sort of ridiculous luxury like robot shaped ice cream sundaes made out of clouds and rainbows and they probably think, "Man, that mom sucks, her kids will end up in prison."  

One of the things I enjoy most about the time I've spent over the last four years is the amount of baking I've done.  Can I say that?  I know I'm supposed to focus on the lobbying, advocacy, board and commission I sit on, the adventures we've taken and so on.  And believe me, the feeling I had standing hugging Maya in the ergo as the Supreme Court voted 5-4 against the defense of marriage act was surreal.  I will cherish it forever.  But on the day-to-day, there is so much more baking that happens than I have time for fighting for human rights, and doing all those other awesome things I get to do with my kids.  We bake a lot.  Noah measures, Maya gets into the cabinets, we laugh, we mess up, we make amazingly delicious better than a bakery cookies and cakes and we do it together.  We've made lemon curd cakes that have failed and giggled as we licked the streaming curd off of the table.  We start out with Smitten Kitchen or Martha Stewart or my mom's recipe and we end up with our unique creations.  We're not so into presentation.  We're really into taste.  We laugh.  We learn.  We're patient, we're excited, but most of all, we're happy.  

Because Noah's birthday is coming up, we've planned a party here for his friends and him.  For a long time at bedtime, Noah and I would tell each other the story of "Noah the shark." It started when Noah was in the phase all kids go through where he'd ask for another book and another book and bedtime never came naturally.  One day, I read him four books then I turned the light out and told him a story about a shark named Noah who traveled throught the ocean meeting all kinds of friends as he passed them by. There were jelly fish, turtles, krill and many many more.  He saw coral reefs and lost ships and the possibilities were endless. Noah took over the stories and it became something we both really looked forward to. 

When he asked me to make a birthday cake with a shark in the ocean but the shark would be coming out of the ocean because he was surprised to be there, I began to search the internet for the perfect recipe and step-by-step instructions.  Martha suggested construction paper shark fins.  I mean, really, Martha Stewart?  That's all you got?  Anyway, I stopped and remembered back to Maya's first birthday this past fall.  I was up until 4:30 am making her cake.  It took eight hours.  Not all decorating.  The frosting was lemon curd which meant I had to make the lemon curd, let it sit then mix it with homemade buttercream frosting.  There were three layers to the cake, and for some reason, there were about 4 steps that required the cake to sit for an hour at a time in the fridge.  The cake was adorable and her party was a success, but I decided I'd wait to do a complicated cake like that at least until I'd done more decorating, more fondant and more living, I guess.


After my revelation, Noah and I decided together to head to a local bakery and to hire them to make his cake.  While he was explaining the design the woman at the bakery asked what he wanted inside.  She meant buttercream, fudge, strawberries or another filling.  Noah beamed.  "I want butterflies and eggs inside and happy things."  His adorable explaination of the shark to the people at the bakery had them smiling from ear-to-ear.  And soon, I realized he wanted the story we tell each other to come to life.  We headed home and over the next few days I listened to him explain the butterflies and how they would fly up to the shark.  I knew I had to make at least a few cupcakes with butterflies on them to surround the shark peeking out of the ocean.  And I knew we'd need a few more sharks to swim around the water.  Of course, Noah the shark has shark friends.  It was settled, I'd need shark cupcakes and butterfly cupcakes.  Wilton makes kits for each of those.  Done and done.  Then, an important character emerged.  A bad penguin.  Of course, the bad penguin would stand between the butterlies and the shark but the butterflies can fly so they would make it to the their shark friend.  I decided to figure out how to make penguin cupcakes.  After looking at google images, I made an attempt today to make penguin cupcakes.  Noah loved them.

Noah and I put the penguins in the freezer so we can try them with Ash when he gets back in town.  I felt amazing.  I have a small list of things to do before Noah's party.  It feels manageable especially since Ash will be out of of town and landing about an hour before Noah's party.  As we were walking out of the kitchen, I was literally thinking, "Eat your heart out Martha Stewart.  I've got this." When I heard Noah mumble, "I can't wait to see what you come up with for the monkey in a banana car, Mom."