Sitting quietly on the floor

Henry loves his daycare, but lately we’ve struggled with getting him there in the morning because he wants to stay home with us instead.

This morning I called his bluff and said fine, he didn’t have to go, but we had to get to work. For a good 20 minutes he sat on the floor in our office naked while we replied to emails. He just sat there because I sternly told him he couldn’t play or talk or do anything fun if he was going to stay home, and the couple of times he said “I’m going to help you work,” and got out a piece of paper and a marker or something, I told him no, he had to just sit there and do nothing if he was staying home. And he was butt naked because he refused to get dressed for school.

He was fully prepared to just sit there quietly all day. Poor kid.

Finally, hearts breaking for this naked kid just sitting there silently, we told him we needed to go to meetings so he had to go to school. Several cuddles and lots of tears and protests later, he’s on his way.

I’ve said it a million times, but the working mother’s dilemma is such a hard one. I miss him all day too and wish we could just play and cuddle all the time.

But we’ve got obligations. Clients to take care of, bills to pay.

So many times I see posts on Facebook that say things like, forget your sleep training, or forget your time outs — go to your kid when he’s crying and just be with him. That he’s little and he won’t always need you. To enjoy the moments and take every cuddle you can.

I try that; to remember that he’s only little once, and that if he needs me, he needs me. When he asks for a cuddle, I never say no. There’s plenty of time to learn independence, and I do believe he’ll be better at independence if he’s confident and knows how loved he is.

But there has to be a line… I just don’t know where it is.

And I don’t know if things are amped up because of the baby coming. I want to give him all the individual attention I can, before things change forever. This morning I don’t actually have any meetings until 11:30. I can stay up late to bang out work if I need to, though my brain doesn’t work as well at night.

Things ended well today. Cory said drop-off was easy. He was all smiles. But thinking of him just sitting on our office floor doing nothing because he wants to be with us that badly — I’m just having a heartbroken kind of morning.

Starchild and the mashed potatoes

Today was Henry’s first day with a new teacher in charge of his classroom. His former teacher Marissa moved to California. He knew his new teacher very well, but it was still a change. I don’t know if that affected him at all or if it’s because he’s got a little cold, but he came home a little low on energy.

Cory made soup while Henry watched Daniel Tiger, his favorite show. Henry wanted a snack. He came and grabbed cookies out of the snack drawer, which we grabbed back. He cried on the floor. So Cory had Henry help make the dumplings for the soup.

Henry's favorite show.
Henry’s favorite show.

During dinner, he dumped his water in his soup bowl. I took his drink away. He said he was thirsty. I gave it back. He wanted it in a sippy cup. We made a deal that if he ate four pieces of tempeh, we’d get him a sippy cup. He shoved so much tempeh in his mouth that he gagged. This is a thing he does often. “Because it’s funny.” We said if he puked it up, no sippy cup. He ate it.

After dinner we made a blanket fort. We didn’t really want to, but after mild protesting we gave in. We made it with just two blankets. He had a fit because we didn’t use all the blankets. So we gave in and got all the blankets down from the upstairs closet and made a fort with all of the blankets.

Bath time. Bed time. Read him three Berenstain Bear books. Time for sleep. I was tired so I laid down with him for a while.

“I’m hungry.”

“You should have eaten more dinner.”

“I’m very hungry.”

“Well, you remember that tomorrow at dinner time and eat more so you don’t go to bed hungry.”

“I’m very hungry.”

“Too bad.”

“I’m very hungry!”

Mashed potatoes in bed. Because we are suckers.
Mashed potatoes in bed. Because we are suckers.

And so on for several minutes until Cory goes and gets some leftover mashed potatoes. Here’s the story with the leftover mashed potatoes: Last night I was craving mashed taters like crazy. I’m 30 weeks pregnant now and worried I haven’t been eating well. So while I could have had a bowl of cereal and called it a night, I didn’t. I had my 4 p.m. bowl of cereal, Cory peeled potatoes and put them in a pot of water on the stovetop to cook later, and we took Henry out to chase his Uncle Andrew’s hot air balloon.

As we’re buckling him into the seat, he says to his grandmother DeeDee, “I’m going ballooning.” She says, “You’re going to chase?” He says, “I’m going up in the balloon with Uncle Doo.” We have to explain that it’ll be a while before that happens, because he has to be big enough to see over the basket. But he can touch the balloon, and watch it go up, and help pack it up when they land. He says, “Okay.” He has tic-tacs in his pocket for Uncle Doo.

Balloons in Washington County
Balloons in Washington County

We couldn’t get to where they were taking off, because a bridge was closed and by the time we took the detour they’d have already inflated. So we waited around and watched some other balloons go up. We chased Uncle Doo all over and finally they land in a field that’s only accessible by a dirt road full of ruts that we can’t get through. We can’t even watch them pack up from afar, because trees are in the way. We are about to go home and Henry cries like we’re murdering somebody he loves. So we sit Henry on the top of the car and he eats pasta salad and quinoa for dinner while we wait. Half an hour. On the side of the road. Finally, Uncle Doo comes and Henry delivers his tic-tacs and we go home. It’s like 7:30. Henry’s usual bath time is 7. We skip it, turn on the potatoes and put him to bed. Brush teeth, read stories, sing songs. They’re ready just as it’s time for us to leave the room. We make the mistake of telling him we’re making mashed potatoes and he wants some. Mashed potato picnic in Henry’s room. Brush teeth again. Bedtime. There’s one scoop left and he asks us to save it.

So then here we are tonight, and Henry’s eating that leftover scoop in bed. I want it so bad. He’s trying to eat it laying down. I tell him he has to sit up if he’s going to eat mashed potatoes in bed.

“But I’m very tired.”

I tell him I’m going to eat them if he doesn’t sit up.

“You leave. You’re mean.”

So I do leave. Cory ends up putting the mashed potatoes on Henry’s nightstand at Henry’s request because he’s too tired to eat them but doesn’t want us to take them away. Cory stays in his room for one minute, which is their little routine, and then leaves to get in the shower.

I hear Henry on the monitor crying for Daddy. I go in. He orders me to sit in the rocking chair for one minute. I time out one minute and go to leave. He tells me I can’t.

I’m torn. I’ve been bossed around by this kid for three years, and it’s getting worse and worse. The more I give in, the more he’ll do it. It’s not good for him.

I think about my friends Erin and Colin and their son Odin who died. About how fast life goes, and that he won’t always want us around. About all the things that could go wrong in our lives. How lucky we are to have these moments.

I lay down in bed with him and ask him what’s the matter. He says he can’t fall asleep. He guesses he isn’t going to sleep tonight. I ask if he’s having a hard time. “Yeah, I’m having hard time.” I suggest lavender oil, which he turns down. I suggest deep breathing, which he refuses to do. I suggest wiggling his toes and feeling the sleep come up through his toes to the rest of his body, which he also refuses to do. I suggest “imagining” (guided visualization). Nope. Cory gets out of the shower and comes in.

“Daddy, I’m having hard time.”

Our cartop picnic
Our cartop picnic

We tell him we’re going to leave. He asks us to stay. We stay.We tell him just one minute, then we’re leaving. That we’ll turn off the disco ball lights if we have to come back in afterward. Me in bed, Cory in the rocking chair. I pet his hair like I did when he was little. I try running my fingertips over his face, a trick I saw on YouTube to put a baby to sleep. Henry sleepily smiles and holds my hand, doing it over and over. I make the decision not to leave after one minute, because I see that he is getting closer to sleep and I think it’ll wake him up more if I go.

I close my eyes and slow my breathing, a trick I used to do with him when he was a baby and I wanted him to go to sleep. I’d basically have to go to sleep myself, and his body would follow my lead. Quiet my mind, relax my muscles. I feel Henry’s little hands touching my hair, my face. He’s doing fingertips back to me.

He slips his arm around my neck, pulling me closer so I’m resting my head on his chest. He pats my arm a few times like he’s the adult trying to get me to sleep. And then in the very next moment, I feel him do the sleep twitches that mean he’s asleep. I make a motion to Cory that he’s out. And I lift my head a few minutes later to look at him and just start sobbing.

He’s so perfect. I love him so much. What’s the worst thing that could happen, a child falling asleep feeling loved? Those few pats before he lost consciousness. I can’t even.

Henry's new favorite book.
Henry’s new favorite book.

Cory came and laid in bed with us and I just looked at sleeping Henry and cried. He’s just so perfect. In that moment, I felt like teaching him things, while important, is so secondary to just loving him and making sure he knows he is loved. I know, intellectually, that every time I give in I’m reinforcing manipulative behavior. That he’s testing his boundaries, and that there need to be boundaries. That his sense of entitlement, taking everything for granted, will worsen if I don’t firm up. That he’s not going to starve to death by going to bed hungry one night.

I want to be the type of parent whose children respect them, whose children are not spoiled brats, whose children don’t just ask for more and more and more and are never happy with what they have. I want my children to feel gratitude, to count their blessings. Ironically, it’s the Berenstain Bears book about counting your blessings that we’ve had to read to Henry ten times in the last three days.

But really, knowing that Henry just needed us there with him, snuggled up tight, giving him all the love he could want and more — that he was having a “hard time” and my cuddle is what got him to sleep — the loving touches he gave me — that’s the whole point of being a mom, I think.

My heart exploded into a million tiny fluttering butterflies. Like I was seeing him for the first time and loving him for the first time. It’s been a long while that I’ve just been getting through the days, picking my battles, making sure he’s taken care of but trying to get work done and take care of everything else at the same time.

And tonight I was just clubbed over the head with a big smack of love beams. It was beautiful.

This smile is everything.
This smile is everything.

Why full-time motherhood's not for me

I had some feedback on my superwoman post that hinted about Henry’s days being too much for a two-year-old. So today, a “Mommy-Henry” Sunday (Cory’s working 12-hour day shifts this weekend), we just stayed in and hung out.

It reminded me of why I like to get out and about with him. Staying in should feel refreshing; a chance to spend some lazy time together and catch up on what needs to be done at home. As it turns out, I really don’t like doing what needs to be done at home. I’d rather be working.

I mopped the floors. I’m ashamed to admit this, but it’s a super rare thing that our floors ever get mopped. Cory’s obsessive with the vacuum and we take our shoes off when we come inside so it seems all right, but it has definitely been a long, long while since the last mopping in the Austin-Avon household.

Well, that was an ordeal. In my head, it would go a lot like the scene from the Pippi Longstocking movie where everyone’s having a blast.

I gave Henry a spray bottle with water and vinegar and told him he could spray the floors as much as he wanted. Of course, he sprayed the carpeted stairs, the wall, and just about everything but the floor and quickly lost interest. The floors were mopped anyway, not that they look any better for it, and we moved on.

I made fudge for a friend, which seemed like a good idea until I was stuck at the oven stirring for the better part of an hour and the only thing that seemed to hold Henry’s interest was playing in the sink.

I told myself that all the water we save by being vegans (On average, a vegan, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet. — National Geographic) is at least somewhat offsetting all the water that is wasted when Henry demands some sink play time.

It was difficult not knowing what demanded more immediate action, stirring the fudge so it didn’t boil over and coat the entire stovetop in a sticky mess, or Henry dumping water everywhere and being precariously balanced on a chair to do so. I wish I had extra hands.

The hilarious quips that should be the stuff of family legends for years to come just spout from him so quickly that I can’t write everything down, much less remember it to write down. We visited BobbyDeeDee a couple of times throughout the day and Mimi and Poppy came to say hello on their way to Florida.

He fell asleep in my arms at nap time, and I held him for a good twenty minutes just taking it all in, remembering that time is fleeting, and we are never promised any kind of tomorrow that will be exactly like today. I kissed his cheek over and over. He’s still so baby soft. (I also licked my thumb to scrub off some gunk on his face and flicked boogers out of his nose. It’s hard to fawn over your baby when they have a booger staring you square in the face.)

I found myself constantly wandering back in time, missing my little baby. Kissing his soft hair; the softest, sleekest dark stuff he had when he was born, before the light hair he has now grew in. The way he would rest his head against my chest and I could hold his whole body in my arms. But then I try to shake it off.

Because I’m not so far in that I shouldn’t be in the moment — toddlerhood is going to be fleeting too, just as his short time as a baby was. So I tried to take a mental snapshot of his tousled hair, his baby teeth, the way he murmured “Song,” a command to sing him to sleep, right before he drifted off. I had just read him “The Giving Tree.” He likes when I have a happy kind of cry.

Already he’s saying his words more precisely. He can say “Jingle Bells” instead of “Dingle Bells,” “Oh what fun” instead of “Oh what bun,” and has started to say I instead of Henry, as in “I’m stuck!” instead of “Henry stuck” and even “That’s MINE.” But still, there’s the way he says sea anenanenome, and omanent. Every time I teach him proper pronunciation, I mourn the loss of his adorable Henryspeak.

Back to my original topic, though. I came downstairs to a living room full of blocks on the floor, lunch not yet cleaned up, remembering that there’s laundry in the dryer and so much to do that hasn’t been done. The immediate tasks are tedious, but it’s the other stuff that overwhelms me.

Mopping the floor this morning opened a can of worms. Suddenly I notice the pictures I haven’t framed, the broken glass in the other picture frame, the desk I need to get rid of that’s been in our living room for months now, and I think about the fans that should be dusted and the fridge that should be cleaned out and my stuff all over my dresser that needs a home and how my closet’s full of clothes just thrown around and I just want to quit.

The other day I felt a sore spot brushing my teeth and when I shone my iPhone’s flashlight in my mouth I was horrified. My teeth look like the sink that hasn’t been scrubbed in a long time. I brush and floss, but these things are just getting old and worn out. Whenever I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror and look for longer than it takes to swipe on eyeliner or squeeze something, I have the same impression of myself. I’m so far from being new and it’s so hard to fix what’s wrong.

I have romantic thoughts about an au pair or personal assistant who will just take care of all the things that aren’t being taken care of. Repot the plants, vacuum the insides of closets, go and cash that old savings bond I’ve been carrying around and do something with it. Form an LLC for Advokate, figure out how to do the woman-owned-business certification, figure out why my checking account never balances and give my desk a good wipe down. Do something about my bushy eyebrows, exercise, drink more water, get more sleep. But it’s really me that needs to do all that.

It’s just overwhelming. Right in the middle of picking up blocks, I came and wrote this instead of doing it. I’m just not cut out for housewifery. I’d rather be chipping away at a tangible task list that I know is going to pay off instead of trying to weigh out what’s important on the homefront.

It really comes down to this: I’m so much better at triage with urgent things than with non-urgent things. The non-urgent things freak me out because there are way too many of them. I don’t actually even know what to do with down time.

Now, when I finish writing this, I know that I need to fold laundry, pick up blocks and do the dishes from lunch. Urgent things. Then… do I wash the sheets, mop the kitchen floor, take a shower (with Henry all day it’s not easy to find a minute), clean the upstairs bathroom, deal with the pile of mail on the kitchen counter, go through my closet and straighten things up and get rid of stuff, make dinner, make future dinners to put in the freezer, brush the cats, tidy my dresser, go through my 15-year-old makeup in the drawer, find the plant food and give the plants a pick-me-up?

I could refill the pellet stove, or see about a more thorough shoveling or salting of the walkway, or dust some surfaces. I should look up what to do about lint in your dryer, we’ve been cleaning the screen but I think we need some kind of a bottlebrush thing to clean it out better so it doesn’t catch fire. And I think I have gift certificates I should use but I can’t remember what they are. I could call a friend to see what they’re doing, but Cory will be home at 7 and probably just want to eat dinner and get Henry to bed so there’s not really time. I could paint my toenails, or do something with the eight inches of hair I cut off in August that’s just been in our bedroom lurking around, or figure out what I’m doing with that Adirondack chair I said I’d paint, or figure out what to do for the Small Works show or for the show I have in July. I could draw, I haven’t drawn anything in a long time. But I really should clean up the desktop on the computer and figure out why it’s running slow.

The possibilities are endless. And this tiny bit of down time has me incredibly overwhelmed just thinking about all the things that I’ve never done that I should have done and that are probably too far gone now, or just the sheer number of things there are to get to when I have down time. There’s no way to do it all.

Maybe I’ll just go see if Henry’s up yet. Or I’ll get a little work done, maybe.

My SuperWoman Day (a not-so-humblebrag)

So there are definitely days where I feel like I’m failing at everything because I’m trying to do too much. But there are other days where I’m all “I got this” and while it’s far from easy, I’m really freaking proud of all that I’m juggling. This is going to be one of those snapshots of my days and of course it’s because it’s a killer wham-bam kind of a day. I don’t tend to snapshot the stupid days where everything goes wrong.

So. Early 2015 has been INSANE for business. Everyone is following through on their New Year’s Resolutions at the same time, and I’m right at the verge of having to turn away new business because my cup is brimming with work. I’m NOT complaining. (And I’m not turning people away. Yet.)

Henry on his first day at Early Learners
Henry on his first day at Early Learners

A few months ago when I left the Shirt Factory job I had this really foreign feeling of actually being able to get to the stuff on my to-do list that wasn’t urgent. As in, for a really long time it only got done if it was pressing. I had a refreshing couple of months in November and December and opened a boutique. And now, BAM! It’s back to where I’m spinning plates — Now this one! Now this one! Like waiting tables. Rushing from one thing to the next, but I think I’m okay. I’m handling it, and I’ve hired some help.

So we enrolled Henry in the Early Learners program at the YMCA — pre-preschool. We also have him going to It’s A Kidz World three days a week, and we also signed him up for swim class.

This morning it was my first time solo with him for this wild routine. I woke up with him, fed him breakfast, and armed with three bags (swim stuff, backpack with extra clothes and snack for Early Learners, my work clothes) we made it to the Y for Early Learners. I dropped him off and worked out to my sister’s “Disaster Mix” — Britney Spears, punk rock, 80’s dance hits. It felt great. I picked him up at 10:45 and we changed into swim gear for 11 a.m. swim class — with a LOT of crying because he is TERRIFIED of noisy potties, and there’s one with an automatic flush in the family change room.

We do swim class and somehow I manage to get us both showered and into clothes. It’s not a quick process. We drive to Kidz World and he sits down for his lunch while all the kids are sleeping and proceeds to fall asleep while eating, I’m told.

Oh yeah, and I made a homeopathic herbal decoction of elderberry last night while I was working from home after Henry went to bed. No big deal or anything.
Oh yeah, and I made a homeopathic herbal decoction of elderberry last night while I was working from home after Henry went to bed. No big deal or anything. Also, I went to yoga class yesterday and worked my butt off doing ten zillion things and then took my kid to the library’s play group. NO BIG DEAL OR ANYTHING, I SAID.

I head to work and get there about 12:30, scarf a frozen Veggie Loaf TV dinner, meet with the President of the Glens Falls Collaborative and get paid for a big project with them, reply to emails, get two projects done for clients, bang out a couple of pages on a major website I’m building, meet with a prospective client and have an Amity meeting with one of my regulars and then it’s time to go.

Cory’s picked Henry up and has dinner on the table. He cleans up Henry and dinner while I email the director of an arts organization back about this super duper major grant project with the City. The Mayor is apparently going to announce our project tonight and the media’s been alerted, and I need to send her an image. So I’m doing that while dinner’s being cleaned up (Thanks, honey!) and then Cory has to leave for work. But not before he makes a joke about how my iPhone is like a Bat signal — THE MAYOR IS CONTACTING US! WE NEED ADVOKATE!

Then Henry’s got to go to the bathroom. And there I am, wiping my toddler’s butt with one hand and texting the media my statements which might be put in print with the other hand. And that sums it up right there, really. Also, then he said he needed a Band-Aid on his butt. I had to hold him up in the mirror so he could see it. All in the middle of talking about this project.

Thank Jesus for texting. That wouldn’t work via phone. Can you imagine it? “So yeah, there’s a match and the grant is due in two days. Bend over, honey! And there are 13 organizations partnering on it. No, I’m not done yet – That’s a lot of poop! And we’re getting in-kind donations from the City. DON’T TOUCH IT! STOP TOUCHING IT!!!”

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. Practice for my a cappella band The Skirts is canceled, so instead, Henry and I then go to the inaugural meeting of the Glens Falls Chapter of Holistic Moms at the library.

I felt so dumb not bringing something to keep Henry entertained. We sat on the floor with some coloring books but instead of chatting with the other moms, I mostly chased Henry around shushing him while people were talking. I felt at home with my mason jar of cereal for snacks, and Henry was even wearing a tie-dye shirt. I think we fit in okay, except for where it seemed like a number of the moms were working part-time or were full time moms so they could home school. It made me think that maybe I actually am trying to do too much. How possible is it to be this career-oriented and ALSO be really family-oriented? More likely, how sustainable is it? I really want both.

Anyway, we left early because Henry was being a rascal and I couldn’t blame him because he was clearly bored. I will probably join the group, but I did feel a little out of place as a vegan amidst farmers. I think we all have the same basic values, though, about living naturally and researching all of our choices to make the best decisions for our families.

We came home for bath and bedtime, and Henry’s still nursing. I’ve been feeling more and more like our days are numbered with that, but hanging with those other moms tonight made me feel more like I ought to just keep going with the flow and let Henry make the choice to quit when he’s ready.

And then after he fell asleep, I went downstairs and had a cup of coffee and proofed the grant for this major citywide project. And here I am writing about it.

Maybe I can’t balance the ultra-career-woman thing with the most-present-and-all-natural-mom-in-the-world thing forever, but today I did it LIKE A BOSS and I feel really proud of it.

Jackie, Thor and Henry on the steps at the library tonight.
Jackie, Thor and Henry on the steps at the library tonight.

I’ve definitely had people tell me that I can’t have it all. And some days it feels like a major relief to actually admit that I can’t be a perfect ethical vegan AND run my own wildly successful business AND take my kid to art shows AND make food from scratch AND run a boutique AND buy everything organic and local AND avoid chain restaurants AND not shop at Wal-mart AND work out AND do extended breastfeeding AND find time to relax AND do yoga AND do everything in the most ecofriendly and waste-free way possible AND be a total attachment-style parent AND keep everyone in the world’s feelings in mind AND make time for my husband AND keep the house clean AND… so on.

But today I feel like, while there were certainly moments of frustration, I pulled it all off. So there. I wrote it down for posterity. My one day that I did it all! Yes I CAN do it all! YES I CAN, YES I CAN, YES I CAN…

Now I’ve got to choose whether I fold the laundry or get more work done. Maybe I’ll do both! It’s my one day to be awesome at everything!

All is Well

We’ve been trying to conceive Baby Two since February.

I’ve been trying to get to a yoga class at Lemon Tree since I moved in to my Advokate office here at the Shirt Factory since August.

One of those things finally happened today. Spoiler: I’m not pregnant.

I wrestled myself away from the guilt that goes along with leaving Henry and Cory on one of Cory’s rare days off. It’s a work day, though, and it had to happen. And so I wrenched myself away from Henry playing with sand in the living room and went, with my workout clothes on. I bought them in January when I joined the YMCA for a hot minute.


Settling in, the instructor gently asked us all to allow ourselves to be there. To let go of the things on our to-do list. I sprung a couple of tears.

I thought about how crazy it is that I don’t allow myself to breathe or stretch or spend a moment on myself unless I pay for a class and have someone to lead me in it.

Some of it was hard, but mostly it felt good to move my body and stretch and breathe and relax.

During the brief meditation at the end, I stretched out and put an eye pillow on, breathing in. We went through relaxing our entire bodies and withdrawing our senses. I found myself swirling up into a cold winter night sky, up into the stars.

There was one that seemed like it was something I should follow. I asked it why it wouldn’t come to me.

A voice, like the Childlike Empress from the Neverending Story, said I wasn’t ready yet. I pushed, what do you mean I’m not ready? It said Advokate needs me now. I need to get it more settled so I can focus on my new baby when the time is right. That’s true. I hadn’t thought of it that way, though.

I said, but I can’t wait to meet you. The star said All is Well. I said, Henry needs you. The star said All is Well. Rainbow colors swirled through the galaxy and the star got further away. I said, when will I know it’s time? We’re all only getting older. All is Well. All is Well. All is Well.

And here I am at work. Now’s the time to focus here, so when it’s time for Baby Two to come to me, it’ll be set up right.

All is Well.

What Earth Angel and Maleficent have to do with one another

As kids, my little sister and I liked to dance to oldies tunes and Disney songs. We’d put on shows for my parents and give them tickets to our performances. I sometimes danced around by myself.

More so in the dancing-by-myself moments, I’d grab a pillow from the couch and slow dance with it, imagining dancing with a real live boy.

Maybe a real live boy who loved me, and would put his arms around me. And who might say he loved me. While we danced to “Earth Angel.” This likely was because I was a young girl, and perhaps had a little something to do with watching Back to the Future a zillion million times.

The "Earth Angel" scene from Back To The Future
The “Earth Angel” scene from Back To The Future

So what does this have to do with the Angelina Jolie version of Maleficent? Well, I’ll tell you.

If you’ve seen it, or if you’ve read any of the reviews, you know that the classic Disney villain starts out as a lovely fairy until a horrible scene where she’s drugged and her wings are cut from her. She awakens and has an awful scream when she realizes what has happened. I was prepared for that moment in the movie, probably too much so, actually thinking maybe I needed to look away — and in over-psyching myself up for it, that moment didn’t hit me as hard as it could have.

But it did hit me.

What struck me most was the power, grace, exhilaration and freedom she was capable of with those wings, and how defeated, crumpled and unremarkable she seemed without them.

I’ve seen reviews equating it to rape. Clearly there’s that implication; she was drugged by a lover, somebody she trusted; and she awakens to a new reality — one where he has taken something from her and she is changed forever. I wonder if the writers of Maleficent have ever read Andrea Gibson’s poem Blue Blanket.

She’s heard stories of Vietnam vets
Who can still feel this tingling of their amputated limbs
She’s wondering how many women
Are walking around this world
Feeling the tingling of their amputated wings
Remembering what it was to fly, to sing

I also felt like the experience of losing your wings could be paralleled to crippling depression. Some days you wake up and you go to wing around and do all the things you think you can do and then realize you can’t. You’re on the ground. It’s going to take so much longer than it’s supposed to. Why even. I hate everything.

Maleficent realizes her wings are gone
Maleficent realizes her wings are gone

The movie hit chords of all kinds. I’ve been with someone the morning they wake up and have that moment of their wings being gone. I’ve gone to the hospital with them and seen them on the ground walking, seen the wall of thorns go up.

I’ve had my hair cut off; lost my wings slowly over time to somebody I thought I trusted. Not to get all the way into it, but I’m fortunate to never have had an overnight awakening where the wings were gone. Instead, they were ripped off, little by little. I thought maybe I lost them myself, even. I did something to ruin them. I didn’t deserve them. Wasn’t capable of having them.

The wings do come back, though. For that person. For me.

I’m really glad the movie ended the way it did. They do come back. Phoenixes rise from ashes. Wings find their way back home when you need them the most.

I fell for you
And I knew
The vision of your loveliness.
I hope and pray
That someday
That I’ll be the vision of your happiness.

Still with me? Here’s where it comes back to Earth Angel. After the film, there’s a Lana Del Rey version of “Once Upon A Dream” that plays while the credits roll. Cory and I got off the couch and slow danced. The way we did to “Always” the first time we heard it.

I was transported back to slow dancing with a throw pillow. In addition to Earth Angel, Once Upon A Dream was also one of me and the pillow’s favorite dance numbers (My and the pillow? The pillow and I?).

Kate Austin-Avon
“Fae” by Kate Austin-Avon. Click to read my piece “On Soaring.”

11-year-old Kate zoomed forward through space and time, through painful loss of wings, long years on the ground and re-discovering flight, to being in a living room of her own with a real live boy (a husband!) with arms around her and a warm neck to kiss.  Much better than any upholstery. With our sweet boy asleep upstairs. I’m loved and I have my wings.

Happily ever after does exist.

(Hang in there.)

Perfect boy

imageHenry’s so good. It doesn’t make for funny stories so I don’t often write about how good he is in my Family Time column, but he’s really just so good.

Today after dinner as I was putzing in the kitchen, I heard him playing the slide whistle and beating on a drum. I peeked in on him and he was so cute, just sitting there with all of his musical instruments out. Then I heard silence, followed by light grunting. When I went in to see what he was doing, he had picked up all his toys and was lifting the bin to put it back on the shelf where it belongs.

Two years old and the kid has the put-it-away-when-you’re-done skills that most adults don’t have. I didn’t say anything, not wanting to interrupt a moment spouting unnecessary praise when he was doing just fine doing the right thing for his own personal reasons. I was beaming with pride, though.

The next time I checked on him, he was just sitting in a chair. Just sitting there. I guess that could be a little weird, but my guess would be that he was seeing what it was like to sit in that chair and whether he could get into it himself.

He pushes the limits like a two-year-old should, sure, and we tire of talking like his favorite puppet Charlie or playing hide-and-seek for the millionth time. And we certainly have our moments where he goes jellybones, everything’s covered in poop and peanut butter, the sink is running, dinner’s burning on the stove, he’s screaming and we snap.

But lately he says “Thank you, Mommy” when I hand him something. We had a family portrait session with PJN Photography today and they had me throwing leaves up into the air with him. When I’d hand him some leaves to throw, he’d say, “Thank you, Mommy.” My heart just melts. After dinner I gave him a carrot with some hummus I made and he said, “Thank you, Mommy.” We read three stories every night and I read him an extra book tonight. He said “Thank you, Mommy.” Swoon.

The kid is just so perfect. I guess I should have figured. He’s the offspring of Mr. Perfect himself.

Making dinner
Making dinner


This was written as a Family Time article for The Chronicle, but I decided to withdraw it before it was published. I’ll share it with you here, though.

* * *

I don’t really know what to say when my 18-month-old son Henry points to the scars on my wrists and looks at me with questions in his eyes. The first time, I didn’t say anything for a moment, then broke into singing “Baby Beluga.” The second time, I mumbled, “Yes, an old boo-boo,” and swiftly neck-nibbled him until he giggled; music to my ears.

To him, it’s just a question mark, like the glasses on my face, my bellybutton or the mole on my chest. Something to ask about in a matter-of-fact way. But I know that someday he’ll be older and he’ll figure it out.

I didn’t have a horrible childhood, just self-esteem issues, a philosophical mind and dramatic tendencies. My parents couldn’t have prevented those feelings, which is why I worry about Henry. A child’s self-worth is so delicate, and I hate that I can’t control external factors like bullies and the media.

I worry about scaring him. How do you talk about something you don’t want your child to ever experience? How do you make him feel safe, now that you’re here to stay and loving life?

Depression, to me, is like a Ouija board: The more you think about it, the more you run the risk of summoning demons. You keep your face turned toward the sunshine and if you don’t look, the darkness isn’t even there.

I don’t want to expose him to it if he doesn’t even know it exists. I don’t want to pique his curiosity. And I don’t want to overthink it myself and ever end up there again, either. I want to keep walking forward into light and love. I want Henry to trust me, and not worry.

In high school, it seemed contagious. I heard about a friend of a friend who cut herself. We had an intervention and told the school counselor. The next day, my friend was doing it too. I thought she’d gone crazy. But then I tried it, and it became a crutch I leaned on for a long time. It’s a teenage epidemic.

I worry about even mentioning it here. It’s not good, friends. You’re better than that and deserve to treat yourself with respect. There are more constructive ways to fight the shadows.

Speaking of which, I have relics around. Artwork, poetry, journals, and there’s plenty to find on the internet. I’ve been blogging since before blogging had a name, and my old life is kicking around dusty corners of the web. Henry will find my skeletons someday, if he’s curious. They aren’t well-hidden.

Then again, maybe he won’t be curious at all. Maybe moms aren’t that interesting. Maybe he’ll have the wisdom to acknowledge that it’s part of my past, and not that shocking or unique. Maybe my experience will steer him in the opposite direction. Kids don’t want to be like their parents, right?

For now, though, they’re just unremarkable marks on my arms, and it’s easy enough to divert his attention with raspberries on his belly and loud renditions of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

The tragedy bigger than anything

I wrote this on September 3 and emailed it to myself. I’m newly vegan, though I have slipped up here and there – I’m trying my best. This piece of writing has been sitting in my inbox for more than a week, just simmering. I guess I’m going to post it here so I can clean out my emails… Not quite sure how I feel about sharing it, but here we go.


Animal mommas love their babies. Source:

We are living in end times, my friends. And we did it to ourselves.

Whether or not you believe in God, you have to admit that it’s a crazy miracle that we’re here at all. That the elements bumped into each other in ways that created planets, and life on this planet, and all the species of plants and animals that live in perfect harmony. And us.

We don’t live in harmony. We destroy, conquer, eliminate. It’s all our fault.

Think about the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. That’s when we decided to take agriculture and farming into our own hands. We were just another animal until the agricultural revolution, when we figured out how to manipulate nature for our own purposes.

But it wasn’t right of us to do so. We live so incredibly comfortably now. Think about when our ancestors had to hunt and gather just to survive. And then think about when everyone gardened and had farm animals just to survive. And then think about now, with your iPhone and microwave.

Every animal is somebody’s baby. Source:

I like to say that the word God is not a descriptor of some bearded dude in the sky, but a word to describe nature, chance, the universe, the miracle that made us happen, the chaos and perfect math that is responsible for our existence on this planet. It is so improbable that life came to be. So so improbable. And here, in this moment in time, that miraculous crazy ridiculous improbability is true. And we are trashing it.

It’s a beautiful tragedy. It’s the saddest thing ever.

Sadder still is that we don’t even know we are doing it. We aren’t even aware of what we are doing!

We go to our jobs, pay our bills, check our email, drink our cares away. Who wants to hear about this shit? No-one. But we have a feeling underneath, a feeling that things aren’t right.

We are animals. We are animals just like any other animal. Who can really argue with that? We are the smartest animal and we caged up all the other animals so we could torture, kill and eat their dead bodies.

Are we the smartest animal, or are we the animal who’s a big fucking jerk ruining everything?

Think about the world without human beings on it. Everything lives in complete harmony. Sure, animals kill other animals, but not to the point of extinction. Animals kill what they need to survive and that’s all.


The trees and plants make air for the animals to breathe and the animals make carbon dioxide for the trees and plants to breathe. The ocean is self-cleaning. Left alone, nature is perfect. It’s perfect for all involved.

We are fucking it up and we’re going to kill ourselves.

We have fucked up lots of things, causing extinction of many species and cutting down rainforest like crazy. But the worst thing of all is this climate change. It’s going to get us, and I’m willing to bet it will happen within our lifetime.

The momentum is too strong. Just buying recycled toilet paper and driving your Prius to the Farmer’s Market isn’t going to cut it. There are too many people who are living the wrong way. It’s too late.

I’m just glad that I was able to experience love and motherhood before we all shit the bed.

Nothing like a baby laugh

There’s nothing like a baby laugh to melt away the day’s stress.

Today was one hell of a day. Just non-stop juggling at work. I got home at 7:30 and was still working via text and email, during dinner; hardly a minute to look the kid in the eye and say, “How was your day?”

Finally I put down my phone and nuzzled, bounced and nibbled the little guy, though. It was cathartic. He’s my therapy. He’s wonderful. Laughing, and laughing. Cory saying, “That’s no way to calm him down before bed!” We played the “I love you… So so much… I love you… So so much… So so much SO SO MUCH SOSOMUCHSOSOMUCHSOSOMUCH!!!” that always gets him going. Baby laughs to the rescue. The day dissolved with squeals of joy.

And then a little cuddle time. I curled him up in a ball in my arms, smelled his coconut oil after-bath smell, kissed him on his wispy blonde hair and said, “Oh, Henry. I just really love you.”

He stuck his fingers in my nose, put a fistful of my hair in his mouth, and said “Burgle bah.”

(Which I think means, “I love you back.”)