Manicure for the Middle Ground

When I lived in New York I used to get regular manicures so that I could be touched by another human being.  I was so lonely that my bi-monthly hand massage was the closest thing I had to a relationship.  She’d pull out the lotion and I’d get butterflies in my stomach.  A love story.  When 2006′s Notes of a Scandal came out, Barbara Covett described this feeling perfectly:

“People like Sheba think they know what it is to be lonely. But of the drip, drip of the long-haul, no-end-in-sight solitude, they know nothing. What it’s like to construct an entire weekend around a visit to the launderette. Or to be so chronically untouched that the accidental brush of a bus conductor’s hand sends a jolt of longing straight to your groin. Of this, Sheba and her like have no clue.” – IMDB

My god how times change.

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This could be the end of this post.  I could let those photos stand as testimony to a life now crowded and full.  But whereas my twenties were filled with one extreme, my forties are rife with the other.  I somehow catapulted right over any middle ground.

At the end of the day it is not a nice dinner out with my husband that I crave – my god the idea alone absolutely exhausts me – no, instead I want a bath in a sensory deprivation chamber.  I do not long to take a class or go out with the girls or join an evening photography group – actually I would love to do all those things, primarily something with my husband – while my kids are awake and in a loved one’s care.  But as things stand, come 8pm, I vant to be alone.

Now I am never alone and not in that the kids-are-always-with-me-when-I-pee-isn’t-parenthood-hilarious way, though true as well.  My kids are with me, or more appropriately, on me.  Someone has been on me all day and most of the nights for more than five years.  Stay-at-home-mothering, baby-wearing, bed-sharing, exclusively-breastfeeding, self-weaning, night-waking, attaching.  My in-laws visited last week and I ate breakfast on the playroom floor because that’s where I eat, that’s the only place I sit and have both hands free for a minute.  Awkward to say the least but my nephews are 19 months apart; I figured if anyone understood my family would.  Where ever I am my kids need to be so I make it work on their terms.  And there’s the rub isn’t it?  THEIR terms.  We run a baby-led household and then question why there’s so little me/we-time.

Baby no like middle ground.

If you’re like me, sore from the catapult and touched-the-&$%^!-out, let me salute you (and by you I mean your children of course) because I know you need it:  Your kids have never known an ear infection.  Your child is sensitive and empathetic.  Your toddler will potty train when he is ready.  Your baby has never known the pain of weaning because you are the only thing upon which she depends and you are not going anywhere.  You are their constant.  You are adored.  You are necessary.  Your whole life is your children.  Your whole body is your children’s.  Some tell me it won’t last forever; I can only tell you that when I stopped getting manicures I didn’t have to give up the butterflies.  Salvation is better when full.

Peace, patience and all praise to you from the playroom floor.

MMM: Wisconsin Dells

Mostly Madison Mondays – a howdoyoudo from my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin

While it’s true this tale and these pictures were taken at the Wisconsin Dells, this post is less


and more


We’ve lived in Madison two-and-a-half years and have never been to the Dells (an hour away) but with our nephews visiting last week it seemed the perfect outing.  We spent a day at Kalahari‘s Indoor Water Park and Theme Park and a good time was had by all.

We arrived about 30 minutes before Farrah Star’s nap so I splashed around with her for a bit and then spent the next two hours trying to get her to sleep – while inside a theme park.  I wore her and paced endlessly, I snuck in to a $200/day private cabana and tried to lay her down and then lie down with her.  Fail.  Then more pacing.  Nursing while sitting in a chair.  Pacing.  Eventually I did what I was trying to avoid – left my family and the park and drove around aimlessly.  She was asleep in five minutes.  Cruising around the Lake Delton area for the next hour minimum, I eventually did what I wanted to – parked alongside a water spot and looked for birds.

This little nook was a treasure trove of creatures, I would have loved to have been in a canoe in the middle of it, the life I would capture!  But stuck at the shore with only my 135mm lens, I settled into my role as observer rather than documentarian.  I did manage a capture here and there


but ultimately I just stood still and played witness.  Suddenly something made me look down, a direction a birder never seems to glance, and I was rewarded.


Perhaps not as sexy as a bird but I was pleased this beaver felt so comfortable so close to me.


Absolutely made my day.

Back home the next day and enjoying a walk in Owen Park, I remembered the lesson of looking down and came across what I assume was a fallen hawk.


So difficult to see a bird of prey dead on the ground in its own environs – any bird for that matter – but definitely a bird like this.  Arlo – “Maybe a man came with his gun and shot it dead!”  Guns.  He has reached that age.

More likely was that it was attacked by crows which Kris and I have seen time and time again and our family even got to witness that very day.


This behavior is called Mobbing, from Why Don’t Hawks Fight Back? by Whit Gibbons

“When a large hawk is simply in between meals, either sitting or flying, and has no special stake in a particular location, mobbing behavior by crows could be very effective. The hawk would presumably not find the annoyance worth the effort of staying around and would move on to another area to hunt.”

Perhaps this hawk should have fought back a bit, assuming this mobbing escalated into a murder – by a murder.  Bird humor!


I hope you’re looking all around you today, seeing what there is to see.  Here are a few (living) classics to wrap things up.  Happy Monday!

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The Best Things I Saw All Week

Yarn Bomb

Seen in the Hilldale Parking Garage.

Is it yarn-bombing if you do it to yourself?

Does this make my car look fat?



Goodwill, you never disappoint.

Hitler's Daughter

Really, never.


Are you sure? Even when you park like that?

I captured these images of Farrah Star when switching between still and video modes on my Canon 7D.  I have no idea how I got them but I have quickly become obsessed with the pair.

I captured these images of Farrah Star when switching between still and video modes on my Canon 7D. I have no idea how I got them but I have quickly become obsessed with the pair.

And finally, The Very Best Thing I Saw All Week:

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” 
― Steven Wright

Happy Weekend! 

MMM: Bird on a Fire

Mostly Madison Mondays – a howdoyoudo from my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin

Yesterday morning’s respite beckoned a return to Pheasant Branch Conservancy, the same park with The Owl Tree, only to the other side.  I don’t know if that’s even true – I just park the car and get out – but it feels like a different park entirely back behind Copp’s, The Prairie Cafe et al.  I’ve been here more times than to the owl side but yesterday it felt foreign.  Maybe it’s because I’m alone, but it’s probably because everything was recently burnt to the ground.

Bird on a Fire

There was a heavy rain last night so it was damp and chilly.  Coupled with the surrounding embers, the whole scene felt distinctively and bizarrely autumnal.

Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire

Slash-and-burn, is that what they call this process?  A fire so controlled it burns around piles of wood.

Bird on a Fire

I would very much like to see a fire being managed: “Burn this wood but not that wood.”  “And stop when I tell you to stop.” Who controls fire?  How can I get a ticket to that show?

Bird on a Fire

It was even politely escorted around the birdhouses.

Bird on a Fire

That’s the tease of this side of Pheasant Branch – you hear birds everywhere but all you see is open space and faraway flocks.

Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire

When you hear so much but see so little, your mind plays tricks.  At first glance I wondered why these birds were hanging upside down from their branch:

Bird on a Fire

Then I let myself believe I had stumbled upon a giant crane or heron …

Bird on a Fire

only to discover a trespasser’s long-forgotten shirt.

Bird on a Fire

My 300mm lens did little to stem the crazy, but I did manage to catch a common robin, no offense to the robin.

Bird on a Fire

As I traversed back up the trail towards the parking lot, I noticed several birds scampering about the blackened brambles, pecking here and there.  One bird caught my eye because he appeared as brown and as ashy as the ground and with my mind and vision akimbo, I thought it was a burnt robin, a soot-covered bird!  A Robin-Phoenix if you will.  BEHOLD THE ROBIN-PHOENIX!

Bird on a Fire Bird on a Fire

No.  My Audubon app told me to CTFD, what I was looking at was a male Brown-Headed Cowbird.  The female Brown-Headed Cowbird was busy committing ornithcide (my word):

“When a cowbird lays an egg, it usually tosses a host egg out of the nest. Many hosts don’t seem to notice the replacement, and when they do, if they try to toss out the cowbird’s huge egg with their relatively tiny bill, they sometimes scratch or pierce their own eggs. Also, as Irby Lovette notes in “Extortion Rackets and Egg-Farming by Cowbirds” (Spring 2008 BirdScope Online), when a host bird does remove a cowbird egg, the cowbird may return to destroy the remaining eggs.

Each time a songbird returns to its nest, it feeds the baby with the widest gape, which normally is the hungriest baby. If the cowbird is larger than the other nestlings, it gets the lion’s share. Some host birds may successfully raise both a cowbird and one or two of their own, but in some species, the cowbird is almost always the only survivor.” – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It take a village, my friends.  It takes a village.

Cowbird. Cow. Bird.

Until next time, I bid you a fond farewell from Pheasant Branch and to my sanity.  Ka-kaaaaaw!

The Saddest Thing I Saw All Week

Sick Sick

Look at that poor boy.  My sweet baby.  Totes legit sick (unlike that nonsense Sick Day from before) since Wednesday night.  He’s home from school and even though Monday starts Spring Break, I’m not losing my mind about it.  Here, let me clear a space for that trophy.

Meanwhile, Farrah Star has no idea what’s going on, bless her heart.


Health and wellness to you, Dear Readers.  Happy Friday.




Holding Back the Years

And so it begins . . .

Despite being gifted three barrettes upon Farrah Star’s birth, it never occurred to me to use them.
- despite constantly smoothing and sweeping her hair across her forehead and out of her eyes
- despite thinking about cutting her hair everyday

The kids were in our friends’ minivan this weekend and Seth, father of Nida and Nola, found a clip on the floor and swooooped it right into Farrah’s hair and just like that –  the wonderful world of accessories entered her life.  I bought a dozen more from Target this very  morning.

I have no desire to dress up my children – whatever that means.  While still babes-in-arms they are streamlined for efficiency – mine.  Dresses get too bulky in carriers and have to be yanked and pulled around buckles in car seats. Wide-legged pants (and dresses) are dangerous when inching up the stairs.  She can’t climb up the slide in tights.  While I like to think I make unique and charming choices on print and fabric, the rest is all about freedom of moment.  I’ve also never seen a baby keep a barrette in her/his hair, a hat, a scarf, a headband – never  - so I just figured I hold on to those three barrettes until Farrah decided she wanted to wear them.  As much I dress my kids for efficiency, I am also very leery of pushing my style choices on their bodies.  You never have to wear anything you don’t want to in my house (weather permitting).

When Seth clipped in that barrette I held my breath and waited for the tug and subsequent frustrated ripping out.  It never happened.  It still hasn’t happened and she’s worn a barrette every day since.  No more forehead-sweeping, no more strand-smoothing; turns out streamlined can be as precious as a jewel-toned button.


Thanks Steph!

Being Bald: Makeup

I’ve been bald for almost a month now and I must say it’s a non-issue.  It helps that I had short hair going in to St. Baldrick’s but unless I catch myself in the mirror, I’ve totally forgotten about it.  People stare for sure but since I’m with Farrah they quickly move down to meet her smile and the awkward moment passes, adorably.  Only one stranger has asked me why I’m bald and when I told her she thanked me and referred to her own hair as “chemo curls”.  It was an unexpected and happy exchange.

One thing I trusted after shaving my head was the need to wear makeup every single day – “I have to compensate for having no hair!  How else will I be pretty?  Don’t forget earrings!”  It is hard to shake the uniform of femininity.  What I could get away with before, when I had hair, was simply no longer an option.

That lasted about two weeks.

Make-up Makeup


I enjoy make-up.  I like to play with it and prefer how I look with it painted on, but if I can’t get to it in the morning it doesn’t make me feel bad.  In fact, being bald and clean-faced has produced the opposite effect – I feel great in its purity.  I feel lighter and healthier and brighter.  It has dawned on me that this levity is what most men enjoy every single day of their lives.  Like wearing cufflinks, the simple act of shaving my head and not wearing makeup has provided profound insight into my other half.  It has opened doors and created opportunity for self-acceptance and even self-love.

On a related note, I thought for sure Arlo’s preschool friends would flip their wee lids when they saw me bald for the first time.  Ann shared how one of her son’s friends asked if she was still a girl!  I anticipated these kinds of questions and other observations but talk about a non-issue – those kids were fascinated by only one aspect of my appearance – my eye shadow.  Since I tend to wear bright colors to contrast my brown eyes, my makeup is a topic of endless curiosity with the preschool crowd.  No hair?  No problem.  BUT WHY DID YOU PAINT YOUR EYES?

Why indeed.

Thank you again for you support and encouragement throughout this process!


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