First Day of School

Our preschool years are over.

Earlier this morning I watched my daughter get on the school bus for the first time (she starts a new school today), and in about an hour I’ll walk my son to his first day of Kindergarten.

We’ve fantasized about this day for years—the extra time that my wife will have, how much cleaner the house will be without children in it all day long, not having to pay for preschool, and so on.

And yet, here I sit, an unusual quiet to the morning, trembling.

I’m a much better starter than a finisher. I always loved the first days of school, when the year ahead was rich with possibilities, the opportunity to find new friends and unwrap new mysteries. By the end of the school year, I was disinterested and anxious, ready for summer to begin with its own possibilities stretching into the heat-miraged distance. I love Autumn and Spring. Beginnings, transitions.

Our preschool years are over.

When our children were born, we made grand promises to ourselves about the healthiness of the foods they would eat, the limits of screen time, the quality of our discipline, and the educational nature of our games and toys. We were naïve. Hopeful and bright and amazed at the vast possibility of it all, yes; but also, so naïve.

Way back then, we had beginner’s minds. And now here we are at the end of something, jaded, tired, and usually a little dehydrated. Our kids are as likely to have learned something from the television or iPad than from us. And don’t get me started about eating habits. It’s just so difficult. All. The. Time.

But if I turn my head just so, I can see the edges of the beginning we’ve approached and my attention turns away from all the botched decisions and lazy choices. The distance of the horizon ahead quickens my steps. Land ho—opportunity!

Our school years are just beginning!

True Birthday Wishes

It’s that time of year when my loved ones remind me just how little they know about me: my birthday. “What do you want for your birthday?” they ask. “How could you not know?” I respond. It’s obvious! I want this book, or that gadget, or a new piece of cookware, or whatever. Except I don’t. I don’t really want those things at all.

I’ve somehow reached that age where things that I truly want can’t be purchased in a store—or if they can, I usually just buy them for myself.

So in honor of Monday’s birthiversary, here is a list of the things I really want, but probably can’t ask for and almost certainly won’t get.

  • All the laundry to be clean, folded, and put away.
  • An empty Instapaper queue, with all of my articles saved in a tidy, organized mélange of Pinboard, Evernote, and DevonThink.
  • A CMS with the flexibility of WordPress, the stability of static pages/jekyll/Octopress, and the social community of Tumblr.
  • More time alone with my wife
  • More time together with our friends
  • More time by myself
  • Spend more within our means
  • To not worry about my kids, to know that they’ll be alright, today, tomorrow, and forever after
  • The Presidential election to be over
  • My kids to be nicer to each other
  • Liberty and justice for all
  • To be an early-riser—the kind of person who easily wakes up two hours before anyone else in the house and uses that time to write or work-out or catch up on whatever
  • Either a shorter list of books to-read or the time to devote to enjoying them
  • Silence
  • Joyous noise

I could probably go on, but it feels a little silly. It is, after all, kind of a silly birthday list, more to-dos than things. Come to think of it, maybe that’s the gift I’ll give myself: this list of things to do and strive for in my 39th year.


My daughter, our first-born, turned eight yesterday and it’s got me thinking, particularly about how much my thinking has changed since 2004.

I used to think about “the kind of daughter” I wanted to raise. How could I have ever dared to define another spirit? Instead, our daughter has brought us the spectacular gift of herself, beyond any dream or fear or expectation.

This child is, thank God, utterly and fiercely herself. Even though many days her peculiarities fray me raw, I pray to never stop feeling grateful for and protective of them.

I can forecast the (not so far-off) storm approaching between her desire to fit in and her desire for uniqueness. The thunder that will roar as the super-heated air of her lightning personality collides with the cooler atmosphere of her peers will be mighty.

And then sometimes she is still such a little girl, loving a doll or playing dress-up at a museum. I try to remember to stay in Today, and not get too caught up in the whirling eddies of Little Girl Past and Tweenager Future.

I used to think I would raise my kids. By now, through so many missteps, mistakes, and meditation, I’ve learned the truth. We are, instead, raising each other, ever higher along the way.

This newly eight-year-old is so smart and so sensitive and so strange, she teaches me every day the extent to which I don’t know anything.

I used to fear that. Not anymore.


Marriage, like anything worth having in life, takes work and luck and patience and forgiveness and more luck and, if you believe in that sort of thing, more than a little grace.

It’s a life’s work and it’s never perfect, except for the times when it is, hopefully more often than not. Marriage is like parenting is like life: magnificent/difficult/wonderful/horrible/sanctifying. Our very presence in each other’s lives helps us strive to be the best versions of ourselves.

I believe it should be available to everyone, but that’s probably a different post.

I am so thankful for the circumstances that put her and I on the same path.

Here’s to the next ten years, and the decades after that.

For my son on his 5th

Life isn’t always about chasing what you want. Sometimes life gives you more than you ever could have dreamed of had you kept yourself chained to your own delusions. Corny? True.

In only 5 years, our son has taught us every step of the way to embrace the unexpected.

A surprising but joyous pregnancy becomes a difficult and potentially dangerous pregnancy. An orderly, scheduled induction becomes a “this baby is coming and don’t anyone get in the way” overnight express train.

A little brother so easily overshadowed by an exuberant sister becomes the wisest and most quietly brilliant sun in the sky.

Keep surprising us, buddy, whether we want you to or not. And happy birthday.

Marcia Lynx Qualey:

…the blog is not about creating knowledge and it is certainly not about presenting anything in a finished form. She thinks of her blog as an old-fashioned salon: a semi-public, semi-private place where readers, writers, and translators of various stripes, are able to gather informally and chat about things — a kind of laboratory of thoughts. In the context of her blog, she is not a critic, and she is not even a curator, but more of a hostess.

Steve Jobs Memorial

On Death and Resolution

A few months ago, I had what some might consider a health scare. I write that in the past tense, although for all intents and purposes it is still ongoing since the fundamental causes of my problem haven’t been found or treated. And yet, I am relatively healthy and don’t feel too bad at the moment.

A cough that wouldn’t go away. An abnormal CT scan. A frustrated doctor. An increasingly alarmed patient. These were the ingredients of a month-long odyssey into the possibility that perhaps Everything Might Not Turn Out Okay.

Part of it, to be sure, is me being me: a little overly dramatic, a little over-sensitive, a touch of hypochondria. But just because I didn’t uncover a life-altering diagnose doesn’t mean my life has been unaltered. Quite to the contrary, I have felt the edges of the veneer of mortality much more keenly in the past few months, and it’s changing me.

A series of deaths of family friends. Increased air travel (several trips in just a few months, far above average for me, and something I hate). Last week’s news of the death of Steve Jobs.
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Observations from a Series of Snowbound Days

  • We go through a lot of maple syrup
  • All else being equal, my children’s default state is “fighting”
  • Every morning, the fucking city plows another foot of snow onto the apron of my driveway and crushes my will to live
  • Podcasts are more enjoyable while commuting
  • We are filthy people
  • There is, in fact, a limit to how much coffee I can drink
  • Time, it turns out, is not the issue; it’s attention
  • Everything that happens in The Shining makes much more sense to me now

Sagan again

Carl Sagan:

What an astonishing thing a book is. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time.