Today my baby brother turned 30.


To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters.

We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts.

We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets,

family griefs and joys.

We live outside the touch of time.

-Clara Ortega

My brother is 30 today.

We have a relationship as I imagine many siblings do. We don’t talk a whole lot, even though he lives ten minutes away. But when we do we could go on for hours, about anything and everything, as if we’d spent no time apart.

At seven years apart, we were never especially close as children. By the time he had become old enough to be less of a child and more of a friend, I was already a teenager and one foot out of the house, which I cringe to recollect today.

I should have been there more.

Sometimes it’s scary how similar we are, shaped by our common experience growing up in the same house and going to the same school. Sometimes I read things he has written and it takes my breath away. It sounds like something I wrote myself.

My brother takes care of me, even now when he has a beautiful family of his own. He checks in. He nods understandingly or gives me the look that says I’ve gone too far. He cheers me on as I conquer my fear of the water. He changes my oil, fills my wiper fluid.

He has a daughter so beautiful that I want to put her in my pocket and keep her small forever. I see echoes of him in her. I see glimpses of me.

We don’t do affection, although I know the affection is there. We speak fondly of each other. The horror of the months after our father’s death, my mother’s death soon after, forged something between us that no time or distance will ever erode. We survived together. We’ll do anything to spare the other living through that kind of pain again.

But sometimes you need to do more than just know the bond exists… so here you go.

A token of my love for my brother. On his birthday.

Let’s not speak of this ever again.


*NOTE: My husband didn’t realize there’s a slideshow, and I figure he’s not the only one. Start at the first pic and go through- they’re captioned!*




Girlfriend Can Ride a Bike

bike riding


After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable.

A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs,
and round and round they seem to go.

You ride through Dreamland

on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow.

-H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance


I know, it’s terrible. She’s 8 and just getting her training wheels off. We just don’t have anywhere convenient to ride… so we’ve neglected to take the time to teach her.

She doesn’t like to be taught, by the way. She likes to know how to do it. I did my run around the park while her father tried to teach her, she got mad and stubborn, and the two of them sat on a bench, equally willful and perfectly prepared to wait it out until I was done and they could go home.

I didn’t witness it but trust me, I know exactly what it must have looked like.

Apparently a woman passing by asked Cass if she was learning to ride her bike, and Cass gave her some unsatisfactory answer. Or maybe she took her cues from Jeff’s grumpy butt and the set of Cass’s shoulders, I don’t know. In any case she took the bike from Cass, got her on it.

And taught her how to ride.

All you have to do is try. A willing suspension of disbelief that gravity will win. The sudden, unlikely belief that you can do it, a burst of confidence given from a stranger.

I didn’t see any of it; I heard the story from Maverick when he met me with some water as I rounded the turn on my second loop around the track (yes, he’s a good boy).

Ten minutes. Ten minutes for someone to stop, teach my daughter to ride, and disappear.

Jeff still had to work with her on turns and stopping, but the whole thing had transformed from a reluctant lesson to a shared pride and joy.

And I was suddenly struck by the memory of what it was like to learn to ride as a child. My father’s hands, releasing their hold of the bicycle seat. The feeling of speed, of freedom, of flying. The still-present fear of falling… and not quite caring.



bike riding lesson


Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds.

The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus;

it gives him no wings of his own.

-Louis J. Helle, Jr., Spring in Washington

girl riding bike


Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.  ~H.G. Wells

bike riding


The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.

A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom.

The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.

-Sloan Wilson


The realization that this is our last child we had to teach to ride— and that we gave that chance away— it’s kind of rough.

Still, I do like the magical quality of the tale. Thank you, kind stranger, for helping us avoid what probably would have been a battle of wills and scraped knees, drawn out for who knows how long.

Do you want to come back in a year when Jacob gets his learner’s permit?



Maverick in the Middle

She didn’t like being twelve.

It felt like someplace between who she’d been
and who she was about to be.

― Alice Hoffman, The Story Sisters

Poor Mav is basically the living, breathing personification of middle child syndrome.

Not testing boundaries and breaking the parents in and hogging attention by being a royal pain in the ass. That’s the privilege of the oldest child.

Not whining and being cute to get his way. That’s the MO of the youngest child.

No, Maverick has been the easygoing, fair-tempered child his entire life… and so he tends to miss out on stuff amidst the demands of life and noisier siblings.

Things like birthday blog posts. His birthday was August 10th. I’m sorry, buddy. I’ll make it up to you in photo collages.



I’ve mentioned before, in Jake’s birthday blog posts, that Jake was a very demanding child attention-wise. He had a lot of little medical issues it took us a long time to figure out, and so he was colicky and clingy and didn’t sleep well. I wasn’t at all sure I could handle a second baby when I found out I was carrying one. I was scared out of my ever-loving mind that I wasn’t ready for two kids.

Maverick was an easy pregnancy. He arrived after a very short labor, all 9.5 pounds of him. Since he was so big, he had to be pricked for blood sugar tests every 2 hours while in the hospital, and he took it uncomplainingly like a champ.


9.5 pounds at birth meant he fit into 4-6mo clothes within weeks- this was the photo we sent out with birth announcements, I think.


The night we came home from the hospital, he nursed, went to sleep in his bassinet, and I fell asleep in my own bed… and woke up some 7 hours later, to the light of day.

He’d slept through the night his first night home.

(People tend not to believe this, but my hand to god it’s true. And to this day the kid treasures his sleep. I don’t care if we’re at a kicking party or the Queen of England is hanging out, bedtime will roll around and Mav will be like, see ya suckers, I’m tired.)

Anyway, it sounds awesome but it was most definitely not. It was probably the most terrifying moment of my life, waking up and realizing he hadn’t wakened to nurse. Jeff and I were so very afraid, going to the bassinet and looking in. But he got up, although it took some effort and he was grumpy about it. Mav is not a morning person.

It’s funny how many personality traits can be disclosed right away. Maverick, in 12 years, hasn’t done much but confirm that he is who he is. He’s laid back, easy to please, but stubborn as hell. He is silly but sweet. He likes food. He likes to know how things work. He like math, and animals. This is the way I’ve been describing him since he was about 18 months old, and it still holds true.



He went through a period of time when he wouldn’t pose for a picture. Well, no, that’s not true at all. I have tons of pictures of him and he posed gleefully. He just wouldn’t smile for the camera. We call this “monsterface.” “Oh look, here’s another picture of Mav in monsterface.” (Jake went through a similar phase where he’d cross his eyes for photos, we called them his “gooey eyes.”)



Eventually we all gave up and everybody was all about the monsterface.



This is off-topic, but Mav has the hardest head known to man. This picture makes me laugh every time because I know Mav inadvertantly headbutted Jeff just before it was taken. There was this audible crack— yet he is unfazed.



Maverick was born in the year 2000, a millenium baby, Year of the Dragon just like his parents. I tell you this mostly because I once laboriously made him a dragon costume, forming a delicate wing skeleton to hang an even more delicate gold-embossed fabric that I’d been holding onto for years on… and he slept through the Halloween parade and had to wear a coat for trick-or-treating. Behold the dragon.


During his one year in Catholic school, Jake was required to dress for Halloween as a saint, so he was St. George and Mav was the dragon.


Occupying the 5th position in the Chinese Zodiac, the Dragon is the mightiest of the signs. Dragons symbolize such character traits as dominance and ambition. Dragons prefer to live by their own rules and if left on their own, are usually successful. They’re driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks. They’re passionate in all they do and they do things in grand fashion. Unfortunately, this passion and enthusiasm can leave Dragons feeling exhausted and interestingly, unfulfilled.

While Dragons frequently help others, rarely will they ask for help. Others are attracted to Dragons, especially their colorful personalities, but deep down, Dragons prefer to be alone. Perhaps that is because they’re most successful when working alone. Their preference to be alone can come across as arrogance or conceitedness, but these qualities aren’t applicable. Dragons have tempers that can flare fast!

That sounds about right.

Maverick is 12 now, an in-between year, too old to baby and yet not a teen. I don’t know how much longer he’ll let me post photos of him blasted with pink, or playing a fife…



I don’t know when he’ll decide he’s too old to dance with his great-grandma.


I admit that I miss this face.


I look forward to seeing him become even more of the person I’ve always known him to be. That person is pretty awesome.

But he’ll always be my baby. So there.

Happy belated birthday, Maverick.

Now go do the dishes, please.


Cass wants me to make sure you know she's in my belly in this photo.