We celebrated our second wedding anniversary on Friday night (though today is the big day), really threw it down with a multiple-course dinner at this swank Austin spot right in our neighborhood: apps, entrees, desserts, drinks. Deliciousness. We’d left Kaspar, already sleeping, back at home and in the care of close friends, and walked our way leisurely through the warm, balmy night. Holding hands, we passed food trailers strung with Christmas lights, street musicians, packs of college girls, people eating ice cream and staring at the sidewalk flowing by. South Austin’s sultry neon signs glowed beneath a violet sky (which promised rain all weekend, but never did put out); we took our seats on Perla’s patio and marked our ascension to two years: complete.

Friends and family who attended our wedding have remarked, “Time flies! Two years already?” We feel like we’ve lived five. We’ve loved it and lived this married life well; time’s kaleidoscopic little trick has not been a matter of misery… far from it. It’s just that we’ve fit so damn much in already— we’ve been going full-throttle since our very beginning, and we couldn’t have known on our wedding day just how wild this ride would be (though we both probably could have guessed at that, to some degree).
It’s mostly been a no-holds-barred blast, but there have been moments (sometimes uncomfortably sustained) when we’ve just had to lean into the winds and push on. Our anniversary last year, for example, was kind of a bust: we were five flights from New York, mid-move, having landed in Dallas for a couple of days with Aaron’s mom after swinging through Wisconsin to attend my brother’s wedding. OD-ing on air travel and extended-family-time, we debated fine dining but ended up heading to a taco stand, wanting to honor our milestone in some way and figuring tacos were at least a properly Texan way to do it. We ended up cutting our date short, however; Aaron’s mom had called to say that Kaspar was crying and scratching at his ears. She couldn’t comfort him. I could, but I couldn’t really help. This was going on then, this thing we couldn’t name or solve. Not yet. We just did our best and loved our baby up strong and smiling, and ate our dinners, or didn’t… and kept going. We went to bed that night with Kaspar breathing rhythmically between us, reached for a kiss over his small, warm body and held each other’s hands beneath his feet. We woke the next morning and drove yet further into the unknown (we've been cruising in that direction just about from the start), to Austin, to continue creating our story and to start something new (first order of business: new floors. Our place was gross), and now here we are at year two. Complete.

Year two brought new ventures, new friendships, new challenges, new victories, new days and our version of normalcy, some solid routines… and folded up nicely with champagne and chocolate mousse carried to our table on a tray. I asked Aaron, leaning forward, “Are you happy in this life?” and he said yes, yes he is, very much so. It’s been intense for us both at times, to say the least, but we’re also wired that way—striving, moving forward, growing. We’re not the kind of people who shy away from change. Sometimes we initiate it, and sometimes it initiates us into entirely new eras, and new versions of ourselves to match the times: naked boldness is a prerequisite for true participation in this life, you know, and sometimes life simply won’t settle for less.

He asked me, too, whether I’m happy in our life together, and in mine, as in my own (“so busy, and with so little sleep”). I am, I said. I really am. And that is true. So we walked, shoulders touching, leaning in, back to our home, to our friends and our still-sleeping baby, and I stood awestruck at the fullness of it all… already. That just two years ago we were married, that for all my hopes and guessing, I could never have imagined my life would be as rich as it is now.

(Click Read More below for additional pics.)
Aaron just sent this to me at work. I love it like whoa.
Sometimes Friday snapshots come in ahead of schedule.
Chocolate chip cookies were my culinary rite of passage; when I was about ten years old, I received my first cookbook as a gift (something kid-oriented) and methodically followed its simple recipe for the classic treat. From there, I experimented with different methods to turn out thin and crisp, or thick and chewy variations on the theme. I moved on to thumbprint and rolled shortbread cookies, then raspberry and lemon bars. There are an endless array of cookies to be made in this lifetime-- my college years yielded many a fancy THC-laced baked good, to the great fortune of friends and professors-- and it still makes me happy to just bake up a batch when the impulse strikes (no THC these days, alas; I can't take the paranoia). It also still makes me happy to give them away, either stacked and wrapped up pretty-like for friends with birthdays or blues, or just piled into a bowl, straight from the oven, and served hot to Mr. Husband... who hangs demurely around the kitchen from the moment I start mixing my batter.

These Cowgirl Cookies are a greatest-hits goldmine as far as taste and adventure are concerned; rolled oats, sliced almonds, dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries, coconut-- it's all in there, and it all works. They come together quickly, too, so you'll get that satisfied, mission-accomplished feeling without much effort at all. And the people that you love will love you for it... if, that is, you're inclined to share the bounty (you're not obligated). So bake 'em up, cowgirls. And let me know what you think!

Click Read More for the what and the how.

About three weeks ago, I felt an odd numbness in my hands as I left work. I'd just studied Carpal Tunnel Syndrome the week before in massage school-- I've been trucking through as a partial student since last September, and am almost finished with the anatomy and pathology classes-- so the sensation raised some internal red flags, but I dismissed it as a) possibly the power of suggestion at play, and b) most probably fleeting. I know myself, and my late night health-related Google search tendencies (I tend to conclude that I'm dying), well enough to know to give aches and pains some space before siding with the worst case scenario. But, later that evening, when the numbness evolved into shooting pain, I threw all in for 'woe is me.'

I've been so busy with my present pursuits-- working, writing, blogging, baby-lifting, cooking, driving all over town-- that my future in massage therapy has taken a back seat in my mind. Actual hands-on training will kick in this fall, at an increased pace of four to five days per week, but for this past year classes have been a once weekly, low-key endeavor. Enrolling, however, was a long-contemplated move; I'd been talking about it for almost a year before Aaron told me I'd better just begin lest I drive him bat-shit insane. Programs in New York were prohibitively expensive-- 26 grand, no joke-- (plus, I got pregnant and was working full time in an unrelated industry), but Austin's options, with flexible schedules and a more realistic price tag, proved viable. And so I began. Now that my primary tools were threatening to bail on me (and just before game-time, no less), I was reminded that I really do want to do this, and wondering if it would happen at all. 

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'Nuff said.
Aaron’s one stipulation about moving from New York to Texas was that we spend Augusts elsewhere. Always. The summer heat is what people talk about when they drum up downsides to living in Southern climates, and August is notoriously brutal in central Tejas. I agreed to the request, but then got a job that began on August 3rd last year, so… we moved just in time for Austin’s hottest month. Aaron was a good sport, and frankly, the heat wasn’t that bad. It was a relatively mild summer, as summers go, and flew by without fanfare. This year, however, Texans across the state have endured record highs-- temperatures well over 100 degrees—for a seemingly endless stretch since sometime in early June. Kaspar’s as active and curious as ever, too, and he’s keeping us on our toes as we scramble to keep up with his endless energy and limited attention span (I blogged about our cabin fever onset a couple of weeks ago on Parenting.com). This past Monday morning, after waking up and surveying our same-old-same-old collection of toys and crayon-embellished walls, I experienced one of those flashes of insight that only kick in when all other possibilities have been thoroughly exhausted: I remembered reading/hearing/seeing somewhere that Mondays are Baby Days at the Austin Children’s Museum.

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I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the news of the murder of Leiby Kletzky, the Brooklyn boy who never made it to the meeting spot he and his mom had agreed upon while he walked the seven blocks home from summer camp, alone, for the first time, earlier this week. I read the New York Times’ and New York Post’s coverage of the tragedy—complete with Leiby’s killer’s written confession— yesterday when I got to work, but then had to stop reading, shut it all down. I found myself feeling physically ill. Having just recently lived in Brooklyn (right alongside Hasidic communities like the one Leiby was a part of), and having recently become a mom myself, it all just felt unimaginable, and yet way too close to home.  

This kind of event—however rare, however unlikely— sends up ripples and waves of disturbance in all who encounter it, even from miles away. I felt horrified and sickened by what happened, and then—a quick transition-- angry, vengeful even. Working away at my desk, I wished suffering upon the killer. Really. Suffering. Nothing less. I indulged in brief but violent fantasies, thinking of what kind of suffering might suffice: solitary confinement with forcible, non-stop streamed footage of gruesome events projected onto a wall…. Scalping! Rip that f*cker’s face off... Wow: That came from my mind?

Those images did arise in my mind, and they made me feel better, briefly gave me a sense of justice or something. Gave me a sense of control over helplessness, distracted me from that quietly desperate feeling, from knowing that a child has been killed and that there’s nothing anyone can do about it now.

But those images, wielding their weapons and setting up camp in my mind, didn’t do anything about justice at all. They just made me a little bit more like the very thing I was so caught up in detesting.

I would rather feel helpless than violent. I would rather feel horrified than willingly invoke horror. And what makes me really, truly human is that I can make those distinctions. I can make a choice.

Interestingly, willingly returning to helplessness delivers us from it. My vengeful thoughts can’t do anything to change what’s happened in Brooklyn, and can’t bring about justice, but coming back to the present, to my reality, can bring some peace into the world. I was just about ready to up and buy a boy-sized bubble for my son yesterday: all bets are off, the boogeyman’s real. But that’s really not reasonable. Acknowledging my fear without being carried away by it, I can reflect on how I’ll teach Kaspar to listen to his gut and not worry about being nice, or polite, or quiet if he feels something is wrong. I will also hope and wish and pray that he never meets the boogeyman.

I can feel myself, as a mother, stepping into that grieving mother’s shoes, for a moment. And I grieve too, for her helping her son expand his orbit, taking the necessary precautions, and for the unimaginable happening anyway. Nobody’s fault. For the ground falling away beneath her. And for all of us, realizing there’s not really any solid ground—realizing that we all live here  together, with our children and our neighbors, and we can’t just lock ourselves away in our homes or our minds or our angry, vengeful thoughts. Instead we do our best, we live and we raise our children, and when we encounter horror—together, from near and far—we make the human choice to feel that groundlessness and yet refuse to fuel more harm, hatred or violence. Even in—especially in—our own hearts. We hug and kiss our children, and make a simple, sincere wish for peace in this world.

If somebody doesn't begin to provide some kind of harmony,
we will not be able to develop sanity in this world at all.

Somebody has to plant the seed so that sanity can happen on this earth.

-- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
I just finished writing a piece for WorkingMother.com about Nancy Traversy, the inspiring entrepreneur mom behind Barefoot Books. For those of you who haven’t yet had the good fortune of encountering Barefoot, I’m so honored to be making the introduction: Barefoot Books is a ground-breaking children’s book publishing company that’s reinvented an industry in the midst of bringing positive, lyrical, beautiful books into the lives of families around the world. My article will be published on WM’s site at the end of this month; I’ll of course be sure to let you know so you can read up on Nancy’s journey (it’s really something). In the meantime, I just exchanged a few final emails with my editor about working a full-disclosure clause into my article’s copy; I am so in love with Barefoot—with their celebration of art, story, cultural diversity and imaginative play—and so impressed with their business model (here’s a teaser: no big box stores in this mix), that I just had to get involved.

Thus, I’m proud to debut the Alt-Mama Store with some of our family’s favorite Barefoot titles. These books encourage close connection between us all while at the same time cultivating a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world at large. This is true for Kaspar, who points to details within the illustrations and listens with rapt attention (and big smiles) to each story— and it’s also true for us, his parents, as we read the books aloud.

Choose from the titles I’ve curated right here on the Alt-Mama site, or click through to explore the entire Barefoot Books collection, sorting by subject, age, and more. Either way, your actual point of purchase will take place on the Barefoot end— and yes, it’s supposed to work that way—but Alt-Mama will get the credit and the kick-back… and Kaspar will one day go to college. ;-)

Just one more thing before you get to shopping: I’ve got a special coupon code for you! If it’s your first time buying from Barefoot and you’re coming right from Alt-Mama (as in, through a link like this one), enter the code AMBFTN at checkout, and you’ll receive 15% off.

Thanks for supporting mom-businesses, big and small, and keep on reading with your kiddos!

Ps. Come back to the Alt-Mama Store soon to peruse fresh Barefoot selections, and to pick up everything from wall art to onesies—coming soon!