Author Archive

On Childcare and Chilly Air

I’m starting to whine a bit now about the winter, even though I promised I’d have a good attitude about it until March 1. I really didn’t think we would have 8 days of school disruption in the second half of the month, though! It’s been expensive and annoying.

Schools have been closing not for snow, but for sub-zero temperatures. Children can’t stand out and wait for the bus in sub-zero temperatures, and the under-funded bus companies don’t (apparently?) have the right types of fuel or additives to prevent the engines from freezing.

Part of the problem is also that we live in a district where many of the children live in poverty and they don’t have the right clothing to enable them to stand at the bus stop in such weather. That’s a heartbreaking topic for another day.

My children are fortunate. We have heat in the cold snap. We have coats. What I do not have is childcare for Miles when school is closed on my work days or time to make up the missed days, since I only work part-time and all the other seconds of my life are filled with the very-big needs of very-small kiddos.

The younger kids can go to daycare no matter what is going on outside, because the daycare is in the basement of the caregiver’s home. F—- just has to scoot down her steps and she’s at work, so if we can drive or walk the kids there, they are taken care of!

Sometimes, a school cancellation means there is space for Miles at daycare, and off he goes with his brothers. Usually, he’s home with me watching too much television and building Legos while I try to work. Today was one such day. [I began writing this post 30 days ago and was so interrupted that I'm only getting to finish it now, at the end of March!]

I’m not sure what other working families do on such days. My kiddo is pretty big and wonderful right now as an almost-six-year-old. But he’s still a kid! It’s unrealistic of me to expect him to leave me alone an entire work day. We signed up for a Lego lending library subscription this winter. It’s like Netflix for Lego. Miles really only likes assembling the kits, so he doesn’t mind that he can’t mix them with his others to play. He builds them and sends them back, and this is perfect for about 45 minutes of distraction on days like this.

And yet I need to work!

So, despite the sub-zero temperatures, I hauled him to the grocery store and deposited him in the childcare there, where I get 2 hours to shop…or sit up front in the cafe with my laptop and try to cobble together some work time. Oof! I’m ready for this not to be something I worry about anymore.

Posted by on March 26th, 2015 No Comments

Mapping Out Mommy


This morning, I sneaked off to use the bathroom by myself, a rare occurrence. Usually, I have to take one of the kids in with me (Felix) so the others stay alive. Otherwise, the older two hit each other with heavy objects or else Felix gets too excited in his love for Oren and tries to smother him. Today, though, I thought I might risk a private moment.

Almost as soon as I closed the door, I heard it begin. “Where’s Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?!?!?!”

Miles quickly decided things were serious and said, “Let’s make a map to where she might be.” They were mounting the stairs with crayons and paper by the time I washed hands. A map! In the instant it took me to pee alone, they decided they needed such a serious intervention.

I know, because I remind myself every day, that these days are fleeting. I look at Miles while he sleeps. He’s no longer a baby. He’s barely a little kid–such a big man, with fashion preferences and the ability to read “inside my brain.” (“All I have to do is move my eyes around,” he says, not even moving his lips while he works his way through Roald Dahl)

One of these days, I’ll blink and they will be grownups. I know that.

But man! It is really. Really. HARD to be everything to these three young people, who depend on me so fiercely that my brief timeout warranted emergency cartography.

Living far from family as we do means that one of us needs to be able to put the kids first, to be present to meet these great, big needs. It feels right to us that I should be that person, especially as my body is producing the food that sustains the smallest of our babies. I know this, and we chose this and mindfully came to this decision. But days like today, I really feel the challenge, like I’m the one who needs a map to find myself. What this winter has taught us is that between inevitable illness and weather-related school disruption, it makes most sense if I don’t try to work next January and February.

Because this winter, I tried something crazy and signed a big contract for a writing project I find very meaningful…with a February 28 deadline. We fooled ourselves into thinking that even if schools were delayed sometimes, I would be able to work around our boys and chip away at my deadline. I’ve had some stressful weekends and late nights as a result!

Today we are fortunate, because school closure aligned with a cancellation at daycare and there was room for all three Lev lads. Soon after they abandoned their search party, the boys bustled out the door with Corey. It feels like all the molecules of the entire house just exhaled.

Soon, I know, I’ll feel sad about this empty, silent space. Today, I’m grateful for the quiet time to work. And to use the bathroom by myself.

Posted by on February 16th, 2015 2 Comments

I Found You a Cow


I recently took on a fun project-narrative gig at a local private school. They have a neat program that puts students in the community and they have hired me to write about some of these projects and partnerships. Fun!

I went to the school to interview one of the science teachers about his project. I stood in the hallway, accepted his firm handshake, and was about to ask if I had permission to record.

Suddenly, another employee swooped in, breathless, excited. “I found you a cow,” said the man.

“Oh, man, I forgot to tell you! I also found a cow. I just need to go out there myself to catch the manure.”

I freaking love shit like this. Ha! Shit!

As it turns out, the science teacher is doing some sort of biology unit wherein the students will analyze manure. But, urban-based private schools (wonderful that they are) have limited access to fields and cows and their dung. So this other dude, the school’s community outreach guy, has been on the hunt for a cow whose dung the science teacher can have.

Meanwhile, the science teacher reached out to his own social network, found a farm outside the city, and gets to skip a board retreat this weekend in order to stand behind the cow, patiently awaiting a bowel movement. Last I spoke with him, he was contemplating taking a trash bag to avoid any skin contact, but I asked whether a plastic bin might be a better choice.

As I left our interview, I implored, begged him to email me with a follow-up about his manure mission.

This. This is why I love being a writer.

UPDATE: I heard back from the teacher, who tells me he used a shovel into a Tupperware and then transferred into a 5-gallon bucket. Whew! Now I know.

Posted by on January 29th, 2015 No Comments

Eau d’Oven Cleaner

Have you read the “Default Parent” article that’s been circulating? I read it and boy, does it resonate. I’m the default parent and sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed by that. This week is a good example.

Even though my mother was here visiting for 4 days and got iced in and stuck here for a 5th day, even after all that around-the-clock extra help, my laundry and work load have gotten out of hand and the dishes heap to the ceiling and still the children need help with homework and bag packing and and and and.

Yesterday was this super tight day where a lot of dominoes needed to stand up or else the whole structure would fall down. In order to get the ingredients to bake Miles’ half-birthday celebration treat for school, I needed to get to Target before it was time to pick him up from the school bus…which meant I needed to get Felix to sleep so he would wake up.

Add in timing of baby nursing and I was actually running up the aisles with my boys in the cart so I would make it home before the bus.

There, sweating as I put away eggs and cupcake liners–had to be polka dot–I knew something bad would happen. I had to cook dinner while supervising homework while nursing the baby while also preventing Felix from destroying our house while also getting bottles and packed lunch ready for daycare in the morning. I had to do all those things in a tight half-hour window because I also had to take Miles to a class at 6pm.

Why couldn’t Corey do any of those other items? Because he’s not the default parent. He doesn’t even know some of those things exist.

Today, I’m spending the day working from home to the stench of the auto-cleaning oven because the 1-hour pot pies I tried to slam in the oven overflowed and filled the house with smoke somewhere in between word problems and “stop hitting the television screen with a metal truck!”

Logical-Katy knows that Wednesdays are freaking crazy and logical Katy would never have stuck in the Target trip or the dinner cooking. But actual-Katy still can’t quite get the timing down for parenting 3 boys in such intense ages. Planning ahead doesn’t happen, beyond recognizing that I was out of eggs and cupcake liners.

Of course, I recognize that I could have purchased some pre-made cupcakes and in my desire to please my first-born son, I made things a hell of a lot harder on myself. I feel so often that I don’t have enough love to go around right now, that my arms are always full holding one crying child while the other two plead with me to do something else important. So when my big boy requests “yogurt cupcakes just like Fletcher had with polka-dot wrappers,” I try too hard to make it happen.

Next Wednesday, I’d like to think I can order a pizza and forget about it, but that will require making sure I have cash on hand for the tip.

Posted by on January 15th, 2015 1 Comment

What I Found Behind the Sectional Sofa as I Searched for the Roku Remote

  • not a puzzle piece as suspected, but a moldy pretzel crisp entombed in a rubber band
  • a toy backhoe loader
  • a Camelbak cup containing a solidified, gelatinous substance
  • the back cover from an issue of National Geographic Kids featuring a lion cub
  • wooden beads shaped like hearts
  • many crumbs
  • a smooshed penny featuring a flamingo, from the aviary
  • a paper plate, apparently unused
  • several green Duplo blocks
  • a reading light utterly covered in masking tape
  • the Roku remote

Posted by on December 17th, 2014 No Comments

Working my Mother Brain

Part of this post title is a play on words to announce an exciting publication for me. I had an essay published on the Brain, Mother blog for the literary journal Brain, Mother. I’ve been reading that one since Miles was born, so I felt particularly excited to be published there. Plus, how cathartic for me to write about another angle of my birth with Oren that I’ve still been processing.

I’m also working my mother brain more as I transition into a bit more work-work. The younger boys are in daycare now. Yes, even Oren. Yes, even though he’s only 4 months old. I thought it would be harder to leave him behind, even part time, but I really only texted the daycare owner because I felt like I should be texting to ask about my wee baby on his first day there. Truly, I know he’s fine.

I’m going to acknowledge that this is a very privileged statement before I make it, but recently, my (childless) housekeeper scoffed at me for sending my young baby to daycare so I could go back to work. I didn’t tell her that I need to work, albeit part time, in order for our family to afford to keep her in work, but I wish I had!

I signed up for an assignment with a new client, an assignment I thought would be an easy service piece for an online publication. I should have known better! As my deadline creeps up, I find myself playing angry phone tag with corporate media relations folks and having to say things like, “You do realize this is on the record, right?”

I’m not an investigative journalist–really, most of my income comes from writing marketing copy–but I sure do feel like one as I pursue this story. If I were writing a behind-the-scenes blog post about this article, it would include me having to wait while lawyers debate my use of the terms “can be” and “remain.” Seriously!

The good news is that the project has tipped me off to a potential long-form article about a topic I find fascinating. I can’t wait to do more research, use that part of my brain, and get to writing. Hopefully, that article won’t involve lawyers.

Posted by on December 15th, 2014 No Comments

Becoming a Milk Donor

A bit ago, I blogged for work about my journey toward becoming a milk donor. In a nut shell, I went from not having quite enough milk with my first kiddo to having more than enough to spare with this third kiddo and so I’m donating the extra to a milk bank in Ohio. Why Ohio? Because we don’t have one in PA. We don’t have one on the East Coast any closer than Boston.

Milk banks provide human milk as critical food to premies in danger of NEC. Milk banks would love to provide milk to all babies whose parents would like for them to have human milk, but the demand for just these micropremies far exceeds the milk coming in to the banks. So. Sickest babies get first dibs from milk banks.

I so love the idea of my spare milk helping a tiny baby. I’m putting together my donation a dribble at a time–I need to gather 200 ounces for a shipment to the bank in Columbus.

It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

I mean, sure, pumping once a day and bottling/labeling the milk is kind of a pain. I’m working it out, though, and it is what it is. Right from the start, this project was a community effort, since I’m storing my milk in my neighbors’ deep freeze while I gather up my 50 4-ounce jars.

It’s all the OTHER stuff involved in being a milk donor that’s making me grit my teeth a little bit.

Like, the paperwork. There is SO MUCH paperwork. I had to fill out a gargantuan survey after I answered the identical questions in a pre-screening phone interview. I had to get my pediatrician to sign off on a paper that indicates Oren is indeed a humongous baby who can spare this milk for the bank. I had to get my midwives to fill out a paper that indicates I’m a healthy lady.

Oh, and I had to have blood work.

You might assume, as I did, that this nonprofit organization would simply reimburse me for going to Quest for the required bloodwork. That I could just bip into a lab at my convenience, get the blood drawn, send the bill to the milk bank, and not think about it again.

Oh, no. Nope.

This is what they do. Preview: It’s insane, with so much room for error I can’t even imagine how this is a better idea.

They mail me, along with my shipping container for my 200 ounces, a blood drawing kit. It had vials, a tourniquet, freezer packs, labels…it had phlebotomy tools. All I needed to do was get someone to “donate” a needle and draw the blood. Then I was supposed to pack it up and send it away with the enclosed prepaid FedEx label and HUMAN SPECIMEN stickers.

Let’s revisit that paragraph: I needed to find a nurse to steal a needle from her employer.

Nurses have been fired for a lot less, and this was the response many of my nurse-friends gave me. I went the respectable route first. I asked my midwives, but they send all blood draws to the big corporate lab. I asked my PCP, but they send all blood draws to the big corporate lab. I asked my pediatrician, but they don’t do blood draws in the office, nor keep the needles around.

Finally, I found someone willing to gank a needle for me, but she didn’t feel comfortable doing the draw.

So my other nurse friend did some kitchen phlebotomy. Here’s how it went down:

I stuck Miles on the school bus and loaded the other 2 kids in the minivan. We drove to C’s house, where my children and her children wept and swirled around us. C’s son was actually tugging on C’s trousers, trying to pull them down as C stuck a needle into my arm at the kitchen counter.

I sat with my eyes squeezed shut telling Felix to just play with a ball and stop crying.

After 700 years, C filled the third vial and I felt her breathe the biggest sigh of relief known to humankind. “I’ve never drawn blood under these conditions,” she said. We packed it all up and I drove it to the closest FedEx, dragged my 2 youngest children in to wait in the longest holiday FedEx line possible, and learned I couldn’t send it from that location because they don’t do human specimen there.

I had to put everyone back in the van and drive to the main FedEx place, where I overshared the story of what was inside my package to the girl with the scan gun. She was pretty unphased, which allowed me to daydream a bit, wondering what sorts of things people send via FedEx at the main Pittsburgh location.

At any rate, I don’t have any major communicable diseases, as my labs came back in top shape. I’m up to 86 ounces of spare milk on ice and now that the boys go to daycare twice a week, I’ll probably start collecting milk more rapidly. I get about 4 spare ounces per day I remember to pump for the milk bank.

So many people have become involved now. I have to make it! 114 to go!

Posted by on December 3rd, 2014 1 Comment


Fall is tumultuous for my family. My oldest son, Miles, has a hard time in fall and I can’t blame him. The weather swings in 40-degree arcs from sunup to sundown. One day it snows and the next we’re at the playground in shorts. With this drastic weather change comes transitions for our family in terms of work (Corey has events in fall that take him away from us in the evenings; I’m starting back to work) and school for Miles. It’s a mess and it leaves us all sort of scrambling.

This fall I submitted Oren’s birth story to Birth Diverse.

I realized the feature I researched my entire pregnancy went live the day Oren was born. I love re-reading it and thinking about this project again, because it’s an awesome one I continue to write about with the Sprout Fund.

I signed up to become a milk donor with the Columbus Mothers Milk Bank. More on that later, but it’s a tumultuous process for sure.

Then I packed up my family and we hauled out to central Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. If you’ve never traveled on a holiday with 3 young kids, you really must try it. Your meditation skills will be tested!

While we were in my hometown, my family arranged for us to visit Through the Fire Studios, a glass studio about an hour away from my parents. Eleven of us drove there with a jar of my grandmother’s ashes to incorporate bits of Gommy into glass keepsakes we’d each take to our own homes. It was a tumultuous, amazing experience.

I felt initially overwhelmed by the kilns. All I could think about as we knocked my grandmother’s ashes around was is a crematory this hot and loud? Were we disrespecting her bones as we sprinkled them on the table? What would she have thought of such a thing?

But you know what she would have thought? She would have been overjoyed that all 5 of her children and ALL of her granddaughters (well…not my cousin Greer, who has Down Syndrome and wouldn’t have done well in the glass studio) came together in one sitting. She would have sat on a bench and clutched her hands together and gushed about how nice it was.

We all got a lesson in how to handle the glass. Some of us chose to blow balls while others (including me) chose to make a “paperweight.” I use the quotations because I certainly won’t be using mine to hold down paper. I’ll be placing it on the mantle where I can look at it every day.

I made my choice because it seemed sturdiest, like something my feral sons wouldn’t destroy. Even if they hurl it across the room, I don’t think it will chip. They might maim one another with it, but Gommy will be safe.

I found the glass working to be intense. The instructor I had was very hands-off, words-on and allowed me to make and correct my own mistakes. Only when I was about to drip molten glass on my toe would he stick his hands on the bar to help me make an adjustment. I was very proud of how I was able to spin the rod with one hand and shape the glass with the other. I think Gommy would have been proud of us all for stepping pretty far outside our comfort zone to try something like this. I even used a blow torch!

Like so many things, the glass tools are set up for right-handed work only, so I was using unfamiliar muscles in unfamiliar ways to swirl the glass. I feel like the piece is complex and a bit wistful and I love it. It has a storm inside of it, and also serenity. I rather hope my sons choose to do something similar to memorialize me after I’m done with this body.

For two days afterward, my muscles ached from the heavy work. It was another tumultuous reminder of what we’d done, and I liked carrying around that physical reminder through our first holiday without my Gommy.

We’re home now, and the younger boys have started going to daycare so I can work longer hours. We’re hunkering down for winter, finding our new normal. It’s good to slow down a bit.

Posted by on December 2nd, 2014 No Comments

Angry Sing-Off

So we all know my kids get up at 5am. I really wouldn’t mind this so much if they were ready to get up, but they’re still tired and when they’re up at this time, they’re miserable, awful people. I wake up each day to the sounds of sobbing or screaming. Today was a screaming day.

We don’t know what else to do with Felix to make him stop screaming, so we dash into the back yard with him in hopes that we can get the sound epicenter far enough away that maybe one of the other children will be able to remain asleep. It never works.

We slump back inside and make eggs in the microwave and turn on a movie, because that’s all the parenting we can muster after we’ve been up all night with a newborn. Today’s feature film was the Lego movie.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I watch the Lego movie, I can’t stop singing that horrid “Everything is Awesome” song. If you haven’t heard it you need to go and Google it.

Miles hates it when I sing that song, so I sing it at him over and over as everyone cries and whines. It’s sort of like a private joke I have with myself–Everything is awesome even though there are 3 kids crying and the eggs are exploding in the microwave and I spilled coffee on the floor!

This morning, Miles couldn’t bear it anymore. He ran into the kitchen and started angry-singing back at me. “Everything is awful! Everything is dumb when you’re part of a team! Everything is AWFUL, mom!!!!!”

And there we stood, sing-fighting each other while the other kids cried. I’m pretty sure that we are both correct.

Posted by on October 21st, 2014 1 Comment

You Have a Baby…In a Bar…

Tonight, I met some mom friend neighbors at our neighborhood pub. Of course, I brought Oren with me since he usually nurses straight through from 7-10pm. I walked into the bar with my baby in the sling, wide awake, and instead of getting the stink eye like I feared, the owner walked up and told me how cute my baby was. He then made sure the music wasn’t too loud and asked if it was disturbing Oren. Should he turn it down?

I love that I was meeting such awesome women, all of whom live within walking distance of my house, at a bar we could walk to that welcomes babies in slings. You can’t buy this sort of community. You just can’t.

Sure, my family is cramped right now. Most of our possessions are in a storage facility down by the river and we’re still cramped. We can’t lend certain books to friends because we don’t want to rummage through the book boxes in the storage unit and we can’t host potlucks past September because, well, we don’t have enough space. But boy do we have a community here in this neighborhood.

Sometimes I think we could just chuck it all and build the same sort of thing in whatever new neighborhood we find with a big enough house in our price range, but why would I do that? Why would I give up the fish fries and ability to walk into a bar with my babies and meeting friendly faces to pick up litter on Earth Day? I have neighbors whose parents fly in from Argentina and just love babies, so they made us pans of lasagne when Oren was born in exchange for sniffing his bald head.

I personally would be very happy to cull most of my possessions so we would better fit in this house. Of course, my spouse is less enamored with the idea of minimalism and my kids want to own both a Brio and a Lego collection, so the search continues. But I’m very happy to wait and see and take our nightly walks around the block, pointing out all the houses that would be big enough for our family.

As our house search drags on into fruitlessness, I worry often about what we should do. How long should we hold out and wait for the right house to open in our neighborhood before we give up and buy a house in another neighborhood? And then something happens like tonight, where I walk into the neighborhood joint and see friendly faces and feel enveloped by the 15206, and I know the answer is as long as it takes.

Posted by on October 18th, 2014 No Comments