Thursday, April 26, 2007


I had this idea for a post that I was going to call "shame" and it was going to be a photograph of the snow pants Ben wore all winter: the knees patched with thick strips pink duct tape and a close-up of the size (4-5) and also, maybe, of the chart on the wall where you can see that he has grown about 8-10 inches since he was 4-5. I was going to invite you to post your own shame photos in response (not that you would have any, right?).

But then I got sidetracked by this:

And because it is more or less the antithesis of shame--because every cell in Birdy's body passes through the loving and unsullied organ of her beautiful, blessed heart--I thought that maybe this photo would be better suited to a perfect early spring day, this perfect early spring day, when we are leaving the winter and its peculiar shames behind us.

p.s. The new wondertime column is here.


  1. Anonymous11:32 AM

    Oh Catherine,

    We all have our own walls of shame, and really aren't they all just glimpses into not so perfect perfect lives? Thanks for the adorable, smile inducing picture. Birdy truly is a darling. As my great grandma always used to say, "Bless her little heart." Thanks for all your writing. I look forward to it every week. You're a great mom who helps remind me to keep trying to be a great mom.

  2. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Ok, because I think you'll appreciate this... I had to stare at the picture for about 45 seconds trying to figure out why it was cute (as opposed to funny) that Birdy was giving some weird stuffed animal a bottle up its butt. I guess I'm just sick that way. I finally 'saw' it the 'right' way! What the hell is wrong with me???

  3. Anonymous12:05 PM

    I think in the last two pictures you've managed to preserve a clearer picture of Birdy at this stage of her life than I've managed in thousands of photos of my own kids. What a totally fierce and regal sweetheart she is. Happy Spring Catherine and Birdy, and Ben and Michael too. We're in the Northeast too and on a day like today it does seem like only good things are ahead of us with the magnolia and the forsythia blooming and the onion grass trying to take over our yard! (Do you guys call it onion grass too? The really thin green chivy looking stuff that grows faster than normal grass and smells likes onions when pulled. My husband laughs at me when I call it that but my kids luckily think their Mom is absolutely right - of course it's onion grass!)

  4. Anonymous12:09 PM

    Oh yeah - I forgot to say "PINK!!! How could you tape Ben's pants with PINK!!!! duct tape!!!" Hehe. Just in case you miss the insane commenters from Babycenter. By the way, where do you get pink duct tape? I want some!

  5. Anonymous12:21 PM

    I'm with Sharon in that it looks like Birdy is giving a bottle to her stuffed toy... but in the rear end.

    Only, after staring at the picture I STILL don't get it...

    Can someone explain it please? I'm afraid I'm a little slow today.

  6. I would like to say that I saw the stuffed animal for what it was right away, unlike the rest of you who need another cup of coffee.

    Also, I think a question about crying "tears of joy" is the kind of question I dislike, because it makes me feel as if failing to come up with an answer means I am failing to correctly experience life. I used to have a co-worker who would ask similar questions: "How many birds did you see today?," he would ask in spacy, meaning-rich tones, as if my failing to take time to notice the little things showed I was focused in the wrong directions.

    I don't think I have ever cried tears of just joy. I think non-completely-sad tears come from a mix of emotions. A baby being born makes me cry, but it's not just joy, it's significance and momentousness and the beginning of new things. Wedding tears are similar: it's joy, and it's the start of something new, and it's the solemnity of something important. I don't even know what tears of just joy would be. I think someone who asks such a question has to answer it first.

  7. The fact that you took the time to calm down and wait until you were no longer upset before you talked to the kids is excellent.
    It IS funny now, but I can totally see how you would have been embarrassed. (I'm pretty sure a children's book illustrator would have a firm grip on the weird things they say, though, so she prolly thought it was funny too.) Who asks about stuff like birds and joy? Because it seems like, to me, when you stop and think about whether you're happy or not, you might be interrupting the happiness. I mean really, when I'm laying in bed with my toddler on my chest for morning snuggles, I'm thinking "I LOVE THIS". I'm also thinking, "Ow, his toenails are sharp and I think he just drew blood" and "I should be getting ready for work". Doesn't mean I'm not still totally enjoying the morning snuggles, really.
    Laughing Mommy, that's a "hippopotamus baby".

  8. Anonymous2:52 PM

    Yeah, yeah, that's cute and all, but I still want the shame pictures. (hee hee)


  9. Oh how wonderful that little well loved hippo (?) is!

    And i loved the column at wondertime this week (well, every week!). I can totally relate.

    Thanks for bring your readers such joy.

  10. I am having serious spelling/grammer issues today! I meant "bringing"

  11. At least it was pink duct tape. It is SO much cooler than the boring silver kind. ;)

    Birdy is such a kind soul.

  12. I feel renewed by the sunshine today too. Nothing like seeing your kid mothering a hippo to make you feel all better. Shame was last night when I lost my stinkin' temper agan. But today is much better. I love the spring!

  13. Or maybe a cow? A cow right???

  14. Anonymous9:02 PM

    Very cute picture. I often take pictures of the things my daughter arranges that have significance to her- I want to remember this stuff- it's so sweet! We had a very huge stuffed Polar bear mama giving her cub a milky bottle yesterday at our house. Speaking about kids embarrassing us- I met my husband when my son was 7 yrs old- I had been a single mom for 4 years and had never really dated during that time. When I met G, I knew he was THE ONE, and things quickly took off....So a month into the relationship, my son and I go to dinner at G's house- their first official "meeting". I was a wreck. I coached him in the car to have good manners and to share in a little dinner conversation. (he was very fidgety and could never stay at the table longer than a few minutes at a time). So about halfway into the meal, my son turns to me and says, "So how was that-was that enough conversation, Mom???" He burped a few times, too. But I guess G liked the whole package deal, regardless.

  15. I think a shame meta-post would definitely be a good project for all of us.

    Here you go, Catherine, it's your chance to START a meme! Nothing cooler.

    Aw, and I love it when they are so warm and caring with their little ones (sometimes more so than we are to them...).

  16. Anonymous7:01 AM

    Oh dear--

    Am I the only one who saw the photo and thought "Eebo!"?

    It is Eebo the hippo, isn't it?

    And I'm a loyal fan, not a stalker, OK?

    My kids could never get their animals to take a bottle. Good work, Birdy!

  17. Anonymous7:25 AM

    Yesterday, I got the report, while he did have gentle hands and feet today, my son chose to spit on and make fun of his classmates. Sigh. But later, when I was on the phone with my husband, crying (stress, exhaustion and pregnancy hormones), he came, crawled in my lap, cuddled me and said, "Mommy, don't cry, it's OK," setting off a new round of tears.

  18. Catherine, your posts are so wonderful. They almost always make me stop and think, and always in a good way! Keep up the good work!

  19. I was only on my first cup of coffee but I 'got it' on second glance. V. cute. ;-)

  20. Awwwwww. How sweet that little Birdy is.

    One time when I realized that one of my mommy friends and I seemed to only kvetch about our husbands and sleepless nights when we got together, I asked her right out of the blue, "What is the last book you've read--that wasn't a parenting/self-help book?" It started a pretty interesting conversation. That's about as "deep" as I've ever gotten.

    I can't think of any tears of "just" joy either. Hmmmm.....

  21. Anonymous1:56 PM

    Oh no fair! You guys who "get it" are not explaining! It doesn't help me that it's a hippopotamus baby! Oh I must be brain-dead! Could it be because I have interacted with 101 7th and 8th graders today? (I'm a teacher.) Yeah, that must be it (now I'm self-soothing.) Maybe someone is feeling kind and wordy and will (please) explain...As I say to my students, "pretend that you're explaining this concept to a 7-year old...

  22. Hi Anonymous. I'm a longtime reader who's never posted, but I feel your pain because it took me a while, too. So here goes.

    You see that there's a large mass under the blanket, right? That's the body. Keep that in mind. Those aren't hind legs sticking out, they're arms. Or front legs. Or whatever the hell this little guy has. And the part sticking out of the blanket is the head. It's lookin' right at you, and there are little ears at the top, see? And the little black dots--there are five of them--are the eyes, nose, and mouth. (There at the bottom of the head, by the bottle? It's not where the food comes out, it's where it goes in.)


  23. Anonymous6:04 PM


    (and now to you, Catherine, Thank You. It's lovely.)

  24. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Haha! Thank you, "Amy in RI," because even after looking at it 3, 4, 5 times I still only saw a bottle near the butt of some teddy bear with oddly-long legs and no arms. (Something that Catherine might, indeed, post - but she wouldn't call it sweet!)

    My three-year-old is constantly tucking her "babies" into bed - dolls, Buzz Lightyear, dog figurines, you name it. Only she always pulls the covers completely over their heads. I have to admit, at times it seems more "morgue" than "nursery," but maybe I've watched one too many CSI episodes. :)

  25. Anonymous5:44 AM

    Hi Catherine,

    I would love to interview you for my new site - we launched last week and we’re up to 1000 visitors!! ☺ If you’re interested please email me on Hope to hear from you soon.


  26. Anonymous7:49 PM

    nI had to come read the comments because I saw it was a new picture. Thanks to whoever explained it, I was wondering what was so sweet about it myself!

  27. Has anyone seen "In Pursuit of Happyness" yet? Both my hubby and I were bawling tonight at the end. Maybe it was the fact there was a 5 year old, and made us think of ours and how we can push him aside and sacrifice those happy times for "getting ahead", whether it be work or house (those hours staring at the Pottery Barn catalog in endless frustration and cries of poverty) but then it made us think how blessed we are that we aren't living in a subway station bathroom. Um, I think this is related...

  28. OK I figured it out - it IS a cow with hooves sticking out, body under the covers. I have to admit that at first I thought the bottle was near the...ahem...butt. Now I see it though, yes very sweet. That Birdy is all about love.

    I think I saw pink duct tape at Home make me laugh. I agree with many others that we all have our moments of shame...mine are more of the verbal variety, but I still get it.

    This will make you smile. Papoosie Girl is 6 and she is wearing pj's in sizes ranging from 6x to 8 since some were new and some from our amazing local consignment store. She needed some new summer pj's and I thought I would be clever and buy size 12 since for one they shrink so much and two we would get several years out of them. The problem? They fall right off, even when we roll the waist several times. So while you are trying to get an extra year out of snow pants I am over here trying to do the same with pj's. We have since put them away for next (next) summer.

    Last, the Wondertime column was held your comments...something I am working VERY hard on. I admire your honesty, it is so hard to bite your tongue (again and again), it sounds like you were calm and collected.

  29. Anonymous7:08 AM

    Catherine's in O Magazine again (May issue)! Great article as always!

  30. Anonymous3:03 PM

    Hey Catherine! Today we ate frozen peach slices with breakfast! I think we waited way too long, though (I kind of found them in the very back of the freezer with serious frost in the bag with the peaches, but whatever.) They were kind of mushy, truth be told. But I'm happy for the experience. :) Glad you wrote about it way back when. - Jessica (It's been so long since I left a comment I can't even remember my username and password. But I still read everything and love it, every week.)

  31. Your desire to be friends with Jeanne Birdsall in your latest wondertime post reminds me of us, your gushing and fawning dedicated readers. We idolize you so much that we would even be too embarassed to get a massage from Michael because we are afraid of "stalking" you. It made me wonder about other known women. Did Ayn Rand ever put her foot in her mouth? Who does Anne Rice really want to be friends with but just can't get over pleasantries with? And does Hilary wish she could just invite Condi over for a chick flick and popcorn?

  32. Anonymous9:11 AM

    I saw the hippo right away, so I keep trying to do the opposite--trying to see a butt where the head is. It's just as hard. What a strange lot we are. But nice to have so many who share perspective AND try to see the others perspective. --Cathy K

  33. I am majorly sucking with the posting and the reading and the commenting and all that. But you know. Hope everyone's well. Are we good?

  34. Sorry, I can't get it up to post on Wondertime after hearing so many people have so many problems, but about today's post: !!!! I LOVED THAT!!! It kinda makes me want to eat your kids up, they are so fantastic.

    Reminded me too of when Jackson came out of his room teary and blushing and whispered in my ear that he'd just said "shit" very softly into his pillow to hear what it sounded like coming out of his mouth.

    He felt horribly guilty and I love that he needed to tell me about it in order to overcome that.

    He's only 5 1/2 but so far, so good.

  35. Anonymous6:35 PM

    You can get pink duct tape?!!

  36. Anonymous8:45 PM

    Like Slim, my first (self-conscious, embarrassed) thought when I saw the photo was "It's Eebo!" (I also wondered if the cradle is the same one Michael made for Ben when he turned three.)

    THEN I thought that the photo would make a perfect PSA for lovies: 'Eebo says CHILLAX. For more info on Cuddle Object Exhaustion Syndrome, how to recognize it, and how to be effectively nurtured by YOUR 4 year-old, please visit'

    I apologize. My mind is obviously damaged. Thanks, though, for making our day over here.


  37. Anonymous10:28 PM

    The story about Ben and his "naughty" words reminds me of a summer day several years ago when I could hear some of the neighbor kids hiding out on the porch next door singing the same songs I had sung 20 years earlier, and they still thought they were doing something cool--you know, singing "On Top of Spaghetti" and those other songs kids teach other and think the adults have never heard them.

    It's good to know that not all kids are singing filthy rap songs or something!

  38. Anonymous8:30 AM

    Just read the Wondertime post. Made me think of Glad & Sorry by Golden Smog (members of Wilco, Jayhawks, Sun Volt). I asked my husband to put it on as soon as my daughter was born.

  39. Oh, and I have a question. Can you explain to us the unapropereuteness of the word "beginner" ?? I'm curious about that one.

  40. Catherine,

    I was out shopping today and thought of you as I picked up the cutest brown t-shirt at Old Navy for Rosebud. It has a bird on it and says, "Some Birdy loves me" - it is too cute...

    I think your Birdy would look adorable in it too.

  41. Hi Catherine,

    I think Birdy and my Jess would be great friends. She just turned 4 in March. Jess does the same kinds of stuff with her Pinkie Bear who has a personality all of his own. Always enjoy your writing, Love, Karen

  42. Catherine, I've read your wondertime column every day this week as a sure-fire pick-me-up. Oh, those swares! So far our Mr. S seems to have forgotten his early genius in this area (two years old, working on paper hand puppets and not getting the wavy fishscale lines just right: "F**k." Still two, shouting out the window of a parked car into a crowded street: "F**king trucks!! F**king trucks!!") This was approximately the moment we decided it was time to start being a little more creative with our own damn swares.

    And Shannon: My house, too, looks like a morgue. All the little babies and bears and hand puppets and train cars having been apparently felled in their tracks and covered respectfully with washcloths pending further investigation. You half expect to see a hard-boiled detective out there with a notebook and a noir hat--except wait, no, he's there, under the food-stained napkin. Alas.

  43. Anonymous5:53 PM

    As I was poring over quotes to (hopefully) inspire the college students I teach, I came across one that sort of summed up what reading your work over the past few years has taught/reminded me:

    “The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one's "own" or "real" life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one's life.” C.S. Lewis

    I just want to thank you for reminding me that parenting isn't always about the posed moments in front of the camera or when we are aware of "parenting" from sort of distant, analytical perspective, where we have some grand plan and goals for "raising our kids" - it's in the everyday, here-and-now -- the interruptions.

  44. Serena I think those were "beginner" unappropriate swear words on the first list and then more advanced ones on the next list. I like that he was dividing them up into their level (level of what? Badness? Daring? Scrabble point value?)

  45. OH! HAHAHAHA! spryngtree, I'm sure you're right. That is so hilarious! Boy, what a sense of humor that boy has. :'-D

  46. Anonymous4:46 PM

    Hey, Celia changed her name! And maybe got a sex-change too. Didn't learn to spell or write, though.