Fan Club

This morning at breakfast, Sissy, Daddy, and I told stories of baby Piper.

We told her how she liked to sit in a doll stroller and make us push her in endless loops around our house in Illinois. If we stopped, she’d simply point her finger in the direction she wanted to go and grunt. We obeyed.

We told that she did the Ting-A-Ling Silly Circus clown dance 4 million times. One of our hands was the buzzer she had to hit to do her silly dance again.

We told her that she didn’t talk much because the three of us were there to anticipate her every need. Why speak with this kind of service?

“We’re your biggest fans, Piper. The three of us adore you,” I said.

“Make that four,” Piper said, “I am a big fan of mine, too”

Katie, Heroine

When Piper grows up I want her to be like Katie. This is Katie.


Photo by Grant Ross. 

Katie is fierce and strong. She’s beautiful and kind. She’s the most positive woman I’ve ever known. She’s grateful and gracious. She is beloved. And Katie may die very soon.

I met Katie in childbirth class when I was pregnant with Sissy, Piper’s older sister. Katie’s laugh and her smile drew me in. She was hopeful for a natural birth. She was sure her plan would work. Katie went into labor first. When her son Will was born, we went to visit them in the hospital. I stood teetering nine months pregnant, waiting for my turn. Katie grabbed my hand and said, “Take the meds! Take everything they’ll give you!” And we laughed and laughed at the control we thought we’d have over birth and life and death.

Katie’s laughter and light are contagious. Her heart is huge. She was the friend Piper’s dad needed when he needed a friend the most. Piper’s dad, Joe, and Katie were stay at home parents together for a year after Sissy and Will were born. They were in the trenches together, navigating library story hours, bottles, diapers, and growth charts. Katie invited Joe into a circle of moms that didn’t really want to have a dad around. That’s what Katie does. She reaches out. She brings you in. They braved their mutual diagnosis together, Katie with cancer and Joe with multiple sclerosis, with babies on their hips. And they took care of each other’s babies when doctor’s appointments and treatments and life got in the way.

Last year, after a roller coaster ride with cancer, Katie and her husband came to visit. Katie wanted to see D.C. before her next round of chemo. She wanted to walk around the monuments and visit the White House. Katie loves her country and God. She wanted to see us, too. So we spent a glorious night together eating, laughing, and loving maybe for the last time.


Yesterday, Katie’s husband, who has been writing about their battle to save Katie’s life, asked us simply to pray for peace. He feels like the luckiest guy in the world to have had the chance to love Katie this long. You should read about Katie’s Story here.

If I could hope for anything for my daughters, for Piper and Sissy, and for Katie’s kids, Will and Jessica, it would be that they have Katie’s courage and capacity for love and laughter, that they are brave and bold, and that they find strength, friendship, and peace along their path.

A Walk in the Park

When Piper walks to the park, she skips and dances. She frolics under cherry blossoms. She makes up songs and sings them loudly. She keeps her eye on me to make sure I’m following.

If she meets a dog along the way, she looks back for my permission. I look to the owner to see if we know them and to the dog for a sign of friendliness. If I nod, Piper crouches low and holds out her hand. She holds her body still. As much as a Piper can, anyway; stillness is not her default setting.

Meeting a dog on the way to the park is Piper’s favorite thing in the whole world. Suddenly, she’s not on a walk to the park. Piper is petting a dog.

A Piper is always on a journey. She often forgets her destination. There are cherry blossoms and dogs and songs. Maybe there is a park on the other end of the path. Maybe not, but a Piper is sure there will be an adventure.

Doggie Cures

Piper has decided what she’d like to do with her life. Those of you who know her animal loving ways won’t be surprised much. Piper’s never met a four-legged stranger.

This morning while I was braiding her hair, Piper asked, “Mom, what would you do if you had a lot of money?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Seems like we have most of what we need. Maybe help other people?” It was 6:02 a.m. and I hadn’t had coffee. Forgive me for neglecting a teachable moment.

“I’d open a mall just for dogs. Then I could let them go to the doggie spa all day. There would be parks for playing and fresh water bowls everywhere. In fact, I’d hire one person just to go around cleaning and refilling water bowls.”

“And what would you do at the mall, Piper?”

“Oh, I’d cure cancer. Nobody deserves cancer but especially not dogs. I’d have my own lab with a big window so I could watch the dogs play while I worked. Then they’d bring in the sick ones and I’d make them better.”


Piper’s Notes from a Sort of Sick Bed

This seems entirely appropriate today.


1. Isn’t it great, Mom, that I got sick on a Saturday? You don’t have to cancel anything. You’re welcome.

2. Why doesn’t my body have enough skills to fight a little ole fever? Geez.

3. Uh oh. Time for a zebra pack. (Z-pak antibiotic)

4. More orange spice tea, please. Wait. Did you put in extra honey? Mmm. You’re such a good mom. Wait. Are you trying to cover up some medicine with that yummy honey?

5. What if I wake up a cheetah? Wouldn’t that be cool? I’d be a nice cheetah, though. I wouldn’t hurt you, Mom. Question! Do cheetahs get sick?

6. Pharmacies shouldn’t have candy. Candy doesn’t make you feel better. Toys make you feel better. Pharmacies should give away toys with medicine.  Just like Old McDonalds.

7. Can you stick that thing that beeps in my armpit again? I’ve got an itch in there.

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Take Your Kid to Work Day

Our school has an annual Take Your Kid to Work Day, lovingly and ridiculously referred to as TYKTWD. We’re in D.C. We like acronyms for everything. It’s insider lingo.

I asked Sissy if she wanted to come with me. I imagined her adoration as she saw her mother in a different light. I pictured students stopping me as I crossed campus to profess their devotion to the ways I had transformed their writing through my teaching. I know. I know. Sissy mentioned something about a killer game of foursquare at recess that she didn’t want to miss. My dreams were crushed. Then little Piper piped up.

“I’ll go, Mom! I’d love to go to work with you. You work?”

Off we went. First, on the train.


Where Piper read me all the rules. No eating. No standing in front of the doors. No loud music. No drinks. Then she spilled her water all over our Metro seat.

During my class, after my students fawned all over the Piper, she busied herself with her Career Shadow worksheet.


That’s as far as she got. “It looks like you just talk a lot. Is your job talking?”

Then she discovered a chocolate her Sissy had stuffed in her backpack as a surprise. Her chomping drowned out my talking. Until I started asking questions. Then, Piper’s hand shot up in the air with the rest of my students. She waved frantically. Then she noticed that college students don’t wave frantically. Much. I called on Piper. “I don’t know,” she said, “I wasn’t even listening to the question.”

The lesson continued. As my students brainstormed possible presentation ideas, I wrote them on the chalkboard. Then we began analyzing the argument and evidence for each. They talked, I wrote, we learned. Piper joined in. There was a chalkboard and chalk. She couldn’t help herself. Just as I was about to sit her back down so that she wouldn’t be a distraction, she wrote this.


Awwww. I’m not sure what Piper learned on TYKTWD but I know that she LOEVs MOM.

City Kid

Yesterday our morning breakfast was interrupted by hovering helicopters. As we ate our waffles with Nutella, sirens screamed by. Then they were closer and louder. Soon, SWAT teams descended into our neighborhood. It should have been alarming. Instead, it was the lack of alarm that was alarming. Sissy and Piper went about their day, packing snacks, zipping up back packs, brushing teeth.

I checked the news and didn’t find any so I went to the real news source: Facebook. A neighbor reported that it was a domestic situation. We chatted about whether the school would open on time. My phone rang and it was the principal on an auto call letting us know that the school was open and in shelter in place. No big deal. Typical urban neighborhood stuff. Sigh.

We drove the kids the three blocks to school rather than walk. The hovering helicopters and search lights were a little much. Dad walked them inside and was greeted by our principal who assured the kids that the day would be a normal school day. Sissy and Piper weren’t even phased. “Gosh,” Piper said, “I hope those SWAT teams are gone by recess!” And they were.


Piper is my dharma. She doesn’t mean to be. She just is.

Maybe I was a little grumpy. Maybe I was a little impatient. Surely not.

Either way, Piper was supposed to be playing by herself. Piper hates playing by herself. She wants to be attached to a member of our family every minute of the day, even in sleep. She’s an extrovert living with three workaholic introverts. Piper is the one that makes us see the light of day. And she makes us laugh about it, too.

After her thirty minutes of “alone time” Sunday afternoon, Piper bounced into my office and slipped this in my palm.


“I made it for you,” she said. “It’s a pin. You can wear it.”

“Thanks, sweetie,” I said, hugging the Piper.

“You can be happy, too. If you want to, Mommy.”