So, two things you need to know up front before we get going here. 

First: Brandon is out of town. Still. So it is my job as remaining parent to take millions of photos + videos of what all Huck is up to and then text them to Brandon so he can reply back at me how cute our kid is, and then sometimes we get a video back of what all he's been up to. For example, last night we got to watch Brandon ride the zipline his parents built in the back yard for their grandkids, and tonight Brandon took Huck on a grand tour of the hotel pool. So. Boys. The point being, you know how sometimes you go for days without taking pictures of things on your phone? These are not those times.

Second: Huck is the proud owner of a magical lion Halloween costume that, seriously, miraculously, has fit him perfectly for three years running. It defies all the laws of physics, and for that I am grateful. Obviously. Because, well look at him.

Then Huck tried to sell me on this "I'm wearing this outside" idea. And I was all, "Heck no you aren't, mister," but he managed to make a pretty decent case for himself, actually. See for yourself:

Locals, lest you worried you'd hallucinated a lion riding a scooter through the Upper West Side this afternoon, fear not. That was us.

And now, here is what all we did.

Well, first we had to go to the Starbucks to get a black + white, because, priorities. (When it hits it hits!) (Corny joke about black + whites being the preferred cuisine of most African lions blah blah nope not funny.)

Next we went to the bank to deposit some checks. Exciting stuff, yes?

Next we discussed playground options. These debates can go on for hours. So first we decided to get something to eat.

We like to take obnoxious photos of ourselves in the mirror outside of the crepe place while we wait for our crepes, for purposes of posterity and stuff.

Huck's favorite is the ham + gruyere if you want to know. And he is still pretty good at waiting patiently

And then I was like, "Okay Huck. But this is not happening at the playground, it is time to change your clothes." There is only so far you can take a lion costume on an 80-degree day after all. He was okay with it at that point. 

*Not pictured: The two hours I spent playing Pet Rescue while Huck ran around the playground alternating between the splash pad and the sand box. Hashtag, mud.

**Totally Related in a Magical Way: THIS.




Motherhood Right Now means....

/ Holding his hand as we walk through the school amid echoes of sneakers on vinyl, taking a deep breath at the front office, and accepting that seat at that full-week, full-day prek program, the one that his dad + I aren't sure is the best option for him, all the while hoping + praying that a half day option opens up somewhere, and reassuring him--at once really excited and totally freaked out--that "we'll see how we feel come August," and "you know what, this could be really fun."

/ Watching an awful lot of Caillou.

/ Tiny swim trunks wadded up at the bottom of my purse, along with at least a million water balloons.

/ Carrots for breakfast. Every day.

/ "Mom, can we talk about someping?"

/ Coming up with ridiculous bedtime stories that start with Huck at Central Park eating popsicles, lead to the bubble man making a magic bubble that flies Huck to the beach to make a sandcastle that magically becomes real, and then epic quest after epic quest to save said kingdom from dragons and giants et al because he's STILL not tired and I'm putting off editing my manuscript (I love a lot of those essays so much but half of them have to go) and because wordiness is obviously my jam.

/ Paying a sitter $15 an hour because Brandon has been out of town for forever and I flipping need some quiet time, and then not being able to come up with anything interesting to do with myself, because Huck is always willing to do junk with me so long as I do junk with him, and so really, there's nothing I've been wanting to do that I can't do when he's around... except maybe get a manicure but those are of no use to me... so instead, wandering Brooklyn on a "neighborhood scouting mission" and getting two blisters on my feet in the process, which I'm okay with, because those are me-time blisters, and not being "on" for an inquisitive small dude is really nice sometimes. But also realizing that in the absence of a three-year-old to narrate my thoughts to, I sometimes end up talking to myself. (Eh, happens.) 

Motherhood Right Now is: Tiring, freaking nutsballs fun, and challenging, with a side of lots of beta carotene.




And the home of the brave! 

On Wednesday we had one of those days where we needed to be out of the apartment for a solid six hours so stuff could get done, which meant we got to wander around all day looking for various things to entertain ourselves with.  

First we met my friend Lynne for lunch. Three things of note here. The first: We showed up wearing the same exact shorts, which was splendid. Two: Lynne had never had the Shake Shack before?! And C: MADISON SQUARE SHAKE SHACK STILL HAS CRINKLE FRIES.

Lynne is the designer of Cardigan NY, and these shorts. So I guess it wasn't that weird of a coincidence.

Then Lynne had to get back to work and Huck had decided he wanted a pet snake named Hooky, but first he needed to run through the water at the Madison Square playground in nothing but his undies. Clearly our priorities are in check. It was pushing ninety degrees and it felt like a sauna out, so while he ran around I obviously did nothing but think of those giant refrigerators they have in restaurant kitchens. And then we decided to walk clear across the island to check out the Tara Donovan exhibit at the Pace Gallery, because by now it was only 2:00 and we still had three hours to kill.

And here we have Huckles the Great being a good sport about things, his drying undies flapping in the breeze from his scooter handles with fanfare. A few minutes after this shot he sort of slumped over the handle bars in a very dramatic fashion and slowly rolled to a stop and said, "MOM. I'm SO HOOOOT. There better be snakes there."

No snakes, but yes paper mountains. 

No snakes, but yes these gorgeous things.

The way the light played off this piece was enormously magical. Huck tiptoed all around it, peeking in close and then saying in a hushed whisper, "Wowwww!"

We talked about art and all the different ways you can make it, how Tara might have cut up all those squares of paper and where she might have found all those plastic dowels, and the feelings you get and all the different things art can mean to all the different people who see it. I showed him a coffee table book of Rothko's watercolors and we talked about his own watercolor paint set at home, and picked out the colors he had in his own pallet and strategizing about the fun things he could try next. 

And then as we were on our way out the door the security guard stopped us and said to us out of the side of her mouth, "Yoko Ono is right behind you. Go back through the exhibit again. Go go go."

So , Yoko Ono is very small and very adorable and had on the jauntiest little black felt hat, worn at a very precise little angle on her head. It was all rather fantastic. 

So, no. No snakes. But yes Yoko Ono. 

After that was over we wandered around Chelsea aimlessly until we found ourselves in the fur district by accident, which is a crazy strange place by the way. And then fur district ended right at the area of midtown where I once bought myself a bag of human hair, so. That was something. 

We stopped in at a cafe to share a croissant some air conditioning, and to talk more about snakes and guzzle cold bottles of water. And then we decided to visit the New York Public Library and see about some snake books. And now here comes my stupid story about the library. Are you ready?

Well, so we got distracted by the ABC of IT exhibit which is still running, and we were wandering through having a grand old time, but when we got to the comic book section I noticed that one of the glass tables was making this weird sort of ticking noise? Tick tick tick tick. I couldn't figure out if it was part of the exhibit or if maybe we were all about to die? And then I had to be like, Natalie. Let's be very real here. What are the chances that bombs even tick anymore. What is the likelihood here. Something tells me... no. But anyway, you don't live in New York and visit popular tourist attractions without sometimes freaking out over stuff, so I took Huck's hand and we found a security guard and we let her know what we'd heard and off she went to go investigate while I explained to poor Huck that, no, there would be no snake books, because, see, bombs probably don't tick but if they did and we blew up, well, that would make me a pretty bad mom, now wouldn't it. 

Somehow it got to be 5:00. Our six hours were up. I was having grand visions of Frosted Mini Wheats for dinner with Sour Punch Straws for dessert, and Huck needed to pee. And so we walked home.

Good work there, Empire State Building.

Tomorrow I am supposed to register my child for pre-k. Oh pre-k, damn you pre-k! Tomorrow is the last day to accept the spot we were given, the spot many parents would maim for, and here I still haven't found the right answer. Tonight as I was snuggling with Huck before he fell asleep, I asked him what he thought about going to school in the fall. He seemed open-minded to it, and I was starting to think that maybe this could be my answer? Maybe he'll really want to go, and then I can encourage him, and I can let him grow up as fast as he wants to grow up, and maybe I should just be proud and grateful for whatever life hands me. So I started to describe what his days would be like. Walking him there, dropping him off with all his new friends and teachers, his backpack and special desk, and learning new songs and playing new games and painting and drawing and recess after lunch, when all of the sudden Huck started to cry. His little hands were covering his eyes and he said rather pathetically, "Why can't you come too? I want you to be with meeeee!" And then I thought, well, could this be my answer?? 

It's a funny spot to be in, where you want your child to succeed and grow and reach, but you also want to tuck them under your wing a little and never let them leave. And it's a silly spot to be in, this all-day pre-k nonsense. Going would be really great for him. Not going would also be really great for him, our play school group for next year is going to be rocking. So all of his options are good which means none of them are wrong and I can't predict the future and this is like trying to decide between a hot cocoa and an ice cream cone months in advance when you're not even sure what the weather will be like. 

Huck and I, we are such a great team. We're pals, we have so much fun. I just love this time as his mom; just us two against the world, exploring the city, thinking about snakes, sharing croissants and talking about art, and singing Row Row Row Your Boat very loudly from 10th Avenue all the way to Fifth. He is getting such an education out here, on the daily. And so am I. And I don't want to be selfish but I also don't want to be coerced into doing what might not feel right for my family, and anyway. That was my Wednesday. Very, very wonderful. Very, very sweaty. And what a funny thing to have this big brave boy who is mine. I have so many wonderful decisions to make, and so many new and scary things to experience, not to mention an expert knock-knock joke crafter by my side 24/7.

"Hey Mom, say 'knock knock.'"

"Okay. Knock knock!"

"Chicken butt!!!!!"



Over the weekend we went to check out William Greenberg, a bakery on the east side that's reported to have THE black and white cookie of our lifetime. Naturally this got me very excited, because like most things in life I take my black + whites terribly seriously. ;) There's a whole lot of factors you gotta consider when you're rating a good black + white, it's not at all like a chocolate chip, which is a very subjective situation, because there is no such thing as a crispy black + white that could still be a good black + white. You can't experiment with pulling them out of the oven early to get a chewier consistency, you're not allowed to substitute Nutella for the chocolate ganache or sprinkle salt on the top, none of that. None of that!

Anyway the east side is super weird. It's like bizarro land over there, very traditional and stuffy, all manicured topiaries and lion door knockers snarling at me as we pass. I feel completely out of place on the east side, me with my flat chest and distinct lack of Tory Burch. I tell you what, the east side side has way bigger boobs going on than the west side does, and also I own precisely zero tennis skirts. 

All of this got me thinking. We've been needing a real black + white to call our favorite. You know, something legitimately New York-y. There's only so much Starbuck's b+w you can take before you start to feel like a fraud. And also, you know, a girl's gotta have a hobby. 

So, roll your drums, kids!
It's The Great Cookie Quest! Round Two! 
The Black + White Edition! 
Brought to you by!... nobody. But that part of the intro felt important.
(Dude should I get my cookie quests sponsored by somebody? Maybe Keebler? Lol.) (Lol?)
(trumpet cadence). 

Get crazy excited, guys. It's way more fun that way.

A little bit about the black + white, for those of you not from around here:

- It's not really a cookie. It's a cake. "Drop cake," because the batter is firm enough to be dropped onto a cookie sheet for baking.
- It is rumored to have been invented in upstate New York.
- The black/white design is said to be a reference to the medieval symbol for the midpoint of the lunar cycle, making it a sort of nod to New York's northern European history.
-The black side of the cookie is (duh) chocolate.
- Originally the white side of the cookie was vanilla buttercream, but these days you're most likely to find vanilla fondant. Some bakeries still do the buttercream. It just makes them messier.
-The cookie should dome a little in the middle, and the black should be slightly taller than the white.
-The base of the cookie should be moist + spongey. The texture is really key. And also the white side SHOULD NOT BE HARD. I get so sad over dried out whites.
-The lemon in the recipe shouldn't overwhelm the cookie, but the perky zip should be noticeable enough to counteract the sweetness of the glazes. 
- Of note, Henry Holbrook calls them "brown + white cookies." 

read more about it here and here and here and here.

And now for the good part. I like to keep things scientific. So we'll use numbers in addition to the usual spiritual soul searching that goes on with me where desserts are concerned. Rating 1-5 style.

THE BLACK / 4 / This black wasn't as fudgey as some of the blacks I've had, which is why this didn't get a full 5. My favorite thing in the world is when the black is so fudgey that it stretches a bit when you pull it apart.
THE WHITE / 5 / Five five five! Soft, subtle, not too sweet, soft! Usually when you unwrap a b+w, you gotta to go real slowly over the black side so you don't mess it up, and then the white is all dried out and crackly and slips out easily. For this one, we had to go reeeal slooow aaaall the waaay acrossss. Satisfying.
THE COOKIE / 5 / It was perfect. Perfect! Chewy, springy, all of it. This is gonna set the bar real high. I think I said, "Good hell, Brandon!" three or four times. Mild cursing is how I know I like something. 

I'd love suggestions on bakeries to include! On my short-list: Glaser's, Nussbaum + Wu, Ess-A-Bagel, and Joyce Bakeshop (because some CBS something or other put them in the top 5). Who else??  (I will also be attempting a DIY-er for this one.)

A happy b+w to you and yours, and remember: Look to the cookie, Elaine. Look to the cookie!

Previous cookie quests found HERE.



I was telling Brandon just the other day about this new life plan I've got, which is to start burning incense on the regular and use words like "aura" in sentences. Basically I'm going to become a Lizard Lady. You know what a Lizard Lady is. When I was a kid there was a woman who lived on our street. I never learned her name so in my head I called her the Lizard Lady. She lived in a small stucco house two doors down, landscaped with rock and cacti, with a wrought iron gate surrounding a tiny patio that was positively overrun with misshapen ceramic pots and all these crazy plants and, just, so much macramé, dripping from everything. I never saw any lights on in her house and I always imagined it was cool like a cave inside, and maybe she had a giant snake for a pet that lived in a neon glass enclosure. Every evening she'd walk to the mailbox with her tiny chihuahua, always in these insane house dresses and at least five million bangles up her arms. I'd always stop whatever I was doing to watch her. Her skin was leather; tan and wrinkly. She was very wiry. She had a head full of wild hair and fingers full of rings. As she'd sort through her mail, a cigarette dangling from her lips, her chihuahua ran around the neighborhood taking care of important things. It looked terribly uncomfortable to me, smoking in 110-degree heat, but also I was like, wow. I was awestruck. She probably had a killer record collection. 

It wasn't until I was back in Arizona for our family reunion a few months ago that I realized I've been subconsciously channeling that Lizard Lady in my life pretty hardcore. I mean, the other day I bought a Willie Nelson record for crying out loud. I'm probably about 20 years or so of sun damage away from the full Lizard Lady status, give or take a nasty smoking habit, and I'm really pretty okay with it.

THE POINT OF THIS IS on Saturday I took a weaving class in Brooklyn. Aaaand it was wonderful. It was really wonderful. Maryanne Moodie taught it, and Maryanne Moodie is incredibly talented. You could actually see her passion as she described the power a group of women can have when they band together to support + create together. She stressed the importance of collective inspiration, of feeling free to emulate what you love until you discover your style, and I loved it so much. All inclusive, all supportive, all relaxed. There is not enough of that in this world these days, and it was just such a boost. There's a hashtag on Instagram (#localweavers), where you can follow the progress of everyone who's taken her class. And she was right, all that positive energy in one place has been really beautiful to see. Maryanne was so great. We all left feeling confident about our gorgeously messy pieces to-be, but more than that we left feeling like we were part of a tribe. 

I have crossed off an important and inevitable task on the path to becoming a true Lizard Lady. I am so thrilled. Next I'm going to need to learn to throw pottery. And the healing properties of aaaaall the crystals. I'm going to need house dresses for this. Probably fifteen more plants.

Anyway, here is Doris. Taduh! Doris is a pretty decent Lizard Lady name, if you ask me.

A few of pieces in the #localweavers hashtag that are inspiring me right now:



Are you in for a treat!

This week we've been doing all sorts of exciting junk around the house. Such as... setting aside all the pants Huck's outgrown since spring. And redesigning the blog on a whim. (Why do I do this?) And then this huge project I finally finished just now, the sorting through of all the photos on all our old hard drives so the graphics team at my publishing house can get started already on the layout of my book. Which is weird. (Almost as weird as me trying very hard right now to properly use CAPITAL LETTERS and SHIFT KEYS! I swear this is slowing my brain down, do I really have to do this? You're Worth It, InTeRnEt.) 

Ohhh, you misty watercolor memories. A few photos felt like a punch to the gut they carried so much of my heart. All the feelings, all the sentimental garbage, blah blah blah, uh wee-oh wee-oh wee-oh (is what Huck used to say when he was certain he was saying actual sentences but only really knew maybe a handful of words). So here are a few. I think they've never made the blog (as far as I remember?), but, eh. Cue the Barbra Streisand. Go get a kleenex.

Huck on his first birthday. We had a little costume party with all his little friends. He went as Charlie Brown. 

This unflattering photo, taken in Lancaster, PA. Looking back on this, I should have known. I should have known that this Amish hat that I jokingly told Brandon I would buy just to get a reaction out of him would some day haunt me forever. I have seriously kicked myself over and over for not getting it. Come to my house, you might think I live on a farm. I'm not kidding. What is up with me? I am thinking of learning to pickle green beans this summer.

I can actually, physically feel that puppy when I look at this photo. Oh golly. I can smell him. His grape jelly head and those corn chip paws. The rough hairs along his belly and the soft hairs on the top of his head. Oh I want to give that boy a real good snuzzle. Barnaby MacDuffleMuffins, your mommy misses you. 

So this one time I was asked to speak at a blog conference, and it was, like, 2009, and I had no idea what in the world I was doing, and they needed a headshot, and I was all, "Would this work?" and then Brandon said, "No."

Barney was very supportive when I asked for his assistance in teaching Brandon how to swaddle a baby. 

These are the lilacs we grew along the back fence of our yard in Idaho. Brandon and I talk about these lilacs all the time. We often wonder how they're doing. If you're in Moscow + you happen to see them, will you tell them we say hi?

I wrote a post about the 13-hour cereal sale at the Rosauers a million years ago. It's this eternally weird yearly tradition in Moscow, and who even knew it but I guess I'd taken a photo for documentation purposes that I promptly forgot about the minute I left. So there you go. That's a lot of Frosted Mini Wheats, but I stand by it. 

The view from my room of dreams when our killer Hyacinth was blooming. 

Me, Elk River, twenty-five weeks pregnant, being a very good sport.

Oh break my heart, Peter Pan. 

The rainbow over Roosevelt Island the day Huck was born.

All three of us Randys.


Are you seeing this, uterus?!? Come on already! What gives!

Hashtag Real Life, Bishessss. Nursing on a Thursday morning, giant tangle of who knows what on the dresser. Glamorous.

But really, guys. Thank heaven for selfies. Quit villainizing the selfies! (Pregnancy + nursing hormones gave me some really killer freckles, right? Not very cute killer freckles. Sloppy killer freckles.)

Huck's cousin Theo came to visit us one April when they were both about six months old. I sometimes forget how hysterically fat my baby was, I'm so glad I have ridiculous photos like these to remind me. Everything I ever wanted, I tell you.

This is the closest I'll ever get to a Felicity-opening-credits-esque shot in this lifetime, probably. (Hey Kaitlyn... I just got an idea....)

There was once a time when Brandon was so opposed to having his photo taken, so righteously indignant every time the camera came out, that this was the face he made. Every single time. To my future children: please use this photo for your dad's funeral program.

Huck's first subway ride, at four days old. Can we talk about my pregnancy hair?

Your girl is lovely, Hubbell!

The end.