Weekly Update


Growing up, Summer began on Memorial Day with a race into the lake, winner being the person who was crazy enough to submerge in the frigid waters. The water of Long Lake was murky brown, and sketchy things happened on the shores- but I was too little to notice.

Summers were marked by peaches, plums, and nectarines ripening in brown bags on top of the fridge, raspberry picking in thorny patches, swimming “laps” in our kiddie pool, lunches outside, and hours spent aimlessly roaming. It was chasing Monarch butterflies, catching grasshoppers, and mosquito bites; lots of them.

I had mostly forgotten these things. But as I bit into a juicy peach this morning, memories came rushing back. I shared half of the peach with Avery, hoping to transfer the flavors of summer to a very blonde girl with very brown legs, who is growing up in the eternal summer of Florida.

After graduating college and heading to work, summers became a thing of the past. I carefully calculated my PTO so I could take a week off up North, but that’s about as close to summer as things got.

The first year of living in Florida was a year of summer, with no schedules to follow or home to maintain.

But this year, things changed. For 9 months, I drove Avery back and forth between preschool and home, 2 hours worth of commuting, 5 days a week. We were tethered to the schedule of pick up and drop off.

Two weeks ago, I watched Avery cross the stage at preschool graduation. I realized with a start, that despite the heavy feeling in my heart that I think all mamas get when their babies graduate from anything, we were about to slip into 3 precious months of freedom.

No longer bound to commutes or schedules, our days are lighter, containing fewer musts and more lets. Currently, we are enjoying not having to get dressed for the day, mostly wearing pajamas all day and putting on a new pair each night. Outfits are so complicated.

I don’t have to wake with my usual ferocity, trying to cram running and showering and praying and writing all in before Avery pads down the stairs. I do continue to try to fit all of these things in before her blonde mop appears before me, snuggling into a hug, but the pressure is off.

We spend our awake time slothing around, doing nothing in particular. This might be because preschool graduation was the perfect petri dish for a bug to take down the entire preschool class and their families. So mainly, we mope around, with junky coughs and sniffles. But hey, we are free.

Bedtime is later now, so we are no longer rushing against the clock to get the girls into bed by a certain time, to ensure a certain number of hours of sleep are acquired before the whole thing starts all over.

There is less math over how early we need to leave to be on time (or at least, not rudely late) and less battle planning over what things need to be packed for optimal survival of the day. There are a lot fewer calculations in this summer life.

After the girls are tucked in, I drag my yoga mat outside as the sun is setting; usually, not thrilled to be taking 30 minutes that could be spent loading the dishwasher. Slowly, I melt as downward dog becomes tabletop, and tabletop becomes child’s pose. During bridge pose, I watch as the clouds cross the sky, moving microscopically slow. Yet when I close my eyes for just a minute, I open them to an entirely different scene; clouds having sneakily rearranged themselves.

This summer will not be the same as my childhood summers; things are a little different here. For one thing, we will bake in the humid oven of Florida. Unlike crisp Minnesota lakes, the ocean is warm and leaves our skin sticky with salt and sand. Lunches will be enjoyed inside, in the cool reprieve of air conditioning. And raspberry bushes are a thing of northern states.

Yet while the clouds might have shifted, creating a new view, we are still under the same blue sky. The essence of summer; the late nights, popsicles, scootering and biking, pajamas for days, peaches and nectarines and plums, will remain. And that is what I most hope to transfer to my little nuggets.

Happy Summer,


Weekly Update

Stomach Ball

Here is another writing assignment from my class: sharing a childhood memory. Enjoy!

I clearly remember the first time I performed brain surgery. The patient had thick blonde hair, but it only grew around the perimeter of her head, leaving an open patch of her scalp. This meant that no shaving was required before the operation. Convenient, because my mom didn’t let me borrow her razor, and the sharpest tool I owned was safety scissors.

My patient, Sally, required no sedatives. Her blue eyes were wide open with fixed pupils; typically an ominous sign, but not when your patient is a Cabbage Patch Doll.

I’m sure you have questions about a five-year-old brain surgeon.

  1. No, I wasn’t allowed to have a scalpel, so I used a red pen instead. It was handy because it left a red trail of blood.
  2. My knowledge of the brain was essentially nothing, but I did have a great “Body Atlas” book that I referenced during operations. And yes, this is the same book that inspired me to draw anatomically correct naked bodies on our driveway in chalk. While my dad seemed impressed by the detail, he hosed them off the driveway immediately.
  3. Finally, to answer your burning question: the head of a Cabbage Patch Doll was too hard to cut through with my red pen scalpel, so there was a lot of imagination involved in these operations.

I finished up operating just in time to say goodbye to my oldest sister, Rachel, who was off to the Science Museum for a birthday trip with no siblings.

Was I jealous? Maybe, but there were other important things to be done: collecting acorns, drawing brain tumors, snooping.

The afternoon passed and Rachel returned home, toting in a little white bag, her gift shop purchase. Inside? Stomach ball.

I was enraptured, but of course, I was simply a peon in her rule of the house. I would not be allowed to touch this precious object.

Hold up, you don’t know what stomach balls are?

I’m sorry. I thought everyone knew.

The stomach ball was about the size of a baseball, and squishy, like a stress ball. It was clear, and inside were the stomach and intestines, bathed in green goop. It made a lovely noise whenever it was squeezed, the same gurgle you might hear from your stomach right before encountering explosive diarrhea.

When Rachel was not around, I would find it and squeeze it between my fingers, organs oozing out between my thumb and forefinger. I was intrigued by the intestines. What were they made of? How were they so squishy? I wondered what they felt like.

They looked lonely. No one wants to be stuck in a clear ball. Except for hamsters, hamsters do seem to enjoy it.

How, I wondered, could this problem be solved?

Red pen scalpel poked me through my pocket.

My brain ticked. Neurons fired. A lightbulb appeared.

My brain surgeries on Sally had never gotten far because her skull was too hard. Also because my parents didn’t give me a scalpel. But stomach ball? Oh, stomach ball was teeming with opportunity.

My fingers itched. While Rachel was practicing piano, a mandatory 30 minutes, I snuck into her bedroom and snatched stomach ball from the shelf.

I pulled out my scalpel and attempted to make an incision. But the ball was too squishy and morphed around the pen, unwilling to pop.

Dang, these red pen scalpels. Worthless. The wheels in my brain turned.

A kitchen knife? No, I couldn’t reach them.

The saw in the garage? Too violent. I did not want to maim the intestines in the process of extracting them. This was not “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

I needed something heavy.

I happened to know that beds are heavy because when I tried to run away, Rachel had helped me tie mine up so I could bring it with me. She was a kind one, that Rachel.

I lifted the mattress and slid stomach ball underneath, planting my 40-pound self on top, envisioning the ball bursting open, intestines oozing out.

I peeked under the mattress. Nothing. Stomach ball remained intact.

I found my sister Amelia and explained I needed help. This was a risk. Amelia was holy. She liked to play “nun.” I was not sure if she could be tempted.  

But it turns out Amelia is the kind of sister who is there when you need to pop stomach balls. She agreed; I needed more weight on the mattress. We both hopped atop the bed.

I remember laughing as we bounced, wicked grins plastered across our faces, sure our evil plan would work.

For a minute, we forgot about stomach ball and gleefully jumped on the bed. But I couldn’t be distracted for long; this was, after all, a pivotal moment in my life.

Carefully, we lifted the mattress. I pulled out stomach ball and examined it.

Sure enough, our plan had worked. There was a hole. I squeezed some of the green goo out and prepared to extract the intestines.

I was caught in the glory of the moment and hadn’t heard the kitchen buzzer go off, marking the end of piano practice.

Suddenly, the door barged open. Rachel stood in the doorway. Her steely eyes darted around the room. Scalpel. Stomach ball. Wicked grins.




Rachel ratted on us and our mom threw the stomach ball away. Rachel was devastated at the loss of stomach ball; I was devastated that I never found out what the intestines felt like.

Thirteen years later I went to college, and learned that skulls aren’t opened with scalpels; they are opened with saws. I got to touch real intestines; though the formaldehyde was overpowering and it was an anticlimactic moment.

Medicine, as it turns out, was a lot more fun when I was a kid.