no retakes

Today is the first day of spring. I reminded my kids the instant they woke to the sun cresting over the forested mountain out their window. Ruby scaled the book cart to get a look. “No way, mama. I still see white stuff out there. Right in our garden.”

We talked about change and how it is usually pretty gradual. Not like a flash light flipping on, but like a campfire. It takes time to stack material, for one flame to ignite and then roll and rumble into the next flame.

Both of our kids are growing like bamboo. Ruby’s legs ache during the night; she says she can feel her bones moving. She moans while I rub essential oils down her shins in the early morning darkness. Her hunger is constant and she has days where she eats more than anyone in our home. Margot literally can’t get enough sleep; she slowly rolls into her days, decidedly undecided about waking up. She lost a front tooth and three more are wobbling their way out of the gums that were born smooth from my body.

Suffocated was the word Andy used last night when I attempted to finish a short story for the sixth time. I was one sentence in when Ruby shouted that she found a regurgitated mouse on our rug. Alice pawed at her water bowl. Margot leaned into me to untangle a necklace. Andy and I stared at each other with soft, tired eyes, about to laugh at the incessant NEED when our cat Sam began his meow alarm for dinner time.

Andy and I both agree: things feel nuts right now, in a way they never have. We are ungracefully trying to catch up to this new parenting phase of opinion and defiance and need. It feels like a jolt. Nothing gradual about it: the light is on, the season has changed. Time to get to work, sowing seeds. GO.

Our dear friend is in town. He is the kind of houseguest who infuses our home with care, love and ease. He cleans our home (he is sweeping right now), plays with our kids (he read 11 books to Ruby this morning and taught Margot how to practice back flips) and makes all our meals (last night: baked chicken, roasted root vegetables and salad). I joke that he can just live here and be our house husband. Except I’m not really joking. He laughs, knowing his next adventure calls. He just returned from Antarctica. Each night, I watch my daughters curl into his sides as he tells stories of endless sunshine and penguins.

Ben made baked oatmeal for breakfast this morning, the day Margot stumbled through molasses into waking. I considered hurrying her along but instead leaned into the beauty of this morning: a delicious breakfast finishing in the oven while my four year-old daughter stood on a chair and fired questions at Ben about glaciers and my six year-old daughter pressed her sleepy cheek into my collar bone, breathing a heavy newborn breath. I decided we’d take this morning as it was coming at us: with grace.

I notice these kinds of cues from my kids. I choose not to start our days by rushing out the door. I choose not to do this because I have done it – on many occasions – and it always ends badly. Usually with me apologizing for raising my voice while hugging my kid who is frustrated from my impatience and crummy listening skills. Everyone is grumpy and flustered. It’s a bad way to start our day. Actually, in my opinion, there is no reason, for my two little girls to begin their days that way.

Usually, mostly, the two things line up: we gently begin our day and we make it to school before the bell.  But, we are sometimes “late” to school. Although, after much thought on the matter, I define our arrival time differently, because it is a thoughtful choice. I am ok with letting my kids sleep, with biking slowly when the conversation is rich, with stopping to look at bobcat tracks in the snow, with witnessing my daughters joyfully play baby deers in the hallway, with enjoying a houseguest’s company over breakfast. I believe those lessons are life’s most important and I don’t want to interrupt them. And, yes, I know my choice isn’t mainstream in the public education sphere. I am thankful for a teacher who appreciates our values.

We are always right on time.

Margot and I biked to school, happy and chatty. She smiled into the cold air as her strong little legs pedaled up hill. She loves biking to school. She talked about her excitement for gym that day and for a play date after school. We were just a little late but we’d missed her class’s group photograph. In the whole school, her class was photographed first. We’d just missed it, we learned. My heart sank into my guts. You are the adult. You messed up. I scolded myself, feeling a flush of hot embarrassment and guilt.

Margot didn’t mind even a little bit but I couldn’t shake it. I went to the gym and asked the photo people about a retake next to a giant sign that read NO RETAKES. They honored the sign’s words and I walked out, honoring my coordinates in the time continuum.

No retakes.

That’s it, I thought as I biked home. My confidence, my ownership in our morning story pumping back into my bones as I pedaled. Every single moment of every single day we are choosing our approach, our path, our perspective, our attitude. We have to own what we pick. We have to pick, knowing we own it.

I rolled into our driveway, deciding to shift my feeling from disappointment to relief regarding no retakes. We just move forward from this place. In our day, in our parenting.

Today, on this first day of spring, I notice the tilt of the light, the nudge toward warmer days. My seeds are here and the snow in my garden softens into the earth. Soon, we will have mud. It will be messy and gloriously something other than what we have now. Our plot is different than it was last year at this time: we now have two gardening seasons under our belts in this space. We know more. But we don’t yet know this season. This one is all shiny and new.

45 Responses to no retakes

  1. Traci Walker says:

    You are amazing. I love reading your words.. It makes me wish I could go back in time and do kid things differently. I did allright I will admit but you are probably the best mom and wife I know.. Thanks for sharing your life ! I love ya ! :)

    • dig dig says:

      Awe cuz! I looked up to you so much growing up, even though we didn’t see each other as much as I wished. Um, you did more than alright! Your kids are amazing. xoxo

  2. Sara Paul says:

    You are so good. And so right. The moment I stopped rushing was the moment it all started again. Today Spring arrived. As did the snow. As if to say, no worries…no rush. No raised voices. No pressure. It will all be there in time. Whatever you miss along the way…that’s ok. And funny that it wasn’t Margot that was upset. Taking a clue from the little ladies is key. How many times did I get anxious when the brow on MY kid wasn’t all tense. Ok. Chill. She’s cool, I’m cool.

  3. Stacey says:

    “Just on time.” I’m learning this from you and trying – struggling a lot – to apply it in a world that often feels like it’s moving in a different direction. But when I come here and read your words, I remember that owning my decisions is the important part. It’s interesting how we all fight the rush, especially the little ones, with all our might. When I have to own the rush, too, that definitely doesn’t feel good. Thank you for your authentic sharing here – I really loved this post. And I’m so looking forward to hanging out and learning more from and with you in a few weeks at Write! :)

    • dig dig says:

      I just detest rushing, in my bones. It is dreadful. And comes up so often as parents when kids have a different agenda than ours. At times, of course, it is necessary to encourage our little ones out the door. Even when we have “plenty of time” to get ready (seems like that is the biggest challenge sometimes! ha). Ah. We’re figuring it out, eh? SO looking forward to Doe Bay!


  4. Monica says:

    Nici, so often what you write is what I’m feeling at that same time but didn’t find the words (or patience) to express. I love you and your words, more or less anonymously, for that. For helping me find names and descriptions for my feelings and experiences. I love how you handle the challenges of life, but parenting in particular.
    Which oils do you use for Ruby? Ada complains of ‘growing pains’ almost nightly. I would love something other than Advil to reach for.
    Also, I think I mentioned this on your IG feed: I NEED that picture of your chicken on the bike. Can’t explain why but it speaks to me. No, it HOLLERS at me! I’m happy to pay for your art, obviously.

    • Emily says:

      Nici, so often what you write is what I’m feeling at that same time but didn’t find the words (or patience) to express. I love you and your words, more or less anonymously, for that. For helping me find names and descriptions for my feelings and experiences. I love how you handle the challenges of life, but parenting in particular.

      I just said almost the exact same thing to my husband. Nici, your writing brings me peaceful perspective and allows me to carve out a little more grace as I navigate the highs and lows of parenting.

    • dig dig says:

      Thank you so much! My hope is for that kind of connection. I really appreciate your comment. :)

      We use lavender and pan away (Young Living Essential Oils). My friend Erika introduced our family to the oils a few years ago and they have completely changed our lives! You can click on the ad in my sidebar or here:

    • Jen says:

      This post especially resonated with me as I watch my baby enter her first spring…scooting and crawling and laughing. The morning you described is exactly the kind of morning I want her to have and why we chose to move to a small mountain town instead of living in the big city where I grew up.
      What a lovely perspective on parenting. thank you, thank you.

      (and I second the request for the picture of the chicken on your bike. i would LOVE to purchase a copy if you’re selling them!)

  5. Chrissy says:

    This is pure goodness. I so love your words. Xo

  6. Maggie Fuller says:

    I love reading, and then re-reading your words. As my oldest turns 5 and my twins are nearing 3, I feel in my bones something big coming. From them, from me. My gut says I am stalling.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Jillian says:

    “We have to own what we pick. We have to pick, knowing we own it.” Truth. Your words are touching me in a convicting and freeing way. Sort of a funny contradiction. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Mary drake says:

    Cutting the foot off of an old sock and using the upper part for holding those kid refreezable ice packs in the target children first aid aisles (not as cold and very mold able) helps our 6 yr old fall back to sleep with her shin aches….
    I hope your writing is as therapeutic to you as reading it is for me.

    • dig dig says:

      Oh thanks for the idea with the ice pack! We haven’t tried ice.

      And, yes. Especially when I write something like this. When I have all these ideas stirring around in my head: writing them down (without hope of it coming together, just to get it out), is super therapeutic. Usually, when I am struck with the URGE to write, I am amazed at the themes that emerge. Things click into place and organize themselves.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! :)

  9. Jaim says:

    I love this! It’s a constantly changing thing, parenting. Every day is a new day and every minute can be a fresh start. I hate when our mornings don’t go smoothly but I shows me what I can do differently the next morning and for that I am grateful.


  10. Julie says:

    Your words are particularly rich and poignant in this post, and I love them and the message. You continue to inspire me, my friend. and the pic of the chicken on the bike… priceless. LOVE LOVE

  11. Anna Trout says:

    Thank you for this post. I agree so whole heartedly. Your writing and parenting inspires me and challenges me. Also, the picture of the chicken on the bike. It speaks to my soul. Can I print a copy of it? I need it in my home :)

  12. I don’t know how you do it but often what you write is exactly what I need to hear this moment today. Or maybe you write so well and honestly that I can always find a way to relate. Thank you for that x

  13. trbholt says:

    ANOTHER beautifully written piece, or should that be peace? I have been thinking about our most recent conversation ALOT…I do what to get back home “sooner than later”. My heart fills with love every time I see M & R latest photos, such little girls now…& there is some sadness in my heart too; not being closer to be with you all. I hope the SOONER comes soon.
    I love you Burb! xo, Mom

  14. Alannah says:

    Another beautifully-written piece about reclaiming the control over your mornings. It’s too late for me – my daughter is already in college and is now responsible for getting herself up and to class “on time.” Mornings were always the worst part of our day, always rushing. I used to say that my entire day is defined by 7 minutes. If we were 7 minutes too late, we’d be in bad traffic and late to school and work. That’s no way to start the day! But we did it….for 12+ years.

    I have such a hang-up over being late. It’s MY hang-up; I do own that. I think of all the stress I experienced and imparted to my daughter when she was lolly-gagging (even the word for slowly easing into the morning is ridiculous and meant to connote childish laziness).

    I suppose, on the other hand, one could say that our duty as parents is to train future adults and most adults have to keep to some sort of externally-applied clock/schedule. It’s such an American concept, really. I used to work with international students and had to tell them over and over “In this country, it is considered very rude to be late. And to be ‘on time’ actually means 5 minutes early.” Particularly those from Latin America seemed horrified and saddened by our strict adherence to the clock.

    I respect you for redefining the concept of “on time” for your family and hope, for your sake, that you continue to have understanding teachers and administrators. We got the letter (from the prosecuting attorney, even!) telling us we’d had too many tardies on more than one occasion. Ridiculous!

    • dig dig says:

      “I suppose, on the other hand, one could say that our duty as parents is to train future adults and most adults have to keep to some sort of externally-applied clock/schedule”

      Yes. I absolutely agree with you! And this is naturally a part of our lives and culture. We have so much opportunity to impart that on our kids! As I said to Britta (below), our post-bell arrival isn’t our everyday. Right now, in THIS season of parenting (and in my daughter’s kindergarten year), things are hard and tired and fiery and embracing our sometimes-lolly-gagging ( I like that word! :) ) mornings is the perfect reset button/therapy. For us.

      Thanks so much for your words.


  15. Pam says:

    This piece is pure perfection. Your words leave me afloat. My favorite of yours so far.

  16. mau says:

    “I believe those lessons are life’s most important and I don’t want to interrupt them.”

    Our days start with me rushing my girls and it always, ALWAYS ends in tears, both theirs and mine. I need to copy this line from your essay and stick it to our fridge. You’re an inspiration (and the best writer on my blog reader).

    • dig dig says:

      I need to print it out too! We could all use a daily reminder of what we believe our most important lessons and goals are.

  17. Britta says:

    I love that there are different people out there in the world. I’m glad the people like you exist, even if I struggle to understand.

    This post gave me so much anxiety, it was kinda crazy. [alarming inner dialogue while reading] “OMG. How can you even bear to be one minute late?!? Missed the photo? Arrive late to school? [shift to judgemental inner voice] How disrespectful!”

    My stomach is still in knots from reading this piece. I mentally get that you’re respecting what you feel is best for your family but my own biases can’t let go of what would have been my perception of the exact same situation. My issues, not yours obviously. Whew. This one is going to take some processing because I don’t think I’ve ever had that judgemental voice while reading your work before! STRETCH. I can feel it inside of me, just like in Margot’s bones.

    • dig dig says:


      Oh I LOVE your comment. It is a true example of a respectful challenge/critique, coming from an open-mind and willingness to learn and understand. You are speaking my language!

      I love our differences too!

      And, I HEAR you. I never, ever want to be disrespectful or for my choices to negatively impact another person’s life. Which is why I have to own the ‘no retakes’ with the photo. It was my choice; the photo people don’t owe me a thing. Timeliness is something I have to work at. And I am pretty good at meeting deadlines, appointments, dates. And I am always trying to be better! I feel like I fell into a vortex of “always late” when my kids were babies. I just couldn’t get my shit in a pile, not matter how much time I gave myself to ready. It has been a hard habit to undo, but I did.

      Beginning school this year provided a whole other set of challenges with my family and me (that I don’t even touch on here and I probably won’t but I am just saying this to let you know we are still sorting out what is the best education model for our family). The amount of time she is there and some of the systems have been hard. Talking with Margot’s teacher about how we can soften some things to fit our values has been awesome. Occasionally arriving “late” (on days where the only way to arrive on time is for me to grow horns and breathe fire) is one of the things that works well for everyone involved.

      I also want to be clear: being late to school isn’t our norm and I don’t want to make a habit of it. It’s just life and I feel better rolling with it, even if it is unpopular. Does that make sense?

      I am stretching right by your side, sister.

      With love,

      • Britta says:

        I’ve been processing, like I said I would. I think the root of my anxiety was in childhood memories of two specific friends – the kids didn’t seem to mind until around age 8. And that’s when they realized that they were late [not because of a family value but...] because their mothers were selfish/an addict. Their mother didn’t give a rats ass about being on time for the recital. For the x. For the y. But it mattered to the girls. I know without a doubt if it mattered to your kids, you’d be there. No questions, right? I finally dig this. And totally respect your exploration of educational path. Evolving. That’s life!

  18. Jessica P. says:

    This spring I am in the process of becoming a mother. Our baby is growing inside of me and in a few months, we will meet him and introduce him to the world. Your words are always an inspiration to me and they will continue to inspire through many seasons of life and motherhood. Thank you.

  19. DeRae says:

    It’s probably already been suggested, but being such a talented photographer yourself, perhaps her teacher would be cool with you taking a photo of the class as a keepsake?
    Lots of love to you. You inspire me so much. <3

  20. Yes! You were right where you needed to be.

  21. Jess B says:

    I love this! I have a strict No Rushing rule in our house (which makes my husband INSANE). I may have to print and anonymously send this to our Montessori school director… Thank you for owning what you do and owning to out loud even though it may not be popular by the majority. It gives so many of us more faith in owning our own decisions.

    • jen says:

      Jess – I think if there is one thing I exclaim the most in frustration at my husband it’s “don’t rush me!!” ha ha. I am pretty consistently on time or early for things that have been scheduled, but if it’s spontaneously planned…let me take some time to get it together! :)

  22. Mandy B says:

    Nici, I’ve been reading you for years and feel like I know you. I’m pretty sure we’d be great friends despite how different we are. This was such a wonderful piece of writing. I know I’ll be thinking about it all day :) Don’t worry about the school photo. You’ll probably have an opportunity to take your own group shot at the end of year party. Could you pass along to your husband that I love his work as well. Some day when I have the extra money, I’m gonna buy one of his paintings. So hopefully he will still be painting in 10 years! haha

  23. Vicki Abbott says:

    You are very wise. Your lovely prose and pictures make me smile.
    Thank you.

  24. kwqrs says:

    Love this post Nici! I love how you really honor what is best for your family… sometimes I forget I actually have a choice about things like taking a slower morning because we all need it. Once the kids start school there is a whole other world that opens up but also so many expectations that go along with it. Living & learning!

  25. Lindsey says:

    Oh, wow, YES. I’m so grateful that Rebecca Woolf pointed me here as I absolutely adore your blog. Am off to read your whole archive now! xoxox

  26. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this essay, as I read it from the bay islands off of Honduras, it was just what I needed. Almost telling me it ok what you are doing, choosing to travel each year to another country a small island, and let our girls (4 & 6 ) run free on the beach in the sea, through the green fields that are everywhere on this little island. We worry so much about following the ‘norms’ of our society but we have decided these past few years to choose our own path, immersing our kids in honduran schools for two-three months each year. , Our school, in the zoo- Hellgate is very supportive at this point, and our daughters are amazing adventurers ready to meet new kids and experiences head on. We may be missing out on a whole quarter of US school, we are learning spanish, and utilian languages, studying iguanas and bats, snorkeling and walking walking walking! I often worry if we are really only doing this “sebatacle” each year for ourselves and if we are hindering our kids. I think not, and when I read of others who don’t follow the exact path of every parent, or school, or “norm’, it is helpful to keep me going, knowing that our family can choose its path together.
    Thanks Nici

  27. Nicolette says:

    i read somewhere about this study where just to see how it panned out, schools started later in the morning and the results were positive. better attendance. less rush. less stress. happier learning. who knows where i read that… it was a bit ago. but still- I, too, hate to feel rushed. often as a Mother, even relaxing things seem rushed- a sense of urgency. they day passes by too quickly and we are left with a couple of rushed hours at its end to play catch up. i wish that i was more motivated to work late, etc- but i digress… children shouldn’t be rushed. it’s unfortunate that there are ‘consequences.’

    we also feel suffocated trying to find our footing as a couple amidst the noise of this household. the other part is that it makes it hard to navigate the negotiations about growing our brood… this gig is tough.

    a friend of mine (who is an amazing seamstress who is married to the amazing artist Ben Strawn- please check out his work) was telling me the other day that she has found that she gets “easily overstimulated” and didn’t really realize that until she had children. Now, this may sound silly but i was very impressed by her statement, there. and i feel the same but hadn’t made that connection. it’s helped me in the past couple of weeks when i feel the suffocation to identify with it differently like so. “ah, i am over stimulated”

    of course, i’m not giving you advice, here.. just adding to the chatter.

    always a pleasure -xo

  28. Stacie/BB30 says:

    As I get closer to starting my journey to mommy hood, I continue to think of you as one of my momspirations.

  29. Jessica says:

    What a beautiful post and family. I’m so happy to have discovered your blog (through girl’s gone child). My daughter is just about to turn one and I’m fully enjoying this season in our lives. The season where you are up to greet the sun each morning no matter how late you went to bed, where you play and eat, then sleep, and play and eat some more. And, where you realize just what type of woman and mother you currently are and the type of woman and mother you wish to be.

    I wish to be the mother that doesn’t do retakes as well.

  30. Jean Albus says:

    One of your best, my dear one. I gobbled it up.

  31. Shari says:

    I adore that hooded picture of Ruby, and Margo’s toothless grin. They are both so beautiful.

  32. Kat says:

    I also found your blog though girlsgonechild. I have been catching up ever since she posted it and I am finally caught up. AND I planted my seedlings this weekend AND I bought an immersion blender today! thanks for your homespun inspiration, and I look forward to learning more. I’m in Maine, but Montana looks quite beautiful!