Ella's Notebook, My Pen

After Ella wrote 2 poems, drew 5 trees, and played 4 games of tic tac toe in her journal, she lost the pen she was using. My pen. It sank under a pile of snow in the forest at the New York Botanical Garden. It wasn't a fancy pen, but it had a nice weight to it. 

For the past week, I've kept that pen and a few small notebooks in my jacket pocket. My continuing ed writing teacher at NYU suggested we write down any thoughts and observations we make throughout the day. She was very clear she didn't want us using our iPhones to take notes. It's too easy to edit yourself on your devices, she said. The act of writing on paper is suppose to free me up from over editing.

I bought the pen from the gift shop at the Met last Saturday in hope of writing down something so amazing that I would get into NYU's masters program, which would lead to me write the great American novel, and I would eventually die in faculty housing at Cambridge University. This pen gave me hope. Maybe my life wouldn't turn out to be so bland. Then I let my kid use it.  

After it disappeared beneath all the slug and ice, Ella turned to me and said in her cheerful voice, "Yikes. I just dropped the pen! It's nowhere to be found." And skipped off. 

I was furious. The forest felt empty, so I yelled as loud as I wanted without any restraint, "You lost my pen! How could you lose my pen? Where is it? You constantly complain about the brothers ruining your things, but you do the same to me. This is the second pen of mine that you lost. I should have never let you use it. See this pen here?" I pulled out another pen out of my pocket, "This is the shitty pen you should've been using. Now I'm stuck with it. I hate this pen. It totally sucks. I'm taking the $2 the tooth fairly gave you and buying myself a new pen."

She pushed her notebook into me and told me to keep it. Her eyes were red, her arms were folded in front of her, and she kept her distance as we walked over a gorgeous footbridge and down to the waterfall. I let her feel bad for way longer than was necessary.

I wanted to go home.

Then Oscar started jabbering on about something, "At church I learned about a girl who woke up in a bad mood. She kept poking her brother. And then her mom made her breakfast she didn't like. She kept being grumpy. She didn't eat it. And then her teacher at church told her she had a choice to be happy. She kept poking her brother. The next week, her mom made her that same breakfast she didn't like. But she ate it. She stopped poking her brother. I don't know the rest, something about choice . . ."

"I think what you're trying to say is that I have a choice right now to be angry at Ella. And I'm choosing to be angry."


Ugh. 6-year-olds and their bounty of wisdom. I went up to Ella and gave her a giant hug and told her I was sorry. It's just a pen. I over reacted. I was wrong. She starting crying and telling me how bad she felt for losing it. And in that way that kids are so good at, she forgave me. We moved on to other things like following animals tracks in the snow, throwing snow balls into streams, and watering the indoor plants on the Children's Garden.

But she never asked for notebook back. Or for that sucky pen in my pocket. There were no more poems, no more trees, no more tic tac toe games for the rest of the day. The fear of losing another one of my sacred pens out weighed the joy of creating something. Here's the 2 poems she wrote before I messed up. They are terrible. Truly terrible. Not as terrible as all the blank pages in her notebook though.

It may not be pretty
when snow falls but
It's pretty after it
is fallen and fun
Once you bundle your
self up

Spring has
the flowers
But winter
has snow
But fall has
leaves falling
But summer
has sun
But winter
is the best

I'm guessing the pen flew out during one of the tumbles she had with her brothers pictured here. If someone ever finds my pen, I hope they throw it away. It's not lucky. It's not filled with hope. It's probably broken anyway. And besides, it isn't going to make life less bland. I don't know the rest exactly, but I'm sure it has something to do with choice . . .


  1. My very favorite blogger

  2. This is fantastic. If it were up to me, it would get you into your masters program at NYU.

  3. Loved this post! Monday my daughter "accidently" drove my car down our driveway into a snow bank after I told her not to return the car there. Let's see now - I read two fabulous books, finished all my homework (it's fun being in college with kids the same age as your kid - they really Listen to my stories) and called all my aunts and uncles. Car should be thawing out about now, but hopefully not before I finish a few chapters in book 3 - The Tigers Wife!

  4. Brilliant! Love your writing - honest and real. Thank you.

  5. this is a great post. although I don't know you or your kids personally i read as often as you post.
    tell Ella my favourite poem was the one about winter being the best. the second one.
    she should keep writing.

  6. it's like i was reading about myself. thanks for the honesty in your posts...

  7. this kind of post is why i love reading blogs. hearing these little stories that i can take something from for my own life. so great - and such a smart one that owen.

  8. I love this for so many reasons.

  9. such a good story from a good storyteller touching many many things in all of our little lives. thanks..

  10. I discovered your blog a while back and its wonderful. This is by far one of the most honest, well-written pieces about parenthood I have ever read. Thank You... and the writing is beautiful.

  11. Beautifully written. Talked about complex emotions and hard learned lessons in a simple way which made it all the easier to feel. Love your blog!

  12. I would read your novel in a heartbeat.

  13. really nice and right on point, you are a good mom and way too hard on yourself.

  14. I have always thought you have a great voice, and lately I've been really digging your stories. So thanks for writing.

  15. WOW Sharon, I am blown away, excellent writing. Seriously have not read anything like that since my undergrad in creative writing! I hope you get into grad school, are you taking classes now? It's showing in the caliber of your writing, it actually has a point, it feels like a complete story, so hard to do, no?

  16. Oh, that last picture! The precious pen! Love this post, reminds me of a chicken sandwich blowout I once had...

  17. Life is better when you blog. Love it.

  18. What a wonderful story! And so beautifully written.

  19. Absolutely lovely post. Ahhh, motherhood.Thank you very much!!

  20. I completely agree with what everyone else has said, I too love coming here for your honest story telling and unique perspective. I love that last sentence!

  21. That almost made me tear up, wow! You're writing amazes me very often!
    And Owen is just ... isn't he just the smartest little cutie.
    I wish my Mum would tell me I said intelligent stuff like that as a kid :D

    Lots of love from Germany

  22. please write a book! I look forward to every blog post that you write.

  23. Screw the magic pen and screw the NYU masters program. Sit your butt down and write your novel with whatever crap tool you first touch and it will be beautiful and I will be one of the first to buy it. Seriously. Sometimes the truth is just so obvious: you write good. Ly. Goodly. Right?

  24. i hate that feeling of over reacting, the deepest pit. ugh.
    please write that novel. i'll be the first to buy!

  25. You and Jo are hands down the best bloggers. I can't pick between the two of you, don't make me! My daughter is 16 and I wish I could turn back the clock. I'm trying not to have regrets but I do. I wish I spent more time enjoying parenthood than trying to be a good parent.

  26. I love your honesty. x

  27. I think I'll read this post like 5 more times. Loved every single second of it.

  28. Seriously, your honesty make you refreshingly perfect.


  29. Goodness- thank you for this, Sharon. It made me tear up. It's not often one can read a true, honest depiction of moments Mamas wish they could change. I freak out on my kids over silly things too, and threaten to use their money when they ruin or lose something that ultimately means nothing. The fact that I'm not alone and that it's okay-- oh, I just needed to hear it! You are one of my favorites to read. I get so excited when I see a new post by you!

  30. i love this so, so much, sharon! so beautiful.

  31. This was amazing. Honest conversations, with kids especially, are the best

  32. You made me cry (and laugh). Parenting lows. We all have them. We had one this morning before I left for work. Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Louis CK:

    "You can’t even enjoy being a parent, because there’s no pride in it, because we suck at it. We make huge mistakes. And the you just go, “Whoops, permanent damage there, move on.”'

  33. P.S. Ella's poems are the best. absolute best. They made me smile.

  34. "i made her feel bad for way longer than was necessary." that one got me. hate when i do that.

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