Dear Ben

dear darling Benny boy,
Only forty hours until we Skype with you! All my Mother’s Day angst diminishes when I think of viewing your lovely face, hearing your laugh, basking in your smile. Two years is such a long time to not see or hug your child.

Has anyone mentioned the opening of the new library? It’s all shiny and spiffy with glass windows and a robotic sorting system (that Xander is obsessed with). You will love it, LOVE it. Even Gabe rides his bike to and from, checking out his own books and fretting about the due date.

Bike rides are the recreation of choice these days. Mary never ventures outside the neighborhood, but begs brothers to ride to the playground with her several times a day. And Hans travels everywhere on his bike– ultimate Frisbee practice, friends’ homes, study groups. You’d be proud of his independence. He’s just mellow and happy, growing every minute, completely self-sufficient and cheerful.


Pinky Wink danced in Cinderella last week– surprisingly, she’s learned to love ballet and is extraordinarily proud of her pas de bourrées and piqués.


Nothing short of a miracle, Mary and Gabe have organized the ‘Clean Team.’ They’ve cleaned under their beds, in closets, tables, nightstands and now they are hiring out for .25 an hour. 50 cents if it’s really messy.


Mostly, Mary charms us with sweet notes, pleases, thank yous, sweet smiles, flips and cartwheels and handstands across the room. But last night she LOST it. She ended up hitting Hans, pulling Xander’s hair and being sent to her room with very little dinner and no ice cream. Her screaming and raging drove Gabe to Xander’s room for the night.

A few years ago, her fury would have unnerved me, now I see it as an opportunity to talk, to let her see the natural consequences of meanness and to know we love her still and can start anew in the morning. I lay in bed with her as she sobbed for her roommate, “he should be right here” and mourned the loss of dessert.


And Gabe this morning, seemed to forget the whole incident, greeting her with hugs and kisses, playing silly songs on his violin to make her dance. While driving downtown the other day, Stefan turned to me in full seriousness asking, “Why is Gabe so incredibly nice?”

I don’t know; but I’m grateful every day.


Of course, Gabe’s sweetness can’t compete with Xander’s prowess on the soccer field. After every game he details the “stupid moves” of the other team and gloats just a bit too much over his goals. But he’s thirteen, so we give him a bit of leeway.


We painted the Xander/Hans room a Caribbean blue last Saturday. Don’t worry, the world map still graces the east wall, but you can practically surf in the lovely blue ocean opposite it.


Amazingly, the school encourages kids to throw metal balls, steel rimmed disks and spears, actual spears, across the football field in the spring. Stefan and Hans have been running relays and having more than a little fun tossing the javelin around.


But last night, a track meet went late and I panicked. At 8:30 Stefan still wasn’t home. Not unusual for anyone else, but you know Stefan, “It’s eight o’clock, time for bed.” I called everyone who might know his whereabouts and started imagining fiery car crashes. I was just pulling the car out of the garage to find him, when his car pulled into the driveway– I surprised even myself when I hugged him and began to sob.

He apologized, retrieved his phone from his room (where he’d left it all day) and sent me friendly little texts all day alerting me of his whereabouts.


No one could have been more surprised than Stefan when he was elected Prom Prince. As you know, he’s not the most social sort, but I think his general “be kind to everyone” worked in his favor.


He indulged me with a few photos.


And with his cute date (note dad and Mary in the background).

Oh! I know the photo to end this essay– it may turn you a bit green with envy– I’ll go find it right now.

Ah yes, here it is, darling Mary just before she left for a semester in Jerusalem:


You’d better watch out, Ben. Hans turns sixteen in November and he may steal Mary away.

Time for bed. I love waking up to your letters on Saturday morning, sharing your adventures with my friend Catherine as we run Pipeline high above the valley.

Hugs and kisses, Mom

May 10, 2012
May 13, 2012



  1. Mitchell Family

    May 12, 2012

    Loved this letter. Wish I could run pipeline with you.

  2. Erin

    May 12, 2012

    I am a blog follower (cannot remember how I stumbled across it) that you do not know and I for one hope it doesn’t go “private”. I am a mom to three small girls and have been inspired on multiple occasions at the type of mother you are and the family you are raising.

    Just this week I was considering sending you a note, wondering how you foster love and kindness in your family. Your kids appear to get along so well! It was reassuring to read this and see that they do fight a bit!

    Thanks for all you do and write, it gives me lots of ideas of how to be a better mom myself.

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  3. The crazy Shaw Family

    May 12, 2012

    I have a serious mom crush on you. While I know that your family isn’t perfect, it seems pretty darn close.
    How do you get your children to love each other so much? Mine always seem to be at each others throats, and I lose my temper with them. I have been trying so hard to keep an even keel, to speak kindly and softly, but there is no response. I feel so sad sometimes to see my children being ugly to each other. I want them to love and enjoy each other the way your kids do.
    Hugs to Miss Mary, meltdowns are hard, and sometimes out of our personal control.
    Thank you for sharing your family with all of us who read your blog. You inspire me!

  4. martha corinna

    May 13, 2012

    Oh have fun on your Skype. Your children really do seem to be thriving Michelle. So good for you!

  5. Cath

    May 16, 2012

    So much about this post to love. All the vivid detail, the insight into each of your children. You know them all so well. Stefan – thanks for donning your crow for a photo. You made a handsome prince. And “be nice to everyone” is an adage with which you’ll never lose. Love all you wonderful Lehnardts.

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