Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Coop and I

Be careful what you wish for...

The original plan was that Paul and Owen were going to go to Virginia for New Year's Eve. Paul would party it up with his brother and our sister-in-law and Owen would hang out with his cousin and grandparents.

I, meanwhile, would NOT have to lug all of Joel's baby junk back to Virginia. I would put him down to sleep in his own crib. Then, I would ring in the new year with a glass of wine, maybe Andersen Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN.

I know, you're jealous.

Really, though, the best gift to myself this year would be some time alone, to read, putter, do whatever it is I need to do.

However...there was the other side of me that wanted to go. After all, I like my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. There's bound to be some good conversation, decent wine, and a spirited competition on the Wii Fit.

Also, Paul and I had our first "real date" on New Year's Eve, in 1996. It's our original anniversary. It's not celebrated, except that I'll comment, something like "Hey! Remember that night at the Cactus Moon? That's when I knew I would marry you!" (FYI--The Cactus Moon is a terrible, terrible country bar in Tucson, AZ, known for its mechanical bull, the girls holding test-tube shots in their cleavage, and the continuous playing of the timeless classic, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.")

Total Disclosure: In reality, the song was more likely, "Boot Scoot Boogie," but "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" is funner to type.

So, we've never spent New Year's apart since then. Except this year.

Except that fate has intervened. Paul came home from work early today with a terrible stomach bug. He's been in bed all day, weakly sipping Gatorade and feeling miserable.

So....yay? We get to spend this holiday together. Paul will be in bed, wishing to die. Me? I'll probably be on the couch, watching Andersen Cooper and Kathy Griffin.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hillary Was Right (this is not a political post)

I choose not to make this blog a forum for political discussion or debate, because there are so many people, who I care about deeply, that have different political beliefs. Rather than preaching to the choir (Hi, Tom!) or offending others (Hi, Dad!), I'll just let the gazillion politically minded bloggers do their thing...except for this.

Hillary was right. I don't care if you bleed red or ooze blue, it's a simple and true notion. The world is too big, and too scary, so all children need as many caring, thoughtful, perceptive adults in their lives as possible. Yes, it really does take a village to raise a child. I don't care if the phrase has become a cliche. It's true.

(A sidebar: I know that Hillary did not come up with the phrase. It's from a folktale. If I was so inclined, I would look it up and tell you where the folktale came from. Alas, I am not so inclined.)

A big part of my village is simply watching other mothers, and stealing what they do right. I admire so many mothers, because they teach me, through their words and actions, how to do a better job with the boys.

Kristen teaches me to be militantly proud of having boys, and to never, ever, let the younger one think he is anything less than what we wanted.
Joanne reminds me when I'm about to lose it, that children have unique temperaments; the mother, not a book, knows best.
Jamie teaches me that the whole point of having children is to show them the wonder of the world.
Melissa teaches me that everything is better with balloons. She also teaches me not to underestimate my children's spiritual development.
Kirsten reminds me that sometimes, baby just needs to Disco!
Dawn reminds me that God is using me to raise the boys.
Jen Matthews reminds me that one of the greatest acts of love is to stop, and listen to what your kids have to say.
Janet helps me see that kids do grow up, and things will be a different kind of crazy someday...
Nikki helps me see the wonder of Joel, and of having a newborn, all over again.
Jen Muschlitz reminds me that kids deserve a big fuss sometimes.
Erin reminds me that kids have dignity

I know that unless you just got a shout-out, you don't know most of these people. If you weren't listed, understand that it's not because you didn't influence me---you did. It more has to do with the fact that I hear the telltale heavy breathing on the monitor, meaning that Joel is about to wake up.

Know, please, that what you do each day matters. I'm watching. They're watching. We're all watching. I learn from you, sitting in my hut, looking out the window, in this village I've made my own.

Monday, December 29, 2008


It feels good to be back in a routine today. After weeks of self-imposed exile, due to illness, I was able to take the boys out into the world. We went to the gym, and I got a run in-finally. I cannot stress enough how a run changes my entire perspective. I woke up this morning pissed off and unclear why. Now, I feel like Matthew McConaughey---relaxed, mellow, floating on a cloud of endorphins and caffeine. I know that Mr. McConaughey tends to float on other substances, and play naked bongos while doing so. That wasn't me today---maybe after a realllllllly amazing run.

I love New Year's Resolutions. Some really cool things have resulted from them. One year, aiming high, I resolved to eat at the table instead of on the couch. Now, our couch does not smell like bean burritos. (This was a pre-children resolution).

Another year, I resolved to become more flexible. That's the year I started yoga classes two days a week. While it still takes effort for me to touch my toes, I can do it. More importantly, it taught me to stop, to breathe, and to focus on the everyday sacred. At the end of yoga practice, you rest and breathe. Sometimes, I would just repeat the word "Owen," in my mind, and I would remember how small, how beautiful, and how precious he was (is). When I became pregnant again, I imagined the fetus (now, Joel) swimming peacefully inside me, breathing gently, calm and safe. During other practices, I would focus on gratitude...just saying to God, over and over again, "Thank You," trusting that He knew what I was thankful for now, then, and someday.

This year, I want to try something new. I want to get out of my comfort zone just enough to grow. I've been invited to join a women's soccer league, which would be leaps and bounds out of my comfort zone. I'm a klutz, and I've never played soccer. But, the idea keeps floating in my mind, like a catchy jingle. So, maybe.

What I really want to do, though, is learn how to play the cello. I've always wanted to play it. This is problematic for several reasons:
1. I do not have a cello
2. I do not have a cello teacher.
3. #1 and #2 cost money.
4. The only time that is my own is nap time. I'm not sure my squeaking and groaning (aka practice) would soothe my savage beasts to sleep.

But, I still really want to. And now that I'm writing it, I want it even more. Do I really want a challenge? Drama? What is possessing me to consider this?

Here's what I can commit to, and since it's being shared with an audience, you have permission to hold me accountable:
1. I will take a shower almost every day.
2. I will read books, occasionally even challenging ones.
3. Paul and I will go on four dates this year.
4. I will continue this blog and enter four writing contests/submit four entries for publication.
5. I will run three days a week.
6. I will lose the baby weight. Damn it.
7. I will do something cool with Paul when we celebrate our ten year anniversary (June 12th)
8. I will learn something new.
9. I will eat more eggplant (they're just so pretty).
10. I will cut myself some slack.

You are my witnesses. I'll write about these resolutions, and let you know how things are going.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to eat some spaghetti on the couch.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No, things aren't normal yet

I have an icky, post-holiday hangover. Everything has been too much. I want to rummage through my drawers and cabinets, and get rid of the clutter. All sweets must go in the trash can. Old toys and worn out clothing must leave the house. I'm ready to get rid of the tree and box up the decorations.

I. Am. Done.

It's an itchy feeling, not having things where they belong. I need to have some organization. It's the German in me. Joel may be crying, and Owen needs me to find the special, purple van (which is the only acceptable van to play with despite the fact that there are 2000 bazillion cars on every flat surface of the house), yet I still find the time to put my silverware away just so.

It's been a stressful few days. I was at my in-law's house. Owen and his cousin (while, really, doing an admirable job for being two) were often on the verge of a turf battle over cars, Legos, books, oxygen, chairs, affection, etc...We all should have worn black and white shirts and whistles.

Joel was five months old, and generous with the late-night awakenings.

I was tired most of the time and attempting to show everybody that Nothing Had Changed, and I was just as capable of attending to conversations, using my mind, pitching in. I wasn't.

This morning, (still at my in-law's house) I woke up around 6:30 (Joel had been up at 4, and 6, and was snoozing again), walked into the kitchen, and mumbled something nasty and passive-aggressive to Paul. He told me that I needed to go back to bed until I could be nice. I complied, after some grumbling. Paul took Joel to the coffee shop, and some relatives watched Owen.

I slept until 9:30, then sat in bed, listening to the boys playing, the hiss of the sausage cooking, the sound of my sister-in-law chit-chatting with my father-in-law. This is the part of the post where I'm supposed to have some epiphany about how lucky I am to have family members that take care of me, and how much better I felt after sleeping in. But that would be a lie. Here's reality: I couldn't summon the energy to play nice, to smile, to play with Owen, to listen to "Fox and Friends" on continuous loop. I. Couldn't. Do. It.

So, I hid. I pulled the covers over my head and dreamed of quiet, sunny kitchens, with well organized drawers and spotless surfaces.

Totally gratuitous shot of Joel (see how he's sitting up now!)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Xmas World.

It's almost three on December 26th, and I'm still in my PJs, with dirty hair. I'm at my mother-in-law's house, and I feel like a kid home from college---lazy and indulgent.

Joel, who never does this, slept on my lap for almost two hours today. Curled eyelashes. Soft breath. Yummy-smelling head. Delicious.

Owen and his cousin, William, have been playing an extensive and complicated game of "It's Mine," and "Monkey See, Monkey Do." Some of the moves of this game include:

1. Snatching cars away from each other.
2. Screaming about the injustice of it all.
3. Mediation by a parent.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Last night, the boys were both in time-out before we started eating Christmas dinner.

You can either get really aggravated or keep perspective. I'm attempting the latter.

I love my cousins, but we did not spend major holidays together, due to us being out in the no-man's-land of AZ, while they were in Illinois. So, it's neat to see Owen and William, both born in 2006, become friends, rivals, annoyances, and joys---in other words, siblings.

This is both a wonder to watch and a fearful harbinger of things to come. At this time next year, I. Will. Have. Two. Toddlers.

I love the idea of this, but right now, as I shake the dust off my PJs and contemplate combing my hair, I just can't put my mind around it...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas and the King

Stephen King once told an interviewer that he writes every single day, "Except Christmas and my birthday."

Years later, in his memior, On Writing, he admitted that he actually did write every day of the year---including his birthday and Christmas. He said he told the interviewer that he took those days off so he wouldn't appear to be a workaholic weirdo.

Well, Stephen, I think that ship sailed a long, long time ago.

A Digression: On Writing is an excellent text for anybody who writes or teaches writing. I learned from Mr. King that adverbs ARE THE ENEMY. Instead of using a lazy adverb as characterization, the writer needs to show the characterization through actions.

An example:

Bad, evil use of adverb: "Hello there," he said nervously.

Better use of Showing, Not Teling: "Hello there," he said, swifting from one foot to the other, his right hand trembling.


Anyway, I may possibly follow the advice of Stepen King (or his pretend advice, anyway), and not blog for a day or two. In light of this, here's my Christmas gift to you:

Silent Night. Holy Night. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, a donkey, a sheep, a dinosaur, a giraffe, a mountain lion, and a jaguar. That would be Owen's nativity.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Before Paul and I found a church home, I always had this vaguely uneasy feeling. In the event that something bad happened to us, I was afraid that nobody would be there with the casseroles.

When I was a child, I tagged along when my mother would bring casseroles to families dealing with illness, or celebrating a new baby. Mom's casseroles were present at most funerals, weddings, church socials, and confirmations. If there was a meal to be had, odds are, Mom's tuna-noodle casserole with crunchy topping was on the menu.

I learned very quickly, and have since confirmed this through conversations with Mom as an adult, that the casseroles are props, excuses, reasons to Show Up. It's our job, as members of God's family, to Show Up, to listen, to hold hands, and to actively help people when they need it.

The motto of my church is "God's work. Our hands." I love it, because it's another way of saying: "Hey you! Show Up!"

My group of friends brings the casseroles. After Joel was born, Paul and I were provided with hot, delicious meals. It was food for our souls as well as our bellies. As an aside, my church also offered to bring casseroles. We declined, because it would be too much. We would swim away on a sea of noodles and cream of celery soup. But, my fears were laid to rest. We have casserole-bringers in our midst.

My friends "bring the casseroles" in other ways, too. We'll watch each others' kids when we have appointments. When one friend could barely function because of her morning sickness, we chipped in for a massage. When another friend, also fighting nausea, was overwhelmed, we provided a housekeeping blitz. The main way my friends provide casseroles these days is through quick phone calls or emails. These voices from the field provide respite in a world of flying peas and ten pound diapers.

The difficult part for me is figuring out what to do when people don't want the casseroles, or the help. I have dear friends who have repeatedly and respectfully told me that space and prayer are the best casseroles I can provide. It's a helpless feeling, just like Owen and Joel's early days, when they would cry and cry, and there was nothing I could do to make it better. Some of my friends are having a difficult time, and no baked ziti is going to solve the problem.

So, I do what they ask. Kinda. I pray for them, and think of them a lot, especially in the early morning hours, when all is quiet except for Joel's quiet gulps and the rock of my chair. I call or email every so often. I pray that God will show me how to be His hands.

I hope. Then, I open the cookbook, and look at casserole recipes. Just in case.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A post and a prize (!)

Yet another reason I'm happy to have boys:

Today's Post talked about one of the "hot toys" of this Christmas season: Baby Alive Learns to Potty. To quote, "The doll talks, eats and answers nature's call. Mistakes can happen, though. 'Uh, oh, I had an accident' is in her repertoire of programmed phrases, along with 'I'm hungry,' 'Mmmm good,' and 'I made a stinky.' Critics of such realistic toys wonder if some things are best left to the imagination."

Ya think? What's next? Baby Alive Has That "Not So Fresh" Feeling?


In other, important news:
School's out, which means one thing for those without digital cable or a dish: Nickelodeon preempts "Go, Diego, Go" for shows geared to the preteen (or "tween") viewing audience. So, instead of our regularly scheduled adventures of Diego, the animal rescuer and his sidekick Baby Jaguar, something called "iCarly" is on.

This is completely unacceptable. Thanks a lot, Nickelodeon. You've forced me to spend the half hour that I normally shower reading books to my toddler. I hope you're ashamed of yourself.

In my defense:
Thanks to Diego, and his cousin, Dora the Explorer, Owen is a bilingual whiner. When something is challenging for him, he either bellows, "Help!", or Ayudame! (By the way, I would put the upside down exclamation point in if I knew how to do that on a keyboard. Anyone?)

Time's Running Out
I still need to put together the Airplane! trivia questions for the annual family movie trivia contest.

A sample: Air traffic controller Steve McCroskey (played by Lloyd Bridges) was under severe stress trying to bring the airplane in safely. Each time he was placed under stress, he would medicate himself and exclaim, that he had picked the wrong week to quit his various addictions. Name the four addictions.

The first person to send the correct answer to me at my email address: wins a yet-unspecified prize.

Also, feel free to provide more questions for me, just for the sheer thrill of it.

Surely, that's all I have to post today.

Oh, and don't call me Shirley.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm sorry, what was I writing about?

My cousin's blog ( discusses all sorts of topics, including "awesome animals" and state flags. The blog, incidentally, got its title because Dave is a civil engineer, and was working on a bridge over Sturgeon Bay, WI, until he dropped his soldering tool into the bay. Hence, the name.

Yes, I'm not the only dork in the family. Far, far from it. You may note that this is the second member of my family that welds for fun. Luckily, we're all happy, unrepentant dorks these days.

Anyway, Dave's most recent post talks about the AZ state flag, and includes a recording of the Cactus Wren's call, which sounds like an engine turning over. When I heard the sound, I was back in my front yard in Phoenix, next to the Palo Verde Tree, wearing my "E.T." T-shirt, and pretending to camp with my Cabbage Patch Kid. One recording, and wham! it's 1984.

They say that people learn by linking new knowledge to old. The brain craves, and requires context to make the information "stick." For example, I needed the bird sound to retrieve the information from the file in my brain marked, "childhood."

These days, I find I need more and more context, because I cannot remember anything. Nothing much is sticking to this brain. My brother will regularly ask me, "What are you reading? What are you listening to?" I used to be able to rattle off songs, titles, authors, and lyrics. Now, the conversation is more like this:

"I'm reading this really cool book about....Owen, get down!...anyway...Owen, Mommy gets to talk to Uncle Tom (yes, that's his name) for five more minutes....anyway, um, uh, what were we talking about? Yeah."

The other day, somebody asked me my age. I had no idea. I had to subtract 1975 from this year to figure it out. By the way, I'm thirty-three---don't strain yourself.

Apparently, I'm not the only one suffering from this affliction, because a commonly heard phrase in our household is, "Owen, what did I just say?" Luckily, we tend to remember whatever it was we just said, because we repeat it to Owen, sternly. Usually "now" is attached to the end of the statement, as in, "Put your coat on---now" or "Get in the car---now." or "Eat your peas--now."

And, oh, was it ever helpful when Owen said, "Say, please, Daddy."

I know that it's the height of tedium to read about the cute things children say, but since I can't remember much, indulge me with just one: Owen can't say "presents" correctly. He says, "prez-a-nents" as in, "On Christmas, Santa will bring me a prez-a-nent."

Luckily, Owen's brain is still developing, so he will not remember that in 2008, Santa gave him socks for his Christmas prez-a-nent.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lines in the sand

Everybody has his or her line in the sand. A friend of mine who has an "online journal" (not a blog, he would be quick to say) wrote about one of his: Starbucks. He has never been to a Starbucks, and has no plans on going for a variety of reasons that I won't get into here. Suffice to say, if he was to buy a cup of Starbucks, it would be a minor moral failure. Not earth-shattering, but wrong nevertheless.

Clearly, he and I are at odds when it comes to this. However, there are things that I feel just as strongly own lines in the sand.

1. When somebody is kind enough to let you merge, you always, always give "the wave." If you choose not to wave thank you, you are an ass.

2. You bake cookies for your neighbors at Christmastime, even if you can't remember all of their names.

3. It is unacceptable to leave the newspaper out once it has been read. You're either reading it, or it is in the recycle bin. This is a hard one for me, because my parents read the paper all day long. My dad, on his last visit, was still reading the paper at five PM. I was making motions to get rid of it, and he stopped me, saying "It's only been out for seven hours!" Ex-actly. How long does it take to read a paper? Dad was about six and a half hours too long, as far as I was concerned.

4. I disagree with people that compare George W to Hitler. He's not my favorite guy, but c'mon. He's not Pol Pot. A little perspective, please.

5. Paul's addition: When you're running, and you wave at a fellow runner, they should wave back. To quote,"It doesn't matter how tired you're feeling, you can still lift up your hand three inches. "

6. Because of my weird, weird aversion to jewelry (I think it stems from the cord being wrapped around my neck in the womb), I cannot drink wine at parties when they have those little "wine charms" attached to the stem of the glass. It's like the wine glass is wearing a necklace, and it skeeves me out.

7. I hate it when bloggers or columnists are having off days, and resort to lists of pet peeves, refashioned as "lines in the sand." It's such a cop-out and so lame.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Breathe in, breathe out

One of my favorite pictures of Paul and Owen is from Owen's first Christmas. We had traveled to my parents' house, just outside of Boulder, CO, and didn't leave it for five days. You see, we had hit town, and then a wave of blizzards joined us. It snowed so much that the Denver Airport shut down (and if there's an airport equipped for snow, you would think it would be Denver). It was good snow, too, not the wishy-washy dustings we get here in MD. It was crunchy, and there were liberal amounts of it everywhere---a lot like Boulder, actually (Crunchy and liberal. Get it? Oh, I crack myself up).

Anyway, since we were snowbound, we stayed inside, baked copious amounts of cookies, played cards, and watched Owen be a cute baby. Eventually, we got a little stir crazy, put Owen in the backpack, borrowed some sturdy hiking boots (again, not difficult to find in Boulder) and took a walk in the winter wonderland.

It was there that I took my favorite picture. Paul is wearing a black stocking cap, and he's looking down, watching each step. Owen is in the backpack, wearing a blue ski cap with two horns, facing the camera, smirking. The sky is a wide expanse of blue, and the snowy prairie is a blinding white. You can see Paul's breath. It's a stark, cold landscape, juxtaposed with the warmth of father and son.

It catches my breath, every time I see it.

I've been thinking a lot about breath and breathing today. Now that I'm blogging, my house is littered with sticky notes, the frantic scrawlings of a lunatic who doesn't want to forget. When the boys are asleep and I'm logged in, I put the notes together and attempt to find a common theme. And today, it's breath.

I had to take a deep breath today. I thought it would be nice to listen to some CDs, since we never listen to CDs. I was looking through the CD folder, trying to find some Christmas music. Owen was "helping" me: "Mommy wants to listen to this! And this!" Sometimes, I would indulge him, and we would listen to a little bit of bluegrass. However, I did not agree that Daddy's Cypress Hill CD, circa 1994, was what I wanted to listen to. Somehow, the immortal classic, "Hits from the Bong," didn't seem to be very festive. Maybe I'm just a traditionalist.

Because I wouldn't cow-tow to DJ Owen's every whim, he lost his mind, and starting chucking CDs across the room. We. Were. Done. I scooped him up to carry him to his room for time out. Wailing and half-crazed with the injustice of it all, Owen smacked me on the back, square between the shoulder blades.

Oh shit. It's on now. I stomped into his room, dropped him on his bed like a bag of potatoes, and explained to Owen that he was not allowed to leave his room until I got him or there would be NO CHRISTMAS. That's the way to deescalate a situation.

I sat on the toilet downstairs, taking deep breaths until I decided that I liked him again. And yes, we're all better now, Christmas will go on as planned, and Owen still hasn't listened to Cypress Hill.

We've been thinking about Joel's breathing a lot recently. He has had a cough/chest congestion that has resulted in the use of inhalers. He's doing much better, but it's hard for me. Once you see your kid on a ventilator, you will do anything, and I mean, anything, to make sure that you never see it again.

I called my sister-in-law, Erin. She did "real time" in the NICU with my nephew---he was born at 29 weeks. I feel like Joel's week was significant for us, but only a taste of what parents with preemies deal with. I asked her, "How long did it take before you stopped seeing William on a vent whenever he had a cough?"

She replied, "I still do." William is two years old.

Her words run through my mind as I hold Joel, watching his chest slowly rise and fall, his breathing slow, regular, and thanks to the inhalers, once again clear. Every breath is a miracle.

Bad breath is an occupational hazard of motherhood. Mine smells like coffee pretty much all the time. I went to a cookie exchange today and two, two! of the mothers shared that they were chewing gum because they did not have a chance to brush their teeth yet. The cookie exchange was at 10:30 AM.

I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe last night. I was holding Joel so he was facing me. I would open my eyes really wide and say, "This is the Colbert Report!!!!" Apparently, this is comedy gold for four month old boys, since Joel was in hysterics. That made me laugh. Then, because Owen is a follower, he started laughing. Paul poked he head around the corner, saw his family in hysterics, and started laughing, too.


I wish that somebody had captured us in a picture. Much like that crisp, snowy morning in Colorado, that moment was....breathtaking.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Contraption Complications

I've been having a lot of difficulty with objects recently and the contraptions designed to make my life easier.


Joel, perhaps training to be a future Beckham (please, God, do not let my future daughter-in-law be Posh Spice II), kicks all the time. In the Baby Bjorn, in the car seat, in his crib---if there's kicking to be done, he's all over it. Consequently, he never has socks. It doesn't matter how form-fitting the socks may be, he'll make short work of losing one, of not both of them.

Strangers love to tell you that your baby is missing a sock, especially when it's windy and cold outside. I usually smile and go into my song and dance about how difficult it is to find socks that stay on. Yesterday, after Owen's haircut, Joel was once again missing a sock, and once again, a stranger let me know it. After the blah blah blah, she told me that the solution to my problem would be to:

1). Go to the fabric store.
2). Buy several pieces of velcro.
3). Sew the velcro onto each sock, then sew the other half of the velcro onto the leg of Joel's pants.
4). Repeat this process for all of Joel's clothing.

Really? Really. Never mind that Joel grows out of his clothing approximately every two days, I. Don't. Sew. Time spent sewing, (or, shoot, glue-gunning) velcro to my kid's clothes and socks is time that I am missing important things, like writing this blog or spending time on Facebook, or reading or showering, or sitting on my ass. I mean, do people really do this?

My mother-in-law bought me these elastic clips that connect a baby's mittens to the sleeve of his or her jacket, to prevent the baby from losing the mitten. This contraption is fantastic, if I was the kind of person that remembered mittens to begin with. Since I generally do not, my baby is the one wearing mismatched tube socks on his hands.

Cookie Press
My mother has made these amazing cookies for as long as I have known her---cream cheese, orange rind, a hint of cinnamon. They are transcendent. They also involve the use of a cookie press. When Mom makes them, she presses out charming little trees, reindeer, stars, and angels. I press out red turds. It doesn't matter what I do, my cookies look like ass. So much so that I'm too embarrassed to bring them to a cookie exchange, and I've made boring drop cookies, instead.

Nasal Aspirator
I know how to use the nasal aspirator, but my problem is, I'm addicted to it. I'll stick the skinny end in poor Joel's nose, release the bulb, and I'll almost get the booger out. Almost, but not quite. So, I'll do it again. And again. And again. Joel is squirming, Owen wants to look inside it to see all the cool boogers, and I Can't. Stop. Squeezing. I may need an Aspirator Intervention, because no matter what I do, it'll never be enough.

Penis Holder
Owen initially learned how to pee-pee sitting down. That's what they recommend. Now, as he's becoming more of a pro, he's learned that boys also get to pee standing up. When he pees sitting down, he holds his penis down. When he pees standing up, he still holds his penis down. Consequently, pee either runs down his leg, or dribbles all over the seat. When he's done, the toilet looks like the crusty yellow commode of a Naval Golf Course after a Fourth of July Scramble Tournament.

That may seem like an odd simile, but having cleaned a toilet when I worked at a Naval Golf Course during the annual 4th of July Scramble Tournament, trust me, it's apt.

Anyway, to prevent Owen from painting my toilet yellow, I sit next to him and hold his penis to help him aim it properly. It feels as weird as it sounds.

So, I need a contraption that helps toddler boys aim properly when they pee standing up. I'm sure it exists...right along with the velcroed socks and mitten holders.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think Joel is sounding a bit congested again...good thing I have the nasal aspirator.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Updates and Joel's Turn

Updates on earlier posts...

P.S. #1: I finally bought the formula for the food bank. I feel less guilty now, and can read the stupid Oprah magazine in peace.

P.S. #2: The magazine really isn't that good. Oprah gained the weight back because she stopped focusing on her diet and exercise routine.

P.S. #3: Joel may not have been teething after all, but suffering from his SECOND ear infection in his four-month-old life.

P.S. #4: This does not negate my new appreciation for teething horror stories.

P.S. #5: Joel, due to reoccurring cough and lung crud, is on two different types of inhalers. They cost $40.00 each. If this is the going rate for inhalers, I have a new appreciation for my friends who deal with asthma. Geesh...

P.S. #6: Reading over my posts, as I am wont to do (because I am an egomaniac), makes me realize how often Owen makes appearances, and how Joel seems to be in the shadows, as an afterthought, or a complaint. This makes me sad. Let me tell you a little bit about Joel.

Joel's eyes are the most beautiful blue. This makes me happy, because I feel like he has already beat the odds, facing down my dominant brown eyed genetics, and saying, "No thank you, I'll take blue." When I look at him, I cannot believe that Paul and I made such a beautiful person.

Honestly, I think Owen's a pretty cute kid. So, during my pregnancy, I prepared myself for Joel to be less cute. That sounds awful, but how likely is it that we would capture lightening in a bottle twice?

Pretty likely, I guess. Not only does Joel have blue eyes, but he has red hair. Granted, it's less red then when he was a newborn, but it's still red. I'm so surprised, and so happy to see that Joel's physical appearance presents him as his own person, not as "Owen #2."

Joel is such a happy guy. He laughs easily, loves to bounce, smiles at anybody. Sometimes things will be so happy, and so good for him, that he will laugh and lunge for a shoulder, attempting to bite it. He's a bit of a vampire, this one.

Joel has made Owen a kinder person. When he bumps or hurts Joel, as is bound to happen, his eyes well up with tears, not because he is in trouble, but because he truly feels bad about hurting another person.

Owen will hug me when I'm holding Joel and say, "Mommy's two boys. I love you, Mommy. I love you, Joely."

P.S. #7: I hope that Joel knows that even though he cannot yet speak, get in trouble, walk, or throw a tantrum, he still gets our attention. He is in the body of our family's letter. Joel is not a Post Script.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Yesterday, I was having what I call as "Stupid Ugly Fat" day. That is a day, where, yes, I determine myself to be stupid, ugly and fat. Generally brought on by a lack of sleep, these are days where I wallow in insecurity and generally fail to see joy in anything.

When I was younger, the only person who could make me smile during SUF days was my brother. I would whine, "I'm so stupid."

Tom would grin and reply, "You're not only stupid, but you're ugly. And fat." This would make me smile because 1) He knew the script so well, 2) He loved me so much and so unconditionally that by merely saying the words, he took away their power, and made them ridiculous.

Once Paul and I got together, and I was comfortable enough, the dynamics of SUF changed. I would begin my whining and he Just. Wouldn't. Play.

"I'm so stupid," I would say. "I'm so fat. I'm so ugly." Ah, the pathos! The violins!

Paul, being a practical Midwesterner at heart, would look me in the eye and say, "That's not true, but since that's how you feel, what are you going to do about it?"

For awhile, I would attempt to pick a fight, but Paul wouldn't budge, and wouldn't play. His point continued to be, "If you don't like something, do something about it."

As you can imagine, this threw me for a loop, but after being together for twelve years, I'm starting to figure it out. Some positive results of Paul's tough love include: becoming a runner, becoming a writer, and finding sympathetic girlfriends.

After a run, everything is just not that intense, and I usually can at least knock "fat" out of the equation, because my three mile run instantly renders me skinny.

Writing, for the longest time, was an opportunity to whine on paper. Oh my, some of my entries were tedious. I made Morrissey from the Smiths sound like Pollyanna. I was in a writing group back in Arizona, and a colleague told me, after reading an especially whiny piece, "Maybe you should look into counseling. Really. This made me very uncomfortable." O--kay. Time to scale back a notch. Phrases, such as "My life is a dark, dark, room" are not only overdone and overdramatic, but they are just plain boring.

After moving to Maryland, having a series of rough things happen all at once, and spending some time on the couch with a prescription to Zoloft, I understand what depression really is. It's not cool, and it doesn't make you more interesting. It's just really, really sad, and really, really hard work.

So, after that experience, I stopped writing to vomit out every negative feeling floating in my head, and started to write for the joy of it. This is the most recent evolution of my writing life.

This leads me back to sympathetic girlfriends. While it is better to find solutions through exercise or writing, sometimes a girl's just gotta whine. I called my friend Kristen. Kristen has probably been told her entire life that she is beautiful, because she is truly stunning. However, I hope that she is told as often that her soul and spirit are beautiful, too.

I started telling her that I felt ugly, etc. etc. She didn't try to solve my problem. She didn't try to make me laugh. She just listened and sympathized, and then she did the exact thing I needed. She complimented my hair and my skin, and told me that she thought I was pretty.

Yes, it's needy, but sometimes a girl just needs to hear that.

My SUF day thankfully ended, and I'm grateful that I can see them for what they are---days where I'm a little needy, a little lost, but never, ever, alone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

An open letter

Dear mothers of the world,

I'm so sorry. Because teething was not a big deal for Owen, I always thought that when other mothers carried on about the difficulties of teething that they were being...overally dramatic. Making mountains out of molehills. Looking for something to complain about.

Shows what I know. Having been up every hour and a half since midnight last night, comforting Joel as he tossed, turned, fussed, and acted pissy, I understand that teething can be a big deal.

While I'm at it, let me apologize for ever passing mental judgement about how mothers choose to dress, feed, discipline, or carry their children.

I guess what I'm learning is that in mothering, there isn't a valedictorian. All sorts of people can be successful mothers, and there's no reason to compete. I've learned, once again, that nothing can bite you on the ass with more vengeance than smug judgement.

Instead of looking at life with my yardstick, I'm attempting to look at life with my magnifying glass. For example, I was watching Owen draw this morning. He asked me to draw a cactus. I sketched out an Ocotillo, and all at once, was swept away by a wave of homesickness for Tucson, for the sparse beauty of the cactus, the orange-purple mountains, and the drapery of blue, blue sky. It made me happy to know that my East-Coast born son had been to Arizona, and knew about cactus.

My glass caught Joel, as he beamed and laughed at Owen's funny faces. He smiled, not so much at the faces, as the fact that they came from his brother.

Later on, my glass focused on Owen in the kitchen. He was pretending to fill up his packing box "car" up with gas. I watched him pretend to enter his PIN code, and realized that he will never know about life before "pay at the pump."

Later still, my glass turned to Owen again, in the living room, working on his puzzles. He narrated his actions while he worked, "Where's the little bit of pink? There it is! That piece goes right here. Where's the brown guy? Oh, I'm not going to put that in yet. There's the orange piece, that goes here..." It was fascinating to watch him create his own success. By resisting my desire to micro-manage his play, I was able to see him problem-solve his way.

Likewise, I can watch how other mothers create their own successes, not by micro-managing and measuring their choices with my yardstick, but by observing that people problem-solve in different ways.

And so, dear mothers, I ask you to forgive me for judging. Help me to see your journey, and appreciate your joys.



Sunday, December 14, 2008


I promise I'm not going to write about Puritans every day.

However, listen to this passage, from John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony: "We must delight in each other, make other's conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community, as members of the same body."

Wow. As I read this, I feel more than a little bit of shame. You see, I know that I can be, in the words of my father, "The worst kind of liberal." You know, the kind that likes pretty words and ideas, but doesn't necessarily like the hard work that goes with 'em.

For example, a friend who works at the hospital was telling me that there have been more cases of infant malnutrition, because mothers have been watering down their formula. To make it last longer. Because it's expensive.

So, fast-forward a few days. I'm at Safeway, in the baby aisle. I see formula and think about buying a few cans to donate to the food shelter. I don't because it's "too expensive." However, I do find money to buy the new Oprah magazine, because it's important for me to understand why she gained the weight again.

Now, when I look at that magazine, I feel very small.

I don't have a solution to this, except that I need to try harder. I need to translate thoughts into action. I need to look beyond words.

And while usually, my advice to myself is to cut myself some slack, this time I need to remember that it's not just about me. I'm part of a community, and it's my job to support other people, especially those that need it the most.

I mean, it shouldn't be a lofty goal to be at least as caring and compassionate as a Puritan...right?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Puritanical Perfection

Christmas has come early for me, thanks to a trip to the library. I special ordered a book by Sarah Vowell called The Wordy Shipmates. It is, to quote the jacket, an "exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop's 'city upon a hill.'"

Yes, this is what gets my pulse racing.

I wish I was kidding, but I did a little squeal in the library when I saw the book, and snuck peaks at it at every red light between Prince Frederick and home. I love the feeling of having a book that you know will be good right there in your hands. The bad part about having such a good book is that you resent all the people and responsibilities in your life that keep you from your book. Owen's desire to "drive" a packing box around the kitchen, Joel's desire to be fed and changed, Paul's desire to talk to his's just so inconsiderate. All I want to do is Sit. On. The. Couch. And. Read. And maybe drink a soda.

Now, in my defense, Sarah Vowell is a pretty cool writer---this isn't just dry history. It's a unique mixture of history and social commentary. And....Sarah Vowell was the voice of Violet in The Incredibles. That's pretty cool.

So, enough foreplay. It's time to stop writing so I can crack the book open, and let the world disappear for awhile.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In case you were curious...

1. A disposable diaper, thrown into the clothes washer by a sleep deprived person (hint: not Paul), will come out clean and waterlogged, as big as a two year old's head. Science is amazing.

2. You can get your hair cut with your four month old, if you're okay with letting strangers hold him during the blow-drying session.

3. Babies know, within the minute, when it's the older sibling's naptime. That's the moment they choose to get up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Full Circle

Last night, Owen requested a "Bob and Jim" story. I had no clue what he was talking about. Paul, however, grinned with recognition, and said, "All right buddy. Tonight. At bedtime. After Mommy goes downstairs."

Now, if there's one thing I don't like, it's being out of the loop. Until that moment, I had no interest in or knowledge about Bob and/or Jim. But now, since it's something that apparently, I'm not invited to, an evening of Bob and Jim stories sounds incredibly entertaining.

Over dishes, I ask Paul to give me the skinny about Bob and Jim. He explains that they are stories that his dad used to tell him and his brother when tucking them into bed. Since Paul's dad imagined up these stories, they tended to involve Wisconsin, fishing, railroad tracks, camping, and hobo songs. Bob and Jim, I guess, are a tamer version of the escaped convicts from O Brother, Where Art Thou? , tramping around, stealing pies off windowsills, and dreaming of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

So, after stories and prayers (Owen, once again, thanked Jesus for "Trick or Treating, and sippy cups, too!"), I gave my hugs and kisses, and left the boys to their stories. Actually, I sat on the step, listening for a minute. As Paul began the story, I realized that this really isn't about me, it's about Paul and Owen.

So, I left them alone, as Paul, Owen, Bob and Jim linked the past to the present to the future.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One conversation, many questions

My sister-in-law called yesterday about something related to Christmas, and we got to talking about how to scale back our holiday spending. I suggested that we only buy gifts for the kids in the family, starting next year.

She agreed, then added, "Unless we find something that's just perfect for the other person."

"Of course," I replied, stepping over a Lego pyramid. "If I just happen to see something that has your name all over it, then that's the exception to the rule."

"Right," she said. I paused here to remind Owen that boiling pots of water are not toys. She continued, "But, since we spend the holidays together, I feel bad not having anything for you to unwrap. It's different with my family in Washington."

"I feel the same way," I said, as I put Joel in his exersaucer. "I'll probably at least buy you a bottle of wine, or something."

"Okay," she said. "So no gifts, right?"

"Absolutely. No gifts."

I don't really have anything to add to that, except that sometimes Erin and I share a brain. We don't want to rule out the opportunity to get something really cool for the other person, but we do want to free ourselves of the obligation to buy something for the sake of buying it. Maybe we're not quite there yet with actually doing it, but, hey, we have almost a year to figure it out...

I'm not into being a consumer, I guess, unless I'm consuming something really, really cool.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I'm taking a break from editing my friend's dissertation. I'm so impressed with people that use their minds all day long. I've never had a job where I had to sit at a desk and think think think. It's exhausting.

Don't get me wrong. When I was a teacher, I had to think---How do I craft this lesson? What can I do to help Child X move ahead when Child Z is still five steps behind? Is there a homoerotic subtext between Romeo and Mercutio? But, it was an easy thinking. So much of teaching is just instinct---you know what needs to be done, and you do it.

At least it was that way for me. But editing somebody else's work---holding another person's baby in my cold, unflinching hands, is a responsibility I don't take lightly. If I don't do my job, then the writing will not do the job it's meant to do.

And it all come back to parenting. Each day, I'm editing Owen and Joel's life. I'm deleting the behaviors I don't care for---such as Owen's need to bark orders at me: "Mommy--Get Milk NOW!!" I'm writing in the margins, "More--expand!" when Owen is telling a story about the imaginary fish he caught in the bathtub. When Owen has a moment of clarity, "Christmas IS Jesus's birthday," I'm scrawling, "This is fantastic," adding smiley faces and exclamation points.

Joel's composition is a little easier and a little harder. I find that my most frequent comment is "Unclear." Is he squawking because he is exhausted or really happy? It's a fine line with this one. However, I'm already starting to write new things...a "good job" when he rolls over, and a "Me too!" when we find something mutually amusing. I'm looking forward to the day when Joel inspires exclamation points and gold stars all of his own.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh, I crack myself up.

Last night, over Chinese food, my friend told me she and her husband say the same jokes to each other every single day. For example, he'll come out of the bathroom, wearing just boxers and a T-shirt, bedheaded and sleepy, and she'll say to him. "You cannot go to work wearing that." They both smile, and then do the exact same thing the next morning.

I can relate, because sometimes you have to make your own fun. When it's just you, a toddler, and an infant, if you don't enjoy your own company, things can be grim. So, I crack myself up. Or, perhaps I am slowly cracking. Either way, here are some of the things I've said today that made me smile (at myself).

*Owen and I are coloring. He asks me what I'm doing and I say, "I'm coloring the flamingo. It's supposed to be pink, but I'm coloring it orange. Why? Because that's just how I roll."

*We're driving to the gym, and Owen asks where we are going, for the 700th time in the last five minutes. I turn to him (we're at a red light) and say, "Where are we going, Owen? Where are we going? Wherever God takes us."

*We're driving home, and I'm drinking coffee. Owen asks me for the 701st time in the last five minutes what I am doing. I tell him, "I'm drinking my coffee. Black. Like my men."

So, I enjoy my company. Apparently, I'm the only one. Today, over a delicious lunch of cold hot dogs and carrot sticks, Owen says, "Mommy, you're NOT funny!"

Everyone's a critic.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The idea of a girl, interrupted.

I really, really, really am happy about having boys. Truly. I had my weekend where I laid to rest the idea of Little Julia or Olivia, and I've chosen to move on. Now that I've held Joel, I'm in love. I would never trade him or Owen in for anything.

However...I do melt a bit when the girly world intersects with mine. For example, my friend, Jen, had her daughter in polka dotted tights. Oh. My. I. Was. Swooning. Easter dresses, Brownie uniforms, frilly swim suits...they all stir up, in the words of Lightening McQueen, "Feelings that I myself do not totally understand."

I'm not a girly girl myself, and I understand that clothes are mere window dressing, just fluff. I am, however, a confident woman. I survived adolescence and some of the less-than-stellar choices of my college years, and came out intact. I have the scars to prove it.

So, I regret the fact that I will never be able to talk to Julia or Olivia about inner strength, about confidence, about the power of being comfortable in one's own skin. I regret that these ghost daughters will never see me complete a race, take pride in my work, or walk confidently into a room.

I know that the flip side of this is that Owen and Joel will learn, from our example, what a loving marriage looks like. When they look for future partners in life, I hope that they see beyond the fluff and marry women who love themselves and expect their husbands to love and respect them unequivocally.

It's not so much the loss of a dream as the realization that the dream is just different.

That being said, I totally dressed up my two boys in matching green bear sweaters yesterday.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Choirs of Angels

Back in high school, I was a choir nerd. It was easy to recognize us because who else but choir nerds would walk down the hallway of a high school, wearing red and white striped rugby shirts, and singing Gregorian chants and madrigals? Oh, I'm cringing now, just typing it.

In addition to the singing, I used to be quite the fan of musical theatre. That's another telltale sign of a choir nerd. I married a guy who would rather pluck his eyebrows out then attend "Rent!" or "Cats!" or any musical (with or without the explanation point!) for that matter.

A few years back, he bought me tickets to "Mamma Mia," for Christmas. So, not only did he go to a musical for me, but he went to one based entirely on the works of Abba. That's love. Looking at his program, you could see that he made tick marks after each song, each song bringing his misery closer to an end.

My point is that sometimes, when I can't sleep, the words of musicals still go through my mind, even though I rarely listen to entire scores anymore. Last night, after feeding Joel, I returned to bed and the following words, from Les Miserables, drifted through my mind:

"To love another person is to see the face of God."

And again, thanks to insomnia, I found myself thinking that I never understood the power of the Nativity until I became a mother. Every mother I know, even those who do not call themselves religious or spiritual people, has shared the story of watching her newborn sleep and thanking God. A baby (especially when asleep) is grace, is hope, is the Holy Spirit. In a newborn's face, you see possibility, you see joy, you see miracles.

Now, imagine being Mary, and seeing not just God's grace, not just the spark of the Holy Spirit, but seeing GOD when looking into your son's eyes. When Mary wiped the sweat from her brow and held Jesus for the first time, she had all the normal feelings of being a new mother (jubilation, terror, awe), but I imagine she must have felt such comfort. I imagine Jesus looked at her, and being just minutes old, was able to give her peace.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bunch of goods and a yuck.

Today we got the Christmas tree at the Volunteer Fire Department....that's good.

While Paul was tying the tree down, a fireman let Owen sit in the fire truck, and he flashed the lights and let him hold his helmet....that's really good.

Joel settled down fairly quickly for most of his naps....which is good.

Later that day, I got a massage, which was so heavenly I just floated out of the day spa...that's good, too.

I went to my friend's office to discuss his dissertation (I'm editing it with him). While I was waiting, I read The Calvert Recorder. My quote made it into the article about toy shopping. I didn't sound like a tool AND all the information was accurate. Good--right?

Then, I met up with my friend. He said that his adviser liked the revisions I recommended, and he thinks that he will actually get his PhD---partially in thanks to me...that's good, too.

He said he passed my name and number on to other people in his PhD program---that's just good good good.

Extra income=good!

I stopped at the 7-11 and bought something called a Nilla Cakester. While not good for you, they taste, well, good!

I arrive home and Paul told me that United Healthcare is charging us $750.00 for my hospital stay and Joel's subsequent hospitalization back in July/August. Yuck.

All things considered, I'm still coming out ahead...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pump me Up

I. Hate. Pumping.

I'm going to see A Christmas Carol this Sunday with a friend, and I'm delighted. It's rare that we go anywhere without our combined four children. Will I automatically pack the feed bag of Goldfish? Will I ask my friend if she needs to go potty before the show begins? I hope not, but really, it's been that long.

So, the down side of going out is pumping the damn breast milk. It's hard to explain what I hate the most...the whine of the motor, the inability to do anything but hold the sucker-thingys, the stretching of the nipples, the feeling that I'm a cow. I guess I detest all of the things I just listed, but I really cannot abide the waiting...I'll sit there and pump and pump and pump and pump, and FINALLY, around 15 minutes in, things will "get going," and I'll produce about two ounces on each side.

Pumping has never been fun for me. When I went back to work after Owen was born, I pumped during my planning period in a closet next to the home ec classroom. So, I would sit in the closet, topless, pumping and pumping and pumping while seventh graders made aprons and apple pie. It was just weird.

When Joel was at Hopkins, pumping was the only thing that I felt like I could actively do to help him. It was my only job as a mother. I would go to this cold, cold room, sit in the chair, and pump, using this hospital-grade pump that Paul and I dubbed "the widowmaker." Made with industrial chrome and clear glass, it looked like something a butcher would use to slice cold cuts. Sitting in that room gave me too much time to think, and thinking was the last thing I needed to do at that time.

We brought Joel home with a huge cooler of frozen milk. I told everybody that one of the pluses of the NICU was the surplus of milk. So, you can imagine my disgust when all the milk went bad (old freezer).

So, I'm back to square one. I can hear the chorus of cries out there, "Just give him a bottle of damn formula." I know, I know. There's nothing wrong with formula, and I so don't have an opinion about the breast vs. bottle debate.

But, I guess, I'm still not totally over the NICU experience since A) I still write about it and B) I still feel like pumping, awful as it is, is something that I can do for my baby. Just in case.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All this emotion from a Lego Tower?

Today, we went to a birthday party. David turned three today, the second of many parties we will attend this year celebrating the end of the terrible twos and the beginning of the terrific threes (I'm being optimistic here).

I know that I've barked up this tree before, but there really is something amazing in seeing your child grow up, and watching his friends grow up. I remember seeing these playgroup friends in Baby Bjorns, drooling and chubby cheeked. Now, today, they're all sitting around a table, drinking from big boy/girl cups, talking to each other, decorating their own cupcakes and generally being people instead of cute blobs.

The phrase is trite, but it is true, "The days are long, the years are short."

Last night, I was on the computer, trying to put together the Christmas photo card (more difficult than one would think, finding a picture of Joel that doesn't involve drool, crossed eyes, red eyes, but DOES involve eye contact). Paul and Owen were in the living room, building a massive tower of Legos---probably the height of two Owens. Owen said, referring to the top,"I can't reach it. I need to grow up."

Paul said, "Don't grow up too fast, buddy."

And just like that---my eyes were misting up, thinking of him starting preschool next year, of him stepping onto the school bus two years after that, then middle school, then high school, then moving away from home, and then meeting a girl that will love him and make him want to be the best man he can be....

Like a lunatic, I'm crying, thinking about the years, streaking past so quickly. How lucky I am to be Owen and Joel's mom.

"Don't grow up too fast, buddy." Indeed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Morning in the Life

It's 6:30, I'm in bed and listening to Joel thrash about on the monitor. He's always such a happy baby in the morning...unlike Owen, who woke up screaming, Joel will coo, examine his hands, and kick the air joyfully for a good fifteen, twenty minutes.

This would be the quietest part of my morning by far.

Fast forward through breakfast, getting dressed, etc. to Joel's morning nap. Or, I should say, lack of it, since he was awake after snoozing for a whopping twenty-five minutes. I pile the boys into the car, pleased as punch that there will be enough time for me to run a few errands before Joel's four month well visit with his doctor.

I go to the dump, which, I'm frustrated to find, is staffed by Old Cigar-Chomping Man, who is too busy talking about the Redskins game to help me with my trash. I far prefer slightly less old Elmer Fudd Cap Wearing Man, who always helps me heave the bags into the dumpster. For those of you reading this outside of Calvert County, yes, I have to go to the dump, usually at least two times a week. You have to pay for trash pick up in these here parts.

Dump run complete, I arrive at Educate and Celebrate, the only place in town besides Wally World that sells toys---we have two birthday parties this week. Naturally, it's closed for another fifteen minutes. We walk over to Safeway, buy some coffee, and then go to the Hallmark store to kill some time. Bad idea. EVERYTHING in Hallmark is breakable and makes noise. So, I have Joel in the Bjorn, I'm attempting to hold Owen's hand, and a cup of hot coffee (away from Joel's head, thank you very much) teeters in my remaining free hand. As soon as the clock strikes ten, I head next door to the toy store.

I enter the store, and literally, as soon as I enter the store, a woman asks me if she could interview me for the local paper, The Calvert Recorder. How could I refuse this, possibly my fifteen minutes of fame? (Okay, total disclosure: I was in The Calvert Recorder a few years back for a "Meet your Teacher" feature. So, let's call a spade a spade and say that I am a publicity hound and take any opportunity for attention, no matter how fleeting...) Anyway, she asks me what I'm getting my kids for Christmas, and how the recession is changing my spending habits. Since I wasn't planning on buying much for the kids to begin with, I'm not a very interesting interview topic. However, I do steal an idea from my friend and say that I'm going to take Owen to the dollar store so he can learn how to "give, not just get" by buying small gifts for family members. Thanks, Jamie, for the idea. We'll see if it makes the paper this Friday...

So, after my interview, I realize that I have five minutes to select three gifts, pay for them, pile the boys into the car, and make it to the doctor on time. I can so do this. I'm racing around the store, putting items in the cart, and then, I hear it:

"Mommy, I need to go poo-poo." Naturally, I have no diaper bag, since I need my hands to hold my coffee, lug around the baby, and push the cart. If Owen poos his pants, it will be a disaster of epic proportions. The cleaning alone would make us late for Joel's appointment. My eyes dart around the store, frantically looking for the bathroom.

"Moooommmmy, I need to go poo-poo! It's a very, very big one!" Oh dear! I finally make eye contact with the lady behind the counter.

She helpfully says, "There's too much dangerous stuff by our bathroom. You'll need to take him to Safeway."

Damn. "Okay! Thanks a lot!" I say, leaving the full cart in the middle of the store, dragging Owen by one hand, swigging coffee with the other, Joel hanging limply from the Bjorn throughout it all. We make it back to Safeway, as Owen lets the baggers, managers, fellow shoppers, and deli employees know that not only does he need to go poo-poo, but it's a poo of epic proportions.

We make it, Owen does his thing, there is much rejoicing, and we all race to the car. I screech up to the doctor's office, and use the valet service because, as usual, there is no parking AND we're ten minutes late. We arrive, panting, to the office.

And proceed to wait twenty minutes.

After sitting for ten minutes, a twitchy dad (who, incidentally, came in after me), lumbers up to the receptionist and asks, "How much longer will I have to wait?" The nurse explains that there are two patients ahead of his daughter. He proceeds to announce, "I'm gonna order a pizza, since I have to wait so long. Anybody else want anything?" So. Calvert. County. I mean, really? You need nourishment to sustain yourself during a twenty minute wait? You would rather scarf down a pizza in the waiting room of a pediatrician's office than just...wait?

I couldn't restrain myself, "You're having it delivered here?"

He said, "Damn straight. You'll wish you ordered some, too."

I never had the chance to. Joel's name was called next, and we went back and learned that he is growing well (75% percentile for height, weight, and head), that he has an ear infection, and despite my suspicions, does NOT have an extra nipple. He also got three shots, and cried like, well, a baby.

We left, Rx in hand. Joel was done. I was soooo done. Owen? He was still talking about the size of his poo.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Toddler Theology

Owen and I were talking about Christmas while driving home today.

I said, "Are you excited about Christmas?"

Owen said, "Yes. Santa comes at Christmas!"

"That's right!" I said. "What else happens at Christmas?"

"I get lots and lots of presents!"

Oh dear, I think. He's two and already a little consumer. Trying to get the Christ back in Christmas, I say, "Who has a birthday on Christmas?"

Owen thinks long and hard, "Baby Joel!"

"No," I say, attempting to cram some spiritual training into Owen's day, "Baby Jesus."

"Who's that guy?"

"You know who Baby Jesus is. He made the world. And Christmas is his birthday. We say, 'Happy Birthday Jesus' on Christmas." As I say this out loud, I realize that it's such an odd thing to say and an odder thing for a toddler to understand.

Owen is silent for a few minutes. "Baby Joel's birthday?"

"No honey, Baby Jesus. You know, God's son." After all, throwing the trinity into the mix should clear everything right up for Owen. Maybe I'll explain how Lutherans believe that communion is both the actual body and blood and a symbol of it while I'm at it...

"Baby Evan's birthday?" Maybe he's linking the fact that Evan's dad is a pastor, therefore, perhaps a little more acquainted with Jesus? Am I stretching a bit here?

"No, Baby Jesus."

"Baby Austin? Baby Cara? Baby Ryan? Baby Joel? Baby Hippo?" At this point, he breaks up laughing at his own hilarity.

"No, Owen. Baby Jesus. It's his birthday on Christmas."

"Oh." He's silent for a moment. I have a new appreciation for anybody who teaches preschool Sunday School. It's really, really hard to make something that I'm still puzzling over make sense to a toddler. Owen speaks up, "Mommy?"

"Yes dear?"

"Can we have rainbow cake for Baby Jesus's birthday?"

Maybe it's just that easy. "Sure, honey."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Defending Scrooge

I'm thinking I might just skip Christmas this year. At least, skip the part of Christmas that involves shopping.

I'm a reluctant shopper on my best day, but the idea of shopping with boys---just the idea---gives me a headache. I have always related to the Grinch as he moans, "All the noise, noise noise." The piped in carols, the clod stepping on your toes, the sensory overload of colors and consumerism and stupid crap that nobody needs---that is holiday hell. Adding Owen's announcement that he "Neeeeeeeds" everything he can see, and Joel's two-hour window of pleasantness before he neeeeeds boobs and bed is enough to cause me to reach for the smelling salts.

Except that I don't have any more smelling salts, and I would have to go shopping to get them.

There are ways to avoid this. I remember teaching summer school several years back, and over Diet Cokes and sandwiches, a colleague of mine announced, "I have finally finished my Christmas shopping!" Finally, on July 12th, she had completed her shopping. I was fascinated, and horrified. Who thinks this way? (Total disclosure: I start thinking about possible themes for my annual Christmas newsletter around July [okay, February] but that is totally different and I don't see what that has to do with anything.)

Anyway, she went on to tell me that she orders everything online, sends the gifts to relatives in Pittsburgh, (wrapped, of course), and tells them that they are to keep the gifts in their closets and sheds until Christmas Day. I asked her why she doesn't just bring them to Pittsburgh herself. She explained to me that she and her husband go diving in Fiji every Christmas.


The Internet does not work as well for me because I am a lazy-ass. I'll wait until the 20th, order the gift too late, then present gift-wrapped notes to people that say things like, "Look in your mailbox."

This year, I won't be diving in Fiji. Rather, I'll be with loved ones, people who love me despite my tendency to be a Christmas curmudgeon. Consequently, I will get online, I will find good gifts, and I will be much happier once the job is done.

Because isn't "getting the job done" what Christmas is all about?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Random thoughts, mostly linked by films

1. Joel is four months old today. Good growing, Joely.

2. I have just completed a six hour drive. Tiiiiiirrrrrrred.

3. Note to self: When your brother-in-law suggests a marathon viewing of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, excuse yourself from the room or you will get sucked in. Doug and Erin traveled to New Zealand a few years back, so with every breathtaking landscape splashed across the screen, one or the other would say, "I saw that!" Luckily, they did not recall seeing hobbits, elves or other such creatures. If so, I would suspect that they were dipping into my precious, precious cough medicine (see yesterday's post).

4. Thank God my in-laws drove Owen to and from North Carolina. While I'm writing this, Paul is relaxing with a beer and Joel is already asleep. My in-laws and Owen, on the other hand, are still in the car, Kung Fu Panda blaring. Owen, I'm sure, is having difficulty remembering the difference between his inside and outside voice. That, my friends, is love. Driving a toddler across state lines without complaint. 100% pure love.

5. We've decided what movie will be the topic of the annual Campbell Family Movie Trivia Contest. As the winner of last year's contest, which focused on A Christmas Story, it's my turn to come up with the questions for this year's film: Airplane! Suggestions are welcome.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Are you sure this is an over-the-counter drug?

Whoa...I've been fighting a head cold for a few days, and finally broke down and bought some cold medication. I had to make sure that I bought the medicine that is okay for breastfeeding mothers, and is NOT non-drowsy. Otherwise, I'm asking for a very awake baby.

So, I'm on the medication, and I'm just flying along. Everything seems to be a little loose, a little, well, floaty. I'm reminded of an especially odd episode of Intervention, where the addict of the week, a "robotripper,"drank bottle upon bottle of cold medicine and then babbled on about the insights and wisdom he gained from the high. As I recall, he even prostituted himself to support his cold medication habit. I mean, really? Turning tricks? For a Robitussin high?

I must admit that I'm kinda liking this floaty feeling, but the idea of chugging bottles of grape-flavored cough syrup turns my stomach. I don't care if Buddha, Christ, and Jerry Garcia all visit you simultaneously in a bright shiny vortex of Love---no thank you!

On an unrelated topic, I've decided that I want my sister-in-law to come to my house and take over everything. First, she will open all my drawers and cabinets, and rearrange the contents until they are as organized and functional as hers. Next, she will tell me what colors to paint my walls. Following that, she will go with me to the nursery, tell me what to buy, and help me landscape my backyard. She will then take me to the department store and do a "What Not to Wear" treatment, revamping my wardrobe. Finally, she'll morph into Supernanny and help me find ways to patiently and effectively deal with Owen's tantrums. I say all of this without a trace of envy, just love. Erin is the me I hope to be someday...

So, with that, I'm going to go sit in the living room and stare and the pretty, pretty colors...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Running

As you grow older and separate from your family of origin, you learn that things you considered normal are actually not normal for many people. For example, my father welds. He goes into his garage, sparks fly, and he solders together little sculptures and large structures. Thus, since Dad welds, I grew up assuming all dads weld. I remember asking Paul, "So, where did your dad weld?" He looked at me like I asked him, "So, where did your dad do his ritual sacrifices?" Like it was that weird of a question.

I think of this because Owen and Joel have grown up in a culture of running. They have learned that it is completely reasonable to wake up early in the morning and drive to random locations. At these locations, they find it perfectly normal to see large groups of men and women, shivering in the cold, wearing short shorts and tight shirts, discussing hamstring pulls and split times. They believe that it is normal, even mundane, to run anywhere between three to 26.2 miles on purpose, all for a T-shirt, free bagels, and bragging rights. To them, this is as normal as watching football, or welding.

I would love it if the boys were interested in long-distance running. First of all, I want Owen and Joel to be healthy, and running is good for you, mentally and physically.

Secondly, I have a goal to "nerd up" my children---band, chess club, and cross country all play a prominent role in this plan. I would far prefer the boys to play Dungeons and Dragons on Friday night, then run fifteen miles on Saturday morning, instead of, say, heroin, or knocking up their girlfriends. Granted, Juno, which features a nerdy, cross-country-running teenage father has made me reconsider this notion, but, I'm not ready to let go of it yet.

Finally, I would like Owen and Joel to grow up in a culture of running because it is heroic to see people step up to the starting line and do something hard. It doesn't matter if it's a Kenyan sprinting for the cash prize, a mother running a marathon to lose the baby weight and regain her sense of self, or a fifty year old man deciding to cross another goal off his Bucket List---showing up, working hard, trying to exceed your natural limitations---that is living poetry.

So, you can imagine my pride as Owen ran his first race today--a 26.2 YARD "Toddler Trot." He had his own number pinned to his shirt, ran joyfully down the marked path, and earned his first medal. I know that children get to make their own decisions in life, and Paul and I will not force or expect our children to run. However, for today, I cherished the smile on his face, the joy in his stride, and the celebration in his three simple words, "Mama, I'm running!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tis the season to hide from each other

If there is a quality that my entire family shares, it is the need to hide from each other.

I'm in Charlotte, NC right now, at my sister and brother-in-law's house. We'll be here for almost a week, for what has become the traditional Thanksgiving jaunt down south. We'll do the annual Turkey Trot tomorrow, Paul will make his special oyster and cornbread stuffing, much wine will be consumed, and the house, with six adults, two two-year-old boys, and a four month baby, will rarely be quiet. Which is exactly how it should be.

And yet...we all, in our own ways, will attempt to hide sometime this weekend. My mother-in-law will choose not to go to the park. Paul will need to go on a run. I will retreat to their office to check email. Doug will need to mow the lawn. Erin will suddenly need to go to the grocery store. Rich will need to buy a cup of coffee. All of the boys will need to nap. We love each other so much, that we will all, at some point, desperately need to get away from each other. Which is exactly how it should be.

Owenism of the Day: Owen told me this morning that he plans on being a leaf when he grows up.

Potty moment of the Day: Doug and Erin have a freezer box that they fashioned into a little house. Owen thinks it is the coolest place in the poop his pants. He's soiled himself three times in there. Something about the closed in space and the scent of cardboard must have a calming effect. Thus, the cardboard house has been banished to the garage.

Joel's Moment: We bundled Joel up and took him, his brother, and his cousin to the park. He fell asleep in my arms, and holding him, feeling his warm body and looking at his long, curled eyelashes, took my breath away.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Owen and Josh

A couple of years ago, we packed up the Outback and traveled to Wisconsin and Minnesota for a two-week visiting extravaganza with six month old Owen. The wheels sagged with all of the "necessary" baby stuff--pack and play, vibrating "buzz chair," a gross of diapers, etc. It boggles the mind now that we did this, as we prepare for a week long trip to Charlotte with the boys for Thanksgiving.

One of the stops was to Lake Minnetonka, MN, to see the nuptials of my cousin. In attendance at his wedding were several friends that he has known ever since he was able to sit up, or possibly even before. I'm talking about playgroup friendships.

Owen has several playgroup friends. He's at the age where he has no choice regarding his friends. They need to be mommy's friends, or else it's not happening. Luckily, one of his best friends has a wonderful mother who takes care of me and makes me happy. That would be Josh.

I met Josh's mom, Jamie, at the hospital's breast feeding support group. This is a place where women meet up to talk about breastfeeding. It was a bit like entering a cult, because the nurse that led the group drank the La Leche Kool-Aid, and never grew tired of discussing flow, milk ducts, let down, and the many, many benefits of nursing. Jamie had difficulty breastfeeding Josh, switched to formula, and we decided that we could have fun without talking about lactation.

We met at each other's houses, took long, meandering walks down the North Beach boardwalk, and watched our boys roll over, sit up, crawl, sprout teeth, walk, and talk together. One of Owen's first words was "Josh," and Josh soon requested his friend "O-wo." We grew more adventurous, traveling to the Annapolis mall to take photos, going out to lunch (leaving a small mountain of Cheerios in our wake), and in a particularly gutsy move, taking two eighteen month old boys to the Paint and Pottery store.

Jamie became pregnant again, and had beautiful Cara. Despite juggling two kids, she seemed to always know what I needed, inviting us over for meals and bringing me pumpkin Peeps. I can always count on her to be game for almost any adventure, no matter how absurd: Take a newborn and a toddler to the pumpkin patch? Sure! Make homemade cookies and frost them one-handed while holding a needy baby in the other? Bring it on!

Josh and Owen are kindred spirits, too. They have a language consisting mainly of grunts and screams, and they speak it without fail whenever they meet. They both speak clearly, but are so excited to see each other that they revert to their caveman roots. They frolic in my backyard, rolling down the hill until their hands and pants are grass stained. When we had the family over for dinner, they played so vigorously and happily upstairs that the chandelier over my kitchen table swayed back and forth.

Jamie's and my timing has always been off. I've become tipsy at her house while her belly was full of Cara. I enjoyed wine while she nursed Cara. Now, Cara is a walking, talking toddler, and I am nursing. We have July of 2009 marked on our calendars as the time that we will finally share a pitcher of margaritas---and have a husband or two drive us home.

It's hard to say what kind of boys and men Owen and Josh will become. Josh is musical and confident; Owen is agile and curious. It's possible that the boys will grow apart. However, it's just as possible, and a dear wish of mine, that Josh and Owen will attend each other's weddings, and say, "I've known him since before I could sit up."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cue the Violins...

I'm feeling a bit discouraged today.

Paul and Owen went to church and Sunday School, while I stayed behind with the sleeping baby. I'm still wearing socks (turned inside out, but I'm too lazy to fix them), my glasses, pink striped pajama bottoms and a huge, blue University of Montana sweatshirt. I did not, in fact, attend the University of Montana, but I went through a phase a few years ago where I thought it was funny to have sweatshirts from random places.

Anyway, I'm feeling discouraged because I. Am. Just. Losing. Myself. I re-connected with an old friend from high school on Facebook yesterday. He's a pastor now, has three kids and a wife, and he teaches classes online for various universities. He's still smart. He's still actively engaging his mind. He can read Greek and Latin, for Pete's sake. He has children, but, it appears, has not been consumed by them.

His blog discusses films, books, theology, conservation, politics. My blog discusses Starbucks runs and poop.

I periodically will look at old writings, presentations, lesson plans, and papers and think, "Who is this articulate person that shares my name?" I know that I once thought about Shakespeare and brain research, but now it seems that part of my brain measures the length of Joel's naps and devises new ways to encourage Owen to use the potty.

A friend forwarded me a deep thought about prayer written by C.S. Lewis. I've tried to read it twice, and I haven't been able to get it. I find the same thing happening when I read the newspaper....if it's not the Style section, forget about it. I tried to read George Will and the words just bled together into blah blah blah.

Thankfully, I'll be teaching in the spring, to give my mind some discipline. Oh, yeah....I'm not.

If I was reading this, my first thought would be, "So, what are you going to do about it?" I think that a run and a cup of coffee will help things along nicely.

I guess the first step to re-using your mind is to stop spending so much time thinking about how you're not thinking.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Not creative today, so here's a list.

Things I Love:

1. Older gentlemen who notice that you are lugging a four month old baby in a carrier while holding a toddler's hand, and hold the door open.

2. The dollar aisle at Target, for providing trinkets (a Slinky here, a wooden helicopter there) that work as bribes, thus preventing Owen for soiling himself (as often).

3. Owen's "marathons." He runs around the kitchen table, sometimes ten to fifteen times, loudly proclaiming, "I'm running a marathon, very, very, fast, just like Daddy!"

Things I could do without:

1. The Big Brother aspect of Facebook. It scans whatever you write about or list as an interest, then tailors the advertisements accordingly. Sometimes, it's funny, like when I mentioned Highlander, and was deluged with advertisements explaining that my life will finally be complete with the complete series on Blue-Ray.

Sometimes, however, Certain Social Networks need to stop preying on the insecurities of mothers that had babies only four freakin' months ago and stop peddling super cleanse diets or Rachael's Ray's tummy diet, or Oprah's new miracle weight-loss product. Certain Social Networks need to understand that I'm trying my best, but the weight is not coming off as easily the second time around and it's hard to always feel a little too round and a little awkward, and not hot at all. So, when I log on to catch up with people and write my goofy status reports, I really don't need some Certain Social Network to insinuate that my ass is too big. Ahem.

2. I could also do without play dough chunks lodged into my rugs, hangnails, and the knowledge that my infant son is by far the most fashionable member of our household. Not even a contest.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thoughts Drifting Like Snowflakes

There are snowflakes drifting down right now, melting before actually touching the ground. Owen and Paul are having a guys morning---haircuts, Starbucks, grocery store, and maybe the playground (if they can handle the snowflakes). Joel and I have been to the gym---I ran, he didn't. We have also been to Starbucks. I bought six beautiful pork chops, which are brining in homemade stock at the moment. I also found a bottle of wine from a vineyard Paul and I visited on our honeymoon. I haven't had a glass of this wine for almost ten years.

Could life be more perfect?

I've been thinking of my aunt a lot recently. She is the primary caretaker of my grandmother, who is living in a care center, and not doing the greatest. My grandmother cannot escape the circuitry of her dysfunctional childhood, so when things are difficult, which is pretty much all of the time, her mind runs through the same unhappy pattern of missed opportunities and perceived slights. My aunt bears the brunt of this. My dad does what he can, but because A) He lives far away, B) He's a man, and C) He's the baby of the family, he does not get as much abuse as my aunt.

I admire her so much. Her entire life---as a teacher, a mother, a daughter---has been one of service and humility. She doesn't give at the office. She gets in the trenches. And yet, she does not let it devour her.

She has friendships that began while her boys were in diapers that last to this day. She goes on long walks. She travels to Spain. She still collects royalties from books she's published. She knits. She could give any docent a run for her money when talking about Goya or Dali.

My mom says that I share qualities with her. I can only hope that's true. And, I imagine, my parents are hoping that as well, in the event that I will someday need to give them the same loving care that they gave me, as the years pass like snowflakes drifting delicately to the ground.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Genetically crafty

I remember one time when I went to the make-up counter at Nordstroms. One of the spooky, perfectly made-up women put my face under a special light to show me the effects of sun-damage, aging, and, of course, lack of a certain expensive line of cosmetics.

It remains one of the more horrifying moments of my life. My cheek looked like the lunar surface, with larger pores.

I thought of this when I watched Owen do a craft at storytime yesterday. Much like that dreadful light (which, for all I know, shows the same image to everybody), having children brings you face to face with some of your less attractive qualities, and magnifies them mercilessly.

Owen lacks patience. He won't commit to doing something unless he sees The Point. I would chalk this up to being two, except that I'm the exact same way. This manifests itself in my world brilliantly. For example, I skip the taping portion of the painting process, since it takes too much time and doesn't matter anyway. My baseboards would beg to differ. I also selected my career based on the question: "What requires the least math?" My lack of patience has resulted in half-frozen pot roasts, endless circles around unfamiliar towns (who has time to look things up on Mapquest?), and blogs written, and immediately posted witout editing.

So, with a unique mixture of shame and pride, I watched Owen take the turkey cut-out, scribble two half-assed circles on it, and pronounce himself, "All Done!" It's without a doubt, what I would do, and did do, whenever a craft reared its ugly head during my schooling. The sooner I could finish the dumb craft and return to my book, the better. I still feel this way when, egad(!), asked to scrapbook.

For Owen's sake, I hope that he learns to take his time, notice details, and not rush. But, secretly, I hope that he and I will be kindred spirits, leaving glitter and glue sticks behind for a warm patch of sun and a good book.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mr. Close Talker

I have a benign growth, and its name is Owen. There are days where I feel like I. Can. Barely. Breathe. This two year old with an Oedipal complex will not give me my personal space.

Case in point: I'm nursing Joel, itself a reasonably intimate event. Owen pokes his head between my legs, turns, and stands two centimeters from my eyes. I can hear his shallow breathing.

"What are you doing, Mommy?"

"Feeding Joel."

"No Feed Joel. Play with Owen."

"I need to feed Joel."

(Shallow breathing). "What's that on your teeth?"

"Nothing." He parts my lips and rubs his dirty finger on an incisor. I would stop him, but I'm spending all of my energy protecting Joel's young noggin.

"You have dirt on your teeth." Okay, so maybe I haven't brushed for a few hours, but dirt? Really?

"Thanks, Owen."

(Shallow breathing) "What are you doing, Mommy?" At this point, I'm thinking, "Go away! Go away! Go away! You're a parasite---walls are closing in----aggghhhh! Just leave me alone!"
Throughout this, Joel is chowing down like my breasts are his own, personal all-you-can-eat buffet (which, really, I guess they are).

"What do you think I'm doing, Owen?"

No response. He rubs my cheek. "Nice beard."

"Thanks, buddy. Will you please leave Mommy alone for a minute?"

"No leave Mommy alone." He then attempts to climb into my lap.

And truly, Paul wonders why I don't like it when he puts his feet on my lap when we're on the couch. I'm not asking for too much. Just for five minutes where nobody is in my space.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Grace Notes and Green Gooey Geysers

Due to circumstances too tedious to relate, I find myself suddenly unemployed this spring. I've taught English at the local community college for two semesters, then took off this fall semester due to Joel's arrival. I always intended to return in the spring, but, it looks like it's not going to happen.

So, I feel a bit of relief (no papers to grade, no lessons to prepare, less bottles to pump), a bit of despair (my only job involves wiping asses and negotiating with toddlers), a bit of fear (we're paying for preschool next year how?) and a bit of joy. If I've learned anything about God and grace, it is that He uses opportunities. What is in store for me now? Will I do more with writing? Will I do a different type of teaching? Will I focus my energy in a completely different, exciting way? What is in store for me? Anne Lamott says, "I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." Thank God for that.

Now, for something completely different, it's today's POOP REPORT

I was holding Joel in my lap. He was sitting, facing out, because he likes to see what's going on. He was wearing a cute gray sweatshirt, a detail which will be significant in just a moment...

I hear a gurgle, look down, and see a geyser of green baby shit gurgle up over his diaper, shooting up his back, and on my lap. Because he was not wearing a onesie, there was no line of defense. Just a green Old Faithful of ca-ca, everywhere.

I squeal, then place him on his tummy so I can clean off his back. This isn't the worst I've seen. I've had times when I've just cut the onesie off with scissors and thrown the whole thing away, because nothing's cleaning that mess.

Anyway, I'm working on cleaning his back. As I do this, Joel takes it upon himself to spit up about a gallon of milk. So, I'm working on both sides, using wipes by the ton. Finally, he's clean, newly dressed, and the trash can is bursting.

Then, with a giggle and that tell-tale gushing, my youngest decides to finish the job (and his brand new onesie).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dibs and Drabs

Update Curious minds have wanted to know...did Owen eventually poo? (See post from a few days back for all the putrid details...) Yes, yes he did. In his pull-up. Then slept in it. Most unpleasant.

Owen Getting Dressed, Part I
Owen gets a great deal of mileage out of getting dressed (or, more accurately, avoiding getting dressed). Today, during a typical stall, he said, "Daddy's not dressed!"

I said, "He's not?"

Owen replies "No, he's at work---Naked!"

So that's what government workers do all day...

Doggone Baby Weight
The other day, when on a walk, I struck up conversation with a guy walking his Rottweiler. He volunteered that the dog weighed 141 pounds. I said, "That dog weighs more than me!" I weighed myself this morning. I could so take that dog on. I've got at least three pounds on him.

Owen Getting Dressed, Part II
You're supposed to provide choices for toddlers, at least so sayeth the claptrap in parenting books. So, Owen and I are standing in front of his bureau drawer, trying to decide which big-boy underwear to wear (until he pees it out thirty minutes later). He agonizes over the choices...Tow Mater or Elmo? Or should I shake things up a bit with T-Rex? He finally decides on a white sock. Visions of the Red Hot Chili Peppers swim through my mind. I say, "Owen, you're vastly overestimating yourself here."

Let's Pretend
Owen is pretending to make a smoothie with an empty blender (blade removed, thank you) and plastic fruit. He's given me two or three "glasses" to sample. He hands me another glass. I drink the air and tell him it's delicious. He looks at me like I'm an idiot and says, "That glass is empty, Mommy."

All this on a Monday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Date Night

As loyal readers know, we were down to only one kid yesterday, which is the closest we will get to date night for a little longer, due to me being, um, a control freak who cannot imagine leaving her three month old with anybody in the evening. Ahem.

So, after a delightful chair massage AND manicure (oh, customer appreciation days are wonderful things), I returned home and told Paul that We. Were. Getting. Indian. Food. The only Indian restaurant close to home burnt down four years ago, so if I really wanted naan and chicken pikka, it meant a drive over the bridge to St. Mary's county. But, since it was just the baby, how hard could it be?

The clouds were dark and heavy and omnious. It reminded me of "The Nothing" from that bad children's flick from the eighties, The Neverending Story. The rain pounded down in sheets as we crossed the 150 foot bridge over the Patuxent River (which has protective panels on every part of it except for the highest, most dangerous part). Paul, who is pretty unflappable, told me to turn the "Damn music off," as we inched over the water. Joel, of course, is fussing in his car seat.

We get to the restaurant, called Bollywood Masala. We are greeted by a cute little girl, who is probably about eight years old. She seats us, gives us menus. How Cute, I think. She must like helping out. But, she continues to help us---and bus tables, and sweep the floors, and pick up stray ice cubes off the floor. I make a mental note to look up Maryland's child labor laws.

We order our food, and then, as if on cue, Joel decides that he is done sitting in his car seat, sucking on his plastic rings. For the next twenty minutes, Paul and I take turns making goo-goo faces at the baby, while the other one drinks water and eats naan as quickly as possible. Joel's happiness turns to fuss, and we know what this means. You have to know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em, and unless we want all of Bollywood to witness Joel's histrionics, it's time to make a hasty departure.

I summon the eight year old, who was probably about to restock the walk-in, and request that our meals become "to go." Paul loads up Joel, I pay, and we return home, warm Indian food in hand.

We eat the food (by the way, delicious). After I'm done, Paul says, "I hope that spicy food doesn't keep Joel up all night." Thanks for mentioning that after the fact, buddy. But, reminding me why I love him so much, he says, "You better drink a big glass of wine to counteract the effects." Ah...breastfeeding the second time around is so much better.

We put Joel to bed, I drink my wine, and we settle down to watch The Break Up on TNT (you know--"A New Classic.") Funnier than you would think---and an opportunity for Paul and I to talk, relax, remember what good friends we are.

All in all, it was a wonderful date night.