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.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just Joel

Owen is spending the weekend with his grandparents, just because they requested the pleasure of his company. So, Paul and I are spending the weekend with Joel, and getting a taste of what life would be like if he was our firstborn.

It would be peaceful. We've both showered by 8:30 AM. Paul's painting the trim in the living room. I've read the paper--actually read it as opposed to skimming the headlines and reading Caroline Hax. I sat in a chair and sang songs to Joel for at least thirty minutes. I learned that a great way to make him laugh is to say, "Risotto!" Hil-larious. Later today, I'm getting a massage with a girlfriend.

Joel and I went on a walk in the neighborhood, something that's more challenging when Owen's around, because in addition to holding O's hand and hoisting Joel around in the Baby Bjorn, Owen expects me carry all sorts of collected treasures----sweet gum balls, special leaves, rocks, twigs, acorns, more special leaves. I also have to keep up with his philosophical questions---"What are you talking for?" "What's that?" "Where are we going, Mama?" It's only a matter of time before he feels the need to be carried, something that isn't happening.

So, just 15 lbs of baby was a rare treat. I hear my 15 lbs crying upstairs, so I take my leave of you...

Friday, November 14, 2008

There's no such thing as too much information

A dangerous thing about writing/blogging is that it's easy to forget that real people that you see and interact with read it. I'll share things in cyberspace that I would possibly think twice about saying out loud. You would think it would be the opposite, but I've always been more confident with a keyboard than with my own vocal cords. I guess I'm just one of those bloggers dressed in pajamas in their parent's basement, right Sarah Palin?

In the spirit of that, read on if you want to learn about a mom, a boy, and poo....

As a former educator, I know that one of the most powerful tools for learning is modeling. In other words, don't tell me, show me.

So. Owen hasn't had a BM yet today, and we're still on the same pair of big-boy pants, now at 1:30 in the afternoon. He's a walking time bomb. I've been asking, approximately every fifteen minutes, "Do you need to go pee-pee or poo-poo?"

The answer: "No! Not yet." The not yet part makes me nervous. Later on, he says, "Mommy, it hurts, kiss it!"

He's pointing to his anus.

Even I have standards, so I kiss my hand and touch a butt cheek. I say, "Does your bottom hurt because you need to go poo-poo?"

Owen quietly says, "Yeahhh." We scurry to the potty and he hops on, then says, "No, I don't want to!"

I'm guessing we're dealing with a blockage issue. I ask, "Are you afraid it will hurt?"


What to do, what to do. Damn. Damn. Damn. Don't tell me, show me. I say, "Mommy has to go poo-poo. It doesn't hurt. Do you want to watch?"

Wearing a big (dare I say, shit-eating) grin, he says, "Yeahhh."

We head to the bathroom again, and this time I pony up to the potty. Owen says, "Mommy, move over." I scoot up to the rim of the potty, so he can look into the bowl and see the action, so to speak.

Plop. Splash. I hear a delightful squeal, and my son say, "Again!"

I comply. "Again!"

Once more. "Again!"

"Mommy's all done," I say. "It didn't hurt."

Owen helpfully tells me that I need to wipe and wash my hands, which I do, under his careful gaze. I turn to him and say, "Now, do you need to go potty?"

"Not yet."

Now, it's his naptime. He's in a pull-up, and I imagine when he wakes up, his belly will have distended to his knees, or I'll have another mess on my hands.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

iNancy's iPod

My brother is, and always has been on the cutting edge of the music scene. Invariably, by the time I like a group, he'll have been over them for about six months. I used to try to keep up, but living in Southern Maryland and being a mother has made that all but impossible. When my primary musical influence is Nickelodeon, I must throw in the towel. Uncle Tom (yes, that's his name/title, not a Harriet Beecher Stowe reference) wins the prize of hipper, cooler sibling. Honestly, he's had that title in the bag forever...

Anyway, about two weeks ago, as a present to myself, I bought an iPod. Here are a few of the songs I cannot get enough of...

Black Eyed Peas, "Let's Get it Started.": This song is played at the, um, start of every marathon Paul's done. Every time I see all these people, some in shape, some less in shape, taking on the challenge of 26.2 miles, I get teary. It's just so inspiring. I play this song when I'm on the treadmill, and it's makes me want to meet a goal, such as run the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler this April.

Missy Elliot, "Get UR Freak On": I feel mildly subversive, while playing play-dough or putting together the "Land Before Time" puzzle for the umpteenth time (with Owen--fun as these activities are, I choose not to do them on my own...), to have Missy Elliot rapping, "Who's that BITCH??" in my head.

John Denver, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy.": "The Sun's coming up, I got cakes on the griddle, Life's ain't nothing but a funny, funny riddle, Thank God I'm a country boy." I used to make fun of my mom for liking John Denver. Maybe a little fiddling and whittling is just what I need. Or some of whatever he's smoking. Future employers: joking!

Sufjan Stevens "Come On! Feel The Illinoise!: The World's Columbian Exposition / Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream": Sufjan Stevens has taken it upon himself to write a concept album for every state in the union. Yes, Tom introduced me to this artist. The Illinois album has a lyric "Chicago, in fashion, the soft drinks, expansion Oh Columbia! From Paris, incentive, like Cream of Wheat invented, The Ferris Wheel!" It just makes me happy that there are people in the world who have the time and inclination to be esoteric, eccentric, and self-consciously smart. Kinda like Tom.

And, oh! to make this kind of a full circle thing, Sufjan Steven's brother is a world-class marathoner.

Owen moment of the day: Owen was at his friend's house, washing his hands after using the potty. His friend, Danielle, came in, and announced that she needed to go potty. She sat on the little potty, while Owen sat on the lid of the big potty. He held her hand as she attempted to do her business. She was straining in an attempt to get it out (little kids do this---Owen often has veins popping out of his neck with effort), and I thought to myself that my little boy will be a very good labor coach someday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Calvert Memorial Hospital

I'm going to Calvert Memorial Hospital today to see my friend's new baby boy, born yesterday. This will probably be my last visit to the maternity ward for awhile (as far as I know, the next friend's baby is due to arrive in March).

For months after Owen was born, I would drive by the hospital, newborn in tow, on my way to do this or that, and just marvel that somebody's life was changing forever there...every single day. It is heroic to me that there are people who guide mothers through the labor process, and never lose the sense of joy or wonder which comes from childbirth. Driving by CMH was a benediction, a blessing, a memory of an amazing, amazing day.

Joel's birth complicated my feelings about the hospital. Not because of anything the staff said or did, but because he left that hospital in an airlift helicopter, not in my arms. It's been three months since Joel spent his week in the Johns Hopkins NICU, and most of the time, I don't dwell on the experience. But, when I walk through the doors of the Family Birth Center, I remember...calling my parents at 11:45 PM and telling them that their grandson was suffering from respiratory distress. Watching the respiratory specialists fit a CPAP over Joel's nose. Being so exhausted as we drove home to the empty house that my eyes burned when I closed them. Watching Paul hold the blue teddy bear that Owen bought to welcome his new baby brother, crying. Clutching his hospital onesie, still smelling of Ivory soap and new life.

So, visiting the hospital is more complicated now. I know that when I meet Baby Austin, I will feel nothing but true joy, just as I felt when I visited Baby Evan a month ago. And, upon returning home, I will gaze into Joel's blue eyes, and silently pray, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm not weird, I'm just from Arizona

I had a delightful childhood, but growing up in the Arizona desert, I always felt like something was a I remember reading Charlie Brown comics, watching him trudge through the snow, or jump into piles of leaves, and while I knew what such things were, I didn't really understand this whole changing of seasons thing.

This was compounded when, at the tender age of thirty-one, I moved to the East Coast, and realized that there was a whole world, common to most people, that I had never experienced. For example, I realized that people talked about the weather because, in most places, the weather... changes. A typical Arizona weatherman would say, "Today it was 95 degrees and sunny. Tomorrow expect it to be 97 degrees and sunny." This report would be in mid to late September. Here, the weather changes, sometimes two or three times a day. Imagine!

When I moved here, I realized that I did not know what the following things were: bulbs, mums, or mulch. I still can barely distinguish between a Maple, Willow, Sweet Gum Ball, or Birch tree. I don't know the difference between an azalea and a hosta. Going to the nursery is such a nerve-racking experience that I generally leave and go home to rock in the fetal position.

But, don't feel too sorry for me. I can tell you all about cactus. I even wrote a report about Arizona's state bird, the majestic Cactus Wren. I also know that while most of the world celebrates Valentine's Day, in my heart of hearts, it will always be AZ Statehood Day.

Here's why you really can't feel sorry for me. Today, while Owen and I were raking leaves, and he was delightedly running through the piles, and jumping into the leaves until all I could see was the tip of his orange hood, it was just as wonderous for me as it was for him.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trash Compactor World.

Owen came down the stairs, into our bedroom, and stood this close to my ear, whispering, "Mommy...Get Up Mommy." It was five AM. I had been asleep for almost forty-five minutes, after feeding Joel. Even after putting Owen back down to bed, I knew that there was no more sleep to be had. Joel would be up shortly. How did I feel? Very depressed.

Paul's working from home today, and we both grumped around all morning. I just feel so trapped...I can't leave the house too much because we're working on Joel's nap schedule, while moving Owen to big-boy pants to get this potty training over with, already. Owen doesn't nap, so I don't have a quiet afternoon time, as I once did. And now, my day is starting three hours early. I feel like that scene in Star Wars, where Luke and Leia are in the giant trash compactor, and the walls My world is getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller. I'm not reading the papers, I'm not wearing lipstick, and it's not often that I speak a sentence that does not have one of the following words in it: Owen, Mommy, Stop, or It.

So, I took Joel to the gym, had a run, and as always, felt better. Treadmill as Zoloft. I'm going to make a plan---have as many people over here as possible, for both Owen's entertainment and my own. I'll run most days, just to get the dust off of me. I'll continue this blog. I'll look into putting Owen into a "Mom's Day Out" program one day a week, so he's getting something structured during the week and Joel and I can get some focused time together. And, I'll use this gift certificate for a massage ASAP.

I don't like feeling this way, and I don't want my boys to ever think that I resent them, or that I do not treasure the opportunity to be home with them. It's just hard living in a trash-compactor world.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

HBIC (Head Baby in Charge)

Paul and I were talking. I suggested that we should take turns taking Owen to church and Sunday School, and leave Joel at home, since both services run smack into his naptimes. Paul replied, "We're a family, we should go to church as a family, and Joel can adjust as a member of our family." I was impressed by his head-of-the-household statement, so we piled in the car and went to church.

After a nice service, thank you very much, we returned home to put Joel down for his first nap of the day. This was around 10:00. He wasn't able to settle down until noon, and only by sleeping in my arms for an hour. He was so exhausted that he had bags under his little eyes. Paul was fried. I was fried. Joel was beyond fried. Owen was playing with play-dough (he does that a lot).

So, Paul and I are going to take turns taking Owen to church, and leaving Joel at home until he is older. I guess we know who the real "head of the household" is.

Paul said, "Well, honey, in a couple of years, we'll look back at this...and be so glad this shit is behind us."

In other news, Owen and I went to the Prince Frederick Zoo, aka Petco on Friday. It was a slow day, and a kindly employee let Owen pet ferrets, birds, snakes, geckos, bearded dragons, and turtles. As you can imagine, we're still talking about this.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why just spit when you can spit up?

You know how our bodies are mostly water? Joel's is mostly spit-up. Owen spat (?) up maybe five times in his infancy. Joel spits up that often before 8:30 AM. All of my jeans are "acid washed" circa, 1989, except with spit up instead of acid. It's just too much work to stay clean and hygienic these days, so the stinky jeans stay.

Usually, I'll just wear spit-up stained shirts, too, unless I am leaving the house, and the stained shirt is dark. The Monica Lewinsky mental connection is just too hard to shake, and I have to remember that there is a whole world out there that does not have children nor knows anything about them...

Other news:
1. Owen is singing, "Twinkle Twinkle little Hippo," and laughing hysterically at his rapier wit.

2. I went to the jeweler to replace the watch battery that has been dead in my watch for three (!) years. It took five minutes and eight dollars. What other easy jobs will take me three years?

3. Paul went camping with his friends last night. Nothing amusing happened, but I'm sure he enjoyed the quiet.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The N-word

Napping is the most tedious discussion topic ever. Yet, again and again, Paul and I will find ourselves discussing sleep with the intensity and thoughtfulness that we once saved for important topics, like Quentin Tarantino films.

We want Joel to be a good sleeper. I checked out a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby. When my nephew was in the NICU, the nurses told my sister-in-law that this book was the best. I've had other friends say the same thing, talking about it with near-reverence and awe. So, I figured we would give it a shot.

The book starts off by explaining that if your child does not get enough sleep, he or she is more likely to be an insomniac, suffer depression, do poorly in school, become obese, and be diagnosed with ADHD. No pressure. The book goes on the explain that you need to put your child down before he starts fussing, because once they start crying, it's too late. It will be harder to put them down, and, as the author states, ominously, "Lost sleep can never be regained..."

Basically, it's worked, but the side effect is that I have a two hour window during the day to leave the house. Last night, we put Joel down for the evening at 5:45 and he slept until 6:30 this morning (with one short feeding break around 2:30). I guess that's good.

Time will tell if we continue this or not. In the meantime, don't call unless you want to hear all about it. We'll try to talk about other things, but it's almost impossible.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

AZ does it right...

Coming from the "Valley of the Sun," we never bothered with Daylight Savings Time, because really, do we need an extra hour of 110 degree summers? So, having lived here for over five years, you would think that I would have figured it out. Hardly.
Every year, I ask Paul, "Okay, so what time is it really?"
He'll say, "Three o' clock."
I'll say, "So, is it actually two o'clock or four o'clock?"
He'll say, "It's actually three o' clock."
I'll say, "I don't understand Daylight Savings Time, so what time is it really? Did we go back an hour or forward an hour?"
He'll sigh with great exasperation and say, "I'm not having this conversation with you again. Figure it out."

Six months later, we'll have this conversation again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Feed Him, Little Cat

When Joel is acting fussy, Owen has started to say, "Feed Him, Little Cat." Your guess is as good as mine...

Owen has been toying with my emotions come naptime. He napped every day last week, after not napping for a good three weeks prior. Now he's back to not napping. It's the inconsistency that kills me. The other day, Owen said, "I took a nap." Outraged, I replied, "No, you did NOT take a nap, and if you had any consideration, you would take one and give Mommy the time she needs." As you can imagine, this came across to Owen as "Blah Blah Mommy Blah," as his attention was already diverted by a piece of lint on the ground.

When we voted yesterday, I introduced him to the words "McCain" and "Obama." He finds "Obama" to be hilarious and great fun to say. Then, at story time today, the librarian read a book, Llama Llama Red Pajama. She asked, "What rhymes with Llama?" Owen said, "Obama!" The two year old next to him said, "Osama!" And that, my friends, passes for political discourse in my life these days...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Owen, Joel, be grateful Mommy has this blog.

Because I'm feeling very frustrated today, I'm going to list some of the things I love about my boys, because if I don't think more positively, it could be an ugly afternoon.

Owen's Roll Call: Sitting on the couch, Owen looks around the room and says, "One Mommy, One Daddy, One BabyJoel, and One Owen! I love Mommy, I love Daddy, I love BabyJoel, and I love Owen!"

Owen and Nature: I'm not sure if this is imagination, or, more likely, too much television watching, but Owen has all sorts of classifications regarding trees/plants.

Weeping willows are "Naughty Trees," and Maples are "Smiley Face Trees," Any tree that is sharp or spiky is a Cactus (this includes roses and all trees once they lose their leaves).

When he can't find Daddy, and Paul's not either working or in Wisconsin (which, as far as Owen is concerned, are the only places that people ever are), then Daddy must be "hiding in the bushes." That Daddy!

Owen is always talking about how he's going to climb the "very big tree very very high," when in fact, the only tree he's attempted to scale is the three foot sapling in front of the church. Speaking of church, on a drive home from Sunday School, Owen explained that Jesus loves to climb up very high in trees, then go pee-pee. That Jesus!

Joel the muscleman
When awake, Joel wants nothing more than to practice standing, with a parent holding each of his hands. He will pull himself up, go down, breathe deeply, and repeat the process until his head starts wobbling around like Dwight Schrute's bobblehead. Let me be clear: Joel is far cuter than Dwight Schrute.

Joel the hair man
Yesterday, I leaned over Joel, and he touched my hair, rubbing it gently in his hands, cooing.

I'm truly very blessed.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pride comes before a fall...

If I've learned anything about parenting, it can be summarized into three words: Don't Get Cocky.

Anytime that you find yourself thinking, "I can do this," or "Life is getting back to normal," then buckle your seatbelts, for a piping hot serving of fresh Hell is on the horizon. Case in point:

The keyboard was still warm from yesterday, when I was smugly writing about how Joel is a better sleeper than Owen, due to my experienced parenting skills, when he woke up from a 45 minute nap, and did not sleep again (except for a 20 minute captap) until bedtime. Naturally, we were at my mother-in-law's house, so I wasn't able to use the baby hypnotizer of the swing, and since they live on ten acres in rural Virginia, a soothing stroller ride was out of the question. The "put him in the crib and walk away" option Was. Not. Happening.

So. Let's just say it was a long day, and on the way home, Paul and I discussed not traveling to Charlotte for Thanksgiving (a six hour drive). The idea of not seeing the extended family for Thanksgiving breaks my heart.

Joel is the cutest little thing, and when he coos and smiles, my innards turn to jelly (my belly is in this state permanently). However, babies can be damn inconvenient.

In other news, the boys are I were enjoying lunch at Panera, when Owen decided to hide under a chair----the standard posture when he's about to do a deuce. I scurried him to the potty and he went poo-poo in the noisy potty at Panera. Just like Diego, Dora, Boots, Swiper the Fox, and all the Backyardigans, my little man is going poo-poo in the potty. Finally.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Putting Joel to Sleep

Having the second child, among other things, helps you realize how bat-shit crazy you were during the infancy of your first. At least, that's my experience....

Owen did not sleep in his crib during the day with any consistency until he was eight months old. He slept in slings, "buzz chairs," swings, car seats, and other such nonsense. I would always take the long way home to prolong naps, and was not above sitting in the car with a book for sometimes one to two hours while Owen dozed. It made perfect, logical sense to drive to Annapolis (almost two hours away) because I could go to the drive-through Starbucks and get a nap in for my finicky little boy.

Fast forward two years. My finicky little baby is now a toddler, prone to yelling for no logical reason. One of his favorite non sequesters is "STAND UP AND SHOUT!" He will yell this at the grocery store, during communion at church, bedtime, and yes, in the car. Thus, the perfect storm of loud toddler, new baby, and soaring gas prices have forced me to find different ways to get Joel to sleep.

So, I've tried something really revolutionary. I put Joel in the crib. I turn on the mobile. I walk away. Sometimes he fusses and I try again later. Sometimes he goes to sleep after about five minutes of fussing. Sometimes, I give up and put him in the swing. But, I have yet to drive out of county lines in hopes of getting a nap in.

Now that I've written this smug post, he will not sleep anywhere but in my arms, using me as a human pacifier, as revenge.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Hangover

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Halloween 2008

We had a great time trick or treating last night---we did what's becoming an annual tradition. We drove five minutes away to our friend's house and had appetizers and drinks. I had no idea until last year that one of the reasons adults are so happy during trick or treating is that the parents pre-party with cocktails before hitting the streets. Apparently, there is even a neighborhood in Huntingtown that has a full bar set up at one of the houses. A whole world is opening up to me---the sordid underbelly of children's holidays. Next you'll be telling me that St. Patrick's Day is about more than wearing green and getting pinched on the playground...

Anyway, we went trick or treating at their neighborhood, then did the same thing at our neighborhood, ending with Pumpkin Spice Cake at our house. A sugary good time was had by all.

Oh, and Owen was a pirate; Joel was "Superbaby." I'll add pictures when I can.

Owen was a little too authentic with his piracy and decided to tackle the survy knave of the asphalt driveway. He had road rash and a cut over his eye with real, gooshing blood. He cried several manly pirate cries before allowing us to put a Piglet bandaid on his wound. We expect a full recovery.

I ran my first post-Joel 5K today. It was a lot of fun, but my time was not the best. A gaggle of 6th graders from the Boys and Girls club Kicked. My. Ass.