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."