Saturday, February 28, 2009

Monkey See, Monkey Do

For the last several days/weeks, I have had the special pleasure of having my words thrown back in my face. My firstborn will regularly let delightful phrases such as "You stop that right now!," "Mommy, go to your room," "Give me my__________ RIGHT NOW!!!," and "Move, Get out the way!" escape from his lips.

We couldn't be more proud.

Paul and I, of course, discourage such behavior by telling Owen to "Stop it right now!" or to "Go to your room!" When he takes something from us, in an attempt to seek attention, we tell him, "Owen, give me my towel/remote/phone/toothbrush/dinner RIGHT NOW!" When he crowds us, attempting to perch himself on the millimeter of space not already occupied by baby/stacks of essays/laundry/groceries, we snap, "Owen move! Get out of the way!"

The pattern seems so obvious when I write it down on a computer screen. It's classic monkey see, monkey do. Paul said the most obvious, yet insightful thing last night: "We need to talk to Owen like we talk to each other."

Ohhhhhh. Well, duh. It's so obvious, yet so easy to miss when things are hectic and the boy is annoying. We need to treat him like a person, like somebody deserving of dignity.

I think about the scene in Pulp Fiction where Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta's characters are in trouble. They have accidentally shot a teenager, and now need help to clean up the mess. Happens to all of us. Thus, they summon "The Wolf," played by Harvey Kittel. He is barking out orders to Travolta and Jackson, and Travolta's character mumbles, "A please would be nice."

The Wolf replies, "If I am curt with you, it is because time is a factor." Curtness may be required when blood is spilled, but thankfully, that has not happened with Owen--yet.

Paul and I need to remember our inner Travoltas, and remember that as annoying Owen may be, a please is still nice. Even if you're three.

***For those of you who now wish to recall the scene from Pulp Fiction, read on***

The Wolf: Jimmie, lead the way. Boys, get to work.
Vincent: A please would be nice.
The Wolf: Come again?
Vincent: I said a please would be nice.
The Wolf: Get it straight buster - I'm not here to say please, I'm here to tell you what to do and if self-preservation is an instinct you possess you'd better fucking do it and do it quick. I'm here to help - if my help's not appreciated then lotsa luck, gentlemen.
Jules: No, Mr. Wolf, it ain't like that, your help is definitely appreciated.
Vincent: I don't mean any disrespect, I just don't like people barking orders at me.
The Wolf: If I'm curt with you it's because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please... with sugar on top. Clean the fucking car.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The News is Personal

I enjoy reading the news; I enjoy watching the news. I consider myself to be a well-informed kinda gal. However, the news rarely effects me personally in any way, shape, or form. Yes, I'll grab my stocking hat before leaving the house if Al Roker thinks its a good idea, and I'll prepare for parties by scanning the headlines (in hopes of finding mildly amusing stories to share), but that's pretty much the extent of it.

Once in awhile, though, the news becomes personal. In the last week, three status updates on my Facebook account discussed scary stories of downsizing, pink slipping, firing, or whatever you want to call it. One of our friends has lost 100,000 dollars of estimated value on their home. We've lost money on Owen's college savings account, and haven't even attempted to open one for Joel. My friends that play the market ride a roller coaster with each opening and closing. Things are uncertain, off-balance.

Despite that, I just sent the letter to the school board, asking them to extend my leave of absence from teaching for the fourth year. It's entirely possible that they will grant it to me. It's also possible that they will have had enough, and they will ask me to piss or get off the proverbial pot. If that is the case, I will need to either return to work or write my letter of resignation.
I'm prepared to write it.

Yes, I am in a lucky place because Paul, as an employee of the federal government, has more job security than most. In fact, he just brokered a deal that they will pay off most of his student loans if he will agree to stay at his present job for three more years. We bought a house in Calvert County for less than 200,000 dollars, something that is simply not possible nowadays. We live simply. We pay off our debts.

And yet. My Facebook friends are not drinking champagne and eating caviar. They don't live in McMansions or own Jet Skis. They are hard working people who also made good choices, tried to do the right thing, and just weren't as lucky. They work for non-profits, social service agencies, and yes, the public schools. And now, they are looking at their finances again and figuring out the new needs vs. the new wants. It's scary.

I just don't understand why people would want Obama policies to fail. I don't care who comes up with the plans, I just want them to work. I want my friends to wake up and go to work, trusting that they are able to make the best choices for their families and their futures. I would feel the same way if McCain or Jindal or even Jesse 'The Mind" Ventura was in charge. I want what is best for the country, and my friends. Politics is secondary.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Questions and Answers

Me: Owen, why did you throw that hard plastic ball at your baby brother's head?
Owen: I don't know.

Owen: Mommy, what are teeth for?
Me: Teeth are for chewing, and smiling, and eating, and---
Owen: For biting Baby Joel!

Me: (Feeling some 1996-era nostalgia, and singing Dave Matthews in my kitchen.) "I'm the king of the castle, you're the little rascal/Crash into me..." (Yes, I know the song is an extended innuendo, but Owen isn't one for metaphor and nuance, yet).
Owen: What are you making that noise for?
Me: Because it makes me happy.
Owen: It makes my tummy hurt.

Owen: What are you talking for?

Me: What kind of cake should Mommy have for her birthday?
Owen: A Diego Cake! (well, duh...)

Owen: Is Mommy going to use the breast pump today?
Me: No.
Owen: Oh. Is Daddy going to use the breast pump today?

Owen (peering into the toilet): What's that?
Me: You know what that is.
Owen: (laughing hysterically) That's my yummy lunch! Now it's poo-poo!

Me: (to myself) What am I unleashing onto the world?
Owen: O-W-E-N, that's OWEN!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When Mom visits...

When my mother is visiting...

Useful things enter my life. I do not do the grocery shopping, so Paul buys only what is on the list. Thus, I never buy things on impulse, and don't know about many wondrous products. Mom comes, and inevitably gets twitchy halfway through the her visit. We send her off to Target, and she returns with full bags of useful things, like Tide-to-Go pens, purse-sized antibacterial wipes, boxes of Kleenex for every room, and plastic storage crates.

When my mother is visiting...

Things get organized. My laundry room is a thing of beauty. I asked Mom and Dad to organize it for my birthday present. I want to live in that room now. We painted it a funky electric blue, added shelving, and put everything into labeled boxes. Now, I know where the cell phone charger lives, so I'll no longer walk around with a dead cell phone for weeks at a time. This is progress.

Mom loves to organize. She is the one that arranges my spices in ABC order, who orders my closet by season and color, who puts my Tupperware into neatly stacked rows. The casual reader would think that I abuse my mother, but I assure you, she lives for this stuff.

One exception: When Owen was born, my mom came out to help. She got bored, because Owen was five days old and slept all the time. She decided to organize our dresser drawers. I opened one drawer after she was done and found Paul's boxers in neat rows, my underwear and bras freshly organized, and a nicely stacked pile of....condoms. I said, "Mom, um...was that weird for you?"

Her response: "Why are you using those?" I guess she's never dealt with The Pill and antibiotics.

She later said, "I'll leave the underwear drawer to you next time."

When my mother is visiting...

Junk food that I usually don't purchase mysteriously makes its way into the house. Oreos, pretzels, ice cream, Sprite, and something called a pudding ring all rest in our pantry. Mom is back in Colorado, but her sugary legacy remains.

When my mother is visiting...
Owen and Joel are never lacking an adult who wants to listen, play, read, and love them. My kids are very lucky.

When my mother is no longer visiting...
I miss her.

Monday, February 23, 2009

School Days

It's February. The air is brisk, the trees are bare, and it's preschool enrollment time. We've been to two open houses in the last two days in the attempt to find the best preschool for Owen.

I selected these schools because my friends with older children recommended them. More importantly, I selected these schools because they are close to the magic triangle of my life: gym-library-Starbucks. If I am going to have two mornings a week with only one kiddo, than you better believe I will indulge at least one, if not all, of these pleasures.

Both schools are plenty nice---colorful, comfortable, and staffed by caring, child-centered individuals. One is a co-op, meaning that it costs less, and in exchange parents are expected to be part of the program---cleaning, being "Parent of the Day," making snack, etc. The other program is affiliated with one of the local Catholic parishes, and seems to be a little more academic. Owen would thrive in either place.

I'm inclined to do the Catholic one, because I think that the more moral/spiritual edification my darling gets, the better. Additionally, I like that it meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, (instead of Thursday and Friday--goodbye long weekends!).

Now, I just need to hope that there's a place for Owen. Parishioners and siblings of students get first dibs. There are only twelve spots. I just have to trust that O will end up where he's supposed to be.

One thing that was odd about the open house experience was being The Parent. I'm very accustomed to being The Teacher. I can soothe, pander, explain, assert needs, or lay it on the line. Some parents require a bit of flattery. Others respect candor. Some are on your side. Some want to pick a fight. Some have been so burned by their own schooling that just walking through the door of the building makes them feel small and helpless. Others just want to be heard. All of the parents, in their own way, love their kids and want to help.

And now, just like that, I'm The Parent. I don't know if I made an impression on the teachers at all as I asked questions about curriculum, management, expectations, scheduling. My goal is that I want to help when needed, go away when its best, and to work with his teachers to shape Owen into the person he deserves to be.

It's a strange shift, being The Parent. Although I've been a teacher my entire adult life, I think Owen's education will be my education, too. I'm ready to learn.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Running Commentary

I'm training for an 8K, which is an almost five mile race---the St. Patrick's race in DC. Since I'm not the marathoner of the family, my races are usually low key events in the surrounding area. Instead of a gun or buzzer, these races simply start when the director says, "Go!" The water stations are equally low key---a couple of kids holding out cups, or a guy with a cooler of water.

Usually, this works just fine for me, because I run not so much for the race itself, but to have a goal, a specific reason to run when I wouldn't otherwise. However, I decided, since this was the year that Paul was running Boston, that I wanted to do a "big" race, too. Hence, the 8K.

The reality of training hit me this morning, when I looked at my training schedule and realized that I was supposed to run 6 miles. I knew this, but elected to block the idea out of my mind. I was left with two choices: to suck it up and do it, or weasel my way out. I, of course, chose the latter. Kinda.

I went into the room and put my running clothes on, because people look really foolish in running clothes, and they look even more foolish wearing them for no good reason. Sometimes this is enough to get me out the door. Today, though, I had to be terribly annoying a little bit longer.

"Paullll," I whined, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, "It's really cold outside."

"Put some more clothes on," he replied.

I looked down at my long-sleeved UnderArmour and running shorts. "Like whaaaaaat?"

Paul took a deep breath. "A hat. Gloves. Pants. Maybe another shirt. You really need me to tell you this?"

I went back into the room and put more clothes on. "Pauulllll."

"Nancy, just go on your run already."


Silence. Finally, "Yes?"

"Will I get too hot?'

"Take some clothes off, then."

"Oh. Paul? This is going to be really hard. Six miles. Up hills. "

At this point, Paul guided me to the front door, pushed me out, and locked the door. I heard him say, "You'll feel a lot better once you're done. Now go, already."

So much for weaseling. There is a danger in somebody knowing you so well. I do this before most long runs. Without fail. The fact that Paul hasn't killed me yet means that he loves me.

Because I didn't feel confident, I decided to do the ol' Jeff-Galloway method of running: run ten minutes, walk for one. Wash, rinse, repeat. I found this method was my salvation when I first started running, because the psychology is so ingenious: anybody can run for ten minutes. That's all you need to worry about. The next ten minutes. It's the AA version of running: One step at a time. Easy does it.

Here are highlights from my ten minute intervals:

1-10: I'm reminded that everything is harder when you worry about it than when you actually do it. As soon as I step out my door, I realize that the sun is shining and the air is crisp, not cold. I feel strong as I go up the first gradual hill of my run. All that drama was for nothing. Again. I remember the wisdom of my friend Michelle, who always tells me "Worry is the thief of joy." It's the truth. Every challenge I've ever faced has been less difficult than the challenges I've invented in my mind.

11-22: As I approach the first beach, I remind myself, "I live next to two beaches." It still suprises me sometimes. Can you believe it? Anytime I choose, I can walk or run to the Chesapeake Bay. On today's run, I saw a Great Blue Heron, a Bald Eagle, lots of ducks, and a solitary sailboat, its red sail brilliant against the glassy blue water.

23-33: This is the next big hill. This is the Heartbreak Hill of my run. I have to run in short steps just to keep myself going, but it is the finishing that counts. I'm reminded of Team Hoyt, an inspirational father-son team. The son has cerebral palsy. The father pushes him in a wheelchair as he competes in marathons. They've done races all over the country, including, incredibly, an Ironman Triathon. Runners are so inspiring. I can't say it enough.

34-44: I run past my house to begin the loop again. This time, I notice a growth of bamboo in front of a neighbor's house. It's a plant that you never, ever want to have in your yard because it will not die, and it will grow, virulently. It will consume your entire yard over time. I think, as I pass the yard, that my love for Owen is like bamboo. Nothing will break it. It will continue to grow. Owen's life consumes mine, in a good way, and it has transformed the landscape of my life. Happy Birthday, Buddy. My three-year-old-little-guy. I love you.

45-55: As I begin this interval, I realize that this is the longest I have run since before I was pregnant with Joel. The last time I ran anything close was at a Turkey Trot Thanksgiving 07. The pregnancy test came back positive two weeks later. I must have been already pregnant, and I just didn't know it. The symmetry of this makes me smile, because I ran a 10K on Memorial Day 05, then found out I was pregnant with Owen...two weeks later. Both kids have competed in races, via Mommy.

55-65: I'm at Heartbreak Hill again. I'm at the point where I'm allowed my one minute of walking, but instead I charge up the hill. I think of those that run for friend Brian is a coach for Team in Training, and he and his wife have helped raise thousands of dollars to fight cancer by running marathons and helping others do the same. I think of Fiona, who is running her own marathon right now as she inches towards recovery and health. These stories humble me, and keep one foot in front of the other.

66-76: I'm working my way home. My heart is pumping, I feel strong and healthy and ready to do anything. Cheesy songs run through my head---silly songs that nevertheless make me feel good: Brittney Spears ("I'm stronger than yesterday."), Melissa Ethridge, ("I run for you..."), and the Black-Eyed Peas, ("Keep running, running, keep running running."). I feel like Superwoman.

The run is done....and I return home. Amazingly, Paul let me back in.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The aftermath

Well, Owen's party/playgroup went off as well as one could expect. When all was said and done, three families couldn't make it due to illness. That left us with two babies and six children, not to mention eight adults. All things considered, the fact that the house remains stain and blood free makes the party a screaming success.

Owen had a few moments where life was a bit too intense. We had these puppets of different animals--skunks, alligators, frogs---that the kids were supposed to find and "rescue"---this was a Diego-themed party, and rescuing animals, after all, is Diego's business. Owen decided that he would "rescue" ALL of the animals and horde them like a crazy cat lady. If any child dared touch his animals (which, by the way, were PARTY FAVORS, designed to go home with the attendees), he would yell, "No, that's MINE!"

I'm so proud. That was probably the main hiccup, which, all things considered, isn't too bad. He eventually forgot about the animals, and spent his special day playing trains, pushing around his new dump truck, and yelling "Weasel!" at his friends, which is apparently comedic gold when you're three. He also had the magical Diego cake with the Diego candle (which, incidentally, doesn't exist, so we took a plain old candle and slapped a Diego sticker on it), and a good time was had by all.

Tomorrow is his actual birthday, and my baby will be three. Three. I can't believe it either. More sentimental musing tomorrow....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Children, some sick

There are too many things out there that are making me sad today. My friend's daughter is still at Children's and they still don't know what is wrong with her. She posted some pictures of her daughter---with all the doo-dads they put on kids when they are in the Pediatric ICU, including a ventilator and restraints--restraints! The part that just broke my heart was when my friend wrote about the new normal of her days. She was talking to her husband on the phone and he said, "Fiona's doing great---she's sedated, and they just gave her some more anti-seizure meds." That is the new version of great.

I have to believe that things will get better. This friend is a distant friend, meaning that we've always intended to get together, but it never quite happened. Nevertheless, I've always admired the way that she is so positive and present with her children. And it's just so hard to see people living a real-life version of House, except without the guarantee that House will swoop in and find the miracle cure.

So, in light of that, understand my petty problem. Owen is supposed to have a playgroup get-together to celebrate his birthday tomorrow. It's the normal group of people that I meet with most weeks. We'll play, have cake, and call it a day. Except. One of my friends is unable to come because her son was exposed to the stomach flu at his preschool. Another one of my friends attends the same preschool, and may not be able to attend, either. A third friend may not be able to attend because her infant son has been getting over an illness, and she's understandably gun-shy about close spaces and germy toddlers. Yet another friend has been fighting illness for the past two weeks. Are you seeing a pattern here?

It sucks to be born in the middle of February. I know that this is just the way things roll, but I love my kid, and I want him to feel special on his special day. I think he will, as long as he has Diego cake, so I guess I should stop fretting.

I mean, I feel guilty for my world spinning on its neurotic axis, when things are so out-of-control for others.

And yes, it stirs up old stuff that I really should be over by now.

So, let me list a few things that are awesome. This is a good exercise for me.

1. My mom and dad are organizing my laundry room for me. This is my birthday present. It will be a-may-zing!

2. Lost is brilliant, awesome, dharma-rific. Every man on the show is hot, and the stories are interesting and full of badassery.

3. My hair is so banging these days.

4. By this time tomorrow, the party will be behind me.

5. Hopefully, by this time tomorrow, Fiona will be healthier and stronger.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Grammy gravy train

My parents are in town, which means one thing for Owen: it's time for a' spoiling.

My mother came here with three, count them, three suitcases. She did save some space to pack toiletries and clothing, but the majority of the space was dedicated to clothing, toys, and other assorted goodies for the boys.

Owen has had enough visits from Grammy and Grandpa to expect this, and he sits next to my mother with an expectant gleam in his eye. He sees my Mom as a cross between Santa Claus and an all-you-can-eat-toy-buffet. And sure enough, Mom obliged on this trip, providing him with several books and a farm puzzle before she even had her coat off.

Meanwhile, I am the one putting Owen in time out, reminding him that Mommy, not Owen, is IN CHARGE. Owen believes that he, in fact, rules the roost, and I frequently must disabuse him of this notion.

I guess this is the natural cycle of things. Parents do the heavy lifting; grandparents just have fun. Which is the way things should be. They have paid their dues. Believe me, I know. I was there, too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dollars and Cents

I decided last week that I wasn't going to teach at the college next semester so I could focus on writing and this webbity-bloggity thing I've got going. I figure: this is the one time in my life that I have the luxury to explore my options---to pursue writing or underwater Pilates, or whatever. Paul and I live simply enough that we're making this one-income thing work...not forever, but for the time being. I figure that teaching will be there...but the time to pursue other dreams will not.

So, I decide this, and feel good--that way it feels to finally have settled something. Then, the fear creeps in. The holy-shit-I-do-not-make-any-money fear. Really, when all is said and done, my present job brings home about $150 every two weeks. A week's worth of groceries, plus change to buy Starbucks and a Netflix.

Yet, it's a check that has my name on it, and that makes me feel like a functional adult. When the checks only have Paul's name on them, I feel dependent. Itchy. I feel the need to ask permission to get my nails done, and feel guilty when I go wild and buy the out-of-season cherries.

This is all me, because Paul understands that watching the boys is a job, albeit an unpaid job. He doesn't second-guess my purchases, and rolls his eyes when I talk about "his money," and "my money."

It just nice to see a tangible proof that my work is valuable. I can cash or deposit a check. I can use the money to buy plane tickets, to pay off the mortgage, to replace the tires on the Honda.

With the boys, I "deposit" lessons, hugs, kisses, conversations, activities, attention, love. I don't know how my investments will mature; I just have to hope and trust that my decisions are sound.

In light of today's economy, perhaps these investments---Owen, Joel---are the only the only investments I can trust.

Maybe so---but I still like earning my own money.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Twilight with Joel

Joel still doesn't sleep through the night. Once in awhile, he'll do it, just to mess with our minds. Generally, though, it's up around 3, then up again around 6 to start the day. Sometimes he'll throw a 10 PM feeding in the mix, too.

I grow weary of this, since I like to sleep, and I especially like my warm bed with the soft, heavy comforter. Getting out of bed to a crabby baby is a departure from dreamland, to say the least. Thankfully, Joel is an "all business" baby...he'll eat, go back to bed, sleep. There's no desire to play and no need to coo at Mommy at the wee hours of the morning. Thank God for that, because Nighttime Mommy is Nothing To Smile At.

Last night, as the room was dark, Joel's soft body was nestled against mine, and the sound of his gulps were all one could hear, I thought to myself, "Thank You, God, that I get to do this."

I've been thinking about Hopkins again because a friend of mine's daughter is at Children's, and they don't know what is wrong with her yet. Pray for Fiona, please.

When Joel was at Hopkins, breastfeeding was difficult, because he got most of his nourishment from bottles. At first, he was tiny and sick and nursing was a lot of work. As he grew stronger, he took to nursing like a champ. Now, he'll take a bottle, but it's not his first choice.

Nursing gives me the chance, three to four times a day (not to mention several times at night), to observe Joel. He's my love. As he eats, his hand touches my cheek, my lips, my hair. He's searching for comfort, for warmth, for me. He'll finish eating, and turn to me, his face a gorgeous smile. "Thanks, Mom," he says. "That's the best."

I'm sure I would have these same feelings if I was sharing a quiet moment with Joel and a bottle. But, every time I see my healthy son nurse, it's a reminder of how far he has come, and how I, his mother, can meet his needs. It's a wake-up call, as Fiona's mother and father wait, hope, and pray. The mere fact that I get to hold my baby is a gift. One that I take lightly all too often.

It's worth getting up for.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The music the kids are listening to these days

If it wasn't for my brother, I would be so hopelessly out of touch with modern music. As it is, I'm still mostly stuck in the early 90s---have you heard of this fresh, new "grunge" music?

Thankfully, Tom will occasionally reel me back into this decade by sending me mix CDs with his newest favorites. He'll declare that life is not worth living if one does not know the magic of Kid Koala or Vampire Weekend or Say Yeah or other hipster groups fronted by young whippersnappers who are entirely Too Cool For School.

If it was up to me, I would pretty much listen to Beck. Yes, Beck. He's a genius. About a year ago, he did a show in DC. I didn't attend, I just read about it in the Post. I wish I did, though. You see, he played with his band, while simultaneously having a marionette version of his band perform in front of him. The same songs. The same dance moves. The same patter. One could choose to watch Real Beck or Puppet Beck. That's so strange. Beck is by far my favorite alt-rock hipster.

I made an attempt to have Joel named Beck. Thankfully, Paul intervened.
See? Who wouldn't want his son to be like Beck?

I digress. The bottom line is: I don't know anything about modern music. If I'm not getting music from Tom, I'm getting music from Paul (who, in turns, gets his music from NPR).

Today, for once, I felt like I was on the cutting edge of the music scene. Today, you see, I made a mix CD of kiddie music. I plan on burning these CDs and giving them to Owen's playgroup friends, just because it is so awesome. I managed to make a mix of eleven songs, all designed for the toddler set, and only one sets my teeth on edge. That, my friends, is a serious accomplishment.

Most toddler music is as sugary as a deep-fried mass of cotton candy. It makes my molars ache just listening to the off tune toddler voices as they caterwaul through "The Farmer in the Dell." If it's not saccharine, it's just dumb: "There's a Party in my Tummy? So Yummy! So Yummy!" Kill me now.

Owen's super-cool mix, though, includes the following artists:

Laurie Berkner: Not only is she the queen of kiddie music, she's also a good musician with a nice voice. It's coffeehouse music, except that she sings about dinosaurs and having pigs on her head. Because she has talent, I just listen to her voice and forget about the content.

They Might Be Giants: This former "alternative" group went kiddie a few years ago, and now has two albums for the toddler set out: "No!" and a concept album about the alphabet. I downloaded the song "Robot Parade" for Owen because...Owen likes robots.

Sheryl Crow: Ms. Crow sings the opening song of the movie, Cars, "Real Gone." It hasn't annoyed us yet, despite the fact that we've seen Cars about two gazillion trillion times.

The Wiggles: Yes, this should fall into the "annoying" category, but the Australian accents get my motor running. I downloaded "Hot Potato," because I like the part when the singer croons about bananas in that sexy Aussie voice. By the way, my friend Jamie would know the name of each Wiggle and his back story. Jamie and her family dressed up as the Wiggles for Halloween. All of them. Love, love, love her.

Bluegrass: If one must listen to "Oh Susanna!" it might as well be with a banjo background and voices right out of the West Virginia Hills.

The White Stripes: This group sings a song about two kids going to school and becoming friends. It's really sweet. You may recognize it from the opening credits of Napoleon Dynamite.

The Backyardigans: The music director of this kiddie show knows his stuff. He writes in all sorts of musical genres, from college fight songs to classical to reggae. I've included a funky little number called, "The Yeti Stomp." Who can resist the clever hook: (with James Brown-esque horns in the background), "Stomp, Stomp, Stomp, I'm the Yeti/Stomping that Yeti Stomp!"

And now...the annoying song: The theme song from Go, Diego, Go, "Al Rescate, Amigos." Ugh. I don't care that my son knows how to say, "To the Rescue!" in Spanish. How likely is it that he would be a first responder in Mexico? Or a superhero in Spain, for that matter?

While saving animals is nice, Paul and I both agree that the food chain exists for a reason. If the baby sloth is separated from his mother, that's the way things work. Diego is messing with the natural order of things.

And musically, the song is just dumb. It doesn't rock at all, and it's hard to dance to.

But Owen really, really, really likes Diego. If you saw Owen's face when he heard "Al Rescate, Amigos" blasting from the car stereo, you would put up with it too. He couldn't have been more thrilled. My mix made my son smile.

In my world, having a happy son is worth a lot. Yes, I don't know what the kids are listening to these days, but I do know what MY kid likes. My brother will just have to do the heavy lifting for me a little bit longer...and that is something I can live with.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shopping is a DADDY job

This, ladies and gentlemen, is no ordinary post. This is the....100th post! This is significant somehow. In honor of this momentous occasion, let me tell you another story about my children. How unusual, yes?

Paul (yes, I know he is not my child, stay with me) is back into training mode, meaning he has one night a week where he can drink wine or beer without it biting him the next day via a training run. That night is Friday night. Thus, I got it into my head that I would make him a special dinner, and we would have a date night at home after the boys went to sleep. That would be tonight. By having our Valentine's day meal on Friday the 13th, I wouldn't be drinking alone....again. It says something about us that I, the breastfeeding mother, is the lush of the pair.

Anyway, after dithering about the menu for several days, I realized this morning that if I planned on cooking Paul dinner, it would probably help to have some ingredients. Additionally, Paul is painting the living room a very cool pewter (which will look so awesome, squeeeeeeeee!), and needed me to Get. Owen. Out. Of. The. House. Right. Freaking. Now.

So, I loaded the boys up with my list in hand. First we went to the gym, which was good, as always. One of the women that works in the gym's day care is pregnant, and she had told me a few weeks back that she would be soooooo disappointed if it turned out she "had to have a boy." Naturally, she's having a boy. She doesn't seem to terribly impressed when I tell her that boys are great. I hope she'll come around, and I restrained myself from saying, "Look on the bright side. He might be really, really gay."

After the gym, we went to Safeway. I figured Joel was old enough that he could now sit in the front seat (with the germ cover cloth-thingy on, of course) of the cart, leaving Owen to drive the car attachment on the front of the same cart. Normally, Owen insists on "driving" when we go to the grocery store, so I didn't think the addition of Joel in the cart (as opposed to the Baby Bjorn) would be an issue. Apparently, I've learned nothing from Owen's toddlerhood. Nothing.

"No, no Baby Joel. Don't. Do. That." Owen says in a stern voice that sounds vaguely familiar. "That is not nice." I have no idea what heinous sin Joel is committing, but Owen is on the job, ready to correct his six month old brother for any and all misdeeds. Although I remind Owen that bossy people often end up Alone, Dejected, and With NO FRIENDS, he continues to tell his brother that sucking on his stuffed dinosaur and smiling at strangers, is rude. "Baby Joel, that's ENOUGH!"

No, Owen, that is enough. After a time out by the in-store Starbucks, it finally comes out that 1) Owen is used to grocery shopping with his father---it's their special time. I am not even close to acceptable. 2) Baby Joel is not allowed to sit in OWEN's cart. Again, not acceptable.

I was able to explain to Owen that Big Boys get to drive the car, that Baby Joel is too little to do that, and isn't that special and amazing? He wasn't quite sold on the idea, but it got us out of the store.

Anyway, we made it out of Safeway, only to do Round Two: Nick's of Calvert. For those outside of Calvert County, Nick's is a neat Italian market/butcher shop/liquor store. I needed to buy steaks, red wine, and beer. I put Joel in the front of the cart again, because Owen wasn't going to win this round. This time, however, there was no freaking car for Owen to drive. Fists clenched, he announced, "Baby Joel needs to get out of the cart. It's MINE." Wrong. We were at an impasse. Time stopped. What was I going to do? I just wanted to buy my meat and my booze so I could connect with this boy's father, damnit.

So, I did a lazy, bad mothering thing. I let him ride in the cart itself, even though I know Paul wouldn't have done it. Paul would have told me that it was dangerous to let him ride there, and that was that. I was just done fighting, so I let him ride, and I placed the alcohol and raw meat around him.

On the way home, I asked Owen if he had fun shopping with Mommy. His response: "Shopping is a DADDY job."

Works for me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mistaken Identity

I truly wonder how Owen's mind works. The logic is...astonishing.

To wit: Looking over my shoulder while I was looking at my Yahoo page, Owen saw a picture of Bruce Springsteen:

He said, "Look Mommy, it's Ironman."

Yes, the resemblance is striking. Owen has not seen Ironman, and Paul and I do not spend a lot of time discussing the various Marvel characters. Yet, he knows all about Ironman. HOW???

This, I suppose, is better than the last time he looked over my shoulder. He saw a picture of Plaxico Burress, a football player:

He then said, "It's Daddy!"

No, Owen. This is your daddy. Holding you. In a lighthouse, of course.


Speaking of football, we realized that we needed to toughen our son up, football-wise, since we plan on living in Redskins-Mad Maryland for a little bit longer. For months, Owen would call footballs, "acorns."

I guess I can see that one. Maybe. While cute now, this could result in playground poundings in a few years.

Owen's mind is creative, to say the least, and it is never boring. That makes me as happy as Ironman, as he passes the acorn to Plaxico Burress, while humming to himself, in the words of the Boss, " These are...Glory Days!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Crunchy Spectrum

I attended Northern Arizona University. I know this means little to people born outside of Arizona, but NAU is the crunchiest of the three state universities. ASU and UofA are both powerhouse schools with PAC-10 football, Fraternity Rows, and an amazingly tan and well-groomed student body.

NAU, on the other hand, is known for its forestry program and its proximity to the Sunrise Ski Resort. One can take snowboarding as an elective at NAU, as well as partake in a drum circle virtually any night of the week. Dreadlocked hordes hacky-sack the hours away, as Jerry Garcia or Rusted Root warbles in the background. That's my alma mater.

Granted, this is a small sub-section of the population. NAU has plenty of regular folk, as well as many who openly hate the hippies I recall walking to class with a friend of mine. As she tore into her second pack of cigarettes, she glared at the patchouli-scented group and spat, "What causes people to wake up and just decide they aren't going to bathe anymore? I mean, really."

I nodded in agreement, but, I secretly wanted to be one of them. They seemed so happy in their Tibetan-knitted mittens and hemp necklaces. There was little to worry about except playing a little sack, wrestling with the dogs, and railing against the assorted injustices in the world. I suppose there was some concern regarding the acquisition of marijuana...not that I would know anything about that.

Of course, I had no idea what it really was like to be a hippie, since I was on the outside, looking in. I know enough now to see that they were just another group, not really that different from the sorority girls or the athletes or the Campus Crusaders. They were young twenty-somethings, trying to find their place in the world.

I know now that people are just that, people. We all fall on the spectrum of behaviors. For example, in comparison to some of my friends, I am crunchy. I don't use paper towels, I drive a Subaru, and I've been known to wear the occasional flowing skirt. I do yoga, believe in karma and positive/negative energy (I blend it with the Holy Spirit for my unique form of spirituality), and I make my own baby food. People often assume that I am a vegetarian.

However, I also feed my boys processed hot dogs. I prefer to run on a treadmill, listening to an iPod instead of running outside, listening to the rhythm of my beating heart. I've never considered putting Joel in cloth diapers. I have no intention of breastfeeding Joel past his first birthday. You better believe the boys are getting their immunizations.

I guess that a crunchy lifestyle is attractive, because I would like to have less toxins in my house, and less clutter in my mind. Yet, I don't see myself growing dreads or stocking up on incense any time soon.

Life's too short to try to be something you're not. It's just negative energy, ya, know?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Goals, revisited

Loyal readers may recall that I came up with some New Year's Resolutions. Here's where I am a few months later...

1. I will take a shower every day. I do this, unless I don't feel like it. To encourage basic, necessary hygiene, I recently purchased some bath hoo-hahs from Bath and Body Works. The idea is that I'll shower if I can smell yummy afterwards. This worked, until Paul came home one day and asked me if I why I smelled like Snuggle fabric softener. Not sexy.

Hopefully, I won't get to the point of my literary hero, David Sedaris. He made it a personal goal to read Moby Dick. He found the book so dreadfully boring that he abstained from showering until he finished the damn book, damnit. His boyfriend threatned to move out of the house until he finally got his shower---two weeks later. Ick.

2. I will read books, occasionally even challenging ones. So far, I haven't read anything too substantial. I'm reading a lot of books about marathoning, because I admire runners, and I'm looking for new tidbits to discuss with Paul. Right now, I'm working on Duel in the Sun, which discusses the epic battle between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley during the 1982 Boston Marathon. I just finished reading the chapter which discusses Beardsley's unfortunate accident involving farming equipment and Demerol. Good times.

3. Paul and I will go on four dates this year. Oh, we're so making this happen. We went out for dinner last week, and we're both committed to doing it again, and soon. My parents are coming in next week for Owen's birthday, so guess who gets to watch the kids?

4. I will continue this blog and enter four writing contests/submit four entries for publication.
The blog goes on. I just submitted a short article to a church-based magazine.

5. I will run three days a week. This has been terribly inconsistent. I'm signed up for two road races in March, including one called, "Keep Your Colon Rolling," which (surprise!) is for Colon Cancer Awareness. I can't wait to see the T-shirt. I'm going to buy myself a running skirt for my birthday, because I'm a girl and I get to wear silly running skirts and still be a tough running chick. Maybe this will encourage increased running. And, perhaps if I run more, I'll be inclined to shower more. And, if I shower more, I might use the Snuggle-flavored lotions again.

6. I will lose the baby weight. Getting there. Let's just say we're back in the 130 range.

7. I will do something cool with Paul when we celebrate our ten year anniversary (June 12th)
Hasn't happened yet. There's plenty of time to dither about before figuring it out.

8. I will learn something new. I haven't decided yet, but I'm thinking about taking a cooking class. Wouldn't it be fun to learn how to cook Indian food?

9. I will eat more eggplant (they're just so pretty). I made eggplant parmigiana, but it was too greasy. Eggplant sucks up olive oil like a sponge, and by the time I finished my serving, I felt like I had been chewing Tony Soprano's hairpiece (if he wore one).

10. I will cut myself some slack. Working on it. Whenever negative thoughts creep into my head, I'm trying to cut them off by listing things that make me grateful.

So that's that. Here's one more, new resolution--get more followers for the blog. So, people, what say you? Join the adventure! Become a follower of NPOJblog! A daily dose of nonsense---just for you! Thanks.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Today, Owen had a playdate with his friend Evan. Evan's mother, Dottie, is a natural with children. She understands them, and in return, they love her. I think the door was barely closed before Owen was nestled in her lap, happily playing playdough. She answered his questions with interest and dignity, as if she was having an in-depth discussion with Nelson Mandela instead of an almost three-year old wearing Lightening McQueen sneakers.

It made me think about how grateful I am to have other people in my life that give Owen the attention he needs. All too often, Owen gets attention when he is smearing food on the table or "playing" with Joel so vigorously that I am forced to intervene. As I write this, Owen is upstairs, loudly protesting his naptime, tearfully yelling, "I want MORE toys, I want MOOREEEEEEEEE TOOOOOYS!" After all, besides the train table, full bookcase, thirty stuffed animals, and overflowing toybox, he has nothing to play with up there. It's an avoidance tactic, but it's also an attempt, by whatever means necessary, to get my attention.

It's not as if I spend all my time on the computer, lulling him into submission with a steady loop of Diego and Backyardigans. I confess, there are occasional days like this, but truly, truly, they are the exception to the rule. We do cool stuff. Today we read stories, did puzzles, drew coffeemakers on the easel (I just do what I'm told), and talked about important things, like flying squirrels and fishing poles.

Yet, all too often, I'm doing this with half of my attention, while I am cooing at his brother, or changing a diaper, or loading the dishwasher, or thinking about the class I'm teaching tonight, or writing my name in the dust on my kitchen floor.

Owen needs to learn that he doesn't get 100% of my attention all of the time; that's part of being a family. However, he is almost three--still very young, still very much needing his mommy. I'm trying, therefore, to set aside time---focused, one-on-one time---with my boy. No phones, no brother, no laundry, and most importantly, with my mind focused on him.

I can't expect others to pick up my slack all the time. While I'm grateful for the kindness of others, the buck stops here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Persistant Voices

So, today in church the pastor was talking about using your talents and gifts for the good of others. This hit me at just the right time because I've been thinking about the future a lot recently, and what I'm going to be When I Grow Up.

The idea of being a teacher again leaves me cold. I liked it, and I'm good at it, but I'm just not excited about it. I'm not sure if this is because my attention is temporarily diverted by the boys, or if my passion for teaching has just fizzled out. I confess, I was already looking out the door when I was pregnant with Owen, and I transitioned to stay-at-home-mothering without any major hiccups.

Yes, I do teach at the community college two nights a week. And honestly, even that isn't getting me too excited. It's hard to believe that thesis statements and parenthetical citation isn't getting my motor running, but there it is...

This puts me in a bit of a quandary because there are a limited number of things that I am good at. I'm quite good at chit-chatting with strangers at the park. I can really clean a sink, so that it is shiny and smells vaguely of lavender. I do a great job of selecting books from the library. People aren't going to pay me the salary I desire, plus benefits, to do such things.

I know I can teach; I know I can write. I know I can teach about writing. I know I can write about teaching. I know that I've suddenly channelled Dr. Seuss, please forgive me.

If I teach, I cannot resent the job, or else I will resent my students, who will in turn resent me. That's no good. If I return to the classroom, I need to return with my passion and standards intact, or else I should just go home.

I really feel like I want to be a writer. I Just. Don't. Know. How. This blog, while fun, is not going to make my fortune. So, what is? How am I going to do this?

I believe that when random things keep happening, they are not random. In the past month, through a variety of people, events, circumstances, and encounters, I've heard the same message: "Serve God. Use your talents when you are asked." So, again, I'm sitting here, wondering, "How?"

Does anybody out there know? I'm still looking. I'll tell you the answers someday, when I am All Grown Up.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Us vs. Them

I love this:

Owen was with his grandparents for two days. When they drop him off, he runs past me, past Paul, straight to Joel. He says, "Baby Joel-Joels. I missed you!" He then does his routine of tossing Joel around like a chew toy. I would be more alarmed if Joel wasn't grinning from ear to ear.

This is the beginning of Us. vs. Them, and I'm okay with it. The whole point of having a sibling is knowing that there is another person who understands the absurdity of the parents. Only a brother or sister can, with a rolled eye or chuckle, boil down the parent-child relationship to its core. Only a brother or sister can say, "See, this, this is why we're crazy."

Someday, I can see Owen and Joel in the backseat, as we drive to some National Park for a family vacation, mocking our words, our music, our clothing, and our very existence. Yes, they will bicker, but they will have a common enemy: Mom and Dad.

Don't get me wrong: I think that they will like us. What's not to like? However, I remember turning in my Cool Membership Card when I checked out of the hospital (as do all parents), and I fully expect that I will embarrass both of my boys, sooner if not later.

It will be so humiliating, having Mom pull up to the middle school, blasting Beck and talking about books and nature and, God Forbid, Klingon Names. "Kill me now," the boys will think, if not shout to the heavens.

That's okay, though. Owen and Joel will not have to do it alone. They have each other, partners in mocking, in derision, and occasionally, hopefully, in love.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Literary Autobiography, Part I

People who know me know that I am a reader. I'll read almost anything---cookbooks, "chick-lit," classics, memoir, non-fiction. A lot of what I read goes in one ear and out the other. It's like eating a salad for lunch---good at the time, but I'm hungry two hours later.

Luckily, there have been books that satisfy, that sate the appetite like a four-course meal. These are the books I push on others with an urgency..."You must read this book." I think these books were placed in my hands at just the right time for just the right reasons. A literary perfect storm, if you will (not to mix my metaphors or anything...)

Anne of Green Gables, hit my world in seventh grade. I can't imagine why an awkward, bookish, smart heroine would appeal to me! Anne Shirley was my "kindred spirit" when I was twelve and I felt like a stranger in my own skin. Someday, I'll travel to Prince Edward Island and fight all the Japanese tourists to see the land described so beautifully in the books.

Oh, and the name "Nancy" is a derivative of "Anne." See, I knew we were kindred spirits!

To Kill A Mockingbird, thankfully, was a book that I discovered on my own, instead of in the classroom. I read it the summer of my junior year. I was never forced to deconstruct it or analyze the characters. I could just sink into the world of Atticus, Boo Radley, Scout, and Dill on my own terms. The last line of the book, "[Atticus] would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning” is hopeful to me. Although the world is spinning and nothing is as safe and easy as it once was, Jem could depend on his father to be there, to be present. Likewise, this book reaffirmed the power of my own dad to be there, to be present---right when I needed it the most, that is, right before I began the process of applying to colleges.

Paul said, "No son of ours will be named Atticus." So, I declare it here that the next Campbell dog will be Atticus.

A Prayer for Owen Meany was a book selected by a teacher-friend of mine for a student book club. This book is one of the few that makes me cry. Although John Irving wastes a lot of print rambling on about the Iran-Contra Affair, the rest of the book is transcendent. I was floating around with my faith at this point in my life, and this book reminded me that God has a plan, and it unravels in ways we could never suspect.

Yes, Owen Campbell is named after Owen Meany.

Romeo and Juliet humbles me. I was lucky enough to teach this play to seventh graders for several years. The story can be silly, but the poetry is sublime. The sonnet between Romeo and Juliet when they meet and kiss for the first time gives me chills. Just listen to this:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do

They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

In one beautiful sonnet, Shakespeare shows how smart Juliet can be---she basically manipulates Romeo into kissing her. She's so clever---and the fact that Shakespeare wrote such compelling female characters in the Elizabethan era is astonishing. This is the same time that people were dealing with the plague. The plague, people! I mean, really.

If Owen was a girl, we would have named him Julia (because Juliet is a bit much to carry around every day). See a trend here?

One more, and then I'll pick up this idea another day:

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott (another Anne!) is a book about writing. I encountered it when I did the Southern Arizona Writing Project (a graduate class on writing and the teaching of writing) in 2000. She tells a story about her younger brother, who was struggling to write a report about birds. He was getting wound up about the enormity of the project. She describes how her father sat down next to her brother and said, "Just do it bird by bird, buddy." Eventually, he got it done.

This has stayed with me. When I get too caught up in my lists and to-dos, I find myself thinking, "Just do it bird by bird. It will get done." I can't say that this magically calms me down, but it's a good mantra to repeat. Someday it might stick.

And no, nobody in our household will be named "Bird." That is, unless we get a bird. Which isn't going to happen.

To be continued another time...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Facing the book (and bonus! Klingon Names)

Yo, yo, yo. Yick-Nan* is in the hizzy. The baby is sleeping, the other boy is spending quality time with his grandparents, and the coffee is hot and good. How you like me now???

I've been swimming in a sea of nostalgia, thanks to Facebook. Facebook turned five years old this week, and the guy who created it is a gazillionare. I have to accept the fact that people born in the eighties are adults now, too. It's entirely possible to be born during the Reagan Administration AND be successful. My brother-in-law would argue that they are successful BECAUSE of the Reagan "Revolution," as he insists on calling it. I'm choosing not to argue this point, because the point I am trying to make is this: the 24-year old Facebook Gazillionare, Mark Zuckerberg, deserves every penny. Facebook is rad.

It all started innocently enough. Brother Tom opened an account with pictures of his band. I got an account just to look at his pictures. This was back in April. I basically ignored my page until August. Joel had been at Hopkins, and the computer was my lifeline. Each day, after spending time with Owen and my parents (after seeing Joel at the hospital), I would go to the computer to read the emails (well-wishes and prayers) and to update interested parties regarding Joel's progress. It saved me, partially because I wrote to make sense of it all.

Joel got better, and one day, I opened up my Facebook page and wrote, "My younger son is eleven days old." Then, I started friending people. Then, I started doing a daily status updates. You know where this is heading, because it's the same story for most people. I became addicted.

Now, I check my page at least three times a day. Thanks to a click of the mouse, I've reconnected with my entire past. It's a party where all the groups meet and mingle, but without the awkwardness. Youth group friends chit-chat with friends from Tucson. College friends and playgroup friends seamlessly blend together into the category of "my peeps."

Last night, instead of sleeping, I talked to two of my old roommates from NAU, and we were the exact same people---just a little wiser, and more prone to talking about "the good ol' days." It was an intimacy that doesn't translate as well in occasional phone calls or annual Christmas newsletters.

Just like that, we're close friends again. So, thank you Mark Zuckerberg, you rich Harvard dropout, for expanding my world and bringing my friends back.

Even though you're just a young whippersnapper.

*Yick-Nan is my Klingon name. Yes, I determined my Kingon name my freshman year of college. It was a late night. Wanna play? Say your name backwards. For example, my sons' Klingon Names are Ne-wo and Le-oj. Those actually sound like Ewok names, but, if said in a gruff Klingon voice, they are quite menacing. OK, my dork card is FULL for this post.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I've started this Bible study with some friends. I'm not sure how much I enjoy this study, because it is challenging me, and I prefer to remain complacent and lazy.

The study is asking me to ask God to reveal areas of "unforgiveness"---meaning, areas that I am holding on to anger or ways that I am not letting go of past hurts. It states, accurately, that when you stay angry, you are denying yourself and others the fullness of joy that God wishes for you. In other words, unforgiveness binds you, as keenly as rope. I think of Marley's ghost in A Christmas Carol---the inability to forgive weighs on a person, like the heavy chains Marley carried throughout eternity.

I have been lucky in life, and I do not have the serious hurts that others do. I was never abused, and my childhood was mostly joyful. However, I know that I can hold a grudge. So, here are a few of the things I'm going to release (and I'm really going to work on not grabbing them back):

1. When I was six years old, Bea Hendricks told me to get out of the church kitchen because I was in the way. She made me cry, and I thought she was such a mean old lady. I really gotta let it go.

2. Gretchen Preuss told me, when I was eight, that my belly looked ugly and that I needed to stop eating so much junk food. I cannot blame her for my body issues anymore.

3. In fifth grade, Erika Martin up and decided that she would not be my friend anymore. Just like that. She stopped talking to me, turned her chair away when I attempted to sit with her at her lunch table, and told Christine that I had bad breath. Then, one day, she decided that we should be friends again. I still don't know why. I need to not use her as an excuse to push female friendships away. I also need to forgive myself for being needy enough to accept her friendship without question.

4. I need to forgive every single person who I encountered or who encountered me when I was in middle school.

5. In high school, my best friend at the time fell in love. She spent less time with me. At the time, I felt alone. I now realize that she was looking for something or someone to hold on to after her mother died. I was too short-sighted to see it. It still stings. Again, I cannot allow this action to shape the way I view female friendship.

6. In college, I need to forgive myself for being needy. I don't want to write about the details. Maybe someday, when I'm feeling braver.

7. I forgive any student that ever looked at me cross-eyed. I'm a better teacher for it, even though it led to brief homicidal thoughts at the time.

8. As a parent, I must forgive myself for never doing enough, being enough, loving enough, trying hard enough. I need to stop trying, and start leaning on God.

Wow....this post has been a therapy session. Don't worry---I'll write about spit up, poo, or some other bodily function tomorrow.

However, if you've read this, you are my witnesses: I am going to release this unforgiveness from my heart, and throw off all that does not serve me, and all that does not serve my God.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

PPB--Poo, Pantyliners, and Babysitters

Here's a taste of the kind of day I've had:

Joel was sitting in his high chair, finishing up his delicious breakfast of carrots and bananas. He was making these grunting noises that can mean only one thing: he was working on something. If his noises weren't enough, the telltale purple vein on his forehead was a dead giveaway. It never fails to surprise me. When he's making such a commotion, I'm convinced that he will have a Coke Can in his diaper. Instead, after all that noise, it's always a mere nugget.

Meanwhile, as Joel grunted away, Owen was getting into things he shouldn't. So, out of character, yes? Today, he toddled out of the bathroom, brandishing a panty liner, asking, "Hello? What is that? Mommy, what is that?"

I closed my eyes and willed it all to go away. When I opened my eyes, the baby will still in mid-shit, and Owen had determined the panty liner to be a band-aid, and was wrapping it around his wrist.

Serenity Now.

In other news, I've come to realize that Paul and I need to start Date Night, or things could get seriously ugly. With one child, we were able to do fun things together, pawning Owen off on grandparents or other family members every few months. With two, things are different. Paul comes home and one or both of us is working with a boy until bedtime. When the kids are asleep, Paul and I head our separate ways to decompress. We both need our alone time---to read, go online, watch TV, putter. If we don't have it, we get testy.

Consequently, there aren't enough hours in the day for us. So, need finally overcame stinginess, and I called a reliable teenager. The average babysitter pulls down more money per hour than I did my first year teaching, but it's still worth it. Paul and I need to reconnect, and not just three to four times a year, when family's in town. It's too important. Besides, I miss him.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's All in a Name

I was driving Owen and Joel to the playground today, and I hear my firstborn say out loud, "Sharing is NOT my middle name!" He certainly hit that one on the head.

For quite some time, I was secretly smug about Owen and sharing. He was very good about it. If another child snatched a toy out of his hands, he would shrug and find something else to play with. Parents would apologize for their son or daughter's behavior, and I would say, "It's no big deal, really." And it wasn't.

All has changed. Owen now paces around his toys, snarling. Any child that enters our home enters a gladiator arena. Two toddlers enter; only one leaves. I have to be vigilant, watchful. I just don't know when my child is going to ruthlessly rip a toy from an unsuspecting friend's hands. So far, this behavior has not erupted into fisticuffs. So far.

In Owen's world, everything is his. As we were leaving the park, we were parked next to a friend, who was also leaving. Owen tells Gavin, "This is my car seat, and you better not get in it." Gavin looks at Owen like he's certifiable. Why would he want to sit in Owen's car seat? On this same trip to the playground, Owen told me that Miss Joanne was welcome to play with him at the park, but her son, Zachary, better stay away from his slide.

I am really struggling with this. I know it will get better, and I know that it's my job to teach him how to share. But it's just difficult to see your sweet-natured boy pacing the perimeter of a playground like a rabid pit bull.

Owen's real middle name is Kenneth, which means "born of fire." That kind of makes sense. Fires often start as small embers, grow into flames, then become ashes and dust. I just have to trust that the Not Sharing phase is in its inferno phase, and that someday, his need to hoard his toys will fade away, scattering like ashes in the wind.

If that doesn't happen, we'll just legally change his name to Owen Sharing Campbell. Take that!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ocean City

I spent the weekend in Ocean City with some girlfriends. This weekend was designed to be a respite, a break from the constant demands on our time, our bodies, our energy, our spirits.

I guess it goes without saying that all of these girlfriends are mothers of at least two children.

You would think that five women without children or husbands in tow would be carefree and wild, ready to let loose and party down. You would be thinking wrong. We drank wine, ate Pringles, slept, took walks, told stories, and read trashy magazines. All. Weekend. Long.

In fact, to truly drive home the point, let me confess this: I brought along Joel, and another friend brought her four-month-old daughter. We were the wild and crazy group of five exhausted mothers...and two babies.

If my pre-child self was reading this, I would immediately call my OB and double my birth control prescription. Before the boys, my travel needed to be purposeful and things needed to be seen and done. Spending the entire weekend in a condo, sharing stories and lounging, would make me want to crawl out of my skin.

Now, though, I welcome the chance to talk to other women, to learn where they've been, and where they are now. This sounds very Lillith Fair, but learning how other women navigate the shared experiences of womanhood---friendships, family, love, death, birth, parenting, and the ever-present need to do it all and take care of it all---helps me. Being a woman is a song as old as eternity---and with each story shared, each nodded head, each knowing laugh---the song becomes more complex and beautiful.

I'm grateful for my Pringles, the quiet moments to linger with the ladies, the opportunity to watch Joel explore his feet and his world. The waves crashed against the shore, the wind blew, but for a weekend, in a condo in Ocean City, we were at peace.