Sunday, May 31, 2009

Onward and Upward

Owen went to his first movie today. He and I went to the theater to see Up!

I was in tears ten minutes into the film. I won't give away any details, but it is visually gorgeous, exciting, hilarious, and deeply moving. The opening sequence, which is almost Chaplin-esque, captures the tenderness and risks of lifelong love. Oh, Pixar, you got me again. Go see it, right now. I'll wait.

Are you back now? Here's a Kleenex. Wow, huh?

I believe that songs, books, films, and people enter your life at the right time for the right reason. Call it God's hand, kismet, or fate, it was no accident that Owen and I saw this film today.

As you may have noticed from the last few entries, I've been yearning for...more. More adventure, more time, more freedom, more talent, just...more. Dissatisfaction, like insecurity or discouragement, is an arrow that the devil uses to weaken my faith. I've been feeling dissatisfaction recently, a feeling that I'm on the hamster wheel, and nothing I do is of any real significance.

I don't think I'll give too much of the movie away by describing this scene: The boy in the film, Russell, describes how he and his dad sit on the curb, eating ice cream cones, and play a game where he counts the red cars while his dad counts the blue cars. The boy says, "The little everyday stuff is the most important."

How true. Recently, I've been craving adventure and new experiences, forgetting to treasure the day-to-day magic:

Owen's first taste of movie theater popcorn.
Joel's laughter as he attempts to touch bubbles floating lazily in the air.
Paul and I, sitting on the deck, watching the tomatoes grow.
Owen and Joel, fake coughing back and forth and laughing.
Owen's heavy head resting on my shoulder as I carry him to bed.
As I feed Joel his bottle, watching him grip my finger and gently rub it back and forth on his cheek.

The everyday stuff. It's so easy to imagine another life. This film reminded me to love the life I've got, a life as joyful and buoyant as a red balloon bobbing in the beautiful blue sky.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Try to Keep Up

Some Background:
Paul and Owen are in Virginia, because Paul needed to change the brake pads on the Outback and his dad has a garage, while we merely have a gravel driveway. Owen loves to watch Paul work on the car, so off they went. They got a late start, so they decided to spend the night there. Since Paul's parents recently got over a nasty cold, I decided to stay behind with Joel and his developing immune system.

Joel woke up around 3:30, which meant we had until 6:30 to do something fun---Mommy and Son, exploring the big, big world. What could we do? We already went on a walk, the pantry was stocked, and his playground options are pretty limited at this point. It hit me like a bolt of lightening (more on that, later): The Farmer's Market! Produce, dogs, the beach, people...what's not to love? Of course, the nearest farmer's market is a thirty minute drive from my house. would be worth it to do something special, just the two of us.

I went online to see when the Farmer's Market started. 6:00 PM. Damn #1.

"Screw the schedule," I thought to myself, "The man and his clock is always putting me down. Joel will just deal."

Then, I realized that the stroller, the backpack, and the Baby Bjorn were all in the Outback, which was, at that moment, in Virginia, minus its brake pads. So,I would have to drive thirty minutes out of my way (driving past at least THREE roadside produce stands). Then, I would then have to CARRY all 22 pounds of Joel up and down the boardwalk while juggling my wallet and keys, plus bags of my luscious produce bounty and homemade goat cheese.

So...Damn #2.

Then, as if God was trying to send me a message, the heavens opened up, rumbled, and poured down rain. Soon, Joel and I were standing by the window, watching a thunderstorm of epic proportions.

Damn #3.

So, suffice to say, our Mommy and Son outing involved reading stories and stacking blocks on our living room floor, until I put him to bed at 6:30.

The rest of my evening included the following exciting activities:

1. I went online and told the Facebook universe that Owen had found a five dollar gift card in his Cheerios box. My public needs to know these things.

2. I looked at a friend's pictures of a family outing to see the movie Up! and then lunch to Chuckie Cheese. Was envious.

3. Decided to thwart said envy by accomplishing something, so I halfheartedly worked on continuing education credits to keep my teaching credential.

4. Five minutes later, I was back on Facebook. Nothing new had happened in five minutes.

5. I went to the blog, and saw that there were no new comments on any postings. Sighed dramatically.

6. Checked email. Got a message from a magazine that said, basically, that I would hear from them regarding an article I submitted for publication in SEPTEMBER. Sighed even more dramatically.

7. Went to (a professional, honest-to-God, money-making mommyblogger) and realized that there are some incredibly talented writers out there. Considered sighing yet more dramatically, but feared doing damage to my lungs.

8. All this sighing makes one hungry, so I sat down for a single girl's dinner of Twizzlers and cheese.

9. Turned on the TV. Watched What Not to Wear. Clinton and Stacy decided to give the girl who starred in Blossom a makeover. Since Blossom went off the air, the actress had earned her PhD in NEUROSCIENCE and had two kids. She also decided to dress like an Orthodox Jewish Hippie. As usual, she was encouraged to wear blazers and high heeled shoes with a box toe. She looked cute.

I wasn't a big fan of Blossom, but I'll always connect the show to my first date with Paul. We were at some forgettable sports bar, and an incredibly drunk woman kept slurring that Paul looked, "Just like the brother on Blossom."

No, not Joey Lawrence. The other brother. You be the judge:

10. After all that excitement, I decided to go to bed. I read an amazing collection of short stories called Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson and swooned.

Then, I closed the chapter on this exciting, exciting evening. I know you wish you were me.

Friday, May 29, 2009


I expected that there would be fighting. There would be tears. There would be jealousy. And yet, there would also be love.

I was right on all counts.

Although I anticipated the adapting-to-a-little-brother-drama, there's something else that didn't occur to me when we decided to have a second child: how much I would miss my husband.

When you have one child, you get to spend a lot of time with your spouse enjoying that child, together. Walks in the stroller or trips to the park involve the entire family. Owen had an entourage of lackeys, people who would carry his things for him and literally kiss his cute little baby ass. We have lots of pictures like this:

Observe: two adults, one baby, and one oddly placed basketball. Together. Marveling in what we created.

Because Owen was a baby, we had lots of time to talk. We laughed a lot, cried some, and grew closer because we now loved another person with the same intensity that we loved each other.

Then, this little monkey entered our lives. And, boy was he ever cute and perfect and wonderful. But, as is the nature of life when you have an active, loud toddler living in the same tiny house as a small, nap-needing baby, tag-teaming became a necessity.

Paul would take Owen to the beach or the park or out to breakfast, while I would stay behind so that Joel could nap. This was the way things worked because Paul lacked the hooters.

Now that Joel is weaned, we've attempted to space things so that I'll sometimes take Owen out while Paul stays behind with Joel. The reality is, though, that Paul does not get time with Owen during the week. He misses him. It doesn't make a lot of sense for him to sit in a quiet house while Joel sleeps, instead of interacting with his awake, active, hungry-for-attention son.

So, more often than not, Paul and Owen do things together, and I pull Joel duty. It's great of Owen to get the one-on-one time with his Daddy. Paul knows all the cool stuff---how motors work, how to go fishing, and how to catch jellyfish in buckets. I encourage this, and I treasure Owen and Paul's relationship.

And yet, I miss Paul. The fact is that for this season of Joel's life, it is best for him to be on a schedule. Including him when we do things as a family is great, but our window of opportunity is small indeed. He has about three hours of awake time before things become Not Fun.

Soon, very soon, Joel will be more active and better equipped to do things. We will be able to venture out to the park, the pool, the beach, the pumpkin patch, as a family of four. I imagine that as the boys play together, Paul will take my hand, and we'll talk, slowly, easily, about whatever comes to mind. What we talk about will not be important, as much as the fact that we're together, marveling in what we created.

For this season, we're apart more often than we like. But soon, we will be together again, our relationship budding like flowers in springtime.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Scrambled Eggs

This was my morning. I heard Joel prattling on at 5:45 AM. I stumbled out of bed to do the teeth/contact routine and mumbled to Paul (who was almost out the door), "That's not Owen, is it?"

"No, he's still asleep."

I finished getting myself together and then heard Paul say, "Oh, yeah, Owen's awake. Mind if I say goodbye to him?"

I nodded, and rinsed off my toothbrush as he headed upstairs. A moment later, Paul yelled, "Nancy, get up here!"

I ran upstairs, and saw Owen and Joel standing next to each other in Joel's crib. Joel was bouncing up and down, happy as can be, as was Owen. Both of them, pleased as punch.

It may have been the cutest thing I've ever seen. I didn't have my camera, so I'll attempt to recreate it and post it tomorrow.

I sent Owen downstairs, and Paul headed off to work. While I was getting Joel dressed, which was, as always, a full-contact sport, I heard disturbing crashes and clanking from downstairs. I'm pretty sure I heard the dishwasher open at least once.

Joel now dressed, I lingered with him for a moment, letting him gnaw on my shoulder before heading downstairs to face what was sure to be a Big Hot Mess.

On my way downstairs, Owen met me, gripping a raw egg. "Mommy, I'm making scrambled eggs," he cried.

Serenity Now.

I rushed downstairs, set up Joel with a mountain of Cheerios, and saw that Owen had managed to get out a bowl, a gallon of milk, cheese, a frying pan, and a carton of eggs. On further inspection, I saw the shell of an egg on the kitchen table, and the gelatinous remains of an egg in the kitchen sink. Yes, Owen decided that he was Bobby Frickin' Flay.

"Owen, do you want a scrambled egg this morning?" I asked, forgetting once again that three years old do not detect nuance or sarcasm.

"Yes, yes I do, yes I do," he replied, bouncing up and down with each word.

"Fine." At this point, I was ready to take all three of them and burrow under the covers in the fetal position. So, so tired. But, there were eggs to be made, another child to dress, a baby to feed, coffee to be made, things to accomplish. The morning was rolling, like it or not.

In yoga, they talk about setting an intention for one's practice. You can choose to focus on strength or balance or whatever. The point is to have a goal in mind. I've found this to be true with parenting, too. I have to set an intention. Am I going to be kind, loving, patient, compassionate? Not by myself.

I've learned to set my intention by praying. While the coffee brewed, the Cheerios flew, and at least some of the eggs settled in Owen's tummy, I set my intention: to lean on God to get me through another morning. I prayed for grace, for wisdom, and for patience. I set an intention, because if I did not, I would be as broken and scattered as Owen's scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Owen and I were reading a book about pirates. One of the pages showed mermaids, which sent my mind in the following direction:

1.I used to pretend to be a mermaid all the time. Like many kids from Arizona, I spent a good five months of the year in the pool, and for a good solid year, I would make anybody willing to put up with it play Mermaids. There wasn't too much to it---I would be a mermaid, swimming through the ocean, flopping my gorgeous mane of flowing hair about. My brother would be a shark, and it would be my job, as a mermaid, to run away from him and/or beat him up.

2. As I was thinking about the mermaids, I thought about Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and had a sudden wave of sadness that I would never have a daughter to play Ariel with.

3. This was immediately followed by self-disgust because I. Am. Not. Having. This. Conversation. Again. If I was meant to have a girl, God would have made it happen (or still will). I love every chubby bit of my Joely. ENOUGH, already.

4. This was followed by a rare burst of insight: I only think about having a daughter when I am tired or hungry. Instead of going down this boring road, I should consider eating grapes.

5. I ate some grapes. I realized that I didn't really want a daughter. At that moment, I was feeling a little worn down. What I was really craving was understanding.

If I want somebody to understand me, I could save myself all sorts of trouble and expense and just call a friend.

When Owen wants to stop Joel from doing something, he has taken to framing it as concern. He'll say, "I don't want Joel in the bathroom because I don't want him flushing down the toilet." or "I don't want Joel playing with my dump truck because it might hurt his teeth."

Whether this is a new and improved method of manipulating us or real concern for his brother's welfare, I'll take it.


During lunch today, Owen said, "Mommy, feed Joel some alphabet soup so he can talk to me."


When I turn around the corner and see Joel, once again, holding two fistfuls of potting soil, I swear he is smirking at me. "What are you gonna do, Mom?" he seems to ask.

For Owen's benefit, I pick him up and say, "Joel, you're taking a break. I'll tell you when you can get up."

As you can imagine, this is a powerful discipline tool. Joel is truly sorry for his misdeeds. So sorry that he heads right back for the plant like a heat-seeking missile.


Owen placed pillows all over the floor, then stood up on the couch and said, "I'm jumping in the pool! SPLOOSH!" He landed on the pillowed floor with a thud, giggled to himself, and did the same thing about thirty more times.

Joel cracked up every time he said, "SPLOOSH!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh, you caught me monologuing again!

I'm not a big fan of cartoons. I'm especially happy that as the mother of boys, I will never be subjected to anything with the word "Princess" in the title. If it's pink, frothy, and spontaneously bursts into song, I'll have nothing to do with it.

The exception, however, is virtually anything churned out by Pixar Studios. Now, I know that Pixar, until recently, was computer-generated Disney, but the films are smart, visually impressive, and almost always feature the vocal talents of John Ratzenberger (aka Cliff Clavin from Cheers).

Cars is near Scripture in our home (according to Owen). Finding Nemo will also do in a pinch (there's something about Dude Crush the Sea Turtle that brings a smile to all of our faces). We also rented Wall-E, which is surprisingly subversive and dark for a cartoon. Owen left that film with a fondness for saying "Wall-EEEE" in a high-pitched voice. I left that film with a desire to buy a composter and a hybrid car. We haven't rented any of the "Toy Story" films because a friend of ours told us that the films were "too scary." We'll take her word for it.

Out of all the Pixar films, my favorite, by far, is The Incredibles. Owen has yet to see this film, and I'm convinced that it's not designed for him, anyway. Not only does the film feature superheroes and a flashy soundtrack, but it also features the bit of brilliance quoted below. As you read this, hear the lines of Lucius as read by the one and only Samuel L. Jackson ( in his inimitable fashion):

Lucius: Honey?
Honey: What?
Lucius: Where's my super suit?
Honey: What?
Lucius: Where - is - my - super - suit?
Honey: I, uh, put it away.
[helicopter explodes outside]
Lucius: *Where*?
Honey: *Why* do you *need* to know?
Lucius: I need it!
[Lucius rummages through another room in his condo]
Honey: Uh-uh! Don't you think about running off doing no derrin'-do. We've been planning this dinner for two months!
Lucius: The public is in danger!
Honey: My evening's in danger!
Lucius: You tell me where my suit is, woman! We are talking about the greater good!
Honey: 'Greater good?' I am your wife! I'm the greatest *good* you are ever gonna get!


I bring this up because I was listening to Owen talk to himself while driving home from the gym. Like the hapless villian on The Incredibles, Owen was monologuing his planned nefarious deeds. He's so pleased with the evil he's about to do (or at least, imagine himself doing), that he gives his entire plan away.

His Plan:

(Mumbling to himself). "I'm not going to take a nap. Mommy is going to put me in bed, and I'm going to get out of bed. Then, I'm going to go into Baby Joel's room and say, 'Boo' and make him cry. Then, I'm going to go downstairs and play, play, play with Mommy and I'm not going to take a nap!"

He's smiling to himself as he says this, hoping for a big reaction on my part, or at least a halfhearted, "You have to be nice to your brother." Generally, my reaction is no reaction, which doesn't bother him like you think it would. Just saying the words out loud is enough for him, because, in its own small way, it makes it real.

People attempt to gain power by making other people feel small. Owen is generally kind enough that he doesn't actually do anything; he just talks a good game.

But... in his mind, he is capable of doing dark, dark, things. Then, he will go downstairs and play with his Mommy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Storing Up

Owen loves me more in the middle of the night than any other time. Recently, he has awakened, crying, saying, "Mommy! Don't leave! Don't leaveee! Moooooooooomy!" Last night he did it twice. All it takes is a quick tuck-in and a hug, and Owen's back to his pleasant dreams of washing machines, Diego, and Lego Water Towers, in his own bed.

We've always been very vigilant about not allowing the boys into our bed. First off, it's a full, so its already a tight squeeze for Paul and I. Secondly, we don't want them there. Yet, there are times, when I'm laying on Owen's bed, doing bedtime prayers and reading stories, that I just want to turn off the lights, smell his little head, and hold him as he drifts off to sleep.

I find myself stealing away kisses and hugs, storing them like a pioneer woman preparing her root cellar for the winter's chill. When I'm buckling him into the car seat, I'll kiss him on the cheek. When reading stories or watching TV, I'll wrap my arms around him and enjoy his warm body. Recently, he's taken to laying on the couch or the floor, and letting me gently rub his back. I'll feel the bumps of his spine, the ping of his shoulder blades, and I'll memorize the contours and textures. Sometimes, I can't help myself from patting his little bottom.

You see, he's changing already. He face is thinner--there's no baby there anymore. The dimpled legs and chubby thighs of 2006 have given way to 2009's long legs and arms. The arms that he once lifted up as a signal to pick him up are now dappled with dirt and magic marker. The legs that once toddled from chair to chair in our kitchen now run down hills and peddle tricycles.

I know, having taught middle school, that boys become stingy with their affections. They dispense kisses or hugs to their mothers about as often as they pick up their shoes or organize their backpacks. Not often. This is normal, and the way of the world.

It doesn't mean I have to like it. Some nights, I'll lie in bed, thinking of his funny little elbows and poky little tummy, and the sensation of love is so powerful that tears come to my eyes.

Although I don't always want to come to him when he calls for me at night, I fear for the day that he will no longer call.

To prepare for that day, I'm storing up, so memory can sustain and nourish me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Normal Rules

When I wake up a 4:45 AM, all my normal rules fly out the window.

Joel has had a rough couple of days with the sleep---short naps resulting in him being over-tired, and difficult to settle down. We'll put him down for bed around 6, and he'll wake up periodically, crying and moaning, before falling asleep again. We can count on him hitting his head hard against the side of his crib at least once an evening, howling at the cruelty of this rough, cold world, and then once again, returning to sleep.

It's delightful. I'm not quite sure what is causing this pattern, but I'm guessing he's either working on another tooth or fighting a head cold. Possibly both. If it is a tooth, it had better be a Bugs Bunny-sized chomper for all the drama it's causing.

On second thought, I hope not. After all, they probably make baby-sized orthodontics, too. That would really complete the picture---blue glasses, braces on his four teeth, and his pants pulled up to his armpits a la Urkel.

I kid. You know he's cute. See?

Cute he may be, he's also getting up really early, which means one of us is getting up really, really early. Today, it was my turn. So, like I said at the top of this page, when it's 4:45 AM, most of my rules are...modified. If Joel wants to chew on the remote control, Paul's flip-flop, or a magazine featuring the wit and wisdom of Spencer Pratt, that's fine with me. Whatever keeps me from getting off the couch.

When Owen comes downstairs also entirely too early, because (despite my best intentions), Joel's grunting and "Ma-Ma-Ma-Mas" have awakened him, I don't hesitate to turn on the 6 AM showing of "Sesame Street," and then sit in the dark haze, staring blankly, all of us in our jammies.

And, when we put Joel back down at 6:45, and Paul decides to take Owen out for pancakes, I choose to ignore the fact that Joel WAKES UP AT 7:00. He's apparently ready to go after a restorative slumber of FIFTEEN MINUTES.

Instead, I turn on the computer, turn off the baby monitor, and pretend that the squeaks and bouncing coming from Joel's room are actually the gentle sounds of nature on this beautiful May morning.

My early morning. My rules.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Judy Mohrman is an Undercover Domestic Diva

Whenever I read a historical novel or talk to my grandmother, I thank my lucky stars that I was born in the Seventies. Not only did I grow up with orange shag carpet and avocado counter tops, I also dodged a serious bullet: genuine housewife drudgery.

My grandmother would tell me tales of heating the iron, starching the collars, and boiling the water on laundry day---a hot, sweaty ordeal that took a good eight hours. Instead of Tide-to-Go, my grandmother and her contemporaries used lye soap. It often caused blisters and raw, chapped hands. This was not that long ago, people.

My grandmother darned socks, polished kettles, cooked meals, washed windows, and scrubbed everything---as she was expected. She did all this without special cleansers or the miracle of the Magic Eraser. Just elbow grease and persistence.

Fast forward to 1975. I was born to a mother who had read Betty Frieden and dressed me in gender-neutral overalls. She stayed at home, and kept a tidy home, but I don't recall her being a clean freak. My brother and I had chores---cleaning our rooms, Windexing the sliding glass door, sweeping, unloading the dishwasher--and while annoying, it was not backbreaking. I certainly don't remember Mom sitting me down and teaching me the secrets of good housekeeping. The message I learned was: Clean your house so you don't live in filth. End of story.

I didn't learn until I had my own home that my mother was a covert expert in all thing domestic. I would call her up, complaining about a stubborn stain and she would spout off some magical concoction involving vinegar and baking soda. She was full of 'em. Before I had my own home, I didn't know that refrigerators and ovens needed to be cleaned. I learned that baseboards gathered dust over time. Ceiling fans did not clean themselves.

How did I miss all this crucial information?

True story: after Owen was born, Mom came out to help me. Since newborns sleep a lot, Mom did all sorts of cleaning jobs to occupy herself. She made some vile brew in her Cauldron of Cleanliness one afternoon, and started working on a black spot on the stove top.

"Don't bother," I said, "that's not a spot, just an big paint chip. I've tried already to clean it off."

You can see where this is going. By the time Mom and her goo were finished, my stove top was once again gleaming and new.

I don't know if I lack my mother's knowledge because she was aspiring to free me from the domestic drudgery of her generation, or if I was just a typical teenager that did the minimal requirements and assumed her mother was clueless.

If I was a betting woman, I would double down on option #2.

At the library, I saw a beautiful book by Martha Stewart which was all about cleaning. In one page after another of household porn, Martha demonstrated how I could have pressed, lavender-scented sheets or an oven cleaner than a typical operating room. I almost checked the book out, then stopped myself.

Why would I listen to Martha (a convicted criminal, for Pete's sake), instead of calling dear old Mom?

Besides, Mom looks much better in a poncho.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Seventh District

Today we went strawberry picking with playgroup friends. We traveled to the "7th District," of Maryland, which is on the Potomac side of St. Mary's county, populated almost entirely by old-school, original Maryland people---waterman, tobacco farmers, sharecroppers, and the Amish. We lived out there when we first moved to Maryland, because we wanted to keep our dog, we could not afford to buy, and the only rental that would take pets was in the 7th District.

Talk about culture shock. We attempted to talk to our new neighbor shortly after we moved in, and we could not understand his version of English. Words cannot do justice to his manner of speech. Let's just say that for a girl from the Arizona suburbs, it felt like I had moved to the lunar surface. I soon discovered that almost everybody I met from the 7th District was either a Copsey or a Mattingly, and sometimes both. Most of the people who lived in our neighborhood had owned their land since the days that The Arc and The Dove docked on St. Clement's island (the birthplace of Maryland, and, naturally, in the 7th district).

We knew that our stay in the 7th district was temporary, so we soaked in the atmosphere. We would pick up groceries and six-packs from the corner store, where Donna would tell us that we could "catch her next time," if we were a dollar or two short. Paul would occasionally bring home brown grocery bags filled with fresh Blue Crabs cooked in Old Bay seasoning. In October, we attended the international oyster schucking championship in Leonardtown, MD. The winner, a woman from Japan, carried her trophy---a large trident---with pride. Come spring, we would buy our vegetables and baked goods from the local Amish families.

We became friends with a couple down the road. She was a stained glass artist; he helped her schlep her creations to various art shows up and down the Eastern corridor. They were newlywed-happy, this being the second marriage for both. They spent their days creating art, fishing by the pier, going on long walks, and drinking nightcaps on their deck.

Taking us under their wing, they introduced us to Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham, a strange concoction which involves stuffing spiced cabbage into a large ham. There are as many versions of stuffed ham as there are Mattinglys and Copseys, but it seemed that the fun of stuffed ham is not the eating, but the preparation, flavored with good conversation and strong margaritas.

Our year in the Seventh District was not without hardship. It was very lonely---I worked over an hour away and spent up to three hours a day commuting. I missed the easy convenience of Tucson---with restaurants, movie theatres, malls, and manicured parks. When our lease ended, we moved to a more populated county, closer to my work. We live there now, and have no regrets. was fun to go back to that year today, as Owen and his friends picked strawberries. Strawberries thrive under very specific conditions---too much rain, for example, will hurt the crop. Likewise, there's nothing wrong with the 7th District---it was just too much rural for me.
I need my neighbors to speak recognizable English and my grocery stores to be well-stocked, if a bit impersonal. Otherwise, I'll wither on the vine.

It's neither a good thing or a bad thing; it's just what my heart told me. When your heart speaks, it's good to listen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Discipline is a very personal thing. Get five parents in a room, and there will be five different lines in the sand. The goal remains the same: raising happy, confident children without any outstanding warrants or arrests (on either the child or adults' parts).

Because my son is gifted at pushing my buttons, I've read various books and polled friends and acquaintances about the best method of discipline. Then, after all this judicious research, I ended up doing what felt right to begin with. So, if you're reading this and you're not in the middle of it, save yourself some time and trust your instincts. And pray. Often.

Most importantly, for the love of all that is beautiful and holy, don't watch Supernanny or Nanny 911. These shows exist solely to undermine your self-confidence and sell more books.

If I had to nail my strategy down to a sentence or two, it would be: Shape up or face the logical consequences. I'm a BIG fan of logical consequences.

If Owen tears up a library book, he's paying for it through chores or money from his piggy bank. (Owen actually just did this, and I'm secretly relishing the fact that he will have to apologize and be humble before a librarian. I hope that I get a slightly mean one, who lets him know the Seriousness Of His Actions.)

If Owen acts like a jackass in a restaurant, we leave the restaurant and sit in the car. If Owen stalls too much before bed, he does not get his bedtime story. Logical Consequences.

A Disclaimer: Know that I lose my cool all the time (for reference, read ANY OTHER POSTING on this blog). In any event, I must share with you our newest successful discipline strategy: It's Going in the Trash Can (IGITTC)

When Owen is prepared to knock Joel out for gumming one of his seven thousand blocks, I tell him, "You let Joel play with that or IGITTC". Instant Compliance. Likewise, when Owen is suddenly too helpless to clean up his toys, a simple IGITTC threat magically revives him.

The key to this strategy is to actually throw a few things in the trash can so he understands that we'll carry out the threat. For example, Owen, who has been using the big toilet for some time now, found the potty. He decided that he wanted to once again pee and poo in the potty. The prospect of cleaning this contraption (again) was unthinkable. No potty for Owen.

Oh, the fits! The drama! The endless, relentless whining---"I neeeeeeeeeeeeed that potty! That's myyyyyyyyyyyy potty!" could very well serve along side waterboarding or incessant playings of "It's a Small World After All" as torture. So, Paul said, without anger, "Nope, the potty is going in the trash can." He loaded Owen up, drove the the dump, and chucked the potty into the dumpster, right before his eyes.

Owen was not happy. This is perhaps was not the most ecologically sound choice. Additionally we'll have to buy a new potty when it's time to potty train Joel. But, oh, did it work.

I had to use this strategy just the other day. We were at the store, and Owen was being delightful, so I let him pick out a treat: Wonder Pets Fruit Snacks. On the way home from the store, Owen ate a package. He asked for another.

"No," I said, "We're going to go home and eat lunch."

"Wonder Pets Crackers! [I know--he decided to call them crackers] Now, Mommy!"

"No, Owen," I said.

"NOOOOOW!" he cried, his little hands clenched into fists.

"If you ask me again, Owen, the Wonder Pets Crackers are going bye-bye."

"Mommy, give me Wonder Pets Crackers NOW!"

I did not respond. Owen took off his Green Croc and threw it in my general direction.

I pulled over the car. We were on a side street, next to a farm. I picked up the box of fruit snacks. I opened the door, placed them gently on the ground, and drove away.

Owen proceeded to lose his shit. I said nothing, and let the consequence do the teaching.

So, IGITTC works as a strategy, but an unintended consequence is that Owen thinks his parents are loony. Just a few minutes ago, I was helping Owen pull his pants up. "Mommy, " he said, "please don't flush my underwear down the toilet."

"Owen, why would I do that?"

"I don't know. But please don't, Mommy."

I didn't know what to say. So, I said the first thing that popped into my mind, "Make sure you're a good boy, so you can keep your underpants."

Monday, May 18, 2009

A True Yogi

I did an internet thingy awhile ago where I asked friends and acquaintances to explain what would cause me to be in the back of a police car. The results included:

*Civil disobedience
*Knocking somebody out to get a book at the library (OK, this is a little close to the truth)
*Knifing a creepy man who looked at my boys wrong.
*Dealing heroin (This must have been a friend from college...)
*Reckless driving due to attempts to keep Joel awake while simultaneously drinking a latte. (Again, close to the truth).

I've got creative friends. Go, creative friends!

However, I must inform you all that there is a new crime to add to the list. I wish to kidnap Kimberly, the Best Yoga Instructor EVER.

Oh, Kimberly. You, a mother of four who can nevertheless stand on one foot while holding the other foot to the ceiling. You, who can discuss "root lock" and "sitz bones" without making me snort like a seventh grader. You somehow cause me to focus on my breathing and my practice instead of the state of my eyebrows or the cute outfit of my neighbor.

When I do Warrior Three, which involves balancing on one leg while holding my arms aloft, your murmur of "Beautiful," makes me feel like I'm soaring. When you remind us to practice "Santi," (meaning truth) in our practice it inspires me to live more honestly, both on and off the mat.

During your class, I find myself thinking of the strength of womanhood. When we do poses called "Goddess Pose," or "Moon Warrior," I honor my body, thinking of the strength it took for me to bear two children. I don't usually think this way, because it's a little hippy-dippy, but when I'm holding a pose and challenging my limitations, I allow myself this indulgance.

In final relaxation, you places soft, scented towels over our eyelids and gently press our shoulders down, releasing any remaining tension. I'm struck by how little I am touched during the day, and the power of said touch. The boys touch, but it is a taking, needy touch. You gives with kindness.

I leave yoga feeling taller, calmer, and more pleased with my body.

I also leave with nefarious plans to kidnap you, my yoga instructor, so I can summon you to teach me at my bidding.

What can I say? I'm not a true yogi yet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Morning in C-Ville

Paul decided that he wanted to run a half marathon this weekend, so he signed up for a small race in Waynesboro, VA. Waynesboro is about an hour out of Charlottesville, which is about an hour and a half from my in-law's house, which is about an hour and a half from our house in MD.

Got all that?

He considered getting a hotel room for Friday night (half-marathon eve), but decided that $150 dollars was not worth the convenience. Instead, this was Paul's plan:

1. Drive to his parents' house Friday night.

2. Leave his parents' house at 3:30 AM Saturday morning to get to Waynesboro in time for the race at 7:00 AM. Then, run 13.1 miles. Then, drive back to VA to spend the weekend with his mom and dad.

When he asked me if I wanted to come along, my first response was a hearty, "Hell, no!" However, after giving it some thought, I changed my mind. These are the lengths I will take to spend some time alone with my husband.

In all seriousness, I haven't been able to support Paul's running for some time now. Most races are far away and start early in the morning---not the best combo when working with toddlers and babies. For the past two marathons, I've been home with the boys, and Paul's cheering section is thus quieter than it should be.

So, we decided that it would be good practice for us to leave both boys with Paul's folks, and at 3:30 Saturday morning, we were bound for the mountains.

I slept most of the way up, and was startled awake when Paul pulled into a gas station. I figured we were in Waynesboro, being that it was 5:30 AM. Paul often gets to races super-early so he can shiver in the cold, wait in line for the Port-A-John, and do a warm-up run, among other neurotic pre-race rituals.

Instead, Paul turned to me and said, "I am not feeling up to this today."

This is not Paul. Paul is the one that runs through blizzards, up hills, in the heat, and through the hail. I'm the one that gets incredulous looks from my neighbors as they scrape the ice off their windshields and ask, "Was that your husband I just saw running through the snowbank?"

So, when Paul says he's not up to something, something is up. It turns out that he got about two hours of sleep the night before---Joel was fussing (and I was unaware), and Paul also had work stuff that was running through his head, keeping him awake.

When Paul said, "I don't think this race is going to happen," I asked him if he was sure. He was.

"So," I said, "What do we do in Charlottesville, VA at 5:30 in the morning?"

Paul thought for a moment, "We sleep in the car until Starbucks opens, then we go from there."

That is exactly what we did. We waited in front of Starbucks like jittery alcoholics on a Sunday afternoon. We drank our coffee, and enjoyed a conversation that flowed like a meandering stream. We talked about work, dreams, the future, the past, and naturally, the boys. We relished the simple pleasures of complete thoughts and shared affection.

After an hour at Starbucks, we decided to have breakfast and coffee. After breakfast (two beautiful breakfast burritos and fancy-pants organic, free-trade coffee), we ended our morning in going to Old Navy.

Paul needed shorts. Badly.

So, no, we didn't see Monticello, or The University of Virginia, or the various vineyards, or the mountains. We certainly didn't get to Waynesboro.

We did, however, do what we do best: share stories, make each other laugh, and make the best of any situation.

Who needs to sleep in when you've got that?

Friday, May 15, 2009


Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Words of Wisdom

I've heard some insightful things this week:

"Pretend you're on a reality show."

This has not been my finest week with the boys. I've used more imperative sentences than necessary, ending most of them with the word, "Now!" Owen's usual announcement that "I don't like Joel, and I'm going to take his toys away from him," made me want to toss him in the dumpster.

Not a reasonable response. I've felt like a bear, being poked at with a big stick. With every little poke, I'm baring my fangs and slashing blindly. If I don't get myself to a dark, quiet cave, there's gonna be a mauling.

I was talking about this with a friend, and she understood completely. She said that when she has days like that, she plays a mental game with herself. She pretends that she is on a reality show, and that cameras are filming her every move.

Now, just this week, I've opined about the goofballs of reality TV, but I decided to give it a try today. And wouldn't you know...I censored myself, took a few more deep breaths, and today has been a better day.

"Stop Feeding the Rat"

This book I'm reading (The Coffee Mom's Devotional by Celeste Palermo) discusses the idea that many women have rats running on wheels in their heads, with endless to-do lists and self-induced pressures. She writes, "My rat runs on the need to please and the need to perform."

Did that ever hit home. Now that I'm done with the college class, I've decided to take writing more seriously. I'm working on a few different articles for submission and I've entered a few writing contests as well. This is exciting in regards to pursuing a dream and using my mind, but it is frustrating because these pesky kids keep me from doing what I want to do.

I'll find myself playing blocks with Owen, my mind on Planet Article. I'm only half-listening to his story of the Tree Frogs and their Pyramid, because all I want is for the boys to be upstairs, asleep and content. That way, I can write about the cool things they do and the lessons I'm learning as a mom.

See the problem here? I need to give my flesh-and-blood babies the passion I've reserved for my paper-and-ink babies.

Getting back to the rats. This book has forced me to examine why I'm so focused on writing. I think that part of the reason is that it brings me joy, and I think that it's a gift God has given to me to help other people.

I also think that I am a Type-A first child, and I want and need attention---the need to please, the need to perform. Look at meeeeeee! Love meeeeeeeeeee!

So, I'm going to stop feeding the rat. That doesn't mean that I'm going to be complacent and lazy. I don't think we're given gifts and talents for that purpose.

I am, however, going to do whatever job I happen to be doing---parenting, writing, driving, cleaning---with 100% of my attention.

And, I'm going to stop working so hard to get gold stars from other people. Instead, I'll try to make those I care about feel like stars.

This is not easy, but nothing that's important ever is.

Besides, if I don't try, my imaginary camera crew will film it. And that would be embarrassing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


No more posts like yesterday. I received calls or emails from friends, family, and my spiritual adviser (who also doubles as a friend). Paul didn't say, but I wonder if he also got calls suggesting the removal of sharp implements and prescription medications.

Perhaps I was a WEE bit over the top. Things are much better today.


Owen's imagination is exploding in ways that make me super-happy. He's reminding me more and more of my brother, who has always been a soul unencumbered by the rules that weigh the rest of us down. Owen's newest thing is a cheap lightweight chair. We usually use the thing as a footstool when we paint, or as extra seating when we have company.

Now that Owen has claimed it as his own, he has taken to laying it on the ground and making a driver's seat out of the cross-crossy things by the legs of the chair. He'll push the chair forward, and declare that it is:
*A combine, cutting down the freshest corn
*A road paver, making a new road
*A lawnmower, giving the grass a haircut

When I tell him that it's a race car, he gives me a condescending stare and says, "Mommy, no."

Mothers of sons know the proper names of all large construction vehicles. Before children, I would think, "Look, a diggy-thingy." Now I'll say, "Look, boys, a large Track Excavator!"


I'm going to start teaching a "Writing the Motherhood Experience" class for adults at the local community center. Doing something new always gets the blood pumping. I hope that in this economy, there are enough mothers with a hankering to write to make the class a "go." Stay tuned...

In a fine bit of parenting, I fed my baby so much that he burst. I fed Joel some homemade organic squash (I'm not bragging--my friend made it). He was still hungry. I fed him some applesauce. He was still hungry. I fed him some rice cereal. He was still hungry. I made him play for a bit, than made eight ounces of formula for his bedtime bottle. He sucked down six ounces, than made an ungodly noise, and projectile vomited an apple-squash-formula-rice cereal amalgam of evil. I had stuffed him to the gills.

He woke up again an hour later, ravenous. It

Cannot. Wait. for the season finale of Lost. I've harnessed all my nerd power in preparation. I'm also thinking of seeing the Star Trek movie this weekend. Do I need an intervention?

After dating for awhile, Paul and I took a trip to his family home in Virginia (this is when we still lived in Arizona). We were driving down a country road, when Paul suddenly pulled over. He got out of the car, picked up a small box turtle that was inching its way across the road, and placed it back in the woods. "I always do that," he said.

He's a keeper, that one.

Monday, May 11, 2009

TV Epiphany

After thinking long and hard about what to post today, I finally settled on an important issue, one of utter importance to us all.

I'm speaking, of course, of Jon and Kate Plus Eight.

This program should be subtitled "Husband Repellent," because nothing will send Paul into the other room quicker than this show. If the whining and wailing of one (or more) of the eight children, does not sufficiently raise Paul's blood pressure, the interviews with Jon and Kate will.

Paul calls Jon, "the man with the dead eyes," for this man has been hen-pecked by his wife to the point that nothing fazes him. He just stares and drifts off to his happy place, while his wife berates him for neglecting to use a coupon, being an inattentive father, or for breathing too loudly. None of these examples are exaggerated.

That being said, I hope that the rumors of infidelity are unfounded, because there are kids involved. Also, Jon and Kate apparently speak at Christian churches, so it would be nice to not confirm some people's expectations that faith=hypocrisy.

While Paul heads for the hills, I find myself watching, fascinated. I watch for the same reason that I fill my mind with other garbage, such as House Hunters or America's Next Top Model:

First of all, there's something to admire. Just as I coo over the vaulted ceilings and wainscoting on House Hunters, or covet the cheekbones of Eva or Heather on Model, I admire the cuteness of the eight kids. They are always clean, generally dressed in adorable matching frocks, and they say and do funny things.

Yet, and I fear this is the real reason I continue to tune in, these shows make it easy to feel superior. When the doofus of the week on House Hunters explains that a house is perfect, "except for the paint," I look at my own (self-painted) walls and nod smugly. Likewise, when the model of the week is in hysterics because she's plumping out to a size four, I roll my eyes and eat another Sour Patch Kid. And yes, when Kate threatens to throw away the beloved comfort object of one of her children (because he got gum on it), it's easy for me to think, "What a terrible mother. I would never do that."

Except that I could. And I have. Just the other day, I was furious at Owen because he had torn apart a basket while upstairs, "napping." I said, "How would you like it if I tore Big Teddy's head off? Would that make you feel good?"

Owen's tears assured me that, no, that would not make him feel good. Despite the fact that I'm the adult, I didn't fight fair. I was impatient, disrespectful, and downright nasty. And I only have two children, not eight.

Perhaps there should be a third reason to watch these reality programs, if I truly cannot think of a better way to occupy my time. Perhaps I should watch with a spirit of empathy and humility, understanding that it is possible to be short with your child, dislike a paint color, or even (heavens!) be a size four, yet still be human, and forgiven.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Before and After

Before I had children, this is what one of my boobs looked like. Okay, not completely like this, but this is a close approximation.

Now, sadly, this is far more accurate.

Sunday mornings once included coffee and a leisurely perusal of the newspaper.

Now, I read this nonsense, with different voices for each rain forest animal. That Kinkajou voice is a bitch.

Before children, I did not consider stairway tree houses or fishing trips with Daddy to be the highlights of my week.

And, I never expected that a trip to Great Clips would make me swell with pride and swallow a boulder-sized lump in my throat simultaneously.

I wouldn't trade my after for my before. Even for the balloon-sized green knockers.

Happy Mother's Day, y'all.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Things People Probably Didn't Know About Me

*I got scholarships to college, thanks to gifts from the AZ Mining Association and The Ayn Rand Society. I can tell you a lot about copper mining and Ayn Rand.

*I will not touch the drain of a pool, because my hair will get sucked into the drain and I will die.

*I cannot stop reading about Sarah Palin and her brood of oddly named children.

*When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be Chinese.

*I pretend to do ballet every morning in my kitchen. I don't know how to do ballet, but my version involves lots of spinning and fluttering about.

*I have been obsessed with the following people: Gilda Radner, John Lennon, the character of Chekov (from Star Trek), Mary Lou Retton, David Sedaris, Amy Sedaris, and others that are too embarrassing to mention. Yes, more embarrassing to mention than Chekov.

*I hate wearing turtlenecks because I feel like I am choking.

*My brother and I used to play a game where we would tie the other person to a chair, and see if the person could break free.

*I always check underneath the car to make sure that a crazy man isn't going to cut my Achilles tendon with a knife.

*I like smelling Owen's neck.

*I would still read Sassy magazine, if I could.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Love on Ice

I just watched a YouTube video posted by my friend Janet. It's of her daughter, Madelin, practicing her figure skating routine, on what looks like a shopping mall's ice rink.

She stepped onto that ice with confidence, spread her arms, and glided. She skated backwards, picking up momentum, then lifted up her leg, and jumped. She twisted. She twirled. And yes, she stumbled. She never fell down, but she did need to make adjustments. You could see the strain, and it was a reminder that despite the appearance of lightness and grace, she was working hard.

My heart swelled with pride, even though I have never met Madelin. I haven't seen Janet since 1999, maybe? Yet, I love her daughter because I know that she is Janet's world, just as I love all of my friends' children, because they are my friends' hearts.

I love my future niece, Kiri, who is still baking, and should stay in the oven until September. Of course I also adore her big brother, my nephew, William.

I love the little Chinese son or daughter, waiting to be adopted by my dear friends, Jamie and Eric. Come home soon, little one. Josh, Cara, Owen, and Joel are waiting for you.

I love the children my brother may or may not have. Auntie Nancy promises to be another adult who cares about you.

I love the children I have never met---Madelin, David, Jonathan, Mika, Caedmon, Alec, Sofia, Mason (to name just a few). I'm learning your stories from a distance.

I love my friend's children---Owen and Joel's friends, classmates, Sunday School buddies, and future spouses (Cara? Danielle? Adrie? Ella? Jordan? Emmy?).

Loving is a risk, like stepping onto a slick ice. But, oh, the grace and beauty that comes from that step!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Day Too Complicated to Title Succinctly

I was in my sweatpants, ready to close the curtains on this miserable excuse of a day by noon. I figured that while the day was miserable, it would make a slightly amusing, if overly drama-Queenish blog entry for your fleeting amusement.

I had a whole list of things to complain about:

*Joel starting his day at five AM

*Owen banging things too loudly and gulping his juice like an inbreed guppy.

*Owen taking a GINORMOUS dump and then running around the house, without wiping or putting his pants back on. Or, naturally, washing his hands.

*Forcing Owen to wash his hands, and having him splash water in my face.

*Losing the phone number of a new friend, due to an earlier email deleting frenzy. Consequently, standing her up for a play date. I really like this person, and I'm sure she thinks I'm a flake.

*Going to the gym to do a Pilates class with Click and Clack (see earlier entry), only to realize that doing Pilates in super-short running shorts is a bad idea. There's lots of leg spreading, and I was starting to feel like Madonna about halfway through.

*Picking up the boys at the gym daycare to hear Joel wailing. "What happened?" I asked.
The worker explained to me that Owen knocked Joel down, "again." When I tried to get Owen to apologize to his brother, he said, "No apologies, and I want you to take me to Panera." Well, then. I've apparently raised an asshole.

*Finding out that they are charging parents five extra dollars a month to use the gym's daycare, on top of existing gym fees. Discussing this with the owner, I used the phrase, "shitty," and "whatever," and then burst into tears.

I got home, changed into my sweatpants, and prepared to ride the rest of the day out, playing Cars on endless loop, if necessary.

Then, the phone rang.

Joanne's voice was clipped and strained. "I need you to come to Calvert [the hospital] right now and pick up Zachary. We'll figure out cars when you get here."

Shit. I loaded up the boys, giving Owen a box of Kix to eat for lunch. As I pulled into the parking lot, the helicopter was landing to whisk Joanne's-six-month-old-baby, Austin, off to Children's National Medical Center. He had been sitting in a Bumpo seat on a table, and fell off, fracturing his skull.

I took her older son, Zachary, as well as my two boys home. I got to drive her minivan, since my Outback lacks the seating for three. And, damn. That was a sweet ride.I understand my friend Nikki, who calls her blog "Confessions of Minivan Lover." It was such a nice ride that I almost want to trade in my Subaru. Almost.

I got the three boys home, put Joel down for his nap, and proceeded to watch Owen be a complete and utter asshole. It's not like Zachary, who is a year younger, missed his nap, and has suddenly been whisked away from his family, needs Owen to rip toys from his hands and explain to him that he's not entitled to juice, because, "it's mine, mine, MINE!"

I was, plain and simple, ashamed of my son. Surely he could rise to the occasion. His lack of empathy can be breathtaking.

When Zachary's grandparents picked him up, I was grateful that he had the opportunity to return to the comfort of his own home. I don't think that his stay at our house was misery, but I'm pretty sure that he was ready for his own space, his own toys, and his own bed.

I was ready for a phone call from Joanne. I'm grateful to report that Austin has no bleeding, and
will likely be released from the hospital tomorrow.

This was not my best day. It was certainly not Joanne, Zachary, Owen, or Baby Austin's best day, either. Yet, a rough day is still a day of unquestionable blessings.

We're all still here. People are good. And, God is in control.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

If Owen Wrote the Blog...

Hello, my minions. You probably cannot wait to hear the latest musings of your leader.

Today, my mom took Baby Joel to the doctor, and left me with Miss Melissa and her son Bruce. This was all right in my book because Miss Melissa has a washer and dryer. The hypnotic tossing of the clothing, the smell of Tide, the churn of the that's good times.

Since Mom and Dad don't have a front-loader, I'm forced to entertain myself in other ways. For example: last night, I found the duct tape.
I asked Mom to tape ice packs to the sliding glass window. Perfectly reasonable, right? Then I decided that the tape would also be a fantastic way to keep a blanket on a chair, because I was making a garage out of a kitchen chair and a baby blanket.

Are you still with me?

Then, I decided that the tape also made fantastic roads and train tracks. So, I decided to make the entire house my own personal Beltway. See?

This kept me busy until bedtime.

This morning, when my mom dropped me off at Miss Melissa's house, she told me that if I was good, she would buy me more duct tape.

When Mom and Joel came to pick me up, Miss Melissa told my mom that I might be an engineer because I kept asking questions about motors.

I wasn't quite sure what that all meant. All I know is that every minute they spent talking was another precious minute away from the washer.

Miss Melissa is great, except that she thinks this guy is really interesting, too.
Even people with amazing washers and dryers have their blind spots.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Gift that Keeps Giving

They say mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. When my son points his finger in my face and sternly tells me, "That's enough. And don't do that again," I should be flattered, yes? Likewise, when Owen tells Joel to "Stop squealing like a little girl," Paul should feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I don't think there's anything wrong with squealing like a little girl. I've done it once or twice. Paul, however, does not like it when Owen's shrieks send dogs a 'howling. Hence, the slightly misogynistic admonishment to avoid shrieking like the aforementioned "little girl." And now, the torch has been passed, and Owen has passed on the message to Joel that being a little girl is a bad thing.

Way to go, Paul.

There is, I suppose, a reason that feminists have earned a reputation as humorless. I should just blow this off, instead of taking the time to think and write about the topic. But, as the only woman in this family ship, I feel the need to stay vigilant, heading off any misconceptions about gender roles before they become cemented into fact.

I know the real work comes not in words, but in actions. If I want the boys to see women as equal partners in a relationship, Paul and I need to show that partnership. I think we do a good job in that respect---Paul watches the boys when I go to work, and when we're both home, we're both changing diapers, preparing meals, wiping floors, and playing with the kids.

More importantly, though, we speak kindly to each other. We try to see the other perspective. We remember that words and body language matter.

The bottom line is, the boys don't give a rip about either of our careers, our dreams, or our aspirations. They just want us to be around and present for them. Yet, if we model the way that men and women should treat each other, we're giving them more than our time---we're giving a gift to them, our future daughter-in-laws, and our future grandchildren.

It doesn't hurt to make Owen do some traditional "woman's work," either:

Those walls can get filthy. Good thing Owen is able to vacuum them. Do I get bonus points for the toy kitchen? Laundry: The Gift That Keeps Giving...And, he does windows, too!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Right Stuff

Paul is traveling to Virginia Beach today to hob-knob with Marines. It'll be a quick trip, but long enough that he'll be gone for two days, when you add in travel.

I don't relish the opportunity to be a single parent. When 4:30 rears its ugly head, I'm usually by the door, pacing like Marmaduke (you know...the cartoon dog), ready to tackle Paul with kisses, and more importantly, needy children.

I'm human, and I'm ready to punch my time card, slide down my dinosaur, and yabba-dabba-do myself away from the kids for a bit.

Alas, that will not be the case today or tomorrow. Surprisingly, I am okay with this. When Paul's around a lot, like on an extended weekend, I sometimes find myself being lazy. I'll let him do the heavy lifting with the kids---flossing Owen's teeth, waking up with Joel in the wee hours of the morning, time outs, diaper changes. While it is nice to take a break, it also makes me feel strangely dependent on him. I find myself wondering how I can possibly deal with the boys when they are at their worst---do I have the proverbial "right stuff"?

Of course I do. When I am alone with the boys, my glass of self-efficacy runneth over. I can do the hard stuff, and I do it. There's no time to complain or pass the buck. I just competently and effectively parent my children, doing the job of father and mother, because that's just what needs to be done.

I don't love doing it all, but it gives me the confidence that if---God forbid--I was in a situation where I was alone with the kids more often than I am presently, I would rise to the challenge. My friend Janet, who is the single mother of a beautiful preteen daughter, explains that "it's just putting one foot in front of the other."

That may be true, but it is nevertheless inspiring to walk in those feet, even if only for two days.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Heavy Lifting

I did the children's sermon at church today, and had a good time. I talked about pets, which is, I'm convinced, one of the quickest ways to make a connection, regardless of the age of your audience.

In this case, I compared Jesus the Good Shepherd to Kids the Good Pet Owners. I hope the kids walked away with the idea that Jesus loves them as much as they love their pets. I fear they may have walked away with the idea that Jesus considers us His pets.

That's the trouble with talking metaphorically.

Nevertheless, the experience caused me to think about my career options. I've never considered being a pastor because I grew up in a religious institution that only had male clergy. So, it truly never occurred to me that I could to be a pastor.

I've also never considered being a rodeo clown, professional poker player, or a Rockette, despite the fact that these are also options available to women. They are simply not options for this woman. So, let's call a spade a spade: it's possible that I've not considered ministry for reasons beyond my chromosomes.

I know that I could not be a pastor because I would be frustrated with the glacial pace of reform, I would cringe at the endless meetings, I would not be able to thoughtfully address questions of faith, and black makes me look all washed out and ghoulish.

But, it would be fun to be a pastor if my sole job was to do baptisms and children's sermons. That I could handle.

I'm grateful that I had the chance today to try something new, and I'm even more grateful that there are people, like my pastors, who do the heavy and tedious lifting so that I can do the fun stuff.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


One glass of wine: delightful.

Two glasses of wine: indulgent

Three glasses of wine: You should know better by now, you stupid cow.

I'm nursing a headache and was unable to eat anything more substantial than a banana until two hours ago.

I am thirty four and the mother of two. When will I learn?

Owen is spending another weekend with his grandparents, so it's been just us and Joel. In the course of the afternoon, the baby has managed to:

*Grab fistfuls of potting soil and fling it onto the floor.
*Open up the cabinet with the bleach, detergent, and ant poison. This is the one cabinet that still has a "child-proof" latch on it.
*Destroy two of Owen's books.
*Make quick work of any room he enters. A sample:

This is what I don't understand: What, exactly, has prevented me from, I don't know, stopping him? Owen wasn't there. I have no excuse except that any intervention would have involved leaving my couch nest.

I took Joel to the library yesterday and heard the following comments/questions:

*Does your baby actually need glasses? (No, I just like to dress him up in costumes).
*Mommy, look at that silly baby with glasses!
*You must have a smart baby! (Yes, yes I do. Now that he has the glasses. Before, he was a moron).
*Hey, it's Ralphie! (From A Christmas Story)
*Hey, Where's Waldo? (This is the second time I've heard this.)
*Hey, it's a Poindexter baby! (Also the second time I've heard this. The first person to say this was Joel's Ear-Nose-Throat doctor, right before his surgery).

Joel has this penguin toy that he really really likes. It is his Personal Penguin, and "Wherever it goes, he'll go there too/here and there and everywhere/And always with you" (apologies to Sandra Boynton and her children's book, Your Personal Penguin).

Please enjoy the baby Poindexter/Personal Penguin cuteness...while I go take another Advil.

Friday, May 1, 2009


My mother left a message yesterday, giddy because she had done her first headstand in her yoga class. She said, "I just kept creeping forward and forward, and before I knew it I was upside down!"

Gotta love Mom. She was diagnosed with diabetes about a month ago, and decided, in effect, to say, "Screw you, diabetes!" She has dropped seventeen pounds and has upped her weight-loss goal from twenty-five pounds to forty. She has to wear a belt now. When she goes to cook-outs, she happily eats the meat (no bun), carrot sticks and just a dollop of potato salad.

And, out of nowhere, she has become a yogi.

My mother is not a ditherer. When she decides to do something, it happens. Whether it be a new initiative for her church, a last-minute trip to California, a house project, or a body overhaul, she moves forward without a backward glance.

She's a goal-oriented person. She wants quick action, and quick results. I can relate. I'll decide that I want something---a new job, a new haircut, a change in the house---and I'll make it happen immediately. My brother is the same way---when he decided that he really wanted to quit smoking, he took his final drag, and quit cold turkey.

When I don't get immediate results, I get twitchy. The president said "The ship of state moves slowly," (except that he probably said it more elegantly), but, in essence, he was saying that the things the government does now may not pay dividends for a decade or more. This glacial pace infuriates me.

When I moved from AZ, I briefly worked in school reform. Coming from the immediate rewards of a highly motivated classroom experience, I could not handle the idea that change comes in months, weeks, years. When talking about changing perceptions and actions in a school setting, I felt like taking off the kid gloves and just shaking my fellow teachers. "Just do something! Good God!"

I left that job, and I've never felt an ounce of regret.

I know that I am a short-term, immediate rewards kind of gal. Like my mom, I'm willing to do a bit of creeping, but, by God, I had better get to do that headstand soon.