Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Artists

"Mommy," Owen asked, "Why are you taking pictures of my artists?"

"Well, Buddy," I said, "They are so beautiful, I never want to forget them."

"Yeah," he replied. "They're BEAUTIFUL!"

Following his example, I'm looking to seek more beauty in 2010. Like this:

We had framed a picture, and this was the leftover matting. The owner of the frame shop, one of those women who become more beautiful with age, said, "Take this home and let your little boy paint. Then, bring it back, and I'll frame it for you."

She didn't say that she would frame it for free, but I'm considering bringing it back anyway. If you look at it as I do, it looks like a purple dove, content and peaceful, sitting in her nest, even as the wind blows violently.

What do you see?

Owen asked me to write down the name of his teacher. (And, yes, her secret identity as Miss Speck is now outed). I love that he has painted this picture for her, for the sole purpose of making her happy. Because, really---Who doesn't want to be a pumpkin-headed, frowning, armless monster? 

He also asked me to write the word "light." He is already seeking the light, the beautiful, the honest and sincere. As should I.

Or, maybe he got the idea from the damn "Diego Saves the Sea Turtles" cartoon.  Let's not make him the next Dali Lama quite yet.

In 2010, I hope to seek the light, to give gifts to those I love, and to protect my little nest, even when the winds blow, and all I can do is hold on.

 After all, I'll do anything to protect my greatest works of art. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bad Egg

Curse you, egg bake.

For years, we've made an egg casserole for Christmas morning breakfast. It's nothing special---eggs, cheese, sausage, bread, milk, and just a dash of cardiac arrest.

I made it this year, as always, and we all ate honking slabs of it after we opened our presents.

Then, about an hour later, my stomach twisted, and I gave the toilet a present she wouldn't soon forget. (Of course our toilet is a girl--only a girl would put up with so much shit.)

"Too much coffee," I though to myself, and moved on with my day.

This morning, I woke up with a headache. "A little coffee should help with this," I thought.

Coffee--the cause and solution to all my problems.

Later on, after a morning including Owen wetting the bed, requiring the full strip-down, and Joel's screeching demands of "CRAC-KER! CRAC-KER!" (I really need to remind that boy that we live south of the Mason-Dixon line...)  I sent the boys outside to cluck at Jimmy's chickens and decided that I should have something besides coffee for breakfast.

Cue leftover egg bake.

God, I'm dumb. I'll spare you the details this time.

I officially declare this to be the Egg Bake from Hades. Next Christmas, I'll have Paul make a nice spinach and mushroom frittata.

In other news, I'm evaluating this blog and would appreciate your feedback:

1) I'm thinking of posting less often--like three-five times a week. I've made it a goal in the past to post daily. Is less more?

2) What do you think of the format/design? I will not pay anybody to change it up, because we get to spend all our discretionary funds on a new oxygen sensor for the Subaru, instead. Harrumph. Anyway, do you have suggestions about what I could do regarding the pictures, colors, etc?

3) What about the name? I've changed it a whole bunch of times, and consistency is good. However, I don't want people to think I'm that Maya Rudolph movie, either.

You may notice I've...
*Removed my last name, in the event that it matters someday.
*Acquired a button, thanks to Unknown Mami.
*Changed my status picture to this arty shot my brother took several years ago:

I don't look too much different, but in the spirit of full disclosure, it is over ten years old. To be totally fair, this is what I look like most of the time:

Thanks for your suggestions!

Monday, December 28, 2009


When I lived by myself, I would spend hours without speaking. I've never been one to talk out loud to myself, since my mind chatters like a book club after the third bottle of wine all the time. Why add an actual voice to the mix?

My friend Michelle calls it noise, and she's right. So much of my interior monologue is noise, and often noise that does not serve me. When Paul is late coming home from work, my mind asks, "What if this is the day? The day he's hit by a car, and disappears from this world forever?"  I drift down on the Good Ship Mindfuck---where would I live? Where would I find work? What men could possibly serve as role models for my boys? How would I get out of bed? How? How? Just as I find my eyes tearing up, I hear the click in the door, and all is right again.

Just noise.

I had a good extended weekend with Paul's family. The rain came on Christmas Eve, and the green grass appeared, fresh and verdant, much like the newborn Christ Child. Others want a White Christmas, but I was happy to see the colors return, saying: We're still here. We endure.

We did what families do---eat, talk, wrap ourselves in the blankets of old stories and familiar laughter. It felt good. And yet---when Owen had his meltdowns, the noise returned. Why does his act this way? Am I too lenient? Do I give him too many chances? What do they think of him? Of me?

I felt like I was on a stage, flapping my arms like a drunken crone, and the audience was wincing, murmuring, wondering, "Who ever told her she could do this?"

I know this is noise. I know that it is dark, and that it does not serve me. Yet, I indulge these fears, these discouragements, these insidious questions. I pick at them, like a jagged edge of a hangnail.

It has taken me almost thirty-five years to recognize when I'm in this state, and I'm working on the really hard part now----acknowledging the thoughts, and letting them fly away.
When I practiced yoga, I felt like I was training my mind to do exactly that. During Savasana, I considered my mantra---often it was "Thank You," or "Let Go," but most of the time it was my baby's name--"Owen." Over and over again, I would think of my son, and my love for him would glow inside me, and I swear that glow was real. As I closed my eyes and listened to my breath, thinking the name of my beloved little boy---here and there, in transcendent miracle moments---the voices stopped.

I want to make this happen more often. For 2010, I want to live with more intention, and less noise. Some call it prayer, some call it the Holy Spirit, and some people have other names for it. I'm not especially concerned about the names, as much as the end goal: to seek moments of gratitude, to stop living in my fears, and to consciously ask God to silence the voices that no longer serve me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Silent Night, Jurassic Night

Behold! Owen's nativity.

May your holiday be filled with hope, peace and dinosaurs. Merry Christmas to all.

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my words. I am grateful to have you in my life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Greatest Christmas Pageant Never

I woke up extra early because today was the day of Owen's Christmas pageant. I made the coffee, scanned the headlines, and heard the phone ring. And right away, I knew.

Owen's teacher explained that the parking lot was icy, and she felt it was best to cancel the pageant. "I'll see you in January," she said.

I hung up the phone, and felt tired. Oh so tired, and oh so sad. I called Paul's parents and told them not to make the drive, and to save the Christmas cookies and cheesy toast for another time. I told Paul to go ahead and get ready for work. And then, I cried a little.

Owen had gone from being violently opposed to the whole idea to okay with it to being downright excited about his "project" as he called it. He was going to be a shepherd and his costume was going to be blue and he was going to sing songs about angels and Mary rocking her baby.

There was going to be birthday cake for Jesus and apple slices, and he had surprises for his Mommy and Daddy. (I think he had made an angel craft for us, and that he had wrapped it too---I don't know because he told us it was a surprise. For the first time in his life, he got to hold a secret in his hands like a firefly.)

Now, there will be no birthday cake, and when I see the angel in January, it will be admired briefly, than packed away for another season. I will never see three-year-old Owen in his blue shepherd costume.

None of these things are tragedies, but I'm not going to apologize for mourning them, just a little.

Stupid snow.

Paul held me for a moment, and absorbed a bit of my disappointment. Soon, we heard Owen creep down the stairs.

I collected myself, and told Owen that he wasn't having his pageant, because of the icy parking lot.

"What happens when the water turns to ice?" he asked, as he slowly rolled the peanut butter around his mouth.

"Well, it makes it slippery," I said.

"Why does it make it slippery?" he asked.

"Because the water is smooth, instead of rough," I said.

"But why?" he continued. 

We talked about the water cycle and dizzy tires and how Lightening McQueen would move on the icy roads, for about five more minutes. Our conversation, as always, went beyond my scientific and philosophical understandings, each "why" stretching my reasoning like a worn rubber band.

This revealed the obvious: Owen was not heartbroken about missing the pageant. This was all me. 

I'm still not apologizing about it. I'm proud of my kid, and I want to cheer for him.  I want his grandparents to cheer for him. I want the small universe of his preschool to acknowledge him and his classmates. Here he is. My Owen. The shepherd in blue.

And yet, things happen. Crying and sighing isn't going to change anything. And besides, I thought to myself, "I'm sure Mary didn't want to have a baby in some barn, either."

Do you see my vicarious Mary guilt? I'm not even Catholic, and I'm thinking of the poor Blessed Mother.

Those Catholics are good.

I decided, for everybody's sake, to have a mini-concert, right in our kitchen. I dressed Owen in a blue towel, gave him a painting rod, and found an alligator and pig to herd. He immediately vetoed the towel, but sang his songs in his own, Owen-like fashion.

It was beautiful and sacred.

I love the little guy.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Corrie is having a contest regarding the meaning behind her son's fascinating, and ever-illusive comment, "Just Because My Pickle Talks Doesn't Make Me an Idiot." Her blog talks about the joys and challenges of raising a young man who happens to have Asperger's Syndrome.

If you are so inclined, check out the various creative responses. And, if you are so inclined, vote for the one you like the best. If you are so inclined to vote for mine, I won't object.

Split Decision

Tomorrow, Grandma and Grandpa Campbell are coming up from Virginia for Owen's preschool pageant. We'll all be terribly impressed with his shepherd-ness, and following the after-party (note: buy ranch dressing!), we'll sojourn back to our house for split pea soup (mine), cheese toast (my mother-in-law), and Christmas cookies (again, MIL). 

To prepare for the festivities, I took the boys to Safeway to pick up ingredients. Following the recipe on the back of  the Safeway-brand split peas, I walked over to the Strange Swine section to find ham hocks.

Although I found trotters, ears, neckbones, and yes, snouts, I could not find the hocks. I looked around me, because I enjoy starting up conversations with strangers in the grocery store. Paul has fondly told me in the past, "You believe that the entire world is just waiting to be your friend, don't you?"

Well, yes.

I've always been grateful for the revelations from stranger chit-chat, because I believe that we're already plenty isolated with our Blackberries and our private driveways, and it's a good thing---a human thing---to acknowledge others when going through the motions of the day.

So, I looked around, the words, "Has anybody seen the ham hocks?" poised to leap off my tongue. I opened my mouth, but then closed it again, because the only people around me were older African American women, and I second-guessed myself.

I did not want to be the fool asking these nice women about ham hocks. I didn't want the thought "Oh, you're asking me about ham hocks, 'cause I'm Black, right?" to enter their minds. I didn't want to presume that these women knew anything about ham hocks, or inadvertently stumble into a Great Racial Dialogue when all these ladies probably wanted to do was stock their pantries.

And so, I continued to look, and asked Owen, loudly, "Hey, Buddy? Do you know where the ham hocks might be? What could I use instead of ham hocks?"

Owen, naturally, looked at me and said, "I don't know, Mommy." Nobody else jumped in with advice.

Finally, I saw an employee and she shared with me that they were out of ham hocks, due to the recent blizzard. She suggested pork necks, instead.

One of the ladies overheard our conversation and nodded vigorously. She said, "Or you could use turkey wings, if you don't want the pork flavor."

Having opened the door, she and I talked for a good five minutes about the Strange Swine section, as she passed on some tips involving fat back and black-eyed-peas. She asked Owen if he was a good boy, and he explained that he was, and that we would get a kid mailbox on Christmas morning.

She said, "What are you gonna do with a mailbox?"

"Get mail," he said, "And send mail too! But no bills!"

The exchange ended with pats on the back, and "You and your beautiful boys have a very Merry Christmas, dear!"

I floated away, as I always do when I encounter the gentle grace of former strangers.

And yet---my fears of insulting, of appearing judgmental or racist, almost kept that exchange from occurring.

And yet---I would have probably done it the exact same way.

Liberal white guilt or common sense? What do you think?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sundays in My City: Chesapeake Tobacco Barns

I see them everywhere, and they whisper their stories.

Tobacco barns dot the landscape of my adopted hometown. Although Maryland actively encourages farmers NOT to grow tobacco, the barns remain.

By design, they are meant to be a bit raggedy. The gaps and holes help dry the tobacco. Like people, they are more beautiful and functional when broken.

Of course, most stand empty now, serving as places for teenage tomfoolery or childhood exploration. 

But yet, as I drive by the barns, as I do every single day, I listen, because they have stories to tell.

I listen for the gossip and banter of the workers as they labor. I admire their strong, almost assuredly brown or black hands.They whisper their hopes--that their children no longer work so hard for so little.  I whisper back, "Things are looking up. They aren't perfect, but they're better."

I listen to the stories of the old-timers, those that remember a county before the Naval base or the power plant. They remember a landscape as fresh and unblemished as an Osprey's egg, and a time when people were less in a hurry, less angry, just less. 

Every time I listen to the whispering of the barns, I am reminded that petty worries and daily stresses don't last. Greater things than this endure.

For this, I am grateful.

Thanks, as always to Unknown Mami for hosting Sundays in My City, a chance to see the world (electronically, anyway).
Unknown Mami

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obligatory Nor'Easter Pictures AND Actual Footage of Awesome Socks

I love watching the "Team Coverage" when it snows out here, because it is proof that the caste system exists in America. There are the veteran reporters safe and warm in NewsCenter Whatever, while the various peons and underlings stand knee-deep in the snow, reporting that yes it is snowing, and yes it is cold, and yes, under no circumstances should anybody be so stupid to actually  drive in it. 

Then, to bring the point home, they focus on a Ford Escort head-first in a ditch. They don't help get it out, mind you---they just film.

Today, I watched a reporter in the snow, wearing her best bitch face, surely thinking, "OMG, I can't believe I paid for implants, just for this!" As soon as she heard the sonorous voice of the anchorman, she turned on a winning smile and pretended to love measuring the snow with a ruler.

Team coverage. Gotta love it.

Because I am required by bloggy contract to post these, I'll share a few pictures of the snow. Apparently, Blizzard 2.0 is coming this afternoon. Don't worry. We're prepared. We've got diapers, milk, bread, coffee, and lots of booze. We even have sample bottles of Robitussin, if it gets to that point.

Also, because I get bored when trapped inside for long periods of time (ask the poor, late dog, who was dressed in a pair of Paul's boxer shorts during the Ice Storm of 03), I thought I would take some pictures of Awesome Socks.

Joel's socks are called Little Miss Matched. My mother-in-law bought them, and they are supposed to be miss-matched (hence the name). I know there are hearts of them, and I know they are designed for girls. I KNOW. Since I have sons, and will NEVER EVER get to dress them in funky striped tights or anything INCREDIBLY ADORABLE like that, my son gets to wear miss-matched heart socks.

His boyfriend will thank me someday.

Here are my rag-wool socks that do the job like nobody's business. I either bought them in Wausau, Wisconsin or The People's Republic of Boulder (as my father INSISTS on calling his adopted city). Either way, those are people that know their cold-weather footwear, and I honor their knowledge today.

I asked Owen to put on his Awesome Socks for the camera. He refused. It wasn't worth the fight. Here is his foot in a completely ordinary, non-awesome sock.

Paul wouldn't play. "Why on Earth do you think anybody would care about socks?"

I'm off to enjoy some coffee with Baileys and watch the Nor'Easter do its thing. If you don't hear from me in a few days, send off the wolves.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fragments: The Skipped CD Edition

Tell me you do this too.

Because I feel the need to write down the minutia of my life on an almost-daily-basis, I find myself repeating myself. A lot.

I'll tell a story, and because the story has already been told (generally, better) online, the listener will either:
A) Listen politely
B) Cut me off with a kind, "Yeah, I read it on your blog."

I mentioned that I repeat myself a lot, right?

Throw in the other stories on my twitter feed or Facebook page or when I'm commenting on other people's blogs, and it become apparent very quickly: I'm a one trick pony with a limited vocabulary.

Thus, if you have heard these stories already, please let me know. I've been told that I repeat myself a lot.

Mommy's Idea

(Thanks to Mrs. 4444 for hosting!) 

Owen has had difficulty with backtalk recently, resulting in numerous trips to his room to "take a break."

At bedtime last night, I heard him mumbling, "socks, please, socks please."

I went upstairs and dug some socks out his drawer so that his naked, ice-cold toes could remain cute little piggies as opposed to frozen hot links.

I handed him the socks, which were fairly mundane black and yellow tube socks.

Owen's eyes lit up, "Oh, those are my AWESOME socks."

"Your awesome socks? What makes them awesome?" I asked. I know that both of my readers from the Pittsburgh area would agree that anything black and yellow is made of awesome, but I've never given these socks a second thought.

Owen said, "These are the socks I always put on when I'm taking a break. Then, I feel better!"

Damn, those are some good socks. Perhaps I need to invest in my own Awesome Socks.

I got a speeding ticket the other day, and I blame my eyebrows. Perhaps if I had plucked them, and my forehead did not look like a caterpillar nesting colony, I could have charmed the policeman. Alas, I did not and instead have a ticket and a court date.

I shared this early Christmas gift on Facebook, and Paul's best friend, a policeman back in Arizona, responded with this pithy response:


I responded, "Bob, I haven't heard from you in months, and you come out from the shadows to taunt me. Is THIS what they teach you in the academy?"

He posted: YEAH.


Owen's pageant is on Tuesday, and he has really come around to the idea, even telling people that he will be a (mask-less) shepherd. I'll give a complete post-game show report on Tuesday, but say a little prayer and keep your fingers crossed that he has a good time. That's the whole point.

The teacher posted a sign-up sheet of things to bring to the post-pageant party. You could bring birthday cake for Baby Jesus, cookies, apple slices, etc.

I signed up to bring ranch dressing. The end. Maybe, if they are lucky, I will pour it in a bowl.

I know. I should have left that slot open for the mothers that also work full time or for the mother who is due within days of the pageant. I didn't.

The pregnant mother is making the birthday cake for Jesus.*

And right now, Baby Jesus is looking at me, so very embarrassed, shaking his chubby baby cheeks with disdain.

Owen's need to make lists continues. This week, he asked Paul to write the following for him:

That's his signature on the bottom. He's got a full life. 

Happy Friday!

*In total honesty, she choose to do the cake. I signed up after her. Yet, that's not nearly as funny. Pretend you never read this footnote. LOOK AWAY, I say!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Annual Review

A year ago, I posted my New Year's resolutions. I thought I would do the annual review, now because in-between the cookie-gorging and the wine guzzling, I'm not going to do much improving before 2010.

Thus, here are my 2009 resolutions, with updated commentary:

1. I will take a shower almost every day.
I really aimed high with this one, with the word "almost." So, yes, if you count showering five days out of seven "almost" than I met this goal. Grade: D

2. I will read books, occasionally even challenging ones.
As a person who considers reading her lifelong constant, I feel like I've slacked quite a bit in this regard. I've been reading blogs with greater frequency, which has been good in many ways, but all things come at a cost.... Good books I've read this year include: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. I've read a lot of other books, but, as always happens when people ask me to make recommendations, I freeze up and can't remember anything. Grade: C

3. Paul and I will go on four dates this year. 
Done and done. Thanks to Miss Candace, the wonder babysitter, we're making this happen. (As a side note, both of my boys are IN LOVE with their babsitter. She lives five minutes from us, and as we're driving home, I'll say to Owen, "There's Miss Candace's house!" He will then SQUEAL with pure, unadulterated JOY.) Grade: A
4. I will continue this blog and enter four writing contests/submit four entries for publication. 
The blog continues. I've submitted some stuff. Since I didn't say anything about actually winning or getting published, I'm calling this a WIN by loophole. Grade: A

5. I will run three days a week.  
Didn't happen--not my best year for running. But, I've been taking classes called "Body Combat" and "Body Pump." They are loud and stupid and include a Taylor Swift-Kings of Leon-AC/DC soundtrack. That's gotta be worth something.... Grade: C

6. I will lose the baby weight. Damn it.  
I did it, by a magical diet called surviving on my kids' leftover scraps as sustenance. I do not recommend this plan. Grade: A

7. I will do something cool with Paul when we celebrate our ten year anniversary (June 12th)
We went to one of our favorite restaurants and had a wonderful meal. My friend happened to be our waitress and we had a long conversation about the NICU and the PICU and "OMG my kid was on a ventilator too!" Paul just let us blather. 

We then walked to the Tiki Bar and had Mai Tais. Exceedingly strong Mai Tais.  It wasn't fancy, it wasn't exotic, but I was with Paul, and he's what makes me happy. Grade: A 

8. I will learn something new.
 I learned that Frank Lloyd Wright was a bit of an asshole. 

I also learned that you can take your spare change to the Coinstar machines and they will give you gift certificates to iTunes or Starbucks without taking a percentage of your money. Consider that my Christmas gift to you.  Grade: B

9. I will eat more eggplant (they're just so pretty).
I made eggplant parmigiana once and it was like eating olive oil-soaked hockey pucks. Grade: FAIL

10. I will cut myself some slack. Given the high number of "A" grades, I would say I've done well in this department. Grade: B

So, what about you? How did you do with your resolutions? 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too

Owen's preschool teacher, Ms. Speck*, is simply put, a genius. She uses her preschool voodoo powers to teach my kid all sorts of useful things, things I should have gotten around to teaching him, had I not been too busy painting my toenails or peeling Joel off of the ceiling fan.

One of her secret talents is the ability to sing a song for virtually every action. Whenever my son washes his hands, we always hear this catchy jingle: (It's to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" Come on, everybody sing along!)
Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Soap will make them clean!
Wash away, wash away,
Germs that are unseen!

The only song I knew when I was Owen's age was a public health announcement they played on local Arizona TV to prevent the spread of hepatitis. I still know it. Do you want to hear it?

Hepatitis has some symptoms you should learn to recognize
Like fever, feeling very tired, and a loss of appetitie. 
Your tummy hurts, you feel real sick, 
You will not eat a bite. 
Your eyes sometimes turn yellow, when you know they should be white. 
So wash your hands, after going to the bathroom!
Wash your hands, after changing baby too. 
'Cause you don't want to catch hepatitis. 
And you don't want hepatitis to catch you!
Who? YOU! 

I swear I am not making this up. If anybody from the Phoenix area is reading this (and you were a kid in the early '80s) , please make a comment verifying the existence of this song. 

Besides the songs, Miss Speck** knows how to make fun, educational, interesting activities that Owen just adores. Preschool is his drug of choice, and I'm happy to be his enabler.

Totally stealing her idea, I made this parking lot for Owen. We talked about numbers, and where the cars wanted to park. For example, Tow Mater wanted to park in spot #4. Miss Speck*** actually put numbers on the Matchbox cars, so the kids could match the car to the spot, but I thought that might offend Owen's sensibilities. 

Then, Owen told me that I needed to make garages that popped up, just like Miss Speck**** So, using random craft materials, we made this:

Again, the garages all had their numbers. Seriously entertaining. I feel so smart. Thank you Miss Speck*****

And THEN, in the re-certification class from Hades, I learned about sight words from the elementary school folk. I downloaded some sight word cards and now have the following in my kitchen:

And, I swear on a stack of phone books, that Owen sounded out the "g" and the "o" sounds to read the word "go."

Now, before you UNFOLLOW me because I'm one of those braggy mothers that think her son poops solid gold nuggets, let me share this tidbit with you: I caught him eating a bowl of applesauce out of a bowl on the floor. Like a dog. Did you know how far applesauce can travel up a child's nostrils?

Miss Speck******, you've been slacking in the applesauce department.

Finally, lest you think that Joel has been neglected in all of this, check this out:

Yes, it's an empty vitamin bottle. (I like the Gummy Vitamins. Shut up!) I filled it with black beans. Now, it's a rattle. Hells. Yeah.  Try that, Miss Speck*******

*Not her real name. But close.
**Still not her real name.
***If you don't get it by now, I don't know what to tell you...
****Maybe her name is Miss Speck and I've been effing with you all this time.
*****I like Chef Boyardee. Yum.
******Did you know that people think I look like Miranda from "Sex in the City?" You know, the red-headed bitchy one?
*******I need to pluck my eyebrows before they reach Andy Rooney proportions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


My boys have family members that love them, wonderful teachers, good friends, and a tapestry of amazing souls that create a  chuppah of gentle support.

This canopy of prayers, guidance, and teaching protects our boys from some of the harsh realities of the world.

Yet, no chuppah is watertight, and the occasional drops do fall. Thus, there will be times when our boys will get wet, and possibly be uncomfortable.

I hope I react the right way during those times.

I remember from swim team that it would take just a gentle push of the feet to glide away from the wall. It was so easy to escape into the water. Joel is still holding on to that wall. But Owen--he's getting ready to release into the watery depths.

Already, he has his own little world with his preschool. His successes, and his hurts, are all his own. He still has his chuppah of support, of course, but I'm no longer holding his hand. And with each year, he will become more independent, and his life will be increasingly his own.

I'll always remember a story my aunt, also a mother of two boys, shared with me. One of my cousins came home from school upset about something. It may have been a social thing, or possibly something that happened in class. He was devastated and near tears when he came home, but he did not share the why with his mother.

She couldn't fix it, and he didn't want her comfort. She had to watch him be sad, watch him flounder in the big, deep pool.

As a mother, all you want is to be that chuppah. Sometimes, though, you feel more like the glass broken under the foot at the end of the wedding ceremony. Shattered. Useless.

Don't worry--nothing has happened with my boys that makes me feel shattered. However, I've listened to the conversations of my friends, and as they talk of soccer, basketball, scouts, or school, I'm trying to imagine my little boys in that environment. I can't see Owen dribbling or shooting free-throws (although I can see him cutting open the basketball to see how it works).

I wonder how he will do when it's time to choose partners for activities, or how he will recover when he is called a name or teased for something out of his control.After all, it happens to everybody.

I want to protect him, yet I know I cannot. Anything worth doing in life takes some effort, and if I want the boys to stand on their own two feet, I can't be carrying them.

I am, to a degree, powerless to control their worlds. All I can do is continually weave their chuppah, adding new strands of prayer, and stitching in as many caring adults possible to provide the shade and comfort they need. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

M-A-R-T to the HA!

I listened to the Beastie Boys for about two years straight around 1994-1996.

I'm kinda obsessive like that.

My friend Sunshine and I used to drive around singing our own version of "Pass the Mike." The orignial lyric is: "M-I-K-E to the D/You come and see me and you pay a fee."

Sunshine would sing, "N-A-N-C to the Y" and I would retort, "S-U-N-S to the Shine!"

It's not translating all that well when I write it down, but trust, me it was COMEDY GOLD.

Yesterday, I honored one of my favorite Beastie songs and spread some recession-chic holiday cheer.


She's Crafty!

She gets around!

She's crafty! And she's always down!

She's crafty! She's got it right! 

She's crafty! And she's just my type!

She's crafty!

N-A-N-C to the Y.....OUT! (drops microphone...)  

*P.S. Please don't be mistakenly impressed by the critter. It came pre-made from the crafts aisle at Wal-Mart. *

She's crafty! 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sundays in My City: Enjoy the Three-Eyed Fish

Yesterday, as I reached into my mailbox, I found my annual ray of sunshine, my annual gift of joy.

A package? A festive garland? A Christmas card? EVEN BETTER.

I recieved my yearly gift from our local nuclear power plant, Calvert Cliffs.

Wanna go sailing? Right by a nuclear reactor? I know just the place! didn't know I lived just minutes from an operational nuclear power plant? I do. It's like a real-life Springfield! Or Silkwood.

Allow me to quote directly from the form letter:

"Staying informed and prepared is an essential element of an effective emergency response plan. This year, we have teamed again with county officials to provide important emergency planning information to you in the form of a calendar."

That's right. Every year, we get our VERY OWN calendar. Not only does it show scenic shots of Chesapeake Bay landscapes and wildlife, it also lets us know when they will have their monthly siren test. This is designed to keep the anarchy at bay. (Get it--Bay? Heh. Heh.)

The back of the calender includes helpful tidbits like this:

What should I do if I hear the siren? 
Stay calm.

(Does "staying calm" include weeping, looting, and brandishing of firearms? Just checking.)

Why would I be told to take shelter indoors? 
Staying indoors can protect you from the sun's radiation and can also protect you from man-made radiation that could be involved in a nuclear power plant emergency. 

 (I must say, I am delighted that the fine folks of Constellation Energy are so concerned about my skin cancer risks. That, people, is why one should stay indoors. How kind of them to add, incidentally, the slight risks of man-made radiation.)

They also explain, in the event of a nuclear emergency, "If you must go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a cloth to filter the air. When back inside, take a shower or at the very least wash your face and hands. Also, wash your clothes." 

 (Hey! Dirty birdies! This means you. At the very least, wash your hands and face after playing in the radioactive waste.)

I could go on and on, but I would like to sleep tonight. I mean, I haven't even shared the advice about how to protect one's crops and livestock in the event of nuclear winter....which would certainly be my first priority.

I live in a beautiful place, as long as I pretend the nuclear power plant does not exist. Generally, ignorance is bliss. I don't actually see the cooling towers, and on most days, I choose to close my ears and la-la-la it all away.

But, yet, I can count on my yearly calendar, with its warm wishes for a joyous, meltdown-free 2010.

(Local seafood).

I'm sure this is so not what Unknown Mami had in mind when hosting Sundays in My City. Nevertheless, please enjoy some other, less terrifying posts about our glorious world.

Unknown Mami

The Spending Season

Money. It's something that you just don't discuss. As a child, my parents taught me that you don't talk about money, and you especially don't ask people how much money they earn.

I do my best to honor this lesson, but occasionally, I find myself talking about money. Or, even worse, writing about it online. 

It all started at the gym. I was on the treadmill, doing my little plodding jog, and the TV had one of those "Entertainment Hard Copy Inside Edition" shows on. They were talking about a company called The Platinum Tees. The company employs young girls who wear skimpy clothes and carry golf clubs for golfers. Serious golfers, I'm sure. They bend over slowly to pick things up and ask the golfers if "they need their balls shined up." They also use their vast knowledge of the game to suggest the appropriate type of club and the "proper stance".

The show reported that these girls make $35 dollars an hour. Thirty-five dollars an hour.

I have never made so much money per hour in my entire professional life. I have advanced degrees and experience. But, I lack certain...qualities....let's say, to make this my second career. The main qualities I lack include my right one and my left one.

But, I really would like the cash...

This morning, Paul was doing the bills. He finished up, and announced The Number that we have to live on for the next two weeks. My shoulders hunched up, knowing that we haven't bought most of the gifts on our paired-down list, and that we have run out of paychecks to spread out the shopping.

I know that people always recommend homemade gifts to reduce holiday expenses. That's good if you are talented or crafty. However, if I gave somebody a homemade gift, it would be like wrapping up one of my turds: "I hope you like it; I made it especially for you!" 

We're thrifty to a fault, always paying our bills on time, always paying the credit card in full, avoiding extravagant clothing or indulgences. Our Achilles heel has always been coffee and going out to eat. We've cut back considerably, but we certainly feel it. Every time I deny myself a coffee, it stings.
With the holidays, we're spending more money. There's no way around it. Trees, gifts, holiday gatherings, scrapbooks, cards---they all cost money. So, when Paul said The Number, I sighed and thought about the various ways I could cook lentils.

I called a friend of mine to cancel our plans for dinner. I thought about saying the words:  "We really can't afford it," and I felt defeated, constrained by  the consequences of all those wasted lattes and throwaway pumpkin muffins.

I know, this is such whiny drivel, because there are people who worry about their next meal, their jobs, keeping their homes. There are people who have overwhelming medical expenses or expensive treatments that would love to worry about excess coffee and canceled dinner plans.

And so, as I sit in my kitchen, feeling sorry for myself, I need to remember two things:

1) I need to start shopping in August next year to avoid this situation.
2) Maybe it's good to feel this way, at least temporarily, so I can be more empathetic and helpful for those who feel this way more often.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday Fragments: Cell Phone Edition

Ooooooooooooooh! A themed Friday Fragments! Be still my heart!

This week, I will piece together all of the random pictures I've finally downloaded from my fancy-pants smart phone for your Friday Fragment pleasure. Thanks to Mrs. 4444 for hosting!

Mommy's Idea

Yesterday, we journeyed up to Baltimore for Joel's Urology appointment. See?

We waited for an hour to see the doctor. The nurse apoligized for the delay, explaining that they were looking for a Burmese translator, thus the holdup. I didn't quite understand--did the doctor just kick back and light up a ciggie while the nurses worked out the Burmese translator nonsense? I don't pretend to understand modern medicine...

Anyway, while we waited, Joel did what he does:
He climbed on shit.

He monkeyed around and drank milk in direct defiance of the "no food or drink signs."

He acted cute. (And by the way, yes, I do know that he looks like Ralphie from A Christmas Story).

The doctor examined Joel's junk, and, I swear to God, Joel laid perfectly still, let the doctor examine his scrotum, and got a big ol' boner.

The doctor didn't even blink. I was mortified. I think Paul kinda dug it.

The doctor made this medically precise diagram:

This is meant to explain that Joel has excess fluid in his left sac. Bottom line: surgery is on January 8th.

We went on a field trip to the grocery store not too long ago, and a highlight was seeing an actual lobster:

Owen declared that lobsters are our friends. Yes, Owen, our delicious friends. 

Sometimes, when I'm feeling a little blue, I like to go shopping and try on fancy cocktail dresses. I would never buy such dresses because they are too expensive, and I have no place to wear such things. Yet, it makes me happy to feel a bit like a princess. (Perhaps I would lose the socks and glasses. And maybe even wash my hair. But, you get the idea...)

This is not only a rule for our house, but really an overarching rule of life: If you don't do bad things to other people, bad things won't happen to you. Pay it forward, and all that.

Owen asked Paul to write this down, so that he knows his rule (Don't throw toy trains in the car) and Paul and I know our rule (Don't throw toy trains in the trash can as punishment).

Happy Friday, everybody!