Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good Help

I was upstairs, giving Joel his bottle. As he drank, I removed his puffy diaper, reached over to the diaper basket, and grabbed a handful of air.

Of course. All of his diapers were downstairs in the laundry room. I could cart Joel back downstairs as he sucked on his bottle, but I didn't. Oh, no.

This is what older brothers are for.

I bellowed, "Owen," and with a flash of horror, realized that the name of Danny DeVito's character from Throw Momma From the Train was...Owen. I never realized it until that exact moment.

You see, as I yelled Owen's name, I sounded exactly like the spittled, bearded crone that tormented DeVito's character to the point that he (you know) wished to throw her off a train.

Another moment for the baby book.

Owen eventually made his way upstairs and said, "Uhhhh-AHAHHH."

Curse you, I say, CURSE YOU Curious George.

Owen finds it both clever and hilarious to talk like a monkey, with a series of grunts and pointing gestures. It makes me want to drink myself to sleep.

"Owen," I said, "I need you to do me a favor."

"Uh-huh, Uh-huh," Curious Owen responded.

"I need you to go downstairs, and get a diaper for Joel. They're by the washing machines."

"Okay, Mom! That's a plan," replied my son, clearly delighted to be able to help. He then, for no helpful or logical reason whatsoever, turned off the fan, and turned on the lights in the empty bathroom.

I swallowed my annoyance and returned my attention to Joel. He still was sleepily drinking his bottle, and pinching his scrotum in a manner that looked unpleasant.

I waited. And waited. And waited. I heard crashes. Water gurgling. An intense, highly detailed soliloquy coming from the living room about nibbling fish and big sharks wearing shoes. What I was NOT hearing was anything that sounded remotely like diaper retrieval.

My thoughts were murderous. If Joel finished his bottle, and I had to go downstairs, lugging the half naked, milk-drunk baby, it would be ugly. Certainly, if nothing else, my sentence would start something like, "Owen, I SWEAR TO GOD, if you do not have a diaper..."

Luckily, Owen made it upstairs, beaming ear to ear. Yes, the diaper was an expensive, night time diaper. It would do.

And yes, Owen was wearing his pants and underwear backwards, having pulled up his pants, All By Himself.

And yes, when I walked into the bathroom, the entire counter was sticky with soap. As Owen washed his hands, All By Himself, he had managed to dump about half a gallon of soap. All. By. Himself.

I love Owen, and I'm grateful for his efforts. But I'm telling you, you just can't get good help these days.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Where I Want to Be

A comment I encounter frequently, often by well-meaning, older women is, "Someday you'll look back and wish that your kids were still little."

I get the concept. Time flies, childhood is fleeting, this time is precious. I get it. I do.

However, I reject the notion that this is the pinnacle of my life, and that everything is downhill from here. I reject the idea that it is not okay to occasionally feel bored, frustrated, or downright exhausted. I reject the whole notion that I will never be as happy, as content, or as needed as I am right now.

Because the whole idea, dear readers, is bogus.

I look back and literally have to catch my breath when looking at Owen's baby pictures. He was so squishy, so utterly delicious. He would sleep in my arms for hours: a warm, sweet-smelling blanket. Every milestone--first smile, first steps, first laugh, filled my heart with warm, gushy luuuuuuv.

When Joel smiles upon seeing his beloved bottle, or when he rubs his soft face against my shoulder,catlike and methodical, it is a purely physical response. I feel the love flow from my head to my toes, a jolt of electricity, a rush of pure adoration. It's powerful. It's biological.

Yet, I do not wish for my children to remain babies. I love Owen exactly the age he is right now, and I don't look back. I love Joel exactly the age he is now, and I don't look back.

When the boys are in elementary school, and our lives are a blur of homework, Cub Scouts, and soccer practices, that is exactly where I want to be.

When the boys are in middle school, beautiful in their awkward orthodontia and too-big feet, I will love them because they need advocates, and they are mine. That is exactly where I want to be.

When the boys are in high school, and Paul and I are too strict, too out-of-touch, and too hopelessly uncool, that is exactly where I want to be.

And yes, when we're sitting around the table during a break from college, and the boys are speaking to us with the authority and disdain only a nineteen-year-old can muster, I will look them in the eye and pretend that everything they are saying is fresh and original. It is exactly where I want to be.

When they are out of the house for good, I will certainly have moments where I will miss the tender softness of Joel's hand in mine, or Owen's smile of pride when he does something "all by himself." But I will not live in the past, and I will be content.

Because living peacefully, regardless of the season of my motherhood? That is exactly where I want to be.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dance, Dance Revolution.

Driving home, I was listening to "Prairie Home Companion." Inexplicably, Steve Martin was on there, playing the banjo and singing country songs. I looked back, and there was Joel,in his car seat, twitching and bobbing his head in his own version of dancing.

I've mentioned before that Joel likes to dance, but it bears repeating. Somebody with my DNA dances. To me, this is as surprising as if Joel suddenly starting flying or speaking Japanese.

To me, my lack of dancing is not so much because of lack of skill, but because of inhibition. I'm concerned about doing it wrong, or not having the correct moves; consequently, I'm the one at the party with an inordinate interest in the punch.

I don't really have secret desires for Joel to be the next Billy Elliot or Baryshnikov. In all actuality, the life of the professional male dancer is not the easiest path to tread. It would be great, however, if he could cut the rug, and, like the cliche goes, "dance like nobody is watching."

My cousin's husband, Matt is like that. He's in the Army, and is a hard-working, focused person. He has an Irish complexion and keeps his hair high and tight. This is why it is the most delightful, unexpected thing to see him bust out the dance moves at weddings. He moves with grace, humor, and a complete fearlessness. I'm not saying he could perform at the Apollo, but he can do the Hammer dance, knows all of Michael Jackson's (pre-bizarro) signature moves, and can even do a mean swing dance.

I honor the comfort he has in his own skin, and in the sheer joy in moving. I envy it, too, because I am never able to let go enough to feel that same sense of abandon.

This is why I hope Joel remains a dancer. I want him to be fearless and carefree, and to use his body as an instrument of joy, not repression. I want him to dance just because he can.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Life Lessons

Two girlfriends and I went to see Kathy Griffin last night. Her act is like gossiping with a catty friend, except with lots more f-bombs and references to Bravo TV shows.

In all actuality, we probably would have got more of the jokes had we known the ins and outs of the "Real Housewives," franchise. Judging from the hoots from the audience, by not watching this show, we have deprived ourselves big time. (Disclaimer: I did see the season finale of the New Jersey addition, and it's easy to see why this series would attract those with...flamboyant tastes.)

As is often the case, I enjoyed spending time with my girlfriends more than the actual event. We had a long drive home to talk about all sorts of things, and since we all have children, we talked about them once or twice. OKAY, we talked about them ALL THE TIME. Occupational hazard, I guess.

My friend Kristen and her husband recently attended a wedding in Bermuda, and got all their paperwork together before leaving the boys with her parents for the week. Included in the paperwork was the "God Forbid," letter---a letter to her sons in the event of her death. In the letter, she detailed all the life lessons and guiding principles she hoped to pass on to her boys. Just in case.

She said that the letter wrote itself, and she was glad to have done it. I think it's a fantastic idea.

Like her, I hope that my boys never need to read such a letter until they are much, much, much older. I also hope that the letter would simply confirm all that they witnessed in my words, my choices, my attitude, and my spirit. I hope they will close the letter and say, "Yup, that's Mom."

I'm thus starting a new occasional series to this blog: Life Lessons I hope the boys will read these when they are old enough, and, more importantly, will act on these principles throughout their lives.

Life Lesson: Dignity

You are not better than anybody else. Don't get me wrong. You two are pretty amazing guys. You're funny, smart, handsome, joyful. God created you in His mind long before blessing me with your presence. But, you are not better than anybody else.

God crafted everybody else, too. He loves you as much as he loves your teachers, your friends, your enemies, and people living on the other side of the planet. There is no rank, no caste system, and no ruling class. The sooner you know that, the better.

This plays out when you are at a restaurant. When a server asks for your order, use a complete sentence. Do not grunt out, "Dinner #2," your eyes facing your menu. Rather, look at the server, who works hard on his or her feet, all day, and say, "I would like Dinner #2, please."

You aren't better than anybody else. The people who serve your food, clean your car, cut your hair, or serve you coffee, are God's handiwork. He smiled with delight the day each person was born. Remember that.

Every person you encounter was once a helpless baby. Every person you encounter has joys, fears, hopes, dreams, and struggles. Every person you encounter will someday breathe his or her last breath, and die.

Some people may have more or less education than you. Some people may have more or less money, physical ability, attractiveness, or wisdom than you. It doesn't matter. You are not better than anybody else.

You two are my heart, my soul, my love, my pride. Remember that every person you meet deserves dignity. After all, everybody is God's heart, soul, love, and pride.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


When Owen was a baby, we signed him up for "Baby and Me" swim lessons. We paid forty dollars so we could bob in the frigid water and listen to Owen cry and howl.

Good times.

The class was taught by a distracted lifeguard-dude who was getting married, and was apparently the first person in the history of mankind to do so, because he never stopped talking about his upcoming nuptials. What he didn't do, however, was teach anything.

We would bob around the water with our babies, and periodically he would come up to my crying son and demand that he blow bubbles or kick his feet. Other than that, he left us to our own devices, and I spent most of the time simpering to Owen, smiling like a deranged clown, explaining that this was FUN and we were having a GREAT TIME.

Owen gazed at me, and if he could speak, he would surely have said, "Get me out of this water, Devil Woman."

Not surprisingly, we didn't do swim lessons last year.

This year, however, we are trying again. Owen is in a preschool class that meets in the evening. Paul and I meet at the pool. One night, he's in the water with Owen while I'm with Joel, and then we switch off the next night.

It's fantastic. The class is taught by an enthusiastic young man who told us three time in five minutes that he attends Virginia Tech. Go Hokie Nation! He sings songs with the kids, and teaches them actual skills like kicking and paddling, and breathing underwater. Owen is in heaven. He's a happy guy, but when we're singing and splashing, he is rapturous.

When it was Paul's night, Joel and I hung out in the baby pool. He cruised along the wall, stopped, smiled, and continued on his way. Periodically, he would splash, and laugh out loud when the water hit his face. He did his little Bobcat Goldthwait yelp, where he squeals, "Ga Ga GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" and bobs his head. He also did his little Joel dance, which thrills me to no end, because, just possibly, through a genetic mutation, I may have sired a child with...rhythm.

Swim lessons are a gift to our family because it's a pocket of time where we are solely focused on playing with the kids. There's no dinner to cook or dishes to unload or plans to make. We're like a school of dolphin, gliding and jumping through the water for no other reason than to feel the cool, perfect splash.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is Facebook Church?

I just read this article entitled "Is Facebook Church?" and it was like reading my mind, except it was far more concise and far better written.

The author, Jon M. Sweeney, discusses how he feels that he is a more authentic self when he broadcasts his "status updates" to his Facebook friends than when he is chit-chatting with fellow parishioners during the coffee hour at church. He goes on to explain that through Facebook, he has been able to quickly share and receive prayer requests, and consequently knows that there are caring people interceding for him and the people he loves.

Through Facebook, he is able to share his thoughts and start conversations, growing from the insights and experiences of others.

He even throws scripture in the mix with the ol' "For where two or three people are gathered in my name, I am there among them" (Matthew 18:20). The people gather virtually, but they are gathering nevertheless.

Sounds a lot like church to me.

Yet, Mr. Sweeney adds that there is no worship involved with Facebook (which is kinda one of the BIG POINTS of church), and Facebook is exclusive. You get to invite people in, and (possibly) leave others out. Church should be open to all.

Overall, an interesting read.

Here's my two cents:

I am more confident when I am writing something than I will ever be when chit-chatting. I can fake it, but it is not my gift. There are people I've known at my church for over three years, and our conversations remain stilted and surface level.

Yet, I have also established relationships with people through Facebook that have blossomed into true, snort-out-your-nose, unabashed friendships, despite the fact that we rarely meet in person.

So, what is the difference? There are two crucial ingredients: Time and Confidence.

My Facebook friendships have developed over time. Through status updates and pictures, I get a window into another life. A comment here, a comment there, and we're moving past the cobwebs of chit-chat, into the bright light of actual conversation.

All of my other friendships also developed over time. When I became a stay-at-home mom, I tried to nail down as many "friendship appointments" as possible, because I knew that I needed continuity to open up and become my "real self" for a friend. So, I met one friend for a walk every week. I attended story time at the library every week. And, as I had thought, over time I escaped from my cautious cocoon to become the garish butterfly of my true self.

The fact is, it's not my church's fault that I haven't made some connections yet, because I haven't set up regular appointments with my church. I don't attend a weekly Bible study, nor am I member of a small group. I will do any job they ask of me, and I've certainly made connections with the other mothers through VBS and the nursery. But, due to my own inaction, I have not allowed my fellow (non-parent) parishioners know my "status updates."

The second element is confidence. Again, I will happily write about waxing my eyebrows or the fecal matter of my children, because when I'm on Facebook or writing this blog, I address my imaginary audience, which laughs heartily at every quip and nods their heads in agreement at my various insights. I believe that my Facebook friends are in my corner. Thus, I am reasonably fearless in being myself.

How sad that I do not see my family of believers in this same light. Why would I assume that churchgoers would not be in my corner? Okay, I've spent enough time with believers to know that they are just as capable of gossip and nonsense as any other group of people. That doesn't mean that I get to put up my dukes and assume the worst.

It all comes down to risk. I avoid "setting appointments" at church, because I'm afraid that I cannot be me---the me that I love. I hate being misunderstood, so I fear the raised eyebrow or the awkward explanation of a comment. I fear being judged, and I fear not hitting the mark.

These are excuses, perhaps, and they are certainly limiting my joy and my opportunities to connect.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quality Parenting.

Don't engage in power struggles with your kids. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Owen was flopped on the floor. It's naptime. He was resting on Green Pillow and clutching Big Teddy. Joel was crying in the other room, the normal bitter, bitter tears of early naptime. (I never fail to betray that boy.)

I said to Owen, "Please get in bed."

"No, I'm just going to---"

Oh, snap.

There will be no explaining. I taught middle school too long to hear yet another explanation for bad behavior. It never failed when I told certain youngsters to spit out their gum or return to their seats. Instead of compliance, I was in for a lengthy discourse about why they were chewing gum or the reason they were out of their seats.

Somewhere along the way, these children were taught that a request from an adult is negotiable, and that a good explanation, always, always begins with, "But I was just---" The magic phrase, apparently, makes all pesky adult requests go away.

Now, I understand that blind obedience is not a good thing, and that some adults and authority figures may not have a child's best interests in mind. This is an unfortunate thing. However, most of the time, adults request things of children for a reason, and do not need the extended remix about why the behavior occurred in the first place. It's just not necessary.

(Good grief, I'm becoming a crank. Yesterday, I railed against hippies, and now I'm writing something worthy of a teacher's lounge gripe session. It must be because my cholesterol is elevated. Soon, I'll be buying a cane, just for shaking at the whippersnappers.)

So, Owen started to explain what he was just doing, and I said. "Uh-uh. Go to bed."

He flailed his arms, "But I was just needing the gate so that I can--"

"Uh-Uh. Go to bed now." I know that Owen wanted to tell me that he could not go to bed until he had the gate (for the stairway) in bed with him so he could play with it instead of napping. This, friends, is the hill he's prepared to die upon.

"But I was just--"

"Get in bed now or no stories!"

Owen looked at me. "But I was--"

"GET IN BED NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW!" And that, loyal readers, is what I like to call Quality Parenting.

Owen answered, completely unfazed, "No! I'm going downstairs, and I'm going to get some milk, and sit at the table, and you can't make me take naps."

Don't smile, don't smile, don't smile. Shit! I smiled. Owen laughed. I reset my face into a stern expression and said:

"Please get in bed."

Owen got in bed, laid with his feet on the pillow and laughed hysterically at his brilliance.

"Okay, goodnight," I said, walking towards the door.

Owen took this moment to go apeshit. "Mooooooomy! Stories! Stories!" This, apparently, is tired toddler for, "Mother, dear, please read me a short story. I would appreciate it ever-so-much."

I hesitated by the doorknob. Owen was making quite a racket. Enough to wake up Joel, who was across the hallway and easily roused. I made an executive decision to go back in the room.

I stomped to the bed and hissed, "If you wake up your brother you will be in soo much trouble. Goodnight."

If I was a liar, I would say that he then fell asleep without further argument. The reality is that I rewarded his rude behavior and stalling techniques with not one, but yes, two stories.

Again, Quality Parenting.

Sometimes, it's survival. Owen's a good kid, and smart too. This is why he plays me so well. In this case, the needs of the many (Joel's sleep, and my sanity) outweighed the needs of the one (Owen's reality check).

This fight will be fought another day.

But for now, two quick stories is a small price to pay for having two hours of blessed, necessary quiet.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mr. Science

In Sixth Grade, Mrs. Yost put us into groups and gave us terrariums. We placed guppies, plants, tadpoles, and bugs into these terrariums, and ruled over our kingdoms like the Gods we were.

We learned about ecosystems and the food chain. One of our guppies died, and in a touching, ceremonial moment, we threw it in the dirt outside our portable classroom.

In this class, I decided that I wanted to be a scientist. I have since been disabused of this notion.

I discovered, after taking Honors Biology from a man with a penchant for wearing ties in the shape of trout, that I lack the meticulous nature required for scientific inquiry. I'm not detail-orientated. I lack patience. I get frustrated quickly. You can see why I wasn't on the team to find the genome. I'm so inattentive that I've gone to work wearing one navy blue shoe and one black shoe more times than I can count.

The final nail in the coffin for science was in college, when I took geology for my required science credit. I don't know where this "Rocks for Jocks" label originated, but I found that geology was not a lot of football players, but lots of dirty, dirty hippies. Hippies who felt totally comfortable discussing the Phish show, but not so comfortable helping me label and sort various rocks during the lab. They briefly perked up when the grad student (who always brought her surly, stinky, hemp-collared dog to our lab) mentioned acid, but were disappointed to discover the acid was for testing....something (acidity?) instead of tripping the light fantastic.

I realize I sound like a cranky pain in the ass in that previous paragraph, but at least I didn't pretend to have a near-sexual relationship with Mother Earth, unlike the majority of my classmates. If you love the Earth so much, get off your stinky butt it.

Anyway, I realize now that I am no scientist, but I would probably be a decent early elementary science teacher. I love watching Owen discover the wonder of this world, being the little scientist that he is. His newest thing is water and pipes. He'll spend hours crafting PVC pipe creations, then adding water to see where the water will go. When something doesn't work, he'll talk out loud to himself:

"I wonder what would happen if I did this?"

Or, "Maybe, I need to move this pipe."

Or, occasionally, "HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!" followed by the angry throwing of a pipe.

He is my son.

Love this:

In addition to pipes, we freeze empty yogurt containers and put things in the water before freezing---Cheerios, grapes, toys. We've had a lot of fun making ice sculptures or setting the containers out in the sun to "free" the toys.

Our various plants have been another fun experiment. Each day, Owen goes out to the tomato plant and pats each tomato gently. "Still green," he murmurs.

After Family Day on the Farm, we came home with a pumpkin and pea seedling. Paul, again inspiring me with his wellspring of practical knowledge (it seems wrong that I can name every member of Jon and Kate's family while Paul knows how to plant things, repair cars, and fix computers), built a climbing vine contraption for Owen's pea seedlings. Owen believes, sincerely, thanks to a Richard Scarry book, that his pumpkin will grow to be the size of our house.

I sincerely hope that happens because that would be freakin' awesome.

Ironically, the one failed experiment we have is a...terrarium. A friend of mine, a former high school biology teacher, came over one day with tadpole eggs. We place them in Owen's terrarium and watched, eagerly, for their amazing metamorphosis.

Still waiting. I think if Owen is going to see a tadpole, it will come from Petco, alas.

Like I said, I love this kind of science because it doesn't deal with pesky things like numbers or details or right or wrong. Owen's science is more of the sort where we open our eyes, take a deep breath, and say, "Is this world ever cool!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Crystal Ball

Part Two of Beach Trip Reflections:

I didn't mention yesterday that on our recent trip to the beach, we traveled with our good friends. This is the first time, ever, that Paul and I have traveled with other people besides family.

We learned a lot.

We learned that we are living in the calm before the storm. Our friends have a daughter who is almost two and a son that is Owen's age. In other words, BOTH of their children are FULLY MOBILE. It's madness. A lot of fun, but madness nonetheless.

I've had several friends who have had their second child over the last year. We all say the same thing, "What the hell were we complaining about when we watched ONE baby?"

I recall with crystal clarity the stress I felt when Paul went away on business and I watched six-month-old Owen...all by myself. Yes, non-walking, contained-in-a-crib, non-mouthy baby Owen. I felt like such a martyr. When, oh when, would I get a break?

Now, when I'm only watching Joel, I consider it "time off." Babies are easy. Mostly.

Since Joel still sleeps in a crib, happily, and doesn't yet walk, we still have the ability to contain the little guy.

Now, vacationing with two toddlers who can walk, talk, upend sugar containers and dart off into traffic? That'll keep you hopping. That is our future.

I mentioned that I learned a lot from these friends. What I learned is that there's two ways to approach life with young children: you can hunker down and be married to a schedule to the point of absurdity OR you can take your kids out into the world and expect a little chaos.

Since I believe that we are a family, and we need to experience the world as a family, the occasional soupcon of chaos is acceptable. We can make the world safe and predictable, but we also need to allow space for serendipity. That doesn't happen without risk.

I'm looking forward to traveling with these friends again. They were low-key travel companions. We met up when we could; didn't stress when we couldn't. More importantly, we understood that traveling with children has unique challenges, and did our best to just make it work.

So, for next year, my friend suggested that we leash all four children together and bring along soda cans full of rocks and spray bottles of water. I think this idea is brilliant.

Come to Delaware mid-June next year, and you'll see two four year old boys, a glasses-wearing two year old, and a three-year old girl. You'll see crumbs and discarded juice boxes in our wake. We will be slightly dazed, possibly twitchy. Hopefully, though, we will be seeing the absurd joy of the moment.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rehoboth Rehashed

I'm back from the beach, which I'm sure is a huge relief to all of you, having been waiting on pins and needles to hear everything about our first family-of-four vacation.

Hello? Are you still there? I think this blog might be cutting out? Hellllooooooooo?

I'm going to assume by the sound of deafening silence that you're back.

The trip was good. We saw this whole experience as a litmus test. We have never done hotel with Owen, except when he was in his baby-blob phase, and we certainly haven't done hotel with Joel. We figured that if everything was too loud, too whiny, too miserable, and too just no fun at all, we would pack up the car and head home.

It's only three hours away, you see.

Luckily, that did not happen. On the contrary, the boys were troopers. We wisely got a room with a suite, so that we could keep Owen entertained by Happy Feet (thank you, random cable channel for that gift from God), while Joel settled himself down. Then, after threatening Owen with dire harm if he made any noises to wake up his brother, we did story time and prayers on the couch, and then carried him into his bed, next to Joel's pack and play.

We then left the two boys alone in the hotel and hit the clubs while drinking large fruity cocktails.

Okay, so we actually watched the season finale of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" while drinking a six-pack. Still entertaining. I can watch Theresa upend a table all night long.

Now, for the beach itself. This picture says it all:

It rained. It rained a lot. Noah's ark, pounding-down, tear-your-umbrella kinda rain. We found ourselves playing with the train table at a charming toy store and going from one coffee house to the next, leaving a trail of muffin crumbs in our wake. We went to the arcade and I introduced Owen to the wonder of ski-ball. He didn't quite get the concept, since he flung the balls across four lanes, narrowly missing the noggins of children and the elderly.

Despite the rain, we were happy. And very, very wet.:

To combat the rain, we spent much time at Funland, a glorified arcade with kiddie rides. Owen went on them, but it was grim, serious business:

His expression was the same on every ride: a set gaze, a serious jut to the jaw, and no, under any circumstances, smiling. We suspect he was a little nervous about the whole thing and was being the stoic Norwegian his heritage suggests.

Funland is an interesting place. On the way home, we found that it was on the road map, a monument of equal importance to the Statue of Liberty. Who knew?

It's staffed almost entirely by Eastern Europeans. I feel a little guilty peeling off dollar bills to Natalya, a guest to our country from Lithuania. While her country is bartering bread for medical services, I'm spending my hard-earned dollars in the hopes of Owen winning a stuffed turtle, made in a Chinese sweatshop.

This line of thinking means that I'm thinking too hard. Luckily, the sun eventually came out and there was fun to be had in the sand and surf. And, of course, awkwardly posed photographs on the boardwalk:

I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Deliever me thus to Delaware

We are taking our first official family (of four) vacation tomorrow.

We're going to Delaware.

Delaware is one of those states that never hit my radar growing up. When we had the fill-in-the-blank geography tests of New England, I would remember Connecticut, Rhode Island, and I even got New Hampshire and Vermont in the right places. But Delaware...I just plumb forgot about it.

My geography nerd family members are surely going to comment that Delaware is, in fact, a MID-ATLANTIC, state, but I clearly remember getting that question wrong on my New England geography test. Blame AZ public schools, if you must

Speaking of AZ public schools, when we studied the Civil War, I asked the teacher if AZ was fighting for the North or the South. She replied that AZ wasn't a state at the time and didn't fight in the Civil War.

I then brought up the battle of Picacho Peak, the westernmost battle of the Civil War. I added that it was a battle between a California Union Army and a Texas Confederate Army. (I knew this because I had just been there with my girl scout troop, and because I was (am) a complete and utter nerd).

She sighed heavily and explained that there was no AZ Army, therefore the territory of AZ had no "side" in the Civil War.

I countered, "But if they did, which side would they be on?"

She sighed again, looked at the class as if to say, "Can you believe this?" and said, "The South, I guess."

"Yuck," I replied, wanting my home state to be of the land of Lincoln, not Lee.

Can you believe nobody gave me a high five for my line of questioning during recess? That my knowledge of arcane Civil War battles didn't shoot me to the top of the elementary school social standings?


That was a long, pointless sidebar.

So...we're going to Delaware! Rehoboth Beach, DE, to be precise. We're taking the boys, meeting up with our friends and their toddler crew of two, and we plan to do the following:
1) Play in the sand
2) Sit under an umbrella
3) Eat boardwalk fries
4) Make witty observations
5) Avoid sunburn
6) Feed coins into the amusement park rides at "Funland."
7) Get eaten by a shark (okay, maybe that's just my plan. It would make a good blog entry...)

So, loyal followers (Hi Mom!) I will be away from the computer for a few days...I'll have plenty of stories to tell about sand, surf, and hopefully, obscure Civil War battles.

Monday, June 15, 2009

God Laughs

When Paul and I decided we wanted to start a family, we announced to friends and family that we were "trying."

Why did we do that? It's like sending out pre-printed Hallmark cards: "Hey world! We're having SEX!!"

But, nevertheless, we did. My in-laws attempted to change the subject, good-natured friends started talking about "cervical mucus" and basal temperature, and my mother started shopping at Carter's and Gymboree.

Timing was important, because, as a teacher, I wanted to make my maternity leave fit well with the school year. I would hate to have a baby in say, October, and then put our son or daughter in day-care for only a few months as I finished out my teaching obligations.

No, I had a plan. Start trying in August, get pregnant in September, and finish the school year a bit early, before the natives lost their adolescent minds.

They say that when you make a plan, God laughs. It's true.

It took us four months to get pregnant with Owen. Around month one and a half, I started researching fertility clinics and discussing adoption options with Paul. I bargained with God, promising Him that we would find a church home, attend church regularly, and do anything if we could just get pregnant.

Ridiculous. I've since known people who tried an entire year to get pregnant...and then did (naturally)...with twins.

I know a couple who got pregnant as soon as they sent off their non-refundable adoption deposit.

I've also known people who have suffered much hardship and pain due to infertility (and joy as well, when they finally were able to become parents). When I tell them about my FOUR WHOLE MONTHS, they snort and call me a "sneezer." (A sneezer is a person who becomes pregnant by sneezing.)

In 2007 we decide to try again (and, like morons, once again tell the world about our bedroom activities). Around month one and a half of trying, I start researching secondary infertility and journaled about all the opportunities we could give Owen as an only child.

You can see where this is going.

Four months later, we conceived Joel. Four months.

God laughed his holy ass off.

It's good to remember this time whenever the answers aren't coming quickly enough for me. Whenever I want to know the plan, or worry about the unknown, I need to remember that God doesn't toy with me, but he does use circumstances to show me my own tomfoolery.

I read this verse today: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

I think the self-discipline stood out for me. Whenever it's easy to allow fear of the unknown drive my car, I need to remember that I have the discipline to put my foot on the brake. I can breathe, pray, refocus, and than drive my car in a better direction.

God takes away fear, but I need to have the discipline to let Him.

I know that when the future comes, everything will be exactly where it needs to be. And God, as my kind Heavenly father, will be laughing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Crossed Paths

I goad my son. I instigate. I rabble-rouse. I'll take a perfectly content child and make turn him into a raving lunatic.

Yesterday, he was reading a book to himself. Quite happily.

"Hey, Owen," I said.


"Hey Owen," I repeated.

"Not now, Mom. I'm too busy."

"Too busy for me to eat your feet?" I responded, grabbing a scrumptious little piggy.

"Noooooooooooooo! Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhh! No! Mommy! No!" he yelped.

"Oh, yes, it's piggy eating time!" my voice was lunatic-asylum cheery.

"No! Don't! Eat! My! Feet! That's enough!" Owen was laughing as he spoke, but it was a hysterical, could-turn-on-a-dime kind of laughter.

I gave his feet one final nibble, then reluctantly let them go.

"Go away, Mommy," he said, and returned to his book.

"Fine," I answered. I felt dismissed, swatted away like a horsefly. My mothering/roughhousing services were not needed at that moment.

This is truly the chickens coming home to roost. Anybody who has spent time with me knows that there are times that I'm reading or otherwise occupied, and I'm not in the mood for banter or nonsense of any sort. I need a lot of alone time, usually around the time that the significant people in my life wish to interact.

So, out of anybody in the world, you would think that I would understand and respect my son's need for downtime. I need time alone like I need coffee and oxygen.

Also, Lord knows there are many times that I would pay good money to have Owen silently, independently amuse himself.

That is, unless I feel like playing with him. Then, I want him to be right there with me.

Already, our paths are crossed. And, I suppose, since I'm the supposed adult, I'm the one who should adapt.

It's just so hard when those toes are so delicious.

Friday, June 12, 2009

10 Moments

2009: Paul tells Owen and Joel, over frozen waffles, "I sure do love your Mom."

2008: I reveal to Paul that my pregnancy-induced eczema is actually the result of me rubbing soap all over my dry skin, mistakenly thinking it was lotion. He smiles and says, "That's Nance!"

2007: Paul says, "I would be happy living anywhere with you."
"Even Southern California?" I counter.
"Don't push it," he replies.

2006: Nine months pregnant. Surly. Paul says, "You've never looked more beautiful."

2005: We're on the top of a green hill in Baxter State Park, Maine. Looking over the landscape, holding hands, eating trail mix. Perfection.

2004: Paul's on his three-month rotation in Rockville, MD. We take the Metro everywhere, eat Ethiopian food, and pretend to be urban hipsters.

2003: The fourth day of being housebound due to an ice storm. Paul rolls his eyes and says, "Did you really have to dress the dog in my boxer shorts?" Yes, Paul. Yes I did.

2002: Every Saturday: Wake up around nine, get breakfast, hike Sabino Canyon, putter, read, sleep, dream.

Wednesday nights, we ride our bikes to the university, listen to the Frank Sinatra impersonator at Frog and Firkin and drink Black and Tans.

We have a pregnancy scare. I make 22,000 a year. Paul is a full-time student on the GI Bill. He says, "Well, a curtain climber running around would be okay."

1999: June 12th. As Paul says, "I do," he is holding back tears. I'm grinning like I won the lottery.

(Because I did.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I had my doctor's appointment today. The doctor tested my blood for Lyme's disease, took more blood to see if I'm lacking proper vitamins, and sent me to get a spinal X-ray. He also poked me repeatedly with a wire and rapped at my joints with a hammer.

All and all, a fantastic way to spend a morning.

Driving home, I thought of my friend from sixth grade, Jody. She lived in a house that smelled like stubbed-out cigarettes. Her mother worked nights as a nursing home nurse. Her stepfather was a drunk and had Multiple Sclerosis. Jody hated him. Jody harbored a secret crush on Oliver North (yes, that Oliver North, from the Iran-Contra affair), and once gave me a glass full of whiskey. She told me it was apple juice, then laughed when I spit it out.

Jody wore her neediness like a sandwich-board sign. She desperately wanted to be popular, and would laugh a little too hard when Hayley or Erica made fun of Charlie, the kid with the flopping, deformed hand. I knew that, if given the opportunity, Jody would sell me out instantly to ascend to that popular clique.

My entire family hated Jody. You have to understand that my family doesn't hate anybody. But when Jody grabbed a spray bottle of bleach and aimed it at my brother's eyes, my mother raised her voice and told her to get out of her home.

Jody didn't know that there was bleach in the bottle when she aimed and fired, but she did understand that the only way to feel good is to relentlessly attack, attack, attack. My brother--younger, a bit dorky at the time---was as good a target as any.

You may be wondering why I was friends with her. I was friends with her because I had been to her house. Her stepfather would sit in a fuzzy orange chair, nursing something that was decidedly not apple juice. Occasionally, he would call to her in a slurred, ravaged voice, "Joooooooody! Hand me the remote." She would hand it to him, and skitter away like a jumpy puppy.

Jody had a flair for the dramatic, and knew the power of words. On more than one occasion, she told me that her stepfather abused her. I told a teacher; nothing happened, as far as I know. I always felt suspicious, could a man who was unable to walk or speak hurt Jody?

I remained friends with Jody out of guilt, knowing that her home was dark and lonely, and that she wanted, more than anything, to feel special. I don't think I helped Jody---I wasn't popular, and I didn't stop her stepfather from living in her home.

Over time, I found other, nicer, less damaged friends. When Jody decided to move to Washington State, to live with her father, I felt like I had taken a sixty pound backpack off after a long, arduous, hike.

I heard that her stepfather died, and I was glad.

I haven't thought about Jody for years, but today, when the doctor told me that MS was one of the many possible diagnosis, I went right back to that dark, terrifying living room.

I pray that Jody has found peace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Should I actually send this?

Dear Doctors and Staff of ____________ Pediatrics:

After spending two evenings at your after-hours clinic, it occurred to me that "after-hours" has changed considerably from the freewheeling days of my youth. Evenings that once involved over sharing, the musical stylings of the Beastie Boys, Buffalo Wings, and karaoke renditions of "Sweet Caroline" have been replaced by plastic chairs and clingy children.

In my mind, this is not entirely a fair trade.

Thus, consider my suggestion: blending the best of both words. Continue your convenient, top-of-the-line pediatric services, but add drink specials and entertainment.

I'll supply the box of wine. You can place it in the vaccination fridge. Since your clinic has signs that clearly state that drinking, eating, and cell phone use is prohibited, we will use a code phrase. Guests of _________ Afterhours will come up to the counter and say, "My sippy cup needs a topper-offer." The nurse/barkeep will nod knowingly and take the sippy cup back to the vaccination closet. We'll drink our drinks and wait until your caring staff is able to attend to our childrens' needs.

A friend of mine has a disco ball she is willing to donate. In addition to adding the classy ambiance that all parents look for when shopping around for a pediatrician, it could be rigged to periodically send out a refreshing mist of Lysol.This would be healthful, yet create that "nightclub" vibe.

Naturally, as owners of __________Afterhours, you would be able to partake of the box wine. This may be especially needed when the Penguins are on TV.

You may be concerned about the ill effects of drinking, but let me assure you that this will be a benefit to you. Paranoid, over-the-top parents such as myself will be more mellow, less question-y. While I can't speak for everybody, let me assure you that I am both hilarious and brilliant when I've had a glass or two. You certainly wouldn't want to miss out on that.

Since box wine doesn't come cheap, let's make this an exclusive club, for my friends and acquaintances. For some strange reason, they all requested that I not name them in this missive. I'm sure they'll come around once you approve this idea.

I hope you recognize the many, many benefits of this idea. I eagerly await your response.


Nancy Campbell
(aka Owen and Joel's mother)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stream-Of-Consciouness is Not a Good Thing

I ended up canceling my appointment yesterday because Owen was running a fever and we had to take him to after-hours at the pediatrician.

"After hours" sure has changed context for me. Nowadays it involves a lot more of waiting in plastic chairs and a lot less slurred conversations. There was certainly no dancing to House of Pain or "hilarious" attempts to commandeer band instruments.

Owen will be fine. It's some kind of viral nonsense that will run its course, hopefully without infecting his baby brother in the process.


My appointment is rescheduled for Thursday morning, and I hope that I'll cancel that one, too, because the numbness will go away. Right now, I'm blaming excessive yoga.

Really, that's the cause of most of the world's problems: excessive yoga. That's how we got into the gulf, you know. George W. Bush is crazy for the yoga. For that matter, that's why we're in this financial crisis: people were doing so much yoga that they bought homes they couldn't afford to build massive yoga studios. Did you know that Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Nero all loved the yoga? It's a little known fact.


Paul thought he would save money by buying a whole chicken. He would cook it, and then we would use if for several chicken recipes throughout the week. The monkey wrench in this plan is that we can't make the recipes until we cook the chicken, and we can't cook the chicken until Paul comes home. I only cook meat when it looks nothing like it does in nature. I'm all over ground meats or boneless, skinless blobs in packaging. If it involves skin, bones, or sinew, I'm gone.

So, it'll be leftover bean soup for dinner again tonight.

Wanna make my kid crazy? Sing or dance anytime, anywhere. He points his finger and says, "Mommy! Stop! Singing! Right. Now." No please. It's spoken with the same intensity in his voice as mine when I insist he gets away from the boiling pot or demand that he holds my hand in the parking lot.

Me not singing is serious business.


My aunt is staying at a villa in Paris right now, seeing art and eating croissants. She'll be jealous to find out that I'm going to Delaware next week. Boo-yah.


I think I'll name my tomato plant Elmer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Barn Raising

Sometimes I just want to smack myself.

I've been having numbness in my right hand and foot since Thursday. I've ignored it because every other person I know who has had numbness in their hands and feet has ended up with a diagnosis of Multiple Scleroses or Lyme Disease. Neither of which sound like a lot of fun. So, by ignoring the symptoms, they don't exist, and everything is fine.

Except that it is now Monday and I still have the numbness. So, I called the doctor and have an appointment at 5:30. At this appointment, I imagine nothing will happen except that I will get a referral to another doctor, and possibly a trip to get an MRI.

I don't want this, either.

I know, logically, that there are any number of logical reasons for the numbness:
1) Sitting in front of the computer, typing and doing repeated small motions with my right hand.
2) Holding Joel exclusively on my right side. All twenty sack-of-potatoes pounds of him.
3) Doing yoga and pilates four days a week, all of which involves putting pressure on the hands and feet.

Of course, with all of these logical options, I jump right to ass-eating cancer and neuro-degenerative chronic illness. That's faith for you. That's trusting God and leaning not on my own understanding.

I'm just grateful that God is kinda out of his Old Testament-vengeful phase, and more on the grace/loving tip, because if I were God, I would smack the shit out of me for being such a drama-queen hypochondriac.

Maybe that's why I'm not in charge.

I know, logically, that if I have ass-eating cancer, than I already have it and worrying isn't going to do much to take care of it. On the other hand, if I don't have ass-eating cancer, than I've worried for no good reason, and worrying apparently takes years off one's life.

If you claim to have faith, than you have faith. If I do have something seriously wrong, I know that there will be a barn-raising, and God will use his people to protect me and my family from the storm. If nothing is wrong, than this is a reminder to me to be there, and raise that barn for others.

But while I'm waiting...I just need to focus on something else besides me.

I need to let myself feel numb for awhile.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Thwart Thee!

My friend Kristen's son is almost exactly a year older than Joel. Due to sickness and circumstance, I haven't seen Kristen in person for a good three weeks or so. Catching up on the phone, I heard her son say, "Mommy, please," in the background, and felt my stomach drop to my toes.

When did her baby learn to talk in sentences? I've known logically that her son is not a baby, and will, in fact, be two in August. Yet, it still threw me for a loop that my good friend deals day in and day out with two walking, talking boys...and soon I will, too.

Already, Joel is keeping me popping up and down like a Whack-A-Mole. If it's not the tempting, tempting potted plant, beseeching Joel to grab handfuls of dirt, it's the toilet paper roll waiting be be spun, or the filthy shoes waiting to be mouthed. And, yes, there's Joel's new favorite: the stairs.

Quietly, stealthy, he'll crawl over to the staircase, and begin to ascend. Oh,the wonder, the joy of those steps! As he crawls up (with me following anxiously behind), he'll turn around and beam, "Good Lord, woman, this is AMAZING!" then continue up. When he reaches the top of the stairs, he makes a beeline for his goal: another potted plant. The same potted plant, loyal readers may recall, that Owen used as a urinal.

What is it about that plant?

I thwart Joel, carrying him back downstairs, but he's back to the steps, an addict needing his fix, within seconds.

Saying, "No, Joel, I thwart thee!" does nothing.

Thus, this begins the terrifying early toddler stage, which is a bit like living in a Sigma Nu frat house. Buckets of toys are overturned for no logical reason, than abandoned, leaving rubble in its wake. Every movement, every choice, is based on a dare. Why not dangle your hands in the toilet? Why not grab random condiments out of the fridge? Why not pull your older brother's hair, which is akin to poking a grizzly with a stick? Why not lunge for your mother's shoulder blade with your four, diamond-sharp teeth?

A side note on the biting: Joel is a vampire. He lunges, attempting to sink his choppers into my arm, my shoulder, and memorably, Paul's nose. Owen has taken to pointing his finger in Joel's face and saying, "Do not eat people! Only! Food!" Although I would never name Joel after the Twilight series (because it sucks--heh--), his middle name of Edward is, alas, apt.

As you can imagine, Owen's verbal attempts at thwarting are as ineffective as mine. I've taken to saying, "Owen, go take care of your brother." And indeed, like a mobster flunky, Owen "takes care" of Joel whenever he attempts more mischief. He picks him up under his armpits, and toddles him away. He announces, "No, Joel, that's Not. For. You." and plops him down by the couch.

Joel will then immediately turn around and crawl back to whatever he was doing.

This thwarting business will continue for the next few years, but at least I've got Owen the Enforcer to help me out this time.

Things are certainly not dull around these parts. Perhaps my friends with younger babies or no children may soon place a call to my house. As we are talking, they may hear a crash, a scream, or an upended piece of furniture, and feel their stomachs drop to their toes.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Here's the part of the phone call I hate: "So, what are you up to?"

I have absolutely nothing to say. No-thing.

As a person who considers herself reasonably creative, and who manages to find something to write about almost every day, I don't know WHY it is so hard to chit-chat on the phone.

This is why I enjoy having friends with eventful lives. I can always count on a story about a crazed in-law or an insane boss to distract me from my day-to-day goings-on. I like listening to my friends, encouraging them when they are frustrated, angry or just needing to vent. I think that I'm a decent listener in that regard.

But, I hate it when the tables are turned and the friends ask me about my life. I have a hard time thinking of anything worthwhile to share that I haven't already said a million times. Report on Joel's sleeping habits? Discuss my writing career that isn't a career? Explain how Owen really, really likes to play with water in the kitchen sink?

My life is more C-SPAN than The Hills. I'm not a Real Housewife, I'm a real housewife. While I enjoy being an even-keeled person, I occasionally wish that I had some drama to liven up my end of the phone.

Instead, I find myself sharing odd tidbits with people, such as "Do you know that you can get a prescription to get longer eyelashes?" Or, "I cannot stop watching that Intel commercial where the guy who invented the USB port is treated like a rock star." Sometimes, people go with it. Sometimes, people wonder what planet I'm from.

A group of friends from AZ even coined a term for my random thoughts, "Mohrmanisms" (Mohrman is my maiden name). It came about on a trip to San Diego. We were an hour into the six-hour drive, and I mused, "Wouldn't it be great, if teleporters from Star Trek really existed?" I thought that the context was there--we were in a car in the godforsaken desert, and a teleporter would be nice.

They studied me like my dog used to study turtles (with great curiosity), and laughed until they cried.

It made sense to me. Apparently, it was a bit random for them.

Perhaps this is why I am so attracted to status updates and and playing around with Twitter. I like to determine the perfect, random thought, and broadcast it to the world. I may not have a lot of drama in my life, but I'll always have a Mohrmanism handy to perplex and possibly, to entertain.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boxed In

It all started with a lawnmower. A hazardous, toe-chopping, oil-draining, groaning, wheezing, miserable excuse for a lawnmower. Paul bought this lawnmower shortly after our marriage in 1999, and has had a hard time letting go.

When the starter cord snapped off mid-pull, Paul finally decided to say goodbye to his dear friend, and took Owen to the "lawnmower store" aka The Best Freaking Place on Earth EVER.

The "lawnmower store," (Sears to you and me) not only had lawnmowers, but it also had a whole collection of washers and dryers, in various colors. Washers and dryers that could be opened and shut, rubbed reverently and gazed upon adoringly. There was even a CLEAR washer where Owen could see moving parts and sudsy water and ohhh...the JOY! The RAPTURE!

Owen with a shiny washing machine is like a thirty-year-old-woman at a New Kids reunion concert.

But, the fun did not end with the purchasing of the new lawnmower. No, we were left with this:

One may safely assume that this is just a box, but let me assure you, it is so much more.

A House:

A Submarine:

A Dishwasher:

And...(surprise!) a Washer/Dryer (This is the walk-in variety. Big Teddy and Green Pillow were dirty.):

This box is slowly losing its shape due to repeated sawing at it with my trusty kitchen knife. I fear, dear box, that your days are numbered. But while it is still making him happy, Owen will keep his box.

It makes me happy that he uses his imagination---it makes me think of my brother, who was so like Owen in that regard when he was a kid.

It also makes me happy that Owen's world is still magical enough that all it takes is a large box to have anything his little heart desires.

Finally, it makes me happy to think that this may be the tipping point for Paul so that we can finally get a new bathroom sink..."Just think, honey. Just think of the boxes..."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Continuing a theme from yesterday, the theme being "general cluelessness," I would like to discuss the inappropriate musical soundtrack of my life.

I'm not a big fan of American Idol (the last time I tuned in was when Clay Aiken was a contestant), but I do catch highlights on The Soup. Joel McCale featured a contestant who decided to dedicate his rendition of "Let's Get it On"... to his father.

Let's all take a moment to ponder the ewwwwwwwww factor of that. In addition to the fact that the song is about, um, doing it, it is also inappropriate because Marvin Gaye's father murdered him.

So, hmmmm, perhaps not the best choice to dedicate to dear ol' dad.

I laugh, but I just as often make bizarre song choices in my own life. I don't pay much attention to lyrics; I like a song because of the beat, melody, and general peppiness. Consequently, I find myself in all sorts of trouble.

When I was a new teacher, I thought I would be "young" and "hip" and play music while my students wrote. I would never do this today. One day, I put in a Soul Coughing CD. Until that particular day, I had never caught the full meaning of the following lyric: "Her knees, thrust in one direction/Like a symbol in math, a symbol meaning Greater Than"

Oops. Since all I had heard in previous listens was "math," I thought, "Oh, cool, I'm being cross-curricular."

This continued through the years, but really has come to a head now that I have to consider the innocent ears of my offspring. And general common sense, for that matter.

For example, when Owen had his first birthday, I briefly considered doing a slide show with a song from Neutral Milk Hotel in the background. We had listened to this group a lot right before Owen was born, and I'll always link trombones and the singer's whiny-yet-beautiful voice with that time.

So, it seemed a natural fit to link the images of that first, unforgettable year with these lyrics: "What a beautiful face I have found in this place/That is circling all round the sun" Owen was my beautiful face, a face I discovered in a hospital delivery room. Despite the fact that the Earth continued its axis around the sun, everything paused for a beautiful moment the day he was born.

The lyrics continue, "What a beautiful Dream/Like a flash on a screen/in a blink of an eye it's gone from me." And that's where the metaphor falls apart. The song, a lovely meditation about the fleeting, temporary nature of life, had no place at a BABY'S birthday party. There would be no thinking of death while my son smeared frosting all over his face.

And there wasn't. I decided, probably to the relief of the guests, to scrap the whole slide show idea.

When Joel was hospitalized at Hopkins, I remember sitting in the car, gearing up for another long drive to Baltimore. I was feeling tired, a little weepy, and decided that a mix CD of cheesy Nineties music was just what I needed. I turned it on and heard the following bit of wisdom from Chumbawamba, "I get knocked down/And I get up again/You're never going to keep me down." This is a repetitive song, so that particular lyric is repeated about thirty thousand times over the course of the song. And wouldn't you know, it worked. I listened to that song and mentally put my war paint on. Joel wasn't breathing on his own, things were scary, but, by God, Paul and I were going to get through this thing. We were not going to be kept down by worry or fear or anger.

Of course, the next lyrics, detailing the consumption of whisky, vodka, cider, and lager drinks was perhaps not the best advice for a woman who was pumping milk for her newborn every three hours.

I haven't gotten any better at listening to the lyrics. I was digging this Decemberists song, "The Rake," blasting it in the car as I drove the boys around and about. It turned out to be a ditty about a man murdering his three children in gruesome fashions.

Just today, I was listening to another Decemberists song, "Yankee Bayonet." Perhaps I should have learned my lesson with this group (not to mention the fact that a bayonet is part of the title), but of course I remained oblivious.

It's a pretty duet, where the male and female vocalists sing to each other, "I will be home again." How nice. Today, though, for the first time, I realized that the male singer would be home---in a wooden box. Because he was killed. Guess how?

Ding! Ding! Ding! A Yankee bayonet.

Perhaps I should stop listening to such violent lyrics and live on a steady diet of Moby.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I'm so lucky that I am oblivious to most insults.

Today, I was at lunch with two friends following Pilates. One friend was having a hard time with her future sister-in-law. I won't share her story, because it's not mine to tell, except that her SIL's condition rhymes with Slidezilla and involves the expectation of handouts.

I share this because I had recently been to lunch at the same restaurant with the same friends, with the addition of the dreaded future sister-in-law. Apparently, she had called me "old" to my face.

It didn't even register. This happens more often than it should. Backhanded insults or attempts at sarcasm barely register with me. I'm just too clueless.

For example, when somebody says, "Nice shoes," or "Nice outfit," I assume that he or she truly thinks my purple Crocs or ankle length skirt is cute.

When somebody says, "You look really good, for having just had a baby," I'll say "Thank You," and forget the second half of the statement.

One time, somebody said, "I wish that I could never do my hair, like you."

"Yeah, it's nice, thanks," I replied.

I'm not an idiot. I know sometimes that people are trying to be nasty. I just don't have time for that kind of stuff.

This talent worked especially well in middle school. The girls, especially, when trying to gain power or just throw some anger my way, would attempt some "subtle" insults:

"You hair doesn't naturally come like that, does it?"

"You really think you're funny, don't you?"

"You have friends?"

And my personal favorite, "Have you ever had, like, a boyfriend, or a life, or anything?"

Most insults don't matter to me because they were done either so crudely (see: middle school girls) or they were too subtle for me to notice (see: most other people).

Now...a real hurt or transgression to a real friend...that will tear me up. But the stupid stuff by trifling people...there's just not enough time in the day for that.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Confession: I own a Twitter account.

Twitter is what all the cool kids were doing a few months ago. Now that it has entered my radar, it is probably on its way out. For those of you living under rocks, Twitter is a social networking tool where you can send out "Tweets," short statements which update your followers about the minutia of your day. This is usually done via text messages on phones.

So, although I own a Twitter account, I do not Tweet for the following reasons:

1) Do I really need another venue to overshare? Besides writing about myself every day on this here blog, I have email and a Facebook account. Even my narcissism has bounds.

2) I don't text message. My phone has texting features, but I have never used them, and consider this to be an odd point of pride.

I've always been late to the whole cell-phone party. Paul and I didn't get cell phones until 2001, when we were driving across the country. We've updated our phones once since then. I often let my phone battery go dead, and I don't give out my cell number unless specifically asked.

I have a phone now because I have two small children, and you never know. However, I consider myself a cell-phone Luddite.

(Ironically, I saw a friend's iPhone recently, and found myself saying, "I totally want one of those." Such is the power of shiny gadgetry.)

3) The third reason I do not use my Twitter account is that I'm afraid nobody would follow me. There, I said it.

So, now that I've laid all that out, I'll totally contradict myself and share the Tweets I Could Have Sent. People of the Internet, you can tell me if I should do this for real, or if my initial instinct was best.

6:30 AM: Why is Joel half naked? And why does he have washboard abs?

7:30 AM: The scrambled eggs Owen so desperately needed, do not, as suspected, float in his milk.

9:oo AM: No, Owen, I wasn't planning on doing the 30 Minute Shred today. If you have something to tell me, just say it.

9:30 AM: No nap this morning, off to the dump and the gym.

10:45 AM: I love the old ladies at World Gym, lifting their three pound weights in their shiny purple tracksuits.

11:15 AM: Kimberly the Yoga Instructor is here. Yay!

11:17 AM: Oh Shit. Balance work.

12:25 PM: The mere fact that we are in Prince Frederick does not mean it is time for lunch at Panera, my young carb-loving consumer.

1:30 PM: Why, Owen, why have you decided that we must change into PJs for afternoon naps?

2:00 PM: Pretty uneventful day. I'll blog about Twitter, I guess.

Well, Internets, the future of my Twitter account is in your hands.

Don't get drunk on your power.

(Oh, and my twitter account is camp1974)