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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Vacation

I knew I'd taken a "vacation" before, I just had to think long and hard about when exactly that last happened. I had to flip all the way back to May of 2002 to find that memory. Upon my completion of graduate school, we headed to the West Coast to spend some days visiting family and resting and relaxing in our old honeymoon spot, a little house situated right on the rocky edge of the western side of the United States. It's a gorgeous getaway spot where we woke up each morning with the ocean at our feet just outside the large glass patio doors, where we ate our breakfast and lounged in front of a wall of picture windows overlooking the breathless, rugged, rocky coastline in Yachats, Oregon. Where the ocean was literally our backyard. Where we watched the sun set over the endless expanse of sea. It was a time and place in life that ended one chapter and began another. That is the last vacation I can remember that was really a vacation. I believe all other "vacations" in my entire married life were arranged around such tasks as moving, remodeling, having a baby, building a deck, having another baby, moving again, etc.

This week has been great. With all my paperwork caught up and nearly 11 solid days before me to do anything BUT tasks related to my career, I have enjoyed the family time and the down time. I've enjoyed not blogging. I've enjoyed catching up the scrapbooks, even though the work is so slow on it. I question whether all this creative expression will really stand the test of time despite the glue, the pens, the papers, the stickers, etc. all being labeled as archival quality. I have no time for real hobbies anymore. My work has become my hobby. There is no time for scrapbooking amidst my parenting and homeschooling duties and requirements of my "career-by-a-thread." And so, despite my hours of work over the past several days, I still find myself nearly 14 months in arrears on documentation in the photo albums.

We had a great Christmas and spent lots of time as a family relaxing, playing with the kids new toys, and just hanging out. Husband and I even got to go out alone to a local Japanese steakhouse tonight and leave the kids with a friend. This is an evening to mark in history, firstly because Husband and I only seem to make it out alone (sans kids) a couple times per year, and secondly, this is the first time we've been able to leave Dear Son successfully with a babysitter that is not my mother.

I know the last picture posted in this blog entry is bit disturbing. Son has a new chainsaw in honor of all the work Dear Husband has both begun and has yet to do in the woods since the previous owners appear to have done nothing to clean up the mess of last winter's apocalypse of an ice storm. Here Dear Son is sporting Dear Husband's new ear warmers, worn around his cheeks, while he works the chainsaw. I think he's giving "Jason" a run for his money.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Turning Two

I'm not sure how over a week has passed since Dear Son experienced his 2nd, birthday, but it has. He had a great time being a "farmer" on his new tractor. He enjoyed his "Melmo" (Elmo) cake, his balloons, and his "pizzas" for his birthday dinner. He liked the "presents" as well, and once in awhile pulls one out from under the Christmas tree saying "Presents!" and preparing to unwrap it. I explain to him that those are presents for other people we are saving for Christmas to unwrap. He accepts this, but not until he asks, "Why?" He's been asking "Why?" for months now, and I know he got this from Big Sister. All I can say is that the "Why?" stage is going to be a long one for this child...and for his weary mommy.

We had Son's party on Saturday after his Thursday birthday, but on Thursday we met Daddy for birthday lunch together and then we took the kids around the corner to get a big mylar turtle balloon for Son. His favorite stuffed toy is "Turtle." We also got a couple latex balloons for Big Sister so she didn't feel left out. On the way back home, the kids sat in the middle row of the family mobile clutching their balloons like prizes. Both of them looked quite pleased with life all the way home. At one point Daughter said to me, "You are the best Mommy I've ever had!" I was thinking to myself that it's a good thing I've never had competition. I'll accept first place in the contest, regardless.

Everything else is fairly status quo, save for my peek into my clients' lives through my professional window. I'll abbreviate my explanation here just to say that some days I am burdened with the filth and misery of this world and what children in our culture are subjected to. And what they survive. I typically get to see them in the therapy room by the time they hit their teenage years, and the histories they come with frequently make me sick to my stomach. It's no wonder they start tripping out in the midst of the holidays as they are even more painfully reminded of not only the lack of positive family relationships during this season, but of their painful family histories that represent the reasons why they are without family. It seems unfair for me to even mention how I feel burdened by it all and weary of it, as I am not the one who has to literally live it. I simply share in the journey of those who do have to live it. Yet just walking through it with them can be exhausting and emotionally draining. More importantly, it drives me to love and nurture my own children even more intently, as if being an exceptional parent can somehow have the power to cancel out even a tiny bit of the fact of how many children in this world suffer so miserably at the hands of their parents.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm Pretty Sure this One Didn't Come from SpongeBob

I was schooling my daughter today when I decided to do a science review with her. We've been working on plant science for several weeks. I came to the question of what three things do plants need to grow? She blurts out "water...sun....(pause)." I waited. Daughter turns her head bit to the side and says, "Carbon dioxide?" I laughed good and hard out loud--because she was more than right. I was expecting "air" to be the final answer. That would have been the "correct" and expected response from a four year old. Heck, probably even from a six or seven year old. I know somewhere back in the content of what we've covered, carbon dioxide was mentioned once. No big emphasis on it or anything. Leave it to my girl to pull that one out of the place where all her latent learning is stored until she randomly and unexpectedly demonstrates her amazing abilities to absorb and retain somewhat trivial (but factual) information for later application.

At least she didn't credit this one to SpongeBob.

Two Years Still Feels Like Yesterday!

I confess...I had flashbacks last night. They were briefer than the past year, though. About 8:30pm, as I was snuggling with Dear Daughter in her bed, I thought of the eve of Dear Son's birth. How I read Daughter stories as I tried to ignore the contractions that had me in intense pain for two days. My doctor told me that morning that it was latent labor and she would see me the next week. I'd been awake all night in some serious pain, and this was only latent labor? I had to withstand another week of this? Well heck, what did I know. I never even felt the contractions with Dear Daughter before they decided she had to come via slice and dice mode. Who was I to argue? But man, did this latent labor feel painful!

I timed the contractions and tried to hide my pain as I finished a few bedtime stories. By the time I tucked Daughter in and left her room, I'd had about 40 minutes of contractions at semi-even intervals, but getting closer together. They were now consistently five minutes apart. I called my mom, the labor and delivery nurse. She agreed I'd better go in. I will spare you a repeat of the details I've already shared here.

Suffice it to say that every year as Christmas draws near, I begin to have a few flashbacks of the trauma of Son's birth and the aftermath. The holidays were a blur that year. I don't think I came out of the blur, semi-conscious, until about March. The only thing harder than laboring with a baby and then ultimately going c-section and then doing the whole newborn thing, is doing all those things with a 2 1/2 year old to parent as well.

I survived it. And every year I pat myself on the back and after I breathe a prayer of thanks for my beautiful baby boy, I follow with another prayer of thanks that goes something like this, "Thank GOD that's over!"

He's beautiful. He wasn't planned--at least not at the point that he came to be. But he's loved and wanted as much as a child could ever be. I can't imagine our lives or our family without him.

Happy Birthday, "Bubbie!"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Puffy Paint and Purple Gingerbread Men


The cold and icy weather has left us engaging in indoor activities. I decided to try a recipe for "puffy paint" last week and got brave enough to plop both the kids at the table to get dirty in it. It didn't necessarily make a real nice "puffy" paint, but it did make the paint thick enough to minimize the mess made by a painting not-quite-two-year-old.


And then there's Little Miss Sweet Tooth. She's been asking since about August to make a gingerbread house again. Last year we made one out of graham crackers. It was a pain in the you-know-what and didn't hold together very well. I looked at recipes for home-made gingerbread houses, and frankly it didn't seem worth the work involved. Especially if there are no big gingerbread fans in the house. So I wimped out and bought a kit. It was totally worth it. It came with a prepared platform to guide the pieces in and all the house pieces were precut. There were just enough candy decorations (even after Daughter nibbled on a few of them). The only complaint was that there wasn't quite enough icing. I could have easily made more if I wanted to mess with it. But I didn't. So we made do.










No complaints from Daughter.







Then there was the sugar cookies. Yes, that IS PURPLE icing you see on her lips and teeth. I'll explain later. The princess getup? Doesn't everybody wear their best princess gown and tiara on the occasion of Christmas cookie decorating?


The intention was to bake the cookies and stick them in the feezer until the end of the week when we look forward to a visit with Great Uncle Ron and Great Aunt Pat. Daughter wanted to decorate the cookies with them. But she couldn't stand it and wanted to do "a few of them" and save the rest for Great Uncle Ron and Great Aunt Pat to help with. Daughter does not suck her thumb, by the way. Unless there is cookie icing on it.

And yes (if you look closely) that IS a MOOSE, a BUNNY RABBIT, and a CHICKEN and a HEART you see on the table. And yes, (if you look closely) that IS ORANGE and PURPLE cookie icing you see on some of the cookies. I can explain the moose to anyone who doesn't know me well enough to already know about my love affair with the wildlife of northern Idaho. My home is well decorated in moose in a wimpy attempt to cling to a piece of the Pacific Northwest. It's no surprise a couple moose made it into my cookie cutter collection. The bunny and chicken? I'm just really not sure about those. There was also a cowboy in the cutter collection, but the dough kept sticking to him so we gave up. My only explanation is that I inherited my grandmother's cookie cutter collection, and these were included. Daughter had to try one of everything. Including, of course, the Valentine's Day heart shapes. As for the purple and orange icing, only Great Aunt Pat fully understands this. Let's just say it's a "sweet" (pun intended) gesture towards her and her brother and their very intriguing color attractions.

Daughter has a wild creative streak, and so we simply must indulge, even if it means a completely eclectic and non-traditional Christmas cookie spread.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ain't What She Used to Be

Long after Son emerged from the bath he shared with "Sissy," Dear Daughter continued to dive and float and roll about in the water. She's always been enamored with bath time and would probably be happy there all day long if allowed. Tonight I did my typical muti-tasking trick of cleaning the bathroom as she continued to play in her bath water. As I scrubbed the long double master bath vanity and mirror (Daughter still prefers my Jacuzzi over the somewhat plain bathtub in her own bathroom), she sang a little song that went like this, "One gray year, I ain't like I usedta be, ain't like I useta be." I heard it in the background, but I wasn't really paying too much attention at first. After about five rounds, I tuned in enough to sort of hear what she was singing, and I asked her to clarify her lyrics. She replied, "It's that song that you sing all the time, Mommy." I was puzzled and couldn't figure out what song I was singing with these lyrics, and yet the tune was hauntingly familiar.

Several moments later I was onto other thoughts and was busy putting away freshly washed clothing while Daughter continued to swim in the bath tub. I yawned and thought about how I never feel like I get enough sleep anymore while I absentmindedly began humming and singing. I suddenly realized that same tune that Daughter was singing a few minutes earlier was coming out of my own mouth, except with the correct lyrics, "The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be..." I laughed good and hard out loud when I realized what Daughter was singing as I eyed the gray and silver-ish roots in my hair in the large bathroom mirror and sighed a little. . I actually liked her version better. Either way, the tune is totally fitting.

I don't know why this tune came to me a couple months ago, but it did. And it stuck. And every so often I catch myself singing it to myself as I go about my business at home with the wee ones...usually when I'm in the middle of several loads of laundry, a sink full of dishes, cleaning up something one of the wee ones spilled on the floor, and in the middle of it all Son states, "Poopy!" and Daughter is having a meltdown because she doesn't know where Taggie Book is and my cell phone is ringing with an important business call. I'm tired a lot, and I guess that's why my subconscious dug this little ditty from out of the depths of my past and applied it aptly to my present circumstances.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

All In a Day's Work

There really was nothing unique about last night at our house. It was really just the same theme, different story line, except that I had a moment in the midst of it that I thought despite the stress and irritation of it all, I wanted to freeze frame it into my memory so that I wouldn't forget. So that one day I could remember it well enough to look back on it with fondness, even.

At about 8:00 pm, Dear Daughter states she is hungry and needs a snack before bed. I just walked in the door from work, at little earlier than usual. When Dear Son heard the rumor of snacks, he immediately starts fussing and whining for "bretast!" (breakfast). Then Son announces he wants "pizzas!" as he is on this pizza kick, and would eat it for every meal if allowed. We convinced him that "pizzas" was not on the menu, and I offer him an egg. He says, "Oh yeah! Eggie!" and as I get started with that he begins whining for "tato pattie!" which means he wants one of those convenient frozen potato patties that I don't like to feed the family often, but Son thinks they are the next best thing to "pizzas." We give in to avoid the battle. Dear Son and Dear Daughter finish their full five course snack and we start the bedtime thing.

I have caught "Jon and Kate Plus 8" a time or two, and I'm telling you, I frequently think that if my house looks like chaos, I don't even want to imagine their kind of chaos. It starts with Son finding a rubber glove in one of the bathroom drawers. It is left over from one of my hair coloring kits. He starts to squeal, "Glub! Glub!" and wants help getting it on his hand. The problem is, it's impossible to get each of his chubby little short fingers into its own long finger slot. But that's what he wants. Since it's impossible, Husband only takes so much of it before he does away with the "glub" and begins the task of trying to dress a stubborn, screaming, hot headed not-quite-two-year-old in his monkey-suit of a blanket sleeper. I'm sure this was not an easy task, and after the door to Son's room closed, I heard lots of screaming and crying and banging around in there as Husband dealt with the task. A couple minutes later the door flies open and out trots a grinning little imp stuffed in a blanket sleeper. I don't know how Son managed to stuff Husband in that thing. (Just kidding). Son was happy for the moment, so this was good.

Meanwhile Daughter was taking her token twenty minutes to pee in the toilet, and I was tired of standing around waiting and went to her bedroom to wait comfortably on her bed. Son decided he wanted me to "hold yas!" and so I lifted him into my lap and we began reading stories on his sister's bed. Then Daughter emerges quickly from the bathroom because she HATES HATES HATES to be left alone and requires an audience even when she is doing business with the toilet. She stumbles into her room with her underpants and jeans around her ankles, and I order her to put a Pull Up on. Before she gets to this point, she attempts to take her turtleneck sweater off her head, and it apparently gets stuck somewhere between her neck and her face. She starts freaking out and jumping around and screaming. By now she is buck naked save for the turtle neck sweater flying around her face while she runs in circles screaming that it is going to be stuck like that "FOREVER!" I send her naked butt into her brother's room where Husband had plopped into the rocking chair to wait patiently for the drama to end. I was suddenly slightly more amused than I was irritated about this whole scene. As Daughter's naked buns disappeared around the corner to seek help from her Daddy, I began to giggle and then I considered that may actually come a day in our lives that we would miss these times. I yelled to Husband in the next room, "Do you think there will be a time when they are teenagers that we a will actually miss these days?" And he hollered back, "I guess it depends on how much worse it gets when they are teenagers."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Butt-Ugly is in the Eye of the Beholder

The wee ones were pleased as punch with this year's Christmas tree, and this took the edge off my own sentiments to Dear Husband that what he had brought home was one butt-ugly tree.

We strayed from our usual Thanksgiving weekend tradition this year, as we feared with Thanksgiving being so early our tree would dry out before Christmas even arrived. We planned to get the tree the following weekend. I had seen a sign in front of a local tree nursery that advertised "Live Christmas Trees" and wondered why we had never considered before the option of putting up a potted tree that could later be planted in the yard. Husband and I discussed the idea and decided it was a perfect plan that is environmentally sensitive and financially helpful as we could use it later as a contribution towards the foresting of our five acres. Upon making this decision, Husband took on the task of taking the wee ones to pick it out while I was busy all day with other commitments. I had visions of a perfectly manicured Alpine Pine in a pretty pot in the corner of the family room. I know it was a dreamy ideal. After all, I've never even seen an Alpine Pine around here except for the fake ones, like the one I recently bought at Hobby Lobby for the upstairs living room. But, despite realizing deep down inside that an Alpine Pine was unreasonable, I must admit that I wasn't totally prepared for what I would see in the downstairs family room when I returned home late afternoon.

Dear Husband greeted me at the door all proud of himself and chattering about how he'd purchased a 6 ft tree but it must have been larger because he had to trim the top to fit it under the ceiling downstairs. I felt the excitement in the air with the wee ones running around while I unloaded groceries exclaiming about their adventure picking out a tree with Daddy. Dear Daughter was giving a long narrative about the whole event while Dear Son ran in circles saying, "Trismas tree, yay! Trismas tree, yay!"

Then I descended the stairs amidst all the buzz and rounded the corner. Let me just say that Charlie Brown would have been very proud. After a moment of surprise, my response was a calm and monotone, "Well, that's not quite what I was expecting." Dear Husband was baffled and irritated by my response, explaining how he had purchased the best looking tree they had and that it is a "natural pine tree" and that he thinks it is quite a nice looking tree. I let his words drone into the background and interrupted with, "Well, couldn't we just trim it up a bit and shape it better?" Husband would have nothing of it, insisting that would ruin the tree. I looked at it skeptically and my eyes fixed on the upper half of the tree where there is a good two foot length of tree trunk completely naked of branches. I said, "Well, maybe we could wrap some green garland around that part of it." Husband shot me a look that said, "Woman, you are really annoying me!" and I shut up except to mumble under my breath, "Man, that is one UGLY tree!" Dear Son walked up to it after that and announced, "Ugly!" which is when I realized that I had spoken that last sentiment out loud. I sneaked a sideways look at Husband, who shook his head and displayed a smug look on his face.

The rest of the evening was really quite fun. Dear Son continued to say, "Ugly!" each time he approached the tree with some shiny bauble to hang on it, and I snickered every time. Actually, I giggled to myself (albeit out loud) the entire time that I doled out the decorations to the elated wee ones and watched Dear Husband fight with the lights as he tried to get them to look just right on his Charlie Brown tree. I was having fun, and I was even feeling pleased with the ugly tree. Ironically, the more pleased I became with it, the more irritated Husband became with me.

Despite my visions of a perfectly manicured Alpine Pine being dashed, I think the butt-ugly potted "natural pine" will make for a fun annual tradition. That is, if Husband can handle it again next year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Does This Count?

Does this really count as the "first snow" of the season? The wee ones seemed to think so. Dear Daughter was beside herself until we got her outside to check it out (complete with her snow pants on), and Dear Son kept squealing, "Snowman! Snowman!" He calls snow "snowman" whether a real snowman is involved or not.

Daughter got busy trying to make snowballs, and Son wandered around jabbering about his new "ploots" (boots) until the snow melted in the late morning snow.

Personally, I don't think it counts if you can see as much grass on the ground as you can see snow, but I wasn't going to poo poo the kids' fun, so I went along with it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

In Which Daughter Demonstrates the Annoying Influences of the Media

It would seem that my dear four-year-old daughter absorbs far too much media advertising during these days of shopping, shopping, shopping, and all the holiday hoopla. I really can't figure out the source from which she absorbs this stuff. She is only allowed an hour of tv per day, up to two hours on an off day or on a dreary, cold, or rainy day. This "tv time" consists of the Noggin Network or PBS or a kid-friendly video. I never have the tv on outside of this time except after the kids are in bed. It would be pointless anyway, as the kids would hijack the tube as quickly as they hijack my jacuzzi bath. And so Dear Daughter gets virtually zero television commercials (except when I'm away at work and Husband indulges the kids in SpongeBob on Nickelodeon). Daughter, in fact, never experienced a single television commercial until sometime during the past year, and when she finally was exposed to them, they really agitated her! She would be in the middle of a show and suddenly a commercial would break through and she would come unglued wondering what happened to her show and when it would be back. She would whine and nag and cry until the show returned, so it's not like she was even listening to them. And yet somehow, she absorbs this stuff from somewhere.

As I was driving this morning, I listened to her chattering away from the middle row of the family mobile. She was jabbering about some "make believe" toy that she was conjuring up in her head. She was very clear with me that this was not a "real" toy, but just one that she was "imagining." Her description went on for several minutes in great detail. I confess, I had begun to tune out and was instead thinking about the tasks on my "to do" list for the day. Then I heard her voice kind of trail off and there was a brief pause before she punctuated her narrative with a matter-of-fact, "Batteries not included."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hijacked Again!

This is what happens when my jacuzzi gets hijacked by the wee ones.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Didn't Get the Memo

The kids both slept in until 8:45 this morning. That is unheard of, and I really wish I'd gotten the memo. I could have used a few more zzzzz's myself.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Boo Boy"

The bittersweet is back. Son likes to be just like his sister, and so he has recently decided that he want to play with play dough at the table while sitting in a booster seat just like "Sissy." I purchased one for him that is just like his sister's (to avoid the battles they tend to have over who gets what when) and we used it a few times when he wanted to do play dough. We've still used the highchair for meals. Tonight, however, Son asked to use the booster chair at dinner time. He looked so precious sitting up at the table in a regular chair. I asked him if he thought he was big stuff and commented wistfully that he is getting to be a "big boy." He replied, "Yeah! Boo boy" and repeated throughout the meal that he is a "boo boy." I felt that knot in my stomach that always means that I am about to be required to come to terms with how fast my babies are growing up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thankful for the Important Things

I know it's been awhile since I've updated. It's been hard to stay on top of the basic requirements of daily life these days. Extra stuff like blog posts get shoved to the bottom of my mental to do list. Work is busy for me, and this is good thing with all the expenses and new purchases that have come with our new home and five acres. We planted four new trees in the past two weekends. It's taken two weekends to get them in the ground as we had to slam through two to three feet of near solid rock with a pick ax to get the things in the ground. Hopefully it will be worth it in the upcoming summer when the trees should begin producing just enough shade to give hope for the following summers. Dear Husband and I have made the informal goal of planting four largish trees every year from now until we feel "wooded" enough.

It's gotten very difficult for me to manage the portion of my "career-by-a-thread" that requires me to manage all my own administrative duties, and to do it from home with a four-year-old and almost-23-month-old under foot. They are both quite demanding of my every second of time and have an uncanny way of getting themselves worked up into some form of crisis whenever I have to be on the phone with a client or case worker or insurance company for more than thirty seconds. Trying to stay on top of Daughter's homeschooling on top of the rest has gotten difficult. Many days I feel like a failure in every arena. If I put work aside for Daughter's school, the stress builds up and the work piles up and I can't get back on top of things. If I put Daughter's school aside for work, I feel neglectful, despite the fact that she is barely four and not even required to be enrolled in school yet. She likes school and thrives on the intellectual stimulation. She can write the entire alphabet, capitals and lowercase, and numbers through 50. She can count to 50 (obviously, if she can write to 50) and read simple stories of primarily three-letter words. She is beginning simple addition, and she loves the nature and plant science units we've been doing. We are also studying dinosaurs and space (planets, stars, the moon) and ocean science because she is fascinated by them all. Her vocabulary continues to explode and she typically spouts interesting facts at random. Today she informed her Sunday School class that the human body is made up of primarily water. At least I know she didn't get this from SpongeBob as we were talking about it just the other day. As we left Church this morning, she announced that she was "in the mood to do something more exhilarating," and a week ago she woke up one morning and immediately began telling me all about how she's had trouble falling asleep the night before and had to "banish" the dreams from her head in order to sleep. I interrupted her to inquire if she knew what "banish" means, to which she appeared a wee bit annoyed (she doesn't like to be interrupted) as she matter-of-factly stated that "banish" means "to get rid of" which she informed me in a tone of voice that echoed the sentiment, "don't you know ANYTHING?" before she returned to the story she was originally trying to tell me. I'm not sure that "banish" is a word even I would use in casual conversation, but leave it to my precocious daughter to weave it into her everyday preschool jabbering.

Son is going through a thing where his daddy, The Chosen One, is even more preferred and chosen than before. Last weekend when both Husband and I got up with him on Saturday morning, Son snuggled up to his daddy on the couch and ordered me to go back to bed. This is the thanks I get for packing on 50 pregnancy pounds with him and ultimately developing a thyroid condition that makes it hard not stay fat, being unable to sleep for more than three hours at a time for nearly a year throughout the pregnancy and first few months of his life, going through several hours of labor that made me wish to die before ultimately having to repeat the process of having my abdomen sliced and pried open to pull his nine pound body through, and then enduring seven months of breastfeeding that was not just about being the only one who could get up all night to feed him, but was also akin to nursing a high-powered shop vac. That kid had some wicked suction and liked to do his thing in 10 minutes flat from day one. I only gave up at the point that I developed a clogged milk duct and the standard advice to continue nursing through it lead to pain and bleeding that once again made me wish to die. There's also the daily intensity he puts me though while his daddy is blissfully at work and unaware, which could be soothed a bit by being "chosen" even every once in awhile. Husband reminds me every so often that Daughter stuck to me tighter than Velcro for the first two and half years of her life. I often longed for the break I never got with her. You'd think I'd just enjoy the "break" now. Yet the rejection of my own child is painful. On the flip side, Daddy, being the "Chosen One," gets to be the one that soothes Son back to sleep lately as he is going through some sort of thing where he is waking up nightly again in the wee hours.

Dear Son has also reminded me of my status as an "Old Mom" when I was enjoying a nice snuggle time with him a couple mornings ago (his daddy was at work--that's when I get the snuggles by "default"). He was studying my eyes and then pointed his little finger at the side of my right eye and stated, "Mommy...eye...tracked!" "Tracked" means "cracked." All his hard "k" sounds come out like "t" sounds right now. I was a bit puzzled at first until I realized he was calling the wrinkles around my eyes "cracks." And so I am not only a rejected mommy, I am an OLD rejected mommy with wrinkles as deep as cracks in my face.

I have to finish, though, with the perspective I gained at the end of the week when I was invited to participate in a fund raising event for a child in our community who recently died of an untreatable brain tumor. She died last month, less than three weeks after her third birthday. I read her entire web journal, written by her mommy, describing the trials they went through beginning with the clues that something was wrong when the child was 16 months of age and began having tremors and oddities with her gait. From this point until several weeks before her death they went through countless blood tests and transfusions, MRI's, different types of chemo, at least two brain surgeries, and routine trips hours away to receive care at St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and watched their daughter suffer unbearable physical pain and more hell on earth than anyone, let alone a child, deserves to go through, only to ultimately be told that the tumor was continuing to grow despite it all and that there was nothing more that could be tried. She was given weeks left to live. And then they watched her die. I weeped as I read, and as my own children's faces passed through my mind. I weeped when I held my baby boy the next day when he wanted me to snuggle him to sleep in my arms. As I felt his little body relax and slip into slumber, I tired to imagine what it would be like to hold my child this way, knowing he would die, and I couldn't. I tried to imagine what it would be like to bury a child and to continue living in the emptiness and quietness of the home we had shared (she was this couple's only child). The pain of the mere attempts to imagine it overwhelmed me, and I wept some more. I lingered a little longer that day with my dear son asleep in my arms, and when I finally laid him in his crib to finish his nap, I lingered awhile and looked at his precious little body sleeping peacefully. I then rushed to my daughter and held her as I cried some more. I was unable to explain to her what I was crying about. The best I can do in response to the impact of this family's story on my life is to hug my children tighter and tell them every day how thankful I am to have them in my life. This is something I did regularly even before, but now the intensity and urgency of it is greater. Simply having them in my life to kiss and hug and laugh and play with makes all the rest not nearly so significant. And it puts a spirit of thankfulness in my heart that is quite appropriate for the season.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween Indulgence

Here is the evidence that I indulged my children in some Halloween fun despite my disdain for the holiday.

Dear Daughter couldn't have been any more excited. She even won a costume contest (so what if she didn't have a lot of tough competition with only four other kids in her age group to compete against).

I knew Dear Son wouldn't last five minutes in a costume, so he just got to be a "puntin," which is how he pronounces it.

Off the topic, we are amused that lately Son has taken to shushing you if he doesn't like what you say. For example, if you tell him it time to change his stinky pants, he sticks his chubby finger up to his mouth and assertively states, "Shhh!!!!"

If he really doesn't like what you are suggesting to him, he'll go a step further and after the finger goes up to his mouth he'll say, "Shhh! Listen!!!!!" and then he tries to change the subject.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Daughter's Education in Action

Last Sunday Dear Daughter wowed her Sunday School teacher again with her vocabulary. They were apparently talking about sharks, and Daughter piped up with the information that sharks eat plankton and small fish. Her teacher thought it amusing that a just-turned-four-year old knows what plankton is and uses the word correctly to explain its function in the food chain. I was all proud, thinking that this was evidence of all the homeschooling I've done with her. I was recalling all the time we spent on underwater biology, and I knew we read about and discussed plankton.

Later in the evening I asked Daughter where she had learned about plankton. I intended to set her up to tell me all about the value of the education I have been providing her. I waited expectantly as she paused...and then she began with, "Well, on SpongeBob..."

It figures that I bust my rear to educate my daughter, and she attributes her education to SpongeBob. The other adult in this house is responsible for that particular part of out children's education.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where Do I Go to Resign?

This has been one of those weeks I would like to erase from history. Son has been under the weather and has only slept through one night the entire week.

We had a flat tire on the way to Grandma's house on Tuesday morning (Husband should take my opinions more seriously regarding things like flat tires, but that's another topic for another day).

I had my eyes checked Wednesday. First time in nearly 10 years. I thought it was time to investigate the cause behind my headaches. I was prescribed reading glasses. Again. Maybe I should start using them. It was stressful to find time shop for new frames for the new prescription. I get zero time to focus on my own needs because mothering a four-year-old and 22-month-old takes it all out of me, and whatever is left goes to my "career-by-a-thread."

Wednesday was also a day that I spent another two hours on the phone with the insurance company from hell. After spending 60 total hours on the phone with the claims department since last May, speaking to 25 customer service reps and three supervisors, re-submitting the same claims about eight times, providing (in writing) my credentials, my license number, my IQ score and my shoe size, they reported that their current excuse for not yet processing my claims is that they were "misrouted" and I needed to submit them a ninth time. I also learned on Wednesday that the phase of state health care restrictions that deeply impact my work as a mental health provider with this population are to be implemented. This will make working with this population even more punishing as the amount of work necessary in order to obtain the required pre-authorizations is huge. And every state health care program provider already knows that the reimbursement amounts are insulting. It may become necessary for me to focus on a new population.

On Thursday I called the doctor's office to discus that Son would not eat or drink for the past four days and the nurse said to bring him in. I had thirty minutes from the time I hung up until the appointment was to start. We live 30 minutes away. I had to bring Daughter with us as I had no other choice. This became a very stressful outing. Jacket weather has finally hit. I'm thankful for the cool down. On the other hand, wrestling two little ones in and out of jackets every time you go in and out of somewhere is a pain in the rear. My phone rang in the car, and I appreciated a few moments to process the state health care changes with a colleague. I knew this might be the only few moments I could steal out of the day to talk about this issue. When we got to the doctor's office, they wanted me to fill out new paperwork. This was a good reminder that we don't go to the doctor very often. I juggled the kids and their jackets and all the gear to a chair to work on the form provided to me on a clipboard. Son wanted to be held the entire time. I get two minutes into the form and the nurse calls us back. I stand up and find a way to juggle all the crap I have to carry, including one almost thirty pound toddler, two kid jackets, one adult jacket, the clipboard and pen, and a bag containing all the other assorted, but necessary kid gear required if you step more than twenty feet outside your home with children in tow.

Nurse does her job and the kids are entertained for a few moments with looking out the 5th story window at the city below. This gets old after a couple minutes and Son starts getting impatient. I manage to engage him a few more minutes with a game of name the color of the car driving by on the road below. Doctor enters and does his thing and leaves to process a throat culture to test for strep. Son was traumatized by the tongue depressor and the long cotton swab that made him gag. Son wants to leave. NOW. I manage to entertain him for several more minutes with the view outside the large windows. Daughter's nose is dripping now. Great. The only thing more fun than one sick kid is two sick kids. I find her a tissue for her nose. A couple minutes later I catch a whiff of some green air. I ask Son if he has stinky britches. He blinks at me innocently, and Daughter grins as she informs me that she is "tooting." I wave at the air hoping it will clear before the doctor comes back in. The air clears in time for Daughter to do her thing again followed by a concerned look on her face and the announcement that she needs to use the bathroom. My left eye begins twitching, and I am hopeful the doctor returns quickly as I don't want to abandon the exam room in search of a bathroom. A few minutes later the doctor returns, and the sight of him sends Son into a screaming fit. The doctor explains it is not strep, but I cannot hear another word between Son's screaming and Daughter's impatient nagging about getting to the bathroom.

We get to the bathroom, and I drop all the gear in the middle of the floor trying not to shudder at the unsanitary aspects of this. I had to move quickly in order to keep Son from grabbing the toilet plunger he spied in the corner. I struggled to contain Son while supporting Daughter on the toilet to keep her from falling in. Son then decides he's ready to leave and opens the door, which was possible since it was one of those button locks that automatically unlocks when you turn the handle. I try to keep Son in the room with one arm while continuing to do my best to prevent Daughter from falling in with the other arm. Daughter decides she doesn't have to go after all. We get her pants fastened and both kids' hands washed and Son bolts out the door and starts doing a happy dance in the hallway because he is so proud of himself. I gather up the gear that was dumped earlier in the middle of the floor. We make it to the checkout window, and I hand over the clipboard. I'm told to finish filling out the sections on the page that the previous person told me not to fill out. The kids make a beeline for the toys. I try to finish filling out the form as quickly as possible as my kids cover their hands with all the germs from other sick children who have handled the toys. I swiftly herd the kids out the door and drop all the gear once again in front of the elevators so that I can clean their hands with Purel before entering the elevator. Daughter suddenly exclaims with panic that she has left Taggie Book in the doctor's office somewhere. My right eye now begins twitching, and I resist the urge to scream and to refuse to go after Taggie Book.

I herd the kids back in and send a receptionist on a wild goose chase for Taggie Book. The kids make another beeline for the toys. Receptionist reemerges with Taggie Book and Daughter and I are both deeply relieved. I herd the kids back out to the elevators and drop everything again to sanitize their hands. I know I'm obsessed, but trips to the doctor's office are almost always followed with Daughter getting ill. The elevator opens and I enter with Daughter and my armful of crap. Son starts chanting, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" and refuses to get on the elevator. I stand, helpless, for a couple moments in the middle of the elevator before finally just dropping all the crap in the middle of the elevator again. I try to hold the door open with one foot while grabbing at Son to pull him on with us. He falls in front of the door and starts crying and I briefly wonder how many passersby are tsk tsking me for being such an insensitive mom. I scoop up Son and get Daughter to pick up the jackets until we get off the elevator.

There are reasons that this motherhood thing taxes my energy and patience. There are reasons that I am planned and deliberate about what activities I do and don't engage in alone with both the kids or which places I take them when I am on my own to manage them. Today was another reminder of these reasons. I don't know how people with three or four or more kids can go anywhere or do anything. If I had four or more kids, I am certain that I would just stay at home curled up in the corner in a fetal position mumbling unintelligibly.

Son was up all night last night again. I went to bed with a headache and the beginning of a sore throat. I woke up at three am to Son's screaming, feeling certain I had managed to catch the "crud" myself. The good news is that Son is eating and drinking again and that we don't get sick like this very often at our house. It is the second time this year that any of us have been sick, which is not bad considering the year is soon over. Other good news is that it was last week that the water heater went out and we had to special order a recall part and go for three days without hot water. If that had happened along with all the other drama this week, I would have resigned for sure. As it is, I am only in the consideration phase of giving my two-week notice.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Boy Stuff


Dear Son absolutely LOVES tractors. He has this Little Tikes one that he has figured out he can wedge his butt in between the bar on the back of the seat and the smoke stack on the hood and then pull himself around the house on it with his feet. We think he needs a larger one to ride on, what do you think?

It's interesting for me to watch the gender differences Son displays from his sister at this age. Son is ALL ABOUT lawn mowers, heavy equipment, power tools, tractors, dump trucks, and bugs and frogs. Daughter never thought twice about any of these things at his age. She liked to wear hats and jewelry and carry matching purses everywhere she went. I'm not aware of encouraging either of them towards stereotypical roles and have tried to encourage them in whatever they are interested in. It's intriguing to consider how they develop these gender differences in their preferences.


Here's Son on the big ass lawn mower. I'm thinking we oughta let him take on the task next spring.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Halloween Revisited

I had no idea the disdain I would in elicit response to my lack of enthusiasm for Halloween. I feel compelled to defend myself so that you all can stop planning the years of therapy you seem to think my daughter will need as a result of her parent's negligence for not ushering Halloween in with a party bigger than the one celebrated in honor of the birth of our Savior.

Am I redeemed by the fact that Daughter has had her Halloween costume for a month now? That I was probably the first person to buy one as soon as the hit the Stuff Mart shelf in response to Daughter's excitement? Am I redeemed by stating that our plan this year was to take Daughter to the mall for indoor trick or treating since we live in the country now and we would have to drive into town anyway and didn't want to run around after dark in the streets with our 4 year old and 22 months old. Am I redeemed in saying that this was our plan despite the expectation to have to take all of Daughter's candy away from her because she wouldn't be able to eat it? That if she really wanted to go trick or treating and this was the only way, we would do it? Am I redeemed in saying that our hesitation in how we expose her to this holiday is further rooted in the horrific experience we unintentionally exposed her to a couple years ago by taking her to a community Halloween party in which not a single bit of candy was offered that didn't have a peanut warning and in which we waited 40 minutes with her to have a turn to jump in the bounce house only for her to turn around just before it was her turn and see the kid behind her wearing a Scream mask that stirred a response from her of panic stricken fear and crying and screaming followed by weeks of nightmares?

Will I invite further judgment on my failure as a mother if I explain that this year, we decided that rather than following our original plan to take Daughter trick or treating at the mall, we will spend the holiday at a church party where she will get to wear her costume but where there probably will not be any costumes that scare her, and that she will get to play fun games and win candy (most of which we will still have to take away from her anyway), but at least she will enjoy the concept of it.

It's a sad day when a person is deemed a failure as a parent for not enthusiastically engaging their young children in a holiday that celebrates death, ghosts, and demons.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall Tradition

Dear Daughter's favorite holiday, next to Christmas, is Halloween. I don't know why she has a fascination with this holiday. I, personally, hate it. I'm not excited about all the candy. It's not only unhealthy for your body and your teeth, but with Daughter's peanut allergy, it make it a serious health scare. Nearly EVERY chocolate candy has a peanut warning on it whether or not it is intended to contain peanuts or nuts of any sort, as equipment is shared between candy intended to contain nuts and candy intended not to. Daughter loves chocolate, and it is miserable to sort through her candy and tell her over and over again that she cannot have it.

I also hate the costumes. It creeps me out to see people, even kids, dressed up as ghouls and demons. Daughter has never gone trick or treating because the costumes creeped her out and scared her at a Halloween party we took her to one year. I figured it would only be worse running around outside in the dark. Dear Husband and I have our own Halloween traditions. Before the wee ones came along, we would go out on Halloween so that we didn't have to be home to hand out candy and further the cause of this stupid holiday. Since the kids have been born, we just turn out all the lights and hide inside. We've never had anyone ring the doorbell with the lights out.

Nonetheless, Daughter is entranced with this holiday. A couple weeks ago she found Halloween cake decorations while shopping with me at the Stuff Mart, and she talked and nagged about making Halloween cupcakes until we finally did it. Her expression in this picture is not even a "pose." She just looked this way the whole time we worked on this project!

One activity we do enjoy in October is going to a local pumpkin farm. We enjoy a hayride to the pumpkin patch to pick out some pumpkins. Here is Dear Son scouting for one. Seems kind of funny that there is absolutely no pumpkins to be seen in the picture. There were pumpkins there, though.

Then we take the pumpkins back to one of the tents for Daughter to paint one.








Son got in on the painting fun this year, too. Check out that expression of pure concentration on his face.






Then we take in a magic show put on by one of the entertaining clowns. This year Daughter volunteered herself for one of the acts.





Later Daughter gets her face painted by the same clown.




















And the kids also get balloon animals made by a clown.

Daughter's favorite part every year for the past three years has been the inflatable jumping house. She has to revisit it at least three or four times before we end our visit to the farm.

This year we were remarking that the whole experience has gotten rather expensive with the price of admission increasing generously each year we've gone and many of the activities costing additional money. And of course they always rip you off good with the cost of refreshments. We were thinking that we now have the space at our own small country acreage to plant a pumpkin patch, recruit a few clowns, and charge $7.50 a head to enter.

It was just shy of 90 degrees at this year's visit to the pumpkin farm. As wrong as this is, it's not unusual. I prefer my Fall activities to feel like Fall and not like Summer. Surely the fact that it's been this hot two out of the three past years we've visited the pumpkin patch doesn't suggest that Al Gore is right after all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Point of Reference

I've been curious lately about what life was like when Daughter was the age Son currently is. So I paged back in this blog to June '05 to see what I was writing about her when she was 22 months of age. Since she was my first child, I didn't fully realize just how precocious she was (and still is). My friends with their own children this age or nieces and nephews this age told me Daughter was a "genius." The workers in the church nursery told me she was the smartest baby they had ever seen. I didn't really know what they were talking about. The only baby I'd ever really known was my girl.

At 22 months, she was correctly labeling all the primary colors as well as orange, pink, brown, black, gold, etc. She could also consistently count to 5 correctly and some of the time count to 10 but tended to get 7 and 9 mixed up. She consistently knew that 11 and then 12 follow 10.

She knew all the major shapes (circle, square, star, triangle) as well as oval, rectangle, and even pentagon!

It was around this time that she began completing her entire wooden alphabet puzzle in a matter of minutes, though she didn't yet say all the letter names and instead referenced them by the phonetic object for which they stood (i.e. the letter "h" was called "hat").

She could sing, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" correctly from beginning to end and excerpts from "Lullaby and Goodnight." And before turning 23 months she was potty trained.

Son is no dummy, to be sure. However, he doesn't get the same intense one on one tutoring that daughter got simply because she was the one and only at that time. At not quite 22 months, he correctly identifies and verbalizes circle, square, star, triangle. He can do about 8 letters consistently correct with this alphabet puzzle. He's just begun to speak in sentences and "near sentences" that are more like two word phrases. He hasn't begun to sing words yet, but sings little melodies of nonsense syllables (thanks to a goofy habit I have when I'm just about the house). He correctly identifies the colors yellow and orange and sometimes gets blue, green, black. He wants nothing to do with the potty except to say, "potty!" when his sister goes and to squat on his stool and pretend to potty. He won't squat on his real potty, though. If I try to place his naked buns on his toddler-sized throne, he stands rigid and screams "Britches! Britches!" until I put his britches back on.

He does have a wicked overhand throw, which is something that Daughter didn't grasp until much later, and he is trying to jump, which looks more like a squat to a quick stand followed by the stomping of his foot. He's been doing this for months.

While he is still very much on track, I feel a bit guilty like I've been neglecting him in relation to the focus Daughter got on a constant one on one basis. She always wanted to learn and chose the activities that centered around cognitive development. I just followed her lead. Son has too many distractions. There are far more toys between the two of them than there were in the house when Daughter was his age. Now I have two to chase around, and my attention requires division. I haven't failed, I know that. Daughter is a prodigy of sorts, and it's not fair to compare--not that it would be fair if she wasn't a prodigy of sorts. And I understand that girls tend to be much more verbally advanced while boys tend to excel more in the motor development at this age. Nevertheless, I have to battle the little voice in my head that says I am not nurturing his cognitive development enough...especially after reviewing the reference point that started this whole guilt trip, though a guilt trip was not at all intended.

*************************************************************************************

I got to hold Dear Son tonight until he fell asleep. I got to feel the weight of his body against my chest and feel his sleepy baby sighs. I got to feel his little toddler-sized muscles relaxing and twitching and hear his tiny breaths grow deeper. I got to smell his baby smell and feel his fuzzy hair against my cheek. His contentment to simply be held was warm and comforting for me. I couldn't help imagining a day when his tiny little body is no longer tiny, but tall and solid and larger than my own, and so I held him a little closer and a little longer tonight and focused on being thankful for such moments as these. His "little" body is now big enough that it is quite difficult to lift him, while sleeping, over the crib rail. His feet dangle low and bump against it. And he is heavy enough now that it is quite difficult to lay him gingerly against his mattress. Instead, it's a bit clumsy and awkward. Nonetheless, I cherish the moments that will soon evaporate into distant memories.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Shall We Go For Three?

You may remember the first trip to the Food Mart that I described about a month ago. You may remember the second trip to the Food Mart that I described shortly after that. Once again, I tried to outsmart the two members of my household who are under the age of five. I strategically packed one Snacktrap of Teddy Grahams and one SnackTrap of Goldfish for the weekly outing to the Food Mart. Oooooo, did I feel cunning. I quickly envisioned all the possibilities that would come to pass and how smooth and in control I would be in any case. When Son spied the Teddy Grahams placed on the shelf that is at perfect two-year-old line of sight at the Food Mart, I would whip out the SnackTrap already filled with the coveted treats. When we rounded the next corner and his eyes landed on a randomly placed shelf of Goldfish crackers on an end cap, I would save the day with the other pre-planned cup filled with the same. I had outsmarted them this time, I was sure.

We wandered the store, me in no big hurry and suffering no anxiety over which route to choose through the store to avoid any specific kiddie approved munchables. The only two my kids had indulged in for the past months were the two with which I had come prepared. At the moment, Son was happy with his "fishies." And that's when it all fell apart. I turned my back for a split second and that is when Son started squealing with delight. The first thought that zipped through my mind is what he could have possibly gotten his chubby fingers on, as he was still sitting in the cart. I turned to see Daughter proudly holding high in the air a box of animal crackers. She was doing a little happy dance not unlike the one Son does in the same circumstance. Son was squealing like a freshly stuck little piggy with his arms outstretched and his fingers wiggling with the itch to dive into the box.

Animal crackers. The kids have not been interested in animal crackers for about as long as I can remember. Of course, upon returning home, the box took its place on the shelf next to two stale boxes of Teddy Grahams. *sigh* They plot these things together; it's a conspiracy and I am sure of it. It's a game they have established just to see how many ways they can rattle me.

Son's Sentiments

Thanks to everyone who dropped me a validating comment or email or other communication in response to my previous post. I appreciate the support and disclosures of having "been there." Motherhood is a roller coaster. Some of the time you are chugging to get to the top of that hill all the while feeling that anxiety in the pit of your stomach that comes with knowing you are on the brink of plunging back down to the bottom. Then you are whipped around a bunch of curves at breakneck speed before you can see what's coming, only to find yourself chugging up the hill again. It's a wild ride full of thrills, you can't prepare for it, and it's never boring. It's anxiety provoking, stress instilling, and unpredictable. And once you start the ride, you can't get off until you either reach the end of the rail or plunge to your death in the midst of it. Some days it's a difficult decision: whether to ride it out or just jump.

Now, back to the monkey business.

He's talking. Really really talking. Sentences are beginning to spew from his little lips. About three weeks ago it began with an excited greeting at the end of a long day, "Mommy home!" followed by running into my arms and wrapping all his appendages around my body. It's a great way to end a long day at work. He also says, "Daddy home!" of course, but we already know he worships the ground Daddy walks on and Mommy is an okay second, so let me glory in my glories here.

Other sentences include "More choklit!" which is really not about chocolate at all, but about the dried and sweetened dates I recently bought that he calls chocolate. Of course this is generalizing to "More (you fill in the blank with endless options)." "Mommy, hold yas!" is another one, accompanied by arms held up in the expectant pose.

Vocabulary, in general, is bursting with communications such as "Happened?" which of course means, "What happened?" "Why?" which he has been asking about pretty much everything for weeks or maybe even months. Of course, this originated with his just-turned-four-year-old sister. "Aha!" is also a recent one that he got from his sister. It is used in the context of finding some neat random "treasure" lying around the house, as if he just found the single one thing that he's been searching his whole little life to find.

And Daughter? Well Daughter is 24 lessons into the Kindergarten math curriculum we just started roughly four weeks ago. She is complaining to me that this stuff is for younger kids as it is too easy for her. She is also starting to read. Am I bragging? Yeah, I guess. But only because she comes up with this stuff on her own. I don't push her, I let her lead, and I nurture her in the directions she goes. And she won't be allowed to start Kindergarten in the local public school until she's six because she misses the age cutoff deadline by three days. Not that I expect the public school system to challenge her much regardless.

So cut me some slack; it's been awhile since I bragged on my kids. If you're not doting family, you can roll your eyes and yawn.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Momentary Lapse

A couple evenings ago I had a moment that felt like the first signs of an emergence from a coma I've been in for over four years. I wanted to scream to the world that there is still a person alive somewhere in the depths of my soul that is identified by characteristics other than those related to having birthed two human beings from my loins. I wanted to scream it to the world, but mostly I wanted to scream it to myself. The coma, though, was so. very. thick. It was like gasping for a breath of air while flailing in the deep water to keep from drowning. And then going under. I wanted to feel again like I felt when it was only me. I wanted a taste again of how it felt to be free and random and have it be all about me. I wanted to burst through the surface of the water gasping for air and then find my way ashore.

I was driving somewhere. Alone. No offspring in the car controlling the music that came out of the speakers. I turned it up to something only an adult could enjoy. I turned it up loud. I opened the sun roof and felt the warm air in my hair and on my face. I drove a little too fast. I considered just driving anywhere but nowhere. The brief illusion of freedom beckoned me, and I could almost remember a day when driving alone with the sun roof open and the music too loud was routine. Normal. I could almost remember. Almost. But not quite. I missed feeling well acquainted with myself--with the parts of me that are only me. I felt confused about who I am now. Not sorry. Not regretful. Only confused.

Something about motherhood depletes a person. Many people talk of what they gain from motherhood...the warm snugglies, the wonder and awe, the inherent and rich rewards that are many. I've talked of these things, too. I've talked of them often and much more frequently than I've talked of most other things. The benefits of motherhood are all true. But true also is the taboo truth of admitting to getting lost in the process, the weariness of being unselfish, of giving, of giving, of giving. True also is the exhaustion of meeting everyone else's needs before one's own, and the frustration and defeat of being too tired once everyone else's needs are met to follow through with meeting one's own, the longing to escape, the guilt. Good mommies don't feel these things. At least if they do, they don't say them.

Once I've fought hard enough to gain a glimpse that is the tiniest memoir of "me," I am exhausted again. Numb. The drone of life continues outside me as I return to the zombie-like state that has become motherhood.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Life Interrupted

"It's stressful being four!" Dear Daughter announced today on one of her outings with Dear Husband. Indeed. Being the parent of a stressful four year old is frequently no picnic either! I think this is payback for the fact that the two's really weren't at all terrible for us. It also explains why I've called my husband at work on at least two occasions recently and begged him to hurry home ASAP following his workday, and why when he arrived I was found curled up in a fetal position in the corner mumbling unintelligibly and appearing unaware of anything around me. Of course, Dear Son, while cuter than a bug's ear, is at a stage now that I remember being stressful when his big sis was there, too. So I get it double duty.

Amazing that in spite of the stress, I find myself waxing melancholic about the kids growing up. Last night I pulled a safety plug from an electrical outlet so that I could plug in the vacuum cleaner, and I had this overwhelming ache in my gut when I thought of how a day would come when I would no longer need to plug electrical outlets as Dear Son will outgrow his fascination with attempting to plug random objects into them.

Tonight I had my second private jacuzzi bath since moving into our new home. Usually I have to share my bath with two naked, wiggly monkeys. There I was soaking in the jets, enjoying the cranberry orange scented candle light, listening to an ocean CD while gazing at a picture poster of Heceta Head lighthouse. I felt a little home sick for a place that wasn't ever my native home. I closed my eyes, lost in the memory of my first date with Dear Husband. We sat on an ocean cliff in front of Heceta Head lighthouse and watched the sunset. Way better than dinner and a movie any night. I suddenly felt like I wasn't alone in the room, and I opened my eyes to see my four year old daughter grinning down at me, followed by her begging to allow her to join me in the jacuzzi. I convinced her to let me have my own bath time for awhile and she could have hers a bit later. I settled back into my daydreams only to have the bathroom door slowly open again and found myself greeted by my fuzzy haired, towheaded cherub of a 21-month-old son, who toddled up to the edge of the tub and started yanking at his clothes and chanting, "Bath! Bath!" Somehow I convinced him to also leave his weary mommy alone for awhile longer, and he toddled back out the door, closing it carefully behind him. I sighed with the mixed emotion of coveting those long-lost carefree childless days, years even, of wandering along the rugged Oregon coastline-just my husband and I-while simultaneously thinking that there is nothing better in this world than parenting my spirited four-year-old and adventurous 21-month-old despite the dramatic way it has altered our lives.

And with that, I'll boast a few photos of the stress-inducing darlings.

As you can see, "Princess Four-Year-Old" continues to sport her birthday crown two months later. It goes on her head at sun up and doesn't come back off until her head hits her bedtime pillow. People ask her daily if it's her birthday.

I must share a picture of Dear Son sporting his strong overhand throw. He already throws better than I do, and he loves to throw a ball and chase it and throw it again.






















And where DID he get that towhead blond hair anyway? Husband and I both sport a head full of near black.


One last photo I couldn't resist taking today. Husband was getting a little extra help changing the oil in the family mobile.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Outsmarted Again

Classic. Absolutely classic! As I described in my previous post, it seems not to matter if I pack our own Teddy Grahams from home when I take the kiddos to the Food Mart as Dear Son will spy a new box of Teddy Grahams on the shelf that he just HAS to have. However, today was a little different spin on the theme. I dumped the standard Goldfish crackers out of the SnackTrap cups before leaving the house and filled them with the chocolate chip Teddy Grahams Son pulled from the shelf at the Food Mart last Friday. I was thinking that since he had not had them since the last trip to the Food Mart, he would be delighted with them and this would prevent me from having to buy another box of overpriced overprocessed crappy snacks ala American style that would only get stale in the cupboard later (how something so processed and full of hard to pronounce crap can get stale is beyond my understanding, but I digress).

I then handed Son his coveted snack, which appeased him the first five minutes inside the store until he had to get down to find the lobster tank. After gazing at the lobsters and explaining yet again to my inquisitive son that lobsters are not "buggies," I strategically steered the wee ones in a new route to avoid the Teddy Graham aisle all together. I was all big in the head with how great I was engineering this whole shopping trip thing this time when Son starts shrieking, "Fishies! Fishies!" while delightedly grabbing a small bag of Goldfish crackers off an end cap and doing his happy dance. I shook my head in disbelief and considered dropping to all fours and banging my head on the floor, but I settled for pushing the Teddy Graham-filled SnackTrap out of the way so that I could place Son back in the cart with his bag of Goldfish crackers. That's what I get for engaging in head games with my toddler.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Now?

It's amazing how challenging the smallest of tasks have become with the kids these days. Dear Son is into EVERYTHING and has a strong mind about him to have his way. Friday was a trip to the local Food Mart. This is the trip where I only buy a few things because I have both kids in tow. Grocery shopping with both of them is just too hard. But I like to go once each week to buy the hormone and antibiotic-free milk offered through a local dairy, and this I do on a day of the week that requires me to bring both the wee ones. While I'm there I tend to pick up a few additional items.

The kids love to look at the lobster tank, so we make it about two aisles through the store when Son insists on getting down from his seat in the cart and runs around to find the lobsters. On his way there, he becomes fascinated by all the jars and containers on the shelves at his eye level. I no sooner save a few glass jars from shattering on the floor before he's pushing on some other jars and causing them to bulge out in another area and threaten to come crashing down. We make it to the lobsters and then to the club soda. I try to make it through this aisle quickly, but it doesn't always work. You see, the Teddy Grahams are at perfect 21-month-old eye level on the side across from the club soda. Don't even try to tell me this isn't strategic product placement! When Son sees these, it's all over. It doesn't matter what snacks I've packed and brought along. It doesn't even matter if I've packed our own Teddy Grahams from one of the other boxes at home that he picked out on a previous trip to the Food Mart. He sees these and HAS to have him some from the box immediately. I'm not one to cater to a demanding toddler just because he is demanding (remember the deflated balloon incident?) but I'm also not one to finish out a shopping trip in public with a screaming toddler who ultimately ends up on all fours banging his head on the floor. If he wants to bang his head at home, that's one thing, but I won't have this scene in public. Yeah, I know, I should just leave the store if this happens, true Love and Logic style. But hey, ya gotta pick your battles sometimes. So if Son sees the Teddy Grahams and starts squealing and doing his happy dance while dipping and twirling with his chosen box, I use it as an opportunity to get him back in the cart and cooperate. I'm certain he's figured out that this is the one time he can sit next to an open box of Teddy Grahams and shove all he wants into his mouth so long as he stays put and stays quiet so we can finish our business and get the heck out of Dodge. I cut him off from the Teddy Grahams when we get to the car, and when we get home the box goes into the cupboard with the rest of the collection of half-eaten boxes of assorted Teddy Grahams that seem to only hold their appeal while in the middle of the Food Mart.

On this particular shopping trip, I kept crossing paths with some middle-aged man who kept looking at us. Who could blame him? We couldn't have been any quieter than a full marching band blaring its way through the middle of the store. He heard the whining and carrying on from Son soon after we entered the store until he got down to find the lobsters. He heard my scolding and saw me sprint toward the salsa section when Son nearly pulled half a dozen jars to the tile floor. He heard the squealing and saw the happy dance in full dramatic fashion when Son found the Teddy Grahams. He was probably tsk tsk-ing me when I tore open the box and handed it to Son to do with what he wished so that I could have some peace (or perhaps he was just as relieved as I was for the same peace when Son sat still and quietly started stuffing his face). And I'll be darned if he wasn't also there when I managed to knock a six pack of glass beverage bottles to the hard floor. I couldn't even blame this one on Son. I could blame it on the product placers in the store, however, as the problem was that I had to reach back into an open cooler display for what I wanted, and there was a stack of loose cans in front. When I caught one with the carton of my coveted purchase, it fell onto another six pack of glass bottles and knocked them to the floor. They made a horrendous sound and anyone within a 100 yard radius turned to stare. Some people even peeked around from the other side of the aisle to look. The sticky beverages puddled and pooled and fizzed while Son sat in the cart munching happily on his Teddy Grahams, watching the show.

It's all good until we get home and Son insists on playing outside while I unload the groceries. It goes smoothly for about three minutes. Then he sees the folded up umbrella stroller in the back of the family mobile and begins screaming and pointing. This fit begins to work its way up in intensity as I unload the milk. I finally return to see what the big fuss is all about and when I realize what he wants I get him the stroller and unfold it so he can push it around the driveway, which is what he usually wants to do with it. Instead, he continues to scream harder and louder while wildly shaking his head, stamping his feet, and saying, "No! No! No! No!" Snot and drool are flying and his face is beet red and the screaming is at decibels higher than my ears can handle. This goes on until I figure out that he wants the stroller folded up so he can push it around that way. Once he gets what he wants, the fit immediately stops and a sly smile spreads across his face as he begins pushing the stroller around the driveway. Then he turns and looks over his shoulder, grins at me widely, and says, "Happy!"

Well great, Kid. Glad you're happy, 'cause if you ain't happy, God knows ain't nobody gonna be happy!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Old Moms Need Their Naps!

The thing about having young children when you're "old," is that it makes you feel, well...old. I was comparing notes about with my Dear Mom the other day about strategies to get Dear Son (Dear Grandson to her) to go to his crib for a nap. It didn't dawn on me until I described the routine to my mother that I sound "old."

Lunch time is always right before nap time. Dear Son calls it "bret-ast" (breakfast) because for some reason he's begun to call every meal and snack "bret-ast." It seems like it would be easier to say "lunch" than "breakfast," but that's the way he does things. So following "bret-ast" it takes several minutes to wipe him down and clean up the aftermath. I've often envisioned putting his highchair on wheels and then simply wheeling him out to the deck following "bret-ast" and hosing him down with the garden hose. I've yet to actually try it.

Then comes the changing of the britches--not entirely unlike the Changing of the Guard--in which a dirty diaper is relieved by a clean one. It also has ceremonial undertones and requires elaborately choreographed moves on my part to complete the task at hand while Dear Son does his wiggle and twist and stand routine. Usually the diaper ends up on the correct end by the time it's done.

Next are "stories." This is the part where Son requires me to lie down on the floor with him on a big pillow while we read. As soon as one story is over he leaps to his feet and heads to the bookcase while saying, "Stories! Stories!" which really means, "Don't you even think about turning that light out and putting me in my crib!" After a generous amount of reading time I turn out the light and put on the white noise machine and lie back down on the pillow on the floor. Son typically snuggles up next to me at this point for about 30 seconds before he's up on his feet exploring the toys in his bedroom.

This is the point in the original conversation with my mother that I decided that I sound old. The dimly lit room and buzz of the white noise machine just lulls me to sleep. I always end up snoring for about 20 minutes on the floor before Son's jabbering cuts through my semi-conscious state and awakens me. I force my eyes open while longing to be the one that gets to take the begrudged nap instead of him. Amazing how this routine always works for me, but never quite does it for him.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Holding His Own

Dear Daughter has a way of aggravating her brother. I catch her grabbing him and poking at him sometimes just to hear him whine and complain about it. Dear Son has figured out some ways to hold his own. I've caught him with his mouth open going for some skin--any skin--that his teeth can find on "Sissy." But a few days ago Dear Husband witnessed something new. "Sissy" was annoying "Bub," and apparently the Bubster had had enough. He went across the room and found his plastic toy bat and marched back across the room and whacked her one.

Guess he showed her!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hanging On!

Is it just me, or is the 20 month mark a really trying age? I seem to remember this being an especially challenging time with Dear Daughter, but at the time I thought I was overstating things a bit as I was also just entering that stage of my second pregnancy where the hormones begin to RAGE!

Dear Son has always been a hot head. At five months Dear Husband and I thought Dear Son was teething something fierce as he would randomly scream and bang his head on the floor. We kept loading him up with Teething Tablets and Tylenol. Then one day my mother said to me, "Ya know, I don't think this is a teething issue. I think he's throwing little fits!" Throwing fits?!?! At five months of age?!?! And ya know what, I began to really pay attention to how these little rages came about with Dear Son. And ya know what else? I realized that my mom was right. My sweet baby FIVE-MONTH-OLD little boy was already throwing fits.

Anyone who has ever known my boy child knows he has him some strong opinions and he is entirely comfortable showing them. At twenty months his vocabulary is exploding, but he is not at all proficient at verbally expressing what it is he wants. Screaming and stamping his feet seems to be a good second option, at least as far as he is concerned. If his wants or needs are not catered to pronto, there is heck to pay. He is quite focused and does not redirect easily once he gets something in his head.

The good news is that I can end each exhausting day saying, "But at least you're cute!" And thank the Big Man for that one! His mile-wide toothy grin, infectious giggles, and slobbery kisses somehow melt me to the point of reassuring him that I'm convinced enough to keep him for one more day.

Keep bringing on the cute, Kid...it's the one thing that keeps me holding on some days.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The INSANITY!

Have you ever TRIED so spend a couple hours at a time on the phone with an insurance company with your just-turned-four-year-old and 20-month old in tow? And have you ever tried to repeat these conversations with the same insurance company at least a half a dozen times for an hour or more at a time with the same wee ones in tow? And have you ever noticed just how STUPID a person has to be to meet the minimum qualifications for a customer service representative position in the benefits eligibility or claims processing department at one of these insurance companies?

I have filed the claims. I have waited for months. I have followed up with multiple inquiries as to why they cannot seem to get their heads out of the holes they poo with in order to process the claims. I have answered their stupid mail requests seeking the SAME INFORMATION I have already resubmitted TWICE that was already provided in the first place on the requisite HCFA form! Tomorrow I will be making YET ANOTHER phone call to some imbecile who barely meets minimum intellectual qualifications to pick their own nose in order find out why they have sent me YET ANOTHER request for the information that I have already faxed and mailed and faxed AGAIN (because they lost it that time) and sent in the form of a special letter in reply to their LAST mailing that was asking for THE SAME information.

I just don't think I can continue to beat my own head against this brick wall anymore, and therefore I am planning a trip to Utah to visit the entire crew of fools in person so that I can beat THEIR heads against the wall followed by STAPLING their stupid requests to some sorry fool's forehead.

THIS, my friends, is why medical professionals pay a billing agent a percentage of recovered funds to handle the insanity of it all.

By the time I'm done with all this, I am most certainly going to need a therapist of my own. Any recommendations?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Love Infection

I had one of those moments again today. They actually happen pretty frequently, but I only let myself pause long enough to really feel them every so often. Son tends to bring these moments on when he's just being himself, and I become overwhelmed with how cute and cuddly he is. Sometimes it happens when he snuggles into my embrace and melts against my own body and says, "Mommy" in a content tone. Sometimes it's when he plants a slobbery kiss on my lips. Sometimes it's when he does a little happy jig when I come home from work just before his bedtime. Sometimes it's just when I stop to really notice him. I often get flashbacks at this point. I look at Daughter for a reference point and I wonder to myself who snatched my little toddler girl and replaced her with a pre-schooler. I wonder how her legs got so long, and I try to pinpoint the time when her baby chubbiness faded. My head spins as I try to remember when she stopped being easy to pick up and hold in my lap and when I stopped carrying her on my hip. I feel bad at times because I think some of those months were lost in the blur of birthing Son into the world. Life was a bit of a blur from the point I was about four months pregnant with Son until he was nearly 12 weeks old. Actually, when I really stop to think of when life wasn't a blur, it was before either of the kids were born, but it's gone even faster and gotten even blurrier since Son was born. It doesn't seem that long ago since the last time I nursed Daughter, the last time I cuddled her all the way to sleep before placing her in her bed, the first night she slept in her big girl bed and was done with her crib forever. It seems not long ago when she potty training at the age Son is now. Daughter was potty trained by 22 months, but even that doesn't seem that long ago. I haven't really started with Son yet, except for putting the potty chair out where he can get used to what it is. He wants to take the "pee guard" off the thing and run around the house with it, and I'm just thinking that this would not be a good thing if he had just peed all over it. As I remember all these "lasts" with Daughter, I am painfully aware that the same kinds of "lasts" will occur with Son. That's when I feel that awful ache.

It's hard to consider that in a blink of an eye he will go from this...an age that kisses are freely and endlessly given,
















to this...an age where kisses still happen rather frequently, but I'm told that my kisses are "too slobbery" (even if she's the one with the slobbery lips), preceded by a "Blech!" and wiping of her mouth before informing me that if my kisses are too slobbery, she might get a "love infection."