Welcome to my less than perfect life!

Embracing the imperfections that make my life practically perfect in every way.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Silent

It seems a lifetime since I've written on this blog, since I could bring myself to say much of anything at all.  But here I am, trying to figure out how to work through it all so I don't let the wound heal over the infection.  So it doesn't fester and poison me from the inside out.  Though, in truth, there's a part of me that would accept that fate.  A part of me who thinks that maybe I deserve it.  A part of me, small but true, who thinks that pain might be preferable to working through any of what I'm feeling.

What I'm feeling right now is a lot of nothing.  The nothing wasn't the first thing, though.  The first thing I felt was sadness and then, like a hot pan flashing over with fire, rage.  Rage is one of the hardest emotions to cope with; I know this, I'm a therapist.  It's easy to cry or scream but true, deep seeded rage?  What can we do with that to make is constructive?  I could't figure it out, so I dissociated.  I turned it into the nothing.

It began like this:

It was the weekend of The Mister's birthday.  We were dropping The Nugget off with friends for two nights.  After we dropped her off, we headed for one of The Mister's birthday surprises: to find out the sex of the baby.  All of our parents and friends were anxiously awaiting our calls or texts.  I tried not to let my anxiety get the best of me, to let things unfold and feel the joy and not be nervous.  I'm not sure it worked as I was a bit snappy in the parking garage on the way.  My problem was just that everything about pregnancy makes me anxious.  It's not a state I'm comfortable with though I love, love, love the outcome.

All gelled up and on the table with our friendly ultrasound tech, I considered asking her about the training for her job.  It seemed delightful, helping people see inside of their bodies to the waiting little baby within.  Soon enough, though, I was distracted by the picture of our little baby on the screen.

"Do you want to know the sex?"  she asked.

"Yes, we do!"  I could hardly wait.

Her wand went straight to the sex organs then, but baby wasn't yet cooperating.  She moved to the head, measured the skull, looked at the spine.

I smiled at The Mister.  "This baby must be asleep.  The other kids were moving around like crazy during these things."

As soon as I said it, I knew I was wrong.  Not asleep.  Not awake, either.  My eyes searched for the little flutter in the center of the screen.  I noticed immediately that the technician was searching for the same thing.  She listened.  She measured.  It was quiet.

I reached for The Mister's hand, tears welling in my eyes.

"I'm not hearing a heartbeat."  Just like that.  No asking us to wait so she could go to get a doctor.  No reports of being just a technician and not being able to interpret test results.  Just...the end.  As quickly and quietly as it began, the end.

After a time, what seemed like forever, another person confirmed her findings and we were sent to see the doctor.  By then the rage had taken hold of me.  Through my tears I confessed to The Mister, "I want to tear this room apart."  But, of course, I wasn't going to do that.  That was not an acceptable, reasonable way to behave, so I sat, crying and shaking, while we waited for the doctor to tell us what came next.

As it turns out, what came next was complicated.  Decisions to be made, timing to be considered.  Just two weeks before Christmas and just two days before my last week of work.

I remember thinking about how I'd heard of women miscarrying when I was younger, how horrified I was that they had to keep the baby inside of them for days until the situation could be resolved.  I know now how stupid and young I was then.  How I didn't know anything about what it was to be a mother, to know that the only and safest place your baby belongs is right with you, always with you.  How it's not the holding on but the letting go that is the hard part.

And that is the beginning of how we said goodbye to our son.  Our second son.  I still don't know how this story ends, I only know that one day I was pregnant and the next I was...not.  No more counting weeks and days, no more rules to live by like how to sleep or what to eat or how much of what vitamins to take.  It was just...over.

I'm still here, but my son is not.  And neither is the son before him.  So I don't know what to feel or what part of me will win out, but I'm going to try really hard to put one foot in front of the other and make myself walk through it and not around it.  And I thank you all, in advance, for taking my hand.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

170/95

I sat in my obstetrician's office, waiting for her to come in for my checkup.  Just a normal one, but my anxiety level was high because the chart I keep tells me my pressures are rising.  In addition to the rising pressure, there's the less than competent med tech who takes blood pressures.  Her reading: 132/85.  "Not too bad, " she tells me before bouncing out of the room.  I don't bother arguing.

This doctor is new to me.  I've seen her a few times this pregnancy and she is aware of my rather complicated history, but I don't KNOW her.  Insurance plans told me that I had to change providers, so the loving doctor who held my heart in his hands through my two previous pregnancies is left behind.  Insurance premiums have no time for relationship building.  With him, I didn't have to explain anything or ask twice.  If he saw a reading that low during a visit, he would simply take it again.  Correctly.  I long for him and the ease of our interactions as I wait for this new doctor, as I prepare to broach what feels like conflict with her.

She enters the room, happy, even bouncy for the end of the day.  I have my log with me, and she sees it right away.  Tells me that she suspects I have questions or concerns.  I show her my blood sugars, show her my blood pressures.  Then I am forced to say, "I don't know how to say this without sounding like an obsessive crazy person, but I don't trust med techs to take my blood pressure because they are very rarely accurate."

I see in her eyes the doubt that she carries, the knowledge that I am a woman who has been badly broken by experience.  She says the right things, mostly: I'm willing to take it if you want (but she doesn't just do it automatically), wrist meters like the one you have at home can be inaccurate at times, we can look at changing your medicine.  There's a "but" though.  She tells me that  even though she believes my readings, she is fearful of raising my meds because all of the office readings have been...normal.  "You know, you don't have to take your blood pressure every day if it makes you worry," she says.

"It doesn't make me worry, it makes me feel like I'm on top of things.  I think you need to go ahead and take my pressure yourself so you can see what I'm talking about."  I say it gently, but firmly.  Without hesitation she goes to get her cuff and stethoscope.  She listens carefully, takes her time.

"Well, I got 170/95," she says finally.

"Then you see why I don't trust people, "I respond.

A small interaction, this one.  Just a few moments from each of our days.  Enough for us to see one another in a new light.

I'm still not sure I like the light she looked at me with.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Want It All...or Maybe Just My Fair Share of It

As it turns out, living on less has made me want to...live on even less.  I'm as surprised as anyone about this turn of events.  It's like all of the sudden I finally got it: it really is all just stuff.  I thought I got it before now, but it's clear to me that I am just now fully understanding this concept.

So now I'm trying to find ways to simplify.  We've broached the idea of selling the house to move to a smaller, older, cheaper house.  Of course, the housing market may hold us back from that for a while but I'm still holding out hope.  I'm ready to sell excess stuff and pare down and shift gears.  Most importantly, I'm ready to spend more time with my family.

To that end, I turned in my notice at my job.  I'm quitting.  I'm taking something I'm not known for - a leap of faith.  I may be leaping into mid-air without a parachute, but I'm leaping.  I can't spend the rest of my life wondering what else I might be able to do if I weren't doing what I'm doing now.  I'll be able to stay home for a while and then, well, who knows?  What I do know is this:  I will be there when my kids wake up and when they go to sleep.  I will be there to kiss their boo boos and to play with them and to cook their meals.  I will have more patience for all of these things because I will not have spent my emotional energy on other people before I get home.  I will no longer be squeezing my life in around the edges of work.

It feels good.  I'm hanging onto that.  And if anyone in Indiana is looking for a large, nice house, give me a call!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just Me and My Shadow...

Which happens to be a giant jug of urine.  Yup.  If I were a really good blogger, I'd fill this spot with a montage of me and my jug of urine doing fun things together...swinging around in one another's arms, walking on the beach, etc.  Unfortunately, I'm only a mediocre blogger at best, so you'll just have to imagine these aspects of our relationship.

I don't know if they do it to all pregnant women or just those of us who have issues during pregnancy, but one of the the things I have come to specialize in over the past several years is the 24 hour urine collection.  If you've never done one of these things, I recommend giving your doctor a call and asking if you can just go ahead and do one for fun.  I'm sure they can even be fun for men, too!  Basically, in my case, you take a pregnant lady who has to pee all of the time and then make her pee in only one place and dump it into this big orange container for a 24 hour period.  Oh, and it has to be kept cold, so if you don't have the ability to keep it on ice or something you can overjoy the family by storing it in family fridge.

For me, whenever I'm doing one of these tests I live in constant fear that I will either forget about the test and then accidentally pee somewhere other than in my collection hat, thereby ruining any of the results I have already completed, or that I will spill the urine I have collected (most likely due to pouring it into the big orange container while still mostly asleep).

I recently completed my first 24 hour urine for this pregnancy.  Because the lab I have to take the results to is about 30 minutes away from home, The Mister and I packed our friend Old Orange up in the car with us and decided to drop it off at the lab while we were out on a date.  Yes, this should tell you everything you need to know about the level of romance you can expect while pregnant and in an 11 year marriage.

With Old Orange in tow, we headed out to see a morning movie.  Before lunch, we drove the 30 minutes over to the lab.  The Mister dropped me off at the curb and I grabbed my little friend and headed in to drop it off.  Only to find that the lab was closed.  Hmmm...this seems like information someone might have given me when they told me I could complete this test and drop it off ANY TIME I WANTED.

Carrying Old Orange back to the car, I placed her lovingly in the back seat and directed The Mister that we should head for lunch.  Because who doesn't carry a giant jug of their own urine with them everywhere they go?  You know, just in case.  After our date, I put my friend in the fridge and then took my friend to work with me the next day and then drove Old Orange one final time back to the lab where I joyfully tearfully left her.

I feel a bit lonely without the old gal now.

Not to worry, though.  I am sure that I will be sent home with another Old Orange not too far in the future.  I optimistically said to The Mister, "I hope I'll only have to do this two more times during my pregnancy."  Misunderstanding, he replied, "You'll have to do it two more times!  No way!"  He didn't realize that the two more times was the best I could possibly hope for.

Maybe the next time I do one, I'll go ahead and put that montage together for you all.  Because that's how committed I am to my readers.  And my jug of urine.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Little Pink Line

It's funny how one tiny pink line, no bigger than a quarter of an inch, can bring news that can change your life.  I had forgotten how that line, that little, tiny line, could mean so much.  I've seen it twice before.  The first time I was startled, in awe.  The second, relieved and terrified all at once.  This third time, well, I guess it was a little bit of awe and terror all together.  It wasn't a surprise and yet, isn't it always?  It can really happen...we can make a baby.

That baby is now only the size of a blueberry.  I had forgotten, though, how that blueberry can take all of the energy you ever had.  How there is no amount of sleep that will ever be able to satisfy your tiredness.  How your super power sense of smell can sniff out every unclean scent in the entire world.  How some things taste entirely wrong and others taste better than anything has ever tasted.

The thing about this third little pink line is this: people look at me with trepidation.  I have experienced difficult pregnancies.  For me, that isn't where my mind goes immediately.  My mind goes to the joy of the baby who comes.  Others worry.  I can't bear to hear the hitch in their voice.  I can't bear to see the worry in their eyes.  I remind them:  there's nothing to worry about right now.  We all need to focus on being filled with joy, excited about this little life that's growing in here.

So, that's what I'm doing.  I'm focusing on the joy.  I can't wait to meet this little blueberry, sometime this Spring, and make her or him a part of our family.  And you can be sure I'll be sharing it all here, with you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Questions

Age 5:  Will I make any friends?

Age 7:  Mommy, can I sleep over with my friend?

Age 10:  What happened to my homework?

Age 15:  Am I cool enough?

Age 18:  I don't need to ask any questions, I know everything.

Age 19:  Do you think my mother went to heaven?

Age 22:  How will I live now that college is over?

Age 26:  Is he the one?

Age 30:  Am I over the hill?

Age 32:  Is that positive?

Age 33:  How will we live without our son?

Age 33:  Is that positive?

Age 34:  Isn't she the most beautiful girl you've ever seen?

Age 35:  Will it always be this hard?

Age 36:  Should we have just one more?

Age 38:  Is that positive?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nugget Had a Little Lamb

And yes, its fleece IS white as snow.  And it's name, quite logically, is Mary.

Mary is terrorizing our household.

We've actually had this little stuffed lamb for a long time and The Nugget never took much interest in it.  A few weeks back, she picked it up and dubbed it Mary.  Since that time, Mary has caused no end of trouble.  First of all, she screams.  A lot.  Loudly.  In fairness to The Nugget, she seems eager to control the screaming by putting Mary into time out.  The screaming was the first behavior Mary displayed, so I just kind of chalked that up to The Nuggets need to have someone to control/boss around.  Now, however, Mary has moved into other behaviors.  She hits, she bites, she poops on things.  She tells The Nugget to do things (so far nothing too bad like killing us in our sleep, but who knows what is next).  I swear to you, The Nugget fights with Mary just like she's a sibling.  And she tattles on Mary just like she's a sibling, too.

At first, I was pleased when she took an interest in Mary.  Mary is, after all, a cute little lamb with a cute little name.  After weeks of bickering and tattling, however, I am ready to move on from the entire Mary situation.  After a particularly irksome evening of Mary hitting The Nugget repeatedly last night, I informed Mary and The Nugget that if Mary couldn't behave then we might have to get rid of her.  The Nugget was not please with this idea and hugged Mary protectively to her chest.  One would think she might like to get rid of the little trouble maker, apparent bain of her existence, but no, she vouched for Mary.

I can only assume that Mary is letting The Nugget act out some of her more negative emotions in a (somewhat) acceptable way.  And Mary might have something to do with a desire for a sibling.  All I know is, she's driving me nuts.  This is one of those toys that may need to "disappear" before too long.  That is if Mary doesn't disappear me first.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let's Rant (put on your red shoes and rant the blues)!

1.  A while back my company was bought out by a bigger company.  No big deal.  Until now.  Now the bigger company has taken over all of our internet access and by taken over I mean completely ceased.  I can no longer look at Blogger at work.  My job satisfaction, and frankly productivity, is plummeting!  How I am supposed to make writing a blog pay for itself if not with their dollars?

2.  Some complete idiot went screeching by me and passed me on the left inside of my neighborhood the other morning while all the kids were standing out at the school bus stops.  I couldn't see his plate well enough to write it down (because I'm sure someone besides me will care about this) but I am focused with laser-like intensity on finding him again.  If anyone sees a silver Honda Accord circa 2000, give me a call.

3.  Trash.  Why are people such litterbugs?  Taking a walk with the family the other night we came across so much garbage, some within easy walking distance of a garbage can.  Near the soccer fields, it was clear someone had just driven up and cleaned out their car on the curb and left a huge pile of garbage for the trash fairies to pick up.  Oh, wait, those don't exist.

4.  Which leads me to my next point: people are stupid. That's really all I have to say on that subject because this post would be never-endingly long if I expanded.

5.  I am glad the Olympics are over.  I know it is probably un-patriotic of me to say this, but I was ready for them to end.  Like many of you, I had tears in my eyes at many moments and was very moved by them, but I think a week is about my breaking point.  After that, I just don't care.  How many more beach volleyball games with the exact. same. players can I be expected to watch (particularly when each play is ALWAYS instantly re-played)?  How many more dives can I break down the trajectory of?  No, it was time for them to end and I'll be that much happier when they begin in four years.  And then end.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What New Tires Can Do


Grief, like the thump of a heartbeat, is always with me.  Sometimes in the background, quietly powering the parts of me that lie beneath the surface:

he's gone, he's gone, he's gone

Sometimes, in ways that I don't expect, it feels as though I've run a marathon and the grief, like that quickened heartbeat, suddenly becomes a deafening roar, the only thing I can hear:

HE'S GONE, HE'S GONE, HE'S GONE

Four years ago, on a hot summer day, I sat in the service station and waited for my tires to be changed.  On this day when I should have been home bonding with my newborn son, I sat in the service station and got new tires.  I cried.  I cried all of the time then.  It was wrong to go about this mundane task as if new tires meant anything at all in the face of the loss of a son.  For months on end, the pounding was the only thing I could hear.

HE'SGONEHE'SGONEHE'SGONEHE'SGONEHE'SGONEHE'SGONEHE'SGONE

I went to the service station just the other day.  A regular service, just maintenance.  It was in the back of my mind, though, quietly fueling my thoughts.  I hoped they wouldn't mention it.  I hoped that I could just wait until I was ready to address it myself.  I could hear the quiet beating.

he's gone, he's gone, he's gone

The service man came.  The service man told me what I didn't want to hear.  The service man suggested that I needed to get new tires.  And there it was, that deafening roar, thrumming in my ears:

HE'S GONE, HE'S GONE, HE'S GONE

The days of life have worn down the time between now and the birth of my baby boy.  Time has eroded minutes and hours and years and, as they fly by, my son is further and further from my reach.  So much time has gone by that my tires, those new tires over which I cried alone on that summer day, are all worn down.

He's gone.

He's gone.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Roots

Driving home from a recent family gathering, I was filled with angst and uncertainty.  When I visit with my family, I am always left with these uneasy feelings.  We do not have an easy, natural relationship.  Getting together always feels like hard work.  As I said to my husband, it triggers feelings of not knowing my place in the world.

Thinking further, it's not that I don't know where I belong now.  I belong right where I am, with The Mister and The Nugget.  I have dear friends who are closer than any of my family ever have been.  I am close with The Mister's family and appreciate the love and support they have given me.  Still, once in a while I feel...rootless.

My parents divorced when I was 3.  After that, I saw my father a couple of times a year for many years.  It is my understanding that he didn't pay child support and, knowing her, my mother would have been too fiercely proud to ask for it.  Because of the fighting between my mother and step father at home, I moved to my father's house when I was 15.  I moved out when I was 18 and went to college.  My mother died when I was 19.  For many years, I had no mother and did not speak with my father.  Some of that was my foolish childishness.  Some of that was my father's social awkwardness.  Some of it was simply that we had never developed a real relationship and didn't know one another very well.  I know we are both sorry about that fact, but neither of us knows exactly how to fix it.

I have siblings.  Half brothers.  Step brothers.  I have some nieces and some nephews.  I have aunts and uncles and cousins.  Most all of them live in and around the same town.  Sadly, I am not close to any of them.  The fractures that started in my childhood with my parents' divorce and continued through years of loss have deepened and I have been unable to bridge the divide back to my family; they have been unable to bridge the divide back to me.

Sometimes I get angry about it.  My father never visited my home until I was 33 years old.  Not once as an adult had he visited my home until then (and only then because my son had died).  I cannot imagine letting my child go all those years and never once bothering to see where she even lived.  "What kind of parent does that?" I ask myself.

Other times I feel guilty.  I have gatherings to which I never invite members of my family.  It really just doesn't occur to me.  I don't really seek out opportunities to visit with my family; I do major holidays and events and leave it at that.  "What kind of a child does that?" I ask myself.

Most of the time, I just feel sad.  I think my father has done the best he can.  I really do.  It just hasn't been good enough for him to be a good father.  He loves me, I know that.  He just has no idea how to demonstrate that.  I am lonely for the relationships that I hear others describe with their parents - fathers who coached sports teams, mothers who baked goods for school events, siblings who call and visit and are involved in one another's lives.  I have accepted that none of this will ever describe my family of origin.

I am determined, however, that my family of choice, my daughter's family, will do better.  That we will value one another over everyone else.  That I will be the mother who bakes and plays and plans outings.  That I am the mother who hugs and says, "I love you", and who talks through things.  I have chosen a husband who is caring and open.  We value the family we are building and talk frequently about our commitment to each other and the fact that ours is a forever marriage, that we took each other, truly, for better or for worse.

The roots of the tree I was born to have withered a lot.  I am going to water and nourish the roots of the tree I am growing.  My daughter will be grounded in this family, she will know where she comes from, where she always belongs and that we will be here whenever she needs to look back.  I am rooting myself right here, along with The Nugget and The Mister, right where we all belong.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fifty

Today I celebrated my 50 pound weight loss at my surgeon's office.  Fifty pounds.

I'm not going to lie, I feel like it took a long time to get here.  After my lap band surgery in January, the weight seemed to melt off much faster than I had anticipated.  However, a couple of months back my inner child and I got me into some trouble with the band.  My stoma actually closed completely due to a lot of unresolved stomach irritation.  It was not fun.  Because of that, the surgeon opened up my band for a month and I got...hungry.  So I gained a couple of pounds back.  Not much, but enough to do the following: slow me down, open my eyes and get me back on track.

And so it is, 6 months after my surgery, I am celebrating the loss of 50 pounds.  It's pretty monumental for me.  I feel so much more energy than before.  My knees no longer hurt.  My feet don't get shooting pains.  And it's no wonder!  Fifty pounds is a lot to carry around on a daily basis.  Let's contemplate, for a moment, a few things that weigh 50 pounds:


This freaking anvil!


This giant bucket of chlorine.

This ridiculous burger.
This huge bag of potatoes.

And FIFTY of these piles of fat!!
 I feel proud.  Amazed, really.  And for anyone who may want to poo-poo the effort because of the surgery, I assure you - it is HARD work.  The surgery was, for me, the only way I was going to get the work done, but I still have to put it in.  For now, I'm taking the day to congratulate myself.  Tomorrow, I'll be getting back on my horse for, in the words of Robert Frost, I have, "miles to go before I sleep."



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Say What?

Language continues to be a very entertaining undertaking with our daughter.  The more she learns, the more she creates and adds to the English language.  She's a little Shakespeare, this one.  A few of her entries from the past couple of months:

1.  She can turn any noun into a verb by adding 'ing'.  She says things like, "It's nighting" when it's dark outside or "It's wintering" when it's cold.

2.  Our dogs bark.  A lot.  That could be a whole post in and of itself.  However, if there's one thing more irritating than the dogs barking, it's The Nugget screaming at them to stop.  We've talked to her repeatedly about how dogs sometimes need to bark and get it out of their system and then they'll stop.  Now she says, "The dogs just need to take a little bark."  Love.

3.  She practices what sounds her letters make when reading her books with alphabets, however she doesn't always quite get it right.  I heard her the other day saying, "mm mm is the sound of B".  I guess we have a little more work to do in that department!

4.  She's starting to lose it, but she still says her "L's" like "W's" most of the time.  It's absolutely adorable.  I've made her practice saying it like she is supposed to, and she can, but I don't push it too hard because I'm going to miss her saying things like "wittle" and "wuv" instead of "little" and "love".

5.  She's created a whole new word for forgetting things, a hybrid of forgot and left.  If we leave something behind when we go somewhere or if she finds something belonging to another child she will say, "Oh, no, Mommy!  They for-left it!" It's even cuter with the whole "L" thing because it comes out sounding like "fer-weft".  Adorable.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Happened on the Way to Our Play Date

As we neared our exit, I turned off the children's music that filled the car so that I could concentrate on my directions.

"Mommy, why did you turn off my music?"

"So I can focus."

"Mommy, why do you need to focus?"

"I just do.  Mommy needs to think about where she is going.  Give me just a minute.  We are almost there."

Oh no.  Road construction.  GPS does not match actual road.

"Are we almost there yet, Mommy?"

"Almost, honey.  Just hang on a sec.  Mommy missed her turn."

"Why did you miss the turn, Momma?"

"Well, there was construction and my computer didn't know that.  Just let me think here, babe."

Re-routing. 

Okay, simple u-turn and we'll be back on track.  Except...the turn still isn't clear to me.  Is it this one or the next one?  There is construction everywhere.  I feel sweat starting to form on my upper lip as I turn on onto the first exit and immediately realize that it is a mistake as it veers off in a completely different direction than I want to go.

"Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap!"  I cry.

"Mommy, why did you say that?"

"Mommy is just frustrated.  I'm sorry.  That wasn't a nice thing to say.  Mommy took the wrong turn.

Re-routing. 

Okay, we can do this.  Just turn right up at the next spot and then take another right and we should be there.  Except the next right that GPS tells me to expect is not the name of the road I see.  Cue text message from friend we are meeting:  "We're here and sitting at table in the middle!  See you soon!"  At the stop sign I text back:  "R f-ing lost.  Be there soon."

Re-routing.

"Mommy, why are we lost?"

"The construction just had us turned around a bit honey.  Just let mommy think and we'll be there soon."

"Mommy, I want to see my friend!"

There's nothing like a three year old's anxiety to help keep you calm while driving.

I decide to give up on the GPS and follow instinct which tells me to take a left.  Miraculously, it is the road we are looking for.  It leads into a sprawling outdoor mall which holds the mecca that we seek.  Half GPS and half guess work take us through the maze of a parking lot to our destination right as I receive a text from my friend again: "Can I help?"  At this point, the only way she could help would be to pour me a stiff drink because the stress from getting here has overwhelmed me.  We struggle out of the car and into the building where we pay for a pass and hustle to the table.  I look at my friend, all open smiles and hugs.

"Mommy is grumpy and overwhelmed." I tell her with a scowl.  She frowns and smiles all at once.  As another mommy, she gets it.  Thank heavens, she gets it.

Let the fun begin.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why Game Night is Like a Cage Match

I've mentioned before that family game time is pretty popular at our house these days.  The Nugget absolutely loves playing games of all kinds and, thanks to the generosity of friends and family, we have lots of games to choose from.  She is especially keen to play a game any time mom and dad are both home at the same time.  The other night, I opened the game cabinet (which I keep locked because DEAR GOD there are only so many games I can play and I can't have her bringing me one every 37 seconds) and picked something new for our family to play.  Slap Jack.

The three of us gathered around the coffee table and divied up the cards.  We took it slow so that we could teach The Nugget how to play the game and, frankly, to remind ourselves as I can't say how many years it has been since either of us has played it.  In an unusual turn of events, however, it wasn't long before The Nugget had retreated to a chair to watch what was left of the video that was playing and The Mister and I found ourselves in a heated battle over Slap Jack.  Seriously.

"You looked!  You looked before you put your card down and now even if you win you know it's a lie!" I found myself shouting at one point.

"Cheater!  You keep flipping your cards faster than I do.  I can't see them before you've already slapped!  Nugget, your father is a cheater."

The Nugget from her perch on the arm chair: "Cheater!  Daddy, you're a cheater!"

The Mister: "Thanks a lot.  That's just great.  What a great thing to teach our daughter."

The Nugget, continuing her chant: "Daddy, you're a cheater.  Cheater!"

All the while the cards continue flying fast and furious.

"Nugget, your father can't take a joke!" I exclaimed as I watched the look of rage irritation cross The Mister's face.  "And you KEEP.  GOING.  TOO.  FAST.  That's it!"  I snarled as I tossed all of my cards onto the table.  "I am not going to play because you won't follow the rules!"

"Fine!  We won't play then!"  The Mister cried.

Ahhh, yes, good old fashioned family fun.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pool Snob

I don't know about you, but I grew up swimming in anything that was wet.  Strip mine?  Yes.  Lake?  Don't mind if I do!  Public pool, drainage ditch (no lie), river, ocean or inflatable pool?  Absolutely.  They all sounded like heaven to me.  I loved to swim.

I still love to swim, but I've noticed as I get older that I grow more and more leery of my habitat.  That childhood drainage ditch that used to flood when it rained hard now sounds as if it most likely carries hundreds (if not thousands!) of diseases that could kill me or, worse yet, maim me beyond recognition with a terrible virus.  Lakes are filled with snakes and bugs.  People drown in strip mines all the time (according to my parents when I was younger, anyway).  Oceans are filled with any manner of things that will try and eat me if given half the chance.  I'm pretty sure the only sanitary solution would be to build my own private pool where at least the germs would be confined to a few known entities, but, alas, it is not to be.

This leaves me with the public pool.  We have one in our neighborhood and spend at least half of our summer days splashing around there.  The problem, of course, is that so does the rest of the neighborhood.  This means that on any given visit to the pool I am likely to be assaulted by 10-15 snot-dripping kids (including my own).  A Baindaid floats up to me at least once a week.  There are myriad bugs floating hither and tither, waiting to go into my hair or my daughter's mouth (because I no longer get my mouth near public pool water it poses less of a risk unless it flies into my mouth).  We recently visited the pool after a rain and, though it was hot and I really wanted to swim, I couldn't let myself relax in the water because there were so. many. bugs.  I spent 45 minutes sweeping bugs into the filters of the pool before I was even comfortable sitting on the steps.  Ugh.  And I can never push away the thought that a bunch of strangers (questionably cleaned) naughty bits are just a thin layer of fabric away and swimming in the same soup as me.

No, the relaxation factor has swum out of my swimming.  It makes me sad that I am no longer the carefree child who swam happily in anyplace she could.  It also grosses me out to watch my daughter be the carefree child who swallows a gallon of who-knows-what at each pool session.  I know the value of it, though, so we go and I mostly sit on the step and splash myself off to keep cool.  I suppose it won't be long until I become one of those parents who doesn't swim at all when I bring my kid to the pool but just sits on the side sunning and reading a book, a behavior I could never understand when I was younger.

I guess what I'm saying is that I will happily accept donations to my pool fund.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

American Dream



I grew up poor.  Not dirt floors and outhouses poor, but trailers and factory jobs and layoffs and bankruptcy poor.  I know what it is to not have.  I saw my parents struggle to provide for their family.

Lucky for me, they supported me getting an education.  I got a bachelor's and then a master's degree and have worked in some form or anther since I was 15 years old.  I have always known that it was important to work hard and earn money.  I know what it is to have the wolves at the door. 

Also, I have come to know the feeling of keeping up with the notorious Joneses.  I love things.  I love the security of having a nice home and nice things in my home.  They provide (falsely) reassurance that I have moved out of reach of poverty.  However, the love of things always leaves you wanting just a little bit more.  Just one more thing and then I won't want any more things, I tell myself.  We built a new home a couple of years ago.  I love it...but.  There's always a but.  What if I could get new flooring?    If my carpet gets a bit shabby, can I love it as much?  My counter tops are laminate and not granite; can it be my dream home if I have laminate counters?   If my car works just fine but is from 2003, can I be good enough?  For whom?  It's all a bit crazy-making, really.

On the other hand, I know that is important to find balance in life.  I know that my relationships with my friends and family mean more to me than money ever will.  I honestly believe that it is important to try and find things we love to do in life and to do those things well.  For a variety of reasons, The Mister and I have worked jobs that put us on opposite shifts for the last several years - really since The Nugget was born.  This worked well because it minimized our need for day care and we made good money.  It also worked terribly because we have each operated as single parents for all of her childhood.  Normal joys like family dinners and nights at the movies have become rare treats for us instead of daily routine.  I have struggled because it is not what I wanted for our family.

The Mister has asked to be transferred to day shift at his work.  It hasn't happened for whatever reason.  Because of this, he began to look elsewhere.  And just this week he got what I would consider to be a dream job offer for him.  It is the kind of work he loves to do (unlike his current job which is simply the kind of work that earns money)!  It is with a very stable company (which I hope to tell you more about another time)!  It has daytime hours!  And it pays less.

I absolutely want him to take the job.  There is no question that he will.  It is hard, however, to live out the dream of being a happy family in this society when making less money seems to equate to being less happy.  It is hard to un-internalize that more factor.  To let it go and know (and I know) that our happiness does not depend on the size of our bank account but on our great love for one another.  I am working, though, to put that fear at bay and relish the fact that we will be a family just like I have dreamed of.  That money is not the only thing, not even the most important one, that we have to offer our daughter or one another.

So, in the interim, I'm giddy.  But scared.  I have a quote hanging by my desk at work, though, and I'm going to keep looking at it, keep knowing its truth, keep making myself believe that our American dream can be more than just about bigger houses, bigger cars and bigger pay checks.  The quote:

"Time may be money, but your money buys no more time."
                                                                          - James Taylor

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Shhhh...It's Saturday

video
Not exactly silent, but I ran across this video that The Mister made when The Nugget was just starting to creep and melted into a big puddle of goo.  She was so adorable!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Enjoy the Ride

Friend of ours recently had their first child, a beautiful baby girl (welcome to this crazy, beautiful, difficult, wonderful thing called life, little one).  I've been thinking a lot about them, about the early days of parenting.  Bringing home that little bundle and being thrust into sleepless nights, days filled with constant feedings and changings and laundry and naps.  I have wondered what advice I might give to new parents.  What is it that I would have wanted to know back then? 

There are lots of practical things, of course.  Tips that would have been useful.  Personally, I liked Luvs diapers.  They were some of the cheapest and did the best job at holding a mess.  Know, however, that your baby might reach growth periods that, whatever your favorite diaper is, she may need another brand to fit her better.  Also, despite what some people say, I put pure corn starch powder on at each diaper change; we never had diaper rash issues as long as we were doing this.  Follow your gut.  Listen to all advice but then figure out what bits work for you.  Gas drops work wonders in the early days.  Tylenol (once the doctor approves it) falls into the category of "Can it hurt, can it help?"; don't be afraid to try it if baby is inconsolable.

I could go on like that for days.  But as I thought about all of the advice I could give, the most important seemed to be this:  don't wish it away.

That may sound silly.  Of course you won't wish away your baby's time!  But there will be parts that you will wish away.  It is inevitable that you will find yourself rocking at 3:00AM, struggling to keep your eyes open, and thinking "When will this child sleep through the night?"  You can think that, of course you will think that, but remember this:

Children's lives are lived in stages.  Short, short stages.  Each stage comes with some good and some bad in it.  The moment you wish for something difficult to end, you will also be wishing for something that delights you to end.  For instance:

If you wish for more sleep in this very newborn stage, you will also be wishing away the only time in your daughter's life when she wants and needs NOTHING but you.  Endless snuggling and rocking and soothing may seem like your forever in the midst of things, but I promise you it lasts for less time than you can wish.

If you wish for peace from teething that makes your little one fuss, you will also be wishing away the sparkle in her eye as she learns to crawl and chases you from room to room.

If you wish away the fear that you feel as a wobbly new toddler learns to walk and threatens to fall and crack her noggin, you will also be wishing away the delight of chubby hands who have found their way to the refrigerator door and slap at it while she shouts, "Bezzie!!" because she has figured out how to compel you to get her some blueberries.

If you wish away the need to pack a million things with you everywhere you go, you will be wishing away the delight of those trips, both big and small, and the joyful memories that you are making together as you go.

I'm not the first person to try and express this.  Poets and heros, rock stars and philosphers have said it (and probably better) before me.  Time is a slippery thing that fools people into believing that it will last forever while it steadily ticks away.  Because of this, my advice is simple.  Just enjoy it.  Hold on to what you can, let go of what you need to and fill it all with great love for one another.

Enjoy the ride.  It's the best one you'll ever take.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Moment

The Nugget has been an absolute delight lately.  I can only remember once in recent history when I even had to so much as put her in time out.  I realize that by writing this that I have now cursed us and this wonderful period will come to a screeching halt, but it's worth it because I want to remember this wonderful, wonderful time.

One of her current fascinations is singing.  She has learned most of the words to "Part of That World" from "The Little Mermaid".  If given time and opportunity, she will sing it.  Loudly.  Repeatedly.  She is still at that wonderful age where there is little to no sense of embarrassment, so we might even be out to dinner when she breaks loudly into song.  She is usually a little chagrined when I suggest that she needs to use and inside voice when out in public, but she will comply.  Comically, she gets a few of the words wrong which makes it all the more delightful.  A recent interpretation:

"Wanderin' freeze, wish I could be, none of that world..."   and
"What's a fire and why does it, what's the word, bird?"

Yes, our ears get tired after a while from the loud and repetitive singing.  It sometimes makes it hard to talk on the phone or concentrate on, well, anything.  But it won't last.  If there's one thing I know about parenting, none of it lasts very long.

She is also just so verbal.  She really is good at articulating things.  Sometimes she gets a bit stuck and goes into this long repeat mode where she starts a sentence over and over because she can't quite get what she wants to say in the end.  It makes me proud that she doesn't get frustrated and give up but she keeps trying until she finds the words she is looking for.  It is especially refreshing as we are coming out of a stage of regression where The Nugget, who was practically born talking in full sentences, wanted to grunt and talk in baby talk.  I tried to go with it and just encourage her to use words.  I try hard, and sometimes it really is hard, to let her be where she is and just be there with her however I can.

The other great thing about now is that we are starting to develop this real relationship with one another.  She enjoys doing errands with me (though she may have less patience for them than I do).  Just last night we were at Target and she said, "Mom, can I stay at Target forever?"  I laughed and laughed because of course I want to do the same thing!  Also, she and I can have lots of fun right now because she is not yet embarrassed of me.  We spent a good 40 minutes at the Beauty Brands store the other day just dancing, singing and trying on all manner of makeup.  I am certain that one day she will not think that is quite as cool as it is now.

This moment in time, it's a good one.  A great one.  I love being the mother of this beautiful, happy girl.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shhh...It's Saturday

In honor of Father's Day - The Nugget
snuggles with The Mister while watching
NASCAR

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mother of the Year - NOT

As it turns out, my daughter won't be nominating me for the Mother of the Year award any time soon.  It's not just because she is only three and cannot read or write and is therefore incapable of completing her nomination.  It's also not because I'm pretty sure this award doesn't actually exist.  It's actually because yesterday was an absolute epic fail in my career as a mother.

We started out on a high.  I had an awesome play date planned with some of our best friends.  We just had to stop by home and take care of a few things after I picked her up from day care and we were on our way.  The Nugget was in a fabulous mood.  As she served one of our dogs her dinner she said, with a flourish, "Enjoy your dinner, Frolly!"

I buckled my happy baby into the car.  I shut the door and turned to load a couple of things in the back of the car when I heard what can only be described as a blood-curdling scream.  "MOMMY!!!"  I instantly willed what I knew to have happened away, but no luck.  I had shut The Nuggets fingers in the car door.

It will help you to understand that I have what's known as "suicide doors" on my car.  They look something like this:


This means that it is possible for The Nugget to reach forward and put her hand in the door hinge from her seat.  She has been doing this lately (I think she has only recently gotten tall enough for it).  I just didn't notice she was doing it this time.

Of course, I ripped her out of her seat and panicked in the most calming way I could, soothing her while I screamed obscenities at myself inside.  As it turns out, there was some swelling and a fair amount of pain, but no permanent injury.  We iced it and I gave her some Ibuprofen.  We called Daddy on the phone and that comforted her greatly (though I am sure it didn't help Daddy's evening at work).

I considered scrapping the play date, but she was having none of that.  Instead, I called my friend and gave her fair warning that we had just had an accident and I wasn't sure if the play date would go well but that we needed to try.  She kindly agreed.

The Nugget felt better bit by bit and had a fun time playing.  The popscicles and juice no doubt helped a lot.  Then we all decided to hit the nearest park for a while.  It was a great park that she and I had never visited, one of the kind with bouncy rubber beneath your feet in some parts and rubber mulch in others.  A very safe place to play.

The girls were all great.  They played, both together and separately, for a long time.  There were slides and swings and sand and all manner of fun to be had by all.  We were starting to wind down when The Nugget became really interested in climbing on a three foot high fish.  I sat on a nearby bench and beamed at how she shared with her friend; they both wanted to sit on the head of the fish and so were wriggling on together when The Nugget lost her footing.  And fell.  Head first.

As it turns out, that squishy, rubbery stuff doesn't help ease the pain of a face plant a whole lot.  She was bleeding and bruised in multiple places on her sweet little face.  My calming panic routine began again as I swept her up and brushed away tears.  It just wasn't going to be her day today.  Or mine.  We headed home.

With the tears stopped, she happily took a bath and snuggled tightly with me during our bedtime routine.  I watched her extra-long as she fell into a peaceful sleep, reminded that I will never be able to prevent all of her boo-boos.  The best thing I can do is help pick her up after she falls, remind her that she will be able to go on, that injuries heal, even the ones that change us.  That it's worth trying it all again because when things go right they can go really, really right.  And sometimes, even when things go wrong, it can turn out to be absolutely right after all.

I guess we both learn these lessons together.  Maybe there's redemption, even on the bad days.  Maybe, when she's old enough, she'll consider that nomination after all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why?

We officially reached the age a while back that The Nugget needs to know why.  Why what, you ask?  Well, the answer is simple: everything.

I find myself answering a flurry of questions (often non-sensical) each day.  If I tell her that we are going home after a given activity, I might get the following conversation:

The Nugget:  "Momma, why are we going home and not to the store?"

Me:  "Because we need to get home and feed the dogs."

The Nugget:  "Why is the store closed?"

Me:  "The store isn't closed, we just aren't going there right now."

The Nugget:  "Why do the doggies need to go poopie?"

Me:  "Because everyone has to go poopie sometimes.  It's our job to make sure the dogs are taken care of because we are their owners and they are our friends."

The Nugget:  "Why did Dandy [one of the dogs] chew up my Snow White?"

Me:  "Because you left it on the floor and he thought is was his toy.  We all make mistakes."

The Nugget:  "Why do we all make mistakes?"

Me:  "Well, honey, nobody is perfect.  It's okay to make mistakes sometimes."

The Nugget:  "Why does Snow White taste good?"

Me: "...."

I've been wondering why I've been so tired lately.  Even just writing this post helps me realize how very much energy I am using to fend off this constant barrage of daily questions.  The funny thing is, I hardly even notice she's doing it most of the time.  I just answer on auto pilot.  We had friends over recently and the giggling of one friend sort of woke me from my question-answer stupor.  She was laughing at me and my daughter as we went through our current routine.

Which I guess leads me to one question:

WHY???

Friday, June 8, 2012

It Goes PAST Eleven

Today marks our 11th anniversary, The Mister and I.  Eleven years ago today, we said "I do". 

Eleven. 

Years. 

That number is simultaneously unbelievably large and incredibly, incredibly small.  In some ways, those years have flown and it seems unbelievable to me that it has been so long since I married this wonderful man whom I love, and who has loved me, so very much.  In other ways, it seems impossible for me to imagine that there was a time in my life, that there were 26 years, when I didn't know him.

Our marriage has been filled with depth.  We have had wonderful blessings and unbearable losses.  We have tested its strength and found it to be solid and capable of holding many joys and sorrows.  Eleven years ago I couldn't have imagined what the next eleven years would bring.  I know now that I also can't imagine what the coming years will bring.  I only know that I am ready to spend my lifetime next to this man who knows me and loves me as well as anyone ever could.

Tonight will be like others.  We will hold hands.  We will profess our love.  We will laugh.  We do those things every day.  But I will spend long moments giving thanks for this life that we have built together.

The Mister chose the song we danced to at our wedding reception.  "Now I Know How the River Feels" by Diamond Rio.  Such a beautiful, perfect song for two people who traveled a somewhat rocky road searching for the loves of their lives.  I am so glad, to paraphrase that song, that I have finally found the place I was always meant to be.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Raise Your Voice

Today people everywhere are working together to try and put pressure on international decision-makers to intervene in the violence taking place in Syria.  People are being murdered.  Children are losing their lives to unspeakable violence.  To read more about the crisis, you can click here to read a Huffington Post article.

You can help.  These problems may seem remote.  They may seem more than you can overcome or take on.  But you CAN help.  Together, we can raise our voices.  We can make it known to our leaders that we care and, by doing so, we can move them to action.  Please consider taking the time to click on the links below and sign petitions to encourage our government and governments everywhere to step forward and save these people, people just like you and I, people whose only mistake was to be born in an unlucky spot on the map.

You can raise your voice.

Save the Children


AVAAZ.org - The World In Action

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ear Worm

I don't know about you, but I have always been highly susceptible to the ear worm phenomenon.  No, not the Wrath of Khan kind of ear worm, the musical kind.  It doesn't matter whether I initially love or hate a song, I will eventually be begging for it to PLEASE! STOP! REPEATING! because once I learn even a fraction of the words along with the tune, any given song can go into continual loop in my head.

The '80's were particularly hard on me.  It's like most of the music from that era was actually written in ear worm format.  "Oh, Micky" almost killed me (and, just for the record, I started out hating that one).  "Karma Chameleon".  Please.

The '90's weren't so bad.  First of all, I was in my twenties.  For me, this meant spending a lot of time killing off those pesky brain cells that caused this musical malady.  Secondly, during the times I was repetitively singing songs, it was considered cool and introspective.  Drinking wine and trying to make sense of the lyrics to songs like "Losing My Religion", "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Plush" was a nearly full time hobby.

After college, entering the job market was brutal.  What did I have to do all day but sing songs to try to keep myself awake while chained to a desk?  I swear on my life, there was a period of several years where I sang the song, "If I Had a Hammer" every. single. day.  I don't even know a third of the lyrics.  If I had actually HAD a hammer, I might have used it to bash in my own brains just to stop that freaking song.

Most recently, I have entered the parenthood phase of my life.  If I thought that music could get stuck on a loop in my head before this, I had no idea what levels it could go to.  Children's music is relentlessly repetitive and lays in wait so that when I awaken to check on a crying daughter at 3:00AM, I am instantly greeted by the opening song for "Super Why" running through my head.  While I am blogging typing up reports at work, "The Cat in the Hat" lyrics are ramming away it the back of m brain (yes, if you're wondering, it IS happening right now.  "Here we go, go, go, go on an adventure...").   If I ever thought I had one shred of cool left in my, that myth has been readily busted by finding myself singing the lyrics to "Dora the Explorer" under my breath.  And liking it. 

It's really just like this HILARIOUS episode of "Sponge Bob" where they sing a song about a musical doodle.  The lyrics to "Musical Doodle" go like this: "The sound in your head is brutal, so just listen while we sing this musical doodle."  That show cracks me up!

Ahem.

Upon further contemplation, maybe one of those Wrath of Khan things would be a welcome distraction from my current mental, musical prison.  It really is brutal.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Details

After nearly 19 years, I find that all of my memories are wrapped up in the details.  Fragments, moments, glimpses stitched together to make a picture of the woman who raised me and was then gone without warnings or goodbyes.

A scar and a misshapen fingernail, the remnants of a long-ago childhood fight lost to a wringer washing machine.

The smell of perfume and cigarette smoke mingling as she sat on the edge of my bed to say goodnight before heading out with her girlfriends in her long suede coat.

The sight of the steam rising from her early morning cup of coffee as she sat in the reclining chair reading a book in the early morning quiet.

The twinkle of mischief in her eye when she laughed.

The fire in her voice, born of years of self-reliance, when she was angry.

The feel of her standing behind me at the stove, my short legs aided by a chair,  as she taught me all of the secrets she knew to cooking while my tummy grumbled happily.

The way she fell asleep in her chair after long hours of factory work.

My loneliness, my longing for her, while she worked evenings or nights or days to support her family.

Pretending to be sick to stay home from school with her for the day.

One perfect day of my skipping school and her skipping work and shopping and having lunch, just the two of us, together.

These details are all I have.  Of course, like any relationship, ours was much more complicated than these.  My childish understanding of the choices she made, the sacrifices she made, was never enough to help me appreciate all that she was.  It was only when I started to scratch the surface of understanding her as an adult that she died.  Even now, these many years later, I find that those layers peel back further and further, allowing me to see the world, if only a little, through her eyes.  To understand the bone tired and the worry and the joy and the sweat and the tears that go into motherhood.  To appreciate the ends to which she went to try, in the best way she knew how, to secure my happiness.

The detail I recall now is the card I gave her for her last Mother's Day.  I cannot remember the entire thing word for word, but I can remember the message.  It said no matter how old you get, you will always need your mother.  I had wanted her to know I still needed her, even now that I was growing up and becoming more independent.  And the final line, etched clear in my mind, still rings true to this day:

I want my mommy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Back Seat Driver

As I mutter under my breath at the line of traffic that stretches before me, blocking my path to our current mecca, Chik Fil A, I hear a voice from behind me say, "Why did we stop, Momma?"

"See all of those cars in front of us?  We have to stop because they stopped.  It's called traffic."

She looks out the window at the cars.  "Come on, dude.  Let's go."  I have no idea where she gets this stuff other than directly from me.

Soon we are moving again.  The Nugget doesn't miss a thing while we're driving anymore.  "Red light, Momma!  We stop at red lights."  "Yellow light, Momma.  Why didn't you slow down?"  "Oh, no!  That was a stop sign, Daddy!  You were supposed to stop!"

No more rolling stops for us.  The cops are actually in the car with us now.  Just in the form of a very bossy and rule-oriented three year old. 

*Sigh*

Why did we teach her the colors.  And WHY, for the love of all that is holy, did we teach her what they mean?

It makes me smile, though.  Sometimes it makes me laugh out loud.  She's looking, she's listening, she's learning.  She draws her own conclusions, sometimes very misguided ones, but sometimes, as in most traffic situations, maddeningly on target.

The hardest part about having this new little back seat driver on board is the fact that I am going to have to find some new role in the family.  I thought that was my role.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rock On

Since The Nugget was a newborn, we have spent her sleepy time in the glider in her bedroom, rocking and singing.  In the beginning, her sleepy time often coincided with mine.  We would doze together in the glider, a pillow tucked below her tiny body to keep her close to me even if my grip was loosened by sleep.

This snuggling and rocking is one of my favorite rituals.  Early on I learned that I needed to embrace this time and not allow any thoughts other than this beautiful task to invade our sacred moments together.  I used to sit with my infant and make lists about other things that needed to be done once I got the baby to sleep.  It didn't take long to realize that not only did she pick up on this energy and not settle as well, but that I wasn't allowing myself to be present for one of the most precious things I did with my child.  Once I let go of the task-oriented thought process, I became the one who wanted to rock longer than necessary and enjoy our quiet time for just a few more minutes.  It became the time when we could cast aside our worries, or share them, and then turn them loose to the universe.  It was, is, healing for us.

I have also always sang songs during these rocking sessions. While the songs have varied over time, some of our favorites have included: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", "Moon River", and "Baby Mine".  Now that she is older, I will normally ask her what she would like me to sing.  She will almost always pick one of these "classics" along with one other, "newer" song.



Over the course of time, The Nugget's needs have changed.  There have been periods, though brief, that she has not wanted to be rocked.  I haven't liked it, but I have respected her decisions even from only a few months old on this matter.  As time has gone on, she counts on being rocked as much as I count on rocking her.  Unlike some children, she is not usually difficult to rock to sleep.  She relaxes, snuggles, listens to her songs, lets the day wash away and sleeps.

Lately, though, my three year old has been all arms and elbows and knees and restlessness and wriggling and discomfort.  Rocking, at times, has become something of a chore.  She is getting big.  It is hard to hold her on my lap as comfortably.  I have wondered to myself, reluctantly, if it is time to give up this, our favorite ritual.

One recent and particularly uncomfortable night, I voiced my concerns to The Nugget.

"Honey, you're getting really big.  It's getting hard for both of us to fit into the rocking chair.  Do you think that it's time to stop rocking to sleep every night?"

"No" she answered without hesitation.

I smiled, glad that she wanted to hang onto this thing we have for a little while longer, even if it was becoming a bit of a challenge.  "When you grow up, even if you move away and get married, can Mama come to your house and rock you to sleep sometimes?"

She nodded vigorously.  Of course Mama would come rock her to sleep, even into her adulthood.  She couldn't imagine why that would ever change.

And just like that, both of us curved ourselves to fit one another a little bit closer, a little bit easier than we had just moments before.  I sent up a silent prayer of thanks that we have such a life as this one, so blessed to know this comfort and to be unable to imagine any other way of doing things than to dedicate this sliver of time every day to comforting and cuddling one another.  So grateful that, for now, we can continue rocking in each other's arms.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heart Strings

Lately I've been feeling a second baby plucking at my heart strings.  I think every day about this new little life that I would like to have with me.  I must talk about it a lot, too, because yesterday The Nugget said, "No more questions about a baby!" when she thought I was asking her if she wanted a new baby.  I already know she does (because I have asked her eleventy billion times, obviously).  I just feel this new little life waiting for us to get it together already and can't help but bubbling over with excitement and talking about it.

We are scheduled to attend an adoption seminar on May 16th.  That just happens to be my birthday.  Not that I'm reading into it as being lucky or anything:)  Each day since we scheduled this, I have been anxiously awaiting May 16th and have hardly even realized that it is my birthday.  Instead, it feels like it has already been re-made into the day we took the first step toward bringing home our new child.

To be fair, we had already met with an adoption attorney.  They were just crazy expensive, so I am hopeful that the agency we are meeting with now will be at least a bit more affordable.  Adoption, overall, is not an affordable option (at least newborn adoption).  For us, though, it feels like the absolute right choice.  For all I know, our child could already be growing in his or her birth mommy's tummy!  It's overwhelming to think about!

Of course, there is trepidation.  What if we are matched and then the mother changes her mind?  What if nobody picks us because we already have a child of our own?  What if, what if, what if?  I suppose we could what if ourselves about everything forever.  I would like to trust that if we meet with disapointment on the path to finding our child, then that's all it ever was; one stepping stone on the path to finding OUR child.

For now, I feel almost as emotional and hormonal as I did when I was actually pregnant.  I tear up over every slightly emotional thing that happens.  I see babies and feel so overwhelmed with love and joy.  I just KNOW this is the path we are meant to take.

I know because that baby has been plucking at my heart strings.  I'm listening, little one.  We're coming.  We're coming.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good Fences?

I took last Friday off of work.  Pretended I was rich and that my life was filled with nothing but me-time.  Drove an hour to an outlet mall and shopped in the sunshine.  Relaxed.  Listened to grown up music of my choosing while I drove.  Made it back in time to fit in grocery shopping while The Nugget was still at daycare.

In short, I spent last Friday in complete and utter bliss.

Until I checked the mail.  We had a letter from the Homeowner's Association.  I sifted it out of the pile because I knew it wasn't time for dues yet, so I wondered what it could be.  As it turns out, it was to notify us that one of our neighbors had filed a complaint about us.  Because we have too many weeds in our yard.  And if we don't take care of this then the HOA will hire someone to do it for us and then we will have to pay that fee and if we don't then we will have a lein put on our house.

Seriously?

The yard is mowed weekly by The Mister.  He really enjoys yard work and takes pride in keeping it neat.  He even mowes in a variety of patterns so that the lines show in our yard.  I have never mowed a day in our marriage and can count on one hand the number of times I have mowed the grass in my life.  If it were up to me, the grass would grow up to the windows.  But he takes care of me like that.

Anyway, yes, this Spring has been a particularly hearty one here in the Midwest and we seem to have been overcome with dandelions.  We had already put on an early Spring fertilizer and had, in fact, already purchased a late Spring fertilizer/dandelion killer to put on after another week or so when it had been enough time between applications.  Had our neighbor spoken to us about the matter, he or she would have known this.

Had our neighbor spoken to us about the matter, he or she might also have know that April is a really difficult month for our family.  That sometimes in April it is all I can do to try and keep breathing in and out.  That my one and only son was born and died four years ago in April.  That, no, the lawn is not the first thing or the fifth thing or the twenty-seventh thing on my mind, but it did make the list of shit we need to take care of at some point in our freaking lives.

What bothers me is not that these were false allegations.  I had a boat load of weeds in the yard, it's true.  But our home is not in a state of disrepair.  We have potted flowers on the front porch which are well watered and pretty.  There is no trash or unsightly junk in the yard.  We clean up the dog poop from the back yard (okay, The Mister does, but still).  We have a nice home.  The weeds represented a CHANGE from the norm, not an addition to it.  So it bothers me that the reporter didn't just stop over and say, "Hey, I noticed your yard could use a little help.  Is everything okay?"  Or even if they didn't want to go that far, maybe they could just have been direct and asked when we were going to take care of it.

I know, it's nobody's job to parent or police me.  I just would like to think we all could have a bit more compassion for one another.  If not compassion, at least some faith that we can and will do the right thing.

It's been a really disappointing experience for us to get this letter.  Both of us grew up in the country.  A dandelion was just part of the scenery.  Now we live in this middle class suburbian neighborhood that mandates that you use chemicals to keep lawns looking perfect.  Our neighbors are people who want our home to conform to their ideas or we will be on the outside.  Suddenly, our home doesn't feel as homey anymore.  I feel like if my dog barks at all or if a piece of trash blows into the yard an isn't immediately noticed and cleaned up then I will be reprimanded.  I feel like Big Brother is watching me.

I think given the level that this disturbed us both, we might just up and sell and move to the country if we weren't upside down on this house (thank you, housing market).  It just feels so gross to me and seems crystal clear all at once that, even though we love our house, maybe this is not the kind of place we want to raise our family.  My idea of having a family in a neighborhood like this was to have community, not a police state.

Am I over-reacting?  Maybe.  But this issue struck me to the core.  That stupid little letter seemed to put into question all of the values that we have and all of the values we are teaching our child.  Be helpful.  Be kind.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  We don't always do it perfectly, but I think we do it better than that neighbor of ours.

Never fear, dear neighbor.  The dandelions have been sentenced to death.  The flower beds have been mulched.  Our stepford home is back in conformity.  But my defenses have locked into place with an almost audible "chink" of metal on metal.  My fence is up, like it or not.  I'm trying to pull at it, get it to come back down, keep my own values in the forefront.  But I'm not there yet.

If that old saying about good fences making good neighbors is true, I just became about the best one anyone could hope for.  For now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Top 5 Places to Eat with Kids

Hello, remember me?  I have this blog that I never write on anymore.  Sorry about that.  BUT.  I was inspired to write again.  I hope it will last but cannot promise you.  All I can promise is that I DO plan to keep it up over the course of years.  It may be in fits and starts, but there will at least be those.

Anyway, I was thinking about eating out with my kiddo.  She and I spend many evenings alone together since The Mister works evening shift.  While I love to cook, I also work full time and find it hard to get motivated to cook for just the two of us.  I often leave crock pot meals or casseroles for The Mister and The Nugget to eat at lunch time and then she and I will go out occasionally.  Of course, we also go out as a family sometimes.  And some places just do kids so much better than others.  Most everyone these days will do some crayons, but some do so much more.  So here is my list of places that are the best to eat with my kid.

5.  Red Robin
Yum! (You know you just sang that)  It has something for everyone with the wide variety of food choices.  There are lots of exciting thing for The Nugget to look at while we eat.  They offer plenty of healthy side items and your child gets a free balloon each time you go.  Also, their kids cups are sturdy enough to re-use.

4. Ruby Tuesday

Yet again, they will bring some treats pre-meal, like a small plate of biscuits. I would prefer something a bit healthier, but, again, it staves off the tantrum that comes from letting your child get over-hungry. Plus, bonus points for having an awesome salad bar with tons of healthy options for my litte one!

3.  The Cheesecake Factory
I know it's a bit pricey and the portions are way too enormous, but I calculate that into eating there and bring home enough for 1-2 additonal meals.  What I love about them is that they bring a little plate of bananas and bread to your child while you wait on your food.  AWESOME.  This helps out mom and dad when lack of planning has left us all starving and the littlest among us unable to cope.

2.  Tequila Sunrise
Okay, this one will only specifically relate to a small percentage of you.  This is our favorite local Mexican restaurant.  Our whole family loves Mexican food.  It's never too crowded and (the key here) it's local.  So we know most of the people who work there.  One of the waiters is good buddies with our daughter and it helps her work on her Spanish.

1.  Chik-fil-A
This one almost deserves it's own category.  It is as close to paradise for eating with children that I have ever encountered.  First, even though it is fast food, the servers will carry your food to the table for you.  When struggling to wrangle children, that is HUGE.  Second, every location has a play area that is glassed in so that you can easily see your child playing inside while you avoid the noise out at a table.  Third, your child can choose a toy or trade in the toy for an ice cream at the end of the meal.  Third, they have tons of healthy options even though it is fast food.  Fourth, while you watch your child play, the servers come around and refill your drinks if you like.  And when you thank them?  They answer, "MY PLEASURE."  Other fast food places I count myself lucky if they even talk to me enough to ask me what I want rather than just staring me down.  Fifth, local restaurants offer family nights once a week where there is a craft activity and then some other special activity (at ours it is sometimes a magician or a person making balloon animals).  It makes spending four bucks on dinner seems like a really big, special deal for the kiddo.  And, finally, once a month they offer a deal where you get a coupon in the amount of whatever you buy to spend again later that month.  You get the same amount of food FOR FREE.  I don't know how they do it, but they are head and shoulders above anyone else in the fast food business.  Oh oh oh...AND they have these lovely plastic mats that stick to the table for littler ones and make the mess so much easier to clean up and keeps their food as hygenic as possible.

So, those are my thoughts.  Any places I am missing out on?  Where do YOU love to take your kids to eat?

Friday, March 23, 2012

And then she was three

Today marks your third birthday, my beautiful girl.  Three.  A little girl.  Not a baby or a toddler but a real little girl.

I'm not going to lie, this week leading up to your birthday has been fraught with tension between you and I.  You have been having tantrums of EPIC proportions.  Sometimes you wake out of a sleep and come to wake me out of my sleep so that you can scream at the top of your lungs for the next hour.  I feel confused and helpless in the face of all of this rage.  I just wish I knew how to help you when you are feeling so very out of control.

Of course, I remind myself, just like the good phases, the bad ones pass quickly, too.  It all goes by in the blink of an eye. 

My three year old girl, you are so smart and kind.  You are almost always willing to share with friends without any prompting.  You love your dogs and cats.  You love your grandparents and your aunties.  You love all of your cousins and your dear friends. 

The time between two and three has given you so much courage and independence.  You now climb confidently to the top of the tower in the play areas, bravely sliding down and scrabbling across the equipment with the other children.  You don't want help with anything if you think you can do it alone (and heaven help the person who tries to help you when it's not needed).

Your imagination has exploded.  You play with imaginary friends most of the time when we are at home.  Mom and Dad have to make sure to hold open doors for them to come with us when we go places.  You are so much more independent with play and can happily go for hours into the play room and keep yourself entertained.  Favorite things right now include: painting, coloring, drawing and playing games.  You are just discovering board games and LOVE them.

Your motor skills are getting so refined.  You can draw specific pictures now and stay so on target with coloring things, a major progression from the random scribbles of just a few months back.  You love to help with most any task including cooking and cleaning and laundry.

You know all of your letters and sounds, you know upper case letters from lower case letters and are just beginning to be able to write some letters.  You love learning and frequently ask to watch your "Elmo Counting" video.  You can count like a champ and love your numbers book, too.

This past year has brought your first trip to Disney, a trip to New Hampshire, potty training, the big girl bed and so much more.  No wonder you are struggling lately with all of this growing up you've done!

I love you, my daughter.  I still rock you to sleep every night and when I look at your sleeping face, I see that baby I gave birth to three years ago today.  My love just grows each year and I am so blessed to have you in my life, to watch your personality unfold before me, to share in your giggles and smiles and joys and, yes, even your tears.  I look forward to all we have to learn together in this coming year.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Show. Me. The Presents!

The Nugget's third birthday is rapidly approaching.  It's safe to say that she is excited about it since she has been planning the party pretty much since she turned two.  We cannot mention that it is going to be anyone's birthday without her noting that it is soon to be her birthday.

At first, she wanted a Mickey birthday.  She has since decided that she wants a Piglet birthday (which I love because Piglet is the stuffed animal that I willed her to love when I took away her pacifier at age 9 months).  I have been busily ordering custom cupcakes and making homemade invitations for this party since Piglet doesn't usually show up without his buddy Pooh.  I can't wait for it, either, frankly.

The other day we were out shopping and she was, not surprisingly, talking about her upcoming birthday.  She made reference to the fact that Santa would bring her presents for her birthday.

"No, sweetie, Santa only brings presents for Christmas.  People who know you bring you birthday presents", I corrected.  She seemed satisfied with this explanation and didn't mention it again.

Until...

As we were loading into the car in the parking lot, The Nugget spied another shopper approaching our car.  "Can you buy me a birthday present?"  she shouted.

Maybe I could have explained that a little more clearly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Flying by the Seat of Our Pants

Recently, we discovered that some of The Mister's family was going to be in Orlando and making a visit to that wonderful/hellish place: Disney.  As I was talking to my Mother in Law (MIL) about it, we decided that it might be fun if The Mister, The Nugget and I came down and surprised The Mister's sister and her family by joining their vacation (Hah!  Hope it was a happy surprise!).  Here are the simple steps that The Mister and I had to take in order to make this last minute vacation possible:

ME
1.  Exchange multiple emails and phone calls with MIL to plan dates, times, etc.
2.  Obsessively check flight options while simultaneously searching for lowest price.  Find lowest price but a)do not realize it and b)do not purchase tickets because you are at work.  Pay twice as much later because you are an idiot with no more time to wait.
3.  Assign dates to ask off to The Mister.
4.  Ask off dates from work.
5.  Attempt to find replacement at work.  Fail.
6.  Work double time prior to departure to try and prevent co-workers from hating you for having to do your work.
7.  Schedule friend for dog sitting.
8.  Realize friend has schedule conflict but has conveniently provided you with a second option.
9.  Contact second option and exchange several emails.  Schedule meet and greet.
10.  Ensure (basically) clean house and fully dressed family for Sunday morning meet and greet with new dog sitter.
11.  Type out instructions and exchange several more emails with two dog sitters.
12.  Ensure cat food and water are completely full.
13.  Ensure an extra bag of dog food is on hand.
14.  Ensure dog snacks are out on counter along with instructions, money and gifts for sitters.
15.  Ensure guest room is (basically) clean as friend who is dog sitting is staying over part of the time.
16.  Ensure there is some food available for friend who is dog sitting.
17.  Pack clothing, toiletries and toys for entire family.
18.  Ensure car is loaded with suit cases, stroller, booster seat.
19.  Schedule wake up time for entire family.
20.  Wake up earlier than entire family in order to be ready first and keep them all moving.
21.  Drive family to airport and, finally, leave on our spur of the moment trip.

THE MISTER

1.  Ask off for the time assigned by wife.
2.  Awaken at the time assigned by wife and embark on vacation.

Yep.  Spur of the moment ain't what she used to be.  For me, anyway.