Friday, December 10, 2010

Observations

So my oldest, a 4 1/2 year old real live princess who tends a jewelry tree in her room and leaves the house everyday with some concern whether "everyone" will think she's pretty, recently had a one on one with our longtime babysitter. 

Delsie, our babysitter, is a few months past 21 with long brown and sometimes blond, hair.  She's cuter than any twenty something I ever was, but maybe that was because of all the baggy grunge clothing I was wearing.... 

The other day while I was off computering or Christmas shopping, Dee and her gal were coloring at the kitchen table while the little kids napped.  Dee asked Delsie how she really knows she is a girl.  Delsie said, well you know, because we have our "lady parts." 

"But when do you get these???," Dee queried, making the universal sign for ta-ta's with her hands cupped in front of her chest.

Delsie considered the question and first said, "you should ask your mom," but then followed with a more definitive answer; "probably when you're sixteen."   When relaying the story to Chris and I later, Delsie told us that she landed on sixteen because her best friend who's Japanese didn't start developing until "way later," like "senior year."  

When Dee asked why Delsie's are "much bigger than Mama's," Delsie left that for me to explain.  I imagine I can't just tell Dee, "wait until you're sixteen," because that would be false advertising. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Promises smomishes

As a child, there was a little Christmas song that would often bring me to the brink of a nervous breakdown.  It's catchy tune would induce gnawed nails, sorry's and didn't mean that's.  You know the one, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." 

The song was a hip pocket favorite for my folks come December.  We'd be mid Christmas memory when the record player would reach this track.  My mom would stop her cookie dough rolling to direct us to listen.

"Do you hear that?" she would say, "Turns out, he SEES you when you're sleeping.  He KNOWS when you're awake.  He KNOWS if you've been bad or good, so be GOOD for goodness sake!"

I got the message.  So my pants were a little wetter, to my mom, what was a little laundry when the payoff was bed by 5:30?  In my head, I would confess all sins and negotiate for mercy from Santa.  Some moments of truth:

4 YR. OLD ME:  So I drew a giant T.V. in brown crayon on my Holly Hobbie bedspread.  Mom already spanked me, so we're good, right?

8 YR. OLD ME:  So I pulled Mary Ann Barnes' ear while waiting in line at our ninetieth field trip to the planetarium today, and then ran.  But she called my friend, Gail, a boy on the bus, so that doesn't count, right?

11 YR. OLD ME:  So I baked a piece of dog food in the croissant I offered to my brother.  He was mean and never, ever, ever, EVER even attempts to get the phone when it rings.  I know I'm too old to actually believe in Santa and I'm too young to be baking croissants and that I eventually missed my calling, but you can't punish me for that already, right?

The sweat rolls made an impression and sent a message to my future self:  NEVER, ever, EVER specifically remind your children of these lyrics.  It's too stressful.  Let them enjoy the season without anxiety over whether Santa uses a pen or a pencil to make his lists.  

I broke that little kid promise today and probably contributed to the snowball of nerves my son will build over the course of a lifetime.  Today, I dragged all three kids to a big box electronics store in the early afternoon to pick up an item for me, and me alone.

First, the timing was off.  I admit that.  Lunch in the car after the park was unsatisfying and naps were just around the bend.  Crabbyhood had already set in for T.  He finished his bag of sliced apples while I made my headphone selection.  Then he asked if he and Dee could ride the back end of the cart through the vast expanse of store that lay between us and the cash registers.  I thought I was home free.

I thought I could zip around like a choo-choo train, make involved-mom conversation with the kids, then pay and leave.  Unfortunately, brightly colored child items, mostly brought to us by Disney, cluttered the route.  T wanted to stop every two seconds until we landed at the Leapster display that contained the "Buzz Lightyear Leapfrog just like Leo's" that T is wishing for. 

Apparently, T forgot that Santa is omnipresent, or didn't care.  When I informed him that his turn was over he ran away and screamed at the top of his lungs, "I waaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnt a tuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnn!"

While a gaggle of clerks in bright blue polos circled us, I reached for T's arm, leaned in to his ear and with gritted teeth, sputtered, "Santa is WATCHING.  Stop it.  Santa can SEE YOU.  Hold on to the cart and let's go."

Ultimately, T did not hold the cart.  I had to pull him to the register while paying and urging his sister to follow us.  T continued to scream through all of it, out to the car and for another five minutes after we were on the road.

Later, much later, when we were at home reading stories on the couch, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" cued on the radio.   While the song played, T looked up and asked me, 

"Mama, is I nice?" 

In the quiet of my home and distanced from the panicked state of a public meltdown, my allegiances officially shifted.  I didn't need just a quick fix.  I really wanted T to think Santa was disappointed and to adjust his behavior accordingly.  Forever.  So I told T that of course he's nice (in the larger sense of the word), but we also talked about the screamfest at the store.

Maybe he gets it.  Maybe he'll be better tomorrow.  That's more than we can eke from "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," no?  That's just confusing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Staking a claim

Dude, can you believe I've only been trying to do this blog thing (again) for two months???!!!

This stuff is work.  At a minimum, it requires a daily pounding from the boulder of discipline.  As if I didn't already have serious respect for you work-a-day bloggers out there, my two months of trying that seems half-assed to the rest of the world, has sealed the deal.

You're better than me.  I will forever endeavor to seek shade in your shadow.  You know, for that brief moment, when you stop along the trail to down a granola bar and unzip your awesome fitting Athleta hoodie before bagging that next Fourteener (otherwise known as a month of consistent posting).

I'll be the one gasping for oxygen, crawling up crags and pesky ravines with only a single disposable water bottle for sustenance.  I promise, I won't dump it in the woods.  But I will need to go back for more provisions.

Like Mint Milanos.  Scratch that, my Weight Watchers leader would likely advice that ten measly almonds would be a better energy-for-points choice, especially when one expects an elevated heart rate.

My Hub tells me I should try to post at least three times a week if I really want to make connections with people.  Yikers!  That man is always full of reasonable ideas that I have to acknowledge to keep our marriage alive (except when he leans on elderly snow blowers).

The Pioneer Woman advises that we write - at least a paragraph - EVERY DAY!  I don't think she expected her audience to actually post the paragraphs of drivel, but here I am, DOING IT, like a blithering idiot. 

I'm sorry, my heart rate must be elevated.  Let me stop a minute and I'll catch ya after you successfully complete a NaBloPoMo.  But before I end this post, please know that I think your hoodie will look fab waving like a flag at the top of the mountain peak, or even half way up, hell, even back at the lodge enjoying a spiked hot cocoa with me.  That hill is yours, baby!  Congrats!

I'll take the next one, just as soon as I switch from Mint Milanos to almonds.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Buzz kill

For three days I've listened to the buzz of snow blowers plowing through the first snow to create tidy pathways from garages to houses and back.  Chris has even come to rely on the goodwill of our nearly retired neighbor to take care of our front walk.  He rationalizes the hours of shoveling freedom this way, "men with snow blowers," he says, "they love doing it.  Snow blowing a sidewalk [and a path from our front door to our back gate, plus a space near the street for Costco unloading] only takes seconds for them.  It's empowering, trust me."  This, from the go-to man I hitched my wagon to.

The city took a day off from snow clearing on Thanksgiving and it showed.  Getting over the berms in the alleyway to the road made returning a Red Box movie an adventure sport.   And *sigh* it's only November.  I can handle this winter wonderland until about December Twenty-Sixth.  But who's counting.

On the upside, my mini Asian me's have come over to the dark side, or dork side, depending on how you look at it.  Surprisingly, they had a little help from their always seeking validation, mother.  My girls, Dee and Nar, are now sporting the latest marked down Old Navy (sorta) wooly sweaters.  Hurry and hop like little bunnies to find these gems.  Cyber Monday is fast approaching!  But beware, the world might possibly run out of wool, because we at dearheart, inc. love it so much.  Except for Hub, who thinks it's itchy and unappealing.

Here we all are, all nice and cozy.  I'm not itchy, who's itchy?  Anyone says they're itchy gets a time out.



And one parting, "the-Thanksgiving-it-snowed-shot": 


The Old Timers tell me it never snows this early in the season.  And by "Old Timers," I mean my cousins who have been here longer than me.  Last week, we also experienced record setting way-below-freezing lows.  Old Timers said that was an anomaly.  After two years of serious snow dumpage and then a freaky snow-less winter last year (still more anomalies), I'm not listening to anyone but Santa when it comes to all things that can influence my behavior, like the weather.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pottery-Barning it

I talked my so-over-it husband into helping me get the first coat of "Firenze" paint up in our dining room Sunday night.  He hates to paint and reminds me whenever the subject is raised that painting is my hobby but simply work to him.

Still, under the pressure of a deadline (we're hosting Thanksgiving), I was able to talk him into painting, so long as he could hear the Major League Soccer championship game from the T.V. in the living room.  Go Rapids! (our Colorado home team won).

It didn't help when I suggested he paint in a "Y" pattern versus his strict "Karate Kid" up and down strokes because he may leave streaks.  I know, I shouldn't be kicking gift horses in the mouth.  Or kicking husbands with my mouth.

The name "Firenze" evokes fire, but not passion.  It's one of this season's Pottery Barn paint colors.  I like the color, it's a deep pumpkin that says, "clean your plate!" in a warm, understated way.

I promised Chris the roller, so I tried to stay ahead of him with the trim work.  With each measured brush stoke along the bright white trim of baseboards and windows, I covered surfaces formerly dripping in a burgundy, bordering on ripe cherry, red.  That red was bold, it had something to say.

To me, it said, "Welcome to our Italian bistro.  Amore!  Sit down under our faux Tiffany light and let Mama bring you some gravy."

Unfortunately, my best spaghetti sauce still comes from a jar and I'm always aiming for an earthy, Asian aesthetic in my decorating.  Emphasis on aiming.  And that's really the problem, isn't it?

Not so much the aiming and missing, but that over a couple of decades of adulthood, the message we're trying to get on the wall doesn't really say much.  Slap up a nice, tactful color that won't offend potential buyers when we're empty-nesters.  Avoid getting too heated in a political discussion because of the anxiety that we may not know enough facts to support our positions. 

Actually, I find that these days, I avoid conflict of almost any kind because I'm just too tired to duke it out or afraid of the later consequences when I have to make small talk to that same person I pissed off at a park day.  You never know.  Better to just play it safe. Go with the colors closest to the embers.  Dark, smoldering.  Nothing flashy.

Maybe it's just age.  That transitional moment between fired up youth and a state of zen, but I find that I'm floating - not necessarily lost - somewhere between the preordained color that's just understated, and my red, the one that sometimes laps out beyond the encumbrance of the fire pit and makes a mark that can hurt.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Home, home on the subdivided lot

While living quite contentedly on my little city lot, couple of trees in front, couple in back, I was recently reminded by my children that I am most definitely NOT Pioneer Woman.

Which is a little bit sad really, because I come, at least on my mother's side, from cowboy folk.  Mom was raised on a farm.  She plucked chickens and rode bareback on a horse named Sugar, but left me to clean up the piddles of a poodle named Sophie in our basement.

Granted, we lived on a wooded, but food-producing-free half acre in the mountains.  I didn't grow up in the city, but I didn't necessarily hike in snowshoes uphill both ways to get to school.  We had buses for that.  And movie theaters.  And a 7-11 convenience store.  So I might as well have been a suburban kid, just with a 45 minute drive to the city and a sort of romanticized idea of rural life, because I believed that I kinda lived it.  Because of the trees, mostly.

But then I married a city boy and fell in love with things like take-out Thai food and well manicured city parks with domed glass green houses and paths adorned with old fashioned rose varieties.  So now we live miles away from fields of amber waves of grain and the farmers who tend to those fields.  We can't even relate to people like my actual cousins, who keep cattle alive for a career and wrangle wild horses for fun at rodeos on the weekend.

I am assured of this and my dorkdom because of a breakfast conversation I recently overheard between Dee and T.  Dee said, with authority, that "a unicorn is a horse with a horn.  And a pink horse is a pony."  A pretty one, I bet.

Later, T presented me with his cowboy-themed lunchbox and pointed to the saddle depicted on the side.  "This is a carousel," he said.  Then he pointed to the saddle horn and added, "that used to be the horse's head, but now it's gone."

So much for authenticity.  Or honoring your mother.  I guess we'll have to hunt for culture elsewhere.  Maybe it's on sale at the mall.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fireballs and other bullets

This past week, my little brother, business minded and frugal, forked over some cash at the post office to send left over Halloween candy to my kids. Of course, it's the devil in disguise because all I do is graze at the great cardboard trough after the kids go to bed....


Bro sent the package o' calories the first year we were here when the only candy eating kid in our house barely had enough teeth to gum a Tootsie Roll. I suppose that was his point. Save the sugar for his sis.

See, Trent (this name has been changed to protect those that would be perpetually annoyed - if they knew - that I blog) may be the little brother, but he came in first in the game of bringing home grand babies. Trent's oldest just turned 11. He's another sweet T-named kid that I adore and doted on, almost to a fault, in that fleeting time after marriage, but before kids.

I remember a much anticipated "date" with auntie, when I took my nephew, then three, out to a movie. When I met my baby brother in the parking lot, he leaped out of the car with all the efficiency of a gazelle fleeing lions. Before I had reapplied my lip gloss and zipped up my purse before getting out of the car, Trent had removed the car seat from his vehicle and secured it in mine. While I made silly faces at my nephew, Trent grabbed a worn baby blanket, sippy cup, and a bag of wipes from the floor of his back seat. He then presented me with a soft lunchbox looking thing in the event of an "accident."

I remember secretly scoffing at the idea. An accident? At this age? So, armed with my, "I like kids, so I know everything about kids," sense of the world, I bid Trent goodbye and tromped into the movie theater with my nephew, gear free. I then proceeded to buy Sweet T the biggest bag of gummy bears he could spot in a concession stand line-up, and a tradition was born.

In the few Halloweens that Chris and I spent back home before heading north, we hosted Trent's kids for trick or treating in our suburban neighborhood. The candy gettin' was good and easy and I was able to do extra doting. Every Hallow's Eve, when all was said and done, I would pack up every Nerdy candy pebble and snack-sized bit of chocolate left in my house and send it home with Trent's kids. I would make a big production of it - ask the kids if they wanted it - never minding that their dad may have a different opinion. An opinion based perhaps on spending a nanosecond with a real live child.

I recall chuckling when I walked them to their big ass kid car, Trent cursing me all the way. While he faced a 40 minute drive home and the pajama routine after that, my mind was likely on the glass of Pinot I would pour immediately upon reentering the house and the bath I would draw later in the night before floating to bed.  Good times.

But now, karma or whatever comes home to roost, has entered my building. And it keeps on coming in the form of candy. Sometimes even the good stuff. Along with the caramel swirled chocolate bars he throws in there for me, there's a sweet side to Trent's revenge. Kids love candy and the person who gives it to them. And that's what bro is aiming for. He always was a good shot.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pointillism and Pastry

It occurred to me while I piped the thousandth too-red-for-a-lizard-tongue icing star onto a little triangle of cake, that I might make better use of my time.  I was decorating a leopard gecko cake for my cousin's son's tenth birthday and going way too far with the birthday boy's cake request:

"Can you make it look like my pet gecko, Echo?"  Cute.
"He's yellowish/tannish with spots all over."

At this point, I have spent more time with this lizard cake than I ever want to spend with any real lizard.  I first had to determine if my cake making obsession could accommodate a hairless creature with lots of craggy clutchers (difficult to get frosting on those toes, or whatever they're called).  Also, as any given post on Cake Wrecks demonstrates, "yellowish/tannish" cakes often end up in the poop category.  And I don't care that no one is paying me to bake them a cake, I don't want my shit to - even accidentally - look like poop.

So, I put my dormant brain to work on this one and did some reconnaissance on the Internet.  You know how they say, "measure twice and cut once" in construction circles?  Well, the same thinking applies in the very intricate process of homemaker cake baking.  Since leopard gecko cake pans are not a dime a dozen at baking supply stores, plus, because I'm cheap, I had to find a picture to work from, create a pattern, and cut a frozen cake.  Voila!  Red neck cake pan!


I settled on a stylized cartoon of a leopard gecko printed on a coffee mug.  Mostly because it was cute and less poopy looking than pictures of the real thing.  After the kids went to bed, I got to work and opted out of a domino game called Mexican Train with my husband and his parents.  I consider that game a feel-bad, low-strategy time suck, so I was happy to avoid the three hour game session due to emergency cake decorating.  But maybe that's because I always lose....

While piping away, I realized two things about my technique of choice.  One, it's slow as all be and that is likely why real bakers who are trying to pay actual bills don't pipe millions of frosting stars on their cakes.  It slows down cake production to the point of bankruptcy!  So smooth is best, people.  As if you didn't already know that.

I also realized that my piping and attempts to create an ombre effect (hello, Martha Stewart!) in the transition from white lizard underbelly to black speckled top, I was engaging in rudimentary pointillism, a recognized painting technique, exquisitely developed in the 1800's by French impressionist, Georges Seurat.  I referenced his work before, in describing an equally mundane experience in my life.

So my point, and I do have one, as Ellen Degeneres would say, is that I may be able to eke beyond self ridicule here.  This cake business can 1) save me from other dreaded activities, 2) actually see completion because I only work from deadlines, and finally, 3) constitute actual artYep, I said it (art), in that louder than you might think inside-my-head voice.  

So what's the verdict, is there a poo vibe?  Also, never mind the gray raccoon tail.  I interpreted the shading in the graphic image too literally.   Remember, art is a process.  That's the point, right?

P.S.  The cake was served to people who know a thing or two about geckos.  Turns out, the ginormous gray plume serves as some kind of food storage camel hump that's supposed to be gray.  So, it's about science, not art.  Or survival, maybe.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Daisy Picking

There's a gauzy haze over the memory of my pulling petals from a tiny white sundial shaped flower at the stream near our house.  Fourth grader yearnings, I think.  "He loves me, he loves me not...."

Please let the last petal be love.  Or at least like.  And let him be Chad, who leads the class in a rendition of Devo's "Whip It" every afternoon.  And not Kevin, who saves a seat for me on the bus everyday, but is in the wrong reading group.  My diary entries play out like a snagged record:

Chad was at school today.  Chad stood in line behind me on the way to specials today.  We had P.E. today.  I hate P.E.  Mrs. Sites is so mean and anceint [sic].  Chad wore a plaid shirt today.

Chad never did like me and he barely acknowledged my presence in his homeroom class.  Except for the one time I managed to sneak in a cup of sugar mixed with a Kool-Aid pack to dump on a paper towel for our cluster of desks to dip fingers in and suck on like inverted Pixy Sticks.  Jello was better, but all we had at home was instant pudding mix. 

These days, I've got another guy I'm eying, and he too, responds real well to sugar.  But he also shows me some sugar.  And I'm addicted.

He reaches for me in pale blue pajamas from the lower bunk on the rare day when I need to wake him up to get ready for preschool.  He pops out his thumb to give me a smile.

After just making it to the potty and abiding my instruction to "Wash hands!," he hugs my leg before running to get dressed.  I see his little bare bottom whiz down the hall and make the sharp right turn into his bedroom.

While buckling him into his car seat, I get two little hands cupping my cheeks.  I can feel each miniature finger pressing into my skin.  My face and the brain beyond, yield, like salt dough, hoping to capture the essence of him, my busy, hugging, three year old boy. The gesture stamps my soul in a way that makes me want to trace over the impression again and again.  He loves me, he loves me, he loves me.

Later, when he's home from preschool, there's a rim of red around his eyes and salty trails down his face from a not yet forgotten wrong.  T's grandparents are visiting and there was a kerfuffle in the car over sandwiches.  When a piece of his sandwich was torn off for the baby without his prior consent, T lost it.  My husband tells me they had to stop the car during the two minute drive home to address the screaming.

T wants to tell me about it.  He wants me to help him eat the rest of his sandwich.  And sit with him in the bathroom when he stops mid meal for a potty break.  I don't always do this kind of thing, rarely actually.  But today, I bring my own sandwich into the bathroom and sit on the edge of the tub to finish it.  It helps, I think.

T's too tired for the next activity, but he wants to be there because it's the Halloween party at music class and that's what three year olds do.  Dress up and sing.  So T finishes his sandwich and puts on a Spider Man costume that will still be too long when he's fifteen.  So I cut off six inches from each leg and arm, while he's wearing it, and help him with his coat.

When my husband, mother in law and I come in at the end of class for parent time, T is done.  He wants my lap and his thumb (admittedly, not necessarily in that order).  Turns out, food allergies made coordinating the snacks for partying too difficult, so the end of class party, beyond the costume wearing, is canceled.  T appears to lose hope when the promise of candy is yanked.

So he looks to me, for that respite between the rest of the world and his bed.  I hold him while we sit out the last song and then guide him back into the car seat where I'm gifted with kisses on my forehead.

Right now, there is no space for "love me nots."  T loves me and he shows it, so I don't ever go wandering in the woods for daisies.  I suspect, however, that sullen days may lie ahead, a decade or so from now, or even less, when establishing the bright lines of his identity will require T to pull away from me.  I suspect then too - and least on lonely afternoons - I'll return to the uncertainty of fourth grade love and the wishful assurances of petal pulling.  But at least then I'll know I'm working with the right guy and that I've got the sequence right.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anything you can do I can do...

crappier.  Turns out.

In the musical, "Annie Get Your Gun," the romantic leads, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, bicker over target shooting skills before seemingly falling in love mid-song.  Frank, with official cowboy swagger, sets the challenge, "I'm gonna give you a lesson in marksmanship you'll never forget!"  With confidence, Annie declares,

"No you won't.  You couldn't give me a lesson in long distance spittin'!"  After a big guffaw from the audience, she (and eventually, Frank) break into song: 

Anything you can do
I can do better
I can do anything
Better than you.

No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can,

Yes, I can!  (and so on)

I just returned from three days of bliss on a girls' trip involving lots of wine and salami.  And singing.  When I got home, my kids weren't necessarily singing my praises, but they had plenty to tell me about, like the blobs they could make with glitter paint.  And while baby was too busy to sing, I knew that face of hers smooshed against the glass of the front window was all heart. 

Chris wasn't as frazzled as I might of imagined by two in the afternoon following my three day sojourn.  Nor did he seem to mind that I had an immediate errand to run.   I'm not sure if I could, or have ever, greeted him after a few days away with such perkiness.  That was crappy.  At least in the grand tally in my head that measures whether I'm really making a successful career out of this mother gig.

As the evening unfolded and we shared bits and pieces of the weekend while progressing through the tasks of nightly child necessities, I got the feeling that Chris had lassoed a few wily broncos and brought them to their knees.  And he had some tips for his cowgirl, now back on the range:

C:  You know how you've been worried about the constant snot, fatigue and general crankiness BabyNar has endured for the past three weeks?  No time for a response.

C:  Well, I think the baby would feel better if you actually fed her.  Interesting concept.  Does he have any studies to back up this new therapy?  Also, no response necessary, don't you think?

C:  Also, you should give her a bottle eight times a day in small amounts, plus three or four ounces with every meal.  Have you tried giving her water?  I think she's dehydrated.  Shouldn't the empty diaper boxes that take up an entire car space in the garage speak to these issues?  Again, speechless.

With that, Chris placed the last of the dinner dishes in the dishwasher, reminded Dee and T to each bring a handful of toys up to their room on the way up for pajamas, and then he was gone, in one efficient, light-speed flash.  I was a little dumbstruck.  Maybe yogurt and a couple of bottles aren't enough for Nar.  Crap.  And maybe I shouldn't worry so much about sippy cup spills.  Crap.

I also learned that the big kids were pretty much angels.  Crappy jerks.

But as we neared the finish line of bedtime, I saw a couple cracks in his horse training.  The kids were definitely responding to some kind of "do it or else" stimulus.  One that just happened to be my  take away a toy and don't you worry about it, because it's forever gone at Goodwill, punishment.  The one used when T ran into the street and caused cars to swerve to avoid him (last recorded loss:  Favorite Birthday Present Buzz Lightyear remote control spaceship with accessories).  It is also the modified punishment used when the kids can't resist pushing or pulling or generally hurting the baby (last recorded losses: a black Matchbox truck and an orange flower necklace).  Needless to say, this punishment is used only when the big guns are necessary.  But Hub botched that.  Still, despite my damaged weaponry, I could feel my strength returning.  Maybe I started humming a little cowboy tune....

Also, did I mention that Chris didn't seem to notice that along with his football jersey, three year old T wore manpri pants all day, in the form of his fourteen month old sister's khakis?  Score!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Demographically Appropriate Pick Up Lines

Some sparks, in no particular order:

Wife to Hub:

1)  Let's swim through the sea of remotes for a kiss....
2)  Socks baby, take off your socks first....
3)  After you brush your teeth, can you turn off the baby monitor?
4)  We don't have to spoon all night, I promise.
5)  Did you just put more hot water from the teapot in the tub for me?  I guess I don't need to worry about a robe!
6)  The girls' trip is canceled.
7)  Did you just fold that laundry, that basket right there? 

Hub to Wife*:

1)  I'm game, if I don't have to worry about the alarm and waking you up for your blown-off-a-gazillion-times 5:45 a.m run tomorrow.
2)  Wow, you decided not to wear your woolly sweater to bed?
3)  The fantasy football picks are IN!

*Sorry for the unbalanced representation.  Ten years, and I'm still trying to get inside Hub's head (not just his pants).

Friday, October 15, 2010

You Wanna Piece of Me?!

The roofers at my neighbor's house must think I'm losing my mind.  Or, at the very least, they have pegged me as a bored housewife with a fetish for the feel of silk.  Emphasis on the feel of silk and not actual silk.  They've seen my house, they know better.  For the past three days, I kid you not, I have "tended" the fake spider web scene I am creating on my front porch.  All while hunky young men with loud music and cigarettes tear down and reconstruct the roof next door.

On Monday, a day when my children and I have only one scheduled activity - an hour at Soccer Tots -  I hauled up two storage bins of Halloween decorations in a weak attempt to provide meaningful entertainment for their impressionable, but never satisfied, young minds.  They were into it for awhile and then moved on to colored bendy straws with lunch and fights over who got which lane on the Matchbox car racetrack.  I however, did not.  Get over it, that is.

Like finishing a home improvement project for the tiniest room in the house, say, the broom closet, I was determined to really fix up the front porch fancy like.  Problem was, we didn't have enough fake spider web, or styrofoam tombstones, or flickering lights.

The next day, I found all of those things and that night, talked my Hub into playing the part of Igor to affix them all after the kids went to bed.  If there's any holiday that puts a skip in the step of my work-a-day Hub, it's Halloween.  He loves those corny (he-he, get it?) haunted mazes and laughing at the teenage ghouls behind the strobe lights at the local dead mall. He'll even pay good money for the experience, at least the experience of laughing to tears watching me scream in horror when the fifteen year old dressed as the angel of death gets within three feet of me at "Terror in the Corn!!!" or "Nightmare on Your Street!"  I'm always the scaredy cat target, dammit all.

Anyhoo, this year I channeled that energy into creating a mood.  It was dark by the time Chris and I got to fake silk stretching.  When we first started, he was on the phone with his mom and I recall him saying,

"Wow.  That is the biggest spider I have ever seen.  Wow."  Cool, I thought.  That big Walmart spider is really making an impression.  Even Mr. Halloween likes it.
 

When I actually got out there to help him, I learned different.  Turns out, the "spider" Hub was referring to was a real spider with a huge ominous spider butt not hanging on the front door to scare trick-or-treaters, but crawling across Chris' hand in retreat.  That big butt spider actually touched him!

Chris was in the unfortunate process of tearing down her real web in his attempt to put up the fake stuff.  Big Butt wasn't buying it.  She quickly scurried away from our fake web into places that were hard to see. I worried that Big Butt was a Hobo spider, a dangerous type found in the Northwest that can bite and create a sore like this:

(Not Chris' hand.)

My friend Megg, who's father is an entomologist, warned me of these creatures.  She even made the effort of sending a cautionary email early in Hobo season with detailed pictures of the dreaded beast and warned us of basement and front porch sightings.  At the time, I went all head-in-the-sand about it.  Last night, I begged Hub to cross reference what we were seeing on Wikipedia.  After some panicked research, we couldn't be sure about Big Butt.  She could be a Hobo.  The dangerous kind that goes from house to house with a handkerchief on a stick, biting people.


I was torn, my obsession with creating a realistic web scene was at odds with my genuine fear of Big Butt taking a bite outta me.  Chris decided it wasn't worth it and retired to the living room.  For me, the web's siren song was too much.  Like a fly drawn to gossamer, I hung on for a bit, gingerly pulling strands of fake web from nicks in the brick to a finial in the banister to the rose trellis just beyond the porch.  There was a genuine thrill to it.  Scary for sure, but not as humiliating as running from those costumed teenagers.
 

P.S.  Surprise, surprise.  We survived.

Monday, October 11, 2010

On love and hate and Oreos

Everything takes work, doesn't it?  Work to figure out what you want to do and then follow through for more than two weeks.  Work not to eat the whole bag of Halloween Oreos, which are simply regular Oreos with orange colored frosting.  I thought I could resist them this afternoon when I made the careful decision to buy them over any myriad of cookies that would not have survived the two block journey between the grocery store and my house.  Turns out no, I needed to consume the entire middle row tonight, despite the fact that I kind of hate those cookies.

I pushed back a family photography shoot set in late August under false pretenses.  I told the photographer we needed to reschedule in mid October because I so wanted to have the pictures taken outside with the fall leaves.  I lied.  I like the leaves and all, but I wanted to lose weight.  At the very least, I had to lose the extra six pounds I gained over the summer, saying yes to every pastry ever folded with butter and pumped full of vanilla cream.  I even turned other things into pastries.  While staying at my brother's house, I scrounged for something sweet late at night.  While everyone else was asleep, I dug deep in the basement storage shelves to find an economy size bag of animal crackers and grazed on them religiously all four nights we were visiting.  The crackers might have been stale, but I think I kind of loved them. 

Before the photo shoot, I needed to lose that dang summer weight and I had aspirations of more.  I imagined the weight flying off of me, whizzing away while I spun in a steady circle of moderation and diligence.  A Slimfast shake for breakfast, turkey and carrots for lunch, a Slimfast shake for dinner if I was really good.  No rice, no bread, no sweets, no snacks.  You get the picture.  The crumbling picture.

I lost a little summer weight.  But not enough.  I'm back to baseline and that means rolls of mother belly oozing over my too tight jeans and feeling bad about it.  I still love my one pair of skinny expensive 7 For All Mankind jeans, even if they hurt.  And I still hate my Valu Village comfortable jeans that wait patiently in the pants drawer, waiting for the day that always comes when I feel dejected and huge and must put them on in order to breathe.  I wore those stupid things on Saturday so I ran yesterday.  I didn't run today but I did squirt dish washing soap over the remaining orange Oreos.  Then I placed them at the bottom of the kitchen garbage and camouflaged them with a Land's End catalog, so Hub wouldn't have cause to ask about why I'm throwing money away in the form of an iconic American treat.

I also kept the photo shoot appointment.  The weather's supposed to be good and the baby's getting over her cold so I have no excuse.  I just have to suck it in and smile.  And I hate that.  Hopefully, when I look back in twenty years, I'll only see a relatively wrinkle free face and some little munchkins.  And I'll have to love that, right?!?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Armed and Dangerous

We're on the rebound from the Mother State and tonight, I find myself halfway home in my familiar, door laden suite.

The day before we left, the big kids and my mom browsed Goodwill while I hurriedly dashed to find the cheapest entertainment for the long drive ahead in the form of .29 picture books.  That's right, I said 29 CENTS, less my mom's senior discount.  Mama Dearheart is the bargain queen.  She's honed this skill for about sixty five years and there ain't no way, no how, you're going to get it cheaper than from her sewing machine, or from, as my kids' have come to call it, "Granny's Goodwill."

While waiting for me, just-three T, all boy in the stereotypical sense of the word, hunted the Halloween table at the store for the perfect item to grip while strapped in the cozy confines of his car seat.  He landed on a novelty plastic dagger adorned with skulls and featuring a retractable blade that makes a low and lingering scream-like sound when pressed against something. 

Dee, all girl in the stereotypical sense of the word, gravitated to a cheap fabric bat affixed to a glittered dowel, identified by Dee as a Halloween wand.  She fancied herself the inspired, "Halloween Fairy," while waving it.  Granny thought the name, "Bat Wanda" was a better fit.  We moved on from Goodwill to picking up real nail polish for Dee, as promised, in a pale princess pink.  The look was complete. 

The afternoon wound down with a viewing of the scarier-than-I-ever-remembered, Pinocchio, including dagger waving by T and spell casting by Dee at that nasty whale, and the men who brought little boys to "Pleasure Island."  Yikes. 

After a little more T.V. and an elaborate sequence of post dinner candy treats, we were fat with the spoils of an old school week with the G'rents.  From there, we packed up our troubles in my (twelve or so) kit bags and armed ourselves for the road ahead. 

I'm feeling pretty confident.  I've got fairy magic and knightly valor recharging on the other side of that door.  Very confident indeed.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Now

We linger over the dinner clean-up.  She's wiping the counters down with a hot soapy dishcloth, freeing the area of streaks, as she's done after every meal I've known in her home.  I follow her like a puppy, not necessarily doing anything to help, beyond putting the easy stuff away.  After I've placed the salt and pepper shakers in their place in the cabinet, we go back to a hard conversation we had a few months ago and I reassure her that, after some reflection, I think I understand.

She tells me that there were countless times she dreamed of a cruise vacation, or a week in Hawaii.  And not so long ago, she would have jumped at the opportunity and the fun anticipation that such a trip entails.  But not today, she says.  They are so grateful for the offer, she tells me, so very grateful, but not now.

Now, while the white blood cells in my father's body multiply erratically, and doggedly fill the remaining space in his lymph nodes, before moving on to new vessels, she needs to embrace the simple, quiet life that they find at home.

Now, she wants only to be with him.  Admittedly, to have him all to herself, shuffling about their three bedroom single level track home, attending furniture refinishing projects and grass cutting.  He's still as funny to her as ever, and as kind.  Gently agreeing to rebuild the back of a desk she found at Goodwill, and meticulously chopping the veggies and other necessities of the recipe he's chosen for dinner.  She's aching already, and us along with her, while the time bomb of his cancer ticks away.  Who knows how long life will still be good.  All she knows for sure is that home is generally free of the distractions and worry that catching planes and small talk with strangers bring about. 

I left my three kids with them three days ago.  Presumably for quality time and not to add to their stress.  Chris and I are in Aspen, Colorado attending a medical conference and enjoying yet another gift from my parents in the form of a weekend without our offspring. 

While alone yesterday, I ran, or walked mostly, along a narrow dirt path that followed a creek along the Rio Grande Trail. The warm autumn sun was warm on by back - too warm - and the warbled shade provided by the delicate flutter of aspen leaves allowed a respite from the task of running in the heat. It was then that I could appreciate some of the jewels of the Rockies.

I observed the dry grasses and wildflowers beyond their peak, arched over the edge of the path, creating a red carpet of sorts. The smell of fallen aspen leaves, earthy but somehow still bearing the sharp - and uplifting - smell of spring. Russet reds and oranges surrounded me in the rusty soil of the trail, the iron rails of the foot bridge, and in a good number of the rocks nested in the creek, smooth and rounded from the cover of rushing water. The creek was bordered by rustic, but meticulously maintained and upated, vacation homes. Complete with wooden pads built over the creek, upscale lawn furniture and canvas umbrellas still there, a reminder that true summer was not too long ago.

It was a lovely walk and one that I enjoyed, particularly because it involved some calorie burning.  All the same, I still longed to be back at our room at the conference resort, with the surprise of my Hub out early from his morning meetings and ready to join me.  There's something so sweet and comforting about having my man here with me, to walk among the aspen trees and to appreciate our now without distraction.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sweet on the Suite

The kids and I are headed to Colorado by van.  We saved cash by driving so I splurged on a suite that met my specifications at a mid-budget hotel for our one night on the road.  This is what I've learned so far:

A half wall and a mini fridge does not a suite make.  And the two-way fireplace you feature in your hotel pictures does not positively influence my reservation decision.  I need a room without a view, one with definite boundaries between the place where the children are stashed and the place where I pretend I don't have any children, at least until the cruel light of morning creeps in like a sorceress to condemn me to another 10 hours in a non padded minivan with Dee, T and BabyNar (who turns out to be the worst of the bunch).

Nar Nar doesn't yet understand that crying is futile.  I will not flinch.  I WILL keep driving and simply move my ear closer to the car speaker to hear the remainder of the "This American Life" NPR episode that's playing.  Not to worry, road trip police.  Baby's got a dry diaper (at least since the last reasonably timed stop), a sippy cup with more handles than cup (that doubles as a toy), and a mountain of discarded (and usually forbidden) snacks that her siblings would kill for if they weren't prisoners to the five point harness system that makes sane travel with children possible for me.  Never mind the safety benefits of such devices.  They're like a door on a one bedroom suite, only more effective for the waking hours.

Anyhoo, we finally did make it to the hotel and the kids' patience and leg atrophy paid off.  It was near normal bedtime when we arrived, but we still had a day of activity to jam into our sweet suite and the hotel attached to it.  The condensed schedule involved complimentary cookies, fries and burgers in the "living room," swimming, bath, stories at 10 p.m. (!), and night-night in the yummy king size bed (behind door #1) that really should be mine.

Never mind that Dee and T piddled around for another hour.  I'm confident all that car seat padding will make day dreaming easier, especially when the only sugar coming from Mom arrives in the form of a fruit gummy snack pack.  Heads up!

Monday, September 20, 2010

True Companions

I see them every once in a while at the same coffee shop.  Often, they are already sitting at a two top directly facing the entrance to the shop.  A bookcase is at their back and I've seen the baristas greet them with familiar hellos.  I've not yet deciphered what they drink; whether it's steaming Earl Gray tea for one, or a short, powerful espresso for the other.  They sit talking or reading newspapers, but still find enough interest in me and my brood to look up and smile.

They look strangely the same and might be sisters, except for one is much taller.  Both wear skirts that fall below the calf.  The skirt on the little one is high enough to reveal her short, shabby boots with holes and frayed edges at the toes.  She doesn't wear socks.  Instead, a long wool dress coat, dirty and thin, appears to keep her warm both winter and summer.  The little one has stringy long hair that streams out from a wool stocking cap.  Her companion wears the same uniform, except a light nylon scarf is wrapped around her head and her boots aren't nearly as worn.  Everything about them is muted grays, olive green, plum and brown.  It would seem as if they had emerged from the woods, if modern life for seniors really made way for good witches and fairy godmothers.

But I learned today while pulling out of the adjoining grocery store parking lot that their world also includes a royal blue in the form of a sensible Ford sedan, likely manufactured in the late eighties.  The tall one is the driver.  Today, she focused on starting the car while the little one waived and waited for me to back my hulk of a minivan out of the parking space next to theirs.  I waived back in thank you, noticed their current plates and then continued to think about the pair the rest of the day.  The Little One and the Driver.

Shortly after meeting my husband, a/k/a Chris, I settled into the cozy and joyous notion that he was my true companion.  The muscles he'd developed on his upper thighs biking across town to attend the prerequisite classes for medical school helped A LOT.  Also, his openness to people and why-not-today-adventuresome spirit perfectly counterbalances my judgmental character and perpetually practical personality.

Some people are hard to like.  I keep my nose to the grindstone and seek reasonable fun within boundaries.  I don't like to ask directions and I've got to plan for days (okay, weeks) for people to drop by for dinner.  Chris organizes elaborate events on a whim. He skiis like the Asian Jonny Mosely that he is and has served as a National Park naturalist by day and and river raft guide on weekends.  Hot stuff.  Then he went to medical school and that tamed his adventures a bit.  Protecting lives can do that to a guy.  

I knew Chris was the man for me and my future kids when I watched him with his beloved dog, a yellow lab/shepard mix and lover of all throwable things, named Dakota.  Chris guided Dakota with a firm but gentle, for-keeps touch.  Dakota responded in kind.  And I got to bask in it, like a preview before purchasing.  I was hooked then and I still am.

Today, my true companions tend to be the three little souls Chris and I brought into this world.  We bumble around like a little band of merry women and one man.  Off to adventures like two grocery stores in one day where everyone focuses on holding the cart, I SAID, HOLD THE CART!!!, while Nar strains to gum the handle and break free of the belt that's holding her back.  We talk of spills on the sidewalk, treats that might await us at the bakery, mylar balloons in the shapes of space heroes, crunches (sharks) and princesses with loads of hair and dark pink gowns.  Dee discusses her plans of living with the real princesses when she grows up and letting T be a king.  T is mesmerized by a cardboard display of a movie "bad guy" and tells us he is going to "bam it!" 

Throughout the day, the kids make these kinds of suggestions and I respond.  It is a comfortable, welcomed part of life.  In those early, not quite focused moments of the day when I first realize where we are in the week and the plans ahead, I am happy to wake up.  Mostly because it is our day and that I won't be alone.  I have an important purpose here, surrounded by these kids, smothered by these kids - kissed and hugged and ignored sometimes - but always with them.  At least until first grade beckons and these hours that are all mine dwindle because their interests and development require a different focus and, sadly, different companions.

And then of course, I'll turn to other seeds I've sown.  Hub, older kid family stuff and professional goals.  Grandchildren and the golden years of retirement.  But beyond that, I have hope that someday, in a land far away and hard to imagine, there will be a Driver for me (short as I am, and shrinking, I'll likely be the Little One).  A woman, friend and survivor, who has traveled a road with different turns and dips, but similar still to mine.  A fairy godmother of sorts that can offer me all that I really yearn for - companionship - and the occasional ride to the coffee shop when the weather makes the walk difficult.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Full Stop

I woke today wearing less elastic.  Which seems quite ridiculous now that I'm a mother of three who is most definitely NOT pregnant, but was recently mistaken for being "two or three months along" at my high school reunion.  So much for my belief that only television alum hold grudges.  It's not even like I was popular, a poser really.  Maybe that's why I didn't get the message that empire waste "BBQ casual" dresses are soooo early stage pregnancy. 

So it's not the Spanks that I'm dumping, it's another sexy number known as the standard issue beige cheap nursing bra.  The kind that you don't bother to lay flat for laundering or adjust to achieve even a modicum of fit.  That's because during late (real) pregnancy, throughout birth, and my kid's first year of life, I wore the thing like a wedding ring.  Like a symbol of my commitment to the not so subtle message to Hub that I was still NOT in the mood.

Today I broke free of the bonds of my nursing bra, and the cozy stretch of my life that its departure concludes.  Today, BabyNar is now a 100% formula (and various table foods) fed baby. I'd like to believe this day stands only as a comma in the great run on sentence of my childbearing years, where the space beyond provides room for another conception and birth story and eventually another chair to add to my fantasy of a large dining room table twenty five years from now, crowded with people and partners munching on family favorites and gently needling me with memories and jokes; everyone buzzing around me and helping me get the dishes on the table and getting annoyed by me, but loving me and the life Hub and I created for them.  Did I mention that this fantasy is about me? 

Anyhoo, gosh, I can't even write it, and I wish I had the technical savvy to get the Blogger type to reduce down to like, four point font, so that I could tell you in my tiniest voice that I think today is not a comma but (whispering now) really a big, fat period that tells all the world, especially me, that we're done bringing kids into our family and that pregnancy and even adoption are not likely.  Period.  Did I say that?  I think so and (talking louder now), I guess that means I can let the type get bigger and take a breath and maybe explain things (Hub's done) and then...move on and get a job or something.  Yuck.  I'm still mourning this, I know.  And I'm still secretly hoping that the "accident fairy" will stop by my house, especially now that Hub's least favorite nasty beige undergarment has left the building.

There's one more thing here.  I wish this post could be a memory marker instead where I describe the last loving days of nursing BabyNar.  The kind of journal page that is my best hope for blogging so that I won't forget the kids' childhoods and how I felt during those days of 1-2-3's or else, please don't push on my bottom with your squirt gun (T), that huffing noise you make during dinner to interrupt me makes me angry (Dee), and the image of non mobile Nar being crawled over at the park by babies half her age while she sits munching wood bark.  Mmmmm....

Per usual, however, I'm back to me.  Which will likely be the case whether I have three or four or more children.  The hope too, when the kid raising is done, is to still have that partner in crime around - Hub - to remind me of the gems I've forgotten or neglected to write down.  And also to affirm for me that it's still about me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cake Lady

My disaster of a kitchen is waiting for me downstairs.  Sticky sugary cooked egg whites, lovingly blended with vanilla and loads of unsalted butter - otherwise known as Swiss meringue frosting - adheres to bowls and spatulas and cook tops and cake stands.  Chocolate chips spill from their bags and powdered sugar drifts to create a dusty sheen over my counter tops and floors.  Butter beyond room temperature awaits a use while it melts into its package and the tile and grout counter below.  When we came home late tonight with pre-pajama-ed kids from my cousin's son's ninth birthday party, Hub took one look at the clutterful kitchen and asked - with all seriousness - "Pleeeaaase.  No more cake messes for at least a week."

He didn't need to ask.  I'm done for awhile too.  I often feel the urge to "go to town" in this way.  My boxes of super refined cake flour call to me, I'm forever cracking eggs, and measuring out all the other necessary ingredients for my signature white cake.  Over the past three years of stay-at-home-mom-hood, I've forced my way into becoming the unofficial "Cake Lady" for all occasions that remotely call for cake.  Whether or not my friends or relatives want them, I bake cakes.  Birthday.  Easter.  Baby Shower.  My message is always the same:  eat this or I'll cry.  Usually, the loving people in my life oblige.

This month I was especially busy.  It started with a baby shower for a pal (raspberry filled and chocolate chip cookie dough filled cupcakes), Easter (ditto), Dee's 4th birthday parties (princess crown cake and princess castle cake), girlfriend's birthday (blackberry and lemon curd filled cake), Hub's birthday (lemon curd filled cake), and most recently, 9th birthday (peanut butter cup replica cake).  Whew!  I'm so over it.  I'm certain the butter sticks have adhered to my butt like magnets.  The scale tells me it's true.

One problem, however - when I get into a manic cake baking phase - all other operations in the home suffer.  I tend to tamp down on the clothes hampers like garbage bags, kidding myself that there's room for more and I'm not getting behind.  Never mind that my son ran out of pants two days ago.  Note to self:  when Hub is spending his weekend helping me "catch up," we've really hit rock bottom. 

Also, when I've got cake on the brain, I forget to shop for anything one might find outside of the spice aisle.  Five bags of semi sweet chocolate chips.  Check.  Two jars of jumbo creamy peanut butter for the giant cake size Reese's peanut butter cup (the hope is to cut through the peanut butter cup and cake below in one swift, soft and delicious slice).  Check.  Eggs, eggs, eggs.  Check.  Lemons and blackberries and raspberries.  Oh my.  Check.  So I venture beyond the baking aisle.  It's certainly not to pick up pork chops or anything else my husband might recognize as dinner.

The whole obsession reminds me of my "theater days" as a young scribe of eleven (or so).  I loved writing, editing, directing, creating sets and acting out most of the male roles in plays made from scratch by me.  The actual performance time would vary, but I could occupy an entire evening or play date putting together what I believed was a top-notch production, in light of my limited resources.  Costumes generally included my aunt's discarded nylon nightgowns and matching robes, and our best stage remained the basement before paint, when it was still okay for me to tack blankets to the dry wall.

I would usually bribe neighborhood kids into memorizing their lines with cupcakes.  Most of the girls required promises of roles as princesses.  That was no problem for me.  I liked the "palace" genre anyways.   My parents, however, tired of the genre, or at least the time away from alcohol with friends.  So eventually I was told, as the family prepared for dinner at the Anderson's (or whomever), "No plays tonight, okay honey?"

So another dream died.  Or didn't really spark.  That's okay.  I went to law school instead and then eventually got somewhat disillusioned.  I still have the cupcakes, at least until after I get the powdered sugar scrubbed out of the grout.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Easy Breezy Beautiful

Gosh, it's been a few weeks. A few fabulous weeks, or at least one fab week. Hub and I and the little one, Nar, just returned from a one week vacation to Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. The last minute prep and general craziness stoked by my procrastinator tendencies made the departure day a hot mess, as they say. But we finally squeezed out of Dodge and left Dee and T to fend for themselves, aided in large part by their grandparents.

Memorable moments: A quick flight to our long layover in Seattle's airport brought on the leisurely mood of vacation like a direct line of something racy to the blood stream. With only one tiny child to tend, and our own personal baggage cart in the form of a stroller, we went hog wild and ordered dinner and drinks at the nearest fish monger establishment. We asked for a table with a view and pretended we weren't in, well, an airport. Dining at a regional chain. Really, we don't live in the suburbs and Hub doesn't wear white socks with Tevas (much).

Once in Hawaii, we used our masterful skills of negotiation to land an upgrade to a Toyota Corolla with a worm hole of a cigarette burn in the passenger seat. What power one wields with a 36% success rated internet coupon code!

From there, we found ourselves in a third floor room across from the elevator, sandwiched between the housekeeping supply closet and the ice machine. Score. We even had full view of the laundry lines tacked outside the apartments across the street, porches jammed to the gills with those huge plastic toddler toys whose utility on this earth will never come close to counterbalancing the storage space they suck up. I believe this view was a sign, just to remind us that we will never, ever, ever be able to afford real life in Honolulu.

It all ended well because after a couple nights, we were able to move up to a deluxe corner room in the sky. Complete with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it partial ocean view. It was more than I ordered. If I laid on the pull out couch just so, I could see the Pacific's vivid turquoise blue water, a pure reflection of the sky on a sunny day. Glimpses of that yummy blue, dabbed with red sea canoes, sailboats and wave riders, and an overlay of palm trees in the foreground, are my lasting memories of Waikiki.

Beyond my frequent pulls on the view, joy and sustenance for me came from a steady supply of chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Three days into the trip, I began hiding mostly eaten bags (we're talking family size), in an effort to disguise the volume of my only-in-Hawaii-nut-consumption. When we were newly established in our boss room, Hub stumbled upon a Mauna Loa bag in the closet and mistook it as trash leftover from previous guests. Mumbling something about what a wacky sweet tooth he married, I quickly gobbled up the evidence.

Also of note was our daily three point agenda (read, drink and eat).  Hub and I had an insatiable need to simply. Sit. And read. Our books. It was more difficult to accomplish than imagined. This is because one kid is still a kid who needs to eat and poop and bounce up and down in a happy, friendly way. And as anyone not in vacation mode might suspect, the baby will communicate these needs by crying.

Hub and I weren't prepared for the crying. Somehow, we thought the demanding aspects of Nar's baby Dom would float away with the gentle waves on Waikiki beach, allowing seasoned parents to ease into a quiet vacation like the ten year old snowboarder turned surfer who is permitted to ride a brief - but thrilling - swell before pouring back among the tourists. In the end, the ten year old kid got farther than we did with his dreams. I couldn't completely ignore my baby, or allow her to loll in the sand, but I still finished most of my book. It just took until the end of the trip and a regular evening at home to get the job done.

Other daily activities varied, but we followed this general schedule: go to ocean, get free drinks at hotel's cocktail hour, eat sushi. Repeat. One other must do for me was to toast my ten years of marriage to Hub at a bar called "RumFire." RumFire is located on the Pacific's edge at the base of a posh hotel. It boasts huge iron bowls of fire that flicker in the night. Romance. Pure romance.

We stumbled upon the establishment early in the trip and I was bound and determined to own that place with my new three inch cork sandals and floral Target wrap dress. As the days passed, I got in the habit of referring to RumFire in an attempted sexy, but probably just phlegmmy, voice. The kind of voice that makes its appearance on vacation when the conversations are really just layers and layers of stupid jokes.

We didn't make it to RumFire until the last night of the trip. Despite some breeziness during the dinner hour at a sandwich shop (I needed cash for that fab cocktail); I led my little team to a primo table on an empty patio. Score! When the breeze morphed to wind and light rain, Hub suggested we move inside. I was undeterred and began to unwrap my wrap dress to nurse Nari. During the whole feeding process, the rain became an official downpour and the umbrella my Hub heaved over to cover us did little to protect the fam from Mother Nature's rage. After that, Hub rushed inside to grab a table for us while I sat like a bump on a log, waiting for Nari to finish. She was wet and I was undressed, naked before the sea turtles somewhere out there in the abyss. In the hasty transition from romance on the beach to sports fan's Mecca inside, I lost my nursing pads to the sea, and stumbled into the bar with a significantly watered down drink.

We shared a table with a grumpy German couple, competing with the flat screens to trade the last of our stupid jokes.  But no worries. My mind and soul had already moved on to my last half bag of macadamia nuts waiting for me at the hotel. Mahalo!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Continuing Parental Education (CPE's)

It happened Saturday morning. Right after Hub and I set an imaginary timer to see if we could actually sit and finish eating breakfast in a three minute span before one of the masters rang. Sure enough, nothin' doin, because a mere thirteen seconds passed before one of our kids chirped "Milk!, Milk!," and the other called with escalating urgency, "Boogrz! I got BOOGRZ!!!"

After fishing through the paper heap called our kitchen island to find a tissue for T, I asked "Dad" if he wanted more milk for his cereal. At the time, Hub didn't take note of it. He had enough milk.

But I thought, dude, no. Dad? Did I just call Hub, Dad? Like my Dad?!

While it couldn't possibly have been the first time in my almost four years of parenthood that I have addressed my better half as "Dad," this time stood out as awkward. And as the day unwound, I got the feeling that Hub had the same thought. Later, when picking up crap in the living room, Hub casually asked me, "Mom, what do you want to do with these shoes?"

Ewwww. Mom? Did he just call me Mom, like his Mom? I did not like that, fo sho. It made me feel old and also like maybe he when he looked at me he was seeing a woman in practical pink pajamas and an old wool sweater identifiable as nothing other than a mom. Mom period. No room for a smokin' hot babe with an actual name. At that moment, I felt like channeling Beyonce and demanding that he "Say my name," bro! Never mind the sweater.

An old co-worker, who is about fifteen years ahead of me in the parent trap, advised that I probably wouldn't really identify as a parent until my kid was about three years old. I think. I finally. Get it. He was referring to my necessary Continuing Parental Education requirements, or my "CPE's."

Like licensed attorneys, docs, engineers, accountants, or any other number of professionals, parents need CPE's to maintain the identity. To keep it fresh. To build street cred. I get it! I'm building credits, day by day. And I'm sure something magical, like a "Thanks for Participating" certificate with a foil sticker and a faux wood frame is certain to come of it. Here are some CPE's I earned this week:

• Don't let blue sidewalk chalk sit out in the rain because T will be drawn to it like a bee to honey and he'll grind his shoes in it.  Then he'll track the neon stuff into the carpets and seats of the minivan, otherwise known pathetically as our "new" car.

• Those cute, flowy, skim-right-over-the-belly, cashmere blend sweaters that are all the rage for the advanced maternal age set, do not mix with babies named Nar slathered in Aquaphor.

• Don't even dream of viewing ("read" is too strong a term) the Fashion Police report in US Magazine for the upcoming flight with the babe. And don't bother packing that cashmere thing either.

• And finally (I know this one is worth conference level credits), entertain the thought that the name "Mom," when uttered by your spouse, may one day become a term of endearment. Like "love ya, schnookums."  Right back at ya, Dad!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Tigers and Love

Among the Chinese, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. And according to my random internet sources, people born in this lunar year are "capable of great love," but must "guard against being too stubborn." My event to toast the Tiger, a/k/a President's Day romper room with a Chinese twist, is now officially over.

Like it's honoree, this little Tiger party, conceived of and played out in 2010, came about due to some stubbornness, mostly on my part. Too stubborn to sit and stew with the kids on a less than balmy President's Day, and always eager to share this brand of misery with friends, I put the party on the calendar. A chronic procrastinator, I started thinking about what to do last Friday, bought supplies on Saturday, got weird flu like symptoms Saturday night and then worked like an elf on double overtime pay on Sunday to make ten copies of an internet wonder called the Crepe Paper Dragon. As the pictures below demonstrate, it was worth every hot glue gun burn and eye roll from my Hub:


Not visible in these pictures are the completely gracious, where's your cookie sheet, don't worry about it, I'll find it, friends.  These folks make me feel like it is absolutely reasonable, maybe even admirable, to pull an all nighter for a paper craft.

After the party, I sat in my living room easy chair, homemade lo mein noodles on the side table next to me, and nursed my goobering, teething, soaked through two onesies and a denim dress, baby. From that vantage point, I could view the tidied remnants of the party through the French doors of the dining room.  Those remnants included four oranges left behind after the others were sliced for lunch and luck; the red gold stamped fan that Dee and I made as a sample; and T's cute but forlorn felt tiger puppet whose barely affixed google eyes peered out from a whiskerless face. On top of the armoire in the hall, lay two crepe paper dragons, well loved by Dee and T, but barely recognizable after handling by someone other than a museum curator.


All in all, while stubbornness prompted this little shindig, it ended with some serious love. I'm feeling it now, the kind of validation adults seek out since the grownups of our childhoods stopped doling out field day ribbons. There have been many occasions in my life, and yours too, I imagine, where the hours you spent meticulously decorating the cake, or compiling and editing the anniversary photo album, or doing whatever else, went unnoticed or innocently forgotten simply because of the craziness of the day. Many times in my life, the take away thought and snarky comment later on the phone to my mom included "they didn't even appreciate my blah blah blah...."

This time, however, I was on the money - and my dear friends told me so - all while jostling babies, baking red dot almond cookies, picking up crumpled crepe paper in the front yard, and leading story time. And that makes all the difference, doesn't it? Validation, sweet validation, makes all that stuff that is usually so elusive - self confidence for one - part of us again for a little while.

For me, it gives me the freedom to be myself more often, like stay up most of the night to make a crazy craft because I like to do it, or to run out in the street with a pot lid and a spoon to make silly fireworks sounds for the kids' dragon parade. It feels good to let go, laugh, and to observe others delighting with you in a moment you created.

Yesterday, the delight of the day rolled over and around me like I was wrestling and cuddling with the kids on a wide expanse of super thick padded carpet, or at least on wet grass in a strange snowless winter. Take a look:


So...here's to many more moments of validation, love and friendship in 2010.  Cheers to the tigers, dogs, pigs (that's me), and all the other animal signs among us.  And a Happy New Year from my quarter Chinesers!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ittle Big Man

We spent the weekend away for a conference and I was too lazy to pack a bottle for T and the milk that goes with it.  With all the excitement of everyone in the same room and coasters to chew on, T didn't seem to mind that "Ba Ba" wasn't around for his morning pick me up.

Yesterday, however, the context was right.  Monday morning came like it always does and T peered out from the crib bars in his green monkey jammers and asked, "Where Ba Ba?" 

As Hub and I had discussed on the seven hour drive home, it seemed like a good stopping point.  Plus, we'd get a slight respite from cleaning the fermenting bottles that tend to collect near the kitchen sink.  Is that on my chore list?  I forget....

When I explained to T that bottles were banished, old news, for the weak of heart, scat...he whimpered for a moment.  Then I told T that he is too big for bottles.  That he is a big boy and that he can drink his milk out of a cup.  I even gave an inch and offered to serve the milk in a sippy cup.  A stopover point between baby and man.

"No want sippy cup!" T spat.  Then, taking a different tactic, T gathered himself and calmly said, "I'm not big.  I'm ittl...er." 

Funny, T couldn't quite say that he's plain "little."  To acknowledge his littlenes must cut into the core of his being.  At this proud stage in his life, all of two years and six months of age, T identifies as a bigger than life Superman, who confidently offers, "Mama, I help you," when my road rage spills over at the driver of the car in front of me at the coffee drive-thru line. 

T's preferred nick names include, in this order:  Big Guy, Big Boy, Superman and Bo Bo (not to be confused with Ba Ba). 

But...but, but, but, but...but (as T always says when he's gathering his thoughts), NEVER in a million years call the kid CUTE, even if you need a Superman because the guy in front of you in the coffee line orders seven variations of an extra quarter shot, no whip, but nutmeg sprinkles, mocha latte.  Because to T, cute and Superman don't mix.  Cute means: tiny, tiny baby, BabyN and people too small for spotting punch buggies (VW bugs).  And T can most definitely spot a punch buggy.

So yesterday, without a tantrum or big crocodile tears to demonstrate his loss over dear old Ba Ba, T stated his position and also acknowledged that bridge he's crossing between babyhood and something...bigger.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Sunday Morning on the Island of La Grande Tootay

Just like any challenging expedition, it started innocently enough. A relatively easy activity that might buy me thirty minutes with another adult, one that I especially liked. Plus, a park, so the kids would have something to tell Daddy about. My girlfriend, E, was also facing a Sunday with the kids by herself. We talked briefly while I nursed BabyN about meeting for a morning walk at 10:00. The mid thirties degree drizzly weather and wet ground weren't deal breakers. And while I still needed to dress, diaper and feed all the kids, an hour and twenty minutes seemed like plenty of time. It wasn't. As always happens in the mornings, the time that stretches like Hubba Bubba gum around and around and around the dinner hour, shrunk into nothing. Suddenly, it was ten minutes to ten and Dee and T had yet to belly up to the yogurt and Rice Krispies knock off bar.

We eventually made it out to the garage and the double stroller I had elected to use (this mind is like a salad spinner, capable of spinnage, but usually stored in the basement). My efforts to get to the garage were hindered by the bundling process. Both Dee and T needed long underwear, snow boots for puddle jumping, their fleece coats, their "big" coats (Dee complains this constrains her freedom of movement), and the all important mittens. T refused to wear his mittens and promptly pulled them off and squirreled them away somewhere in the living room. Saving them for the winter, I guess. I looked, for a second, but then my anxiety over lateness took over. Toddler knows best.

I planned to carry BabyN close to the chest. I couldn't find the Baby Bjorn, touted for its ease of use, if not a killer on the shoulders. Crunched for time, and really getting frantic, I opted for the cumbersome Moby wrap. Like an anaconda, long and lean, the Moby can extend itself twenty feet and then wrap itself tightly around your body. While great for an afternoon of housework with the babe (a practice I don't believe in), the Moby does not lend itself to transitions. Once the baby's in, she's in. You wanna nurse or scoot down the slide, you're in for a process. Despite these well known facts, I wrapped BabyN in the Moby, facing out, and hurried one mittened kitten and one non mittened kitten out the door for stroller loading.

Once I pulled the summer plastic play equipment out of the stroller, I discovered a flat tire. No stranger to a little set back, I located the bicycle pump, attached it to the tire valve and began my only cardio exercise of the week. BabyN and I were both sweaty by the end of it, if not a little dizzy. BabyN cleared her head by promptly vomiting on the garage floor. It looked like a clean stream. No residue on the baby or me. Dee confirmed my observations.

So I proceeded to place the kids in the stroller. After much fiddling to expand the "summer sized" straps, we were ready to roll. I unpacked the diaper pad and wipes from the backpack, threw the snacks in the double wide, and called it good. Then I looked at the tires. The tire I had just pumped up was flat AGAIN, as well as the front tire. The sucker was damaged, sand burr damaged. This was the first time during the morning that I wanted to cry. Cry because it was already 10:07 and I couldn't reach E to tell her we were late. Cry because I was ridiculously frantic over the tedium of my life that keeps me from meeting my scarce and self imposed deadlines - on a Sunday morning, for God's sake!

I pulled myself together enough to yank the kids out of the double and put T in the single. I managed to move the diaper pad to the new stroller because diaper rash from a poop at the park is a lesson not worth repeating. I also got Dee running along beside me, stiffy coat and all. By the time we turned the corner toward the park, T was complaining about his cold hands. My girlfriend, E, was already three blocks from her home and headed up the sidewalk toward me, her daughter out front, with all the speed of a twenty two month old.

We began the actual walk toward the park, when another girlfriend called. Like a good little moocher, I talked her into driving for coffee and then meeting us in the drizzle. But by the time she arrived at the park, T had already interrupted every breath of my TMZ style story about John Edwards' love child. Something about red and chafed hands. He screamed for mittens. Adult gloves were inferior. He wanted a snack. I searched, but found nothing in my back up stroller. Finally, I bundled him in E's stroller and fed him E's snack, all while drinking the coffee provided by my other dearheart.

Dee, working from T's playbook and noting the benefits of the continuous cry, began to whine with abandon. She'd stubbed her toe on the playground mulch. Waaaaa! Her bangs were in her eyes. WaaAAA! T had half a strip of fruit leather. Beyond words. All the while, BabyN was revving up. I tried, per usual, to ignore her early mumblings. But by the time Dee hit full throttle, BabyN could no longer indulge me. Loath to do so, I begrudgingly plodded over to the wet park bench, removed my jacket and uncoiled the Moby. Ugg. I pulled BabyN, stiff like a starfish in her snowsuit, out of the jaws of the wrap, and sat down with a squish to nurse her. We nursed. My other little dingbats screamed. Like the short cycle on the dishwasher thrity minutes before guests arrive, I didn't have time for a two boob feed. So E held BabyN's foot on the bench while she rocked her own crying twenty two month old, who was mourning the stroller seat occupied by my twenty some month old. Once the proper kids were placed in the proper strollers and the snake was wrapped safely around my most unsatisfied babe, we began our departure.

My girlfriends yelled bon voyage and offers of help over the super white noise called my children. We walked for a bit away from the park and Dee and BabyN began to settle down. I was dying to fart, out of the earshot of non-relatives. I did, but was immediately greeted by a dad with a stroller about eighteen inches behind me. He said, "Wow, you've got a kid coming out of every...." Then he trailed off. I swear, he meant to say "orifice."

LOOSELY inspired by "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," 1884, by Georges Seurat:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food Baby Recipe.

Step One. Develop an atmosphere of guilt. A food baby requires angst and lost expectations to grow and thrive. Set an impossible weight loss goal. Tell yourself you'll lose twenty pounds in two weeks. Other suggestions: book a trip to Hawaii one month from now and buy a bikini intended for someone no bigger than Kelly Ripa; announce to all your Facebook friends (i.e., people that vaguely remember you from high school) that you're training for a 1/2 marathon this spring.

Step Two. Start your diet in late November. Hang tight for one week, than indulge to reap the benefits of tryptophan. Let the good times roll through New Years with drinks made with eggs, cream and whiskey.  Oyster stew can't hurt.

Step Three: Make minimal effort in early January to choke the baby of nutrients. Make big black "X's" on your calendar to mark the days you avoided sweets. Build guilt atmosphere lamenting over dearth of X's.

Step Four: One week before girls' trip, start training for increased food consumption on said trip. Opt for chips at the Mexican restaurant, accept all alcohol when offered, and insist on bread with every meal. Pick up chalky Valentine conversation hearts to keep in the car to bribe kids to buckle up.  Eat hearts by the handful.

Step Five. Go hog wild on girls' trip.

Step Six. Upon your return, while Hub is away on his own trip, immediately buy all frozen food you can stuff in and around the children riding in your grocery cart. Some options include: Asian Sensations Eggrolls and Great Gourmet Buffalo Clam Strips.

Step Seven. Alone at night, while children blissfully snooze, make a half batch of easy chewy vanilla cookie dough. Eat half the dough with wine and American Idol. Bake the rest for when Project Runway airs.

Step Eight. Lay down to sleep, fat and happy. Vow never to set foot on a scale again. Pat your food baby and count empire waist tops in your closet as blessings.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unsolicited advice.

There are a few reasons why I am a Very Important Person Around Here. Indispensible really. And as I prepare for a no precious ones, is that my cell phone ringing, no it must be yours, GIRLS ONLY trip away this weekend plus Monday, I've made a survival list of sorts for Hub. No need to put it on note paper, something so vulnerable to crumpling or becoming a sticker medium. No, best to bark my insights at Hub in the days preceding my departure. In the end, I'm sure he'll appreciate the lack of formality. Below are my thoughts for the beginning of the day:

     1) Try to wake up 30 minutes later than you really should for preschool pick-up. Then use the time crunch to motivate precious foot dragger to HURRY and get dressed because HURRY eat your dry cereal and HURRY, the van's already here! GO! GO! GO!

     2) Never allow the children to venture beyond the bedroom/bathroom region of the home until after they have shed their pajamas and put on their real clothes. Bonus points for teeth and hair brushing. Otherwise, it might as well be a Night at the Museum and you won't be able rally to get out of the house until past noon.

     3) While the skin and bones two year old enjoys his tall warm one in the morning (I know, I know - kill me - T still gets a bottle a day), try to encourage him to enjoy the comforts of his crib - bars and all - until he has a "poo poo."  One huge diaper with coffee and the paper is plenty.

     4) On the way out to the car to begin the day's activities, threaten to withhold, douse with dishwashing soap, and SOAK all treats the children hoped of receiving that day if they even think about stomping in the three inch lake of a puddle in front of the garage door.

     5) After escorting the children to the car, but before going back to the house for your three additional loads, buckle all children securely in their car seats. I repeat, BUCKLE ALL CHILDREN in their car seats. This will prevent the random alley get away, tissue snow storm in the car, and will provide for a slice of accomplishment for you to enjoy as you walk back to the house for the baby. Oh, and don't forget the BABY!

When I return home from my weekend of wining, whining, dining and mostly SLEEPING, I'll be sure to reward him by accidentally cutting his pork chop into toddler portions because this hand with a knife is LIGHTNING fast. He might also have to watch the kids a little bit because I'll be suffering from withdrawal from my new found blog addiction.

If you're worrying about Hub right now, please don't. The marriage is intact and he's leaving for his own LA LA LA LA I can't hear you, I'm skiing in Colorado two days LONGER than yours trip, next Wednesday. So nanny nanny boo boo. He should say boo hoo. Five days and nights by myself with the kids? Yikes! Cry me a river, I know.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Star gazing.

Haiti's apocalypse. I hear the updates on NPR and I see flashes of pictures on TV, but mostly it's tuned out of my daily life. We still went to the pool today with the kids. We still made fajitas for dinner like I planned last Wednesday.

Still, I do think about what the people of Haiti are experiencing. I try to picture and feel what it is like to have your world and the people in it crumble to dust, but I can't really even conjure up that image. Not to an extent that changes what I am doing today (beyond clicking a PayPal button), and presumably, not what I'll be doing a year from now.

I have never personally experienced a large scale tragedy.  I do not know the pull of survival, the adrenaline the pushes a person to work day and night, seemingly without end, to actually save another's life. The kind of necessity that would require use of all the moral judgment that my parents instilled in me, brick by brick, one highly dramatic, but not earth shattering, life experience at a time. The kind of necessity that would force me to gather all my moxie, all that "potential" teachers talked about, and really get my hands dirty to dig one person, but maybe not another, out of a concrete grave.

Really, at this point in my life, contemplating my role in Haiti's trajedy is like contemplating the universe. There are zillions of  lights out there, both sparkling and dusty, and I don't know where it begins, or where it ends.

While I have lived in Louisiana, I was long gone before Katrina. While attending college in the Midwest, I never helped place sand bags to hold back a bulging river in South Dakota, even though I could have joined a student group who hopped on a bus to do it. I did not feel the heavy weight of the ashes of buildings and lost souls float over me as I made the long road home on 9-11, nor have I have ever been to Ground Zero.

Even without those experiences, a catastrophe like Haiti's earthquake likely causes many of us to consider, at least for a little while, about what is lost, what was missing in the first place, and what we know to be ours. Unfortunately, however, every crisis I've witnessed from the boob tube has not motivated me much beyond that. Sometimes I give money. And generally I think I've been a little nicer to strangers in the immediate term thereafter. Like waving more people into my merge lane.

This time I did give some money, and maybe you did too. It was a drop in the bucket relative to my household income and arguably, my last Hanna Andersson clothing purchase. I feel okay about that and I think it is because, short of my humanity, I am not personally connected to Haiti.

But there is a big difference this time, one that motivated me to give at all:  A grounded friendship here at home with a woman and her daughter who are forever tied to a tiny place that rests over tenuous fault lines and blazes with poverty. I am lucky enough to know and care for Any Mommy, the adoptive mother of her Haitian born child, Ess. Giving to the relief efforts in Haiti somehow makes me feel like I am doing something for Stacey and Ess.  Somehow, with these real live, all mine, lovely people in mind, I can see the constellations among the stars and draw lines from dot to dot to form a picture that makes sense. I see it now - the Seven Sisters that any of us can be - Stacey, Ess, Haitians, you...and me (and two more).  (: