NOT ABOUT A SKUNK

I used to wake up to Rachel’s voice two inches from my face as she stood beside my bed wishing me good morning. Before that, I woke to her toddler kisses and wet breath on my face when she climbed into our bed at six in the morning. Now more often I wake to the sound of sisters, connecting happily before making that first connection with Mom or Dad. “There were bells, In the air………” I heard Hannah singing sweetly this morning while she played with her sister. The other morning I heard Rachel explaining the gag reflex to Hannah, “You see, Hannah, when you smell throw up it makes you want to throw up.” This is a fact I had pointed out to Rachel a day earlier after Rachel vomited on my bedroom carpet. She saw me gag when I was cleaning it up and said, “Gee, Mom, I think you’re getting sick, too.” Now here they were, the next morning, playing throw-up together with a yellow salad bowl. Hannah kneeling in front of the yellow salad bowl, not quite getting what throw-up really is, which is ironic, I might add, since she was quite the barf queen when she was a baby.

Late this morning, Hannah watched as I sat on the bathroom floor with Rachel, rubbing her back and holding her belly (the only thing that seemed to soothe her). She didn’t actually throw up, but we spent a good intense hour getting through a wave of what I assume was nausea. Later this afternoon, Hannah quietly beckoned me into the bathroom. “I’m going to throw up,” she announced cheerfully. “Does your tummy hurt?” I asked skeptically. “No.” she responded, patting the tiles of the bathroom, showing me she wanted me to sit in the same position she saw me in with Rachel. She leaned over the toilet bowl and said, “After I’m done, I’m going to get a biiiiiiiiig treat. Like going poo-poo.” We sat for a few seconds. “Are you done?” I asked. She nodded. We got up and went back in the kitchen. “Did you throw up?” her Dad asked. “Yup.” She answered importantly.

Somehow, the stomach flu has not flattened us to the floor today. Rachel’s stomach virus seems to hit about once every 24 hours without a whole lot of trauma in between. (I literally knocked on wood after I wrote that.) Mr. R and I managed to finish cleaning the garage. A BIG deal, considering we haven’t been able to park our cars in the garage since we had our house painted last Christmas. A very long stretch—even for us. As I sat working in the garage it struck me how much easier things have gotten, even on a barfing day. Hannah was sitting at the table in the art room we set up in the garage. Rachel was inside watching Music Man, the garage door propped open so we could hear if anything went wrong. No toddler grabbing things from the shelves. No baby screeching for me with arms stretched out. Six hours out of ten the girls play beautifully together. If I play a part in their pretend games, I only need to play a supporting role, if anything. I’m usually assigned the role of “Grandma,” who occasionally baby-sits while “Mom” goes out. Feeling a little frumpy about playing Grandma once again (No offense to the grandmas our there. If anyone is frumpy, it's me.), I asked if I could be a Princess Grandma. Rachel thought, no. A Queen Grandma would be more appropriate. I protested at first, but then gave myself the role of Queen of England, which amused me greatly. I tried to get the girls to act out nursery rhymes for me, while I recited them in a posh accent, but that fizzled quickly. I just may be losing my touch.

A day earlier, I was feeling playful and put a book on my head, beginning to walk around the room. It reminded me of my sister’s best friend in grade school, who used to run away from her Catholic school to our house, where she’d end up hanging out with me, while my Mom waited for her parents to pick her up. My sisters, who were going to public school, were at school when she’d come. She’d usually teach me lessons that the nuns had taught her, like how to act like a "lady." How to do a sort of curtsey when you pick up your handkerchief. And how to walk with a book on your head. So I was amusing myself the this day thinking of Sis's friend as I placed a book on my head, “Look, I am walking like a…..” I paused. Did I really want to say lady? Thinking, thinking. What I really was feeling was powerful. Yoga has made me feel strong and well balanced, able to hold a book on my head. So I stood there, looking for the right word. Hannah finished the sentence for me: “like a skunk!”

At the same time life seems to be getting easier, other things are shifting, keeping things challenging. Rachel doesn’t nap, so my down time is limited. Right now, she is supposed to be taking a quiet time. Instead she has made her way into this office. I told her if she wanted to stay with me, she had to remember that it was my quiet time, too. She drew, and then made her way back to my desk, picking items up and asking me very sweet questions about them. I began to remind her that quiet time required actual quiet. Finally, I looked at her and smiled. “Are you wanting attention?” She smiled. I held her in my arms, we talked, and then I gave her a project. She is sorting my cards. The girt loves a project, I tell you.

I had a revelation the other day. I realized that I could actually set official rules in the house. I know. I am a slow learner. (Okay, okay, I watched Super Nanny the other night. Joe is a sweetheart). After dinner, I made an announcement. I wrote six rules on a piece of construction paper as I dictated them. One of the rules made Rachel’s eyes light up. Rule #6: Clean Up Messes Before Watching TV. Rachel interpreted this to mean: When you want to watch TV, clean up and your wish shall be granted. When I explained to her yesterday that was not what the rule meant, she actually went to the rule list, read it out loud, and argued her point, as if the list was the Constitution. I made some faces at her and we laughed. This is where “I’m in charge” comes in handy.

Oh, what a lengthy wandering post. What I am really DYING to shout to the world about is this. A new purchase. An extravagant purchase. A new baby really. A Baby Grand. The old Raehan probably wouldn’t have told you about it, but I’m feeling bold in my last week here. I’m throwing my privacy issues to the wind. THIS is what is on my mind while I’m rubbing my daughters back in front of the toilet. This baby.


And my Minnesota roots tell me not to tell you this without apologizing in some way, like to mention that my car is old. Because, well, it is, but also because that’s how I was brought up, feeling apologetic for owning nice things. Tell me you like my sandals, and I’ll tell you I got them half off at a sale. My Dad studied in a monastery and dedicated himself to having a non-materialistic life. That commitment was always part of him. I’ve got all that baggage—good or bad—locked in me.* And really, buying a new piano WAS a very extravagant thing to do, considering not a single one of is a piano virtuoso. But every time I’ve had access to a piano in recent years I’m all over it. I’m thirsting for it. And I have this dream of turning our front room into a music room. The piano hasn’t arrived yet, and my fingers are itching. ITCHING I tell you. The very worrying thing is that as well as my girls play together and often without me, whenever I sit down to play our electric piano, they are all over me and the piano.


Worrisome indeed.

Rule #7: When Mama's playing, let her play.

Oh man. I need a lawyer.

*(I re-read this and am realizing that the reason I probably want a music room is because my Dad had one growing up. They had a family band and I used to be fascinated by their music parlor and the lore surrounding it. How odd of me not to see this connection. I wish he could be here to play the piano, his clarinet, or even his accordian. I think move his photo to the piano when we're all set up.)

A DECISION

It started with my post about boundaries. Writing that post left me feeling so unsettled and uncomfortable that I knew something was up inside of me. Last night I figured it out, and then I cried myself to sleep.

You see, there's been this force moving around inside of me, first like a loose lump of knotted thread and now sometimes like an ocean rolling deep into the night. Last night I recognized it for what it is. It's a voice inside of me, but I can't hear what it's saying. I need to write and find it, but it's not the kind of writing that I want to do here. I am embarassed to write about this because I don't mean to sound all "artsy fartsy" and "I am a writer"-ish. It's just that no matter how much I love you all, this blog will never be a place without boundaries for me and I really want to understand this voice of mine.

So last night, I imagined my life without my blog, a life where I would have time for more private writing, writing just for me, with no boundaries. I saw it and realized I wanted it. I REALLY wanted it.

And then I cried.

For you. For Raehan. For this space. For all these loves of mine.
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I am going to leave this post up top as a sticky post, but I'm going to spend another week or so here on this blog, writing my heart out about my girls, like I did when I started this gig. You'll find new posts cropping up below this post. I want to capture my girls, bottle them up, in this glorious summer that we're having together. And then on my last day (and you'll know when it comes cause I'll say good-bye), I will write my heart out about me. And I will close the museum, for a long time, perhaps forever. But I'll still be hanging around the neighborhood. And I will send periodic updates for those who leave e-mail addresses.

Thank you, friends. If love is touching souls, then I love you.

Tears. I have tears, as Rachel used to say.


(And what do you know, I have no idea how to do a sticky post on blogger and my browser isn't letting me fiddle with the time-stamp.)

MORE BIRDY AND BEN

Catherine Newman is leaving ParentCenter, but she will have a weekly column at Wondertime.com in addition to her newish monthly column there. It looks like the weekly column will stay true to the down and gritty Catherine that we love. However, I also love her monthly column, which is more fully in tune with the compassionate person she is. Her montly column also seems to reflect the tone of Wondertime, which strives to help moms "see the world through the eyes of their children." It's very refreshing.

The one thing that makes me sad about her move to Wondertime is the loss of the bulletin boards. I love the group of women (well, ahem, most of them) who comment there. Gosh, we should just have a big Ben and Birdy bash. Like BlogHer, but so much better. (I have every right to make this assessment because I wasn't at BlogHer. Ha-ha-ha-ha. I crack myself up.) All of the non-Ben and Birdy groupies that I love need to come, too.

Gosh, before learning about her new column, I was all ready to write a farewell post describing my feelings for this woman. I think most of her fans feel that there is a division in their lives, pre-Catherine and post-Catherine.

I never wrote about this here, but I met her at a book signing last year. I was a speechless idiot in her presence, but I loved meeting her and watching her interact with people (I was near the end of the line). She is as funny in person as in her book and columns. The thing she doesn't lilke to admit in her columns is that she is extremely kind. I started loving Catherine because her columns made me giggle like a schoolgirl when I was 8 months pregnant and NOTHING else could make me laugh. Then her writing inspired me to start writing, first in a private journal, then later here.

What I love about Catherine now, is that more than making me want to be a better writer, she has made me want to be a better person, a better parent. To be honest, I arrogantly thought I was doing okay in that department. Reading about Catherine struggling to be a better parent in her humble, self-depreciating way, has made me realize that I can be better, too.

That's about all I'll say about that.

She's All That

We are in the local supermarket and I have a large grocery list. Hours ago, in a burst of inspiration, I took out our kids cookbooks and chose about 10 recipes to tackle together this week. We need projects. Big time. Hannah is sitting in the back of the cart. I have filled the little shopping cart seat area with fruits and vegetables and I've got eight more aisles to go. My time is running out. There is limited space in the cart and Hannah's expiration time is uncertain.

"Hey, Mom, let's get Mango Tango!" Rachel says, staring over at the Odwalla juice display.

"No. It's too expensive." (We sometimes buy it at Costco, where it is about half the price.)

She thinks for about four seconds and then asks enthusiastically, "But, what if it was on sale?"

I feel myself getting irritated. Here we go again. Rachel's mind-numbing reasoning. Her ace negotiation skills.

"We're sticking to the list," I say firmly, not even glancing at the Odwalla stand. The girl had a valid point. I could have checked if it was on sale, but damnit, I just wanted her to take no for an answer. Just once.

This time the conversation ended there. No more questions. We moved on. On other days, it's an exhausting game of mental gymnastics. The girl is smarter than me. I'm more powerful and ultimately win, but if our sport had a panel of judges, I doubt I'd be so lucky.

It always baffles me a little when a parent describes a child as easy. Maybe I just haven't had an easy child yet, but my girls are challenging.....easy in some ways, hard in others. Very different from each other, but not opposites. And in no way easy. Rachel was never one to throw public tantrums, but could throw a good one at home. She slept through the night eventually, but not early on, and not when she was sick or teething. She was work, and each age has had different challenges. And rewards.

I'm always asking her to stop complaining-sometimes her whining seems endless--but at the same time, the girl is an incredibly positive spirit. She was so excited last week when I unscrewed the top of an old IKEA baby dresser and turned it into a small bookshelf for Hannah. She placed the books beautifully on the shelves and was so excited she said, with no sarcasm, "This is the most exciting time I've ever had with you two!" (Stop laughing. We DO get out.)

There are other frustrating paradoxes. The girl is a fantastic older sister. I mean, it's a beautiful thing. But at the same time, the buttons she can push. Oy. She is constantly telling Hannah she is wrong about something and I am constantly telling her to not correct Hannah--to just let her say what she wants to say. Perhaps it is the younger sister in me. I don't know. But I do know how many conversations end in a battle between older and younger sister of "yes", "no," "yes," "NO!" "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah." Too many.

My point is, this girl is good. She is fantastic, really. But I am constantly on her case. Sometimes I need to be. And sometimes I need to back off. It's hard to get it exactly right.

The other day we couldn't find her swimsuit. I had looked for over a half hour and was irritated at her for not helping me look. Okay, she gave a feeble attempt for five feet or so and then collapsed on the floor in a heap. So I went on strike. I told her if she could find her swimsuit we would go and if not we wouldn't. Then I went downstairs and left her in her room to think it over. I wasn't convinced that this was fair of me. I listened to her cry, but I was too tired to get up and keep looking. She stopped crying. She shouted down to me a suggestion about wearing one of Hannah's swimsuits. I hollered back up without listening very carefully that, no, it wasn't appropriate. She couldn't wear a swimsuit that was too small. She protested. I got irritated. She cried. And when she came downstairs and we talked a bit more I understood what she was suggesting. She wanted to wear a bikini top under Hannah's one-piece swimsuit. Hannah's suit was only slightly too small. It was brilliant suggestion, really. The top didn't match the one-piece, but together they looked fine really. We went swimming.

One afternoon last week--perhaps it was the same day we went swimming, I'm not sure--Rachel was having trouble listening as I was putting Hannah down to nap. We butted heads. And then after a while I went into her room and suggested she come lie down in my bed with me, because I was tired and so was she. She whined a little, because she was over-tired, but then she joined me.

She lay in my arms as I drifted in and out of sleep. I had flashbacks to when she was two and I had to lay down on the edge of the bed with her to keep her from climbing out of bed. I remembered how I used to have to turn my back to her so she wouldn't get distracted and try to get me to talk or laugh. While my back was turned, I would hear her talking to herself in a two-year old babbling sort of way until she finally fell asleep. Now here she was, such a grown-up, really. And on this afternoon last week, after we had shut our eyes long enough to feel rejuvenated, we looked into each other's eyes and kissed and swooned at each other like lovers. We whispered into each other's ears how nice it was to have this time alone to cuddle.

And when we got out of bed it was like we were refreshed and reconnected again. Rachel later told me how much she enjoyed that time together. I could see it in her eyes. It was like her spirit was revived.

Do you ever pay attention to how much time you spend each day making eye contact with people? I'm asking because I forget to, and when I do it makes such a difference. I read somewhere that all a dog needs is five minutes a day of intense attention with an owner. That if you lay down on the floor with them and give them five minutes of complete attention, they'll get the connection they need. I know there are a lot of studies out there talking about how important this kind of intimancy--this connecting-- is in a romantic relationship. And with yoga, I am learning the importance of and joy in re-connecting with my body.*

Some things really are easy in the end.

I said, SOME things.

(I'll actually be back on Tuessday for the Perfect Post Awards and other honorable mentions.)

*Psst....I can do the full wheel now. Hee-hee.

I found Neverland

I just finished watching Finding Neverland for the first time. Why did you not tell me this movie was so breathtaking? Why have I never really taken to Peter Pan before? Why did Crash win the Oscar and not Neverland? Why does Peter Pan usually look like Sandy Duncan and not Johnny Depp? Why can't I live in England and look like Kate Winslet? Why do I suddenly want to have boys, lots of boys.

I'll have to read the play and see if makes more sense to me now. To be quite honest, that play always confused the hell out of me.

I finished setting up bloglines. Please don't tell me I didn't have to manually enter each link on my blogroll. I don't want to know. If you do, I'll knock you over. Or maybe I'll just throw a tantrum. Which one will get me into more trouble?

See you Monday folks. I'm back to my regularly scheduled program.

And this is a message to my own Johnny Depp. We miss you! Our windows are open awaiting your flight home.

Progress is progress, right?

Hello again. It's been so quiet here lately. It seems like half of you are on blog vacations, or semi-vacations, and the other half are whipping out hot posts, really sizzling brilliant ones. And here I sit, having a month of "Gee, I really need to get that done" posts.

Do you know what I love about you? (and I am laughing to myself as I think about it.) Every time I have a "oh I am so boring post" you come and pat me on the head and tell me "oh, you are not boring" and it's like I'm having a party and most everyone has left because the party is REALLY slow, except for a few old friends and they are patting me on the head and telling me what a great party I'm having, And I feel like the luckiest woman alive because of it, and it makes me want to laugh.

Smoocherooskies.

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Will you go give a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY, to my very dear friend, MommaK? Her birthday is on Saturday, but she'll be on vacation. Catch her before she goes, if you can. Happy Birthday K!! You are the Mary to my Laura, the Juliet to my Anna, and a cherished internet sister. Hug. Now go enjoy your vacation.

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Progress Report

*Still working on setting up bloglines. If only it didn't involve work.
*Office looks worse than it was, but is actually close to being done. The piles that exist now are meaningful.
*Laundry--(ditto from above)

What else is going on? I painted an old weathered wooden bench today. I love this bench because it glides and at the same time, looks simple. I painted it sunshine yellow and did just a bit of stenciling on it. It has a shabby chic look, which was not intentional, but I'm going with it. I'm starting to get my head into my landscaping and am even playing with the idea of doing a lot of it myself in the fall when I'll have my mornings free.

I'm getting ready for a girls night out.....except it's really a girls night in. My friends are coming here! Hee-hee. We are ordering Thai and drinking wine. This means I don't have to cook or drive home. It also will be great to be able to move around, mingle, play games, etc. This is my oldest mom's group. A wonderful group of women. I still remember the first time we got together and thinking I didn't really belong there, and I remember my first impressions of people. So funny how first impressions are often just wrong.

I've decided to go back to posting only on Mondays. So, meet me here on Monday. I'll have lots to say about my girls, and will give you highlights of the sizzling posts I've been reading. I have a post about Rachel brewing in my head, but it's not quite there, so I'll save it until then.

A Slice of Our Day

I'm sitting in our family room watching my girls dance to the Music Man soundrack. Hannah is dressed in a swimsuit and a tutu. Rachel, who is usually the first one dressed in the morning, is still in her nightgown. They are running in circles, holding hands and swinging, until they fall down laughing. I'm getting deja vu. I have vague memories of falling down and laughing so hard my tummy hurt while my Dad played the accordian, or piano. But now, here I am, throwing things out like, "Not so fast! Someone is going to get hurt." Yes, I need to relax.

These days we are living in a bizarre little world of Music Man references. The other night, during dinner, as my husband and I were trying to follow Rachel's train of thought as she babbled on about something (non-stop talker that she is), Hannah, out of the blue said, "What da ya talk?" And we are perhaps the only family that listens to the Music Man enough to even understand that reference. And proud of it, baby!

I announced this morning that we would stay inside all day. I'm not sure if it's going to happen, but I made my point and set my intention for the day. After two days of running around to parties and such in 110 degree heat, I am craving a day at home. I am, at my core, a homebody, though I try to stretch myself and get out as much as I can. On a normal day, we're out and about by now. But today, I am indulging. I stayed in my pajamas until I digusted even myself. I did manage to clean the kitchen, water the plants in the back, and make playdough while wearing pajamas. Now you know why I was disgusted with myself. That's a little too much activity for fun pajama wearing. We don't want to sweat in our pajamas do we? When you've crossed that line, it's time to move on.

I am dressed now, sitting here, thinking of all I could be doing; laundry; sorting out the piles of papers, scrapbook scraps, and bills in my office; finishining clearing the garage out so I can park my car in it instead of letting it sit in my driveway and turn into a mobile sauna; figuring out bloglines so there is a method to my blog-reading and I don't leave anyone out; sorting out my e-mail inbox; doing some yoga. But here I sit, staring at navel, waiting for the next breakdown. But, hey, remember, my kitchen IS clean, my plants watered, and I'm dressed. Where's that medal when I need it?

If you know me well, you know that I am continually having a mental, when not physical, battle with the clutter in my office. My husband and I have the same battle with our garage. I find it interesting how much joy Rachel gets out of the very same clutter. My office is like a big treasure box to her. Stickers, pencils, paper, photos. It's all quite wonderful to her. To me it just looks piles of crap. Well, that's only partly true. There is a part of me that is in love with my office, too. I am mostly in love with what it could be, but also a little in love what it is, crap and all. I would trade the latter for the former, though. I do strive to be Flyofficelady. It could happen, right?

I'm sitting here now talking to Rachel. She wants to have a tea party. I've never had one before. Hmmmmmm. Parenthood does stretch a soul, doesn't it?

And that's my day, folks. There have been a few breakdowns, whining fests, and such while I've written this. Music Man is still blaring. Rachel keeps turning it louder.

"Lida Rose...oh won't you be mine....."

I love that song.

What's your day like?

Mid-Summer Night's Ramble

Hello! I said my hiatus would end about now, but once again I've got nuthin'. A few of you expressed eagerness to hear about my "project" once it was completed. Sheepishly, I must tell you, there is/was no project. I was taking as intensive class. Did I tell you that my full name is Raehan Perpetual Studento? No?

Anyway, the class is over now and I would seriously bore you to death if I even told you the title of the course. Just know that it excited me. And now, it's summer once more for me.

The girls have spent these two weeks in camp, and after tomorrow will be home for the rest of the summer. I've started focusing on my yard and landscaping, and getting the garage in tip-top shape. I have this sudden urge to organize the house to the bone. I don't know if it will happen, considering tomorrow is the last day of camp for the girls.

Hmmmmmm. I feel very boring.

I have two more things to say. The first I'm hesitating about.....because it's really so.....(yawn). It's this. My girls are getting along so well this summer. The extra time together has made them the closest of friends. (knock-on-wood). It is so damn sweet. They do fight, but much less than usual, and they are so loving with each other. I love it. One of the teachers at the camp made a remark to me about it. Being a big sister herself, she loves watching Rachel with Hannah. Every morning, without any prodding, they hold hands while approaching the other kids/teachers, and then continue to look out for each other throughout the day. I wish there was a way to describe it to make it funnier, or less saccharin, but it just simply is truly a beautiful sight to behold these days. There's not to much more to it than that. I'm sure the dynamic will go through some changes when school starts again.

The other thing I want to talk about is limits. What are your boundaries when it comes to your blog? I know I try not to write about anything I'm going to regret in the morning....or that would make a friend or a loved one feel uncomfortable...or that could conceivably hurt someone. What I write is absolutely the truth, and comes straight from the heart, but it is from a "big picture" standpoint. This blog is my oasis. Where everything comes into perspective for me and I can find some zen. For others, blogging is a place to vent. I find those blogs helpful, too. It's fascinating to me, though, how we all have different rules and boundaries.

For me, anonymity is crucial. If I ever got an offer to get paid to write about my family life and the condition was that I had to use my real name, I wouldn't do it. But many writers that I admire are not anonymous. How does that impact their lives? And why is it so important to me that blogging doesn't have a strong impact on my real life? I don't tell friends about my blog because I don't want it to affect my relationships in any way, even positively. I just want my life to go along its natural rhythm, whatever the heck that means. I mean, really, it is somewhat silly, but not to me.

Some bloggers don't feel comfortable writing about their children. Right now, my kids really the only thing I do feel completely comfortable writing about. Why? When my kids get older and it is not as fair to spill their lives out here, what will I write about? My dog? (Who is lying under my desk and is having "digestive problems." Holy moly. If Hannah were here, she'd say, "I smell skunk spray." And you see, I'm back to talking about my kids again. Comfort.) Anything, but me. I'm not saying I don't write about myself. I'm just saying I am more comfortable talking about my kids. It feels like safer territory to me.

What are your boundaries? I probably have guessed already, but indulge me. I'd like to hear it from you.

Another hiatus--shorter this time

I have to put myself on another hiatus. I am in the middle of something that is overwhelming me at the moment. In a good way. Sort of.

No need to comment here. I just wanted you to know. I'll be back in about 10 days or so. Let's say, a week from Friday.

I will be catching up on your posts in my breaks. If you are behind on my writing here, you can relax.

Ahhhhhhh. Put those feet up. In fact, take a snoozer.

My Old Flame

I don't know how many of you know much about my life prior to kids--professionally, I mean. I don't write about it much here because I like to keep my personal and professional lives separate. Ha-ha-ha-ha. Let me qualify this. Theoretical professional life. I really can't say I have much of a professional life. There are other factors that keep me from writing about my past life. Since I'm anonymous and want to stay that way, I deliberately choose to be vague about certain details. Also, it's painful for me to think very much about my old passion.

Let me try to be a little less vague. I was a historian, working for a doctorate and a tenure-track position. I got the doctorate. At the very same time I had a baby. At some point in my first year of motherhood, I knew it wasn't going to work for me to have a baby and have a tenure-track position. I also knew if I took myself off the market and took a break in my career, the opportunities to jump back in years later would be slim to none. I chose a part-time job at a museum, so I could relax and focus on motherhood, and then with my second child, I decided to stop working.

I love my life. I love having time for my kids. I am not bored in any sense of the word. My kids keep me active and happy, and to keep my mind and resume active, I am reinvintng myself professionally, studying to become an archivist so I don't have to give up history altogether. No regrets at all. I live a joyful, interesting, challenging, fulfilled life.

There are moments though. I imagine it's a bit like being happily married and running into an old flame. I'll turn a channel and see a documentry that falls into my area of expertise. Or I'll see an historian that I've met, or studied under being interviewed on c-span. My heart quickens. My mind scurries around nervously. I may watch for a few minutes and then I change the channel because it hurts, and I feel a panic, a feeling of unpreparedness. Being friends with this old love won't work, my feelings signal. I move on. I choose comfort, new challenges that take me in different directions and don't hurt. I run away because it feels safer.

Last night I had dream that I was attending a conference. I was supposed to present a paper there but I had no paper written. I was sitting at the table in front of the conference room and searching through my laptop trying to cut and past things togther so I'd have something to present. I woke up and had to reassure myself that it was all a dream and there was nothing to worry about.

Here is the punchline. I'd like to become casual friends with my old flame again. I want to open my heart to it again. No, I don't want to pursue a teaching job. I've moved on, and am excited about my current direction. It's just that I don't want to run away from this old passion of mine anymore. I want to be able to bump into it in a coffeeshop and say hello and embrace it, rather than running and hiding in the toilet stall. Maybe we can even have a hearty conversation at times.


I picked this book from the shelf in my nightstand yesterday, and yes, as I am reading it, I can't look at it without my heart beating faster, but I'm going to work through it. I'm going to breathe my way back into this old love of mine again.


Happy Fourth of July everyone!

What's your old flame? Are you friends with it? Do you want to be?

Right Here in River City

I don't know when it happened. I've become a person that has a hard time with transitions. I develop allergies. I get anxious. These reactions are predictable, but for the most part, unpreventable. So, when, in May, I looked ahead to a summer of no pre-school and very few structured activities, I started to sneeze a bit, as I tried to map out how we would spend our days out without going crazy. I'm just that way.

It is a relief, therefore, that I am no longer in transition. Summer is here. I still am working out activities and such, but we are here. No morning rush. More room to breathe.

Take for instance, Friday morning. As I was getting breakfast together, Rachel handed me the lyrics to Seventy-Six Trombones (The Music Man) that we had printed out a few days earlier and asked that I sing the song for her. I finished what I was doing and sang for her, as I read the lyrics in ridiculously tiny 5 point type. Then we all marched up and down the hallway singing the song.

While Hannah is still asking to watch or listen to Annie, Rachel has moved on and in my humble opinion, upwards. She has become a passionate fan of The Music Man.


We watched the play live when one of her little friends was in it a while back. Then my husband bought the music. This past Sunday, we rented the movie--the Robert Preston and Shirley Jones version. Ahhhh. Perfection. I adore this movie. It used to be a tradition in my family to watch it at least once when we came home for college vacations. I have to admit, it makes me little proud that Rachel loves it, too. Such mature taste we both have (tee-hee). After watching both the play and movie versions, Rachel's initial favorite scene was the romantic song on the footbridge. One time, she even literally sighed at the end of the scene. I would worry, but I was exactly the same way at her age. My uncle still tells the story of taking me, my sisters, and cousins to Snow White when we were kids. When he asked us what our favorite characters were, I answered, "the prince," while all the other kids called out a name of one of the dwarfs. I was so young, I didn't undestand my feelings to be romantic in any way. I was just really impressed by the guy--who sang a good song and seemed so darn nice. Rachel is at the same stage, experiencing romantic feelings without understanding them as romantic. But back to Music Man. Rachel now loves the final parade scene in the movie. Suddenly, she's interested in learning an instrument. So it's fun and good. And if she ends up coming home one day with a Robert Preston look-a-like, I'll just smile and try to shut up about it. It'll be hard, though. God, I love Robert Preston in this movie and I love Shirley Jones for loving him.

Later on that day, I was searching for something on my ipod and came across two versions of the song "From a Distance" (Bette Middler and The Byrds). We have a beautiful children's book, illustrating the lyrics to the song and Hannah likes it when I sing the song as we turn the pages. So, I put the song on, without giving Hannah a heads-up, and her eyes got wide. Without saying anything she ran upstairs and got the book and we must have listened to the song four times when turning the pages of the book. Then she held the book open in her hands like a prayer book, dancing, and Rachel and I danced a pseudo-tango together.

Afterwards I sat on the floor taking photos of the girls dancing around together to other music. Hannah, who has short hair, was upset that her pony tail wasn't as long as Rachel's. I watched as Rachel tried to explain to Hannah, in a sweet, kindly patronizing voice, that Hannah could let her hair grow and perhaps have long hair by her birthday. Hannah, who has a very limited sense of time and thinks her October birthday is right around the corner, listened and nodded, saying, "I want long hair for my birthday." When her Dad came home that evening she told him, "I want to get long hair for my birthday." And then she said, "I want to watch the "From a Distance" movie." Now we are constantly hearing her ask to go get her hair cut so she can get long hair.

We are making headway on the potty training. (This is the point where anyone who dislikes potty training talk can leave the room discretely.) Hannah is in love with her pull-ups and panties, keeps dry all day, and now.......drumroll.....actually pees in the potty, rather than holding it in all day and peeing in diapers in her bed four times before falling asleep. It was rough for a while though. For about a week, we struggled with her fear or peeing. Then one day, I threw the potty training story books away and started singing a song, with lots of hand gestures, about a girl named Hannah who was afraid of her pee, and how her Mama talked to her pee, wagging her finger sternly at it, and telling it it needed to come out. At the end of the song, Hannah isn't afraid of pee-pee anymore. Hannah latched on to this song and started requesting it. The funniest moment came when we were both tired of being in the bathroom. She was sitting on the potty seat. I was on the foor. She asked me to sing the song. When I came to the end of the song, I was singing something like "Pee-pee I'm not afraid of you!" (I change the lyrics slightly every time.) Hannah put her arms around me, started swaying back and forth with me in her arms while I sang. As I sang, "I'm not afraid of you anymore,.." she sang, "Yes, I am afraid." I started laughing and she laughed right along with me. We laughed and swayed together, giddy from exhaustion.

This week, she's peeing little bits into every public bathroom we come near. I'm constantly in and out of toilet stalls. But it's progress, baby. I'll take it.

And I'll take summer. Yes, I will. My very dear friend, Space, with have to take a back seat for a while. I'm having an affair with spontaneity again and it feels fine, in a dizzying sort of way.

(Which is probably why I can't seem to stick to my only-posting-on-Monday schedule anymore. That and being a Gemini. I may have to get back on schedule soon, but all bet's are off for a wee while.)

Changing the Subject

So, my husband is a little bashful about me writing about his sexy soccer legs and I need to put a new post up here to distract you from my last one. However, I don't have much to say because I'm in a bit of a recuperation period. We had my mother-in-law and eleven year-old nephew here for three days, which was fun, but also more work than I am used to. Did you know that eleven year old boys can still be affectionate? Yes? Because he spent a half hour this afternoon in my arms telling me good-bye and that he'll miss me "mucho much."

I have a cough and sore throat. Why is the cold-flu season moving into summer season? Not allowed.

But my point is, I love my nephew, even though he sometimes makes my head spin. We had a grand time playing Apples to Apples every night after the girls went down to bed. The boy is smart and sweet, and we laughed much. In fact, my belly hurt at times. I will miss him "mucho much." And I will miss my sweet mother-in-law, too.

By the way, if you have to keep re-setting the circuit breaker to your air conditioner on hot days, is there a problem with your air conditioner or your circuits.....or is it just too darn hot?

Oh, and just to annoy you, I'll tell you that Hannah has been talking up a storm and is too cute for words. Too cute. And my Rachel, why I think she's grown two more inches this past week. Really. I've got two tall girls. My tallest girl is missing her nephew mucho much. She loves fiercely. Many tears shed today.

For him

Dear you,

I was eighteen, just beginning my sophomore year at college, visiting a good friend at an on-campus house. You walked in, your skin dark from soccer practices. And something in me.....what is the word....clicked in recognition? Not love at first sight. Looking back I think my soul recognized you. I can't explain it.

First friendship, then something more, then long-distance. Then many years together before becoming parents.

Did I imagine you as the father that you are when I watched your sexy legs playing soccer from my dorm window. I did not. At least I don't remember doing so. I think I focused on those sexy legs and movie star looks and then how you made me feel and how I was more myself with you than without you. And how you laughed at my quirky jokes when nobody else caught them.

I think of you as a deep, saturated green, calming my red, orange, yellow, blue and purple. Sometimes I wear green because it makes me feel closer to you.

You are sexier than you were way back when. But more importantly, stronger, more resilient, more forgiving than I ever could have imagined.

You make me feel beautiful, sexy, funny and free. Without you, I don't feel all those things; I feel less than I am.

I never have compared you to my father, but something happened the other day that made me realize what you have in common with him. You are a peacemaker, a mediator, a reliever of tension. You have faced a lot of pain, taken a lot of....well, to be completely honest, crap....and turned it into something beautiful.

You are and will be the green to your daughters' reds, yellows, oranges and purples, too. Lucky them. Lucky me.

We need you. We love you. We see you.

Love, love,

me

The Significance of Peep

There is just one more notch needed on Hannah's belt before she becomes a big girl with a capital B.

"I'm a big girl and I'm not a big girl" she confessed to me the other night as I was tucking her in after another exhausting round of trying to go potty.

At 2 1/2 she has suddenly become so wise. She is exactly right. A big girl in so many ways. The way she can sleep in a big girl bed without any help at all, and without waking up at night. The way she can hold her pee in all morning and until she's in bed napping. And then again in the afternoon.....until she's in bed for the night. (Sigh.) The way she's been wearing Rachel's pretty big girl panties and sneaking other dirty ones from the laundry hamper, carrying several at a time around like jewels.

And maybe I'm becoming a bigger girl, too. I am slowing down my pace, gathering patience, as we hunker down to get this notch finished.

Because you see, she's afraid to let go....to release the inner faucet.....to pee....without a diaper on. It's happened a few times by accident, when I've grabbed her and placed her on the potty right as she's started to go pee---but these were not happy accidents from her point of view.

This morning I sensed an opportunity. Her bladder of steel's guard seemed to be down. It was 9:30 and she was having trouble keeping her panties dry. She'd take them off and there would be a little round wet spot. "I peeped," she'd tell me, and to be honest peeped seem to be the perfect word for what she had done.

"Well, if you're going pee, you've got to sit on the potty."

"Nooooooooo."

"If you're not going to try to use the potty, we can't wear panties."

"Nooooooooooooooo.'

Finally, I got her to sit on the potty and give a few deliberate drops. Woo-hoo. I celebrated. She got to eat a bit of leftover birthday cake. And she sat on the pot for a good 15 minutes or so while she ate, but nothing more than drops. She had earned the privilege of wearing panties again, though.

I picked up a book while she played by herself. Suddenly, she grabbed her crotch through her dress and said, "I threw up." Apparently, this time the drop was more than a drop. She had definitely not turned the faucet on, however. Just a light sprinkling.

Another half hour or so passed and the faucet turned itself on. She started panicking and crying, I grabbed her and sat her on the potty. She continued to cry as she filled her potty.

I whooped. I hollered. I cheered. She laughed through tears and then just cried. I sat down and comforted her.

Later we were sitting at the table, enjoying some juice as a reward, and I talked excitedly about her using the potty seat. "Aren't you happy that you used the potty?" I asked her.

She hesitated, wanting to be able agree with me, and then slowly shook her head and said, "I was scared. And then I cried."


Later we went panty shopping since she seems to have moved passed her awkward "toddler panties" and earned the right to wear clean big girl panties that she can call her own. Besides, her big sister's generosity was beginning to wear thin this morning and coming home to a pile of wet panties is pretty much going to break the sharing panties deal entirely.

And I am trying to remember to breathe, just like I tell Hannah as as she's sitting on the potty looking at me anxiously and cluelessly without breathing. Breathe, I say, as I take in a few deep ones of my own. So, I'm starting to as I wait for her to let go so she can buckle up her Big girl belt for real. Because I don't know if I'll be there in the labor room one day telling her to breathe. In fact, the odds are that I won't. THIS is our time. Now. And I damn well better enjoy it peeps and all.

A Gift to Myself-a time for sadness.

*I wrote this post on Wednesday and held it to post on Sunday, my birthday.*

Yesterday, I was home with Hannah and she turned to me, looked into my eyes and asked, "What's wrong, Mama?"

The question surprised me a little. Why was she asking me this? We had been through a rough morning. She has fluid in her ear and has not been able to focus or listen for a few days. That morning, our plans to go to the library were thrown aside. My effort to get us out of the house had fizzled sadly. It took me an hour to get Hannah in the car and as I was driving down the street, listening to her cries, and finally realized the poor girl didn't want to go. She was sick, she wanted to be home. So I asked her if she wanted to go home, she said yes, sniffling and we turned around. I let her play with the water table while I sat and watched quietly, until she asked me, "What's wrong?"

How do they know, before we do, these children, that something's not quite right. Yes, Hannah's a little sick, but I realized after her question that our rough morning in the end had more to do with me than her. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't have fazed me as much to have her off balance.

This morning again, I felt sad. Hannah was right. Something is wrong, but there is nothing to point to, really. I checked my hormonal cycle..no not time for the monthly tears. My birthday...it's on Sunday. You know what? I always get sad around birthday time. Strange, isn't it? I'm not afraid of growing old. I don't really understand it. The worst part of feeling sad on your birthday is feeling like you should be happy.

So, I made a decision this morning when I was driving home with a few tears making their way down my cheeks. My gift to myself for my birthday is sadness. I'm going to let myself be sad and enjoy it.

I don't often write about sad things here beause I really don't want sympathy. I'll call my mother or a sister if I need to, but putting it all out here just makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. Does that sound uptight? The thing is, by the time I'm done writing about sadness, it's on it's way out. I'm over it. Does anyone know what I am talking about. Sadness doesn't always mean unhappiness. I am happy, and just feeling a bit sad. So, instead of offering sympathy, just be here with me while I indulge with sadness. If you want you can cry with me and we'll wipe each other's tears.

Here we go. The following sadness free-write is my birthday present to myself:

Why am I sad? I am sad that I am finding spiders everywhere this week. I am sad that they are big. I am sad that everytime Hannah yells that she has spotted a spider I have to worry that it is a black widow. And I am sad that I poisoned a few big ones yesterday, spraying them with Raid and watching them die slow, tortuous deaths. That got under my skin and made me sad.

I am sad that Hannah has fluid behind her ears. I am sad that she seems to be developing a case of excema that she'll have to struggle with her whole life. I am sad that I wasn't more patient with her yesterday, when she couldn't pull it together.

I am sad that even though I was greeted with "Hi beautiful!" in turn by my three family members when I came down to breakfast, I still wasn't feeling beautiful. I am sad that when my daughter said, "I just can't stop saying 'I love you''" to me in the car, I was too overwhelmed with my own sadness to enjoy it.

I am sad that this is my last morning to myself until the Fall and I didn't manage to clean our garage. I am sad that I can never keep my office clean for more than a week. I am sad that I had to take two showers last night before bed because I was itchng after the first one and have developed this absurd addiction to feeling absolutely clean before bed.

I am sad because the summer change in schedule has me connecting with old mom friends again and I am remembering the carefree one child days when we saw each other three times a week, and often visited ocean, farm and museums in the same week. I am sad that so many good friends live far away. I am sad that I haven't seen my new nephew yet.

I am sad about the war in Iraq. I am sad about lost lives and the irreparable damage that is being done. I am sad, sad, sad, sad, sad. I am so sad.

I am sad that when a person voices opposition in this country, their character rather than their ideas are attacked.

I am sad that Holly and Deni and Vicki lost their mothers.

And I am sad about the number 38, because something tells me that my father was 38 when I was born. One of the last times I talked to my father he was at my sister's house, helping watch his first grandchild. This was 11 years ago. I was talking to him on the phone and he told me when he was up walking this baby at night it reminded him of when he did the same to me as a newborn.

And yesterday when I was making grilled cheese for Hannah, she playfully pounded her fists on the table and said "Grandpa Jerry is dead" a few times.

So, you see, I am sad.

But don't feel sorry for me.

Because I am happy, too.

And in this last hour and a half of time to myself I am going to turn the Dixie Chicks up louder, dance a good while, and make an appointment for a spa with the gift certificate that I got for my birthday.....LAST YEAR.

And that is exactly what I did. Can you hear me? I'm the one dancing and laughing with tears running down my cheeks.

This one's for my husband:

Easy Silence, Lyrics
(Dixie Chicks, The Long Way Home, 2006)

When the calls and conversations
Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind
Busses, cars, and airplanes leavin'
Burnin' fumes of gasoline and
And everyone is running and I
Come to find a refuge in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Monkeys on the barricades
Are warning us to back away
They form commissions trying to find
The next one they can crucify
And anger plays on every station
Answers only make more questions
I need something to believe in
Breathe in sanctuary in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Children lose their youth too soon
Watching war made us immune
And I've got all the world to lose
But I just want to hold on to the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me

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

And now a little party favor for you, if you're interested: A conversation I had with Hannah and Rachel about desired pets. They were both sick and I was trying to keep them happy. If you're interested I can make and post a transcript. I'm not sure how clear it will be to you.

Oh Henry, It's Time, Baby!

Have you had the pleasure of reading Meredith? Have you?

Funny, subtle, thoughtful, adventurous, real.......and very, very pregnant.

In fact, little Henry should be making his appearance any time now, changing big brother Eli's life forever. Or maybe Eli will be too busy stomping to take very much notice. Stomp. Stomp.

Let's get back to Meredith. She makes me smile inside. This is just a guess, but I am almost sure if we met we'd have an immediate connection. I think we'd make each other laugh...a lot. She's as quirky as me, but funnier. It makes me a little sad, actually. Why does she have to live in Japan?!! Not fair, Mere. Not fair.

But the point is....we are having a baby shower. Here....online. Right now. My wonderful co-hostesses are Meredith's cousin, Momma K, and Marie of Practigal. Please make the rounds to their places, play our games, and then go visit Meredith and wish her and her family well.

If you are interested in contributing to a gift for Henry, there is information at the other websites.

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My theme is Japan.

A while back, my husband came across an article explaining that traditionally, Japanese babies did not wear diapers. Instead, Japanese babies were toilet-trained as newborns. Remembering this, I did a couple of internet searches.

This is something that came up in an image search for "diapers in Japan." Please explain it to me, Meredith.



Are those diapers? Do boys wear diapers when they play baseball in Japan? Expound.

Anyway, I spent way too much time searching for evidence of a diaper-free Japan and didn't find much. I did find out that Japanese disposable diapers are softer than ours, and possibly smaller due to smaller baby bottoms. No evidence, though.

There is a diaper-free movement, not based out of Japan, that claims to base their philosophy on Asian traditions.

Excerpts from Diaper-Free Baby.

"In my many years traveling throughout Asia I saw almost no babies with diapers. Yet I commonly saw infants who would seem to eliminate on command. Their moms would hold them over a gutter with their pants down, whistle a quiet hiss, or grunt, and then the baby would go.

"In traditional societies, cueing sounds for peeing often resemble the sound of flowing water, or urination itself.... In Japan, the childhood euphemistic equivalent of pee-pee is "shii shii". A low whistle is also sometimes used in Japan, and a steady whistling sound is the primary signal in China.

"So, what do you think Henry? Do you have to go "shii-shii?" Where the hell's a gutter when I need one?"

This method actually is somewhat attractive to me....for like a second. And then I imagine holding Rachel or Hannah, as newborns, over the toilet every morning from 5:00 until 8:00 as they grunt their way through a poop due to underdeveloped bowels.

But let's move on. I wanted to find a nice Japanese children's song for Henry.

I found this sweet and wonderful site and tried to choose a song.

This one sounded promising...so cute. The title is The Little Elephant.

The first two lines are adorable

"Little elephant, little elephant,
You have a long long nose."

But being a mother, I was put off a bit by the next line.

"Yes sir, my mother has a long nose, too."

So I tried another one. A lullabye. It's called Lullaby in Edo.

The first verse was as lovely and nice as can be.

"Sleep, baby, sleep,
Oh, my baby, sleep,
How lovely, how lovely,
How nice you are!

But then it got all weird and panicky on me.

"Where's the nurse, where's the girl?
Where's your nurse girl?
She's gone, she's gone,
Far across the hill!


So I chose this one. If you want to listen to the melody, go here It's pretty darn sweet.

A Rolling Acorn

An acorn rolled down and down,
He suddenly fell into a pond.
Then came the loaches [a kind of fish],
Hi boy! Come play with us!

The acorn enjoyed playing with them.
But he soon began to cry,
I want to go back to the mountain.
The loaches didn't know what to do.


My assignment for you? Henry is an American that will grow up being able to say he was born in Japan. How cool is that? I think he will grow up having a sense of adventure and love of travel like his parents. Let's give him an early start by teaching him a bit about the world. Write him a short letter in my comments describing something about the place where you live (locally;not nationally) and what you like about it. I will compile these into a little booklet for Henry. That he can treasure always. Or....look at and say, "Who the hell are these people, mom?"

An animal theme runs through it.

First of all, I’d like to thank Miz S for awarding me a Perfect Post award for last week’s rambling post. The award meant a lot to me because I adore Miz S. I believe she must be somehow related to me we have so many things in common, like having two daughters and interfaith marriages. She’s naughty and nice all wrapped up in one sweetheart of a funny package. It touches me that my post touched her.

Being acknowledged for that particular post was also special because it was a ramble and many of you indicated last week that you like my rambles, which means you like me I think. I also expressed an opinion, somewhat awkwardly, in that post and if I hadn't gotton the perfect post button I probably would have obsessed about not having articulated what I was trying to say clearly enough. I get like that.

You are all so accepting of me, it’s amazing. What a loving environment you’ve created for me here. So thanks to Miz S and to all of you for liking me as I am without the bells and whistles or a cool sophistication factor. What a gift you give me.

(My editing voice says: "Geesh, that speech was long. How embarassing.")

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Take a look at my family tree and you’ll see good, stocky, no-nonsense German-Catholic roots (on one side intense, on the other side Prairie-Home-Companion-ish) and not much else except a bit of suppressed German Lutheranism. I had many aunts and uncles growing up. Some I knew very well. Others not so much. In the “not so much” category, were my Aunt LEFT and Uncle RIGHT, as in positioned to the left and right of me at a table. Having a conversation with them was an intense experience. They competed. Your attention was the prize. I was not aware of this tendency of theirs when I sat down to dinner with them at about 10 years old. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but at some point it became clear that LEFT and RIGHT were not having the same conversation with me. In fact, they were having two different conversations and speaking at the same time, willing me to focus on them. My eyes darted, unsure who I should settle on. Their voices grew louder and stronger. Neither one would back down. The stressful part of this was that they were competing for my eyes, trying to lock me in with intense eye contact. They were from my Dad’s side of the family. The intense side.

Anyway, I was reminded of Aunt LEFT and Uncle RIGHT the other day as I sat and ate with my two girls. Mr. Raehan was late from work so he didn’t have the pleasure of helping to manage this conversation.

Rachel: I am having a dream. I am at school and walking to the bathroom with two other girls.

(I ponder this and wonder how one responds to such a statement. Then Hannah chimes in.)

Hannah: I’m a girl. (Pause) I’m not a boy.

Me: Yes, you’re a girl.

Rachel: (Continues to talk about this dream she is having.)

Me: So, Rachel, did you have this dream last night or are you having it right now?

Rachel: I’m having it right now.

Me: (Again, wondering how to respond to such a statement.)

Hannah: I a big girl. I sleep in a big bed.

Me: So you must be imagining this is happening. It’s not really a dream.

Rachel: No, it’s a dream.

Hannah: I want a girl party. Not a boy party. (Hannah’s birthday is in October).

These two were no help.


Well, you got ramble. Woo-hoo.

Well, I took requests this morning and the tally is complete. I got one vote for potty training. One vote for NOT potty training. Three or four votes for a not-funny yoga post. One vote for ramble. And I think one vote for a nap, too.

Ramble it is, because that's about all I have the time and energy to do. I'll catch a nap at some point during my ramble, how's that?

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My life as I know it is about to change. We're changing Hannah to a big bed tonight. She's 2 1/2. We are late on this, I know, but the kid likes her crib and we have traumatic memories of transitioning Rachel to a bed. I was pregnant at the time Rachel started climbing out of her crib and there went that happy second trimester. I dragged my way through it. It took Rachel hours to fall asleep and she was up at 5:00 every morning. We got through it. We've had about two years of our kids in bed by 7 PM and sleeping through the night. This is how I've managed to go to school and parent at the same time. Bah-bye to my long evenings for who knows how long.

Why change now if Hannah is happy in her crib? We're not sleeping well anyway because Hannah has been waking up wanting to be changed. She's so ready to be out of diapers and so NOT ready. Anyway, we figure since we're not sleeping well anyway we might as well get this bed transition started. Besides, Hannah's preschool teacher suggested that it might help with the potty training to get her into a big bed because it will help Hannah think of herself as a big girl. She has a point there.

The funny thing is I've been sitting here all smug giving advice to people with kids that aren't sleeping through the night. It's dawned on me that for the past month or so, my kid has not sleeping through the night. Oh yeah.

So, we spent the day at IKEA picking out a bed, mattress, and bedding set. We got her the same bed that Rachel has, a white bed with drawers AND a trundle. Very cool bed if you're looking for one. We figure if we have a third child, they'll need to share a room at some point and matching beds is nice. Yada-yada.

The ride home was a joy. There was a mattress between Rachel and Hannah's seat, and the girls, who usually drive us crazy by pushing each other's buttons during the ride, drove us crazy because they were freaking out at not being able to see each other. Good times.

I don't know about this rambling strategy...I can see that you are nodding off already.

+++++++

Yoga poses. There's not much to my story. I've been doing yoga for six months and have not been able to do the full wheel.

I did one once by accident at home about a month ago. Then yesterday in class, again. It felt great. But I couldn't repeat it. Now I'm on a quest. This wheel represents my youth to me. One of my yoga teachers said that someone discovered that the real fountain of youth is really your spine. I'm not sure how literally to take this, but I see his point. When I can do the wheel regularly I'll be a kid again. I'm kidding, but not really. It does mean a lot to me.

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We said good-bye to a neighbor today. After a year of marriage, she and her husband are getting divorced. They have no kids, thank goodness, but I know she dreamed of having some in their house, which is no longer theirs. I knocked on her door and she was in tears, still crying, her heart broken. She was about to leave, say good-bye to her house and her dog. I could feel the pain. We hugged tightly and a lot. Rachel was by my side taking it in. She doesn't know the two are divorcing. It's not something I think she needs to know. I just told her our neighbor was sad because she had to say good-bye to her home. We were friendly with this neighbor but never real close. I did not know until the marriage had dissolved that there were problems. Instead, I worried about what they would think when we argued in whispers in our backyard about silly things--not knowing there was so much pain in the quiet house next door. My heart goes out to her. Them both. Let this teach me to reach out more. I forget sometimes how much pain is out there.

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I think I better quit while I'm only a little bit behind here. Boring you a little bit is better than boring you in the-post-that-will-not-end.

Here is the rest of what I want to say. Thank you to all those who called me a good mother after reading my letter to Rachel last week. I do like hearing that, I do. However, to be completely honest it makes me a little uncomfortable. Not because I think I'm a bad mother, but because most of the mothers I know are good mothers. Not everyone can write about it the way I can--there are many who can. I write about my feelings and what I see, and not as much about what I do. Don't assume I always act perfectly. I don't. If anything, my writing inspires me to be a better mother. It helps me see things more clearly. I wonder sometimes if previous generations of mothers worried so much about being good mothers. I think all we can do is give our children what we have inside us. I try to reach a balance between raising children that are happy and independent and children that I can tolerate. I learn as I go. I make mistakes. I try not to worry too much about my mistakes, but just enough to know that I can do better, and can be better.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. Maybe this: I'm no better than you at mothering. I think there are such strong "good mother," "bad mother" caricatures out there that we are working under. These caricatures place enormous pressure on us. On one extreme is Dr. Laura who has her cookie-cutter good mother ideal that is hurtful, in my mind. On the other hand, I see a lot of people in blogdom who intentionally portray themselves as "bad mothers." (And no, no and NO, I don't mean YOU. Nobody I know.) It's good for a few laughs, but it gets boring and is hurtful, too in my opinion. It's kind of like being back in elementary school and the girls being afraid to show that they are smart. Of course no one wants to gloat about their mothering, and sure it is helpful to write about our mistakes, but why wave the bad mother banner. I don't get that. I think part of being a successful mother is throwing both caracitures-good and bad mother- away and just digging in. It's work. You don't always do it right. You keep at it day after day and the big picture will turn out well if you are lucky. I hope, I hope. To be honest, I'm just focusing on the rewards I get each day. They are gold. I imagine there will be years when the gold mine gets dry. I'll just try to keep my eyes open. Hit me if I forget.

And you knew all of this already. So, I'll shut up.

Enough rambling. I'll try to be more coherent next week.

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And I realize I've included no kids stories, which are what you like best. The heck with my self-absorption, right? Move over, and show us the kids. (Don't feel bad, I agree with you!)

Here's a quick one: Every time we have garbage pick-up morning, Hannah wakes the whole house up by shouting, "There's a garbage truck in my room!" about 100 times. I feel like taping it and sending it to the garbage people to get them to wait until at least 6:00 to come by.

I Got Nothing

I know I said I was going to post today, but nothing of any interest is coming to mind. I sat at the computer last night and the only thing I could think to blog about was my wheel. I did a full wheel in yoga class yesterday...

...and then I tried it agaIn and couldn't push up. It's my Holy Grail right now, or perhaps my fountain of youth. I need to find my wheel again. Instead of writing a post last night I searched for photos of the full wheel to post here but then I wondered if that would be violating copyright. So I googled "free images full wheel yoga," which brought me links to "free" yoga photos with prices on them, which confused me. Then I started looking for instructions for doing the full wheel, which made me laugh to myself a little. So I thought about doing a humorous post about yoga poses, except me trying to be funny is funny in all the wrong ways.

So I went to bed.

....and then Hannah woke up twice during the night wanting us to change her diaper.

So my plan B is to write a post about potty training. Except that I'm wiped out. So.....I got nothing.

Sigh.

I'll be back....hopefully late tonight.

I'm taking requests. What should I write about?

You are Five.

Update: Thursday, May 25th I'm guest posting at Petroville. I'll be back here on Monday, as usual.

**Disclaimer: This is a long post. I’m done with classes and my mind is a bubbling. What can I do? Read only what you want to. I realize you have lives. I’m just happy to have room in my brain finally to be able to think a little more creatively about mine.**

As I mentioned last week, my Mother’s Day weekend was perfect and exceeded all of my expectations, though I tend not to have real detailed expectations of these things. Rachel’s birthday party was really fun and I was atypically relaxed throughout it all. I had turned in my last assignment the night before and was feeling free, free, free. On Saturday, I asked my husband if we could sneak in an early mountain hike before our scheduled Mother's Day brunch. It hit the ticket. The only thing missing was a yoga class. That would have been a good ending to the weekend. I’m not saying we there wasn’t a rattlesnake directly on our path (there was; thank God we didn’t bring the dog) or we didn’t arrive sweaty to brunch (we did) or there weren’t meltdowns after the birthday party (there were). I'm not sayng I ate too much (no comment here). I’m just saying, it was perfect to me.

A year ago on Mother’s Day we were all sick with the stomach flu, and though I was a somewhat grumpy about not getting a break, I did chuckle to myself and think how appropriate it really was to be holding and rocking your sick children on Mother’s Day and catching their vomit in towels. A study in contrasts: the glorious rocking of your child and chunks of last night’s dinner on your sleeve.

There are events that are much worse than anticipated. There are events that are better than anticipated. Then there are unanticipated events that become powerful pieces of your life. For example, presents. When you plan to buy a present you usually imagine your child playing with them in a certain way. Sometimes your kid likes the toy. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes she likes a toy but doesn’t play with it, or plays with it in strange, annoying ways. What I find interesting are the items that become part of the heart of your family without any planning. For example, the kilted skirt that I bought at goodwill on a whim when Rachel was two. It sat in her closet for months and I was pretty sure it would stay there. But one day, when I was cleaning out the closet, Rachel spotted it and shouted, “a lassie skirt!” She had seen Scottish dancing on an old around-the-world, sing-a-long video inherited from her older nieces. So I let her put on the skirt, and she started doing her version of a Scottish jig. And for almost a whole year, she’d put that skirt on and do her little jig while we sang “Have you ever seen a lassie.” That lassie has been retired and put in our little Hall of Fame box of clothing.

There are also the moments that are hard to remember, but you want to try to because they are so perfect. Like last week, when I was changing Hannah, and out of the corner of my eye saw Rachel looking into the mirror and laughing at her own impersonation of an evil fairy princess, and then five minutes later walking by with a pillow under her shirt, muttering to herself and sighing, “Gosh it‘s hard to have nine kids, but it’s a lot of fun.” And Hannah (!), who has been inserting the phrases “always,” “forever” “ever[y] day” and “all day long” into sentences in ways that make no sense. It’s so sweet I’ve been trying to keep a note of her sentences but I can’t seem to. Today, Hannah was pretending to be a doctor and lifted her leg up behind her in a way that looked like a ballet move. I asked her if she was a doctor ballerina. She said, very seriously, “Ballet shoes, always.” Later that day I was asking Rachel if she remembered examples of when Hannah uses these phrases and she reminded me of when we were in the car and Hannah said, “Thank you, God, for going in the car, forever.”

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Dear Rachel,

You are finally five, sweetie. We knew it was coming, didn’t we? We’ve been talking about you turning five for so long now. It almost seems like forever. Still, in the end, I think we both felt uncomfortable as this birthday came nearer and nearer. The week before your birthday, you were very excited about your party, but were struggling with something. I could tell. You clung to me more closely than usual and were especially sensitive and perhaps even anxious and sad. Then on the night before your birthday, you burst into tears, explaining that you were afraid that everything might change when you turned five, that essentially our life together in this house would dissolve before you were ready. I feel it, too, Rachel, but I have a secret that helps me. I need to tell you about it. It is a magical secret.

Do you know what my secret is?

Here it is: I see you.

Even when you think I don’t, I do.

What do I see?

Your face. It is beautiful. When you don’t know it I watch you. If I look closely, I can even see your face as a newborn, the little heart shaped outline, the delicate features. Or sometimes, I see the laughter of your two-year-old self, bubbling with such joy and abandon. I see the three-year old Rachel, too, doing projects with such seriousness and determination. Most of all, I see your face now, so mature and grown-up, so simply perfect, as it will always be. You still and more than ever take my breath away, my Rachel.

What else do I see?


*Your determination, excitement and curiosity. You love a project. The excitement on your face when you decide upon a project is palpable. And then when you are getting to the task and doing what needs to be done, you are so focused and determined to see it through. You started to write without an ounce of guidance from me and it’s been amazing how determined you were to write messages to people before I even knew you could do it. Now you are starting to read. I can’t wait to see the excitement build as it gets easier for you.

*Your sensitivity and kindness. Even though I often give you a hard time about being grumpy toward your sister, I see your gestures of kindness and protection towards her. Like the other day when someone took a toy from her on the playground and to make her feel better you let her play with your brand new birthday present, an insect catching set. And then we caught our friend, Rufus, the ladybug, and after three days of letting Rufus feed off the raisins in her cage, it was time to let her go. You quietly watched Rufus take flight and land on our fence, and then suddenly burst into tears. You have never had a problem developing attachments, and the love you give those that you bond with is powerful and true.


*Your intelligence and sense of humor. You always are one step ahead of me. For example, the other day when Dad was out of town I said, “Let’s call Dad. That would be a good project.” You look at me with a puzzled smirk on your face and said, “Project? That’s not a project!” and then after we giggled over this for a few minutes you said, “Let’s go outside. That’s a good project,” and we giggled again. You’re a smart kid, and outwit me on an hourly basis.

*Your affection, warmth and love of friends and family. Is it possible for anyone to be more excited and loving towards friends and family than you. I think not. Your fierce and passionate love of your cousins is a sight to behold. And just last week, after saying good-bye to your grandma, you moaned, “It’s not fair. Grandma ruined my day by leaving,” then burst into heartfelt tears.

I am so proud of you. And I need to remember to let you know that I see you. You have always been early to do things by yourself. You dressed yourself at two and now you sometimes even make your bed without any prodding. We’ve come to expect this kind of thing from you, and don’t tell you enough that we see you (on a good day) laying out your blanket and putting your stuffed animals and dolls just so around your pillow. Often I’m thinking about laundry or about to change a diaper, or soothing Hannah. I get distracted and don’t let you know that I see you….I saw you. Or else, I’m too focused on setting and enforcing limits, telling you "no" essentially, to let you know the good that I see. That’s not really fair, is it? No way.

When I was a little girl and I was in a room full of people, my Dad would often look at me from across the room and gently pump his fist a few times to his chest. That was his sign that he loved and he was proud of me. I always knew. He did it especially when I wore an solid orange, stretchy shirt and pants set that he loved on me. Boy did I feel special in that orange outfit and on other days, too, when he’d meet my eye and give me the sign.

Your Dad makes that same gesture to you now. We need our signal, you and me,...so you know, whether you are wearing your best dress, an old favorite pair of pants that are ridiculously too small, or your lovely birthday suit, that I see you, and I love you, and I am proud of you.

And psssst….here is another secret. I will always be able to see you at four. And I will always be able to see you at five, or any other age. All I have to do is look real closely into your face and it will be there. Even if your face is scowling me, I bet I'll find it. And I’ll share that with you if you want me to.

At four I loved you more. At five, I STILL love you more. My love will NEVER stop growing. Isn’t that crazy? How big do you think it can get. So big no one can count it. CRAZY, daisy!

I am the luckiest Mama indeed to have my view of you.

Whenever you want to see you, let me know. I will make time and give you a view of spectacular you.

Love, Mama