Friday, December 26, 2008


C is for carols, sung in the car over the protests of a whiny child. Sometimes, parents must force kids to be happy.

H is for hugs from family and friends, especially from a sister whom I love dearly but don't always understand.

R is for a ridiculous number of Sleeping Beauty dolls given to one girl.

I is for innocence, since we've manage to prolong the Santa magic for another year with an increasingly dubious boy.

S is for the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, a mouthful of a name that made us laugh every time the poor announcer muddled his way through it.

T is for tired, for we were all late to bed and early to rise.

M is for Mass, which proved to be a challenge this year. Despite speeding on the highway, we didn't quite make it there by 5:30. Even worse, it started at 5. Then we cut out early when Claire lifted her beautiful faux fur trimmed Santa dress and entreated everyone in the narthex to "See my butt!" Thank goodness that God gives points for effort and intention.

A is for the angel that sits on top of our tree. Every year, Nick tells the kids about how that angel has been on top of our tree since our first Christmas together. Every year, it makes me smile to hear it.

S is for sated, full of tasty treats and love. I hope that everyone had as merry a Christmas as we did.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'd like to pause here for a moment.

We celebrated Claire's birthday this past weekend. My baby-who-is-no-longer-a-baby is all of four years old. At her request, we threw a pizza party with a pizza cake. I made the pizza and the cake, but she decorated the cake. I was given a shopping list (marshmallows and m&ms) and then was extraneous to the cake decorating process. She counted out four yellow candles and pressed them in, then liberally covered the rest of the cake with candy. It was beautiful and delicious. She also led the happy birthday song.

I am enjoying Claire at this age more than at any other so far. She's sharp. She's funny. She knows what she wants and how to get it without making people angry. She doles out compliments and smiles, bats her eyelashes, and uses her very nicest manners to convince the rest of the world to bow to her every whim. The rest of the world generally complies. And honestly, I understand why. It's a pleasure to spoil such a gracious child. Yet I also know that I'm the one who is responsible to keep her as a gracious child and avoid allowing her to fall into a spoiled brat. So for now, I'd like to pause here for a moment and just enjoy this time.

Happy Birthday to Claire. I love her as much as I know how to love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I may have piped icing directly into my mouth.

As part of my ongoing attempt to force myself into Christmas cheer, I caved into the children's demands and purchased a gingerbread house kit. I have never, ever made a gingerbread house before in my life. I was too daunted to actually make the walls. Then when I saw the kit on display at the warehouse club, I grabbed it on a whim. Ten dollars seemed inexpensive for happy children and a little Christmas spirit. When I carried the kit into the house, the children's screams of delight could be heard by all dogs in a five-mile radius. I am hoping to have my hearing back by Friday.

I cracked open the box on Sunday evening, attended by two eager elves with freshly scrubbed fingers. The kids grabbed the walls while I read the directions. "If a wall happens to be broken, DO NOT BE DISTRESSED!" I was slightly alarmed by the strength of the emphasis. Luckily, no pieces were broken so we didn't actually have to test the effectiveness of the instruction. I kept reading. "Assemble the walls at least thirty minutes before decorating." I broke the bad news to the kids. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I convinced them that finishing the project in two days would only prolong the fun. (Good marketing is a secret to good parenting.) I filled the slots in the base with icing as directed. Little fingers emptied the slots of the icing as I started icing the tabs. We were off to a good start.

The walls went up easily. I instructed the kids to hold them up while I prepared the roof. I thought that holding the walls would keep fingers out of the icing. It worked, but I did see a little pink tongue licking the base of the wall. I pretended not to see it as I slapped the roof on. "Ha HA!" I crowed in delight. Then the roof started to slide down. I slid it back up and reinforced with more icing. "Ha HA!" again. And again it started to slide. And again. And again. And again. I finally managed to affix the roof more or less correctly and fill in the inch wide gap at the top with icing. Royal icing is the duct tape of the food world. We set the house aside to dry and I secretly hoped that the children would forget about it overnight.

Yesterday afternoon, I no sooner walked onto the daycare playground before Claire came running toward me. "We're making a gingerbread house! We're making a gingerbread house!" So much for my secret wish. I herded her out of the building while she stopped to announce our plans to every available set of ears. B the time I had hung up my coat and checked the voicemail, the kids were both sitting at the table with the house and the box of candy. I poured myself a glass of wine and joined them.

Thirty minutes, a dozen pieces of stolen candy, hand cramps from piping, and a pretty funny version of the Twelve Days of Christmas later, we had a completed gingerbread house. I stepped back from icicling the roof to get a wide angle view. Surprisingly enough, it's pretty darn cute. It's amazing what white icing and candy can accomplish. As I was admiring our work, Jake asked me the all important question. "So, can we eat it now?"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sneaky Season

I'm running a little behind this year, somehow. Advent snuck up on me last Sunday and I was caught by surprise. Sure, I signed up for the Advent wreath making event. I even marked it on the calendar. I even told Jake and Claire. And yet somehow, the sight of the Great Big Advent Wreath on the sidewalk in front of church took me by surprise. Oh, right. That whole Christmas thing - coming soon! Get ready! For even when you know when He is coming, He still seems to come like a thief in the night and surprise unwary women who have been entirely too busy doing much of nothing.

We made our wreath after church. And of course, "we" means "I" because Nick doesn't share our faith and the children were sitting raptly at the feet of a story-telling seminarian (which certainly bodes well for his future as a parish priest). I was left with a foam ring and an unruly bough of evergreen that I gradually beat submission with 48 u-shaped steel pins and pruning shears. Anyone who comes into the house is told that the children helped me to make the wreath, though, because I am certainly not about to claim that disaster as my own. I suspect that more than a few Martha Stewart types in the school cafeteria have added me to their prayer chain based on my wreath-making (in)ability. That is fine with me. I have decided at this point in my life that I will take all the prayers I can get and thank God for them.

Jacob took charge of the wreath on Sunday evening while I made dinner. He found a little pamphlet and enlisted the family one by one. Nick was assigned as the candle-lighter - a speaking role. To my astonishment, Nick agreed to participate. And so our advent began with our little family clustered around one pamphlet and an ugly wreath, listening to the high sweet voice of a boy leading us all in prayer. I was so transported by the moment that I agreed without thought a moment later when Jacob suggested that I get ready for the birth of Christ by cleaning up my language. Like I said, I will take all the prayers I can get and thank God for them.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It has been a very rough month.

Once upon a time on a bright and windy autumn day, an ogress and a goblin went for a walk in an enchanted wood. The goblin was especially crabby because he had broken his finger. His bandage was getting in the way of his favorite activities. He complained loudly and longly to the ogress as they entered the wood. The ogress ate the complaints, which made her grow larger. Unfortunately, complaints give ogres indigestion, so she was quite as unpleasant as the goblin. He complained. She growled. The trees shrank back from the path in fear.

After the pair had walked half a mile or so, they came upon a fork in the road. The ogress stopped for a moment to consider which path to take. The left path looked arduous but perhaps the climbing would rob the goblin of breath, thereby reducing his constant complaint. The right path was lovely, sunny, and wide, exactly the type of path that ogresses prefer. As she pondered, the goblin felt a memory tickle his miserable little brain. "Two paths in the wood. I took the less travelled," the goblin muttered. Ogres have very sharp hearing, of course, so the ogress recognized the incantation. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by." And ever so slightly, the goblin and ogress began to change. They began to look more human. The ogress even smiled. Another traveler came down the path and veered left. The monsters decided to take the road less traveled at the moment and started down into the valley.

As they walked into the sunshine, the pair began to seem less and less like monsters. The ogre shrank down to human size. The goblin's beady little eyes grew larger and rounder. Their greenish skins gradually begin to look peachier. The goblin stopped complaining as the ogress shared a few discoveries with him: a tunnel under a mountain, a gnome's house in the base of a large tree, and a particularly fine walking stick.

Then, as they were almost out of the wood, the goblin placed his hand into the ogress' hand. As she felt around the big bandage for the small hand inside, the ogress remembered that she wasn't actually a monster at all. She was a mother. As the goblin looked up at the woman who was no longer an ogress, he remembered that he was really a little boy. So the woman and her son went back home where they shared hot chocolate and sandwiches.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My fault for asking.

I glanced over to find Claire's finger up her nose. She pulled it out and examined it. "Do you need a kleenex?" I whispered.

"Nope," she replied. "I can just lick it off."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Master Plan

After (too) much discussion, the Thanksgiving scene has finally been set. I am cooking. We are eating at the big house. The big house is Nick's grandparents' house which now belongs to their daughters. It is the only house in the family with enough table space for everyone. We will be 12-15 strong, I think.

The menu!

  • Salad - something with pomegranates
  • Turkey, of course
  • Ham
  • Dressing w/dried cranberries
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Roasted root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, parsnips)
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Quick breads - pumpkin, cranberry, something cheesy?
  • Pie - apple, pumpkin, cherry

The plan for Wednesday!

  • Bake ham
  • Bake quick breads
  • Bake pies
  • Make stuffing but don't bake it
  • Make sweet potatoes

The plan for Thursday!

  • Enlist someone to make salad
  • Enlist someone to set the table
  • Enlist children to decorate table with pretty leaves and make a centerpiece from ?
  • Roast turkey in the electric roaster
  • Roast veg in the oven
  • Bake dressing in oven
  • Steam broccoli on range
  • Nuke mashed sweet potatoes
  • Make gravy

I think it's going to be a very good day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Big Exhale

I do believe that our Indian Summer is officially over. Many folks are hoping for one more warm spell, but I'm not. The cold has come in earnest. I dug out the coat closet and have mostly outfitted the family for winter. We have a few issues to sort out like Nick has three sets of gloves and Claire has none, but we are by and large set to be roasty toasty.

Yesterday, the trees started getting serious about losing leaves. I drove through vibrantly colored showers on an almost windless morning - a sure sign that nature is settling in for the winter. My favorite is the maple a few blocks from home. Each leaf is fiery red with bright yellow veins. Claire and I spent ten minutes sorting through them the other day, arguing about which leaf was most perfect.

Today is rainy and cold, but not miserable (at least not to me). I love this time. It's the big exhale. It's like the end of the day when you climb into bed tired in body and mind. You let out a big sigh and snuggle down safe, warm, and happy. I love winter, the way it forces us to turn inward toward our families and homes. I've been busy knitting, sewing, sorting, cleaning, waiting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

There are days and then there are days.

Today was my fourth attempt at getting flu shots for the kids. First, there was a bomb in the next building and the entire block had been evacuated a few hours before our appointment. Then, I rescheduled the appointment in a coveted evening time slot, only to realize later that the appointment was ten minutes before Claire's bedtime and it was two days before the Halloween costumes needed to be finished. So I rescheduled again for a Wednesday, got confused and thought it was on Thursday, and missed the appointment. I apologized to the most gracious receptionist and managed to make another appointment. No bombs, no costumes, no bedtime, no confusion about the time. All it took to get there was three emails, one telephone call, 90 minutes off work, and the complete disregard for school pickup rules.

Claire took the injection like an old pro. She always does. Jake whined, complained, and protested so much before the injection that I seriously considered giving him a sedative. But he cowboyed up and just hollered ever so slightly. The real problem came later in the evening when I had to administer some new antihistamine eye drops that we're trying out. I sat on my son.

We are heading toward allergy shots for Jacob and honestly I am not sure how on earth I am going to handle it. But I also cannot handle him being miserable 80% of the time and rubbing his own eyes completely out of their sockets.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

When you wake up tomorrow...

Many good people all over the political spectrum are writing about the election. Good for them! Elections are important and we need to talk about them. This election is especially important to me. I was absolutely thrilled to wait in line to vote this morning. If you have voted already, huzzah! If you haven't and you are a registered voter in the US, hie thee to the polls! Your opinion is important, even if it contradicts mine. Of course, I'd prefer that people vote for my candidate. In fact, I spent most of last night fretting instead of sleeping.

I have to admit that I have been just short of terrified about the results of this election. My fears aren't so easy to name as economic destruction or global warming or any of the myriad other issues that are on my mind. My fear is more about me and where I fit into the American landscape. My fear is that too many Americans disagree with me about what America is and what our values ought to be. My fear is that I might become un-American as the definition of America evolves.

A few weeks ago, a Sunday morning homily put words to my fears and helped me to at least begin to form cohesive ideas about where my country is at and hopefully, where my country is going. I do believe that more than any other election in my lifetime, this election is about change. The only question is the direction of that change. Then Monsignor had the wisdom to point out that even if the election is a landslide, that very likely will mean that 45% of the voters will have backed the losing candidate. And we will have to live with the people who lost.

Take a look around your neighborhood. Chances are, you will see some McCain signs and some Obama signs. You might even see a sign for a third party candidate. You might see yards that don't have signs at all! Perhaps the residents are apathetic. Perhaps they are undecided or unexcited. Perhaps the household is divided and it's easier to put up no sign than multiple signs (that certainly has described my own household in past elections). These are the people who you are going to have to work with to effect change. Because no matter who wins, we the people have the power.

Tomorrow morning when you wake up, be the change that you want to see. What do you expect from your neighborhood, your schools, your state, your country? What are you going to do to meet those expectations? The election will be over. The work will have just begun.

Monday, November 3, 2008

NaBloPoWhat? When? Let's just pretend today is the 1st.

So I'm a few days late, but I am going to do a daily post for the rest of the month. Consider this a warning. And further warning - after today, the posts will most likely not be light and fluffy. I have a lot on my mind and I am fully prepared to empty that vessel in a verbose and quite possibly rambling fashion.

Yesterday, I played cribbage with my mom. I have been playing cribbage with my mother since I was old enough to add to 15. She taught me one evening and then we played every night for a week. At the end of a week she said, "If you can't count your points, I'm going to start taking them." I replied, "You'd steal points from a little kid?" And with that, we were off on a lifetime of card games. I cannot count how many hours we have pushed the pegs around the board while chit-chatting about life, but every single one of those hours was well-spent. And more importantly, I've won more games.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Jokes

My first Halloween in St. Louis was my first Halloween in my own place. I bought pounds and pounds of candy, decorated my front door, and eagerly awaited hordes of trick-or-treaters. I had two. They knocked on my door and as soon as I opened it, the first one told me a joke. I laughed politely and then tried to say "Happy Halloween" only to be interrupted by the second child. She had her own joke to tell. The next day, I brought a soup kettle filled with candy to work. I mentioned that my trick or treaters had been a little weird with the jokes. That's when I found out that all trick-or-treaters in St. Louis tell jokes.

Fourteen years later, the Halloween joke is one of my favorite traditions. I carefully research jokes and teach the kids a few before we head out. When the kids are young, they get the jokes endearingly wrong. Sometimes they make up their own. And every once in a while, a trick-or-treater at my door shows up with one that I haven't heard before. That kid gets two handfuls of candy.

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Boo who?
Don't cry! It's only Halloween!

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you gonna give me some candy?

What does a ghost eat for breakfast?
Boo berries!

Why do witches fly on brooms?
Because the cord on the vacuum cleaner is too short!

Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?
No, they eat the fingers separately...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Theft Too Many

Jacob received a Ranger Rick magazine in the mail yesterday. I tossed it to his seat at the dinner table as I sorted through the mail, knowing that he would dig into it at dinner. I have recently begun to encourage my children to read at the table as part of The Dinnertime Bickering Reduction Plan. I've not decided yet whether that makes me a sellout or a genius, but I'm leaning toward genius.

Sure enough, I heard a "Hey, what's this?" as soon as the boy hit the chair. By the time I brought his plate to the table, he'd already found something interesting to read - an article about a horse-riding boy with cerebral palsy. We had an interesting discussion at our end of the table while Nick and Claire discussed the necessary number of bites to form a complete meal. I gather there was quite a difference of opinion.

After dinner, a magical thing happened. Nick walked by the end of the table and snagged Jake's Ranger Rick right in front of our eyes. Jake protested loudly. Nick was nabbed! As for me, I jumped on that opportunity with all the vigor I could muster. "That's right, Jacob! It's not nice to steal someone else's magazine!" Later that evening, I heard Jake rescue my Time from Nick's clutches. Ah sweet, sweet victory.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What comes next? P or S?

I told Claire a few weeks ago that she could get her own library card when she can write her whole name. I thought that would dissuade her. I was 18 kinds of wrong. She works at it an hour or so a day. An hour a day for several weeks ought to mean that I have a daughter who can write, or at least spell, her own name. Unfortunately, Claire is not satisfied with merely learning to spell her own name. She wants to spell the world and everything in it. "Spell 'Mommy.' What comes first, T or D? What comes next, P or S?" Considering the spelling difficulties as well as the fact that Claire actually only knows how to write six letters, I think that she's going to take a while to work her way through this project.

I try, of course, to break the project down into more manageable pieces. I started by suggesting that she only work on her name for a while. I finally got tired of scraping her off the ceiling and gave up on that strategy. Next, I tried to write the words for her to copy. That approach resulted in a stabby pencil near my eye and a shrieked, "No! You tell me how to make it!" So I've given up. I spend an hour or so a day saying things like, "Jacob is spelled J-A-C-O-B. An a is a circle with a short line on the right. A b is a circle with a long line on the left." Amazingly enough, I can usually read about half of what she writes. I just can't figure out how to describe an e.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saved by the Earth's Tilt

This summer, Jacob learned how to ride his two-wheeled bike. He actually had the bike the summer before, but had taken a few bad falls to heart. He pulled it out again toward the middle of the summer and finally took off. Since then, we've hardly been able to pull him off the bike. He rides between breakfast and school. He rides when we get home in the evening. He begs to ride to soccer practice. He is on that bike every spare moment of every day.

We meet friends at a local park sometimes, and Jake has started doing tricks down the big hill. He starts off from the top, pedaling hard, then when he reaches full speed he pulls up his legs and turns side-saddle. His elbows no longer have skin and his bicycle has endured a few repairs. I've found ways to get to the park without the bike for the moment. I obviously don't want him to get seriously hurt. At the same time, it's exhilarating to see a boy in his element speeding down a hill, sure of his own invincibility despite scabby knees that prove otherwise.

Jake started campaigning for more freedom a month or so ago. We allow him to ride around the corner to the alley to the east and halfway down the block to the west. He's already chafing at the end of his leash, though. He wants to go all the way around the block. Nick and I told Jacob that we'd think about it. We encouraged him to follow the rules we've set so that we know we can trust him. For a month, he has meticulously followed the rules. He goes as far as the lines we've drawn and no farther. He stays out of driveways and the alley. He carefully pulls to the side to let pedestrians pass. He is ready to go around the block.

And now, thank God, it's getting dark very early. By the time we get home, change our clothes, and catch up with each other it is twilight and too dark for Jake to be outside alone. I feel as though I've been granted a reprieve. I get to keep Jake close to home a little while longer. But I know that in the spring, he's going to be off. I'll have to sit by the front window and hold my breath until I can see him again and know that he is safe. I'm hoping for a nice, long winter.

Monday, October 13, 2008

He's training the children.

People who have known me for a while know that I have a Time magazine problem. Nick steals it from me every single week. If Nick and I ever divorce, it will be because of the magazine theft issue. I have tried writing my name on it, hiding it, rolling it up and threatening to swat Nick on the head with it. Nothing has worked. Every week, I must hunt it down with all the cunning of Hemingway on safari. The last time he renewed the subscription, Nick thought of a new tactic. The subscription is now addressed to him. So my magazine isn't even my magazine any more.

I thought that renewing the subscription in his own name was as low as Nick could go. I was wrong. It has become clear over the last several weeks that Nick is training the children to follow in his thieving footsteps. First, I noticed that Jacob was reading the magazine while using the restroom. I assumed that Nick had left it in there and Jake, bored while waiting for poo, had picked it up. Sure, it's a little odd to see an 8 year old reading about architecture in the bathroom, but Jake is a little odd sometimes.

The second clue came a few days later. I shook out Jake's blanket to tuck him in and the Time flew out. I cocked my head a bit and sucked in my breath, but bedtime is generally not the best time for criminal investigations. I tucked my magazine under my arm and went on my way. Then I promptly forgot about it.

The nail in the coffin came this morning. I sat down to breakfast and realized with a thrill that my magazine was laying on the table. "Aha!" I thought. "I can read an article while I eat!" I sipped my coffee while I scooted the magazine closer and Claire screeched at me. It was on the table because she was looking at the pictures. She made it perfectly clear that she had found the magazine in the play room and brought it to the breakfast table for her own pleasure, not mine. She even suggested that I read the grocery flyer.

I am trying to decide whether to give up or renew the battle with a new, never-before-seen strategy. I'm outnumbered and quite possibly outwitted. I am also incredibly stubborn.

Monday, October 6, 2008

90% of Parenting Consists of Pointing Out the Obvious

Friday evening, 8pm

"I'm scared, Mom."

Uh-oh. Dangerous territory. Jacob being scared at 8pm means nightmares at 2am. "Scared of what?"

Jake let out a big, teary sigh then said, "The witch in Scooby Doo. And the mummy in Scooby Doo. We watched Scooby Doo at KidKare."

I took three deep breaths. Then I took two more. "Jacob, what happens every time you watch Scooby Doo?"

"I don't know. I get scared I guess. It's a scary show! It's really scary!"

"OK. It's really scary. And every time you watch it you get scared. So maybe you should just not watch it. I saw other boys playing outside. Why didn't you go outside?"

"Because Scooby Doo was on!"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How to (not) Knit a Hat for a Newborn

Cast on 60 stitches. Knit for 5". Decrease 6 stitches evenly, every other row. Stop after 4 decrease rows to admire your work. Notice that the hat looks like it would fit your 3 year old daughter's head. Bribe said daughter with a tootsie roll to try on the unfinished hat. Curse. Rip.

Cast on 42 stitches. Attempt to join and realize that your size 8 circular needle is too long. Dig in bag and find size 7 double points. Briefly consider getting up and hunting for size 8 double points, then decide it's not worth the effort. Transfer to size 7s. Knit for a few inches. Notice that the hat looks like it would fit a fetus. Curse. Rip.

Cast on 50 stitchs to size 7 double points. Knit two rows. Notice that it's time for bed. Curse. Sleep.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ain't No Garden of Eden

I am aware that I have a charmed life. I sometimes look around me at the big wide world and hold my breath, afraid that my luck will run out one day. My life is not perfect but it is very, very good. I am very, very grateful for my good fortune.

Lately, though, some people close to me have not been so charmed. People that I care for have been living with very big problems. I don't know what to do. I want to knit them a hug. I want to swoop in on a magical broom and start sweeping the sadness away. I want to be queen of the world so that people I love don't hurt ever again. The only thing worse than being hurt is standing by while someone else is hurting.

Ain't no garden of Eden, folks. But I can't stop looking for it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't Save the Drama for your Mama

Claire has come down with a case of the dramas. It's quite serious and worsening by the hour. At this time, we are uncertain whether she has the more fleeting contagious variety or a congenital chronic condition. We are all quite concerned and more than a little nonplussed. Since we have more boy-parent experience and boys seem to have a higher resistance to drama infection, this is our first case in the household.

The first sign of infection was mild. I am more than a little ashamed to admit that I dismissed it as a childish game. Claire had an insect bite on her leg. She limped up to me and demanded a Dora bandage for the horrible, awful itch. I fetched the bandage and Claire danced away happily.

As the days passed, the drama has grown. Yesterday I realized that we have a very serious case. I arrived at daycare to find Claire sobbing. Her face was swollen and red, her caregiver was petting her head, and her classmates were cooing around her. She had a cold damp paper towel covering her knee. "It's a terrible rug burn, " Ms. J said. I peeked under the towel and saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. A tiny portion of flesh was every so slightly pink from being under a cold damp paper towel. Claire, lips quivering, explained that I would have to carry her to the car since she was badly wounded. I refused and spent the next twenty agonizing minutes watching her limp inch by inch toward the car, sobbing loudly every time another parent entered the hallway.

I had hoped that not feeding the drama would end the infection, but I was mistaken. This drama is made of tough stuff. Last night, Claire was wheedling to be tucked in for the third time. When I solidly refused, she wailed, "But I looooooooooooooove you!" Oh, blasted drama! How dare you do this to my child? We will beat this together, as a family. But I suspect that it will be a difficult fight.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I would walk 500 miles

This was a Very Big Weekend in our parish. We had our annual Homecoming, which consists of a parade and carnival as well as traditional churchy type fundraisers like cakewalks, quilt raffles, and bingo. It's like the loaves and the fishes. We start with what looks like a small parking lot, a gym, and a cafeteria, and lo, the space multiplies to contain many rides, booths, a beer truck, and an entire jungle's worth of houseplants.

It started on Friday night. Jake's class made a Seven Brides for Seven Brothers float for the parade. I put together a lumberjack costume for him. He grew over the summer and we're still wearing summer clothes, so the flannel shirt I dug out of the closet was decidely small. I rolled up the sleeves. I found one lonely purple bandanna in my box of wonders and held my breath while I tied it around my neck, fearing the "but that's a girl color" argument. It never came, thank goodness. Jake found a pair of jeanst that fit around his scrawny waist but ended above his ankles. No problem - I'm sure the younger brothers wore ill-fitting hand-me-downs, right?

Since Jake had been ready since 7pm on Friday evening, we had an easy time of it on Saturday morning. Jake and I headed to the parade drop-off on foot just as Grandma Joyce walked through the door. We walked all the way up to the school, then all the way back down to the park in search of the float. We traveled around 6 blocks to end up 2 blocks from home. I dropped him into a roiling cloud of excited lumberjacks. The girls, dressed as brides, were sitting primly along the edge of the float trying to avoid all contact with the rowdy lumberjacks. After chatting with the teacher for a few minutes, I kissed Jake and ran away before I could be recruited as a wheel walker.

I walked back to the appointed meeting spot along the parade route. No one was there, of course. So I walked the rest of the way home and badgered the family out of the house. We decided to walk a little further to a better spot on the route, then sat down and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, we saw the parade come by. Claire loved it, mostly because she gathered about four pounds of candy. We walked back toward the end of the route and caught most of the parade again. Then I chased the float back to the park.

I arrived just as the kids were disembarking, luckily. Most of the kids split immediately despite warnings to wait for their parents. I ended up herding a few strays as we headed toward the school. The next two hours were spent in a blur of rides, lunch, music, dancing, and walking around and around. When the kids started getting crabby, we walked back home.

Later in the afternoon, Jake and I walked back over to take our turn working a booth. We spent two hours walking the same 4 foot path. Take the money, wait, fetch a prize. Once again, we managed to pick up some strays. At one point, we had four boys "working" the booth which made it both more fun and more challenging. After our shift, I rewarded Jake with a ride so we walked around a little bit more. Then we walked back home.

By 6pm, I'm pretty sure that I walked close to ten miles. It was a lot of fun, but next year, I might wear roller skates.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Heaven Maybe

One day recently, I arrived at daycare to pick up Claire only to find her room empty. I heard some squealing on the other side of the building. I joined the irregular stream of parents wandering toward the noise with heads cocked. We found all of the children in one of the larger rooms, dancing and singing along with Babaloo.

I scanned the crowd looking for Claire. After an embarrassingly long time, I saw her. She surprised me by not only being among the big kids, but by actually being one of the big kids. Claire is sneaky like that. She grows up behind my back. She was waving so fast that her hand was a blur. Her entire face was a smile - her eyes were squinted into crescents, pushed out of the way by her cheeks which had in turn been displaced by her grin. I smiled and waved at her. I was overcome.

There are these moments in love, especially in parenting, that defy explanation. They are gifts from God, I think. I can throw words at the moment in a vain attempt to describe it - love, bursting, light, beauty. I wonder if this is how God sees us all the time? Maybe these glimpses are God's way of showing us the wonder and glory of His Creation. I hope so. I can't imagine anything more beautiful than one day being able to see everything with that clarity of light.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Love Requires a Sense of Humor

"When is our anniversary, Christy?"

"I can't believe you've forgotten, oh ye of the everlasting memory! It's been almost ten years and you've forgotten! August 29th, 1998!"

"Oh, I didn't forget. But you might want to look at the calendar."

"I don't have to look at the calendar. I wrote it on there months ago. Tenth anniversary in big letters on the 29th. Maybe you need to look at the calendar."

"Ha! Hahahahaha! I am looking at the calendar, Christy."

I stomped into the kitchen and ripped the calendar off the fridge. I jabbed my finger at a square and said, "See! Tenth anniversary!" Nick grinned from ear to ear as he pointed to the date again. I'd written it on the 28th.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

10 things I've learned about marriage in the last 10 years

Tomorrow is Nick's and my tenth anniversary. Tomorrow is also my mother's back surgery. Life is messy like that. The joy gets mixed up with worry.

10 Things about I've Learned About Marriage

  1. Marriages are unique. There is no one right way to approach marriage. So it's ok to ignore supposedly universal advice if it doesn't fit my marriage - like "Don't go to bed angry." I go to bed angry all the time. I wake up angry, but rested. Then I can have a discussion instead of a fight.
  2. I can't give everything I've got to work, the kids, church, my friends, and then serve Nick whatever is left over at the end of the day. He's my husband. He deserves better than scraps of me.
  3. If I'm not getting what I need, I have to tell Nick. I have to be specific. I can't say that I need time with him. I have to say I need 15 minutes every day for him to listen to me. Then he will understand and give me what I need or we'll fight about it and find a compromise.
  4. When I start to hide little, unimportant things from Nick, we are heading toward rocky territory. That's the time to pull out the stops and figure out what is really wrong and fix it.
  5. Some things do not stay fixed. This is the nature of the world. Mountains crumble, canyons deepen, rivers change course, compromises erode. Take a deep breath and fix it again.
  6. Marriage is not a competition so don't keep score.
  7. Sex is important, and that's ok.
  8. Always make sure that what I'm hearing is what Nick is saying and vice versa. There is nothing wrong with being a parrot, especially when furious. Sometimes saying "I am hearing you say blah blah blah" is the quickest way to uncover a miscommunication.
  9. Nick will never forget the Juice Newton bet, the combo gas station and burger king bet, or any other bet that we've ever had when I've been wrong (which is about 90% of them). So I don't make bets unless I'm prepared to be teased about them for the next 30 or 40 years.
  10. Marriage isn't a choice that I made 10 years ago. It's a series of choices that I have made over the past 10 years and that I will continue to make for the rest of our time together. It's a constant process of choosing Nick over the alternatives. And sometimes, I make the wrong choice. Sometimes he does too. But I think that if we each choose each other more often than not, we'll make it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Be careful what you wish for...

because that annoying trickle in your nose might just turn into the plague and land you on your back for a day or so. Blech.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday 13: 13 Small Rants

It's been a long week.
  1. People who don't know the rules for a four-way stop should not be driving through four-way stops.  As a matter of fact, perhaps the driving portion of the driving test should include a four-way stop just to insure that at least someone on the road besides me knows what to do.  Sitting at the stop sign and waving everyone through is not the right thing to do.  Powering through the intersection without stopping is also not the right thing to do, even if you do honk to warn everyone.
  2. Boys go to school and they require a pencil bag.  Pencil bags are not the sole domain of girls.  Perhaps you could reduce the inventory of some of the hearts, unicorns, and rainbows and have more than one boyish or neutral bag.  And for the record, not all boys like camoflauge.  Even if all boys do like camoflauge, not all mothers like camoflauge.  So, you know, maybe just a plain blue bag would be useful?
  3. I understand that it is easier on teachers if all children have identical supplies.  I'm behind the teachers on that.  I'll buy the yellow pencils and tell my kid to stop whining about it.  But next time, maybe you could just take your list to a few common stores to make sure that the very specific items you request are readily available?  I'm quite unhappy about stopping at three different stores to find large pink erasers.  Surely the ubiquitous white ones would have served just as well.
  4. Yes, your daughter is very cute and smart.  That's no excuse for being a pushy little queen bee.  You need to teach her how to play with others instead of laughing it off.  She's going to make social mistakes - she's three.  But you are at least 33 and you should know when to step in and teach her some skills.
  5. Please stop emailing me to come to your desk unless you are truly available.  I hate trotting across the office just to have you ask me to come back later.  If necessary, we can schedule a meeting for a time when you are free.
  6. Stop airing scary commercials during family programs!  If a movie is rated R, then there is really no need to advertise it during a G rated television program.  You'll get more bang for your buck if you save those advertising dollars for the later evening, and I won't have to dive for the remote to pause the TV for nightmare prevention. 
  7. While we're talking about nightmares, how about you kids just stop having them, please?  I know that your genes are working against you here since both your dad and I have had our issues with bad dreams, but seriously?  Could you please just grow out of it?  I'm really tired.
  8. I don't know what is up with you, nose, but I've had enough.  Either run or don't run, but stop this sort of half-hearted drizzle.  Now.
  9. You are my friend but if you nag me one more time, you will not be.  Stop expecting me to prioritize your work simply because we're pals.  I have a lot of work to do and frankly, you're pretty low on the totem pole around here.  I know who butters my bread and it isn't you.  Friendship is friendship and work is work, ok?
  10. Howsabout you reporters give the Olympic athletes time to catch their breath and compose themselves before interviewing them?  I know we're all atwitter to hear what they have to say, but we can wait for five minutes.  I can't understand them when they're speaking between ragged breaths anyway.
  11. Why did you stop working again, cd player?  Do you know how sad I am?  Did you really have to stop working at the exact moment that Claire was having a screaming meltdown?  All I wanted to do was play her favorite song so she would get a grip about whatever preschool tragedy started all the screaming.  But no.  You declined to cooperate and I had to endure the screaming.  You are toying with me, I think.
  12. The vacuum works better when you empty it.  It's not hard to empty, really.  It will take less time and energy to empty it than you are expending by complaining about how worthless the vacuum is.  So just do it already.  (Sadly, this one is directed toward myself.)
  13. You know it's been a long week when you can't post a Thursday 13 until Friday.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Festival of Our Own

Last week, I received a postcard in the mail about a multicultural festival in a nearby park. I set it aside for later consideration. On Saturday after spending far too much time at Target aquiring school uniforms and supplies, I remembered the festival. The children were stir-crazy from shopping. The weather was absolutely perfect. So, I packed everyone up and off we went!

Tower Grove Park is huge. It's not the biggest park in the city, but it's close. It runs 12 or 13 blocks East-West and 4 or 5 North-South. I didn't worry when I didn't see festival signs right away. I told the kids to keep a sharp eye out for dancing throngs while I manouvered into the central drive of the park. I started to worry a bit when I realized that parking was readily availabe. Suddenly, Jacob hollered, "There! It's over there! And they have a bouncer!" Claire took up the bouncer chant. Then sadly, I realized that we were coming up on a birthday party. We kept driving.

Eventually, I realized that I'd made some sort of error. There obviously was no festival that day - just reunion after birthday party after wedding. The idea of returning home with bouncerless, baklavaless, still stir-crazy children was not appealing so I parked and chased the children out of the car.

I looked at water lilies. The lily ponds are beautiful and I was amazed by the breadth of color. The children chased the ducks and counted the ducklings.

We played in this fountain.

There is a wading pool between the bubble jets and the building. Jake ripped off his shoes and shirt and was soaked in less than twenty seconds. Claire followed suit giggling, "I'm like a mermaid!". They played there for an hour or so while I soaked my feet in the pool and my face in the sun. We dried off on some nearby swings before I finally dragged the children back to the car under protest.

I found the postcard on the table when we returned. It clearly stated that the festival is on August 23-24. I'm grateful for my error, although I really would have liked some baklava.

Friday, August 15, 2008


We took a week out of our regular lives to go to the beach. We rented a bigger care and drove many hours in order to:

  • swim in Lake Michigan
  • dig in some sand
  • pick blueberries
  • sleep
  • read umpteen books
  • eat ice cream, corndogs, and other vacation food
  • figure out how on earth to recycle cans from Missouri in Michigan (not as easy as one would suspect and quite possibly illegal)
  • illegally dump (sorry, nameless business with the open dumpster but we were desperate and didn't have room in the car to haul our trash all the way back to Missouri)
  • discover that we all really like each other
  • discover that we all really like each other better when we aren't driving from Michigan to Missouri in one long day with entirely too many potty stops

Now we've been back home for almost a week. We have:

  • caught up on the laundry
  • almost gotten the sand from our hair
  • remembered why we were stressed out before we took the vacation
  • eaten most, but not all, of the blueberries (pancakes, anyone?)
  • recycled Michigan cans in Missouri without fuss, bother, or illegal activity
  • taken as many potty breaks as we want to without the shrill voice of the driver screeching that no one could possibly need to urinate every twenty minutes

So, back to normal almost. School starts on the 25th, so we've got one more week of official summer left. We have two more months of summer weather, though. I have done almost nothing on my list from the beginning of the summer, but have accomplished much that wasn't listed. Good enough. I'm ready to get back into our normal routine. I've been out of my rut for too long

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh good heavens, I'm at it again

Oh how I'm weary of those who are wary
Who mistakenly write the wrong word.
Weary means tired and wary means leery,
To swap them is really absurd.

Wear and ware are homophones, it's true,
Weary and wary are most certainly not.
Carefully choose the word that you use
Lest others think your brain's gone to rot.

While I'm expounding on words and their use
In this public and peevish confessional,
Let me also include pique and peak as an issue
In letters meant to be quite professional.

My interest is piqued in the product you seek
to place on my company's website.
Yet you attempted to peak it and stranded my interest
on a mount of incredible height.

Know the limits of your vocabulary, please.
Plain words can get your point across.
If you use the wrong word you can be assured
That your effort will be labeled as dross.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tastes Like Guilt

Friday, 5 pm

I stopped by the grocery for hamburger buns after picking up the kids. The kids were in good moods, so I decided to go ahead and shop for the week. Any fool knows that good moods at 5pm on Friday are capricious, so we were rolling through the store at light speed. Produce! Seafood! Deli! Dairy! Dairy! Dairy! We hit a snag.

A middled aged woman was doddering around the milk cooler. I smiled and excused myself as I reached around her for a gallon. I glanced to the left and saw her cart. My heart sank when I saw the suitcase in the cart. I prayed, "Oh please God, not now. I just want to get home. Pleasepleasepleaseplea-"

"Ah! 2%! A whole gallon! But you have two little ones so of course you need a whole gallon. It's just me so I just need a quart. I like skim. Do you like skim?" I froze the smile on my face and tried to be nice without getting involved. I was edging toward the bagels and freedom when Jake started asking for vanilla yogurt. I said no. Jake started arguing. The suitcase lady asked about my yogurt preferences. I weighed my options. I decided that capitulating was preferable to a full-out yogurt battle with interference from a stranger. I hissed to Jake that he had better eat the yogurt this time and tossed a large tub into the cart. When we had retreated to the relative safety of ethnic foods, I reminded Jake that he didn't eat the last tub of yogurt. This was his last chance. He solemnly nodded and we wrapped up our errand.

This morning, 6:43 am

Jacob requested a bagel for breakfast. I peeked in the fridge and saw one lonely little bagel. We started the negotiation process. "There's only one bagel. You can't eat it because then Claire will want one."

"I can eat one part and Claire can eat the other part."

"OK, but you'll have to have something else. Half a bagel isn't enough breakfast." Jake wakes up hungry and usually eats a large breakfast. It's not uncommon for him to eat an adult portion of oatmeal and then clamor for more. "How about some yogurt?"

"What kind is it? I think I'll just have a granola bar."

I could feel my veins constricting. "It's vanilla. The kind you asked for at the store and promised me you would eat. Granola bars aren't food*. They're treats. Eat half a bagel and some yogurt and then you can eat a granola bar." I heard Jacob mumble his assent. Three minutes later, I put the toasted bagel and two bowls of yogurt on the table and called the kids to breakfast.

"I'm not eating this! I don't like this kind of yogurt! I like the little yogurts!"

"It's the same thing, Jacob! Vanilla yogurt is vanilla yogurt! It doesn't matter what container it is in!" I put both hands on my head and squeezed to prevent my head from exploding. "Eat! Your! Breakfast!! I am not making anything else for you." He refused and sent the bowl of yogurt spinning across the table. I opened the cupboard, took out the last granola bar, and shoved it in my lunch bag. I gathered Claire and left the house, hugging a sobbing Jake on my way out the door. "Goodbye. Have a good day. Dad will be awake soon."


I'm hungry and I'm looking at a granola bar. I should be able to enjoy it. Jake won't die for lack of a granola bar. So tell me why it tastes like peanut buttery guilt.

* Of course granola bars are food. But my children will eat five granola bars per day if I let them. Granola bars should not make up 50% of a child's diet. Therefore, we put them solidly in the treat/snack category of food. No granola bars for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's a Hard Knock Life, Kid

I have never been a big fan of bottled water.  I am too cheap and too concerned about waste to feel good about buying something that comes free and clear into my home with the twist of a knob.  There are occasions when I swallow my reservations and buy a few bottles (which are later recycled, never fear) but I refuse on principle to allow bottled water to become part of my daily life. 
Instead, we own several sport bottles.  A red wide-mouthed bottle that I received as a gift from a vendor sits on my desk at work.  I have a frosted plastic Rubbermaid bottle with a flip top for games, hikes, trips to the park, etc.  The kids each have blue bottles with pull-up squirt tops.  I can't use those because I've never mastered the art of squirting liquid into my mouth.  I cough and gag and well, it's embarrassing.  There are also two reserve bottles that sit in the cupboard until one of the other bottles go missing for a day or two, which is to say that they never sit in the cupboard.  All in all, it's not difficult for the children to take a drink of water with them wherever they go.  Nonetheless, Jacob is constantly on my case to buy him disposable bottles of water.  An icy cold bottle of Aquafina is to him what a plastic cup of beer is to a frat boy. 
I took Jake to the baseball game the other night.  I was worried that unsealed bottles would have to be emptied*  and finding an hygienic water fountain at the ballpark can be an adventure, so I broke down and bought a couple of bottles on the way into the stadium.  Jacob downed his entire 24oz bottle by the bottom of the second.  I suppose I should be glad that he didn't pull out a bong to drink it.  He immediately started edging toward my water.  I gave him The Look.  He snatched his hand back and whined, "I'm soooo thirsty.  I don't need a soda or even a lemonade.  Can't I please just have some water?"  The trio of young women in front of us wheeled around and glared at me.  I glared back.  I know that they were thinking that even prisoners are entitled to water, but they weren't privy to the whole story.  Somehow, Jake managed to muddle through without anything further to drink.  Somehow, I managed to muddle through the multiple bathroom visits since Jake's bladder only seems to hold about 3 ounces.
I still had half my bottle left when we got home.  I filled it again from the tap and stuck it in the freezer.  Then I told Jake that he could take it on his field trip Friday.  The poor kid couldn't decide whether he hit the jackpot with two!! bottles of water in one week or whether I was the cruelest mother on earth for making him wait a day and a half to drink it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

13 Happies

Blame Katie for this Pollyannaness. I certainly do.

  1. It's less than 90 degrees outside and it's July. I am so grateful for this mild summer that I cannot possibly express it.
  2. Cold brewed coffee over ice has replaced my sweetened iced coffee habit - and it tastes better.
  3. Sleep. Both of my children are sleeping at night finally and I can sleep 6-7 hours in a row almost every night of the week. It feels so good to be rested.
  4. Yesterday when I was changing my clothes, I caught Nick ogling my stretch-marked, flabby, saggy, cottage-cheesy body. And he didn't hear a word I said until I was dressed again. So, however I feel about my body, it's still good enough for him.
  5. I picked up How Mama Brought the Spring at the library and we've been reading it. Claire snuggles up. Jake drifts in and circles ever closer until he's leaning on my arm. We're making blintzes this weekend. I've never tasted one before and I'm excited.
  6. Nick only has 3 more classes before summer semester is over. Then we have a whole month before the fall semester starts. I'm glad he's going to school and I'm so proud of him (he's on the dean's list!) but I live for the breaks.
  7. I'm having minor success in my attempt to stop biting my nails. I won't say that I've exactly quit yet, but they aren't nibbled down to the quick either. It's very hard and I'm quite proud of myself for getting this far.
  8. The air conditioning in the office is being fixed right this very minute.
  9. Project Runway is on again. I don't care much about fashion, but I do love watching skilled people create sometimes beautiful things out of cabbage, plastic cups, and ultrasuede. Besides, watching tense people squabble always tends to give me a little perspective.
  10. Moments before I threw my lunch away in disgust, I remembered that I had actually put hummus on the flatbread instead of the cream cheese I had originally thought to use. So the brown stuff oozing out was not rotten but delicious. Thank goodness.
  11. The pink binkie (pacifier) has show up again. There was much rejoicing in all the land.
  12. In just under two months, I'm going to be zipping across a canyon with a group of strong, funny, vibrant women. I am counting the days. My scream will likely be heard around the world.
  13. I love and am loved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All the titles I've tried are melodramatic or uncomfortable

Yesterday, I was chatting with a friend about my weight loss. Or actually about my lack of weight loss. I've been watching my diet and attempting to exercise for the past several weeks. My weight has more or less stood still. I know that I need to cut or spend 500 calories per day to lose a pound a week. If I walk (200 calories), cut out the sweetened iced coffee (200 calories), and cut out a snack or two or eight, then I should ever so slowly be dropping weight until I hit my goal sometime early next summer. People who can do basic math will figure that I've got about 50 pounds to lose.

I was very frustrated on Monday when the scale still said 190 pounds. Then I was heartened on Tuesday when I weighed in at 188 pounds. That's when my friend wisely told me to back away from the scale lest I damage my sanity. For once, I was completely honest about myself. On this particular topic, my sanity is already damaged. If I am trying to lose weight, then I am Trying To Lose Weight. I don't starve myself or do ten hours of aerobics or swallow uppers. What I do is weigh myself obsessively, keep a constant running tally of caloric intake/expenditure, and feel like an all-around shitty failure of a person because I'm fat.

When I am not trying to lose weight, I do not think about my weight at all. I feel good about myself because I only consider the me of me, my consciousness, my personality, my soul, my whatever-you-want-to-call-it. The status of my body is completely boxed up, buried, and covered with daisies. I am happy and I feel good and the world is a shiny, shiny place. Until, of course, someone goes and digs up the daisies.

I always start out sane. "Oh, right. That whole weight thing. Well, let's nip it in the bud, shall we? I'll just start walking and food journaling and then I'll be skinny and beautiful and we can just replant those daisies. Tra la la la la." I lose a pound or two, then stall out for unknown reasons. Then I start obsessing and weighing myself every day, twice a day, three times a day, every time I walk past the scale. After a while, I realize that I'm hurting myself so I just stop. I stop thinking about losing weight, stop trying to lose weight, stop worrying about that whole body thing at all. I go back to just being the me of me and I wear my body like a particularly unattractive outfit that I just haven't bothered to replace yet. I'm sexy, I'm healthy, I'm attractive and well, it's just that I'm temporarily inhabiting flabby, jiggly, messy body.

So right. The need to weigh is a symptom, not a cause. I am realizing that I can't afford the luxury of pretending that everything is aok so that I can be blissfully happy with myself. My blood pressure, while still safe, is edging up. I am also seeing the unpleasant results that years of morbid obesity can wreak. My father is struggling to avoid diabetes. My mother is retiring early because her body has been worn down and broken by the weight that she carries. This time, I am going to find a way to deal with my weight in a sane and practical way. I'm not going to give up on being healthy nor am I going to give in to being completely fucked in the head about it. I suspect at some point I might need to talk to someone about this, some professional sort of someone. Perhaps I'll buy an ad. Mostly sane, grounded woman seeks therapist to deal with minor mental health issues regarding weight. Must not blame morbidly obese mother, no matter how clear the connection might seem. Waiting room should be stocked with chocolate.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We Are Surrounded

They're back. And this time, the children are on their side. It's my fault, really. I have been fostering bug love. We've been digging up worms, examining roly polies, and keeping snails in a jar. I've been admonishing Jake that all life is created by God and is therefore precious. While we were stepping around beetles and ushering moths outside, the ants were watching.

Last night, they mounted a massive assault. I was upstairs when arhythmic stomping and slapping sounds drifted up from the kitchen. I tried to ignore the ruckus. It went on for five minutes, then eight. I reluctantly plodded downstairs and poked my head around the corner. Nick was muttering under his breath as he furiously stomped on the tile. He was beating the broom under the cabinets' overhang, then sweeping something toward his pounding feet. When he felt my eyes, he turned and said, with no small amount of drama, "They're back. The little $%&#ers. I thought I had them beaten. I put out traps. What do they do? They walk around the traps. They're smart. Too smart." Then he turned back to his stomping. I put the kettle on and ran to hide."

By the time the kettle whistled, Nick had squashed all of the advance force. He was tracing the route with a flashlight, waiting for unsuspecting ants to show him the way. He moved from the kitchen to the play room where he found an abandoned granola bar. A few moments later, he found Jacob's lunch bag behind the toy box. "They're in cahoots! Cahoots!!!" he yelled.

Whether or not the children were planning to aid and abet the ants, it's clear that the ants move quickly. The invasion happened in less than four hours. I'm considering a new strategy, but I'm a little concerned about pesticide content.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

C is for Hat

Claire is growing at the speed of light. Everywhere we go, friends comment that she's losing her babyness. "She's a girl now! A big girl!" is the refrain. Her legs are straight and strong. Her belly is losing it's roundness. Her nose is climbing out of the common baby pug with a strong bridge and ever-so-slightly turned up tip. Her speech, while still rife with articulation errors, is nuanced and complex. She expresses opinions with supporting evidence. She explains why and how. Like all little girls of a certain age, she can draw her own conclusions and is completely convinced of her own infallability.

Over the past few months, Claire has been concentrating on the alphabet. She finds letters on any printed material available. "That's a C! C is for me! That's a J! J is for Jacob!" Jake often involves himself in the game as Claire's instructor. He asks her what other objects start with a J, giving broad hints occasionally involving unbelievably bad pantomime.

We were looking at an alphabet book a few days ago when Claire started yelling out C words. "C is for me! C is for corn! C is for clown! C is for hat!"

"Yes, Claire, C is for Claire, corn, clown, and cat."

"No, not cat. C is for hat."

I patiently corrected her. "I think you mean that c is for cat, honey. Kuh kuh kuh Cat."

She patiently corrected me. "No, c is for hat. Haaaaaaaaaat. Hat." She even patted her head to illustrate.

I tried once more. "C sounds like kuh. H sounds like huh. C is for cat. H is for hat." She stared at me for a long moment. She decided that I was too dim to understand and moved on to D.

This morning, Claire was playing with an electronic letter game in the car. I heard the annoying music underneath Claire's voice. "A is for apple. B is for boy. C is for hat. See Mom? C is for hat!" I drove to a stop sign, turned, and got a face full of plastic. "C is for HAT." C is for cap, as it turns out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I roll over and force myself out of bed, into clothes, into shoes, out the door. The heat of the day is already settling in. The light is still gray. As I walk, the day gets lighter and the air gets thicker. I'm in shorts and my hair is wet with sweat by the time I am two blocks from home.

I turn the corner and see a rabbit. They're everywhere this year - the bunnies had a baby boom. When we first moved to this neighborhood, we'd see a rabbit every few weeks in the summer. This year, we see many rabbits every day. It's rabbit nirvana here. The yards are fenced and rich with hostas. I think that perhaps next year or maybe the year after that, we will be faced with a sea of rabbits in the street. We won't be able to drive lest we run over dear little bunnies. Or perhaps we'll set some traps and start feasting on rabbit stew. One little beasty seems to walk along with me for half a block. I get too close, he hops ahead. I get too close, he hops ahead. Finally, he bores of the game and hops off between some houses.

I hear a steady huff huff huff behind me. I move over to the very edge of the sidewalk, then realize the runner is in the street. He slowly huffs past. He's large, muscular, and hairy with the daintiest gait I've ever seen. He is taking tiny, mincing, bouncing step. Each step brings him further up than forward. I think he'd be more comfortable skipping rope. Then I think that I'm being petty and mean. After all, he's running and I'm walking and maybe I'd be better off moving a little more vigorously and thinking a little less.

I pace myself so that I can cross the street without stopping. Unfortunately, the driver is afraid that the rope skipper or I will throw ourselves in front of his car. He slows, we slow, he slows, we slow. It's the most excruciating game of chicken I've ever played. Finally, the driver speeds on and we cross the street and go our separate ways.

Just as I'm picking up steam, another runner comes up a cross street. He's a streak of orange. He's running so fast, faster than fast. I peek down the street to see who or what is chasing him. I see nothing but a rabbit. I pace myself so that the runner crosses the corner before I arrive. I'm not sure that he even sees me. I turn the corner, keeping my eye on the bunny just in case. Mr. Orange is already gone around another corner.

I realize that I should be home already, so I pick up the pace. Five minutes later, I take off my shoes and sneak into my own house. I tiptoe into the living room, drop my keys in my purse, and turn to see the grinning face of an imp. "It's morning! Hello!"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thirteen Phrases I Say Everyday

That's right. I'm bringing back the Thursday 13 in order to encourage myself to get back in the habit of posting. Besides, it's fun.
  1. It's your sister's/brother's turn to look at the cereal box.
  2. We are not discussing dessert while we are eating breakfast.
  3. One ponytail, two ponytails, or braids?
  4. Please put your dirty clothes DOWN the laundry instead of NEXT to the laundry.
  5. Do that in private please.
  6. Do not leave the bathroom until you flush the toilet, pull up your pants, and wash your hands. Flush, dress, wash. Flush, dress, wash.
  7. Yes, I will play tickle monster. Rooooooaaaarrrrrr.
  8. Did you put on clean underwear?
  9. Don't answer the phone don'tanswerthephonedon'tanswerthephone. Give it to me. Don't hang up. Giveittomedon'thangupdon'thangup. Argh. You hung up on someone. Stop answering the phone!
  10. Get a book and meet me at the big chair.
  11. Do you need a hug? I need a hug.
  12. Show me a smilie shark.
  13. I love you.

Monday, July 7, 2008


"I call the submarine."
"I call the viking ship."
"I call the pirate ship."
"I call the pirate raft."

Thirty minutes later...
"I call Han Solo."
"I call Chewbacca."
"I call Darth Vader."
"I call all the stormtroopers."

Yet another thirty minutes later...
"I call America."
Dumbfounded silence.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


A few days ago, Claire started demanding that I paint her nails.  I asked her why.  "Hope and Julie have painted nails.  They look pretty."  I sucked in my breath.  Then I said that I would think about it.  Claire wailed.  Thinking about it generally means that I want to say no but feel that perhaps I'm not being fair.  I attempt to sort through my own issues and ask for opinions from my husband, mother, sister, friends, and random strangers before trusting my first instinct.  "NO!  Don't think about it!  DO IT!"  So, of course, I immediately started thinking about it.
Hope and Julie have very similar mothers.  They are both tiny, very pretty women who are always impeccably dressed, coiffed, and made up.  I saw Julie's mother one morning about three weeks after giving birth to her second child.  She was still perfectly dressed, coiffed, and made up.  I suspect that if aliens were attacking the earth, these women would still manage to correctly apply mascara.  I am not surprised that Hope and Julie have painted nails.
I am not a reactionary feminist who believes that a woman should never be concerned about her appearance.  Makeup and fluffy hair have their place in the world.  I use a little blusher when I'm feeling peaked and a little lipstick when I'm feeling sexy.  However, I do not want any woman, especially my daughter, to believe that she needs makeup to be fit for public consumption.  I do not want Claire to feel the need to put on her face before facing the world. 
I know that it's just nail polish.  And I know that I overthink sometimes (or all the time).  But still, there's that shrill, nagging voice in my head that says little girls don't need any form of makeup.  I worry that if I paint her nails, I'm sending a clear message that beauty requires accoutrements - that Claire herself requires accoutrements. 
I ripped my toenail the other day.  In order to protect it from further damage, I painted it with several layers of polish.  Claire saw me and I painted her toenails too.  She was so delighted.  "Now, I''m pretty!" she said.  My heart sank all the way down to my pretty little piggies.  "No, Claire, you're ALWAYS pretty," I protested.  But I feel like I sold her out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I read The Life of Pi recently for my book club. I had nightmares in which I was lost at sea with my family. Nick, in a particularly misguided attempt to jolly me out of my fear, demanded to know whether I cannibalized the rest of them in my dream. His persistant questioning moderated my guilt over feeding him to our children in my dream. Next time, perhaps he'll let sleeping tigers lie. After the dream and the interrogation, I resolutely pushed the book out of my mind. I simply refused to think about it at all.

After no small amount of internal debate, I decided to attend the book club meeting. The hostess had a new house, Claire was in a particularly shrill mood, I wanted some wine and good company, I am a creature of habit, insert any other convenient reason here. I went. I took a deep breath and a gulp of wine and forced myself to think about the book. I am so grateful that I did. We had a wonderful conversation. Then as the lulls slowly began to overtake the conversation, we turned to the topic of forgiveness.

Someone had asked if Pi had a happy ending. Some of us thought so. Others, including me, disagreed. I pointed out the number of times Pi referred to a dead character and said that he thought of him/her/it every day. Ah, but forgiving isn't necessarily forgetting, said the other side. But forgiving does mean unburdening. Pi felt guilty, I countered. The reply was that he had nothing to feel guilty about. His behavior was expected - what any of us would do in his situation. What any number of people had done in his situation. And then - ephiphany! - accompanied by all the light and clarity that can be expected in any revelation.

There is a fundamental difference between excusing someone (or oneself) and forgiving someone (or oneself). How often I have offered an excuse instead of contrition! How often I have robbed someone of forgiveness in favor of excusing their behavior! "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I was tired." Bah! "It's ok. I'm not hurt because I know you were stressed out." Double bah! It seems so much easier to excuse than to forgive, but then I just end up carrying the burden of hurt plus the additional burden of excuses.

I am working very hard on using my newfound insight to change the way I offer and hear apologies. It is liberating to just admit that I hurt someone or someone hurt me without needing to explain it away. But I don't think I'll be going on a cruise anytime soon, just the same.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

She's a tricky one

It had been a long and trying day, so I made a quick dinner of eggs, toast, and fruit.  I dished out heavy plates for the hungry and put the customary three bites on a dessert plate for Claire.  Jake was excited about an upcoming event so he started chattering before we even picked up our forks. 
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, Jake had finished his story and we'd finished our dinner.  Nick stabbed his fork in the direction of Claire's plate for a bonus bite of egg.  "What happened to your egg, Claire?  What did you do with it?"  We peeked under the table.  I shook out her napkin.  Then, I slowly realized what must have happened.  "I think she ate it."  Claire giggled and giggled and giggled. 

Monday, June 16, 2008


Give me a boy to the age of seven and I will give you the man.
Jacob turned seven yesterday.  It is a very symbolic age in many ways.  Seven is traditionally the age of reason.  Piaget theorized that the onset of concrete operations begins around age seven.  And of course, the statement above that is attributed to St. Ignatius Loyala.  Despite my recent worries about Jake, I am feeling confident about the man he will become.  Seven is a nice number for a list - there are seven corporal works of mercy, seven spiritual works of mercy, etc. In honor of my joy of a boy:
7 Reasons to Celebrate
  1. Every person is a potential friend.  Drop Jake into any situation for any length of time, and he will come out with new friends.  He has even made friends running around the bases at a baseball game.  He remembers names and faces and genuinely likes every person that he meets.  According to Jake, the world consists of good friends, new friends, and people he hasn't met yet.
  2. Jacob has a strong sense of justice.  If given a treat, he will make sure that everyone else has a treat too.  He will also confess if another child is being blamed for a shared crime.
  3. He can laugh at himself.  He knows when he crosses the line into the ridiculous and he can laugh if off - usually right away.
  4. He's not afraid to ask questions.  He's learning about tact (thank goodness), but he won't rest until he finds the answers to his questions.
  5. He really thinks.  Of course, he's seven so his critical thinking skills are hardly honed.  But he does think about answers and test theories against his own knowledge and experience. 
  6. He loves to teach.  He delights in teaching his younger sister and friends just about anything.  He received a couple of lacrosse sticks for his birthday.  We took them to the park to play with a friend.  Jake patiently showed his less graceful friend over and over again how to throw the ball. 
  7. He believes that he can do anything, given enough time.  He rarely says "I can't do it."  He says, "I can't do it yet."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bargain Pricing

One of the local neighborhood associations sponsored a yard sale extravaganza on Saturday.  Four alleys were filled with sales every few houses for two blocks.  We spent an hour or so strolling down the alleys and eyeing the goods.  Then Claire's new shoes started pinching so I piggybacked her home.  Jake was sorely disappointed that his shopping trip got cut short.  He found at least twenty items that were the coolest things ever.  He was eager to find other treasures and would have happily spent the day wandering through alley after alley.
A little while later, Jacob burst into the living room chattering nonstop.  He was wearing a large plastic shopping bag.  He'd cut leg holes through the bottom and then put the handles over his arms to make a sort of overall.  And written in huge numbers on both front and back was $100.  "Mom!  I'm going to go stand out in the back yard and see if I can sell myself!"

Friday, May 30, 2008

Prakatissking Soccerball

I arrived at daycare yesterday to find Claire and 14 of her little classmates sitting on soccer balls.  They were staring at a smiling young man with the rapt attention usually reserved for story time.  After a few moments of instruction, the children started dribbling their balls.  "TURTLE!" the young man bellowed.  Claire slowed and gave the tiniest of kicks to her ball.  She had her head down, eye on the ball, and hands splayed out for balance.  "RABBIT!"  Her braids started bouncing as she started kicking the ball faster, but making no discernible progress forward.  After a few more animal rotations, they sat back down on their balls again.  Then, incredibly, each child took turns dribbling the ball toward a goal.  When it was Claire's turn, she took a long, slow dribble and then pow!  She used a kill shot to put the ball firmly in the corner.  Claire was flushed, tired, and immensely proud of herself.
Overcome with mommish pride, I ran over to give her a great big hug. I was absolutely shocked when she collapsed into my arms and sobbed her little heart out.  She wanted to run back over to the field and she wanted to stay in my arms.  She cried until her little red grubby face was almost clean.  She finally regained her composure when I pointed out that the other kids were getting hand stamps.  She bounced over to the line and held up her hand as if everything was suddenly right with the world again.  Puzzled, I went back to work. 
When I picked Claire up at the end of the day, all she could talk about was playing "soccerball."  She showed off her hand stamp to Jacob and his buddies.  She showed it off to random people in the street.  Then she showed Nick at dinner with a proud declaration, "I was prakatissking soccerball!"  Her caregiver told me that she ate a huge lunch and took a nap, both rarities. 
I picked up a brochure for the 8 week soccer program at the daycare center.  It's $80 for 8 weeks, which doesn't seem to be an unreasonable price.  But I'm torn.  Do I listen to the pride she showed?  Or do I listen to the tears?  She's got me stumped again.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Moving at the Speed of Life

Tomorrow, the kids are officially out of school and preschool.  Summer camps start on Monday.  Jacob is thrumming with excitement about camp this year.  He's planning to sign up for the library reading club, take a couple weeks of soccer camp, climb a mountain, finish his handwriting book, take my mixer out into the backyard and experiment, learn to swim, watch every episode of his favorite cartoon, and eat record amounts of hotdogs, watermelon, and popsicles.  For Claire, the difference between preschool and day camp is negligible but she's caught on to the excitement.
I'm amused by Jacob's plans.  I remember my childhood summers as being impossibly long and boring.  My sisters and I would mill around the house until my mother kicked us out into the yard with instructions to "find some kids and do something."  We'd retreat indoors during the heat of the day and drive Mom crazy with complaints of boredom.  Eventually, she'd either hand us a bucket and a box of Spic and Span or push us out the door again.  And then finally, when I couldn't stomach one more game of Red Rover, the fireflies would start sparking and another long, lazy day would end.
Now, while Jake is planning to fill his days from dawn until dusk, I am trying to figure out how to carve out some free time for myself.  The trouble with unplanned time is that it somehow always gets filled up with chores.  So I'm going to take a lesson from my son and make a list of things I want to do this summer. 
  • Make lemonade - the real kind.
  • Sign up for the adult reading club at the library and read enough books to win something.
  • Make myself two linen skirts and then wear them so that I can feel classy and summery at the same time.  At least until July comes when feeling classy gets lost in the sticky heat.
  • Hike!  At least 3 times and at least one afternoon-long effort.
  • Dine a la fresca at the pasta place that I drive by every single day.
  • Have a backyard waterballoon fight with the family and make sure that we all get drenched.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fight, Flight, and Two Possums

I was having a dream that I don't quite remember.  Even without the details, I remember that it was chaotic and upsetting.  I half woke sweltering, so I flung out the covers and rolled over.  That's when I saw a pale shape next to the bed.  I gasped.
"AAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAaaaaaaa"  Jake jumped, screamed, and took off running.  He kept screaming and kept running all over the house.  I could track his progress by the volume of the scream as well as the thumping bass note of his running feet.  I will never understand how a fifty pound child can make so much noise. 
The instant Jake fled from my terrifying gasp, Nick started awake and vaulted out of bed.  He chased Jake into the living room, back into the bedroom, out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, and finally back into the bedroom again.  Nick scooped Jake up, carried him back to bed, and tucked him in all before I'd managed to shake off my stupor and get out of bed.  By the time I'd padded across the hallway to the children's room, Jake was asleep again.  Claire had never even gotten out of her bed.  Clearly, Claire and I do not have the survival instincts of the men in our family.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Jacob is struggling again.  He was on spring break last week and the whole family was ill in turns.  Jake dealt with the disruption in his routine the way that he always deals with disruptions - by becoming more disruptive.  He rebels against change of any kind, even growth. 
I've seen children who grow as gracefully as flowers.  I'm sure those kids have their bad days, but most of the time their growth seems effortless and natural.  Jacob, on the other hand, grows in painful fits and starts.  He metamorphs from caterpillar to butterfly and back again.  I call him challenging or spirited most of the time, but the bottom line is that he's different.  Atypical.  Weird.  Abnormal.  Pick a label.  When he's in butterfly mode, people love him and rave about how smart-funny-bright-charming-engaging he is.  When he's in caterpillar mode, people smile indulgently and say that he'll grow up eventually.  And when he's in cocoon mode, people express concern and start to drop hints about parenting or medication or therapy or whatever it is that they think is going to fix this supposedly broken child.  That's when I get worangfrustvulnerblue. 
I'm a worrier by nature anyway, but these are the times when the energy I spend worrying could, if properly harnessed, power entire cities.  Will Jacob eventually grow up?  Will he stay on the right side of The Line?  Will he manage to develop his coping skills before some well-meaning but misguided school psychologist convinces everyone that he needs an ADHD diagnosis?  And then there's the big worry - are we doing the right thing by fighting against that label?  Most of the time, I think we are doing the right thing.  But when Jacob is in this phase and I get worangfrustvulnerblue, I worry.  Is something so broken in me that I can't see the truth about my child?  I cannot look at him and see anything other than a perfectly functional, smart, loving, creative little boy who is developing asynchronously.  He may not be typical, but does atypical necessarily translate into organic dysfunction?
Then my worry turns to anger.  Anger with Jacob for making everything difficult.  Anger with myself for not being able to help him.  Anger with the world for not accepting that sometimes, people are different.  Anger with our culture for equating anything or anyone outside the norm as dysfunctional.  And then I have a special, white-hot anger for anyone who suggests that Jake would be better off if only I would raise him the same way they raised their children because, after all, their children are normal and my child isn't. 
The worst part of all the worry and anger is the sheer vulnerability and helplessness of it all.  I can't do a damn thing to make Jacob grow up any faster than he is.  If kids have a hard time learning to read, then we give them tutors and understanding and extra time to catch up.  Oh, the understanding we pile on kids who have academic issues.  But a kid who has issues with impulsiveness?  Do they get extra helpings of understanding?  No, of course not.  They get "concern" and inappropriate labels and medication to stone them out of their supposedly dysfunctional minds.*  And if those children happen to be very smart, then the labels get pushed even harder.  After all, the kid is too smart to have a developmental lag.  Since the child is ahead of the curve in academics, many people expect the child to be ahead of the curve on every other front too.
I know that thirty years from now, I will look back on this time and laugh.  Jacob will be successful and happy and just different enough to be special.  I know this to be true.  But for right now, I'm worangfrustvulnerblue enough to talk about it honestly for once.  Tomorrow, I'll go back to calling him spirited.
* I want to be perfectly clear - I do think that some children have organic dysfunctions that can be treated effectively with medication.  I disagree with the label of ADHD for various reasons, but whatever the label, some kids do need pharmaceutical help.  Thank God we live in a time when that's an option.  My issue is only with a culture that too broadly defines mental illness.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jolyn saved the day over 10 years ago

It has been a long week. I started the week off with a plague officially named "viral tonsillitis", which passed to Claire and then to Nick. Jake escaped since he's the sole member of the family without tonsils. Besides the illness, Nick and I have both had busy weeks at work. Jacob has been out of school on spring break. Given that we are creatures of habit, we've been reeling the entire week.

Every day this week, I've spent my commute with The Bickersons. Usually I only have Claire in the car with me, but Jake attended daycare this week. "Don't touch my paper!" and "Give back my sunglasses" were interrupted by the occasional "Leave each other ALONE!" As we drove, the radio volume was bumped up up up until I could hear the news over the kvetching. And then we saw the moon.

Why! Look at that moon!
Away up high seeing everything
That goes by why look at that moon
Why, why, why look at the moon.
Why, why, why look at that moon.

My friend Jolyn made a mix tape for me over 10 years ago. Actually, she made several. But this particular tape had Why Look at the Moon on it. Luckily the song lodged itself in my head. Every time I see the moon - big, white, and breathtaking - I start singing with an exclamation. Why! Look at that moon! My head bobs, my hand taps, my soul bounces. It's a wonderful song that creates a wonderful feeling. So thanks to Jolyn. I don't think she had any idea how much she was giving me. * The song was written by Victoria Williams and covered by The Waterboys.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nick is on the fritz

so I had to hire a couple of helpers to get the dishes done. I'll be glad when we're all healthy again. I'm holding out hope for April.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting Home with Limpy McLimperson

The flooding is continuing, complete with overdramatic news casts that trivialize the real damage with every emphatic, pursed-lipped pause.  Yesterday, the water started hitting the roads.  A heavily traveled state highway near my office park was closed shortly before rush hour.  My office was out of electricity for an hour or so midday as power was re-routed around a threatened substation. 
I left work a little later than usual, and hit a lot more traffic than usual.  I realize that I am relatively spoiled.  My thirteen mile commute takes twenty minutes on most days and thirty on bad weather days.  So when it took me twenty minutes to travel less than one mile to daycare, my patience started wearing thin.  And then, just as I pulled into the daycare lot, my gas light came on. 
Claire limped toward me as soon as I walked into the room.  Her caregiver explained that Claire had been limping since nap with no explanation or evident injury.  Since she was smiling and happy, I shrugged it off as one of those things that three year olds do just for the experience.  We went out to the car at a snail's pace which was still faster than the traffic was moving. 
I added my car to the line and crept along.  My gas light flickered on and off.  I started to worry that I wouldn't make it to the gas station.  I decided to turn back into the office park and wait out the traffic.  As soon as I made the turn, I realized my mistake.  It took me another 20 minutes to get back to my office.  All told, it took me almost an hour to make a two mile trip. 
Claire slowly limped to my desk and I began to get concerned about her.  She just kept saying that she didn't want to talk about it.  I tried to lift her pantleg and she slapped me away.  I worried, but figured that we weren't going anywhere without an ambulance anyway.  After an hour or so of internet games, we limped back to the car, crept to the gas station, and finally arrived home at 6:40 to cornbread lovingly made by my husband (I am forced to mention the cornbread because my mother evidently berated my husband on the phone until he agreed to make it for me).
I cornered Nick in the kitchen and told him about Claire's limp.  He grabbed her and tickled her all over, managing a pretty thorough examination of her leg in the process.  He couldn't find anything wrong.  Then, as I was putting on her pajamas, I found the problem.  A 1/8" square scrape on her knee was rubbing against her pant leg.  A bandaid fixed the limp, and we all settle in warm and dry for the night.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Flood

The Meramec river is straining her banks again.  Floods are a fact of life in this river-rich region.  Some years, the creeks just dribble over the banks for a few hours.  Other years, the mightiest of rivers crest overtop the levies.  It is not a question of if, only where, when, and how much.  Since we've been squelching and squerching across a waterlogged landscape for the past several weeks, thirty hours of steady rain is dictating that the answers are close, now, and quite a lot.
I peek at the water level of the Meramec every weekday as I drive to and from work.  The river was a rich, muddy brown this morning.  I could hardly see where the water stopped and the bank began through the rain.  When the river is deep and dirty like that, it moves deceptively quickly.  As the day has passed, news of road closings and evacuations have been filtering in.  Those who live in low-lying areas have gone home to catch their cats and evacuate.   Those of us who live on higher ground are thanking our lucky stars and making sure our commutes are clear.
To me, the flood watch is the first sure sign of spring.  Daffodils can be fooled by a few warm days (mine poked their noses up only to be covered by snow the next day) and songbirds don't show up until well after the last frost.  But a cold, steady rain never lies.  I can't say that I enjoy the flood watch exactly, but I do embrace it.  It matches my mood.  I feel restless and out of sorts.  I'm anxious for the industry of spring but not quite ready to shake off the inertia of winter.  The water will recede in a couple of days and take my mood with it.  Then I'll be ready to pack away the sweaters and plant the lettuce.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Wife, a "Girlfriend", and a Young Boy

Jacob woke up at 5:51 this morning.  I grunted at him to go watch tv and then I went back to sleep.  Somehow, though, that early morning wake-up stuck with me.  I woke up for the day around 7:30 but remained in a fog.  So after a cup of coffee, I was surprised to hear a little voice in my ear, "What does 'Christ-en cashes in' mean?"  I looked around in confusion.  "See?  On the news?  'Christ-en cashes in.'  What does that mean?"  The tv was showing an attractive young woman with the title "Kristen cashes in."  Then I realized that it was a story about Eliot Spitzer's, erm, liason. 
I gulped a few times and tried to clear my head.  I was unsuccessful but that didn't seem to stop me.  I just opened my mouth and started blabbering about how the governer of New York made some bad choices.  Of course, that did not satisfy Jake at all since the picture on the screen was clearly a woman and her name was not Eliot.  After a few more gulps, I came out with the most age appropriate explanation that I could muster - Mr. Spitzer had a wife and a girlfriend, which is against the rules.  Then I explained that he paid the woman to be his girlfriend, which is against even more rules.  Then I rambled on about how magazines are bidding for the girlfriend's side of the story so that they can sell more magazines to nosy people. 
I wonder sometimes if other parents have this same rambling problem that I do.  Surely other children ask questions about the news.  Surely other parents believe, as I do, that age-appropriate honesty is the best policy.  But surely other parents do not somehow turn "Kristen Cashes In" into a diatribe about people who are willing to spend their hard-earned money to leer over the downfalls of the rich and powerful.  Just what is the appropriate response to a six year old boy's questions about call girls, governors, and Hustler magazine?