Thursday, December 16, 2010

There's that word again: Perfect

Busy time, this. Today I made a decision to stay in all day, avoiding all errands in order to get all my holiday baking done. Ha! First of all, anyone who thinks she's going to get "all" of anything done with a four year old in tow is seriously delusional. Second of all, the quickest way to assure you're going to be obligated to go to the store is to foolishly announce that you are absolutely NOT going to the store. For me, that statement instantly led to rancid whole wheat flour. (Well, technically, I would wager that it was rancid before I said anything, but you understand what I mean.)

The day began with a once again fallen Christmas tree, which the Man was kind enough to set upright, but it fell to me to pick up all the ornaments that had fallen off, and fix all of the ones that had not fallen off, but were twisted and strange, some of them hanging upside down. In addition, the lights were all wonky from the fall, so I had to figure that out, too, and if I haven't mentioned it before, "the perfect tree in the world" is very sappy. Sappier than a Karen Carpenter Christmas song, the Man has decided, and I'm pretty sure he's right. In any case it's a messy business, fixing that tree.

From the tree I moved on to the kitchen, where for some reason I could not figure out how to bake cookies. Strange, because I bake zillions of them every year around this time, but today I sort of wandered back and forth, looking at recipes, incapable of making a decision. I also made lists of cookie recipients, and counted tins, though I never did come to a conclusion regarding whether the numbers match up. I think I may be coming down with a case of brain fog.

Small wanted to help today, bless her little heart. But she has the sniffles, which has put her out of sorts, and on top of that, well, she's four. She helped me turn the mixer on and off a few times, then lost interest and began singing songs and telling stories. This all sounds very charming, I realize, but there are few things more capable of sucking your brain out through your ears than a four year old, on her 400th chorus of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, or telling you in great detail the particularly fascinating story of why her rubber ducks have decided to hide in a shoebox. When it came to the part where she was explaining to me the relationship between her pull toy ducks and her toy horse, while the pull toy quacked incessantly, I assigned her the task of setting up the Nativity scene in the living room, which kept her out of my hair for about ten minutes, and afforded me enough brain capacity to make lunch.

By naptime, though, I was ready for her to go to sleep. I was hustling her up to her room when she asked me, "Mommy, why does Rudolph have a red shiny nose?"

I was feeling sassy. "Birth defect!" I answered cheerfully.

She had a different explanation. "I think," she said, "that God made his nose bright and red so that he could see through the fog."

I felt bad for being flippant, and I told her she was probably right.

"I also think," she continued, "that our car is just like Rudolph's nose. Because our car doesn't look like ANYBODY else's car in the WHOLE family."

This is true. Our car has been the victim of a few mishaps, and it is not in, shall we say, showroom quality. It looks very poor indeed next to my mother's convertible, or my sister's sporty little suv. But that, I was surprised to learn, is not what Small One meant.

I asked her how our car was different, and she looked at me in surprise that I didn't know something so obvious. "It's big enough to hold our WHOLE family!" she said. Then she continued, "That's why God gave it to us, it's just like Rudolph's nose. It's perfect for us!"

Ahh... where I saw the surface bumps and bruises, she was looking at the deeper blessing. Seems like perfect is her word of the month, and I'm beginning to think that is my Christmas gift from God- the perpetual reminder to see the perfection in the mundane, to understand that things don't need to be flawless to be perfect for us. I think this Christmas will be perfect.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Perfect Tree in the World, Part 2

Every year, usually around the middle of December, we get our Christmas tree. Sometimes it comes from Home Depot, sometimes from a cut your own tree farm, last year it came from our lovely friends at NorthStar Christmas Trees, (in metro Atlanta, that's a great place to get a tree- last year, ours lasted til February!), but no matter the origin, there's always a constant- the party. I throw a "family party" every year, which means each of my kids gets to invite a friend or two, and we drink eggnog and eat festive holiday snacks, listen to Christmas music and make ornaments, and decorate the tree. It's rowdy, and messy, and one of the highlights of the season for me, right up there with the candlelight Christmas Eve service.

This year is a little bit different. This year, I thought we'd have an even more festive time, as my mother and sister now live within a few miles of us. Unfortunately, the timing is all wrong. Middle Child is recovering from her surgery, but still feels rough, and mainly wants to be quiet and still, which pretty much rules out any sort of party plans. So this year, there is eggnog, and some foods that are festive but soft, like pumpkin custard and peppermint ice cream, and there won't be any partying, but we will get the tree decorated eventually, even though it will happen in fits and starts, and that's ok. By week's end, it will be up. Maybe even by wordless Wednesday.

It's ok with me that this is the way it's worked out. This has been the year of plan B turning into plan C, and so on. I've always considered myself to be flexible, this year has pushed me to prove it.

I've already detailed this year's tree acquisition. This morning, the tree was lying on the floor, despite many adjustments last night to the tree stand. The Man picked it up, and I held it steady while he tried to adjust it further, until we decided that what was needed was something to slide under the tree stand, as a brace. Knowing he'd be able to find something that would work in the garage, but not wanting me to have to hold it while he looked, the Man slid a book under the stand, as a temporary measure, and then left to take the dog for a walk.

A few minutes later, I heard a commotion. I was getting dressed, and MC was sleeping, so I asked Small One to look and tell me if the tree had fallen again. A few minutes later I heard her say "No, but someone stuck a book under the...AAAAAAA!"

Yep, she had decided to remedy the situation by pulling the book out from under the tree, and had ended up pulling the whole thing down on top of herself. I dashed down the stairs to find her sprawled, all Flat Stanley-like, arms out to the side, tree on top of her, wailing. I am pleased to report she was shaken but unharmed, though she eyed the tree a little more warily after that, gave it a wider berth.

She's over it tonight. Tonight she discovered the treetop angel, and had to get her Daddy to lift her up so she could put it on the tree. It seemed fitting to me that the angel would go on first, when nothing else will be up until tomorrow and later. "Is this the same angel," she asked, "that watched over Mary, and Joseph, and the baby Jesus?"


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Perfect Tree in the World

This December, so far, has not been great. Because of the recent move, we're far from all the familiar holiday things, our church, our friends, our traditional haunts and celebrations. In addition, Middle Child's recovery from surgery has been slow and difficult, complete with scary moments and feelings (for the mom) of helplessness and inadequacy. Christmas is now only 12 days away, and I'm not ready.

So, this past weekend, we decided to get a tree. We could have gone to Home Depot, or Lowes, or a grocery store, but I'm the romantic type, so I decided to find a "cut your own" lot. We've had a great time, in the past, cutting our own tree, or pumpkin, or picking our own strawberries, so I thought it'd be a good way to go ahead and kickstart this holiday season into gear. I did a little bit of internet research, and found one where you choose your own tree (from their pesticide free, organically grown-whatever that means- Virginia pines) and they cut it down for you. Win win! All the romance with none of the hack sawing! What could be better? We planned to go on Saturday.

Saturday was rainy and grey, and very cold. Not ideal weather for a tree hunt. The website said they were only there on Saturday, except that the first weekend they'd be there on Sunday if the weather was bad on Saturday. I called, to see if that was an every weekend policy, and the man told me he was planning to spend the night at the farm on Saturday and would be there until Sunday at 10:30am, if we wanted to come in the morning.

This was good news, except for the whole church issue. We are trying to find a church, and have thus far been unsuccessful in our efforts, but still, we go every Sunday, to an 11:00 service, and we absolutely did not want to miss any Sundays in Advent. The Man and I discussed this, and discussed MC's medication schedule, and decided that we would get up early, hit the tree farm before church, pick up MC's prescription (that wouldn't be ready until some time after 10), drop it and the tree off at the house, then head for church. This would be perfect, I could already picture in my mind's eye, with Small skipping merrily through the rows of perfect trees, dressed in her beautiful Sunday dress and coat.

We are incurable optimists.

Why did we think that, in a town still unfamiliar to us, we were going to be able to navigate all ends of it successfully on a snowy morning, in time to make it to church?

We started out late, as is our custom, and headed down the highway. Unfortunately, we missed a very valuable part of the directions, and did not realize that there was a point at which we'd be forced to choose between going East or West on another highway before we reached our destination. As we needed to head neither East nor West, but rather North, we were flummoxed, and chose incorrectly. I was on the phone with my sister, who has lived here for years, and she was telling me how to get back on track, when the Man decided he'd found an alternate route, and we'd just take that. (Insert foreboding music here.) Despite my sister's predictions of doom, we headed off, and for about 10 minutes it seemed to be going really well. After that, though, the road that was supposed to take us all the way to our destination suddenly dead-ended. Downtown. Tree farms are not downtown.

I pulled out the map again, and found the way back to where my sister had been pointing us in the first place. Told the Man which exit to take, but as luck would have it, I got distracted by a text from our cell phone company, informing me that they'd taken a double payment from our bank account, and while I was distracted by that, he missed the exit. I looked up to see the next exit approaching, and we made another u-turn.

To our credit, we did not lose our cheerful outlook. We found the road, and were zipping along, Celine Dion caterwauling some overdone holiday tune, Small One asking weird questions from the back seat, ("Why she doesn't sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?" "Why only one reindeer liked Rudolph?"), snow falling more and more heavily... and we passed the farm. It doesn't look like a tree farm, you see, it looks like a long driveway up a hill, with a grove of trees to one side of it. On this particular day, it also featured a man sitting in a truck waiting for some losers who had told him they'd be there a long time before. Two more u-turns, and we finally made it.

And there were the Virginia pines. We didn't know this at the time, but we don't like Virginia pines. We are city dwellers, the kind of people who are inordinately proud when their basil doesn't die, or they can identify a rhododendron. We don't know a schefflera from a pittosporum, nor did we, before Sunday, know a Frazier fir from a Virginia pine. Here's a quick lesson for the rest of you:

Frazier firs

Virginia Pines

Note, Virginia pines do NOT look like Christmas trees, at least in our definition of the word. But at that point, we were running late, we'd made the nice man sit in his truck for an hour, and we were NOT leaving without a tree.

Things you should know about the tree farm man. 1)He is very nice. 2)He is a little frenetic. 3)He could be Alan Arkin's voice twin. Seriously. He looks a little bit like him too, but I'm telling you, if you ever want to do a fake Little Miss Sunshine voiceover, let me know, I'll give you this guy's number, because he is a ringer. We'll call him "Fake Alan Arkin" from here on out.

We get out of the car, it's freezing, it's snowing, and the Man has a look on his face that says "wait, these aren't Christmas trees", so Fake Alan Arkin starts virtually tapdancing around him, giving the Virginia pine spiel. I can only imagine he gets that look a lot, because he had several points ready, such as "these trees smell great" (true) and "Frazier firs aren't native to Tennessee, so these are the seedlings the state gives me." (Did not know that.) We wandered around, FAA went back to sit in his truck, and the Man and Small One each picked out a tree. Small's pick was only about 2 feet taller than she is, and looked pretty much like Charlie Brown's tree (I think Charlie Brown's tree WAS a Virginia pine, in fact), but her second choice was the one her dad found. FAA got out of the truck and chopped it down with a chainsaw (nothing like the sound of a chainsaw to create warm holiday memories) and asked us how long we actually wanted it to be.

The Man estimated that we have nine foot ceilings. For future reference, we don't. We probably have eight foot ceilings, but we did, in fact, come home with at least a nine foot tree. Strapping it to the roof proved to be an arduous task, and one for which Fake Alan Arkin did not want ANY help. He scurried around the minivan like a mad man, looping twine here and there, shooing the Man back into the car every time he got out to help, shouting over the wind that he was SURE it would stay on. By the time he was done, the tree was tied on, but not really to the roof- fully 1/3 of it was hanging off the back. Miraculously, it DID stay on, through the long drive down the highway, Because seriously, we were out of time for any other pursuits. I texted MC and told her to drink the rest of the medicine in the bottle (relax, it was only about 1/6th of a normal dose, but I figured there'd also be a kick from the placebo affect of drinking the whole bottle) and hang tight.

We eventually made it to a little less than half the church service, and Middle Child lived long enough for us to make it home with the new prescription, but as we were driving away from the tree farm, dashing through the snow in our beat up minivan, Small exclaimed from the back seat, "I'm so excited that we got to pick the perfect Christmas tree in the WORLD!"

So here it is, folks, the perfect Christmas tree in the world:

I think my prayer for the rest of the season will be to see it all through the eyes of a child.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Being the Mama

So, of course, the holiday season is upon us, with all that it entails. As luck would have it, Middle Child ended up needing to have her tonsils and adenoids removed right now, just at the beginning of this already hectic season. The surgery was Monday, now it's Friday night, and she's a miserable heap of teenager, complete with fever and throwing up.

I feel really sorry for her. But I feel a little bit sorry for ME, too. I'm not a natural nurse. I'm empathetic, to be sure, but there comes a point where I have NO idea what to do or say. She calls me, and she's in the tub, crying, and she's just barfed, and I have no idea how I can improve this situation in any way. I mean, here's what I know about nausea: it helps to drink ginger ale and eat saltines, neither of which she can do right now. Therefore, once I've given her the anti-nausea medication they prescribed, I'm out of ideas.

I hate being out of ideas, too. I pride myself on being resourceful, and it rankles me that she's in need and there's not really anything to be done. I get frustrated.

Today I was extremely frustrated. I had every intention of having a really productive day, but got hung up on a research project last night, that ended up pushing my "real" work back until really late, and I ended up with close to no sleep before I had to get up again and help MC with her pain meds. The Man let me sleep in, which was wonderful of him, but it also meant I started the day behind schedule.

I was trying to play catch up while my internet lagged, Small One was needy, and MC was weeping in pain.  The phone rang, and just as I answered it I heard a door slam downstairs. Stepping into the hallway to make sure Small hadn't left the building, I discovered that MC had decided to take a bath, and had somehow sloshed enough water onto the floor to create a lovely babbling brook through the upstairs (carpeted) hallway and into Small's room.

When I got off the phone, I cleaned the carpet, found Small, (she was in the downstairs bathroom crying because I hadn't heard her calling me while I was on the phone), wrestled the internet some more, and by that time I was out of sorts, and my morning had slipped away. I needed to shower, I had errands to run, the house was chaotic, both girls were crying, and I was fussing at people. I took a breath and said a little prayer, for calm.

In that moment, it dawned on me. I remembered a conversation I had with a dear friend, maybe a year ago, and she said this brilliant thing: "the mother sets the emotional tone of the house". It was like someone turned on the light for me. I looked at Small, and said, with a new found calm, "Come on, Sweets, let's go get some lunch!" I settled her at the table with a cream cheese and date sandwich and a glass of milk, then ran upstairs to check on MC. Assured that I'd done all I could to help her, I returned to the kitchen, where I sat looking through a cookbook and discussing with Small One, in a calm, quiet voice, which cookies we should make for Christmas presents. Once she was finished, I sent her into her room to pick out some books, and I hopped in the shower. By the time I got out, she was ready to settle down for some reading and snuggle time.

It was amazing. The minute I decided to change the tone, it changed. The house was still a wreck, MC was still miserable, Small was still over tired, but no one was freaking out about it any more. Everything was calm. The girls napped, I took care of business, and when they woke up, I gave MC her medicine, packed Small into the car, ran my errands, came home, made dinner, and baked cookies. It wasn't an early night, but it was ok, because it's Friday.

I have to remember this. There is this choice, and I often make the wrong choice, because I'm not paying enough attention, or I'm tired, and not thinking clearly, but the choice is whether life happens to you, or whether you live it. I have to remember that being the Mama doesn't just mean I'm responsible for the well being of these people, for their food, clothing and shelter, but to teach them how to live their lives. And I do remember that, on the big picture things, but I need to remember it on the day to day things too, because teaching them how to live life includes teaching them how to set their own tone. And what better time to choose peace and calm than during the season of Advent?

"Let everything about you breathe the calm and peace of the soul." ~Paul Gauguin

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joie de Vivre

I've been on a blogging hiatus, of late, because life has overwhelmed me. Moving, helping my mother move, trying to get adjusted to a new town, trying to help my offspring adjust to the changes... it's been a hectic couple of months.

It's easy, I think, to get bogged down. I, for one, am very guilty of missing the forest because of all these troublesome trees. That is when I'm the most grateful for the presence of a preschooler in my life.

The view from about three feet above the floor is a lovely one, full of optimism and promise. Everything is very straightforward, people are either good guys or bad guys, and the people in charge always have a plan- and it's usually a darned good one, too! If you have an available preschooler, and can take the time to actually explore his or her point of view, you'll be amazed at how uplifting it is.

The flat out JOY is the best part. Joy over everything... joy over nothing. The scruffy, smelly, sometimes ill-behaved dog becomes "the goodest goodest dog in the whole wide world!", and inspires an impromptu songwriting session. A visit from Grandmama leads to whooping cheers of "I'm so excited!!!!! I'm so excited!!!!!", even if she just saw her grandmother yesterday. Every birthday gift is greeted with open mouthed wonder.

Small One is not unique in this gift of joy.When she was a small person, MC was exactly this exuberant. We called her Tigger. (Now we sometimes call her Darth Tigger, but that's another story, for another day.) I look at her sometimes and feel a great tenderness for the little girl who used to be so inordinately happy over the tiniest things, and I hope she still retains some of that in her soul. I honestly can't imagine how the parents without preschoolers make it through the surly teenage years.

I want what Small has. I try to remember to share in her joy, because that kind of ebullience feels wonderful! I can't even explain how easily a bad day is lightened after I've joined one of Small's games or jokes.  It's even scriptural- "the joy of the Lord is your strength", "rejoice always".  Remembering to take a minute and just appreciate the world the way she does, immerse myself in the joy of it, I will confirm, I do feel renewed and strengthened.

Yesterday, I was under the weather, trying to fight off a cold, feeling pretty low. I decided the best course of action would be to stay home and try to rest as much as possible, so I put a movie on for Small, and snoozed while she watched it. Afterward, we practiced letters on an erasable book she has, and then she played in her room by herself for awhile, with me happily listening in on the conversations between bears, the songs being sung, the fun being had. In a little while, I suggested we go downstairs for a snack, and some coloring.

You would have thought I'd invited her to the circus, and told her she'd get to ride the ponies and fly with the acrobats. She began jumping up and down, waving her arms in  giant circles, yelling "Yaay Yaay Yaay! I'm SO excited!!!" I told her we could have apple slices and cheese. Blissed out hysteria ensued. She asked if she could have a banana, too. When I answered in the affirmative, the crowd went wild. (And by "the crowd", I mean Small, her teddy bear, and the always eager to participate dog. You know, my homies.)

As we entered the kitchen, Small still whooping, cheering, and waving her arms, I noticed we were out of bananas. I turned to her and said "Uh oh, no bananas.". She froze in her tracks, arms still up in the air. She didn't move a muscle as she asked, "Can we still have apples? And cheese? And color?" I said yes, and she went back to her previous routine. "Yaay yaay yaay! I'm so excited! I'm so excited!"

When faced with the little disappointments of life, I want what she's having. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween and Gender Bending

Almost two months of absence, and now I'm back and ready to be controversial. I joke, but seriously, I'm going a little deeper tonight than my usual lighthearted silly business.

Through the magic of facebook, this blog was brought to my attention earlier this evening. In it, a mom describes going to the preschool Halloween party with her son, who was dressed as a girl, specifically Daphne from Scooby Doo. The costume was her son's idea, he's five years old, and the other moms were mortified. The blog writer is troubled by this reaction from the grown ups, and asserts in her post that she doesn't think dressing up as a girl when he's five means her son will grow up to be gay, but if he does, she's ok with that too.

This blog, my blog, is not going to address homosexuality. I, personally, have a pretty firm "don't ask don't tell" policy that applies to people of all gender and orientation equally. I do not want to know what you do behind closed doors, nor with whom you are doing it, so please do not share, unless you are in my top tier of girlfriends, in which case you know who you are, and I still don't want detail without a disclaimer beforehand. I, in turn, will not tell you what I'm doing, unless, again, you are in that top two percent of besties, and you ask. So no, I'm not going to state my positions on anyone's sexuality.

What I am against, though, is crazy madness. When did the world become so bizarre? When did it become normal to speculate on the sexuality of a five year old? Five year olds are learning their letters and numbers, they're learning how to navigate basic social customs like not picking their noses in public... I hardly think this is the time to wonder about their sexuality.

My Small One was a cupcake for Halloween, which is, admittedly, girly.

In the grand scheme of things, though, she's not at the top of the girlymeter. Her favorite color is red, for example. While this doesn't seem to have a gender slant- (who doesn't like red?)- you'd be surprised at how difficult it is to find red toys, decor, even bikes that are made for little girls. If there's a primary colored bedspread, it's much more likely to have trucks and footballs on it than anything gender neutral. Go to the "girl" section of any toy department, and you'll be accosted by a wave of pink and purple. (And don't get me started on the concept of gender divided toy stores, because we'll be here all night.)

When given the choice to be a princess or a fire chief for her preschool party, she chose fire chief. The Man insists that this was not a non-girly choice, because girls can be fire chiefs if they choose, but come on. This is a traditionally male costume.

I don't care, though. Sometimes she feels like being a fire chief. Sometimes she feels like being a princess, or a cupcake, or a fairy. Sometimes, she apparently feels like being a fire fighting fish on the way to the Emerald City. Who am I to judge?

My brothers dressed up as girls. (Well, ok, we dressed them up. Potato Po-tah-to.) My youngest brother once went for portraits with his nails painted a tasteful coral. (Mom forgot about the nails when she was getting him ready.) Both of my brothers are flamingly straight. Happily married with beautiful wives. No bi-curious tendencies, to my knowledge, but feel free to suggest it to one of them, if you'd enjoy a knuckle sandwich. (Just kidding about that, they're pretty peaceable guys.)

My Eldest played with dolls, dollhouses, tea sets- whatever he wanted to play with. Middle Child played with trucks and skateboards, in addition to dolls and fairy wings, and she once went to a little girl's costume party as a gorilla. They've both expressed a healthy interest in the opposite sex. Small One has a Disney Princess lunchbox full of Matchbox cars, and she doesn't know the difference between boys and girls yet. As far as she's concerned, they're all just "friends".

People decry intolerance and lack of acceptance. Others decry the sort of political correctness where we're obliged to accept everything without question. I have a different theory, though, as to why the world's gone crazy. I don't think the issue is with acceptance. I think the issue is with imagination.

Small One is probably not going to grow up to be a firefighter, or a fairy, or a princess. I am 99% sure she is not going to grow up to be a firefighting fish. But right now, her mind is open to all those possibilities, through the glory of her imagination. Eldest didn't grow up to throw tea parties, but he has grown into exactly the sort of sensitive man that I'll be proud to see become a daddy.

My brother did not grow up to be curly-haired orphan, running away from the orphanage in a flowered dress, curls peeping winningly from under a kerchief. He did, however, grow up to be a creative, intelligent man with a vivid imagination. Our mother believed in the power of imagination, and we were encouraged to make our own fun, invent our own fairy tales. Television and video games were limited, reading was encouraged, and plenty of time was afforded for free play.

Our society is very technologically oriented. The media is everywhere. Preschool children are becoming consumers, wanting the things the commercials tell them they should want, playing games increasingly based on specific characters and marketing devices. True imagination becomes a precious commodity.

High schoolers are so inundated with the "it's ok to be gay" message that it seems to be a conclusion that gets jumped to far too often. Certainly it is not ok to bully gay students, or ostracize someone because of their sexuality, or taunt someone who seems different. But assuming that someone is gay because of their taste in music or clothing, or deciding you're "bi" because you find a friend of the same sex attractive seems to me indicative of a serious lack of imagination.

It bothers me, in many different arenas. It bothers me that if a boy likes musical theater, his sexuality is immediately questioned. It bothers me that if I voice a political opinion, I'm labeled immediately as being a member of a group. I have a lot of opinions, and they don't fit into neat little boxes. It bothers me that we, as a society, seem to want to label everything and put it on a shelf. It bothers me to think that children are growing up so inundated with images and information that they seem, more and more, to be losing the ability to think for themselves. Everyone knows what the "right" answer is, if you want to be considered a reasonable person by this group or that group.

A hundred and fifty years ago, boys wore dresses in early childhood. They grew up to be, for the most part, manly men. Supporters of families. Pillars of society. But then again, that was before we had television and video games and movies to let us know how we were supposed to dress, and behave, and think, and vote. That was back in the day, when people were expected to have imagination. Those people, with their imaginations, created the world in which we live today. I honestly think, if there is not a movement to bring imagination back as something of value, the progress we'll make in the next hundred and fifty years will pale in comparison.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remember Me?

I used to blog around here, from time to time, until I had to pack a 4 bedroom house with a full basement, and move 4 hours away. Too busy to sleep, let alone blog. But today, I've slept. I'm taking a mini-vacation, back to the old home town, staying with my darling cousin so I can tie up ends left loose by the move, but also so that I can take an extended breather. I decided to take this opportunity, 9 days before Small One's fourth birthday, to take photos of her, in the garden where we've taken her birthday photos for the past three birthdays. If you'll recall, I bought a dress in a size I thought she could wear for her first two birthdays. I was surprised to find that it still fit on the third birthday, and even more surprised to learn that it still does!

This calls for a retrospective.

One year old:

Two years old:

Three years old:


I realize it might seem like cheating, to post a bunch of photos on my first blog after a long absence, but that's all I've got for now. I'll be back soon, I promise.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Accidental Photographer

I have a new phone, and for some reason, it is remarkably easy to accidentally take pictures with it. Obviously, I usually delete those, but some of them I actually like. Here's one from a recent trip to Trader Joe's:

I love it, and I can't even tell you why, really. It just makes me smile.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Photo Friday- Law Enforcement Shrinking Edition

Passed this sign during my travels last week:

Seriously, how do they do it? Take a little off the top? Or do they just relieve them of 20% of their responsibility? Or did they eliminate 20% of their security force? Camino Real, now with 20% less law enforcement! Let the shenanigans begin!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How does my garden grow?

No cockle shells, I'll admit, but I have to say, I think it's doing pretty well, all things considered. Of course, the things I'm considering are the fact that I'm gardening-impaired and my primary gardening assistant is three years old. But all in all, I'd say we're doing ok. I thought I'd show my faithful readers some garden highlights...

Here's my lovely assistant tending our vegetables and herbs:

These are my impatiens, which make me very happy indeed, as I grew them from three tiny little starter pots:

This is the impressive catnip, more than enough to satisfy the nip-head in residence:
Our tomato plant is pretty productive:

My basil is a thing of beauty, towering over its rosemary friend:

And the plant of whom I am the most proud, for its sheer resilience...

My geranium!

Yes, folks, that is the dear little geranium that got hacked to a nub by an overeager weed-eater. If it can come back, there's hope in all situations.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Simple Pleasures

I think Bobby McFerrin said it best when he said "Bedoodle doo I'm so happy hah bedoo uh so haaappy-simple pleasures are the best!". Or something like that.

I'm in a dither these days, my brain running in circles at a dizzying clip, while I sort and pack and give things away. When I'm not doing that, I'm online, trying to learn more about the town to which I'm moving, or I'm figuring out our budget, or trying to remember the zillion things I need to do before I leave town. Basically, the move is consuming my every thought and action.

Today, though, I decided to put it all aside for a few hours and just be in the moment, in this beautiful summer day, with my Small One. We worked in the garden. We put together puzzles and played a board game. Lunch was peanut butter and the strawberry-rhubarb jelly we purchased at the strawberry festival last month, and fresh watermelon. Is there anything more indicative of summer than a game of Sorry followed up by watermelon?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Crime Scene Photos

Small One has a limited collection of Barbie dolls… only princesses, with one Handsome Prince thrown in by my delighted cousin, whose poor daughter always had to let Cinderella date Ken. These dolls live in a pastel briefcase when they are not in use, but today I could not locate the Prince when it came time to put everyone away.

But wait… what’s this?


Oh no!


I’m sorry to say, I suspect foul play. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer Sunday

Drove out to my cousin's today, forty five minutes from my house, and visited with family and old friends. Small One was a little territorial, because there was a new little person visiting her auntie's house, and she was not about to be displaced.

The new little person was a charmer, though, and the day was sunny but not too hot, with intermittent drops of rain to cool it further. We ate and talked and were strummed, songs were sung. Small One played in the sprinkler, and picked flowers, and by the end of the day her braids had come loose, her feet were bare, and she was running joyfully through the green grass, a wild creature of summer. Watching her reminded me of other summers, years ago, when my older two ran with abandon and fell into the green grass, laughing.

These little moments, these small pictures in my mind, that's what I carry with me of my children's childhoods. I hope that these are the things they carry as well, into adulthood with them, and into the hearts of their own children.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Date Night Fail

The Man, as I've mentioned, is commuting between states. For the next two months or so, he'll be driving four hours on Friday to come home, four hours on Sunday to go back Knowing he was going to be home this weekend, I decided to plan a date night, and bartered friend-time permission for Middle Child in exchange for a long night of babysitting.

It was to be a long night, because first, a new local restaurant was having a sneak peek of their menu before their grand opening on Tuesday. Those of us who are on the email list for the owner of the restaurant got an invitation to come and eat appetizers and drink wine, in the cool of the evening, until 8pm. The Man and I planned to attend that event, and then proceed to the drive in, for a double feature.

The first blunder of the evening was mine, to be sure. Since last September, I've suffered with tinnitus- persistent ringing in the ears. No one has had much positive to say to me about it, though I've seen an ear nose and throat guy and a neurologist. The neurologist gave me a prescription, though, for something that really helps, but I never take it because it makes me sleepy. In the afternoon, getting ready for date night, struggling to remember why I wasn't taking it, I thought that being sleepy wasn't so bad because my Small was napping. I'd just take the pill and then take a nap, and wake up refreshed and with quieter ear noise! Ta dah! No, not so much. I forgot that "sleepy" doesn't cover it- it puts me into a coma like Sleeping Beauty state that lasts a good 18 hours. I fell asleep at 2pm and at 6 the Man brought me coffee and I dragged my still mostly asleep bones into the living area of the house.

Middle Child was grumpy. She'd planned to meet a friend for lunch, and then have that friend spend the night, and help her with the babysitting. So far, no friend. That being the case, the Man and I reworked our date night plans, and took Small with us to the tasting event. (We invited MC as well, but she declined.) Arriving at the tasting, we declined the free wine- in my case, because I was still struggling with the effects of the ear pill and couldn't get my eyes all the way open. We then played with a three year old while waiters occasionally brought us things like salmon tartare and pimiento cheese on toast- not really ideal. But, no matter! There's still the drive in, right?

We hurried home from the tasting, still starving, and situated Small at the table with some spaghetti. MC was still sullenly awaiting the arrival of her friend, and I must say, I was nervous when we left for the movies. After garnering a promise of attention to her sister from MC, we heated up dinner for ourselves, kissed the girls, and ran back out the door.

Did I mention the sleepiness brought on by those pills? In case you're not yet clear on how bad the effect is, let me just say, I fell asleep at the drive in. During Iron Man. During an ACTION SEQUENCE. The man kept waking me up, and I kept apologizing, because I really wanted to hang out with him, and I really wanted to see the movie! Alas, midway through the film, MC called. Small had vomited in her bed, and our assistance was needed.

We bargained for a rain check, and raced home to clean vomit off of sheets and floor- MC had focused solely on her sister, who was playing happily in the tub when we got there. No friend had arrived for MC, so she went to bed, discouraged.

We finally got the whole situation resolved at 11:30 pm, and settled in to watch a dvd, which is the same time that I wrote this blog entry. Deciding at 11:50 that I was too sleepy to proofread, I told the Man that I was going to snooze for 20 minutes, and he told me he'd pause the dvd player- it was 6:30 am when I awoke to realize his laptop and mine still between us on the bed, with his hands, in fact, still on the keys. The laundry from last night's debacle, still needing to be folded, still on the foot of the bed, both of us sleeping awkwardly positioned around all of that. Are we having fun yet?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Highlight of my Night

I didn't feel well today. I woke up nauseous, with the kind of vertigo that I've ever only experienced a time or two, after a night of drinking. No drinking last night or today, just the disorienting feeling that the room was alternately spinning in circles and rolling beneath me as though we were at sea.

I looked it up on This is not really the best choice, I realize, and it's probably better never to google your own health issues, but I was curious as to what I should do. There was a checklist on the vertigo page, and two thirds of the way through it, it asked "do you have ringing in the ears (tinnitus)?" Well, yeah. I've had that for the better part of a year, to the bewilderment of the ent, general practitioner, and neurologist. So I checked "yes", and WebMd immediately became very closed mouthed and told me I needed to get to a doctor immediately. Sigh. So I did what any sensible person would do- I took a Dramamine and went to sleep.

Feeling a little better this evening, I bustled about, packing boxes, cooking, cleaning... the Man was due home tonight from his new out of state commute, and I was letting Small stay up to see him, so it was very hectic. Small was "helping" me by packing things she wanted to keep into boxes that were going away, and similar unhelpful tasks. But then something happened that made me laugh out loud.

I was loading the dishwasher, but a box had somehow migrated under the dishwasher door, so I could not get it all the way open. I nudged the box with my foot, knowing it hadn't yet been packed, but it was heavier than I thought, or perhaps wedged, so I gave it a slightly firmer kick. At that point, my foot slipped inside the open end of the box, and the box hissed really loudly!

My laughter did nothing to assuage the offended feelings of my feline, I assure you. The disdainful glare he gave me as he exited the box and shook the dust off of his tail was one of the better moments of my day. Sorry, kitty!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Song Choice and a Personal Trainer

As I mentioned, I went out last night. Arriving home, I became engrossed in research regarding my impending relocation, and did not go to bed at a reasonable hour. My little dog, not known for his timing, began barking his crazy head off at midnight- presumably because an errant bunny was considering breaking into our home to steal the television?

I went in and silenced the dog (not with a silencer, just by asking nicely), and locked up the house, but still didn't make it to bed for quite a while. At 3:30, he started up again, and again at 5. At 5, when I went to handle it, I realized I was humming. It took me a minute to remember the words to the old tune, but when I did, it made me giggle:

"Whisper a prayer in the morning
Whisper a prayer at noon
Whisper a prayer in the evening
To keep your heart in tune..."

I'm certain that's what the dear canine was doing- whispering a prayer.

To her credit, Small One slept in until 8:22 am. I coerced her into watching public television for a little while so I could steal a few more minutes, not even caring that my doze was peppered with visions of Dinosaur Train and Curious George. After a brief while, though, Small One shook me back awake.

"Mommy!" she said, "You needa wake UP! I think the gym is open, and the kids' club!"

Ah, it's good to have a live-in personal trainer- even one that's three feet tall.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Girls' Night

It's been hectic around my house lately, with a lot of changes and a lot of traveling. Tonight, though, I had the opportunity to spend some time with some of my girlfriends. I have to say, it was a wonderful time of refreshment for me, and really reminded me of how much I've missed some of these wonderful women.

I was never really much of a girlfriend type of girl. I've always been the type to prefer the simplicity of male company, and at any given time I've really only had one or two truly close girlfriends. I was never in a sorority, never understood the appeal of groups like that, always had likeminded girlfriends who considered themselves "more a guy's girl than a girly girl".

Now, though, I'm ridiculously wealthy when it comes to female friends. I have a lovely Sunday school class, full of wonderful, warm, funny women. I have wonderful older women who have been mentors as well as friends. I have a sister, cousins, sisters in law, all of whom I love with my whole heart. And I have an eclectic mix of girlfriends, including the crew that came out tonight. Some of them knew each other quite well, some met tonight, some I've known for my whole life, some only a few months, but everyone chatted, laughed, and generally spent two and half hours enjoying each others company. It was such a blessing to me, I felt like I had a giant smile on my face the whole time, and it wasn't just the pomegranate martinis doing it.

I did have a funny moment early in the day, though. I received an email inviting me to enter a contest with a local mom's group, to win tickets to the sneak preview of Sex and the City 2. I told my girlfriends this tonight, and they all responded with excitement- until I said that I didn't enter the contest because the tickets were only good tonight, and I knew we already had this planned dinner. They looked disappointed for a moment, but then laughed just as I had earlier, when I pointed out that it seemed imminently better to actually go out, with my actual girlfriends, for real cocktails, rather than sit in a theater and live vicariously through fictional girlfriends. After we finished laughing, we ordered another round. Much better than a movie. Thanks, girls.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Great Outdoors

I may have mentioned this a time or two before, but I am an indoor girl. You know, there are indoor cats and outdoor cats? Yes, well, I am the kind of girl who much prefers a saucer of cream and a velvet cushion to chasing mice through the tall grass. I'm not a big camper, sunbathing literally makes me break out in a rash, I don't care for outdoor sports- (who am I kidding, I don't care for sports in general)- I've never understood the charm of working in the garden, and I loathe yard work.

Last year, with the help of an outdoorsy friend, I cultivated a successful container garden. This year, buoyed by last year's triumphant basil and tomato-ing, I've planted another one. I was even bold enough to go one step further and purchase impatiens and a geranium! The impatiens are thriving, (no surprise there, they're hard to kill), my vegetables seem to be doing well, the catnip is out of control, the basil is gorgeous, but I must admit, the poor little geranium has been looking a little bit peaked. I was at my cousin's house today, admiring her gorgeous garden, and I complimented her geraniums, mentioning my sad little specimen. She told me you really have to cut the geraniums back for them to do well.

Returning home, I was thrilled to see that the yard guys had come. Yard men are a new addition to my world. We are not the sort of people who typically hire help, but since the Man is out of town, leaving me in charge of the yard as well as the house, I asked for help from my dear friend and neighbor, from Northstar Christmas Trees, who is a landscape designer during the non-Christmas-tree months. He was on his way out of town, but assured me he'd "hook me up" and let his guys know what needed to be done- and wow! My yard has never looked so fantastic! It's mown, edged, blown, and probably other words I don't know since I'm yardwork impaired, but trust me, it's a miracle to behold.

I was so excited, I went to check out the similarly beautified back yard, and was inspired to tend to my little garden. I filled the watering can for Small One, and turned my hose towards the little geranium...gasp! The dear little geranium has been hacked down to a nub. Uh oh, yard guys. On the other hand, my cousin did say they needed to be cut back. Mission accomplished!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Boxy Mcboxerton

My home is becoming a little overwhelmed with boxes right now, which is fitting, because I'm a little overwhelmed with the thought of packing all those boxes. It all makes sense.

Boxes, good boxes, are pricey. Yes, I know you can get boxes from the liquor store or the grocery store, but the ones I really want to use are the real truly live packing boxes, the ones that were meant to be used in a move, and have never held a head of lettuce or a bottle of whiskey.

Luckily for me, I know about Freecycle. In case any of you are not aware,Freecycle is one of the greatest concepts known to modern man, a group people join to promote reuse and save things from the landfills. Here's how it works- people who want to get rid of things post a note offering them up to other "freecyclers" for (and this is the key) free. Contrariwise (as the Tweedles would say), people who need things can post a "wanted" note, and other freecyclers volunteer to give them those things!

It's a genius system. We've gotten rid of appliances, baby toys, books, and other unwanted brick-a-brack, and received good and useful things like, in this case, boxes! Boxes aplenty! Wonderful, generous freecyclers have come forward, and I even scored a wardrobe box. Amazing, but true!

One box, though, has me a little bit bewildered. On the side of it, it reads "Mini Puppies- best by 2/26/2011". I don't even want to speculate on the origin of that box.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Doing this NaBloPoMo challenge is exactly that- a challenge. It doesn't sound so hard to blog every day for thirty days in a row, but some days it's more difficult than you would imagine. Let's face it, I'm just seriously not that interesting! Sometimes I do nothing notable for an entire day.

Today, for example, was an extremely lazy Sunday. The Man was preparing to leave for his new job, planning to return later in the week. He didn't really want to go to church, preferring to hang out and spend some quality time before the routine changes. So we slept in, ate French toast, played, and just generally lounged about.

We did pick up some boxes and packing tape, so I guess that's an accomplishment. But perhaps more noteworthy, I got my three year old to not only eat kale, but to declare it "super yummy!". That, I'd say, is the most satisfying accomplishment of my day.

Sometimes I'm easily satisfied.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Giving it Up

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we're contemplating a move. The Man has been through all the meetings and negotiations, and it now comes down to a decision on our part. Do we stay or do we go?

I'm not really an obsessive person. I'm actually pretty relaxed, in most circumstances. But when I have a big decision to make, I can't stop going over and over it in my mind. I think about it, I pray about it, I make lists of the pros and cons, I talk it over with friends and family...I blog about it.

Over the past few days, I started to have the nagging feeling that I was getting too tangled up in emotions to think clearly, and too circular in my thoughts to hear any answers to my prayers. I started redirecting my prayers, turning them from pleas for a sign on the decision to a request for clarity on what's me and what's more than me. And suddenly, I had an answer:

"The decision belongs to your husband."

Huh? Yeah, ok, but we're partners. I'm hardly a strident feminist, but there is a certain equality that I treasure in our marriage...

"The decision belongs to your husband. You chose him as your husband, let him make this choice."

Ok, that definitely did NOT come from my own brain. My brain is the one that almost lost my last baby because I was so convinced that the world would stop revolving if I slowed down at all, stopped making all the decisions, stopped trying to save everyone.

I paused to consider what I was hearing. I allowed myself to become quiet, in my person, and in my mind. And the interesting thing is, I felt a sudden peace about the situation, once I made the choice to allow the decision to belong to the Man. It was liberating.

And here's another interesting thing. My typically indecisive husband thanked me for stepping back, and he quietly but firmly made a decision. We will be moving. Whether it's long term remains to be seen, and I've requested that he keep an ear to the ground for opportunities here in our beloved home, but for now, the decision has been made.

Having given up that piece of control, I'm really at peace with the whole thing.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I am not tall. This is actually an understatement, as I am five foot two inches, taller than very few of my friends and acquaintances, short by any standards. When my son was a preteen and got excited about outgrowing me, I had to burst his bubble and point out that, even for a twelve year old, this is not such an accomplishment.

Most household tasks I handle quite well, and don't consider my height an impediment. But this year, I decided to grow my tomatoes upside down- (all the cool kids are doing it, it seems)- in one of those containers meant to be hung from the eaves. This was a dilemma for me, not only because my height makes all things eaves-related daunting,
but also because the package also specified "full sun", and our eaves are rather shady. I thought I'd solved the problem brilliantly when I purchased a shepherd's hook for the garden, but while I was out of town, it became apparent to the Man that the shepherd's hook was no match for the heavy planter. His solution was to hang it on the hammock.

I argued that this was not a good spot, because it was too low to the ground, and I encouraged him to hang it from the eaves by the front door, which was my mother's suggestion. He did not. This was great news for the bunnies who live in our yard, because it was directly within their reach, which was, of course, bad news for the tomato plant.

The delighted little bunnies chewed it down to a nub, at which point the Man acquiesced, and decided it was time to move it to the front eaves. I was doubtful that it would make any difference at this point, as it was literally a sad little leafless green nub, but today when I went to water it, I saw this:

I don't know if you can see it, but there's a sprout on the bottom, a little green leaf midway up, and, right where it meets the container, a new little shoot has sprouted it's own leaves and grown about an inch long.

That, in my opinion, is what hope looks like.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer Start

The definition of a cockeyed optimist, in my opinion, is someone who knows full well that she has a preschooler, and yet tells people she will leave her house in ten minutes. I'm not sure why I always do that, overestimate my own ability to be a superhero, but I always truly believe in what I'm saying, even though I realize that ultimately it makes me look like a flake. I'm not a flake, I just overextend.

We did eventually get to where we were going today, and where we were going was a playdate with our dear friends. Small One was excited to get into her bathing suit for the first time this year, and who can blame her? These two girls are awfully cute in their swimwear.

They were shooting water rockets and playing with the hose, and there was initial trepidation- they kept saying "this water is too wet!" I found this funny, because isn't that pretty much the definition of water? They got over it, though, because who can resist the allure of playing with your own personal rainbow?
It gave me a general sense of well being, watching these sweet girls play. I love Summer almost as much as I love Spring, though for different reasons. I love Spring because of the lush beauty of it, the aspect of rebirth after the Winter, the gorgeous bursts of color everywhere you turn. I love Summer for the laziness. Summer is Spring's more laid back sibling, shaking its head over Spring's excesses, from the vantage point of a hammock in the shade. As with every hammock lying creature, Summer is burnt out after a few months, but these first days are wonderful, to be sure.

Middle Child finishes the school year tomorrow, and there are many changes coming in our lives very soon. But for now, I just really want this Summer, the lazy days, a time to kick back with my children and enjoy the people they are. I'm grateful for today, for just that sort of opportunity, to start the Summer the right way, with friends and water and ice cream and rainbows. Here's to many more days like this!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Today marked two momentous gatherings. The first was a meeting my dear Man attended, in which he was more or less offered a job in another town, four hours from here. (I say more or less because there's an additional meeting in the morning, to wrap up the details.)

The gathering of which I was a part was the final class of the year for my Small One. I don't think she quite understands that preschool is over for the year, and I don't think her classmates realize it either, but I could tell from their faces that it was a bittersweet moment for many of the moms. Childhood goes too quickly, and every milestone is just another reminder that they're moving on to the next age, the next phase. It was a great time, this morning, and the teachers gave us these wonderful keepsake books chronicling our children's first year of preschool, but even looking through the books pointed out how far they've come in a year, and how quickly they're continuing to go.

It was particularly emotional for me, though, because if the Man takes this job (and he really should, it's a significant pay raise), my Small will not be back at that school next year. As much as I'm trying to keep a stiff upper lip about it, for the good of the family, that makes me incredibly sad. I really wanted her to stay at that school until kindergarten. The school is part of our church, and we've been at that church, and in this town, for thirteen years. I'm sure that there will be many positive things about moving away, but I'm not in a place to see them yet. My friends are here, my community is here, my life is here.

My bank is here. Small One and I stopped by the bank today after the preschool party. We bank at a local bank, with free popcorn in the lobby and tellers that have doted on Small since she was much smaller. We opened our account the month after we got married, and everyone there knows us by name. I mentioned to one of the women there today that this move may be in the works, and she shook her head adamantly. "You go on and move then," she said, "because I know the money's good, but the baby stays HERE, with us. Don't worry, Mama, we'll take good care of her!"

We laughed, and I made the usual comment, about not being able to manage without her. But it makes me wonder- how will I find another such bank?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jiggety Jig

I'm home again, and happy to be here. It seems like I've been perpetually on the road lately, and I feel like I'm behind in every area of my life- stalled out by too much time in other places, not enough attention to my own world. I'm trying to get caught up, but I'm mindful of the fact that I will probably be back on the road within the next couple of weeks, so I feel a real time crunch. I'm trying to arrange time with friends, set up meetings regarding new opportunities, tend to the garden and pets, and clean the house.

Cleaning the house, to be honest, feels a lot like digging to China with a teaspoon. I'll start in the living room, for example, dusting, sweeping, and mopping, move on to the dining room, head to the kitchen, and, feeling a great sense of accomplishment, walk through the living room to put something away, only to find that the fur on the floor is equivalent to the fur I removed ten minutes earlier. In addition, having a teenager and a preschooler in the house assures that for every piece of clutter I put away, two more pieces spring, unbidden, to take its place. It's frustrating, to be sure. I'm scooping away with the spoon, and China is never any closer.

If I'm being truly honest, I will also admit that we have a minor hoarding problem. Well, ok, it may be more than minor, but I promise it's not like the people on A&E, but I do feel a sad sort of kinship with those people when I watch the show. I don't have cable, so I really only watch the show when I'm visiting my sister, and then I'm sitting alone, after she has gone to bed, in horror, unable to look away. The problem with that show is that those people have experts that come and fix them, which I must admit makes me insanely jealous, because I want someone to come hold my hand and say to me "It doesn't matter if your grandmother gave it to you, it's a polka dotted suit, and you won't wear it, so give it away!" Or "No, you actually don't need that broken hair clip or the egg dipping wires from Easter."

No one comes to do that. No one holds my hand. So I have to tell myself that I don't need those egg dippers, when in fact I put up a pretty good argument for keeping them, since most egg dyeing sets only come with one dipper and we all have to share. Wouldn't it be more convenient if we each had our own? The problem is, by next Easter I will have forgotten where I put the wires, even if I've made every attempt to find a logical spot for them.

I'm also, of course, perpetually struggling with my darling Man's idea of recycling. I believe I've mentioned his recycling technique in a previous blog entry, but to recap, he puts things in my way until I can't stand it any longer and a)throw them away, b)figure out somewhere to take them, or c)throw a fit that causes him to put them in his car. I'm not sure that leaving egg cartons and plastic bags in his car is actually considered recycling, but at least they're not in a landfill, right? My soapbox of the day is batteries. We have two junk drawers in the kitchen, and over half of each drawer is full of dead batteries! What am I to do with those? I have no idea. More research is needed, I suppose. For today, I've closed the drawers and I'm pretending they aren't there.

I had a small victory today, though. I'm actually proud enough of it to share, and if any of my dear readers have a hoarding issue like mine, you'll appreciate the enormity of this accomplishment. I threw away my wedding bouquet. Because, after almost ten years of marriage, I have come to terms with the fact that, since I'm keeping the Man, and I have photographic documentation, it's rather pointless to keep a dried out, unattractive, somewhat dusty bouquet. China, here I come!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Silly Sunday Part 2

It's just not a party until my mom teaches a clinic on how to make flatulent sounds with the hands. (Because you never know when you might need to know that!) Poor video quality, but you get the idea.

Silly Sunday

Someone had too much to drink at my birthday celebration. Hint: it wasn't me, and the beverage in question was water.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

No Moon Pies THIS Time

So, today was my birthday, and we're in Nashville. I have some family up here- my aunt and uncle, cousin and her family, and of course, my sister. Additionally, my mom's up here this weekend, because of the Alias show last night, so it was nice timing to have a family celebration for my birthday.

We had my birthday in Nashville last year, too, but that was a little bit different. It was the brainchild of my sweet young sister-in-law, who thought it would be fun to combine my birthday and her bachelorette party, and make a weekend of it. It was a lot of fun, I will say, but involved a lot of drinking, as well. In fact, this afternoon my sister-in-law and I were trying to reassemble the order in which we visited various places that weekend, and were pitifully inept. As the song says, blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol.

This weekend had a different tone. Unlike last year, we did not have bachelorette party girls with us, and, also unlike last year, we did have the Man and Small One in tow- so the venues were tamer, the fun more family friendly. Last night, of course, we went to my sister's show, and during intermission, my aunt asked me if we wanted to go to the Moon Pie festival.
"There's a Moon Pie festival?" I asked, incredulously.
"Sure!" she exclaimed, "Do you know how many flavors of Moon Pie there are? A LOT of flavors. AND they deep fry them. AND there's R.C. Cola."
Well, now, I ask you- who could resist an event like that? So I said that of course I'd want to go, and then I asked what time they were leaving. She said 8:30. I paused for a moment, certain I'd misheard, but no. 8:30. In the MORNING. Because if you don't grab that first Moon Pie before 9, you've wasted your day? Nevertheless, despite my personal "no Moon Pies before noon" philosophy, we decided to go.

Arriving home, I puttered around a bit, then at about 1am thought I might check out the Moon Pie festival online. Turns out, it wasn't this weekend at all! I'm really glad I figured that out, though, because there actually was some sort of biker gathering in the town to which we were headed, and I would have been deeply upset to have gotten up early on my birthday to go see bikers. We regrouped, and decided to go to the Strawberry Festival in Portland, TN.

It was a wonderful day, overall, and I very much enjoyed having a chance to visit with my family. We ate lovely strawberry shortcake- really, top notch, and probably too much of it. And Small One had fun bouncing,


and sliding down various inflatable things.

I learned a few things today, as well, like this:

which I wouldn't have expected, since it was roughly three hundred and eight degrees outside today. I also found out what the Six Million Dollar Man has been up to since 1999:

That's really good, I think- good to see him staying busy. But the biggest revelation at the Strawberry Festival was some of the crafts. I'd been blissfully unaware, until today, that people made hair bows out of bottle caps! Were you aware? I didn't get a picture, but you can get the idea out of this one I found online. You get the idea, though, and I can't figure out where one might wear these unless it is to some sort of pageant. A pageant for the tacky, perhaps.

The biggest surprise to me, though, was the garden hose wreaths. I mean, nothing says "Welcome to Our Home" like a big old garden hose hanging on your front door. Thanks, Strawberry Festival folks, for the idea- I'm going to go put on one my door the instant I can manage it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

More of a Plug than a Post

Tonight we're in Nashville, for a concert by the non-profit group of which my sister is a member. The group is called Alias, and if you are in the Nashville area, and especially if you love classical music you should really try and get a chance to check them out, because it's always a treat! They only have three concerts a year, all to benefit worthy causes, but they will be performing at an event next month, called Arts and Flowers. It's a very exciting time for the group, they just got a grant from the NEA, and they're doing a recording, as well.

Because I'm a proud big sister, I'm skipping the blog tonight, and posting a link to the Alias website. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh, no she DIDN'T

But oh, yes, she did.

I need a vacation. Preferably all expenses paid, to some tropical locale like Maui or Jamaica. I need massages and time to read novels by the pool, and fruity drinks.

It's not going to happen, of course. I'm the Mama, and whoever said woman's work is never done was dead on. Today was one of those days, where I hit the ground running, and ran until Small One and I were both a bit ragged. Truthfully, it was two hours past naptime when I took her to the grocery store, which is a rookie mistake, and I know better, but sometimes, that's just the way it goes.

We walked into the grocery store, and Small began clamoring to ride in one of those ridiculous buggies with the steering wheels on the child's seat, meant to look like a car. Some of those buggies aren't bad, but this particular store has horrible ones, twice as long as a regular cart, and practically impossible to maneuver. Sometimes I'm indulgent, but today I was not. I told her no and firmly but calmly wrestled her into a cart, under the malevolent glare of several old biddies, because of course, Wednesday is when senior citizens get a discount, so they firmly believe they should be the only ones allowed in the store, I think. Silly me, forgetting.

Just as I got her settled and walked through the door, something completely unbelievable and horrifying happened. My Small, who is typically rather mature for her age, leaned over and put her MOUTH on the side of the cart. Mortified, I grabbed her upper arm and pulled her back far enough to remove her mouth from the e coli she was surely about to ingest, and she let out an impressive wail. "Yooou HURT meeeeee!" she howled, and I glared at her and informed her through clenched teeth that much worse things would happen if the noise did not stop. It stopped.

The rest of the grocery trip was uneventful- as uneventful as any grocery trip with a preschooler can be- and I'd almost forgotten the incident when we got to the register. At that point, she began begging for a balloon. Still not in an indulgent mood, I declined to troop back to the floral department for a free one, and further declined to pay for one of the pricey ones at the register.

She was mad. SO mad, that just then, she smiled prettily at the cashier to get her attention, then turned to me and loudly said, "Mommy, why do I have tears in my eyes? Oh, I remember- it's from when you grabbed my arm like THIS and hurt me really really bad." (This was accompanied by her pinching her own arm so hard it turned bright red.) I looked at the cashier, who looked back at me with a face of stone. I smiled at her. Then I fled the premises.

Small knew she was in trouble. Before we even left the store she started apologizing. I told her that if she ever did anything like that again, she would not even know what hit her, she'd be in so much trouble. Then I made her sit in silence on the way home, no music, and none of the fruity snack she'd been promised. She broke the silence occasionally, to tell me how very VERY sorry she is, and what a good girl she'll be in the future. I told her to be good in the present, by zipping her lip.

I love my children, really I do. Children are a gift from God, and I'll keep saying that as a mantra until mine are grown, because what else can I do? He didn't give me a gift receipt. But I need a vacation. Or at least a nap.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scary Creatures

My Small One is relatively fearless. She's very active, reasonably coordinated, not intimidated by bugs or dogs, not shy or fearful or strangers. Sometimes loud noises bother her, and the first time she saw the Wizard of Oz, we had to turn it off the very moment the Wicked Witch made her appearance. But for the most part, she faces the world unafraid.

Except for the Storyteller. For some reason, she is absolutely terrified of the woman who comes to her school once a month to tell stories to the children. This is particularly strange to me because this is the same woman who taught music to the smaller children last year, when Small was on the smaller children side of the preschool, so she's a familiar face, and when she was the music teacher, there was no problem with her. But this year, it is such an issue that Small asks me to "check it out" every school day, to make sure there's no story teller before she walks into her class. She has a standing arrangement with her teachers to allow her to be the "special helper" on story day, which means she gets to stay in he classroom instead of going to hear the story. Stranger still, when we see the storyteller outside of her story telling capacity, she has no issue with her. We can only surmise that something in the animated way the stories are told just rubs her the wrong way.

Apparently, this dread of animated performers extends to clowns, as well. I think this is a fairly common phobia, because, let's face it, clowns can be pretty creepy. But it made me giggle this afternoon when I picked Small up from school.

She hopped in the car and leaned forward, hands extended, palms downward in a reassuring gesture, and said, "It wasn't a CLOWN walking up to the school. It was just a parent dressed UP as a clown."

Whew! Such a relief.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stuck in the Middle with You

I'm extremely blessed, as a mom, with three beautiful, healthy, bright children. One of them has already left the nest, (flown the coop?), and one is still in that fun preschool stage, where everything I say and do is wonderful, and she wants me with her all the time. Mother's Day was fun yesterday, because she was so pleased and proud to present me with the little gifts she'd made in school and Sunday school.

My Middle Child, though, is the one that occupies most of my time, and most of my thoughts. She's in that phase of adolescence right now that is the complete opposite of the preschool time, where the things I say and do are moronic and embarrassing, and the thought of being touched by or seen with me is repulsive. She's having a tough time of it, too, really trying to find her way, and I'd like to help her, guide her around the potholes I can see in her path, but she can't see that. To her, I'm an obstacle, an impediment, the only thing between her and the fulfilment of her dreams.

Mothers I know, who have been there and done that, tell me it will pass, and I hope it will. I miss the closeness I used to feel with my daughter. I miss seeing her get really excited about accomplishing something. I miss feeling like I know her better than anyone else.

The truth is, despite her current struggles, I know she's a really remarkable girl. Beautiful and strong, smart and quick-witted, full of ideas and spunk, creative, gifted and with a lively imagination. I look at her, and I see all the things she doesn't realize she can be. I look at her and want desperately to be able to fast forward her through the troubled times and bring her to a place of cognition, an age of reason, where she sees the world more clearly, and understands that I am not a stumbling block but an ally, and an advocate.

The strange thing, I think, about motherhood, is the ability to see your children as all their ages at one time. I look at my Small, and see her sweet preschool face, but have a vision of the woman she'll grow to be. I look at my Oldest, and still see that tiny, funny little boy, hidden in the man he now is. I look at my Middle Child, and behind the teenager I see the soft baby, my little pig-tailed sweetheart, round faced and sunny, my chatty and funny preteen, and the woman I want her to grow into, confident, accomplished and successful. My highest goal, my biggest challenge, is to help guide her, and all my children, really, into the place God has for them, the place where they become the amazing people I know them to be.

My prayer, every day, is for strength, for wisdom, for guidance, and for perspective, with a debt of gratitude and praise for all the people they have been, are, and will become.