Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Proof That I'm an Idiot Raising a Great Kid

I am an idiot.

I took YoungestBoy to the library way back when and let him check out some books. And videos. I personally hate it when the kids want to check out videos, because I want them to browse in the book section and fall in googly-eyed love with books, not get all blank-eyed while they stare at the videos. Anyway, I let him get four videos and five books.

They were due the day after school was out. I thought that would be perfect. I'd take the kids to the library--while we sang "doe-a-deer-a-female-deer. . . " and held hands and skipped--and they would check out books for summertime fun. Only, my husband used the car that day and we didn't get to the library.

Everything was overdue, but somehow (I blame my husband), I have not had a chance to take the kids to the library. Now it's July. Watching a daycare baby really cramps my style. I literally cannot go anywhere with all five kids because my car cannot accomodate them all--and even if it could, do I really want to take five kids to the library?

My husband mentioned a time or two that the books were overdue. Yeah, yeah, whatever. A nickel per book fine, who cares? Then. Well, then I realized with a start that the fine for videos is $1.00. A day. Oh good grief. We had four videos ten days late.

That is why I'm an idiot. And the kids didn't even watch one of them.

But, here is proof that I'm raising a great, amazing kid.

The other night, the doorbell rang at about 6:00 p.m. It was the neighbor boy, a just-finished-third-grader, who greeted my "hello" with an outburst that sounded something like this: ". . . and YoungestBoy gave me a game, but the case was empty and I gave him two games and it's not fairrrrrrr!" YoungestBoy came rushing in and claimed that he had no idea that the game case was empty and that it wasn't his fault and that TwinBoyA said he couldn't trade that game. By that point, we were standing in front of the Nintendo GameCube, where TwinBoyA was actually playing the game in question. He was not about to loan it to the neighbor kid, as YoungestBoy had promised.

Neighbor kid was crying and carrying on.

It seems that YoungestBoy and neighbor kid had agreed on a trade. Neighbor kid loaned YoungestBoy two games and YoungestBoy was to loan one in return. Only, when he attempted to loan the game, TwinBoyA vetoed the plan and YoungestBoy, thinking quickly and deviously, gave neighbor kid an empty case, which he discovered upon his arrival at home.

Finally, the boys agreed to give neighbor kid a substitute game. He left, but shouted, "I'll never trust you again!" to YoungestBoy.

Much later in the evening, YoungestBoy came to me and said, "Mom, I want to give the neighbors something to make up for trying to gyp them out." I gave him permission. When it was all said and done, he'd picked out two of his own Gameboy games, two stuffed Neopet toys and a little stack of Yu-gi-oh cards. He dictated a note to me that apologized for "gypping" them. The next day, we walked down to their house and YoungestBoy handed over a little gold gift bag with these items.

My YoungestBoy still has a soft heart and when he hurts someone, he feels the sting. I hope he stays this way for a long, long time. He's a great kid, despite me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

An Epilogue

So, I took the kids swimming after dinner. Even Fat Kid. Which was challenging because I drive a small 1993 Mercury Sable. I was squished in the driver's seat because TwinBoyA sat in the middle and Fat Kid hogged the passenger seat. We stayed from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and then I bought everyone McDonald's ice cream cones on the way home. The baby did not go to bed early and my mom stopped by just after I put her to bed at 8:30 p.m., which explains why I didn't leave my house for the grocery store until 9:00 p.m., which further explains why I didn't return home from the grocery store until 10:30 p.m., which explains why I am now going to bed at 11:35 p.m.

And did I mention that I babysat an extra 18 month old for three hours this morning?

I need a trophy. I'll settle for a pat on the head.

The Stupid, Stupid Boy

The boys have a friend from school, who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy. Let's just call him Fat Kid. Is that mean? Well, he's anonymous, so I don't care. And he's fat. Really fat. Fat Albert fat. With dreadlocks.

Fat Kid is the youngest kid in a family of teenagers. He's bossy, he's mean and he invites himself over to play with my kids periodically. He constantly tells my kids, "No, YoungestBoy. No, TwinBoyA!" if they deviate from his rules. For some reason, TwinBoyA always says, "okay" when Fat Kid asks if he can come over. I cannot understand why my boys would agree to play with Fat Kid, but they always do.

So, today, just after I put the baby to bed, the phone rings. It's Fat Kid. "Can I come over?" he asks my son. TwinBoyA asks me and I say, "When?" He asks Fat Kid and tells me "Two-fifty." I think, well, nap-time will almost be over, so that will be all right because I know they'll make noise, but not until the babies have already slept a good long while.

I agree.

At 1:15 p.m., I am informed that Fat Kid is on his way over. Uh, hello, Fat Kid? Can you tell time? Two-fifty is an hour later than one-fifty.

Now, at 2:30 p.m., what do I hear? That's right. My baby is crying. She normally sleeps until 3:00 p.m. at least, sometimes 3:30 p.m. And when she wakes up, she wakes up happy, not crying. I have repeatedly told Fat Kid to keep it down, to not talk so loudly.

Stupid Fat Kid.

Oh, and guess what Fat Kid wanted to come over and play? Playmobil people. Playmobil people are like Barbies for boys--all the little accessories and everything. I can't figure out exactly what they are doing, though. Fat Kid just keeps saying, "No! YoungestBoy, stop! Put that back! TwinboyA, okay, stop! Okay, it's going to look stupid. Stop, YoungestBoy. No!"

Now, looking on the positive side (how uncharacteristic of me), maybe the baby will go to bed a little early and I can finish grocery shopping before 9:30 p.m. tonight.

Time to get Miss Priss from her crib. And I haven't even finished my Diet Coke yet. I am annoyed.

Monday, June 28, 2004

For Your Viewing Pleasure

For you visual learners, I added pictures to the following posts:

YoungestBoy falls asleep in wacky position,

The boys at the beach,

and Kindergarten Slug Race.

And just because she's so cute, despite her hair-deficiency, here is Babygirl:  Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Call Me "Director"
I am coordinating our church's Vacation Bible School. This is my third consecutive year to direct this program, and consequently, I have a fairly solid staff of repeat volunteers. However, working with volunteers is almost amusing and sometimes frustrating. I called a volunteer from last year and asked if she'd be available to assist this year. She said, "Yes, I would, but I really don't want to work with a group of children." Well, hello!? That's kind of what we do.

I did understand what she meant, though. She wanted to teach, not interact on a one-on-one as a crew leader. I suggested she be the preschool craft director and voila! A happy volunteer.

I do find I move through stages of organizing in a fairly predictable steps. The first step is: "Oh no, why did I agree to do this?" That's quickly followed by: "This is going to be a disaster! No one is going to participate! No one is going to help!" Then, my final step: "Only three weeks and this will all be over, no matter what!"

I'm on the final step. Three weeks and this whole thing will be just a memory. We'll probably have 100 children participate and 30+ volunteers when it's all said and done.

The Pool
This afternoon, we went to the pool. Some family friends joined us--mom, dad and two boys, ages 4 and 2 and a half. I got into the pool with Babygirl and watched as they plopped their littlest boy into the pool, too. Both mom and dad sat near the pool, chatting and half-heartedly watching.

Then, mom says, "Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, NOLAN!" When she first started hello-ing, I looked around toward her, then when she yelled Nolan's name, I looked back to the pool and saw him floating, face down, about six feet from me. I scrambled to get my feet under me so I could reach him, but before I could, his dad crashed into the water and snatched him up. Nolan was fine, but cautious and after that, his mom put his life-jacket on him. I thought, I would never have put him in this pool alone. I am a much better mother, even though she looks so much better in a swimsuit than I do.

Wouldn't you know it, just awhile later, right in front of me, as I watched, Babygirl suddenly capsized and sank like a rock. I plucked her out of the water and she sputtered, wide-eyed, like she'd seen a mermaid in those twelve inches of water. I said, "You went underwater. Are you okay?" And she coughed a bit, and said, "Unner, wa-wa." And then touched her head. "Hair. Wet." She was nonplussed. Later in the afternoon, she lost her footing again while she was hopping and she dunked herself entirely again. I stood her on her feet and she choked and did that barky kind of seal-cough and then she was fine.

The only thing worse than a child being terrified of the water is a child who is not at all terrified of the water. They are both in danger of drowning without a sound if you look away for one second.

For that matter, that's how I feel about coordinating VBS . . . in danger of drowning without a sound. In three weeks it will be all over. I can do this. I can. I can.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


The Bird
I hate birds. Not birds in trees, but birds in captivity and that one bird which flew into the side of my head through my open car door window when I was seventeen. That stupid bird which perched in the back seat of my car fueled my disdain for birds and their little bird-brains. Then, a few years back, at the zoo, I went into the Lorikeet exhibit--against my will, but for the sake of my children--and a bird-brain-damaged bird flew into my hair. I did not want to alarm the children, so I did not scream, but I did say in a grim voice to the nearest adult, "Um, excuse me? Would you please help me remove this bird from my hair?"

I hate birds.

Guess what I see at the pool every time we go? Birds, yes. Cute little sparrow-like birds that flit through the chainlink fence in search of Cheeto crumbs. And then, there is a parrot that a woman carries on her shoulder. Okay, maybe it's not a parrot, but it's some kind of tropical bird.

The first time I saw it, I thought, "Geez, that must really suck when that bird poops down her back." The woman's back was broad (bringing "Silence of the Lambs" to mind) and exposed by her swimsuit. I kept shooting glances at this bird. Who brings a bird to a swimming pool? I didn't notice that the bird wore a diaper until I overheard her mention it to some bird admirers.

Bird diapers. Who knew?

Where's Babygirl?
I was in the pool with Babygirl yesterday. Another baby was frolicking in the pool, too. The mother and I exchanged pleasantries about our girls. Her daughter, Isabelle, is less than a month older than Babygirl, but she was dunking the back of her head underwater and climbing in and out by herself. The look in her sky-blue eyes was that of a maniac--wide-eyed and shocked--but she seemed happy.

Babygirl, on the other hand, walks carefully in the pool and tries to keep her hair dry. She likes to jump in, but she does make sure I'm going to catch her. She can't climb the sides of the pool.

While I sat on the very edge of the pool, Babygirl was practicing hopping. She cannot manage a two-footed hop on dry land, but she can in the pool. So, she was hopping and I looked up at Isabelle's mother and said, "Has she taken swimming lessons?" The mother said, "No," and I said, "Well, she seems so comfortable in the water!" Then I looked at Babygirl. She was completely underwater, victim of a wild hop gone wrong, I suppose. I plucked her from the pool and stood her on the edge. She coughed and coughed, but never cried. She did get back into the pool, but she began to shiver because her head was wet and a cool breeze had kicked up.

"And You're Ugly, Too"
This morning, while my husband was getting ready for work, he told me that yesterday he'd called a church lady. Rumor has it that Church Lady and her husband plan to leave our church. This grandparent-aged couple has been extremely involved in volunteer efforts. They have belonged to this church longer than we have, maybe by ten years.

But they are leaving. They never bothered to talk to my husband, who has been their pastor for the past six years. So, he called Church Lady yesterday to find out what's going on.

He said, "Is there anything I've personally done that has offended you?" Church Lady said, "No." He prodded a little more, trying to figure out the reason they would be leaving. She finally said, "Well, your sermons are too long and I don't like your sense of humor."

Well, then. Glad she figured this out after six years. My husband is a funny guy and he said, "Why didn't she just tell me, 'and you're ugly, too'?"

I told him that God apparently needed Church Lady and her husband's place on the pews for someone else. They will find some other pastor to complain about.

One of the most frustrating things about working with people in a church setting is that the people feel so free to criticize and discuss the pastor and his family--behind their backs, of course. And that's all I'm saying about that, lest I sound as uncharitable as I feel at the moment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

"I'm Bored"

This is the first Tuesday of summer vacation. It's 2:48 p.m. and already, TwinBoyB sat on the couch and said "I'm bored."

Then it's working.

My strategy this week is to let them do whatever they want to do. To not interfere in the endless hours of Nintendo and Gameboy and television. By next week, they will be so bored from it all that they will be putty in my hands.

Next week I will impose a little more structure. I have no grand schemes and dreams as in summers gone by when I thought I'd make them read a book a week and do a book report and practice their handwriting and learn the times tables. No. I have learned.

Summer flies by in approximately twenty minutes. I'm waiting until August to make them do the academic stuff the teachers sent home. We'll get to the library this week, because they read every night. They will be starting journals next week.

Other than that, I'm playing it by ear.

Meanwhile, I told the boys that it will cost them a quarter for each time they say "I'm bored." Be bored, but don't irritate me by telling me so.

The Missing

When my twins were in third grade, TwinBoyB lost his school library book. It was about the moon and I looked everywhere for that thing. Eventually, I admitted defeat, and paid for the book. They just finished fifth grade, so it was awhile ago.

Last summer, or maybe two summers ago, YoungestBoy's Gameboy disappeared from the living room. This was about the same time that my husband's cell phone vaporized. I truly cannot imagine what happened to these things. Did a thief break in and steal two items? Did the dog literally eat them? If so, why didn't I find the remains of them in the backyard during Poop Patrol?

We bought a replacement remote control because the kids lost the first two. And then the new one disappeared and the old one--the one that is held together with electrical tape because it was crushed once--surfaced. How does this happen?

I hate misplacing things. Even more, I hate searching fruitlessly for lost things. I'm afraid it's a genetic flaw. My mother will spend an entire weekend in search of a single, invaluable piece of paper. In search mode, she stays in her pajamas, the make-up from the night before still on because she hasn't gone to bed. She putters and rearranges and loses vast quantities of time searching for stuff. Entire weekends come and go while she tries in vain to find something.

I spend time searching for stuff, then surrender to the universe and admit defeat. We have a new cell phone now, and a new Gameboy. I bought another spare remote control, just in case. I tell the kids, "it's not lost, it's just misplaced."

TwinBoyA took a disposable camera to school on one of the final days of school. He took half the pictures and then the next day, TwinBoyB took the camera. The camera has now disappeared. TwinBoyB claims he gave it to me, but he did not. The school says there is no sign of a camera with TwinBoyA's name on it. If you happen to see a small, purple Kodak with his name written in Sharpie marker, will you send it back to me?

Meanwhile, guess what happened while I was sorting through the children's books recently? The very same books that I have reshelved approximately seven thousand times in the last three years . . . that's right. I found the moon book.

I was too embarrassed to call the school and ask, but I sure wish I could return that book now and get my fifteen bucks back.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The World's Longest Day

This feels like the World's Longest Day, or at least The Day The Sun Will Not Set. It is summer solstice, you know, which is why the sky is light here in the Pacific Northwest, despite the fact that it's 9:20 p.m. Darkness will finally arrive at about 10:00 p.m.

But that's not why this day feels so long.

Last night, we were at the swimming pool. Yes, when I say "we", I am referring to me and my Girls. Oh, and my family, too. Anyway, when we got home, there was a phone message for my husband from our friend, Michael, who hails from Portland, Oregon. Michael and his family had been in Maui on vacation and their scheduled flight had been changed or rearranged and they missed it. The next best flight was one whose final destination was Seattle.

For those of you who missed geography class (we didn't have geography class in my high school), Portland, Oregon, is three hours (or so) from Seattle, Washington. Michael and his clan boarded the plane, hoping that my husband would meet them at the airport and help them get home.

The plane was scheduled to arrive at 11 p.m. Or so he said.

My husband, being a prompt man who hates to be late, arrived at the airport before 10 p.m. He called me. "Did Michael call?" "No," I said. He figured that Michael's flight had to be the one arriving at 10:20 p.m.

At 11 p.m.: "Has Michael called?" "No," I said.

At 11:30 p.m.: "Michael and his family are here. Can you get on-line and check the shuttle service from here to our house?" I checked. Last shuttle left at 10:20 p.m.

At midnight: "Someone will be staying at our house tonight and then tomorrow, they will take the train home. I just wanted you to know."

So, all seven of them piled into our 1993 Mercury Sable. Their eight suitcases were piled into the trunk. Our little sedan has seat-belts for six. I still cannot imagine where they put seven people--which included one baby and her carseat.

Meanwhile, I come back downstairs, turn on the lights and survey the damage. I hadn't done the lunch dishes because, well, because I hadn't. Martha Stewart would be very disappointed in me. I finished my transcription after dinner, then we went to the pool and when we came home it was late and I was tired and I figured it could all wait until the next morning.

I swept the floor.
I unloaded the dishwasher.
I filled the dishwasher.
I washed the remaining dishes.
I scrubbed the stove.
I cleaned the bathroom.
I made a bed on the couch.
I cleaned off the table and stacked the newspapers neatly.

At 1:00 a.m., I crawled into bed. I was watching Bravo network's "Insdie the Actors Studio" when I heard the front door open. Someone came upstairs to use the bathroom (I was so glad I'd cleaned it). Then my husband cracked open the door and saw that I was still awake, so he told me that they were just going to take the car home and he'd take the train down tomorrow and drive it home.

Then, he said, "Someone's coming through to use our bathroom now." I pulled the covers to my chin and said "hello" to Debbie as she walked through my laundry-strewn bedroom. How awkward.

I made small talk from under the covers. How odd. Even stranger still was a few minutes later after she'd left. My bedroom door opened again and Rachel (Debbie's grown daughter) popped her head in and said, "Hi!" Again, more small talk about their vacation and adventure. I am gracious, even when tucked into bed for the night.

They left fairly quickly and then my alarm was ringing and it was morning. I showered and finished dressing before the phone rang. It was DaycareKid's mom telling me she wasn't going to bring him today because she was taking him to the doctor for his worsening eczema.

Hooray! A day off!
Bummer. No car.

My husband intended to take Amtrak down to Portland to retrieve the car. Until he remembered that his driver's license was in the car. And you can't get a ticket to ride on Amtrak without a picture identification card. So, Mike and Debbie had to turn around and drive our car back to us. He drove our car, she followed in their car.

Since he couldn't go anywhere, my husband took the baby for a long walk in the stroller and while he was gone, I mowed the lawn and trimmed the ridiculously long boxwood hedge and sprayed the driveway weeds with Roundup. The sun was hot and soon, I was, too.

Our friends arrived an hour early at 3:00 p.m. I was in the front yard, sweating and pulling stupid grass from my ugly little flower bed by the driveway. My husband has suggested weed-whacking it to the ground. He was serious. He said, "Just tell me how to pull the weeds," which, when translated into plain English means, "Go outside and pull those weeds." I'll admit that I was pouting a bit, because I didn't want to do more yardwork. He was clipping ivy and a wasp stung him, leading me to remind him that if we had not done the yardwork, that never would have happened. Serves him right.

The rest of the day just dragged on and on. Babygirl never went to sleep--until she was in the car with her daddy, going for a ride. My husband is sweet--he takes her away so I can get things done. Today, I worked on letters for my volunteers for Vacation Bible School, which is approaching too quickly. Later, he took the boys to the video game store, while I played with Babygirl in the backyard. Then, still later, I took Babygirl shopping with me at Target. We sang "la la la la, la la la la, Elmo's World . . . " as we shopped. The theme from Elmo's World--sometimes I wake up in the night and that song is playing on auto-pilot in my head.

Finally, finally, finally, the kids went to bed. The sky is now fading to black. Each day will now be subsequently darker and darker until I am complaining about the early nightfall. And so it goes.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Shopping for a Miracle

Yesterday, my husband granted me a brief furlough from the prison house. I had three hours. Oh, the pressure. How to spend this precious time?

I wanted to take my film to Costco to have it developed in one hour. I killed two birds with one stone by also picking up my husband's contact lenses. After I dropped off the film, I drove a short distance to the mall. My plan was to buy my husband a Father's Day gift and shop the sales rack at Gap for Kids. Babygirl needs new lightweight tights.

The moment I entered Sears, I became distracted, no, deluded by the thought that I might find a swimsuit. A Lands End swimsuit, because doesn't Sears carry that brand now? I wandered until I found the swimsuits. Picked out everything that looked probable and tried it on.


Ack. What was I thinking?

I ventured to the Gap and bought my baby girl two white shirts and a darling pair of sunglasses (all on clearance).

Then, I thought, maybe Bon-Macy's would have good swimsuits. Couldn't hurt to try! Plus, I still had to buy that Father's Day gift.

I found myself in the midst of a Sixteen Hour Sale. Women everywhere, swimsuits everywhere, crying babies in strollers everywhere! I started getting too hot, but now I was determined.

And then I found it. The Miracle Suit. It promised I would look ten pounds thinner in ten minutes. I figured that perhaps if I wore it for forty minutes, I could look forty pounds thinner. I have always been very good at math.

I picked out five swimsuits, paying careful attention to the top of the suit. I generally do not want to put mental images into your head, but let's just say that I'm on the top-heavy side of things. And unlike Anna Nicole Smith, I prefer to keep the Girls private.

I couldn't help but notice that the Miracle Suit that seemed the most promising--black with a lime green vertical stripe and a high neckline--cost $120.00. Yes, boys and girls, One-Hundred-and-Twenty-Dollars, American.

I was so desperate for a Miracle that it seemed like a bargain.

Now. Swimsuit manufacturers must not be familiar with well-endowed women. Or maybe it hasn't occurred to them that naturally endowed women do not have the Anti-Gravity devices that plastic surgeons use to, well, defy gravity when they install extra-large melons on skinny, flat-chested women. My Girls do not stand at attention. They don't even sit at attention. They basically lounge at attention and don't even bother to get up when the President of the United States himself walks into the room.

The suits I tried on featured little kicky-skirts and stomach panels and optical illusion stripes--but then, on top, there was a stretchy bit of elastic and two little straps and that was it. People! Please! I might be a self-sufficient gal, but even I need a little support every now and then. Or are we busty chicks not supposed to swim?

Let me tell you, that Miracle Suit? A fraud. A fake. A phony. I did not find a Miracle in that dressing room. Where was Benny Hinn when I needed him? I threw that suit down in disgust. Well, not really. I just clipped it back onto the hanger and sighed. By then, I was really hot and wondered if I had enough time to get an ice cream cone. And I'd decided that I really do have to go to Weight Watchers this week. I cannot face another dressing room mirror. The mirror doesn't lie.

My respite was nearly over and all I had done was face my unclothed self in various unmiraculous swimsuits. The wasted time! Who could I sue for this outrage? I wanted a Miracle, no matter the cost!

I rode the elevator downstairs (after putting on my capri pants and t-shirt, of course) and bought my husband a belt and a purple tie, as per his request (the belt) and YoungestBoy's request (the tie). Then, back to Costco to pick up pictures and frozen hamburger patties and buns.

Today, I wore a swimsuit. My old Lands End suit from last summer. I bought it at Goodwill last year. For $3.00.

The sun is shining and it's a hot day here in the Pacific Northwest. I'm in the baby pool with my suit on. Black, mock-tankini. My strategy involves not looking down at my body. I use denial because really, what can you do once you've left the safety of your own home? I left the house with a plan to leave my shirt on, but take my shorts off because even though the wading pool is just a foot deep, my shorts had gotten soaked on previous visits.

Using my logic, I put my bra on under my swimsuit, because I hate the smushed, uni-boob look and no one would see it, right? So, I'm in the pool, red t-shirt on top, swimsuit on bottom. Then, I think, wow, it's so hot out today. I think I'll just take off my shirt so I can dip my whole self into the pool. I nonchalantly pull the shirt over my head, maintaining my policy of not looking down at myself.

It took me about five minutes to remember that I was still wearing my lavender bra. Yes. Under my swimsuit, clearly visible. Lavender satin. I refrained from screaming and simply stepped out of the pool and pulled the red shirt over my head again.

Later, I did a flash-dance move and surreptitiously removed the bra from my swimsuit and stuffed it in my purse.

Now, that maneuver, my friends, is a Miracle.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Kids at the Swimming Pool

We belong to a private swim and tennis club. We pay $400 a summer for this privilege and my children adore going to the pool. Even Babygirl says "pool" and wears her tiny little swimming suit and jumps into the one-foot pool over and over again (while I catch her, of course).

On Friday night, I was standing in the pool, catching Babygirl over and over again. My mother sat near the edge of the pool, taking pictures. My twins were over in the big pool, out of my sight. My 6 year old was playing with two other little boys, skinny, scrawny, tan little kids. I had noticed them eating Nerds and joking around.

I guess I heard a noise. I looked up and saw the three boys sitting on a tall table under the covered area. YoungestBoy's face was contorted and he was yelling "Stop! Stop!" The other two boys were laughing while YoungestBoy cried.

Without even a hesitation, I took a giant step out of the pool, wrapped Babygirl in a towel and strode over to YoungestBoy. The boy with glasses scurried away, but the very tan, skinny boy couldn't duck under the table before I caught his arm. I said, "You! Stay there!"

YoungestBoy was incoherent. I heard something about a game that went awry. I gave Tan-Boy the evil eye and said, "If this happens again, I will tell your parents. Do you understand me?" Meanwhile, another mom had collared the Glasses-Boy. Then I said, "Son, tell me what happened." To Tan-Boy, I said, "Don't move!"

YoungestBoy told me that Tan-Boy and Glasses-Boy had been pinching him "here" (he pointed to his chubby little boy boobs) and slapping him, even though he was telling them to stop.

What?! I said to Tan-Boy and Glasses-Boy, "WHAT? That is not all right. We are going to talk to your parents. Take me to your mom or dad right now."

Reluctantly, Tan-Boy took me to his dad. I said, "Our sons were playing together and your son was slapping and pinching my son, even though he told him to stop. I already yelled at him and I thought you'd like to talk with him, too." Dad seemed unconcerned, unsurprised.

By now, tears were running down the face of Glasses-Boy. His mother was at the far corner of the area. When we reached her, I gave her the same little speech. She seemed shocked.

Then I returned to YoungestBoy who was back near the covered area, trying to figure out how to retrieve a wayward beach ball. I noticed a five-fingered slap mark on his back. I asked him again what happened, but he didn't want to talk about it. I told him the boys were in trouble.

Just then, my husband walks up. He'd just arrived. I said, "Oh, you just missed an incident." He wanted to know all about it, but I didn't want to tell him in front of YoungestBoy, so I tried to abbreviate the story. He was confused, but furious and said, "Son, if that ever happens again, you should smack that kid as hard as you can!"

Gotta love testosterone.

My husband was concerned about the whole thing and after talking to a friend of ours, asked me to repeat exactly what happened several times. It seemed like he thought I had overreacted, but once he understood exactly what happened, he agreed with my response. The boys had previously been playing a game of "Duck, Duck, Slap" and he feared that YoungestBoy could give, but not take . . . (I know. Duck, Duck, Slap? Only boys would make up such a game.)

But this went far beyond a game. He was crying and they ganged up on him, the little skinny boys.

Both moms made their kids apologize. Before we left, the boys started playing together again. Both moms came to me to make sure everything was all right. I made sure to point out the hand-shaped slap mark which was still red on YoungestBoy's back, just in case anyone thought I was an overprotective, insane mother.

Tan-Boy and Glasses-Boy won't be messing around with me or my YoungestBoy again. Of that I am one hundred percent sure.

Don't mess with me or my kids. That's the number one rule this week.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Because I am an "active blogger", I receive an invitation to get Gmail. That's why I have the extremely concise and yet lovely address Melodee (at)Gmail(dot)com.

I've been able to invite a few friends to join Gmail. Then I discovered that Gmail invitations were selling on eBay and that entire websites were set up that traffic in Gmail swapping. I jumped right on the bandwagon and sold two Gmail invitations on eBay for about $15 a piece. That was two days ago.

Now tonight, I have received more invitations to extend to friends and associates. I listed one on eBay. I extended an invitation to my husband. And I have one left.

I thought it would be fun to offer it to one of you, my readers. So, who wants an invitation to Gmail? You can google Gmail and read all about it. Then tell me why you should receive my final invitation. May the best reader win! I hear that some people were swapping fudge for Gmail invitations. I'm just saying. Post a comment or use my Gmail address to email me privately.

I'll post the winning plea tomorrow (unless, of course, the winner prefers to remain anonymous). Good luck, have fun and remember: Flattery and gifts will get you everywhere!

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Another Week Ends

Another week ends and here I sit, sore back, squinty eyes, stiff fingers. I accepted another transcription job, due Wednesday morning, which unfortunately, will dominate my spare time (also known as Nap-time and Bed-time). On one hand . . . ick. On the other hand . . . cash!

Yesterday, my dear husband worked from morning to night. After Babygirl's afternoon nap, the children and I walked down to the nearby elementary school. I just wanted to get them out of the house. Babygirl had a fine time playing on the preschool play structure. She appears to love slides as much as YoungestBoy loved swings when he was her age. I sure hope she prefers slides to swings, because I hate pushing swings. I know. No Mother of the Year Award for me.

Today, my dear husband had to work most of the day again. The boys went to a birthday party at the pool and my husband came home just as they were leaving. He volunteered to stay home while Babygirl napped, so I could go to the party. I would have rather stayed home myself and enjoyed the nice quiet house, but I think he was even more tired than I was. I had a great time at the pool, despite my initial reluctance. A few of the other mothers and I chatted, I took a lot of photographs of the kids and the topic of scrapbooking came up. The other moms all admitted they were behind on their scrapbooks, too, and I suggested we all scrapbook together. Now I have email addresses and I'm going to set up a little "scrapbooking bee."

The boys were exhausted after the party. They woke up this morning before 6:00 a.m. because they wanted to play the video games I'd rented for them Saturday night. SLAM! Stomp, stomp, stomp, yell. SLAM! The rain and the slamming of the door disturbed my beauty sleep and I was none too pleased about that. I can't wait until they children are teenagers and they want to sleep until noon. I intend to vacuum very loudly outside their door and then I'll follow that up with loud banging of the pots and pans. Revenge will be sweet.

Finally. I saw a law firm building with the name of the firm displayed in large letters: "Small, Snell, Weiss and Comfort." I thought how fortunte Small and Comfort were to have Snell and Weiss join them, because really, would you hire a law firm called "Small, Comfort, Attorneys at Law"?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Freaky Friday

Today, no DaycareKid because it's his dad's day off. I always feel like Fridays are a special holiday because I can actually leave my house and run errands. Except today the banks are closed. I think. Because it's a National Day of Mourning. I saw bits of the ceremony on television and I was reminded again that ceremony is kind of what glues us together on days like today. And not just "us", the public, but "us", those who mourn.

Way back, before we had children, we started a church. My husband did the pastor-stuff and I did the teenager/kid stuff. We had a very small youth group, but one blond girl in particular was helpful and sweet and popular at school. Her name was Andrea, and I used to feel so sorry for her, even while I admired her spunk. Her dad, you see, had been a pastor when she was a young girl. And then he screwed up. Literally. If you know what I mean.

That's why Andrea and her brother, Jordan, ended up living with their newly single-mother. Their father sold cars for a living and was largely absent from their lives.

We didn't stay at that church all that long and a few years later, when Andrea was seventeen, we received a phone call from a member of our former church. Andrea had been sitting with a friend on the side of the rural road where she lived and a car struck her. The car had been passing a slower vehicle and never saw the girls.

Andrea lived for a short time, but her brain stem had been severed and she died. My husband and I drove hours to be at the funeral. I spoke at the podium about Andrea during the funeral and when I finished, I stumbled off the stage and then wept.

But later, I found myself dry-eyed, setting up chairs and arranging food and making small talk. And (finally), here's my point. Setting up chairs is just what you do. It gives you something to do so that you don't just curl into a ball in a corner and sob until your eyes swell shut. You just do the regular, mundane stuff. You sing Amazing Grace, you sit in a pew, you set up chairs, you shake hands. There is more pomp and circumstance, of course, if you are a former president, but even when you bury a seventeen year old girl, you embrace the protocol and the ceremony and the structure because without it, you might just fall apart forever. You need the glue of ceremony.

The other thing that struck me about President Reagan's funeral was that Patti Davis seriously needs a makeover. Please, cut your hair, Patti! If my hair gets too long and unruly, will someone please tell me? Please, I am begging you.

So, Day of Mourning or not, we went and as I drove toward the freeway with Babygirl and YoungestBoy buckled into the backseat, I had the radio tuned to the funeral. Ave Maria and then Amazing Grace filled my car and served as background music to the most mundane things: YoungestBoy chattering on about Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Babygirl shouting "bus!", workers digging by the side of the road, a woman waiting for the bus, car lights blinking and slowing down ahead of me. The moment was surreal and reminded me of a movie, when the music swells and the images change in lieu of narration and time marches on. And then the music fades and the storyline picks up.

As I pulled off the freeway, I saw an odd sight. There was a goose, a Canadian goose, walking around on the shoulder of the freeway. Uh, hello, Mr. Goose? Did you lose something? I wanted to see if a car would hit it, but that would have involved me losing conrol of my vehicle and hurtling over the overpass, which would have made my husband really annoyed, so I just drove on.

Our first stop was Krispie Kreme donuts. I'd never been to the bakery before. Babygirl toddled along behind us. She refuses to hold hands. YoungestBoy was excited to watch the donuts being fried and going under the waterfall of glaze. He ate three donuts, while Babygirl ate half.

Then we went to the nearby mall. I thought we'd kill some time while waiting for Costco to open (at 11 a.m.!). I didn't realize that Babygirl would refuse to sit in her stroller, though, so our meandering path through the main corridor of the mall took forever. We went into the Gap for kids and I bought two shirts ($3.99 each!) and a pair of pink Mary Janes for Babygirl ($8.99 on sale). I tried the shoe on Babygirl's foot. She was very cooperative, but when I tried to put her original shoe back on, she cried and yelled "no!" and refused. I showed her the little shoe and I explained that we had to pay first and then she could wear it, but she cried "no" more.

Until then, she was a happy little shopper. I paid for the items and asked her if she wanted the shoe on. No. I put her regular shoe back on and we headed back outside. Which took forever, because she still wouldn't sit in the stroller. YoungestBoy pushed the stroller and kept swerving it into me. Oh yeah, now I remember why I never take the kids anywhere.

We went to Costco finally and I dropped off my film. Alas, we stayed less than an hour, so I'll have to pick it up later. I put Babygirl in the seat of the shopping cart and YoungestBoy decided to climb under the bottom of the cart and ride on his stomach. I warned him several times to keep his hands off the floor and away from the wheels. And then, two Asian women blocked the aisle and I paused. When they finally moved, I pushed my cart and it did that skidding thing--you know, when a rock or something catches under the wheel? Only, of course, it wasn't a rock. It was YoungestBoy's left ring finger.

He didn't even make a sound because it hurt so much. He crawled out with his little bloody ring-finger with its tiny little bitten fingernail and his filthy, dirty hands and tears on his face. I knew the pain was worse than any "I told you not to put your hands on the ground" lecture, but there was still a moment when I wanted to throttle him and yell at him for not listening to me when I was trying to prevent this from happening in the first place! Upon closer examination, the injury wasn't that serious. Just a little blood. I added a huge box of Band-aids to our cart and we paid and then went to the bathroom to wash up and do a little Mom first-aid.

He's fine, but he calls it "my injury." "Mom, I'm just lucky that my injury was not on my strong hand." I said, "Yes, you are very lucky." In an unlucky sort of way, of course, because do lucky boys get their ring-fingers run over by enormous Costco shopping carts?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

And Because This is a Personal Journal

I just have to make note of a very important moment. Babygirl peed in her little potty today for the first time. (She'll be two on September 2.) She wasn't wearing a diaper, but she was wearing a little pair of shorts and the pee ended up mostly in the potty anyway.

She was so surprised.

So was I. I applauded and we talked about it over and over again. I wonder if it will mean anything? The twins weren't potty-trained until they were three and a half and YoungestBoy was somewhere between two and three years old.

Another milestone, but the Diaper Era is not one I will miss. At all. Ever.


I like to think I'm an easy-going person. When Al called today to let me know that he may or may not have the transcription for me to type this weekend, I say, "Hey, no problem. Just let me know." When Della told me she could not coordinate the preschool area of Vacation Bible School, I said, "I completely understand. It's okay." When DaycareMom telephones to say she'll be half an hour late picking up DaycareKid, I say, "Don't worry about it. We're fine." See? Easy-going. Laid-back. Calm.

I just have a few rules I'd like everyone to follow.

1) The bathroom trashcan. This trash can is not for magazines, dry-cleaning plastic and giant manila envelopes that came in the mail. This trashcan is for tiny, delicate bits of trash, like dental floss and q-tips and wadded up tissues. Nothing more. So quit putting over-sized trash in it!

2) The remote control. When you are finished watching television, please turn it off and then return the remote control to its rightful home. As you know, the correct location for this item is in the green recliner, tucked between the seat and the arm rest. Please. As a courtesy to me, put the remote control down and slowly back away from the chair.

3) The kitchen sink. Dirty dishes are to be rinsed and then placed neatly in the left hand side of the sink. Food is never to be placed in the left hand side of the sink because the garbage disposal is in the right hand side of the sink. This may come as a surprise, but it's always been that way. Your Raisin Bran must be disposed of properly. Oh, and just so you know, the plates should be standing on edge, the bowls stacked according to size and the silverware lined up, all facing the same direction. I'll take it from there. The correct loading of the dishwasher has a complicated set of rules of its own. Trust me. I'll take care of it.

4) The bed. Make it when you get out of it. And then place the pillows (yes, all of them) across the head of the bed. Body pillow on bottom, feather pillow on top, large purple pillows next, then two small pillows. The remote control belongs on the table next to my side of the bed. And stop leaving your popsicle sticks there.

5) Trash. This one is simple. Put the trash in the proper receptable. In other words, use the trash can--but not the bathroom trash can. Use the other trash cans. Unless, of course, you can see that the kitchen trash can is full, in which case, please use common courtesy and take your big old piece of trash to the large trash can in the laundry room.

Now, if everyone would just follow these simple guidelines, life would be perfect. See how easy-going I am? And my husband says I have hundreds of rules. Ridiculous. Dozens, at the most. Dozens. Of categories. But they all make sense and have good, sound reasoning and solid scientific back-up.

Why? Because I said so.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Topsy Turvy Family  Posted by Hello

That's me in red on the left. My mother's head is cut off, which seems an appropriate metaphor. My dad is upside down, my drool-faced sister is the baby and my brother is the other kid.

This month is Father's Day and perhaps that explains why I've been thinking about my dad so much lately. Or perhaps watching Nancy Reagan and her daughter hold hands as they stood by the flag-draped coffin of Ronald Reagan has sparked my melancholy. I hadn't planned to watch the Reagan coverage--I am so easily and so quickly bored when the media goes on and on about any topic--but there it was, the pall-bearers and the coffin and the moment when Nancy Reagan buried her head on her daughter's shoulder and shook with sobs.

And I cried, too.

I miss my dad. The dad in this picture was the Real Dad I loved so much. He was silly and crazy and goofy. He laughed with such gusto that actors in community theater loved to have him sit in the audience because his laughter was infectious. I used to save up little tidbits of my day to make him laugh at the dinner table. I would tell him my favorite joke: "I sure am glad I wasn't born in France." (Why?) "Because I don't speak French!" I called him "Daddio" and he called me "Mel."

He was a complicated man, though, prone to bouts of depression and withdrawal. He had been accepted to the University of Washington's technical writing program just before he died. He'd spent so much of his adult life trying to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up. And then he ran out of time.

When I went to college, he sent a hand-written letter expressing his regret, his sadness, his loss, his longing. I had no idea that he loved me as much as he did. He hated that he could not remember ever holding me on his lap and reading me a story. He told me that he cried a river of tears on the night I left. He thought he was a failure as a father.

He would have been a fantastic grandfather, partly to make up for his shortcomings as a father, but mostly because he'd grown up and his heart had finally expanded to fill his whole being. But he died before he had any grandchildren.

My parents were divorced a dozen years before my dad's death. When he was still in the hospital, dying, he was barely conscious. We spent our afternoons sitting with him, though, and on one particular evening, my mother and a few others were there. Now, my father was an artistic soul and a great Pictionary player. When he and I teamed up, we were unstoppable. We liked to play with my mother as our opponent because she was such a horrible drawer. My dad and I found great humor in her inability to draw and tremendous satisfaction in our teamwork.

So, this particular evening, my dad was propped up in a hospital chair (I have no idea why--hospital protocol?) and his hands were splayed on each armrest. His eyes were barely opened. My mother said, "I bet I could beat you at Pictionary now!" and he slowly shook his head side-to-side. The image still makes me laugh. His body failed him, but his wit remained to the very end.

He was the gravity that we depended on. And I still can't believe he left us to orbit on our own, even after almost fifteen years. I miss him.

Monday, June 07, 2004

View At The Beach

Today, I went to the rocky beach to photograph YoungestBoy while he was on his kindergarten field trip. I purposely arrived a bit late and left a little early because I did not want to be mistaken as a chaperone. I only wanted the pictures. Perhaps this makes me a bad mother. But at least I didn't moon anyone.

I photographed the children listening (or not listening) as the Beach Ranger talked to them about the moon snail's appetite for clams and about how the periwinkle snail has a trap door and how you should be gentle with the tiny crabs when you put them back down. I photographed YoungestBoy's back and his face and his profile and the little group of children as they huddled around studying a sea creature.

Butt (and I do mean butt), there is one picture I did not take that I now regret.

Right in front of me, a chaperone mom squatted down to investigate a tidal pool. Revealed to me in excruciating detail was her tatt00, which I can't actually describe because I was overly distracted by the border around the tatt00.

Let me just say that stretch marks and a butt crack do not make the most attractive setting for a large blackish green lower-back tatt00.

I can only hope that this permanent artwork is a relic of a younger era, a brief moment of insanity that didn't anticipate the pudge of motherhood and middle-age. Otherwise, I have to seriously wonder at the sanity of anyone who would draw attention to their butt loaf* cleavage by such a hideous skin mural. (*Term courtesy of my children.)

Please. Mothers of the world. Do not expose your backside while on kindergarten field trips. Even if you have a killer tatt00 on your lower back. Especially if you have a killer tatt00 on your lower back. No one needs to be seeing that.

Really? I can help?

The following email was in my box today. Do these people really think I am this stupid? I thought everyone in America already knew about this hoax.

"Dear friend,
I am contacting you to assist as a co-owner of my late husband's
company and beneficiary of funds (US$25,000,000.00) due the company.
I am currently a high ranking government official in the ruling
cabinet of President Thabo Mbeki (South Africa). I am a widow and
mother of two children. My late husband Mr Ronald Tshabalala died
1996. After his death, I recently discovered that an over-invoiced
proceeds of a contract I helped his company secure is yet to be paid
out by the Reserve Bank of South Africa.

This funds emanated as a result of an over-invoiced contract which
my husband's company executed with the Government of South Africa.I am afraid that the government of South Africa might start to investigate on contracts awarded from 1995 to date. If they discover this money yet unclaimed with my husband's name linked to it, the government will confiscate the money and seize his assets here in South Africa and this will definitely affect my political career in Government. I want your assistance to front as a co-owner of his company (Tshabalala Construction, LTD) to facilitate the release of the funds. I will introduce a very good attorney to assist us with the transfer process without any hitch but he will not be told my interest in the transaction as I play a very sensitive role in my government. As the contract was executed in my present government department, be rest assured that I will use my position to approve the immediate release of the entitlement. As soon as the funds is release to your name, you are expected to move it immediately into your personal bank account in your country. As soon as you have confirmed receipt of the funds into your account, I will arrange to meet with you. If you agree to my proposal, please endeavour to send me an urgent reply.

Due to my sensitive position in the South African Government, I
would not want you to phone or fax me. The lawyer I will recommend to assist us will be representing our interest at the Reserve Bank of South Africa and all necessary quarters. All future correspondence must be made either to the attorney or myself.

I am reposing huge trust on you regardless of your being a total
stranger. Upon your reply, we shall dicuss your percentage for your

Because of my sensitive position as serving government official, I
will only give you more details of myself when we proceed further
and I am sure of your sincerity.
Thank you."

On the other hand, this is my chance to do a good deed and become rich, rich, rich! Woo-hoo! It's my lucky day!

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The End. The Beginning?

Is Sunday the end or the beginning of the week? It's the first day on the calendar, but I always think of it as the end of the week.

When the baby woke from her nap this afternoon, I snatched her from her bed, changed her clothes, herded up the boys and off we went to the beach. My husband was at the church for the high school baccalaureate, so this was yet again a mother-only adventure.

I was disappointed to find the tide already coming back in, but we walked way out to the water anyway. Babygirl made a bee-line for the murky salt-water and might have walked it to her waist if I hadn't stopped her. She does not want to hold my hand anymore.

I had forgotten about seaweed, though. That stuff is slippery and slimy! I worried that Babygirl would slip and cut her hands on the barnacles. The boys immediately wandered away, eyes downcast, searching for sea creatures. I was so thrilled to find a star-fish clinging to a rock (I think they are officially called Sea Stars, but they will always be star-fishes to me!). YoungestBoy placed it in his bucket, and eventually had a little sea community in his yellow plastic pail. He also had a hermit crab, a sea slug, a shrimp, a crab, a dead jellyfish, and a moon snail collar. Alas, we did not find the elusive moon snail, but we did find a collar, which reminds me of an old tire. The moon snail lays eggs and mixes them with sand and mucus and this material is shaped into a large upside-down funnel, like the kind my grandmother used to put homemade pickles into jars.

Boys at the beach.  Posted by Hello

We stayed for an hour, then finally, I coaxed the kids to return their creatures to the sea. The star-fish clung to the bottom of YoungestBoy's bucket, so I had to pry each little star-fish arm free. YoungestBoy cradled it for awhile and finally let it go.

I took pictures to document that, yes, the children have had a family outing. They did not spend every moment of childhood watching television and playing Nintendo. I have proof.

Babygirl has begun helping me unload the dishwasher. She likes to take the silverware out and put them into the drawer. Unfortunately, she doesn't care if they are dirty or clean, so the silverware situation is somewhat unsanitary at the moment. But at least she's interested. My boys have never shown any interest in the dishwasher, other than the time they put regular dishwashing liquid into it and I had a sudsy flood in the kitchen.

Babygirl also has a new obsession with buckling things. She sits in her booster seat, buckles up and then wants to be unbuckled so she can buckle up again. When we arrive at our destination in the car, she wants to be unbuckled so she can buckle up. Today, when we arrived home, I unbuckled her quickly, like a magician doing a magic trick faster than the human eye can see. When she realized she was unbuckled and about to be removed from the carseat and the beloved buckles, she turned and clung to the side of her seat. I tugged on her, just like I had tugged on that stubborn little star-fish in the bucket. Finally, I got her unstuck--much to her outrage--and carried her inside. Another successful Adventure completed.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

A Childhood Memory

One of my favorite childhood memories just came to mind.

When I was a child, we used to go out to eat at those buffet-type restaurants, especially on Sundays after church. We particularly loved Old Country Buffet because the dessert area featured an ice cream machine and you got to swirl the ice cream into your bowl all by yourself (a Big Deal when you are seven).

On this particular day, we sat in a booth. My sister, Harmony, brought her bowl of swirled ice cream back to the table and climbed into the booth, where she began to scoot on her knees, facing away from our table. She clutched her ice cream in her grimy little hands as she attempted to traverse the wide expanse of the plastic-leather seat. She faced the backs of our neighboring diners.

And then she lost her grip and dumped her ice cream down the back of the man at the next booth. He wore a suit. A suit with melting ice cream smeared on the back.

I have no further memory of that day, but I imagine my mother's mortification and that man's horror and my sister's tear-stained face.

And it all makes me laugh.

See? I told you I was seven years old.

Me? Whine?

Today, the tide will be low. Very, very low. Lower than it's been in the past 19 years. I wanted to take the kids to the beach to search for sea creatures. I checked the tide tables last night and the low tide is expected to occur at 2:00 p.m.

But YoungestBoy had his final baseball game this morning at 9:00 a.m.
And my husband had to work for a bit at church.
And then YoungestBoy had to go sign up for soccer.
And then my husband had to go to a funeral.
And Babygirl had to take a nap at 1:00 p.m.

I was feeling so whiny about missing the low tide. The big kids don't even care about going. They've just been pestering me about going to a used video game store to buy Gameboy games. But I wanted to go! I wanted to find a moon snail and crabs and a tiny, little octopus. I want the children to remember sea spray on their faces and the salty stink of the shore and the sucking sound their shoes make in the rarely seen muck.

And wouldn't you know it? At precisely 2:00 p.m., rain started to fall.

This rain is not a light, misty, foggy rain. This rain is a pelting, stinging, cold, steady downpour.

Tomorrow, the tide will be low again. Not as low, but low enough. We'll try again. The moon snails will still be lurking just under the surface of the sand and the bottom of the sea will be exposed, ready for us to explore.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Mid-Life Crisis

In 1989, my dad died. He was 47. He died from malignant melanoma. Who knew that skin cancer could sneak through your body and lodge in your brain and decimate your liver and snuff out your life? He was diagnosed and four months later, he died.

He died in the bedroom we'd set up for him in the house he owned. My husband of two years and I had moved in with him in May of that year. He worked nights, we worked days and we were going to each benefit from this new living arrangement. Except that he was diagnosed with cancer the week before we moved in. He quit his job and puttered around the house most days.

When we moved in, he gave us the blue master bedroom and he claimed my old lavender bedroom for his own. That's how it happened that he died in the room where I grew up.

I was 24 then. I'd been married for two years and during those two years, I'd worked at a law office while my husband earned his Master of Arts in Religion degree from Yale Divinity School. I adored the adventure of living in a new state, a new region, a new city. I walked the mile and a half to my new job, soaking in the sights and sounds of the city. But soon, I was bored by my job. I worked for a lawyer who'd just started her own private practice and I did not have enough work to do. I'd stare out the window at the three churches across the Green and I'd imagine my life, my Real Life, which I figured would start as soon as my husband finished school.

My co-worker, Leo, the paralegal in the office, would say in his Boston accent, "Don't wish your life away," because I was always wishing it were time to go home or wishing it were the weekend or wishing it were lunch-time. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Then my husband finished school and we moved back to Washington state and boy, did my Real Life begin with a vengeance. My dad died within 9 months. My sister started taking drugs and staying out all night dancing at raves. My husband couldn't find a job, and when he did find work (at a bank), he was fired. I began working for a medical insurance company and again, I was bored. Don't get me wrong. I was a great employee. But I was waiting for my real Real Life to start. I figured that would start as soon as we had a baby.

Um, no. No baby that is. From the very first month--I have journals that confirm this--from the very first month, I was panicked and pessimistic and glum. I somehow knew that I wouldn't get pregnant. This underground knowledge, though, didn't stop me from hoping each month, from imagining pregnancy symptoms each month and from crying hysterically every month when my period started.

And everyone--I mean, everyone was pregnant around me. Everyone from my married friends from college who were using birth control to my 17-year old sister's schoolmate (who had an abortion) to the girl I went to high school with who got pregnant with twins on her honeymoon--everyone. I was the common denominator, a fertility goddess for everyone but myself.

I spent the year weeping. My husband was bewildered and lacked my sense of failure and urgency completely. All I wanted was a baby. I wanted to be pregnant, I wanted to be a mother. I wanted a family. That's all.

I did think briefly about becoming a nurse and I even took a biology course at the local community college. But between my full-time job and helping my husband start a brand-new church, I just couldn't muster up the enthusiasm necessary. I wanted a baby. Period. It was like my own personal Hierarchy of Needs. Oxygen. Sleep. Food. Husband. Baby.

Over four years later, I sat wedged between two carseats when we took our newly adopted twins home. As we pulled in the driveway, I remember thinking, "What the hell have I done?"

And then, just to prove He has a sense of humor, God gave me my long-for pregnancy when the twins were almost four. YoungestBoy was born when I was 33, nearly ten years after I had first started trying to get pregnant, many years after the doctors told us it was "unlikely" that we'd ever conceive.

And then, to prove that He always gets the last laugh, God gave us Babygirl when YoungestBoy was almost five, just when I was started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the proof that life did, indeed, exist beyond my family room.

And because my Heirarchy of Needs has been met over the years, I sense this new urgency, this drive, this longing for more. But not more babies. My flashing "NO VACANCY" sign is up.

But I wonder if I'll be more than this. Will I have a career? An accomplishment besides having all laundry finished? Will I someday go somewhere that a briefcase is necessary? Someplace that requires quiet precision, steady concentration and single-minded attention?

Or will I always be washing dishes and wearing capri pants and slippers and organizing Vacation Bible School while I'm wiping snotty noses and folding socks?

I guess this is my mid-life crisis. I am a mother. Now I want to be more. My dad died when he was 47. I'm 39. Time's a-wasting.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


I realized just now that Babygirl turned 21 months old yesterday. Where, please tell me, where did the time go?

Just a while ago, I heard her babbling and looked over to see her "reading" a Teletubbies book to DaycareKid. DaycareKid, typical boy, was too busy putting a pair of underwear on his head to notice. He has a horrible cold and while we were in the back yard, he blew a snot bubble that was bigger than his actual nose.

While in the back yard, I mowed the lawn and clipped ivy with giant scissor clippers that I just remembered we owned. I keep them in the front closet with the winter coats and my wedding dress so that the children don't use them and accidentally cut their brother's hands off.

Tonight is YoungestBoy's last baseball game and my ever-vigilant husband already purchased snacks for the team. Yay, husband!

Last night, I was at the pool with my four kids and our friends' three kids. We were standing on the grassy hill just outside the gate. Babygirl was running down the hill as fast as she could and the boys (and L., the outnumbered girl) were eating candy they bought from the new vending machines. The other kids' dad was coming soon and we were just waiting around.

Then four people came heading alongside the tennis courts and towards the pool. They didn't come from the parking lot, but on foot from the apartment complex that adjoins the pool property.

My immediate thought: They are not members.

My next thought: Shame on you. You just thought that because the two teenaged boys are black. You racist!

Then: I wonder if anyone will say anything. They are not members. They do not look like members. Gosh, I'm racist.

I watch the teen with corn-rowed hair and a tattoo covering his stomach try to convince the blond girl that the water was warm. Two boys, two girls. Not members. I was sure of it.

Finally, the lifeguard said, "Hey, are you guys members?"

I was too far away to hear the entire convesation, but the gist of it was, "What? Members? How much does that cost? You're kidding! Four hundred dollars?"

The lifeguard says, "You can come here as a guest of a member, but otherwise, you can't swim here."

And then, the tattooed guy floated over to a clean-cut young dad who was swimming with his toddler. "Hey man, can I be your guest?"

Clean-Cut Dad looks him in the eye and says, "No. I don't know you. How could you be my guest?"

I wanted to say, "Yeah, and besides that, it costs $5!" Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!

I apparently am actually seven years old inside.

But the little voice that talks inside my head is usually right. They were not members. And that actually didn't have anything to do with their skin color.

At times like that, I realize that I live in a society where I'm afraid to say anything negative about a person of color, for fear that I will be perceived as a racist. If I were truly color-blind, I would have confronted those teenagers the second they approached the fenced pool. I don't have any problem at all standing up to teenagers. Earlier in the pool, a tall, blond teen boy took my 11-year old's goggles and refused to return them. Until, of course, I went over and demanded that he do so.

If he were black, that blond goggle-stealer, would I have bit my tongue? I don't know. What I do know is that I seem to make greater allowances for people of color so as not to appear racist.

And are you racist if you are aware of the race of others? Or are you racist only if you discriminate? And is it discrimination to look the other way when you see a person of color breaking a rule?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Fine Art of Complaining

Yesterday, I received a large envelope from Proctor & Gamble. Inside was a big, green envelope with a postage-paid return label on it and instructions to put the remaining product inside for examination.

Product? What product? The form letter added to my confusion. Then, I realized this was all about Secret. A few weeks back, I decided that my sticky underarms were just not satisfactory and that Secret's new "sheer dry" formula was to blame. So I emailed them and complained. "I've been using Secret since I was a sweaty teenager," I said, "and I hate your new formula. The original formula works, but not this improved formula."

They emailed me back, advising me of the correct way to use deodorant. I ignored the condescending tone and gave my address as requested. That's why I received the envelope yesterday, the coupon for a free deodorant and the request to return the old deodorant (which fortuntately, was still in the corner of the bathroom shelf).

So, hooray for Proctor & Gamble. Though, I remember an old urban legend from when I was a teenager about how Satan controlled the company and you could tell this by looking at the configuration of stars on the toothpaste tube. Look here. It wasn't just my imagination!

I have an unexpected day "off" today without my daycare baby. He has a cold and his mother stayed home with him. I spent the morning sorting through toys. I have a big, black trash bag ready for Goodwill.

The sunshine has returned. Blue sky, warm air. Too bad the kids still have two weeks of school. I am so finished hounding them about homework and caring about spelling words. But don't tell them.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

YoungestBoy, the summer of 2001, when all he wanted to do was swing, swing, swing.  Posted by Hello

Random Cute Picture of YoungestBoy Posted by Hello
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