Thursday, September 30, 2004

I'm Okay, You're Okay

I feel so much better today. I'm post-scratchy throat and I finished reading a novel (The Secret History). No more headache and I didn't even cry once today, this despite the fact that my daughter did not take a nap--again. She stomps her foot once while saying, "I don't want to go night-night!" That's what she says in the mornings, too, when I open her bedroom door to find her standing in her crib with her denim Old Navy baseball cap sitting backwards on her blond head.

She's a cute one, that girl.

Tomorrow is my Friday with no DaycareKid and I have hatched a plan to go to the consignment store to pick up my loot--cash and clothes they won't take. I'll bribe the boys to "do" school efficiently and whisk us away from our house on a little outing. Boring for them, change of scenery for me.

And we all know I need a change of scenery, coupled with a change in attitude. And more change in my pockets wouldn't hurt, either.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I'm Normal, Right?

My husband took YoungestSon to his soccer game at 5:10 p.m. Earlier in the afternoon, I had searched fruitlessly for a soccer sock. Last week, I'd discovered one between the sections of the sectional and it smelled all musty, sour actually. I figured that sooner or later, the match to this poor, unfortunate sock would show up.

How wrong I was. At 4:00 p.m., I searched through the dirty laundry. I picked through the sock basket. I looked through the sock drawer. No matching soccer sock. So I called my husband on his cell phone.

"I just want you to know that YoungestBoy will be wearing green soccer socks tonight because I can't find one of his white ones." The boys wear blue shirts and black shorts.

My husband took this in stride, then suggested he could buy a pair of black socks, which is really what he should have had in the first place. "Okay," I said, "and since you are out and about, will you please bring home Papa Murphy's pizza?"

He brought pizza and soccer socks and soccer shorts and then whisked away YoungestSon to his game.

I realized at that point that I needed to pee.

I said to Babygirl, "Hey, I'm going to pee. I'll be right back." She began to cry and scurried to follow me. "I pee, too," she said.

So, we raced upstairs and she had to sit on the toilet first. She finished, got herself a wad of toilet paper and flushed and I said, "Okay, now it's my turn." She said "NO!" I really, really, really needed to pee. Normally, I need to pee for an hour before I actually find myself in a bathroom.

For a moment, I argued with her, but then I remembered she'd had no nap. She's not reasonable when she hasn't napped. So, I said, "Fine," and I strode to the other bathroom where I took care of business without delay, despite the ruckus coming from the pants-around-her-ankles Babygirl.

She was outraged to find me sitting on the toilet, finishing up. I said, "Okay, shall we pull up your pants now? Are you done?" But she just screamed and cried and stomped. I attempted to find out what her problem was, attempted to be loving and rational and reasonable and all, and then I said, "All right. I'm going downstairs."

I went and cut the pizza. I cut one piece into small squares for Babygirl, while she stood at the top of the staircase shouting and crying with her pants still down. When I finished my task, I went back upstairs and said, "Hey, are you ready to come downstairs?" She said, "Zes." And I said, "Can I pull up your pants?" and she said, "No!" So I carried her downstairs and plopped her down on the couch and sat down next to her.

Doesn't sound like much, does it? But after a day full of small people talking all at once, and small people complaining and whining and fussing at me, and small people needing, needing, needing me, I'd just had enough.

So I stared at "Zoom" on the television with my arms folded across my chest. When "Zoom" ended, without moving a muscle or taking my eyes off the television screen, I mentioned to the boys that they had exactly forty-five minutes before their ride to youth group would pick them up and that they'd better eat and brush their teeth and get ready. They bolted off the couch and tromped into the kitchen while I still sat, arms crossed, not speaking to Babygirl.

She leaned closer and closer to me. "Teletubbies" came on and still I stared at the television set. Finally, she got off the couch and pulled up her pants. She looked at me and I looked at the television. She crawled to the other side of me and the first tears rolled down my cheeks. I let them fall and pretty soon, I was crying and thinking how easy it would be to fake a catatonic state. As I sat, a weeping statue, exhausted from all the neediness around me, wondering if I would ever feel refreshed and if I could run away without anyone noticing, I heard a buzzer.

The dryer buzzer. And like some Pavlovian dog, I abruptly stood and took the load from the dryer out and replaced it with the wet clothes from the dryer.

I gave Babygirl pizza for dinner.
I asked the boys if they brushed their teeth.

It's normal to cry while you watch "Teletubbies" because you are so overwhelmed by the demands of all the people around you. Right? And it's okay to think that if I had a do-over, that I probably wouldn't have chosen this day, today, this life, this moment, this family. And it's all right that when my son said (over Language Skills school work) "I wish I was dead" that my immediate gut instinct response was "I do, too." I didn't say it, if that counts for anything. And I didn't mean it, either, but goodness gracious, great balls of fire, it was one of those mornings. Followed by the lack of naptime. Coupled with this cold that has given me a headache and a continuous scratchy throat.

It's over for tonight.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Do you ever feel like complaining when technically you have no right to complain? I'm sitting here with all my limbs in working order in my sturdy house with its newly painted living room in my historic town with its good public schools while the sun is shining on a fine autumn day and I feel whiny and fat and irritable.

At 4:00 p.m., my fabulous husband took our healthy twin boys to an honest-to-God Boeing flight simulator where a friend of ours teaches pilots how to fly airplanes. But my house is still filled with the bickering of small boys because the neighbor boys are here and they are poor sports and big whiners. Kind of like me.

There is really only one cure for this attitude problem of mine. I must go straighten up the living room, tidy up the kitchen, pick up all these toys in the family room, fold a load of laundry, change the kitty litter and snort some cocaine.

Okay, only kidding about that last part.

Methamphetamines are really the way to go.

Okay, joking again. I'd better get busy so when my husband returns, he'll think I'm a better housekeeper than I really am.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Pastor's Day Off

Monday is the Pastor's Day Off.

Today, the Pastor dug a ditch all day. Well, not exactly, but he assisted a man who dug a drainage ditch on the church property. When he dropped off YoungestBoy after school, he came inside for a second and said, "Come and see my big truck." I followed him outside and there in my driveway idled a very large, manly truck, borrowed from the Chief Ditch Digger (who is a fire fighter in his real life).

My sweaty, suddenly blue-collar husband thought he was quite the stud, driving this testosterone-fueled vehicle.

He came home more exhausted than ever at about 5:00 p.m. and by 5:30 p.m., he was gone again, this time to sit in an overly long board meeting for a Rescue Mission. He came home at 9:30 p.m.

Now, on the Pastor's Day Off, what did the Pastor's Wife do?

Today, I agreed to watch another toddler while her mother had a job interview. So, while three toddlers careened around the house and twirled, yelped and watched Sesame Street, I guided my eleven year old twins through their school courses. Babygirl was particulary needy and kept begging for Momma Milk and I kept offering her pretzels instead.

The extra toddler was supposed to be picked up at 1:00 p.m. (otherwise known as Naptime), but at 1:53 p.m., her father called to say that her mother wouldn't be here until 3:30 p.m. No problem, I said, and I promptly put her down for a nap, too, where she shrieked for half an hour and then slept for half an hour.

Her mother finally arrived at nearly 4:00 p.m., and then at 4:30 p.m., DaycareKid's mom arrived and by 5:30 p.m., my children and I were sitting around the table having dinner (thank God for my crockpot and chicken on sale for 59 cents a pound). The kids all went outdoors to play in the waning light and by 7:00 p.m. I called them in to shower and bathe. How can it be getting dark so early now? So soon?

Finally, at 8:10 p.m., I put Babygirl down for the night. I read until 9:00 p.m., then put YoungestBoy to bed after reading him a story. My husband arrived home to find me in the recliner, reading in front of the television and he probably thinks I had such an easy day--compared to digging a ditch, maybe I did.

All the same, I caught a cold from the babies. Babygirl still sounds like she's been smoking cigarettes for twenty years and DaycareKid's nose is goopy. So, far, my throat is just scratchy and I'm keeping a tissue box close by for my overly active nose.

But aren't we refreshed, now that we've had a Day Off?

(p.s. Suzanne asked "why the three hour delay?" in picking up the extra toddler. Well, the mother of said toddler had a marathon job interview, lasting from 9:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. . . . and it was forty-five minutes away. She didn't realize how extensive the interview would be. The mother's due date was yesterday, too, and she plans to start her new job on November 1. And I thought I was busy! She'll soon have an almost-2 year old, a newborn and a full-time dull job.)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Weekend Update


Husband took YoungestBoy to soccer game at 10:00 a.m.

Husband went on an outing with church volunteers to dump old furniture. Why, please tell me, why do people donate their ugly 1970s couches to church youth groups? Those couches are now at Goodwill.

Husband returns home at 2:00 p.m., exhausted. I leave, saying, "When do you want to see my cute face again?" He says, "It's up to you. Whatever you think."

As I drive off, I think, well, I'll aim for 4:00 p.m., though if I get home by 5:00 p.m., that'd be okay.

I drop off film to be developed at Costco, then head over to the children's consignment shop where I drop off a huge, black trash bag full of clothes to sell. Then I browse the racks and find new clothes for Babygirl. Since she's decided to be potty-trained, I cannot dress her in overalls and shirts that snap. Oops. That's what I get for shopping in advance.

I return to Costco to pick up film, then drive toward home, stopping at the spur of the moment at Bargain Street Liquidators, which is going out of business. By the time I get home, it's 4:45 p.m., and when I walk through the door, husband says, "Why didn't you have your cell phone on?"

I never turn it on when I go out for a few hours. I have it set so my home telephone is forwarded to my cell phone and my husband hates that I get those calls instead of him. So, he usually tells me not to turn it on. He was annoyed because apparently he'd had appointments set up--one for 5:00 p.m. with a young couple who is joining the church, and one for 6:00 p.m. for a hospital visit.

Well, uh, hello? Why didn't you say so when I left? He was unhappy that he hadn't taken a shower yet, but uh, hello? When I'm home, I take a shower while the baby sleeps or while she watches television. It's not exactly a Fear Factor stunt to shower while you have a house full of kids.

I could tell he was annoyed, so I just went about my business, feeding kids, cleaning messes, showering kids, putting stuff away. There was a bit of confusion about whether or not we were going swimming--the pool was opened for two final days, a sort of bonus this year--and I asked the kids, "Do you want to swim?" and they said, "Yes!" and then husband said, "I need the car," and then he said we could drop him off.

I did not want to go to the pool with all four kids. Although the temperature might have reached seventy degrees and the pool is heated to eighty-six degrees, Babygirl is a slender thing without any body fat to keep her warm. I worried that she'd get chilled. But we went.

We only stayed an hour and a half or so, and most of that time, we were the only people at the pool. The boys had a great time, swimming, putting each other in headlocks, fighting over rules in their made-up games. Babygirl spent the whole time in the wading pool, so I didn't have to actually immerse myself in water, which made me very happy.

I found being at the pool at this late date an odd experience. At one point, a "V" of ducks flew overhead, migrating south, I suppose and the dichotomy of this autumn ritual combined with the smell of chlorine gave me the sense of being in a time warp. I felt sad for what's behind us, melancholy about the chill in the air and the darkness of the early evening.

But the kids frolicked and spent all their money on goodies from the vending machines--all items were twenty-five cents off, so they thought they had scored. The left with a renewed stash of candy.

So that's that. No more summer. No more swimming. Ahead of us: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas--which will be here before we know it--and my 40th birthday. I can hardly stand this sensation of time rushing past my head in such a loud roar.


Today, I almost played hooky from church, but at the last minute, decided to hurry and go. Babygirl went in her underpants--the first time in public without a diaper. How odd that my baby has decided to be so grown up. She threw a huge fit on the way home. She did not want to get into her carseat, so after I gave her a choice (get in your seat or I'll put you in your seat), she cried pitifully all the way home. She's hoarse from the cold she's getting over, so she sounded especially sad. Then, when we got home, she wanted to go for a walk and hung on the doorknob and wailed at the injustice of life until I said, "Well, I'm going upstairs," and then she followed me and eventually--after more tears and foot stomps--consented to let me rock her and put her to bed.

My husband had returned home from church by then, so I left to go buy flowers for my porch and entryway. The summer Gerber daisies and petunias have died. I ended up at the grocery store which has an attached nursery where I purchased a few groceries and enough flowers to repot everything. When I returned home, Babygirl was awake, so I brought her and YoungestBoy into the front yard with me while I worked. (The twins had gone to their twin-friends'house.) YoungestBoy pushed Babygirl in the stroller--up the driveway and then down, really fast. Then they rode bikes up and down, Babygirl demonstrating courage I didn't realize she possessed.

I mowed the lawn, planted the flowers, trimmed the ivy, swept the walkway, cleaned the porch, rearranged everything and by then, my husband was awake from his nap and he ended up finishing the driveway sweeping. Babygirl needed some attention by then.

So, the day flew by. The weekend whizzed past. The summer went by in a blink. And now my evening's almost gone, too, and I haven't even had a chance to read. But at least my porch is full of purple mums and lively pansies and yellow flowers. Hidden deep in the pots is the promise of spring--mini-daffodils which will cheer me on the cold, damp, dark days of March, which should be arriving in approximately 23 minutes.

Cute or what?

"I'm cute and my hands are sticky. Back off." Posted by Hello

Here is my youngest son, at the fair. Cute, huh?

And how about this baby girl, dancing in the newly painted living room.

Babygirl Posted by Hello

And last, but not least, here are the boys at the fair:

The boys Posted by Hello

Friday, September 24, 2004


My youngest son likes to be a good boy. Last year, in kindergarten, the only time he got his "happy" symbol changed to a "sad" symbol when was Dominick got him in trouble and made him yell during class. Other than that, perfect behavior.

Now, in first grade, the children have four different colored cards. Yellow is good, pink less so. Green and blue are downright bad, involving missed recesses and visits to the principal's office and other horrors.

This afternoon--after a half-day of school--I say to my chubby kid, "So, how was school?"

He says, "Grrrrrreat," sounding exactly like Tony the Tiger.

I say, "Hey, have you had you card moved?" I expected him to say, "no."

And he said, "Yes!"

I raised my eyebrows in surprise and said, "You have?"

He said, "Psych!" And I said, "You have not?" And he said, "Psych!" We went back and forth like that for a minute.

Turns out, he did have his card moved a few days ago. I said, "What happened?"

He reported, "I got my mind lost and did crazy stuff."

I almost broke the first rule of mothering and fell to the floor laughing. But I did not break character and with a completely straight face, I said, "What kind of stuff?"

"I acted like it was recess and stuff."

I immediately grabbed pen and paper to write down "I got my mind lost," before I forgot. He said, "What? Mom! Are you going to take my allowance? What are you doing? Mom! Mom!"

I said, "No, I'm not taking your allowance. You got your card changed. That's punishment enough."

Then he went into the backyard to pick peppermint leaves for his big brother's mint potion (a muddy mixture in a lidded glass jar--it looks like poison, but smells minty fresh).

At one point today, I had eight kids in my house. And it's not even 3:00 p.m. yet. At least Babygirl napped today. The sun is shining, it's Friday, I get paid today and I survived my first week of schooling at home.


Thursday, September 23, 2004


Babygirl has potty-trained herself. She used her potty all day today, which is fantastic. Except that each time she tinkles, she says, "I peed in the potty!" I might be making lunch or teaching the boys literature or folding clothes or washing dishes or arguing with one of the boys about whether or not there truly are too many zeroes in math . . . and I must drop everything, because after she pees, she squats and peers with her face actually in the hot pink plastic pot until I come to admire her accomplishment.

Then, we must follow these steps:

1) Remove pot from potty chair.
2) Carry pot to bathroom. ("Don't spill!")
3) Dump contents.
4) Rinse pot with water.
5) Wipe pot clean with toilet paper.
6) Flush toilet.
7) Close toilet.
8) Wash hands with big bar of orange soap.
9) Dry hands on towel.
10) Replace pot in potty.

Then she immediately sits on the potty chair again to see if she can repeat these glorious steps!

She was dry all day today, no accidents. I cannot believe it. She even puts on her own pants and shoes. If I'd had this girl first, then my boys, I would have thought my boys were brain-damaged for sure.

This has been our first full week of schooling at home. TwinBoyA is a willing, eager, competent student. He hurries to do his best work and does a funky little dance whenever he gets a "100%", which is pretty much every time he completes something.

His brother greets every new assignment with cries of "It's too hard! I'm stupid! I hate math! It has too many zeroes! Do I have to do it all?" He spent two hours on a math assignment which was simple enough to complete in one hour. The thing is, if he were in a public school classroom, he'd be slacking, unnoticed by the teacher until test-time. By then, it would be too late and he'd fail while the class moved on to another concept. It's happened every fall for a few years now.

So, schooling at home is great for him. He is required to do all his work and if he fails an assessment, he redoes it until he gets it right. I think he might be actually learning, despite his grumbling and whining and dramatic complaints. I think he'll soon realize that it's to his advantage to pay attention to details, proofread and do things right the first time.

Babygirl has been more cooperative than I expected. When I sit at the kitchen table at 9:00 a.m. with both boys to introduce the day's math concepts, she comes running to sit, too. She has her own notebook and pencil and she "works" right along with us. I introduce the assignment, then the boys work on problems. We repeat that scenario until we work our way through math, language skills, spelling, literature, science, vocabulary . . . and next week, art and music. We're missing our history kit, so we'll be adding that when it arrives.

Generally, they are finished by about 1:00 or 2:00 p.m., though when we add art, music and history, we'll work later in the day.

Babygirl and DaycareKid nap at about 1:00 p.m., so I've been able to have a little break. Today, though, I put Babygirl to bed much to her dismay. She cried and screamed with complete outrage. After an hour, I rescued her, thinking maybe she'd fall asleep on my bed with me. Wrong, so wrong. She watched Winnie the Pooh, then took a shower (she's obsessed with showering) while I read A Secret History, which enthralls me. I love it when I am in the middle of a really good novel.

Anyway, I'm exhausted. (Can you tell from this rambling entry?) I have started exercising again (riding our fancy recumbent exercise bike for forty minutes each night). I've been trying to get the dirty laundry off the laundry room floor, where it has been overflowing for two weeks. Today, I finally achieved that goal, but alas, everyone wore clothes today, so I'm right back where I started. The housework cycle wears me out--the wrinkled clothes calling for an iron, the kitchen counter clutter piles, the floor which will not stay clean, the bathroom mirrors with spatters on them. I don't spatter the bathroom mirrors--why does everyone else in my house? I don't pee on the toilet seats and rims--why does everyone else in my house? I don't leave laundry on my floor--okay, well, actually, I do. Never mind.

Babygirl takes the following items to bed with her:

1) White rectangular calculator.
2) Red oval calculator, designed to clip onto a backpack.
3) Gnome.
4) Medium sized bear.
5) Two tiny bears.
6) Dolly, with hat.
7) Her own denim baseball hat.

When I open her door in the morning, she greets me wearing this baseball hat backwards, inevitably saying, "I poop in my diaper again!" She seems happily surprised every morning by this event.

It's quite a way to start a day. And that will happen in approximately eight hours. If I were actually sleeping right this second, I might not wake up with complete despair when the alarm rings at 6:25. And 6:34. And 6:42.

But when I go upstairs, I'll pick up that book and before I know it, midnight will arrive and I'll be sorry that I didn't go to sleep earlier, just like every night. Why are the days so long and the nights so short?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Fifteen Years Ago

Way back in the forties, when my dad was young. . . Posted by Hello

Twenty-one years years ago, I went away to college. My parents--mother, father, stepmother--and siblings and even my grandmother converged on the Everett, Washington, Greyhound bus station where I boarded a bus for Springfield, Missouri. I traveled for four days, three interminable nights on a bus, journeying to the distant land of Central Bible College, where I sought my destiny. I'm not sure why my parents put me on a bus, rather than an airplane. The cost was not much different. I wonder if it was a test of my resolve, an attempt to deter me from going so far from home? I was desperate to leave, though, eager to shake free from my parents and the mess they'd made of my life and yearning to distance myself from the pain and heartache of my broken family.

When I arrived in Missouri, I had actual sores on my posterior from riding so long. I was bleary from lack of sleep. Buses tend to stop in the dark hours of early morning at random, rural places for extended periods. I hadn't bathed, I hadn't slept well, I hadn't eaten much in those four days.

I didn't even bother to call my dad to let him know I had arrived safely. How inconsiderate, I think now, but at the time, I didn't think. I didn't think he'd worry, I didn't think he'd care, I didn't think he'd notice. Eventually, he reached my dormitory phone and assured himself that I had, indeed, survived the grueling ride.

On Saturday, September 17, 1983, he began writing a letter to me:

Dear Mel,

I sure hope you appreciate this. You know how much I hate to write letters.

It is now 10:20 p.m. I'm just sitting in the living room writing this while KBRD and the ticking of the clock make up for the silence.

Hope all is going well for you. I can remember when I left home to go to North Central [Bible College]. When I left, it didn't bother me and it didn't bother me being away from home, either. It never dawned on me that my mother missed me or that she was sad when I left.

The night you left, I realized what my mother must have gone through twenty-one years before. When that bus pulled away and you disappeared, I felt all the sorrow and loneliness that I am sure my mother felt.

That night I crawled into bed, and cried a river of tears. I cried not only because you were gone and you would not be coming back for a long time, but I cried because of the failure I was as a father.

Here you are, grown and gone from home and I can't even remember being a father to you. I can't remember playing with you, holding you on my lap or ever doing anything with you. I can't remember taking you to church, reading you a story of any kind, let alone a Bible story, or doing anything that would make a little girl happy.

I guess I haven't been much of a father. But I do love you and I am proud of you for the beautiful young lady you have chosen to become. I am thankful for all the good influences of your mother, grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles.

Even though as a father and a spiritual example I was a failure, I hope that you will understand that I did work hard and tried to provide as best I could.

I have a tremendous amount of love for all of you kids, it's just that the only way I knew how to show it was to work hard. I gave everything except the most important thing, myself and my time.

Forgive me for being the way I am.

[Then he stops writing, and resumes writing on September 25 . . . general chit-chat about the weather and my siblings. He finishes the letter . . . ]

Well, it is now 11:55 p.m. and it is time for me to get some rest.

Study hard, but don't study so hard that you miss out on having some fun in life.

Love, Dad

Fifteen years ago, I arranged to have my dad discharged from the hospital where he'd been hospitalized for eleven days. He'd made it clear that he did not want to die in the hospital, so I brought him home.

My great aunts said, "What will you do? You have to go back to work sometime," and they suggested a nursing home. I said no. I wanted him home. The ambulance brought him into the house on a stretcher, but he had to walk the final few steps to his bed, which was in the lavender room where I spent my teenage years.

The last thing he said was to the ambulance drivers, an impossibly young man and woman who said to him loudly, as if he were deaf and not just dying of cancer, "SIR, YOU MUST WALK TO THE BED! SIR! SIR!" And he said with great irritation, "I KNOW!!" I stood in the doorway of the master bedroom, clutching a pillow helplessly, watching, terrified of this drama.

Then he baby-stepped his way to the hospital bed that waited for him. He never spoke again. I could see his pulse racing in his neck and his breathing was rushed, but he lived through the night.

The next morning, I dressed and went to work. My aunts were staying with us for a few more days. I peeked into the room and Aunt Lu told me he'd had a restless night, but that he was calm. When I called at noon, she told me he was stable.

When I arrived home at 4:00 p.m., Aunt Lu met me in the driveway and told me it was time to go get my sister. She said he was failing quickly.

I drove a few miles to KFC, where my sister worked. She was almost seventeen and had worried aloud about this moment. Who would tell her? Who would get her? I walked into the restaurant, asked for her and when she appeared, I couldn't speak. I just held out my arms and choked on the words, "It's time." We wept right there in front of the refrigerator case.

When we walked into the house, Aunt Lu said he was having seizures, that we should not go into the room. I pushed past her, my sister behind me and when I saw him convulsing, arms and legs straight and shaking, I turned and led my sister back to the darkened living room. By the time I walked back down the hallway to the bedroom, he was dead.

My mother was on the other side of the bed, weeping and saying, "Into Your hands, we commit his spirit." My three great aunts were in the room and they hugged me and we cried. I touched his cheek, the rough reddish beard that was so full of gray and said, "Poor Daddy." He was forty-seven years old. I was twenty-four. Melanoma had killed him.

I went through the house, then, to find my husband. He was in my dad's office in the garage, waiting with my stepmother (my dad's ex-wife) and my dad's best friend. I said, "It's over," and then my husband held me and I cried some more.

The day only grew weirder then, as we sat and waited with mostly dry eyes while the men from the funeral home struggled to carry my tall, hefty dad out of the house. This time, they couldn't persuade him to walk just a few steps around the problematic corner. My husband helped carry my dad away as I sat and tried not to listen to them grunt and gasp under the weight of him.

I wondered then and I wonder now, "What will we do without him? How will we go on? What happens to us now?"

And I'm still not sure. But this I know beyond any doubt: He loved me. What more could a little girl need?

He would have adored being a grandfather. My Babygirl would have been the most spoiled, cherished, worshipped baby girl who ever walked this earth. My boys would have thrived under his tutelage--they would be computer experts, radio-repair hot-shots, video-game partners, jokers extraordinaire.

I still need my dad.
I still miss my dad.
I still love my dad.

I hope I told him enough.


2:53 p.m. Just as I am about to write a touching, moving, hilarious yet dignified entry about the fifteenth anniversary of my dad's death--his deathday, as I like to call it--my baby woke up.

This schooling at home stuff is cramping my style. Next thing you know, I'll be putting up homegrown peaches in sparkling canning jars and wearing long, full skirts I sewed myself on my treadle sewing machine. What have I become?

I'll be back later.

Tonight. Only five hours until the baby's bedtime.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Fair

Cigarette smoke.
Clouds like cotton candy.
Dizzy pass ride bracelets.
Funnel cake.
Elephant ear.
Caramel apple rolled in tiny M&Ms.
Fat women in spandex.
Adolescent girls with low slung pants and bare bellies.
Carnival games.
Cheap toys.
Cotton candy.
Ice cream.
Droning noise.
Aching feet.
Sticky fingers.
Chapped lips.
Strollers as big as ice cream trucks.
Waiting in line.
And waiting.
Stuffed purple dragon.
Stuffed ducky.
Empty pockets.
Silence of the car.
Home again.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Better Than Alcohol

Although a commenter suggested I need a margarita, I believe I had something even better today. Today, I had a lot of laughs, unexpected laughs, at the baby shower I attended. Who wouldn't laugh at the military wife mimicking her Ranger husband's terror during her impending birth? Oh my. Funny, funny women!

And tomorrow I'm taking my boys to the fair, where we will ride the scary rides, eat junk food, waste our money on carnival games and avoid all agricultural displays. Alas, the boys don't care about how perfectly the 4-H clubs can arrange produce, nor do they want to watch a wool-spinning demonstration or marvel at the tall horses.

Babygirl will stay home with my husband for her third day in a row. She's too young to remember and she would be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and smells of the fair.

So, if you don't hear from me, you'll know I joined the carnival. Or I'm stuck on the very tippy-top of a ride. Or I've taken the commenter's suggestion and I'm completely intoxicated on margaritas, too intoxicated to write.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Slow Learners

I will not name names.
I will not name names.
I will not name names.

But some people just don't understand PMS. Some people in my house, I mean. Not that I would name names.

The unnamed person said, "I can always tell when you have PMS because you yell a lot more."

And I said, "Yes, I am very crabby and that's because it's Day 28 in my cycle and I should be sent away on this day, left alone, not bugged on this day." (Add this to the fact that my baby woke up extremely early this morning. I stumbled from place to place, curling up, attempting to sleep again this morning, after that rude awakening--I crashed in my bed, the couch, the recliner, my son's bed, the gliding rocker--while she played or watched television, but it was no use. I didn't get any more sleep.)

And the one who shall not be named said, "But we have to live with you. And you are the only one who can control your own behavior."

It's hopeless, really. For seventeen years, I've lived with, oh, well, someone who shall not be named, and yet, even after all this time, all this predictable, cyclical time, this anonymous one does not understand.

I'd like to see how men would handle their daily lives if they woke up at 6:16 a.m. on a Saturday on the crabbiest day of their month and then had to change a smelly diaper, clean up a disgusting mess (kitty poop), launder dirty sheets, staighten up a stinky kid's room and wash dishes from last night (because I left the house for that Bible study) and then had to go to a birthday party--after driving an hour in the rain, in heavy traffic, with a child in the front seat who would not stop asking questions that started, "Mom, what if . . . ?"

Pray tell, how would a guy handle that kind of situation?

I'm waiting.

And waiting.

Oh, yes, I know. They would say, "Hey, I need to go run an errand. I'll see you later." Or "I have to go catch up on work. I'll be gone less than two hours." Or "Hey, I'm going to lay down and catch the second half of that game, if you don't mind."

Women should be sent away, far away from their families on these irritable sorts of days and given vast quantities of chocolate (without calories, of course) and a complete absence of questions. ("Mom, where is my Gameboy?" "Mom, can I have a snack?" "Mom, can we play checkers on the internet?" "Mom, are we getting donuts today?" "Mom, do you think I can have a new video game for Christmas?")

Personally, I haven't had a decent "day off" in a few weeks and tomorrow will be no better. In the morning, we have church. After that, lunch and Grace's nap. Then, at 3:00 p.m., a baby shower for two pregnant church friends. That will be fun, but there goes the last window of time I might have had to get out of this house, alone, without an agenda, for another week.

Maybe it's just me, but I crave time away from this house, these kids, the neverending laundry. If I don't have a regular break, or at least the prospect of an impending break, I start to feel trapped, imprisoned, crazed, like I want to cut off my arm like that hiker did to escape his entrapment by a boulder.

The boulder that I push up a hill every day starts to feel heavier and heavier until I am pinned beneath it. That's how today is.

That's how PMS feels.

I wish I could explain that to those who shall remain nameless.

And yes, I know, I truly do need a break. And it's not my husband's fault, exactly. People have died. People have been married. It's his job to be there for these things and sometimes, that affects me. I'm just feeling particularly used up at the moment and time will pass and I'll feel better.

Unless, I run away to reunite with Jean-Claude in Tahiti, the 17 year old boy who thought he loved the 17 year old me. In which case, you can still reach me at my current email address.

Friday, September 17, 2004

A Quick Update Late At Night

It's 10:58 p.m., Friday night. Today, I took care of two toddlers all day, coaxed my 11 year old twins through their first internet school lesson, did several loads of laundry, made a nutritious dinner (chicken in the crockpot, baked potatoes for them, a baked sweet potato for me), showered Babygirl and sneaked away from the house at 6:45 p.m. I went to our church's Young Couple's Bible Study, which amuses me because I am neither young, nor do I attend the group as part of a couple. My husband stays home with the extremely skittish Babygirl who would surely scream until her head actually popped off and then fly around the room like an inflated balloon when you let go without tying it.

During the meeting, my mind drifted. At the other end of the table sat a young military couple. She is seven months pregnant and possibly the most beautiful pregnant woman I've ever seen. She's tall and thin under normal circumstances, blond and fair-skinned and now she has this gorgeous baby-filled belly, exactly like Midge, only my friend has shorter hair. She's an officer in the military herself, having graduated from West Point, which still surprises me because she is such a soft-spoken, gentle woman.

Her husband is a quiet man, not very tall, but a Ranger in the Stryker Brigade which is going to replace the unit that is currently serving in Mosul, Iraq. Not long ago, I found a blog by a soldier serving in Mosul, and quickly became enamored by his writing. I wasn't alone, alas, and soon enough the chain of command caught wind of it and effectively shut down his blog, but not before I got a glimpse into life in Mosul for American soldiers. He still writes, but nothing personal, no details, no clues about what's really happening in Mosul. Still, it's worth checking out the blog to see the few archived posts that still remain on the site. (Most of them were removed.)

So, I looked down the table tonight and thought that this man would soon be taking the place of CB (the blog-writer) or a soldier exactly like him. I hope the fighting eases soon in Mosul. I hope the entire country of Iraq settles down. In the meantime, while he's deployed, his first child, a son, will be born.

The meeting ended with a sudden hilarious change of topics in which someone said, "speaking of urination and feces" and I said, "Oh, are we sharing poop stories now?" and the woman next to me said, "Oh, I have one!" and proceded to tell how her now 3-year old, newly potty-trained son, made a deposit in his pants and then--in the midst of our town's lovely, quaint, old-time soda-fountain restaurant, shook the poop out of his underpants and down his pant-leg and onto the floor. Meanwhile, his mom is feeling his bottom to see if the smell came from him, but felt nothing. A bit later, she glanced down and saw evidence of the smelly deed on the floor of the restaurant.

Really, doesn't everyone have a poop story? Although perhaps not as dramatic as the story dooce tells, or as funny as marbles of the brown stuff on a restaurant floor, but we all have a story.

Am I right? Or am I right?

Good grief, I need to go to bed. This makes two unsavory posts in a week. My sincere apologies.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Disco Dancing

My daughter could put John Travolta to shame. She has an innate talent for disco dancing. She bounces, jives, shimmies, raises her arms, one at a time, over her head. Her fingers are pointed and a small smug smile lights up her face. The twins put on music just to watch her dance--it's actually some kind of contemporary Christian music, rappish in nature, which makes me say "turn that down!" I am such a sorry old fogey. But my daughter--she is a dancing fool!

There are three toddlers sitting on my couch at the moment, eating dry Cheerios. Barney is on the television. I have an extra toddler to watch while her 9-months pregnant mother has a telephone interview for a job. They are feeling the pinch of living on one income and think there is no alternative but for her to work.

Yesterday was busier than usual. My twins worked on a math during the morning and then did a lot of reading. I did not torture them with writing assignments. Only one more week until the curriculum is supposed to arrive.

DaycareKid's mom called to say her sister would be picking up DaycareKid. We talked about what time it would be and she mentioned that her sister would be a little earlier than usual because she'd pick up her kindergartener and be right over. That's when I remembered that her kindergartener has been longing for a "playdate" (his word) at my house. I suggested that maybe Auntie could drop her kids off here (kindergartener and 3 year old sister) and run an errand or something until DaycareKid finished his nap. Sure enough, right at 3:30 p.m., she dropped off her two kids, so at that point, I had seven kids at my house.

They left at 5:00 p.m. and in their place came the two neighborhood boys who like to play Nintendo here and watch television since they have no cable at their house--thus, bringing the total number of kids in my house yesterday to nine.

My midwife in Michigan was the mother of nine children. They lived on a dairy farm in Amish country (they weren't Amish, though) and the five oldest children were girls. She once told me, "I thought I had parenthood all figured out and then I had a son." Anyway, the first day I met her--I was already in my second trimester--serenity filled her house. She was also pregnant, three months further along than I was, and her rosy cheeks glowed. Straight bangs, a cherubic face and a thick braid hanging down her back made her seem younger than she was.

I only saw one of her children that day, a messy-haired blond girl, but during the course of my pregnancy, during my check-ups, I'd catch a glimpse of her industrious, obedient girls, and I'd hear them at the piano, competently playing classical pieces. Her kitchen always shone with cleanliness and the long solid wood kitchen table gleamed.

She homeschooled all of her children, although her mother-in-law, a former schoolteacher, taught the youngest children. She also said everyone should have a newborn and a teenager in the house at the same time. She grew her own vegetables and a lush flower garden. She sewed and I'm not sure, but I think she spun straw into gold.

Anyway, I'm not that kind of mom, even on days when I have nine children in my house. I did manage a turkey and mashed potato dinner last night (thank you, Crockpot), but other than that, I just tread water, do what has to be done. Moms like the homeschooling farmer's wife in Michigan make me feel inferior, like I've obviously done something wrong along the way.

On the other hand, my daughter is a disco-dancing fool, so I must be doing something right.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Snippets of Babygirl

This afternoon, Babygirl woke from her nap a little early. So I sat her on my bed with a snack and the television set on Boohbah and ironed a few shirts for my husband. I'm old-fashioned like that.

At one point, I was in the closet, putting away clothes, when Babygirl stepped inside with me and said, "I peed on the floor!" And remembering last week when she did indeed pee on the closet floor, I said, "Yes, you did, didn't you?" Then she cackled and said, "I pee on daddy's shoes!" And I said, "Oh no, don't pee on daddy's shoes." And her eyes widened, she crouched, waved her arms dramatically and said, "That would be bad!" She said "baaaaaad" like she was in a music video.

It's so funny when she says, "I'm tired," because she drags out the "i" sound and sounds like she's from the Deep South. She says, "Ah'm tahred."

Tonight after dinner, we were sitting in our newly arranged living room and Babygirl decided to get off my lap. She turned and made a sudden movement and before I could say "be careful," she clunked her forehead right into the corner of the coffee table.

She opened her mouth to scream, but the pain was too great, so she just clutched her forehead for a long moment and finally the sound came and then she screamed.

My husband rushed down the stairs to see what happened. There was no blood, just an indentation in her little forehead, which immediately began to swell and bruise.

He looked at me as if I had body-slammed her, forehead first, in into the wooden corner on purpose. He asked, "What happened?" and I said, "She slipped and fell--could you get me some ice in a washcloth?"

He delivered the ice cubes, but before that, Babygirl sat up and said, "I okay." That didn't stop my husband from questioning me as if I were Ted Bundy, on death row, accused of a yet another felony. Over and over, I told him how she hit her head before I could stop her. I'm not sure he's convinced of my innocence.

But I have two words for him: fractured collarbone. When TwinBoyA was three years old, he fell off the couch while my husband was the parent in charge. He couldn't exactly explain how it happened, but the kid ended up with a fractured collarbone and it wasn't my fault!

Babygirl will have a big, purple bump on her forehead. And yeah, I wasn't able to save her. Time for the full-body bubblewrap, including padded helmet for twenty-four hour use.

If my husband keeps looking at me like that, I just might pee in his shoes.

Excuse Me While I Go Mad

The K12 curriculum will not be arriving for another full week. My kids are revolting against my "learn by writing" made-up busy work. They do not use capital letters. They do not put their words into tidy little paragraphs with related thoughts. They do not have a beginning, a middle and an end. And they can't spell.

But they are gone now. My husband took them with him on an errand to Costco. Upon hearing the news that they could go with him, they frantically asked if they could have an advance on their allowance. "Does Costco sell laser-tag?" they said.

The house is still. The babies are asleep. I have a giant glass of Diet Coke with Lime. And I have no idea what to cook for dinner. I intended to get a frozen chicken out of the big freezer (yes, nestled right next to the lentils), but the morning got away from me and now I have to be creative. I hope I can find something in that freezer besides old oats. The children tend to hate creative dinners (i.e. anything other than crockpot chicken or roast and potatoes).

Last night, I took all the kids to YoungestBoy's soccer practice. The practice appeared to be complete bedlam. Everytime I glanced over, I saw the boys milling about, kicking their soccer balls and grabbing each other around the throats. Only six boys participate on each team and they were all crazy with cabin fever, I guess. First full week of school and all. My older boys "helped," although I'm not sure how helpful they really were.

Babygirl had a great time sliding down the school playground slides. I improvised and used a clean disposable diaper to wipe off the rain-drenched slides. I was fairly impressed with my ingenuity, which only proves what a small world I live in at the moment. I could have used napkins, only YoungestBoy spilled an entire chocolate milkshake in the backseat of the car (on the side where the door no longer opens) and I had to use every napkin I could find to sop up the frozen treat.

I spent this morning dunking two cats' behinds in a sink full of water. We have three mutant cats, all from the same litter. Smokey is a long-haired ball of fluff, with no tail. Chestnut is a short-haired grey striped kitty with half a tail that kinks ninety-degrees at the end. And short-haired Roy is shaped exactly like a white-tail deer. My husband agreed to take the kittens from the neighbor down the street. I would have chosen beautiful kittens, not this homely bunch, but as it turns out, these cats have been shockingly gentle, even though Babygirl slings them around over her arm like a furry purse.

For some reason, Roy and Smokey occasionally have a bit of poop cling to their hind-ends. I cannot believe that it's my job to dunk them under water and stick my fingers into that matted mess to clean them up. And the cats were not even grateful. They acted as if I were the one who was getting a thrill.

The other day, I was sitting at my computer, minding my own business. Then I smelled poop. What kind of scares me is that I can tell the origin of the poop by the smell alone. I knew it was cat poop, not baby poop. (I can tell by smell which toddler is poopy; the DaycareKid has the most foul smelling diapers ever. Blech.) Anyway, so I smell poop and I peer under my desk. Sure enough, a cat is exiting, but no poop is visible.

I walk across the room to the laundry room, the location of the litter box. No poop. I scan the floor. Nothing. I walk back to the computer, see two spots on the carpet and realize, someone has poop on a shoe! I check my shoes and yes, I have a clump of smooshed poop on the bottom of my newish shoes.

I can't believe I do this job and get no paycheck. Or hazard-duty pay. Or even a Certification of Completion.

What an unsavory post this was. My apologies.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Only Fair

My husband takes Mondays off. This works out great for him, but not so great for me, because Monday is a school day, a daycare day, a regular work day for me. I woke up to the alarm, greeted Babygirl who was sitting in her crib removing her fuzzy jammies, and went downstairs to make breakfast for YoungestBoy. When he was dressed and fed, he went to play a little Pikmin 2 on his Nintendo Gamecube before school.

Meanwhile, DaycareKid arrived, the twins woke up, the neighbor called to see if we could switch carpooling times, so I had to go upstairs to let my husband know he needed to take the kids to school, rather than pick them up. He was reclining in bed, watching morning news and I really did my best not to feel like a jealous indentured servant. I'm not on a time-clock, but I am certainly on a schedule, a mommy-track if ever there was one.

By 9:00 a.m., I was sitting in the backyard watching the toddlers run back and forth and flit from playhouse to chalkboard to sandbox. The twins were supposed to be writing about their weekend (they went to both a corn-maze with the youth group and the rodeo with their dad).

The curriculum has not yet arrived, much to my chagrin. I would be a rotten homeschooler if I were doing this all myself--finding curriculum, implementing it, teaching them, etc. Their learning styles are polar opposite to mine, as are their personalities, genders, food preferences--pretty much eveything. I'm not sure if it's because they are almost 12 or because they are boys or because they are twins or because they are not genetically mine, but they are a puzzle to me. They hate to write. TwinBoyB took two hours to write three dismal, poorly-spelled, sloppy paragraphs.

The curriculum must come this week! Or pretty soon they'll be watching SpongeBob for their "literature" class. Right now they are watching the Narnia chronicles, which I'm pretending is actually educational. They have to finish their writing assignment before dinner. I better think of what dinner will be or they won't have much incentive.

Babygirl is two years old now. I probably have just forgotten how brilliant my other children were at this age, but she seems to me to be a remarkable toddler. She can describe her feelings with words. She counts to twelve. She has a great memory, and of course, she can spell pool. The other day, she said, "Go to the pool?" and I just looked at her, wishing I didn't have to explain that we couldn't go because it's closed and she apparently thought I didn't understand her because she peered into my eyes and said helpfully, "P-O-O?"

She insists on being unclothed or half-clothed most of the time. Yesterday, I was reading in the living room while she frolicked (minus her clothing) in the family room where the twins were watching television. Then I heard her: "I peed in the potty!" A quick check confirmed that she did, indeed, pee in the potty. I applauded and we carried the liquid treasure to the bathroom to dump it. This morning, she peed on the floor, but awhile later, said, "I need to pee," and went to the potty where she made a little deposit. She was a little confused, so reached in with a pointer finger to touch it while I yelled "YUCKY! YUCKY!" I know the specialists say not to make a big deal about how disgusting fecal matter is, but ewwwwwww. I can't help myself. We washed and flushed it away.

My baby is growing up. Just like that. Before you know it, she'll be picking out ugly bridesmaid dresses for her friends to wear in her wedding. I just hope her hair grows in before then. And I hope she wears underpants, too, especially when she plays in the sandbox.

As I mentioned, my husband took the boys to the rodeo yesterday at the Western Washington Fair (also known in these parts as The Puyallup--that's "pew-al-up.") Being male, no one really gave me any details, but I gather they had fun and that the rodeo clown was the best part. Unfortunately, no one took a camera, so ultimately, it will be a forgotten trip, I'm afraid, without proper documentation.

Today, my husband is back at the fair--it's not fair!--manning a Habitat for Humanity booth. He's volunteering from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., so yes, that does mean that I will enjoy the rest of the day taking care of everything here alone. On his day off. Which is not a day off for me. Ever.

He called to say it's raining, and I said, "Hey, better a rainy day at the fair than an unrainy day stuck at home!"

However, here's a ray of sunshine: my living room. Not only are the walls vivid orange-yellow, but as of a few hours ago, we have new carpet. A thousand words could not begin to give you an adequate picture of the yucky the old dingy white shag carpet from 1973. Now, I will only be embarrassed by my not-quite-chic shabby furniture. I will also hope that some of my well-to-do friends decide they need a newer couch than the one they purchased three years ago so I can update my interior design.

Time to vacuum, so I can rearrange the unchic-shabby furniture, a motley assortment donated to our cause by my mother (her dad gave her the tan swivel rocker), a church couple (brown recliner, also used a scratching post by our cats), gold couch (traded from the parsonage in Michigan), and coffee tables (from the neighbor when she moved). The coffee tables are the exact kind my husband grew up with, which seems appropriate. Of course, that also means they are 30 years behind the times, but then again, so is our house. Trading Spaces, are you listening?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Rolled Oats, Lentils and Y2K

Because my house was remarkably clean this morning--unless you count the seven dirty glasses in the sink--I had time to think today about forgotten chores. I thought about my extra freezer, the gigantic appliance that takes up the corner of my laundry room. I haven't cleaned out that freezer since 2002, right before my daughter was born.

At the time, I made myself a list of Things To Do before she came, important things like defrosting the freezer and alphabetizing the spices and cleaning out every closet in the house. Because, you know, newborns will do a Martha-Stewart check of your housekeeping skills and return to your womb immediately if things are unsanitary, dusty or out of alphabetical order.

I use the freezer as an overflow area and then tend to neglect hunks of foil-wrapped ground beef and Costco-sized bags of vegetables and twenty Ziploc freezer bags of frozen strawberry slices. I wish I were one of those super-duper organized moms who filled her freezer with homemade frozen meals waiting to be defrosted and cooked and homegrown vegetables which were flash-frozen and meat purchased in bulk and hermetically sealed in Food Saver bags. But I'm not. In addition to the strawberries, ground beef and giant bags of vegetables, my freezer also features twenty pounds of rolled oats and fifteen pounds of lentils.

Why, you wonder? Well, don't you remember Y2K? Also known as "The End of the World As We Know It?" My ex-stepmother (my dad divorced her when I was 18) who lives in a geodesic dome she built herself (which features a composting toilet and solar energy and a fancy wood stove) on thirty-five acres gave me those items, "just in case."

So, if the world had come to an end and we had no electricity or gasoline or groceries, we would have lived for what--days? weeks? months? Of course, we would have wanted to kill ourselves if we had to subsist on rolled oats and lentils cooked over a fire we built using our kitchen chairs and pine needles from the yard, washed down with big old glasses of muddy water from the sandbox. We could have supplemented our oats and lentils with the stash of goldfish crackers and Cheerios under the couch, so that's a bright spot.

But the world did not end and now I need to throw out the oats and lentils and defrost the glacier in the freezer. Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of a long-running Trash Crisis. Our decades-old trash compactor died and now every week, I desperately await the arrival of the trash collector. The second he leaves, I fill the cans with the accumulated trash. Somehow, we never have extra space for pounds of oats and lentils.

If only I could find a recipe for rancid lentils and stale oats, I'd be all set.

(And my husband doubted my ability to write an entire post about my freezer. Ha!)

Friday, September 10, 2004

Another Great Idea

I say to my husband, "You know, my friend is so depressed. I think I should take her out to dinner at Olive Garden. We still have that gift card with $18 on it."

He says to me, "Great idea. Her husband is planning to watch the Miami game tonight, so tonight would be a perfect time."

I say, "But they don't have a television. How is he going to watch the game?"

He says, "I don't know. I'll call him."

Before I know it, my husband has invited this couple and their two year old over to watch the game at 5:00 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., after I put Grace to bed, my friend and I are supposed to leave the guys with the kids and go to dinner.

Only, my friend calls at 1:20 p.m. and mentions that she'd really like to watch the whole game (she and her husband met at the University of Miami--she was his calculus tutor).

So, my innocent remark about going to dinner with my friend turned into a three hour sweaty frenzy of house-cleaning and frantic de-cluttering and even a little bit of ironing. Oh, and I still have kids to take care of in the midst of all that. I was vacuuming--actually pausing in my vacuuming--when my DaycareMom quietly entered the house (she usually comes through the house without knocking because we're often in the backyard playing when she arrives) and I'm terrified that she overheard me muttering to myself about my husband's brilliant plan in inviting people over to our home at 5:00 p.m. with practically no warning.

I said to her, "Oh hi!" And thought, Please someone, just shoot me now.

When she left, I continued my crazed cleaning spree. I scrubbed two bathrooms, top to bottom, vacuumed, picked up loads of stuff and relocated it to its proper location, did dishes (again!), swept and mopped, picked up toys, dusted the television and my computer, found batteries for the remote control, took out trash, put newspapers in the recycling bin. Fortunately, my husband picked up take-and-bake pizza, so I didn't have to worry about dinner, but still. I was a glistening, stressed-out mess by 5:00 p.m.

I stood in front of our new oscillating fan in the bedroom to try to cool down, put on some make-up, calmed my bangs, changed into a clean shirt and greeted my guests. The evening went surprisingly well--sometimes Babygirl is less than friendly, but she and our friend's almost-2-year-old had a blast, running--literally--in circles and screaming with laughter. My twins watched the game, mostly. TwinBoyA talks non-stop. He would be a great commentator. There would never be any dead air with this kid behind the microphone.

Before the game ended, I took Babygirl up to bed. She was outraged that I insisted she wear a diaper and pajamas to bed. She's become devoted to being unclothed at all times. When I stood her up to zip up the jammies, with tears still wet on her cheeks, she said, "I am so sad." I love how she can express her feelings verbally. She says "mad," "sad," "scared" and "happy."

I thought I might go to Target when the game ended, but wouldn't you know, it went into overtime and then Miami won! Our friends did a great deal of hollering, which my boys joined in on.

I decided it was too late to shop.

But it's not too late to comment about a couple of names. Check out Craphonso. Now seriously. What mother names her child CRAPhonso? I understand it's pronounced "Crafonzo", but honestly, what's next? A kid named Shitella (pronounced SHY-tella, of course)?

I thought of some other funny names, too. Remember awhile back when I posted about unfortunate names? Well, here is a perfect name: the janitor at my son's primary school is named Mr. Broom. No kidding! Oh, and my husband once went to a chiropractor named Dr. Looney.

My sixth grade art teacher was named Mr. Wise, but he had a hair growing directly out of the tip of his nose. In his class, we had to create a clay sculpture of an animal. I made the ugliest penguin that has ever existed, primarly because I couldn't figure out how to make an animal with actual legs, like a deer or a dog. My mother probably still has that wretched figurine somewhere. We also spent a great deal of time copying comic strips in that classroom. And that was the class in which I slapped Jeff H across the face for making a lewd comment about my assets, which were unfortunately clothed in a t-shirt featuring a large picture of two cherries.

After that, I wore my down coat during school, even though Jeff H never tortured me again.

Gmail Invitations

Anybody need an invitation to Gmail? I have a few. Just let me know, either by comment or email.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

No, Really, Here's Proof I'm a Bad Mother

I know I gave a compelling reason why I'm a bad mother recently, but here is the real proof of my unfit parenthood.

Today I offered to watch a friend's almost-2-year-old in addition to Babygirl and DaycareKid. My friend is expecting her second child in a couple of weeks and I thought she'd probably enjoy having a moment to herself before her newborn arrives.

Naptime came and I laid DaycareKid on the queen-sized bed in YoungestBoy's room ("Do not get off this bed!") and then I plunked Visiting Baby in the playpen in YoungestBoy's room (and left while she screamed her head off) and then I took Babygirl to her room for her ritual viewing of "It's Potty-Time!" a video which features a song with these lyrics: "She is a super-duper pooper. She can potty with the best. No more diapers to get in her way. We are very impressed!" Another song includes the words, "Wipe, wipe, wipe yourself, always front to back, carefully, carefully, now you've got the knack."

Lucky me. I get to watch this stellar children's video twice a day. So, the video ended and I laid Babygirl in her crib with her dollies and her blankets.

Half an hour later, I hear her calling my name. I completely ignore her. I need naptime! I need naptime like . . . well, like flowers need the rain. (That song just popped into my head.) I need naptime like I need oxygen; well, okay, maybe not oxygen, but like I need a shower every day. I just can't function up to par when I'm all sweaty and smelly and have hair like a Before picture in a magazine make-over article. And while I can exist without naptime, believe me, I'm a much more pleasant and civilized mother when I've had a little break for lunch and reading.

I decided to wait until 2:30 p.m. before I answered her urgent cries. Yesterday, she cried, then slept. I hoped for the same today. Precisely at 2:30 p.m., I first rescued Visiting Baby, then carried her to Babygirl's room, where I found my precious darling daughter with her pointer finger somehow pinched in the top railing of her crib. She was stuck. I unstuck her--it was a matter of angles, really--and held her and told her how sorry I was and she bounced back like a trooper and said, "I hurt!" and "Finger stuck!" as if it had been a Very Exciting Adventure.

See? Proof! I think she'd been standing there with her finger dented between the wood and latch while her nose ran without a diaper on for quite some time. She does not seem to have held a grudge, which is the beautiful thing about children. They always forgive you and move on. Later, they'll learn that some people will just keep hurting them over and over again and they will stop being generous with their forgiveness, but for the very young, every day is a new chance.

Now, on to other matters.

First, thank you kind internet friends for your comments on my previous post. It's odd how a situation will serve as a catalyst and propel a girl into a murky emotional swamp. I tend to wallow around a bit when I feel those moods coming on. The older I get, the more I am able to examine the feelings for what they are, feel them and say, "All right. Time to stand up straight and be a grown-up." Feelings come and go, after all, but a good man who'll just hug you when you try to cry without making a sound . . . that's forever.

Now, just something I noticed while reading a parenting book the other day. First, I read Parenting With Love and Logic, a book I highly recommend, both for its good writing and its reasonable approach to parenting. Normally, I get really confused and bored while reading parenting books. I read a lot of them before I had kids and thought I had parenting all figured out (ha ha ha ha ha) and since then, haven't really come across a striking book I could recommend. But this book is a must-read for all parents. I'm not kidding. I'll wait right here while you go to Amazon and order it.

Then, I read a second parenting book, Into Their Hearts by Valerie Bell. Although it probably had sound ideas, I could not concentrate because this author overshadowed everything she said with her use of exclamation points! I'm not kidding! In one chapter, I counted 64 exclamation points! In only eleven pages! I wondered if she is the kind of chipper cheerleading chick that is excited! About everthing! And always has her hair carefully styled! Sixty-four exclamation points! In eleven pages!

This author is hereby banned from every using another exclamation point. I decree it and so it shall be. If she uses all the exclamation points, there will be none left for the rest of us when we really, really, really need one. Conserve the Exclamation Points. (See? That slogan cries out for an exclamation point, which leaves me in a quandry, really. To exclaim or not to exclaim? If Valerie Bell hadn't already used all the old growth exclamation points and harvested them willy-nilly without regard to the world shortage of exclamation points, there might be a spare one growing in an old growth exclamation point area for such a time as this.)

In other news . . . well, there is no other news.


Last night, as we watched David Letterman, my husband said, "So, what's new on the board?" Usually I regale him with stories of happenings on the message board. When I discovered I was pregnant in January 2002, I nosed around a bit and landed on this board for women expecting babies in September of 2002. I've participated avidly ever since, through crazy debates and educational threads and laugh-out-loud hysteria and drive-by postings by trouble-makers and the mundane, everyday stuff.

Two weeks ago, I decided I'd had enough. That was the day I wrote this. Although I had a lot of laughs and sharpened my detective skills (I'm just warning you--don't lie to me unless you have a better memory than I do) and made some excellent friends, but I just got slapped once too many times by women who think pastor's wives ought to be vacant, spiritual, uncontroversial and sickly sweet all the time.

And just because of my marriage. Nothing else. Somehow my marriage to a pastor requires me to be perfect, though if I were, I would most definitely hear, "You think you're perfect, don't you!?" Nevermind that these same women are regular church-attenders with similar religious backgrounds to mine. At any rate, lest this turn into actual Gossip, I'll just leave it at that.

I had enough. Enough. I just shut the door without saying good-bye and crept away.

So last night. My husband says, "What's new on the board?" and I say, "I left it." I was on my side, facing away from him, and he said, "What?" And I said, "I left the board."

He said, "Why?" I said, "I just had enough."

We watched David Letterman in silence then and my heart was so solid and heavy that it pinned me to the bed. I felt like I'd swallowed an ever-expanding balloon that filled with hot breath I could not exhale. Tears began to slip from my eyes and pool on the side of my nose where my glasses formed a little dam.

I felt so lonely, so completely all alone, even lying next to my husband, just on the other side of the house from my sleeping children.

At last, his breathing deepened and I considered going into the bathroom and curling on the floor and crying until I died. But I didn't want to wake him. So, I gingerly reached for a tissue and his soft snoring stopped and he said, "Are you all right?" I said, "Yes," but he could hear the sadness, I guess, and so he reached over and hugged me--stiff and resistant and said, "I'm sorry about your board."

I said, "It just sucks to have no friends."

Even as I said it, I knew it to by untrue, but sometimes the feelings are more real than reality. He said, "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." And I said, "It's probably just hormonal." I considered telling him how lonely I felt, how alone, what a horrible wife I am and what an impatient mother and how truly, if I weren't here only Babygirl would be damaged forever--or maybe she wouldn't even remember me in a few months and then I thought how YoungestBoy would miss going on rides at the fair with me and so, I said nothing at all.

At last, he rolled back over and slept and I dabbed at my eyes and wiped my congested nose and felt utterly miserable and lonely.

How is it possible to feel so lonely and to long to be alone at the same time?

This morning, I woke with swollen eyes, no worse for the wear.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Out of Order

My posts are out of order due to a glitch, so be sure to scroll down a tiny bit and see my blog about blogging.

Today is the third day that Babygirl protested her naptime. She was quiet for ten minutes, hollered my name for twenty minutes, screamed and cried for ten minutes, then became silent again. I hope she's sleeping and not dead.

She talks all day now. I love how she says "fall off," when she means "fall down" or even just "fall." She adores her big brothers, especially when they push her really fast in the rocking chair or when they let her ride around on their backs as they crawl.

Yesterday, after I said I was going to read the newspaper, instead I had mercy on Babygirl and sent up one of my sons to get her out of her crib. She came walking into the kitchen, then, without a diaper or any clothing and when I said, "Did you have a good sleep?" she said, "Zes."

Funny kid. She refused to get diapered or clothed the rest of the afternoon, though she did consent to wear a pair of Barney training pants when we went outside in the backyard for a bit.

The pool is closed now, so summer has officially ended as far as I'm concerned. In a way, I feel relieved because I don't feel guilty that we aren't taking the kids to the pool to swim every day. The last day at the pool my neice and nephew came, too, along with my sister and her husband. The kids all had a great time taking underwater pictures of each other with some waterproof disposable cameras I found on clearance at Target. I can't wait to see the results.

Babygirl totally cracked me up when I realized she was calling my younger sister, "Big Old Mama," and my brother-in-law "Big Daddy." I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Perhaps I need to get out more.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Why I'm a Bad Mother

Babygirl did not nap yesterday. You may recall that we had a Nap Drought last year at about this time. Babygirl skipped her nap approximately 120 days in a row, leading me to teeter perilously close to the edge of a nervous breakdown. I adore Babygirl. Really, I do. I just don't want to adore her for twelve straight hours.

So I'm not getting the Mother of the Year award.

Today, with great hopes, I put her down at the usual time with her dollies (Dolly and Boy). I tried not to let her see my fear, because it's well-known that babies can smell fear and will then take advantage of that weakness. She snuggled under her blankets and then ten minutes later, began calling out, "MOM!" Pause. "MOM!" Pause. "MOM!"

I've been ignoring her for twenty minutes now. She's probably untaped her diaper and peed in her crib by now. She's obsessed with taking off and putting on her diaper--mostly taking it off. And she's newly in love with toenail polish. Just before her nap, I had to paint the toes of two of her dollies. (We painted Boy's toenails the other night. He's an old cabbage patch doll that's been hanging around in the stuffed animal basket for many years now. Babygirl found him and christened him "Boy.")

I just don't want her to be awake now, mostly because I don't want to share my Diet Vanilla Pepsi. And because I need a moment to be a solitary, isolated, individual person. I seriously had no idea how taxing it would be for me to be with people--even my own children--twenty-four hours a day.

I haven't even read the newspaper yet today. But I think I will. Babygirl can wait.

Blogging About Blogging

Why did I start a blog? All thanks goes to Brandie, author of I Am Mom! Hear Me Roar! I met Brandie on-line on a message board for mothers of babies due in September 2002. One day last fall, Brandie suggested to the board members that it might be fun to start personal journals and share them with each other.

I thought, yeah, fun, but not for me! Once long, long ago, I started a diary on I'd only posted a few entries when along came my first reader who commented, "Your diary sure is boring." Or something to that effect.

I quit soon thereafter. Those first entries probably were boring and the fact that someone out there in the shadows was reading and judging my boring life scared me.

Yet, a few weeks after Brandie's suggestion, I decided to go ahead and start a journal. My first journal was here. Then, in January, I moved to my present home here at, just in time for all the improvements unveiled by Blogger.

Most of the women from that board who started journals quit soon thereafter. But Brandie and I have continued our grand experiment in blogging, as have a few of my other board friends.

I've always kept a pen and paper journal, ever since I was in second grade. I hardly ever read those spiral notebooks, but I have them neatly stacked in my closet. I'll have plenty of material to laugh and cry over when I am old woman.

During my early twenties, my journals were the support system I longed for in the real world. When I was 22 and a new bride, I moved across the country from Seattle to New Haven, Connecticut, where my husband attended Yale Divinity School. I left my circle of college friends for a job in a law office and oh, the loneliness of being in a new city with a new husband who was stressed out by his rigorous studies! I wrote and wrote and wrote, whined and complained and dreamed of having babies.

Then my husband finished grad school and we moved "home" to Seattle (his homeland is near Houston), just in time for my dad to be diagnosed with terminal cancer and die. My journals from those days are filled with anguish and blotches where tears fell. After he died, my journal entries grew even more morose and dark as we entered the overcast Land of Infertility and then trod the uncertain, windy paths of Adoption Attempts.

My husband could only stand so much of my dismal outlook on life--cruel life, how dare you pick on me! what did I ever do to deserve this!--and my fertile friends could not understand. So I wrote and wrote and cried and cried some more.

In the middle of all that agony, I thought, You know, this would make a great book. Then infertile women like me wouldn't feel so alone. I typed it up all nice and pretty and waited until an end to my "story" appeared, wrote up a book proposal and sent it off.

I was rejected repeatedly and I could hear the hoots and howls of the editors all the way back at my childless home. You think infertility is depressing? Try having your book proposal about infertility rejected. That's really depressing, along the lines of, God hates you and we hated hearing about it. Grow up you big baby!

Obviously, my idea was absolutely right on target, because lo and behold, along comes internet blogs and what do I come across? Amazing infertility blogs and a warm, gentle, understanding circle of supportive infertile women all reading and commenting and blogging and getting through those gloomy days together. My absolute favorite blog about infertility at the moment is by Getupgrrl who authors
Chez Miscarriage, a blog which makes me weep and snort with laughter and smile with recognition. What did those dumb editors know anyway? The truth is that people are interested in reading about other people's lives, in viewing the interior of those lives, the mundane and the absurd and the heart-wrenching minutiae of daily life.

In another decade, I might have been the author of a college blog ("I'm so tired, I'm not sure I can make it through English Lit today and do you think that he will ask me out and what, oh what will I be when I grow up?") or an infertility blog ("Everyone I know lives in a world of velvet toys and tiny fingers and strained carrots and I have no baby to call my own.").

My blog reflects my thoughts and serves as a record of the monotonous and the silly and the boring, because these small things are the blocks that make up Life. These details add up to everything that matters and one day I will want to remember how Babygirl refused her nap and instead hollered down the stairs, "MOM!" while a man stood on my roof and power-washed it. I write to think, I write to remember, and I write to entertain myself. That other people find my writing entertaining or thought-provoking is a lovely bonus and reading comments is the frosting on my cake. Even those "anonymous" comments by people who do not appreciate my view of Michael Moore's movie.

I have a blog-addiction now. Blogs give me a view into lives that probably would never intersect with my life, whether for geographical, philosophical, or practical reasons. I might never have crossed paths with Suzanne, the witty, warm and funny author of Suburban Lesbian. I woulnd't think to seek out a blog for "suburban lesbians", but when Suzanne first commented on my blog, I followed the links back to her hang-out and discovered we have a lot in common. For instance, we both value the snooze feature on our alarm clocks. She's a great writer and I feel lucky to have a glimpse into her life.

One of my closest friends is MaryKay. We met back in 1985 when we worked at Heritage U.S.A., Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's extravaganza. She was a lifeguard and I was a children's ministry intern. And we've been writing letters and email ever since. She started a blog recently called Much Ado About Nothing. Now, we can keep up with each other even though I'm near Seattle and she's in North Carolina. MaryKay tells funny stories of working in a funeral home and raising her four kids. She's terrific and creative and insightful.

Stacy is one of my board buddies who is a fabulous writer with a wry and humorous viewpoint. She authors Gray Matter. I can't figure out when she writes because she is the mother of twin 2-year-old boys, a brilliant 9-year-old daughter, attends grad school, works full-time (at nights on the weekends) and is married to a man who travels. She also reads a lot and frankly, she's amazing.

Then there is Jen, author of SissyFit, a beautifully written, often hilarious account of her life as the mother of three small children and wife of a police officer. And she's tall, really tall, and beautiful, extremely witty and best of all, she sent my gnome-deprived, gnome-obsessed daughter her very own gnome. Jen is a Gnome Benefactor.

I include a few blogs that I randomly found. These girls make me laugh and sometimes make me wish I were young and single and living in Los Angeles or New York City, and sometimes make me thank God I'm not. A Girl Named Bob belongs to a career-girl in New York City. Wendy, author of Magic Short Bus, is an animator and good friend of Bob, as in the girl named Bob. Another young, single-with-boyfriend author is Deb of smitten. She makes finding a mouse in the house (okay, apartment) and frosting cupcakes amusing and even laugh-out-loud funny.

A new member of my blogroll is Michelle, writer of Demented Delusions of a Wannabe Writer. Take a stroll over there and see why I like her, aside from the fact that she's a good writer. Also, it turns out she's a Pastor's Kid, so we have a little connection there.

Dooce is practically in a category by herself. She's on almost more blogrolls than, well, than anyone--go ahead, check the official registers on and you'll see I tell no lies. Read her tales of parenting her now-7-month-old baby, Leta, and giggle at her list of reasons she feels guilty. You can thank me later.

For pure inspiration and a kick in the pants, read my high-school friend, Tory's blog. She's a teacher, so obviously her site is called MsTeechur: From Flabulous to Fabulous. She is not only a fantastic teacher, but she also lost over 100 pounds doing Weight Watchers on-line and just recently, she ran a half-marathon and completed her first triathlon. She's remarkable and a cheerful, bring-smiles-to-your-face writer.

So, there you have it. The reasons I blog and the reasons I list the blogs I do.

Now, it's your turn. Why do you blog? How'd you get started? And while you're at it, tell me I'm beautiful and that you definitely think I could win a Pulitzer Prize. Or just send cash. And a tiara.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Open Water and One Crying Girl

I wrote about going to the movie Open Water last night before collapsing into bed, but when it was all said and done, my clever, witty post disappeared into thin air.

So let me just summarize.

Saturday night.
Movie with husband.
Choice: "Open Water" or "Bourne Supremacy."
Check reviews, accidentally learn ending of "Open Water."
Hate stupid people, especially unprofessional, amateur movie reviewers.
See "Open Water," start time 9:30 p.m.
10:00 p.m.: Three generation Asian family walks in, chattering.
Small children do not belong in rated "R" movies. Ever.
Wonder at stupidity of people yet again.
10:30 p.m.: Hear amazing sound effects.
Realize sound is actually snoring man in back row, not sound effects.
Movie rating: Two thumbs up. Hooray for independent, low-budget film.

Now, moving on. My now 2-year old Babygirl has become clingy and skittish and Sunday morning, I actually had to leave church to bring her home due to her hysterics in the church nursery. I can never actually leave her in the nursery because she screams as if she's being attacked by bees, but last Sunday, I left her for ten minutes anyway because I had to sing. This Sunday, she remembered that and freaked out in advance of possible abandonment.

Then, at 3 p.m., she attended her first birthday party for her little friend named Ruby who was born a week after Babygirl. Despite the promise of birthday cake, Babygirl took one look at the decorations, saw darling little Ruby, burst into tears and begged "Go home." I attempted to distract, to calm, to bribe. Then I took her straight home.

I guess this week "off" from watching our DaycareKid has been unsettling for her . . . especially since I dragged her to the photographer and to the doctor. My poor girl needs routine, a quiet, sedate schedule. I can only imagine if I'd had her first. I would have assumed that children are gentle, fragile creatures who must be sheltered and protected and who cling to my knees when a strange adult enters the room. I'd have thought I had something to do with creating this timid personality, this creature of habit.

If I'd had her first before YoungestBoy who was so friendly as a two year old that he once decided to eat with the family one booth over at Burger King instead of us, I would have been shocked at the typical behavior of children. Babygirl is not the norm. She is ultra-sensitive and obedient, even at this age. I can gaze at her and she will change her mind and decide to comply with my wishes.

My boys don't even notice if I'm looking their direction.

She mimimics me in the bathroom, brushes her teeth in the same order I do (brush, brush, brush, scrub tongue, rinse toothbrush, spit, rinse mouth with water cupped in hands), puts on eye shadow, showers, picks up dirty clothes, washes dirty spots on the kitchen floor, reads books, shadows me constantly.

So far, she has not purposely played in mud or used a stick as a sword.

So, I'm glad I had her last. I can enjoy this "easier" baby, even though I have to be on the look-out for bees at all times, lest she go completely berserk. Bees are bad, very bad, worse than the church nursery.

Isn't it amazing that all the kids in one family can be so different? That's clear if I look back at my own family of origin. I could not possibly be more different from my siblings. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Mountain

Mt. Rainier Posted by Hello

A few weeks ago, I wrote about our trip to Mt. Rainier. Here is the picture I took at the end of the trail . . . right before Babygirl began her screaming descent.

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty . . .

Nice kitty.  Posted by Hello

This is Babygirl on the Fourth of July, manhandling one of our three kittens. I don't have anything witty or eloquent to say. This picture, I think, is worth a thousand words, or maybe six hundred, at least.

And here Babygirl is, blowing bubbles in the backyard. Same day, different fun:
Bubble-girl  Posted by Hello

Gnome Update

Gnome.  Posted by Hello

Remember how I thwarted Babygirl's plans to steal the neighborhood gnomes a few weeks ago?

Imagine my surprise and Babygirl's delight when a package arrived in the mail just a few short days later. Inside, I found a gnome. Babygirl's eyes lit up and she's been taking gnome to bed with her each night.

Who is our gnome benefactor? That would be Jen, author of SissyFit.

Jen keeps a few gnomes around her house for just such an occasion. What a cool friend she is. Thanks, Jen!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Time Slowing

Babygirl did her part today to make sure that I didn't feel the swoosh of time whizzing by. She drove me crazy. All day, starting with her wake-up call at 7:15 a.m.

Babygirl has a new obsession: the shower. She wants to take two, sometimes three showers per day. She doesn't stay in the shower, however, but comes running out, all shivery, with chattering teeth and I say, "Hey, are you all done?" and she says, "No, I shower!" and then she swings her arms as she runs back to the bathroom. Then, just as the shampoo container says, "rinse and repeat." She does this over and over again until I finally outwit, outplay and outlast her by turning off the hot water. Who's the survivor now, chickadee?

Babygirl was mostly weaned until this week and the trauma of seeing the photographer, being actually touched by the doctor and having a loosey-goosey schedule has flung her backwards in time and now she cries out at random times throughout the day--while I am washing dishes or struggling to undo the bolts on the iron railing in the living room that must come out now so I can paint--"Mama chair! Mama chair!"

Today, my neighbor stopped by with her little girl who is four. My neighbor is a lovely woman who takes my son to school and this year, we actually reciprocate by picking up her son along with our son. Last year, she picked up and dropped off every single day. We are losers. I know.

Anyway, I invited her and Malini in and Malini rushed past me into the living room where Babygirl was minding her own business, watching television and when she saw Malini before she saw me, all sorts of alarms and whistles went off in her head and she completely freaked out.

She cried and cried, while I attempted to soothe her and chat with my neighbor. Babygirl does not like surprises. She handled that particular surprise so poorly that I have to wonder if she's getting sick or perhaps suffering from an inoperable brain tumor or developing paranoid schizophrenia.

My neighbor and her daughter stayed for an hour, maybe longer, and toward the end of the visit, Babygirl warmed up and stopped her hysterics. When they left at 11:00 a.m., I was worn out.

Here are the things Babygirl prefers that I refrain from doing in her presence:

1) Wash dishes.
2) Fold laundry.
3) Put away laundry.
4) Read the newspaper.
5) Read any book, other than "Moonbear."
6) Prepare the living/dining room walls for paint.
7) Sit at the computer.
8) Cook dinner.
9) Talk on the phone. (When the phone rings, she drops everything and runs for the phone, yelling, "I got it! I got it!")
10) Watch television, other than Sesame Street and the Wiggles.

Oh, and she doesn't want me out of her sight, either. I thought I'd go to the small group Bible study at church tonight. I haven't been for weeks, maybe months. I changed into something without baby smears on it, put on make-up while she dug her fingernails into my eyeshadow compact, fixed my unruly hair, brushed my teeth while she stood on the bathroom counter and finally, put on shoes and told my husband, "You can distract her by offering her a S-H-O-W-E-R."

He scooped her off the bathroom counter and told her she could have a shower and she began to wail, "Mommy! Mommy! No shower! No shower!"

With an exasperated throw of my shoes, I said, "Fine. Let's get your pajamas on."

I felt like I stood myself up. I put her to bed at 7:30 p.m. and as my husband said, "You are all dressed with no place to go." I said, "Yes, I am pathetic."

So, I went to Marshall's to shop the clearance rack and then to Dairy Queen for a "Blizzard."

At least the world wasn't on fast-forward today. Every moment meandered by with exquisite slowness. I told my husband tonight, "You forget because you've been to Portland and out to lunch and out of the house all week that some of us haven't gone anywhere or done anything for weeks."

He said, "Are you saying I'm a bad person?" which is our standard reply to each other when we are having a somewhat serious discussion.

And, if I hadn't been so crabby, I would have remembered the correct answer, which is, "No. I'm saying you're fat."

Tomorrow, what to do, what to do. . . paint the living/dining room? Get out of the house without kids? Catch up on laundry? Pay bills? Take the kids swimming on the last Saturday the pool will be open this season? My husband is officiating at a wedding at 4:30 p.m., so he'll be gone during the afternoon.

At this point, my main goal is to sleep in, as much as is humanly possible living with these four children who have no respect for the sanctity of sleep on Saturday mornings. It's an outrage, really.

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