Monday, January 31, 2005

Introducing New Links

I am extremely delinquent in keeping my blogroll up to date. But I want to introduce you to three blogs I adore.

Anvilcloud is one of the few men on my blogroll. He is a Canadian who writes lovely prose and takes amazing pictures. Check him out here.

I just came across this blog today. "Feeble Knees" is a thirtysomething year old Christian woman who is a fabulous writer. She lives in Massachusetts and writes anonymously. She's a new blogger, but I hope she sticks around.

Finally, check out Mommy Life. Barbara Curtis is a published writer, mother to twelve children (four adopted, I think) and a brand new blogger. She has a lot of wit and wisdom to share.

So, don't say I never did anything for you. I introduced you to three great blogs!

Through a Stranger's Eyes

I was sixteen the summer of 1981, and active in my church youth group. As in the rest of my life, in youth group, I occupied the shadowy fringes of the social scene. I studied and admired those who shone in the spotlight of popularity and confidence, but I watched from a distance. I saw myself as a plain, but smart girl, the "best friend" but never the heroine in the fairy tale. Disinterested boys confirmed this viewpoint. I decided that I was destined to a life of spinsterhood, probably living in some remote land, ministering to needy, destitute people, probably as a doctor.

And then, I met Rita.

I hailed from Seattle, Washington, and had never met anyone from Oklahoma before I met Rita. I was quiet, kept to myself, followed rules, listened a lot. Rita and I were part of a group of teenagers who were on a short-term missions trip. Most of the others at our training session were heading to the Philippines, but Rita and I and five other girls were going to Tahiti.

I remember my first personal encounter with Rita in the Los Angeles International Airport. I remember her teasing me about my accent, which I found uproariously funny because everyone knows that girls from Seattle don't have an accent. She thought I sounded like a Valley Girl , an accusation which I denied. I then had her perform the alphabet and laughed out loud at her rendition--she managed to turn each letter into a two or three syllable word. I had never heard such a thing, even when I watched Hee-Haw on television with my dad.

And then, we became friends. We spent almost three weeks living together in a borrowed house on a hillside overlooking Papeete, Tahiti. She photographed lizards on the walls and a giant cockroach in the hallway and we giggled about the overflowing toilet and learned that one cannot dispose of tampons in the toilets in Tahiti. Who knew? We did our best to talk to the Tahitian teens who belonged to the church we worked with. I supplied my limited working knowledge of French (I'd taken a year in school) and what she lacked in language skills, she made up for in enthusiasm. We were quite a team.

She matter-of-factly declared that I was the Beauty and she was the Brains and I was so taken aback that I didn't argue. I'd always been the Brains in any friendship I'd had in my real life back home in Seattle. But I began to believe her when the Tahitian boys started gazing in my direction and flirting with me in a language I didn't entirely understand. This was entirely unprecedented.

I began to notice one handsome Tahitian boy always seemed to be at my elbow. His name was Jean-Claude and he was almost exactly my age. Tahitians greet one another with a kiss on each cheek and when he'd greet me, he'd linger just a moment longer than necessary and murmur into my ear. This turn of events shocked me. The boys at home never noticed me at all and now a tall, dark, handsome boy was pausing with his lips near my ear?

Our final night in paradise, a dinner was held in our honor. I cradled a Tahitian child in my lap, sad beyond words, sad beyond explanation. When we left that small home with its tile floor and buzzing mosquitoes, I sobbed in the darkness as we walked along the path to our car. I wanted to stay forever.

Our last night, right before I cried my eyes out: Posted by Hello

I was distraught to leave this place and this new me behind, the Beauty I had never been before, the one the boys followed with their eyes. I didn't want to abandon this dream and return to my life where my hair never quite stayed feathered and no one noticed whether I entered a room. I knew I'd step foot on my high school campus and turn back into the Brain, the Teacher's Pet, the Smart Girl, the Blob.

Sure enough, that's what happened. But every day I ran the last block towards my mailbox to check for mail. More often than not, I found a letter from Rita or less frequently, a letter from Jean-Claude. I wrote impassioned, funny letters back to both of them. Those letters were tangible reminders of who I was in that other place.

After I saw myself though stranger's eyes, I never did see myself the same way again. I began to believe I was funny and maybe, sometimes, a tiny bit pretty. I realized that the small world of my high school (396 kids in my graduating class) was smaller than I ever knew. The whole wide world beckoned to me, and in that other world, I wasn't just a Smart Girl with a 3.96 grade point average.

I stayed in touch with Rita for many years--we even ended up attending different colleges in the same town. She phoned me a few years ago and we tried to catch up on the news after the years of silence. She has twin boys, too, and a daughter. She teaches English in a high school.

I don't suppose I ever told her how much her friendship really meant to me. Her viewpoint, her vision of me, her confidence in me changed how I saw myself. Friends like that don't come along every day.

Jean-Claude and I exchanged passionate letters for a year or two (all in French since his English was worse than my French), until he announced his intention to come to the United States to marry me. I admit that I completely freaked out and hastily wrote him back a letter declaring I did not love him. I was seventeen, maybe eighteen. What did I know of love? Three weeks in Tahiti when you are sixteen do not mean anything when you are talking about love and eternity. Plus, my dad would have killed me if a Tahitian boy suddenly showed up on our doorstep declaring his love for me.

But I thought of Jean-Claude today, because today he turns 40. I like to imagine him on that black sand beach where we once spent an afternoon playing a game that was a mix between Tag and Capture the Flag, using a flip-flop. I can picture him playing with his children with their shiny black hair and lumimous brown eyes. I hope he's living happily ever after.

I know I am. And there is just a teeny, tiny part inside me that pipes up every once in a while and says, "What would have happened if . . . " And I say "Hush, you silly girl!" and then I yell at my kids to be quiet because they are driving me crazy and is it bedtime yet?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Boy, Do I Feel Old

I feel really old, but I don't think it's because I turned 40. I think it's because I didn't get enough sleep last night (my husband and I saw a late movie) and it's almost midnight again and I still have contacts in my sleepy eyes.

This morning, I had my unruly mop of wild hair cut at 9:00 a.m. It's still long, but less shaggy, less cocker-spaniel-like. After that, I went shopping with a $30 gift card to Macy's, where I purchased two unmentionable items of clothing (for $15 total) and two skirts. I love the clearance racks. Not just like, but love them. (Last night, before the movie, I bought four tops (sweaters and shirts) for less than $40 at Marshalls. I am a skilled bargain hunter.)

I need to have half-days off more often. I feel almost human.

Tonight, my husband and I ate dinner at a seafood restaurant overlooking the Puget Sound. Two couples joined us and we laughed our way through our crabcakes and prawns and tempura halibut. Then we finished up with more conversation, cold coffee and burnt creme. Several times, the ferries passed by, brightly lit like floating Christmas decorations. No one made much fuss (thankfully) over me, other than three candles stuck into my dessert.

And now, the birthday festivities have drawn to a close. Tomorrow morning, Babygirl and I have nursery duty, so I'll be blurrily wondering why in the world I didn't get to bed before Saturday Night Live started. But if I hurry, I can be in bed, falling asleep before my carriage turns back into a pumpkin and my ball-gown becomes soot-covered rags.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

It's Official in Wisconsin, Anyway

Posted by Hello

I was born forty years ago in Wisconsin. My brother was just sixteen months old at the time.

My mother, who was almost twenty-two when I was born, explains that my dad dropped her off at the hospital, intending to come back after he turned on the radio station where he worked at the time. When he telephoned the hospital later, he was told he had a daughter.

That's pretty much all I know. My parents had another child sixteen months later, and I grew up as the Middle Child, and we all know what that means. None of the privileges of being the oldest, none of the coddling heaped upon the youngest. I was Mother's Helper, eager to be useful and good and responsible, probably trying to make up for being neglected as the middle child.

I was also bald for a good portion of my toddlerhood.

And how will I celebrate my induction into middle age? Here are my exciting plans for my birthday:

8:00 a.m.: Greet DaycareKid.
8:45 a.m.: Send off YoungestBoy to school.
9:00 a.m.: Start school with boys. Spelling and music.
9:15 a.m.: Wonder why maid hasn't arrived to scrub floor and clean bathrooms.
9:17 a.m.: Remember we have no maid.
9:45 a.m.: Take care of two month old baby for one-hour.
12:20 a.m.: Welcome YoungestBoy home from school (early dismissal).
1:00 p.m.: Leave children in care of husband and get driver's license.
3:00 p.m.: Try to convince Babygirl to keep her clothes on.
3:30 p.m.: Get plastic surgery to fix eyelids.
4:00 p.m.: Find babysitter for Friday and Saturday nights.
4:30 p.m.: Send DaycareKid home with his mom.
5:00 p.m.: Bake pizza and eat pizza and cake for dinner.
9:00 p.m.: Inform husband I'm going to see "Sideways" with or without him.

Yes. As you can see, I'm a party animal. Maybe when I turn fifty, I'll get fireworks.

(My grown-up birthday dinner will be Saturday night, after I get my hair cut on Saturday morning. I insisted.)

So, don your party hats! Get out your noise-maker! Blow out forty candles! Eat cake and sing out loud! Celebrate my birthday! (Just don't tell anyone here because I'd die from embarrassment if anyone made an actual fuss in real life or if the waiters in the restaurant actually drew attention to my saggy eyelidded face.) In the meantime, if you see me (look! I finally posted a current picture below), please wish me happy birthday and slip me a twenty-dollar bill.

Posted by Hello

The Birthday Girl

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

What I Saw In My Back Yard

Today, I peered out my grimy kitchen window into my muddy back yard and spied the orange-yellow of the spring's first crocus. I'm a winter-wimp and I blame my upbringing here in the Pacific Northwest. I was born in Wisconsin, but in 1969,my parents abandoned the midwest blizzards and we landed here in the damp, green, overcast shadow of the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier.

That's why I think winter should end at about the time you pack away the Christmas lights. I expect tulips to be in bloom at Easter, even when it falls in March. I want one day of snow a year, then I want green grass and shoots from perennials coming to life. None of this winter-wonderland stuff for me.

This is why I didn't fare well in northern Michigan. I don't snowshoe, I don't ski, I don't snowmobile. I don't hunt, I don't camp and I don't like mosquitoes. I want the airport within an hour of my front door so I can fly off to Bolivia at a moment's notice. (Not that I ever have.) I want three malls within an hour of my front door, not that I ever actually shop. I want a major hospital close by just in case I break a bone or need to have a kidney transplant (I never have been hospitalized).

And I want to see the first crocus before my birthday every year.

(Reminder: My birthday is coming. On Friday, I expect you all to celebrate and leave happy comments. Put it on your calendar. You must eat cake and sing the birthday song out loud and wear a pointy party-hat. Don't be a party-pooper. I'm giving you fair warning.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"I Want to Be Cold"

And now, a picture-story of my daughter. Run along if you're looking for something awe-inspiring.

Every morning, Babygirl wants to get dressed immediately, unlike my boys who would spend all day in their pajamas if they could. As recently as last summer, YoungestBoy would wear his zipper footy pajamas all day, even outside in the sunshine. On Saturdays, I tell them several times to get dressed, please!

But not the girl. She wants clothes and she wants them right away. She chooses which pants or dress she'll wear and clutches them to herself while I carry her downstairs. Then, I help her get dressed, head to toe, shirt, pants, underpants and socks.

Usually, an hour later, the socks come off.

Today, two hours later, while "washing dishes" at the kitchen sink, she pulled off her wet shirt.

An hour later, she took off her pants after she spilled water on her lap during lunch.

Shortly after that, she said, "I want to be cold." Then suddenly, there she was, in her birthday suit, watching Sesame Street.

I convinced her to wear underpants and purple pants to bed where she napped, but when she woke up, she ditched the pants.

Then, she peeled off the flowered underpants and carried them over to her play ironing board, where she carefully pressed them using the steam setting on her play iron. Then, she allowed me to help her step back into the underpants.

But by the time my husband came home for dinner, she was nekkid again and no amount of cajoling could convince her to get dressed.

Apparently, among the youngest set, it is no longer fashionable to dress for dinner, if you know what I mean.

To Do Before My Birthday

I'm turning forty on Friday. Forty. I keep saying that as if it will somehow make turning forty seem real to me because inside, I'm still about 22. Tonight, my husband and I had to use our fingers and toes to count out how old he is because we just couldn't remember. (He'll be forty-four this year.) What's weirder than turning forty is the idea that I'm married to a forty-three year old man.

So, before I turn forty, I have to do one important thing. I have to renew my driver's license. In person. At the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The last time I renewed it, I did so by mail. The time before . . . well, the time before!

When we first moved here, YoungestBoy was seven months old. So, he was about eight months old when I finally managed to go to the DMV to get my driver's license. He was a baby who hated his stroller, so I struggled to hold on to him while I waited and waited for my turn. I must have waited at least half an hour, maybe longer. Holding him was like holding an octopus--he struggled to get down, wriggled against me, and found none of his baby toys even mildly interesting.

Finally, it was my turn. The DMV worker instructed me to sit at the electronic testing machine where I would test my knowledge of Washington State driving laws. I sat down and dug in my purse for the key to distracting my baby long enough to pass the test: Keys. Regular car keys. Babies like to slobber on metal, especially if there is a danger of gouging a hole in their esophaguses (esophagusi?).

I fumbled around, digging, fingernails scrapping against the crumby bottom of the bag and came up empty. No keys. A buzzing swarm of worry settled into my brain, but I figured I'd left the keys in the car when I took the baby out of his carseat. Even as I started the test, I fretted that someone had already stolen my old Buick Park Avenue which had nearly 200,000 miles on it. But the test went on.

You are only allowed a certain amount of wrong questions on that test. And after each incorrect answer, the machine informs you of your stupidity. I was doing fine, mostly fine, passably fine, anyway, until I came to the multiple choice question about my birthdate.

I chose the wrong answer.

The machine immediately froze and started laughing at me. Distressed, I saw that I had just failed the test because I didn't know my own birthdate. I knew it, I just didn't choose it when faced with multiple choices. Tucking my baby under my arm and my tail between my legs, I went back to wait. I took a number and then rushed to the restroom where I dumped out the contents of my purse on the bathroom floor. No keys. Then, I dashed outside, relieved to see my car still in the grimy parking lot. Sweaty now, and disheveled for some reason, I found my keys sitting on the back seat, right where I'd dropped them to fiddle with the carseat straps.

I grabbed the keys and breathlessly returned to the office where my number was being called. The bored DMV worker raised his eyebrows at me and said, "Birthdate?" I said, "January 28, 1965! I know! I know! I was distracted because I lost my keys and I chose the wrong answer!" He had mercy on me and let me resume the test. I passed.

This time, I'm going alone. And I don't have to take a test. And I'm writing my birthdate with a Sharpie marker on my palm, just in case.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Catching the Loose End

For four years, we lived in northern Michigan. One year, we didn't see the green of grass for six whole months. As a transplanted Pacific Northwesterner, I thought I might die of frozen white boredom, but that's not what this is about.

Just tonight, while I was transcribing a tape from my private investigator boss, I thought of the time I broke the window treatment in the mint-green parsonage bedroom where we used to live.

Living in a parsonage was fantastic in so many ways. For instance, when the preschool-aged twins flushed twelve toothbrushes down the toilet, a plumber came and fished them all out and billed the church. Or maybe he didn't even bill the church. I don't know, but I do know that it cost me nothing, other than my pride. We had access to a big old blue dumpster, which was a delight to me, for I could hurl gigantic things into that trash receptacle often. We've always generated a lot of debris, for reasons I don't quite understand, but let's go ahead and blame disposable diapers. And I like to purge my house, so off I'd go, trudging across the parking lot, with a burden of stuff I couldn't wait to discard.

But the drawbacks of living in parsonage included inhabiting walls painted in dreadful colors. And what really bugged me was the window treatment in the master bedroom which hung crookedly on the large window which overlooked the rolling landscape and the rotting old farmhouse on the next hill.

One day, I took scissors to the cord I figured was responsible for the crookedness. I intended to cut the cords and tie them evenly and then, in a flash, the too-long cord whipped right through the stiff canvas, up through the hole in the metal along the top and in that blink of a moment, the window treatment broke.

I couldn't retrieve the string and so for the rest of our years in that parsonage, the mint-green bedroom was shrouded by the broken shade, which hung limply over the window. I hated that.

Some days, I feel like I'm a fingertip away from grabbing an errant cord and then with a swoosh, it flies out of my grasp and all I can do is watch it whip up into an unreachable place. My days are like an inflated balloon that I haven't quite tied and then just as I'm about to wrap it around my fingers and knot the end, it flaps out of my hand and burbles through the air in a crazy, curly path. The hours are soap that slips from my hand and into the tub, where it skitters away just as I think I have a grasp on it.

Just today, I walked into the house and encountered YoungestBoy who seemed to have grown a few inches since this morning. I grabbed his blond head and said, "Quit growing! You have gotten taller since I saw you last!"

My days are getting away from me. The rollercoaster is about to crest and then I know the second I hit forty (on Friday, don't forget!), time will zip by even faster and I will never ever get a tight grasp on my life again. All I can hear is the zing of the string whirring away, just when I thought I had a grip on it.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Into the Night

When I was a little girl, tucked under my pink chenille bedspread in the room I shared with my whispering sister, if I stayed awake late enough, I could hear my dad's laughter echo down the hallway of our tiny tract house. Every night, he ate a hamburger my mother grilled for him and watched Johnny Carson's monologue before he left for work.

He was a ship-to-shore radio operator for ITT World Communications. A few times, for reasons which remain a mystery to me, I was taken to his workplace during daylight hours. The building sat between two towns in a blackberry vine infested pasture and was built on stilts. I remember climbing a set of wooden slatted stairs to reach the entrance. Inside, I'd find myself bewildered by a dazzling array of radios and equipment with flashing lights. My dad had a cot there and he would doze until he heard the Morse code call letters of the station, indicating that an incoming ship had a message for him to relay.

He mostly hated that job, and who could blame him, really? He worked from midnight until 8:00 a.m. and then he spent the morning tinkering with radios and televisions and eventually, computers. He always ran his own shop where he fixed things that plugged in. He slept in the afternoons, if he were lucky, and just the early evenings otherwise. And then, at the last minute, after we'd already gone to bed, he'd emerge from his dark cave-like bedroom with its room-darkening shade where he wore a mask over his eyes in an attempt to block out the day, dress in a flannel shirt, and roar his irrepressible laugh at Johnny Carson's smirking grin and raised eyebrow and jokes.

For several years, my father didn't actually speak to my mother, though they slept in the same bed (though not at the same time). Perhaps that's why I listened, late at night, to his laughter. It was the only time I heard him laugh.

My parents never fought in front of us, either. Once I discovered tears rolling down my mother's cheeks while she was preparing to go out to dinner with my father. She assured me nothing was wrong, but I knew better.

It was probably around the same time that I heard them argue through the walls of my make-shift bedroom (my grandfather had built a wall and enclosed the space where our dining room had been, so I had a room of my own, nestled between the kitchen and the living room). My parents were on the other side of that wall and I heard my mother rebuke my father: "I cleaned up your vomit!" He'd had cancer and chemotherapy and she'd stood by him, cleaned him up, survived it with him and he repaid her by leaving us. Cancer had introduced him to Death and Death made him walk backwards from my mother, his wife of thirteen years, and sprint for the nearest exit. He had some living to do, and apparently we were holding him back.

Does anything end up the way you imagine it will? When my dad left, we saw him more than we'd seen him before. He took us bowling for the first time ever. We went on drives and outings. He came to my baseball games. Before a year had passed, I lived back under the same roof, listening in the dark to him hee-hawing his way through Johnny Carson's monologue. He had a new wife, but some things never changed.

No one laughed harder or louder than my dad, but that laughter is only a memory I can conjure up in words, not sound. None of us have any audio recording of his laugh, so I can describe his glee, his exuberance, his head thrown back, his eyes watering with tears from that hard laughter, but I can't hear it.

When I heard that Johnny Carson had died this morning, I felt the loss of my childhood and the loss of my father's laugh. One more tangible part of my father's history is gone, eroded away by the relentless, coming-and-going tide of living and dying. Soon, the world as I know it will be completely unlike the world my dad knew and the very idea of that changed landscape brings with it a lonesome fog of longing.

And so, off they go, into the night, while I stand here on shore, straining to hear the laughter.

Not Chosen

For those of you who've been wondering (all two of you!), I read the names of the new guest columnists in our newspaper today. My name was not among them. I wasn't even notified of my rejection formally, so I still have that feeling of "the pregnancy test says it's negative, but my period hasn't started yet, so maybe it's wrong," even though I know better.

I have been rejected again. And so I think, well, clearly this is a Sign, and not just a simple stop sign. No, this is a "DO NOT ENTER" sign with red flashing lights. I think I might be heading up the wrong direction on the freeway. Why do I keep getting into the car?

So. Fine. (And if you have no idea what I'm talking about . . . where have you been? Along with two hundred other people, I submitted two sample columnns to the local paper to compete for six guest columnist positions.)

It's really not fine at all, of course, because a dramatic girl like me immediately draws conclusions from rejection, ludicrous conclusions, which make reckless sense to me. For example: the newspaper rejects me, so that means I am a horrible writer. The newspaper rejection also means: I am a failure at everything I attempt. After all, my kids are mouthy, my floor is gritty and my scrapbooks are hopelessly neglected. I'm not rich, famous or thin. And my husband has a cold. All of this is obviously my fault and evidence of my failure as a human being.

Stupid newspaper.

(Yes, I know I'm being ridiculous, but this is a personal journal and I reserve the right to be ridiculous. No need to tell me otherwise. Only the unblinking, reptilian part of my brain is responsible for composing this post. The rational Mel will return tomorrow, unless, of course, she decides to take up recreational vodka drinking.)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Ungreat Expectations

When I was a dreamy child, unaware that the world as I knew it was about to shatter(aka The Divorce), my mother gave me a small jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. The puzzle featured a darling puppy and the saying, "Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed."

That may have been the beginning of my wrestling match with expectations and disappointment. I disappointed myself in so many ways when I was a child. I wasn't skinny enough, outgoing enough. My clothes were hand-me-downs, my parents had old cars (we christened one truck "The Ugly Truck"), we were weird because we went to a Pentecostal church and when we watched "The Donny and Marie Show", we had to turn the channel when Donny sang because rock'n'roll was straight from the pits of hell.

Oddly, I wasn't disappointed with my parents for their rotten choices. I figured it was all my fault somehow.

So, you can imagine how disappointed I was with myself in so many ways. I was neither as cute as I thought I should be, nor did I play the piano as well as I wished, nor was I cool and worldly. I wasn't a very good Christian if you considered a good Christian one who read her Bible every day and prayed out loud for hours at a time. I was embarrassed to be different. And embarrassed to be tall, for that matter.

And when my parents divorced, I tried really hard to wipe the slate of my expectations clean. Very, very clean, so there was no shadowy trace of my expectations that grown-ups would be dependable and life would be predictable and I would be safe.

The problem was, I couldn't erase The Perfectionist that refused to die inside of me. The Perfectionist expected 100% on every school assignment and test. The Perfectionist insisted that I make no mistakes, that I toe the line of proper behavior, that I take no chances, lest I be humiliated and mocked. The Perfectionist demanded that I make correct choices, choices with only good consequences. The Perfectionist never let me forget that fateful day when I turned on the oven to bake without checking inside it first. I melted all my mother's Tupperware, which she said was a "stupid" thing to do, which I took to heart. I was stupid. My mother even said so.

The Perfectionist didn't get the whole "Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed" philosophy. Instead, she just expected stuff (a lot of stuff) from me because, really, who can I control? Me. Only me. Yet, I continued to disappoint myself with my occasionally blemished skin and my unflat stomach and my failure to get into jazz choir in high school. I was hard on myself for these shortcomings and often told myself what a dismal future waited for stupid girls like me. I had it all figured out. No one would ever marry me, let alone date me. My 3.96 grade point average would keep me from scholarships and good colleges and I'd end up a bitter, old-maid.

I only wish I were kidding. My bright future was obscured by the looming shadow of The Perfectionist.

Somewhere in college I came face to face with The Perfectonist and we came to an agreement. She'd have to move out and find her own place because there wasn't room enough for an actual life if the Perfectionist were hanging about, pointing fingers and making dire predictions.

But, despite that eviction notice, The Perfectionist lurks about torturing me with self-recriminations and self-doubt. Now, she focuses on Motherhood. The Perfectionist expects me to be better than I am. She expects me to be patient and kind and gentle and wise. She cuts me no slack. She whispers meanly in my ears, points out my flaws. She also takes notice of other mothers who are superior to me in so many ways. I can't even bear to list them all.

Some days I can't figure out if my expectations are too low or too high. Are my kids struggling with school work because I don't push them hard enough? Am I pushing them too hard? Should I force them (ha, as if I could!) to write neatly and legibly? Should I just ignore the areas of weakness? Do I coddle them? Should they do more? Or less? Are they more capable then I suspect? Less capable? Do I make excuses for them?

Why isn't there a middle ground where I can find some firm footing? I feel like I'm sliding around in mud, barely staying on my feet. This would be funny on America's Home Videos, but I am not amused.

I'm just muddling through, wishing that four small people weren't following me, expecting to place their feet into my footprints. I want to say, "Wait! Hold on! Maybe we should have taken that left turn back by the stream? Or is that the path over there just past the crest?" Sometimes, Babygirl is so close to me, following, that I bump into her and knock her down.

This motherhood gig is tricky. That's why I'm kicking out The Perfectionist. I mean it. It's hard enough to find my way across this pock-marked land without having her snicker when I fall down.

And I'm kind of mad at my mom for giving me that puzzle. What kind of message did that imprint on my pliable young psyche? What kind of message do I imprint on the minds of my children? Which message will be the one they remember and blog about in 20 years?

(There she is again. The Perfectionist will not leave. How rude.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Diet Coke With Lime Drought

Note to self: Remember to get Diet Coke with Lime out of trunk of car before husband leaves in the morning. I'm like a junkie without a fix today and my head aches now from my inadvertent caffeine withdrawal.

Someone asked today if my daughter likes to play with dress-up clothes. She's the opposite. She often pulls off her shirt and rarely keeps on her socks. She spent most of her day clad only in her size 2T Osh-Kosh cotton underpants dotted with little flowers. She's unbearably cute these days. I can't believe her polite manners. She'll say to me, "Please can I spill this water?" during lunch to check if I'll let her pour her cup of water into her noodle soup. She'll say "Please can I hit [DaycareKid]?"

YoungestBoy had such a bad dream this morning just before he woke up that he came to me with tears dripping down his face, clutching his forehead, asking if he could stay home from school. He wouldn't tell me what the dream was about, but apparently the horror faded because he went off to school without a problem when it was finally time for him to go. After school, I asked again about the dream and it turned out to be a dream in which his brother "annihilated" him during a fierce game of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I did not laugh, though I was tempted.

Hawaii has sent us a gift of balmy winds and torrential rains. Today, the rain abated and I took the toddlers for a walk around the block. YoungestBoy and TwinBoyB rode their bikes. After the frozen temperatures last week, the fifty degree breeze today felt positively tropical. I inspected my sidewalk flower pots and discovered the daffodils are up, as are the tulips. I love spring! I need to get out and cut down last year's perennials. The daisies are already growing.

My husband went to a funeral today. He did not participate and he didn't even know the man, but he cried anyway. Remember him? The Military Guy Down the Street? Well, he is home on leave. A week or two ago, I saw him at the Friday night Bible study I attend for young couples. His son, now almost two months old, looks exactly like him. He and his wife were so happy that he was granted leave while his only child is still a newborn. Military Guy leaves for Mosul, Iraq, on Friday, so last Sunday, he was the lay-reader at church.

The lay-reader leads the congregation in various liturgical readings and scripture readings. Then, the lay-reader traditionally asks members of the congregation to spontaneously stand and give thanks to God.

Military Guy began the time of thanksgiving by mentioning how thankful he is for our church family's support of his wife and son. Then, he told us that last week, on the 13th, the man who was doing his job (leading a platoon) in Mosul, Iraq, was killed by a roadside bomb.

He cried a little as he revealed this information. It could have been him. It so easily could have been him. If he weren't home on leave, it would have been him leading his platoon.

So, today, my husband went to the funeral of the man who died in Military Guy's place. The military has a heart-wrenching practice of placing a soldier's empty boots and helmet on display during his memorial service. The image of that alone brings tears to my eyes and then when I imagine Military Guy giving a eulogy for this man who took his place, I can't swallow the lump in my throat and my eyes swim in tears. My husband told me he cried and he didn't even know the guy.

But we all know a Guy like that, don't we? That Guy is just like Military Guy down the street--could have actually been Military Guy down the street. That Guy is a man who volunteered to go to Iraq, who wanted to lead his soldiers, who chose sacrifice over an office job, even though retirement loomed in his near future. Guys like him are my heroes, men who have children who look just like them, who are soft-spoken and gentle and kind, men who believe in freedom and justice and democracy, men who somehow put aside the horrors of war to bounce their babies on their shoulders and grin at their wives during their infrequent leaves. Guys like this cry when they lose their buddies and then get on the plane to finish the job they started.

And so, another day ends with big thoughts (War, Love, Sacrifice) amidst the wreckage of another day done. My head hurts and I'm not sure it's from the lack of caffeine alone.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Drat and Double Drat

I spent my free free-time today crafting a post which Blogger then gobbled without so much as an apology.

I hate that. And now time will speed up. I'll wake DaycareKid and start dinner and clean up lunch dishes and do more laundry. DaycareKid's mom (or dad?) will pick him up and then we'll eat dinner and bathtime will start and before you know it, I'll be in bed, eyes propped open so I can channel surf between David Letterman and Jay Leno, even while I regret being awake so late.

I mentioned in my Blogger-eaten post that hell must have also frozen over yesterday when temperatures dipped to negative fifty-four degrees in Embarrass, Minnesota. I know this because my daughter went to sleep at naptime by herself. She simply climbed into her brother's bed (where DaycareKid naps) and went to sleep--even before DaycareKid did. Normally, I lay down with her while she wriggles herself to sleep. So, I had extra free-time, but had to supervise a science experiment before I ate my lunch and lunged for the computer to fill my blog silence with a summary of the weekend.

So, now that my summary is gone, let me just say this:

Saturday: Freezing rain, no driving to the birthday party.

Sunday: Annual church business meeting, which did not end in a drunken brawl and 911 call as I feared. The budget passed after some intense discussion, but no one threw a punch, overturned a table or threw up on the pastor's shoes. Not that anything like that would happen in a room full of Christian grown-ups, but one must be prepared for the worst. Well, one like me must be prepared for the worst.

Monday: Holiday! Babygirl woke up and I plopped her in front of the television with dry Cheerios and went back to bed, where I luxuriated between my flannel sheets, not caring one bit that my nomination for Mother of the Year would surely be rescinded when They heard about my return to bed. What bliss to listen to the rain while dozing.

Now, we're back to reality. TwinBoyB spent two and a half hours trying to get around writing out his math problems, going so far as to throw down his book and declare, "I AM QUITTING SCHOOL!" and "YOU ARE THE WORST TEACHER EVER!" I calmly dialed the phone (my own cell phone number, but don't tell him) and said into the received, "Hello? I'd like to speak to someone about enrolling my son in school." He high-tailed it back to the table where he finally finished his work. Outwit, outlast, outplay, that's my job.

And now, time to jump into the time warp that is speeding directly for bedtime.

(Blogger, if you eat this post, we are going to Have Words. Don't test my patience.)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Reptile Man

Early in the week, YoungestBoy came home from school bursting with excitement. Reptile Man was coming to school on Friday! I instantly pictured a man with scaly skin and a forked tongue, covered with body art--this guy. But no, that's Lizard Man, and the flyer advertised "Reptile Man."

Last night, then, YoungestBoy and I headed over to the school to see the Reptile Man's show. We joined a fairly large crowd in the school multi-purpose room. YoungestBoy sat on the floor, right in the front, and I sat on the very edge of the second row, on the end of a big horseshoe shaped line of chairs. We faced a assortment of animal crates and Rubbermaid tubs dotted with air holes.

Finally, Reptile Man finally plucked the microphone from a stand and greeted us. His voice matched his earth-toned clothing, a murky forest green shirt and rumpled khaki pants. He spoke like a hypnotist, quietly, calmly . . . I half-expected him to tell me I'd be falling into a deep sleep at the count of 10, 9, 8, 7 . . . you are feeling very sleepy . . . 6, 5, 4 . . . close your eyes and drop your shoulders . . . 3, 2, 1.

But, no. Without an assistant or much introduction, he plucked a giant bullfrog named Jeremiah from a plastic tub. Then, it was on to a tortoise (Snapper, named for an ex-girlfriend, he deadpanned). We also met "Spongebob, Squareshell", a sea turtle. He made us promise to never eat turtle soup and to quit planting English Ivy in our gardens because turtles are slow to reproduce and English Ivy is quick to reproduce. By that time, I was completely in a Reptile Man trance, his flowing words a stream of calm and peace in which I found myself floating.

He showed us a baby alligator and a couple of lizards, but, of course, the main attraction were the snakes.

I am not a big fan of the snake as a matter of principle. They unhinge their jaws and swallow mammals and as a mammal, I sort of take offense to this. However, Reptile Man pointed out that snakes are our Friends. They eat Rats and Mice and Rats and Mice are not our friends, despite what Disney would have you believe. Okay. So, I'm convinced. I wish I had a back yard full of snakes, but alas, I live in a climate where we have only two species of snakes--the garter snake and one other, the name of which slithers out of my short-term memory.

Then, he told us about the Black Mamba, the most poisonous and dangerous and FAST snake in the world. He mentioned in his soothing voice that if it got loose, it would be very quick, so beware! I smiled because at that point, I knew Reptile Man would never let a snake loose. All the snakes so far had rested gently in his hands while he taught us that vipers are venomous and have a triangle shaped head. Not a single snake had hissed and showed a hint of speed or danger.

He put his microphone down for a moment, and reached into a blue Rubbermaid tub and fiddled around a bit, getting a grip on the snake and then BOOM! Two snakes practically flew into the crowd and we all screamed in unison and Reptile Man burst into laughter because he'd played the old "springs in a can" trick on us. My heart was still fluttering while he pointed out that our fears are pretty much learned behavior and unfounded because Snakes are Good. Snakes are our Friends.

Then, he brought out a cobra and stared into its eyes and made it dance and I had the feeling that if he'd stared into my eyes, I might have danced, too, but of course, he's the Reptile Man. I was under some sort of reptilian trance, the primitive part of my brain under the spell of his monotone and mossy green shirt.

Which explains why I actually stroked this enormous snake (cooler and smoother than I anticipated) which I paid $4.00 for Reptile Man to drape around my 6-year old son and photograph.

Posted by Hello

(And, because of my randomly chosen seat in the multi-purpose room, I leaped into line when he dismissed us and we were second in line. The line snaked (ha ha) around the perimeter of the room. I'd guess a hundred or more children had to wait a long, long, long time to have that giant albino snake snaked around their shoulders.)

Friday, January 14, 2005

I'll Be Back

No time. Accepted transcription job. Still have four children, one husband. Laundry pile stubborn. Tomorrow, two birthday parties. I'll be back, sooner rather than later. Hugs received and appreciated. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

He's Right There

You ask: how depressed are, Mel, exactly? Let me tell you.

I cleaned my kitchen sink with a toothpick.

I cried in the bathroom and when Babygirl said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Nothing." She blinked at me a second and said, "You are so sad?"

I sorted through the ever-present kitchen counter mess and left tidiness in my wake.

I washed the cabinets and swept the floors and folded laundry and picked up the disaster area also known as the Boys' Room.

I sent an email to my husband with the subject line "I am an idiot" and included the helpful advice "Do not use your debit card," and ended with the hopeful thought, "Maybe if you are lucky, I will die young and you can replace with me someone competent."

I realized during a moment of clarity that cleaning makes me feel better because if I were to just leave, my replacement wouldn't judge me so harshly. Unfortunately, I'll never have my house clean enough to abandon.

So, when my husband called and said, "Hey, chin up! No problem! Don't worry! Everything's fine! Cheer up!" I responded with muffled sobs and, "Well, I can't promise that, but I will be here when you get home." Then I shined the kitchen counters one last time and took the toddlers upstairs for a nap.

During naptime, Babygirl squirmed and used diversionary tactics to postpone the inevitable. As she usually does, she put a hand on my shoulder and looked into my face and said, "I want you!"

I reassured her, "I am right here. Snuggle next to me."

She repeated later, "I want you!"

I said again, "I am right here!" and I admit it was with a little exasperation. Our backs were touching. We were breathing the same air. I WAS RIGHT THERE!

And then I started to cry again, this time removing the remainder of my mascara with my tears because I thought that I am exactly like my two-year old. I whine to God, "I want You! I want You!" and He says to me, "I am right here. I am right here." And I think He says it without exasperation, since He is more patient than me.

The kids brought home a paper from school last night. I found it on the counter this morning. It reads, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

I hung it on the bulletin board next to the phone where I can see it because sometimes I feel like I'm alone, even though God's right here, whispering in my ear.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Recently, the reality-show "Survivor" held some kind of open auditions in our area. I probably should have gone, because if I could survive a day like today, I could definitely win that show. The only catch? I couldn't possible appear on national television in a swimsuit of any kind.

But today. At precisely 6:40 a.m., I reluctantly left my warm bed for a hot shower. Before I left the hot shower, Babygirl joined me in the bathroom for the annoying Opening of the Shower Door Ritual which she performs the second the shower ends. She insists on doing this, even though I beg her to keep the door closed until I am dry. The cold is not quite so cold if I am not still dripping wet.

Then, I had to get the cats crated and ready to go to the vet. Two of them were spayed today. My husband took the cats and returned in time to pick up YoungestBoy and the neighbor for school. About that time, DaycareKid arrived and the phone rang.

I agreed to babysit for my friend whose sitter is sick. By 10 a.m., I had a houseful of children: TwinBoyA, TwinBoyB, Babygirl (age 2), DaycareKid (age 2), Kay (age 2) and CuteBaby (age 3 months). I managed to keep most everyone happy. The boys did their school lessons with my loose supervision and somehow, the three two-year-olds all napped at the same time. The baby's nap overlapped the toddler's nap, though, and I only got a ten minute break. YoungestBoy was home by 3:30 p.m. and then I had seven children here. Seven. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.

DaycareKid's dad was late picking him up and didn't arrive until after 5 p.m. Kay and CuteBaby were here until 6:15 p.m. My mom stopped by at about 6 p.m. for a quick visit and while she was here, my husband dropped off the cats. He went back to church and then my mom took my boys to church, too. By 6:30 p.m., Babygirl was in the bath and the house was quiet, except for her splashing and singing.

Babygirl spent her day basically worshipping the baby. She held her for fifteen minutes at a time. She fed the baby her bottle. She rocked the baby in her baby carrier. She had some "tummy time" when the baby had "tummy time." She plugged the baby's mouth with her binky--every time I said, "Does the baby need her binky?" Babygirl patted CuteBaby's blanket and said, "She already has her blanky!"

I had my kids in the wrong order. This whole thing would have been so easy if I'd had Babygirl first, then YoungestBoy and then adopted the twins. Of course, then I wouldn't have adopted the twins because I already would have had kids. But, as my dad would say, don't confuse me with the facts!

Tomorrow, I'm not taking any phone calls. So, if the producer from "Survivor" calls, tell him I'm out. Out of my ever-living mind, that is.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Round Numbers

I have a simple strategy for getting out of bed each morning. I open my eyes and gaze at the red numbers of my digital clock. Then, depending on the digits, I either pull the covers up tighter and close my eyes or I reluctantly fold the covers down, fumble for my glasses and sit up.

I will get out of bed is the last digit is five or zero. Otherwise, no dice. I will not get up unless the number is a multiple of five--unless, of course, I've irresponsibly overslept and I must toss aside rituals and throw on some clothes. But otherwise, if it's 6:28 a.m., I wait until it's 6:30 a.m. Now, if I happen to open my eyes and it's 6:31 a.m., then I have to wait until it's 6:35 a.m.

What can I say? I'm a rule-follower. And I like round numbers.

Perhaps this is why I look forward to turning forty later this month. I was born in 1965 (a year divisible by five, I must point out) and it will be satisfying to me to go through 2005 as a forty-year old.

I don't care even a bit about being "older" and losing my youth. In fact, I feel a sense of relief--no one expects anything from me other than middle-age. A middle-aged woman can stroll through a shopping mall without notice, unlike a blond twenty-year old who was well-endowed by her Creator. I've been both people and frankly, I kind of like being the invisible forty-year old.

Except, of course, when the young moms (the thirysomethings) from church happen to mention some get-together they had which did not include me. Then I think, hey, what am I? Chopped liver? Stale bread? Nothing but old, saggy eyelids?

But that kind of self-doubt flees quickly when I refuse to embrace it. Forty is good. Forty is half-way to eighty and what's not great about being eighty? By the time you are eighty, I bet you can stay in bed as long as you want and only get up if the last digit happens to be a zero.

The alternative to getting older just isn't good. My dad was barely 47 years old when he died. He was on the doorstep of a dream, finally knocking on the door, hearing footsteps of someone coming to open that door and then--BOOM. Cancer came and swept him away.

Yesterday, we got a phone call from a niece who informed us that her sister was diagnosed with Stage 2 cervical cancer. I have so many nieces and nephews I barely know--my husband has two sisters and four brothers and they all married at least twice their allotment of spouses each--but this girl, I know. We invited her to visit us in 1990 while we waited to adopt. I remember her as a slight, delicate, sweet girl. She's thirty now.

Thirty. It's odd when other people get older, too. I never quite expect that. Anyway, I hope she gets out of the round numbers and makes it to thirty-one . . . because then she'll have no alternative but to make it to thirty-five. At least that's how it would work if I were in charge of all things numerical.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Alert! Alert! Winter Storm!

All last week, the forecasters predicted we'd have a winter storm. The local television stations featured special "storm coverage" and the children clasped their hands in gleeful anticipation of the snowball fights they'd have. On Thursday night, my husband said, "I wouldn't go out if I were you. The roads might be slick." The snow was expected to start Thursday and continue Friday with "possible accumulations of one to two inches," according to the experts.

Alas, no snow fell. Not on Friday, not on Saturday. (The kids had a long discussion about why Michigan is better than Washington and I explained about the long winter we endured when we didn't see green grass from October to March. Just talking about it gave me cabin fever.)

Sunday morning, I was stunned to see a blanket of snow covering the world. Actually, it was more like a thin, lacy afghan than a blanket--green grass poked through the white and droplets of already-melted snow dripped here and there.

My boys came to life as if it were Christmas morning all over again. They pulled on coats and shoes and gloves (my brand-new, never-worn-before leather gloves which were a gift last year--no, they did not have permission). I was upstairs getting ready for church under the constant gaze of Babygirl. I heard the door slam and the boys burst back into the house, shedding coats and shoes in the middle of the entryway.

When we left for church a short time later, a two-foot snowman sat on the front lawn. This defies all laws of gravity and physics and weather because as I mentioned, maybe one inch of snow fell.

But the snowman with its pinecone nose and rocks for eyes still stands, rather pathetic and ragged now, in the front yard, even as the perennials have begun to grow and the hyacinth's first green sprouts promise impending spring.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

True Confessions

I hardly ever wash my face at night because I'm too tired by the time I go upstairs to bed. I sleep with mascara still on my lashes. I have no skin care regimen, even though I've had the same face for almost 40 years. I wear my contact lenses longer than I should each day.

I have the same jeans I wore in college because I refuse to believe that they will not fit again some day.

The other day, at Michael's (the craft store), I tried to shop in the clearance aisle, but a woman in a gigantic wheelchair was blocking the whole aisle. I went around and came in through the other end of the aisle and she moved and blocked me again. I actually rolled my eyes at her and I think I may have let an audible sigh of exasperation escape my lips.

I have been known to change my mind about an item in a store and have left it on a random shelf. Sometimes, I don't return my shopping cart.

I did not have my first kiss until I was a college freshman.

Sometimes, I'll pretend I don't see someone in a store so I don't have to chat. I pretend I'm invisible.

I say to my kids, "Because I said so!" and "You are driving me crazy!" I yell more than I ever anticipated in my pre-motherhood days.

I'd rather read than go to a party.

I judge people by their grammar, both verbal and written.

I am avoiding my transcription job and my laundry.

Every once in awhile, I say something outrageous just to get a reaction from people.

I feel guilty about my broken relationship with my ex-sister, but I can't figure out how to mend it without apologizing, but I can't figure out what I would be apologizing for.

I regret going to Bible College and wish I'd just gotten a real degree in nursing, instead.

I quit taking art and music in high school because I was terrified I'd get a "B" in those classes because they are subjective.

I hide chocolate.

I emailed my arch enemy from college, a girl I caught talking behind my back. I wondered how she was doing and I was all friendly. I ignored her when she asked how I found her email address--just to drive her crazy. Turns out, she's divorced and a small, sinful part of me thought, "Good! Serves you right!"

Now. Anyone have anything to confess?

Friday, January 07, 2005


My husband and I adopted our twin boys when they were a mere seven months old. Ever since, people have been telling us how much one son looks like my husband and how the other looks like me.

TwinBoyA jumped into kindergarten with great enthusiasm. TwinBoyB hated the very idea of kindergarten. By second grade, TwinBoyB was sitting in the hallway getting additional help with math, while TwinBoyA was in another classroom, freaking out over timed math tests. Their handwriting was illegible and on Open House nights at school, I could compare their schoolwork on display with their classmates' work and see that they were lagging behind.

By fifth grade, I realized that things had gradually gone from disconcerting to seriously wrong. The second week of school, TwinBoyB's teacher called to say that TwinBoyB was failing every subject. We had his ears cleaned out and his eyes checked and bought him glasses and tethered him to the kitchen table for grueling homework sessions, but he struggled through the year. TwinBoyA had a compassionate, encouraging teacher, and he did great work (despite his scrawling handwriting with no spaces between the words and no regard for margins). That's why I didn't realize until the end of the year just how bad things were for him socially.

I asked him yesterday, "So, did the kids call you names the whole year last year?" He paused and looked out the window at the flat gray sky. He said, "Well, they didn't really call me names. They just made fun of me." I said, "Was it just the last year or two?" And he said, "Well, really the last three years."

And what I have to ask myself is this: Did I not notice them drowning? Couldn't I see their heads bobbing underwater? When the other kids splashed them until they couldn't breathe and pressed their faces into the water, why didn't someone intervene? Why didn't I intervene? Why didn't I see that it wasn't good-natured fun, but cruelty? How could a mother not see that her children were tiring and about to go under?

Well, I did finally pluck them out of the water. And I didn't even push anyone else under, though by then, I was tempted. I once overhead my son being mocked and ridiculed and I wanted to knock together the heads of the culprits. But I thought, it's all part of growing up.

No more. I won't let them sink or swim. Not until they are stronger swimmers, able to swim against the current and smart enough to avoid the jellyfish and driftwood. And the bullies.

I'm still reading a book about learning disabilities and as I read it ("A Mind at a Time", by Mel Levine) I cringe. What I have attributed to quirky genetics and annoying personality traits are probably actual learning disabilities, neurological impairments. I wonder how much of this is genetic? I wonder why the teachers at our acclaimed schools never investigated further? I wonder if my boys will actually grow up to be productive members of society? Or did I leave them floudering too long?

Our adopted sons do not look like my husband. Or me. They don't think like us, talk like us, walk like us, or resemble us in any way. But we are family and we will stick together, lashing ourselves to our life-raft if need be. I will not let these kids drown.

That's my job, the job I accepted without actually reading the contract. . . the one that says in fine print, "Please note. No refunds, no returns, no do-overs. Good luck and don't call us when you find out how poorly prepared you are."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


If I were a boat, I'd be a sailboat in the doldrums. I'd be floating in a calm sea of fog, dry land out of sight, sun veiled behind gauzy clouds, carrying only stale granola bars and tepid drinking water.

If I were a ball, I'd be tethered to a pole cemented into an old tire. No one would even come by to smack me and watch me bump into the pole. No quick games of volleyball for me. Just dangling listlessly.

If I were a tree, I'd be a white birch, my branches extended while all my leaves dead and gone. No shade under me, no shelter from storms, just immobile, helpless to keep dogs from peeing on my trunk. I can't even scratch my nose.

I've been casting about, trying to come up with a flash of brilliance or a chin-stroking, eye-squinting, thought-inspiring topic, but I am listless. Both listless in the classic, dictionary-defined sense of the word and listless as in devoid of lists. I ought to make a list or two and check it twice. I need to get a pulse--stat!--before the Good Housekeeping Police come and carry me away in a body bag.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I'm so Proud

Try this. Put these words (poopy platter is open at midnight now!) into Google.

Mel's number one! Mel's number one! Mel's number one! (Say it with me!)

Yeah. I'm so proud.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Ice Age

Here in the Pacific Northwest, winter brings rain. My yellow daisy-like flowers are still blooming in the pot on my sidewalk. The pansy occasionally shoots up a purple bloom. The hyacinth bulb is sending up greenery. And so, just when I think spring should arrive--after all, the weeds are actually growing--the temperature drops.

By our standards, last night was really cold, down into the twenties. My boys were delighted to find water turned into ice in the sandbox (filled with rainwater now). It was thick, too, and lasted through the day.

I hear there are rumors of snow on Thursday.

Okay. Fine. But after that, no more winter. I'm ready for spring.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Sunday Night Blues in Bits and Pieces

School Breaks
Before I schooled the boys at home, I looked forward to the end of school breaks. The kids would go back to school and my days would resume their lilting schedule and rainbows would appear in the sky. Now I dread it. I'll have to drag my school-at-home boys by the ears to get them to the kitchen table, ready to tackle math. YoungestBoy has started to proclaim that he "hates" school, which I just can't believe because he does so well and reports he had a good day every single day. But I'm going to email his teacher, just in case.

Tomorrow DaycareKid will be here, too, so we'll just suddenly be going full speed ahead. I'd rather lounge in a hammock for a few more days. Not that I own a hammock, but still.

Outright Refusal
Tonight, when I put Babygirl to bed, I said, "Good-night. Have a good sleep!" and she said, "No." Well. Okay, then.

On Printers

My printer died. It was a HP PSC 1210 All-in-One. I loved that it printed, copied and scanned, but now it's dead. I'm not so sure I want to replace it with the same model, given it's unreliable history. But I'm cheap. So, what do you recommend, Internet? What annoys me is that I used to have a perfectly reliable plain old printer. Then a friend gave me a similar plain old printer. So, I switched to that printer and got rid of my printer (after it clogged up my storage room for a few months). When I got this new printer (a year ago), I donated the other printer to charity. And how does the universe reward my good deed? Now, I have no printer! Two computers, no printer and I gave away two printers in working condition.

Celebrity Babies (and Moms)
I've been thinking about why the paparazzi is so eager to snap a photograph of new celebrity moms . . . first the hoopla about Gwyneth Paltrow and the Apple of her eye . . . and now Julia Roberts and Phinn and Hazel, for example. Does the media actually think the public cares about the mushed up newborn face of a baby? No way! What we really want to see (you know you do, admit it) is the condition of the post-partum mother. We want to see if Julia has the same mooshy tummy that childbirth imposed on us. We want to see if Gwyneth looks haggard and chubby. I freely admit that when I saw a post-partum picture of Kate Hudson, I felt gleeful--she looked like she'd had a baby. Her face was round and her body reflected her pregnancy weight gain--for about twenty minutes. Then suddenly, she was lithe and lean and not just unpregnant, but looked never-been-pregnant-shaped again.

I ask you. How is that right?

Desperate Housewives

My blog-tracking device thing-a-majig tells me that I have visitors who come here after googling "Desperate Housewives." To them I say: Sorry. There are no actual unretouched photos of those "desperate" housewives here. Just the ramblings of a real-life desperate housewife who has never seen anyone like that at the PTA.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Countdown to My Fortieth Birthday

Well. Today is the first day of January, which means that my fortieth birthday approaches quickly. You'd think that maybe I'd be alarmed at the thought of such advanced age, but given the alternative, I think aging is a fine idea, even though it brings wrinkles and loose skin. I have a lot of things to do, work to accomplish, books to read, a storage room to organize, scrapbooks to update, and the never-ending laundry to do. I am nowhere close to finishing my life's tasks, so if I die soon, I will die with a big mess in my wake. And that's just not an option.

I've had most of the week "off," since my daycare child hasn't been here and I haven't been schooling the boys. I finished the dreaded paperwork for school at home. I switched the contents of a kitchen cupboard with the contents of a kitchen drawer. I threw away expired medication. I undecorated. I stocked the refrigerator with vegetables and low-fat dairy products. I shopped a few clearance sales. I saw a movie. I took Babygirl to visit my mother (just a few miles away) for the first time in a long time. I've slept until Babygirl has called my name at nearly 8 a.m. each morning. I took the cat in to be spayed. I cleaned up the storage room. I emptied out the front hall closet, sent a bunch of coats to Goodwill and tidied it up. Now the vacuum cleaner fits in the closet again. I bought more books at Value Village, because you never know when you might be bedridden and suddenly have enough time to read two hundred books.

I even sat down and edited a piece from this blog for submission to the local newspaper. I plan to send two pieces (600-700 words each) as a sort of audition for a guest columnist spot. This morning in the shower, I had a moment of clarity and panic. What in the world am I doing? If I don't get it, I will say, "Well, I am a loser." If I do get it, I will actually have to come up with an article once a month! What if I can't do it? What was I thinking?

I'm going to send in the pieces anyway because I'm a glutton for punishment. And I don't have anything to lose.

I've been reading a book by Mel Levine called A Mind at a Time. Each chapter brings 11-year old TwinBoyB to mind. He has difficulty paying attention. He has trouble with short term memory. He struggles with decoding language and writing. As I read along, I see him more and more in the pages of this book. He's a bright child, but really agonizes over schoolwork. Over the course of his public school education, he's come to believe that he is dumb. I am trying to reverse that idea, but I feel like I'm trying to stop a speeding car by holding the bumper with my bare fingertips and digging in my heels. So far, I just feel like I'm being dragged along, getting bumped and bruised. It's not supposed to be this hard.

I never anticipated having a child like TwinBoyB. I fit perfectly into the public school system's system. I am a visual learner. I love handwriting. I read voraciously. I pay attention and I remember anything I see and most of what I hear. I am sequential and was the first girl in my class to learn the multiplication tables because I thought it was fun. I wrote stories to amuse myself. I won every class spelling bee and math contest.

And as smart as I was, I never thought I'd be mothering a boy so different from myself. How smart is that? Not smart at all. I really didn't think there'd be much to this parenting thing beyond teaching manners and keeping the kids safe. Everything else I thought they'd "catch" from us. They'd learn from simple modeling of behavior. And I was a good student and had friends. My husband had plenty of friends and was an average student. Neither of us gave our parent's one second of grief--other than that time I wore mascara against my father's wishes (boy, he was strict).

Now I am having to practically earn a master's degree in the neurological development of children. I will be meeting with a team of specialists at the school to discuss my son. I feel like I need to be one hundred percent versed in the issues I see facing him. I need to have samples of his work and a timeline of his development. All this comes as such a surprise to me, for some bizarre reason. I thought frosting cupcakes would be the biggest issue facing me.

So maybe I went into this whole motherhood thing with my head in the clouds and unrealistic expectations. Even if I had known what would face me, I would have glossed over the trickier parts, the messier parts, the most aggravating parts because denial is my friend. I'd say, "Hey, how bad could it be?"

And so, that's how I go into 2005. I say, "Hey, how bad could it be?" and "Could I please have a refill? My glass is half empty."

Happy New Year!
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