Monday, February 28, 2005

A Sign You Might Have Reached Brain Capacity

Following church on Sunday, I began to clear the debris and straighten up. My poor husband would like nothing more than to live in a neat, tidy dorm-like room, yet I continually torture him with my crazy piles. I have a pile of Babygirl's clothes on my dresser, waiting to be put away in her room. A pile of my shoes sits jumbled on the floor. A pile of clothing drapes over the exercise bike. A pile of papers waits to be delivered to my desk. Piles, piles, everywhere. And none of them are his.

And frankly, I can't stand it, either, when I don't have time to put everything away. But Saturday was crazy--we flew through the party for YoungestBoy--loud, loud, loud boys, ten of them, descended upon my house and wrestled and shouted and celebrated. I highly recommend the 90-minute party. Just as you begin to wonder, "What was I thinking?" the first parent arrives to retrieve a child.

When the party ended and Babygirl settled in for a nap, I left to meet a new friend, my New Best Friend for a very late lunch slash early dinner. (She called it "linner.") We chatted as if we had known each other for at least forty years (she told the waitress, "We haven't seen each other for forty years!" and the waitress looked a bit puzzled and said, "No way! You don't look that old!") Three hours flew by and then I flew back down the freeway to my family. (And how cliche' is it that I "met" my New Best Friend on the internet?) That night, I typed and typed on my transcription job.

Sunday then. As I was saying, after church I puttered around tidying up while waiting for Babygirl's naptime. I put away baskets of folded laundry, returned shoes to the closet, made the bed, and then made the fateful decision to wash an item of clothing by hand in the bathroom sink.

While it soaked in Woolite, I flitted about, creating order in my bedroom. I returned to the sink, drained the soapy water and began to run rinse water. I heard Babygirl downstairs screaming, so I hurried down to see why.

Once downstairs, I helped Babygirl fix her computer game. Then since I was near the laundry room, I pulled a dry load from the dryer and transferred a wet load from the washer. Then I started a new load. I noticed the cats' bowls were empty, so I fed and watered them. I picked up things here and there, industriously decluttering and straightening as I went. After some time, I returned back upstairs, toting a laundry basket.

And then I heard the pleasant waterfall sound of a . . . waterfall? OH NO! I forgot to turn off the rinse water. I leapt to the bathroom, grabbing bath towels to dam the flowing water. Even after I turned off the tap, the water still cascaded over the counter. I stopped that stream and yet water trickled. I flung open the cabinet doors to find water, water everywhere. Then I opened the drawer and found an inch of standing water.

My husband returned home then and I said, "I am the stupidest woman in the world." I explained what happened. He made a joke about my needing to find extra things to do because I am so "bored." We made light of the flood I caused while I spent half an hour throwing away water-logged items and wiping others dry. A different kind of man might have yelled or berated, but my husband is the best kind of person to have in a crisis. He's unflappable.

Today the ceiling has an enormous wet spot and many smaller wet spots. I haven't even googled to find out what one should do in cases of self-inflicted water damage because I can't bear to know if we must do something other than let it dry and repaint the ceiling. Please, if you have a horror story, DO NOT TELL ME.

So, when your brain has reached capacity, please learn from me and do not even attempt to adhere yet another post-it note to its paper-plastered surface. There is no point and sooner or later, you will find yourself dealing with a catastrophe you have caused yourself.

If I had an early warning system, it would have been flashing. Alas, I have no such system--I'm like a house with no smoke detector, only a sprinkler system to put out the fires I've started myself when all the flaming torches I'm juggling tumble out of orbit.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Birthday Madness

My son's birthday is tomorrow. He's turning 7. He's been sick since Wednesday afternoon, but seems to feel better.

He invited nineteen of his closest friends to party with him. Here. At our house. In the house where I take care of two daycare kids, my own four kids and often, the neighbors. In the house where I school at home my twins. In the house where everything seems dusty.

I've cleaned tonight, so tomorrow I'll decorate. At 10:30 a.m., then fun begins. I plan short parties, so by noon, the festivities will end. The main party fun will be a backyard scavenger/treasure hunt. I have to hide 160 items in the morning.

Clearly, I am insane.

But in twelve hours, it'll be almost over. And he's going to have such a great time. I can't believe my baby boy is turning seven. Seven years ago, I was in labor--I labored 43 hours with him before he finally made his appearance. He's been a joy to me ever since.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fudge Sauce on Ice Cream (Does Anything Stick to a Kid's Brain?)

First, a recipe.

Keri's Fudge Sauce (I got this from Keri in Wyoming--I don't know where she got it)

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan, mix sugar, cocoa, flour, salt and 1/4 cup of the milk. Blend until smooth, then add remaining milk. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat, until sauce boils and is thick. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Serves 12-16.


Lately, my efforts to teach my boys seem futile. How many times do I correct, suggest, direct, redirect, show, instruct and scold? Countless times. How many times do I remind, cajole, explain? Why do I have to say the same things over and over again? For instance, "Proper nouns begin with what? That's right, a capital letter." Or "CLOSE THE CUPBOARD DOORS! PLEASE!"

I am reminded of how pointless it is to pour hot fudge sauce over cold ice cream. The chocolate just slides down the icy slopes and puddles around the edges. Just like my words and their brains.

I worry that nothing I say actually sticks. They will never routinely flush toilets, wash their hands, and put punctuation at the end of sentences. They will always leave their shoes in the middle of the floor, forget to pick up their cups, and leave blobs of toothpaste in their sink. They will never clean out their ears, brush their teeth or comb their hair without a reminder. TwinBoyB will always say "Six times eight is fifty-six, right?" and I will always repeat, "No, six times eight is forty-eight. Always has been. Always will be. And so shall be forevermore. Amen." They will never LEAVE my house because they will remain 11 years old forever.

Honestly, if we are making any forward progress, it is measurable in millimeters.

And yet, I keep scooping the fudge sauce over the top, over and over again. I hope one day, something will stick before the ice cream totally melts and makes a sticky mess. And I hope my kids will eventually become valuable citizens of the United States, remembering to brush their teeth and close and lock the door when they leave the house. (Please, I hope they leave one day.)

In the meantime, I need fudge sauce over ice cream over brownies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Field Training

I have a plan to combat terrorism. First, the training. Here is a report of a typical day of field training.

Combatants involved:

1) 3-month old baby, slightly crabby;
2) 2 and a half year old girl, extremely crabby;
3) 2 and a half year old boy, full of energy;
4) 11-year old twin boys.

Trainee must be sleep-deprived, functioning on no more than 6 hours of sleep. Wake trainee at 5:20 a.m. Training walk begins at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 6:35 a.m. Include hills at the end for endurance. External temperatures hover around 25 degrees fahrenheit.

At approximately 9:00 a.m., training exercise begins.

Twin boys sit at table, complain over irregular verbs, puzzle over present and past participles. Boys make continuous noise. Chants and pencil-stabbing and hollering are noted. Boys well-suited to generating chaos for training exercise.

Simultaneously, television is tuned to Sesame Street.

Trainee sits on floor with crabby baby, two-year olds prancing nearby. All at once, two-year olds shout, scream, stomp and fight over the same toy. On cue, baby commences crying, scrunching up tiny face in outrage, as directed.

Telephone rings. Trainee rushes to telephone, but in transit, kicks potty-chair located in the family room. Unemptied pot sloshes and urine drips on floor. Trainee grabs towel from folded laundry on couch, sops up spill and carries pot to bathroom. Upon arrival in bathroom, trainee discovers unflushed waste in bowl. Flushes, notes rising water level and plunges toilet while baby screams.

All indicators record high levels of stress. Trainee clenching jaw and perspiring. Baby maintains high level of intensity while trainee returns pot to potty chair, changes diaper, negotiates with two-year olds, instructs twins to return to task, and warms bottle for baby. Training exercise continues until 5:30 p.m.

This training exercise should be repeated nationwide until Trainees appear to decompensate or beg to quit. Do not push them beyond their endurance; however, maintain high level of sleep deprivation and lack of privacy at all times. Last Trainee standing will receive the Golden Tiara Pin.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Kids at the Movies and Miscellany

I should be shot. Tonight, I was at "Million Dollar Baby," smug as a bug in a rug, lasering snotty thoughts down to the front row where two pre-teen girls kept talking and walking and walking and talking and then: HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! began to chorus from beneath my feet. My cell phone was ringing! In a movie theater! During a movie!

In my defense, I thought I had turned it off. I pushed the button. I thought it said Good-Bye! and everything, but alas, I didn't hold the button down long enough. I believe this was Movie Karma, fall-out from my critical thoughts last night.

Nah. Not really. It was a mistake--clearly, obviously, vastly different from shaking a popcorn bucket for fifteen minutes and caressing a candy wrapper for ten like Loud Snacker did last night. Ten thousand times different from taking a child to an inappropriate movie or shining a laser at the screen or talking out loud during the presentation.

I've now seen four of the five pictures nominated for the "Best Picture" Oscar. I'm not sure I'll see "The Aviator," because I'm just not that interested in seeing Leonardo DeCaprio act for three whole hours.

Now I must go to bed because yesterday, I mentioned to my former walking buddy that I'd been meaning to ask if she'd like to resume morning walks. I said, "But the only thing is, we'd have to walk at 5:30 a.m. because I have to be home by 6:45 a.m." She agreed. Before we could change our minds, we decided to start this morning.

This morning, while I drove to her house bundled in leggings, exercise pants, two shirts, a fleece jacket, gloves and a headband to cover my ears, I thought, "What have I done?" Do you know the moon still glows in the sky at 5:30 a.m.? Granted, it was quite lovely to see it shimmer across the Puget Sound, but still. The sun didn't begin to light up the sky until we were almost finished walking. When I got back into my car, I had to clear the windshield of frost!

(As I recall, when we walked a couple of years back, the sun normally rises between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. in the summertime.)

The walk itself felt pretty good, even though we end our four mile course with several steep hills. We'd been talking about careers and she'd mentioned how she took a twenty-five percent decrease in her salary last year, losing $20,000, which was unfortunate, she said, but she stashed a lot into her 401K and retirement accounts, so it wasn't so bad. She wants to retired before she's 55 (she's my age, almost) and I said, "That's about the time I'll be starting my career!" And then we started up a hill and I said, "Unless, of course, I die of a heart attack right now!"

That's me. Always looking on the bright side.

But wow. Her income is the secondary income in their family. I can't really imagine life without worrying about money constantly.

Anyway, so I have to go to bed because I thought walking before dawn every morning was a great idea. We'll get in shape! We'll chat! We'll have more energy!

Oh, but one more thing.

My son, TwinBoyB, still has a touch of a stomach virus. Today, he burst into the family room and shouted, "MOM! My poop is WHITE!" I thanked him for the information. A while later, he came into the room, dramatically groaning and clutching his stomach. "MOM! I think I'm going to die!" I told him I'd miss him. Then, a while later he staggered into the kitchen and said, "I need to speak to a doctor!"

I laughed so hard he asked me rather politely to stop. But, oh! The drama!

He made a miraculous recovery once his three history lessons were finished. History brings healing! Just ask my boy!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Loud Snackers at the Movies

This morning, when Babygirl called out at 6:20 a.m., I said to my husband, "Your turn." And I slept until 7:40 a.m. My husband crawled back into bed at that point and said, "Well, at least I've already seen Shrek this morning."

I saw "Hotel Rawanda" this afternoon. The theater was about half-full, but I snagged myself a prime spot on the top row in the back. Two empty seats on either side of me, great view. A lone man on the left, a woman on my right. And then I saw her coming up the stairs. Loud Snacker had arrived, though I hadn't yet realized it.

Loud Snacker carried a tray holding a gigantic tub of popcorn, two enormous drinks and candy. The man to my left stood up and the woman sat down next to him. Now there was only one empty seat between us.

And then, the snacking began. Loud Snacker was the noisiest popcorn eater I have ever had the displeasure of hearing. She rattled the bucket, she swished the kernels, she chewed loudly. She ripped the paper for her candy, she slurped her pop. I wondered if I were on some kind of hidden-camera show or a Seinfeld episode.

I peeked at her sideways. How could she be so loud? I had popcorn myself. I love eating popcorn in the theater and I seldom watch a movie without it. Yet, as I eat my popcorn, I am discreet. I am quiet. I do not sound like a trampling herd of rats while I eat.

The Loud Snacker had no respect for the quiet moments in the film, either. She seemed to be shoveling the popcorn in with two hands. Finally, the bucket must have been emptied, for she discarded it on the floor and then tore open the candy and made more noise than I thought possible with a plastic wrapper.

The movie itself was moving and thought-provoking and grim. The acting was amazing--it will be interesting to see if Don Cheadle will win the Academy Award for Best Actor. I remember reading about the slaughter in Rawanda. It's disheartening to realize that this sort of atrocity still goes on in the world today. Where does our responsibility lie as Americans? That's practically an unanswerable question, worth consideration, though.

Tomorrow morning, I committed myself to meeting a friend to walk four miles at 5:30 a.m. If you never hear from me again, you will know that the exertion killed me.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Rain in Tahiti

Today, when I clicked on my new obsession, a live picture of Papeete, Tahiti, I felt a little gleeful when I saw cloudy skies and rain in the tropical paradise.

My daughter woke up at 5:18 a.m. this morning which made me very unhappy. I said to her, "IT IS NOT MORNING!" in a perturbed, non-nurturing loud voice. I rocked her for a while and then she insisted on going downstairs, so downstairs we went, me stomping down every step, realizing that my sockless toes would be cold. I didn't turn on a single light, but plopped into the recliner. She was still and heavy against me, breath in slow rhythm, but when I took her back upstairs to return her to her crib, she began to cry, so back downstairs I stomped.

I dozed off and on, so I feel whiny complaining about my lack of sleep, but still. I went back to bed at 8:00 a.m. for forty-five minutes, then rushed like a lunatic to get us to church on time.

After church, three kids came over to play--the boys are having a sleep-over with their twin friends, and their sister needed a place to stay for a couple of hours while her parents were in meetings. When my husband returned home at 2:30 p.m., Babygirl hadn't napped yet because I couldn't very well lay down with her and leave six kids unsupervised in my house. I'd been waiting for him, but by then, Babygirl was having so much fun playing with The Girl (as she called the fifth grade girl), that I didn't have the heart to force her to nap.

And then it was too late, so I struggled to keep her awake until 7:00 p.m. I hope she returns to her regularly scheduled sleeping habits immediately.

On a positive note, I managed to get the downstairs area of my house clean today--vacuuming, mopping, everything. On the other hand, my mood today reminded my husband of his favorite joke:

"Do you wake up grumpy in the morning?"
"No, I usually let her sleep in."

Ha ha ha ha. Yeah, real funny.

And now, back to my transcription. I just hope my daughter sleeps until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow . . . although, on the other hand, if she doesn't, my husband has the day off and it will finally be his turn to get up before dawn with her.

Friends: When to Give Up

A million years ago, in another universe called College, I became friends with a girl I'll call Raven-Haired Beauty. I can't quite remember the moment we met, but I do remember the night we convinced Gerard and two of his friends to join in our dramatic performance of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" near the front of campus. We had them doing pirouettes and everything. She dubbed me The Queen Mother and I called her The Court Jester. She introduced me to Dan Fogelberg's music. We sang, we giggled, we wore matching neon hot-pink sweatshirts that announced "Airhead Alert!" and when college ended, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding and I was a bridesmaid in hers.

When her second baby was three weeks old, I flew out to see her and slept on her couch. I was in the midst of the black cloud of infertility at the time, but I had hope that our adoption would happen soon. Our visit was hectic, of course, but it was lovely to see her in her new role as wife and mother. That was in 1992, I think. I haven't seen her since because she lives in the Midwest and I live in the Pacific Northwest.

She's never been particularly good at staying in touch--some people just can't manage to maintain a long-distance friendship and I totally understand that--but when her third child was born and I didn't get a baby announcement, I was a little miffed. By then, I was a mother myself and I knew exactly how busy life can get, so I overlooked it.

But she never returned my letters. She seldom even returned an email. Yet, I still did my best to maintain a connection--Christmas letters, occasional phone calls, snail mail, email. Then, one night I called to see how she'd been and she said, rather off-handedly, "Oh, I'm expecting again." I was surprised that she hadn't told me previously--after all, as an infertile, I considered pregnancy news worth a telephone call. She was five months pregnant. Five months and she hadn't bothered to tell me. I began to understand that our friendship was slipping away.

I realized that I was one who put our friendshp on life-support. I initiated every contact. When we talked, everything was about her. I said to myself, "Self, that's it. No more. You've done your part."

But then the day came when I realized suddenly, hey, I think her baby was due last week. Curiosity prompted me to telephone her and she answered the phone, sort of out of breath. I said, "Hey, what's up?" and she said, "I just got back from my baby's funeral."


So, I listened to her heartbreaking story of her baby boy (her first son) and how his cord strangled him nine days before his due date. Her labor was induced so she could deliver her stillborn son and the day I called happened to be the day of his funeral. Having already experienced the loss of my father when I was 24, I listened and asked gentle questions. She cried and I cried.

I decided that I would call her every month, around the date she lost her precious baby boy. I did so, for the next year, even though I had vowed to myself that I was done with this friendship. I sent cards. I sent notes. I did what you do when someone has experienced great loss.

After that year passed and my phone calls weren't as regular, she got pregnant again. She didn't even tell me. She didn't send a birth announcement. I was bewildered. Our friendship felt more one-sided than ever. Then, a year or so ago, I telephoned her. She didn't return my call.

Listen. I understand being busy. I do. I also know that people make time for things and people that matter to them.

Last time I heard from her, she was pregnant again. I never heard when the baby was born. So, a few weeks ago, I found her number and telephoned, more out of curiosity than anything. Did she have a boy or girl? That's what I wanted to know. She had four daughters, had lost a son and I wondered if she had another son or another daughter.

She didn't return my call. Over the next week, I called at random times, always getting her answering machine. Finally, a few days ago, she picked up the telephone. My questions were answered. She'd had a son fifteen months ago. And she's busy, so busy, really, really busy. She got my phone call, but she's just been so busy, too busy to answer it . . . she babysits now, a 2 year old and an infant (sound familiar?) and her 15-month old is a handful and her preschooler is busy and her school-aged daughters are busy.

Yes. So? I said, "Are you homeschooling?" Oh no, she said, but her oldest daughter is a freshman in high school and she gets straight A's and she plays basketball and they are just so busy. "Well," I said, "At least you have older children to help you with the little ones." And she said, Oh no, they are just so busy with their own lives. "How's your husband's job?" I asked. And she said, Oh, he's busy, so busy, really, really busy. Everyone, they are all so busy.

I'm busy, too, but I make time for people who matter to me. I'm not asking for a weekly telephone call, but how about a baby announcement? Or an email? How much time does it take to write an email? How much time does it take to scrawl a line on the bottom of a Christmas card? Honestly, it's pretty easy to make me happy.

So, I'm letting this friendship die the natural death it's been limping toward for the past ten years. No more phone calls from me. I'm done trying.

The thing that she must not realize is that I am a true-blue, forever kind of friend. When I become your friend, I am a friend for life. I am loyal. I am faithful. I value friends as much as I value family. As the saying goes, "Friends are family you pick out yourself."

Too bad she doesn't feel the same. Her loss. I kind of wished I'd realized that before, though, a long time before, so I hadn't wasted any time watering and nurturing a plant that turned out to be plastic.

(And, in response to the comments I've already received on this topic: I do not intend to tell her what I've just told you. I believe this friendship has been so one-sided that she can't imagine why I might feel neglected. She's moved on. She won't even notice that she doesn't hear from me anymore. Sad, huh?)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

When I Have More Time . . .

What I want to write about tonight is my old friendship with a girl I'll call Raven Haired Beauty, but alas, my fingertips are so dry that one is bleeding and I have to save my fingers for yet another transcription job.

But I will talk about the nature of friendship and how it is that some people can be so rude that they fail to return a long-distance telephone call, which is merely a symptom of the actual issue--the value of a friendship.

Why is it worth more to me than to her?
Should I extend mercy?
Or should I just let the friendship die?

(I'll let you know my choice later. When I'm not half-asleep and bleeding.)

Girls Just Wanna Have Sleep

11:45 p.m.
Turn off light. Drift to sleep to sound of husband's snores.

12:20 a.m.
Wake to husband's voice, "Dear! I think I hear TwinBoyB throwing up!" Stumble around, find robe, trudge downstairs to find TwinBoyB crying in his bed. He tells me he vomited in the toilet and "Mom, I don't want to have the stomach virus again!" I assure him he's not going to be that sick and say with a distinct lack of compassion, "Now, please don't wake up the whole house! If you are sick, go to the bathroom. Otherwise, sleep!"

1:00 a.m.
Finally return to dreamland.

3:20 a.m.
Realize I am awake and hearing Babygirl's pitiful cries, "Mom! Mom!" I snatch the robe and weave my way to her room, where I smell the stink of a full diaper. This can only mean the attack of the stomach virus continues. I change her and we sit and watch her favorite video together ("Shrek") for twenty minutes. Then I return her to bed. I also check on TwinBoyB. He is peacefully sleeping.

5:06 a.m.
I wake from a terrible dream in which our family was in Chicago. Babygirl began bleeding from all orifices and I was about to rush her to the dream world emergency room, when I realize she's calling me again. She was awake for the day.

I changed her again, gave her a drink, turned on the video and tried to doze in the chair. Every ten minutes she woke me to attempt to use the potty.

7:00 a.m.
We headed downstairs. The day officially began. Who needs sleep anyway?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Friday Night At the Movies

I don't recommend going to a movie on a Friday night at 7:00 p.m., mainly because everyone else in town goes to movies on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. I prefer Tuesday nights, which is when I'll have to see "Million Dollar Baby" or "Hotel Rawanda," which were my first choice movies for tonight. Instead, I saw "Hitch," which was passably amusing. I am trying to see all the movies nominated for "Best Picture." I still have three to go before February 27.

I noticed three teenagers at the movie theater tonight wearing flip-flops, ankle bracelets and capri pants. Spring has sprung, apparently, even though I didn't get the memo and wore my fleece pull-over and sneakers to the movies. The crocuses might be in full bloom, but frost covers the grass each morning lately. (I did notice that blossoms are about to burst forth on the trees, however--but I'm still not baring my ankles in public quite yet.)

I have to say I am now obsessed with checking out the web-cam in Hawaii (link a few posts down). Just in case you were wondering.

All my kids have some kind of low-grade virus--headaches, upset tummies. Nothing serious--just cranky kids. Babygirl was better today than yesterday, though, so I think she'll be completely well tomorrow. She asked to go to bed tonight at 7:30 p.m. I highly recommend having your challenging kids first and then wrapping up your parenting with an easy, compliant child.

Yesterday, I had a grand total of nine children in my house at one time. And I wasn't throwing a party, either! I was babysitting three, two were neighbors and four were my own. The six boys played in the backyard. They set up forts and grabbed sticks for swords and Nerf guns with no ammunition and whooped and hollered and squinted in the sunshine and shivered in the shade.

Spring is good. Even if we can't figure out whether flip-flops or fleece is appropriate. Maybe flip-flops and fleece? Maybe flip-flops made from fleece?

Mommy Madness?

The cover of Newsweek caught my eye this week while I waited in line to pay for my ice cream groceries. I paged through it because I noticed Anna Quindlen's name on the cover and almost added the meager, glossy pages to my cart, but then I saw the price ($4.95), which is about $2.95 more than I will spend for ephemera. Fortunately for me, I found the articles on-line. Here is the article in its entirety. My comments are added in red.

Mommy Madness
What happened when the Girls Who Had It All became mothers? A new book explores why this generation feels so insane
I don't feel insane and frankly, I never had it all, but this is my generation.
By Judith Warner

Feb. 21 issue - Back in the days when I was a Good Mommy, I tried to do everything right. I breast-fed and co-slept, and responded to each and every cry with anxious alacrity. I awoke with my daughter at 6:30 AM and, eschewing TV, curled up on the couch with a stack of books that I could recite in my sleep. I did this, in fact, many times, jerking myself back awake as the clock rounded 6:45 and the words of Curious George started to merge with my dreams.
Sounds like someone has unrealistic expectations of herself and of motherhood.

Was I crazy? No?I was a committed mother, eager to do right by my child and well-versed in the child care teachings of the day. I was proud of the fact that I could get in three full hours of high-intensity parenting before I left for work; prouder still that, when I came home in the evening, I could count on at least three more similarly intense hours to follow. It didn't matter that, in my day job as a stringer for this magazine, I was often falling asleep at my desk. Nor that I'd lost the ability to write a coherent sentence. My brain might have been fried, but my baby's was thriving. I'd seen the proof of that everywhere?in the newsweeklies and the New York Times, on TV, even in the official statements that issued forth from the White House, where First Lady Hillary Clinton herself had endorsed "singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, just talking and listening" as the best ways to enhance a child's development.
Those things come naturally to a mother who is with her child. What's the big deal?

All around me, the expert advice on baby care, whether it came from the What to Expect books or the legions of "specialists" hawking videos, computer software, smart baby toys or audiotapes to advance brain development, was unanimous: Read! Talk! Sing! And so I talked and I read and I sang and made up stories and did funny voices and narrated car rides ... until one day, when my daughter was about four, I realized that I had turned into a human television set, so filled with 24-hour children's programming that I had no thoughts left of my own.
How's that possible if you were going to work all day? And didn't anyone ever tell you that you can read while your child is otherwise occupied?

And when I started listening to the sounds of the Mommy chatter all around me in the playgrounds and playgroups of Washington, D.C.?the shouts of "Good job!," the interventions and facilitations ("What that lady is saying is, she would really prefer you not empty your bucket of sand over her little boy's head. Is that okay with you, honey?")?I realized that I was hardly alone.

Those were probably nannies, not mommies.

Once my daughters began school, I was surrounded, it seemed, by women who had surrendered their better selves?and their sanity?to motherhood. Women who pulled all-nighters hand-painting paper plates for a class party. Who obsessed over the most minute details of playground politics. Who?like myself?appeared to be sleep-walking through life in a state of quiet panic.
"Quiet panic"?

Some of the mothers appeared to have lost nearly all sense of themselves as adult women. They dressed in kids' clothes?overall shorts and go-anywhere sandals. They ate kids' foods. They were so depleted by the affection and care they lavished upon their small children that they had no energy left, not just for sex, but for feeling like a sexual being. "That part of my life is completely dead," a working mother of two told me. "I don't even miss it. It feels like it belongs to another life. Like I was another person."
Seasons of life are not forever.

It all reminded me a lot of Betty Friedan's 1963 classic, The Feminine Mystique. The diffuse dissatisfaction. The angst, hidden behind all the obsession with trivia, and the push to be perfect. The way so many women constantly looked over their shoulders to make sure that no one was outdoing them in the performance of good Mommyhood. And the tendency?every bit as pronounced among my peers as it had been for the women Friedan interviewed?to blame themselves for their problems. There was something new, too: the tendency many women had to feel threatened by other women and to judge them harshly?nowhere more evident than on Urbanbaby and other, similarly "supportive" web sites. Can I take my 17-month-old to the Winnie the Pooh movie?, one mom queried recently. "WAY tooooo young," came one response.

I read that 70 percent of American moms say they find motherhood today "incredibly stressful." Thirty percent of mothers of young children reportedly suffer from depression. Nine hundred and nine women in Texas recently told researchers they find taking care of their kids about as much fun as cleaning their house, slightly less pleasurable than cooking, and a whole lot less enjoyable than watching TV.

And I wondered: Why do so many otherwise competent and self-aware women lose themselves when they become mothers? Why do so many of us feel so out of control? And?the biggest question of all?why has this generation of mothers, arguably the most liberated and privileged group of women America has ever seen, driven themselves crazy in the quest for perfect mommy-dom?
Because motherhood is a tough job, a job that demands self-sacrifice (which is so NOT popular), a job which demands putting other people first. For some women, this is the first time they've experienced selflessness and it frightens them. They want it all. They want it now. And they don't want to pay taxes on it.

I started speaking with women from all over the country, about 150 in all. And I found that the craziness I saw in my own city was nothing less than a nationwide epidemic. Women from Idaho to Oklahoma City to the suburbs of Boston?in middle and upper middle class enclaves where there was time and money to spend?told me of lives spent shuttling back and forth to more and more absurd-seeming, high-pressured, time-demanding, utterly exhausting kids' activities. I heard of whole towns turning out for a spot in the right ballet class; of communities where the competition for the best camps, the best coaches and the best piano teachers rivaled that for admission to the best private schools and colleges. Women told me of their exhaustion and depression, and of their frustrations with the "uselessness" of their husbands. They said they wished their lives could change. But they had no idea of how to make that happen. I began to record their impressions and reflections, and wove them into a book, which I named, in honor of the sentiment that seemed to animate so many of us, Perfect Madness.
Unrealistic expectations . . . coming from? Television? Magazines? Books? I wouldn't know because I refuse to participate in this craziness. I didn't go to the sign-up for it, nor did I pay my $65.00. Just say no.

I think of "us" as the first post-baby boom generation, girls born between 1958 and the early 1970s, who came of age politically in the Carter, Reagan and Bush I years. We are, in many ways, a blessed group. Most of the major battles of the women's movement were fought?and won?in our early childhood. Unlike the baby boomers before us, who protested and marched and shouted their way from college into adulthood, we were a strikingly apolitical group, way more caught up in our own self-perfection as we came of age, than in working to create a more perfect world. Good daughters of the Reagan Revolution, we disdained social activism and cultivated our own gardens with a kind of muscle-bound, tightly wound, über-achieving, all-encompassing, never-failing self-control that passed, in the 1980s, for female empowerment.
We are blessed and we should stop whining. I, for one, would never want my greatgrandmother's life, or even my grandmother's life.

We saw ourselves as winners. We'd been bred, from the earliest age, for competition. Our schools had given us co-ed gym and wood-working shop, and had told us never to let the boys drown out our voices in class. Often enough, we'd done better than they had in school. Even in science and math. And our passage into adulthood was marked by growing numbers of women in the professions. We believed that we could climb as high as we wanted to go, and would grow into the adults we dreamed we could be. Other outcomes?like the chance that children wouldn't quite fit into this picture?never even entered our minds.
Speak for yourself. Maybe I'm just unusually smart, but I knew I couldn't have it all, certainly not all at once.

Why should they have? Back then, when our sense of our potential as women was being formed, there was a general feeling of optimism. Even the most traditional women's magazines throughout the 1980s taught that the future for up-and-coming mothers was bright: The new generation of fathers would help. Good babysitting could be found. Work and motherhood could be balanced. It was all a question of intelligent "juggling." And of not falling prey to the trap of self-sacrifice and perfectionism that had driven so many mothers crazy in the past.
Apparently, she missed Mary Pride's books, particularly "The Way Home," which I read early in my marriage. Many women were already questioning whether you could have it all, especially all at once. And what in the world is wrong with self-sacrifice?
But something happened then, as the 1990s advanced, and the Girls Who Could Have Done Anything grew up into women who found, as the millennium turned, that they couldn't quite ... get it together, or get beyond the stuck feeling that had somehow lodged in their minds.
That, my friends, is called reality. Sometimes it hurts when you bash into it.

Life happened. We became mothers. And found, when we set out to "balance" our lives?and in particular to balance some semblance of the girls and women we had been against the mothers we'd become?that there was no way to make this most basic of "balancing acts" work. Life was hard. It was stressful. It was expensive. Jobs?and children?were demanding. And the ambitious form of motherhood most of us wanted to practice
was utterly incompatible with any kind of outside work, or friendship, or life, generally.
In the words of M. Scott Peck, "Life is difficult." And "most of us"? You aren't speaking for most of us, I suspect.

One woman I interviewed was literally struck dumb as she tried to articulate the quandary she was in. She wasn't a woman who normally lacked for words. She was a newspaper editor, with a husband whose steady income allowed her many choices. In the hope of finding "balance," she'd chosen to work part-time and at night in order to spend as much time as possible with her nine-year-old daughter. But somehow, nothing had worked out as planned. Working nights meant that she was tired all the time, and cranky, and stressed. And forever annoyed with her husband. And now her daughter was after her to get a day job. It seemed that having Mom around most of the time wasn't all it was cracked up to be, particularly if Mom was forever on the edge.

The woman waved her hands in circles, helplessly. "What I'm trying to figure out?" she paused. "What I'm trying to remember ... Is how I ended up raising this princess ... How I got into ... How to get out of ... this, this, this, this mess."

Most of us in this generation grew up believing that we had fantastic, unlimited, freedom of choice. Yet as mothers many women face "choices" on the order of: You can continue to pursue your professional dreams at the cost of abandoning your children to long hours of inadequate child care. Or: You can stay at home with your baby and live in a state of virtual, crazy-making isolation because you can't afford a nanny, because there is no such thing as part-time day care, and because your husband doesn't come home until 8:30 at night.
Unlimited freedom of choice is a myth. And the either or of this choice is laughable . . . especially the part where if you stay at home, you are choosing to live in "virtual, crazy-making isolation because you can't afford a nanny." Here's a thought: maybe if moms weren't running themselves ragged attempting to be all things to all people, they could cultivate some friendships so they wouldn't be in total isolation?

These are choices that don't feel like choices at all. They are the harsh realities of family life in a culture that has no structures in place to allow women?and men?to balance work and child-rearing. But most women in our generation don't think to look beyond themselves at the constraints that keep them from being able to make real choices as mothers. It almost never occurs to them that they can use the muscle of their superb education or their collective voice to change or rearrange their social support system. They simply don't have the political reflex?or the vocabulary?to think of things in this way.

They've been bred to be independent and self-sufficient. To rely on their own initiative and "personal responsibility." To privatize their problems. And so, they don't get fired up about our country's lack of affordable, top-quality child care. (In many parts of the country, decent child care costs more than state college tuition, and the quality of the care that most families can afford is abysmal.) Nor about the fact that middle class life is now so damn expensive that in most families both parents must work gruelingly long hours just to make ends meet. (With fathers averaging 51 hours per week and mothers clocking in at an average of 41, the U.S. workweek is now the longest in the world.) Nor about the fact that in many districts the public schools are so bad that you can't, if you want your child to be reasonably well-educated, sit back and simply let the teachers do their jobs, and must instead supplement the school day with a panoply of expensive and inconvenient "activities" so that your kid will have some exposure to music, art and sports.
Ah, the myth that middle-class life is so expensive that both parents must work long, grueling hours . . . sure it is. If you need a brand new car and a vacation home and fancy duds to wear to your fancy job, maybe. Granted, in some families, a second income is necessary, but in most? "Most" of the moms I know who have careers outside the home do so for reasons other than dire economic necessity. Not that those reasons are wrong--every woman gets to decide for herself what is an important and valid reason to work, but the idea that both parents must always work to make ends meet, to survive? I don't think so.

Instead of blaming society, moms today tend to blame themselves. They say they've chosen poorly. And so they take on the Herculean task of being absolutely everything to their children, simply because no one else is doing anything at all to help them. Because if they don't perform magical acts of perfect Mommy ministrations, their kids might fall through the cracks and end up as losers in our hard-driving winner-take-all society.
Good grief. How dramatic can you be? Personal responsibility is a good thing. Blame yourself. Don't shift the blame to society.

This has to change.

We now have a situation where well-off women can choose how to live their lives?either outsourcing child care at a sufficiently high level of quality to permit them to work with relative peace of mind or staying at home. But no one else, really, has anything. Many, many women would like to stay home with their children and can't afford to do so. Many, many others would like to be able to work part-time but can't afford or find the way to do so. Many others would like to be able to maintain their full-time careers without either being devoured by their jobs or losing ground, and they can't do that. And there is no hope at all for any of these women on the horizon.
"No one else, really, has anything"? Are you kidding me? There is "no hope at all for any of these women"? What? I am not "well-off" and yet, I've chosen to stay home with my children. I cobble together a way to contribute financially to my household. Why do people in this country think that everyone is entitled to an easy, fulfilling life bulging with satisfaction at every moment? Just because you might not be able to make a particular choice at a particular moment does not mean you never will have that choice. Life is in constant motion. Situations change. Children grow. Be patient. Enjoy the moment. Relax. Slow down.

Some of us may feel empowered by the challenge of taking it all on, being the best, as Tea Leoni's "Spanglish" character did on her uphill morning run, but really, this perfectionism is not empowerment. It's more like what some psychologists call "learned helplessness"?an instinctive giving-up in the face of difficulty that people do when they think they have no real power. At base, it's a kind of despair. A lack of faith that change can come to the outside world. A lack of belief in our political culture or our institutions.

It really needs to change.

For while many women can and do manage to accept (or at least adjust to) this situation for themselves, there's a twinge of real sadness that comes out when they talk about their daughters. As a forty-something mother living and working part-time in Washington, D.C. (and spending a disproportionate amount of her time managing the details of her daughter's?and her husband's?life), mused one evening to me, "I look at my daughter and I just want to know: what happened? Because look at us: it's 2002 and nothing's changed. My mother expected my life to be very different from hers, but now it's a lot more like hers than I expected, and from here I don't see where it will be different for my daughter. I don't want her to carry this crushing burden that's in our heads ... [But] what can make things different?"
How about setttling for less and enjoying that "less" more? I don't feel sadness at all for my daughter.

For real change to happen, we don't need more politicians sounding off about "family values." Neither do we need to pat the backs of working mothers, or "reward" moms who stay at home, or "valorize" motherhood, generally, by acknowledging that it's "the toughest job in the world." We need solutions?politically palatable, economically feasible, home-grown American solutions?that can, collectively, give mothers and families a break.
No, what we need are people who understand commitment and sacrifice, people who don't opt out of their marriages when the going gets tough and then divide up their families like spoils of war. We need people who understand that personal needs and desires don't preempt the needs of developing children. We need people who count the cost of their choices before they set a tidal wave of consequences into motion. We need people who think before they act.

We need incentives like tax subsidies to encourage corporations to adopt family-friendly policies.
We need fewer taxes. We need less government interference.

We need government-mandated child care standards and quality controls that can remove the fear and dread many working mothers feel when they leave their children with others.
Oh, great idea. Let's let the government be in charge. They are so efficient! And smart! And they are doing such a good job with our public school systems! And plus, they government has all that extra money just sitting around in vaults, right?

We need flexible, affordable, locally available, high-quality part-time day care so that stay-at-home moms can get a life of their own. This shouldn't, these days, be such a pipe dream. After all, in his State of the Union message, President Bush reaffirmed his support of (which, one assumes, includes support of funding for) "faith-based and community groups." I lived in France before moving to Washington, and there, my elder daughter attended two wonderful, affordable, top-quality part-time pre-schools, which were essentially meant to give stay-at-home moms a helping hand. One was run by a neighborhood co-op and the other by a Catholic organization. Government subsidies kept tuition rates low. A sliding scale of fees brought some diversity. Government standards meant that the staffers were all trained in the proper care of young children. My then 18-month-old daughter painted and heard stories and ate cookies for the sum total in fees of about $150 a month. (This solution may be French?but do we have to bash it?)
Now, why didn't I think of this? Let's just hire . . . oh wait. Who will we hire? If you want to work for $10 an hour wiping noses and changing diapers and singing "If You're Happy and You Know It" raise your hand. Oh, um, where are all the college-educated women? Not raising their hands . . . they all seem to be running the other way. That's okay. We'll just hire . . . uh, let's see. Who will settle for earning a meager wage to do a grueling, mentally draining, difficult job? Where exactly do we find these people? Junior highs? Welfare offices? Homeless shelters? Who wants to raise the children while the rest of us go off to work?

And to say that I might need affordable part-time daycare so I can have a life of my own assumes that 1) I don't have a life and 2) that this situation is permanent and that 3) I can't figure out a solution that is not government-assisted. Have you ever heard of friends helping friends?

We need new initiatives to make it possible for mothers to work part-time (something most mothers say they want to do) by creating vouchers or bigger tax credits to make child care more affordable, by making health insurance available and affordable for part-time workers and by generally making life less expensive and stressful for middle-class families so that mothers (and fathers) could work less without risking their children's financial future. Or even, if they felt the need, could stay home with their children for a while.
Yes! More taxes! More government control! Make life less expensive! Who needs capitalism anyway?!

In general, we need to alleviate the economic pressures that currently make so many families' lives so high-pressured, through progressive tax policies that would transfer our nation's wealth back to the middle class. So that mothers and fathers could stop running like lunatics, and start spending real quality?and quantity?time with their children. And so that motherhood could stop being the awful burden it is for so many women today and instead become something more like a joy.
"Transfer our nation's wealth back to the middle class"? Hello? Communism, anyone? Let's put all our money into a gigantic pot and divide it equally. That's only fair, right? And while we're at it, I propose national Robin-hood-green uniforms for everyone, nothing flashy. No accessories and for goodness sake, no more highlights in our hair! Rob from the rich and give to the poor and sword fight if anyone crosses your path!

Women today mother in the excessive, control-freakish way that they do in part because they are psychologically conditioned to do so. But they also do it because, to a large extent, they have to. Because they are unsupported, because their children are not taken care of, in any meaningful way, by society at large. Because there is right now no widespread feeling of social responsibility?for children, for families, for anyone, really?and so they must take everything onto themselves. And because they can't, humanly, take everything onto themselves, they simply go nuts.
THEY DON'T HAVE TO! (And wait a second. What would Strunk & Whitehave to say about ending a sentence with "to"?) I don't want "society" to take care of my children. That's my responsibility. And I do feel social responsibility in general--that's why I make the life choices I do and that's why I am raising my own children, not expecting someone paid $10.00 an hour to manage that.

I see this all the time. It never seems to stop. So that, as I write this, I have an image fresh in my mind: the face of a friend, the mother of a first-grader, who I ran into one morning right before Christmas.

She was in the midst of organizing a class party. This meant shopping. Color-coordinating paper goods. Piecework, pre-gluing of arts-and-crafts projects. Uniformity of felt textures. Of buttons and beads. There were the phone calls, too. From other parents. With criticism and "constructive" comments that had her up at night, playing over conversations in her mind. "I can't take it anymore," she said to me. "I hate everyone and everything. I am going insane."
Sounds like she made some pretty rotten choices. She needs to relax those self-imposed demands.

I looked at her face, saw her eyes fill with tears, and in that instant saw the faces of dozens of women I'd met?and, of course, I saw myself.

And I was reminded of the words of a French doctor I'd once seen. I'd come to him about headaches. They were violent. They were constant. And they would prove, over the next few years, to be chronic. He wrote me a prescription for a painkiller. But he looked skeptical as to whether it would really do me much good. "If you keep banging your head against the wall," he said, "you're going to have headaches."

I have thought of these words so many times since then. I have seen so many mothers banging their heads against a wall. And treating their pain?the chronic headache of their lives?with sleeping pills and antidepressants and anxiety meds and a more and more potent, more and more vicious self-and-other-attacking form of anxious perfectionism.

And I hope that somehow we will all find a way to stop. Because we are not doing ourselves any good. We are not doing our children?particularly our daughters?any good. We're not doing our marriages any good. And we're doing nothing at all for our society.
So adjust your expectations and move on. Life is difficult.

We are simply beating ourselves black and blue. So let's take a breather. Throw out the schedules, turn off the cell phone, cancel the tutors (fire the OT!). Let's spend some real quality time with our families, just talking, hanging out, not doing anything for once. And let ourselves be.
What an abrupt and dissonant ending to an article which called basically for better childcare and redistribution of wealth. How odd.

From PERFECT MADNESS by Judith Warner. To be published by Riverhead books, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. © 2005 by Judith Warner.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.


Well, there you go . . . she doesn't speak for me, but then again, I am old-fashioned and I've made the choice to be my children's primary care-giver. I've also made the choice to marry a man worthy of me and to stay married to him forever and to adjust my expectations so I don't wonder what's wrong with me when everyone else seems to be so much more and better and thinner than me.

Now, in your mind, go ahead and add disclaimers, because I surely wasn't speaking about you and your more difficult situation. I was just recklessly giving my thoughts a place to sit.

For more viewpoints on this article, be sure to check out Chez Miscarriage and Mommy Life, both linked on my blogroll.

Oh, and one last thought. Someone has to pay the price for my having children. And it won't be the government and it won't be my children. I will pay the price, even if it means I sacrifice something.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

If you think this is funny, you will appreciate  Posted by Hello

Those Funny Kids

Yesterday, a friend of ours sent some hand-me-down clothing to Babygirl. Babygirl immediately requested to wear two skirts, a shirt and a sweater, all at the same time. I said, "Oh, look! What a cute skirt!" Later on, she gestured toward her hot-pink, plaid skirt and said, "I wearin' my curtain." Get it? Skirt? Curtain?

Last night at 10:30 p.m., I checked to see if the twins were going to sleep. I see the glow of their television (yeah, they have a television in their room, wanna make something of it?) and I said, "Hey, boys! Time to sleep!" And TwinBoyA said from the floor, "Awwwww, Mom! It's about artichokes!" I stifled a laugh and said, "Okay, finish watching it but when it's over TURN OFF THE TELEVISION!"

 Posted by Hello

Babygirl uses C0urney L0ve's hairstylist. And yes, she pays too much. (Actually, this is just a really bad case of bed-head. Babygirl's never had a haircut, which is sad, isn't it, that a child should be so hair deficient?)

On Being A Good Enough Mother

In this month's Newsweek, Anna Quindlen writes about The Good Enough Mother. I have always admired her writing and now, I like her even more. I love to hear a mother admit that she skipped all the seemingly mandatory kids' sports leagues and after-school activities because she'd rather stay at home and read. I love to hear another mother mention that she hates to play board games. I, for one, refuse to enter the "Perfect Mother Pageant," even though I hear it involves a really cool tiara.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dreaming of Hot and Cold

Do you ever wonder what it's like somewhere else? Say, perhaps on Mt. Rainier? Go ahead. Click. You'll thank me.

Although, today, I'm thinking it would be more fun to go to Waikiki Beach, in Hawaii. Check it out.

But here I am. DaycareKid running in circles, Babygirl yelling at him to stop, almost three-month old CuteBaby in my arms while I type this. CuteBaby's mom is coming in about ten minutes to pick him up. She is lucky enough to be able to come home and spend an hour with him, then she brings him back and he naps.

Today are half-days of school, so YoungestBoy will be home in less than an hour. We're finished with school at home for the day, too, so we'll have lunch as soon as CuteBaby leaves, then have naps when he returns . . . although, what do you think the chances are that the three boys will be quiet during nap-time?

I am thankful for a tri-level house today, with enough rooms for us all. Yet, I still wish I could click myself into a tropical place with swaying palm trees and aquamarine waves.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

How Can I Get on the People's Court?

Yesterday, YoungestBoy comes home from school with a flushed face. He hurries off, dropping his backpack, barely saying "hello." Not much later, one of his brothers reports to me that YoungestBoy broke our family rules and took some Valuable Items to school. Another boy (let's call him "Liar Liar Pants on Fire" for short) asked if he could show YoungestBoy's Valuable Items to another boy. Liar Liar Pants on Fire told my trusting (gullible?) son that he'd bring back the Valuable Items, plus additional Items. My son thought that sounded like a good deal, so with Liar Liar Pants on Fire's assurance that he'd give YoungestBoy the Items at pick-up time, YoungestBoy handed over the Valuable Items.

("Valuable Items" could be any small item that a boy likes to collect. In this case, I purchased said "Valuable Items" at Christmas time because "Valuable Items" were all my son wanted. These "Items" cost more than any of his other gifts. They cost a lot of money, so not only are they valuable to my son because they are unusual, but they are valuable to me because I paid good money for them.)

Back to the story.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire immediately turns over the Valuable Items to two other boys, "Fence One" and "Fence Two." At pick up time, my son says to Liar Liar Pants on Fire, "Where are my [Valuable Items]?" Liar Liar Pants on Fire says, "Oh, I gave them to [Fence One] and [Fence Two.]" My son says, "Why did you do that?" And Liar Liar Pants on Fire has no good reason.

I called Liar Liar Pants on Fire's mom. She said her darling son would never have just taken my son's Valuable Items. Her son must have thought my son gave him the Valuable Items and since her son knows he is not allowed to have said items, he gave them to someone else.

Well, pardon me for being logical, but what kid in his right mind would knowingly, willingly give his Valuable Items to another kid FOR KEEPS? Where would be the payoff in giving away his most prized possession?

After our conversation, she spoke with her son, who insisted that he thought my son gave him the Valuable Items. He confirmed that he gave the Valuable Items to Fence One and Fence Two. She said she'd talk to those children today and get back to me. She explained that her son is not even allowed to touch the Items in question and does not personally own any of the Items and yet, kids give him Items every day, which he then gives to other kids, because he is obeying his mother's rules not to own the Items.

Today, YoungestBoy comes home from school, teling me that Liar Liar Pants on Fire gave him two Items. Not the Valuable Items, but two lesser Items. Liar Liar Pants on Fire is not even supposed to touch Items, according to his mother. Liar Liar Pants on Fire also reported today that he gave the Valuable Items to another kid, Fence Three, but not Fence One and Fence Two.

At 8:00 p.m., I called Liar Liar Pants on Fire's mother again. I reported that Liar Liar Pants on Fire gave my son two Items today. I informed her I'd be bringing over those two Items so she could confront her son with them (she said, no thanks, you keep them). She said, "He doesn't have any Items. I don't know where he gets the Items." I said, "Well, he's obviously taking them from one kid and giving them to another. These Items my son brought home today belong to another kid who is at home this very moment crying to his mother because his Items were given to someone else today."

Liar Liar Pants on Fire's mother said, "I know he is not stealing the Items." I hastened to assure her that I wasn't accusing him of stealing . . . yet part of my brain is saying, "Hellooooo? Taking from one kid--lying about it--and giving to another kid. If that is not stealing, what is it? Communism? Robin Hood-ism?"

She assured me that both Fence One and Fence Two admitted they had the Valuable Items. She said they agreed to bring the Valuable Items to school tomorrow.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking dark thoughts like, "That's it! I'm going to People's Court! I'm suing this little Liar Liar Pants on Fire for everything he's got!" Or "Just give me a second alone with Liar Liar Pants on Fire and I'll get to the bottom of this, the little lying thief!" And "I am SO writing a note to the principal and copying all the staff!"

Where is justice?

(Oh, and believe me, my son will suffer consequences for taking Valuable Items to school. If he loses Valuable Items for good, that will be his consequence. If they are returned, we will think up something equally devastating. He broke our house rules, he broke school rules and he knew better. None of this would have happened if he'd left Valuable Items at home where they belong. And none of this would have happened if my son had already developed a jaded sense of the world, along with the idea that other people cannot be trusted.)

UPDATE: Two of the three items were returned yesterday. Good thing I didn't slap anyone.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Nothing Says Love Like Chocolate. And Tulips.

My husband's day off is today. And he's sick with yet another cold. He showered early, went to work to prepare for the wedding he conducted today, then went to the dedication ceremony (and luncheon) for the local Rescue Mission. Then he stopped by our house while I was grimacing as I corrected the boys' math assessments to bring me a red vase of purple and red tulips.

I, being the gracious type, said, "Hey! You broke the rules!"

Fortunately, I had a Valetine's Day card stashed away because even though we always agree to not celebrate Valentine's Day in any way, he always does anyway. I heart my husband.

The boys made their first-ever cake today from a mix. I showed them two boxes and said, "What kind do you want to make? This is plain yellow cake, like vanilla, and this is chocolate." TwinBoyA said, "Chocolate!" And I said, "Chocolate? Even though it's Valentine's Day?" And he said, "Yes! Nothing says I love you like chocolate."

I guess I was worried about my shortcomings as a mother for nothing. I've taught him the most important thing: Nothing says I love you like chocolate.

Two nights ago, I finished reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. Now I'm at a loss. What to read next? I have literally an entire six-foot bookshelf of unread books, but how can I choose? I think that I might read The Perfect Storm, since my brain is already hanging out in the Atlantic Ocean, smelling the reek of fish carcasses and feeling the sting of salt water.

When I'm between books, I feel suddenly unlashed from reality, which is completely the opposite of reality, isn't it? I reluctantly close the back cover of a book and flip closed my book light and look around at my regular life, my kids, my husband watching Fox News, the folded laundry ready to be put away, the dirty clothes tangled on the bathroom floor near a trail of wet footpuddles and I think, what? How'd I get here? Just one second ago I was in Newfoundland and it was winter. Where did Quoyle and Wavey go?

If I wait too long and don't jump into the pages of another book immediately, I might find myself drifting for weeks, bobbing along on a pathetic sea of the newspaper and The Reader's Digest . . . I need to dive deep, to submerge into the world of books. Otherwise, little pieces of my brain break off like chunks of driftwood and float away. I'm not kidding.

(By the way, last night, I noticed a rather goopy wet spot on the kitchen floor near the fridge. I sopped it up, sniffed it, looked for the source. I followed the slime trail back up to the top of the fridge and shuddered for a second, imagining all kinds of rotted stuff up there. Have I mentioned that I am not Martha Stewart? Anyway, it turned out to be, well, a leaking "brain." Guess that zip-lock bag wasn't sealed very well.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

One More Thing I Learned

My mother taught me how to bake potatoes when I was but a young girl with hair that always looked like it needed brushing. Scrub, poke with a fork, wrap in foil and bake. I skip the foil part now, but I always stab the potatoes because I've heard they will explode if you don't.

I dutifully explained the explosion risk to my son when I taught him to bake potatoes Friday night. I didn't really believe it, but I passed along this wisdom because that's what we do. We teach our children what we have heard, right? Well, guess what? My mother was right. A potato will explode if it is not poked. I have the proof in my smoky oven.

My fingertips are cracked and bleeding, which is probably because I cleaned a toilet recently. Tonight I finished typing 110 pages of transcription (that's about 8-10 hours of work), so tomorrow I will avoid cleaning supplies in the interest of skin regeneration. As we learned in science class last Friday, our fingertips have a great many nerve receptors and so I say OUCH, especially when I type an "L."

Last night, I went to see "Finding Neverland." As usual, I went alone and arrived just before the movie began. I went rather reluctantly because Johnny Depp has never really interested me, but I found myself weeping intermittently through the movie. I also thought the following things:

1) My children would be so much cuter if they spoke in English accents;
2) My children would be so much cuter if they wore linen suits with Peter Pan collars;
3) The dog in the movie, a Newfoundland, reminded me of my own Newfoundland, Greta, who lived with us for two years. I missed her, even while I reminded myself of the shed hair and the itchy skin and the baby gates we had to step over to get into the kitchen;
4) I want an English cottage to summer in.

I loved the movie, even though I had to walk out with my eyes averted because I'd been crying so hard I was embarrassed.

I'm going to bed tonight with my house in disarray. Last night, I scurried around at 11:00 p.m., picking up dishes with spoons stuck to dried milk and bowls filled with popcorn kernels. I picked up trash and clothes and toys and videos and Legos. I cleaned off the kitchen counter and put a roast into the crockpot.

Tonight? None of that. I'm leaving it as is. It'll be here tomorrow morning. And so will I.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sunshine and the Voice in My Head

The whole world looks better when the sun shines. Except for my living room windows, which are in dire need of Windex. And my face, which is in dire need of cosmetics. But other than that, sun cheers me up.

And tonight, as the sun went down, I clenched my jaw at the dirty carpet and the scattered Legos and the dirty dishes and then, instead of beginning a lecture to my boys which starts, "How can you stand this disgusting mess?" I heard a smart, little voice in my head say, Hey, everyone is happy! Look! Babygirl is painting! YoungestBoy has a table full of Lego rockets he created. The twins are all cudddled on the couch. The only person bothered by this mess is you. So I said to myself, Self, relax! You're doing fine. Your kids had a great day--see those Valentine's made with glitter glue covering the kitchen table? The kids are fine. Your children are having a happy childhood. The floors will wash and later, you are going to a movie, so take a deep breathe.

I love it when the voice in my head is so wise.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Excuse Me While I Turn Invisible

I'm transcribing again, job due Sunday morning.

And tomorrow, 3-month old CuteBaby arrives for his first official half-day of childcare. He arrives at nap-time for the toddlers, so I haven't quite worked that out since I normally lay down with Babygirl and outlast her kicking me in the back until she falls asleep, which can take up to an hour.

But, hey, it's Friday and I can most certainly manage.

Because I am not Martha Stewart and I do not have a housekeeper (drat!), I will have to spend my morning cleaning my kitchen floor and putting away the stacks of folded laundry that sit on the back of the couch. I need to vacuum and pick up the ten thousand pencils the boys never notice that they've dropped on the floor. Oh wait, I can make them pick up the pencils, even though they are to be concentrating on science and history tomorrow. We're supposed to make a brain out of instant mashed potatoes, clean sand and water--I'm told this will approximate a brain when we're finished, which seems about right. My brain is pretty much equal parts sand and instant mashed potatoes.

That explains what happened during the Gallup phone poll today. At about 5:00 p.m., as I waited for DaycareKid's mom (oh, boy, she was SO late today), the phone rang and it was the Gallup poll people. A woman phoning from Nebraska gave me what amounted to a pop quiz on political matters. At one point, she asked me which country I believed was the greatest threat to the United States and I paused. I wanted to Phone a Friend, but instead, I blurted out, "Iraq?" And then paused again. "No! Wait!" I wanted to poll the audience, but Babygirl was trying to open the sliding glass door and DaycareKid was whining about his runny nose and the neighbor boys were tromping through the house and I said, "China!"



She said, "You want me to change your answer from Iraq to China?" I could tell she was incredulous, even though she's trained to be impartial. I was incredulous myself.

But I said, "Yes, China." Only I said it with great doubt and the sudden sinking feelings of losing $32,000. China?

What I meant was North Korea! I just read in the newspaper this morning that North Korea has admitted they possess nuclear weapons. That's a threat, right?

I continued to feel like a third-grader posing as a college-eduated mother as I answered endless questions. I'm pretty sure I did not get an A+ on that quiz poll.

China. I know! I'm an idiot! Eggrolls, fried rice, cashew chicken . . . what's not to love about China? They love us, too, right? What's not to love about the United States, where mothers have make mashed potato and sand brains?

Warning System

Not that we'd need this around here, but click here if you have or know anyone who has PMS. Consider this a public service announcement.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Underwear Hat Update

This afternoon, I was cleaning up and I heard a little thump, bump, tumble as Babygirl came down the stairs. I said, "Hey, are you all right?" and she said, "Yes," but then I heard a little gaspy cry. I went over to check on her and found her face completely obscured by underpants. She looked as if she was prepared to hold up the local 7-11, only she miscalculated and didn't rotate the underpants so the leg-holes corresponded with her eyeballs.

I picked her up and laughed under my breath, while I patted her back and mentioned, oh-so-casually, that if you are going to go down the stairs, you shouldn't pull underpants completely over your head.

Remember that. If you are going down the stairs, make sure the underpants on your head don't block your vision completely. Free advice.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My Very Low Standards

Many years ago, when I still cried over my infertility, I had a friend named Julie who had a three year old son. And a husband, too, for that matter. While I was taking my morning temperature and scheduling my intimate encounters around my fertile days, Julie was busy accidentally getting pregnant. Twice in a year. She'd call me, crying, overwhelmed, despairing over her messy house and her sink full of dishes and I'd say, "I'll be right over. I'll help you."

And I would. I'd drive to her house and find her disheveled and sniffly. Her couch would be covered with mostly unfolded laundry and her bed would be a tangle of sheets and her floor would be strewn with toys and clothes and shoes and stuff. Her sink would be piled so high I'd have to empty it before I could start rinsing and washing. I'd reassure her and tidy up and put all the clothes back into her closet and run a few loads of wash and fold the jumble of clothes on the couch. I created order out of that disorder.

Secretly, I thought she was sweet, but incompetent. What did she do all day? How long did it take for a house to fall into such disrepair? How could she let this happen? I did my good works with a great deal of smugness.

And then I had twin boys. That event alone set the stage for my current low standards. TwinBoyB used to spit up a lot. If I didn't reach him quickly enough, I'd hear a slurping sound and catch him sucking the half-curdled formula out of the Berber carpet. So is it any wonder that I didn't care if the pacifier was rinsed if it happened to drop to the ground? My kids licked the floor. How could a grimy pacifier matter?

When the twins were toddlers, I couldn't keep them from throwing sand at each other. They loved sand--I didn't have a box, though. I just had some guy with a pick-up dump a big mound of sand by the side of our driveway. We lived on ten acres then and this pile of sand blended right into the landscape. So, they'd sit in the center of this mountain of sand and throw it. At each other. Despite me.

One long Michigan winter left me desperate to entertain them. My friend, MaryKay, said she had a rice pool for her kids. I said, "How do you keep rice from getting all over the house?" She said she just vacuumed around the pool and didn't let her kids carry it around.

That sounded easy. So I tried it. I bought a big, rectanglar Rubbermaid container. I filled it with twenty-five pounds of rice. I supplied shovels and cups and implements for play. My boys flung that rice into the far corners of the rooms. Repeatedly. Some of you (mothers of girls, probably) canNOT imagine such a thing. I never thought I'd turn a blind eye, either, but I did. I figured, hey, it will keep them entertained and it will vacuum up. Maybe I can actually have a moment.

I think they are probably still finding errant grains of rice in odd spots in that house. They probably blame mice.

I used to let the boys sit on the kitchen floor with giant bowls of soapy water. They'd play with it and inevitably spill it all. I'd use a billion bathtowels to clean it up. That made up for my infrequent mopping.

Wouldn't it be reasonable to expect improvement? Learning, even gradual? Yeah, I thought so, too, but as it turns out, the mud-flinging and spillage persists. Instead of fighting them, I surrendered. I don't bother picking up all the stuff scattered on the floor. At least not right away. I have a laundry folding system on my couch, but sometimes it just looks like piles of unfolded clothes. I will leave dishes in the kitchen sink so I can stretch out and read a novel.

I learned in these past 11 years that the messes will always be here. Even if I clean up today, it will be a mess tomorrow. Why sweat it? At this moment, the following items sit on my desk, here in the family room: a naked Ragged Ann (circa 1960 or 1970), a bucket of chalk, pipe-cleaners from last weeks Pipe-Cleaner Extravaganza, Babygirl's sunglasses, my transcribing machine, my camera, assorted pens, CDs for school music, Land Before Time coloring book, car, bar of soap, old carrot, used tissue. And I could either spend time cleaning it up, or I could write. I choose to write. I need a break from the manual labor that is my life. I no longer have standards, I have substandards. As I told my husband the other night, I am a half-assed housewife. (Wait. Can a Pastor's Wife say that? Let me check my manual and get back to you.)

That explains why today, when Babygirl walked up to me with her underpants on her head, I wasn't alarmed--until I saw the skidmarks. Then, I said, "Hey, go get her some clean underpants, please! She needs clean underpants to wear on her head! Hurry!"

I have to draw the line somewhere. And wearing stinky flowered underpants upon one's blond curls is that line. I just didn't expect the line to be one of . . . well. You get the idea.

(And to Julie? I apologize. Now I realize that the household can fall apart in a matter of hours. I really had no idea.)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Want to Give Me a Star?

Here's what I don't want, never will want and think is completely stupid. Please do not name a star in my honor. If you want to give me something with "star" in its name, please give me the current issue of the National Enquirer, which features a story (and pictures!) called "Cellulite of the Stars." I feel compelled to rifle through this issue every time I see it while I wait to buy my fat-free milk, bananas, salad and chocolate.

But I have resisted.

Doesn't the idea that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and even the stick figure known as Lara Flynn Boyle have cellulite give you a little thrill?

Well, maybe it's just me.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

My Apologies for Being Dull

Thank you, everyone, for the comments about my previous post. Some of you shared pictures of snowflakes and additional insight. Some of you emailed. I am thrilled that my words resonate with some of you.

Tonight, however, is just going to be boring, personal journal stuff. So feel free to click away.

My son just came out of his room (it's almost 11 p.m.) and said, "First of all, mom," as if we were about to have a full-fledged conversation. He and his brother are outraged--OUTRAGED--that I have instituted a charge for picking up clothes off their floor. Twenty-five cents an item. So, far, in two days, I've picked up twenty-five items. They are also alarmed that I have yet to pay them their $10 allowance for this two-week period. I am so cruel.

I told him, "Go to bed. I'm not discussing anything with you tonight. Go to bed."

Do they not realize I am Off-Duty at 9 p.m.? No exceptions?

We watched the Superbowl today as a family. Well, I baked cookies, then folded laundry, then helped Babygirl get on her boots so she could go and stand in the muddy backyard and look at worms gasping for oxygen while rain fell on her head. She danced on the couch during half-time, making us all laugh. She swings her arms around and bops to the beat. Funny kid.

Early today, during church, Babygirl and I wandered into my husband's office while he was preaching. She ate chocolate kisses out of his candy bowl on his desk, then asked me to push the button on his Billy Bass. She likes to dance to it, but when she pushes the button herself and the fish begins to flop and sing, it scares her. So I handled the button and she danced. Trust me, it was amusing.

I whirled through my house yesterday cleaning, vacuuming, changing sheets, decluttering, picking up . . . and then went shopping all afternoon alone. I have never seen so many pregnant women in one place as I did at Wal-Mart yesterday. I never shop at Wal-Mart because the nearest one is not very near, but I had gift cards to use. Besides pregnant women, the store seemed to be teeming with mother/daughter teams on weekly outings--and when I say "mother" I mean old, slow-moving women and when I say "daughter", I mean slightly less old, slow-moving women. I was in a hurry, what can I say? So much shopping to do, so little time.

Later, at Marshall's (I love that store) I bought three coats for my boys for next year for a grand total of $30.00. Now that is a bargain!

The sad thing is, when I returned home last night, my house showed no signs of my cleaning spree, other than my clean, flannel sheets on my neatly made bed and the de-mildewed shower. My husband said, "What do you expect? You have a family of six!"

What I really want to know is: Where is my Alice? (Of Brady Bunch fame.)

Finally, I must say that although I am enjoying reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, I cannot get over her constant use of sentence fragments. For instance, she'll write, ""Fingers ochre from chain-smoking." Or "The candle on its side." Or "Warren gliding away." Each fragment stops me cold. Maybe that's her point? Anyway, I tried to read this book about fifteen years ago, but got bogged down. I saw the movie a few years back, so ventured another time into the pages. It won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award and it makes me want to travel to Newfoundland.

And now, it's officially so late that I will want to destroy my alarm clock when it rings in the morning.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Sharks, Loss and Snowflakes

Remember that story about the girl from Hawaii who had her arm bitten off by a shark? I realized today that I feel like that girl. I'm missing parts of myself. Every loss, big and small, has taken a piece out of me, until I'm like a paperdoll with tattered arms and legs, missing feet, rips and gouges. I'm no longer whole, no longer unrumpled.

And I'm not the only one. I thought of my friend whose baby died last year, just two weeks before her due date. My husband called at dinner time to let me know he'd be late because just five minutes before he arrived for a scheduled home visit, the fifty-year old woman he was to visit died. I thought of 2-year old child I know whose parents are divorcing. It seems that everywhere I turn, people are facing loss, some small, some heartbreakingly enormous.

We have all lost someone or something irreplaceable. All of us, everyone. We all have holes and gaps and empty gaping wounds. Loss is part of life from the moment we come squalling into this cold world, having lost the safety of the only warm place we've ever known.

The vacant spaces define us. I saw myself primarily as a child of divorce for many years. And when the pain of that began to fade, I lost my dad for good when he died just a couple weeks after he turned 47. I was 24. Then I became a girl without a dad.

I became a woman who could not get pregnant. I became the writer who could not get published. I became the lonely outsider in a small town. What I didn't have framed me, rather than what I had, what I accomplished, what I was. Do we all try to hide the wounds and disguise our empty spots, while we secretly despair over the ripped out parts in our lives? Or is it just me?

This morning, when I contemplated myself as destroyed paperdoll with missing chunks, the unbidden image of a paper snowflake fluttered into my mind. I realized that the missing parts, the losses, the empty spots are part of a greater design. Look at the snowflake. The cut out parts don't destroy it. The scissored out triangles and circles enhance the beauty of the snowflake. They make it what it is.

When I think now of the empty spaces in myself, I won't concentrate on just the ragged scars. I'll see a snowflake, shaped by loss, but not destroyed. The losses feel random and unfair sometimes, but I have faith that God has a plan, an intricate, one-of-a-kind design for my life.

I'm not the holes in my life. I am wholly in the hand of a loving Creator. I am whole, despite the missing pieces.

Posted by Hello

Introducing Two More Friends

You just have to read Judy's blog. Judy always make me laugh.

And while you're at it, check out my friend, Brandie, at her blog, Cute & Crafty. You, too, will be inspired to be cute and crafty!

I heartily recommend them.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Do You Hear What I Hear?

When the toddlers woke from their naps, we went for a walk around the block. We did not wear jackets, except for DaycareKid who cried for his coat. He was bundled up completely, zippered and snapped into his heavy coat. But the sun shone brightly, the sky was the exact shade of the Crayola sky-blue crayon and the air was filled with the humming of lawn mowers. We passed a gray-haired man sitting near a flowerbed, digging in the dirt. He called out "Spring fever!" A few houses down, a woman was hacking at random weeds which had sprouted through her rocks. Her yard used to be filled with gnomes, but suddenly, it's gnome-free. Babygirl stood at the edge of the yard and said, "Oh no! It's all gone!" Then she stole a rock.

After two laps, we returned home, had a snack and then went into the back yard. Babygirl and DaycareKid played while I snipped old shasta daisy stalks and cut ivy and dug dandelions out of the cold soil. I filled our four-feet tall yard waste bucket with compostable debris. I tried to stop TwinBoyB from smashing three crocuses, but he strode through the flowerbed without noticing my stuttered "Hey, hey, hey!" The kids really have no horticultural respect.

Then, he said, "Hey, I smell gasoline," and perhaps that's the surest sign of spring--fuel for lawn mowers mingled with the odor of decaying leaves and wet dirt. Add the unidentified flying bugs that insisted on hovering over Babygirl's blond head and the slick, shiny slug-tracks and you have spring in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Back to Middle School

I did not grow up in this town, but walking onto the middle school campus today felt like a flashback to my own middle school years. No wonder I felt nervous and wondered if I had on the "right" clothing. I had a meeting today with a group of people who would decide if my son, TwinBoyB, needs "special services" as they call it. And I started all this. What was I thinking?

TwinBoyB is a great kid. He's generally easy-going and sweet--except for the constant score-keeping. ("That's not fair! He got more than me!") And he makes a lot of noise and puts too much salt and pepper on his food. And he never closes the cupboards in the kitchen. And he leaves shoes here and there and then can't find them. Other than that, he's a good boy. Except, the more I've been working with him here at school-at-home, I see how disorganized he is, how he loses focus, how his memory fails him, how he is unable to communicate in written words. I couldn't figure out if I expected too much of him, or if I expected too little. I read Mel Levine's books about learning disabilities and saw my son in many pages.

So, awhile back, I asked the principal of the "Virtual Academy" if there were someone who could evaluate my son for learning disabilities. The school district is required by law to offer services to its pupils. Then suddenly, a woman called and scheduled an evaluation. I was to be there with my son. I said, "And who will I be meeting with?" She told me it would be a whole team.

I panicked. That wasn't really what I had in mind. I just wanted one person, preferably a person who specializes in learning disabilities, to evaluate him. So, I called and postponed the meeting. That meeting finally occurred today.

I did not bring my son. He would have been mortified to sit in a room full of adults while they discussed his shortcomings. It wasn't even an "evaluation"--it was a meeting to decide if he needs an evaluation.

In the room we sat in a circle of classroom desks with those little baskets on the bottom. In attendance were the virtual academy principal, a psych intern, the school nurse, the main psychology person, a woman with a title I can't remember--pupil services?--the special education teacher, and an occupational therapist.

I described my son's difficulty with handwriting, with composing, with spelling, with attention, with organization, with comprehension. They asked to look at samples of his work, which I provided. They listened, they peered at his scrawled writing, they asked some questions and then they basically told me he sounds like an average sixth grade boy.

They were all very nice, so I didn't feel as if I wasted their time, exactly, but I did say, "Boy, I feel like I wasted your time," and they assured me that wasn't the case. I think they minimized his difficulties and have no clue about the work Mel Levine has done. Based on his test scores in third grade, they said he sounds like he's not eligible for special services. I explained that I thought I was already doing what he needs by schooling him at home and they seemed to agree. They're going to email me with more ideas on helping him.

So, I guess we carry on. He's fine and dandy and the fact that he can't compose, spell, use spacing in his writing, capitalize, punctuate, organize this thoughts, comprehend written work, and stay on track is just the way a sixth grade boy is. We will continue to work and work and work and hope that one day, he doesn't end up living in a cardboard box under a bridge.

Now in other news . . .

The Cold Fairy has distributed colds to everyone in my world. DaycareKid has a gloppy nose, coughing sort of cold. Babygirl has a cold with no symptoms other than her crabby disposition. She threw two fits today, which is unusual for her. She planned to ride home with DaycareKid and his mom and was furious with me when I plucked her out of the back seat of their car and brought her back into the house. My timid child is outgrowing some of her timidity, apparently. The twins both have colds, mild ones, enough to slow them down and distract them from their school work. And I have the sore throat, stuffy nose, run-down blues. My husband had his cold last week and YoungestBoy seems immune.

Despite all that, I agreed to do some transcription tonight, which explains why I am at the computer and not curled in my bed, gazing at David Letterman. But now, I've done all I'm doing and off I go, so that in six hours, I can start this all over agin. Oh joy.
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