Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Place of One's Own

I hate to admit my shortcomings, but I have to start by saying that I never read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. But the title of that book appeals to me as an introvert, as a hermit, as a girl with a messy house because of the slobs kids who live with me. I crave solitude, some days more than others.

Babygirl is suffering from another cold, which means that I am also suffering from her cold. Futhermore, she's insufferable and determined to skip her nap each afternoon. The other day, I gave up and by 5:00 p.m., she was shrieking and kicking in her crib, throwing the Mother of All Fits. Impressive, yet . . . annoying.

I had to outlast her today. I put DaycareKid to bed at 1:00 p.m. Then, at 1:30 p.m., I rocked CuteBaby to sleep. I allowed Babygirl to watch "one more show," until 2:00 p.m., and then I used the remote control and clicked off the television and said in a cheery voice, "Time for night-night!"

"No night-night," she said as she slid off the bed and went to push the power button on the set. I aimed the remote and clicked it off again. I picked her up and deposited her back on the bed. She began to cry.

Ever resolute, she climbed down again and pointed her finger at the power button. I scooped her up and dropped her back into bed.

The soundtrack I like to call "Toddler Mahem" (aka screaming, crying without tears, shrieking) accompanied this dramatic mother-daughter struggle. She hollered, screamed, chanted. At one point, she turned around so she could kick me as I laid with my back to her, feigning sleep. As if I could sleep through the racket. She did not enjoy my immobilizing her ankles.

In the midst of this, I telephoned my husband, just so I could say, "Hey, I wanted to share the joy of motherhood," while holding the phone to my tantrum-throwing girl, but he was at the post office and said, "I'll call you back." Now, what fun is that? When he called back, I let the answering machine pick it up because I was busy ignoring the pitiful cries of my only daughter.

At one point, she begged to go to her brother's bed. I counted on my fingers, silently, one, two, three, four, five, then said aloud, "NO!" I did this about ten times in a row. We had quite a rhythm going for awhile, but it sure added to her fury. So I shut up and drowned out her distressing cries by promising myself grand promises: The second my husband comes home, I'm going to go . . . but I couldn't think of where I would go. Where could I go? I began to fantasize about a place where moms could go, a living room where you could get a Diet Coke with Lime and read a People magazine without anyone interrupting or getting snot on your clothes. A neighborhood Moms Only clubhouse where kids weren't allowed and husband dared not enter. A place where nobody knows your name--"Mom!"

And then it hit me. What I really want is an apartment of my own. Not just a room, but an entire apartment . . . a place where the carpets would stay clean, where the bathroom counters would never be smeared with toothpaste and the toilet rims wouldn't be peppered with pee. I don't need a big apartment, either. A one-bedroom would be fine, as long as the bathroom has a gigantic tub with jacuzzi jets. (Hey, I'm dreaming--I can have a big fancy tub if I want.) I want a place where I don't have to constantly clean up messes I didn't make, a place where the fridge holds premium ice cream and fresh lemons, a place where the remote control doesn't disappear every single day.

After thirty-five minutes, Babygirl stopped screaming. I gingerly stepped out of the room and heard CuteBaby's angry screams. His short nap had ended and he was indignant to find himself alone. Luckily, he's a sweet, easy-to-please baby, so a bottle cured all that ailed him and he happily rolled on the floor while I watched "Dr. Phil."

Soon my three boys returned, one of their friends came over, Babygirl and DaycareKid woke up and the pace picked up. As usual.

But I kept my promise. When my husband arrived home (at 6:30 p.m.)--incidentally, while I was vacuuming--I said, "I'm leaving." I realized I'd been the one to handle bedtimes for a solid week--he's been gone for one reason or another every night--so I grabbed my keys without regard to my frightening hair and make-up-less face and practically sprinted out my front door.

I had premium ice cream (Cold Stone Creamery Rocky Road), wandered the bookstore, picked up sixty-four dollars worth of stuff at Target and returned home in time to watch "Survivor." Only one more day until the weekend comes.

Unfortunately, my husband has an obligation all day Saturday and Sunday is church meeting day. But one day, I'll have a place of my own. (I wonder if they'll allow pets in the nursing home?)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Rambling Tale With No Point

My alarm rang at 5:00 a.m. and I slapped it into submission and slept until 5:10 a.m. I showered, half-dried my tresses, pulled on the clothes I'd draped on the exercise bike last night, wore glasses and a Mr. Rogers sweater. I drove to CuteBaby's house, arriving at 5:50 a.m. His mom had to go to her military job early again, just to check in. (No physical testing for her because she's still on the maternity plan.)

I was back home by 7:00 a.m.

By 7:30 a.m., I had baked my first pan of homemade chocolate chip cookies to satisfy Babygirl's directives: "I want cookies! I want cookies!" Frankly, I wanted cookies, too.

My very long day included:

--twin 12-year old boys who spent more time exchanging nonsense-talk than doing literature lessons;
--two and a half year old daughter who is still coughing, gagging and wiping snot on her sleeves;
--DaycareKid who is not catching on to potty-training (but, hey, at least I know now that he is not constipated);
--infinite laundry;
--really out-of-control, bad hair which I spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating today;
--and CuteBaby (but he took long naps today).

Oh. And a box came in the mail, which is generally cause for rejoicing. The box contained a giant, thick envelope from my mother-in-law. In the envelope were all the pictures I've sent her over the years (eighteen years, almost), including the sweet little Creative Memories scrapbook I made especially for her.

Only a few weeks ago, the same mother-in-law complained to me on the phone that I hadn't sent her any pictures recently.

You figure that one out. I called my husband and he suggested she was preparing to die, which is a fairly morbid thing to say, but that demonstrates his sick sense of humor which is primarily why I love him so much.

We've recently been cracking up at the song-list we're compiling for our imaginary twenty-fifth anniversary bash. (We hate parties. There will be no bash.) I suggested "Hard Habit to Break" and "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover." He chose "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "If You Leave Me Now". We think it would be hilarious to have these types of songs playing continuously in the background as partygoers clutch non-alcoholic drinks and little paper plates holding slabs of Costco cake. This joke--this pretend song-list--will go on for months, maybe years.

I also love him because he brought me salad for lunch at 2:30 p.m. when he called and I complained that I hadn't had a chance to eat lunch yet. He brought Subway sandwiches for the boys' dinner. When he returned home at 5:30 p.m. to find Babygirl imprisoned in her crib throwing a tantrum while I chatted with CuteBaby's mom while she was picking him up--looking sweaty and disheveled, me, not her--he rescued Babygirl and she stopped crying long enough for him to transfer her to me.

After the switcharoo, she wrapped her sweaty arms around my neck and tried to steer me. No rocking chair. No kitchen chair. She insisted that I stand precisely in the center of the kitchen, no leaning on counters allowed. As you can imagine, this was great fun for me. Okay, it was annoying. My back began to ache.

My husband suggested he take her for a van ride, knowing she would scream, then sleep. That's exactly what happened. While I buckled her in, she threw a fit worthy of any child seen on Nanny 9-1-1. That's my sweetie-pie.

So the day ends. Mrs. Darling would be completely horrified if she saw the state of my carpets. She vacuums every day and once a week--ONCE A WEEK--she vacuums under all the furniture in her house (beds, dressers, everything). I am amazed, jealous and mostly, I wish I could hire her to be my Personal Vacuumer.

I want my floors to be vacuumed. I just want someone else to do it.

I am a horrible housewife. When I told my husband about Mrs. Darling's spic-and-span carpets and lamented about my own dismal housewifery standards, he said, "That's okay. I'm not a handyman, either, and you don't hold that against me."

And when I say, "I hate my hair! What shall I do with it?" He says, as if preprogrammed, "No matter what you do, I always like your hair."

He's a liar, but he's my liar and he makes me laugh.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Snapshots Out of Focus

Sometimes, you just want to remember a moment. If you are lucky, you'll have a snapshot as a souvenir. I have these words, which I line up here, neat and tidy, to remind me of life this week.

First, you must know that my husband believes in treating a cough with something, anything. (I don't treat coughs as I've read repeatedly that there is no point and coughs are good, productive, etc., etc.) He heard not long ago that honey works as well as cough syrup. We've had another cold here which features a lot of phlegmy coughing. My husband was so proud of himself the other day--("I could totally be a stay-at-home dad," he said to me when I walked into the kitchen. I responded as a good, wise wife and I didn't even roll my eyes at him, because he would be a good stay-at-home dad, but he underestimates the rigors of a solitary life taking care of miniature human beings)--anyway, he'd given Babygirl a spoonful of honey to combat her cough. He felt triumphant, giddy with his achievement.

Later in the day, Babygirl sat on the couch. Cough cough cough cough cough cough cough. Then she said, to no one in particular: "I don't need honey."

One morning this week, Babygirl stood on my bathroom counter, harassing watching me get ready. Her pink long-john style pajamas kept slipping over her shoulder and I had a flashback to Flashdance.

YoungestBoy has announced that when he grows up, he will have two children. They will be named "Ray-Ray" and "Yo," because those are "cool names," he says. This is a boy who named his (girl) cat "Roy."

That's all. I told you . . . it wasn't a carefully composed shot, sharply focused, telling a story. Just a few blurry pictures, but enough to help me remember.

A Mistake Discovered!

Smoov Someone just brought a grave error to my attention. All this time, you have been unable to go, meet and greet my friend, Smoov of (surprisingly enough) Smoov because she has been missing from my blogroll. How can that be? I adore her! She's a grad student, a devoted mother of twin 2-year old boys and a brilliant 9-year old girl, wife to a great guy and a full-time employee who works nights doing something which involves dissecting human body parts. She's hilarious, straightforward, witty and passionate about mountain-climbing, traveling and vodka. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I added her to my blogroll, which I thought I had done long ago. Go check out Smoov. Tell her I said "hi."

Go, Read, Greet

Recently, Dale (from Tales From the Wayside) emailed me, asking me how I managed to get people to read my blog. I told him a few things (like the importance of blogrolls, commenting, even using Blogexplosion occasionally). I don't have 40,000 readers day like some people. And a lot of people find me accidentally because I have the word "photo" in my title. But Gina over at Just Another Day called me her Fairy Blog Mother, and Dale thought maybe I had a magic wand, I guess.

Alas, no such luck.

But I love how some of you found others of you through my blog (you know who you are). For instance, finding comments from Cuppa on Wash Lady's blog delights me. So, knowing how kind and supportive you are, I'm asking that you go and visit Dale's blog. Give yourself some time, though, because Dale is not just a blogger, but a short-story writer.

Here's how Dale describes himself: "I am a 42 year old child of Minnesota who has spent the last 27 years living in the deserts of Phoenix, AZ. I have been married for 17 years (last March) to a woman who is playful as a kitten, possesses exceptional intelligence and so much a part of me I don?t know where I leave off and she begins. I have two dogs, one of which is an intense, serious and dedicated border collie-mix who attempts to herd flocks of pigeons and an Australian Shepard-mix who licks anything that can?t run away fast enough. I am a very large man who lives in a small house and drives a black miniature pickup (perfect color for the desert!)."

Go. Read. Greet.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Please Help Me Understand

Will someone please explain this to me? I don't really want to know your theories about why Mrs. Federline isn't wearing a brassiere. What I want to know, what I need to know is why Mr. Federline is wearing the cap meant for the newborn baby right after its birth?

Open Letter to the Man at the Movies

Dear Man at the Movies,

I only moved my denim jacket off that seat next to me because I thought that curly-haired woman walking near you was with you. I thought she was your wife, actually. So, when you inched past all of those people who arrived early to the movies and sat next to me and looked me in the face and said so gratefully, "Thanks so much!" I only turned and said, "Hey, no problem!" because I thought that woman--who turned out to not be with you--was coming soon. With popcorn or something. She didn't, though.

You sat alone. And that seat on the other side of you was empty. So why didn't you use that armrest, intead of hogging my left armrest? Didn't you realize that you were crowding me? Yes, you smelled good. Why? Do you always scent yourself when you go to the movies alone? I couldn't identify your cologne, that's not because it wasn't strong enough. Believe me, it was.

Can we have a word about your habit of pouring a handful of M&Ms into your mouth and then crunching them loudly? You'd enjoy them more if you ate them one at a time. Trust me. That's what I did. Did you hear me? No, you did not. That's because I am considerate. And also because I want my candy to last through the movie.

My denim jacket made my lap so hot, but I hope you were comfortable.

Next time, sit next to someone else. I go to the movies alone because I like to be alone. And don't try to catch a glimpse of me or linger so you can say something to me on the way out. You cannot outsmart me. If you walk slow, I will walk slower. Every time.

Just so you know.

Solitary Near Seattle

p.s. The movie was "The Interpreter." When I wake up, I'd like to be as tall and thin and blond as Nicole Kidman was in that movie.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Rainy Saturday and Car Keys

Last week, when it became apparent that my husband wouldn't be able to go away for his four-day weekend trip, I suggested he go to Portland to visit a friend after the funeral. We used to live near Portland and retain a few friends, a taste for Buster's Bar-B-Q and a love for Portland bookstores (Powell's and Pilgrim Books--I think that's what it's called).

So this afternoon, after he took YoungestBoy to his first baseball game of the season, off he went, driving a borrowed Lexus. (Our regular cars are unreliable to drive so far, he thinks. He is Mr. Caution.) He told me his cell phone battery was low, so he'd have it off, but that he'd call me when he arrived. It's only a two or three hour drive. I hugged him and sent him off, told him to take his time, stay as long as he wanted. He needs a break, even a short one.

An hour or so after he left, I relented and agreed to take my kids to Target so they could spend the money that has sizzled holes right through their pockets. Because my husband had borrowed the Lexus, he'd parked our old Mercury Sable behind our old Chevy Astro van.

And then, he took the set of Mercury Sable car keys with him.

I often accuse him of forgetting to hang up the keys on the fridge, but I almost always have to apologize later when I find the keys in my purse or my pocket. This time, I said to YoungestBoy, "Hey, what car did you and Dad ride in when you went to your game?" He said, "The blue car."

So I had not driven it last. That meant he did not hang up the keys on the fridge.

For one dismal moment, I imagined myself in my house with my four kids for thirty-six straight hours. It's not the imprisonment that scares me, but the idea of it. There are many days I don't leave the house, but I could if I wanted.

I called his cell phone, but it was off. Then I remembered the second Mercury Sable car key we have, the one which can't hang because the black plastic part that encased it broke off. I ran upstairs to check his dresser drawer. Ten thousand pennies, but no key. I returned to the kitchen, dumped the striped junk jar I keep on the kitchen windowsill and there, amidst the nails and Barbie shoes and marbles and chains, I found the key.

So, we went to Target and GameCrazy, too. The boys are all happy. Babygirl picked out bathtub toys and cookies. We bought a take-and-bake pizza and returned home.

When he called, I told him I was cursing his name earlier and he confessed that he had the key. No harm done, I said. Have fun!

The twins are watching television, Babygirl is playing on the computer and YoungestBoy is playing Nintendo. The Brio train tracks are scattered on the floor, the laundry basket holds now-wrinkled clothes, and the leftover pizza is cold on the counter. Tomorrow, we are playing hooky from church (my husband suggested it).

And that's my rainy Saturday report.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


My dad knew he was dying, so he called the local pastor of the Assembly of God church to make a floating reservation for his own funeral. He met with the funeral director and arranged for his own cremation. He prepaid $400 for the small plot where the urn containing his ashes would be placed.

And then one afternoon, a few weeks later, he died in the back bedroom, the lavender room where I'd spent my teenage years.

I called the hospice nurse and she came immediately. She cleaned his body and called the funeral people. While we waited for them to retrieve his body, I called the Assembly of God pastor. He'd been my own pastor for about ten years and had often told me that I was one of his favorite people.

Me: "Hello? Pastor M____? This is Mel. My dad just died and I wanted to make sure we can have the funeral on Saturday."

Pastor M.: "Oh. Saturday? Well. Hmmmm. I don't know. We just had a revival and the janitor is on vacation and I'm not sure we'd be able to get the tables set up again for Sunday."

Me: Shocked silence. "Oh. All right. I'll figure out something else. Thanks."

I ended up calling a pastor in another town. When I asked if we could have the funeral at his church, his immediate reaction was, "We can work something out. We have a wedding scheduled for that afternoon, but we can do it." Then he said, "What did you say your name was?"

He hadn't recognized my voice and as far as he knew, I was just a random stranger calling a number I'd found in the yellow pages.

Today, my husband was supposed to fly to Las Vegas to meet his college buddies for a long weekend. He'd been looking forward to seeing his friends and getting away from the constant demands and pressures of his life and I was thrilled for him. No one deserves a few days away more than me him.

But instead of going to the airport today, he spent his day preparing a funeral homily and spent his evening with the family of a child who died last Friday. He returned home at 9:45 p.m. Tomorrow, he'll conduct the funeral of a five-year-old boy who happens to share the name of our youngest son. He's not sure he'll be able to get through his remarks. I know he'll do a remarkable job--even if he has to pause while he cries--because he is a remarkable man and pastor.

The family doesn't even realize what my husband gave up this weekend, but in light of their terrible loss, a weekend trip seems insignificant. Almost everything seems insignificant, as a matter of fact.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ayelet, Oprah and Me

I never watch Oprah anymore because I have lost control of my life. Furthermore, I have lost control of the remote control, better known as the "Clicker" in my house. But today, Babygirl only wanted to rock in the big green recliner after her nap because she has another (!) cold. In DaycareKid's absence, we did just that. And I watched daytime television while CuteBaby rolled on the floor and sucked his socks.

Today, lo and behold, a former blogger, and current novelist/columnist and wife to Pulitzer-prize winning novelist (Michael Chabon)was the guest. I'd even read the New York Times article the show focused on, the one where she talks about how she is "in love" with her husband, but not her four children. She mentions, in fact, that she loves her husband more than her children. This admission has caused quite a stir. I wasn't shocked when I read it because I am so used to people saying things that don't resonate with me at all.

Ayelet doesn't speak for me, even though I am a 40-year old mother of four children, too. That's because I'm not "in love" with my husband at all. I think all the talk of being "in love" is silly, as a matter of fact, and frankly, irrelevant.

I don't believe in being "in love." Love is a decision you make, not a feeling you feel. What is the point of declaring who you are "in love" with as opposed to who you merely "love"?

The whole quibble (of semantics, if you ask me) reminds me a lot of the puzzlement I felt when my dad explained to me that he still loved me, it was just that he no longer loved my mother. Those were hollow words. Is love so capricious? Love just flits away, like a shy bird? Or it melts away like an ice cream cone left in the car on a hot day? I always thought that if my parents could stop loving one another, they could certainly stop loving me. And that was before I understood that love is an action, not a description.

Oh, I'm familiar with the distinctions between the different types of love. C. S. Lewis talks about the four types of love in his book "The Four Loves." [The four Greek words for our word love are "storge" (affection), "philia" (friendship), "eros" (sexual or romantic love) and "agape" (selfless love).--from the link.] And I think Ayelet was probably trying to communicate that she loves her children differently--not more, not less--than her husband.

But then, no one asked me, even though I, too, am 40 and have four children and one husband.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Doing My Civic Duty

Last night, I missed "24," the television show. You know the one, where Jack Bauer saves the world every single week, practially single-handedly. I love that show. My husband jokes with me about my love for Keifer Sutherland, but really, it's not that. I'm just hooked on the drama of Jack Bauer's indestructibility and the outlandish situations that occur one after the other, stacked up like an evil set of dominoes just waiting to be tipped.

Oh, so where was I instead? What could be more important than my must-see t.v.?

I was at a city council meeting. I'd never been before, so I had no idea that a meeting which started at 7:00 p.m. would drag on and on and on past 10:30 p.m. (If I'd known, I would have set the VCR!) One of the issues they were discussing is of great interest to me, so much so that I attended a town hall meeting a month or so ago. Then I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper, which was published in the Sunday edition. Last week, I noticed another letter on the opinion page which referred to an article that mentioned the town hall meeting.

I missed the article when it appeared, so I quickly got on-line, pulled up the article and grew so annoyed and irate that I immediately emailed the reporter (and his boss, the newspaper editor) to complain about his characterization of the meeting. Oh no, you don't want to mess with Mel, but apparently the reporter hadn't gotten that memo. He dared to email me back and argued with me. We exchanged several emails and then *poof* he disappeared in a black cloud of internet silence. I win.

The following Sunday, the editor of the paper issued an apology with regards to that article, specifically the way the reporter described the meeting. (Let's just say he made it sound like a mob scene and it was as peaceful and calm as a public meeting could possibly be.)

Score one for Mel!

I emailed the editor and thanked him for his apology and he emailed back and admitted that they got it wrong.


So, last night, I was at the city council meeting where they were discussing this issue that concerns me. They dealt with other city business until 8:30 p.m., at which point I thought, I'm going to miss "24." I shall have to leave early. I kept promising myself that I'd leave, but the meeting featured some high drama, some outright rudeness, some pointed questions and I couldn't tear myself away, even though my contacts were dry and sticking to my eyes and I'd been awake for seventeen hours by then.

Will these efforts make a difference in the outcome? Who knows? I hope I didn't miss an episode of "24" for nothing. And they haven't heard the last from me, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Three Ducks in a Puddle and More

Please, come back with me in time. Look around. It's Friday, 2:50 a.m. Babygirl wakes you from a dead sleep. Crying? What is that noise? Crying? You stumble from bed and pluck a distressed girl from her crib. You turn off the light and sit for ten minutes, rocking Babygirl. Then you return her to her crib.

Back to bed. You fall into bed, exhausted. You have resumed your walking program, remember? The alarm will ring at 5:10 a.m. You reach over and click the alarm off and doze to the sound of pouring rain. Babygirl wakes again at 6:20 a.m. This time, you bring her back to bed and you both sleep again until the phone rings at 7:42 a.m. You are still in bed because DaycareKid and CuteBaby aren't coming today. You deserve a break.

So you say, "Hello?" in a voice that sounds as sleepy are you are. Your Texan mother-in-law, the one who rises every morning by 6:00 a.m., the one who cannot remember that you live in a time-zone two hours behind Texas-time, she says, "Are you still sleeping?" as if you have committed a crime.

You admit to your slothfulness and don't bother to offer an excuse. She needs to know if you cashed the birthday check she sent in February. You assume you did--have you ever been known not to cash a check?--but you tell her you'll investigate and let her know.

Even though you had sleep, interrupted, it's still Friday and it's your twin boys' birthday. They are twelve. You had them do all their schoolwork the day before, so they are taking the day off from school. Your plan:

1) Cash check at bank.
2) Hand over $100 to each boy. "Happy birthday! You get this in lieu of a birthday party and gift!"
3) Drop off film at Costco, one-hour developing, please.
4) Arrive at Red Robin for birthday lunch promptly at 11:00 a.m.
5) Drive boys to Toys R Us so they can spend their money. Be surprised that they each only buy a GameBoy game.
6) Purchase a new dolly and carseat for Babygirl. Notice how cute she is, how thankful she is.
7) Return to Costco. Pick up film and stand in extremely long line to buy cake, meatballs, granola bars.
8) Stop by GameCrazy so TwinBoyB can buy "DonkeyKonga." While the twins go into the store (park right outside the door), have Babygirl pee in an empty Taco Bell cup. Don't forget to pour it into the grass so it doesn't spill in your used van. Babygirl will beg to pee in cups for the next few days, but you saved yourself from having to take her into the Hollywood Video public bathroom.)
9) Go home. Nap with Babygirl.
10) Pick up YoungestBoy from school while Babygirl still sleeps and twin boys play video games. They are 12, you will only be gone 5 minutes. Don't worry. Be happy.

And on the way, at the very beginning of your adventure, please take note of the three ducks--one mallard, two dull brown females--which are sitting at the edge of the busy road, filling up a small puddle with their duckness. Wonder if the ducks are lost. Point out ducks to kids, but kids won't see them. Wonder if perhaps those were decoys and if you are hallucinating.

Your husband normally picks up YoungestBoy and NeighborBoy, but today, he's in Seattle, visiting a child at the Children's Hospital. When he returns home, say, "How was it?" and hear him say, "He died about thirty minutes before I arrived."

Oh. Stop. Blink. Breathe. Shake your head.

The child, an only child, a five year old child of a mother who is now expecting her second child, this child died from a blood disease of some sort. Try to sort out the details and promise yourself that you'll google "spleen, attack red blood cells," to try to figure out what exactly the boy died from. Try not to imagine your own blond son dead. Stop yourself everytime you hear yourself say, "You are driving me crazy!" Rebuke yourself each time you think, "I am so sick of picking up after these KIDS!" Wonder if you'd survive if one of your kids did not. Stop wondering how that other mother handles walking into her absent boy's bedroom, how she can bear to look at his stuffed animals and boy-toys.

But before you can think too much, you must take YoungestBoy to the school for a "Beach Party." Stand near a wall and be grateful when a dad you know chats with you. Shout loudly so he can hear you. Smile as a mom you know approaches. Shout loudly to her, too. Watch your son--your healthy, alive son--as he tries to hula-hoop and laugh out loud. Wonder why the temperature in the multi-purpose room is always set so high that beads of sweat glisten on your upper lip. Be relieved when your son is ready to leave after an hour of beach music and red-faced children running berserk.

Sleep in this morning as late as you can, even if it involves tucking Babygirl into bed next to you. She won't sleep. But you can give her a snack and crawl back between the flannel sheets and listen to the rain and doze while she plays. Shower late. While husband goes to meet with the family of the deceased child, putter around. Clean off the kitchen counter, put recyclables into the new bin, fold some laundry, relocate a table and bookshelf, make lunch. Stay busy.

When your husband walks through the door, he'll say one sentence, "There goes Vegas." He was going to meet his college buddies in Las Vegas for the weekend, leaving next Thursday. The guys have been getting together annually for quite a few years, but he's never been able to afford the time or money to go. He's looking forward to seeing his old friends. But the funeral for the boy is Friday.

You are as disappointed as he is because after being married this long, you truly want him to be happy. Struggle, though there is no point. That family lost their son. The family must fly in from Germany. Your husband didn't mention his cancelled four day trip to them. It's his job to comfort people in their time of loss.

But you can feel a little annoyed, if you keep the annoyance isolated from the rest of your more responsible, grown-up response. The timing sucks. Your husband rocks.

Now, it's 1:00 p.m. and he suggests that you get out of the house for a few hours. Off you go (no need to tell you twice) and as you drive toward the freeway, you spot those crazy three ducks, sitting in their make-shift home, the puddle. It's not even big enough for them all to sit in it at the same time and they certainly can't float in an inch of water. Where do they live? Why did they claim that puddle? Think about the ducks all afternoon.

Wonder if you are a duck in a puddle. Is some part of your life a ridiculous compromise? Do you limit yourself because you claimed the first puddle you saw? Is there a pond around the bed? Just over the trees? Do you stay at a puddle just because your friends decided to stay?

Think that maybe you are insane because you see everything--ducks in a puddle--as a possible metaphor for life.

Realize while you are shopping that your right gold hoop earring is missing. Remind yourself to check your pillow before you sleep tonight.

Shop. Shop. Shop. In this order: Once Upon a Child (consignment shop--buy Babygirl's summer wardrobe for $17), Value Village (purchase old Fisher Price cash register with decals intact, still containing six plastic coins for $3.99, three books, a leopard print comforter for church Vacation Bible School this summer), Famous Footwear (buy YoungestBoy, owner of the World's Stinkiest Shoes, two new pair for $50 total), Fred Meyer (groceries).

As you drive toward home, notice the strip club advertising some XXX "star." Do a double-take when you see a man standing outside his Hummer, grabbing at dollars the wind is whipping into a tornado of cash. Slow down and crane your neck, then do a u-turn so you can drive by and look again. Laugh when you see him clutching a handful of bills. He looks so frantic. Is he the owner? How did he drop a bundle of cash? Think again what a metaphor this is--the money swirling in the parking lot, the man in a panic, chasing his dollars.

Return home promptly at 5:00 p.m. and let the children create their own sub sandwiches.

You are almost done! Bathtime, bedtime routine with Babygirl, read a chapter of "Pride and Prejudice" while Babygirl watches "Spongebob Squarepants" . . . can you still catch a movie? Alas, you cannot. Bad timing. But now you can help out your husband and type his sermon. Good thing you type so quickly. You have enough time to blog about ducks and funerals.

Aren't weekends restful?

Stay Tuned

Yesterday, on the way to the bank, Costco, Red Robin, Toys R Us, Costco (again), and GameCrazy with my twins, the 12-year-old Birthday Boys, and my daughter, I saw three ducks in a puddle by the side of the road.

Today, I saw them again.

In between the duck sightings, my brain has become cluttered with bloggable stuff. I'll be back when I have more time, later tonight, God-willing, if the creek don't rise.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

One Crime Scene: Zero Body

This afternoon, I realized I hadn't seen YoungestBoy after his arrival home from school. I called his name and when he didn't answer, I began to search. I found him in the bathroom, standing over the toilet. Blood covered his face and dripped into a scarlet red toilet bowl. He was sniffing and snorting the dripping blood into the toilet.

Blood drops led from the laundry room into the bathroom. Blood spattered the walls, the toilet rim, the floor and my boy. Sticky blood coated both hands. I'm surprised he didn't need a transfusion. He looked like a murderer or a victim of violent crime.

He said, "I have a bloody nose." And I said, "You sure do. Here, press this on it." I handed him a washcloth and noted the newly stained yellow shirt he wore. The last time he wore this shirt, which was the first time he wore this shirt, he also managed to bloody it. Hydrogen peroxide removed the stains then. The shirt may be beyond salvage now. Blood splatters cover it now..

I directed him to sit down with a cloth on his nose and he said, "Don't worry. I'll clean it up." As if!

While he sat and bled some more, I cleaned up the scene of the nosebleed. I hope that's the closest I ever come to a crime scene. Mopping up his blood was a gruesome task. I am just thankful there was no corpse.

And he's fine. Occasionally, he just gets a little rough with his nasal passages and has a nosebleed. That was the first time he's ever bent over the toilet and let his blood dye the toilet-water crimson, though. I hope it was the last.

(Oh, and speaking of shirts--at noon, I received a phone call from school. He'd spilled chocolate milk on the same shirt, and because it was Picture Day, they asked if I could bring a new shirt to school. I couldn't, but my neighbor came to my rescue and delivered a shirt. Apparently, after the photograph was taken, he put his stained shirt back on, which became completely blood-splattered upon his return home. That shirt is just destined for destruction.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Babygirl has launched a new career. Well, maybe it's just a hobby, but she could make it into a career. She is perfecting the art of throwing a tantrum.

This morning, she was happy to see DaycareKid arrive. She invited him upstairs to play in her room. Soon after, they came traipsing downstairs. She put on her yellow rainboots and DaycareKid put on his sneakers and I helped them with jackets and they went into our fenced-in backyard to play.

The mornings have been chilly, though, so they were quickly ready to come back inside. Babygirl came through the patio door and decreed that DaycareKid must stay outside.

I overruled her decision and she revved up her engines. By the time I had her jacket off, she was screaming and stomping. I gave her a choice (stop or go upstairs to bed) and she screamed more. So I carried her, still wearing the rubber boots, up to her crib where I deposited her without ceremony.

I closed the door.

Eventually, she quit screaming and I retrieved her.

Fit number two came when we layed down for a nap. I was so tired--5:20 a.m. comes so early for this nightowl. She began to cry and worked herself into a frenzy, complete with kicking her feet and banging her head into the pillow. I ignored her first, then mimicked her, but that had no effect, so I went back to ignoring her. She must have carried on for a good thirty minutes before she settled down. It took her another thirty minutes to actually fall asleep.

She woke up and launched right into fit number three. When I heard her wake up, I hurried to the room, but she was already in the throes of irrational crying. I gave her a few choices, which she completely rejected. Then I carried her to her own room and plopped her into her crib. This time I turned on a Winnie-the-Pooh video, so when she stopped, she could watch.

The fit lasted long enough for me to wash all the lunch dishes.

When my older children were her age, I used to reason, threaten, even spank them for tantrums like this. Now, I just ignore fits.

The moral of the story: As they say, if you can't change the behavior, change the location of the behavior.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

We've been friends such a long time. I remember rifling through my mother's hidden stash of marshmallows. You were there. When I sneaked cookies from the jar and restacked them so no one would notice, you were there. You even came along to my grandmother's house that summer when I was just nine. How embarrassing to find that Grandma had taped closed the jar where she kept M&Ms after she noticed I'd pilfered some. You understood, though.

You were my friend, even when my parents became enemies. You stood by me when I found myself lost in middle school. Even though we parted ways for a year or so in junior high, you were waiting for me when I needed you again. You have been a steady friend, available at any moment of any day. Boring weekend? Nothing to do? You were there offering a bowl of ice cream slathered by peanut butter and chocolate syrup, and on a lucky day, miniature marshmallows.

My friends liked you, too. We'd all go out and eat french fries at that dumpy little drive-in which was demolished years ago. And a salty main course always called for something sweet, so we'd head over to the new Dairy Queen for a Peanut Buster Parfait. We were all pals. We stuck together.

Who needs boys when you have popcorn drizzled with butter?

My high school job made it convenient to spend time with you, which was great, wasn't it? All those tacos and freshly deep-fried chips? I loved those "Crustos," even though the name is disgusting--what's not to like about deep-fried flour tortillas dusted with cinnamon sugar?

I know we weren't on the best of terms in college, but I was so busy! I did appreciate how you'd lurk in the basement on the off chance I might come downstairs with fifty cents for a Twix bar, but I know we didn't see each other too much. As it turns out, boys are more interesting than you, at least they were at the time. You have to admit, though, that occasionally, when we did get together, a whole pizza would disappear and sometimes a pound-size bag of M&Ms, too. And I never did practice moderation on those rare occasion we'd go a buffet. Hello!? Starving college student! I had to get my money's worth.

Even though I didn't see you all that much while I was preparing for my wedding (all that sewing, what was I thinking?), I did perfect my one-pan brownies, didn't I? And let's not forget those jumbo muffins at the bakery next to work! See? Always, forever friends, even though my wedding was coming. I still thought of you often.

I didn't really expect to see you once I got married. And I probably wouldn't have if my husband hadn't started working the night-shift. I will never forget the first time we were together again. They're not kidding, are they? Once you pop, you just can't stop. I had to hide that Pringles can when it was all over so my husband wouldn't realize how much I ate when we reunited. We picked up right where we left off, didn't we?

Married life stressed me out, but not because of the marriage itself. The other stuff that happens to grown-ups challenged, teased and tested me--my dad's death, the infertility, adoption, moving, job changes, financial woes, my husband's cancer, parenting twins, pregnancy, moving again--oh, and let's not forget the breast lump and biopsy. I am so glad you were there for all of that. I am, really. You were the one I could count on. Making friends is tough when you're a grown-up!

But here's the thing. I outgrew you, just as surely as I outgrew those size 10 blue jeans. Sure, you still feel comfortable to me, you calm me down, you welcome me with open arms. But I'm tired of sneaking around with you. I realize that you act like my Best Friend, but you are sabotaging me. You stab me in the back. You do not have my best interests at heart. It's really all about you and never about what is really best for me.

So why is breaking up so hard to do? You have become my worst bad habit, the dark sin I repent of every Monday morning. I am embarrassed by my association with you and I pretend that we aren't really that close. But it's clear enough to anyone who looks at me and my extra chin. We are on intimate terms.

You have got to go. Food, you are the sorriest excuse for a friend ever. All that time when I thought you were helping me, bringing me peace, entertaining me, you were wrapping your chubby little fingers around my heart, ready to cut off the circulation.

You are demoted. Go back to your proper place, that of serving me, nourishing me, keeping me healthy. Our sick relationship is clearly out of hand.

I'll be lonely for you and I'll be tempted to call you. You are so familiar to me! The easiest possible solution to every problem I have! Bored? Sad? Happy? Tired? Cause for celebration? I want to call you. But I can't. I've got to stop. You are no friend, despite your chumminess.

We've got to break-up.

And I mean it this time.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Keeping Promises and Making Kids Cry

While Babygirl napped this afternoon, I decided to take my couch-potato, GameBoy-playing sons for a hike. I took them back to the trails at Point Defiance, which were so lovely that even the memory of Babygirl weeping and wailing as she hiked did not deter me.

The air was still, cool. The boys chattered incessantly as we briskly walked down the trail to the beach. I'd point out the trilliums and they wouldn't quite yawn, but really, all they wanted to do was find a good stick. I described the process of decaying tree trunks and new growth and they scarcely blinked. I used the word "ecosystem," but it didn't spark any flicker of recognition.

The tide was low today and so the beach stretched out before us. TwinBoyB nearly fell on his head as he carelessly scrambled down the last ten feet of the trail. Then he slid on his bottom as he tiptoed across a fallen log. He finally screamed, "I HATE WALKS!" I ignored his outburst and carefully picked my way down the stairstepping roots of the giant beach-side tree.

We meandered down the beach. TwinBoyA was intent upon finding "aquatic life," as he called it. We immediately came upon a pink and blue sea star. YoungestBoy held it and I photographed it. Then we discovered symmetrical holes in the rock, which turned out to be mudstone which contained oblong-shaped clams called piddocks. The piddocks opened like gaping bird mouths. If touched, they'd squirt and then sink back down into their holes.

We found rocks which crumbled in our hands and then it dawned on us that the rocks had broken off of the soaring walls of the bluff which bordered the beach. I think the rock was probably gypsum--it was soft as a bar of soap. We each carved our names into the rock wall. We could break the rocks with one hand, as if they were chalk.

TwinBoyB began to complain and suggest that we turn back. He is a whiner extraordinaire and always has been. His complaints are so tiresome and have ruined many an adventure. Today was no different.

We eventually turned back and found the roots of the tree which marked our trail. As we began our ascent up the trail, I said, "Children who do not complain will get a treat! Children who complain will get no treat!" I did not want to hear any bellyaching as we climbed back up the steep trail. I prompted YoungestBoy to tell the twins where we'd have our treat (Dairy Queen).

And then we trudged uphill. Although the trail was quite steep in places, it was not impossible. TwinBoyB immediately began a tirade of complaints: "I'm tired!" "I hate walking!" "Why did we have to do this?" "My legs are going to fall off." "I'm going to explode!" "I think I am going to die. Seriously. I mean it."

I realized that this boy would get no treat or my words would have no value. I even commented out loud and so in a great dramatic performance, he collapsed in tears and slid on his bottom on the path. His brothers were shouting encouragement and giving him their walking sticks. He cried, his face red, his attitude stinky. I dreaded what was about to happen. His brothers were frantic, cheering him on.

Just as we reached the parking lot, I mentioned that he would not get a treat. He wailed and gnashed his teeth, begging for another chance, for mercy. "Mom, what do I have to DO?" I said, "You needed to walk without complaining the whole way."

His tantrum reminded me of Babygirl's fit the other day. By now, his brothers were desperate. "Mom, PLEASE, you have to give him another chance!" YoungestBoy went so far as to suggest that if I'd been in his class the other day, then maybe I would have learned to think how I might feel if I were in another person's shoes. TwinBoyA cautioned me, "Mom, God is frowning on you! Whatever happened to mercy and compassion? Huh? Huh?"

I said, "Look. I told you the rules. I made a promise. I have to keep it. He made a choice, a bad choice, and I'm sad for him, but I can't break my promise." At that point, TwinBoyB broke into a mournful yell, "JUST KILL ME! KILL ME NOW! I WANT TO BE DEAD!"

I stopped the car. I said, "Get out. When you're finished, you can get back in." He stopped screaming and looked at me through narrowed eyes. I started the car again, he started crying again and the TwinBoyA, in a great show of moral support, burst into loud weeping. He hid his face behind the sleeve of his fleece jacket. I think he was faking.

Behind me, YoungestBoy joined the chorus, sobbing so hard he could barely speak his accusations aloud. "You are so mean!" I turned to see tears running down his pink cheeks. All three boys were now crying in unison.

I wanted to roll my eyes. I wanted to laugh. But I calmly pulled the car over--again--and warned everyone to stop. I explained again why TwinBoyB would get no treat.

I think they expected me to crumble--and how I wanted to collapse under the weight of their collective disapproval--but I held steady. I pulled into the drive-through lane of the Dairy Queen and said, "What do you want?" to YoungestBoy. Then I asked TwinBoy A. I ordered a hot fudge sundae and two Georgia Fudge Mud Blizzards (one for me, one for TwinBoyA) and told TwinBoyB that I was sorry he didn't get a treat.

He accepted his fate without a sound. TwinBoyA rose to the occasion and shared his whole treat with his brother. Before we'd gone a block, the sound of pleasant laughter filled my car.

I can only hope TwinBoyB learned something. I know I did. I need new hiking companions.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Two Year Olds Must Be Quarantined

For the most part, we are homebodies. Partly by choice, a lot by circumstance. The school-at-home thing ensures that we are at home on school days, doing school work. The daycare babies means I have to be on duty, taking care of little ones from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. I'm not one of those grab-the-kids-and-go-go-go kind of moms.

But yesterday, Friday, DaycareKid was at home with his mom. CuteBaby left at 3:30 p.m. The twins were with my husband, visiting the Washington State History Museum and its traveling exhibit of 9/11 artifacts. I'd been wanting to take the kids to Point Defiance Park. We go to the zoo occasionally, but have never hiked the trails in the 700 acre park.

So, off we went. We tramped on the muddy trails and I exclaimed over all the huge trees and took pictures.

[YoungestBoy and Babygirl (caught mid-cough) in front of an enormous old-growth tree.]  Posted by Hello

We wound our way down a meandering trail until we found ourselves at the beach--well, six feet up from the beach. The final feet were impossible for Babygirl to traverse and so we sat on the exposed roots of a giant tree and watched YoungestBoy scamper down to the water's edge. A blue tugboat chugged past us, pulling a huge barge as if it were made of styrofoam. The wind tousled our hair.

At last, I convinced her we needed to go--she'd be happy to sit near the beach forever, I think. Back up we went. My morning walks have done me good. The steep climb did not leave me gasping for breath. About halfway back to the top trail, Babygirl abruptly turned and headed back down. "I go this way!" she said.

I cajoled, I bribed and finally, I waved bye-bye and continued walking up the trail. She began to cry, but followed me. Then she wailed and walked until we reached the car, scaring wildlife and annoying the rare fellow-hiker, no doubt. I'd reach my arms out to her and ask, "Do you want me to hold you? Do you want a ride?" and she'd stomp and yell, "No!"

When she realized we had reached the parking lot, she was furious. I had to chase her and plop her into her carseat. She screamed even louder. She carried on until we pulled into the Dairy Queen drive-through. Then she said, "I want ice cream."

And that is why we have a policy of never taking two-year-olds in public. (A policy which is broken all the time, but still.)

(I use a film camera, so the pictures of the fit--of course I took pictures of that tantrum--aren't available yet, but you can be sure I'll add them!)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Bad Hair

I'm having a bad hair year day. Alert Oprah. I need a makeover.

I'm not saying God made a mistake, but somewhere in the DNA hair warehouse, someone made a boo-boo and went hog-wild, inserting way too much genetic code giving me this ridiculous, curly hair. And no, I'm not thankful for it, so all you naturally straight-haired girls can just slap me.

Stylists always gather it into a thick rope and comment. "Wow! Look at all this hair!" The last stylist admired the curls and said, "This is exactly what a perm is supposed to look like!" But, a-hem, this is not a perm. And perms aren't even in style anymore. And why are my bangs suddenly curving in a backwards "C" on my forehead instead of curving straight down? They've suddenly decided to swarm to the beat of their own drummer and I am not amused.

I need bangs, obedient bangs which will frame my haggard face. I'd do away with them entirely (OFF WITH YOUR HEAD HAIR!) except that my forehead needs a disguise and because my head is too big for a ten-gallon hat, I need bangs. Regular, normal, obedient bangs. Is this too much to ask?

I can't think straight when my hair is a-tangle. I'd had it short. I've grown it long. I highlighted it for years and then three years ago, I decided to embrace my natural dirty-dishwater, how-now-brown-cow color. Then I found a gray hair.

So, at the moment, I'm distracted by my below-shoulders mane which is mainly a pain in the rain. Hide the scissors.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Speaking Too Soon

Yesterday, Babygirl boycotted naptime. Oh, she rolled around on the bed next to me and claimed the best pillow for herself, but she did not sleep. I teetered on the edge of consciousness, rousing periodically to find her still chanting or wiggling or singing. And then after an hour and twenty minutes of this, the clock said 2:18 and I leapt from the bed and told her I needed to check on the boys. As I exited the room, I heard CuteBaby's cries from the crib. He was awake. So much for my lunch.

Babygirl did not stay in bed, but called down from the top of the stairs a few moments later, "I had a good sleep!" She emphasized this lie by rubbing her eyes.

Hours later, I thought to myself, she's doing really well. . . no fits at all this time. The last time she missed a nap, she disintegrated into a physically fit bundle of fury, stomping her feet, refusing to answer any questions, screaming while drool trickled down her belly.

I should know better than to even think such thoughts, because moments later, she threw a doozy of a tantrum. Right before bedtime, she followed up her earlier effort with a prize-winning shriek of irrationality, complete with tears, snot and saliva.

You'd think I'd learn.

This morning, I luxuriated in a day filled with fewer responsibilities. It's Spring Break, so we aren't doing schoolwork. CuteBaby won't arrive until after lunch, so I cleaned off my desk and enjoyed catching up on some reading. If my body can't be on vacation, at least my mind can.

And then--HOW CAN THIS KEEP HAPPENING?--TwinBoyA opened the door and said, "Hey, why is there water all over the floor?" So much for peace and tranquility. The washing machine strikes again, wriggling the hose loose from its mooring.

On the bright side, the boys rushed to find all the towels in the house. What teamwork! What an exciting adventure! An indoor pond! I worked up a good sweat dragging soppy towels over the floor with my foot and into the stupid washing machine. Only three unexpected loads of towels for today.

I wedged the washing machine firmly against the utility sink. I can only hope that this water-filled disaster does not happen again. But as surely as a two-year old throws fits, my washing machine hose will come loose again. And it will happen when I am least expecting it, basking in the uncharacteristic glow of optimism. I should know better.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Life Is Not in the Details

I'm all about the details. My husband might tell me what, but I want to know when, and who and how and what were they wearing? Conversely, when I launch into a story with a simple point, I can see my husband's eyes glaze over when I embellish the tale with the adjectives and adverbs, the less-pertinent-to-the-story subpoints.

He's a pastor and so he tries to protect me from the harsh realities he deals with on a regular basis. If you tell him something in confidence--or even something in passing conversation--he will not divulge the details to me. And not just because of his professional duty. Or because he can't really remember the details. No. He purposely shields me from stuff like that. The detail stuff.

But I am all about the details, as I might have mentioned earlier. So, when someone telephones him and shares their good news (a grandbaby born today) and bad news (some weird finger-webbing, most likely correctable), I pry. I want to know. Did she have an epidural? How big was the baby? Webbing? He doesn't know and even if he does know, he's not telling. He'll sometimes think of me and remember to ask about the sex and weight of the baby, but not always.

He's not keeping me in the dark for some sinister purpose. As spouses often do, he's treating me as he'd want to be treated--and he just doesn't want or need the details. So he figures I'm better off not knowing the details.

Yesterday was his day off. He visited a child in the hospital, a five-year-old with a mysterious blood disease. Later in the day, he visited a man dying of lung cancer. The doctors opened up his chest, realized his disease had progressed too far, and sewed him back up.

I spent yesterday ignoring the rumbling pain in my stomach while tending to the needs of six children. And everytime I wanted to gripe, I stopped cold.

My husband is healthy. My kids are fine. Rambunctious, but fine. Strip away all the details and that's what really matters.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is the initial sign of being filled by the Holy Spirit. I grew up in such a church, full of hand-waving and tongue-speaking and swaying bodies and incoherent laughter and weeping. Although my mother wasn't as strict as her mother (in their household, no playing cards, no chapstick, no secular music, no shopping or working on Sundays), we weren't allowed to do things other kids did. For instance, "rock music" wasn't allowed, so when we watched "The Donny and Marie Show," when Donny began to sing "I'm a little bit rock and roll," we had to turn the channel. We went to church three times a week: Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. We did not swear, not even "geez," or "gosh."

But religious upbringing aside, I felt like an outsider at school. I was the tallest girl in my class. The teacher's pet. I wasn't familiar with contemporary music. I didn't take ballet class. Small things.

Then my parents divorced at a time when divorce was a rarity. From one year to the next, my world stopped spinning and then reversed directions. Everyone else was going west to east--eye make-up, boys, parties, dances--and I was going east to west, hibernating in my room, tending to my wounds, reading books, dreaming. The girls I had played with on the playground were now riding in cars with boys while I was trying to figure out my place in my reconstructed family.

When high school ended, I couldn't move far enough away. I figured no one would ever marry me, so off I went to Bible College. After graduation, I fully intended to suffer for Jesus in some far-flung land. My theology was a bit wacky in those days and I thought that's how God worked.

Even there, though, I didn't quite belong. I couldn't quite fluff my hair up like the Southern belles. I didn't want to take a class for "Pastor's Wives"--I wanted to learn homiletics (preaching). I wasn't religious enough. I balked at using the spiritual slang expected of me. I grew cynical and suspicious and even a little hostile.

I wasn't there to get my "MRS" degree--I was trying to find God's plan for my life. I graduated feeling like I didn't quite fit in the denomination. I couldn't swallow what they were spoon-feeding. I didn't want to play, didn't want to network my way through the church hierarchy. I'd sit in (daily required) chapel and make lists of Christian curse words to amuse myself.

Years later, after abandoning the denomination of my youth, I'm the Pastor's Wife. I shrug off that title and go so far as to "forget" to mention my husband's profession when I meet new people. I've heard maybe a dozen sermons in my almost 18 years of marriage. I'm the cobbler's children without any shoes. I'm a Christian, a devoted follower of Christ, but I don't sit in the pew and I'm not quite one of them. I don't really belong. And I can't really identify with the pastor's wives, either. They all seem so together, so holy, so obedient.

Our family lives in an affluent town where people buy property just to tear down houses so they can rebuilt extravagant homes with a view. People own second homes to vacation in. They drive new cars and own boats. I don't fit in. I don't have a career. My hair will simply not behave.

The past few days, I've heard pundits and politicians and analysts speak and I've thought, they don't speak for me. I read articles about mothers and I rarely see myself in the descriptions. When I hear about modern families, I wonder who these people are, because they aren't us. They aren't me. On television, I never find a representative of me. I don't find myself in novels, either. I'm certainly not in the movies. I'm not even on the religious channel.

I feel isolated in so many ways. Where do I fit? Isn't it pathetic to wonder this at the age of forty? And yet my wondering these days is not fueled by angst, but by a gradual dawning. I suspect everyone feels like an outcast on some level. We're either the wrong color or the wrong height or too fat or too skinny or we live on the wrong side of town or we never did memorize our multiplcation tables or we don't "get" the hype over American Idol. We just don't fit in.

What I love about growing up is that you get to create your own little world. You can populate your world with people who recognize you, who understand you, who make you feel not quite so alone.

And along the way, you discover that it's all right to be the tallest girl in class, the one who is a Republican (even though it's so not cool), the one who likes Barry Manilow and bypassed the whole college-drinking thing.

I don't really belong anywhere. And rather than feeling alone, I feel liberated, the way you feel in a strange city where no one knows you. Throw caution to the wind, because you'll never be back here again.

[*UPDATE and CORRECTION* "Seafoam" asked this: I'm curious as to why you've only heard your husband preach about a dozen times in eighteen years. Have you always worked in the nursery during the church service?

I wondered that myself, so I started thinking back. First of all, my husband's only been pastoring for 15 years, though we've been married for 18. In our first church, I was in charge of the children's church, so I taught children during the sermon. In our second church, I taught two-year olds during the sermon. Then we adopted twins, so I really had my hands full. In our third church, there was no nursery or class for my then-almost-2-year old twins. I sat with them in a makeshift nursery. Eventually, I started teaching the preschool class. Then I had a baby, so I was back in the cry-room with him.

When we moved to our current church, my baby boy was less than a year old and hated to be left, so I stayed with him in the nursery. When he was two or two and a half, I began to leave him in the nursery and I remembered tonight, as I pondered this question, that I actually did sit in church for some months. I did not teach Sunday School. I did not have nursery duty. I sang in the choir and I listened to the sermon. So, I have to retract my previous "12 sermons in 18 years" statement. I must have heard fifty sermons (a year's worth) before I gave birth again to a clingy, noisy baby who still won't stay alone in the nursery without having a nervous breakdown. She's two and a half and the day will arrive soon when I will be able to leave her.

And then I've been recruited to teach a brand-new preschool class starting next fall.

Thanks, Seafoam. I stand corrected and hope that answers your question.]
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