Friday, June 29, 2007


My husband still has not read my blog. Because of the way the universe works, I'm sure tonight, after posting this confession, he will say, "Hey, I want to read what you've been doing. Can I see your blog?" Well then, John, I tell this to you, too, without shame, for what I am going to confess, I earned.

I haven't been doing jack shit this week.

I am the director of a week-long women's writing workshop at the college where I teach. All year long I plan for this thing, doing publicity, updating and printing out mailing lists, courting faculty, balancing budgets. But the week itself? Cake. All I have to do it show up in the morning, set up the book sales table, and maybe make a few photocopies. Then from about 9:30-noon, I do NUTTIN. I have lunch, then from 1:00 - 3:00? Nuttin.

I find a spot in a suite of conference rooms; I plug in my computer; I minimize a page that looks kinda workish in case anyone pops in with a question, and then I goof off on the internet. For 3 hours. 3 HOURS. Do you know how rare a privilege that is? No one at the workshop asks me for a snack. No one begs to play outside. No one whines about bunchy socks, or writhes in boredom at my feet, or attacks a sibling from behind with a plastic golf club. No one drools on my pants or attempts to dive into my shirt through the top of the v-neck.

And there are pastries. Every morning. A whole tray of pastries beside big thermoses of coffee, and the thermoses are refilled all day long. The workshop participants go into their sessions and leave me alone with this bounty. No one is around to see that I have eaten 2 danishes. Then 3. Then maybe, at 11 o'clock, just cause there is no other snack available, one more danish and another cup of coffee with a little splash of decaf in it cause I'm just healthy that way.

After a year of planning this thing, of putting up with all the minutiae of organizing a conference, this week is my reward. I EARNED this. Am I ashamed? I am not. Have I been forthcoming about my week with my family? I have not. I have protected this idleness from any requests that may rain down upon me if family members realize that I have spent more than 20 minutes occupied with something other than family business.

Today is Friday, the last day of the workshop. In some ways I am happy that this is my last day of work for the rest of the summer. I have all of July and half of August free, with mountains of time to goof off with the kids. I do love days like that, days when we loaf in our pajamas until 10 and then slowly make our way to the library or the store or the park.

But this time next week, when I am sitting with Paige in the pee-warmed baby pool, watching the boys splash around in the big pool and out-yell any other children within a 5 mile radius, when they pad over to beg for .75 cents to buy a miniature bag of Sun Chips, I am going to close my eyes and visualize this conference room with its shiny table, its fake crystal chandelier, and its carefully arranged pitchers of ice water, and I am going sigh for the loss of this idleness, these hours of reading Perez Hilton and playing Scrabble Cubes. And then I am going to take a deep breath, look at my adorably soggy children and say, "NO! We JUST. HAD. LUNCH."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Link of the Week: Saturday, June 9, 2007

I know I already posted about this week, but that was a super-dooper-couldn't-wait-for-the-link-of-the-week website that I will love forever.

So, sticking with this week's theme of beauty and style, the official link of the week is a blog called
Oh Happy Day. It is a collection of pretty things, updated daily by blog author Jordan Ferney. I don't remember how I came across it, but I was probably browsing other blogs and following links, and now I visit every day.

I like the site because the author has impeccable taste, the site is beautifully designed--clean and visually interesting--and it inspires me to make my own home prettier. In fact, lately I have pledged to myself that when we move I will consider it a clean slate and will try harder to decorate our living space with objects and furniture that we truly love. Maybe that's something to strive for in 18 years, when no one can pick the stuffing out of the arm of my couch, but to some extent, I think I can do it. Hell, I have friends with kids who do it (ahem, Jane and Jenn).

Enjoy Oh Happy Day and follow her suggested links! She has some great sites listed there, as well.

Their Lives Flashed Before My Eyes

Two scares this week, and that's enough for me, thank you.

The first one happened on Wednesday. I'd had just about enough of the Bobos ("big brothers"), so I hauled them off to their room for a nap. Naps are rare for the boys these days because if they nap, they don't go to bed until at LEAST 9:00 if not much later, but some days I just can't wait for bedtime to restore my sanity.

We read some books, then I got up to put Paige to bed. Owen started whining that he wasn't tired, didn't want to sleep, needed a snack etc. If he's tired enough to sleep, he doesn't usually argue, so I told him he could go out and quietly watch a movie on the couch. Mitch was already snuggled in and content, so he stayed put. As I left the room, John came in to take a cat nap and have a snuggle with Mitch. I put Paige to bed.

When I came out 20 minutes later, John was back at the computer, and the house was quiet. Really, really quiet. Owen wasn't in the family room, so I checked the playroom. No Owen. I asked John where Owen was, expecting him to tell me he'd come to bed after all, but he didn't know either. As John started calling Owen's name, a flutter of panic passed through my gut, and a gruesome slide show of possibilities--seriously awful scenarios--started up in my brain: kidnapping, freak accident, crossing the street alone, wandering through the neighborhood... I didn't think Owen would leave the house without permission, but we could not find him.

We'd already looked in the bedroom once, but John went back in to check again, and I followed. As I entered the doorway, I noticed, at the same time John did, a spot of blue under the covers: Owen's shirt. And there he was, sprawled on the bed, thumb half out of his mouth, glasses still on, a puddle of drool on his pillow. He'd crawled into bed unnoticed, pulled the covers over his head, and gone to sleep, and John hadn't seen him when he left the room. Oh thank god. Thank god thank god thank god.

Suddenly, the 30 minutes of quiet I was after didn't seem quite so desirable, after having imagined our loud-mouthed, relentlessly needy, sometimes purely obnoxious first born child lost or maimed somewhere out in the world.

The second scare was last night.

We were at the pool and had finally convinced Mitch that he could safely stand in the 2 feet. After finding his footing, he went from deathly afraid of swimming in the big pool (though the 2 feet is in a roped off area that gets no deeper than 3 feet), to exuberantly fearless.

John was standing in the 2 feet with Mitch while pulling Paige around in her floaty, and I was with Owen, who was trying to work up the courage to swim underwater to the other side of the rope. My back was to John and Mitch and Paige. Suddenly, John barked, "Ashley!" in his panicked, do something NOW voice, and I whipped around to see what was happening. But I didn't see anything. Then I spotted him. Mitch, right behind me and nearly completely underwater, his face--blotchy, red and wracked with panic--turned up to keep it above the surface. While John was busy with Paige, Mitch had followed Owen and me from the 2 feet into the 3, and the water had gotten too deep.

I snatched him up, and he started burping and spitting up water, head on my shoulder. I kept him there well after he'd stopped coughing, feeling his furious heart beat against my chest.

That heart beat filled me with a powerful sense of relief and despair. We'd been within a hair's breath of something awful happening, and we hadn't seen it coming. That's the way of tragedy. It does not announce itself. It is sneaky and vile and forever right around the corner.

But we'd kept it at bay one more time. Thank god thank god thank god.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

If I Had a Thousand Extra Dollars...

I'd spend it all at

I came across this fabulous website a few days ago, and I must've spent 2 hours browsing it. It's a site where craftsmen and women sell handmade merchandise, and its listings are chock full o' beauty, character, and style.

I spent most of my time browsing baby clothes and art, and both sections had countless gorgeous, unique items for unbelievable prices. For instance:

These paintings, which I can imagine for a little girls room ($20.00 each):

And this sweet pinafore ($22.00) made with vintage fabric:

And these are the teensiest, tiniest tip of the Etsy iceburg. The site makes me want to throw all of my stuff away and decorate my next house for real, like a grown up person.

I have always been drawn to antique, vintage, and handmade objects (and houses). Left in these objects is something of the person who owned or crafted them, giving them a kind of...warmth, I guess. So I am thrilled to have found a place that caters to my love of soulful objects and indulges my weakness for spending money on the internet. (It's the packages--I get all giddy when UPS stops at my house!)

Make a whole lot of time and take a look.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mitch's Musings

Today, driving on the Beltline, out of a peaceful silence and from no context at all came this question from the middle child:

Mommy, what would you do if you were stuck in a bush?

Me: I would say, "Help, help! I'm stuck in a bush!"

Mitch: No you wouldn't. You would say, "Somebody get me out of this bush! It's scratching me!"

Yes, Mitch, maybe. Maybe I would.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rock A Bye Baby

I'm such a sucker. I cannot think of one other person in world for whom I would go through the rigamarole that is required to get Paige to sleep lately.

First the nursing, which is getting less snuggly by the day. We do side-lying nursing in my bed, and she starts out curled up sweetly, holding on to my finger. After the first few gulps, she begins the rolling. She rolls to the right, rolls back, nurses for 3.4 seconds, rolls to the right again, gets up on her arms, drags herself forward and tries to latch on from the tummy position. Tonight, she scooted over to me on her back and, I swear, arched upward and tipped her head like she was going to try to nurse upside down.

After I give up on the nursing, I put her in the crib on her tummy with the pacifier, and we do our "drop, grope, stick it" routine. First she drops the paci; I grope around for it; then I stick it back in her mouth. Then she drops it; I grope, stick it... You see where this is going. If she's feeling particularly sassy, she will, instead of accidentally dropping the paci, pull it out of her mouth and, I swear, drop it outside the bars of the crib. Who knew a round-faced, pink-cheeked, sweetly drooly 7 month old could be defiant? Please dear baby, give me more time. Just a wee bit more time before you join your brothers in Project Drive Mother Flippin' Nuts.

When she gets just sleepy enough to hold on to the pacifier but not quite sleepy enough to actually, you know, go to sleep, she plays bumper pad peek-a-boo. First she teases me by lying quietly for a minute or so with her eyes drooping. Then she experiments with the limits of my patience by raising up and clawing at the crib bumper until she has pulled it down far enough to peek over the top and grin at me. The grin, oh so darling, causes the paci to drop; I grope... So you see, it's a 1 step forward, 2 steps back thing.

If she takes too long to settle down, I have to resort to the finger holding strategy. For this one, I lie down on the bed beside her crib (yes, she's still in our room. If you want to object, email my mother and ask to sign the petition) and stick an arm through the crib bars so she can hang on to my finger or stroke the back of my hand as she dozes off. This is a last resort, however, because once I commit to the finger holding strategy, I'm in it for the long haul. I cannot remove my hand until she is well asleep--that is, past REM sleep and on her way to heavy, loose-limbed sleep. If I try to remove my hand prematurely, her head pops up and she reprimands me with a whine that, if studied by the Baby Whisperer, would probably translate to, "What kind of mother are you? Only devoting 45 minutes of your precious night to holding my finger...hmph." If that happens, we start over.

However, if it comes to finger holding, there is a small window of time before my arms goes numb and my stores of patience are depleted during which I feel the purest sort of bliss. When Paige reaches for my hand and wraps her fingers around mine, I remember that I am her alpha and omega. It is the deepest kind of intimacy to lie in the dark beside your baby and feel her tiny fingers stroke the back of your hand, to hear her breath slowing and deepening, to finally feel her limbs slacken, and to know that she only fell asleep--finally--because she believed she was safe. Because she was holding on to you.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Top Ten Idiosyncrasies of the Big Brothers

Top Ten Idiosyncrasies of the Big Brothers

Owen's fear of the beeping coffee maker, which causes him to hide on the stoop in the carport every morning, hands over ears, until the coffee has finished brewing.

Mitch's love affair with Dee Dee, which is not his name for his favorite blanket, but his name for the TAG on his favorite blanket, which Owen accidentally tore off yesterday and about which Mitch bawled until it was sewed back on.

Mitch's love of shoes, and his belief that putting on a pair of shoes means one is "going to work."

Owen's obsession with "driving home a different way" and taking new exits off the Beltline.

Mitch's use of the word "soaking" in place of the word "very," as in, "I'm soaking tired" or "I'm soaking dirty."

Both boys' insistence on yelling hello to anyone who walks by our house, regardless of the person's appearance (remember, we live very close to downtown), and their persistence if said person does not respond immediately. They continue calling hello until he does answer, causing John and I to hide behind the van and hiss at them to stop it before we get mugged.

Mitch's embarrassing tendency to ask complete strangers for their keys and/or cellphones.

Mitch's recitation of the ABC's, which includes, "H, I, K, K and a little P."

Owen's talents as an emcee/sports announcer/commercial voice over-er. He does play-by-play for our driveway games of baseball, hockey, and basketball, and both boys play "infomercial" in the sandbox, using buckets and shovels as the products they are demonstrating.

For both, favorite snack = two pieces of plain bread. Wouldja like some water with that?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Link of the Week: Saturday, June 2, 2007

Today I'm sharing a site that I recently added to my daily visit list. It's called Lifehacker, and it's rad.

Basically, it's a site about how to make life easier. Much of the content has to do with computers: file extensions, keyboard shortcuts, useful freeware/shareware. And all of that is helpful if you care about that kind of thing (I care about, like, half of it). But also on the site are tips for making everyday life easier (i.e. "life hacks"), and I've come across several that I've added to my repertoire.

My current favorite is a video demonstration of a potato chip bag fold that will keep your chips fresh even if you have no chip clip, and who wants stale chips? Not I, sir.

Check it out. It's the Link of the Week.

I hope I remember to do this next Saturday...

Friday, June 1, 2007

We Are Family

I took all 3 kids to Roanoke Park today--it's a "mini-park," just a little strip of jungle gym, sandpit, and blacktop between 2 one way streets in Five Points. The kids love it because the blacktop has become a repository for people's cast off ride-on toys: cozy coupes, small bikes and trikes, scooters, even a seen-better-days Power Wheels. It's also known to my boys as "the park where you can pee in the bushes" because there is no bathroom and once--ONCE--I let them go pee inside a big, hollow bush in the corner of the park. The hollow bush was so great, they stayed in there afterward and played "secret fort." Only boys. No qualms at all about playing where they'd just peed.

When we got to Roanoke Park today, they spotted a new ride-on toy, a little toddler car with a push handle. Mitch ran over and called back, "Mommy! A car for Paige! A car for Paige!" He insisted that she ride it, so I buckled her in, and Owen and Mitch took turns pushing her slowly around the blacktop. They got the biggest kick out of seeing her squeal and grin with the excitement of her first ride.

It's amazing to me how much both boys appreciate watching Paige experience new things. They love watching her try to pick up fruit puffs, play her xylophone, sit up on her own. They dote on her completely. It's heartwarming--and probably short lived. I'm sure their adoration will diminish when Paige starts crawling and wrecks a few of their games or snatches their toys. And woe to the baby who knocks over Owen's painstakingly constructed train-track highways and road signs. I hope she's a fast crawler.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying how smitten they are. The minute I put Paige down for a nap, Mitch asks when she is going to wake up, and when he finally does hear her on the monitor, he jumps up from whatever he's doing and gallops back to the crib to see her. By the time I come in, he's usually in the crib with her. Both boys come running any time I have her on the changing table. They race to beat each other to her room, then jockey for a spot where they can see and talk to her.

Today Mitch got down on the floor with Paige while I ate a quick bite of lunch. They were playing peek-a-boo with a blanket, and Mitch was pretending to make Paige disappear. He'd toss the blanket over her, wave his arms and say, in his mysterious magician voice, "Capital Boulevard!" Then he'd yank the blanket off of her, and she'd kick and squeal.

I'm not sure why Mitch was using "Capital Boulevard" (a busy road near our neighborhood) as his magic word, but watching them was magical. My children may evolve into sworn enemies later in their childhoods, but I know that the joy they find in one another now, the bond they are forming, is strong enough to connect them for life.

I may regret those bonds when their father and I are old and the three of them are complaining about us behind our backs, but in the end, I suppose that's what brothers and sisters are for. And hopefully, they will be annoyed enough by John that my name will never come up.