Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I've been thinking about my New Year's resolution, even though I don't typically torture myself with those rarely actualized self-promises that ultimately leave me feeling guilty and deflated and rife with self-loathing. But this year, something has to change.

My family is at a crossroads, faced with a difficult truth that comes into focus a bit more sharply every day: It is time to stir some very stagnant waters, specifically financial waters and the waters of bodily health. Our lives simply cannot move forward successfully unless belts tighten in more ways than one. But you know how that is, complacency and denial can place a death grip on the will. That is where we are now, complacently denying the need to DO SOMETHING about what's unhealthy in our lives.

This all boils down to my seemingly very simple New Year's resolution: to return my library books on time in 2008.

See, I've thought about this a good bit lately, and my inability to follow through on the simple task of returning library books represents all the other ways I let things slide in my life. This sloppiness is more than procrastination; there is something psychological behind my refusal to complete certain tasks, some mental block, some imp of the perverse waiting to be defeated.

I have trouble with the concept of "just doing it," which is all any life change requires, really. No need to wring hands and suffer. Just make the changes. Just get in the car and return the library books. There's even book drop parking for heck's sake.

But I need to start small. I need to show myself that I can change a bad habit, even if it's a relatively insignificant one, and prove to myself that change isn't as complicated as I imagine it to be. It's simple, really. Write the due date down. Get the books together on or before that date. Take them to the library. Put them in the slot.

The rest will trickle down, I hope. It really must. We're past due on more than library books, and the fines will only increase the longer we wait.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I've had my brothers and sisters on my mind. I don't spend much time considering my relationships with them, and I think that's because they've always just been there, and I know that, no matter the arguments that (still) crop up between us, no matter the petty disagreements, our relationships will always bounce back. Their lives are linked to mine permanently, and as those who met you in the womb have a tendency to do, they know me all ways, the good, the bad, and the ugly (and things can get mighty ugly between siblings).

Tonight I'm giving thanks for them by recounting a favorite memory about each one, an obscure memory that I might not have shared with them before.

It's an early, early Christmas memory. I think I was 3 or 4, but it was definitely pre-Blair. I got a little table and 4 plastic blue chairs, along with a Fisher Price stove and set of pots, pans, and play food. For some reason, we had Christmas in the den, not the living room, and Mom and Dad had set the little table up in the kitchen. You sat and played with me and my new kitchen set for what seemed like hours. I basked in the rare bliss of having your undivided attention, a sister 8 years older who usually had to be begged to play.

I was in 9th grade, and you were home on leave from the Navy. We went out cruising in the Malibu. We drove down this winding road near the river and talked and laughed and got a Slurpee, and you gave me a cigarette, which, yes, wasn't the healthiest or most responsible thing to to, but to me it was a gift of pure, unadulterated acceptance. Suddenly you enjoyed my company, and it made me feel mighty big.

I was 10 or 11, you were 4 or 5. We were lying on the bed in your room, and I was drawing Roxie and Ralphie pictures while you watched over my shoulder. I was telling stories about them (they were imaginary dogs, with an owner named Catherine, usually played by Blair) and drawing the action as I narrated. You were riveted, and I had that feeling (one I still love) of being lost in the game while time unraveled around us and the business of the house stayed on the other side of the bedroom door. I wish I could find those drawings. We had a whole collection of them in a green spiral bound notebook.

I am grateful to have had all of you for brothers and sisters, and I love you all, always.

Friday, November 16, 2007

You are my favorite because

My mom tells a story about my sister Blair once asking her, "Who's your favorite?" The question warmed my mother's heart because she realized that Blair wouldn't have asked unless she thought she was the favorite, and isn't it every mom's wish for each of her children to feel that special?

My favorite part of the story is my mom's answer to the question. She said, "You're my favorite because..." and listed all the reasons Blair was special to her. Then she said, "And Kelly is my favorite because...." and "Neal is my favorite because..." and "Ashley is my favorite because..." And it was an honest answer. She had four favorites, all for different reasons, which was just exactly the right answer and is just exactly how I feel about my own kids.

My very first favorite is turning 6 today, which puts a small lump in my throat. I can still look at him and feel the brand new momma love that filled me to overflowing 6 years ago. The first time I felt that love from head to toe was the morning after Owen was born. I was dozing in my hospital bed, trying to ignore the hot throbbing of my cesarean incision and a bit out of my wits from pain medication. John had spent the night at home and was coming to the hospital early, but he hadn’t arrived yet. I was alone. The room was half-lit with the purple glow of 6:00 AM in November and quiet but for the gasping of some monitor they’d strapped me to. The nurse came in with Owen and told me his body temperature was down. She untied my hospital gown and helped me bear my chest; then she stripped Owen to his diaper and laid him on my breast. “He needs your body heat,” she told me. “I’ll come back in an hour.”

The night before had been long and brutal, a nearly 30 hour labor ending in an unexpected and emotional c-section. I’d been a mess in recovery, shaking and sobbing, and they’d kept me there longer than usual, so I’d had very little time with my baby. The time I did have was bleary and crowded with family who’d come to see. Now the nurse left me alone with this small, warm, breathing boy tucked under my chin. She'd given him to me because I was his mother and it was my body heat he needed. Artificial warming lamps were no match for my blood-warmed body, pulsing with the heat and the love he needed.

I experienced that moment out of time. I’d never felt so exactly in the right place, so content and certain and calm. I think of that hour as my initiation into motherhood. I’d been on the threshold before, but during those minutes alone with Owen for the first time and nurturing him wholly for the first time, I crossed into that realm from which you can never retreat, the realm of mothering and its fulfillment, its love, its fear, its anxiety, its complication, its sadness.

Owen is my favorite because…

He thinks my jokes are funny and he makes jokes that I think are funny.

He loves reading and writing and music.

His dearest birthday wish is a package of dry erase markers.

He hugs his brother and sister goodnight every single day.

He loves school as much as I loved school.

He can’t tell a lie and has the guiltiest conscience of anyone I’ve met.

He taught me to be a mother, and he gave me my first taste of the gorgeous, swooning love of parenthood.

Happy birthday, Snowball!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Letting the riff raff in

It's a rite a of passage for any serious blogger, and now it is time for my initiation. Today I present to you the best of the Google searches that have led wayward visitors to my blog:

1. "Maturity clothes"
Maturity clothes include business suits, pencil skirts, high heels, and anything in houndstooth.

2. "My son is driving me crazy"
Mine too!

3. "Nurses with stinky feet"
Don't you HATE that? I hate that.

4. "One year old who eats lint"
Oh dear, you must be a first time mom. Don't worry unless the "lint" comes from the litter box.

5. "Smack bottom hard children"
What? How in the world did that search lead HERE? Ludicrous.

6. "What are persons idiosyncrasies mean?"
Well, if a person's idiosyncrasies include the inability to form a marginally coherent sentence, they mean "stay in school."

7. "What do 5 entwined circles mean?"
That means "Olympics."

8. "What should I be teaching my 7 month old?"

  • Toilets are not fun, fun playtime
  • Your brothers love you even when they sit on your head
  • Cheerios found under the refrigerator are not for eating
  • Sleeping through the night = nice mommy; Waking up every 3 hours = red-eyed-hanging-on-by-a thread mommy
  • Mommy only takes these little pills when things get really really nutty. And don't mention them to daddy.
9. "What does rock a bye baby mean?"
I can't really explain it, but I can tell you that asking this question probably means you were never loved as a child.

10. "Why is mommy so mean for reals?"
You try budget grocery shopping with 3 kids on 2 hours of sleep while the "Backyardigans" theme song loops endlessly through your head.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Handmade hullabaloo

So a couple of weeks ago, I sorta took this pledge to buy/make handmade gifts for everyone on my Christmas list this year. I say "sorta" because I still haven't thought up any handmade items to suit my 9 and 12 year old nephews--I can't picture them getting really excited about a tote bag or a quilted belt. And I can't whittle.

Anyway, this new sewing hobby has me a little high right now. I can't tell you how exhilarating it is to finish a project, to feel the pride of having created something beautiful(ish). So to have an excuse to sew has made me a bit of a hermit. I have a gift/project list a mile long, a closet stuffed with vintage fabric that I scored at a yard sale last weekend, and a permanent crick in my neck. John misses me. When he complains, I remind him how much money I'm saving by making our Christmas gifts. Nevermind the twice weekly trips to Jo-Ann's and the notions and needles and interfacing and dish towels and sewing books I've bought. I'm saving money, dammit!

I would love to share my f.o.'s here (it's sewing lingo--you wouldn't understand), but I have family lurking about, and I'd hate to blow any surprises. Maybe I'll set up a flickr group and relatives can be on the no-snoop honor system. I'll just enforce the rule that my parents handed down when we were little: if you snoop and discover your present, you take it then and there, and you'll have nothing under the tree for Christmas. So there. Remember, I can trace your outclicks, people.

I think a great deal about all the other work I should be doing while I sew: blogging here and at BabyCenter...grading papers...taking care of the children...nurturing my marriage...watching my DVR'ed episodes of The Hills. But the Singer calls to me every night (Singer, you know, like a siren). I think (hope?) some of my enthusiasm is bound to wear off, but until then, miss me. I'm busy doing all of this:

(okay, okay, f.o. = finished object. And I just learned that yesterday.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

To wean or not to wean

Paige is now 1 year and 2 weeks old, and she's still a total boob-a-holic. I've always understood and sympathized with arguments for child-led weaning (to a degree...I admit I can't get on board with women who are still nursing kids old enough to read) and I considered it an admirable achievement for women to nurse for the entire first year or longer.

I revise my position: It's great for everyone ELSE to be able to nurse a baby past a year. But I hate it.

Lately, Paige is a violent eater. She seems torn between snuggling in to nurse and going straight to sleep. She'll latch on for 30 seconds, then claw me, kick me, and push me away. But If I button up the goods, she has a conniption. So I give her the other side, hoping she was simply dissatisfied with the angle of the nipple, and the whole thing starts again. I don't enjoy putting her to bed anymore. John puts her down every night because she won't take a bottle or a pacifier from me, and nursing her for both naps has already worn me down, mentally and physically.

It's time to wean, I know, but I'm not sure how to do it. Owen and Mitch both gave up nursing readily and of their own accord at about 7 months old. I didn't have to coax or deny them. We were both ready and it all ended happily. But Paige isn't likely to take the loss very well. She's still compelled to nurse, still drawn to it passionately, even though something in her is clearly ready to move on. I just have no strategy for weaning a child who isn't ready to wean, and I'm not even sure I should wean her if she's not ready.

Part of me wants to wait it out. Maybe in a few more weeks the part of her that's done with the boob will overtake the part of her that yearns for it, and I won't have to cut her off. But I hate the anger that surges in me when she demands the breast, then writhes and complains and scratches. Every offering of my milk is tinged with resentment and irritation, and it's taking a toll on both of us.

I'm tired of the squirmy, crabby, demanding baby she's become when I put her to bed. I'm anxious to rediscover those peaceful moments of drifting off at bedtime, her drowsy eyes blinking up at me, her breathing deepening, her little body limp and warm.

That's the part of nursing I love, and it's over for us. I suppose she has weaned me in a sense, and now we both just have to come to terms with the falling away of her babyhood. But that's hard. She's the last of my babies, and these months have gone fast.

Maybe I'm torn, too.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A week in review

Just catching up on recording the little things I'm likely to forget, which was my purpose for starting this blog anyhow...

Wednesday (Halloween):
I always know my children are sick before I know they are sick. I could tell the minute Owen got into the car last Wednesday. His face was droopy and pale, his eyes dull and sagging. His eyes have always shown sickness clearly.

I left work early to go Trick or Treating and called John on the way home. Owen was asleep--at 6:00. I told John, "Go feel him." Yep, a fever. 102. Poor Owen. He cried and cried when Mitch, Paige and I came home with the loot. But Mitch the Witch crawled up on the couch beside Owen the should-have-been ghost and opened his bag o' loot. "Look at all the candy we got!" Yes, he said "we." Those two fight like bandits all day long, but man do they adore each other. Owen dipped his hand right in and helped himself and Mitch beamed.

Owen woke up acutely aware that it was November, his birthday month. After wracking our brains over what to do for a party without spending an obscene amount of money, we've decided to buck the system and have a very small get together with only 3 of Owen's good friends. I was immediately relieved, and Owen was all for it. How much more fun it will be to have good buddies around to play with rather than a crowd of kids and the chaos of a 15-child party. I'm appalled at how much places want parents to pay for a child's party these days. If we had a bigger house, we'd be pinning tails on donkeys and dropping clothespins in jars right here every year. It's gotten to be too much. So I'm refusing to do it. I'm sick of the excess.

My niece's birthday. We went over for cake and presents, and it was fun to see my brother and sister. And the cousins, as always, were giddily gleeful to be together. My niece liked her present, and the only bump in that road was Owen's also liking her present--so much that he didn't want to leave because he hadn't played with it yet.

We went to the fall festival at the neighborhood elementary school (not Owen's school). The weather was amazing, 65 and sunny, and it was more fun spending money (on games and rides) knowing it was going to the school. Our jaws dropped at the difference between the donated items in the silent auction and raffle at this school and the school (in a much more affluent area) festival we went two a couple of weeks ago. Not equal. It made me sad. The DJ played "Staying Alive," and Paige found her calling: disco dancing.

Cleaning and resting and sewing. Fabric shopping with my mom for a bit. Perfect day.

Paige cracked me up this morning, holding the phone up to her ear and saying, "Hi." But it's more like "Ha"; "hi" with a bit of a drawl, I suppose. She's got a few words now: hi, mama, dada, nana (banana and all other food), ni ni (night, night). I love love love one year olds. Every day is an adventure. Every day she grows in some new way. She loves to climb and explore. And, of course, every day her adventures wear me out a little bit more.

School was easy tonight. I'm off to sew again since I don't have papers to grade. I had a friend commission me to make a bundle baby for her. I'm excited that someone wants my stuff! And I'm thrilled that my friend's 2 year old loves her own bundle baby.

Here are a few stuffies I've made lately that I'm particularly proud of (I'm still a beginner, though, so forgive the crookedness of these toys):

Bundle Babies #2 and #3

Sock Dogs: Argyle and Brady