Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Monday Mission - On Valentines Day

This Valentines Day there's just one thing I want
And I promise I'll tell you, once I say what it's NOT.
So Babies and Daddy please stop right here
And listen to all that I DON'T want this year.

I don't want bright flowers to tickle my nose
Or soft fuzzy slippers to warm up my toes.
I don't want chocolates wrapped with string
Or perfume, or lace or a new diamond ring.

I don't want a kitten all soft and purry
Or a new cuddly teddy bear, big, brown and furry.
I don't want dinner or dancing, or a night on the town
Or pajamas with hearts or a "Best Mama" crown.

I don't even want Valentines scribbled in crayon
Or tissue bouquets made by your tiny hands.
It's all lovely, my dears, and the thoughts are the BEST
But I DONT want a bit of it, nor all of the rest.

What I want is unusual as far as gifts go.
You can't put it in a box or wrap it up with a bow.
What I want can't be found at a store on a shelf.
What I want for Valentines Day is...


One day all ALONE from morning to night
Without wiping chins or refereeing a fight.
No Daddy, no kids, no pets and no noise
And please make it somewhere without any toys.

I want to read a whole book from beginning to end
And sleep til I wake-up, and then sleep again!
I want to take a long bath without one knock at the door
And eat a meal warm, without crumbs on the floor.

I want to hear SILENCE to read, write, and pray
And to only brush my teeth at the end of the day.
And when I drift off to sleep I'll thank God for each one of you
And the day you gave me ALONE, with nothing to do.

This silly representation of a real life fantasy of mine, is part of the Monday Mission which was to write a post in the form of a children's story or poem. For more Monday Mission participants, or to link your own, visit Painted Maypole.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Little of This, A Lot of That

This week, after being inspired by Lisa, I joined the 5 AM Club. Except, it's the 6 AM Club here. I won't lie and say it's been life changing, but I am trusting that will come with faithfulness. It has been good. It's necessary. My family feels like it's under attack right now, and I need the armor. And the patience. And the time to do laundry. It's also making me really tired about 5 PM each afternoon.

The Man is out of town for the weekend. I can't express how much I dislike it when The Man goes out of town. My patience cup has sprung a leak lately, and now it's dry as a bone. I miss him. He's the other half of this ragtag parenting team, and I don't work well without him.

I have been consoling myself by watching much of the first season of Battlestar Galactica on DVD, while successfully ignoring the heckling from my teenager.

Clara went to her 18 month appointment last week. Despite some deliciously cherubic evidence to the contrary, she's measuring tall and thin. She impressed the doctor with her speech and charming personality.

No that wasn't sarcasm.

The doctor was not impressed, however, with her knee walking, even after I pointed out what a hit it was at parties. And although I argued strongly - and surprisingly - that it wasn't necessary, Clara now has an appointment for a neurological evaluation next week. And maybe an orthopedic evaluation after that. That one I think may be necessary. If someone was asking me.

And somehow this bulldozing by the doctor to get her evaluated has brought a whisper of worry into my consciousness, where none was before.

Yesterday, I went for a test called a sonohystogram. It's like an ultrasound you have in your first trimester, but without the excitement of looking for a heartbeat. And it also involved some other steps which I will spare you. But suffice to say it was lovely in the way that only having your feet up in stirrups can be. Anyway, they found a polyp. A small polyp. And I guess they will have to remove it or something. We are going to discuss that on Monday.

This discovery makes me genuinely happy. It is exactly the outcome I had been praying for. I had this test because of some troublesome "womanly" problems I had been having. I'll spare you the details on those as well. Because I am nice like that. But finding a problem, means finding a solution, which should make things better for me.

It also makes me think of Clara' situation in a slightly different light. Because if she does have an issue preventing her from walking, than maybe finding that out would be a blessing as well. Because we could address it, and her quality of life would improve.

Or maybe she's just impossibly stubborn and likes walking on her knees. Which I still think is a strong possibility.

Ben is finally potty trained. Yes, he is almost four three-and-a-half. And don't ask me for advice, because nothing I did seemed to make a bit of difference. He did it, on his own, when he was ready. Which was something I knew but forgot when I, once again, found myself caught up in the world of kid comparisons. You would think I would know better by now.

If you really want advice, that's it: they'll do it when they are ready, and in the grand scheme of things it makes no difference if they do it at 2-and-a-half or 3-and-a-half or 5. So go worry about something else.

But now I am down to one in diapers. Hallelujah.

Brandon is grounded. Possibly for eternity. And the most disturbing part is that he no longer seems to care. I don't know what to do with that. But it scares me. More than defiance, or sulking. So pray for him, will ya? I'm counting on God to pick up the reigns on this one. Because I'm out.

Lastly, blogging is barely on my radar right now, as apparent by my measly one post a week. So please forgive my semi-absent status, or rejoice in it.

Either way works for me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The most schizophrenic blog entry ever.

I am in a dark place right now. A place I would never admit to most people I know. Yet, I long to write about it here, to lay bare the ugliness of my heart to the blogosphere and let it be soothed by your balm of wisdom and commiseration and intuitive words. I have found that soul-baring posts are good for my soul. It takes time for me to pour myself out into words and make certain that those words are honest - as honest as I can stand - and unambiguous. The process itself of defining my thoughts, setting my emotions into boxes neat enough to be labeled with tags like 'despair' or 'inadequacy', is therapeutic. Nailing down the swirling angst to portray what I think, how I really feel, so I can give it a shape. A name. A word. It's journaling at it's finest. And here, in this place, the journal talks back with a voice of acceptance that is unique to those who don't really know us.

But oh, all that introspection, and the subsequent expression takes time. And all the time I have - all I have had for weeks - is a few borrowed moments while older children are occupying younger ones, and dishes sit congealing on the counter.

(But to keep from being cryptic, and sounding all coy, I'll just tell ya...this parenting gig. It's kicking my tail friends. Kicking. My. Tail. And I am finding myself constantly praying. And looking around for a life preserver.)

But instead of that mess, I am going to write about the frivolous and the happy, because, quite simply I feel the urge to write something. It nags at me when I don't. And those topics are easy, and quick. And like the rest of my neglected children, I would rather give my blog some superficial attention than none at all. And because writing about the happy moments is, in itself, a kind of therapy. Avoidance therapy. I know it well.

In fact, I am going to write about snow, again. Because it snowed on Saturday, again! I can feel the collective eye rolling from my Yankee and Canadian readers. (I know! Can you believe people all the way in Canada read this stuff?) But really, Y'all..snow! Twice in one week. In Georgia! It was like a bona fide miracle. There were songs of praise to Jesus being lifted up by four foot people all over the state.

And even more gloriously, this time The Man was off work for the great event. And he took Ben outside for two entire hours of snowtastic fun while Clara and I watched from inside the house. They built a snowman. And had snowball fights. And would you believe that because of this miracle of nature, and The Man's remarkable endurance for snowtime activities with a three-year-old, I actually got to take a bath and a shower in the same day? Without a single knock at the bathroom door, for either. Not even one.

Now that truly was miraculous. And you can bet I was singing my own praises right along with the four foot crowd.

And in the process of this soap and water windfall, I finished a book. Reading is another thing I haven't had much time for lately and I was starting to think my literary list for 2008 was going to read:

"Started Odd Thomas, review coming in 2009."

But I finally finished it. And it was a huge departure from anything I would normally read. I can't imagine why I put it on my reading list to start with. I can't even watch 24 without having nightmares. I am bewildered by the sudden burst of valor that inspired me to take on Dean Koontz. The plot wasn't terribly original. A man who sees dead people - where have I heard that before? But the endearing first person voice and the quirky characters gave it heart, and even humor. Overall I enjoyed it, even if I did have to put it down at one point and run, scampering, to my husband for protection. And even if he did laugh at me. And offer to protect me, from my big scary book. Even so, I still devoured those last several chapters like a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk. And that's saying something.

And now I have one book to put on my list for 2008. My accomplishments are overwhelming.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When it snows in Georgia

The doorbell rang. We were expecting it. Allison's friend, Hayley, was picking her up for Wednesday night church. "I'm leaving mom!" she yelled into the kitchen where I was making dinner.

"Bye, honey!" I yelled back.

Suddenly, I heard Hayley's voice squealing from our doorstep, "Look, it's snoowwing!" Followed by more squealing.

I ran to the front door and found Allison and Hayley embracing and jumping up and down while screaming, "It's snowing! It's snowing! It's snowing!" In a moment Ben was beside them jumping too and Clara even managed to crawl right out the front door into the snow. All hollering and celebrating. It was like a scene right out of last night's American Idol.

Clara has never seen snow. Ben has never seen snow, except on Christmas movies. Even Allison, my eleven year old, has only one recollection of a snow big enough to make snowballs out of.

Eventually Allison and Hayley headed off to church and Ben begged me for the next hour to go outside and play. "After dinner." I kept saying, because I couldn't leave the stove. Finally, dinner was eaten and Brandon and Ben threw on coats and gloves and ran out into the dark. Even Clara crawled right out onto the back deck after them, and I had to chase her down to put her coat on. There she sat on the soggy ground in her knit pants. Bewildered...but perfectly content to watch the snow and her brothers.

It was a magical moment, etched in my heart by the rarity of it. Snow. And even more children all celebrating and playing together when it's not even Christmas. That brings us up to like, twice a year. Glory!


Tomorrow, school will probably be canceled. And if it's not, we'll go in late. Because there is snow to play in, and who knows when we will all get along see it again.

It turns out pictures taken through falling snow don't turn out well. I never knew. The photos are blurry but I think the joy is still clear.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Clara - The Director's Cut

Clara at birth. Look how peaceful she looks. She's sneaky like that.

In the morning our fireball of a baby girl will be eighteen months old. I'll take her to get shots, to be weighed and measured. Then on Thursday we'll tame her mullet, dress her up, pin a bow in her hair and do portraits. They'll take 100 shots, and we'll pick one. One shot of her looking sweet, and smiling, and if we're lucky, a bit of her spunk will show through. And we'll put it in a frame. Our pretty girl. Because she is beautiful. And sweet. Sometimes she really is sweet.

But these pictures. These are the real thing. Of the girl who makes me pull out my hair, and makes my heart do somersaults of joy.

I can't believe I've only known her a year and a half.

An entire year and a half. The time seems wrong, too short and too long all at once.

I just keep thinking how quiet our home must have been before she joined it.

And how incomplete.

And I am grateful. Overwhelmingly grateful that God gave me the chance to be her mama. And for the extra patience and wisdom He surely knows I will need for the job.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dieting Myth #2

Myth #2-Don't use having young children as an excuse not to be active. You can exercise with your children!

Okay, I have to admit my initial response to this one was...BWAA HAA HAA HA HA! This myth has also been tested by me in earnest. I am a seasoned mama who has been up and down a diet/exercise yo-yo for the last ten years. The parenting magazines circulate this myth every year or so. Here are some examples of advice I found on the topic:

This is for exercising at home with infants and preschoolers:
"Occupy them for even 15 minutes with a video or toy while you do some toning exercises."
Okay, I guess it's possible that some infants and preschoolers would be occupied with a toy or a video while their mama is on the floor grunting and contorting, but I can tell you for a fact what happens when I do this: I immediately become far more interesting than any toy or video. Suddenly Mama is a jungle gym, and a trampoline all in one. Or sometimes the babies will just crawl on top of me and lay there motionless... amazed at the incredible Jello-y softness of my postpartum belly. It amazes me too kiddos.

Or how about this advice for getting exercise with your children at the local playground?
Go across the money bars, even just once. Do pull-ups using a bar on the playground. Do tricep curls on a park bench. Push your children on the swing, doing squats between each push. Swing yourself to work your leg muscles.
Oookaay. Supposing I was confidant enough with my overweight body to not feel embarrassed by doing pull-ups (Are there really moms that can do pull-ups? I can't even do one.) on the monkey bars or squats between swing pushes, this might work. Except that I have an eighteen month old and a 3 year old. And my time at the play ground is spent keeping them from eating wood chips or throwing themselves off high places. But I guess that counts as some exercise. I know I am at least exercising my lungs by yelling "Ben, No!" & "Clara, Spit that out!" 253 times.

Oh, but this tip about getting exercise with teenagers is my favorite:
"Don’t just sit and cheer your kids at their sporting events. Every few minutes do some walking or jumping jacks or squats."
I can see it now. Every time Brandon scores a goal in basketball I will get up and start squatting and doing jumping jacks. I think this one may be worth trying just for the humiliated teenager factor.

UPDATE: Since I started writing this I attended one of Brandon's basketball games where the mother next to me actually did lunges and squats throughout most of the game. I don't know if her son in the game noticed, but her teenage daughter, in attendance with her, promptly declared her "too embarrassing to sit by" and moved to the other side of the gym. That woman is now my idol. I have started stalking her in my free time. Which obviously means never.

So tongue-in-cheek commentary aside, here's the truth on this myth: Over the years, I have tried numerous ways to get a real workout in while my kids are awake. I have found only two solutions.
  1. Put them both in a double stroller or wagon and push/pull all 60 pounds of them through the neighborhood or a park. Be prepared to stop frequently to retrieve toys, bribe with snacks, and keep Clara from pulling Ben's hair. (You know, If you happened to have kids named Ben & Clara) If your fitness level is close to mine, you may need these frequent stops to keep yourself from passing out from the exertion of pushing/pulling sixty pounds up and down hills.
  2. Join a gym with childcare.
I recommend option two.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A girl unlike me.

It is without question that I am a girly-girl. Pink has been my favorite color since birth - although I vaguely remember a fling with green somewhere around kindergarten or first grade. I love makeup and clothes - in appropriate sizes - jewelry and hats. Especially hats. I haven't even a sprinkling of knowledge of cars or weapons or fishing poles, or movies containing copious amounts of bodily function humor. And, with a couple exceptions, I really dislike sports. While I admit that my aversion to athletics may have started as a result of my astounding lack of coordination, I cannot even feign appreciation as a spectator. Unless one of the men in my life is playing. Which they do. Often. My poor husband, who watches more football than one would think possible for an employed adult, has long given up on me accepting the position next to him on the sofa. The one of second string armchair quarterback.

When Allison was born it didn't take long to discover I had birthed a kindred spirit in these regards. I still find it hard to believe she wasn't born wearing a tiara. Maybe she lost it in the womb. That would explain some of the lumps and bulges she left behind. I tried to encourage her to tryout athletics so as not to predispose her to the life of PE humiliations I had lived. But, bless her heart, she is as uncoordinated and disinterested as her mama. By the age of eight she would pronounce matter-of-factly "Sports are not my thing. I like music and art." And, as wrong as it is, my heart soared a little. Because somewhere inside I think we all want our offspring to share some of our interests. And that child, she even out girlys me. She recently stated a longing to "bring back the antebellum style of fashion, because then she could wear a beautiful dress every day." Darn that Scarlett O'Hara. Even I know better than to think chasing Weekids in hoopskirts would be a thing of enjoyment.

Oh but hats...I wouldn't mind bringing some of those back.

And then my second girl, Clara, was born. I think God may have chuckled a bit when he sent that soul to be raised by me. Even the name we chose for her evoked images of the ribbons and curls and petticoats in her namesakes in Heidi and The Nutcracker. While I knew, even admitted, that she might be different than Allison and I, I don't think I really believed it. And so, when we came home from the hospital with fat little bruiser of baby that yelled before she cooed and hit before she snuggled I looked on in fascination and a little bit of terror. Even my boys - as rough and loud as they are now - were gentle and sweet as babies. But Clara, that girl was born loud. With a strong opinion and a solid right hook. I simply didn't know how to love a baby like her.

But, love her I did. Eventually. I confess it was the awkward, tentative affection of an arranged marriage at first. Tiptoeing around her. Getting to know this strange new personality. But eventually, and then all at once, the things that initially intimidated me about her, became those I loved most of all. I became smitten with her exuberance and her fight; tickled by her fearsome growls and the way she would lunge at you, in her rough and tumble version of affection. I am overjoyed that she loves to wrestle and play balls and cars with Ben and I find pride in her resilience and toughness. She rarely cries from fear or injury. Yet, she roars hotly in anger or frustration. And oh, her independence, and her stinginess with her hugs and kisses has made them all the more cherished. Like flowers in winter.

I adore my Roley-poly tiger of a baby girl. The right hooks though, those I could still do without.

Ironically, she seems to be softening in her ripe old age of eighteen months. The hugs and kisses come more frequently. She's even showing some disputably feminine qualities. She tolerates hair bows now, patting them and singsonging pri-eee. (pretty) She puts hats and crowns on her head and sways with a coy "aren't-I-adorable look" before she rips them off and flings them across the room. And this morning I found her snuggling her babydoll when I went to get her out of her crib. I still find a whisper of relief in these changes but not because I feel I will need them as bricks to build my love on. My adoration for the person she is, who she will be, has gone far beyond that point. It's more that now, without them and the common ground they provide, I would question my strong-willed, enchantingly independent daughter's ability to find value in me.

She's going to take on the world that one, and leave me standing in her wake. Now I'm just praying she remembers to look back.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And then there were none

Back in August, I wrote a post about my two geriatric brother cats, Tigger and Dodger. About our twelve year long journey together and my melancholy, but detached, reactions to learning they were both very ill. In September, I revised my outlook from detached to heartbroken, when we put Dodger to sleep. I wrote a couple sad posts about that experience and how despite our history, it was really Allison that would miss him the most.

I was wrong.

Within a couple of days of Dodger leaving us, his brother Tigger's personality changed dramatically. Typically somewhat aloof, he was suddenly overly affectionate, with a clingyness that seemed desperate. He would follow us around our home, meowing agitatedly and jump into any lap that became available. (Laps are a commodity this house.) He stopped eating his food and generally seemed unhappy. We all came to the sudden, certain, awareness that Tigger was grieving the loss of his lifetime companion. His playmate, his groomer, his traveling companion, his roly-poly snuggling friend had suddenly disappeared, and he was bereft.

I know this revelation wouldn't have shocked the cat lovers of the world, but it did a number on me. I immediately developed a whole new level of respect for the feline species. Who knew they had the emotional capacity to feel loss to such a degree as to jeopardize their own well-being? A dog, I could imagine this of, with their unfailing dedication to their people, often going beyond what we would deem reasonable. But a cat? They hardly seemed to be creatures with a deep emotional life. Contentedness and disdain were the entire range we had witnessed from him before.

Our family was so sorry for our grieving, confused cat, we babied Tigger more than we had since he actually was a baby. We bought him new food until we found something he would eat. We kept water available in the bathroom, where he preferred it. And we smothered him with affection, trying to comfort him through his loss. Eventually he pulled out of the worst of it, but after that was never really the same. He continued to lose weight steadily, and eventually started urinating all over our house. It was like he had lost the will to make it all the way to his food or litter box.

Today, the day finally came to put him to sleep as well.

Tigger was old. Nearly thirteen. He was sick. The doctor told us back in August that his kidney's were going and he may not have much longer left to live. But until Dodger died, he was vibrant and playful, albeit a bit ornery. So despite the medical reasons that Tigger had to be put to sleep, I can't help but think of him and Dodger as one of those elderly couples that die within months of each other. Without their companion, they can no longer find a reason to keep fighting with their deteriorating bodies. As strange, and sentimental as it sounds, I think our Tigger died when he did, because he missed his friend so badly, he couldn't figure out how to live without him. Our cat...he died of a broken heart.

Goodbye to our Tigger. A cat who loved more than we ever imagined. We will miss you.

I woke up this morning feeling better about saying good bye to my grumpy old man. I poured myself a bowl of cereal to eat while reading blogs. Once I was finished I placed the bowl on the floor next to my chair and went off to get coffee. A motion so familiar it came without thought. It wasn't until I came back and saw it sitting there on the floor, my bowl of milk, that I realized I am living in a home without cats for maybe the first time in my life. I stared at it for a moment, wondering at how such a small thing could bring on this nauseating ache. And then I picked up the bowl and rinsed it out in the sink.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dieting Myth #1 - Drink lots of water.

The Discovery Channel has a show called Mythbusters where a couple of oddball characters attempt to debunk, or potentially prove, a series of myths, most of which I have never heard of. While I believe it's pretty popular, I have only seen this show once. It seemed to be geared towards young people with an interest in science, of which I am neither...young or scientifically inclined.

This isn't stopping me from shamelessly ripping off their idea.

As I struggle through this process of losing weight, I am going to share my personal discoveries on some popular, or possibly obscure, dieting myths. This is my first entry.

Diet talk. I know you are all trembling with anticipation...

Myth #1-Drink lots of water, it will make you feel full and help you shed pounds.

I can honestly say I have given this theory a thorough test in the last week. I have sipped so much water I could fill a small pool. With my pee. I know, that was classy wasn't it. But really, how do people who are NOT Stay at home moms manage this crazy water intake? And when I get hungry, I drink some more. And you know what, I feel full. Of water! And still starving to death. Because it turns out my body can tell the difference between water, and say...a cheeseburger.

As for helping me shed pounds, all I can figure is the path I am treading up and down the hall to my bathroom might count as some kind of physical activity. And the fact that I now drink water instead of chocolate milkshakes. That might be helpful too.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Earlier this week my level of dissatisfaction disgust with my physical appearance finally reached critical mass. Groan... I can't resist a bad pun. I decided to make some changes in what I eat. Some drastic changes.

Who am I kidding? I went on a diet. A diet for New Years. I know, I originality is overwhelming. The diet has a name but I'll spare you the details in exchange for no trite comments about "diets not working" or "just exercise and eat right." I exercised this week. One whole time.


And for the last five days I have measured and counted and planned my meals and drank my weight in water. I have been very, very good. But tonight I ate Wendy's. And an ice cream sandwich. Because sometimes a week with four children, albeit wonderful children, makes a Mama want some grease. And chocolate. Especially when the week has been so lacking in toddler-free time that Mama hasn't been able to write one lousy blog post.

And for those of you now thinking it's obvious my problem is I use food for comfort...Well, duh. I am years ahead of you on that revelation.

This morning I started the arduous process of un-Christmassing my home. Which, it turns out, I enjoy even less than the process of Christmassing my home. Oh, I love having a cheery decorated house at the holidays. It's just that something of those warm fuzzies gets lost when your tradition involves flinging things around your house, in desperation, five days before the holiday.

That being said, I think most of us agree that taking down the decorations is the greater of the two evils. Especially when a wide-eyed three year old stands before you asking,

"Why you taking away our Critmas tree, Mama?" as if I were not just Grinch-like - which we've established - but the actual Grinch. The next thing I know I'll be tying antlers to the dog and throwing the whole holiday off a cliff.

Suddenly the defense, "Beck said it would be very bad luck to leave the tree up until tomorrow" seemed somewhat lacking. Even the fact that it had been a crispy, brown fire hazard for a week no longer seemed reason enough to remove this treasure from our home. However, despite Ben's impressive guilt-trip powers, we dismantled the tree and properly disposed of it tossed it into the woods behind our house. Which is not like a cliff at all. For the record.

And then Ben and I headed off for the afternoon to our second very fun, very loud, birthday party in as many days. And when I returned home tired and starving, I found comfort in a sloppy fried chicken sandwich & cup of chili that weren't even that appetizing. But they were very comforting. Go figure.

And tomorrow night - for those of you wondering if I'm planning to stay on this wagon - I am cooking salmon and spinach. Which I love, but don't find comforting at all.


Incidentally, yesterday's birthday party involved a couple old friends/acquaintances standing around talking about my blog. As in, some of them have actually read it. And each time it was mentioned my embarrassment level rose until I found myself wanting to crawl under a table.

Which was an enigmatic response, in retrospect. Because, while I know many bloggers keep their writings separate - even secret - from their real life relations, I never have. I offer it up to anyone who would like to read it. Eagerly, I admit, sometimes even proudly.

So why, when I find out that people I know actually do read it, do I find myself questioning what I write? And suddenly feeling it's silly, sentimental babble not worth reading at all?

It seems I am setting myself up to feel insecure, which is an area where I don't generally need any help.