Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I've had to hide the raisins.

In our old house, though Violet could get into the pantry any time she wanted to, she didn't. It didn't really occur to her that there was food in there, even if she'd seen me pull stuff out to cook or use. So, it stands to reason that I might think she wouldn't be interested in the pantry in the new house, right?

Wrong. First I had to move the Nilla Wafers to a higher shelf. Then the instant oatmeal (she would rip open packets and try to cook it in her play kitchen for her babies -- cute, but crazy messy). And now I've had to hide the raisins because Violet helped herself to four boxes while I was sorting and cleaning and vacuuming the bedrooms this past Sunday.

Do you realize four mini-boxes of raisins is about 3 cups of grapes in real life? Yeah... Poor sitter had to deal with those diapers yesterday -- so sorry!

Other interesting things about our new house? Our new TV can be heard in the kids bedroom, so when Scott's not looking, I adjust the volume from 28 to about 12. Of course, when the kids aren't bouncing around us, we don't really need the TV at 28 to hear over them, so it's not terribly noticeable.

The liquor cabinet is very conveniently located within an arms reach of the fridge. It was at our old house, too, but if you were standing in the fridge, it was behind your back. Now, if your standing in the fridge, it's completely in your line of sight. Which makes it all too easy to add some Jamaican rum to my egg nog. And that's a darn tasty treat! It is, however, not consumed if I am the only adult in the house. One must always be prepared to drive on gravel roads to get a kid to the hospital or something if an emergency pops up. And if I'm the only one in the house who can see over the dashboard, I'm also going to be sober. But When Scott's around? Let's just say it's making creating baby #3 more fun...

Also, the kids are finding the holes in the wooden floors fun and tantalizing and scary all at once. The house was originally outfitted with a boiler and radiators, but through the years it has been retrofitted with forced air heat. The most recent incarnation is the geo-thermal heating installed by the previous owner. So there are radiator-pipe sized holes in the floor, the most obvious is outside my bathroom on the main level. Both kids have peered down the hole and they regularly step around it, though it is too small for either of them to get a foot caught. They look at it and wonder where something would go if it were dropped down there. Answer: the basement, of course. So Violet dropped a small white ball from the Hungry, Hungry Hippos game down there.

Milo was instantly alight and wanted to run downstairs immediately to find the ball. Unfortunately for me, the kids had picked the moment I'd chosen for a bathroom break to engage in this experiment, so they were hopping around in front of the open bathroom door as I was sitting on the toilet, begging them to let me pee in peace. After flushing, I assented and Milo and I tromped down the basement stairs. Violet is still wary of the basement and attic, so she stayed on the landing at the top of the stairs, clutching the wall as she peered into the basement.

Milo and I head to the back corner of the basement, avoiding the damp areas of the floor. I turn on the light and point to the hole in the ceiling and say, "Hey! I can see my bathroom, so this must be the hole!"

We look on the floor nearby for the hippo food, but don't see it. We look around the room in the basement for the small ball and don't see it. I can't, for the life of me, imagine that it bounced too far elsewhere, but we simply cannot find it. Milo's eyes get big and he says, "Maybe things that go into that hole never get found..."

I think I might let him believe that for a while as I'm not interested in playing "let's go to the basement to find my _____" repeatedly. Neither child has tried dropping anything else down there since then. I'm going to put a tall-sided Rubbermaid tub underneath the hole, just in case.

But these are the incidents that live on in a child's fantasy for years to come. I remember being convinced that the house that I grew up in had been used for the Underground Railroad because there was a hidden door in our basement. To this day, I get the willies in my mom's basement because I swear I feel two-hundred-years of emancipated slave ghosts whispering when I go down there. I was pretty young when I came up with this story -- maybe only a year older than Milo. He might have a nagging feeling about that hole for a long time. Or he might decided to test the theory a couple of more times before we get the hole plugged -- he is a curious little fellow.

And Violet? I'm think she's convinced that there's a monster in the basement and one in the attic. But I'm pretty sure that the only monster in the house is the gas monster she created when she ate four boxes of raisins in 15 minutes...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It seems that, of late, this blog has been mostly about my clumsiness or our stress, so here's an entry about something heart-warming!

Last night, after bath and snack and teeth-brushing, we settled in for our nightly reading time. Milo had gotten his book order from school, and the books he most wanted to read were the Scooby-Do phonics books. He has flat-out said that he wants to learn to read, so this seemed like a good opportunity.

Book 1 from the Scooby set features short "a" and short "i". I decided to focus on the short a words, so I pointed to each word on the list inside the cover, telling Milo that a-t makes the "at" sound. I read each of the keywords (at, cat, mat, and sat), then we started in on the story.

As I read, I stopped at each of the keywords and let Milo fill in the word. Most of them were "cat" as the title of the reader was "The Cat Came Back." He correctly identified cat each time, paused for a moment for "mat", and needed to be asked, "What sound does S make?" before "sat". We triumphantly reached the end of the book.

Then I pointed to the keywords on the inside of the cover and Milo read at, cat, mat, and sat correctly. He was overjoyed! And a light went off in his little head. He looked at me and said, "Hat is h-a-t, right? And bat is b-a-t?"

I beamed and said, "Yes! That's right! How would you spell 'fat'?"

He thought for a second and said, "F-f-f... F says f. So F-a-t!"

By this point, he was so excited he was squeaking and his whole body was charged, ready to fly. He hopped off his bed, came around and hugged me tightly, his sweet round face barely able to contain his pride.

"I'm so proud of you, buddy! You just read four words! And then you spelled three more!" I squeezed him tightly and kissed his hair. Violet clapped and smiled.

"I'm so proud of you, mommy, for teaching me to read at, cat, mat and sat!"

My big-hearted little boy was sharing the spotlight I'd shone on his accomplishment. Without a second though, he was expressing his gratitude and love, unabashedly affectionate and sincere. I melted. Who wouldn't?

Violet was in awe. She held the book and turned the pages reverently. "Cat, cat, cat. Cat, cat, cat. My read, too, like Milo!"

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I hope that Milo has learned how to express gratitude and show love from us. I hope that he'll continue to show his generosity to the people he loves. he asked last night, during the kids' bath, "Mom, why does Violet always give me the Mickey Mouse when we take a bath?"

"When you love someone, you always give them the things they like!" He was thoughtful and digested that for a moment. It is true, Violet is a sharer by nature -- she always asks for two of everything and takes one to Milo. I can see that it makes her happy to give to him. He usually remembers to thank her, which tickles her, too.

I don't know if that lesson was in play when Milo so quickly shared his accomplishment with me. I'd like to think that he's learning good things from the people who love him the most -- I know that I'm always learning from him. I do know that this lesson is far more important in the long run than at, cat, mat and sat. He will learn to read when he learns to read. But learning to love is a lesson that is always being taught to any willing soul.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Finger

I am not on speaking terms with my garage right now. On Saturday evening, I ran outside in my yoga capris, t-shirt, and "flop-flops" to move my car into the garage. It was in the driveway because I'd been out and about with the kids and had six gallons of paint in the trunk and didn't really want to haul them any further than necessary. It was about 45 degrees and, by the time I'd hustled to the garage to manually open the door, gotten into the car, started it, and parked it in said garage, my fingertips were more than a little cold and I had to pee. I hopped out of the car, locked it, and started to pull down the garage door.

It isn't a heavy door. It isn't an unusual door. It's your standard, run-of-the-mill garage door without an electric opener. I gave it a small tug with my right hand, my left one reached out to steady the door so that it didn't slam down.

And then it happened.

My fingers got stuck in between the panels of the door. Since they were cold, the intense burning as they were pinched between the door panels felt like fire. I yelped, tried to yank them out, then quickly reversed the direction of the door, sending it flying back up into the garage. Stunned, I pulled the door back down while looking at my throbbing fingers.

Like all pain, the throbbing was only a warning for the actual pain, which hit me as I scurried back towards the house, now crying. I get inside and look at the fingers. They are red, red, red and have what looks like peeled skin over the pads -- like I've tried to debride my fingerprints away. There is no blood yet, but I am certain that it will come.

I stumble through the house, past the kids. Milo tattles on his sister, saying, "Mom! Violet's eating Play-Doh!"

Gulping inbetween sobs, I manage to command, "V-v-v-violet! D-d-d-don't eat P-p-p-play-Doooooh!"

Bewildered, Milo looks at me. "Mom, it's just Play-Doh, don't cry over Play-Doh!"

"I'm not," I say. "Mommy, hurt her f-f-f-fingers very badly."

Both kids are stunned and silent. Violet stops eating the Play-Doh and I continue through the minefield of toys to my bathroom, where I turn the tap on hot and jam my fingers under the running water. I think, "If I can warm them up, maybe the nerves will stop jangling and I can figure out how injured I actually am..."

To my surprise, what I thought was layers of my scraped off skin washes away. Apparently, the joints in a garage door in the country get pretty dirty. If you get something stuck in there, the dirt comes away with whatever you've tried to smash.

The water trick is working and the pain goes from four-alarm to alarm clock. They still throb, but I'm no longer concerned that I'm going to pass out or need to drive to an ER to have my fingertips reattached. I sigh and relax. Actually, I was unaware that I needed to relax, but as I sighed, my shoulders stopped being my earmuffs and my back grew three inches. I'm going to make it.

I dry my hand and wipe my tears and rejoin the kids, where I confiscate the Play-Doh from Violet and ask her if she'd rather have some food, like string cheese. She decides that dairy will taste better than toy and agrees to a swap.

Two days later and my fingers are still sensitive, but I am able to use them. For all of that pain, they aren't even bruised under the nail, so I don't think I'm going to lose the fingernails, either. I have been extra careful while maneuvering the car into and out of the garage, lest the beast decide to try and take more than my fingertips.

I do think that the fleeting, yet consuming, pain I felt for those few minutes allowed me an emotional release that I've been needing -- it actually felt good to cry for a few minutes. The pain left me focused entirely on myself for a few minutes, activated some adrenaline and endorphins, and snapped me mostly out of the funk I've been in lately. It takes something like this for me to remember that my body will always find a way to get me back to me, even if the reason it jumps to my defense is caused by my own clumsiness and inattention.

OK. Enough for now, typing is one of the activities that makes my fingers hurt :) Oh, and I've flipped my garage off the last dozen or so times I've looked at it. So there :P

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I have been having a recurring dream.

In the dream, my breasts are huge and swollen with milk, swollen like my milk has just come in after giving birth. I feel their weight, sense the skin tightening over the hardened and engorged tissue... I sense let-down's stinging path and smell the milk as it soaks my shirt. And I am overjoyed.

Then I wake in the pre-dawn calm, my hot cheek resting against the cool of my sheets. I hear my children breathing in their sleep over the monitor, feel the steadiness of Scott in bed with me. I sense my family.

As sleep falls away I awaken the realization that my breasts are not full. My arms, aching to hold a baby, squeeze my pillow as a silver tear slides from my eye. Disappointment lands like a stone tossed into an empty well, there is no splash this early in the morning, only a cold, hard thud.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Moved into new house? Check!

Well, we've moved. We're in the new house now, stumbling over boxes and odd piles of things. The kids are adjusting well, so well, in fact, that Milo asked to sleep in his own room tonight instead in Violet's room. We'll see if he brings it up again before bedtime tonight. Honestly, we don't have another lamp for him and he doesn't like to sleep in pitch darkness. I wasn't planning to transition him to his own room until after we'd painted it and made it "his," but kids grow on their own schedules, not on their parents' time lines.

Anyway, we began the final push on Thursday night as we gathered all of the things we wanted moved on Friday and as I cleaned and did laundry, knowing that the washer and dryer weren't going to be delivered until Monday. Expecting a family of four to avoid laundry for five days is really a stretch. I finished cleaning at about midnight, but slept very poorly that night because I was thinking of all of the things I needed to get done.

I took the kids to daycare and rounded back to the old house to pick up Scott for the stacked closings. We were early to both, finished early at both, and got back up to the houses, where I loaded up a few bags of freezer stuff into my already packed car and drove on up to the new house. I wasn't in the driveway long enough to get out of the car when the DirectTV guy showed up for the installation. We walked around the house and I stalled until Scott got there as he was wanting to put a pole in the front yard and I knew Scott wasn't going to go for that. He didn't.

I began unpacking the kitchen and worked until it was time to take Milo to preschool, I ran into town and delivered him to school, then back out to the house to keep working. Back into town to pick him up from school and take him back to daycare, then a few moments of loading at the old house and back to unpacking at the new one.

Because I knew that it would take the longest time to organize, started in the kitchen. I don't think I did too badly and, with a little thought, was able to transition our belongings in a way that makes sense to me ergonomically. I'm still unloading at least one box a day into the kitchen and I really wonder how I ended up with all of that crap in my kitchen before. Where did it all fit and do I still need it??

I flew back into town to pick up the kids and take them to the house. We met a sitter and were informed that the movers were on their way, so we cleared a path for the two strapping young gents to carry most of our furniture into the house. These were clearly college kids, but were pleasant and did a great job of moving lots of heavy stuff very quickly. I even gave them some pizza as I'd popped a couple of frozen pizzas into the oven for the sitter and kids. For those of you who want to know, yes, they were cute ;) Not that I noticed...

Poor Scott made another trip back to the house to get the kids' bedding and pillows, then we set up their beds and bundled them off to sleep, only an hour and a half late. Violet woke once that night and Milo got up to use the bathroom and wasn't freaked out being in a new house, so I count this as an unmitigated success, which was only improved upon when we realized that our dogs are both afraid to climb the steps and, therefore, have become first-level dogs only. Do I miss a happy tail thump in the morning as I'm stepping over my fur babies? Yes. Do I miss being awakened by a bored dog who thinks she needs to go out at 3AM? Nope, not at all. Will I miss hot dogs panting through a sweltering summer night? Nope, I don't think I will. Is this stoke of fate pretty much the best thing ever? Yep!

Saturday was a blur -- packing, moving, packing, moving, and begging Scott to come over when the kids said goodbye to the house. I was surprised by my sudden sentimentality, but I really felt like I needed all of us to be in the house together just once more before it wasn't ours. We all fell exhausted into bed Saturday night and all slept all night.

Sunday brought a trip to town for some necessities and more unpacking. And our first meal cooked in our new house, yay! I told Milo, "This is the first time we're sitting all together as a family eating food I made in our new house. How cool is that?" He blinked a couple of times and said, "It's just food, mom." Violet chirped, "dust food, mom!" in agreement. Scott shrugged. And I suddenly became that mom who thinks all things special need to be commemorated. Sigh...

In news of the funny, this morning Violet had an out-and-out fit because I wouldn't wear my "flop-flops" to work today. She'd followed me into my closet and pulled out a pair of turquoise flip-flips and, when she couldn't get them to stay on her feet, decided that I needed to wear them. In November. With grey pants and a burgundy sweater. To work. Sorry, babe, mama can't do that!

In news of the gross, I had to have an infected cyst removed from the back of my right leg. I don't know who hit me with the crazy illness stick, but c'mon! Give me a break! First ridiculous tonsillitis (February), then the stomach flu to end all stomach flus (March), then pneumonia (May). And the cold-that-turned-into-a-six-week-coughing-spell (September-October). And now this. I've been to the docs on Monday and Tuesday to have it drained, packed, and bandaged and go back on Thursday. I am so sore from the doctor's "manipulation" that sitting in my car causes shooting pains and uncontrollable gasping, followed by a few quick tears. Seriously -- does it have to hurt so much that I cry every time I sit down and involuntarily yelp (and cry) if my kids bump the wound? And then there's the whole having to go to the doctor when I'm not really sick and being exposed to an entire waiting room full of real germs. Yeah, I'm loving that. To top it all off, yesterday the doc didn't think the inch-deep hole was healing fast enough, so I got a burning shot of antibiotic in my bum, too. Bonus shot!! Not...

I'm not really complaining. After all, the phone guy was amazed that we got DSL all the way out where we live, the water softener guy swapped out the stinky unit with a non-stinky one, and my new washer and dryer are uber-cool, plus we have an extra 400 sq.ft. of living space and a full basement and walk-up attic. Really -- that attic is bigger than the first two apartments Scott and I shared, maybe even bigger than the two combined.

OK, yes, I am complaining. My leg hurts worse than my hoo-ha did after birthing Milo's bowling ball head. It hurts way worse than any dental work I've ever had done. It hurts worse than the worst sunburn I got after splashing tanning oil, not sunscreen, on my back at the pool for five hours when I was in eighth grade. It hurts a whole lot, but only if I poke at it or bump it, or my darling daughter kicks it when I'm holding her, or the dog's tail smacks it when wagging in excitement.

Alright, I'll agree to disagree with myself. I am thankful to be in the new house, but very unhappy about the sore leg thing. And hoping that it isn't MRSA, which would be an entire other can of worms that I don't wanna open.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Well, I haven't been told I'll never have children.

However, I do get a one month trial. One month to use an ovulation predictor kit to determine if I am, in fact, ovulating. And it was suggested, very politely, that I lose weight. Perfect timing on that -- no family gatherings in my near future or anything.

And so begins my war on carbohydrates. OK. It's going to have to begin on Monday. I'm not even attempting food control while in the middle of a move. There's no point. But come my Sunday grocery run, I will once again transform into No Carb Woman. Let's see how many pounds I can drop before I am able to use that ovulation predictor kit...

Here's the TMI part: I can't start using it yet because doc told me to start on cycle day 11. It's cycle day 14. However, I think I ovulate late in my cycle, so I picked one up today to start using, anyway. It was negative for today. So not surprised.

I feel like a wuss, whining my way into this situation. There are women who never get the chance to be pregnant and I have three times already. There are couples that will never hold a child of their own. I so get that. Am I being selfish for wanting another baby? I can't tell. It's not just me, though. Scottie's on board and all of our parents are thrilled that we want a third.

I am just hoping and hoping that we won't come to where I call the doctor back and say, "I never got the surge... I haven't ovulated." I know my body CAN ovulate. It's just not ovulating regularly.

The next step is the dreaded Clomid. Yes, fertility drugs. Hearing that pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks.

I do not know if I want to consider pharmaceutical means of reproduction. I worry that because my body can produce an egg, given a boost it will produce more than one egg. I'm not certain that I want four children -- particularly when having multiples would certainly mean me getting out of the workforce. Our finances can only handle two kids in daycare at once, not three (or more, shudder).

In other news, my kids are so darn sweet! They insisted on a "mommy bath" tonight, so I was in the tub with them. Violet sang and Milo clowned, but mostly both cuddled me. It's so good... We chatted about taking a bath in the new house on Friday or Saturday and what that would be like. We talked about how many days left we have to sleep in this house and what it would feel like sleeping at a new house.

We're doing the final walk-through tomorrow with the realtor. And we'll be getting the keys to the garage, so Scott will begin hauling stuff over there, stacking tubs and boxes for a smoother transition on Friday and Saturday. It's kind of crazy to think about it, but we'll be moving our stuff out the front door as they new owners will be moving in the back door. It's sort of surreal and a bit unbelievable, but it will be real soon enough. I'm standing on the edge of two deadlines...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Baby Goo

So tomorrow is my yearly "fun" exam. Well, I actually really like my gynecologist, but the whole cold speculum does nothing for me.

Actually, I am dreading this appointment. I'm as fat as I was last year, maybe even fatter. My blood pressure is likely to be slightly elevated because I'm moving on Friday and they don't use the fat chick cuff unless you remember to ask them for it and they remember where it is. Those are reasons enough to want to avoid the appointment, but I won't.

I'm mostly afraid that the doc is going to tell me that I won't be able to get pregnant with our third child. We've been working on it since April and have yet to conceive. My cycles have been crazy irregular since they resumed when Violet was 14 months old. Some have been easy, but half of them have been so painful that sitting up straight makes my uterus scream. I know that a diagnosis of infertility is unlikely, particularly at an annual exam with no additional testing, but that doesn't stop the fear from gnawing at my periphery.

I know that I am very, very lucky to have the two beautiful children that I have. I know that they brighten my every day and that their being a part of my life has made me a better person. I also know that my family doesn't feel complete yet. I have room in my heart for a third child.

I am very excited that tomorrow will welcome my little brother's first child into the world. She is arriving by c-section as she's a vain little baby and is keeping her head out of the birth canal because she wants to have a lovely round head for her newborn pictures (in other words, she's breech).

It is completely irrational to fear tomorrow, but in my worst nightmares, my sibling is welcoming the start of his family on the day that I learn my family will forever be missing something.

I think this ties back to the loss we had before Milo. I was pregnant, but not really with a baby and not really in my womb. The miscarriage didn't hurt, I just bled and bled and bled. I had a D & C, but the anesthetic was ineffective, so I remember every scrape. Even then things weren't right and I had to have shots of a lime green chemo drug, one in each hip. I was a quivering mess as I sat alone in the procedure room at the hospital waiting for those shots. I actually wasn't even in a procedure room, but a family hospitality room, so there wasn't a bed or a sink or anything - just two plush chairs and a TV. A rerun of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" jangled on the TV, but I wasn't really watching it. The nurse who came in to administer the shots barely looked at me, asking me, "Was this your first?" as I leaned over a footstool with my undies pulled down so my hip was exposed.

"Yes." I said, barely audibly.

"Well, you're young! You'll have more children, I just know it!"

Of course I will, I thought, but I'll never have this child. I didn't know anything about it -- not gender, not age, nothing. That didn't mean that I wasn't in love with the possibility of my baby. I had a hard time even wanting to try for another baby until I got past the due date of that one. I finally relented to try a month before the other baby would have been due because I was certain that I wouldn't get pregnant on the first shot -- the other pregnancy had take 7 months to achieve. But I did, and I am so glad or I wouldn't have my beautiful Milo. Violet came along on the first try, too, albeit a long first try. Irregular cycles strike again!

I'm trying not to let my jealousy show, but I am getting increasingly frustrated, and now scared. I'm not getting any younger, I know that. I also know that I'm fat and out of shape. I swear, after this move I'm back to exercising at lunchtime. Please hold me to that promise, OK?

I am so very excited to meet my new niece! I hope that her arrival is safe and that her mommy's tummy isn't too sore after surgery. I hope that she nurses like a champ and gains weight quickly. And that she goes easy on her daddy -- he's a tenderhearted fellow and will likely be a puddle of goo wrapped around her little pink finger...

Monday, October 26, 2009

If these walls could talk...

Eleven days until we close on both houses. Eleven days...

Yes, the selling part of selling a house without a realtor was actually pretty easy. Assembling the documents necessary for sale was not too taxing. Stressing about all of it has stunk like earthworms after a drenching rain.

I'm somewhat torn as the couple who has bought our house seems lovely, yet completely handy-man-helpless. As a result, we've had to make some last minute repairs and they now want to inspect the repairs. As if they would really know what was different... Some of the stuff was pretty minor -- like replacing a pane of glass in a window. They wanted to know if we'd had an estimate done to fix it. Umm... nope. The estimate is $15.00 for a sheet of glass and about an hour of Scott's time to replace the glass, re-glaze, and put a couple of coats of paint on it. Woo-hoo... But we did it as we were concerned that they would try to extract money for a $300.00 repair or something from the price of the house.

That's the part that has me a little stressed. We're not anonymous to the buyers. In fact, they know where our new house is as they, too, looked at it. Their adorable little daughters will be in school with our kids and we're bound to run into them here and there around town.

Are they gonna talk smack about us if, five years down the road one of our repairs goes bad? Are we forever going to feel like we need to hold our breaths lest a completely normal conversation contain the words, "So the deck fell in last night..." Even though the deck is actually in better shape than it was when we moved in, that kind of anxiety. We didn't sell them a lemon. We disclosed everything that we knew about the property, and then some. We completed all five of their requested repairs. We're ready to move onward and upward and north of town to our new home.

I'm sure there will be a moment of sadness as we close the door for the last time, knowing that we brought our babies home there and that our first memories as a family were created there. Thank goodness for photos! Thousands of photos documenting every step as we redid the house, scraping lath and plaster from the walls, re-wiring, re-plumbing, re-everything-ing. Images of my kids in the yard, sleeping in their beds, bathing in the tub... Snapshots of holidays and birthdays and just the joy of day-to-day life... These will always live on in my heart.

But it's time for a new family to grow in the house. And I'm not sure that the sole factor of owning the same house ties us an any way to the new family, much as they try to invite us for dinner and chit-chat as if we were friends. Maybe we will be some day? Who knows? Maybe Violet won't remember living there when she's invited over for a birthday party... I don't know. I do worry that we might get a panicked call some day, "Help! There XYZ happening and we don't have so much as a hammer! What do we do?" Will we be tied to the house as a retained handyman? Offered dinner to "Please come fix ABC!" How bizarre is it to step into a place that holds so many cherished memories, to reach for a glass and open the cabinets to find someone else's stuff? To sigh over wallpaper they stripped, not knowing how arduous the task of hanging it was -- to feel like a stranger in one's old home.

Truth be told, we never expected to be in the house for almost nine years. It is a starter home and we weren't planning to stick around the area for a decade. Our plan was to get Scott some teaching experience, then move to a larger university. But the rigors of working at a larger school, the academic pressures required to gain tenure seemed detrimental to what we wanted in life and with our family. And now we're staying put, just as surely as we thought we'd be leaving in 2005, 2006, 2007... We never intended to move back to Iowa, and now, it appears, we never intend to leave.

Sometimes I feel like I am shoehorned into a life I wasn't intended to live -- that my psychic twin is living on a coast, dining daily on sushi and living in a yoga studio and the I am the imagined twin planting my roots back into the Iowa soil where I was raised. I daydream about the places I'd like to go and the things I'd like to see and know that, for now, it's going to be a while before we can afford to travel the globe.

But then I take Milo to preschool and one of his classmates squeals, "It's Milo! Hi, Milo!" and he lights up, thrilled that his friend is glad to see him and I know that we are making the right choice for our family by living in a place that has soil rich enough to sustain our needs. Mount Vernon isn't a bad place -- it's an affluent, liberal, artsy community. I believe that it is safe, it has good schools, and we can reach nearly everything we need by driving a short distance to Iowa City or Cedar Rapids. Our community is growing, and if we were to get involved more deeply, we could have a large impact on the direction it takes as it grows. This is not a bad place to take root.

And so, little house in town, we're leaving you for a larger house on the prairie. I hope that you bring your new family as much fortune as we had while living there. Adieu...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Water for a Friend

I have never had a secret, nothing in my life has ever been so traumatic that I feel the need to hide an event deep within the closet of my mind. I supposed that stems mostly from my perception that my life has been pretty easy.

My heart is aching for a friend who has carried some very dark, very awful secrets with him for much of his young life. The kinds of secrets that spill out when there is nothing left but pain, anger, and betrayal. The kinds of secrets that were happening not far from me geographically, but miles away from my own experience. Devastating, horrible, life-sucking, criminal secrets.

As I'm learning these things about my friend, I am shattered to know that I was there, yet so insulated and immature that I didn't reach out to him. I'm not sure that I could have as a teenager. I can, now, as an adult, as a parent. I can stand up and say that what happened to him is more wrong than anything that should ever happen to any person. His tormentors used inhuman power against him, I hate them for that. I hate them for reforging him, for forcing him to endure the hot coals and freezing water of abuse. I am so sorry.

I know that there isn't any way for me to re-write his past. I hope that he will look to me as a person on whom he can count in the future. I feel selfish in even expressing my grief for his childhood, knowing that the scream pounding in my chest is nothing compared to the silent howl of his youth.

This has been pressing on me for about a week now, ever since I read a response to an entry in his blog. The response was written by two friends who have chosen to abandon him because his changed views on religion and faith disagree with theirs and they are offended by his deserved anger. I won't drag my feelings to his blog, I won't put my thoughts into a place that is his because this isn't my story and it is so not about me. This goes in my blog.

What is the Christian thing to do? Tromp all over the blog of a very real, very raw, very recovering person because his righteous anger upsets your crinoline sensibility? Or do you bring your friend a cool drink of water as he suffers on the cross of his past?

I'm bringing water, how about you?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Growing Violet

I think the toughest part about packing up our house to move is taking pictures of my kids off the wall. I'm not a parent that only leaves the most recent portrait up, so I counted and there are over 130 framed photos hanging in my house, mostly of my kids. Well, mostly of Milo. Poor little Violet gets the short end of the stick on that, simply because we sort of ran out of space and because I haven't filled some frames that I've been saving for pictures of her.

Thinking about Violet getting the shaft also reminded me that her birthday sort of slid through the space between tick and tock this fall, what with Milo breaking his arm on her birthday, then us plunging headlong into purchasing a new home and selling our current home, so I want to post about some of the things our little sweet pea has been doing lately.

Singing. She creates her own soundtrack as she goes about her life, "Doo-dee-dooing" and "La, la, laaaaaing" as she diapers her baby doll, cooks pretend lunches on the play kitchen, or dresses up in her princess gear. I love this! Sometimes it's just a long, breathy, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aa-aa-aaaah!" that scales her vocal range, sometimes there's actual words from a nursery rhyme, "Asses! Asses! We all fall down!", but there is always music in her heart.

Along with singing goes dancing. She's managed to pick up a delightful habit of dancing when she hears music, any music, any time. It's very cute -- sometimes, she turns slowly as if she's gliding in a billowing ball gown, sometimes she's head banging, and sometimes she's hopping about like she's raving. She skips and tumbles, twirls and dives, smiling and giggling.

One of her more humorous utterings is "No fair!" Always spat out with arms tightly crossed, chin tucked, and eyes peering out from under knit brows. I am surprised at the things she thinks are not fair -- last night, it was not fair that Milo was sitting in my lap and didn't want to move when she thought she needed to be in my lap. I imagine that I might be hearing this a lot in regards to Milo -- not surprising nor unexpected, yet sort of funny at the same time. I think it was only this summer that Milo started saying "Not fair!" I'm not quite sure that Violet actually knows what it means.

She really loves to play around with her voice and uses different voices for characters. Milo has yet to do this with any sort of consistency, though his toys have been talking to each other for nearly three years now. Violet has a particularly funny voice that never fails to crack me up -- she draws her lips into a tight circle, lengthens her jaw and talks in a very deep voice, her eyes are wide and her eyebrows raised. I haven't pinpointed who she thinks she's imitating, but she finds it funny, too.

"This is yours and that is mines!" I love how she has generalized mine to "mines." How utterly adorable! She properly uses hers, his, and yours and they all end with an "s", so why shouldn't mine?

Violet shares everything. If I hand her a cookie, she immediately demands another -- but not for herself, for Milo. She doesn't give it a second thought to hand him some of her loot, even if he hasn't asked. She is insistent that everyone have what she does, no matter what it is. She never squabbles nor tries to stealthily sneak away with more than her fair share. Her most selfish act is mine, too. She loves to lay in and nurse on weekend mornings, making it difficult for Milo or Scott to squeeze between the two of us. Neither of our boys is lacking for attention, but she is unwilling to share our special time with anyone. Given that Milo had us to himself for 26 months, I think it's OK that she has me to herself for 26 minutes on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Finally, she has learned, "I love you!" and will tell me this as she pretends to talk to me on the phone, or as I tuck her into bed or leave her at daycare. Hearing these words from her melts me into a roiling, fizzing, pool of joy. I feel lightened by her sweetness, lifted by her smacking little kiss. I can't imagine a day going by where I don't hear this and feel it from her and truly cannot wait until she's sleeping in the toddler bed and I can snuggle in deeply to kiss her goodnight, kneeling next to her as I do to Milo, holding her as she settles into her bed, soft and warm, her little arms wrapped around my neck, fingers tangled in my hair.

And so, my little flower, you are no shrinking Violet. You are graceful, kind, and effervescent. Your sunny nature shines on the cloudiest of gray days. I adore you, my beautiful girl, and wish you a happy, happy year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

C & C

I am so sick of coughing. Coughing all night, all day, when I'm resting, when I'm active. Just all the time coughing. I'm tired of it!

Scott and I are sharing childcare duties this week as the sitter's house continues to fall under the plague of 2009. As of right now, both of my children have ear infections, but are otherwise healthy as can be, energetic, and fine. Milo wants to pack, pack, pack for the move -- if it were up to him, he'd have the whole house already packed and we'd have nothing to eat or wear. Violet spent the entire day yesterday singing. When she wasn't singing, she was cradling her little plastic coffee cup, sipping cold water and telling me "I 'tending it's mommy's coffee!" She's going through a particularly sunny and adorable stage right now, holy cow is she cute!

Anyway, this morning, Scott was teaching, so I was home with the children. Shortly after he left, the steam from the shower I'd taken had loosened up my sinuses and my post-nasal drip started flowing -- think of all the slime under NYC in Ghostbusters II and you get the picture. And I started coughing. And coughing. And coughing. Then I was coughing and gagging. As I was making these obnoxiously loud noises, clutching the bathroom sink like I was riding out an earthquake, Milo started asking if we were ready to pack another box. Violet perched on the toilet demanding "Sausage! My want sausage for breakfast! I huuunnn-geee!"

I gasped and told Milo, "I'm (cough, cough, gag) sick right (cough, cough, gag) now. (cough, cough, gag) Please give (cough, cough, gag) me a (cough, cough, gag) minute (cough, cough, gag, gag, gag)."

"Why-eeee? I want to pack now!"

"Can't (cough, cough, gag) talk (cough, cough, gag, gag, gag) right now (cough, cough, gag), buddy (cough, cough, gag, gag, gag)."

During this exchange, Violet had climbed down off the toilet and was tugging on my bathrobe. "My want sausage! Sausage! Sausage! Sausage!"

I didn't even answer her (cough, cough, gag, gag, gag). Barf. Gag, gag, barf. Barf.

And there I was, gasping, panting, sweaty, snotty, red-faced, drooling... so not a good "me" moment. And my children were completely oblivious. As in not even phased one bit by the horrendous old-man cough-gag followed by crazy loud retching. I think that there have been bloody death scenes in movies less gory than me this morning, yet my kids both toodled on about their way as if what was happening was completely normal. That's how long I have been coughing -- long enough that it seems normal to my children. Long enough that they aren't scared or scarred by the sight of their mother gripping the bathroom sink like a life preserver in the middle of a choppy ocean, miles from shore.

That's too damn long.

Oh, and to top it off, my monthly friend decided to be on time this month, though perhaps my uterus was frightened by the coughing and decided that this wasn't going to be a good month to make baby #3. But yeah, coughing and cramps... I guess it's a good thing that the rest of life is pretty good right now, huh?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Rest of the Lost Month

I keeping with my whole "Lost Month" theme, mucho has been happening on the old home front. As in the current home front will not be our home front in, oh, about a month.

That's right, folks, not even two months after the ink dried on our mortgage refinance, we're going to be buying a new home. We walked through said home on September 17th. Considered it all weekend, put in an offer on the home on Monday September 21. Offer accepted by 6:00 that night.

Then... PANIC! Made a list of all of the things we needed to get done to put the house on the market. Panicked some more. On Tuesday, September 22 I secured a storage garage around the corner and started taking inventory of all of the stuff that needed to go there.

Wednesday, September 23. Emailed my brother for his birthday. Started spreading the word that our house was going to go on the market. Started boxing up stuff we don't use frequently.

Thursday, September 24. Took Milo for another X-ray. His arm is healing well, yay! He was a little disappointed that he wasn't getting a new cast, but didn't cry too long about it. The one he has now is holding up remarkably well and not stinky at all, which is surprising. On a whim, I was proctoring a practice MCAT and took the exam myself. I did respectably, particularly considering I haven't had a science class in 18 years... I got a 14 of 15 on the verbal reasoning section (not surprising), 6 on biological sciences (did particularly well on anatomy and reproduction), and a 4 on physical sciences (bombed organic chemistry -- I've never taken organic chemistry, so that's not unexpected, but I did do well on the physics portion, go figure). More organizing at home that night.

Friday, September 25. Emailed my other brother for his birthday. Took the afternoon off to organize closet after closet. Scott started moving stuff to storage.

Saturday, September 26. Arts festival in Mount Vernon, so I wanted FSBO signs up. Scott and all of his brothers finished recovering the deck. His dad put more brick mold around our back window. I pulled weeds, trimmed trees, and carried brush to the brush pile for about 6 hours. Took pictures for flyers. We rested that night :)

Sunday, September 27. Scrubbed upstairs bathroom, kids room, all baseboards. Scrubbed and polished dining room floor, shampooed carpet upstairs. Printed and put out flyers. About 8 picked up that day!

Monday, September 28. More cleaning in the PM -- scrubbed kitchen and bathroom floors. I've been scrubbing so much I have a blister on my knee from crawling around! Makes me think I need to do some more deep cleaning more often...

Tuesday, September 29. Placed ads online.

Wednesday, September 30. Ads went live. Link to Yahoo quite busy, yay!

Thursday, October 1. Ad runs in Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon papers. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning! In the midst of cleaning when a woman taps on the window and wants to see the house. Seriously? An ad for a open house on Sunday from 12-2 means stop by my home during supper on a Thursday night... Sheesh! She did love the house, though. Put up Open House signs.

Friday, October 2. Took part of the afternoon off to scrub and polish the parlor floor. Scott rounded up the last remaining stuff to be moved out of the basement and moved it out. Put up more Open House signs.

Saturday, October 3. Last minute cleaning and tidying. Kitchen, re-dusting almost everything. Did some staging and made notes about what needed to go where and when it needed to go there. Washed all of the lamp globes. Suddenly, it's brighter in the house!

Sunday, October 4. Scott took the kids and dogs to his parents. I showered, did some last minute staging, answered several questions about the house from callers. Lit candles, took a deep breath and waited for people to come over. First group arrived about 12:25. Last group left at 5:00. Six families through, four who were doing more than "just checking it out". TWO offers. TWO. One our full asking price, but dependent on sale of her home. One for $1,000.00 less than our asking price, but we contribute $2000.00 towards closing -- no other home to sell. Exhausted, we went out to Scott's parent's to get the kids and had supper.

Monday, October 5. Decompressing and waiting to see if any other offers come in. I showed the house one more time to a woman and her sister, they, too loved it. In fact, there wasn't anyone who came through the house that didn't love the work we've done on it. It is in so much better shape than before...

Tuesday, October 6. Called the people who made the second offer and told them we've accepted. They came to the house and we signed the paperwork.

Wednesday, October 7. Contacted banker, the real estate agent who is selling our new house, took abstract to title service. Arranged to have our house inspected on Monday morning. Hope to complete assessment on both houses soon.

Someone once told us, "Boy, when you make up your mind to do something, you don't waste any time!" I think that seems pretty true, LOL! In 26 days we went from walking into an empty farmhouse to selling our own home. I know they say it's a buyers market right now, but I guess that isn't necessarily true when you're selling a completely renovated starter home in a desirable community. I had the feeling that we'd be able to capitalize on the first-time home buyer's tax credit and that our house wouldn't be on the market long. I'm guessing one day isn't considered long at all...

Oh, and we're closing on November 6th. We'll be home for the holidays!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A lost month...

So it's been over a month since I've blogged. It's been quite a month, that's for sure! Here's how we spent Violet's second birthday:

I brought a sitter with me to the mall to watch the kids while I was at skating practice as Scott was in rehearsal. I was just getting off the ice when the kids came around the corner of the rink. Birthday girl came running and smiling, sitter was pushing a teary Milo in the stroller. Hugged V, then sitter wheeled Milo closer and said, "He had a boo-boo that required a band-aid." At which point Milo burst into tears. I asked to see it, expecting the normal over-dramatics he puts out when he has "injuries", but something in his eyes stopped me dead in my tracks and I knew something was off. His arms didn't really look different than each other, but the way he was crying, coupled with the way he was holding his hand set off alarm bells. Loud, clanging, obnoxious alarm bells.

I started asking him what happened, what the sitter saw, if he could move it X or Y and didn't like the way things added up, so I told him we were going to go get some pictures taken just to make sure it wasn't a bad owie. Texted Scott, packed up my stuff and headed to find mall security to report the injury.

Found a mall cop and told him what happened. He was going to call for an ambulance, but I said that would terrify Milo and I was seeking medical attention on my own, that I just wanted an incident report so that when my insurance company called the mall, they could corroborate my claim. I wasn't insinuating that I was planning to sue and made that clear, but I knew that when my insurance adjuster sees the site of the accident, they would call the mall. For the record, I totally believe that this is a case of clumsy kid and not negligence -- he tripped in the soft play area and landed wrong.

Anyway, while I'm talking to the mall cop, Violet is climbing all over me, I'm juggling my wallet, phone, skate bag, and purse, comforting Milo and waiting for Scott to respond to the text (I texted him because I didn't want to interrupt rehearsal with a phone call). The number of things I was doing at this moment plays a part in this story later. Finish writing my account in the mall cop's notebook and head to the parking lot, load kids into the car and set out for the hospital.

Milo is crying, "I don't want to go to the hospital, I'm scared!" and Violet starts repeating, "I 'cared! I 'cared!" As we're headed out of the parking lot, I give up on Scott returning the text and call him, letting him know what's going on. He agrees to meet us at the ER and then we'll let the sitter take Violet home and put her to bed.

We arrive at the ER, I kiss Violet a thousand times and apologize for not being able to put her to bed on her birthday. Get Milo out of the car, send the sitter on her way, and register at the ER. I tell registration that he's very anxious, it's apparent as he's clinging to me with both legs and his left arm, crying softly into my neck. We take a seat and Scott comes flying through the doors in a matter of moments.

We're called back to triage and the doc apparently knows Scott's cousin's kids, so they chat about that and fast-track Milo to a room. Get in and settled and a nurse comes in, does vitals and gets Milo some ice. Then a resident comes in, asks Milo some questions, does a brief exam -- poor Milo was wincing, but not crying. Orders X-rays.

Milo then gets to take a bed ride to Radiology -- the techs were so sweet to him. I tell them we're trying to conceive and need to be out of the room -- they actually sent both of us out. Normally this would cause Milo to lose it, but he didn't. They take three pictures and wheel him back out. I pretend to chase him in slow motion, which makes him and the techs giggle.

The nurse is back with a pillow and some ice for his arm, says that it usually takes about an hour to read x-rays that time of night. We turn on Ice Age and Milo seems relaxed and drowsy.

35 minutes later, the attending come in, introduces himself and says that Milo's arm is, indeed, broken. Not a bad break, but they will be putting a soft plaster splint on it and we'll need to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon Thursday or Friday. The on-call surgeon is a "hand guy" but doesn't have his schedule in front of him, but says he'll get us in tomorrow.

Milo does a great job as they put the splint on and wrap his arm and get him in a sling. As in no complaining -- totally curious, but no fussing. The nurses and techs all wave at him as we check out, wishing him well.

He falls asleep in the car, so Scott takes him up to bed and I take the sitter home. When I go to pay her, I reach into my purse and cannot find my wallet. I check my trunk and skate bag quickly, hyperventilating... She tells me that she's fine with me catching up to her later and that she feels badly that he was hurt -- totally not her fault, though.

After getting stuck in an endless voice mail, I finally get a hold of mall security and they DO have my wallet, thank goodness...

Long, sleepless night. Milo is very uncomfortable, mostly because he was instructed not to take the sling off, so he can't find a good way to lay in his bed. I "slept" what was left of the night next to his bed.

Morning comes and I shower and get ready to take Violet to her 2 year well-child check. While I'm getting ready, Scott gets an appointment at the orthopedic guy for Milo. We time it so that I should have just enough time to get Violet into Cedar Rapids for her check-up, get her back to the sitter's, and pick up Scott and Milo to go to the ortho. All while driving as fast as I can, knowing that my license is in Coralville with my wallet.

Naturally, the ped is uncharacteristically behind schedule, but the nurse proceeds quickly with Violet once I explain the situation. Violet stepped on the scale and stood at the height thingy all by herself, following only the nurse's instructions. Totally impressed the nurse that a 2-year-old was so responsive. But, well... she's Violet, KWIM? The child is practically perfect, LOL! Anyway -- she's 33 inches tall and 28lbs 8oz. 48th percentile of height, 46th of weight.

Ped comes into the room, I explain what's up with Milo, he is darn reassuring that the break is common, easily treated, and something from which he'll recover fully. Then he examines Miss Perfect, pronounces her Miss Perfect, and is stunned when I tell him she's been dressing herself since 16 months, amazed that she can stand on one foot to put her pants on, and was impressed by a gratuitous display of manners when she asked me for something with a "pweese" and "daysh-you." Clean bill of health, Hep A was the only vaccine.

Drive carefully to the sitters, apologize that I don't have time to tell the whole story, but promise that I will when I pick Violet up this afternoon. I do tell her that Milo is OK, but tired and ouchie.

Get home, hop into Scott's car. Drive back to Cedar Rapids, check into the dr's office 10 minutes late -- which is fine as the Dr. is 45 minutes off schedule. We're totally not bothered by that and park Milo in front of a TV with Scooby Doo showing. Everyone in the waiting room is asking him what happened and wishing him well.

We're called back, answer questions regarding his medical history -- very short, BTW. Not much to report when you're a healthy 4-year-old. Nurse knows Scott's mom. She cuts his splint off and the doc is in, checks the films, says they're pretty good, but he wants "a perfect lateral" so we trundle down the hall for one more Xray. Milo sits easily on the tech's lap, follows directions perfectly, and they get "the perfect lateral."

Doc sees new film, seems very happy -- says that the break is only mis-aligned by 12 degrees and that they generally do not recommend setting pediatric breaks until they hit 31 degrees. He said, "If this were my child, I wouldn't risk the anesthesia for 12 degrees. It's up to you, but that little amount will not impact range of motion or anything in his future." Scott and I agree that seems unnecessary, so we proceed to the cast room.

Milo selects green -- lime green, alien green, neon green. You won't miss him in a crowded room! The nurses start putting the cast on, Milo and Scott are doing the Find It from the Highlights magazine.

As they proceed, the nurses comment, "You've got one really secure child. He's amazing -- we see many adults with half the composure he has. You are doing a great job as parents -- he's just lovely!"

Through the ER visit and the doc's visit, Milo hasn't complained once. He's followed every direction he's been given and answered the questions as articulately as any 4-year-old could. He charmed the pants off of everyone he met, they all smiled and wished him well and waved at him as we left. I am so proud of him!

A broken bone was the one first-aid emergency I'd never encountered until last night, and it was the one that had me most afraid. I get woozy when I hear how people break bones, so knowing that I kept my composure, made the best decisions I could about Milo's health, and kept him calm and willing to participate in the exams feels like clearing a big hurdle for me. Scott was great at keeping him occupied and entertained while I did all of the paperwork and stuff -- days like yesterday and today make me so very aware of why I love him so much -- he's so darn good with our babies, so compassionate and kind. I just love him!

Oh, I did get back down to the mall and retrieved my wallet. I'm so glad that it was the only thing I lost!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Kicking the Tires

Well, the craziness from last week hasn't abated. Still busy at work, still busy around the house. Sick kids AGAIN, different cold. Whoopie!

Sunday night going into Monday I heard over the baby monitor that tell-tale seal barking. Miss V was awake and confused and a bit scared. I went in immediately, snuggling her and trying to nurse her. She seemed comforted by my presence, but I could still hear her stridor a bit, so she and I bundled up and took advantage of the near-record lows by hanging out on the deck. She wasn't terribly uncomfortable and it was actually quite peaceful listening to the crickets and the trucks hitting the rumble strips on the highway. I might be the only person I know that enjoys the sounds of the rumble strips, but I do. I also like the haunting whistle of the trains as they speed through our sleepy town at night. I think we both dozed gently for about an hour until Violet's stridor was gone and I could slip her back into her crib.

Monday night brought no recurrence, though Tuesday morning she was an absolute drama queen as she cried and clung and insisted "No! MY do it!" about everything. She was apparently uncharacteristically volatile at daycare as the sitter called me at about 3:00 to let me know that she'd given her ibuprofen after she wouldn't settle during nap and had cried, "My ear! My ear hurts!" So after a frustrating quarter of an hour where I was calling back and forth to Scott about whether or not to schedule a doctor's appointment, trying to figure out if I could manage to not take both kids to the doctor, and scheduling a late appointment (7:00), we determined that my only option was to take both kids to the doctor by myself.

Believe it or not, both kids were stupendous at the doctor! I warned Milo that once the doc was in the room, I would not be able to continue to read to him. Violet volunteered to sit on the exam table, sat still through the exam, allowed the doc to look at her throat and managed the tongue depressor without gagging. Diagnosis: ear infection, but just starting. I elected to have the doc phone in a prescription that I would pick up and hang onto for a couple of days and not administer unless she got worse. So I ask that the prescription be sent to the Target on the SOUTH side of town. I said this very clearly and she repeated it back to me. Keep this in mind, it plays into the story later.

The kids and I trudge back to the car and we drive to the Target on the SOUTH side of town. This is a small drive from the doc's office, but it is closer to home from this Target than it is from the other one. We get there, park, pile into a cart and enter the store. I wheel the cart to the pharmacy, inquire on the status of the prescription knowing that it has only been about 15 minutes since it was called over and, therefore, likely not ready -- but you never know, right? They tell me they haven't received it yet, but will fill it as soon as they do.

The kids and I have a few grocery items to get, so I head to the grocery side of the store. By this point, Violet is getting very tired of the outing and wants to walk next to the cart. While she's on the loose, she grabs five, yes FIVE, boxes of fruit snacks (candy) and puts them on the bottom of the cart. Instantly, Milo's broken rule detector goes into overdrive and he removes them, admonishing his sister in the process. She looks at him, and I swear I saw steam rising from her ears, screams, "NO! MY DO IT!" at the top of her lungs. I glance around to see if we're alone in the aisle, of course we're not. An older couple smirks bemusedly at my squalling offspring. I diffuse the situation expertly and, for an oh-so-brief moment, feel like a good mother.

But just for a moment. Violet is insistent that she carry the loaf of bread, um, the now squished loaf of bread, through the store. But, as she's not quite two and has the attention span of an immature puppy, she dropped it mid-aisle. Milo, who was watching her closely, grabbed it and tossed it into the back of the cart.

"NO! MY BED!" howls the little one. "MY do it, my BEEEED!" Clearly my angel baby is possessed this evening, so I usher the arguing children back to the pharmacy to see if they could take pity on my screaming horde and fill the prescription more quickly -- if not for the sake of my children, but for the sake of the eardrums of the other shoppers. The prescription still has not arrived. They tell me it should only be another ten minutes and check back then. Sigh...

We're off to the other side of the store to check out Halloween decorations. Well, Target right now has a whopping quarter of an aisle of Halloween stuff out. Of which we bought roughly half of the merchandise. OK, so we bought three fake pumpkins. But in a bare aisle, that seems like half of the stock. I was planning only one pumpkin, but Violet again piped up with the "My do it! My puh-kin!" as she lofted two pumpkins into the cart. You know, if they had been real, she might have a great career in the shot put.

We also ended up with a tube of wrapping paper with Disney's Princesses on it because, well, she seemed to stop screaming when she walked through the store, dragging it behind her like a paralyzed pink tail. And I can use it on her birthday presents, since she turns two next week.

Lest you think this tale of woe is over, let me say that I returned again to the pharmacy to see if the prescription was filled. Once again they said they hadn't received it. As this was the third time I'd asked and the third time they couldn't find it, I suggested they call the other Target to see if, by some mistake, the doc had called the wrong one. Guess what? The doc called the wrong one. Now they say, "We'll have to transfer the prescription and then we'll fill it right away!"

I grit my teeth and steer the kids towards children's clothing as it is the only department in the store that we haven't visited, plus Milo could use some more long pajamas. Why on earth do they make the aisles in this section so dang narrow? Don't they understand that nearly everyone who shops in this department has a cart full of screaming monkeys, as I do? Violet starts pulling items of clothing from the rack like she's picking apples. I follow along behind her, re-stocking the racks. I over hear one store worker mutter to another, "The children's department is closed." They laugh conspiratorially.

It is at this point that the crazy in me starts to seep out. I feel like I've done a commendable job of entertaining my sick, past their bedtime kids in the store. I haven't left a path of destruction in our wake. I sign loudly and say to Milo, "We'll be able to go home as soon as the pharmacy gets Violet's medicine done. I know we've been here a long time and I'm ready to be done, too."

As if on cue, Violet takes off running. She pushes the cart into a display rack of t-shirts hard enough to move the display. I gasp, snatch her up, and plop her into the cart seat. She wails. She flails. She hits the back of her head on the cart and sobs. I pick her up and hold her close. It really isn't fair of me to expect her to be well behaved -- she's sick, she's tired, and she's as fucking bored as I am. I reset the display and venture over to the pharmacy for a fourth time.

Now there is a line there. Four customers appeared out of thin air. I decide that we need to pay for our merchandise and take it out to the car because I'm tired of playing bad cop in the store. Thankfully, checkout was easy. Unloading the cart into the trunk of the car was easy. Getting the kids back into the store, not so easy. Even though I'd told them we were headed back into the store, apparently neither of them believed me. They both protested and protested LOUDLY as I re-entered the store. No line at the pharmacy and, lo and behold, the prescription is ready. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We get back out to the car. I'm frayed at this point. Exhausted by the adventure, and rubbed raw by the stress of the day and the last week. As I approach the car, I smell cigarette smoke in the air. OK. It's illegal to smoke indoors in this state anymore, so smokers hang out outside. Whatever, fine. It turns out that the smoker was a woman in medical scrubs, on her cell phone parked with her car nose-to-nose with mine. I'm still all "whatever" about it -- not my body, not my choice. I do buckle the kids down as fast as I can, which is pretty darn fast, thank-you-very-much.

Then I notice that this scrubs-sporting, cell phone-chatting, smoking chick isn't going into the store yet. In fact, she's walking around her car to the passenger side. I don't see a toddler or a school aged child in there, but I do see her pulling an absolutely gorgeous infant in an infant bucket out of the back seat of her car. The baby reaches excited up to the woman, who doesn't notice it. In fact, because she's juggling the phone, the car door, and her cigarette, she blows smoke into her sweet baby's face.

Here's where the real crazy gets out. I'm so stunned that I'm speechless. Thinking back, I think I must have looked as apoplectic as a fish out of water. Without really making a decision, I've laid on my horn. The woman doesn't even look around as she's balancing her infant carrier on a cart, still puffing away. I pull out of my parking space and sit on my own hand so that I don't roll down my window and shout, "Cute baby! Looks like a Cancer, there. Or maybe you're just giving her cancer, huh?" Nope, I practically swallow my tongue as I drive past her, pretending my jaw was wired shut.

The kids did the usual amount of whining on the way home, Violet exclaiming, "I stuck in my seat!" every four minutes or so. "Yes, honey, you're supposed to be stuck in your seat -- that's what keeps you safe!" Milo asked repetitively for a drink and I assured him that he could have one as soon as we got home and before bath.

We pull up in front of out home and find that on our quiet small-town street, there is not room for me to park in front of our own house. And again, I am over the edge -- I've bought a one-way ticket to crazytown, near tears in my frustration. is it so much to ask that a woman with two tired, sick kids be able to park in front of her own home to unload? That I not have to stumble through the grass in the dark to get to my own front door?

Milo picks up on my annoyance, parroting, "Sheesh! Way to park in front of our house! C'mon!!" I'm really glad that I didn't yell at that smoking lady now... who knows what he would be repeating...

I did get the kids unloaded, into and out of the bath, and to bed without further incident. I did manage to unload the rest of the car, load and start the dishwasher, organize the laundry, lay out clothes for the next day, and get ready for bed before Scott returned home from work.

Yep, I did all that. And I kicked the tired of the offending car with every load into and out of the house. Is that considered vandalism? I know I don't kick hard enough to leave a mark, particularly since I didn't want to hurt my foot. But I felt a little better imagining the pharmacy and the smoking lady as I connected with the hard rubber. I didn't have to imagine the car, though, since it was still there when I woke up the next morning.

A new day had dawned, though, and I did not kick the car as I left the house. I guess that even though I'd packed my bag and gone to the airport, I didn't board the plane to crazytown after all.

Monday, August 31, 2009

School Daze

Milo has started preschool. His first day, last Wednesday, was awful. Friday seemed better, and today I was able to leave him with only a whimper. Let me give you a quick play-by-play:

Wednesday: We talk all about preschool for at least five days preceding the actual event and I think he's got a good grip on what will happen. The first day is only a hour long and I'll take him, then stay int he room with him for a while, then attend a parents' meeting, then collect him and bring him back to the sitter's. I thought he understood this, I really did...

We arrive and we're a bit early. They keep us waiting in the hallway so that we can all enter at the same time and no one feels like they're arriving late. Milo is fine with the first four minutes of waiting, but the last five minutes dragged on like a lifetime of him pulling on my arm, sitting and standing on my feet, trying to use my bra as a hand-hold to scale me... He's already nervous and antsy and the suspense is killing him. Finally the door opens and we enter the classroom. He looks around and remembers is from the open house last spring. I guide him to the hooks where he's supposed to hang his backpack and tell him to find his name. He can read his name and write it, so this is actually accomplished pretty quickly. We hang his backpack and face the room.

I led him guide me past three or four stations to see if any of the toys peak his interest. Of course, they don't. Holding my hand and burying his face in my bum are way more interesting than toys he's never seen... I finally find a spot at the Playmobile table where three other litte boys are playing with cowboys and native Americans. He picks up a buffalo and starts winding it's tail like he's grinding sausage. About that time, the teachers call for the parent's meeting and I bend down and tell him I'm headed upstairs.

His eyes practically pop out of his head, he flushes and covers his mouth as he starts to wail. I pull him in for a quick hug, wipe his tears, and tell him that I'm going to be upstairs for just a few minutes and that he's going to be fine. I've glanced around the room and he's the only one that appears to be crying. Sigh... He begs me not to go, but I force a bright smile and reassure him that he will be just fine without me there. Then I turn and walk away, holding my breath and expecting him to tackle me as I try to leave the room.

He didn't. I waited about 30 seconds outside the door to see if I could hear him cry, then peeked my head around the door again. Much to my amazement, he was sitting quietly in the chair, his back to me. I could see him wipe tears, but could tell that he wasn't sobbing, so I didn't feel like the worst mother ever as I followed the ant-trail of parents up to the meeting room.

When the parents' meeting concluded, I rushed downstairs to find Milo, but after peeking my head in, didn't see or hear him right away, so I opted to use the restroom before formally retrieving him. When I came into the classroom, he was at the far wall, holding a toy and interacting with it, but also peering anxiously for me. His face lit up when I saw him, I breathed a sigh of relief that the separation wasn't fatal. As I got closer, he chirped excitedly, "I'm going to go home and play my Star Wars Wii!"

"Oh, not today, little buddy. Remember, you're going back to the sitter's house?"

And then it happened. Milo let his inner brat take over. He shrieked,"I don't WANT to go to the sitter's! I want to GO HOME AND PLAY MY WII!" Saying this once might have been fine, but he adopted it as a screaming mantra, saying it over and over and over until I was ready to cry myself. We couldn't get out of the room fast enough...

I am thoroughly convinced that he's now been labeled, "THAT kid." As in the one that screams like a banshee when he doesn't get his way. It wasn't typical of him, particularly in public, so I hope it was a combination of first-day-jitters and recovering from sore throat crankiness. I hope...

He screamed all the way to the sitter's, all the way up her porch steps and was about to run screaming into her house until I hissed at him that the babies were sleeping so he needed to be quiet, too, and that if he didn't stop crying by the time I counted to three, I was going to ask that he lay down for a nap, too.

"One..." Whine, moan.
"Two..." Sniffle, whimper.
"Three..." Silence. THANK GOD!

Friday: Milo asked that I walk him to preschool if it wasn't raining. It wasn't raining, so I put on my comfy shoes, walked to the sitter's, and met a smiling Milo in her foyer. He was eager to walk and even, for the first time ever, wore his backpack without complaint. of course, it was completely empty, but he was happy to put it on. I silently wish for a better drop-off and set out for the five block walk, his little warm hand inside mine. He hops over sidewalk cracks and chats the entier way there in a funny little stream-of-consciousness monologue. He tells me that he wants "three more little sisters and two little brothers" because "the girl babies are cuter." We'll see about THAT request.

When we get there, we're early again, and knowing how anxious he got just standing in the hallway, I say I need to use the bathroom and we duck into the ladies room. I say duck with a smile because there's a big duckie rug and a duckie soap dish and a duckie wall hanging in there. Milo laughs at all of the duckies and is happy to see a step stool at the sink so that he can wash his hands unassisted.

We finish up in the bathroom and get in line to go into the classroom. We're close to the door, so when the teacher opens it, we're the first in! Milo likes this as he's not held up by traffic when it comes to finding his name. He recognized it quickly and proudly hangs his backpack up on the little wooden peg. The he looks around the room, walks past a couple of stations, and finally decides, "I'm just going to stand here." I say, "OK, little buddy. I'm going to go back to work. Daddy will pick you up and you'll go back to the sitter's."

"I KNOW that Mom. You already TOLD me that." True, but since he didn't remember me telling him that the first day, I figured telling him a couple of extra times wouldn't be harmful...

Scott picked Milo up on time and dropped him off at the sitter's without incident. Milo announces, "I LOVE preschool!" Yay!

Today: Milo was clingy at daycare drop-off this morning, so I was anticipating another rough transition to preschool. He decided he wanted a ride today, so I picked him up and got him out the door. Drop-off was great, thanks in part to a disorganized alphabet puzzle -- he cant' resist puzzles or letters right now, so when I left him, he was busy with the puzzle and barely nodded. Whoopie!!!

So he's smiling and happy, but today as I pulled away from the sitter's, Violet's got her little nose pressed against the screen door, calling, "Mommy! I go, too! I go Mommy's car! Mommy! Mommy!" I guess I can't get my exit right... It just wouldn't be a day without me leaving a child crying for me somewhere...

Weekend funnies: Milo got caught by a cousin saying, "God Dammit!" Couldn't lie with a straight face when we asked him about it. We reminded him that we don't say things like that and suggested, "Oh, man!" and "Holy cow!" instead. He decided that he preferred his own contribution, "Holy macaroni!" Works for me.

Last weekend he and Scott were cleaning out the garage as I nursed (literally) a sick Violet all day. They apparently had a discussion about off-colored language:

Milo: Can I say, "What the heck?"
Scott: Not really, I don't think Mommy would like that at all.


Milo: Can I just say it in the garage with you?

Violet funny: We were at the fabric store and Violet spied a Tinkerbell pattern and squealed. I asked her if she wanted me to make her a Tinkerbell costume for Halloween. She was trilled and agreed to be "Tikka bawl." in fact, she talked about it non-stop all of Saturday. On Sunday, Scott's mom asked her what she was going to be for Halloween.

She answered "Rina!" (ballerina) without hesitation. Well... OK then. I think Tinkerbell can dance like a ballerina, don't you?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Letter to a Friend

Hello, my dear…

So I hear that you’re gonna have a rack that will FINALLY let you live out your dream of working at Hooters. :)

I have tried writing to you 18 times this week and have hated everything I’ve written. It was too sentimental, then too stoic, and always too exactly not what I wanted to say… I hope that 19 times is the right one.

I love you for being the older sister that I have never had; you and Dan and the kids are the people I include in my chosen family. I want you to know that I will always support you, cry with you, and cheer for you. I don’t want to push too hard, nor distract your energy when you need it so much, but I am with you every step. You have always been in my daily thoughts and will be even more so now. I know that I am too far away to hold your hand, fold your laundry, or to sing silly songs to you, but if I were closer I would do all that for you and your family -- and more.

Please keep us updated if you feel up to it, but I don’t want you to feel pressured to keep us in the loop minute-by-minute.

I’m not sure I got it right with draft 19, but I know that you’re going to be around to read drafts 20, 200, and 2000.

Love you always,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

It is raining today. I've looked at the RADAR and it will be raining, and possibly storming, all day. I think this is OK, the rain certainly matches my mood.

It was a tough weekend in the Olinger household and an even tougher start of the week. Today is that mythical mid-way point and I'm searching for signs of improvement in the forecast.

The kids are sick. Nothing serious, but annoying enough to them that I've spent most of the last three nights comforting one or the other of them for the majority of the time that I should be sleeping. Both seem to be doing better today, I hope, anyway.

Milo is hitting an important milestone today! He's starting preschool in T-2 hours. He is appropriately alternating between terrified and excited. My bet is that he'll be excited until we park at the preschool, then terrified as we walk to the building and into his classroom.

Violet can count to ten! Almost... She's got 1-6, 9 & 10. I think she's afraid of 7 because, well... 7 ate 9. Ba-dum-bump!

Work is busy for both me and Scott. This is the week that all of the first-year students are on campus and we've both got meetings and events galore. We played the "shift the kids back and forth so that both of us can attend as much as possible" game on Monday and Tuesday. That's so exhausting... Plus, the kids totally trashed my office twice yesterday. I need to figure out if I can scrub highlighter off of an upholstered chair. Don't ask...

But the news that has made this week the most difficult, drawing me deeply into my shell, is that our dear friend, my sister-by-choice, has breast cancer.

Selfishly I have yet to contact her. I haven't called because I know that I will simply come unspooled if I talk to her. I haven't written because everything I write sounds like a eulogy -- and I'm not sending something that grotesque to her. I know that she needs me and am very thankful that Scott has done what he always does: reach out, use inappropriate humor, and send massive amounts of chocolate. As in bought an entire aisle of dark chocolate from Target -- one of every variety, several of the most tempting.

I am not the one who is sick, but I am not processing this well at all. I am furious that cancer is trying to steal someone whom I love so much. Every time I put Violet to breast, and that has been quite a few times since she's ill, I touch the very tissue that my friend will lose next week. I hold in my hand that which is giving my daughter life and that which is poisoning my friend. And I am angry about it -- who gives cancer the right to creep quietly into her body, sliding between cells, ravenous and vicious?

On Sunday night, the night before I learned of my friend's battle, I lay next to Milo's bed, sighing because he didn't want me to leave his side. His sleep was uneasy, his fever rousting him every few moments. I lay there and thought, "This is annoying, but it will pass. I can't imagine what I would do if one of my babes was so sick that the illness won't pass. I can't imagine the grief of not being able to lie on the carpet next to the bed of my child. I am lucky."

I wept silently as I recalled a young family that I had seen at Disneyland on the trip to California that we'd taken when Milo was about 19 months old. I was pregnant with Violet and we were visiting my dear friend about whom I am writing. We were in line behind the family for the Jungle Cruise ride and I noticed that the young mother was struggling to hold a child on her hip in the heat. The child looked too old to really need to be held, or so I thought until I saw that she was bald. An ugly, ugly scar mapped her scalp. My heart stopped. I realized that the little girl and her family were on a Make-a-Wish trip.

Instantly my pregnant hormones went into overdrive and I started blinking rapidly to hold back tears. My chest tightened and my breath caught in my throat. It was all I could do to not bawl as I watched the girl, grinning from ear to ear, as she described all of the things she thought she would see on the ride. This mother wasn't just holding her child in a long line, she was clasping her into her body, trying to force her back into the womb, back into a time when she was safe and healthy, back to the time when their souls were one.

I had to look away, gulping air. I rubbed Violet's bum inside me, squatted and kissed a sticky Milo, then hoisted him up onto my hip, vowing that I would carry my children into my body any time they needed me to lift them up. I think of this family every time one of my kids is ill.

I don't want to overwhelm my friend, after all, this isn't about me and what I want -- it is about her and what she needs. I am thirsty for knowledge, but unsure how far to push her; I don't want to hover and smother, yet I am unsure of how to support. She is so generous that I don't want her to know how wrecked I am about this; her first reaction would be concern for me and I think she needs to put her energy into healing. I will write to her by the end of the week, I must swallow my own fear and grief and let her know how much I love and support her.

I want to carry my friend. I want to scoop her up and hold her. I want to sing to her and keep her safe. I want to do these things for her because I love her, because I love her children and her husband, and because I love my children and my husband, and a little girl whom I have never met.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The After Party

Here's a Violet funny: At a family wedding this weekend, someone was asking me how it was going with two kids instead of one. Clearly they think Violet suddenly dropped into our lives as a nearly-two-year-old toddler... Anyway, my answer is the same answer I usually give, "Aww, she's the easiest baby ever made, so it was no problem."

Her little ears had perked up when she realized I was talking about her, so she nodded and agreed, "Yes, I eassy!"

I kissed her plump little pink cheek and told her, "You may be easy, but that's not something you brag about, Sweet Pea..."


This past weekend was the celebration of the marriage of my youngest cousin. He's 24 now, 12 years my junior. I vividly recall his infancy as I was the perfect age to babysit when he was little -- at least until I moved away to college. I say this because it was a little strange being at his wedding. It made me feel old, but not really in a bad way. Old in that way that also makes me really glad I'm not 24 again and not just testing the waters of adulthood. I'm so glad that I have outgrown angst and insecurity and traded them for more experience and, yes, dirty diapers.

There were 11 Baker kids that were born in 12 years to my dad and his two brothers. Now, after a very tragic death, there are 10 of us. 6 married, 2 on second marriages, 1 divorced and 1 never-been-down-the-aisle (yet). Between us, we have 9 children and one stepchild. Plus two on the way (yay for babies!). And weddings aren't what they used to be, that's for sure!

Mine was the first and only two of us were of legal drinking age, so I can honestly say that it was the tamest wedding to date. My cousin (who counts as the divorced one in the tally above) was married next and his wedding was dry, but the after party... well... My uncle had turned the bathtub in the hotel into a cooler and it was probably a really good thing that we were all staying in the same place as I don't know that any of us who were old enough for driver's licenses could have driven. You know the wedding was insane when the father of the groom says, "Yeah... I need a drink after THAT."

The next few weddings really represented the "Golden years" as far as cousins whooping it up can go -- the majority of us were out of high school, some married, some not, but no kids on the scene yet. And party we did... The guys drank and the girls danced...and drank and danced and danced and drank. No one cuts a rug like the Baker Girls! To be fair, four of us studied dance for decades and shed all semblance of performance anxiety when the music is on... we joke that we're all Dancing Princesses until we marry and then we're Dancing Queens.

But the focus has shifted with the last three weddings. Why? The Baker Generation, Part II has arrived, though I'm guessing our parents see it as Part III, but that's something George Lucas has to figure out for us. Simply put, we've all got babies or babies on the way now. Well, most of us. Some have two and I'm working on three.

Instead of grooving on the dance floor with my close-as-sisters cousins, we're bouncing joyously around the parquet tossing shrieking, giggling toddlers into the air. My own Milo got his groove on like none other, even going so far as trying to line dance with a large group. Instead of joining us for a dance or two, our parents watch, smiling and nodding as we twirl our awe-struck daughters around the Princess Bride. You know, that whole Circle of Life thing...

I don't mind, in fact, I can honestly say I don't miss tipsy wedding dances, sweaty dresses and blistered bare feet. I don't want to go back to the days where I would roll my eyes at a sappy father-daughter dance song. I kind of like wiping tears as I watch my husband bouncing in time to the music his sweet baby girl on his knee, her profile outlined in fuschia from the DJ's lighting rig. I love partnering my young son as he enthusiastically mashes my toes under his feet, grinning ear to ear and trying to sing the words to songs he's never heard. Go ahead, Milo, play that funky music!

I know I'm not the only one. I caught my little brother, a soon to be daddy, holding his adorable wife from behind, rubbing her belly as they snuggled close, wrapped in a moment of time all their own. I saw my sister happily serenading her chubby little cutie and my cousin cheerfully encouraging his kids through a limbo line. For a moment, I was doubly blessed as I balanced my sweet, pale Violet with my cousin's dark Maya -- one on each hip, swaying to the music -- our tiny Dancing Princesses in training.

Who knew that life after the after party could be so sweet?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


First of all, let me start by saying that I am wearing the most adorable pair of black platform sandals ever. They are very comfortable and light and easy to walk in... normally... Yes, the heel is 3 1/2 inches tall, but the platform is 1 1/2 inches, so the heel height is only 2 inches. I was tap dancing in two-inch heels when I was 10, so this heel height is a height that I am very comfortable wearing.

Why do I need to justify my shoes? I need to explain why I shouldn't win the "Worst Mother of the Year" award. Or maybe I should win the "Klutziest Mother of the Year."

The day actually started quite nicely. I wasn't jostled from bed too early by the whines of a dog needing to go out and hadn't been awakened overnight by my lovely children, darling husband, or faithful hounds. Everyone woke in good moods and cooperated during the morning scramble -- this isn't something that I take for granted.

And then I got to the sitters. As per my usual routine, I opened Milo's door and unbuckled him from his car seat. He normally climbs out and shuts his door while I round the back of the car and unbuckle Violet. She's been in a very independent stage and this morning, she was insisted that she could buckle herself back into the seat. I gently explained that we were going to go inside to play at the sitter's and she relented, allowing me to slide her out of her seat.

Then I stepped back to close the car door and I realized that Milo had followed me around the car instead of climbing the porch steps and making his way to the door as he usually does. I knew this because as I stepped back from my car, I stepped onto his foot. Startled, I immediately shifted my weight back to the other foot and attempted to put the errant foot down a bit more behind me and not on his toes.

When I set my foot down, I don't know if I set it down in a divot or on a stick or what, but it didn't connect with the pavement the way I expected. For a moment, I held my balance, then my ankle wobbled and I rocked over the outside of my sandal. I fought to get my foot on solid ground, but lost the battle and tumbled to the unforgiving driveway. Violet, who had been on my hip, was dislodged during the impact and she sailed out of my grasp, landing with a thud on her diaper-padded bum.

The look of confusion on her little face compelled me to scramble back to my feet. Her eyes welled and she screamed in shock and, I think, pain. I scooped her up and held her close, but she continued to shriek. Worried, I made my way to the sitter's porch and into the house where I sat her down gently on the foyer steps and quickly combed her body for scrapes, cuts, bruises -- any indication that I had hurt her badly. I found nothing and she quieted in less than a minute, tears caught on her cheeks.

Thinking back, she likely only flew out of my arms as I connected with the cement, and though she traveled three feet away from me, she probably only went down eighteen inches or so. She didn't skid and I didn't sit on her, she didn't hit her head or try to catch herself with her hands, so I do believe that her bottom took most of the impact. But I still feel beyond terrible about it.

As for me? I was overwhelmed by adrenaline immediately after the fall and continued to be as I bid the now-calm children goodbye and returned home to change my clothes. I think that I might have bruised my left palm, but my ankle, knee, and back all seem fine. I can take a fall -- I've had enough practice in Aikido and figure skating to know that my fall was a "good" fall and that even though I'm fat and hit the deck hard, I rolled onto my back after impact and the motion dispersed a lot of the force with which I landed (and showed the neighborhood my undies). I get the physics of it. But I am still wrapped in guilt. I know that accidents happen and that no one was seriously -- or even minorly -- hurt.

I was so shaken by this, that after I returned home I stopped at the local grocery store. I dreamt last night that I was eating Ding Dongs and gave in to the craving this morning. It's fitting: a Ding Dong for a ding-dong... Yep, that's my prize for ringing my clock this morning.

p.s. I'm still wearing the shoes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Brontophobia: Fear of Storms

My little Violet is hitting that age. That age when a toddler develops fear. And I can say that I think I hate this more than any other thing a toddler does. While the protesting, arguing, hitting, and willfulness are annoying, I know that they are happening because my children are growing up and thinking for themselves. I get that, and while I might not really enjoy it, I understand the necessity of this to their intellectual and emotional development.

I don't understand the cloud of fear, though. In the last few weeks, poor Miss V has started becoming afraid of several things. Like sudden loud noises. And lying down on a changing table -- though sitting, standing, and climbing on the same changing table seem to be fine.

At first it seemed to be the hair clippers -- when Scott gave Milo a recent shearing, Violet hid in the bathroom, peering around the door frame with her eyes wide, ducking inside the room if Scott so much as motioned in her direction with the clippers. OK, that's fine -- I'm not planning to let her get a clipper cut, anyway -- in other words, this is just a spring rain.

The fear was contagious, though, and it spread to the vacuum cleaner. It's much more difficult to avoid a vacuum cleaner, particularly during shedding season as our beloved mutts drop fur in hunks. I cannot abide by furry clothing or furniture, so I vacuum daily during summer shedding season.

Next up was the fan Scott used to inflate the air mattress in the tent. Again, this isn't an instrument used regularly, so avoiding it shouldn't be difficult.

Now we include power tools. Poor little babe ran screaming to me when we were out at Scott's parents' helping with their new siding. She did it every time grandpa cut a new piece of siding. We eventually went inside the house where she was less affected.

After being in Chicago, or 'Cago as she says, the noisy item at the top of the list is hand driers. Since she's not using a toilet, she was only in and out of public restrooms for diaper changes. This created the Perfect Storm of terror for my poor baby: screaming hand driers and changing tables.

Trying to get her diaper changed was painful for both of us. The minute we approached a restroom, she would tense. Washing her hands was fine and fun, provided we chose to air-dry, which I generally do. But if we walked past the sinks and she noticed me looking around for a Koala Care station, she started whining. If I dropped the changing table into position, she cried outright, "No! no! no! No, mama, I 'cared!"

The final diaper change of the weekend had both of us in tears as I just couldn't make it any better for her and simply refused to change her on the floor of a freeway exit McDonald's. I had refused one other diaper change at Shedd Aquarium -- after I'd watched not one, but two mothers change poop blow-outs with an inadequate number of wipes and was thoroughly disgusted. Thankfully, Scott jumped to the rescue and was in and out of the men's room in no time.

As I pushed the door into the restroom, she tried to vault over my shoulder for Scott as if she thought he would save her from the hurricane of whirring hand-driers. I set her gently on the changing table and she quickly scooted nearly off the end of it. "No, mommy! No! No diaper! Its 'cary! I 'cared!" She was flinging her little arms about, reaching for anything she could use to haul herself off of her back and back into my arms. Talk about heartbreaking... She cried, I cried...

As soon as she noticed me crying, though, she subdued quickly and swiped at my tears as I was wiping hers. "Okay, mommy... Okay. I luh loo..."

She was trying to comfort me they way I comfort her, by holding her tightly and saying, "It's okay, baby... it's okay... I love you..." Not surprisingly, this had the opposite effect of what she'd intended and blinked faster, trying to hold back more tears.

And maybe that's why there is this kind of developmentally appropriate fear -- to teach a child compassion. To help her recognize when someone is giving her everything they have in a moment to help her stay intact. For that moment when she was concerned for me, her fear subsided. Even if the fear wasn't quelled, clearly the love is getting through and touching her, keeping her light shining brightly through the storm, a lighthouse in a dark port.

So maybe I get it. It doesn't mean that I like sailing in this weather.