Counting Blessings

This year hasn't been easy. There's always something to be worried about--something that isn't done, something that can't be fixed, something that can't be changed. As usual, I spend a good amount of time worrying. It can be difficult to remember the good things sometimes.

Lately, even though the worry is still there, an overwhelming sense of calm overrides it. Despite all the problems I have to deal with every day, there's one thing that is constant in my life.

I am blessed.

I am blessed to have a beautiful family.

I am blessed to have a loving husband who works hard to support our family, so I can stay home and help that family grow.

I am blessed to have siblings that help me remember my childhood (and sometimes, to help me pretend I'm still a child).

I am blessed by my aunt, who lets my children call her grandma and provides the comfort I sometimes need in the absence of my mother.

I am blessed by my grandmother, still healthy and full of life (and opinions...).

I am blessed to have a niece to spoil, since ALL THREE of my children are boys!

I am blessed by the roof over my head (even if it leaks sometimes).

I am blessed to be warm by a fire with wood provided by parents who love us.

I am blessed by the phone calls and text messages I get from friends and family every day (whether I manage to answer them or not).

I am blessed by my children's love, and by more hugs and kisses than I could count in a lifetime.

I am blessed to have good friends to talk to when I need to cry or to complain or to laugh.

I am blessed to live so near my family, and to always have help when I need it, whether it's a babysitter, a piece of advice, or help buying new tires for my car.

I am blessed. By these and so many other things. And for every time that I get frustrated, angry, or worried, I have ten blessings to remind me why life isn't really so bad.

No, nothing is easy. There is always something to worry about. But counting blessings is a lot more comforting.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you're enjoying your blessings as much as I am enjoying mine.


Six Word Fridays: Home

From Making Things Up

Doesn't have to be a house,
Or even have a single door.
Just comfort from your loving arms.
A home I treasure forever more.


The Mother I Remember

It has been 11 years to the day since my mother passed away. The pain of losing her has dulled over the years, but I still find myself in tears sometimes, thinking of how much I miss her. Lately, I've been thinking about her more than I have in a long time. I'm not crying as much as when she first died, of course, but I am missing her like it just happened yesterday.

I have been trying to figure out why I've been thinking about her so much lately. Is it my own growing family? Or maybe it's the stress of my life that I ache for her to calm? Maybe my hormones are to blame. I know it could be a little of all of these things. But last night, as I lay in my bed crying tears in to my pillow, I thought long and hard about my mom. And I realized that I've been missing her so much because I feel like I've forgotten her.

When I first started thinking about it, I felt like I couldn't recall anything specific about her anymore. How did she sound? What did she smell like? But the longer I thought, the easier memories of her became. It isn't that I've forgotten, it's just that, out of necessity, I've pushed them to the back of my mind. I can't describe exactly how much my mom meant to me, but I can tell you that if I remembered her so vividly every day, my eyes would never be dry. Her absence is a hole in my soul. I miss her dearly.

I miss the woman who could solve any of my problems with a hug and a stroke of my hair. She taught me how to spell (by needing things spelled for her all the time) and how to balance a checkbook (by making me balance hers). She was strong, street smart, and kind. I can't recall her without a smile on her face. She laughed in the face of temper tantrums and commanded respect without hardly ever raising her voice. No matter how sick she got--how the lupus warped her skin in to a patchwork of red blotches--she was always the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. She had an enormous heart, and for me, love radiated whenever she was in my vicinity. Smart, honest, beautiful--my mother epitomized them all.

There is a way to hug my whole family at once, to make us recall the glue that once cemented our family together, and all it takes is a single word. Jackie.

I miss you, Mom. I hope you're resting peacefully, and I hope you can feel the love we all still hold in our hearts for you.


Six Word Fridays: Change

Sometimes we are afraid of it.
Usually we don't notice it happening.
It is fluid, like puddles forming
While rain streams from the sky.
It feels abrupt, sometimes, but isn't,
Because even those abrupt, altering moments
Don't immediately change who we are.
Change takes time--happens so slowly.
We are likely not to recognize
Ourselves from the changes we've incurred
But when we look back again,
Will we know how we've transformed?


Unplugging James

My older son, James, turns 4 on Saturday. I can hardly believe it's been four years already. At the same time, however, I can't believe it hasn't been more than four. For as dear as my little James is to me, I am constantly challenged by him. Because he is my first. And every new thing he does is something I haven't seen before. It can be cute and funny and rewarding--but it can also be exhausting and perplexing and frustrating.

I suppose my real problems have arisen quite recently; James was the easiest kind of baby there is. He could sit happily in a swing while I went to the bathroom or cooked dinner. He rarely cried without a good reason. I couldn't help thinking, way back then, that parenting a newborn wasn't as difficult as I was expecting (then #2 came along, and boy, did he prove me wrong).

When James was a toddler, the story was much the same. While I sometimes worried about him, wanting to make sure he met his "milestones" when he should, there still weren't many problems. He was easy to discipline and listened exceptionally well. The terrible twos were markedly mild, and on the whole the threes have been fairly uneventful.

But now, my little one, my first born, is swiftly changing from toddler in to boy. Sometimes I'm shocked at how much of a little personality he has--how grown up he seems. And then I realize, it's just that he's not a baby anymore. And I think we're both having some problems with the transition.

A month or so ago, James started changing in a way I didn't like at all. He has become increasingly moody, lazy, and disinterested in the world around him. It's like pulling teeth to get him to play with a toy, and he can quite often be found brooding on the couch, thumb in mouth, pouting that he can't watch TV.

Initially I chalked this up to my own lack of energy in the preceding months. I wasn't the same Mommy I used to be from August to October. We didn't do nearly as much as normal, because I was having severe, all day "morning" sickness. We did a lot more sitting in the grass reading books than we did running around the park. I thought once I started feeling better and got us out of the house more, he'd snap out of it.

The opposite has been true. The problem was exacerbated when my husband introduced him to his XBox. This was a terrible choice for a child that's already obsessed with sitting on the couch; I wish I would have protested it. But, I must be honest, it was nice to see a spark of happiness in his eyes, and it was terribly cute how excited he got to play "Lego the Company," (as he calls the Lego: Indiana Jones video game his dad gave him to play).

Video games have now become an obsession. I've been setting limits and denying him, but our days are peppered with requests to play the game. I spend more time thinking of other things for him to do than I ever have before. I feel like we're sinking, and I'm afraid I don't know the way out of this hole. His moodiness has gotten worse, and it's hard to get him out of his little fog of electronic bliss. He doesn't even get excited to see his grandparents anymore--and they're the kind that hide candy in your pockets and bring you toys every time they visit.

I was thinking last night, as I lay in bed worrying about this problem, that this is our first real "big boy" struggle. He's developing distinct interests, and problems like this are bound to come up again. I'm not always going to like how he chooses to spend his time, and I have a feeling we'll spend quite a bit of time struggling over it.

For now, I'll keep denying and keep trying to get him interested in less reclusive activities. But I think both of us have a long road before we totally figure this out. We start ice skating lessons on Saturday, and he's getting a slew of actual Legos and other real toys for his birthday on Sunday. I'm hoping something catches his interest and helps me wean him from his video game addiction.

I'm definitely open to suggestions. But please, curb the judging on why I let my 4-year-old play video games in the first place. I'm still trying to figure out why I let that happen.


A Story of Births and Beliefs

The other night, I decided to watch a movie. I didn't know what I wanted to watch, so I clicked on the suggested movies of Netflix and let it help me decide. The Business of Being Born popped up, and it sounded fairly interesting, so I decided to watch it. I'd never heard of it before, but I figured there couldn't be a better subject for an expecting mother, right? I thought maybe I'd learn something I didn't already know.

I knew within 10 minutes that I'd made a mistake. Not because it was a terrible movie, but because it was going to be difficult for me to watch. Within a very short time, I was crying.

I cried because the story echoed over and over throughout the movie is similar to what happened to me when I gave birth to my first child. I cried because there was so much I didn't know then, so much that would have helped me make better decisions about the whole experience. I can't say for sure if things would have worked out differently if I had been more informed, but learning some of these things after the fact is like a sucker punch to the stomach.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first son, I developed severe hypertension and borderline preeclampsia. The doctor kept reassuring me that my blood pressure wasn't so high that we needed to worry, and there wasn't much protein in my urine. But, to be safe, he sent me for a nonstress test to make sure my baby was doing ok. The test seemed to go fine; the nurse told me the baby looked like he was doing great. I left the hospital feeling absolutely relieved.

I didn't make it to my car before I got a phone call from my doctor's office.

"We need you to go back to the hospital. We're admitting you for further observation."

Apparently, although the baby was doing fine, they weren't so sure that I was. My blood pressure had increased, and they didn't want to risk it getting worse. So, my husband and I walked the 20 feet back in to the hospital and I was taken to the mothers and infants wing to spend the night.

The result of my overnight stay in the hospital was fairly inconclusive. My doctor ordered me home on bedrest, but he still didn't think there was too much need for concern. He thought if I stayed off my feet and relaxed, I'd be ok for the last few weeks of my pregnancy.

That was on a Friday. On Monday, I had another appointment. My blood pressure was still way too high, even though I very literally only got up to go to the bathroom the entire weekend (it was a very boring weekend at my house!). My doctor, still not seeming terribly concerned, gave me an option: take the risk of the blood pressure problem getting worse, or be induced?

It's hard to explain my decision making during this time. It was definitely altered by the fact that I was very excited to meet my new baby, and it was also altered by my ignorance about child birth. All I knew was that, even though he seemed calm, my doctor was paying me an inordinate amount of attention. And I was terrified about making the wrong decision. So, I consented to induction.

I hadn't dilated yet at all; my body was in no way ready to have a baby yet. I spent the night having suppositories to ripen my cervix (or something like that), and in the wee hours of the morning my water broke. So far, so good. Then, they brought on the Pitocin. I didn't want an epidural, so I tried to labor without any pain medication. The Pitocin contractions were horrible, and from subsequent conversations I've had with other mothers, I now know that they're not "natural." When you go in to labor on your own, the contractions start off slower and build in intensity. I went from nothing to full throttle in less than an hour. I was in terrible pain, and because they were monitoring my baby, I wasn't allowed to get out of the bed more than once an hour. I couldn't stretch or walk. I labored like this for 10 hours before I finally asked for an epidural; I had only dilated to 3cm.

A few minutes later, the nurses changed shift. My new nurse came in to introduce herself and look at my chart. She took one look at the fetal heart monitor and her eyes got huge. She asked my aunt to feel for the baby and rub my belly to help get his heartbeat up. Then she rushed off to find the doctor.

Again, my doctor didn't seem terribly concerned. Almost nonchalantly, he explained to me that my son's heartbeat was dropping dangerously low every time I had a contraction. Did I want to continue to labor, or just have a C-section?

I often wonder what kind of question this is to pose to a terrified woman in labor with her first child. Why didn't he offer any advice? Why was he treating this like routine? I broke down in tears, unable to answer. My husband answered for me. "If there's something wrong, do what you have to do." After a moment I concurred with my husband. If my baby was in danger, we should just do the C-section.

I've never gotten over the loss of a "normal" child birth. I feel like every intervention from doctors led me further down a path that inevitably led to a C-section. Could any of them have been avoided? Was I too scared to really think of the consequences of my choices? I'm not sure. But I do think there was definitely information I didn't have, that might have changed some of my decisions.

Ultimately, I know that it doesn't matter how my son was born. I love him just the same, and I'm happy to have him alive and healthy. But I still long for the experience of birthing a child.

On my doctor's strong suggestion ("It seems like you might have a small pelvis. You didn't make much progress while you were in labor last time. Better safe than sorry."), I opted for a repeat C-section the second time around. It is something I regret very deeply. I let myself get scared. My first birth experience was so full of scary moments that I didn't want to take any chances the second time.

Now, here I am, 16 weeks in to my third pregnancy. And from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was very sure of one thing: I want to attempt a VBAC this time. I know there's a chance that something could go wrong. I know there's a 40% chance I'll have to have a C-section, anyway. But I want to try. And my doctor isn't terribly receptive to the idea. For now, he's humoring me, telling me there's a chance that I can. But his list of reasons I shouldn't keeps getting longer. I do trust my doctor's opinion, but I've also done a lot of self-education this time around. And I won't take no for an answer.

I'd like to be allowed to pick my baby up when it's born. I'd like to be able to walk up the stairs of my house and put my baby in its crib and (maybe) sleep comfortably in my own bed. I'd rather have the soreness and discomfort that comes with vaginal birth than the painful open wound in my abdomen that comes with a C-section. And I would like to know that my body can birth a baby on its own, without a long list of medical interventions.

Wish me luck...this is going to be a bumpy road.


Six Word Fridays: Favorite Things

From Making Things Up

Pumpkin spices in my morning coffee

Snuggling before getting out of bed

The Beatles, and some other classic rockers

Monty Python's Flying Circus (Argument Sketch)

Seeing my children learn something new

Fresh challah, straight from the oven

Weekly playdates with my best friend

A clean house by week's end

Cake (the band; sometimes the food)

Reading a good book without interruptions

Dancing (when no one is looking)

The list could surely go on

Stopping, for the sake of time...


Weariness and Worry

It's not quite 5 am yet this morning, and here I am, staring at my computer screen. I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately, mostly due to an overactive bladder (thanks, baby #3), but for some reason this morning I just couldn't make myself go back to sleep. My mind was racing, and I let myself start to worry. Why does worrying always creep up on me in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping? I always try to tell myself that I should wait until morning to worry, because there isn't much you can do about it in the middle of the night, anyway. But I still find myself staring at the ceiling pondering my troubles on a pretty regular basis.

What I worry about changes, although there are certainly themes. Most often I worry about money: did I pay all the bills? Can I pay all the bills?! How can I earn some money to make this easier? These questions plague me, and sadly I often don't have the answers. I used to be really good with money, but now it makes my stomach turn and I feel like hyperventilating. There's too little of it no matter how I try to stretch a dollar.

I also worry a lot about how I'm doing as a parent. What do I need to work on? Did I do enough with them today? How can I be better? I toss and turn, thinking about my failures, the things that I don't even want to talk about out loud because I feel bad about them. I let them watch too much TV. I let them stay up too late. I'm not good at disciplining them. The list goes on, always exaggerated by my sleepy, overactive brain.

Sometimes I feel worried and I don't know why. Furthermore, I'm afraid to think too hard about why I'm worried, because then I'll probably remember some lurking worry that I've managed to push to the back of my brain. Ever find yourself fretting and you're not even sure why? I think I might have a disease or something. My Gram would probably tell me it's just part of being an adult.

Most of the things I worry about have solutions. They're just not solutions that I can implement at 3 am when my brain decides to overload me with them. And that makes me feel helpless. In the morning, I can at least begin to focus on my problems with a clear, well rested body and mind. But that's only possible if I can manage to get back to sleep first. It's a vicious cycle.

I'll keep working on my worries during the day, and I will keep trying to calm myself in to peaceful sleep during the night. But in the meantime, if you ever find yourself awake in the wee hours, worrying about something you can't even begin to change until a more decent hour, remember me. I'm probably wide-eyed and weary in my own bed, worrying too.


Six Word Fridays: Fantasy

I'm curled up on the couch.
My husband offered to cook dinner!
The kids are playing quietly alone.
Bills are paid (all on time)!
Later, I'll read in the bath.
(And no one will interrupt me).


A Confession

I've been absolutely struggling with a way to pick up this blog where I left off in August. Way back then, my last post was about how devastated I was to be leaving my children home for a week while I went adventuring on the Alaska Highway with my good friend. I intended to tell you all about my trip when I came back.

That trip took more out of me than I expected. While it was exciting to see a new place, and it was in some ways relaxing to have a whole week with no children, I still missed them terribly. Every new thing I saw, I wished that they and my husband could be there to share it with me. To make matters worse, while I was gone all three of them were terribly sick. They spent the entire week inside, noses running, heads stuffy, being miserable. I was already feeling guilty and this took me right over the top. In short, I couldn't get my mind far enough separated from life back home to really enjoy myself.

That was a hard thing to admit. When I came home, of course everyone expected to hear stories of how awesome my trip was. And I tried to oblige. No one wants to hear my whine about how much I missed my family. This was an amazing opportunity, not something to cry about!

So, every time I sat down here at my computer to write in this blog, I hit a wall. I just couldn't recount my happy adventure to Alaska. Because as great as some parts of it were, I just can't get over the guilt of not having enjoyed it that much. I thought about just skipping right back in to day-to-day life, but that didn't seem right, either.

Maybe I'm just a hopeless homebody. Maybe my hormones are just EXTRA out of control. But I don't think I could ever take a trip like that again, without my family. I love my friend and I love the adventure we shared, but it will always be slightly marred by the heartache I experienced while I was gone from home. My younger son still gets anxious now when he can't find me, and he throws his arms around me and says, "Mama, I missed you," even if I was just in the bathroom. I can't help feeling like I wasn't the only one who hasn't gotten over my vacation yet.

Sorry for staying away for so long. Happy to be writing again!



North, to Alaska

In less than 12 hours, I will be heading off on an adventure. The kind of adventure that wouldn't have phased me in the least 6 years ago when I was still in college, and not married, and not a mother. But right now? I'm terrified. I'm leaving my family for an entire week. And even though I know they'll be ok, I'm not sure that I'm going to be.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a good friend; she was my college roommate and we've been friends since the first day we met. The subject was: "An offer for you to refuse." I opened the email to discover an invitation. Her boyfriend was supposed to drive with her from Seattle to her home in Alaska, but he could no longer go. He offered to pay for the flight home of whoever she could find to ride with her. She wanted to know if there was any way I could find child care for a week and come to Alaska with her. My first thought was, !!! Followed by, "there's no way." And then I looked at my husband, batted my eyelashes, and told him what she had asked. He didn't hesitate. "Of course you're going," he said. I was thrilled. But also scared. It's a long time to be away from home.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and my mind started racing about what I need to pack and what I need to accomplish today before I go to the airport. But then my mind drifted to my children and how desperately they cry even if I go to the grocery store by myself. I've been telling them about this trip for a few weeks, but I know they won't understand until they wake up tomorrow and realize that I'm not home yet. I could cry right now. I probably will when I get on the plane. My younger son is cuddling on my lap this morning, and I don't want to let him down. I know it's only a week, but it's a week. That's like a lifetime to a 2-year-old. And to top it all off, they've both come down with colds in the last few days. So not only am I leaving my children, I'm leaving my sick children. There's a huge ball of nerves in the pit of my stomach right now, which on top of my already queasy pregnant stomach is making it difficult to breathe. I need to get over this, because quite frankly I'm not even excited about my trip right now. Just sad, and scared, and desperately looking for a way out.

I know hope that once I leave, I'll relax a little bit and enjoy my trip. And I'll savor the ability to get in a car without buckling car seats or walk through a store without needing the stupid, gigantic cart with the bucket seats on the back. It's going to be like taking a step back in time, and I'm going somewhere I've never been. It is destined to be a trip I'll remember forever, I'm sure.

But I just can't stop thinking about how much I'm going to miss them.


Six Word Fridays: Temptation

Sleep, delicious sleep. Middle of day.



I know it's not the right day of the week for !!!, but sometimes on a Monday, you just need some, anyway. And really, it's only one little thing, so it'll be brief.


I took a nap today. And for the past couple of weeks I've been in bed by 8:30 pm.


I feel like crap. I've visited the restroom more often recently than I have in the last couple of years, it feels like. And my 3-year-old is calmly giving me advice on how to make my "yucky food" go away by "spitting in the toilet".


My chest hurts so much I want to cry.

Why are all of these things !!!'s, you ask? If you haven't guessed already, it's because of this:


We've been trying for about a year and a half, and I had just started to come to grips with only having two children even though I really wanted a third...and then it happened! It's still early, of course, and I'm sure all of us know how delicate these first few months can be...but I was too excited to keep it a secret any longer (I lasted a whole week, heh).

I keep going back and forth between being really excited and thinking, "What the heck was I THINKING?!" (the latter is usually after a particularly rowdy day with the two I already have).

Here goes nothin'....too late to turn back now! Think I can convince my kids that I'm on bedrest for the next 9 months??


Wedding Vows, Remembered

My husband and I didn't exchange vows when we were married. Instead, I chose one of my favorite sonnets from my very favorite poet, Elizabeth Barett Browning, for us to recite to each other. Part of it was probably my desire to do something "different"--an urge that has plagued me my entire life, and most certainly extended to my nuptials. But mostly it was because these words are so powerful to me, and they are steeped with the devotion and unity that marriage entails.

Sonnet VI

by Elizabeth Barett Browning

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand

Henceforth in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore--
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

It's similar to wedding vows, in a way. It is a pledge of unity, and a description of the way a marriage unites two souls. At first, it seems melancholy, but after the thousands of times I've probably read this, it is simply beautiful. So succinctly it portrays lifelong, deep love. And it reminds me of all those same vows that many speak on their wedding day, but in a deeper, more provocative way.

I'm glad we used these words on our wedding day. I was thinking of them today; we have had a long, tough week in terms of our marriage, snapping at each other more often than normal. But we still have this commitment--this vow--that we know neither of us will ever break. My heart will forever have pulses that beat double.

Six Word Fridays: Perfection

a perfect life: a pipe dream.
life's a messy, seldom simple thing.
goals not completed, plans are misplaced--
still, there's perfection to savor, taste:

baby fingers and baby toes, wiggling;
soft kisses and your hand's caress;
knowing what's ours, is ours completely
whether it's perfect (or slightly not).

a perfect life? not for us.
but what we have is abundant.
abundance of perfections wrapped in complication.
perfect seems a little boring, comparatively.


Playground Parenting: Encouragers, Tolerators, and Refusers

There are three kinds of parents here at Discovery Playground, with its rock climbing wall, splash pad, and gigantic sand pit: Encouragers, Tolerators, and Refusers. I've seen them all in the last few weeks, and the ample amount of time we've spent here has given me plenty of time to observe these creatures as they play out their parenting tactics here in the park.

The first group, the Encouragers, are by far my most favorite group; it's a fairly biased opinon, however, since I count myself among them. Encouragers are good at two things: playing with their children, and encouraging explorative play, and letting their children play without them, letting them explore the park with an entirely minimal amount of supervision. Encouragers are often found on the opposite side of the park from their children, although you can tell they know exactly where each child can be found. Should they lose sight, Encouragers will go on excursions, often stopping to praise their kids for the fun things they've found to do. Encouragers can also be found frolicking on the splash pad or digging tunnels in the sand pit. Their children may or may not be with them when they do this.

The second group, the Tolerators, can sometimes be mistaken for Encouragers, because they tend to give their children a little space still, and they still let them play with everything--even if that means letting them get wet or dirty. The biggest difference is plain on their faces, though-- they really don't want a wet or dirty child. But they also don't want to deny their child the fun they're obviously having. So they tolerate it, but their tolerance wears out quickly. For this reason, you'll find Tolerators slightly closer to their children, usually only a few paces from arm's reach, ready to grab a child who has gotten too dirty or wet, encouraging them to move on to something less...messy. Like how about the slides? I understand Tolerators, and I think that some of them are Encouragers at heart. Maybe this particular day, though, they have to meet someone for lunch or go to the grocery store. And maybe they don't want to do that with a wet child with sand in his diaper. I get it.

The third group, however, I don't think I'll ever understand. Refusers are people who should never have brought their child to the park in the first place, because they are so obviously uncomfortable with being there. Refusers lead their children through the park, gently pulling them past anything they don't want to get in to (which is usually everything). Case in point: I just saw a mom walking her son around the park, holding on to his collar. When he reached to open the gate to the sand pit, she quickly turned him, and told him the sand pit was closed and he couldn't go in. Next, she gingerly coaxed him around the splash pad and on to the other side of the park. True Refuser style often includes little white lies such as "that part of the park is closed," or "it's time for the park to close now." I actually saw one mom bring her little girl in, walk her around the park with her nose up, telling the daughter not to touch anything, and then leave 5 minutes later. Seriously. Why did you come here? It's like they're punishing their children, bringing them to a Museum of Childhood to show them all the things they're not allowed to do.

It's interesting to watch the dynamics of families at this park, and the way each type of parenting style affects the play of their kids. I think that this particular type of park is a perfect place to observe such interactions, since it was made specifically as a place to explore. The different types of playground parents are really just different parenting styles being acted out in the park. Some of us think that kids should be kids, even when that's a little (or a lot) messy. Others think they should constantly be steering their children in the "right" (clean, dry, non-dangerous) direction. There are, of course, benefits to both angles, and the "best" parenting techniques are probably a combination of the two extremes (although even the Tolerators don't seem to have it just right, because they just look so uncomfortable with their children's freedom).

I'll never be a Refuser ('cause if I'm in that bad of a mood, we just won't drive to the park), and sometimes I might be a little bit of a Tolerator. At the end of the day, though, when I take my children to any park, I try to let them be in charge. They so rarely get that opportunity, and the amazing, fun things they discover when you let them loose is worth sandy diapers and wet shorts any day.


It's all too much

Lately, it's seemed like there's entirely too much on my plate. And I've been having trouble coping. There are so many things that I want to do, but they all get lost in the ins and outs of our day-to-day. Summer is in full swing, and I've been making an effort to take my children to the park every day. Not because I have to, but because I want to. But just that simple task creates complications for the rest of the day. Going to the park means taking my husband to work. Taking my husband to work means coming back in four hours to pick him up for lunch. And then the kids fall asleep in the car, later on refusing their "real" nap because their little kid logic is convinced that the 10 minutes in the car was long enough.

This cycle keeps repeating itself. And some days I'll forgo my park-every-day goal and decide to just stay home, because it feels like we're never here lately. But then my husband will need me to run an errand. Or my grandma will ask me to stop by for something. Or my sister will want to spend the day at the lake. None of these things are bad or wrong or even undesirable. But they do manage to suck us back in to the cycle.

Then there's stuff like this blog. Things that I love so much and hold so dear. And even when there is time, I feel so anxious about the other things that I'm not doing that I can't concentrate on it. I open this interface to write a post and nothing comes. Or I write half of something and decide that it's unworthy. Then I decide to read other blogs and can't even muster the energy to leave comments.

I haven't cleaned my entire house now for two weeks. My laundry is done, but is wrinkling in baskets as we speak. I have 3 days worth of dishes sitting on my kitchen counter. When I decided to stay at home, I thought this would be my "job"--the upkeep of our house. It can be spotless! I'll have so much time to do it! I thought. Man, I was wrong. Either that, or I'm just really bad at being a homemaker. Either way, my job description now is child entertainer/errand runner. Oh, and do a load of laundry before you leave for the library.

I'm coming to terms with all of this; I'm trying to work on some of it, and I'm trying to be ok with letting some of it slide. Because even though I stay at home with my children all day, I still don't have time to "do it all." Maybe some people do. And I applaud them. But for me, a day with smiling children, and perhaps dinner on the table at a reasonable time, is enough. It has to be.


Six Word Fridays: Together

I saw a friend this week.
She'd been away for several years.
And when she looked at our boys,
She said, "It's so amazing seeing
Half you and half husband combined."
And it made me smile wholeheartedly.
Because I always see YOU there.
Maybe you always see me there.
But it's both of us, together.


Six Word Fridays: You

Big hearted procrastinator, two screws loose.


Conservation of Youth

My younger son has just turned two, and even though I've already done this once, I am constantly blown away by his rapidly developing personality and skills. The day he turned two, he began chanting, "I do it! I do it!" as if someone had given him instructions on how 2-year-olds were supposed to act. yesterday, he sang me "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and got (almost) all the words right. Both of my boys surprise me with their newfound talents almost on a daily basis. I am in awe of how fast they are growing; increasingly, I'm aware of how quickly time has begun to move.

It's cliche, I know but also terribly, beautifully ture: they grow up so fast. For all my wistful longings to have my "life" back, I don't want to turn around one day and realize that my children are all grown up. As Thoreau would say, this is truly a time to "suck all the marrow out of life." My children change daily; sometimes it almost seems hourly. As beautiful as it is to witness, it also fills me with anxiety: I'm so afraid of missing out on the little moments that make up their lifetimes!

Yesterday, as I watched my little Jake eat his dinner, chatting to me about his day, I started thinking about how fleeting each phase of childhood can be. What he does repeatedly today could easily be a thing of the past tomorrow. I couldn't possibly recount the path he took from one-year-old to two-year-old, or remember the exact moments when he started acting so grown up. They are too small and varied, but still startlingly important. I decided as we sat at the dinner table that I should treat each day as its own age. Jacob is two all year, but he's only THIS kind of two today. I'd like to strive to celebrate the joys of each day, remembering that today's mundane is tomorrow's faded memory.

While it's inevitable that we won't have time to revel in every "age of the day" because of other responsibilities, it's important that we recognize it as often as we can. Protecting those little moments that sometimes come only once in their lifetimes is essential to truly savor every day of their lives. It's a kind of conservation of their youth, and we are the rangers, ensuring things remain the way they're meant to be.


Mommy, Off Duty

I sent my children to their grandma's house this afternoon. She has the day off, and she loves having them come play with her. They love it too. And, frankly, I love the break it gives me--the uninterrupted solitude it provides. I feel a little guilty for how much I enjoy it, especially when I think about all of the poor mothers out there who don't have as much opportunity as I do for a break. Every time my family makes me want to pull my hair out with their meddling and such, I try REALLY HARD to remember why it's nice to have family so close. Because for all the little things that get annoying about having both of our families live nearby, there are some obviously huge benefits.

Today, though, I feel especially guilty about having surrendered my children to grandma. Because I didn't even *really* feel like I needed a break. My house is in terrible need of a deep clean, which is what I intend to do with this sudden "free time," but I already miss my boys and it's only been an hour. Usually I don't really start to get anxious for them to be home for at least a few hours, if not more.

The wind is terrible here today. It's the kind of wind that makes you feel like you could be blown away in it. And just this morning, James was anxiously trying to make his kite fly, to no avail. The wind wasn't strong enough this morning. Now, I see the little boy from down the street--the little boy James begs me daily to go play with--out in the empty field across from my house, flying a kite with his mom. And James isn't here. And I feel terrible.

Is a little "break" from my children worth the possible missed opportunities for enjoying them? Is it selfish of me to want some time that isn't dominated by toys and tantrums? Maybe yes, maybe no. I have friends who think it's ludicrous that I ever send my children to stay with their grandparents overnight, and I have others who are happy that I have the opportunity. I suppose it comes down to a matter of opinion. But today, instead of feeling recharged and relaxed from this break, I kind of just feel lonely.

Remind me of this tomorrow, when the boys are back home and the toys and tantrums reconvene. Perhaps my outlook will be slightly different. :p



At first, when there was only one, my husband and I looked at each other and said, "We could be done." Because having him was more than fulfilling. We were satisfied. And yet.

Yet we knew we weren't done. For a few reasons. Because he was growing up and I was craving more tiny fingers and baby breath. Because we'd always wanted at least three. But mostly, because we didn't want our first to grow up without a sibling.

My husband and I both have siblings; he has four, I have two. Although we both have our share of horror stories about the trials of sibling-hood, we never considered having only one child. It was a strange feeling, being content with just the one. Our desire for our son to have a sibling overcame any doubts we may have had, though.

When I imagined James interacting with his new little brother, I thought of them happily playing in our yard, laughing and smiling and enjoying each other. "Let's have them close together," I told my husband, "so they'll have more in common as they grow."

That idea makes me laugh now. Because right now, the 18 months between them feels like a lot more than a year and a half. And they have things in "common" (like both wanting the SAME Buzz Lightyear toy even though we have 3. identical. toys.), their commonalities usually end in screaming and wrestling and forceful separation. James is quiet, contemplative, and analytical; Jacob is loud, rash, and dangerously curious. Right now, they don't get along. At all. And yet.

Yet I hope for the future. They're still so young now, and I have a hope that as they grow, things will get a little better. I'm trying desperately to ignore my own history--the fights with my sister that lasted until she graduated from high school and went away to college. But there were good times, too. Great times. And I hope my children can have some of those.

I look at myself and at my husband now, and I see the gaping hole in our lives where our siblings should be. They are "here," but not really. Not like I want them to be. Siblings should be built-in, lifelong friends that share an entire lifetime of memories with you. But our lives have changed and we've grown apart, and it's the hardest growing apart to experience. My sister--for the first seven years of my life, the only sibling I had--lives in the same city I do. We see each other once a week, most of the time. But our interactions feel strained. We chit-chat. I think we're both afraid to really talk. Our lives have taken us down such drastically different roads that it seems we never really see eye to eye any longer. I see my husband interact with his 3 brothers in almost the exact same way. There's still love there, but almost no kinship. As the years roll by, I fear we'll only interact with our siblings at the standard holiday and birthday celebrations.

As I watch my boys yell and wrestle now, I worry that their future will be the same. Is this just part of growing up? What can I do to make sure the bond of brotherhood doesn't decay over time? Sibling kinship is what I wanted for my boys. I'm desperately hoping sibling rivalry doesn't overshadow it.


Six Word Fridays: Feeling

"You hurt my feelings," James says.
I've just punished him for something.
And it breaks my heart to hear.
I remember being young like him.
I remember when I got reprimanded.
And it hurts despite probable guilt.
I know I can't always recant.
I know I shouldn't do it.
But sometimes I would like to.
Because hurting feelings isn't mommy's job.


The Great Homeschool Debate

I know that my children are only 2 and 3, but discussions of their entry in to school have already started to surface between my husband and myself. He, having had an extremely terrible experience in the public school system, is insistent that I homeschool our children. I, having loved school and having thrived in a public school environment, am perfectly fine with sending my little ones off on that big, yellow bus to public school. And, strangely, I feel a little stronger about it than I would have expected from myself.

There is a lot of emotion tied up in school for me. Things that have very little to do with what I learned there, and a whole lot to do with the friendships I forged over recess and study hall. I moved quite a bit while I was growing up, and the friendships I managed to create every time I started school made each new transition bearable, albeit slightly melancholy for the friends I had to leave behind. So many of these people-- quite a few of whom I still love and count as friends today--I would never have met if I had been homeschooled.

For my husband, the opposite argument can be made. He hated school, didn't do well in his classes, and suffered from a kind of all-around bullying that I thought only existed in movies. He went to the same school for much of his public school career, in a small town that couldn't have had more than 100 students at any given time. Once he got branded (for whatever reason), he became the kid that got picked on every day. In high school, he even had a teacher add to the bullying, opening his locker so some kids could get his brand new Stetson that he'd been saving for all summer so they could cut it in half. He has true horror stories. When he finally decided to change schools and be bussed to the city for his last two years of high school, his only comment on the improvement was that people didn't care that he dressed like a "cowboy" any more than they cared about the kids with baggy jeans or the ones who looked like hippies. But, he reminds me, it is also where he was introduced to underage drinking and drugs.

Even my mother-in-law has started in on this debate, lamenting the downfall of public schools. They're so DANGEROUS now! I'd NEVER send my kids there! Gangs and sex and drugs! Oh my! She's pretty worried about the kinds of things we'll be exposing the children to if we send them to public school. I, on the other hand, have trouble trusting the opinion of someone who counts Fox News as her only source of "facts" when it comes to something like this.

For a long time, in my mind, the issue has been settled. I want my children to go to public school. I want them to get the entire school experience. I know some of it won't be pretty, but I'm willing to trust my parenting skills enough to think we can make it over most of the hurdles that will come along. Even though my husband still brings up homeschooling occasionally, this is one fight I don't think he really expects to win.

Yesterday, however, a friend of ours got me thinking about this all over again. She asked if we were planning on homeschooling our children. I told her, "Uh, well, it's still in debate. We've got a few more years to decide," and she started telling me about a program she's been researching that helps you fund field trips and science experiments for your homeschooled children. She was homeschooled, and for a very long time she's been absolutely sure she wanted to send her children to a school (although she ideally would send them to private school). She disliked her homeschool experience, partly on the basis of things similar to my fears (lack of social interaction being the biggest), but also for reasons of her own. She didn't get to experience a lot of hands-on learning because her mom couldn't afford to buy a lot of materials for them. So her homeschool experience was lackluster; she didn't have a desire to repeat that for her children. After having done a little research, however, she's changed her mind and she's ready to dive in to homeschooling.

I'm definitely not convinced that I want to homeschool my children, but this did put a bug in my ear. My husband, when we discuss the Homeschool Debate, always reminds me of the amazing things I can do with my children that a public school wouldn't be able to provide--the caring, hands-on attention I would be able to give them. And this is tempting. But it also feels a little selfish. Or maybe sending them to public school is the more selfish option, and I'm just coming up with reasons not to keep my kids at home for the next 12 years? I don't know. I do know that my older son already has a passion for other children, squealing with glee when he sees other kids his age on the playground at the park. Can I deny him the sweet savor of daily peer interaction just to protect him from possible unsavory interactions? Would the exciting hands-on activities I could provide from home be enough to fulfill his mind and win over his heart? I'm not so sure.

I know people on both sides of this debate, and I would love feedback on this. What do you love about homeschooling your children? What's nice about putting them on the bus every day? Do you feel like your homeschooled children get enough social interactions with their peers? What have been the drawbacks of public school--bad habits, peer pressure? I'd love to know. You can leave a comment, or if you have a longer message to contribute, you can email me at jhildebr at gonzaga dot edu.


Six Word Fridays: Found

Just this morning I was searching.
Searching for something haphazardly set aside.
Now, because my search was unsuccessful,
We'll consider that item officially lost.

Who knows when we'll find it.
Probably when we don't need it.
And it will irk me terribly.
Why does that always happen, anyway?

It makes me so very frustrated.
But then I start to think.
I feel lost on occasion, too.
And I find myself unexpectedly, too.

I find myself in little moments.
In my morning cup of coffee,
In a cuddle from my children,
In a smile from my husband.

Maybe we lose things on purpose.
So we can recall their necessity.
Or just so we can reflect
On what things really need finding.


Happy Birthday, Little One

Two years ago on this day, I was a bundle of nerves and anticipation. I knew exactly what day you were coming, and I knew what time. Somehow, all that knowledge made me even more nervous than the first time around. Maybe because I knew what to expect. Or at least, I thought I knew.

Just like with your big brother, I had a c-section. This one, though, was planned, unlike the scary emergency one when he was born. In some ways, this made it more frightening; I didn't have my adrenaline pumping already when it was time to enter the operating room. I kept holding on to an image of me holding my new baby--my little Jacob--to keep myself from crying. I couldn't wait for you to be here. My excitement to meet you was laced with anxiety over needles and scalpels and masks and sheets.

Time seemed to pass so slowly once I was ready for surgery. I held my breath as I waited for your father to come sit next to my head; he stroked my hair and kissed me gently, excitement growing on his own face. I couldn't help but wonder what your brother was up to; he surely had no idea what his parents were doing. But the thought quickly passed and my attention was back on you. It was time.

It seemed to take forever, although I know it wasn't really that long. I ached to meet you, but the doctors near my feet were treating this like break time around the water cooler, chit-chatting about vacations and their own children, occasionally slipping in an order to a nurse or noting some portion of my anatomy. Your father stood up to watch as the doctor finally pulled you from my womb. I thought I knew what to expect. It would take a moment, and then you would start to cry.

You were the loudest little baby I've ever heard. Much louder than your brother. Instantly, you announced yourself to the world.

When they brought you to me, I was shocked. At your size, at my instant and total love, at your booming baby voice echoing through the operating room. You were big, loud, and beautiful.

And absolutely nothing like I expected.

You and your brother are so different, but so equally amazing. You have a huge heart and a mischievous mind, and your booming voice is still a notable attribute.

I love you, little Jacob. Happy birthday, Little One.



No pictures this time, but still plenty to be happy about.


Waking up really early because it's too hot to sleep and getting to watch the sun rise.


A few days of sunshine and warm weather to let my children play in the park. Watching my older son, who has always been afraid of water, run through the water pad at the park with reckless abandon, and instead of crying about water in his eyes, laughing and telling me how much fun he's having.


Finally taking our family dog, aptly named Chewie (as in Chewbacca from Star Wars), to the groomer and having him shaved. I'm pretty sure HE thinks that's !!!, also.


Getting visits from my Gram, my sister, and a good friend all in the same day--and all unexpectedly!


Getting my pond CLEAN and free of algae, even if it did mean donning rain boots and not-so-flattering clothing for an afternoon of scrubbing. It was totally worth the random stares of people who drove by my house to be able to enjoy the pond again.


My son requesting to buy and subsequently falling in love with The Last Unicorn. Husband thinks it's a little weird. *I* just fell in love with my son a little more ;)


Amanda, who is always there when I need someone to talk to, and is always willing to help me out without question. She and her family have come over several weekends in the last few months to help us get our yard ready for the wedding reception that will be here on Sunday. And she even offered to come help us the morning of the wedding! Best. Friend. EVER.

I was in dire need of some !!! this week; it's kind of stressful around here right now trying to get everything done before Sunday. Thanks to Bad Mommy Moments and Momalom for thinking of !!!


Six Word Fridays: Appetite

Why is it when they're babies
They need food every few hours
And you start to feel like
Your life revolves around sore nipples

But when they are slightly older
They seem hungry but don't eat
Unless you provide them with candy
Or some other non-nutritious food product?


Mommy, Snake Killer

We took the boys fishing for the very first time on Sunday. Before heading out, we stopped at a local sports equipment store to buy them their own poles; that alone was a thrilling experience for them. Even if they did think that the purpose of the poles was to sword fight... They also enjoyed exploring the tent displays and gazing nervously at the walls covered in deer and bear heads. I did not tell them they were real. I think it might have ruined it for them.

Once we were on our way, we realized we hadn't ever really decided where we were going. My husband and I have a knack for doing things on the fly without really planning them. So, we headed out down the road, sort of knowing what we were looking for, fishing regulation book in hand. We'll just stop at the first lake we find.

Which we did. A tiny lake that wasn't even on my county map. My husband rented a boat and we loaded up our stuff. I was a little concerned about our older son, who is a little bit afraid of water, but after my initial explanation that the dock was not going to fall in the water, he seemed to be ok.

When we got out on the water, the boys just absolutely came alive. They loved watching their dad row the boat out in to the middle of the lake, and they got a kick out of all the other people in their boats floating past us. It was kind of humorous, though, how easily we created our own large spot on the lake...everyone quickly moved away from the boat full of rowdy toddlers yelling, "HELLO! DID YOU CATCH A FISH? IS THAT YOUR BOAT?" etc.

We finally got the boys settled down enough to ask them to hold still while we set up their poles. Ok...while Dad set up the poles. Because even though I've fished for my whole life, I'm still pretty clueless about the whole process. Everything was fine and dandy... until.

Until it was time for the worm. Which was the single task I was assigned. I pulled a worm out of the container, which elicited excited squeals from both boys. "Oh, worms!" from the older son, and "'Nake! 'Nake! Ssss!" from the younger one.

Then I put it on the hook.

And suddenly I was the world's worst Mommy.

My older son took it ok. He just worriedly asked if I hurt the worm. I told him no, the worm wanted to help us catch a fish. (I'm totally not against lying to my children to protect their feelings. Don't judge.)

My younger son absolutely broke down. He laid in the bottom of the boat with his hands over his head weeping and screaming, "Mommy! 'Nake DIED! 'Nake died in the water!"

Right then, I wanted to die in the water. I never knew my boys had hearts quite so tender. I should have guessed; they do like worms a lot. I should have known this would be traumatic to them. But I never guessed. And I felt so horrible.

Eventually we got Jacob calmed down and everyone enjoyed the rest of the excursion. But he still whimpered a little every time we cast his line in to the lake. And, by no means a surprise considering our boisterous boys, we didn't catch any fish. (We're blaming it on the lake. Better one next time).


Six Word Fridays: Possibly

the laundry might get done today
i might sweep and mop floors
it's possible i'll bake some challah
it's likely i'll finish these chores

but it is also entirely possible
that i'll put my responsibilities away
take time to enjoy the boys
kind of like i did yesterday



Claimed a space of my own for my crafting stuff. Long overdue and MUCH needed!!!


(re)built the train track just minutes before it started to pour (again)!!!

(and it was a good thing I took a picture because it's in pieces again already)


Bought myself a pretty new journal to write in...and it was only $3!!!

Those are tomatoes. Growing on MY tomato plant. It's like summer is on the way or something...!!!

Mud pies. I knew the rain was good for something.

Want more !!! in your day? Check out Bad Mommy Moments and Momalom, if you haven't already!


Speeding Up to Slow You Down

Yesterday afternoon, my husband asked me if I would take the car in the morning and go get a few things from the store for him. "Sure," I quickly replied, since I needed milk and creamer anyways. I didn't give it a second thought.

This morning, as we were getting ready to leave, I grabbed a pen and asked my husband what other things he needed from the store besides creamer for his coffee. "Oh, no," he corrected, "I need you to go to the HARDWARE store."

Those last few words, in my mind's eye, came out in slow motion, and at the same time my insides were screaming, "NOOOOOO!!!" really dramatically. Ok, maybe not that dramatically. But I definitely tensed up.

I am a very intelligent person. I've always done well in school and I feel like I'm pretty capable of holding an intelligent conversation. I am, however, a complete DOLT when it comes to common sense. Ask me to do a small thing like "Get some pickets for the gate and enough sod to fill the bare spot on the lawn," and I freak out. I over-think it, get nervous that I'm picking the wrong thing, and completely lose the ability to speak coherently, which means asking for help is difficult.

So I trudged through the yard, half listening to my husband and writing down measurements so I could pick up what we needed. I was irritated at being asked to do this seemingly simple task, and so I wasn't totally paying attention. Maybe this is part of why tasks like this are so hard on me. I rush through the thinking process and then get to where I'm going and have NO IDEA what's going on.

When I got to the hardware store, my pulse began to race and I started to sweat a little. I probably looked like some deranged mental institution escapee as I stalked the aisles of Home Depot, searching for the right size of lumber. I looked at so many different sizes of lumber and couldn't seem to find the one my husband had asked for. And let's not forget my stress-induced speech impediment. Every time an employee walked by, I would clam up and just sort of smile vacantly, not realizing I should have asked for help until they were gone.

Luckily, my husband called me on his break. I had already been in the hardware store for half an hour, and I still had nothing in my cart. As I talked with him and told him what I had found, inundating him with a lot more information than was necessary, I realized I could have easily solved this problem by myself. You know, if I had been paying attention in the first place. I know how big the gate is. It should have been a simple thing to find boards that would fit, even if I just judged it based on my knowledge of the fence that's already there. Simple critical thinking, right?

I had the same issue when I went out to look at the sod. Suddenly, simple algebraic equations were too difficult for my muddled brain--even with a calculator. But when I calmed down and actually THOUGHT about the area I needed to cover and compared it to the sod, the job became much easier.

After an hour of toiling, I walked away with 14 fence pickets and 8 pieces of sod. This whole thing should have taken 15 minutes tops. But it was sort of worth it, because I realized something really valuable. It's not that I'm incapable of handling this kind of thing. It's just that I shut myself down before I even have a chance to get started. I doom myself from the beginning.

Here's to getting it right next time. The next time I'm faced with one of this silly tasks that makes my heart race and my mind spin, I'm going to tell myself to SLOW DOWN. Because in the long run, it saves time.


Creativity Boot Camp

I'm participating in Creativity Boot Camp, but because it's likely to be stuff that doesn't really "fit" in to this blog, I will be putting my work here. Just in case anyone's interested. :)

My Jacob

This morning, I was awakened by a distressed call. "Help-a me, mommy, help-a me! Stuck!"

I shot straight up in bed, my eyes suddenly wide open. I wondered what my little one might have gotten himself in to this morning. I ran down the stairs to find him and discovered Jacob, naked except for his diaper, sitting on the kitchen floor with his finger stuck in a bucket. He had taken the handle off and stuck his thumb in the hole where the handle was supposed to go. Well, I thought to myself, at least he's not bleeding.

I thought this because normally he would be. Jacob requires first aid at least once a day. He is a lively, mischievous, curious little boy. If ever there was a real-life version of Curious George, Jacob could be it (except for the whole "being a monkey" thing, of course).

Unlike his big brother, Jacob was a very LOUD little baby. It seemed like if he wasn't eating or sleeping, he was crying. He was a challenge from his very first day on earth, testing our patience and stealing our hearts simultaneously. He does it every day of our lives.

Jake isn't "bad," he's just...destructively curious. If something is missing or turns up broken, a good first guess is that Jacob got a hold of it. He doesn't deal well with punishment, either. He will often try to "punish" you back if you have to reprimand him. The other day, when pulling my finger to lead me to the time-out chair didn't work, he found a teddy bear and made IT have time out instead.

Jacob has an amazingly creative mind. He is not even two yet, and he role-plays more than James ever has. He will pick up two toys and make them have conversations together. He loves to pretend. Right now, his favorite thing to pretend is that he is a cat. He gets on all fours and crawls around the house, mewing and hissing.

Even though he causes me a lot of headaches, Jacob's pure spirit and endless imagination captivates me daily. And then there's his big blue eyes. Which he KNOWS how to use. Watch out if you have little girls. I think he's going to be a heartbreaker some day...

This is my Jake. I wish he could stay this way forever.*

*(Even more "sort of" than my wish for James).


My James

When my older son, James, wakes up in the morning, he usually greets me with an excited proclamation.

"Look, Mom! I'm awake now!" He says, throwing his arms up in the air, asking to be picked up for a hug. Usually, after this, he also announces, "I want a ride on your back to the couch, Mommy." Which he usually gets. Because it's so cute that he asks every day. And even though he's 3 I still get nervous about him walking up and down our very steep Victorian staircase.

James was my first baby, and he was a very easy one. The most difficult thing about his first year was figuring out how to be a parent. But there was no colic, no bouts of illness, and when he learned to walk, very little curious mischief. He didn't cry much, loved his swing, and slept through the night fairly quickly.

He does, however, have some drawbacks to his little personality. He is VERY stubborn (an attribute I like to blame on his father). When he learns something new, he usually doesn't want you to know about it. As he was supposed to be learning how to talk, I found him to be mostly mute. I kept asking the doctor if he was ok, if he was falling behind, and she kept telling me to be patient. Then I noticed that sometimes he would say words, but if I got excited and praised him for it, the words would disappear again. He didn't want us to know.

He does the same thing now with numbers and the alphabet. He knows more than he lets on. And he is a very deep-thinking little child. Truly introspective, you can often catch him sitting quietly, usually with his thumb in his mouth, thinking about something. Later, you'll discover that he's built a new robot with his Legos or drawn you a picture. He's silently creative, which is beautiful even if it is a little maddening sometimes, too.

The more James starts to talk, the more his personality shines through. His stubbornness shows in his favorite phrase, "I can't want to," and his tenderness in his OTHER favorite phrase, "I like you the best." He is quick to remind my husband and me when we have a bad language slip-up, correcting us, "That hurts my ears. You should say 'gosh' instead."

He is my little man, getting so grown up, and I can hardly believe it. He is a mama's boy, but he hangs on every word his dad says. He loves to talk to everyone he meets, and he always has a story to tell. He's silly and fun, but also often serious and introspective. Trying to get him to smile for a picture usually results in something like this:

This is my James. I wish I could keep him this age forever*.

*sort of ;)


Six Word Fridays: Message

I know I'm bad at responding
Because I get a little anxious
Every time I hear beep, beep
Because I hate typing on phones


I had a dream last night

Suddenly, I was somewhere different, not in my bed but sitting on a couch in a dark living room with the curtains drawn. The bright day outside peeks around the edges of the dark blue curtains, and although it is cool inside, a thick layer of humidity still clings to the air.

I know where I am, but I don't know why I'm here.

I rub my eyes and stand up, just as a woman comes rushing around the corner and we almost crash in to each other. She is tall and skinny, with prematurely wrinkled skin set in a worried frown. She wears her hair short and permed, and when she does smile, her bright white teeth seem to take up her whole face. She beams happily now, her eyes disappearing in to the folds of skin around her eyes.

"Oh, Jennie! I'm so glad you're here. Thank you for coming to visit me, it's been such a long time," she cheers, pulling me in to a lingering hug.

"Hi, Meme," I whisper, enjoying the reunion. It really has been too long.

"Is that Jennie?" a voice calls from down a dark hallway. It sounds like barely more than a whisper, but I know it's just the way he talks.

A man walks out of the hallway, very slowly but with obvious purpose. He has long, white hair pulled back in a ponytail and he wears glasses with light frames. He isn't dressed like a man in his fifties; he wears his pants baggy with skater shoes and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. He does everything slowly, but deliberately. Even his voice is low and measured.

"Hi, Jennie!" He exclaims, although his voice is still soft. His excitement dances in his eyes. He hugs me and then holds me back, looking at my face for a moment. Then he squeezes my arms lightly and says, "We didn't think you'd ever come back."

I know it's just a dream but I can't help being excited to be here. To see these people who took such good care of me when I was a runaway. It has been much, much too long, and I feel like I could just sit and stare at them for hours and still be happy. There is one thing lingering in the back of my mind, though. One thing missing from this reunion. One person.

"Henry should be home any minute," Paul says, as if he had been reading my mind. He smiles and tells me to take a seat. Meme asks if I'd like something to drink. But I'm not thirsty. I'm boiling over with anticipation. I converse with Paul and Meme, but the corner of my eye stays on the front door.

After a while (who knows how long a "while" is in dreamland), there is a key in the lock on the front door. I almost jump but keep my composure. I suddenly wish I had looked in the mirror to see if I was presentable. The last few seconds before the door pushes open, I realize I am holding my breath.

And then. There he is. My heart still stops when I see him, just as it did way back then, when we were in love.

He is tall like his mom, but he moves slowly and deliberately like his father. He wears dark-framed glasses and has dark, curly brown hair. He also has a smile that fills up his face, which is there now. "Jennie!" is all he says, in an exclamation much louder than his father's had been. "Jennie!" he says again, shaking his head in disbelief. I don't wait for him to come to me, but instead I run to him and pull him in to a deep, long-needed, comforting hug. He hugs me back and whispers in my ear, "It's good to see you."

The rest of the dream is too dream-like to describe. Mostly emotions streaming past like watercolors on canvas-regret, love, longing, sadness, desire, happiness...when I wake, I'm left with this little lump in the middle of my chest that feels like a weight trying to pull my heart down from the inside. The feeling that I missed out on something. And the ache of a love long lost but never forgotten.

I love my life now, but I loved it then, too. And sometimes I long for it, for the comfortable familiarity of it. And for him. Because even though I am not in love with him anymore, I still do love him. At this point, after ten years, I imagine I always will.


Deal With It

My children have a train table. It has little drawers to hold all the parts, and the boards on top flip over for a "change of scenery." I remember buying that train table, before our second was even born, and I remember thinking that my firstborn was still too young for it. I imagined pieces everywhere and the train track in a constant state of destruction.

I was right about the constant state of destruction. Every time I would sit down and put the train track together, my son would play with it for ten minutes and then tear it apart. When my second son got old enough to toddle around, he also started destroying it. It started to become sort of a pet peeve of mine. Finally, I just stopped putting it together. Why bother? I knew it would be destroyed in less time than it took me to build it.

A few months after I stopped rebuilding the train track, I was visiting the home of some people who were interviewing me for a job. I noticed they had the same train table sitting in their living room. Their sons were both about the same age as my boys, but miraculously, the train track was not being torn to pieces. Their older son pushed the train around the track for a few minutes and then moved on to something else. The younger son didn't even bother with it, favoring the remote controls on the coffee table. I was surprised enough that I mentioned it to the parents.

"Wow, I have the same train table. But mine never stays put together like that," I exclaimed, trying to hide the jealousy in my voice.

"Oh, ours didn't, either," the mom replied, "not until Bob screwed the pieces into place!" She beamed, obviously very proud of their successful plan.

You would think I would have been excited at this revelation. That I would have ran right home and gotten out the screwdriver. But instead, I felt a little sad. I felt sad for their children, who would never be able to figure out how to put that train table together by themselves. I felt sad that their train track would always look exactly the same, and they couldn't use their little imaginations to reassemble it. I wondered what else these parents had bolted in to place--literally or metaphorically--and what kind of effect it might have on their children.

That day, I realized that there was a damn good reason to keep putting together that train table. And for letting my kids dump the whole box of blocks all over the floor. And for taking every single crayon out of the box at once. It might be a little messy, but it's nothing we can't reassemble later. And in the meantime, it's an extremely safe way to let them spread their wings and figure things out in their own way. The minor frustration it causes me is not worth the detriment it would be if I stifled their creative play.

This isn't to say I don't sometimes wish I could glue a few things down. In fact, I had quite a little fit yesterday after the kids disassembled the train tracks because I had spent quite a bit of time putting it together. Maybe I'm writing this more to remind myself more than anything else.

Today, I'm going to put that train track together, with my two favorite engineers at my side. It will take forever if I let them help instead of following the plan. It will probably be torn down before the day is over. But I'm going to bite my tongue and turn away if I start getting frustrated. Because it's a toy. And we can fix it. My kids, their budding personalities, and our quality time together are all worth it.

Please remind me of this later when I complain about the train tracks everywhere.


Six Word Friday: Wishing

It's Friday, and that means it's time for Six-Word Friday with Making Things Up! Today's topic is wishing. So here's some things I often find myself wishing for...

I would like a housekeeper, please.
And plumbing that isn't always broken.
A landscaper would be very appreciated.
I wouldn't mind a nanny, either.

Want to publish my new novel?
I have to write it first.
But I promise it will rock.
Maybe I'll just stick to blogging...
I'll keep working on it, though.

Anyone know of a magic button
That'll stop my thighs from jiggling?
I'll get right on that "exercise."
Right after the nanny gets here.


Warning: Your Mommy is Overheating

Maybe it's because we've spent the last two days stuck inside while it's raining out, or maybe it's because I have a tendency to let my anger simmer until it suddenly boils over, but I'm having a terrible Mommy evening.

I just screamed at my (almost) 2-year-old. This is when Mommy knows she needs a break.

He filled his Little People bus with all of the wipes from the wipe container. Which might have been funny, if this hadn't been the millionth time. He's been in trouble for it before, but it was the gentle, "I don't want to see this happen again" kind of trouble. Today, he got "Emergency: Mommy Malfunction. Please step away from the Mommy" type of trouble.

I've also been pretty short with my older son today; I've given a lot more lazy "no's" than I have in a while. No sitting on my lap. No I will not make you more chocolate milk until you find your Thomas cup. No I don't want to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And you don't either. NO NO NO.

When I get this way, I feel a little sick on the inside. I know I am being irrational and need to just chill out and regroup. But it's SO HARD once you get in the downward spiral. I've had a terrible time getting myself motivated today, the kids are driving me up a wall (2 days indoors tends to make them a little rambunctious), and even my husband is annoying me with his random snippets of chitchat about the computer cases he's drooling over on the internet.

The thing is, I feel like I've had a lot of "breaks" lately. I mean, people beg to take my kids overnight (we have a lot of family in the area). Why do I feel like I don't have time to think?

Maybe I've let myself have too much time and I've spoiled myself a bit? Maybe I need to buck up and get off the Emo train? I'm not sure.

But right now,

I feel




Bring on the bubble bath and cosmos.


Why I Hate Public Restrooms

Today, I was guilt tripped invited to go out to lunch with my Gram to meet my great-aunt's granddaughter (I am still not clear on what that makes her to me? third cousin or something?). Gram, having the crazy old lady impeccable taste that she has, picked a crappy little diner with a menu chock-full of bacon. You know the kind of place, I suppose you'd call it a "greasy spoon," the seats stick to you, the waitresses are old and cranky, and if the food isn't good, you pretend it is anyway. 'Coz you don't wanna get shanked on your way out.

Now, considering the grimy texture of the table and chairs, I could very easily guess what the bathroom was going to look like. I was secretly praying that I wouldn't hear "Mommy!! I have to go potty!" during this little adventure. I mean, it was only going to be an hour or so. Surely my children could make it an hour without needing to use the bathroom.

But no. That would be too easy. A sudden foul smell from Jacob told me I was going to have to visit the nasty restroom, at least to change a diaper. And of course, when I got up to excuse myself to do that, James decided he also had to go. Perfect.

We enter the restroom. On the surface it's not too bad, except for the terrible decorating choice of peach-colored paint, dusty fake flowers, and an overabundance of brass. It definitely had that I-haven't-been-cleaned-in-a-while smell, but the fruity air freshener hiding somewhere in the room covered it up a little. Actually, the worst thing I noticed when I walked in to the bathroom was no changing table. Oh, God. The floor certainly would not do, and there wasn't even enough counter space to stick him up there to change him. There were two stalls, so I thought, hmm, maybe the changing table is in the handicap stall?

Of course, it was occupied. No problem, I can wait a minute, I thought to myself. James went in the other stall, and I thanked my lucky stars that he stands up to pee, because I didn't even want to think about how gross the toilet seat was. By the time James was done going, I was still waiting outside for the second stall to open up. I was starting to think it was a lost cause when I heard a flush!

No one came out.

Now I didn't want to go in THERE either, because if that lady had to flush before she was even done...yikes. I was considering just going out to the car to change Jacob's diaper, but of course, The War On Pants had already made my decision for me--Jake had his diaper half off already. And it was...probably about as disgusting as what the lady in the other stall was doing. No pulling it back up and taking him outside.

Changing a diaper while a child is standing up is a fine art. For some reason, it's extremely difficult to wrap my mind around the way their little butts look standing up compared to when they're laying down. So many little folds of baby fat! What normally takes one wipe takes at least three when I have to do this. And then there's the part where you have to put a new diaper on. It always bunches and never goes on straight. You'd think it would be a simple task, but it isn't. At least not in my world.

Add to this the fact that I made James stay in the tiny stall with us, and he spent the entire time yelling, "Look, Mommy! My pee is bigger than Jake's! His is tiny! Mine is bigger! Look!" (I can only imagine what the woman in the other stall was thinking).

This was, to say the least, one of the worst public restroom experiences I've had in a while. It very nearly tops the time I was a housekeeper and discovered a toilet tank--the TANK!-- full of brown chunks (don't worry, it turned out just to be a chocolate cookie. But it was an awkward few minutes until I figured that out).

When I finally managed to get Jake cleaned and re-diapered, we thoroughly washed our hands and left. The second stall? Still occupied.


An Award! Shiny!!

Melissa at Making Things Up has honored me with this cute little "Versatile Blogger" award! To truly earn it, though, I have to tell you 7 facts about myself and then nominate some other bloggers to do the same.

Ok. The intro was the easy part. Now to think of seven things to tell you about myself...

1) I have lived in Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Michigan, and Washington, and even though I was born in Georgia, I consider Illinois most like "home." (Although now that I've lived in Washington a while it is starting to grow on me).

2) I have a BA in Sociology from Gonzaga University with a concentration in Women's Studies. And 5 years after graduation, I still have no idea why I chose that course of study.

3) I desperately want to have a baby girl. But I don't want more than three children. So...if I get pregnant soon, please cross your fingers for me! :p

4) My favorite bands are The Beatles, Weezer, and Cake. I have to list all three because I can't quite choose an ultimate favorite.

5) I hate shopping. I don't know why exactly I hate it so much, but it makes me crabby. And tonight, my husband made me go to the mall for THREE HOURS. With kids that hadn't eaten dinner yet. And one who skipped his nap.

6) My husband and I have grand fantasies about moving to Portland, OR. We love it there. It's kind of funny, because it's not a city you usually associate with "grand fantasies," but it's our dream town.

7) I have a dog named Chewie who didn't bark for the first 2 years we owned him. In fact, he still doesn't really "bark," he just has this silly-sounding howl thing that reminds me of a hound dog's. And he only does it to the mailman.

8) After writing poems and stories for at least the last 15 years of my life, I've finally figured out that what I really want to do is write. I don't know how I didn't pick up on it earlier.

9) I look exactly like my mom, except her hair was dark brown and she wore glasses. Sometimes I catch my Gram looking at me in this sad, nostalgic way and I just know she's seeing her daughter standing there instead of me.

10) I love to bake. Especially bread. And my very favorite is Challah (and if you have a good recipe for it, leave a comment/email me, and I will love you forever!).

Well, there you have it! Now for the fun part: giving out some Versatile Blogger awards of my own!

Rebecca Mullen at Altared are a great writer and my "happiness hero!"

Amanda at My Thoughts...I miss you IRL. Quit having real life stuff happen so we can hang out.

Rudri at Being Rudri write engaging posts and you leave good comments. <3

MidnightCafe at Midnight have so much insight and wisdom, I love reading your blog.

Kate at small medium and large...I'm still laughing about your aversion to owning a minivan.

Congrats on your award, get to writing! :p