Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Snow falling on pumpkins

Pumpkins in the snow

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That's what cousins are for

So I've been having a tough time training for the triathlon I've pledged to do next year. As I mentioned, I'm not a very good swimmer.

I taught myself to swim, and not very well. My entire life I've been swimming with my face sticking out of the water and sort of moving my arms around in a part dog-paddle, part freestyle type of thing. It's not very effective or efficient.

Knowing my swimming wasn't up to snuff for a swim of any serious length, I signed up for a 20-week adult stroke clinic at the YMCA. It took exactly three lessons for panic to set in. Not only don't I have nearly the endurance I need, but my lack of form was actually alarming. During that lesson, I realized I don't really like putting my face in the water. Trying to will myself to keep my head in the water, I swallowed it or sucked it in through my nose several times and had to stop and grab the edge of the pool while I sputtered and coughed. My instructor criticized me for being too tense and hurried. Really? Ya think?

This is bad, I thought. Very, very bad. What the hell was I thinking agreeing to this?

And then the doubt: I can't do this. I'm going to need to get pulled from the water. I won't be able to finish.

I left that lesson in a state of depression and angst. I slept that night with the taste of chlorine still in my mouth and dreamed of being unable to breathe; of sinking slowly into deep, dark water.

Lesson four did not go much better. I started posting my weekly anxiety on my Facebook page, where my cousin Laryssa, who works for a sportswear company, saw it. She sent me a link and a blog post from Linsey Corbin. Linsey is a professional triathlete. She recently set a new personal record and finished fifth - the fastest American - in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. She is, in a word, awesome.

She has become my new hero. My inspiration. My muse. I've read her blog and looked at her photos and, while I have no desire to compete at the level she does, reading about her has given me a much-needed boost.

With renewed gusto, I decided to focus solely on swimming for a while. In the last two weeks, I've gone to the pool seven times. And you know what? It's getting easier. I still have a ton of work to do, but I actually feel like I'm going to be able to do it. It won't be easy. But I can do it. I will do it.

Despite that, I had kind of a bad swim today. I'm fighting a cold and I have a stiff neck (I know, I know. Bitch whine, bitch). I had to rest a lot and I found myself once again struggling to maintain my rhythm with the breathing. I left there feeling sort of meh.

Then the mail came. And there was a big envelope from my cousin. So I opened it. And this is what was inside:

My inspiration

How AWESOME is that?

Rys -thank you, thank you. I don't think I can even tell you how much this means to me. This picture is going in a very prominent place in my bedroom so I can see it everyday. I will treasure it and when I cross that finish line sometime next year, I will have you and Linsey to thank for it.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

The ugly side of politics and people

Twenty-five years ago (← Yes, I know, I’m old) I stood in the record aisle (← I’ve already said I’m old, I might as well hammer it home by admitting I once bought *gasp!* records) of the local Kmart with a friend from school, pointed to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and told her that I thought he was hot.

You would have thought I told her that I wanted to go out in the parking lot and look for a piece of dog poo to snack on, because she gave me a look of utter horror. Because, you know? We were two white girls from western Massachusetts and he was (at the time) *gasp!* black.

And apparently, nice, white eighth-grade girls were not supposed to think black men were hot. Such a disgrace to my race I was.

And apparently, I still am, at least in some circles.

Lately, I’ve been alarmed at the undercurrent of racism that still courses through our society even on this hallowed northeast, Blue State soil. It slaps me in the face via an email I received labeled, “The Obama Trap,” that shows a photo of a crate with a watermelon inside it. It assaults me in the form of a whisper from a woman in my town asserting that she simply “cannot vote for a black man.” It smacks me with the gravely voice of a relative telling me that “dirty Muslim” is going to ruin this country.

Then, we have this horrifying video where you can hear a woman shouting a vicious racial slur about Obama during a Palin speech and even worse, Palin doesn't bother to stop speaking to tell that person that type of "support" isn't wanted. Or acceptable. Which leads me to wonder if maybe she thinks it is?


Finally, we have a segment of the male population who are throwing their votes to Sarah Palin because they think she’s hot.

::insert sound of crickets::

Last week, for fun, I asked my daughters who they would vote for in the upcoming election: John McCain or Barack Obama.

“John McCain!” came Peanut’s enthusiastic reply.

Why, I prodded?

“I don’t like that other guy’s name, Mommy. It sounds funny.”

So then of course we had to have a serious discussion about people and diversity and while she listened carefully, she still proudly declared her support for McCain when I was done. (Probably simply for the shock value it renders in our household. She is going to make an awesome teenager; I can’t wait.)

I don’t care if you don’t want to vote for Obama because you don’t like his policies, or because you think he’s too inexperienced. But just because he’s a black man with a “funny” name? Come on, people.

Let’s please try to elevate our level of thinking at the polls next week beyond that of the average five-year-old.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Can we get THIS one, Mommy?

Can we get THIS one??

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Under each other's skin

Tonight while trying to wrestle Loaf’s feet into her shoes, she sat in my lap kicking and flailing, alternating between going boneless and twisting her body into knots – making a simple task incredibly challenging. She did not want to put them on - did not want to go, and she was letting me know in every way possible. Suddenly, she lifted her body up, turned her head toward mine and placed her lips on my cheek. I thought she was going to kiss me, or maybe even lick me dog- or cat-like, but instead, she bit me.

Not hard. Her teeth barely closed on the soft of my cheek before I reacted – swatting her face away with my hand. It was completely involuntary – a reaction to the sensation of teeth closing on sensitive skin - but I hit her (lightly) on the face.

I also let out a pretty loud yelp. The combination of the swat and the yelp startled her and finally she sat still in my lap while I put her shoes on all the while lecturing her about why we Do. Not. Bite. Ever.

But she didn’t cry. Not even a tear.

Until I roughly stood her up on her own feet and stood up myself. Meanwhile, Mark, standing nearby admonished her, “you really should apologize to Mommy right now.”

And the combination of that, along with my abrupt abandonment, did it. She dissolved into a fit of deep, sobbing tears. Her whole body shook with sadness.

“I’m s-s-s-soooo so-wwww-yyy, M-M-Mommy. S-s-s-sooooo sowwwwwy.”

It struck me then that the act of pushing her way – of physically rejecting her - had been far more upsetting to her than my swatting and scolding her.

Loaf is much more physical than Peanut. She longs for closeness and human contact, particularly from me. She’ll sometimes follow me around the house like a lost puppy dog and “help” me clean or fold laundry. She sits on my lap and hugs my leg and asks to be carried or picked up even if we’re just moving to the next room.

Before bed, she wraps her tiny arms around my neck and squeezes tightly before begging me not to go, to stay, to get my book and sit in her room and read until she’s asleep. Then, sometime in the night, she’ll crawl into our bed and snuggle close to me, burrowing her head against my shoulder.

I have a confession.

I don’t really mind any of this.

I love both my daughters with such intensity it causes me to ache physically from the inside out.

But Loaf. I can’t explain it. She is wrapped extra tightly around my core. She’s woven a little more deeply into my soul. Maybe because she’s my last baby? Her milestones trail Peanuts by a couple of years, and I know that once they pass there won’t be any more first steps or first words or first days of preschool.

It took about .0003 seconds of her standing before me weeping and apologizing before I scooped her into my arms and stroked her face and told her it was OK. She clung desperately to my shirt, sobbing, while I rubbed her back and whispered assurances in her ear that Mommy was mad, but despite that, I still love her so very much and always will.

My heart broke listening to her sobs. I wrapped my arms around her and we squeezed each other tightly. Mother and child. The 3-year-old and the 39-year-old. Both taking away a deeper understanding of love thanks to the other. Neither wanting to let go of the lessons of the day.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

The wheels on the carpool go round and round

Peanut is taking ballet lessons once a week along with two other girls in her class. The dance studio is about 15 minutes from here so we three moms (sort of like We Three Kings only we don't have to follow stars to get to where we're going thankyouverymuch) take turns driving the girls.

This week, it was my turn to drive so I piled all three five-year-olds, along with Loaf, into my minivan (<--- Yes, that's right Mrs. New Hampshire. M.I.N.I.V.A.N. I'll hum the Jeopardy theme song for a moment while you pick your jaw up off the ground. Do do do do do do do. Do do do do do DO do do do do. Better? Ready to move along, now? Awesome.) and off we went.

Now, I don't know if any of you have ever spent an extended period of time trapped in a car with four girls under six, but if you haven't, let me give you a taste of what you are missing.

1. Jokes. Many many jokes. None of which make any sense. Oh, and they also all have the same punchline. And yet, they laugh HYSTERICALLY at every single one. A sampling:
Why did the banana cross the road? To jump into your eyeball! ::cue enthusiastic laughter::
Why did the goat cross the road? To jump into your eyeball! ::cue enthusiastic laughter::

2. Lots of Very Serious Discussion pertaining to what to wear for Halloween this year complete with detailed explanations of what they, and every member of their family, wore for Halloween last year.

3. More Serious Discussion about what to bring for Show 'n Tell this week.

4. In-depth conversations about the programming sponsored by fine stations such as Nickelodeon and Disney Kids. None of which my kids have any clue about because we became a TV-free home earlier this year (and that's going very well, thanks for asking).

So girl A will say something like, "Isn't that funny when SpongeBob (insert whatever funny thing he does here)?" and girl B will giggle and say, "Oh yes, he is so funny," and Loaf, who has absolutely no freakin' clue what they are talking about will pipe up out of the blue with, "I like macaroni and cheese too," which will be met with utter, complete silence. Oy. Poor Loaf.

5. Detailed analysis of the magic tricks performed by the clown at girl B's birthday party last week. In the end they will all agree that the book she brought with the ever-changing pictures inside really was magic, but that her pet raccoon (named Spaghettihead) was actually a puppet stuffed onto her hand. I see a future in political commentary for all three.

Oh and whatever you do, do NOT try to engage conversation with any of them, including your own child. Doing so will be met with blank stares and total silence. Your own offspring - your very flesh and blood who you gestated and birthed and spend hours upon hours cleaning up after and doting on and snuggling on your lap and reading the same inane stories over and over to - will also likely declare, "Mom, we aren't talking to you." Complete with eyeroll.

But I'm not bitter or anything. Nope, not me. (<--- That is a lie.)

At least I still have Loaf to talk to. For the moment.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Fall back (to 2003)

What we found at the farm stand


This is Peanut, approximately 11-weeks-old, in 2003. Can you stand it?

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To have and to hold

I’ve always been a big fan of weddings. The promise of true love, the vows of faith and devotion, always strike a chord with me.

I have shed more than my share of sentimental tears at weddings all over the country.

This weekend we went to a lovely wedding – beautiful bride, happy groom. A perfect fall day. A breathtaking setting on the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. We sat at our table adorned with fall flowers and painted pumpkins watching the bride and groom glide across the floor to a Michael Bouble song. They looked into each other’s eyes and a hitch caught in my throat.

As the song ended and they parted, the DJ announced that the bride would now dance with her father.

As I watched this man (who I’d never met), take his daughter (who I’d also not yet met) into his arms, my body froze. I turned to Mark.

That will be you someday.

He nodded, silently.

I turned back, watching them. Studying the emotion on the father’s face – a mix of joy and pride rimmed with the sad acceptance that his Little Girl had officially slipped away and had somehow been replaced by this Woman in a white wedding gown. His inability to comprehend that just yesterday this Woman with flowing waves and a sparkly tiara was a curly-haired toddler snuggled in his lap in her footie pajamas was as plain as day.

I had to fight to keep the tears from pouring down my face. I certainly couldn’t look at Mark and after a few seconds, couldn’t look at the figures on the dance floor.

Instead I stared up at the ceiling – trying to avoid the glimpse of our future spinning gracefully on the dance floor a few feet in front of us. It’s a happy future, no doubt, but one that I know will be here all too quickly.


Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm the one that she wants

When I was pregnant with Loaf, I worried incessantly about Peanut. She’d been the center of our universe since the day she was born. How would she feel when the baby arrived?

I remembered what it was like to have a newborn – Peanut’s arrival flattened me. I was wretchedly sleep-deprived and barely able to find time to brush my teeth, never mind feed myself or take care of the house. She refused to be put down – ever, not even for even a few seconds – so I held her constantly, including when she napped, making that old “nap when the baby naps (or do anything at all when the baby naps) difficult at best. A shower – even the briefest variety – was a luxury of epic proportions.

So during my pregnancy with Loaf, I worried. Actually, I obsessed: How would I ever have time to take care of a toddler – not even 2 yet, along with a newborn?

But somehow, some way, I managed. It helped that Loaf was a more easy-going newborn and that experience made me a more easy-going mother. I found ways to make it work. I learned to do everything – from make a sandwich to help Peanut get dressed - with one hand. I could nurse Loaf while walking around the yard following Peanut from one adventure to the next. I read Peanut stories while Loaf dozed on my chest. We managed.

In fairness, we did more than manage. We pulled through remarkably well. Before I knew it, Loaf was a toddler in her own right, wobbling after Peanut.

So here we are, nearly three-and-a-half years later.

Which is why Peanut’s meltdown at the kitchen table recently threw me for a loop. Out of nowhere, she was sobbing. One minute, she was happily eating her dinner and the next, tears were rolling down her face as she wailed: ”You never do anything with just me. Loaf is always around. I want to do something with just you.

I sat there, stunned, my fork halfway to my mouth.

Where was this coming from?

It is true, that Loaf gets more one-on-one Mommy time than Peanut. She only attends school three mornings a week, while Peanut goes all five. And even on the days they both go, I pick Loaf up at 11:30, but Peanut stays until 1 p.m. Loaf and I usually spend that 90 minutes at the library or eating lunch together at home.

I didn’t think Peanut was really even aware of the “extra” time I had with Loaf, never mind that she thought much about it. Clearly, I underestimated her.

I set my fork down and slid my chair next to hers. Wrapping my arms around I cooed in her ear and admitted that yes, it’s true, she doesn’t get as much alone-time with Mom as Loaf does, but that we’d fix that toot sweet.

So over the past few days, I’ve made an effort to spend some one-on-one with my Big Girl. I painted her toenails today while Loaf was occupied with a book and yesterday she “helped” me dig a new garden while Loaf was coloring. It's not much, but it makes her happy. Also, I know deep down the day will come when she'll recoil in horror at the idea of me painting her toenails. Hopefully these simple moments will fill and sustain both of us, now and many years into the future.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: The weird (and wonderful) things that happen at my house

(Like dad getting into the bathtub fully clothed).





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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Happiness is a box of old plastic horses

They have sat in a box for more than 20 years: a collection of vintage Breyer model horses.

Some of them are well over 30 years old - remnants of my girlhood love of horses. In the heyday of my horse infatuation, my bedroom shelves were filled with dozens of them. But over time there were casualties: broken legs and severed tails. I gave some away to friends and others to charity. Some time after I went away to college, my mom packed what was left into a box, which sat in the bedroom closet of my old house for several years. One day when I was home visiting, she handed the box over to me.

"Your horses," she said. "Do you want them or do you want me to get rid of them?"

I stared into the box. What was I supposed to do with them? I wasn't exactly going to display them in my apartment. And I didn't really think I wanted children. So why keep them? But as I picked through the box, examining them, memory after memory came back. The names I'd given them (Movie Star, Lightning, Princess, Faithful). The games I'd played with them. The hours I spent arranging and rearranging them in my room.

I decided to take them. I wasn't really sure why, but the box went into the trunk of my car and then straight into another closet. The box moved with me from one apartment to another and then finally to this house - the home where we started our family. With every move, I questioned my rationale for keeping them, but in the end could never quite bring myself to let them go.

Recently, my daughters - like many girls - have fallen head over heels in love with horses. They gallop around and whinny like horses, sleep with their horse-heads-on-a-stick and take their My Little Ponies into the bathtub with them. Watching them gallop around the kitchen today, I started thinking about my own long-ago love of horses and suddenly remembered the box in the attic.

In a flash, I was upstairs, looking for it. It took a little digging, but squealing, I found it and carried it down to the kitchen. The looks on my girls' faces - the pure, unfiltered joy - when I started stacking the horses on the table, along with the rush of hugs and "thank you Mommys!" made the many moves and years of storage unquestionably worthwhile.

Many years ago, I brought home a box of plastic horses wondering why I was saving them. Now I know.

Mom's old horses (and dog)

Still in pretty good shape!

Organizing the herd



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Monday, October 06, 2008

Listening to my inner voice

Psssst. Hey? You. There on the computer. Do you know how many days have passed since you posted something on your blog?

Me: Um, I dunno. Three?

WRONG! Try five. Five days. And your last post was a Wordless Wednesday, which, while cute, does not exactly show off your wit or witticism as a writer.

Me: Sorry, I’ve been busy.

Busy is no excuse. None! You’ve got a small, but loyal group of readers now. And if you want to build on that, you’ve got to keep posting fresh material. Often. Do you know how many people have undoubtedly visited your blog since last Wednesday only to be disappointed at your utter lack of devotion, creativity and skill? Who knows how many. We’ll never know, because they’ll probably never come back.

Me: Yikes, don’t be so harsh. I told you, I’ve been busy.

Bloggers all over the country – the world – are busy, kid. And they still manage to post an interesting anecdote or observation every couple of days. They dig deep, and they find something to write about. You? Are not keeping up. Let’s think. There must be something interesting going on with you?

Me: Well, um, let's see . . .

OH COME ON! This is pathetic. Kids, think kids. They’re always doing something blog-worthy.

Me: Actually, lately, there hasn’t been much material there.

Nothing? No fits? No tantrums? Nothing that’s driving you crazy?

Me: Not really. Nothing new, at least. In fact, they’ve been remarkably well behaved lately.

Well, there has to be something. Think, kid, think. Have they hidden anything in a funny place recently?

Me: Not that I can recall.

Don’t you have some snarky political rant to share with the world?

Me: Well, truthfully, I’m feeling like that’s pretty much being covered elsewhere right now.

You must have had an amusing conversation with someone in your house lately?

Me: Ummm. . . .

Dude! Come on! You’re not even trying.

Me: I am, really, I am. It’s just, I’ve been busy and . . .

We’ve already been over that. There has to be something. Some sappy observation about how the girls are growing up from under you? You’re always good for a few of those.

Me: Honestly, I’ve got nothing.

What am I going to do with you? You’re useless. Your blogging cache is as vacant as Sarah Palin’s brain.

Me: Hey! You just made a funny!

So I did.

Me: Should we post it and call it a night?

Works for me. But you better make a real effort this week to post more often.

Me: I promise! Thanks, Mean Subconscious Voice.

No problem. All in a days work, kid.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Dance like no one is watching







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