Friday, December 24, 2010

A thrill of hope.

And we're off! This year's Christmas festivities officially begin this afternoon, with cookie-baking in preparation for Santa's arrival tonight, then on to church for Christmas Eve service. Christmas morning is the climax for the kids, and there will be a mad dash for the Christmas tree and shrieks of joy when their loot is discovered. Driving to grandparents' houses, family dinners with seven hundred relatives from all corners of the country, and there will surely be two exhausted kids and two even more exhausted parents at the end of this weekend. But through all of it, we are keeping certain things in mind, things that put the reason for these days in perspective. Like, there were no late-night Walmart runs going on in Bethlehem. No stressing out over batteries and toys that require twelve hours of assembly surrounded the manger. We have Santa and presents and yes, probably a little bit of stressing out over the required rushing around to visit family. But we also have this: A thrill of hope, and the real reason for the season.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

And now she is five.

Ella's birthday was actually eleven days ago. I have had a five year old for eleven days now, and I am still getting acquainted with the idea. As bittersweet as it is to watch the baby of the family get older, knowing that this is my last time to watch a childhood unfold, it is perhaps more heart wrenching to sit by as my Big Girl gets older. She is the first, the one who made me a mom, the girl who made my parents into grandparents. For three years it was just me and her, all day, the two of us learning together how to do this thing we were doing every day. She is my first, and for that she and I will always have a special-ness that no one else on this planet can share.

Ella, at five (FIVE. I still have trouble saying it some days.) you are incredibly smart, and funny, and curious, and a million other things that I couldn't even begin to describe right now. Your intelligence astounds me sometimes. You throw around words like 'nocturnal' and 'interpretive dance', and you know what they mean. It really was just yesterday that you were a toddler, saying 'amaaaano' for 'tomato' and running around the house in a diaper. You are starting to read, and the perfectionist in you cannot stand it that you can't read really big words quite yet. I say to you, "Be patient, girl." You are at the jumping off point, thisclose to being ready to leave "little kid-hood" behind for good, ready to leap head first into big, important things: real, big kid school, making new friends, growing up into the person that you will be. I think you know this, can sense it, and while you are excited about what is to come you hold tightly to the little girl in you. Not quite old enough to be interested in all of the "tween" stuff like Hannah Montana and liking boys, but a little too old for toddler toys and games. Again I will say: Be patient, girl. It is coming. You have so much greatness in you, so many good, exciting things heading your way in the not-so-distant future. Some days I want to grab you tightly and say "slow down" to see if that makes it stop, this growing up thing you are doing.

At five, you are curious about everything around you, and this is evident in the million and one questions that you ask me every single day. I hope you never lose this curiosity, this need to learn things about everything in the world, to find answers for things that you wonder about. I love watching the world through your eyes these days...everything is a mystery to be solved or figured out, mundane things are miraculous through your five-year-old eyes. You are letting me go through childhood again, kid, and for that I thank you. I've learned that it really is pretty incredible that hawks can hunt for their food from way up in the air, and it is amazing how tulips know just when to pop up through the ground in the spring time.

I would say that I am proud to be your mother, but that word, "Proud", doesn't do it justice, really. I am honored to be the one you spend your days with, and I am already mourning the loss of these lazy days as we rapidly approach Kindergarten next fall. Because that means that many fewer hugs, that many fewer stories I read to you, that many fewer times that I am the one to hug you when you fall down, when you are out of the nest next year.

I'm not sure how this has turned into a letter to you, Ella, but here it is. My hope is that you keep being who you are, quirks and all, and that you always, always know this: I love you more than ice cream, and to the moon and back, my five-year-old.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And now he is two.

Exactly two years ago right this very minute I was pacing the floor nervously, my hair wet from just having showered at 4am. "This is it," I told myself. "You will have two babies in a little while. TWO." I was scared beyond belief. Scared that I wasn't cut out for this motherhood thing after all, scared that I wouldn't be up to taking care of two human beings at the same time by myself, scared of a horrible recovery like I had with Ella. Hours later, this boy came screaming screaming screaming into the world:


"I did it!", I thought. "I have successfully birthed two living, breathing (HUGE) children and lived to tell about it." Little did I know the ride I was in for.

Charlie, you have shaken my soul to the core. That may sound cheesy but it is the only way I know to describe it and you. You shake everything to the core. You love big, looking me in my eyes and saying "I wuv ooo, Mama" while touching my chin, hugging my legs so tight that I can't move. You play big, zooming around the house in a blur, attempting things that Ella still wouldn't dare to try at her age. You scream big, wailing when I have to change a diaper or wipe your nose. While Ella is the person who made me a mother, you have made me a better mother. You have taught me patience, kindness, to let the little things go, and most of all, to love big, right now.


You have taught me countless other things that may seem insignificant to others, too. I now know the characters' names on Thomas The Train. I also know that it is a good idea to glue the air vents to the floor, and that crayons are usually okay to just go ahead and flush down the toilet, don't bother fishing them out with your hand. Most importantly I know that there truly, truly, truly is nothing else on this earth like a Mama and Her Boy.


It has been possibly the hardest two years of my life, getting you through the stages of being a newborn and an infant and that wobbly first year of toddlerhood. But we did it! Gone are the sleep issues and teething, here to stay (for now) are the funny words you say and the silly games you play.


So, happy birthday, my boy. I love you with every single fiber of my being, and can't wait to see what your next year brings us.

I figured I should include a picture of what you look like 99.9% of the time you are awake...peanut butter on your face, food hanging out of your mouth, a little drool on your chin. Perfect.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In which I whine incessantly about stupid things.

Thanksgiving is over, bitches. I was (and am) thankful for all that I have: healthy, happy kids, a husband who puts food on the table and is a wonderful father, a lovely roof over our heads, a good life. But, there are a few things pissing me off right now. As Peter Griffin would say, this is what "really grinds my gears" lately. Let's get started, shall we?

1. Sudden Service.


There is a chain of gas stations in Tennessee called Sudden Service. This bothers me. I am sure that the CEO or whomever runs this business chose the name because it implies that your service will be speedy, prompt, or otherwise convenient. It does not imply this to me. To me it means that there are probably gas station attendants hiding behind each gas pump, waiting to spring out at you with a 64 ounce Dr Pepper and some Cheetos. They will pounce on you before you have even put your car in park, your gas tank will be filled before you even open your door to get out. Scary, is what this is to me. I get what they were going for with the name: Two S words! Cleverness! But why not Simply Service, or Service With A Smile, or any one of a hundred other S words in the dictionary? They might as well have named it Shocking Service. I figured if you're going to be called Sudden Service, you should probably just go balls-to-the-wall with the theme you've chosen, so I came up with a new logo to get the folks at Sudden Service started. You're welcome, guys.


2. Ridiculous Barbies.

Ella is at the age where she is enchanted with all things Barbie. She can spend hours dressing them, making up elaborate stories and playing them out with her plastic dolls. So it was no surprise when she asked for more Barbies for Christmas this year. What was surprising? How utterly stupid Barbie has gotten. When I was a kid, Barbie came in four different designs: Blonde, Brunette, African American, and Skipper. They were all packaged wearing something simple like a sundress or a bathing suit, and you could then choose from about ten outfits to purchase separately. Not anymore. Here is a sampling of what I found when browsing an online toy retailer. Also? The morons at Barbie Inc. must know what they're doing because Ella wants all of these crappy dolls for Christmas. Of course she does.

Totally Stylin Tattoos Barbie


Barbie wants a tattoo, and YOU get to give it to her! Also included are tattoos for your child to put on themselves. Awesome. I am super excited about my five year old becoming an apprentice to the profession of "body art". Not included are the five tequila shots Barbie did before deciding to get a tramp stamp on her lower back.

Turning Tricks Barbie, aka Fashion Fever Fashionista Doll: Sassy.


There's not much to say about this one, other than stating the obvious: This is a whore doll. I am not thrilled about my five year old daughter playing with this pro-prostitution plaything, or thinking that "fashionista" is really just fancy-talk for "gets paid in fives and ones, and more likely than not has The Clap".

I've Given Up On My Hopes And Dreams Barbie


There is a whole line of Barbies called the "I Can Be" Barbies. Among these dolls there is a Barbie pet vet, a Barbie doctor, there is even a Barbie race car driver. In theory this is a great idea, it shows young girls that if you work hard you can become whatever you want to be. Then I scrolled down and saw this one. The I Can Be A Cheerleader Barbie. Barbie seems to have said "fuck it" to any aspirations to become a lawyer, a teacher, or hell, even a housewife. She's aiming high, folks. A cheerleader. I see nothing wrong with little girls and teenagers being cheerleaders. I was even one for a couple of years there. But all of the other dolls in this series are obviously adults, as evidenced by the aforementioned doctors and race car drivers. So by the same logic, this is an adult cheerleader. If Ella graduates from college and says, "Hey, Mom, I know I just got a degree in bioengineering and all, but I'm gonna just sack those plans and be a cheerleader", I will hang her up from my roof by her toenails until she changes her little mind.

3. The Christmas Season Morons.


Starting the week before Thanksgiving, I saw no fewer than four different stories on tv and the internet that spelled out ways to save money during the holiday shopping season. Mostly I clicked on these links wondering if they were going to give me some life-changing advice, or perhaps a coupon for $500. Nope. Their "advice"? Don't put Christmas presents on your credit cards. Don't finance Christmas gifts. Shop sales. Don't buy more gifts than you can afford. Now, maybe I'm just smarter than the average person, but to me this seems like common sense. We adhere strictly to the school of thought that if we can't pay cash for it, then we don't get it. But I know there are those out there that will max out credit cards and take out loans just to ensure that little Susan gets that $200 Dream Dollhouse. When I was a mortgage broker December was actually a really busy time of year for us. People called in by the hundreds to take out second mortgages on their house just to pay for an over-the-top Christmas. Sure, little Jimmy may be overjoyed when he sees that holy grail of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. But will he really be so thrilled when he's eating hot dogs and beans for the twentieth night in a row, all because Mommy and Daddy have to pay off Christmas? I think not. Idiots.

4. THIS.


Dear makers of push-to-open boxes: Stop lying to me. They do not open when you push them. All that happens is that my thumbnail breaks off and my two year old learns a new curse word that day, and then gets to watch mommy throw the box of macaroni against the wall. Stop it. It would be more accurate if you put this on the box: "Try to open this box from the side, get increasingly annoyed and try opening the top, and finally resort to furiously ripping the entire box apart with nothing but your teeth and hatred."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I got this.

Saturday night at about midnight, Ella came down the stairs and said she had to use the bathroom. Weird, I thought, because she will usually just go by herself and go back to bed. But I thought nothing of it. I took her back to bed and we curled up under the covers for a minute, talking about what we would do the next day. "I need a sip of water, Mom," she told me. I went to the bathroom and filled her little pink cup, brought it back to her room, and was instantly greeted by the sounds of an almost-five-year-old throwing up in her bed. And everywhere else within a five foot radius of her bed. About 10% of my brain was horrified, sad for myself for a fleeting moment for what this meant for me: a loooong night of hair holding, scrubbing floors and beds, changing sheets, and definitely not sleeping. But the other 90% of my brain kicked into Calm Kick-Ass Overdrive, sweeping around the house gathering supplies for the long night ahead, planning ahead for things that she might need in the midst of this stomach bug, all while comforting a crying, frightened girl. "Go time," my brain told me. "I got this. I GOT. THIS."

As terrible as it is to have an illness sweep through your family, leaving stained sheets and carpets and crying kids in its wake, I find that it's in these moments that I shine as a parent. I instinctively know what needs to be done: Gather all of the towels in the house, make sure we have plenty of washcloths and changes of clothes for the sick kid and myself, prop up pillows in my bed, and hunker down for a long night of caretaking.

There is something about taking care of your sick child that just defines the word "mothering". During the course of a normal day, of course I parent my kids: I enforce rules such as "No Hitting" and "No Throwing Crayons In The Toilet Or Air Vent". I make lunches and apply band aids to scrapes. But when my kids are truly ill, I can see clearly my mission: Make it better, because they REALLY need me right now. With a stomach virus, especially, for they are not only sick and feeling like complete shit, but they are scared, terrified, of what is happening. So hair is held back, cold washcloths are placed on hot foreheads, backs are rubbed, and the tiny words of Helping are uttered in the wee morning hours: It's okay, it will be okay, I'm right here, I'm here. I'm here I'm here I'm here.

As the night wears on and things seem to be looking up and I am laying crooked in my bed with a child passed out on my chest, breathing their flu directly into my nose, I make bets with myself about when this will all hit me. "Will I start throwing up tomorrow, or will I have a few days of thinking that maybe I am lucky enough to have not caught it and then BAM?". For I will almost certainly catch whatever it is that they have. But then I think to myself that it's okay. It's okay if I am ten times as sick as they were, because for one night, I made it all better for them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The most fun that the world can offer.

I love music. Like, love LOVE music, in a maybe kind of unhealthy way, a way that makes me obsessed with a certain band or artist or song for months on end and when I have good music playing all is right with the world and nothing bad can happen and I just love life so much that I type really long run-on sentences. If I had to choose one thing to keep (aside from my family, of course), music would beat out books for the win. There are different songs and albums for different moods and days, and I have very often been in the car with two screaming kids and thought to myself, "Nap time is coming. I can put on THAT song, lie on the couch and listen to it, and everything will be okay." Music is like church, like a superhero who can come flying in to rescue my day from mediocrity, like a band aid that fixes things, if only for three minutes and twenty seconds at a time. I have loved to attend live shows of my favorite bands for as long as I can remember, and I can recall the first time I was in the audience at a really great show and my breath left my body and it was good. As you can imagine, having young children and a busy life are things that do not lend themselves to late nights spent out listening to music, so my concert-going days have been limited over the last few years. Rarely is there a show that I want to see badly enough that I am willing to go through the whole finding a babysitter-getting tickets-showering and getting dressed in real people clothes routine. But? A few months ago I noticed one of my favorite bands was coming to Nashville, and to a great venue, no less. I had to have tickets. I needed to go. And so the sister and her fiance and the husband and I decided to make a night of it for my birthday. Tickets were bought, then re-purchased for the night before when we had an "oh shit" moment and realized that the concert fell on the night we were supposed to take the kids trick or treating. The sister drove in and we picked them up and had a lovely dinner and many adult beverages, and I was feeling good. Great, even. We headed to the auditorium, tickets in hand, listening to the men folk cracking jokes about all of the scummy hippies who had beards. I didn't care: I knew what was about to happen, and not even snide comments from the peanut gallery could bring me down. We visited the beer line (thank you, Ryman Auditorium, for selling really, ridiculously large beers, by the way), took our seats, and waited. I was seated between the husband and another man who was holding a half empty cup of something that was most definitely NOT beer, and from the sound of his conversation with his group of friends, this cup was probably about his seventh. Or twelfth. "You guys fans?" he asked the husband and me. "'Cause I'm not really. I mean, I don't listen to their albums or anything. But I will drive to any one of their shows, any day, any where," he said. "They are unreal when you see them playing live." And oh, my. They took the stage and there was no talking to the audience, no "performing" and trying to be our friends. They were there to play. From the very first song until the end of the encore I was in that happy place, with eyes closed and hands clapping, and maybe even jumping about like a crazed lunatic every now and then. Words fail me when I try to describe how, how...just amazing they were. The drunkard next to me was right: they were unreal. The show reminded me of every single thing I have ever loved about music, real music, good music. And I'm with you now, drunk whiskey man sitting next to me: I will travel to any show they play near me happily, and enjoy the feeling of losing myself in pure greatness while I'm there.

I found this video of my favorite song of theirs, and one of the comments says this: "The last minute of this performance is so perfect it makes me cry. It looks like the most fun that the world can offer." Amen, youtube commenter. Agreed. The show felt just like this, although probably slightly less smelly and dirty, since this video was taken at Bonnaroo, after all.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Done. Or am I? Okay, I'm done. Pretty positively maybe done.

Maybe if we didn't make such breathtakingly beautiful babies, this wouldn't be quite so difficult for me.

As Charlie nears his second birthday, as he becomes more "big boy" and less "my baby", and as Ella is inching closer and closer to the first day of kindergarten (ohmygod) I find myself in a sort of a pickle. I am torn between being excited that we are moving beyond the baby days, the diapers, the teething, and being sad to wave goodbye to this season of my life, with the snuggles and the first words and the milestones.

Some days are full of smiles and hugs and I-love-yous, and I think "YES! I could totally have three kids, no problem. This would be easy, because I am so on top of my life and have everything completely together." And the idea seems plausible, do-able, even like it might be a (gasp) good idea. After all, there is nothing more delicious than the smell of a newborn, or fat baby legs just begging to be kissed and/or eaten whole, or the way that they sleep on your chest curled up like a little tree frog. Then the next day Charlie slams his face into the wall while running seventy miles an hour and needs hugs at the exact moment that Ella needs me to wipe her in the bathroom and the oven timer is beeping and the dog just puked and we have to be in the car to drive to dance class in three minutes. And then the idea seems horrific, scary, and not at all like something a semi-sane person would consider doing, ever. After all, there would be nothing worse than adding MORE poop for me to manage, or reverting back to the twelve gallon diaper bag days, during which I feel like a damned pack mule, and let's not forget the reason that babies sleep like sweet, sleeping little tree frogs is because it is 3:45am and they finally pass out on your chest after you have walked around the house for seven hours doing the Baby Jiggle. And they wake up ten minutes later to eat. No thanks.

I think that in all of this I am mostly just mourning the loss of this whole time in my life: The Baby Bearing Days. I will never feel another little foot kick my ribs from the inside. I will never fold teeny tiny onesies with a smile on my face, anticipating a new little someone's arrival any day. I will never smell baby neck in the wee hours of the morning as it snuggles into my side. And I will never watch another baby of mine cross from baby to toddler with one drunken, wobbly step. But, I will also never have to heat up another bottle at 4am, or go through colic again, or know the pain of caring for two kids while recovering from childbirth again. So I guess I can only be so sad about the changing of the seasons for so long, because we are on to other things. Things that people with newborns cannot do, like take family vacations, or be thisclose to being completely done with diapers FOREVER (I think I gave myself chills just typing that...IMAGINE! NO DIAPERS!), or go out to eat without a newborn screaming at the top of their lungs. So while I may be sad about the end of my baby-making career, I know that we have already made two awesome ones that will give me more than a lifetime of happy things to come. And that will be enough.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm terrified of the country, y'all.

So, I've been running for a while now. When we moved into this house I was excited to map out a serene, isolated route for my morning jogs, one where I wouldn't have to worry about crossing busy streets and running in the grass to dodge traffic. Two paths presented themselves: Running back through our neighborhood, complete with streetlights and houses and a general feeling of safety. Or I could run on the golf cart path that winds its way through the middle of our neighborhood, with no lights and very few houses around. This is what I pictured when I thought about running the golf cart path:

Needless to say, I chose to run through the neighborhood. "This is gonna be GREAT! And QUIET! And so peaceful! Not to mention that I have the safety of other houses being nearby, but I run early enough in the morning that no one will be out to witness my ass jiggling up those huge hills" I thought. So I set out at 5:30am for my inaugural run. Everything was going great until I reached a stretch of road that is completely, 100% pitch black, with no houses....and it crosses under the interstate overpasses. Having lived in the city my whole life, interstate overpasses mean one thing to me: homeless people. They live under them. They have grocery shopping carts full of god knows what, probably rags soaked in gasoline and some carving knives. But! In the city, this is not generally a problem because you are on a CITY street, with lots of other people around. Lots of witnesses. Not so at 5:30am on a country road that runs straight in between a deserted golf course and a not-corn field. City homeless people know that they are surrounded by people, and thus they remain harmless. But country homeless, left all alone in the forest, could start to get ideas. The husband eased my worries by pointing out that homeless people don't generally hang out near the golf course. Well, he tried to ease my worries, but I tend to catastrophize things until my brain can see nothing but DANGER! FEAR! TERROR! and I have a mini freakout over something that just isn't really deserving of that level of panic.

So off I started, into the darkness with my ipod blaring. This is another thing that is problematic: I am incapable of running without music pounding into my ears. I hear people say that going for a run centers them, lets them think about their problems and meditate, in some form. Well, I hear enough whining and bitching during my days, thank you, and I do not need to hear it from myself for 45 minutes every morning. "You just shut your brain off, young lady, and you RUN", I tell myself. The idea that it makes sense to listen to myself is insane to me, I would much rather listen to The Killers screaming into my ear about what someone told them about a boyfriend or a girlfriend or whatever. This becomes a problem when my brain starts spinning its wheels and realizing that I couldn't hear the overpass-dwelling homeless guy's footsteps approaching with my music up so loud. So I settle for turning my head every ten steps or so just to make sure I am truly still alone out there in the wilderness. While I am looking back, preparing for the inevitable attack, I approach the interstate. Enter fucked up brain again. The interstate is so loud, my brain tells me, that anyone could do anything to anyone out here and no one would hear a thing. Well, shit. So now on top of looking behind me every ten steps I am also now sprinting in the darkness at full speed. Also? Sometimes the pants that I run in tend to slip and slide and maybe start to fall off a little, so what I am doing at this point is sprinting, head-turning, and pulling up my pants at the same time. Somewhere in between the first interstate and the second I become increasingly afraid and maybe start to sing whatever song is on my ipod, just as a coping mechanism. Or, quite possibly, the Homeless Murderers who live on our golf course will think I am certifiably insane and leave me alone. Just then, when the fear has ramped up to Code Red, PANIC, I spot the field. In this field there are very large hay bales scattered about, and in the dark, at 5:30am, they look remarkably like hiding spots for someone to lay in wait for an innocent jogger to pass by and then BAM. What is the "BAM", you might ask? I once saw an episode of CSI where there was a pig farmer who abducted young girls and then killed them and fed them to his pigs. Brain: Stage Left. Running at a heart attack inducing speed, singing "Sexy Back" by Justin Timberlake, pulling my pants up, looking behind me in terror, and now scanning the horizon for pig farmers. This? Is not the peaceful morning jog that I had in mind. As I near the entrance to our neighborhood and see the sweet safety of a street light, I can only imagine what anyone inside their house who might be witnessing this insane spectacle is thinking. "God bless her little heart, there's that retarded girl again. She must really like jogging, she always runs so FAST. She also sings Britney Spears songs while she's coming up that hill, which is weird."

About a month ago my new chiropractor told me that due to me having the "spine of a 55 year old", I should most definitely never, ever run again or I could cause horrific back pain and a possible future surgery on two of my discs. Do you think if I explained to him that the country was trying to kill me, so I had to RUN FOR MY LIFE, he would be cool with it? Sorry, Dr. Josh, but there was a pack of pig farmers after me. Plus the homeless guy. I had to run, the voices told me so.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm reaching the end of my rapidly fraying rope.

Maybe it just comes with getting older, maybe having a beyond-busy schedule with two kids and school and dance and laundry and playgroups and everything else that comes with having kids has something to do with this, maybe I've just always been this way but am only recently really realizing it. Whatever the explanation, I find myself rapidly becoming OVER IT. I think that if I was someone who got tattoos, I would get that inscribed somewhere on my body, probably on my forehead so everyone could see it. I'm just...over it. Over people who are fake and flaky and just generally crappy people. People who patronize and blather on and on about meaningless things, when all I really want to say is "SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MOVE ON." Friends who do nothing but take take take, and then take some more, with no regard to what may be happening with me or my family. People who waste my time with petty bullshit when I seldom have time to waste on anything, let alone bullshit. Anyone who has a holier-than-thou perspective, and people who look at the world through NOTHING but rose-colored glasses. 'Cause guess what? Life isn't always beautiful. Things suck. No need to paint a bad situation with your sunny yellow paintbrush and call it a masterpiece, when what it really is is sick kids up all night, or a mountain of laundry that is threatening to overtake the house, or seventeen bills all being due in the same week. Shut up. Life IS beautiful most of the time, but your inability to say anything other than "This is GREAT! It's an opportunity to GROW as a PERSON!" makes me want to scream, because it makes me feel crazy. "IS life really perfect, and do I maybe just have a shitty one?" I wonder to myself. After much deep conversation with the sister about this subject, I can say without a doubt that no, no I do not have a shitty life. I have a quite wonderful one, actually. I love my kids with a fierceness that sometimes scares me, I love my husband, and I get to stay home and take care of all of them. But when you, oh, get a flea infestation in your house that makes you consider moving again, and you have seventeen hundred flea bites on your legs and nothing will get rid of the damn fleas? THIS is not beautiful. Bad things happen. It's okay to let the words "This sucks" pass through your lips.

Not sure where I was going with this except to say that I'm over it. All the fake people, the fake happiness, and bad friends. Like I said, maybe it's just getting older that has allowed me to lower my tolerance for these types of people. But lowered, it is. And I have a feeling it's not going to go back up any time soon.

PS: After another conversation with the sister, I realized that I have been censoring myself. I have a fairly filthy mouth (not around the kids, of course), but thoughts in the back of my head have kept me from writing the way that I want to write. "But, I know that such-and-such reads my blog, I can't say THAT!!!1!". That is not to say that I am going to scatter the F-word about just for the hell of it, but if I want to say it, goddammit, I will. So there. And if you have a problem with it? Just go and read this blog instead:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dear Charlie.

There is no special milestone in your life happening right now. You are exactly 21 months and 4 days old, and I figured it was high time that I write something for you and only you. I can't promise you that this will be a regular, every-six-months thing. In fact, I can promise exactly the opposite: I will probably fail to record moments of your life with any regularity, try as I might. Such is the life of the second-born, kid. Get over it. But while I have a few minutes to jot down a few things about your spectacular self, I will take advantage of it.

Oh, Charlie. You are simultaneously hilarious (to the point that I laugh at you so hard sometimes that I cannot breathe) and frustrating (to the point that it is not uncommon for me to consider both drinking and full-time day care within a ten minute span of time). You are very much a two year old already..."NO" and "MINE" are among your favorite words these days, and they are said with such force that it nearly knocks me backwards when you shout them. But oh! That brings me to one of my most favorite things about this age: short-term memory loss. You are a pro at laying in the floor, swatting at whoever dares get within two feet of you, while screaming and crying and kicking. And then BAM. Over. Done. Happy, smiling Charlie, curled up in my lap giving me a hug. This comes in handy because EVERYthing seems to set you off these days....we ran out of waffles this morning, you don't want the ceiling fan blowing on you, your tv show ended and the tv got turned off, you are beyond frustrated that the plug to the vacuum will not plug into the outlet cover I installed, Ella looked at you or breathed near you, or thought about breathing near you. I am learning to sit tight, ride out the storm, and wait for your smiley self to come bring me a book, saying "I wead, I wead dis book." You give excellent hugs, along with some fantastically sloppy french kisses, and you are learning the meaning of "gentle" as you very slowly walk up to Ella and pat her leg. The look on your face tells me that you are using every single ounce of self restraint in your tiny body not to smack her or bite her ankle, but still you are learning it. I can already tell that you will be something amazing when you grow up. I can almost see you aching to be the center of attention all the time, and the best thing in your little world is when everyone laughs at something funny you say or do, which guarantees that we all get to see or hear you do it ninety-five more times. You can make me smile like no one else can, just by walking in the room and saying, "Hi, Mom! Hi, Mom, I Charlie!" or grabbing my leg and saying "I up you". You are completely and utterly fascinated by anything mechanical, and could sit in our cars all day long pushing buttons and honking the horn. Every single thing with wheels, be it a car or truck or motorcycle, is a "Vroom" to you. And, ohmygod, you LOVE your vrooms. You love anything with wheels, including our rolling suitcases and the vacuum, and everything with wheels makes the "vroom" sound.

By far my favorite thing about this age is the sheer amazement you get while seeing everyday things. A few weeks ago, I hung up some framed art in the play room, stood back to make sure that the frames were all in a straight line, and there you were right next to me, clasping your hands in front of you and yelling, "AMAZING! I excited!" It is not uncommon to hear these words from you about any number of mundane managed to get a baby bottle into a baby doll's mouth, and it's AMAZING! You see a butterfly that got into our screened in porch and is flying right in front of the window, right in front of your eyes, and it is AMAZING! You get buckled into your car seat and I say that we are going to the gas station or to the library, and I hear "I EXCITED!".

While I may not have the time these days to sit for hours composing love letters to you or to Ella, know that I feel them, those letters, every day that you are here with me. I am "that bad mom", whose kids' baby books sit waiting for me to catch up on them "when I have an hour or two (ha!)", but know that we love you, baby book or not. We love all of you, every bit of you, screaming, vrooming, sloppy kisses and all.

Friday, August 6, 2010


As the sun slowly disappears for the day, so do the rules of the house. "No jumping on the bed". "Stop yelling and running around". "Don't splash that water all over the floor, it will make a mess". After dinner we head upstairs for what has become my favorite time of the day, and the sillies come out. Laughing, splashing, running wild around our room, jumping and tumbling on our big bed. It is one of those rare occurrences where you can sit back and say, "This. THIS is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my days, it is that good." Sweet-smelling babies, drunk with sleepiness and the fun of the day that we're finishing. Bliss.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Duuuuuuuuun. Done.

I had every intention of typing out a lovely blog post for today, but then Charlie moved from "slightly snotty nose" land firmly into "full-blown sick with cough and fever" territory. And the kids are fighting. And I'm still recovering from an exhaustingly fast-paced road trip this weekend that involved about four hours of sleep. And I have cleaned up dog puke twice before noon. And I am about ready to sign my house payment over to The Laundry, because it clearly owns this home. And I just finished cleaning poop out of an air duct in the playroom. Don't ask. This day? Is awesome so far. I think I'm done with it. Can I even really say that with a straight face at 12:00? Maybe I'll just write a haiku about it.

Bedtime feels light years
away right now.
Bourbon helps.

I think I've officially lost my mind.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I am continually amazed at how different two children from the same family can be. When my babies were newborns, I did things pretty much exactly the same way for them both. Why then, despite all parenting efforts, have they turned out to be so entirely opposite? I hate to admit it, but I was that judge-y mom whose face had a look of abject horror on it when I would witness a toddler throwing a massive tantrum in public. Because, well, Ella just...didn't do that. Ever. I wrongly assumed that those "other" moms were doing something wrong, taking an incorrect turn somewhere in their parenting, that was causing their kid to behave that way. And then came Charlie. Charlie, who has shattered every single one of my previously-held ideas about parenting to smithereens, who yells and screams and hits and gets mad, despite my best efforts to get him to stop. "I don't know how to parent this child," I have said on many occasions, both to myself and to others in exasperation. I have had many, many people tell me that he is perhaps the wildest, most stubborn kid they have EVER seen in their lives, and most say it either in shock or judgement (as I once did) or in pity for me, his full-time parent. But. BUT! Last week I had a revelation, an epiphany, my AHA! moment. My job with Charlie is not to get him to "stop" being himself, it is to somehow find a way to use his personality and channel all of his energy for GOOD, as opposed to EVIL (as in, biting his sister because he gets mad that his favorite tv show just ended). And oh, the things he will do with all of his energy if he chooses to use it for good. He has more fight and spunk in his little toe than most people posses in their entire body, and my purpose is to show him how to be a good person and have a good life, without changing him and beating his personality out of him (*disclaimer* NO actual beating occurs here in this house, it's just a catchphrase, people). I had, fruitlessly, been trying to get him to change, to stop being so wild and screamy and opinionated, for the love of GOD, just stop already. So, what triggered this aha moment, you may ask? This. This excerpt from a blog post on a website I read regularly, Mommy Wants Vodka, written about her daughter, who sounds eerily similar to Charlie.

Yes! I say to her, YES, my brave, sweet girl, you FIGHT against it. You get good and god-damned mad and you take that anger and you channel it into something good and you use it for all it’s worth. That is the tiger in you, my child. And you let that tiger out and you let it ROAR and God HELP anyone who gets in your way. That fight will remind you that you're alive.

When I read that, I thought YES! Yes! You scream good and loud, Charlie, because one day you will scream when someone is doing you wrong and people will HEAR YOU. You, my child, are no wallflower, content to let others have their way while you sit idly by, taking it in. This fight that you have in you can lead to great things for you if I do my job and teach you how to let it lead you down the right path in life. So you fight, Charlie, and you let yourself be heard. And even though it may be the death of me while you are a toddler, that fight in your heart is what will carry you on to do great things, son. Rage on.

And I? Am slowly learning to look past these toddler years and the frustration that Charlie's temperament can cause me. I am looking forward to when he is a teenager and doesn't let people push him around, or when he is a man and stands up for what he believes in with his loud voice booming. And I am learning to love this about him.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes you just need some sparkle.

The day was off to a decidedly rough start: I slept through my alarm for maybe the second time in my adult life, leaving me with less time to accomplish things before the kids woke up. And when those kids did wake up, oh boy, were they in a mood. A whining, crying, fighting, yelling, grabbing, hitting, and tantrum-throwing kind of a mood. I very quickly made an executive decision: Charlie could not (for my sanity and his own) make it to his 1:00pm nap time, so down he went at 9:30am for a quickie nap. I breathed in a sigh of relief, glad to have the screaming over with for even just 30 minutes. But I realized that the morning's rough start had left me in a funk, and all I felt like doing was staring blankly at the wall while Ella did whatever her heart desired. "This day is kicking my ass and it hasn't even started yet," I told myself. Just then I heard a chair scooting across the kitchen floor, heard Ella getting up into the art cabinet, heard her close the cabinet door and make her way into the living room. "Mom," she said, "I think what we need right now is some sparkles." She held her glue and her plastic baggie of sequins and stickers and her giant pad of art paper. And for thirty minutes we sprawled out on the floor and drew butterflies and flowers, gluing rainbow-colored sparkles inside our artwork to color them in. I felt myself let go, start over. And wouldn't you know it? Some sparkles was just what this day needed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Business Of Summer

When the husband calls me on his lunch break, and asks what we've been doing that day, I usually answer, "Oh, nothing. Just hanging around the house." But, oh, we've been busy. Busy taking care of all that needs doing in these hot summer months, busy letting the kids just be kids and run wild, busy having long and lazy mornings on the couch with our blankies and loveys and sippies of juice, busy enjoying the long days and packing all that we can into the daylight hours. There are sprinklers to run through, popsicles to eat, cookouts with family to attend, and lightning bugs to catch. Having a to-do list with the many, many things of summer on it does not leave me much time for this here blog, but I'll take it. I'll take every single bit of it.












Friday, July 9, 2010

How To Win Friends And Influence People, Housewife Edition.

Moving away from Nashville has affected me the most, I believe. The husband is from this town, so even if he doesn't "technically" have friends here yet, he is always running into this classmate from high school or that childhood friend. Ella did have to say goodbye to her friends, but come on, she is four years old. She asked about them a lot the first couple of weeks, not so much last week, and each passing day brings fewer questions about when we can go see her friends. But I, on the other hand, had an amazing network of friends in my hometown. Friends who were stay-at-home-moms like me, friends to go grab a coffee with, friends to sit next to while we watched the newest vampire/werewolf saga on the big screen (shut UP. I KNOW.) There was never a shortage of people to call when the kids and I felt like getting out of the house and I needed some grown-up conversation while the kids ran around the park. So this? This lonely day-to-day existence with virtually NO adult interaction of any kind? This is brand new to me. And it is starting to suck. I can literally feel myself going crazy every day, bit by bit, which is kind of understandable seeing as the only conversations I am having are centered around Barbies and answering questions such as "Is that God singing on the radio?". So last week I made a real, conscious effort to put myself out there and meet people. Here is my story.

Day 1: Woke up and showered, giving myself ample time to actually "get ready", which is the exact opposite of my daily ponytail-and-tshirt-and-shorts-and-no-makeup routine. If I wanted people to like me, I reasoned, then I had better not stink or scare them off with my frightening, makeup-free face. Dressed the kids in their cutest play clothes, same reasoning applying here: No one wants their kids to play with Those Kids, the ones who are wearing a too small Elmo tshirt that shows their bellies and look as if they possibly have lice. We looked like a damned JCrew catalogue picture, and I felt like I was heading out for a job interview. At the park, Ella immediately ran over and began playing with a little girl about her age, and I noticed that her mother had a little boy just a bit older than Charlie. Oh my God, I thought. This is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel. She is going to love me and we are going to be best mommy friends forevermore. I trekked across the playground and set down our things about six feet from Friend Candidate #1. I did not even get the chance to open my mouth before Ella and her new friend trotted over to say hello. Except Ella apparently had other things on her mind. "Hey, guess what?", I heard her telling her new friend. "My mommy has on the most beautiful green polka dot bra today. And guess what ELSE?!?! It has a cute bow RIGHT IN BETWEEN HER BOOBIES!" I laughed nervously, waiting to see what the other mom's reaction would be to this revelation. Apparently it was to haul ass out of there. "Come on kids, it's time to go! Mommy needs to get us home so we can fix lunch." And that was that. We were left at the park alone. "Wait!" I wanted to yell. "Wait! You would probably really like me if I didn't have my kids with me!". Making a good first impression on the Moms of Clarksville: FAIL.

Day 2: Banking on the fact that Friend Candidate #1 was probably not going to chance running into us again at the same park, the kids and I headed back the next day. The kids may have whined something about not wanting to play outside, that it was too hot, and I may have said something to the effect of "We will go to the park and YOU WILL LIKE IT, dammit. Mommy needs some friends." We lasted longer this time, I even struck up a conversation with another mom there with a daughter that was Ella's age. Things were going swimmingly: she had two kids, lived near us, our kids were zoned for the same school district, blah blah blah. When she got up to go check on her younger kid, I noticed Ella coming closer with the girl by her side. "Oh, sweet Jesus, please do not let her say anything to ruin this for me," I silently pleaded. No such luck. Apparently while we had been in the car on the way to the park, a song had come on the radio that she took a particular liking to. I hadn't even noticed it was on, which is all to say that NO, I do NOT let my four year old listen to songs about smoking weed. I could hear her from twenty feet away: "Who says I can't get stoned, call up a girl that I used to know...". She had memorized almost all the lyrics, just from hearing it once, God help me. Before the other mother could come back and discover her preschooler hanging around with That Kid who is singing about smoking a joint and arranging a one night stand, I yanked up both kids and trotted to the car. Friendship Making: FAIL.

Day 3: I believe I mentioned it in the last post I wrote, but we have been kicked in the ass all week by a vicious head cold. Fevers, aches, chills, snot, and coughing was abundant here for about four days. I do not feel like I need to tell you what this meant for my appearance. Suffice it to say that my bathrobe aged ten years in one week. I didn't realize that this day was going to be a day in which I would make a first impression on someone, or I may have actually tried to run a comb through my hair (that hadn't been washed in, oh, three days) or scrape the boogers off my tshirt (courtesy of Ella, who believes I am a walking snot rag). But around 4pm, when I was just approaching the height of my sexiness for the week, there it was: a knock on the door. Oh, Lordy, who could it be? I thought. Turns out it was our next door neighbors that we had yet to meet. A lovely family, one that was standing there looking at me and my disheveled, snot-covered children in what I can only assume was horror. They were dressed to go to church. Ella had on a princess nightgown that has seen better days, and Charlie had on a too big tshirt with watercolor paint stains on the front. And a diaper. After they introduced themselves and made small talk for all of thirty seconds, they thrust a houseplant through my doorway and made their way home. Probably to take a shower or bathe in hand sanitizer. Meeting the neighbors and not making them want to put their house up for sale: FAIL.

I give up. If anyone knows of any nice, normal moms here that want someone to host a playgroup, have them call me. That is if they don't mind the fact that I wear polka-dotted bras, my four year old sometimes sings about firing up a joint, and I may have snot on me at any given point in the day. And if they do mind? Then I probably wouldn't want to be friends with them anyway.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Last Few Weeks...

...we have:

~ Settled in nicely to our new house, and are still loving just as much as the day we moved in. Aside from the stack of framed pictures waiting to be hung, we are unpacked and this is starting to feel like home to all of us. We have met our neighbors (more on that later), and they seem nice. They have a daughter who babysat the kids who lived here before we did, which: SCORE.

~ Visited the nearest park a handful of times. My first impression of this park was....just okay. The playground equipment is on top of a field of gravel instead of the more traditional wood chips or rubber flooring, which is kind of weird to me. The rocks get stuck in your sandals and make it incredibly hard to walk...watching Charlie try to trek across the playground is hysterical, something akin to him trying to walk through a field of marshmallow fluff. Oh and also too? This park is ruled by a nasty little dictator, who does not discriminate when choosing his victims. He will attack swiftly and viciously, and his attack method goes something like this: KEEP STINGING, A thousand times if necessary. I have no clue what this little creature actually is (another mom at the park said maybe a carpenter bee, I'm leaning more towards demon-possessed henchman of the devil), but Charlie has been hit twice by it and we have witnessed two other children being attacked. Seriously, this thing will swarm at you with the intensity of a thousand suns and NOT STOP. For no reason, it flies right at your head. So yeah. We're not going to that park anymore.

~ We have been felled, FELLED I say!, by a nasty cold. Fevers, snot-noses, aches and chills are rampant here right now. Add to that the fact that I feel like I have stomach cancer*, and you can just imagine the fun being had in our house this week.

~ Charlie has apparently discovered that he has the capability to speak the English language, and is taking full advantage of his new found love of words. He has also discovered that if he cocks his head to one side, holds his hand out, and says, "Peeeeeeese?", he will probably get what he wants. Research results still pending, but this may have something to do in the dramatic rise in temper tantrums here.

* Not really stomach cancer. Probably an ulcer or something. But. Still painful, ouch.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Of Wagon Wheels And Armenian Store Clerks.

Let me just begin by saying that though I was born and raised in Nashville, I am far from a "city slicker". I enjoyed living in the suburbs of the city, while still being right smack dab in the middle of everything I could ever need. I was not out at clubs and bars and hailing taxis to go grocery shopping, and I was not at art gallery openings and doing other fabulous things you think of when you think of city living. But we still lived in the city, a five minute drive to be right downtown in the middle of everything. Every restaurant you could ever want, right there. I can parallel park, I can navigate one-way streets and ten story parking garages, I grew up on the streets of the city. That makes it sound like I was a homeless teenage prostitute, but it's true. Instead of hanging out at the Sonic drive-in or the nearest corn field, we went club-hopping after football games in high school, fake id in hand. All of this to say...yeah. I live in the country now. And it's been an interesting two weeks. Here are just a few things that are making my head spin, and also a few that are making me surprisingly happy that we are living across the street from a wheat field (I think it's wheat. I know it's not corn, but that's about all I can tell you about the field. So lets just call it a Not Corn Field. Sorghum? Is sorghum grown in Tennessee? What is sorghum? It sounds countryish.).

~On our road, a house is not complete without the perfect finishing touch...half-visible wagon wheels adorning either side of the driveway, right at the very end where everyone can see them. They flank the driveway like two guard rails, halfway buried underground. This look may work on a charming cottage that is fabulously "country-chic", and might lend just a touch of irony to the whole decorative scheme, but when you live in an ACTUAL FARMHOUSE WITH CHICKENS IN THE FRONT YARD, it says (to me, at least), "Hey, Elmer, that there wagon wheel fell off the wagon last month and done got sunk in the mud out there by the road. Wull, I reckon I'd just leave it, then." I do not understand buried wagon wheels as lawn ornaments.

~A few people have looked at me in wonder when I told them where we live, and then followed it up with something like, "Yeah, it's going to take me a little while to get used to living in the country." As if to say "Girl, you do NOT live in the country. I'll SHOW you country." Well, guess what, People Who Are Accustomed To Living In A House With Goats In The Backyard? If you see a tractor driving four miles an hour down your street every morning, or a large farm-equipment-like machine hauling seventy bales of hay greets you every morning with the sunrise, or you can hear a rooster crow somewhere in a one mile radius from your house,or you LIVE ACROSS THE STREET from a massive Not-Corn/sorghum field, then yes, you live in the country.

~It is a little bit odd to me that in this town (CITY! CITY, it is a city, oh GOD I have been corrected so many times), the general consensus from it's more normal (read: people who have teeth) residents seems to be this: They want to be taken seriously, they don't want to be known ONLY as a small farming community, they are proud of their city's modern development in the last couple of decades and want to be known more as a smallish city rather than a largeish farm town. I get it! I get it, Clarksville, I really do. But for God's sake, if you want to be a CITY, then get more than one of the major chain stores and/or really important things that people use every day. Like, oh, LIBRARIES. There is one library. There is one YMCA. There is but one Target and one Chik-fil-a. The latest population info suggests that as of two years ago this town had a population of more than 120,000. All cramming themselves into one library, one get the idea.

~Dear Creepy Armenian Gas Station Attendant: You do not fit into my idyllic picture of country living that I see all around me on a daily basis. When I enter the corner store that is situated directly across from both horses galloping in a field and a gorgeous 100-year-old barn in all its authentic, rustic-y glory, the last thing I expect to find is a middle aged wind-breaker wearing man with Jheri curl dripping on the counter tops. Stop it. You should either be a sixty year old pleasantly plump grandmother wearing an apron, or a really old farmer guy wearing overalls and a John Deere cap and calling me Darlin'. You should not be wearing gold rings on every finger and staring at my boobs like you've never seen a woman under the age of eighty. Stop it.

~But, oh! It is beautiful out here, y'all. I kind of get the best of both worlds here in this house. Out the front windows I get to watch the sun rise over the Not Corn/sorghum field, while listening to birds sing and roosters crow. It is peaceful and serene and from the rocking-chair front porch, there is not another house or building anywhere in sight. From the back porch we see our neighbors' houses and can sit and watch golfers golfing all day long, the soundtrack is one of lawnmowers and golf clubs pinging sharply against golf balls. On the front porch I feel like I should be sipping a mint julep or iced tea and my name should be Mabel. On the back porch my name is Bitsy and I am wearing palm tree patterned Bermuda shorts while drinking a bloody mary at 9am. I like this about our house, that it's a little bipolar.

~I love that my kids will grow up with a strong sense of family history here. We live either ON or across from (I can't remember) land that was once owned by the husband's family, years and years and years ago. Every country road we drive down holds a story from the husband's childhood or a house still occupied by a great uncle or third cousin. I swear to GOD that the first night we lived here, these actual words came out of the husband's mouth: "I remember when I was a kid and we used to walk across that field to *Uncle Johnny's watering hole....". For real, y'all, a watering hole.

*Not sure his name was actually Johnny. I can't remember what the husband said. It may have been any one of the following names suitable for a really old farmer: Herbert, Lewis, Billy, Willy, or Hank.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


We're moved. Completely, totally, every single box unpacked moved. I have had my inaugural trip to just about every store I frequent, learning my way around new roads and adjusting to the twenty-plus minutes it now takes me to get places from our house. Twenty minutes to get to the nearest/ONLY Target may not sound like much to some people, but I had grown accustomed to hopping in my car and driving the half mile down the road to the Target/Starbucks/Whatever else you could EVER possibly need. So, that's new to me. But other than that we are doing oh so well, and (dare I say it) kind of loving living out here in the "country". It is so quiet, and our house is perfect for us, and there is an abundance of farm animals surrounding us for the kids to see. I've already started eyeing a matching set of rocking chairs for the huge front porch, so I would say that my transformation from city girl to countryfied is well underway. Up next: cowboy boots.

Okay, not really cowboy boots. Never, ever, ever cowboy boots.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy Little Things

Little, minuscule things making me oh-so-happy this week include:

Afternoons that are ninety degrees in the shade, when all that will do is having a seat on the porch with a big drippy piece of watermelon. And, if you're Charlie, having you're crotch snaps undone, apparently.



Summer showers that stay just long enough to cool us down, make some puddles to jump in, and a drizzle to dance under.


A brand-spanking-new box of crayons, in all their crayon-smelling glory.


Moments in which my kids actually GET ALONG. They are brief, blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments, but they are there occasionally nonetheless.


The Great Hair Debacle of 2010. Ella decided to brush up on her hair layering technique, and Charlie was the lucky first customer. After having a tiny stroke, I laughed, because what else can you really do when you walk into the room and your four year old is holding a pair of red scissors, looking like a deer caught in the headlights, and your toddler looks like someone took a damn weed whacker to his head? So yes, despite the fact that my one year old will be sporting a buzz cut by the end of the week, this made me happy because after the reprimanding and the "we don't cut ANYone's hair, ever" talk, we all laughed. And laughed some more.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Root Of The Evil.

Hi, my name is Abby, and I am a coffee addict. No, seriously. FOR REAL. I love coffee in much the same way that someone addicted to hardcore drugs "loves" their drug of choice. Which is to say, it goes beyond just "love" into "Need", with a capital N. For me there has never been a moment in which I have thought, "Gee, a cup of coffee sure would be nice." What I am thinking is, "For the love of all that is good and holy, I need coffee now, NOWNOWNOWNOW, or I will cease to exist. I will stop breathing if I do not have coffee this instant. I will possibly pick up that dining room chair and smash it into the wall if I do not have caffeine NOW." And I am not picky about what I drink, there is no coffee snobbery here. I shop at the local ghetto supermarket, where everything is off-brand, and my coffee canister simply says "COFFEE" on it. It is to coffee what White Rain is to shampoo. Hell, it's actually even lower on the ladder than that because I'm not entirely sure my coffee even has a brand name. It's just "COFFEE". I set up my coffee pot while I am making dinner, carefully filling it up with water as high as I can get away with filling it up. Right to the 12 cup mark, if not a smidge more. I lovingly place the filter in it's proper place and measure out the ground coffee with my special coffee measuring spoon, maybe whispering sweet nothings to it as I do this. In the morning I stumble out of bed and down the hallway to the kitchen, not even pausing to wipe the sleep from my eyes or to pee first. It is as if I only have two settings before the hour of 10am: 1. Find coffee. 2. Drink coffee, quickly. Repeat about seven times.

But recently I have made a startling discovery: My Need for coffee is not an isolated condition. Oh, no, it's not. It is fueled by what I like to call the Freedom Itch. This itch has come to define my evenings, and begins around 7:30pm when I place Charlie in his crib and shut the door. "One down, one to go," I tell myself. "What will I do with my free time tonight? Watch a movie? Finish folding the eight loads of laundry sitting downstairs? Maybe organize the drawers in the kitchen? Hmmm." Phase two starts when I tuck Ella into her bed, turn off the light, and shut her door. I almost always get that tingly feeling that you get when you wake up and realize you have something REALLY fun planned for the day. "WHAT should I DO with all of this free time tonight?!?!" my brain screams. "God, there is just SO MUCH time to do anything I want to do! I'm gonna watch three movies! Fold laundry! Bake muffins for tomorrow's breakfast! Give myself a proper pedicure! Read a whole book! Catch up on that scarf I'm knitting! Wait, I don't knit! But I COULD! I can do anything I want to do, because I have SO MUCH FREE TIME TONIGHT!". All of this is going through my head while excitedly pacing the floor with a little skip in my step, looking for something to do. I am now officially drunk on the endless possibilities that come with kid-free time. Cut to two hours later: I have successfully folded half a load of laundry, watched about ten minutes of a single tv show, and gotten about 1/3 of the way through my fancy pedicure, left with bare toenails that haven't even been clipped. It is, after all, only a couple of hours that I have on my hands in the evenings. But at the onset of the Freedom Itch, it feels like so much more, like I could do 749 things between the hours of 8 and 11. The next phase in this process is called So Help Me God, I WILL Enjoy Every Minute of Peaceful Quiet. This causes one to force their eyelids to stay open well past a reasonable bed time, all in the name of not wasting a moment of this adults-only evening. Eyes half open, I usually stumble to bed around 11 or 11:30, crash hard into my bed, and wake up in a puddle of drool to the alarm blaring in my ear at 5:15am. This is the phase called the Freedom Hangover. I took the freedom too far, stayed up too late while simultaneously not really doing anything except wasting time imagining how I was going to spend said time. Not unlike the occasions when you have one too many drinks the night before and waking up foggy-headed and kicking yourself for not having any self control. This is where my Need comes in. I need my coffee to help me force my eyes open, I need my coffee to help me remember how to even turn on a lamp or know what year it is. Or to remember my name. So I spend the entire hour before the kids wake up coming back to life myself, and there is not really any time to get anything done in that hour because I am not even functioning on a human level at this point. Lather, rinse, repeat. Spend all day caring for my babies, doing housework, and making meals. Refuel my Need around 3pm just to make it to dinner time, at which point I feel that familiar giddiness coming on. Just two more hours until bedtime! I'm gonna organize my cookbook and also catch up on an entire season of that tv show! At the same time! While also finishing that pedicure from last night! Kids in bed, I head downstairs and get exactly one thing done by the time it is 10pm, make myself stay up to suck every drop of peace and freedom out of this night, and crash at midnight.

Now if you'll excuse me, it is 9am and I have only had four cups of coffee. I need to go start working on number five.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Officially Summer.

No matter how early in the season we hit ninety degrees here, it is not officially summer until we break out the pool, and the popsicles, and some delicious peaches, which we eat under the big tree in the front yard. With sticky peach-juice covered hands and soaking wet bathing suits and sunscreen covered faces.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Little Things.

Happy Little Things. Lots and lots of good things, big and small, every day. I've been slowing down, noticing tiny moments that so often pass me by, as well as completely random things that make me happy, and in doing so have made a list of my Happy Little Things for the week.

~Fresh-cut peony blooms on my kitchen counter, making me smile while cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

~Laying with my girl in my bed for a nap, listening to her sigh out of her nose, content.


~The smell of my babies after a long day of playing. Their hands and feet smell like grass and popsicles and sunscreen. If someone could bottle up that smell they would make a fortune.


~Impromptu dance parties in the living room, spinning around to "Dancing Queen", and laughing until none of us can breathe.


~Long afternoons outside in the pool, followed by popsicles eaten in the driveway while wrapped up in a fresh, warm towel.


~My neatly folded stacks of brand new, brightly-colored washcloths. I use them instead of paper towels, and there is just something about cleaning the windows with a bright pink cloth that makes it marginally less sucky.

~Our afternoon walks around the neighborhood and the park, stopping to inspect every rock and ladybug we come across and to swing on every swing.


~When the husband gets home and I can hear shouts of "DADDY! Oh, DADDY!" from clear across the house.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Update on the Code Orange Bird Situation.

After much debate between the husband and I (should we open the door to the outside and let them hop out? Will that ultimately kill them because they cannot fly very well yet? Do I really care? How am I going to get all of this bird shit cleaned up off of the concrete floor in there?), the birds have flown the nest, so to speak. But not before leaving me the following: Two almost-heart-attacks, massive amounts of poop all over the floor, an ever-increasing fear that we will all catch the bird flu from going in that room to get something out of the fridge, and one dead baby bird sitting right by my water heater. They would squawk and flap their tiny wings in a panic-filled pseudo flight attempt, but since they were just babies and couldn't fly very well, they would inevitably end up crashing into a cinder block wall, or the floor, or the windows. Even the mother bird, who would perch six inches from the hole out to the free world, would chirp and sing, seemingly saying, "God you guys are stupid. The way out is right here. HERE! Look! See this patch of sunlight coming through this massive hole in the wall? Fly HERE, not into the walls, morons." And apparently they found their way out, because Birdfest 2010 is over. I feel like I should have a t-shirt made that says I Survived The Birds and All I Got Was A Crippling Fear Of Anything With Wings.

Look at them, staring back at me with their scary, shiny eyes. I think I could hear them planning to peck my eyes out as I took this picture with my phone.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Hostile Takeover

So. I have a bird problem. More specifically, birds have now taken over our storage room, and are multiplying as I type this. This situation is not good, y'all. I am totally cool with birds in their natural habitat, aka outside. In nature. But in-freaking-side? NOT cool. In my storage room? Even more not cool. This all started a couple of weeks ago when the husband pointed out that there was a bird's nest on top of the light fixture in there. Oh, that's kinda cute, I thought. I pondered how a bird could have possibly gotten in there to build said nest, since the only door that is ever opened in there is the one into our actual house, and I definitely think I would have noticed a bird coming and going in my living room. Oh, right! Back when we moved here and the air conditioner didn't work and our jackass landlord hired some guy of equal jackassness to put in a new unit? Yeah. Guy left a gaping hole on one side of the air conditioner, which has now apparently become an Avian Super Highway straight into our storage room. So, cute. A bird's nest! I didn't think anything of it. When I went out into that room, I always kinda clapped my hands to warn the mama bird of my arrival, and she would fly out of the hole until I had left. We had an understanding: this is MY house, and I will come into my own damn storage room whenever I feel like it, and YOU, bird, will kindly fly away when I am present. I am bigger than you, Bird, and I win. It was working well...for a week. Then I started hearing little itty bitty chirping noises when I went out there. Awwwww! Baby BIRDS! I couldn't actually see them, as the nest was up too high, but I sure could hear them. Adorable! Our peace treaty was still intact...mama bird would fly away when I entered the room, leaving me to move boxes or get some ice out of the refrigerator in there in peace. All of this peaceful coexisting has stopped today. All bets are off. I innocently turned the handle on the storage room door, needing to go in there to find some cleaning supplies. What I was met with was sheer terror: Birds, everywhere, hundreds of them. Okay, maybe not hundreds. Maybe more like ten. But still, TEN! Ten birds, that are what I can only assume are the babies that were chirping away just days ago, now swarming around like rabid, diseased bats on crack. These baby birds are apparently not intelligent enough to understand the terms of our peace agreement: Human enters, Birds fly away for a minute, Human leaves, Birds can return. Instead they are flying about furiously and incompetently, swooping and diving and running into walls and furniture. This presented a problem for me: I really, really wanted to clean while Charlie was napping, and I really, really needed that scrub brush in that room. But at what cost? I asked myself. Being attacked by these ferocious, seemingly drunk baby birds? Having them go straight for my eyeballs and leaving me blind (which is a really for real fear of mine regarding birds. Really.)? The obsessive need to scrub my shower won, so I did the only logical thing I could think of. I grabbed a broom and, waving it about like someone either having a seizure or fighting off a dragon, swatted and slapped at the tiny baby birds flying around my head. I didn't actually make contact with any of them, but in my mind I at least kept the little monsters at bay for a few moments. I grabbed the scrub brush thing and retreated as fast as I could, still swinging the broom in a blind frenzy of terror. As I approached the door, I had that feeling that you get when you pull your feet up off the floor to get into bed at night: like maybe, just maybe something like a pair of hands was going to swipe at your feet and grab your ankles and drag you somewhere, under the bed, possibly. I haven't thought that particular fear out past the part about some hands grabbing my feet. But still, you know that feeling. Like you just barely escaped certain death by pulling your feet up fast enough. Except in this case I had just barely escaped certain death at the hands (beaks? wings?) of The Birds. I slammed the door shut, out of breath and feeling all tingly with adrenaline, maybe making a sound like "Arghuhhhllmmbbbl" as I reached the safety of the inside hallway. I won! I had beaten an army birds. Really, they are each about the size of a lemon. Maybe. Probably even smaller. I then stood there in the hallway, feeling like a moron, replaying my pas de deux with the ten baby sparrows or whatever the hell they are. I probably overreacted, running through the storage room waving my broom about like a mentally challenged person on fire. So. That has been my day so far. Just thought I would share.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There Is A Reason For Our Name.

Photo from Hands On Nashville

Tennessee is called The Volunteer State, and in the week since the floods, it's becoming apparent why. All over the city groups are springing up, thousands strong, to help their neighbors and city recover. At a gas station yesterday there was a huge bus, waiting to fuel up to drive to some of the hardest hit parts of the city. Exhausted, sweaty, filthy volunteers filled the store to stock up on snacks and water for the long day ahead of them. People driving through neighborhoods asking strangers what they need help with the most.

Having grown up here, I can say that this drive to help those in need is something instilled in Tennesseans from childhood. If someone is in need of help, you help. Period. This week has reminded me of all the reasons why I am so, so proud to call Nashville my home. I cannot help in all of the thousand ways I wish I could: I have my kids all day every day, and taking them into the wrecked neighborhoods is just not an option right now. I hope that with my minimal time I will be donating, I can make at least a small difference. And one of the things I wish most is that my kids could accompany me to see their city coming out to help its own recover from this disaster. I was talking with the husband last night, and we both agreed that it would be wonderful if they were older and able to help and see the helping going on. I wondered to myself if Ella understood that yet, as there have not been many instances in her short life that she has been able to witness true giving, giving without being asked to give. And yet, this morning as I watched the local news, I got my answer. A news crew had gone out to a ruined neighborhood to talk to the residents, and a woman stood with her two kids talking to the reporter, crying. The kids stood in front of what was, just last week, their home, sorting through family photos and water-logged toys. "Mom," she said in a serious tone. "We need to help those kids." As I struggled to keep my heart from bursting through my chest, I said, "I know, Ell. We will! People are already out there helping, and we can think of ways that we can help, too." I was a bit dumbfounded, to tell you the truth, because we do not volunteer at soup kitchens, we do not feed the homeless Christmas dinner. But all of the small things over the years have added up, and I realized that she has seen the tiny acts of service that I didn't think she noticed: dropping off bags of clothes and toys to Goodwill, explaining that some people can't afford brand new things, so when we don't need something any more we give it to them. Picking up trash we come across at the park, explaining that it's nice to keep our town clean, even if it isn't our mess. This small girl, and her concern for her neighbors that she doesn't even know, has completely convinced me that it doesn't take grand gestures of service to instill the need to help in a child. There's a reason for the name The Volunteer State: We help others. We just do it, without being asked. It's in our dna.