Monday, May 31, 2010


Today Lucy and I read about George Washington in honor of Memorial Day (well, not really, but it would be quite organized of me to have holiday-appropriate activities. So far, we were late on MLK by about four months, T-Day by a month, and are early on July 4 by a month and a half. Sue me.)

Reading non-fiction books with Lucy makes me scratch my head.
  1. Context. She doesn't have any yet. Talking about the "Colonies" or "England"? Completely incomprehensible.
  2. Complexity. We read about a war. I told her today was a day to thank soldiers that fight wars for us. She said, "Yes, because there aren't any bad people in our country." Ahem. Also: How to explain that we're thanking soldiers, even if we don't always agree with or want the wars we fight? Ie, I tell her "War is bad!" and then I say, "Thanks, soldiers!" No wonder the poor child would usually rather read Babar*.
  3. Death. We try to be up-front about dying around here, since Lucy has already had a taste of it (her grandmother dying about a year ago). But when you're reading about history, everybody is keeling over. Betsy Ross was a widow three times! Soldiers get wounded! Then they die! The word "die" seems to be the one Lucy fixes on, and always asks about: "How did she die? Why? Why did he die?" etc. At one point, I said, "Well, honey, this was a long time ago, and people got sick and died more back then." Hmmm. Yes, the death rates have definitely decreased, what with modern medicine.
*I knew that the whole thing was sort of a colonialist allegory, but I had forgotten how colonial it was until I started reading it to L last week. Should one feel guilty reading an enchanting book that glorifies cultural imperialism, environmental degradation (let's clear the jungle to build Celesteville!), and kind of this weird dictatorial monarchy (Babar assigning jobs to all of the elephants)?
Sigh. Turns out this stuff is too complex for me, too.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

and the cat came back

We have a cat named Eleanor.
Now, for those of you who are really animal lovers, you might want to stop reading. Don't worry, no actual harm comes to any animals in the course of this story.

Oh, you're still here? Well, then.

Eleanor is a cat of indeterminate origin, about 13 years old, brown striped, with an orange belly and sassy green eyes. When I first got her, I was excited to have a cat that liked attention from people and would snuggle on the couch. Less attractive were her habits of hissing and swatting at you if you attempted to move her from her perch (on your knees, say, in the middle of the night when she woke you from your sleep). But all in all, she was a great cat for a single person.

Fast forward nine years. Now Eleanor is a slightly more crotchety animal, who unfortunately lives in a house full of people who have very little time for her needs. She used to be an indoor/outdoor cat (happily), but because of our recent move, she has been only indoor. She mostly stays in our living room.

We discovered a few years ago, upon having friends with young children, that she does not like young children.
Now we have young children. Specifically, a baby monster who is moving faster each day.

Did I mention the swatting and hissing? And the very sharp claws and teeth?

When Lucy was this age, we just shut Eleanor outside. But now, in a new house with very little yard, we had hesitated to put her out.
After a few days of very close calls between the two monsters, I made an executive decision. The cat would go out, or she would no longer live with us.
We put her out. She cried for a long time. A loooong time. It was very early morning (I tend to make rash executive decisions at 5:30 am for some reason). I worried about the neighbors taking extreme measures.
And then she stopped crying.
Except. When we went outside, she was no longer there.

What made me sad was that I had reached the point that I was relieved. I like this cat, and though not a person to call a cat my "child", I like cats. She is a nice cat (for people without young children). And I do not want to get rid of a cat by having her be lost, and scared, and hurt. But having an animal scratch my children, or come close several times very quickly cools the affection I once had for her. And having to actually drive her to a pound has proved very difficult to stomach.*

She was gone all day. we have no idea where she went. But at 3 am, Dyami heard some growling outside. And he went out and found her on our doorstep.

So, the cat came back. And I put her outside again today, and this time, she didn't disappear.

Oh, Eleanor, I wish I could say I were glad. I mean, I'm glad you're okay. Really. But I wish you were a little less touchy, and a little safer for my kids. Especially since the baby monster will be pulling herself up to the couch soon, right in reach of your claws.

*Why have we not given her away to the pound? Well, because this makes Lucy very upset, even though she is somewhat frightened of the cat, and super terrified that she will scratch Julia--screaming any time the cat so much as looks at the baby. Which helps the situation immeasurably!!! Also, the only pound that will take her would end up putting her to sleep, because she is older and won't get adopted. And I feel guilty. But if things don't get more livable around here soon, I will stop feeling guilty.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Six word Fridays via Melissa's blog at Making Things Up:

Six is too early to waken.
Especially when you woke at four.
I wish you'd just choose one.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lately, Lucy has had her own ideas about what she wants to do.

This is not terribly shocking, since she is three, and comes from a long line of stubborn do-it-yourselfers. I used to dread group projects in school because, really, who wants to work with someone else? It's more effort to get everyone to do it your way.

However, when you are the one being managed this way, it is hard. Especially when the manager is three and wants to play pretend games for hours at a time. Each pretend game is announced with a double word. As in, "I want to play, "Doctor, Doctor," where you are the patient and I am the doctor." Or, "I want to play, "Family, Family," where you are the mommy and I am the daddy." Or, "I want to play, "Store, Store." or "Restaurant, Restaurant." or "Beach, Beach.""

Enough. Enough.

Of course, perhaps my annoyance partially stems from, ahem, liking to be the one in control myself.

However, yesterday, Lucy wanted to do a craft. Her craft. "Momma, I want to color on paper, and then paint it, and then cut it, and then use glue, and put glitter on it."

I nodded. This sounded very multi-media. I got out the supplies.

What was great (I know, all you unschoolers, you are rolling your eyes) was that she came up with the idea, and she discovered the effects it produced: the wax resist, the layering, the different ways paints soaked into different kinds of paper. I to to discover them with her.

As opposed to me managing the discovery, the process, the magic.

Ah, to be patient enough to allow her space to figure things out on her own.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

baby monster

Julia has reached the baby monster stage.

"Dah dah DAH dah dah dah!", she says, and army-crawls over to the cat's water dish. "Dah!" Plunges her hand in, tastes, observes the water dripping down her arm.

"DAH DAH!" Bounces on my gut, arms akimbo, then grabs my cheeks like handles and shoves my nose into her mouth.

"Dah dah daHHH!" Jazz hands with tiny, razor-sharp nails flail, graze my neck, then settle on those tiny hairs next to my ear. Yank.

While nursing, she slides her lower arm over to my arm, and PINCHES the soft inner skin.

By the end of today, my shoulders ache from restraining her, I have a diaper ointment smudge on the front of my shirt, baby spit residue on my chin, and am just the tiniest bit tense from lunging after her when I realize she's headed for the kitty litter.

Oh, baby monster. I love you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

yes and no

Motherhood has a way of baiting and switching. As soon as I reach a day where all goes well, where the activities flow with minimal meltdown, where there is little TV and much pretend, music and dancing and reading, where my child puts away toys without being asks and says please and thank you more often then not, I think, "Wow! I really have this figured out!"

And then today happens.

Nothing particularly bad. Just twice as much TV by 10:30 am as I am actually comfortable with; two meltdowns, Lucy destroying something I was working on, me getting sulky twice (yes, ME, not her), and a child telling me that I tell her no way too often.

Coming as this does on the heels of Momalom's "Yes" posting for 5 for 10, wherein many mothers tried a "Yes" day where they banished no altogether, it did not make for a real confidence booster.

See, the thing is, I know I say no too often. I say no too often to myself. I like rules, and coloring between the lines, and caution and safety, and while this has brought some great things into my life (few relationship mishaps, not a lot of drama, stick-to-itiveness), it can also tend towards, well, stinginess. Boundaries, I'm fine with. But I can be stingy towards myself. I don't want to be stingy with my kids.

Funny thing though---there is no getting away from your personality when you're parenting.

I sat down with Lucy and I said, "Honey, I'm sorry. I know I say no too often. Can you use words to tell me that, instead of ruining things that I'm doing?"
She nodded, and sat on my lap, and we read a Frances book together. And the rest of the day has been fine.

I wish I had a perfectly whole mommy to give my children, a mommy that knew exactly when to say yes and no, that reacted with grace and generosity at all the right moments. But instead I am a beautiful but broken jar mended together with Bondo and spit-polished instead.

After a few hours of feeling bad about myself, I decided to feel good about a few things. One, I ask for forgiveness, and try to own up to my failings. Perhaps that will help my daughter more than me being perfect all the time, since forgiveness is more useful than perfection in this world. Two, talking to Lucy really seemed to make her feel better. That's got to count for something. And three, all of us took long naps today. Which means that a lot of what went wrong this morning wasn't my fault, but just us getting over our colds.

Sleep. A great confidence booster, any day.

seven things

So Melissa at making things up nominated me for a "versatile blogger award". Thanks, Melissa! That means I have to post seven things about myself, and nominate some other bloggers to spread the love.

  1. I drink two cups of PG Tips each day. This replaces my old standby, Empress Tea. PG Tips is the Lipton of the UK; it is also strong and tasty! It is also available (for now) at my local grocery, which far beats special-ordering from Canada.
  2. My two daughters and my cat all feature names from Beatles songs (Lucy, Julia, and Eleanor). The cat and the second daughter were intentional. Lucy, well, let's say we were more influenced by CS Lewis.
  3. We hung up some pictures in our new house yesterday. Oh, my gosh--in a rental with plain white walls, pictures sure make a big difference.
  4. Dyami is doing the cooking this week and last. We decided to switch off after me doing about 95% of the cooking for our marriage of (wow) nearly eight years. I really like cooking (and hate dishes, thus our previous arrangement), but you know, there is something to be said for someone else's brain coming up with menus. This last week: Pasta a aglio i olio, cornmeal crusted orange roughy, and teriyaki beef.
  5. I am eating an enormous amount of food lately. Especially protein. This is more obvious now that Dyami is shopping for meats. What seems reasonable for him is about half of what I feel like consuming. I felt a bit odd about this until I realized that I am still exclusively nursing a nearly 15 pound baby. Who just started moving in earnest. Bring on the tri-tip.
  6. When I was little, I hand-labeled my books with little stickers on the spine and set up my own library sorting system. When we had Lucy, we dragged my old children's books over from my parents, and Dyami had a good laugh over my categories (PEO for books about people! Cause really, that narrows it down significantly!)
  7. Julia is ready to be picked up. And thus ends this post.
I nominate:
Megan at Having enough,
Michele at Papoe,
Launa at Wherever Launa goes, there she is,
Abi at the Family Edge,
and my long-lost friend Stacy at a little leaven.

Friday, May 21, 2010

the unexpected

Can six words be this hard?
All day, and only now writing.
Even now, I have to multitask.
Hold baby, make toast, type, eat.
Call friend, feed kid, plan birthday.
I never expected motherhood equalled juggling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

getting to yes

This post is inspired by Momalom's 5 for 10 challenge. Or, if you're me, the 3 for 6 challenge.

A friend of mine from high school was here over the weekend. He's single, sans kids, and asked me a very good question.
"Do you feel like a different person, now that you're a mom?"

Thinking about it, I tried to pinpoint what, exactly has changed. And here it is. With two kids, there are five nos for every yes I can give myself. Here's what I want : to sit down by myself, drink tea, eat a snack, and type on my computer for ten minutes.
But: no, I can't do all of that in the available time. I choose one of those things to say yes to: the snack, say, or the tea. Or, right now, the computer.
I can choose a clean house or sleep. I can choose time to myself or time with my husband. I can choose exercise or laundry. I can choose writing or reading. TV or unloading the dishwasher. There are yesses, sometimes. However, I have to say no to myself far more often then I ever thought possible, back when "Mom" was my mother.

Saying no to myself was a nasty shock. And it was kind of a change, but the biggest change is this: I have gotten used to it. I no longer mind it. Not usually. Instead, I have joy in the yesses I can give myself--the half-hour nap, the sun in the morning while I read a psalm, the time carefully managed to pursue my dreams.

Saying yes is more meaningful when you know the hard shape of saying no so often.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

lactose lust

It has been ten months since I had any dairy products.
Dairy products. This makes it sound so clinical, so dry. When in reality, the absence of these things are the dryness.
When I open a menu, drive past our local restaurant row, navigate my way through the frozen goods section of Trader Joes, I tell myself no.
No to the Ben and Jerry's. No to the pizza, the lasagna, the rissoto with the earthy mushrooms. No to the shrimp and cream sauce, the enchiladas, the sour cream. No to the buttermilk pancakes, the lingonberry scones, the blueberry muffins. No to the brie with crackers, the hot chocolate, the grilled cheese sandwich, the cold glass of milk right before bedtime. No to the slightly sour frozen yogurt from the stand right down the street.

I'm milk-free for now. While nursing my oldest, milk for me also meant no sleep for me, and a cranky, sick baby. Which eased my lust for the creamy richness of melted cheese. Apparently, every appetite has its price--and this one I wasn't willing to pay. So when my youngest was six months in utero, I gave up the dairy cold-turkey. And am waiting for the day to try it again.

She's seven months old now, and her sleep is more predictable. Nearly predictable enough to try a grand experiment. One day, somewhat soon, I will head to the grocery store. I will say yes. Yes to the ice cream (chocolate chip cookie dough) and the havarti. Yes to the milk, the pizza joint, the baked goods. Yes to my appetites.

We'll see what kind of consequences this particular lust will bring.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I'm joining Momalom's 5 for 10 conversation for the next few days...Today's topic is "Memory".

I've got a great memory. And a terrible one.

I remember my dad's 1980 Mustang's license plate (AKY 737...junked approximately 20 years ago). I remember my credit card number and (almost) my library card number. I remember to grab a hat on the way to the beach. I remember to set a reminder to remind myself to pay the mortgage. I remember to restart the laundry, refill the kitty litter, brush my daughter's teeth.

I forget to bring my purse in from our car, sitting in a public alleyway. I forget sweaters, car keys, wallets, birthdays. I forget (without taking a moment to calculate) exactly how many years old I'll be this year.

And I forget just what my first daughter was like, at seven months. I forget what the second one was like at three months. Looking at them now, I think: I will remember this. I will remember them. I will. Then I see pictures, and realize there is no memory real enough to live over. No picture clear enough to bring back the voice, the gesture, the downy cheek. Just the sweetness of making the memories, hearing the voices, feeling the soft give of kisses.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Today we walked down the street--Lucy on her tricycle, me carrying Julia in a blue polka-dotted sling--and visited a little park a few blocks away. We all wore hats. The sky is crayola sky blue today, and we heard a dove coo, and Lucy pointed out every single flower color we passed: ivory morning glory, orange bird of paradise, pink impatiens, red nasturtiums.
We passed a house, where a thin, middle-aged man paused as he walked through his garden.
"Hello," I said.
"You look like you have your hands full," he said.
I glanced down at my girls; my hands pushing Lucy's trike, the blue polka dot fabric binding my baby to me, and nodded. "But it's good," I said.
He smiled. "You look happy," he said.

I am.

It's funny, people keep asking me how life with two is. And I keep saying how much better it is than I expected. How much, much better. I'm really grateful, all the time, for these girls, for the chance to parent them, to witness their wonder, every day, to figure out the puzzle of their personalities, and to plan how to show them kindness and teach them the bad and the good of this world as gently as I can. To learn the names of flowers and birds together.

I'm grateful for second chances at things, and for the grace that comes with doing something long enough to get better at it. Because to be honest, motherhood the first time around did not fit easily on my shoulders. It felt big and awkward and confining. And this time around--with a baby of a similar temperament, and with some good bouts of sleep deprivation--it seems tough, but in the way that exercise is tough. I feel my muscles of compassion and patience and creativity forced into something resembling strength. Not just my back muscles, with that blue dotted sling.

We walked, and strolled under old gnarled trees, and caught glimpses of the rippled mirror of the sea. Lucy ran down a long pathway ahead of me, just out of sight. I watched her, joyful at the exuberant swing of her arms as she ran. And there, nestled close to my heart, was this second daughter, small and slight and still enough that I didn't have to think about her being there. Except for the soft down of her head brushing my chin, and the soft, chubby fingers grazing my neck, and the gentle warmth of her body, kinder than any sunshine.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

happy mother's day

Lucy and Dyami both made me lovely cards, and got me some beautiful earrings and a necklace. Julia got me a good night's rest (which, no offense, L and D, kind of was my favorite gift. Sleep is better than chocolate, better than ice cream, better than diamonds, better than, well, you know.)

I was a little releived that Lucy didn't ask for her gift, because for the last couple days she's been saying, "Kids get gifts for mother's day, too."

Hmmm. No, not really. Love ya, kid, but this here is _my_ day.

Except. Seen this year at Michaels: a stand of coloring books placed in the prime spot in front of the registers (Batman, Barbie, et al), with the label: "Mother's Day, May 9th!"

Excuse me, Michaels, but I think I've all set on Disney Princesses coloring books.

But why am I writing an exasperated post when this year, more than any other, I am feeling the fruits of motherhood? I have an inquisitive, bubbly three-year-old that likes dress-up and cooking and just was painting some watercolor butterflies with me. And I have a snuggly, soft baby girl that squeals with delight when she sees me and spreads God's joy with her smiles. And I am the mother of sisters that giggle when they see each other and give eachother pretty amazing snuggles.

So--better than coloring books, or earrings, or chocolate, or even sleep, is this gift--my girls, and my family.

Happy mother's day.