Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life Gives You Lemons

If you're stuck at home with a sore throat and fever, cozy up in bed with your sister for some late-morning cartoons:



If the first sweater you ever knitted fit funny because you didn't check for gauge and had a bajillion dropped stitches, felt the damned thing, and rock your sweet new winter neckwear:



If it is freezing cold outside and you're stuck inside with the sniffles, mellow in the softest Christmas sweater ever (which was clearly NOT knitted by yo mama):



If your New Year's Eve party gets canceled because of your massive booger production, hold your very own party, with your very own fancy get-up:



If you don't feel like eating the yummy lasagna your hubby prepared for New Year's because you went on a cheese feeding-frenzy in San Diego and your basically vegan system frankly needs to recover, especially its more (shall we say) outgoing parts, then kick back with this most excellent vegan carrot soup recipe (inspired by Nanny and, special bonus, you get to use the 6,000 carrots that have somehow accumulated in your refrigerator over the holidays):



If you'd like to stay in bed all day in your jammies but have two kids who, you know, require you to parent them, it's best to just give in, get dressed, and pretend you're not sick. As my high school history teacher always said, "Look good, feel good, do good." It helps if your two kids pick out your clothes and especially your jewelry. Excellent combinations ensue, don't you think?:

Sid the Misinformed Kid

Also, I should mention that the episode of the PBS show Sid the Science Kid that we're watching this morning is based on the premise that Sid's mom is sick with a cold, and Sid doesn't want to get it, so he learns all about germs and handwashing to avoid getting a cold.

With all respect, what a crock of dog-doo. Because everyone knows you catch things from your kids and then give the sickness back to them, in a lovely back and forth, and also kids know when you're sick and do everything they can to be in your face catching whatever illness you have and giving you strange new germs in return.

PBS, if you need a reality consultant, let me know.

Sick Mama: Day 2




My poor girls. I was sick for a good chunk of November (get over it, already, I can hear you saying) and now am sick again (new immune system, anyone?). My girls and I should be baking and making a family tree and going to see The Princess and the Frog. Tonight was supposed to be a mellow celebration with friends. But instead, it will be another day of hanging out in bed and watching too much t.v. with a grumpy, hacking mama.

And, while coughing up throat plugs this morning, I was thinking about that post I wrote yesterday. I think it was really about feeling sick and not wanting to admit it, and not about being "off my game." That's a typical move, isn't it? Feeling cruddy and extrapolating to some larger malaise that somehow seems to taint everything in my life.

But hanging out in bed might give me some time to write here about how amazing and adorable my kids are, to review that pesky conference proposal I've been procrastinating on, and to post some pictures of my latest knitting project (in which rows have been pulled out rather than ignored when stitches have been dropped, qualifying it as my first "real" knitting project). So, that's where I am today, and that's probably okay.

Coming soon. Happy New Year's, everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Missing the Gap

Things have been going fine, really--even smoothly. Even well. We had a lovely trip to San Diego, where the four little cousins played together beautifully, Gwen giving Addie hugs and kisses at every opportunity and Nolie and Raiff eyeing each other less suspiciously than last time (I imagine next time they meet, they might even play together!).

For the first time I can remember, I have the girls home with me for more than two weeks and I haven't once felt panic about it. This is probably due to the fact that they are older and easier to care for and more fun to be around, but also that I've chilled a little, too.

I've taken most of this time off, but am also managing to get some key tasks done for work, so that's fine, too.

And our house is in great shape! We got new floors and most everything is painted and put away.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that I'm just not on my game. I don't feel totally present. I don't feel so joyful. I feel a bit hazy, all the way around. It doesn't help that I woke this morning with a bit of a sore throat and my lower back on fire from some new exercises (from a book ironically titled Pain Free for Women) I tried last night.

My best guess is that I didnd't get much time for solitude before we left on the trip. There was just holiday madness followed by travel madness. There were almost no days of aimless wandering about the house, or sewing, or reading. And as soon as the kids are back in school next week, I'm back to work. So I guess I'm missing the gap.

Do I sound entitled, wanting the gap back? Do I sound spoiled? I mean, plenty of folks who work very, very hard, don't get a few days every December to just chill, so who do I think I am, right? Shouldn't I just get over it?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Ride It In

Nolie's sleep has been like this for months: major, major resistance at bedtime. Hours spent prepping her and getting her asleep. Followed by waking up in the middle of the night, three, four, five times. She's terrified when she hears the train. She thinks there is a thunderstorm. She doesn't want to be alone.

We try: soothing her. Sleeping with her. Threatening her. Having consequences. Crying it out. Wanting (but never, don't worry) wanting to throttle her.

Then, finally, we give up, and in exhausted desperation one night, pull out the trundle bed in Addie's room, throw Nolie in there. Eureka! A quiet, full night's sleep. I feel like I've won a prize. This will be our new way of doing things.

Except: we want to protect Addie's quiet time at bedtime (she reads and reads and reads) so we tell Nolie she has to fall asleep in her bed first and then we'll move her to Addie's room when she wakes up in the middle of the night. And remember when I tried moving the girls into one room a few months back, and it was a disaster because Nolie couldn't settle down? This seems like a good half-solution. Fall asleep alone; sleep together in the middle of the night.

Dumbest parenting move ever. You know what's coming.

Of COURSE this is too confusing for Nolie, and so it takes even longer to get her to sleep initially because she doesn't really know when she's asleep and is fairly convinced she has slept even when she hasn't, and wants to go directly to Addie's room. Who wouldn't? She figures it out immediately. The circles beneath our eyes grow deeper and darker, and I start to despair, feeling like I did when I had a newborn, but worse, because I thought we were past all that, for heaven's sake. Feeling like we are losing more and more ground and before long both kids will be sleeping in our bed when we're fifty and there will be no sex or privacy or quiet EVER AGAIN.

So we decide to go back to square one: no sleeping in Addie's room. Nolie will stay in her room and that's that.

Which lasted all of one night. She broke us, wore us down, made us her little whiny bitches.

And now, there is a little bed set up in Addie's room again. And every night the girls sit in there and listen to an audiobook (they love Magic Tree House stories and also Junie B. Jones). They are happy as clams, Addie included (turns out she was a little lonely, too). Then we read books, and the two of them drift off to dreamland, no problem.

Oh, Nolie still wakes up once in a while, and we take her potty, and pat her back until she drifts back off. But this is nothing, people. I've been to hell, and I know what it looks like, and this feels much more like heaven.

Yet more proof that when faced with major parenting trauma, let go of your notion of what must be and jump into the flow, yo. Just ride it in.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Not So Crafty Christmas

I had plans. Big plans. Everyone was going to receive homemade gifts from me for the holidays, and those gifts wouldn't be lame (like they have sometimes been in the past). They'd be nice. Things you'd think were bought from the store. This would be in keeping with my move toward consuming less and valuing others more with my time and energy.

And then, the last few months exploded, leaving icky bits all around. I didn't plan well enough for one of my classes last summer, and then when things got crazy in the fall with the snowstorms and the pig flu and the travel, that not-planning bit me in the ass (ouch!). As we speak, I'm trying to recover from the abject failure that was one of these classes this semester (the other one went fine, I think). Ick. Ick. Ick. Doesn't help that I have a big professional review coming up and am probably going to have to explain some baaaad student evaluations for this last semester.

So, I'm getting real. Taking a deep breath. Allowing moments of grace in. Like the fact that most of the adults in my life offered to not trade gifts this year, instead focusing our energies on the little ones in the family. That's a huge relief. Like the fact that I'm in a career that allows for some failures now and then. I'm probably not going to be fired tomorrow. Like the fact that I had an hour late last night where I could just sit and listen to my needles moving back and forth in the dark stillness of my house, without feeling pressure to finish.

I guess it's this: I love making things. But I don't like having to make things. For me, making things is a time to disengage from duty and responsibility and my incessant brain chatter. If it becomes obligatory, the joy goes out of it. I'm all about finding opportunities to feel less obliged. So I'm just going to respect that, and celebrate a less-hectic holiday, which is exactly what this one is shaping up to be.

Glory, Hallelujah (or Honolulu, as my girls would say).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flexing

I'm flexing my blog muscles, honing my chops, trying to get back in to a rhythm of writing for the next few weeks now that classes are over and out from under the tremendous burden of grading (which, like an idiot, I created for myself).

All by way of saying that you can check out this little, ill-formed rant over at the Huff Post Denver, if you're so inclined. It's a sad little thing, but I'm trying to claw my way back into the blogosphere, here and elsewhere, so be kind.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Home Work

It's been too long since I last posted. I won't bore you with why, cause it's the same old stuff. Let's, instead, start with today, which is my very favorite kind of day:

It's cold, cold, cold outside, and there is snow on the ground, but not enough to close the schools. Perfect for staying in with coffee and work, with periodic gazes out the window at the trees.

I don't have to be on campus today, so I walked Addie to the bus stop in my jammies and down coat and then walked home and crawled right back in bed with my laptop and coffee, still loyally delivered every morning by E and constituting one of my favorite and best parts of the day, where I feel most happy and loved. I somehow managed to get the number of emails in my inbox back down to a reasonable level, which always lowers my stress-o-meter a few notches.

I'm caught up on work for classes, for this wee moment, so I can finally turn my attention to the wicked-long list of writing tasks I've been needing to do. This morning was about that. Our book comes out early spring, so that will be gobbling up loads of time the next few weeks, along with a special issue of a journal set to drop, yo. Mark your calendars.

Squash soup and homemade bread for lunch. A quick knitting break (my first sweater!). Thoughts about Chrismas, with shopping mostly done and now only homemade gifts to make or not make, as time allows.

Another coffee, to warm hands and heart.

Then, to pick up Nolie. In our new car! I'm not loving cars that much, but our new one is great. Mazda 5, I sing thee praises. Then meet Addie at the bus stop again, with my mom head firmly screwed on (I don't think I've mentioned that I now navigate the age-old, aggravating switch from "work" head to "mom" head really effectively, maybe partly because I've given up trying to kill myself at work. But that's for another post).

That's it. That's the perfect day for me.

Correction: the perfect workday. The perfect day-day? Well, that will have to wait.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Auntie Guest Post, Take 2

Another Auntie weighs in on parenting-for-the-day while I was gone. My initial reactions:

1) You let the kid ride in the FRONT seat? In the SNOW?
2) Families freak me out, too.
3) Welcome to my world: butt cracks, fruit loops, and dead mice.

Now, on to the hilarity:


It’s Friday afternoon. I’ve been all over town, running manically from one appointment to the next. The snow, they say, is coming, but no sign of it yet. I manage to get out of my office and onto I25 in time. On the way I realize that I don’t know what the fuck E. was talking about regarding booster seats and how to get in the house without a key (actually, there was no mention of the latter in his unprecedentedly epic email). I call him at work to check on said details.

I arrive at the house, use the garage code, get into the house, and see the car seats sitting in the mud room. I look closer: what am I supposed to do with all those straps? How do I get that shit in my Honda Civic two-door? I start reading directions on the tags of the seats. They’re indecipherable. I call E. for the second time, and he instructs me to just shove them in the car and pull the seatbelts over them with kids inside.

Ok, that seems doable. So I shove the seats in the car and drive to the end of the street to meet Addie’s bus. The snow has begun, is coming down in quarter-sized flakes. I wait with the next door neighbor and his shivering Greyhound. I feel kind of guilty for not inviting them to join us in the car, but it already feels crowded with the seats.

The bus arrives and Addie trots out, all pink-bundled and adorable. She’s wearing the hat and gloves I gave her last Christmas! She’s happy to see me, which is awesome, since it’d been so long since I’d seen hear that I thought she might’ve forgotten who I was. (She did, for what it’s worth, talk quite a bit about how cool it was to have Auntie M. pick her up the day before. She goes, “Someone new picks me up every day!”

I realize I’ve made a big mistake when she says, “Oh, I get to sit in the front seat? This’ll be the first time I’ve ever sat in the front seat! I LIKE the front seat!”

Wait, why in the hell did I think I could put one of the boosters in the front seat? Because it fit, and I was raised totally without car seats. And I’m not a parent. Oh, crap.

“Ok, Addie, I made a mistake,” I say. “You can ride in the front on the way to pick up Nolie, but then we’ll have to put the seat in the back.”

“No you didn’t,” she says confidently. “I’m allowed to sit in the front. It’s safe.”

“No, it’s not, but I wasn’t thinking.”

“No, it’s fine. I like the front seat.”

“Ok, but this isn’t going to last long.”

Snow looks like wet mice falling from the sky. We are on the simple drive to pick up Nolie, but I’ve forgotten where to turn left. We come to an intersection.

“Addie, do you know if this is where we turn?”

“Yeah, this is it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Um...yeah. I’m shuwah.”

Of course, it’s not where we turn. We repeat this exercise two more times before we actually hit the correct turn. I try not to be pissed (primarily at myself) and am amazed at the amount of SUV traffic at 3:30 on the back roads of the suburbs. Families freak me out! We get to Nolie’s school, skidding around in our shoes on the snowy deck, but Addie takes me to the right place and I sign in. We walk around the entire school to Nolie’s classroom. She’s psyched to see me, and starts getting bundled up. Then the teacher asks me for ID. Eric didn’t tell me about ID, and I stupidly left my whole backpack in the house. I tell the teacher this, but she insists I go back to the sign in place and get permission.

We skitter back to sign-in and the same lady says, “Ok, Addie, do you know this Nancy? Where does she live?”

Addie looks at her blankly. “Um...”

“Does she live in Colorado?”

“Um...”

“Does she live in Denver?”

“Um...I think so.”

“Ok, you’re clear. You can pick up Nolie now.”

So that’s our big security check, just FYI. Not that I wanted it to be harder, but...

We head back to Nolie’s room, finally collect her, and make our way, holding Nolie’s hand, walking in super-clumsy-slowmo to the car, where we then, with the big wet mice falling, have to take the booster out of the front seat and move it to the back, next to the other one. I am trying to navigate this delicate operation, with both girls pushing into the car to get out of the snow, so literally all three of us and the seat are trying to cram into the back at the same time. My jacket has hiked up with me all bent over, and it’s now snowing on my tramp stamp, melting down my ass crack. Fruit loops and hairballs and months-old throw up chunks or something are falling from cracks and divots in the seat as I flip it over to get it in. I feel the urge to scream, The girls are giggling and squeezing. It’s fucking awkward beyond description, but somehow I manage to shove the damn seat in and wrench belts over bellies.

We then blast Classic Rock all the way home—Creedence, as I recall. I’ll spare you the ridiculous snack conversation, but suffice to say I eventually figured out how to work the DVD player and we settled into the couch and, after a big argument between sisters about what to watch, settle on that movie about the oddball penguin. It’s pretty good; I had no idea!

Then E. comes home and tells me there’s already about three inches of snow on the ground and I should try to get home before it’s really bad. So I’m up and out and back on the wet highway, littered with dead mice.

Bodily Revelations

I've been more than a bit grumbly lately, what with all the flus and barfing and curving spines around here (by "around here," I mean in my body). It has felt a little relentless, I've felt a little sorry for myself, and I've been a bit resentful of this new routine being imposed on me. Every night, it's yoga or, mostly, pilates. If not, the next day means pain and discomfort. I'm not all that interested in food, and then a staggering hunger overwhelms me and I want to eat anything in sight. Some nights I'm still needing nine or ten hours of sleep.

In short, I'm getting unexpected, unwanted feedback from my body. And I've been pissed about it.

But then, this morning, a revelation, prodded by some reading in Mike Dooley's Infinite Possibilities. And that is this: I have been wanting more time to take care of myself, to make myself stronger, to rest. These have been conscious intentions. I've been getting those gifts, too, though in the form of H1N1, or scoliosis. I was looking for rest and care in completely different forms--maybe some massages or something? Swaths of free time to just fall into my lap? But since I wasn't making those things happen, I got these other things instead. Not as delightful, but teachers anyway.

Here's my new intention: just take the extra hours of sleep, and enjoy them. Do the pilates (and enjoy my newfound stomach muscles). Push some stuff off my plate at work for a while. Eat when I feel like it, not when the schedule says it's time. Be still. And be grateful for my body's feedback.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Auntie Guest Post

I've been meaning to put up this guest post from the fabulous Auntie M., but only just now got permissions (cuz that's how I try to roll). So, from the weeks when I was gone, a tale of Auntie M., who kindly made my children a (no-doubt delicious) homemade mac n cheese:

Nolie (laying her head on the counter): I don't like this mac-n-cheese.
Addie: Me eitha. We only like the kind that comes in a box.
Auntie M.: Well, that's not real.
Addie: Yes it is.
Auntie M.: No it's not.
Addie: It's real cheese!
Auntie M.: No, it's powdered cheese. Chemicals.
(wide eyes)
Nolie (squirming): I don't like it.
Addie: Can you make us something else?
Auntie M.: Well, you know, when I was a kid and I didn't eat my dinner, that was it. I didn't get anything else.
(Both girls look at me -- their mouths are slightly agape)
Addie: Oh.
Nolie: Ohhhhh
Auntie M.: But of course we don't want you to be hungry.
Nolie: I want to watch the rest of the movie.
Auntie M.: How about some fruit?
Addie: Okay.
Nolie: OKAY!
Auntie M.: Apples and banana or pear and banana?
Addie: apples and...no, pear, pear and banana. Can I have some more juice?
Auntie M.: Just a little more--especially since you're having other fruit.
Nolie: bahbahbahbah
Auntie M.: We'll save the mac-n-cheese for Daddy.
Addie: You can take it home.
Auntie M.: No, I think Daddy will like it.
Addie: You can take most of it home.

(Daddy comes home, eats two bowls of said mac-n-cheese, Auntie M. is VINDICATED!)

I (Auntie M.) will also say that there are few better things than being able to calm an upset kid. When I went to pick them up, Nolie gave me a look like "oh, I knew you were coming but HERE YOU ARE OH SHIT" and ran for her sister. "Addie! Wait up!" We got her piggy bag and then she crumbled. I kneeled..."what's wrong bug?" Out comes the bottom lip. "I want my mama" big tears...I take her in my arms and say "I know, I know it's hard, Mom is on the plane, I know, it's going to be okay" ...Nolie sobbing..."how about we go home and get a snack and watch a little movie?" ... sobbing calms..."Is that okay?" Nolie nods. When we get in the car and we're all strapped in, Nolie says, verbatim "Addie! We're going to go have a snack and watch a little movie!!"

Ah yes. We sang TOMORROW the whole way home.


Jen's note: I'm still slightly amazed that everything worked out okay, those weeks I was gone, not because the Aunties aren't incredibly amazing and competent, but because my children are such NUTballs and can bring even the very strong to their knees. It is a testament to our little "village" that everything went off with a hitch.

Everything I know about, anyway :).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Travel Titillations

Okay. In D.C. now, where it is 75 degrees. I flew into Denver late last night, where it was snowing, snowing, snowing. And it was a slush-fest on the freeway this morning, let me tell you. Here's what it was like:

30 seconds of white-knuckled slow-driving, followed by
3 seconds of screaming as a big-rig passed me, sluicing my windshield with slurpee-goop so that I couldn't see, followed by
30 seconds of white-knuckled slow-driving.
Repeat.

But I made it to the airport, and my flight left only 30 minutes late, thanks to de-icing. Which is fine with me--I'm a fan of de-icing. Or is it deicing? I hope not. That sounds dangerous.

And I've survived 5 flights in 10 days. Which is pretty good. But I'm missing my honey bunches and my two repro-units much at the moment. And my stomach is still a little oogy, though that's probably from all the nasty travel food. Ugh. My kingdom for a plate of kale!

It's all worth it, though, right? The next three days will be a whirlwind of engineering education theory, practice, and know-how. Titillating!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Out of Bed, For Reals

I did make it to Chicago, and here's proof that there ain't no mama in the house:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One More Thing

Also, am I the only person out there who, upon recovering from the wickedest stomach flu ever, now craves Philly Cheesesteaks with fries and a shake? Am I? Why is this happening to me?

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy???

Keep on the Sunny Side

I want to note there are a few good things about having been sick for so long.

Such as. The lack of nutrients and exposure to the outside world has somehow cleared my skin up. Also, I've lost several layers of lip skin, which makes them plump and shiny. It's the poor man's exfoliation. And let's not forget that, thanks to the muscles atrophying and my inability to eat anything larger than a wheat thin, I'm down to my goal weight. Hurrah.

Just looking on the bright side.

In Bed, Again

I should be writing this from Chicago, where at 3pm today I would be giving a presentation on nanotechnology and citizen participation. This is a paper I was supposed to give last year at the very same conference, but wasn't able to attend that one, either, because of all the stuff going on with my family.

This year, I'm not able to attend because I caught some horrible stomach bug and was up puking all Monday night. I banished Eric to the guest room so that he could sleep, and when he came in Tuesday morning he said, "What are you going to do?" I was supposed to fly out last night. "What should I do?" I said, still urping. "You've got to get at least one good night's sleep before you go," he said wisely.

And that was that. I canceled my classes and my office hours and got my flight reservation changed to tomorrow night. I feel a little better today, and managed to eat some toast, brush my teeth, and put my contacts in. My muscles haven't completely atrophied from being in bed the last two weeks, but my brain feels like mush. It would have been a mistake to try to get there last night. I surrender. I can only do what I can do.

But it sucks to know that I probably have no credibility with these conference people after doing this twice. It's tough to think about everything that just has to fall away while I recover, like grading, email, housekeeping, parenting, and personal hygiene.

All this will pass, I know. My brother's wedding celebration was gorgeous fun, and it was so wonderful seeing him amid all of his life-long friends, and to hear what they had to say about him, and to see my family brought together for such a happy time instead of something sad. I'm so grateful I got to go.

But I could have done without this particular bookend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Swabtastic

Yes I did go to the doctor this morning and get that horrible thing stuck up my nose in order to receive the news that I have THE horrible flu with stupid bronchitis to boot. Which explains why, even though I made it through my one-hour lecture yesterday, I came home feeling like somebody had sucked my innards out of my body. Through my nose.

And I also finished grading papers for that one class I had to miss today, and prepped for the one class I'll miss tomorrow. I did those things because at the doctor's, they injected me with this crazy-ass steroid that makes you feel like, "Yes, I am still sick! I can feel it! I feel truly horrible! But I don't care! I'm going to organize baby pictures! And write a screenplay! And learn to dance the mambo!" That stuff is like Angel Dust and Nyquil, all rolled into one. Suh-weet.

And, in the last few days, in addition to trying not to be sick but being pretty goddammed sick, I managed to watch both Seven Samurai (let me break it down: 3 1/2 hours long; 60 years old; in black and white, and subtitled Japanese. Can I get a witness?) and Billy Bathgate (kay, sorry to say it, I know it's Doctorow and everything, but bo-ring!), which are Netflix movies that have been laying around the house gathering dust so long that I almost felt bad putting them in the mailbox today. I mean, we were using those things as coasters! The girls had started carving hieroglyphs into them!

I've also caught up on all of the Lost episodes, season 5, that are available on ABC. Memo to ABC: post the other episodes, you bastards! I have the swine flu, yo!

So now I'm making my way through 30 Rock.

Somebody save me.

Stupid Flu

Stupid flu. Stupid, stupid, stupid flu.

Stupid.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Day In

The schools are back open today, and huge blocks of snow are falling out of the trees as it warms up a little. On the way to the bus stop this morning, Addie (bedecked in her princess/ballerina costume and snow boots) noted that we could see a little blue sky peeking through.

But I'm still homebound today. Nolie woke up at 3 in the morning because the power went out, turning off her nightlight and white noise, and she was burning up and complaining that her legs hurt. Her cheeks are a flaming red today and she's got an oogy sounding cough. So I'm catching up on email, thinking about everything I need to get done in the next few days before three weeks of travel begin, and just trying not to unspool too much over the weirdness of this week.

Yesterday had its tough moments--it was our second snow day, and some of the first day's strategies were stale and tired by the second. What's funny is that we were our own jailers--though there were two feet of forbidding, slushy snow out on our own street, all of the major streets and highways around us were pretty well plowed and driveable (a friend saved us in the afternoon by coming over with her adorable little boy; we might not have survived the day otherwise). So, we could have gotten out, even in the slippery little Hyundai, but didn't, because we didn't know we could. Silly us.

I've been doing a lot of pilates on these slow days, and yoga, and also trying a new strength-training regimen for back pain. I wake up every day creaking and groaningand in pain, and I am disappointingly grouchy until I work some of the kinks out. And I'm wondering if this is just a particularly bad time that I'm working through, or if this is my new life, to be sore and uncomfortable for much of the day. N. wrote a brilliant post about her struggles with R.A. here, and reading it calms me a lot. So we'll see how the next few weeks of sleeping in strange beds and hours sitting on planes and in airports go. I may be mainlining ibuprofen and doing cat/cows on the concourse.

Eric's supposed to be home in a few hours, and I hope a lot of my dis-ease will dissipate then. It's been surreal being here, in all this snow, with our house creaking and moaning and snow clunking all around in the night, and the lights going out and my little one burning up, and my shoulders and neck screaming at me, without him. Beneath it all has been a little tinge of the threatening, because I'm alone and responsible for all of this somehow, and I've had to shoo off the what-ifs. So I'll be glad when my partner is back and we are in it together.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Snow





We're being absolutely duked on by the snow gods here in Denver. Out where we live, near the foothills, it's coming down hard. In our backyard, it's piling in drifts, and the snow's up to my knees, Addie's thighs, and Nolie's armpits. So all schools are canceled and we're hunkering down. I wish E was here, but he's in Illinois nearly being electrocuted while setting up a laser.

We had a sweet, cozy morning, tinged with that giddiness you get when you've been freed from your routine through no fault of your own and time stops for a while. Then, after lunch, the typical cabin fever hit, and I had to resort to Joy Jar: Kid Version, where I put a bunch of activities in a jar, and as we get bored, we pull one and have to do it. So far we've pulled:

bake cookies
have a dance party
make a family newspaper (fascinating reading) to share with E when he gets home
shovel snow and take pictures to send Daddy
clean coins (a favorite activity of all OCD capitalism-loving American children, weirdly promoted by Montessori)

I wonder what will be next? The pillow jumpy castle? Painting? Pilates with Mommy?

The suspense is killing me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On Speed

Boy. Good thing I didn't get pulled over this morning, on the street that runs right between Nolie's preschool on the left and Addie's kindergarten on the right. That would have been embarrassing. Good thing I wasn't going 31 mph in a 20 mph school zone, whizzing right past the motorcycle cop who is stationed there every morning.

Because if I had been going 31 in a 20, he would have had to pull me over in the very small, very intimate parking lot of Nolie's kindergarten, lights flashing, with all the other parents watching and either shaking their heads or giving sympathetic looks.

I imagine he would have been pretty nice about the whole thing, had I been speeding, and let me take Nolie into school while he was writing up my ticket. And, of course, it probably would have been one of those mornings where she's extra clingy, and starts crying and screaming about how she hates school (she doesn't). And I would have had to extricate myself from her alligator-jaw-like-grip, explaining to the teacher I had to go so that I could go get my ticket from the cop waiting out in the parking lot. For speeding in a school zone. Between the schools my own two daughters attend.

Probably, I'd get lucky, and the guy wouldn't double my fine or the "points" assigned against my license. Which would make the ticket only $160, not $320.

That would have been one heck of a way to start the day. Huh?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Good Idea Gone Wrong



Addie has a friend over for a playdate today (an all too rare occurrence). Snow is falling outside, we made brownies, bread, and stew, and the afternoon was calling for a kid-oriented craft idea. So we pulled out the great book Crafting Fun: 101 Things to Make and Do with Kids. I figured the scarecrow would be a good fit, seeing as Halloween fast approacheth. Easy, fast, fun.

Lest I think, for one minute, that I am Martha Stewart, the image above will remind me forever that there is some dark perverted corner of my soul (and maybe of my childrens') that led to this. She looks like someone gave her a roofie, no? There are some interesting gender markers, all weirdly arranged, no? She's oddly alluring, yes, with that cozy lap and oddly arranged lumps? My kids love her. Him. It.

Happy Halloween, friends.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Looking on the Bright Side

An author I love, Barbara Ehrenreich, was on The Daily Show last week, talking about her new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, but based on the interview and a few preview articles Ehrenreich put out while writing it, I think the narrative goes something like this:

Ehrenreich got breast cancer, and went to some online support/info groups. From those groups, especially, she received messages that encouraged her to "think positive" about the disease. Some, it seems, also suggested that she was somehow responsible for the cancer, maybe because of actions or--and here's where she's pretty upset--because of her thoughts. There are lots of people out there, Ehrenreich says, who believe you can control the world with their thinking. They even think they can draw wealth to themselves.

Maybe even...sewing machines.

It was an odd experience watching her talk about all of this. On the one hand, I think, yeah, no shit. In some ways, the popularization of the New Thought movement in the form of books like The Secret or The Law of Attraction have had some problematic effects. They can strip the spiritual, the divinity, from New Thought tenets and become overly focused on material gathering and consumption.

On the other hand, every spiritual movement has folks who stay on the surface of things. Every movement has folks who say things that might bother someone who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and shouldn't have to deal with anything remotely Pollyanna-ish or facile or condescending, and who can blame that person, because really, who the fuck needs it? Every spiritual movement has folks who might even blame someone--or that person's sin, or diet, or geographical location, or emotions--for a disease they get. All of this might feel pretty annoying. Grating. Symptomatic of some hideous cultural malaise.

The problem is, I don't really recognize my faith in Ehrenreich's description of "positive thinking." It seems to me she's cherry picking, though I'm aware the same could be said of me, since I haven't read the book.

My faith, a New Thought faith, has the divine at the center. Yes, many of us refer to it as the "universe," simply because we have weird associations with the word "God" (and, in my case, even with the word "church"). But the divine spirit is still at the center of it, no question. Because we emerge from divine spirit, are one with it, many of us do believe that the way we move through the world is determined by our thoughts, creative manifestations of the divine. I don't think I can bring breast cancer upon myself, but I do believe that if I get it or any other disease, I do have some choice about how I react to it. For me, this realization (that I'm not a victim of circumstance but have agency) was hugely revelatory and liberating. And I owe that to New Thought.

I know there are quacks out there. I know you can pull quotes that make me and my spirit-traveling peeps looks like nutjobs. And some of us are. But I'm very clear on the fact that the spiritual world I move in is not all about happy-happy and smiley-faces. It's deeply human, flawed, and tragic; it's also beautiful, and full of grace and freedom and choice, regardless.

Ehrenreich says, at one point in the interview, that she came out of breast cancer "much nastier" than she went in. I love this about her--her feistiness, her rawness, her relentless desire to call things as she sees them. I don't expect her to come out of breast cancer any differently than she wants to. But I do think it's possible she's choosing that nastiness, and that others may choose other responses.

Happiness and positive thinking undermining America? Jeez, I doubt it. If you have twenty minutes, and want to spend them on a raw, wicked, gorgeous, funny story, please, please go here. Because there's the America I identify with, and love, and the role that seeking out happiness and choosing peace can play in saving our asses every minute of our lives.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back Up

Hey! Blogger tells me this is the sixtieth post here at the new Toddlerspit. Cool. If you're new to this site and want to look back, the old site is still available here. Also, I have a new post up at the Huffington Post Denver, which you can find here. That post is on the myth/reality of "clean coal," if you're interested in energy issues.

Anyway, I've been slowly knitting a scarf, when I have a few minutes here and there, but otherwise have found it difficult to get sewing done. This is partly because it's been wintry here in Denver, and we tend to close up half of our house when it's cold so that we don't have to heat it. The half we close contains my office/sewing room. It's freezing in there! Also, I think it's nice to knit when it's cold, and I can do it anywhere in the house.

But mostly I haven't been sewing been because my back has been giving me a heck of a time, and I find I'm needing a few more hours of sleep a night to deal. Turns out that I have scoliosis, see, and it's getting worse as I get older. I've been told off and on by various folks the past decade that I have it, but it hasn't really bothered me until now. So thinking about how that is going to change my life here and there has been a trip.

There are great things to be grateful for everyday, though: the sun breaking through for a little while yesterday; Eric coming home for dinner last night; a beautiful circle of loving friends; my kids' health; falling leaves; love and love and love all around.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Checking In

I haven't disappeared, not permanently, anyway. I ended up heading to Idaho Saturday night, and made it just in time to say goodbye to my Grandpa, who passed the next morning. Addie's had the flu, and both girls stayed home Friday and Monday. So today and tomorrow are long days of catching up at work. Work, by the way, is a bit crazy, with talk of increased teaching loads and decreasing salaries. Interesting stuff.

But, a few epiphanies to share, briefly:

1. I can choose to be happy, no matter what. Isn't that amazing?
2. Whereas in the past few years I spent a lot of time wishing I could be in bed longer, resting, or just wandering around the house, or just sitting, in the past few days I realized that I like to get up in the morning. I like most of what I get to do everyday. The only time I feel unhappy is when I wish I was doing something other than I'm doing. If I stay in the present, I'm pretty stoked. But I also still like laying in bed or wandering around the house. If that's what I happen to be doing.
3. It's hard to visualize the future, and where you want your life to go, if you're focused on staying happy in the present. Unless you just want to visualize yourself being happy in the future, too. That works.
4. There are times when I don't feel happy. That builds compassion, demonstrates my tremendous humanity (flaws, flaws, beautiful flaws!), and allows me to recalibrate. Feeling unhappy is also a gift. And having a big cry often makes my body feel lots better.

Kay. That's it for now. I'll write more soon. I have in mind an essay called "In Defense of the Chic Flick," which is not about what you think. But we'll see if it makes daylight.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And Then There Were None

If you've been reading here for a while, you know that I had the privilege of growing up with three grandfathers, and that I lost two of those grandfathers in the last few years--Grandpa Homer died about 3 years ago, from lung cancer, and my Grandpa Dub died last summer, mostly of old age. And this morning, I got the call from my mom saying that my Grandpa Gene is being taken off of life support for kidney failure today, and will be with hospice the next few days as he makes his transition.

He would have hated the way I put that, "making his transition." It's too soft, too weak. He preferred to call things the way he saw them. He would say, "He's dying. Well, that's the way things go." He could be a sarcastic, blunt old man. I hear his voice coming out of my own mouth sometimes.

There are other things I know about him too, though. His father was killed by Nazis in Germany when he was a young boy, which shaped him emotionally for a lot of his life. He has also been a stereotypical old world European, proper and a little sour, inflexible and yet social. Clearly valued boys more than girls, though I think he loved me anyway. Or was at least proud.

He volunteered his ass off after retirement, working at the VA hospital and for the Shriners, and lots of other things, too. I got the feeling he was deeply compassionate, and maybe wanted to be a different man than he ended up being. He was a colonel in the army. He went to the same college I did, and my grandmother wrote some of his papers for him, though not as many as she'd like you to believe.

Despite his brusqueness and rough exterior, he could be easily offended or wounded. If you sat down to talk with him, which I didn't often enough, he had questions for you and wanted to know more about you. I saw a different side of him then, and he was always different, more likeable, when my grandmother was not around. Maybe our relationship would have been different had my grandmother not claimed me as her own so early on, and had I reached out to him more. But no matter, now.

He saw the world in black and white. He ate a ham and cheese sandwich on rye for lunch everyday of his life. He loved watching soccer on t.v. He walked around in shorts and a bathrobe and floppy slippers, his chest hair whorling around every which way on his chest, which drove my grandmother crazy. He liked his riding lawnmower. He hated waste, and frequently scolded me for using too much water when washing dishes. He and my grandmother fought viciously my entire life. He loved his son, fiercely, and I think also loved my mother, his step-daughter, deeply, though in a different way.

He and my grandmother provided me with lots of financial support and special opportunities, all along the way of my growing up, and for that I feel immense gratitude.

He never got to know my girls, and maybe wouldn't have even if we had been around. Again, too late to know. And no sense in rewriting the past.

That's it. That's about all I know.

Soon, no grandfathers. I am already speaking of him in the past tense. And am feeling unexpectedly sad. But maybe I can imagine the three of them, my grandfathers, flying around in the ether, making friends in the absence of the strong, trouble-making personalities that are my grandmothers, who are thankfully still here on earth. If things had been different, perhaps those old men would have shared a brandy together, or played cards or worked in their gardens with one another, and would have found some common ground.

As long as I'm rewriting the past, why not?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sup Here






My time has mostly been taken up lately with grading papers (why the HELL did I assign so many?), taking a really interesting class at the University of Denver (it's only 3 Monday nights, not a whole semester--I'm not that crazy), and generally just trying to keep my wits and sense of humor about me (it's working. It took a while, but it's working).

Still, things have been happening on the sew-y/crafty front. I'm always promising pictures and then not delivering, I know. But I figure it's best not to inundate you with images of my mania. Instead, you get these. Up top, pictures of the fall garlands the girls and I made after dinner today. We put some thread on big upholstery needles and went out and collected leaves and other "nature" and strung them up here. Lovely, yes?

You might also notice our new breakfast nook-type thing there. We got it on Craig's List, and it feels just right hanging out under Rupert, our giant ficus. And we actually sit in our dining room now. When the girls and I eat dinner there, and I can look out the window at the foothills, and our plum tree, and our yard, I feel something loosen in my shoulders and am so glad to be in my peaceful home.

And then you see images of Addie, crocheting her very first scarf (I won't tell you who it's for yet). Isn't it pretty? Isn't she pretty? Isn't she big?

Jesus.

Then, my very own knitting project. I've known a few simple crochet stitches for a while but you might remember I recently taught myself how to knit on YouTube. I've been looking for a good book to actually learn from, and found the (appropriately titled) All About Knitting at the library. It's awesome. So now I'm finally working on this purse, using the yarn from L., making an Alterknits Felt pattern, which I'm translating using All About Knitting. I'll let you know if it works. It's taking me a while to build since I'm learning as I go.

Slow but sure. Maybe more slow than sure. But I'm knitting! It's fall! Leaves are falling!

Wheeee!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Blog

So, thanks to N., I'm doing a little blogging over at the Denver site of the Huffington Post. I might cross-post links here, if that's okay. There's just two posts up so far, one on a night out Eric and I had for his birthday, and another on a climate change project I'm involved in at school. I'd like to keep this blog about my neuroses and crocheted whats-its, if that's okay with you, but I'll post links now and then.

Speaking of neuroses, I had a heck of a time writing these two Huffington Posts, as it somehow feels more official and visible and scary over there, while over here it's intimate and safe. So the writing is a little stiff. Forgive me while I warm up.

Fear, Meet Love

From a recent article by Martha Beck, in O Magazine:

Fear: Always feels bad, motivates grasping, seizes control, insists on certainty, needs everything.

Love: Always feels good, motivates liberation, relaxes control, accepts uncertainty, needs nothing.




"My Love Is Good," Addie, 2009



"School Fair," Addie, 2009



"School Fair," Addie, 2009

Yeah, I'm reading too much into these pictures. But the fact that Addie is obsessed with Fairs right now (School Fairs, County Fairs, State Fairs, People's Fairs), combined with her confusing "Fair" and "Fear," was too metaphorically rich to resist. I mean, isn't that exactly what I've been trying to do, with talking to flying pigs and chattering teeth and making friends with my anxiety? To make a Fair out of my Fear?

And then, of course, there is the greatest truth in the universe, coming straight from the mouth of a five-year-old: My love is good.

If that ain't the God's truth, I don't know what is.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Disappearing the Bus

I've been telling everyone I know lately that oh I'm so busy and I feel like I'm staying just a few steps ahead of the speeding bus. You saw it in that schedule post from a few days ago.

But I went a whole weekend without even thinking about the bus. In fact, I woke up today feeling perfectly myself.

N. and I were talking a few weeks back about our to-do list strategies. We both have a tiered system, with a large-project to-do list that gets broken down into a smaller to-do list, which gets broken down into daily tasks lists (we both also experiment with an intricate system of tasks and rewards). I write a new to-do list everyday, and sometimes multiple times a day. It helps me to stay focused and to triage when there's a whole lot of stuff coming at me at once.

Invariably, though, there are times when the to-do list starts to feel less helpful and more stressful. Like, almost always, during the fall semester. Because there is always more to do in a given day than can be done. I usually manage this by having reasonable daily task lists so I can at least get done the most important things, and feel good about that. But lately so many things have been coming up and coming due that I've been feeling behind.

Here's where the transformation comes in: I'm trying a daily intention list instead of a daily to-do list. Inspired by a truly eye-opening exercise with my spiritual teacher (a practitioner at my church, who reminded me gently and kindly and with a laugh in her voice that the speeding bus is an illusion, and I might benefit from seeing it as such) and a kick-ass unchurch service yesterday morning, I'm going to set my intention for the day, and then try to support that with tasks.

So, for example, my intention today is to work hard and experience peace. I got an email last week asking me to pray for one minute of peace today, so it seemed to make sense to set that as an intention for the entire day. I meditated on the concept of infinite peace, round the beads, and am working quietly from home today. Focused and steady but peaceful, not frenetic. It helps that the weather is cooperating by giving us a rainy, cold day--perfect for desk work. A few times, I've felt pulled to go into the office, but I'm resisting and continuing to work on the tasks I've set for myself here.

This way, the tasks become less about feeling a step ahead of the bus (which is really a metaphor for time, I think) and more about the energy that I bring to my tasks (which is peaceful).

Tomorrow: work and joy. Because I get to go hang out with some girlfriends in the evening. So why not try to bring that joy into my whole day? Why leave it to the end, as if it's an antidote?

We'll see how this all works out. You've seen me devise such programs before and then I'm back to my pissy old self in a week. But who knows? Maybe this will make that stupid bus go away for a while. Maybe even for good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

here's the thing

about Nolie. She has become completely inured to any traditional attempts at discipline. Addie can be a total firecracker, no question, but Nolie? A brick wall. A wrecking ball. A tank. She's inured to yelling, time-outs, consequences, rewards for positive behavior, and anything else we try to throw at her (without actually throwing anything at her, which is sometimes what we'd like to do, but don't).

Inured.

A few months ago, Nolie discovered she could get up out of her bed and come out of her room at bedtime. Actually, she didn't discover it. I had to teach her. Because once your kid is potty trained, they have to be able to get up and pee in the night. The trade-off: no more diapers, but now your kid is no longer a caged monkey. She is mobile.

But still a monkey.

It looks like this now:

8:00 Nolie finally in bed, after bath, books, tummy rub, etc. We are using soft, soothing voices and there is much gentle smooching and loving.

8:04 Nolie cracks door open, then slams it shut.

8:05 Nolie cracks door, slams shut.

8:06 Open, slam.

8:07 Mama or Daddy goes in, puts Nolie back to bed, rubs her belly, she makes like she's all sleepy and will now stay in bed.

8:10 Nolie comes out and asks if there is going to be a storm tonight. Mom and Dad tell her to go back to bed right now and I mean it.

8:15 Nolie opens door. Sticks one limb into the hall. Fishtails her whole body into the hall. Is now carried back to bed screaming.

8:20 Nolie opens door. Mama or Daddy yell at Nolie to get back in that bed right this instant or else.

8:22 Nolie opens door. Mama or Daddy begins to drag Nolie's toys into the hall. Put Nolie back into bed. Then we collapse in our bed completely defeated.

8:24 Nolie opens door. We try again to be gentle.

8:26 Failure. Nolie opens door. Slams shut.


And so on. She finally has a big, big cry with one of us physically holding the door shut (she is SO strong. I can't even tell you). Once she has tired herself out crying she will eventually go to sleep. We curse ourselves and her and wonder what kind of parents would let their kids stay up until 9pm on a school night. Wonder how our friends who insist on 7:30 bedtimes do it. Wonder at Nolie's strength and will.

We need Nanny 911, I think. Or, a nanny. Or maybe just a good lock on the door.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

typical day

coffee clinks on my bedside table; check in to see which body parts hurt today; curse ageing; pry allergy-ridden eyeballs open; put Addie's hair in pigtails; kiss Nolie and Eric goodbye; shower; take birth control so all of this never happens again.

check emails while Addie plays. Make a list of things that need to be done because of emails; read articles that emails link to; shake my head at the sorry state of the world, because most of my emails are from climate change blogs; look at a few emails from craft blogs and wish I could stay home and futz in my office/studio instead of go to work. Worry about my children's future in this sorry world.

subsume. shake it off. a beautiful morning, and life is so good. the world is good, not sorry. forgot.

Addie to bus stop.

head to work. Prep class (if I remember to, apparently); grade papers; attend meetings; put out fires I started by my very own self; start new ones; teach class; cram lunch from home in my gob; read an article or two if I'm lucky. Work on article I'm writing if I'm lucky.

on the way home, stop at library, post office, and/or grocery store.

race to Nolie's school to pick her up in time so that we make it home before Addie's bus drops her off; if we're lucky, unload the car; pick Addie up at the bus stop; race home to prepare both girls a snack before they have a meltdown. If we're lucky.

unload kids' lunchboxes and mine; wash out the litle food containers and set to dry; make coffee for the next morning; load up all the lunches; make a vegan/organic dinner that the kids won't hork up onto their plates from disgust; set aside a plate for Eric; clean up dinner dishes; sweep floor.

vacuum, or scoop the kitty box, or play with the kids on the hammock, or go grocery shopping, or bake a birthday cake, or sign permission forms, or call the contractor who is supposed to be staining our house, or talk to the kids' teachers about our kids, the one who reads like a 3rd grader but forgets to put on underwear, the other who kisses you one minute, bites you the next because she needs more of your time, your attention, your love; because she's three.

eric gets home and crams food in his gob while I go out for a run or collapse on the couch; kids in bath; read to kids; kids in bed; kids out of bed; kids back in bed; kids out of bed; get kids water/bandaids/saline; kids back in bed. Maybe sleeping.

then? sewing? reading? television? sex? conversation? meditation?

sleep?

maybe. if we're lucky.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lessons on Time

Man. Can you tell the first few weeks of the semester have been kicking me in the ass? Add to the last few crazy posts, this: I actually forgot to prep a class yesterday. Walked in with the wrong video and no homework assignment. My students think I'm NUTS. Yikes.

Then, a long talk with N., (and reading her post here) and I feel better. What came of that: sometimes, when you think you need to work more, it pays to work less. I think of the Dalai Lama (yes, again--sorry), who says that when he has a particularly hectic day ahead of him, he meditates twice as long.

In other words, it's not always about how much time you put in, but what kind of energy you put in. Easy to forget this.

So instead of being miserable and stressed and trying to get through a stack of grading last night, the girls and I pulled a picnic out onto the lawn, and I laid on a beanbag, letting all the angst flow out of my body, while they crawled all around me and gave me kisses (and kneed me in the groin--but who's noticing?). I had a good, long phone conversation with a friend after the girls went down. Finished a little embroidery. Watched a little crap on t.v. Read my most recent issue of Orion.

And, this morning before work, took a little time to sit out on my deck and soak up some sun. Just a few minutes, but all the difference in the world to my day.

Energy, more than time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mean Boys

I'm putting Nolie down tonight, and she's all quiet like she's getting ready to nod off. Then she says, "Mama? No boys like me."

"What?"

"No boys like me. Those boys won't play with me."

"Well, Owen loves you. And Neal. And Daddy," I lamely add.

"Yes, that's true. But no MEAN boys like me. They won't play with me."

"Oh," I say. "You don't have to play with them, then. You just play with the girls you like, okay?"

"Okay."

And off to sleep she goes.

Those stupid mean boys.

All readers who have boys: your boys are excluded, of course. They're not mean. So go easy in the comments.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Guilty Admissions

You won't find this on the crafty mama blogs. This is not about my latest embroidery project, or picking organic berries, or doing papier mache.

It's the guilty admissions of when I'm a horrible parent, a terrible mama, and want to just throw up my hands and give up on the whole thing.

Like, how Addie somehow made it all the way to kindergarten today, wearing a dress, with no underwear on, and we got an email from her teacher. That wicked pit in my stomach: because I was too hasty getting out of the house this morning, my kid might have gotten teased or something at school. Geez.

Or, following a dinner party conversation a few nights ago, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to try to have both girls sleep in the same room. EVEN THOUGH Addie is an introvert and really needs her quiet time and alone space and EVEN THOUGH Nolie cannot sleep with other people yet and gets too excited and can't stop shaking all over when she's not in her own room at night. But I wouldn't give up! I yelled and threatened and cajoled both of them to JUST PLEASE FREAKING GO TO SLEEP NOW last night before finally squeezing back the tears and having Eric drag Nolie's bed back to her room. Eric shaking his head at my insanity.

Or, how I've had rough words with Eric lately in front of the girls.

Or, how I sometimes struggle to find even a little kind word, and my kids are so little, and innocent, and precious, and I wonder what in the world hardened my icy heart so that I can't see them, how important and dear and wonderful they are, and instead get mean and small.

And then wonder why they are mean and small to each other.

And then wonder what I would do if there were a few more hours in the day so that I didn't feel quite so stretched and could be a better mama and a happier person and not quite so cranky.

Now. How to make that happen?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Someone has a new



haircut! Isn't it adorable? And somehow, it's as if she was supposed to have this haircut all along. She's just more her this way. Little bug.

Little Play

I found these embroidery canvases at the thrift store this summer, and traced some of the girls' artwork onto them, then embroidered over them. The top one is Addie's (an elephant) and the bottom one is one of the crazy bubble people Nolie always draws--they make me happy. So now these are in our living room.



Other than this little project: Nothing and everything to report. I've somehow let myself get too busy, again, again, and yet also have afternoons where everything feels quiet, and the girls and I have a little play, imagining time, and rest in the hammock, waiting for Eric to get home. I have days where I wish I didn't have to work, and days where I think I have the best job in the world. Days where I think I'm on top of it, days in the riptide. You know: life.

Still find myself seeking out moments of quiet. Checking in with the still small voice. The bit of flame within, unwavering. All that jazz.

In practical terms: make a short to-do list each day. Finish it, then on to other things

breathing
mantras
sewing
sitting
watching movies
hugging Eric
cuddling the girls.

Trying not to forget, trying not to compare.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No Biggie

I've been having some good conversations with friends lately about the whole switch-to-vegan thing. The responses have ranged from support to questioning to dismay. I think this whole issue of how you eat and what you eat is a pretty big deal these days. There is such a spectrum of possibilities, and each position on the spectrum seems to be tied up with so many other issues and identities. Specially for us middle-class white folks.

So, I'm writing this post not in defense of my decision to eat vegan-ish (vegan-like?) but just to explore what led to my decision four years ago to become a vegetarian, and now to go a step even beyond that. As I think about it, the whole thing has a lot less to do with idealism than with pragmatism. You can decide.

The decision to become a vegetarian--smackdab in the middle of my pregnancy with Nolie--was a pretty easy one. Both pregnancies had soured me on eating pork or chicken (I could look at an uncooked chicken breast and totally vomit), except in their very worst forms: I craved McDonald's chicken nuggets and Home Depot hot dogs. In a big way. The smell of both nuggets and hot dogs, to this day, still makes me drool (yum!). And, of course, Eric and I ate plenty of steak. We would get one of those six-pack of Costco flank steaks and just go AFTER it. I grew up in Idaho, yeah? So eating meat there is like breathing air--you just DO it. You don't even think about it.

But I'm pretty health-conscious, too, and I knew that the meats I really enjoyed (chicken nugs, hot dogs, and steak) weren't that good for me, and certainly weren't good to eat very frequently. Actually, most meats aren't that great for you. And, right about that same time, MorningStar came out with a whole bunch of yummy (for once) vegetarian products that could be sauced up and made to taste pretty good. There was still fish and eggs, too, which seemed to offer good health benefits and could be purchased in an environmentally friendly way (maybe).

At the same time, my research was taking me into the field of Environmental Communication and climate change. I knew about the research showing that most meat production and consumption has pretty devastating impacts on our environment. So, even though you can buy organic or free-range meats, it seemed, generally, to be easier to just give up the meat. And, I didn't miss it, so why not give it up? No harm done by not eating it.

It helps, I think, that I haven't been agro about the no-meat thing. If I accidentally order something at a restaurant that has "meat-bits" (like in a soup) or if Eric makes a mostly-veggie recipe but uses a little chicken broth, no biggie. If I forget to tell the host of a dinner party I'm a vegetarian, no big deal. I just eat around this stuff. My kids eat turkey dogs and pepperoni pizza now and then. And I do not give a whit what you put in your pie-hole. I don't think of this as "cheating," maybe because I don't think of vegetarianism as being about "rules." I just want to be practical in a world in which most people around me eat meat.

Basically, what I'm trying to say, is that there was a kind of growing body of evidence to suggest that I would: 1) feel better 2) be trimmer, and 3) not be doing as much environmental harm if I gave up something that I didn't really enjoy that much anyway. And all that turned out to be true. I just trusted my body and my head to figure things out.

The vegan thing happened pretty much the same way. If someone had told me two months ago I was going to give up cheese, I would have snorted cheez-whiz out my nose laughing so hard. But, then, a critical number of factors came into play: 1) I read The China Study, which pretty convincingly argues that there are very negative health affects that stem from consuming animal protein 2) I gained a bunch of weight this summer that I couldn't lose, even when I upped my exercise 3) I discovered the joys of coconut milk and its derivatives (coconut yogurt and the most amazing treat of all, coconut ice cream).

I thought I was allergic to soy--remember the migraines--but I'm going to a new doctor who is fairly convinced my sinuses are to blame. He put me back on a kick-ass allergy pill (and it does kick my ass. Zyrtec is like an insane sleeping pill) and, voila, I'm feeling much better. Still eating soy (and coconut), but no headaches yet.

So. There it is. No big political statement. No judgments about animal cruelty (though I do like animals). I still have the occasional bite of cheese, and I will gladly hold your leather jacket for you while you head into the bathroom to pee. I'm mostly motivated by a hedonistic impulse to want to feel healthy, energetic, trim, and like I'm decreasing my impact on the environment a wee little bit). Eating vegan has helped with all of these things. I don't have my afternoon sleepies anymore, I've lost some fat, and in general, I just feel better.

And here's the shocker: I don't miss the cheese. I don't know how this is possible, but it is.

If you can feel happy and energetic and good eating your turkey leg and philly cheese steak, more power to you. I love your meat-eating self. Maybe we can share some coconut ice cream afterwards :).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Upcycle: More Faux Velvet Edition




'Nother upcycle. Made from 'nother old formal. I know it's not for everyone, but melikes.

Photo, courtesy Addie.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Donks

Can I say that having Nolie wake up six times a night is totally, completely sucking donkeys?

And teaching an 8am class when your preschooler has been waking up six times a night sucks special donkeys?

As if


starting her first week of Kindergarten with a fat lip wasn't bad enough, she had to start her second week with a mosquito bite under her eye. "Everybody was asking me about it ALL DAY," she said. "It felt weird."

Can't a kindergartner get a break?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Upcycle: Superhero Cape



While I have a slew of ideas for presents for little girls' birthdays, boy birthday ideas are a little tougher to come by. It's not easy to felt a transformer. I usually cave in and head to Target for plastic crap when a boy birthday comes along.

But it gets easier when you're told not to buy presents, and the birthday boy is as marvelous as Mr. Quintanomos, who celebrates his 2nd birthday today. In his case, a superhero cape is the obvious choice.

It doesn't hurt that I get to use a little more of the bajillion yards of satin fabric Rubester sent down many months ago.

Thanks to Addie for modeling.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Upcycle; Hooter Hider Edition






My friend Ashley emailed me a few days ago asking for a "Hooter Hider," a little blanket-type hanging-apparatus that covers up your knockers while you're nursing. Here's what I came up with, using materials already in the craft closet, course.

Addie took the pictures, and I asked Nolie to bring me a baby doll to "demonstrate." She brought me a really little baby doll.

And I'm not showing you my knockers.

Saturday Farmer's Market

Upcycle






Our friend T. was nice enough to model this outfit I upcycled for a friend from an old, full-length gown. But I promised I'd chop her head off before posting. She was hamming it up in the last one, but I like it best because you can see the tie on the wrap skirt, which I ripped from my new favorite book Chic and Simple Sewing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oy soy.

Google says soy products are linked to increased occurrence of migraines. And, well, trying a vegan diet, I've been consuming the soy.

Oy.

Blind spots

That last post was a bit smug, wasn't it? Look at me, how great I am for taking a little time off in the middle of the day?

Lot of good it did me. I walked into LAIS598, Nuclear Power and Public Policy, and as I was setting my laptop on the podium, a migraine aura hit. I spent the first hour of class trying to meet students and go over the syllabus with a good chunk of my vision compromised, so everything had to be done on peripheral vision. And, as I'm going over the expectations for the course, I'm inwardly wondering what I'll do when the headache hits, if it's a bad one.

Luckily, it wasn't a bad one, and perhaps being preoccupied and full of teaching adrenaline also made it not seem so bad (possible lesson: maybe lying in bed with a migraine encourages you to focus on the pain more? Or maybe I just lucked out and didn't get creamed this time?). I made it through most of the class, ending just a little early.

But this is the fifth migraine in two months, four with visual auras. So, I'm wondering if this is going to be the new thing, living with frequent migraines. I'm hoping instead that I've developed a sensitivity to something, and that it can be managed. I had red wine night before last, and my face got all blotchy (that never happened before), so maybe it's that. Or caffeine? Always the caffeine?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pop Quiz

What's better?

A) Sitting in your office and working for one more half-hour, just to squeeze that much more productivity out of the day and be that much more prepared for class; or,

B) Calling Nancy and laughing your ass off for a half-hour, which leaves you feeling much happier and more at ease about teaching your night class?

No trick question here. But there is a wrong answer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Soper and the Alternative Hedonist

The No Impact paper is writing itself faster than I thought it would, in part because I'm just working on it a little every day, in small chunks, so it doesn't feel overwhelming. But it's also partly because it is a topic that I've been working on and thinking about--both at work and in my personal life--for a long time.

Today, I'm reading this, from an British environmental philosopher named Kate Soper. She writes:

A reduction in the working week or daily workloads, together with provision for more secure part-time employment, would singificantly relieve the stress on both nature and ourselves. It would free up time for the arts of living and personal relating that are being sacrificed in the 'work and spend' economy. It would allow everyone to reap the benefits of co-parenting, and open up new ideas about personal well-being and success.


This last bit, the emphasis on personal well-being and success, rather than success determined by the workplace or the bank account, she calls "alternative hedonism." Alternative hedonism is the idea that not only is living more simply, locally, and slowly good for the planet, but it makes for happier people.

Which I think is exactly No Impact Man's message. Which has had quite the impact on me. Alternative hedonism is why I refuse to work too many hours in the week. It's why I build projects with my kids using stuff we find or already have. It's why I've learned to cook, and tried to start a garden this year. It's not because these things, in and of themselves, will save the world, but because they save my world. They feel good. They're pleasurable. And it's a much deeper, more lasting pleasure than that provided by three hours in the mall. And there is no down side (the way there would be to three hours spent in a mall).

Of course, the fulfillment of alternative hedonism, in its best form, also requires collective and/or government action. Soper:

Those wanting to go by bike will need their cycle track provided (and trains that help rather than hinder cycle travel). Those hankering after a different 'work/life balance' will need to be allowed to work less or in more life-enhancing ways.


And so on. The personal and the political meet. And, as someone who thinks about communication strategies, the message of pleasure rather than sacrifice appeals. As a human just trying to live a good, happy life, I like that I can do what feels right, but also be connected with something larger than myself that makes positive change in the world.

I'm oversimplifying Soper's argument (she makes some very interesting statements about the class repercussions here), but I like what she has to say. What do you think?

The Reign of the Beast


Addie did just fine. More than fine. Eric put her on the bus, then raced up to the school in his car to meet her there. He got her to her classroom, and the rest is history. She got to walk two younger kids to the Principal's office (on an errand, not for punishment) and made friends, did art, sang songs...all good. When Eric met her bus at the school this morning, she just rushes past him, not even making eye contact, yelling, "I know where it is! I know where it is!"

And that was that. For now.

Nolie, on the other hand, is making her own sort of reputation this week. Her preschool is closed until next Monday, so she's back at the in-home daycare she started out in as a baby/toddler. Apparently she took a mouth-sized chunk out of one little boy's back. To make matters worse (for me) I happen to work with the boy's mom, and had to do some serious patching up this morning.

"I think it was a love bite," said Eric. "She wouldn't do something like that in a mean way."

I rolled my eyes. Right. A love bite. That leaves a screaming purplish oval scar on an 18-month-old's back. But I think what Eric means is that Nolie is just full, full, full of emotion right now, and she's struggling with ways to express it. So, she might have been really excited to be around that baby boy, and instead of hugging and kissing, she smothers and bites.

Still totally unacceptable, and Eric and I had to have the "let's get on the same page with handling this" talk, but I think he's probably right. So, we now have a no tolerance policy for hitting and biting, which earns her an instant time-out. And when she's mellow or shows positive behavior, she gets showered with love and attention. Hopefully we can tip some scales.

My goodness, she can be a BEAST, that Nolie. Totally adorable, loveable, and full of cuddles and hugs. And also all-out Lord-of-the-Flies torture-machine. I hope we all survive the Reign of the Beastie.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oh, and

did I forget to mention that the girls went to our friends' house Friday night for a SLEEPOVER? And Eric and I had the house to ourselves for the first time EVER? And we spent that time going to the best concert EVER? And a few other things?

If you know what's good for you, you'll buy tickets to see these guys as soon as you possibly can. Their show KILLS. I felt like one of those teenagers at a Beatles concert. It was that amazing.

Enough caps.

Weekend Good Stuff






Well, nothing cures the kindergarten blues like an organization/craft project, I always say. So today was spent getting ready for having both girls at different schools again by making some new hanging racks for the front hallway. Inspired by Amanda Soule's fantastic new book Handmade Home, the girls and I donned our work clothes, got out the sanders, screwdrivers, sharpies, paint, and hot glue gun, and turned two boards we found in the shed into these. It was loads of fun.

The last picture is Addie, who, after a great day, had a bummer of an ending, running into a chair and getting a fat lip. Jeez.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kindergarten Blues

"Have your hanky with you when you drop her off," my mom said. "Kindergarten is a big one."

"Hmmm." I washed another pot.

"Or, maybe you won't cry like I did. She's been in school for a while now, so maybe you're more used to it..." she trailed off.

"Yeah. I think so. We're more used to it."

But. Here I am. Saturday night, bawling my eyes out, thinking of Addie in School-school--not preschool, not daycare, but real-deal school--starting Monday morning. Imagining putting her on the bus. Imagining her new life, rough and exciting and private.

I sneak in to take a look at her asleep. Like usual, she's stripped down to her underwear, covers thrown off, a hot sleeper, just like her dad. Her limbs are spread out over the whole bed, a baby giraffe's limbs, thin and all angles. Her ribs show. Her hair covers her face. She breathes quietly, not like when she was a baby, a toddler, gasping for air for so long. Us, somehow not knowing anything was wrong until the teachers called us in for a meeting. "We have to put her bed at an angle," they told us. "So she can breathe. We think you should see another doctor."

And today, her crawling all over the boulders in Clear Creek with her buddy Cole. Me calling out to her to be careful, explaining to our friends that her balance is off, that she falls easily. But she doesn't. She angles out and over them fine, big strong girl.

So what's all the crying about? What's my heart doing here, outside of my chest again, like when my girls were babies? Why so raw?

Maybe because I've fought for so long to separate from Addie, to have her grow up and get "my" life back (forgetting how much she and her sister are my life), and now she has her own, and I find myself reaching after her. And she just eludes my grasp.

I'm being overly literary. Too dramatic. It's not all that. It's just School.

It is.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Haven't written about writing in a while. Have you noticed? It's not that I haven't been writing. I have. On this blog, on a book I'm writing with colleagues, encyclopedia entries, book reviews. But, I don't know, it's felt less scary lately. Less loaded. Less fraught.

Now that I think about it, though, that's probably because I haven't worked on a real, full-length solo academic article in a while. I had some stuff come out this year, and I've been co-writing a lot, so I'm kind of far away from a solo project.

Until today. When I start writing a new paper. That I've been thinking about writing for years. And all the old anxiety and ooginess just comes to rest right in my gut, creeping its cold fingers up into my throat now and then.

Here's the difference, this time (I hope): This time, I know I can get published. I've done it before, and I'll do it again, and even if I fail a few times, it will eventually work out.

Also, I understand my process a little better. Martha Beck describes it pretty well in The Four-Day Win (H/T to Nanny for recommending it), when she says that sitting down to write a book makes her throw up and pass out. Sitting down to write a paragraph is okay.

So, I'm finally sitting down today to begin to write the article on No Impact Man, whose book and film will be released next month. But I won't think about the article yet. I'm just going to write some notes, maybe a paragraph. Then I'll throw up and pass out.