Monday, August 31, 2009


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


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.


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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

new profile photo. so there.

anorexic turtle gone.

sewing mama on porch in its place.

hetero cliche? I think not.

Vegan Schmeegan Farfanugan Boogan

Friends have been reading The China Study, which has been on my bedside table for a gajillion years now. They are going vegan, which seems strange and extreme to me, and so of course I had to find out why two reasonable, smart, wonderful people would make such a decision. I mean, seriously. Don't they know that going vegan means giving up CHEESE? ICE CREAM? Why would you DO such a thing?

Even thinking about it makes me feel dirty! Eating cheese is, like, a God-given right!

But then I read the stupid book. Or at least, most of it. I'm afraid there will be a chapter on beer in there somewhere. I don't know what I'll do if that happens.


Soy cheese isn't that bad. Seriously.

Nolie's New Shtick

Mama: Nolie, what do you want for dinner?

Nolie: HahahahahaPOOP!

Mama: Okay, then. Chicken nuggets it is. Do you want to help me make dinner?

Nolie: HahahahahahahahPOOOOP!

Mama: Right. So, why don't you go play in the playroom while mommy gets things ready, okay?


Mama: Really, baby. Go on. You're hurting my toe now.


Mama: NOLIE!

Nolie: POOOP!

Mama (under breath): Stick it in your piehole.

Monday, August 17, 2009


There was MUCH to like about this last weekend: Eric's brother Steve came for a visit with our niece Gwen, who is incredibly adorable, imaginative, sweet, and sassy. It was so much fun, and so relaxed.

Then, yesterday, we got to go the Lyons folk festival, which I love because it's only an hour away, it's beautiful, and there is a little beach right along the St. Vrain where the kids can play in the water and build sand castles and generally frolic. The music is good, too, but we mostly go for the ambiance and the junk food and the lazy time with our kids.

So, I should be writing more about these amazing things.

But here's what I'm thinking about, this weird thing that happened on our way out of the park. It's convoluted and hard to explain, but here goes.

We left the festival around 9:15, because we were fading fast and the girls were getting a little crazy, and a thunder and lightning storm was heading toward us at break-neck speed. We got to the bus drop-off (you have to take a bus from the festival to the parking lot). But there was a different bus on duty by that point, and it couldn't fit all of us AND our tents, camp chairs, wagon, and cooler the way the first bus of the day had.

Freaking out a little, we decided that Eric should stay with our mountain of crap while I rode with the girls back to the parking lot. Then I would return to fetch him and the mountainous kidfrastructure.

Of course, Eric was the one who had actually parked the car earlier in the day, so when the girls and I got back to the parking lot, we couldn't really find the car. Because the parking lot was pitch black and still had a few hundred cars parked in it.

Up and down the 1/4-mile-long aisles we walked, Nolie on my shoulders and Addie holding my hand. We stopped once for Addie to pee in the weeds (I thank God my kids know how to do this) then kept searching.

I felt a little panicky, walking around in the dark with the girls, but mostly I felt like I had an opportunity to handle the situation well in front of them, and mostly I did. Not to mention the fact that they were incredibly heroic, helping me look and not whining or fussing, even after a long, crazy day.

Finally, after walking up and down three of the dirt aisles, I saw the Subaru (miracle!) one row over, and made a beeline for it.

Except, as we were walking the maybe 40 feet to the car, Nolie, who had been on my shoulders, lurched backward off of my shoulders with a choked gasp. She was basically laid out horizontal, and we were moving like an upside-down L.

I had hold of her feet, so she didn't hit the ground. But I had no idea what had happened. My first thought was that she had seen Lightning (her nemesis, second only to Thunder), had freaked out, and was trying to launch herself into my arms. But it wasn't that. In my memory, it was as if someone was pulling on her from behind. Her legs locked around my shoulders and her body was totally tense.

A second or two later, she's still making weird sounds, gurgling now, and I've managed to swing her around to my front, and I'm carrying her, wounded-soldier style, trying to just get to the car so I can see what's going on.

I get her in the seat and get the overhead light on and she grasping at her neck screaming that the "white rope" got her. Addie's also crying now, she says because she's so worried about Nolie. "You can have the best lollipop," she says to Nolie, over and over again.

Long story short: Nolie was, and is, fine. There's a nasty clotheline-looking burn on her neck. But who knows what caused it? I walked back a few rows once I had the girls calmed down and buckled in, and didn't see any wires or ropes suspended there.

But it freaked me out, the whole incident. Your kid's head being taken off and all. So here were the explanations that flashed through my head on the drive home, each ridiculous in its own way:

A bat flew into Nolie's neck.

Her jacket got caught on something behind me (?) and pulled her back.

She got hit by lightning (I know, redonculous).

Some idiot had strung something up in the car or parking lot that I just couldn't see, even after searching.

She was really, really tired, and maybe she hallucinated something. But that burn mark...

I don't know, obviously. But it would be fine with me if that whole episode never occurred again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adios, Senor Popcorn

Friends, that acoustic-popcorn shit on our ceilings, the stuff I've been complaining about since we moved in to the house two years ago, is being scraped off our ceilings as I write this. I'm at work, and at home are two dudes, hopefully in masks and gloves, getting rid of that stuff. I can't tell you how glad I am.

No judgment on those of you who still have the popcorn, by the way. It's ubiquitous. Someone in the 70s made some serious dough spraying that stuff all over creation. I just couldn't stand it anymore, those dusty little nubs, and had to have it out. OUT.

On to more important news: I am making friends with my anxiety. Any time I feel that little tight nervousness in my tummy, or find myself wanting to spend money or eat brownies, I say, "Hey there, Little Anxiety! Whatcha doing? I welcome you into my life because when I feel you it's a reminder to take a big breath and chill out a little! It's a reminder to focus on spirit! Thanks for that!"

I still usually eat the brownie. I just do it with a little more peace and awareness.

Do you think that makes me crazy? What if I only say it inside my head? Still crazy?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Big Kid Stuff

There's lots of big-girl stuff going on around here, that's for sure.

Those of you who have stuck with this blog for a while might remember how, long ago, I wrote about kid "tipping-points." I'm too lazy to go back to the old blog and link to it, but I think the general theory I tried to put forth is that my kids seem to get into particular routines, which serve us all pretty well, and then they go through some developmental "phase" (usually miserable) which suggests they are outgrowing the old routine. When these phases hit, those are signs the kid is at a tipping point, and about to embark on a new routine.

It's quite the balancing act figuring your way through those points, because the kids and you aren't quite ready to give up the old routines, but you know they and you need to get on to the new routine. So you're all holding on to the old and paradoxically jumping into the new. It makes everyone a little crazy.

Nolie's headed toward a point right now, if not exactly balanced on the very end of the lever. She's not been sleeping well, and has been fussy, fussy, fussy during the day because of it. Like unbearably fussy. Needy, whiny, the whole bit.

The deal is this: pretty much her whole life, Nolie has slept in a quiet, pitch-black room. Any little light or noise, and she'd be up, wide awake.

Now? Big-girl stuff. Perhaps precipitated by the different sleeping arrangements on our trip to Canada, where Nolie got very used to sleeping with her sister, we've moved on to nightlights and soundtracks at bedtime. And it's working. She's sleeping better, for the most part, and seems less frightened and skittish, generally. But then, last night, she woke up at 3 in the morning, stayed awake listening to two cds while we pleaded with her to go back to sleep, and then finally conked out.

Kid tipping points.

Anybody want to guess what's going to happen when Addie starts Kindergarten in two weeks?


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Good Life

Drifting off to sleep last night, my thoughts were this:

I am so lucky.
I am so blessed.
What a life this is.

And the images that went through my head were these:

Of Nolie and Addie and their friends bouncing in the bouncy castle we rented for Nolie's third birthday, on a whim, while we drank margaritas with our friends on the back porch.

Of Addie, dancing in her pink lyotard, with chopsticks in her air, at her first ballet recital. So proud, focusing so hard, looking so graceful.

Of Nolie, doing forward rolls at her first gymnastics mini-meet.

Of dinner out, with Eric, celebrating seven years together, each one in which I find I love him more, no joke.

Of cheering on Nancy, who--bright, funny, smart--nailed a public talk on Machiavelli at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Having old wedding rings made new (pics to come)...

And this is all just in the past few days! This week begins the march of contractors in and out of the house as skylights are replaced, acoustic texture scraped from our ceilings, and our countertops (remember the corn fritters? REMEMBER?) measured. Most important of all, a little family is on its way to us, and we are SO excited.

I have a lot of writing to do for work, but also sewing for visitors and birthday girls, so off I go...check back soon for more pictures.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nolie and Three

I wish this was more of a love letter, to Miss Nolie at three. But, to be honest, we are in the throes of one heck of a "stage," in which Nolie doesn't want to eat, sleep, be pleasant, or otherwise do anything asked of her. Though she turns three today, she seems fairly rooted in those most terrible of twos. Which maybe is a fiction, anyway. Terrible seems to know no age.
Tantrums and hitting and yelling abound. But worst of all, what triggers me most of all, is the whining. Incessant and piercing, that whiny voice. My rejoinders:
"I can't hear that voice, Nolie."
"That voice is not okay, Nolie."
"You'll need to use your big-girl voice, Nolie."
None of which works, and then I lose my shit and one of us ends up in a time-out.
But here's what I will also try to remember about Nolie, on her third birthday:
  • The feel of her in my arms last night, as she shivered with fear, thunder booming overhead, shaking her little bones.
  • Her taking my cheeks in her hands and saying, "I really yike you, Mommy."
  • The look of her little body: naked, fresh from the bath; jumping on the bed; rolling in and out of my lap.
  • Her words, silly and funny (the Aunties are still laughing about how Nolie entered the dining room at Charmyr and, waving her arms wildly, demanded, "Hey! All you Monsters! DANCE!").
  • The way she wants to help, to be seen ("she lives for those words of praise from you," one of the Aunties commented, in the kindest way), to be loved.

Mostly, I'm thinking about how important these phases are, about my responsibility for helping Nolie move into the next stage of her life. Or, at least, that I should move out of the way more. Let her be who she is, at any given moment. I have the power to ease her way and model grace-giving, patience, and love. Or I have the power to lose my shit.

Maybe I can work on more of the former. So, this is a love letter after all, to one of my greatest teachers, Magnolia Jade. Happy Birthday, baby, big girl, little bug. And to many more to come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I'm tempted to wax poetic about my new Dyson vacuum cleaner. I hate vacuuming more than anything, except maybe vacuums themselves. And I never thought I'd spent over $400 on a vacuum, that's for dang sure. That kind of spendin's for rich folks. But we're getting new carpets soon, and our old vacuum was dying, in the loudest way possible. Something was profoundly broken in there, and it sounded more like a lear jet than a domestic tool. So we bit the bullet, bought the Dyson, and there you have it. I'm in love.

But enough about vacuums. There are more important things to think about. Like this gorgeous flower, not from our garden, but who cares?:

Or this denim-pocket wall-hanging craft organizer, upcycled from stuff around the house, now hanging in the office/guest room/sewing lair:

Or the notes Ms. Addie leaves around the house, like this little invitation for a movie night, to her friend Sadie:

Or, newly sewn cushions for old chairs:

Or, these wacky, off-kilter papier-mache bowls, made by the Schneider clan from a recipe in Amanda Soule's new book Handmade Home (love it, love it). Get it, and then you, too, can upcycle your brains out.

Not Exactly Julia and Julie, But Good Enough

In the past, I've resisted having the girls help to much in the kitchen (except for baking--there's always room for three when baking). I like the quiet time of preparing a meal by myself, plus I'm not a very good cook, and it usually requires some concentration on my part to pull it off. Then, we've been cautious about the girls around sharp knives and hot stoves and stuff. Your average parenting worry.

But Nolie is relentless about asking to help at mealtimes. She's also incredibly whiny if she's not fed immediately when we get home from school. Having her help in the kitchen (put cut vegetables in a bowl for sauteeing, measuring pasta, etc.) solves both problems. And, to my surprise, I enjoy having her there with me. She's much more likely to try new foods, too, if she had a hand in making them.

This big girl turns three tomorrow, which is a mind-blower. More to come on that...

The Little Guys

One of the premises of the Science of Mind spiritual teachings can be summarized as follows: change your thinking, change your life.

Sound familiar? The premise has a lot in common with the positive thinking movement, cognitive psychology, self-help literature, Buddhism, transcendentalism, and other major philosophies and religions. It's been called the "golden thread" that unites most major thought traditions.

It can also be oversimplified and made trite. As in, "Just look on the sunny side of things, and you'll be fine." Or, "You can positive-think your way out of that dilemma." There's lots more subtlety to the premise than this, I think, and much is lost by oversimplifying and then dismissing it.

And at the same time, the funny thing is that it is simple. I think we expect things to be hard in life. I know that was a mantra in my family for most of my childhood: "Life's tough." "Things are really hard right now, and there's nobody who said life would be fair." "Nobody said things would be easy." That sort of stuff. I mean, cynicism, sarcasm, and expecting the worst were practically in my DNA for most of my life. They still appear now and then, without my permission.

All this is chatter by way of saying that as I think more about my thoughts, and observe them through meditation and just trying to be a little more conscious, I've noticed two patterns:

1) Throughout the day, a running stream of apocalyptic scenarios run into my head. They appear unbidden, are usually completely outrageous, and I tend to dwell on them. For example: I was out running in the rain the other day, and into my mind popped the notion that I could be struck by lightning. Totally unlikely in that moment, but a friend had recently told us the story of how he had been struck by lightning, and so there the thought was in my mind. And I began to worry about it. All of a sudden, the world seemed unsafe.

2) Throughout the day, a running stream of imaginary conflicts run through my head. They appear unbidden, are usually completley outrageous, and I tend to dwell on them. For example: I have an argument in my head with Eric about how loud the vacuum cleaner is and why we need a new one. In the argument, he's obstinate and won't listen to my reasons. The argument ends dark and stormy, with each of us wondering why we married the other. All of a sudden, the world seemed to be a little less loving, and I a little more alone.

Catastrophic thinking, in both cases. And totally imaginary.

The thing is, I can't really control whether or not these things pop into my head. They appear automatically, and it would be exhausting to police them all day long.

What I can control is whether or not I dwell on them. But just telling myself not to dwell on them wasn't working. So here are my tricks:

When the first kind of thinking appears (the lightning-strike scenario), I imagine a tiny little winged pig sitting on my right shoulder. As soon as the apocalyptic thought enters my consciousness, the little pig slowly, elegantly takes flight. I get an inward grin from this. Getting struck by lightning? When pigs fly. You get the idea.

When the second kind of thinking appears, I imagine one of those toy clattering-teeth thingies on my left shoulder. As soon as I start the imaginary dialogue, off go the teeth. Yadda-yadda, they say. Conversation not really happening.

The funny thing is, as I've imagined these little guys, the thoughts have become less frequent. Funny how that works.

So. This is probably much more than you wanted to know about my inner life. I realize I sound a bit nutty. I've just gotten some nice inner peace, and inner giggles, from my two new shoulder-friends. If you see me talking to them some time, you'll know what's going on.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Changing Things Up

I've felt like one of the keys to success for me the last year or so has been that I've committed to a kind of 9-5 work schedule. I mean, I still check email in the evenings sometimes, and on the weekends, and I have some travel. But mostly, really, I did my work during typical work hours. This helped me focus on work while at work, and focus at home while at home. The whole "balance" mirage seemed just a little more attainable this way.

But, now, with Eric's new work schedule, I think I'm going to have to change things again. I've tried and tried but I just can't get up at 5:30am and start working. My body may be able to arise out of bed, but my brain is mush. And I usually need my brain, like most folks, to work effectively.

Also, E has this elbow injury that is not going away, so now he's going to physical therapy twice a week in the early mornings. Which means I couldn't be working then anyway. Then there's the 6-9pm class I'll be teaching Wednesday nights. Which already stretches my tired old body as it is. Switching to a morning schedule would truly be disastrous for having any sort of coherence in a late-night class.

So, it looks as if I'm going back to a split schedule, where I get up and start work around 7, and go until 3, when the kids will need to be picked up. If I take a shower and get ready, have lunch, or work out or run errands, then there just won't be enough time in the day.

At least, I think there won't. And that means working a few more nights a week, or some half-days on the weekend.

I know, wah-wah. I know, I've posted about this already. But it's worrying me, this shake-up in schedule, I'm worried about swinging out of balance again, and I know how much misery that causes.

Too, I've got in my head a little voice that says maybe that much work is enough, that I can get it all done in that time frame. My favorite and most productive mode of working these days is to set myself a limited number of tasks, and when I finish those, I'm finished for the day. No need to push on to infinity with the to-do list. So maybe 7 hours of good work a day will do it.

[The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests I should not admit to such things on a public blog. That such admissions will be held against me. I know this, and still feel like these are honest calculations academics (especially parents) make. So here they are].

I do know that when I woke up this morning and realized I would have an extra hour or two tonight to finish the day's work (with Eric's blessing), I felt a weight lift. Maybe I'll need it, maybe I won't. I'll let you know.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Few Very Good Things

There were some rough spots on the trip, that's for sure. The mosquitoes, for one thing. Vile little nanobots, they are. Also, I struggled the first few days with feeling like I'd made a mistake, watching my friends relax on the dock, jumping in the lake, playing in the boats while I tried to keep my children from drowning, which I was sure was going to happen at any time.

And then, the ten-hour car rides, bracketed by flights on either side. I got home and felt like my back had been an accordion in a traveling hobo music show. I still want to sleep 12 hours a night, not because I need it but because the memory of exhaustion still lingers. 8 days of watching my kids, without E, felt like too much at times.

But then, release. The "Aunties," as they came to be called, came to my rescue, and my children's. Without a word, without negotiations, they stepped into the breach, and I got to breathe, to run, to swim, to experience solitude.

With that, I realized what family means. Family means that folks are there for you, in a real sense of the word. There was no obligation, no worry about paybacks. They somehow read my needs, and the girls, and just appeared! An entire village. The Aunties held my girls, held me, and rocked us into relaxation and the routine of a new place, so that we really did have a vacation, and soaked up the beauty of Stoney Lake and the love of our extended, adopted family.

There are a million great pictures to share (many on the cameras of the various Aunties), but here are a few that invoke the spirit of that week for me:

Nolie's first big-girl ice cream cone. She's almost three, you know, and gets to do such things.

The bliss of building, and destroying, sand castles on the "beach." Our amazement that the water in a lake could be so warm and inviting. It was even warmer after rainstorms, which we weathered by cozying up in front of the fire Meghan would make for us almost every morning. My absolute favorite moments were diving into that water, and resurfacing. I wanted to stay in forever.

Everywhere we went, Addie built habitats for bugs and fairies. A real estate boom.

The delight of trips on the boats, especially when we would go fast, fast over the wakes of the other boats, floating high, suspended for a moment, before gravity forced us back down, splat, onto the surface of the lake.
Also, there is nothing better than life jackets. I felt a loosening in my chest when Auntie Meghan said, "Jen, if I can make a suggestion? Put them in those life jackets, and leave them in there all week." Ah, yes. Breathing again.

I don't know. Ponytails. Big eyes. Little noses. Smelling my girls' heads over and over and over again. The weight of their sun-tanned legs on mine. Their little bellies in swimsuits.

And, ever-present, the Aunties. Keeping us all safe. Pouring love over our heads, anointing us. Always a hand, holding on so that we could fly a bit.

Getting to drive the boat, in the arms of Auntie Meghan!

Relaxing with Auntie TT, who tirelessly read kids' stories, listened to the Dora the Explorer CD over and over again as we got lost around Toronto (twice), and made the ten-hour car drive to and fro in the kids' car, all the while nursing a wicked leg injury. Never once did a harsh word come from her mouth, and she kept me laughing the entire way.

Nolie and Auntie Millicent, who proved to be both patient and hilarious. A new Auntie and friend for us, for forever.

Auntie Sandy, always watching, making sure everyone was taken care of and safe. Quietly capable, smart, funny, beautiful. Mama Hen, in the best way.

Yeah, I know this post is a bit treacly. Sorry. I just had a big softening of the heart that happened around this trip and had to share it. Biting sarcasm back tomorrow.