And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Post Christmas

I haven’t turned on the Christmas tree lights in a few days now.  Seems like so much, all this ramping up for one day that we spend sitting around in our pajamas.  We had to stop opening presents because Emma was crying each time we opened a new one.
                “Can I paint with these?” She said, holding up a new set of bathtub paints.
                “Not now, you can use those when you take a bath tonight,” cue the tantrum.  I don’t even know what my parents got for her; two unopened boxes are tucked in the corner of our apartment.  I will open them on some dreary day in February when we have cabin fever and the toys from Christmas have lost their shine.  
                I asked Scott when we should break down the Christmas decorations, 
                “You know we should have champagne or wine while we take them down, because we have two months of winter left and no Christmas to look forward to,” he said, flipping my family’s tradition of drinking while we decorate on its head.  One time I was looking at calendar made for an elementary school classroom, it had a bell for December, a snowflake for January, a heart for February, and a four leaf clover for March.  It occurred to me that we placed Christmas and created Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day just for that purpose. If we hadn’t it would be snowflake, snowflake, snowflake, and then a brown snowflake. 
                There are no major holidays in the summer months.  We don’t need them.  It’s the dead of winter where you need something to decorate for or look forward to.  I’m sure our forefathers got tired of sitting by the fire and whittling for four whole months.
                I was just musing that I wish Christmas was at the end of January.  Spread out the holiday cheer.  Or madness.
                We made our gingerbread house today.  That’s right four days after Christmas we made our house of candy.  Emma loved it.  I had started with dreams of piping on perfect scalloped windows and arched doorways, while we were making our little house I realized I wanted it to be messy.  Dripping with royal frosting.  Covered in mismatched candy.  Emma’s three, after all, and this is about her, and not some silly notion that I saw in Better Homes and Gardens.  So we did it together, on a cold leisurely morning.  Scott came up with the idea of putting spice drops across the top, Emma placed mints and butter mints all over the place for shingles, and I tried to glue candy canes to the corners.  (A side note: does it scare you when frosting dries into that glue?  I always think, ‘oh gracious, we eat that,’)
                I think I might do more of this.  Holiday traditions after the holidays.  Save some of it in those quiet quiet days that come after.  So much of what we do has little to do with Christ’s birth and more to do with the fact that it’s cold outside.  I had a coupon for Glade’s line of winter scents.  I stood before a rack in Target that looked like it had been ransacked.  All of the holiday fragrances were sold out.  I was a bit sad.  An apple cinnamon or pine candle still makes sense in mid-January. 
                If you’ve followed me for awhile you know that I can be a wee bit grinchey.  I did my due diligence this Christmas season with the holiday music, more for my child’s sake.  It is, at the very least, kid friendly.  My grinchey heart aches more because of the excess and the breakneck speed at which it goes.  We cram a lot of sugar, expectations, and emotions into the thirty some odd days that come between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I end up with a bit of a tummy ache, tight jeans, and graying tree in my living room.  Why can’t we take this slow?  Savor it.  Make the four dreary months a little brighter the whole way through. 
                Is there anything that you’ve started to do after Christmas to make the hang over a bit easier to get over?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I thought about all the unopened gifts bought for those twenty children.  I thought about them just now.  I haven't thought much about the Newtown tragedy.  I haven't wrapped my mind around it.  I can't.

In Kenya all the parents over dressed their children.  Socks and socks, woolen hats, down coats in eighty degree weather.  We used to chuckle, then feel bad for the poor sweating children.  Eventually we found out that almost everyone knew someone that had lost a child to pneumonia.  Pneumonia.  That infection that sat on Carys last week.  That infection that was blown out of her system by timely antibiotics and IV fluids.  Medical care that we can afford because my husband's job provide good health insurance.

I can sit back and feel lucky that my daughter is well now because I am an American.  Because I was quick enough to notice that morning that she wasn't feeling well and to seek more medical intervention.  Because I was lucky enough to have a Parents magazine in my house that just happened to have an article about respiratory distress in infants that I just happened to read during the nap time that she had respiratory distress. I can feel smug that I have all these things.

But I don't.  Do I love my child more than a Kenyan mother?  No.  Do I have more resources at my fingertips?  Yes.  Am I thankful?  Yes.  Do I feel miserably horrible for Kenyans that do not.  Yes.  Can I fix that?  I don't know.

My child most likely won't die because of pneumonia.  Or any other simple childhood diseases for that matter.  I am lucky.  My daughters are lucky.

What separates me from the mothers of Newtown?  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.

There but for the grace of God go I.
And my children.

So what do we do?  Now that my children are potentially on the line.  We're there.  Someone walked into a school and shot first graders.  That happened.  We're that low.
So what do we do?

Gun control.  Yes.  We can start there.  Let's take the weapons away.  There is no reason that an independent citizen needs to own automatic weapons and thirty round clips.
That's a start.
Violence in the media.  The more violent actions you see against another human the more de-sensitized you are to it.  The violence that is in movies these days far exceeds that of movies that I grew up with.  What can you do stop that?  Don't see the movies.  What do you gain from seeing an ultra violent movie or playing an ultra violent video game.  Ask yourself, 'How does that enrich my life?'  Don't let your children see them.  Vote with your pocketbook.  If those types of movies stop selling Hollywood won't make them anymore.
That's another start.
Some things are going to take longer.  Like loving each other.  Making sure that the kid in the back of the room that no one is paying attention to is getting loved.  Making sure that no one falls through the cracks.  That will take longer.  Maybe we can start by asking for opportunities to love.

I think I might go write a letter to my senator...another start.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Sometimes I feel like we almost live surreal American lives.  We fanny about wringing our hands over things that are so small.  We get bogged down and depressed and unable to really appreciate we really have.
                Then something real happens.  Like sitting down to read a magazine at naptime, you run across an article about respiratory distress in children, normally you would ignore it, but something tells you to check on your eight month old daughter.  She is lying slack and awake, not crying, she lifts her head and her breathing, flaring nostrils, pumping ribs, mimics the description in the article.  Real.
                You go to the doctors office and wait.  She lies on you limp.  Breathing is such an effort.  More than one doctor comes in to look at your child.  People start talking to you in very gentle tones.  You end up climbing into an ambulance following the paramedic that is holding your child.  Real.
                In the emergency room the listless child has her temperature taken one more time, her lungs listened to one more time.  Her oxygen checked.  Her chest xrayed.  Her blood drawn.
                Pneumonia.  Real Preumonia.
                But now you are in a hospital and they are wheeling you upstairs.  You feel safe because there are monitors, antibiotics, and IV fluids, and she already looks better.
                She smiles for the nurse.  A real smile.  Her first smile that day. 
                A night in the hospital.  A real night.  A real long night.
                The  next morning her ribs are flaring with the effort of breath.  She’s listless.  Her smiles are gone again.  Still not ready to go home.  They want to keep us one more night.  Give her more oxygen and fluids.  I acquiesce because I know she’s not well and I would take her home and I would just worry.  Real worry.  Real ‘keep you awake all night long’ worry.  Real ‘make your mind race’ worry.
                Those silly little worries that plague your normal days become less real.  Your only pair of jeans, the ones you came in last night are sopping wet on one leg because your older child vomited on you and you rinsed them out in the sink and put them back on.  You flaccidly accept this, because does it really matter right now?  Your eight month old vomits into your shirt, and your bra cup.  More acceptance, because there’s nothing else to do. 
                Your husband stays in the afternoon.  You go home to shower and pack a bag for the coming night of worry.
                You’ve walked on that precipice the whole time, knowing that one trip could send you into a chasm so deep you could go crazy.  You’re okay, you say.  You’re handling this so well you tell yourself.
                One more long night.  One real long night.  You lie with your worry.  She doesn’t need the oxygen.  She sleeps well.  You don’t.  You feel like you’re betraying her when you do pass out. 
                In the morning she sits up.  She smiles.  She tries to pull the tubes off of her.  She nurses well.  You cut her off early and make her go slowly because she’s vomited up everything to this point.  She does it, and there’s no vomit that day. 
                You take her home at lunch time.  Home.  Real home.
                For the next several days your hugs are little bit longer.  Your kisses a little stronger.  Your gaze a little more powerful.  You only then realize how close your toes came to the edge of that precipice.  You finally cry when they’re all in bed.  The letdown, the adrenaline gone.  The relief, we’re all okay.  You can’t remember praying, but you’re sure you did, little whispers up to heaven, ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘help.’  Daily whispers that become more urgent when things are on the line.  Your'e thankful you live a five minute drive from your doctors office.  A ten minute drive from a working hospital.  So close to doctors and nurses with resources at their finger tips. 
                You turn back to your routine.  Your routine that has been so upset the past few days.  Your ‘real’ life interrupted by something real.  The tragedy hang over lasts a few days, when people ask, ‘how are you?’ you don’t really how to respond.  Blurt out everything or smile and pretend that everything is business as usual.  Even though your life was just interrupted by something real.  Something that puts it all in perspective.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cut the Fat

“We should get an advent calendar,” Scott said to me about a week ago.
“I agree, we should,” maybe that organic chocolate one I saw at Trader Joe's. A few days later we were decorating our apartment. Scott had pulled out the two boxes full of ornaments and other Christmas decorations. I opened one and right on top,
“Hey, we have an advent calendar!” I pulled out the quilted one that my sister-in-law had bequeathed to me. Her teenage sons now too old to enjoy pulling out quilted lambs and wise men and arranging them by velcro around an embroidered manger. I hung it. It was November 28th.
Emma almost immediately pulled out the little figures and then began playing imaginary games with them. Internally I sighed, I didn't see any way around that. Would she be able to appreciate in two days when we started pulling them out one at a time?
Two days later I pulled her little body over to the calendar, I explained that we would take one out at a time, she folded up her arms and did her fake screech. She was reluctant to do any of it at all. The magical moment was a wash. The calendar has stayed hanging. She has put the figures we took out back in their little pockets.
Try again next year.
Along the way so many magical moments that I try to create with my family get wrecked in inclement weather, product malfunctions, misunderstanding, or just plain old arguing. Every year I try to create 'our thing.' Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. Every year I decorate. Every year I listen to other women's traditions and feel low. I could be better. I could be more organized. I could be more magical. If only...
Then I remember the moments from my Christmases that were so special to me: playing with the Christmas Carol themed jack in the boxes, drinking sparkling apple cider while decorating the Christmas tree, and that first lighting of the tree. That tree was always the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. A marvel. How could you take a simple tree and make it that lovely?
And that's all it took. No orchestrated moments. No elaborate plans. No amazing crafts.
The things that my daughters will remember from Christmases are things I don't even know that I do. A book. A certain ornament. A particular song. A flavor. Playing with that advent calendar. Maybe they will remember magical moments of cutting down our own Christmas tree, but I won't know until they tell me as adults. I'm sure it will surprise me.
Hopefully they'll get the point that it is about Jesus and not all this other stuff. That really seems to get lost in all the tinsel and stress.
This year I've been thinking about all the fat of the season. Every year I think about it. What is really needed and what isn't. So much of it is about other people's expectations. If I don't spend this much on Aunt Sue, she'll be mad. I've tried to shuck other people's expectations. Decide what I think is important and stick to it. Trim the fat and keep the meat. Forget Rudolph and focus on Jesus.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


“There's a lot of these sequin covered satellite things,” Scott says, eyeing the Christmas ornaments that I collected as a child, my mom gave me the box once I got married.
“They're called 'space balls,'” I correct him, as if that name makes them any better. I don't know if that's their official name but that is what my family called them. My mother made Christmas ornaments all throughout our childhood, I remember each year going through the ritual of picking a new one, my mom would place them all in a dish and we would take turns selecting a new sequined satin ball. We each have boxes of ornaments inherited from our mother's. Scott's mostly consist of Santa performing various athletic endeavors. My favorite was the weight lifting Santa. Emma collected them out of boxes and began playing an elaborate game pretend with the Santa ornaments and our Nativity set that we purchased in Kenya. As Scott unfolded it from the paper, I looked up and winced,
“She's going to play with that isn't she?” I ask. He nods, “I'm just going to have to get over it, aren't I?” He nods.

We decided to only put on the ornaments that we have purchased during our years of marriage. Up went the aspen leaf from the Garden of the Gods. Up went the red and green beaded stars from South Africa. Up went the red glass star purchased in Wheaton during wedding preparations. Up went the sand dollar from Bearskin Neck. Up went the sweet pea ornament from my mother, signifying Emma's first Christmas. A few more stars came out,
“Huh, apparently I like red stars,” I mused. I do like stars. And angels. Of all the Christmas symbols they seem a bit more pure. When I taught art in Kenya when Christmas time rolled around I struggled to find art projects that weren't wrapped in our cultural traditions. I felt the sun beat hot on my shoulders as I watched other classes cut out snowflakes from paper, and color in pictures of reindeer. Most of these children would never see a snowflake in their life. Come to think of it I never saw a real snowflake until I was an adult. As I extricated anything to do with the winter and pared down all the Santa myths I was left with stars and angels.
As we decorated I realized all the things we didn't have; no tree skirt, no tree topper, and really not all that many ornaments.

We did need lights, that was non-negotiable. Off to Target I went. The light aisle was as long as our apartment. My mind shorted out completely. All I wanted was a string of simple white lights. I didn't want globe lights, or light rope, or blue lights. Just simple white lights. At the very end I found my box of simple white lights, I grabbed it and left. My eyes blurred at all the decorations I passed. Purple and silver tree skirts. I've always felt that home decorations should have meaning. Ornaments should be from trips, or meaningful moments, or gifts, not just purchased at a big box store because you thought it was pretty. I thought I should purchase a tree skirt and a tree topper, but I kept walking. Something told me that I wanted them to mean something.
I use the unity candle from our wedding as a Christmas centerpiece. I wrap some tinsel around the candles and it sat for a few days as I thought about 'what it needed.' When Scott trimmed off those inevitable branches from the bottom of the tree I cut off pieces and placed them around the bottom of the bottom of the candlestick. Instant garland. Each time I passed I adjusted or added new ones. Too many adjustments and I found myself muttering,
'F***ing centerpiece,” Martha has a headache and she doesn't know why. Why so much stress over a centerpiece that only my family is going to see?
I keep think about what amazing thing I can do to make this time of the year special for my daughters. The other day I pulled out a stack of Christmas books from the closet and plunked down to read with Emma. I kept thinking I needed more. But there, I just did it. I made it special, by just saving those for this time of year, they're special. Maybe it's not in an elaborate ritual but just in an object. Each year this object comes out, and that makes this time of year special.
The other day at Bible study the air buzzed with stress. The holidays had set in, and we were all amped up on the energy of 'getting things done.' I could feel the snap. It was awful.
We need to pare it down. Just angels and stars. Just meaning. Why all the centerpieces and Santas? Can we do it, though? Every time I suggest to simplify, less cards, less food, less, just less, I get shrugged off, as if I'm crazy.
Why are we addicted to this? Sometimes I can feel grinchy-ness infect my heart. I don't love Christmas music. Don't doubt my salvation just because I don't love Rudolph. Please. Why are addicted to all this fatness? Peppermint mochas and pine scented candles. Is this necessary to celebrate the birth of Jesus?
I'm going to be crazy all by myself. Money limits on how much we spend on each other. One gift for the girls. That centerpiece needs a bow. I won't tie it. I won't. My little tree is naked on the top and on the bottom, no tree skirt and no tree topper. I won't rush out to some local huge corporate store and buy the same topper that will be on the top of millions of other people's trees. I will wait until we stumble across something lovely on one of our travels or moments.
Perhaps a star or an angel.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Moments

In January a friend of mine told me that it might take me longer to bounce back from my second child.  I shrugged and told her a few reasons why I should be fine.
Sometimes I'm just full of it.
Anyway seven months later my abdominal muscles are still stretched out and I have to fight my way through layers of fatigue to workout.  My regular four to five times a week still hover around two to four.  Four times is an amazing week.  Amazing.
Yesterday I finally found the time to do some leg and butt exercises from a magazine article that I ripped out of a Better Homes and Gardens.  I remember when I was younger I used to think the exercises in those features were 'a bit old lady,' a few weeks ago I saw this article and thought they looked difficult.  So either I'm getting older or those articles are getting better.  So I did the exercises, today I am so sore that I can barely sit down on any hard surfaces.  Squatting is a near impossibility, I must look like a rusty old gate creaking open and closed each time I move.
Do you know how often that you squat in a day caring for small children?
A lot.

This evening Emma convinced Scott to play 'cowboy' with her.  They came out of the room wearing various hats and using stuffed animals as their horsies.  Emma asked if I would play 'cowboy' with them, I was still feeding Carys her baby food so participation in 'cowboy' seemed, not only like my personal hell, but really not possible; unless we all wanted to listen to the baby scream while we gleefully rode 'ponies' around the living room.  Begrudgingly I ended up with a 'hat' perched on my head and a 'horsie' tucked in between my knees while I continued to spoon pureed apples into my squirming baby's mouth.  I look up, Scott makes eye contact with me and starts doing the 'horsey' from Gangnam Style.
I love that man.

My house is not baby proofed.  At all.  Emma is not really a getter into of things and cupboards.  For awhile I foolishly believed that this was because of our brilliant parenting, now I've talked to enough parents and had enough children rip my apartment asunder to know that some children just 'get into things' and some children don't.  Carys is going to be a getter.
Emma also rarely ever shouts the phrase, 'I can do it myself!'  I have heard so many parents talk about their child's rugged individualism as they refused to have mommy dress them at the fresh young age of two.  Emma could not care less.  She would much rather have you do everything for her.  I picture myself arriving in her dorm room to put her clothes on her.
"Do you want to wear this hoodie to class or this hoodie?"
Carys is going to be the 'I can do it myself,' kid.  I can see it already.
She is now eating about two jars of baby food a day.  Today while feeding her lunch she putting her hands in the way of my spoon.  I dodged around her whapping hands with a fully loaded spoon of orange goo, then it occurred to me...I just stuck the spoon in her hand.  Her little fingers closed around the spoon's handle and she gamely jammed it into her mouth.  Tongue squirming around exploring the spoon, back hunched in effort, feet wiggling in concentration, there it was, she fed herself.  I pried excited fingers off the spoon and re-orange goo, her hand was already outstretched.  In the spoon went again, her whole body hunching and wiggling in eagerness and concentration.
We worked it out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


What do I feed the child?
It's not that she's picky.  She'll eat anything at least once.  Or she used to.  She's just not fun to feed.  I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and proffer it to the goddess.  It's not my firstfruits, I will eat those, because I know they will get eaten, instead of just stabbed and ignored.
A moment later I look over and she has pulled it apart and is scraping out the peanut butter and jelly with her fingers.  She does this with grilled cheese as well.  Any time she asked for a grilled cheese I am tempted to just microwave a pile of cheese and place it in front of her.
Gross? Completely.  Honest?  Totally.
Children are just more honest.

"Ow, I didn't know I had extra skin underneath my chin," I look over and the baby has grabbed my husband's neck and is holding on tight.  He pries off her clamp and goes about his business.  I find myself pulling away from her little hands all the time, they hurt.  She pulls at my hair, my clothes, my shoulder, anything she can grab.  By the end of the day I am so tired of being grabbed.
I hear a shriek, high pitched and terrible. I look down and the baby has a handful of Emma's hair.  She is breathing heavy out of desperation, but not lashing out at the baby.  I lean down and untangle the hair from  tiny tightly gripped fingers.  I do shout when Carys grabs my hair and skin, but I always feel bad about it.  Like I should be able to put up with the pain just because it isn't really her fault that she's grabbing me so hard.  I'm sure that Emma has no added guilt when she shouts because the baby is pulling tender hairs.
Pure, simple, and honest.  Not wrapped up in a million emotions, like their adult interactions will become.

We are at preschool co-op, I look over and Emma is throwing a tantrum, she doesn't want to share the sand box.  We sit in the hallway and wait until she is calm.  Upon re-entering I look at the other girl's mom,
"Does she need to apologize to Hazel?" I ask, nervous there was striking involved.
"No, I think that Emma just didn't want to share," she shakes her head and gives a generously diplomatic answer.
I was thinking about it, is there a situation where you throw a bunch of adults in a room and make them share their toys?  The only thing I could think of was women cooking together.
"Oh, where you using that knife?" You ask, snagging your favorite knife.
"Oh no, it's okay, I'll go get another one," it's not, you can tell, but you're just glad to have your knife.

Maybe that's all we want to do, just rip apart the sandwich and eat the middle, but we don't.  We wander around munching on sliced bread pretending that we like it when we don't.  The middle is the best part.    Maybe we just want to scream,
"That's my knife!  You can't use it!"  But we don't.  We pad our interactions with niceties, to keep things rolling.  We eat fiber, to keep other things rolling.

Let's just take a moment to be thankful that we grow out of preschool behavior....

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christmas Gift

Black Friday.  Wow.  So we've come to this.  Two of my friends have posted on Facebook that they have had to head into work in the middle of the night.  Making retail workers above and beyond just so that we can get one dollar appliances?  Wretched.
One dollar toasters make me nervous.  If they can sell it for that much does that mean that the rest of the year I am paying far above what the product is worth?  Or are they just banking that you will buy other things that are overpriced once you are in the door?
Nevertheless, we didn't go.  We went for a walk in a nature preserve.  I may have missed fantastic deals on toys for my children, which did make me rethink my strong avoidance of the Friday of Blackness.  Pennies always need to be pinched and getting half off on a Christmas present for my daughter is not something to be scoffed at.

Then I think about what I got Emma last year....
We were wandering around a thrift store looking for deals, I had kept walking hoping to look for clothes for Emma without having to fish her out of the racks.  I realized I had lost my family and backtracked to find them.  I found them in the furniture section.  Emma was atop a dusty rocking horse furiously rocking with a face full of mad joy.  Scott looks up at me, and shrugs.  We bought it. It was decorated in a Southwestern theme circa 1987 and monogrammed for someone who I am sure is now in grad school.  I shuddered at the thought of giving my daughter a Christmas present bought secondhand.
I decided I would lovingly paint it, so that it would be all her own.

I ripped out the dusty rotting mane.  And then I washed my hands.  I primed it.   Sprayed it with a lovely shade of apple green to match, well, all the other things I've spray painted for her room that I've bought at thrift stores.  I used two different sized bottle caps to trace and then paint white and pink polka dots all over it.  I replaced the brittle crinkling leather bridle with pink and brown polka dot ribbon and white heart shaped buttons (attached with carefully applied tacky glue and hot glue).  Then it sat and sat and sat while I decided how to remake the mane and tail.  I had some bright white yarn that would be perfect for the green, pink, brown, and white theme.  I was still wrapping my mind around how to jam it into the wooden slot that was left by the old mane.  They had taped the mane in one long strip and then stapled it down into the slot.  Lacking modern manufacturing methods and having a staple gun that I know is a wee but wussy I had to think.  Eventually I cut 'even' pieces of yarn, wrapped masking tape around the end and then hot glued them into place.  Then I ran out of hot glue.  The poor rocking horse sat and sat and sat, until finally I used wood glue to glue the rest of the mane in.  I just had to hold it in place for a few second while it adhered, rather than having the instant gratification of hot glue.  I didn't redo the tail, I imagined stapling the yarn to the rear where the old tail was and then wrapping ribbon around it, using hot glue to adhere it.  I didn't though, because I wasn't sure how it would hold; considering that the tail would be right where her bum goes and would get more wear and tear than the rest of the horse.

I finished.  I envisioned finding pieces of it scattered around her room as she ripped at ribbon and glue.  I haven't though.  I have found one piece of yarn on the floor in the year that she has had it.
I figured she'd grow tired of it and prefer manufactured toys.  She hasn't though.  I still find her rocking away on it.  She refers to it lovingly as 'my rocking horse.'

The rocking horse was eight dollars, the cans of paint where six dollars each (and I've used them on other projects), the paint for the polka dots I already had, the ribbon I already had, the yarn was a cast off from my mother in law, and the buttons were about fifty cents each.

What will I get her this year?  I don't know.  We're in the process of buying a house and we very well might be moving around Christmas.  A lovingly crafted gift might not be possible right now.  I will probably buy her a toy I've seen her playing with at another person's house or a library book that she keeps asking for long after it's been returned.  I don't think manufactured or homemade matters as long as it's given thinking about what the child wants, not what you think they should want.
Or if it's on a crazy reduced Black Friday sale.
Just saying.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Parenthood changes things:

Your body:  mixed feelings of, ‘wow, you did something amazing,’ and, ‘wow, there are enough veins on my thighs to make them look like a topographical map.’
Your house:  “If I step on this pterodactyl one more time….!”
Your stress: “Oh, no, they’re both crying at the same time…what’s that in my hand? ….a lump of my own hair!?”
Your clothes: you know how they shine black lights on hotel beds to show you all the human fluids that are on them?  I think that if they did to my shirt you’d have the same reaction.
Your self worth: it’s hard to feel good about yourself when your shirt is comparable to a hotel duvet.
And it completely changes your awkward moments.  Precisely because they get more epic.  Please go read my post A Rest Stop .  Not so restful.  Here are two more:

“She wants to look at your baby, she just loves babies,” a mom walks up to me in the park with her four year old in front of her.  The girl comes closer to us, I smile, of course I like it when people want to look at my baby.  I think she’s awesome, obviously, I want to share.  The girl’s curly head comes closer, a piece of hair sprouts sidewise from her head, she twirls it thoughtfully.
“She’s so cute!” the girl coos.  I turn Carys towards her and we talk a bit, I glow with Madonna like grace at the child.  My friend jumps off the bench to chase down her toddler.  The girl climbs up next to me.  Then Carys begins to squirm.  Her chewing on my hand becomes a little more insistent.  Her squirms become jerky and urgent.  She’s hungry.  She starts turning and trying to eat my shoulder and neck.  I give in and throw a cover on my shoulder that is closest to the girl, I figure I can cover her and avoid any awkward questions. 
“I hate the midgies,” the girl says.  She is scratching her calf and referring to the little flies that keep landing on us, depositing irritating bites. 
“They’re not my favorite,” I agree.
She shifts and scratches her knee, “I hate the midgies.”
“I don’t like them either,” I agree, again.
She rubs her nose, twists that piece of hair more askew, and then scratches her ankle, “I hate the midgies.”
“Yeah, they’re not great,” I’m running out of responses.  And Carys is done.  I need to switch sides.  I do not want to be the sacrificial lamb for this girl’s first experience with breastfeeding, and I have no idea how much she knows or what her family would think if she someone nursing at the park.  I burp my kid for as long as I can.
“That ladder looks like it needs to be climbed,” I offer.  She scratches her shoulder.
“Have you seen that dinosaur over there?” I ask.  The Madonna-like grace is wearing thin.
So I do it.  I throw the cover over my other shoulder and start to latch her on.  The girl hops off the bench.  I relax, maybe she got the hint.  I look up.  She is trying to peer under the cover.

And then there was this other time…
At my six week appointment after having my second child, I was dumb enough to take both kids with me.  I didn’t think getting child care for a doctor’s appointment was a necessity.
First there was the navigating a stroller one handed while grabbing and trying to verbally direct a toddler who is not used to walking, or being verbally directed.  And there are so many doors in doctor’s offices, so many doors.
While I was sitting on the table, after being examined, sheet over my lap, talking to my doctor about birth control options my six week old infant starts crying.  My doctor walks over to the stroller and pulls her out, rocks with her and keeps talking to me.  Problem solved.
Then my two year old, who was just recently potty trained, stops in the middle of the floor squeezes her knees together squats in that tell tale way.  I freeze and press my lips together as panicky white noise goes off in my brain.  The doctor just looks down at her, then back up at me and keeps talking,
“Um, there poo in there,” I say not really knowing how to direct the situation.
“Oh, is she potty trained?” the doctor asks, as my daughter keeps squatting.  Well, apparently not.
“Um, I need to…”I gesture uselessly at my lap and then down at my child.
“Oh…OH!  Okay, I’ll take the baby and you get dressed.  There’s a bathroom right there.  I’ll send a nurse in with pads.”  I hear her say as she walks off,
“She’s so tiny I thought there was a diaper in there.”  I leapt off the table, threw my pants on, and check the damage on my kid as she’s shouting,
“She took our baby!”  Yep, because you crapped your pants.  I usher her into the bathroom and a nurse shows up in a moment with wipes and pads.  I love nurses in emergencies like this, it’s part of their job and most of them have kids, so they know the panic.  The nurse coos at my daughter,
“Oh, you don’t feel good do you?” Only then does it occur to me that Emma might be in intestinal distress, because the diarrhea I was cleaning up wasn’t already evidence.

I do wonder if medical school ever prepared my doctor for THAT type of emergency. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Want That

“Emma would you like cheese or yogurt?”  She pauses, thinks,
“I want ice cream,” she cheers, throwing both arms exuberantly in the air.  While in the same food group, ice cream is not on the menu at lunch.
“Well, we don’t have ice cream, would like cheese or yogurt?” It is a gracious moment and I’m still smiling.
“I want ice cream!” She cheers again.
“We don’t have that, we have cheese or yogurt,” my smile is losing its curve.
“Ummmm, yogurt,” she decides to believe me.  Not knowing that ice cream has little nutritional value and is apt to give her a belly ache, as opposed to cheese or yogurt which are both higher up on the nutritional value food chain.
Do you ever wonder how often we do that to God?
“I want to marry the tall doctor!” You shout.
“Here, have a doctor of education of average height,” He says.
“Ummmmm, okay,” you decide to believe Him.  Upon reflection you realize the tall doctor would have worked impossibly long hours and as you are short a tall man might not be the best choice; while the professor is the perfect height for your build and has much better office hours.
*                                     *                                 *
“I want that,” Emma taps her toe against the cardboard package of a cupcake stand.  On the package the stand is depicted full of colorfully decorated cupcakes.
“Huh, what did you say?” I ask, not really sure what she’s talking about.  My literal mind knows that she can’t mean the stand, that’s not much fun.  Does she want the cupcakes?
“I want that,” the patent leather mary jane toe taps the box again.
“You can’t have that right now, but later in the week you can have some,” I say.  I don’t really know what to do with this, what does she really want?  Does she want me to produce a tower of cupcakes for her, right here in the passenger seat of our car?  Does she even know what is involved in the production of cupcakes, much less a tower of them decorated to look like clowns?  Abracadabra, kid, here you go. 
Do you even wonder how often we do that to God?
“I want it to stop raining,” you say, looking at your camping trip getting more sodden by the moment.  God says,
“Do you even know that I have to change weather patterns in Tibet to make it stop raining here, just because you don’t want to get wet on your vacation?” 
Sometimes if I think about things in this perspective it helps me get perspective.  Yes, I don’t want to get wet on my vacation, but the land probably needs water more than I need to be dry right now.  Yes, I want that, but I probably don’t really know what is good for me.  When we desire something is it really something we need or are we just being difficult?  My daughter certainly doesn’t need a tower of cupcakes, and she got one later that week.  Well, she got one of them, at least. 
We all want things that we think we should have.  Often we don’t get them.  Maybe we just need to trust that what we get is need. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Fellow Americans

Hello fellow Americans.
I hope you voted today.
I assume that most of you can discern my political views from my blog, Facebook page, or just from talking to me.  I am pretty open about what I believe.  I do try to keep my mouth shut when I don't know what I'm talking about.  (What? She keeps her mouth shut?  I know, it's true.  My face turns red, my lips go purple, it's not pretty.)  Only because I used to get myself in so many debates where I was seriously outgunned.

This election I have become quite frustrated, this is the first election where I have been tuned into Facebook. From watching all the anger that gets posted I have realized that arguing with each other gets us nowhere.  Like when Scott and I start yelling at each other during an argument, we completely stop listening to each other.  I had one friend who's posts continuously made me angry, and, eventually, I realized that my posts probably made him angry.

I am not going to tell you who to vote for, you can probably guess for whom I cast my ballot.
And even if you don't agree with me I still hope you voted today.
I remember when I was a child and there was an election year.  I think it was for Clinton's term.  I remember all the adults running around about me, beating their breasts, gnashing their teeth, and threatening that the world would end if the candidate that they did not agree with got elected.  Then who ever it was got elected. And nothing happened.  My world did not change at all.  I still went to school.  We still had a house.  I was still a kid.

So that is what is going to happen.  Our country will still go on.  One candidate promises to uphold the status quo and another promises change.  Change or status quo, our country will go on.  Hopefully for the better and not for the worse.  Hopefully after all this we can all be friends again.

Let's remember this again in four years that no matter the political party that our new president will have that our country will still go on. Can we turn deaf ears to pundits who yell and call names and accuse?  Can we remember that we still want a nation for our children?  All of us do, regardless of whether or not we check the 'D's or the 'R's?
Can we remember that we are lucky to be able to take part in the political process of our country?  Can we remember that we are fortunate that when the new or old president takes over that will not be riots in the streets?  People will not die over the change of power.  Remember that we are lucky to have a peaceful state.
Can we be thankful that we can vote?  That we are allowed by our government to take part in the process.
Do you think we are capable of doing that?

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Scarlet 'A'

“Wait, so you’re pro-life, so you don’t vaccinate, right?” a friend says to me on the playground.
“No,” I say back.
“So you’re pro-choice?” my friend guesses.
“I’m ‘I’ve never been 15 and pregnant,’” I respond.
“Fair enough,” she says.                
I am neither pro-choice nor pro-life.  I am Pro-Wanted Children.
I know that life begins at conception.  I don’t believe, I know.  I have carried two children and I know when that life begins.  I have also wanted every single one of my pregnancies.  I don’t know what it’s like to carry a life that you don’t want to have.
I don’t believe that Roe vs. Wade will ever get repealed. 
I also don’t believe that abortion is a legislative issue.  I believe it is a sociological issue.  Abortions happen when a woman is carrying a child that she doesn’t want.  When she feels that she cannot afford that child, either for monetary, sociological, or psychological reasons. 
The US has one of the highest infant mortality and maternal mortality rates of developed nations.  One of the factors that plays into that is that women of childbearing age often do not have proper healthcare available to them.  That’s right, they don’t have health insurance.  So a 22 year old woman falls pregnant and doesn’t go to the doctor because she can’t pay for it.  It is well proven that good prenatal care equals healthy moms and babies.
Often people turn to the issues of rape and incest to allow for abortion, that doesn’t solve the problem.  We still have a woman pregnant with a child she doesn’t want.  How do we solve the problem of rape or incest?  We need to look to the men who are doing the raping to solve that problem.  From what I understand rape is a power issue and not a sex issue.  Why are the men in the US feeling unempowered, why would they seek an act of violence to feel powerful?  In developing nations it is often because their economic power is nonexistent (women are oppressed, but men are depressed).  What is the cause in our nation?  Is it violence in the media?  Is it poor outlets for male aggression?    
We pat ourselves on the back because there aren’t many orphans in the US.  Most people in the US that have babies choose to have them because they feel that they can take care of them; in some nations where abortions aren’t available those women have those babies and abandon them for adoption. In 2008 approximately 1.21 million abortions were performed (some states will not release their statistics so this is based on those that would), can you imagine if all those children had been born?  We would be facing a whole new set of sociological issues. 
And we would be facing the same issues, women are still becoming pregnant with children that they don’t want. 
If we vote to make abortion illegal I think we miss the point.  We would be trying to plug a geyser with a wine cork.  When we vote for ‘life’ we need to think of the whole issue, not just the act of walking into a doctor’s office and asking for an abortion, we need to be before that.  When we vote for ‘life’ we need to vote for society as a whole.  We need to vote in family friendly legislation, universal health care, and other laws that will make us stronger as a whole.
When it comes to abortion we must dig.  As I've said before there is more here but it's underneath.  If we are stop abortion it will not come at the polls.  We need to go to our people.  Love and empower our boys so they will not rape.  Love and empower our girls so that they will not look for love in all the wrong places.  Love and empower each other for so many reasons.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cause and Effect

Slam, click.
Scott and I looked at each other.  Each child had been freed from their car seat and we were ready to go join our community group in a picnic.
“Where’s the food?”  My shoulders went limp.
“We forgot it didn’t we?” He asked, knowing the answer. 
I nodded.  It was a twenty minute drive back to our home, by the time we retrieved it our picnic would be over.  We decided just to join our friends and decide on a course of action later.  As we rolled up to our group of friends, we unfurled our blanket and started confessing that we had indeed forgotten our meal.  The response to our complete flagrant flakiness,
“Oh,” and a nod of the head.  I commented to one friend that everyone had been so gracious,
“I think we were all thinking it could’ve been us,” she giggled hiding her mouth behind her hand.
That same friend came over to my house before a playground playdate, I pointed to the car seat where my infant child was napping,
“Don’t let me forget that.”  She just nodded.  Could’ve been her.                        
I am amazed at what sleep deprivation has done to me.  There are just pieces missing all over my thought life.  I can’t remember past events, names, mostly I feel lucky if I leave the house clothed.  I have a list on my whiteboard of what everyone needs to leave the house.  Extra clothes, sippy cups, nursing covers, etc.  I almost wrote pants for me, just to make me smile.

 *                                                   *                                              *

I had hauled out the double breast pump that a friend had lent me, it comes encased in a leather bag.  The motor is actually inside the satchel, the tubes and the wire to plug it in all attach to the satchel.  I set it on the floor, flipped back the large leather flap and started assembling all the tubes and wires.  Scott looked over,
“That looks like something that Herr Doctor would use to torture detainees,” he observed.
“Perhaps by applying suction to the nipples,” I suggest.
“Something like that.”
Sigh.  A few minutes later he looked over again and made a comment about the funny look on my face.  Well, it hurts.  It’s not the most normal feeling ever.
·                                             *                                                 *
Some friends were gathered in a group.  Talking about how our bodies had been changed by childbearing.  I complain about how much I gain,
“Oh, but you’re all belly,” someone says, conciliatorily.
“Now, don’t be nice, I know what size pants I was wearing.  You know I caught my reflection at one point and was surprised at how slim by bottom did look.  I realized it was because nothing would look big under that belly!”
And here she is.  9.2 pounds at birth, and all smiles.
I wish I could say with a resounding shout that it’s all worth it.  But it’s hard to think about it in those terms.  It is what it is.  The stretch marks, the loose skin, it’s just what happens.  Nobody wins the gravity battle. 
The things we go through for our children.  Nobody makes it out of this unscathed.  Everybody comes out a little stretchier, a little looser, and a lot more tired. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Playground Bully

“Here Em, come here, you can climb down the rocket.  Stay there, I’ll go around and show you how,”  Emma is about to turn three, and I’ve started to realize that there are a lot of things that she is capable of doing that I haven’t encouraged her to do.  I flipped her on her belly and positioned each foot and hand in the slots of a tube attached to a play structure, that Emma has named ‘the rocket.’  After she climbed down she ran over to another element on the play structure, a rope attached to some steep stairs.  I was just thinking about how to help her up it when a boy about six rounded the corner, he looked at Emma,
“BOO!” he yelled and then climbed up the rope cutting her off.  Emma cowered a bit and then put her hand on the rope, wanting to climb up after him.  I took her hand and moved her away, I was suspicious that this child was capable of violence.  I took her over to ‘the rocket,’
“Here Emma want to climb up the rocket?”
“No,” she cowered, put her hands to her mouth, and began to bend her knees together, the beginnings of a melt down.  The boy ran up next to us,
“That’s not a rocket,” he says.
“Yes, it is,” I said defending my daughter’s imagination.  Emma was now almost to the ground with her hands in her mouth.  The little bully, I mean boy, whipped in front of us and started climbing ‘the rocket.’
I grabbed Emma and put her on my hip and took her another structure.  The boy’s mom was several feet away talking to someone else.  I know it was her because we were the only moms on the playground.  The boy was right behind us and whipped up the stairs as I was trying to convince Emma to climb them.  The meltdown was in full tilt.  I didn’t want to leave yet, because we had a few more minutes until dinner time and I wanted her to play.
And I didn’t want to be driven off the playground by a six year old.  I kept thinking,
“Should I call out to the other mom and ask for help, what do I say, ‘Your rude son is chasing us around.’  Or, ‘Can I get a little help, please?’”
Emma didn’t want to climb those stairs, how about the slide?  We are wailing now.  I threw her back on my hip and marched to our stroller and plunked her down.  Handed her juice, took a breath, and looked up at the other mom. She was looking at me like I had done gone and lost my mind.  I grabbed the handle bars of the stroller, wheeled it around and left. 
I could hear the boy stomping on the structure behind me shouting,
“This is my playground!”  He had followed us again.
I could feel the hot bubbles pop in my blood.
I may have hissed something under my breath as I left. Might have.

My heels pounded the ground as I marched home.  Emma was calm now, pacified by juice.  Was I just chased off the playground by a kindergarten bully?  Should I have corrected him?  Should I have said something to that mom?
When we rounded the corner, I saw Scott’s bright green shirt coming toward us.  As I let the presence of my husband relax I could feel the shaking rise, the little gurgle of tears in the back of my throat, was I that angry?  I was. 
Scott told me that I did the best thing, that I took the path of peace.
What do you think?  What should I have done?  Did I do the right thing?  What are the playground rules about these situations?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hello Beautiful

About a year ago a friend included me on a Facebook feed.  An open discussion of beauty.  Why did we all not feel beautiful.  This particular always greeted me with, ‘Hello, beautiful.’  Initially I would blanch at it, seemed too naked a compliment, something I wanted to hear so much, but didn’t want the need on my face to show.  The discussion fizzled.  Some of us offered ways that we had felt better about ourselves over the years.  I don’t think anyone came out feeling beautiful. 
I love that young friend, with her desire to change the world.  I can remember years ago wanted to turn forces around, stomping around cursing the injustices that I felt.  I’ve gotten more fatalistic about it as of late.  That maybe it’s just inherent, that we all feel insecure.
I saw Cindy Crawford on a talk show and the host mentioned that Donald Trump had spoken of her to the host, the Donald had said that she was a great business woman.  Cindy’s response?
“Oh, I thought you were going to say that he thought I was beautiful.”  Are you serious?
I remember talking to my mother-in-law about all this, I blamed the media, the skinny models, and the companies that perpetuate that ideal of beauty.  She shrugged,
“I think it’s because men look at us.”  That felt so grotesquely accurate.  That throughout the ages women have always felt inadequate.  I remember seeing a political cartoon from the turn of the century, it depicted two old women walking through a gallery and saying,
“Venuses, always Venuses!” Complaining that only beautiful women were depicted.
I’ve gone up and I’ve gone down.  Some stages of my life feeling beautiful, fit, and strong.  Other times feeling overweight, and flaw laden.  The times where I’ve felt good I’ve almost felt like I’ve had to hide it.  I remember sitting in a room with friends as they went through several features, insulting them as they went, I felt like I almost had to make something up to get along with them.
So what do I with two little daughters that I think are the most beautiful little creations?  Some say downplay their appearance.  Emphasize their intelligence and skills.  I like that.  But I never struggled with being confident in my intelligence and honing skills is a life long endeavor.  How do we keep from passing on a legacy of insecurity? 
One friend talked about a conversation that she had with her husband where he pointed out that she had to stop saying denigrating things about her body in front of her daughter.  Oh, give me strength.  Keep my mouth shut?  A sacrifice on the altar of self control.  Because sometimes it feels good to just dig in and insult yourself.  You know that you’re being ridiculous, and if you say something ridiculous someone will tell you that you’re wrong, because even though you’re pretty sure that you’re ridiculous, you still need to hear it. 
I want them to have beauty in their back pocket.  A card they whip out when they want it.  Not to rely on it, to know that they don’t need to worry about it.  How do I greet them?
“Hello, beautiful.”

Monday, October 8, 2012

Open It Up

The number blink back up at me.  I look up at a friend.  They are the same as they were two weeks ago.  I look at a friend,
“How’d you do?”                      
“I’m up a pound.”  We talked, she blinked red wet eyes, and said she thought she’d been doing well,
“I have to just try harder,” I feel that so much in my own life.
Try harder.  White knuckle.
So I try harder at working at my art.  I sit staring at blank mocking white.  Erasure marks tell me to take a break, come back when I am inspired or at least not droolingly tired.
Try harder.  White knuckle.
Furrowed brow.
So I try harder at being a mom.  My voice hits a note I don’t like.  My child’s voice hits that same note.
Try harder.  White knuckle.
I don’t pray for patience with my children anymore.  The wise will often intone that is a mistake.  They’re right.  But I don’t think praying for patience with my children will invite difficulty, they already try my patience.  I’m already there.  Short.  Stressed.
White knuckled.
So I dig.  What’s wrong?  What can I do with my heart to make this easier?
Mother Teresa writes about opening your heart.  Pray to God that He will open your heart to love.
I have sat in the pews Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday, and listened to well meaning male pastors re-tell scripture.  We’re thinking about this wrong.  We’re acting on this wrong.
Try harder.  White knuckle.
Give up.
But I don’t.  I’ve been in this for too long.  The furrows of Christianity are rutted deeply in my heart.  And I know God.  I know His touch and voice.
I’ve started to pray to take joy in my children.  An opening.  Open my heart to the beauty that is my two sweet healthy girls.  An opening to thanks that they were not born palsied or missing chromosomes.
How to open your heart?  What did Mother Teresa say?  Pray for it.  Those are the prayers of mine that usually get answered loud and clear, those where I pray for a change in my heart.  A change for the better.  If you pray for a bigger house or a better car you might not always get what you want….then sometimes you get what you need.
(Sorry I couldn’t help myself.)

PS:  I don’t know how you ‘open it’ for weight loss.  I’ll have to think about that.  Then I should probably lose some weight….

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time on Yourself

My eye slides through the crack in the door.  The laser like line of vision scans the wee bumps of my baby’s back.  I hold my breath as I look for hers.  I don’t see it.  I don’t see the rise and fall.  My peripheral vision goes white and all sound is sucked out as I open the door and stumble towards our bed.  I start to feel my head lighten and breath go as I look harder at her back.  Then I see it, the little expansion of tiny ribs as she breathes.
I almost fainted because I thought my child had stopped breathing.
Awesome, Lara.  Make another victim.         
I went on a training backpacking trip, it rained for eleven of the thirteen days.  Each day we would get into camp late.  Night had already fallen, we were wet, cold, and tired.  We would be stumbling around like zombies collecting firewood and making shelters.  Everyone in my group would just keep going.  One night I thought, ‘this is dumb,’ and I stood creaky on my boots behind a tree and peeled off my sodden clothes and put on the clothes that I had been keeping dry in my pack.  The warm cloth gave me energy allowed me to complete the chores necessary before dinner and bed.  I learned that I need to take care of myself if I want to do a job well.  Stumbling around, in unfocused headlamp beam, with numb hands and head was only making the job of setting up camp harder.  If I took five minutes and got warm I could do it faster, happier, and better.
Of course as parents we should take care of ourselves.  What does that mean?  And how much?
In this country of ‘I’ everything.  What does that mean?  A friend in bible study said sometimes she gets a few hours of time away from her kids, and then she just wants more.   We all laughed.  Oh, how we get that.
Today at the library book sale the volunteer cashier cooed over my sweet little girls and then handed me a flier for an author lecture.  She said,
“Maybe a chance for mom to get a night away,” I smiled.  We’ve all been there.  In this, the trenches of parenting.  What she didn’t know is that last night I’d been out to drinks with a friend to celebrate my birthday.  I’d been tempted to call it off, to cocoon after a long day, but Scott looked at me, out of the corner of his eye, over a baby’s shoulder and said,
“You should go.”  And I did.
Then today Emma was cute.  She was sweet.  We had nice moments together.  I wasn’t worn to a nub, snapping at her every motion. 

I do a few things to make sure that I take care of myself.  Now that I’m feeling more and more back to normal after pregnancy I have the energy to run in the morning before Scott leaves for work.  That’s changing in to my dry clothes, so I can get work done. 
Nap time.  Those few hours, or hour, that both are girls are asleep in the afternoon.  The past few days I have spun a bit.  Not knowing how to spend my time.  Get necessary chores done?  Like calling the cable company to dispute a bill?  Sorting baby clothes?  Sweeping the entryway?  Or take care of myself by doing the creative things that ping pong about my head all day long?  Paint?  Work on an illustration?  Write?

How much time do you spend on yourself?  How much is just good self care, and then how much is being selfish?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I'm sitting nursing Carys, my leg extends before me. My eyes travel downward, taking pride in the shape of my calf, a shape hard earned by years of hiking and running. My eyes land on the third toe on my right foot, the nail polish has been chipped away leaving an island of sparkly peach in the middle of the nail. I stretch each foot out, spreading my toes for examination, an archipelago of poorly cared for toes.
I usually do my toes while Emma bathes, she plays with plastic dolphins and cups while I file and clip. This is the time that I have found most convenient to do it.
Our pastor spoke on rest a few Sundays ago. He knew that our congregation of parents of young children was breathing,
“Rest? Impossible!”
He spoke about the re-framing of rest for your stage of life. That setting aside work and playing with your children can be a form of rest. 
 But what if you're always with the kids?

I sat there thinking about how I spend my time? I thought I had really good time management skills. I learned those in college, right? Play here, study here, work here, finish what's due sooner first, right? I feel a bit as if those skills have been smashed to bits.
When I was first married to Scott and we lived with his parents every Sunday would roll around, and Scott would turn on a game, his mother would plunk down and knit or read, and I would spin. Just spin. I have all these rules that I follow for productivity, and no TV or reading until 7pm is one of them. At the time I was working as an artist, so do I do art? It's not like my job was drudgery at the time. I finally landed on drawing, I would hone my craft, but not necessarily work on anything that would eventually be for pay.
I sat there thinking guiltily of all the hours that I spent watching TV. What have I gained from all those hours of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives? Not much. So when Scott finally assented to canceling our cable I was eager. Scott claims that watching TV is not rest but just inactivity.
So what is rest?
Apparently I don't want to spend those precious moments that I have for rest on my toenails. So I don't. I used to, but, wow, I just had so much extra time. Sometimes I think about those days and I shudder. I should have accomplished so much. Written books, painted masterpieces. How much did I fritter away on toes and TV.
Too much.
Rest is whatever renews your strength. That changes based on how tired I am. Book? Sometimes. Prayer? Usually. Painting? If I'm not too tired. I'm learning how to work on paintings when I'm tired, maybe just a watercolor wash in the background, nothing too hard or I might make a mistake.

Can you imagine if they sold time on Wall St.? How many of us would be crowding in, shouting, yelling, trying to purchase a few more moments. How many of us spend our days trying to wring the very last bit of meaning out of each minute?

Then there are the kids. Like trying to take a nap in the middle of a hurricane.
I guess I just wish I was more organized about it. When I first dove off the high dive into stay at home momhood I had dreams of organizing the days. Monday is wash day, Tuesday is baking day, Wednesday is cleaning day, and so goes it. I haven't though.
Once upon a time I wondered how much I exercised. Is it three times a week? Once? So I started to keep track. Now when I run, I get to write on 'R' on my calendar, when I do yoga, a 'Y.' Should I keep a time diary? I've balked at the suggestion, afraid I would be depressed at the minutes spent wallowing on Facebook, or staring at
Maybe I shall, call it 'The Great Time Experiment.'
One of my friends used to hand grind her own flour, yep, you read that correctly.  I was asking her about the grinder clamped to her counter, and she said that she had stopped and pointed to a picture taped to her cabinet door that said, 'How you spend your days is how you spend your life.'  That seared.  

What do you think?  Should I do it?  Should I write down what I do each day, hour by hour?  Would that be scary, depressing, or maybe a happy surprise?

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I sat in the corner, computer on lap, busily typing away, trying to wrap my mind around story lines or articles, trying to say important things.  My mind kept fogging, I begin to think that iced latte didn’t really make a dent.  An elderly gentleman comes in the coffee shop.  His slow cane aided shuffle leads him to the only open chair in the coffee shop.  He plunks down, old bones sinking into leather comfort.
I’m watching him from over his shoulder, he removes his white cap, his fleece coat reminds me of a horse blanket, I think to myself,
‘He’s not to go to buy coffee,’ and indeed he doesn’t.  He just sits.  For about forty five minutes and then he leaves the shop.  I wonder what he thinks about this all.  There are people all around him tapping on phones and computers.  One woman studying Equine medicine, another studying nursing, and the rest of us staring intently into screens, I’m sure we all think that we are important.  The line at the counter grows long and short, long and short.  Girls in too tight shorts, older women in comfy shoes, men hair gelled on a break from work.  Busy people, busy lives.
I wonder what he thinks about this all.                          
This man in the white cap and horse blanket coat.  Surely he has seen it.  All of it. 
I wonder what he thinks about this all.
Is the buy-ness worth it?  Are the computers silly?  Is the coffee worth four dollars?  Are we all as important as we think we are?
His white cap looks expensive.  His too big coat too hot for the early fall weather.  I wonder who he is.  What he’s seen.  I don’t disturb him, because I’m busily tapping away on my computer, staring at my screen, trying to say important things.  And that is not our way, Americans don’t talk to strangers.  Especially not New Englanders. 
I look at the other people in the shop, no one talks to each other, stand in line alone, sit alone, and drink alone.  Do we all want to be alone? 
Right now, I do.  I think of the hungry need awaiting me at home.  Then I think, ‘wouldn’t I rather have it that way?’  To go back to a home full of people who need me and love me?  Rather than to an empty home.
A man takes a break from his computer to ask me if I can get on the internet, I tell him I don’t even try.  I’ve retreated to this shop to write, to take a break from the wasteland of the internet.  An attitude that I have that I have realized is rare, the need to unplug, to stop ingesting.  The need to rest, and the need to create, to push out the thoughts in my mind rather than watch viral videos or read the opinions of people who think themselves important.
I wonder about that man again, does he go home to a house full of people?  Or does he come here just to see people?  Why do we end up alone when we’re old?  How does that happen?
Maybe I need to enjoy this time of life, the little ones that cling, the little ones that need.  Several times in the past few days I have thought, ‘I can see how people get addicted to this.’  How they have baby after baby.  In some ways it’s nice to be needed, to supersede yourself into their needs, to forget your own ambition because there are dishes to be washed and tables to be dusted.  I hold onto personal ambition, it would be so simple to let go.
I want to ask that man, what have you learned?  What’s important?  Are we important?  Are the babies important? 
I wonder what he thinks of all this?

Sunday, September 9, 2012


There is a phenomena about.  A rash of something across New England.  You see it the second you enter Logan International Airport.  You see it all over the streets.  Everywhere.
Dunkin’ Donuts.       
What is the big deal with Dunkin’ Donuts?
As a West Coast girl Starbucks is really my second home.  Actually independent coffee shops are truly what I desire, but those seem to be hard to come by up here in the NorthEast.
So when confronted with this epidemic of donut shops selling mass produced fried pastries and maybe not the best coffee ever sold I had to decide how I felt about this.  I think there is a continuum for understanding the world.  Those that have lived in one place their whole lives see their home as the best place ever, nothing compares, there is, literally, no place like home.  Those that have moved and travelled understand that each geographic region has something different to offer.  I am pretty far removed from my home town of San Diego.  No longer believing that the only place in the world that one should live is southern California I approached this move to New England with new eyes.  People ask me if I like it here and I usually say,
‘Might as well.’ 
So I eye the orange signs that line our windy old roads here and wonder, ‘what about you?’  I could rail against it and refuse to set foot in a ‘Dunks,’ as the locals call it.  I could stomp around and say disparaging things, and hiss phrases like ‘corporate coffee.’  Or I could be an adult about it.  The way I feel about Dunks can be summed up in a few clich├ęs:
11.        ‘Fight ‘em or join ‘em.’  When it comes to mass quantities of caffeine and sugar, let’s be honest, I’m joining.
22.       ‘Don’t look that gift horse in the mouth.’  I have small children, they often have a drive-thru.
33.       ‘Any port in a storm.’  I have small children, I’m tired.  A box of donut holes is a pretty effective tool in behavior management.
I also have noticed that New Englanders are more protective of their traditions.  Back in the west if you make fun of the Rally Monkey, they’ll just shrug and say, ‘Yeah, I don’t know what a monkey has to do with baseball, but, hey, it’s a monkey!’  Here you make fun of Wally, and I’m a little afraid that they might cut you.
Does America run on Dunkin?  This part certainly does.  It might not be the best coffee I have ever drank, but this iced latte ain’t half bad.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I went back into the kitchen, gathering food and dishes as I went.  I went back in and kept washing.  In our home we have a rule, who ever cooks dinner doesn’t have to wash the dishes.  But Scott was talking to our guests so I kept washing.  I started to feel holier than thou, a true servant.  Here I am just keeping on working.
Then I thought, ‘That’s silly, you’re just washing your own dishes.  It’s not like your serving anyone.  Your husband would probably tell you to sit down, you’re just staving off your own aggravation.’
But what if I washed someone else’s dishes? That would be service.  Right?
Because if I wash my own dishes over and over again I would like to think that I’m serving my family because I’m doing all this work for them and don’t we reward the hard workers in our culture?  But do they really care.  Scott will often tell me to stop and rest.  But then there is all this crap in the sink.  I’ve been bodily thrown out of the family kitchen by at least one brother and one brother in law. 
So I’ve washed a lot of dishes in my life.
What if at the end of the day we all switched houses and washed each other’s dishes?  If I came over to yours and you came over to mine and we all washed each others.  That would work right?  Because then we’re serving each other.  Right?
I hate cleaning.  I used to like it.  The feeling of satisfaction in a clean floor.  The accomplishment of a clean counter.  Now?  If I never washed a dish in my life I would be happy.  Time is so short, the hottest commodity on my tiny little version of Wall St.  Here it is: my dirty apartment, begging to be cleaned when there are paintings to be painted, children needing to be hugged, and children needing my attention.  All my attention.  Like little crack addicts, they need just one more hit.  There’s only so much Mommy in the bag. 
Then that Mommy has to fold laundry and wash dishes.
A Kenyan friend of mine, she’s middle class, and she has two house workers.  One that comes daily and one that comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and helps with the laundry.  She has two small children and works full time.  We were talking about differences in the US and Kenya, she lived in both places and had kids in both places.  She looked at me and said,
“I don’t know how American women do it.”
Neither do I.
Don’t look too closely at my bathroom floor.
Just don’t.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


We cut our cable.  To save money.  Not because we’re better than anyone else.  Just broker.
That essentially means that I don’t watch TV.  Nothing on network really peaks my interest.  Well, not during the summer anyway.  I  have read about three books since.  Finished a painting, and blogged more.  This has been good for healthy creative production.

A friend of mine watches the Bachelor Pad.  A show that doesn’t peak my interest.  I looked at her one day, and said,
“What is it about that show?  Why…?”  She looked back and said,
“Same thing with you and Sister Love, it’s just trash,” oh.  I get that.  Some of you know this, I have a problem with TLC.  In that, I love it.  I watch that crap.  Like, a lot. 
No longer though.  NO trash for me.  Just healthy books and stuff.

Then it happened, someone shared an article on facebook from  I read it.  Then I clicked on another link and I read that.  And then another, and then another.  I feasted on the trash.  Like a one year old with their first piece of cake.  I shoved huge globs of trash in my mind.  Smeared it about on my cerebral cortex.  Until my computer got stuck in a pop-up.  Damn thing just kept popping up, I couldn’t get out of it.  I was so embarrassed.  Caught red handed.  I control alt deleted my mind out.  Finally it worked.  I just closed the internet and walked away.  No more.  Serves me right for eating all that trash.
Why do we need trash?  I keep thinking of pioneers, what did they do in the evening?  They didn’t surf the internet or watch loads of heinous TV to decompress.  They wittled or knitted.  Things some of us might consider work.  Or hard.  They might have just gone to bed.  Slept when it was dark, rose when it was light.  That makes sense, right? 
What’s happened to us?  Are we over entertained?  Is it the advent of electricity?  I would love to blame it on something as innocuous as Benjamin Franklin’s discovery.  I don’t think I can.  Are we de-sensitized?  Are we living vicariously?  . Do we do it to feel better about ourselves?
It's not one of these things, it's all of the above.  
We are over entertained.  Look at how much we pay our athletes and movie stars, we pay for what we value.  
Is it electricity?  Yep.  Because before it we would have had to do things by candle light, we would have been more connected to the outside world.  We would have more in their rhythms, rather than staying up late in the electrified boxes that our homes have become.
We are de-sensitized.  Look at the rise of shootings, is that because people are watching violent TV and playing violent video games.  Yes, it is.  A friend of mine said once that she would rather her children see sex on TV than violence, because at least sex is natural.  Violence is not.  A few years ago it might have shocked us to watch Hoarders, saddened us or upset us.  Now, we revel in the freak show...well some of us do.
Yes, we are living vicariously.  Maybe my friend is watching Bachelor Pad to reminisce about the one that got away.  Or to admire the romance and drama.  (That friend reads my posts, I'm sure she'll read this, and then think about it. She's cool like that, and I hope she tells me exactly why.)
I know that I do it to feel better about myself.  I may have too many possessions, but at least I’m not a hoarder.  
Is it really all that bad?
Yes.  Yes it is.  I don't think we need this.  You might say we need it to de-stress.  Do we?  Do we really?  After that internet trash fest I stayed up about a half hour later than normal because I couldn't stop myself then when I got into bed I was amped up from screen time.  I would have been better off just reading a book.  
But Lara what do you do on those nights when all you want to do is just veg out in front of the TV?  I read and then I end up in bed at some ridiculously early hour.  Which is probably good for me, because if all you want to do is sit and stare at something maybe you're just tired.
And I think the Bible says something about only putting good and wholesome things in front of your eyes...something like that....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Rest Stop

“I forgot to go potty,” Emma chimes from the back seat, her warning phrase.
“Honey, you're going to have to hold it, we'll stop in a bit,”says Scott. Oh, that's the decision we're making? Okay.
To be fair we had just stopped at a rest stop.
We had decided that we would stop in Montpelier for lunch, that was about 30 miles away.
“I forgot to go potty,” we hear again. I tense up, hands gripping the steering wheel.
“It's okay, she has a waterproof pad beneath her,” I say to Scott, maybe more for my own benefit. Each exit we pass looks like you have to drive quite a bit to get to the town and there was nothing off the exit.
My kingdom for a Subway.
Then we reached Montpelier, the capital of the state, surely it would be quick and easy.
We exit,
“I forgot to go potty.”
We are on beautiful tree lined streets, with clean government brick buildings. And no gas stations or quick restaurants. We followed signs for restaurants and ended up in their adorable little downtown area.
“I peed,” we hear the confession. Of course she did. Good try little one. We're sorry.
“There's a Subway!” I point, “Where do I park?”
“I have no idea,” thanks for the help. I turn right and right again into a parking lot. On accident I have parked us right in back of the Subway.
I pull Emma out and change her soaked clothes. We get into the restaurant and join the line waiting to add-vocado their sandwiches. And my two year old starts running in circles, literally. In the line, running circles around me.
“You are driving me crazy,” hisses out of my mouth. I look up to a restaurant of people staring at me. Awesome. I'm that mom.
We eat. Emma only squirms her way out of the high chair once. I start to nurse Carys, she squirms, the cover flaps about, there are cries from underneath. Scott gets up to use the restroom. My phone is blowing it up with five text messages all at once. I drop it. I look down. Too bad it has to stay on the ground. The chair next to me gets pulled out. I see out of the corner of my eye the contractor sitting at the next table bend down, pick up my phone, place it next to me,
“Here, you've got your hands full,” he says.
“Thank you,” I don't even look him in the eye, it's all just too much.
Carys needs a diaper change, I gather her up and go into the restroom, no changing table. I'll just do it in the car....
Back out in the parking lot I lay my child down on the passenger seat and start changing, I see that the poop has gone up her back. As she squirms the mass of poop spreads. And as try to clean it spreads some more.
“Scott, I need your help,” I say in my CALM voice. He appears not to have heard me, as evidenced by the fact that he did not move, “Scott, I need your help,” I say a little CALMER.
“Here, there's poop everywhere, can you hold her and I'll just wipe her down,” I say handing him a naked baby. I turn to grab a wipe,
“TBTHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I turn back around and Carys has started pooping. Scott squats down and puts her toes on the ground. She happily windmills her arms while projectile yellow poop shoots onto the ground on the parking lot. He looks up at me, looks me in the eye and giggles. I feel my shoulders relax, and a smile spread across my face. Yes, this was hysterical. We cleaned her up, dug a onesie out of the bag in the back and strapped everyone in and drove in.
As we drove back down that tree lined street, I looked over and the corners of Scott's mouth were tickling upwards,
“Montpooplier,” and I laughed, 
"I feel bad for the next person that parks in that space," I reply.
And forever I will think of Montpelier as Montpooplier.