Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's a GiveAWay! Yay!

The lovely and talented Canape has landed us the perfect Holiday gift to give away at Triangle Mamas. Go on over and take a look!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Reason #37 to Home-School

Before our babies are even conceived, we start making lists of all our hopes and dreams for their lives. What they might look like, what schools they will attend, what careers they may choose… And we make another list of all the things we hope our children never experience. This list has sub-categories such as Things My Parents Did That I Will Never Do, Things My Friends Do That I Will Never Do, Things That I Did That I Will Never Let My Kids Do, etc. Of course there are the major things that you hope your child never has to go through first hand: life-threatening illness or serious injury – neither physical nor emotional. You hope they never have to cope with danger, tragedy or pain. And you hope they never, ever get a case of head lice.

Yep. Head lice. Now that I am on the other side of the mountain of laundry, I can talk about it. But it was traumatic at the time. Last Tuesday, Dean tentatively described to me these tiny bugs he was finding on his clothes and my stomach lurched a bit. Upon closer inspection, my fears were confirmed. One trip to CVS, two poison treatments (the first one didn’t work), one serious allergic reaction to the shampoo (me), two missed school days, one magic hot oil treatment, 48 loads of laundry and countless hours of combing later, I finally feel confident that he just might be the only family member to host the little bastards. That hasn’t stopped my neurotic scratching and head checking or my lectures to “keep your head, your coat, your clothes to yourself fortheluvaGod!”

A friend who recently dealt with this same issue with her own child laughed (at) with me. “It changes your whole perspective doesn’t it,” she said when I gasped to see my son wearing some of the freshly cleaned dress-up clothes – on his head. When I saw his head bent close to his brother’s while they worked on a project together, instead of saying, “Awwwww,” I said, “Ewwwww!” Is it going overboard to have him change his clothes as soon as he gets home from school or to look around his classroom with an accusing eye – who else is scratching? Whose head is the head of origin?

During one of our lengthy combing sessions, I found that I was silently debating which would be worse, stomach flu or lice? Both cause extreme housecleaning and extra laundry. Both result in someone staying home from school and major changes in my routine. Both make me become an internet expert on the subject. Both allow me to play that subtle blame game unique to parents "I think he got this from your child". Both make me do that complicated math equation in my head: # of days of incubation x the # of days of infection + the # of days of contagion x the # of family members = the # of days until Mom can rest assured that we are in the clear (which also equals the number of glasses of wine that may get consumed). Too close to call.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hang on Tight!

Oh, that’s right! I have a blog! I had almost forgotten. Actually that’s not true. I just haven’t been able to complete a whole sentence, either spoken or written. So I feel that I have much to tell you.

First, I never meant for this to be a politics blog. Who knew that I could get so caught up in all of it that I’d dedicate several posts to the subject? Or that I would meet so many new friends with different ideals than my own? Blogging indeed makes this a small world. But alas, the election is over and it’s time to put the Christmas tree away and wonder what we had ever had in the corner before this. It feels so empty now. A friend asked the other night, “So now what do we talk about?”

Exactly, it’s a good time to contemplate the future – including the future of this blog. When I started this site earlier this year, it was to give myself a place to put my thoughts, snippets and sound-bites of what goes through my mind. I thought that if I had a defined space and perhaps an audience to hold me accountable, I would make the time to formulize these thoughts into the written word. And reaching out to you and having you reach back, has been the most wonderful outcome.

I knew I wanted the blog to be about how I feel about my life and the players in it. I wanted to use At Home With Me to talk about all those things that I often talk to my friends about or wish that I could. With some posts, the words come easily. I am inspired by something I read or experience and create a post in short order. Mostly though, I struggle with the words. It can take hours, sometimes days, to craft a piece the way I want it to be or often, to only come up with a paragraph. Those are the subjects I most desperately want to write about but find it’s too difficult.

I’m still working out some details. I still haven’t figured out where I stand on the subject of anonymity. There are some subjects that I tend to avoid based on the idea of who might be reading it. I have invited some folks from my personal life to read but I still feel so shy about it. And because the readership is so small, I have considered giving up the blog entirely. But you have been so encouraging. You tell me I still have a voice and a story to tell. And I do. So I will. I thank you for your patience.

The past two weeks have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I’ll feel perfectly fine one minute and then something will happen and I will hate everyone. My husband noted this about himself last week and I thought he was being overly dramatic. But now I know what he means. I’ll be singing to myself as I load the dishwasher and then see out the window that the neighbor’s lawn care crew has herded all the leaves from the neighbor’s yard into mine. I become an instant grouch. Today, this has been especially true. There have been several annoyances and finally, the conversation with the pediatrician’s nurse left me to lose it completely. I called and asked the Doctor to call me back so I could discuss a question of my son’s medication with him. I was told I needed to make an appointment because he doesn’t talk to people on the phone. I started to argue a bit and then I started to cry. “My entire family has been coming to this clinic for ten years now and you are telling me he doesn’t have time to speak with me unless I spend an hour in the waiting room first?!” She kindly said she would give him the message and maybe he will make an exception. (I can see the message – “Dr. Don’t Have Time, Please return hysterical mom’s phone call.”)

See what I mean? From perfectly happy to pit of despair in ten seconds or less – there is no in-between state of mind. The chiropractor broke up with me and told me we can see other people – Yay! Husband’s company sends out letter stating there may be no bonus this year – Doom and gloom! My mother-in-law sent fudge – Celebration! That bitch cut me off in car line again – Misery! And so forth…

All this craziness already! The holidays are right around the corner. There will be school events (three different kids means three different “Thanksgiving Feasts” on three different days), musical performances, field trips and then the Christmas parties. Then there is the fact that the kids are out of school almost two entire weeks before Christmas. Don't forget the birthdays. And there will be the traveling. I don’t think I’ve discussed here my love/hate relationship with traveling. We will leave that one for another day.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where Susie Gets Taken Down a Peg or Two and This is Not a Political Post, Really

I was planning on blogging about the day after the election, with all its elation and hope, but I won’t. There are no words or spin to those words that I could write that have not been spoken or blogged already (it seems Green Girl and I are more like-minded than I initially thought). Anything that I can say would simply be old news.

So in lieu of describing the spring in my step, my smiles for strangers and my eagerness to share in the euphoria of our election results, I will tell you something that may surprise you. Not all my friends and acquaintances (even in the blogosphere) are Democrats. While you are gasping out loud, let me explain, because I was surprised too.

I was catching up on some reading today while I was thinking about how to blog about something other than politics. I came across a post written on Monday by a blogger I regularly read and who often comments here. It was a concession confession of sorts. It seems that she’s a closet Republican and she was posting about how she’s doesn’t fit the media-induced stereotype and won’t be happy with a Democrat in office. And I left what I thought was a respectful comment at the time about how brave she is for stating her thoughts even though there are people (like me) who disagree and isn’t it great that we can all get along despite our differences? Or something like that.

But once I hit the “post comment” button, I couldn’t help but feel like she had just pissed in my half-caf mocha latte. My elation was deflated. Of course she can write what she wants on her own blog – isn’t that the point of blogging? I really respect the fact that she did write that post because Lord knows; writing about politics can alienate your readership. I’d like to think that I am a better person and in riding the whole “We are United” feeling that both McCain and Obama infused in their speeches, I’d like to say that I’m OK with her having her own opinion. But I was surprised nonetheless.

My father’s racist jokes didn’t bring me down – I was prepared to hear them. There were a few Facebook comments from my more conservative acquaintances but these are people I know to lean more to the right. And I’m mildly curious as to why all the McCain yard signs have disappeared on my street, some before Tuesday even, because I couldn’t help but wonder, where is their loyalty? Even as we lectured our sons before school to be respectful to the people we know to be McCain supporters and not be all “Yes We Can” in their faces, I didn’t really consider that anyone out there might be feeling the same way I felt four years ago and four years before that. Because really, doesn’t everyone agree that this election ended in a rather exciting and awe-inspiring way? Are we not all enjoying the renewal of the American spirit?

So, yeah, I was surprised by the blogger’s post because I wasn’t prepared for her outing her party affiliation. And no, I don’t really think she was trying to ruin my fun. Judging by the other comments, I was the only reader who didn’t flat out agree with her. I don’t. It’s just a jolt to my self-absorbed psyche to find out that not everyone I like and have things in common with, admire even – have the same views as me. This was clear in the way that she wrote, “I hope they (the Democrats) don’t wreck the economy…” Um, because the economy is in such awesome shape now under the Republican watch? I may not be able to look at her quite the same way again. But will I go back to read her blog again? I hate myself for even asking.

She is simply exercising her First Amendment rights in stating one obvious difference in political views. In the simplest terms, Democrats think Republicans wreck everything and Democrats put it all back together and vice versa. Which is why Democrats are doing a happy dance right now (along with the rest of the free world) and Republicans are sneaking their yard signs into the trash under the cover of darkness.

So, I think my disappointment really stems from someone (and it just happened to be her) reminding me that not everyone is as happy about the returns as I am. I was forced to realize that it is pompous of me to assume otherwise. And maybe it’s just easier for a Democrat to feel this way, but right now, it shouldn’t matter whom you wanted to win. Right now, there is much work to be done and in the words of John McCain who said it so graciously and eloquently, disappointment is natural but our job now is to support our new president. Party lines are of little importance, really. No matter who has been voted into office, the work ahead affects us all. I said as much in my comment. I also said that my hope is that at least for now, the days of “it’s-us-against-them” politics are over.

And I hope they are.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Nail-Biting Finish

I haven't written about politics in awhile so now I have to ask: Have you voted yet?
Thanks to the convenience of early voting, I went last week. I would have rather waited until the 4th - the real Election Day. It felt a little unreal, a bit like opening Christmas presents early, but it was a matter of practicality. It was simply easier to go alone while the kids were in school rather than take them all with me and wait in line with them. And I'm glad I went alone because while I knew that I might get a little teary, I was surprised by the overwhelming surge of emotion as I placed my ballot in the machine.
I felt foolish as the tears streamed down my cheeks but not at all alone. This election feels monumental to me and guessing by the impressive voter turnout already, I know I'm not the only one. This is perhaps the most important election I will have participated in - ever. I'm not talking about the obvious historical impact since race has been a non-issue for me in this campaign. I'm talking about how casting my ballot was the last proactive step I could take to making change - change to make this country better for myself and my children. As I stood there feeding my ballot into the machine watching the number change from 40111 to 40112, I knew that my vote had been counted. Now all I can do is wait.
Some folks I know are hosting watch parties Tuesday evening. I am torn between wanting to be in the comfort of like-minded friends and wanting to be in the comfort of my own home as I nervously await election results. At the end of the day on Tuesday, the outcome (no matter how personal it feels to me) will be whatever it will be. I can not change it. I will either be happily filled with hope and optimism or I will be plotting my change in citizenship. Either way, come Wednesday morning, life will go on business as usual. Lunch boxes will have to be packed, laundry will have to washed, carpools will have to be driven. Eventually, we will find something else to discuss.
Until then, I feel both nauseous and hopeful. The finish line is in sight and I want to push to the other side quickly to get this part over with but at the same time, I want to keep savoring the possibilities. Once it is over, there will be no going back to this moment where it feels like anything can happen.
How will you spend the next two days? Will you seek the company of your political peers or will you sit in front of the television coverage, biting your nails?

Need help finding out about voting in your area? Try Vote411.org for info.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pinpricks and Profanity

Two weeks ago, I made the kids commit to their Halloween costume plans and then went shopping. Apparently, however, two weeks before Halloween is a better time to buy Christmas decorations than anything orange and black. The aisles were bare or picked over with the only costumes remaining being ones made for dogs. My sons had two choices: dress like a slutty pirate girl or like a Golden Retriever dressed as a slutty pirate girl. I should have known back in August when I couldn’t find the back-to-school supplies because they had been cleared out to make room for the Halloween stuff. Next year, I’ll know better. This year, I needed a plan B.

Dean was easy. He was wooed by the chance to accrue accessories of the macabre – a Styrofoam skull and a plastic dagger. Logan, being two, doesn’t really care. A few days later, I stumbled upon a penguin costume in the correct size and on sale for under $10. Done. Jess is adamant that he will be a green dragon. A fire-breathing dragon, by the way. I thought that a dragon would be simple to create and that I was getting off cheap and easy. I would simply buy a green hoodie and some felt – done. Except about a dozen stores later, I still could not find a green hoodie, green felt, or a ready-made dragon costume (not made for a dog). And I did consider the dog costume wondering how dog poundage related to kid size but I felt $30 was a little steep for something made for a dog. So back to the fabric store I went and over $40 worth of materials later, I am sitting at my long-lost sewing machine making the whole damn thing.

Five years ago when I left my paying job for the adventures of staying home with the kids, I initially put a lot of pressure on myself to be the perfect Alpha-mom. My sister was my roll-model and she is a firm believer in the essence of mommy-hood being in the making versus the buying of things - including the sewing of the Halloween costumes. So in my first stint home full-time, I made my sons’ costumes. It was an easy choice to make since an Obi-Wan Kanobi costume in size 4T was impossible to find at the time. However, I firmly believe that if you can find something ready-made that is just as good as what you can make, it is more efficient and probably less expensive to just go ahead and buy. Because while it is nice to be able to say, “I made it myself,” it can be a little stressful. We often joked that if we ever hosted our own sewing show, we’d call it “Pinpricks and Profanity.” Sometimes the frustration of trying to make the sewing machine cooperate is just not worth the effort.

So while I don’t think sewing costumes is a “Mommy Must-Do” activity, I admit that I don’t have a problem with actually doing it. Except for the time wasted searching for the easy shortcut, I am quite happy to make a costume for my child. In fact, I have been known to make costumes for other people’s children and if I had just started the “from scratch” approach several weeks ago, we wouldn’t have been in crunch time this week. And my husband thinks I am crazy for making life harder for myself when a Halloween costume should not be a life’s priority right now. He wants to know why I didn’t just tell my son to choose some other costume so we can be done. Well, because two weeks ago, this did seem like the easier choice.

But here is where I pull the selfish card – yesterday as I gazed upon my kitchen table made-over into a sewing studio, I sighed with contentment. I realized that I like a project. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, I was eager to begin. Halloween is the one time a year that I can haul out the sewing machine and create something from start to finish, without feeling like it’s just my own little hobby. Like making cookies rather than buying the perfectly fine bakery brand, the satisfaction of having made it myself has been worth the trouble. And the mommy and son moments in making the costume together have been simply priceless.

He thinks he's scary. I think he's cute. Don't tell him.

This post is original to At Home With Me and cross-posted at Triangle Mamas. Come by to meet the other Triangle Mamas and see their costumed cuties.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Autumn Falling

Remember last time I mentioned that Fall comes late here? Well, it’s here now with colder weather (we have had warmer winters) and the typical dose of nostalgia. I’m not sure why changes of the season evoke so much wistful reminiscing in me. Perhaps it’s because they are often marked with so many endings and beginnings – the end of summer, the beginning of school, the end of what has been and the beginning of new experiences. In autumn, I always find myself quietly remembering the past and imagining different endings to those stories. At the same time, I try desperately to stay in the moment lest I miss any of what is right before me – kids jumping in piles of leaves, Halloween costumes to imagine and create, the sweet scents of the season…

To prove that I really do think this way each October, let me share with you something I wrote two years ago, in the days before the blog.

I received a surprise in the mail this morning – a CD from a dear far-away friend that she compiled herself. She titled it “another season” appropriately enough on this crisp autumn day. Also appropriate, is the melancholy quiet nature of the all the songs. Appropriate because while the rest of the world is waking up from the steamy sleepy summer to the cooler colorful change of season, I find myself nostalgic and contemplative. It’s the way that seasonal transitions mark the passing of time – another three pages torn from the calendar and another wardrobe of clothing outgrown by the kids. Not to say that I do not take joy here – in fact, fall is my favorite time of year. As soon as the temperature dips below 70 degrees, I get the urge to warm to house with hearty soups and pumpkin bread. October brings a whole new host of opportunities to embrace my inner Martha Stewart. But instead of baking right now, I sit here with my newest son, skirting the border between contentment and sadness. Last year, this baby was not even an idea and next year, he will no longer be a baby. All too soon, he will be gone – replaced by an older version of himself. Each season brings new joys and milestones leaving behind moments that were equally as joyous and will be missed. So now, I simply sit and drink him in. I try to memorize every detail of his face and the way his little chubby hands make a fist while he sleeps. I breathe in his sweet baby scent and sigh deeply. So while you are raking leaves, you can find me slow dancing with my baby to “another season.”

The passing of another season is also yet another reminder that being a stay-at-home mom is temporary employment. Even though Logan is only two, there is the subtle pressure to be thinking about my next career move. But I can’t think about it, I don’t want to think about it. I want to stay here in the season before the future, where I slow dance with my babies while the pumpkin bread bakes in the oven.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Theme Thursday - Saturday Edition

Fall comes a little late here in North Carolina. The colors and temperatures change incrementally until one day you realize, "It's Fall and the leaves have changed and Christmas is in a month!" So while we are enjoying cooler than usual temperatures, the autumn colors haven't happened - yet. So I too am a little late for this week's Theme Thursday so that I could go through my archives and show you what fall looks like where I live.

It can be warm enough to enjoy a trip to the beach or to carve a pumpkin in shorts and t-shirts.

It is almost always perfect weather for hiking and enjoying the river and it's creeks.

It may even get cold enough for a frost. You just can never be sure.

Hands down, this is my favorite time of year. Long pants and warm soups, pumpkin bread and Halloween decorations - I love every moment of it. As soon as it gets here...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Open Letter To Susie's Spine

Dear Susie’s Back,

You and I have been a team for many years. Since about four weeks after I was conceived, you have been my frame, my core. I would not be where I am today without you. For everything I have done in my life, you have been right there – holding me up. You bend with me, pull with me, push with me, lift with me – all with out question or complaint. I know I have taken you for granted and I am sorry. I just always assumed we would be a team that worked like a well-oiled machine. But last Friday, as we wrestled a toddler into his car seat, you cried, “ENOUGH!” You made your displeasure painfully clear.

Admittedly, I have not been as kind to you as I should have been. In fact, the massage therapist used the word “abusive” and totally took your side. The lifting and carrying of the 30 pound toddler, the hauling of the laundry, the constant bending and stooping, and the contorted sleeping positions to accommodate the nursing baby have been too much for you. I suppose three pregnancies where I gained 45-65 pounds each time took their toll. As well as those two back labors. And the keeping of 30 extra pounds, lack of decent exercise and the years of bad posture and improper body mechanics have added up to some serious wear and tear. So while it should be no shock that you are out of alignment, I am a mom – my body is not my own and I thought you understood.

Until you went on strike, I had no idea how much I depended on your cooperation. It seems I was calling on your services so much, I didn’t even realize. I had no idea how many times I bent over to pick things up off the floor or load the dishwasher. Or how many back muscles are used in the changing off a diaper. Or how much back is required to lift the laundry basket and pull the wet clothes out of the washer, or in the walking of the dog, or in the making of dinner. And since I haven’t been able to do those things in the last several days (at least not without complaint from you) and I have a new appreciation for just how tenuous our relationship actually was.

At first, it was kind of nice to take a break from my regular duties and ask for help. “Honey, will you take of care of Logan’s poopy diaper?” “Sweetie, will you take the dog out for Mommy?” “Can someone take the chicken out of the oven for me?” But now it’s Wednesday and the house is a wreck. The laundry is backed up. The dog has gotten fat. I don’t even know what that spot is on the floor and I can’t get close enough to clean it up. Logan’s not been able to play outside because it’s too hard to physically restrain him and his tricycle from going out into the road. It hurts to sit on the floor and play with my kids. It takes me ten minutes to put on socks. I haven’t been able to use conditioner in my hair because the bottle has fallen onto the shower stall floor. Between the constant pain and the not being able to go about my daily business, your little demonstration is on my last sciatic nerve.

I want to be sympathetic, I do. But this wasn’t really a good time for you to go all Prima Donna on me. And while I pledge to not take you for granted anymore, I do need you to get over yourself and pull it together. We have shit to do. I don’t know what it means to take better care of you. Am I not supposed to catch a toddler in mid-flight as he falls from the monkey bars? Since I can feel you spasm when I only look at the vacuum cleaner, am I to assume that I will no longer be vacuuming? And what about the laundry? Am I to kick my two load-a-day habit? I’m hoping the chiropractor will help us to work out our differences and get back to our pain-free selves. The whole family is counting on us. So until that appointment, I will continue to respect your need for space. I will continue to take a load of pain medicine in an attempt to subdue you. And if you could just let me get into a position comfortable for sleeping, I would be very grateful.

Respectfully Yours,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Susie's Day

Mrs. G asked us to describe an average day. I didn't think you needed to see photos my dirty kitchen so I made you this little wordle. And yes, I do everything a day late. That is quite typical.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Has the Blogging Bubble Burst?

Does it seem to you that bloggers are posting less frequently? I, myself, had been sporadic for a while there between kids on break from school and houseguests. Since then, I noticed a marked decrease in my traffic, mainly in my comments. And this weekend, no visitors at all which is odd since the weekends are when most people are on-line reading blogs. So where has everyone gone? Have I come too late to the party?

I’m not the only one who has noticed. Marty (AKA Canape) and I were emailing about this very subject the other day. She quoted her friend Susan by saying “For whatever reason, people just aren’t blogging and reading blogs the way they used to…Marty has had to stop blogging for a while for personal reasons so the delicate circle of blogger>reader>commenter>comment reader>blogger is broken. Elena too is without Internet access so not only is she not blogging, but she’s not visiting blogs either. I’m accounting much of my decrease in stats to this. But how does that account for the drop in other people blogging?

Could it be that the beautiful fall weather has people outside playing rather than reading about others playing outside? Are people just busy with soccer, school carnivals and other kid-related activities? Or are people occupied with withdrawing their life savings from fragile banks and stuffing their mattresses with it? Maybe, just maybe (gasp) blogging has become passé?

On Thursday, Karen presented a possible explanation. She claims her lapse in posting is not due to starting her new job but rather several reasons, one of them being the great time-suck that is Facebook. Seems you can get lost for hours on that site, looking up old friends and acquaintances. So, in order to understand where everyone went (just in the name of science, mind you), I went ahead and logged in. By this afternoon, I have located two nieces, one sister-in-law, a childhood pen pal from England, a high school friend, several former co-workers and my college roommate – just to name a few. I have also found several other people that I was just a little two shy to “friend in” such as the guy who dumped me the night of the prom. {And in case you were wondering, yes, I looked up What If Marty. But in three pages of individuals with the same name, I couldn’t find him for sure. Even if I did, I doubt I would have sent him a message.}

The point is, I see what Karen is saying and I think this is a plausible explanation of where the bloggers have gone – they are vacationing over in Facebook. Because even though I was confident that I could handle it and wouldn’t obsess, I keep logging back on because I think of one more person to look up. And then I check to see who answered my requests. And then I have to think of witty things to write on my niece’s wall so I don’t look like the weird stalker aunt who’s old and un-cool. And, my God, the worrying about the profile picture! Since I don’t have one, I asked my artist niece to draw me an avatar. She hasn’t answered my request to be a “friend” yet so, I’ll let you know how that works out. In the meantime, I think I’ll go read some blogs and leave thoughtful comments on every one – right after I check my Facebook.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Theme Thursday - Sunshine

I'm with Stacy on this one - I think some sunshine in a photo adds a little flare (sorry!) I never thought of it as a bad thing unless it washes out a picture completely. Sometimes though, it's exactly what I am trying to capture.

I like how the sunflare here gives the photo an automatic antique look. No photoshop required. And I know with this next one will make you want to break into inspirational gospel song...

Here, I wanted to catch the way the light came through the leaves. I wish I had caught more of the flare, actually.

What was your sunshiny inspiration?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Who's Your "What If...?"

For two nights in a row, I have had a similar dream. Half memory, half fantasy, it is a dream that has left me nostalgic and pondering. My 18 year- old self is walking hand-in-hand with a boy on our college campus. Our heads are bent close together and he is telling me something, something that makes him sad. Because it’s only a dream, I can’t make out his words but I am sad for him as well. Then we are joking again and he walks away. I call out to him, “Should I wait?” But there is no answer and I leave as well. I wake up questioning what ever happened to that boy that I haven’t seen or even thought much about since we last spoke 16 years ago. It’s a strange subject to have come up – a question where there will be no resolution – a past that was meaningful at the time but has no bearing on my life right now. There is no regret here – only remembering and wondering what if

Do you have a “what if” relationship in your past? The “what if” being the subject of your secret crush, or perhaps the one that you went on that one date with but he never called, or that person that you were only friends with but you had wished for more? My guess is that we all do. Let’s indulge my nostalgia for a moment while I share mine.

In order to continue with the Gilmore Girls blogonym theme, we will call him Marty. If you recall, Marty was Rory’s first college friend – the boy she found drunk and naked outside her dorm room door. There was no romantic relationship – just some wishing on his part. So now you have a hint as to how this story will go.

When I began my freshman year in college, Marty and I shared a couple of classes together. I can’t remember exactly how our friendship started, I only remember ALWAYS being with him and our small group of mutual friends. Since we attended a small commuter branch of our state university, we spent much of our time between classes hanging out on campus – talking, studying and playing cards. We did things outside of school as well – parties, meals, plays, trips to museums, etc. There was a closeness and comfort with each other, much like that in my dream. We were virtually inseparable and everyone simply assumed we were a couple – an assumption that at the time I wished could be true. But at any given point in our friendship, one of us was dating someone else. I’d hear all about his girlfriend of the day and he knew all about my boy troubles. Perhaps I imagined it, but I had often gotten the sense that Marty felt the same about me and it was just that our timing was off. Who’s to say?

In all that time together, Marty and I only had what I would call one actual date. He may not have viewed it as such, however, because he did not kiss me good-bye. We had spent the day together with another couple to celebrate the end of our freshman year. When he dropped me off at home, I stalled the appropriate amount of time before getting out of the car – just long enough to give him a chance but not so long as to appear obvious. We promised to keep in touch over the summer – maybe we’d get together in the next week?

And of course, we didn’t. But when the next semester started, we picked up right where we left off. There were the classes we had together and the friends that we shared. There were the parties and other outings – everything was the same. Except the one difference was that I was seriously dating someone – a relationship that began over the summer when it had become apparent that Marty was not going to make his move. Having a boyfriend took the pressure off wondering if our relationship were ever going to progress and we became even better friends. That extra closeness, however, was even more confusing after awhile. The confusion became a rift in the relationship with my boyfriend and even led to a breakup. The day after we broke up, Marty was the one to offer comfort, unaware of his part. Several moments later, when he started telling me about his new girlfriend, I was crushed. I finally confided in one of our friends that he was the reason my boyfriend and I broke up. She was excited and surprised and of course, understanding of the irony. “Why don’t you just tell him?” she’d ask and I’d answer, “Because it could ruin everything. At least now, we are friends.”

And so it was. After awhile, I realized my feelings for the boyfriend were more important than my crush on Marty and we dated for a long time after. I was out to prove that guys and girls can be just friends. So that is all we ever were. We lived in the same dorm and ate breakfast together. I’d take refuge in his room when my room was “occupied” by my roommate and her boyfriend. I went to his parties. He occasionally walked me to class. And then we graduated. The last time I spoke to him was at a Halloween party – 16 years ago. I’ll never know why he didn’t kiss me that day. I’ll never know if he ever wished he had.

While I have better things to do than pine away for my college crush, I do wonder what ever happened to Marty – in the same way that I’m curious as to what became of the girl who encouraged me to declare my feelings or my first roommate or the boy who played his clarinet in the hall. I never kept in touch with any of them. I am always amazed by how relationships change and fade as we grow. Some we keep and develop, some we outgrow like clothes that no longer fit. Like most of my friendships from the college era, they were important then but have no time or place now except in my memory – and the rare dream.

For four years, I questioned “What if” things had been different with Marty. But I think I might have known the truth all along. The dream was an adequate summary of a simple story. It never would have worked – Marty’s a Republican.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

If It's Not On YouTube, It Must Not Exist

For those of you who were curious about the movie Local Hero that I mentioned, it seems that YouTube has just about the entire film posted in three minute segments. So here you go...

And keep in mind that the first time I watched this (19 years ago) I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out and was fuzzy on percoset. And I wasn't all that impressed. But it meant a lot to the person who showed it to me - so I watched it again - and again. And I found it funnier with each viewing. I recommend you Netflix it, pour yourself a glass of wine (or whiskey) and watch this on a cold, rainy afternoon. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Theme Thursday - Multiple

I have been absent from Stacy’s Theme Thursday for several weeks now so I was thrilled to see that the theme this week is an automatic one for me: Multiples. As you all know, I’ve got the Y chromosome in multiple around here – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But once a week, I borrow a girl-child for a little estrogen balance.

May I present my kids:

And it’s a bonus that I actually have a picture I could use since I don’t like to post pictures of my children where you can see their faces.

And with all the rain that we have had lately, I've had ample opportunity to take pictures of my favorite subject, raindrops on leaves.

And if you liked this post, please come see the updated version (with commentary from Jess added) over at Triangle Mamas. What do you have in multiple?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Catch Up

The funny truth about blogging is that not posting very often really lowers your readership stats. I feel I have let both of you down and I’m really sorry. Now that my houseguest has left, we are now back to our regularly scheduled program of laundry, dishes and mommy blogging. Give me a few more days to catch up with all of you.

My two oldest are in their last week of their fall intercession. The year-round school calendar has them in school for nine weeks, off for three. Let me tell you, three weeks is just too long. The first week, we went somewhere every day. The second week, Dean went to a camp and we had my awesome kid-loving friend visiting. This week, I’d like everyone to simply go away. If I were to post yesterday, it would have read just like this - same exact story.

Having my friend here last week made me a better parent, even if I was a terrible host. I was on my best parenting behavior with a calm voice almost all of the time, which was exhausting. Maybe it was the knowledge that I had another adult in the house, in case I needed backup, or the wanting to give the impression that I haven’t completely unraveled – whatever it was, last week was easier. The patience I had, phony or not, left in my friend’s suitcase. I already miss them both.

And speaking of my poor friend - I felt terrible that I was so caught up in the mommy-related things that I am always caught up in that I didn’t show her a good time. And she didn’t expect to be wined and dined and entertained but I think the worst part for her was that I kept apologizing. I couldn’t stop myself and got completely stuck on how bad I felt that I hadn’t even really cooked a meal for her that I think if I said “I’m sorry” one more time, she might of wanted to slap me. If she were at all uncomfortable with her stay, it was probably because I made her feel that way with all my whining. She expected the chaos, the loudness and the toys all over the floor. She probably didn’t expect me to be constantly pointing it all out to her and saying “Why on earth would you pick my house for a vacation?” Seriously, it’s the last place I’d choose. I’m guessing that her next trip will be to the beach and I won’t be invited.

So in the spirit of catching up with good friends, I have two meme’s to offer. Mamabeeotch tagged me with this one quite some time ago:

1. What is your favorite quotable line from a movie? Too hard to pick a favorite so here are a few movies I often quote: Spinal Tap – “But these go to eleven” (Nigel’s answer to why his stereo speakers are so special); Raising Arizona – what is not to quote? “I need a baby HI, they got more than they can handle…” “I got the best one I did” and many others; Local Hero – Another movie that grows more hysterical the more you watch it. Watch it and you too will find yourself quoting it often.
2. Who is the most famous person you’ve talked to? Having worked in a children’s hospital for over a decade, I have met various athlete’s from teams such as the Carolina Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Duke Basketball, Cincinatti Reds and the University of Kentucky football and basketball. I have also met Matthew Laurance (from the original 90210 cast) who used to come to the hospital with the Duke basketball team and helped with some fundraising events. Most noteworthy was the time I spent with Jeff Foxworthy visiting the patients. He and his wife Gregg didn’t just pop into rooms and wave. They sat and spoke with each family and asked questions and suffered through the kids’ jokes that they had made in preparation for Jeff’s visit. He laughed at every single one.
3. How many bags/boxes of potato chips are consumed at your house per month? Depends on the chip – but maybe one or two.
4. What foreign food dish do you prepare from scratch and serve? Right now, anything other than mac and cheese is foreign in this house. But by request, tonight I will be making tortilla soup. The kids will actually eat this.
5. What is your favorite section of the supermarket? The exit.
6. What was your high school team’s mascot and what were the school colors? We didn’t have a mascot but we wore maroon and gold – just like the Gryffindors.

Then Green Girl in Wisconsin put this one out there today for whomever wanted to play:

1. What are your nicknames? Sue, Sues, Mom, Mommy, Mama (if you are really wanting something).
2. What game show and/or reality show would you like to be on? Fetch with Ruff Ruffman, except I think I might be too old.
3. What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD? Field of Dreams, VHS, as a gift to my first real boyfriend (it was the movie we went to on our first date).
4. What is your favorite scent? Patchouli, rosemary, lavender and coffee.
5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it? I would buy as much land as I could and create a nature preserve.
6. What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to? Ireland – I’d love to travel it on my own terms and research my family lineage.
7. Do you trust easily? Mostly, until someone gives me reason not to and then I may never trust him/her again.
8. Do you think before you act, or act before you think? I think a little too much probably. I am often paralyzed by indecision.
9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? Everything that Green Girl mentioned and how greed seems to fuel it all; that there are folks who will make their election-day decision based on one issue, misinformation or racism; that bad things happen to good people and everything that I list in #10.
10. Do you have a good body image? For one week out of each month, I do. The rest of the month, I hate my hair and my hormone-induced acne on my chin and why is tweezing a full-time job?
11. What is your favorite fruit? Blueberries and whatever else is in season.
12. What websites do you visit daily? My local news, my favorite blogs, Huffington Post.
13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately? Coffee, tea, chocolate, blogs, and that elusive five minutes of quiet.
14. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? I can only imagine that we’d be good friends in real life.
15. What's the last song that got stuck in your head? Book of Love from the new Dar Williams and the Stars Wars theme music.
16. What's your favorite item of clothing? My jeans with the big whole in the knee and that are too short for me – they fit everywhere else so perfectly and are soooo comfortable.
17. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy? Only if they are covered in chocolate.
18. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? Look around to see if the one who dropped it is looking for it and then donate it to charity if I can’t locate the owner.
19. What items could you not go without during the day? Coffee and my laptop.
20. What should you be doing right now? Paying attention to the children.

I’m going to break with meme tradition and just say that whoever reads this and wants to be tagged, go for it. I’d love to catch up with you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Susie Sucks as a Hostess

In case you were planning on visiting and staying with me, you should know that I actually suck as a hostess. Now the dear friend that is visiting me right now might disagree. She will saw that she is not here to be entertained. She will say that she is here just to visit with us and is not concerned with the chaos that is a family of five. She will say that she is more than happy to accompany us to the dentist, to nature camp pick-up and the grocery store. She cheerfully plays on the floor with the kids. She pretends not to mind the dog sleeping on her pillows and blankets set up for her on our couch. And I'm sure she means it all, but I still feel like I suck.

My visiting friend has made my life easier this week, no doubt. I have left one or two children in her care while I have showered, used the bathroom and picked up Dean from camp. I am trying not to take advantage of her love of kids. And she understands that this is my life and it can't stop simply because she is visiting. She doesn't judge me when I let the kids watch TV so that she and I can actually talk or I can make dinner. She is the perfect guest.

I wish I could show her a better time. We stayed in today because I couldn't think of anything that I wanted to do with her and the kids in tow. She understood. She listened to me try to sound out a parenting dilemma for half the afternoon. She never told me to stop whining and to move on. She took a vacation and came to see me in all my craziness. And to that I am so very grateful. I'd like to cook her a real dinner. I'd like to take her shopping or our for a glass of wine. I'd like to stop being so self-absorbed so I can focus on her. Maybe I'm a fine hostess and I just suck as a friend.

Who wants to come over next?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dare I Call it Community Organizing?

For those of you that have been reading this blog for a while, you might be wondering where I have gone and what I might be doing instead of blogging. I am finding that I am being remarkably quiet, even for me. It’s not because I don’t have anything on my mind – I have so many things I’d like to share with you. But other than simply being busy with the kids, I’m quiet because I am trying to strike a balance between processing my thoughts out loud and being respectful of others’ viewpoints. That’s right, I’m talking politics – however did you guess? Politics and this election are the subjects occupying my thoughts most prominently.

I have never before quite felt this way about an election. I've been interested, but not nail-biting nervous like this. There was the study and rallying to encourage people to vote that was part of Sociology 101 coursework in 1988. Most of my peers then didn’t even know who the candidates were, let alone planning on dragging their big hair to the polls. That year, I simply voted because it was my right to do so – not because I had a strong opinion of either candidate. Four years later, I waited in the longest line I had ever seen to cast my vote in the Bush vs. Clinton race. I was happy to do my part by casting my vote. The outcome was beside the point. I felt like my vote counted. And then there were the two dark elections in a row where I voted and felt like my vote didn’t matter – that it wasn’t enough. I felt helpless and unheard. This time around though, I am truly excited about this election. This will be the first time that I will be voting for a candidate rather than against one.

But I am aware of a certain discomfort in discussing such matters. Being from New England and in the words of Dar Williams, “Way back where I come from, we never mean to bother, We don’t like to make our passions other people’s concerns.” I was raised in a family where polite conversation did not involve talk of politics, religion and sex. I personally felt uncomfortable reading a blog post recently written by someone who is very pro-Palin. Since she asked for comments, I left a thoughtfully and respectfully (I hope) dissenting one. But I will guiltily admit that I may not be back to read that particular blog for a while. And I got very little feedback on the one post I wrote that wasn’t even necessarily about politics but I had the word in my title. So if I am putting anyone off here, I am sorry and I understand. It is simply easier to talk about the current state of the election with like-minded people – I get it.

The problem is, only speaking with folks who feel the same way I do isn’t really helping the cause. I can write numerous posts about what I like about Obama and what I dislike about McCain and those of you who agree with me will say, “Sing it Sister” and those of you who disagree will quietly click away. I’m sure I won’t be changing anyone’s mind so there is no reason to turn my blog into a podium. [For those who are completely undecided and plan on flipping a coin in the voting booth, email me and I’ll tell you why I am pro-Obama.] Seriously, do you really want to hear what I think of Palin as our potential new VP? I bet you can guess. However, I feel that we do need some true activism so I make the following proposals for whatever side of the ticket you are leaning:

1. Stop talking about the candidate for whom you are not voting and start talking about the candidate for whom you are voting. Tell us why you think he’s the right man for the job.
2. Write a heart-felt email or letter detailing these reasons and send it to everyone you know.
3. Call your local campaign office and find out how you can help. You can volunteer any number of ways by helping to get folks registered to vote or making calls. If you don’t have that kind of time, offer to donate food to feed the other volunteers.
4. Donate to the campaign of your choice. It’s going to take money to campaign hard in those battleground states.
5. Offer to drive someone to the polls that ordinarily might not be able to get there on their own.
6. Find out who’s on the fence – these are the people who will decide the election and these are the people we need to be talking to.
7. Get the facts on your favorite candidate – feel free to correct people who are spreading ideas that are simply not true. For example, “No, Obama does not want your kindergartner to carry condoms.”
8. By all means, vote. But only McCain or Obama can be president so think carefully before wasting your vote on a third party candidate or write-in. No one has ever made it to the Oval Office by a write-in vote. If you do decide to write-in your vote, email me ahead of time so I can make sure you know how to spell my last name correctly.

If true change is to happen, it is going to have to start with us. Be proactive! If you have any other ideas, please let me hear them. Please, please comment – I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Without a doubt, the one thing I have always known that I wanted to be was a mom. In my earliest memories of playing as a child, I am holding a baby doll in one arm while hanging doll clothes on my small clothesline with the other. At night before sleep, I’d tuck those dolls into their own beds and kiss them goodnight. I wanted to be the best mom I could be and I was practicing for my far-off future.
When I was too old for dolls, I still knew I wanted to be a mother, although not until my career was well established. I figured that time would come late in life, like when I was thirty or something. And then the adult years of true baby lust came and I was saddened each month when my period came, even though I was using birth control and we agreed we weren’t ready. Parenthood was still off in the future.
The planning began in earnest after one particularly emotional day at work. I had kept vigil with a family the entire day. The parents and two young children had been in a car accident on the way to school that morning. The dad was critically injured and it was clear that he probably was not going to survive. The mom was being treated in another room so I was called in to start some psychological first aid with the kids. Later in the day, as the kids prepared to say “good-bye” to their father, the mother kept saying over and over, “At least I have the two of you. At least I have the two of you.” And that was the moment for me when I decided not to put off parenthood any longer.
Eleven months later and nine years ago today, I met the man who made my dreams come true.

Happy Birthday Dean. Thanks for making me a mom.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sound of the Eno -Theme Thursday

Stacy's Theme Thursday this week calls for Rest. A stroll by the nearby river is as restful as I can get. I took this video mainly for the audio, not necessarily for the visual. Please forgive the shaky hand since I was working with a handicap, I mean a toddler. You can read the full story at Triangle Mamas.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Life, Universe, Everything

Back in the early days of our friendship, the days before our courtship, my husband and I would often find ourselves being quiet together. This comfortable silence would often end with the question, "What are you thinking about?" If I were the one asking, he would almost always answer, "Life, the universe, everything." And I always knew what he meant - everything yet nothing in particular.

And that is how I am feeling lately, which is why there has been no organized post. I have so many thoughts swimming around but no clear definition to any of them. There is no way to string my thoughts into words that are understandable to anyone but me. If I had a Twitter account, you might see phrases like this:

Went to Target. Did not find anything to make my life better. (one hour ago)

Took the kids to the Museum. Spent almost the entire time playing in the best sandbox in the Triangle area. Good people watching but no blog fodder. (one day ago)

Just found out that there will be a 20 year high school reunion this November. Should I travel the 900 miles for it? Do I care? What would I wear? (two days ago)

Just read this article that Erika linked. Says "alone time is the new heroin." Hoping to get my fix this weekend. (three days ago)

Just spoke with most of my extended family after my grandmother's memorial service. I would have liked to go but wasn't invited. (one week ago)

Trying hard to get my shit together. Can't find all of my shit. (everyday)

There are more but you get the idea. Each one of these thoughts is a window into a longer story, a richer blog post. And once I am able to wrap my words around them, you will be the first to know.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Theme Thursday - Summer Round Up

It's hard to choose just a few favorite pictures to summarize this summer for Theme Thursday. Sure, I have a lot of pictures of the kids but nothing that really stands out as portrait quality. But when I think of what has been important to my family this summer, I think of our garden. It was a whole family endeavor that took over a significant portion of our front yard. We had many volunteer pumpkins that thrived despite our not having planted them ourselves- they were simply gifts from the compost we laid down. We had numerous tomatoes, a few eggplant, some pickling cucumbers, chard, cantaloupe, peppers and some acorn squash (another gift from the compost). As a whole family, we planted, watered, nurtured, harvested, shared, cooked, canned and pickled. In our garden this summer, we grew more than just magnificent sunflowers and ample produce, we grew some family memories. Those, you can't buy in the store.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yes We Can - Susie on Politics

You know how when you were a little kid, you always believed what your parents told you? Well, growing up, I was always told that I could be whatever I wanted. A doctor, a lawyer, a ballerina… Well, maybe not a ballerina but you get the idea. The point is, my parents never once talked to us about barriers to our dreams. Whatever is was that we wanted to do, we could do, if we tried hard enough.

And for their part, they worked hard at jobs they disliked, to make sure that my sisters and I got all the things in life that they did not. We went to private schools and then on to college. Where they couldn’t support with cash, they supported with food and other basic necessities. They always supported with encouragement. The message was always the same: “You can do it. Whatever you set your mind to, it can be done.”

While growing up, I think I believed this - at least mostly. I know I believed it when I gave my first solo performance. I know I believed it when I took my driver’s exam. I know I believed it when I sent in my graduate school application. And I believed it when I packed my car and drove off to a new life in North Carolina. But by my teen years, I only believed it to a certain extent. I believed I could do anything I wanted to do, as long as it was within my means.

In high school, I knew I could go to college. I knew that I could go to my state university, but not Yale or Harvard. In college, I knew that I could get good grades, but not maintain a 4.0. I knew I could be stellar, but in my own average way. In laying out my life’s path, I chose attainable goals – goals that I could meet (sometimes without too much work because I am lazy that way). I knew that I couldn’t change the world but that I could make at least some moments of it better for the kids with whom I worked. I’m not putting myself down - I just understood the simple fact that you can only aim so high based on your life circumstances. I understood the sad truth that there are barriers for people who are not born into money. My life’s opportunities have been vastly different from those of George Bush. For working class people, dreams and goals are two different things.

Now if my parents had the same understanding, I do not know. Sometimes I think they just said those things because they wanted them to be true for their children. If they truly believed them, then they would probably call me cynical. I think I have been realistic. Over the years, I stopped believing that this idea could be true for anyone - until I listened to Michelle Obama’s convention speech.

If you haven’t already, go and listen. It doesn’t matter what side of the political railroad tracks you live on, her words will make you believe that we can do whatever we want to do, if we try hard enough. This is the message that I heard while growing up and what I want my children to hear too. And she makes me believe it’s true, once again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomato Fest

There is a hint in the air, a signal that the end of summer is coming. Even though there is still a calendar month to go before the Equinox, and even though it will be warm here long after that, summer is still ending. How do I know? What makes me so sure? The garden, of course. The majestic sunflowers are drooping and drying on their twelve foot stalks. Only the birds can appreciate their current state. The pumpkin vines are dying and shrinking back into the ground now that their work is done. The tomato plants have stopped producing and are mere shadows of their former selves. And so, the end of summer means the end of all this bounty:

And what does one do with all this home-grown goodness at one time? Well, for a couple of weeks, it was all tomato, all the time. I made A LOT of gazpacho, eggplant parmigiana, tomato basil pasta and pizza... We also gave away many tomatoes to friends and neighbors.

And what to do with the leftovers? Well, not much makes you feel closer to your homesteading roots like canning. Behold...

Did you have a garden this summer? How did you enjoy the fruits of your labor?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Come Visit Me

My inaugural post is up at Triangle Mamas. I hope you stop by to visit me and meet my new friends.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Theme Thursday - Wonder

I wonder what the bees would do if our garden didn't have this:

I wonder what other wondrous entries there are today over at Stacy's.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Later Rory

Have I told you about my niece Rory? (And yes, that‘s a blogonym.) Last week, Rory turned eighteen years old. Today, she leaves for college. This morning, I suddenly felt like I had run out of time.

Eighteen years ago, I held her newborn self in my arms. It was a sunny, breezy morning, just like we are having today. She was wearing an infant-sized sweat suit with my college insignia on it that I had purchased for her. It was too big for her, of course, but she was wearing it for my send-off. I gave her one last kiss on top of her head and held back my tears as I handed her back to my sister. “There’ll be lots of time to hold you later, “ I promised. And then I drove off to college.

And I did get to see a lot of her those first two years. I was often home on weekends and I’d care for her on school breaks. But it never seemed like enough. I looked forward to being out of school and having a job so I could spoil her properly. I wanted to be the kind of aunt that would always buy her things, the things that her parents might not want to get her. I wanted to be the kind of aunt who would always take her places that no one else wanted to take her. I was ready to buy prom dresses and brave coliseum concerts. Remember the Friends character Monica, when she held her newborn nephew Ben for the first time and said, “I’ll always have gum”? That was the kind of aunt I wanted to be, the cool one.

The same summer I graduated from college and moved back home, my sister and her family moved out of state. I went with them to help out for the first few weeks but I eventually had to go back home and get a job and figure my own life out. So I said “Goodbye” to Rory once again and vowed to spend more time together, later.

Then there were the jobs, graduate school, a fiancĂ© that lived two hours away, the wedding to plan… Then it was my turn to move far away and start my own family. That “later time” kept getting pushed later and later. I missed birthday parties and first days of school. I missed Christmas mornings and beloved pet funerals. I missed school plays, concerts, and graduations. I missed her leaving for her first date and leaving for her prom. And now I’m missing her leaving for college.

There was one auntie gut-wrenching phone call where I had to explain to the then six year old Rory why I was missing her birthday party twelve hours away. “Maybe you can take an airplane ride,” she helpfully suggested in her sad little voice. But there was work and it wasn’t a good time to make the trip and we just bought a new house so, I missed it. I hated that I missed it, but I missed it. I’d make it up to her, later.

Eventually, the missing out part got a little easier, as I became even more absorbed in my own life. The distance was incorporated into our daily life expectations. We made the most out of every visit and still do. We make those visits as often as possible. I know I’ve had an impact. I know I have a relationship with Rory and her sister. In some ways, I am the aunt I’ve wanted to be. But I feel like I missed so much. And the missing part got hard again this year as Rory had her last school concert, when she graduated from high school, and today, as she packs her stuff for college.

On our last visit to her house, we spent a whole afternoon together. She took me to her favorite coffee house, her favorite clothing boutique. I met her (then) boyfriend. And we watched a lot of Gilmore Girls. I was struck by how much she is not a kid anymore and how much our relationship is about to change. We will email each other. I’ll hope to visit her at school. I’ll send her care packages of the little things no one else will think to send her. I'll visit her My Space page to see who and what are new in her life. I know I’ll be a part of it in some way. Only now, she’ll be the one saying, “later.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated...

To blog is to hold dear the belief that each person has a unique story and a voice to be heard. To read blogs is to hear those stories, those voices. Every now and then, you might find one that you are drawn to - a familiar story, or perhaps a riveting one, a story that is well-crafted, or sometimes a story that is told in one long sentence without punctuation – it doesn’t matter really. What matters is that the voice comes through and is heard. And for the blogger, it is nice to know when you have been heard.

I want to sincerely thank Melissa at Green Girl in Wisconsin for awarding me the Arte Y Pico. Not only am I touched that she thought to give this to me but also because she called me “insightful.” Aw shucks, Green Girl, that is quite the compliment.

She explains that the award is " a token of one's style and substance as a blogger." Winners of the Arte Y Pico award must:

1) Choose five blogs that you consider deserve this award for creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of language.

2) Publish the name of each award-winning author as well as a link to his or her blog.

3) Each award-winner must post a picture of the award and link back to the blog that has given the award.

4) Both the giver and the recipient of the award must link to the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) You must post these rules.

So in the spirit the Arte Y Pico, I pass the award on to the following fellow bloggers:

To Elena at Stay at Home Mom Quickly Going Insane – When I first started blogging, Elena was welcoming and encouraging. She brought over all her own readers to my "house" to welcome me to the blogging neighborhood. Her writing is honest and witty, raw and charming – and funny as hell. For a good example, read her "Fuck Fear" post. She is going to publish a book one day.

To Marty at Don’t Take the Repeats - Marty (the blogger previously known as Canape) is as classy in person as she is on her blog. I have been reading Don’t Take the Repeats for about a year now and have always loved the sincerity in her writing. She is insightful, authentic and you will feel like you are reading the blog of a dear old friend. Marty has also just launched Triangle Mamas, a community blog that will unite and organize us mommy bloggers here in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

To Stacy at Land of K.A. – Here’s a woman who does it all. Her blog is an inspiring mix of creativity including photography, cooking and sewing. She is the hostess of the photography-oriented Theme Thursday. I am learning a lot from her and I would truly like to be her when I grow up.

To Jenn at I Serve the Queens, for her beautifully written, poetic posts about parenthood, pain and hope. Read this post and tell me it doesn’t make you cry – I dare you. Here’s to all the dimes in our lives…

And right back at ‘cha Green Girl. I know giving back the award is probably not done, but I feel we might be kindred spirits, you and I. Green Girl is captain to the northern Team Testosterone (she has three boys of her own) so she totally understands why it is not advisable to use the “boys” bathroom in my house and why I can’t have anything nice.

Enjoy and thanks for hearing me.

*And you should definitely click on the link and take a look at it because it is really beautiful but for the life of me, I can't make it appear here. Someone please advise?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Theme Thursday - Antique

I am learning so much about photography from Stacy's website. I have always been reluctant to do too much with my photos as far as processing ( I don't even know how to use Photoshop) and I hate to lose what I had originally captured with the camera. But today, with Stacy's "Antique" theme in mind, I took these pictures with the specific intention of processing them and exploring some of my computer's previously untouched features.

This week, my husband and I celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. In observance of Theme Thursday and our special day, I present to you, my wedding gown. It seems like a lifetime ago that I fit into this dress, purchased at a vintage clothing shop in Boston. I doubt the dress was very old, but it was quite reminiscent of an Edwardian-style tea party dress. And while lace wasn't and isn't really my style, this dress fit me perfectly the first time I ever tried it on - and it was the first one I did try. So, it was meant to be. I loved how the dress fell close to my body and was so easy to wear on a hot, August day. I especially loved the detail of all this embroidery. I saved the dress all these years hoping that someone else will wear it one day - perhaps a niece or daughter-in-law. Stay tuned because no doubt I'll blog that when the day comes.

The macro setting with my finger holding down the flash brings out all it's antique-y glory. I switched the pictures to black and white, leaving one and using the antique setting for the others. I also blurred the edges.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What's the Breast Story?

I think it would be fair to say that women have been breastfeeding their babies since the dawn of time. Forgive me if I don’t cite a reference on that one. And I think it is also safe to say that besides using car seats and putting babies to sleep on their backs, breastfeeding is the big parenting “must do” of our generation. (And luckily, if we choose not to breastfeed or simply can’t make it work, we have better alternatives to utilize than our mothers ever did.) But from the pamphlets in the OB’s office to even the commercials for heavily marketed formula, the message is that “Breast is Best.”

This hasn’t always been the case. My mother did not breastfeed her children. In the mid to late 60’s, formula was still considered to be the “scientific” way to feed babies. No one ever educated her on the benefits of nursing or even offered it as a choice. My mother-in-law told me that it was basically the same for her. Bottles and disposable diapers were symbols of status and convenience while breastfeeding was for the hippies on the commune. Even though La Leche League was organized since the mid-fifties, bottle-feeding was the norm from the Baby Boomers to Generation X. So when did that change? Probably about the same time that parents fought to have fathers in the delivery room. By the early 90’s, breastfeeding was back in fashion.

I remember this being a big deal for my sister when my niece was born. But she had to fight for it, begging for her baby to be brought to her and not be given a bottle in the hospital nursery. The women in my family couldn’t understand why she would even want to breastfeed. But almost a decade later, that attitude changed. By the time I gave birth for the first time in 1999, the hospital nurses simply assumed that I would be breastfeeding. Dean never once was offered a bottle or pacifier in the hospital and a lactation consultant checked in on me even though each of my nurses “helped” me with my technique. In fact, if I had ever made any other choice, I might have been made to feel like less of a mother. I left the hospital armed with a pump, nipple cream and a bag of formula (just in case). I also left with a baby that had gained weight before we were discharged to prove that I was doing it right. Breastfeeding for my peer group is not just the fashion, but also the expectation.

So why, in a society where it is understood that about 70 percent of mothers do indeed breastfeed their infants, do we still hear stories like this? Did we suddenly time warp back to 1967? Where does such discomfort with the most timeless, natural process come from? Could it be that we still consider baring one’s breasts an offensive act, like mooning? But Catherine Connors wasn’t mooning anyone – she was trying to feed her baby. And for most, a quietly suckling child is more socially acceptable than a hungry squalling one. So we are expected to breastfeed our babies, just not in front of anyone else?

What really surprised me about Her Bad Mother’s story is that another mother was the one giving the disapproving glare. I would never consider another parent to be someone I wouldn’t lift my shirt in front of to feed my child. In fact, after three kids, I doubt there is anyone who has met me that hasn’t seen me nurse a baby. Parks, museums, school, soccer practice and even the library – I’ve bared my breast almost everywhere I have been in the last nine years. And if I have gone to a private location to nurse, it has probably been for my own comfort rather than yours. I have even nursed in front of my own father (gasp) and if he can handle it, so can you.

This is not to say that I go topless just anywhere. I do carefully choose locations, again based on my own comfort and sometimes the comfort of those around me. I don’t nurse in front of the adolescent boys at the pool. I don’t nurse in the mall food court in front of the old men. I haven’t always breastfed in front of my dad – I usually leave the room and if he chooses to sit next to me on the couch while I’m nursing, then that is his choice. It’s taken him awhile to get to that point. And if I don’t know you well, I may ask you if you would be uncomfortable with my nursing in front of you. But I’d never think to ask a mom of young children who had probably breastfed as well.

No one has ever asked me to stop nursing. I have never been instructed to take my nursing child into a public restroom – a place regaled for bodily fluids coming out of the body rather than going in. Would you want to eat in there? Even if I weren’t pro-lactation, I would never make another woman feel like she had just done something unspeakable in front of me. While my almost nine-year-old son can’t stand to see me undressed, he is never uncomfortable seeing me breastfeed his brother – whatever the location. He understands the difference between nudity and nursing. One makes him uncomfortable while the other is natural process.

So at the close of World Breastfeeding Week, I offer up these challenges. Next time you see a young mom nursing a baby – give her a smile. Reminisce with your children about how they were fed – bottle, breast or both. And if you are currently lactating, take your child to a public location and proudly bare your breast – for moms like Catherine and for your baby.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Theme Thursday - Friday Night Eyes

What would Thursday (or Friday morning for that matter) be without a Theme Thursday contribution? Now when Stacy called the challenge this week "Eyes," I'm guessing she probably meant human eyes but by now you know that Susie doesn't usually take the theme literally. So I offer you this: Hit Bull, Win Steak. Intrigued?

Last Friday evening, we participated in that summer rite of passage that is attending a baseball game. And if you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina or have ever seen the movie Bull Durham, then you understand what a full sensory experience it is to go see the Durham Bulls play. Besides the actual game action on the field, there is the loud organ music playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and the vendors walking around with steaming sweet-smelling funnel cakes. And there is so much to do!

For one thing, you get to share snow cones.

And perhaps contemplate your next career?

(Here is where the eyes come in) And feel safely watched over by this guy -

When the home team makes a home run, he really does do this (just like in the movie) -

The Bulls won, by the way. Those eyes were glowing red a lot that night.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Growing Up and Letting Go

In these last few weeks, we have been coping with a big transition – the start of Kindergarten. It would be difficult to say whether this is a bigger change for Jess or for us, his parents. He was excited the first day, maybe a little nervous of how different it would be, but thrilled to be starting “big kid” school. We went to the open house where he walked around the classroom, wide-eyed and absorbing every detail. He let everyone who would listen know that he was indeed, ready.

But a new school equals new rules, new ways of doing things. Jess’ preschool was a very child-led environment, rich in hands-on activities and meaningful projects. To now be in a traditional, “sit-in-your-seat” style school is a huge change. Just after the first few days, Jess made it clear that this difference was “no fun” and in fact, boring. Also, the tight teacher-directed schedule leaves little time for making friends. Add to his disappointment the fact that he now is in school until 3:30 when he is used to going only half-day and you have a recipe for exhausted daily meltdowns. Sometimes these are on the way to school and sometimes for some random reason later in the day.

Obviously, this is not unexpected. Starting school is one of childhood’s biggest milestones and Jess is not well known for keeping his emotions in check during the best of times. With all the changes, he is left with few resources with which to cope. But my heart breaks a little every morning when I drop him off. I walk him (sometimes drag him) to his class and stand at the door while he goes through the motions of his morning routine. The first few days, I’d leave and come back to peek through the window to see how he was doing but had to stop that because it made me too sad. He would just be sitting in his seat looking lost. Jess is the type of spirit who always fits in – never having trouble making friends and finding something to do to make him happy. So to see him each day, looking sad and out of place was just too much for this mommy to handle and I’d walk back to my car wiping away tears. I feel like I’m leaving a piece of myself behind at that desk each day and I wonder if there will be anything left of me by Labor Day.

Dr. T. Barry Brazelton, the grandfatherly developmental pediatrician, calls these transitions “Touchpoints.” These are the steps backwards we take before we grow and make a leap forward. Children often regress in one area while they are working on another – like the toddler learning to walk who suddenly stops sleeping through the night. Touchpoints are phases, signs of growth and ultimately, they pass. And while Jess suffers through this touchpoint, I feel like I am having one of my own. I am holding on tighter before I can let go.

It would be easier to let go a little if I felt that Jess would be landing into a fabulous kindergarten experience. But as his parents, we are coping with our own disappointment. From the moment we entered the classroom during open house, I felt doubt washing over me. It’s not that there was anything specifically wrong with the classroom, there was just nothing very right with it. There was nothing outwardly creative or outstanding in the set-up but I also understand that some teachers start off the year with a clean and almost empty classroom and add to it as the curriculum progresses. And then Jess started to bring home the coloring sheets he has been completing at school for his “work” and my stomach turned over and my eyes rolled back in my head. Worksheets, especially those where you color in the lines, go against the very grain of my child-development trained philosophy.

Now I should also explain that I look at school from a consumer standpoint. The school offers a product and I if I don’t like it, I can theoretically choose another school. And because of my educational background, I am one choosy customer. In our area, we have the illusion of a lot of choice. We have our district public schools, our magnet schools, charter schools and private schools. Our first school experience was a charter school that we chose for Dean. In the beginning, it was a seamless transition from our preschool with small class size and a project-based curriculum. The school as a whole was not perfect but we had a great teacher and good first year in kindergarten. First grade, however, was a very different story. We had an awful teacher, unsupportive administration, and a child with emerging learning issues that were not being addressed at school. That began our adventure in home-schooling and a story for another long post. After many school visits, much soul-searching and number crunching, we settled on this school – our district school. A school with a great reputation and one of the reasons we bought a house in this neighborhood. And it has been great for Dean. He is on his way to having his second great year and our faith has been restored in the public school system.

So for Jess, the choice field was narrowed down considerably because who wants their kids separated into different schools, on different school calendars? And even if we were willing to do that, I burned the bridge back to the charter school. And even if I had the money for private school (a mere $12000 per child), it’s too late to apply and enroll for kindergarten. And while I certainly know people who try a new school each year for their child, I don’t want to be one of them. I like this school and am looking forward to Jess getting the same experience as Dean – but I fear he won’t get it this year in kindergarten.

And nothing irritates a mom more than not being able to “fix” a problem. There is no way to talk to the teacher about my concerns without making the problem worse. No teacher likes to be told how to do her job and there is no way not to have hurt feelings trickle down to my son. I could talk to the principle but I doubt, despite his being as fabulous as he is, that my concerns will lead to any change. My asking nicely for a more creative approach to teaching will not stop the flow of worksheets in my child’s direction. I might as well ask for more adequate parking at the same time. In fact, I have to be very careful whom I speak to about this. Of the few friends I have in this school, one of them is friendly with the teacher in question and neither of them understands why I even have a problem with the curriculum. And while I believe strongly in my stance on this issue, I can see where these other moms think I am being a pretentious ass and why don’t I just enroll him in the over-priced private school already.

My husband is ready to pull Jess out and have me home-school him for this year. He has absolute faith in my ability to put my money where my mouth is and do a better job teaching Jess than his current situation will. But I’m not sure home-schooling will meet all of Jess’ needs either. Home-schooling takes discipline and organization – not my strongest suits. And I’m not sure my little extrovert would be happy alone with his mom and his baby brother for most of the day. Our five-week summer did not go very well in that regard. I don’t want to pull him out of school in knee-jerk haste. I also don’t want to have to contemplate any more change than necessary.

There just doesn’t seem to be any clear solution here. I want to do what is best for Jess, but it also has to work for the whole family. I want him to be happy in school. I want him to love learning. I want him to get more from school than just doing what he needs to do to make the teacher happy. But part of letting your kids grow up is accepting that as a parent, you can’t fix everything. And I may not be able to fix this. This may be a year that he just has to get through – I just hate that it has to happen this early in his education.

So for now, I’ll keep watching to make sure that Jess’ creative spirit doesn’t get lost in the worksheet shuffle. I’ll proudly keep displaying his class work on the refrigerator like it’s a lovely piece of art. And I’ll keep reminding him that he doesn’t always have to color in the lines. And I’ll try to let go, just a bit.