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?