Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It's Not A Sign From God

I don't care if the tree is one of the primary reasons I was drawn to this house in the first place. I don't care that I even blogged about how much I love the tree or that I called this house the Climbing Tree house. Heck. It even got a shout-out in our annual Christmas letter.

It's not a sign. It doesn't mean anything. If we would have seen the tree for the first time in the summer, we would have known it was dead. But in the winter when we were house hunting, it just looked like it was quietly wintering, sleeping soundly in the icy cold, it's broad horizontal limbs offering a promise of years of climbing adventures.

Last fall, we were *insulted* by a tree removal company who gave us a quote for removing "the dead box elder in the backyard" in addition to a quote for removing the dead tree next to our driveway. How dare they insinuate that my precious climbing tree is dead? It's just hibernating.

It never woke up for us. A few brave buds turned into leaves last summer, but that was it. And this spring? Large chunks of bark fall off every day. It's so sad and depressing.

Hurry up and come over and climb this tree before it's put out of its misery. Please. It needs one last good climb. You can be dang sure I'll be doing it, too.

To end on a happier note, we'll be replacing it with a row of four or five fruit trees that will provide some screening from the alley and our backdoor neighbor who seems to collect recreational equipment to park them all over his lawn. The fruit trees might not get planted this year, but definitely next year.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Slice of Life: Family Heirloom

Thanks to @scrappynhappy from Twitter for introducing me to this new writing prompt.

"Don't think I'm trying to shove you into the grave or anything... but I wouldn't mind if you earmarked Grandma's treadle sewing machine for me."

"You know it still works, right?"

"Yep. I have many fond childhood memories of rocking the treadle back and forth and feeling the stiff mechanism loosen up. I would like to have it. I promise I'll take care of it."

This nonchalant exchange occurred while I was driving my mother's car back to my house. I think we were talking about all of the items in her basement that are currently undergoing a drastic reorganization courtesy of Sandy, the housekeeper lady extraordinaire.

Inwardly, I feel conflicted. My mom is not possibly old enough for me to start talking about stuff like this. She's going to be around for at least 30 more years, right? After all, I'm just a baby myself, HER baby.

I wonder when it happened, this switch from "shopping" in her basement for items to furnish my apartments to carefully selecting things that I want to have around me to fill me with joy and memories.

"I remember that it was my job as a kid to dust all the rungs on the dining room table and chairs. It would take me an hour to get in all those crevices."

"They certainly made furniture to last, didn't they? We bought that set in 1975. Dad picked it out. We haven't bought a new set because this one is still in good shape."

Sure, there are only 4 or 5 chairs left. I remember clamping the rungs back into place long enough for the carpenter's glue to do its job. The kind of furniture you mend, just like the thick socks with the holes in the toe area. I had my mom teach me how to darn socks this last week just so I wouldn't have to waste good socks.

"The table top is good for homemade play-doh, that's for sure."

It is. The table is made of solid wood, but the top has a tough veneer that resists scratches. And it has leaves. The table can go from a smallish circle to a long oval that has fit eight of us around it. Sure, our elbows would hit each other, but we could fit. We'd bring in the kitchen stool and the piano bench to provide extra seating. Later, we'd spin the computer chair around to join the eclectic mix. Now, we have to set up two card tables in the living room and clear off the breakfast bar as well."

The set isn't beautiful. My mom never felt it was her ideal table and chairs. I remember her telling me that Dad picked it out on his own and surprised her with it. All these years, she's lived with it even though she didn't really love it.

And now I covet this ramshackle dining room table and chairs. I want to make homemade play-doh for my children and let them use the rolling pin on the soft green dough, give them plastic knives and forks to trace out designs in the minty-smelling putty.

"We can go to the furniture store next time you are in town and pick out a new set for you. You'll finally have the set you've always wanted. A long oval on a pedestal base, right? What kind of chairs would you like? Country traditional with stenciled carvings? Shaker simplicity?"

"I don't know. I think I'd rather let you pick them out. My kids seem to know what I like better than I do. I trust your judgment."

How did this happen? Is this conversation significant? Why do I feel a shifting, a tremble of an earthquake?

Last night we watched Antiques Roadshow. I'm always startled by the beauty of some of the antiques and special finds that people bring in for appraisal. Family heirlooms, some, others, just a dirty treasure they picked up at a flea market. I'll never haul the dining room table to an arena and lovingly present it to the Keno brothers for appraisal.

"It's been in my family for generations. We used to drape sheets over it to make tents. I never really thought it would be worth anything."

"Well, you might be surprised to hear that this '70s relic is worth ten thousand dollars now."

"It's priceless to my family. We'll never sell it."


I still have that blankie. Anna cuddles in it.

The same chair in the picture above. My mom has it in her basement. She reads her devotions there in the same rocking chair where she nursed her babies.

The other "bow-bow chair." I think my sister claimed it. The little one in the picture is me after I got into my sister's Barbie lipstick.

Many of those ornaments survived. I think I covet those as well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Note About Birthdays

I'm having one today. My 27th birthday. And I can't think of anything witty, funny or poignant to write about it.

My mom called me this morning to wish me a happy one. She even sang.

"Happy birthday to you.
You live in a zoo
With lions and tigers
and monkeys like you."

And we talked about "27" and how close it is to 30. We agreed that I'm not exactly clinging to my youth. I'm not scared of 30. or 40 for that matter. I think it's because I like where my life is right now, and I don't feel like there's something I need to do before I reach those milestones.

I've lived these first 27 years fully. I've sown *a lot* of wild oats. I've done things I'm ashamed of, but also a lot of things I'm proud of. And these 27 years have earned me my beautiful family.

I am celebrating today with brownies and a nap. And I might even raid my change stash and go to the pottery painting place, something I've been meaning to do for months.

PS. That's a ping pong ball in my mouth. I spent a lot of my babyhood with a ping pong ball in my mouth.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wow! Look At That!

Sometimes I feel like I'm short-changing Ben on this whole being his mother thing. Especially now with Anna around. She's still an infant. She can't move herself to and fro, she still breastfeeds, she cries a lot. She gets a lot of my attention, attention that used to be Ben's alone.

I'm glad I'm blogging so I can remember what my kids are like as little ones. Some days I go to bed, my head reeling and rollercoastering from the day's drama and exhaustion. I can barely remember what should go on the grocery list.

We had some lovely moments last night. After we got cleaned up from dinner, Chris walked into the kitchen and gave me a few options for how the rest of the night should go. 1. Walk to the park. 2. Let him go outside and dig up a garden. or 3. Sit on the couch and watch TV.

I picked the garden because I'm worried that if we put it off too many times, we won't have it dug in time to plant anything. Anna and I sat in a lounge chair, and Ben played with some special (noise-making ones that we kept in the garage all winter) trucks. And Chris worked his butt off digging away. (I refuse to even consider buying a roto-tiller thing just for a small patch of garden, and we don't know anyone local who owns one.)

Once again, I felt renewed and just plain "good" to be outside. A neighbor drove down the alley and greeted us, Ben squealed at boys who were riding their bikes down the sidewalk, and I watched another neighbor a few houses down take her laundry off of the line. And watching Ben get righteously dirty? Heaven.

He even tried helping Daddy.

But even fresh dirt and urban farm equipment can only hold a toddler's attention for so long. Eventually, he got a little antsy, so I hauled the kids around the block in the stroller.

And wouldn't you know it? A friggin' choo-choo was making a delivery to the warehouse in the block behind us! This train is only used between a handful of businesses in the area, and I'm not sure what their schedule is, but we got lucky last night.

My son, the lover of trains, had never seen a train in real life before. He was amazed. We watched it inch its way down the tracks until it stopped. And then we walked up and down the block three times so we could admire it some more. The engineer eventually waved. I think Ben was in shock.

We went back home and left Anna and the stroller with Dad, and we ran to the end of the alley to get another view of all that train-y goodness.

The excitement was tangible. I could only lure him away with the promise of cookies. It was times like that when I wished he could talk more... at least in words I can understand. I could kind of guess what was going on in his head, but I did most of the talking and shouting.

As a mom who is more than willing to act like a fool for her kids, I didn't think twice about narrating the experience for Ben within earshot of the neighbors. "Look, Ben! The train engine is black. It is pulling a blue train car, a yellow train car..." You get the idea. This tomfoolery has a serious purpose – to expose Ben's ears to simple, direct words and sentences.

I was actually thrilled to see a train in our neighborhood. I was excited for Ben and this new experience for him. I can hardly wait to show him the growing things in our garden. Look, Ben! We planted a bean seed, and now this vine is growing up the stick. It is green and alive. Isn't that wonderful?

Qwillerage: Waves

I've never lived near the sea. I've never even lived on a lake. So maybe if I was around the water all the time, I wouldn't be that affected by it. But I am.

I remember walking on the beach in Treasure Cay on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas many years back. The weather was spectacular and just a touch too warm. The sun was hot, and the sand beneath my toes was hard and soft, all at the same time. Sea grasses, so fine and feathery, swirled in the breeze nearby.

I laid down on my back, on the sand, under the sun. I squirmed and wriggled and let the sand move underneath my body, filling in the curves. I stretched my arms out and pressed the backs of my hands into the sand.

I was still and silent as I listened to the waves of the turquoise sea. A hush as the ocean sucked in its breath, a rush and gentle roar as it exhaled the waves onto the beach.

I felt the wisps of breeze floating off the water, carrying tiny droplets of salty mist with it. Those tendrils of cool, damp air curled around the hills and valleys of my body, and the tiny hairs on my arms felt like they were swirling in concert with the sea grasses. Always the hush and the rush and the roar. It never stopped, just like my heart never stopped beating, even when I concentrated on it.

As I laid there, letting all my tensions and anxieties seep into the sand beneath me, I felt clean, scoured by the salt water, rinsed by the wind. Clean of mind and spirit.

I left the sea. I knew I didn't belong there. It felt like one of the resting planets in A Wrinkle In Time where the travelers stopped to catch their breath, to warm their hearts. I belong in a land with towering trees and autumn leaves. I should walk across rolling hills and pass by frog ponds and playwoods.

Finding waves in a forest takes a little more concentration, but it is more than possible. It's inevitable if you are still and silent long enough. Slowly, you'll notice the tops of the trees waving in the wind, you'll hear the gentle blowing and rustling of that same sea-originating breeze, sometimes as loud as a train, but mostly soft like distant thunder. The air carries the scent of damp soil instead of salty ocean, and I am clarified by the earth as much as the sea.


I love reading (and listening to) Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who books. Light and cozy, funny and interesting, these mysteries are centered around Jim Qwilleran, a gruffly wonderful, former crime news writer from Down Below. In his current life, he's a billionaire who lives in Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. He keeps two cats, Koko and Yum Yum, and he writes biweekly columns for the local newspaper, The Moose County Something. One of his ploys for coming up with something to write about is to open up the dictionary and pick out a word, any word, and write a thousand words on the topic. I decided I'll do something like that every once in a while, and I'll call them Qwillerages, in honor of Qwill.


Update (5/1/08): This post won me a Perfect Post Award from my friend Liz from This Full House. I'm so excited and so honored. I cried when I read her kind words. It's amazing to me when people have emotional experiences from what I write. I mean, I have emotional experiences all the time when I'm reading, but I never before would put my own writing in that caliber of gut-wrenching, bullet-type experiences. Thank you!

The Original Perfect Post Awards 04.08

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Tank Engine Named Gage

When my sister's son was born, I thought he was one of the scrawniest newborns ever. His tiny little legs were still wrinkly, and he was just so fragile looking, though he was full term and a healthy weight.

Gage grew. And grew. And grew. And by the time he was trying to crawl, he was affectionately called "Tank." Really. The kid was huge. Big head. Solid body. His pants were always too tight, and it was uncomfortable for him to sit up because of how chunky his midsection was.

I watched my sister as parent to this dynamo in amazement. I know now that my children are quite low maintenance. Ben was an easy-going, happy-go-lucky baby. Gage? High maintenance. Very intense and frenetic. Very loving and curious.

Gage-a-roo turned 1 in November. He now outweighs Ben (who is 2) by 3 pounds. When we knew that Jo was having a boy, we were thrilled because it seemed so easy that Gage would get all of Ben's hand-me-downs at just the right time. That worked fine for a few months, but Gage caught up. They've worn the same size now for months.

Last week, my sister surprised us with a visit on Wednesday. It was wonderful seeing her (and her growing belly) and Gage. It was even better to see the little cousins play together. Gage and Ben ran around the house with each other, they played with choo-choos and balls, they snacked and watched Thomas. We had a sneak peek at a burgeoning lifelong friendship. So great that they are less than a year apart: they'll always have a buddy at family get-togethers.

To give you an idea of the boundless enthusiasm of my nephew Gage?

When he gets excited to see someone, he hits them. Imagine my sister in sheepish horror as she watches Gage barrel over to a little girl who he thinks is cute. His arms flailing, he shrieks and squeals with delight, and when he's close enough, he slaps her right across the face. Who taught him that? And how do you explain him to her parents? And how do you comfort the little girl who thought she was making a new friend?

Or the time that his dad took him to the YMCA kiddy pool to play. While still on the pool deck, Gage saw a little girl who he thought was cute. (Do you see the pattern?) Just barely walking, the girl didn't stand a chance against the force of nature that is Gage. He ran over to her and tackled her, tumbling into the water with her. He just wanted to give her a hug.

Yes. We all keep a close eye on Gage. We're all looking forward to him growing older, both to see what this bounding tidal wave of energy will do and to see him (hopefully) mellow out a little when he's able to talk and communicate with words instead of slaps and tackles.

I wuv the widdle guy, and I wish we lived closer so that our kids could play together more.

**Can you believe that once my sister's baby is born, there will be FIVE cousins within three years of each other? It will be a wild and crazy Christmas at my parents' house, that's for sure.**

Gage eats his birthday cupcake at Thanksgiving 2007.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Portrait of a Ben as a Young Boy

I'm so burned out from editing right now. I'm not done with the swing pictures yet. I want to color match the sweaters and the sand. But you can get an idea of what they'll look like when I'm done. A couple of the pics already had a motion blur. Happy accidents, Bob Ross style. So I used it as a theme and masked out a motion blur on a few other pics to create some uniformity. The most difficult editing task I had was removing Chris from one of the pictures. He was pushing the swing, and it was distracting.

We had a lot of fun on our photo shoot yesterday, though Ben categorically refused, and I mean REFUSED!, to look at the camera. Stinker.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Scribbling: Composure

The Sunday Scribble this week is Compose. Check out their website for links to see what other people did with this writing prompt.

Frustration. At first I just felt frustrated. I was mad at my body and horrified at the prospect of a lifetime of issues. Varicose veins in my "area" that aren't caused by pregnancy? Weak connective tissue in my pelvic floor?

Yesterday as I sat bottomless on the exam table with a pink paper drape on my lap, my legs swinging like a little girl, I realized why this whole ordeal has been jarring: I'm having to consider things on a long-term basis rather than just ride the roller coaster of short-term dramas. I gained a new perspective.

Even with the issues with my pregnancies, I knew they wouldn't last forever. Eventually, I wouldn't be pregnant anymore. One way or another, "this too shall pass." And it did. I have my babies now.

When I worked, I'd so easily get bogged down in the day-to-day soap operas of the cubicle farm. We'd have a disagreement or a situation with a project, and I'd be so upset and so insistent on getting my own way. But you know what? I don't work there anymore.

And it doesn't take much to remember all the ups and downs and sidesteps and earthquakes that came with the relationships I had before I met my husband. You all were saved from hearing about those dramas, but believe me, they were intense. They seemed so darned important and vital to me, but in retrospect, they didn't really matter. A rough few months after a break-up, and I could move on. It wasn't a permanent state of being.

So forgive me if I feel a little bit shaken by the prospect of a permanent drama, something that will not be fading into the ether in a few months or in a year. For the rest of my life, I will be managing my pelvic floor prolapse issues. There are things I can do to help, but it'll always have to be a consideration.

And yet, in examining and contemplating this state of existence, I feel myself nudged into a new state of grace. I imagine myself shaken and bumped and rolled around a nest of day-to-day stings and lifelong thorns, but I'm seeking a new composure, a new maturity. I'm walking into a new horizon of *gasp* adulthood where I won't keep thinking that things will be different in a few years, where I won't keep hoping that "this too shall pass."

Because you know what? Some things just don't pass. Some stay. And life goes on despite. And I can't stay in a perpetual state of drama and anxiety. *deep breath*

The important parts of life matter more. I recognized one yesterday as I walked and played with my little family. I threw my shoulders back and reveled in the permanence of our life together. I felt centered and fulfilled. I felt blessed. I felt an inner stillness and silence and simplicity, and that one sensation is infinitely healing and calming.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Boo-Boo All Gone

I had my two-week surgical follow-up appointment today. Super report from Dr. Bell. I'm all healed up in there, though I'll still be on restrictions until the six weeks is up. I have another follow-up in two weeks because of some awful aching I'm having in my "area" that I personally think is varicose veins but weren't readily apparent to mister doctor man. He thinks the pain will get progressively better over the next couple of weeks.

Anyway. I celebrated the good report by coming home and inviting my family to go for a walk with me to the park. The one that's a mile away. We piled the bugs into the stroller and briskly walked, greeting the neighbors we passed. So much fun, though Chris thought it would be funnier to try and run to get ahead of me at one point. I caught up to him right away.

"Ha. It's going to be a fun summer, isn't it?"

It sure is. The weather was brisk and windy at 56, and it started to rain on our way back. My back aches, but that's just because I hadn't been upright for so long in so long. It felt SO FREAKING GOOD to move my body again.

So the changes in my family since we've lost 80 pounds? When I wasn't looking, Chris went down the whirly slide. He felt exhilarated. He hadn't been the proper size to go down a slide since he was a little guy. He went down five times, and he giggled. I declined to follow suit, though I did dangle a little from the monkey bars.

Anna had fun going on the swing for the First Time Ever. Ben was a little freaked out by the swing, so he got down and then pushed Anna a few times before he ran back to the slides. Since we are a fit family full of vigor and action, Chris took Anna down the slide so she could experience the thrill. Then it was Ben's turn on Daddy's lap. He got way more of a kick out of it.

And now, I give you a short photo essay of the first of many, many walks to the park this year:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Portraits

Check out 5 Minutes For Mom and the official WW site for more Wordless Wednesdays.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Overheard in the Mathis Manse

So you know that commercial where 4 spinster/librarian ladies are in an elevator and they break out in the hand-slapping fun that is the "Miss Mary Mack" rhyme chant? The tagline for the commercial is "Recess is back."

I squealed with delight when I saw them having so much fun reciting that rhyme, because it was one of my favorites as a little girl.

Me: "I would SO do that!"
Chris: "You HAVE done that."
Me: "That's true."
Chris to Nana: "She would do that in the middle of Walmart."
Me: "I'm not denying it."

So here you are, the lyrics. Enjoy my trip down memory lane.

Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back.

She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 50 cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.

They jumped so high, high, high
They reached the sky, sky, sky
And they didn't come back, back, back
'Til the 4th of July, ly, ly!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Anna Dumpling, Age Six Months

Oh Anna. I've sat down to write this post ahead of schedule for the last few days, but each time I stop myself and save it for a time when I've had more sleep, when you are fussing less, when... I don't know. Pigs fly? No, you aren't horrible to live with. Let's just say there are some current challenges that might dampen my enthusiasm.

There are so many wonderful things about you right now. You are so darn verbal and LOUD. When you tell a story, you really get noticed. You include facial expressions and gestures and farts and raspberries... anything you can do to get your point across. And we just sit back in pure amazement and delight at this little creature who joined our family.

Last night in bed, I asked your daddy what he wants to remember about you at six months old. He said he wants to remember your oral fixation. Honestly? Lots of babies have love affairs with mouths at this age, but you just seem to do it cuter. You love pulling things into your mouth to gnaw on them with your gums, but you are equally pleased to put your fingers in our mouths. When we give them a little nibble or a little kiss, you grin wide with your eyes and chuckle.

Nana wants to remember how verbal you are and how much you play with your feet. She is totally taken with your smile and your happy responses to someone talking to you. She also loves how much you enjoy having your diaper changed because it means that someone is paying total attention to you. She's been here nearly non-stop for the last couple weeks while I heal and rest from my lady part surgery, and she is totally enamored with you. Heck, she even took care of you in the middle of the night a couple of times when you weren't feeling well and couldn't fall back asleep.

And what do I love? Oh honey. I love how your whole body shuddered when we fed you applesauce for the first time the other night. It was tart, and you had never tasted something like that before.

When we nurse, you play with your hands now, and it's so precious to watch you concentrate both on sucking and twiddling your fingers.

Your eyes light up and you chuckle when you see Ben. You love grabbing at his nose and his ears. He's always bringing you nuks and blankies, and if you get fussy, he'll put a toy in your fist.

I can tell already that you are going to be a very curious and interested young lady. If something is going on in the house, you demand that we take you there and let you watch and hopefully, give you something to chew on. We are happy to oblige; you are a part of this crazy family, and you are a part of every new memory we create.

We've gotten in the habit of letting you and Ben take baths together. It's a bit of a challenge, but I can fit the baby tub in the big tub. I soap you up and scrub you down in the baby tub, and then I lift you out of the tub and lay you on your back next to your brother, who is usually sitting, playing with his cars. And then the splashing starts! You kick and flail and scoot your way around the tub, and Ben squeals with laughter and amusement... and he splashes you back. So much fun.

Yesterday I contemplated canceling the photo shoot with Mary because of how you've been feeling lately. After your nose stopped running last week, you came down with a fever, and you haven't been able to shake it. When you don't feel well, you certainly let the neighborhood know! So when the lady with the camera came yesterday, I wasn't sure if we'd get any good pictures. Granted, many of them feature you staring off into space with a Tylenol-induced daze, but in others, you let your sparkling personality shine through.

You are such a delight and a blessing, a joy and a miracle. I never knew baby girls could be so cute and adorable and pretty. I love playing dress-up with you. When you are older, though, I hope you know I won't mind that much if you ask me not to dress you in so much pink and purple. You don't have to be a girly-girl all the time, and I will let you get muddy and covered in grass stains. But for now, you have little roses on your socks, and my favorite outfit for you is a summery orange-and-pink check dress worn with a pair of dark pink long knit pants. I think it makes your eyes ever so blue, and blue eyes are a novelty after staring at my brown ones for the last 26 years.

We can't help ourselves. You get more wonderful each day, even when you are driving us batty.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Cutest Little Face Ever

So we had a photo shoot this afternoon to record Anna at the six-month mark. Well. It's been a tough time for Anna lately. She's been running a fever since Thursday, and her gums are hurting her terribly.

It took a little while to get her comfortable with the posing... And we never really got a good grin... but God help me, I think this is the most precious picture of her I've ever seen. I'll post some more tomorrow. Maybe even some happier ones.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Because It Makes Him Smile

I'm not looking for flattery. I know I don't have a great talent, and I'm not just being self-deprecating. It's a bar trick, like tying a cherry stem with your tongue. I can copy most pictures and sketch almost anything. Not well, mind you, but you can see what it's supposed to be.

I haven't done it for years. I only did it the other day because Ben wanted me to color with him, and I didn't want to just draw my usual houses and cats and trees. I brought over one of his Clifford books to the table, and I showed him how I can draw Clifford on the paper by looking at Clifford on the book.

He was completely fascinated. Agog. Amused. And I did it again tonight when I was distracting him from a delay in his dinner while Chris went out for pizza. I offered to draw him a picture of Ow-Bee, aka Arthur, the much beloved aardvark of Marc Brown's creation.

And then Chris was completely fascinated. Agog. Amused. "I could never do that. It takes spatial sense. That's amazing." It's the smile from my son that makes me pick up a crayon and draw a favorite cartoon character of his, though, not the praise from my husband. That precious little smile and "Oh, Mama!" that I love. So pardon me while I go and draw more of his favorites and then plaster them all over his walls.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pensieve's Poetic License: Haiku

Mid-month Every Month at PENSIEVE
Want this button?

Would you believe I've never written a haiku before? In my youth, I wrote hundreds, maybe thousands of lines of poetry, but I never tried to constrain a beautiful thought into the rigid form of haiku. 3 lines. 17 syllables. 5/7/5.

Pensieve's poetic license this month is to write at least one haiku about spring. I'm giving it my best shot.

Brown ground waits for warmth,
Dreams, plans, lists, seeds, and bare knees.
Sun sweeten this home!

One more layer of snow,
One more white icy blanket,

One more sigh for spring.

Open your windows.
Open your lungs to new air.

Exhale the stagnant winter.

This fresh new vigor
Yellow heat round and spinning
Wooed the dense gray dawn

Check out the rest of the haiku kicked into existence by Pensieve just like these, write your own and link up your haiku post today!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Mama Mama Mama

Ben's language skills are exploding. He's trying out at least two new words a day. Yesterday was "orange" and "girl." He's also startling babbling more. Rather than just going through the day with the occasional shout and holler, he's carrying on conversations with us in a nice, polite tone with sounds that aren't quite words for the most part, though we catch a "truck" and a "baby" and a "crash" every once in a while.

He absolutely NEEDS one-on-one time right now. I'm okay with that. I see the benefit. I've been spending more time in bed, and Anna is becoming more animated, so Ben needs to reassert his place in the family. So we're reading him more stories, coloring with him, playing with him in his choo-choo world.

But one thing that is totally grinding on my last nerve is how often is says, "Mama," to get my attention. When he's showing me something, he says Mama at least 20 times before he's done with the show-and-tell. Every time I look away, I hear "mama mama mama mama" to call me back to him.

Yes, this is normal and precious and charming. It's also repetitive and annoying. I'm trying to hide my frustration from him, and I usually respond with loving words like, "Yes, Ben darling? What would you like to show Mama now?" or "Yes, dear child of mine, that choo-choo went down the hill and crashed!"

One moment, he's startling us by saying his own name for the first time, something he's previously refused to attempt. When he did this, I squeezed him hard and laughed with delight until I cried. The next moment, I'm praying for some silence and some respite from the constant babbling. I think if I were able to get out of the house and go for a walk and get some fresh air, I would be more tolerant, but this cozy house of mine is starting to feel like a terrarium for exotically stitched-up mamas on display at the freakazoid zoo.

But really, there's nothing more precious than Ben at this age. Even I, the annoyed one, can see that. I'm going to blink for too long, and he'll be a glum and sullen teenager who won't say anything to me at all. So I'm forcing myself to stop and relax and enjoy him in all his glory.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Dreaming in a Foreign Language

KS once told me that weight loss got easier once she stopped thinking of exercise as a chore and started thinking of it as "me time."

About a week before my surgery, the weather finally started to catch up with the calendar, and spring came to Wausau. With temperatures soaring into the 40s and the 50s, I started getting the urge to open all the windows and air out our stale house. I'd sit here on the couch between projects, and I'd watch Ben listlessly playing with his cars and his choo-choos. Guilt would start picking at the edges of my consciousness.

So one afternoon, about ten minutes before Chris was scheduled to head home from work on his bike, I got the kids bundled up into the double stroller (there was also an incident involving Anna falling face down off the dining room table/we needed some air) and we headed down the sidewalk to meet Chris.

It was a brisk 5-minute walk before I had to scream across the street at Chris to get him to notice us. Dang headphones. Once we were back home, I felt invigorated and refreshed. During the next few days, we went out for walks each day. Sometimes for only 20 minutes, sometimes for a whole hour. It was lovely. My body felt good to me. I had energy and vim and vigor.

Then I let the surgery happen. Then I had to S.T.O.P. and breathe deeply and stop moving around. I had to stop moving this new body of mine and start resting and healing. It's driving me nuts.

A few days after the V-Jay Massacre, I woke up from a night of fitful dreams and multitude Anna wakings. I stayed in bed, thinking over all the dreams I had. It dawned on me: every dream that I remembered involved exercising.

One segment of the dream was just me listening to my workout CD while kicking my ass on the elliptical at the Y for 45 minutes (which is nuts because I never stay on the thing longer than 25 minutes). Another dream had me pushing the 50-pound stroller up every single hill in my neighborhood, walking the circuit to the local tech college, down another mile or two to the park, and then back home. Then there was the one where I woke at 5:15, tied on my sneakers and went jogging before dawn and before Chris woke up.

My body misses movement. I'm craving it. I'm totally jonesing for the sweet ache of my lungs when my heart rate gets too high. I'm missing the gross sweat that starts to drip down my neck from under the thick pile of hair during a good cardio burst.

It's taken me many years to finally kick my ass and do a 180 with my health and my body. Since the beginning of January, I've taught myself a new language, totally foreign to my old way of living. I know about calories and omega-3s and carbs and good proteins and fiber and intervals and heart rates and pride and the glory of success. I taught my body a new language as well, and now I'm dreaming in that language because I'm not able to speak it right now.

Where else am I this week? Well, A Box Of Chocolates is having a neat discourse on the Mommy Wars with contest-y love, and I've been loading my blog reader with almost a dozen more blogs, and I'm feeling a bit burned out from getting to know all these new, wonderful ladies. Oh. And I'm healing and enjoying Anna's beautiful giggle and Ben's hilarious roar and chuckle.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dear KS Quilt

I finished another quilt the other day. I had hoped to be totally done with it before my surgery, but I hadn't factored in the last minute stuff around the house I would be doing instead of quilting. So I finished the hand-binding on Friday.

This quilt is for my dear friend KS who also happened to be my boss back in the day when I got paid to be anal-retentive. KS and I email each other back and forth several times a day about stuff going on with our kids, at work, with her pregnancy, with books we're reading, with celebrity gossip, etc. She's having a little girl in May. Her son Luke is Ben's bestest friend. I'm hoping that her little girl and my little Anna will be best friends, too.

The quilt top pattern is called Double Four Patch. I was going to machine quilt it, but I chickened out at the last minute because of how much detail I ended up adding to the back when I realized that I had cut the fabric to the wrong size. Always able to accommodate my own silly mistakes, I added some sashing and introduced a new color. I like the result, but I didn't think the machine quilting would look right on the back side. So I tied it.

I used fleece as the batting, and once again, I'm happy with how that feels. It really gives it a nice weight, and high-loft comforters aren't recommended around babies anyway. Most of the squares are calico, but I added in three different flannels and two seersuckers for some fun and surprising textures.

I love you KS Quilt. I think you're nifty.

Friday, April 04, 2008

My Comfort

I think the worst part was the nausea from taking vicodin on an empty stomach. I sipped some ice water, the first water since the night before, and my stomach took a tailspin. Have I ever mentioned I don't deal well with nausea?

Even after the nausea medication kicked in, I pressed my head against the pillows and cried, feeling very sorry for myself. I missed my children, I whimpered for my mama. I kept thinking that this whole surgery wasn't worth it. So what if I had issues down there. Just leave them be and get on with my life. A life without restrictions and pain.

When I arrived home yesterday, Anna took a little time to look at me and love me again. Ben, on the other hand, was quite pleased to see me. He ran right up to me and climbed in my lap.

I'm swollen and tender, and I feel some tugging every once in a while, but I'm okay. I'm still not glad I went through with it, but I hope that once things are back to normal down there, I'll feel better about having it done.

My doctor reported that he had never seen a woman my age with such poor tissue integrity down there. Such superlatives don't help, but they do explain why I'm a bit of a freak.

My comforts:
My precious children.

The gorgeous flowers from my mom and my darling sisters. Thanks girls!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Niceness and Pre-Op

The “Nice Matters Award” is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world.”

RC of Hill Smith Family Update honored me yesterday with the "Nice Matters Award." I'm so friggin' tickled by this.

This is what she said about me on her blog:

MamaCheryl likes to say nice things about me on her blog, and she is so inspiring. She has lost 40 pounds since January! How awesome is that?!?!?!? On top of it, she shares her life very openly and honestly. Did I mention she is making some beautiful quilts, now, too?

I'm a huge fan of RC. As a matter of fact, this last weekend was kind of tortuous for me because she was in my neighborhood for some classes. I was busy, and she was booked, but I was so tempted to run down there and stalk her. I've never actually met a bloggy friend in person yet. I feel a little insecure about it, just like Liz.

Anyway. I love getting this award. I've seen others receive it in the past, and I always kind of chuckled to myself that there's no way I'll ever get it. I'm too sarcastic, too bitter, too weird. Nice? Is that really a word to describe me? Sure, I aspire to kindness, but sometimes I feel like I get tripped up on my odd sensibilities.

When I tell my husband that I was twittering with RC or commenting on her blog, he always asks me, "Now which one is she?" I respond with, "She's the one who has a similar work background as me, a similar personality, and a son named Little Dude and a cat named Supercat." He responds, "Oh. The one you want to live next door." "Yep. That's her."

I'll have to think for a while on who I will present a Nice Matters Award to.

So to give you all a heads up on what will be going down for the next couple of days. I have my icky surgery tomorrow, and I'll be in the hospital overnight. I might twitter from the hospital, but I might not have a chance to blog. We'll have to see. I could have my laptop in the birth center, but I'll be in a different area of the hospital now, and they might have different rules.

Tonight, I will have the oh-so-pleasant task of the bowel prep, which is basically a really intense colon cleanse. Yes. It should be amazing. I won't be twittering about it. I may "share my life openly and honestly" but there has to be a line in the sand, some mystery, some sense of *ahem* dignity. I will probably lose another couple of pounds in just a couple of hours. Miracle.

My mom arrived early afternoon, and she'll be staying until Friday. It'll be kind of insane for the next couple weeks since I'll have to have a babysitter here.

I'm going to miss my children a lot while I'm in the hospital. I'm so worried about Anna and how she'll cope without me. With how traumatic it was for her when Chris and I went on a date Sunday afternoon, I shudder at the thought of leaving her for a whole overnight. I'm hoping I'll be in an area where she can come visit me in my room. Any pumping sessions I can skip would be nice. And Ben? I'm not so worried about him. He'll have a great time without me (otherwise known as the Big Wet Blanket) to keep him out of mischief.

I look forward to catching up with everybody after my surgery. I wonder how much fun it'll be to blog while I'm on major painkillers. Hmmmm.

Things I'm trying not to think about: The indignity of what my body will be going through during the surgery. The Pain. The butt-pleasing diet I'll have to be on after surgery. Anna crying because she wants her mama. Oh. And the small matter of the miniscule chance I won't make it through surgery. I've never been under general anesthesia before, and I'm terrified. But those are all things I'm. Not. Thinking. About.