Thursday, May 29, 2008

Qwillerage: Electric

I feel electric tonight, my synapses buzzing, my fingers tingling, my heart fluttering to a new beat. I feel energized and powerful.

Kick start my soul and roar off towards the horizon.
Wipe the maudlin tears off my heart and send me flying.

I'm ready for another new beginning, another new becoming.


The thunderstorm roared and rattled in the distance as I stretched my limbs and relaxed into the company of my parents.

I love a good thunderstorm. For me, the thunder rumbles through my body, shaking my bones and stirring my heart. The sound of the thunder feels like a loud message of "Be Still" that always causes a flush of awe and quiet. The lightning cracks and streaks, illuminating the darkness, jolting the sky to life.

Suddenly, a shrill "CRACK" silenced our easy banter. "We've been hit!"

A spray of party confetti, or was it bark?, showered to the wet grass just feet away from the house, and a wide line of bare pulp was exposed from the ground up to the crown of the pine tree that towered at least sixty feet above. We rushed outside and were confronted with the earthy aroma of rain with a strong layer of burning wood above.

The circuit breakers popped, various gadgets died from the surge. We were left in a gentle incredulity of the experience, a first for all of us, to come that close to lightning.


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.

Previous Qwillerages:


Monday, May 26, 2008

One Mother Against Drunk Driving

We took a detour on our way home from Minocqua today. We thought it was just to avoid the deadlock on the main highway and enjoy some scenery, but I think there was a higher purpose.

As we were meandering along, a car pulled out down the road in front of us. At the first couple swerves over the center line, we slowed and held our breath. Maybe they were just buckling up or tuning the radio. A minute later, they drifted over the center line again. We turned off our audio tape and kept vigil. When it happened again, I grabbed the cell phone.

It only took about 10 minutes for a deputy to find us on the road and pull over the car in front of us. I hope we didn't make a mistake, acting rashly and tattling on people who were just momentarily distracted. We'll probably never know, but right after the police car passed us and did a quick U-turn, the car ahead pulled off onto a dirt road. Rather suspicious, don't you think?

We called just in case... What if? What if the rural highway had been teeming with traffic? What if the car in front had swerved over one last time in front of us and hit an oncoming car? What if they slammed into someone passing them? If someone had gotten hurt, and we had already noticed the drifting. Nope. Couldn't live with that.

It was a beautiful holiday afternoon. Families all over the area were celebrating and observing Memorial Day. Some of them were knocking back a few, I'm sure. That's fine. But taking the boozy celebration on the road? Hell no.

I feel a little bad that someone may have gotten their first DUI today. I know what it's like to make a mistake. Maybe they'll be so remorseful, they'll never do it again. Maybe it'll be a wake-up call to get some help with a drinking problem. But I'm not sorry for calling. Avoiding a possible tragedy is way more important than inconveniencing a drunk driver on his way home from a party.

What would you have done? Would you have just tried to pass them? Would you have followed them carefully, hoping they turned off? Would you have made the call?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Boy Who Has My Heart

No, I'm not talking about my husband, though he has a decent chunk of it. I'm talking about Ben. The delight of my heart.

I wish I could capture his laugh for you, his "tweet-tweet" around the yard, his manic "Gordon!!!" barbaric shout, the way the sunlight makes him glow.

Big pools of melted chocolate sparkle with a mischievous glint when he runs up to me to get my attention. "Hi!" "Well, hello to you, too, dear Ben."

One of the things I love most about being a mom is the opportunity to introduce my son to some of the simple pleasures in life. Last night, it was the garden hose.

While he was playing with a ball and Daddy in the backyard, I tugged the hose around the yard, watering my flowers and checking on my garden. As I soaked the soil in the garden, he came running up to see what on earth I was doing.

I showed him by spritzing him in the face. The water must have been ice cold, and the air temperature couldn't have been much higher than 65. But he gasped in shock and pure, unadulterated joy. A gasp that turned into a shriek that turned into a giggle. He came back, motioning for me to do it again. I did.

Again and again. I encouraged him to run through the spray, and he did tentatively at first, but then again with abandon. By the time I was done with my watering chore, I had thoroughly watered the boy as well. Soon, a deep chill overtook his body while he was playing. He shook visibly, and Daddy gathered him in his arms to carry him indoors to a warm bath and snuggy jammies.

I remember when I was pregnant with him. I'd spend minutes meditating on him as he gestated in my belly. With my hand gently resting on my swollen tummy, I'd try to conjure up images of what kind of boy he'd be. Would he be hyper or calm? Would he be naughty or obedient? Would he be a reader or an artist? The only thing I could really say for certain was that he had a sweet, gentle spirit. That I knew already.

And really, he's all of those things at different times, just like me. We're changeable people, adaptable and never bored. He's my buddy, my tag-a-long, and I'm absolutely enamored with this precious face.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

When Daycare Goes Really Bad

This (plus some more community-focused stuff at the end) was posted today at Citizen Wausau. Instead of writing out a bloggy type post about the stuff I found out, I figured I'd just copy and paste. You'll forgive me, right?


I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since last September, just before my daughter was born and joined my son in our wild and crazy household. For most of my life, I wanted to be a SAHM. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A mommy.”

For the first year and a half of my son’s life, I worked, and we sent Ben to daycare. We picked one that had flexible hours, decent rates and came recommended by a friend. We loved the teachers, and our son seemed comfortable there.

When I was expecting our second child, we decided that I would quit my job as a proofreader and stay home with our kids. It would cost nearly 90 percent of my income to have two children in daycare, and that didn’t make sense for our family. But five months before I was scheduled to leave, we had to break up with our daycare.

The policies were changing at the center, and our son would have been negatively affected. There also seemed to be an overlay of total chaos as they transitioned to the new policies, and we weren’t comfortable with the atmosphere. Luckily, we quickly found a home-based daycare that would take our son for the summer until I resigned. We were very happy there, thank goodness.

The crap kept hitting the fan at the old center though, as employee paychecks bounced and parents pulled their kids out left and right. What really startled me was when I heard that near the end of the owner’s tenure there, the children weren’t being fed anymore. They’d go home starving. No notice to the parents that they should bring bag lunches. Nothing.

Some wonderful people we know bought the center and totally turned it around. They insisted that all the teachers be accredited, they cleaned the facility from top to bottom, and they welcomed a new era of loving, responsible childcare.

I was horrified when I heard how bad it had gotten. I don’t understand how something like that could have happened. The majority of families were low income, so maybe they felt they didn’t have a voice or a choice in what was going on. That’s just plain wrong. Even if the state is subsidizing your childcare, you still have a voice.

If I had known what was going on there when it was happening, you can be dang sure I would have stood up for those families and filed the complaints and raised such a ruckus that the situation would have remedied somehow. I hope there are other people like me in the community who wouldn’t have just looked away.

The Grindstone

The day actually came, and I survived. I started my ten weeks of temping yesterday.

It felt a little silly to fill out the pile of paperwork HR had for me. An application? Really? Are you kidding me? I worked here for four years, and you *asked* me to come back. I sucked in my pride and smuggly listed my former supervisors as business references.

Living in a cubicle again? Eh. It made my body feel slow and stagnant. I kept getting the urge to jog down the aisles, just to get a little activity. I think I'm definitely going to have to make time for walks around the building, or I might go crazy.

Seeing my old friends? Awesome. Loved the compliments. Loved talking about how much my kids have grown. Loved hearing how everyone is doing.

Proofreading? Thrilling. I couldn't believe how quickly my brain flipped back into that mode and how much I remembered. I didn't have any of my favorite brands of red pens, so that was quite frustrating, but that's easily remedied.

Working in the same building as my husband again? Fan-freakin'-tastic. We both marveled at how much we missed that... being able to visit each other, to pick up the phone and say "hey." I really appreciated calling him for personal tech services support, even though it's not his job anymore. "Honey, my email isn't working, and those silly guys on the help desk are too busy to get over here right now."

Being away from the children? Awful. It felt so wrong, and it didn't help that Anna boycotting eating yesterday. Other than a little mommy snack on my lunch break, she only drank 1.5 oz total while I was at work. She wasn't fussy and acting hungry, but it still gave me pause. Why wouldn't she eat? She drinks bottles for us in the evenings, but she refused them during the day.

But Ben loved being with Nana. She's very attentive and fun, and they went on marathon stroller walks around the neighborhood and to the park. And Anna was happy as a lark hanging out with her.

So how does it feel to work again? Mixed. I'm grateful for the opportunity, and I loved my old job. It's just for the summer, and I won't have to put the kids in daycare, so that's a relief. It's nice to feel like a grown-up again; it made me feel pretty and powerful. On the other hand, I was itching to hug and kiss my kids, to figure out a casserole for dinner with only three ingredients in our pantry, to start the next phase of the quilting project, to hang clothes on the line, to nap with the kids in the afternoon.

What it all comes down to, though, is that I'm a little sad in my heart, but I know that there are so many more good reasons to work this summer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Little Like Magic

It could just be a fluke. It could just be the time of day. But Anna is feeling better. She's babbling and playing with Chris, and her nose isn't even running anymore.

I called her pediatrician again this morning to let them know that it was the seventh day of Anna running a fever between 101 and 103. She was diagnosed with her third ear infection last Monday and given her third prescription for an antibiotic, but this past week, she hasn't gotten better.

I felt like an idiot for calling. I know, just like I'm supposed to know, that fevers aren't necessarily bad. They mean the body is fighting an infection, and they can actually be beneficial. And in a baby her age, fevers aren't horribly dangerous. They can be caused by teething. Her nose was running which means a cold, and she could run a fever while fighting that off.

But I called anyway. I was tired. Anna was tired. She hasn't had a decent sleep for weeks now. She's been on Motrin or Tylenol around the clock for a few weeks. That's a long time. So I called, and luckily, they said she needed to be seen again. Less idiotic feeling.

Wouldn't you know it? She had another ear infection in the other ear. She managed to get an ear infection while she was on Omnicef, a powerful antibiotic. Since the middle of April, we've run through Amoxicillin, Augmentin and Omnicef. Running out of options. Today, she received Rocephin, which comes in the form of a shot in each thigh.

Within two hours, she was smiling again. It's like my little girl is back. She's grinning and laughing, jumping and bouncing. I'm relishing her gurgles and coos and enthusiasm.

I hope this does the trick. We'll probably have a referral to an ENT after a re-check on Wednesday. I want to avoid tubes as much as possible because of the hassle, but I also would like Anna to not have ear infections every other week.

On the Ben side of the sick kids coin that I've been flipping lately, he's still hacking, but not as often. He ran laps around the house today without panting and wheezing, so he must be getting better. We've cut back his breathing treatments to every morning and evening, and we're slowly reintroducing dairy. He's still the loving, playful boy he's always been, though he has a new trick. When he doesn't want to do something, he sits.

"Ben, would you go get your shoes?"

Sit. Scowl.

It's the typical toddler response. His other trick is tackling me with hugs and kisses and giggles while I'm trying to type on the laptop. Ah, joys.

He can also finally say "Arthur" instead of "Ow-bee" and "Chaw-whee" for "Trolley."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Belated Mother's Day

Today we traveled to Oshkosh to celebrate my sister-in-law Becky's graduation from college. I'm so friggin' proud of her, and I'm glad she's my sister. She followed her bliss and graduated as a history major after a few false starts including nursing and teaching.

My siblings and I don't often have an opportunity to be in the same place at the same time, so I relished the opportunity to be around everyone. It was lovely, even though my sister Jolene had to work, and we couldn't visit with her and admire her lovely baby bump. The cousins chased each other all over a playground, we passed babies around, we ate sloppy joes and cake, and we presented my mother with her Mother's Day present.

My part in it was rather time intensive, but I couldn't blog about it since my mom is an avid reader of Red Pens. I had it all done before my surgery so that I wouldn't have to work on it while she was staying here with us, taking care of me and the kids.

Here it is:
Each card was 5x7 and framed. I removed the last names in most of them for blogging purposes, so some of them look a little bare.

My mom loved the cards I made for Anna and my niece Abby. She framed them. It inspired me to create mock birth announcements for the rest of her grandchildren, using photos from their babyhoods. What makes it all the more precious are the cards for my two nieces who weren't part of our family yet when they were born, but rather were blended into the mix later through love and marriage.

Anyway. It was a big hit at the party.

It was nice to hear my oldest nephew Chaz speak excitedly about coming to stay with us for a week during the summer. He has to fit it in between summer school and football camp, but I'm honored that he thinks we're cool enough for a 14-year-old to hang out with. He gets a change of scenery, and we get a helper to assist with gutter and insulation installation. I wasn't going to harp on my desire for him to come hang out with me, because really, I'm don't think I'm all that nifty. Rather boring. But at least it's a new boring and not the same wonderful family he lives with day to day.

Other fun aspects to the day included the new phenomenon of letting the older girl cousins look after the little ones. Alisha and Taylor did an absolutely fantastic job running after Ben and Gage on the playground, and it freed up the grown-ups to visit. I just wish we lived closer to everyone so I could utilize some family babysitters once in a while.

When Anna was needing to settle down for a nap, I borrowed Abby's stroller and laid her down and went for a walk. The South Park in Oshkosh really is lovely. There were two wedding groups that came to take pictures while we were there. The path that I took was paved, and all the cherry trees were in blossom. A breathtaking sight.

This next coming week starts the new and thrilling chapter called "Cheryl Goes Back to Work." To refresh your memories, on Wednesdays and Fridays, I will go back to proofreading at my old job while my former boss KS is on maternity leave. I'm anxious about it, but in both good and bad ways. I'm going to miss my babies an awful lot, but I miss proofing and the gang as well. Regardless, it'll probably provide more blog fodder, and for that I'm grateful.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dandy Dandelion Memories

The other day when I was pushing my children around the neighborhood in a stroller, I stopped and stooped next to Ben in the front seat.

"Look, Ben! Dandelions!"

I carefully gathered a toddler-sized fistful of the yellow bits of sunshine and presented them to Ben for him to explore and admire. A quiet "wow" look spread across his face, and then he stuck one in his mouth, quickly pulling it out, disgusted by the taste.

I was lost in the sentimentality of dandelions. I remembered my first fistful of dandelions lovingly plucked by Mikey Rogers when I was five as we walked along the railroad tracks by the old Wausau East. That made him my boyfriend, and I tried holding his hand. I think he regretted not giving them to his mom instead.

So pardon me that when dandelion season comes, I get a little misty recalling the bundles of mama-had-a-baby-and-the-head-popped-off flowers I gave to my own mother who displayed them proudly in a coffee mug by the kitchen sink. Forgive me if I spend a few minutes during the day, blowing the dandelion fluff into the breeze, watching the tiny parachutes carry the seeds across the neighborhood.

Today I noticed my next-door neighbor home from work early. In shorts and a nylon jacket, he crouched over his lawn, intent on something. I try not to judge the eccentricities of my fellow man, so I went on with my gardening. Later, when I passed by his yard on one of my ubiquitous stroller walks, I was absolutely horrified to see that he had been pulling out all of his dandelions, leaving them scattered on the grass to pick up later. I honestly had a little frown on my face as I walked past, ruminating over the emptiness of the man's soul.

What sends me on a charming trip down memory lane is an eyesore to my neighbor. Perhaps if I had any notion of the blessings of a perfectly manicured lawn, I'd feel differently, but I love the dandelions and little purple flowers that shoot up through the grass. They're like little happy surprises, way more attractive than boring old grass.

Do you hate dandelions and heartlessly call them weeds? Or do you enjoy the yellow balls of happiness when they arrive? Be honest. I won't think you are a monster, I promise.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Training Wheels

A quick photo essay of Ben's first ride on his new bike.

A careful helmet fitting. I was a sucker and bought the Bob the Builder version. I couldn't help it. The only non-branded version seemed so flimsy.

First we had to get his feet on the pedals.

Look! It almost looks like he's really pedaling! He just doesn't have the coordination yet. His feet just rested on the pedals while we pushed him. We'll work on it. Plenty of time. Such a dear little boy. And see? A helmet and knee pads. Contrary to the screen door adventure of Monday night, we do care about his safety. *smile*

Monday, May 12, 2008

Oh God No

I was on my fourth sinkful of soapy hot dishes, methodically washing the items in the left basin, placing them in the empty right basin. Then I'd pick up a dishtowel and wipe dry the dishes that had been drying on the rack, putting them away neatly. Rinse the stuff in the right basin and place in the rack to dry. Repeat.

The carefully built tater tot casserole was just starting to bubble in the oven. I heard the ending music of the 4:30 PBS show in the living room.

Chris walked in with an armful of prescriptions for our sickly children. We went over how much cost what, how it wasn't as bad as I thought. We chatted as I handed him clean, wiped dry dishes to put away. Anna sucked on dry washcloths in the high chair nearby.

Chris wandered into the living room, and he asked, "So I know where the little one is (Anna), where's the other one?"

"I don't know. Out playing in the backyard? Where do you think?" I joked.

"Well, he's not down here. He's probably upstairs playing," Chris said.

I looked around, noticing the open doors, with just the screen doors in place, to allow some fresh air to filter through the house.

"What if he got outside? Would he do that? He doesn't have his shoes on!"

Chris took the stairs two at a time as I looked in all the hiding places on the first floor.

"He's not up here!"

In an instant, Chris was downstairs and outside, calling back at me to stay in the house with Anna. I went through the house again, looking under beds, in closets, in the tub, in Anna's crib, under blankets, behind couches and chairs. I called for Ben over and over again.

I ran outside, calling for him, looking in the garage, in the backyard, looking towards the yards accessible from our own. Up to the alley, left and right. No Ben. I went back inside, my mind kicking into overdrive. Where's the phone? I need to call 911. The police can help us look. Oh god where's Ben. I haven't heard any car brakes. No sirens. Has Chris called them yet? What if someone saw him looking out the front screen door and took him? What if someone saw him wandering down the street and took him?

It must have only been two minutes, but it felt like hours. My heart was spinning, my mind racing, my anxiety level skyrocketing as the panic settled around me, seizing my body.

I saw Chris walking back to our house with Ben on his shoulders. Chris seemed so freaking calm. Ben had a quiet sleepy look on his face, a little scared, sensing the mood.

I collapsed in sobs and shrieks, the enormity of everything washing over me. The "what ifs," the "oh my God, my precious baby boy." Ben sat in front of me while I cried. He hugged me, and pursed his lips up to me for a kiss. He didn't know any better. He doesn't know the danger.

I tried relaxing. I tried letting life go back to normal. Crisis over. Everything's fine. But I didn't have the strength to lift the dishes to wash them, my muscles fatigued after the incredible tension that held my body taut.

Ben is playing with his choo-choos. The tater tot casserole is cooling. I'm blogging, trying to transition back to normality. After this, I want to pretend it didn't happen, that my whole world didn't all of a sudden come crashing to a halt, threatening to crack apart at the pieced together seams. We'll walk as a family to the hardware store to buy hook-and-eye locks for the doors.

Updated to add: Chris found Ben down the block, around the corner. There were three ladies with Ben, at least one of them had pulled over in her car, seeing Ben walking towards the curb by himself. One was canvassing the houses nearby, and saw Chris coming. She waved him towards where Ben was. My son. Cared for by strangers until we realized he was missing, until we found him.

I'm Going Back To This

I've always secretly thought I had a quick wit and sparkling sense of humor, though it is rather dry and sarcastic. I can usually hold my own amongst the crazies and the smarty-pants. Home alone with the kids, however, I don't really get a lot of chances.

In a couple short weeks, I'm going back to work part time for the summer. The same place I left way back in September, the same job. I'm pleased to know that most of the same people are still there, and they remember me.

Have you ever discovered the site Overheard in the Office? It was one of my favorites. I can't count how many times I peed my pants laughing so hard at some of the comments that people have overheard in their offices and then posted for the world to read. The best part was that my boss kept a log of her own of the funny-ass things said around our office, and she published the log monthly, with names removed to protect the innocent and the stupid.

Reading some of the quotes from the last list makes me kind of excited to go back:

You ooze style. It rolls off you like methane gas.

A: I'm pretty well having an affair with my peanut butter M & Ms.

B: That limits your chances of catching an STD.

You can call me Ham and Cheese because today, I am on a roll.

Stick that in your juice box and suck it.

A: I was only really good at tetherball and spelling bees. A lethal combo of skills, in my book.
B: Yikes, that's like mixing ammonia and bleach.
A: I was a malatov cocktail in Sally Jesse Raphael glasses.

He's either just really shy or really clueless.
A lethal mix in a potential mate.

I think you mean logically challenged, not dense.

I kicked ass at chasing little boys around the playground. Though I sometimes broke my wrist.

Too easy. Like you on a Sunday morning.

Not even the suggestion of free money gets me to open her emails.

What's her excuse for looking like an extra in a Whitesnake video?

A: Like a glacier changing the face of a landscape, this re-org will drive a rift between friends.
B: That's poetry. Did you come up with that in the crapper?

*Sigh* I miss those people. Honestly? I'm still of the mind that I'm going to miss the kids too much and going back to work part time is going to disrupt my life too much. I'm dreading the first day back, but I guess I'm starting to look forward to the non-blog adult interaction.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Two Memes on a Saturday Morning

Thanks to Momma Val for tagging me for this meme. After reading hers, I feel a little like I'm cheating. You see, her middle name is Francine. That's eight letters. Mine is Lynn. Only four.

The Rules

1. Post the rules before you give your answers.

2. List one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name.

3. At the end of your blog post, tag one person (or blogger of another species) for each letter of your middle name. Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged. (Yeah. I'm not doing that.)

My middle name is LYNN.

Learning. I'm a big fan of learning. I can't really remember a time I wasn't a fan, so I'm guessing it's a lifelong thing. As early as my third grade year, I remember my dad stumping me with logic problems. A lot of my memories from childhood revolve around special projects I did in school. A study on irrigation systems and Iowa in 3rd grade. Wallabies in 4th grade. Clara Barton in 7th. As an adult, I'm a big ol' History Channel geek, though we don't actually have that channel anymore since we downsized our cable package. When we go on vacation to someone's house with cable, we inevitably watch hours of Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

Yellow. I once gave a classmate a yellow shirt for her birthday. Her name was Kelly. The birthday party was in the afternoon, and we all spent the night. Fun times. She didn't really like the shirt, so she didn't remember that she had received it as a gift. She picked it up and asked if it belonged to someone else and therefore should be put back in someone's overnight bag. I was so embarrassed, I claimed it and took it back home. I never wore it. I don't look good in yellow, and the shirt was kind of ugly.

Noon. During my kindergarten year, the school day ended for me at noon. My mom would bring me home, and I would sprawl in front of the TV and wait for my quasi-picnic lunch to be served. Split pea soup with a side of buttered bread. I'd enjoy this feast while watching Mister Rogers. I'm assuming I didn't eat pea soup every day, but that's the only thing I remember eating.

Nit-picky. I don't know when it started. God knows I wasn't a tidy child. I don't remember a lot of OCD-type quirks. Maybe I first became nit-picky when I was in the 7th or 8th grade, and I practiced my handwriting. If I wasn't pleased with the way my letters looked when I was writing a letter to a penpal, I'd start over with a fresh sheet of paper. I would fill out pages and pages of notebook paper perfecting and inventing the ideal capital I. Having things be "right" and "clean-looking" was important... is still important. I guess that's why I made a good proofreader. Fixing mistakes was important to me, and I was very ashamed if I missed a glaring error and it went to print that way. My ears start burning just thinking about it.

And now there's a meme that my new friend k8spade from Rockin the Suburbs tagged me for. It's the six random things meme. I did a seven random things meme at the beginning of March. For this one, I'll change up the rules a bit. Here's six random awesome Ben and Anna things.

1. Ben can say the "r" in "car" now. Every time. It's fabulous.
2. Anna has been sleeping well for the last two nights. Only 2 wake-ups each night.
3. Ben loves Jello so much, he tries to scrape every last bit of it out of the bowl. I'll have to teach him the fine art of licking the bowl.
4. Anna loves to swing at the park so much. KS says she looks like a big grin with limbs, since her little body is completely hidden behind the toddler swing supports.
5. Last night, I distracted Ben from staying out of the bathroom by telling him that it was time to get his jammies on. He climbed up on the chair next to his dresser, pulled out a pair of jammies, and brought them to me. I was flabbergasted that A. He was able to get them on his own, and B. That he didn't throw a tantrum against the idea of jammies.
6. I'm so glad that I have short hair because Anna has the typical baby fascination with pulling and sucking on hair. She still manages to grab a hold of my short mop. It takes forever to untangle my tresses from her ninja grip.

The End.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Middle of the Night

Ben woke up at 1 am this morning, yelling and sobbing for us. I went up there to hug him, thinking it was just a nightmare, but as I held him close to me, I heard it... The bark. Between wails, every breath was louder than his actual voice. I know what croup sounds like, and this was it... but what does croup mean for an asthmatic toddler?

Even the common cold makes us shudder. If he has a runny nose? We get out the nebulizer. It's part of our asthma action plan. Hearing that horrible bark and wheeze? Holy crap, we tried not to panic.

After we got an albuterol treatment over with and spent five minutes on the porch in the cold damp air, we waited another 10. Then Chris got dressed, and I bundled my boys off to the ER.

"It's just croup." Well, duh, doctor. I know it's croup... but my baby, he can't breathe very deeply, and he sounds awful, and he's crying and scared, and I can't do anything more for him, and I'm scared. *deep breath (lucky I can take one)*

When Ben woke up again this morning at the crack of 5:30, he was upset and scared again. I tried to calm him down as I spoke enthusiastically about how much fun it would be to go for a walk before anybody wakes up.

I'll cover you in blankets, and we'll walk all over the neighborhood, looking at everything to see if it looks different in the rain and before breakfast.

And so we did. Around and around the block, then around the next block over, then around our block again. I walked through the misty light rain, grateful that it wasn't pouring, contemplating the fact that I hadn't brushed my teeth yet and maybe I should have put on socks before I slipped into my shoes. I meditated on my little boy's lungs and throat, praying for them to loosen and open up, praying for him to start coughing up some phlegm, to feel some relief.

He's quietly watching Curious George right now, fidgeting and kicking off his blankets. Rest, fluids and albuterol were prescribed. I'm going to add to that a healthy dose of love, attention, tenderness and perhaps some painting and coloring.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gerbera and Pinwheelin' Fool

As an "I'm sorry for being an ass" make-up present, my husband once brought me a small bouquet of white gerber daisies. I had the perfect vase for them -- a slim, square vase that perfectly accented the minimalist arrangement. It was one of the many times Chris got it "right."

So I was more than tickled when my mom brought me a pot of gerbera daisies this morning as a Mother's Day present. They were meant for planting outside, so I got right to it, finding them a nice home in the recently barren flower bed. I love them desperately.

Very soon, I'll be getting started on a new quilt for a bloggy friend of mine. That's right. I'm actually making a quilt for someone I'm not related to! I haven't even met her, actually, but she and I "clicked," and she's decided that I'm the perfect person to create a quilt for her son's bed. I'm honored and very thrilled to get started just as soon as her box of fabrics makes it to my doorstep.

Until then, I've been plugging away on a quilt for my niece Alisha. I'm experimenting with my first pinwheel blocks. By the end of today, I should have 11 done. I'm not sure if I'll make the whole quilt pinwheels; the original plans were to alternate with an album style block that is designed on the diagonal. I'm immensely proud of my pinwheels, though. They are so easy to whip up. I have an assembly line going in my kitchen with blocks in various stages of completion.

I thought it would be a nice photo idea to have Anna outside in front of my new daisies, covered in pinwheels. The grass stole the show.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Comfort Zone

First things first. Have to get this off of my chest.

I love you period.
Do you love me question mark?
Please please exclamation point!
(I wanna hold you in parentheses)

I've had that frickin' song going through my head for a week now.

Last week, Liz from This Full House honored me with a Perfect Post award. "I'm not worthy" doesn't begin to describe how I feel about that. When I read her email to me and then her post about my post (Qwillerage: Waves), I cried. I felt like I could climb Mount Everest, I felt popular, I felt like Super Woman.

Perhaps it was that huge ego boost that prompted me to email this guy about an email I had written him expressing interest in being a part of something. How's that for a coherent sentence? Sorry. The point is, I put myself out there. I expanded my horizons. I cracked my shell open a bit. I poked a toe out of my comfort zone.

I've agreed to be on the editorial board of Citizen Wausau, a local website/blog that melds together the concepts of a town hall meeting, a grassroots rally and some good, old-fashioned joe-on-the-street journalism. I'll be doing some proofreading and some *gasp* writing. Holy crap.

Tonight was the first meeting of the brand-spankin' new board. It was fun. Kind of like a crazy volley of very sarcastic, funny people with an overlay of actual, productive discussion. I was nervous as all hell, but I survived, and I contributed to the discussion.

The thing is, it's a good fit for me. I have some spare time, I'm online almost all day long, I was a proofreader for 4 years, I completed a major in journalism, and I am very fond of the community where I live.

Leading up to the meeting, I felt intimidated and scared of everything about it -- meeting new people, claiming to know how to write, actually committing to something that would take my time away from my kids. After the meeting, I don't exactly feel like Super Woman, but I definitely feel intrigued and hopeful about the whole idea.

At the very least, I had an excuse to take a shower and put on very little makeup (see pic above). When I look at the picture, however, all I see is the disproportionate size of my breasts. Thanks, Anna, for preferring my right one and totally ruining my awesome lady-ness, or at least distracting from the perfection that is my shrinking body. Seriously, it's at least a cup and a half bigger.

Monday, May 05, 2008


When Super Why! (children's show on PBS) was on the other morning, I was startled by obscenities coming from the TV. I'm not going to type out what I heard because I don't want that kind of google traffic. The diaper fetish people are enough for me. Let's just say the frog's name was actually Tiddilick; they even spelled it, letter by letter.

I was going to name this post "Tidbits," but I thought Tiddilicks was a much funnier word.

First, a shout-out to my sister Jolene who found out that the bun in her oven is indeed a girl. They've picked out a precious name for her, too, though I haven't received the go-ahead to shout it from the rooftops. I will say that the first two initials are MM. And they aren't naming her Minnie Mouse. How's that for a gorgeous little face? I love her already.

Second, a couple cute kid things.

Anna and Ben spend A LOT of time in the double stroller. Usually, Anna is in the back seat and Ben rides in the front. Anna is not content to sit back and relax. No, she sits up and forward, gnawing on the sides of the stroller. Sometimes, she reaches forward and finds she can reach Ben's head. When she discovers that happy surprise, she starts to play with his hair. Usually, there's a whole lot of giggling going on from both of my children. Sometimes, it pisses Ben right off.

I have to get kind of creative in keeping Ben busy and entertained while I'm hanging out our laundry outside. We don't have a fenced-in yard, and there's a huge temptation to run into the neighbor's yard or *shudder* into the alley or worse, down the driveway and into the busy street. This is why we need playground equipment in our backyard. I'm considering putting our Little Tikes slide back there to keep him occupied.

Anyway. That's not the cute thing. I taught him the small joy of running through wet sheets and towels and feeling it slap against your face. I also showed him how he could run a little obstacle course through the towels, around the pine tree, loop around Anna in her walker, jump over the blanket and back through the towels... all while flapping your arms like a bird and yelling, "Tweet Tweet!" I had to demonstrate a couple times before he caught on. I'll let you sit with that mental image for a while.

So, those pictures of our little projects around the yard I promised you.

I had these miscellaneous decor things I needed to either store, get rid of or use. I thought they looked kind of country-cute on the side of the garage that I can see from the kitchen window when I'm doing dishes. Without measuring the planter hang-y thing first, I bought a pot and some plants for it. Then I planted the pot and placed it gingerly in the wire thing. And of course the pot is too big.

I kept it there for now. I'll be replacing it with a smaller pot (and maybe a whole new set of plants) this week. Luckily, there's a greenhouse just five blocks away.

Isn't this mossy planter the most awesome thing ever? So cute. I love the curly-cues. The bush at the bottom of the picture will be removed this weekend. It's a hugely ugly juniper bush that is not loved by anybody who currently lives at this address. I'm replacing it with lilac bushes. *swoon*

My front porch from the north side. We had the little blue pots left over from last summer, so they got a new batch of annuals. I installed the same bracket/curly basket combo next to this door as appears on the side of the house (you can see the juniper bush peeking out from the right corner). This view will be improved exponentially by the installation of the porch light that has been sitting in our front closet since we moved into the house.

The view from the south side. Now you can get a nice view of the bushes we planted yesterday, also the columbines that look kind of ridiculous right now with such naked flower beds. I want to plant lots of hostas and other leafy green things that can live in the shadows of my beautiful (someday) bushes. We have some peonies that live on the side of the yard, and I'll transplant them to the flower bed in the fall. See the sidewalk? It's kind of unsightly. I want to replace it with red brick, but I'll settle with replacing the concrete. That patch job just isn't doing it for me.

My weigela bushes. It was hard to pick a variety. I wanted a flowering shrub, but I wanted something a little cheaper than hydrangea. I wanted lilacs, but I thought it might be a bit boring to having the house surrounded by them. So we'll have 3 weigelas in the front of the house on the right side of the porch (we couldn't fit a third in the car), and 2 lilacs on the other side of the corner. I hope they are beautiful.

Quick Study in Contrast

Before we did our 180 on our health and activity levels, we would spend our weekends parked on the couches, watching TV or fiddling around on the laptop. Ben would usually get a trip to the park once, for maybe 20 minutes. Our only activity would be a trip to Walmart, and I'd usually stay home and nap and let the boys go on their own.

What is it like now? Go, go, go! I still get my naps, but there is no more parking on the couches. If I wasn't washing dishes or cooking in the kitchen, I was hanging laundry on the line outside, with Ben learning to joy of running through wet sheets and Anna tasting another bite of grass and bark. If we weren't marching around the home improvement store (garden section), we were digging up sod or potting plants. And if we weren't trotting to the playground 12 blocks away, we were strolling to the one 15 blocks away.

How is it? Intensely satisfying. Ben spent hours outside this weekend. Last year, outside time was kind of "eh" to him. This year, he runs out with us at every opportunity. I don't get winded unless I climb up the really tall hills in the neighborhood, but after a mile, my legs start to gently ache. I don't mind at all.

The plan for today? A two-mile (one-way) walk to the post office to mail something to my sister Jolene in Oshkosh, a rest stop at the mall where there's a play area for Ben to stretch his legs, a detour to the pottery place to pick up the pieces that we painted on my birthday, and a meet-and-greet at Daddy's work on the way back home. I'm so excited, and I wonder what it will feel like. Will I regret it halfway there? Will I regret it when I get to the far point and realize I have to walk back? Am I going to be a sweaty mess by the time we see Chris?

In other news, we spent a huge chunk of our stimulus check at the home improvement store. We bought subfloor and laminate for our basement remodeling project, two big bushes for the front of the house, dozens of annuals, two hanging planters with scroll-y arm brackets and garden tools. I shed a tear last night as Chris was digging up the front of the house to plant those bushes. We are real homeowners. This is not something that people who are just renting would bother with.

I'm going to post pictures of all of the outside projects later. I'm rather proud. I think our house is the cutest on the block now.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rainy Days Never Get Me Down

When I was a little girl (okay... even when I was a teenager), my mom would always announce on cold, dreary, rainy days, "The perfect thing to do on rainy days is bake cookies!" And we'd bake Nestle Tollhouse cookies with Crisco so they'd be extra soft and chewy. Yum.

I was *this close* to baking oatmeal cookies today. Instead, I pulled out the other rainy day activity I had waiting in my arsenal.

My friend Daisy over at Composter Mom is awesome in so many ways, and I love reading her blog. I love reading about her adventures with her children (who are teens, one in high school, one in college), her interests (wild and far-flung and charming), and her job (a teacher). A few weeks ago, she blogged about a fundraiser her school's Art Club did. For $10 a window, they painted beautiful spring flowers on the windows in the classroom with the promise that they'd wash it off at the end of the school year. I thought it was beautiful.

You might remember one of the art activities I did with Ben before Christmas when I was decorating for the holidays on a budget. Those flowers stayed up for weeks. So much fun.

In a way, what I did today is very similar. I put flowers on the window again. This time, I used paint.

I didn't let Ben join in because I didn't want him to get paint on the woodwork since it's peeling and flaking anyway (wouldn't take more than a drip to have it soak into the wood permanently). I kind of felt like an idiot, painting with my son's acrylics, refusing to let him help me. What kind of art activity is this?

I did promise him that soon I'd set him up with his paints and some paper for him to work with. He liked watching me, though his new "Ramone" car that we picked up at a rummage sale this morning was way more fascinating.

There's something so ultimately pleasing to me to decorate these multi-pane windows. It doesn't take much to make a big impact, and I felt like I was painting away the dreariness of the outside.

One of my other rainy day pleasures is something my husband doesn't even know about. I love going into the attic upstairs and just standing in there. With very little insulation, I can hear the ping-ping of the rain on the roof. It's so settling.

Don't even get me started about how much I love thunderstorms.

Pensieve's 40 or Less: Frozen

Welcome to the first edition of Pensieve's latest writing challenge. She takes a photo and urges her readers to write 40 something or less about the picture. Syllables? Words? It's up to us. Check out her site for more 40 or Less submissions. As you can see, I used far less than 40, but I thought the simple statement spoke more than all the verbosity I could spew onto the screen.


When Lot's wife looked back
She turned to salt.
When this girl saw God
She turned to stone.