Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knocked Down

Apparently my body doesn't remember how to party like it's 1999:  I have been sick in bed since Monday afternoon, a pile of Kleenex on my nightstand, a bottle of NyQuil on the kitchen counter, the house falling to pieces around me.

I have dragged myself out of bed only to drive Annie and Jemma to school and back (sometimes even pawning that job off on a helpful neighbor) and to make little, pathetic "meals" for the kids:  a constant, embarrassing stream of peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, or cheese quesadillas with some fruit thrown in for good measure.  I've been taking clean silverware from the dishwasher since Tuesday and letting the dirty dishes pile up next to the sink until Jason got home to wash them in the evening.  I've been lying horizontally on the floor, doing puzzles with Jemma until my chills forced me back under the covers, at which point she resumed her spot in front of the television.  I've read two books and started on a third.  I've reduced my discipline techniques to yelling, "GIRLS! . . ." from my bedroom.  I've thanked my lucky stars that the girls are as old and as self-sufficient as they are; a year or two ago, this kind of "Momma's taking to her bed" would not have been possible.

This morning, I finally feel a little bit better, and I don't know what to do with the newfound energy.  Should I shower?  Take a walk outside in the sunshine?  Maybe . . . put away the clean laundry?  Actually make a real meal for dinner tonight?  Oh, the possibilities are endless.  Just now, the girls are at school for the last day before spring break begins, so eleven days stretch out in front of us.  We have a few little plans - gymnastics, ballet, a visit from the grandparents on their way home from Florida - but nothing major, and I'm hoping the sunshine and warmer temperatures continue so we can lounge around aimlessly much of the time, maybe taking the art easel outside, maybe scooting to the park, maybe deciding to go out for lunch after seeing the butterflies or head to the zoo with friends.  It'll be good, I think, not to have to be walking out the door at 8:01 a.m. - a good taste of what summer will be like with  four- and six-year-old girls.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Last night, for no good reason, a small group of old college friends and a few other assorted couples gathered in a (thankfully) private room atop the Amway Grand Plaza and celebrated together.  Oh, and also?  The girls wore their wedding dresses, the boys rented tuxes, and we all partied like it was 1999 with plenty of dancing to Prince and Journey.  It wasn't anyone's anniversary and there was no special occasion other than the fruition of one of Josh's good ideas, but turns out that TWDP (The Wedding Dress Party) raised over $3000 for one of our friends who is bravely fighting cancer.  Any night where money raised for a good cause is combined with plenty of cake, dancing, and alcohol is a win-win in my book.  Total party.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Right Now

It's almost 8:00 at night but the sun's last rays still shine into the dining room as I sit at the table typing.  I wish it had been twenty degrees warmer to day (highs in the 30's?  At the end of March?), but, you know, it is hard to complain after a day filled with baking whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies with Jemma, two rounds of parent-teacher conferences FULL of good and happy reports, more sunshine than we've seen in days, and dinner with my husband at Brewery Vivant.

I got there before he did (I came from Annie's conference, he came from work, where he'd stayed to deal with some last-minute patient situations) and so I sat in the booth, sipping a beer, getting caught up on e-mail and texts.  I looked up, though, just as he was making his way into the room - before he saw where I was sitting, before he caught my eye and headed toward me - and my heart caught just a little at the sight of him in a navy wool coat and a blue dress shirt, my cute husband, going on twelve years now.

So today I'm thankful for him, and for the two girls we have together, and for being able to talk summer plans and finances over french fries, and for coming home to pick up a million game pieces after the babysitter leaves, and for kissing little extra-round cheeks as I tell bright faces how exceptionally proud I am of them, and for reading The Paper Bag Princess in my bed and doing the voices as ridiculously as possible, and for singing the night-night song, and for the prospect of a weekend together here at home, full of friends for dinner and little-kid birthday parties and running outside and yoga and (pictures to follow, if you are lucky) partying like it's 1999.  June 19, 1999, specifically.  Should be fun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Have a Lot Of Opinions

Mounting stage, tapping podium, clearing throat:

Here in Michigan, the economy sort of . . . sucks.  And the governor and legislature have the difficult and unenviable job of trying to make some sort of a budget work, which I understand is challenging and complicated.  But the more I have learned in the past few days and weeks about the kinds of budget cuts that are being proposed for the next two years, the more upset I am.  So I'm getting involved with our school's legislative committee and I'm writing letters.  If you, too, live in Michigan, feel free to copy and paste my strong feelings on the subject:  add to them, plagarize them shamelessly, spread them around and get other people to write letters, too.

Dear Governor Synder,

My husband and I are writing to express our dismay at the continued cuts to K-12 education that are proposed for 2011-2012 and beyond.  As a former teacher and a mother of two young children, I wholeheartedly believe that excellent education for every one of Michigan's children is the key to our state's ability to thrive, innovate, and succeed years into the future.  Furthermore, we believe that continued budget cuts (and the diversion of money to community colleges) are short-sighted.  Community college is a wonderful educational tool which can be funded by motivated students with student loans, or by paying tuition with a part-time job.  Public school students, however, do not have the ability to borrow money or work toward the payment of their education; rather, public-school students depend on the state to provide a quality, comprehensive education until they graduate from high school.

We live in a district, XXX, which we chose specifically because of the quality of its schools.  Our daughter, a first-grader, has the opportunity to experience art, music, physical education, computer lab, and Spanish on a daily and/or weekly basis.  Her elementary school employs a social worker who is instrumental in teaching the children how to be kind and caring citizens of the world as well as para-professionals in the classrooms and reading enrichment teachers for struggling readers.  It is my understanding that all of these services - and many more at the district level - are in jeopardy if the funding cuts are passed.  We would be dismayed if the schools were to lose per-pupil funding for yet another year in a row, not only for our own children in our own district, but also for children in much less fortunate districts who will see their student-teacher ratios climb to untenable levels and who will fall through the cracks in our system, losing their chance to receive the kind of education that will allow them to become educated, productive members of society.

These cuts are unacceptable and we urge you to reconsider.



I am trying to plan a spring garage sale.  It's not going that well, mostly because of my irrational attachment to the Rubbermaid bins - not actually the bins, per se, blue and ugly and filling up the tiny amount of attic storage space our house has, but the contents of the bins:  the baby clothes.

Up north a few weeks ago, my sister-in-law and I were discussing their adoption process.  They're waiting (have been waiting for well over a year, now) to add another child to the two daughters they already have, and we were talking about waiting and spacing and boy gear vs. girl gear.  I confessed my attachment to the bins and my sister-in-law laughingly, lovingly said, "Oooh!  Now I sort of want you to have another baby!"

And I said no, no, not going to happen.  I said that we had teetered with it.  I told her the timeline of teetering:  how, after Jemma was born, Jason wanted to go all-in and have a third and I wouldn't even discuss it; how, a year or two later, I began wanting a third, just around the time Jason decided two was just right, thankyouverymuch; how, about a year ago, I thought obsessively about A BABY multiple times every day, assuming that I'd talk Jason into it somehow, even projecting a year ahead and thinking, well, I won't be able to go to this event next year, because I'll probably have a newborn.  I was telling people we were "done" even while I was secretly plotting when I'd start trying to get pregnant again.

Jason came into the kitchen just as I was telling Lisa about the time, six months or so ago, when I laid it all out for Jason, the way I just HAD to do this thing, and the way he said, "You can't handle another one."  Jason heard me tell this, shrugged, smiled.  "It's true," he said, and, sadly, I had to agree.  Our lives (read:  my patience) are at the limit of our ability to parent, live, and run our family the way we want to.  It's not because of money or age or really any single factor, but about the knowledge that we are stretched to our limits much of the time the way we are.

After that painfully honest conversation with Jason, I mourned the baby-that-would-not-be for a few more weeks, and then I gradually stopped thinking about it multiple times a day, and then I noticed that it had been days or weeks since I had actually obsessed over it.  When we were in Jamaica, there was one moment when the four of us were lying on the raft in the sunshine, wet and wiggling and warm from the sunshine, and I felt like all of us were there, like there was a peace in knowing that this was our family forever and ever.

These days, there really isn't a reason to be saving those bins of clothes, stashed haphazardly in the attic next to the bouncy seat, the portable high-chair, the play mat, the teeny-tiny bath towels and socks and swaddling blankets.  The crib bedding, the size four shoes, the 2T yellow duck Halloween costume, the Baby Bjorn:  all these are just taking up space.  It's not like I spend time up there with these things, either.  I don't indulge in melancholy moments of pulling out newborn onesies and smelling them for a trace of baby smell.  I just move them around and swear at them under my breath from time to time when Jemma outgrows something and I have to find a place to pack it away.  They're just things.  So why can't I bring myself to get rid of them?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good Things, March 2010

Big blue eyes;

Tuesday night tradition:  breakfast-for-dinner;

Jemma, post-rest-time;

and Jemma, post-circus-day-at-preschool;

more Meatless Mondays;

Annie reading her newest library book to Jemma just after school (and the cutest jean-butt ever);

more bath bombs;

the perfect breakfast:  Zingerman's pecan-raisin bread, toasted, with coffee;

sneaking in a grown-up one-nighter to Chicago, complete with dinner at Avec and lunch at Goose Island;

matching fourth-of-July dresses, busted out in March on the same day, so as to "be triplets;"

watching my friend bravely check one off the Life List by rocking a hilarious five-minute stand-up routine for LaughFest.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Read Elsewhere: The State of the World

This laugh-out-loud post from Dooce, reminding me why I still read her and why life with kids is continually humiliating, hilarious, and unpredictable.

This little post by Ruth Reichl of Gourmet fame on why saying "a big yes" matters, even - especially - in the face of disaster.

This passage from Poser (and then I will stop with the yoga-book-quoting, I promise), which hits one of my very worst tendencies squarely on the nose and, I think, sums up modern mothering pretty well (emphasis mine):

"I judged Lisa and any other mother who came within my range.  The next-door neighbors put their kids to bed too early; the people down the street put their kids to bed too late.  The friend who lived near Green Lake was overly fussy about organic baby food; the friend on Queen Anne Hill was not fussy enough.  Friend A dressed her baby in designer clothes, which was ridiculous.  Friend B let her kids go around looking like slobs.  I felt there must be a happy medium to parenting, and I felt that I was the very barometer of that happy medium.  Anything that someone else did that I did not do was, to me, excessive and probably crazy.  My strongly held opinions about parenting were like an elaborate carapace for my insecurities."

This quote from Jon Stewart, which pretty much sums up my disappointment at the fact that prisons like Guantanamo still exist:  “I always thought the point of evidence was that if you didn’t have enough, you’re not allowed to keep them in prison. It’s one of the many differences we have in this country between prisons and zoos. You don’t really need anything on an aardvark.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seen and Heard: A Weekend in Cincinnati, 2011

On the back of a truck somewhere south of Toledo, Ohio:  "Deer Beer:  Quit Yer Whining!" (?)

On the back of a truck somewhere around Dayton, Ohio:  "I'd Rather Be Stroked Than Rammed!" (??)

On the back of a tricked-out van just north of Toledo:  "Detroit Van Riders:  DoingIt.Com"

On a billboard somewhere in central Ohio:  "Christ is Coming!  May 2011."


Jemma, to me, while wearing a wet bathing suit:  "Mommy, I hafta go potty."

Nate, overhearing, to me:  "Ahhhh.  Now it's officially vacation."


Annie, relating the story to the rest of the group about how Jason spotted p-o-o-p in the wave pool and flagged down the lifeguard:  "He was like, 'Um, I don't think those are Lincoln Logs!'"


Jemma, disembarking from the scariest tube ride we went on, fist pumping, jumping up and down, and yelling, "Fun!  Fun!"


Annie, at the pizza place we went to for lunch, while blowing on her slice:  "There's three kinds of hot.  There's hot like the temperature, hot like spicy, and hot like really fancy dresser."


Finn:  "Yellow!  Yellow!  Yellow!"


At Zingerman's (detoured to both on the way to Cincy AND on the way back, ahem):  "Girls, stop whining and eat.  Daddy's about to take a bite of his very favorite sandwich in the whole world."


Me, after listening to a song about a map on a Dora DVD, the entirety of which was, "Map, map, map map; Map, map, map map!":  "Wow, you must really have to have what it takes to be a writer for Dora movies."


Annie and Jemma, eating cereal in their "Wolf Den" while wearing their wolf ears and howling at each other.


Annie, Jemma, and Evie alternating between calling and running away from Shiloh the dog.


Annie, Jemma, and Evie holding hands and running down the sidewalk in the 60-something-degree sunshine downtown.


Annie, Jemma, and Evie standing on chairs to watch the pizza dough being tossed and stretched and laughing hysterically when they got flour thrown at their faces in the window.


Cousins, all grown up, toasting a weekend together with Sonoma Chardonnay and local beer on a Saturday afternoon before taking a sweet dog for a walk and wandering to the book store.


Little cousins, the next generation, clanking glasses of milk and water bottles together, saying, "Cheers!" and giggling every time.


Me, stepping out of the car at 7:00 p.m. tonight after nearly 800 miles this weekend:  "What's the name of Clark's wife in the Griswold movies?"

Jason:  "Ellen."

Me:  "I feel like Ellen Griswold, station wagon and all."

Jason:  "Am I Clark in this scenario?"



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Things Jemma Says: Packing Edition

While packing, Jemma brought me a slip of paper she'd previously colored for me and said, "Let's bring this in case you forget that I love you."

(No chance, cutie!)

Christmas in March (and January, and . . .)

Right after the insanity of the Christmas season was over (as in, the very morning after Christmas), Jason and I made the tough decision that we are no longer going to make the big effort to see our extended families at the holidays.  In spite of all our attempts to pare the holiday down to its most important pieces, it was still all Too Much of some things (driving; large gatherings where there is almost no quality interaction with anyone; bringing food all over the west side of the state; wrangling overtired, overstimulated children; scrambling to see all sides of our extended families; tearful breakdowns on Christmas evening) and Not Enough of other things (quiet, meaningful, cozy time with our family of four; special time with our parents and siblings; time to attend church; time to build our own traditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

We told our parents, who were understandably a little disappointed but who seemed to accept that this is the natural way of things:  after all, at some point, they, too, stopped gathering with their extended families at the holidays and instead focused in on immediate family - siblings, parents, children, nieces and nephews.  When a family gets too large to fit comfortably into someone's home for a few hours, it is bound to happen that sooner or later each segment will splinter off into being with just their little tribe, and while I'm sure the extended family gatherings will continue to occur, we're not going to sacrifice our sanity at the holidays to go.  

However, we genuinely love and miss many of those cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles, so what we are doing is being intentional about finding time during the rest of the year to get together with those people.  There is no reason at all that we have to try to see one another between December 15 and January 1 every year!  So, keeping in mind that we'll be (conspicuously) absent from the Christmas festivities, we're making plans to see some of those relatives during less-crazy times.  In January, we made the effort to drive and meet up with Jason's grandparents and an aunt and uncle to whom Jason's always been especially close.  We hung out at his grandparents' house for a while, "visiting" and watching the girls dance in the living room, then went out for dinner and were able to really talk and catch up before coming home to our own beds on a Friday night.

This weekend, we're heading to Ohio, where we're going to meet up with two of Jason's cousins, their spouses, and their kids for a Great Wolf Lodge extravaganza.  It's not a short trip and it's not exactly cheap, but we are so very much looking forward to spending three whole days together with great people who live far away.  I think it's going to be really fun; I think, too, that we're going to get in about a hundred times more quality conversation and memories than we would trying to navigate a two-hour holiday party while chasing our sugared-up kids.

We are packed (Jason's contribution:  beer, iPod), we are waterpark-ready, and we are especially hopeful that in our own little way we'll be strengthening the family bonds, Christmas tree or no.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Six Going on Thirty-Six

I'm driving Annie to catechism last night in Jason's Audi when we pass a white Subaru just like the one I usually drive, which causes Annie to begin asking a series of questions about which car is "mine" and which is Jason's and how this was decided.

"When I'm a grown-up, I'm going to drive a mini-van!" she says firmly.  This immediately reminds me of our conversation at tea in Chicago a couple weeks ago, the one where I asked what she wanted to be when she grew up and she responded without hesitation, "I want to have five kids.  No, seven!"  (At least  she's chosen the correct transportation for her large brood.)

She edges towards six-and-a-half and I watch in disbelief.  She says, "That's easy-peasy lemon-squeezy mac-and-cheesy" when she finishes her math homework.  She flounces out of the house wearing leopard-print leggings, a yellow t-shirt with an embroidered peace sign, a tan hoodie sweater with hot pink polka-dots, and purple socks.  She eats adult-sized portions of mahi-mahi but declares that brown rice "creeps me out."  She is fascinated by the girl in her class who just got a pink streak put in her hair, by tornadoes and tsunamis, by The Boxcar Children's parent-free adventures, which I catch her reading with a flashlight after lights-out at night.  She puts away all her own laundry (though she mutters, "Darn it!" under her breath when I tell her that it's waiting in her room).

She has one legitimately wiggly tooth.  I see her stick her pointer finger in her mouth, press down on the tooth, and push it firmly back and forth, a little looser each day, a little closer to the telltale gap-toothed smile that screams Big Kid to the rest of the world.

Jason watches her watch her tooth in the mirror.  "I don't want you to lose your baby teeth!" he says.

She makes a face, half amusement, half pity.  "Daaaaaaad, I have to!  I'm growing up.  That's what kids do," she says, and runs off to write who-knows-what in the secret journal she keeps in her nightstand drawer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Here, There, Everywhere

Another weekend, another round of throwing a suitcase into a moving vehicle and schlepping our children to a new location.  Without exactly meaning to, we've gone ahead and scheduled ourselves major weekend plans every weekend but one for all of February and March, and if the packing/unpacking routine is getting a little stale, the perks far outweigh the nuisances.  For one thing, I literally cannot believe that today's date is March 7, and I know that spring - true spring, daffodils-poking-up, absolutely no snow in sight - is going to be here in a flash.  For another thing, we've been able to spend some really quality time with just our little family of four and with some of our other favorite people.

This weekend's lucky location was Petoskey, where we were scheduled to do absolutely nothing.  And that's what we did.  We crashed my accommodating brother-and sister-in-law's (completely renovated, head-to-toe gorgeous Victorian) house for the first time since they've moved in.  From pancakes in the morning until bedtime at night, four little blonde girls ran from room to room, squealing with delight and not needing serious adult intervention at all.  Jason and Trevor played a ton of guitar, Lisa and I walked to the bookstore and bakery in town, and we bundled up to go ice-skating as our big outing of the day on Saturday.  We were able to watch my niece's adorable Highland dance recital and break into spontaneous family polka circle (complete with confused basset hound), and I count that as the weekend's culture and exercise component.

Late Saturday night, I sat up reading Claire Dederer's new book, Poser, while Jason and Trevor had a few brotherly beers at The Noggin Room.  In a book about yoga and competitive mothering and making a living as a writer, I came across this quote, which seemed just right:

"In my experience, cousinship is the perfect human relationship:  Like siblings, cousins will be with you forever, no question; unlike siblings, cousins adore each other and forgive each other always, no question."

Read Elsewhere: On the Appeal of Yoga to the Suburban Housewife

From Poser by Claire Dederer:

"It felt good to be moving.  I didn't think of it as an escape; I just felt the relief of moving and not thinking.  There was also this relief:  It was a room I didn't have to clean.  It was like an hour-and-a-quarter visit to a hotel.  It had that same visceral thrill:  I will never vacuum this floor.  I will never dust these baseboards.  Never."

Yes.  YES.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Life List: Flossing My Teeth

I was feeling blue the other day and decided that, it being March (!) now, I needed a project.  Only with the piles of snow still sitting around outside (and the cold rain today), it doesn't quite feel like spring cleaning time yet.

So then I thought I should peek at my Life List and choose something to work towards.  Only everything on it seemed so . . . BIG.  And complicated.  And expensive.  (Household financial review in progress here, is what I'm saying, and fun items like getting a new DSLR and learning photography, say, or drinking wine in Napa, for example, were definitely out of the question.)

Still.  I needed a project, so I chose the easiest, cheapest, more basic thing off my list and decided that March of 2011 will be The Month of Daily Flossing.  My whole life, I've avoided flossing - never did it growing up, never acquired the habit as an adult - but here I am, four days in, and so far, so good.

Join me if you want.  My dentist will be so proud.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

At Book Club

Amid discussion of Precious and Tosh.0 and Charlie Sheen, talk turned to motherhood, as it always does, and specifically to the wonderful, horrible first few weeks of new motherhood - to that moment when each of us realized things were somehow never going to be the same again.

General consensus of the group can be summed up as follows:

1.  Nobody tells you how HARD it's going to be.  Nobody.

2.  Nobody gets right in your face during those first, hard weeks and promises you that it's going to get better.

After I told the group about one memory I have of a night when Jason had gone out with co-workers while I was up every two hours, rocking Annie in the chair and nursing her, crying because my life had disappeared, another woman asked me, "What are you going to tell your girls someday, when they're thinking about having kids?"

"The truth," I said. The whole, wonderful, horrible truth.  Isn't that what this blog is all about?