Humor is also a way of saying something serious. - T. S. Eliot

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do Not Speak to My Children -- Another Round of OOC

I could see them coming.  They had flyers in their hands and they were going door-to-door.  Their shirts had a single name, which I couldn't make out, but it looked to be political.  Knowing they were political solicitors, I could feel my adrenaline start to pump.  "Be kind. Be respectful." I chanted over and over in my head. I don't tend to like the Lakeville politicians much, but I know what it is to approach someone's door with your beliefs at stake.  And, well, I didn't want to be unkind and dismissive.    

The middle-aged lady arrived at my drive-way and handed me a flyer. 

She told me her candidate was for "cutting spending, cutting taxes and less government."  "He's a good guy," she added as an extra endorsement.  I glanced down at the flyer and saw "republican endorsed" and that was the final nail in the coffin for me. 

Screw good intentions, cooperation, and acceptance.

I turned around, opened my garbage can lid, filed her handout then looked right back at her.  There was passive-aggression again. It constantly comes and whops me upside the ass despite my best intentions. 

The woman started down my drive, but stopped by my children.  She began talking to my children.  


"GET AWAY FROM THEM!" I wanted to shout, fearing they'd catch what she had.  My response was as guttural as the time the anti-gay, anti-abortion, extremely conservative state rep for Lakeville sent myself and my newborn twins a "welcome to the world" card.  I didn't like her even uttering my children's names.  

This woman in my driveway, talking to MY children was, in my mind, the evil person who would just as soon judge someone and then, while on her high horse, cut funding from them.  She, for all I knew, was the driver of the oversize Ford truck at Fleet Farm with the bumper sticker that read, 

"Tell my president I live within my means."

Oh really?  Well I did, too. 

Until I had a health issue called infertility 
that my insurance would not cover and 
then I had to use the equity on my home to get the medical treatment I NEEDED.  

 But hey, that was MY choice, right?  Call me entitled when it comes to health coverage. That's fine.  Say I consequently deserve to be screwed by the mortgage crisis that some old-white-greedy-corporate-asshole created ALL while he was taking Viagra so he could screw some 20 year old bimbo.  And guess what?  Funny thing.  His reproductive medicine WAS covered by insurance.  

So excuse me if I don't want to hear your cute little slogan about cutting taxes.  It's too black and white for me and it insulted me that some middle-aged white guy just thinks I'm gonna trust his plan because he has some hot slogans.  

I have a brain AND A HEART and I want to know...

What taxes will you cut? 

Who will be affected?  

Unlike the other voters in Lakeville. I HAPPEN TO CARE what will happen when there is an absence of funding.  

I'm not going to be satisfied until everyone is treated fairly and equally and has the services they need. 

And if that means paying more taxes. Fine. If that means involving the government to make people white corporate assholes do the right thing. Fine.

Fine. Fine. Fricking Fine.


Monday, September 27, 2010


Laying on the wet pavement, it occurred to me that Sophia might have good reason to ban me from attending her school field trip.  

1st Day of School 2010

The two weeks since preschool orientation in which the field trip was announced and parent participation requested, she emphatically asserted that my presence was not wanted during her class trip to the apple orchard.  If I came, she would not sit with me on the bus as she had plans to sit with her friends.  In fact, she intended to avoid talking to me altogether. By the day of the field trip, my forecasted attendance had so popped her bubble of hoped for independence that she told me "if you are going then I'm STAYING HOME!"

I was in a pickle.  Ella is in Sophia's class, and Ella wanted me to come. I can remember times that I wanted my mom to attend my school functions but instead I had only her empty seat to look upon, as Kelli's behavioral needs did not mesh with whatever I had going on. I didn't want Ella to experience a mom who couldn't be there.  

So I stuck with my promise to Ella and as for Sophia, I crossed my heart, swore and promised on a daily basis for two weeks to stay away from Sophia on the trip.  The teachers agreed to place Sophia in a group separate from Ella and me.  When the morning of the trip came, and with firm instructions from Sophia "not to talk to" her -- we boarded the bus and Sophia sat with her partner.  I snuck a look at her, and she was grinning and seemed happy.

I was glad for Sophie to seek independence.  It didn't matter to me that Ella was the only one of my children who would acknowledge my existence -- even after I had fallen flat on the ground days earlier.  

Exiting the girls' school I had walked swiftly to the car.  A lone rock lay on the sidewalk. Stepping on it, my foot rolled, my ankle gave out and -- Andi still in my arms -- I suddenly found myself laying on the wet, cold pavement.  Laying just outside the windows of the preschool, and with cars pulling up next to the sidewalk I was planted on, I hopped up, "I'm okay!" 

Picking the girls up from preschool that same day, I shared with them my story of my graceful exit from their classroom that very morning at drop-off.  "Did you all see me fall?"  No. They had not.

"Well, let me tell you about it."  Sophia looked embarassed, yet intrigued as I told the story.  She turned red for me.  Ella was curious and had a lot of questions about the specifics of my landing, just where the fall had occurred, how wet and dirty my knees were, was there any blood loss, did anyone laugh at me...that sort of thing.

During the field trip, Ella and I stuck together, and it seemed very odd to me -- just having one child to dote my attention upon.  This was probably a good set-up for Ella, whose quiet demeanor usually falls by the wayside of Sophia's sparkling, yet demanding personality.

Loading onto the bus at the end of the field trip, I saw Sophia get on.  I couldn't help myself and I smiled and waved.  The enthusiasm was not returned, however.  Eyeing me sitting in the back of the bus with Ella, she broke loose from her chaperones and marched up to me. 


The other moms on the back of the bus watched, wide-eyed and curious.  I explained, after attempting to soothe Sophia, that the girls were twins and Sophia had not wanted me there.  Their eyes all said they understood, a couple of them sympathized saying that their older children had banished them from associating with them at school functions. 

Two days after the field trip and waiting in line with all the other parents outside the preschool classroom, small-talk bloomed as we awaited the children's dismissal.  A mom said to me "Oh...Are you the mom of the twins?"  I told her I was and she explained that she and her husband had been in charge of Sophia the day of the field trip and that Sophia was constantly looking for and asking for her mom.  
"We didn't know if her mom was there...or what to do."

I explained Sophia's explicit instructions that I disown her for the 1-1/2 hour long field trip.  

"Well, that is not the tune she was singing while we had her."

I thanked the woman for tolerating Sophia's change of heart. 

"We just kept talking to her and asking her questions.  She was really quiet. She wanted her mom."

I apologized that Sophia was a boob the entire time, and again thanked them for acting as her chaperon, and acknowledged that -- yes -- Sophia changed her mind.

"She was not happy.  She kept looking for you.  We didn't know you were there.  We just kept talking to her and tried to get her to talk.  She sang a whole other tune that day."

Oh dear, I had said, turning around, hopeful that dismissal was imminent.  

Still the mom went on  -- talking to my back now -- "She was really unhappy. So quiet.  She just wanted you."

OK. I fucking get it lady!  Really. I do. And seriously, you signed up for it, so let it go.  What are you trying to do? Get me back for Sophia's perseveration by perseverating on her perseveration? I mean. Good God woman and holy crap.  I mean, and maybe this is why I have no friends, but this chick wore out her welcome to speak with me and I was done with our conversation. Thank goodness I was next in line to have my children dismissed so I could leave Ms. Perseverator and act as if I was eagerly awaiting the twins return to my arms.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pierced Nipple Anxiety

I was back on my A game -- or so I thought.  I have nearly licked this bug that I've had all week -- passing it off to Dave -- who is traveling again.  Last night after the house was picked up and the girls were asleep, I whipped off an article on "How to Deal with a Child Flipping Out at the Dentist."  Completed in less than an hour, I was hopeful that I would get two articles done today.  

It's nearly time to pay the girls' October tuition for preschool, and beggars can't be choosers when it comes to accepting titles of articles to write about.  The article I have selected has taken me into uncharted territory: pierced nipples and breastfeeding. 

Searching the internet, I find there aren't a lot of authoritative resources on this particular subject. Scanning the indexes of my parenting books only leads me to get distracted when I find topics such as "nose: beans and pees, inserted," or "nipple confusion" followed by "noise making toys" and "overstimulation" and I begin to wonder if I've picked up a bedroom-type book -- if you get my drift -- as opposed to a parenting book. 

Time's a tickin' before I have to get the twinados from preschool and the more I think about it, the more paralyzed I become. My template glares at me.  I have nothing to write on it.  My heart beats. Fast. 

As an undergrad, I'd hand in term papers weeks ahead of time. I couldn't stand the pressure of doing it last minute, nor the weight of it hanging over my head.  

Handing in a 15-page research paper on "Why it does Not Harm Children to be Raised by Same-Sex Parents," the child development professor told me she knew she'd be seeing me, term paper in hand,  weeks before anyone else even thought to start theirs.  I smiled at her and dashed into my other child development class. We were getting our exams back and I. Couldn't. Wait. to see how I'd done. 

The days leading up to the exam consisted of eight-hour runs of note taking and reciting information under my breath.  Lists of terms, phrases summarizing theories, and fact-based opinions on parenting styles consumed my mind. Contrary to my fellow classmates, the night before the exam contained no last minute cramming.  It contained quiet.  And by exam mornings -- silence reigned.  I offered no "hello's," to classmates and ignored Dave's small-talk.  Classmates would talk nervously and try to review information in the hall and I would enter the "dark zone" where nothing comes in or out.  It's as if speaking -- hell, even breathing -- might allow a critical piece of information to slip from my mind, never to be retracted. 

Once in the test, I'd scribble my answers down furiously before the information in my mind evaporated. I'd jump around on the test, completing what I felt like doing -- no particular order ruled my test-taking.  The order of answering questions was ruled by what my gut told me to do. 

The days leading to the test results allowed pessimism to overtake me.  "I failed. This time I really failed. I didn't know a single thing on that test."

"You say that everytime and you always ace it," Dave, in his 21 year-old wisdom, would try to reassure me. 

Frustrated that he just didn't believe me I'd go on and on about failing the test.  I could barely function. Barely think at times. And so I cleaned.  I cleaned and cleaned -- until the morning of the arrival of the test results. 

Sliding into my chair, the professor pulled out the exams.  My stomach flip-flopped and my bladder contracted.  Should have worn a pad, I'd think, fearing that I'd pee my pants a little out of the suspense of waiting to see my grade. 

"Someone in here threw the curve off by scoring a 98 on her test," the teacher announced. She continued on, explaining how grading was done, but I didn't hear her.  I'd begun ruminating angrily.

"THAT BITCH!" My eyes scanned the room wondering what person had thrown the curve off.  Was it Miss Happy Peppy Pants with all the blonde curls, bright blue eyes, and perma-smile?  Probably it was.

"Shannon." Oh god. She said my name.  This is it. My bladder surged again. Really should have worn a pad -- do I have to stand up? I'll surely pee my pants.  I open the folded exam -- and circled -- is 98.

Got Sheepish?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Caged Children

I can't think.  My head is pounding, my throat is raw, I have the chills...and seven articles are due.  Tonight, I just can't write...  Take it away Robert and P.J.

Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs.quote P.J. O'Rourke

I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home.quote  Robert Orben

Never raise your hand to your children; it leaves your midsection unprotected.quote Robert Orben

Anyone who uses the phrase 'easy as taking candy from a baby' has never tried taking candy from a baby.quote Unknown

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Let's All be a Little Og

Here's to parents who aren't "inconvenienced" by their children. Parents who don't view it as being "stuck home with the baby" when they can't go out partying every night, who value their time with their children, who don't pawn their kids off as often as they can on whoever wants to take them, who accept responsibility..., and love it too. Parents who deserve to be parents. If you're one of these, repost this!


That's what I thought when I read the above post on Facebook.  Lots of people "liked" it.  I didn't "like" it.  I didn't like it one bit.

I wondered "who would write such a judgmental thing?"  I'm always thinking like a social worker.

Today I got my answer.  I'm pretty sure the lady walking into Target who gave me "THE LOOK" was, if not the writer of the above statement, at least "liked" it on her Facebook page.

Andi was laying just off the curb, screaming, kicking, and crying, the twins were five feet behind me quarrelling over how to carry the too-heavy diaper box I had dropped as I lurched after Andi who had darted towards the Target parking lot.  A kind gentleman intervened, taking the box from my twins, he told me he would help us to the car.  As we all turned to cross the lot, I met "THE LOOK" head on. The woman made a point of meeting my eyes, her eyes were narrowed, lips in a flat-line, she emphatically shook her head in a disapproving fashion.  

You've seen "The Look," right? 

"The Look" that says "Can't you control your naughty, ill-behaved, animal-like children?" 

"The Look" that says these people don't get/know/remember/believe/tolerate children having a NORMAL childhood moment.  

Nor do they allow parents forgiveness for wanting to run away from it all when it just feels like it's too much. Because sometimes it IS too much.  And in the moments when it is too much, kindness, not critical -- judgmental stares and statements -- goes a LOOOONNNNG way.

"The Look" that does nothing but make me want to reach out and,

with my one bare hand

-- while still holding  my screaming, writhing toddler in the other arm--

squeeze the neck -- of this person who doesn't know the situation, but still condemns us.

Fingers curved around their neck, feeling veins, cords, and bones and I watching their critical eyes grow wide as my arm starts to shake,

and their veins start to pop,

I say "what the fuck are you looking at bitch?"

And then we both stand there -- as if in a stand-off, my knuckles starting to ache from a tight squeeze held too long, my nails digging into my judge's skin -- until I finally let go, grab my other two children, and walk away. 

Was that as good for you as it was for me?
I can't remember where I was going with this. I'm going to hand it over to Og Mandino while I lay here with my cigarette.

Instead of "THE LOOK,"

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. 
Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster. 
Your life will never be the same again. ---Og Mandino

*Authors note- I know there are mandated reporters reading my blog.  Please do not report me, I promise to contract with you not to harm myself or anyone else.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lubricating My Way into Fall with Caramel

"I just licked the waxed paper clean," I told Dave during our daily, noon time phone conversation. He laughed. "I'm not kidding. I really did. That caramel is soooo good." 

"I fully believed you."

He knows me so well, I thought, as I hung up. 

Every fall since I can remember mom and I would go get fresh apples and bring them home.  School was back in session, the sun was setting earlier, and I hated it.  I never have been one to transition well, especially as a child.  Change things up on me and I'd have a fit.  Sensitive to everything including the way the seam of my sock hit my toes or the tag of the shirt rubbed my back, I'd have something to lament about. I'm sure my *shining personality* is what drove my mom into the kitchen, away from me, to make everything she stuffed in my picky little mouth -- homemade. 

In the fall she would make apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie, and caramel apples.  I loved all of it, but especially the caramel apples.  A year ago, I got so desperate for a homemade caramel apple that I called her up and got the recipe and made them myself. 

This past Sunday, Dave and I packed up the girls and headed to the orchard.  It was relatively bee-free, so we elected picking our own apples.  "This is the first time I think I have ever picked apples," Dave pointed out as we drove away with nine pounds of Honeycrisp apples.

Normally, half-way into the lines of trees the bees get so bad that I can't tolerate the fear of a bee "getting me," and we grab a bag of pre-picked apples and to my great relief, load back into the car. 

Once home we scrubbed the apples clean, stabbed a wooden stick in each of them, buttered some waxed paper, and then got to the business of making the caramel.  It's sticky business -- making caramel.  Heat it too fast or too hot it gets hard. Heat it too slow or not enough it stays runny.  I tested my candy thermometer in a pan of boiling water and, like any true black-and-white thinking, rule-loving fool, I followed mom's instructions to a T. 

The result -- perfectly creamy, chewy, sweet, buttery with-a-hint of vanilla, good enough to like the wax paper clean -- caramel.    Pics and recipe below.

Caramel Apples
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Karo 
14 oz sweetened condensed milk

Combine above in a pan. Cook over medium heat and stir constantly until you reach 230 degrees.

Remove pan from heat. Let sit 3-4 minutes

Stir in:  1/4 cup butter (sliced up, not in a big block)
1 tsp vanilla

Let sit a couple more minutes

Dunk your apples in the caramel (I made 12 small apples) and place apples on a buttered waxed paper, perhaps placed in individual bowls to prevent running of caramel. 

If it's too runny, eat it anyway. 

If it turned out hard, well...  Try, try again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Puttin' Down Roots

*Editor's note: (I'm the editor and author, by the way, in case you didn't know.) Thank you for your comments on the previous blog. I am grateful that you, having busy lives, took the time to comment, in a respectful, and even encouraging tone.  I often underestimate people and their kindness. Now, let's get on with it....

The newest member of our yard -- a Northwoods Maple, known for red "showy" leaves in the fall, and red leaves and red flowers in the spring -- has arrived.  

Lora, a lovely woman who owns a landscape business and who lives in our neighborhood, helped us identify the type of tree that would best fit us. Then she snagged it at a good deal at Bachman's.  Her husband and son installed it.  Lora, I think, does all the designing, and her husband does the dirty work, literally.  Though, judging by her shapely legs, she gets right in there, too, toning herself as she works.  

She's been great to work with; friendly, on the ball, not pushy as far as our (tiny) budget, and I'm looking forward to working with her next spring as we fix up the rest of the front yard. 

"Imagine," I told Dave, "us working together like they do.  And everyday, I'd tell you what to do."  

"You don't have to grin so big," he told me.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Totally OOC

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.  Cyril Connolly

I have had an awfully hard time writing a blog post lately.  It's due to a variety of reasons. Time is a big one. I'm writing an article a day for the freelance site I was hired by a few months ago when I got it in my head to take Dave's advice and "go for it."  

It's also getting to be that time of year. You know that time. The political time. I owe two candidates a supportive letter to the editor.  I can't seem to get those written either.  I get so angry trying to write the letter that everything comes out passive-aggressive.  The same holds true for trying to blog. And then all I do is alienate myself at a time when I'd much like to make friends.  But it seems I just can't get that done.  Every time I turn around, I've pissed someone else off.  

I respond by backing down on my stance, apologizing, and feeling like a real ass.  It seems I don't know how to have an opinion without being offensive.  "God, Shannon. You are SOOOO opinionated," mom would always say to me, as if it were a bad thing.

It's never my intent to hurt people's feelings with my opinion. And I often, as do most all of us, forget that it is simply my opinion. 

Dave ran for DFL state rep twice. He lost. Twice. Because --here comes the passive-aggression--  we live in a white, conservative, uber-christian, anti-abortion, homophobic, rich suburb.  I hate politics. I didn't even declare what party I was until two years ago.  And that's because I got really fucking mad.   So I joined the party that I thought would best fight for the people who need someone to fight with them or for them. But lately, I'm not sure there is such a party. Anyway...

I was mad that a bunch of politicians cut funding so that social workers were very limited in helping their clients.

I was mad because a bunch of politicians tried to make a medical decision for women and say they couldn't have an abortion. 

I was mad because a bunch of politicians said that people who love each other can't get married because it threatens heterosexual marriage. 

I was mad, that as an EAP counselor, the resources I needed for people-- people who were JUST LIKE ME -- working, educated, responsible -- were disappearing more and more every year that Bush was in office.  These people had crap for health insurance, and one serious hospitalization caused them to lose all they had, no money to pay hospital bills, home foreclosed, they were SCARED.  I'd love to have plastered my car with the bumper sticker I saw the other day.

Faded, but still glorious, it read:

"Practice Abstinence. No Dick. No Bush."

I was mad that no one would do anything to fix welfare or health insurance.  But that rich, white CEO's with anti-social personalities were getting away with murder.  

And I was fucking pissed that a bunch of politicians cut funding so that people with disabilities and their families lost SIGNIFICANT services.  That some people with disabilities are, in fact, without services.  This most vulnerable crowd, that we ought to take care of, we are shunning. 

Nobody, and I mean nobody, messes with my family or other families like that.  And so when Dave ran, my shyer-than-shy little ass hit the campaign trail.   I had 6 week old babies the first time I campaigned for Dave. Pregnant with Andi during Dave's second run, I had two year old toddlers AS WELL as severe morning sickness and weighed below 100 pounds.  I dragged all three (or four) of us around in wind, cold, and rain.

I stuck signs in people's yards (after banging on their door, explaining Dave's platform, and gaining their permission).  I took voter registrations to folks who were housebound or without vehicles. I helped people submit their absentee ballots and then raced to my car, chased by a set of pit bulls. 

I, oddly enough, put up with the Independence Party Candidate, C.L. spreading lies about my husband. Normally, while I never stand up for myself, I will stand up for family or for anyone else being stomped on.  

C.L., the little CSMF, went from running against Dave as an Independence AND Green Party Candidate to the 2010 DFL candidate. Dave's not even running anymore, but C.L. still spreads untruths about him. C.L., who stuck a sign in a woman's yard in a trailer park without her permission. C.L. the party hopper.  

The other night, the DFL called for Dave.  The phone was set to "speaker" and I heard the volunteer ask Dave if he'd be willing to join them for a door knock in support of C.L.


I howled with laughter. 

Dave articulately declined, but then sat and stewed the rest of the night, thinking of all the things he should have said before he hung up.  He got no work done.  

I knew just what he was going through.  And tonight, I pulled a post that, upon re-reading it, realized it needed major editing.  "Stop letting perfection stop you from getting anything done," Dave told me.  He lectured me on practicing writing, writing for myself, and getting better as a writer after I lamented "but if I can't even write anything on my blog that people want, then what publisher will put a book out for me?" 

"I hate that you are right," I had told him, realizing I had fallen back into the habit of letting perfectionism rule me.

Damn myself for saying that because he then wanted it in writing.  (So there you go Dave)

Still discouraged though, I went to turn off my computer.  I was done.  

In fact, maybe I'd just shut down my blog.  Just before turning off the computer, I clicked on a link that led to a website with sayings.  I read them for fun.  I love words.  They attract me like a moth to a light. It's almost like I can feel them in my mouth. The better they are put together, the more I can almost feel myself chewing on them.  It becomes physical for me. 

So I'm going to keep writing -- though this inhibition has got to stop. Be forewarned, I might swear in my writing, or slam some asshole republican "with values" who wants to "keep marriage between a man and a woman".  

I'll slam those who say that an Islamic Community Center nearby, not EVEN VISIBLE to Ground Zero is a travesty.  A travesty?  What is wrong with someone practicing their religion. Are you so stupid, that you don't get that the peaceful people in that community center were just as much a victim as everyone else?  

I just don't get the big damn deal.  Why can't we all accept and embrace differences  -- meaning disabilities, sexual preferences, religious preferences, even political preferences.

I listened to 9-11 survivors over the phone and counseled them.  They in NY, me in a call center in Eagan, MN. 

Some of those survivors were Muslim.  And they were traumatized.  They were outraged. But the worst part, was that not only were they fearful of another attack BY EXTREMISTS, but they were fearful of being attacked by an American with a need to seek vengeance. Sometimes, I am ashamed of us.  

I'll never understand folks who are offended by the word "fuck," though I'll never understand folks who are not offended by bigotry, discrimination, alienation, prejudice, racism, sexism, and I could go on. 

I may only have one reader once I let loose and write not only parenting stuff, but stuff from the rest of my being, too.  "I think I'm my biggest fan," I told Dave.  

"That's ok," Mr. Laid-Back-From-L.A. said. 

But I like words, opinions and fighting for causes.  I like to tell stories.  And I like to create a record of my parenting journey for my kids.  Any maybe, someday, this will all amount to nothing.  I'll die, never having made it as a writer, but instead only be known by a few as "that neurotic crazy woman who was a flaming liberal."  But, at least, I will have stayed true to me (yikes, this is a tall-order for someone who just wants everybody to like her).  

And you can't beat that.


Perspectives: Dodging Frogs, Dogs, and The Look

Post Removed Needs Editing. Note to self. It's better to do a few things well, than a bunch of stuff and have it turn out crappy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom

I am late writing you three a Happy Birthday blog entry.

Mom is known as "Bobo" to the twins. "Bobo" is the word that one-year-old's were able to glean from the word "grandma."  Sometimes she is "Bobo-licious," other times, she is "the Bobo-meister," but always, she is loved.

She is good for feeding children thick, rich, organic chocolate milk. Indulging them in gourmet Stam chocolates. Making them homemade sweets like Snickerdoodles, caramels, ice cream pies and caramel apples.  She stands in cold pool water, letting them splash her, as fall leaves and winds tell her it's time to close the pool down for the summer.  She always has a moment to talk to them on the phone, and stay an extra hour to be sure a homemade dinner is left for them to eat, despite her having to head back to IA.

She replaces stolen I-pods, houses a boxer we could no longer make room for, and acts as a bank when big expenses come up.

She is

Happy Birthday Mom

Happy Birthday Patrick Pee-pod

Uncle P

Uncle Pancake

Uncle Pat-wick

Uncle Pee-pod

Their names for you, have progressed almost as much as your names for them:

This one and that one

Hey you


Sophia and Ella

That's cute -- your language of love -- and it's progression over time.

Happy Birthday to the man I call my brother, and to whom I repeatedly ask "when are you going to have your own kids so you can quit teaching mine bad things?"

P.S. Payback is a bitch, I hear.

Happy Birthday Heather

Even keeled.

That's Heather. Calm, rational, and with a sharp, biting sense of humor that I LOVE.  It comes at me in her e-mails, which she drips my way in a rare instance of free time. "Does she even know how funny she is?" I wonder.


That's Heather. Working on a graduate degree in microbiology, I think, it's all so big-wordy and scientific, I'm never quite sure. Someday, I say, she'll have a PhD in germs. How lucky, I think, that I will have a sister-in-law who knows everything about food safety and germs?  


As evidenced by reading all the words on a page, in every long-winded children's story there is. And setting up forts in the front yard. And lulling two of my children to sleep in her arms, something I have never been able to do.  They love them some "Aunt Header"

Happy Birthday oh quietly sassy one.

By the Way, Happy Birthday

There was no time for talking.  We were on borrowed time.  Spending the entire afternoon out shopping for Halloween costumes and exploring the Minnesota Children's Museum left us with overstimulated, tired, and hungry children.  By the time we reached Pizza Hut and finally had our pizza arrive, Andi would no longer stay in her highchair, frequently able to free her legs from the chair's slots, stand up, she would proceed to stepping on the table.  Putting her back in her chair granted us with the privilege of her ear shattering screams. It took Dave and I -- both -- to push the little stiff board of a baby back into her seat.

There are lists of life circumstances that experts say increase the risk of divorce for couples. Included are:
  • infertility
  • miscarriages
  • law school
  • the practice of law
  • raising multiples
Sometimes, as Dave and I pass by each other, each living our own lives, barely surviving individual demands placed upon us, I say "life, right now, is overwhelming."  Dave agrees, "yep." And then we keep going. He trying to manage unrealistic demands placed on him by having three bosses, I trying to manage everything else on the home front.  Never mind nurturing our own relationship.  The therapist in me telling myself about our lifestyle "this is not a smart way to go."  "But what else can we do?" I snap back at the therapist.  "We're just trying to survive."

Unable to converse with Dave -- on his birthday -- over the roar of childrens' frenetic energy, I was caught off guard as I took a bite of pizza.  I realized there were other ways to feel glimpses of connection.  The taste of the pizza -- a combination of vegetables and pepperoni that we ordered years ago --

as we dated,
got married,
survived grad school in Missouri,
then law school in MN,
then all the heartbreaks of lost babies,
and finally the arrival of twins,

served as a reminder of our connection. The pizza, in the chaos, spoke words we could not.  And that will have to do.  For now.

Happy Birthday Dave.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Worst Nightmare is Coming True

I can't find my list. I had a grocery list and another list -- 2 separate pieces of paper -- both of which I cannot find.   I am disturbed by losing my grocery list; but losing the other list, that I can't remember what was on it, is making my heart beat in my throat. 


Last week, I was carrying them around and they blew out of the car.  "OH MY GOD! That was a close one," I thought as my foot landed on it, securing it from the wind and allowing me to pick it up.  That moment of the list blowing threw the parking lot was enough to awaken in me the idea that losing my lists in NOT a possibility that I can handle.

Dave is going to be home all day today, the first time in over two weeks. I awoke with great determination to accomplish, well, far more than reasonable.  My high expectations, along with two cups of coffee has put me in such an accelerated, frazzled mode of being, that finding my list is my only hope of a cure.  Without my list, I'm just a frenzied ball of energy. A spinning Tasmanian Devil with no aim.

"Just make a new list," Dave says. Calmly.  Rationally.

I can't concentrate, though. My mind is stuck on "where could I have left it?  What was on it?" 

I can lose my diamond wedding ring. Fine. Insurance can replace it and I'm not the sentimental sort, anyway. Things are replaceable.

Lose one of my children -- no worries. The finder, after an hour, will likely move heaven and earth to find their rightful owner.

But a LIST?  Can't lose that. That is my map for the day. The thing that gives me my breath back. It points me in the right direction. Anchors me. Let's me know all things are in order. Under control.

Make a new list? I don't think so.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to dig through the garbage one more time.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Clean Slate

Gathered with the neighbors, Andi and I sat and watched the tree guys work....


Work in Progress

Bye, tree.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Planting Roots

I'm afraid to wake-up tomorrow.  Yesterday I woke up with grass in my mouth.  Today I woke up hearing a cascade of loud and varying noises -- creaking -- metal being hit -- I thought someone, perhaps "the murderer," had rammed through my garage door.

Tip-toeing down the stairs, and slinking up to the window, something green was staring right back at me.  It took a few seconds for my eyes to trace up the greenery to the cracked limb hanging off the trunk of the tree. The phone rang, and the neighbor, hearing the crashing from two houses up, called to find out if I'd looked out my window, yet.  "Have a good day," she said as she hung up. 

View from the front door

At first I was glad about my predicament. Something this major might be enough to compel Dave to stay home for the day. He could spend time fixing the tree and Andi and I could watch, asking him if maybe he should "try this" or "try that."  Turns out he went into work and two tree guys came out and told me the tree has got to go. "It's unstable. Rotten, and damaged beyond repair."

Later, Andi and I returned from a walk, and looking at all of the leaves in the yard, it prompted me to replay the part of the conversation the tree guy and I had. "I'll chip it, haul off all the wood. We'll clean up your yard, rake all the leaves away. You'll be set." 

My throat caught, a lump formed.  I wasn't sad until that moment when I realized my children won't have a huge pile of leaves in their yard this fall.

A pile of leaves to jump in is a fleeting thing that happens a couple weekends a year. But the lack of shade we will have in our front yard will bake the grass day after day.  Where will we play?   But still, it is the lack of leaves to rake and jump into, that is biting at me. 

When you jump in a pile of leaves, there is always the same smell, and it can take you back to childhood.  The crunch of the leaves as you land in them, and the rustle as you swoop up an armful and throw it into the air -- those sounds alone can exhume moments of childhood in the fall.

Tomorrow, when the tree guy finishes, he will have removed the huge ash from our front yard, taken down the two unwieldy, overgrown evergreens framing the house, the evergreen shrub that stands below the front windows that is dying, and the dying apple tree in the side yard.

The base of the apple tree has been the girls' garden; it's apples, the food that lures the deer to just below our kitchen window, and it's branches, the holders of each child's bird feeder. "I want to feed the birds mommy," would prompt a trip to Fleet Farm to buy birdseed, then we'd fill the feeders and wait for the tiny birds, the big birds, the cardinals that would come as cute couples and feed one another, and the aggressive blue jays which would scare all the other birds away.

I'd been thinking lately, that I could leave MN and never look back. I still call IA home, and when I am there, listening to the ever-so-slight accent in an Iowan's speech, that I don't hear up here in Minn-ee-sota, I feel like I'm back where I belong.  (Of course, I'm open to warm FL, too.)  

A couple of our neighbors here look out for us -- OK, so maybe I would look back. They keep an out for our kids, they clear our driveway in the winter when we are snowed under by the life of working too many hours, or minding small children with endless needs. They call us when our tree crashes down to be sure we're OK, and offer to come over and clean it up with us. All while they have their own lives, their own children.  Moments like those make me feel like I'm at a place that is close to home. 

Seeing this house for the first time, framed by evergreens, shaded by mature trees, we knew it was thee house -- our next step. Nestled at the bottom of the cul-de-sac, backing up to a wildlife preserve, grapes growing in huge bunches by the back deck, and the apple tree in full-bloom, it had a good vibe...We didn't intend to stay here long, and I've said I have no connection to this house, or so I thought. "I could leave it and not care," I had told Dave.

But then the financial strain that comes with having multiple children at once happened, as did the housing market crash. Jobs are scarce, and those with good pay, even scarcer.  I began to feel stuck...resentful that we couldn't take our next step to a different state, city, or even house. Our choice is made for us. 

Sunday, when I arrive home from my trip to IA, reuniting with Dave who will have been up north, he and I will both be greeted by a naked yard.

Next spring, we'll go pick out new trees, shrubs, and bushes, and put down roots. And maybe, stay a while longer.

View from the back deck