Saturday, September 20, 2008

Have Trucks, Will Travel

While packing for our recent trip to Colorado, I was frantically searching. Searching for our two identical garbage trucks. Our dear friends were meeting us in Colorado and they, too, have a two-year-old son, Cullen, born just five days before Henry. I thought it would be great for each of them to have an identical truck to play with to circumvent any potential truck envy. I could hear the possible conversations,



While a perfectly great dump truck sat by, idling sadly.

So, before I even placed my clothes into their suitcase, before I made sure I had all my mountain necessities gathered, I broke a sweat looking for these plastic beauties. I had just seen them. I checked under beds, tables, in closets, in the garage, the backyard. I found one, but not the other. Still sweating, still searching, still no twin garbage truck.

I regretfully realized the twin truck was in some cosmic garage, gleefully hiding from me along with missing Lighting McQueen and Sally. Outsmarted by a plastic garbage truck, I brought a dump truck instead.

I spent 40 minutes looking for a truck before I finished packing for a one and half week trip. No question about how much I love my son and my dear Cullen.

Post Script: Henry and Cullen are two of the best behaved, well-mannered two-year-old boys I could fathom. They had an occasional, typical two-year-old moment, but not even the unmatched trucks detoured their enjoyment of their vacation and each other. 10-4 good buddies.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tall Oak Trees

Now that Abby is in Kindergarten, she is tired. As a result, we are all adjusting to her widened, slightly more volatile range of emotion. She now attends school five days a week, from 7:50 am to 2:45 pm. She is exhausted. And hungry.

She vacillates between:

“I’m a big Kindergartener! Mommy, I learned all these things today!”


“Mooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” pout, pout, “what did you bring for a snack?”

As life’s rhythm usually dictates, my emotional swing that started before she started school has returned to center and now she’s swinging left, back, right and diagonally. I count my lucky stars that we’re not swinging wildly at the same time.

At any given moment, Abby's normally calm temperament will be usurped by a cascade of raw anger and tears. The bottom lip visits. The crocodile tears travel. The high pitched cry drowns. I have some dear, candid friends and they’ve confirmed the same types of behavior from their Kindergarteners (whew).

Even with this reassurance, tonight, I lost my calm footing and raised my voice (really, really raised my voice) while bathing the children, after ensuing an entire afternoon of attempting to stay calm during Kate’s post-school exhaustion. A brief recap:

“Mommy”, chokes out Abby through tears and whine, “why did Henry get to get into the tub first tonight and why did I have to wait?”

I answered calmly.

“Mommy, why does Henry get to sit in front of the running water?” sob, sob sobs Abby.

I deliver another measured answer.

“Mommy”, she cries as she’s now sitting in front of the running bath water because I moved her brother, and tears are still traveling down her face, “why was Henry's turn longer in front of the running water?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” (from Henry who is revolting against his demoted position in the back of the bath tub).

“Henry, sit down.” I say.

At this point, after two hours of visits from Whine and Pout, I’m vigorously washing the children, just hoping to get them clean, out of the tub and into the peaceful nod of bedtime stories.

“Henry, sit down.” I say again.

“Moooooooommmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!” cries Abby….

STOP IT!” I yell, “YOU, be quiet. YOU, be quiet. I’ve had enough from both of you!” (From my repertoire of brilliant, positive parenting methods I’ve picked up.) Now, both children are (rightfully) crying and mayhem ensues. Bedtime proceeds. After the squalls settle, Abby and I chat about the evening and how to make tomorrow a better day. We read, hug and love and she goes to sleep.

After this bath time debacle, I was still keyed and raw. I sat outside, rethinking my stellar parenting skills and figuring out how I could do it better tomorrow. It was a cool, dry fall evening (hooray!!). I gazed at the tall, pin oak trees that enshroud our backyard. Tall, elegant, graceful. Backlit by an aubergine sky. Strong. Reaching so high with their branches and so deep with their roots. Peaceful. Wise. Nurturing. Even after being thrown around by hurricane Ike. Just watching them calms me. In future emotional storms, I will remember the tall pin oaks and try to emulate their graceful strength. Strong roots, peaceful reserves. I will remember that I am setting a constant example for my children and try not to loose patience. But if (or when) I do, I will also remember that a big enough storm can knock down even the strongest, most resilient tree. I’ve learned from the oak trees and hopefully they can learn from me, too. We all get knocked down but then we pick ourselves up, brush off the pine straw and stand tall, simultaneously stretching back up to the sky and lovingly down to our children. No matter how strong the hurricane winds may blow.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oh Baby

For about two and half years, Abby has been on the brink of demanding an answer--she desperately wants to know how a baby gets out of the mommy. She asked me diligently every three to four months and I've answered just as diligently.

When she was three, I said, “When it’s time.”

When she was three-and-a-half, I said: “At the hospital.”

When she was four, I tried: “When it’s time, at the hospital.”

At four-and-a-half, I replied: “The doctor takes the baby out at the hospital.”

“How does the doctor get it out?” she prodded.

“Very carefully.”

My answers have been honest. But at her last questioning, I saw her pondering the information (again) and looking at me curiously, knowing somehow that I wasn’t being as forthcoming as I should. I knew the time was near--time for the full answer.

I don’t believe in deceiving children about life’s larger events. However, I don’t think kids need intricate and intimate details until they’ve come to that point in their maturation. Well, welcome to that point in Kate’s maturation.

After school yesterday, Abby drew a picture of herself with a baby in her tummy. (It was quite lovely, actually. A big, round circle full of orange dots.) While I worked in the kitchen, she told me about the imaginary twin girls she had in her tummy, “coming out in about five days”. At dinner, she fixed her gaze on me and said, “How does the baby get OUT of the mommy?”

I tried “the hospital”, “the doctor”, “very carefully by the doctor”, to no avail.

“But Mommy, HOW does the doctor get it out?”


"I'll tell you at bedtime." (Whew.)

So bedtime arrived. Abby, Brian and I all laid in her bed. “So”, I said, “you asked me at dinner how babies get out of the mommy’s tummy.”

“Yes!” said Abby cheerfully. (“Finally”, I heard floating through her intonation.)

“The mommy uses her stomach muscles and pushes the baby out of her vagina.”

Abby said, “The vagina?!?! But the vagina is so icky in there!”

“Well, sometimes it can be. You know how you use your stomach muscles to poop? You use some of the same muscles to push a baby out.”

“But you don’t poop out a baby.”, Abby said matter-of-factly.

“Right.” I said. “You don’t poop out a baby.”

(But you might poop while you’re pushing out the baby. Luckily we didn’t have to cover that one tonight.)

To which she responded, “OK, let’s read Winnie the Pooh now!” She snuggled in between Brian and me and sleepily listened to the sweet adventures of Christopher Robin and gang.

Now I’m just waiting for the next destination in her maturation, “How does that baby get IN the mommy’s tummy?”

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Remembering those children who aren't with their parents.

Remembering those parents who aren't with their children.

Remembering their smiles, their hugs and their joys. Remembering the extreme sorrow of their losses.

Living fully today for those who no longer can.

Remembering September 11, 2001.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Occasional Muse

Occasionally, my husband inspires my writing, too. Today is one of those times.

When I was rapidly getting ready to take the kids to school this morning, I had no time to dress. So I slipped on this super comfy brown jersey dress and flats. When I took Henry into school, so many people complimented me I was getting a bit embarrassed. Even people in the hallway paid tribute to my outfit—it was a great way to start the day. (I should note here that this dress is quite an a.m. wardrobe departure for me. I usually drop-off the kids in work-out clothes and a baseball hat. The fact that I had on anything other than wrinkly pants and a hoodie is cause for notice and probably a parade.)

Thus, I was feeling quite cute in my long, brown jersey dress. I was out running errands and I called my husband to see if he could meet for lunch. Yes! He could! He’ll get to see me looking so sassy!

I picked him up outside his office in my cute mood and sassy dress. He pops into the car and says, “What’s up, sweatpants?”


I had to shake my head to make sure I heard him correctly because I expected to hear, “Babe, you look so nice!”

But no, he indeed said, “What’s up, sweatpants?”

I replied,

“What’s up, jackass?”

(To minimally defend my husband, three points:

1. I usually AM in sweatpants or clothes that have been sweat on and

2. when I glanced down at the dress while I was sitting, the jersey material did drape over my legs looking suspiciously like sweatpants and

3. when we got out of the car at the restaurant, he genuinely complimented my obviously darling outfit. Smart man.)

So this evening, my hubby and were playfully bantering about his sweatpants comment. I recapped the exchange, and pointed out that maybe my retort should’ve been something like, “What’s up, no-sex-for-a-year?”

He giggled and said, “That’s not funny.” Even though he’s today’s muse, he wasn’t amused.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I lay my hand on my sleeping son's back and my heart fills with so much love and power that it overflows into my chest, warm and full. I float into a wonderful mommy orb.

Kissing my daughter's slightly sweaty, sleepy head grounds me each night. Knowing she's sleeping, she's alive and she's there allows me to pad my slippered feet into sleepy contentedness.

It's my ritual. I love it. I love them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fledgling Finances

My husband and I think it is very important to educate our children about finances from an early age. We want to raise fiscally savvy children. To accomplish this, we discuss money, why it is important, how it is earned, how to save it and how it helps us get the things we need and want. Our children have to save half of any monetary gift they receive. We discuss the value of a penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter and a dollar. In our household, Daddy has a job that rewards with financial gains and Mommy has a job that does not. (But I do have a memory bank full of weathered storms and sun-dappled reflections.)

Before we heavily embarked into the financial conversations, Abby tried to wrap her arms around this elusive idea of money:

“Mommy?”, Abby asked from her car seat.

“Yes, Abby.”

“I want some money to put in my new wallet.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe Daddy and I will have to find a way for you start earning money.”

“No Mommy. I just want some of the money from your wallet.”

Not too shabby, I thought. Time to start delving into money talks a bit more. So after several months of discussions of how the money Daddy earns pays for our house, and our cars and our gasoline and food, clothes, water, electricity and lunches, Abby had another question for me:

“Mommy?” she opened while I was cooking dinner.

“Yes sweetie.”

“Do you mean that Daddy goes to work… (pause)

and earns the money… (pause)

and then he just GIVES it to you?”

After I suppress an initial internal giggle, I felt like her small question had hit me square in the gut. I explained in the simplest terms that I could that yes, Daddy earns money and he and I decide how it is spent and saved. Likewise, I spend my days with her and her brother but that Daddy and I decide together how to do it. I told her that although I do not earn any money for our family, I add immeasurable, fabulous, far-reaching value by helping her and Henry grow, navigate, learn and play.

To which Abby responds,

“So you mean he just gives it to you.”

Needless to say, we’ve got more work to do on this one.