Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You are what you...


Someone once said that you know who you are by the things that you want.

Okay. I just made that up. It just seems like something somebody would say, a phrase heard in a freshman survey course. Corny, but probably true. As I have changed, so have the things I want. When I was seven, I needed to be Nancy Drew (Okay, that one never went away). By twelve, I wanted clear skin and even bigger bangs. Charlie's Angels came out my freshman year of high school and Ray Ban celebrated with Angels branded sunglasses. They were blue and covered in crystals. I could not live without them. By college, my wants had expanded with my horizons. They included a graduate degree in Russian fairy tales, the contents of every Anthropologie catalogue, and a blue eyed man in a house with a wrap around porch. I have gotten many of the things my little heart desired. My bangs reached epic proportions with the help of a round brush and steel determination. I wore those Charlie's Angels sunglasses faithfully...until I broke them. And that blue eyed man? He is sitting next to me holding our blue eyed little girl.

Today was a long day. Margaret has a chest rattling cough. Viola's acid reflux is an unwanted visitor. Riley came home from work just long enough to eat dinner and then left to do volunteer work at church. Days like today I put the kids to bed, turn on the computer and disappear in a few minutes of wishful thinking. In the past I have planned fantasy vacations, compiled Vogue worthy wardrobes, and researched the most expensive first editions of works by my favorite authors.

Today. Today, I looked at every food oriented gift basket on Cheeses, cured meats, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, the occasional dried fruit, all of it encased in the finest leather covered wood crates a warehouse store can offer. I took a half hour and scrolled through six pages of faux gourmet foods in tins. Each one more coveted than the next.

Someone once said that you know who you are by the things that you want. And I want a basket full of cheese, sausage and cookies.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Last Week

Last week.

Monday I was retching from the flu for ten straight hours.

Tuesday I felt much better and went shopping with two kids for Thanksgiving dinner...for 32 people. (Mom and Dad paid.) I was especially excited about the ingredients for the root vegetable soup I was making. Margaret only hit me once. Then she said sorry...after my mom bought her candy.

Wednesday my sisters and I baked pies from dawn until dusk. Riley made the pecan and pumpkin filling. He looks good with a whisk. I also roasted the vegetables for my root vegetable soup.

Thursday the sisters and I started cooking at 7 am and kept at it until 5 pm when dinner was served, starting of course with my root vegetable soup. My Dad said it tasted, "healthy. You something you would eat if you needed help with your digestion." The rest of the meal was much better....and easily digested after all that root vegetable soup. Riley tried to take pictures of my very first Thanksgiving, but I left the camera in the diaper bag and it took a bath in baby formula. The camera he just got me. The one I just figured out how to use. The one we couldn't afford in the first place. I.felt.awful. Still do. I always ruin nice things. He gave me a hug and we went home.

Friday my brother, sister and nephew got the flu.

Saturday the family went Christmas shopping and got home just in time for my other sister to get the flu.

Yesterday my brother in law woke up with flu hours before his drive home. We went to church and came home to a messy house and The Next Iron Chef reruns.

This week.

I am going to clean the house. Decorate. Take family photographs with this guy. Bake. Introduce Margaret to Santa. Bake. Cuddle with my Violababy. Bake. Figure out how to pay for my camera to be fixed. Make out with Riley like it's cold outside. Bake.


And not get the flu.

Monday, November 21, 2011


It is Monday morning and we are emerging from QUITE the weekend. Margaret is recovering from the flu. I am recovering from Margaret having the flu. Our lovely little house is just under 900 square feet. At one point or another every inch of it was covered in vomit. Apparently throwing up in a bowl or toilet is just a little too bourgeois for the little girl. My bed? Perfect. The kitchen table? Sure. The green chair from Pottery Barn...the one worth almost as much as her little life? It became the canvas of choice for her postmodern puke masterpiece. 

It was a long 24 hours.

Threat of joy killing flu aside, this week should be a marked improvement on the last two days. Family, Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping, Riley home for a five day weekend. Bliss.

Bliss, especially when accompanied by a Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-five, can be a lot of work. And this morning I am just feeling a little less than motivated. There are many cures for this condition. Some women go running, others listen to cheesy girl power music, even more still sit down with a bowl of ice cream and simply wait the feeling out (Chocolate Peanut Butter Haagan-Dazs is especially effective). Lately, Riley and I have found another way to get pumped for the things that fill our days.

The Drew Brees Pre-Game Chant.

We shout this back and forth to each other while making breakfast, changing diapers, and driving to work. Margaret is so embarrassed of us.

Watch the video. Feel the power.

Let me break it down for you....






Ridiculous. Elementary. Derivative.

I don't care. It totally makes me feel like I can take on the world.

Bring on the holidays. I smell greatness.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Worth it

These girls.

So cute I can almost forget every sleepless night, Wonderpets marathon and ruined silk dress.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You Better Watch Out...

Christmas is just around the corner and Riley and I have already spent several months worth of grocery money on presents. It is excessive. Unnecessary. Potentially damaging. And I totally know it.

Megan! Don't you see the error of your ways? No? Here, let me list them for you...
  • My children will probably never know the worth of a hard earned dollar.
  • Too many toys result in over stimulation
  • Mass produced products have no soul. Now, a set of brown, Swedish inspired blocks...there is soul! There is a world of imagination!
  • America's consumer culture creates mall zombies and buying two dolls instead of one contributes to the creation of more zombies
Here is the thing. I think about our little Christmas tree sparkling and lovely and almost hidden by all the wrapped gifts that surround it...and then I think about all the reasons that we should practice frugality, reason, restraint and....I just can't get myself to care. Besides I have always wondered whether I had the resources to survive a zombie attack. Only one way to find out.

Cookies and wrapping and candy canes the size of my head aside, this Christmas is going to be lovely because it is the first time that Margaret has been interested in understanding Santa Claus and the birth of our Savior. Sure, Santa Claus is a fleeting bit of childhood magic. He is unimportant when compared to the soul sustaining truth of the birth of Jesus Christ. Still, Riley and I have had so much fun teaching the little smidget about both of them. I thought we had done a pretty good job, too.

The Parents (that's us): Margaret! What happens at Christmas?


The Parents: Margaret! Why do we have Christmas?


What do you do when you teach your kid something new? Make them perform in front of strangers, of course. A couple of days ago the check out lady at the grocery store asked me if Margaret was excited about Christmas. Oh, you bet! Here, listen to this...

Me: Margaret! Tell the nice lady what happens at Christmas!

Margaret, in her loudest, most assured voice: JESUS IS COMING!!!

Yeah. She might as well have had on a tiny little sandwich board that read, "The end is near."  The lady handed me my change with a nervous smile and we headed out the door. I am sure she spent the rest of the day worried about the curly headed two year old that must live on a compound somewhere with her crazy parents.

No big deal. We have six more weeks to help her distinguish the differences between the myths and truths of the holiday season. Also ... six more weeks to buy gifts.

We better get a bigger tree.

Monday, November 14, 2011

One Bite at a Time

My daughter, the one that walks and talks, is afraid of everything. It is quite a process, becoming afraid of everything. At first it was just the neighbors' chickens and large dogs. Then dragons and the wind and anybody who tries to hug her when she is tired, hungry or already scared of something else. The list of terrors is long and varied. She lives in a world in which anything is possible. There are fairies and princesses that live happily ever after. There are also goblins and wicked stepmothers and poison apples.

I try to be compassionate but there are times when the ridiculousness of her phobias is only matched by the extremity of her reactions. Take last week. I had been in the house for 48 consecutive hours. Viola couldn't stop crying. Margaret had memorized all of Rapunzel's lines from Tangled. It was time to get out. Time to go to Target. Halfway there I realized I hadn't brushed Margaret's teeth. Or her hair. Or mine. Viola's crying got just this much louder. And I was flipped off on State Street because I was only driving 20 miles per hour. (You try opening a granola bar for a hungry two year old while driving with a screaming infant, Mr. Honda Accord. IT.IS.HARD.) We pulled into the Target parking lot and I began to relax. I was about to imprison my kids in a shopping cart, distract my toddler with junk food and window shop for things I can almost afford. Not too bad. The relaxation was short lived. The minute I got Margaret out of the car she began to scream. Piercing, there is a rabid dog biting my leg and he won't let go screaming.

Me: Zuzu, Margaret! Honey what is wrong?

Margaret, pointing to a flock of seagulls a few cars away: Birds! Birds, Mommy! They are going to get me! THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!

Birds. Are. Everywhere. Truer words may never have been spoken. It took a bag of popcorn, two cups of chocolate milk and a new sparkle bracelet to help her overcome that one.

That night after baths and story time and prayers, I thought about my little scared girl in her little princess bed. Sat outside her door and laughed for her simple fears. I didn't laugh long. It struck me that baby girl and I are not so different. I am laced with apprehension. Afraid of so many things, nearly all of them taken seriously and nearly all of them as harmless as a bunch of seagulls.

A few irrational things that scare me, intimidate me or generally make me nervous:

Stick shifts

French cooking (Julia Child wants me to do WHAT to which part of the RAW, dead chicken?)

Sewing (Maybe this doesn't intimidate me so much as bore me to death...either way, very scary.)

Wearing a bathing suit without a cover up

Losing my hair (Because I swear more and more comes out in the shower every week)

Being just a Mom

Forgetting that there is nothing I would rather be than a Mom

Purple hued lipstick (I don't care what Drew Barrymore just doesn't look right.)

Disappointing Riley

Women my own age ( Because they must be judging me, or leaving me out, or just inviting me to do things because they feel bad for me, or....)

Death by: Plane crash, car wreck, earthquake, premature burial, drowning, snake bite, spider bite, shark bite...basically any kind of bite.

I went back into Zuzu's room and smoothed the curls away from her face. My little girl wakes up smiling every morning and eats a big bowl of grape nuts. Eats that cereal like she doesn't have a care in her little head. Like there isn't a world full of goblins and wind and BIRDS just outside our door. One huge bite at a time. That takes a pretty brave soul.

I don't know that our fears ever become more reasoned or mature. Maybe I will always be afraid. Always have to push past insecurity and trepidation. Maybe.

I do know that I will wake up smiling. And I will eat a big bowl of grape nuts like there isn't a shadow that could darken my day.

One huge bite at a time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The things we carry

I remember the globe that sat on my teacher's desk in the second grade. A light blue ball, smudged with the dirt from a hundred grubby hands. Crossed with lines the teacher called "Longitude" and "Latitude", it was an exotic addition to our brown walled classroom. I loved running my fingers over the primary colored continents, lingering on the raised surfaces of mountain ranges. When the teacher wasn't looking, I would spin the earth on its metal axis until the colors and continents blurred and for just a moment the world, the whole wide world, didn't seem all that big.

Things change. It takes a little more than a public school issued globe to catch my fancy now. Latitude and longitude became pedestrian "are you smarter than a 5th grader" concepts. And the world, that whole wide world, feels very, very big.

I have been reading a book that returns a little bit of the beauty to that old globe. Quick history lesson. Emphasis on quick. For most of the human story, man has set out across the dark deep ocean in search of land, riches and opportunity. Our myths are full of seagoers lost and seagoers found, although reality tended more to the lost part of the equation. Some were drowned in storms, others killed in battle, but most of those men, those husbands, sons and fathers, most of them never returned home simply because they could not find their way. They were lost because longitude, the lines running from the top to the bottom of my second grade world, could not be measured at sea. Without those measurements captains could only guess at where they were, only conjecture about where they were going. Shipfuls of men left the harbors of their homelands dependent on fickle luck. The question of longitude was the problem of the age.

Great men looked to the stars for answers. They searched superstition for truth. Each attempt was met with failure. Some catastrophic, some mildly embarrassing. It wasn't until the eighteenth century that a clockmaker of humble origins discovered the solution. John Harrison knew that longitude could be measured using a clock that kept precise, constant time. He knew that no such device had ever worked successfully on land, let alone in the changing environment of the ocean. He also knew he could make one. And he did. Before the end of his life, this carpenter and clockmaker had invented the marine chronometer. Sailors carried his lifes' work, a mechanism with a diameter of just inches, to sea and for the first time in history were able to determine where in this whole wide world they were.

I have been thinking quite a lot about the things I carry with me. I am not so different from those sailors that set out not knowing which way to go. This life holds uncertainty and storms. There are star filled nights and the joy of great discovery. I don't want to drift, don't want to miss where I was supposed to be by mere degrees. So what should I carry with me? The love of my family and the love I have for them. Hunger for knowledge. Desire to understand and do the things I am called to do. A sureness of who I am, a daughter of God. An ever increasing love for God and His word. Happiness and forgiveness and, above all, charity. Equipped with such things I know I can feel confident on this journey. That through them I will be given direction to joys and adventures and accomplishments I could not have had without their constancy. And after all the exploration and discovery and fulfillment, I know that they will lead me safely to harbor even more surely than John Harrison's chronometer.

I imagine it will be quite the homecoming.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at just for voting!

Just a personal note....I think Melissa & Doug produce toys that would make the workers in Santa's workshop proud. Go Christmas!

A Red Kind of Day

look! It works for them!

This morning I woke up early. Did my hair, put on a dress and applied lipstick. Red lipstick.

Hello World...I will conquer you.

By eleven, my hair was falling out of its clips. I had been spit up on three times. I may or may not have stress spent an extra forty dollars at the grocery store. (And all of it on different kinds of crackers. Yeah. Your guess is as good as mine.) And that world conquering lipstick? Apparently, it was smeared up to my nose the entire time I was out running errands.

Blooming red makeup. Up.My.Nose. Classy.

I could call it a day. Naptime is just around the corner. There would be no shame in throwing on a pair of sweats and watching Jane Eyre for the 123rd time. ( But seriously, Mr. Fassbender...You can trick me into bigamy anytime. Any.Time.) I have done it before. Heaven knows, I will do it again.

But today. Today, I think I will put that scarlet lipstick right back on. Who knows...It might be the beginning of something absolutely lovely.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Letter of the Law

Returning from a week of illness and visiting family...I will let you decide whether there is a correlation between the two.

The kids are asleep. Ellen isn't on for another hour. And I just spent the last fifteen minutes sitting, wondering what I should do with this BRIEF time out. I once read that when you don't know what to do, you should do the work that is in front of you. Currently that is dusting, laundry and mopping. And making my bed. And cleaning the oven.

Yeah. Blogging sounds good.

It is interesting having two children in such different stages of childhood. Viola is a little piece of cake. A piece of cake that cries. But still, cake. She cuddles and coos. When she is hungry she eats. When she is tired she sleeps. There is not much hint of her personality yet, so while mildly  boring, she is also incredibly easy. (Viola, yes I did just call you boring on a website accessible to everyone. This and many  other things I do and say may put you into therapy someday. I will pay for the sessions myself. You're welcome.)

Margaret will be three in February. How to put this? She does not suffer from an absence of personality. She is funny and sweet and incredibly intelligent. Her memory borders on the photographic, she can recite most of the books we read together. She can also throw herself down on the floor and scream until she is hoarse. It is statistically proven that 20% of childless people that hear that scream decide to remain permanently without progeny. It just happened today at Kohl's. I know that some of the women in that store saw her and decided a life of sleepful nights, shopping and perky breasts trumped motherhood by a mile. I don't know whether to apologize or expect thank you notes.

Margaret has discovered the fine art of coloring. Coloring on the wall. On her kitchen. On her hands. If I were a better mother I would say she was an artist at heart. Look at my daughter the artist! The world is her canvas! I, however, have never claimed to be a good mother. And her scribbles are ugly. So the coloring on the wall business is a problem. Last week Riley had a long talk with her. We draw on paper, We draw in our coloring books. We don't color on the play kitchen and we don't color on our hands. She dutifully repeated after him, " We don't color on the kitchen and we don't color on our hands." OK Margaret? OK, Daddy!

He came away from the whole thing feeling pretty proud of himself.

Fast forward to yesterday. Margaret had 45 minutes of much needed quiet time in her room while I got some things done around the house. (And by got some things done around the house I mean I watched Bones. While eating peanut butter out of the jar. With my finger.)

I went to go get her when the episode quiet time was over. She was standing in the middle of her room. Shirtless. With so much ink on her arms that even Kat Von D would blush over the excess. I have never seen her look so proud.

Me: Margaret! What have you done? You drew all over your arms!

Margaret, calmly, matter of factly: Mommy. I didn't color on the kitchen. I didn't color on my hands.

Think about the premeditation. She looked at the pen. She looked at the kitchen. She looked at the pen. She looked at her hands. She looked at the pen. She looked at....Light bulb! Off comes the shirt, because Mama never said anything about coloring on arms.

The implications this has for her teenagedom are a little frightening. She does, however, seem to have a promising future as a lawyer.

Maybe then she can pay for my therapy sessions.