Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Leaking Pumpkins and Candy Canes

We just returned from our pilgrimage to Michigan. At 3 AM.

To visit family and friends. To give gifts. To open gifts (and yes, to even return that one gift that elicited the "What in the heck were they thinking?" response). To unintentionally take part in family histrionics. To intentionally remove self from family drama only to get sucked back in. To keep my belly full and top button unbuttoned (and let's be honest, the zipper didin't have a chance). To popping Tums and drinking ginger ale. To drive. And drive. And drive. And drive in a car packed with too many things that beep, bleep, bong, and bang (and not being able to shut even one of them off). To say silent prayers that the sleeping baby remained in said state for the 6+ hour drive. To say not-so-silent prayers that the car top carrier would remain atop the fully loaded car . . . and that we would not be chasing after my underwear on the toll way.

To come home only to find the pumpkin I bought before Halloween sitting on the front porch . . . melting, leaking its guts and draining its noisome fluids across the cement. Lovely.

I know. I asked for it.

The good news . . . I spent a week with him . . .


Watching him giggle. Watching him hold onto his grandmas and seeing them turn into mush at the slightest grin (man, is he good . . . ). Watching him open presents (read: run around the room totally oblivious to the present-opening and more interested in grabbing cameras, picking up tinsel and swiping candy canes from the tree).

I simply soaked him in. His musical sighs as he slept in the crib next to us (the room so cramped I could practically feel his breath). The way he pulled at my lips as I tried to sing Christmas carols. His infatuation with the candy cane after he felt the taste of peppermint on his tongue for the first time. His energy, the way his feet would never stop, his hands constantly exploring and his eyes searching for the next adventure. Exhaustingly wonderful.

Although there are therapists that need to be contacted (after spending a week with the family). A treadmill that will be cringing when it sees me coming. Overstuffed suitcases to be unpacked. Complicated toys to be assembled. Abandoned rooms to be cleaned. A bundle of food to be purchased (oh, my poor fridge and the things I left behind). A leaking pumpkin to be disposed of.

I'd do it again.

And again.

Why not?

I love them.

They love me. (shockingly)

And J . . . well, that silly little boy is a sucker for a candy cane and a grandma.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Here is to a prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

PSF: Snow Angel

The ticker crawled across the screen. Local schools canceled. Bleary-eyed, I switched the channel to see the forecast.

Not a lot of snow. But maybe just enough. My eyes shifted down, to the little orange jeep that made its way over my belly and down my leg. I giggled as J headed down to my feet with the tiny vehicle. A tiny grin slowly spread across his face. Clearly he wasn't tiring of the "mom track."

I wonder if he knew what I had planned for him today?

9:46 AM

We started with the boots. The Parenting 101 manual did not specify time and effort it takes to put on a pair of boots.

No one told me that a squirming toddler is absolutely no help.

10:15 AM

Seriously. Why do they even bother with thumbs in mittens?

10:27 AM

Why in the heck am I looking for the matching hat?

10: 39 AM

He took off a boot. %$*&@

10: 44 AM

He's dressed. My turn. Clearly didn't think ahead. Can't afford another boot to be pulled off. Will go outside in PJs and heavy coat and rain boots. Good enough.

10:45 AM

We have made contact with snow.

10:45:05 AM

Face has made contact with snow.



11:50 AM

After several attempts to coax reluctant toddler back into the house, I finally succeed. Of course he was crying, dragging his bootless feet, holding onto the railing as he came "willingly" into the house.

I'm thinking our venture was a success. Even if I ended up with toe-sicles, it was worth every second.

Icy blue eyes. Puffy-cheeked grin. And a body full of bliss. My very own snow angel.


Totally worth it.


* * *

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

* * *

I can't let you all go without wishing a funny (serious belly laughs, people), sweet (though she may deny it), ridiculously generous (though she'll probably deny that, too) blogging buddy a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY. You know, 29 never looked so good (again).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We're Those Parents

The moment I set J down, his little feet moved with unrestrained anticipation toward the noise in the back of the house. He tumbled over a few shoes, rolled, found his footing and was off again.

As T and I took off our coats, removed our shoes and prepared to join the party, we heard it--a cacophony of oohs and aahs and "He's so cute?" and "What a doll." A grin creeped across my face as I silently agreed.

In a mater of only a few minutes J had found a group of comely teenage girls hiding out in the basement, away from the "old people" that had gathered upstairs (they swore on their Ipods that they didn't mean me). J was in heaven. With a sly little grin and a wink (I swear, there was a wink) the girls broke away from the action on the television screen. They were J groupies in a matter of moments.

J found a group of women entrenched in a rather intense discussion. As he approached he let out a cringe-worthy scream (a new talent he can't help but to show off) to announce his arrival. I quickly apologized, but they abruptly ended their conversation as they greeted their happy little intruder. After flirting with the ladies, J moved on to spread a little joy.

No doubt, he was a hit.

About an hour later we pulled up to party #2.

The wine and cheese party. The party where the cheap sparkling wine and box of Hershey candies I bought would be accepted with barely concealed disdain, or so I was informed. I left both at home, where they would certainly be more appreciated.

Hmmm. Wonder how they'd feel about a two-foot unexpected guest? (Yes, we are without a babysitter . . . in case you were wondering. The background checks were just too pricey).

The moment J walked in his head came in contact with the corner of a table. He melted in tears until the jingle of a reindeer wine charm (aka, choking hazard) reached his ears, distracting him from the pain. The guests were pleasant as they greeted the couple who deigned to bring a toddler to a classy holiday get together. I was confident that J's charm would win them over.

He climbed on laps. Dipped cookies in wine. Stole wine charms off glasses. Used expensive cheese as building blocks. Although I would have enjoyed huddling in a corner with a glass of one of the expensive whites and a plate of shrimp, I was too busy protecting the speakers, blocking J from the stairs and removing hazardous objects from his curious (and quick) fingers.

It was exhausting. Yet, each party goer was enthralled with my little man. They commented on his cheery disposition and his obvious intelligence as he maneuvered around the tables gathering, stacking and grabbing. Both T and I beamed with pride.

He was a hit. Again.

As we gathered our gloves, hats and coats and prepared to leave, the guests enthusiastically wished us well. We left the party, both thrilled with how successful the evening was.

After replaying the evening's events, it hit us. The realization forced us into a reflective silence as T drove toward home.

"We're those parents, aren't we?" I asked T.

"Yeah." He responded, the pride dissipating from his voice. "You know, they probably all breathed a sigh of relief when we left." I couldn't disagree.

I thought J was a hit, but they were simply being polite. I don't doubt that those teenage girls fell in love a little bit. But the party serving wines older than me, yeah, who were we kidding?

It's like dining at an expensive restaurant. The waiter serves you your entree and just as you are about to bite into your filet a tiny head pops up from the behind the seat. A tiny head belonging to a pixie-faced little girl who wants nothing more than to entertain you with a never-ending game of Peek-a-Boo. You sigh, hoping that she will abandon her game-playing or that her parents will turn her around so that you can eat in peace.

But she doesn't. And her parents are under the mistaken impression that you are enjoying the interaction.

You're just being polite.

They are clueless, enchanted and blinded by their child's irresistability factor.

Yup.

We're those parents.

No doubt our egos were bruised with the newfound realization. But as we pulled the patchwork quilt up under J's tiny chin, bent over to kiss his plump cheeks and stroked the soft tufts of hair, we realized something.

We didn't care.

So what. Poopy diapers. Screaming tantrums. Pulling of hair. Taking (and hiding) of keys. The fact that every room in my house is Romper Room. I mean, I have a right to be clueless some of the time, right? I have an obligation to get totally lost in my undeniable pride and adoration for that little guy. That's my job.

We appreciate the politeness. Truly we do. And we'll try to keep J's charm in check as he tries to engage you with a quick game of Giggle and Hide while you attempt to consume your meal. But, in the world of toddlerhood, there are few guarantees.

Those parents.

Yup.

That's us.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Things that Sparkle Part II

Remember my last post?

I wrote this e-mail to a friend and realized that it would make the perfect follow-up blog post . . .

What I needed was something for these platforms I have above my closets in the foyer. The only decoration I've had up there for the last 8 years . . . massive dust bunnies peppered with random dead bugs. It's sad.

So, I went to the store to find some pre-made decorations and they were really pricey! I was thinking I might be willing to spend $20-$30, but I
found nothing that wouldn't require a major overhaul to NOT look cheesy. I'm simply not that gifted . . .

I found some cheap grapevine
trees ($9x2), decorated them with ribbon from Big Lots ($3), berry garland from the craft store ($3.50x2) and gold berry garland from the dollar store ($1x4). I spent about $30 for two trees! And you know, once I let go of being Martha (not that I really strive for that--but that darned woman does set the bar, or should I say jingle stick?!) I had fun just playing around while watching this really lame Christmas movie.

I know I am no Martha. And I'm totally OK with that. Not only that, I'm thinking that from a distance, these tiny trees aren't all that bad.

If I can do it . . .


*First, I know I need a new camera. I'm saving up! In the first photo, the lights are off for one of the trees so you can see that detail. That, and the builders neglected to put a switch for the plug on that side, thus we have to use a ladder to plug it in (I did figure out we could use a timer!). Also, the chandelier is very dusty, those are not "shadows" as I would love to tell you they are. And, yes, that is a basketball hoop on the closet door. Don't ask. I don't . . .

Monday, December 8, 2008

Things That Sparkle

I peaked over and I could still see her. My eyes followed her fingers as she examined the tiny leaves, berries and shimmery ribbon that adorned the festive decoration. She pushed up the tiny glasses that sat perched on her nose as she held the ornament up to the light.

What was she looking for? What could possibly merit this kind of scrutiny?

I had no idea. I quickly returned the dozens of the same festive decoration to their bins. Clearly, I was not qualified to be here. My shoulders slumped in resignation.

But I could not give up. I could not relinquish my dream of being a master of homemade festive decor without at least giving it one last shot.

I quickly made another pass down the floral aisle, patiently waiting for inspiration to smack me in the head with an idea that would make even The Martha green with envy.

I passed rows and rows of beads, ribbons, baskets and wreaths waiting to be trimmed by the knowing and articulate hands of a professional. Miniature trees, plain and ordinary, would soon be magnificent displays of holiday charm.

I started to get excited as tiny seeds of an idea began to form . . .

That's when I saw THEM. Two women. They joyfully bantered as they dramatically discussed their plans for a foam cone, some moss and a basket full pine cones and bows. I listened intently as they pilfered through the basket. Everything looked the same to me, but clearly each item held such a distinct difference that in my creative ignorance I failed to notice. I didn't get it. I had no vision.

I'm an idiot. A Martha wannabe without an ounce of talent.

As the critical gaze of one woman (the one with the snowman sweater and matching snowflake earrings--probably all handmade) fell to me, I quickly pretended to talk to J about the pretty angels that hung from the ceiling. At least I think they were angels.

I suddenly became self conscious of my attire (sweatshirt and jeans), my empty basket (save the empty raisin box) and the obvious fact that I did not belong amongst this crowd of crafting geniuses.

I knew I had to get the heck outta there. And fast . . . before the very last flake of my illusionary creativity melted like a sad, pitiful old snowman in the sun (you're lovin' my seasonal metaphors, aren't you?).

I gave my very best shot.

I failed.

Off to the dollar store where I was sure to find some decals for the windows and a few cheesy baskets I could fill with some fake fruit. Maybe I'd spray paint them with gold paint. Woo. Hoo.

As I made my way to toward the exit, I noticed something. Something that filled my heart with an ever-increasing comfort. And joy.

There were other women slowly perusing the aisles and tucked amongst the grapevine wreathes, that had an all too familiar look in their eyes. They tried to hide it, pulling out foam circles, empty pots and berry garland.

They were clueless.

Just like me.

Their eyes shifted as a Martha would begin her casual, yet craftily confident stroll down the aisle. I saw the women pull their shoulders back as if to say, "I belong here, even if I have no idea what I'm doing. So, push on, Martha."

OK. So maybe I was imagining all of this.

But it didn't matter.

I was inspired.

I took a big breath, refilled J's Cheerio's cup, and headed back into the fray.

Ribbons, berries, strange things that sparkle . . . here I come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mama. Me? Wow . . .

I've been wound up in my thoughts. Seems the only way to break free is to unravel with words.

J is going to be 16 months in December. For nearly 16 months I've been a mom. Mother. Mommy. Mama. Ma. Me . . . crazy.

It isn't that it hasn't hit me. Like a Boppy filled with a ton of Legos . . . it hits me. Every day. I guess today was different, yet it was just like every other day.

Everyday I wake up and have this whole other person relying on me. I have to go and get him from his crib. I have to change his diaper . . . or else. I have to carry him down a flight of stairs.

I make his breakfast. I get him dressed. I brush his teeth, which you'd believe by his reaction is the removal of a limb with butter knife. I blow on his round little belly. I tickle his tiny feet (and even pull the lint out from between his toes). I wipe his nose and even dig a little if there's a horrid booger making it a little cumbersome to breath.

I save him from danger (which usually means saving him from himself) as he balances on three precariously stacked toys. I fish his Little People out of the vents (along with all sorts of things--apparently veggie cheese molds in a very odd way), reach for toys that are out of grasp while he pounds his hands and grunts for attention, not yet finding the words, "Mama, help."

I wipe away his tears when he cries and cradle him in my arms all the while whispering, "It's alright baby. Mama's right here."

I grab all sorts of off things from him, always wondering how he found them and why he finds them so fascinating--socks, twist ties, banana peel, gum wrapper, coffee filter (and yes, much of this will make its way to the vent if I'm not quick enough).

I watch as learns a little more every day. How the tentative steps of yesterday are now the confident strides of today. He's running. Jumping. "Talking" more and more each day. I love watching the little light go on in his head, the glimmer in his eyes with each new discovery, and the wide grin that spreads across his face when he realizes, "Wow. I did it! I don't know exactly what I did or how, but I know that it must be pretty cool since my mom has tears in her eyes and is clapping and jumping up and down like a dork!" Yeah. That look.

That brings me to today. What was so different? We did the same things. We played. We ate. We, or I, changed diapers. We got dressed.

Today it was just J and me. Daddy is off rolling balls down alleys. Just a few moments ago J was sitting at the table eagerly eating the rice and veggies I had set before him. We are practicing using a spoon. He was trying out all three of his spoons and clearly showed a preference for the deep spoon with the fat blue handle with raised dark blue stars.

As he slowly guided the spoon to his mouth, I got lost in watching the little grains of rice fall to the table.

What did I do before this? The question banged around in my head like pins after a strike (yeah, a bowling metaphor, and ode to J's daddy).

Seriously. What did I do? I came home from work. I threw my bag on the kitchen table. I ate a snack. Plopped in front of the TV, grabbing a stack of papers to grade.

T and I said our hellos like roomies still hungover from last Friday's party. During the work week he knew to stay clear. If I wasn't grading until the early hours of the morning I was planning. Overplanning, to be honest. Damn overachieving perfectionist with a slightly unhealthy dose of OCD. How could he stand her?

I couldn't.

I was wrapped up in my job as a teacher of other people's children. I carved out time to read, but only on rare occasions (like a holiday or three-day weekend). I chatted with family and friends. Hung out with my husband. Save for the occasional trips, parties and visits to MI to see family, we were pretty much homebodies. I watched movies, seldom TV shows. I tried to sleep.

To be honest. I squeezed my life in between the grading and planning. And it was a tight fit.

But. I was happy. Even if no matter what I did the grading, the planning, the teaching always loomed heavy on me. I lived my job. I thrived on it. It was my oxygen. I was always thinking of what papers I had to grade. What activities I had to plan. How would I get it all done? When would I get it all done?

In the end. I always DID get it all done. Yet, there were always sacrifices.

Always . . .

That life is over.

It has been for nearly 16 months.

I sing songs now. "Head, shoulders, knees and toes . . . " I color (read: try to prevent J from EATING crayons--it's a learning process). I change diapers while singing my Barry White version of Old MacDonald (anything to keep him from squirming). I make tiny little waffles in the morning and then sit with my son while we giggle all through breakfast at the tiny waffle squares. We dance to the "kidz only" music station, spinning around until we are both dizzy.

I don't grade advanced placement essays anymore. I watch a toddler carefully balance rice on his spoon.

I don't plan grammar or literature lessons anymore. Instead, I pull out the crayons, stack blocks and play hide 'n seek.

I talk to my husband, sharing stories of our son while we laugh at the craziness that is now our life. We stay up late at night, reading. Talking. And, just being together without the heavy burden of my job creating distance between us.

I guess it all hit me today. This new life. I think when this new baby enters your life that you still believe in the back of your mind that your old life will return. That it is merely filed away while you live someone else's existence.

Today I realized that this is my life. And, I'm pretty sure I'm better for it. I've slowed down. Way down. I cherish my son. My family. I totally dig the simple things in ways I never did before (Did you know that if you listen really carefully you can hear snow hit the ground?) . I don't freak out (and boy could I freak out!). I'm patient. I listen. I take time to think instead of rushing to speak (most of the time). I am empathetic to a fault. I'm still and dork who does her share of very lame things. And, my life is far from perfect.

But. I wouldn't have it any other way. Maybe one day I'll return to teaching with a whole new perspective. Maybe by then I'll just get IT.

Until then . . . Mama. Me? Wow.

I have to go now. J just walked by with the actual VENT COVER in his hands. Here we go . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

PSF: Distractions

I haven't been around. This I know . . . a week since my last post. Has it already been that long? Yes. The date tells me this is true.

So, where have I been?

Not lounging. Not eating the proverbial bon bons (who does that, anyway?). Not even indulging in lackluster sitcoms with forced funnies. Nope.

Yes. I've been answering to my wee tow-headed dictator. Apparently, the more mobile a toddler becomes, the more bone-weary you become.

He's climbing. Jumping. Running. Putting things where they do not belong (only to have me searching feverishly for whatever is his new obsession: my keys, the telephone, my cellphone --which I found in the vent when I called it and heard the distinctive ring . . . the vent. Not the toilet. Score one for mom!).

Stuff found in vents year-to-date: socks, banana peel (what?), multitude of toys, a vent cover (from another vent), crackers, a Cheeto (OMG, how did that get there?!? I only feed my child healthy and nutritious foods made from the highest quality ingredients! You believe me, right?)

I thought all this activity would be good for something. Say, for earning a decent age score on the Wii we just purchased (because going on an actual date in the foreseeable future is . . .well, unforeseeable and we need some after 8 pm entertainment). I'm 83.

83.


At least I have something to shoot for . . . like, 80.

Quite honestly, my mii having no arms or legs is disturbing.

It so happens that being 83 coincides with me wearing my elastic only-pair-that-will-fit-and-not-show-off-my-plumpy-parts-mom-jeans for three days in a row.(This in turn coincides with my increased consumption of chocolate biscotti, chocolate milk, and really tiny chocolate cheesecakes--I'm in training for the holidays.). The jeans are in the washer, don't worry. But, don't ask what I'm wearing now . . . this is a family-friendly blog.

Mom's ever-expanding waistline: 1 point
Mom's self-esteem: 0 points
Mom's solution: cut chocolate in smaller pieces

Yesterday my bumper had a little run in with an old Chevy being driven by a kid who was very busy dipping his fries in his ketchup. Yup. Dipping fries in ketchup.

Survivors: Two teenagers, a mom (wearing trusty mom-jeans) and blissfully unaware baby boy.
Casualties: old Chevy (totaled), my bumper, a few fries and two chicken sandwiches (RIP).
Him: No insurance.
Me: $1000 deductible

What this means for Christmas: Homemade Sock Puppets!

Alright. Enough distractions . . . I'm sure I have a mess that awaits clean up somewhere in this house. Chances are, it'll be something like this . . .


Mommy loves when J rearranges the office. He's so helpful . . . I'd better check the vents.

* * *

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


Friday, November 14, 2008

PSF: In Awe . . .

I am in awe of my son.

Awe.

He is brilliant. Of that I am certain.


Not because he can recite the alphabet or do complex mathematical equations.

Which he can't do . . . yet.

I didn’t say he was a genius or a prodigy.

He’s just brilliant.


He is not a slave to the ticking clock or the cycle of the sun and moon . . .

He simply lives each day to its fullest.


Leaves do not merely clutter the lawn and clog the gutters . . .

They are amazing creations of texture and color. In his hands they are an example of nature’s delicate balance of life and death.


Obstacles are not obstacles . . .

They are adventures waiting to happen. They are undiscovered places that invite exploration.


He has no idea what calories are . . .

He just embraces the blissful swirl of sweetness that wraps around his tongue.


To him, falling is not failure . . .

It is an opportunity to succeed. A step today, a mountain tomorrow.


With determined steps he sets out on the path set before him . . .


But he dares not ignore the opportunity on the roads less traveled.


Sadness and tears may be unavoidable . . .

But their visit only makes joy that much sweeter.



Only 15 months and you have taught me so much.
I'm in awe . . .

* * *

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Ma'am!

Tousling my hair. Puckering my lips. Admiring my make up. Checking out how great my round little bottom looked in my Guess jeans.

Yeah, I had moments.

Guys would wink (they may have had something in their eyes, but go with me on this one, k?). Their hellos disguised suggestions of something more. Their eyes loosely hid lustful thoughts as their gaze traced the curves of my body.

I would smile, clearly pleased with myself (trust me, this was a rarity, but a rarity I embraced wholeheartedly).

How could I not?

A twenty-something hot chick.

Like I said. I had my moments.

And then there was yesterday.

A little mascara (I still remember how to wield a wand) and smidgen of lip gloss. A spritz or two through my very sensible mom do (I begged my stylist for a non-mom mom do . . . I guess that meant to give me a style that wavers between 80s talk show host and CSPAN economist). I slipped on my jeans (grateful for the extra elastic around the waste). Pulled on a body hugging long-sleeved top and sweater. Slipped on my comfy, yet very trendy, shoes. I packed J in the car and off we went. No former Guess-jeans hotty, but good enough.

We visited the hubs at a very hip and happening place.

The bowling alley.

As I followed my little adventurer through the maze of racks, chairs, tables and bowling bags, my eyes firmly fixed on his little legs, I nearly stumbled into a young boy.

"Sorry, ma'am," he said. I cringed as I laughed at our near collision. No worries. Though, that ma'am thing . . . whatever. He's barely a teen. His parents have taught him well.

J, my slightly bruised ego and I were off again.

My throat parched, I was in desperate need of some fluids. As I saw those golden arches, the one place with the perfect mix of Coke syrup and carbonation, I knew I had to stop.

As I pulled up to pay for my drink (YES, I said NO to "would you like anything else with that" I swear), the young man at window 1 replied, "Thank you, ma'am" as he handed me my change. Ugh. Really?

Young man at window 2 handed me my food and a "Have a good evening, ma'am." Seriously. Why can't they just leave off the last part? I mean, "thank you" and "have a good evening," is plenty. My mood deflating, I knew it was desperate that I go for some therapy.

So, J and I headed to Kohl's where I proceeded to scour the clearance racks. I headed to the checkout with my finds.

I saw a man at the first check-out. There was only one person in his line.

I saw an older woman at the next check-out. There were about four in her line.

What a dilemma.

I checked with my ego.

It whimpered.

I headed to the line being manned by one of my own kind. I wasn't taking any chances.

She greeted J with a barrage of compliments as we moved up to the counter.

I grinned. I sighed. Much, much better.

I looked into her knowing eyes.

She gets it, I thought to myself.

I swiped my debit card, signed my name and grabbed my bag . . .

She bid farewell to J and to me she said in her sweet sing-song voice, "Have a good night, ma'am."

Kill. Me. Now.

*I clearly know I live in denial of the fact that I am a ma'am. But I like denial. It is warm, pretty and they serve really, really good food and free Bellinis. Oh, and all the mirrors make me look like a supermodel. And that's pretty cool . . .

Friday, November 7, 2008

Little Corners

His little whimpers nudged me from my sleep. Although in another room, I swear I could hear his soft breaths as they hit his sheets.

Silence. He found sleep . . .

My meager attempts at finding comfort were fruitless. Those little cries were unlike his usual pleas. There was pain in those cries. The soft edges of the sing-song requests for mommy were not to be found.

As I slowly made my way to his room, avoiding the grunts and moans of the floorboards, I peered in. He was still. Peaceful. Silent.

But I was not. Dark and crushing images suddenly flooded my mind. Images I dare not share with you for fear that giving them voice will make them real.

Teething. Overtired. A nightmare. Just not himself. Perfectly normal, acceptable reasons why J is not my happy, smiley, good-natured boy. Makes perfect sense.

But yet my mind won't stop.

He awoke this morning in a fit of tears. His face did not light up upon seeing me enter his room. The tears only came at a faster pace. I reached for him and he grabbed at me. Pulling my face to his, he wrapped his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist. His little fingers grasping at the collar of my shirt as his rigid body shook in my arms.

He was afraid.

I was afraid.

He calmed after a moment and his head slumped against my shoulder. We lay on the sofa in the living room. His body relaxed against mine. I moved my hands up and down his back as I felt the comforting rhythm of his heart beat against my chest.

As I watched the soft fluffs of his hair move with each exhale of my measured breaths, my eyes filled with tears. And I'm not sure I know why.

J was scared. His fear surged like bullets through my body, piercing my heart and ripping through my brain.

I don't scare easily. My past has taught me to expect the worst. To embrace it. I have little doubt that my brief encounter with fear will be fleeting. But I am never ill-prepared for its return.

Joy is fickle, indiscriminate as to where it stakes its claim. When joy claims a little corner of my life, I watch it with a raised eyebrow and knowing smirk on my face, waiting for it to take off and laugh as it leaves me . . . alone. Joy and fear. Fear and joy. Constant conflict. Regular bedfellows.

Pessimistic?

Maybe.

But, I refuse to take anything or anyone for granted. I refuse to not say I love you . . . I care about you . . . I celebrate this moment . . . simple moments . . . peaceful moments . . . the not-so-perfect moments. Why? Because you are here. With me.

Because in an instant, life can change. Joy can rush in leaving you breathless and a moment later rush out leaving you with nothing.

J is sleeping. I hear his sighs, his deep breaths, the little hum of peaceful slumber.

For now, peace.

Joy. Stuck in that little corner. Not going anywhere.

I won't let it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Only time will tell . . .

Heads will bow. Tears will fall. Shouts will be heard.

Speeches will be made. Hearts will swell. Hearts will break.

But eventually . . .

The lights will dim.

The music will fade.

Everyone will go home.

They will go about their lives. Wondering. Wishing. Praying. Hoping.

Will lessons be learned? Will the venom of the past be replaced by the elixir of hope?

Will promises made become inspirational reality or will they become squandered fiction?

Only time will tell . . .

Regardless of where your loyalties lie, November 4, 2008 is a day that will be forever etched in America's history.

"We will get there," he says.

I hope we will. I pray we will.

Only time will tell . . .


Thursday, October 30, 2008

PSF: As Darkness Falls . . .

A prom queen, an old hag, a dead president.

Chewy cream-filled caramels, Tootsie Rolls, Sweet Tarts.

Foreboding music, hanging bones, a smirking pumpkin.

Running to each house. Stumbling up the steps, knocking on the door and breathlessly forcing out "Trick or treat!" Impatient, you dance side to side as your check out your stash. "Is that a penny?" you ask yourself as you spot the copper coin among the sugary treasures. "Cheap," you mutter under your breath as the door swings open.

Your smile is automatic. You have blocks of houses to get to, no time for small talk.

You run through the leaves, completely dismissing the sidewalks (good manners be gone!). House to house. Tumbling over limbs. Leaping over tombstones.

You can't stop. You must not stop. You will succeed!

Your body grows weary as the hands on the clock announce the end of the day. But you still spot porch lights in the distance. Onward you go.

Until. You can go . . . no more.

The weight of your pillowcase has forced you to slow. You peak in at the little pieces of wrapped goodness. "Will this carry me until Christmas?" you ask yourself. You know it is an improbability, but you have hope.

As the hour strikes midnight, with Salem's Lot (or is it the Exorcist?) playing in the background, the tired ghost hanging from the staircase, you sit at the kitchen table. You take your bag and empty it . . . the candy spreads across the table.

A treasure.

Mom reaches for the Heath Bars. Dad reaches for the Snickers. Their eyes sparkle as they unwrap their prizes.

You sit back and smile, hands behind your head. You prop your feet on the chair and soak in the sweet greatness that is you.

And in the wee corner of your mind you start to plan. For next year. Maybe a map? A bigger pillow case? A wagon! My three little siblings . . . my minions . . . (cue evil cackling laugh).



He has no idea what he is in for.

* * *

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's Just a Sign

Random crumbs, a few dead bugs (or lint, hard to tell), a rogue Cheerio (or ten) filled the dustpan. I sighed.

Let the cleaning begin.

I bent on my knees and scrubbed the floor. Still in my pajamas at 3:00 in the afternoon, I rearranged the cabinets in the kitchen (I resisted the urge to alphabetize my cans).

I arranged every one of J's outfits in his closet. I organized them by size and type. And then by color (I know some of you completely understand this obsessive need. If so, then I feel for you.).

I reluctantly packed away his summer clothes and the ones his tiny frame had finally outgrown. No tears will fall . . . no tears will fall. OK. Maybe one tear.

I emptied out our junk room (in the basement) and turned it into yet another playroom for J (along with the kitchen, bathroom, our room . . . ). I got caught a few times, paging through an old yearbook, a journal with doodles and misplaced memories. The hours limped by as I took out box after box, readying them for the trash. Often, I would stand before a box, staring. Wondering if I was ready to let go. (Yes, I kept my R&B CDs, my McDonald's Happy Meal toy collection and my MJ memorabilia).

In the office (the embodiment of my constant battle with OCD and procrastination), I hid a bunch of stuff I had no idea what to do with in a shoe boxes and then stuffed them under my bed. I'll deal with it later. Or not. Maybe I'll just decorate the boxes and call them cute storage containers. That's an idea . . .

My body is growing weary from scrubbing, sorting, lifting (and hiding). J wants to play. I want to play. No park today. I look outside to see the wind whip up the leaves. I hear them brush against the house, swirling around and bidding farewell.

And then I see it.

The words mock me. My indecision. My fear.

FOR SALE

I look down at J, pushing his car around on the hardwood.

The hardwood. Each groove and scuff a plea to not forget.

Where he first crawled.

Where he took his first steps.


And so it begins . . .

* * * *
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Placenta Story

I still remember the day that I held a big silver bowl, my mother's placenta floating inside.

I was 11.

It was gross. A deep red, slimy, veiny mass. Swish. Swirl. In the bowl. The bowl . . . I vaguely remember eating popcorn from that bowl on family movie nights. Maybe I didn't. Gosh, I hope not . . . Swish. Swirl.

* * *

After babies one, two and three, my mother went on a "getting in touch with nature" kick. The kind of kick that had her nixing our spam burgers and fried bologna sandwiches. The kind that had my mother talking about "peace" and "being one with nature." The kind of kick that had my mother joining the ranks of La Leche League . . . the militant division. Boobs being their weapon of choice.

My mother decided that it would serve her best to have what would be her last baby in the same place where she was conceived (at 11 I knew what conceived meant, I was just in denial about how it actually worked . . . this is a good thing. I was a worrier.). A home birth plan was set in motion.

I had no idea what this meant. No idea . . .

The days leading up to my sister's birth were torturous. OK. I have no idea what they were like. I don't remember. But, I can't imagine them being pleasant when we had a bunch of breastfeeding moms, with babies in tow, milling about our house as if it were a subway during rush hour.

The memories of the day my mother finally did give birth are stored in my head in a series of snapshots. My mother having her feet rubbed by one of the mothers, her baby tugging at her sleeves. A dozen or so other mothers sitting in the living room, drinking tea while simultaneously feeding one baby and disciplining another. Every room in our spacious 800 square foot house was filled with people. Some I knew, some I think were just there for the free drinks (served in boob mugs, I might add). It was a boob fest . . . where was my dad? Hiding. No doubt.

The night dragged on. My mom was in her bed, in ready position, my sister desperately clinging to her insides. I gave up waiting. I needed to sleep. I went to my room only to find a half dozen babies slumbering on my tiny twin canopy bed. I was desperate and made an attempt to scoot one of the toddlers aside, happy to squeeze in anywhere.

The valuable piece of real estate I found was . . . wet. Pee.

The couch. Occupied by breastfeeding mums. My brother and sister's bunk bed. Taken by more babies.

No more beds . . .

My closet. The place where I was certain could lead to Narnia if only I went in deep enough. I laid a few blankets in the bottom, curled up in the fetal position, and fell right to sleep.

I heard my name. Shouts. My mom? Was she calling me? I felt a hand reach back into the closet and tug at my shirt.

"The baby is coming," alerted the voice.

I stumbled into my mother's room. She was surrounded by a sea of eager faces, peering, searching, invading . . . Even their kids came to watch, a few sitting in the front row munching on snacks, donning 3D glasses (OK, that part isn't true, but it really was a chaotic scene, that much I remember).

I stood near the foot of the bed. Pain and joy tugged at my mother's face, clearly engaged in a war I did not quite understand. The midwives beckoned me to come closer, "Do you want to touch your baby sister's head?" Why was it so important that I touch it while it was in THERE? I mean, she was coming out, right? I'll touch her later, thanks.

There was a cacophony of grunts and screams with the low hum of normal, every day conversation in the background. My mom was clearly in extreme agony and these women were planning their meals for next Sunday. OK, so maybe not their meals, but while I was freaking out (HELLO, I was 11), these women were so calm it was almost surreal.

Push. Grunt. Scream.

Out came the baby (there was a little more to it, but you get the idea).

"Do you want to cut the cord?" Where the heck was my dad?

They wrapped my sister and put her on my mother's chest. I stood there. Wow. I'm so not doing that, ever (I distinctly remember thinking that).

I was yanked from my reverie by a bowl being thrust in my hands. And in a matter of moments said bowl was filled with a placenta. I felt my eyes bulge, pleading with the sockets to let them go. What was going on? Was this part of the baby? Did it still need this?

I watched the placenta jiggle in the bowl. Swish. Swirl. The baby in my mother's arms had just made a traumatic journey, yet she didn't cry. Me, I wanted to bawl.

Someone took the placenta from me. We never saw each other again. And in its place I was handed a plump, 11 pound baby with a squishy face and a head full of wispy hairs.

In that moment all was quiet. I could feel her breath. I could smell her. I could hear her little gulps and gurgles. Even as I type this I can still feel her heavy in my arms. I walked her around our modest little home. I showed her the bedrooms, the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room. It took all of ten seconds to show my little sister the home where she would live for over 20 years.

I wish those 20 years would have given her more. More peace. More true happiness. More kept promises.

Our house was filled that early morning on April 12th. Women. Children (one of whom PEED in my bed). Chaos at its best. . . but by the late afternoon all was quiet. The baby girl rested in my arms.

She was safe. For now. Happy. For now.

My baby sister just signed papers to purchase her very own home. She'll be leaving the home where we all grew up in a matter of weeks, a month or so at the most.

She's all grow up. My baby sister.

I won't forget seeing her for the first time, holding her, giving her a tour of her home.

And of course, we'll always have the placenta story . . . and that is one I'll never forget.

Swish.

Swirl.



*Quick disclaimer to La Leche Leaguers. I am a breastfeeding mom with absolutely nothing against La Leche League (these women were pretty darned cool . . . only a few were a little nutty and nutty is perfectly OK). I was 11 and I was kinda freaked out by the sheer number of exposed breasts in one location and of course, there was that placenta thing, too . . .

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hate Me, Love Me

I remember climbing up onto the vanity in our cramped yellow bathroom. I was small enough to put my feet in the sink while I balanced the rest of my tiny frame onto its sides.

I would stare in the mirror, questioning the reflection before me. Who are you? I would ask, believing that one day she'd respond.

I examined every part of that face. The pronounced Armenian nose, the German blue eyes, the high cheekbones, the pale skin, the gap between my two front teeth, the scar on my forehead and another that would dance upon my cheek whenever I would laugh.

I hated that face. My face.

I was not beautiful. I never would be . . . I wasn't the smartest, coolest or the most talented either.

And, I didn't care. Not yet, anyway. I didn't know enough to care what people thought of me. I blindly went about my life in my scruffy clothes, ratty shoes and unkempt hair. I sang from my gut. I yelled out answers and didn't care if they were wrong. I hopped and twirled and danced down the streets (in the mall, the grocery store, the park). I would fall to the floor in fits of laughter (sometimes for no reason at all). I was living as loudly as I could, drinking in every drop of life. Not caring . . . not knowing.

But sometimes knowledge comes at a price . . . the euphoric innocence of youth. My voice was silenced, my hands rested firmly in my lap (even if I was sure I knew the answer), the dancing stopped and seldom did laughter escape from my lips. I did this . . . to myself. Believing I could just fade away.

As a young girl, not yet stumbling into adolescence, my carefully crafted facade began to give way to tiny cracks from each "well-meaning" comment and criticism . . . my face, my body, my brains, my abilities. I wasn't smart enough. Pretty enough. Good enough.

The words came from others . . . and sometimes the words were unspoken. The stares. The whispers. Last picked. Overlooked. Left out.

I spent the better part of my youth trying to prove myself. Trying to prove that I was good enough . . . worthy enough. I became the person they thought I was, the person they wanted me to be. I cowered under criticism. I said YES when I meant NO. I soothed feelings in spite of my own. I gave up. I gave in. I compromised and never gained a thing.

And then something happened. I went back to that girl, sitting on the vanity, her feet in the sink, examining her every feature, her icy blue eyes filled with self-loathing

and I shook her . . . awake.

I made her abandon the cloak of the past--the histories that were not hers to bear.

I am not the same as I was a decade ago, a year ago . . . even yesterday. And, I doubt I'll be the same tomorrow. That's fine with me . . .

My face is a constellation of flaws, there are bags under my eyes and my hair declares war on me every day. I have a quirky personality (and often a lame sense of humor to match). I say things that might make you cringe or even cry. I'm smart, but I have to work at it . . . nothing comes easy. Nothing. I get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, and plain old ANGRY, but I try to keep it all in check. I cry too much and sometimes, not enough. I'm a pessimistic optimist who expects the worst but hopes for the best.

You may hate me for what I say, what I believe in, for the car I drive or for how I part my hair.

You may love me for my unabashed honesty, my self-deprecating humor, my patient and calm demeanor (my incredible humility).

Whatever your choice, this is it. This is who I am and who I will be. Hate me . . . love me.

I no longer make apologies for who I am, what I do or what I believe.

I can't let that little girl down. I can't ever let her think that she doesn't matter or that she won't just fade away . . . because if I do . . .

I'll let him down. . .


and that just can't happen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Fear

The trip was quiet. I glanced back to see J with his head tilted to the side, his hand still clutching the little red truck he brought on the trip with him. As I reached back to smooth his hair (in truth, to check to see if he was breathing. I know, it is morbid, but sometimes the most peaceful expressions usher in a storm of dark thoughts).

Wanting to stretch our legs, we pulled into a rest area. The sky was clear, the trees just beginning to show signs of fall, and the air was the perfect jeans and t-shirt temperature.

We gently tickled the sleeping baby awake. I know. Who does that? Apparently, we do. Crazy, no doubt.

He woke with a grin. Squinting his eyes as the sun stretched across his face. He knew freedom was imminent. We unstrapped him from his seat and walked him over to a large grassy area (which I found oddly beautiful for a simple roadside rest area).

The moment his feet touched ground, he was off.

We attempted to contain our laughter as he would take several steps and then stop. Look back, checking to make sure his fan club was still paying attention. Grin. And then on the move again.

He giggled as he waved his arms around, balancing himself as he deftly avoided tripping over unseen leaves, branches and even blades of grass. Oh, the precarious walk of a toddler.

I watched as he would walk onto the path and then off and on again. Clearly he was relishing in his newfound freedom. His growing confidence came to life in the thoughtful smile on his face.

I called to him, beckoning him to follow me, to come to me. But he wouldn't. This time he didn't even look back. He looked ahead. On the path . . . then off.

As his father walked toward him, J giggled and ran ahead. Off the path . . .

I stayed behind. The dark thoughts invading my mind again. I looked ahead at my son as I steeled myself against an unspoken fear.

He walked away from me. Today, I can run after him, scoop him up in my arms and carry him to safety. Tomorrow I will have to let him go . . . he will have to navigate the world on his own.

I fear accidents and illness. I fear strangers who only mean him harm. I fear fate and nature. I fear not being there . . . waiting. Watching. Protecting.

I know. My fear is not logical nor is it practical. But, the day I found out I would become a mother logic and practicality became afterthoughts.

I knew what I was getting into the moment I saw that flutter on the screen. The moment I heard the heartbeat. The moment I felt him move beneath my hand.

I knew . . . and thus, I fear.

But, my hope for him, for the world he lives in outweighs my fear. A fear that has no permanent residence in my life; its visits fleeting.

J comes running to me, wrapping his arms around my leg and then lifting them up to me. I reach down and pull him up. He rests his head on my shoulder as my arms stretch around his little body.

We walk together, J and his mommy and daddy, to the car.

Fear will not grip me.

Deep breath.

Fear will not grip me.

A strange new reality. Motherhood.

One I will never relinquish.

***********
Great news! Veronica of Sleepless Nights is back home and doing well!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Undone

There is dried banana on the chair in the dining room.

It's crusty.

The laundry is scattered on the floor in the living room.


I didn't put it there. He did.

The dishes are reminding me of Everest, piled high in the sink, insurmountable.

I need to buy toilet paper.



We're running out . . .

I'm thinking about getting out of my pajamas. Thinking about it. Maybe I'm thinking too hard.

The floors are, well. I'm not so sure I can even discuss the floors as they are now under new management--the ubiquitous Cheerio. And the toys that have no desire to be put away.

So much undone.

But, I've blown bubbles on his belly. I've danced in the middle of a toy-strewn room with his little body tucked close to mine. I've sang songs loud and out of tune while hopping through the halls, his quick little feet and breathless laughter trailing behind me. I've ignored the "To Do List" while making tiny houses out of Cheerios, bananas and cheese. I've fallen asleep amid the chaos of all left undone . . . his head resting on my shoulder, his hand wrapped around my neck, and his banana breath on my cheek.

So much . . . done.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Red Shoes

As our usual practice, my mother and I had a long talk on the phone. I always tell myself we'll only spend twenty minutes talking. But, it never turns out that way, no matter how hard I try.

Our conversations are the anti-therapy therapy. You feel oddly fulfilled by the words exchanged, but in the end you are wondering what the heck just happened. The trail of circles left behind is a constant reminder that you've said so much, yet you've said nothing at all.

Still, speaking with my mother always triggers something from my past. Whether I want to remember or not, I'm usually forced to wrestle with the images, at least for a little while . . .

* * *

This street was the kind of street you would drive down without looking around. The houses, tiny nondescript squares with a patch of grass in the front, all looked the same.

Almost.

Some homes had window boxes filled with flowers, plastic deer centered perfectly on the lawn and a path of smooth stones with messages that guided visitors to the front door.

Other homes had peeling paint, broken gutters and bent aluminum mini blinds peeking out of a window or two. Dirty toys littered the front patchy brown lawn and an old car sat as a permanent fixture in the drive.

It was a clear case of the have and have nots.

Except, all the occupants of these homes, the families, their children, were have nots. Some just had more hope.

This is where I grew up.

Back then I never realized we were a have not.

I remember watching my mother pay for groceries with special "coupons." I remember the brown cardboard box that held our cheese (which made the best grilled cheese sandwiches, by the way). I remember the whispers exchanged between my parents, the tearful pleas on the phone with family. I remember answering doors and calls with the requisite "My mom and dad aren't home," while they quietly waited in a back bedroom. But, none of it meant anything to me. I just didn't get it.

I didn't know we were poor. Until the third grade.

My mom enrolled me in a private Christian school. I was a scholarship kid. I didn't know that, either. A few days before school started we were to meet with the principal. I remember walking into his office. His secretary reached across her desk, shook my mother's hand and then peered down at me. She shook her head. A nearly imperceptible shake, but I do remember it. My smile faded into a puzzled frown.

I was wearing the wrong clothes. I was a little dirty. My mother was young. Her heavy White Shoulders perfume, red lipstick and bosom hugging v-neck spoke volumes.

This woman had our number. We didn't belong there.

Of course, I didn't know that either. Not until later.

Not until the red shoes.

Playground. Two weeks later.

The day I finally figured it all out. . .

The honeymoon of the first days of school had faded into regular routines. It was the end of the week. I only remember because it was library day; the day we were marched down the hallway to the tiny room with seemingly endless shelves of books. Only two weeks in and Library Friday was my favorite day.

After lunch, we headed outside to the playground. I sat on the steps and pulled out one of my books.

"Why do you always wear those red shoes?" a small voice asked. I'll never remember her name. I won't remember because the weight of her question pushed my eyes to the ground--to the red shoes.

My faded red canvas shoes. I had worn them every single day since the first day of school.

"They are my favorite shoes," I retorted. The response came so quick I was left wondering if it was even me who spoke it.

My mom bought them at a garage sale at the beginning of summer.

They were my only shoes.

I looked up and looked around. For the first time. I saw the haves.

The leather shoes with shiny buckles and thick soles. The ironed collared shirts and pleated pants. The perfectly coiffed hair and gemstone jewelry.

For the first time I noticed my pants (hand me downs from my cousin--a boy my age), my shirt (garage sale), my hair (pulled haphazardly into a pony tail).

I couldn't stop looking around, drinking in each image and choking on the painful knowledge of who I was . . . of who I wasn't.

The bliss of ignorance had come to an end.

* * *

I don't like red shoes. I am totally cool with garage sales. And I still hanker for grilled (government) cheese sandwiches. And I had to add "Canvas" to the title because

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Scents of Self

The leaves swirl upon the ground, crunching beneath my feet and scraping across the pavement. The bittersweet sound means bidding farewell to to the warmth of summer while welcoming the cool winds of fall.

Vibrant gold mixed with rich ruby red leaves are beginning to dot the skyline that surrounds the mill. The cider mill. A visit that serves to usher in fall. J's very first visit.

This past weekend we had our very own adventure. J wasn't too sure what to make of the crowds of people, the sounds of chatter and laughter, the aroma of apples and dewy leaves . . . he simply sat back and soaked it all in while his mama got lost in her memories.

I was only in first grade when I first visited the cider mill. Although time has left my memories a bit clouded, my subsequent visits throughout my childhood have etched the cider and cinnamon-laden experiences in my mind.

The collection of colorful leaves acts as a canopy, filtering out the light and casting a ethereal glow on the ground. The sounds of laughter dancing through the air. My fingers sticky from
real caramel.

But, it is the sweet scent of apples that truly pulls me back. I am a child all over again. Enthusiasm courses through me as a smile creeps across my face. I see the plump red fruit in my hands. I hear the joyful crunch. I taste the sweetness.

Yes, images, sounds, textures all add to the verisimilitude of my memories. But, it is the scent that captures and pulls me into them, letting me live once more in their essence.

Sausage Gravy . . . I can see her reaching over the stove to retrieve the well-done sausage patties. She crumbles them, places them into an ancient iron skillet that must be older than she. She drops a tablespoon (or was it a cup?) of lard into the pan and I can hear the sizzling sound wrapping around my ears. I watch as she moves in the kitchen, her ample size betrays the finesse with which she dances around the tiny room. She looks back at me and beckons me to come over. I follow as I watch the back of her flowered house coat make its way around the corner of the stove. She pulls up a chair and she hands me a bowl of flour. She scoops it up with her hands and drops it into the skillet. She motions for me to do the same. Milk. Stir. Scrape. More milk. Stir. The aroma of sausage gravy moves throughout the house, filling every tiny room, waking every slumbering body.

I am ravenous. She senses this and pulls a warm biscuit from the basket and dips it into the skillet. Her eyes tell me that this will be our secret. And it was . . .

My aunt has been gone for years, but when that rich aroma begins to waft around me, I am back in the kitchen, examining the patterns of her house coat, watching her flitter about the kitchen, tasting gravy-dipped biscuits and loving every moment of it.

* * *

Cool Water . . . Slowly, with caution in every step, I make my way down each aisle. Shadowy clouds crawl across the skies above the Windy City. With the storm approaching, I am eager to catch the train and head back to the dorms. I begin looking for my friends and find them hovering over a magazine, giggling and sharing silent stories. I don't care to join them. Not today. I return to the aisles, walking without intent, letting my fingers linger on the items as I pass. Who goes to a drugstore on a Friday night? A lame brokenhearted college student, of course. But, I am on the road to recovery, so says my magazine-hovering friends. I am "finding my way back."

Sure.

I turn the corner and spot a young couple standing at the cosmetics counter. For a brief moment my heart cracks. Deep breath. A couple. I was once a couple. BUT, I am a lonely young woman. NO, scratch that. I am a woman who is confident in her alone-ness.

Right.

I move on . . .

But then, it happens. I am assaulted by a scent the shakes me to my core. In an instant I am there. His arms, wrapped around me. His lips slowly finding the curves of my neck. My hands working through his hair. His caress forces me to catch my breath . . . and let it go as he pulls me into an embrace. My face rests against his, finding a tender comfort on his shoulder. Breathing him in . . .

I am already out of the store. Heaving. Looking out at the city lights wondering when and how the pain will finally leave. A mere spritz of a cologne and a young couple proceeded to crack open my chest and let the million tiny pieces of my heart fall to the ground.

The
Cool Water rushed over me . . . and left me. Left me . . .

* * *

Baby lotion . . . If you close your eyes, you can see how baby lotion smells. Before J, baby lotion looked like rainbows and Sweet Tarts. Don't ask me why. It just did.

It was a like a poem with a perfect rhyme. The filling in a jelly donut. A clear puddle after a spring rain. A puppy rolling to its belly, begging for a rub. The final note of the perfect concerto.

But the moment I held J in my arms, the images changed.

Belly buttons. Soft cheeks. Chubby thighs. Big blue eyes. Velvety tufts of hair. The "oooo" sound he makes when I pull his small body to mine.

Baby lotion can bring my knees, my heart grateful for my gift. Make me squeal with delight when I see his little wobbly figure make its way toward me, hands in the air and laughter escaping off his tongue.

Baby lotion makes me remember who I am. Who I've become. And even where I may go . . .

* * *
Believe it or not, I have a whole other paragraph dedicated to the power of scratch-n-sniff stickers, but I will save that one for another time. You may thank me later . . .

Our senses. Our scents . . . amazing. Tell me . . . what about your scents?

Share, please.

Friday, September 26, 2008

PhotoStory Friday: Fashionably Lame

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
* * *

I've discussed my lack of fashion sense on a few occasions.

I was serious.

I wasn't kidding.

But, I was being slightly dishonest.

You see, I used to be quite the stylish young lass (yes, I used lass in a sentence and the year is 2008). I was what many would term "fashion forward."

And.

I have evidence.

Exhibit A:
I rocked this outfit from head to toe, did I not? Even my red and rainbow striped bag is hip . . . and would be on the arm of celebrity divas of today, I have no doubt. Notice my over-sized buckle, the "fur" lined boots, the knitted cap. And of course, my model smirk. And my entire ensemble is set off nicely by the multi-colored carpeting adorning the stairs and the nicotine-stained walls.

Gorgeous.

Exhibit B:
First, I must make special note of Fluffy. He is so special he had a post all his own.

My hair has always been the bane of my existence. I have been lost in a sea of bad hair days with a few decent hair days thrown in to prevent me from taking a razor to my scalp. Ode to the hair gods . . .

This was clearly one of my shining moments. I mean, I'm a 10! There are some people who have no idea what I am talking about and rather than feel old and decrepit, I am just going to enlighten you . . .

The resemblance is simply uncanny, isn't it?
*if you squint really, really hard . . . *

* * *
"I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch." ~Gilda Radner

Amen.

"If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it." ~Albert Einstein

Sing it, Al!

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. ~Mark Twain

Hmmm . . .

And I leave you with that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Mantra of the Fearless

Memories of me . . .

The toddler, clad in nothing but a cloth diaper, is spinning circles in the middle of the yard. There is neither a hint of worry nor fear in her deep blue eyes. Her wide two-toothed grin only reveals the promise of what is yet to come.

A girl, her long black hair cascading around her, is running . . . pulling at the air above her and yanking it down. Other children stare and laugh as they huddle close to watch the strange girl whirl her body around the playground. She wants desperately to fly. Undaunted, she thinks nothing of the true weight of her old yard sale shoes on her feet or the torn and stained dress that she wears. She has a sky to conquer and a universe to explore.

The young woman is alone with her thoughts, whispers of her dreams still hang heavy in the air. She looks lost, but is not yet defeated. She is melancholy, but resolutely sanguine. She appears youthful, but within her eyes there is wisdom.

And the slow and steady beat of time goes on . . .

Trips never taken. Roads not traveled. Decisions never made. Doors not opened.

The fearless faded away. The "I can do anything" was replaced with a cool pragmatism beset with self-doubt. The "I can conquer the world" was replaced with the gentle shake of a head and the slow curling of a patronizing smile. The "I can be whatever I want" was replaced by the limits of class and reality of vacant bank accounts.

She learned to be content. She learned to just be. And life was good.

Until. She learned to be fearless. Again. Which comes much easier once you've realized you've been tasked with caring for another human being . . . nurturing their soul, building their path, unlocking their mind, and comforting their heart.

And also changing a diaper, balancing a checkbook, baking a cake and painting your nails all at the same time (which in no way can I actually do, but example is for effect).

You made her fearless . . . you gave her no choice.


She will not let another dream fade away, another goal go unreached, another door slam shut.

Never again. Like the bold toddler, the adventurous girl and the brave young woman she will reach up, reach out, and be fearless.

Fearless because of you.

Fearless, for you . . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making History

I remember fighting with my siblings. The fights weren't knock down drag out brawls (at least not always--very seldom was blood involved), but they were most definitely hefty squabbles. Name-calling. Yup. A little LOUD conversation. Certainly. The whiny blame and shame game. Oh yeah. Did we run to the 'rents and beg that something horrible be done to the other sibling (dismemberment) as punishment for the horrific crime committed against us (changing the TV station and hiding the remote). You betcha.

But eventually the whining, yelling, ranting, bickering, screaming, blaming and intense display of emotion subsided. Apologies were exchanged (sometimes in the form of a simple nod and the handing over of an ice pack). And nearly everything else could be glued or mended back together in some way . . .

There were a few tears (the ones that accompany the constant stream of boogers and big gulps of air). There was comfort food (hello! Swedish Fish and chocolate chip mint ice cream). There was the ceremonial sharing of a precious/lovey/Fluffy.

All was right with the world.

Which brings me to . . . the elections. Wait. Stop. Stay . . . I promise that this is a very non-political, political post. Oh, and it's short.

You know, watching the election coverage, whether it be on an unbiased news network (I know, doesn't exist, but play along, k?) or on SNL (which was pretty funny, can't lie), the relationship between the candidates reminds me a bit of back home. The name calling. The bickering. The blaming. The whining. The bloodletting.

It can be frustrating. Even for this eternal optimist.

Hopefully, in the end the two candidates (dare I say, parties?) will come together. Apologies will be exchanged. Tears will fall. History will be made . . .

And that is cool.

Ice packs . . . Swedish Fish . . . and all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

PhotoStory Friday: My Affliction

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
* * *


That face. The way you crinkle your nose as the wind brushes along your face. The way you look at me, your eyes peering up through your tiny soft lashes. Your bow-shaped lips slowly part and I see the sweet beginnings of a smile. Your eyes widen and the swirling pools of color spring to life.

I could drowned in those eyes.


Those hands. One moment they flail around, moving the air, reaching for the sun. Simple things become jewels of wonderment in those hands. With each curious touch, your hands reveal the magic of first knowledge.

I admire those hands.


That body. You crawl walk, run and I watch as the soft slopes of your limbs move to the rhythm of a soundless song. Your boundless energy is infectious as the world becomes your playground.

I crave your freedom.

Your laugh dances its way to my ears and a smile slowly creeps across my face. I feel my heart thump mercifully in my chest, fighting the emotion to no avail.

Who are you, sweet baby? For you are not mine.

I'm in awe of children that are not mine. It is my affliction.

This child . . .

is the baby, enveloped by the tranquil sounds of nature, slumbering in the stroller at the park.

is the doe-eyed girl who trades giggles with her mother over a simple picnic lunch.

is the anxious tow-headed boy who is eager to please his father as they toss a ball between them.

is the toddler who is figuring out the limitless capabilities of her body as she stumbles her way across the floor.

You are the cause of my affliction, sweet baby J . . .

I have a love for you that knows no bounds . . .

In your eyes I see hope.
In your face I see curiosity.
In your body I see determination.
In your hands I see discovery.

And now, I see it in every child . . .

Before J came into my life I admired children from afar. I relished in their innocence. I was touched by their unblemished spirit. I was inspired by their open minds and forgiving souls.

But now with J in my life, each time I see a child my heart swells and my seams break open. Be it in a store, a park, at an event, or anywhere, I am instantly engaged. "What is your teddy bear's name?" "Is red your favorite color." "Wow, you are such a good walker, little man!"," I'll bet your mommy made that for you," "What would you like to be when you grow up?"

They are happy to answer my questions, to lean in close when I speak to them. They laugh when I make a silly face. They give me their broadest smiles and biggest belly laughs.

I can't help but wonder what happened to me . . .

Have I been drugged?

Am I part of an alien experiment?

Am I going crazy? (please let it be aliens!)

But I know the answer.

I'm now a mother . . . I still find it hard to believe. The moment Baby J came to be I was afflicted.

And although I know that the minute I see the screaming-crying-temper-tantrum-throwing-back-talk-talking-eye-rolling-kinda kid . . . I may have a change of heart.

But until then . . .

I will never go looking for a cure . . .

* * *

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Post About How Good I Look in a Swimsuit

I have successfully avoided having to wear a swimsuit all summer. I figured that after giving birth to J I'd have plenty of time to indulge my post-pregnancy body with a few fat stores.

Outside of the bewb area, my body returned to its pre-pregnancy weight and general shape in a few (read: several) months.

I was looking pretty decent . . . in clothes. I eyed the drawer with my pre-pregnancy swimsuites with dread. For I knew the truth. Things had shifted. Things had softened. Things had become . . . jiggly (and not the good Girl's Gone W*ld jiggly either).

But, I didn't have to wear a suit. There was no swimming this summer.

Until last week.

I pulled out all my swim suits in anticipation for J's first swim class.

No. Never. Gonna. Happen. I sucked in and held my breath. I contorted my body in very unnatural ways just to TRY to look decent in the suit. Nope. The dream was dead . . .

I even tried on the maternity suit. Nope. Totally cute on a pregnant chick, but sad and pathetic on a not pregnant chick.

We went on a mission. To the mall! Mr. Husband, J, and me.

Have you ever been to the mall when it is POST swimsuit season and all that is left are the remnants? Mixmatched tops and bottoms along with one-piece (nightmare patterned) suits were relegated to the back "clearance" corners of nearly every store.

Mr. Husband tried to help.

He pulled out stuff like this top . . .

and this bottom . . .

You know, God bless him for thinking I could actually wear stuff like this . . . ever. But, um, his fashion sense is well, horrible. And, given the slim pickings, it was getting rough.

This kept up for hours. HOURS. But how do you tell the hubs that while you are grateful for his help, he just isn't helping? You send him to go get a pretzel. Avoidance rocks.

I finally did find something. At the last minute.

Standard suit w/ a duo use as a tarp. 99% off. Great deal. It fit. All the jiggly stuff was strapped down. The chubby stuff that leaked out the sides would most definitely not be an issue. I was going to be surrounded by other moms! Who cares, right?

I was good to go.

The first class was great. J and I were the ONLY ones for the infant swim class. But I wasn't worried. I was amongst 70 and 80 year-old women (who stayed behind after finishing their arthritis swim) and one fifteen-year-old female lifeguard. No one cared what I looked like. They all zeroed in on J and I was just his shadow.

But the sweet little lifeguard informed me that she'd be heading back to school and a new guard would be taking over the lessons. What?

The old ladies all chimed in and described him. "Oh, he's so cute!" "He'll give you and J the best one-on-one attention!" Huh? What? "He's tall and got that long hair . . . oooh, Agnes, isn't he dreamy?" OK, I added the last part, but you get the drift.

Panic set in. You know, in ANY other setting (and I do mean ANY), I am completely cool with my appearance. I'm fully aware I'm no Giselle. I'm OK with that. But something happens to me the minute I know I'll be EXPOSED. Suddenly I am transported back to my early teen years. My girlfriends gobbing on oil as they arched their backs to show off their teeny bikinis. Me in a one-piece with an extra large t-shirt on. Hot guys paraded past us, ogling my hot friends. I was invisible to them and I was perfectly happy with that. I had HUGE thighs of which I was horribly self-conscious. I was a runner. A sprinter. I had lots of muscle. Big muscle. But big muscle was not in. I was not in. And again, wrapped up in my extra large Def Leopard t-shirt made the lack of attention perfectly OK with me.

What would have happened had one of the hot beach dudes talked to me, you ask? I would have dug a whole in the sand and climbed in. Even my invisiblity cloak (Def Leopard t-shirt) would not have been able to save me. Something about ME + swimsuit simply does not go well with me interacting like a normal human being with cute members of the opposit sex. A sad reality.

But I was about to be exposed. And not in a situation where I could just mix in with throngs of swimsuit-wearing ladies.

I prayed that other mothers/babies would join the group before the next class. I hoped that the fifteen-year-old lifeguard would realize that school was overrated and get back to lifeguarding. I wished that there was a magic pill to give me the confidence I needed to face my demons (AKA cute lifeguard).

Today was the day that me, in my "mom" swimsuit would face her demon. I held my head up high as J and I entered the pool area. I was ready. I could do this.

The ladies greeted J with a cacophony of hellos.

It was just J and me . . . again. No other babies. No other mommies. My eyes darted to the lifeguard stand. No one was there.

I quickly unwrapped my towel and J and I headed into the pool.

As J splashes in the water I hear a deep male voice behind me. I start sweating. OK, maybe not sweating, I mean, I'm in a pool. But seriously, the panic starts to set in. I slowly turn around and find

not this
but this

Garth jumped in the pool. J giggled. Garth blew bubbles. J giggled.

Mama sighed.

And all was right with the world.

* * *

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