Posted in Parenting, Quirks and Other Weirdness

diaLOG with my son

Kevin’s upcoming Halloween party required a costume.

It needed to be Clever. Creative. Comical. Quirky. Cheap. Mostly, it needed to rival our reputation for being different.

One year I wore a column around my neck, with two deer emerging from my cleavage, a red ribbon on my lips, and purple hair as I represented the LITERAL description of “The Ideal Woman” from the Song of Solomon.

For her middle school party, Kacey disguised herself as a sofa table, complete with a lampshade on her head.  Party-goers bumped into her, thinking she was actual furniture.

ME: “So, Kev, what’s your costume gonna be for this shindig?” 

KEV: “I dunno. Maybe I’ll go as a telephone pole.”

ME: “You COULD go as a tree.”

KEV: “A tree?  That’s so boring, mom…(long pause)…I think I’ll go as a log.”

Because that’s SO much more interesting than a tree.

Six pieces of poster board, a roll of woodgrain contact paper, and some black mesh garnered him a prize for “scariest costume”… not because the costume itself was creepy, but because the brain that produced the idea to dress up as a LOG is, apparently, pretty darn frightening.

lincoln logI told him he should put a nametag on his log costume that read, “Hello, my name is Lincoln.” Then I laughed my silly head off.

Kevin, however, doesn’t appreciate my humor.  

Posted in Just Funny, Parenting

Pooh Poo

My daughter was less than a month old when a new friend – well, she had the potential to become a friend but really we’d only jointly been at a few events and had managed to learn each other’s names and handbags. Anyway, she called to ask if I could watch her children for the day.

Now I’m as accommodating as they come, but I hardly knew this woman, I had no relationship with her little ones, and mostly, I just wasn’t up to it.  I was recovering from 9 months of pregnancy, 32 hours of labor, and 19 days of no sleep.  Plus, I had my hands full (literally) trying to breastfeed.  To expect me to shower, dress AND babysit a couple of toddlers was pushing me WAY out of my energy zone.  

I politely told her I wasn’t up to it, maybe another time.

Half an hour later she called back, begging. A good friend was in town just for the day and they needed a little “girl time” for lunch and a chat. She had apparently called every one she’d known since middle school and absolutely no one else could help her out (Can you say “GIANT RED FLAG”?).  She assured me it would be quick and easy.  She would feed them lunch before she brought them and would only be gone an hour – hour-and-a-half – tops.

My head was trying to formulate the words to politely decline when I heard, “Well…I guess so,” exit my lips.

Darn my people pleasing.

Twenty minutes later she showed up at the door, informed me she hadn’t had time to feed them or even pack lunch, but they would eat just about anything I would fix.  Yeah?  Lucky me!  Ugh.

So I wrangled, fed, and cleaned up after two toddlers, while nursing one-handed (which may work for B-cup gals, but we DDs require two hands to accomplish this task without smothering our children.)

Once the lunch rush was behind us, my baby was asleep. I took her upstairs to put her on the bed. As I was descending the stairs a very few minutes later, I caught a glimpse of the 2-year-old turning a corner dressed like Winnie-the-Pooh. (Read: shirt, no pants.)  Oh, bother. Seems he had dropped his diaper…somewhere.

I quickened my barefoot pace to catch up to him, when…

I STEPPED IN IT.

AND THEN I SAID IT.

Not only was he dressed like Pooh, he was dressed IN poo. Up his back, down his thighs, and now which, thanks to the ripaway diaper, decorated my floors as well.

Two diaper changes, three long hours, four attempts at carpet cleaning, and one temper tantrum later (mine), this woman, who before noon had the potential to be my friend, returned to collect her little angels without so much as an apology for being late, an offer to have my carpet cleaned, or even a “thank you” for my time.

I’d say I learned a valuable lesson from this experience, but since it has been YEARS and I am still whining about it, probably not.

Posted in Parenting, Quirks and Other Weirdness

Not the half of it…

15330641I was trying on a pair of strappy ankle boots the other day, which, of course, I will never buy because of the whole, you know, “legs like tree trunks” thing. Anyway, as I was trying them on, pretending to be tall and graceful, it occurred to me:
Women’s shoes begin at size 4 and progress by half sizes.

WHY??

Please tell me what’s wrong with consecutive Arabic numerals? Why the “half” sizes?  Why could they not begin at ONE and proceed to two, three, four, and so on? Whose asinine idea was it to require the use of fractions and decimals when purchasing footwear? (Probably the same genius who established a mile at 5,280 feet, or a pound at 16 ounces. Or maybe it was the gy who decided to say “numeral” instead of “numberal”.)

As I was mentally trying to figure out what my hypothetical shoe size would be if adult shoes began at size 1 and progressed upward by whole numbers, I overheard a conversation between a mom and her preschooler.  The child was repeatedly kicking the angled shoe-mirror at the end of the aisle with her black patent-leathers.
“Bailey, stop kicking the mirror. Bailey, I mean it. Stop. Do you want to go to the car? I’m going to count to three, Bailey. One. Two. Two-and-a-half…”

3-stepsAnd…there we go.

 

Posted in Just Funny, Parenting, Starting Over

the name game

At the age of 46, I became a grandmother. I don’t know how it happened.

I mean, I’m not stupid.  I know HOW it happened, I just don’t know WHAT happened.     To my life, that is. Where’d it go so fast?

The worst part of the grandmother gig was The Name Change.

See, I like my name: Stephanie. Steph to those who are close. I like my identity: Mom. Mommy, even still on occasion, to both my grown children. I’m a natural at the mom thing. It fits me. But this “G” word thing…ohhhhh, not so much. It SOUNDS old. It FEELS old. And I have to live with this stupid grandmother name for the rest of my natural-born life (which may be spent in the state pen for strangling my son with his own tongue if he refers to me as “MeeMahw” one more time.)

I am so not kidding.

As far as I’m concerned, if you insist on calling me any variation of the “G” word, just go ahead and put me in an Alfred Dunner blouse, pull my hair back in a bun, and plant me in a pine box. That’s all she wrote. It’s over and done. The fat lady has sung.

I needed a cool, or at least creative, name.

Not TOO creative, mind you. I’ve run across my fair share of monikers like Granny Grunt, Big Momma, Gunkie, Cookie, Cherry, Sweetums, Cracker, Chicken Nana and Butter Butt. Seriously?!

So I embarked on a 6-month quest to ascertain an alias. As Thomas Edison might have said, “I did not fail. I just found 10,000 names that wouldn’t work.” At least not for me.

Right off the bat, I eliminated the names already in use in my family: Nana, Granny, Grandmama, MaMa, etc.

I also ruled out Grand-MaMa as I don’t have the appropriate jewels to be a Dowager Countess.

MaMaw, MeMaw and GeeMaw all sound too much like HeeHaw. YeeHaw.

Gams – not exactly well-suited for a gal with tree trunk legs.

I thought there might be potential within the international community:
Ya-Ya (Greek) – but I’m not a Sisterhood, nor do I have any Divine Secrets. 

Lola (Philippino) – she was a showgirl, you know, with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to THERE. But I don’t Merengue or do the ChaCha.

And then there was the Yiddish Bube.  Boobie?

Speaking of boobies (Did I REALLY just use the word “boobies” in my blog?), the cowboy thought I should be ChiChi, which is a Spanish euphemism for breasts. Frankly, I always have cleavage issues, even in a turtleneck, so my g-mother name shouldn’t further the focus.

DeeDee can be a grandmother name, but double D’s brought us back to the boobie thing, so no. 

MPViaI kinda liked the concept of Diva or Goddess, but there’s no way my kids would have EVER let me get away with those. At least not without an ironic tiara.

One of the kids at church always greeted me with “Hello, Gorgeous!” I kinda liked THAT.

And “Hot Granny” was offered as a choice, but who are we kidding here? That is the ultimate oxymoron. If you don’t believe me, google at your own risk.  

Frankly, I just like “Stephie“. It’s what my niece and nephew have always called me, but I was told that using my real name would sound disrespectful out of the mouths of babes.  Ugh. The quest continued.  

As Kacey and I were driving around discussing my dilemma, she said my new name should be cute and cool, but be something that’s NOT my real name.

Fine.

After analyzing all the data, I decided on the perfect grandmother name. It’s cute and cool and NOT my real name…

Veronica.

Posted in Just Funny, Minimalism, Parenting

Jeep Thrills

Amazon gives it 5 stars.

I know, because I read the reviews. Hundreds of satisfied customers raving about the quality of this toy – the speed, the size, the durability. Important details to know when purchasing a $300 ride-on Fisher-Price Jeep for your favorite 5-year-old.

The biggest perk in all of those reviews, is that not one of them mentioned the phrase “some assembly required”. WHOO HOO!

I say “whoo hoo” because I am not a woman with skillz.  With a world population of 7.125 billion, my mechanical competency ranks near the bottom, only slightly higher than community college philosophy majors.  Seriously. Just getting my lipstick to roll up and down without breaking off is a pretty big deal for me.  

So when this package arrived, it was in a box.  A box.  And not the jumbo kind you might see on The Price is Right where they drop open one side to reveal an assembly-line-fully-manufactured 3-dimensional vehicle, but a FLAT box that could contain, oh say, a chalkboard . I felt a stabbing pain shoot down my left arm.  I consoled myself, “It might not be so bad.  Maybe it’s just a matter of slipping on a couple sets of wheels and popping up the roll-bar. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.”


And with that, I drove to my daughter’s house where this little Jeep would find its new home.  She met me at the garage door.  When I opened the back end of the van, 
she mumbled something nondescript and ispygave me that look.
You know… the one that says,

“What have you done, woman???”  
We proceeded to unpack the box. Once we had all 169 parts – please don’t skip over that number – ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-NINE PARTS scattered across the garage floor, it looked like an impossible page from “I Spy Extreme”.

3952b87d8faaba39d9b9d78607b71c4cThe Fisher-Price
I knew and loved
as a child
had just become
my mortal enemy.

I reached for the manual.  Kacey immediately swiped it from my hands.  “Oh no you don’t.  We both know what happens when you try to read instructions. Just sit down and look cute.”  She reconsidered. “On second thought, go to the kitchen and and get a screwdriver.  You DO KNOW what a Phillips head is, don’t you??”

Do I know what a Phillips head is?  It’s a crosshead screwdriver named after Henry Frank Phillips of Portland, Oregon, but actually invented by John P. Thompson who sold his self-centering screw design to Phillips in 1935.  Duh. Do I know what a Phillips head is.  Then I mumbled something motherly like, “I’ll Phillips your head” and went to retrieve the tools.

I unwrapped parts and handed her pieces and made up cheers as she moved through the  42-step instruction manual for the next hour. I even pre-assembled smaller parts that she would, of course, later have to disassemble.  During the dashboard installation she discovered a working radio that plays songs from Disney’s “Frozen”. She mumbled curses my direction and sent me away to fetch food and coffee.

After Step 16, Kacey had a conference call for work, so I decided to try my hand at connecting the pieces. She glared at me over her reading glasses,
skepticism oozing from her eyeballs, screw (2)but I stated emphatically,

“I CAN screw things!”

“Oh…that’s what SHE said,” she grinned mischievously.

I managed the hood, doors, hinges, steering column, wheel, and even the seats before she rejoined me.  I was patting myself on the back when she found a leftover pin. After backtracking the steps, seems I had neglected to install said pin in the steering wheel mount.  So while she undid what I had wrong-did, I flipped ahead to the final few pages of the manual.  “Hey! Don’t read ahead and spoil the ending!” she teased.  I told her I found no intrigue in this tragic saga, and just wanted to see how many more pages I had to endure.  With that, she threw a sheet of 44 decals at me and said, “Shu-up and put on stickers.”

jeepThree-and-a-half hours from start gun to finish line, and the 12-volt battery-powered 5-star-rated Fisher-Price Frozen Jeep Wrangler, suitable for children ages 5-8, was complete and ready for the birthday girl.  

But for Christmas, that kid is getting socks.

Posted in Just Funny, Parenting

The summer of our discount tent…

a Shakespearean tragedy in six acts

I’m planning our second vacation within a year. The REAL kind where you stay in hotels with spa services and see “bucket-list-worthy” things and indulge in food that rivals art.

I’m being spoiled, and I gotta admit, it’s glorious.

To date, most of our vacations haven’t gotten past the dream state.  We’d talk big, but when reality set in there was either no time, or no money, or no time and no money. tentThe trips we did take, however, had one common denominator:
A little, gray nylon two-person tent. We probably still have it somewhere in that hoarder’s paradise we like to call a garage.  And we used to sleep in it. The tent, not the garage.

Act One
To pee or not to pee
That is the question. Many moons ago, I went on an overnight retreat with some college friends to an island in the middle of the lake. We were armed with a few coolers, fewer tents, and a bass boat. I was fine with the tent arrangements, but it never occurred to me to ask what the arrangements were for the, uh, facilities. Turns out, there were none. No arrangements. No facilities. We were completely sans potty. No bathhouse, no wooden outhouse, not even a respectable bucket. So, “to pee or not to pee?” The answer was not. Not to pee. Not once. I “held it” for 36 hours.

Might be my proudest accomplishments to date.

Act Two
The lady doth protest too much, methinks
I was a whopping 8 months pregnant when we set out on this next little adventure with a couple of friends. My body desperately needed sleep, but I did not want to be tossing and turning, as this was the point where I had to wake fully, lift my belly with both arms, and roll carefully in order to avoid stretch-marking. So why we thought tenting was a viable option at this point in my gestational journey I will never know.  Yet there we were, camping on the beach on our way to ‘The End of the Road’ in Homer, Alaska.  Pam and I got the tent. In retrospect, I have no idea where the guys slept, rocksbut I suspect they snoozed on a king-sized air mattress under the stars while she and I were left to sleep on the rocky beach. Rock. Not those cute little pebbles for landscaping. Rocks. Boulders, really. The pitting alone lasted a good week. The resulting stretch marks I carry with me still.

Act Three
To sleep, perchance to dream
Two years after “tent on the rocks”, I volunteered as the activities director at Midnight Sun Camp. Kacey was two and tagged along easily. Half the camp was comprised of teenage girls who refused to let her walk. My toddler fell asleep one night after dinner in the arms of one of these sweet girls.  When we settled into our tent at bedtime, I was exhausted, having been awake since 4:30 that morning. Kacey, however, was bright-eyed and bouncy.

Being a good mommy, (or at least being moderately concerned she would escape from our tent and encounter a hungry bear), I stayed awake and sang songs. Lots of songs. Repetitive songs. Annoying songs. I think I was hoping to bore her to sleep. “Old MacDonald” had an enormous farm. “Found a Peanut” took me from a rotten nut all the way to playing a harp in hell, Dear Liza nagged on and on about “The Hole in her Bucket”, I caught dozens of “Baby Bumblebees”, and “The Wheels on the Bus” went round and round and round and round and…

Act Four
Sweets to the Sweet
Up to this point in my parenting I had opted not to give Kacey sugar, in any form. No soft drinks, no cookies, no M&M’s, just a healthy little girl who was happy eating fruit and veggies. So, as the Wheels on the Bus went round and round and tried to coax her to sleep, I was the one who drifted off… and woke at sunrise to find my baby girl face down on the tent floor, starburstdeep asleep in a self-induced sugar coma, encircled by a rainbow of wrappers from eating an entire BAG of Starburst she had discovered in the suitcase. An ENTIRE bag.

Act Five
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears (and your washer)
When Kevin was tiny, we went to Gatlinburg on the absolute cheapest vacation possible. Our plan was to hike, fish, swim in the river, grill our own meals and sleep in the two-person tent… yeah, all four of us. It really had to be cheap because we had no money. I mean, we had NO money. If we had, you KNOW I would have hired a team of dogs to sniff out the nearest Marriott, but there was absolutely no wiggle room in the budget.

My “shoot from the hip” husband didn’t want to make reservations. After all, we were just tent-camping. We’d “wing it” and find a perfect place. My IOP protested (that’s Internal Organizer Person). She screamed inside my head, “NO!!! We have children and I’m neurotic about spontaneity if it’s not properly scheduled in advance.” But I played along, mostly so I could say “I TOLD YOU SO” later.

We went in June. I mentioned Gatlinburg, right? And June? And the fact that we had no reservations?

Well, I had reservations alright, but not the kind that held a place for us to pitch our tent.

So at 5 p.m. we started looking for a spot to camp… and at 11 p.m. we finally found ONE open site.

Act Six
Out, Out Damned Spot!
The elkmont camp site (2)spot we got was on the trail to the bathhouse, so every person who walked by woke Kevin, who at 18 weeks old, had one skill: screaming. And he showed of his talent all night long, every night. Kacey was forced to sleep at a 79-degree angle with her head above ours and her feet in my kidneys. Did I mention she was a kicker?

The following night our car broke down, and I was left on the side of the road for three hours with two hungry kids while Greg dealt with mechanics and tow-trucks. Three hours of “Mama, I’m hungry” from one, and wailing from the other.  At least the screamer could use me as his personal vending machine. I quieted the other with a stick of Trident.

Paying to repair the car meant the travel budget had now crossed over into credit card territory. We caught no fish. It rained. And a tick the size of Bora Bora embedded itself into Kacey’s cranium.

By the time we left, we didn’t even have enough money to do laundry, so we made a bee-line straight for Mom & Dad’s house. When we arrived, I placed Kevin on their doorstep. I rang the bell and ran back to the car, leaving a note on his chest that read, “My family is destitute. Will you please feed us, give us a dry bed, and let us wash our dirty laundry?”

At the end of our “vacation” we were frustrated, beyond broke, and taking home a child with a serious lymphatic infection.

Our clothes, however, were spotless.

Posted in Birth Stories, Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Parenting

One of many hats…

Last-minute maintenance before I go to bed: load dishwasher, brush teeth, wash face… it’s nearing 11:00 when my cell rings. I know who it is even before I look.  Oh, WHY didn’t I take a nap this afternoon?  Unable to keep from smiling, I answer the phone, “Are we ready to have a baby?”

The mom-to-be on the other end questions her feelings… Contractions? Gas pains? Wishful thinking? “Are they consistent?” I ask.  She thinks.. maybe 15 minutes apart, but she’s just not sure.  I ask if she wants to “rest” or “rock and roll”. She thinks resting sounds nice. (It sounds nice to me too, but it is not my decision.) I advise her to drink a glass of water and try to sleep – I will come whenever she wants me.

b4315eed478cf41c_bellyI am a doula. A birth doula, to be more specific. I support women during childbirth. Over the years it has become a job, a hobby, a ministry, a passion.

I sleep off and on for a couple of hours, anticipating the next call. This time from her husband – a sure sign she is ready for me. I dress quickly (forgoing my usual hour-long routine), grab my emergency birth bag, and drive the 27 miles in the middle of the night, meeting only a few other headlights. The roads are quiet at 1:15. I turn left onto a dark street where all the houses are resting except the one expecting me. Porch light is on, door unlocked, waiting for me to let myself in. I change shoes, wash my hands, and slip into the bedroom at the top of the stairs where she is laboring with soft moans and gentle swaying.  “How we doing?” I whisper after her contraction. She looks at me with eyes that say, “This is not what I was expecting. Is it supposed to hurt like this?”

Dad-to-be informs me she woke nearly an hour ago to steady contractions, about 8 minutes apart. She has now moved to 7 minutes and no longer wants to communicate when a contraction rushes over her. They sit together on the bed and with each wave of tightness, he holds her hand and rubs her arm. Her feet are cold, so I put socks on her, and remind her to breathe deeply through her nose and blow slowly out her mouth. I bring her a glass of water and rummage through the bathroom drawer for some much-wanted chapstick.

She’s been side-lying for the last hour, so I get her up to walk. The house is small, but open, allowing us to make uninterrupted circles. Hubby tries to catch a nap as she and I walk and talk, then stop and rock. When a contraction begins, she leans against a wall and I put pressure on her lower back with a distinctive move I learned from an Amish midwife. Other times, I put my arms black and white, hands supporting on birthing ballaround her back while she leans her head on my shoulder, and we do a little rocking dance. Back and forth. The waves strengthen and move closer. We rotate between walking the house, squatting on the birth ball, and standing in a hot shower. Time passes, marked only by the increasing daylight and the increase in the intensity of her moaning. Her deepening vocalizations are the marker I need to decide it is time to transfer. We load her bag, grab a pillow and move to the car, pausing for each contraction.

When we arrive at the hospital, dad helps settle her into the birthing room while I greet the nursing staff and go over her birth plan. By the time I get to the room, she is having a hard time opening her eyes. Dad is holding her hand and kissing her lightly on the forehead, but she is focusing on the pain and starting to become overwhelmed. A quick check shows she is only dilated to 5. She looks disappointed, hoping this would almost be over. I reassure her 5 centimeters is wonderful, she is working this labor like a pro, and I am proud of her. I really am.

She can’t seem to get comfortable in the hospital bed, so we stroll the halls, hubby and I taking turns in the rocking position. I encourage him to take the lead as often as he wants, completely if he wants. He is grateful for someone to help him know what to do, how to respond, how to help. It is hard for him to see her in pain. With every contraction now, one of us massages her lower back while the other whispers words of encouragement into her ear.

5502341_origBack in the room, we drop the lower half of the bed down to the floor and I get on my knees in front of her. She sits on the edge of the bed, her arms draped over my shoulders, her face glistening with sweat, long blonde hair in her eyes. I tuck the hair behind her ear and tell her what a trouper she is, but now it’s time to stop focusing on labor and start focusing on holding her baby.

With renewed determination, she moans uninhibitedly, less out of pain and more out of hard work.  Deep, guttural moans that seem to push the pain away from her body. In between, we breathe. Her husband lightly strokes her back and affirms how amazing she is. They are incredibly sweet. She is now in tune to the rhythm of her labor, staying on top of each contraction as she nears the final stage. Almost in an instant, her eyes grow wide and she starts to breathe fast, shallow breaths. Another check shows she is dilated to 8.5. I cannot contain my smile and she starts to cry. “You’re rocking this, and it is almost time to push.” But the reassurance is not enough to overcome the panic of transition.  Her moans turn to low cries of doubt (“I can’t do this anymore! I just want it to be over.”) I have difficulty stifling a giggle, as EVERY woman expresses this during transition. I tell her, not only CAN she do this, she IS doing this, and it. is. almost. over.

The hospital staff begins to descend upon the room, readying equipment and lights. We have been blessed this morning with a great nursing staff who respects the need for a peaceful environment. This is a real birth, the kind our bodies were made to do, not the kind you see in the media. Lights are dim, no one screaming or yelling, no drugs being administered, no one wielding a scalpel.

Mom asks to change positions, so we help her get into a squatting position, and then everything goes quiet. No contractions, no moaning…no pain. A mini-reprieve. Time to breathe. Time to rest. Time to wipe her face with a cool washcloth. The OB confirms that her cervix is ready if she wants to push. And with the next contraction she does. I talk her through HOW to push (yes, there is a “right way”) and her husband keeps eye contact with her. Thirty seconds of pushing, then a rest. Another push, another rest.  With each push, the baby inches downward until his crinkled little gray scalp is visible. Finally, the OB instructs her not to bear down. I remind her while the baby is crowning  (much like putting on a new turtleneck) she wants to ease the baby’s head out slowly. So we pant. Short quick blows in and out of our mouths as we stare at each other. Her attention now moves to her husband, and I find the camera and get ready for baby’s first photo. Once the head has emerged, she closes her eyes and bears down hard with a primal noise until she hears the midwife’s words,“There we go!” and opens her eyes just in time to see a tiny wet little body slip out and hear his new lungs quiver and cry. Her hands instinctively reach down to comfort him.

“It’s a boy!”

She leans back and he is brought to her now-squishy belly and covered with a warm blanket. She melts into tears and smiles and relief as her baby’s cries subside and he settles next to her heart. babyhands“I love you so much,” she whispers as she glances from her son to her husband and back again. There is silent chaos all around as the hospital staff does their job, but she is oblivious to it as she puts him to her breast, enamored with the perfection in her arms. After a few minutes, she starts to weep and laugh at the same time.

It is a mere 10 ½ hours since the first contractions began. Much shorter than the average first labor. No drugs. No interventions. No complications. Mom is exhausted, elated, empowered, in love.

A beautiful new family. A beautiful new day. Time for me to sleep.

Posted in Just Funny, Parenting

oh say, can you see?

For those of you who have known me for say, longer than 28 minutes, you have surely already heard this story.  But I refuse to apologize for the retelling of this July 4th classic.  Much like our other unique holiday traditions: grilling pork chops for Thanksgiving dinner, sleeping in on Black Friday, and watching “Die Hard” at Christmas, this family classic must be revived in honor of the Fourth.

The summer I was barely pregnant with Kevin, my daughter, Kacey, was a very precocious, almost 6-year-old. One day in June, she marched down the hall of our apartment, donning her blue daisy outfit, hands on her hips as she proclaimed, “Okay mommy, I’ve been thinking about this. If I’m gonna be a big sister, there’s some stuff I need to know. I know it takes a mommy AND a daddy, but what I don’t get is how they get together!”

Bother. She’s FIVE. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to have the sex talk with her until she was like 12 or 35.

However, I’ve always held the belief that if a child is old enough to ask a question, she is old enough to deserve an honest answer. But exactly WHICH answer? How do I explain this simply enough for her to grasp without damaging her innocent little psyche? (“Well honey, you know on Sunday afternoons when mommy lets you watch a Disney video and daddy closes our bedroom door..?”)

Um, no. That probably falls under the “Scarred for Life” category.

And then I remembered Lennart Nilsson’s book, “A Child is Born”. Perfect. It even has tasteful photographs.

sperm humanSo I dug through all of my hippie birth books and soft-porn breastfeeding manuals, and proceeded to show her anatomy diagrams (i.e., “boy parts” and “girl parts”). After that, we moved on to images of the egg and sperm. We talked about how the female usually just has one egg, but the male has millions of tiny sperm and they swim around really really fast.

This is the point where swirling finger gestures were involved.

We moved on to prenatal ultrasound images, and ended with birth photos taken from a “northern” perspective. She seemed content with the explanation, and I breathed a sigh of relief that “the talk” (or rather, the first of many talks) was satisfactorily accomplished.

Fast forward ten days. We went out to the lake, along with my parents and 10,000 other people to view the July Fourth Fireworks Extravaganza. We sat on the bank of the lake amid the throng of spectators, when one particularly interesting firework exploded. First it burst white, then hundreds of tiny little swirly sub-bursts followed. It was gorgeous. The crowd “OOOOOHHHED” and “AAAAHHHED”, then my diminutive, but very loud daughter declared…

fireworks with swirls“Mommy, LOOK – SPERM!!!”

A hush fell over the crowd. Eyes stared and glared. Pretty sure my dad swallowed his tongue. My mother gasped in reactionary disbelief as though to say, “WITH WHAT SMUT HAVE YOU BEEN CORRUPTING MY GRANDDAUGHTER”S MIND?”

I, well I was mortified.

Kacey and I then had another talk. “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to candidly proclaim your truths, please, PLEASE remember we hold this truth to be self-evident: there are some things you never, ever say in front of your grandparents.”

Posted in Parenting, Starting Over

what if?

We exist in a realm of “what ifs”.  From the abstract to the concrete, we allow our minds to wander into the unknown:  What if I’d turned left back at the light? (Maybe I wouldn’t be stuck in traffic now.) What if I had chosen a different career path? (Maybe I wouldn’t be in debt now.)  What if I had been born into a different family? (Maybe I would be smarter/more self-assured/TAN.) What if I hadn’t been afraid and just gone after what I really wanted? (Maybe I would be happy.)  What if, what if, what if?

oh wellTwenty years later, a series of “what ifs” still haunt me. What if we had put the yard sale off another weekend? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.)  What if she hadn’t stayed to help me clean up? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.) What if she hadn’t come back for the ice cream? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.) What if we hadn’t stayed up so late the night before? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.)  What if, what if, what if?

Today, I’d love to tell you about my sister’s sweet, gentle, quiet spirit… but since she didn’t have one, I will tell you she was moody and argumentative and rebellious and jealous. She was a “kick butt and take names” kinda gal. And she was passionate and energetic and fun and determined and beautiful and strong-willed and, yes, naturally tall, thin and blonde. Ugh. She wasn’t one to sit and wait.  If she wanted to do something, she did.  Or at the very least, she tried. And above all else, she loved fiercely.

what if“What if” my sister hadn’t died in that crash twenty years ago today?  Who knows.  Life would be different for my entire family.  Much better, no question.  I could write an essay about her passion, or share an unending stream of memories, or bring you to tears with my feelings about the hole her absence has left in our lives, but truth is, you’re only politely interested. And that’s okay.  She was, after all, MY sister, not yours. We all have our own losses and stories and empty places, and it’s enough that we can empathize and rejoice and grieve with each other.

I miss her.  Every stinkin’ day, I miss her.  I miss her fire. I miss her heart for kids. I miss singing with her. I miss all the things I would have learned from her as we transitioned from “big sister & little sister” into “friends & equals”.

What I think I’ve finally been able to take from her life is the ability to mesh rebellion and determination into something worthwhile. What I have learned is:  You cannot live your life asking “what if” retroactively.  Well, you CAN, but nothing productive comes from it.  Sure, maybe you SHOULD have.  Maybe you COULD have. But second-guessing your past will settle you into an unending funk of regret and sadness.  This I understand all too well.

So I’m taking all of those past-tense “what ifs” and replacing them with present-tense ones.  “What if” I stop complaining?  “What if” I stop procrastinating?  “What if” I stop waiting and start doing?  “What if” I stop making excuses and be who I was meant to be?

“If only” I had learned this sooner.

Posted in Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Parenting, Quirks and Other Weirdness

crunchier than grape nuts

Sometime ago I was invited to join a “Crunchy Moms Group”.  If you don’t know what that means, you should Google it, but you’ll have to do it later because, frankly, I’m writing a book about a cow and I don’t have the time to wait on you.  

Crunchy moms are women who make their own soap and wear hand-made calico peasant skirts and raise chickens. They grow mushrooms in their compost pile, hug trees, go braless, and eat organic kale chips for breakfast. They bravely venture out in public without makeup, and clean their houses – and their bodies – with nothing but baking soda and vinegar.  They are green, eco-friendly, natural-minded, family-oriented granola eaters. Hence the term “Crunchy Mom”.

And I am not one. But I joined the group anyway, because it seemed like the polite thing to do.

I feel like such a phony.

I’m not crunchy.  If anything, I’m caffeinated.

I haven’t worn a peasant skirt since 1977, Ulta is my happy place, and I wear my 18-hour bra 16 hours a day.  I love my Honda minivan and I collect salad ingredients from the produce aisle, not the garden. In fact, the only mushroom I ever grew was behind the toilet in my humid Georgia apartment (it was fairly impressive if I do say so myself, but I did not feel compelled to eat it).

I will confess that one time I DID eat a kale chip, but thMKG treeen I had to go outside to lick the bottom of the lawn mower to make sure they weren’t the same thing. The verdict is still out on that.  And thanks to Saturday Night Live character, Mary-Katherine Gallagher, the thought of tree-hugging kinda freaks me out.

Clearly, I am NOT a Crunchy Mom. Half-baked maybe, dipped in a little organic coconut oil.

Although, a few months after joining the Crunchy Mom group, I ran across a “How Crunchy Are You?” quiz. (And you should know, I’m a sucker for a good quiz.) The result forced me to admit that I was a co-sleeping, partial-cloth-diapering, non-vaxing, Mooncup-wearing, homebirthing, homeschooling, non-medicating, organic-baby-food-making, recycling rebel whose baby self-weaned at 30 months. Oh yeah, and I’m a doula.

Turns out I’m a  “Granola Earth Mama”. The only thing that saved me from a perfect score of “Crunchier than Grape Nuts” is that I shave my armpits.  Well, sometimes.