Sunday, December 24, 2006

More than a man

The festivities have begun. Santa has gotten three letters from Ittybit. All of them slightly different.

In the first she asked for presents for other people. She wanted a pear for me, a truck for daddy and bones for the dogs.

The second letter is largely a mystery since she wrote it with Lori and had is sealed and addressed so that Papa could pop it directly into the mail box (which he did as a dutiful grandpa, right after he affixed a stamp). All we know is that there was something purple, possibly a doll.

With Ama the request was for purple clothes and ice skates. It is now my firm belief that she wants things that the furry woodland creatures in her storybooks are getting under their tree.

Santa is coming tonight. Now I have it on good authority what he's going to be brining, however there is another santa. One with a beard and red suit, who will be trapsing up our stairs bearing a wee gift; and I have no idea what it will be. See my town has a Santa Claus Club that has been in operation since World War II.

The businessmen of the town collect funds all year long for the sole purpose of visiting every single child who resides here and bring them a small gift on Christmas Eve. It all comes from a time when Christmas was harder. When fathers were overseas, fighting a war; when sugar was rationed and money was scarce. When we had an ethic about war that was anything but "go on with business as usual."

This will be the first year Santa actually visits our house (the last two years we were traveling during the holidays, and I worried the Jolly Old Elf would just make her cry). I also worried about need. As is we are fortunate enough to have more than we need. Yet, Santa's visit isn't about that anymore. Most of the men are home, setting up the trees and putting up the lights.
It's about tradition of a town; and it's love of Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's official, even the doctor says she's three

At her official well-baby-toddler-preschooler visit yesterday Annabel got to stand on the big-girl scale, sidle up to the measuring wall and don a funky pair of sun glasses to look at an optical illusion of a butterfly, then try to pick up said spectre. It was all going so well until Dr. Always-Somehow-Freaking-Me-Out listened to her chest and announced: "I heard something a little crackly."

Last week when I took her in because she sprouted a fever and was lethargic, her lungs were clear. This week - during her routine visit when she was feeling fine and being her usual talkative self - there was the crackle. So that means antibiotics.

Otherwise, little miss Ittybit is doing fine. She's in the 25th percentile for both height and weight at 35 3/4 inches and 26 pounds, respectively. She's got all her teeth and her skin, which she inherited from me, is only a little bit rashy.

And although the doctor asked me if we had any concerns about her development, she really didn't expect there to be any, especially after she asked Annabel how old she was and was told "TWO."

"Hmmm. I thought you were three?"

"Well, I don't want to be free just yet, thank you."

"Don't have to worry about those verbal skills, now, do we?"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Can't you just FEEL the holiday cheer?

Now that she knows Santa is taking her binky when he comes this Christmas, she's no longer thrilled with the idea of a jolly ol' elf breaking into the house late at night and leaving gifts of toys and sweets behind.

Even though he's likely going to be giving her big-girl lip gloss (as a bait and switch) in exchange for the beloved soother, she's torn. If she were of devious intention, I'm sure she'd neglect to remind us to exinguish the fire in the woodstove (where she thinks Sir Claus will sneak in on Christmas Eve).

It would seem I've unintentionally turned his very elven existence* into something that is not so carefree and joyous.

I can't say that I blame her.

Bad Mommy!

* Please visit Exiled in Toyland on Sunday, and I'll tell you why I still believe in Santa.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas

I know, we're nowhere near done, but at least it's a start.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Put a sock in it, will ya?

Our babysitter informed me recently that she was taking the binky away from Annabel during naps.

It was just a fact. There was no "do you want me to ... or what do you think ..." just that her own binky-addicted daughter was also three when she pulled the plug and the screaming frenzy began, making her wish she'd never introduced the thing to begin with.

She's apparently been waiting for me to tell her the time had come to return the offending device to the "binky fairy" or the "binky mommy," or to whatever corner of hell pacifiers originally hail. She's just been waiting for a "partner."

In other words: I've yet again dropped the ball.

My mother-in-law has been asking for more than a year (on and off, and sweetly) whether this was the year the binky was going to be sent to "Santa."

Remember me folks? The one who walks the path of least resistance? The one who looks around at her office mates and decides not to worry about such things?

After all, no one here in cubicle land is sucking away on a binky.

But it's true: She doesn't need it anymore. She doesn't have it in the car.
She doesn't take it to school. She doesn't even keep it in her mouth the whole night through.

To everyone's surprise, mine especially, the official report is that Ittybit showed only brief resistance to the news her beloved "oro (Ittybit for orange) binks" had returned to its mommy. She slept with her tiny lamb pressed against her cheek for the requisite two hours.

The babysitter next suggested it was time for the binks to leave our house, too. (It was mentioned in what I would say was a 'Now-I'm-Not-Telling-You-What-To-Do' speech.) So I thought I'd try it. (Out of the unspoken "But-This-Is-What-A-Good-Mom-Would-Do" gist of the speech.)

Last night at bedtime I told Annabel that now that she was a big girl, it was time to send the binky back home. That it was needed elsewhere.

Instant tears and sobs of desperation.

"But I'm NOT a big girl, mommy. I'm still a little girl," she wailed.

And. She. Didn't. Stop.

"Well I think you are a big girl, but how about if we hang on to 'purple binks' until Santa comes? Then he can take it home."

She agreed, but I'm sure it was the kind of hollow agreement that means she's appeasing the one who can be manipulated. She's biding her time, hoping I'll forget the whole mission.

Really, though, I don't know how to react. I don't know how to feel.

This is a stress I don't need right now either: Christmas, a cold and cough that's been hanging on for weeks, guests, parties, presents ... I feel as if everyone is telling me what to do, how to raise her and I am genuflecting in guilt and shame.

A part of me is angry. Part of me is feeling guilty about being a wimp. But a part of me is tired, too.

When I reach down into the core of my beliefs. I always come up with the same thing: I don't think a pacifier is the worst thing in the world, and I don't particularly care if it helps her get to sleep. I am reminded about Jed and his need for "white noise," and how I've had to adapt my own sleep habits to compensate for the whirring of humidifiers and fans that he needs to get some shut-eye.

We all need something right? Perhaps I'd feel better if I could just put a sock in it.

Maybe I'll ask Santa to bring me earplugs this year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Congratulate me. ...

I am officially the WORST parent on the East Coast.



Uhm ... Siobhan? This is Lori. Today was supposed to be Annabel's SPECIAL DAY at School, you know, because of it being her birthday and all today? They showed me your name on the calendar.

Oh ... shhhhhhhhhhhh T!

It's ok. Don't feel bad. They said you can switch and have her Special Day Wednesday.

Wait. I'll call Jed. Maybe he can get there with the left-over goldfish from the party.

And Jed is the BEST parent on the East Coast



Jed, are you busy? It's Annabel's special day today and I NEVER looked at the Calendar. Ok. I looked at the calendar but I was looking through the Wednesdays, since I typically DO Wednesdays. And now our kid is ALONE on her special day. And. It's. All. My. Fault.


Yes. Now.

OK. What will I bring for a snack?

There's a whole truckload of Goldfish upstairs.

I think I'm going to go cry now.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Behold the power of monkey cake

Sugar alone cannot shake a mom to the core of her being.

Neither will scientific minded simians nor a gaggle of Lego-eyed, cavern-building, pint-sized party guests.

Getting more presents than we can possibly store?

Nope. That doesn't frighten me.

Fewer naps?

Scary, but we'll manage.

But Ittybit turning three tomorrow?

That will do it. I am officially a puddle.

Happy just-about-birthday, babyofmine.



Thursday, December 14, 2006

'Tis the season to be rediculously cute ...

Even if you've been feeling under the weather.

So without further ado, Office Max allows me to give you Annabel as an elf Unfortunately, it's the most animated she's been all day.

Lets hope years from now Office Max offers psychological compensation for the unwitting elves.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Just for scuz

I've been browsing the sites of professional photographers again and contemplating re-upping my subscription to The Zoloft Times, so envious I am of all the cherubic faces in all their creamy beauty, dressed nattily in designer duds.

How effortless it seems. Multi-frame storyboards of children gallivanting in fields, hands joined, rubber boots kicking gleefully. Every shadowless exposure a marvel of continuity. I know the prices the boutique shooters are charging, and I know that even THEY can't afford themselves.

Perhaps what I'm experiencing is a little bit of sour grapes of the "I-really-can't-do- what-they-do" vintage. I know the tricks. I know how to adjust the "curves" until the texture of the skin is washed clean. I know to sharpen the irises and clean up the sclera so no shadows or pronounced blood vessels smear the windows of the subjects' tiny souls. Matchy-matchy clothes, cute props natural settings all add to the ambiance.

But as I once railed against the "Sears Portrait," the face-front studio disaster I ridiculed in art school, I am now finding myself weary of all the pint-sized perfection the boutique shooters are peddling. The very same images I once admired for their simple beauty and stunning sharpness, and even tried to emulate, are beginning to look alike to me in an eerie formulaic way.

You know, because kids with smeared faces, matted hair and mismatched, ill-fitting clothes -- how they look 95 percent of the time anyway -- just aren't good enough for display. We'd much rather enshrine the myth of well-scrubbed perfection, especially if we're paying through the nose for it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

An inside joke

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, does Christmas better than Ittybit's other mommy.

Thanksgiving was hardly a memory when we walked through Lori's front door and were greeted by a fresh Christmas tree, festooned with all manner of holiday jewels and jubilations. Other trinkets and curios, all categorized on shelves by their rank in the holiday army: Nativities scenes on one table; Santas on another; snowmen, deer, stars -- each with their own space of shelves and mantles -- all together trumpeting the advent of a new Christmas season.

With dozens upon dozens of Christmas stories in her collection, I suspect our Lori may indeed be a close relation to the Clauses, and no doubt the genesis of some of the ideas dancing around Ittybit’s head, including all those sugarplum fairies.

Sadly, neither her father nor I have been able to muster the excitement of all things Christmas-y the way Lori can; we have all we can do to dig out our old ornaments and hang them on a tree before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas eve.

Annabel's animation is helping a bit but I am still woefully inept. But I try. We even "practiced" making cookies for Santa one evening before bedtime. As we dropped five spoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheet, she allotted each a recipient: "This one is for Santa. This one is for Mommy. This one is for Daddy. And this one is for Annabel," she announced proudly.

"And this one can be for Rudolf," I say dramatically.

"Mom! That's not for Rudolf!"

"You're not going to give Rudolf a cookie?" I asked surprised.

"No," she responds without elaboration.

"But why not?" I ask, "He works very hard. He might like a cookie."

"MA-aaaaa" she says with all the exasperation of a child who's mother has gone mad. "He is NOT getting a cookie."

I really didn't think much about the exchange until I started to tell Lori about our weekend a few days later, and how Annabel's imagination seems so surprisingly intricate.

I was explaining how Ittybit was walking on a sidewalk that was all spider-vein-y with cracks when she announced that she was walking on the back of a big monster, when Lori told me about the reindeer bringing Annabel to school.

I remembered about the cookies, and told her how Annabel didn't want to give one to the red-nosed reindeer.

"Oh … she told me about that," Lori said slowly. "No, they don't like cookies,” she explained. "They like carrots."

Really, though. It's so hard to keep up with with the mind of a toddler when all the stories she knows about Christmas are not your stories. Jed even got a taste of what it's like this evening when he collected her from Lori's house.

See, he had no idea that reindeer had brought Annabel to school that afternoon in Lori's car or that they picked her up and took a nap with her in the playpen.

"Jed just called me from the driveway," Lori said laughing into the phone, she called me at work, bubbling with the news.
"Uhm ... is there some reindeer she forgot? She's really crying and screaming not wanting to leave without her reindeer."

"They're pretend," Lori explained. "Just stay right there, I'll let them out."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fairy tales do come true ...

Remember ... oh, a couple-a few days ago .... I lead off a list of stressors that included meeting for the first time an imaginary Internet friend and her rock star toddler and newbie bebe?

Well we met and it was as fabulous as could be. She's known around the flickrverse as the Beast but she's all beauty. And Annabel was quick to dub her "My new friend."

As in: "Where is my new friend?" Sunday night before bed, Monday morning upon awaking and again Monday night before bed.

And Diana (aka Jesamin) is as sweet as can be. How could the mother of the sweetest newborn on Earth and the most brave toddler in the universe, AND who traveled HOURS to attend a crazy cacophonous yoga class and eat overcooked lasagna in a BARN with a smile NOT be an amazing woman?

Not to mention a killer photographer, too.

I must say, I'm feeling pretty splendid about the whole weekend, and I can confirm with certainty it wasn't a stretch.

Now if the rest of the holidays go just this smoothly, we'll be in business.

THE YAYA REPORT: Almost perfect

"Oh, you'll hear about this for sure," says Lori when I call this afternoon to see how the day’s going. "You know how she never tells you about anything good that happens at preschool? Well today was different."

I brace myself for the first "negative" progress report from school. It took a while, I think, but it was bound to happen. She was bound to snap sometime. My little Eddie Haskel offspring couldn't be a charmer forever. She was bound to show the chink in the perfect child armor she wears for her teachers sooner or later.

"NO! NO! Nothing like that," Lori laughs when I ask if she did something wrong. "But as soon as I got there she ran over to me and said Cole took something away from her."

Of course the teacher reminded her that it had all been taken care of -- that the boy gave whatever it was back with an apology -- meaning that should be the end of it.

"But Annabel just gave her a look like 'What are you crazy; I'm telling Lori about my trauma!' and proceeded to tell me how Cole took her bread, but then he gave it back."

Lately, I've noticed, she has a little trouble letting go of others' transgressions, even those directly relating to her own.

Whenever I tell her sternly not to poke the dog, or throw toys or play with knives she looks at me with a shiny wounded eyes and announces: "You made me cry."


Friday, December 08, 2006

There's a lot to be said for hope

I don't really want to tread too heavily here (in Blogger land) because I have a tremendous fear of the ground opening up and swallowing up all the useless thoughts collected here in one great watery slurp.

So I'll try and write quietly.

I feel as if I'm walking around in a fog. There's so much going on in the next couple of weeks that I don't seem to be able to get my head around all that must get done.

So I'm breaking all the rules that are designed to make reading this drivel fun, and I'm making a list:

  • Sunday will be my first yoga class since the studio "reorganized" this fall. They are having an open house and inviting people to come and see what we’re all about – hoping that maybe we’ll entice some new participants. Previously my class has been free but now the studio is asking for donations to allow me to continue using the space. I suppose that's better than demanding $15 a pop, but still. My inner soul of souls thinks this class should be gratis, yet I understand they got bills to pay. On the good/scary side is that I'll be meeting in real life some of my internet friends, who intend on making the trip and checking out the class. No pressure there. Right?
  • Tuesday I have a meeting at the Marilla Cuthbert School for Unspeakably Charming Children, in which I will vote to abolish for next year the two-year-old class my daughter attends this year. While it pains me that this wonderful class won’t exist for two-year-olds in the future, the teachers feel it’s time for change. I know that it means more three- and four-year-olds will get a shot at enrollment.
  • Wednesday is WOO HOO Christmas. I don't talk about this much, because I have very little social life outside of once monthly preschool board meetings and pick up and drop off at the sitter's house, but before baby, I went out WEEKLY with a group of great women whose sole purpose was to celebrate each other. I'll just say we raised our glasses often. Now I see these women once or twice a year, usually for the holiday bash. If Jed is home. Or I can get a sitter. Or I'm not too tired to drive the extra 45 minutes to and from after work.
  • Friday is Yaya's annual Christmas party. Must figure out something to bring for people to eat that is not a bag of Cheetos.
  • My annual Christmas shopping trip with Martha is next Saturday. With baby? If Jed has to work, you can pretty much bank on it. Hoo boy that will be fun. I predict no one gets gifts this Christmas.
  • Annabel's birthday party – complete with a lunch/cake extravaganza is set for all who wish to attend (Did you get that invitation? Nope? Could it be that I haven’t sent them? Yup! Do you think I’ll get to it before the party next Sunday around noonish? Nope? Good guess).
  • On the 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd I plan to be freaking out. Jed’s family will be en route to spend the holidays with us and the house is a giant box of phlegm and dog hair. Did I mention yet that my cleaning skills are that of a troglodite?
  • On Dec. 24, when I come down off the roof (because I'm counting on Jed's sister to talk me down and take me for coffee and last minute shopping, which I've thus far neglected) I'll be feeling better. I hope.
Does this list require me to check it twice? Nah ... I might as well just ball it up and pitch in the trash right now.

This is a fine mess ...

I was just sitting here, minding my own business, when I noticed that blogger was telling me to move.

"Go to Google. You'll like it there. It's nice. It's better over there."

"What? Google? Wha? Move. To. Google?"

"Oh, yeah," it cooed "it's still beta, but it's ooooh soooo much better."

So in my state of mindless anticipation, sitting here waiting for Ittybit to get out of bed and shuffle in to the warm cave of a livingroom, telling me one last time of monsters and bears gobbling up her cereal and forcing me to put her back to bed before I can make my way to my own, I toggled the necessary toggles and shipped this puppy on over to Google.

They said it would be more reliable.

The window that popped up told me it would take a few minutes.

"Go," it soothed. "We'll send you an e-mail when the move is completed."

"Don't worry," it whispered. "It will be better. You'll see."

Fuck all. Now Blogger is spamming my inbox with e-mails telling me I've moved.

So far, since I've been writting this little rant, I've gotten 15 ... no, make that 16.


I'm going to bed now before I find something else wrong with this picture. I hope when I wake up tomorrow things around here aren't so gloomy.

*** PS. Too late. Just found out the spell checker isn't working -- Gof held mu.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

She's still my baby ...

I wanna sleep here tonight, ok?
Originally uploaded by toyfoto.
Even if she's too big to sleep (comfortably) in the laundry basket.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Aw, let the pigeon drive the bus ... it's only for pretend

Annabel always sticks up for the underdog. ... Or in this case the under bird.

This interactive little picture book starts off with a bus driver taking a break and asking readers to please make sure that no one - not even the wheedling, pleading, cajoling, wormy pigeon - drives his bus.

But the little squab is incorrigible:

"I'll be your best friend!"

"How 'bout I give you five bucks."

"I bet your mom would let me."

"I have dreams, you know!"

Annabel, it turns out, understands about dreams. From page two, when pigeon peeked in his little head into the story to ask permission, she was ready to hand over the keys.

"I would let him drive the bus. It's only for pretend."

Friday, December 01, 2006

One, Two, Three. ... Ready or not, here we come

Dear Annabel,

In just a few days you'll be three. Everyone who sees you lately remarks on how tall you've grown or how mature you've gotten.

I can't believe it myself even though for months I've been telling folks who ask your age that you're almost three. I feel as if I wasted a sizable chunk of the twos - and for the record, they weren't that terrible.

It's hard to believe that in a few more years I'll probably forget about how you used to sing to yourself in the car. Songs made up out of bits and pieces of the day.
"Oh I had and cat at the lake. She said MOOO. And Meow. And she didn't eat cake only OR-E-Os. ... MAMA, SING!"

Or how you'd admonish me with gravel in your voice and exaspiration in your tone when I'd tell you that I didn't know the words. "MA-OM! SING!"

I love how you tell me "I luf you," and "I din't know the cewewool spills from the top of the box when you lift it up by the bottom."

It's a good thing we have dogs, because the vaccum cleaner is pretty freaking useless and it's always in need of being emptied anyway.

I love how you giggle and say "You are my favorite mommy" and how your dad is "your favorite daddy" and how you pat Maggie's head and say she's your favorite doggie. It's even funny how you look at Madeline and call her crazy, like it's such a shame.

I love how lately the world and everything in it is superlative:

"This is the best cookie I ever had."
"This is the greatest pear I ever ate."
"This is the best drawing I ever made."

And how your tastes evolve:

"I don't want the lemony buscuits or the chocolatey ones, but maybe the coconutty would be good."

Even how you watch TV is endearing: Body all busy with a slight smile on your face as if it's all just so wonderous. And then you'll say - as if to reassure yourself - "dogs don't really talk do they."

So now that you really are almost three, I am pleased to report that life with you around is still magic, and you are still a wonder. And I would guess that you're at least 76 percent cuter than you were last year.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Out of house and home ...

We recently purchased the first REAL bed of our together life.


See, Jed's been itching to get a king-sized bed ever since he woke up one morning balanced on the edge of his side of our new queen-sized mattress and fell off. With a thud.

It is no secret that I am a bed hog, cover thief and whatever other crimes come with the unconsciousness of slumber. Although I think we are polar opposites of our waking selves in the dead of sleep - I turn into a cuddler and he turns into a mollusk - I don't argue with his reasoning that even though I constantly feel cold my body emits the heat of a furnace. It's probably true, and I blame whatever crazy endocrine lottery I somehow won for this dichotomy.

So when one of his buddies needed a bed to sleep on he eagerly volunteered our six-year-old mattress set so he could replace it with a football field.

Since we were biting the bullet, we decided we might as well buy a bed frame to boot. You know finally get it off the floor (we're not in college anymore, right?) So we select some moderately priced sleigh bed to go with our extremely high priced, state-of-the-art back support mattresses (incidentally sold by sheep).

The furniture store delivered the beast Tuesday and had it set up in minutes. I never thought I'd say this, but the darn thing eclipses the room. (For those of you who know ... our room is GIGANTIC! If anyone should be able to accommodate a king-sized bed easily it should be us). Laying ontop of it, with the ceiling closer, I actually felt the room closing in on me.

Jed even had to admit it is a monster.

"Uhm ... Honey. ... The bed just told me he'd like steak and eggs for breakfast. ... and possibly one of the dogs."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What are we fighting for?

Warning: Potential firestorm brewing.


When I was a student studying photography, hoping to someday be a journalist, I gave myself an assignment: To photograph a clash between the pro-life movement and the pro-choice advocates bound to explode during a rally one Saturday at the local Planned Parenthood clinic.

Being firmly in the pro-choice camp, I expected to find a group of feminist students rallying about privacy and the right to control their own destinies. On the other side I expected to witness aging male bible thumpers carrying crosses with crucified baby dolls attached and women with a brood of children stopping traffic in the streets.

On one level, I wasn't surprised. The pro-lifers were there with their blood and gore; with their children in tow. They shouted bible verses and prayed. They called the young women murderers. Some, however, were quietly carrying signs: "Only God should take a life."

I suppose the real surprise for me that day came from watching the faces of the women with whom I thought I'd identify distort into hatred and vitriol. They carried signs and shouted "I fuck to come, not to conceive." I left the event thinking: "Everyone's gotten it wrong."


A few years later as my friends started embarking on married life, families started to emerge. Women, now well into their childbearing years, began exchanging their briefcases for diaper bags. As is life, the women seated around the large table of our friendship all had different experiences. Some were childless and intended to remain so. Some were childless and heartbroken. Others were nowhere near finding relationships conducive to bringing children into the world and some were still biding their time.

Our newly pregnant friend was glowing. Telling us all about the excitement. But when she announced that she was planning on terminating the pregnancy if the amniocentesis indicated a problem, that it just wasn't fair to the child since they were not spring chickens anymore, the room went still. No one spoke. But somewhere in between the meal and the next meeting it was obvious that some in attendance had taken her to task for her "decision."

I had remained silent, so she came to me to complain about the others.

"I thought my friends were all pro-choice. I guess I was wrong," she said stingingly, obviously disappointed in her friends, who, as she saw it, are people who should support and accept you unconditionally.

But I couldn’t lie to her. I couldn't pretend I approved. I had to tell her that it wasn't that we were anti-choice or pro-life or whatever hyphenated label fits, it's just that she made that statement on front of some women who would have done anything for a child, even an unhealthy one. And that just seemed so insensitive. I explained that I felt such decisions should probably stay between a woman and her partner. "Pro-choice means that your privacy is what should be respected."

It occurred to me then what had been bothering me all those many years: Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion. I may want those freedoms to exist, but I don't think being proud of your decision is a mandate of support for the ability to choose your destiny.

I know that she wanted her friends to rally round her and support her decisions, especially if she was uncomfortable making them. She wanted to be able to share her thoughts openly with us, and in that way I suppose we let her down.


More recently, as MS. Magazine called on people to sign its petition affirming "We Had an Abortion," I am wondering what it all means again.

Do drastic times call for drastic measures? Will raising awareness eventually allow us to make such difficult decision is peace and privacy for sure? I seriously doubt it will ever come to pass that we will feel GOOD about ourselves for having had abortions. I also don't think "coming out" will change any minds or lessen the "stigma." It just diverts the issue again.

I fully believe abortions will remain legal for those who seek them out; the cost to society would be too great if it weren't. Bottom Line: No one has to like it but it should be something we only need discuss with our doctors. The rest of the world should keep their eyes on their own page.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Special request ...

You know who you are ...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Can I buy a vowel?

NOTE: What follows is the story of Annabel's birth. It's nearly three years old, but it was sought by The Mad Momma


I had an idea that things were not going well long before they went all wrong.

It was just a feeling. The same feeling that told me ultimately it would be alright.

As we sat in the marathon child-birthing class (neither of us had a consistent enough schedule to adhere to a once-every-Thursday-night thing) eyeing the others around the circle, wondering mostly who's gonna be first, I couldn't help but think this is all going to be wasted on me, I just knew it. I could feel it.

That Saturday in class we learned about the stages of labor. We learned about breathing; about the pain; the water breaking; the possibilities of not-so-pleasant occurrences, vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhoids. We were told of technical things: Internal monitors, episiotomies, vacuum extractor. In the eight hours we were there we were led, step by step, through all the possibilities: Effacement, contractions, natural, induction, Pitocin, epidural. ... It wasn't until the very end -- 20 minutes before we were sent out into the world to stand and deliver -- the nurse showed a video about Cesarean Section.

Although I am a pessimist by nature, I had enough hope still clinging to me to reason they'd spent so little time on the possibility of abdominal surgery because if it came to that it was out of our hands anyway. That and I hoped having a c-section was a long shot.

Like many birth stories, Ittybit's is long and starts more than 24 hours before the hour and minute of her arrival was marked onto a piece of paper.

Doctors' office visit: ultrasound, biofeedback, hours in the waiting room to be examined, waiting another hour for a doctor who forgot me on the examining table, abraded membrane, contractions, more tests at a hospital (not the one where she was born), snow storm, contractions 5 minutes apart, dehydrated from no food and water and the all-day office visit. Home: food, pain, contractions five minutes apart. Hospital: drinking water, vomiting, more pain, contractions three minutes apart, dilation 2 cm. IV, blood work, pain. All. Night. Long. No sleep. 3 a.m. water breaks (or so I'm told. I can't tell). They have to take more blood since they fully expected to send me home in the morning and discarded the earlier samples.

The morning goes by with more of the same. Three cm dilated at most. Contractions seven minutes apart but they are doubled back-to-back when they come. The intern suggests an epidural with the Pitocin they plan to introduce at noon. I agree. The pain has been excruciating and it's now been 15 hours. They tell me the pain will subside 80 percent, but I don't feel any once the drugs take effect. I can see the contractions peak on the monitor but I can no longer feel them. They attach the bag of Pitocin to the saline drip. Immediately her heart rate plummets. Bells go off and the nurses all pile in. They don't believe the drugs have caused that reaction, it hasn't even had time to get into my bloodstream. The turn me onto one side and back again. We are alone again, watching the contractions, trying to rest.

It goes on like this for six more hours. Alarms each time the Pitocin is let loose in my blood stream. The bells ring as her heart rate drops when the contractions subside - baby in distress. After her day at the office my doctor comes in, reads my chart and tells me, calmly, it's time to get the baby out. C-Section.

A part of me is devastated and fearful. I've never had major surgery. Will I get an infection? Will I get to nurse her? Will I die on the table?

It seemed like an eternity passed between the time my doctor spoke those words and the time that they wheeled me into a chilly, sterile room where they would deliver our child.

They secured my arms, crucifixion-like to boards on either side of the table. They gave me an anti-nausea medication and tried to keep me calm. I wasn't although I pretended as best I could.

I wasn't prepared for how they pulled the baby free nor was I prepared for the talking: The annoying anesthesiologist who's job it was to distract me from the surgery and the discourse between the doctor and the students.

Let me tell you there are a few words patients never want to hear: "I've never seen anything like that in all my 25 years" is but eleven. My doctor had two words for me: "Teaching Hospital."

And thankfully, she spared four more: "you are perfectly fine."

I was bitter for a long time. I blamed that first doctor who left me all day, and who swept the membrane without so much as a word. I blamed myself; why could I not advocate for me?

But then I ultimately let it go, because I can not know. My doctor later told me it was unlikely I'd have ever been able to deliver her naturally. Something about the tilt of my pelvis and the size of her head.

I can't really complain, too much. I got her out of the deal. Yet, at the time, when they brought her close to my face before taking her away for what seemed an eternity, all I could do was chastize myself for not doing my eye strengthening exercises. ... She was so close I couldn't see her face clearly. ... Although it turned out all the fluid welling up in me from the IVs was the real culprit.

But I suppose what really sticks with me now, these few years later, is the fanaticism I hear surrounding c-sections and the people who ultimately have them:

We are told that C-sections have increased in the United States because of the advanced age of the mothers; because of liability and because some moms don't want to deal with the pain and effects of childbirth. Elective C-sections are considered ethical.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to debate the topic; to question the effectiveness and ethics of such issues as a public service, however, such debate often turns rancorous when it becomes personal. And guess who all eyes are upon then?

The woman with the scars.

I've heard women bash other women for their choices as well as the choices made for them: "Don't be a pussy, use your pussy" and the like. It's stunning, really, how interested we are in looking down our noses at others in order to lift ourselves up. I'm beginning to feel like a broken record when I say, for a multitude of topics, "Who am I to judge someone else? I don't know anything about them, and even when I think I might, chances are I'll be wrong."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Who, you say?

Oh Walt, Walt, Walt. You were a funny, funny guy.

Who else would have thought to give Kaa -- the villianous, hypnotizing python of Jungle Book fame -- the voice of our hero of The Hundred Acre Wood?

Sterling Holloway, with the same honey-filled hoots, played both Kaa and Pooh.

I mentioned it to Annabel, who at the time was trying to hide from the snake, wondering if she'd recognize the voice.

You'd think I just told her Santa won't be fitting into the woodstove this year the way she reacted.

She put her hand over my mouth and brought her forhead to my forehead, and warned with all the emphasis of a jackhammer:

"Don't say that, Mama! That is not Pooh, that is Kaa. We are not watching POOH!"

All is well, though as soon as Baloo starts to sing:

"All we need are the bear nassesames, the very bear nassesames."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Are you anxious?

That's what Jed asked me this morning as I poured my morning coffee half into my cup and half onto the counter.

"About what," I responded absently as I grabbed for a towel to clean it up.

"You know. Thanksgiving. Having everybody here for dinner."

I wonder what he must think of me: A nervous bundle of energy that would rather hide under a rock than endure one more conversation about gastro-intestinal malfunction or play another game of "guess who has a terminal illness" with my family at the dinner table.

All of that is true, but it doesn't mean I don't enjoy sitting down to a triptofan laden meal with them, waiting for digestion to usher me gently into a sleepy lull.

No. Anxiety really isn't an affliction I harbor during Thanksgiving.

To me, the Thanksgiving holiday is an easy one. Food holidays usually are. We pop a turkey into the oven in the morning; pour some chicken stock into stale bread cubes and seasonings a few hours later, set it to bake underneath the bird; and put a pot of potatoes on to boil. In a few hours the smells come together in that old familiar way.

My parents always bring the pies, dinner rolls and a host of other odd snacks. (This year's head scratcher, my dad explained this afternoon after he stopped by the bakery, is bran and corn muffins). No one ever cares if the turkey is dry or the stuffing isn't crispy on the top.

However, had our plans been as we'd planned months ago, I'd probably be angsty as all get-out. If that Thanksgiving plan had progressed we'd already be in Texas gearing up for the extended family olympics, a once in a decade event, usually held in some semi-exotic location no where near anyone's home, that brings Jed's father's side of the family together for silly games, unpronounceable cocktails and basement-scoured awards.

Air travel, cranky toddler, unfamiliar location, distant family - some I've never even met - would have had me on edge until I'd gotten there and gotten into the moment, when it all would then smooth out.

It's been a trying few years for our families: there have been deaths and illnesses, job losses, moves, divorces and depressions. But there's still much to be thankful for, it is a shame the resort that had been booked to support these shenanigans closed without notice, and the games had to be boxed at the last minute.

So tomorrow, when we're sitting down to a meal of bland fare (thanks to my skills at the stove) I'll be calm and serene. I won't be worried about connecting flights or lost baggage or cancelled plans. I'll be thinking fondly of those who aren't with us and thankful for those who are.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, wherever you are.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sometimes I don't think we ever really know what we're 'freaking' talking about

Today over at Izzymom I was compelled to contribute to the debate over "freaking," a dance style in which people simulate anal or "doggy-style" sex.

All over the country, high schools are reacting to the lascivious two-stepping going on in their sanctioned dances by pulling the plug on the whole thing. They're rolling up their dance floors and calling it quits.

Now Izzymom takes the stance that while the dance is abhorent and potentially degrading to women, not to mention tastless and without merit choreographically, the idea that schools would wash their hands of all dances as a response is nonsensical.

Now, fundamentally speaking, I don't disagree that reasoning, however I think that we sometimes get tunnel vision when it comes to our ideals about freedom, rights and self expression.

When I first heard this story from NPR out of California, my immediate thought was it was a bit of overreaction on the part of some stuffed-shirt administrator, who wanted to make a useless point about something that no one thought he knew a whit about anyway.

But after I'd listened to the story I realized this was just a guy who had tried different things to impress upon students that school is an inappropriate place for such a display of affection ... even as an artform ... that he decided it was time to close shop. He said when the parents and school board could come together on rules and penalties he would reconsider.

Similarly, when I continued to add my paltry coins to the debate on Izzymom's site, I began to think about our priorities.

Lots of people chimed in to ask where the parents are? It's not the school's job ... Others wondered what such blanket restrictions actually taught the kids? All the while I was left to wonder what difference does it make if prom is cancelled?

Dancing ass-to-pelvis in a school cafeteria with someone you don't even know isn't a right provided by the constitution. For that matter, dancing in a cafeteria cheek-to-cheek with you're "best girl" or"best guy" isn't either.

And yet we've sent folks little older then these so-called freakers to defend to their deaths the ideals and protections that piece of paper -- which seems to be eroding by the minute -- provides.

While we debate the merits of school dances and overreactions of fed-up educators, Democrat Charles Rangel plans to introduce a bill to ressurect the draft.

He believes the threat of having lawmakers' kids pulling the same odds as those of janitors and single mothers in going to war, such wars as the one we find ourselves in Iraq, will ensure they not be so hastily decided.

I don't know if he's right, but I do know that the news of it made me hold my breath.

It also made me think that we, as concerned parents, might be fighting for all the wrong things. We are fighting to protect mediocrity and a feeling of entitlement, not to mention privileges that seem trivial. When we fight the authority about issues of decorum, we are protecting our children by making them soft and uncaring about anything but themselves. Is the protection of stupid-looking dance steps worth the fight?

I say: Let the schools make the rules. And tell your kids they need to follow them, even the dumb ones. Let them understand that one kid CAN ruin it for everyone, and that such disappointment is a part of life. Let them know that their time will come to make the rules. Then show them things like this or this and then maybe, just maybe, we'll all begin to understand what's really unfair about the world.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I am a good liar ... and I hate myself for it

So my friend and colleague, Martha, turned 30 last week, and as far out of the realm of possibility as this sounds, I was enlisted by her older sister, Chrissy, to help lure her to a surprise party.

Turns out I am a skilled liar.

Let me just introduce her to you a little bit before I expand upon the dirty deeds: Martha was formerly a reporter in my newspaper and we've remained close friends even though she's gone on to more lucrative and rewarding exploits in the North Country. (I'm not bitter).

She has been a truly generous and caring friend.

Exhibit A: She gathered my unruly, unkempt hair into a pretty twist for my wedding.

Exhibit B: She is always the voice of reason in my jittery life.

Even now that we are both columnists and bloggers -- we trade columns before they're printed to get each other's opinions: You know, for the Does-this-work? Could-this-be-funnier? type of feedback -- the friendship seems to have just deepened.

So when her sister called to ask if I'd get her to the appointed restaurant, I didn't see much of a problem. ... Other than the lies I would have to tell to have an audience with the birthday girl on short notice (usually, you see, our get-togethers are planned several weeks if not months in advance).

Lie one: "I will be in Saratoga Saturday, and I was wanting to talk with you. Do you have time?"

Since I know she sees me as a hypochondriac basket case, I knew she'd worry a bit about the sudden request, and I wanted to assure her it was just ... that. I . wanted. to. talk.

The reporter in her was immediately curious: "What brings you to Saratoga," she asked.

Lie two: "Well, I have to deliver some papers to my cousin who lives in Vermont, and the Saratoga area is a nice half-way point."

"Why don't you just mail them?" A perfectly obvious solution that LIARS don't really consider.

Lie three: "Well, they're legal papers and I really feel as if I should hand deliver them."

After assuring her for the second time that nothing was wrong, we proceeded with the plans, which were a bit muddied with things like her husband getting the day wrong and planning to take her shopping on the party day. Luckily her sister fixed that quickly enough. (There was a picnic table involved ... but it's too complicated.)

What time ... hmmm. Her sister wants to meet later, but Martha tells me she's got dinner plans with her husband later so the earlier she can meet me the better.

"How about 2 p.m.?" I ask Chrissy. "Ok that sounds good."

"How about 10 a.m.," says Martha?

Uh. ... Lie four: "We'll ... I have to meet my cousin around 11 ... how about if I meet you at 1 for lunch ... I'll come get you."


How about we go to this really great crepe place I know of? she says.

Lie five: Oh but I have this gift certificate to Fridays, and it expires in December.

Except now that I'm meeting Martha at 1 and the party is at 2, I'll have to stall her for an hour.
Not to mention that at the last minute, Jed had to work and I had to bring Annabel who is just starting with the sneezing, scratchy throat thing. AND ... Annabel is ready to leave at 11. Which means I need to kill and extra hour in drive time. (I had already contemplated my next lie, which was to leave late and call her from the road saying I'd been delayed) when I just realized that I really wanted to SEE her too. I mean why waste time driving around the back country with a sleepy kid, when I could spend the same time chatting with Martha?

So I came up with Lie six: My cousin was hoping to meet us for lunch but couldn't be at the restaurant until 2 p.m. Could we kill an hour of time before then?

Of course we could. Martha is an accommodating and trusting soul. She steered me to a little playground and we chatted and played with Annabel on the jungle gyms for about 45 minutes. (Martha, I swear, everything I told you at the playground was the truth).

We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes after 2 -- perfect. Everyone was there to yell "SURPRISE."

Well, everyone except my cousin. And I think Martha was a little disappointed that she wouldn't get to meet her.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Frazzled in the mornings ... all work and no play

That would be me. Often I find myself looking in the mirror as I trudge down the stairs, fully expecting the woman staring back at me to have hair like Medusa's.

This morning I got a little repreive from the hauling of toddler tumescence and the stuffing of same into a worn carseat against her tiny will, when Jed took her away so I could get the last of my things ready and packed into the car.

Since they were nowhere to be found as I reved the engine, I went around the house to look for them.

She was carrying a box of Crayons (c. 1970) from the crane truck into the barn.

"Come on, it's time to go," I said.

"No, Mom, I'm working," she calls back as she disappears into the barn, her father following close behind with a cardboard box filled with old telephones.

"Pay no attention to the man with the junk," he proclaims.

After I finally wrestle her away from the work of collecting, and we roll out of the driveway, the kvetching begins.

"Momma, Daddy is bad."

"Why would you say that, honey. He's not bad."

"It's just that he's not easy to please."

** I don't know where this came from, but I do know it makes her ready for office work in corporate America.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The elephant in the armchair ... isn't wearing diapers

Yeah ... I had thought I'd try and steer clear public airings of bathroom exploits, you know we all deserve a little privacy, but this potty training stuff is really too rich. I mean parents of small children - myself included - are obsessed with all matters fecal. It's really the elephant in the armchair.

This fascination with feces starts in the hospital, where some of us (*raises hand and waves it furiously from side to side) learn the art of diapering for the first time. We obsess about the color and consistency, not to mention the frequency, and voice with the same excitement one has for completing any difficult task ... like swishing down the slopes in Aspen.

For at least two years we become waste product connoisseurs. Merely by waving a nose in the vicinity of the nearest bottom, we can pinpoint with razor sharp accuracy the size, shape and probable color of the deposit therein.

We sing songs about it, we fill jars of colorful treats to hand out as bribes and rewards. We ask no less than forty times a day whether junior has to poo. We jump up and down, perform three-foot-tall high-fives and do the potty dance to show appreciation for a job well done.

Once the diapers are tossed aside, replaced by layers upon layers of underpants (word to the wise: Don't buy cute ones ... They'll only want to wear them ALL ... AT THE SAME TIME) we can finally get the fragrant waft of freedom.

But when they start talking about it. Taking pride in their own internal workings, you know the fun is really beginning.

When they FINALLY poop in the potty and yell for you to come and see for yourself the wondrous whale of a stink fish swimming around the porcelain throne, the time has arrived for true celebration. Because you know, around that corner is a diaper-free zone. A place where the savings in your pocket will only prove equal in stature to the savings in landfill waste.

Sure. Sure. You'll have to endure potty breaks - sometimes even two and three in a matter of minutes - at every restroom in the vicinity. The neighbors at the next table will here updates loud and clear from the happy tooter on the success or failures in the lower intestines. But it will be worth it.

"I POOPED. And it was a BIG one," she'll exclaim. Or she'll say: "Mommy, I think my butt isn't working," when things don't go as well. The luck of the draw, I suppose.

Whatever the case, it's a turning point my friends.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Glass houses

As usual, the bloggesphere is bubbling with delicious stews over "mommy bashing" -- that perennial favorite of pundits everywhere who feel the need to instruct via sledgehammer.

The latest of which, and most interesting, seems to be the bashing of moms who lash out first.

Dubbed SanctiMommies by the dear and thoughtful Mom-101, it seems these are the folks - men and women (I'm not biased) who feel the need to voice (or at least intone with heavy sighs) their fervently held beliefs that other parents are just getting it wrong.

You know who you are: You are anonymous commentators, the eye rollers, the tisk-tiskers, the I-can't-believe-that-child-still-has-a-pacifiers when you're in the presence of moms, who, for whatever reason, happen not to be getting it right that very instant. Often you have no qualms about letting your feelings be known, especially if it means some child isn't scarred for life because of something dumb their parents are doing.

SanctiMommies can also people who don't have children but are pretty certain their little peapods wouldn't be careening around a fine dining establishment disturbing the meals of innocent gormands.

Most people admit to falling into the SanctiMommy category from time to time, and tend to let it wash away their own sins. We even pick our poisons.

I know a SanctiMommy whose pet peeves are pacifyers and thumb sucking. She can overlook soiled clothing, temper tantrums and other transgressions but she can't help herself when it comes to the dreaded binks. Whenever she sees the offense play out in her presence her face crinkles into the shape of a prune.

"How old would you say that child is? Too old be be sucking her thumb I would say!"

Whenever this type of thing happens in my presence, I fall silent, avert my eyes and try to change the subject.

Having been at the receiving end of a number of Mothers Superior, I am in the There-But-For-The-Grace-Of-god-Go-I school of parenting.

"She should have a hat on. ... I hope she's wearing sun screen. ... She's too young to be out in this cold. ... I didn't have children to let other people raise them. ... Who's the parent in this family? ... Children that age shouldn't be in restaurants. ...My kids never eat anything processed. Do you ever put that camera down?

The list of my transgressions, and public airing of them, goes on an on.

I can honestly say I've never been particularly sanctimonious about any of the hot-button issues. I've known too many people who have been tortured by "getting it all wrong."

The didn't have natural births; they couldn't breastfeed; their babies didn't thrive right away; they were depressed and fearful. One woman ultimately ended her own life. It always comes down to this: "Who am I to judge?"

I suppose the gift I really have is knowing what it is I know nothing about; and that list, my friends, is a long one, too. I try to think the best of everyone because I really don't know what they have to deal with from day to day. Hell, I don't even know what I'm doing from one day to the next, and I have to believe each one of us struggle with the same demons.

And for all those folks that would judge me? I'll try to let it go. Perhaps more than me even, they're struggling, too.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Oh what a tangled web we weave ...

"Mama, where's my moniker?"

"Well we sometimes call you ittybit ..."

"NO. my MON-I-KER!!! My MON-I-KER!"

"Oh, I think the dog took it."


"Probably because she doesn't have any appreciation for the blues. ... I'm kidding. ... It's probably under the sofa cushion?"


"Because your dad doesn't have any appreciation for the blues."

"How did you know it was dare, do?

"I knew where it was because I'm psychic?"

** I imagine in a few years from now she's catch on to me, and when she does her response would go something like this:
"No, Mama. I think maybe it is YOU who doesn't appreciate the blues."

Friday, November 10, 2006

We need investigations, and lots of them

Please indulge a little more political commentary, because I think it's important for those of us anti-Iraq-War types who hope the House and Senate wins will change the tretcherous course we, as a nation, have undertaken during the last five years.

Most of what I've witnessed since late Tuesday has been celebratory chest beating about a comeupance that's time had come.

But the sobering news is that while the blow to the Grand Old Party seems like a tidal wave of good fortune, that really isn't the case. The sound is really hollow.

Democrats have an amazing chance to really fuck things up before 2008.

As one of my favorite columnists points out this morning, George W. Bush -- with all his veto powers in tact and a new head on the Defense Secretary body -- still has all the cronies and stalwart friends at his beck and call. Only now they'll be getting paid private salary figures and working out of posh K Street offices to do virtually the same jobs.

Perhaps letting bygones be gone isn't the best thing we could do to pull our country up by its bootstraps. We need to understand that getting the whole truth is what patriotism should be all about.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

They're not like us ...

If you ever want to feel the true weight of your dreadful parenting skills pressing down upon you, spend the day at a pre-school. I promise you will learn a lot about your shortcomings.

Every so often I am called upon to attend lessons with my daughter and her classmates at the Marilla Cuthbert Academy for Unspeakably Charming Children (or MCA-UCC for those of you who insist upon academic abbreviations -- you know, for the bumper stickers).

As a cooperative pre-school, the MCA-UCC relies on parents to take turns in all tasks relating to upkeep, maintenance and the supplying of wholesome snacks. Helping children struggle into painting smocks and elaborate costumes to fulfill their wildest dreams during their child's "Special Day" is just a bonus.

The MCA-UCC is a place where all the children stand in line, take turns and play with wild restraint. When they forget and play with abandon, the teacher sings a reminder that children are to use their "walking feet," or turn on their "listening ears," or sit on their bottoms. It becomes clear how reinforcement and expectation becomes part of any behavioral outcome. No one ever says "No." Instead they say: "We don't throw toys." "We don't eat paste." "We use indoor voices."

Such wonderment must be witnessed first hand.

As a parent whose experience with tantrums has resulted in chocolate for dinner, no hair washing for days and more television than the FCC censors have ever seen, I can tell you teachers of small children are genetically different from the rest of the human race.

Whereas, I have one tiny gladiator to wrestle into a coat, she has 10.

Kids who develop hearing impairments at home as soon as you remind them to wash their hands after using the potty, or wipe their feet at the door are happily obliging the kindly headmistress. Eventually, everyone at school starts using their listening ears and their indoor voices. The accounting alone is enough to make you nominate her to a high-ranking position in the United Nations.

I've been through the Special Day drill twice so far this year, and each time I feel as if I need remedial intervention.

When one kid in my charge dips his hand into the paint and drags it across his paper, she zips over with a paper towel, apparently observing with the eyes in the back of her head, and reminds us "We use brushes," in the same jovial tone.

Oops. My mistake.

"I'm just going to hang this over here," she sings as she relocates artwork I've hung right above the walkway. "Otherwise you're going to get painted. And we wouldn't want that."

Uh. Sorry.

"We use one puzzle at a time," she reminds as I sit with pieces from at least six puzzles strewn between three puzzlers.

Oops. I didn't even think.

Everything I touch seems to take on a life of its own, careens out of control then is dashed to bits.

I sit in awe as the three children I've just spent an unsuccessful 20 minutes trying to costume in elaborate dancewear disappear into the main playroom. Not one -- not even my own Ittybit -- heeds my beseeching to come back and reverse the process. I panic. Snack time is fast approaching and if it takes 20 minutes to untangle them from the plumage there will be trouble.

"Um. ... Miss Cuthbert?" I stammer apologetically. "I can't get the kids to take off their costumes."

With a knowing look, she conjures a string of magic words: "Oh, girls, when I ring that bell you're going to want to be ready for snack. And that means you'll have all the play clothes put away."

And wouldn't you know, before you can say "abracadabra," all three are back in the dressing room, tugging off their costumes and handing me their shoes.

Proof, I have to believe, that teachers have supernatural powers. Hopefully some will rub off on me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Getting our House in order

A not-so-fond farewell ...

Karl, Don ... few of us will be sorry to see you go.

We've been waiting for this day for six long years.

Six. Long. Years.

Georgie, porgie, puddin' pie ...

Can you say WAR CRIMES?

At the very least, can you say IMPEACHMENT?

Some may think we shouldn't waste time; we shouldn't fuel a vendetta like the people of your party did, but I believe you are a criminal and need to be brought to justice. Make no mistake, had you gotten a blow-job from a 22-year-old woman in the oval office, and then lied about it under oath, I wouldn't feel this way. No, what you did, sir, is mislead a nation, plunder our democracy and pad your cronies' pockets while the poor and middle class falters.

If the Democrats decide to let bygones be gone and instead choose to move the nation forward I will applaud them, too. I know there's enough blame in this deplorable war to pass around.

And goodbye Mr. Sweeney. ... A man in my district but not-anywhere-near my heart.

Dubbed 'Congressman Kickass' in 2000, you took it upon yourself to high-tail it down to Florida to see that your man stole himself an election.

Well ... I'd just like to say so long. Farewell. Adeiu. They said it would take dynamite to blast you out of the 20th district. I'm glad it was something more like domestic abuse. You sir, are a disgrace and now that the wife-beater t-shirt fits, let's hope it sticks. May you manage to control your rage and keep yourself out of jail. I sure hope you never try to serve the public again.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It doesn't take much to amuse me ...

This morning I was really itching to get out of the house. I had a purpose: taking a leisurely walk to our local polling place and casting my ballot for the next governor of New York, among other local, state and federal office hopefuls.

It's been a long, strange fall. There's not been a lot of movement on my part nor interest in the effort. Getting out of the house hasn't been a priority, sadly, either.

As evidenced in this diatribe, I'm already suffering from cabin fever of sorts.

So at 7 a.m., precisely six minutes AFTER he had gotten out of the shower and silently commenced performing is back exercises on the bedroom floor, Annabel and I were looming over Jed's outstretched form, bundled head-to-toe in scarves and jackets and mittens, willing him by sheer mind control (and our ominous presence) to get a move on.

It felt good to get out in the morning air. To walk in the winter-coming chill.

Of course the real chill came over me as we ambled down Church Street and noticed the small throng of photographers at gubernatorial candidate John Faso's house.

And out they bound from the house ... flash bulbs a-snappin'.

"Shit-a ... Should have waited another 10 minutes."

As the gaggle of ooglers slows down the famous family, presumably to capture them in all this town's fall grandeur, we sprint ahead, hoping to avoid the crowd. But we can't avoid the hoopla.

Jed takes Annabel in to the voting booth with him. I watch as he shifts his weight from foot to foot. When the curtain opens with the metallic sound of an accordion, she reaches out for me.

We switch off. Jed announces to the crowd that Annabel gets to "vote" a second time.

I can hear the happy murmur of the camera set as they keep snapping away -- displacing elections workers to get their shots of Mr. Faso. They are laughing about the toddler voting twice.

After I've made my selections and let Annabel pull the lever to reactivate the privacy curtain, the metal clang is met with a shock of flashes aimed in our direction.

It seems they'd taken all the pictures they could of the man who would be governor (if not for the man who will win the election) and wanted to waste card space on us and our "double" vote.

I can't stop smiling, despite the blinding light.

It has occurred to me that just with the serendipity of our arrival, we've cancelled out his vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The top three reasons why preschoolers should NOT watch Pinky and the Brain ...

1. Will squint at you and say: "You astound me" in a withering tone.

2. Taking over the world becomes a daily endeavor, and the mayhem always starts in the kitchen.

3. Will look at the dog laying on the dog bed and say: "You miserable coward."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

You know it by rote

Not a single day has passed during the last eight years that I haven't wondered what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life.

Is this normal, this feeling that you are suspended in time despite making or letting, as my case may be, decisions guide your way through the days and months?

That's not to say I regret decisions, save those that hurt others, I just mean it as a point of consideration.

I could probably go back as far as high school and find the same troubled thoughts plaguing every selection. It doesn't mean I'd want to go back in hopes of changing outcomes.

When I was religious, I worried about "God's plans" for me. I worried that if my plans didn't fit with his, there would be trouble -- the proverbial Hell to Pay kind of misfortune. I worried he would smite me (and my plans) to smithereens. Happiness would be withheld until I got onboard the starship God crusade.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't say I was ever a God-fearing sort of person, either. There was always a voice deep down inside that thought much of what I was told by the towering sort was mumbo jumbo.

Like many women my age, I couldn't really put my full support behind a religion that would restrict women to the role of servant to the servants. Why belong to a club that doesn't want you as a member?

Lately, though, I've been feeling that pregnant pause. The stutter-stop that jerks you out of mindless motion that's been dragging you through each minute of each day for longer than you can remember. When every day runs into the next with nary an alteration:

Wake. Rise. Get dressed, fed, down the stairs. Drive. Drop off. Drive. Work. Drive. Pick up plates from the floor. Put them in the dishwasher. Straighten up something. Bath. PJs. Three books. Water. Music. Ghosts. Monsters. Fairy tales. Not tired. Wake up in the middle of the night. Sleep. 6 a.m. ... Wake. Rise. Get dressed, fed, down the stairs. Drive. Drop off. Drive. Work. Drive. Pick up plates from the floor. Put them in the dishwasher. Straighten up something. Bath. PJs. Three books. Water. Music. Ghosts. Monsters. Fairy tales. Not tired. Wake up in the middle of the night. Sleep. 6 a.m. ... Wake. Rise. Get dressed, fed, down the stairs. Drive. Drop off. Drive. Work. Drive. Pick up plates from the floor. Put them in the dishwasher. Straighten up something. Bath. PJs. Three books. Water. Music. Ghosts. Monsters. Fairy tales. Not tired. Wake up in the middle of the night. Sleep. 6 a.m. ...

More and more, though, "writing" has been added to the chain of chores that have blurred reasons for being.

Must. Write. Something. Must. Continue. On. Even if no one reads it. Even if it's not funny. Even if it's got no value. Even if it doesn't mean anything. Even if it just goes off into an abyss.

Sometimes I worry that this IS life. And in life there are no answers. There is no greater purpose for me.

And then I shake the fluff and dust out of my head and return to folding laundry and picking up socks. After all, it's entirely possible that life -- and the best part at that -- is the not knowing but still caring.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Night lights

"Tell me a story about Annabel, mama."

"Which one?"

"The one about the grass and the hole."

Ohhhh. ... That one. The GLASS and the HOLE, huh?"

"Yeah. Yeah. That one. Tell it, Mama. TELL IT."

"Okay. Okay. But you have to lie down and cuddle up with your blanket. ...

"Late one night, just after Annabel closed her eyes and went to sleep, a light pulsed out from a little hole in her bedroom wall.

As her breath deepened, the light became brighter and brighter until finally the Tinkerbell peeped out into the dark room. Now, Annabel was fast asleep so Tinkerbell danced herself out of her little hideaway. Light glittered in every corner of the room, sparkles dancing like dust motes.

"With the room filled with speckled light, Tinkerbell flutters from corner to corner, sliding silly, zaggity jibs. Spiraling raucous to imaginary sonatas. She's entertaining you in your sleep, and watching over you as you dream.

"Your breath catches, you chortle and churn. Her dancing stops and her light disappears under delicate wings. She is ready to zip back into that hole in the woodwork if you awaken. She hangs in the air until you settle again.

"One day, if you're very quiet, while you're sleeping you may catch sight of her, dancing away in the dark of your room."

"But what about the grass, mama? What about the grass?"

"Oh, yes. The glass. ...

"Well as night turns into morning, light makes its way through your window glass and you'll stretch into a new day, Tinkerbell will be sleeping down snug in her hole. She'll sleep through the day while her girl is out and about in world. You may not see her, but I think if you look closely you may find some glitter left behind."


So now it's your turn, dear friends, tell me your story.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Once again, the kid makes a liar outta me

I can't tell you how glad I am to have been proven wrong.

Happy Halloweening to you

As I look back on my many, many years of Halloweening, an ample number of vampire variations come to mind. For some reason, even as a little person -- though not quite as little as Ittybit -- I loved the nightlife, particularly the undead nightlife.

So far, Annabel really doesn't share my infatuation with becoming someone else for a couple hours one day a year.

Last year, Annabel almost participated happily in the Halloween events at Olana, Frederic Church's hilltop home, but then she wasn't really interested in getting dressed in costume or even getting her face painted. I tried to entice her into it by showing her by example but all I got in exchange were funny looks at dinner for my increasingly smudged cat nose and whiskers.

And things just went downhill from there.

This year, I thought maybe it would be good to start early. Do a little leg work to get her interested in dressing up.

Right off the bat it was a flop.

Mommy: "What do you want to be for Halloween?"

Ittybit: "A bear."

Amah: "What are you going to be for Halloween?"

Ittybit: "A fairy."

Daddy: "What do you want to be for Halloween?"

Ittybit: "A pumpkin."

Papa: "What are you going to be for Halloween?"


With a dizzying list, I took ourselves off to Target to see about our options which turned out to be Lion or Chicken.

Now, I liked the chicken costume a lot but I knew it would be a hard sell as a bear, so I opted for the lion outfit.
Of course I tried to TELL her it was a bear and she saw right through it.

"Mommy! That's not a BEAR, that's a LION!"

She put on the furry vest and hood for a total of four minutes, long enough so I could get a blurry shot of her wearing it before she pulled it off and dragged it around by the tail.

When she got dressed for this year's Halloween party, she put on her favorite halter dress over a stars and stripes t-shirt because they were pretty. I brought along the sad lion costume just in case.

Little Bo Peep greeted us at the door, but her sister, The Little Lost Sheep, was wearing a pumpkin t-shirt and jeans.

"She didn't want to be a sheep," their mother explained. "Bo Peep has a tendency of lording over her flock, if you know what I mean.

"What is little miss Ittybit this year?"

"Well she's a Bear-lion-fairy-pumpkin-tiger, but only in my mind. At the moment it appears she's Cyndi Lauper."

Oh yeah, and that gratuitous photo at the top of the page? The one with fake teeth? I'm not showing her that one until she's much, much older. I don't want to jinx my chances for next year.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Almost caught, still red handed

You think you know what you're doing.

You have it all figured out. Nothing left to chance. Only. It's all left to chance.

My plans were simple. Take a nap (me); visit Goodwill, Ittybit needs some long-sleeved shirts and pants that don't show off her ankles (cute as they may be, it's getting cold outside); and the dreaded laundry. Always the laundry.

She isn't napping, which means she's wired. W.I.R.E.D. Dancing around, showing off her new, diaperless bottom to anyone who cares to be a bum looker. I wasn't even thinking as she pirouette around the living room, pouncing on the new (to us) orthopedic dog bed built for two.

It never occurred to me that the woodstove might still be hot. I wasn't even thinking about it. It had been hours since we stoked it up. Last year we were vigilant. We set up barricades, frowned on living room frolic. Stressed how HOT it could get. She stayed away. We considered her an old pro.

But she lost her balance, reached out to steady herself and pressed right up against the stove. I wasn't motionless, for once. For once I was right there, moving toward her. But not fast enough. Her hand pressed against the window in front. I could almost hear the faint sticking sound of her fingertips pulling away from the hot glass. It all happened in less than a second.

She was silent, and then screaming.

I rushed her into the kitchen and put her hand under the running cold water. I still couldn't tell if it was shock or pain. But the crying didn't subside, she couldn't get comfortable and ringing her hand just made it worse. More water. Ice. Eventually, a glass of water she submerged her right hand in as if Madge were in charge of the manicure.

Second degree burns. Three white blisters appeared, one each, on the fingertips of her index, middle and ring fingers.

She cried and sobbed for what seemed like the entire afternoon. Even though she ate three pieces of pizza, handfuls of Cheez-Its and several "Lunch Box Juices," every time she caught sight of her hand the tears came all over again.

I finally convinced her to take some Motrin, and she calmed down. She took a bath and played in the warm water, using both hands to squeeze toys and transport water.

she ate dinner eagerly with both hands. Pork, broccoli and homemade applesauce.

Another "Lunch Box Juice."

Only at bedtime did the hand pain return. I filled a sippy cup with crushed ice (and some water) and told her to hold it and drink. She did, but it was just a ploy. She wanted to talk about how she'd get just as big as me one day, and maybe even as big as "Jed." She likes to remind me that she knows our names, and thinks she's so big for using them.

All day I was Mamamamamamama.

Tonight, at bedtime, I was Sha-waon.

She's feeling better.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Behind Door No. 1

Wordgirl called on the internets to show her the door. Their front door to be more precise. She even proclaimed October 24th, when she sent out the call for portals, "Show Me Your Front Door" Day.

Now I don't know about you fine folks, but my house is NOT my castle. As a 6,500 square-foot converted barn, the place has been bucking for palatial recognition since it was built, but so far hasn't passed majestic muster. Renovations, though at times astounding, have been slow and have meandered through waves of previous inhabitants of many eras and varied talents.

When we moved in, one of the first things we did was replace the decrepit, weather-inviting doors. Since we had little money, we replaced them on the cheap with Home Depot specials. We repaired steps of the porch and put in a small garden with greenery and flowers. The garden has always been temporary. And with the exception of the year we were married, it has always looked like it was planted and tended by chimpanzees.

This year, however, the area surrounding our entrance has been ignored so that a weed of a tree has volunteered where lower forms of vegetation had previously flourished. I never got around to pinching it out when it was small; call it inattention. So it grew. It encroached on our steps, snagged our shirts as we walked inside. It even seemed to mock me in August as it towered over my head. I still neglected to chop it down and dig it out; call it laziness.

And though we've changed a lot about our house -- we've slapdashedly renovated the kitchen, sanded and painted floors, redesigned the layout and configuration of rooms to accomodate a child, and even turned a barn storage space into a huge open space, where we celebrated our wedding reception with dozens upon dozens of friends -- time still marches on and the pristine space (though never quite finished) seem increasingly less pristine.

I find myself apologizing for my house whenever we have guests. And we have guests because I refuse to accept any shame, even though I sometimes feel it. I refuse to worry what the neighbors say because I know that the only thing that really matters is the little girl who yells "Mommy's home!" when I come through that front door. The rest of it is just a few walls, a few windows and a door.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

VA VA VA VA , I'm not listening ...

Ittybit: Where was you, mama?

Mama: It's where WERE you, honey?

Ittybit: I was home! Where was you?

Mama: I went out to meet some friends.

Ittybit: Why?

Mama: Because I wanted to knit with them.

Ittybit: But where was you last night?

Mama: With my friends. ... In Voorheesville. Knitting.

Ittybit: My Lori?

Mama: Not Lori, honey. Voorheesville. It's a place.

Ittybit: Yes, Lorisville! That's my favorite place.


Ittybit: No. You said Lorisville. I know that. LORI'S-VILLE, LORI'S-VILLE,