Friday, March 30, 2007

Easily replaced

Jed has been travelling since Saturday, staying in seedy hotels without hot water let alone a working Internet connection, eating at greasy-spoon dives without help from antacids and clocking obscene hours behind the wheel. AND NOW ... Thanks to a massive thunderstorm Tuesday that rocked the house for several hours, he will be coming home sometime this weekend to an unpleasant surprise:

"Mommy, when daddy comes home, he can sleep over there," she says, pointing to the dog bed in the corner of the bedroom. "You and I will sleep here."

So much for King sized.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why I can't ride the merry-go-round ...

somewhat educated grafitti, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Silly mommy! You can't go ON it, you have to go OFFice!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm Hating It ...

I hate McDonalds.

With the fire of a thousands suns does this hatred burn in my soul. Hate, I tell you. H-A-T-E.

I didn't have such a remarkable odium for the place until Ittybit was born and the lure of easy pancake breakfasts on the run attracted me like a mackerel to a live anchovy.

Because, you see, my failure as a mother is directly and concretely measured by the number of times we visit "Old MacDonald" each week instead of firing up the stove.

This week I'm 0 for 3.

However, from now until April 19th, it's not laziness and an inability to subvert the "cheese and whine" that's steering my car to the formidable Golden Arches – it's a fear of the warning: "while supplies last."

You see the Alexander Doll Company, makers of Madame Alexander dolls, has again teamed up with the fast food giant. This year the Happy Meal giveaway is one of eight, 4 ½ inch Wizard of Oz-themed dolls.

While I can resist the remarkably fragrant hotcakes and sausage biscuit sandwiches, and can forgo Big Macs and Chicken Nuggets completely, I can't pass up the toys. For decades I have had an addiction to the cutesy things all wrapped in plastic that Mickey D's been putting in its Happy Meals.

I'm so hooked, in fact, that the one thing I regret about my New Zealand honeymoon was passing up an opportunity to visit a makeshift Happy Meal toy museum in the little drinkwater town of Foxton, which boasted a million exhibits in its collection.

Until this latest promotion, though, I was able to resist temptation. The weird aliens and My Little Ponies didn't reach out and grab me with their wily plastic charms. I successfully adhered to a self-imposed rule of "only on days when the pancake batter runs out," usually a planned occurrence once a week.

But this Madame Alexander thing -- this nostalgic trip back to girlhood, a behind-the-glass plaything, something to admired more than played with if you were lucky enough to own one -– is too seductive. I NEED to collect all eight.

And that's what they want me to do. They want me to indulge my inner child while I indulge her growing one. They want to pamper the little girl hiding in the pockets of my maternity wear who, as a youngster, coveted the super expensive baby dolls that's only purpose is to decorate beds. These dolls, mothers would explain, are not for touching. They are not for dragging around by the hair. They are special.

My childhood Madame Alexander Doll – "Beth" from the Little Women series – is still in its original box in my parents' bedroom closet. It was stored there throughout my formative years, taken down once in a while and shown to me so I could ‘ooh and ah’ at its beauty. But it was clear, the doll was not to be molested in any way.

It was similar to my dealings with the Lionel train set in my father's collection, which came out each Christmas and circled the tree. The only difference was we got to play with the train eventually once my dad had given us the refresher course on engineering, which usually lasted at least a week and included various tests in the art of breaking and reversing.

Now it was my turn.

When I opened the bag to dispense the breakfast fare and complementary toy and saw the doll staring up at me I froze. It was Dorothy. She even had Ruby Slippers. I threw the napkins over the package and hauled out the hotcakes before she had time to inquire after the prize.

She was so famished she forgot all about the toy, and my greedy self decided not to remind her. "That doll is special," I thought with the squinty eyes of calculation.

Eventually she remembered the loot. Grudgingly, I hauled Dorothy out of the package and handed it over. She named her new treasure "Pollycina, her crunchy doll," and immediately "combed" her hair into a do remarkably similar to an ’80s-era Flock of Seagulls catastrophy.

I watched in horror but could say nothing. I knew what I had to do. ... As soon as I dropped her off at the sitter's house I had a rendez-vous with a Drive-Thru.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Day (don't) care ...

favorite colors, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Maybe I just didn't get enough sleep last night. Or maybe I'm feeling the effects of four days without Jed and the promise of at least four more, but whatever I'm feeling it's surely not a favorable color.

Since finding out we're losing our PERFECT day care situation now that our family is expanding, I've been scouring the area for placements.

It feels as if I've gotten the vibe from lots of people I discuss it with that there's not a lot of empathy out there for people like me; people who chose to work rather than sacrifice the false hope of stability for the joys of raising their children in a loving and homey environment.

Day care, you see, isn't rocket science. It's a simple fact of life that many, many, many families deal with on a daily basis. You pay a premium that's too high for your monthy budget, perhaps, but still not high enough for a living wage.

As I expected, infant placements are like gold, and family day care situations have wait lists miles long or are too out of the way for timely pickups.

The three facilities I've toured thus far seem to encompass the entire gamut institutional day care has to offer.

First, there was McEducation: A meandering cement block academy for tots as young as weeks old, with brightly painted walls and whose staff wear the cheery uniform of corporate governance. Everything in it's place, everything with a plan ... even a guru of academic philosophy to follow.

Since it was the first place we looked at, and so different from what I am used to, I disintegrated into a puddle of jiggling guilt in the parking lot after keeping my chin up during the visit. For some reason I just felt the place, despite kids appearing to have a wonderful time, was a joy and life suck with its cookie-cutter appearance and its everybody is a "smart body" mantra.

The next place, Shab-o-Rama, was more my cup of tea. Seriously. It was an old church education building, seemingly disorganized and in need of minor repairs. The staff was dressed comfortably in their own clothes and seemed to smile naturally. At 9:30 a.m. the kids were together reading in some rooms, eating a snack separately or playing in other rooms of the day care. It was still a "day care" but just felt laid back and REAL.

But, of course, fate would dictate that Shab-o Rama doesn't take infants until they're 18 months, at which point Ittybit will be ready for Kindergarten. Jed wisely counseled that two different day care facilities might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back ... me being the camel.

And today, with visions of being able to visit my munchkins at lunchtime, I traveled a few dozen blocks away from work and ended up in Afganistan, or at least its dank, cavernous small city equivalent. It went beyond shabby into wartorn. The place smelled of mildew and was pitch black at naptime. Mops laying in sinks in the "art" room seemed to show how nothing, not even cleaning, was completed in the place. In the nursery, babies in cribs lined the walls -- sleeping or crying -- as a heavily-eyelined worker huddled on the floor under a hot pink coat, seemingly trying to take a snooze herself.

So back to square one, or should I say back to pseudo-school.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Can't argue with logic

Picture the scene if you will: County Route 83, a carcass of a rabbit lying on the road in front of us, a crow (that had been feasting) lifts into the sky as we pass by.

ITTYBIT: Mommy, what was THAT?!

MOMMY: It was a crow.

ITTYBIT: I don't like crows.

MOMMY: What's not to like about crows?

ITTYBIT: They scare away the chickadee-dee-dees. And I don't like that.

MOMMY: Well, I suppose that could be a problem.

ITTYBIT: Mom? There's a crow in Little Badger, right?

MOMMY: Yes, there is. And he's a nice crow. Remember, he brought the shiny stone for Badger's just-about birthday. I'm sure he doesn't scare chickadees.

ITTYBIT: But there aren't any chickadee-dee-dees in that book ...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Another cause for concern

Do you remember when I said this about the last days of our beloved Maggie?

Well, had you been living in our house at the time or speaking with me in person, I would have told you "it was the strangest thing" the way she just stopped eating.

I would have told you that while she wouldn't touch her food bowls all of a sudden, she would still drool over table food and gobble down pancakes or homemade cookies or even the hard dog biscuits we'd been refraining from giving her because the tumor in her lung was pressing on her esophagus.

Well, guess what she'd been eating since August?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Blink and you miss it

A friend of mine recently relayed a story about how, at 27 weeks gestation with her second child, she'd attended her first prenatal yoga class and nearly cried at the thought of how this time around she hadn't been taking care of herself.

How is it possible, she wondered, that it had taken so long to check in with herself and connect with the newbie? Just one hour a week, that's all she needed.

That's what it's been like for me this whole winter. The weeks just seem to fly by, bringing with them one niggling sickness after another. From one head cold to a stomach ailment and right back to nasty head cold, I've been coping since November with this cyclical suffering.

If it weren't for monthly obstetrics appointments I'm sure I'd forget I was pregnant at all. I can't help but feel sad that I haven't been as present with Thing 2 as I was with Ittybit. I haven't enjoyed it as well.

If I say that aloud I instantly feel the cold gazes of women and the incredulous looks from their menfolk. To many of them enjoying pregnancy is a contradiction in terms.

But I readily admit that I am one of those oddballs who LOVES being pregnant.

For the most part, I feel fine if not better than I normally do during my regular, single-serve existence.

Even the not-so-nice parts -- the heartburn, nosebleeds and itchy skin -- are merely momentary inconveniences easily explained and easily set aside. I know it's the pregnancy that causes it, and as such I can let it go. No worries.

With Ittybit I attended my regular, weekly yoga class religiously; I went to the gym after work three days a week and walked my legs tired on the treadmill; I took time most every morning to follow Shiva Rea's lead on a prenatal exercise tape I vowed would become a staple in my life, even after the pregnancy was over, because I enjoyed its flow.

But my life is markedly different this time around. I come straight home from work, feeling the weight of guilt for having spent so much time away. Every weekend is set aside for "Mommy" time.

"Me" time is what I steal late at night and early in the morning, and cheat my husband out of whenever I get the chance. Me time is for writing about HER, and processing photographs of HER life, and checking in with other moms to reassure myself that I'm at least getting a quarter of it right.

That's the ME I've become. A mother. And not even an efficient one at that. Every morning I pat myself on the back for being able to get out of the house with a kid who's only partially dressed and fed a mere 20 minutes past the time I'd really wanted to leave.

What pains me, though, isn't the "ME" time I'm missing. It's the "HE" time.

I've been making due by keeping score during the morning and evening kickfest game that the inside of my belly has become. I lift my shirt and look down in amusement as one quadrant of my blue-veined abdomen jumps and squirms.

I may not feel as if I'm in this game, but at least I'm cheering it on.

... That's what I tell myself, anyway.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Truth and fiction

kill bill, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Annabel,

There are days when I just don't know who you are. Always lovely and amazing, you are also forever changing. Evolving. Becoming someone with distinct ideas all your own.

More self possessed, you are able to entertain yourself for long periods of time. Creating your beloved projects or making up imaginary worlds peopled with a growing community of bedroom toys, you seem to have cultivated a secret life complete with anthems; silly songs that combine familiar tunes with made up stories.

Often when I try to sing along, you sigh a long sigh and shush me: "This is MY song, Mommy. I was singing it." Your eyes tell me you're not entirely serious, but your hand will venture over my lips if I persist. "SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Last night you pressed tickly kisses onto my belly, telling the baby inside (through my navel) that you loved him. Your eyes glittered as you patted a little more enthusiastically than necessary, telling me you were hitting ... er, patting his little head because he was sooooo cute.

Much of what we talk about sounds like this:

"When my baby comes, I am going to be a big sister and he is going to have teeth," you tell me assuredly. "He can share my snacks. He's going to like ice cream. I'll show him how to eat it. Mom? Do you think he'll like blueberries? I dreamed about dragons last night, flying in my room. They were nice though. They were looking for butterflies. We should call my brother D.W. I think that would be a good idea. He's going to be a girl, though."

It seems all I ever do lately is try to parse the real from the imagined. And it saddens me, really. I am reminded of all the "magic moments" of my childhood that never took place; all the things that my mother later told me never really happened. At least not the way I remembered, anyway.

But I am not constantly at your side as you maneuver through your days. For nine hours or more, five days a week, you are with other people. Until recently, and still on occasion, you'll ignore my attempts to get you to talk about your adventures at preschool or at Lori's house.

I hated myself for indulging your penchant for Eddie Haskellism by asking you to tell me who misbehaved in school just to get a reply that seems newsy. I know you have a thing for being on your best behavior, especially when someone else is acting up.

"Cole was eating the shovel rice, and Marcia said 'we don't eat shovel rice, only cooked rice. Please don't eat my shovel rice'. And then Madeline didn't sit on her bottom. I sat on my bottom though."

Lately, and with equal amounts of enthusiasm, you tell me that you had peas for snack or that the frog prince ate the fish you had caught in the bead bin or that Kaydn broke her leg and can't walk unless she scoots around like a crab. Lori fills me in on the "real" stories, with considerable eye-rolling or laughter to punctuate the explainations.

Of course, while I'm taking everything you say and examining it with the force of a 10X magnifying glass, trying to find the key that will translate fantasy into reality, something remarkable will happen.

It was your special day at school (which means it's my day to learn about all the places I, as an assistant to the seasoned teachers, should not stand, hang paintings or allow children to play: "Oh, we hang paintings to dry on this rack over here, not that rack." OR "We don't use our fingers to paint, only the brushes."

As I'm juggling car seat snaps and preschool snacks, preparing for the carnage I will create with my uninitiated presence, you crane your neck past the heap of winter clothes I'm trying to bring with us in one trip ... "Is that Kaydn? I think that's Kaydn."

And sure enough, Kaydn's mom lifts her from the car parked behind ours. The first thing I notice is the writing on her cast.

Now I suppose I'll have to go looking for a fish eating frog prince, too, as I wonder why I ever doubted you.



Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For our next trick ...

For those of you (including myself) who needed proof that a 225-pound man can fit into a toddler bed with a 26-pound kiddo, albeit not as comfortably as the entire family can fit into the KING sized bed two rooms away, but that's beside the point.

Although it's sweet an all, I have to admit to being just a tiny bit jealous of that smile she can't hide as they pretend to snooze for the camera. Also a little miffed that the K-Mart bed, rated for a child 50 pounds or less, held up without complaint during this particular exercise in silliness.

Go figure: I'm mad that something is actually worth the $50 I paid for it.

There I was, feeling all special (and petite) as I've been fitting my pregnant body into the tiny bed along with the veritable library of books and toys and other possessions the little miss has to have with her as she drifts off to the Land of Nodd. I squirm only a little while I read "Nate the Great," or "If I Ran the Circus," and I've sometimes even fallen asleep as I wait for sleep to catch up with her.

And all along it turns out the Incredible Hulk can sleep there, too. ...

Hmmmm I wonder if the doll's bed will hold me?

Yeah, on second thought ... better not.

Monday, March 19, 2007

We have Chuck envy around here

chuck wannabe, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

But Maddy won't stand for the things dooce's dog does.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Real moms make mistakes

night and day, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

They lose their tempers

They stand their ground when they should let it slide

They give up the fight too soon

They zig when they should zag

Real moms learn from their blunders

And they slip up again anyway

Kristen's Real Moms Meme brought to me by Whirlwind.

... And now, over to you KimmyK, Supa and Stefanierj.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A little night light

sweetie pie, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

3 a.m.: A little peep awakened me. Annabel, smelling fresh from her bath only a few hours earlier, was standing at my bedside, wide awake but silent.

She raised her arms. I lifted her and she slid effortlessly under the covers beside me.

"Oh, mama. I forgot my water. I'll be right back," she said as she wiggled away, slipping off the bed and back into the darkness. I heard her feet pound confidently through the hallway.

Only a few weeks ago she would have insisted I get out of bed and accompany her on the quest because she was "too afraid."

I didn't ask what brought her in; all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. She returned with her cup and climbed back into bed, settling easily into a comfortable position and became still.

In the morning I asked her why she had gotten out of bed in the middle of the night.

"All the dreams are in this bed. My bed doesn't have any dreams."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The big 5 (for posterity)

Gingajoy and Her Bad Mother are embarking on a more academic look at how blogging is affecting women and culture, and it's something that interests me immensely. As a person who is about as far from academic as humanly possible, and as someone whose wardrobe (since my mom stopped dressing me anyway) will NEVER be sufficient to bump her into even the smallest of small professional circles, I am nevertheless interested in how the savory stew of life, influence and understanding is concocted.

So, for what it's worth here are my answers to the five questions posed by these thoughtful women:

1. Who are we?
In the most clinical of explanations, I am a small-town journalist who works as a copy editor at a small city daily. I identify as a writer, photographer and a mother. I am white and middleclass. I'm not sure anyone of privilege would call me privileged, but for the most part I feel financially stable if not secure, and able to afford small luxuries.

In more artful terms, I feel as if I'm still the kid I was in elementary school: shy and inarticulate, coming to terms with everything around me as if it was critical for the future. I never intended on being a wife or a mother. I never dreamed of being famous or even notable. I have difficulty making choices but not long-term decisions. I wanted to collect every thought in case I ever needed it again. It didn't matter if it had significance for anyone else. In many ways, I was and still am a "thought" packrat.

2. Who are we writing to? Who is our audience?
When I started this blog, and previously a Web site dedicated to the birth and first year of Ittybit (and even prior to that a Web site dedicated to the details of our wedding) I was writing for myself and for any members of the family who wished to check in. Although these "life" transitions were important to me, and I needed to work them out in words, I didn't expect others to actually want to be a part of my internal monologue. I figured if I gave out the Web address and people visited, they'd want read and wouldn't just be patiently (and politely) listening to me drone on and on.

Answering who I am, of course, is a difficult proposition. Who am I? Isn't that what we are all trying to find out? Isn't that why we jot things down on the blank pages of little flowered books in a practiced script from the time we first learn to scribble?

3. Why are we writing? What is our purpose?

I think part of why I write in this blog, as well as another, is to leave a record of who I was. Perhaps I won't be able to define myself, but I hope to leave something behind for my children and their children to get to know me. So often we lament not having asked questions, not having paid attention, when we had the opportunity. And yet, even now, even at an advanced age, I'm not sure I'd be any better at getting to know my grandparents than I was when I was small. As soon as I had a child my mortality came at me with a force I didn't expect. What if something unforseen and terrible happend to me. Would she ever know me?

4. What is the context for our writing? What are we saying? What is our message?
The context of my writing is to capture in words (and photographs) a snapshot of life as I see it. Thoughts, feelings, ideas. Mostly it centers on the life change that is motherhood, but it also takes on ideas from media and society that make me stop and think and put each into my own perspective. And it changes. I allow myself to grow on these pages, to entertain, to inform and to wonder, but ultimately it is about my life, my children and my family. It is my auxiliary memory.

5. How does the medium of blogging affect all this?
The public nature of blogging -- the media goal of getting readership and engaging in dialog -- often makes writing a constant learning process and a challenge. As someone who writes for a readership, there is a constant checking and re-checking of goals. Do I want to be a columnist or a diarist? Am I out there for recognition or for exploration?

Simply speaking, though, the medium -- a computer keyboard, storage space out in the ethosphere, and one address that ties it all together -- makes it possible for me continue gathering these observations faithfully. As someone who's never liked their handwriting, never felt comfortable with the inked out marks of revision, and who is vaguely nauseated by the sight of a blank page, the miracle of the backspace has made me a more fluid thinker and more confident scribe.

Of course even this concerns me in a conflicting way, not so much as a matter of privacy but rather a matter of permanance. Yes, all these thoughts are out in the world and open to anyone, but they are also on servers that could feasibly crash and be lost to me, the author. And let's face it, as someone who still doesn't totally understand how the fax machine works, I have no problem envisioning all this mind melt disappearing into the void. Talk about impermanent permanence.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Selective memory

Sometimes when I'm feeling low and not too productive, I click through the archives to see what was going on a year ago today. Turns out this time last year, in the flickrsphere anyway, we were also in Concord for Great Grandfather's birthday. His 99th.

I think about "family" a lot more than I used to. It shouldn't be surprising seeing as how time seems to march at break-neck speed once you decide to spawn. All of a sudden heartache and mortality loom large on an otherwise unincumbered psyche.

Not that I wasn't a fatalist BEFORE deciding motherhood might actually be a good idea, just that when time is marked by a child's metamorphosis time marks you, too.

Yet, as I count on my fingers the three months left until Thing 2 will be hatched into this world, it all seems so incongruous. So incomprehensible. How is it possible that time moves with the speed of both molasses and lightning?

Lately, we've been "shopping" daycare facilities, and it's been nothing short of culture shock (for me). Giant, multi-colored complexes in professional parks. Cinderblock walls, locked doors and intercom security. Everything is colored with learning speak: "The we-prepare-your-kids to-be-the-brightest they-can-be" slogan marketed to modern parents.

Instead of "free play" kids engage in excercising their "gross motor skills."
These great bastions of early childhood education build "problem-solving" and "critical thinking skills." Instead of story time they delve headlong into literacy achievement.

The critic in me wants to smack myself over the head and say this is why Mommy's supposed to stay home: so that Junior can learn about family before he has to learn his ABCs. So he can get hugs and kisses instead of lessons and progress reports. Yet the phobic in me knows that without my stable income, we are only one out-of-commission truck or lost client closer to destitute. And worse, we are one nervous breakdown away from total chaos. And in the end, nothing really changes.

No matter what they call it this week -- story time, literacy readiness or whatever catchphrase sounds like it will net the most cash from stricken parents -- in the end it's still about sitting around on a carpet somewhere reading "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish."

It's just that it's so easy to pine for a simpler time; a time when health care wasn't a three-ringed circus, groceries for the month didn't cost a week's pay and heating a home didn't include budget plans.

And yet, when you really look into it, when you are reminded of the kitchens and cafeterias our grandmothers worked in or the assembly lines, it's entirely possible the golden age had its tarnish, too.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A century later ...

family, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

This is the bunch of us -- artists, administrators, academics, actors, bankers, barristers, brewers, entrepreneurs, computer geeks, dancers, professionals, parents, ponderers and poets.

All of this from a Bell Labs inventor, who was honored Saturday for turning 100, and a school teacher, whom he married 72 years ago.

Although the event -- a party with dozens of family members from across the country -- offered a glimpse into his life, and a newspaper article in the Concord Journal offered more fascinating facts, it was clear that Great Grandfather's life that was nothing short of charmed:
"After graduating from Kansas State University, (Ralph) Miller went to work of Bell Telephone Laboratories. Just before the beginning of WWII, Miller's company was called upon to tighten up security withing in the overseas communication systems.

By extending the bandwith and creating secure connections, Miller was part of the revolution of high-speed digital transmission. Much of Miller's work for the Bell Telephone Laboratories was kept in secret governmental files until the 1970s.

In the end Miller invented five of the the 30 patents held in secrecy by the United States' government.

Relatives and friends offered even more insight into the man who, with his wife, Peggy, raised three children in the New Jersey suburbs. They spoke not only about his professional achievements but also about the personal inventiveness and generosity that has made him such a beloved member of the community and endeared him to generations.

All and all, an inspirational life. And something else that didn't occur to me until after we'd gathered our families and headed back to the places we were staying: All of a sudden the "generation gap" that seems insurmountable evaporated. After the littlest children were tucked into bed, the grandchildren gathered around the livingroom for nightcaps and late-night snacks. We shared experiences, we listened to each other's thoughts and lives; and though only part of what was said that night directly related to Ralph and Peggy, it all seemed connected. It all became evident where these people came from and where there were going. And for an evening, all of life's little mysteries made perfect sense.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

All the signs were there ...

Lately I've been thinking the universe is thumbing its nose at me. Crazy, right? Maybe it's just the stress of everyday life, or the reality that I've just gone from one needling virus to another since Thanksgiving. Maybe I'm just tired of thinking. Like the character Henry Chinaski in the movie "Barfly" said: "Sometimes I just get tired of thinking of all the things that I don't wanna do. All the things that I don't wanna be. Places I don't wanna go, like India, like getting my teeth cleaned. Save the whale, all that, I don't understand that."

Yet somehow -- as I wallow in self pity -- we've managed to raise a sensitive child, who seems to know how to take care of us when we are feeling low.

Sunday was a hard day for all of us; I was sore all over, and thinking that perhaps the stress of Maggie's demise and some other tasks I'd managed to get done during the day had taken their toll on me. I was tired. Still I managed to rouse myself from an impromptu nap in time to vacate the premises (as Jed wanted to be alone with Maggie) taking Annabel away with me.

I really had no clue where to go before I left. What to do with a hour on a blustery day. But then Annabel stole the last piece of bacon Jed had made to help Maggie choke down her pills.

There was a fight. There were tears and hurt feelings.

She wanted the last piece; he wanted it for Maggie. She didn't understand.

At least I knew what to do: We went to the diner to get bacon.

She ate five of the six pieces on her plate, saving the last one for daddy.

When we got home Jed was in the shower and she was eager to give him the bacon. I wanted to know how it went and started crying. How did it go? Where did it happen? How did he wrap her?

Something about it all was just overwhelming. Yet Annabel stood there with the bacon, looking concerned for me. "I'm not sad, Mommy. Maggie's OK now."

At 4 a.m. that morning I woke up and had to vomit. It was official, the achyness and dreadful tired wasn't from overdoing anything. It was a bug that people tell me is going around. And so, dear Internets, I've been wallowing on the couch these last two days and wishing I felt better. Wishing winter were at an end and the end of sick were within reach.

It's been really helpful that Ittybit knows just the right thing to say.

"Mama, I hoped you were feeling better. I hoped you were feeling really better."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Goodnight, baby dog ...

At 5 p.m. this evening a friend and veterinarian made a house call, and we said goodbye to our sweet dog Maggie for the last time. She was 13 years old.

She was our first baby.

She was not in pain.

She stopped eating almost completely two days ago but she had not gotten lethargic.

It was time.

Last night she spent a lot of time standing in the snow in the backyard just staring off into the distance. She did not sleep where she usually does, at Annabel's bedside, but in the hallway between the kitchen and the "great outdoors." I went to check on her at 4 a.m. and found her in the yard again looking off into the distance.

I had a dream a few days ago that we'd taken her to the vet, telling her the vet would make her better but knowing it was impossible. Her eyes were almost human; relieved and willing it to be true. It broke my heart.

We were never going to be ready to let her go or say goodbye. But we knew it would be best to do it before discomfort or pain took hold.

It was such a wonderful thing, for us, that her last moment on this Earth would be at home and not in a clinic that she had tolerated dutifully but a place that always made her shiver fearfully. This friend traveled more than an hour to do that for us when our vet would not, and we are indebted to him.

He adminstered the last treatment downstairs in front of the woodstove with Maddy laying next to her. She went peacefully as if she just fell asleep. Jed wrapped her in a warm blanket and buried her in the backyard under the honeysuckle.

She will now be a part of this place just as she was once a part of us.

You are a good dog, Maggie. We love you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Dear big box hardware store with the orange logo ...

You know who you are. You rhyme with "Loam Cheapo."

We've got this kid, and she's three. And she's really cute if I do say so myself. Some of your employees say so, too, when she visits your enormous store with her dad and they shop for tools and building supplies.

I know that YOU are not a parent, and you are not responsible for any behavior-related rewards a parent of such a child -- who was being EXCEEDINGLY charming just sitting in the shopping cart, singing to herself and talking with other shoppers, as her dad filled it up with all kinds of widgets and gizmos that a kid her age isn't allowed to touch. You know, in order to prevent electric shock. In other words: NOT TOYS -- might wish to bestow.

And those balloons ... with the festive spring colors you had littered about the store sure looked good to a kid like that. In fact, the dad asked one of your orange-vested mules if it would be alright to take one of the resplendent orbs.


"Well, can I buy one."

"They're not for sale. NO."


When someone spends $600 in electrical supplies at your cavernous warehouse, it seems a gratis balloon would be nothing short of beneficient customer service.

So for the cost of a balloon and two teary eyes, we'd like you to know that we'll be spending our big-box home improvement money at Lowes. It will be worth the trip.