Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Running Joke (did you hear the one about the mom...?)

I have a little secret.  No, it's not that I'm a millionaire (wouldn't that be awesome? I would totally get a maid).  Nor that I work for the CIA as a spy (...or do I?).


My secret is that I am trying harder, harder than almost ever.  You see, I am excellent at starting and stopping (my email drafts folder would make a professional procrastinator drool).  But I started something a while ago, and it's getting kinda serious.

Hold on to your girdles, girlies.  I've started running.  Not just to the bathroom when I sneeze. And I don't wear pantyhose, 'cuz, ew, so no, no runs there.  About two-ish years ago the fam was sitting around talking about things we'd like to do someday and I said, out loud, that I had been thinking about running a 5K.  Well, Ethan said, "Yeah, like that's gonna happen," or something equally supportive.  Of course, once he said that, I had to do it, right?  The "just-you-wait-and-see" gene runs deep in my family. 

About 5 days later I learned about our little impending bundle of joy.  So, yeah.  Hello, back burner, meet pipe dream. 

Well, fast forward to last December and my post-Christmas blood test, when the lab tech that usually takes my blood pointed out in her it's-okay-to-be-rude-if-you're-from-another-country way that I had gotten nice and chubby for the holidays. Nothin' like a foreigner callin' ya' a fatty to get ya' to kick you into gear.  I cut out carby crap and desserts and exercised with Kathy 5 days a week, and I lost 8 or so pounds in about 2 months.  I realized that if I really put my mind to it, I could lose a lot more before summer; before a family reunion and a gathering to reunite with old friends.  I had plans, baby!

I began talking to my friend, Danielle, who had been losing weight and doing lots of fun runs.  She was so helpful.  Before I knew it, we were exchanging daily emails of support, I was logging all my food, and, most surprising to me, running.

I didn't tell my family at first.  You know, escape clause.  Cause once you say it out loud, ya' gotta do it.  When I finally did tell on myself (with a little help from Francine (hi Francine!) who accidentally spilled the beans), nobody really seemed to care.  Ethan didn't even remember uttering his little Anti-5k slander. Maybe they don't believe me yet. 

Anyway, here I am, about 10 weeks later.  I am running three times a week with Kathy and Danielle.  It's really hard.  I'm using the Couch to 5K app on my phone, and am up to two miles run-walk-running.  I stagger for the first block, and mostly schlep-step for the rest.  We go at night so only really obnoxious dogs see us, and I bark back (yep, Jackie, I bark.  I learned more in college than just really boss fencing moves).  It's  crazy hard, but I'm doing it.

As of last week, I have officially lost (wait for it) pounds and zero ounces!

Now, if you think it would be a good idea to leave a note in the comments section that tells me that muscle weighs more than fat, I may have to hurt you.

So don't.

It's okay though.  'Cuz I am running.  And I am getting a little better each time.  And it's... fun-ish.  I mean I wouldn't pick running over, say, being deloused...okay, maybe I would... but I don't hate it.  Anyhoo, I am doing it.  And getting stronger.  And I may or may not lose any weight, especially while I am still nursing, but I am wrapping my brain around the idea that I can do this because it is good for me to be strong and healthy, at any weight.  I mean, when I help a woman in labor I tell her that the number of her dilation only tells one small part of the story; effacement, station, position, length/strength/frequency of contractions, and other things that can't even be measured are happening in addition to dilation.  Even if that number hasn't changed, there are so many other signs of progress.  My body is and will continue to be changing.  It can't not change.

And a stronger body means less chance of another blood clot. Maybe that's what I'm running from

 I signed up yesterday for a 5K on the 4th of July.  Yikes!  I was really feeling awkward at the thought of running by the light of day (I prefer to run in the cover of darkness; less jiggle-vision), and then I learned that the route for the race follows ALONG THE PARADE ROUTE, just before the big town 4th of July parade!

What have I gone and done?

I have a little over a month to practice, and you know what they never say, but really should: practice makes progress.

(Look who's turning one today!!!). More on that soon!)

Programs I'm using on my phone to keep me motivated:
Couch 2 5k
Map my run
My fitness pal

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Delayed Redemption

If you have been reading here for any length of time, you'll know my list of post topics is a short one; my mothering missteps, my hubby's cooking, blood clots, crazy days with my kids, the occasional nice days with my kids...oh, and guilt posts.  I write a lot of those.  If you thought Catholics and Jews had the monopoly on guilt, you never met a Mormon.  Most Mormon women who embrace the legacy of self flagellation (not flatulation, as in tooting.  Flagellation, as in kicking one's own butt),  will focus their woe-ing on their inability to bake while sewing while playing the piano while modestly nursing under a dropcloth, whilst also listening to the scriptures on CD.  Not long ago Ruth invited us to their Passover Seder.  We stayed to help clean up at the end, but had to get Ethan somewhere and couldn't stay till the last matzo crumb was swept up.  I apologized to Ruth.  "It's the Mormon in you," she laughed.  Ah, she knows me well.

Now, I can't say we have any more guilt than anyone else, but in my case, I've got my mom-guilt ("I should play with my kids more"), mixed with my Mormon-guilt, which here diverges into two strains of guilt; doctrinal ("I should be reading my scriptures more") and cultural ("I should have my genealogy memorized in song form - that I wrote myself - all the way back to Adam").  I have added a few new layers to my own guilt parfait; doula-guilt ("I should offer my services at a discount to deserving mothers!"), writer-guilt ("I should write on my blog 3 times a week and never offend anyone!"), and artist-guilt.  Yep, you heard me.  Art.  Guilt.  Two words that were meant to go together.  

I should have finished the painting shown above a long, long, LONG time ago.
The folks who commissioned this painting are the nicest people.  The image was taken from a photo -the last photo- of their two sons together.  It went through a billion degrees of frustration and revamping.  I quit about 8 times.  I was heard to utter the phrase, "I suck at this!!!!  What ever made me think I could paint?", weekly.  I repainted the entire painting at least 3 times in most areas, up to 10 times in others.  Why?  Because I needed it to be perfect.  It was their son.  Their son who had died in Iraq.  And I couldn't mess it up.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination"?  
Yah.  Well I'm its stepmother.

At one point in the development of the painting, I was invited to these boy's parent's home.  When I came home I told Guy, "This is all wrong!  I know what I need to do now!"  After having been in their home, surrounded by their favorite things, I understood my painter's-block.  Their style is very bright, and cheerful.  Vibrant!  

The painting had not been vibrant.  It was more like an overcast day, washed out and colorless by comparison.  I attacked the painting with my palette.  I turned dull sands and bland skies into vivid fields of color.  I added edges of purple and crisped horizon lines with red.  It started to look like it belonged in their home.

And now it is in their home.  Finally.

After they left with their painting, I felt about five consecutive minutes of utter relief, followed by two full minutes of not being sure what to do with myself, which was immediately trailed by the need to return to the studio.  I have two more overdue commissions to complete.

Gosh golly darn.  That's Mormon for, "Oy vey".

Warrior Son Derek... his nephew, who was born after his uncle had died,
 walked right in and said, "Hey, that's Uncle Derek!"  The best compliment ever.

The Brother who was left behind.
 I feel like I know them both and I have never met them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Another Kind of Mother

Mother's Day.  That guilt ridden, worry filled, tormenting day when all of our worst traits are thrown into our faces by our sharp contrast to the ideal, impossible-to-aspire-to, perfect mother.  Every card extols Her glorious dedication, every sermon lists Her unattainable qualities.    

There should be a card that says, "Hey, you fed the kids two out of three meals, you maintained a clear path through the clutter in the main rooms of your house, and you're wearing a bra today!  
You are the BEST MOTHER EVER!!!!"

There should be overpriced jewelry, with minuscule diamond-like chips in it, that says,
 "You Tried", and  "#2 Mom", 
and "Could've Been Worse".

There should be a song that the little children get up in church to sing (for those of you who know it, throw the following words into that well worn Mother's Day song, Mother, I Love You):

Mother you're crazy
Mother it's true
My greatest fear is to grow up like you

Though I'm not near you
I can still hear you
Bellowing, ranting and scolding us too.

Mother, my shrink says 
I shouldn't call you.

My mom always hated Mother's Day, so I kind of learned that Mother's Day seems to rub into mom's faces all the things they wish they were but feel they aren't.  I have to be honest with you; I don't know many people whose qualities could be sold as a Hallmark card.

These are the people I do know:

I know a mom who was abused by her father, who had been abused by his father.  She didn't continue the cycle.

I know a mom who has recognized the emotional drama that her mother generates, and has learned to distance herself and protect her children from it.

I know a mother who has taken damaged children that the world abandoned to the system, given them a name, a home, and a family of their own.

I know a mama who never got to have babes of her own, but hasn't let it stop her mother heart from nurturing the children of other mothers.

I know a mom who is going to college even as she prepares to send her own child to college.  

I know a mother who is fighting the battle of her life, but her kids would never know it.

I know a mother who gave her child a better life, and gave another woman a chance to be called "mommy".

I know a mother who does it all by herself.  All of it.

I know a dear mother who wraps her heart around every soul she meets, spreading warmth and love.

(Do you see yourself here?  I hope you do)

Happy Mother's Day
to all the imperfect, trying very hard, mistake making but improving, sometimes impatient, moody or whiny, temper-losing,  off-times unorganized, bra-less and utterly irreplaceable Mothers. 


Unlike me, my day was pretty darn close to perfect.
I came home from church, put on roomy pants, grabbed my book, a pillow, and the baby, and headed for the hammock.  I read and then I napped.  No one mowed a lawn next-door, no neighbor played profanity-ridden rap music, no fly buzzed my face (I really hate that).  The chickens were quiet.  The kids didn't even fight or pester me.  It.  Was.  Delicious.

When I woke, it was to the busy-bee voices of my family setting up dinner on the patio.  Guy made awesome homemade Thai food, and not a single kid burped or said "pull my finger" the whole evening.

Later we had yummy Banana Fritters with strawberry puree' and pineapple-coconut ice cream.  I was given a paper crown by Jonah, and a billion little cards and notes and hand prints from The Littles and Middles.  It was so nice, I almost forgot that I am not as awesome as they were pretending I am.  That's okay.  It's nice to be paper-crown wearing queen for a day.  I'll go back to being just-mom tomorrow.

A gift from Guy; little succulent pots he planted for me.

Everybody getting along.

Look at all those people I made!  (Well, I had help)

Gifts for mama.

Back to the grind.  A mother's work is never done!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cheap Thrills

 Around our house it's hand-me-down central. If it doesn't grow on a tree, it sure as heck better show up in a bag on my porch or my kids are officially naked. There are families who have provided years worth of wardrobes to my kids, and I'll never be able to return the favor. Maybe they will let me come weed or dust or something (if you are reading this, and have ever given us your gently-used-kid-coverings, you should definitely take me up on this!).  And in my hand-me-down world, pickiness ain't an option.

My poor kids. If I ever buy them anything, its the practical, glitter-free, no-blinky-light kind, and not the run-out-and-show-your-friend, super cool stuff. Plus, I have a really bad attitude when it comes to Princess-this and Pirate-that.  If it is named after a cartoon, amusement-park or a short Italian video game star, forget it.

Well, Tessa and Ellie needed shoes, and as shoes rarely survive one childhood to make it into a second one, we went shoppin'.  Jonah-boy wanted to come.  I don't think he'd ever been shoe shopping before.  He was amazed as the girls took shoes that weren't theirs off the shelves and put them right on their feet.  And they weren't even getting into trouble for it!

He tested the waters with a pair of Spider-man shoes out of the Tessa-sized rack.  They slipped right on, but he was sad that the store seemed to only have jumbo sized shoes.  We introduced him to a rack in his own size, and his bliss was complete.  "I walk in these, Mama?" he would say, trying on Batman, then Captain America, and finally Jake the Pirate.  As much as I hate character merchandise, I was enjoying watching him being in the moment, the way a little kid can.  Besides, he didn't actually want them, he just wanted to walk in them, right?  Yeah, riiiiight.

Well, once he got them on, he fell in love.  "We take deez home, mama?" he asked.  They were on double clearance, and seeing as he was wearing slippers when we walked into the store, it seemed reasonable to get them, cartoon pirate and all.

He wanted to wear them out of the store.  He walked through the parking lot looking down at the blinking lights.  It reminded me of a little girl in the mid-seventies who walked face first into the jungle-gym on the playground while looking at the little green turtles on the toes of her hush-puppies.  

It's nice to be reminded of how cool it was to be little.  Not a bad deal for 9 bucks.

Jonah negotiating with Daddy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sneaky Snaps

I know it's naughty.
I know I shouldn't have,
but I couldn't resist.

Shame on me for taking pictures at church.  
May I be cast into a pit with car-texters and check-stand-cell-phone-talkers.  

But I ask you, honestly, how could this... a sin? The photo, of course, not the kids.  Come on, keep up, people!
 (and yes, that is my foot.  It appears in most of my photos nowadays, sort of a selfie. 
 Just wait, soon all the kids will be doing it).  If it will lessen your wrath, please know it was before the opening prayer.  

After church a sister grabbed me by my arm and told me how amazing Adam is.  He had Natty-girl in one arm, and was putting a chair away with the other, as it is his job to stack the chairs after the meeting.  She said she just loves watching him help with The Littles, and how great it is that he still makes sure to serve others.  "What a good example," she said.  I have to agree.

It is moments like those when the week of nagging him to do his chores, and the worries of "am I doing enough to raise this young man into a Good Man?" melt away.

I think he's just fine.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

In Hidden Places

The Library hosted a free class this afternoon.  It was about Edible Gardening.  I learned so much, but the lesson that most distilled in me was that I DON'T KNOW CRAP ABOUT GARDENING.

I want to garden.  I come from a childhood spent making fish-emulsion tea to thrill the lucky roots of asparagus ferns.  I aerated compost with a bellows before I was knee high to a rototiller.  I was raised to respect earthworms, to transport ladybugs by hand to waiting rose buds, and to honor honeybees.  It is so deep within my genes to garden that if you looked in a microscope at a cross section of my DNA, you'd see a well tilled and furrowed double helix.

But I stink at gardening.  
I do.  I was not blessed with my father's green thumbs.  

I grow stupendously healthy weed beds, and have had a thriving compost pile inhabited by both bumble-bees and baby mice, at the same time.  In this house, I am weighed down by the sins of a past generation who believed that 8 cubic tons of small river rock would be a fabulous idea.  If I had a time machine I would travel back to 1972 and smack those bozos upside the head with my garden-gloved hand.  Pop.  

So, quite like a little ant, I shuffle the rocks.  I move piles of depleted soil from one area to another.  I weed.  I plant.  I water and hope.  I try.  I get an occasional tomato out of the deal, but in some years I have even failed at growing zucchini.  Who does that?!  

Today after my class, I set out to the back yard with fresh resolve to look over the terrain and begin anew.  I moved more rocks, dug and raked and weeded.  I tried.  Again.  And I will try, and keep trying, because I want to be a gardener one day.

I went to the gardening bench in the play room where baskets of seeds wait well beyond their seasons for planting.  They wait until 'someday', hopefully before they are unusable, when I will get them into the ground.  And this afternoon, amid the seeds I found a gift, and a new lesson.  

Under my bench was a flowerpot that I had placed there at least a year ago, maybe two.  It had been covered with old gloves and forgotten.  As I lifted off the gloves I was so surprised to see that the pot was full of little brown bulbs, and in their dark, cool hiding place, they had started to grow.  Green stems reached hopefully upward.  They must have thought (because all bulbs think, you know) that they were under the ground, just pushing up to find the sun.  It was lucky I found them so that I could hurry and get them into the ground before they dried out.  But I can't pretend I have done them any favor in finding them.  

I saw in them a drive to grow and develop that was so strong, that it didn't matter they were not in the ideal place to do so.  Somehow, there in the dark, that little spark of life decided that this was it's time.  Time to grow.


I truly believe that when we desire to grow, we do, if only in unseen ways.  Maybe not in the places we even thought we would or could.  In our hidden places, we find green, new growth.  Tender shoots, that indeed are vulnerable and fragile, break through, even if we don't know it's happening.

I planted them, the bulbs.
  They deserved it after toiling in the dark and dry.  Let's hope they didn't notice that my thumbs aren't all that green.