Saturday, March 31, 2007

Don't touch the wood

Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean the banister. Because I stained it today.

Yeah, we've lived in our house almost two years, but there are a few projects that never got finished (and by finished I mean "started"). After the trim carpenters did their magic, I decided that I wanted to keep the banister and associated woodwork natural instead of painted. Since that wasn't in the painter's bid, I said I'd just do it myself after we moved in. And now I've made good on that.

What's funny is that I wouldn't have even thought of doing that if I hadn't massively f***ed up when attempting to hang some wall shelves this morning. In a fit of genius I figured I didn't need a stud finder; I'd just drill the pilot holes and put in the anchors and it would all be great. Do I even have to admit how many extra holes I drilled because I ran into something metal? Let's just say that it was more than two.

Which warranted a trip to the big box retailer that sells spackle and stud finders and paintbrushes and hey, I could get some stain and take care of the stairs but that means I also need sandpaper and tack cloth and another paintbrush and I really want a different garbage can for the kitchen and the weed eater is missing a bolt and yeah. That was a bit more expensive than I had originally planned, but hey! The shelves are up, the holes are patched, and the banister is stained. So don't touch it, because it's not dry.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Another meme! It's deceptively easy: name your five favorite blogs (ostensibly those written by people other than yourself) and say why.

But have you seen my blogroll? Because if there were only five listed, that would be swell. But it's not swell. Not at all.

I suppose I have to list Dad Gone Mad. Because his was the first blog I ever read. (So, in a way, I lost my virginity to Danny. Whoa. That's heavy.) Danny is funny funny funny funny in an adolescent boy kind of way (my favorite!) but posts like this also show that he was born to be a dad. It's nice to hear his side of the story, but I'll admit that the comments by (his) "Hot Wife" are pretty darn entertaining as well. When "Wondersis" joins in the comment party? All bets are off.

Having once lived in Michigan, it's natural for me to also read Suburban Bliss and Sweet Juniper. Melissa, from Suburban Bliss, went to a high school just a mile from mine, and we probably know some of the same people. She writes honestly about parenting, the good and the bad. Her daughter won't eat anything. Her son is hilarious. Her husband, she says, is a robot. She's about to put her suburban house on the market, so everyone say a prayer. Because I remember selling a three bedroom, one bathroom house. I needed prayer, and she does too.

Sweet Juniper is co-authored by parents of Juniper, a very cute two-year-old girl who is all about the potty right now. Authors Dutch (attorney turned stay-at-home-dad) and Wood (working mama) write very, very well about choosing to raise a family in Detroit (instead of the suburbs). Being an inner-city dweller (by choice) myself, I find myself nodding my head while reading posts like this.

Two more? See, this is where it gets difficult. Do I tap my favorite author? My husband's college roommate? The most famous blogger in the world? My friend with a new blog? Or what about the other mommybloggers I like?

Okay, I know what I'll do. My newest addition to the blogroll. UU Momma. Turns out she and I know someone in common, and we seem to share a pretty similar worldview. Plus, she used to write about TELEVISION for MONEY!!!! So not only is she a member of my denomination, she's also lived the perfect life. With three daughters!

One more. Okay, deep breath. I'll pick Dining with Monkeys for its sheer usefulness to the Memphis parenting community. Restaurant reviews from a "mom with small kids" viewpoint. Though my kids are big enough that eating at restaurants does not require dosing with valium before we leave the house (me, silly - I wouldn't waste good valium on my children!), I still consult her column before we try somewhere new. Because I get really tired of paying $4.50 for my kids to eat a crappy grilled cheese sandwich with fries. Again.

Tags? If I named you, you're tagged. If you want to play along, consider yourself tagged, too.

And thanks, Working Mom, for the kind words!

It's that time of year

Every family has "that" time of year. A month, or a season, or a week, in which many occasions happen. Birthdays, anniversaries. A co-worker tells me that her family's month is February, with two wedding anniversaries and a birthday on Valentine's day alone!

It's our week this week. My brother has a birthday today. My mom's birthday is Monday. Our wedding anniversary is Tuesday. And Alex's birthday is a week from today. Add in Easter, the "Father-Daughter" dance for girl scouts, our church's celebration of our new minister's installation on Sunday, and you've got a busy ten days. Oh, and did I mention my parents are coming to visit for Easter? No? Because that, too.

The nice part is that I'm not really overwhelmed by any of it this year. The kids have decided that since they like each other's friends, they're going to have a co-birthday party sometime in between their birthdays, so I don't have a party to plan just yet. With my folks coming to visit just after Mom's birthday, I can select her gift and not worry about shipping it to Michigan. And we can have a family birthday celebration for the boy when they're here.

The only thing that gets the back burner (and it often turns out this way) is the wedding anniversary. It's our fourteenth, which is astonishing to me (we're that old? really?), but it's not one of the "milestone" anniversaries, like the twentieth or even the tenth. We had a lovely party for our fifth, and I'd love to have one for our fifteenth, but fourteenth? Eh. It's a Tuesday, and American Idol and House are on.

So how should we celebrate? Not sure we can find a babysitter, so let's consider that to be "not an option."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pop? UU Bet!

My blog straddles a few lines: mommy blog, UU blog, pop culture blog. And the UU bloggers are discussing a great topic that is on all sides for me:

So…do you feel too stupid to be a UU?
1. Do you watch Survivor? American Idol?
2. Do you root with Jerry Springer or love the Maury paternity test shows? [I’m a thousand percent sure I do!]
3. Have you read less than 2 of the books/authors you hear regularly mentioned as being essential to UUism or mentioned in a sermon?
4. Would you rather watch prime time than go to an art gallery opening?

My answers?

1. Yes, yes. I even play along at Mamapop on American Idol day. And I have a t-shirt. Also on my tivo are "Bad Girls Club" and "The Amazing Race" and almost any other reality show out there. Including "The Surreal Life Fame Games." Really.

2. No....those shows have too much shouting.

3. Reading? Yeah. In my spare time. (Hint: what's spare time?) The last "deep" book I read was in 1999. I didn't have a job. And I had PPD. I needed that book (Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris). But other than that? My reading is mostly food magazines, blogs, and books by Anthony Bourdain or Poppy Z. Brite.

4. Is there free wine at the art gallery? Because that would definitely tip the scales. I have Tivo, after all. Prime time can wait.

But am I too stupid to be a UU? Hell no. I'm smart. My mom says so! And I've learned in my 35 (almost 36!) years on this planet that it really doesn't matter how many televisions are in my house, or if they're tuned to PBS (they rarely are), or if I'm reading deep books. It does, however, matter that when I watch Survivor, my husband and kids are in the room with me, and that we all participate in our own "tally the votes" ritual that involves holding up hands and feet for who got votes. That's something that we do. Like we're a tribe. It matters that I get to know my neighbors and am an active and engaged member of my community. It matters that I join in rather than sitting in the back row. Maybe my emails to the church's discussion email list aren't as well-crafted as Paul's, but I can still hold my own in a conversation with Paul. His kids are grown; he has time to read deep books.

Nope. It doesn't matter a bit. And I'm a smart mommy for knowing that.


Two movies in Craig's Netflix queue were of interest to me recently. And now I'm going to review them, even though I have no qualifications whatsoever.

We watched Marie Antoinette (with Kirsten Dunst, whom I adore) in two sessions (between basketball games), and I was completely transfixed.

I would never claim to be a history buff by any means, but I do think history is interesting. I knew a little (very little) about late eighteenth century French history, but my understanding of Marie Antoinette and her husband, Louis XVI, was pretty much based on the whole "Let them eat cake" thing.

The shortest summary of the movie would still have spoilers. It's gorgeous. The use of late 20th century and early 21st century alterna-pop in the soundtrack (a la "A Knight's Tale" a few years ago) was refreshing: too many historical movies have sweeping soundtracks that keep the film's subject at arms length. The film depicts Marie Antoinette from ages 14-30, and the film's action is set to music I loved at the same ages: at a ball, the characters are dancing to the same songs I danced to in younger days. That universal common denominator, music, puts me in relationship with the characters in the film.

Craig made an interesting comment late in the film. He said, "It's as if the filmmaker [Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, wrote and directed the film] is descended from royalty." The film does, indeed, feel like an apologia of the late French court. Perhaps that perception is colored by our fairly recent viewing of The Queen, which deals with today's British royal family.

At any rate, Marie Antoinette is fantastic, and probably appropriate for viewers over age 11 or so (there are long stretches of plot that would bore a younger child, and a brief sexy frontal nudity and no violence).

On the other hand, not at all appropriate for sensitive viewers is the other film we viewed: Shortbus. I'll admit that I thought this movie was something else. See, actor Krispin Glover is working on a project right now that involves mentally handicapped people. I thought that Shortbus was that project. (Craig laughed his head off when I realized that the movie we were watching had nothing to do with mental retardation.) (But you get the confusion, right? Short bus being the transportation for special education students?) (Anyway.)

Shortbus is not at all about mental retardation. It's about s-e-x. And relationships. And feelings. And dysfunction. And it's all depicted quite frankly (meaning, yes, lots and lots of nudity and there's penetration and it sure didn't look simulated to me). (But it's not a porno. Really!) It was made by John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig and the Angry Inch). If you liked Hedwig, you'll probably like Shortbus too.

The story focuses on a few people, who, at the beginning of the movie are strangers. Couple Jamie and James (both guys who look a lot alike...) meet couples therapist Sofia, who is having her own intimate difficulties with husband Rob. Jamie and James, in their therapy session, suggest that Sofia visit a club named Shortbus.

We explore Shortbus with Sofia, and we meet more characters, all with their own stories, secrets, and issues. Sexuality plays a big role in this film, but I won't say the film is about sex. (Yes, I know that just two paragraphs ago I said it was, but that was for shock value! Because how else will I get all the sickos to google my page for nasty dirty sex talk?) I don't know if I can really tell you what the movie is about, but I'll say this: if very real depictions of sex and bodies (okay, the bodies are definitely idealized...I don't think anyone in this movie had more than 5% body fat) doesn't bother you, see it. But if guy-on-guy action is not your cup of tea, don't. Because you'll then hate me and think I'm disgusting that I could even watch such a thing.

(And don't even get started there, because that forces you to this one: I'm a trained sex educator!) (Seriously. The youth of America? Learn about sex from me. Well, some of them. Like ten every two years. But it's a start!)

Marie Antoinette A+, fine for any viewer except kids who might get bored
Shortbus A+, fine for degenerate viewers who love to look at naked people doing "it"

Wait, what?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Egg Drop

Thursday is the school's science club's "Egg Drop". Alex participates in the science club (he loves it!), and in order to participate in the egg drop, he needed to create something in which to drop the egg. The goal is that this egg holder would protect the egg from breakage when dropped from the school's roof onto the pavement below.

When I got home from work yesterday, Craig had raided my sewing supplies, looking for something soft and fluffy. I suggested that the kids pick up all the feathers in the yard and the park, but everyone just looked at me like I was nuts.

So we began creating the egg drop vehicle. We began with a plastic container that had housed cherry tomatoes. And part of a styrofoam egg carton. But padding....what to use? The quilt batting that Craig had found was insufficient. The egg moved around too much: of three drops (from about ten feet), two eggs broke. We needed the egg to stay still inside the container, but we also needed to absorb the shock at landing.

Cotton balls! Glue gun! I covered the inside and outside of the plastic tomato carton with cotton balls, then glued the egg carton pieces in place. Three drops out the second floor hall window, all successful.

But how will the egg fare from a school roof, onto the sidewalk? We'll find out Thursday afternoon.

::Edited to add: The egg fared well, surviving three of three falls. Which means he's advanced to the all-city egg drop in late April. Great news, because my dad (an engineer) is coming in town next weekend. My neighbor emailed me to let me know that in school she learned that pyramid shapes fare best, so we'll keep that in mind. Woot!::

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why my son will never have problems getting chicks

There's something about sons. Especially the ones who are about to turn eight. Well, scratch that. Pretty much his whole life (well, after the first few months), my sweet boy has been just that - my sweet boy. His first smile? On Mother's Day.

It's very difficult to express to expectant mothers what it's like to be loved by a son. The closest I can come to describing it is that it's a lot like having a boyfriend when you're in preschool. Only multiplied by a million. Because boys have a fierceness about them, especially in how they love their moms. I've heard enough tales from other moms to know that my son isn't unique, at least not in that regard.

Fairly recent things my son has said to me, unprompted, that make me think he'll one day make a fantastic husband to some very lucky person:

1. Mom, you look prettier today than you've ever looked your whole life.

2. Mom, you're so pretty. You could be a fashion model. (This is what happens if you watch "America's Next Top Model" with kids in the room.)

3. Mom, I love you. (About 30 times a day.)

4. Mom, thank you for making dinner.

But what I saw this morning was enough to make me confident that this boy will never be dateless on a Friday night. (And a picture is forthcoming but not available quite yet....)

My son, sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, with my daughter, sitting cross-legged facing him. The boy is strumming the guitar and singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". My daughter (remember her? she's 9 going on 40, remember?) is transfixed.

Yes, my son became a rock star this morning.

Monday, March 26, 2007


If you read my blog a week ago, you might have seen a post that I later deleted. It was reactive and not well-written, and I simply didn't feel right about leaving it up. But now I know more information and the story makes more sense and I've been asked to tell this family's story. So I am. Names and details have been changed.

Life can turn on a dime.

Not even two weeks ago, I was sitting at my dining room table drinking a cup of coffee with my son's best friend's mother, Julie. My Roomba was doing the housework, and we were discussing the merits of robot vacuum cleaners and other types. Because their family was about to move to Phoenix (boo hoo) into a new house that was somewhat similar to our house. They were excited about the move: her husband had gotten a great job offer, their house here was already sold, and the new neighborhood, and nearby school, looked like a perfect fit for the family. While sad that Jimmy, my son's best friend since preschool (that's over five years of friendship in a not-quite-eight-year life, not insignificant) was moving (plus, this family and ours would swap out spending the night, which has been great for organizing date nights), I was happy that they were going in such a positive direction. That morning, this mother and I talked about getting our families together one more time before her husband, and then she and the kids, moved several states away. We planned a few more sleepovers so the boys would have plenty of time together before the move.

I went out of town that weekend, just for about 39 hours. I was without internet most of the time, until I got to the airport for my return flight. Imagine my surprise when I read my email from my husband.

I hope you are doing well and having at least a bit of fun. The kids are out playing in the block party and I think it is a huge success; inflatables, cotton candy, face painting, music, hot dogs and hamburgers, etc.

But I had to let you know something; there is BIG, disturbing news at the Jones household. Seriously. Neither Bob nor Julie are in Memphis right now. It seems that Bob has a bit of a CRACK problem, and went on a bender last night. I don't know exactly what happened, but Julie said she sent him off (to Texas? I think). And she is somewhere else, but she will be back tomorrow.

I couldn't keep this to myself; had to let you know.

Julie, a person I count as a friend, has been forced to make some heavy decisions this week. She had a blowout sleepover party for all the kids' friends on Friday (which I think is heroic). When I dropped the kids off, we talked a few minutes, just to figure out what was happening next. Since their home in Memphis is already under contract, they still have to move. Fortunately they have a friend who has a second home in the mountains of Arkansas who offered the use of that home as long as they need it. So they're still moving, just not quite as far away. Bob, whom I also count as a friend, is going to be in a five-month residential program (in another state). We kept Jimmy for the rest of the weekend as she made arrangements and coped.

Yesterday it all hit. I reached a level of sadness that I've not visited in a long time. Sadness at the whole situation. I'm sad that this man, this smart, witty, talented man, opened a door that he couldn't close. I'm trying very hard not to judge him, but I'll admit that this behavior is absolutely baffling to me. As a parent, there are things I'd never consider doing. Hard drugs? Top of the list.

But what breaks my heart the most is that this family's plans and dreams are gone. Jimmy was so excited about the new neighborhood's swimming pools and that the school took field trips every week. Julie was excited about living in a new house and meeting like-minded people in her new community. And buying a new vacuum cleaner. Now she's forced to make major decisions on her own, with three children that need her to take care of them. She has to consider the effects of these decisions: legally, ethically, financially. And there's not much room for error in this situation. The pressure of that is unimaginable to me.

What sticks out is something she said to me: "If it could happen to Bob, it could happen to anybody."

That's what I could tell was running through my kids' heads when I told them what was happening. (The kids aren't stupid; they knew something very strange was afoot, and Julie did tell us that Jimmy knew what was happening. She made Bob tell him before he went to the treatment center. So glad I wasn't in the room for that conversation.)

After we dropped Jimmy off with his grandmother, I asked them if Jimmy had told them anything about why they were moving to a different city. They didn't know anything. I told them as gently as I could that Bob had started doing drugs and that he had gotten sick from them and was in a hospital now so he could get better. I explained that they couldn't move where they had planned because Bob would not be able to work at his new job, and they couldn't live there without Bob working, and that he couldn't work while he was in the hospital.

They looked scared. Alex was already near tears because we had just said goodbye to Jimmy (and when we'll see him next is unknown). I made sure to tell them that we, Craig and I, would never ever ever do drugs. It won't happen to us. We won't do that to you. They looked relieved. As we talked, they put a few things together: So that's why Bob wasn't at the party? Is that why their car was broken?

When we got home, I asked them if they were glad I told them. They both told me they were; Susie told me that they had "deserved" to know what was going on (gah! 9 going on 40, anyone?). I hugged them tightly and suggested we all hang out together the rest of the evening.

Then I made serious comfort food and watched The Simpsons with my kids.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Last week, while the kids were out of school and I was staying home, pretending to be a SAHM, we mostly did nothing noteworthy. Intent that we not entirely "waste" the week, I came up with a few projects for us to do. Needless to say, almost none of my planned projects were even begun.

But we did plant seeds. We started sunflowers, zinnias, lavender, morning glories, and sweet peas inside. While lavender makes us exercise our patience by taking at least two weeks to germinate, the zinnias and sunflowers and morning glories and sweet peas have already done this:

And I'm delighted. Just like I always am when I see a plant just beginning, or in first bloom.

I took a lot of pictures with my digital camera a couple of weekends ago, but they came out fuzzy because I needed new batteries. Due to extreme laziness, I didn't do anything about that all week, and well into this week, too. So, two weeks later, and now officially, spring in my yard.

You may notice white feathers in some of the pictures. I have not been able to wrap my head around what Craig and I witnessed about a month ago, late one Friday night. We presume we were witnessing some type of college art project, as there was flash photography going on (we saw flash and tripod and deduced there was a camera on the tripod). But when perpetrator/artist/whatever #2 sliced open a feather pillow and scattered feathers all around the park across the street, we were baffled. Add to that a windy night and you get a yard covered in feathers. I attempt to pick up at least fifty per day, but even a hundred a day doesn't make much of a dent. So we have feathers in the yard, as do our neighbors. It's weird.

But spring is pretty!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Music Meme

I'm feeling meme-tastic today!

Actually, I meant to do this the other day but see, here's the deal. I have issues. I worry about what the other kids will think about my choices. Will they think I'm cool? Or will they see the inner spaz that I try so hard to hide?

So I made my husband make my list. Because he's so much cooler than I am. Yet he married me. So maybe it's contagious after all?

Here are the songs my husband says I like. Or I should. Or I will.

1. Vitalic "My Friend Dario" . This tune is just really cool.

2. The Blow "Pardon Me" You heard this one and liked it.

3. Spank Rock "Bump" You could pick almost any of these, but I like this one, or "Touch Me"

4. Jay Dee (aka J. Dilla) - he was from Detroit and his story is interesting; read about him here and pick a song from here "workonit")
You'll look pretty cool with both Dilla and Spank Rock on your list.

5. The Horrors "Sheena was a Parasite" Very cool song and better video. They might be scared of you from this one.

6. The Rapture "Whoo! Alright - Yeah . . . Uh huh" Can't find a sound bite of this, but I own it at home. Might be comparable a bit to TV on the Radio, but I like these guys better.

7. Peaches "Two Guys (for Every Girl)" It would be funny if you included her; especially this song.

And the runners-up....

Camera Obscusa - "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken" Doubly cool because they are referencing both Lloyd Cole and a song of his.

Something from the album "Congotronics 2" - I'd pick track 2. Talk about obscure and edgy. Read about the music.
here and here
Kind of a punk african tribal music.

I have rethought the Joanna Newsom. You could include her, but seriously I can't make it past 3 minutes of any of her songs (and since most of them are over 9 minutes long, thats not too good).

See? He's so cool. And taken. And somehow he's still madly in love with me, despite the fact that all I ever listen to is the rehearsal cd's for whatever concert I'm in next, which means this:

This guy is so much cooler than his dorky wife.

Real Moms

Okay, so here's the thing. So many people are doing this meme and tagging "everybody" to do it too, that I'm just joining in. And I'm tagging UUMomma and Working Mom. But if you want to play along, feel free. You're tagged too. So there.

Here are the rules.

And once you play, send your link here because now someone's compiling all these truths. Sweet.


Real moms cultivate hobbies that have nothing at all to do with their children. And have a great time and totally feel no guilt about it because it's good for kids to see their parents as human beings. Plus, it gives the real mom a chance to look totally HOT in a black evening dress at least eight times a year.

Real moms....Making their husbands stay home to take care of the kids in order to go do things they enjoy and don't even get paid to do.

Ta-da! I know there are at least 14 fabulous real moms in that picture.

Sleepless in Memphis

I haven't slept well all week. And for those who know me well, that's strange. I'm a good sleeper, in general, drifting off within a few minutes of closing my eyes, and generally staying asleep until my alarm clock rings.

But Sunday night I tossed and turned, couldn't get comfortable, and couldn't stay asleep for more than half an hour at a time. By the time the alarm sounded, I was worn out and not a bit rested. So at bedtime Monday, I was delighted. I went to bed early, with the intent of making up for the prior night's lack of sleep.

Tossed, turned, couldn't get comfortable, woke up all night.

Same story Tuesday. Same story Wednesday.

By Wednesday, Craig was concerned. He was theorizing: maybe my thyroid levels were funny. Maybe it was a weird jet lag from my weekend trip to Phoenix. Maybe I was sick.

Yesterday we decided that if I didn't sleep Thursday and Friday nights, I'd go to the doctor Saturday (yes, my wonderful doctor's office has Saturday hours....did I mention that I can *walk* to their office from my house?).

Last night I gave myself a slight advantage: I drank two glasses of wine while we watched basketball (woot! Did you see the Memphis win? Because it was amazing! With nail-biting and everything!). I went to bed during the Tennessee game (because I really didn't care about the outcome, although I'm afraid Memphis might get their a$$es handed to them now that they're playing Ohio State next....) and........

I slept. Through the night. I didn't wake up when Craig came to bed. I didn't wake up every half hour. I woke up five minutes before the alarm. I feel much better.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Unitarian Universalist's take on St. Joseph's Day

Until recently, all I knew of St. Joseph was that you needed to bury a statue of him in your yard, upside-down, if your house was for sale. We did it in 2005 and maybe it worked. We buried the statue after the house had been on the market six months, and had an offer in 6 weeks. My former minister, too, at a point of desperation (she had retired and already had a contract on a house in another state), buried St. Joseph in her yard, and her house sold shortly thereafter. Miracle? Who knows. But I still have my St. Joseph statue in a "place of honor" in my house, and have a soft spot in my heart for this patron saint of the home. He seemed like a pretty good guy in the Bible. One of the most accepting step-fathers ever, right?

As an art history major in college, though, I learned a lot about saints. Because art from about 1200-1800 A.D.? Is mostly religious. And most religious art? Had saints in it. I found myself fascinated by the veneration of saints, by their stories, and sometimes the gruesomeness of their deaths. Images like The Ecstasy of St. Theresa and images of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian were compelling, exciting, and depicted lives completely dedicated to the spiritual. Heady stuff in my late teens and early twenties. I found myself reading The Lives of the Saints in order to reinforce what I learned in art classes (it was much easier to remember the subjects of the images if I had more understanding of the lead characters). I soon had some saints who were my personal favorites (Francis and Lawrence, as well as Joan of Arc and others), mostly because they died in weird ways or they said amazing things or they had interesting symbols depicted along with them. The legends were compelling and made the art that much more interesting. (Plus, learning about the saints also forced me to learn so much more of the history of the early church. Good stuff when you're taking religion and history classes at a liberal arts college.)

All this to say that St. Joseph's day was celebrated this weekend (not in Memphis, but in New Orleans and, I presume, other cities with significant Roman Catholic populations). I read this post, by an upwardly-mobile New Orleans chef, and it really made my day. His take on spirituality and religion, and the noble role any religion can play in any person's life, was so similar to my own beliefs, which are generally on the humanist/agnostic side of the fence.

I'm very pro-religion. I think church is good for people. And I also think that most people find the church that they need. That belief, specifically, is what separates me (as a Unitarian Universalist) from most other religious people (mainstream and evangelical Christians, Muslims, etc.). While those religions are based on a principle of exclusion ("the only way to worship God is our way"), my faith is built on inclusion ("God loves us so much that all are saved").

Unitarian Universalism used to be two different denominations. The Unitarians were (and remain) intellectuals. From the UUA's website, "In the sixteenth century, Christian humanists in Central Europe-in Poland and Transylvania-studied the Bible closely. They could not find the orthodox dogma of the Trinity in the texts. Therefore, they affirmed-as did Jesus, according to the Gospels-the unity, or oneness, of God. Hence they acquired the name Unitarian." Thomas Jefferson, though never "officially" a Unitarian, was definitely sympathetic to the faith, and published a version of the Bible in which all miracles or references to the "supernatural" were removed. It's shorter, but still quite pithy. The teachings of Jesus are just as powerful and revolutionary without tales of healing lepers and exorcising demons. The Universalists, however, were rooted in reformation of the Christian church. They rejected Orthodox Christianity and its interpretation of the Bible. They professed a faith in a loving God, a God who would not deem any human to be unworthy of divine love. With that belief in universal salvation, the name Universalist was born.

From those two faith traditions, those two schools of thought, we get two worldviews with the same conclusion: all are saved. The Unitarians would posit that God created humans in the image of God. Therefore humans are good, and are saved because of their inherent goodness. The Universalists posit that because God created humans, God loves humans too much for them to not be saved. See the distinction? "Humans are worthy," is the essence of the Unitarian stance, while "God is all-loving," is the Universalist position.

I find it to be an uneasy peace sometimes. There's a dissonance to me. And I struggle to claim my own position on the continuum. My present faith (or lack thereof) is certainly informed by my moderate Protestant upbringing. It's also informed by my life experience and education. It's less informed by personal spiritual revelation, because that's not my experience. I've not heard the voice of God or seen the face of God or had burning bushes talk to me or met an angel. (Or I was way too distracted by something else to notice.) But. I don't think, even for a second, that I've missed out on some great spiritual awakening by not having that experience.

But then we come back to the saints, and their celebrations, their feasts, their veneration. I do see how praying to these fully human people, who through faith, works, goodness, whatever, became somehow "better" than human, could be a very useful part of a spiritual practice. Having a saint for just about every day of the year, for just about every occasion, seems to me a way to help make sense of your life. It helps to clarify exactly what it is you want, need, pray for. You're not going to pray to the patron saint of animals for your grandmother. You're not going to pray to the saint of mothers for clarity of mind during final exams.

But the folks in New Orleans? Are probably making a good choice with their veneration of St. Joseph. They need all the help they can get with their housing situation. Maybe they should light some candles to St. Jude, too. Just in case.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pimpin' someone else's blog

CHBM's weekly writing prompt was a surprise this week. Instead of a usual "answer this question" prompt, they sent us on a scavenger hunt of sorts. Like the meme where you hit "random" on your Ipod and then put the song titles into some order, like the soundtrack of the movie of your life. Only not that. Not at all. So just ignore that.

So why am I thinking in musical memes? Probably because I'm about to answer one, thanks to Joy's blog.

Joy is no stranger to me. In fact I "see" her on the intarweb almost every week when Tracy and some other wild women participate in an open thread during American Idol. When AI was on three days a week? Let's just say the laptop almost got hurled out the window because our internet connection in the living room sucked. Plus, I was running out of money trying to keep up with the wine drinking.

Wait. This isn't supposed to be about me and the drinking problem I don't have.

Back to Joy's blog. Because it's a good one. Besides having a deep, disturbing love for reality television and pop culture, Joy also has a brain. A smart one. That she's using right now to make sense of this mommy-blogging world we visit so often. She (and a few other women) are actually studying this phenomenon, and thinking about the implications and exclusions and "oh it's all so high school" accusations. And they're seeing what a lot of us are seeing: it's NOT like high school. There are some pretty amazing people out here on teh intarwebs, and sharing our stories is creating a real community.

So check her out. And see what she's doing. Join in. Tell her I sent you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kids can be mean

CHBM has a contest going on with Baby Wit. They want to know how cool I was in school. And that's easy, because I so wasn't. I still work hard to keep my "inner spaz" from coming out and ruining everything. Fortunately, now the people I hang with seem to appreciate my special kind of spazziness, so that's good.

Most of my loyal readers (hi Mom!) already know this, but if you're just dropping by, maybe it's news to you. I skipped second grade.

See, the earth didn't self-destruct when I wrote that (but we'll see what happens when I hit "publish"). But when I was a kid, I avoided uttering that sentence as much as possible.

Because somewhere between kindergarten and third grade, and I obviously missed the memo, it became very uncool to be smart. And if you're smart and also small for your age, not very athletic, and a bit of a prissy kid, forget it. Hang it up. You will not be liked.

And, it's sad to say, that feeling of "They won't like me"? Doesn't disappear once you grow into your teeth, develop more coordination, and chill the eff out on the prissy $hit. Nope. That feeling stays, creeping into interactions with people who are nice as well as those who aren't. It colors a person's likelihood of trusting other people.

I know I'm not alone. I've read other blogs where grown women (and men) admit to having crummy childhoods. It was hard being the kid that the other kids didn't like. Maybe that's something significant that has caused us to reach out to a nameless (mostly), faceless (mostly) audience. In an arena where we can delete any comments that hurt our feelings. Because in third grade, in fourth grade, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth? A delete button would have been nice.

And little scares me more than the thought of my children going through the same thing. As a result, there are a few traits I've tried to encourage and a few I've outright discouraged. Like being prissy. Because? Both of my kids are naturally a bit prissy. They lean toward the tattletale, know-it-all end of the scale. And I've told them that it's not a good idea to act that way, especially at school. Other kids don't like tattletales. And teachers don't like know-it-alls. (I promise they don't. Ask my sixth grade teacher about when I corrected his pronunciation of the name of that river in England that rhymes with "hymns". Except he pronounced it the way it's spelled, so it rhymed with "names." I can still see the ugly look he gave me when I told him that the people in London called it the "timms". Not my best moment.)

My husband managed to escape childhood relatively undamaged. He was always one of the biggest kids in the class (usually the biggest), and he's always seemed to be able to handle a variety of situations pretty well. Being on the basketball team probably didn't hurt. And, unlike me, he's not a bit prissy and doesn't feel the need to correct people for minor factual errors.

Long story short, I've tried to teach my kids how to be cooler than I was. And it seems to be working. (Suffice it to say, my husband has an easier time modeling coolness to our kids.) Both kids get on well with their peers. Both seem to be quite comfortable in their own skin, and they are equally comfortable with the brains they got. Neither child is rude, arrogant, or any of the other socially-detrimental behaviors that keeps smart kids from being socially accepted. Instead, they seem to be interested in bringing the other kids up to their level. Graciously. Gracefully. And I hope they can keep that grace in their teen years and beyond.

Friday, March 16, 2007

If you need a good cry

Holy moly I saw a tearjerker of a movie yesterday. Bridge to Terabithia. Have you seen it (or read the book)? Because if you haven't, spoilers ahead.

It's closely adapted from a book in that wonderful genre of juvenile fiction. As a kid, I was a big reader. I remember being Susie's age, and the highlight of my month was when the Scholastic book orders came in. I would sit at my desk and read when I finished my work; one day I finished two novels before I even got home from school! I had some favorite books that I re-read several times: Francis Hodgson Burnett's books, especially A Little Princess, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume's wonderful adolescent fiction, and a few others. But somehow, Bridge to Terabithia never crossed my radar.

I'm thinking I need to check it out.

Bruno Bettelheim, in his classic book The Uses of Enchantment, explains how fairy tales are crucial to children's development. Essentially, Bettelheim argues, the violence and horror of fairy tales gives small children a "safe" way to experience the darker side of life. The characters experience terrible things, and this lets kids "rehearse" difficulties and tragedy that they will, one day, encounter (though not likely in the form of child-eating witches or big, bad wolves). Children's literature, too, is full of high drama and tragedy. Parents die. Violence happens. I heard part of a radio interview with Terabithia author Katherine Paterson, and she raised some of the same points that Bettelheim had in his book.

I already knew, before we saw the movie, that it was sad. A friend of Alex's had seen it and revealed the tragic turn of events several weeks ago. One of the main characters of the story dies about an hour into the movie. It's a tragedy. A horrible tragedy, and the rest of the movie is spent with the other characters doing what they must to carry on.

Bridge to Terabithia is frequently taught in schools (late elementary school age, probably 5th and 6th grade), and some parents object. Not because anything is inappropriate or morally-questionable, but because it's so intensely sad. In the not-at-all-scientific sample of my family, here's the reaction to the movie:

Me: uncontrollable crying for about 30 minutes. Remained sad after the movie, and got teary thinking about it the rest of the day. Felt a bit dehydrated later from all the crying. Currently a little misty-eyed after reading user reviews on Amazon's site.

Craig: it was sad. But it was funny to see me crying.

Susie: it was sad. Maybe would have cried if the character who died had shared her name or the name of one of her friends. (But I still think that girl is actually a robot who does not experience human emotions.)

Alex: it was sad. Was a little concerned that he might cry later that evening (when he was spending the night with the friend who had already seen it). Didn't cry, but did seem quite sad when I was crying.

So would I object to my kids reading this book for school? Absolutely not. Frankly, a book would have to be patently obscene or incredibly violent for me to say no. And even then, I might be okay if there was a good reason to read the book (A Clockwork Orange crosses my mind as a teen-appropriate book that is amazingly violent but provides plenty else for discussion. Heck, Lord of the Flies was plenty violent, too.) And the argument of too sad for kids? What about the The Diary of Anne Frank?

And heck, what about most Disney movies? My friend's son couldn't make it through Ice Age because he was so upset that the baby's mother died at the beginning of the movie. How many Disney princesses start out with dead mothers? (Who are replaced by evil stepmothers?) How many stories hinge on the death or loss of a parent or child? Nearly all of them, right? And that's what we set in front of our preschoolers.

So a story for tweens that has a tragic (but all too possible) plot twist? I think it's not going to hurt them a bit. By age ten, most children have experienced the death of someone close to them. My own children have lost an uncle, a great-grandmother, and a close family friend. A teacher's child recently died, which hit all the kids at their school pretty hard. Kids know that death happens. And I'm pretty sure that if we give them the opportunites, in literature and film, to rehearse the strong emotions they'll experience when real tragedy touches their worlds, those strong emotions will not be so frightening in their intensity.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

All play and no work....

....makes me a bad blogger.

I'm taking the week off because Craig's spring break is a week earlier than the kids' spring break. Since they're still a couple years too young to stay home unaccompanied, I'm on SAHM patrol.

And I've learned something about myself. I'm much more effective when I'm on a schedule.

It's not news to me. When I'm busy, I get a lot done. Much more so than when I'm not busy. I get dinner on the table before 6 p.m., I keep up with my share of the housework (but Craig gets props in that area...he does more than I do). And I get my volunteer duties done, too. Plus blogging.

Yesterday was fun, however. We met a friend for coffee, then all the kids (hers are little: three and one) played at the park. The weather was perfect for such an outing. On the way home, we picked up Alex's best friend (who is moving to Denver in a few weeks - boo!) and he spent the night. I managed to get myself organized enough to make a tasty AND nutritious dinner (stuffed shells, zucchini, spinach, and garlic bread, and chocolate cake for dessert!).

Alex's friend is a really nice kid, and he's a great guest. He takes his dinner plate to the kitchen and puts it in the sink, and he regularly thanks me for dinner or whatever else. It's easy to invite him over since he's so easy to have around. This morning, I insisted that the kids clean up the playroom, and they did a great job. I have a feeling that the friend did more than his share. We'll really miss him. Especially since Alex doesn't have many close friends. (Although we're auditioning a new kid at church, and it seems to be going well. Wouldn't that make a great reality TV show? "Who wants to be Alex's new best friend?" I'll pitch it to Fox next week. Or not.)

Susie is spending much of her time at a neighbor's house. The family has two little kids (infant and two years old), and she likes playing with little kids. The mom almost hugged me when I asked her if she'd like Susie to come over and help with the kids. Little kids are so much work - I know I would have loved a neighbor girl to come hang out at my house when mine were that age. Susie still has a couple years before she can "officially" babysit, but this is good experience for when she's ready. Given that we're the senior citizens in our neighborhood, she'll likely have lots of customers once she's the right age.

So today? I'm watching Alex play "The Sims" and later we'll all go out and do something as a family. Later I have a meeting with my small group from church. So at least it's sort of a schedule.

Oh, and I did vacuum.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


A quick read of the Cooper-Young newspaper, the LampLighter (article is on page 20), found me paying attention to one of the articles. It was written by a woman whose blog I enjoy reading. She and I have probably met in real life a few times; we know several people in common, and let's face it, Memphis is small. And the midtown/downtown parenting community is even smaller. Add to the equation that we seem to share similar views on parenting (and probably much more), and it's fair to say that I'm likely to be at least sympathetic to her viewpoint.

The article, in a nutshell, explains her (and her husband's, and her children's) choice of private school instead of public school. I feel a need to present another side to the story.

My children attended private preschool. My daughter attended this school from age three until kindergarten. My son attended from age two to four. Susie began public school in first grade. We chose our neighborhood school for several reasons, and were very pleased with our choice. My son joined her there for kindergarten.

When we moved downtown, we faced a decision: to stay at our old school, which we loved, or to move to a school that would be closer to our new home. In the interest of full disclosure, we did not choose the school that was our official "neighborhood" school for several reasons. Mainly because it did not participate in the city's "optional" program.**

Susie, my very pragmatic daughter, made the choice. She determined that it was silly to drive across town to stay in the old school when there was a perfectly good school much closer. (No, I'm not linking to our current school. If you want to know more, email me.)

She made a good decision (but we do miss a lot of things about the old school). Our new school has fantastic programs, very well-qualified teachers, and a great staff in general. My kids are learning, they're challenged, and they're making friends. They also participate in excellent after-school programs. And whoever says that music education is dead in public schools? Hasn't been to our school. THREE music teachers, as well as others who teach group piano lessons after school (violin and guitar, too). Susie participated in the West Tennessee Festival Chorus, the only fourth grader from her school to be invited. All in all, I'm pleased.

And it was clearer than day on Friday afternoon that the kids are in the right place. It was time for our annual meeting with the CLUE teacher (that's the gifted and talented program, in which both of my kids participate) and the school counselor, since intellectually gifted children in Tennessee are served by the special education division (same division that deals with kids with disabilities). It was IEP time.

As a former special education teacher, I know what IEP meetings are and what they are intended to accomplish. For a disabled child, these meetings can include a host of professionals. And a lot of time. And heartache, too.

For a gifted kid, these meetings are shorter and smaller. Just the CLUE teacher, the counselor, and Craig and me. Not too much to talk about, since her "disability" is being smarter than the typical kid. We discussed goals for the upcoming year and her strengths and what she "brings to the table" in CLUE.

I didn't learn much about Susie in that meeting, which is excellent news. What I learned was that the teacher knows a lot about Susie, beyond her IQ and achievement test results. She knows more than how Susie behaves nicely in class and turns in her work. She seemed to have a great understanding of Susie's character. Of her hot buttons. Of her weaknesses, no matter how trivial they are compared to children with learning difficulties or unstable family lives or those who live in poverty. And she and I were seeing a similar picture.

Alex is younger, and he hasn't been IQ tested yet (that happens in third grade). I have no question that his score will be the same or higher than his sister's. Which means he'll remain in CLUE as well. His CLUE teacher is a different teacher, but the two teachers communicate a great deal, and the conversation drifted to Alex for a few minutes. Susie's teacher seemed to know a decent amount about Alex, too, and again shared insights that matched my own perceptions about him.

Knowing that for at least five hours a week, my children are getting instruction from these very dedicated (and way beyond competent) teachers is heartening.

Knowing that my children have a school counselor who knows them on a personal level? Fabulous.

The enrichment programs? The field trips? All great.

But is it the right choice for all kids? Not a bit. My kids are exactly the kind of kids that school was made for. They attend, they stay on task, they stay in their seats, they follow rules. But not all kids are like them. In fact, most kids aren't. I see kids who are just as smart as my kids (IQ results) who have trouble. They don't focus. They don't stay quietly in their seats. And I wonder how it can work. I wonder if they need smaller classes, or more out-of-seat time, or a less-traditional instructional style.

So, I can't blame a mom for choosing something different. But I'm happy to tell people that the public school system works for us. Like a charm.

**Memphis City Schools, in an effort to provide better educational opportunities, has several schools or "schools within schools" that are designed for greater academic achievement. These programs require students to test in, with achievement tests, and they require that the students maintain attendance and behavior requirements. Here's more information.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who are you?

The map I added to my site provides me with interesting information. What I've noticed in the past couple of weeks is a steep increase in readers from the United Kingdom. China, too. I'd love to know how you're getting here.

And even if you're not from the U.K.: who are you? Let's get to know each other!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Meme

1. List 10 things you want to say to 10 people but never will
2. Don't say who they are
3. Feel free to comment, but I won't confirm or answer anything
4. Never discuss it again

I'm not tagging anyone on this one...but feel free to play along. Except maybe it's not playing.

1. I miss our friendship. But what you did was really inexcusable, and I don't think you'll ever see that you did something wrong. I don't think I could forgive you even if you wanted my forgiveness.

2. You're so much more amazing than you think you are. I wish you would believe it.

3. You were the worst boss I've ever had. I'm glad you're gone.

4. You're watering your lawn and it's 38 degrees outside. You're watering your lawn but you're really watering my car.

5. Please don't get married.

6. I wish I'd known you when I was a kid.

7. Your husband is really cute and I have a bit of a crush on him!

8. I would throw myself in front of a bus if it would keep you safe.

9. You're an arrogant jerk. Please stop. Just stop. Now. Because you're alienating people more than you know.

10. Your kid is a brat.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Don't forget

To change your clocks before bed tomorrow. I'm a bit flummoxed by the earlier date for "spring forward", but I will enjoy more daylight in the evenings.

Business casual

My daughter's class is doing something hilarious today. They've divided into groups of three or so kids each, and each group is doing a sales presentation. What are they selling? Planets. Her group's planet is Earth, which I'd say is a really easy sell.

I gave her a little coaching (I used to be in commissioned sales, and I was quite good at it), explaining that she needed to be selling "benefits" instead of "features". And we talked a little about what made Earth a better choice to buy than, say, Mercury. Or Pluto. Because Pluto's not even a real planet. Earth comes with its very own creatures! Ponies! Puppies! Kittens! And those wacky people, too!

But the part that cracks me up was the note the teacher sent home. The kids, fourth graders, are encouraged to wear "business" clothes.

I'm lucky in that Susie can fit into most of my clothes now. She's still a few inches shorter, and a bit skinnier, but she's able to wear some of my skinny clothes (especially those with elastic waistbands). This morning, she was up before me (rare on a weekday) and was raiding my closet. I sent her to the upstairs closet, because I don't wear suits to work anymore. She found a suit that I vetoed (it was expensive!) (and too big), but then settled on a really cute vintage jacket that was black and white plaid. There's a black skirt of mine that she's worn several times, and I found her a plain white blouse.

I wasn't involved in the planning for this presentation; the girls stayed after school on Friday to work on it. I know there's posterboard involved. I'm a little bummed, though, that they're not going with a powerpoint presentation with that enthusiastic soft-rock business motivational music. Because that would totally rock.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I can see the finish line

The MVAE concerts are this weekend, tomorrow and Sunday. That has meant that my week (and the prior week) have been very busy, but the end is in sight. Tonight is the final rehearsal, then the concert Friday night and the celebratory cast dinner afterward.

Concert weekend is usually surprisingly easy. I block it off in my calendar and don't schedule anything else, which means I get a nice leisurely Saturday, with no morning rehearsal, no afternoon activities, no evening stuff. And once the concert is over on Sunday, I've got a week in front of me that has kept my head over the surface for months.

Spring break.

Craig's spring break is this week, which means he won't be home all day to keep the kids next week; he'll be back in classes. And since he's got daytime classes Monday through Friday, I'm taking the week off.

Big plans?


I've warned the kids that on Monday I plan to stay in bed all day. Truth be told, I'm physically incapable of that. But it's nice to imagine. We'll head over to the church one day that week to help spruce it up; our new minister's installation celebration is the first of April, and we want the church to look ship-shape.

But beyond that? And a few regular evening meetings? The week is a blank slate. Maybe I'll clean out closets. Maybe I'll get a pedicure. Maybe I'll finish the books on my dresser. Maybe I'll make something neat. Maybe I'll stencil a poem onto the dining room wall.

A blank slate of a week is before me, and I can't wait.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Recent search strings

These are much tamer than last time. Almost boring, even. I miss "girls got cream".

TV Turnoff week
Famous moms
Teaching yoga after a cesarean section
Birth story midwife
Emetrol dogs
Memphis downtown condo market
New topic for I.T.
Birth order
how to make a xylophone for a teenage school project

Birth Story Part 4

Continued from yesterday.

So when I left you I was about to drink a bunch of castor oil. It's Thursday, April 1, which is totally NOT lost on me. My mom's been in town for almost two weeks and I need to produce a baby for a host of reasons. Namely that this baby appears to be enormous and he's just going to keep growing.

I don't remember all of the steps to the midwives' castor oil induction, but I remember there was a very unpleasant drink of castor oil followed by a bath and nipple stimulation (with a breast pump), drinking a beer, and more castor oil, over a period of a few hours.

Contractions got stronger and more regular throughout the evening. We all (my husband, my mom, and I) felt like the baby would be born the next day, on my mom's birthday. I was rocking on the exercise ball and feeling like I was in early labor.

My daughter, at the time 22 months old, wanted me to lay down with her when she went to sleep. I did, and I fell asleep. I woke up at o'dark-thirty in the morning, no contractions.

Back in the tub. Crying. Because I knew it was over. The plans to give birth on my terms. My dreams of a victorious VBAC.

My midwives called and we filled them in. They told me they would call the doctor's office to schedule an appointment.

The doctor was sweet and kind and gentle and did an ultrasound. This baby, she told me, was amazingly big. She was unable to measure his femur, but WITHOUT LEGS he weighed over eight pounds. Which meant he probably really would weigh at least nine and a half pounds. (I had predicted 9 lb. 12 oz. for the last two months of my pregnancy.) The level of amniotic fluid was low (probably because the baby was taking up all the room, plus, castor oil the night before), but that was only charted because there needed to be a "medical" reason to schedule the c-section. She apologized for not being able to take me that day or the weekend; Tuesday was the soonest they could make an appointment. But, she added, if I went into labor on my own, they'd make a place for me.

Easter weekend came and went. My father had joined us by then, but he had to leave on Tuesday morning. My parents took our little girl so Craig and I could go out to dinner for our anniversary (was good!), and he and I tried to switch mental gears to prepare ourselves for this birth.

We wrote a birth plan that, literally, Craig carried in his back pocket. We knew what we were willing to fight for (breastfeeding, or at least mother-baby contact on the operating table) and what we could live with (whatever eye ointment). We also knew that I would be hungry and that my blood pressure would drop drastically when the epidural was in.

I'm not a person who believes in divine intervention or angels, but. The nurse who worked with us in triage up to after my son's birth was perfect. She knew we had planned a homebirth, and she wasn't trying to tell us that we were making a better choice by coming to the hospital. She was respectful of us and our choices and was genuinely sorry that our plan B was so different from our plan A. We told her our preferences, making it clear that we were not going to be unreasonable (if the baby's not okay, of course I'm not going to fight to breastfeed him instead of letting you work on him), but making it just as clear that we were the customers and our needs were going to be met. She was honest with us: we were going against hospital policy but she would fight for us, as long as we met her in the middle. Yes to breastfeeding on the table. Yes to rooming in. But she really needed to do the eye thing.

And things went pretty much according to the plan. The room was not full of people like in the first birth. The doctors (remember, they're the ones who back up the midwives, so they're pretty cool) were great. They kept me informed as they went along in the surgery (which took quite a bit longer than the first c-section, because of scar tissue). Baby's umbilical cord was around his neck. Baby was big. Oh my heavens. Baby was big. One doctor exclaimed, "It's a six-month-old!" The other, not one to miss the opportunity for a joke, argued, "No, it's a toddler!"

Baby was 10 lb. 1 oz.! Keep in mind that I'm 5'3" and before babies was around 110 lbs. Baby was close to 10% of my pre-pregnancy weight.

And baby was healthy and beautiful and pink and breastfed like a champ just a few minutes after he was born. I got that skin-to-skin bonding moment that I missed at my first baby's birth.

I can't say that I was fine and everything was great afterward. It was hard. My midwives didn't call or visit, which hurt my feelings terribly. Nobody from the church where I worked called or visited, either. Just a couple of friends. And I really hadn't had time to process what had happened. And my mom had to go home. And my husband had to work. But my baby boy was beautiful and I wasn't pregnant anymore.

So those are my birth stories. Sure, they're important. But I learned something, later. I learned that even though my babies didn't get out of my body the way I imagined, the way I dreamed, the way I wanted, they got out the most important way: healthy and alive. Just like a wedding is not the same as a marriage, a birth is not the same as motherhood. I was lucky to have access to medical care in order to have these babies. And now I'm so very lucky to have the two most amazing children in the world call me Mom.

From New Year's Day

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Birth Story part 3: The Boy

I got pregnant with Alex when Susie was a year old. Just like we planned.

After a year of obsessing about my unwanted c-section, poring over email lists like ICAN and reading book after book I had made a decision. This baby would be born at home.

The local midwife group took me as a client, and they were confident in my ability to birth naturally. One of them even commented that my pelvis was "ample" and that "you could drive a truck through there!" (Nice.)

The pregnancy was fine. I'm not really great at being pregnant (the hormones make me very spacey and lethargic), but I can't complain about being sick or having complications. The only "problem" was that the baby was measuring large, consistently. The midwives kept asking if it was possible I got pregnant sooner than I thought I did (no, it wasn't....I had been out of town, without my husband, at the only other time that a pregnancy could have been achieved).

As the pregnancy progressed, I noticed the midwives glancing at each other more and more as they measured my belly.

At 35 1/2 weeks, I started to feel "different." I was suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to nest, and my body felt different. Like something was about to happen. I called one of the midwives on a Sunday afternoon, and she advised me to take it easy and drink at least 64 ounces of water per day for the next few days. She also suggested that a glass of wine or a beer would be a good idea.

The next day I had an appointment with one of the doctors who backed up the midwives, in case anything happened that would require transport to the hospital. The doctor declared me "ripe" and said that I was free to have the baby when I wanted to. She did not do an internal exam because she knew the midwives would be doing one within the week.

On Tuesday morning, almost exactly 36 weeks along, I woke up around 5 a.m., uncomfortable. I got in the tub, which had recently become the only place I could relax. As I lay in the tub, I noticed my abdomen was tightening with some regularity. While not painful, I was more and more aware that it was happening. When Craig awakened, I asked him to time them for me. A minute long, five minutes apart. Maybe something was happening.

I called the midwives around 8:30 a.m. and they told me to come in that afternoon, and to rest as much as I could. Which, to my ears, meant: "Go out to breakfast and take the car through vehicle inspection!"

The contractions kept on coming, still not painful, but enough to notice. And at the midwives' office, an internal exam found me at 2 c.m. dilated, not really effaced at all, and the baby was very high. I left the office in good spirits, with the midwives telling me to call them if anything changed. They expected to see me later that night.

Not so much. That pattern? Kept on for the entire month. Braxton-Hicks contractions? I was beginning to think that I was crazy for wanting natural childbirth if I was so aware of these non-labor contractions. How would I possibly handle active labor? And this baby was getting really, really big.

Finally, the day before my mother's birthday (a full month after the first day of labor), the midwives had "the talk." My abdomen was measuring 48 centimeters, way more than "normal". My due date was still "fuzzy". The baby needed to be born. They sent me home with instructions to drink a bunch of castor oil and a few other tricks in an effort to send me into labor.

What happens next? You'll have to wait until tomorrow........

Monday, March 05, 2007

Birth Story part 2

Continued from prior post.

So I'm about to get my first c-section, about to become a mom for the first time, and I remember as they're wheeling me into the operating room, I was crying. The whole situation was overwhelming: getting surgery when I wanted natural childbirth, the drama of my bad reaction to the epidural, and having my first child. The anesthesiologist didn't like that I was crying. I think he was worried that I was still having problems with the medicine. He kept telling me not to cry (but he also pestered us to bring a camera into the delivery room, which I heartily vetoed).

The actual birth was uneventful. There were forty-kazillion people in the room (it's a teaching hospital, and a frank breech made me a good teaching case) and I wasn't wearing glasses so it was all a blur. I felt pressure, then a whole lot of pressure, then my baby was born. But she was quiet. Too quiet. Wasn't she supposed to be crying? After a long, long pause (it felt like years), she finally started squalling. My husband was moving between the baby and me, trying to describe what was happening, what she looked like, and trying to support me.

The nurses wouldn't tell me her first APGAR score (I found out later it was a 5), but they happily told me her second was a 9. Susie had been born quite blue, but she pinked up nicely.

Because she had some trouble getting started, I didn't get to try to breastfeed here on the operating table. That came a bit later, after she had been weighed (8 lb. 5 oz.), measured (19 inches), footprinted, bathed, and dressed. So the first time I really saw my baby, she was all wrapped up like a papoose. Only her face was visible.

Fortunately, the hospital encouraged breastfeeding and rooming-in. Breastfeeding got off to a great start, and our time in the hospital sped by, punctuated by a baby's cries (she was lucky to have a dad who could walk and pat, pat and walk).

Best part: the hospital had awesome food
Worst part: it hurt to laugh after the c-section

My son's birth was very different: still a c-section, but a different hospital and a much more experienced mommy. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


CHBM is looking for soup recipes, so here's one that I love to make on busy evenings (of which there are PLENTY this week!!).

Black Bean Soup, shortcut style

2 cans black beans, drained
2 cans vegetable broth
1 jar salsa (mild) OR 1 can Mexican-style/chili-ready diced tomatoes

Dump all of it into a pot and cook 20 minutes.

Serve with tortillas and sour cream.

Watch your kids consume vast amounts of fiber and vitamin C without complaining.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Birth Story

Maya's Mom has started a blog carnival, and the first topic is "Birth Stories." It's been a while since I revisited either of my children's birth, so here goes. I couldn't possibly fit both kids' births into one entry, so stay tuned for more of the story.

Even before I was pregnant with Susie, I planned a natural childbirth. My mom had both of us naturally (mostly) and my husband's mom also had natural childbirth in her history. In my third trimester, Craig and I took the hospital's class (an all-day Saturday event) and were the only couple there planning to go natural. We also took Bradley classes. I was really excited and read a lot of birth stories in books and just knew it would be great.

Until my second-to-last prenatal visit, when the doctor discovered that Susie was breech. She mentioned "Plan B" and talked about how we'd need to schedule a Cesarean section and that laboring could be very dangerous for the baby.

I was crushed. I had pretty much snoozed through the Cesarean portion of the hospital class, quite certain that "it would never happen to me." We attended our last Bradley class and the instructor looked, well, disappointed. Maybe she thought that Craig and I should have just packed up some stuff and headed over to The Farm and let Ina May Gaskin deliver our breech baby. I don't know. But I saw the judgement in her eyes and it hurt.

The Saturday before our due date, Craig and I went on what we figured would be our "last" date as people without kids. At the restaurant, I noticed that I felt a little different. My abdomen was tightening a little more strongly than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I'd been feeling for a month. He checked his watch and we noted that they were coming every ten minutes or so. We enjoyed our meal and laughed and wondered what would happen next.

When we got home, the contractions (by then we figured that's what was going on) were still coming, and they were getting a little closer together. In our class, we'd learned that a good way to tell if it was "real" or "false" labor was to take a walk (if the contractions go away, it's false labor, if they intensify it's real). The contractions got closer together but never got so intense that I couldn't keep walking. We decided to err on the side of caution, though, and called the hospital.

Since the baby was breech, the hospital wanted me to come in and get checked. If my water broke, that could be a dangerous situation, possibly allowing the cord to prolapse (since the baby's head wasn't in place to keep the cord where it belonged). So we went in, but on the way there, the contractions spaced out. By the time we got there I already figured we were wasting our time, but we went ahead. Long story short, my doctor wasn't on call that weekend, and the other doctor sent me home with a sleeping pill and instructions to come in to the office on Monday unless things got going again. The doctor did make it clear, however, that if my doctor had been on call that weekend, I would have had the baby that night.

On Monday the doctor gave me a little good-natured teasing for the false alarm, then got on the phone with the hospital to make our appointment to have the baby. I requested "not Friday" because it would have been Friday the 13th and I didn't want to hear everyone's superstitious silliness on my baby's birthday.

On Wednesday, we headed over to the hospital without incident. Getting prepped for the surgery was mostly undramatic, other than a bad start with an IV that was pretty messy, and a really bad reaction to the epidural (I couldn't see and got really sleepy...turns out that my blood pressure had crashed to 40/20, which prompted the nurse to start yelling, "We're losing her!"). I remember being very, very hungry.

To be continued.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Have you seen this story? Because I was looking for something to write about and wow! That sure jumped out at me.

But I don't really have anything to say about it except, wow! That's so horrible, yet heartwarming. I can't begin to imagine what all those people went through.

And there are so many stories every day of missing children. Kidnapped by feuding parents. Runaways on city streets. Snatched by strangers. And that's just here in our country. The world is not a safe place for children.

My husband, a college instructor, has a student from Rwanda in one of his classes this semester. The student stays after class sometimes to chat (which is a mixed blessing: good conversation + night class and wanting to go home), and last night they talked for about twenty minutes about the young man's experience as a child soldier at age twelve, and how Africans view America as a paragon of what a global super-power should be. As Craig said to me, "Yeah, I wanted to go on and get home, but what am I going to do? Shut him up?" Craig's mind remained on that conversation, and how this man, who grew up in a foreign land half a world away, knew all the state capitals of the U.S. before he moved here. He looks at our country as the great hope. A land which never colonized African nations. (Which is an interesting contrast to what our liberal guilt tells us about some of our country's history.)

It's humbling. By accident of birth, we are in one of the most affluent parts of the world. By accident of birth, I've never been hungry, never been homeless, never not had access to health care. By accident of birth, my children are entitled to a free, quality education.

It's easy to sit back and enjoy the privilege. It's easy to forget that our lifestyle is not the norm for our world. It's easy to look away from the "Save the Children" commercials. It's easy to turn off the TV news.

But sometimes people come into your life and remind you: you've got it great. Other people look at you as an example.

I told Craig to invite him to dinner after the semester is over. The least we can do is share his story with our family. And remember to appreciate what we have in such abundance.