Thursday, August 27, 2009

Somewhere...

It's one of those great ironies that despite the fact that I don't work (ahem, outside of the home) and only have one child with few outside obligations, I can still be so busy. The last few days have just been full. No time for blogging. No time for dishes. Sad about the first one, not so much the second. While I am not a compulsive cleaner, a sink full of dishes still has a power to guilt me like no other area of the house. A big part of this busyness* is that we're getting ready to travel to Kansas to visit my family.

My mom broke her foot a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was a calcaneal** fracture, which she got when she attempted to fly off of a ladder. And you know what they say, it's not the fall that gets you, it's the landing. She had surgery and is now stuck at home. Can't walk. Can't drive. Can't work. Can't do much of anything except roll around the first floor of their house on her knee walker or in one of the wheeled chairs from the kitchen table. Here's the thing, my mom is not one of those people that can sit around. She is go go go. All the time.*** Twelve weeks of this is essentially torture for her. We had planned to visit home at some point, but we had thought to wait until she was back on her feet so we could get out and do stuff. She needs a pick me up, though, so we're taking our little bundle of joy for a visit.

Luckily, we were able to find really cheap tickets at short notice. Cheaper for three, in fact, than we generally have paid for two. So we're leaving this weekend. I'm going to try to squeeze in some visits to other family members, but this trip is about my mom. We've had our disagreements, but she is my rock. She has always been there for me. Now, I can be there for her. If in no other way than by distracting her for a few days from her circumstances.

I am, OF COURSE, nervous about the flight, but we're bringing the car seat and we got this nifty car seat caddy that will hopefully make life easier. We'll see, though. If it doesn't, it will only be another in a LONG line of things I have bought that turned out to be a complete waste (Shamwow, anyone?).

All of this is to say, sorry I have been scarce and will probably continue to be for the next week, but I'll try to check in here and there. Because I love you all too much and I'm far too entrenched in this whole internet thing to stay away for too long. See you on the other side of the rainbow.

*Is that how you spell that? Spellcheck okayed it. And business can't be right. Now I've looked at it so many times that I'm pretty sure it's not even a word.

**The calcaneus is the heel bone. Thus ends today's anatomy lesson.

***We are very different in this aspect.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Booga Booga Revisited

I'm having kind of a crap day, so instead of venting, (which I would REALLY like to do, but won't because it will just turn into a rant and that won't do anyone any good) I'm going to post this little bit of sunshine from when Sophie was about five months old.

video

Neil shot this video while trying to make her laugh with his booga booga face. Part of what's so hilarious for me about this video is that Neil had no idea he was shaking the camera. Pay attention at the 19 second mark, Sophie does her tree frog imitation.

What's funny is that I look back at this video and I think that this is about the time I thought I was starting to figure things out. The newborn crazy was losing its hold on me. Yet here I am, a year and a half later, and I realize the crazy is still around. It has just changed. Changed many times over these months. And every time, I think "whew, barely made it through that stage" and then the next stage hits and I'm like "Fuuuuuck, there's MORE?"

But I do believe I've finally caught on. It's a daisy chain of experiences and there is no winning, there is only surviving.

Now, I'm going to finish the Antony and the Johnsons CD I'm listening to and then I'm going to bed and read Skinned by Robin Wasserman (which so far is pretty awesome) until I fall asleep. Which hopefully will be soon and lets all pray that tomorrow is a better day.

"Some times you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you.*"

*Extra points for anyone that knows the quote.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Babies* and Baked Ham

We had our first play date here at the house since the installation of The Playgrand in our backyard. I invited over a group of ladies, all of whom were friends first, and all have kids that are the exact same age as Sophie. I've mentioned it before, but there was a rash of fertility in our circle round about December '06/January '07. Completely unknown to each other, we were all trying (successfully, as it turns out) to get pregnant at the same time and then it was like "I'm PREGNANT!" "WHAT?! I'm pregnant, too!" "Wait, you're both pregnant? No?! ME TOO!" And so on. So lucky little Sophie has about a half dozen friends who are all within weeks of her age-wise. Do you see group camping trips and the like in our future?

So anyway, three of these ladies and their offspring joined us for some play and lunch on Saturday. I made a ham (my first, I think it came out okay) and a pineapple souffle (which is more like a bread pudding and was really yummy and super easy). The other moms brought delicious goodies and we had ourselves a feast.

After which the real play began. First the kids showed off their musical skills:






















Does my daughter look like she's in her element or what? Not only does she get to pound away at the piano, one of her favorite activities, but she gets to do it with friends. Heaven!

After this, we braved the damp (it had monsooned the 24 hours leading up to the play date), heat and humidity to get the kids outside to play.















We were schvitzing like crazy, but the kids were totally unfazed. In between swings, they had an assembly line going up the ramp and down the slide. (That's Sophie on the top right corner.)

Far too quickly, there was eye rubbing and fussing as our toddlers ran out of steam. An afternoon of play is tiresome business. Before everyone left, we attempted to get a group picture, much like the ones we've taken at past play dates, but getting all of the kids to sit down for a photo these days is like herding cats. This is the closest we came to a line-up:















I suppose we'll have to wait a few years (like ten) until we'll be able to get them all to sit quietly while we take their photo.

I so enjoy these play dates. Although I see all of them at our monthly dinners, we have been banned by the childless of our group from mommy-talk, so it is only on these occasions that we can open up. It is an opportunity to complain about husbands** and the high cost of pre-schools. To brag or commiserate about what our little ones are or aren't doing. To relax among women who are going through the same things.

It was a lovely time. Sophie (and I) napped for hours after they left. Can't wait for the next get together. Truly.

*Not so much anymore. Sigh.

**Not mine, of course, he's perfect. Love you, Neil!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Top Ten: Reasons I May Not Actually Be A Girl

I know you've all been saying to yourselves, where oh where has the Friday Top Ten gone? I love lists, I really do, but doing the FTT started to feel a little flat, so I shelved it until I had something interesting to write. I didn't want to do it just to do it, juknow? But I've been inspired.

Lately, I feel a little on the outside. I just don't seem to fit in with the girl set. Obviously, I'm a woman, I have the scars from the fourth degree tears to prove it, but sometimes I don't think I'm a girl.

Top Ten Reasons I Don't Qualify For The Estrogen Club

1. I love Sci-Fi. Star Wars was my first love and it has only gone on from there. I'm about a half step away from showing up at Comicon in a Princess Leia costume. Btw, have you seen District 9? IT. WAS. AWESOME.

2. I am not a phone person. Which isn't to say that I don't settle in for the occasional telephonic gabfest, but days and days will go by where I don't talk to anyone on the phone other than Neil. And I'm okay with that.

3. I text, but like twice a week. I just don't have that much to share.

4. I don't enjoy shopping. Don't get me wrong, I like looking good, but I just don't enjoy spending much time having to think about it. I want in and out and done with it. And window shopping? Ranks right up there with a root canal.

5. I can't stand reality TV. American Idol, The Bachelor, So You Think You Can Dance, The Hills, Survivor and so on. Major snooze. And sometimes actually kind of creepy/sad.

6. I don't like cleaning. Who does, right? But many women seem to have this compulsion to do it, maybe it's a nesting instinct. Whatever it is, I don't have it. As evidenced by the shetland pony sized dust bunnies galloping around my living room.

7. I have no gift for interior decorating. I just can't seem to visualize the big picture. I would like to buy pages 17, 26 and 43 out of the Pottery Barn catalog and magically transport them to my house.

8. Despite using it for more than 20 years, I still feel hopeless and a little bit Tammy Fae whenever I attempt to apply makeup beyond my basics: bare minerals powder, concealer, mascara and lipstick.

9. I eat like I'm in a competition. Seriously, I can take down a sandwich like a python with its jaw unhinged.

10. Foreplay? Take it or leave it.

There you have it. I'm clearly not a girl. Can we still be friends?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Swing Bean















The swingset is finally done. It was mostly completed last week, but there were a few screws missing (story of my life), so we had to wait for them to be delivered before we could hang the last swing and do the finishing touches. Sophie loves it. She runs to the back door hollering like a madman (madgirl? madkid?) because she wants to go outside and SWING!

Of course, since we've had it up, its been hotter than the surface of the sun (not hyperbole), and on those rare days when it's not, the humidity is 99.9% (also not hyperbole), so it feels like a sauna. Which means that playing outside has not been as frequent as she might think optimal. Sorry, kid, mama can't take the heat. Autumn can not get here soon enough.















You can see where she is in this photo, yes? That's right, playing with the scrappy old boat sandbox we inherited from the neighbors that is currently moored on what I affectionately refer to as the "rock garden." That's the gravel that was under the deck for the above ground pool we removed LAST YEAR. Notice the black liner poking out, that's for ambiance.















Stay classy, Baltimore.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sometimes They're Real

We're in the pool. The sun cascades down on us. Sophie stands on an underwater bench splashing and laughing. Neil is on the other side of her, we are chest deep in the water. She has just figured out how to use the super soaker squirt gun and is delighting in her new found power. There is activity all around. Voices and movement. Our little family, among friends.

Then a strangled cry from one of the women sitting at the table next to the pool: "kid in the water!" We all turn. In that blackness between heartbeats, I see just the top of a child's head peeking out from the water. Not a capable swimmer, he has fallen off of the raft that he was sitting on. No more than a tuft of hair is visible while his arms and legs churn the water below, struggling in futility to get back to the air above.

Time speeds up as the boy's father dives in from the side while a family friend lunges from his position in the pool a half a dozen feet away. They reach the boy simultaneously and lift him up. His mother waits on the side, arms outstretched, a mask of horror on her face. He is in his mother's embrace, crying. Everyone else in the pool is frozen.

The spell lifts as we realize that he is okay. Time slows back down to normal and suddenly everyone is talking at once. I start to say how scary that was but my voice catches. We came this close to the darkest nightmare of every parent and the adrenalin is still pumping too hard for me to speak. I feel like I've been punched in the gut.

I grab Sophie and pull her to me. I wrap her up in my arms and nuzzle her cheek. I look around and see that the other mothers are doing the same with their children. It was not my child, but I felt the fear as viscerally as if it had been. I suspect I am not alone in this.

Later, the boy is back playing in the pool. Unharmed and unfazed by his experience, he cavorts in the shallows. The adults are all a little more vigilant. We are more aware of the fragility of our situation. Disaster can strike anywhere and no one wants to be on the receiving end of that horror.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Howl

I was awakend at 3am last night by a vivid nightmare. My heart pounding and my breath rapid, it took me long seconds to get my bearing. To realize that I was not in the pitch dark basement of an abandoned warehouse with malicious ghosts while possessed people walked past me mumbling inanities. As I lay there in the darkness, my brain kept playing the last terrifying minutes of my dream back in a loop. Despite Neil's comforting warmth next to me, I could not relax. I got up and went into the bathroom where I sat on the toilet, still shaking. The glaring light reassured me, drew me into its embrace.

Outside the monsters lurked. Within that bright room I was safe.

These dreams were absent from my life for a long time. They used to visit me almost every night. I was haunted. But the arrival of a beloved daughter kept those ghosts at bay. Where before I was awakened by my subconscious, now I had a living, breathing, happy lure from my slumber. A lifetime of sleeping badly finally justified. For months and months I had no dreams, good or bad. I fantasized they would never return, just one more post-baby change.

But return they have. Revelations that do not reveal, they torment and tantalize me. Are they symbols, representations of aspects of my life? Are they just what they seem, an overactive imagination finally given the gas to run at full throttle? I revisit the images throughout the day, chewing on them like a canker sore, painful and satisfying.

I don't know how to make them stop. Not even really sure I want them to. They are my burden, but I relish a strange joy in them. These dreams are bizarre and fantastical and sometimes horrifying but they are me. At the core. They are me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Every Day

We're in the process of erecting a very large new backyard playset for Sophie. It is huge and elaborate and has all the bells and whistles a kid could want. It has already begun to attract the neighborhood kids. While it is not finished yet*, it is done enough that I took Sophie out for her inaugural swing this afternoon.

It didn't come with one of the infant bucket swings and we've been talking about getting one. There is certainly room for it and it will definitely be a safer option, but Sophie loves the big kid swing. We have it set extra low so her little legs can reach and she went right to it when I took her out. I helped her find her seat and then gave her a little push, gripping the back of her jumper throughout the arc. She held on to the chains so tight, I decided to let her swing on her own. And swing on her own she did. She soared. It was beautiful and exhilarating and terrifying.


















I am constantly reminded that she is growing up. She now walks down the stairs, both hands tightly on the railing, but she is upright. She dresses herself, puts on her own shoes. She feeds herself. She has an opinion about everything. Every day she shows me some new way that she is leaving the baby behind.

I love that she is making these developments. It is inevitable and wonderful. But my god, they come so fast.

*12-16 hours, the instructions said. With a team of 12 experienced Amish barn builders, maybe.
***Please visit Welcome to the Nuthouse for an on-line auction going on today to benefit Kori and Richard.***

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Thin Line

After nearly five months of working out, I am finally beginning to see some changes in my body. I am unofficially down 15 pounds and, glory of all glories, I am down a jean size. I went to the mall to do a little shopping and actually didn't hate trying clothes on for a change. I would even go so far as to say that I kinda liked what I saw in the mirror.

I seem to have crossed some sort of line. Over it, I am fat and ugly and below it, I am skinny and beautiful. It is ridiculous and without basis in any sort of rationale, but there it is.

I am still a long way from my goal. I have a good 25 pounds to go before I hit the weight I was when I met Neil six years ago. While my body has changed, in no small part thanks to having a child, there is no reason to think that I can not be that weight again. It is not even the lightest I've ever been. I was 15 pounds lighter still when I was in college, but I think 25 pounds is a realistic and attainable goal. If once I reach it, I find that I can go further and hit that nirvana weight, then I will go for it, but I will be more than satisfied with the higher number.

Not uniquely, I think, I have a very skewed view of myself. When I am at home, I face my reflection in the mirror and I am not entirely displeased. I'm far from perfect, but I think things generally look okay. But then I will see photographs, or catch my reflection in an unfamiliar mirror or window, and I will see the real me. The one the rest of the world sees. The one that still has too much junk in the trunk, the one who's stomach still sticks out further than I care to think, the one who probably shouldn't be wearing a tank top for all of the meat hanging on those upper arms, and, oh, the extra chins.

How is the vision I see in my mirrors at home so much different from this stranger?

Is the vision of the pretty me the delusion, am I just protecting my eggshell fragile ego from the harsh reality? Or is it the reflection of the ugly me?

Does it even matter?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Contradictions

I am vain.
I have no self-confidence.

I stare in the mirror and think, not bad.
I catch glimpses of myself in storefront windows and wince.

I bemoan my figure.
I will not stop drinking Dr. Pepper.

I am angry about the state of our country.
I do nothing about it.

I love outlandish fashion.
I am afraid to wear anything that draws attention to me.

I didn't realize how hard being a stay at home mom is.
I spend a good portion of my day goofing off.

I love being alone.
I crave the company of others.

I adore being told I love you.
I put off telling those I care about what they mean to me.

I am never satisfied.
I am never satisfied.
I am never satisfied.
I am never satisfied.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Tragedy of The Sippy Cup, A Haiku






















If that had been me,
and a glass of wine instead,
there would have been tears.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Unvitation

My experience with Facebook so far has been a rosy one. I have reconnected with long lost friends. I have deepened friendships that were, frankly, kind of superficial before. I have shown how freaking awesome I am with my handsome husband and darling daughter to the couple of exes that have friended me. All in all, it has been very positive.

But I have heard tales of nastiness. I suppose it was just a matter of time before it happened to me.

About ten years ago, I dated a guy for a couple of months. Maybe four. For the sake of anonymity, we'll call him Asshole. During that short time, Asshole was possessive and domineering and yet despite this, strangely indifferent. Some days he would call me every hour and send me expensive gifts but then when we had dinner plans to meet my aunt and uncle, he inexplicably showed up two hours late. Not surprisingly, after a while I started pulling away. First it was not calling as often and not returning his calls and then it was breaking plans. Finally, after a couple of weeks of this, he called me on it.

Of course, passive aggressive that I am, this is exactly what I was hoping for and I took the opportunity to break it off. I don't remember what my exact excuse was, but it was Christmastime and I think it had something to do with being stressed out about traveling and my family and everything. Notice, I actually broke up with him because he was an asshole, but even as he was cursing my name and calling me every name in the book (honest to blog - and I just sat there and took it), I held on to that excuse because I was too nice to say, "Listen dude, you're a complete golfwaddle and I don't want to waste any more time with you. Ciao ciao."

After this, I was shell-shocked. He had been extremely verbally abusive during that last conversation. If something like that were to happen now, well, things would be a lot different. But I was young and inexperienced. Needless to say, we have not kept in touch. He lived in a smaller town about 45 minutes away and although I would occasionally go there for one reason or another, as a rule I stayed away. We don't have any overlapping friends, so there was little to no danger of a run-in.

I'll admit, he has occasionally popped into my mind over the last decade. I feel guilty about the way things ended. Maybe I shouldn't, but I do. I should have been more upfront. But never once have I thought to myself that I wanted to get in touch with him and I would certainly not have attempted a friend invite on Facebook.

And then this morning I get this:









"Remember me, ya freak."

If his intent was just to dig at me, then why send a friend request? Why not just send the nasty little message? Could he possibly be joking? I am severely conflicted. The bigger part of me says LET. IT. GO. Decline, ignore, whatever. He was a jerk back then and he obviously hasn't changed. But part of me wants to respond to him and tell him to get over himself and grow up. He's 40 years old, fercryinoutloud. But the part that tears me up is that his profile has a cute little picture of what I presume to be his daughter. (I covered it with the angry face to protect her.) I feel like he is sullying her by sending something like that out with HER picture attached.

I don't know. It just feels so ugly and unpleasant. I feel like how I did the first time my car was broken into. Or the first time I got cursed out by a bum. Or when I was mugged. I feel like a bit of my innocence, or what was left of it, has been torn away. All because some asshole can't get over something that happened 10 barking years ago. Shame on him for taking that away from me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Dream within a Dream: Buck in the City

When I got home from Chicago last weekend, I had a visitor waiting for me on the front steps. He had been spending some time chatting up my gnome Toby while he awaited my arrival.

"Buck!" I shouted. "You've arrived at last!" For this was not an unexpected visitor, Jori had mentioned that he was headed my way.






















I invited him in and we chatted for a bit. He told me of his travels. He said the last house he visited was the home of a very nice lady, but she had a boy and toddler triplets and there was an accident. He pointed to the bandages on his legs. "They broke 'em," he cried, as a tear slid down his cheek. "I could really use a drink." I knew the best place to take him in Baltimore for a drink is Fell's Point. I have spent many a drunken night quiet, reflective evening over adult beverages there.

So off we went. A lovely historic area just east of downtown, Fell's Point was once a rough and tumble shipyard and sea port, now it is home to a plethora of lovely shops, restaurants and the occasional street performer. I offered to take Buck on the Water Taxi, give him the full view of the area, but he said "No thank you, ma'am. We deer aren't much for the water." (I thought he looked a tad scared myself, but I would never call him on it. Bucks are a prideful bunch, you know.)















As we sat down at a local watering hole, the bartender asked him his favorite drink and he said, "Why, I quite adore a good Amontillado, when I can get it."

"Amontillado! My heavens, unfortunately I don't have any, but I assume you've heard of Edgar Allan Poe?" the bartender exclaimed.

"Of course! 'All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.' Poe is one of my favorites!" Buck said. (He's a bit of a show off, that Buck.)

"Well then, you MUST visit his grave. It's just downtown." And with that, the next stop on our tour was set. We finished our drinks (NOT amontillado), thanked the bartender and headed out.















Buck was excited to see the final resting place of one of America's most interesting horror writers. Buck sat for several minutes, reflecting the many works of Poe and taking in the beauty of the quiet cemetery. As is tradition, Buck left a penny.















Buck then asked if we could find a quiet spot with a view. "But, of course!" And so we headed towards the south side of the harbor and Federal Hill. While Neil and Sophie cavorted, Buck and I sat and looked out at Baltimore's beautiful Inner Harbor. The sun shone and a gentle breeze blew puffy white clouds across the sky as I pointed out each of the buildings and told him what I could of their history.















After a while, I ran out of stories and we sat in companionable silence. Sophie bounded up, proclaiming that she was tired and ready to go home. (In toddlerese, of course.) With that, Buck decided it was time he was moving on. As we loaded ourselves into the car, Buck thanked us for a wonderful day and then turned and struck off for lands unknown. He's a rolling stone, that buck, and he's got places to go and people to see.

Monday, August 3, 2009

No Daddy, We're Going THIS Way















And they did.

Ahhh, young Grasshopper, I have taught you well. Very well, indeed.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bubble Bubble



















Some nights, bath time is an exercise in my patience. She cries and screams and sputters. She wriggles away to the other end of the tub when I attempt to wash her hair or scrub her down. And rinsing might as well be pulling her toenails out.

But there are nights where she is playful. Where her squeals are of joy and we laugh and laugh. There is no predicting what kind of night I'm going to get prior to getting her into the tub, but how the process is going to go is evident very quickly. On the bad nights, I basically just soap her up, hose her down and we're done. On the good nights, we stretch it out and have ourselves a good old time.

To be sure, it is the hard times that make the easy that much sweeter and tonight was pure sugar.

*Her face is healing up nicely after last weeks run in with the stairs. She seems to be completely unaware of her injuries.