Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Left Behind

8:30 - (crying) Mommy!  I wanted to say goodbye to Mary Grace on the bus and the bus came and I was not there!  (That's because you chose to watch Tangled on my iPad instead of getting dressed, darling child, it's called "choices," you made them.)

8:33 - Mommy?  When will Mary Grace be home?

8:45 - Mommy?  Can I have apples?  (No, I don't have apples.  Do you want a banana?) No. (An orange?) No. (Strawberries?) No. (Applesauce?) No.  Can I have apples? (No.)

8:51 - Mommy? Can I color a picture?  (Sure, what do you want to color?  Printing and coloring the picture takes approximately 32 seconds).

9:01 - Mommy?  When will Mary Grace be home?

9:03 - Mommy?  It's hard when everyone goes and I have to stay at home.  Home is boring.  (I know sweetheart, your school starts Tuesday.)

9:07 - Mommy?  Why can't we go to the Children's Museum?  (Because Jack's asleep and because by the time we got down there we'd have to turn around to come back to get Mary Grace.)

9:09 - Mommy?  Why is the Children's Museum so far away?  (....)

9:10 - Mommy?  Can I go see if Jack's awake?  (No.)

9:11 - Mommy?  What if Jack is awake and happy and quiet?  I should better go see...  (No.)

9:14 - Mommy?  I'm hungry.  (Ok!  Let's make fun breakfast burritos!  Making them takes 4 minutes.)

9:18 - Mommy?  I'm just not hungry right now.

9:19 - Mommy?  Is it time to go get Mary Grace yet?

9:20 - Mommy?  I should better go check and see if Mary Grace is outside.

9:24 - Mommy?  Why does Mary Grace get to ride the bus?  When do I get to ride the bus?

9:27 - Mommy?  (What?)  ....

9:29 - Mommy?  (WHAT?)  ...

9:30 - MOMMY?  (WHAAAAAAAAAAA???)  Noffing.

9:36 - Mommy?  I'm bored.

9:41 - Mommy?  I should better go wake Jack up.  I mean...  I should ...  Jack might be awake.

9:44 - Mommy?  When is Jack going to be awake?

9:52 - Mommy?  Jack is sleeping for a long time.

9:54 - Mommy?  When you were a little kid, did Mary Grace go to Kindergarten?

9:55 - 9:57 - rolling around on the floor, wrapping throw pillows around her head, lest she explode from sheer boredom.

9:58 - Mommy?  I don't like my pants.

9:59 - Mommy?  Can we call Uncle Chuck?  (Uncle Chuck is working, honey...)

10:02 - Mommy?  Why can't we go somewhere?  (Jack's asleep.)

10:04 - Mommy?  I think I heard Jack.

10:05 - Mommy?  I should better go see if I can wake Jack up.

10:07 - (Comcast calls to make sure everything they fixed yesterday is still working.  I keep the guy on the phone for EIGHT MINUTES talking about the hurricane and Dell's shitty tech support, just so that I don't have to listen to Claire.)

10:15- Mommy?  Who was that?

10:16 - Mommy?  How do you talk to Daddy in the computer?

10:18 - 10:20 - wandering listlessly around the toyroom looking for something to do.

10:21 - Mommy?  I don't like these pants.  Hey, they have purple!  (Suddenly she likes them.)

10:22 - Mommy?  Can we go get Mary Grace in free minutes?  (No, she's busy.  Your school will start soon and then YOU'LL be busy.)

10:26 - Mommy?  Can I watch Rapunzel on the iPad. (YES!)

10:28 - Mommy?  I don't like this part.  Let's go get Mary Grace.

10:31 - Mommy?  You said we could go get Mary Grace.

10:33 - Mommy?  Was that Jack?

10:37 - Mommy?  I'm hungry (Then eat the fun breakfast burrito I already made for you!)  I'm not hungry.

10:39 - Mommy?  What are we doing later?  (The Farmer's Market, and maybe we'll go to Daddy's office.)

10:45 - Mommy?  What are you doing?  Can I type my name?

10:51 - Mommy?  I think I should go to school with Mary Grace.

10:52 - Mommy?  I wanna go right now.

10:54 - Mommy?  Why does Mary Grace hafta go 'way?

10:55 - Mommy?  I wanna go right NOW.

10:57 - Mommy?  Why is school SO long?

10:59 - Mommy?  How many minutes?

11:01 - Mommy? Can we go now?

11:06 - Mommy?  Is Jack awake?

11:08 - Mommy?  I'm bored!

11:11 - Mommy?  How many minutes?

11:15 - (we finally leave).

Thank GOD we didn't opt for full day kindergarten, oh my. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

"In this house we obey the laws of geometry!"

Dear Miss S.,

Please excuse Mary Grace.  It's all her Dad's fault.

At lunch we were going over her homework.  I couldn't help but notice that she had done an excellent job on her worksheet, where she wrote an X over each square and colored in each rectangle.

"Did you know," said her father, "that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn't necessarily a square?"

"What?" said Mary Grace, her little mind completely blown.

"A square is a parallelogram with four equal sides and four right angles, but a rectangle is a parallelogram with four right angles - that doesn't mean that the sides can't be equal."

"Parallelo-??" Mary Grace's eyes glazed a bit.

"Do you think," he said to me, "that the second week of school is too soon to send a note to the teacher telling her she's wrong?"

I couldn't say anything.  I just laughed.

"So let me get this straight..." Mary Grace said.

Next week:  Dodecahedron
"At school, a square looks like this and a rectangle looks like that."  I tried to make it better.  I really did.

"Oh no, there are no special rules for school.  In this house we obey the laws of geometry!" BJ declared.  "So much for this being an 'excellent' school district!"

So please don't count her as incorrect if she colors in the squares AND writes an X over them.

It's all her father's fault.

And technically, he is right.



The Fashionista

I don't know how a jeans-and-t-shirt Mamma ended up with a Fashionista daughter, but here's the evidence. Gramma Denna got the dress for her when they went back to school shopping, and MG has been dying to wear it ever since. Pink sparkly shoes. Pink sparkly backpack.

Come to think of it, I had a similar outfit in the 80s, only it was a long sweater with leggings. MG's even has poofy sleeves. This must be how our parents felt when we came home wearing bell bottoms.

Speaking of bell bottoms, what the hell is going on with the jeans at Old Navy. I tried on as many as MG, Jack, and Grandpa Bob could stand yesterday, and they all looked doofy. The bell bottom (or "flare" as they call it now) makes me look ridiculous. Do I need to try the "skinny" jeans?

The sizing is out of control. I held two pair up next to each other that were both marked the same size. One was ENORMOUS, and the other looked like it would barely cover one of my legs.

I guess I'll just stick with my old jeans and rotate through various t-shirts. No one sees me when the kids are around, anyway. They're generally blinded by the sparkly shoes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Star Light, Star Bright

I'm waiting for BJ to finish putting the girls to bed after a nice, quiet weekend.

We had Grandpa Ben down for dinner on Saturday night, then we went to a nearby observatory and looked at the stars.  We got to see Saturn so clearly that we could see its rings.  We also saw a binary star pair that are blue and topaz - apparently that's unusual because most of the time two stars that orbit each other are the same color.  They call them the Boy Scouts pair at our observatory, because the Scouts have helped build the observatory, and I guess their colors are blue and gold.

Did you know that most of the stars you see are actually binary pairs?  Wouldn't it be awesome to have two suns, or dozens of moons like Jupiter?  If I could choose one celestial object, though, I'd wish the earth had rings.

One of my all-time favorite animations!

Did you know that almost all of the visible bodies in the night sky are in the Milky Way?  You can kind of see Andromeda, if you're out in the country and you've got better eyesight than I have, which is a separate galaxy.

Did you know that there's a black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way?  I didn't!  How have I lived 35 years, the last 14 of them with a rocket scientist, and NOT known that?

The ISS went over while we were there - that was really cool.  It reminded me of our honeymoon - we went to the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and it went over.  When BJ pointed it out to someone who worked there, that person took off running to tell the rest of the staff.  It was before they installed the solar panels, so the ISS was a lot harder to see back then.  Very cool.

The Milky Way, a relatively small galaxy, contains 200 billion stars (give or take).  There are estimated to be hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe.  So if each star has 8 planets, how many countless squajillions of planets are there?  Do you think anyone might be on any of them, looking toward us, wondering the same things?

I do, but I don't think they're able to get to us, any more than we're able to get to them.  In other words, I believe that there is life elsewhere in the universe - there MUST be - but I don't think it's going to bother us any time soon.  I'm not worried about UFOs.

We would have stayed much longer, but the girls were really tired.  We ought to be on Central Time, but instead we're on Eastern, so it gets dark really late, and it makes it hard to do any astronomy with small kids.  But it was well worth it.  I learned a lot.  And I got to have one of my favorite experiences - looking up into the vastness of space, in the dark and the quiet, and counting stars until I lose track.  When you do that, you can feel so small that all of your worries just slip away.

This post is dedicated to Susan at Toddler Planet, who loves science even more than I do.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I just posted this picture on Easy Canvas Prints's Facebook page to enter a contest.  If you deem it worthy, click over and hit "like" for me, would you?  (I think you have to "like" their page before you can "like" my picture.)

Do you ever want to share something awful - something that's sad news, but important - but you just can't bring yourself to click "like" on it? 

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Our trip to France in 2006.

Our house, when we first bought it in 2003, before the weeds took over the front yard.

Claire, crawling into the dishwasher.

Mary Grace with Kona.

An old, scanned copy of a high school formal dance.  I went with Jack's namesake.

Camping at Grandpa Ben's farm.

Chuck, Mary Grace, and Claire "flying" on the swings.

Grandpa Bob, when he was older.

An old scanned photo of Aunt Kathryn with a newborn Kelly - Kelly's in nursing school now.

Mary Grace's first preschool graduation.

Emily Pinkerton's concert in Grammaland.

Claire melting down at her purple birthday - before I learned how to schedule things around naps.

Cameron's first birthday.

Aunt Jill's baby shower - now Alex almost two.

Grandma Gleason.

Mary Grace hugging Widget in Gramma's window.

Ken and Shannyn's new house when they first moved in.

Mimi's wedding.  Has there ever been a more beautiful bride?

Mary Grace as a baby, looking so much like Jack.

Me, exhausted, right after giving birth.

Me, standing in the sun at Mimi and Trey's wedding.

The Children's Museum.

An old scanned picture of Barbara-Dahling and Uncle Dale from college.


There are more photos of loved ones who have passed away than there were last time we watched a slideshow.  It hurts.  More friends we've lost touch with, too, in spite of Facebook.  I think of all the good stuff that's lost to us, and I wish that we could just live the last ten years on an infinite loop, over and over and over again.  Well, most of them, anyway.

This is what it feels like to get old.

And then I remember what I tell the kids - don't be sad that it's over, be glad that it happened.  I think it's a paraphrase of something Dr. Seuss said. 

That guy knew everything.

He's gone, too.

I need chocolate.

10 Ways to Get Help Now for PPD/PAMD

A mother who was being treated for postpartum depression (PPD) threw her 7 month old off of a 4 story parking garage, and he died.

I read the story at Postpartum Progress while I was nursing my 8 month old, down for his afternoon nap, crying into his fuzzy hair because of some poor baby I've never known, who will never reach the age of 8 months.  Crying for his two older siblings who are going to lose their mom, either to prison or a psychiatric ward.  Crying for his devastated father.  Crying for his mother, because I've been through PPD and I know that there but for the grace of Zoloft and some excellent therapy go I.

I am just heartbroken over this story.  Please, please please, if you're in that dark place, get help.

Talk to your doctor.  

Call your local crisis hotline.  

Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)* the National Child Abuse Prevention Hotline.  

Call the Postpartum Depression hotline - 1-800-PPD-MOMS (800-773-6667)*.  

Call the mother and baby unit at your local hospital.  

Go to the emergency room or urgent care.

Call a friend or relative.  

Confide in your spouse. 

*I called both hotlines, and as of 8/25/2011 they are both active.

Don't try to fight perinatal anxiety and mood disorders or postpartum depression alone.  Don't hurt your baby.  You are not alone.  This IS treatable.  You CAN fix it.  It WILL get better, but you have to be brave enough to take the first step.  And you have to keep taking steps until you get the support and help you need.  It's hard, and I KNOW it's scary, believe me I know, but you must. 

I think the saddest part of this story is that this happened just outside a hospital.  All she had to do was choose, in that critical moment, to walk into the emergency room and say, "I need help, I'm afraid I'm going to hurt my baby," rather than to walk to the top of the parking structure.  She was so close to all the help she needed, and she chose, instead, to literally throw her son away.  It's just devastating.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


"Jack just sent his first email to the Air Force."
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The foot is not broken.  I can relinquish the title of Worst Mother Ever back to Joan Crawford or Courtney Love or whoever named their kid Carburetor this week.

The doctor's office took forever.  I liked it better when my doctor first started practicing, and he had 11 patients, and I could call and get an appointment for whenever I wanted.  Sometimes he would call me and offer me appointments, just so he'd have something to do.  Then Dopey Amy referred everyone in town to him, and now suddenly (7 years later) Dr. Popular is all busy and impossible to see.  He still listens and does a wonderful job, but he's obviously stretched much thinner than he used to be. Waiting room waits are longer, and the time between when I call and when I can get in has grown.

Anywho, between the yearly physical (which is what the appointment was for) and the foot, and the X-rays, and the waiting for the X-rays, and so on, we were there about 2 hours.  It's a good thing that Grandpa Bob took Claire, because keeping Hop Along and Jack occupied was enough to exhaust me, and Claire would have been bored to tears.  Plus, the poor kid was just there with me yesterday.  Same room and everything.  Mommy can only blow up so many gloves into balloon chickens.

After the X-rays had been taken, but before Dr. Popular came back to talk to us about the results, MG asked what was taking so long.  I said, "Well, the doctor has to look at all the pictures of your foot, and there are lots and lots of bones in there, and he has to look at each one to make sure it's not broken.  Here, let me show you," and I pulled up an image of a foot X-ray on my phone.  We were looking at it when Dr. Popular came back, and he thought that I'd somehow managed to get Mary Grace's X-ray on my phone!  I should have let him think that I was that good, but I came clean and told him it was just some random internet foot.

How on earth did our mothers keep us busy at the doctor's office without tech?

Oh, the other thing about the visit that was funny - Mary Grace made me push her in the wheelchair.  You should have seen the looks we got from other patients.  But she was hurt, and that's what it's there for, right?  How the heck else was I supposed to get her, Jack, and all our crap around the building?

I need to stop caring what other people think.  From now on, when I find myself thinking, "Oh my gosh, those people are judging me!!" I'm going to imagine that they're actual judges with scorecards in their hands.  Then I'll do my very triple lutz, and go on. 

Perhaps She was Right

Remember last night, Mary Grace told me that I didn't understand her pain?  I'm afraid she might have been right.

Last night, after she got hurt, BJ, our friend Jim, and I all looked at her foot.  There was no swelling, no bruising, she could bend her toes, there was no reason to suspect that it was anything other than drama.  We gave her an ice pack, and told her to quit being such a drama queen.

This morning she woke up at 6 am and hopped to the bathroom (waking BJ up in the process).  So she was being consistent with her symptoms.  She refuses to put any weight on her foot.  I had to keep her home from school (she can't hop all day long, right?).  Happily, her annual physical was already scheduled for today.  We'll be there in about an hour.

Dad came over this morning and looked at her.  He thinks it's sprained.

I didn't even give the poor kid a Tylenol before I put her to bed last night.

I am officially the Worst Mother Ever.

The irony of it all?  I went to the doctor myself, yesterday, because of some hormonal weirdness that's been going on since after Jack was born, and I told BJ that it was so nice to have a doctor who listened to me, after having everyone think I was a crazy hypochondriac my whole life (because when you start getting migraines when you're 5 years old, people tend to think you're a crazy hypochondriac).  And then, the very same day, I thought MG was being a crazy hypochondriac.  I totally suck.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Somehow Mary Grace fell on her foot this evening and hurt it, and she has been hobbling around pretending to be crippled ever since.  It is not bruised.  It is not swollen.  She is just a drama queen.

Remember how I said that my kids drive me the most nuts when they're acting the most like me?  Yeah.

As I was putting her to bed, she said, "I sure hope my foot feels better tomorrow."

And since I've completely run out of sympathy, I said, "I think your foot feels better right now."

"Mommy," she said, exasperated, "you don't understand my pain."

Stay tuned, folks, because in just 7 short years, this kid is going to be a teenager.  And that's when the fun will really start.

Now you'll have to excuse me.  I have to go send another apology letter to my parents.

Opinion Piece

The hardest part of having small kids is learning to do things in 5 minute chunks, and never being allowed to complete the simplest of tasks without interruption.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Even Brilliant Mamas Get The Blues

Someone called my parenting "brilliant" today.  In public!

I know!

We were at the Children's Museum, home of long, delicious ramps that just beg, "Oh please, children!  Run!  Run down me!!!"  And since, oh, forever, I've been playing red light/green light with my kids there.  Where they get about 20 feet in front of me, and I say, "Red light!" and they stop, and then when I get within a few feet I say, "Green light," and they take off like maniacs, and this is how we get through places without me putting anyone on a leash losing anyone.

Right.  It almost always works.

So we were doing the red light/green light thing on the way in, and the girls got going a little too fast down the ramp, and they couldn't stop (yeah, right, they saw something shiny and ignored me), so I said, "You'd better stop or you'll get a ticket!"

We've talked about tickets, when we have been pulled over seen someone get pulled over, so the girls know they're bad, and they cost money and they make Mommy use her special "car words."

When I threatened them with tickets, they both stopped until I caught up.  That was about it, and I didn't give it much thought until we left, when the woman at the information desk four hours later said I was "brilliant," and asked me for the specifics of the red light/green light ticket thing.

I didn't tell her, necessarily, that it's all bluster.  I did say that I've never actually taken money from them, but that I threaten it, and that's enough.

We chatted for a few more minutes while the girls went to the bathroom, I gave her my URL (hi Children's Museum Info Desk Lady!  You made my day!) and we went on our merry way.

Until Mommy got to Lafayette road, and decided that it had been long enough since I stopped at Garden Ridge.

I won't get into the gory details, but about halfway through I said "no" to a certain cheap plastic piece of crap wand from China, and all hell broke loose.  It was so bad that the cashier prescribed an early bedtime and a glass of wine for me.  Retail therapy became retail THERAPY.  Yikes.

So even brilliant mommies make bad choices and take tired children to boring stores, and have to threaten and speak in all consonants through our teeth just to get through 5 more minutes of it.

But the little turkeys did NOT run away from me at Garden Ridge, so I guess there's that.

(I randomly bought my sister's throw pillows.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?  I knew they were similar, I wasn't expecting them to be identical.  Whoops.)

(AND my husband just threw one at me, and when I threw it back he blocked - with the baby!  He is so wrong!)

(Don't worry, the baby laughed.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wherefore Art Thou, Perry?

Tonight before bed, we were reading the girls' new Phineas and Ferb book.  If you've never seen the show, it's about two kids and their pet platypus, Perry.  Perry pretends to be a pet, but in reality he's a secret agent - Agent P.  He has a theme song, that says, "He's a semi-aquatic egg laying mammal of action..."

Anyway, we're reading the book, in which P&F build a submarine, and Perry escapes the submarine to go after the Evil Dr. Doofenschmirtz.  In the book, it says, "Perry donned his wetsuit..."

"Mommy," Mary Grace interrupted, "Perry is a semiaquatic mammal.  Why does he need a wetsuit?"

I just stared at her for a second, then I started laughing.  This kid doesn't miss a trick.


Earlier tonight we were telling the girls about Grandpa Bob's new job.  We explained that he's still going to be a nurse, but he'll be what's called a Charge Nurse, sort of like the boss of the nurses.

"He's going to be the brains of that outfit!" Mary Grace exclaimed.  Oh my goodness...


And because I love you and I want you to be happy, I am sharing the recipe that I made up for dinner tonight.  I'm proud of myself for actually writing down what I did, for a change, so that I can re-create this if I want to.  It made a ton.  BJ, Dad, and I each had one (too spicy for the girlies, they had soup and grilled cheese).  I think we'll get at least 4 more servings out of it, maybe more.  I served it with shredded lettuce and sour cream.  YUM!

Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas

3 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup Frank's RedHot Sauce
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1/4 cup sour cream
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup

Mix all above in a medium bowl. Fill large tortillas and arrange in sprayed 13 x 9 pan.

Top with jarred salsa (about a cup, give or take) and shredded Mexican cheese (two cups or so).

Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Serve with shredded lettuce and sour cream.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We made it!

Mary Grace was up, dressed, and ready to go at 7:05 this morning.  The bus doesn't come until 8:30.  I made her get undressed and take a shower, instead of just staring out the front window impatiently for almost an hour and a half!

Meanwhile, Claire had a total thermonuclear meltdown that Mary Grace was going to school without her.

She felt a little better when she realized that we were going to MG's school, too, after we got her onto the bus.

The bus was 10 minutes late.  BJ said, "Do we have the wrong day?"  I said, "No, I think it's just a first-day-of-school thing."

While we were waiting, we had a photo shoot.

Got some last-minute advice from Daddy:

Then we tried magic:

...and it worked!  The bus came!

Good thing I'm quick with the camera, because she jumped on that bus and disappeared so fast, I almost missed it.  I didn't even have time to cry.

Apparently she met a girl named Grace on the bus, just like Junie B. Jones.

When we got to school, we parked a couple blocks away and walked.  The crossing guard yelled at me.  I'm going to probably learn as much as MG this year.

We finally arrived at room 10, and MG wasn't there!  I sent BJ down one hall with Jack, and Claire and I went down the other to look for her.  I was afraid she'd gotten lost, because the buses drop them off on the opposite side of the school from her classroom.

I got all the way outside and to the second door (I was trying not to panic, even though when I got outside there were no buses out there, and OMG where the hell could she be, panic panic panic!) before BJ called and said he'd found her in the hall that connects hallway #1 and hallway #2.  PHEW!

By the time I got back to class, she was already settled in and coloring.

We just stood there and let her ignore us for a while.  Then the principal came on and said that the parents could proceed to the cafeteria for information on Parent Council and a sibling snack, so we gave her a kiss and left.

She barely looked up from her coloring page.

We walked back to the van

...a little bit sad, but excited for Mary Grace!

Claire, Jack, and I went to the Boo Hoo Breakfast at Chick Fil A.  Daddy stopped at his usual cafe on the way to the office, and apparently found the Woo Hoo Breakfast - a bunch of parents were there celebrating their liberation.

Before I knew it, it was time to pick our big girl up from school.  Looks like she had fun, doesn't it?

We went to the office to run payroll, then we all went to DQ for lunch.  Mommy had a strawberry lemonade, because swallowing anything chunkier than chicken soup still feels like swallowing knives.  It might be a good diet plan, if it weren't for the fact that milk shakes feel so good on a sore throat.

When we got home, the light was better, so I got one more picture in front of our Kindergarten sign.

Is it just me, or does she look older in this one?

Monday, August 15, 2011

School Anxiety

Mary Grace starts kindergarten tomorrow. 

I spent all night last night having anxious dreams about it.

The school allows parents to come for the first 45 minutes tomorrow (in real life).  In my dream, there was this elaborate greeting ritual that involved two differently colored blankets and wrapping them up in a very particular way (I know, it doesn't make any sense).  I couldn't get it right.  Some dad took me aside and tried to show me, ended up hitting on me in a very creepy inappropriate way*, and I missed her getting off of the bus, anyway.

Then I finally found her right classroom (in the dream - I know where it is IRL.  I even know which windows to peek in during the day).  I didn't recognize her.  She looked like a different kid.  She didn't like her name**.

Then it was time for lunch (which is odd, because we got her into the half day program IRL) and as we were walking to the cafeteria I threw a foam take-out container away in an air duct, causing all kinds of havoc for the school janitor.  (It looked like a laundry chute in my dream, and if I had been there in the beginning when she got off the bus they would have pointed it out to me, according to Imaginary Janitor.  "Where were you?  Everyone else knew!")  Meanwhile, MG stood next to me shrinking with embarrassment.

Then the very worst part of the nightmare happened.

She asked me to go home.

I don't remember any more of it, thank goodness.

BJ and I were talking about it yesterday, as I was trying not to cry in the playplace at the mall that she has outgrown, about why starting Kindergarten is hard for me.  He said, "She's had 3 years of preschool.  I think we've done a pretty good job of preparing her for the world." 

"I know," I replied, "but what if I forgot something?"

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I know I'm not the only one who is struggling with this enormous change in our family.  My friends are having a Boo Hoo Breakfast at Chick Fil A tomorrow.  We'll all get each other through it.

I know it's going to be fine.  As I've often said, "Change isn't so bad, it's transition that sucks."  And I know that I only have dreams like that because I'm crazy, not because I'm psychic.  But my real fears are there in black and white - that she'll get out in the big world and she'll realize that her mom is a huge dork, that I'll embarrass her or let her down, that she won't be proud of the person we've taught her to be once she has a choice, that I've forgotten to teach her something vital and I won't be there to correct it when she's at school...  It's all pretty real.

Looks like I picked the wrong month to go off of the Zoloft.

*This is my subconscious telling me to get my wedding ring resized so I can wear it again.

**When we went to meet her teacher last week, she told her teacher that she could call her Mary if she wanted to.  HUH? 

PS - Happy birthday Gramma!!  Call me when you get up!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Proud to be a Hoosier

Driving home from dinner last night, we got caught in a terrible storm.  It was crazy windy, the clouds were all different colors of black and gray, there was hail, driving wind, and rain so heavy that the highway slowed to a crawl.  It didn't last long, but it did a lot of damage.

By now, you've probably heard about the stage that collapsed during the same storm at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Saturday night just before a concert by country group Sugarland.  The video is horrifying:

Watching it made me cry.  But I had to back it up and watch it again, because look at 0:13.

The people ran BACK.

Even as the storm worsened, even though no one knew if the debris was stable (it was safer to assume that it wasn't), my fellow Hoosiers rushed back toward the stage less than a second after it hit the ground, to help those who were trapped and injured.  They could have been electrocuted by the lighting wires, they could have been hit by lightning (standing near a huge metal thing on the ground in an electrical storm), but they went back.

That's why I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Well done, Indiana.

Our family's thoughts are with all the victims of this tragedy and their families, and all of those who witnessed this horrible scene in person.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Cuppycake!

Dear Mary Grace,

This morning you turned six.  It absolutely blows my mind that you're six whole years old, because it feels like you were just born.  Six.  That's a third of your childhood.  I do not feel old enough to have a daughter who is six.  You're getting to an age that I remember.  I remember when Mimi was born, and I was 5.  I remember when my Papa died, and I was six.  I remember school.  I find myself wondering which things you're going to remember about your life now when you're my age.

And speaking of school, holy cow, how is it possible that you're starting REAL school next week?  You are SO excited!  I hope that you stay as excited about school as you are today until you get your Ph.D.  We found out today that you've been switched to the morning class (funny story, right after the school secretary called me, I realized that we had an appointment to meet your old teacher tomorrow morning, so I called right back to find out if we keep that time or get another... but while I was pushing one for this and three for that to get through the voice maze, I started thinking, "Oh, I really should call BJ and tell him that Mary Grace got into half day Kindergarten."  So when I heard the beep, instead of saying, "This is Amy Austin, I was calling to confirm our appointment to meet Mary Grace's teacher..." I ended up saying, "Hi honey, it's me.  I just got a call from the school and Mary Grace got into the half day class, so yay!  I'll talk to you later.  Love you, bye."  And I didn't even realize that I was telling the school secretary's voicemail, "Love you, bye!" until I hung up!!!  I'm sorry your mom is such a total dork.)

ANYWAY, when I told you that you were going half days, I said, "And now we can do so many fun things in the afternoon!  We can go to the park, go on playdates, go to the zoo and the museum!!!"  You were really excited, and I was so glad.  I was afraid you'd be upset about not going full days.  I promise we'll stay and eat lunch at school once in a while, if we can.

A couple days ago Claire asked Daddy, "What am I going to do when Mary Grace is in school all the time?" so she was really relieved that you're going to be going half days next year.  I am, too.  We're going to have lots of fun.  And we're saving a boatload of money.

You are SO tall!

Daddy took you out for breakfast for your birthday this morning, and you had pie.  You brought half of it home for Claire, just like last year.  I love the way you two are so close.  And oh my gosh, are you both coo coo over your brother.  I would've thought that you'd get bored with him by now, but you both just adore him, and you constantly want to hold him and hug him and kiss him.  One of the sweetest things I've ever seen is the three of you curled up, you and Claire reading books to Jack.  We had lunch at Noodles, and we had birthday dinner at home with lots of family.  It was a fun day. 

Here's the checklist I started doing when you were a baby:

Your favorite toy for playing is: Barbies- especially making dresses at the Children's Museum, Polly Pockets, Little People

Your favorite toy for snuggling is: your panda bears

Your favorite food is: "Spaghetti.  Actually, cake!"

Your favorite book is: Junie B. Jones

Your favorite activity is: playing with friends and family

Your favorite place to go is: Noodles

Your best friend is: Claire and Esther

You, Claire, Iris, and Esther at the Children's Museum

Something new that you're doing: Adding 3 digit numbers (123 + 456, etc.) 

Something you've mastered: turning the TV on and off, reading (seriously, you just read "turning on and off the TV" over my shoulder!)

Something people say about you: "She's so sweet!"

Something that you're saying is:  You quote the Junie B. Jones books.  You especially think that "behiney" is hilarious.

Something Dad and I are proud of you for: I can't pick just one thing.  We're proud of EVERYTHING you are, Cuppycake.

Something surprising about you: You've lost a whole bunch of teeth already.  I think your 8th and 9th teeth are wiggly now - I've lost count.  The tooth fairy is going broke. 

What you want to be when you grow up: a veterinarian ("for pets, not wild animals").

You are such a wonderful girl, Mary Grace.  It is such a privilege to be your mom.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Mother's Prayer

Dear Universe,

Please forgive me for getting frustrated with Jack today.  I know he's fussy because he's teething.  I know I shouldn't let it get to me.  And after I saw the pictures of the baby who had to have heart surgery, and who was so swollen that they left his chest wound open instead of stitching him up, I was reminded that I have absolutely no room to bitch.

Forgive me for getting irritated with Mary Grace when she laughed and spit ice cream all over Jack and me at McDonald's today.  It was the middle of the whole screaming-all-the-way-home-because-we're-teething-and-inconsolable thing, and he was wrestling around while I was trying to nurse him, flashing everyone at exit 205.  I had just about had it... but that's no excuse, I know.  She was just laughing.  Please let her have truly meant it when I asked for her forgiveness, and asked her if we could just leave it behind, and she said, "Ok, Mommy."

Forgive me for not being as patient with Claire as I should be.  She's not the same age as her big sister, even though she can almost always be counted upon to act as though she is.  Help me remember that she's just little (all of her - especially her internal organs) and not to have overly high expectations of her.

Help me remember, when I get annoyed with BJ over the little, stupid things that I tend to get irritated over, the story of the woman in my community who has 4 kids and a husband with incurable cancer.  I met her today, and she didn't even mention it.  She smiled.  She laughed.  She was charming.  She gave me helpful advice about having kids in school.  How does she manage?  How could she not be falling apart?  And help me remember my friend who is struggling with her own cancer AGAIN.  Help me remember to do kind things for those around me who are struggling.  And when I get aggravated, please help me remember how freaking lucky we are to be healthy.

I know I keep wishing time away...  "It'll be so much easier when they're bigger.  It'll be so much easier when they're all in school...  It'll be so much easier when..." but please don't take me seriously.  It doesn't need to go by quite so fast.  Help me enjoy it, even though there's a lot of hard work and self-sacrifice involved in mothering.  Help me get involved with the PTA at the new school, and to take a leadership role at the preschool (and not annoy them half to death this year), and help me do it with a song in my heart and a spring in my step, instead of grousing about making cupcakes for this or having to run to that.  Help me keep perspective, and to remember to give joyfully of myself.  Help me to do it all, and still have a little time and energy left over for myself.

Help me be worthy of the family you've entrusted to me. 


Letter from Mimi

Part of the reason I keep this blog is so that my kids will know what life was like when they were too little to remember.  (Well, that, and because sometimes cool people give me iPads and prizes and stuff.  It arrived today, and all I want to do is go home and play with it, but I have to be a grown up and work and stuff.  :( )

With that in mind, I want to record for posterity (not to brag....... much.  :) ) the email I got from Aunt Mimi last night.  It made me cry.

Top 10 reasons that I love your kids:
10. They are tough little cookies.  Claire falls in the parking lot and yet she's fine.  Mary Grace's ankle starts bleeding, no prob, a bandaid will fix it.
9.  They ADORE showtunes.  Claire asked to hear the Wicked cd, but it wasn't in my car so we listened to the entire Annie cd and then they went back for more.  Love it!!  Claire picked a song that she wanted to hear again and so did Mary Grace.  It was fantastic!
8.  They deal with a change of plans with such composure and grace.  Mary Grace:  Ummm, I thought we were going to the park??  Me:  We are, but it doesn't have a splashpad like the other one does.  Mary Grace:  O.K!
7.  They laugh at my jokes.  (Well, Mary Grace gets them, Claire will in time)  I said something completely over their heads and Mary Grace repeated it in the backseat with a chuckle.  Which leads me to #6-
6.  They are freakin' hilarious.  I laugh a lot just listening to the crazy things that they say.  Tonight we played Barbies.  Hilarious!  I have no idea where they come up with this stuff. 
5.  They don't freak out when it's time to leave.  It's just "time to leave" and they problem  Sweet Claire was so tired today but didn't want to admit it.  "Mimi, can we go back to Grandma's house now??"  We stayed at the park for another 20 minutes but yet she was just fine!
4.  Have I mentioned their adorable little faces?  How could you not love them.  Seriously, you have outstandingly beautiful children.
3.  Their tender little hearts.  They *truly* care about each other.  They were playing at the new downtown stage and the other kids were jumping off the front of the stage.  MG jumped off and then went back to help Claire.  She picked her up and set her down on the ground.  It melted my heart...
2.  They hold hands.  It reminds me why I want my kid to have a sister.  :)
1.  They are so sweet and by far the nicest kids on the play ground.  Mary Grace asked other kids to play and the other kids said that they wanted to play by themselves.  (I had to refrain from knocking out all of their teeth.  Seriously I don't know how you do it)  She took it in stride and even WAVED GOODBYE to the little bitches.  So we left and went to another park where we met a new little girl.  Mary Grace said, "Hi!  I'm going to be six, how old are you?"  And then they ran around the playground. 
You are raising fantastic children that I love being around.  I just thought that I would let you know.

There aren't any awards in parenting.  You don't even get a participation medal.  And you have to wait 20 or 30 years to find out whether or not you're doing it right!  But sometimes you get an email like this, and it makes you feel like you just won the Mom of the Year award.  (Of course, they get all their sweet qualities from their Dad, and all the rest from me...  But I still get the award because I was smart enough to choose him!)

Can you make a parent's day, today, by sending a note like this?

Love you, Mimi!!!  I know how to raise awesome sisters because I have one.  Thanks for making my day!  (PS - I'm still laughing over the "little bitches" on the playground. Was it the butterfly park where Claire got attacked last year? Maybe we need to stop going there!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shopping Hack

I've professed my love of Google Calendar enough times on this blog that Google actually called me and I had a forty-five minute conversation with one of their marketing people about the "innovative" (their word) way I use their products.  True story.

I just thought of another one.

I am always getting Gymbucks, Old Navy Super Cash, Kohl's Cash, etc. and then finding it a day or two after it has expired.

I just created a Google Calendar to remind myself to use them when they're actually good.  In this case, the Old Navy Cash is good from 8/25 to 8/29, and the Gymboree Bucks are good from 9/29 - 10/9.  Would I have remembered them?  No way.

Now if only I could find a way to go back in time and spend another $5.39 at Gymboree to earn another $25 in Gymbucks.  Darnit!

(Yes, I already have a calendar set up for our schools, both pre-school and Kindergarten, to keep track of their days off, etc.  I am that OCD.  But it has been a while since I forgot something, so it's all good!)

What's you favorite calendar hack?

Kids and Race

We were sitting at breakfast, and Claire said, "Some people have dark brown skin, and it looks spooky!"

I was mortified, but I think I handled it well. I said, "it's not spooky, it's beautiful!" and I reminded her of all our friends who are "brown."

How do you address comments about peoples' race in public? How about in private?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!  I am celebrating my 58th month of breastfeeding, not including the months when I was the baby, and not the mommy... If I count my own months of breastfeeding as a baby, I'm at around 82 months, right Mom?

I breastfeed mainly because I'm cheap and lazy.  Formula costs a lot of money, and sterilizing bottles all the time would drive me insane.  I do not want to have to get up in the middle of the night to make a bottle when my breasts are already right there in the bed with us, ready to go.  Breastmilk is the ultimate convenience food.

I do NOT believe that any mother should feel guilty if she can't breastfeed, for whatever reason.  It is a personal decision, and it's no one's business but the parents'.  Our culture has built a lot of obstacles to successful breastfeeding - moms have to return to work way too early, in some groups/areas there is a bias against breastfeeding and an accompanying lack of support, moms get advice from all corners from the time the baby is born - and some of that advice sucks (pun intended), parents lack experience with breastfed babies - they haven't seen what a breastfeeding relationship looks like and therefore don't know how to proceed, and so on.

I'm a breastfeeding advocate because I truly believe that it's best for moms and babies, but I hope I'm able to be an advocate without being a "boob nazi."  With that position in mind (the low-guilt, high-support position) I'd like to offer a little advice for those of you who might be pregnant, new to breastfeeding, or having trouble.

1) Seek expert advice.  Bad advice is the enemy of successful breastfeeding.  Sadly, some of the worst advice I got was from doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants.  Keep seeking advice until you find the right person to help you.  In my case it was Jeni, the local LLL leader at the time, who is now the lactation consultant at the hospital (if you're local and you want a referral, email me).  I LOVE her.  She saved my sanity when MG was a baby, and when she came in the room for the first time after Jack was born, I cried.  She's wonderful.

2) Don't schedule.  Sometimes Jack will go 4 hours in between feedings.  His record is 7 hours right now - he slept that long, and was I ready to nurse when he woke up!  Other times I think he's done, and 5 minutes later he wants to nurse again.  He knows what he needs, whether it's milk or comfort.  Sometimes the baby has the urge to suck so that he can help bring more milk in because he's getting ready to hit a growth spurt.  Let him suck.  I mean, not to the point where it drives you insane, but it's ok if he's not actively eating every minute that he's at the breast, know what I mean?  I call it "noodling," and it's healthy and normal.  It's how all three of my kids have gone to sleep, too, and it helps maintain a good milk supply. 

3) Don't sweat it if you can't pump.  I have breastfed for nearly 5 years of my life, and I have NEVER been able to pump more than a few drops of milk.  Seriously.  And none of my kids have accepted formula (well, that's not precisely true.  MG spit it out like she was reenacting the movie The Exorcist, and I haven't bothered to try with Jack and Claire).  It's only a few months before they can eat regular food, and so (if you're fortunate enough not to have to return to work, or to be able to take the baby to work as I do) you can just stay with the baby for the first 6 months.  If you have to do something without the baby in the first 4-6 months, you can feed the baby right before you leave, and make sure that you're reunited with the baby within an hour or two.  It's not necessary to be able to pump to be able to successfully breastfeed, and the amount that you're able to pump does not correlate to the amount the baby is getting.  If it did, my kids would have wasted away long ago. 

4) If you have a smartphone, there's a free app called LactMed that tells you whether or not medications are safe for breastfeeding mothers.  It has come in really handy!

5) Breastfeeding helps you remember to take care of yourself.  If you're nursing, you have to sleep (you make more milk when you're sleeping than when you're awake), drink (to thirst), and eat healthfully.  If you learn to nurse while you're lying on your side (which I highly recommend), you can relax while baby eats.  You may not be able to sleep, but at least you're giving your body a break, which it needs when you're healing from birthing! And it burns 300-500 calories per day.  Can't beat that!  Of course, I'm also eating an extra 300-500 calories a day...  :)

6) It gets easier.  Yes, it hurts when you're just learning how to breastfeed and your baby's mouth is tiny.  It will get easier.  That little mouth is growing every day.  Your breasts will toughen up.  It'll be ok.  If you put your head down and get through the first few difficult weeks, I promise it'll get better.  Meanwhile, see #1 and keep getting advice until it all clicks.

7) Breastfeed everywhere.  In 58 months of breastfeeding, I have only had anyone give me a hard time once.  I have nursed my kids in churches, museums, restaurants, malls, tourist attractions, universities, and walking down the street.  99% of the time I've done it without a blanket or shawl (they just won't tolerate being covered up, and I find it awkward, but if a shawl works for you, go for it!).  I nursed Mary Grace at the top of the Eiffel Tower, I nursed Claire in the courthouse in St. Thomas where I got hassled, and I nursed Jack while I was sitting in the dentist's chair having my teeth cleaned!  The more we mothers nurse in public, the more normal it will become, and the less any of us will have to deal with assholes who think we shouldn't.   Find the law that protects you in your state, memorize it, and be prepared to shout it at anyone who needs it.  My speech is "Indiana Code 16-35-6 protects my right to breastfeed my child anywhere the law allows me to be."  Save up all your sleep deprivation and unleash it on the cretins who try to say, "No!" to your right to breastfeed. 
8) If you see a nursing mom in public, especially if she looks like a new mom or a first-timer, please give her some positive feedback, because in the back of our minds we all worry that some idiot is going to throw us off a plane or out of a restaurant.

9) Practice changing the subject.  There WILL be someone in your life who is unsupportive of your decision to nurse.  That's ok.  You can do everything you can to educate Great Aunt Myrtle, but in the end, she's probably not going to change her mind.  And you might get the third degree from her every time your baby needs to nurse - and it's going to get worse as the baby gets older.  Which is why you need to practice the fine art of changing the subject.  I have found several successful strategies. 

     i) Backhanded Flattery, "Gosh, Aunt Myrtle, you're so wise. Tell me more about how you raised your kids back in the stone age!" 

     ii) Misdirection, "Oh my goodness, is that Tom Cruise over there?"

     iii) Feeding a Different Fire, "I know you want to talk about breastfeeding, but what I'd really like to hear about is your opinion on [something that really gets her fired up and can distract her with a good rant - politics, religion, etc.]."  Getting older relatives to talk about their current health concerns is especially effective.  "Tell me more about your goiter!"

     iv) Deferral to Experts, "Gosh, you know, I agree with you.  But our doctor told us that we should breastfeed the baby because it's healthier.  You know how those doctors are... always trying to make sure that the baby gets what's best!  Sheesh...  Speaking of doctors, how's your goiter?" 

And when all else fails, there's always

     v) Avoidance.  You don't really need to see Great Aunt Myrtle until your baby's weaned.  Send a card, and go hang out with someone who supports you, instead...  At least until you get your confidence up and can give back as well as you get.

10) Recognize your own achievement.  There are no trophies in parenting.  You don't get awards for doing any of it.  You don't even get a participation ribbon.  So it's really important that you (and your partner) recognize the achievement that breastfeeding is - whether you can do it for a month, a year, or longer.  Congratulate yourself.  Buy yourself something pretty.  Have a portrait taken of your baby and yourself while nursing and have it framed.  Reward yourself in small ways, like ice cream, just for getting through the tough days, and celebrate the great days.  Remember that it's hard work, but it goes by fast, and these are the days that you're going to look back on fondly when you're old.