Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As a kid, I loved wearing a costume and wandering our neighborhood, with dad in tow, after dark and after bedtime. It was a huge treat to be out late, and I always had so much fun. But I outgrew the whole thing at about 12. Now, the thought of having to come up with and construct a costume makes me tired. And buying one is out of the question. I took Lily to one of the Halloween superstores last week to buy her a new princess dress, which she now refuses to wear, and I was appalled at the "adult" costumes available. My options were slutty nurse, slutty nun, slutty cheerleader, slutty waitress, slutty witch, and slutty vampiress.
But I have adult friends who go all out for the day, and I just don't get it. This morning I dropped by my old office, where I worked pre-Lily, to see their Halloween doings. My former boss, who is without a doubt the most brilliant person I've ever met, is the ringleader for the celebration. Each year, with ETB at the helm, they transform the whole division. One year it was a laboratory of horrors, another it was pirate themed. This year it is "E-T-B Here, everything's worse." Readers who live in Texas will recognize this as a play on our biggest grocery chain H-E-B, whose motto is "Here, everything's better." And ETB are the director's initials. All the staff were dressed up as ghoulish grocery clerks. The common area was filled with rotting produce and disgusting bottled water. They started decorating Monday evening. To their credit, they turned the whole thing into a food drive for the Capital Area Foodbank. All the food decorating the department will be donated to the Foodbank when the decorations come down, and there's a whole lot of food there. I was amazed at how much they rounded up.
I worked in that division for almost five years, and I never really participated in the looniness, other than bringing in baked goods for the party. I didn't dress up or hang cobwebs. I was the stick in the mud of the division. Co-workers just didn't understand how I could be so unaffected by the Halloween spirit.
These days, my observance of the holiday is limited to enjoying my daughters' excitement over the day. Ella and Lily have been counting down the days on their calendar. I got them to go to sleep last night by telling them that any girl who wasn't quiet in bed wouldn't get to go trick or treating. It worked like a charm.
Tonight we're hosting an early pot-luck dinner with a bunch of neighbors, and then the kids will trick or treat on the block. I'll take lots of pictures and oh and ah over the costumes, but I'll be glad when it's all over tomorrow.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
But all the same, goodness it's hard. It's like herding 12 noisy, hyperactive kittens - and she's in a class with some really great kids, most of whom I've known since they were toddlers. I honestly don't know how the teachers do it day in and day out. I know I couldn't, at least not without developing a nasty twitch.
And it's not like I don't have experience dealing with kids. For 7 years I coached swimming full time. Six days a week I wrangled about 40 kids in a swimming pool. Kids en masse don't scare me. I suppose the difference between preschool and my coaching days is that the kids I worked with were middle school aged. They had an attention span of longer than 15 seconds, and they were at least a little bit logical. And they didn't cry, much. They didn't think it was the height of comedy to squirt their yogurt tubes at each other - or at least the girls didn't think that. Plus, if they misbehaved, I could make them swim more laps - butterfly. That threat alone was usually enough to calm them down.
You can't threaten preschoolers, at least not preschoolers who don't belong to you. Instead, you have to get down to their eye level and discuss appropriate behaviors and ways to use their words instead of their fists. I'd much prefer to just yell "Don't hit your friends" and be done with it. But I think we'd get expelled from the school.
It's a good thing I only have to co-op every other week, any more often and I'd probably end up with a drinking problem. I have 13 days of recovery until my next work day. I hope I make it.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Here it is on Amtrak, going from the Baltimore Airport to Union Station in DC.
And here it is in back of the White House. I shook my fist at the current occupant, but not in view of the police officer on the horse, who is behind the sock.
Here's the sock by the Cascade outside the National Gallery, where mom, our friend Jean and I saw the Hopper and Turner exhibits. I was far more impressed with Hopper that I was with Turner. I had no idea Hopper painted so many architectural pieces. I had associated him only with the city scapes that are his best known pieces.
Here's the sock on the deck at Jean's house, overlooking the Potomac River. This is where I sat to knit most days. It's the most peaceful place you could imagine. At one point, I felt like I was being watched, and I turned around to see two deer studying me.
Once we got Ella cleaned up and the girls back in bed, B and I scrounged around for some money, but Ella was still awake, waiting for the Tooth Fairy, so the payoff didn't happen.
The Tooth Fairy meant to put money in Ella's special pillow before she went running at 5:30 this morning, but she was late, so she bolted out the door without doing it. The Tooth Fairy remembered she'd forgotten about halfway through her run, and she crossed her fingers that Ella would still be asleep when she got home, so she could put the money in. No such luck. Ella was awake, and boy was she pissed at the Tooth Fairy.
Ella was yelling before I'd even closed the front door. "Mama, do you know what I found in my tooth pillow? Nothing. No money. Just my tooth. The Tooth Fairy didn't come!"
I explained that maybe the Tooth Fairy didn't get the message that Ella had lost a tooth because it happened so late at night. Or maybe the Tooth Fairy already had a busy delivery route and didn't have time to add another stop to it. Or maybe the Tooth Fairy just forgot.
None of those explanations helped much. Ella pouted on the sofa until breakfast was ready. My reassurances that she could put the tooth out again tonight and maybe the Tooth Fairy would make it didn't seem to help.
I'm thinking the Tooth Fairy better cough up more than her usual $2.00.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday morning Campbell and I noodled around until B got up, and then I left the boys to go for a nice run. I took a nap while Campbell took his morning nap, then we played some more. As B was making lunch and Campbell sat in his chair, foot on the table, eating his sandwich, B and I talked about how easy we had it back in the days of having just one child.
The kicker is that we didn't know how easy it was to just have one kid. I was a nervous wreck for most of Ella's babyhood, and according to B and my mother, I cried a lot of the time. I don't remember crying a lot, but they swear I did. Back then I would have struggled with getting one child bathed into bed solo. And I would have spent the morning worrying that I wasn't doing enough to provide enrichment and learning experiences. I would have never just sat on the sofa and read the paper while the child played with stacking cups and blocks.
Oh how much I've learned since then. Or maybe it's just that I'm more tired and worn down. Or maybe it's that I know I can keep a child alive until age 7, so I don't worry so much about what happens to a 1-year-old. Whatever the reason, if I could go back and have just one child knowing what I know now as a mother of three, life would be so easy.
Unfortunately, I think the only way to be completely relaxed about having one child, and to realize how easy it is to just deal with one child, is to have more than one. Otherwise there's no basis for comparison.
But I do think it's a measure of how much I've grown as a parent that I can get all three kids fed, bathed and into bed solo without too much trouble.
Friday, October 26, 2007
When it was finally time for the dance, Ella and Lily dragged B up in front of the bandstand and got in the circle. I fully expected B to bail out and just watch them dance, but he surprised me. In front of about 200 fellow-agents and clients, B did the Chicken Dance, wiggling his rear end with them and laughing the whole time. I got all misty thinking about what a good man I picked to be my husband and the father of our kids.
But then my warm, fuzzy thoughts disappeared about an hour later. The kids and I had gone home, leaving B to shmooze and socialize. I'd gotten everyone packed into bed and had sat down to work when Ella appeared at my elbow in tears. This weekend, she and B watched an old, old Bela Lugosi vampire movie called "Mark of the Vampire." It was mostly silly, and in the end the "vampires" turned out to be actors hired to scare the main character. At the time, Ella seemed to love the movie, pestering B with questions about everything.
Last night, however, she freaked out. At first I suspected the tears were a stalling tactic, but she really was distressed. She was sobbing hysterically about being scared of vampires and begging me to sit in the living room instead of in my office. I tried to talk her down, reminding her that the vampires in the movie really were actors and were make-believe. She said, "I know they are, but I'm still scared." Given my fear of UFOs, I couldn't argue with her on that point.
In an effort to calm her down, I let Ella turn on her bedroom light - Lily was already sacked out - and I turned on the TV in the living room so that it at least sounded like I was in there. Ella finally fell asleep to the sounds of the Rockies losing the second game in the world series.
I called B and gave him a big, fat "I told you so!" on the vampire movie. And when Ella woke up in the middle of the night and again at 6am, I let him deal with her. He created the situation, he can work to fix it! I'm going to make him promise not to watch any more scary movies with her.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Things I'm Passionate About:
2. My kids
3. The rest of my family
Things I Want To Do Before I Die:
1. Learn to fly a plane
2. Ride in a helicopter
3. Ride in a hot air balloon (I think there's a theme here)
4. Read Ulysses
5. Travel the world - all of it
Things That I Say Often:
1. I love you bunches
2. What did I just tell you to do?
3. No you may not.
4. That is not acceptable.
5. Get in the freaking car now!
6. Leave your brother/sister alone.
7. No playing in the potty!
8. Has anyone seen my watch?
Books I've Read Recently (Or Am Reading):
1. see my new blog
Songs I Can Listen To Over and Over:
1. Once Upon a Time in the West - Dire Straits
2. Sweet Thing - Waterboys
3. Light and Day - The Polyphonic Spree
4. Bittersweet Symphony -
5. Ray of Light - Madonna
6. Coming Home - Dire Straits
7. The Nutcracker Suite - Tchaikovsky
What Attracts Me To My Friends:
1. Sense of humor
2. Intellectual curiosity
3. Willingness to put up with my weirdness
4. General attitude towards life
Things That I Learned (in the) Last Year:
1. I'm glad I had three kids
2. I can cope with three kids
3. I need to do a better job of taking care of myself
4. I love getting pedicures
5. I can knit socks
6. I don't like to cook and I never will
So this morning I was ruthless. I tackled their bookshelf, collected all of Ella's chapter books on one shelf, pulling out and tossing all of the free coloring and activity books we've gotten from stores and Chick-fil-a, and returning my Calvin and Hobbes books to my closet bookshelf. I also sorted out all the board books and moved them to the bookshelf in Campbell's room for him to destroy. I threw out several that were in really bad shape - they were some of our favorites and will need to be replaced.
In the process, I found lots of junk and paper that went in the trash. I took out a garbage sack filled to the brim, and that was without even opening Ella's desk drawers, the contents of which will probably fill another bag. My hope is that the girls will be so impressed by the newly organized bookshelves and the pretty magazine holders I put in it for Ella's Spider magazine, that they won't have time to look for what's missing - like the broken toy vacuum cleaner (which is in the trash) or the light-brite (which is in the garage).
After the bookshelf, I moved on to their dresser. The weather turned cool this week, and I had to scramble to find clothes for the girls, especially Ella, who has gotten taller in the past year but hasn't gained any weight. All of her pants from last year are too short, and I didn't want to send her to school looking like she was ready for a flood, not that she would have cared. Fortunately, I was able to round up some tights and long-sleeved dresses for the girls. Today we'll be doing some clothes shopping for Ella.
In the process of cleaning out dressers, I pulled out all of the clothes I'd put in storage last spring. As a result, Lily is all set for the winter. She has plenty of pants and shirts and dresses, so I won't need to buy her anything.
I didn't get a chance to tackle Ella's side of the dresser before my little helper got bored and cranky. Normally Campbell loves the chance to play in his sisters' room without them there to take things away from him. But today he got tired of being trapped in there after 90 minutes. I'll have to finish the project later.
The discouraging part is that even though I spent all that time working in the girls' room, you can't really tell that I was there. The bookshelf is neat, and there's a little less clutter, but it still needs so much more work. Another project for another day, I guess. At least I know that I got rid of a ton of stuff.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
B's hair is goofy from the wind, and Lily's eyes are mostly closed. But at least all five of us are in the same place at the same time.
The gardens have a tractor, which was decorated for the event. I put Campbell up on it, and he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. He got so mad when I took him off of it. Can't you just imagine he's yelling "Yeehaw!"
But this morning was just perfect for running. It was clear and cool and still. When I headed out the door at 6:00, it was 48 degrees, cool enough that I wished I had grabbed a pair of running gloves.
The sky was absolutely clear, and even in north central Austin, with lots of light pollution, I could see millions of stars. The Big Dipper and Orion were hanging right in front of me as I ran. It made me wish that I was down at the Trail, which can be really dark if there's no moon, allowing for a spectacular view of the constellations.
I didn't worry about running fast. Instead I just enjoyed being out running and feeling good while doing it for the first time in what feels like years. My peaceful feeling was shattered for a few minutes when a woman blew past me like I was standing still. But then she slowed her pace about 10 yards in front of me, and I was able to reel her in a bit. It was good to be forced by pride to pick up the pace a bit.
When I left the house, I knew I probably didn't have long to run before Campbell woke up, so I did my 1 1/2 mile loop, hoping to be able to fit two laps in. Unfortunately, when I swung by the house at the end of my first lap, I could hear Campbell screaming, so I packed it in.
Even though my run was cut short, I'm counting it as a victory. It just felt good to be running again - finally.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
1. Hardcover or paperback, and why? Doesn't matter. I usually buy paperbacks, but if I'm desperate for a new book and can't wait for the paperback, I splurge on the hardcover.
2. If I were to own a book shop, I would call it... "Plenty more books inside." It's from a George Booth cartoon that it was in the New Yorker years ago. I have the cartoon framed and hung in my bedroom. It shows an old couple in rocking chairs in front of this big ramshackle Victorian house with books all over the lawn and all over the porch and teetering out the windows. The woman in the rocking chair says to a passerby, "There's plenty more books inside." It's kind of how I hope my house looks when I'm old and crotchety.
3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title)... "Mistrust all enterprises requiring new clothes." A famous writer actually said it, but I don't know who. I know the quote from A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. It's carved on a wardrobe owned by George Emmerson.
4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be... Edith Wharton. She was a groundbreaking writer in so many ways. Plus she knew everybody who was anybody in the literary world at that time.
5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be… Joyce's Ulysses. I'm well educated, well read, 9 hours shy of a master's degree in literature, and that book stumps me. I make an attempt at reading it every few years and give up after a few chapters. Perhaps if I was stranded on a desert island I'd make it through.
6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that… made it easier to prop my book up in bed.
7. The smell of an old book reminds me of... the attic at my grandparents' house in New York. I'd go in there on cold or rainy days and poke around. There were lots of my dad's and uncles' books in there that I loved to read.
8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title)... Lucy Honeychurch from A Room with a View. It was my favorite book in high school and college, and I still read it once a year or so just for fun. If you had asked me when I was in middle school, I would have answered Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series, which I have read more times than I can count.
9. The most overestimated book of all times is… mom will debate me on this, but I say The Great Gatsby. I just don't get why the book is considered the quintessential American novel.
10. I hate it when a book… wastes my time. Meaning when I've spent all this time and energy getting to know and care about characters only to have it end in some stupid way just because the author couldn't think of a way out.
The funny thing about this list is that I didn't have to think much about these answers. It's like I've been waiting for someone to ask me these very questions.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Yesterday I started out feeling ok, like maybe I was recovering from what someone referred to as the "fatigue virus," so I caught up on grocery shopping and restocked the barren pantry. I also had to buy two sets of snack for Lily's preschool - one to replace the emergency stash the school used last week when I forgot that I was snack mom, and one for this Thursday, when I'm snack mom again. Of course, it took two trips to the store to accomplish this since I forgot the protein for one of the snacks.
Anyway, by the time I finished with the trips to the store and picked Lily up from school, I was done in. I put Campbell down for a nap and confined Lily to her room and promptly passed out on my bed for an hour. I pulled myself back together when Ella got home, but after an hour, I caved and broke my self-imposed "No TV on school days" rule and let the kids watch Baby Mozart for an hour.
During that time, B called to inform me that he was on his way home because he was feeling sick. He came home and promptly threw up, many times. He seems to have the bug that Campbell and Ella had last week, only his didn't clear up after four hours like their bouts did.
So even though I wasn't feeling healthy, I had to buck up and be the parent in charge and handle dinner and bedtime on my own, which is tough to do solo even when I'm healthy.
Poor B is still in bed. He appeared for a few minutes this morning to check his e-mail and voice mail, and I took him some gatorade a while ago. Adding insult to injury, I bought him a big creme brulee, his favorite food, from Central Market as a thank-you treat for being so helpful when I was sick. It's sitting in the fridge waiting for him. I hope he gets well soon enough to be able to eat it.
I'm still feeling puny, but now that I don't have back up, I can't be sick anymore. I'm just hoping that no one gets sick with anything else. I can't take much more.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
My terror started when I was a child. We lived just outside of Albany, NY and there were acres and acres of empty fields behind our house. I'd heard somewhere that UFOs like to land in big empty spaces, like the fields behind our house. So I became convinced they were landing in the back field. One night my window shade flipped up all on its own, and I was sure I saw aliens in the form of Sesame Street characters out there. My parents couldn't figure out why Big Bird and Bert and Ernie outside my window would be so scary, but I knew they didn't belong outside my second-floor bedroom window.
I was just as terrified at my grandparents' house. My bedroom there faced the horse pasture and polo field, two more prime landing spots. I was sure the UFOs were touching down among the horse. But I could at least sleep in peace there; my bedroom windows had blackout shades AND curtains, so there was no chance that I'd accidentally see a UFO outside.
Things got worse when we moved to Massachusetts. We lived near an Air Force base, and sometimes the pilots would practice touch and go landings at night. My closet had a window in it, which I could see out of from my bed. I'd see the planes coming and going at night through the closet window and go screaming downstairs. To this day, I can't sleep if the closet door is open. Fortunately, in our current house, you have to go through the bathroom to get to the closet, so I'm spared middle of the night freakouts.
As I mentioned in the 10 things post, I used to seal my eyes shut when we drove between my grandparents' home in Albany and our house in Massachusetts because I was convinced UFOs were out there and I didn't want to see them. One boyfriend, and this is just one of the reasons he quickly became an ex-boyfriend, had me on the floor in fetal position crying hysterically one night because he kept trying to convince me that the reason I was so afraid of UFOs was because I'd already been abducted and the memory wiping didn't work completely. He informed me that the Berkshires, through which you drive between Albany and Westfield, are prime UFO sighting territory and that's probably where I'd been taken from.
I started watching the X-Files purely as aversion therapy, facing my greatest fear. It sort of worked - I wasn't afraid of the UFOs on TV, but I was still terrified of the UFOs that might be out there.
There's a town in Texas called Marfa that's famous for weird lights in the desert outside of town. No one knows for sure what the light are - some say they're from car headlights on a nearby highway. Others, and these are the ones I believe, say they're UFOs. As a result, I won't go to Marfa. Not ever. I almost didn't go to Mexico to visit B when he lived there because it meant flying over West Texas. And apparently Austin is on the eastern edge of the UFO siting hot spot of the country. Eek.
For me, Close Encounters was a horror movie, not an uplifting tale of homecoming and interplanetary cooperation. My parents took us to see it at the drive-in, and I was terrified. I buried my head in my blanket and pillow as soon as the first orange lights appeared. To this day, I have not seen the whole movie.
So now my friends, especially Lisa R., tease me about UFOs. They hum the theme music from Close Encounters and warn me that there are alien dentists out there waiting to put a probe in my nose.
I know it's completely illogical. I KNOW that there really aren't little green men flying around abducting people. My fear has reduced a little since childhood - I don't close my eyes in the car at night - but it's still there. I'm still terrified, illogically so.
Part of the problem is that he has discovered how to open the kitchen garbage can, and now all sorts of things get thrown away. Ella and Lily have learned to check for their toys and artwork.
But we're missing one of his cute Robeez shoes, half of the pair I gave him for his birthday, and I suspect it went in the trash. I've torn the house apart, and I just can't find it. Yesterday I gave him my watch to play with in an attempt to stop him from crying. He ran off with it, and I haven't seen it since. I've offered a finder's fee of $2.00 to the girls, but they haven't had any luck either. Of course, they could step on it and still claim they didn't see it. I'm worried that it went in the trash, too. I searched the kitchen garbage gingerly last night, but decided I'd rather buy a new watch than dig through the remains of the day before's dinner.
Campbell is also obsessed with the dog's water bowl, and today alone he has dunked his sister's light-up Cinderella crown, three business cards that B needed phone numbers off of, and two books - one of which is "The Elements of Style," my bible. We keep the dog's bowl on the "other" side of the gate so that Campbell can't get to it, but this morning he was on that side of the gate for all of 15 minutes. Unfortunately, that's all the time he needed to drown all that stuff.
Campbell also decided that it's fun to chuck his cup off the table at meal times. I usually just take it away from him when he starts that game, but Lily played along this morning, giving his cup back every time he tossed it. Before I could intervene, Campbell threw his cup across the kitchen, and the lid popped off on impact, spraying the floor and wall with milk. He and Lily thought it was hysterical. I, still being mostly sick, did not.
These are just this morning's disasters. There are too many other instances of shredded books and magazines, ruined artwork of his sisters', deleted e-mails on daddy's laptop (which was foolishly left within reach on the coffee table), and knocked over lego castles. I really don't remember either of the girls being this destructive on a regular basis. They had their moments, but I didn't have to keep a daily tally of things destroyed. Every time I mention this to friends who have sons, their response is always, "Yep. He's a boy." I didn't think there would be a gender difference at this young an age, but apparently I'm wrong.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Because it seemed to happen in a blink of an eye. It can't possibly have been seven years since the doctor put a pink bundle on my chest and I looked at Brandon and said, "Can we call her Ella?" It's just not possible.
But what an amazing seven years it's been with her. I feel so blessed to be Ella's mother. She is a bright, energetic, caring, curious girl who keeps me laughing, when I'm not tearing my hair out in frustration.
Ella was so excited about turning seven that I thought she was going to pop. We had a daily countdown for the week before her birthday, and she woke up the morning of her birthday asking how long until her party. We celebrating by having a "field day" party with lots of relays and races and tug of war. Everyone got medals and trophies and left happy.
Ella and her granddaddy Steve (b's dad) share the same birthdate, so we finished the day with a surprise dinner at Ruth's Chris with Steve and his girlfriend Mary Ann. Mary Ann arranged everything, and we didn't tell Ella until it was time to get ready to go; we were afraid she'd blow the surprise for Steve. Brandon and I couldn't have been more proud of how she behaved at dinner. It's tough for a little kid to sit still that long and listen to grown ups talk, but Ella did it. She used her very best manners through the whole evening, even though she did put her head down on the table at the very end because she was just so, so tired.
So happy birthday biggest girl. I look forward to another fun year with you.
(I should note that I'm writing this while sick, so it may not make any sense whatsoever.)
Friday, October 12, 2007
She threw up a couple more times this morning, and I've cleaned up more barf than I care to think about because it makes me gag (both the cleaning and thinking).
Thursday, October 11, 2007
10 things about me, in no particular order.
1. I'm terrified of UFOs. This used to be my big secret, but so many close friends know and tease me about it that it's no longer a secret. I've been afraid since I was small. I remember running upstairs, terrified, during the Brady Bunch episode where some of the younger kids kids convinced one of the older kids that there was a UFO in the back yard. We used to drive between Albany, NY and Westfield, MA on a regular basis, and if it was night, I'd spend the whole trip with my eyes closed because I was convinced UFOs were out there and I didn't want to see them. I'm a logical rational person, and I know there aren't little green men flying around abducting people. But still, I'm terrified. I guess that's the true definition of a phobia.
2. I used to be a swim coach. I coached an age-group team at the University of Florida in addition to being the graduate assistant swim coach for the UF women's team for four years. I coached for another three years here with an age-group team at Texas. I had the privilege of working with some of the best swimmers in the world during those seven years. The age-group team in Florida, at the time, was one of the best in the country, and I ran the 10-15 year-old portion of it. Coaching is still my dream job, and I'd go back to it in a heartbeat if I had the chance to work with another great program. And even though part of my job in Florida was overseeing a big summer swim lesson program, I know better than to try to teach my own kids to swim. It wouldn't be good for any of us. So we go to Crenshaw's every summer for lessons.
3. I love candy - gummy bears, candy corn, jelly beans, gum drops - pretty much anything that's pure sugar. But I don't like chocolate unless it's baked in something. So from Halloween through Easter is my favorite time of year - there's aisles and aisles of candy at the grocery store.
4. I love reading. When I was in my first year of college, I took a freshman level writing class just to brush up on my writing. I had enough high school credits to skip the class, but I decided not to. At that point, I had declared myself as a business major. But when the TA for the writing class said that he loved reading books and loved talking about the books he read and he got paid to do those things, a light bulb went on. I realized that I would much rather spend college reading and discussing literature than suffering through dry, boring business classes. I switched majors the next semester. During college and graduate school, I mastered the art of reading more than one book at a time. Now I'll have two or three going, and I'll read them depending on my mood. In addition to loving to read, I love owning books. I know I should use the library, but there's just something about being able to grab a book and read it when the mood strikes me, rather than going to the library and hoping they have it in stock.
5. I graduated from college in three years. I wasn't even old enough to go out for a drink to celebrate taking my last final. I went to a small public/private high school in Florida that offered AP and dual enrollment classes starting in 9th grade. By the time I got to college, I had more than a year's worth of credits stacked up, so I technically skipped my freshman year.
6. I'm painfully shy, but I do a pretty good job of hiding it. I switched schools a lot as a kid, and that didn't help my shyness. I've gotten good at striking up conversations with strangers at social events, but my first instinct is to head for the corner, pull out a book (or knitting now that I've rediscovered that) and act invisible. When I was a senior in high school, one of my friends told me that most people in our class thought I was stuck up because I never talked to them. I was stunned! I didn't talk to them because I was terrified of them, even though we'd all been in school together since 4th grade. I thought they were the "cool" girls and therefore I wasn't worthy to be their friends. I'm still like this. I have several friends whom I view as the "cool" girls, and I live in fear that one day they'll figure out I'm a huge dork and dump me.
7. I've work on the Austin Danskin Triathlon for the past nine years, the last three as paid staff, but I've never done a triathlon. This is even more surprising given that I'm an ex-swimmer, that I used to ride my bike everywhere I went because I didn't own a car until I was 25, and that I'm a solid but not speedy runner. I just can't train for three sports at once. I know I could go out and endure the swim without a problem and therefore focus on training for the bike and run, but why do a race just to endure part of it? I get far more out of working the Danskin than I ever could out of competing in it.
8. I'm slow to make friends, but once you're my friend, you'll never get rid of me. I'm loyal to a fault. You pretty much have to be a knife-wielding puppy killer to get me to give up on you.
9. I list my occupation on my tax return as "mother" to prove a point. We stay-at-home moms ought to get social security credit for the years we spend at home raising the next generation.
10. I love my family more than anything else in this world. My husband and my children are the centers of my universe, and I can't imagine life without them. My husband and I have been married for 10 1/2 years, and I can't believe it's been that long. It feels like just yesterday we got married. But at the same time, I can't remember life without him. The same thing with the kids - I don't remember life without Ella, Lily and Campbell. Well, I do sort of remember life without Campbell, but that's only because he's been here a year.
So there you are, whether you like it or not - ten things about me.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Once I finished vacuuming, I pondered mopping the floor in the kitchen, even though I just did it on Monday, but since Campbell had started screeching in frustration, I decided not to. I popped him out of the seat, cleaned up the banana slices off the floor and sat in the living room with the baby and his toys. Not five minutes later he barfed.
My helpful husband, who was sitting on the sofa working on taxes, said, "Oh yeah, there was puke in his crib when I got him up from his nap. But it wasn't a lot." I went in to check it out; his who crib was covered. I yelled "If I had known that he had thrown up once, I wouldn't have fed him a snack" at my husband, who just shrugged.
Thus commenced the morning of vomit - the floors in the kitchen, living room and Campbell's bedroom got hit. I was so glad I hadn't wasted any time mopping. That would have just added insult to injury.
Of course, in true kid form, Campbell is now acting like nothing was ever wrong with him, motoring around the house behind his beloved big sisters. I, however, still have not taken a shower, am still in grubby clothes that I put on this morning, and smell slightly of vomit. Bleah.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
But . . .
I came home to this
B did laundry, several loads of it. But it didn't get folded or put away. Instead, it was just left on our bedroom floor, and apparently the girls and B just rifled through it when they needed something. Although, one of the first things both girls said when I got home was, "I don't have any clean panties!" I found a stash at the bottom of the pile. B's comment was, "We missed your laundry skills."
B did keep the house neat, but he didn't vacuum. And I don't know what exactly happened in the kitchen, but the floor was so grody I'm surprised the baby didn't stick to it.
So I'm picking up the pieces - folding laundry, vacuuming, mopping, buying groceries - while putting my work schedule back together. I think my time away and B's time with three kids has made him more appreciative of what it is I do all day long. I know he understands a little better how hard it is to find time to work, clean, fold laundry, make lunches, cook dinner (as opposed to ordering pizza), and get everyone where they need to be.
It's worth going away just to teach him that lesson.
Monday, October 08, 2007
It has a small liberal arts university there, Shepherds University, which draws academics and scholars to it. Saturday was homecoming for the University, so the town was filled with students and alum and parents. We missed seeing the homecoming parade by about half an hour, but we saw the stadium filled with fans. Shepherds won.
It's close enough to DC that some residents commute to the city. It has a thriving downtown filled with small shops and restaurants and gallerys. Plus the buildings and architecture and scenery are beautiful. And there's not a Walmart in sight.
It's also the kind of town where everyone seems to know everyone because all the residents care about the town and are involved in activities and foundations and volunteer groups.
The history of Shepherdstown is fascinating. It's the oldest town in W. Virginia, and many of the buildings predate the formation of the United States. It's a few miles down the road from Antietem, and after the battle there, thousands of injured and dying soldiers ended up in Shepherdstown. The first steam-powered ferry operated there, years before Fulton started his ferry service in New York.
I could quite easily settle in there and live happily. I think the kids would love it there, too. Every day I'd see five or six things that would make me say, "The girls would just love this!" When I mentioned to Ella that there were lots of places that she could have gone bouldering, her eyes lit up. Lily would have a grand time just marching around the downtown looking in windows and dancing to the musicians playing on the town square. And they would both love the little library and the sweet librarian, who seems to be keeper of all information relating to the town and its activities. The only one who would need convincing would be B, who is a Texan born and bred and who thinks Austin is the only place to live.
But I bet that if I could get him to sit on the back deck at Jean's, listening to crickets and watching the Potomac going by, I could convince him to move.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
I on the other hand, get jumpy without access to my computer and my e-mail. So these five days away have been an exercise in character building for me, but I'm not sure why I need to work on this particular bit of character. I've only been able to check e-mail once a day, maybe twice, since I have to hijack my host's laptop, which I don't feel I should do too often if I want to be allowed to stay.
There have been work e-mails flying back and forth among my project group, and while I don't need to do anything with those e-mails, it gives me hives to think that even if I needed to something, I couldn't. My two current big projects involve powerpoint presentations, and this laptop doesn't have powerpoint on it, which means I'm pretty much useless to my project group. I had warned them all that I'd be away and that I would have limited computer access, but still . . .
On the plus side, though, I bought myself a lovely ring. I called B to get his ok on spending a lump of money despite having taxes being due next week, and got his buy-in by telling him it got him off the hook for buying me a large rock at some point in the future. The ring is just beautiful. I didn't know it was the ring I wanted until I saw it in the shop. It's a cushion cut green topaz, the very palest of pale, surrounded by little tiny diamonds cut to sparkle lots. I put it on and knew I would regret not buying it. So I'm happily watching it sparkle as a I type.
Thursday morning I went for a run in DC. I headed south from the hotel to the Mall and then turned west toward the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way, I walked through the Vietnam Memorial, which is far more moving and overwhelming than any photograph could ever convey. The sheer number of names is incomprehensible.
During my run I was listening to a This American Life on my iPod (I took my headphones off at the Vietnam Memorial out of respect), and the story was about an American soldier who had fought in Iraq and the problems he'd had when he came home and how he solved them - including joining the Muslim Student Association at his college to get to know Muslims as individuals, not just as people who tried to kill him. But as I was walking through the Memorial and thinking about this soldier, I started wondering what type of memorial will be built for our current war. I think one reason the Vietnam Memorial is so powerful is that its design echoes the futility of the war, the divide it caused in our country, one that still exists to this day. I don't think there's anyone who thinks the Vietnam War was a great victory for our country.
Yet we have a president who thinks we're winning in Iraq, who says there's nothing he would have done differently, who just doesn't seem to get why so many people are opposed to this war. Iraq is also showing no sign of ending anytime soon. How would an architect design something that recognized all the issues - the president who led us into war for his own purpose, the futility of the endeavor, and the divergent public sentiments. I can't even think what it might look like.
Back to the tour - after leaving the Vietnam Wall I ran to the Lincoln Memorial and ran up the steps. I was awestruck looking up at Lincoln. The statue is just beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity. The expression on Lincoln's face clearly shows the sadness he must have carried through his life and the sincerity of his belief that he had taken the right actions. It's so different from the carefree face of our buffoon of a president telling the enemy to "bring it on."
From the Lincoln Memorial, I head back to the hotel, passing in front of the White House along the way. There were lots of guards around and lots of well-scrubbed young staffers heading into the gates, so I didn't make any rude gestures.
One thing that caught me off guard about DC was the number of homeless on the streets and in the parks and how invisible they seem to be to the residents. The park in front of our hotel was filled with homeless people sleeping on benches or in tents they'd constructed out of goodness knows what. But folks cutting through the park on their way to work or sitting on the benches drinking coffee and waiting for the bus didn't even seem to notice their presence. It was also stunning to see how thoroughly the homeless had set up their encampments. I ran past one church that had a marker telling how Lincoln had worshipped there during his presidency and that his pew was still in the church. The current building, however, was built in 1951, so I'm not sure how it counts as a historical site. Anyway, the church had what should have been a lovely little garden out front, fenced in by wrought-iron rails. But instead of a garden, it was packed dirt filled with tents and boxes belonging to a group of homeless who have obviously made it their encampment.
Not being from DC, I obviously know nothing about what sort of services are available for the homeless there, and I can't offer any solutions, but the sheer numbers really surprised me.
Today I'll be running along the C & O canal path next to the Potomac River. Instead of seeing famous buildings and monuments, I'll be on the watch for birds and deer and rabbits - a whole different kind of sightseeing.
Friday, October 05, 2007
After a few minor panic attacks and a little weeping, I got on the packed SW Airlines flight to DC. The flight was fine - I had a window seat and was able to knit and read and listen to my iPod in peace. It was such a treat to only have to worry about entertaining myself instead of also having to deal with the kids. There was a family across the aisle that had two kids, one of whom did NOT want to be there. I felt bad while simultaneously rejoicing that it wasn't me having to deal with a wiggly one-year-old.
Mom and I met up without a problem at the BWI airport. We found the right bus to the Amtrak station and got there just as the MARC train was leaving for DC. So we bought a ticket for Amtrak and waited half an hour for the train to show up. I just want to say that I think trains are a lovely way to travel - you sit back and watch the scenery go by, no traffic, no red lights, you just hum along merrily. Plus, our car was a "quiet car," meaning no cells phones or loud conversations allowed. Other than the smell, it was quite nice.
We got to Union Station, and that's where the fun began. We had to queue up for a cab, which took about 15 minutes, then we were treated to a rather harrowing ride to the hotel. People drive differently in DC than they do in Austin, and I don't think I'd be good at driving there. First, they honk, a lot. If you don't hit the gas the second the light changes, you get honked at. If you don't run the orange light, you get honked at. If you don't plow through an intersection filled with pedestrians, you get honked at. If you stop your car in the middle of traffic to let people out, you get honked at. In addition to the honking, people don't seem to believe in driving in one lane at a time. Our driver veered from lane to lane and sometimes drove right up the middle of two lanes. I was white-knuckled most of the way.
Fortunately, the hotel was lovely and close to what we wanted to do. Mom and I walked past the White House and muttered bad things about the current occupant. Then we headed down to the Mall for a while. I had hoped to make it to the Air and Space Museum, but it was too long a walk and too close to closing time. I would have had time to sprint in, look at Lindbergh's plane and leave. So instead I wandered around for a while as mom sat on a bench overlooking the World War II memorial and watched the world go by.
Dinner was absolutely wonderful. We at the Occidental, which is next to the Willard Hotel - very famous place, or so I'm told. We got to sit outside, within sight of the Washington Monument. The weather was perfect, the scenery was great, and the food sublime. It was a very nice way to end the day.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
That having been said, my anxiety level is pretty high right now as I get ready for tomorrow's trip. The list of things I'm worried about is too long to go into, but I've been so stressed that I've almost cancelled several times. Things really got out of control yesterday. Then I realized what part of the problem was - I'd forgotten to call in a refill on my medicine on Saturday before the pharmacy closed, and I'd been without my med since Saturday night. It was an aHa! moment.
I've made this mistake before, and when it happens I get extra jumpy and extra touchy. I also get these fun little jolty feelings, like I'm being zapped with low levels of electricity, that don't help matters. Apparently this feeling is pretty common when you're weaning off, or you forget to take, your anxiety/anti-depressant meds.
So I picked up my prescription this morning - it wasn't ready until late yesterday and I couldn't get to the pharmacy before it closed - I took a dose. The jolty feelings are settling down, but I'm still feeling pretty tightly wound, stress-wise.
So I've come up with a list of things I'm looking forward to:
1. Being on the plane without kids. Don't get me wrong, the girls are great fliers, I've never had a problem with either of them. But it's still hard to travel with kids when you're always anticipating what could go wrong. I told a friend this morning that I'd be happy if I could just fly to DC and back without kids.
2. Getting to read/knit/listen to my iPod on the plane. This ties in with number 1. All I have to do on the plane is take care of me. Yay.
3. Sleeping late. I don't get to sleep late on Thursday because I'm cramming a run in before we meet our friend at the National Gallery, but I'll be able to the rest of the time I'm away.
4. Running in cool weather. I came close to throwing up during yesterday's death march with Liz, Holli, Shelly and Wendy, so I am really looking forward to running in weather cool enough to warrant a long-sleeve shirt. I'm planning to tour the National Mall Thursday morning while I run. It's my favorite way to sight-see.
5. Fall weather. We don't have real seasons here. In the fall it's just less hot, and the leaves turn brown and fall off the trees. There aren't any fabulous colors to be seen. It won't be peak leaf season in W. Virginia, but I've been promised some fall colors.
6. Coming home again. It's always so nice to come home after a trip. I'm looking forward to a few days away from my husband and kids so that I can be extra happy to see them Sunday night.
And now it's time to pack.
Monday, October 01, 2007
I'm almost finished with my first pair of socks, and I needed new yarn to take on my trip to DC. I should have lots of knitting time on the plane and in airports, so I wanted a new project. I've promised B a pair of socks, so I spent an hour this morning looking at sock patterns on line. I went into the store with the sock "recipe" I liked and asked Barb and a nice girl who worked at the store for help. The girl guided me to the appropriate yarn, and I found the correct needles all on my own. Yay me. Barb picked out beautiful yarn for her first attempt at a sweater.
After leaving Hill Country Weavers, I went to lunch with my running friend Jen. When I told her about my morning trip to the yarn store, she got a puzzled look and asked why it was necessary to all the way to South Congress to buy sock yarn. My equally puzzled response was, "Well where else would you buy it?" It hadn't occurred to her that one needed a store just for yarn. I couldn't believe she didn't already know this. I think the addiction has begun.
I'm especially convinced that I'm in trouble because I saw skeins of yarn at the store that were just beautiful, and I almost bought them even though I have no idea what I'd do with them at all. Unless I'm knitting socks or a hat, I'd have no idea what to do with just one skein of yarn. And the stuff is expensive enough that I can't afford to buy lots of skeins just in case I get a wild hair and decide to make a sweater.
I did get wool for B's socks - a beautiful, soft, and very masculine, blue merino wool. He, very wisely, approved of the yarn when I showed him. He then started asking for very specific things with his socks, and I informed him that the proper response when I finish the socks, no matter how lumpy or misshapen they may be, is "Thank you honey. I love them!"
So now I'm just itching to get on the plane so I can get started.