Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stool softeners and banana ice cream. My Little Things, this week.

We're all sick, to varying degrees. Louise is also teething which means we haven't been sleeping at night, and that she won't go down for a nap easily. Between her stuffy nose and painful gums, she's got plenty to wake up over and she's not a very fun baby to be around, right now.

Our morning was getting out from under me before I had even gotten a chance to shower or pick out clothing, so I decided that Scout, Louise and I would take a quick bath together, killing three birds and everything. We climbed, sniffling and coughing and whining, into the warm tub water and everybody's mood was improved. Louisey was downright agreeable, even. She was splashing and laughing we were all having a nice time, getting clean.

Until a familiar red faced expression crossed her face, and before we knew it, there was a terrible baby poop in the water and I was crawling backward up the wall, trying to escape and holding 20 pounds of slippery baby fat in my extended arms. I panicked and yelled, "Everybody out! Everybody out!" and Scouty screamed like she was being attacked, and we all ended up taking our own showers, anyway.

We're sick and so we're sensitive, and I told Scouty, "No! Don't peel that curling edge of wallpaper!" She collapsed instantly, and started to sob like she'd lost her only friend and I held her and rocked her, both of us wrapped in our damp towels. After she was finished, she sat up and looked at me and said, "Oops, I'm sorry. I got boogers in your hair."

"It's okay," I told her, and it really was.

Louisey, who had basically clawed out my eyes when I suggested a nap earlier, fell asleep in the car just as we were pulling into the parking lot of school, while I was fielding a call from Kurt. He told me that, despite the fact that we paid 700$ to replace the radiator in my car this week, he was making an appointment for his car to be looked at because the check engine light came on this morning on his way to work.

I pulled in to the parking lot and had to wake Louise, and she totally lost it, bawling and squiggling around in my arms, both of her socks flying in opposite directions where I resolved to leave them as casualties. I was also holding the hand of my 3 year old, her lunch box and her coat, which she wouldn't wear because it was touching her neck too much. Louise shimmied herself into a position where I was basically hefting her like a football, clinging to her like a mama orangutan, her chubby body turned sideways over my hip, where she was kicking and bawling out like a little demon.

Did I mention that I'm sick and my head was pounding, and this morning I accidentally took three stool softeners when I thought I was taking ibuprofen and those hadn't kicked in yet, but at least I had something to look forward to, later?

Just then, something hit me. A divine and all consuming No. This is actually impossible, what I'm doing. There is no way one human woman could be expected to put up with this cold rainy weather, and this teething child, a stuffy head and sore throat and this much weight on my back. I am operating right now only under a flimsy theory of borrowed energy. There is no way I am actually capable of carrying out this day. As a matter of fact, I simply cannot go on for another second of my life, period.

My only option was to place my children gently into the mud outside of the school building, kiss them sweetly on their perfect cheeks and then drive like hell towards Mexico.

...But I didn't do that.
It's easy to love my kids when they're perfect.
Weirdly, it's also easy to love them when I'm coming apart.

I struggled open the school door and Scouty's teacher was standing in the foyer, talking to another woman. She spotted us, rattling and tumbling and falling apart at the seams. She said, "Come here, Scouty. I'll take you down to the classroom," which saved me from having to navigate the stairs in the state we were in. She removed the coat and lunch box from my hands and I thanked her a little too profusely.

I watched my girl walking away from me, holding somebody else's hand. I called out, "I love you, pumpkin!" and she ignored me, which she always does when I'm embarrassing her by calling her pumpkin or little bug or peach pie at school... and I remembered suddenly and so clearly what it felt like when it was just the two of us. Just my red headed baby and me, passing the afternoons together. I remember how that felt hard, sometimes, too... and now I see that it wasn't. It was just something that happened for a little while, and I missed her so intensely that I almost chased her down to tackle her and kiss her and hug her in the hallway and wouldn't that be embarrassing, so I didn't do that.

It occurred to me that, for the next three and a half hours, it would be just me and Louise, a mommy and a baby in love, just like Scouty and I used to be. And miraculously, the .4 seconds of sleep that Louisey got in the car seemed to have done her some good because she settled onto my hip and twirled my hair around her fingers and tongue, saying, Mumumumumum in her cute, tiny baby voice.

We got a coffee together and went home and had lunch. I even made banana ice cream in the blender and every time she took a bite, she shivered exaggeratedly and her eyes got so big that she looked like a little fat ladybug staring at me. It was so cozy and sweet that I even forgot about all the awful things that happened this morning.

Except for the accidental stool softeners. Those, I'm sure I'll be remembering all day, at least.

Louisey is currently napping on the chair next to me, so this seemed like a perfect time to come up with my list of Thursday's Little Things for this week.

Thursday's Little Things

Go to A Serenade for Solitude for inspiration and to link your own list of little things.

My list for this week of little things that touched me:

-Spending the night alone in a hotel, which as we've already discussed, was the best thing that's ever happened to anybody.

-The baby was crying and Scouty was saying, "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" at the dinner table, so I told Kurt to just look right at me and pretend that the rest of the world didn't exist, for a moment. I looked at him and pretended that we were having a leisurely bite at an outdoor cafe or something, and he was so handsome and stylish and weirdly alluring, for a moment. It was like a 3 second date that we got to take in our minds, and it gave me hope about the return of my libido, someday, when there's nobody crying and throwing strained peas, and there's nobody saying, "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" at the top of their lungs.

-We went to our parent-teacher conference, and Scouty's teachers said such wonderful things about her, like that she was kind and inclusive, she always fought for everybody's right to a turn and that she was a thoughtful friend to everybody. I walked out of there feeling like all of the mistakes I had ever made, ever, in my whole life were canceled out by how wonderful and amazing my girl is.

-I bought a hilariously horrible "Chicken Soup for the Soul" board game at the thrift store and made Kurt play it with me instead of watching TV, one night. (Who are these people who buy into things like Chicken Soup for the Soul? It's so indicative of everything that's wrong with the world.) I learned that he would never wear white pants and that, as a kid, he wasn't good at baseball in front of people, but that he was a genius at baseball in his backyard alone.

-I bought a cookbook with 750 muffin recipes.

-Scout, Louise and I went to The Strip District in the morning before school and had soda sweetened with stevia and yellow plums.

-I finally baked the world's most fluffy and delicious, totally whole grain bread.

-My kale seedlings are growing a new set of leaves.

-These perfect little feet.

What are YOUR little things, this week?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Broaching the subject of death. Tit. Pants.

Yesterday, Scouty had some questions about my grandma and where she went, because she is dead. She wanted to know if we would ever see her again. If she was sad. If we were all going to die, someday. I told her the best I could. Slightly panicked and feeling weirdly like the subject of death is even harder than the subject of where babies come from, I told her, "She lived for a long long long time and she saw everything in the world she was supposed to see. She was so old that her grandchildren were having kids and her body was tired."

"Didn't she eat enough healthy foods and get enough rest?" Scouty asked me.

"She did those things," I said. "It's just that when you live for so long that you've seen everything you're supposed to see, it's just time to die. And when you die, you become everything... the earth and the sky and the air, and you're happy. You feel all the love around you and all the love you have for everything in your life and you turn into that love."

After a few hours of thinking and questioning, (some of the questions were hard and sad like, "Am I going to be old soon? Is daddy?")... Scout decided she would like to write a letter to G.G. (Great Gram) to tell her how much she loves her. So that G.G. could feel the love better, and be able to be that love.

She and Kurt sat down together in the dining room while I washed dishes. I listened as she asked Kurt how to spell, I love you a million. He told her, "I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U-1,000,000." She said, "How do I write from Scout?" and he told her.

Then she decided that she wanted to write some words on her own. She loves doing this. She'll spend an hour writing letters and asking me what they spell. Usually it's something incomprehensible and I just make up what her letters spell. "Um, it says doonburgblat," I'll say.

"There!" she announced to Kurt in the other room after writing for a minute. "I wrote T-I-T. What does that spell?"

"Well..." he started. "It says... tight."

"It does?" she asked, sounding suspicious of the way he turned around to look at me standing in the door way, and we both smirked in an effort not to laugh. "Well, I know something that could be tight!" she said.

"What?" daddy asked.

"Pants!" she said. "How do I write pants?"

So, in the end, our venture into the scary, carefully maneuvered topic of death ended with a letter from my almost 4 year old to my dead grandmother that says,

Dear GG,

I love you 1,000,000.

From, Scout.

Tit. Pants.

I'm not sure if this counts as having managed the topic of death really well, or not. I'm satisfied with Tit Pants, since it means I didn't start blabbering about how some people choose to be incinerated when they die, or about how Aunt Audra once presented me with a theory in Quantum Physics that said that time is only perception and everything we'll ever do in our lives is happening simultaneously, it's only our perception that moves forward.

Our girls are getting older and the questions are getting harder to answer, but I think we're all doing just fine.

I promise to keep growing with you, until you fit into those boots, Scouty. And I also promise that you're not going to be old for a long, long time.

PS. Day #1 of Operation No Sugar has been going well, so far. Banana, berry and spinach smoothie this morning and absolutely no chocolate.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Very Chocolate Giveaway!

Let's lighten up.

I'm participating in a weight loss challenge with my mama's group, and so far I've lost 1.21% of my body weight in 2 weeks. Prrrrretty pathetic, especially since I could stand to lose about 30% of myself. So, I'm swearing off white, refined, delicious, terrible sugar.

To do that, I'm going to start up another 30 day green smoothie challenge!

For 30 days, I'm going to eliminate refined sugar from my life and also be sure to drink at least 24oz. of green smoothie per day.

I did one of these challenges before, and I totally loved it. I was drinking smoothies every day and cut WAY back on my sugar intake. My three year old was also consuming a big serving or two of dark, leafy greens every day. Oh yeah.

Then I got pregnant with Louise and suddenly, smoothies were at the top of my barf-inducing foods list. So sad. Every time I even thought about a green smoothie, I had to lie down and try to power through a wave of nausea. The two times I actually attempted to drink one? Well, let's not talk about that.

Now that Lulu is almost 9 months old, green smoothies are back on my yummy list. Unfortunately, sugar has a yummy list all of its own. So, here we go! 30 days of smoothies, starting soon!
(I'll write more when I officially begin this challenge, so check back for smoothie recipes and info. Also, let me know if you'd like to join me for 30 days of smoothies! I'll even accept guest posts about your own smoothie challenge with a link back to your blog.)


Since I'm swearing off chocolate for a while, I thought that you should pick up my slack. These locally crafted, gourmet chocolates aren't going to eat themselves! I present, in celebration of reaching 100 followers today:

A Very Chocolate Giveaway!

Two readers will receive some delicious, creative chocolate from Mon Amie Chocolates. Mon Amie has a wonderful collection of standard and unsual chocolates and international candy. Pittsburghers, be sure to visit them in The Strip! They're my favorite candy shop, ever.

Winner #1 will receive
Cinnamon, Rosemary, Lavender and Cayenne Pepper Chocolate Bites from Mon Amie.

Winner #2 will receive
Rosemary, Sea Salt, Rose and Lavender Chocolate Bites from Mon Amie.

For a chance to win:

1. Leave me a comment telling me about your favorite green smoothie recipe, or with some personal tips for cutting back on sugar and/or being healthy overall.

2. Leave me a comment about your favorite local business, and tell me why you like it so much!

3. Become a follower of Last Mom On Earth on Blogger. Leave a comment and let me know.

4. Fan Last Mom On Earth on Facebook. Leave a comment and let me know.

5. Blog or Tweet about this giveaway, and comment here with a link!

Leave a separate comment for each entry and make sure I have a way to contact you. I'll choose a winner in one week, on April 5, 2011 via random number generator. Entries will close at midnight on April 4th.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Postpartum and springtime...

I read an article about the ocean. The floor of the sea is a graveyard, it said.

Spring is here and things aren't hidden anymore. The leaves from last fall are decomposing.

I found a piece of candy in the flowerbed and remembered a few days before Christmas. Santa rides through our neighborhood on a noisy firetruck, throwing candy. I'm not sure why it has such an effect on me, but I am crazy for this. I keep the blinds open on our picture window, letting in the radiating cold, hoping for a glimpse of him. I heard the siren and jumped from my seat, spilling a cup of tea and picked Scouty up from where she was playing on the floor. She let out a surprised yelp and my startled husband yelled, "What's wrong?"

My big girl in pajamas, I ran into the snow in my bare feet, carrying her, saying to her, "There he is! Wave to him so that he knows where you live!" The fireman sounded the siren again and Santa threw a haphazard bunch of candy into the snow where it disappeared.

"There's a girl here named Scouty who lives here!" my love called. "She's four and she has a little sister!"

"Okay!" Santa said, in a big, booming voice.

I found this hilarious. My girl is calling out to her number one guy, the big guy that's going to make all of her dreams come true, begging him not to forget her... and he's just some rough around the edges city firefighter, so all he can think to reply is, "...Okay!"

The candy was a fireball, still in it's wrapper. I showed it to Scouty and she asked to eat it. When I told her no, she said, "Is it because it was on the ground and the ground has germs, or because I shouldn't eat too much sugar or because it's a ball and I might choke?" Are there really this many reasons not to eat candy? I wonder if her head is swimming with all the reasons why she can't do the things she wants to do.

"Those are all good reasons," I told her.

Springtime is beautiful, of course, but it's terrible, too. I found an abandoned bird's nest with a cracked eggshell inside, slick with strands of bloody membrane. Grassy deer droppings in the mud. Like putting the needle back on the record, things just come alive again. Is it that easy for me?

I became desperate after the births of my children. Sleepless and trembling and cold-sweating through the night. Kurt held a four-day-old Louise while I cried at his feet in the dark of an early morning. I wanted to be able to take the pain pills they gave me after my c-section forever. I couldn't eat or settle down. Doctors talk about rapid hormone shifts. "Something isn't right with me," I cried.

The first time, I was scared and new to being a mommy. I just powered through the depression. I was good enough. I was strong enough. I didn't need any help. I manhandled the panic attacks the surfaced for the first time in my life, unsure of what was happening to me. All I knew was that I needed to be good enough to care for my perfect, tiny baby. I couldn't admit that I was losing it. The world would say, "I told you so! She's an incapable loser. There's no way this perfect and beautiful baby girl belongs to her."

I vowed that if it happened again, if I was suddenly debilitated by shaking hands and a skipping heart on the forth or fifth day of my second daughter's life, I would simply call the doctor. I had him paged. The doctor that made me feel like a specimen, I barely considered him to be a human being. He was a creature above me that made my decisions for me. "I can't eat or sleep," I told him over the phone, "I'm trembling and freezing and I sweat all night long." He called in a prescription for an anti-depressant. It made me feel better. It made me feel normal.

I wonder, now. Is it that easy? Can I step down this medicine and just come back to life with a crackle and a swoosh, and cue the music? I suppose that I'll need sunlight and open air. I suppose that I got through the winter with the help of a medicine and maybe I'm ready to clean my blood, again. But maybe I'm scared, too. Maybe I'm worried that postpartum is waiting for me, just under the numbing effects of the mood altering drug.

What if I do come alive and it's not like I thought?
Well, I suppose it will be beautiful, of course, to be free. And it might be a little bit terrible, too.

I think I'll wait awhile.
I got better the first time, on my own. I think I'll let myself be helped for as long as I can, this time. I've never slept better in my life.
I'm going to do it.
I'll know when it's time to put the needle to the record.
At least give me until the ground thaws, until the sun is warm on my face. At least wait until there's nowhere to hide, for all the brightness in the world.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blinding sunshine and being enough...

First of all, my hotel stay was totally, ridiculously relaxing. I read in bed, ordered take out, did a facial mud mask, sat in the whirlpool, went to bed early and took breakfast in my room. I showered in the morning and I didn’t even have to rush or strain to be as quiet as humanly possible so as not to wake any babies. I even dried my hair with an actual hair dryer. It was outrageously, perfectly, exactly what I needed.

When I checked out in the morning and pulled my suitcase to my car, I was squinting into the cold, bright sunlight. It’s been rainy here lately. I felt like something new. I felt like a person, and not just a busy worker bee with nothing to call my own inside of me. I was about 15 minutes from home, but the suburban town of Bridgeville, PA felt exotic. It felt like one of those mysterious, anonymous towns you pass through after staying in a hotel room on your way to the beach. I looked around and thought, How weird that people just live here. I saw everything the way a visitor might, because that’s just what you do after you check out of a hotel. Despite the fact that Bridgeville, PA houses the Chuck E. Cheese that we frequent at least monthly, I looked around and made note of new things. Hm, I thought, There’s a Texas Roadhouse. I mean… I’m a vegetarian and I’d never dream of setting foot inside of it, but still. I’m noting it because it’s there and things seem new.

I had no idea it was even possible to feel this relaxed and… I don’t know. Normal?

I was working under strict Saturday morning orders from Daddy and the girls not to return home until this evening. I called to double check that they still didn’t need me, and went to a coffee shop to read. I walked around Mt. Lebanon in the sunshine, feeling like I had never really seen things like this, before. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it wasn’t just the hotel stay, but the fact that I never have a huge block of time to myself, to just use however I want to. Before I was a mommy, I did not spend my insane and unending free time trying as hard as I could to be good to myself and to respect and admire the world around me. I spent my pre-mommy time trying to black out the sun. Having babies opened my eyes to the way the world really looked, but I never had the opportunity to see things just for myself.

I tried so hard not to be mommy, last night. I was languid. I was lazy. I sent my husband a picture of myself, naked and red cheeked and melting, in the hot tub. I am myself, every day… but I lived only for myself over the past 15 hours. There has been a lot I’ve missed, running around, keeping a schedule, answering questions from the back seat, searching my bag for a pacifier. Had I ever even been to this little town without my kids? No wonder everything looked different.

Then I passed the hospital where I gave birth to Louisey. The day we brought her home was absurdly sunny, just like today. A little electric memory shot through my spine. Incapacitated and vulnerable from surgery, I sat in a wheelchair holding my 8lb. 2oz. baby in my arms. A nurse stood behind us, manning the chair's brakes, wishing us luck in a distracted tone. Kurt pulled up in our rattling red car and I thought, Here we go…

My stay at the hospital with Louise was amazing, considering what it was. We had very few visitors and so much time to hold and feed and stare at the face of my new daughter. It was uncomplicated and comfortable. We were just parents with the world in our hands. It was hard, too because I was reeling from the pain of a c-section. It had been so much worse than I remembered. The nursery had our baby, and Kurt helped me gingerly to my feet and I gasped and cried out at the unbelievable pain. My legs were shaking and then my teeth were chattering until my whole body was overtaken with convulsions. The amount of force it took me to speak aloud was too terrible, so I had to whisper. "I can’t, darling. I can’t lift my foot, not even one time." But he urged me forward, whispering back to me, "You can, honey. Just try."

He helped me into the bathroom and I thought I would faint. It was first thing in the morning. I should have waited until I could have a pain pill before trying this. Still… the nurses told me I needed to be tough. I needed to get up and get moving.

“I’m going to throw up,” I told Kurt and he rubbed my back while I bent, impossibly, torturously over the toilet, my stomach muscles contracting even though they couldn’t. It was not possible to bear this much pain and there was no way this was actually happening. Muscles that had been cut and forced apart the morning before, they were heaving, heaving, heaving until the edges of the world turned white and I thew up a string of saliva and bile. “I’m fainting,” I barely whispered, and Kurt lowered me to sit on the toilet seat. “I can’t,” I said again, my vision was a tunnel. I was bawling, and the force it took to cry was unimaginable. I wanted to be healthy. I had two girls counting on me. I needed to be whole, for them.

Kurt knelt in front of me on the cold floor of the bathroom. He placed his cheek on my bare thighs and he apologized for my pain. He thanked me for being so brave and he wished he could take my place. My sweet boy lover who was always quiet and still, who never cried. His tears were slick against my bare legs. His sadness took some of mine away. I could do this. I could get through this shower and I would feel a little better when I was clean. I had two girls waiting for me. I could stand with my pretty boy husband’s help and do this one thing.

There were a lot of one things to get through, but I did them. By the time we were leaving the hospital, I had even walked the length of a hallway a few times. This was okay, right? I couldn’t stand on my own or lift my children. I couldn’t walk upright or lie down without help, but I was ready to be a mom of two children, wasn’t I?

I didn’t feel even the slightest bit ready.
I felt like a baby. All raw and new and scared and helpless. I wanted to stay in my motorized hospital bed for forever, or at least for a few more days.

When we got home, Scouty instantly seemed like a big girl, where she’d been my baby only two days before. I slowly shuffled up the drive and saw that she and Grammy were playing with the water table in the front yard, waiting for the arrival of her little sister. I wanted to run to her and grab her tightly. I wanted to bury my face in her hair, to smell her and kiss her. I wanted to hold her and cry and cry for how terribly I missed her, and how scared I was to start our new life as a new family.

All of these things came flooding back to me, driving past the hospital, this morning. I pulled into the parking lot and circled around to the place where patients waited for their rides. I remembered waiting with my head on fire for Kurt to pull up and take my baby from my arms. I remembered fighting off an impuse to panic and tell the nurse, I’m not ready! Take me back inside! I need more time here, with you. Please, I'm not ready! I remembered smiling nervously at Kurt after settling uncomfortably into the passenger seat. He asked, “Are you okay?” and I nodded and wanted to scream.

This morning, I drove away and it was nine months later. My Louisey is no longer a tiny bundle. She barely fits into my arms, anymore. She laughs when I nuzzle my face into her neck. She waves and crawls backward. She dances when I make up songs about how she’s the cheesiest Louise in the world. She reaches for me and smiles so easily. She’s a fat, happy baby. She’s had nine months of being the most loved baby in the world. I knew this would happen.

Pulling away from the hospital that day with a silent, unfamiliar infant, some part of me knew that everything would be okay. I had daddy and my Scouty, and Louise was just going to be another part of our beautiful life together. She was part of us, one of our family. We might not know her, yet, but she was us. Scouty had been scary, too. Even more so than this new baby, and we loved her now so easily that it was just like breathing. I knew that I would get used to her, my Louisey Lou, Cheesy Louisey, the Cheeseman. I knew that I would be whole again. I had two girls and the love of a fair-haired, quiet boy who never cries... only sometimes, when the sorrow is too much for one person to handle. I had everything I needed. Somewhere inside, I must have known that I was enough.

So, I had a night to myself last nightand things seemed new, this morning. No matter where I am, those girls, the way I made them and how they were taken from me. How they scared me and how they saved me. No matter how hard I try to be just a girl in a hot tub, I will always be them. Throwing up under the yellow bathroom light in the hospital and fainting from the effort. Fighting and surviving for the chance to serve them. Even when I'm lazy and naked, eating pizza on starched hotel sheets, I will always be a sacred and perfect thing. Things will always be changing, and no matter how much I am me, I will always be them, too. I will always be mommy. I'll never be perfect and I'll always be at odds with myself and the things I want to be, but I'll always be enough and thiers, too and I couldn't be more elated. If I ever had any doubts about it, I can say, I am whole, again.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Free Friday...

I am totally checking out for the day. Well, at four o'clock, anyway. I'll be spending the night in a hotel room, all by myself... a hotel room with a whirlpool tub next to the bed. I am planning to totally do it up. I'm getting some fancy chocolates and picking up a juicy novel that I have on reservation at the library. I'm totally eating something terrible for dinner, like a veggie burger and actual fries. With tons of ketchup. I'm taking my bike with me, so that, after I sleep in for as many lazy hours as I want to tomorrow morning, I can drive to a nearby, gorgeous section of The Montour Trail and ride until my legs are useless. I want to be useless, for a few hours. I want to be invisible.

People tell me that I'm lucky to have my husband, and I used to say, "Luck doesn't have anything to do with it. We were born for each other and we worked hard and went through a lot of shit to find each other." While I still feel that way, that I lived a thousand lonely lifetimes in the twenty-eight years before we were together... I totally get that I'm lucky, now, too. It doesn't even matter if I flip out and accuse him of losing the headphones to my iPod that he never touches, if I elbow him to get out of bed when Louisey is crying at night. It doesn't matter if I force a vegan diet on him, run out of the door to the gym as soon as he gets home from work. When I lose it and say, This is too much!. He never points out that he spends all day working. He never claims that staying at home with the girls is easy. He's patient and weirdly, absurdly low-key and drama-free, even living with us. Sometimes, when I haven't even complained, he gives me a night off so that I can be a girl again.

Tonight, I'm totally going to be an indulgent, naked girl in a bathrobe. I'm totally not counting calories or calling to make sure that Scouty had a vitamin and that Louisey has brushed her two teeth. I will trust that everybody will be fed and kept warm snuggled properly. I'm not even going to concern myself with the fact that they will almost definitely sneak some soda while I'm gone. I'm just going to be brave enough to not be needed, and to not be guilty. Just for tonight.

I can say, I've worked hard to deserve this night off... but I totally understand that I'm lucky, too.

What are your weekend plans? I want to know.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday's Little Things...

Go to A Serenade for Solitude for inspiration to link your own list of little things.

My list for this week of little things that touched me:

-Running a mile, easy peasy, baby... even though I haven't been running in over a year. The Precor machine and my bike are doing me good!

-Reading alone for hours on a rainy evening in the library's window room.

-I finished the bathroom and it looks great!

-Hearing an Eels album that I've never heard before, and it's so beautiful.

-Running from the porch with Scouty, into a huge thunderstorm to collect hail stones. She said that were pebbles from outer space.

-Riding bikes with my mom to a beautiful, quiet farm in the middle of nowhere.

That's me, standing on the hill, in case you couldn't tell.

-Scouty doing awesome somersault tricks in the yard in the sunshiney weather.

-Starting my spinach and lettuce seeds.

-Watching TV and eating ice cream with my funny, smart, gorgeous husband.

What are your little things, this week?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fulfillment, and parents who hate parenting...

What do you make of articles like this one that point out how studies show that non-parents are happier than parents? They say that parents are more susceptible to depression and anxiety and that they're more likely to experience negative emotions than non-parents. What do you think?

I guess for me... I don't determine the success of my life based on how satisfied I've managed to make myself. I think that we probably put too much emphasis on the idea of personal fulfillment. We've kind of twisted the concept to mean that everybody is entitled to everything they want. I don't believe that. I believe that everybody is entitled to have the things they deserve.

If you have children, and so you can't become an archaeologist, like you've always wanted, you're suddenly unfulfilled. We treat ourselves and our lives the same way we treat acquiring possessions. We don't have to work for the things we want, anymore. It's unheard of to save and work and save and work until we have actual money to buy a new refrigerator, or whatever. We just decide we want something and we buy it. We can worry about how we're going to pay for it later. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, even, to be able to finance the things we want to have. I just think that, as a culture, we believe that we're entitled to things that we aren't.

The point of my life isn't to feel good. I like to feel good. I try to engineer myself to feel as good as possible. But the point of my life is to be good. To do good.

Some people don't, but I waned when I was left up to my own devices. The strongest feelings I had pertained to myself, and I used myself up. When I had my first child, I stopped living a masturbatory, self-inspecting existence, and started putting in time and work to be something really, honestly, amazingly good for somebody else. I had a reason to do good and to be a force of positivity in the world. Every day. I didn't care about whether or not I was an honest and positive force in my own life before, but I care a ridiculous amount about being a force of light in the lives of my kids. I'm making them. Whether or not every moment of feeding, cleaning, guiding, bathing, protecting them is fun, I'm spending my life making people. At the end of my life, I won't be responsible for my own fulfillment; I'll be responsible for theirs. If both of my girls are grown and happy and well-adjusted, I could care less whether or not I ever got to act out my personal goals. Hopefully I will, and I'll keep trying at them... but everything else, happily and honestly, is secondary to my kids.

Since we evaluate our sense of happiness based on a principle of instant gratification, (get what you want and work out deserving it, later)... parenting feels like a sorry choice for a lot of people. There is no longer termed endeavor than raising children. The ways I manage my choices and treat myself aren't necessarily apparent in them, now. They're babies. But, when they're grown and they have the opportunity to exert themselves onto the world, I'll find out how I did. I'll find out whether these long days of working and saving and working and saving were worth it. I have not always harbored a secret desire to scrape poop off of diapers. That isn't going to make me fulfilled in my every day life. But, my kids are happy. They feel safe. They feel important and invincible. I'll scrape poop all day for the rest of my life to be able to say, "I made these beautiful, invincible girls. They love themselves because of me."

It totally does cross my mind that this is all just biology. Maybe articles like this one are right, and parents are fools who have been tricked into living a life they don't want because of an urge to propagate the species. I've said this before, but I'm willing to accept that. I'm willing to accept that the way i love my kids with focused and intent ferociousness is a tool of evolution. The babies born to mothers who didn't love them like the sky was falling down didn't thrive. I am totally willing to believe that my love was scientifically engineered, and that all the love and loss I've ever experienced can be connected back to the fact that I'm human. I'm an animal and I mated.

But, I contend that there is magic in that biologically engineered love. Because I'm a fool for science, I can stare at my sleeping daughter and feel complete. I can hug my three year old and feel firmly rooted to the ground. I can feel the entire human experience in my blood, the primordial ooze welling up between my toes. I feel like I might not ever achieve the things I've dreamed for my personality, for my surface self. I might not ever be something impressive. I'll keep trying, but maybe I'll just be me. At least I can hold my daughter's hand and I'm holding the hand of god.

A lot of people find the idea of a science based faith to be sad or empty. They think that love means less if you're able to say, "Love is only science." The whole world is science, though. The reason why I cried when my baby was born, isn't important. The only thing that matters is that, upon hearing her first cry, I was flooded with a sense of understanding about myself and about the way life works. I felt, "Yes. I was meant to be here. I have been waiting all my life to hear your voice." Maybe I won't ever be an archaeologist. Maybe I won't ever own a boat or live on the beach. Maybe I won't even be a real writer. Maybe I won't travel or be self-sustaining. I might not ever be one of the things we consider, as a culture, to be fulfilling, but I've got science on my side, and as long as I have my girls... poop scraping and nose blowing and butt wiping and sleep deprived and poor and everything... I'm the thing I was meant to be.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On the lines of your (my) body...

You. You're only a boy, the way I remember you. You're a boy with a grown up's suit that doesn't fit quite right. We're hungover in an anonymous hotel room in Connecticut. We haven't spoken in almost five years, but I'm shirtless and startling from under a starched white comforter to answer the phone. It's our wake up call. We're almost strangers, again, it's been so long, but I'm brave and round and perfect and bare next to you. Should we skip our friend's wedding and spend the weekend here, in a Comfort Inn across the state line? Yes, I am thinking, but we get up eventually, slipping carefully from the covers. I glance at your body, it's a foreign thing to me and I have no idea how I'll know everything about you, someday.

I wish we had been married, then, on that trip to New England.
I wish we could go back in time to fumble over one another, apologizing for being so brash. I wish that I had known you forever, the first time we touched.

Years have gone by and I'm tired. I'm a woman and I'm a mom and I'm exhausted down to the scuffed up soles of my feet. I feel for a moment that it's woman's work, being worn down. That too many things are expected of every mommy, it's just part of the job.

But... do my children request more of me than I'm able to give? When Scout wakes me up at 3am, screaming that her blanket has fallen off of her bed, is that too much? I pull myself out of bed and stumble the hallway to kneel beside her. "You're a big girl, now," I say. "You can pick your blanket up by yourself. Let me see you do it." She can do it. She didn't need to call for me. Was that really too much for me to bear, though?

I don't eat until noon. It's my latest attempt at calorie cutting. I'm painting the bathroom, but I need a special screw to attach the medicine cabinet to the wall, so it's sitting in the hallway, perpetually open with its contents spilling onto the rug. I feed my kids and dress them, I shower and we go to the hardware store. I'm the kind of mom that lets my girl have a cookie while we shop, and I always say, "That's an awfully big cookie for such a small girl." Louisey bumps her head on the shopping cart, and before she even thinks to cry, I scoop her up and hold her close and tell her how she's a poor, poor dear. All the while, I'm wearing my running shoes, in case an opportunity to exercise happens upon me, this afternoon. I'm hungry, but I can eat at lunch. I'll drop Scouty off at school and then I'll walk with the baby, maybe. I'll eat, finally, and this evening, I can go to the gym.

What a terrible relationship I have with my femininity. Why can I not treat myself the way I treat my girls? Is it simply true that every one of my movements isn't sacred? That my girls are total marvels of creation, but I'm not special? I'm only the reason they exist. I'm only the thing that made them the perfect people they are. Is it really true that I'm too fat or grown up or scheduled to be a poor, poor dear?

I'm tired in a way that drains some of the color out of the rest of the world. I go around avoiding my impulses and fostering an ability to complete tasks I find distasteful. I get up early to lift my heaviness. I stay up late to run. The world goes by me and I don't have the energy to care. I'm busy figuring out my calories for the day. I'm busy putting the laundry away. I live a life full of absurd beauty, I know that to be true... but I also waste my time standing sideways in a mirror and brushing my skirt down to evaluate my butt.

I remember myself, when we were only dating. How you would be dressing for work, and I would wander into the kitchen wrapped in the comforter from your childhood bed. I was fully aware of the print of my lips on your coffee cup, of the way my bare leg draped across the arm of your couch. My body was mostly the same, then, as it is now... without cesarean scars, maybe. More resolute where I'm now sagging, but I was the same shape, overall. I didn't hate myself then for not being good enough. My body begged you back out of your buttoned cuffs and I was big and full in the light of the muted tv at 7am, while the rest of the world headed to work.

Now, I beat the femininity out of me, opting to focus on my drive and abilities. I am capable of doing it all! Only, doing it all doesn't include being a ridiculously sexy girl who remembers how to give herself over to an afternoon with nothing to do. Doing it all doesn't include experiencing pleasure... at least not the kind of pleasure that's meant for only me. I experience the pleasure of adulthood, of being responsible for something other than me. I never get off on anything, anymore. That's one thing I can't seem to do, but boy can I lift a lot of grocery bags at once! I'd like to hike a mountain this summer, I say. Doing it all doesn't include being easy with myself, like I am with my girls. It doesn't include being a poor, poor dear... or a small creature with a really big cookie.

I am not tired because my life is asking too much from me. I'm tired because I'm disconnected with my body's purpose. I'm tired because I'm not a sexy girl, anymore. I'm tired because I ask myself to be something I'm not. I ask myself to be with it and structured and to have control over my appetites. I ask myself to deny pleasure, to use every moment of my life usefully.

I don't really want to be the things I'm forcing myself to be.
I don't actually give a shit about being skinny.
I don't really want to be more acceptable.
I don't really care if you look at me on the street and want to be like me.

Women get inspired by the idea of being free. Of stopping shopping. Somebody decides it's a life project to only buy as many clothes as she needs, to wear the same dress for a year, and modern women simply die of this idea. How free we would be, if we had less stuff, if we cared less about the way we appear! I get inspired for a moment, too... but then I realize that this plan of living on less isn't really any different than being poor. I look down, and I'm wearing the same thing I've been wearing all month. Why am I not inspired by my own life project? Why do I need to be something more free? Why do I not know that I am free now?

We don't need to be scouring the internet for pictures of outfits somebody else is wearing this week. We've got a whole world of possibilities to choose from, and we're allowed to make those choices ourselves. There's no pressure. Just pick something you like and put it on and it's you. I'm sick of being tough with myself. I want to eat breakfast and I want to waste my time. I'm tired because all of this... restricting and pushing and denying... it's all a symptom that I forget how to be a woman. I forget how to be a proud naked girl who is willing to free up the rest of her week to learn the lines of your body.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Daddy's Bday and a Thank you!

A few things...

First of all, I totally decided what to do about the Daddy's birthday dilemma. I have to say... I am a genius. What is the most fun thing you can think of for a man turning 30 (who is also being forced to have this fun with a three year old girl and an eight month old baby?)

How about a three day, two night bed and breakfast vacation H E R E, staying in the Drake Guest House, which is a private, two bedroom guest house behind the main farm house. It has a kitchenette, a fireplace, porch swing and hot tub.

Are you feeling it?

We'll be staying on the grounds of a big farm with animals, a lake and 10 miles of wooded trails. There is also a small, historic town 2 miles away where we could shop or have dinner. There is plenty of fun stuff to keep the girls entertained, while simultaneously being relaxing for us, and we can even go out for a birthday dinner.

I feel like a total genius. Best birthday present ever. And there is no way I will last until the end of next month without telling him.

I also wanted to say:

I received a Stylish Blogger Award mention from both Orangie's Attic and Stitching in Circles.

I am so not stylish, for the record, but I appreciate their kindness so much. They are awesome people and awesome bloggers. Please check out both of their shops on etsy, too! Orangie's Attic and Stitching in Circles. Thank you, gorgeous women!

I guess how the award works is that you give 7 facts about yourself, and then pick a few blogs you think deserve attention.

Facts about me...

I don't follow recipes. I collect them, but I just use them as a loose set of guidelines. Sometimes, my food turns out delicious and I have no idea what I did to make it that way. Lots of time it turns out sucky.

I'm really good at building a fire.

I love to work out. I get at least an hour of cardio per day, and I strength train for at least an hour a week.

I never lose any weight because I also love to eat. I'm totally a sucker for fancy deserts and sugary things.

I've been a vegetarian for over 15 years.

I love weddings. I cry, even when the people getting married don't mean anything to me.

I'm the oldest of 4 kids.

I read a lot. I find ways to sneak reading into my day, which usually involves saying, "Uh huh..." a lot while we're playing Littlest Pet Shops.

I can't stand Littlest Pet Shops.

Summer is, by far, my favorite time of year. The hotter the better! (Unless I'm pregnant. Then the heat can go f itself.)

I don't think Helen Keller actually said any of those inspirational things.

I love the water. I love swimming in and sitting by it and being near it. Hm. I also drink like... an obscene amount of it.

That also means that I have a reputation for having to pee the most on long car trips. Oh my god, and my hot stone massage yesterday? Right in the middle of it, I had to pee! I was just laying there thinking, "Okay, she should be about halfway done... I can pee soon, just hang in there." Then I realized I was just wasting the whole massage, obsessing about not peeing myself, so I told the masseuse. She had to take all of the stones off of me, I slipped my dress on, ran barefoot, undie-less down the hallway to the bathroom, ran back, got undressed again and hopped back on the table.

I'm an aggressive driver.

I love hotels.

I'm an underachiever.

My favorite color is orange.

My favorite thing is my life.

Blogs you should take a peek at:

Positively Dating - This is my old friend's (anonymous) account of dating in NYC with a positive status. He's adorable and definitely stylish.

Farren Square - My friend Farren is amazing. She's a new mommy and she's doing a great job.

Dig This Chick and Is There Any Mommy Out There are just about my favorite blogs, but they're doing just fine on their own, i guess.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My big girl...


Scouty B,

You're getting so big that sometimes I want to freeze time. Mostly though, I love watching you grow. I feel like nobody has ever been more proud of anybody. You're my pumpkin pie. My little peach. My first born. You're special because you made me into a mommy.

I ask you, "How come I love you so much?"
And you say, "Because I'm your girl."

When you grew your teeth, one of them came out with a tiny notch in its surface. I caught you looking at it in the mirror. "Why do I have a crack in my tooth?" you asked. I told you that everybody is perfect when they're born and that we all have something that makes us special. "Like Cheesy's little dot," you said. Your sister has a strawberry birthmark just under her hair line and you recognized it as one of her perfect things that make her special.

I was scared for you, when Cheesy was born. In the first few days after we brought her home, I thought to myself, "What have I done to our perfect little family?"

Daddy fell asleep in the grass and you woke him by placing your tiny palm on his cheek. "Come on, daddy," you said. "You can nap when the sun is gone."

Louisey toppled into my arms while I was changing her shirt and we laughed at how floppy she was, and small and I was nervous because she was taking me away from you. I loved her, already and I wanted her so badly, but I was worried because I wanted you to have me all to yourself, too.

I was there when you woke, in the morning. You crawled out of your blankets, looking so grown up and big after I'd been staring at Louisey's soft newborn head all night, and you stood up tall on your knees and plopped over sideways in your blankets. "Two sisters, toppled over," you said, and my heart hurt and I couldn't breathe.

That brave and excited you were, was a magical moment for me. You weren't scared. How were you so brave when you were only barely just three years old? How did you know that our family wasn't taken apart, but that it was made into something new and bigger and happier? How did you know that, when I wasn't sure that I knew it? You toppled over, just like your sister and I thought, "You are the big girl, now and oh! How I love you."

What would I be without you?

Louisey is special because she's my baby. My little one. The one we chose to have because we wanted a second baby. We wanted a playmate for you. We wanted to complete our family. She was lucky because she was born to parents who knew what they were doing. We didn't go crazy when she cried. We didn't buckle her into the car to drive her to the hospital, because this much crying just couldn't be normal... only to have her fall sweetly asleep before we got there. We had already leaned about babies because of everything you taught us.

When you were born, you were a little red headed baby with black-brown eyes and we had no idea how to take care of you. We were three kids, you, me and daddy, and we learned about how to be people, together. A little ramshackle family without any money or a clue. You taught us as we taught you. You lived with us in our tiny apartment in a tiny town where it always rained. You made that old place, home. You made me happy. You made me a mommy, which is best thing I'll ever be.

You and I, we danced in the empty space of our new house on the day we closed the papers.
We held hands and you blew kisses to the dinosaur skeletons.
We placed our feet into the icy water of the lake.
You slept in my arms in a hotel room, half way down the coast.

You made me brave, because I didn't know how to be brave on my own.
You taught me to look at people in the face when we passed on the street.
You brought 6am to me.
You let me finally be alone without being afraid.
You showed me how to see the world.
The world is mostly good, I know now. And it's mostly beautiful and covered in things to see. I'm seeing them for the first time. When I saw them before, I wasn't me. You hadn't made me, yet.

I can't give you all the credit, though. You only showed up and you happened to be just what I needed. I did all the hard work of changing, but you gave me my reason.

Thank you. That's all. Thank you for turning the grey air blue. Thank you for helping me to breathe. Thank you for being my girl.

I love you like the sky's gone out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oh, daddy...

April 25, 2010:

Being pregnant and being a mommy makes me feel all wrapped up in myself, like I've got to hold myself together with my arms or I might come apart. And if I come apart then I'd be failing my girls, and that's the only thing I can't do. I didn't mean for it to happen, but I've wound myself so tightly around myself, becoming a neat and compact unit of film and string where it's always safe and it's always warm... I'm afraid that I've made it so that you and I are far apart. Like, sometimes I almost can't remember what it was like to open up and spread myself over the air for you to look at, to be something that stands alone and is free to do with myself what I will.

But then, when I went to bed last night, I asked you to lay by me and you were warm and sturdy and reassuring against my skin. Your arm stretched to hold me and I pressed my cheek to the hollow place between your shoulder and your throat, and I didn't feel as though I was an incubator. Just for a moment, I remembered what it felt like to be your girl. Between sleeping and waking, I felt like I belonged to myself only, and so I belonged to you, because belonging to you is what I choose for myself. I've chosen it so thoroughly and completely that it is the only thing I am completely convinced of, that I want to belong to you until I stop breathing. Even then, I'll be yours while I perch high on the edge of my dying consciousness, as I am swept across time and light, I will be made up of the fibers of the love you've given me. Because you have filled my life with so much love. When I die, I'll know what I've always known. The point of living is to love somebody else the way I love you.

How old were we when we used to run away, chasing the sun west along a stretch of highway that would eventually become more home to us than our homes? It was a lifetime ago, but really, it wasn't so long. If I'm still and honest and quiet, I can remember the feeling of my bare feet on the dashboard of your new gray car, my skirts slipping along the length of my thigh for you. We took the world apart, piece by piece and sifted through it, wandering it as a vast expanse of rubble, overturning fragments here and there to find something whole and preserved in the ash. We placed a pebble of light on top of another until we had four walls, studded with pearls and bits of glass. A ceiling of leaves, glittering with dew and newness.

People have always had a problem with us. We weren't right. Were hard to manage, unruly and headed for trouble. Our own mothers lamented us, despicable children who were impossible to like and who didn't belong to them, not really. They prayed at night to the thick darkness, "Please god, they don't belong to us, do they?"

But, it's easy to see now that everybody was wrong about us. The world was meant for us, after all. While people slouch and sigh through their days, locking themselves up against the sunlight, we've got a tiny little illuminated hand in ours. Soft, fat little fingers laced between our giant clumsy ones. Everywhere we go, there is something to marvel over or to wonder at and we laugh and laugh and laugh. We've made the world a perfect place. Our little red headed daughter is snuggled softly between her guys at night, knowing that her mommy and daddy are amazing. That her mommy and daddy love her and one another. That she is fully welcome to love herself because the world is a good place where she can count on two used up and forgotten misfits to do everything right. The first of her kind, the only person to ever give us a reason to try... she counts on the fact that we're perfect for her and that we'll never do anything that isn't part of an effort to make her happy and keep her safe and healthy. And we do an amazing job at being good and right and at belonging to one another, and mostly to her. We don't have to pray because we've known darkness to be darkness all along, but we suffer sweetly a hope and a wish that she will always belong to us, always and always and always until we turn into light and dust, and that's the only perfect thing that's ever happened, ever.

Now I've got another baby in my belly. Another little set of gripping fingers, almost too small and delicate to imagine them. We made another little girl and she's going to be so gorgeous and smart that she hurts our hearts. She's going to be so lovable that the world is going to explode into color and movement, again. She's going to run us into the ground so that we're sure we won't survive another moment of this exhaustion and servitude, but mostly we'll be slain by gratitude for her tiny bird lips and her big, clear eyes. Thankfulness for the fast beating of her little mouse's heart and the silkiness of her feathery, light hair. We did something right, again. The world was wrong about us, weren't they?

And more than you could ever be sure of, I love you.
Oh, and Happy Birthday.

Daddy is just plain lovable.

His birthday is coming up, and I want to have something up my sleeve. Especially since he called me from work yesterday and said, "Do you like hot stone massage?"

I said, "Yes. Why?"

He said, "I just scheduled you for one on Sunday."

The only thing is... he doesn't want anything. He's not like me. When my birthday is coming up, I can think of exactly 1 million things I would like to have, do and eat. He never gets anything, either. I get jewelry, I get a camera, I get a massage and a fancy dinner out. Kurt is a much more quiet-living person. He doesn't want anything he doesn't need and he'd be fine with spending the day by himself, drinking coffee and reading the paper in a diner. So, I need to be smarter than all that. I need to think like a reasonable person and come up with something that shows him just how perfect he is, for us. There must be something he's coveting.

Give me your best ideas. Is there somewhere unique and fun to visit in April, near Pittsburgh? Some place that would be fun if we have the girls with us, seeing as how Louise freaks out and screams with quite literally every breath when we leave her with someone. Have you ever blown somebody's mind for their birthday? I'm talking... we want to make him get all teary and feel more appreciated than he's comfortable feeling. Let's make this happen, people!

He just really is that perfect. For us.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday's Little Things...

Go to A Serenade for Solitude for inspiration to make your own list of little things.

Here's my list of little things that have inspired me or made me happy, this week.

-My Kale seeds have sprouted.

-Buying, thrifting and recycling a million large garden containers.

-Drinking the best latte I've ever had.

-Playing soccer with Scouty and Eliot while Louisey laughed and cheered at our rusty skills.

-Going out for dinner with Kurt and Louise while Scouty slept over at Grammy's.

-Louise had her first taste of those terrible baby puffs, and she's hooked.

-Kurt took a vacation day and we walked around the strip and went to the asian market.

-Starting a weight loss competition with the mama's group.

-Sticking to a reasonable diet. Except for this incident.

-Walking in the evening, under a huge pink and orange sky.

-Feeling like we're going to make it to spring, after all.

-Having this girl in my life. Watching how awesome she is with her little sister. She's so loving and careful and sweet, it makes my heart hurt.

What are your little things this week?

So big...

It's dark, but it's spring time. I swear I heard a new bird calling out in the cold.

In winter, I have a hard time feeling things properly. The world is frozen over and there is nowhere to be but inside of this very plain, very still body. I spent my life running from this... a little, perfect house, without a south facing window, maybe, but it's mine. A garden and a place to make a fire. There's room for all of us. It's small, but we'll make it happy. And I never used to be the kind of person to deserve a moment in the dark, alone.

I didn't know it when I was young, but I was deeply unhappy.
Now that I am happy, I see that it is work.
I have to earn my right to sleep soundly at night, and even then, even when I've worked hard enough, tiny hands are plucking at their blankets. Even when I've earned my sleep, a little cry wakes me in the night. I don't always know it at the time, but holding my baby while the world is dead is a holy thing. I press her against my throat and will her to sleep now, my love... and outside the dew is turning into frozen diamonds.

My husband and I, we were lonely as children, and sometimes I wish we had been born next door to one another. Surely I knew from the first moment I met him that he was meant to save me and that I would do the same for him. I think about it, search our years of friendship for a hint that we somehow knew what we would be. I must have known that he was the father of my children, my partner and my spine. What if we could have kept one another from the beginning? Imagine everything we could have been spared! But then again, maybe our loneliness earned us the need we have for one another. Maybe the way I feel amputated each day when he's gone is really kind of perfect.

Louise was three weeks old the first time we were apart from one another. Kurt took the girls to his parents' house and told me to rest and to heal, but mostly not to worry about a thing. I curled around myself in the window and watched them as they drove away. I was used to her. She had been mine, a part of me, bleeding my blood and now that she was born, she would be taken from me a little bit, every day for the rest of my life. It was almost more than I could bear, a sagging empty thing where I'd been so full and alive for her. I wasn't the whole world, anymore and I cried until I gagged. A secret kind of crying where I knew for sure that I would die of this sadness. I cried until the sunlight burned my eyes. My baby belonged to the world now, and how I will live without her?

Then, I got up, being careful not to strain my tender incision, the place where they had pulled her from me, and I decided to belong to the world, too. The terrible, unsafe world would eat up both of my girls, but I could bear it. The world had eaten me up, too, one day. Life was big and we were all alone, really.. and it was my job to make sure my girls grew a braveness to match all the bigness. If I couldn't keep them, I would love them until they were so big and make sure they were never lonely.

If you ask, "How big is Louisey?"... she knows, already.
She puts her little arms up to the sky and tells you, "So big!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Life and science and love...

The truth is, there probably isn't a meaning to life.
The truth is that we probably miss the meaning by constantly searching for it.
Truthfully, it's probably all just science, but that doesn't mean it isn't amazing.

I think we're missing the point when we say things like, "There has to be a higher meaning to life. Life can't just be this."

I guess we're referring to our jobs and cleaning and eating and sleeping and watching tv for an hour or two, even though we know it's supposed to be rotting our brains. But, if you look a little deeper into those things, there's meaning all over the place.

I am totally willing to believe that my sublime and earth shattering love for my children is the result of the fact that I have been duped by biology. In the first months, when I was developing this feirce love and protectiveness, my babies certainly weren't actively doing anything to merit my swooning. They made me fat and sore, kept me up at night, stressed me out to a point where I felt like I was losing my mind. They took leisure away from me, made me pee my pants occassionally and I fell terribly behind on reading, because of them. They did everything wrong... everything I would never want the object of my affection to do. They, in short, completely tortured me with worrying and responsibility. And I love them with a truth so big that it swallows up the world.

It's no cooincidence that we respond so strongly to tiny things. Especially tiny things with big heads and even bigger eyes. It's all just biology, isn't it? And biology is absolutely wonderous.

I find meaning in the blinking of their little eyelashes.
I feel a higher purpose when I nestle them against me.
My love for them might be science, but that doesn't make it any less real or viable.

Even in a stripped down state, in the whatever every day stuff of life, there is a lot to be impressed with. Plants grow, and sometimes they grow big enough that they put out the sun. Also, the sun exists. We're made of skin and blood and gore, and we're animated! We walk around! We perceive! We have language, and with language we have learned not only to communicate, but to create works of art. And what is music? or laughter? or crying? Why do we respond the ways we do? Something happens to trigger a feeling we've come to know as "sadness" and all this water wells up inside of us and comes pouring out of our eyes. We just accept that. It's crying, but it's baffling and amazing a little bit, too, isn't it?

We're always looking for the magic beyond everything that we are and do, but there's so much magic inside everything we are and do. We don't need a hero to keep us safe and run our lives and make sense of science. We live like God every day.

My backyard on a warm day in winter

Stack of books

33 weeks pregnant with Scout

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our DIY wedding...

photo by justin visnesky

We wanted to get married, and we wanted the people we loved to be there. That was really the only "theme" I had in mind, as a bride.

I don't get it. Wedding culture. Spending a down payment for a house on a dress and buying a cake instead of paying off your car. I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to even know if we were able to do that. I just wanted to be married to my best friend and I wanted to be surrounded by happy people who love us.

When everything was finished, mini-honeymoon included, we spent about $1500 on our wedding. However, my friend Avy gave me her wedding dress. She had gotten married the summer before, and she just happened to be 8 months pregnant at the time, and my size. I will forever be grateful for her wonderful gift. Kurt's parents were also generous enough to pay to have the reception catered, as a wedding gift to us. If you include the dress and food in the cost, I'd say that we pulled everything off for about $2500.

photo by justin visnesky

I was adamant about not going into debt just so that we could be married. We chose a free venue for the ceremony on an overlook on top of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh.

We used thrifted linens and sheets for our tablecloths. I bought wildflowers by the bunch at the grocery store the day before the event and cut them myself. I wore sparkly flip flops from Target. My 3 year old daughter, Scout, walked me down the aisle wearing a sundress from Old Navy. We relied on friends and family to take pictures. (Of course it helped that we have a few amazing photographer friends.) We made about a million of these. My friend made about a million of these. We made alcoholic punch and lemonade and people served themselves out of punch bowls, using mason jars for glasses. I hand cut place cards and guestbook cards and seating cards. We made candied apples for favors. It was a lot of work, especially for a 35 week pregnant woman with a toddler. But, we didn't go into any debt and we didn't succumb to the idea that a wedding has to cost a lot of money to be considered a real wedding.

photo by justin visnesky

The ceremony itself was simple and lasted about 15 minutes. The bulk of it being our vows. We wrote the whole thing ourselves. It didn't even include any cheesy definitions of love or the rules of marriage. It only included the things we would want to say. We don't live the rest of our lives with a lost of posturing and flourish. Why would we choose to make our wedding that way?

photo by justin visnesky

My vows:

You showed up at my door on an afternoon in October and you were boyish and blue eyed and all grown up with a new car. I thought that you seemed maybe just a little bit dangerous and a little bit perfect for me. We spent the next few months growing so big that we blotted out the sky. We might have even raised a little hell.

We don't get into much trouble these days. And as much as a wild girl could love a dangerous boy, which was enough to crack the moon and send it plummeting into the ocean, I love you, the father of my children and the man who works hard and sacrifices consistently to make it so that Scouty, Louise and I can have a good life.

You take good care of your girls and keep us safe and happy. Scouty walks around in a dark and looming world as a dancing pinprick of light knowing that she is loved and protected and valuable because you make it apparent in every moment of her super big girl life that her daddy will always be there for her. That because of her daddy, she can trust that the world is good.

As a partner, you've turned me into a believer, too. My whole life, I never belonged to the world. I never made sense and I wore on every one, dragging around in the muck and the mud for the beauty I'd heard existed in every one of God's own creatures but nobody could see in me. But then, I found myself in your favor and realized that everything had always been perfect. You made me into an open, shining thing. I was impossible because you were impossible and everything was going to be okay, from now on. Every one of your handsome boy movements promised me that.

I take you, forever and ever, to be my friend and my husband. I trust you to be able to fix anything, to make the girls and me happy and keep us safe and to always always want us, even when we're bad and bossy and grumpy. I take you because you're the only thing, besides your daughters, that I've ever been in awe of, that I've ever respected absolutely and been able to marvel at explicitly. I am so proud to belong to you. I swear that I'll never do you wrong. I think it's about time you go ahead and make an honest woman out of me.

Kurt's vows:

Amanda, I remember the first time I met you. And from that moment on, you have acted as a powerful and effervescent force on my life. To the quiet lulls, you brought an elevating beauty and a boiling laughter. To the manic hardships, you brought a serene perspective and an honest wisdom. To where there was nothing but a grey horizon and a hollow clock heartbeat, you brought an overwhelming love, an unwavering devotion, and the missing pieces to a broken life which mended and then flourished under your careful hand.

I now fill the quiet moments of my day recalling all the time that we spent together as kids, or imaging what our time will be like when we’re old and free to share a quiet world together. I am constantly only spending my day counting off the minutes until I can see your face, again.

My love for you can feel as vast and encompassing as the sun, or as simple as a child who just wants to see his friend. Our relationship began as simple as an honest friendship, and grew into something more impressive, important, and beautiful than I knew was possible. I fell in love with you with a realization that my life would not be suitable for living without you by my side. And as you stand before me today, I see somebody who is no more separated from my life than the air I breathe or the blood in my veins. You are the woman I love and the mother of my two beautiful daughters. But through all of this, and perhaps most importantly, you have always just remained my best friend.

I made a simple promise to you years ago that I would always be good to you. I pray that you feel I have honored that promise, and today I renew that vow to you. I will always be good to you, because you deserve it. I promise to always love, honor, and defend you. I will happily care for you for the rest of my life, and I promise to stand by your side, as your husband, from this day forth.

photo by justin visnesky

In the final hours, though, some people started to freak out about our plan. They had a lot of questions about how a bunch of handmade crafts and a made up ceremony at a public overlook was going to add up to being an actual wedding. I admit that I started to succumb to the pressure. I felt suddenly like... what if this isn't okay? What if a wedding has to be a $4000 cake kind of deal? What if our suggestion to wear whatever you wanted was an abomination? Was it a big deal if people got rained on while attending our ceremony? At the last second, I felt so pressured and just wished we had decided to elope.

photo by justin visnesky

If I had it to do all over again, I would have closed myself off to the what ifs and criticisms of our humble approach to our planning. I would have remained true to my vision, which was just to have a wedding that represented us honestly. To have a wedding that didn't try to claim a lot of things about us that weren't true. We didn't need to be seen as a couple who had it all and could compete in the world of modern wedding culture. I didn't need to outdo anybody with my bridey-ness. I just wanted to feel happy on our wedding day.

We didn't need, or even really want things to be perfect, because perfect things aren't beautiful.

photo by justin visnesky

But everything was very us.
photo by justin visnesky

And we were happy.

photo by justin visnesky

If you're planning to break free of the wedding mold, I encourage you to just do it. Do things your way. Be true to your ideas. Pay off your car. It's really okay. It is, I promise. You'll still love each other without being enlightened about the way a $4000 cake tastes. You might love each other even more.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I've started to see the crisscrossing pattern of tangled branches when I close my eyes from too much work. So, while Kurt and the girls got ready and went to my (super big boy) nephew's party at Chuck E Cheese, I went out for lunch with my sister for her birthday.

Getting ready!

The big girl with her properly cooked dippy eggs, made by daddy.
She told Kurt that I didn't make them right. And then she whispered, "It's good that I said that while mom was upstairs."

Audra and I went to Quiet Storm. It's awesome. I'm used to scouring a menu for one or two meatless options. Today, I could have anything.

We purposefully didn't eat all day so that we could be pigs.

And had burritos that tasted like Thanksgiving dinner.

It's interesting being with my sister because so much comes of out of us that usually just stays still and inside. Like how our youngest brother is in love for the first time, and how this worries our mother.

Or how there used to be a puddle at the bottom of the basement stairs that you had to jump over every time you wanted to do laundry.

The Christmas Eve that an ornament fell off of the tree in the other room while we were praying for the baby Jesus. How the devil was always trying to interrupt our family's righteousness. How we all knew, really, that the devil wasn't real. How the Christmas lights flickered off and on, making shadow shapes in the hallway. How Silent Night was the best carol because it was kind of scary and haunted, like Christmas was, if you really thought about it.

We used to steal grapes off of the vine from our neighbor's yard. Years later, while visiting my parents, I confessed this crime to the neighbor lady while she cooed over my daughter, and expected her laugh and dismiss our crime. Instead, she went hard and her eyes were cold over the mention of the grapes, and I felt like I was ten years old again with stained fingertips.

There was a sign in the church kitchen with a scripture about how, if you stole food, you were dining with the dead. “Stolen water is sweet; And bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he does not know that the dead are there, That her guests are in the depths of Sheol." We stole cookies, anyway.. the generic white Oreos that seemed to always be stale. It was thrilling that maybe dead girls from another dimension were eating soggy white sandwich creams with us. They were exciting and delicious.

I stepped on a goldfish, once. One of the big, red fat ones. They swam in a creek where we played with our brothers. I slipped off my dollar store flip flops and plunged into the water, only to feel something squirming under my bare sole, something getting buried into the silt by my weight. I jumped up with barely a gasp and saw him swimming away, blood trailing from his gills. I felt so terrible that I demanded that we buy some goldfish for the tiny pond in our back yard and I would take care of them and make up for the one I'd murdered. Only, when we were transplanting them, one of them swam under the cold water from the garden hose and died immediately. I stomped into the house, slamming the screen door and bawled in my room.

My sister has memories like I do. Of the fact that our father put down our dog in the woods with a hand gun. He was sick and ready to go, and that was just what people did. They didn't have money or care to have someone else do it. They took care of these kinds of things, themselves.

My sister and her family still live in the town where we grew up. I wonder about how she manages in that old place. It's too full of things we've already done, for me. I feel more comfortable being a city mama, navigating business and color and sound, just to get by. I wonder though, if isn't brave of her to go back there. I wonder if all of my adventures only lead me away from the things that come out of us, when we talk over lunch. Maybe she's smart for immersing herself in our memories, and triumphing anyway, and maybe I'm smart for running away.

PS. Happy Birthday, Audra.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I don't know what I am...

I am overly enthusiastic about doing yard work. The messy, blisters on your palms, aching back, mud on the hem of your pants kind of work. I didn't know this about myself. I wonder how much of me I don't know.

I was confused as a child. Everybody else was better than me. I was a Little Nothing. I heard things all the time about growing up to be something. At school, they told me that I could pick anything I wanted to be. At home, I was too poor to be most things. At church, the rest of the things I might have wanted to be were too evil. I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as my parents could afford the education and as long as I talked about Jesus all day and how awesome he was, and how stupid and unhappy you were if you weren't a christian. The end of the world was going to come, one day. It was going to happen in my lifetime, even. My father saw the signs everywhere. A white cow was born with a missing leg or something and then there was an earthquake on the other side of the world. "It's the end times," he would declare. "Are you prepared?"

I didn't believe in the end of the world, but I was scared of it, too.
I think maybe that idea stuck with me and it's hard to get unstuck.
I'm probably afraid of most things, but I do them anyway, because I don't really believe in being afraid.

This week, Scouty has proven to me that she's all grown up. I can barely lift her anymore, unless she crouches low and boings with all her might so that she soars over my head. So that, after I've held her, I go to pick up Louisey and she's like a deceptively empty milk jug. I prepare for the oof of heaviness, and instead she glides through the air like she's made of nothing at all. Twenty-one pounds of pure, jiggling, sugar sweet nothing.

So, I don't want my almost four year old daughter to be big. I want her to be a baby forever. I know how to have a baby. I've figured babies out. I don't know anything about having a school aged child. There's so much I don't know that sometimes it leaves me on a friend's couch, wiping tears out of my eyes for laughing so hard because our kids are so grown up and mostly it's funny, but it's also a little bit oh my god, and even a little bit sad.

Scouty told me that I'm so bad at cooking that I probably don't even know how to make dippy eggs. "They're a thing daddy makes," she told me after I offered her a freshly baked, vegan pumpkin muffin with perfect little oats sprinkled on the top. "I don't think you've even seen dippy eggs before." I've never seen Kurt cook an egg that he didn't burn, I know that much. I spend hours hunting for, experimenting with and perfecting recipes, and I'm so bad at cooking because I've probably never seen a dippy egg before.

She's also starting asking me where babies come from. I told her that I just wanted an awesome girl, so I stuffed a bunch of awesome into my belly and out she popped! This kind of answer was enough to satisfy a baby. "Who really stuffed the awesome into you?" she asked. "It was daddy, wasn't it? How did he get it in there?"

See? Funny and a little bit ohmygod.

So, all I want to do is go back in time and have my big chubby red headed baby who made faces that I thought, through the fog of sleeplessness, somehow resembled Gordon Ramsey, the tv chef. The little baby who struggled through the word banana and said, "Uh oh!" in a tiny voice when I dropped something. I don't know how to be a mommy of a huge, big, enormous grown up girl.

But, I also didn't used to know that I was a ferocious hedge trimmer and dirt shoveler. I'm so into it that I got out of control today and was knee deep in mud, digging up an unwanted shrub and turning over the compost pile before I realized that I was wearing my brand new, sparkly white around the edges, running shoes.

I didn't how how to be a mommy at all, at first. I just jumped in and got real dirty, and that was the key. I was willing to get really into it. So into it that I didn't notice, or maybe I just didn't care that my baby had barfed into my cleavage right before I was to meet a friend for coffee. I wouldn't even flinch when my hair was stuck to my cheek by pureed peaches. When my husband and I hadn't had sex in a month because I was so tired of being climbed on. When we moved to another city and somehow my entire make up collection just didn't move with us. When I was a dreadlocked mommy who attracted stares at the mall play area in our new city. When I didn't know anybody but my little family and I still packed myself up every day, and put on my bravest coat and went out to find the world. When I just did everything, and did it enthusiastically, even though it was scary.

I'm bad at performing under pressure.
I fold when something is expected of me.
I can't get used to being inside all winter.
I'm terrible at keeping things neat.
I think maybe I've always known those kinds of things.

I'm really good at baking bread, though. I didn't know that.
And calming down a screaming baby.
And riding bikes.
And swimming to the very deepest part of the wave pool to touch the wall.
I'm good at building a fire.
And coming to terms with things.

Here comes spring.

New sunglasses

John Lennon's Working Class Hero.