Sunday, December 19, 2010

Roads Less Traveled

I am still here. I'm no longer standing at the 'Y'. I am too busy to blog (who isn't?) and have written this post 1,000 times. In my head.

Promise, I really have. I blog every day, as I make and eat my breakfast. Shoo the dogs away from the fallen Cheerio's. I just don't always get it down on screen.

Anyway, there's a poem by Robert Frost. You may have heard of it. It starts out,

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

That's it. In a nutshell, that is what I've done. What I'm doing. It's thrilling, and confusing, and frustrating, and limiting at times. But I've chosen to remain at home with my two young boys, during the formative, challenging, so-impressionably-young years, and start a portrait photography business.

Corporate America-->Small Internet Startup-->Hard Right Turn, Pause in the Y. The Y of the path (in the woods, silly.) I've been standing here for years, at the Y. And someone finally nudged me down the less-traveled path.

Let's see how it makes a difference.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shock and Awe

Today I want to talk to you about the "emergency key word." If you're a parent, you get it. You need no further explanation. Skip paragraph two and read on.

The Emergency Key Word is something, as protective Moms and Dads, we all cling to as insurance. It's one word, or maybe two together, that you can state (yell, scream, shout, grunt, plead or otherwise communicate) QUICKLY to your child in an urgent situation that requires attention. Their attention. On you. Keyword here is 'quickly.'

It's easy to imagine what some common Emergency Key Words likely are, for the typical parent off on a woodland stroll that falls and twists an ankle and needs his/her child to come back to him/her, while laying helplessly in pain on the ground: Look, Suzie! A SQUIRREL! (Stop and stare.)

Or you have an infant sitting on the sidewalk and a toddler wandering around.. a bee comes by and lands on your infant at the same time the toddler starts to toddler off the curb into a very busy street. Look, Johnny! An AIRPLANE! (Stop and stare.)

Or, let's say your child is old enough to swim, and standing next to a pool in their freshly changed, totally dry clothes, and a friend is urging a dry-clothes jump in the pool. Look, Billy! BROWNIES! Stop and eat.

Different motivations for different kids. Every child has his or her favorite things they are drawn to.. toys. Animals. Fancy things that fly. Tiaras. Whatever.

Now let's talk about what my Emergency Key Word has become. He's about to run through the "exit only" automatic door at the store. He's about to walk into someone. He's wandering down the sidewalk away from me. "PLUGS."

Yes, that's right. The kind that are attached to a cord, and plug in. My 3 year old is obsessed with nothing other than the one thing every grown-up he has ever met has told him to stay away from, lest he meet his death via electrocution.

(Luckily he's obsessed with the plug side, not the outlet side. For now.)

A quick mention of whether the building, store or home we're standing in has a plug. Where they are. What kinds of things would possibly need to be plugged in? Why do they need electricity, do they have a motor? Or an engine? Et cetera.

Yes, we have engineers in the family. And yes, he might certainly be headed that direction. But in terms of "normal" emergency key words, my son shocks most everyone that overhears us. (Get it?)


Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm Back, With Foamy Gratitude

My blogging strike is over! At last! You may have noticed that I have not been blogging for about a month. (Or, maybe you haven't.)

I have been striking against the inequity and injustice in the blogging world. The glaring reality that Mom-bloggers are now growing at a faster pace than any other type, and yet, Mom-bloggers have the least amount of time to spend on it. Unfair.

(Yes, that was a blog joke.)

With that, I want to tell you about my hair cut this morning. It's a small, locally owned salon. Hyper-locally owned, meaning that the salon is named after the owner, who has owned it since it opened, and he (the owner, and namesake) actually cut my hair. I know, pretty kuel.

But first, the hair-washer person (we'll call her "Mona") took me back to the sinks to wash my hair. Pretty typical.

And anything but. I leaned my head backwards, at that awkward angle that salon sinks necessitate during the washing part. I wasn't sure if I should cross my legs or not; I picked something in between. I thought about my book that I'd bothered to bring, and the Book Club members that I had begged for more time from, since I don't have any, to finish the book. I thought about my 3-year old in preschool close by, the other 3-yr old that we had carpooled with, and my cherubic 10-mo old that was back at the carpoolee's Mother's house, happily napping.

I was by myself, during the day, for the first time in a long time.

Then, Mona started scrubbing. Washing my hair. She got her perfectly-sized nails in between the follicles and scratched all about my head, rubbed my temples, got the shampoo to a thick lather, just like they tell you on the back of the bottle. It was heaven.

When she paused, I took the moment to communicate to her how much she was making my day more relaxing.

Then, as if her life purpose had been fulfilled because someone thanked her for doing something she did 40 times a day, every day, Mona really scrubbed. She really took her time, allowing me to actually process the fact that I was becoming more relaxed. At one point, she even pressed the ends of her fingers into the back of my neck. You know, where you might rub if you were sitting at a desk all day, straining to see your computer. Or where you might rub if your neck and back ached all day from changing potty-training 3-yr olds and picking up toys all. Day. Long.

The scrubbing probably only lasted all of 6 minutes. But sitting there, legs half crossed and half not, thinking of nothing else besides gratitude for this person, this salon, this carpool, and this beautiful Fall day, I decided to hold onto the moment.

And, of course. Blog about it.


Monday, August 9, 2010

CDB, Phone Home

I've been thinking lately a lot about connectedness. Being and staying connected to those we love, used to love, hated to love, or love to hate. It used to be a simple phone call, or a Christmas card (or letter) received out the blue. Right? Like from the next door neighbor 10 years ago that you once shared deep secrets with over the kitchen counter, that later moved away and was never heard from again. Until the random phone call.

Nowadays, it’s much more than a simple phone call. I guess it could still be as simple as a phone call, but tell my Mom how to text, and she’ll forget what you’ve told her the next day. (This is nothing on my Mom; my next door neighbor would also forget, and she’s young.)
When you have very little, no, zero alone time to think…. and analyze… And allow things to sink down to the bottom of the pot and simmer there for a while, life seems to take off much more quickly.

Tonight I had a chance to sit on a runway for three hours. There’s so much information in that sentence, if you look. It means I traveled (well, not necessarily!) “Runway” implies flying.. flying implies far away from my regular dwelling place. “Sit” indicates I had nothing to do but think.. read.. look out the window at the various and sundry groups of hundreds of people, leaving for various and sundry destinations. And—you guessed it. “Three hours” is a very long time.

Back up an hour.. I get dropped off at a major airport in Washington DC. Race to my gate, which is also inhabited by 300 of my closest strangers, since this the gate for Very Tiny Planes to Very Tiny Places. People are waiting. Everywhere. They’re waiting in lines, as long as Disney World’s coolest new ride. They’re waiting in crowded seating areas. They’re standing and waiting, sitting, slouching, leaning up against walls, other people, sleeping against the hallway. You get the picture. And I’m looking around, just watching the people. I’m that girl, just watching. (I even pulled out my little blog notebook and made some notes, if you want to know the truth.)

Almost without exception, everyone is on their phone.. “i” or otherwise. Blackberries, Droids, old-school PDAs and regular old texting phones are out in force.. flights are cancelled, phones are out. I’m watching the people in line, strangers starting destinations or connecting here—but Lord help us, not ending here, frantically try to beat each other to reach an Airline Representative on the phone before getting to the counter. Several waitees are in front of me, sitting on the floor, alternatively on the phone.

There’s the obligatory conference call. There’s the guy on his iPhone, clearly keeping up with a conference call whilst checking flight status, and OH YES! Also reading a book. This guy fascinates me no end. At one point he gets up to pace around (perhaps he needs to focus by pacing) and leaves his backpack and his open book, where he was sitting. People do strange things when their flights get cancelled.

So we are continually connected to each other—instantly, simultaneously. Waiting in line, all talking to the same 800-number, but not each other. Texting across the country to our friends who might be picking us up, but not to the writer cautiously watching you from behind. Are we more connected? Perhaps. Do we feel more closeness, among ourselves? With Social Media keeping us updated on each others’ lives more than we ever dreamed (did I really imagine I’d know exactly when Sally from 5th grade Science would give birth to twins?), what’s the next step for us? Will we all eventually start living the same life, unaware of it until we bump into the Older version of ourselves, the Younger version of ourselves, or the Black or Brown or Asian versions?

Ok, so that is far fetched. But it’s interesting to think about, right?


Friday, July 16, 2010

Vacating Success

Measurement is a funny thing.

For example, how do you measure waiting? Not time, but waiting. And love? And how in the world would you measure vacation success?

I'll tell you how. An easy way to tell if a vacation is a huge smashing success, is by how much time is spent in Emergency Medical care. The more time spent, the more successful the vacation.

We had just landed in Denver. Land of the Rockies, sunshine, exciting hikes, open air. 24 hours pass, the sun shining, picnics had and playgrounds visited, mountains viewed and smiles turned somber. My toddler started getting sluggish, lethargic, didn't want to walk.. then didn't want to talk, eat. Or drink. Or do anything. (You understand if you know him. If you don't, this is NOT NORMAL.)

Altitude sickness, we immediately think, seeing as we haven't spent a single hour in medical school or done an internship in pediatric care. We bribe him to try liquids. It blows up in our face (just use your imagination with that one. I don't want to discuss vomiting.)

Something is terribly wrong with our otherwise perfectly healthy angel, so we decide he needs care. Off to Urgent Care we go, to see a PA who has--allegedly, as much time in medical school as we have. (But he was a Dad. So, there's that.)

Then, 24 hrs later, my sweet, chubby faced infant, with the dark eyes and lashes that draw you in and hold you there for as long as he cares to gaze, got hot. He started to cry.

An adorable baby is still that when he's crying. But when he's wailing, whimpering, wallowing in the midst of sleep, grunting with discomfort, and looking at you with tears squeezing out of the corners of his eyes, it literally makes you want to reach down and lift up a Rocky mountain to make him feel better. So, we did.

Off to the pediatric Emergency Room we went, just me n' my miserable cherub. I rocked him in triage. He cried. I rocked him in the ER waiting room. He cried. I rocked him after the triage nurse told me to lay him down on the exam bed. He cried. Pink cheeks, scared eyes, in only a diaper, he cried and I rocked.

Upon check out, the girl was nice enough. We had to stay a long while after we were done, since they got us right in, cared for, and discharged. And then .. the paperwork. She entered information in her computer as fast as the very fastest paint can dry, but we didn't mind waiting. My cherub and I. She collected what she needed and said I was all set. "Have a good night!" She said brightly. She was nice enough, but I couldn't resist:
"I really can't imagine anything else I'd rather be doing on vacation then checking out of the pediatric ER." I was joking, lamely. I should have resisted.

So, first ER visit? Check. A baby hospital band for the baby book? Check. Vacation? Check. Sleep, relaxation, rest, exploring new places, basking in the glow of nothing to do but relax? All banked for next time.

**Note: the most important element of our vacation was that we stayed with and had incredible support from two very understanding and very good friends, for whom we are very thankful!! Thanks TKB!!!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Constant Gardening

Remember that fish (Nory?) from "Finding Nemo"? The one that couldn't remember anything?

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming... Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." This is my theme music this week.

When I was out in the neighborhood for a run this weekend, in between dashes to the shady part of the street and wiping of sweat out of my eyes, I found myself noting something important.

Some of my neighbors keep incredible gardens.

Some are in front of the house, right next to the sidewalk, so all passers-by can enjoy the color. Some of them are side yards, or a carefully tended patch of flowers by the front porch or walk. Name it, and I saw it. And these gardeners, mind you, range from original owner (from the 1950s) to the young couple who moved in last week, still trying to conceive their first child and kiss Previous Listless Life goodbye.

There is one particular flower garden of spectacular hue, with a half dozen rose bushes bursting with light, color, delicate petal tips, and thorns, just next to the sidewalk on a fairly well-traveled road, for all to enjoy. I've marveled at it many times on family walks. My husband and I have commented how amazing the roses are. My toddler has pushed thorny branches out of the way of the stroller's path. Never knowing the danger of a tiny pinpoint prick on his little finger.

To my surprise, along my run this weekend, I saw the toil. The tired shoulders. The sagging sunhat. The work. I ran past the set of multi-colored rosebushes as the owner of the house was out among the bushes, tending weeds. Plucking unwanted visitors. Examining leaf health. Trimming back unwieldy branches. Tending, tending, and tending. I smiled at him, knowingly. He nodded in agreement. I ran on.

As I ran, I realized the significance of what I'd viewed, what I'd seen on this blinding hot day.

Tending a garden is much like raising children. Time. Attention. An amazing end result, blinding in its beauty.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Frenetic Calm


I approached the Giant food store, recycled bags in hand, free as a lark with no larklings. As I approached, heading towards the front door, something struck my eye that was fascinating. A woman.. girl... lady? An ageless female, who had clearly and very recently purchased quite a large number of items at said store, was outside with her cart of groceries. And oodles of plastic Giant bags.

Someone had forgotten her recycled bags.

She was pacing. Literally pacing. Hands in her pockets. Back and forth, forth and back, back and forth again, from her own made-up starting line to her turnabout spot, back to the starting line, and repeat. As I approached, I was struck at this shark-like behavior.

For what was she pacing? Was she nervous? Bored? Scared? Were her feet asleep, was she was trying to re-engage them in the world around them? I got so taken in by this steady, pragmatic foot-falling, I completely lost track of myself and wandered into the store, bypassing the carts.

I went back outside. I needed a cart, duh. But the shark, clad in her yellow v-neck and large, dark sunglasses, was impeding the way. I arced widely around her, as I noticed others did.

Other people, strangers to this strange dance, were avoiding her. Her shark infested waters.

How delightfully bizarre! I couldn't get over this conundrum.. people needed carts. She was impeding access to carts simply by pacing back and forth in front of them. I love the study of human behavior. I silently cursed myself for not taking more sociology courses in college, and got a cart. Finally.

Once the cart was gotten, I then needed to go through her pacing path to gain access to the Giant store. I had a twinge of guilt, then sudden excitement as to what her counter-move would be.

She paused in the pacing. Stepped back, tilted her chin slightly down. I, and another lady who didn't share my curiosity, curtly walked past.

I went inside and immediately looked for a window, to gaze out into this other seemingly tormented soul. Or, at least the soles of her shoes.

For my good fortune, and for everyone who later had to deal with me on this important day of my eldest son's 3rd birthday party, there was a Starbucks inside this store. And it was just inside the store, affording me the opportunity to check out the Mystery Pacer's next move.

She was still pacing!! What--in the world, could she be so anxious about? And who was she waiting for? And where were her recycled bags??

Then, I kid you not, what happened next was the most unexpected turn. As I pulled over to a Starbucks table, grappling for my pen/paper to make some blog post notes, as we all know I did, I glanced up.

She turned her head and met my gaze.

I was flabbergasted. The pacer knew her pacing was being tracked. I had the sudden urge to race outside and join in her pacing, up and down, back and forth, just for the pure and simple freedom of it. Freedom Pacers. And also, mostly, to find out why the hell she was pacing.

It was so deliberate. So unnatural. So .. creepily calculated. Every step was purposeful.

And only she, Yellow-Shirted Mystery Pacer, held the key to unlock those steps.

If my toddler had been with me, he would have fallen into step alongside her, looked up, and instantly unlocked the mystery. As he, as a general rule, holds all those keys.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Painting a Revelation

I know there are so many blogs to read and so little time. But I had such a revelatory moment today that I had to share.

Six or seven years ago, I was in an elevator. I was in a high-flootin' finance job, up to the 8th floor in a somewhat respectable high-rise building, in the somewhat-respectable field of corporate&investment banking. I was probably dressed in a blue button down and gray pants. It was the uniform.

The elevator was packed, and, as was customary on a busy morning, stopped at nearly every floor on the way up. Two people were talking behind me, a man and a woman. They were talking about painting. I got excited and nearly turned around.. painting? Was there a budding Van Gogh behind me? What did she paint? When did she paint? Was she in an artist's body, or did she just hide this side of herself? How cool was that? What kind of medium, I wanted to ask.

"Yes, we've finally finished the guest room. Now I have to get the kitchen and dining rooms done... arrgh, it just takes forever to paint a house."

Oh. (sigh)

Fast forward to today. I am walking back to my car after picking up some delicious Lebanese food - with a 7mo-old infant and 2-3/4 yr old in tow. Yes, my toddler ate it too. There were two women, dressed in casual yoga gear, chatting just behind my car, blocking our entry back into the car. I said "excuse me" as I inadvertently heard most of the end of their conversation. One woman was cajoling the other, saying,
"You need to get back into that!"
"Oh, the painting? I am! I started a few weeks ago. Ah, it feels so good." I happened to know that they were talking about art.

Painting, for the beauty of it. For the pure joy, the unfettered feeling of creating something beautiful with every stroke of the brush, of pausing, reflecting.. clearing the mind. Making art.

A beautiful thing. **

** For the record, I do not paint. I'd rather create beauty through words. Plus, my brother got that talent in the family.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Time. A New Frontier.

I know. Seriously. What could I possibly write about time that is new, different, innovative, obscure? We'll see. Keep in mind, there's no guarantee in the blogosphere.

But here's what struck me: In no other time in life than after having children, does time forever change. It speeds up, it slows down, it pauses and waits for you at times... other times leaves you on the side of the road with the car door open, speeding away. Taillights in the dust.

When I was charging through my 20s, time was just time.. it kind of ticked away. I looked forward to things, I looked back fondly on things, and everything seemed appropriately spaced. I'd say things like, "in a few months, we're going to the beach." Or, "in a few months, I think I have a doctor's appointment." "In a few months, I think my parents are coming to visit."

"I think", because who cares? It was a few months away!

Now a lifetime is contained in a single, solitary, well-chosen moment. In a moment where my almost-3-year old bends down to help his baby brother pick something off the floor, then hands it back to him, sealing my faith that he does listen. If a single moment can contain such magnitude, imagine a whole day?! A week? A month?

And whereas a few months previously might mean a different number of miles on the car, or temperature outside, or a different vacation destination, now it's the difference between my baby squirming helplessly on the floor and being able to give me high five.

That's right. Baby A gave me high five yesterday, for the first time ever. (For those who've lost track--and trust me, I get it - he's 7 mos old tomorrow.)

And what got me - really got me, about him doing it, is that I was just kidding! Time has done a number on me, too, and I forget how fast they change. I was joking! I sat him up, grinning from ear-to-ear just to be alive, and held up my hand and said in a voice excited enough to wake Sleeping Beauty, "GIMME FIVE!"

He looked at my hand. He looked at me. He raised his little hand and met mine. Ka-Ching!!

You could hear our collective giggles four miles away.

This is the thing. A few months isn't what it used to be. It's so much more...time. It's so much more documented. It's so much more change. It's the change of change, the derivative of life itself. Interestingly enough, when you derive a life equation, you get a more concentrated life.

And time is the remainder.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Life. In A Painful Nutshell.

I really don't have time to post now. Naps are being gentled tugged away from my little guys... I should be doing prep work for the cookout I'm hosting. But I just really need to write this post. And I think I'll be glad later.

In the College of Arts and Sciences, we were treated to a whole neat selection of electives like "Asian Religions" by incredible professors. My Asian Religions class had a profound effect on me.. especially the section on Buddhism. Imagine, life being All Pain? Really? Like.. ALL life is suffering. Just have to get through the suffering; without it there would be no joy.

When I was gazing at my adorable cherubic infant who is currently experiencing sharp little razor blades coming through his bottom gum, I thought.. this is fitting. Isn't it?

Here is this little guy, just barely here. Barely six months old. He looks around, he sees a brand new world. Everything is great. Everything is fantastic! Everyone is so nice. Everyone is so accommodating. Everything I need, I am given!! Such joy, in this place called The World.

And then.. the pain.

It starts, probably, as a faint little ache in the gums. (Right? How the hell would we know?) Then it probably moves up to the jaw a little, a constant, dull aching.

Cutting teeth. Ouch! How painful is that? Imagine for a minute how that must feel. Didja ever get your wisdom teeth out? Yeah.

You just barely arrive here, happy as a baby, and then the pain begins. (And then, later, it really begins, when someone steals your toy and won't give it back, or you fall off the playground, or nobody wants to be your friend, or you get your heart broken. Or you forget you left the emergency break on when you start to go and smell an awful burning rubber smell.)

But look. We get through the pain. The constant-ness of it. Never ending, never a break until that tooth pokes through and one kid goes off to school (or college.)

The pain... then the joy... we like all of it.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Timing is Everything

As the moon waxes and wanes, so goes my impulse to write. I feel sudden urges, much like my toddler who is learning how it feels when he has to "go". And I do believe this is a learned behavior, a skill, he is developing.

Take yesterday. On a generous whim, I decided to let him make the decision whether he walked through the grocery store (as opposed to riding in the cart. A much safer enterprise. Less bolting. And broken ketchup bottles. Et cetera.) We piled up the stroller basket with items, my infant eagerly watching how this was to unfold. All was going great. We had probably, oh, 20 or 25 or 50 items in the basket including all the baby food jars.

Time to check out. I was nervous. With my attention focused on loading all the grocery items onto the little conveyor belt, my toddler could seize upon the opportunity to bolt back into the store ("I'M FREE!!! I'm FREEEEEEEEEE!")

But, I come from a strict "Don't Fire Until Fired Upon" Philosophy, so I held the whistle and waited patiently while the chatty, well-meaning grocery clerk checked out the person in front of me. Very. Very. Slowly.

The Chatty, Well-Meaning grocery clerk finally looked up and started checking me out.
Beep! Beep! She starts scanning the items, bagging them, chatting all the way. Beep! My toddler looks up at me, and starts crossing and criss-crossing his legs.

Uh oh.

"Mommy, does this store have a bathroom, do you think?"
Hoo-boy. "Yes, sweetheart, they definitely do. Do you need to... ?"
"Yes, I need to go potty." Legs criss-crossed again. I glance at the conveyor belt. Only 49 items to go.
He shifts his weight and looks up again. "Mommy, I need to make a 'whoa'." That is his word for #2.

We are trapped in the grocery store checkout line with 3 people behind us. And my toddler has to go make a whoa. Right then.

I rattle off the situation to the grocery clerk. With lightning fast reflexes, she speeds up to 100X her previous speed. I run my card through the thing, pick up my toddler, push my infant in the stroller to the back of the store; way, way back. Where he does go. And wow, did he have to go.

Then, (and I'm sweating now) I race back to the front of the store to find out what happened. Do other people do this? I wonder as I run past shelves of cereal boxes I forgot to buy. Am I the first? I think to myself, knowing I am not.

Finally, we make it. Back to the line. Back to back of the line. The Chatty, Well-meaning grocery clerk recognizes me and smiles.

"Did we make it?" She winks.

We made it.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unbending the Straw

Life is so unfair sometimes. No, really, it's the clock that's unfair. I do not have time to post, yet it's all I want to do at times, write. Lunch is unfinished. Naps are over. I still have applesauce on my shoulder.

So the question really becomes, for me: Does not blogging kill brain cells?

I say yes. All day long, I have to maintain the highest energy level possible, explain every nuance of life from why strangers smile at you when they walk by, to why a cement truck turns the big thing on its back, to what constitutes a picnic.

None of these tasks are difficult to explain to an almost-3 year old. But sometimes I find myself diving a little deeper into the concept, like when I was trying to emphasize why the washcloth sank after it got wet. Or how hot food cools off, the principle behind this. Or why heavy things fall faster than light things. Or why Mommy doesn't want to prop the door open at Starbucks longer than one or two full minutes while my toddler casually saunters through, carrying his milk cup all by himself.

I do feel cliche, at times, especially when I'm rushing around. To fight feeling cliche, I find myself doing things that could only be categorized as uncliche. Or... another word might be... crazy. Wanting to avoid a nearly unavoidable toddler tantrum, I didn't let us sit down in Starbucks recently, instead telling my toddler that we could have a car picnic with our drinks! A picnic in the car! Allll we had to do was get back to the car. Ya with me, parents?

I loaded us in, infant in infant seat. Toddler in car seat. Stroller away. Library books away. Phew. Then, a little voice called me out on my own innovation:

"Can we have a picnic with our drinks.. in the car?"

Of course we can. I got everyone out. I popped the trunk. We spread a blanket in the bed of my (mini)SUV's trunk. Had our drinks (and our pound cake.) A picnic. I answered many questions that came up.. like the foretold cement truck.

Maybe it's cliche to attempt the uncliche. Yet, I feel it's my greatest endeavor to educate my young mind(s) at every opportunity.

And keep educating my own.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Catcher in the Wry

I figured it was time for a fun story. Well, it's a story. And .. I'll make it fun.

And a word of warning. I just finished Catcher in the Rye for the first time in my life. It's my new lifelong favorite and he is my new hero, Holden. I'll try to limit the references, but can't be held responsible for what comes out of my fingers. If you want to know the truth.

Where was I? Oh yes. Being funny.

We try to mix it up around here, in terms of playtime. I took my toddler out to a little kid's play place for drop-in play, and he played and had fun. Didn't want to leave. I finally got him to leave by suggesting we go out for a boys-n-Mom date to a little local pastry shop that happens to serve sandwiches. All you have to do is mention "pastry" to my eldest. He gets it.

We made our way down to said pastry shop (that happens to serve sandwiches.) I have my toddler, who has promised me he'll stay with me. I have my infant, too heavy to lift in the car carrier, but loaded in the car carrier. I'm not Super Mom, you know. I need carrying vessels for the ol' out-and-about.

I order us some sandwiches, my toddler and me. Let me take a moment and set the stage. It's a nice pastry shop, in fact it has "European style" in the heading of the store name. It's locally owned. It's close by. And it has pastry. Did I mention that? So it's popular, but not popular with the toddler-set. Popular with the gray-haired and retired set. Not that there's anything wrong with that. They're just a bit more...demure, that we are.

We take a seat, my toddler, infant in car carrier, and me. It's not a big place. But all the tables are full. You know, with the quiet, demure, retired folks. Who are quiet.

They are quiet and my toddler is tired from the playtime. Do you see where this is going? Oh, just fasten in.

The chairs are gorgeous. They have a beautiful little design on the back, which happen to be wrought-iron, and the design includes a little circle. Our sandwiches come. I get my toddler to take a bite. I take a bite. My toddler is up on his knees, relatively safe. (Relative to, say, the elder statesmen nearby.)

My infant squeaks. I bend down to tend to him. At the same time, my toddler sticks his entire arm through the little hole in the back of the chair. He then shifts his weight back, and CRASH!--over goes the chair. But remember, his arm is stuck through it. So his little arm is pinned under the chair, which is knocked over backwards. He starts screeching. I would too, but remember the demure setting I described? Shattered. I'm that Mom.

I jump up, to right the chair as I disentangle my toddler's arm from the hole in the back of the chair. I don't care what everyone thinks. He's screaming, really in pain. I'm thinking of taking him to the emergency room. Then, several things happen.

I examine the arm, which does not appear to be broken. Several pastry shop workers rush over, one with ice, one with a towel. A towel, she explains politely, to mop up the water gushing over the table?

Wait. Water? What water?

Oh, the water that gushed out from the vase of flowers that got tipped over when I jumped up. The same water that is gushing over the edge of the table and into the car carrier, where my sweet, innocent infant is strapped in. Helplessly trapped. The nice, calm pastry shop worker mops up the table, then smiles at me and mops up infant. And his car carrier.

Back to the arm. I'm holding ice to it, and the owner steps out from the kitchen, where she single-handedly made the hurt go away by presenting four delicate little butterfly cookies. Just for him. He takes one, and stops crying because he no longer remembers he is in pain. I check the arm. It's a little red, and they'll probably question my mothering skills at preschool Monday when they see the bruise, but he's okay.

He's okay. I'm okay. My infant is okay, smiling actually, and the butterfly cookies are good.

I don't actually remember leaving. I'm pretty sure we did, though. And I'm pretty certain my toddler got whatever else he wanted that day.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

In Memory

Three years ago today, we lost a dear friend of ours to a tragic and sudden car accident.

Just a moment. And all the world changed, forever.

I'd like to observe a moment of silence, virtually and reality. (No comments here please.)

We miss you Rachel.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Sands of Time

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, sometimes life is funny. There are ups and there are downs. Everyone has periods of self-pity. Self-doubt. Self-reliance. Periods where it seems like life is easy street and there can be no easier way to live, and periods where it becomes difficult to look past the end of the day. And it cycles back onto itself and repeats. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Time is at such a premium in my life right now, that I cannot think back to a time when I valued a few "free" minutes as much as I do right now. Minutes or hours, or weeks for that matter, seem to flee from me like their lives were in danger. And they are. Those minutes don't stand a chance with babies to feed. And toddlers to entertain with rice and sand soup, which is what my toddler treated me to this afternoon.

I had those free minutes last week, when we were on vacation at the beach. A few, glorious, unadulterated, breathtaking minutes. I think it was around 45, in total. I had many pairs of arms around to help with the various and sundry tasks that are usually mine alone, and I was told to "Just Go" (for a run.) But--what if he gets hungry? (Go) What time is dinner again? (Go) Where did I stick the iPod? (Go!)

And so I went. I ran with a strong tailwind behind me, pushing me, lifting me further and further from my daily obligations, my 2.5-foot high charge and my cherubic, demanding infant. Pushing me further from my origin, my home base, my known quantity. Clear thoughts pushed their way through my foggy, sleep-deprived, career-confused mind as the music grabbed hold of my feet pounding along the sand. I stole glances at the ocean, which seemed simultaneously demanding, and demure.

I thought about the past, major life choices that I made in a 30-second conversation with a co-worker. I thought about mistakes, broken promises to myself, and the New Year's resolution I was just starting by running. I thought about my heart, and what it was telling me, and the future. What was important, and what was not. I thanked God for the Present moment, the ability to recognize the moment for what it was. And I ran.

And at some point, I had to turn around. I had to return from whence I came, and ... I was tired. I headed back, only then realizing how far I had run. Turning around, I was hit by a very strong headwind.

A strong headwind called Reality.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bamboo Shoots the Breeze

I'm averaging just a post a week now, with kids taking over daily life, and photoblogging pulling me in another direction. But the written word keeps calling as well.

Having children is overwhelming, for so many reasons. They become our world, and ours theirs, and, rather than re-creating another episode of Toddlers Say the Darndest Things, I'll simply get to my point: Children enrich our lives in a way not possible by any other means.

I think, these days, Stay-at-Home-Moms feel pressure to return to work outside of the home, even if we don't have a job to return to. Many Moms I know work part-time but remain the primary care-givers and attendees of playgroup, shuttling everyone around and registering for music and sports programs. Oh yeah! And working. We really try to do it all, and if we don't do it all, we feel pressure to do it all.

At playgroup yesterday, the hosting Mom was explaining what all the treats were she'd laid out.. then she got a call about the deposition she had to do in the morning. Another Mom I know was in Mexico City last week for a conference.

I suppose I've made a certain kind of peace with my status. I suppose. But not enough to keep me from writing about it.

Back to the overall point. I've been making a point to point out things to my 2.5 year old. How big the yellow school bus is up close. How the sky is cloudless now and there's no snow or rain, and little green shoots are popping up. Garbage trucks (okay. He points those out.) I've noticed the careful way he listens to me, looking off toward the horizon, and I can actually see the thoughts tumbling around in his head starting to form structured patterns, ideas, and conclusions. And it's amazing.

A few minutes ago, I was reading him passages from two grown-up books he snagged off our bookshelf: one on Marcus Aurelius of Roman rule, and a book about the inspiration and act of writing (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.) He, being a toddler, got bored after a page or two, and said he had an email from Papa (Grandpa.) Absentmindedly putting the books away, I said,
"You know, email wasn't even around when Mommy was a kid."
He looked up at me, understanding completely, and said, "And when I was a baby it wasn't around. A long, long time ago."

When Mommy was a kid was a very long time ago, and when he was a baby was a very long time ago. By the transitive property of equality...

There are those that would still argue with me that this is just a fun twist on an otherwise really boring lifestyle. And that may be true. But just now, when I went in to remind him one more time what we do at naptime, he asked me if I knew what Pandas eat.

"Do you know what they eat?" I asked, knowing the answer.
He beamed at me. "Bamboo!"

Right again.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Big Push

Ugh. This life thing is really getting in the way of blogging. Anyone else feeling that pain?

The other day, when I was released to the wild for a blissful 2.5 hours for a lunch downtown in Northwest D.C., I got to ride home. All... by... myself. So, I cranked the radio (of course.) Sang like nobody could hear me (nobody could.) And thought free thoughts about my life (for a period of minutes which felt like days.)

For too long, I've been making excuses. I've been on the edge of the bridge for some time now, looking down into the gorge, which--trust me! Is steep! Like, picture.... a bungee jumping commercial. Or Victoria Falls.

But I'm tired of hanging on to the edge of the bridge. I came from one side of the bridge.. where there was money and prosperity, a big city with nice restaurants, neighbors that drove Ferraris and constant conspicuous consumption. Trust me, it's so easy to hop back up on the bridge and start trucking back into town. I could hitchhike with the next 7-series I see.

Continue on the other direction over the bridge and you find...maybe a calm, peaceful pond with a few frogs croaking, crickets chirping. Many crickets, actually.. similar to the noise used on cartoons to denote exaggerated silence.

[cue crickets]

So, with a deep breath, one last look in any direction but down towards the roaring rapids, I go! Why not? Nobody's going to push me. I keep looking behind me for that push, and nobody's there!

For further explanation, see my photo blog, where I have begun portfolio building betwixt life chronicling. Portfolio building-->shooting friends-->shooting clients-->starting small business of my own. That's the rub.


Friday, February 26, 2010


If Calculus is the study of change, then toddlers are the study of discovery.

A little while ago, my Mom introduced my toddler to a website that helps preschoolers learn their ABCs, "Starfall". He loved it and asked for it often every time he caught sight of anyone's laptop. Many times I found myself explaining that you had to "go" there, it was a "website", it wasn't always on as soon as we looked at the computer.

Many weeks have passed since he's last played it.

This morning, I was checking my email while eating breakfast (while doing four other tasks, a necessity to which any Mom can relate.)

My toddler sidled up to me and asked to play the ABCs on the computer. I managed to rebuff him for a moment.

"I want to play ABCs!"
"Not right now, sweetie, we have to get dressed."
"I want to play ABCs! Please!"
"Not right now, sweetie, I'm almost done here, it's time to clean up breakfast/get baby A up/[fill in normal task here]."
"I want to play ABCs dot com! Pleeeease!"
"Did you just say 'dot com'?"

He got to play. For a toddler minute.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Adventures in Storage

Everyone that has a toddler knows the challenges of having a toddler.

And everyone that has a toddler knows the joy. The question is always, does the joy become the bridge over Challenges River? Can you learn to love something as simple as say, discovering you have pockets?

On Sunday, we went for a very enjoyable, albeit lengthy brunch with a dear friend of mine. All four of us.. baby and toddler in tow. We stayed a little longer than we'd planned, so when he ran out of food, toy trucks and other people, my toddler started entertaining himself with the little packets of jam and jelly on the table. He'd twirl them around, try to open them, guess what was inside... and I'm sure many other pretend things we weren't privy to.

His Dad was a co-conspirator, I found out later.

So we're in the car on the way home. He was tired. Very tired and worn out. After a few minutes of a quiet ride, from the back seat, we began to hear a very faint, quiet toddler voice say:

"I'm.........Not..........Saying anything. I'm not........Saying anything. I'm not saying..... Anything."

My husband and I exchanged a glance, both puzzled. Then we glanced back at my son, and burst out laughing. My husband held out his hand, and asked for my toddler to hand him the packet of Strawberry jam that he'd made off with. Unbeknown to us.

He'd stowed it in his jacket pocket.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thanks Be to the Moment

I've been thinking a lot lately about what life was like before I had kids.

I'm having a lot of trouble.

Did it exist? Was I really like these 20-somethings I see frittering away their time at Starbucks, and the bookstore, and on their iPhones, on blogs? (I realize I sound like I'm 100.) I'm sure I did my fair share of frittering. I was probably a master fritterer. If they offered a Master's course in How to Effectively Fritter, I'd have been the TA.

I'd fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way. (Roger Waters, Pink Floyd.)

I think I thought more about what kind of shoes to wear with my new jeans than I did about whether I could stomach a minivan purchase. Or whether I'd actually wear the black leather pants from Banana Republic. I'm pretty sure I never got the "Dora the Explorer" map song stuck in my head. Or ground-up Kix on my car seat. Or distraught that a minivan purchase would be determined inevitable, once we checked the "more than one child" box.

I definitely didn't jump when I heard my infant on the baby monitor. (Just did.)

But I have two unbelievably beautiful sons. I have a husband so amazing that poetry and all the words in Webster's dictionary wouldn't explain it. And sometimes, with amazing gifts as these, it's easy to get caught in the day-to-day.

So, recently my husband and I have been doing something fun to remind each other of this fact.. to bring us back to this critical recognition.

Last night at dinner, our 3-month old baby was sitting on his lap, watching my husband's plate and moving fork with acute concentration. Our toddler, when he determined (himself) to be done with requisite "eating", got down and started playing on the floor.

My husband, with a wink, said to me, "do you remember when baby A would sit attentively on my lap, just being adorable, and our Toddler would entertain himself while we quietly finished dinner?"

Immediately I relished the moment. We both did. It was [relatively] quiet. Calm. Peaceful. Joyful. We seized upon this and each, in our own way, thanked our lucky stars.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reversion to the Snow

Ok, strap in for this post. Try to follow my logic.

It's commonly known that toddlers revert to what is familiar when faced with an uncertain situation. Something scary. Or the Unknown. My toddler is the perfect example of this. When he isn't feeling well, like this morning, and I move, for example, the humidifier from across the room to a new spot, he demands that it be put back where it was. It's rightful spot.

A new music class might land him sitting in my lap (instead of bolting away from me, his normal modus operandi) or begging to be "UP!" He is the most independent little man this side of the Mississippi. Except when the unfamiliar rears its ugly head.

Totally understandable, and normal, you understand. His world is pretty safe and secure, when it's predictable. We can all relate to that. Our.. Reversion to the mean.

Here in the Washington DC area, we've had one massive snow storm (past tense). Like, pounds and pounds of snow. Our gazebo is crushed, the glass table underneath shattered. Historic snow. Now, at press time, we are in the midst of another massive snow storm of historic proportion (present tense.) Once again we had fair warning, so back out to the stores, everyone in the Washington DC Metro area yesterday went. Including me.

Nary a gallon of milk was there to be found. Shelves empty, fervent store-goers with packed carts made their way furiously around the store, grabbing items they may or may not need in the next four days. And amazingly, among the desperate grabs for leftover turkey legs, corn relish and faux sausage that nobody really needs, there was a community.

Three other women were gathered around me in the store's elevator (this was an Arlington, VA store, which makes it fancy, which means it has two floors) and we all eyed each others' equally packed carts. There were friendly exchanges, smiles. One woman rolled her eyes and commented on the unbelievable amount of snow. Another woman said with kind eyes, "at least we're not in Haiti right now."

Checking out, I made affable chatter with the manager bagging my groceries (yes that's right.) We were from the same town. We started talking Carolina basketball (he went to rival NC State) and two other Dads from another aisle turned around and engaged us in basketball conversation. We were like family (since they brutally teased me about our lack of wins this year.)

All over our neighborhood, for the past four days, neighbors have helped neighbors. My husband was digging out a spot for my mother (the Saint) who came to help. The man who lived in the closest house came out to help him. We have a friend who helped countless passers by whose cars that got stuck outside their house, as we my husband has. Neighbors going out of their way to dig out an elderly person. Reaching out to those who lost power. People meeting those that live in very close proximity to their own home.. for the first time in years.

It's amazing, the human connections that have been made. The kind souls going out of their way to help others in need. Big catastrophes bring out the worst of the weather, and the best in us, it would seem.

I like to think this is the true nature of Man. That when faced with adversity, or a little snow.. or a whole heck of a lot of snow, we come together to help each other. Through it, around it, keeping our cars and roads dug out and spirits lifted. I like to think this is our own way of retreating back to what is natural.

Our Reversion to the Mean.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Blogging: Better for Aging

They say using your brain, as you get older, helps your brain. Makes sense.
Improves memory, mental agility, yadda yadda.

I'm here to say that blogging, when taken as directed, greatly improves memory and brain function. Why? Because all day long, when you have a tremendously epiphanous thought, and immediately think, "I must blog about this thought," but are, say, in the middle of a shower.. Or racing to get the potty under a toddler bottom when he needs to go. Or balancing Starbucks while climbing your steps with a babe-in-arms. Or walking around, patting him on the back, until he begins to close his drowsy eyes. When those moments happen, it is imperative to file away that momentous thought!

So will I? Can I? Is it possible to relate that great thought from this morning? Let's try.

I wasn't born to be a Stay-at-Home-Mom. I just wasn't. Some mothers were.. and it shows, in their uncanny ability to weave a handmade basket while knitting a scarf, scrap-booking with their other hand while cooking dinner and helping their toddler(s) make play-doh sculptures.

I feel proud when I get my teeth brushed, and it's before 9:00 AM.

But here's how I know God had a plan. When we moved away from promising careers working in banks (oh, WAIT a minute) in 2004, I had a few offers of employment in Charlottesville, VA. Our new town, for two years. I had an offer from a large-ish, reputable financial firm, and it was generous in salary but weak on time off.

I also had an offer from a non-profit. Working for the CFO. A very interesting job with very interesting people with illustrious backgrounds in enjoying life and being intellectual.

Money, or save the world? I chose to save the world.

That didn't work out. It did lead to another venture, working for a small Internet start-up in the finance realm, but was destined to end when we moved away. Then I got pregnant with our first son. Upon having him, I also didn't so much.. have .. a "job". Not exactly the time to go look for one, eh? And now t'ain't either.

It will be another blog post where I describe just how incredible this little tiny 2-1/2 year old mini-adult human really is, and how much he's changed our lives. Our goals. Our attitudes. What's important in life.. day-to-day, and as the weeks stack up on each other, leading to months and years.

But for whatever reason, God intended for me to be home every single day with this adorable and brilliant little man, and his adorable, cherubic baby brother. I can't question that, now or ever.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's No Sacrifice

I know, now you'll have that Elton John song in your head. There are worse things.

I've been diligently posting photos to my photo blog, nearly every day, which of course, entails 1) finding the shot, 2) taking the shot, 3) downloading the shots, and 4) posting one. How do I possibly find the time to do this, you ask? (You don't have to ask, I've been asking myself that lately.)

Well, the truth is, I don't. I do it while I'm holding a nearly 3-month old baby. While I'm convincing my toddler to use the potty to make his whoa (don't ask.) While I'm eating over the counter, paying bills online, inhaling lunch/breakfast/dinner, and collapsing on the couch at night.

And, at the sacrifice, I'm afraid, of this blog.

The funny thing about passion is you don't always know it's a passion until it starts to define you. And I suppose, in a way, the visual representation of life has always defined me. In high school, I wanted to be yearbook photographer (wanting to achieve goals without actually achieving them has also always defined me. If I can't say it on my blog..)

In college, I was a film major. Of all the thousands of things I could have chosen to focus on, I chose the one path in which it was absolutely necessary to move to L.A. upon graduation to pursue. Practical? No.

I have now, finally, after much deliberation, consternation, fascination, and absolution, begun my own photo blog. To further delve into and define my passion.

That is where I begin, and I hope--let's all hope, for the continuity of passion in this good World, that I wind up somewhere completely different.


Monday, January 25, 2010

There's Really No Time for THIS

I'm drowning, I'm suffocating, at times I cannot breathe..
Or move, or stop moving, in some cases free.
Move the blanket the wrong way and he wakes up.
Stop dancing him around to my iPod, he wakes up.
Chants of 'keep going' in my head
Toddler indignant yells from his wakeful toddler bed.

I would say I'm losing my mind
But I'm not fully confident that it didn't
already happen.

Keep me going, keep me running, keep me coming back for more.
My cherubs, my charges, my glorious core.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The Perspective of Tone

Lately I've been thinking about perspective. How much it changes with time, how much it changes us. It's impossible not to have any, yet very difficult to summon. Especially when trying to live at the current moment; of which, not doing so, of course, is impossible.

As an interesting side note, I started this post on 1/12/10.

I think I lost it for a while there, Perspective. Just before I had my 2nd son in November... my whole life was Life As Mom. I never had a great surprise party for turning 30, no collegial late 20s--that glorious Purgatory before a serious mortgage but after the impressionable early 20s. I was never in college, in teenage angst, and certainly not listening to Pink Floyd as a precocious pre-teen. My entire Being was always centered around shuttling someone around and being at a little person's beck and call.

Wait, that's not right, is it? Have I always had someone else in the #1 spot? Of course not. But it seems that way sometimes, the reversal of life's focus so complete. So complete that not one square inch of my car interior doesn't show some effect of a toddler being captive inside much of the time. So complete that phone conversations with friends invariably involve the mysteries of the toddler mind, and denigrate to poop. Lack of sleep means I hang up without ever saying the reason I called.

Even my brain is unrecognizable. I used to remember stuff. I used to think about subjects like economics, and statistics. And going out at night. And .. I wrote more regularly! (Though, ironically, in an actual diary.)

A good way to bring my Perspective, that elusive and eloquent elf, back in the foreground, is music. A song from a particular point in my life can bring me right back to the exact moment in which I had the luxury of time to enjoy it. Listening to Pink Floyd in my bathroom growing up. To Live in my first-year college dorm room. To something poppy, like Puff Daddy, in my early 20s. Dave Matthews can bring me back to many various late-20/early-30 situations, like dancing around my living room with wild abandon and flying arms and legs. Small, unknown alternative bands like Carbon Leaf can take me back to Charlottesville in 2005.

Most importantly, Van Morrison and Into the Mystic can transport me, emotional and pregnant for the first time into sitting at my desk, working from home in Fall 2006, and to two weeks ago. When I held my toddler tightly in my arms and danced him wildly around the kitchen, to squeals of laughter.

It's just that I hadn't had the chorus of laughter until now.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Formal Invitation: F&P365

I have a new project. Not my newborn, though he is very much a project. Not myself. Though.....

Please, please come visit my new photoblog, Fingers&Paws365. I'm not begging, but I will promise you that for every comment, I'll exchange one quality visit and comment on your blog in return. And $500. Just kidding.

I do thrive on feedback, so please... help a sister out. And subject ideas welcome!


Friday, January 8, 2010

I Blog, Therefore I Am Sane.

Or, am I? Just a quick poem about the week from hell.

Snow Shine

Welcome winter doldrums
With open arms
Ne'er grow shall the green grass
How many times:
This too shall pass?

Unholy melancholy melts
The aftershock of leftover snow
Biting tongue at toddler crass
How many times,
This too shall pass.

Wake up and begin anew
Reminders of forgotten hues
Congratulating temper-less feuds
Too many times,
This too shall pass.

Bright sun gleams, reflects
Mirror-like on blinding snow
Easing pains relinquish teeth that gnash
It is true.
This too, shall pass.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome to Decade Deuce

A lightning quick post, just to get the "2010" added to my archive list.

Just kidding.

Another resolution. To be true to my original intention in starting a blog, and actually write, regardless of what is going on in life that might prevent that. Twice weekly, as a minimum. I know blogland will hold me accountable; even if I cannot be accountable to myself.

And - news flash to my Facebook friends; though posts are automatically imported into Facebook, this is actually a real blog. Check it out!




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