mom2momdfw
DFW Moms

I was surprised to learn that summer doesn’t really begin until June 20. Isn’t that Halloween? With the weather heating up to hell-worthiness and the mosquitoes out for my children’s blood, I think summer really began this weekend. And with it came some fantastic thunderstorms.
 
If there is anything Thing One is more afraid of than Casa Manana, it is thunderstorms. When my mom came to stay with us last month while Gordon was out of town, I came home late to find her in bed with Drew, who was up on his knees peeking through his blinds at what might as well have been Chernobyl. Mom and I had to coax our limbs out of his sheets slowly, as though avoiding invisible laser motion sensors, in order to leave him without too much protest. Drew was docile, on the verge of sleep. The storm had been over for an hour, but after having suffered some form of post-traumatic stress, he was finally calm enough for us to slip away and take comfort in an Oreo. Or two.
 
This past Tuesday night, Gordon and I decided not to watch TV — which might signal the apocalypse – in order to read in bed. Mostly we were just too tired to go downstairs. I remember turning out the light at 10:32 and congratulating myself on being such a responsible adult who reads small print and gets the doctor-recommended amount of REM. About an hour later, when I was still folded up in my initial sleeping position (the first of countless, according to Gordon), a blinding flash woke me up. BOOM! Thunder too.
 
Oh boy. It was going to be a long night.
 
But it wasn’t. I was frozen. Still in my initial draft of sleep, waiting like an escaped inmate for the siren to sound, I listened. Nothing. Gordon was shifting on his side, too. I knew he was awake, he knew I was awake, and we were both trying to deny that either one of us was awake. He was listening just like I was. When would the cry ring out? The pre-adrenaline gathered like a pool of blood in my throat. I was bitterly giving myself a pep talk and bracing myself for the scenario ahead: how I would roll over the side of the bed, hobble across the hall, puncture the ball of my foot with a Lego, and, finally, collapse into Drew’s bed while his sniffles mingled with my coos. Roll, hobble, puncture, collapse. Roll, hobble, puncture, collapse. Got it?
 
BOOM. Another stroke of storm, another explosion from the giant shutter.
 
But only the quiet percussion of rain filled the lulls. No shrieks or cries or moans or pleading for mommy. For 14 minutes or so (but who was counting?), I listened to the rain and the thunder with a split personality: half of me in dread, half of me in soothed solace. To the same extent that Drew loathes thunder and lighting and rain, I love it and have always felt that it was like a spoken word, a sign to pay attention.
 
When it finally became safe to hope, I began to relish it wholeheartedly. I thought about how, at least for tonight, Drew had been allowed to sleep through his fears; how he wasn’t even aware of how much he had been spared, and how that was a beautiful definition of grace. I prayed for the strength to sleep through my own fears as well — not because I’ve shut myself away from reality, but because I’ve embraced a greater one. Not because my fears aren’t real, but because they’re not any more real than the God who allows other things, things like light, and love…and Oreos.
 
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

A couple of nights ago, I went to a jeans party. You’ve heard of Tupperware parties and Pampered Chef parties and jewelry parties and “toy” parties — mere child’s play, indeed. This was a no-nonsense, grown-up gathering of women who could have done many things with their evening that night. They could have read books, waxed philosophical about waxing, painted their toes, watched “Jersey Shore” in secret. Yet they prioritized fashion and bargain-hunting in the most serious context possible: denim. Because that’s the kind of women they are. That’s the kind of women I are, too.

BORING, right? Right. Who cares what your preschooler reads? Not me. Nope. I’ve got enough problems of my own, like how to not look so unattractive every Wednesday. Why are the stars so out of alignment regarding my hair and apparel choices on that day? Why must hump day always equal frump day? These are questions for the ages.

Have you ever looked at your child and thought, YES. YES. He is meant to do this or that. I can see it plain as day. A budding artist, blooming singer, emerging actress. I think I will start preparing now for the life of ease that is coming my way when he buys me my second house off his third world tour record from his fourth platinum album. Perhaps I will embed a small diamond into my left incisor. I will definitely change my name to Mother To Rhodes Children so there is no confusion.

Sometimes I think Thing Two believes I am incompetent. She already has the most beautiful little face with the most beautiful arched eyebrows, and boy howdy, do they arch. She gives me these looks that say, “Are you sure that’s the best way to crack an egg? Is there a reason for that particular headband? I wonder if you’ve considered all the possibilities here.” She will be a great mom someday.

Once, and I’m not particularly proud of this, Gordon and I went as Adam and Eve to a corporate Halloween party in downtown Fort Worth. Our costume looked something like this:

Sometime today, maybe it was when I was wiping Drew’s poopy man-bottom or folding my eighth tiny pair of tights, that I had a horrible fantasy of being cancer-ridden. I think it’s probably the blackest and most demonic thing in the world to fantasize about. On the surface it’s not as insidious as daydreaming about Daniel Craig’s abdomen or the delicious way my nextdoor neighbor’s head would explode if I ran over her dog. It’s sort of melodramatic and romantic; I love to cast myself as the tragic victim. She could have done so much more with her promising life, people would say. Now we’ll never know the extent of her awesomeness.

Drew is now four. We had a “Cars 2” birthday party for him on Saturday in our backyard, and the best part is still up for debate: the guacamole, bounce house, or the hilarious way Drew said YIGHTNING MCQUEEN.

This month I have been immersed in a production of The Sound of Music. Perhaps “immersed” isn’t the right word. Hollowed out, taxidermied and plastered are better descriptors. I play the rich/snobby/fabulous Baroness Shraeder, or Elsa, which means I get a big blonde wig and wear about 12 pounds of sequins. It also means adults treat me coolly after the show but little girls want to touch my vintage Bergdorf Goodman ball gown. What else does it mean? That I never see my babies.

The hills are indeed alive, even hyperventilating, at the sound of a church production that’s actually good. Wonderful, even. Full disclosure: I happen to be in the cast, but that only makes me more qualified than anyone to attest to the hours invested by cast members, orchestra players, skilled craftsmen, costumers, light designers, directors and coaches who have created a production that will draw upwards of 10,000 people starting Thursday night. With previous shows like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Music Man" under their belts, the creative arts team at Christ Chapel Bible Church is tackling what is quite possibly the most beloved musical of all time — for kids and parents alike. If you’re looking for a quality production for introducing Broadway to your kiddos but don’t have the budget for the standard $100 a ticket, this is the perfect venue. And the perfect show.

Tickets for all 8 performances are gone, but there will be a standby line at each performance. If this show is like the previous productions, those waiting standby will almost always get a seat. (If you don’t get a seat, I’ve been told commemorative lederhosen will be yours for the taking as well as five free throws at a Nazi dunking booth.)

In the meantime, get the kids ready for Alpine climbing, abbey roaming, and do-re-mi-ing.

The Sound of Music

Eight Performances

Thursday, Sept. 15 – 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 16 – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 17 – 1:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 17 – 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 21 – 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 22 – 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 23 – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday Sept 24 – 1 p.m.

Standby Line Procedure

All performances are full. At each performance, there will be a standby line for guests that do not possess tickets for that particular show.

  • The line will begin forming in the Great Room one hour prior to the beginning of the performance and is on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Ten minutes prior to show time (given there are available seats), we will begin seating as many people from the standby line as possible in accordance with safety and facility policies.

Christ Chapel Bible Church is located on the northwest corner of 1-30 and Montgomery, at 3740 Birchman Avenue Fort Worth, TX 76107. (Phone: 817-731-4329 | Fax: 817-731-4662). Visit www.ccbcfamily.org.

 

 

When I was an infant I apparently had pretty intense opinions about life — a sterile way to say my colic was one for the record books. When I was a preschooler, my mother was discreetly given The Strong-Willed Child by her mother, my Grandmama. While I can’t remember what was getting my goat lo those many decades ago, I see the same dogged will in my own children. The will to blaze THIS path, not THAT one. To split the hair THIS way and not THAT way. To only go Number One in the toilet and never Number Two. I take it as a compliment from God that he thinks I can handle this in my own kids. Or maybe it’s more of a practical joke. Or worse, a comeuppance.

BLOG: We decided cold turkey with the potty training. Would it work?

 

In a moment of reckless hubris, I announced to the world that Drew would be potty trained by July 7, 2011. In retrospect it was a little reminiscent of Harold Camping, the end-of-the-world prophet who predicted the apocalypse last month. Who was I to say the end of diapers is near?

Gordon pulled out his iPhone and added the date to his calendar, like he was scheduling a power lunch. “D-day,” he said. “Got it.” Diaper Death Day.

My plan wasn’t totally imperialistic. I had a grassroots strategy. The first step: spend several Saturdays as we can outside in the pool or sprinkler with Drew totally naked. He needs to see the deed in real-time and prove to himself he won’t burst into flames. The second step: push Drew over the edge.

What’s been holding me back thus far is uncertainty. Is he just not physically ready? Is he being defiant? Is he hung up on some irrational fear? After months (years) of pondering this, I’ve decided it’s fear. A fear of releasing his waste out into the wild blue yonder. It must also have something to do with letting go of such an integral part of his routine — pooping in the corner, asking mom to “change you”, watching in fascination as mom spits up in her mouth. This is a big change.

And so I invented this.

Behold the artistic creation that will bring jubilee. The Big Boy Day Countdown chart. Do you see the glowing toilet in the bottom right corner? This box represents July 7, 2011. I was going for a chummy, fun-loving commode who just wants world peace and a little appreciation. The golden light emanating from its core is intentionally epic — in a friendly, Sesame-Street kind of way.

I couldn’t wait to show it to him when he finally got up from his nap. I provided sparkly star stickers for him to mark off the days until the diapers run out, like a friendly doomsday warning, or a Christmas chain leading up to what is probably another big date on the Mayan calendar. That’s when all that will be between him and the cold, cruel world is a thin layer of Thomas the Tank Engine. (Like Kramer’s thin layer of gabardine.) Scary, I know.

Why July 7? It’s the earliest possible weekend this summer. I considered waiting until after our family vacation to Destin at the end of July, but realized that August is a mere four weeks from when school begins. And if Drew isn’t potty trained by then, well, there just won’t be any school. And I will be forced to heavy drink.

When I was about 9 years old, my family and I went to Wet N’ Wild. This is where chlorine goes to feel like one of the essential elements. You breathe at least as much chlorine as you do oxygen until your lungs ache and your skin pulls tight against your deeper, more permanent skin. Which is screaming with sunburn. You can tell I loved this place.

My parents, sister and I climbed the ramp up to the top of a mammoth slide where you can go down as a family in one big raft. Once you get close to the top of the line, you’re narrowed one-by-one up some tight spiral stairs.

We waited about 20 minutes and everybody was really excited, laughing, in good spirits. Except me. I was making a valiant effort, but when I got a peek over the drop off, my chin started quivering and I told my dad I couldn’t do it. This was especially terrible because here was my little sister who would have gone down the slide by herself, backwards, blindfolded, with Mark Cuban. I squeezed back down the staircase against the flow, down this spiral not designed for two-way traffic, past smaller kids who were looking up inquisitively at this pudgy crying third-grader. I was the kidney stone in the bladder of The Mammoth, and it passed me with agony.

Sometimes I wonder if my dad should have pushed me over the edge. Maybe for the rest of my childhood I would have enjoyed Wet N’ Wild, Six Flags, the trip to Disney World and all our yearly visits to the Fair — instead of dreading them every single time. Or maybe it would have backfired and today I would be a vagrant selling knockoff Fendi to support my habit.

Is pushing your child over the edge worth the risk? I’d rather have a potty-trained mental case than a 40-year-old who relies on me to stay powder-fresh. (Because you can bet he won’t have a wife.)

I guess it just Depends on you.

 


For more from Julie, visit her blog at wetbehindtheearsblog.com.

It’s halftime. Game six of the NBA finals. Mavs are up by two. This is where we begin this blog.

This week I attended Drew’s graduation from Level 1 of his preschool. He performed three songs in the ceremony, two of which involved musical sticks of some variety, multiple hand-motions and an abundance of blank stares. But we clapped, oh how we clapped! Then he walked across the stage and enjoyed his first public handshake, which was a little like watching a nervous Danny Devito approach Dirk Novinski like his whole body was about to be clutched.

I had a fantasy as a child that all my toys were really alive and would start interacting when I wasn’t around. Then, as a teenager, I saw Toy Story and wanted to sue Pixar for, like, a lot of money. For like, I don’t know, a thousand dollars.

Monday was Thing Two’s nine-month birthday (or anniversary or milestone or bat-mitzvah or whatever), and also the first day in her life she didn’t cry during her bath. In nine months all she has ever done is wail when I lower her down, like she is in a hot tub with a few Mideast warlords.

I yelled at my kids yesterday. There. I said it. Well, that feels better. To put a finer point on it, I yelled at Drew and my yelling was so sudden and loud that it scared Madeline and she started crying. There. That’s all.

Drew and I have started cooking together. This isn’t because I’m an amazing, intentional mother who deliberately set out to create teachable moments of mother-son bonding in which I could take, say, a cluster of grapes and somehow make Drew understand what it means to be connected to Jesus, the Vine. Or the nuances of communion theology. Or about how grapes are green, and green is a color, a color like grass, say, or the color of the recycling truck. No, that was not how it all began. It started with Drew’s simple request one morning to “stir the eggs?”

Last night we made beef stroganoff. He wanted to wield the butcher knife when it came time to chop the “large onion” the recipe demanded, but when he started hacking away like a miniature madman — the onion rolling all over the cutting board in a panic — I decided to be responsible instead of just vaguely curious and reclaim the weapon.

Drew wanted to dump the mushrooms into the skillet. We each had a little styrofoam carton and on the count of three turned them over into the hot butter. “Do you know what these are called?” I asked Drew.

 

I know kids say some pretty awful stuff. They maybe don’t MEAN half the stuff they say, it’s just that they’ve heard some grown-up-y word and it feels good in their mouths, like verbal Jell-O. All the worst words feel the best. My little brother, who is now 18, once had a shirt when he was a little guy that had big exotic frogs all over it. He wore that shirt out like I wore out the Titanic soundtrack in ninth grade. He lovingly referred to it as his “frog shirt.”  He would BEG to wear his “frog shirt.” Problem was, when he said this, it sounded like the f-word followed by the s-word. This was problematic for my dad, who was not Ozzie Osborn or Melissa Leo, the recent f-bombing Best Supporting Actress winner (whose real indecency was the dress she wore), but was and still is, the pastor of a Bible church.

As a fourteen-year-old, I thought Jeff’s “F@#*&$ S@#$*%” was hysterical. Jeff had this high-pitched voice with a nasal overtone. It was like Pee Wee Herman cheerfully tossing around little word grenades.

Last night I heard Drew drop a very mild word grenade. More like a word cigarette butt. We were throwing this little cheapo football back and forth in the back yard, me sitting on a lawn chair holding a barefoot Thing Two and Drew wearing loafers with no socks. (Just so you can picture how classy the whole scene was.) Our next-door neighbor let out his yapping fluffy dogs, dogs that seem to have a personal vendetta against my children. At that moment Drew was plucking the deformed football from the grass and I heard him mutter under his breath, “Stupid dogs.”

 

“You have to write about your party,” said Gordon, as if my blog was mentioned somewhere back in our pre-nuptial agreement. Not that we had a prenuptial agreement. If we did, it would have amounted to me getting his left bowling shoe and him keeping his right. But Gordon, of course, is correct. Let it be known: if you throw me a surprise birthday party you automatically get blog real estate and homage. (It works out too, because I was originally planning to blog about a friend who, one morning, used her daughter’s diaper as a maxi pad in an act of desperation. So this is much better. Or at least less graphic.)

I had hoped after last week’s rather melancholy post that people would have seen it more as my reflection on the big-ness of turning such an impossible age as 30, but really everybody just saw it as me whining about not getting celebrated enough. I’m not saying I WASN’T whining. I just didn’t want it to appear that way.

Maybe the best way to blog about my party is to provide RULES FOR ATTENDING YOUR OWN SURPRISE PARTY. These are in no particular order.  

1. Wash your hair. People will be hugging you, looking at you, curious as to what you ACTUALLY look like when you weren’t planning to be social, and you really want to prove you’re no hypocrite about hygiene. I would also say to dress cute everywhere you go and for all occasions if you’re even approaching a milestone birthday; and for goodness’ sake, take CARE of your cuticles. But I think that goes without saying. Just pray your husband or friend isn’t planning a Saturday afternoon surprise at Bob’s Steakhouse right after you run the White Rock Marathon and ingest your fish oil.

(Gordon planned a dinner at the Fort Worth Club, a.k.a. “Daddy’s room” as Drew calls it— I thought I was going for the “March Birthdays Dinner”—so thankfully I at least had a dress on.)

2. Have a speech prepared, but one that’s not very good. If you are suspicious you MIGHT be ambushed, think about how you would like to address your friends. Gordon had arranged a “lady’s dinner,” meaning there weren’t any men there, so it really WOULD have been a neat opportunity to say a few words about everyone present. I was too intoxicated with shock to remember what nonsense came out of my mouth.  At any rate, if you suspect a party and do prepare a speech, make sure it’s not without some hesitations, backtracking and awkward pauses because there’s nothing as unseemly as at the Oscars, for instance, when the winner has apparently consulted a Pulitzer Prize winning author and Obama campaign manager to help craft an acceptance speech. (My awkwardness was the result of reckless spontaneity alone, which felt totally unacceptable.)

3. Do not complain about not having had a surprise party. This is more of a pre-party rule. When I felt earlier in the week that all this birthday stuff was really just a big hassle for Gordon, I threw down the, “Well, I gave YOU a SURPRISE party for YOUR 30th birthday, so I think you can arrange a babysitter for the CORRECT day on MINE.” Don’t go there, sister. You’ll feel stupid later.

4. If you cry, do not make the ugly cry face. I have been told that one day when I am 90 years old, all that will be left of my face will be but a pair of giant owl eyes, blinking. While that thought is depressing for a lot of reasons, a creepier thought still is the prospect of having my ugly cry face on display in front of all Facebook. So if you have the presence of mind, do not ugly cry. I wish I hadn’t. 

5. If you are given a bill, sign it without looking at the total. Gordon arranged my surprise lady’s dinner and then bowed out gracefully to eat takeout fried rice back at home. At the end of the night a nice man in a vest brought me a bill in a leather booklet. If you don’t want to know how much you are paying for your own surprise party, willfully persist in the belief that perhaps the good people at the restaurant love you so much that they would provide all this at no charge, or even that they had perhaps paid YOU to HAVE your surprise party in their facility. Otherwise, you might be tempted to shut the bar down early. I, fortunately, followed this rule. Who needs two kidneys anyway?

  6. If you are given a precious scrapbook/remembrance book crafted by one of your best friends in the world, do not read it at the party. Or else you will also violate rule #4.

 7. If there is an open bar, feel free to think your husband is hot. This rule also applies if he has also provided a photographer, flower arrangements, and/or ganache in any form. When you have all four present at one time, it is permissible to think your husband is VERY hot. But beware: he knows this rule too.

It just meant so much to me to have so many of the girlfriends I love most in this world present to celebrate, especially my sweet sister Elizabeth who flew in from Pasadena, Christy who flew in from Washington D.C., and Jennifer who drove up from Austin. Thanks, y’all, for your presence in my life, for the ways you’ve open the windows and let in the clean air, for how you’ve taken shovels to big mounds of dirt and cleared a path, for the way you decorate my memories with rubies and sapphires and garnets, big and small. 

And to Gordon, I wish I could write enough words…:)

 

 

This week hasn’t been so much about my kids and the people they are becoming as it has been about me turning 30. I mean, I love my kids, but now my life is 1/3 over so what does it really matter… 

Sorry. That was just me being dramatic. I like to do that sometimes. 

We had spent most of last week skiing with friends in Park City, UT. Apparently if they put a “SLOW” sign on a ski run, that automatically makes it a Green designation (easy), even if it’s really a 90-degree-angle of sheer icy death and blind drop offs into the cold version of hell. But what do I know. I was just the idiot in the mock turtleneck.

This was probably my fourth time skiing. Ever. But our friend Gene had never skied before in his life and by day two was skiing Blues (more challenging) and hadn’t fallen once. I, however, fell three times. The first two hours. Then quit. Then drank a cosmopolitan at the ski lodge. I like to pretend, when I drink martinis, that perhaps I’d done something very significant and stressful related to world affairs that day, like negotiated a fragile peace or purchased a cherry-red Berkin bag, but this day my greatest accomplishment was simple and elegant: NOT pinning my head to a tree with the ski pole.

The Things stayed with grandparents. Gordon and I would receive the occasional text message with pictures of Drew watching “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” or Madeline beaming in the arms of her Honey after bath time. Her grin was stretched out across her face like a clothesline, her towel draped around her head glamorously, and her eyes  focused squarely on the camera as if to say, “You may, if you wish, stay away indefinitely. They have unicorns and rainbows here, as well as mountains of crocheted blanket corners on which to gnaw. Please sign me over to these people or whatever you have to do legally because I never want to leave.”

My actual birthday was anticlimactic. I think when you have a big birthday looming, you expect Jesus to return or something the morning-of, because there’s no way the universe could continue whirring away when you have reached such a fantastical age. Atoms simply can’t bear that reality. It’s like when someone important in your life has died and you observe the teenager working the drive-through window at MacDonald’s — see her handing a kid a milkshake though the car door and the mother a receipt, and you just wonder how that kind of normal human interaction is even possible.

My birthday was like that. It was like walking around with Lady Gaga on my shoulders smoking a hookah and no one really thinking it was bizarre.

Me? 30? Are you kidding?

Today, Drew and I were outside blowing bubbles. He had his first bloody nose today and despite my best spit-swabbing, still had faint streaks across his cheeks and red crust around his right nostril. Gordon later said he looked like a “ragamuffin,” a word I would like to adopt and raise as my own, along with the word “primordial.” They just seem so lonely.

Drew was trying to blow the bubbles.

“Too hard, Drew. Like this,” I said, and then I blew. Bubbles came.

He dipped the wand after me.

Then a gust of wind blew up from down the street and suddenly the wand had come to life, spitting out a steady stream of bubbles; a floating, bobbing procession of pearls. Drew squealed. He thrust the wand back into the bottle and raised his arm up straight, like you would if you really knew the answer in class and were begging the teacher to call on you.

“Do it! Do it!” he yelled into the air. But no wind came. He looked at me frustrated, like Why don’t you SAY something, for God’s sake. But I said, “There’s nothing I can do about the wind. You just have to wait for it.”

He waited.

Then…WIND! More bubbles!

You can imagine how long this went on.

I don’t know what I expected of turning 30. I think I thought maybe someone would be hiding under a rock, some rock I’d passed a million times but which had been placed there years and years before in anticipation of this very moment, and that person would jump up from under the rock with a camera and a microphone and tell me I had been a star in a reality television show that had given inspiration to millions worldwide. That my struggles and triumphs were not lost or marginalized, that they had actually meant something for good. And that now that I was 30 I would be promoted to a different kind of a life, the life behind the curtain.

“Was nothing real?” I would ask this person.

And this person, who looks vaguely like Ed Harris, would say, “You were real. That's what made you so good to watch.”

Sometimes I feel like a kid with his arm in the air, waiting for the bubbles, and my arm is getting tired, but I still have lots of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drew loves watching the Veggie Tales Jonah movie, and I love it because it tells the biblical account in a fun way for kids and adults alike. For instance, Jonah’s camel wears a tiny monacle, which just kills me. And instead of rampant sodomy, the Ninevites are guilty of slapping of one another randomly with fish. God is so angry with all the fish-slapping, he sends his servant Jonah on a British camel to preach repentance. And you know God means business when he sends asparagus.

 As heinous as fish-slapping is, I sure wish someone was standing around this weekend with a fish to slap my face, because I needed it multiple times.

 This weekend was our first ER visit.

 It was naptime. All was quiet. I had actually closed my eyes and was pondering the meaning of life and if Bruno Mars is, in fact, a pansy as my husband claims, when all of a sudden THUD! SHRIEK! MOMMAAAAAAAA!

 There was blood. First thing I saw. On the collar, dripping from the chin. A bit on his toe. In the corner by the window: a small puddle, like someone had spilled some finger paint. Where was it coming from?

 Chin.

 Fatty tissue. Pulled apart. Blood, oozing silently, like the blood itself was unconscious.

 Must apply pressure, where’s the phone. I just got this shirt, is there blood on it. Call Drew’s doctor, call the ER, no, just GO to the ER call Gordon first what about his TEETH. Teeth OK. Blanket, he won’t put down his blanket, won’t let me touch it, look at it.

 Gordon dropped us off at the entrance. At this point Drew was whimpering, clinging to his bloody blue blanket. Then there was someone blowing bubbles. Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles. A lady with a thick black ponytail and trendy glasses asking me to write his name on the sheet. His name. How? D…r…e…no, legal name…A…N…D…

 They are taking his blood pressure, a strap around his leg. Browning blood under his fingernails. The bubble lady has stickers now, big square Bob the Builders. Drew puts one on his chest.

 She was asking me things: allergies? Last time he ate? Had any medication today? YES. The pink stuff, no, that’s Madeline, NO medication today. Ate at noon, wait, twelve-thirty, at the mall…

 MOMMAAA! He keeps crying, just won’t stop crying, and I’m crying but I can’t cry! Somebody please slap me, slap me with a fish! Hard.

They walked us out of triage, down a corridor of unfamiliar equipment and people (who ARE all these people?), and everyone seemed to stop and take us in: Drew with his hot-pink bandage wrapped from the top of his head down around his chin, blood spattered down the front of him, his blood-mottled blanket in one hand, dragging on the floor, and in his other hand a roll of stickers, a lollipop and a clear vile of bubbles. His brown eyes burned through the tears, looking to settle on something familiar and forgettable, but they never could.

 We waited in what looked like a mini surgery suite.

 The doctor, a mid-thirties woman with blonde hair and kind hazel eyes, examined him. “We’ll have to suture it; I don’t think the glue will be enough,” she said. (I would like to officially register the word “suture” in my Hall of Infamous Words because it sounds so needle-y and diabolical.)

 Apparently there’s a person at the hospital called a “suture tech” whose only job all day is to stitch people up. At Cook Children’s, this man’s name was Richard.

 Richard advised using a drug to “relax him a little bit,” so he wouldn’t be able to resist as much and would not be able to remember the trauma. After about 15 minutes, Drew’s eyelids were half-shut, he had a frightening grin on his face, and he was saying hi to everyone who entered the room. He grabbed the doctor’s hand and studied it like he had never seen anything so fascinating before.

The time had come.

Grimly, Richard entered the suite. A fit younger man followed behind him and a youngish woman followed last. She was the “child life specialist” whose job it was to lessen the trauma for children by explaining about their “owies” and providing Thomas The Tank Engine on her iPhone.

 The other man, the orderly, stood Drew up as best he could, slipped a pillowcase around his arms and shoulder blades and began wrapping his entire body in a tight swaddle with elephant-sized ace bandages. Drew complied, his head pitching forward and back. When his chin was brought up, the lights turned bright, and Richard came into view over head — upside down — Drew began whimpering, “Would yike to go home now…would yike to go home now…”

Then, the iodine, all over, swathing his chin in wet brownness. Then the shots, four or five, circling the laceration. Screaming, Drew screaming. Richard pursing his lips, his mustache twitching like a chinchilla, in concentration.

 This is where I would have liked to have blacked out. But I didn’t. My face was right next to Drew’s; I was faintly aware of the Thomas soundtrack playing behind me, along with Gordon’s voice. But all I heard were Drew’s cries. Even though his eyes were fixed on mine, he was screaming my name like we were separated by an impossible chasm.

At one point I thought I should sing. “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”

“BIBLE!” Drew shrieked. Like the Bible was a king cobra.

 Then, I noticed warmth on my face. Not sweat, but new and different tears. Mine. I felt a hand on my back — the child life specialist comforting the mommy too.

 (What she really should have done is hit me in the face with a big blue marlin.)

 After what seemed like a lifetime of enduring Richard and his hoola-hooping mustache, it was finished. Drew sat in the bed sucking on a rainbow popsicle, still woozy from the drug.

 I became aware that “Toy Story 3” was playing on a TV in the upper corner of the room, and we watched silently as the dust settled. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this movie, but it is quite possibly the most touching tear-jerker ever, especially at the end when the teenage Andy gives his childhood toys away — Buzz, Woody, and the gang. It is, among other things, a coming-of-age tale; one I felt I had lived in my own way that day as a mommy, putting the last lingering illusions of motherhood in the giveaway box along with Drew’s ruined shirt. I realized that was the first day I had really ever seen Drew’s blood before. He hadn’t even had a skinned knee. And it was such regular blood, so spillable, so real and so finite.

 It was all just too much.

 Gordon patted my head as the tears really started coming. Drew didn’t know mommy was crying, I hope, but I was only too painfully aware of my own helpless estate, my own powerlessness, my own complete and surprising vulnerability.

 Maybe the most dangerous thing about motherhood isn’t the risk you take loving someone so much.

 Maybe it’s that no one will have the good sense to whack you in the face when you need it.

 With a fish.

 At regular intervals.

 And then one more time for good measure.

I knew there would be consequences. When you quit breastfeeding, the primordial gods of mammaries visit hexes upon you. For one thing, I’m stupider this week. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I forgot about Drew’s first-ever soccer practice like it was an episode of Jim Lehrer, despite the fact I wrote 875 words about it last week on the very day it was scheduled. You’ve heard of total recall? This was total retardation.

The other affliction has been the one-two punch of the croup plus an ear infection. Madeline woke up Tuesday morning at 1 a.m. crying. Along with her crying, we heard what sounded like Drew yelling “Hey! Hey!” But it wasn’t Drew, it was Madeline’s cough finding awful little punctuation points within her wails – deeper, richer tones inside the cadence. I sat with her in a steamy shower until 1:30 when she took a bottle and went back to sleep. I could almost hear the La Leche League clicking their forked tongues from afar.

I knew there would be other risks to weaning. For one thing, my boobs might completely disintegrate into my chest. I thought they were caput with Drew, but now after Thing Two, who could say what would become of them? They might steal away into the night to die along a river somewhere, like tired little dogs. They might even become, gulp, CONCAVE. I would need a reverse bra, one that sucks instead of supports.

The other risk was going on food stamps due to the high price of formula. And Madeline is no dainty eater — she weighed in at 17.4 lbs when the nurse put her on the scale. That was before her angus burger.

Risk number three was that I’d put on a few pounds. Lord knows my appetite is the mob boss of the refrigerator, and without the fail-safe of lactation, was bound to start offing dense muscle mass. My solution? Buy smaller jeans to blackmail myself. (I live in a dark societal underworld, apparently.)

But wean we did. And now she’s sick. First time in seven months.

When the doctor entered the appointment room, Madeline gave him the biggest megawatt smile I have ever seen. I, however, was noticing he had grown a goatee and was wearing glasses and thought how I wasn’t confident the beatnik look was right for him — I didn’t SAY this of course — but for all Madeline knew, he was Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise in a movie about Tom Cruise. Under other circumstances this would have delighted me. But now she was making me look like a liar. THIS is your sick baby?

He pronounced, rather definitively, that it was the croup. (Well, he didn’t say “the croup” because he’s not a 19th century Old South physician.) I was relieved to know “the croup” usually crops up late at night but leaves babies alone during the day, which fit her symptoms perfectly. Then he pulled out the ear-looker-thingy and pronounced that Maddie also had her first ear infection.

And while there’s no way to freeze her ear bacteria, inflate it into visibility, and put it in her baby book for remembrance, I think that won’t be necessary because I’ll never forget this week. Main reason: the burping.

There I was, minding my own business after the doctor appointment, feeding Madeline some rice cereal after her bottle. At first it looked as though she was about to vomit. She dry-heaved once or twice like I had gagged her with the rubber tip of the infant spoon, and then she let out the manliest belch you’ve ever heard. It was somehow amplified; by demons maybe. And it was extended like when people TRY to fake burp. I was stunned. If she had pulled a lederhosen-wearing lobster out of her ear, I would have been less shocked.

This happened again last night. Same scenario: stomach full of mucous she had been coughing up and swallowing, along with 6 oz of formula and 2 tsp. of rice cereal down the hatch. She gagged, and then she actually DID vomit. And then about five minutes later, out came the roar. Drew was coloring a worksheet next to us and he looked up in amazement, in the way only a 3-year-old can. There was an instant where we both braced ourselves for her head to start spinning around in 360-degree revolutions, but she smiled instead and went back to her feminine little ways like she had just overcome a minor bout of indigestion.

Every woman has to decide for herself when is the best time to wean. There are a lot of pros and cons. And sometimes, frankly, you just don’t have a choice. But when that month comes, that week, that day, just remember this: a brave new world awaits you. A world of greater freedom, cuter bras and fewer risks of indecent exposure. But just be prepared for a little mucous, a little mayhem and a little bit of grieving. It’s the end of an era, after all. But it is the beginning of the rest of your life, and possibly the impetus you need for “reconstructive surgery.” 

If you’re smart enough to remember your appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

I was taking a walk the other day with The Things and passed a driveway where three boys were playing basketball. They were about ten or eleven years old and there was something about them that was eerily familiar, strangely similar.

Then I realized: they all had Justin Bieber hair.

Up to that point I’d been feeling the pressure to get Drew a haircut, but now there wasn’t just a choice between a military buzz cut or “llama goes to Woodstock.” Now there is an in-between. Now there’s Bieber.

Comforted in my new discovery, we kept walking. Through the mossy exuberance of his bangs, I saw his eyes blinking as he asked, “Mommy, where’s the rainbow?”

“There’s not a rainbow today because there isn’t rain,” I said. This was the street where four months ago we happened to see a rainbow on our walk, and ever since he never fails to ask about it, like maybe the rainbow lives at one of the houses on Hawthorne and comes out to play occasionally with the Bieber-headed tweens.

 “Where rainbow go?” he asked.

 “I don’t know,” I said. “

 I love Drew’s innocence. His pure logic. His total lack of irony. Which is why I can’t explain for the life of me a good reason for signing him up for soccer, a sport that will put hair on his little chest faster than the whiskey I put in his bottle.

Yes, soccer. “You haven’t started that ALREADY?” asked my mom on Sunday. And my thought was, well, he has grown up going to play dates with these kids so why not organize and get a little exercise? But she seems to know something I must not be aware of yet: that soccer sucks parents in and spits them out 15 years later, their faces baked from the sun after hours of endless practices and games, and their wills broken by the rough and wooly world of competitive child sports.

(Are you still wondering if I really put whiskey in his bottle? Well, wouldn’t you like to know.)

 But I’m like, hey, I want an excuse to buy miniature cleats. So sue me. We’re playing soccer!

Last week, the team moms commenced to spinning a ten-mile long e-mail chain trying to come up with a good team name. The usual ones were thrown out: the Sharks, Tigers, Cheetahs, etc. I was happy to see someone had suggested Ligers.

Then the fun really got going and whole themes began emerging: 80s references from “The Princess Bride” (ROUSS’s, Shrieking Eels, Little Phesics), references to other movies: Everlasting Gobstoppers, the Wild Fratellis (which I think is a bastardization of the original reference), and, my favorite: Foot Worth. That one was mine. But it didn’t make the voting list.

In a moment of adolescent reversion, someone threw out, “The Little Chuggers.” That’s when the team coach (husband to one of us) entered the cyber conversation and suggested it might be inappropriate for a soccer team of preschoolers to connote a drunken gaggle of Kappa Sigs.

The team name is still TBA, but I have a sick feeling we’ll end up being the Sharks or some other pedestrian predator.

We went out yesterday to buy the hallowed cleats. Sports Authority really isn’t a good place for strollers or anybody who lost their abdominal muscles somewhere back along the highway of reproduction. The entrance doors were not automatic. I guess if you’re shopping at Sports Authority you probably have the muscle tone to manually open a door, but just try getting a double stroller past it.

The smallest cleats they had were size 10, which were two sizes too big for Drew who for some reason has beautiful dainty Chinese feet. To add to my concern, Drew had insisted on carrying with him a small black pouch designed to clip onto a bike to hold supplies like keys and Chapstick. When we were leaving the back door and heading for the car, I noticed the pouch hanging from his forearm suspiciously like my black purse does from mine. He held it in his lap as I pushed the stroller through the apparel to the back where footwear was displayed. But to my relief, he gave it to Thing Two when he saw the basketball goals, and she proceeded to gnaw on its rubber handle.  

 I don’t know if soccer and Drew will be a match made in heaven, or a hell of a bad idea. Maybe it will be somewhere in between. And what more could a true Belieber ever hope to achieve?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a picture I have as my computer wallpaper, a close-up of Madeline and me looking straight into the camera: I’m smiling the cheesiest teethy grin but Maddie is wide-eyed in suspicion. It was of our carriage ride at Christmas. What you don’t see in the shot is Drew, who was bawling in Gordon’s arms like how Aretha Franklin would bawl if she were a preschool boy. But that’s what Christmas traditions are for — adult merriment at the expense of tired children.

Do you know what other tradition is really more for adult benefit? The parent-teacher conference. 

I know what you’re thinking: they have parent-teacher conferences for a three-year-old preschooler? Yes. Yes they do. No, he’s not studying algorithms or Milton or reading ancient Cuniform texts. He’s learning to cut with scissors, which some say is a skill they value at East-Coast schools. 

The teacher had filled out a standard form that had items on it like: “These are the colors your child can name (circled): red, blue, green, yellow, purple, orange, brown, black, white,” and we probably spent five minutes discussing the relative normalcy of Drew not being as QUICK to identify black and brown. “Those colors aren’t very FUN,” I offered playfully, trying to keep the mood light. Because if my child wasn’t smart, at least his mother could be fetching.

As I left the house, a vague feeling of dread settled over me. This was like taking oral French exams in college. What if Drew’s teacher had been saving up some really appalling revelation for this conference — his gender confusion or biting or animal sacrifice? But, I reminded myself, all the kids were having parent-teacher conflabs this week. Just standard procedure.

Or was it?

Ms. Dawn is really the loveliest person you’ll ever meet. She reminds me of an English milkmaid with rosy cheeks and blonde hair, the type who could produce a scone instantaneously.  She seemed a little nervous but only because I assumed she’s more accustomed to talking to three-year-olds. We discussed his behavior in class (“listens well, works well with others”), his areas of interest (arts and crafts, trucks and puzzles) and his language development (“Speaks clearly, stutters some”). When we got to the potty training line item, I noticed she had circled “N/A.”

I sighed.

“Let’s see,” said Ms. Dawn, “Potty Training. I put N/A because…” she trailed off, collecting her thoughts.

“Because it’s not applicable,” I said bluntly, yet playfully, again trying to win her camaraderie. But then I launched into how I had tried, really I had, to train him last week when we were homebound due to the snow, and how he had squeezed out maybe an entire teaspoon into his little potty, which, of course, proves that he is, in fact, in the very MIDST of potty training even though he technically, isn’t, well, trained. Or even close. But applicable? Oh yea.

“We’ll try to work with him more at school,” she said helpfully. “I think he really is interested in it,” she continued. “I think he is close. Very close.” It was then she informed me he would have to be trained by next fall, just in case I was thinking about keeping him in diapers through elementary school. Ha. Ha.

But then she said, “He really is such a sweet boy. We really enjoy having him in class.” And I could tell she meant it.

Then the weirdest thing happened. I began talking, gushing, about WHAT a fantastic job they were doing and how MUCH Drew loved school and what a JOY it was to see my son thriving in such a nurturing learning environment and some other things about rainbows and sunshine. I meant every word of it, but it felt like someone much more sentimental and emotional had invaded my body and was working the tongue lever. They almost felt like my last words, like I couldn’t get them out fast enough. Strange.

When I snapped out of it I saw she was genuinely pleased, maybe even touched. The connection I was hoping for had been achieved: Two friends, one teacher, one mother, drawn together for the love of a boy. Cue the pink dolphins at sunset.

When I left the classroom I felt like saying, “We really should do this again; you know, talk about how smart and precious my son is.”  But I didn’t.  I didn’t have to. Best friends can rely on telepathy.

I’m not sure what the ultimate benefit of these conferences is. I didn’t need one to learn that Drew isn’t potty trained. But maybe I needed someone to tell me everything is going to be OK.
 



In the spirit of the snow day yesterday, Madeline had her first beauty treatment. I had come to the end of all possible Fancy Makeup permutations for myself and because she was the second-closest female, she bore the brunt of my boredom.

The issue: cradle cap. You may think that sounds like a meeker cousin to some 18th century thing like consumption or scurvy, but suffice it to say cradle cap is a brutal affliction of a baby’s scalp. And by brutal I really mean brutally unattractive more than anything else. It’s basically a common inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, yellowish scales to form on oily areas like a baby’s scalp. And, gulp, it’s thought to be caused by a…by a…by a…oh gosh, here it comes and there’s no hope of stopping it: a YEAST. Ugh. There. I typed it. If she notices it I can never tell; Maddie’s too busy learning how to grab her big toe. 

I noticed the cradle cap about a month or so ago and thought, here we go again, because Drew also had it. I’ve put up with it this long only because it’s fun to pick at, and if mommies have a secret pastime it’s picking at the various appendages, surfaces and crevices of their children. This might be a primal instinct for which no immediate benefit is obvious except the benefit of sheer enjoyment. Well. No, not exactly-- enjoyment isn’t the right word. It’s more like the thrill of purposefulness born of horror. 

To add to the horror, whenever I manage to scrape off a particularly meaty chunk of scalp, a small bushel of baby hair comes right off with it. This reminds me, against my will, of a tarantula shedding his winter coat.  What a nightmare.

I once sat there and picked at her head for probably thirty minutes, flicking the flecks behind the glider in her nursery. One scale led to another and another, and I begin thinking if I sat here long enough there HAD to be a finite number of yellow crusties and I would come to the end of it if only I had the willpower to sit there and see the job through to the end. But cradle cap is like the backseat of a car: one thing always leads to another.

At a Suberbowl party this week, a good friend caught me absentmindedly picking at Thing Two’s head. She suggested I try Aquaphor at the recommendation of a friend whose doctor told her to use it. I had never heard of it but sure enough there it was on the aisle at Tom Thumb right next to the Desitin. It seemed pretty serious about itself, and with a name like that you sort of have to live up to your claims instead of hiding behind pink elephants or words like Lavender (capital “L”!).

I squeezed the bottle and a clear substance oozed out slowly, like I had disturbed it after a night of partying in the tube. Its consistency was thick and oily-- petroleum jelly-ish, like frozen Vaseline. It didn’t smell nice. And when her head was covered with it Thing Two resembled a guido from Jersey Shore with a very self-important Mohawk. I sat there and waited for it to, well, work. The stuff was so thick I worried it hadn’t penetrated down through her hair to her actual scalp, so I thought it might be a good idea to run a fine-toothed comb through the mess just to work it down into the roots.

Do you ever wonder sometimes about the significance of small decisions, like if you had just eaten the salmon at lunch instead of the tuna how the entire course of your day, possibly life, would have been profoundly altered? This was that. At the first stroke of the comb, a chorus line of yellow crusties burst from her scalp, flowing up into the sticky continuum of hair like potato chip crumbs caught in honey. I salivated. Do it again. Another stroke of the comb, and more. More! Oh God, look at it all! I started running the comb harder against her scalp, shaving whole stamp-sized pieces off like asiago cheese, catching them in the tines of the comb, creating a grey paste of scalp and Aquaphor. It was an orgasm of horror-born purposefulness. If Michael the Archangel himself had appeared to send me on a mission from God, I would have made him stand there and hold the Aquaphor until I scraped every single solitary cell of wayward scalp from Thing Two’s head — come hell, high water or high-waisted jeans.

Sometime, I don’t know when, I made Drew lunch, set up a craft for him to do and interacted with my iPhone, but Home Base all morning was the head of Thing Two. I would return to it to tinker like a man in his garage. Sometime before her afternoon nap I talked myself into rinsing her hair out because I just couldn’t bear it any more; my hand was cramped from holding that tiny comb, my jaw sore from clenching it in rapture and determination; and there was this very cynical little voice inside my head saying, “You’ll never get it ALL you know. You better just give up now, while you still have your sanity. Plus she’ll get that junk in her crib.”

It turned out to be a good thing I didn’t decide on a gentler cleanser. I mean, Johnson and Johnson shampoo isn’t emulsified with battery acid but they don’t exactly crush rare holy plants from the Himalayas to make it, either. Even after a good five minutes of fingernail-involved scalp lathering, a thin veiling of Aquaphor lingered on. But my hysteria had subsided.

When we put her to bed, Thing Two was clean-scalped and still retained the slight suggestion of her guido Mohawk. I don’t know if the Aquaphor worked because of its innate healing power or because of the OCD it inspires in moms after that first fateful stroke of the comb. All I know is, I slept well last night. After my cigarette.

It turns out the frozen tundra of north Texas is no match for my white-hot need for productivity. Although I have not been able to leave my house in 48 hours, and although my children and I are like albino salamanders that are almost see-through for want of sunlight, we have been busy. Like penguins. Who look like salamanders. Pale ones.

I thought it was just as good a time as any to try a little potty training. Friends have told me the best time to potty train is when the weather is warm so you can let them run naked through the house. The theory is that wintertime is too cold for such shenanigans, but gosh durn-it if Drew wasn’t wearing a turtleneck, zip-up cardigan and fur-lined snow hat — with nothing whatsoever on the bottom.

Tuesday consisted of back-to-back showings of “Toy Story”, the potty seat set gamely in front of the screen. My first goal was simple: acclimate Drew to this new form of seating. He has shown a real ambivalence, almost fear, of the potty seat. Whenever he witnesses friends using a potty, his face is fixed in an expression of awe, like they’ve volunteered to dangle their private parts over an alligator habitat.

To my delight, not only did Drew gladly sit on the potty, he managed to produce a few little droplets. Thanks Pixar.

But the day was long. I decided it might also be a good day for Fancy Makeup Practice, because don’t you hate the two or three times a year that you have to do your fancy makeup and your hands start shaking because you feel so inadequate? When else can you practice but a day when no one will see you publicly and wonder why you look like Ke$ha wearing Nike Tempos? I wanted to try my hand at Golden Eye/Bold Lip because it was the look I was hoping to achieve at Sarah’s wedding but fell woefully short. This was basically a success except I made a mental note of the importance of regular application of Chapstick or lip gloss due to the fact that ultra-red lipstick looks cakey and flakey after a while. Especially after leftover pad thai.

Then suddenly, having just been so glamorously made up, I was summoned to the living room. “Peed on floor, Mommy,” said Drew. And there it was, a puddle that seemed to begin on the floor next to the rug and end somewhere actually ON the rug. He had left the TV room and peed elsewhere, like a soldier going outside the camp.

And so the day went. The initial misting of urine in the potty was but a tease.

When Gordon got home I begged him to let me go to Kroger so I could get out of the house. My gym was closed due to the “inclement weather” and for me the next best thing is eating donut hole samples in a bakery. Despite the hazardous conditions, I left, and the first thing I noticed when I arrived was how horrendous everybody looked. This is not atypical for Kroger, but the cold seems to give people extra permission to exert as little hygiene-maintaining energy as possible. No one had showered, shaved, or brushed their hair; everyone was wearing pajama pants and galoshes; no one had bothered to wipe their nose. There was certainly no one sporting Golden Eye/Bold Lip. Sure, I hadn’t showered either, my hair was stringy and pulled back into a deceased ponytail, and I was wearing an oversized long sleeve t-shirt, mismatched beanie and yoga pants. But I was wearing lipstick with “Ultra” in the title and I think that should count for something. It was Ok, though; anything to get me out of Urintown (the only Broadway musical I have no interest in seeing, incidentally).

Wednesday was a little more successful. Again, Drew was outfitted with Eskimo-worthy clothing except for his bare bottom half.  This time I instructed him to simply INFORM me when he had to go to the bathroom instead of just sitting him on his potty like it was a Lazy Boy. I was hoping to see whether or not he can actually TELL when he needs to pee. I put “Toy Story” on again, sat him on the couch underneath a folded blanket, and waited.

While I waited, I tried my hand at Smoky Eye/Neutral Lip.

(If you’re wondering where my other child was during these proceedings, she was taking her morning naps.)

And lo! If there wasn’t 1/3 cup of urine deposited into the potty seat receptacle as the credits rolled! Drew was grinning from ear to ear. This was certainly more than a misting; this was a generous shot! I did a little dance, sucked his cheek in a powerful kiss and gave him a tiny bit of a Hershey bar. Plus two stickers.

In my arrogance, I raised the stakes by putting him in big boy pants plus a pair of jeans. After all, he was potty trained. No. No he was not. After two more accidents and two pairs of pants/underpants soaked, I decided strict nudity was the surest bet for success. Which means we’ll have to stay at home until he is seven and could feasibly wear a kilt.

That’s one long snowstorm.

I do know this, by that time I will have perfected Urban Eye/Pouty Lip, which might make it all worth it, except he’ll be a seven-year-old wearing a kilt with Ke$ha for a mother and then will it really matter?




The stomach bug we caught was sort of a wimpy, half-hearted little guy who punched his time card like a stooge in middle management. He was just enough of a nuisance to keep me awake for 30 minutes Saturday night certain I would puke at any moment, trying to achieve the perfect placement of head, shoulders, back and torso, to chase away the urge. Which I did. I felt slightly seasick the whole next day with a painful little knot pulling my insides into a hard vortex at the center. Not the worst bug I’ve ever had, not the best, just the most mediocre.

Gordon had a similar experience.

“This is sort of what morning sickness feels like,” I observed. “This,” I said, pointing back from me to him and back again with my sharp little index finger, “is what it’s LIKE.”

“You said that.”

“I just want you to have a better idea of what I underwent for a cumulative seven months of my life every single minute of every single day.”

“Yes. I think I got it.”

But he really couldn’t. Because the psychological effect of morning sickness is so much more insidious than that of a stomach bug because you just don’t know when it’s ever going to END. And if stomach bugs were known to go on for weeks or months at a time, people would run screaming at the mere sight of Wal-Mart spinach. 

All I know is, if I were a salmonella amoeba, I would take my job seriously. I would lay waste my host with all the vengeance my evil little two-celled heart could muster. If being a stomach bug is all I’m good for in this world, why not really throw my microweight around? Maybe stick around for two or three weeks. Demand things, like cheese. Or hot wings, big time cravings like that. Then bam! Reject it with vicious repercussions from one end of the spectrum to, um, the other. Toy with my person is what I would do; make them believe the worst was over just long enough so they attend that engagement party or baby shower or hot date at Applebee’s. Then unleash the fury.

Do you worry about me sometimes?

The thing is, I’ve been thinking about my station in life, as it were, this week — maybe as a result of my stomach bug interlude — and it’s put me in a funk.

Or maybe it was my friend’s wedding.

Yea.

The wedding, definitely.

She is one of my dearest longtime friends, a college pal, sorority sister and former roommate, with whom I chased an opossum from our attic, watched 3,000 hours of reality television senior year, and spent hours over bowls of salsa discussing the marriage potential of many a man. (There were, without a doubt, legions of broken hearts Saturday night.)

Sarah’s wedding was also a time to reconnect with other old college friends, like my beautiful friend (and also former roommate) Christy whom I hadn’t seen in over a year.

I hate that I’m about to reveal my ungrateful brattiness right now, but here it comes and you’d better get ready: sometimes I wonder if I should have waited to have children until I accomplished something big.

Isn’t that the most awful thing to say?

But here was Sarah, beautiful, talented, respected, now a vice president of a major Dallas commercial real estate company and on her way to the top of her field in an arena dominated by 50-something men. And she’s not even thirty. Then there’s Christy, who was just accepted into the FBI Agent training program, right as she prepares to take the bar exam in February. She also has her MBA. Did I mention she is going to be an FBI agent, packing a Glock and looking fabulous in wigs? (She’s as beautiful as Jennifer Garner too.)

I know, I know, who has friends like this? Me, that’s who. I do. You can see why I have a complex.

“You have the two best blessings of all,” my dad remarked over lunch on Sunday after I regaled him with the accomplishments of my friends. And of course I do. But all Sarah and Christy would need to do is make a relatively small decision, wait nine months, and then they’ll have the babies AND be big-time important people, and where does that leave me?

I hate re-reading that last sentence. But it’s the way I felt this weekend. Sometimes I tell God about the amazing and unusual things I could be doing with my mind and abilities just to remind him not to forget about me between now and the time my kids graduate from high school. I just want to stay in front of you, Lord, so you don’t misplace me. (What a terrible misunderstanding of the role of Mother!)

In East of Eden, John Steinbeck wrote, "Perhaps it takes courage to raise children." (Perhaps, indeed.) In my case, the courage I need is to simply settle down. Relax. Be OK with “just” being a mommy. The courage to pursue parenting faithfully, wholeheartedly, unreservedly; risking a life of relative ordinariness, a life to which I somehow feel superior. It’s the courage to let God decide about things, to give my years to people who will not make me rich, famous, important or admired, but whose very existence might serve to make me holy, and ultimately, free.

Maybe that’s the point.
 


 











 

I took The Things to Victoria’s Secret this week. Have you ever taken children under four years old to a lingerie store or department? There’s something a little mixed up about it. On the one hand, a lot of children today would not exist had it not been for places like Victoria’s Secret, so bringing them there is sort of like visiting Colonial Williamsburg or, if you’re especially ambitious, the Fertile Crescent. On the other hand, I’m not comfortable with my baby boy gawking at headless booby torsos, even if I tell him they’re for babies who need milk.

To complicate things, it was the semi-annual sale, which in a nutshell means Victoria’s Secret becomes a garage sale of epic satiny proportions, with big round tables loaded with bins of bras and panties and God knows what else. There are a few women gathered around the 34DD tables, witches that they are, but most of us wandered in 34B territory until we found ourselves unobserved and could slide on over to the As. 

I was actually not there for my own edification and sexification, though Gordon would completely endorse such a credit card item; I was there to buy something scandalous for a friend’s bachelorette party. I think it’s fair to say this was a low parenting moment for me. It wasn’t like I just stumbled upon an amazing sale at the mall one day and — woops — just happened to have the babies along. This was premeditated exposure, and not just to everyday granny panty fare, but to all-out uniforms of sex. (And by “uniforms of sex” I mean negligees, which sounds more polite and is, actually, the term I was looking for.)

The difficulty was maneuvering the double stroller around the tables. Perhaps you are not familiar with the double stroller, but suffice it to say if you were to put a lawn mower engine in it, you could charge a family of five $30 dollars to shuttle them from their car to the TCU stadium during football season. And everybody would have legroom and a place to think quietly about world affairs.

But I’m agile. Oh yes, I am agile. That is until Drew started sticking his boots up and out either side of his seat, creating a bulldozer apparatus at the end of the stroller which pulled the pink table cloths askew and fussed up the bra bins. I quickly found a quiet nook to park the Baby Bus and began considering a rack of uniforms of sex. Drew immediately began petting a red satin unmentionable, rubbing it against his face and through his fingers.

“That’s not your blanket,” I said, thinking that all men are essentially the same, slipping it out of his hand.

As I browsed, I noticed quite a few younger girls looking through the bins. I had the urge to push my mammoth stroller up to the front of the Pink section as a visual aid supporting abstinence. “I Know Victoria’s Secret: She’s Got About Eighteen Children Due To Wearing Fancy Underpants.” But I guess you have to buy a bra even if you’re fifteen. I just don’t know why it has to have kissy lips all over it.

The shopping trip ended up a success. I found something great for my friend, and Drew and Maddie were at best disinterested by their unfamiliar surroundings.

I’m not really sure when is the appropriate age to start talking to your children about sexuality, let alone exposing them unequivocally by fiat. At this age, I can barely talk to Drew period.

It weighed as much as a river stone, the kind that sank into Goliath’s forehead, spinning around my finger willfully like it had its own intentions. It was a ring, an engagement ring (I guess), though I’ll bet not even Queen Elizabeth has a ring like this.

It was a 77-carat yellow diamond. You read that right. Seventy-seven. SEVENTY-SEVEN CARAT YELLOW DIAMOND.   

Set in white gold. Encased in thin veils of pavé diamonds with two monster baguette diamonds flanking either side, looking small by comparison, like three-year-olds patrolling a gorilla.

Its cost? Twenty million dollars. That’s TWENTY MILLION: $20,000,000.

This was Saturday night.

The man behind the counter asked that I keep my hand resting on the black velvet tray, “Not because I think you’ll run off, but just in case it falls.”

I was pretty sure this diamond had spent, oh, I don’t know, a hundred million years withstanding mounting tons of seismic pressure and therefore wouldn’t mind a short tumble onto the carpet. It’s not like it was a piece of ice that shatters on my kitchen floor when I’m not careful in the freezer. This piece of ice would break my floor, keep falling, crush a hole through the foundation of my house and travel another half mile until it found its resting place in the Temple of Doom where flying monkeys protect it with kryptonite. But I wasn’t interested in testing any “You Break It You Buy It” policy.

It was hard to hold my hand up. My ring finger was squinched between my pinky and middle fingers for support. They were now the pallbearers of a digit killed in ecstasy beneath the crushing weight of rock-star, rapper-slash-drug-cartel-billionaire Bling.

“There’s not a diamond anywhere else of its kind in the world,” he added reverently, barely coping, trying to survive in the presence of such splendor — but not without a slight edge of worry. Maybe I would pick up my floor-length dress, kick off my heels and streak into the night. Who could really say? I was a little afraid of the ring myself and of myself wearing the ring and of what I was capable of with The Ring in my possession. Maybe it had some sort of Tolkein-esque will-bending power? Turn me into a Hobbit? With furry toes? I then experienced a serious urge to beat my chest, wear unusually vivid eye shadow and sing a bar of “My Heart Will Go On.” And for those of you who know me know that was a difficult temptation to resist. But I made no sudden movements. A very small part of me suspected Nigel might whip out an oozie and blow me to Kingdom Come if I so much as gave a thumbs-up. Nope. This hand was NOT leaving the tray. (And his name might not have been Nigel. It might have been Jim-bo. But I don’t think they let Jim-bos touch 20-million-dollar yellow diamonds.)

Gordon and I were at the annual Jewel Charity Ball here in Fort Worth, an amazing event where quite a lot of jewels and quite a lot of charity are on display. Last year the ball raised about 3.7 million dollars for Cook Children’s in Fort Worth. Each year a different jeweler is selected to display their finest pieces, and the finest of the finest pieces this year was this “ring,” this crown jewel, this rarity.

I will probably never lay eyes on jewelry as valuable as that again unless I visit the Tower of London. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

But it’s not worth more than a single human life.

This past Tuesday was National Human Trafficking Awareness day. You may think slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, but the reality is three times as many people are enslaved around the world today than during the transatlantic slave trade. In America alone it is estimated that 100,000-300,000 children are forced into sexual slavery each year at the average age of 12-13, though many are even younger. You may assume the most popular destination for sex with a child is Cambodia or Thailand, but it is in fact the United States of America. The life expectancy of a child after entering the sex trade is only 7 years. Many do not reach their 18th birthday.

Most of these children (not ALL) are runaways/throwaways that predators exploit for profit in an industry that now grosses around $32 billion dollars a year, making it the second most lucrative crime in the world next to the drug trade — bigger than Nike, Starbucks and Google combined. And it’s in our own backyard: the National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state, 15% of which come from the D/FW area alone.

How does this happen?

Federal law defines domestic minor sex trafficking as the exchange of a sex act for anything of value — a hamburger, maybe, or a place to stay for cold and weary runaway. Prostitution of children is therefore broadly defined yet extremely clandestine. Pimps promise protection and a place of belonging, then traumatize, threaten, and brainwash their victims to make them silent and subservient. A lack of awareness in our country, coupled with the explosion of the Internet, makes the job of the pimp extremely easy and the job of law enforcement extremely difficult. Law enforcement estimates that 99% of children are never rescued.

The truth is, many adult prostitutes today were trafficked as children and never found a way to escape the system. It wasn’t their fault. Now they are stuck.

That’s why we need to talk about this. People don’t know. Maybe you didn’t know. But that’s OK. You know now.

There are several great organizations based in Dallas/Fort Worth that are actively fighting the sexual exploitation of children. One is Traffick 911 (traffick911.com). The other is Love 146 (love146.org, itsnotmyfault.org). Check them out.

Meanwhile, here are several things you can do in the next three weeks:

-    January 14: Attend the screening of documentary film “The Playground” at 7 p.m. at the Palace in Grapevine
-    January 23: Take part in a prayer walk event at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington at 2:30 p.m. (the Superbowl is expected to bring an even greater influx of child prostitution)
-    January 28: Attend the “It’s Not My Fault” Awareness Event at Irving Bible Church at 7 p.m.
-    February 5: Attend the “I’m Not Buying It” Tailgate Party, 2-4 p.m., Aristide Event and Conference Center in Mansfield (see traffick911.com for details)
-    February 6: Participate in the “Anti-Pimp My Ride” auto flash mob on Superbowl Sunday (see itsnotmyfault.org for details)

Your name might not be Nigel, but you can take steps to protect an infinitely valuable, unbelievably brilliant, exceptionally unique child in 2011. And that’s every child, even the forgotten ones.








I am angry the first week in January when I visit the gym. Bothered. Here are all these new strangers on the machines, in new workout gear, fresh hangs of holiday flesh bulging in the Spandex unapologetically, and their faces sporting smug looks of cool determination as they monopolize the elliptical machines. MY elliptical machine, third from the right. But they’re here to work out. They are serious about this. Really serious. Really going to hit the ground running in 2011.

I, on the other hand, am a true disciple. Week in and week out, including vague months like May and October, ellipticalling, ellipticalling, ellipticalling. I do not have fancy new workout clothes. I recycle old sorority t-shirts and wear them with a straight face because I think it still possible someone will mistake me for a TCU student. I actually DID recently acquire a new pair of Nike Tempo shorts, which are the little black dress of workout attire, or of any imaginable attire whatsoever if you’re a TCU sorority girl. Nineteen-year-olds are now wearing them with Uggs and J. Crew cardigans and ponytail ribbons, overwhelming their otherwise stylish wardrobes to the point that Tempos have multiplied like baby spiders, scurrying along the sidewalks on University Drive, finding their way inside the glass doors of every dive on Berry Street. They have unionized and are demanding benefits.

The Tempos are my only workout attire indulgence. I’m here to exercise, gosh-durn-it. I’m serious about this. Really serious. And I’m annoyed thinking people might mistake me for a first-week-of-January Poser.  I think we should have designations like they do at Wal-Mart employees — “Valuable Team Member Since 2007” mine would say. And some flair, something gold-dipped, depicting calories burned (150,000 since November 2007!), muscles toned and/or discovered (obliques!) and hotness quotient elevated (34%!). I think it’s only fair, a way to distinguish my effort and loyalty apart from the insidious Skinny Posers, who are without a doubt the most offensive of them all.

I was looking at Madeline the other day on the changing table and the luxurious way she was pushing her tummy into the air with her meaty thighs as if to say, “Look! Look at all my gorgeous soft density! Aren’t I marvelous?” It makes me sad that Drew’s baby fat has all but disappeared and left behind a sharp shoulder-bladed little boy with large liquid eyes and knobby knees. I was nuzzling his cheek yesterday — what’s left of it — and actually bit him a little bit. “Ow! Hurt you!” he whined. I sort of laughed, in the way you might if you just sneezed and accidentally peed a very small amount on somebody’s couch.

I love my children’s cheeks, facial and otherwise. I’m sad for the day they discover they have to keep them off to be acceptable.

When I was little, maybe 9 or 10, I was pudgy. Not a “childhood obesity” statistic by any means, but not at all a waif. I liked food. I loved to eat as much pizza as my dad on Sundays when we went to Papa Pig’s Pizza. Church would endure and endure and endure, and while I liked church, I liked going out for pizza even more in my family’s Econo-sized GMC van with the bench seats. If there could have been a way to gulp pizza down like a warm cheesy liquid, I would have guzzled it in a beer bong and chased it with a bottle of Ranch.

(To this day I occasionally entertain my childhood daydream of living in a house constructed entirely of thin-crust cheese pizza slices, the kind you get at food court pizzerias with the floppy points.)

I was more than just an emotional eater. I was a passionate one. Instead of eating for sadness, I ate for joy. Gordon still marvels at my ability to enter into an eating experience. The most emotionally descriptive term he ever gives a meal is that it’s “interesting.” As in, “This salad you have prepared looks interesting and tastes interesting.” This might mean all right, good, tasty, wonderful, who knows; I don’t think it means “bad”; all I know is Gordon isn’t one to invest food with all kinds of sensual equity. Food is fuel. Like Tempos are shorts. Just do it.

I do know this: I will have to watch the way I talk about going to the gym in front of my Things as they get older. I catch myself complaining to Gordon about feeling “SO FAT” and how I’ve “GOT” to work out, tipping my hand as to just how much I care about my appearance and just how skewed my body image might actually be. I don’t want Madeline thinking the primary reason I work out is to stay thin so I will be attractive – it is — I want her thinking it’s to be healthy and to take care of myself. I wonder how long I can keep up that charade; keep her in the dark of my immense vanity. I wonder if I can inoculate her to it. Even more importantly, I wonder if I can actually change my attitude.

But for now, I want her to luxuriate in her fleshy, juicy being; to revel in being 14 pounds of soft gooey baby gristle with a bit of fuzz on top; to swim in her own infant Crisco like a happy seal. Because before long she will, inevitably, be joining the elliptical procession — a parade of sweaty strivers going nowhere at a 37% incline.

At least until February.






 






Kids learn a lot of things by osmosis. Things like language, prejudice, politics. Adding to this list of things, this list of p-words, I’m will also say: prayer. Kids learn to pray from us. Therefore I really don’t know what the following says about Gordon and me. Maybe you can figure it out.

The other night Drew spontaneously offered to pray before dinner like he had suddenly reached manhood over the Christmas holiday. “Pway?” he asked. Sure Drew. We held hands. And then:

“Jesus. Amen.”

Amen.

Dig in everybody.

That was probably the shortest prayer I’d ever heard, and it was doubly impressive since Drew comes from a line of preachers who never met a “concert of prayer” they didn’t like.

But despite its brevity, Drew’s prayer contained the vital elements:

1.    Addressing God. Drew called on the Being to whom he was praying. In this case, the Christian God, as opposed to, I don’t know, Styx, the Goddess of the Underworld. An important distinction. A vital element.
2.     Sufficiency of God. He didn’t feel the need to say any other word. He just spoke Jesus’ name and closed it out, which felt more like an invitation than an invocation, a welcoming of divinity to our supper table. Which, I think, is THE most important element of prayer — making space for God where there wasn’t space before.
3.    Brevity. Jesus himself told us not to go on babbling on street corners like a bunch of showoffs. And if Jesus said it, brevity must be a key element of prayer. I mean, “Jesus” isn’t even a complete phrase, let alone a sentence or Styx-forbid, a Paragraph of Prayer. No. Drew didn’t even throw in the strange “Dear” that we usually include before Jesus, as in “Dear Jesus,” as if dictating a letter to our pen pal Jesus over a meal. And he certainly didn’t do what hipsters are prone to these days in an effort to be emphatic, which is include every synonymous name for God possible — “Dear Sweetfathergodlordjesuschristjehovarapha, we just thank you for this meal, for this bounty laid before us…”
In the spirit of this observation, next week’s blog will simply be: “Thing One. Thing Two. The end.” (You’re welcome.)
4.    Amen. It’s important to let everyone know we’re done praying. I know prayer is more of a way of life, of remaining open and available to God in your waking hours. I get that. I’m on board with that. But in corporate prayer, there’s nothing worse than the “prayer circle” in which participants are invited to pray as they “feel led” which means you are in for at least five or six open-ended prayers which usually conclude with, “We just thank You Lord for what you’ll do in this situation. In Jesus’ name…” Can’t you just feel those painful ellipses limping off into the ether like a dissonant chord? The next person who “feels led” must then wait an obligatory five seconds just to MAKE SURE the first person has truly finished praying and not step all over his prayer like a clumsy dance partner. My friends, this should not be. Can I get an amen? Please?

So basically, all this to say, my kid is the next Billy Graham. Profound, that one. Profound spirituality on display.

Until we came to yesterday’s nap.

Naptime is fraught with ritual. Fraught. You should know, however, that praying before naptime is not usually part of said ritual. This particular naptime had been progressing like a well-oiled machine (whatever that metaphor means) — books, cup of water, blanket in place — when again, in a moment of utter maturity and spirituality, Drew asked to pway.

“Hode hans,” he said, stretching out his to mine and to Thing Two’s, who was also present and presiding over the naptime ritual.

We held hands. Bowed our heads. Closed our eyes.

“Hap-birfday to you, hap-birfday to you, hap-birfday to Jesus. Hap-birfday to you.”
 
Two thoughts occurred to me:

1.    They must have done this in Sunday school recently since Christmas is, technically and toddler speaking, Jesus’ birthday.
2.    My child is an irreverent heretic. Probably dabbling in Wicca. Already received the Goat-blood Hex merit badge.

If you think about it, Happy Birthday is the closest we Americans come to out-and-out musical worship of another human being. Once a year, amid candles and the communion of cake, we gather to praise the guest of honor in song. The closest second runner-up is For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, which I believe went extinct in a British pub circa 1962. I’m not even sure how I’m aware of it, actually. But you just TRY to tell me the Virgin Mary didn’t sing Jesus a little song on the day of his birth in a moment of intimate worship; and if it wasn’t Happy Birthday, was probably something very similar except with more consonants. So why SHOULDN’T we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus as a prayer if we really mean it? Riddle me that, Batman. Riddle me that.

Perhaps Drew has learned something of prayer from his parents. Perhaps. But the thing I’ve learned from him is how important it is to want to do more of it.


Christmas is, apparently, way scarier than Halloween. For Drew. It’s not like we’ve been subjecting him to mall Santas or, heaven forbid, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol — a story that is the perfect combination of Christmas and Halloween colorfully merged like British seven-layer dip.

What I’m talking about is varied, comprehensive, all pervasive, unavoidable. I’m talking about Independently Famous Characters Dressed up as A Version of Santa out there in the public arena during the holidays. They scare Drew. They should scare all of us.

I’m going to go ahead and get a little disclaimer out of the way: Drew has a timid streak. It seems oximoronical to say he has a “streak” of something like timidity, but when threatened by anything he perceives as dangerous, you better believe he will be streaking out of there, like lightning, like a football field streaker, light on his feet like Muhammad Ali. Take our carriage ride in downtown for instance: it was all we could do to restrain his little kicking legs in time for the driver to giddy up the horse down 7th. “Back to stroller!” he whined. 

But with regular Santa Drew does not have a problem. I use “regular Santa” loosely because there are truly so many versions. We will see a regular guy dressed like Santa on TV or in a book or driving a green Suburban with a cigarette in his mouth, and Drew will observe, rather scientifically, that “there’s Santa!” The words “Santa Claus” actually come out sounding like “Sah-Cause” which is similar to his Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “Wow-Wayder.”  At any rate, anybody legitimately attempting to be Santa, and who is at least making a B-grade effort, Drew will award the dignity of Santa status. But don’t come at him as a Chick Fil-A cow dressed up as Santa (Ridgmar Mall!) and claim to have his best interests at heart. “Cow goes home?” whimpered Drew, his fingers crossed, hoping for the best.

Then there was the Grinch. The Grinch that stole Santa. This should have been a merry encounter because we all know the Grinch’s heart ends up two sizes too big for the strange measuring contraption there at the end of the movie, and how he suddenly grows gorgeous long eyelashes that make you just want to kiss him. You’d think the makers of the costume would use THAT face, that sweet penitent face for the costume of the Santa Grinch. But no. They put the most evil grimace possible. And where was Drew? Running, no, streaking away from us in tears like it was Satan making swords out of long red balloons. Ho ho ho-my-good-Lord...

After the horse and carriage episode, it was dinnertime. There are only a select few places in Downtown Fort Worth capable of accommodating us, and one of them is Jake’s. Great burger joint. Used to be a Chili’s back in the 90s golden age of Chili’s, but now all that’s left is the wood paneling and the ghost of many a baby back rib. The Ghost of Ribs Past I guess you could say. Jake’s was packed that night, and if you were walking down the sidewalk and peered into the bar, you would not see cowgirls drinking Michelob Ultra or bachelors reclining with their 18 oz mugs. You would see a couple with their 3-year-old and baby trying to look normal in a bar. Like we make this a regular family night, the bar at Jake’s. 

Things were going fine until a crowd of people came in, no, a multitude, all dressed like, you guessed it, Santa Claus. But these people were definitely not making a B-grade effort. And where were they headed? To the bar of course. Here’s a lady with a sexy Santa strapless top and furry hat, here’s a dude who bought his polyester tie-in-the-back suit from Wal-Mart, here’s a guy who looks like it just might have hurt him a little bit to put on a Santa hat what with his $500 jeans. It was a farce of Santa. No one was committing to the role. Drew sensed the wrongness of it all, the almost disrespect, I think, and stared at the group with ever widening eyes.

We couldn’t tell if he was scared or merely curious. But then we saw the worst exhibit of an Independently Famous Character Dressed Up as a Version of Santa. In walks Frosty the Snowman dressed as Santa. You may think this isn’t too far fetched, certainly not worse than the Chick Fil-A Cow, but for Drew I believe the whole concept was a little too incestuous. Plus the man had painted his face white and affixed a long orange carrot-esque appendage to his face and donned a Santa hat, which gave the effect of an 18th century mime with a witch’s nose at Christmastime. He WAS scary. He was worse than half the masks that showed up to our house trick-or-treating.

Drew began to cry. “Drew, eat your grilled cheese,” we coaxed him.

“Sah-Cause not hurt you,” said Drew, stating this more as a question to be confirmed and notarized. “Sah-Cause not hurt you.”

“No, no, Santa Claus won’t hurt you,” we said.

“Sah-Cause OK,” he said.

“Yes, Santa Clause is OK,” we said. “Eat your grilled cheese.”

Some parents have a hard time figuring out when to tell their kids Santa isn’t real. We, on the other hand, need to convince Drew Santa will not hack him to death in the night. I don’t think there are many parent resources devoted to this issue. Probably not too many Sesame Street segments depicting the nonviolence of Kris Kringle. I could be wrong. 

Do you remember in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, those black-as-night horsemen called the Ring Wraiths? They rode around in ponderous slow motion to the point you wondered if they ever got tired of it all and just wanted to strip off their shrouds and break dance.

One of their defining characteristics is their blood-curdling shriek — a long, high-pitched wail of horror. If you can imagine that same shriek but think of it coming from somebody happy, say, Elmo, as a result of, I don’t know, seeing pink balloons, then you will have an idea of Thing Two’s newest occupation.

She skipped the cooing phase altogether. Sometimes I see commercials of babies cooing and it sounds like a puppy and a peach-faced angel tickling noses and it makes me think, “Oh, I want one too, one of those babies!” And then I remember I in fact have a baby, but that she sounds like the one who fell off the assembly line and blew a fuse. I’m now calling her my Crazy Loon, not because she is mentally insane but because she sounds like exuberant waterfowl.

Gordon heard the shriek on Monday evening from inside the house while he was in the backyard with Drew. He ran inside thinking she was being attacked by whatever might have been living in our Christmas tree, but when he saw her grinning gums realized he had been duped. Duped again!

I heard her shriek at 5:45 Wednesday morning. This was AFTER I heard Drew dump out his entire train collection at 5 a.m. onto the wood floor which, when you’re dead asleep, sounds like satan dropping a pile of California Redwoods right next to your head. “I want to die,” I moaned to Gordon. “They’re trying to kill us. They are trying to physically kill us.” 

I really don’t remember Drew going through this Ring Wraith phase. I believe he was a legitimate cooer. His only mildly embarrassing vocal expression was a tendency to say “cheers” a lot at the dinner table, which I was afraid indicated to other people that we his parents were big time drinkers. But that just isn’t the case — I swear, at least not during months NOT called December — it was just a fun trick that made adults do something synchronized on command. His only real power play.

“She likes the sound of her own voice,” I said dolefully, realizing my most vain character quality had found its next genetic expression.   

I worried she might like the sound of it best in a place with acoustics, namely the auditorium of Drew’s preschool. I say auditorium, but what I mean is the sanctuary of the Methodist church, a mini cathedral with soaring ceilings and stain glass windows. We went there yesterday for the Christmas program in which Drew would be performing as either a sheep or shepherd (he was never very clear about it).

All week he had been singing a version of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” entitled “Baa Baa White Sheep.” I tried to decipher the true lyrics, but the best I could do was, “Baa baa white sheep, what do you hear? I see uh angel sitting clean.” I suggested a few alternatives and was hoping for him to put a finger on his nose or nod frantically like we were in a game of Pictionary. “Drew, is it ‘I see an angel sitting by the king?’” I thought that sounded plausible. But he would just stare, then sing again, “I see uh angel sitting clean.” I guess it was better than angels ridin’ dirty like Krayzie Bone.

As the week wore on, he began to adopt my suggestion, “I see an angel sitting by the king,” which satisfied me. Wouldn’t his teacher be grateful I had coached his diction? 

When the program started, the older preschoolers processed in, with Mary (who stumbled and dropped the baby Jesus into his manger like a sack of flour), Joseph and a few key angels in tow; then the younger class came in as the wise men for a grand total of 13 wise men (what can I say, they’re Methodists), and then Drew’s class filed onto the stage. To my delight, Drew was a shepherd, a beige strip of cloth tied around his forehead with brown cord.

We were a little afraid of an episode given Drew’s extreme sensitivity to clapping and other loud public botherations, but he only stood there self consciously — yet quietly — the whole time. I never saw him move his mouth one time and the only hand motion he performed was the old barroom-fisted elbow bend during We Wish You a Merry Christmas. He was the strong, silent type of shepherd.

When Baa Baa White Sheep began, I leaned in to listen as if deciphering Morse code. They sang, “Baa Baa White Sheep, What do you hear? I hear an angel singing clear.” Singing clear! So THAT’S it. Angels were there, next to white sheep, singing clear. Wait a minute. What kind of school IS this? Don’t angels sing CLEARLY? Have we not heard of adverbs?

The director got up, thanked us for being there and dismissed the children from the NARTHEX, which amazed me that the word NARTHEX had been so skillfully worked into the rhetoric even as CLEAR had fallen on its face.

I considered mentioning my “sitting by the king” lyric to the director and perhaps even to the teachers, but decided there was something slightly more Ebenezer Scrooge than Bob Cratchet about that, and if Drew is my Tiny Tim, well, I wasn’t going to be on the wrong side of history.

Madeline only let off one or two warning shots before the program began. She shrieked only once before the processional started, as if to say, “You see the power I have here in this situation, but I will today be merciful.”

So all in all, it was a backwards week: Madeline shrieking Puccini in her swing, alone; Drew standing silent, stock-still before an enrapt audience.

And me, the proudest mommy of them all.




I took Thing Two to her four-month checkup last week and the wait was terrible. My appointment was at 10:20 and I didn’t get into see the doctor until 11:15. The waiting room was a hovel of medieval contagion. A fourth-grade girl was hacking up what sounded like a militant herd of tuberculoic yaks.

I would like to go ahead and get together a little petition for some of us sign that will effectively ban the word “moist” from the English language, or at least from the conversational English new immigrants are learning. I have lost count (not that I spent much time trying to count) the number of times I was forced to say this abomination last Thanksgiving week.

My name is Sally O’Malley. I’m fifty years old. And I like to KICK. And STRETCH. And KICK. I’M FIFTY. FIFTY YEARS OLD. I’ve been repeating this charming weird refrain like a babbling loony all week because, like magical unicorn dust, it is the only spell that makes Thing Two laugh. Yes. She laughs. She started laughing this week! But I’m sure you noticed —

I heard a very interesting news report on the radio the other day. The gist of it was: “Hey, remember that big story a year or so ago about the rise of West Nile Virus? Remember it? Yea, well, we really don’t see much of that virus any more.” Which is a bizarre thing to report because it’s like saying hey, this is a story that doesn’t deserve to be a story.

After last week’s entry , I think a lot of you must have prayed that Thing Two would start sleeping through the night because that very evening she went 8 hours. Eight hours! It was as if the Holy Spirit had convicted her of sin — not honoring her mother and father — and she responded in faith.

I wish I had some profound thoughts on motherhood this week. Really I do. Really. Because if there’s anyone in need of a profound thought, it’s me. Mostly my thoughts have been binary instructions like, “Breathe” and “Eat carbon-based solids to live” and “Don’t jump from the second story.” The problem is simple: Sleep.

Texas and San Francisco are tied, 2-2, bottom of the third. This is where we begin this blog. I am sitting on my couch on Wednesday night watching the first game of the World Series.

I think when everybody got together and invented “Monday” they gave it all the bad jobs, sort of like the shower hostess who was last to respond to the mass-planning e-mail. And with the bad jobs of Monday — early rising, laundry, early rising and laundry — the bad Monday juju just can’t help but make the bad Monday jobs durn near impossible.

Last week at our music class, Things One and Two and I met a skinny blonde lady who is the mother to five children — which she delivered without drugs — and is preggers with her sixth. Her SIXTH. That’s half-a-dozen, six-to-one, higher-than-Drew-can-count, bottom-wallopin’ SIX. And she was in skinny jeans, the wizardess. Did I mention she was blonde and it looked natural?

Act I: “See you at nine,” said Gordon, grabbing his keys and heading for the door. He was going to BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) Monday night, as usual. I was late making dinner and was just firing up the wok; he would have to eat when he got back. “Are you sure you shouldn’t call the doctor?” he asked on his way out.

I have never, in my whole life, even while at Disney World, seen so many little girls dressed up like Snow White as I did last night at the opening of Casa’s children’s theatre production. Little yellow dresses, big yellow dresses, yellow dresses wearing yellow dresses — it was marvelous. And for once, I felt right at home in my pale Irish skin. The evening only got better.

Doesn’t this weather just make you want to cry salty tears of joy? To quote Rachel Zoe, “I die!” I DIE! Love, love, love me some 70-degree breezes, and that melancholy fall sunlight that suddenly reminds you to visit a pumpkin patch and dig your corduroys out of the cedar closet. We can breathe, finally.  

In international news this week, which includes Lady Gaga’s infamous meat purse, my baby boy turned three years old. Wait, was the meat purse last week? Haven’t been at the gym and am behind on my tabloids.  Not only is Drew three — which sounds ancient and wizened — but Madeline was TWO MONTHS OLD on the very same day.

There are many things in life I don’t understand. Like, why people purchase those little dog-shaped signs for their yards — you know the ones — where the dog is squatting and the word “no!” is written across him, so neighbors passing by won’t allow their pug Maximus deface the St. Augustine. But which is worse, I ask you?

The other night we were leaving for a walk with The Things at the same time our neighbors were getting into a cab. Friends of theirs were already waiting in the cab, and they looked so young and well rested I could almost cry.

If there’s anything that improves with pregnancy, it’s the sense of smell. But if there’s anything that improves with delivering a baby, it’s the sense of hearing. I’ve actually awakened seconds BEFORE my babies started crying in the night, so acute were my ears.

« Previous Page | Next Page »