Thursday, May 31, 2012


1. If you put raw cut up vegetables in a spinny container in front of children, they will always reach for and try whatever is in there.

1A. If you, however, put it on their plates, they will. not. touch it.

2.  No matter that both you and your husband emphasized the previous evening that said children will not be getting ice cream that night as it's a special treat blah blah talkycakes, the child in question will ask for it.

2A. Said child's face will crumple in despair and sadness when reminded that no, no you cannot have ice cream tonight and you will waffle in your resolve.

2B. But only momentarily as she will discover an uneaten fun-size bag of M&Ms in her Easter basket and will clamor for them instead.

3. Yes, the Easter baskets are still out.

3A. Putting them away requires throwing away the Halloween candy and using those containers to store the Easter candy.

3B. Just try disposing of candy of any sort while children are in the house.

3C. Go ahead, try. I'll wait.

4.  The progress report from school never matches what you observe your youngest to actually be doing.

4A. You will suspect collusion between the teachers and the administration.

4B. You and your husband will shrug and say, 'Well for pete's sake, he's TWO."

4C. You will then eat your feelings in the form of ice cream and Dove bars.

4D. Yes, I'm aware of the hypocrisy. Shut up.

5. Never let your husband choose the evening's watching as getting to bed before 11 will. not. happen.

6. Your daughter will declare today her new Beautiful Ballerina Bear's birthday.

6A. This means a birthday party with friends.

6B. And cake.

6C. Haaaaaa

7. Days when you most dread going to work are the days when your children are full of the most snuggles, hugs and kisses.

7A. This will get you through the day, even more than coffee.

7B. Or beer.

7C. Though I won't say 'No' to that either.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

With apologies to Mr. Tolkien

Toddlers.  You can learn all of their ways in 3-4 years and 3-4 years later, they can still surprise you.  This past Sunday Noelle had her very first dance recital ever. She would be up on the stage, wearing a fun costume and performing a routine that her class has spent the past five months learning. To say that Dylan and I were excited about this would be a slight understatement.  We invited grandparents and aunts but paused when we discovered that we would have to buy a ticket for Noah.

Cue the drums of doom.

Were we really going to buy a not-inexpensive ticket to a dance recital for a toddler boy whose idea of a good time involves balls, 'cooking', trains and dinosaurs (sometimes all at once. It's quite complicated.) to sit in a theater for a couple of hours for the two minutes when his sister will be on the stage? No snacks, no distractions, just him, us and a couple hundred of our closest theater parents? We looked at each other, mentally shrugged and bought the ticket because 1) neither of us were going to miss it, 2) all of the usual babysitters (grandparents) would be at the show and 3) we felt like living dangerously.

We took precautions; I purposely selected seats on the far right of the theater next to the aisle to allow whoever ended up being Noah's chauffeur easy access to an escape route. The day of the recital, we stacked the deck against ourselves with him not getting a nap that day or the previous day (see above: living dangerously.) Dylan packed a bag with some small non-noisy toys and juice boxes and my sister even snuck in some chocolate chip cookies as a snack/bribe.  Before the show started, Noah bounced on the end of the stage, right in front of the videographer and all that I could think was "Dear Lord, please don't let him want to do this while the dancing is going on or everyone will have a lovely parting gift of the top of my child's head." The lights went down, we took our seats and held our breath.

And you know what? He stayed seated on Dylan's lap the ENTIRE SHOW. He was entranced and enraptured. I stole peeks at his face and was amazed to see the huge smile and wide eyes. He loved the numbers with the kids about his age.  He lost his ever-loving MIND over the hip-hop numbers, yelling for more.  I'm not sure that anyone has asked for a dancing encore performance before but by golly, he did.  He danced in his seat and cheered for his sister.  Admittedly, after Noelle performed, he started getting antsy (hers was the 21st number out of 30 OMFG) but he stuck it out like a trouper. And while waiting for her class to be released after the show was over, he was an angel playing with Grandma. When we were hugging and congratulating and taking pictures of Noelle, he was right there bouncing along in excitement.

We couldn't have asked for better behavior from him on Noelle's big day. We were so relieved and smug (yeah, I'll own it) over how he acted that I allowed myself to be very superior with our obviously amazing parenting skills until the next morning when he stabbed me in the arm with a fork.

The end.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The first of the lasts

Last night was Noelle's final parent-teacher conference of her preschool career. I'll be honest, I was bit nostalgic, knowing that I wouldn't walk those halls again for her conference.  Dylan or I attended every single one offered because we were (okay, still are) neurotic, over-involved parents. Also, new to the parenting rodeo.  It was pretty much a formality as we knew from her February conference that she is more than ready for kindergarten. I won't lie, it's a nice feeling though being told what an awesome kid your child is.

She loves books and reading, always has.  What was kind of surprising is that she shows a very strong aptitude for math as both Dyl and my strengths lie more in the humanities (thanks Grandad and GiGi!).  She's always looking for and identifying patterns and has figured out grouping and sets.  (Okay, we'll also thank The Penguins of Madagascar video game for the assist here as well.) She continues to be a compassionate and caring child who is genuinely liked by the whole class.  This is big because we have been concerned about the effect of her being a naturally reserved child.  As a baby she would sit and observe what was going on around her, responding to and interacting with others but rarely joining in the play.

She found a way around that obstacle though: she discovered the magic power of dressing up.  From the age of 3 through practically 5, most days of the week she would show up to school in any one of a number of different  outfits: fairies, princesses, knights. It was cute and adorable and as long as it didn't disrupt the class we let her dress up. (This is also known as either being smarter than we thought and/or being lazy. To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to.)  She always took the costumes off though as soon as her teachers requested it.  She has worn costumes to school maybe a handful of times in the last six months so I thought that is was something that she had grown out of. Her teachers and I were reminiscing about some of her costumes when  we realized that she HAD outgrown it. Because she no longer needed the confidence boost of the make-believe to join with the others.  And she doesn't need it now.  She has developed the relationships and friendships with her classmates on her own; she no longer needs the crutch of the costume.

She still has her best friend in the whole world but they have both branched out and developed new friendships. She says that she will marry Nico when they are 27 and have a boy named Fred and a girl named Sally.  She will be a rock-star and he will be an engineer. At least I don't have to worry about meeting his parents...though I should probably let his parents know the plan. She has discovered her girly side and has a group of two other little girls who like to play dress up and style each other's hair. As my own hair styling skills are woefully limited to pony-tails, I fear that this will be a dream never realized. She also loves playing adventure and scavenger hunt games with her other best friends Sammy and Paige. At nap time when she isn't sleepy, she loves to brush her teachers' hair. I think that they are very brave for allowing this because she is certainly not gentle when she plays with mine. I'm so proud of her what with me being the poster child for sullen hostility and chilly reservation and all.

She is so good at identifying patterns and seeing groupings and sets.  She is able to figure out what letter words start with by sounding them out, well on her way to wrestling the insanity of the English language into submission. She is a true out-of-the-box thinker and a free spirit.  She loves art and colors and has a strong fundamental grasp of Spanish which I credit solely to Dora.  She knows her days of the week and what day it is in relation to others. She can identify what yesterday was and tomorrow will be; if you make a mistake, she will call you on it.  She is counting by twos, fives and tens and is a stringent rule-follower.  She is compassionate but has grown a strength to deal with adversity and challenges on her own instead of turning to teachers for help all the time.  She is strong and confident, funny and silly and so, so happy. We are so very proud and privileged to be her parents.

The world is your oyster Noelle-bear. Go get it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I blinded her with science

You know how it is when you are married and trying to fit in a little adult play time; the time after the kids are in bed is cherished downtime when you can shut down your brain and weekend mornings are for indulging in not having to respond to an alarm.  So you continue in limbo, the idea being great, but the push to overcome the inertia almost always falling victim to the siren call of sleep and the uneasy knowledge that your child will come waltzing in at any point from 6:30 to 8 lending an air of danger to the proceedings.

This weekend was like any other; Saturday, still wrapped in dreams and blankets, Noelle crawled into bed with us at 6:45 am.  She snuggled in between us under the covers and Dylan and I dozed for the next 20 minutes because there will never be any sleeping achieved with a preschooler itching to watch cartoons in the bed with you.  Sunday I awoke with a start at 6:30 and couldn't go back to sleep.  I swear, some days it's like he lies in wait for me to stir enough to begin playground antics. Anyway, I'm awake and tossing and turning to will myself back to sleep because really body? We're going to play this game? Now the waiting game begins: will today bring a  repeat early visit or will it be closer to 7:30? How far can we get in the game before being called for interference? To add an extra challenge, we don't shut our door.  This habit dates back to when the cat would scratch at the door to be let in so we might as well just leave it open for her. Old habits die hard.

7:00 am - no sound.  7:15 am - no sounds.  We might just be able to get a full game in but it's getting late; might be called on account of preschooler.  What the hell, we throw caution to the wind and ourselves into the game. And...yes! Just under the wire.  We lay back talked about the day, how excited we were for her first dance recital when click! step, step, creak. The preschooler approacheth.

"Hi baby, come on up."

She climbed onto the bed to snuggle and Dylan heard Noah stirring and went to get him out of his crib. I'm really going to regret moving him to a toddler bed, aren't I?  While we were waiting for Dylan and Noah to return, Noelle turns to me and with a question in her voice says, "Mommy, you were sleeping on top of the covers." OH. SHIT.

And this is where earning a science degree became my best idea ever. "Well honey, when you sleep, your body temperature drops which makes it nice to snuggle under the covers but when you wake up, your body temperature rises and it's too hot to be under the covers. I woke up early and was too hot." Every word true...from a certain point of view.

And now I think we need to get into the habit of closing the door.  But not locking it because that's just crazy talk.

Monday, May 21, 2012

We shall not see their likes again

Last week Dylan's grandmother died.  I held it together the day we were notified and breezed through the viewing with only the slightest threat of moisture collecting in my eye.  I am family, but not. The connections and  memories are not mine; the grief is borrowed, I have no right to it.

Or so I thought.

As I sat in the pew of the beautiful St. Mark's church, the same thought tumbled and chased its way through my mind: I do not belong here, I have no right to the grief, to succumb to the waves of sadness threatening to pull me under. I have to be strong for Dylan, for his dad, for his sister.  And I was. Until the music started.

As the familiar strains of 'On Eagle's Wings' began, the tears began to fall.  "This is not right." I kept thinking. "I don't have the right to cry." And yet I did, tears tracking their way down my cheeks and dripping off my chin.  Every song in the liturgy was one from my past, at once both mourning and hopeful, beautiful and terrible. I felt the loss of my own grandparents even more keenly but still, I felt that I couldn't justify the tears.


My father-in-law, the eldest of six, gave the eulogy.  It was eloquent and heartfelt, poetic and brief and it shone as a bright spotlight on the why.  He reminded us that Grandmom was part of the Greatest Generation. They saw the world change and changed the world. They not only survived a terrible depression and war but thrived and drove the country to achieve the greatness, power and wealth we take for granted today.  They were individual, unlikely heroes, every one of them and we are all better for it. And just like *that*, I understood.  While I mourned and missed them as individuals who touched my life or my family's life, I also mourned that for each loss of their number, a piece of greatness died too; a tangible link to living history. That we today might not possess the fortitude to face the challenges and make the hard sacrifices that they made for us. That we lack the strength, grace, and courage to do similarly if called upon.

Thank you Grandma Feakes and Grandma Nachman.  Thank you Grandpa Feakes and Grandmom Lange. We love you, respect you, miss you and salute you.

We shall not see your likes again.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Do you believe in ghosts?

Dylan and I watch a lot of ghost-hunting type shows: Ghost Hunters (the standard by which all others shall be judged forthwith), Ghost Adventures (affectionately known as the Ghost Bros.), Fact or Faked, Destination Truth, Haunted Collector (and apparently we have an unabashed love of all things SyFy. Just don't tell North Carolina as they might try to block that too) but when it comes to actual *ghosts*, I've never seen one or had any paranormal experience.  I mean, we always joke about random sounds and flickering lights as being *ghosts* but never with any seriousness.  Our house is only 12 years old and to the best of our knowledge is not situated on an Indian burial ground or 1700s coven meeting place.  It could happen, I guess, but the likelihood of our piece of Maryland having anything so cool is pretty remote as cool stuff only happens to cool people.  Which we are not. Ahem.

Last week our cat died.  She was 14 and sick and arthritic and diabetic and even the vet could give us no assurances that treatment would help her so we made the gut-wrenching decision to have her put to sleep. (Aside, I hate that phrase but the other choices: euthanized, put down, etc. seem so clinical and *evil* as we did what we did out of love, out of not wanting her to suffer for our selfishness of wanting her around longer.)

Yesterday morning Dylan saw that we had a message on the voicemail and played it back. It was the vet's office letting us know that Bonnie's ashes were in and we could come and pick them up (yes, we have our pets cremated and keep them with us.  Her handsome wooden box will go right next to her brother Clyde's.)  He went upstairs to take a shower and I sat down to breakfast.  As I was doing my usual multitasking of eating and checking Twitter and facebook, out of the corner of my eye I caught movement.  In the tenth of a second the image registered on my retinas, I swear it was Bonnie crossing the floor just as she always did then disappearing like *that*.

What does one do in this instance? Why take to social media to relate the occurrence of course.  Some friends commented on the facebook post that they had experience it too with their pets and rather than being scary, it was actually kind of comforting. And it was.  Though I teared up immediately reading their comments, I had to smile knowing that while she might be on another plane of existence now, she was still here and watching over us.

Though if she starts crying for food at 3 am again, all bets are off.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stealth judging

I have young children and this puts me in the minority at work, not the having of children but the 'being at work' part. My position is one of low-middle management/professional so there are attending responsibilities that go along with it and I'm acutely aware of how I present to the rest of the organization when I'm away.  My peers are older with grown children or slightly younger with none so when I miss time, I feel like there is a blinding searchlight on the emptiness at my desk, judging, berating, silently mocking my absence. Given our circumstances, I can't come in early as Dylan needs to be at work by a certain time and I'm not bound by shift constraints leaving me to do the daily school drop-off and I can't stay late as he works on the other side of the county and would be fighting rush hour traffic all the way to pick them up plus their school is close to my plant so it just makes sense.  So I work my eight-hour day and leave at five to get them.

But wait, you might say. You've worked your eight hours, what's the shame in leaving then? Why would you be judged.  Because, I would respond, the others at my position level are still here.  They are in by 7 and some don't leave until after five. If I'm not here then I'm not visible.  If I'm not visible, I can't get the experiences and skills needed to make leaving this job a viable option.  And if I can't secure a new job, I'm very afraid that the vast gulf of depression will swell and overtake me, pulling me under to a dark place I've only visited briefly.  So I compensate by logging in at night after the children are in bed, making the decision to leave the dishes as I have to demonstrate my worth. Or I might rise early to log in again and run reports to increase my efficiency during the day.  I frequently come in on weekends to catch up, to get ahead, to show that I am part of the team, I'm doing my part look at me. LOOK AT ME.

But every time I leave early for a sick child, disappear for a doctor's appointment, arrive close the end of window of acceptability, I feel the eyes, heavy with disapproval, silently judging me as I slink in or out trying to draw as little notice to myself as possible. I imagine lashing out at phantom critiques, 'You had a wife to deal with these things; I AM the wife, the mother, the primary earner!', bravura fading each step closer to the safety of the office, a closed door where equilibrium can be restored.

Or maybe it's me, maybe I'm judging myself harshly as a preemptive move so no one will question my dedication, my loyalty.  Perhaps it's all in my head and not a soul cares as long as the work get done.  But the seed has been planted and like kudzu, slowly entangles and entraps my mind, never ceasing in it's grasp for more until nothing remains.

There must be a way out but I cannot see it for the guilt, it runs deep.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let's talk about poop, baby

So, yeah.  The diarrhea bug has hit our house and hit it hard.  So far only Noah has succumbed but we are going on day 5 now of Poop-a-rama with no signs of it abating any time soon.  Not only are we going through a surreal number of diapers and the accompanying amount of laundry from massive butt explosions but also chose the week where neither one of us could really afford to miss work what with attending our nephew's confirmation this coming Friday.  Excellent timing there son. 

The worst part is that other than the poop, he's fine.  No fever, no stomach discomfort, just...poopy.  We kept him home from his cousin's birthday party this weekend and it didn't cause any massive meltdown; we've been pretty much following the BRAT diet for him (though I made a tactical error over the weekend by second-guessing myself and giving him milk. Yeah, that didn't work out so well.) (If he doesn't loathe bananas and applesauce by the end of this it will be a miracle.) He even made it out of his naptime with a dry diaper. Huzzah! The corner, she has been turned.  Until Dylan texted me with the lovely news of the massive diarrhea right before bath time.  Crap in a hat.  Almost literally.  He had to miss his very first field trip in his new classroom plus the birthday cupcake for one little boy's birthday.

He's handling it like a trouper, no least, no more than usual.  Feeling saucy today, I took him up to the grocery store for some bananas, diapers and applesauce.  MY COMPLETE IDIOCY. LET ME SHOW IT TO YOU.  First there were no carts with which to contain him so I grabbed a hand basket instead. On our way to the produce section, he saw giant bottles of Gatorade and wanted one.  Well, the pediatrician's office recommended Gatorade so I picked up the red bottle which was NOT THE RIGHT ONE, MY GOD WOMAN, YOU WOUND ME. He chose the orange bottle (?) then hauled tail over to the produce section where he started picking oranges out of the display and putting in the basket.  Suggestions to maybe put the oranges in a bag were greeted with shrieks of dismay.  Not to be outdone, he then started picking up apples and tossing chucking them into the basket. Satisfied with his selection of apples (here you go Noelle, enjoy) he spotted the 'brocrory' and insisted that we get some. The brocrory didn't make the final cut but he did try to sneak the tomatoes in there.  I can just thank my lucky stars that they weren't overripe or it would have been 'Clean-up in Produce!'

Because I'm sucker we also got two boxes of crackers (per the doctor's suggestion so it's totally okay) and cookies (see: sucker) when I realized that with the 80 pounds of bananas, all the goodies wouldn't fit in the hand basket. My brilliant idea? Give him a hand basket to carry with the light stuff.  That? was not one of my better ideas as he wanted to carry the fruit and the cookies. The fruit of course could not be in bags and the basket dragged at a 45-degree angle by one handle ensured that as much food as possible came into contact with the floor.

Long story short (too late), he woke up dry from his nap, we cheered, then the poop returned with a vengeance right before bath time. Because of course it did; life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.  And he better potty train soon because I am done with poop.  Forever and ever amen.