On the cusp of a new year

I spent today bidding farewell to more than just a year. This afternoon was my uncle's funeral. For my immediate family it wasn't a sad day, however. We had already been there, done that.

Instead I used it as a chance to observe those around me. It struck me how one person can be so incredibly different depending on who views them and when. I know part of this is the "funeral phenomenon." When someone dies, only the good stuff remains in the audible memory. However, I also know my uncle. I know he had more than the normal desire to be liked. His way to ensure it was to 'make them like me' by being the sweet, kind, gentle man. It's not completely the man he was when he could careless what you thought of him. And that statement still does not sum it up totally, but I'll let it rest with him tonight.

I spent the rest of my afternoon meeting cousins I never knew I had. I spent the time getting to know my brother's girlfriend a little better - even though we went to High School together I never really knew her before. I spent my time wondering if you got in trouble for bringing your own bingo balls to the game (don't ask) and what all those prayer cards amassing at the front of the room were for. What can I say, sometimes I am easily amused.

As for telling my son, it went much better than I had expected and/or could have hoped for. I'm too tired from the day to rehash it now - suffice it to say it involved the notion that Uncle M had a talk with God and the two decided that yes, today was a good day to go to Heaven. It involved a few tears and it involved some discussion as to whether or not there were toys in Heaven. He's only mentioned the death once since then.

He asked Daddy how we got to Heaven. Daddy started to answer and Logan interrupted. "No, I think Mommy was right. God says 'Poof!' and like magic we're gone and up in Heaven."

I never said anything quite like that to him, but it's working so we're going with it.



The call came this morning. My uncle had moved from a semi-comatose state to a complete coma. The hospice nurse, knowing my mother's wish to be with him when he died, suggested she may want to come over as soon as she could. At one point during the day he shuddered a moment and then stopped breathing. The aide grabbed my mom's arm and told her this was it. But as soon as he had stopped breathing he started again.

During the afternoon I felt like I ought to go over. Yet I didn't. I had the three year old with me and very much did not want him around to see his uncle in the state he currently existed. When I last saw my uncle on Christmas Eve his skin was grey and sunken. I knew even if there was no change from that day, the sight of him would be more than a child ought to have to handle.

Instead we bought my mom flowers and a small balloon. Logan and I dropped it off at the house. My dad had just left to join my mother at the nursing home. My brother let us in. We chatted a moment and then left. I called my brother hours later to see if there was any news - there was none.

My mother called as I was making dinner. I learned then about the apnea - at least that's what they had called it. My cousin was there, she told me. The cousin my grandmother and uncle had spent all my years filling our heads with stories about. Her and her family. Stories that kept us not wanting to be part of their lives. Apparently the experience was mutual. My mother and my cousin spent the day talking to each other over my uncle's body. Someone told us recently that a person can hear for about 15-seconds after the heart stops beating. It seemed almost poetic that they'd have this conversation over his prone body - him unable to deny it or defend it. They learned that the wall built up over the years was a wall of lies and they knocked it down. I have a new cousin tonight.

I was cleaning up from dinner when the urge to go be there hit me hard. I asked my husband "Should I go?"

He answered the way I knew he would - "I can't tell you that. If you decide to that's fine with me. I'm here with the kids, just go and don't worry about us. If you decide not to, that's fine too. You need to decide."

I decided to go. I called my brother. He does not handle death well at all. He does not handle illness well at all. He's a tough guy on the outside that crumbles when pushed. I told him no one expected him to go. He didn't have to, but if he wanted to, I was leaving now. He told me he'd meet me over there.

When I got up to my uncle's room no one was there but him and his roommate. I was startled to see this dying man replacing the uncle I had remembered. We never had one of those grand adoring relationships, yet he was in my life from the start and he was there for all the 'big' moments. He was apart of my world even if he wasn't always a nice part of it. I loved him in spite of his issues, because they were, after all his issues.

He had already begun to shrink when I saw him last week. He was always a big man - tall and thick. When he was heavy he wore the excess weight in front of him all in his stomach. When the two brain tumors began to grow again last year it wasn't long before it started to effect him physically. In March he fell - signs that he was losing use of his left side. He'd been moved from his independent life in his own small home to an apartment in an independent living facility near us. He needed a wheel chair for long strolls and a walker for short ones. By the May he was in the nursing home. Full time in a wheel chair with no use of his left side. At the time they did not expect him to live past May.

Last week his skin was grey. The bones in his face were starting to be noticeable. He couldn't focus his eyes on you when you spoke to him. He seemed to stare at you and yet past you all at once. He could barely talk. You had to lean in close to hear him and his response often came minutes after you first asked him a question. Tonight the bed seemed to swallow him. He'd been without food or water for three days yet it looked like it'd been so much longer. His eyes were glazed over and he seemed to stare up above him. His mouth hung open. He would sometimes shudder when he inhaled.

I walked out of his room and called my mother on her cell phone. "Where are you?" I asked her.

"Where are you?" she said. I told her. She told me where to find her. I called my brother moments later and met him at the elevator to show him to our semi-private sitting area in the back of the nursing home. We sat with my cousin. She apologized for some of her past behaviors - sort of blocking me from my grandmother when we all visited her years ago her last week of life. Apparently some of the stories my grandmother and uncle told of me to her were outrageously frightening. My cousin apologized for believing those things. I told her it was ok. I told her there was no apology needed but that I appreciated her need to do so. I told her it was ok. We were ok. We could move beyond that now.

A priest appeared - it's a rather long, somewhere amusing story about the various clergy types that meandered through our day, but I'm already rambling so I'll not share it here now. He inquired about my uncle. He asked if he needed last rites. No, we told him, we're not Catholic. He's not Catholic. But he could use prayers if you're willing.

My mother, my brother, the priest and I returned to my uncle's room. There was a new aide in there with him. She looked up sadly, her eyes full of sympathy. He'd stopped breathing again and then started up again. Same as before, only this time his eyes were no longer moving. It was time. I went back to tell my cousin and my father.

My cousin and mother stood on either side of the bed rubbing my uncle's shoulders and head. I stood next to my mother, one hand on her back, one hand holding my uncle's. It was already cold although he was still breathing. We urged him to let go, to move on. We told him it was ok. It was time. He shuddered. He inhaled sharply. He did nothing for a moment. He shuddered again with another labored breathe. And then nothing.

My cousin felt his chest - she could no longer feel a heart beat. My mom checked for a pulse. Nothing. They called for a nurse to confirm it. Which she did - he was gone.

We spent time together waiting for the funeral home to retrieve the body. After those first moments the tears dried up. It wasn't sad. This was for better for him. He wasn't suffering. He wasn't feeling angry or betrayed. He was at peace and so were we.

His passing has left me with a few things. First I gained a new family member in the one that had been pushed out of our world for so long. I could be angry at him and my grandmother for the things they said about my family and my cousin - but I'm not. That's their issue. It's their's to own and to answer for somehow, somewhere. I can elect to let it eat away at me and fill me with the bitterness they apparently had, or I can decide to bury it with them and start over. I chose to bury it.

Second is a keen awareness of what I wish for in the years that lie ahead. Clearly dying is something we'll all do. I'm not getting out of it. The question is merely when, not if. If you have faith and believe in some sort of afterlife, as I do, then death is merely a passing from one world to another - a better. After this evening, I think that given the choice, I'd like to pass surrounded by people who love me as they cheer me on. I like to think that when we die there's someone or several waiting to greet us and guide us to whatever our idea of heaven is. How wonderful to have one group waiting to welcome us as the other urges us forward. I want to be celebrated not mourned.

Third, I face the task of telling my three year-old tomorrow. This is what is hard for me. This is what makes me cry tonight. Someone suggested ignoring it and letting it gloss over. But that won't work. When Logan lists his family - even knowing he's got aunt and uncles all over the place - he lists his immediate family, my parents, my brother....and my uncle. That's it. He asks about visiting him. He draws him pictures. I can't lie to him and pretend he's still there.

Others have suggested going with the "Well he moved" option. It's another I'm not comfortable with. Logan knows my uncle was very ill. No one had to tell him - he would visit him in the nursing home up until about a month ago. He liked to help push the wheel chair. He knows this illness was serious.

One day out of what seemed to be no where Logan asked me if my uncle was going to die. I was honest with him - Yes, he is, but not today. We talked some. I explained that my uncle was very sick, so sick the doctor couldn't make him better any more.

Last week Logan asked me if he could go with us on Christmas Eve. I wasn't willing to take him to see my uncle the way he'd slipped at that point. But I wasn't going to say all that then.

"Well honey," I said instead, "Remember Uncle M is very, very sick. And you're sick now too. Remember you just go more doctor medicine. We don't want to make Uncle M any sicker than he already is. We don't want him to catch your cold, ok? I think it's best if you stay home with Daddy."

He was quiet for a few moments and then he said "Mommy, Uncle M hurts a lot." I had to fight back tears. How incredibly perceptive of my little man. I just nodded. He agreed staying home was best.

So I can't fib to him. He knows it's coming. He knows any white lie is a lie. Yet I cry just thinking of the pain I'm about to cause him by being honest even in an age appropriate way. I just pray I'm strong enough to help him through this.

Look ahead?

Someone once said that the way you spend your New Year's Eve is indicitive of the way you'll spend the coming year. I certainly hope not.

The little one did in fact go to the doctor's yesterday. She clearly had whatever it was her brother has been battling. Dad took Logan last week (Friday actually to be sure he got in before the holiday).

When they walked in the door he said this, "Doctor said his right ear is a little red and that she heard some crackling when she listened to his chest. He's got 10 days of this pink stuff."

I frowned. "Did she say what it was exactly?"

He shuffled from foot to foot, "Well not exactly."

"Does he have to go back for a re-check?" I asked.


I shook my head. Clearly the lesson learned is never to send Daddy to the doctor appointments alone without a list of questions he's to ask. "They also have you come in for a re-check if the ear is infected," I explained to him. "I'll call the office to set something up in a few days."

I didn't have to call, as it turns out, because I was there yesterday with Meg. I gave the doctor the low-down. Her nose has been runny and a slight cough for roughly a week. Both have gotten worse. Her brother was in on Friday for the same thing and sent home with antibiotics for ear infection and crackling lungs. The doctor looked at Meg. She listened.

"The ear is a little red and she does have some slight chest congestion," she nodded in agreement. She talked about more meds and started writting on the little blue slip of paper I'd bring to the pharmacy.

"Does she need to come back for a re-check on the ear?" I asked. "I know we've done that for ear infections before."

The doctor nodded. I asked about Logan's ear too. She nodded. Then she looked up and said "The red ear does mean it's a mild ear infection. The chest congestion, well I'd call that the start of walking pneumonia. We definently want a recheck on the chest in 10 days."


"So the crackling? Is that what my son had too?" I asked her, almost thankful Dad had forgotten to ask last week. She nodded, "He needs to come back in 10 days from start of his meds too."

And so we'll spend New Year's getting ready for follow-up visits for two children with the onset of walking pneumonia.

That in itself won't be bad assuming they respond properly to the antibiotics. It's also my uncle. The call came this morning, he's slipping from semi-coma into deep coma. He can't eat or drink. Because he's on hospice care there is no feeding tube or saline drip. This is it. It's a matter of weeks, if not days. We could spend our New Year's at a funeral. It's not a surprise. We've known it's coming. And frankly, the way his health has been, his in ability to communicate or care for himself, to walk or to eat on his own, to clean himself or use a bathroom alone - this is for the best, but it won't be easy.


Calling the Nanny

For a brief time last year I worked with a man who had managed to go two and half
years without ever bathing either of his twins or changing a diaper. If the nanny was off, his wife took over. He was spared the down and dirty work of child rearing. In fact, from what it sounded like, he was spared most of the things related to child rearing including the fun parts. He spent a little time each day with his children just to say he had.

Then one night the nanny was on vacation and his wife, having spent a full-day of mothering on her own, needed a break. He suddenly had tub duty. And he had diaper duty. And he was beside himself.

One twin peed all over the rug as she gleefully ran away during the diaper change. He couldn't believe a child would do such a thing. The other twin was practically scaling the dresser to reach something placed high upon the shelf. The man thought this was a special talent developed just by his little ape. He was appalled.

I smiled at him trying not to laugh loudly when he told me the story. "Jack," I said (although I used his real name at the time), "I have absolutely no sympathy for you. Welcome to parenthood."

This morning, however, I find myself wishing I had his number. I'd love to call him and see if he'd be a charitable soul - charitable enough to lend out his nanny for the day.

Bruce is working and sick - the man does not handle sick well, for what it's worth. My mom has whatever it is that is making the rounds, plus she's visiting the now semi-comatose uncle and shuttling my dad to a routine "so-you're-over-50" medical test. There is no relief pitcher to come into the game today.

The kids? One is getting over whatever it is that has been making the rounds and the other is in the middle of it. We may head back to the doctor today to see if she needs a little thick, pink, liquid help in battling the snot monster that has consumed her face and the cough that rattles her 23 pound body.

Me? Well the truck that Bruce says ran him down is now parked squarely in the center of my chest. The voice that yesterday would have been the envy of some 900-number operators is now nearly non-existant. It's going to be a long day. I am off to swallow a few cold pills and hope they don't knock me on my butt.

Send the Nanny if you see her.


Holiday Snippets

I've come to believe that the sucess of a good family holiday can be measured by it's youngest members expressions. With that in mind, I present you the following utterances. You be the judge.

- Upon seeing the stocking hanging on the doorknob of her brother's room, Megan pointed and asked, "Mama? Dat?"

- Upon being told it was Logan's stocking filled by Santa and that she had one to open too, Megan began to yell (in hopes of waking her still sleeping sibling aka Bra-bah, aka Brother): "Anta! Anta! Ho! Ho! Ho! BRA-BAH! BRAAAAAA-BAH! Ho! HO! HO!!"

- Upon opening his eyes Christmas morning, Logan said: "Is it morning? Did Santa come? Where's my stocking?"

- Upon reaching one of the first items in the stocking, he nearly shouted: "YAY! I really wanted Magnetix! How did Santa know? We play with these at school!"

- Upon pulling out her first stocking item ever since last year hardly counted with, you know, us doing all the unwrapping for her, Megan sat holding the Little People Santa saying: "Ho! Ho! Ho! Lil Pee-ull Anta. Ho! Ho! Ho!"

- Upon entering the multi-purpose sunroom and seeing the gifts under the tree, Megan inhaled sharply and said her current most favorite phrase: "Oh WOW!!"

- Upon remembering the teacher told him to hide the little white bag under his bed until Christmas morning, Logan ran off down the hall yelling back over his shoulder, "I've got one more present. It's a surprise!"

- Upon being asked if he had made the painted pinecone Christmas tree in a small clay pot: "I painted it but I didn't want to put the ornaments on because my fingers would get sticky. Mrs S had to glue on the pompoms, so this is really from me and Mrs. S."

- Upon opening her biggest present from Mom and Dad, Megan clapped her hands and said: "Lil Pee-ull out box!!" (She is now often found sitting upon the floor playing contently with the Little People house and its various accessories.)

- Upon seeing the Chocolate cake with Peppermint ice cream appear, Logan perched himself at the table ready to blow out candles and sing Happy Birthday to "Baby Jesus." When asked in the week's leading up to the holiday itself, Logan informed us that the reason we celebrate Christmas is to celebrate Jesus' birthday. I guess sometimes the things we try to tell him sink in through all that other stuff he hears.

- Upon laying her new Bitty Baby down in it's very own crib (a gift from her grandparents) Megan rubbed the doll's back and said: "Ni-ni baby. Good gur."

- Upon being thanked for the cinnamon scented candle he gave me, Logan said: "I just wanted you to have the pretty candle because I love you so much."

- Upon settling into bed after a few good stories from the original Thomas the Tank Engine books, Logan smiled and said: "Thank you, Mommy. We had a good day, didn't we."

- Upon leaving the house with me today for our "after Christmas" purchases of next year's cards and wrapping paper, Logan stopped to watch his much coveted and now beloved rock tumbler in motion. He pointed to it and said "Daddy and I are going to wash it tomorrow night then put in more chemicals and we're going to make the rocks turn different colors and be really pretty. Maybe I'll make you a key chain."

- Upon finding herself (ahem) once again in her brother's room sometime after dinner tonight, Megan sat herself in the middle of the Shake and Go race track and yelled out: "Mama! Dada! Shay! Go!" (Luckily Logan is sharing this gift nicely and has not deemed it "special" and therefore off limits. Megan loves to watch the cars race around the tracks as much as her brother does.)


Ride this

This morning I survived (and enjoyed!) the official 90-minute "Stress-buster" Christmas Eve Spin class at my gym.

For you Spin virgins out there - the class is intended to mimic mountain biking. You are able to add and remove resistance to the wheel as a means to recreate the effect of riding flat road vs uphill climbs. You sit at times, you stand at times. You even get to "jump" at times (a sensation created by sitting for a few counts and then standing, sitting then standing, etc. It gets your heart rate up fast!)

Our normal classes are 40 minutes long.

I've done an hour once before. This was my first long ride. I loved it. Sure, my upper legs are a little weary at the moment, but my body feels good and I feel accomplished.

Every so often the gym trains for a big mountain ride - last time it was climbing Everest. No, we don't actually climb the real mountain, we mimic it in a 2-hour special class. In the past it's been a concept that intimidates me. Not today. If I can get Meg to stay in child care, I'm taking more classes during the week and when they offer the next big cilmb, I'm so there!

Merry Christmas to those celebrating it!


holiday prep

Logan and I are making our last batch of cookies as we "speak." We made the other varieties last weekend with Grandma. Today it's Red and Green M&Ms and Chocolate Chip cookies. He won't try one because he's insisting he made them just for Santa. The rest of us, apparently, are out of luck. Oh well, more for me tomorrow night.

I peek in at the baking cookies while he cuts shapes out of a mixed pile of Play-Doh. Daddy has the little imp in the backyard. It's warm today - almost 60. She's in an old jacket that used to be Logan's. Her cheeks are rosy from the cool breeze and her glee.

Moments like these are ones I wished my camera was a digital. I looked at the window to see Daddy running by me. He was pulling the yellow plastic sled with Megan sitting upon it and laughing as hard as her 30-inch frame would allow her too. We have no snow, mind you, not even a small little hint of snow left from the storms earlier this month. Nope, it's just brownish-green grass -- and a happy Dad and daughter.

can't catch a break

So the boy is still sick. And it's not just a sick as in another head cold. I'm thinking his right ear has never fully cleared out. When we went on Wednesday it wasn't red and therefore not assumed infected, but there was some fluid there. Today his ear is slightly red. And the cough? The one that was just post-nasal drip on Wednesday - now there's a little crackle in his chest.

He's been sick almost straight through from Thanksgiving and that was after being sick with his first ear infection at Halloween. I'm blaming the big Thanksgiving trek.

Poor kid, on to another antibiotic.

The little one - just a cold. Her chest is clear. Her ears are clear. She even got all her shots today at her previously scheduled well-visit. She's a great big 30 inches tall and 23.8 pounds at 15 months old. Gosh I thought she looked taller to me. She was only 28 inches and 22 pounds three months ago. Another boring well visit, which is much welcomed after the ones we had a year ago that sent us onto the specialist for her wry neck.


Reindeer Food anyone?

Well I did get the labels done for the reindeer food.

Then the boy woke up this morning. We took one good look at his leaky faucet, er nose, and asked him how he felt. "I feel bad," he said, which is not rather unusual lately with his on-again-off-again cold stretch. I gave him the option - he picked no school. . .even though it meant missing the thing he had been so looking forward to, his Christmas party.

Being the responsible person I can sometimes be, I packed a bag with the little ice cream cups we were asked to bring for the party. I grabbed the two gift bags for Logan's teachers and the cards he had made for them. I tossed in the reindeer bait. I zipped over to the school leaving Dad in charge of the infirmed.

The two teachers noticed right away that I came missing a key component - the child. They guessed, "He's sick, isn't he. Poor kid." We chatted, I handed out gifts. I located the ice cream....and I noticed the big plastic bin with the oatmeal and sparkely crap. Reindeer bait.

I left without taking ours from the bag. We didn't tell Logan his little project was on the list of "things to make at school" today. I just ditched the bag full of extra packs. I'm not sure he ever noticed. Bruce ran out later in the morning to pick up Logan's 'goody bag' from school. The teachers made sure he had a bag filled with everything everyone got at the party - including the snacks they ate during school time. His bag of school made bait was in there. He was just impressed his teachers knew how to make it too.


too tired to title

The gifts are bought and wrapped.

The labels for the 'reindeer food' Logan is bringing in for his class on Thursday are still a good idea nestled safely in my head. Somewhere in the pile of crap that has consumed my office area is a stash of card stock that I can print these things out on. If I'm blogging tomorrow night and those cards haven't been printed, do me a favor and smack me.

The littlest member of our household is sick - or was. She's acting fine unless of course she's puking her guts out. Thankfully not everything makes her spew. Just the things she likes best. And well, on a serious note, she's kept down everything she's injested since lunch time -- including one of her favorites.

The uncle that has been lingering since April is slipping closer to the end. Hospice called. He's progressed tremendously in the last week or so. They expect the coma to come soon and from there death. The brain tumors are growing quickly now. I've not seen him in person since his birthday. He's a hard person to visit - always has been even when he was healthy. You never know when he's lying to you or about you. Except now you do since he doesn't talk much at all.

The grandmother that raised the uncle to be the delight that he is apparently lied about her birthday. Not the year she was born, but the day. My entire 32 years I thought my grandmother was a "Baby New Year" born on January 1st. Turns out she fibbed for the attention it got her. Her real birthday was January 2nd. Who does that?!


Seasonal Musings

While roaming the blogosphere aimlessly this weekend I stumbled across some new and interesting sites. (Yes, I've become addicted to Michele's site - if you like finding new reads and you've not visited her yet you owe it to yourself to take the trip.) Anyway, I digress. . .

At one of my stops this weekend I came across Joe's entry on "War on Christmas." Something about it itched my little brain and finally this morning it hit me. I knew I wanted to respond to it. So now I will. Now granted, I can't respond for everyone and anyone that ever grumbled about "Holiday" over "Christmas." Take this rant for what it's worth - just my very own not so humble two cents.

First, let's clarify something. I have no problem with the store clerk that says "Happy Holidays" as I complete my transaction. Clearly this is a season of many holidays and unless we start wearing signs that say "I'm celebrating x" I think it's highly appropriate, not to mention considerate, for the complete stranger to take the generic route. If nothing else, regardless of which religious association you're linking up with, you've got your primary holiday AND New Year. Therefore unless you're crawling under a rock to celebrate nothing, you've got two holidays in close proximity no matter what you are. So again, the generic "Happy Holidays" ought to be uttered.

What I do have a problem with, however, is the stripping of Christmas from things that are purely Christmas. Let's face it, my Jewish cousins (and I do mean actual cousins, I'm not being figurative) are not chopping down an evergreen and decorating it in their living room this month. Anyone celebrating Kwanzaa is not decking the halls with boughs of holly. The pine tree is purely a Christmas element. It is *not* a "holiday tree" - it is a Christmas tree and there is not a single reason that I can think of that we need to publically pretend it's otherwise. Likewise, cartoons specials airing this time of year aren't often "holiday specials" if they're dabbling in Santa's and Drummer boys. Call it what it is and give up the PC fear.

It is not "X-mas" it is Christmas. If roughly 90% of Americans (which is the last stat I saw quoted somewhere) identify themsevles as Christian then it's safe to assume the vast majority of folks celebrating the Christmas are not aethist in it for the materialistic gifting aspect. Removing "Christ" from Christmas is catering to a fraction of the populous. If someone is offended by the religious component of a religious holiday they ought not celebrate it. Happy Festivus to them. Leave Christmas as it is.

If Mega-department store wants to bid me a happy holiday, I'll wish them one right back. If they want me to buy a holiday tree, well I'll make my purchase elsewhere.

In other holiday related musings - my last entry about sharing the season with my best friend appears to have generated a sometimes emotional response. Seriously, I think my parents have the same opinion I do on exposure to different beliefs and cultures. How can we honestly make a choice in what we believe if we don't know what our options are?

When I was a young confirmant (about 14 years old) Pastor E insisted we attend services of other religions. I'm Presbyterian. We went to a Catholic service. We visited the Methodist, the Lutherans, the Baptist, not to mention the local synagogue. I think if one had been established in our town in the late 80s, we'd have gone to the mosque too. He believed that in order for us to stand in front of the congregation and honestly say that yes, we wanted to be a member here and within this faith, we needed to know what we were saying. We needed to understand what made our church different from others. We needed to understand the administration differences as well as the basic core beliefs that set us apart from others (or not as the case may be.)

Personally, I think that pastor was a wise man. I also believe that the God I believe in wants me to be compassionate and understanding of all people - not just the ones I see on a Sunday morning. For me,part of being a good Christian isn't to force others to conform, it's to love them for who they are without worrying about what they are. I believe a relationship with a Higher Power, no matter what you call it, is a personal one. It's up to you and he/she to define. Not me.

I'm in danger of rambling and so I'll stop. I think I've blathered on enough for those that have stuck with it to have enough of an idea where I'm coming from. Thanks for humoring me. And oh, happy holidays. ;)



When I was in kindergarten my best friend's name was Melissa. I got on the bus at the first stop. Melissa got on at the last. More often than not, the driver would make me sit with a little dark haired girl that got on the bus somewhere in between. The two of us - forced to sit together - stared intently at our shoes the entire short, but seemingly long, ride.

I had black patent leather Mary Janes. She had navy blue laced-up shoes.

In first grade blue shoes and I were in the same class. We sat in alphabetical order. The letters in our name lined up. We both had the last desk in our respective rows. We decided to give up the shoe staring contest and started a friendship that continues to this day.

During our youth, it was easy to classify Stacy as "best friend." We did nearly everything together and even when our interest grew apart, we did not. We went to different colleges. We now live in different states. Yet all the distance has done is change the way we interact - not our basic relationship. She was the first non-family member to know I was pregnant both times. And I got the middle of the night phone call the night her mother passed away. We both know that no matter what, we're still those same little girls giggling under blankets as we pretended to sleep on the floor late at night. We were naive enough to think our parents had no idea we'd raided the M&M stash or failed to snooze by bed time when we had sleep-overs.

Today we email back and forth. It's one long continuous thread of emails that don't come quite as frequent as they used to. I'm juggling two kids and a job. She's juggling an Emergency Department, a toddler and a pregnancy. It's amazing we get any emails sent off. Occasionally we get to call. Yet even these brief encounters seem to be enough. No matter the lag between our correspondence we always pick up where we left off. We don't miss a beat. She's like the old worn in slipper for my tired feet.

Yet every year since life has moved us from close proximity I miss her around the holidays. We became woven into each other's family holiday traditions. When I go to church on Christmas Eve I feel an empty space next to me where Stacy should be sitting. It's a weird feeling and it is, admittedly, fleeting as I focus on the ones that are with me.

I played driedle for the first time when I was six. As we approached the holidays Stacy told me she didn't believe in Santa. She told me she didn't celebrate Christmas. I was flabbergasted. She invited me over to help her family light the menorah one night. So I went. I listened. I learned. I played driedle. That year Stacy went to Christmas Eve service with us.

As warmer weather crept in, I was invited to a Passover meal. Stacy's father showed me how to use the prayer books they had out at each plate. They taught me their traditions. I used to run to the door with Stacy and her sister to wait for Elijah. Stacy would come to my house for an Easter egg hunt some years.

This was something we did every year. As I grew older and began to usher with my parents on Christmas Eve, Stacy picked up a responsibility also. She, with her Star of David around her neck, would stand at the door and hand out the candles used for the candle light portion of the service. She'd happily and very off-key sing every single hymn from memory as the service progressed. And each year, I'd continue to join her family one night for Hanukkah and one night for Passover.

When we were 13, I went to her Bat Mitzvah. I remember feeling flustered by the service. Not sure what was happening as Stacy sang in Hebrew. Not sure when I was supposed to turn around and face the back of the Temple. Not sure of whether or not I was allowed to sip the wine at the reception. But, I also remember being so proud of her.

The year we started college, Stacy's parents moved several hours away. It was going to be my first Christmas Eve without my pal around, but she got permission from her parents to visit. That year was her first "Christmas morning." I have pictures of her opening the hand-made earrings I had bought from another student at my college.

A few nights ago, as we drove around looking at the houses decorated for Christmas, my son asked me about a menorah he saw in someone's window. I did my best to explain it to him in a way I thought his young brain could wrap itself around. I told him about the miracle - about oil enough for only one night lasting for eight. He asked me a few more questions and I answered as best I could.

And then I found myself remembering those nights I sat in Stacy's living room watching her father, sporting his yarmulke, lighting the candle. I missed her at that moment. I missed our traditions. I think I'm going to send her off a long over due email now and tell her this. Then I might tell her how much I wish we all lived closer so my children and hers could have the chance to learn from each other the way we did once.


Is that all. . .

Earlier this week a co-worker inquired about my little imps. She was properly amused by the antics of my oldest. Before I could continue onto Meg's latest impish delights, she smiled and said "And the baby? I guess at about a year they're not much they do other than look cute, right?"

Ahh, ok.

Sure, I know that Megan's latest joy - putting a cap on and off an empty plastic bottle - doesn't sound like a lot. I know it's something that would make many adults not sharing genetic code with the little tyke roll their eyes in boredom. Yet I don't see it that way.

Sure, it's just a cap and it's just a water bottle. And ok, so she yells and complains when she gets the cap on tight but can't get it off so sometimes it's incredibly aggravating for us all. It is also, however, an incredible building block.

Today my 3 year old is learning how to use scissors. He can cut out basic shapes. He can even trim his hair. (Isn't that lovely? Blech!) He's developed the fine motor skills to manage such tasks. He didn't always have it. No, he honed that. He built that through simple, mundane, repetitive tasks such as putting a bottle cap on and off repeatedly. Over and over. Hours wasted twisting that cap on, yelling, laughing as someone else hands it back to him, and then twisting it on again.

Megan isn't just amusing herself with simple recycable trash. No, she's exercising all the physical and mental muscles she'll need some day to write her name or hold a chop-stick. She's laying the ground work for great and sometimes mudane things.

She does a lot of this sort of thing. She really enjoys working on her verbal skills. At 15-months old, there is very little Megan Rose can not communicate. She might not always use a word you can understand, but she damn well knows how to get her point across. She'll say, for example, "Ohler. Mama, ohler!"

Mama will say "Honey, I don't understand what you want."

She says it again, "Mama ohler!" She'll pull my hand to her, turn it over so the palm faces up and place a crayon in my hand. She'll push paper to me. "Mama ohler."

And so, Mama ohler's her some flowers and butterflies. She'll clap and then when she's had enough of my lacking art skills, she'll push my hand from her paper. She'll select her own crayon, stick the tip to her lips for good measure and then set about coloring for herself. If I should attempt to join her she'll glare at me and admonish me "No. I do."

She likes to cook. She insists on being held whenever we're in the kitchen - wooden spoon in her hand, stirring as best she can. She loves to feed herself and anyone else who's face gets close enough to her reach. She loves to read books. She'll flip pages and recite what she's memorized on each one. Little bits of rhyme here and there.

She follows simple directions at least two steps deep, sometimes more. She dances and sings. She climbs and climbs and climbs. She comforts. She has this keen sense when something is not right. She does what she can to bring a smile or a laugh. She snuggles and hugs. She gives kisses.

She understands more than we realize. This very day, when my coworker assumed Megan was just a cute, babbling, waddling lump of sorts, my daughter showed herself to be so much more. I called to my mom's to check on the kids. Logan had the flu - or something flu like (which I think I'm coming down with, ACK!!) Megan heard the phone. She begged for it. "Gama, Gama! Own! I do! I DO!"

I heard her breath coming slowly and expectantly through my ear piece. "Hi Megan." I said to her. I heard her surprise, her delight. "Mama." And then silence followed by Grandma's almost teary sigh.

"Do you know what she did?" my mom asked. Of course I did not.

"When she heard your voice she pulled the phone back from her ear, said your name and then kissed the phone."

Yeah, at one year old, I think the kid can do a whole lot. She certainly knows how to make your day.

Tis the season

I ought to be doing a lot of different things right now, but I'm not. Instead I am sitting at my computer blog surfing.

I could be sitting at my computer working on the family newsletter so that it actually gets into the various 'opt-in' inboxes before our friends and family celebrate their respective holidays. But that requires me to remember when I actually sent out the last issue and exactly what I had said in it.

I could be emptying and reloading the dishwasher, but that would require a degree of manual labor.

I could be lounging on my couch watching whatever I stumble across, but chances are that would mean I'd be fast asleep before my husband got home tonight from his haircut appointment. We've lived her for 7 years. The man still uses the same barber 40 minutes North. I have given up encouraging him to be adventurous enough to find a new guy.

I could be tidying up the toys scattered about - but again, manual labor.

Instead I'm sitting here resting my tired toes. My father, you see, is not allowed to go Christmas shopping on his own. It's not a health issue. It's a "poor taste in gift" issue. As soon as I could recognize that Mom would rather a ring than a vacuum I was sent off to help guide the man's choices. He's gotten much better now. He knows he can't go wrong with jewelry. Sometimes he needs a nudge to pick out the right kind, but more often than not he's really ok. It's just become a tradition. Each year just he and I go out for a day of shopping and some lunch. We were going to try to squeeze in a movie but our list just didn't allow time. It's a nice day out with Dad. It's not something we get to do often. We had a nice time. I'm just foot-weary now.

So here I sit, surfing and sipping diet hot chocolate with a candy cane melted down into it. You think my green and red stripped peppermint stick negated the "diet" part?


Scenes from a snow day

I always enjoy a good romp in the snow - unless I have to shovel it. The neat thing about having kids though, is that you have the excuse to actually play a bit in the cold white stuff. This year our first real snow fall came early for our area. It was Megan's first real chance to be a kid in winter. Last year when it snowed for the first time, she was a mere 4 months old. And, as with everything else, Logan showed himself a real "kid" now and not a baby. A good day of winter fun, showcases his growth nicely.


I'll be it

Well Toni tagged the Internet and since here I am with my little cyber existance I suppose I can count myself as tagged. I'm sitting here feeling like I want to blog something but not sure what, this meme seems to hit the spot.

Seven things to do before I die:

1. Tour Italy. We had a trip planned once and then switched it out for another dream vacation. Then arrived a child. Some day I will walk the streets of Rome and ride down the canals of Venice.
2. See my children grow to be the sort of adults I'd love to be friends with.
3. Write a book - even if no one ever reads it.
4. Visit Grand Canyon
5. Renovate my kitchen
6. Manage a marketing department
7. Take a class on photography at the local community college.

Seven things I can (or will) not do:

1. Eat peppers - blah, ick.
2. Be a good housekeeper
3. Live somewhere landlocked
4. Be a happy jogger
5. Have an affair
6. Hurt a child
7. Drive a car/truck/SUV that requires a step to get in.

Seven things that attract me to my spouse/partner/the opposite sex:

1. His empathy
2. His goofy sense of humor.
3. His blue eyes
4. His pure joy with fatherhood
5. His passion for the things that interest him (his family included)
6. His desire to travel and explore
7. His willingness to admit when he's messed up and with it, the willingness to make amends.

Seven things I say most often:

1. I love you.
2. Megan Rose, it's your brother's turn.
3. Hey Logan? Bud? Hello, you listening?
4. Tasha! LEAVE THE BABY ALONE! Don't you dare take her food!
5. Please say you're not working late tonight.
6. Yes, [bossman], of course. I'd be happy to.
7. Is it Saturday yet?

Seven books (or series) I love:
1. Little House books
2. Anything Dr. Seuss (with or without a kid to read it to.)
3. Where the Sidewalk Ends (with or without the kid.)
4. Bible
5. Collection of plays and poems by William Shakespeare
6. Phantom of the Opera
7. Wind in the Willows

Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had the time):

1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. Miracle on 34th Street
3. Hamlet (see a theme from above?)
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (I had to watch it for a class in college and it became one of my all time favorites. Apparently I have a thing for Jimmy Stewart)
5. The Sixth Sense
6. Star Wars films - although primarily because they remind me of my youth
7. Forest Gump


My little realist

Clearly my 3-year old had been pondering several different recent conversations and observations. We were driving home from a shopping trip when he exhibited he was a solid realist.

"I've been thinking," he began. "I think I'm going to get just a little bit of coal in my stocking."

"Why?" I asked quite startled that he'd think such a thing.

"Well, because sometimes I have a little bit of trouble listening. So I think I might get a lot of toys and then just a little bit of coal."


Proud of my boy

This afternoon was the church Christmas program. The little ones (age 2 through Kindergarten) don't appear until the last five minutes. They enter biting their lower lips and fretting some. They line up on risers and then sing songs they've worked hard to memorize.

Last year Logan clapped. He refused to sing.

This year he went the distance.

And he's still going. My little singer hasn't stopped belting out his tune since we got home. Ok, so he's asleep now, but I'm willing to bet if we were to stand outside his door we might hear him muttering it in his sleep.


It's easy to have holiday traditions. Something about a specific calender date or event that lends itself to ritual. Families eating the same type of meal year after year or buying a commerative gift. The littlest one presenting the oldest with a token gift. New Year's Eve customs. Predictable events surrounding a birthday. My family is no different.

But tradition ought to transcend the holidays. My parents did this, whether they realized it or not. My mother was never big on homemade soups, but she did have one - the most amazing beef-barley vegetable soup. She'd make it every year around the time frost started showing up in the mornings. And she'd make it every time we were sick. She swore the vitamin rich broth would cure us. Perhaps it did. This year I tried my own hand at it. The familiar smells filled my nose and I felt like a girl again. I've made the soup twice so far.

In the summer it was tomato sauce. My mother always had a garden and she always grew tomatoes. At the end of each season she'd make huge batches of sauce and can it. I've been doing it myself for two years now. This year Logan helped me. He delighted in his ability to squash dozens of red juicy fruits in the food processor.

My father got in on the act too. When I was reading picture books on my own my parents would buy a child friendly novel. My dad would read me a chapter a night. It's how I got through Wind and the Willows and Alice in Wonderland. I still have those books. I cherish the memories of my father stretched out on my twin bed makign different voices for each character. My son and husband are in the middle of "Charlotte's Web" right now.

I think about the way my son helps me bake now. How he pulls his chair over to the counter and scrambles up. I can imagine some day he'll watch his own child flip the switch on the mixer and he'll smile thinking about cozy afternoons in a kitchen warmed by the oven. I think about the way he'll reach for a screwdriver one day and he'll remember helping his father and grandfather fix whatever needs their attention.

I think about my daughter. I imagine she'll hear certain songs on the radio and she'll think about the way she'd dance with her Daddy to them. I imagine she'll smooth her child's hair in place and remember the way she'd sit cuddled with me in the big chair reading books or singing softly.

It makes me wonder what other traditions or family memories other's have. What passes through your day and makes you smile thinking about your childhood? What do you want your child to remember?


What a kid can do

I'm not typically squeamish over the sight of blood. It does not send my stomach into lurches or tumbles. I don't faint. I'm not about to think I could have handled going into a career in medicine, but I can handle motherhood.

At least I thought I could until I faced it.

Don't get me wrong - having a three year-old boy means having a lot of skinned knees to kiss better. It means plenty of chances to dig out the cartoon emblazon band-aids. It means Dr. Mom gets a work-out. Yet even my full-speed ahead, rough-and-tumble, tyke never gave us a real bloody crash and burn before today.

We had picked up our Christmas tree today. Logan helped us decorate while Megan napped. I had started a two-fold tradition when Logan was born. Since he's really into all the holiday 'stuff' and seems to comprehend our explanations, I decided to show him this tradition. Each year I buy my children two ornaments. The first is part of a collection of themed ornaments that I will one day hand-over to them when they have their own homes. Logan gets a Santa; Megan gets an angel. The other ornament is one I'll keep and represents something that each one is really 'into' that year. Last year, for example, Logan's was a Thomas the Tank Engine ornament. Meg's was Raggedy Ann and Andy - she was already smitten with them at a mere 3 months old.

I had picked up Meg's two ornaments already - a Dora and an angel. I didn't have Logan's. I told him I wanted to him to go with me to pick it out. We finished our decorating work and headed to Hallmark.

There's a large stretch of blacktop between the parking spaces and the sidewalk at the strip mall we went to. Logan ran across it holding my hand tight. When we got on the sidewalk he slowed as he tried to get his bearings - he was attempting to walk with sunglasses on. He typically only uses them in the car or on the beach. I'm not quite sure what happened. One minute he was next to me. The next he was screaming.

I spun around to find him lifting himself up off the sidewalk. He had clearly been face down for a moment. The palm of one hand was scraped. The left side of his upper lip was spotted with small cuts. And when he yelled I could see it in his mouth - the blood. I still don't know where it was coming from. I pressed lightly on a few teeth - nothing wiggled. I tried to peak under his lip - everything seemed in tact. The red lines of blood seemed to come from the space where his front teeth met the gum.

I held him close to me and started to feel dizzy. I walked us over near the sidewall of another store. I hugged him tight. I wanted to leave. I wanted to take him home if nothing else, but I didn't trust myself to get us there - at least not the way he was screaming. I put him down again and checked his wrist and legs for any immediate swelling. A quick glance - still blood in his mouth.

He wanted a tissue. I hesitated because I knew wiping his nose would hurt the scrape above his lip. But he insisted, so I did it. And I took the moment to clear some blood from his mouth too. He's very much against the act of bleeding. It freaks him out. I didn't mention the red stuff. He started to calm.

"Does it taste salty in your mouth?" I asked him.

He nodded. He sniffed. He wanted to know why. I lied - maybe it was dirt or something. Don't say the 'b' word. Don't get him started again.

I offered them to take him home. I told him we could come back to the store another time. He cried again. "No!" he said and the red-tinted saliva started to drip out one corner of his mouth. I wanted to cry with him. I hate seeing him in pain like that.

"No. I need my Santa and my special ornament," he insisted.

I checked him over again - no bruises appearing, no swelling, no signs of active bleeding. Ok, we'd go in.

He picked out Santa pulling toys from his bag and the current year's Thomas ornament - he's right too, Thomas is still one of his most favorite things in the world. He forgot about his fall. He went off exploring.

I almost forgot about it too. Sure we told Daddy when we got home. Heck, we even told Uncle when he stopped by this evening. But it didn't pain me as much when we did. It wasn't until he sat across from me from dinner. I noticed it then - the fat lip. The big, puffy, swollen lip.

As he lay his head down on the pillow tonight, Logan said "Today was a great today but it was also a very bad day." Of course I had to have him explain that.

"Well, it was great because we got our tree and we decorated," he explained. "But it was bad because I fell and got real hurt."

I glanced at his fat lip. I nodded and flipped off his light switch so he couldn't see my eye tear a little. As a mother to one boy and one little dare-devil girl, I know this won't be the last hard fall. I know it's not even going to compare to the first heart-break. Or the first real rejection. Or the myriad of other things that can break a mom's heart. But it was a real taste of what lay ahead.

Motherhood is amazing. I'm sure if I were the one taking 'a header' I would have hurt like hell when it happened. I might even still be smarting a bit - but I know it wouldn't have hurt my heart the way this one did. What is it about children that can intensify your emotions so much?


Like a kid again

I can still remember the feeling of overwhelming excitement the holidays would fill me with when I was a kid. I remember feeling like Christmas would never arrive. The pure giddy thrill each day would intensify in me. I outgrew that around the time I was old enough to 'host' Christmas dinner.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the holiday season, quite the contary, I have always enjoyed it to the hilt. I just didn't find myself filled with almost uncontrollable impatience.

Then I had kids. At one year-old Megan loves all things Christmas decor, yet has little idea of what is about to happen. With three Christmas seasons under his belt, Logan is counting days this year. He gets it. He knows what's coming and he can't wait. Yet, even his zeal is nothing compared to mine.

I always tried to live up to the adage "it's better to give than to recieve" but having children has made it almost too easy to do it. I can't wait for Christmas morning and it's got nothing to do with what's 'in it for me.'

I was sitting moments ago with my children watching Dora. Megan was winding down and relaxing in preparation for her nap and Logan was just vegging for vegging's sake. I was thinking, as I watched them both stare at the television like possessed little people, about the gift Meg would dive into on Christmas morning. Her "big" gift from Santa - the Dora doll I spent last weekend programing. Yes, Dora's voice box sat exposed on my desk; a USB cable connecting her to my computer. I entered her name, favorite color, foods, names of family and so on. In just 16 days, my little Dora fan will press that doll's stomach and hear "Hola Megan Rose! I'm Dora!"

I begin to giggle with the thought of it. I get excited. I get impatient. I have to fight the urge to dig the doll out now and just hand it to her. I can't wait to see her little face when Dora speaks to her. We played with the display at Toys R Us weeks ago. We typed in her name. The display said back (in Dora's voice) "Hola, Megan, I'm Dora." Meg's eyes got wide. She started to giggle. She pointed to herself and said "May-me. Dora!" (Mayme apparently is the way she's attempting to say her own name.) I can't wait to see what happens when Dora the doll has an entire personalized conversation with Megan.

And it's not just the big stuff. My future "emergency doctor" (his idea not mine) has spent the morning fashioning medicine droppers and blankets into his own little hosptial. He's going to love getting his very own medical kit care-of Santa and Fisher-Price. I smile to myself as I think of it laying hidden in the basement while he plays.

I expect this to be one of my best Christmases ever and I can only thank my kids for that gift.



I knew it when the pain in my jaw started. I have a sinus infection.

I had an inkling when Logan woke up complaining about his hear. He has a double ear infection.

I had an idea when Megan's nose started looking a lot like her brother's did. She has a single ear infection.

We've got as many antibiotics as any one residence has the right to have.

The lesson - every time we go up "north" for our Thanksgiving plaguing to the other side of the family, we come home sick. Hammy, think I can sell that one?

I asked Logan if he wanted to go see Santa. He said "I'll go look at him, but I won't talk to him."

Megan, however had to be torn away from the line to see Santa this weekend. I took her back this morning to make up for tormenting her with the nerdy pediatrician. She couldn't wait for me to put her down on the floor. She was squirming to get out of my grasp. She wanted to get closer and didn't seem to think the other kid ought to impeded that. It was her turn. I placed her on her feet and she took off. She ran right up to Santa's knee giggling and squeaking.

The old guy with the authentic Santa beard and rosy cheeks leaned forward and said "Hi there little girl."

And Megan crumbled. She got down on her knees, threw her head down onto her hands and cried. I picked up my red-headed little girl and she rested her head on my shoulder, staring at Santa caustiously. She was whispering (rare for Meg) "No, no, Santa."

Once we were safely on the other side of the display fence, she happily called to the old guy and waved at him. A older woman next to us told Meg how pretty her hair was and that she understood how scary Santa could be. She whispered to me, this woman who was easily in her late 60s, "My mother forced me on Santa's lap one year and I've been afraid of old men every since."

Lesson learned - When it comes to St. Nick my kids are hands off. Bring 'em gifts. Eat the cookies. Just don't talk to me.

Logan was practicing his scissor cutting skills. He was making reindeer. I left the room to grab the box of tissues for our infirmary. Megan tore one of his papers. He got mad. I returned to the room to find his scissors about to close on a lock of her hair. I yelled out his name. He looked up startled. He put the scissors down. Hours later he was cooperating nice again.

"Honey?" I called him. "Why did you cut your hair?"

"I didn't," he said but his told the truth. He was trying to figure out how I knew he had done it.

I picked up the small chunk of hair resting on his shoulder. I held it out in front of him and let him focus his eyes on it. "Now, why did you cut your hair?"

"That's what you do with scissors," he said sheepishly. We talked about how it's not what you did with scissors and how his safety scissors could go into time-out for now. He still wasn't grasping the big problem with his little experiment so we went on a field trip to the nearest mirror. I showed him the spot where a little wedge of hair was missing - unless you wet his hair and comb it into place you scarcely notice it. I had to rearrange a few strands to prove my point.

"See," I showed him where to look. "How does that look?"

"I look adorable!" he said

Lesson learned: No problems with the boy's self-esteem to date.



Last year when it snowed, Megan was too little to know what was happening. By the last snow fall she was newly sitting up on her own. She wasn't crawling let alone walking. She hated the snow. She hated the cold. This year, so far, is different. She loved it. She adored sledding. She loved playing. She didn't even seem to mind getting stuck knee deep in snow.

I love this photo! Even though you can't see her face, you can get the idea she's enjoying some great exploration of a new 'world.'


Times have changed

My brother and I had a ritual when we were kids. We'd pull apart the slats on our blinds, spy snow and then race to the radio. We'd sit huddled together on the floor listening for the list of closings. Our school district starts with the letter "T." On the day of a real good snow fall, it took a long, long time to get to the letter T.

My children won't have that problem. The local radio station that we used to love listening to only on snow days has gotten all 'with the times.' You can now pull up the list of closings on their web site.

The impatient part of me is loving this. The nostalgic part is mourning the loss of such a ritual. Heck, maybe this will just be our little secret. I won't tell my kids if you don't. Deal?

Footnote: Of course I have no idea why I'm sitting here refreshing the closure notice screen to see if our district is closed other than pure nostalgia. It is true that the boy has preschool on Tuesdays. It is also true that his preschool will close if the town's schools do. However it is ALSO true that he's not going to school today even if they have classes because I'll be lugging him and his snotty nose to the doctor's office. Hmmm, I think I'm going with the excuse that I'm wondering if the child will be missing anything today or if school is closed anyway. Of course this I could confirm at a more reasonable hour, no?


Nice luck you've got there

I didn't marry a man that had a heavy travel schedule. This globetrotting stuff is fairly recent. And the volume of it has grown proverbial leaps and bounds this past year. Including the trip to see his mother in September this week marks four weeks away in the last 12 weeks.

In theory, it shouldn't be that awful when he travels. I mean, my family is very close and we spend tons of time over there. I get a bit of back-up in the form of grandparents. Yet every time Bruce travels, it seems something comes up back here on the homestead.

This time, it's a handful of things.

First, there is the snow. We've got enough on the ground right now to make grass disappear. We could have at least 5 inches by morning. We've got a new snowblower I don't know how to use and no good way for me to shovel with two young children running around the house.

I could get away without shoveling except that I need to pick up a prescription at the drug store. I have, it seems, a lovely sinus infection. When I dropped off my paperwork at the pharmacy they told me I could pick my much desired pills in at least two hours. Two hours meant roughly 8pm. At roughly 8pm my children are heading into their beds. I'm home. Alone. I'm not asking the grandparents to watch children or get my drugs with the roads slicking up already. So no pills for me until tomorrow.

Then there's the boy. At 9pm he was still chattering to himself in his room. At 9:30 he was crying. He's telling me his ear hurt. Maybe an ear infection. Maybe a sinus infection. He says it's like a pressure not a pain. I'm not sure he knows the difference. Looking at his profile I can see he's got the same swollen glands I do. I can tell his sinuses are inflamed, as mine are. I just can't tell if his ear pain is like the pressure and ache I have or if it's the stabbing pain that had him in a ball crying almost two months ago.

And so yes, some how tomorrow, in the snow, I'm going to have to get him to his doctor too. And then back to the pharmacy to drop papers off with another return trip to pick up the medication.

Daddy will be home on Wednesday night. Just time to miss all the 'fun.' Nice luck we've got, huh?


Luck? I'm sure, but still

Megan idolizes her big brother. It's clear in the way she watches him. It's clear in the way she seeks him out as soon as she opens her eyes each day. She wants to do what he does and have what he has.

Lately this includes the bathroom. At three-years old, Logan is a full-time potty users. Megan, at a mere 14.5 months, is full-time diapers. Yet, the bathroom intrigues her.

Last night, with Logan away at his sleepover, Megan was the only little person in the house to be dotted on. I was getting her ready for her bath and did what we usually do. I sat her on the closed toilet seat to remove her shoes and socks. She started to giggle and pound the seat appearing between her legs.

"Pahee! Pahee! Pahee!" she chanted.

Oh what the heck. Once she was undressed I asked her if she wanted to sit on the potty. She clapped. She laughed and squeaked in that way she does when her excitement is too much to contain. I put her on and she yelled loudly for Daddy to come see her being such a big girl.

This morning, with Daddy on his way for a business trip and Logan still at his sleepover, it's just Meg and Mom. I started to dress her but once she was down to just the diaper she started to run and press down the top of her Pamper waistband. "Diap. No diap," she said.

"You want your diaper off?" I asked her. She giggled and pushed down again. "Well Megan Rose, there is no way you're going without one unless you can pee on the potty."

It's all she needed to hear. She ran down the hall yelling potty. When she got to the bathroom she was working hard at getting the diaper off. I helped her and she started to pound on the potty seat. Well, I'm no fool. I'm not about to stand in the way of a child wanting to use the toilet. I put her up on it once again. She stared down into the bowl studying it intently.

"Ok, Meg, now that you're there, you have to pee." I told her more as a way to fill the time than anything else.

"Pee," she said. And she did. She looked up at me as if she wasn't quite sure what had happened. I clapped. I fussed. I mean really, the boy is out of diapers less than a full year and although we've not been permitted to fuss over him for using it in months, it's still a bit of a reflex. She clapped too as she does whenever someone else does.

"Paba," she said and twisted to glance at the space she knew the toliet paper would be waiting in. I handed her a bit and she tossed it in the bowl.

I took her off the seat and showed her how to flush. "Bye bye!" she said as she waved into the bowl. I held her up to the sink and gave her a squirt of Logan's "Kandoo" hand-soap. "Rub rub," she dutifully told herself as she rubbed her hands under water. I showed her how to dry her hands on the towel and diapered her back up.

We came back down the hall to play some but Megan was still into potty use. She yelled for it. She cried. She took my hand and yanked on my arm urging me to follow her. I did, right back to the bathroom. She dropped my hand so she could pound on the seat and chant. I put her back up on it.

"Paba," she commanded and tried to reach the roll of paper herself.

"Now, Megan Rose, you don't get to use toilet paper unless you've peed in the potty," I told her.

"Pee," she said matter-of-factly. Then she focused. She stared straight ahead and seemed to be processing something or other in that quick little mind of hers. I heard it - the sound of fluid hitting fluid. It wasn't much, but the girl had clearly gone again. "Pee," she repeated as she smiled at me. "Paba."

I handed her a square, I mean really, who can argue with that.

I don't expect us to be a diaper free house any time soon, but frankly, I'm not about to discourage this new obsession of Megan's.


Only a mom

There are certain things that can excite only a mother. Personally I think it's one of those rare gifts of motherhood no one can really prepare you for. Seriously, no one in their right mind would think they'd proudly hang up bits of roughly cut paper glued to a larger sheet. Yet when your preschooler begins learning how to really use scissors, those 'snippets' excite you.

That's where we're at now. My son is all about snips. It's a concept they started in school this past quarter. Three year olds learning to master the skill of cutting paper can't always cut template lines. They start by having them just cut for the sake of cutting. It produces little bits of paper. The school sends them home in an envelope with instructions to each parent - we are to make a wild fuss, more or less. And fuss we do.

They do cut out objects as well. Yesterday they made Christmas trees. They spread green paint on paper with evergreens branches and then they cut out big, lumpy triangles to glue on brown ragged edged rectangles.

In our house, the hours between 4pm and 6pm are the hardest. I'm tired and frazzled by then many a day. The kids are just punchy and it's not quite time for reinforcements (aka Dad) to walk in the door. It's when I get my most creative with child entertainment. Seriously it's a self-defense mechancism.

I remembered this website that allows you to virtually cut paper into snowflakes. We started tinkering with it. My son took over the mouse as he's apt to do. He created the flake shown at the start of this post. As I watched him snip on the computer it occurred to me that we could actually apply his classroom glee with actual winter crafty fun.

I folded up the paper. I handed him his green handled safety scissors. I told him to snip. He struggled a little. He's not used to cutting through the heft of several layers. He gave up about five good full snips in - leaving chunks of removed paper around our playroom floor. He tossed the triangle at me and said it didn't look like any sort of snowflake to him. He was bummed.

I opened it up for him and handed it back. He was so incredibly proud. We hung it on the glass door that separates the main house from our playroom/sun room. We made several more snowflakes. We let little Meg experiment with the roll of tape. She, by the way, not a fan of having her fingers stuck together even if it was self-induced.

Looking at the resulting paper snowflakes now, I swell with pride. It's something so small. Something so rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things, yet as a mother it's also something so very big for a little man to accomplish.

Four years ago, I never would have guessed something so small could make me so happy. It's the gift of motherhood.


I want my handbook

He was crying. We didn't know why at first. His limbs appeared intact. No blood to be seen. No bruises. But the tears were still there.

He sobbed and tried to talk. Finally he eeked out, "But I don't want to go to heaven without my belly!"

And then it made sense. Logan's been rather consumed with the topic of death lately. It's a weighty subject for any age, but at three-years old it's obviously overwhelming. Late this summer we introduced the concept of death to him as means to prepare him for the evitable passing of three lives in his little universe.

There is my uncle, who Logan has spent a considerable amount of time with these last three years, wasn't expected to make it to Halloween, let alone the holiday season. His brain cancer continues to progress and we inch closer and closer to the day he drifts into a coma. Some mornings it's hard to wake him, which we've been told is an indication that the coma looms closer - the coma he'll not wake up from.

Our dog has more things wrong with her than right. We've had the 'big' talk a few time about when to schedule that last vet visit. For now she's got a stay until after Christmas at least, yet her health continues to detoriate and we know it's just a matter of time before we can't put it off any longer.

And then my mother-in-law faces another winter, a time of year that is always a gamble for her. Will she survive another or not? One can't say. She's in the advanced stages of both Altzimers and congestive heart failure. We thought her death was imminent this September when my husband was urged to rush up her way to see her one last time. She managed to survive that bout of pneumonia.

With all that surrounding us, we decided to prepare Logan over the summer. We talked to him in age appropriate ways rooted in our own faith-based beliefs about what it meant to die. We told him his uncle, dog and grandmother were all old and very sick. We told him that they may not be here with us much longer. We said they'd go live with God and we'd only see them in our memories and photo albums. We told him it was also ok to be sad when they died, of course.

We've not talked about it in quite a while. But Logan has a memory like a steel trap. He forgets nothing. He observes everything and he catalogs away things you don't even realize he's noticed.

Ever since Thanksgiving he's been talking a lot about death. His fears of dying - of not having his body with him, of not having his family and friends with him. He talks about fear of our dying and leaving him alone. He talks about his fear of losing everyone he loves.

I assume it's in part due to stories he's read lately that mention the 'd' word: his book on the first Thanksgiving mentions many pilgrims dying that first winter for example. I also assume it has something to do with seeing his grandmother over the holiday. I'm guessing he's associating her oxygen tank and residence in a nursing home with the talks we've had on my uncle who also lives in a nursing home now and spends his life half-paralyzed in a wheel chair.

Whatever it is, it's on his mind and it makes me feel so helpless. We try to be honest with him in an age appropriate way. We try to comfort and reassure him. We do what we can to ease his worry. But I never feel like I'm able to do enough. I never feel like I'm not floundering without a real clue. It's one of those times, as a parent, I wish I had a handbook. I wish I had someone to come over and just tell me the right thing to do.

I mentioned his concerns to this preschool teacher today. I wanted her to have a heads-up in case he mentions it in school or starts acting differently when one of those three lives ends. So far he's not brought it up but she's on the look out now. She's suggested we talk to the school administration about appropriate books. They're already looking through their library stash for us. It's all we can do and yet it doesn't seem enough.

The hardest part about being Mother is wanting to shield your child from all the pain of life and yet, not being able to. Something tells me that Logan's grief will hurt me more than any loss we experience.