Monday, December 15, 2008

Work calls, I don't answer.

How can I be expected to work when, as I sit in my favorite reading chair, the light reflects through the branches of the trees outside, bowed low with snow, crackling in the cold snap?  Clearly, I should instead be sitting still, daydreaming, puttering around my house in slippers, muttering to myself.

I'm supposed to be up in the mountains with a friend right now, but another storm is making it's way in, and there will be four more inches of snow on the ground in the morning here in Denver, which means many more up in the mountains.  We only have one car that's any good in the snow (I've been stuck several times in the Hyundai this year already, and the snow hasn't even been that bad).  Leaving Eric and the girls without transportation--especially if I was late getting back--wasn't an option.  I'm sorely disappointed.  And also not unhappy puttering around my house in slippers, muttering to myself.

There is something about giving yourself over completely to the season.  There is something to moving more slowly, and eating more.  There is something to turning away from work, even when it's calling.  There is something in the quiet.  There is the bite at one's cheeks from being outside, the excuse to hide in flannel and fleece.  There is napping, and avoiding.  There is withdrawing and protecting.  I mean all of these things in the best possible way.  I'm not seeking meaning in any of it or trying to decipher.  I'm just saying what is.

I pick the kids up soon, and will practice lying on the floor and letting them jump on me and cuddle me and tell me stories.  I'll make dinner.  I'll put my pajamas on very early.  I'll sew a friend's childhood christmas stocking, worse for the moth's wear.  I'll read. 

And probably will do the same tomorrow. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

all zen and sh*t

I have done some goofing off this week, let me tell you what.

Oh, I've gone into work everyday, and I've checked email and done a few tasks here and there.  But there was also a whole lotta goofing off.  And man, it was great.  I felt cheerful.  I actually wanted people to stop by my office and chat.  I didn't mind the girls lolly-gagging about in the morning as they got ready for school.  I went out for a few beers with friends and didn't look at my watch.  Not even once!  In fact, I didn't wear a watch!

The goofing off segued into some very enjoyable Christmas shopping today.  You may remember from my agonized posts last year that ew, ew, ew I stress over the holidays and the whole gift-giving thing.  But today I didn't sweat it.  I just bought stuff I thought was cool and that people would like.  And if they don't?  Eh.  Ain't the end of the world. 

Isn't that nice?  Isn't it nice to just buy things because you want to tell someone else, hey, I saw this, and I thought you would like it, and it's a symbol of the fact I was thinking about you?  And to not turn it into some big quantification of my commitment or my love or my generosity?

Also, I'm still going to make some gifts for people.  Cause I like doing that.  It's fun and creative, and sometimes people seem to enjoy getting handmade gifts.  But I didn't mind blowing some cash today either, because we've saved up for it and aren't traveling this year and so we can.

So there. 

Are you wondering if I got my mom a gift?  I did.  A nice one, I think, though one never knows.  She's picky about gifts, very thing-oriented and hyper-critical, reading into things a lot.  When I visited last (ugh) there was a STACK of handwritten notes at the side of my bed with weird directions about what I should and should not get her (she wants panty-hose, for chrissakes, but of a certain kind and size; I need to get her a picture of the kids, but in color only and with no frame, etc.).  I should probably have just got her something off the list.  But that was not what today was about.  I saw something I thought she might like, and I bought it, and maybe when she gets it she'll smash it or send it back or curse it and throw it in the closet or whatever.  But that's her choice.  My choice was to get her something beautiful, and to enjoy that act of buying and now giving.  And then to let go of the outcome.

Aren't I all zen and shit.  Don't let me fool you.  I'm really praying for a miracle, and that somehow we might get a chance to say a civil, normal word to each other on Christmas.  I will probably be a little disappointed if that doesn't happen, and if the day passes with no contact.  But I'm also very aware that this may happen, and I'm trying to be prepared.

Out of my hands, either way.  It will be a good Christmas, either way.  We're off to buy a tree tomorrow, and to get out all of our ornaments, mostly given to me by Mom over the years.  We'll light up the lights and then maybe start to put some presents under the tree. 

Those things are good things, and what I'll hold on to for now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More Thoughts on the Good and the Guilt

It has been a really good day.  It wasn't supposed to be.  I was in class last night until 9 and got home with a wicked stomachache--swore I was getting sick.  It was also maybe 4 degrees outside and I couldn't get warm.  I got into bed and kept trying to put my icicle-feet on Eric, who was having none of it.  I made him get up and turn the heat on and finally fell asleep.  I woke up this morning tired and feeling vaguely nauseous.

But there is a world of snow outside my windows, and I didn't have anything particularly stressful on the schedule at work (for once), and so it ended up being a lovely day.  From my office window I can see the Golden foothills socked in with fog and giant flurries.  Downtown Golden is lit up like a Lite Brite.  I got nominated for another teaching award today.  I spent most of the day making mix-tapes (okay, cd's) for my friends.  A colleague and I are going to work on an exciting new project together.  Another colleague, one I met in Britain about this time last year, finally got back to me on a paper we're going to write together (I had thought he thought what I sent him was crap and never wanted to talk to me again).  An old friend called to check on me, and I'm just about to head out for beers then go home to my sweet girls and my Eric.

Pedestrians brace against the snow and wind as they cross a street in Denver's financial district

My therapist reminded me last Saturday that what I'm going through with my mom is terrible.  I have to take the time to feel sad and to grieve and to be afraid.  I will feel guilty about having good days.  I will feel guilty about not "doing" anything to help her.  I will feel guilty about saving myself.  But I have to remember all the blessings in my life, too, and remember that I can stand on my own two feet, surrounded by all the love in the world.  

I'm thinking a lot about this.  Is that okay, that I've abandoned my mother to save myself?  I know that my leaving her and cutting her out must be painful for her, though the forms her pain takes these days are completely foreign to me.  What if something happens and I did nothing to stop it?  What if something happens and my abandoning her was the cause?  It's not that I don't think about these things.  It's not that they don't torture me in the middle of the night.

It's life really is good, though, and it's hard to let her in when she seems to poison things.  And my dealings with her since August seem to have done nothing but rile her up.  So if I try to get involved with her again, won't it be just to assuage my own guilt, and not because it's good for either of us?  Isn't my guilt for myself and not for her?

But the real questions are, and always have been,

Is it okay to leave? 

Hadn't I already left?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Let's say the universe is a giant pharmacy, distributing doses of this and that.  This is wrong, probably, and a bad analogy, but let's just say.

Let's say that yesterday the universe decided, let's give that JJ some of this drug here called "Humility."  In fact, let's give her a triple dose, just to wipe that nasty hubris virus clear out of her system for a day or two.

So, here's how the pills were administered.  First, an article I submitted to a journal got what's called in my biz an "R&R," or revise and resubmit.  This isn't terrible news, actually.  A real bummer is to get the flat out rejection.  An R&R means you either have a lot or a little work to do and there's a good chance you'll eventually get the piece published.  And two of the three reviews of my submission were quite positive.  But it does take some humility to go through three academic dissections of your work, especially when they seem to disagree with each other, and to try to make sense of them and THEN dive back into revising a paper you were just happy to get off your desk three months ago.  I'm getting used to the process, but I wouldn't say it's really joyful or anything.  A bit like a vaccination.  You know you need it but that doesn't mean you like getting the shot.

All in all, not so bad, so far.  That first pill went down okay.  Didn't even need a spoonful of sugar.

Second pill:  a friend and colleague stopped by my office yesterday.  In addition to being a friend and colleague, he also is a supremely  nice, funny guy, and a great parent--funny, patient, firm when necessary.  I doubt he has a "mean voice" to use with his kids (mine, on the other hand, is quite polished).  He and his family had come over for dinner Sunday night and, when they were getting ready to leave, Addie had her typical meltdown:  whenever anyone leaves our house (and I mean anyone) she dissolves into big-time tears, near hysterics, can't say goodbye, wails and wails.

We've really been working with her on this, which is to say trying to get her to say goodbye in a semi-normal fashion.  This involves a lot of me holding her while she's weeping and trying to talk her down as people are attempting to graciously leave.  Uncomfortable.

Anyway, this friend came to my office and recommended a parenting book so that Eric and I could try a new approach with Addie.  Totally nice, non-judgmental thing to do.  I don't think I reacted defensively.  I like reading parenting books, will be happy to read this book.  I'll probably learn a lot from it.

But after this kind colleague and friend left, I felt deeply defensive.  Crouchingly, bitingly defensive.  Doesn't he know what I'm going through right now?  Doesn't he know I'm terrified that I will be a bad parent because of what's happening with my parent?  And Addie's fine, goddamit!  Just because our kids aren't all happy-go-lucky...

Well, you get the picture.  Could have used a spoonful of sugar on that one.

Third pill.  A nasty, bitter one, but only because of the two that came before it. 

Every year, Eric and I fight over what to get his family for Christmas.  Every year he stews and stews and in the end can't make up his mind and ends up not getting them anything at all.  Except for the fact that I step in and buy something, usually totally wrong and that he hates.  Or I come up with some cockamamie scheme to just "not to do presents" at all.  My cockamamie scheme this year was to "make presents for people."

Eric is clearly not down with this.  In fact, he practically forbid me to make any of my crappy craft projects for his family this year.  It appears, therefore, that only my family (rapidly dwindling in size) will be receiving my crappy craft projects for the holidays.  He didn't put it this way, of course.  He was more, well, a man of few words, like usual.  But those words said what they needed to say, if you get my drift.

Which made me very, very defensive.  And sad.

And that's it.  Humility in three acts.  All probably deserved, run-of-the-mill dealing with life stuff.  But coming together at once, and making you wonder what the fuck.  Can't I do anything right?

Today I know that sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don't.  You can't always choose your doses.  Just how you swallow them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Hip Mama Responds

I also post these posts over at Hip Mama, one of my favorite sites/zines.  Here's a comment I got from Wildraven.  I'm posting it here because it just makes so much sense, and I don't want to forget it:

"I don't think it is possible for anyone to read about mental illness and not be sure that they have at least some of the symptoms. Can you read the word "YAWN" without yawning?

But I also think that for most of us in this kind of situation, it is impossible to truly separate out all the pieces (the parent, the child, the illness . . .) In some ways that's what defines mental illness is this deep lack of clarity. [Which is probably why you keep wanting to put things in boxes.] There's something to be said for really good boundaries (boxes). There's a time and a place for deep order.

What we (relatively) mentally healthy folks need to remember is that we are capable of adapting and responding appropriately moment-to-moment. We can weep, we can laugh, we can be furiously mad, we can be calm and sensible. The emotions themselves are not the crazy part. I have to remind myself of this every day:

I am my mother's daughter, I see her in myself every where I look. I am my identical twin's sister. But I am not them. When I feel on top of the world, it doesn't mean I have borderline personality disorder, when I can't make a decision, I'm not schizophrenia, and when I'm sad, I don't have chronic untreatable depression. I am not them, and the more I free myself from them, the better I feel. ahhhhh.

OK now I'm rambling about me, and I sound like an armchair therapist.

I hope that time and distance help. I'm not sure we can ever fully cut the thread with our mothers, but we can move forward and build beauty and joy in our own families, the way that you already do."

Thanks, WR--this is awesome.  Just what I needed to hear.

Hiding and Seeking.

I haven't mentioned that Addie is 44 inches tall, and weighs about 40 pounds.  Which means she is a string-bean, just like her old man.  We are working very hard with her on whining, on not to do it, anyway, and on learning to say goodbye to her friends when they leave the house instead of collapsing in a heap of tears.  She may look like Eric, in other words, but she's got a good bit of her mama in her.  Big emotions, big attitude, lots of opinions.  Which is all good stuff, in the right doses. 

Every night before she goes to bed she whips out this old book--a book I had when I was a kid, and then my brother after me--of Christmas carols, illustrated with Mickey Mouse characters.  Eric and I will walk past her bedroom, door closed, and hear her singing "O' Christmas Tree" or "Deck the Halls," to herself.  Across the hall, in her room, Nolie is singing ABCs.  It's a virtual chorale around here.

The girls also play a hilarious version of hide and seek, where one will cover her eyes and count sometimes to ten, sometimes not, and then the other one will hide, sometimes not, and then when one says "ready or not here I come" they both jump up, run at each other, and scream in delight.  There's no hiding, only seeking, and huge laughter and rejoicing at being reunited.  Oh, Lord, that cracks me up. 

Speaking of seeking, I continue to try to find my way in this world in which I have this new family member I've affectionately labeled "Tithtomm," or The Illness That Has Taken Over My Mother."  Tithtomm calls me late at night and whispers conspiratorial fantasies into the receiver.  Tithtomm leaves nasty messages on my voicemail.  Hearing from Tithtomm makes me sad, sad, sad, and some other emotions, too.  I finally had to block Tithtomm's number from calling.  Which was a little like severing my own umbilical cord. 

And which is also not to say I hope my mom doesn't call me again someday.  It's just to say I can't keep letting Tithtomm in.  He's naughty and mean and my personal challenge at the moment is to just let him exist without trying to control or eradicate him, but without letting him knock me over, either.  Such a Buddhist enterprise, and scary.  Sometimes hiding, sometimes seeking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thinking Inside the Boxes

I think one of the perils of reading about bipolar disorder is that I start to wonder if I have it.  I think my brother and I both worry about this, that we somehow have it running in our blood, because there seems to be a long family history of undiagnosed "problems" that for most of our lives were chalked up to personality quirks but that now, in this age of diagnosis, seem to form some sort of disturbing pattern.  I'm trying to take comfort in the fact that I may have some of the symptoms of bipolar but that my coping mechanisms and levels of functioning are pretty high.  I mean, I'm doing okay, as my Grandpa Homer would remind me.  Still, one wonders...

And things are going okay, as long as they remain organized in the boxes in my head.  If I can keep the Idaho crisis in the Idaho crisis box, and my home life in its box, and my work life in its box, and spirit in its box, then I do okay.  But if I'm at unchurch and I find myself praying for my mom and dad:  weepsville.  If a co-worker/friend asks about them or about "how I'm doing":  weepsville.  If Addie asks about her Nana:  weepsville.

That's a lot of weepsville, because of course nothing stays in its box the way it's supposed to.  Sometimes the crying is cathartic, but most of the time it's painful and exhausting.  My throat feels raw from choking back sobs, and after an episode I feel like I could sleep for days.  A bit of depression, I'd say.  See paragraph #1.  Worry, worry, guilt, guilt.  Worry, worry, guilt, guilt.  The rhythm of things.

The biggest trigger, though, is when I tell myself about what I'm going through:  mom doing x, dad feeling y, Eric saying z.  My life is one big, dramatic after-school special.  All of this just feels too, too big when looked at all at once.  If I can focus on one thing at a time, allow in moments of grace and peace, I'm okay.  If I try to make sense of it all together, collapse.

But there's lots holding me up.  Eric.  My kids.  My friends.  My family.  Work.  Spirit.  Routine.  There's lots holding me up.  One step at a time, as they say.  One box at a time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

E to the Rescue

I just had such an urge to subscribe to a parenting magazine.  Wondertime, to be exact, because one of my favorite mama writers, Catherine Newman, writes for them and recommends it.  So it must be good.  But subscribing to too many magazines stresses me out.  I don't like how they pile up, waiting to be read.  And (speaking of mental illness) I'm the kind who must read one from cover to cover, so the pressure is excruciating.  Right now, we have subscriptions to Rolling Stone, Orion, and my new-agey unchurch mag Science of Mind.  One of my bestest, loveliest friends also gave us a sub to Paste last year, but it is too stressful to be believed.  Every page has a short article on it, so reading it from cover to cover is truly daunting.  I need long narrative threads.  Paste is not long narrative threads.  I also get the feeling, like with Bust, that I really am not cool enough or young enough to be reading that shit.

Eric gets Scientific American, but I do not believe he reads it.  I could be wrong.

Speaking of Eric, here is something you should know about him:  he performs heroic deeds on an almost daily basis, including putting up with yours truly.  Here's an example:

The night before I left for the Idaho debacle, the weather report suggested it was going to get freezy and breezy, as Addie might say, with a chance for snow.  E had a migraine and had gone to bed at 8:30.  Actually, he always goes to bed at 8:30, but that's beside the point.  I also had tried to tuck in early so I could get up for the early morning flight.

Anyhoo, at about 10:30, I hear a big old thump right outside our sliding glass door, and the tinkling of kitty-collar bells.  Turns out Mei-Mei, the family serial-killer, had escaped to the great outdoors, no doubt to catch and kill as many birds and small rodents as she possibly could in a two-hour period.  Being an extraordinary climber, she managed to vault herself from one of our trees onto the master balcony.  I got up to let her in, and when I did, I heard other kitty cries, way off in the distance.  I recognized them instantly as the nails-on-chalkboard meowhines of Sadie, our fat, slightly-retarded old cat.

For some reason, I started to call her to come, Sadie, Sadie.  Of course, Sadie is not an extraordinary climber, so who knows why I was calling her to come in from the balcony.  I finally figured this out and headed downstairs in my jammies to open the back door.  It was freeeeeeezing outside and I forgot to put my glasses on and so could see nothing and was so cold.  Calling Sadie, Sadie.  Still she wouldn't come.

Finally I ventured into the blurry night calling Sadie, Sadie, and she's still going with that awful meow of hers and I get all the way to the back fence and notice, oddly enough, that the meowing is now coming from above me.

Sadie, the cat who has trouble climbing the freaking stairs, had actually climbed to the near-top of a fifty-foot tree.  My guess is she got scared up there by our friend's dog, who had paid us a visit earlier in the evening.  Either that, or she got air-lifted up there by a giant crane.  Either one.

I still didn't have glasses on, so all I could see was a giant mewing blob up there in that tree.  Still calling Sadie, Sadie.  Bitch WILL NOT come down.  Tramp back inside, cursing, cursing, wake up poor Eric with the migraine, tell him you're not going to believe this.  Poor Eric gets out gigantic extension ladder, cursing, cursing, climbs to the top of that ladder, stands on tippy-toe, wrests Sadie from the tree (she had completely sunk her claws into the branch) and brings her back down to safety.

"You owe me big-time," he says. 

He hates that cat.

He is my hero.

But I still don't think he reads Scientific American.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The King of All Bad Ideas

Well, in the history of bad ideas, my idea of going to Idaho last weekend ranks up there.  Waaaay up there.

It seems that simply the mere specter of my arrival in Idaho triggered mom into manic behavior for the past few weeks, behavior I think I had picked up on over the phone but which wasn't completely clear to me until I arrived.  In fact, dad and my brother had been telling me she was doing better.  And, in some respects, she has been doing better.  Very active, engaged in projects around the house, lost a bunch of weight, even being pleasant at times.

But then I entered the picture, and for a number of reasons that are really hard to explain, she reacted strongly to me, and in a bad way, and I ended up coming back to Denver early after some very nasty scenes at the house that I won't detail here because they're terrifying and shameful and pitiful and sad for everyone in my family.

I guess the gist is that I don't think she ever really got better since August.  I think she was able to maintain enough to resume a normal-looking life, and is incredibly skilled at acting her way through certain situations (especially in doctors' offices), but on the whole I don't think she's well.  Maybe not even remotely well.

And the fact that I seem to make her worse does not bode well for our relationship.  It doesn't bode well for my kids' relationship with their grandparents.  And I can't even begin to think about what this means for my dad, who is dealing with a pretty serious diagnosis of cancer, which he is entering into with lots of optimism and fight but which is made a lot tougher by the other fight, the one with/by/for my mom.

I'm pretty much in a daze, having crazy flashbacks of the surreal and violent moments of the weekend, having trouble concentrating, wondering what the hell happened, what will happen.  It's so overwhelming.  I feel guilty, sad, angry, you name it.  I'm having trouble accessing compassion, wisdom, and perspective, and I feel like I desperately need all three right now.  But maybe I'm just not ready.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Locating your wherewithal

Maybe part of the reason I've had a hard time writing lately is because there's just so much psychic space bound up in all this stuff with my mom, and it feels especially hard to write about being a mom when all of that's going on. 

But here we are, at the day.  Tomorrow I get on the plane to head to Idaho, and to experience some new family dynamics.  Do I even need to write that I'm scared?  That part of me doesn't want to go?  That another part of me does, and knows I must?  You know the drill.

And still life goes on.  Addie is now 44 inches tall, but still only forty pounds, an absolute string bean, like her old man.  She is going through a completely snotty phase right now, one where she answers "I know!" exasperatedly to everything we say.  I didn't expect that at 4 1/2.  It helps that it's mixed in with moments of complete tenderness, and with watching her absolutely blossom--having rich friendships, expressing herself through extraordinary artwork.

Oh, and she's reading!  Full-fledged reading.  She takes a book to school everyday--usually of the Dr. Seuss variety, her favorites--and her teachers tell me she practices the book to herself a few times, smooths out the rough patches, and then organizes impromptu storytimes with her classmates.  Lord.

And Nolie--what's to say about Nolie?  She is roly-poly delicious.  She is huggy and kissy and full of "mama-I-love-you-SO-much" every other minute.  When she's not "I can do it myself," that is.  She is exuberant and smart and sassy and resilient, and still has just enough baby fat that we fool ourselves into thinking maybe, just maybe, she's not growing up too fast.

She's also having ear infections like Addie did, so next week when I get back, it's a call to the ENT for tubes.

I miss them.  I can't wait to come back and take some days off for the holidays.

That means the end is in sight with this crazy, loop-the-loop semester.  I got nominated "Outstanding Faculty" by some student group on campus--cool, huh?  And then I was also a teacher in a class that dive-bombed like the Hindenberg.  What can you do?  You win some, you lose some.  They love you, they hate you.  Some days you're on, some you're not.  Still you get up in the morning, take your big deep breath, suck down the coffee, and off you go again.

Or maybe not.  Maybe you take some time to look at the light reflecting off the gray branches of the trees out your window, wiggle your toes.  You breathe in and out a few more times, sat-nam, sat-nam, and you remember that there is something to you other than what you do and look like and say and accomplish.  Some days you find the wherewithal to do that instead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Objects in MIrror

I was pulling out of the garage yesterday, taking Nolie to the doctor for what turned out to be a wicked ear infection, and happened to completely remove the passenger side mirror from the subaru by driving too close to the garage door opening.

I'm choosing to interpret this as a small sign from the universe, a tap on the shoulder, that this whole walking around semi-conscious thing is no good.  I can't go around shearing safety equipment off of automobiles all willy-nilly, right?  And I've been feeling depleted and sad and angry, right?  So something has to change.

I'm thinking meditation.  I haven't been to unchurch in weeks.  I've been having a ton of insomnia, busy-busy thoughts cranked up to full-throttle.  Battling the urges to control and be responsible for every little thing.  Ego in over-drive.

Things got crazy at work and with my family and so I think I figured I didn't have time for meditation, for the spirit.  It was more important to canvass for Obama or grade papers.  But that's a straight path to burnout, clearly, and the take-away is that the rest of my life doesn't work without spirit at the center.

More small changes.  I'm going to start blogging again, and doing yoga at night.  And letting some thing not get done, and trusting that other things will get done, and just re-centering.

I'm glad this happened before leaving for Idaho Friday.  I think I will need to be my centered self then, for sure.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm here

I'm here
I'm here

I've been contemplating what to do with this blog.  Keep up with it?  Let it just slowly fade away?  Start a new one?  I'm stalled out.

Today, I'm sleepy and emotional after last night.  Like everyone else I talked to today, I spent  hours sobbing and sobbing in front of the t.v. screen, watching "that one" deliver the speech, feeling freed from eight years of anger and frustration and shame.  Today I feel wobbly and unsure, hardly daring to believe things might be different, but deeply and profoundly grateful that they are. 

But, to be honest, I'm also dealing with the fact that not everything is different.  My mom is still sick, my dad is still sick.  I'm sitting here wolfing down soup in front of my monitor, trying to rally enough enthusiasm to teach a class tonight that has been nothing but draining and frustrating for most of the semester.  Dealing with the fact that I work in an organization dominated by aging men who are charming and smart and also manipulative and power-hungry.  I'm tired of fighting them and defending myself, and wondering if I'm the one who is nuts.  I'm trying to make sense of twelve-hour days, and of leaving Addie crying in her preschool classroom because she's worn out and misses me, too.  Wondering--not a lot, maybe not in a real way, but wondering--if there isn't something wrong with the choices I've made in life.  And then, I'm worried it doesn't make that much of a difference.

Basically, I've got the its-almost-the-end-of-the-semester-but-got-five-more-weeks-of-slogging-through blues.  I'm tired, and I'm cranky.  And I'm not supposed to be either on a day such as this.

So, there you have it.  Now I bet you're wishing I hadn't posted.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Made for Each Other

I was driving home from Safeway Monday--our second trip of the day, one to get eyedrops for Nolie's pinkeye, the other to get her antibiotics for ear infections--and heard this interview with Berkeley Breathed, the creator of the comic strip Opus, on NPR.

He was talking about making the switch from drawing incisive, cynical political cartoons to writing children's books, called Pete and Pickles.  I was only half-listening, really, but then Breathed said something that caught my attention.  He was talking about how the new books were inspired by a drawing his five-year-old made on a restaurant napkin, of an elephant dropping flowers on the head of a pig.  "Why is he dropping those flowers on the pig?" Breathed asked.  "Because the pig is sad, and doesn't know it," answered his daughter.

Breathed said that in that moment he had an epiphany that, even in the most difficult of times, we somehow find ourselves in the company of those "who were made for us." 

I can't stop thinking about this.  I look at Nolie, snot streaming out of her nose, hair pointing every which direction, and I think, "we were made for each other."  I sit with Addie in my lap, smell her neck, listen to her jabber, and think, "We were made for each other."  I crawl in bed exhausted every night next to my husband, who sleepily throws his arm around my waist, and know we were made for each other.

Maybe it's that the Breathed story required me to rethink what "being made for each other" meant.  I think that phrase always had a sort of sappy, Hollywood-inflected connotation for me, and I rejected it for that reason.  But now, something entirely different.  Not so much destiny, really, but solidarity.  A sense of one-ness.  A reminder that all is not lost.  There is huge grace in that.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fly Away, Run Away, Get Away

I haven't been writing lately because I've been spending my free time sewing, or hanging out with Eric, or watching Flight of the Conchords.  Or canvassing about Obama.  Or trying not to worry we're headed for the next Great Depression.

That, and I've been stuck in the horrible torture vortex known as "my toddler is two and I want to throttle her."  So I haven't had much nice to say, and this post isn't very nice either.

Somebody please tell Nolie that "Knock knock who's there apple apple peel" is not a funny joke.  Not even after you tell it one hundred times in one day, it's not funny.  In fact, it's less funny then.  Way less funny.

Somebody please tell Nolie that when she comes to me and says "mama I have a pwesent for yew" it's adorable but I know she doesn't really have a present, but just a book that she wants me to read to her.  Technically, that's not really a present for me.  You're not fooling anybody with that one, Nolie.

Somebody please tell Nolie that when she goes nuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhnuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhnuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh
for minutes on end it makes me wish I had joined the army in response to 9/11 instead of procreating.

You can also tell her that I know, I know, that when she's all wiggly at night before bed and we're sitting in the rocking chair and she won't settle down, I know she needs to poop and it completely grosses me out that she won't go on the toilet, but will take a dump in her diaper while sitting on my lap. 

AND, I can feel her pinching me when we're snuggling.  She thinks I don't notice, but I do.  I just won't give her the satisfaction.

And I won't even talk about the way these two fight, Addie and Nolie.  Lord.  What is there to do?

I'm going to D.C.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Head Full of Marbles

I have been so spacy lately.  I find myself staring for long minutes at my computer screen, thinking nothing in particular.  I can drive somewhere, on an errand say, and then have no memory of the drive.  Last night, I put some broccoli on to cook, and forgot to put water in the pan.  I just had to look up how to spell the word "broccoli."  I think I've also misspelled "spacy."  Should it be spacey?  I'm too lazy to look it up.

What the heck?  Some of these things are downright dangerous--especially the driving and the cooking things.  And it's totally unlike me, to be just floating through my days, spending huge chunks of time being unproductive and out to lunch.  Oh, I know this pleases some of you.  You can't keep going like you were, you'll say, or whatever, you have a lot on your plate, give yourself a break.  I'm just saying it's a little unnerving from where I'm sitting.  And I can't quite diagnose the problem.

On the one hand, I am able to do some things.  Like, for example, I've been doing some sewing lately.  I made this cool skirt:

I call it my "distress dress."  There's a lot of de stress in that there dress.

But mostly, I'm just being a freak.

Like, for example, this:

Which was supposed to be Eric's birthday cake, but ended up looking like a Great Dane took a big runny duke on a cake platter.

Happy birthday, sweetie.  Now, unfortunately, you've got a lot of doodoo on your plate.


Friday, September 12, 2008

a chance occurrence

I went to a new place to get my haircut today.  The idea is to not have to take out a second mortgage every time I get my hair done, but as most of you know, I've had one long year of bad haircut after bad haircut, so I had settled into one completely overpriced salon, and was just grinning and bearing it.

But now all this furor over possible layoffs at Eric's work, and so we're scaling back on a bunch of "extras" in case, come Christmastime, the good folks at Eric's work decide to let him go.  That means no traveling to visit family for a while.  That means fewer donations to the Obama campaign.  It means no new house projects.  And it means no more trips to the expensive salon.

So I try a little place by home this time.  A few minutes into the cut and the stylist asks if I work, am a SAHM, what.  I say, yeah, yeah, have two kids, am a working mom, you?  And she says I had three but my little boy--he was three years old--passed away in May, choked on a hot dog at daycare, you probably heard about it on the news.

I had heard about it.  Or Eric told me about it, actually.  I was brushing my teeth one night and he said, hey, did you hear about that kid around here?  He was at daycare and choked on a hot dog and died.  Can you imagine?

I did hear about that, I said.  I don't know what to say, I said.  I'm so sorry.  Tell me about it.

Of course my first instinct was to get out of that chair and run, run away, because my worst fear in the world is of that, of one of my babies dying in some horrible way like that.  Being in close proximity to that kind of grief, the grief of this woman who is otherwise nonchalantly cutting my hair, shampooing my scalp, putting in foils, was terrifying.

I didn't do that, run away, of course.  I talked to her about it, asked questions.  I said I could imagine how hard it must be to have that be in the news, and to have people not want to talk to you anymore because you are the walking incarnation of their very worst fears, and she seemed to appreciate that I did not break down or ignore her or offer platitudes, even though I had to check myself at every moment not to do those things.

But then I got in the car afterwards and cried.  I cried over her going over and over those pictures from the coroner's report of the plate with the hot dog--ripped into big pieces, not cut into small ones--trying to figure out what happened.  I cried about the picture of her three boys, framed in front of me at her station, the littlest one, with the glasses, now gone.  I cried about her older boy's fears and tantrums, and about the middle boy, who sat there at the daycare table while his baby brother choked to death, the daycare lady yakking out in the yard.  I cried about the clients who don't come to her anymore because they can't be near her and her pain, can't look at the picture of those boys while getting some pampering.

Ah, God.  What use are my tears?  What use is it for me to write about it here?  He wasn't my child, my chidlren are safe now, at home with Eric.  I don't know this family.  I just needed a haircut.

But that little boy...gone.  I can't get it out of my head today.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Lesson Late

What is up with my memory? 

An old college friend emailed me out of the blue last week after seeing my profile on MySpace.  "Hey!  How are you?  Remember when you did blahdiblah?  And I did blahdiblah?  And then you threw up?"

But no, I didn't remember any of those things!  I mean, I was delighted to hear from this person, and our conversation jogged a few foggy old memories out of the dusty hiding space they've been stored in, but for the most part, I get the feeling that there are entire swathes of my life history that I have forgotten, or don't understand, or that no longer make sense.

Contrast this with Nancy, who remembers every song lyric every written, every minute of her college years and can recount them with hilarious precision, every friend she's ever had.  Or my grandmother, who claims to remember being a newborn, and can also recall every wrong ever done her.  Ever.

And it's not just my college years.  If it was, I could just explain that by the fact that I was drunk for most of them.  No.  It's huge quantities of my life.  It's people who were dear friends.  Events that shaped who I am.  Decisions made.  If they don't fall into some of the biggest metanarratives I tell about myself, they're gone.  Vanished. 

What the hell?

It's disorienting, this incredible loss of detail.  I mean, to some extent, I think it's probably enabled me to go full speed ahead with everything.  You ask me how I do "it all"--work, mothering, wifing, whatever--and maybe it's this:  maybe I sweep old things, things that aren't being used at the moment, out of my brain, to make way for new, more immediate stuff.  Maybe it's how I deal with pain.  Or maybe it's not such a big deal, nothing quite so deep as all of that.  Maybe I shouldn't worry about it.

Except that I'm starting to miss some of it.  I'm wishing I had my own personal "This Is Your Life" episode, so that I could be reminded of the amazing, wonderful people I've forgotten, and the experiences I've had.  Even the mistakes I've made.

This has been embarrassing at times.  I remember going home to Boise once, in my twenties, and going out dancing with a guy I was dating.  We ran into a bunch of people who clearly knew me, whom I went to college with, one I had even dated.  And I couldn't remember them at all.  Not even a little.  This was a terrible feeling, and I knew they were hurt.  But it just wasn't there. 

I used to keep scrapbooks, pages and pages of prom pictures and love notes and compressed helium balloons.  I threw a bunch away a few years back, wanting to rid myself of reminders of then, the not-me, the not-now.  The rest are in storage somewhere.  But even those contain just bits of stories.

It's not, by the way, that I haven't lived a great life.  I have.  I feel its fullness so much sometimes--am so filled with gratitude--that it's overwhelming.  I feel most of it deeply, live feelingly everyday.  Which is why I often don't take cameras on trips; I want to just be there, be in the moment, and live it, rather than frame each second.

But that leads to this predicament:  an overall sense of well-being and prosperity, and an almost complete lack of detail, relief.  Will I ever get those moments back?  Is there a way to remember again?

I think a big part of it is that I've lost so many friends over the years, from high school, college, grad school....  There has been nobody to reminisce with over these years, nobody to remind me who I was, and to love me or forgive me for it.  It's partly why I'm so envious of all of you who have kept everyone in your life.  Maybe that's been the biggest loss of all:  not the memories, but the connections.  I've gained a lot, moving forward so fast, and have lost tons, too.

Which is also probably why I remember the last seven years better than the 25 before, too.  Because we've been here since 2001, have built friendships and connections, and try to sustain them as best we can.  So memories of me are out there, and my memories are embodied in those around me, and so there is access, and sharing.  A good lesson to learn, but I'm sorry it came so late.

Weird how these things happen, isn't it?  The way the past calls to you when you least expect it?  I'm getting doses and doses lately.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Just What You Wanted To See More of Today

I'm sure every blog on the planet is weighing in on the Sarah Palin thing, and for that reason I wasn't going to be one of them.  I think she's appalling for a number of reasons, but I'm also a bit delighted she's on the ticket because it seems like such a fool move for McCain to make.  I hope I'm not proven wrong.  I often misread these things.

But then this interesting comment posted here at toddlerspit:  "What do you think about a woman with 5 children (one baby) campaigning for VP?? Am I sexist for wondering and worrying. YOU know how difficult it is to give 2 children the attention they need."

Huh.  I hadn't even thought about this.  I mean, I know the down's syndrome kid is in the news, and the pregnant teenager, but I hadn't thought about worrying about those five kids not having access to their mother because she was busy being veep.  Maybe this is for a few reasons:

1)  The woman makes a six-figure salary, on top of whatever her husband makes, and I'm guessing that buys some pretty darned good childcare.  So I'm not so much worried about Sarah Palin's kids.  I am, however, worried about people who can't afford healthcare, daycare, education, etc. for their kids.  Which is why I would never vote for a McCain-Palin ticket.

2)  I have no idea what kind of mother this woman is now, or whether taking this new job will make her worse or better.  Honestly, she seems like some kind of foreign species to me (shooting animals from a helicopter?  Not supporting abortion in cases of rape and incest?).  It seems to me that some leaders throw themselves wholeheartedly into, well, leading, and others don't.  Is she someone who takes a lot of vacations?  Is she nice to her kids?  Does she discipline them?  Does she spend time with them?  All questions I don't know the answers to.  And having those answers probably wouldn't sway my opinion about her as a vice president, anyway. 

3)  Is it sexist to ask that question?  Maybe.  More importantly, I really don't care what kind of mother she is.  Maybe that's silly.  Maybe that's short-sighted.  Do I care what kind of father Barack Obama is?  I guess I wouldn't want us to elect a child molester or draconian taskmaster or something, but when someone is running for high office, you have to know that their families are going to take a hit no matter what.  It's public service.  It's about sacrifice.  Which maybe is why so many of these dummies end up having affairs--they just can't sustain the family lives and close connections they need.  I don't know.  But it's not like their kids are out on the streets, either.  They've got big, big support networks and resources.  See #1.  Mostly I remember that focusing too much on the personal lives of these people really obscures the incredible power they wield to fuck things up (or make things better) for the rest of us who live in the world.

4)  I know there's all sorts of stuff being written about her inexperience, her fiscal ineptitude, her unethical actions in office.  I know that a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters find McCain's choice obscene.  I know the liberal bloggers are supposedly salivating over her family dirt (whatever).  But we're still a long way from November.  Palin's cute.  She's appropriately, appealingly feisty in person.  She's conservative.  Those five kids are going to be worn as badges of honor (just like that teenage kid getting married and having that baby are).  If anything, she'll probably just get the christian right excited, which they weren't so much, over McCain.  And that's probably the point.  I don't think it has anything to do with swing voters, or disillusioned  Hillary supporters, or anything like that.  I think it has to do with images and photo ops.  If those kids deserve any sympathy, maybe it's because they are now empty signifiers, pop-up balloons that flesh out the image of the perky, feisty Palin.  But what political kids aren't?  Fact:  images are powerful.  Fact:  we have to remain vigilant to not be fooled by images.  Fact:  We have some power to redirect the agenda/discussion back toward things that matter and away from this b.s.

5)  I'm way more worried about her retro stances on women's rights, energy policy, and ethical standards in government than about her five children.

So, not dumb questions, or dumb to ask those questions.  Good things to think about.  But the choice of Palin feels pretty much meaningless to me, on many counts.  It's an unsurprising move on McCain's part.  It doesn't change the real work that remains to be done.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The kids' school was closed last week to transition from summer camps to the fall curriculum, and so Eric and I traded off days staying home.  The timing was not ideal, seeing as school for me had just started, and things were (are) coming to a head with my mom, and so on, but then I found myself settling into it and enjoying it anyway.  I took the kids swimming every day, then left them in the Y daycare for an hour or so and swam laps or lifted weights myself.  Then home for lunch and quiet time, then afternoons playing outside or at a friends' house, or just hanging out. 

My school stays open on Labor Day, so I'm back at work today while Eric stays home.  Their school starts tomorrow.  I reminded the girls of this last night on the way home from a friend's birthday party, just to mentally prepare them.  "No AmyGabby day!  No AmyGabby day!" yelled Nolie from the backseat (Amy and Gabby are her teachers, amazing, loving women both).  Addie joined in, "No fall school!  No fall school!"

I can't blame them, really.  We had a lovely week, and when Eric and I are both back at work full time, everything is just busier and the kids, frankly, don't get as much attention from us.  We're both pretty well fried when we get home, and it's hard to transition from work-head to home-head.

I have to also remember they both like school, love seeing their friends, and learning, and love their teachers, mostly.  They're thriving in that environment.  We devote weeknights and weekends to them almost exclusively--tired as we might be.  So they're surrounded by love and good things.

That said, I like having these days home with them, and plan to do more of it.  Last year, they were in daycare no matter what--even when we had to pay extra to cover the days their school was closed--because my work felt so hectic and important (geez).  This year, I'll just be taking those days off and feeling thankful for them.

Anyway, a boring post.  You're wondering how my mom is, and how I am.  I'm feeling enormous gratitude for the circle of friends and coworkers who have agreed to call me everyday and hug me and send me their loving thoughts.  I'll write more about all of that when I'm ready.  For now, I'm just back at work and missing my kids.

Monday, August 25, 2008

brave and fast

Nolie has pooped on the potty twice now, which I take as a personal sign from God that I am still loved.  Cause many of his messages these days seem to come wrapped in turds. 


Can I just say for the bajillionth time that my girls ARE GROWING UP!?!  And that I have completely mixed emotions about it?

Example:  I am holding snuggly little Nolie in my lap at the dinner table last night, and she is all chubby and yummy and adorable.  Eric and I are completely in the moment, grinning at each other with the delight of it all, and he says to her, "Nolie, just don't grow up, okay?  Just stay exactly the way you are.  No more growing!"

And she says, "No, daddy!  I growing!"  And I say, "No, Nolie!  Don't grow!"  You know, all kidding like?  And she turns to me and smacks the crap out of my face.  It was a slap that should have been in a movie.  It was that perfect.

Moment over.

Then, tonight, we're at our monthly neighborhood potluck (which fills me with oodles and oodles of gratitude, btw) and Addie is being a little shy because there are probably a dozen kids running around smacking each other with light sabers and they're mostly boys or older girls.  All night I encourage her to go play, introduce her to the other kids, who politely nod their heads at me before running off.  I hug her and love on her and tell her it's okay, just go play. 

Then, finally, near the end of the evening, she comes up to me and whispers, "Mama?  I'm going to go play with those big girls now because I'm brave and also I'm fast."  And I swell with complete pride at my little one.  I watch her trot over to a little girl who is six and very busy, and Addie stands in front of her, throws her shoulders back, smiles, waves, and says, I'm Addie! and the girl blows right past her, knocking her down.

Heart:  million pieces.

Don't grow up.  Don't do it.  No.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

and through the woods

There's no good way to organize my thoughts about all of this.  I could tick off each of the emotions, cycling every hour:  fear, guilt, gratitude, anger, sadness.  I could list the terrible things said, the knot of relationships that makes this all so complex.  Could work through the reasons I haven't gone yet.  The reasons I'm still here.

But it's all too big to think about and write about.  I've been burying myself in the busy.  Eric's dad and stepmom were here this weekend, the kids demand my attention, I've been reverse applique-ing every piece of clothing I own, like a neurotic little Cinderella with an embroidery addiction.  I've been sticking to my chores and my workouts.  I work, though was recently scolded by a colleague for being too "hasty."  "Keep your eye on the ball," he warned.

I've also been turning the wrong way down streets I take everyday of my life, badly burning myself on the curling iron or pot of boiling water, forgetting to make the kids lunch, grinding my teeth at night, having nightmares.  I dream someone dangerous barges into my room and I can't lock the door.  I'm overeating.  Wanting to shop.  All the little crumbs of anxiety, leading me deeper into the woods.  I'm in two places at once, and so am in neither fully.

"You don't have to save her," my therapist says.  "You have lots of responsibilities here.  You can't save her.  Do you hear me?  It's the hardest thing you'll ever do, but you can't save her.  It's absolutely tragic, and awful.  But you can't."

What, then? 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Out With It

I wasn't going to write here about what has been going on with my mom.  I was worried about violating her privacy, mostly, but also figured that what was happening was an isolated event. 

It seems I was wrong.  I think her being sick is now a part of my reality, and probably will be for some time to come.  I think her recovery is going to be a long-term process.  I know that it is affecting every part of my life, most of my days, and how I move through the world. 

I don't know how this will work, exactly.  I don't know how to collect the bits and pieces into a coherent narrative that allows me to talk about what this means for me and for us, our relationship.  I might make some mistakes.  I hope you, and she, will bear with me.  Maybe my dad won't print these out for her to read.  Maybe not for a long time.  Maybe never.

Maybe we'll just start with the basic chronology, and see where things go from here.

Nine weeks ago, mom had a total knee replacement.  This is the first major surgery she's had since I was little, and she was in a lot of pain.  Her doctor was not good about responding to what seemed to her family like excess pain, but my parents stuck with this doctor, and mom just dealt.  Mostly, I just tried to listen to her, and to sympathize.  When I went up to Idaho for my grandfather's funeral, I tried to soothe and comfort her, and to let her know she wasn't alone.  It seemed like she responded to this, and that her pain and spirits were temporarily better.

Then I came home, though, and she was alone again.  I see now that she experienced this as an abandonment, much like the one she went through as a child when her mother left her with friends and family for a year.  This, and a postpartum psychotic breakdown she experienced when I was four, have been the defining moments of my mom's life, I think.

Two weeks ago or so, she finally couldn't take the pain anymore and had my dad take her to the ER.  I think they tried some new drugs then, and that gave her some temporary hope, but it was at that point that I noticed she was sounded different on the phone.  Odd somehow.  I had one particularly frustrating phone conversation with her where I was trying to argue that they needed to go see a different knee doctor, one who would manage her pain.  That she shouldn't probably be going to the ER six weeks after a surgery, for pain.  That there was something wrong.  She responded that I was being overemotional and became irrational herself.  I realized later she was speaking to me like she did when I was thirteen, an out-of-control kid.  But I wasn't out-of-control.  She was.

I think that's when it started.

Last week, it was back in the ER again, but this time because she was having breaks, slips.  Psychoses, just like she had when I was a kid, I think.  Two days in the state mental hospital--which is not a nice place--followed.  Then more ER visits.  More horrible, painful, convoluted, distressing phone calls.  More terror.

Then last night, which was really bad.

Now she's in a small residential care place.  But she can only stay for five days.  I am wondering what will happen after that.  I am wondering whether I'm going to get my mom back.  I'm wondering if it's all new now, if we will have to develop all new strategies for communication, all new ways of being together.  And I'm wondering all of this thousands of miles from her, while I'm trying to raise my own family, and handle my own crises, and live my own life.

I don't have anything pithy to end with.  No clarity or words of wisdom.  Just a lot of fear and sadness and wondering.  I don't know if it will make sense to write more here or not, about this.  Here we are.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Foul Winds

Here's another good thing to remember:  sometimes when people are giving you honest feedback, it's actually their own bullshit they're feeding you.  I'm not saying it's a good idea to always be like, "Hey, I don't need to listen to what you're telling me, you're just projecting, I'm really over here on solid ground."  I mean, if there's a fairly good mass of evidence indicating that you've got a problem to work on, you might want to listen to that.

I'm just saying it's good to also remember that other people have their own stuff to deal with, too.  And sometimes they shovel that stuff your way, not really meaning to.

My mom's pretty sick right now, and I can't write about it too much because it's her private struggle, and I don't want to betray her trust or tell her story without her permission.  But the past few days she's said some things to me that I don't think she meant to say.  I didn't know she didn't mean to say them at the time, and I felt them pretty deeply.  I mean, really, they knocked me off my feet pretty good.  Now I know that wasn't really her talking, and that all that pain I felt was me being overly receptive to someone else's critical words.

Or, I have some friends, who don't have kids, who are struggling with their friends who do have kids (and sometimes with me).  They are feeling all sorts of loss about this, and wondering why anyone in their right minds would want to have children, and are sad and angry that kids take up so much of their friends' time.  I get this, and I have a lot of compassion for it.  Loss is loss is loss.  But also?  This stings a little, personally, because it feels like I've just let someone else down.  I'd like to make everyone happy, and it's so hard to be a good friend and a good parent, and also work and work out and volunteer and think about making the world a better place and also find time to take a shower in the morning, and I just would sometimes like to tell my friends without kids to freaking be a little patient, because in a few years, my kids will be older and then I can pay everyone some more attention, okay?  And I love my friends.  Would be lost without them.  Know their feelings are real.  But Christ's sake. 

I'm just saying.  It's good to find your own ground, and to look down at it, and to see your feet anchored there, and to not get blown over too easily.  Hurricanes are a good sign your ground needs to shift, that you're trying to hold too tightly to a position that isn't tenable anymore.  But a cranky, foul wind from the next state over might mean the next state over has the problem.  You probably shouldn't let those blow you over quite so easily.

You know what I mean?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bed, Coda

I just went back and re-read that post and had to laugh at myself.  It's so Stuart Smalley. 

Am feeling better now that the caffeine has taken effect.  Going to go have a bit of a walk now and get out of my office.   Thanks for indulging my self-indulgence :).

Thoughts from the Wrong Side of the Bed

I am feeling lots of frustration at this personal growth stuff.  It's elusive and slow, and I struggle to find and trust my own perceptions.  I'll have a big realization about myself, like, "Hey!  You're a perfectionist!  Which both enables you to accomplish a lot and inhibits you from fully living your life and having intimacy with others!"  For some reason, I think that realizing something like this and allowing it to actually change my life are the same thing.  Then I'm disappointed when, months or years later, I have the same big realization about myself.  "Hey!  You're still a perfectionist...!"

Here's the thing about being a perfectionist.  It allows me to convince myself that others might see me as perfect, and that creates a lot of pressure to maintain things around me, and to try to tightly control my environment.  Then, when my loved ones lovingly (or brutally, depending) remind me that they see all my glorious imperfections and distasteful flaws, have seen them all along, I wasn't every fooling anybody to begin with, I feel shattered.  Blown to pieces.  I forgot to simply appreciate the fact that I AM SEEN, and that I'm worthy of love despite those flaws.  Instead, I embark on a campaign of mean self-talk and flagellation, trying to whip those flaws out of me.  Which, to my great consternation, seems to only make them worse.

Here's how the list might go:

I talk too fast.
I'm too self-absorbed.
I'm a shitty listener.
I care too much about keeping the house (or office, or car, or whatever) clean.
I'm easily hurt.
I'm easily defensive.
I isolate myself.
I think I'm the greatest!
I think I'm the worst!
I have trouble showing others love.
I get too focused on one thing at a time and miss the big picture.

I could go on, but you get the picture.  I don't know--what picture does it paint?  Classic type A?  First born?  Control freak?  Obsessive compulsive?  Over-emotional?  All are words friends and family have used in the past few weeks to describe my behavior.  All feel unfair, incomplete, apt, frightening.

Wouldn't it be interesting to come at this a different way?  To view myself with some compassion and amusement?  Wouldn't it be fruitful to accept some of these painful criticisms as observations and not condemnations?  To rephrase them as:

I am an enthusiastic communicator who wants to share my perspective with others.
I appreciate, get inspiration from, and feel safe in physical environments that are ordered and beautiful.
I care deeply for my friends and family, and like to feel I'm important in their lives.
I have a lot of self confidence, which enables me to try new things, meet new people, and find joy in accomplishment.
I'm receptive to feedback from others.
I enjoy practicing and mastering new skills and abilites.

These sentences don't sit easily with me.  But I have a sense that reframing my relationship to imperfection is going to be important if I'm to keep growing.

Blech.  I guess this is why they call it "working on yourself."  It definitely feels like work.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I Two

Nolie turns two tomorrow, a fact she's been announcing for weeks now by proudly stating, "I two!" (or, sometimes, "I toot!").  She also frequently trolls around the house singing, "Happy durday to you!  Happy durday to you!  Happy durday dear nonie, happy durday to you." 

We chose to sneak under the radar yet again this year and not throw a party (we'll have to soon enough, I know).  Instead, when she woke up from her nap on Sunday, there were some presents wrapped up for her, and balloons and streamers around the house, and a strawberry cream frosting cake Eric made from scratch.  We did the same for Addie on her 2nd birthday, who silently delighted in the glittery wonder of it all, with a sort of "For me?  Really?" look on her face.

Not Nolie.  She finished unwrapping her gifts and sat there, fairly unimpressed, and for the rest of the day demanded "Where nolie presents!?!" as if they would just keep magically appearing all day long, there for her to scoff at and discard.  And she wouldn't eat Eric's cake, either.  Maybe she remembers last year, when I accidentally allowed her to burn herself on her one birthday candle, and now she's scarred for life.  Maybe she's just an ice cream girl.  Whatever the explanation, she turned her nose up at that cake (which took, literally, HOURS for Eric to make) and wouldn't even try it.

I sound miffed writing this, but I'm not.  I love Nolie's implacability, her refusal to get hyped up just because the situation demands it.  My goodness, is she her own person.  So different from Addie, and developing all on her own.

I'm not saying parenting and environment and "nurture" don't have anything to do with it--obviously these things matter a lot.  But the more I hang out with my kids and get to know them as the grow into themselves, the more I think about how they are their own little stars, emitting pinpricks of light in unique ways--light that stuns, burns, soothes--entirely apart from how I try to direct or shape them.  It makes me wonder how much of who I am is determined by genes rather than by upbringing.  I mean, there's a time in your twenties, right, when you find fault with your parents for everything you grapple with?  You can trace every little behavior or tendency back to them.  But perhaps that's just as much genes as upbringing.  How strange to come in conctact with the idea that there might be nobody to blame but the double-helix...

But maybe this explanation is only appealing because I'm now a parent and don't want to be held responsible, in case my kids turn out to be brats or worse.  Maybe I'm blind to what exactly it is I am passing on to them, behaviorally.  I have no doubt that I'm an important figure in their lives, and that how I act deeply matters.  But who knows how they'll turn out because of, inspite of, despite our relationship?  It's impossible to parse, and yet boggles my mind just the same.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Panic at the Library!

Do you know what's the worst?

When your husband has to work late and so you decide to go and do something fun with the kids, and so you decide to take them to the library, and it turns out to be a total fiasco?  It even starts out bad with them whining they don't want to go one minute and then the next minute they do?  But then they get in the car and because it was 100 degrees today the seatbelts are like molten hot metal and so they start screaming "It's hooooooooooooooooooooooooot!" and "Mommy!  Turn on the air conditioning NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!"  And you want to say something stupid like, "How do you think kids in the Sudan feel, you little brats?" but you don't, you just bite your tongue and get in the car and get going?

And then you get to the library and see a friend in the lobby and stop to say hi and meanwhile your two kids have shot like darts into the library and are running and screaming around like frat boys at a Girls Gone Wild convention, and you haven't been there two minutes and already the librarian is giving you that look like, "What the fuck, lady?  Can't you control your kids?  Some people" and you're carrying three large bags with all the books you have to return and trying to get your kids to help you put them in the slot and then all of a sudden your toddler has to pee?

So you haul all the books and the two knock-kneed, tripping kids into the bathroom and the toddler starts screaming, "NOPOTTYNOPOTTYNOPOTTY" like you're beating her about the head with a trash can lid and then your preschooler, always curious, turns on the electric hand dryer and your toddler absolutely wigs out because in the past three weeks she has developed an obsessive fear of fans and that is most definitely a fan?

Then you finally get all the kids and all the books out of the bathroom and get the old books returned and go to get new ones and your preschooler knocks over some little kid because she wants the Ruby doll she's playing with and your toddler owns nothing even remotely close to an inside voice and the librarian is looking at you again like "You and your kids are what's wrong with this country, lady, ever heard of a little thing called discipline?" and you are like shrugging your shoulders and grinning sheepishly instead of whispering to her to fuck off, which is what you'd really like to say?

And then because of budget cuts and our society's love affair with the mechanized (fuck you, too, Taylor, and up your ass, Ford), the librarians don't actually check books out for you anymore you have to do it yourself and the machine is malfunctioning and won't read board books and your toddler has wandered behind the circulation desk and your preschooler is making snow angels on the carpet (which I guess would be carpet angels) and some guy is yelling loudly that he wants a new library card but can't make himselaf heard over the din of your ill-behaved children?

And all three of you leave crying? 

That's the worst.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Yang It

A friend watched the kids for a day recently so that Eric and I could go to a music festival in town.  We got home late so she ended up staying overnight.  She was cheerful about it, and the kids love her, but before she left, she said (I paraphrase), "Everytime I babysit, it makes me want to have kids less and less."

I get where she was coming from.  It's pretty much exhausting to watch two kids who aren't your own.  You're a novelty to them, so they're extra demanding.  Plus, you want to be entertaining, so you're less likely to pull the "You kids go play by yourself for a while so mommy can look at this J. Crew catalog" line, the way I can and frequently do.  And, as another friend puts it (I paraphrase), "I don't really like kids.  Or dogs.  Unless they're my own."

But here's the thing.  When they are your kids, there's a lot to be gained from it.  In addition to love and entertainment and fullness, you get discipline.  The discipline thing is the main thing, really, because you can get love, entertainment, and fullness without kids, though they are of a different sort.  Nothing disciplines you, however, like having children.  Especially when you can't run away from them, must be nice to them, must try to raise them to be decent, even interesting, human beings, when you yourself are feeling like a fussy child.

Take tonight, for example.  The kids and Eric get home at 4:30, and he starts making dinner.  It's our day to take lunch to Nolie's class of toddlers tomorrow, Addie's lunch has to be made, all the crap from school has to get put away, and I have a killer stomachache.  The kitchen's a mess.  Plus not a very productive day in front of the computer working on a new paper.  The kids alternate screaming like screaming screamers with sweetly hugging and kissing each other until one of them starts screaming again.  Plus I have PMS and would really just like to curl up and watch reruns of Project Runway, or practice playing some new songs on the piano, or work on a stitching project I've just begun. 

Anything but be with my children, who demand my attention.

Then I realize, though, that my problem (aside from the hormonal crankiness and sore tummy) is precisely that I am somewhere else, have not given myself over to the situation.  Lying there on the couch wishing I was someone else somewhere else was a sure ticket to misery in that moment.

So the discipline was to get my ass up off the couch, do some dishes, make the toddlers their lunch, make some tea for me, and sit with the kids and Eric while we all horsed around and raucously played our tambourines and did headstands.  Et, voila!  I was instantly happy.  Because of the discipline of abandoning what I thought I wanted in that moment and just being in that moment.

That is a lesson I don't think I ever would have learned on my own.  Not that people without kids can't--they can.  I just don't think I would have been one of them.  This has expanded my capacity for love, entertainment, and fullness in ways I hadn't imagined before.  This is why, when my best, most beautiful friends tell me they have to do work on themselves before they can even think about children, I tell them don't bother.  You'll have plenty of chances once they get here.  And you probably won't do what you need to do without some sort of kick in the ass.

Kids can be that kick (pain) in the ass.  Because they require discipline.  Love them to death.  Pain in the ass.  But just the kind I needed.  My yin just got yanged.  All I know is the more I babysit, the more I want children.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Goodbye, Impaling Death Stick

So, here's a parenting break-through for you:  being nice to your kids is more effective than being mean to them.  Let me see if I can explain.

Example:  We've had a five-foot bamboo stick in our backyard for a while.  It was staked to a fast-growing tree we bought online, a tulip poplar.  Anyway, Addie took to it immediately, because she's a nature girl and loves sticks and stones and leaves and dirty and all things outside.  She's been racing around the yard with it, causing Eric and I much trepidation.  It's a miracle she hasn't impaled herself on it, and why we let her keep it for so long, I don't know.

We were all hanging out outside tonight after dinner, and Addie comes onto the porch with the bamboo impaling stick and, because she's not terribly spatially aware, managed to jab me in the neck with it, hard.  "Ouch!" I yelled, jumping out of my chair.  "That's it!  No more bamboo death stick!"  And I grabbed it away from her.

Or tried to, at least.  Because she was holding on tight.  I literally could not get it away from her.  "Addie, let go!"  I yelled.  "Addie, let go!" her dad yelled.  It took both of us to pry it away from her and then what was there to do but give her a time out?  I mean, if both of your parents are yelling at you to let go of the damned stick, you damned well better let go.  Right?

Well, not really.  I realized as I was shutting the bedroom door on Addie's crumpled, in-time-out little body that I had been the one who messed up.  I had let her keep the stick in the first place, even though it was all sharp on one end like a gnarled little dead monkey paw.  I had over-reacted when I got stabbed and had grabbed something she valued away from her.  I, in short, had acted like a child.  And then had to punish her when she acted like one in return.  Bad news.

I'm guessing it would have worked much better if I had kneeled down in front of her and explained why we had to get rid of the stick, and since she's a pretty reasonable little kid, it probably would have worked out a lot better than it did when I freaked out.

You know, sometimes I think I've got the parenting thing figured out, and then I realize how much I have to learn.  Man.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nolie's Awesome

Know how I know?  Because she runs around the house, usually clothed in, oh, say, a pair of Elmo underwear (if we're lucky), screaming, "I AWESOME!  I AWESOME!  I AWESOME!"

Potty training proceeds apace.  She has one or two accidents every day, then every fourth day or so, she has, like, ten accidents all in a row.  And she is definitely not down with pooping on the potty yet, so she's plopping some huge ones into her underwear.  Good news is she doesn't like keeping them on once that happens, which tells us she likes the feeling of being dry.  Bad news is that means you might inadvertently step into a big turd that got dropped on the floor somewhere around the house, unbeknownst to you.  Nothing like a poodicure to make one feel pampered.

But, strangely, I'm not stressing it.  All of that neurotic anxiety from the Addie potty training days seems to be gone.  If I have to pick a turd up off the floor, so be it!  If Nolie wants to pee the tiniest little mililiter of pee, and then say, "All done!" and then five minutes later we have to go through the whole rigamarole of panties, wiping, flushing, washing hands, turning the light off, shutting the door, and then five minutes later releasing another little nanomolecule of pee, great!  I'm cool.  I'm riding the potty training wave, man.  Mostly I'm just impressed with how consistent she is, overall. 

We have had one unfortunate incident, though.  Because our children are potentially the pickiest eaters on the planet, if ever we're brave enough to take them out to eat, we tend to go to Chili's.  Now, I am not a Chili's fan--except for the chips and salsa, which I would eat until Maury Povich had to come and cut me out of the house--but they serve Kraft Mac n Cheese and pasta w/red sauce, which our children will actually eat without complaining.  They don't have many vegetarian options for me, which is a bummer, but at least we can sit and eat a meal out, as a family, in relative peace. 

Except for last Friday, which was like the perfect storm of unfortunate restaurant experiences.  First, I took Nolie to the potty right off the bat, hoping to avoid an accident in the booth. 

Have you seen that horror movie Dark Water?  Here's an image: 

This is sort of what Nolie looked like after the toilet at Chili's basically threw up black water all over the both of us.  I, being the nelly little pansy I am, screamed when this happened, which you're not supposed to do as, you know, the grown-up, and Nolie, covered in sewage backwash, took my cue and panicked.  I was sure she would never sit on a toilet again.

But we got her dried off and calmed down, and the manager offered to comp the kids' meals, so we stayed.  Unfortunately, we soon discovered that Chili's no longer carries marinara (why, for the love of God?!?) and so Addie had to eat (the torture!  The cruel punishment) PIZZA!  Lawd a mighty, Miss Addie, how will you ever survive?  And then when the kids' food did come, it was cold.  Refrigerator cold.  Like some addle-brained cook back there just pulled it out of the freezer and was like, oh, they're toddlers, they won't notice we didn't cook their food. 

The manager then personally brought us new kid food, warm this time, and was kind enough to comp us four kid meals on the check.  Like this would make us feel better?  We didn't order four kids meals, mother fucker!  We ordered two!  You just messed up on the first round!  So hell, yes, you're "comping" that!  Take your cold pizza and your vomiting toilet and shove them up your ass!  We're going to Appleby's!

At least, that's what I felt like saying.  Mostly, I just paid the check and left.  Cuz that's just the sort of badass I am.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing My Way Out

So, I'm trying this new thing with my writing.  I think I've mentioned that I'm terrified, blocked, horribly pained when it comes to academic writing.  I produce the most convoluted, smarmy sentences you've ever seen.  I have anxiety about it, and about revision, and about rejection.  I become someone I do not recognize on the page.

I've used my best skills to tackle the problem.  I've prayed and written visioning statements.  I've asked friends for advice.  I've gotten more comfortable at shopping my work around with friends and colleagues, and at being open to criticism.  I've meditated.  I've visualized the block as a hard nut in my chest, which is where the anxiety locates, dissolving into millions of pieces of light.  I've affirmed that I am a conduit for creativity.

My new age hocus pocus is failing me.  The problem is resisting treatment.

As a last ditch effort--one step shy of abandoning my career and running away to Alaska--I picked up a book by the composition guru Peter Elbow.  He's a guy who flunked out of graduate school at one point because, like me, he couldn't write a coherent academic sentence.  Everything he wrote was circuitous and belabored. 

So he took some time to figure out why he was struggling so much, and solving that problem became his life's work. Now he is a beloved and respected writing maven.  I've had one of his earlier books, Writing with Power, on my to-read shelf for years now.  I first picked it up because I thought it would help me be a better teacher.  Of writing.  Little did I know I would be reading it years later because my own writing was so miserable.

Yeah, I hear you saying, I like your blog, you write fine, you teach writing, you're too hard on yourself, what the hell did you expect, all that jazz.  But I will reiterate:  this academic writing stuff is hard for me.  Like, bloodletting hard.  Like, Everest hard.  I just can't figure out why.

No more figuring, then.  I'm just going to try something new.  I'm putting on the Peter Elbow patch and letting it course through my veins.  I'm smoking the Peter Elbow crack.  I'm diving head first into the Peter Elbow pool of writing instructions.  Cowabunga.

A few observations as I begin.

First, I just have underestimated what a process it is.  I was always the kind of student who just felt my way through things.  I've had very little writing instruction myself, and through a series of lucky encounters just fell into being a writing teacher (irony of all ironies).  Being the dutiful writing teacher that I am, I teach the importance of the writing process.  Dirty little secret:  I hadn't treated it much as a process myself.  As a writer.  So when I'm faced with revision and rejection it freaks me out.  And yes, I plan to incorporate my own lame story into my teaching from now on, assuming this all works out.

Second, Elbow recommends lots and lots of freewriting.  Write tons and tons without revising or editing, he says.  Then put down your creativity pencil and pick up your analytic red pen.  Figure out the best parts of your freewriting--there will be some in there--and begin to shape them.  But don't try to be creative and analytical at the same time.  It just won't work.  This is also something I thought I had "taught" my students. 

Do as I say, students, not as a I do.  Because I almost never turn the editor off.  And especially not with academic writing, where I'm always fretting about audience, purpose, format, prose, punctuation.  What ends up happening, then, is I spend many painstaking hours building what I think are perfect sentences and paragraphs, and when they end up sucking, I'm shocked and dismayed and feel a failure.  Better to produce what Annie Lamott calls some "shitty first drafts," and then go back and just comb through the shit for the pearls. 

I hope this works.  I'm now officially on the Elbow writing diet plan.  I plan to gain many pounds of freewriting in the coming weeks as I work on a paper on communicating climate change.  I'm scheduling in freewriting.  I'm scheduling in research.  I'm scheduling in revision.  As separate processes. 

I'll let you know how it goes.  In the meanwhile, you're stuck with the single process on this blog.  Love it or leave it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

If You're Not Appalled, You Haven't Been Paying Attention

I received this picture in an email from home when I was in Idaho visiting:

The outrage.

If Eric is going to pull this kind of crap every time I go out of town for a few days, it's OVER!  Look at this!  He lets the girls do fun things like play princess dress up?  They got to go to a birthday party?  He's been reading to them, for heaven's sake!?!

Now they are going to expect to be entertained every five minutes.  They're going to expect me to be involved in their lives.  To have fun.

This must stop.  I'm putting my foot down. 

I. Mean. Business.

Speaking of business, it's true!  Nolie is taking the short route to Pottytown!  She is wearing undies during the day, and going pee-pee on the potty.  (Turdville, unfortunately, is still a few miles away.  We have a long layover in Crap-in-the-Pants first).  She's also sleeping in her big girl bed at night. 

What is that I smell?  The sweet whiff of victory?  Toot, toot, a rooty!  But I mustn't get too excited.  It did, after all, take us nearly nine years to potty-train our first born.  It's possible this train we're on will begin heading in reverse at any time.  But I hope not.  The forward motion is nice.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Three Gramps

I was lucky enough to know seven grandparents and one great-grandmother growing up.  Because my parents split up when I was two and remarried quickly after, I got to know all of their parents, except for my stepmom's father.  I spent time periodically with each of my other three grandfathers.  All were as different as you could imagine.

My grandfather Gene--my mother's stepfather--is European.  He scared me when I was little.  His voice was often gruff, and he would tease in an off way, always trying to catch me being stupid or wrong.  He and my grandmother fought terribly--still do--and because she is more dynamic and gregaroius (crazier and more controlling, too), I ended up spending more time with her than with him.  She owned me, in a way, that meant that I couldn't also be with him, or with some of my other grandparents.  As a child, I preferred it that way because I saw him as impenetrable and mean and her as funny and bigger than life.  As I grew up, I began to resent not knowing him more.  Particular evidence:  my grandmother disinvited him to my wedding because she didn't want to travel with him.  I'm not sure if he would have come otherwise.  But I think he would have.

I learned later that he saw his own father blown to smithereens by a Nazi explosion when he was a young boy in Germany.  I know that he was a colonel in the army.  I know that he went to the same college I did.  I know that every once in a while relatives from Germany arrive at my grandparents' house, and that all of a sudden my grandfather becomes animated and happy.  Practically a different person.  I know that my grandfather has been unhappy for a long time.  He has severe diabetes and is on dialysis, and has softened, physically and in personality, over the years.  We have conversations when I go home now, until my grandmother takes over.  Which she still does.  I don't know much more about him, other than that he has a fondness for a certain sort of European leather sandal, and for wearing knee-length plaid shorts, and for wearing no shirt.  He loves ice cream and sweets, and I think sometimes he might hope that eating more of it than he should will kill him.  

My grandfather Homer, my father's father, was...oh, it's hard to express.  Having Homer as a grandfather was like spending your time with Bing Crosby.  He was handsome, charming, dapper, smart, and quick-witted.  He drank before-dinner cocktails in crystal tumblers.  His shirts were always tucked in to his pleated khaki pants.  He knew everyone and was universally well thought of, except perhaps by my grandmother.  They had a long and difficult history, I think, involving dalliances and disagreements.  She's pretty buttoned up, an old-fashioned blue-blood, and he was a bit racier.  Maybe they were ill-matched from the get.  I'll never be sure.  What I am sure of is that it would have been nearly impossible for a young kid to dislike that man.  He was one in a million.

Evidence:  I visited their home one afternoon.  It is on a lake in one of the most beautiful towns in the world, timber-covered mountains rising up out of green pastures, cold blue water, the smell of huckleberries and King's Pines everywhere.  We sat down for lunch and grandpa raised his water glass to me and said, "Enjoy this water, Jennifer!  It's fortified with the soul of your dear aunt!"  The dear aunt was grandma's sister, whose ashes had been spread over the lake.  Grandma, who has severe palsy, dropped her plate onto the table.  I don't think it was the palsy that did it.  Grandpa and I had a hard time stifling our giggles.

Grandpa Homer died three summers ago.  He was emaciated and thin when I last saw him, and cried often.  I found this incredibly unnerving and frightening.  He begged, to nobody, to everybody, "I just want to see my children...."  He had six kids, and I don't know how many grandkids, all of whom attended his funeral after he died of lung cancer (and no, he wasn't a smoker.  He had quit smoking at a young age). 

Grandpa Evans--Dub, as he was called--was my stepdad's father.  Most of my memories of him were when I was a child.  We lived with him and my grandma for a while when I was a kid.  He was the kind of guy who was always in a workshirt, pants, and workboots.  He had been a plumber his whole life.  He had the most incredible head of hair I've ever seen, right up until the last time I saw him a few months ago.  He was huge, with bones like branches, tall and strong.  He didn't say much, but when he did, it was usually funny or provocative, but plain-spoken at the same time.  He liked to shoot at squirrels with a slingshot from his front porch.  He liked to tickle me.  He was kind and unimposing.

He and my grandmother had an incredible garden.  I remember best the Snapdragons and berries.

We grow snapdragons in our garden now, and I pulled one for Addie yesterday, explaining to her how to squeeze it so that it's "mouth" opened and shut.  "My grandfather taught me that," I said, a brief shard of memory flickering.

All this, and I find I don't know much about my grandfather Dub, either.  He died peacefully in his sleep last night, with my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's, by his side.  I'm heading home tonight to hang out with my family, and to hear stories about Dub from when he was younger.  I'll see his body, and go with them to bury him.  I'll grieve with my dad, who bears the imprint of his father, physically and emotionally, and always will, and with my brother, who always found a home at my grandparents' house.

Take a rest,
Take a breath,
While the storm is not overhead.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star

This, my friends, is a picture of a very proud Nolie going pee on the potty (with a few toots thrown in for good measure).  This, my friends, fills me with excitement and dread, in equal measure.

Those of you who've stuck with this blog over time know that, not one year ago, I was going through potty training hell with Nolie's older sister, Addie.  Not one year ago, Addie was peeing her pants every chance she got, soiling those expensive pull-ups every chance she got, and yes, occasionally smearing poo on the walls.  The very thought of it sends chills down my spine.

And so when Nolie began to show interest in the potty this weekend, it was with great reluctance that I pulled out the Dora the Explorer potty seat and step stool.  It was with great reluctance that I broke the seal on the Costco-size box of pull-ups waiting in her closet for this fateful day.  Don't get me wrong:  when that first tinkle-tinkle hit the crystalline, porcelain waters below, I cheered with gusto, praised my Nolie, helped her to wipe and wash her hands and flush.  But when the moment had passed, I held my head in my hands and thought, I'm not ready for this.

I'm not ready for the inches Nolie seems to have sprouted in the last few weeks.

I'm not ready for her burgeoning vocabulary.

I'm not ready for her to begin sleeping in her big-girl bed instead of her crib.

But it's all happening anyway, and it's almost as if I have nothing to do with any of it.  I'm just here providing the tools as they become necessary:  the potty seat, the toddler bed, the longer pants, the words.  Up, up, and away we go.