Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Confessions of an egocentric foodie

Here is a photo showing what my child does to grapes. He doesn’t eat them. He gnaws them. He mauls them. He ravages them, and then he leaves the sodden, damaged goods behind. Or, better yet, he offers them in their semi-destroyed state to me. As if. He does this to a number of foods, and honestly, it’s a step in the right direction—at least he’s interacting with the food. There are so many foods he won’t even touch. Slowly, ever so slowly, he’s expanding his edible repertoire, but M-A-N is it taking a long time.

And I try not to take this personally. But for some reason, I do. You see, I’m a foodie. I love food. I love to make food, to eat food, to read about food. I’m the annoying person at parties who’s always trying to get a recipe. I’m the one who then sends those recipes to disinterested people (at least I used to do this—I’ve kind of given up lately.) The person who constantly tries to tell you about different dishes, or foods that are healthy, easy to work with, low in carbs? Yep, that’s me. I’m even more obsessed now that I have to watch the glucose levels. And I struggle to understand it: How can this child, my offspring, not love food as I do?

I know, he’s just a toddler, they have no appreciation of fine cuisine. It’s typical. It’s a control issue. They hate change. Blah, blah, blah. I know. But he’s MY child!!! How can he not love food?

I guess this reveals a lot about not just my interests, but also my pushy personality. I’ve been accused in my life of being too forceful, of wanting everyone to like my way best. Perhaps that’s true; supposedly, this obnoxious trait runs in my family. I honestly don’t believe it for an instant. And besides, my way is best—people should be able to see that, right?! (I’m teasing, people. Come on.)

But seriously, when I think about it, we all get a little bit defensive if people don’t love what we love, be it lasagna, a band, the girl down the street, a character from a favorite movie... It’s silly, but I run into that sort of behavior from so many people that it must be a pretty common human shortcoming. You can go ahead and deny it if you want, but it’s a rare man or woman who can remain completely unemotional about the things he or she loves—especially when those things are openly held in low regard by someone else.

Still in denial? Think of something you really like. And think of someone who mocks that something, maybe to your face, maybe in a smugly subtle way. Can you say in truth that it doesn’t bother you at all? I can’t. Call me small; I’ll call me honest.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The tastes of battle

All three of us are now battling some form of the cold that invaded our lives last week. That’s right, an entire household, paralyzed by rampant, mutant germs that have infiltrated every corner and cranny, spreading their badness. And the ongoing illness has reminded me of something I recall each time I battle a malady: Sickness has a taste.

There’s the foul, sour taste of unwashed mouth, of tongue that’s welcomed only tea and chicken noodle soup for days on end with nary a sighting of a toothbrush. And there’s the dry, bile-tinged taste of a ravaged mouth that’s been trying very hard to keep stuff from coming up into it, stuff that has no right traveling upward instead of down and out. The taste I’m recalling now (because I’ve been cruelly reminded) is the taste of sore throat and chest ailment—a strangely metallic flavor. Where is that coming from? Metal? Huh? But it’s true. The minute something goes awry in my chest and lungs, that’s the taste in my mouth.

Makes you wonder what’s going on down there, in the depths of your amazing body, as it fights this fight against evil germs. Can you picture the white blood cells at a rally, pepping each other up before they take arms against the germ? It’s crazy, really, when you think about it—and especially crazy because our bodies are always doing some kind of battle, even when we’re healthy. While we’re totally clueless, feeling fine, going about our business and even neglecting ourselves as so many of us do, all the components of our intricate and awesome bodies are still working to keep a good balance: making sure there are just enough germs to keep the defenses in good shape, being certain that the bacteria we need are in good supply but aren’t getting too cocky… I’m no doctor or scientist, but I’m still rendered speechless when I ponder all the wonderful things going on inside me at any given time. Even looking at the monitor as I type this, thinking about the image going into my pupil, being reflected somewhere on the back of my eyeball, images being sent to my brain via millions of tiny nerves… It could really freak me out if I dwell on it for very long.

So, I’m hopeful that we’ll all beat the current bug. It can’t last forever; even at this moment, forces are being assembled to kick its bum out of my and my family’s bodies for good. And then they’ll regroup, those marvelous forces, and prepare to do battle again when the next enemy enters the scene via an eye or nostril.

Our pastor said something that stayed with me yesterday: he said that, after pondering the Earth and everything in it, that he “didn’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” He’s so right. If I think about even my own eyes, ears, hands, body in general, my origins inside a womb, for Heaven’s sake!—all I can see is an amazing designer behind every detail.

Looking forward to healthier days—hopefully soon.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

“Home-work," stuffitis and odd phobias

Here’s a photo showing the new color of the foundation of our house. Next to it is an old pic. The light blue was the pale, spiritless color we inherited; lively pea green is the new, warmer, more inviting shade. Next year’s plans include coffee brown shutters and repainted brown railings, etc. to match. AND finding a paint shade to match the brick, to cover up the sloppy, we-don’t-need-no-stinkin'-blue-tape paint job of the previous owner. (We’ll see if all this actually happens.)

Note: If you want to learn a lot about yourself—and the state of any relationships near and dear to you—start a home improvement project. ‘Nuf said. I’m proud to report that our marriage has now survived unemployment, freelance employment, 3 moves, 2 home purchases, a remodeled kitchen, and painting on the outside of the current dwelling.

Right now, Todd is trying to seize one of the last seasonable October days and clean out/reorganize the garage. It’s amazing the amount of stuff you accumulate. Things you forgot you had—now honestly, how pathetic is that? How can we have so much stuff that we forget what we have? It’s kind of an American sickness, stuffitis. And the regular cure for stuffitis can become a regular job: the job of minimizing possessions. Hence Todd’s activities this afternoon.

Any of you who know me are probably already quite aware that I love getting rid of stuff. Not throwing it away—I actually have a phobia about that, especially food—but just getting stuff out of my house and/or out of my life. It’s a heady feeling, lightening your personal load in this world. I’d suggest that all of you give it a try; the most reluctant of you should take the biggest load to the Goodwill. Or heck, in this convenient day and age, call Goodwill or its competitors; some of those charities will come to your house and take it from you for free! Can you beat that with a stick?

Anyway, I really do have some sort of mental issues about throwing things away. I can’t find an actual name for it, but I did learn while searching on Google that there is such a thing as “fear of throwing up.” Its name is emetophobia. Seriously. Are there any silent sufferers out there reading this, cowering in corners, clutching your antibacterial gel in hopes of evading the latest stomach flu germs? Come, step out of those dark places, drop the antibacterial crap and grab a sturdy bucket or plastic garbage can. Hold it high! Don’t be ashamed—it’s okay to hurl!

Okay. Enough silliness. Go clean out that garage or basement now. Go on, get to it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ma-Ma's necklace

On Monday evening, for the very first time, I wore Ma-Ma’s necklace.

Ma-Ma is my paternal grandmother. She died in February. In a year of staggering losses, I think I can honestly say this one has had the biggest impression on me. Next to my parents, Ma-Ma was an omnipresent person in my life; there have been many wonderful and influential relatives and friends, of all ages, but this lady impacted me in a big way.

So, donning her necklace was a big step. I felt a little funny about it; I’d seen it on her so many times. Anyone who knew her can probably picture it immediately: a long, slim strand of what appear to be small cream and gray freshwater pearls, with a tiny gold bead in between each pearl. It’s a pretty piece, simple, and its light weight tells me that it’s not very valuable in the eyes of the world—but it is to me. And having seen it around her wrinkled neck so many times, I just wasn’t sure if I was worthy. Was this the right moment? Did it look okay with my outfit? Should I leave it in my jewelry box for a few months longer? Perhaps it would be disrespectful to sport it so soon after her departure…

Then I pictured her, putting on the strand to come to a family outing, probably not even thinking about it once she’d worn it a few times. It was simply one of her favorites, not to be contemplated. A woman who’d been vain about her looks for her whole life, I believe she made a point in those last years of not really looking at herself, at the old woman she had become. (I know that I spend increasingly less time in front of a mirror, and that's probably good. I hope that not one of us who lives that many years—she was 2 weeks away from turning 100 when she died—will spend too much time gazing in the mirror, except to tell ourselves how well we've held up and to congratulate the reflected image on a life well lived.)

And then, I considered the occasion to which I would wear the necklace: a funeral visitation for my husband’s maternal grandma, who’d turned 90 in May, had fought the good fight for a few months, and who finally succumbed to absolute weariness. She was the Ma-Ma of Todd’s mom's family. She, too, held a family together through the loss of a husband, although she went on to help rebuild it with her second husband, while Ma-Ma never remarried. Todd’s gram, too, was the matriarch, an ever-present figure at family functions, a voice of experience and knowledge. Somehow, it seemed oddly appropriate that Ma-Ma’s necklace would make its second debut—on a different, younger neck—at such an occasion. It could be a nod, of sorts, from one great elder stateswoman to another.

Do we all, in time, achieve that special, precious patina of the aged? Is it a given, a right for everyone? Or is it reserved for a few unique, cherished, wonderfully worn people? I think you can guess my stance on this matter.

I only hope that I will wear the necklace well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Random thoughts

I've managed to contract the kid's bug, in some weird mutated form, so I'm short on insightful thoughts about pretty much anything right now. Here's what I've been thinking about instead:

Why do we humans have so many different and frequently disgusting fluids, solids, and forms of mucus exiting our bodies at all times? I've been presented with some nasty, odd-colored nasal discharges from my son these past couple of days, and that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as unsavory discharges, from him or from anyone else. Makes you wonder how that seemed like a good idea when we were being formed on the sixth day and all that. This is definitely a question I'll have for the Maker someday...

Thinking about mucus reminds me of all these hip, happening new viruses on the market, like MRSA; is there another Biosphere experiment in the works anywhere? Maybe they'll hold a lottery for the next lucky dwellers—let me know if you hear anything...

Speaking of living in a bubble, what will our morally upstanding media (cough, cough) do if Hollywood suddenly produces a successful teen star who miraculously marches into adulthood still sober, clean of drugs, free of a police record, and without an eating disorder? Oh, wait—that person will have been kicked to the curb long before he/she reaches adulthood. Too boring.

And since we're talking about the media, how must a soldier or fresh veteran feel after watching a broadcast of the news and finding that the war is usually not the top story? That's a slap in the face, eh? Thanks for fighting--just get in line behind Britney and her kids and the parenting coach, okay? What's that, you're handicapped and you need a chair? Geesh--you people sure are demanding.

Well, I can see I'm on my way to a rather corrosive little diatribe, so I'll stop now. In case there's any doubt, I support our troops and what they are doing. And I definitely feel most days as if Americans in general are pretty spoiled and rather superficial—not excluding me. But that's a post for another day.

Send us healing thoughts, please! Thanks.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Just touching base

Well, we've lost another older member of our, the next couple of days will be busy with family commitments. Please forgive my absence while I try to think of something intelligent and insightful to share with you next time.

On a completely different level, we finished painting the foundation of the house a lovely warm ivy green. It really looks nice with the tan brick. I'll post a couple of pics next time. It was a rather arduous process, but well worth the effort.

And, Marcus has managed to catch another cold. : (

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A musical feast—with a side dish of annoyance

Today the kid and I had a lovely opportunity to go hear a live musician who was performing an abbreviated set for little children, in support of his upcoming family album. A local radio station that we support was the sponsor and host, so I pre-registered, we waited with anticipation, and this morning we got ourselves together and drove there.

The performer, Ellis Paul (, was a lively, gifted and patient entertainer who also happens to be a parent. That’s good, since performing for a group of 30-something preschoolers can be rather challenging. He did a fabulous job, sang some old Woody Guthrie tunes, some other popular kid tunes, and he did it all with just an acoustic guitar, a microphone, and an impressive ability to stay focused and tuneful in the face of madness.

And it did become a tad mad. The session was 45 minutes long. That was probably a bit too long for a number of the children gathered there. I must praise my own little guy; he was fully attentive for about 38 minutes, clapping, bobbing his head, really listening and looking at the guy and enjoying himself. Even when he started to fade during the last song or two, I was honestly right there with him—and our distraction was entirely due to the madness. We both have some anxiety issues when the noise and confusion levels are high, especially when there are numerous rowdy strangers around—which was the case.

Where is this going? Well, I just want to sing out loudly in favor of controlling your children. The radio station, God bless ‘em for trying this, asked in the registration confirmation that we bring only a blanket and our best listening skills. Okay—do good listening skills include jumping up and down on a nearby stage to hear the loud thump that the hollow floor makes? Is good listening illustrated by crawling around on the floor, standing, falling forward, nearly hitting a tiny girl in her mom’s lap, all the while growling loudly? Does good listening translate as running through the throngs of people who are seated on the floor, trying to see the singer and listen to his music? And let me make it clear that all this was happening while the poor fellow sang and strummed. I’m not talking about kids dancing; that happened too, and we were all delighted by it. Dancing to the music was not the issue.

I don’t want to be ridiculous in my expectations, because it WAS a roomful of kids under the age of 6. And yet, can’t we begin to set realistic expectations for behavior by controlling, and if necessary removing, the kids who are becoming bored and restless? When an audience member becomes louder than the performer, perhaps that’s a clue that the member in question is no longer interested and might prefer to be elsewhere. Perhaps he or she should be taken out of the situation, thus sending the message that such behavior is inappropriate in that setting and won’t be tolerated. Doesn’t the performer deserve that respect?

Then again, why would kids be any different from adults? I’ve attended countless public events, indoor and outdoor, at which I was appalled by the behavior of the audience regardless of its average age. And if the event is free of charge, as was today’s event…? Oh, my—those are, sadly, the worst examples of human behavior. Rudeness rules at free events. And that’s a shame—because for some attendees, free events are their only options.

Anyway. Am I being silly? Should I just relax and let kids be kids, as I’m so often told? And when does that adage become a hackneyed excuse for poorly behaved children? Let me know where you stand on this. Seriously.

And seriously, thank you thank you thank you to WYEP ( for holding just such an event. Many more, please! Maybe you can rope off a holding pen for the more rambunctious fans next time…? Or not.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Somber thoughts, grateful thoughts

Hi, All.

2007 has been a rough year. We’ve lost a lot of really good people, to disease, to old age, to general infirmity…and I fear it may not be over yet. There we were at the funeral home again Tuesday night, paying our respects to a neighbor—a good-hearted woman whom we had the pleasure of getting to know for about a year. That was just long enough to begin to grasp what a hole she leaves in her absence.

It reminded me how many of those places we’ve visited this year, of how many holes have been left in 2007. It reminded me, too, that I can respond to these relentless and overwhelming losses in a couple of ways: I can think gloomy thoughts, and waste bitter hours asking why and trying to find logic and reason in the loss. Or, I can thank God every morning when I awake, and thank Him again when I rise from my comfy bed, and thank Him again when I eat my nice breakfast and enjoy my hot coffee and make a plan to drive to the market in my car and kiss my husband goodbye and hug my little boy good morning. I can choose to look at the blessings. It is a choice, after all. For some people—especially those who've lost someone they love, or who face daily hardships I can't imagine—perhaps it is a difficult choice. Hopefully, through much time and countless attempts, I can train myself to choose joy in blessings, instead of asking why. I want to ask it less and less, until hopefully my heart just stops asking, because asking why has never done me an ounce of good.

I can even take this a step further, by recalling two young friends that I lost while in college. Neither of them ever had the chance to finish that college degree. One was taken by cancer; the other was struck and killed by a drunk driver. I think of them both sometimes, even more often as I get older. I am stunned by the fact that I have now lived for twice as long as either of them did. I am saddened that they were denied the chance to experience more of life. And, I am so very glad that I was given the opportunities, the days and weeks and years, that those two friends did not have. I feel an obligation to all those folks who've been taken too soon; I am obligated to appreciate and embrace all the extra time I've been granted.

That’s about it for now. I’m putting this down in writing to make this choice a little more real, to make myself accountable in a way—and with the hope that as I articulate my desire to have a grateful heart, I plant that desire deep in myself a little bit more firmly.

Thanks for listening. Lighter days ahead.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Familarity, and what it breeds

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” And I must agree with that statement, to a point. It does seem to be true regarding our people relationships; we often feel contempt for the people with whom we are most familiar. Or, not contempt, exactly—perhaps disdain? A tendency toward annoyance? A disturbingly easy trend of fault-finding, nit-picking speech and thought?

Well, contempt for loved ones isn’t good, nor healthy. But that wasn’t what I was thinking about yesterday, as I was driving to look at a small, green, wooden chair that someone was selling on craigslist. (Bought it, love it—thanks, B!) I was thinking, as I drove—in that wondrous, silent refuge that is my car when I’m alone in it—I was thinking that familiarity gets a bad rap.

I was thinking this because I was driving across a bridge that I’d never used until about 7 years ago. When I first had to use that bridge, when it was undeniably the best way to get to a place where I needed to go, I feared the bridge. It was new, I hadn’t traveled it, I hadn’t crossed it and traversed the mysterious places it leads to… it was unfamiliar. And I did not care for it. Then, one brave day, I drove across the bridge, white-knuckled, creeping along in the proper lane, scanning road signs frantically—and I made it to the other side and to my exit. The bridge was, truly, the best route for that particular destination. And then I crossed the bridge again, and again. I even crossed it from the other side. And you know what happened? The bridge became my friend. I grew to like it, to respect it, to understand its purpose the way I could never understand it when I did not know it personally. It wasn’t a perfect bridge, but I appreciated it so much more when I gave it a chance. I was comfortable when crossing the bridge.

There are lots of roads around my town that have the same history with me; I feared them initially, I braved them once or twice, and then they became familiar to me. The roadway I used to fear the most? Now I take it to the zoo whenever I go there; it’s not so bad after all. That road can’t help being dangerous; it wasn’t designed for its current volume of traffic, it can’t be expanded properly—honestly, that road does a fine job considering its humble origins and its physical limitations. It’s a weary road that isn’t what it used to be, and it might have a chip on its “shoulder,” but it works really hard every day; now that I know it, I am comfortable traveling on it.

It seems to me that it would be more accurate—and infinitely more optimistic—to say that familiarity breeds comfort. Lord knows we all could use some enlarging of our comfort zones. That comfort zone can be darned confining at times, especially when you let it dictate whom you meet. The example of a road becoming comfortable is a very broad, vague one; I use it in place of the many stories I could tell of folks whom I feared a bit at first, people who made my heart skip in a worried way, people who turned out to be real blessings. Often, they were the very people I was trying to remain distant from…the people I was avoiding by taking already familiar alternate routes. Not all of these people have blessed me by becoming great friends; some of them have turned out to be burdens of sorts, and truthfully, a handful of them still inspire in me the urge to hide. But by and large, they’ve taught me valuable things; they’ve expanded my comfort zone considerably. I still have a long way to go, but I’m hopeful now that God’s big plan for me will include many more very necessary trips to the outskirts of my comfort zone and beyond.

And when I go there, I’ll be right where He wants me to be.

How about you? Have you strayed from your comfort zone lately? I recommend it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

just a quick note and pics


It's Friday. The most exciting thing about Friday at our house is that the garbage and recycling trucks come in the morning. Since our flurry of big truck activity is over for another week, I suppose that now we have to think about weekend chores and tasks. (Speaking of tasks, one of the photos for today features the kid concentrating very hard on deconstructing some Play-Doh. The other shows him grinning at the prospect of whipping said Play-Doh at my head.)

Happy weekending!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why a blog?

It’s amazing, even puzzling—I checked this morning and as of today, there are about 1,800 other people in the Pittsburgh area alone who are keeping a blog. Not all of them are dedicated to it; some go weeks without entries. Still others post something several times on a single day. They’re men, women, kids, weirdos, mostly people who are strangers to me…except that we share a region of Pennsylvania and a desire to put our thoughts down in writing, via a somewhat or completely public forum.

Why do we do it? Well, I would guess that a lot of people who opt to write a blog are wordy; perhaps they have a lot to say and insufficient opportunities to say it. Some people may be seeking an audience, or hoping for input, or looking for a way to reach potential clients or voters or what have you. I suspect some folks just like to write; they prefer putting thoughts down on paper, or in this case onto a screen and hard drive. It’s enjoyable for them, and relatively easy to do; some of them may even be more pleased with their writing than with their speech, especially when you consider the frequently mundane, repetitive speech of everyday existence on this orb.

For some people, a blog is simply a way to record the day’s or week’s events. Truly, it isn’t that different from a journal or diary, and people have kept those for years, dutifully describing the often-dull events of a typical life. Many written personal histories never see the light of day, but the ones that do are sometimes cherished, a few even lauded—as little pieces of a forefather’s life, a distant relative’s journey, even rare glimpses into a famous person’s private world. Sometimes such a journal can offer amazing and valuable historical insights, as in Anne Frank’s heart-breaking diary.

I wish my own goals for this blog were lofty and far-reaching. They’re not. What is the biggest reason I wanted to do this? The real, selfish reason? Because it helps me reconnect with the person I used to be. Sometimes I feel so removed from my old self: my pre-baby, working self, my spunky single self who was ridiculously self-reliant and more than a tad self-centered. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are plenty of things about the old me that I’m happy to release. She’s not “all that,” by any means. Yet, there are parts of her I’d like to retain: the literate part, the thinking part, the part that finishes thoughts and sentences and notices what’s going on in the world outside her little bubble.

Being home with a toddler makes it easy to lose touch with reality. I’m sure that many moms out there would agree with me, especially when they recall the absolute upside-down feelings that occur after the first baby. It’s easy to forget that you still exist somewhere deep inside you, that you’re more than a warm lap, a food supply, a pair of rocking arms. Even as the child grows, a mom role can also grow and eventually consume the woman who used to reside in that same body. I don’t want to be totally consumed. I want to keep the best of both worlds, help them stay simultaneously afloat, teach them to hold each other up. Writing this blog helps me connect the two selves; it helps me sort out what’s worth keeping and what should be tossed like jetsam.

Is a blog worthwhile? Is it merely a smug soapbox? A narrated family album? Or is it just another expression of our culture’s absolute obsession with ourselves? It’s all of those, and more. Is it wasteful of my time and energy? Well, if I’m being totally pragmatic, of course it is. So are about 90% of the things that many Americans spend much of their lives doing and buying. Is it wasteful to have more than 40 TV channels? To drive gas-guzzling, expensive vehicles? To shower already wealthy kids with silly amounts of presents at Christmas? To participate in hobbies and pastimes that don’t directly benefit anyone? To pay millions of dollars to professional athletes? To eat out at restaurants that charge 2, 3, or more times what the meal would cost to prepare at home?

The whole issue of wastefulness is an entirely different post, and honestly it would be the kind of post I promised myself not to write. So, I’ll leave it alone. Whether or not a blog is a worthwhile pursuit will remain an opinion in each reader’s mind. I’ll keep writing, partly for you, but mostly for me. (Something from the old me that I'd like to maintain is the truth-teller.)

Talk to you soon! And happy autumn to you. Boots and sweaters weather at last--hurray!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Our family

We had a sweet moment here, earlier this evening. Todd was home from work, we’d finished eating dinner, and the “boys” were wrestling around being silly on the floor. Marcus was getting tickled, mostly, and I was watching from the safety of the club chair. When the tickling became a bit much to bear, the boy ran to the chair and piled in with me for protection.

Of course, we simply changed the method of torture, and both of us began kissing him relentlessly instead of tickling. We were all snuggled up in a few shared square feet, like warm fuzzy critters, and Marcus said through giggles, “This is our family.” And then, without missing a beat, he reminded his dad, “Daddy, that’s enough.” Tickling or kissing, I’m not sure which—but regardless, it was a priceless treasure of a moment.

See, that’s the stuff that keeps us going through the tough times, the weekends spent in and out of corners, the belligerence... A poignant statement about family, uttered by a 2 ½ year old—that’s a powerful thing.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The changing of the birds

Even with the wacky, unusually warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing of late, the birds that frequent our little feeder and birdbath are not fooled. They know what’s up, and they're moving—out, or in.

First, the tiny hummingbirds showed up less and less frequently, until I realized it had been several days since I’d seen any sipping nectar from the feeder. That was an exceptionally sad day for me, since they’re my favorite. I know, how trite—they’re everyone’s favorite. But I can’t help myself; they’re just such petite, delicate little things, and so fast; watching them move is like watching a bejeweled bauble come to life.

Then, I noticed all of a sudden that I hadn’t seen a robin for weeks. And there was a noticeable paucity of any little wrens, not that we’d had many to begin with. And then, last week, I saw a chickadee at the finch feeder. A chickadee! I hadn’t ever seen one of those before, not here.

The finches have remained somewhat constant, but even they are beginning to diminish in numbers. I miss their lively gold heads and sweet songs. The little red-headed house finches are disappearing, too. Do they fly south? Or are they simply moving to proven, more secure winter dwellings?

It’s fascinating to watch them all, far better than any reality show. The kid and I sit transfixed for many minutes as the colorful little birds jockey for position on the feeder, or wait their turn to drink at the birdbath.

The only birds who’ve stayed through every season thus far are the crows. They haven’t budged, the loud, annoying things. Their big inky bodies dot the lawn in the morning, and their insolent, shrill caws break into my thoughts. I always open the back door and clap my hands to get them to leave; it works, in that they fly from the yard, but then they perch in the neighbor’s tall oak tree, waiting for my guard to drop so they can return without being bothered. I can’t stand them.

Goodbye, summer—I fear you are truly making your exit this time. See you next year.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Falling short

It’s been a loooooong weekend. Marcus has spent many minutes in the corner. He’s been the unhappy recipient of a few spanks. It has not been pretty.

Every time I lose my temper, I resolve to be more patient, to keep my cool. I resolve to appreciate anew the blessing that is this little boy. And then, he unleashes his defiant, rebellious 2-year-old self. And I forget all those promises I made to myself, and to God, and I lose it. (I have seen him torment Todd, too, so I know it really isn’t personal… although sometimes it feels that way.)

I guess this is an ongoing process, this changing of my angry, short-tempered heart into an all-loving, grateful heart. And honestly, I can put these broken parenting resolutions in a big sack alongside other areas of my life where I resolved to change, to be better, and then failed again and again and again. Can’t we all think of areas where we made a commitment and fell far short? That metamorphosis (step forward, fall on your face, stand up and take another step, fall again) is all part of becoming a caring and effective parent, a supportive spouse, a thankful daughter or son, a considerate friend.

I cling to my belief that the awareness of failure has to be a step in the right direction. When you know that you need to keep working at it, keep praying, keep trying—surely that knowledge of your own shortcomings increases momentum in the right direction, toward the person you know you are capable of being. We can’t do it alone; maybe our repeated failures are intended to remind us of our absolute dependence on the Father. Thankfully, my failures as a parent--and my child's stubborn, self-reliant nature--can remind me that just as we love our little children (a.k.a. monsters) unconditionally, we are loved that way, too.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Yakkety yak

(Marcus has now lasted 36 hours without a fever. Hurray! I think he’s nearly mended from the second cold of autumn.)

Now, I've been known to berate myself for sometimes being cross with this sweet child of mine. I know I should be more patient, more understanding. I know I should be cherishing every moment of his tiny years. And truly, most of the time I do cherish him and my time with him. He’s a gift.

However. Even though he’s managed to shed the latest flu season malady, he continues to suffer from an ongoing condition that worsens daily. It’s rather serious: I believe its scientific name is Quietus Neverus. What am I saying? The kid never stops chatting. At me, at himself, at others, at his stuffed friends, his matchbox cars, even the TV. He talks and talks. He says things over and over until a somewhat proper response is elicited from his listener (or should I say captive audience). If no response is offered, then his monologue becomes louder, even vociferous—he is increasingly determined that You Will Answer.

When he speaks to his inanimate objects, he often gives them voices as well, so that a proper conversation can take place. This can be quite entertaining, as the objects themselves earn voice characteristics dependent upon their purpose and appearance; the steam roller and the elephant have deep, gruff voices, while Teddy and little tow truck have small, soft voices. And when his toys are having conversations, my ear gets a little break.

It’s adorable. It is. It’s just a bit much sometimes, such as when I’m lost and trying to find my way in heavy traffic (“Mama! Mama! There’s a puppy on that sign! Mama! Did you see the puppy? Did you see it? Mama! There’s Old McDonald’s restaurant! Mama, we go to Old McDonald’s? What’s that? There’s a big truck! Mama, car transporter! See it?”)

No, son, I didn’t see it. I DID see the street I was supposed to turn onto. It’s back there. I passed it.

But that’s okay. In a few short years, you won’t want to be seen with me, let alone talk to me. Keep on talking, little buddy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

To sleep, perchance to dream

What happened? I used to sleep like a dream. Blissful slumber was mine for the taking. Reaching the REM state was assured nearly every night; I awoke feeling refreshed, ready to face the day, the world, whatever it may bring.

Then pregnancy happened. Pregnancy and I did not get along too well. Among unexplained aches and pains, itches, giant pillows, and snoring (yes, I snored while pregnant), sleep fell by the wayside. All the other moms I knew laughed knowingly when I told them this; they looked at each other with a wiseguy gleam in their eyes, and said, “Yes, I remember—that’s to get you used to going without sleep. Then it won’t be such a shock when the baby comes.” Okay, that’s fine. Logical. Makes perfect sense. And it was kind of true, at least for me; by the time the wailing infant was entrenched in our home, sleeping more than 2 or 3 hours at a time had already become a very infrequent occasion.

But—ahem—the kid is now 2 ½. No longer an infant. And yes, he’s sick with a stuffy nose/cold/fever thingie right now, so sleep is not easy to come by for anyone in the home. But STILL. The reason I’m so beat today isn’t because I didn’t get enough sleep last night. No, I am exhausted and cranky today because last night was just one more night in which I slept like crap. The sleep I used to take for granted has become rare and elusive.

It’s partly because of the boy. Even when I don’t think I am, I still find myself listening for him, especially right now when his normal breathing patterns have been replaced by wheezing, whining, generally blocked attempts to take air into his lungs. Did the vaporizer use all its water? Is he too warm? Too cold? Is he on the verge of falling out of bed? Is his nose finally running, thereby plastering mucus to his pillowcase or whatever area of sheet he’s pressed his little face against? Perhaps I should just check…

Honestly, though, I can’t even blame the kid entirely. It’s his presence, somehow, and the way it’s altered me forever. I can’t quite relax like I used to. And I seem to have lost the ability to turn off my brain. Women stink at this skill anyway, and breeding has definitely affected my turn-off mode: That mode no longer exists. Prayer helps, but even that can't shut me down entirely.

Will it improve? Doubtful. I’ve already heard the stories about how you worry more as kids grow older. About how you never stop listening for them, even after they’ve left home. Besides, by the time that happens, I’ll be physiologically primed to a) go menopausal if I haven’t already, and b) simply require less sleep because I’m getting older.

Nap, anyone? Oh, wait—that’ll just make it harder to fall asleep tonight.

Coffee, anyone?!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Take me out to the show

Sadly, there have been some technical difficulties with the photos taken at the Pirates baseball game we attended on Friday. So, these Marcus quotes from game night will have to suffice. See if you can picture him there as you read:

“I want chips.”
This was spoken—repeatedly—as we threaded our way, overflowing nacho container precariously in hand, through people and up many steps and then back where we’d been (we had missed the entrance to the section where the seats were) and down more steps to our seats. By the time we were seated, he'd forgotten about the chips.

“I want some French fries.”
This was spoken after he’d stuffed himself with countless chips. He still had tortilla chip crumbs wafting from his lips as he made the request. (No, he did not get fries. The food at that park is darned expensive.)

“What’s AAAAHHHHTTTT? Look, Mama, a jeep!”
The object that brought this admiration was actually a little Pirates golf cart that scooted around the perimeter of the outfield.

“There’s the parrot parrot!”
This one’s a no-brainer if you’re a Pittsburgher—the Pirate parrot, of course. Marcus adored the parrot, his antics, the hot dogs he shot high into the sky, his dancing…all of it. The pierogi race was interesting, too—but Marcus had never heard of a pierogi until that night. He’s heard of a parrot.

“It’s time to go inside.”
He began uttering this, every couple of minutes, after the 7th inning had begun. Frankly, I was impressed that he’d made it that far; we hung in for the 7th inning stretch (which perplexed him) and then made our way out of the park.

“This is a big hill!”
There’s a giant circular ramp on one corner of the stadium, and that was the exit path we chose. He loved it. To punctuate its greatness, the ramp ended with a giant escalator.

“Is Willie Parker a baseball player?”
He asked this as we drove home. I had to explain the difference between baseball and football (hopefully you know that Parker is a current Steelers great). He also asked if we could go to a baseball game "adin." I guess that means he liked it.

P.S. Thanks, Shelley, for joining the fun!