Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Are dads allowed?

It is nothing short of amazing what a good night's sleep will do to improve things. I went to bed early last night, Bean didn't wake up even once, and I got to sleep a full 9 hours. 9 hours of unfettered sleep! I woke up with my cheeks all pink again and a most excellent ebullient, let-it-slide mood. I forget that deep down I'm the same person I always was whenever I'm well-rested. I even have a sex drive again! Love that.

I got out of the house today, too, though it wasn't to work in the yard. I took Bean to a so-called children's museum in downtown Chapel Hill. It's basically an indoor play place with themes which, of course, doesn't have quite the ring of "museum." The exhibit--or whatever--going on just now was Mister Rogers' neighborhood which frankly wasn't much of a draw. I don't know about the rest of you 70's-era babies, but I thought Mister Rogers was at best boring and at worst creepy. Those puppets? King Friday and Queen Sarah Saturday with god-knows-whose grown-up voice doing weird falsetto behind the curtain? Turn it off, Mama!

But anyways, I took Bean there and she had a blast playing with the plastic sushi in the pretend kitchen--'cause in Chapel Hill we're all ethnic and shit--and trying on fancy capes in the dress-up clothing trunk. So Bean ran around, trashing a space I didn't have to worry about cleaning up while I got to have a real conversation with another parent. But get this--the other grown-up was a dad.

Shocking, I know. No, really. I admit that it's hard for me to get used to there being male stay-at-home parents these days, though I see quite a lot of SAHD's around town. There are even some dad members of the big mothers' club that I joined last year. One of those poor guys asked to join our playgroup a few months back, which I thought would be fine. The other moms weren't o.k. with it because I guess they felt like they might want to talk about tampons or something at some point. One of the moms emailed him back to say that our group was full, but thanks anyway and good luck. They weren't even able to articulate why they didn't want a dad to join us.

I scoff at the other moms in my playgroup, but upon introspection I am no better at all. Honestly, my first reaction today when this guy started talking to me was to turn on my radar to try to detect whether he was hitting on me or not. Even knowing that his twin boys were right there with him and that was the real reason he was there. And yes, even with him mentioning his wife a few times, which I'm pretty sure was his way of letting me know that he wasn't hitting on me. We talked about another local mothers' group that he had joined earlier in the week, which had just kicked him out yesterday, also via polite email. (They were more frank about it at least and told him that after lots of discussion, their female members felt that a man around would impede on the kind of dishing they wanted to be able to do.) But when he asked for my email address later so that we could get our kids together--who are indeed the same age--my immediate thought was, "Is this guy a serial murderer who's going to track me down and stalk me? Is he actually these boys' psycho babysitter and not their dad at all?"

I'm so lame. I think of myself as so enlightened and o.k. with the notion of fathers having equal responsibility for childcare and blah blah blah, but when faced with an actual dad who might want to get our kids together or even start the area's first real, co-ed parents' group I get nervous. I didn't get a single weirdo, creepy vibe from him and still.

(Hey, who noticed that I did not once use the phrase "male member" when discussing men in mothers' clubs? Yeah, that was on purpose.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tired mama whine

I'm bewildered today by 2 conflicting and equally compelling feelings. First off, I am stir crazy as hell just now. I'm sick of winter and temperatures in the 20's. Bean doesn't want to stay outside longer than 15 minutes or so and truthfully neither do I. It's all bright and beautiful looking out the window, but as soon as we're slapped in the face by a brisk wind we're both done. Yardwork is out and there's so much to do out there that I feel a bit pissy about it.

So I'm stuck inside the house and feeling resentful. On top of that, I'm exhausted. Bean has yet another cold that has her super-congested. She's been waking up many, MANY times per night for the last 3 nights to complain about her nose. The humidifier helps some and I try to tent the blankets near her face so her little throat doesn't become too dry from breathing through her mouth, but none of us are getting any sleep.

You'd think that if I can't get outside and am this exhausted I'd just shut up and nap but I just can't nap this early. My usual crash time is around 3:00 which happens to be when Bean wakes up and Sister gets home from school.

For the record, I'm going to try so, so hard not to be a raging bitch mama this afternoon and evening, but it won't be easy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Yes, she REALLY says stuff like this.

I just had the best time with a very good friend of mine, Annie, who's 20 years older than me, the owner of a vintage thrift shop in town, a native of the Tennessee mountains, and a believer in all things conspiracy. I love, love, love talking to this woman! I've known her since I worked in her store during college about 15 years ago now, but we've been getting together much more often now that I'm staying at home. She told me today that she's decided to "reclaim" her personality after (mostly) getting over a lengthy illness. This means, apparently, that she is going to say whatever she damn well pleases, though personally I don't feel like she ever stopped. Here's a short sampling of our 4-hour conversation today:

Me: (in the middle of venting about the stupid backyard): Yeah, I'm not currently allowed to do anything in the backyard. I'm only allowed to be stuck in the damn house making dinners, changing diapers, and sewing. No planting anything or it's just going to be where the future rain garden is going to be, or where some drain pipes have to be put in or something.
Her: Are you allowed to fuck?
Me: Oh yeah, that too. I'm allowed to do that.
Her: And suck dick, I bet.
Me: Yep. Still allowed.

Other topics included her frequent colonics, how much both Jews and Christians suck and how she also went to a Buddhist wedding recently where they served giant platters of roast beef and so they clearly sucked too, the imminent death of the oceans, the frequency with which she has to throw drunk Mexican guys out of her store, how much she loves Nigella Lawson, her new friend who used to be a dominatrix but who is now a creative writing teacher, her method of chasing solicitors, hunters, and other strangers off her property (with a megaphone and an antique sawed-off shotgun that used to belong to her grandfather), and how the world's biggest statue of a pinecone was located in the Vatican and this was a part of some reptilian conspiracy which I only dimly grasped but in which both JFK and Princess Diana were named as human sacrifices.

Phew! It was some afternoon! But I sure do love this particular friend of mine, equal-opportunity offensiveness and all.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More gardening funk

I started off the day with a nice, morning fight with Husband about the yard. I swear, I wasn't accusatory or demanding or upset myself. It started with me asking how he felt about hiring someone to come draw up a scale map of our property that we could make a bunch of copies of to play with. I explained to him (calmly, dammit) that I'd like to have him put down all the projects he's working on as well as all the things he wants to do in the future so that I'd know where I could plant things. It went from calm discussion to voices raised and hands thrown up in disgust within 5 minutes. It ended with him saying, "You can plant things right now," in a steely voice and me walking away, thinking, "Fuck you, I will," and plotting how I'd get several $100 weeping cherry trees home to plant.

Nice, huh? I'm so mature. Do I at least get points for not having said this out loud?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Playgroup for mamas

Bean just went down for a much-needed nap. It was so needed, in fact, that she even requested it herself with a plaintive, "Seepy! Kib!" while still eating lunch in her high chair. Say no more, kiddo, say no more.

So here I sit at the glorious beginning of 2 hours of mama time. I've already tidied up the lunch dishes and all the toys after our morning's playgroup. I get to blog here now and move on to a sewing project in a bit.

Before I move on, though, I should note that our playgroup this morning was really stellar. We had a fourth mom join us just before the holidays with her 18-month old daughter and she somehow seems to make everyone mesh much more smoothly. It's not something she's actively doing. The other 2 moms were a bit high-strung and I don't think I was imagining a bit of tension between them. The fourth mom helps to interrupt that tension just by being here. Plus, one of those high strung moms was home with her little boy this morning because his pediatrician said his ear infection could be contagious. (Um, okay...) That left just us other three with our respective little girls. We talked about our husbands and ex-jobs and ate chocolate chip cookies freely and enthusiastically. And for the first time, the conversation contained some cussing. Just a bit, so that we could test the reaction of the other moms. One said dammit, one said shit, and I, being the hostess, let rip the delightful adjective, "fuckin' " while describing the cats' propensity to shred the porch screen door. Even the f-word was received with laughter and visible relief from the other moms. Nothing like a well-timed f-word to make everyone relax, at least in some crowds. (No, you prisses out there, I didn't say it in front of our babies.)

Some of you city girls and Yankees out there probably think I'm laying the drama on a bit, but you've gotta be careful here in the 'burbs with the whole potty mouth thing, especially if you happen to live in the South. The infamous Senator Jesse Helms once suggested that Chapel Hill be fenced off as the state zoo, referring to it's freakishly liberal population. Even so, it's taken us 4 months of weekly playgroups to get to this point.

Now that we're here I'm going to look forward to playgroup for myself and not just for the sake of Bean having some social interaction. It's such a pleasant surprise to make friends as a grown-up, no?

Monday, January 22, 2007

January biliousness

The winter weather passed us by yesterday, or at least the hard core stuff did. No ice, no sleet, no snow. Still lots of rain, which means that most of both yards is sitting in a couple of inches of standing water, but I've learned to avert my eyes when looking out the house windows these days. Or just look up at the sky. I've really got to get more adept at the digital camera photo uploading business so that I can put some pictures up here and you all can see the wasteland that is our backyard at the moment. Even my friends find it disheartening.

But anyways, this is a big nothing of a day so far. Just a lot of errands to take care of, the house to tidy before the playgroup meets over here tomorrow, emails to send to Sister's school principal attempting to convince her that when my mother takes her to Disneyworld and Epcot Center next week it should be plenty educational enough to be excused from school--that sort of stuff.

One of the playgroup moms just announced last week that she's pregnant, and I need to get in a happy place about that particular bit of news before she gets over here. I keep thinking I'm over having the miscarriage and then things happen to make me realize I'm not completely. I say "things happen," but what I really mean is that I keep hearing about other women getting pregnant. Then there's the emotional residue of our genetic counselling appointment a couple of weeks ago, where all of a sudden it was impressed upon me by a 23-year old counsellor that I'm old now, procreationally speaking, and therefore at high risk for all kinds of awful, genetic mishaps. Maybe I can't even get pregnant at all anymore because of my horribly advanced age. Young, fertile wench.

Sigh. This sucks. One of the reasons I'm contemplating making this a private blog is that I want to write about Husband and I trying to have one more baby, and then again I don't want complete strangers to witness my self-pity and angst about it.

And then, what if I get that third child? Ha!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New perspective

It's a good day for the baby to be napping, Sister to be at her dad's, Husband to be out running errands, and me to be sitting in front of the computer sipping hot chocolate. What I ought to be doing is hauling firewood from the huge, damp pile in the corner of the backyard to a dry spot on the porch. If the "wintry mix" of precipitation that the weather forecasters have been threatening us with ever materializes then I'll be sorry I didn't. Just now, though, I'm enjoying a bit of peace that doesn't include any sort of cleaning, laundry folding, emailing to Brownie parents, or firewood hauling. Very, very rare for me.

I'm feeling a little less like an insecure harpie today and more like my regular, even-keeled self. I took Beth's advice and just came out and asked Husband last night why the hell he was looking up his ex-girlfriend and did he contact her. He had not, of course, gotten in touch with her and I know he never would. But she's just published another book, he told me, which naturally does not help with my just-under-the-surface angst about being only a stay-at-home mom. I'm working on that.

The nice thing about being 35, though, is that I've finally got some damn perspective. And here it is: This is my life. I am making it and living it and it really is a lovely life. A bit full just now of poopy-diaper changing and servicing the needs of 2 demanding young girl children, but lovely for all that, too.

In keeping with the introspective theme here, I'll disclose that I spent all last week mentally drafting my retirement post. I had decided, after hurting the feelings of a close friend with a flippant mention of her daughter's eating habits, that this blog really wasn't what I'd meant it to be. I had become too concerned with entertaining an audience out there and less with just recording daily life here, journal-style, as my own personal reference guide. This is a big part of why I've kept journals since I was 10 years old. The stories in your past shift each time you tell them to someone else. If you write it down when it happens, though, it's like a compass you can pull out when you need it. I've been surprised many times when I've gone back into my old journals to look something up and been able to see how much my story to others had been distorted from the original over the years.

I'll stop trying to entertain now. I'm going to make the switch to journal-keeping here, and if it gets to where I don't want anyone reading it anymore then I'll make it completely private. I'll see how it goes.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Shitty feeling

There's nothing quite like learning that my Husband has been looking up one of his old girlfriends to make me feel like a dumpy, boring, suburban fucking housewife. And just for the record, I did NOT learn this by snooping on his computer. He accidentally revealed it to me himself while looking something up on Google to show me as I sat beside him.

Hey, if there are any male readers out there? Making your wife or girlfriend feel unglamorous and uninteresting is not the way to get a piece.

Now I feel like I need to go out and start a revolution or something...

Monday, January 15, 2007


I think it would be accurate to describe Husband's preoccupation with the landscaping of our backyard as a full-blown obsession now. He's been spending evenings after the kids have gone to bed researching dry wells, dry creeks, pond-building, and storm water on-line. He wakes up at night and can't get back to sleep for wondering what the hell could be causing our backyard to be so full of water. He even rented an extremely expensive, ornery and vicious-looking piece of machinery for the entire weekend--his birthday weekend!--so that he could spend all his daylight hours trenching through the quicksand-like mud, hauling dirt from one spot to another, and moving one of the 2 enormous piles of gravel that are still blocking the top of our driveway and easy ingress through the side door.

Sigh. It is too wearying for me to get involved anymore. After the landscaper came, built the retaining wall, and left again I assumed that it was time to begin the fun of planting. I moved around some lavender plants to a better location, I bought a whole bunch of spring-flowering items, and I even got to work extending a stone-lined pathway around the corner of the porch with all the rocks left over from the retaining wall. This is when Husband began realizing that the yard needed FAR more work than he thought and pretty much all my little projects were destroyed. The stone-lined path was plowed through so that Husband could excavate yet another drainage trench and make the gravel in the path a whole lot deeper. He plans to put a rain garden right where the drought-loving lavender bed is now located. There's a foot of mud on top of 100 spring-flowering bulbs as well as the bare, and therefore invisible, branches of a hydrangea bush. Again, sigh.

I am literally just trying not to look at the backyard anymore, much less think about it. I have instead begun painting the kitchen and dining room inside the house. I'm managing to get a wall at a time done during naptimes and while the girls are sleeping. It will be beautiful, the exact color of Breyer's coffee ice cream or a milky cafe au lait.

But painting ain't gardening. I'll be glad when this is all over.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A month of Sundays

Okay, I thought I was a weekend landscape widow before? Over dinner this evening, Husband shared with me his vision of a "water feature" he wants to build in our newly transformed backyard. He wants to take up prime, sunny plant real estate with a pond that will be fed by a small water fall operated by a pump. Stormwater will in some way be routed to the pond, with overflow being siphoned off to a dry creek bed which will be filled with river rocks, but which will also have a large pipe underneath to funnel water to another pipe leading to the street.

Holy no-weekends-off-from-childcare for the forseeable future, Batman!

Beyond the call of duty

I knew when I first became pregnant with Sister that I was likely signing up for all manner of disgusting tasks. I distinctly remember the first time I thought to myself, "Yep, I'm a real mom now." It was when Sister was a year and a half old. She had been asleep for about half an hour when I heard her calling for me in a weak, pitiful voice. I went in to see what was wrong and when I picked her up she promptly threw up what felt like buckets of baby hurl down the front of my nightgown. That is, inside the front of my nightgown. And then threw up all over the sheets, the comforter, and the floor.

Since then, barf has practically become old hat. Ditto, diarrhea and all manner of nasal secretions. That's just part of the parenting job description. So I don't know why when this morning I went to get Bean's stroller out of my car and discovered that it had been left under the house eaves all night after Husband borrowed my car yesterday, and then I unfolded it and discovered that not only was it not dry, it was also covered with no fewer than 23 slugs I felt squeamish. Slugs in the garden, no problem. Slugs snacking on the moist remnants of old Cheerios and bloated raisins in the baby's means of neighborhood transportation is just nasty.

Not part of the job description.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mama's law

I have to admit that with Sister I've always felt a tad smug when it came to her eating habits. From a very early age, that child preferred--and could pronounce!--aged Manchego over any other cheese. I once fried up a couple of chicken livers that were stuffed inside a whole chicken I'd bought to roast as a little snack. I cut off a piece of one for her to try, not expecting anything, and was shocked when she asked for more. She's a foodie mama's delight and always has been. But when it comes to food, Bean appears to be her own girl.

Tonight I made miso-glazed salmon, brown rice, and sauteed snow peas for dinner, expecting that Bean would chow on the rice and have a few experimental bites of the fish and the peas. What she actually ate was nothing. Not one single bite. She clamored for juice for the first 5 minutes and when Husband looked like he was going to cave I said firmly, "No juice with dinner. We have milk." She began screaming for most of the rest of the next half hour. I ate my damn dinner while Husband gave her a few time-outs and fielded her pleas for dessert. (Husband created the toddler-dessert monster, not me.) At one point, Husband had a spoon of rice and fish in his hand and was on his knees in front of the high chair, calmly trying to get her to equate taking a bite with permission to get down, which she was begging to do at that point.

I don't remember food battles with my mom, and I really don't recall if my mom was such a bitch about eating that I wouldn't dare, or if I really was fine with eating everything (except nasty baked beans--ack!). Husband, however, is famous in his family for never eating a single vegetable til he was in college and began cooking for himself. His mother used to sneak vegetables into things in the hopes that he wouldn't notice. (He always did, according to them both.) He's used to food battles, I think, and used to the cajolery and the bribing that some schools of parenting accept as just a normal part of getting a kid to eat. Not me.

I have a good friend whose picky kid has pretty much always been given her own separate dinner from what she and her husband ate. This child is now 9 years old and is still eating this way. I asked myself tonight if it would really be so much trouble to just give Bean something besides what was in front of her, maybe some applesauce and some cottage cheese. The answer is yes. Yes, it would really be a lot of trouble. Bean would come to expect that she could always eat whatever she wanted, regardless of what I was cooking for dinner. You know what? I'm not doing it. Everyone in this house eats what I give them or they just won't eat.

And you won't find me on my knees begging.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Trying again

Husband and I are talking about getting pregnant again. Or rather, we've both mentioned it in passing while discussing new health insurance policies, Bean's development and such. As for talking about our hopes for another baby...well, we're both too scared of another miscarriage to talk about it like that.

Next week, we're going to a genetic counselling appointment so that Husband can be tested for the cystic fibrosis gene that I carry. If the news is good--and the odds are that it will be--then we'll try again. I don't know yet if I'll talk about being pregnant quite so early. It's difficult to go back and tell everyone that you're no longer pregnant if the worst happens. But having no one know about it all doesn't sound too appealing either.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Spring is comin' groove

What does it take to get my groove back? Certainly not my extremely cranky 8-year old child who I'm sending to bed early tonight in the hopes that she's just sleep-deprived and will shake it off with a couple extra hours under her belt.

And not my 20-month old little one who is charming and cute most days lately, but who treats me like a waitress in a crappy diner, demanding "Juice!" or "'Nack!" (snack) or "Dooey!" (smoothie) all day long, and I better hop to it or she'll help herself to the fridge, thanks.

No, I do love my girls and am pleased to be a mama, but to feel like my real self it takes sewing projects and grown-up conversations. And plants. Lots of plants.

One flat of sweet alyssum, an big mess of low-growing sedums, thymes, and mints for patio cracks, and a little colony-to-be of hellebores in my trunk and I'm good to go!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Couch bound

I'm not feeling my best today. Perhaps it's the scouring being perpetrated on my innards by our good luck meal of collard greens and black-eyed peas last night, or perhaps it's just the post-holiday let down finally catching up with me. I dunno. But all I want to do today is curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and watch Sex and the City reruns.

I've got to snap out of this before Sister gets home from school today. Sister and I are in one of our phases of not getting along, which means that I can look forward to an afternoon of her arguing with practically every statment or request that leaves my mouth, sobbing over math homework for an hour and a half, and then perhaps a little screaming on the floor while her 1-1/2 year old baby sister does one savage thing or another to her. This usually takes the form of hair-pulling, flesh-squeezing accompanied by a challenging stare, or perhaps a swat or two. I keep telling Sister that she outweighs Bean by 40 pounds and could simply get up off the floor to keep Bean from doing this to her, but Sister seems to enjoy being victimized by a toddler for some reason. I swear she even invites it. I had no idea that an 8-1/2 year old would stoop to this kind of interaction with a toddler 7 years her junior, but siblings are siblings I guess, no matter what the age difference.

Sigh. The weather is sunny and clear here today after a few depressing days of dreary gray. There's a lot of tidying up in the yard I could do now that the landscapers are gone. But right now I'm heading for the couch.