Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Running free

Running free, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Dig our new plastic horse herd! Bean and I picked them up this morning after posting our desire for plastic horses on Freecycle. I was expecting a bunch of crappy My Little Ponies, but these were clearly someone's prize collection once upon a time. I would have totally loved these when I was a little girl. Who am I kidding? I totally love these NOW! A complete stranger has made horse-loving Bean's week, bless her.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sugar drunk

Sugar drunk, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Sometimes I thoroughly enjoy my job. "Staying home to bake for appreciative children" is definitely one of my favorite job description line items of this stay-at-home mama gig. Here is Bean, chowing down with gusto on a post-nap slice of Battenberg cake. Before this, I could literally never get Bean to smile for a photo unless I asked her to think of her Papa and how much she loves him. Apparently, marzipan-wrapped cake loaves will also work!

My friend, Kat, showed me her copy of The Gentle Art of Domesticity, and I knew right away that I needed my own copy. The recipe came from this wonderful book, as have many other inspiring (and beautifully photographed) ideas for creative home life.

I wonder if "Queen of Hearts Jam Tarts" will result in an equally smiley photograph?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In which once again I am stupid with the hair color

DSC01556, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

So I dyed my hair the cheap way again, and once again it came out way brighter than I'd intended. I didn't think it was that bad, though, 'til yesterday. I was out gardening in the sun when I heard the door across the street slam. Then the excited voice of our 12-year old, home-schooled neighbor yelling, "Whoa! Mom! You've gotta come see this! Look at her hair!"

Entertaining children was not quite the effect I was going for. Bean asked me the day after the dyeing, "Mom, what happened to your hair? Your normal hair?" So perhaps I should've realized it was worse than I thought.

Oh well! I'm still too cheap to pay someone to fix it and too busy to spend that much time obsessing over it anyway. It'll fade sooner or later.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hands full of slugs!

Hands full of slugs!, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

I've got to post this because the photo--and the event itself!--were too hilarious not to put out there. I was trying to keep loud little Bean out of the house over the weekend while her early-rising Papa caught a quick nap. We went out into the backyard to do a little weeding together, which she enjoys because it invariably means we find some form of interesting life. In the case of the barberry shrubs near the swings, pulling up handfuls of overgrown crabgrass yielded handfuls of overgrown slugs. Yuck!

I'm never bothered by this sort of thing, but even I was grossed out when I saw the slugs wrapping themselves between her fingers, webs of slime draped behind them. After Bean stashed the slugs in a new bowl habitat and came inside, it took me ten minutes and a new green scrubbie to get rid of the horrible goo--and then I had to throw the scrubbie away because it was so filled with nastiness.

Such is life with Bean!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crap legacy

I suspect that some years down the road, when I look back on this era in my life, I will think of it as a time when I didn't do anything particularly well. I'm pretty smart and accustomed to feeling more or less successful in whatever way I choose to spend my time. Not in a brilliant, genius kind of way. Just, you know, pretty good.

Now, I don't whether it's because a third kid has thrown me or if the new business is taking its toll, but I just feel like I suck at stuff. I can't keep up with this blog or others' blogs or even the business blog. I can't manage not to yell at the kids at least once during the course of my day (and let's face it, it's usually more than once). I can't figure out how to improve my deteriorating relationship with Sister which seems to be made worse with every day of math homework. I can't get anything done. The house is filthy. Every available horizontal space is taken up with boxes of crap. You know? It's just overwhelming if I stop to think about it. And I've never been very good at ignoring things that bother me.

Intellectually I know that this is probably par for the course with young children around, but I just don't know how to turn off my inner control freak.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Things not to say to Husband

What I would put right now as my Facebook status update if my husband didn't have me as one of his friends: "Sugarmama is real damn sick of her husband running half an hour late for dinner lately. Especially on nights when she got no fucking sleep because the baby kept her up."

There. I said it.

And now for a pre-late-dinner cocktail.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baby's jones

My first two girls seemed to get all the oral fix they needed through nursing. Neither Sister nor Bean ever cared for a pacifier. (I did offer one sometimes if all else failed to soothe their screams, but it was always rejected with outrage.) Sweet P is very different. She nurses plenty, but when she doesn't have a booby in her mouth, she also likes her little rubber plug. She's even discovered that I often keep one in her car seat in the dining room so as to never be without one in the car. She'll sometimes get this look in her eyes in the middle of whatever she's doing--today it was me playing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" with her--and she'll crawl off to find that spare. She pops it into her mouth and looks so pleased with being able to help herself that I don't have the heart to take it away.

But I think she might be developing a little oral dependency now. For the last week she's been waking up 5 or 6 times a night as if she were a newborn. She doesn't appear to be teething anymore--that was three weeks ago and teeth numbers 5 and 6 finally came in on her upper gums with no more inflammation anywhere in her mouth. I think it's just that in her dimly night-lit room, she can't find her freakin' pacifier. I nurse her to sleep and generally put her down without incident. But when she wakes up a couple of hours later, I give her the bink and it puts her right back to sleep--'til it falls out. Again and again.

At 4:00 this morning, after waking up to retrieve it for her several times, it finally dawned on me that I was being used. Finally, I know, but I was tired as hell, okay? I told Husband--who at last registered that perhaps he should take a turn getting up--to just look in on her but not give her the damn plug anymore. He did just that, but when he left the room Sweet P screamed for quite some time afterwards. I'm not even sure if it was constant or if she dozed off. I was such a zombie at that point that I slept (fitfully) through whatever fuss she might have been making before getting up to nurse her at 4:45 when I heard her yet again.

Do you ever get the feeling that a good night's sleep is the modern holy grail? I'm going to stop giving her the pacifier at night, I think, in the hopes that a cold turkey approach will end this awful new nighttime routine of hers within a few days. I'm so tired of being so tired!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Making apple butter

Making apple butter, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

It's been a miserably long time since I was last here, and while I've been absent fall has come to NC. Isn't it funny how the last day of summer happens without you knowing that it's the last day? You kinda know it's coming, but you don't know that particular 95 degree, swelteringly humid day is the last one of the year? Turns out it is, though, and pretty soon you realize it's time to do stuff like whip up pumpkin muffins with your delighted 3-year old daughter and make a big mess of apple butter to go with it. That's what we've been doing around here lately, and it's very cozy indeed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What not to do with your sister's colored hair gel

I swear, every time I turned my back on Bean yesterday she was doing something godawful. Witness this goopy mess of a toy here. What happened was that I left Bean and Sister playing happily upstairs while I went downstairs to make dinner. A few minutes later, I hear Sister wailing, "Oh no!" I went to see what was amiss, and found that Bean had climbed from the toilet to the bathroom counter where she was then able to reach the medicine chest. Fortunately, we don't keep actual medicine--which Bean thinks is "tasty"--there. But we do keep Sister's vast collection of colored hair gels there, and Bean had emptied 3 of the tubes onto this unsuspecting stuffed critter.

Other shenanigans yesterday: pulling all the flowers off a shrub in my front flower garden, catching gold fish from her father's pond (which always ends in fish death), yanking Sweet P's legs out from under her while she was crawling several times, and I can't remember what all else. It was a rough afternoon and I was near tears by the time Husband made it home (late).

Today's looking better, despite a rough night with the baby not sleeping. But apparently an hour of mama time first thing in the morning, even after very little sleep, cures most of what ails me.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday house

I love my house most on a Sunday evening. All the laundry is done. The beds are made up with fresh linens. There are fresh flowers from the garden in the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, the dining room. Everything is put away and clean. The kids are clean, with full bellies, in their beds. The trash is taken out. The refrigerator and pantry are fully stocked, as is the bowl of pretty, fresh fruit on the counter.

All is well.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Good mood mama

This week has been so much better than last week. I'm certainly not getting any more sleep than last week, but I am over a summer cold and I'm also consistently getting up at 5:45, about 45 minutes (if I'm lucky) before anyone else gets up. At 5:45 it's still dark outside, and some mornings I'd much rather sleep. But it's been worth it to have the quiet time. What I've been doing is making myself a cup of tea and going out onto our dark back porch to sit on the rug. I stretch a little because when it's quiet I notice how stiff my body is in the mornings now. (It didn't used to be.) I watch the sun rise through the trees behind the house because our porch faces east. I listen to the birds wake up and the crickets go to sleep. Yesterday I listened to an owl makes its way through our neighborhood, it's hooty calls getting farther and farther away from me.

My morning mood is vastly improved by starting the day off alone and quiet rather than having to be "on" the minute the kids wake me up. I may even set my clock a little earlier to get even more time like this!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

On the fence

I've been trying to decide lately whether to keep going with this blog or not because--as the few of you still reading here have probably noticed--I'm having trouble fitting it into my life now. And part of it is also that I don't have all that much new to say lately. I'm either having a horrible time with the kids because I'm sleep-deprived and trying to do too much, or I've gotten a little rest and being home with my daughters is the very best thing I could possibly imagine doing right now.

I'm having one of those latter kinds of weeks right now, in case anyone is interested. I just spent two relaxed hours outside with Bean and Sweet P, weeding the garden, catching butterflies and frogs, trying to keep Sweet P from swallowing pebbles. It was a perfect couple of hours and just exactly how I imagined being home with kids could be in my pre-Bean daydreams. (It remains to be seen whether my inner grooviness will hold once Sister gets home from school and the daily math hysteria resumes once again, but I'll try.)

Anyways, I still can't make up my mind, but considering that my days go much better with the girls if I keep my computer time to a minimum, I may drop the blogging.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday morning

I backed up my wake up time to 5:45 today since Sweet P seems to be on an earlier wake up schedule herself. If only I hadn't had to pack Sister's lunch this morning instead of last night I would've had a lovely bit of just mama time...

This first week back to school has been a real bummer, to use a phrase dating from my own school days. I've already had Sister's teacher call me to express her concern over my daughter's near-constant fidgeting--yes, already! I found myself wanting to advise Sister to just start biting her nails like I used to do, but instead had her make herself a "stress ball" to squeeze under her desk. It's just a balloon filled with rice and tied off and is pleasantly squeeze-y. Sister herself told me that she can't just sit there with her hands quietly resting on her desk, that she needs something for them to do. I can definitely relate, so here's hoping the rice-filled balloon will fix everything. If someone recommends she be medicated to keep her focused in school, I will seriously consider homeschooling her.

My goodness, what grim thoughts for lovely mama time!

Some things I'm looking forward to this weekend: getting some sleep so I can kick this cold that isn't helping with my record-high grumpiness level; having brunch with a couple friends; doing some sewing; and having Husband home!

Birds are beginning to sing now, though the dog is still snoring in his crate...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Work love

I was just puttering around the house before anyone wakes up, half-thinking about what I could do with Bean today. Have I mentioned here that she's gotten to the point where I must have an answer to the question, "What are we going to do now?" If I tell her, "Hon, we're doing it!" or, "I thought we'd just hang out together," she becomes enraged. She's an intense little person who wants to always be moving on to the next thing. I'm a goal-oriented kind of gal myself, but my mother assures me that I was nothing like Bean as a kid.

Anyways. It struck me a minute ago that today I get to go to work! And that the answer to Bean's inevitable question could be, "Miss Valerie is going to come take care of you and Sweet P today."

Respite from the steely-eyed glare of my 3-year old!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New routine

This first week back to school is just dragging. I really was surprised to realize this morning that it's only Wednesday. If felt like at least the beginning of next week.

One bright side to the new back-to-school routine is that I've begun setting my clock for half an hour earlier than Sister's wake-up time. So I'm getting up at 6:00 and my only goal is to have a cup of tea in solitude before anyone wakes up needing me. It makes me very grumpy to have to be on as soon as I get up--and sometimes before I get up if I bring the baby into bed with me, and then Bean gets in bed with us and wants to mess with Sweet P, and then the dog begins whining downstairs when he realizes people are waking...

Quiet and solitude are so rare for me these days and I've always been the kind of person who needed a lot of time alone. I'm sure I'd be a much better mama and much nicer person in general if I could just figure out how to get more of that. 6:00 waking is a start. My mom used to get up at 4:30 in the morning when I was a kid, but I don't think I'm quite that desperate yet!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer is over

DSC01262, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Sister's going back to school on Monday and I think I'm really going to miss the completely whack games that the girls played together. At the beginning of summer, I had big plans for all the time we were going to have at home. Cooking, baking, sewing up toys, doing paintings, setting up a family art space... but somehow all that ended up happening was naked Barbie parties and pet torture. Yeah, we went to the pool a couple times, made homemade popsicles once, went to the museum...but really, that was about it.

There seem to be a lot of parents out there relieved that their dear offspring will be heading back to school in the very near future (if they haven't already). But I'm just sorta bewildered by how very little we did this summer and feeling a bit disappointed that I didn't get around to teaching Sister to cook a few things like I meant, to teaching Bean how to embroider with yarn and a giant plastic needle on burlap, to even going to the zoo. Where the heck did all those long, empty weeks go?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More ways to waste time online

Just when I thought I knew all the ways in which I could get drawn into an internet time suck--browsing Japanese fabrics, trawling enviously through Etsy storefronts, reading your blogs, emailing my college girlfriends to try and coordinate a mutually acceptable potluck date--I discover another way to waste a lot of time I don't have. Facebook. Who knew what an obsession it could become?

I realized recently that with my twenty year high school reunion fast approaching, I'd better get my married name out there so that people could find me. So that, you know, I'd actually be invited this time. (I haven't gone to any of them so far.) So I created a Facebook account, invited a few friends, and went along my merry way. But so many people are finding me now!

I've had a number of college friends that I haven't kept up with "friend" me, an ex that I haven't spoken with in 10 years, and now, indeed, some high school people. I've actually busted out my horrible senior yearbook as a reference so that I can try to remember who these people were when they friend me. (Someday when I want to make y'all laugh, I'll post pictures of my enormous 1980's high school hairdo. I hope to never see another bottle of White Rain hairspray as long as I live.)

I think where the time suck comes in is when people ask me things like, "So what's your life like now?" and "What have you been doing in the last 19 years?" Those are both actual questions I've received and it takes awhile to summarize 19 years of personal history, you know?

Anyways, that's my most recent excuse for why I've been neglecting this blog.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Big juicy personal revelation with a side order of guilt

Yesterday was a good day. A very good day. The baby had woken me up the night before several times because of a stuffy nose, I had to rush the girls out of the house first thing in the morning, but still a very good day. The thing that was different? I got to go to work.

I met the babysitter at the new office and after Sweet P was tanked up with milk, the sitter whisked the girls away for a fabulous 2-1/2 tour of the wonders of downtown Mebane. (This woman is the childcare score of the century, by the way. Bean and Sweet P both adore her already, after only two afternoons with her.) I stayed at the office with Husband and our business partner and learned all about our new fabric printer. I learned something new! I hung out with grown-ups and made grown-up jokes! I thought about our business at length!

It was only later when I took the girls home and noticed how cheerful and optimistic I felt that I realized it was because I'd done something other than caring for my own children. Yeah, that's where the big helping of guilt comes in.

I don't think I need to say here that I adore my girls, but I'll say it anyway for the record. I'm crazy about them. They're wonderful, unique little people and I enjoy seeing how they evolve everyday. But I've been thinking this week that maybe I'm not doing such a great job with this stay-at-home mom thing. I've never been a patient person, I don't do the imaginative play thing very well, and you know what? Some days I am so bored I feel like I'm going a little crazy.

There. I said it.

I would really like to work a little while someone else takes care of my children. Not full-time or anything, but that's what I want very much.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Surprise! Still burnt out!

Yep, it's official. I am tired of Husband working so much on our new business venture. He didn't get home til 9:45 last night and left for work again this morning at 8:00. That was exactly 15 minutes after Bean and I had gotten up, by the way, so that's how much daddy time she had this morning, and that's how much baby-free time I had to get ready and make the bed. I hadn't even made it downstairs yet--he met me at the top of the stairs to hand me Sweet P before dashing out the door. Sigh.

I'm trying to tell myself it'll be worth it in the long run, but I'm afraid I'm just not that much of a visionary when another 10-1/2 hour day of taking care of kids looms ahead of me. I'm crazy about my daughters, of course, but I just need a teensy little break right about now.

In the time it took me to write this brief little post, I had to stop twice because Bean requested seconds on snack and then dropped and broke the cup that her applesauce was served in. Also, the baby is waking up after a 20 minute nap. Fuck.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Days without t.v....

DSC01235, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

...are spent doing EVERYTHING. I thought I was busy before? Sheesh!

In case you can't tell, that's our dining room table covered with quilts and all the sofa cushions and throw pillows piled up to make a fort. Then there's the scrap basket with fabric scraps all over the place. ALL the Legos out. ALL the cardboard blocks out. And yes, lots of happy, imaginative play going on there so I'm not complaining. Too much.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

T.v. free, day one

Sister's at her dad's for the next few days, but the no t.v. thing went pretty well with Bean this morning. She asked probably four times over the course of the morning if she could "watch a little show," but only threw a fit at my no answer the first couple of times. For Bean, that's pretty good.

We spent the early part of the morning on the back porch playing darts and sorting through a tin of shells and rocks on the rug. Then we had breakfast and went to the farmer's market where our favorite pie baker gave Bean a little peach turnover. We purchased three savory tarts for our dinner from her--cherry tomato-ricotta and eggplant-feta--along with plump green beans, tomatoes, a canary melon, a Bean-sized charentais melon, a bag of fresh yeast rolls, and some cockscomb flowers. Bean was bummed that no one had any lemonade for us to drink on this 90-degrees-already morning, but cheered up dramatically when we drove home to her Papa packing up towels and bathing suits for a pool outing.

In short, it was a nice, calm morning with Bean, very different from how our mornings usually feel. One thing I wasn't expecting was that she drinks a lot less juice when she's not zoning out in front of a couple of Curious George episodes. So maybe it's been the sugar that's been the bad behavior culprit all along.

Next up--trying to get through her usual afternoon post-nap meltdown. Bean NEVER handles waking up from her naps peacefully.

Friday, August 01, 2008

T.v. free

My toilets are orange, about a month past needing to be scrubbed. I just noticed that the bottom foot of dining room curtains are--once again!--soaked in cat piss. Crabgrass is taking over the garden. Laundry continues piling up at an alarming pace. Sister and Bean are unbelievably resourceful in finding new things to argue over. (Who owns a particular loose dime, for example. Seriously.) The baby STILL won't sleep through the night.

Did I really just declare August t.v.-free month for us this morning? My hope is that this will improve the girls' behavior. (She explains weakly.)

Stay tuned for how long I hold out...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blueberry picking

Picked this morning, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Sometimes this real life business is pretty sweet. I just took the girls out to an organic pick-your-own blueberry farm way outside of town. Like an idiot, I forgot to bring my camera which was a real shame. It was so peaceful and all the mamas and kids--and it seemed to be only mamas with their kids out there--were so happy and relaxed. The blueberries were abundant, a bumper crop according to the cheerful women running the stand. Sister asked how much their bushes usually produced each year and they told us it was somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds of blueberries.

Can you imagine?!

I swear, I want to retire to a pick-your-own blueberry farm now and have that be the way we make our living. I walked away with the sense that the world is fruitful and abundant, that all it takes to be your real self is to live that close to things that grow. Happy children running around exclaiming over every little amazing everyday thing--a dragonfly wing, a bird's nest, all those berries, an ancient apple tree--doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Something fun

It's hard to put together the chatty, light-hearted post I'd half-written in my head earlier today now. It's been a long damn day. Husband had to leave the house for something work-related at 7:00 am this morning. He returned for 45 minutes this afternoon--long enough for me to make a solo trip to the grocery store--and then was back out again til 9:30 tonight. When he got home, the goddamn dog woke both the baby and Bean up with his shrill little miniature Schnauzer yapping and I could have thrown him across the room. Sweet P has just, just fallen back to sleep after screaming for the last hour. Stupid frigging dog.

So anyways.

Remember how I wrote about real life, wanting to live a real life, something...what the hell did I say about real life? 'Cause all this doing real life stuff is tiring! Here's a list of real stuff I've been doing since my last post:

1. Repainting my downstairs bathroom. A room probably 10 square feet has taken me most of last week to (almost) finish painting during naptimes. Why am I doing this? Is a turquoise bathroom really worth it?

2. Dealing with Bean's mysterious, horrible spider bite. She woke up yesterday morning with a hugely swollen ankle and 2 tiny pus-y (um, how do you spell the adjective describing something containing pus...?) fang marks in the middle of it. She's on a course of antibiotics now because it was already getting infected. We're supposed to be looking out for necrosis. That's dying tissue that will have to be removed via surgery, for you spider bite neophytes.

3. Running naked in a thunderstorm with some college girlfriends and drinking entirely too much wine. Yes, this really happened! I'm too old to be drinking that much wine, though, and my liver hates me now.

4. Hmmm, can't think of much else just now besides changing a lot of diapers, nursing, and cleaning up a lot of poop and pee, of both the child and animal variety. Do any of you other moms feel like most of your day consists of wiping someone's butt?

5. Did I mention that Sweet P can crawl as of last week? It's a whole new world for both of us. She's interested in all kinds of things now--delicious bathroom trash, dog ears, the compost bucket, dust bunnies, electrical cords. I forgot about this dashing around to protect my infant from all things disgusting part of baby-mamahood, I must confess.

Off to bed now. It's late for this mama and both the big girls were demanding to do "something fun" tomorrow before they went to bed. And I get the sense that it better be something real, too. None of this "Let's just hang out!" stuff I've been trying to get by them lately.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trying to catch a morning frog

Please ignore the black plastic of Husband's waterfall-in-progress, and try not to worry that Bean will fall in here. (She didn't.) It was such a lovely, cool morning after last night's thunderstorm that we were all drawn out onto the patio to enjoy the cool even before we'd had our respective morning beverages.

There's a frog under the rock that Bean's after there, and you can't tell in the picture but there were several bullfrog tadpoles--which are the size of my thumb!--surfacing and diving, nibbling on algae, maybe. It felt like autumn for a little while.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sleep-deprived and jonesing for some mama time

What the hell has happened to my sweet angel baby? I'm not joking here when I say that she woke me up probably about a dozen times last night. Teething? The fact that she just learned to crawl yesterday and is practicing in her crib when she should be freaking sleeping? I don't know! I've had no problem letting her cry it out ever since I went on nighttime nursing strike last week. But the other morning I came into her room to get her up and her leg was stuck between the bars of her crib all the way up to her chubby little thigh. That's a first for me, so now I'm worried now that she's going to injure herself through my slack-ass, third-baby parenting. Ugh. I dread going to sleep tonight.

Despite my recent angst about my on-line time, I did lollygag around today on the sofa with my trusty laptop, browsing amazing Flickr photos and inspiring Etsy shops. I'm dying to try my hand at something called itajime after I saw this gorgeous little quilt. I also really really really want this to be my sewing space.

See? So inspiring! And so utterly unattainable for me with my sleep-deprived brain and utter lack of any long stretches of free time. One of these days though....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Is there life without the internet?

I've been struggling with finding the time to blog lately. And struggling with some new mixed feelings about my life + internet, too. When I posted about our cabin vacation a few weeks ago, I didn't mention how absolutely eye-openingly lovely it was to be without internet access or television for that week. Do any of you remember life before the internet? It's a distant dream, isn't it? I had forgotten how my days could be filled with real activities if I didn't have a computer doing it's daily time suck thing. I could read! I could sew! I could pay attention to the hilarious things my children come up with! I could think long thoughts! In short, I could have a REAL life and not some shadow life where I was just reading about what others are doing with their time, y'know? It made me want to go back to my pen and paper journal and just board up my little on-line cave here. Horribly luddite of me, I know.

But here's where those of you who know about Spoonflower, our (ahem) internet-based business, will start to think the obvious: "Um, you know you can't chuck that computer out the window if you've got help emails to answer and craft blog posts to write and all, right...?" Sigh. I DO know that. And I have no intention of avoiding that part of my new job description of stay-at-home, work-from-home mama.

I'm still trying to decide how to keep that feeling I had at the cabin, though, of remembering REAL ways to spend my time and energy. I'm a things-in-front-of-me kind of girl all the way, I guess.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I have a 10-year old!

DSC01081, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

It's hard to believe that 10 years ago this child made me into a mama, but there it is. Time passes and they grow up.

Sister had 4 friends over for a sleepover for her birthday which she also did last year. But this year all of a sudden the girls seemed so grown up. They got along well without me having to intervene and make them be nice to each other. They told jokes, they listened to each other, they made little "trading cards" to exchange, and they just generally hung out and enjoyed each other's company without me having to do much besides feed them and make them brush their teeth. (Oh, and settle down at 1:30 in the morning when the baby woke me up and I realized that I could still hear them giggling loudly downstairs.)

One of my favorite things they did was riff off of this Worst Case Scenario board game we have. At first, they got a kick out of reading the cards to each other, but then began making up their own scenarios:
"How to eat your lucky underwear after a volcano erupts."
"How to survive an unexpected poop."
"How to drink your pee in a dire emergency."
"How to use a chicken and a DVD as clothes in dire trouble."
"How to survive in a room with a toilet, Hagrid's butt, and a saw."

They just keep being hilarious, I guess, no matter how old they get!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Crisp around the edges

Husband has taken all three girls and the dog out for an evening's walk around the neighborhood. I am grateful, if all too aware how quickly this little piece of quiet will last.

I am burnt out, I think. Short-tempered with everyone, sleep-deprived, and having dreams about how I fail at trying to fix things or make them better. Husband told me the other night that my overreacting to Bean's nightly ruining of dinner is in fact ruining EVERYONE'S dinner. I've decided that ignoring my middle daughter at dinner is my best strategy, but I can't just ignore everyone all the time.

Actually, I don't know what the hell I need to make this better. I mean, I THINK I know what I need, but it's so unlikely that I'm going to get it anytime soon that it seems pointless to try and do much. I need to be able to sleep nights for at least one long chunk of time. I need to be not the only one maintaining the house on a daily basis. I need someone to fix shit that's broken around here. I need some time daily to do a little something for myself--just an hour or so would do. And I don't want to make it the very last thing in my day after the dishes are done and the mess picked up and the trash taken out and the laundry folded.

And while I'm making a list of things that I'd get in my ideal world, I'd like for kids not to scream back or sigh dramatically or glower sullenly at me if I ask them to do something they're not particularly fond of. I'd like people to remember the things that I tell them or request of them for longer than the day that I tell or request them. I'd like my mother to be involved more in my kids' lives and, like, keep them at her house sometimes. I'd like to have no t.v. I'd like to chuck the computer out the window and go live in a big, ancient farmhouse somewhere out in the country where there was a pond and animals and a huge garden and quiet and you could still see the stars at night.

All that stuff I want. Anyone else feel like joining me?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Last vacation

Hmmm. Guess I shoulda said something about how I'd be gone for Husband's family reunion last week, huh? We were up in the mountains of TN at his family's cabin and had a really lovely time. Just for the record, I take back everything I ever said about the (ahem) rustic state of the cabin. When we drove up, I was startled to note my happiness in seeing it again, spiders, dust, must and all. And I promise, it wasn't all due to my relief at getting out of the van after 8-1/2 hours. No, really! I was even genuinely sad to be coming home, and I usually LOVE to come home after vacations. Was it me who even suggested to Husband how great it would be to stay there for a month sometime?! Yes, it was!
But here we are at home and it is nice to be back after all, except for the evidence of an enormous storm that blew through on the 4th. It knocked a huge branch off our neighbor's old maple, crushing a particularly lovely part of my flower garden out front. I have blackberry lilies, obedient plants, hollyhocks, and spiderwort there and hope they'll all perk up again. Oh, and a 7-foot tall cactus we keep on our front porch to ward off religious proselytizers fell over, taking out both our porch railing and half a gardenia bush. Our metal porch railing! Now there's a big hole in the house siding that will no doubt cost an arm and a leg to repair. How random is that?

Still, it was a lovely vacation and our last one for quite awhile, I think, since work is getting so busy. Hope all you American types had nice holidays, too!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Good life

Other reasons it's great to be home:

1. A batch of chocolate covered banana-sicles made up with an enthusiastic Bean this morning.

2. A batch of chocolate chip cookies, also made with Bean's help, for our new neighbors one street over with a son Bean's age.

3. The discovery of an ENORMOUS, 3-inch long, disgusting grub in our compost pile this morning. Very exciting and totally gross!

4. The discovery that Bean, quite suddenly, knows how to draw scary monsters with her colored pencils. This thrills me. Though I do wonder where the drawings of blood come from. "'Cause monsters have blood, Mom!" she tells me as if I'm an idiot. Still, I can't help but wonder if my Bean has dark, Goth chick leanings already...

5. Oh, and the disappearance of our USB cable so that I can't post a single damn picture of any of this.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A what?

Just saw one of these out in our garden--a zebra swallowtail. Never seen one before!

But in other, more personally relevant news, we're back from Topsail Island as of yesterday afternoon. Even though it took me vacuuming and sweeping the house, unpacking several suitcases and bags of leftover groceries, the immediate evacuation of a small colony of hatched and starving butterflies to the outdoors, SEVEN LOADS OF LAUNDRY, and a marathon session of plant watering to get the house back to normal, I am officially back to normal. Insert contented sigh here. I love coming home.

Overall vacation verdict this year is that it was sorta wasted on me. I swam in the ocean a grand total of two times because I was mostly stuck indoors with Sweet P whose tender skin I was afraid to scorch. Husband and I still had to get out the weekly fabric shipment and do some Spoonflower work from the beach. And we helped fix meals for way more kids than usual. But at least Sister and Bean had a blast. As Bean recounted with premature nostalgia when told that we were leaving the next day, "Mom, I played for days and days at the beach." She sure did!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

7 of 11

7 of 11, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

It's so hard to get a group kid photo when there are 11 kids to corral and one of them REFUSES to leave my arms for any reason. This is as close as I've gotten this year--7 of the assorted cousins, including 2 kids of my own, snapped while they're eating and quiet for a change. They're chatting to themselves, but it's not the utter mayhem that has otherwise been their mode this year.

I've hardly seen Sister at all this week because she's suddenly old enough to not make a nuisance of herself among her teenage cousins. She's hanging out with them and they're not annoyed by her presence. She's also old enough to be responsible, not get lost on beach walks, stay hydrated, not drown, etc. I'm sorry to say that what interaction I've had with her has been mighty sassy on her part. Trying to save face in front of these same teenage cousins, I guess.

Bean has needed, as usual, a lot of entertainment and Sweet P has needed me. A lot. Like, nursing half the night and miserable whenever I put her down during the day. I am exhausted. On vacation!

This is one beach trip I won't be sorry to see over, however much cat barf there is to clean up or laundry to do at home when we return.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beach quickie

I'm sneaking in a quick blog post here while I nurse the baby (to sleep, I hope!) and supervise Bean's settling in for a nap (which isn't looking very settled at the moment). We're all three in our shared beach house bedroom on Topsail Island, NC for our annual clan convergence. Ratio of children to adults--11:6.

It's a chocolate chip cookie snarfing, hot tub splashing, thunderous overhead porch stomping, sandy pocket emptying, no-more-than-2-sodas-a-day-please saying, giant lunch cooking, wet floor wiping, shrimp peeling, watermelon seed spitting, close-that-door! shouting, I-SAID-no-more-than-2-sodas! reminding, wet towel hanging, kid skin sunscreening kind of vacation.

Pictures to come, I hope, if I can remember where I packed that damn USB cable...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer spruce up, plus bloggers visiting me!

I ought not to mind getting older. I tell myself this often, chastising myself that it's shallow to care. 'Cause I mean, I could be dead, right? Nevertheless, I find that I do care that every.freaking.year. the annual getting-ready-for-summer beauty routine gets harder. Or rather, it has less of an effect. And out of frustration about my mousey self, I end up doing idiotic things like dyeing my hair lurid purpley-red, as if I don't remember that a red that bright just doesn't go so well with the jeans and spit-up encrusted t-shirts I might manage to pull on late in the morning. With my old, cute, black crepe flapper dresses, yes, but with mommy gear...uh, no. Sigh.

Nevertheless, I doggedly kept a bikini wax appointment today, more to avoid scaring the passel of children who will be attending this year's family beach trip than in the hopes that anyone might look twice at me in a bikini. I mean, tankini. I mean, skirted tankini. (Do they still make flapper bathing suits? I would so wear one at this point!) I bought some bronzer and some mineral make-up stuff that I actually think does make my complexion look better in some subtle way. And I painted my toe nails pink.

That about does it for my summer sprucing up this year. That's all I have time for, and that's all I have the heart to try.

On a brighter note, I'm pretty damn excited that tomorrow night I have two bloggers coming over to my house to hang out--woo-hoo! I met Beth from Blind as a Bat last year when she was in Raleigh visiting her daughter, and she was just as friendly and funny in real life as she is on her blog. Joan from Southern Suburbia I've never met, despite the fact that she lives only about an hour away from me. Small confession here: I kinda had her in mind when I painted my toenails tonight, having gotten an inkling how she is about her own toes.

I'm only slightly embarrassed to say that I'm serving them take-out pizza for dinner, feeling like a big salad, homemade brownies, and Kat's Bourbon Slush (scroll down to the end of the post) ought to make them feel welcome and feted, regardless. I'll let y'all know how it goes, okay?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mummified Barbie with precious oil

What?! Your kids don't anoint Barbies with fragrant oils and mummify them in toilet paper when it's summertime?

P.S. Lest y'all think I'm the most permissive of mamas, letting my girls play around with my perfume collection, know that the bottled Gap stink pictured here is a yard sale find that Sister picked up this weekend. Perfume makes my nose hurt. (All mummification around here happens on the porch.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer on the porch

I bought the girls a kiddie pool the other day to help us all stay cool in the scorching heat. (100 degrees here for, like, 4 days in a row! Ugh!) We've all enjoyed soaking in the freezing cold hose water, even Sweet P. Yesterday, after we all had a dip, we had a snack picnic on the porch while our skins dried under the ceiling fan. Then Bean went outside to "chalk."

I shucked off my wet suit, wrapped myself up in a beach towel, and nursed Sweet P, who drowsed off in my arms in the rare peace. I laid her next to me to finish her nap.

Peace while the kids are awake is seldom seen around here, so it was an especially sweet afternoon that I want to remember.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rising fifth grader, not rising at the moment

This is how Sister intends to spend a good portion of her time now that school has let out. (Today! Finally!) Can you tell she's psyched? And do you remember when you had this kind of leisure time? I remember long afternoons and evenings spent curled up in a chair or on the porch with nothing to do but read if I wanted. Back before the days of the internet, clearly.

Happy summer, everyone!

Monday, June 09, 2008

My baby can sit!

DSC00865, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

And does she not look like a little angel baby who requires some attention? Yes, she does. Which is partly why I haven't been blogging lately. My two little nappers do tag team napping now, with Sweet P's naps sorta bracketing Bean's single afternoon nap. Neither of them much appreciates mama being on the computer when awake either. Only 6 more months and they might actually nap at the same time, right?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Feeling better

Happy baby, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Trying to post today if only to get that last one down a bit. I'm feeling a lot less sorry for myself today, thanks. I've been so busy lately with the kids and the new business that I've been really struggling. Last night, though, I realized that my help with the business is the thing that should give around here if I need something to. The kids shouldn't be the thing I let go, right? I mean, if my help consists of responding to people's emails and posting on our blog now and then, that could probably wait longer than a lonely young'un in need of some mama time? Yes.

This morning, Sweet P woke me up at 5:30 to nurse. After I got her tanked up and back to sleep, I went on downstairs because it was already getting light outside and I relished the thought of having the quiet house to myself, sleep deprivation be damned. I sat alone on the back porch with the birds singing, drinking my tea. With quiet time to think, I made a new plan to think of some way of giving each of my daughters some small thing they want each day, something to make them cheerful and happy about the day. For Sister, it was biscuits and strawberries for breakfast and a trip to the library after school today. For Bean, it was my undivided attention for a couple of hours while Sweet P napped. We went out in the garden together and planted vegetables and sunflowers, dug for worms, and chatted. For Sweet P, I'm vowing to just play with her more rather than popping her into her swing or her bouncy seat so I can blog, send emails, steal a few minutes for a sewing project. Sewing projects are going to have to wait til after the kids are in bed now, I think. It's going to require some focus on my part, but if I get up a little early every day, that may just give me the break I need to be able to do all that for everyone else.

Everyone gets a little something, mama included.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Oy vey! I hope the rest of you out there aren't feeling as stressed and overwhelmed as I am lately! I feel like I just don't get a break anymore since our babysitter has left town for the summer and my mom has my little brothers to keep her from acting as regular grandma. Know what stupid thing happened today? Bean was in the bathroom washing her hands after lunch when all of a sudden she let out a loud wail. My nerves were already pretty jangly after a morning full of wails from both little girls. I come rushing in to see what's happened now and she's in tears because she's tipped over her potty which was apparently full to the brim with pee. Pee is now all over the bathroom rug and floor and Bean is still wailing. I put the baby down in her swing so I can clean the lake of pee and she starts screaming.

It was just the last straw for me, I guess, because then I burst into tears.

I'm over myself now, but jeez! Do I really need to wait til the babysitter is back in town to feel like I'll get a break?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Martha's mac

Like many crafty, nest-feathering women I know, I have a love-hate relationship with Martha Stewart. I kinda love the projects in her magazine. Even if I never do any of them, they look like things I would like to do if I had the time to rustle up some completely dried out tree stumps to turn into coffee tables, or the wherewithal to arrange a few hundred stems of delphinium and larkspur into a graduated color arrangement. No time for that sort of thing, but love to think I might someday.

Then--haaate!--capping off a snarky rant against a certain kind of cookout, this sentence: "And is there a sorrier state of affairs than the one summoned by the words margarita mix?" Here I have to confess that I'm a girl who squeezes her own citrus fruits whenever I make cocktails because it is SO yummy. But would I spurn a prefab cocktail if a cookout host handed me one with a smile? Hell, no! I drink and eat what's served to me, with gratitude and zero snarkiness! This particular article goes on to describe what is apparently the right kind of cookout, offering recipes for fresh peach margaritas, caviar dip, and lobster with drawn butter. I mean, please. Please! This is not a real standard! And this is why I continue to NOT subscribe to Martha's magazine (but do, occasionally, toss an issue into my grocery cart and hope that none of my friends spot me doing it).

Okay, more about what I love, though--a recipe for mac and cheese which hooked me when it mentioned breadcrumbs crisped up in pancetta fat as a topping. My mac and cheese is sadly lacking, so I gave it a whirl. One hour, half a pound of pancetta, one pound of pasta, and TWO POUNDS of FOUR DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHEESE later, I had before me the most sumptuous, kick-ass vat of mac and cheese EVER. I will never make this dish without a 2:1 cheese-to-pasta ratio again. A warning to those of you who eat at my house sometimes. Or perhaps it's a siren song.

I do love a cook who is unafraid to use plenty of the good stuff. All things in moderation, right? Including Martha.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Special (sleepy) day

I'm so lacking in sleep today that I feel hung over. Like my body isn't functioning properly and my blood is all whack somehow. Yes, I had a glass of wine last night, but it's definitely not that. Please, Sweet P! I'm going to start her on solids this weekend in the hopes that more calories will help. I'm in the magical thinking stage of trying to deal with sleep deprivation, obviously, thinking maybe sweet potatoes will help. Riiiiiiight.

Despite my bone weariness, I've promised Sister that I would pull her out of school after lunch today so I could take everyone to Pullen Park in Raleigh. Pullen Park has a huge playground along with an antique carousel, a kiddie train, and a little boat ride. Oh, and a snack bar with a huge array of ice cream and popsicles for cheap. I've been trying not to do quite so much driving lately, but I did want to do something special for Sister since she wrapped up her end-of-grade tests yesterday. Getting through two whole days of math tests is definitely worth celebrating around here! She feels confident that she passed, so I feel confident, too. I hear ya, Kat, on reconsidering homeschool once your boy has to face the EOG's. It's a lot of stress on a kid. Sister told me that one of her classmates threw up in the middle of the test yesterday and had to go home. Poor guy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Before and after in the garden

Before, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

And after, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Unafraid of the big ass landscaping projects here!

Those sheets of newspaper in the after shot were expertly dampened by my own Bean so as to avoid them blowing away in today's breeze. She also expertly dampened my back, my pants, and her baby sister with that ice cold hose water, but I still can't think of a more perfect toddler gardening project!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No rest for mama

One thing I never particularly wanted to do as a parent was the whole family bed co-sleeping thing. I like plenty of space to roll around, a pillow between my knees, and a particular sleep position that renders the boobies inaccessible to babies. Which is why I'm puzzled to all of a sudden find myself bringing a nearly 6-month old baby into bed with me every night around 3:00 or 4:00. I can't sleep worth a damn with her nursing, but she's incredibly cute and cuddly, lying there in her crib in the dark trying to charm me into playing with her. I think to myself, "Awwwww!" and, "Well, she's going to scream for the next hour if I just leave her there...."

Probably what I should do is stop this habit now before it goes on for too much longer. But that would involve a few nights of crying and I already get so little freakin' sleep as it is!

Where's my way out of this? And why do my kids not like to sleep as much as I do? Sleep is SO delicious, is it not?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Before and after

Posting about homeschooling the other day made me realize that there are a lot of ways that my ideas about what kind of parent I would be changed once I actually gave birth. It's hard to sort out whether the differences are due to age, the fact that I have to parent alongside another human being with different ideas, or just plain laziness. So homeschooling, which I sincerely considered doing when Sister was a wee girl, has been chucked out the window. We live in the top school district in the state and so far I have nothing to complain about, nor am I at all convinced that I would do a better job teaching her than the professionals have done. Other stuff I'm not so sure about.

I used to imagine that only organic, home-cooked foods would ever cross my children's lips. Poor Sister didn't have any sort of sweet treat until she was around 2 years old--except for the organic carrot cake on her first birthday, of course. Now? Husband started giving Bean candy after dinner when she was around 10 months old, I think. I voiced a feeble protest, but Bean totally knew that her big sister was sneaking off with something delicious after her meal and there's no telling that child no. Hey, at least I still make my own baby food!

I used to think tv was the antichrist. I could probably have counted the number of hours of tv Sister watched during her first 3 years on the fingers of my two hands. Maybe not even two hands. Now we still keep the tv off after school, but Bean is in the habit of watching tv when she wakes up so that Husband can get coffee and a juice sippy cup made up and do some work on the laptop. If I'm sleeping in that morning, I'm embarrassed to say how long she's allowed to watch. And then she also watches another couple of "Curious George" episodes when she wakes up from her afternoon nap, just because she's godawfully cranky and mean as a snake. Here's where the laziness comes in--I'd SO much rather have my toddler watching tv for a little while instead of throwing screaming fits on the floor after her nap. There's probably a better way of talking her out of this behavior, but I don't know what it is and am tired of trying.

I once thought I would keep my kids away from the evils of town life by raising them out in the country amongst the trees and plants and wild critters. We'd have a big ol' country farm house and we'd live off our huge organic vegetable garden. I'd show them how we could raise our own food with only infrequent trips to a grocery store. We'd can and preserve things, too, plus bake our own bread, raise our own chickens for eggs, and even slaughter the occasional fowl for soup if there got to be too many roosters running around. Now, we live in town but aren't close enough to walk anywhere. We drive to Whole Foods and Harris Teeter for groceries like all the other middle class suburbanites around us. Our little lettuce patch--hardly deserving the name of "garden"--is overgrown with weeds. Sigh.

And let's face it, I used to imagine that I'd be something along the lines of Maria on "The Sound of Music." I'd be the real mama and not the nanny, of course, but I'd be tra-la-la'ing my way through every child-rearing day, never yelling, always coming up with fun stuff to do that every kid would love and want to do for as long as I wanted them to. Now? Well, you know if you've read my blog lately that I'm maxed out a lot of the time. I go to bed feeling good about myself only if I've managed not to yell at Sister or Bean that afternoon, and forget about any sort of enriching, creative project I might've thought up in the middle of the night when I'm up with the baby again. It seldom happens. Another sigh. It all still sounds lovely but so far from how we're living. I mean, don't get me wrong! We have a great life and happy, healthy kids, but I sometimes wonder how we got here.

Nevertheless, I'm in this for the duration! I try every day to do better. I really do. And I just came across a piece of advice in a parenting book I'm reading while nursing Sweet P before bed lately. The advice is this: "Cultivate a spirit of optimism about your children."

Yeah. Whatever my parenting aesthetic has become, I'm still trying.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Talking smack about the new neighbors and hoping they don't find this blog!

From the snap judgments based on scanty evidence desk here at the cave, this just in. We have new neighbors across the street from us as of yesterday evening. The family consists of a very short papa, a very short and pinched looking mama, and the most luminously pallid 11-year old boy I have ever laid eyes on. They are about the honkiest family I've ever met. Have you ever seen Dave Chappelle's parodies of white people? I swear, they talk just like that!

And bless their hearts, they're home-schoolers, which explains the poor kid's extreme lack of color and muscle tone, plus the general air of smugness that wafts from the parents. We know a family just like them one street over, pallor, smugness, pinched wife, short daddy and all. We should probably take introductions in hand because God knows they'll probably never find each other, seeing as how the other neighbors at least never freaking leave their house. They could sit around and feel superior that their brilliant children are just too clever to attend the elementary school just around the corner.

This is bound to piss someone off out there, but hey! I warned you that it was superficial! I used to want to homeschool, but imagined my kids sun-burned, loud, robust, sassy, and self-confident as a result of their more free-form pursuits. Where's the excitement, neighbor honkies?

(Then why are you not homeschooling, bitch? you ask? Two words: too impatient. I know that about myself now.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lush life

Sunny bed, view 2, May 2008, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

My plants are so lush this year despite the drought, I about can't stand myself! I didn't lose as much as I thought I might, given how fat and hot and unable to water plants I became last summer. Looooove my garden right now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lucky mama

Lucky mama, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Some days, the girls make it easy to be a good, patient mama. Yesterday was one of those days, so here's a photo of us all, at peace and happy, even with math homework, even on three hours of sleep!

Love those days. (Except for the no sleep part, that is.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Inside voice

Is there anything like "...and even if she gives a glare" in your 9-year old's Mother's Day poem to you to make you feel like a shitty mother? I can't think of it if there is.

Does anyone know if antidepressants help you yell less at your kids? I mean, I know sleep helps with that but in the absence of good sleep in the next year or so, can I take drugs for being a bitch? Non-yelling mamas, what are your secrets?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gardening dork

Being a busy mama with kids at home plus some hobbies that I love, I've learned that at the first available opportunity--Bean out of the house with her papa and Sweet P asleep, say--I should run, not walk, to do whatever it is I'm dying to do alone. These instances are rare even with Husband home on weekends, but one such opportunity came up today. Bean and Sister gone, baby sleeping--go! I grabbed the weed bucket and a sharp little digging tool I don't know the name of, threw on some dirty pants and my gardening clogs and headed outside to my perennial beds.

What a delight! I do love to dig in the dirt and lately I find myself in the happy position of having very few spots left in my front yard to fit any more plants. It's so lush out there all of a sudden.

I managed to get an unheard of two blissful hours of gardening in before I was just too tired and hot to continue. But you know the one thing I forgot? Sunscreen. I have the world's stupidest sunburn to remind me of today's mama time. Painful, fat, dark red stripes across my lower back, the back of my neck, and on my upper arms, ending abruptly at my sleeve line.

I'm such a dork.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Growing Bean

For some months now, Bean's going-to-sleep routine has gone like this. She crawls into bed by herself. She asks for a tissue and gives her nose a perfunctory wipe. She asks for water and takes a token sip. She asks for a hug and kiss and we give them to her. She lies down and while we're fixing her blankets, she asks for a backrub. We give her a 5-10 second backrub and then she asks, "Can I tell you something?" We reply with an interested yes and she tells us this story:

There was a old guy named Spiderdam. He walks all over the place. And germs on people. And nu-fitin' an' bitin' an' fitin' an' bitin' and FITIN.'

End of story. And who the heck knows where it came from, but she says it every single day before nap and every night before bed.

Until today, that is. When I took her upstairs for nap a little while ago, she crawled in bed and very pointedly looked at me. "Do you want a tissue?" I prompted. She shook her head. "Do you want some water?" I offered. She shook her head again. I listed all the rest of her usual bedtime routine components, but she wanted none of them. "Do you want anything?" I asked her. Nope, she didn't need a thing.

I hate to see the little girl stuff disappear like that. And this time it was so sudden!

Monday, May 05, 2008


"Mama, can we use this bowl for our caterpillars?"

"Mom, can I make everyone some lemonade?"

"Mom, there's a giant slug! Want me to get rid of it?"

"Mama, can we pick some flowers for Dad now?"

"Mom, can I use the water from the rain barrel for my bug town?"

"Mom, can I go for a scooter ride by myself?"

"Mom, will you read me some books on the porch?"

Sometimes saying yes is easy. And really, really sweet.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Perfect Saturday

Today had been my perfect Saturday so far. I got to sleep in til the baby woke me at 8:00. Breakfast was leisurely, without argument from Sister and Bean. We all went together--all five of us! So rare!--to a big neighborhood yard sale and got a few odds and ends. (A big piece of some sort of linen blend, a piece of saffron colored gauzy cotton, and a set of gigantic, 18" long painted wooden pick-up sticks were my haul.)

Then on to the farmers' market that has sprung up near us. It was an especially nice one, I must say. Produce is still a bit sparse this time of year here unless you want to eat lots of greens, but I got a small wheel of fresh farmer's cheese and perhaps the most delicious pastry item I have ever put in my mouth. It was a small, free-form tart with a fava bean and preserved lemon filling. It was fantastic, and I scarfed the whole thing out of the paper towel it was served to me in before I even got back to the car. Locals, if you have the chance, try Phoebe Lawless' pies. Like, as soon as possible.

Mmmmm...where was I now? Oh yeah. Sister and Sweet P and I met a friend at MomArt, a local arts festival held every year just in time for Mother's Day. I picked up several things before we headed to Guglhupf, my favorite coffee shop, for a little snack-y. (It was a yummy slice of berry-laden fruit tart, but nowhere near as transcendent as my farmer's market pielet. Can't stop thinking about it....)

Two pastries, time with my family, time with a friend, hand-made stuff, yard sale shopping--as I said, just perfect! And I kinda needed a day like this.

Friday, May 02, 2008

New mama groove

I posted about this book a couple weeks ago, and have since bought my copy, read it once, and have started re-reading it a second time.

It's that wonderful. If you're the parent of young children, I recommend going out at once and picking up your own copy.

I have to say, though, that I was torn between feeling a tremendous amount of guilt that Soulemama is obviously a far more patient, talented, and family-centered mama than I am, and a tremendous amount of inspiration that I could be more like her. I could! She says all you have to do is get plenty of sleep and take care of your own creative needs, too.

Stop snickering, please.

Yeah, I know the getting enough sleep part is going to be hard with a nursing 5-month old and a toddler who both like their "sleep" sprinkled with visits from mama and papa, thanks. And finding the time to do my own creative projects on a daily basis so that my needs are met will run a close second in difficulty, though of the finding-the-time-for variety. But I'm inspired to try. Like, really try.

In the meantime, we've got some good art supplies for the big girls to use when they want. I've started asking Sister what special thing she might want to get done after school. (It was planning a "magic bead" necklace today.) And I've cut out t.v. in the evenings so I can work on my creative to-do list instead.

Next up, a banging wall on the backyard fence!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Free range kids

Has anyone else heard of Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids and the media furor over her letting her 9-year old ride a Manhattan subway alone? I heard this story on NPR a couple of weeks ago and was just thinking about it again as I contemplate summer.

For me, I grew up riding my bike along with my little brother the several busy blocks to school in Miami from age 8 til we moved to NC a few years later. We were home alone together after school and were allowed to roam the neighborhood with our similarly unfettered friends til my mom got home from work. I went up to the 7-11 by myself to buy candy. I went alone to friends' houses and didn't have to call when I got there. My mom told us not to talk to strangers and gave us certain cross streets as boundaries, but that was the extent of her keeping tabs on us while we were out. Oh, and I knew how to cook several dinners for us all by the time I was 9. Unsupervised. In the oven, even.

I've realized recently that I'd like Sister--and eventually my little girls--to really enjoy this sort of freedom as a matter of course. Sister's been walking to school by herself for two years now and enjoys a solo scooter ride about the neighborhood and solo walks to a friend's. I've told her I thought she was old enough now to go hang out in the woods if she wants and she was psyched (though she has yet to take me up on this).

What about you and your kids? Are they "free range" Were you?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blitz blogging

News in brief:

My resolve is firm this week to maturely handle the constant demands of the three amoral, self-centered, wild, and infinitely lovable little girls who inhabit the household with me. I will deal, y'all.

Sweet P screamed for two hours straight last night, meaning that I got exactly five hours of sleep. And yet! I have laser-like focus! I will not yell at anyone today! (And no, you smartasses, exclamation points don't count.)

Quote of the day from Sister: "They should make a 'possum Webkins, Mom."

I fit into a pair of pre-pregnancy pants yesterday! They were a bit snug, but not camel-toe snug. Woo-hoo!

My once-a-week babysitter's last day watching Bean is today, which means I'm blogging from the patio of my favorite local coffee shop right this minute.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend notes

Husband left town for three days on a fishing trip with some friends, leaving me with the young'uns. He really needed a break, and Sister was going to be with her own dad for a long weekend, so I was glad to see him go. But I'm also glad he's back now. I got to sleep in til 9:00 am yesterday morning and woke up feeling like my old self. Once again, it amazes me how much more creative, happy, and patient I can be when I get enough sleep.

Miraculously, the little girls had a couple of simultaneous naps over the weekend so I got quite a bit of gardening done before it began pouring down rain yesterday evening. I must've planted a few dozen perennials and shrubs and the garden is looking quite flush at the moment. Pictures to come soon, I promise. It really is lovely.

I can't tell you how deeply satisfying it is to get back into the garden again after the hot dry summer and my vast pregnancy size kept me inside for so long. Out of all the things I can do solo, gardening is the thing I love best. There's just nothing like putting something into the ground and watching it thrive under your care. I've done a lot of sewing and other inside creative stuff in lieu of garden work for almost the last year, so it is profoundly gratifying to get my hands dirty again.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Look what I found!

Look what I found!, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

A baby turtle was scrambling vigorously across our path today at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, but not vigorously enough that Bean couldn't catch him.

It made our whole day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Psyched to be 3

Psyched to be 3, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Bean's turning 3 on Saturday is part of what kept me away from blogging for so long. She had a real party this year, with four other toddlers plus some babies and big kids thrown into the mix. And their parents. So it was a lot of party prep, even if what we ate was lots of chips dumped into a bowl and an ice cream cake made of ice cream that I didn't actually make myself. Thank God for SIster! She was such a huge help with arranging bowls of chips, helping blow up balloons, decorating a birthday banner, and just generally offering her help up every time we turned around.

So I'm mama of a 3-year old now! Bean is so big all of a sudden and is also coming around to liking me again after the past year spent following Husband around in blind adoration. It's certainly easier to be a stay-at-home mom if your kids actually want to hang out with you.

Speaking of which, when her papa came home from work the other day and asked what we'd done today, Bean replied, "Hanged out." Funny girl.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I've mentally settled down a bit since my last foul-mouthed post, but I have really been struggling this week. I had probably the worst day I've ever had with Sister yesterday, where I yelled at her so loud she burst into tears. Felt great about that one, let me tell ya.

Sweet P has entered a phase where she doesn't want to be put down at all and suddenly sleeps dramatically less than she used to. I know, I know, this shouldn't be a surprise to me, a supposedly experienced mama. But it does mean that on top of Sister's horrible homework hysteria nearly everyday, and Bean trying to alternately pick fights with hysterical Sister or surreptitiously squeeze the baby's hands or skull, I have a screaming baby demanding attention, too.

It's enough to make me utterly short out. You know on old Looney Tunes cartoons how you'd see smoke coming out of Yosemite Sam's ears when he was pissed off? It's the smoke of overloaded brain circuitry, I understand that now. And that's been me lately.

This morning--and the rest of today--has gone better. Sister had a delayed opening school day, so she spent the extra time getting me to set her up with an embroidery project that she's making as a birthday present to Bean. A nice, peaceful morning then, and this is hopefully her new hobby. On her way out the door to school, she declared it to be so.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'm soaking in it

I just want to record here that saying yes means cleaning up a lot more fucking messes. I can't get dinner made, I can't catch my breath, I can't find the time to blog, and I sure as hell can't find the time to do my own projects.

I'd like to try and give this new policy--because that's what it's become--a couple weeks, but I'm really not sure if I can make it that long!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Trying to say yes

Happy little painter, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

I had a good mama friend over yesterday for lunch and we got to talking about a book we're both interested in. My friend actually owns a copy and after hearing more from her about it, I think I'll probably go ahead and spring for a copy myself. I'd seen it available on Soulemama's blog and I think the gist of it is that we parents should allow our little ones access to art and craft supplies instead of keeping them under lock and key for fear of the mess. I mean, don't you want to raise creative, crafty kids? I know I do, so of course it's stupid for me to stingily hide all the good stuff from their creative little paws, right? Today I'm going to try putting all the art supplies into a low cabinet where the girls can use them. I'm going to try saying yes whenever one of them wants to make a project. I'm going to try to quash my first thought that the huge mess won't be worth it. Because I'll bet it will.

Here's our easel brought inside the house this morning for Bean to use. You know, this darn thing has been sitting out on our back porch for the last year, completely without paint and brushes, with only chalk for the chalkboard available. Doesn't it make you wonder why I bought it in the first place? Bean was incredulous that I brought it in and actually put paint in the cups for her. Make no mistake, there was a huge mess, but hey! There is now a gorgeous, pink and purple swirly paint creation drying on the newspaper that Bean is very, very proud of.

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's a nice day for a white onesie

White onesie, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Is there anything cuter in this world than a happy baby in a white onesie? I don't think so.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Scary rubber snake!, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Actually, this is just a rubber snake scaring off the rabbits who keep munching my hollyhocks. I keep moving the snake so that the rabbits remain in the dark about his rubber-ness and so far my little plants have only been bothered by a bug or two. Woo-hoo!

But that has NOT prevented them from decimating some sundrops and some mallow plants that were about 20 feet away and that I hadn't even gotten into the ground yet.

Bunny damage, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Little fuckers. I'm fresh out of rubber snakes, so perhaps a trip to the toy store is in order today...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Deep spring thoughts

Big issues on my mind lately as we approach the NC primary. Like, which do I hate more, the stale air of a house whose windows are never opened or having to wipe the film of yellow pollen off every flat surface every couple of days? So hard to choose...

In other news, I'm going to be joining a group of sewing/crafting ladies tonight. I'm kind of excited about this, though it's a world apart from how I used to plan my nights out of the house. If I can manage it with Sweet P in tow, I'm going to try my hand at some embroidery. Not an actual embroidery project, but just some practice stitches. I have this idea that I'm going to make fabulous scarves out of Armani wool scraps--available at my local sewing store!--backed with silk or linen and embellished with a bit of embroidery if I'm any good at that at all. They'd make lovely gifts for my female friends, I think, and I may even try to sell them one of these days...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Who's the bad guy here?

I've gotta vent here, ladies. I just want to say that I'm a little tired of being the bad guy when it comes to tv watching in this house. I remember when I was pregnant with Bean that the subject of little kids and tv came up. Husband was totally against little kids watching anything at all. I remember this because my response was something along the lines of, "Yeah, well I WILL be allowing some tv since I'm the one who's going to be staying at home with her all day long!" Husband conceded that this seemed fair if I needed an occasional break. Emphasis on "occasional."

Now? Bean gets up in the morning and the first thing she wants is for the tv to be turned on. No breakfast, just tv. And Husband is happy to comply because he needs a little time to himself to make some coffee, get the computer fired up, and pee. All totally fine so far.

But lately, it's not just a couple episodes of "Curious George" we're talking about here. He'll frequently turn on movies for Bean, full-length Disney films that I have to turn off at some point to give Bean her breakfast. This morning it was The Little Mermaid and you should have seen the toddler wrath unleashed upon me when I told her it was time to turn it off! Oh. My. God. I had to kick her out onto the porch because her screams were reverberating inside the house and I had to turn down that noise, no matter what the sleeping neighbors might have thought.

Sigh. The thing is that I'm somewhat complicit in this routine because on mornings when Sister is at her dad's I sleep in. If I would just get my tired ass out of bed, I could help Husband deal with Bean so that he could still do what he needed but she wasn't permitted to get so engrossed in a lengthy screening of something or other.

Yeah, you think that's gonna happen?

Monday, April 07, 2008


I'm in one of those phases where I don't feel like I'm doing anything particularly well. The house is a mess. The garden is being taken over by last year's weeds. All the girls clamor for my attention, all day long, and I only have so much to go around. My sewing projects are stalled. I can't get to either one of my blogs lately. My weight loss is stuck. And I'm late for everything.

Oh, and my every-Wednesday-morning, weekly-spot-of-brightness babysitter's last day with us is April 30th.

I need a little something good here, y'all!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Now, even I hate math!

The hardest part lately of being the mother of three is not the attention demanded by the baby or even by my Bean, queen of the drop-of-the-hat temper tantrum. These days, it's been Sister who's required intensive management from me. Frickin' long division math homework! Sister hates math and especially this math. She just finished TWO AND A HALF HOURS of hysteria- and tears-inducing math and I, for one, am exhausted and extremely pissy. I've had fantasies of farming her out to an afterschool program because I hear that they have homework time and maybe someone besides me could handle this a little better.

Anyone else got some advice for me here? I can't continue having afternoons like this!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Atlanta, part 2

Husband has a dear, sweet aunt in Atlanta that we were visiting, too, the mother of the opera singer and the sister of his deceased father. Let me say first off that this aunt is probably the sweetest, kindest, most baby-loving woman I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She's 83 years old and a native of Belize, though it was British Honduras in her day. She still speaks with a clipped, colonial accent though Husband's father did not.

The last night of our visit, I handed Sweet P to Husband's aunt to cuddle and say goodnight to before I took her back to sleep. This old lady was so delighted at having a little one in her arms that the whole room went still, watching her obvious pleasure. She told us how she used to sing to her own babies to get them to sleep and began singing a little lullaby to Sweet P, who immediately stopped her grousing and calmed to listen. She sang it several times and I began to pick up the lyrics--something about "little picaninny," "silver Southern moon," and "Mama's little Alabama coon."

Wow. I have to admit I was torn here between real dismay at these lyrics so shockingly racist to my modern ears, and great pleasure that this lovely woman was getting such joy, remembering her own long-ago young motherhood. I know that she would never consider herself a racist. She and her Jamaican caregivers talk a lot about life in that part of the world and seem to me to interact as if they're all old friends. Still, I can't help but feel like this little vignette was a slice of antebellum Southern plantation life.

Here are the lyrics that Husband's aunt sang to Sweet P. And by the way, according to the good old internet, this is the chorus of a song that was first published in 1893. Husband's aunt was singing a song 115 years old!

Go to sleep my little picaninny
Brer fox'll catch you if you don't
Slumber on the bosom of your Mammy
Mammy's gonna whack you if you don't
Loo loo loo loo looah looah loo
Underneath the silver southern moon
Lullaby, rockabye my baby
Mammy's little Alabama Coon