Thursday, February 28, 2008

My three daughters

It's almost a cliche among parents out there that children are born their own selves from day one. Sure, nurture has something to do with them ending up a responsible adult who is kind to animals and other people down the line, but they're pretty much hard-wired as to temperament and interests. This is the prevailing attitude among the mamas I know, anyways.

And with my own girls, it's been noticeable from a very early age that they were very different kids. Sister played independently (and happily) from about the time that she could sit up on her own and grasp things. She's always been a fine motor skills kind of girl and to this day, her preferred mode is off in her own dream world, dreaming up plots involving fairies, goblins, small rocks, and "magic" little detritus found around the house.

And Bean? Well, take a look for yourself!

Wall-crawling, originally uploaded by salutor.

She's not even three yet, y'all!

She's an intensely physical little person, wanting always to be moving--climbing, running, dancing, hopping on one foot. Phew! That child wears me out! Yesterday while sitting together in the piano teacher's living room waiting for Sister to finish her lesson, Bean and I were looking together at some travel magazines lying around. I turned to a page with a photo of some white water rafters. Bean gasped, pointed at them, and asked, "MAMA! Can we do that someday? Can we do that, too?!" I told her we could. Next, there was a page of a hiker on Mt. Everest, crossing a deep ice ravine on a narrow rope. Again, Bean asked me, "MOM! Can we do that someday?!"

Do I need to say that Bean has no interest in playing quietly and independently in her own little world? Maybe when Hell freezes over.

I'm so interested to see how my Sweet P turns out. All I know about her so far is that she's super mellow and super sweet. Maybe I'll get my mama's girl sewing buddy one of these days after all...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My night last night

Last night went better than expected. And I wasn't expecting anything easy 'cause, I don't know about the rest of you, but evenings with no back-up from Husband tend to fill me with an inordinate amount of dread. It's kinda lonely without him after I already haven't seen him all day for one thing. And I'm often pretty tapped out by the time dinner rolls around for another thing. I NEED my dear spouse to just get the hell home some nights and take over the girls for me so I can steam the broccoli in peace.

But, as I said, last night went pretty well. Bean's behavior is on an upswing and Sister was feeling big sisterly and cooperative. It probably helped that I broke our new no-t.v.-on-weeknights restriction and let them watch a few Looney Tunes cartoons while I gave our littlest girl her bath. This baby does love a bath. When she realizes that she's naked and being carried over to the kitchen sink where we set up her bright blue tub, she catches my eye with a look of breathless anticipation on her face. And then when I ease her into the warm water, you can tell she's absolutely thrilled to be there. I can't recall if Bean liked it quite so much, and Sister I remember screaming like I was immersing her in boiling oil every.single.time for her first 6 months of life or so. It's lovely to bathe a delighted baby, no?

Anyways, wanna see something cute? It's my chicken leg little 3-month old angel, checking things out from a new vantage point after her bath and a nice massage.

Isn't she fabulous (if a bit blurry)? Her elbows have dimples!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Husband just walked out of the front door with a 6-pack of beer, framed in the doorway for a moment by the darkening evening sky. He called out that he loved us but did NOT look back. He's going out to play cards for the evening with some guy friends and I was struck by an unexpected bolt of jealousy as he walked out the door, shutting it behind him on a house full of little kids and me.

I remember going out with friends in the evening with a bottle of cheap wine under my arm and no idea where the night would lead. How long ago was that?!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Another project, done

I've been working on this batik wall hanging for a month or two now to go in our newly painted family room. It came out well, even though once again I made the mistake of thinking our sofa is orange when it is, in fact, a sort of rusty, persimmon pudding-y color. So it doesn't completely match, but it's better than the things I had on the walls in there before. Mostly I made it because I wanted to try using batiks for a change and also wanted to try making something with wonky shapes. I think I might love wonky shaped things. Yes, you do waste a fair amount of fabric in the trimming, but personally I find it much easier to be precise in trimming than in sewing.

It's good to have one of my sewing projects come to a good end. Kinda takes the sting out of Friday's silent auction humiliation. The three items I made and donated got bid on and sold, it's true, but were not exactly wild successes. I had a large green purse sell for $19 with maybe 4 or 5 bids on it. The leaf print bag I posted a picture of sold for $16 with 4 bids, one of which was (ahem) mine when I realized that someone was going to get it for only $10. Is it gauche to bid on your own donations at an auction? I don't care! I LOVED that bag and wanted it back if the world wasn't going to appreciate it! But when the little 5th grade girl I'd just outbid came marching up behind me and bid $16, I just let it go. If she wanted it that badly and all...

The cloth grocery bags I donated as a set went to one of the Girl Scout moms who was maybe (but maybe not!) doing it out of pity. She seemed to genuinely like them and even stood guard over them at the end so that no one else would outbid her. Bless her, I was flattered even if she WAS being a little effusive with her admiration.

All in all, I raised $60 for Sister's school. Meh. I also spent $80 on a cooler full of plastic beach crap made in China that I stupidly bid on and won. At least it's for the school. I guess. Though Husband pointed out that people's priorities are all wrong if we'll pay that much for plastic mass-produced shit and spurn something someone made by hand. Bless him, too.

As I said, a bit humiliating.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Points for mama

Beanbags for the girls, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

Sometimes it's just so easy to make a kid happy. An example: it's dreadfully cold and rainy outside today and I needed something new to entertain them. It took me about half an hour to make up some bean bags with squares of fabric I had left over from a project, a few bobbins with a bit of odd-colored thread still left on them, and about 4 pounds of dry beans from the pantry that have been sitting in their jars for probably years now. (I used to be a vegetarian and cooked a hell of a lot of dry beans once upon a time...)

The result is pure kid nirvana. Who knew? Sister came home from school and helped me finish stuffing them, was literally jumping up and down while I sat at the sewing machine stitching up their last seam, then spent half an hour arranging them in order from her least to most favorite. I can't wait to see what Bean does with them when she wakes up!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More on walks

I think I've mentioned here that I've begun taking regular morning walks before Husband goes to work. The original idea was that I'd be getting some exercise at least. It's maybe helping a bit to take the baby weight off, but even more than that, I get some mental S P A C E on my walks.

And that is rare indeed these days.

This morning I went into the little patch of woods near our house. It's not an old piece of woods--maybe 40 or 50 years worth of equal parts pine trees, sweet gums, maples, dying cedars, and scattered oaks. There are many trails running through it because it's squeezed between Sister's elementary school, a couple of '60's era neighborhoods, and the American Legion building. I seldom see anyone on these trails, though, which was why this morning I felt a mental looseness I haven't felt in a long time. Maybe in years.

I was remembering when I was a kid in Miami, FL and then later in the rural NC foothills that I spent all my free time outside. There was just so much to do outside and really not so much inside since my mom wouldn't let us watch t.v. during the days. So my brother and I and the neighborhood kids rode our bikes in the street, threw rocks at passing cars, built forts, and played spy from the treetops.

I know this isn't that unusual a childhood for someone my age, but it sure as hell seems unusual for kids these days, don't you think? Do any of you out there just let your kids roam free in the neighborhood or in some nearby woods? Does anyone out there even have access to nearby woods anymore? Isn't it bizarre that only one generation after our own, most of us probably don't?

Our neighborhood is a safe one. We get the occasional break-in of cars parked on the street with stuff left in plain sight inside them, but that's about it. We lock the house at night but that's the extent of our security precautions. So maybe this is the summer to let Sister have the run of those woods before she gets too old to think that's a fun thing to do. I was imagining I'd give her and the friend that stays with us during much of the summer a couple of kid-sized hammers, a box of nails, and free access to the lumber pile. Maybe I'd say yes when they asked if they could go off by themselves to do something and needed the loan of an old sheet, a shovel, and a basket of snacks. (As long as it was okay with the other mama in question, of course.) Maybe I'd even call up the other neighborhood moms with kids at home, let them know my plan, and encourage them to do the same.

I just hate to see my kids' childhoods be so very devoid of free time outside, you know? And Sister's real little girlhood, at least, is coming to an end soon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Leaf print handbag

Leaf print handbag, originally uploaded by Secretsugar.

This is one of the handbags I made for Sister's school's silent auction event coming up this Friday. I love it, but I'm terrified that no one will bid on it. I'm having visions of overhearing the scornful comments of the suburban school mamas there who can't believe someone would actually expect such a homemade looking thing to appeal to anyone. Yikes! And of course, Sister will be telling anyone within earshot that her mom made that, so there'll be no hiding. I'll keep y'all posted. And cross your fingers that SOMEONE buys it, even if only for $5!

A new low

This week started out better than last. I got some sewing projects finished to donate to Sister's school silent auction (photos to come soon!), got some much needed sleep this weekend, got the laundry caught up on after our machine broke and we lacked a new one for half the week, plus got the house put back together after a paint crew was here to repaint our shiny gold living room to a nice, soothing aqua blue. (Wish I'd taken before and after photos...)

This week is comparatively empty, then, and for most of yesterday the house was peaceful and calm. But starting yesterday evening, Bean has entered an even more terrible phase than the usual terrible twos I thought were bad enough before. Yesterday evening, she ripped me a new one for taking her to the "wrong" park.

I'd been talking up the park all afternoon because the day was gorgeously sunny and warm, and she was excited about going after nap. I got her into the van without incident, drove over and everything went to hell. She took one look at the park and went into hysterics. This was NOT the park she had mentally pictured, I guess. Which was confusing as hell to me since it's pretty much the only one we go to. I got her out of the van, managed to make a walk to the community center next door seem like a good idea. We got inside and there weren't any kids there, so more hysterics, this time lying on the floor kicking and screaming with tears running down her face. I managed to get her back outside so as not to annoy the front desk clerk, but I had to drag her by one arm to do it. I could go on here because SHE went on. You know it's bad when other parents are staring at you, wondering what the hell you're doing to your child to make her scream so loud.

This morning, Bean began screaming, "NO! NO! NO!" at me the minute I walked into her room. I'm not exaggerating here--she screams at me! The dog bit her twice and me once, the Girl Scout cookies suck so much the local paper did a story about them and I need to exchange them for new ones in another town, and the chickweed is taking over my perennials and it's freaking February, fer chrissakes.

What the hell is a dispirited mama to do?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sweet Bean

For all her temper tantrums and general contrariness, Bean really is a sweet child. A conversation between us not 10 minutes ago:

Bean: Uh-oh! I got scratches on the table!
Me: Oh, honey! (taking away the safety scissors I was letting her cut up paper with) Sweetie, we never, NEVER make scratches on the furniture! I'm so disappointed that you did that!
Bean: (hanging her head while I lecture her) I know something that will make you feel better.
Me: (dubiously) What?
Bean: A hug and kiss.
Me: (totally melting) You're right. That would make me feel much better.
Bean: (hugging and kissing me) There. I'm sorry. It was a accident. It's okay, honey. It's okay.

And I did feel much better. How could I not? Sometimes the things that come out of her mouth are awfully nice to hear.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A mama, torn

I suspect every American mom out there struggles with some brand of personal schizophrenia. For some, it has to do with clothing. Whatever you wore before kids, you're likely to have made the switch to only things that can be easily washed, that you don't mind spit-up on, and that are comfortable enough to sit on the floor in once you've had kids. At least if you're staying at home with your kids, you have.

I don't struggle so much with clothing these days, but maybe that's because I've had a kid for almost 10 years now and can barely remember what a lovely vintage frock feels like against my skin anymore. For me, I find myself a bit schizophrenic about food.

To wit, on tonight's menu at my house is homemade vichysoisse, a tossed salad with homemade mustard-shallot vinaigrette sticks. Not fillets that I have picked up at Whole Foods, then lovingly sliced and hand-breaded my own self with French baguette crumbs that I have personally supervised on their journey to crumb-dom in my food processor.

I'm talking Gorton's frozen, buy one get one free at Harris Teeter yesterday. "30 Crunchy Golden" in a bright yellow box and shit. Go ahead and laugh it up, ladies. Former pastry chef and make-her-own-organic-babyfood has been laid very, VERY low.

I might be bothered to whip up my own tartar sauce. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My addiction

I sometimes tell Husband how lucky he is to have such a low maintenance wife. Getting a pedicure is a twice a year treat. If I'm lucky. I color my own hair rather than paying for the salon to do it. I seldom go shopping for clothes or shoes or jewelry or any sort of personal adornment you can think of. Which is not to say that I'm completely divorced from the realm of self-indulgence. I have exactly two categories of things that I routinely spend money on but don't really need. The first is plants, but I can justify them as an expense we'll recoup in the sale price of this house, should we ever choose to sell it.

The second is fabric. Like this. And this. And ooh, thiiiiiis.

Sometimes I have a specific project in mind when I pick up a yard or two. But sometimes it's just because I've just laid eyes on something so beautiful I can't possibly walk away from it.

Husband is beginning to catch on to me, I think. Which could be why he's tossing around the idea of starting a fabric-related business in the near future. Want a hint as to what it might be? Take this little survey and find out! Our joint bank account may thank you one of these days.

Monday, February 11, 2008

On walks

Another great thing about walks--apart from the occasional suburban chicken sighting--is how it lets me get out of my usual routine and into a quiet, meditative head space that is rare for me now. Actually, I literally NEVER get the sort of mental solitude afforded by a walk in my usual life. It's too noisy here, even if the noise is usually pleasant little girl voices. There are nearly constant meals and snacks to prepare, even if I love being the cook for our thriving family. My brain fits everything in the day into a sort of puzzle--"I'll take this pile of shoes upstairs now while the baby is sleeping because when she wakes I won't have my hands free. And while I'm up there I'll make the bed and bring the laundry down. Then I better start dinner...." Is this a function of the female, multi-tasking brain? I didn't see it happening. I swear, I used to just be able to relax during a spare moment and think about things....

Anyways. I've been thinking a lot lately about getting old. It's definitely because I'm no longer pro-creating and am now on the path towards death. That sounds grim as hell, no? The less dramatic of you will point out that I've always been on the path towards death, like my sensible Husband did when I said this to him the other day. I know that, but still. If I were more chemically volatile I might be depressed, but instead I'm just feeling thoughtful lately.

On my walks I am, that is. 'Cause right now I've got to watch Bean as she empties the trunk of dress-up clothes in search of the perfect pirate costume...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Morning walk

On my morning walk today, I took an unfamiliar route into a section of streets I hadn't been on before. I rounded a corner and was surprised and pleased to see a hen scratching in the grass. In the same yard a few yards away there was a box bee hive.

This is something I love about living in the South. People still have vegetable gardens and raise chickens--right here in the suburbs!--and apparently even keep bees. The agrarian past really isn't that distant a memory even if you now have to drive twenty minutes out to see a real farm.

That makes me happy.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super fat old bag Tuesday

A title totally unrelated to anything I'll write beneath it, but I was having a bit of fun at my own expense last night.

There have been a dozen times at least in the last few days that I've meant to sit down and blog something about this busy kid-full life of mine, but alas! I'm just too damn busy. I think I can manage a few odds and ends, though, before all hell breaks loose between Sister and Bean playing upstairs and the baby about to wake up and begin yelling for milk in her bouncy seat next to me.

Okay. Deep breath.

Bean is potty-trained! She even skips a diaper at night because Husband kept forgetting to put them on her after her bath and she was making it through just fine. Score a point for us!

Sister is still utterly absorbed in her library book about puberty. She's making all sorts of funny connections, though, because she is after all still only 9. For example, today in the car she asked me if a "con-dome" was just for boys. I confirmed that it was indeed something that only male members of the anatomy club could wear. (Get it? Get it? I used the official p-word when I said it to her, though.) She then smirked and said smugly, "So they have a tampon kind of thing, too!" I tried not to laugh. Oh, and Husband found the book open in front of the toilet last night when he went up to run their bath and looked to see what page she was on. I won't write it hear for fear of pervs, but it rhymes with master station. Husband's a bit freaked out, I think, but I assured him she probably already knew all about it if my experience as a young'un was common. (What the hell else is there to do when you're 5 and confined to your bunk with chicken pox, I ask you?)

Our Sweet P is a darling, easy baby, super smiley and thrilled to squeals to see a friendly face (or an interesting blanket, or the cat, for that matter). I can't remember life without her and I'm still sad she's the last one for me. Husband suggested that "Some people start looking forward to grandkids" when I told him I was sad to have put an end to my procreative life. No rush for that, though! Maybe I'll go be a volunteer baby holder at the hospital when my little ones are all big and I get a jones for something tiny to hold.

I'm feeling old all of a sudden, but this life is a very, very good one.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Isn't this happening a bit early?

A conversation with Sister last night, after we returned from the library with a book on puberty for her:

Sister: Mom, I think Lily and I have had the wrong idea about sex.
Me: Oh really? In what way?
Sister: Well, we thought that every time you had sex you got pregnant. But in this book it says there are other reasons why people have sex.
Me: (weakly) Oh, uh, you thought that, huh? Well, no, a woman doesn't get pregnant every time, but it can definitely happen.

Secretly I was thinking, "Rats! They're on to us!" But I promise I didn't perpetrate this little fiction on Sister on purpose, like, strategically.

She has been utterly engrossed in this book for nearly all her waking hours since yesterday, though I forbade her from taking it to school on the pretext that it was a library book I didn't want lost. The truth is that I have no idea what sort of thing might happen on the playground as a result. I could easily imagine Sister holding forth on all sorts of titillating topics to an astonished 9- to 10-year old crowd. When did I first become aware of the facts about sex and puberty and that sort of thing? I can't remember at all...

Her friend Lily got her first training bras yesterday and they're having a sleepover tonight at Sister's grandma's house. Oh to be a fly on the wall over there tonight!