28 September 2009


Who needs jazzercise? Who needs step aerobics? Who needs a personal trainer?

Not me! I got Tallulah. All 29 pounds of her. Wrestling her into her carseat EACH and EVERY damn time I run errands renders me sweaty, sore, worn out, and definitely ready for a full body massage.

It is something to behold. She screams loud enough to mobilize CPS workers around the nation. She stiffins her body with such severity that it takes super human strength to fold her bottom into the car seat. She holds onto any and every thing within reach -- the seat in front of her, the other seat's seat belt, the edge of the car door -- with a super-glue grip. I've even tried pouring a dissolving agent over her hands to pry them loose. When I start to get the upper hand, she bites, scratches, pulls my hair, pinches my arms, and flails like a lunatic. I put her arms in the straps 10-15 times before I am able to make them stay that way.

It can take up to 10 minutes for the entire process, at the end of which I am too worn out to even remember where I was going in the first place. The other children wait patiently, looking like they'd like to be swallowed up by the earth instead of enduring this dance between the youngest and the mama. Usually, one or two of them actually apologize to me. They feel pity for me.

We've talked with her about it, in a nice reasonable, "teachable moment" kind of way; we've had more forceful talks as well; we (the whole family) have encouraged her to "be good and get strapped in;" we've done time outs; we've done rewards.

Since she turned three, the severity has increased. I utterly dread the act of getting her in her seat. Today, I've had to do it three times already, with a minimum of two more in front of me.

It's a waiting game. She won't be doing this when she's in high school, right? It will end eventually?

Although when that happens, I'm going to have to find a new work out regimen.

* * *

Kidding about the dissolving agent.

* * *

25 September 2009

Job Opening

Today I was thinking about writing. I do this frequently, in lieu of actually writing. So I was pondering the problem that writing presents which is basically this: you have to tell the truth. You can't hide behind much of anything at all, or what you write will be boring at best and bad at worst.

And bam: there in my head was a Marine Corps Drill Sargeant Type, standing over me and shouting:

"You've got to stand somewhere! This writing thing, this writing happens in the most uncomfortable room you've ever been in, sister: no comfy chairs or couches, no blankets or pillows, lady, nothin'! Nothing to get comfortable on, so you've got to stand up or you're gonna fall down on your ASS! You a little uncomfortable??!? Good! That's exactly where you should be, or your should get your ass out of this house!"

OK, so maybe I don't need quite that level of animosity clamoring down on my head, but I do need that drill sargent pushing me to stand up. Writing isn't for the weak, and it's not for those who would prefer sitting somewhere comfortable, sipping on a Mint Julep. (Of course, a writer can take a much-deserved break to do such things...in another room, where cushions actually exist.)

So, I'm in the market for a drill sargeant.

Job Qualifications: Ability to speak Truth to Weakness. Experience yelling the following:

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

Desired, not required: Proficiency in making Old-Fashioneds. Ability and willingness to change diapers. 10+ years of experience simultaneously being threatening and pumping sunshine.

Anyone out there want to be my motivational, life/writing coach, drill sargent, and personal bad ass?

* * *

24 September 2009

Tell Me Why

I have been thinking about health care lately -- go figure -- and I cannot for the life of me figure out why a person would be opposed to universal coverage for all.

I suppose I sort of get it, if you are happily covered by good insurance that you've never really needed. And I understand (although disagree with) the fear that insurance provided by the government would be inefficient at best and corrupt at worst. And I am familiar (although in disagreement) with objections based on opposing social entitlements. We've heard quite a few voices against the public option citing these and other concerns related to covering everyone.

As an aside, since our country already has a public, albeit not universal,option --Medicare -- we can see evidence of how it works. My own family was recently the beneficiary of the public option: Last Spring, my father, who has a private plan but also has Medicare because of his age, was in a serious accident while riding his bicycle. He was able to receive the care he needed without going broke. Had he needed to rely solely on a limited private plan, severely breaking his pelvis, which was already ordeal enough, could have been financially catastrophic for my folks. What I really want to know is, who could object to that protection?

But here's who I want to hear from: the uninsured, or underinsured, person, who has gotten sick, who is unable to access care because he or she cannot afford it, and who is physically suffering and may even die from a lack of medical care that would otherwise address their health issues...and who is opposed to universal health care. And if you exist, please, please, explain to me why you oppose an option that would enable you to recover from your illness and live a healthy life. Or if not that person, then someone who loves that person, and is still opposed to universal health care.

What do you say to counter the notion that no one should die because they can't afford care and no one should go broke because they get sick?

I don't think anyone else could ever convince me that an argument against universal health care even makes sense; I have yet to hear, in all the cacophony of fear and confusion, a single good reason why citizens in the richest country on earth should suffer and even die because they cannot afford insurance in a system whose costs are out of control, artifically high, and ass-backwards. If you suffer under the current system and still have rational reasons for opposing the public option, then YOU are the person I want to talk to. You are the person who might help me understand this debate.

I'm 100% certain you will not convince me to change my own mind, but I am desperate to gain some insight into what the other side could possibly be thinking.

Are you out there? Tell me why.

* * *

21 September 2009

Primary Colors


Cool, lively, abundant, growing. Crisp and clean, like her smooth skin. The color of her eyes and of her temper.


Bright sky, field trip days, really good music. The color of her hugs and of her imitating dance moves from Dancing With the Stars.


Pure fun and sun, laughter, goofy-ness. The color of her giggles and her endless Knock Knock jokes that are not funny but are because she loves them so.


All things fancy, all things special, fierce love. The way she grabs life by the, um, horns, dives right in and makes everyone she meets a fast friend. The color of her enthusiasm, her strength, her energy, her volume.

She is my primary color girl, my girl who can combine and create a million different colors from the palette at her disposal: she is sweet, exasperating, generous, mean, strong, fragile, hilarious, sharp, tiny and larger than life. She is the girl she draws over and over, filling up paper after paper, the happy one with the crazy hat that has flowers and sparks and rays of color shooting from its top. She is too little to be in school, but she is way too big to be anywhere else. She takes an extraordinary amount of grief, and still sees the world as one never-ending debutante ball: hers.

I look at her in complete amazement: this came from me? How the hell did that happen? Who is this wild child? What laws will she one day break with abandon? But really, where on earth did she come from?

* * *

16 September 2009

Take It On Faith...

..take it to the heart...the waiting is the hardest part.

Someone please tell me that having my daughter do the dishes is worth it...even if I have to do them over again.

Someone please tell me that encouraging my son to "take pride" in doing a chore well is worth it...even if he rolls his eyes so hard he can see the back side of his skull.

Someone please tell me the whining and shrieking and bickering will pass....even if they're all past 30 when it does.

Someone please tell me that the seeds I sow today will someday grow into strong plants, because frankly, I am aware only of weeds and the stench of manure.

Which leads me to this one: someone please tell me that the youngest will someday not wear diapers.

Just took a 30 minute break from this post while handling 2.5 full blown melt downs. One homework induced...one push pin in the hand induced...one-half other people melting down induced.

I am waiting, waiting, waiting for the back-breaking, bone-crunching, body-wearying work to pay off.

This. Is. Impossible.

Take it on faith, because there is absolutely, positively nothing else on earth that makes any of this make one iota of sense.

* * *

14 September 2009

From His Perspective

Mom puts sinaman in our french toast. She also calles dad hony or rick. She is the one who atwase cooks. She goes to IDS for her work. She loves to sing. One of her favorit music is the fore seasons. She saports all of us in scool. She likes spending time with one of my siblings.

So, apparently, she should be spending a little more time supporting them in spelling, specifically, but otherwise? This was pure golden to stumble across. We have a kajillion notebooks in our house, in our car, in our two trucks, in purses and backpacks, because drawing, writing, and coloring have always been our fallback activities to keep squirrely kids occupied. I never throw them away, and this is why: what if I missed this? What if I tossed this small little apple-shaped noteboook, most of the pages of which have meaningless scribble, into the trash, and never saw this little reflection on "Mom" written in careful, newly-learned cursive?

He's right! I do love to sing, I love Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and I do love to spend time with each of my kids alone...although I hope and trust he knows that he is one of those siblings I like to be alone with.

I never know how much of me gets through to them; they can ignore me, disrespect me, wish me away, beg me for mercy and beg me for candy. I'm clear on all of that, and some days, it seems that's all I'm good for. But sometimes, I guess, they also see me. And this little essay reflected me back pretty well.

Could it be? Dare I imagine it? Might I be doing something right?

* * *

10 September 2009


Talk of the Nation today was about the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The question put forth was this, paraphrased from my memory: "What emotion still lingers for you from the experience of 9/11? What feelings will not let you go?"

People answered as you would expect: fear, sadness, anger, the desire for revenge. Those feelings and emotions have stayed, for so many of us. For me too. I, like all of you, remember so distinctly that morning. I was giving my boys a bath; Rick had already left for work. He called mid-morning and told me to turn on the TV. That's how I heard what was happening, and that scene stays with me.

I got the boys out of the tub, dried them off, my beautiful 3 and 1 year olds, and smelled their clean, soft hair and skin. I held them, cuddled with them, and watched them roll around with each other in their towels. All the while, I cried in disbelief as I watched the terrible pictures. I did not keep the TV off; maybe I should have to shield them from the pictures. But I couldn't NOT watch.

And each year, I feel the same way. I can't NOT remember. I can't NOT honor the anniversary by listening to stories of what happened to people that day. I think we all should mark the day this way, so that we always remember, never forget. What will we do if someday there are "9/11 deniers," just as there are Holocaust deniers today? It sounds ridiculous, but I likely will not be surprised if it happens in 60 or 70 years.

One of the guests (or callers, I can't remember) on TOTN today described the two things that stay with him from that day. The first was shock. He still feels the palpable shock of disbelief that the things that happened actually did happen. The second was profound: the thing that stays with him is the way strangers began to reach out to one another. He described being in Union Station in D.C. shortly after the attacks, talking with strangers, both American and visitors from abroad, and experiencing a connection with them that was borne of shared tragedy.

This struck me. It is true: we all heard the amazing stories of how New Yorkers came together to help and support each other. We forged those same connections in our various cities and towns across the country. The horror of those events stripped bare any pretense, any separation, any petty differences that on an ordinary day would have kept us in our own worlds, apart from strangers, intent on doing the day's tasks and taking care of our own. That day, we all became our own. We all became the shoulders we needed; we carried each others' hearts. Those of us who were not victims that day -- our loved ones did not die -- still wept and prayed and hurt along with those who were.

That unimaginable tragedy showed us how to live that way, to live straight from the raw, troubled heart and to simply be present to anyone who was suffering.

Out of such chaos, this thread of care and love began to weave across the country. It became the blanket that has brought about any healing that has been possible for the people who lost so much. And each year on the Anniversary, if we listen to the stories and let those awful feelings descend upon us again, we have the chance to keep that thread alive.

We all have such busy lives. We do not live that raw, stripped bare life every day: no one could, or should. But the memory of 9/11 does offer us the chance to live that way at least for a little while, to see the people around us, strangers and friends alike, as people with whom we share a common history and common feelings of grief, fear, and need.

To have this be something that stays with us from 9/11 is a great gift. Let us never stop telling the story of the planes flying into buildings and into a Pennsylvania field. Let us never stop telling the stories of the heroes who helped us that day, of the families who lost someone that day, of the struggle to rebuild cities, lives, countries. Those stories will keep us together, and together is exactly where we should be.

* * *

08 September 2009

You know you have a big family when...

...the "family pass" to the zoo only covers half of you.

* * *

We had a great time at the zoo yesterday. We had some strict rules: we eat the food we bring with us...we go on ONE ride only...we play nicely with each other. The first two rules were based on my desire to have enough money to also buy groceries this week and the third was based on my desire to avoid coming home bald. I'm happy to report success on both fronts.

A couple of highlights:

Tallulah, riding her "baby roller coaster," which was actually just little tiny cars driving in a tame circle. She thought she wanted to go on this ride, but spent the entire time covering her face and wailing "I TOO TIRED...I TOO TIRED!" The operator stopped the ride half way through and pulled her off.

Hearing Tallulah in front of the chimpanzees: "They my family!" She's been taking her sibling's teasing to heart. She actually thinks they are being sweet to her!

Watching my boys watch me ride on the tiger rollercoaster with Lola. They were sure I was going to barf, or weep, or fall apart somehow. I went up in their esteem because I handled it just fine. Either that, or I disappointed them, or maybe a little bit of both.

The Reptile House. Just plain awesome. Great frogs, turtles, lizards.

Get thee to a zoo. You'll thank me.

* * *

05 September 2009

What Our New Frogs Have Taught Me

I have learned that escaping crickets are no cause for alarm.

Turns out, that if you accidentally let a couple of crickets loose in your house, you'll come across them in a day or two, catch them, and dispatch with them forthwith.

As I sat at the top of my stairs today, putting on my shoes, a bit of motion caught my eye. There, hopping down the stairs next to me, was one wayward cricket, lost in the boys' room a couple of days ago. At the time, I felt considerable panic and disquiet at the prospect of something buggy jumping around the house. And here he was, looking like he was out for a stroll to check out the new digs.

One plastic cup and an index card later, I caught the little stinker and surprised Beans and Bella with a mid-morning snack.

I no longer need to freak out if a cricket gets loose. What else will these creatures teach me?

* * *

04 September 2009

A Once in a Lifetime Moment

Yesterday, no different than most days around here, upon arriving home from school pickup with all the muppets, I could do nothing except sit on the couch and survey the FEMA-like setting of my living and dining rooms. It was bad. An inconceivable number of shoes was strewn about. Newspapers were falling off of the coffee table. School papers (oh, bane of my existence) threatened domination. This morning's oatmeal sat crusting in bowls, while companion cups of 7-hr. old milk settled into a souring pattern. The floor was covered with cheerios and grit.

It was bad. It was depressing. I had to do something. Often, I am too defeated to handle this level of destruction, unless I've had massive amounts of coffee and it's early in the day. But I just couldn't take it; something had to be done.

I enlisted the help of my grumpy children by ordering the three eldest to take turns washing dishes. I set about collecting recyclable paper and finding the pairs for all of the shoes. I cleared surfaces and swept the floor. I did all of this while feeling very sad and sorry for myself; in the back of my mind, I kept thinking that all of this work would be in vain, since it would probably last less than an hour.

But I did it anyway, and about 45 minutes later, there was once again enough oxygen in my house that I stopped hyperventilating just from looking around.

When the work was finished, this was the scene in my house: Two kids were sitting at my finally (mostly) cleared off dining room table, doing their homework. The oldest was in the kitchen finishing up his dish-washing stint. I was sitting on the couch, in front of a freshly empty coffee table, with my Kindergartner, showing her how to match pictures with sounds for her cute little homework assignment.

And lo and behold, a miracle did take place. A neighbor knocked on my door, the preschool teacher who has taught all of the kids, who has a special place in her heart for Elizabeth. She was stopping by to see how Kindergarten was going. So I, Queen of Chaos, Duchess of Dirty Laundry, Lady of Lego-Related Injuries, was able to invite her in to my, for once!, slightly cleaned up living room, where she got an eyeful of children doing homework and washing dishes surrounded by clean surfaces and a newly-swept floor. The clouds parted. I heard angels singing. I looked like I might just be the Boss around here, and that my subjects were firmly entrenched in the habit of doing my bidding.

I so needed this.

I spend so much time feeling like such a screw up, such a disorganized, haphazard mess, that the experience of appearing to have it all together was positively exhilarating.

After she left, I looked around, laughed like a hyena, and waited: sure enough, 12.34 minutes later, the house looked like hell again. But for that brief moment in time, I looked fabulous.

* * *

03 September 2009

Sign Health Care Petition

President Obama will give a major speech next week laying out what he thinks needs to be in the health care bill.

This is a critical crossroads. The president needs to hear that Americans are counting on him to stand up to the status quo and fight for real reform with a strong public health insurance option.

I just signed a petition telling President Obama I'm counting on him to fight hard for a bold health care reform bill. Can you join me at the link below?


Because no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.

(Most of this is a cut and paste job from moveon.org; thanks for joining the cause!)

* * *

02 September 2009


"I don't hate all boys.  Just most of them." -- 4 yr. old

"Frogs are the best birthday present anyone ever got ever." -- 9 yr. old

"I hurt my leg at school today, so I took the kiss you gave me this morning off of my mouth and put it on my leg to make me feel better."  -- 4 yr. old

"Mommy, it's 10 o'clock in my butt." -- 2 yr.old

"If I miss the soccer picture day this year, I'll have to be photoshopped in to it." -- 10 yr. old

No vitriole here, just hours of endless entertainment.

* * *