Thursday, July 19, 2012


Every summer, I struggle with melancholy.  It's hot, our usual routine is out of whack...and the anniversary of my mother's death looms.

In recent years, I also find myself angry that I am still grieving.  In less than a month, it will have been eighteen years.  And still my heart grows heavy as the weather grows warm.

On July 4th I went to the local parade, where I knew there would be fire trucks, and I knew they would honk and be noisy and all that.  Firetrucks driving down the road or sitting next to me, or turning on their sirens briefly to show kids does not trigger me.  So I didn't expect to have trouble at the parade. 

I was standing in a curbside parking space holding A-Train when the parade began.  As a firetruck drove toward us,  I was suddenly almost paralyzed and struck completely dumb.  My pulse quickened, and I felt a lump in my throat.  It all happened so fast - I hardly had time to sort through what the hell had me triggered.  My rational brain was there, but I could not make the adrenaline stop pumping.  I was looking directly into the front window of a firetruck.  I realized I could almost feel my arms waving.  I had a strong urge to shout and get the attention of the driver.

I was saying to myself "do the thing.  Do the thing.  You're not there.  Do the thing.  Make yourself come back.  Stop this.  Do the thing."  And the panic grew as I responded to my own pleading with "I don't know how to do the thing right now.  I'm there, I'm here.  What's the thing I'm supposed to say?  I'm...I' old am I?  What year is it?  I can't do this...  OhMyGodIHaveToPutMyBabyDown."

I managed to get a hand on The Beast's arm.  He moved away (he was trying to get a good picture of Bean and the fire truck, and I was standing there dumbstruck so he didn't realize what was happening).  I finally got a strong enough grip on his arm that he said, "what's wrong?"

I managed to quietly say "I'm having a flashback..."

He took A-Train, and I sat down and looked away and took deep breaths until I could remember and do "the thing" that stops the flashbacks.

"I'm 31 years old.  It is 2012.  I'm at a 4th of July Parade.  I have two kids.  Mom has been dead for almost 18 years.  There is my husband.  I am sitting in a chair."

I am still frustrated that - 18 years later - I was blindsided by this.

This summer, The Beast was out of the country for 3 weeks out of 4 in May/June.  Bean obviously missed him immensely.  During those stretches of solo parenting, there were illnesses and teething.  I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent.  The Beast returned and immediately started teaching.  I've been working, and we still have very little childcare. He has been getting up at 4AM to work, and staying late at work other days.The Beast and I are two ships passing in the night.  Finances are tight.  I'm injured and haven't been finding my sanity running regularly. The kids have been screaming (A-Train - I think it's preverbal frustration) and sassing (Bean).  And I have just been trying not to lose my shiznit.

Monday afternoon I got sulky.  Bean asked why I was sad.  "I miss Grandma Nita," I said.

"Yeah.  I'm sad I never got to see her," he said.

"You would have loved her, and she would have loved you so much, Sweetheart."

"What shape was her hair?"  he asked.  It made me smile.  Like he was trying to figure out how to get a sense of who she was.  Eighteen months ago, he had this thing about hair - he said he could tell if he was going to be friends with someone by the shape of their hair.  We discussed the fact that you really can't tell what someone is like based on their hair...but still he remains fascinated by the "shape" of people's hair (I am not clear on whether this means their haircut, their hair's texture, or what!).

We then had a conversation about how old Grandma Nita was, and that I am younger than she was when she died (oooooooh how I dread when he figures out how old I was, and how old he'll be when I am Grandma Nita's age, and just how precarious life can be.  I tear up just thinking about it, but I also won't be hiding any of this from him.)

That was Monday.  Tuesday morning, I was still feeling weepy (and completely annoyed at myself for feeling weepy). 

We have a big hutch with drawers, and Bean never went for the drawers or cabinets or anything as a toddler.  Guess who does?  Death Wish (A-Train), of course!  And guess who doesn't have the time or resources to pack up that stuff and put it away at the moment?  ME!  We have some of Grandma Nita's stuff in the drawers, and our nice dishes (given as wedding presents) on and in it.

Tuesday morning, I walked into the kitchen and A-Train was holding a glass dish of my mother's.  "No.  No.  Nonononononono!"  I shouted.

He grinned at me and threw it back into the drawer, shattering it.

I started bawling.  He started bawling.

We sobbed together on the couch.  Every time I spoke, he started crying again - and then I started crying again. Bean was saying "take a deep breath.  It's going to be ok.  It's so sad, but it's going to be ok." 

I hate that I still miss her so much, and I'm constantly wondering if I miss her or the idea of her. 

I'm not even sure that I wish she were alive.  I have letters to her that I wrote in high school, in which I say just that, so I've been wrestling with that thought for a long time. 

My life is pretty awesome.  Last night I snuggled with my husband and marveled at how easy our marriage is.  "I think the trick is to make everything really difficult except the marriage.  Then you don't have time to worry about the marriage," he joked. 

I have two perfect, funny, sweet, healthy little boys who make my heart swell (ok, and break or at least lurch in fear) daily.  I have friends all over the world who care about me.  I have quirky kidneys, but they don't slow me down (that's up to my IT Band and hip flexor tendons at the moment!).

I have family - by blood, by love, and by marriage - who are there for me in so many ways. 

Would I really want to change a thing?

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Sweet Little Death Wish

When I hold his hand and lead him somewhere, A-Train likes to fling himself down so he is suddenly hanging from one arm and maybe scurrying his feet along. He does this with glee and gusto, laughing like some sort or maniacal acrobat. Every time this happens, I worry that a) people are going to see this, including me desperately trying to get him to put his feet back down, and think I have grabbed him roughly and dragged him along or b) he is going to dislocate his shoulder and I am going to have to take him to the same doctor's office that knows him as "the baby who swallowed the cocktail umbrella."

I may have to change his blog nickname to Death Wish - that is what we call him these days!

Other adorably obnoxious (maddeningly cute?) behaviors include refusing to have his clothes taken off. I don't get it! Not long ago, he LOVED being naked. WHAT TODDLER DOESN'T LOVE BEING NAKED?

Currently, mine.

Every time I remove an article of his clothing, he screams like I have just skinned him.

But then, when I put a shirt back on him to end his unbearable suffering, he will pull one arm out and wander around happily!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Snuggling at bedtime...

We had a mostly amazing day today, which included skipping while holding hands with Bean, and some extra time just the two of us. I was feeling extra sappy...

Me: thank you for being my son.

B: you grew me!

Me: you're welcome.

B: thank you for growing me. I was your first baby.

Me: that's true. You are still my first baby.

B: noooo. A-Train is your first baby now because he is still a baby.

Me: nope. He is not a baby anymore, but he will always be MY baby. And probably THE baby in our family.

Then I asked if he remembered when he met A-Train or if he remembers when A was in my belly or anything else before A part of our family. "No," he said. "I was 2-and-a-half. I only remember that I was 2-and-a-half." I asked if he remembered Grandma and Grandpa being here and he said "yes." I hoped that might jog a nice memory or two...

Me: oh yeah? What do you remember about Grandma and Grandpa being here?

B: Grandma cleaned our bathroom.

Me, after recovering from laughter: anything else?

B: yeah. And she played with me.

Me: oh? How?

B: ring around the rosie.

Me: do you remember taking walks with Grandma and Grandpa? Or cleaning up the garden?

B: no. Did we do that?

Me: yes. And do you remember the giant shoe at the hospital?

B: there is a big shoe at the hospital?

Me: uh huh. You got your picture taken on it when you came to the hospital to meet A.

B: we went to the hospital to meet A?

Me: yep. And you climbed up onto the bed and played "bus."

B: how?

Me: there were buttons that made the bed move, and you pushed them and pretended it was a bus. And then you asked to see all of A's parts. You said "can I see his hands? Can I see his feet?" and then you saw his umbilical cord - the part that fed him when he was in my belly - and there was a red vein and a blue vein, and you asked "who painted him?"

B: why?

Me: I guess it looked like paint to you.

B: oh.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Groundhog Day

Is this summer feeling like the movie Groundhog Day to anyone else? The day I am stuck in has included writer's block (not just here, but everywhere I write, which is unheard of for me!), long workdays for The Beast (including about 3 weeks of being out of the country) and I believe we are now at 5 seemingly-separate viruses for the kids.  Also coffee.  It has included lots of coffee.

Also lots of everybody sleeping whenever and wherever they can. Between illness, heat, missing The Beast, and a general change in routine, predictability is out the window many nights and days.

I feel like I exercise, parent, plan stuff, work at getting business (I have had some doula work - hooray!!), try to help small people feel better and sleep, feed the family, put my head down on the bed, open my eyes, and find someone proclaiming "it's morning and I am sick! GET UP!" Often in the form of coughing in my face while screaming, because A-Train isn't a big talker yet.

So is it just me?

I feel like I am letting my blog languish. I am sure it will be back once I have a) finished a bunch of business tasks and b) had a vacation. Sorry for my boring posts! This is Survival Mode!
Finally passed out on the couch after summertime activities.
Finally passed out in a chair after waking up before 5AM to party.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


This post is about how we made vanilla extract for Christmas presents.  Timely, right?  I did the research, made the extract, took the pictures, gave the gifts...and here you go.  Plenty of time to give this as a Christmas gift this year.  Or perhaps it could be a birthday gift to the baker in your life.  Bean and I got to work on these in October, so they were ready to be used by Christmas.

First off, these bottles work great!

Ingredients (just 2!):
3 vanilla beans for each cup of vodka (I used these.)
1 cup of vodka for every 3-ish vanilla beans (I found this on sale locally.)

Instructions (so simple, I will do it in photos!)

Bean was in charge of counting out groups of three vanilla beans.

I cut the beans short enough to fit, then sliced them the long way.  Then Bean added them to the bottles.

I measured out a cup of vodka for each bottle, and he got to pour it in via a funnel.

He gave them a good shake, and here they are ready to sit in a cabinet and be periodically shaken!  Eventually I Mod Podged family labels onto them...but my Mod Podge and label-making skills leave something to be desired...

I kept one bottle of vanilla and have gone through about half of it.  I love it.  It is definitely better than the imitation variety!  I plan to get some more beans this Christmas (you're supposed to top up with vodka as needed and add new beans every year).  That might be part of some folks' Christmas gifts again!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

101.5 Gallons

That's how much water I - with the help of donations and friends- purchased and distributed around Bloomington.  101.5 gallons!  It broke down like this:

32 cases of bottled water (that is 768 bottles!)
20oz bottle (I handed this directly to a panhandler)
8 gallon jugs
6 watermelons
4 umbrellas for shade

Friday, I made two trips to the grocery store to distribute water and melons to three churches - two that host meals over the weekend, and one that hosts a summer overnight shelter.  A friend/neighbor picked up a bunch of it to store in her church's fridge and also to distribute to a few parks that afternoon.

Saturday I made another trip to the grocery store for more water, which I delivered to a fourth church (they host breakfast on Sundays).  I also stopped and gave the cold 20oz bottle of water to a panhandler.  He had moved from the median into the shade, which was a much tougher place to spot him, but I was glad he was not in direct sun - it was 2PM.  When I pulled over and held out the water, he said, "Oh thank God!"

Today (Sunday) I went to my friend's church (she's one of the pastors there) and picked up 6 cases of water and 2 watermelons.  I distributed them plus the four umbrellas to a couple of parks.

It feels good to know that that much water circulated and was available to anyone who needed it this weekend.  When I dropped off cases at these parks, men ran to help me so I didn't have to walk very far at all.  They were thankful.  At one park, there were two fairly large groups of people gathered in the shade of a couple trees - probably a couple dozen people or more in total.  Not only did I see them distributing the cases through the two groups, but as I was driving away I saw a couple of men carrying bottles to others who were across the street and not at the park.  They were taking care of each other, and it was an even greater relief to know that they were also probably making sure the water was distributed amongst themselves.

At the churches, I was often asked who I was affiliated with.  I have said that I am going to start saying "I'm affiliated with moms and the rest of humanity."

It struck me that it is not often that people just decide to do something for others on their own - and that I almost didn't act on this because there was no previously-organized way to do it.  And because, in all honesty (and as I pointed to a bit in my original post about this project), there is some fear of fellow man going on.  I'm not sure yet if those fears are appropriate, justified, etc.  Certainly I felt exactly zero threat from (some very large) men as I was giving them water in almost 100-degree heat.

Thank you - THANK YOU - to everyone who donated, who helped, and who was inspired to give a helping hand in various ways (I've had emails and seen posts on Facebook, and my heart just might burst).

It's only now July - I will almost certainly organize something like this again during another heat advisory this summer!
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