Thursday, December 30, 2010

lucky seven

upon the occassion of our seventh anniversary

I met Brigham a few months after explicitly committing myself to a fairly formulaic dating regime. Essentially, I decided to quit dating men that were not, in my dad's word, "marriageable." Nice and funny were not enough any more; I needed someone who was serious about a real career, someone who could be a spiritual leader to me without being off-putting or judgmental of the little things like that I had to stop reading the Book of Mormon every day because the thought of a lifetime of perpetual rounds of reading the same thing that was not Harry Potter was just too much at one point, someone who was steady in mood, reliable and responsible. As someone whose favorite movie is Clear and Present Danger, I consulted my feelings for Jack Ryan and knew the truth: I need a man to whose back I could strap myself to be lifelessly carried through all of life's travails (and I am a feminist)
Our first date was to see the Mormon Short-Film Festival at the Provo Library. (During which we saw a clip of Napoleon Dynamite, a movie to which our reaction was identical in a way that is bizarrely important to me--we loved it the first time, wondered what we liked so much about it the second time, and back to love the third. Very bonding.) I barely knew the guy, but the activity selection gave me a positive impression. He may not remember this part, but even the conversation we had at my carell about the prospect of the Film Festival was perfect. He just got me, and I got him, and that was all there was to it.

The date was great and was followed by a series of other very impressive dates to such places as midnight runs to the Provo Hospital cafeteria (best milkshake in town!) and breakfast for dinner at Cracker Barrel (still a favorite, and I thought I hated the place). He was everything on my list, and, though I tried to not place too much emphasis on it, he was funny, too.

Brigham, meanwhile, didn't have a list. But he made one about me. After dropping me off at the conclusion of that first date, he enthusiastically punched the ceiling of the car in which we would later take our first born son home from the hospital for finally finding the type of girl he was looking for. (This still gets him a lot of credit from me). He wrote down in his notebook two things that he liked about me. Neither of us can remember the first (I think it was that I was an easy laugh) and the second was some observation I made about one of the film shorts. I liked that he was thinking like that.

As helpful as my list was to eliminating prospects that were not going to be right for me, in the end it just came down to a gut-check. After all, there are lots of guys who are serious and fun and kind and spiritual and smart. I knew and cared for a few. It got quite confusing, truly. The list could only take me so far. My heart took me to Brigham. I'm so glad I listened.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

a blog post about today in 5 minutes or less

After grilling me on my failure to provide proper materials with which he could build a real, working computer, Andrew declared his intention to build a computer for himself and for his wife when he grows up. "Will you build one for me, too, Andrew?"

"Sure. If you are still alive."

Brigham called to say goodnight to the boys and thought Will was Andrew. He is getting so big.

Porter looks downright fat these days. I feel an acute sense of personal accomplishment. I wish I could get a second chance with Will. That was what I thought about when I nursed Porter this morning.

I still haven't purchased a satisfactory gift for Brigham. The guy is hard to shop for.

Andrew told me and Will this morning that he loved Will with all his heart and that Will was his best friend. It makes Will feel so good.

Will loves his Uncle Agustine and has somehow picked up his uncle's habit of misusing the prhase "I promise." They both seem to think that it denotes a passionate emotion about something. For example, they both will promise you that they would like to go out to dinner (well, Will probably won't be making promises about that, yet). Will was making lots of promises today about wanting to read a book, play in the basement and take a bath. Will, this phrase you keep using, I do not think it means what you think it means. I promise you.

At bedtime tonight, Andrew told me that he didn't want any "songs and rubs" (we rub his feet while singing a medley of the same 3-5 songs). He said it was because he is trying to get out of that habit and get used to going straight to bed. I thought I was waiting all my life to hear that come out of his mouth, but I insisted on songs and rubs, anyway. It was just yesterday that we were locking him in his little two-year old room at bedtime while he sobbed on the other side of the door and said things like, "I just want to hold you so much!" What he wanted, really, was for us to lay in his bed with him all night, or at least until he fell asleep.

Will, on the other hand, told me, after I pulled his finger from his nose, that he "{is} trying to get out of that habit." It was such a cute thing to say that I don't mind a little more nosepicking if he will talk about it like that.

I got Pillars of the Earth from the library over a week ago and have read only one sentence. What is my problem? And I still think about These Is My Words. I wish it had a different title.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

a dust of snow

the way a crow
shook down on me
a dust of snow from a lilac tree
has given my heart a change of mood
and save some part
of a day i rued.

r. frost
(i may have misquoted here or there but am too lazy to double check).

We had an unexpected (for me) little dusting of snow. It stuck to the streets and sidewalks, but not so much on the grass. I was a little bit worried about road conditions for picking them up from school (now that I call Will's Joy School a "playdate" he is happy to attend. Wish I figured that out a few months ago.). But not worried enough to actually pick them up early.

The boys have gone out in the snow twice. It is nice that they are old enough to do that without requiring my presence. I hate the cold and luckily Porter provides me with a good excuse for ushering them out alone.

Will was desperate to wear boots like Andrew, but had outgrown last year's (which were also the year before that year's boots, too). So he settled for one rain boot (I couldn't find the other) and one too large light up sneaker. Andrew wore a ginormous snowsuit that I couldn't believe I had ever purchased. I don't think it is featured here, though, since he wore it during round 2 only.

They were so happy. It has been a nice, cozy day.

I burned lunch taking these not-so-great photos. They are headed out once again right now while I finish up ordering all our Christmas gifts off the internet and bumble around with a tiny bumble bee.

I think we did it right this year for the boys. On the advice of my friend, whose advice I unflinchingly and unfailingly follow (except on political issues) told me that this was the best item she has ever purchased for her kids. She bought it last Christmas and leaves it out in the open in the basement almost all the time. While some of the novelty has worn off, they use it almost every day. Even Andrew can operate it (Will is close), so I think it is going to be a hit with all of us.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

another reason to love shutterfly

So I have yet to even make our Christmas cards this year. Shocking, I know. I also only shower sporadically and have taken to employing my old college trick of washing the top of my head and bangs area so as to appear clean(er). (I was very popular with the boys!)

But I digress.

The point is that shutterfly has a promotion where you can receive 50 free cards if you advertise for them on your blog, which provides a subject matter rather more interesting than any I write about these days, so here it is. Though I am writing this to get the promotion, I am only saying it like it really is.
Honestly, I think that the site has a ton of really cute designs. The hardest part about using the site was to simply choose which card among many I liked. Although I sometimes want to throw in the towel on Christmas cards, I do love the tradition of sending greetings out to friends far and long. I always keep a copy for myself and it has been sweet collecting our yearly cards and seeing how our lives have changed each year. It will be nice to have one that I didn't make at costco.

I am getting started on a photo book for our family and a calendar for extended family. I also have a goal to finally create the collage of Andrew's joy school photos for him and the other kids from his class. I saw that shutterfly is offering a sale on their photoshow dvd. I wanted to make a photo book for my parents this Christmas but had given up the cause as lost to incovenience and lack of time, but I saw that I can instead make a much simpler little flip book. In fact, there are a ton of photo-themed gifts on sale. My Christmas gifting just got a lot easier.

Thank you, Shutterfly, for the free cards. I love the internet.

By the way, which of these do you like best for us? Honestly, it is really down to the first two. The third wouldn't allow me to edit out my gut and the bottom one does not have enough photo slots.

Friday, December 03, 2010

my druthers

"I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It's more important to confirm the least sincere. The clouds get enough attention as it is..."
— Frank O'Hara

I have been haunting the mls for 5 years now, and the time has come that it is really my turn to really get serious. And now that it is here, I am a little bit afraid to act. It is just my way.

The housing market here is rather depressing to those of us who are beggars that cannot be choosers, but if I could choose, these are my druthers:

1) I love a kitchen with white and glass-doored cabinents and dark granite counter tops. I'd love an island with shelves. Subway tile on the walls and stainless, too, please.
Here is the "after" of the kitchen we remodeled ourselves (Brigham was the laborer) in our little bungalow in Salt Lake.

2) A back deck off the kitchen or dining area.
This one is almost a must. We looked at a house that was way too small for us (and the $$), but I could have been foolishly talked into it because of that tiered back deck and fenced, level yard. I want (need) to be able to look out the kitchen window and see the boys playing outside in the back.

3) A front porch.
This one is silly, I know, especially in this part of the country, but my heart is mightily tugged when I see a front porch on a property. Were it not for my more level-headed husband, I would trade a 4th bedroom or a 3rd bath or physical safety for a front porch in just about a second. There was a house in 16th street heights (DC) whose front porch sang a siren song to my soul; Brigham noted that the front porch could fit almost an entire gang of neighborhood thugs.

4) A neighborhood with treelined streets, a bike trail and lots of children for the boys to play with. I am willing to negotiate on the bike trail, if I must.

5) Big windows. Many of them. My mother in law disagrees, pointing out that she does not like "the sun beating down upon [her]" (I loved that conversation!), but I welcome as much abuse as that sun can dish out (in?) through my windows. The better to look at my large, fenced and level backyard where I have locked my children until they get in better moods/get their energy out/are ready to not act like wild animals.

These are my druthers. I will give up a garage (I have never had one in my entire life, anyway); I could do 3 bedrooms if at least one was big enough for the boys to share; I can buy a house that needs to be remodelled (but not added onto); the basement doesn't HAVE to walk out. I don't need a formal dining room, either. Just let me eat in my kitchen, let the light pour in, give me a master bath of my own, keep us on the same level while we sleep, a working fireplace (as many as you can spare), and a garden where I can grow veggies, herbs and flowers and fit a trampoline.

But I try not to dwell upon these prefences too much, though, since at the end of the day the best I can realistically hope for (and which will bring me joy) is a clean, well-lighted place we can call home. Though that means a cleaning service.

it was a red letter day

October 22, 2010: Porter could sit up in the grocery cart seat. Also, I can't wait to tease Andrew about the photographic evidence that he was interested in a barbie doll.

"a small, good thing"

Short stories, in my opinion, are sort of the perfect form for mothers of young kids who want to fit some lit into their lives. The short story for which this post is named (by Raymond Carver) is particularly wonderful (if heartbreaking).

Another thing that I, at least, find very helpful as a mom of very young kids is to record some of the small, good things that happen each day. Probably too overwhelming to be realistic to accomplish, but I need to at least record a few, because there are a few things that keep coming back to my mind. They were so small, but they meant so much, even months and weeks later.

So thank you, Tuckahoe Man, for approaching me in the baby pool just to tell me that you saw me bolusing Will and thought that I had a great, casual attitude about it towards little Will. I know I was awkward, but I really did appreciate you sharing the experience of your friend, whose son also had an ng tube. Thank you for telling me I was doing a great job. I needed to hear that, especially that day.

And thank you, education specialist at Kluge Children's Rehab. Will loved the time he had with you, and it was the time I most looked forward to every day we were there, but what I really want to record is how moved I was that you could finish my sentence about why I had felt so stressed out over the summer with trying to get Will to eat that I became too forceful about it. "You wanted to avoid surgery." That was exactly it. I realize that it must seem so obvious to anyone reading this, but I think it often isn't obvious, especially to all the medical professionals we meet with. You had such a gentle, loving way. You made me feel like I had done well with Will. I wished that I could go over to your house for tea and book club and holidays. Your children, if you have them, are lucky. I must send you a card.

Thank you, Brighten, who was so aptly named, for calling me to keep up with how Will and I were doing. Thank you for praying for him. I know it must seem so small, but it wasn't to me.

Thank you, Brant, for dropping off that wonderful little Batman thank you note to Will. He reads it every night. I am glad you found the truck he gave you to be "beautiful." Likewise to your card.

Boys, try to remember that even in the most stressful times (maybe especially during them?) there are always some small, good things to be found out there.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

weekend review in 5 minutes or less

Friday we took down the Halloween decorations (yep) and went in search of our Christmas tree. My instinct to do Whatever Is Most Memorable last year led us to a Christmas Tree Farm in Great Falls where Brigham was supposed to chop down a lovely fir while the boys cheered and watched on enthusiastically. The only part of that that actually took place was that we went to that location. We only found paltry, sickly trees (maybe it was sort of late in the season or something) totally unacceptable to my very tree-discriminating husband. The kids were cold and wanted to go. Still, this is a great photo, no? And the memory is sweeter in its rearview rosy glow.

Friday we ended up at the same Christmas tree stand by Costco where we found last year's tree (whose needles I discovered still persisting in my front door frame. Someone reach out to me!). It was here where the first effects of K&E kicked in, as Brigham chose out a Noble instead of our cheaper stand-by Douglas. The boys could not have been less interested in the tree selection and saw the thicket of chopped trees as a mere backdrop to their game of super secret spies. Brigham tried to get me to relax while they darted around hidden from my view. I tried to track them, hoping I was a better tracker than the predators that constantly surround me, waiting for the least opportunity to snatch my kids and disappear with them forever. I got no photos.

Saturday we took the kids to Cub Run Rec Center. It was a great time and at the end of the night Andrew was profuse in his gratitude. It was "the best night ever!" And he hopes that "we can do that every night!" Brigham's day-long quest to find a ginormous tv that is on sale at costco but sold out, even the floor models, ended in a Chantilly costco where he (thankfully) bought the smaller sale tv. It is still ginormous. He warned me months ago that if he got this new job his first order of business was a new tv (our other has barely survived the 45 moves it has endured since we married). Then we sped home to drop the kids with my super-kind mom who watched them while we went to a packed theatre to see Harry Potter. Katie was in the crowd with us somewhere. (The movie was great, btw!). We came home to discover that my mom had allowed Porter to snort lines of cocaine. He was awake and bumbling around until 2.

Sunday we went to an hour of church and an open house before heading to Old Town to attend my elementary school friend's baby's christening in a gorgeous church. Insert all my typical gushing about the passage of time and not being able to imagine 28 years ago that I would be attending little Ashley Lowery's baby's baptism. Old Town in gorgeous. No photos.

The tree is decorated only to the extent that Andrew "flung" some lights onto the lower left quadrant. The room is filled with boxes of stuff to be put up. I have only managed to arrange the Christmas village, which I recently bought at the local thrift.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

my new go-to meal

In the five minutes left to me between finishing my dinner (the inspiration for this post) and Porter waking up and yelling at me again, I thought the meal that gave me such bliss deserved to be shared and celebrated.

I was suspicious of it at first. The ingredients looked wrong. But I trusted the source--another mom from my son's preschool who is unfailingly classy in every single aspect of her life. She is so nice you can't even feel resentful of her perfection. Here it is.

Because of food allergies, she subbed sunflower seed spread for the peanut butter, but I stuck with the original recipe. She told me that she mixes the rice into the sauce and then places the chicken on top. The first time I made this, I added the rice a couple of hours after the cooking process began. The second time, I added it just before it ended and found myself having to add water to ensure the rice didn't end up crunchy. I am hesitant to add the rice at the beginning as directed because my crock pot cooks this meal up really quickly and I am afraid it will burn the rice. I am not home during the day to moniter it.

I followed her advice and Brigham and I ate it over mixed greens with this dressing. I left out the egg (yuck!) and would advise you go easy on the salt if you don't have kosher. (Maybe cut in half and add more at the end after you taste it.)

This meal takes literally fewer than 10 minutes of hands-on prep and is so delicious. My crock pot, at its lowest temp and using frozen chicken, cooks this up in about 3-4 hours. Also, I think that when making more than 2 breasts I would just double the sauce recipe. But these are just small tweaks; I think the recipe is pretty no-fail no matter what.

Andrew ate so much the first time there was barely any left for Brigham and even Will ate a normal-sized meal such that I didn't even have to bolus him afterwards. It is probably breaking all the parenting rules, but I give the rice to Porter and he loves it. This meal leaves me so satisfied that I am not even going to yell at Andrew when he reaches the bottom of the stairs in about 5 seconds. And here he is.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

If life were fair, I would be gathering water from a contaminated source to lug back to my shack in a developing country. It is so easy to just take for granted so many of the things that fill our lives with joy or ease. Brigham, who has obviously lived with me too long, had the same horrific vision that I did about having a car accident on the way over to my parents' house. I had carefully prepared a bunch of items, the most choice of which were two pecan pies (I have a secret recipe). He envisioned those pies splattered all over the place, but that it didn't even make the cut of things to be concerned about. It was so weird because I had had the very thought go through my head, complete with the pie scenario. There was an accident on 66 and we were happy to see that no one was hurt.

This year has been a dificult one, but it has been a very blessed one, too. When we had to choose just one blessing to focus on, here were our results.

Alexandra: Porter was born, and despite the 25% risk of CF, he is totally healthy and happy. (The truth is that I almnst never even think about this blessing, but if he had been born sick I would trade basically any other blessing to obtain that one.)

Brigham: Will no longer throws up several times a day.

Andrew: Having a new brother, Porter.

Will: "I am grateful that I just have my button instead of my tummy tube." (His accident proved ultimately to be a blessing since he got the little mickey button a month early and no longer has to tuck that giant tube into his jeans. His relief at this change has been obvious since the day we got the button (tuesday).

Other things to be thankful for this year:

1) Will is in the 30% for weight, the first time since he was a few months old that he even made it onto the growth charts.

2) Will got in to a feeding program that we thought he would have to wait another 6 months to get into.

3) Andrew has been a wonderful and helpful child who has really risen to the occassion during this time in which I have needed so much assistance.

4) Brigham got a new job that we never counted on or planned for. He starts at Kirkland & Ellis in January and every day that I look on the mls for a house I can't believe that these are houses we could actually purchase.

5) My sister-in-law Abby was able to come out for two weeks and make it possible for us to attend Will's feeding camp. I cannot imagine having been able to do it without her. She was Porter's nanny all day, every day and she was just such a reassurance to me in every way.

6) The Brown family of Charlottesville took us into their home for the entire week (and would have put us up for two) of Will's program. They were wonderful and generous and kind and I cannot say enough good of them.

7) Alisha Lacey did an entire photo shoot of our family with her two tiny kids in tow (her husband was out of town) free of charge. She spent a lot of time editing the shots, too. I keep meaning to bring over a card or otherwise thank her, but have managed only a lame email. But I am so so grateful to have such gorgeous photos of my little family. I am still plotting a thank you.

Today's Thanksgiving was pretty low-key: a Sunday dinner, the variating being that we all contributed something for once and sang a hymn before the meal. After we scarfed down the food in 1/8th the amount of time spent preparing it, the kids went wild for a while and the rest of us relaxed in front of the fire or the football game. Eventually the kids and moms watched Harry Potter 1. I teased Will a bit about his love of Wendy on Peter Pan (worthy of its own post. I really should videotape it, too.) And we made it out to the car. Andrew only escaped and dashed back inside my parents' house once.

So ends our Thanksgiving night. It was one of those Thanksgivings whose details might vanish from my mind in not too much time but for having written them down, but it was a year during which I have learned to be truly thankful for many things I had taken for granted in the past. I hope I don't have to relearn this lesson. (Did You hear that?)

Monday, November 22, 2010

ER Fun

Our trip to the zoo today ended before it began when Will accidentally (need I even add that?) pulled his tube out while clamoring around in the back of my parents' old suburban.

I will interject into my story line here to just mention that I realize I have a very strong urge to blame other people when things like this happen (see Sweet Pickles Accusing Alligator). It was all just a terrible accident, but I couldn't help but think in a very non-torts-like fashion about how if only those boys had just gotten in the van like I had asked them to, if only Will would just listen when I say no, this would never have happened, if only I were able to keep them more under control blah blah blah. Yes, if Andrew had gotten in the van, Will would have done so, as well, and none of it would have happened. But Andrew could not reasonably foresee that hiding in the junky old suburban would lead ultimately to a trip to the emergency room. I do need to get the boys to submit better to my authority, but they are also little boys who like to play and climb and have fun and his tube should not come out from a little of the typical tumbling that boys do, and that he has done basically ever since he regained, as I like to say, psychological use of his legs again post-surgery.

But I digress. It was very surreal to hear him scream, "My tube came out!" and to look over and see that it really had, anchor and all. It must have been horribly painful, yet he stopped crying as soon as my dad backed my minivan out of the driveway on the way to the E.R. Porter screamed the whole way, but Will was calm.

The doctors did not seem terribly worried about the situation, saying that the site looked good (and I could see that the bleeding was minimal, though that hole pained me). Will was content so long as someone held the gauze onto his tummy while he watched endless episodes of Sponge Bob, the worst cartoon ever, at a range of literally 5 inches.

I began to feel like I was either not in America or in a Joseph Heller novel when the doctors reported to me that they could not do anything for Will because they did not have anyone with that expertise (in the entire hospital?), but that they would call around to other hospitals to see where to send us. That took several hours. All the while, Will's wound site was healing over. The doctors had informed us that repairing this type of situation is quite simple so long as it is attended to right away, but that by 24 hours the site is healed over and things get much more complicated (maybe another surgery would be needed). I was getting anxious as the hours ticked by and we started to reach closing times. DC Children's Hospital said they wouldn't fit us in but they would admit him overnight and do it the next day. We can't even get answers from the other hospitals and I am about ready to just leave and take Will to the ER at Fairfax, where I know there are pediatric GIs, having previously been treated by one for several months. I give a call over to the old office, talk to the wonderful nurse who had helped us all summer when we were still patients there and she was paving a path for us to be seen at the hospital. Meanwhile, the doctor in our ER got my old doctor on the phone, but she (ex-dr) said that she would not help Will because he was no longer her patient, thereby permanently wiping away any doubt I may have ever had about having left her service for Johns Hopkins.

Our nurse, who thought that she could replace the tube and that therefore there had to be a doctor who could do it, took some quick action and made the doctors brainstorm a solution that would not put Will in an ambulance headed for Baltimore (the Hopkins solution). The session of 6 doctors problem solving worked: why not have the Intervention Radiologist, who replaces displaced g-tubes in adult patients at least once a day, replace Will's? And a pediatrician can come in and prescribe the proper amount of sedative to relax him during the procedure.

Yes, why the heck not. I am not exaggerating when I say that putting in a new tube literally took fewer than 10 seconds. Truly. Then they wheeled in a little x-ray machine, snapped a shot, read the results and cleared us within 3 more minutes. It was the simplest thing in the world. It was like putting a straw through the lid of a soft drink cup. I was even more astounded after having seen its simplicity that the Arlington doctors wasted hours trying to send us elsewhere, denying having the capability of performing that simple little task. I would have felt some frustration, too, but whatever anger I have that seeks ventilation through blaming/accusing/criticizing was just overwhelmed with relief that everything was fixed and gratitude to the really great doctor who put off the video games calling to him at home (such were his plans) to help us out.

I learned a few good lessons but I will focus on one of them. Sometimes it pays to be a big fat semi-polite pain in the doctors' necks. I gave them some time to get things sorted, but as the hours went by and I got the sense that we were just getting pushed off because no one felt any responsibility, I started to become more proactive about questioning the doctors about who was doing what etc.

But the stuff that I really want to remember consists of anecdotes about the kids. Some of it is funny and some heartbreaking. In the case of Will it is both since everything that little boy does and says breaks my heart.

On the ride over to the ER, Will was mostly quiet. But he did look at me and say sadly, "I wish I only had my nose tube. I wish I never got a tummy tube."

At the hospital, Will received a sticker which at some point somehow got lost (I don't know how since he never left the little bed). When asked my one of the many passing medical professionals about whether he liked stickers, he responded in the affirmative and reported that he had one, in fact. When he saw that it was no longer on his shirt, he said, "But where the hick is my sticker? Where the hick is it?"

When they gave him a sedative, Will proved himself to truly be beyond the reach of typical human frailty. They gave him 1 cc of sedative. We waited. Will watched tv and acted totally normal. The doctor remarked that he himself would be knocked out by 1 cc. They have him anouther 1/2. Nothing. Another 1/2. The nurse expresses her anxiety about giving such a little guy that much. Will continues to interact iwth us and respond to Sponge Bob. Another 1/2. Will is in a wonderful, mellow mood. He smiles and talks with us. I consider how handy it would be to have emergency access to this medication from time to time. It is at this point they decide that the underweight three year old who has not napped is not going to fall asleep and they do the procedure. Will is nice and mellow for it. I begin thinking about the ways in which adults self-medicate, as those who unwind with a glass of wine at the end of a long day. I feel deprived. If it is true that women in Utah have higher rates of anti-depressants/anxiety meds use than women in other states, it has got to be because they don't drink.

We get back to my parents' house and Will retires to my parents' bedroom with a bowl of popcorn. My mom tells me that Andrew had a great day. After dinner she asked him whether he was ready to go up and take a bath. "Yep!" When she turned toward him she saw that he had spilled chocolate milk all over the table. "Andrew! You said you were ready to go up but you spilled milk all over the place! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Mmmmm. Scared, I guess," he replied. I love Andrew.

Brigham was offered (and accepted) a new job. We have been very excitedly anticipating the future and looking into buying a house of our own. I have felt really lucky. But today, after Will's accident, I realized just how lucky I really am and it has nothing to do with Brigham. Just kidding. With Brigham's new job.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Porter at 6 months

photo by the super-talented Alisha Lacey

Porter, this has been the fastest 6 months of my life. I keep calling you my newborn, but newborns don't seal-drag themselves around the house as you do. You are even getting up on all fours and slapping a pace or two before collapsing back into seal position.

You love taking baths with you brothers. You start lunging and kicking your feet as soon as we enter a bathroom with a filling tub.

You are a terrible sleeper. I am so weary.

You are a terrific eater, though, and if I had to choose, I will take eating over sleeping any day. You like to sit in your chair and pick up noodles or smashed veggies and feed yourself.

Your favorite song is Adel Weiss. I have tried out so many, but that is the only one that settles you.

The pitch of your cry has actually driven me to the doctor for prescription-level headache medication. Even four advil can't touch what you do to my brain. Sometimes I feel that I have given birth to a baby ring wraith.

You love to rub noses. You are also very ticklish.

You really adore Andrew. Sometimes he will be what I deem rather rough with you, but when I move to reprimand Andrew and put a stop to the violence, I find that you are laughing and smiling.

You hate riding in your carseat. You never ever fall asleep in there. I avoid driving when possible.

You love to be upside down (an Andrew trait). When you cry or fuss, sometimes the only solution is upside-down pineapples.

Aside from the seal-drag, which is a distinct Will trait, you remind me a lot of Andrew and make his babyhood seem so recent.

Even if you wake up every hour and demand that you eventually make your final resting spot in our bed, nestling your head right up into the small of daddy's back and forcing me to sleep in an L-shape in the lower quadrant of the bed (actually quite comfortable), you have our whole family totally charmed. I guess our sleeping conditions demonstrated how wrapped we are around that tiny, puffy, cream-white finger of yours.

Please stay tiny.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


"Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have made a difference in the world. The marines don't have that problem." Ronald Reagan

For all the criticism and self-criticism unleashed upon our country and our military, there is one thing that is undeniably true: the world is a better place because of the United States, and wherever our soldiers have landed people have been liberated. The places they stopped fighting mark the places that freedom has ended. (Just ask North and South Korea.) (ok,so that is two things, and I can imagine people disagreeing with at least assertion #2.)

Thanks go to the fighting men and women who have purchased with their lives the freedom of basically all on this planet who are free.

And now, some uplifting poetry:

Disabled, by Wilfed Owen

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
— In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join. He wonders why . . .
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts.

That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

Current Veteran's Benefits for the 100% Disabled Soldier:
unmarried, no kids: $ 2,673/mo or $32,076/yr
married, no kids, two parents: $3,063 or $36,756/yr
unmarried, with one child: $2,774 or $33,288/yr
married, with one child: $3,172 ($75-$240 extra per multiple child depending upon age) or $38,064/yr

Doesn't seem like much to me, considering what they gave and considering the entitlements enjoyed by others in this country.

Happy Armistice Day!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

old friends

when i discovered the concept of college majors (i was about 12) and learned that there would come a time when i would no longer be required to endure math courses, when, in fact, i could select a course of study in which all i would have to do would be to read books (and write stuff about them), i was floored. i had discovered the biggest boondoggle ever. why would anyone major in anything but English lit? my decision was made. of course, when the time came, i majored in international development under the reasoning that i wanted to learn something in college. while my intentions were honorable, i chose my alternate major poorly. i would have been better off in the english department where i belonged.

but my love of reading has never left me, even if i have found it harder and harder to keep up with in the way that my soul really needs. my dedication to reading reached unhealthy levels, something i recognized early on, since they substituted for real life and real friends. as a result, i remember which books i was reading during certain periods because they were so inculcated into my thoughts and days. i was thinking about the books that have most stayed with me over the years and i thought i should like to have a list of them somewhere, sort of like an old yearbook or address book, really. so here they are: not necessarily the finest books i have read, but the ones that have really stuck in my mind.

1) The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Series. I was drawn to the cover while spending my lunch hour in Feb 1993 in the library. The series never let me go and I was devastated when Douglas Adams died.

2) The Remains of the Day. I thought this books would completely bore me (an English butler reminisces about his life over the course of a drive into the country to see if a former manor employee will return to her post) but it haunted me and I think about it a lot.

3) Never Let Me Go. Same author as above. This guy gets under my skin. His books aren't so cheery. His first one is about a woman who lives in the apt in which her mom committed suicide or something. Have to get my hands on that one soon.

4) Harry Potter. Five years of reading it every night before bed will do it, but Harry could have even if I hadn't had that ritual.

5) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. The historical account of a family's experience during the Comm Rev in China and then under Mao. Read in 1998 for a poly sci class, but it was so long and so complicated that I kept going back to it over the years. Was my bedtime ritual the semester I got engaged.

6) Pride and Prejudice. It isn't my favorite of Austen's books (I think I like Persuasion the best) but it has stuck with me more. Maybe because of the movie.

7) 9 Stories is true. One of my favorite books of all time. Funny and sentimental and sad and relatable. My first copy, now lost, was the one that my mom had stolen from a Camp Lejune library in 1966. If you read the book, you will understand that that history is simply the perfect setting for the whole novel. It is a book of short stories all centered around the same family and it keeps me coming back.

8) Raise High the Roof beam, Carpenters and Seymour, an Introduction.

9) Do I even need to mention Catcher in the Rye? Yes, this puts me in a certain category for some who deride the book but all I have to say is that if you don't get it, you don't get it. Salinger speaks to me and I mourn him and his lost New York. How strange it must have been for him in those last years to be one of the only survivors of his generation and live in a world so changed, so moved on from the people he knew and loved.

10) John Updike short stories. Another author who felt like a friend. Maybe he was misogynistic (though I don't think so) and perhaps I would be embarrassed to be associated with his novels, but his short stories connected with me. Poems, too.

11) Emperor of the Air.

12) The Edible Woman. When Margaret Atwood isn't getting into dystopia writing, I love her. Speaking of which . . . number 13

13) The Blind Assassin, of course. Read it in the summer of 2002 while living and hating my job in California, deciding to transfer law schools, single.

14) Interpreter of Maladies. The Third and Final Continent seals the deal on this one, though I love most of the stories.

15) The Dead, or rather, the last page of it. Read it on a cold, dark wintery day and it will stick with just about anyone.

16) John Cheever stories, by which it is possible that I am being influenced by The Death of Justina, which happens to be one of my favorite short stories ever.

I am sure I am leaving many off, and I haven't even touched the childhood books that have stayed with me (the Babysitters Club, for ex. I used to (still) track their ages from time to time. Those babysitters are on the far side of 35!)

I would love to hear any recommendations!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

hope for the past

Last night at Will and Andrew's joint birthday party at cub run rec center (where Andrew wants to have all his future parties!), I was struck by my typical wholly unoriginal insights that nontheless feel quite profound. I was watching my two sweet boys blowing out the candles on their cake (Will was more adept at this than Andrew) when it landed on me out of the sky that these kids were mine--my blessing, my responsibility, people who had been entrusted, 100%, to me to raise. They aren't just these people I live with and love. It is a feeling most parents probably wake up in the morning with, but somehow something about the sight of them, no longer babies but ever-changing people of their own who rely upon me to throw them parties or to not do so, brought home to me how awesome and overwhelming the parental duty is.

This morning I woke up to a wonderful poem (thank you, Missy and Garrison Keillor) that tied all my feelings from last night so well together with my Sabbath thoughts (yes, I do have them).

Thanks, Robert Frost

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought…
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.

We leave tomorrow, Porter, Will, Aunt Abby and I, that is, for Charlottesville, a place that once I couldn't bear to think about because of all my regrets associated with deciding not to attend law school there, after all. Now I hope I will associate it as the place where Will's feeding problems met the begining of their end. I am optimistic that our two weeks at Kluge's Children's Rehab center will be a turning point in Will's life.

Last night at their party, we lost track of Andrew, something that can be a bit alarming at a pool. We spotted him moments later, drifting through the lazy river with two of his friends and no parents. That was a bittersweet moment, but far more sweet than sad. The on

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Andrew at 5

I will waste no time expounding on my shock that my little Andrew is already 5 years old or the passage of time or the passing of life. It would take forever and I am too exhausted to even attempt it. Andrew is a delight and I think that 5 years old is a pretty great age for a kid to be. So I will get right down to recording exactly what he is like at this moment in time.

At 5 years old, Andrew can ride a two wheeler. His Tourette's-style exclamations designed to attract the attention of any passers-by of "Two wheeler! Four!" is now officially outdated.

He is a huge help with his little brothers. He can operate Will's machinery, to the point that I am not grateful and awed when he does it but rather irritated and scolding when he doesn't. The sight of him in the rearview mirror holding that little machine and pressing the correct buttons when it jams is something I will always treasure.

Andrew is as philosophical and introspective as ever. This should no longer be a surprise to me, but somehow he always comes out with something unexpected. The other day I made him hold Porter in the tub (see above). This was the 4th day I had bathed the boys in this way and Andrew's attitude had migrated from thrilled to begrudging. Porter loves bathtime and thrashes wildly, making holding him rather difficult. Andrew was anxious to return him. "Mom, is this what you do all day?" "Yes, Andrew, but I do it while making lunch or playing with you or doing dishes." I thought better of my response and clarified that I love my job as their mom and wouldn't trade it for anything. "You wouldn't?" Andrew asked, incredulous.
"I would, Mom. I would trade it."

For a more indicting example, but one I should record, happened the other day during a frustrating moment. I had forgotten to open the clamp on Will's tube after hooking him up and the force of the pent-up formula caused the formula line to burst out of the g-tube, spilling and spraying formula all over. I had to scramble before Will threw up (for some reason any time a port opens like this, Will vomits). I have been rather on edge these past few weeks and have not been at my parenting best, so I was probably sighing and mumbling and heaving myself dramatically around the kitchen. Realizing that I might be sending the wrong message to the kids, especially poor Will who is the real victim in all of this, I apologized and explained that I was not mad at any of them--I was mad at myself for my mistake. Andrew remarked. "You might feel mad at yourself, but you act like you are mad at Will." He was right, and as much as it hurt to hear, what a blessing he could remind me of that.

Andrew's love of women and female beauty continues right along. It first manifested itself in his crush on Dolly Parton when we was, what, not yet 2? Now he points out the incongruities btwn the bodies of supermodels and actresses and my own body, specifically our stomachs. One recent conversation centered around appropriate swim attire for me as opposed to other women. I, apparently, fall into the category of "Big Mommies" and must wear a tankini that covers my stomach while the other women can wear bikinis.

Andrew loves Star Wars, backugans (sp?), building elaborate things with Trio or Legos, swimming, reading and going for walks. He loves spending time at my parents house, which he does quite a bit due to Will's medical appointments etc. He loves to set traps for people and is still unrealistic about the scale of his trap compared to the size of the people to be trapped. His favorite tv show has shifted this year from Scooby Doo to Penguins of Madagascar. His life ambition is to use his career as a helicopter pilot to launch him into space. He is still as sweet and sensitive and tender as he was when he was just a tiny little thing that would only sleep while held. He also still gets out of bed occassionally to play and hang out with us, and I am still putting up with it and then letting him sleep in til the last possible moment. We are chronically late.

When I was in college, I read this poem and was immediately drawn to it. I guess in some recess of my brain I could recognize my future (as a 40 year old man), and now that I am rapidly approaching the stage of life described, I love the poem even more. I still see it primarily as a poem that applies to my age cohort, and that even though I feel that Andrew has grown up so fast I know that he is really still only 5 years old. And that is still young, even if it is no longer tiny or toddley. Yet I can feel creeping into the back of my mind thoughts about Andrew someday learning to close softly doors he will not be coming back to. It makes me grateful that today, right now, when sent to his room, he tends to slam doors as loudly and rapidly he can.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Green Acres is the Place to Be

We decided to experience Amish Country this Labor Day weekend. I was able to get a room for us at a B&B on a real working farm called Green Acres.
We drove up and spent Saturday at Dutch Wonderland. We spent that night and the next day on the farm, which the boys seemed to enjoy just as much.
The cats were free for the taking! Will loved them. Waving at them, petting them, counting them and, here, identifying which were the parents and which were the babies.
There was a wonderful yard complete with a playhouse and slide. The boys were in heaven.
A goat sliding down a slide.
Dutch Wonderland. We didn't even need to give Will a coin to have fun "driving" the motorboats.

I love Will's face popping out of the house here.

Brigham and I realized that, if things ever get really bad, we could buy a house with cash and run a B&B in Amish Country.

Brigham loved the hammock. He realized that he never gets to just hang out with the kids like this. Fortunately for Porter, I suppose.
I love Will's happy smile as he extends his hands for the kitties.
Gathering eggs in the morning.

Rectangular trampolines are way bouncier than circular.

I hope they don't forget all the fun we had.

Monday, September 06, 2010

the laughing little boy that he was swinging

Last Sunday evening we took the boys to a local park before bedtime. The kids had such a wonderful time that Andrew found it impossible to obey our entreaties to return to the car.

Porter experienced the joys of the swing for the first time. He loved it. He loves everything. I hope that never changes.

Must not forget to bring the camera with the flash; Porter's smiles are full-body affairs that blur in evening light without a flash.

Friday, September 03, 2010

like a hurricane

Sometimes you can gauge the exact tenor of how your kids' behavior registered with others by the nature of the comments they make to you upon parting. Today, I departed amide a barrage of, "Kids can be really hard, but you are so good with them!" and "We just want to whisk you away to a cabin the the woods for a few days when that baby is weaned!" and "My friend who has three kids would like to be mildly injured in an automobile accident so that she can spend a few days of peace in the hospital," a fantasy with which I am well-acquainted.

Not that I really needed a scientific form of measurement; I was there, too. I was witness to all the couch jumping, decorative-ball throwing, screaming contests (literally) and, for the grand finale, kid-ese for "it is time to go," the wadding up of magazine pages and for game of throwing them at my host and her tiny baby.

I know that our visits to the homes of others is like a home invasion from the local street gang. Brigham and I have tried to console ourselves with jokes about how we need to take back the night (and day) from the neighborhood gang (that lives in our home) and in whom we live in fear. I will never forget the look of sad defeat in Brigham's face during that Sunday School Meeting when one of the boys snatched Brigham's new iphone away from him and cackled, truly cackled, in his face the way a bully would to a small victim. That was the day I realized that the kids were like a street gang, only without the drugs and guns. I think. Even a visit to a store or the pool will rapidly deteriorate into an amphibeous assault upon enemy territory. I know that people often feel embarrassed for me, but the worst part is that they don't need to because I gave up any hopeful aspirations that would bridge me over to the disappointment that would make embarrassment even possible a really long time ago.

I do not mean to say that they are bad kids. They aren't (usually). They are wonderful. They are my favorite people. They are just wild and uncivilized. They are little boys. I feel boys need a better spokesman to act as an agent for them to the world. The planet doesn't seem to understand little boys. Mothers of boys understand them, but only for the years during which their kids are young, and then the same magic that enables children to hear the tinkling of Santa's sleighbell evaporates and those mothers, too, turn into the tone deaf Unbelievers in What Little Boys are Capable Of.

"Run them," my friend agreed sympathetically after I told her that I thought maybe prebreakfast laps would be advisory. "Run them like dogs." A small trampoline in the basement is not a bad idea, either. Nor is a much larger house with a fenced yard.

Yes, our home life is chaotic. We do descend upon each and every room in it the way we descend upon you in your homes, in your church meetings, in your classrooms, in your stores and restaurants, parks and pool: like a pack of animals, like a platoon of crazed marines, like a hurricane.

"In three years," I told my friends today "my life will be a lot quieter." Maybe this isn't true, but it is certainly the case that I am on a trajectory that will lead ultimately to more and more calm moments and fewer and fewer wild ones. Realizing this reminded me of a short story I read recently about an empty-nester divorced woman attending a small family gathering in the home of her ex-husband and his new family, complete with teenage girls. The ex-wife is sad to see that his new family--the one he trader her in for--treats him poorly; he indicates by expression that he regrets his choice. The entire duration of the story you feel sort of sorry for the exhusband, but in the final sentence the author turns all your feelings upside down.

I include that because, at the end of my 15 minutes of peaceful ruminations during the drive home, I came to a similar conclusion. I do feel like I exist in the middle of a living, breathing hurricane. But it is a hurricane that brings me life and meaning and all the best things human existence has to offer. And when it subsides, years and years from now but we all know how quickly those slip through our fingers, I am afraid that my heart will be left in the empty crater carved out by those wild little beasts of boys, and silent.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

the last days of summer

Where did August go? And what happened to my newborn, and my reason for not attending church? My best friend has turned into a highly interactive, very smiley, roly-poly (back to front and front to back) guy. Here he is in his swim gown. He outgrew his swim shirt. That was so 0-3 months.

We have gone to the pool every day this week, trying to wring out every last drop of summer.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Recipes for meat eating vegans

Salmon Cake over Lemon Rice and Wilted Baby Spinach (image from internet)

I have been dairy free up since shortly after Porter was born (up until this week). The best way to describe a dairy free diet really is a meat-eating vegan. I am sure that vegans would revolt at including myself in their eating category, to which I must respond, Relax, vegans. Your lives are difficult enough. I know because I have been eating like you guys for months.

These photos ease any 'what might have beens' had I had dreams of being a food photographer. The meals are actually quite beautiful in real life. (Seriously.)

Salmon Cakes:
Mix a can of costco Kirkland salmon with an egg. It looks totally disgusting so try not to look at it. Then add a T or 2 of your favorite tartar sauce and some lemon juice. Add bread crumbs or flour (I do a mix) until the mixture is dry and sticks together. Saute in olive oil. When the cake is ready, add baby spinach to the hot pan and wilt. I usually squirt a bit of lemon juice onto the spinach and then again onto the cake.

Lemon Rice: saute raw brown rice (uncle bens) with 2 T lemon juice and olive oil 5 min or so. Then cook as usual with chicken stock instead of water.

Next we have the Salmon and Black Bean Salad on Roti Bread.
This one was born one day as I mournfully spooned measly black beans onto a tortilla for my lunch. My sister introduced me to the wonders of canned salmon (costco), a form of food at which I had previously balked.)
1) Saute roti bread (can buy at costco; they are akin to uncooked tortillas) in olive oil according to package directions (flip when bubbles up).

2) Add rinsed and drained black beans. Add salmon (from a can). Warm through. Can also red peppers (sauted is best), corn and baby spinach. Top with mango salsa (costo) and sliced, salted avocado. (My preferred method for avocado topping is to add olive oil and salt to avocado and splice up with a fork; then add to salad). If you are not a vegan, add cheese, too. You can make this with a tortilla, but the roti bread is better.

Finally we have Tilapia on a Bed of Red Quinoa and Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salsa
The salsa: 1 can rinsed drained black bean, several ears of fresh corn cut from cob, diced tomato, diced avocado, diced red onion. Finish with juice of one lime (or to taste, and I always just use bottled lime juice), salt and (important!) a bunch of chopped fresh cilantro. The salsa gets even better with age since the flavors blend with time.

Red Quinoa (trader joe's): cook like rice in rice cooker with 1 boullion cube per cup of water used. Just toss that cube/s in there and try to remember to stir it a bit about halfway through or whenever it seems the cube might have disolved.

Tilapia (or cod), frozen, costco: After thawed, prepare any way you want. When I was gluten-eating, I would dredge it in egg and then in flour. When I had to cut gluten, too, I just salted it and added it right to my hot olive oiled pan. Turn once. It cooks really fast.

Spoon quinoa on a plate, add salsa and top with fish. The salsa can be a pain to make, but this recipe was born when I had a whole bunch left over.

Just as a disclaimer, I realize that these are not gourmet meals (I am using canned salmon after all) but all I am promising is fast, healthy and tasty. For fancier, more involved versions of the salmon cakes, and for other delicious and healthful recipes check out