Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Melissa, the Red Nosed Mommy

I couldn't escape the holidays without some sort of insanity. This year it was in the form of the nastiest head cold (courtesy of my three favorite second grade students) that manifested itself into a raging sinus infection. Of course, I believe in Christmas. It is in my genes. My Papa used to dress up in a Santa suit and deliver toys to the families of the men who worked for him. My father planned Christmas days that would make a magazine feel inadequate. Therefore, I trudged forth. Yes we made and delivered cookies. Yes, I wrapped gifts while stopping every two minutes to blow my nose. The girls tried to help and I tried not to yell. There was paper everywhere. Rob, who does not really get the holiday, was not much help. He hates it when I get sick. He seems to take it as a personal affront.

Christmas day went well. We scaled back this year and the girls enjoyed it just as much. My family came for dinner at 1:00 and I spent the afternoon with a cup of tea in one hand and a tissue box in the other. By the time they left and Rob's parents arrived, the tea was replaced with wine.

I also went to Connecticut with my brother and the girls. We had a wonderful time, despite the hellish traffic (it took nine hours to get back to VA). I have saved up lots of funny Lily stories, but right now my head is so full of gunk, I can't think straight. Right now my cousin from CT is visiting. She's the most remarkable 17 year old I've ever met. The girls are in heaven. They have been dragging her from game to game. I love having my youngest brother and teen cousins visit. I get to have the feel of a big family for a little while.

Have a wonderful new year.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I read The Lonely Doll to Lily tonight. She loved it. I knew she would! I used to pour over that book and any other Lonely Doll book I could find. I knew how that doll felt and to me her world was magic. I remember getting a copy of The Lonely Doll and Midnight. Of course, like so many of my childhood things, it is gone now. It is also out of print. Well, that stinks! There are only 3 of the 10 from the series still in print. I do have one of the out of print ones, though! Rob's grandma had a copy of The Lonely Doll Learns a Lesson. She seemed so amazed by how enthralled and excited I was to see it (I was 24) that she said "well, just take it." It's a little well loved, so I'll wait to show it to Lily.

While I was looking for info on the books, I came across the story of Dare Wright the author. She seemed to a child-woman, who never really grew up. It seems there is a great deal of controversy and potential scandal about her life, but I looked at her official website which is managed by a close family friend. After looking at it, she seemed to be more along the lines of J.M. Barrie, someone who was able to live in a child's world, but not really able to handle the adult world. I think these people are special souls. Being an adult is hard, children are so real and honest. They believe in magic and love. There are no strings attached. Of course my mind also jumps to Michael Jackson, which muddies the water a bit.

Before, I ramble further and become more incoherent, I stumbled across another memory. Did any of you ever see The Red Balloon? That movie killed me. I remember watching it in school and it breaking my heart. I vividly remember the bullys chasing the boy and the balloon. I knew what it felt like to be bullied. I was tormented daily. Sometimes, I wonder if my teachers and parents ever realized that I wasn't really a big baby when I cried so much. I honestly just felt that much. There was so much more going on in my head than I could have possibly explained. All at once I was an old soul and an eternal child. I think this is why I shelter my girls. They've never seen Old Yeller. Forget the damn Red Balloon. We treaded so lightly through The Velveteen Rabbit. I read Bridge to Teribithia to Caroline before she saw the movie. Of course I choked up at the end and she had to finish it herself.

I wonder if I am doing them a disservice. It's ok to feel sad, scared, angry. I cried my eyes out at When Did You Last See Your Father on Sat. night. Rob just walked through the room, patted my head and asked "Sad movie? Good sad?" I nodded yes to both.

I think my empathy helps me. I have it under control (usually). It is quite an asset on my job. Somedays I feel like the leader of the land of the lost. I understand those quirky kids. I accept them and then give them the tools to camouflage with the rest of the world. I wish someone had given me that sooner.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let It Be

We had the most wonderful time with our friends last night. A couple we know from college came over with their three girls (6,3,1) for dinner and cookie decorating. It was the perfect start to my holiday off. They are just as laid back and goofy as us. While the little girls ran around in various states of undress and dress up, we had a chance to talk. At first it was all about kid concerns and work frustrations, but Rob put on music from our glory days and we became the people we used to be (and still are, but forget). It's been awhile since I've laughed just for fun, not as a way to deal with a disaster or stress. We decided to let the kids play while we sat down to eat first. What a refreshing treat! I ate without fetching drinks, more food or any arguing. We felt like grown ups!

I have been so stressed lately. The word Rob used today is "bitter." It feels like there's been this dam of frustration. I have finally started talking about how unhappy I am with work and other aspects of life, but now I can't stop it. This is the down side of "Pollyanna syndrome." When I blow, I blow big. Luckily, I have two weeks off. I took a very long solo walk today, as a way to combat the fact that I have been living on cookies and as a stress reliever. I need to do this everyday! For the next two weeks, I might actually have time.

Tomorrow, I will take the girls to buy little gifts for family. Hopefully, I can do this without Lily wanting the world. I also promised we'd bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbors. Lily is obsessed with the book You Can Do It, Sam. It's a very sweet book about a little bear and his mommy who wake up early and deliver cakes to the neighbors. We'll see how our delivery goes. We live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Neighbors don't just walk up to houses with cookies. The worst that could happen is they look at us in bewilderment and throw the cookies away after they shut the door. I wish we didn't live in a time when we had to be so cautious and suspicious, but we do.

Quick, back to happy thoughts! I need to keep my mood up. I'm going to go get the Christmas cards ready. I was going to do it with the kids, but in the spirit of keeping my sanity, I'll let them watch a holiday movie and I'll go it alone:)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Making a list, checking it twice

Tis the season for lists. I am a compulsive list maker. I've been known to wake up in the middle of the night and write lists. I think part of it is my way of dealing with my LD issues. Part of it is my generation. Rob and I love top ten lists. Of course my lists aren't fun, just a monotonous pile of "gotta do" "didn't get done."

I am already feeling behind. Christmas cards aren't ready (I actually swore when I opened the mailbox and found cards the first week of Dec. What is my damage?), I never started the ornaments that I sincerely want to make for the school staff, my shopping isn't really even started, etc. Anyway, this lead me to make an emergency appointment with "Dr. Toys R Us." I know the school will be standing if I take one day off. My sanity is not so sturdy.

At least the tree is up. We staged our own reenactment of the Nutcracker on Sunday. Picture Clara as a 37 year old woman standing over a trunk in the garage ready to pulverize mice with an old paint stick. I believe in peace on Earth as long as the little buggers stay out of my garage. As it is I had to throw out all of my old toys that were in the trunk. It's hard to be sentimental about Happy Birthday Barbie when she is covered in mouse droppings.

I have held a few traditions sacred. We are still reading the holiday books and watching the specials. Oh what fun is to cuddle up and read! Yeah!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tis The Season

I just updated my lists and am now in a more holiday mood. I do love this holiday. With 24 hour Christmas tunes on the radio and Christmas specials on every night, it is like someone looked into my childhood dreams. I can't wait until we put up the tree this weekend. I'm going to put my school bag away, put the kids to bed, and start making my ornaments for the year. I wonder which movie I'll find tonight?

Over the River and Through the Woods....

Well, I survived the trip to Indianapolis to visit Rob's family. He planned such a nice time: turkey dinner at an inn, basket ball game, nice family friendly hotel with a pool, treadmill (I used it once!), room for cards and puzzles for Lily. The poor guy had a raging head cold the entire time, but was so calm. He thinks the combo of extreme snot and cold medicine made him mellower. I have to agree.

I took up his slack, though. The kids managed to break the DVD player on the way there and spent much of the very looong drive trying to annoy the hell out of each other. They really only succeeded in annoying me. I love those moments when I manage to simultaneously say and do the exact opposite of what good parents should.

It's not much better now that I'm back. The stress of my job is really getting to me. I love the my students (even the turkey who hit me today), but the politics and paper work and meetings, that's another story.

I love this time of year and was really looking forward to being able to do it right this time. I am out of my five year cloud of grief and want to enjoy this Christmas. We will have a fun Christmas, dammit! I should cross stitch that on a pillow. What an attitude to have.

Just for my father in law:

I know my father in law is waiting for my latest post and is reading this wondering if I've lost my mind. Just for him I will now list my latest favorite Lily stories:

When we crossed the Licking River, she asked if it had tongues in it.

Last night I joked that her tushy was so cute, I could bite it. She looked at me in horror and said, But Mom, it has poop in it.

When Rob called someone a pinecone (they were) she asked if he could choose a better word.

She loved the hotel and asked how long we would live there.

When we were almost out of gas, both of my charming daughters volunteered to offer us some of their gas. Why do long car trip bring out their love of potty humor?

I'm sure when I lay down tonight, I'll remember more stories.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

And So the Season Begins

As if lice checks aren't enough, Lily woke up with a dry hacking cough and what my sitter has dubbed "snot whiskers" (that lovely smear after they wipe it across their little faces). She has hacked all day. I have read other moms posts about how certain sounds or actions (crying, screaming etc) from their children cause them physical pain. I don't mean their kids are spoiled. In my case, Lily coughing makes me want to jump out of my skin. It goes back to when she was so sick as a baby and I'd lay by her bed all night listening to her breathe. We ended up putting her bed in our room so I could hear her. Waking up to your child choking on her own phlegm is terrifying. She's healthy as a horse now, but every time she coughs, I'm right back to those nights.

She hacked so hard today she started throwing up and we had to cancel dinner plans with our friends. The last time we had dinner with friends it was in July, so needless to say I was bummed. I tried Mucinex which usually helps, but no dice. Her inhaler was expired (I told you she's much better) and I didn't know what to do. The killer is she was still running around being her usual nut ball self, just hacking and gasping. Caroline set up the vomit bowl on a towel in the middle of the room and we let her be.

After I talked to my mom , she suggested we try the inhaler anyhow (Rob had said the same thing earlier and I blew him off). I gave her "puffer" and some watered down juice and a cracker. I got her to sit down to watch Little Bear. I sat down with her and well, Little Bear was going on a very long boring walk with Cat and I guess I dozed off. It couldn't have been long because they were still walking when Lily woke me up and cheerfully announced "Mom, I throwed up again." She gleefully held out the vomit bowl, then looked and inside it and said "Cool!" Rob would have gagged, but I am tougher than that. I praised her for hitting the bowl (what a milestone) and cleaned it out.

Right now she is in bed, collapsed on Rob's arm. He is the perfect sick kid proper upper. I need to remind myself how handy he is because today he was particularly cranky and I was in no mood to deal with it. I guess we do make a good team. I clean up the vomit and he holds the coughing children. We play to our strengths. All I know is Caroline and I are waking up early to go to Dunkin Doughnuts and Kohl's!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good Movie

If you have the chance watch "Grace is Gone." You'll need tissues, but it is worth it. The father/daughter relationship was portrayed beautifully. The oldest daughter reminded me so much of Caroline (more mature, but she's older). Anyway, great movie.

The Fabulous Life

I've wondered if I should write about my weekend evenings because I am afraid that people will just get too jealous. They usually involve watching a movie form Netflicks (one I've usually had for at least three weeks) and folding 5-6 baskets of laundry. I know, I'm a party animal! Last weekend, I mixed it up by staying up until 1 am typing 19 progress reports for school.

Well, I think tonight was the topper in excitement. I watched a "hilarious and award winning" movie on the computer entitled "Lice, from Head to Dead." Actually, it was informative, I learned exactly how to annihilate the little buggers (olive oil!) and that it takes about an hour to hunt through a head of hair looking for nits. Apparently there are "nit picking experts" who offered such advice as "Relax and smile" and "Don't let them watch TV while you do it, they move too much" (although nothing was said about offering a banana while grooming).

After research and grooming, I found no lice on the girls' heads, I'll check again in the recommended 3-4 days. No, I'm not psycho, here. My poor sitter's daughter was sent home on Wed. with nits. My sitter, being the take charge plucky gal she is mobilized her forces (husband) and tore apart the house. Hopefully we are out of the woods. Of course, at the word lice we all started itching, but we are a naturally itchy bunch of women.

Well, the kids are asleep. It laundry time!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Eternal Optimist

I sent this rambling email to two of my BFFs the night of the election:

Is it OK to be excited? To feel like this is history in the making? Every time one of my conservative friends hears that I voted for Obama, they look at me as if I just voted for the tooth fairy (for the record, Caroline says Santa would have her vote). Is my liberal and optimistic status that well hidden? Or are they blind? I wear Birkenstocks and carry a Coexist tote bag for the love of God (not to stereo type). I am ready for it to be done. This is why I read the end of the book first. I hate waiting. I am too hyper to sit still. When my hope and optimism goes away, lock me up.

Rambling over. Cross your fingers.

peace and love,

I really was that excited. I love voting and get so excited about elections. I got to know Rob during election season our Senior year. That was 1988. Can you guess who wanted which candidate? That was the beginning of our bi-partisan marriage. The thing that I remember most from that time was how passionate we felt about our beliefs. It seems that we lose that as we grow older and life and reality beats us down. I look at everything waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have started scanning other people's actions, looking for their angle. I find myself wondering how people are going to try to stick it to me today.

When did I become such a cynic? I need a reason to be hopeful. I need to get back some of that hope and belief that I had when I was a teen. Granted, Melissa, the teenager, would never survive in the real world, but maybe she needs to hang out with Melissa, the very up tight, over extended adult, to remind her that the world has some very good qualities. What kind of message am I sending to my daughters (especially the oldest who has my pie in the sky leanings)?

So, I am going to be optimistic. I am going to believe that something wonderful is happening. I am going to relish recalling this historical event with my grandchildren. I'll just do it with caution and realism.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about fathers lately. Most specifically, fathers and daughters. I seem to be reading many books lately with the beginning of fatherhood as a theme (this always happens to me, I get stuck on a theme and everything i touch seems to relate to it, I don't seek it out). I've also been listening to some friends worry about the state of their relationships. One wants marriage, but her boyfriend doesn't, the other two want kids and the husbands have jitters (one of then has a baby coming, so he needs to resolve this:)

When I was telling Rob about all of the drama, his reply was "Rookies, don't they know people have been getting married and having kids forever and they're usually ok. I don't regret my girls for one minute." It is no secret (he will fully admit this) that my husband can be very difficult. He's introverted, slightly surly, deadly sarcastic, and moody. That said, he is one of the best fathers that I have ever met. I don't know if it's just me, but the guys of my generation seem to be wonderful dads (jury out on the husband front). They are loving and involved. Did I some how know this when I married Rob? Was I subconsciously able to look in the future and see that he could give my children what I always wanted, a consistent loving man, unconditional love. I had my wonderful grandfather and my step father, but my Papa didn't live with us and my step father and I really didn't bond until I was 12/13. My dad had good intentions, but he was not very paternal.

When I was pregnant with Caroline, our Douala told me that in her experience, the minute a new dads saw the baby, he would start rocking and immediately fall in a trance. She wasn't kidding. He fell in love instantly. It's a love affair that has been going on for 11 years. Fatherhood was (in my opinion) the best thing to happen to rob. I'm sure he agrees with me. It has pulled him out of himself (well at least a little). Fatherhood forces him to get out of his head and acknowledge the rest of the world. Some days it feels like I live in a zoo or frat house as they go rolling and wrestling around the house or pile on the couch like puppies. I don't think that I would have it any other way.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lamenting the up coming arrival of forty. I was worried that my firsts are all over. I guess it is good to be in a settled place with someone that I love very much. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I love him more now than when we first got married. On Tuesday, we will have been married 13 years. Yeah, he's a keeper.

Friday, October 31, 2008

King meet the King

Ah, so many things rattling in my brain. I was going to comment on the election, but naah, I won't. It's been a long week (this was actually the calmest Halloween school day ever. Well, excluding the fact that I marched into Caroline's class dressed as a moose leading the first grade story book parade. Oops.)

Despite the insanity at work (paper work, meetings, paper work, meetings....), I have really been enjoying the girls lately. The other morning we were heading to school (on time!). I had Elvis playing and we were just jamming along. Suddenly I heard a strange roaring sound behind me. Lily had started up her mechanical T Rex. I looked in the back and he was leading a kick line and roaring along. Gives a whole new spin to All Shook Up. The funniest part is Caroline was ,yet again, calmly reading, ignoring the goofiness around her. Why can't she dredge up this same inner calmness at night when Lily is chasing her around yelling "Eeexcellent!"? She goes from zen to insane.

It's trick or treat time and Lily is actually out in a costume! Yeah! I have finally figured out that I have to a. not make things a big deal and b. act like I don't care. Her school parade was Thurs and she was the funkiest fairy ever (hot pink tutu, green glitter wings, rainbow striped tights, and hot pink cowboy boots!). When we got to school, she stripped out of the wings and tutu. I calmly left her with her teacher and prayed she'd change her mind. I didn't try to bribe her or shame her. I didn't worry about the fact that I had taken an hour off to watch the parade. I just went outside to wait with our sitter. When the parade came by, there was Lily in the front, in full costume, beaming and waving. I guess we are both growing up.

Well the monsters are back. Time for the sleep over portion (Caroline and her two BFF's). Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Lily, like most three year olds is a mimic. She takes mimicry to the next level, though. She recites lines from jokes and movies with perfect timing and accents for various parts. Right now, for example, she is going around saying "Ketchup, ketchup. I'm riding the bus, I'm shopping" in her best Homer Simpson voice (her daddy's TV choice, not mine). This talent has a dark side. She seems drawn to repeat he most inappropriate expression 20-30 times.

Case in point, this summer's episode of potty mouth syndrome. I will admit that I am to blame for this one. I am a very mild mannered person. I relish my bookish and introverted ways. I would rather read or bake or go to a yoga class. Well, you get the idea. I am however a recovering potty mouth. I don't know where it came from, but I could hold my own with Marines. Over the years I have really reigned myself in. I still have one old favorite left, jackasss (or his cousin dumbass). Usually it is used while driving or in reference to Rob (when the kids are out of ear shot). For some reason, Lily loves the word jackass. One night while putting her to bed she looked up at me with the sweetest face and said "Sometimes, my daddy, he be a jackass." I guess the kids weren't really out of ear shot. After swallowing my laughter, I explained that jackass was a mean word and she couldn't say it. That seemed to satisfy her. Until this summer.

This summer, Lily learned to talk out of the side of her mouth like Bill Murray (I swear she has never seen Caddy Shack). One day while we were going to the vet Lily says (out of the side of her mouth) "I couldn't stand being with those jackasses any longer." (in reference to her father and sister). At this point I began to worry that she would get kicked out of preschool or worse. I got a hold of myself (it was shockingly funny after all) and told her to pick another word. She chose pine cone and then proceeded to use it correctly for the rest of the summer (ie "What a pine cone."). I finally had to ban pine cone when she called her grandmother a pine cone (my mom didn't know what it meant, but my brother was quick to enlighten her and I wanted to melt into the ground).

Now she is reformed, whenever she hears a bad word (yes I told her everyone that I could think of. It's George Carlin for preschoolers, well a little cleaner) she runs to the offender and states "You can't say shit. Shit is a bad word. We are a loving family, we don't say shit." Great, I have given birth to a pint sized Andrew Dice Clay. The only thing that comforts me is when Rob tells me that he was reciting Steve Martin routines (you know the one about the cat?) at the age of four. I guess she comes by it honestly.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Always Blooming

I was always a late bloomer. Which explains why, now after everyone and his/her mother has a blog, that I am starting. Mostly it is a way to share my surreal parenting stories without jamming my friends' inbox.

Shortly after Lily was born, Caroline asked me which girl I loved more. I gave her the pat "I love each of you in different ways." She of course demanded details and examples. I came up with Wonder and Joy. Caroline, with her big heart and bigger ideas, is my wonder. Lily, with her wise guys ways and silly sense of humor, is my joy. Three years later, it still holds true.

I have been thinking a lot about the wonder portion of my duo. Maybe it's the change in the seasons or the change in her, but Caroline seems to take my breathe away almost daily now. I was always so worried about the basics: sleeping, eating, learning to read and write. I never realized that what she is learning now at 10 is more important than all of that. I can see the kind of woman that she will grow to be and she is turning into a pretty neat person. She's the kind of kid that I would have loved to have had as a friend.

The other morning we were late (my fault as usual, but I never own up to it). After hearing lecture 120 entitled "The next time I want you to....," the back seat got quite. Lily was singing to herself and Caroline was reading. She looked so beautiful. Her hair pulled back into a ponytail with a wide headband (this weeks signature look) and she was completely and serenely engrossed.

Every week she tries out a slightly different personality, but it is always the same variation of a cool little person. She bounces from rocker chic to eco warrior to librarian. Her take on cliches is funny. She is concerned that she can't hang out with the "smart kids" because she plays the drums and likes to wear black (I blame Disney for this misconception). Once I set her straight, she seemed to like the idea of not really fitting into one category. She has so many interests and passions.

I just have to say that even though 10 can be very frustrating (she's a smart ass and very impatient), I think that it is the most rewarding age yet. I am proud that we have helped create this budding adult. It feels like Rob and I are standing on the edge of a cliff. She's ready to fly at any moment, but are we ready to let her go?