Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Love, Children, Books

I'm reading a book that kept me up until after 11 last night, which is quite a feat since I get up at 5 (and, actually the big cat woke me up at 4:15 and I didn't get back to sleep this morning).
Anyway, the book is not a thriller. The title is Love and Other Impossible Pursuits and it's by Ayelet Waldman. It's about a woman whose baby died and she tries to deal with her husband, her stepson and figure out if she can survive. And it isn't morbid or even depressing, which makes no sense. I was really enjoying the voice and the story when I began to fear the book would take a turn.
The details about the death of the baby are fed to the reader slowly, and about half way through I got worried because I didn't want it to become a lesson in the dangers of bringing the baby into a parent's bed. The baby died in bed with the main character.
All three of my children shared my bed when they were infants. I don't know how other mothers do it. I would be lucky to stumble to the crib, pick up the baby and stumble back to bed. Lie on my side, let the baby latch on. If the baby was soaked all the way through, I would change his diaper, or prod Earl and ask him to do it. I can't imagine forcing myself to sit in a rocking chair to nurse, or, even more of a challenge, going downstairs to warm up a bottle, coming back, feeding the baby, putting her back in her bed. Yikes!
With my first, I was probably more paranoid about hurting her or rolling onto her. I remember that I would be careful to aim my breath away from her face so she wouldn't get my exhaled carbon dioxide.
Co-sleeping does have its drawbacks. I can't tell you the number of times I would wake up and throw back the covers and say, "Where's the baby?" Of course, those were times when the baby wasn't in bed with us.
And, co-sleeping let my children be comfortable joining us whenever they were scared or just wanted some cuddle time when they got older. One of my favorite memories is of my middle son. I would hear his footsteps as he ran from his room, across the landing and then dived onto the bed. He was blond then and we teased him that his feet were square. Thum, thum, thum, thum, dive. I tried to imagine him waking up in the bottom of the bunk bed and getting up the nerve to brave the dark landing before he leaped into bed between me and my husband.
I should think about these memories more often. They might help me get through these teenage years.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Husband Thing

On March 2, we found out our life would change. The newspaper where my husband works was laying off a fifth of its newsroom work force. The next morning, we learned he would keep a job, just not his job. He was moved to copy editor and instead of working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., his hours would be 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. We were relieved he had a job, but the new schedule frightened me. He wouldn't see the kids, who get out of school at 3, but on days that I didn't teach, he would be there -- ALL DAY.
So, in April, the new schedule began. I teach all day Mondays and Wednesdays. On that first Tuesday, Tucker was home from school sick, so we weren't alone, and that seems to happen frequently. With three kids, one of them is home for a little while. But on the days when all the kids are at school, surprisingly, I am enjoying my days home with my husband.
I was worried about his judgement, that he might stand over my shoulder and suggest more efficient ways for me to get my work done, to clean the house, to plan dinner. I was wrong. We spend our days together and apart, doing things we enjoy.
I'll forget all about grading and planning for my online classes and instead we'll run off to the garden store or the book store. Or Earl and I will walk to our little town center to have ice cream at Jeni's or lunch at Panera's. He'll be puttering around outside in the yard while I fix a salad and open a bottle of wine for lunch. Sometimes we'll take books onto the front porch and sit on the swing, enjoying the view of the downtown skyline before the spring leaves block it.
This new schedule makes us feel kidless through much of the week. And when we're home alone, we take pleasure in each other's company, like an old retired couple.
We're really grateful he still has a job, but we're also taking advantage of these stolen hours during the day -- just the two of us.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Important Things I learned at the Writing Conference

-- Never put your purse on the floor. -- There wasn't a gross reason for this like something crawled in it or got spilled on it, or even because the Oprah show did a test to see how many germs were on a purse that a woman routinely set on the floor. No, this is because a large woman moved her purse from an empty chair so I could sit down, and she set the purse on the table. "I'm sorry, I just can't put my purse on the floor. I know it's a superstition." I'd never heard the superstition, so she repeated it for me. "Don't put your purse on the floor or you'll go broke." Fair enough. My purse will be elevated, as will my bank account from now on.
-- My husband and I fight because we talk man speak/woman speak. See, this I actually learned in a writing seminar. The speaker's goal was to teach us the difference between the way a man talks and a woman talks. Now I understand why my husband says, "Just tell me what you want me to do!" while I'm carefully laying out all the facts and stating my case. "Well, it was really early when we ate breakfast." "I think there's a nice restaurant not too far from here." I guess what I'm supposed to say is: "I'm starving. Let's stop at the restaurant down the road." Funny, cause I think of myself as being fairly direct.
--The poet laureate is a woman named Kay. Anyone who thinks otherwise should be gently corrected.
-- Writing conferences briefly inspire people to start writing groups, but someone must be willing to follow that up and organize them. Maybe we should invite some business-type people to writing conferences so they can be in charge of follow through.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chain of Love

Nearly nineteen years ago, my husband and I stood beside a trickling waterfall and pledged our devotion, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've taken my wedding ring off since then. Until last night. Now it has been nearly 20 hours since I took the ring off and slipped it in my jewelry box. Taking it off is such a short phrase for the intense tugging I had to do to remove the ring from my finger.
"It looks like it's cutting into your finger," my daughter commented.
Look, none of us remain the exact same size we were 19 years ago.
And, after nearly a whole day has passed, the deep indentation remains on my finger, as if the ring is still there.
And so does the bright red spot that prompted me to remove it. I'm not sure if it's an outbreak of poison ivy or I scratched it or irritated my finger, but the rubbing of the gold against my finger was not helping. So I took off the ring and called my husband to warn him.
"It's not that I plan to leave you," I said. "It's just this weird spot on my finger."
Today, my husband looked under his glasses at the place on my finger and recommended neosporin.
"Aren't you worried to have me walking around without a weeding ring?" I asked.
Then I laughed and held up my hand again and showed him the deep groove.
"You have to rub it, get some circulation going," he suggested.
Hey! How does he know? Has he done this before?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teenage Girls are Impossible

I remember when my kids were little, people would approach me and shake their heads in dismay at the rowdiness of boys. "Two boys," they'd say pityingly. I'd turn to my best friend Ruth and say cattily, "Just wait until those daughters are teens, we'll see who's crying then."
Well, my boys are teens now, and I'm still crying. I had determined to run away last night, but I'm still here.
The whining began yesterday when I made a carrot cake. Maybe it started earlier in the day when I looked in Tucker's lunch and saw he had packed a juice box, a Nutrigrain bar and some Sun chips. Processed food much? I forced an apple on him which he probably threw away. So while he was at school, instead of grading papers, I baked a carrot cake with yogurt, crushed pineapples and golden raisins. Grace took a slice of cake and gushed, "Hmmm. Delicious, Mama." When the boys got home from school, Spencer banged his head against the cabinet, pretty high on the cabinet since he's 6-foot, 2, now. "I wanted ice cream."
"Just try the carrot cake," I urged.
"Mom, can I go to a youth group party with J?" Tucker ran up the stairs, phone in hand to ask.
"No, his church doesn't believe dinosaurs existed. I don't want you hanging around with them."
"But, Mom...." I won't bore you with the details, because Tucker's ability to gnaw on a subject would rival a beaver trying to down a redwood. Suffice it to say that the conversation ended like this:
"Oh, my God, Mom. What is wrong with you?"
And, his opinion, seemed one that my older son would echo. When I suggested that if he wanted to lift weights he could go to the YMCA. "Oh, my God, the guys would all laugh at me."
I took the bait and we started arguing until my teenage daughter told him to stop. She helped set the table, she helped clean up after dinner, and she thanked me for the meal.
Today, those conversations might never have happened. I drove Tucker to Kohl's to find some new jeans and tennis shoes. He plugged his iPod into the radio and said, "Listen to these songs that my band is going to play."
He started the music, interspersing details like, "Listen to this sweet guitar solo."
"Do you like it?" he'd ask anxiously, as if he cared what I thought.
Once in the store, he latched onto some hooded sweatshirts. I said yes to the blue with little design, but vetoed the striped and the bright green with the design covering it.
"Because those kids who are always in trouble wear jackets like that."
"That makes no sense. Why can't I?"
The conversation continued in that manner as I searched for size 30-32 jeans in the men's department. Finally, I said, "Look, drop it or let's go home."
"Fine. Let's go home."
I hung up the blue jacket and began walking for the door, imagining the places I could run away to..

This is what I've been reduced to...

While I was at the store with my youngest son, I picked up two t-shirts for my older son. I've learned my lesson. These were plain, solid-color tees. The last time I bought him a brown t-shirt with surf boards on the front he practically bit my head off.
When he got home from his after-school outing to Panera, he settled down to the dinner of chicken a la king over noodles. I held up the first t-shirt. A nice, medium blue to match his eyes.
"I don't like the pocket," he barked, not pausing as he shoveled the food into his mouth. I put it down.
Next I held up a solid, chocolate-colored t shirt, no pocket.
"Looks too short." He didn't stop eating. I put the shirts away.
I think I get points for not responding to him and someday very soon, he may be going to school naked, but I tried.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


This is my vision board. Isn't it adorable!
The point of this is that I put pictures of things I want to visualize happening in my life. I have a picture from one of our hikes with the words "TRAIL MIX by Paulita Kincer." It's supposed to look like a book cover so I can imagine my novel being published.
And I have plane tickets from one of our trips to France. I have pictures of Provence. I'm not sure what else will go on there -- pictures of my daughter at the college of her choice, but really, that's her vision board.
We started making the vision board with a piece of wood from the garage. In its past life, it was the back of a cheap bookshelf or entertainment center. Earl cut it 15-inches by 20-inches.
I got some fiberfill from the fabric store at 40 percent off $2.99.
I lay the stuffing on the board and stretched my beautiful fabric over it, while Earl stapled it on the back with a staple gun. The material came from a fabric warehouse in Montmartre. We took le Metro to Montmartre and wandered past expensive boutiques. I remember Tante Marguerite warning my friend Michelle and me, "Do not be tempted by the small boutiques. Continue on to the warehouse." We laughed like it was Pilgrim's Progress and we should not turn away from the path.
I bought this cotton material, along with some blue cotton that I used for a table cloth and window topper. I'm so glad I had some left for this project.
The orange and blue ribbon came from the fabric store today, and Grace helped me figure out how to crisscross and weave it over the top of the board so I can attach my treasures.
Now what do I want my future to look like? Hmmmm. So many choices...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chastity Cat and Largesse

This morning, with the kids off school and my husband off work, I slept in until -- wait for it -- 8 a.m. I know, to some of you this isn't really sleeping in, but even on vacation I'm up at 6:30 or 7 to go for a run or write in solitude.
Waking up in bed next to my husband, with him awake, gave us a chance to talk and laugh and plan.
As he first stretched awake, he moved his hand under the cover toward me. Immediately, the kitten, which had been sleeping down near my knees, pounced on his hand.
"Watch out for my chastity cat," I warned him.
But he didn't take heed and moved his hand again, causing the chastity cat to attack. He's only looking out for my best interest.
This prompted me to list the things we needed to get at Target today. Cat litter, shampoo.
"And bird seed," he added. He got some bird feeders for Christmas and those birds go through 10 pounds of seed a day.
"Those birds are living off our largesse," I complained.
"I like your largesse," he said.
Which prompted a version of, "I like largesse and I cannot lie..."
Maybe I'll sleep in more often.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spring Runs

When spring arrives, I remember how much I love to run. I come to dread runs when I walk from the cold into the gym and step on the tread mill. My eyes glaze over as the televisions in front of me flash news and weather and talk shows. But when the ice clears from the roads and I feel free to venture outside again, ahhhh. I love running!
Visiting my parents in Florida gives me a little respite from the spring fickleness. I step out the door to the flat, still roadway and run a circuit past stucco houses and a farm called The Half-Ass Ranch that always makes my kids blush.
One morning, I walked outside with my headphones already playing Kanye West when a strange cacophony reached my ears. I pulled the earplugs out and followed the sound. Two large sand hill cranes delicately picked their way across a yard. They were tall, probably reaching as high as my chest (no short jokes, please). I stood in the road watching them and listening to the strange calls. I walked on the far side of the road, more intimidated by them than they were by me. Listen to them here:
They were not my only wildlife encounters. I was chased by a yellow lab-type dog, stalked by a tiger-striped cat, and raced by an Australian shepherd that I thought was chasing me until he ran past and looked back with contempt.
Being outside for those runs helps make me more aware of the awakening earth. This morning, although I didn't run, I was knocked over by the sight of the round orange ball hanging low in the sky. And last night, my husband texted: "Look at the moon."
I stepped onto the front porch and there, hanging like an old fashioned globe light over the downtown skyline, was the moon.
My pale yellow daffodils have orange centers and some flowers that I can't identify have burst into red and purple.
Maybe it isn't running that makes me love spring, but so far, it's working for me.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Photo by

"Great day!"
The text buzzed me while I was in a cubicle filled with students looking for help on their English essays.
My daughter was in school, but that never seemed to interfere with her ability to text. The trick, she'd told me, was to look straight at the teacher and the teacher would never glance down to see my daughter's hands busily pushing keys on the bright purple phone.
I couldn't wait to find out why my normally subdued daughter used a word as effusive as "great." Must have been bomb scares and fire drills that kept them out of class all day.
"What happened?" I texted back while feigning interest in an especially scintillating narrative that compared life in a nearby suburb with the gritty toughness of our community college.
"We had awards in French club and I won best legs!!!"
I pictured the high school boys sitting in their wooden desk perusing the girls legs as they jutted from beneath the desks. And even though I knew she'd worn jeans that day, I suddenly pictured her in the plaid shorts that ended high on her thigh, her legs pale and bare as the boys raked them with their eyes before casting a vote for her.
I felt protective, but, as someone whose legs resemble Greek columns more than sexy gams, I was a little proud. My daughter, standing nearly five inches taller than me, and those five inches all in the legs, would never have to hem pants or settle for ones that fit tight in the thighs and loose around the waist. Best legs.
The phone vibrated again.
"Oh, I was nominated for National Honor Society too. Love you."

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...