Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is It...

... wrong that I want to lay on the floor of the hall and watch my daughter sleep from under her bedroom door? I've never been able to see her when she was sleeping in her room, but now that her mattress is on the floor...

I love to see her tiny body so relaxed.

I may be a little bit sad when we get a bed frame built for her and I can't see her any more.

I think that I woke her up with my clumsiness when I peeked last time. Drat.

Fly Away

Lily Ruth gave me a thoughtful look and said 'Oooh, Mama! Uth two bi-pees!' - Bi-pees is Lily Ruth for baby wipes - I dutifully handed over the wipes 'One... Two...' She immediately shook them out, flung one over each shoulder and began to zoom around Starbucks exclaiming 'Uth WINGS!' followed by a muttering of 'flap, flap... flap flap, flap... WINGS!'

That girl can really fly. Hair floating, elbows flapping, eyes alight. Her joy is contagious. Her smile lifts spirits. Her imagination transforms whatever room she's in.

We came back to earth later when we left the museum. She announced 'NO CARSEAT!' at the top of her lungs and her tiny body went rigid. The top of her head went hot and moist as it does when she's about to loose her temper. I went ahead and lost mine first. I slammed her door, huffed into the driver's seat and announced 'Mama is VERY angry right now.' Productive. She putzed around the back seat for a while as I fumed, returned texts and ignored her. Then she crawled into the front seat, gave me her under-the-lashes grin and said 'Uth push buttons' as she proceeded to touch every button on my console. I felt a wave of irritation begin to crest. It receded abruptly as she crawled into my lap and let her whole body melt into mine in our familiar pattern. Happy contentment flowed from her and into me as she giggled about driving the car and we made silly car noises.

Drive on, Angel Girl. We'll get there soon enough.

Monday, May 30, 2011

MORE Change, Really?

This weekend, Lily Ruth's daddy had to work. Actually, he will have to work every. single. day. for the next several weeks preparing for then going to trial. As a young attorney, your first trial is a pretty big deal. As a daddy, it stinks. He's super busy and super focused. He's spending every spare minute with us, but that hasn't been quite enough for Miss Lily.

She and I had a pretty great morning yesterday. We had 'coffeejuice' at Starbucks. Then we took breakfast tacos out to daddy's office and ate with him. Then we came home and played with play dough for a while. Then we ate lunch and watched (what else) 'Mama Mia'. After all of that, it was obviously nap time, but our leading lady had been requesting daddy for quite some time, and was not at all placated by my insistence that he would be home 'soon'. She wanted him to rock her, and she didn't wish to even discuss other options with me. We wrestled in the rocking chair for a while before she decided that she just wanted to be put in her bed. That was a ruse. When placed into her crib, she began an unholy ruckus. I told her that I loved her, and walked out of the room. As I left, she popped up and threw herself against the crib rails screaming at the top of her lungs that she wanted daddy.

A few moments later, I heard a thud. In my heart, I knew that it was the sound of her giant noggin hitting the floor. My head told me that she had thrown her water cup to make her point. When the screaming changed in tone and intensity, I knew that my heart was right.

I rushed back into her room, and scooped her up. I started making soothing noises and looking for visible injuries. I didn't find any. She was frantic, but managed to tell me that she had (indeed) hit her head. We rocked and she cried for a good long time. We talked about how scary it was, and how her head hurt. She wanted daddy. Now. Daddy was on his way home, and she soon got her wish.

We talked about it, and she still really needed a nap, so the mattress came out of the crib and went onto the floor of the nursery. Daddy rocked her and placed her on her bed. She yelled her protest, but actually napped in her bed! I know this because I peered under her door whist lying on the floor...

Bed time was the same. She cried, and ended up wandering her room for a few minutes, but fell asleep fairly quickly on her bed. I, on the other hand was awake late thinking about her poor head. I finally fell asleep around midnight... and Lily Ruth woke up soon after. I was in a stage of sleep that prompted an inappropriately dramatic response to her cries - I jumped out of bed and went in to sleep on the floor next to her :-/ By 5 am, my back was almost completely locked up. I managed to shift to my side and shift her off my arm around 6. I stumbled to my own bed and into the waiting hug of my sweet, warm husband.

I wish that we had a video monitor. Then I could glance in on her without leaping from my bed and flinging open her door. Maybe I should invest in a spy cam that I could slip under her door... I think I'd get more use out of that in the long run ;-)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Existential Lily Ruth

Lily Ruth has a new obsession. Aside from her fascination with 'Mama Mia', her daddy's eyes, and the fact that her new play shoes have velcro:

She has fixated on the word 'soul'. Granted, she's singing Mama Mia when she does so (... there's a fire within my soul... Mama Mia - here I go again), but she gets stuck there. 'My SOOOOUL'. She draws it out and savors it.

My mama recently said to me that she wants to buy a book or two for Lily Ruth about God. She wants Lily to have a frame of reference for talking about God before she forgets all of the things that she was born knowing. My mom says stuff like this. The instant that she says it, I usually realize that she has just verbalized something that I believe. She has done a lot more studying about faith and God than I have. In the past few years it has been something that really calls to her. The path that she has chosen to accomplish this has been a beautiful one. Instead of a 'traditional' religious path that calls for rote memorization and blind faith, she has found a community of curious, interpretive minds who basically insist (in a very loving way) that you understand what you are following.

I love that she wants this for Lily Ruth as well. I love the idea of Lily always relishing the word soul. Of it always being something that she draws out and savors.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Daddy Eyes

Have I mentioned how much of a blessing my life is? I feel like it's way too easy for me to lose sight of that. Between losses and daily stress and repetitive chores it is so easy to fall into a Poor Me pattern. It even starts to be fun to wallow in a puddle of Woe Is Me and focus only on myself and How I Feel About Stuff... because... you know... my opinion is so damn important...

In case you can't tell, I've been a bit 'off' this week. I had a good week, but I wasn't at the top of my game mentally. I even went on a mini-strike in the kitchen. Not because I was angry, but because I'm lazy and it was easier to not do the dishes than to do them... I'm a gem.

Luckily, these days all I have to do to break that pattern is to really open my eyes. Right in front of me is an incredible little ray of sunshine. One who wants my attention and craves my hugs and demands that I make tacos for her.

Being almost two means that we have interesting patches in our days as she looks for boundaries and gets ready to push through them, but even in the midst of a whopper of a tantrum I can see her strength and her keen intelligence. She relishes her role as intrepid explorer of her world. She dances through her days on the balls of her feet as though she can't wait to get into the next ten minutes of her life.

She has reached a phase that includes not only 'NO Mama, Uth doit!' but also an intense need to catalogue and codify. Names aren't enough. Everyone is identified by who they know or are related to. Failing those types of bonds, it must be established how they fit into our world. This is why she was THRILLED down to her tiny toes when a grocery store cashier inquired about her eyes. 'Do those blue eyes come from your side of the family?' 'No,' I replied 'She has her daddy's blue eyes.' The eyes under discussion went hugely round and she gasped excitedly. 'DADDY'S EYES!? Uth daddy's eyes!?'

She is completely enamored with the concept of having eyes like daddy's. The very idea of it overtakes and delights her several times each day. If she hears the word eyes, she happily crows 'Uth daddy EYES!' If you ask her who's eyes she has, she will happily tell you that they're 'daddy's eyes'. If you ask her if she has eyes like Mama, she's laugh and say 'Nooooooooo! No Mama eyes. Uth DADDY EYES!'


Her daddy is just as thrilled as she is. His (much discussed) blue eyes light up any time that she's around, but when she babbles happily about being the same as her daddy, those eyes soften and their color deepens as he leans in close to kiss her head.

Moments like that are the reason why people keep agreeing to have children. Those moments of absolute love and contentment in the sea of toys, tantrums and silliness.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ha!

My daughter cracks me up. She always has, but her sense of humor is growing just as fast as her vocabulary and her hair.

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She is obsessed with 'talking on the phone'. She will pick up any object and begin a one-sided conversation into it - breakfast bars, pieces of string - anything really. Here she is multitasking with her phone and her beverage:

She followed that up this morning with a 'conversation' with Miss Kerri. I told her that we were going to the zoo with her friend Henry and his mama (Kerri). She announced that she needed to call Miss Kerri. It went a bit like this:

video
Sorry that it's sideways - I have no idea how to rotate a video... but that's how she talks on the phone. I love the 'OOOOoohhhhhhh'. She does it every time! It would have been a longer video, but Miss Kerri called for real just then, so my phone cut the video off in order to accept the call. Stupid technology :-P

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Yesterday, we were leaving the grocery store, and I asked Lily Ruth where the car was. In fact, I teasingly accused her of having lost the car. She started calling out 'DADDY! Daddy find a car, Daddy!!! HEEEEEEEELP!' Then we both cracked up. Once I secured the groceries and began to click her into her carseat, she gave me her silliest grin and yelled 'Daddy HEEELLLLP! Help Mama drive a car, Daddy!!!' This one, oh my GOODNESS! Her comic timing is really coming along...

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Ya'll, my baby girl is obsessed with the movie 'Mama Mia'. This means that she's also obsessed with ABBA. She has enjoyed the movie for quite some time, and last year when we took a few car trips, the only things that would soothe her were ABBA or Elton John (the early stuff only - no Nikita or Lion King for her!). Her recent obsession is fueled by the fact that the movie was on t.v. last weekend, and her daddy taped it for her. She has watched sections of it several times each and every day since then. I woke up humming 'Take a Chance On Me' today.

Her constant demands for Mama Mia or Dancing Queen have started to wear on me... but I always cave in because it is IMPOSSIBLE to resist her once she starts singing in her adorable monotone. All of the songs come out sounding exactly the same. It's even cuter than her phone skills.

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Lily Ruth, I love you so. I'd love you even if you weren't funny... but when the going gets tough, it sure does help to be able to laugh so hard with you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nursing a Toddler

Today marks two weeks and one day since Lily Ruth last nursed. The first two mornings, she asked and I redirected her. She was ticked, but redirected easily. The third morning, she didn't ask. I panicked a little and almost offered. Since our early morning nursing sessions were the only ones left, that means that she hasn't nursed since then.

Yesterday morning, out of the blue, she asked again but just once. I scooped her into my arms and snuggled her instead. Again today, she asked to nurse. I patted her back instead of saying no. She immediately ramped it up to 'Uth NURSE, Mama! Uth NURSE, Mama!' So I drew her in close and said 'there's no milk in there, Honey. It's all gone.' To my intense relief (and surprise), she snuggled in and went back to sleep.

This is such a bittersweet time. I am so ready to be done nursing... but this has been our special time for almost two whole years. Two years of nourishing, comforting and holding my baby close. Two years of sharing my body, my time and my focus.

I had a soapbox rant a few months back - right after that damn doctor's appointment - and it reminded me that I had never posted a story about our nursing journey. I started a post last year for World Breastfeeding Week, but never finished it, and ultimately deleted it because it hadn't taken enough form to be worth keeping. I started my story again, and let it peter out again. Time to finish it up, and send it out into the blog world :-)

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This is my breastfeeding story. In telling it, I am not implying that my choices make me a better mother or a better person. Breastfeeding is an option, a choice and a very emotionally charged issue for some. I know some amazing mothers who can't breastfeed. I know some great mothers who chose not to breastfeed. It is what it is.

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I was always my intention to nurse any and all children that I might have. I thought that I had all of my bases covered. I even took a breastfeeding class through my hospital before Lily Ruth arrived. I mean, how hard could it be? My body was designed to do this, and I understood the mechanics. The rest would just happen, right? Well, for some people it does. For us, it didn't.

Lily Ruth latched on perfectly within minutes of her birth.





We thought we had it covered. A lactation consultant came by the next morning and declared us pros.



Her latch was textbook. My positioning was perfect. We were golden, right? No.

We got home, and she wanted to nurse non-stop. I was happy to oblige, but it seemed excessive. Oh, and as far as I could tell, my milk hadn't come in. Everybody said that the initial engorgement of your milk coming in was one of those things that you KNOW when it happens. Since I was still futzing around with the same boobs I'd had my whole pregnancy, I was pretty sure that the milk hadn't shown up yet. Lily Ruth got fussier and fussier. We nursed until she fell asleep every time



and then she'd wake up thirty minutes later and scream. This is how it went for the first few days. It was awful. We made it through our first weekend together, my milk came in and I finally got a lactation consultant on the phone. She told me that I was starving my baby. She told me that I needed to immediately start supplementing with formula, and that I needed a breast pump stat. Like I wasn't already freaked out and completely convinced that I was doing everything wrong. Thanks for the help. I practically threw the baby at my husband, and dove into the car. I cried all the way to the store, and sobbed while trying to find a breast pump that we could afford. Since none of them were free, I had to go with one that was marginally low-priced.

Thus began a ritual that lasted for almost 8 weeks. I would nurse Lily Ruth until she fell asleep so deeply that she could not be roused. If her daddy was home, she was passed off to him. If he wasn't, she went into her pack'n'play. Then I warmed a bottle of pumped breast milk. Then I pumped for 15 minutes on each side - that part got SO much better after 1) my parents bought me a double pump, 2) the lactation consultants gave me flanges for the pump that actually fit my body. After pumping, I would wash bottles and pump parts. Then it was time to give the baby her bottle (if daddy hadn't already done so), and rest until time to nurse again...

When Lily Ruth was almost 2 weeks old, I finally had an appointment with a lactation consultant instead of just a phone consultation. They were able to see for themselves what my problems were instead of assuming that I was just doing it wrong. I really DID have a 'lazy nurser' who truly couldn't be roused once she passed out. They also showed me a diagram detailing the fact that I had 'larger than average' nipples :-/ Really?  Let's stick to the things I don't know... jerks... then they told me that this was actually part of the problem. My infant daughter's head, jaw and mouth were currently too tiny to be completely compatible with my body. It also explained why I had so much trouble pumping. The factory default flanges for the pump were meant for 'average' nipples. My continued attempts to use them were like 'sucking through a straw that you're biting down on' :-/ great. They had a fix for me! New (correctly sized) flanges. It was heaven-sent. Milk started flowing like water. I finally had enough to feed my hungry baby. I even had enough to start freezing a 'stash'.

At the consultant's urging, I kept a ridiculously detailed log during this time:



I carried it everywhere... not that I went many places then. Getting out of the house was almost impossible. By the time I nursed the baby, pumped, gave her a bottle and got us both ready, it was usually time to start over with nursing again. We stayed home a LOT.

I thought that I was going to lose. my. mind. All I thought about was feeding my baby. I was absolutely convinced that she wasn't getting enough to eat or gaining enough weight. I agonized about every ounce of formula that passed her lips. I worried that I should be giving her more formula yet I hated the thought of having to do so.

I just kept setting tiny goals. I'll nurse for 3 weeks - I can do that. I'll nurse for 6 weeks. I'll nurse for 3 months. I worked toward my goals and tried to focus on my amazing daughter instead of my neurosis. As we plodded along, small things got easier. Namely, my baby grew like a weed. Her head, jaw and mouth finally got big enough that she was able to nurse easily. Then she got big enough that side-lying nursing worked. I finally set aside the breast feeding log when Lily was 6 weeks old and started to trust myself. Stuff like that. I turned around one day and realized that it wasn't so hard any more. We were just living. Just a mama and a baby. Nursing.

From then, it was just day-to-day mothering stuff. We still had our trials. Occasional public nursing. Biting. Middle of the night nursing for almost 19 months. CO-SLEEPING! Ugh. But we did it. My baby received almost 100% of her nutrition from me until after her first birthday. After a few feedings in her first 2-3 weeks, I never had to use formula. The only bottles she received had my milk in them. I eventually built up enough of a freezer stash of milk that I was able to donate to a milk bank that provides mothers milk to premature and ill infants who (for various reasons) wouldn't be able to get that liquid gold.

So here we are - almost 23 months into our breastfeeding adventure, and at it's end.


When we started, I never thought we'd make it this far. Before giving birth, I was one of those people who believed that 'if they can ask for it, they're too old to nurse.' I ended up nursing someone who said 'Urse?' and 'Other Side?' very politely when she wanted to partake. Never say never, folks. Especially if it pertains to kids.

It was a wild ride, Baby Girl. It was worth every minute. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Looooooook!!!!

O.k., so last weekend, we didn't work on the garden because we were out of town, so it's been too long since I checked in on 'our' (that's in quotes because my Mama does the lion's share of the work) progress.

Last night, we tromped out there to gaze adoringly at our plants and plot out what needed to be done over the weekend... and found something WONDERFUL! A zucchini and a patty pan squash that were ready to harvest!!!


(Gin and Tonic provided for size perspective) There are lots of peppers and eggplants that are almost ready, and even more zucchini and squash that will be ready in just a few more days. The beans are growing like CRAZY, but haven't started producing yet. The cucumbers are absolutely lush, and have a bazillion blossoms. The watermelon vines are really just getting started. I'm not sure if they just take longer to get going, or if they have a problem. They definitely have bugs :-( I have to take a leaf over to the nursery today to identify them and purchase an organic repellant.

Ya'll I am so excited! We're having dinner with friends tomorrow, and I am going to take vegetables from my very own family garden!!!! I'm a dork. A happy, veggie loving, dirt-under-my-nails dork :-)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oh Brother

I have a sort of estranged relationship with my brothers. I left home when they were about 13 and 11, and we haven't all lived in the same city since. It's slowly changing, but in my mind's eye, they are still little boys.

When I started seeing them on a more regular basis a few years ago, I had dreams about them being very small, but I'm an adult. I am always supposed to be taking care of them in these dreams, and I always let them down. Very stressful. Luckily, the dreams faded as we spent a bit more time together. These days they are adults. Grown men with careers and responsibilities. They don't need for me to be in charge. They don't have expectations of me, so I can't let them down. Very liberating.

My brothers are both very good men. Honest. Honorable. Funny. Handsome. They live in the same city, but their paths don't often cross these days. That seems so strange to me because I remember them as small boys who slept in a pile like puppies. I can so clearly see their bright, blue eyes and silly grins as they moved (tumbled, ran, yelled, laughed...) through childhood together. I was always the one on the outside. I was older. I was a girl. I was often in charge... and in truth, I kept myself distanced from them. I wanted nothing to do with their boyish noise and energy. I desperately wished to be an only child.

It's nice to get to see them now, but it's kind of weird to feel our way toward a bond. We're waaaay too old to fall back on remembered behavior patterns - which is a blessing. We have to forge new ways to communicate and are forced to look at each other with new eyes.

I am grateful that our bond wasn't completely severed by time and inattention. I hope that they like grown-up me as much as I like grown-up them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Color My World... and My Belly...

We are having soooooooooo much fun painting over here! We used to fuss with things like paintbrushes and clothes. Now we just put a big piece of paper on the floor and Lily Ruth dives in fingers first.

 She also likes to visit as she paints, but she is NOT my performing monkey, and will not sing when prompted :-P

video
I absolutely cannot get enough of her!
 The nude painting wasn't as successful as one might have hoped, as toddlers have a certain fascination with, um, themselves. Diapers are now a painting requirement...

At the end of our last session, Lily Ruth requested to 'crawl baby' through the paint. Sure! Why not? Then she wanted to walk on it and step off onto the floor. O.k.! If we're gonna have crummy linoleum, why not take advantage of it!
 I LOVE these tiny feet!
 Oh, and then there's MY footprint from having to step onto then across the paper as we slid through the paint :-O
 We covered a lot of ground...
When we're not painting, we're in the tub. Covering yourself in paint requires that you then cover yourself in water and soap :-)

I ran a bath for Lily this morning. Not a post-paint bath, but just a regular bath - because she was a dirty, slightly smelly mess. She came into the bathroom as I was checking the temperature. In a happy, inquisitive voice, she said 'baf time?' I said 'yep! Lily Ruth bath time!' 'Ohhhhhhh.' She seemed content with the situation, and appeared to loiter aimlessly as I futzed with toys and towels. I looked up a few seconds later, and she was in the process of closing the bathroom door - with herself on the outside. She looked up guiltily and shrieked 'NO BAAAAAFFFFFFFFF' as she raced down the hall.

I love it when she runs. It's as though her arms and legs belong to someone else, and they just happen to be propelling her in a certain direction. Arms wave wildly, knees fly akimbo, feet slap the floor in syncopation. I keep waiting for her to become more coordinated - or even display a sense of rhythm or grace - but she is just bouncing along in her beautifully free system of movement.

I let her race around the coffee table a few times before I scooped her up, stripped her down and plopped her into the tub.

She decided that the tub was a good place to be :-)

The two of us seem to have caught our rhythm again. We're moving through our days together in a happier way. There is less angry shrieking and lots more laughter. We talk about stuff and make choices together. Life's pretty great.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Walk Much, Grace?

So, in addition to 1) learning to sing 'Jingle Bells' (well, mostly), 2) putting herself in time out and 3) begging incessantly for Mama to sing songs from 'Mama Mia' (or rather 'Mom-me-mia, Mom-me-mia, Mom-me-mia'), our Wondrous Lily has had a run of bad luck.

Did I mention that she chipped a tooth? No? Well... I left that bit out of The Tale of a Pool Refilled because it was a personal low. It was the kind of moment that makes you feel that left in your care, your offspring won't make it to adulthood because you just might be the worst parent ever.

Her father and I (mostly 'I') are a bit lenient with Lily Ruth. She's such an amazingly controlled, smart kid that I regularly allow her to do things like... oh... have full run of the house while I jump in the shower or... chew on small things that she really shouldn't (because she'll spit it out if I ask her too)... and she has never once let me down by abusing my trust in her. She has yet to get into anything she's not supposed to or choked on a hair tie. It just never occurs to her to push those kinds of limits.

That's why I left her playing unsupervised in the family room with a pen-light flashlight while I went to her room for a pair of pajamas and a dry diaper. I was debating 'shorts or full-length pants?' in my head when the screaming started. This wasn't 'I've fallen and bruised my dignity' crying. It was panic. I raced to her and scooped her up. She buried her head in my chest and screamed like her world was over. She refused to look at me or even raise her chin, but when I asked her if she was o.k., she sobbed 'YES!' and resumed crying at a slightly reduced rate. She eventually slowed it down to syncopated sobs coupled with open-mouthed drooling. I managed to raise her chin, and found that we were both covered in pink drool. I was just sick. My baby was BLEEDING, and she wouldn't let me find out why.

I called her Daddy in from the (now empty) pool to hold her since he was all that she wanted. His arms calmed her enough for me to see a jagged edge in the center of her mouth. I grabbed my phone and called the Homestead. My grandmother and mother both picked up, but neither could hear me. I hung up then redialed. My mom picked up and could hear me, but couldn't understand what had happened or what I wanted. I started crying in frustration and managed to screech something about Lily's tooth that ended with 'I NEED MY GRANDFATHER RIGHT NOW!' That she understood, and the retired dentist was dispatched post-haste.

My wounded angel was not very cooperative, but we managed to ascertain that the bleeding had stopped and was from her gums and not her tooth. She also let us look (barely) long enough to evaluate the chip. It didn't expose the dentin or the nerve. Chances are that she didn't hit it hard enough to kill the tooth, but even if she loses it, baby teeth are just place holders. That poor kid is already gonna need braces - her father and I both did - so a missing FRONT (!!!) baby tooth would just give the orthodontist more to do when her permanent teeth show up...

Oh, and there's also a tiny chip on the neighboring front tooth. Together, they form the exact shape of the penlight. Lily's not a great storyteller yet, but she did admit to 'fash-ight... fall DOWN'. I'm assuming that means that she had the damn thing in her mouth when she fell.

So there's the big bump caused by Mama's lack of judgement. Then there's the big bump caused by... gravity.

Nanny and Mama and Lily Ruth spent last weekend visiting Uncle Lucas & Uncle Travis (and Cousin Phoenix!). This meant a drive to the coast in gorgeous weather (not a hardship) and a hotel stay (not a luxury when you've got a kid). The weekend is one that will live in infamy. Not because of our family (no, they are blameless angels), but because of strangers, the nature of fire and the aforementioned gravity. The tales of poolside hotel rooms and the burning of a yard will have to wait until the morrow. For now, Newton takes center stage.

Sleep was a hard-won commodity in room 129. By the time he arrived, I was prepared to give Morpheus anything he wanted. I was too tired to argue with 'Uth' any longer when she passed out with her head at the foot of our bed at ALMOST MIDNIGHT. I simply covered her up (AGAIN!) and started sawing my own logs.

It was a rude shock at 4 a.m. to hear the unmistakable sound of a toddler hitting the floor. The wailing started immediately. I scooped her up and held her tight. We rocked and 'shhhhhh'-ed. When I asked her if she was o.k., she sobbed 'yes' and hugged me back. Nanny held her breath and debated turning on the light. She decided against it, and I sighed in relief. I ran my hands over her head, face and body checking for... I don't know - anything... She calmed down fairly quickly, and fell back asleep sobbing softly.

In the light of morning, the damage was visible. Rug burn on her nose and lip. Rug burn. Ugh. Over the course of the next two days, it went from pink to red to scabby. Despite repeated applications of antibiotic ointment, it just kept getting worse.  Here she is snarfing potato chips and chocolate while gingerly exploring the sore area...

yes - potato chips and chocolate. We were at the end of a long weekend away from home and running on about 8 hours less sleep than usual for a 2-day period. I would have fed her red dye #2 from a hose if that's what she wanted.

Now, three days later, if you mention her nose, she starts picking at the scabs. If she's sitting still sucking her thumb, she picks at the scabs... kids are gross.

It's a good thing that she's so awesome. Even in the midst of all of this facial trauma, my baby is a trooper. She just keeps smiling and singing and asking for treats ('tweet, Mama!'). I, on the other hand, am shaking in my boots just waiting for fate to deal her another harsh blow. I've considered buying her one of those Sumo suits and a helmet. I've also given some thought to wrapping her and her world in bubble wrap. I think she'd enjoy that.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Are You WITH Me?

I didn't make it to the river this week. There just weren't enough hours in the day(s)! I did manage to do something just as good, if not better - I went to a Cowboy Mouth concert!

I've mentioned Cowboy Mouth before. They're my favorite band. They've been my personal soundtrack through pretty much every big transition of my adult life. I've worn out every album at least once. When we moved into this house, I scraped, spackled and painted as I sang through the tears and the funk. When I get that itch - the one that whispers 'go start some trouble!', I turn up a Cowboy Mouth cd and dance my daughter through the house instead.

The Husband and I go see them whenever they're within driving distance. Luckily for us, they tend to come through town every six months or so.

It's not just the music, it's the show. Cowboy Mouth's live shows are a performance and a celebration. A celebration of music, of positivity and of life. Their front man is a stocky, vibrant, fireball of a man. As he puts it, HE'S the only one allowed to sit during the show - and that's only because he's also the drummer, and drummers have to sit. Audience members are exhorted, cajoled and occasionally physically pulled to stand, clap, jump and 'scream like you're five years old and nothing else matters'. As much as he's asking of you, he's giving back in spades. Fred works so hard that he's drenched before the third song. The energy in any venue that they play becomes so (positively) charged that it's palpable. People who've never met are so close that they're sharing sweat, and they're happy to do so.

The first Cowboy Mouth show that I saw was a loooooong time ago. A college friend dragged me to a POE concert. POE was a one-album wonder. I googled her just now, and can't even remember what her songs sound like. This particular show was in a large local outdoor venue. It was a 'radio tour'. A group of bands touring together. The order of performance denoted the band's current radio popularity / notoriety. This time around, Cowboy Mouth was after a (according to Fred) really-high-on-cocaine Brit-punk band, but before Better Than Ezra and POE. As far as I was concerned, the show was over when Cowboy Mouth finished their set. Fred had come off the stage to pull people to standing. He had climbed the lighting towers to liven up the crowd. Their brand of Louisiana rock set me alight and blew me away. I went out the next day to buy their album.

They've never let me down. Show after show. Year after year. Cowboy Mouth brings intense passion and joy to the stage no matter how small the venue or the crowd.

This week's show was just as wonderful as all of the other shows we've seen. I walked in excited to be there, but tired and stiff. I left there grateful, thrilled, exhausted and limp. I 'let it GO' as I yelled, sang, clapped and jumped. I thanked God that I am alive and that I am so blessed.

In the 16+ years that I've been going to see their shows, I've never stayed around afterward to talk to the band. It always seemed like it would be presumptuous on my part - why would I force strangers (that I pretend to know in my head) to smile at whatever nonsense reason I had trumped up to speak with them?  This time felt different. I wanted to say thank you. I wanted a hug. Mission accomplished. Then I started babbling about the first time that I saw them, and Fred's eyes glazed over a bit... but he never lost his charm or his smile, and he made the time to accept the (fragile) bond that I was offering. THAT, my friends, is a Southern Gentleman. That is why fans of the band pay to see every show that they can. That is why the band is able to make a living doing what they love - the connection. Thank you, Cowboy Mouth! Thank you, Fred. I am glad to be alive, and you help me to remember that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Update - Our Little Patch

First, I need to tell you that it RAINED here! We haven't had rain in waaaaaaaay too long. The showers were a true blessing.

Lily Ruth and I spent some time walking barefoot up and down our block so that we could feel the rain on our faces and the puddles under our toes. Just after we wandered back inside, the sky turned black and the temperature dropped. The rain started really coming down. Lily Ruth decided that she was scared, so we talked about how rain isn't scary, it's wonderful. It feeds our earth and makes our plants and trees and grass grow green and strong. She decided that rain was o.k., but she would prefer it if there was no thunder.

I don't know how much rain we got, but the pool was an inch or two higher!

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Now for the garden update!

So, when the radishes needed thinning, I was in the middle of an exhaustion crisis. I never made it over to get the job done, and they got too big to eat as sprouts. In fact, they got too big to thin and they were too crowded to produce radishes. My mama ended up harvesting all of the greens, and using them in a wonderful rustic Italian soup.

This week, it was do or die time for the rest of the plants. I could either get my buns in gear and thin them, or they would be too crowded to produce the goods. It was so hard to do! I absolutely hated cutting off those beautiful, healthy plants! Especially since almost all of them already had blossoms, buds or tendrils :-( Mama and I had to be strong and practical. We're growing these plants in order to harvest food, not so we can stare at pretty green plants... but they are pretty!

The far right row is cucumbers & patty pan squash. The middle and left rows are zucchini (with a bean bush at the bottom) -
before thinning - gorgeous... and out of control!
after thinning (I cut out half / two-thirds of the plants):

The whole bed - 
before thinning:
 after thinning (the blank spot is where the radishes lived):

I'm getting so excited! Ya'll, we're going to be eating food from our little patch of green very, very soon! Wanna come over?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another (VERY IMPORTANT) Soapbox

As the mother of a girl, as a woman and as a citizen in this society, I feel that have a responsibility to stand up about this:

One of my favorite blogs - Not That Kind Of Girl - posted a bit outside of her norm yesterday. She's taking a stand against a tequila commercial and for the right to have informed consent before sexual contact. Yesterday's original post can be found here. Language alert: this woman is angry, and pulling no punches. She has given her thoughts time to simmer, condense and reorganize. Her additional thoughts are here.

I'm not sure what form my soapbox will take on this issue, but I'm going to start with a letter to Sauza.

I'm worried enough about the 'dating world' that my daughter will enter. In today's climate, buying a girl a drink means that she's obligated to (at the very least) give you her phone number. Buying her several drinks (or dinner) supposedly assures you a sexual encounter. I want to teach my daughter that her body belongs to HER, and cannot be bought with alcohol, food, bullying or deceit. I want her to value herself and her integrity above her desire to be 'liked' or 'included'. Standing up and demanding change in the images that children, teens, young adults - heck EVERYONE - are bombarded with is a good place to start.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let's Catch Up

I feel like I've been doing a lot of complaining lately. If you haven't heard it, then count yourself lucky. I've just been tired and dragged out and Lily Ruth and I but heads so often, that my brain is drained of fun and light by day's end. I think that I have done a fairly good idea of keeping a stable demeanor in my dealings with my daughter... even though I lose my cool occasionally... I mean, I'm human... right?...

*sigh* I guess that I'm still adjusting to being a mother and a stay-at-home person (does one ever really settle in? If so, when?) and... I think that I have a small case of the Funk. Not a large case. Nothing I can't get through. Just a little Funky...

Anywho! In other news!

We accidentally arrived at the museum too early the other day. It was two hours before the doors would be unlocked. Lily Ruth was beside herself. She actually hung on the brass door handles crying 'OPEN!!'. I explained that the doors were locked until time for them to open. She turned to me and demanded that I produce the keys. She remained unconvinced that I didn't have the key to that door. She was highly disappointed. She had dressed up especially for our visit!

An on-line friend pointed out that she looked like a tiny teenager. I can hardly wait to see what she chooses to wear when she really is a teenager - I will happily continue to whip up layered chiffon skirts as long as she wants to wear them!

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My daughter tells funny jokes. Yesterday, she was acting very silly as I put her in her carseat. She leaned forward when I set her in, and bit my t-shirt. Then she looked at me with her Little Imp smile, and said 'Pee-U, Mommy! 'Uth change Mama diaper!' I just looked at her. She sat back, chuckled deep in her belly and repeated 'Pee-U-ee, Mommy!' I burst out laughing as she kicked her heels delightedly. I love her sense of humor!

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Painting has become even more popular in our house. Last week, we tried white on dark paper. We also abandoned the brush for fingers:


Yay! Yesterday, we set aside the construction paper, and got out the roll of freezer paper. We left the brushes in the box. It was time to get in TOUCH with paint:





By the last picture, she was 'washing' her hands together over and over then rubbing them over her legs or the paper. Just after I put the camera down, she gave herself a few war-paint streaks down her cheeks and declared herself 'done'.

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Our visits to the museum have settled into a routine. Lily Ruth happily crows 'DINOSAUR BONES' as she sweeps through the entry (we have finally progressed past the need to stand in front of the 'tee-tops' for ages). She runs through the taxidermy collection of native Texas species calling out names as she passes - 'BIRD!', 'fox', 'PIIIGS!' - until we reach the aquifer theatre. Then she runs in and plunks herself onto the floor to watch the rest of the 'MUH-VIE!'. Bonus excitement points if there is a school group in there already. My baby wants so much to be big. She looooongs to be a part of a school field trip. Last week, she saw a school bus unloading it's precious cargo, and she announced 'Uth turn bus, Mama. Uth turn.'

After the hall of death (I loathe taxidermy), we tromp outside to the courtyard to watch birds and check on the fish in the pond. From there, we circle around to the children's portion of the property. Each of the three floors must be fully examined before we make our way to the rooftop for a bit of scenic viewing and a spot of light drumming:

Once our musical interlude is concluded, we sweep down through the tree house pausing only for a small snack or to briefly contemplate local wildlife... or run tiny fingers through cool, clear water... Then it's off to brave the ancient, steep original-to-the-structure stairs (both up and down) for no reason other than 'Because They Are There'. All that remains after that is a small skirmish over weather or not it's time to leave (in case you were wondering, it IS.). WHEW! Since this is our almost daily routine, it might explain some of our exhaustion - I mean, aren't you tired just reading about all of this? :-P

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gimme A Break

I would like a break, please. I know that to some, my whole life sounds like a break. I don't have a job to go to. I get to stay home with my amazing daughter. I have a pool... But when you're down in the thick of it, any Stay-At-Home-Mom can (and WILL) tell you that it's not always sunshine and lollipops.

My job begins when my daughter wakes up, and ends when she goes to bed. I'm not trying to minimize the effort put in by my darling husband. He does more than most of the husbands that I know of, and I am grateful to him every day, but it's different for him. Yes, he gets up at the ass-crack of dawn and goes into the office. And yes, he then proceeds to work his butt off so that he can be home in time to play with his daughter, have dinner with his family, and be the one to rock his angel to sleep most nights. BUT, once he's out the front door, his only responsibility is HIM. He can tune out whatever he needs to and just work. It's totally different.

I can vaguely remember a time when my own career was my focus. I got up every morning, made sure that I was clean, fed and at work on time. I worked my butt off while I was there, then came home and did whatever needed to be done that evening... or not. It didn't matter if I slacked off when I wanted a break. If the dishes were dirty, the errands ignored or the laundry undone, nobody cared, and I was the only one without clean underwear (My husband has never actually minded if the kitchen was a pigsty, and ever since The Great Laundry Standoff several years back, either he or the housekeeper have done his laundry).

Now, every move that I make is either shadowed by or impacts a tiny person who is completely dependent upon me AND considers me to be the ultimate form of entertainment, the giver of comfort and the receptacle of frustrations. Dishes have to be clean - you just can't feed your child off dirty dishes... no matter how tempting it might be some days... Errands must be run - those diapers don't just magically appear on the changing table... trust me... Laundry... oh the laundry! Food, dirt, paint, drool, snot - it ALL ends up on the clothes...

Mothers of small children joke about just wanting to be able to go to the bathroom by themselves. What you may not hear in our at-my-limit-voice or see in our exhausted eyes is the fact that we. are. never. alone.

Brushing your teeth isn't just something you do as you pick out your clothes any more. Now it involves getting out a tiny stool. Retrieving and readying an additional tiny toothbrush. Making sure that your spouse didn't leave his razor within reach of roaming fingers. Monitoring water splash-age and clothing dryness while trying not to spit on your kid's hands, head or toothbrush. Then the tot must be coaxed off the stool, dried off and shooed out of the bathroom (all kids LOVE the bathroom).

Making a meal isn't just a chore or an act of love, it's a battle of wills and a race against the clock. The child must be occupied in a way that requires little or no supervision. Cooking must be accomplished before said child's attention span runs out and they resort to whining, screaming or all-out destruction in order to procure Mama's full attention.

Lily Ruth has decided that meal preparation time is an excellent time for her to practice cooking as well. She scoots me out of the way with a 'cuse me, Mommy' and empties 'her' kitchen drawer one item at a time. She bustles in and out of the kitchen muttering about 'cooking' and 'Kee eat... Bingy eat... Lucy eat...' She creates piles of measuring cups and spoons. She strews bottles of kitchen spices and baking sprinkles from one end of the house to the other. She walks off with my dish towels every. damn. time. :-P Rarely do I complete a meal without stopping to give her my full attention at least five times. If it's not a request for my 'HELP, Mommy, HELP!', it's a cry for attention due to a manufactured fall or a giggled request to 'come get me' followed by a slammed door.

What I long for is a time that I can switch off. An actual break. Not just a nap time when I only have to listen with one ear while hurrying through a few (quiet) chores or obsessing about the things that need to be done, but a time when I genuinely am not expected (by myself or anyone else) to achieve anything. I used to get that feeling when I went tube-ing. No one can expect you to return a phone call, pay a bill or wash a sink full of dishes while you are floating down the Comal river in a giant inner tube. It's really just you, whatever libations you have brought along for the ride, a few good friends, and the water.

Ya'll, I think I'm gonna hit the river this week. Who's with me?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Have One!

Lily Ruth has two favorite games. Both require my supervision (heaven forfend I should attempt to read a book or surf the interwebs while she's in performance mode), but I am not allowed to participate except when commanded to do so. Her all-time favorite remains 'Mimis'. She rounds up all of her dolls and stuffed toys, puts them face down, covers them all up with blankets, and pats them (quite briskly) while muttering 'shh, shh, shh. Cose eyes. Go seep. Mimis'. Daddy and Mama are often dragged into this game as both sleepers and patters.

Her new game is much funnier. She has become fixated on the cat. Just like any other cat, he spends most of his time ignoring the baby girl. She finds this fascinating since in her experience, no one is immune to her charms. He has even taken to strolling into whatever room she is currently occupying, making eye contact with her, then flopping down for a nap. She goes into hyper-drive. She starts gathering up her stacking cups and her plastic bead necklaces. She fills each cup to the brim with necklaces, and offers them individually to Bing. He ignores her. She reverently places each cup as close to him as physically possible (while cheerfully chirping 'here you go', 'thank you' or 'you're welcome') before retrieving the next one.

Sometimes, she feels like beads just aren't going to cut it. Then she breaks out the big guns - shoes and infant toys.

He ignores it all with the practiced demeanor of a benevolent dictator. When he's done acting patient and and adored, he walks away without a backward glance, leaving Lily Ruth in a tizzy of supplication. After he's gone, she tentatively pushes an offering or two toward the dog... who usually grunts in annoyance and lumbers off to see if the cat is on the trail of a snack.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Welcome Back!!!!!!

I love my pool.

I don't mean that in a bratty, elitist or exclusionary way. I am fully aware how unbelievably blessed and lucky I am to live in this home and have this luxury available to me. I have felt like a kid in a candy store since we walked in the door the first time. This house spoke to us. It fits us. It's old(er). The bedrooms are too small. There is not anywhere nearly enough closet space. The kitchen is outdated and tiny. And yet I love it here. The light in the nursery is beautiful. The back room has a fireplace, celestial windows and a huge plate glass window that overlooks the pool... ohhhhhhh, the pool.

Our first summer here, we swam every day. I would often swim during the day either before or after my shift at the spa. We would sit on the pool steps each night - usually with a glass plastic cup of wine - to talk through our day then swim with our dog. The maintenance that a pool requires seemed like nothing back then. We were already out there. It was no big deal to skim out a few leaves, check the chemical levels and quickly balance the water.

Our next summer was different. I was pregnant and we were separated. Then I was newly post-partum and we were living together, but we were kinda busy. The pool was swim-ready, but mostly unused.

Last summer was just a weird time. Daddy Don was so busy with work, and Lily Ruth and I did our swimming at Miss Diana's. The pool verged on readiness most of the time, but we only brought it up to par and used it a handful of times.

Over the winter, it got out of hand. REALLY out of hand. At one point, a neighbor reported us to the City for a code violation. They claimed that our pool was a stagnant breeding ground for insects. Now, I will grant that we had an algae problem. I will even grant that it was unattractive. What it was not, was stagnant or full of bugs. The pump ran every day, and it always had enough chlorine to keep it bug free. The City inspector came out, took one look at it and apologized for the inconvenience. She complimented my home, then took her leave.

We've struggled to bring it back since then, but it has been a losing battle. On more than one occasion, my sweet husband had threatened to drain and power wash it. I talked him out of it each time. We finally conceded defeat, and rearranged our budget again - we needed professional help. I contacted the service used by our close friends. The guy came out and gave us a quote for weekly service and another amount to bring the pool up to par. I said GREAT - do it. It was a week before I heard back. He came out last Thursday, and left without saying anything or (more importantly) doing anything to the pool. I was confused, and my pool was just a filthy as before. Two days later, he called to say that our (poor, poor) pool was worse off than he had initially thought. He couldn't just scrub, vacuum and balance it. It truly needed to be - yep, you guessed it - drained then power washed. He'd be happy to do that for us for $375. Hell, we could do it ourselves for less, right? I mean, how hard could it be?

SO, at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, we decided to drain our pool. We did a (very) minimal amount of on-line research, and learned a few things. 1) Our pool doesn't have a drain. 2) Home Depot will rent us a submergible pump. 3) The City wants our pool water drained down the sewer and not out into the street. 4) The location of our sewer tie-in. 4) My uncle's power washer is broken. 5) Home Depot will rent us a power washer.

We started draining the pool at 12:30 using our pool's pump. The backyard is nicely watered now. Don got back from Home Depot, and we stared at the pump with trepidation. It didn't come with a manual or any sort of verbal instruction. It looked like we were just supposed to plug it in and drop it down into the pool. Um, really? Drop something plugged-in down into a big thing of water? I asked Don if he wanted me to dial the 9 and the 1 in order to save time in case this went horridly wrong. He laughed (nervously) and sent Lily Ruth and I inside to monitor the drains. He plugged in the pump and sent it down. No sparks. No water backing up into our drains. Water flowing quickly through the hose and into the sewer tie-in. Success.

From then it was a waiting game. As the water receded, my husband and my uncle took turns power washing the sides.

In the down time, they fixed the fence and worked on what we loosely refer to as 'landscaping'. At 8:30 p.m., the pool was empty, and the power washer was silent. We turned on the hose, and called it a night.

Somebody told Don that if we called the city water system, that they would send out a truck of water to refill our pool. Not only would it be faster (duh) but it would be cheaper than the hose. Sounded great. I called. Not only would they not be sending out a truck, but since our city is now under Stage One water restrictions (due to our conspicuous lack of rain), we were obligated to fill a minimum of thirty percent of our pool with water not from our city's supply. Ooooops! 'Soooo, how do I go about finding someone to truck in water?' 'Call a pool company' *click*.

We talked it over. We could just pretend like we didn't know. Just leave the hose running and hope for the best. But that was the wrong thing to do. Morally wrong. Wrong for the water supply. Could possibly cause us to incur the wrath of the City in the form of a fine... etc., etc.

I called the company who installed our pool to find out how big it was - it's 18,200 gallons. That means that we needed almost 5,500 gallons of water.

I found the guy that trucks in water. That's right THE guy. Not the closest guy. Not the cheapest company. The one guy. He was nice, but booked. It might be a week before he could get to us. 'Oh, o.k. Thanks...' He called back in two hours. He might be able to make it out tomorrow. Would anybody be home. You bet your ass I would. 'By the way, how much will this run us?' 'Five hundred dollars for the truckload.' D'oh! 'How much is in a truckload?' 'Six thousand gallons.' Perfect. *sigh* Not exactly how we wanted to spend our heard-earned savings account, but do-able.

I was on the edge of my seat all morning. Pleeeeeease let him call! Well he did call, and he was on his way! My hero. He pulled his shiny silver transport truck up in front of our house and uncoiled a few hoses. We were in business. Keely put herself in charge:


It was awesome. Six thousand gallons of beautifully blue, deliciously cold water in about forty-five minutes. Keely swam for about thirty of those minutes :-)

I've gotta say, we didn't intend for our one day DIY project to cost us over six hundred dollars (plus next month's water bill), but it has already been worth it. My limping dog is already swimming her way to better hip joint health. My daughter and I have already taken our nude selves out to stand in the icy water and discuss how much we want to swim. Lily Ruth went all the way down to the last step (just over my knees and almost to her nipples) into water so cold that it took her breath away. She was ecstatic. I had to drag her out so that she could warm up. As I put long socks and thick leg warmers on her knocking knees, she babbled excitedly about getting back into the water ASAP.

Now she's talking about taking Lucy out to put her feet in. I told her that Lucy was too little to swim, so she decreed that Lucy would only put her feet in.

That's Lily Ruth saying 'CHEESE'. Lucy is not saying much of anything :-P

I think we're going to get quite a bit of use out of our pool this year. I can't wait!!!