This week in break downs

It begins: Eric’s Saab broke down two weeks ago.

We hadn’t really worried too much about it nor rushed to fix it because we have two cars and we live in a small town and so the girls and I could get most anywhere on foot or on this fine vehicle.

Sunday night, while I was out Lance Armstronging it with the girls, the chain broke.

Monday the girls and I took the van to Ames (an hour away) to get a new bike chain. On the way back the van broke down and left us stranded on the side of the road.

Thursday Eric tried to mow the lawn and the brand new mower wouldn’t start.

Saturday the girls and I borrowed my father-in-law’s car to go to Ft. Dodge for a few hours, because at this point we had no wheeled vehicles of any kind of our own that worked. On the way back to their house a belt broke off, leaving us stranded on the side of the road.

Can we borrow your car?

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What were you thinking?

Oh you foolish, foolish people.

Last week I wrote that I thought that I should keep my long-winded opinions to myself and people contacted me to tell me that they liked these posts. I mean people took time out of their busy, child-raising lives to write and call and tell me that they enjoyed my rants. Someone even told me I should write a book.

Eric was less supportive.

“Honey, people like my blog. Someone said I was a good writer. They said I should write a book. Do you know what that means? If I wrote a book, two people might check it out from the library!”

“That’s how cults start, you know.”

“Cult hits or the ‘Don’t drink the funny kool-aid kind?”

“The kool-aid ones.”

Anyway, cooler heads have prevailed and all books have been put on hold, but I did leave the child-raising to someone else this weekend and I instead spent my time polishing up my soap box.

You’ll be sorry.

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The sweet, sweet life of Emily

Last week Emily took swimming lessons here in Belmond. She was absolutely fearless about the pool, but sweet Amy, her instructor, made her a little nervous. I guess that means that I don’t have to worry about her going to a stranger offering candy, but if a swimming pool came up to her on the sidewalk? She’d go with it in a second!

I’m not sure what Amy is promising Emily here, but whatever it was, it worked.

Soon Emily was jumping in like a pro. She even touched the bottom of the pool, her face completely under the water.

The first day Em didn’t want me to leave so Eric, in his shirt and tie from work, Claudia, and I all stood by the side of the pool. On day two our friend Megan was visiting so we (no Eric this day) walked to the far end of the pool and sat.

The weather this week has been a hell-like 90-some degrees, so on day three I brought out the big guns. I told her if she let me go sit in air conditioning for her half hour lesson I would get her some chocolate. She went for it. Maybe I should watch out for the strangers with candy after all.

In the end, I realized that I had paid big money for my daughter to take private swimming lessons (group ones aren’t offered here until the kids are out of kindergarten) which she loves, and then I told her I would give her chocolate if she went. What in the hell has this world come to? I can tell you right now that my mother would NEVER have bribed me to do something fun. “Hey honey, if you let me take you to Chuck E. Cheese’s I’ll buy you a car.”

I think this family has swung too far to the “nurturing” side of parenting. Tonight there will be spankings, just because.

Which actually makes me think of something funny. We don’t actually spank in our house and we tell Emily regularly that we don’t hit in our family, mostly when she has just hit Claudia. And while we do this because hitting to tell your kids that hitting is wrong just seems stupid and because Eric seems all the child-hitting and-spirit breaking he needs to at work, I have noticed that Emily has no fear of us. We do the time out thing here and while Emily isn’t crazy about sitting on the stairs, I would doubt that the fear of having to do so keeps her from doing anything.

I’m not saying that I want my kids to be scared of me, I want them to know that I would protect them and that home is a safe, loving place to be, but it would be nice to be able to threaten her with a punishment and have her even pause slightly before continuing what she was doing.

Just watch, in 25 years it will have all swung the other way. This generation will think that their parents were too easy going and our kids will be using stocks and pillories on thier kids.

And then I can sit there and say things like, “Kids these days are so ill behaved, what they need is a swift trip to the stairs.”

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Let’s go swimming…

Here we are at the pool in Belmond. It was the first time that any of the three of us had been there. We managed to make it three years in this town without showing anyone here what I look like in a bathing suit. But last week, as temperatures climbed near 100, I decided I didn’t care if the Belmond Independent was there taking pictures.

They weren’t, were they?

Emily and and her friend, Krista in the baby pool. The water is only a foot and a half deep but Emily feels you can’t be too prepared.
Claudia couldn’t care less what the town thinks of her in a swim diaper. Nor does she care what I think about drinking the pool water, so that is a challenge.

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Just call me Judgey McJudgester

Since I think that it’s pretty safe to say that it is mostly my women friends that check out this site, I thought I’d put a link on here to an interesting article. I like to think that I am usually a pretty open-minded person although it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that I am not.

Also, I especially hate it when moms judge each other. I think that all moms are probably doing the best they can, and so, short of abuse, I think that it is generally a better idea to support rather than villanize. Enough fighting about whether or not it is better to stay at home or work outside.

That said: I’m going to judge away.

About a year ago I read an essay written by author Ayelet Waldman about marriage and motherhood. Waldman had been featured on Oprah on a show entitled, “A Mother’s Controversial Confession.” While I would like to say that I never watch tripe like Oprah, and especially shows involving phrases like “controversial confession” I would be lying. While I am not glued to the couch every afternoon at four o’clock like Eric likes to think that I am, I do, from time to time, enjoy a little of the guilty pleasure that is Oprah Winfrey.

Anyway, the show centered around the buzz created by an essay that Waldman wrote for the book “Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race and Themselves“, an anthology edited by Kate Moses and Camille Peri, In the essay Waldman goes from a gloating announcement that she is the only mommy she knows having any sex to saying that she loves her husband more than she loves her children. And not just that she loves him more, but that she could more easily imagine a life after the loss of all four of her children than one after the loss of her husband.

“An example: I often engage in the parental pastime known as God Forbid. What if, God forbid, someone were to snatch one of my children? God forbid. I imagine what it would feel like to lose one or even all of them. I imagine myself consumed, destroyed by the pain. And yet, in these imaginings, there is always a future beyond the child’s death. Because if I were to lose one of my children, God forbid, even if I lost all my children, God forbid, I would still have him, my husband.But my imagination simply fails me when I try to picture a future beyond my husband’s death. Of course I would have to live. I have four children, a mortgage, work to do. But I can imagine no joy without my husband.I don’t think the other mothers at Mommy and Me feel this way. I know they would be absolutely devastated if they found themselves widowed. But any one of them would sacrifice anything, including their husbands, for their children.”
(Read the essay in its entirety at http://www2.oprah.com/tows/booksseen/200504/tows_book_20050420_kmose_b.jhtml)

I was horrified. I am definitely in the Mommy and Me group. Not only would I sacrifice Eric for the girls but I can tell you that he better damn well do the same to me.

Maybe I am less fazed than Waldman by the idea of widowhood because my mother was widowed at my age and so it is something have thought about, no obsessed about, since I was a teenager falling in puppy love with the boy in from of me in English class. I have always been acutely aware that I should be prepared for such an unlikely event.

Maybe it is because my own membership in the neuro-oncology patient club has given me a gift in the knowledge that I will almost certainly not outlive either my husband or my children, which is just fine by me.

But, I think that my problem with the essay lies in the idea that I feel like parents should be crazy in love with their children. And while I will be the first to admit that motherhood is hard work that sometimes leaves me grumpy and exhausted, that exhaustion doesn’t make me love these kids any less.

I mean my god, who looked a their child in the delivery room and thought, “Eh, that nose looks better on her dad?”

Perhaps it isn’t that she doesn’t love her kids any less than I do, maybe she just loves her husband more. Sure I love Eric, but admittedly we do not have the long talks about our wonderful marriage that Waldman and her husband do. I do not consider Eric the sun around which my life revolves. I consider us friends (although not the best either of us has) and partners both in life and in this job we have made for ourselves to raise these girls.

Eric and I have a marriage that’s best qualities right now, in the depths of brand new parenthood, are the fact that neither of us has to worry about cheating and we both know that the other will wait this thing out. We joke about divorce about 23 ½ hours a day, but when it comes down to it we both know that, at least for now, inertia is strong enough to keep us from going anywhere. Famous last words? Perhaps.

That said, I just finished her book Love and Other Impossible Pursuits and I loved it. I guess the old saying is right: never judge a book by the ridiculous crap its author has said in the past that offended you… or something like that.

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Just shut up already!

It has not escaped my attention that lately my blog postings have become a bit… prolific. And I’m not sure that the fine people who are coming here to see how Emily and Claudia are spending their summer are wanting to read my astute observations on everything from birthday parties to Oprah guests. I can hear the yawns across the miles. Clearly, though, that hasn’t stopped me from writing it. I think this must be the writing equivalent of liking to hear yourself talk.

That said, I promise that should these one and two a.m. rambling continue that I will create another blog for what is clearly going to be the great American novel, and I will leave this space for oooing and ahhing over my children. They are far better than anything I have to say.

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Just call me Judgey McJudgester

Since I think that it’s pretty safe to say that it is mostly my women friends that check out this site, I thought I’d put a link on here to an interesting article. I like to think that I am usually a pretty open-minded person although it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that I am not.

Also, I especially hate it when moms judge each other. I think that all moms are probably doing the best they can, and so, short of abuse, I think that it is generally a better idea to support rather than villanize. Enough fighting about whether or not it is better to stay at home or work outside.

That said: I’m going to judge away.

About a year ago I read an essay written by author Ayelet Waldman about marriage and motherhood. Waldman had been featured on Oprah on a show entitled, “A Mother’s Controversial Confession.” While I would like to say that I never watch tripe like Oprah, and especially shows involving phrases like “controversial confession” I would be lying. While I am not glued to the couch every afternoon at four o’clock like Eric likes to think that I am, I do, from time to time, enjoy a little of the guilty pleasure that is Oprah Winfrey.

Anyway, the show centered around the buzz created by an essay that Waldman wrote for the book “Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race and Themselves, an anthology edited by Kate Moses and Camille Peri, In the essay Waldman goes from a gloating announcement that she is the only mommy she knows having any sex to saying that she loves her husband more than she loves her children. And not just that she loves him more, but that she could more easily imagine a life after the loss of all four of her children than one after the loss of her husband.

“An example: I often engage in the parental pastime known as God Forbid. What if, God forbid, someone were to snatch one of my children? God forbid. I imagine what it would feel like to lose one or even all of them. I imagine myself consumed, destroyed by the pain. And yet, in these imaginings, there is always a future beyond the child’s death. Because if I were to lose one of my children, God forbid, even if I lost all my children, God forbid, I would still have him, my husband.But my imagination simply fails me when I try to picture a future beyond my husband’s death. Of course I would have to live. I have four children, a mortgage, work to do. But I can imagine no joy without my husband.I don’t think the other mothers at Mommy and Me feel this way. I know they would be absolutely devastated if they found themselves widowed. But any one of them would sacrifice anything, including their husbands, for their children.”

(Read the essay in its entirety at http://www2.oprah.com/tows/booksseen/200504/tows_book_20050420_kmose_b.jhtml)

I was horrified. I am definitely in the Mommy and Me group. Not only would I sacrifice Eric for the girls but I can tell you that he better damn well do the same to me.

Maybe I am less fazed than Waldman by the idea of widowhood because my mother was widowed at my age and so it is something have thought about, no obsessed about, since I was a teenager falling in puppy love with the boy in from of me in English class. I have always been acutely aware that I should be prepared for such an unlikely event.

Maybe it is because my own membership in the neuro-oncology patient club has given me a gift in the knowledge that I will almost certainly not outlive either my husband or my children, which is just fine by me.

But, I think that my problem with the essay lies in the idea that I feel like parents should be crazy in love with their children. And while I will be the first to admit that motherhood is hard work that sometimes leaves me grumpy and exhausted, that exhaustion doesn’t make me love these kids any less.

I mean my god, who looked a their child in the delivery room and thought, “Eh, that nose looks better on her dad?”

Perhaps it isn’t that she doesn’t love her kids any less than I do, maybe she just loves her husband more. Sure I love Eric, but admittedly we do not have the long talks about our wonderful marriage that Waldman and her husband do. I do not consider Eric the sun around which my life revolves. I consider us friends (although not the best either of us has) and partners both in life and in this job we have made for ourselves to raise these girls.

Eric and I have a marriage that’s best qualities right now, in the depths of brand new parenthood, are the fact that neither of us has to worry about cheating and we both know that the other will wait this thing out. We joke about divorce about 23 ½ hours a day, but when it comes down to it we both know that, at least for now, inertia is strong enough to keep us from going anywhere. Famous last words? Perhaps.

That said, I just finished her book Love and Other Impossible Pursuits and I loved it. I guess the old saying is right: never judge a book by the ridiculous crap its author has said in the past that offended you… or something like that.

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It’s hard out here for a… parent

“Mommy, if you die, would I have to take Claudia to school in the wagon with me because there wouldn’t be anybody to watch her?”

Death and dying is thick in the air around our place these days, and not just because I have an MRI on Wednesday to see if the symptoms I have are being caused by the tumors rearing their ugly little heads.

I walk a fine life with Emily of trying to remember my parents–to have her “know” them in any little way, and scaring the absolute bejesus out of her when I mention them.

This much she knows, although how much of it she actually gets, I may never know: She knows that at one time I had parents, like she does. She knows that I have told her that they would have loved her like crazy if they had gotten to meet her. She also knows that I no longer have these parents. She knows that my dad died when I was her age and that my mom died when I was a little older. It’s hard to say what any of this means to her.

The idea that I once had a mom and dad and that now I don’t seems to scare her. She asks me all the time if I miss them and whether I was sad when they died. I tell her the truth. Well, the most basic truth.

I tell her that yes, I miss them. I don’t tell her that I miss them less and less now that she and Claudia are here. That somehow they fill a hole that I thought would be gaping and weepy my whole life long. I don’t tell her that the idea of this sometimes makes me sadder than the sadness I feel that they aren’t actually here. That the idea that someone could be everything to you, then just be gone, and that then one day you might just be over it seems too awful to believe, especially because right now those girls are everything to me and I am sickened by the idea that they might ever be gone from me, and that I would be able to just go on living.

I tell her that yes, I was sad when they died. I don’t tell her that I remember yelling at my mom that she was a liar when she told me that my dad was gone and would never be coming back. I don’t tell her that that besides the memory of that moment, I only have one other memory of him at all, even though I am sure that he loved me with the same fierce, breathtaking love that Emily’s father feels for her. I don’t tell her that I was so sad when my mom died when I was seventeen that I graduated from high school early, moved away, leaving everyone I knew, and then flunked out of college. I don’t tell her that I was so sad that I truly never thought that I would get over it, that I almost got a tattoo of a song lyric, “She won’t recover from her losses” because I felt like it was already felt like it was tattooed on my forehead, that it had become who I was. I don’t tell her any of this.

But I do tell her that people die, and that while I will have to die sometime, I don’t think that I will die anytime soon and that I am doing everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen for a long, long time. I also tell her that if I did die she would absolutely not have to take Claudia to school with her. Daddy would have a babysitter for her and Claudia while he was at work and that he would be home at night, just like always.

I let her know that no matter what there would be a line of people around the block that would take care of her. I tell her this because I was a child that worried. I thought about these things all the time and it never helped when people would tell me not to worry about it. I worried anyway that bad things might happen. I still worry, but now it’s because I know bad things can and do happen. There were no family members that stepped up to take my brother and I when we were orphaned and this is not a fate that will befall my children. So I guess I mention that one as much for myself as for her.

While I wish Emily didn’t have to know that people die, that her father and I might (will) die, I do want her to know that I will always try to tell her the truth and that if she is worried about something than I take it seriously.

So, I don’t know, maybe in the end I am walking this fine line, and maybe I am tripping over it. It will, no doubt, be hard to say for sure until Emily is in adult therapy.

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Coffee table:1, Claudia: 0


Just in time for the holiday Claudia had an altercation with a coffee table at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It wasn’t pretty. The table came out of nowhere and sucker punched her.

However, you think that bump on her forehead looks bad? You should see the table. Okay, not really, but as you can see she looks really broken up about the whole thing so I’m letting her think that she won.

In an unrelated story, our dog, Ben, had a run in with the vet (my sister-in-law, Lynn) who decided to remove a couple of old dog warts on his head and face. The years are not kind to dogs.

And what did you do over the holiday weekend?

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