Fingerprints (#224-238)

It hits me as I sit, indian style as they used to call it in my Idaho school, in the hall. There's a bowl of water in the cross section of my legs, a damp rag in my hand. I'm scrubbing the fingerprints that seem to always be present on the lower two and a half feet of wall. Washing walls is a chore that I never envisaged as necessary before kids, but suddenly its something I do two or three times a year.

But then it hit me, so sharply that I actually paused in the middle of ringing out my rag, leaving it to drip onto my jeaned leg- these fingerprints will not always be limited to the lowest 2 1/2 feet of wall. No, they will rise higher and higher, slowly as the years pass by. Like some awful and inevitable tide rolling in.

And then they will be gone.

No more fingerprints.

I considered leaving them, at least on some small portion of out-of-the-way wall. A tribute. A reminder of this time of sticky peanut-butter fingers and even stickier kisses. I can almost imagine how the fingerprints would grow upwards, changing with the times. The peanut butter and finger paints of toddlerhood morphing into the dirt smudges of boyhood...and when they are teens? What will be on their fingers for me to find then? Ink from hours of writing? Dirt and sweat from playing some sport? The dust of pencil, or the leftover dried residue of paints, that the artist seems to always wear?

I shake my head, and I finish ringing out my rag- shoulders square for the task ahead of erasing all these memories from the walls. But in a softer place than my shoulders I am making sure not to erase these memories from my heart.

#238. Fingerprints on the wall.

Always, always, on the lookout for Moments of Grace.

#224. New, earlier bed times.

#225. Zeke's first book to "read" to me. He's memorized Dr. Seuss' B Book.

#226. The way Mal grabs my whole head and squeezes. The best. hugs. ever.

#227. Blanket forts filled with pillows, stuffed animals, and books.

#228. That after two days of throwing up, I get to put salt on anything I want to guilt free.

#229. Brightly colored balloons.

#230. A cat that jumps out of the bathroom drawer.

#231. Guests bearing gifts.

#232. Date night.

#233. Bagged salad for 59cents. Next to mixed shredded cheese, its my favorite convenience food.

#234. The billowing warmth of steam rising from the stove.

#235. Homemade sushi and flowering tea.

#236. Pajama day.

#237. Breakfast cookies.

PS. oh man how long has it been since I've had any pictures on here? Please forgive me, I'll work on that :)

An Answer

And the emails came pouring in. You wrote to me to tell me why you blogged, you wrote to me to tell me why you read my blog, you wrote to encouraged me, and you wrote to relate with me and I have to admit, I smiled. And I realized that this, this is in part why I blog. It is one lonely mother's way of reaching out.

It gave me much to ponder and I thank you from my heart. All of you. And I think this, especially, hit the nail on the head: "If ours is a generation of oversharing narcissists, then we're also a generation of voyeurs. And maybe that's part of it; everyone likes the proverbial peek over the hedge."

I think THAT, in the end, is what my blog is about, it is simply a peek over my hedge.

And I like that.

The thing is, life is beautiful. And I like that this blog gives me an outlet to share that, to live that fact twice and publicly. It forces me to stop, and notice it. And, though I have few readers and dont plan on ever having more than a few readers, it forces you to stop and notice it too. That life is beautiful, and there is much to be thankful for. And that, yes, sometimes life is messy and hard to look at but none of us ache alone.

And so now that my blog's identity crisis is over, I can move on with my internet-life. :)
I've been thinking about blogging lately, thinking about words. About their power and intensity; about their beguiling charm. I've been wondering, Why do I do this?

For the past two months, as I've been watching with rapt attention, two wonderful bloggers have been sharing their thoughts, their friendship, and their letters to one another. It's created a ripple affect amongst a small corner of the blogging community and its created a ripple affect in my heart.

And to be honest, it's created a bit of writers block.

Well, no, not writers block, really. Because, you see, I have been writing, I am always writing. Since the day I learned to form painful and imperfect letters I've been filling page after page, notebook after notebook. So I am still writing, just not here.

In the last few weeks I've been coming here and sitting motionless. Searching for something, a snippet, a small story to share, not so much because I want to but because I don't want to see this space lay fallow... My heart hasn't been much into it. Or maybe my heart has been more into it? Because I am searching for every word instead of simply letting the flow move to my fingers?

So why do I do this? Not writing in general, I know why I write. I write because to me, to write is to think. To write is to live. If I don't mark it out- sometimes haltingly and sometimes with a fervor that results in cramped fingers and words missing on the smudged page- if I don't live it that second time it's as if the thought never existed, the experience was half lived.

But why so publicly?

It's a question worth asking, even in this time and age of Facebook status' and Tweets and the apparent end of all privacy. It's a question worth asking even of my generation, oversharing narcissists the lot of us.

It's not as if it doesn't have it's downfalls. I've never been much moved by the occasional mean comment or e-mail, but I wont go so far as to say I enjoy receiving them. I was once memorably told that I am not only egotistical for naming my children like I did but that they will surely grow up to hate me for it. If this is because they are biblical names, or because they are old testament names, or because they are long and kind of heavy names wasn't clear, but the idea that my kids will have yet another reason to hate me didn't brighten my morning.

It seems perhaps relevant to me that in weeks of pondering I still don't know. I don't know why I blog.

I guess what I'm saying is not knowing why I write is suddenly rendering me silent. If I don't know why I write how do I know what to write?

What was once easy is now hard. What am I doing here?

He Wants to Be Two

"I WANT TO BE TWO!!!" That's what Zeke has taken to screaming the last two weeks. "You are two." I always insisted, sometimes reassuringly, sometimes with a great sigh, sometimes with clenched teeth and hands, trying with all my might not to shake him. It never helped but in this stage of "terrible two tantrums" I feel like I have to at least try to reason with him, even though I know there really isn't a point.

Tantrums aren't really Zeke's thing, usually, so they have really caught us off guard. I decided that the uptick in screaming (or should I say downtick in emotional control?) was directly related to not napping anymore and so the last two days Zeke has taken a nap again. It has helped. A lot. Apparently he becomes a completely different person when he is unhinged and possibly dangerous person. I can't blame him too much. He gets it from me.

And so today he was caught up in his sleep again and I had my old Zeke back. The one that stays up too late at night and sings "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" from Aristocats in his bed for a half hour but hey, not one screaming episode all day. Plus he finally explained to me this afternoon what the heck he's talking about when he says that he wants to be two.

"Like a not-a-baby. Like a good boy with no screaming."

After this revelation he ran off to take Claudia for a walk (he likes to leash her and then make her follow him all around our yard), and I sat a bit stunned, and a bit humbled. Right in the middle of his hour-long tantrums he was screaming at the top of his lungs that he didn't want to be screaming? It puts a whole new perspective on my son, so awash with emotion right now, but trying so very hard.

Being two is hard.

Happy First Birthday Malachi!

Today Malachi turns one.
It's a bit hard to believe, honestly.
I know it's the cliche but, where did the time go?
Was it honestly only a year ago today that I lay exhausted, on this very couch, and watched Zeke solemnly give his hour-old brother knuckles?
It must be true, because here is this toddler, oh so suddenly.

Malachi at one can walk 3 or 4 halting yet sturdy steps, much to his mother's chagrin and his father's delight. We had a bet on if he would walk before his birthday and Josh won by 5 days. He eats anything, and often everything. He has 5 teeth. He doesn't say a darned word. Not a single one. He plays his cards close to the chest, this one.
He adores his brother. He will not abide being left out. He loves splashing in the bathtub, can toss a ball with the best of them, and will push a toy car around the house for hours, he especially delights in ramps. He is 100% boy. He gives the best bear hugs I have ever experienced in my life.He is full of determination. I wont say stubbornness, because I don't see it, not yet. He is not stuck in his ways, but he is very very determined. He laughs. At everything. Great rolling belly laughs and oh boy does he have the belly for it. He is happy 95% of the time and stark raving MAD the other 5%. I call him my angel, Malachi meaning angel. But I'll admit to calling him Malachi the destroyer as well. There is that other %5...

We threw him a very small party last weekend. Poor second children never get quite the hoopla do they? But there were balloons and presents and cake and what more can a one year old ask for? He seemed pretty happy.
We love you Mal.

Why I Took This Job in The First Place

I find myself, before my morning cup of tea has even had time to cool, standing in the kitchen with a sobbing two year old. His round little shoulders jerking with excess emotion, and tears running freely down his face, even dripping off his cheeks. He had hit his little brother on the head with a bumblebee shaped maraca and the ensuing punishment- seperation from all instruments and playmates- has thrown him neatly over the edge of emotional control.

But really, that had not been all.

It had already been one of those mornings with Zeke. One of those mornings that don't wait for your tea to cool. A "very hard day" as he would say himself. First he had to get his night diaper taken off even though he was "too busy". He wanted to wear his train sweater, but his train sweater was dirty, one sleeve coated in peanut butter from the day before. He chose to have a bagel for breakfast, but we found outselves out of bagels and so he found himself facing the choice between applesauce and toast, or oatmeal...two distinctly unappatizing options as he was sure to let me know. And then his brother, oh his brother! He broke the trains! And then he was following him! And then, inspired by the devil himself no doubt, and in an attemp to ruin all chances of brotherly peace forever, he had the audacity to touch lightning mcqueen!

Really the mishap with the Bee-Bop Band had been the last straw.

"I need a bandaid!" he wailed, between hard sucking in breaths.

And contemplating that not all injuries are ones of torn flesh or fragmented bone I take a testing sip of tea, and then a greater one, and then I went to the bathroom to retrieve the requested cure.

A patch for my sons bruised heart.

I very seriously administered the remedy onto his chin, following his shaking finger to the offending spot. "Is there anything else I can do to help you?" I ask him. And he thinks for a second, chest still heaving.

"I want you to sing mommy songs and do the dishes."

"You want me to sing mommy songs and do the dishes?" I repeat, even though I know he hates when I parrot him back like this, as if I dont understand his words.

But he is patient, and he nods.

"Do you want me to bring you a chair to sit in?" I ask and he nods again.

When I bring it, his tears start anew and he moans, "I cant get up!"

But I lift him onto the chair and turn towards the sink and the almost permanent pile of dishes that can be found in any mother's kitchen.

I start to sing mommy songs. All the songs I've been singing since my kids were tiny babes and the songs I've been singing since even before that. The Beatles and Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and Ella Fitzgerand and so many hymns both old and new. I start with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", because I know he loves it, and move onto "I'd Rather be an Old-time Christian" after that. I peek him calming down out of the corner of my eye as I place the (now clean) mixing bowl onto the drying rack and go into "The Folsom Prison Blues", "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Across The Universe" in quick sucession. I sing "Cry Me A River" before remembering that Mal is my jazz lover, not Zeke. Zeke loves the old southern hymns best and so I start to sing "I'll Fly Away" and by the time I'm onto "That Old Rugged Cross" and the last cast-iron
skillet, I can hear that Zeke is singing along.

I stop singing and close the dishwasher. Im thinking about the healing salve of music, and company. The peace and safety in the knowledge that the world chugs on, despite personal turmoil and pain. I'm thinking about my youngest son, who's happy playing sounds I've been hearing from the playroom all this 45 minutes or so and my husband who's at work "in
the city" as Zeke has begun to call our downtown area.

Lost in all these thoughts I hear from the chair that's been placed in the middle of my kitchen, "I was putting my shoes on this morning and it was really hard. But I didn't give up."

"I know, I was so proud of you."

"Im gonna go play." he says as he jumps from his chair, running to join his brother. A smile on his face, despite the tears that have not quite dried.

I go upstairs to get dressed, no shower for me today, Malachi will need me any second now. He averages an hour of play-alone time a day and my hour is running out fast. But there is a smile on my face too, because I've been reminded why I took up this job in the first place.

Moments #207-226

I can't believe how long its been since I updated this list- the last one was before Christmas! So I will ask you to forgive me for backing up a bit.

Speaking of the future, though, Malachi's birthday is in 8 days! I'm in a little bit of a shock. Although not so much shock that I'm not planning our celebrations. Zeke and I decided on a balloon themed party after he fell in love with this cupcake design. Did I mention Zeke is planning his brother's whole party? I'm going to be making the cupcakes out of this very simple yellow cake. Hopefully it will be a keeper because I'm yet to find the perfect yellow cake. And of course there will be lots of real helium balloons too.

And my favorite part, a birthday crown. (As you can see, Zeke got one as well.)
Made just a bit big so that it will hopefully last the years (it fits my head a tad tightly, so I'm guessing it'll be a tad loose on Mal).
I cut everything by eye, and used the craft felt that I already keep around the house. They are by no means nice crowns. But they are my first sewing project to not bring me to frustration and swearing. And they were made with all the love I have in my heart.

And now backing up a bit,

#207 A little boy passing scraps to the puppy underneath the table.

#208 Clean, fresh water.

#209 A mess of wrapping paper.

#210 My sisters fiance reading Zeek a new dinosaur book. A family growing.

#211 God come down into the body of a helpless babe.

#212 A whole tub of train tracks- hours of time to myself.

#213 Sneaking in one last Christmas carol, days after the holiday has ended.

#214 Trees heavy with snow.

#215 Finding I actually do enjoy wine- if its the right wine.

#216 Knee socks.

#217 Truffles.

#218 The way Mal grabs my whole head with both arms and squeezes. The sweetest of hugs.

#219 A puppy bounding across snow taller than her.

#220 A 3 day weekend, 2 days after a 5 day weekend.

#221- Our very own "frosty"

#222- Staying up late with the sewing machine and a big cup (or three) of tea.

#223- My first sewing project to not produce a half hour or so of swearing.

3 Thoughts

The first thought: I have pregnancy-fever. I am missing being pregnant, and missing giving birth...but at the same time I am very not ready for another newborn in the house. I've committed to 2011 being the year of no new children (all the better to focus on myself) and I'm still great with that, even thrilled with that, but...I miss being pregnant. That feeling juxtaposed with this article, which I came across last week, has got me dreaming about surrogacy.

What a beautiful experience that would be. To carry another woman's child for her. It's something that I would very very seriously consider where in not for...well...the darned truth. Which is that I'm probably an awful surrogacy candidate. While I'm amazing at being pregnant when I successfully get pregnant, an an absolute champ at childbirth, I am also assuming most women would want a surrogate who's had less miscarriages then them. Josh and I have never medically looked into what our problem is- bad eggs, bad sperm, bad body- but there is obviously a problem.

I hate thinking of myself as broken.

The second thought: After a long break (Thanksgiving all the way to New Years) Zeke and I started doing preschool again. I was really glad for the break and am now equally glad to be starting up again. We did "S is for Snow" last week, which was also just a really really fun subject. We cut paper snowflakes, brought snow inside to the kitchen sink to play in, made a snowman, built an igloo out of marshmallows, painted a snowstorm with white paint, and talked all about how snow was water frozen. Next week we get to do trains, inspired by the wood train set he got for Christmas and is now obsessed with. I was so excited by my library finds that I brought them all out 2 days early- there are some great books available about trains.

I always assumed that when we start homeschooling we would do year-round. But the fact that even now on our very very light preschool curriculum I am burnt out by Thanksgiving teaches me otherwise. In my worst moments it also makes me wonder if I am cut out for this. But that is neither here nor there.

I have discovered why every homeschooling family I know takes the entire month of December off, as well as a full summer break. When we begin I think that we will plan on doing the same.

The third thought: I'm having warmth issues. The other day I thought to myself, "Why, I have really enjoyed the snow this winter. What a strange thing, I always HATE winter!" And then I realized that we have only just begun. Today we are 19 days into winter. We have something like 69 days left.

This realization immediately made me cold and I haven't fully warmed up since. I think the problem is that despite what the farmers almanac might have to say about it, winter starts as soon as you swallow that last morsel of pumpkin pie in November and it ends...well around these parts in ends in April if your lucky. Sometimes it's more like May.

I might have to make a few more scarves.

A Day in The Life - 1/4/11

I did two Day in the Life posts last year. One in March, and one in July. I had planned on doing 4, spread out thru the year, and obviously for various reasons that didn't work out. Most of those reasons were me forgetting all about it, but a few were me not feeling like it. Every 3 months seems often for such a boring, and yet time consuming to write, post. I plan on doing 2 this year. One in January (aka yesterday) and one in July. That way I still get the benefit of looking back on an "every day"day, and even one in different seasons, but there is actually enough time lapsed to make a difference in our lives.

This particular day ended up being an extremely boring one. But then again, that is pretty normal for us in the middle of winter when I dont much want to leave the house because it looks like this outside:


7:30 Zeke wakes up in his own bed. Since he went to bed last night, stayed in bed all night, and then woke up this morning, all without a tantrum, he gets to watch TV. (We have resorted to bribing our toddler with TV for every 12 hours he goes without tantrums. If he lasts the entire day he gets TV right before bed, if he lasts all night he gets it right when he wakes up. TV is really the only reward he cares about and sadly this hasn't really added up to that much TV.)

So Zeke picked out his outfit for the day, brushed his teeth, and requested Dinosaur Train. I made tea, checked my email, and start to read "Water for Elephants" while he watched his show.
After a little while Mal woke up too so I threw some pants over his onesie ( Now that its cold my "three outfits and then you are naked" rule might count as cruelty. So the new rule is Mal's clothes dont get taken off until they are destroyed. I still go thru 2-3 outfits a day.)

8:30 We "paused" Dinosaur Train and all went to go make breakfast. (Yet another *explanation* We never turn off a show around here. Instead we wait until riiight before the credits and "pause" it for "later". It doesn't matter to Zeke if "later" is days and days, and a toddler crisis is averted.)

Zeke and Mal both had Rice Chex while I did last night's dishes. Zeke ate 4 bowls worth. For some reason I thought I could have something different then them and made myself an onion bagel. After the boys saw it this is all that was left:
I made another.

9:30 I deposited the boys in the toy/school room, helped Zeke build a train track:
convinced Malachi the sound matching eggs were better then irritating his brother by destroying his train tracks:
and then gathered up all the bedding in the house for cleaning.

The boys had lasted that long nicely, even switching places with the trains, so I decided to risk a shower before starting the washer.
I only had to yell from the shower 3 times. Twice when Zeke locked Mal out of the room, once when Mal was "chasing" Zeke.

By the time I was clean, teeth and hair brushed, and dressed for the day, Malachi was standing at my legs desperate for attention and the sound of frantic barking and hysterical laughing told me that Zeke was playing with the dog.

So we cuddled up to read a few books. Mal especially enjoys the lift-the-flap ones.
Zeke gets jealous and says he's sick.
He has the tissues to prove it and blows his nose several times.
I offer to read "Thomas and the Naughty Diesel", Zeke's newest favorite book, and he agrees while arguing that "Diesel isn't naughty, he's a good engine!" Josh and I suspect that Zeke really identifies with Diesel.

Claudia is all riled up from Zeke's playing earlier so the boys and I throw the ball for her a while, we've been trying to get her to master the "give" lately. Mal especially loves to throw the ball.


11:00 Malachi gets hungry so I sit in the rocking chair to nurse him and suggest to Zeke that he play tug-a-war with the dog. The boys have a hard time playing catch with her without me, since Claudia wont forfeit the ball for them. But, being evenly matched in strength, tug-a-war is a perfect game.
Mal is acting sleepy so I take him upstairs and put him down for a nap. Zeke and I do some preschool. We sing, count, read a few books about snow, and play with some new play dough he got for Christmas.
Then he does art with some stickers at the kitchen table where he can see and talk to me while I do my daily chores (feeding the animals, sweeping, ect) and put some potatoes in the oven for lunch.
When he's done he asks if we can play Rock Band. I'm fine with that.
12:30 Malachi wakes up right in time for lunch. We "pause" Rock Band and doctor up our potatoes with sour cream and chives.
1:00 Zeke is delaying finishing his meal so that he doesn't have to take a nap. We argue about naptime, while I get out his special nighttime cup and put the (now clean) sheets on his bed. He asks for 400 different toys he needs to sleep with, and I finally threaten no TV if I have to come in the room again.

Mal plays in the living room while I spend a while online, writing this, reading blogs, checking my email, and asking for advice about nap time struggles on Facebook.
2:00 Mal is getting cranky so we spend a while playing together with stacking cups (he likes to put the little ones inside the big ones, and then take them back out). He's still cranky so nurse him and put him down for a nap on the couch (Zeke is STILL awake in their room- though quiet)
I light some candles and have some prayer and meditation time. Then I get Water For Elephants back out....its really good. I steal Claudia away from Mal to cuddle with.

4:00 Both boys wake up- almost simultaneously. They get diaper changes and then play with cars in their bedroom while I do all my Tuesday specific chores- puting all the clean sheets on beds, cleaning the litter box, cleaning up both bedrooms, and vacuuming upstairs.


Before I'm quite finished, or its quite 5 o clock, Zeke yells "Daddy!"

Yep, that was the door.

Malachi, who is usually thrilled to see daddy at the end of the day, wants nothing to do with him. Its true he hasn't had much mommy time. So Josh ends up making dinner according to my verbal directions while I stand in the kitchen holding Mal. It's Tuscan Soup.
While it simmers we all move into the livingroom where Zeke throws himself dramatically on the couch and says he's had a "very hard day." I ask him what would make his day better and he answers, peeking thru fingers, "cookies." Since I had been thinking that very same thing I agree and we head to the kitchen.
We make snicker doodle dough and then it in the fridge to cool. Malachi is now perfectly happy to sit in the livingroom with daddy. They throw the ball for the dog.

I put the last touches on dinner and Zeke sets the table.

We all eat. Malachi tries to jump out of his highchair several times.
After dinner Josh takes Mal to the bathtub and Zeke and I roll the cookies in sugar and cinnamon. Zeke then joins his brother in the bathtub
and I man the oven, clear the table, and look up the difference between different varietals of wine on the internet. Josh and I are talking down the hall to each other about wine, and trying to figure out which ones I'd like (So far I havent likeed Merlot (too bitter) or Chardonnay (too sour), but I DID like the Syrah my mom gave him for Christmas). Josh loves all wines so this discovery was exciting for him.

We pajama the boys, eat a few cookies each, and Josh and Malachi transfer our phone numbers to our new phones (we both got upgrades delivered in the last few days).
Zeke plays with his trains, I can hear him acting out Thomas and the Naughty Diesel. I sneak over to a corner to read more of my book.

9:00 Bedtime. Josh takes Zeke and I take Mal but I fail utterly and when he comes downstairs Mal is still up. So then Josh takes Mal as well, and I go back to my book, feeling just a bit guilty but not enough to stop reading.

It only takes him a few minutes to put Mal down (Josh has a magic touch) and we play a couple rounds of Blokus To Go (We aren't exactly "to go" but this version is 2 person, while normal Blokus requires 4). We each win once. Both games are very close.
10:00 Josh isn't feeling particularly well so we go to bed early.

Goodbye Twenty-Ten

2010 was neither a great, nor an awful, year so I feel a bit apathetic at its passing. We had our traditional wreck of a New Years Eve (Josh and I have never, ever, been able to manage a good New Years Eve for some reason...the day might be cursed for us). We went to a party with the other Bloom leaders plus their families....and lasted about 3 hours (8:30) before Zeke threw a Super Tantrum and had to be carried out and home. It had something to do with wanting water, but not the cup I offered (seriously).

I took a bath and was in bed by 10.

Then I woke up at 4am wide awake.

Over-all, honestly, the night was a good example of the entire year. I had some high goals and the best of intentions, but things were just slightly out of control. Twenty-ten was the year of the best intentions.

I'm hoping for a bit better, come 2011.

With the kids a bit older now, turning respectively 1 and 3 in January and June, and for once in my adult life, no baby on the way, I want to really try to focus on myself this year. 2010 was a survival year. I did what I had to in order to survive and I didn't much get around to anything past survival (aka anything for myself). It was all about filling the kid's needs, then the husband's needs, and the various commitments I had made in mindful mamas and in church and for Bloom and honestly after that? I was passed out.

In 2011 I want to take the time to take care of myself. There is a lot that goes into that. I want to take more care in the way that I dress, wearing clothes that I like...clothes that make me like me. I want to take the time to shower and do my hair and maybe even a bit of makeup. Every day. As a person that doesn't actually understand what one possibly does in a morning routine that lasts over 30 minutes, I think that is a manageable goal. I want to cultivate stronger friendships, something I've said I was working on for a few months now, but have been too shy about putting myself out there to actually accomplish. I want to make the time to exercise. It's ridiculous that in the 24 hours of a day it's impossible to carve out 20 minutes every now and then to be alone and run. I am going to commit, absolutely commit, to kicking the depressive, postpartumy, funk I've been in for the last 6 months since my last miscarriage. Its not ok for me to feel like this all the time and if that means I need medical help, well then I need medical help.
So here is to 2011. The year of the mommy. Or rather the year of the Courtney. Because this year, as great as mommy is, I'm going to be more.