Today I showed two strangers my soul

As one of my exercises in the "Year of Me" I decided to audition to read an original essay on motherhood. Not because I necessarily expected, or even hoped, to be picked to perform it during the Mother's Day show but because it would challenge me in ways I don't normally challenge myself but wish I did- writing something more serious then a blog post, putting my stage-frighty self thru an auditioning process, ect.

It ended up being more of a challenge then I expected however, because, you see, I ended up writing two pieces. And while I was very very proud of the first...the second...the second was my very soul revealed. And so I spent weeks in limbo. Editing and rewriting both. Changing my mind over and over again. Do I read the first? It is the one more likely to be picked, definitely, with its neat and trim lesson at the end, its bright outlook and its universal appeal. And really, it is a very good essay, some of the best stuff I've written in years...

Or do I read the second? That raw, painful peek into everything I am-and everything motherhood means to me. It has no neat and trim lesson, it is not universally appealing or even acceptable. It is nothing but myself, liquefied and boiled down; desperate faith and failed intentions.

I decided on the first.

But I brought the second anyways. Even in the waiting room, at the cusp of any decision.

And as I sat there, allowing myself a fleeting daydream of actually being chosen and coming home from vacation to read (because I have so little actual expectation of being one of the 10 or so of 21 auditioners that I planned a Seattle vacation right into that weekend, but no so little humility that I didn't also plan a back-up early return) anyways, as I indulged in my daydream, I realized that as much as I loved that first essay...I couldn't choose it. If I was going to put myself out there, I was going to put myself out there. Me. Desperate faith and failed intentions. The coffee sustained and imperfect me. Even if it isn't PR friendly and even if it isn't easy to choke down I had to read that second essay.

Because suddenly the worst case scenario changed from being emailed a list without my name on it, to seeing my name on that list and knowing that I wimped out.

I read my second essay. And my voice was clear.

*Just so you know, the second essay was this blog post, rewritten and refined. And the first essay is not to be wasted, either, I think I will save for my own Mother's Day post.*

The Many Misadventures of Malachi

You may have a Malachi if you...

Sometimes find the popper in the toilet...Or all the kids' socks...or the play dishes...or your hair claw...or a peanut butter sandwich. If you find yourself holding your bladder because you fear looking at the toilet, well then there is a good chance there is a loose Malachi in your home.

Another indicator is if your heart starts beating frantically every time you hear, "The babies making a mess!"
And you hear it an awful lot.

Or if you wait until the very last second before putting on shoes and socks.

If you one day find yourself running into a room and yelling, "Everyone STOP yelling!" without a shred of sarcasm...

Or ordering 2 large pizzas for 4 people, two of whom barely reach your waist,

Or if you're afraid your arm might just break off from carrying so much weight...

Well I hate to break it to you, but you might just have yourself a Malachi.

Conversations With Zeke

Collected over 6 or so days.

Josh, "Zeke get in the car right now."
Zeke, "Dada! Don't be rude to me!...Momma, Dada's being very rude."

Me, "God help me."
Zeke, "God helps me. He helps me when I'm stuck in the mud. He has a tow cable."

Me, "No, Zeke, we aren't having cookies for breakfast. You need to choose oatmeal, or eggs."
Zeke, "You are sooo mean, you are hurting my feelings!"

Josh, "Don't lick the plate, buddy."
Zeke, "But there is sugar all over it. I have to lick it!"

And my favorite of all...though it may more accurately be called conversations near Zeke:

Friend on the phone, "Do you have to call me back?"
Me, "No, Zeke is just being attacked by a bear."

Gardening stories (and moments 239-252)

Every time I go off of coffee, because I am pregnant, or because I think I'm going to have a heart attack and I haven't figured out it's my allergy pills yet, or because I'm not sleeping well, or just because I need to prove to myself that I can, it is so horrible that I swear I wont ever touch the stuff again.

But then every time I get back on the coffee addiction train my productivity goes up so much that I swear I will never put the stuff down again.

And I suppose that is as good an explanation as any as to why I spent a little under 5 hours on Sunday in the backyard, digging, moving large rocks, and otherwise chipping away at our spring
to-do list.
I got out the coffee press last week.

But of course that is not the whole story.

It fails to take into account that it was 50+ degrees out there. In February. In the frigid north, that is the kind of weather that cant be ignored. That is the kind of weather only caused by weather angels and I was duly elated.

It also fails to take into account the sight of crocus buds breaking thru the winter and dirt. The first hope of Spring, that season that we each of us know comes every year but all the same almost doubt will arrive.

And so I got out a shovel and tilled the garden after church while the boys napped.
And then I gathered up the fallen sticks and raked up the leaf mulch I had spread around the bushes and over the bulbs to hep protect them thru the winter, carefully scooping it away from the crocus buds.

And then as the man and boys of my family joined me, one by one, I attacked this area:
This out-of-the-way corner has never been that high on the to-do list in past years as it was just
overgrown with ivy and rogue grass. It wasn't necessarily ugly and so shaded besides that I wasn't sure what it would be fit for. Anyways we had quite a to-do list; evil rosebushes with 3 inch thorns to dig up, neglected shrubs to prune and nurse to health, a vegetable garden to plant, and weeds...oh the number of weeds I pulled that first summer!

But Sunday, filled with the excess energy of 3 cups of coffee and the sight of new growth in the yard, Sunday I decided to finally do something about that corner. And lo and behold after some pulling and digging and all-around sweating, underneath all that dirt and ivy were paving stones. I've been dreaming of a rock garden for a few years now. Since here, in fact, and I'm beginning to think this is a perfect place, and this a perfect year for each of us to take a stone upon our shoulder and build a memorial of thanks.
The best part is I wont have to fight the ivy when it tries to grow back. Which it will as the
neighbors planted it right on the other side of the chain link fence. I'll just train it to grow
around our rocks.

There are many annoyances to moving into a new house, and therefor a new yard. It takes time, and work, to make it your own. But I think I will be sad when these little surprises have run themselves out. The morning Josh looked out the window and said, "Well, it seems we have tulips." The day our crazy unidentifiable bush flowered bright red blooms which later fruited what looked like (but definitely weren't) pears. We are entering into our 3rd year in this house soon and I can't help but think I have discovered all its secrets.

Digging up that old pathway of paving stones may very well be the last.

Or at least the second to last. We still don't know what in the world that bush is.

And that is my rather long explaination of #252.

Always counting...

#239 Bright blue January skies.

#240 Sun salutations.

#241 Husband-editors.

#242 Little boys goading eachother to greater and greater silliness across the dinner table.

#243 Really big plans, and the graphs to represent them.

#244 Playing outside again- almost every day.

#245 The book of common prayer.

#246 New baby cows.

#247 The freshest possible milk.

#248 The sound of scales dutifully practiced coming up the stairs in the morning.

#249 Phone calls, just to talk.

#250 Coffee.

#251 The first growth of the year.

#252 Spring Discoveries.

What's been happening

I guess the biggest event around here lately has been that Josh decided to pick up playing guitar. I must say, watching my almost painfully math-minded husband (the joyful math and physics minor...and in his defense philosophy too but you cant have 3 minors), anyways watching my math-geek hubs think thru music in math terms is quite entertaining. It's totally legitimate and all that- just also totally not the way I think of it.

Music was always more my territory before, since Josh could read music but not much other than that. I suppose I will just have to scoot over to make room for a new outlook. I'm totally excited about him learning, though. We are that creepy family that sings together in the evenings after dinner. Seriously. It's too idyllic to be believed, I can't believe I'm even admitting it here. But since my dreams of having a piano are getting nowhere fast, a guitarist in the house could be useful.

And the best news is that his teacher is not only the best guitarist I've ever met (and I dated quite a few guitarists, having a bit of a "thing" for them) but also a man with a true heart and talent for teaching. Thanks Johnathon, you are the best.

Zeke says, "dada, I didn't know you was a rock star!"

And for his part, Zeke has been busy making valentines. All of them for rock-star dada. Sorry grandma's. I would sneak you one but Zeke made me write DADA on them to be sure I was clear about who they were for. If it makes you feel better, I am chopped liver as well.

Mal has been busy pushing Zeke around on his tricycle. We've been kind of wondering when he will figure out that this is a lame deal for him and insist on getting a ride now and then himself. So far he is thrilled every time Z yells, "Baby! I need a push!!"

For my part? Writing and rewriting essays for this event. It'd be a lot simpler if I could just decide what I'm doing, then at least I'd only be writing and rewriting one, instead of 2. I've officially gone over the line of over-thinking it. Auditions are Feb 26th and Im pretty sure my usual stage fright will be over-ridden by the joy that at least then it will be over and I can never think about this again, lol. Josh who has had to listen to all 3 of my essays in various levels of completion several times, has been more patient then an angel. My only excuse is this is the first time I've written for anything other than a blog in 3 years. I decided to audition to prove to myself that I could, but I think I may be proving myself the opposite.

Tears of Rachel

*This was the first essay among quite a few essays on motherhood I wrote, my main technique in writing always being to write as much as I possibly can for a few days and then slog thru it all later to see if any of it is worthwhile. Staying on track has always been a bit difficult for me, and this particular piece ended up a bit overtly religious for the essay's (secular) purpose, and was therefor scrapped even though it is my favorite of the bunch. But my heart has been with it the past few weeks anyways. Unwilling to let go.

I would have been due this month, had I not miscarried last June.

It's funny how the heart counts the days, even when the body has stopped.

Anyways, in honor of my child that was not.

- - - - - - -

"Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they were not." Jeremiah 31:19

The most heartbreaking thing about miscarriage, I have unfortunately been privy to find, is that no one, not even the sufferer, is ever quite sure how to phrase what, and therefor how much, was lost. Was it an embryo? Was it a baby? Was it, and this hit me like a wall of cold air, simply medical tissue? Having no words for it somehow makes it worse. Maybe that's because I am a writer, and it is thru words that I navigate this life. Clumsy. Slow. First in person and then again thru words.

When it comes to miscarriage there are correct words.

No one knows what to say, how to mourn, or how to measure your mourning when there is nothing to shroud, nothing to bury, and no rites of passage to be said. It is all too vague, neither medicine nor religion giving clear lines to follow. What has been lost? Was it a child or just the expectation of a child?

The doctors, they parse their labels out according to when exactly in development "the loss" has happened; embryo, chemical pregnancy, fetus, clinical spontaneous abortion. Their terminology has always meant little to me; their cold and technical mummering completely outside of my experience. I never got any further than "loss".

All I ever knew was that I had lost.

I was Rachel, weeping for my children that were not, refusing to be comforted. I was Martha, leaving my sister behind at the mourning house to proclaim, "Lord if thou hadst been here..." Lord, if though hadst only been here... I was Job, tearing my robe. Shaving my head. Falling down to the ground.

I know the feeling of empty arms, of an empty womb. I know the salt tears that wont stop running, and the painful knowledge that where once two hearts beat in rhythm now there was only one. I know what it means to be numb. What it means to cry in bed with my husband, wrapped around each other and lost in a sea of grief.

But I also know to keep reading. That grief is never, can never be, the whole story. I know that Job, having fallen to the ground, commenced to worship, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taketh away," he wept, "blessed be the Lord."

I know that Martha, running to meet Jesus at the city gate in her desperation to cry out, "Lord if thou hadst been here!" was not an accusation but a proclaimation of her faith. "I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give thee." she said.

And I know the same. I have made my peace with my Maker and with my fractured body. I wept but I also was soothed.

And of course I know that Rachel, the barren and weeping Rachel... eventually she was given two sons.

And then, so was I. I am the mother of two, perfectly healthy, and more than perfect sons.

But in the most secret corner of my heart. That corner where we mothers of miscarriage take our unborn dead to bury, I am the mother of five children.

Because, even though no one knows what to call it, what terminology is correct, or what it all means, five times life quickened in my womb. Only twice did I cradle a newborn babe in my arms, only twice did I feed that child of my breast, and only twice was I privledged to experience the sharp pain/joy of gradual seperation that is watching that child grow up. But five times I was a mother.

I finally put batteries in my camera

A boy-update... for certain people who "miss their granbabies".
Malachi, once having walked, almost never crawled again. He's taking great delight in the ability to carry things from room to room. So he does. Often. Rarely is any given item in the room where it logically belongs anymore. As I speak our entire collection of mac and cheese boxes (and we have quite a collection, being devoted Costco members) are on the couch, having dutifully been carried there one by one.
Right now he is busy taking all my shoes into the kitchen.
He has also discovered the joys of his tongue.
It's really quite a large one, somehow wider then his mouth, and with the ability of strange movements that I'm almost confident I can't copy. It is also rarely contained inside his mouth anymore. More often he looks like this:
Both boys have also taken great pleasure lately in touching their tongues with one another, its a game Mal invented and it will throw them into at least 15 minutes of giggling. Often even more. As this is an activity that I absolutely refuse to take part in, I'm glad at least they have each other.
This kid thinks he's hilarious. That much is certain.

Zeke, much to my amusement and even slight dismay is suddenly turning into ALL boy. We fight monsters all. day. long. We fight them to get into the kitchen, which they have blocked. We fight them for stealing our toys, which have obviously not been misplaced by were viciously a monster. We fight them before eating and before going potty and sometimes we must walk very very slowly and whisper, because they are sleeping. But monsters are notoriously light sleepers so we inevitably wake them up and must then fight them.
Then, to change the pace a bit we fight dragons instead. Or the "bad guys".

Often there is a princess involved.

When he isn't fighting, he is deeply involved in his "school work".
Here he is seen organizing different colored buttons with some pliers.

I was torn on starting preschool activities at 2, but now that its been a few months I'm happy I did it. Zeke loves his preschool shelf, and begs me to do some "school" with him almost every day. And he was ready, he identified all but 4 letters today :)
He was also camera shy this morning. Hence only being in pictures with me. I didn't mind so much.

Bow Down to the Awesomeness of my Chart

Every morning I ask Zeke if he wants to go to the library story time today; or to our mindful mama's meeting; or to preschool co-op, or what-have-you. And every morning for a week now he has said no. "I want to stay hooooome and eat yoooogurt." was his exact answer today.

And so home, for the most part, we have stayed.

It's difficult at times to remember that he is a person too, with plans for his day and moods. And both kids have seemed extra tired lately, not really wanting to do much. I try to respect their desires on how our day should go when I can, because very often I can't. We WILL go to Costco this afternoon, for example. But I'll admit, I am also getting very tired of staying home. I haven't been anywhere since church on Sunday. Pretty soon we will have to switch from respecting their needs to respecting mine.

In the meantime, I will show you what I've been doing these past home-bound days. You know, other than changing diapers and cleaning the fridge and playing hide and seek.

Is there anything more satisfying then a chart?

From left to right, or north to south as it were...

Bed 1
1 Squash hill (probably butternut)
2 Zuchinni hills

Bed 2
3x2 square feet of Carrots (probably 40-50)
2 Tomatoes (Jet Stars if we can find starts)
2 Cherry Tomatoes

Beds 3 and 4
2 rows of Green Beans (10 each) growing up
1 row of Corn (5 each)

Bed 5
2 double sided Pea trellis' (15 peas per side)
with Spinach in the shade between (7 successively planted)

Bed 6
Zeke's Strawberry Patch

The brown lines between each Bed represent my walkways. I'm going to dig them into 8 inch deep trenches for trench composting, and fill them as we go. Last year I used the end of the garden (what is now a squash bed) as a compost pile but it didn't really work out for me. Composting is apparently beyond my skill. Seriously, its not just letting stuff rot...there is an art to it. Trench composting seems much less an art and more like dumping garbage in a hole. That I can do.

It also makes me feel way less guilty about all those waste-of-space walkways. My garden is deep enough (a little over 6 feet) that I need them if I ever hope to reach the back but they still grate my nerves.

Anyways, if it works out for me I will just move the walkways every year and soon have a nice layer of compost over the whole garden, 8 inches deep.

You may also have noticed all those little flowers. They are Marigolds, Calendula's, and Cosmo's. All picked for their qualities to fend off slugs and dogs, attract pollinators, and feed nasty bugs that would otherwise eat my veggies. They are my guard-flowers, if you will.

Below you can see our Potatoes will be growing in a trash can. The raspberry bush that I want (and Josh needs to remove a different bush to make room for) is also represented, even though I doubt we will get around to it in time. It would need to be planted in March. And then there is Zeke's sunflower house that I'm hoping to put in his digging area. If I can keep him from digging them up.

I also made an at-a-glance chart with all of my amounts to plant alongside the various planting dates, and another more in detail month-by-month To Do list, including planting garlic (and also something else...I don't want 6x25 feet of garlic) in the fall as a winter crop to enrich the soil.

Now I just have to wait a few months to start....

In all honesty I'm glad I did it all, though. I looked at the calender the other day to check the dates for Easter and remembered that we have a really really late Easter this year (April 24th). So late in fact that almost my entire usual-garden-planning time will be smack in the middle of Lent, which would have left me little time to read all the gardening books and blogs I have been. So late even that the bunny wont be able to give the boys all the garden seeds, as the spinach, peas, potatoes, marigolds and maybe even the carrots will be in the ground by then.

Oh well, they can get the sunflower seeds ;)

Garden Dreams

We had unseasonably warm weather last week. It threw us for a loop and several times, in fact, either I or Josh have talked about Spring as if it was just around the corner- despite the fact that it is in fact still 2 months away. And even though today has been a much more average 20 degrees, it was still blue skies. So inside the heated house I was still thinking Spring; contemplating making pom pom flowers for my sometimes empty vase, spying eagerly out the window in search of a crocus bud, wondering what clothes await me in Mal's size in storage, and for that matter what size he will be, and how many things I had in 3T last year, I think Zeke was still mostly a 2, and what I will have to purchase to get us thru.

And I just couldn't resist it. I got out my household planner and I started planning out our garden.

I've decided on repeating last years' Peas, Spinach, Green Beans, and Tomatoes, throwing out the Peppers (which were too spicy for my boys' tastes) and the Lettuce (because it ended up really soft with no crunch, I don't know why), and adding Carrots, and Potatoes, and some sort of Squash...maybe a butternut or an acorn? Oh yes, and Zeke will be in charge of the Strawberries again, and adding Sunflowers to his domain. We might make them into a Sunflower house like this, I haven't decided.

So now I am looking up all my old gardening posts, and googling companionate planting, and searching for growing tips. Last year my basic plan was- throw as much compost as I could afford down (it wasn't much), stick in the seeds, and wait. It worked out great but I think this year I want to develop a real plan and grow my knowledge base a bit.

Gardeners out there, any favorite books, blogs, or sites? Want to send me your garden plan so I can shamelessly copy it?

I've got 4 months to overthink this.