Sweetheart

My daughter and I were leaving New Seasons, the grocery near our house. My angel trailed behind me chatting up everyone she saw. She is such a sparkly little person. A fellow was getting into the car next to mine. She told him she just “loved” his hat, it was so “beautiful,” then she turned on her million dollar smile and waved.

He was enchanted. His face lit up in a smile. He turned to me and said, “Your daughter is a sweetheart. She is just a total sweetheart.” Then he said, “You must be a sweetheart too, to have a sweetheart like her.” Well, that just warmed my heart. I’m truly blessed. I get to have this sweetheart in my life. She does make me sweeter. I’m grateful for her every day.

Isabel’s Thought for the Morning

This morning I was wiping down the kitchen counters, picking up clutter, moving here and there. Isabel was sitting at the dining table eating her cereal. She turned to me and said, “Maybe our dreams are real life, and real life is our dream.” Yes, Isabel. I’ve considered that myself. I love living with a five year old. They get you out of the space of business as usual and remind you of imaginative possibilities.

Generational Differences

This essay was published on Huffington Post, and can be seen here.

When I was a child, we played outside, rode bikes without helmets, we rode in cars without booster seats, and our parents didn’t organize and supervise play dates.

This is a popular meme making the rounds on social media. It’s usually accompanied by a photo of some kid jumping something enormous on a Big Wheel with no helmet, hair flying maniacally, face full of joy. The implication of course is that today’s children are too coddled. The Atlantic just did a big article on this subject (See here). The article was good. It focused on helicopter parents and people who won’t let their children do anything with risk.

But I think it’s a mistake to revere the way things used to be. When I was a child…keep reading by clicking here.

That’s so Gross, Mom

This is how conversations go in our house:

My oldest daughter was singing “Can’t go to bed ’til you’re legally wed, you can’t you’re Sandra DEE!” I said, “You can’t even go to bed after your legally wed. Just don’t go to bed at all. Or wait. You can go to bed after you’ve been wed for ten years.”

“That’s so gross, Mom.”

Then I amended and told her seriously, “Aw well, someday you’ll go to bed. Just don’t do it too soon, and don’t do it with too many people, and use protection.”

“That’s so gross, Mom.”

Then I said, “If you’re with a guy and he says he wants to have sex and you don’t want to have sex, and he says not having sex will cause his penis to shrivel up and fall off, or his testicles will explode, don’t believe it.”

“Wow, Mom. No one would say that. That’s so gross.”

“No. It’s true. It’s been said. But don’t believe it because it’s a lie.” I said this with assurance, just in case she was thinking of believing some lie about a shriveled up man part.

“It sounds fake. I would never believe anything as stupid as that.”

Good thing, daughter of mine.

The Bratty Puppy

Tonight my daughter, while studying for finals this week, was cuddling in her bed with George the puppy, work splayed out about her. George was under the covers sound asleep. Milla needed to go to the bathroom. She rose, set her papers aside, went upstairs and used the facilities, after which she returned to her room.

On the surface, it appeared nothing had changed. However, when she sat down, she could not locate her algebra study sheet anywhere. Finally, after searching futilely for several minutes, she discovered the sheet shredded under her bed cover, George snoozing soundly next to it.

For real. The dog ate her homework. I saw the shreds. He got up while she was gone for three minutes, shredded the damn thing, then curled up and went back to sleep.

Remarkable.

Winged Gods and Goddesses

I published a story on Huffington Post. It can be found here.

Winged Gods and Goddesses
Little girls and horses. I think part of why girls fall in love with horses is to have someone big on their side, someone on whom they can fly. I fell in love with horses before I had a logical brain, then they just lodged there, between the myelin bulges. Later when I actually acquired a horse, they were my escape from a reality that was less than. Horses were my winged gods and goddesses, flying on four legs. I was naive, silly, and fearful, but with a horse I could forget all that and imagine anything. And I did.

Before a real horse actually came to live with me…click here to continue reading.

Lead Me From the River of Woe

If we wish to turn away from that which torments us, do we also turn away from that which inspires us?

I am concluding that some of our deepest compassion comes from our deepest suffering, yet we must survive the desolation in order to make it through to compassion, and sometimes this can feel impossible.

Some days, in order to turn away from the shadows, I bask in the simple light of my little girl. I’m like a fucking Hallmark greeting card. She glows and I glow in return. She radiates divinity. It is impossible to remain in dark places when my focus is on her.

Do I lose artistry in leaving the banks of Acheron to turn toward my Venusian angel?

Maldives Girl to Get 100 Lashes for Pre-Marital Rape

This story is simply horrifying. We have got to rebalance the imbalance between the masculine and feminine in this world.

See this story here.

Maldives girl to get 100 lashes for pre-marital sex

By Olivia Lang
BBC News

A 15-year-old rape victim has been sentenced to 100 lashes for engaging in premarital sex, court officials said.

The charges against the girl were brought against her last year after police investigated accusations that her stepfather had raped her and killed their baby. He is still to face trial.

Prosecutors said her conviction did not relate to the rape case.

Amnesty International condemned the punishment as “cruel, degrading and inhumane”.

The government said it did not agree with the punishment and that it would look into changing the law.

Baby death

Zaima Nasheed, a spokesperson for the juvenile court, said the girl was also ordered to remain under house arrest at a children’s home for eight months.

She defended the punishment, saying the girl had willingly committed an act outside of the law.

Officials said she would receive the punishment when she turns 18, unless she requested it earlier.

The case was sent for prosecution after police were called to investigate a dead baby buried on the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, in the north of the country.

Her stepfather was accused of raping her and impregnating her before killing the baby. The girl’s mother also faces charges for failing to report the abuse to the authorities.

The legal system of the Maldives, an Islamic archipelago with a population of some 400,000, has elements of Islamic law (Sharia) as well as English common law.

Ahmed Faiz, a researcher with Amnesty International, said flogging was “cruel, degrading and inhumane” and urged the authorities to abolish it.

“We are very surprised that the government is not doing anything to stop this punishment – to remove it altogether from the statute books.”

“This is not the only case. It is happening frequently – only last month there was another girl who was sexually abused and sentenced to lashes.”

He said he did not know when the punishment was last carried out as people were not willing to discuss it openly.

Beets Turn Urine Pink

I don’t love beets. I love most vegetables, including many that others don’t generally like, but not beets. It is because of this that I have not eaten many beets in my life and I did not know that eating beets could turn one’s urine pink or red. I had no clue. Last Friday, when my 3 year old went potty and her poop and pee was red, I assumed she had blood in her stool, freaked, and called her doctor. The advice nurse asked a bunch of questions, but not whether she had eaten beets, and then said I should take her to urgent care the next morning (this was because it was after hours on Friday).

Four hours later, my daughter went potty again. This time she only peed and it was red. Further freaking, as this meant the redness came from pee and not poop, and could thus be related to kidneys and whatnot. Again a call. This time, advice nurse advised we go to urgent care that night. As it was 9:30, the only urgent care in our network was a half hour drive away. Yowza.

We all bundled into the car (we all being me, Milla, and Isabel) and headed out to the middle of nowhere to sit in a waiting room. We were finally escorted back and Isabel was urged to pee. She could not. They gave her apple juice. She peed. They tested it. No more pink and no issues. They could not find anything. Finally, someone asked if she had eaten beets. Well, I did not know. She had been to preschool earlier in the day. Although they were not normally on the Friday, perhaps she had eaten beets. The doctor sent us home with 2 prescriptions for bottom cream and a directive to go to our primary doctor as soon as possible during the regular week.

The next morning I called her preschool and left a message asking if she had eaten beets. We were not able to get into the doctor until Wednesday. In the meantime, no more pink pee and preschool did not return my call (she told me later while apologizing for not calling back that she rarely checks her home line messages–oops!). On Wednesday, while waiting for our dear doctor, I decided to call preschool again, this time the owner’s mobile phone. Lo and behold, it turned out that my darling daughter had indeed eaten beets.

In case you didn’t know it, eating beets turns one’s pee and poop pink or red. This is my public service announcement for the day (or maybe it is a pubic service announcement, but that is a really bad pun).

Autumn — Chapter 9

Read Autumn — Chapter 8

Despite the fact that Dan and I had spent almost two years in couples counseling, the combination of marrying young and living with family had taken its toll on our marriage. As is often the case, there was also a strain between my desire to start a family and Dan’s desire to wait. As his final year at the university wound down, we decided our marriage was over.

We had moved from the apartment to a tiny little house with a small yard, a minuscule garden, and a park nearby for the dogs to run and play. Dan moved out of this little house and back into his parent’s, but would visit with Autumn every so often. He had been offered a job in California, and I think he knew that after he left, he might not see her again.

I remained in Corvallis with Autumn after Dan moved away. Over the next year, I dated a few different men, and eventually met another man named Bjorn. Without intending to quite so soon, our relationship became much more serious than we intended when I discovered I was pregnant. While I was concerned about an impending pregnancy with a man I had only known a few short months, I was also delighted. I had wanted a baby with Dan, but he had not wanted to start a family while he was still in college. Bjorn had two years left before graduation, but when I informed him I was pregnant, he was as excited as I was.

How does one explain circumstances about which one is certain to be judged by a segment of the population? I wasn’t as circumspect as I could have been. I certainly could have made choices that to some would have seemed wiser. Yet I have no regrets; once the seed of my child was planted, I would not have changed a thing that could have arrived at a different result. I knew three months into the pregnancy that I would have ended the relationship with Bjorn sooner rather than later – we were completely incompatible in many ways. But after my baby was born, and even before when she was a minuscule mass of cells clinging to the inside of my body, there was no way I could imagine my life without her.

The months I was pregnant were emotional, both up and down. In retrospect, I realized I was mourning the loss of my marriage and the friendship I had carried for over seven years, while I was simultaneously intoxicated with the joy of expecting a new baby. It was a paradoxical place.

Prior to my pregnancy and after Autumn had decided she was no longer interested in going for runs with me, I would take Molly running or roller-blading, then take both dogs to the park near my house to run and play. When the weather was warm, I would take Autumn swimming. She was extremely healthy. After having spent several years swimming in the summers, she no longer displayed any signs of hip dysplasia. She was quite active, and though not as lithe as Molly, she was definitely athletic and capable. After I became pregnant, I stayed active, walking both dogs, roller-blading and running with Molly for as long as the pregnancy would allow, and riding horses well into my sixth month. The dogs enjoyed the exercise. As the year wore down from fall to winter, we all settled in, expectant and waiting for the enormous change due in spring.

Both of the dogs were big shedders. In spite of the fact that I vacuumed at least every three days, there were always puffles of fur in the corners, under the furniture, and in my bedding. I would joke that I could collect this fur and make a pillow out of it, there was so much.

Bjorn and I had moved into an apartment together. The little house I lived in first with Dan, then by myself was simply too small for our family. As the time grew nearer for our baby to arrive, I began nesting in earnest, cleaning and vacuuming. As my due date loomed, I became nearly frantic with the desire to move about, wishing I could run or ride my bike as I had before the pregnancy.

I awakened the first morning of May and wanted to get out of the house, in spite of the fact that I had expanded beyond any notion of comfort. I had heard that walking could help bring on labor so I was headed out. I grabbed my purse, keys, and the dogs and jumped into the car, Bjorn trailing. The local kennel club was sponsoring a pet day fair. At the fair, hawkers sold kerchiefs, dog toys, leashes, and other assorted canine goods. We wandered for a couple of hours, until my hips could no longer tolerate my weight and the heat. It was a warm day for early spring.

We spent the rest of the day out and about, doing our best to encourage baby’s arrival. It must have worked, because shortly before midnight, my contractions began and increased. At 12:24 p.m. on May 2, 1999, Milla Elina was born.

The two of us had arranged with my best friend Debbie and her husband Robert to take care of our dogs while I was in the hospital having the baby. They were parents to a kitty named Misty and completely understood the relationship I had with my dogs – as far as we all were concerned, the dogs were surrogate children and could not be left to fend for themselves for two or three days.

In spite of the love I felt for Autumn and Molly, I was unprepared for the tsunami level of emotion I felt toward my infant daughter. It was all consuming. I suppose this connection is nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the species. I was in such love, such infatuation, such complete adoration for my child, I could not understand why everyone wasn’t having babies. I walked around for weeks staring at everyone thinking, “You were someone’s baby! Someone loved you like this!” Only later as the hormones wore off did I understand intellectually that some people never feel like I did, but I could never understand it in my heart. I loved my child with my whole body, mind, and spirit.

When I came home from the hospital after giving birth to Milla, Autumn kept trying to get up in my lap, to get near me, but I was afraid she would hurt the baby. I had sworn before giving birth that I would not become one of those people whose dogs disappeared into the background, forgotten and forlorn, but during the first few days home, I did just that. Once we were used to having the baby around and had settled into a routine, I shifted back and Autumn became part of my attention circle again, but I’m sure the first couple of weeks were very hard for her. I imagine in some ways this is how it is for older children when a new baby is born, especially when they are very close together in age. There were fifteen months between my sister and me, and when Milla was fifteen months old, I could not fathom bringing home another infant. She was still very much a baby. People do it, but it must be hard.

Bjorn and I decided that Milla would sleep with us. We bought a pillow with a curve in it and placed her between us on the queen bed. Those first nights were difficult, mainly because little Milla kept getting dog hair in her nose, making it hard for her to breathe. In spite of all my cleaning, there were still dog hairs in the bed, and they would stick to Milla’s little nostrils, causing her to sneeze and cry. I had thought we could manage allowing the dogs to sleep on the floor next to the bed, but that first night they kept trying to get on the bed and get near me. Bjorn would yell and shove them hard onto the floor.

It pains me now to know that I did not do more to stop him. I felt so exhausted and physically worn out. It breaks my heart that I let him treat both of my dogs that way and especially Autumn. I can only imagine what it must have been like for her. She had lived with me her entire life, nearly six years, and this man who had arrived less than a year previously yelled at her and often hit her and at first I stood by and let it happen, too spent to do anything about it. And here was this new baby, taking all my attention, and causing her more grief. It’s not something I can really reconcile in my mind; I wish I had done more for her, prepared better, done something different, but I did not. Thinking of it still gives me a hard spot in the pit of my stomach.

After the first night, I decided to thoroughly clean and vacuum the bedroom. There was so much dog hair, even though I vacuumed nearly daily. It was in the crevices along the wall, behind the bed, in the covers, under the sheets. I took the bed apart completely, unmoored it from its frame, and vacuumed everything from the mattresses, to the carpets, to the window sills. I washed the sheets and bedding, and dusted all the floorboards.

Once the bed was rebuilt, remade, and the room completely hair free, I put up two baby gates in the hall between the bedroom door and the rest of the house. The dogs hovered around the outside gate, wanting in, whining and moaning. I have a photograph from that time, of the two dogs lying out there with pained expressions on their faces, wishing and hoping that they could come back to bed with me.

Keeping the dogs out of the bed made sleeping much easier for the humans, and much more difficult for the dogs. Autumn had never been ostracized before. It was terrible for her. She began to act seriously depressed. I was so involved with the baby, I did not have the energy to give to her, and her heart was broken. She kept trying to get close to me and I kept pushing her away because I did not want her to hurt Milla.

I would sit on the couch trying to nurse (something that was not going well) and Autumn would attempt to jump up next to me. I would halfheartedly tell her to get down, then Bjorn would yell at her. I eventually succumbed and allowed Autumn to lie next to me on the couch while Milla suckled. She curled into a little ball and snuggled as close as she could get. What kind of person had I turned into that I let this happen? My only pathetic excuse was new parenthood and all the that goes with it.

We did eventually get into the groove of parenting. Milla grew and after only a couple of months, the dogs were allowed back in the bedroom and back in our bed. It made for crowded sleeping, but everyone was more content.

Read Autumn — Chapter 10

Autumn — Chapter 8

Read Autumn — Chapter 7

Life moved on. We settled into our routines; I would drive to Eugene five days a week, while Dan drove into Corvallis. I was further along in school and was able to take fewer classes, so I took a part-time job in the evenings at a video store. I was also a member of the university equestrian team, and would travel to horse shows in California every few weeks. Dan was a sports official, so depending which sport was going during whatever season we were in, he would often be out officiating games. Autumn spent most of her time with me, although occasionally I left her home as well.

Basically, as a newly married couple, the two of us were not spending a whole lot of time together. We also experienced tension living with Dan’s parents. Dan often felt conflicted between my expectations for the marriage, and the expectations of his parents. I often felt like his parents treated him like a child even though he was a grown and married man. Dan, stuck in the middle, would often just leave the house and not return until late.

After nearly two years and many tense arguments, I finally realized that we needed to find our own place to live. I was graduating, and we decided it would be easier for us if we lived in Corvallis near OSU where Dan went to school. He was studying engineering and living near the university would give Dan easier access to study groups and the library.

Since I was the more particular of the two of us, I searched for an apartment we could afford that wasn’t too close to the parties and college nightlife. Neither of us were into that and Dan needed somewhere he could study. We also required a yard or patio so Autumn could go out.

We finally located a place not too far from campus and moved there in late spring of 1996. When we announced to Dan’s parents that we were moving, I think they were as relieved as we were. They wanted to do some more work on their basement, and convert the apartment area into a rec room for themselves. Overall, it was the best move for everyone. Dan and I had started marriage counseling and the counselor also supported the move.

The new apartment was located near some hills and a park. Every morning I would rise and go for a run, winding up through the hills, taking Autumn with me. I also took her swimming in a number of creeks nearby when the weather was tolerable. The running helped her to maintain the muscle development when she wasn’t able to swim. As long as she was exercising, she did not have any soreness in her back end.

Rain was heavy one morning as I set out on my run, my sneakers slapping the wet pavement, spraying my socks and legs. Autumn had never minded the rain, but on this particular morning, she was hesitant and lagging behind. Wanting to finish the run quickly and get out of the weather, I pulled her along. Finally, she just stopped, causing me to nearly trip and fall. I turned to look at her thinking maybe she needed to go potty, but she just stood there, drenched and looking forlorn.

“Autumn, what is going on?” I asked, shouting over the loud water falling around us. She just stood there, sides heaving, as if the effort of it all was too much to bear in the downpour.

“Okay. If you want to go back, let’s go back,” I said, realizing that the run was over and turned back toward the apartment. She followed me easily once she knew we were headed home.

The following day after pulling on my running clothes and shoes, I headed outside to run. It was still raining. I tried anyway to take Autumn with me, but she would not budge beyond our front patio. I took her inside and she curled up under the covers with Dan who was still slumbering. Oh well. I figured when the rain abated, I would take her with me again.

But something had changed in her. She never wanted to go running with me again. I don’t know if it was the weather, or if her hips bothered her or what. She had not been acting sore, but for the rest of her life, I could take her for walks, but I was never able to take her for a run with me again.

Shortly after moving into our new apartment, I started working full time at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Dan had another year to complete at the university, and Autumn had to be left home every day by herself. I would eat lunch at the apartment, but I worried she might be lonely all day, although she never developed any of the habits dogs often exhibit when they are unhappy at being left by themselves. In spite of the fact that she seemed to be tolerating the time by herself just fine, I began to think that maybe we should get another dog. It wasn’t that one I day I decided absolutely that we would do so. It was more a vague sense that if the right dog came along, getting one would be helpful.

Even before I considered adding a dog to our family, I was always one to troll the humane society or other shelters. I liked visiting the homeless pets, petting them, giving them treats. I had been donating money to the humane society for years and fully supported animal adoption. I considered myself an ideal owner; any animal that lived with me would be a full member of the family, receive top of the line care, and lots of love.

One Sunday in December 1996, I drove up to Salem to visit the humane society there. It was the biggest animal shelter in our part of the state, and I loved the idea of browsing through all the animals. I was not sure what kind of a dog I wanted, but I knew I did not want a brand new puppy, and also that I wanted a female.

As I entered the lobby at the humane society, I could see through a window in the door into the kennels where the dogs were housed. I waited my turn, then checked in at the desk in the main lobby. They explained their procedures – if I was interested in a dog I should note the number on the kennel, then return to the front desk where they would set me up in a room to meet the animal.

I entered the kennel. The door and walls between the kennel and the lobby must have been built well because while the lobby had been fairly quiet, the kennels were bedlam. The floors and walls were cement, which caused the barks to echo and flow around my ears and head. There were rows and rows of kennels, and all of them were filled with dogs. Each kennel was surrounded on three sides by grey brick walls with a chain link gate in the front.

I wandered up and down the aisles, looking into the kennels. There were so many dogs to choose from. There were lots of brand new puppies, and most of them had signs on their cages indicating they were already adopted. Some of the dogs stood patiently at the gates, others stayed on their blanket at the back, others jumped and pawed at the chain link, barking and hollering. Because it was a Sunday, there were many potential doggie parents milling about looking for dogs.

I stopped at a few cages. Every dog seemed sweet. I read later that the society handled them to ensure they were well socialized before adopting them out. I wandered up and down the aisles, occasionally stopping to pet one and say hello. One dog in particular caught my eye.  She was about the same size as Autumn, but mostly black, almost like Autumn’s photo negative. Where Autumn was brown, this dog was black. Where Autumn’s points and eyebrows were dark brown, this dog’s were beige. She sat quietly in front of the fence. I went over and started to pet her. She looked at the floor, but leaned into the fence of the kennel so I could pet her ears. She was extremely thin, so thin I could count all of her ribs and see her hip bones.

This dog had curved front paws. There was no obvious bend like an L. Rather, her paws simply curved like the bottom of a U.  Later when Autumn contracted diabetes and her body began to gradually starve, her paws began to curve too and I learned that curved paws were caused by muscle degeneration due to starvation. However, that day in the humane society I did not know that the reason this dog’s paws were curved was because she had been starving. The sign on her kennel read QUEENIE. Her breed was listed as a Doberman mix.  I did not believe her to be a Doberman.  Her colors might have been vaguely reminiscent, but nothing else about her resembled that breed.

I pet her for a bit, then moved on to look around some more. I would wander up and down the aisles then return to the kennel with Queenie. Other visitors would stop at various kennels, but no one else stopped at Queenie’s. I kept going back. She would look up at me, then look at the floor, then look back up at me. I decided to take her number to the front desk for a visit.

I was allowed to take Queenie out into a back yard to walk her around and to spend time visiting to see whether she would be a good match in our home. She was thoroughly unobtrusive and mild.  She sat next to me and walked quietly beside me as we strolled through the yard. I asked her if she wanted to live with me.  She just looked at me, then looked away, then looked back again at me. The way she would shyly glance up, then look away, then up again won my heart. I decided right then that this was the dog I wanted to take home.

The workers at the humane society told me that Queenie had been found wandering the streets of Salem three weeks prior. The day I chose her, she was extremely thin.  I could count each of her ribs and she had those curved paws I did not know signified atrophied muscles from malnourishment.  If she was in this shape after three weeks, I can only imagine how thin she had been upon arrival.

Prior to that day, Autumn had lived with us as our child. She slept in our bed. She ate the best dog food. She received top of the line vet care.  She was a priority in our lives. I cannot imagine an animal more loved and cared for. Yet the humane society in Salem would not let me adopt Queenie because the house we lived in was rented and did not have a fence. Also even if our house had met the required standards, Dan and Autumn would have had to come in to meet her before we could take her home.  Even though I had owned another dog and cared for her in that house for over a year, the people there determined it was not good enough. No wonder so many animals can’t find homes. If someone like me could not adopt a dog, I did not see how anyone could.

I hugged Queenie and left the facility completely dejected. I wanted her. I knew she would fit well with our little family. I had to find a way to bring her home.

Knowing the criteria that had kept me from adopting Queenie, I set out to find a friend who would “kidnap” her for me.  I had no qualms about the fraud I intended to perpetrate.  The shelter she was at was not a no-kill shelter.  I could not bear the thought that someone might never adopt her and she would be euthanized.  She was such a gentle, sweet creature.

I ran through a list of possible co-conspirators, and at first I came up blank.  My first thought was Dan, but I had listed him on the application form.  If there were any way to cross reference our names, he would be found.  His name was quite unusual.

I considered my friends Lily and Janae, but they were both students and there was no way they could adopt.  Both of them lived in dorms.

While I was mulling it over, fortuitously, my phone rang.  It was my uncle, John.  My mother had been the oldest of five brothers and a sister.  John was four years her junior and while he shared common facial features, the similarities stopped there.  Where my mom was short and petite, my uncle was tall and broad-shouldered.  He used to be a body-builder and it showed.  John also had been injured in an accident and had lost an eye.  Because of this he always wore mirrored, aviator sun-glasses. When my sister and I were little, we loved looking at John’s one glass eye.  He would tell us stories about taking it out and scaring people with it.  Simultaneously titillated and terrified, we would scream, then beg for him to tell us more.  I think he loved delighting us with his tales.

John had recently moved nearby and was calling me to ask me something about my mom.  I answered his question, then told him about Queenie, and that I was looking for someone who could go in and adopt her for me.

“I could do it.  If you pay me the adoption fee, I’ll make up some story and go in and get her for you.”  John was actually the perfect choice.  He felt the same way about dogs as I did.  Sadly, he had recently lost his own little blue shepherd after she was hit by a car.  He would be happy to help me adopt Queenie.

Elated, I relayed all the details that had derailed my own adoption, including the lack of fence, renting, and that I would have had to bring Autumn back in to visit.  I was never concerned about that requirement, I was simply suffering from a bad case of instant gratification, and I had no desire to drive the thirty-five miles one-way to Corvallis, then back to Salem the following day if I could help it.

“I’ve got it,” he told me.  “I will go there right now and try to get her for you.” I was so pleased! Perhaps Queenie would be coming home with me after all.

I drove home to Corvallis, keeping the phone nearby for the rest of the afternoon.  I waited and waited for him to call me.  I took Autumn for a walk and cleaned the house.  Dan arrived home from class and I told him what was going on.  He was skeptical, but figured it would all work out.  We were scheduled to eat dinner at his parent’s that evening, and late in the afternoon, we drove over there

During the drive, John called to inform me that he had Queenie and wanted to know where we should meet.  I gave him directions to a park near Dan’s parent’s house. I had thought it best if Autumn met Queenie at a neutral location so neither dog would feel threatened, Autumn by the interloper, and Queenie by the top dog who had been in place long before her arrival. We did not want to do anything to further traumatize Molly, or to unnecessarily upset Autumn.

After I hung up the phone, I clapped my hands in joy.  Queenie was ours!

When John arrived at the park, I climbed out of the car with Autumn.  John handed me Queenie’s leash and Dan held Autumn. We let Autumn go because we knew she would come if we called her.  The two dogs sniffed one another all over. Then Queenie laid down, snuffling her nose in the grass while Autumn ran off to find a stick.

“That was uneventful,” I said to Dan, smiling.

“It’s a good thing,” he informed me. “What would we have done if they hadn’t liked each other?”

“I knew they would be fine when I met Queenie,” I told him. “She has a very unassuming personality.  They might not be the best of friends, but they are neither one the sort to fight.”

The story my uncle had told the humane society in order to secure the adoption was convoluted and long. He had gone back and visited Queenie, then came back and asked to fill out an adoption application. During the meeting, he told them he owned his own house with a fenced yard. He said he had a motherless little boy who wanted a dog.  As expected, he was informed that he could not take the dog until the little boy had visited.  He countered with the creation of a sob story whereby the two had owned a dog since before his boy was born, that this dog had recently died, and that after the death of his mother, the loss of the dog was devastating. His little boy was desperately sad and missed this dog more than anything. Queenie looked like that dog and he wanted to surprise his little boy.

“I even cried a little,” he told us.

They couldn’t resist his tears.  Thankfully, the humane society people did not question why a motherless child was not with his father and accepted his story, allowing John to make the adoption.  There was something comical about this enormous man crying just so he could adopt Queenie for me.

The month was January and the air frigid, plus John needed to get home for the evening.  I thanked him profusely and gave him a hug.  I also reimbursed him for the cost of the adoption.  Since the two dogs were so nonplussed by one another, we called the dogs and helped them into our car, then headed over to Dan’s parent’s house as John drove off.

That evening as we sat at the dinner table, Queenie lay under the table near my feet.  Murphee had been as disinterested in her as Autumn.  Both of these two were more concerned with waiting to see if any of us inadvertently dropped some food from the table as we ate our dinner.

As we sat there, Dan’s mom stated that Queenie did not look like a Queenie.

“You should change her name,” she informed me.

“No kidding,” I agreed.  “Queenie is a pointy name.  This dog isn’t pointy, she’s sweet. I knew the second I saw that sign that if I adopted her, that name would go.  It doesn’t suit her at all.”

“I think you should call her Molly,” said Dan’s mom.

“That name certainly seems to fit her,” I agreed again.  “She really does look like a sweet Molly girl.

“Molly,” I said to her.  “Do you want to be called Molly?” she just lay there sniffing the air, noticing the food for the first time.

As part of the agreement to adopt, I had to pay the humane society a rather large fee. It was claimed that most of the fee was to pay for a certificate to spay Molly.  The humane society where she was adopted was in Marion County. Before our adoption fell through, I had been assured that I could use the certificate at a vet in Benton, the county where I lived.

A few days after Molly came home, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Fletcher to have her spayed. However, his receptionist informed me that unfortunately, the certificates for spaying were not good in our county.  Even though I loved Dr. Fletcher, I thought I should at least get to use the certificates, so I called around to some other vets and was given the same story, the certificates could not be used.  Because I was not going to get to use the certificate anyway, I scheduled the appointment with Dr. Fletcher. He decided he would honor the certificate even though he would not be reimbursed for the work by the humane society. Basically he would be performing the operation for nothing.

Two days later I took Molly in to be spayed. She held her head low, afraid of the vet’s office, but went along willingly.  That was Molly. There were many situations where she was afraid, but she would trust me and go along if I was there. She was like this her entire life.

A couple of hours after dropping Molly off, I received a phone call from Dr. Fletcher’s office letting me know her surgery was complete.  When I arrived at the office, Dr. Fletcher came out to talk to me. It turned out that when he opened Molly’s abdomen, she had already been spayed. He sewed her back up and called me to come and bring her home. He said because the humane society told me she needed to be spayed, it had not occurred to him to question it before performing the surgery.

As I stated before, prior to this I made all of my charitable donations to the humane society.  I wanted to help the organization so it could help animals.  However, after my experience trying to adopt Molly, after the experience with the spaying certificate I was told would work and then did not, and finally the fact they hadn’t even realized she was already spayed and making her undergo an unnecessary procedure, I stopped donating to them.  It has been my unfortunate experience, then and since, that there are many people who work in the animal adoption industry who seem to have the attitude that they are the only people good enough to care for animals. I absolutely understand and support taking steps to keep animals out of bad homes or laboratories.  Yet when organizations that claim their purposes are to serve animals, to keep them from being euthanized, and to find them decent homes, they should not make it impossible for a good owner to adopt a pet. Unfortunately, because of the holier than thou attitude at some facilities, this is exactly what happens.

When she first came to live with us, Molly was skittish, but she loved me and trusted me right away. From the beginning Molly knew certain words and was terrified of them.  Her entire life if I said “vacuum” she would go and hide. In the early days, she was genuinely frightened. In later years she would go and sit on the back porch or in the closet when the vacuum came out. She could not stand the thing. She also knew cuss words and would go and hide even if they were spoken in a sentence full of other words. For instance, I could say I’m going to go and dump the damn garbage and she would go hide. It was like a parlor trick, her knowledge of naughty words. I often wondered what happened to her in her early days to instill such a fear.

Molly loved sleeping on the bed, but years after this, once I owned three dogs and a cat, and had a child, we decided that the bed was too crowded so the dogs were relegated to beds on the floor.  Every so often, Molly would slip quietly onto the bed and lie there as still as possible hoping I would not boot her to the floor. Most times I let her stay; she was not obtrusive.

Dr. Fletcher, examined Molly’s teeth very closely the month I brought her home and told me he was 95% certain she was just under two and a half years old. This would have put her birth around September 1994.  A lot could happen in that time and I will never know what.  In addition to her fear of cuss words and vacuums, she was terrified of loud men, arguments of any kind, and she knew sit, stay, and come. It was obvious she had lived with someone, but who knows what her life was like exactly. She did not like being in trouble, and her perception of trouble had a higher threshold than most of us.

During Autumn’s last years, Autumn would get into the trash and try to eat things she wasn’t allowed to because of her illness.  I would come home to Autumn wagging her tail and Molly sitting in the corner hiding. Simply based on Molly’s body language, I knew Autumn had done something naughty. I know some animal behaviorists would say that Molly was reacting to my reaction, that she had no way to know Autumn had done something wrong, but this explanation does not satisfy. Molly would be reacting to Autumn’s behavior before I even knew what had happened, so there was no way for me to react to it. Molly just knew, garbage spread around meant I would be irritated.

Molly was also extremely fastidious. She would hold potty for hours and hours rather than go in the house.  A few years after she came to live with us, we lived in a 1930’s farmhouse with a full basement. There was no door on that basement so we put a gate at the top of the stairs. The top of the stairs opened onto an enclosed back porch.  When we were gone, we would leave the dogs on this back porch.

One day I came home to discover Molly on the top stair to the basement. “How did you get over the gate?” I asked her. She wagged her tail.  I went down into the basement to discover Molly had gone potty in the farthest corner of the basement. Rather than potty on the back porch Molly had jumped over the gate landing on stairs and gone down and as far away as possible to do it. That’s how she was.

Autumn was not thrilled by the interloper, especially considering I had been her person for the four years comprising her entire life. However, she grudgingly accepted Molly into the pack once she determined she was not going anywhere. For the rest of their lives the two basically ignored each other.  Later when we adopted Poppy, Autumn and Poppy became good friends, and later after that, Autumn and Edna seemed to like one another as well. But Autumn and Molly never did.  They acted like the other did not exist. About once a year they would get into a nasty quarrel and one or the other of the two would end up with a bloody bite. I may have found Autumn a companion in Molly so that she would not be lonely during the day, but my objective in finding her a friend failed wholeheartedly.

Read Autumn — Chapter 9

I’m a Funnel Web

I don’t text and drive because if I died, the tenuous little family I have would splinter apart and lose not just me, but one another. There is nothing here holding us together except me. Here is how my funeral would be: my small number of friends (who aren’t friends with each other so who knows how some of them would even find out), my parents, and my sister’s family. There would be no looming aunts or uncles or cousins who would pull my daughters aside and tell them to hold on to each other because they are all the other has anymore. The consequence of being an immoral and wanton woman who has not had a traditional family for herself (not because it isn’t what I wanted, but because I made choices in partners that were not the best for me), is that I have two children from two fathers — GASP! Say it isn’t so! Yes, I’m afraid it is. One of their fathers lives three states away with his new wife. The other lives here in Portland alone in a basement studio apartment. The older would ship off to Arizona; the younger would remain. They would not see one another. I highly doubt my family would make much effort to see them more than once a year, if that. The phone calls to them would dwindle. Over the years they would lose touch with my family (but my family doesn’t know me anyway, so I don’t know that they would be losing much there). Really, the only way the younger would even know her mother would be through the older and the older would be far away, living her teenage life, probably nursing her grief, but it would fade and soon they would have their own singular lives. There was a mother, but there isn’t any more.

I am tenuous. If I were a web, I’d be the small one in the corner, or even in a funnel. I would not be one of those magnificent orbs connected to 30 flowers and grasses in the meadow. I have thought of this over and over and over. I really first thought of it a few years ago when the son of a woman I know died. There were hundreds of people at his funeral. I’m not exaggerating. I realized then that I would never have hundreds of people at my funeral. I am not gregarious or extroverted. I get an evening off from my children and I go to the library or the bookstore and bury myself in someone else’s fake life or study something scientific that has caught my fancy. I don’t actually feel grief at being the sort of person whose funeral would not be heavily attended, but I can’t bear the thought of my daughters losing one another because I am not here and for this, I won’t text and drive. I also drive the speed limit, to the consternation of those on the road around me. I’m not ridiculous in avoiding pitfalls, but the car seems to me the most likely catalyst for my demise at this point in my life. I’m not going to increase its odds, that’s all.

Autumn — Chapter 7

Read Autumn — Chapter 6

In November 1994 my parents called me and asked for my help getting a dog for my brother Derek.  For years he had pined for a Rottweiler.  Every chance he got, he would go to breeders or shelters to look at Rottweilers and swore he would get one of his own someday.

Derek’s birthday is November 7.  For his 15th birthday our parents decided they would buy Derek his own dog as a combination birthday and Christmas gift.  This was before the internet had taken hold for such purchases, and even after it became more ubiquitous, my parents never really used it anyway.

To make their purchase, my parents relied primarily on the classified ads in the newspaper.  There was a pet section in the classifieds.  It was usually two or three columns long.  Breeders would advertise puppies for sale.  Over several weeks, my parents contacted several breeders, and through this process, they ultimately chose a puppy who would be ready to go home right at Christmastime.  The breeder was located in Portland, an hour north of my parent’s house.  They asked if Dan and I would drive up and get the dog and bring him home the day after Christmas.  Of course we agreed.

The night we drove to get the puppy was rainy and dark.  Visibility was difficult.  We were following the directions the breeder had given my mom, and as is often the case when one gets information third-hand, the directions were not easy to follow. Combined with the terrible weather, we had difficulty locating the house where the breeder lived.  Finally we called my mom who gave us the number for the breeder.  We contacted him and he directed us to his house, two blocks from the street we had been circling for twenty minutes.

The breeder’s house was a simple 1950s ranch, with low eaves and small windows. The home was cheery and clean however, and festively decorated for the holidays.  The puppies were kept in their own bedroom, but were running loose when we arrived.

As soon as we stepped in out of the rain, we were mauled by a wriggling black mass of six puppies.  They wiggled and writhed and jumped all over our feet.  Dan and I squatted to pet them.  One puppy in particular was desperate for our attention.  His fur was shiny, thick, and black.  He had orange eyebrows, and an orange throat and belly.  His tail had been docked, and he wagged his stump as he clambered over his siblings and into my lap so he could lick my face.  I held him against me, smelling his sweet puppy breath.  The breeder stood off to one side smiling.

“That’s your dog,” he stated, matter-of-factly, hands on his hips.  The man was slightly balding with a comb-over, his short-sleeved, oxford shirt tucked into his trousers.  “it is like he knew you were coming to get him tonight or something.”  He grinned at us as he said this.

The dog did indeed seem particularly excited by our visit. The others were playful, but within minutes of our arrival, they dispersed to cause mischief elsewhere in the house.  Our puppy, or rather, Derek’s puppy, hung close, trying to lick our faces and sniff our shoes.  We always thought Autumn’s paws were large, but she turned out to be a mid-sized model.  In comparison, this puppy’s paws were enormous.  There would be no mistake that this dog would be massive.

The breeder spent several minutes showing us his papers and introducing us to his mother and father, both of whom were on site.  He came from a long line of German dogs.  His grandparents were all still in Germany.  We could see from the papers that he did not have any inbreeding, which I thought was unusual for a purebred.  Many of the thoroughbred horses I knew had at least some crossing with cousins.  Years after this I adopted a greyhound who had several cousins who showed up in the lines of both her parents.

The puppy’s bloodlines mattered little to me; I knew he would be neutered eventually.  But I also knew Derek cared, and actually so did my parents.  His breeding was a primary factor in my parent’s choice of this dog over other Rottweilers they looked at.

A half an hour later we were back on the road, the lumbering fur ball asleep on my lap.  Our visit had worn him out.  Before we left, the breeder had spent a few more minutes describing his diet and medical history.  He had noted all this information on a sheet he attached to his registration papers.

For this trip, we opted to leave Autumn at my parent’s house.  We did not want her to overwhelm the puppy on the long drive home.  We called my parents to let them know we were on our way.  The plan was that our dad would take Derek into town shortly before our arrival, then return a short time later to the best gift he had ever received.

As is often the case, because we were not searching for our destination, the ride home seemed shorter than the drive up.  As we wound up my parent’s mile-long driveway, the puppy sat up and yawned, then stretched.  He was so cute.

We could hear Autumn barking as we exited our car.  I knew this bark — it said I know your car and you’re my mom and I want you!

Holding the puppy close to my chest, we dodged raindrops and raced into the house.  Shedding water left and right, we burst through the door, pulling our wet coats from our heads, plopping the puppy to the floor.  Autumn shut up long enough to give the puppy a sniff before she dashed over to me, shoving her nose into my crotch and wriggling and woofing in delight at my return.

Dogs.  No matter where we have been or for how long, they are always so happy to see us.  This must be one of the top reasons people love having them around.  Where else do we get such complete adoration on all levels, simply for being ourselves?

The puppy was sniffing around, looking like he wanted to pee.  I recognized the circling and sniffing.  It could also have been that this was a new place, with lots of new smells, but rather than take a chance, I scooped him up and headed back out onto the porch to see if he would go.  Autumn followed.  She lowered her head and ducked into the rain, squatted, peed, and jumped back under cover.  The puppy watched her, and then followed to squat and pee in the same spot.

One advantage to a mile-long driveway is that those at the top of the driveway can see visitors coming several minutes before they arrive, should they choose to look.  In this manner we saw the headlights to my dad’s truck and were able to settle in the house with the lights low in order not to give anything away. The plan was to just let the puppy roam, and see how long it took Derek to notice him.

We hovered in the living room.  Autumn lay at my feet.  The puppy had lain on the floor near a window and was snuffling in the carpet.

The back door slammed, and my brother called out, “Hello?”

“We are in here,” I said.  Autumn stood, barked once, and went to greet Derek before returning to my side.

Derek walked into the living room, my dad close behind.  He stood there for a minute, then his eyes grew large.

“Oh,” was all he said, before he walked over and kneeled by the puppy, pulling him up into his lap.  The puppy licked at his chin.  Derek, always averse to spit or other bodily fluids, leaned his head back to avoid the tongue washing. My parents smiled like schoolchildren who had successfully pulled a prank.

Only a few times in my life since he has grown have I seen my brother cry, but he had tears in his eyes as he sat and held his gargantuan puppy.

Derek named his dog Kaine after another Kaine in his ancestry.  Within months he weighed over 100 pounds. Like his forebears, he loved herding cattle and rambling around our parent’s farm.  Like Ferdinand the bull, Kaine would lumber down into their fields, then lie down and watch the world, his nose twitching, occasionally chomping at a fly as it buzzed overhead.

He was extremely smart, and learned quickly.  One of the rules in my parent’s house was that dogs were not allowed on the furniture. Autumn was occasionally allowed to get up on the couch, and periodically attempted to thwart my parent’s rule.

One afternoon while we were visiting, Derek was in his bedroom. I sat in the living room with the dogs, and Autumn jumped up next to me on the couch.  Kaine immediately ran into Derek’s room and woofed.

“What do you want?” Derek asked him.  Kaine woofed again, then turned and bustled out of the room before returning to woof yet again.  It seemed to Derek that Kaine wanted him to follow.  He stood and Kaine turned to walk out of the room, looking back to ensure Derek was behind him.  Kaine entered the living room, trotted over to Autumn, turned to Derek and woofed.  Autumn was on the couch, and this was against the rules!  Derek and I laughed and laughed.  I asked Autumn to get off the couch and lie on the floor.  This seemed to satisfy Kaine.  He circled and lay down in the corner, sighing. All was well with the world again.

Derek was fifteen years old when Kaine came to live with him.  Within a few years, Derek moved in and out of my parent’s house several times. He was never able to move anywhere that allowed a dog of Kaine’s size, or there would be silly breed restrictions that forbade tenants keeping Rottweilers.  For this reason, he lived his life at my parent’s house.

In addition, the summer of his seventeenth year, Derek began a decade-long struggle with drug addiction, a horrible, life-siphoning disease.  When he was using, he didn’t care about anyone or anything, and could be cruel.  Kaine sensed this and avoided him during those times.  When Derek was clean, Kaine was his loyal follower.

The result of this was that ultimately, Kaine adopted my mom as his person.  Although he had been purchased as Derek’s, a piece of paper is meaningless to a dog.  He decided who was his person, and although Derek was near the top, along with me and my dad, my mom was his choice.  She was the person he would follow from room to room, if only for even a few moments.  At some point, Kaine decided that this meant my dad could not hug my mother.  He would bark furiously and shove his head between the two of them.  They would laugh and separate, but unfortunately, this seemed only to reinforce the behavior.

Kaine also never seemed to understand that he was bigger than a miniature pony.  Derek held him in his lap when he was a puppy, and when he grew up, he still wanted to sit on one of us.  If we sat down where he could reach us, he would come over and climb in our lap, whether or not he was invited.

Kaine’s biggest shortcoming was his tongue. It was a constant battle to keep him from licking our faces, our hands, our legs if we were wearing skirts or shorts.  His licking drove Derek to distraction.  He absolutely hated spit of any kind, and would shout “Stop licking!” at Kaine when his tongue dared slip past his lips onto Derek’s skin, which happened all the time.  Kaine was almost pathologically incapable of stopping, in spite of Derek’s ire.  After a scolding, Kaine would turn his head to the floor, but his eyes would stay on Derek, as if to say, “Ooh, I’m so sorry, but I can’t help it.  Now can I lick you again?”

At about age 8, Kaine began to show signs he was unwell.  He would be struck still by debilitating fatigue and weakness in his back and legs, lying in a lethargy for hours.  Frightened by this behavior, my mom took him to Dr. Fletcher for tests.  It turned out that Kaine had Addison’s disease, a serious health complication whereby a dog does not produce enough cortisol.  Interestingly enough, it was the exact opposite condition of Cushing’s, the disease I believe Autumn suffered, although she never tested positive for it.

Addison’s is treatable through periodic cortisone tablets.  Kaine was prescribed cortisone to take when he began displaying Addison’s symptoms.  However, as with any steroid, the cortisone could cause side-effects, including long-term problems, so the drug had to be given sparingly.  Near the end of his life, Kaine was taking his medication daily. Without it, he would quickly relapse into dreadful lethargy and pain.  He would whimper if made to move, and he would not eat.

In February 2005, Kaine gave up eating and lay in a corner.  Nothing could coax him to take food or to move.  For two weeks, he worsened, showing interest in nothing, least of all the will to live.  My mom did not want to believe that he was dying.  I know her heart was broken; she loved Kaine like her own child.

Finally though, on President’s Day, my mom called me and asked if I would contact Dr. Fletcher and ask him to come to the house.  I spoke to him and he arranged to meet me there that evening.

The night was cold and clear, diaphanous clouds floated high in the sky.  I could see an exact half moon through the gauzy altocumulus formations.  Kaine lay on a blanket in a darkened room in the basement of the house my parents were building.  His sides heaved, and he did not look up as we entered.  My mom was so upset, she could barely speak.  Dr. Fletcher spoke quietly to Kaine, feeling his glands, running his hands along his prostrate form.

“He’s done,” he informed us.  “It’s time for him to go.”

My mom just stood there, tears on her cheeks. She could not bear to lose her friend.  She asked me to stay with him.  Dr. Fletcher opened his small toolbox and pulled out a syringe, filling it with a clear, pink liquid.  Kaine’s breathing was irregular and ragged.

“Talk to him,” he whispered to me. “Tell him it’s okay.  Tell him you love him and that he can leave now.” Dr. Fletcher administered the shot.

I leaned over Kaine and held his large, head in my hand, kissing his face and whispering to him as Dr. Fletcher had instructed.  Milla sat next to me, kneeling.

“It’s okay, boy,” I said. “We love you.  We will miss you.”

Gradually, over the next several minutes, Kaine’s breathing evened out and slowed.  It was not obvious when he stopped.  His breaths became slower and shallower until they could not be detected.  Every few moments, Dr. Fletcher would check his forearm for a pulse.  Eventually, he said, “He’s gone.”  My mother turned wordlessly and headed upstairs.

Read Autumn — Chapter 8

I Can’t Categorize This One

I’m not a seed, or a hipster, or anything that can be classified. Female? Wow, that’s original. Aren’t many of those around.

Have I mentioned lately that I’m in love with Isabel, Milla, my pets, and my new house? Not necessarily in that order. Well, that order, except the two children are interchangeable. And I do love my new little house. It’s not large, by any stretch of the imagination, but it suits us fine. My dad is bringing Isabel a playhouse. It used to be my sister’s children’s, then Milla’s, then niece Sarah’s, now Isabel gets it and she gets it at home instead of at my parent’s, which is nice for her because we rarely venture there. It’s a little blue house. I need to scrub and repaint it. I will probably choose a color other than blue to blend with the landscape.

I must go to bed. I must also confess, to the very few who read my blog, that in times of stress I resort to prescription sleep aids. After nearly two decades of insomnia, I finally gave in and asked Miss Doctor, is there something I can take while breastfeeding that will help me to sleep through the night and not wake up worrying about any number of things at 4 am? Why yes, there is one pill, and it won’t make you drive across the city to your boyfriend’s house in your sleep (like Ambien did the one time I took it four years ago). I was lucky I wasn’t killed. She said Ambien is not tested for breastfeeding. I would not take it, in that case, even if it weren’t for the driving incident. So I’ve been stressed about starting my own practice. I will be partnering with a friend and in that I’m grateful. I’m not concerned about the practice part of it. I do that, have been doing that for three years. It’s the bringing in business part that scares me, and the tension with the people I was sharing with before. Things have not been pretty and I don’t like this at all. So, the sleeping aid. C’est la vie. But it’s working and it’s working now so I’m going to snuggle my three-year-old, the three-year-old who now wears UNDERWEAR, I might add, because I knew she was ready and I told her three-year-olds wear underwear all the time and not diapers. She’s a champ and it’s going swimmingly. As is this paragraph. It has swum from one topic to the next. Amazing paragraph it is. I’ll let it go now and proceed forthwith to bed.

Lasting for a Very Short Time

What happened to the young woman who cleaned her house from top to bottom once a week? Who if she saw a repair necessary, fixed it immediately instead of walking by it for weeks or months before getting around to it? Who finished moving into a place within two days, TWO DAYS! including putting all the photos on the wall? Who made dinner every night, or most every night?  Who always sent real paper cards for every birthday and every holiday to everyone in her address book and sent thank you cards in under 48 hours? Who even into adulthood had so much to say on this blog, she was typing late into the night or during the day when she was supposed to be working? Who had time to read other blogs and even made pen pals with other bloggers? Where did she go? I know she’s in here. Somewhere.

I would not trade my children for the world. I wouldn’t trade their littleness for anything either. Milla’s early childhood passed so quickly, like a breeze, or a hummingbird flitting by. Here, here, try to catch it, then not, and gone like a sigh. Now I want to hold onto every second of Isabel’s babyhood, but I find I’m losing that battle and not getting anything done in my own life either. The day passes. Have I learned any more Spanish or French? Not enough. Have I practiced my cello? Not enough. Have I written anything that is truly what I need to express. No. Gone, gone. Life is so short. I am grateful I finally realized about ten years ago that I could not waste my life watching television. It’s too ephemeral, time. I don’t want to have spent it on something as useless as t.v. Yet there in the cupboard sits the knitting project I started and didn’t finish, the fur ball guinea pig I was going to make, the sewing I haven’t completed, even without television, again. And the days were not filled with productivity. I did not save the world. I didn’t make a difference in any life except perhaps that of my children, and that doesn’t seem enough. Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I too much know the limits of our existence. Maybe maybe, but I just don’t think I am doing it well enough.

Here I am again at the end of a long day and the enthusiasm I felt in the morning for all I could accomplish has filtered off, as I sat waiting at that light, as I drove through traffic, as I returned to the pet store yet a fifth time in as many weeks in an attempt to find a water bottle for my guinea pig that would not leak. And the bathroom wall did not get repaired. And the floors are still gritty. And the pictures are still not hung And the dust is that much thicker on the shelves in my living room. But Isabel is asleep beside me, and I did read three books to her before bed, and she is content. And I did run. And I did write these words and the word “and” more times than I probably should have in order to turn out elegant prose. But such is life. Maybe I need to stop trying to ascribe a grade to it. Maybe the young woman who could do all those things before is still here, she just doesn’t feel like bothering to get an A+ anymore when B or even B- seems adequate. As long as it’s not an F, I suppose I can live with that.

Too Much Input!

Our culture seems almost pathologically incapable of existing in the public sphere without inundating our senses with constant and invasive input. Go to the grocery store, noise playing or a television blaring in the background. Go to a coffee shop, loud noise playing, not even in the background. Go to the pool, loud noise playing on speakers. Those of us who would wish for the simple noises of the locale we are in are not even considered. We don’t exist in the mind’s of most of those in charge of public places.

The constant noise and bombardment wears me out. I feel it in my bones and cells whenever I go somewhere with a screen blaring or speakers turned much too high. Too much input! Every time it makes me wonder how many children with learning problems or various forms of autism or any other ailment where the senses cannot quite process all that is going on around them suffer in these places when those of us without any such ailment can barely tolerate it. It bothers me when I go somewhere that is theoretically designed with children in mind and the biggest thing available to them is a screen blaring some noise. I leave. My children, having been raised away from such things, are exhausted and overwhelmed by it all. I suspect other children are too. Both of my girls were always able to play and entertain themselves for hours on end. I gave credit to the fact that a television never babysat them. I find when either of them are around televisions for any length of time, they become hyper. Used as a tool to keep children busy, it is ironic that it seems to result in the opposite of the behavior desired. I’m an adult and televisions overstimulate me. I can’t imagine how it is for small children, with the constant noise and rotating images and advertising and noise, and more noise, and again, noise.

In any case, I began this post two days ago after going to a swim park with noisy music blaring. I later entered a grocery store with music so loud the cashier could not speak to me without yelling, all the while televisions were screaming in the background–well, foreground, really. It was all too much. Now it is days later and I’m at home and hear some birds outside and a breeze moving through the Camellia bush outside my window and the urge to write about all of it has passed. Such is the nature of my life these days. Maybe in having little to no time to express the writing urges, they have just left. I don’t know. I blame some of it on being a working single mother, so I guess I’ll know when my little one is bigger and off at school and time frees up a bit. If the writing urges take over again, I’ll know it was the busy-ness. If not, maybe it was a part of me that is gone. Such is life. Maybe I’ll mourn it when the time comes. For now, I’m just enjoying being able to hear myself think.

Carving out a Canyon

It is foolish to believe that any day that is presumably more special than any other. All days, regardless whether we humans desire it otherwise, are basically the same as all others. What this means for me is that for the first 15 minutes of the day, sometimes more, sometimes less, life will be quiet and peaceful. Then the younger of my children will arise and usually be in quite a pleasant mood. Then the older of my children will arise and snarl about something, making sure all of us are aware just how unpleasant she feels and desiring us to share in this (she is altruistic in this, after all). Alternatively — and yes, while I am comparing the sameness of every day, it is the theme that is the same, but there are variations on the smaller of the details — the older of my children will arise and say something (pleasant or otherwise) to the younger of my children, who will then react with severe complaining because the older of my children is not allowed in the brain of the younger of my children to have anything to do with me, and this therefore results in quite a great fuss by the younger of my children.

Thus begins the day. It doesn’t matter if we are on vacation. It doesn’t matter if it is Christmas. It doesn’t matter if it is my birthday. This is how it goes and I would be a fool to desire it otherwise because any other way is not how it goes. This is how it is.

These Breasts were Made for Feeding

This article was published on Huffington Post and can be seen here. If you like it, buzz it up and feel free to share, with proper accreditation of course.

These Breasts were Made for Feeding

~ by Lara M. Gardner

Time magazine recently ran a cover story about long-term breastfeeding. It depicted a cover photo of a woman standing and staring into the distance, a three-year-old boy standing on a chair in front of her, attached to her breast. Needless to say, the photo and article caused an uproar. Some people thought it was obscene. Others, myself included, thought it was misleading, to say the least.

It doesn’t surprise me that breastfeeding and breastfeeding to an age that more naturally suits biology has come to the fore in the public consciousness. It fits right in with the resurrection of the right-wing war on women, statements by politicians that women should never have been able to vote, laws that force women to share their sex lives with employers, and basically anything that says women cannot and should not be able to determine anything about themselves, and most especially their sexuality or anything related to their bodies (unless they are getting their breasts cut off because they have cancer, then it is okay).

All this furor over women breastfeeding children beyond an age our culture has deemed appropriate (corporate profits aside) belies a greater underlying issue. Ultimately, any discussion of breastfeeding as obscene is part of this American cultural hostility against women. Our culture would like to maintain that women’s bodies are property and should be available at all times as sexual playthings. Seeing the female body as life-giving and nurturing (i.e., breastfeeding) is a far more powerful message, and certainly not something that can be owned and controlled.

The Time photo is offensive precisely because it is obscene, but it is not obscene because the young child in it is breastfeeding. Rather, it is obscene because it has taken something that is nurturing (and arguably scientifically best for children and women), and turned it into something salacious and indecent.  Nothing about the photo is in any way representative of breastfeeding as it is. It seeks to make breastfeeding seem suggestive and forbidden, something tawdry that should be stopped before it gets out of control, something that should be hidden under a blanket.  No matter that breasts are flaunted as sexual playthings in advertising and on magazine covers. In the latter context, breasts are kept in their place. It is the former that touches a nerve because it suggests that breasts might have another, more fundamental purpose, one that doesn’t involve breasts as property or women as objects.

Perhaps the editors of Time intended for the photo to inflame and kickstart further discussion about women’s bodies and women’s place in our culture. Perhaps they understood that breastfeeding is something so fundamental to being a woman, something as life-giving as the birth process itself, that it should be acceptable in our culture, without question and without blankets. Perhaps they wanted to make it loud and clear just how ridiculous it is to claim this act is obscene. Maybe they weren’t just trying to sell magazines. I doubt it, but it is possible.

(In the interests of full disclosure, this article was written while my 2 1/2 year old daughter nursed in my lap.)

Time Changes

Baby is perfect. She curls up her arms in sleep, her chin tucked, breaths even, and I want to nestle my face in her hair, breathing her in. She is utterly delightful. I love this baby like nothing else. I loved Milla like that. I still adore her, but it’s different from the crush of baby love. It is more established, the older child love. There is a solidity in her being there. She still lets me snuggle her, but not like the baby does. She doesn’t smell so sweet either. It’s like new marriage versus old, kind of. I love them both, dearly and completely, but the love for Milla has shifted into something like the love of an older marriage.

I have been keeping the self pact to write at least a page a day. It has resulted, every day, in more than one page, which I suppose is a good thing. What is different in the writing of this book from the last one is that I started the narrative knowing where it was going, then I veered off into other pieces. I now have these various pieces written as separate files that I will meld into the main later. Today I finished one of the pieces and had a place for it in the current narrative. What will be harder down the line I think is going through from beginning to end and reading it as one narrative because it is already so familiar. I am afraid I won’t know if there are holes. I need an editor. A good one. I need someone to read it and say This works or This doesn’t or I don’t get this, it needs more information, or You go on too much here, or Move this here. I need someone I can trust who will not criticize because they are not living up to their own potential and want to bring me down, or someone who will not criticize enough because they don’t want to hurt my feelings or they can’t see the flaws. I’ve experienced both. Neither is helpful.

Time for bed. The time change is hurting me. It always does, whether up or down. I wish we could leave our time on the sunny side all year around. I hate the dark winters, nights ending early. I could simply live the daylight time, but the world’s schedule would make this extremely difficult. I’d be at odds with it all the time.

It is time to snuggle the sleeping darling. I get to smell her hair, her skin, her breath. I feel this love for her in my belly. It’s the best way to fall asleep.

Pointless Rambling Number 24

I have made a pact with myself to write at least one page per day on my book. It seems daunting when I’m not doing it, but when I sit down and start, I usually end up writing more. I guess that is the point of forcing oneself to write regularly, especially in spite of jobs and children. It is satisfying and somewhat overwhelming at the same time. I know what I’m going to say, but when I think of all of it, it makes me feel like a mountain climber at the base of Everest. Good luck with that.

I wish I had a trusted adviser, someone to whom I could turn when things go funny or when I have serious questions about how to live my life. I don’t, really. Have an adviser, I mean. Today there was more added to the conundrum at work. I ended up feeling worse, rather than, if not better, at least the same. This was not satisfying. I don’t want to dwell on it, but there is no one to talk to about it, and I think talking would help take it out of my head somewhat. Maybe that’s the real reason we all pair up, so there is someone at home we can talk to about what is going on in our lives. Too often I have conversations I can’t have with anybody.

My baby has a cold and as a consequence, when she fell asleep this afternoon at 5, she just stayed asleep. She is still sleeping. I tried to wake her up, but she wasn’t interested. She drank more milky and went back to sleep. Three times. Her little nose is stuffed up, poor dear.

Big child is washing the dishes. She is plugged into my ipod and listening to the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou. She is singing songs from it. I suppose that, while I’m dismayed she is plugged in and not having a conversation with a live human (namely, me), she is still listening to something I simply cannot object to. Even more entertaining is the fact that periodically, she calls out a line in a song and gives a little shake to her butt. Down to the river to pray! Butt shake. Oh sinners, let’s go down! Butt shake. Good Lord, show me the way! Butt shake. Priceless.

February 29: Leap Day

February 29. Our odd little calendar balancing act. I feel as if I ought to commemorate it in some way. Today is leap day. Rather than take a day away from a 31 month here and there to give February 30 all year round, it gets only 28, but every four years it gets this unusual and special friend. I know it has to do with equinoxes and whatnot, but still. It does seem that it wouldn’t be difficult to let February have 30 days and maybe March and July could share one of their 31s or something, and become 30s, and it wouldn’t mess things up too terribly. Oh well, what do I know. It’s weird, but I always see this day as kind of green and kind of red. February is always red to me, mainly because of Valentine’s Day. Yet Leap Day seems green to me, mainly because of frogs. I associate it with frogs because of the leaping. It could just as well be some lords, but I don’t see them, I see frogs. Okay, I’ll stop.

I still want to move to Australia. I think about it periodically, go look up immigration rules and whatnot, but it’s a pipe dream I know.

My littlest dear is developing language skills so rapidly. Every day she takes it a step further. She can basically communicate nearly anything she wants to. Her words are vividly clear. Mainly at this point she leaves out determiners and prepositions, although sometimes they are there. For instance, she just took her doll to knock on Milla’s bedroom door, and she said, “Baby knock Lala’s door.”  She calls Milla Lala. She can say Milla. She sometimes calls her Mimi. She also sometimes calls her Mimi Lala.  She can say, “Milla.” Then she calls her Lala. I think she likes calling her Lala. We’ve taken to calling her Lala too. It’s sweet.

I found my diary from when Milla was this age. Isabel is quite similar to her sister. She loves counting and referring to things in twos. In my diary I read that Milla, who called her breastfeeding “Milky,” said she had “two milkies,” which meant my two breasts. She would tell me this all the time, just like Isabel now tells me all the time that I have one “Maa maa.” This is what she calls breastfeeding. Maa maa. It sounds like a sheep’s baa baa. I’m Mama and the boobs are Maa maa. Cutie.

Tomorrow is a big day for baby. She starts preschool in the morning, which she’ll go to every Thursday for four hours. Then later in the day she has her first swimming lesson. I expect all will be fun.

I’ve been personal training. It kicks my ass. There is no other way to describe it. I’ve been doing it a month now and I don’t notice that my body is any different. I don’t feel fitter. However I’m able to do many of the exercises with more ease, so the muscles must be strengthening. My trainer pushes me hard. Really hard. He has way more faith in my abilities than I do. He pushes me until my muscles are basically at fail. We do many different strengthening and cardio exercises for the full hour. I vibrate for hours afterwards. Tomorrow I have to go and then go to baby swimming lessons in the evening. I hope I can manage. I expect baby swimming lessons will be low key.

In any case, this is my update to no one. I don’t understand the urge to post goings on in my life in this manner. I have a private diary, but of course I won’t share what I say there here. No.

Time to go take Milla to get a bus pass. Fun stuff.

Who Took My Mother and Replaced her with a Lunatic?

Tonight while gathering up the boxes of unused holiday decorations to take to the basement, I had the thought that I would like to vacuum, and nearly simultaneously had the thought that I’m so grateful to now have a house again. The thought followed on the heels of the other because when one lives in a house, it is possible to do things like vacuum at 10:30 at night without worrying you will disturb the neighbors. Since selling my house in mid 2008, I have had to concern myself with nearby neighbors who would hear things like vacuuming, or hollering.

It is possible to spend your entire life doing something and not even notice you are doing it. Then one day you notice, and it is as if you are noticing yourself for the first time, wondering what in the world am I doing?

Twice this week I yelled at my Isabel. Yelled at her. I was in the car and she would not stop crying and yelling herself, and I turned and yelled, “Stop yelling!” I then realized immediately my hypocrisy in this statement. Yelling at her to tell her to stop yelling. She was so surprised by my yelling at her that she stopped immediately and stared. I faced forward to drive, then turned back to her and apologized, shamed and sorry. I love my little girl with my whole being. I don’t want to yell at her.

Then tonight, I was sitting in one of the chairs in the living room and begged Milla to push on my back and try to fix the cramp next to my right shoulder blade. It felt as if a rib was out. The pain was relentless, had been gradually increasing all day, and I could hardly bear it any longer. Milla agreed and I laid on the floor. Isabel immediately came and walked on me, her tiny feet making no impression in my skin. So soft, so dear.

Milla walked on the spot and I felt a pop and relief, but wanted more walking because the rubbing felt good to my sore muscles. While she walked, Isabel kept walking too, nearer my head, then she stepped onto the base of my neck and hair. She was wearing shoes with rubber soles and the rubber caught my hair she slid to the side, yanking my hair. I am a thorough tender head, and the pain was immediate and intense.

“Get off!” I screamed. “Get off! Get off now! Both off me now, off off off!”

More lithe and agile, Milla jumped off quickly. Isabel was slower. She slid off and landed on her backside, rolling to her back.

“That hurt!” I yelled at her. “That hurt so much! Don’t walk on my hair!”

Isabel looked at me as if to ask what had happened to her mother. Where had she gone? Who had taken her and replaced her with this screaming banshee? There was no fear in her eyes, only perplexity as she seemed to wonder whether I had gone insane, or had been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a lunatic. I jumped up and ran to my bed.

Isabel and Milla kept playing. I fell asleep for about 15 minutes and when I woke up, I lay there and wondered what I had become. I don’t want to be a person who yells at my children. Yet I have. I don’t do it often, and this is the first time I have ever done it to Isabel, but I know I have hollered at Milla. It must stop. It’s that simple. I woke up today and saw myself in a way I have not before, not really. Maybe noticing is the key. I think it is.

Isabel, a Polar bear, and a Giraffe

Isabel went to the zoo with her cousin Sarah yesterday.  We saw lots of animals because it was early and the sun was hiding behind clouds (as opposed to the last time we went in the middle of a sunny day when they were all napping). I felt sorry for the animals.  Many of them were exhibiting behaviors associated with severe boredom.  Also I found it ironic that the zoo was filled with many signs describing the effects of climate change and the corruption we are causing our planet, and begging us to redefine our behaviors, yet at the same time they were selling tons of plastic junk.  Something of a hypocrisy there…

Anyway, here are photos I took of Isabel, a polar bear, and a giraffe.

Introduction to Brain Rules for Baby

This is an excerpt from Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina.  I have fallen in love with his book Brain Rules, and discovered the baby version on his website.  I wish the school system would read this and stop trying to stuff reading in five-year-olds like they are pate’ geese on the way to slaughter.

From the introduction.  See it here:

Scientists certainly don’t know everything about the brain. But what we do know gives us our best chance at raising smart, happy children. And it is relevant whether you just discovered you are pregnant, already have a toddler, or find yourself needing to raise grandchildren. So it will be my pleasure in this book to answer the big questions parents have asked me—and debunk their big myths, too. Here are some of my favorites:

Myth: Playing Mozart to your womb will improve your baby’s future math scores.

Truth: Your baby will simply remember Mozart after birth—along with many other things she hears, smells, and tastes in the womb. If you want her to do well in math in her later years, the greatest thing you can do is to teach her impulse control in her early years.

Myth: Exposing your infant or toddler to language DVDs will boost his vocabulary.

Truth: Some DVDs can actually reduce a toddler’s vocabulary. It is true that the number and variety of words you use when talking to your baby boost both his vocabulary and his IQ. But the words have to come from you—a real, live human being.

Myth: To boost their brain power, children need French lessons by age 3 and a room piled with “brain-friendly” toys and a library of educational DVDs.

Truth: The greatest pediatric brain-boosting technology in the world is probably a plain cardboard box, a fresh box of crayons, and two hours. The worst is probably your new flat-screen TV.

Myth: Telling your children they are smart will boost their confidence.

Truth: They’ll become less willing to work on challenging problems. If you want to get your baby into Harvard, praise her effort instead.

Myth: Children somehow find their own happiness.

Truth: The greatest predictor of happiness is having friends. How do you make and keep friends? By being good at deciphering nonverbal communication. Learning a musical instrument boosts this ability by 50 percent. Text messaging may destroy it.

Research like this is continually published in respected scientific journals. But unless you have a subscription to the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, this rich procession of findings may pass you by. This book is meant to let you know what scientists know—without having a Ph.D. to understand it.

Barcelona

I have noticed since being in Barcelona, and indeed I have noticed in all of our European travels this summer, a lot more men carting around children than I see in the states.  And here in Spain I have noticed many, many sets of grandparents or a grandparent caring for young children.  I wonder if instead of placing children with daycare centers, more people here utilize family for childcare.  I’m talking about babies and very young children.

Today while swimming in the Mediterranean I was drifting in from a swim out a ways from shore, when a turd floated by.  I immediately exited the water, packed up the baby, and went to take a shower.  I just could not swim with turds.  Call me particular.

Düsseldorf

We spent 2 days in Düsseldorf, Germany.  Actually, we stayed in a suburb called Ratingan at the in-laws of my friend, Anne. However we went into Düsseldorf both days we were there.  The weather the entire time was pretty abysmal, especially for August, but this did not stop us from exploring.  Sunday morning in Ratingan we were all soaked on our way to breakfast at a lovely bakery.  Breakfast, while damp, was quite delicious. There was a lot of construction going on downtown, which Anne says has been going on for years.  I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing.  I don’t know enough to judge.

In any case, we made it around the construction zone and wandered up and down lovely alleyways to the Rhine. At the Rhine, the sky in the distance looked quite menacing, so we beat a fast track back to the car.  We seemed to miss the rain, which was a first for the trip.

I snapped some photos of my beautiful daughter along the Rhine and with her umbrella.  Her smile is truly breathtaking.

Milla on the Rhine, August 14, 2011

Milla in Düsseldorf, Germany, August 14, 2011.

Amsterdam, I love you.

August 15, 2011:

Magical, magical, magical.  I fell in love with Amsterdam nearly immediately.  Exiting the central station and moving out into the sun was no more unusual than any other such exits, except that the sun was shining and we’ve been trudging through thick raindrops since we arrived.  This alone made the departure special.  We had planned to take a boat ride around the canals, but after a snack, I wasn’t so interested in sitting in a plastic, encased tube, which is how the canal boats are, so we headed off towards Dam Square with the intent to catch a boat ride later.

We wandered down a busy thoroughfare that was much too touristy, but fun in a campy way.  Marijuana smoke drifted in and out of the crowd, and Milla wrinkled her nose and smiled at this.  We smell marijuana when we visit the Last Thursday festival in Portland, but it’s not legal.  We also passed a sex museum.  Milla found this quite salacious, marijuana smoking and sex shops right out in the open, which of course gave her another giggle.

Dam Square was crowded and full of life.  A Scot danced and played, then asked for tips.  Around the square various persons stood attired in an array of costumes that must have been hotter than hell.  One was a knight, covered in shiny, green stones, with a brilliant, diamond encrusted shield.  Every few moments he shifted slightly to his left, then again, then again, until he circled and faced us.  As he turned away I could see beneath his helmet. The skin there was red and sweaty.  He must have been roasting there in the sun wearing such a heavy costume.  Nearby Poseidon posed with a family of three. He allowed one of the sons to hold his pearly blue, shell covered staff.  Darth Vader stood alone to one side.  No one seemed much interested in him; modern gods pale in comparison to Poseidon and knights.  I can only imagine the level of sweltering under his black cape and hood.

As we passed through the square and crowds, pushing Isabel in her stroller along the bumpy cobblestones, I felt a gradual welling of desire for this place in my chest.  I wanted to get past the tourism and into the very old city. I did not so much mind the crowds, but had no desire for McDonald’s and other hideous modern entrapments.  Come, I said to Milla. Let’s head off this way.  We took a narrow road away from the square and moved along until we came to a quiet street along a canal.

As in Delft, a small town we visited a couple of days ago, cars parked right along the canal.  There were no fences or other obstructions between them and the water.  Surely parking must be a stressful affair, even when one is used to doing it.  Later on our boat tour, we heard that an average of one car per week falls into a canal.  Yikes!

We rambled along and came to a busier street with another, larger canal running through it and decided then to take a boat tour.  We stood and purchased our tickets, and proceeded down onto the wooden boardwalk to wait our turn on a bench.  The sun was really warm and I commented to Milla that I would take being warm any day over the rain.  Isabel peeked over the edge of the boardwalk into the water, turning to tell me about the sloshing water and ducks.  Hoo? she asked, pointing into the depths below.

We sat for ten minutes before a boat came to pick us up.  The best part about getting to such a tour before the boat arrives is that you are near the front when it boards, which affords you the opportunity to choose the best seats. The boat was long and narrow, an aisle running between booths of vinyl benches with tables between.  The entire thing was encased in a plastic windows.  Two sets of the windows were open on top, and at the very front and the very back, windows were open on either side as well.  We chose a booth at the very back next to an open window, and for the rest of the ride, i was so grateful for this choice and opportunity.  The boat groaned, its engine grinding and smelly as the contraption turned to begin its journey, turning and snaking along the wider canal.

Moments later the boat turned down a smaller channel and as the sun shined upon us, the breeze gently pulling at our hair, with Milla smiling and Isabel giggling, I fell completely and utterly in love with Amsterdam.  The boat ride was completely enchanting.  We passed crooked, skinny houses, built on uneven piles driven into the sticky muck that is the city’s base.  Our guide recited in four languages the story of early taxation based on a building’s width.  He pointed out overhead the wenches attached to gables and used to swing furniture through open windows because the doors are too narrow to admit anything of consequence. We heard stories of ancient merchants and mariners, and cars falling in channels, and the cost to build small fences, and as the boat moved along, I thought, I would love to live in this place.

As we floated along, my 22 month old daughter waved at everyone.  We passed groups of young men hanging out on the edge of the canal.  Isabel waved and they all broke into bright smiles.  We passed two old people snuggling together on a bench.  Isabel waved and waved, and they smiled and waved vigorously in return.  We slid beneath a stone bridge.  A handsome, dark skinned man ambled along its side.  Isabel waved at him and his smile was so genuine and lovely, my heart nearly broke at its beauty.  My sweet child was making many people happy, if only for a moment.  Her wave is flat-handed, like a royal waving to her subjects.

After 45 minutes, the boat moved out of the canal and into the broad channel near the central station.  It passed a bicycle parking garage filled with thousands of bicycles, and the central train station.  As we rounded the corner into the main channel, we looked up up up at the bow of a giant cruise ship.  We thought we were going to hit it, it was that close!  At the last moment, our boat curved round the ship and made its way further down the channel.  It then turned back into the canal and back to where we began.

I loved Amsterdam.  Then entire time we floated through the beautiful canals, I was in complete bliss. After our ride we wandered until we came across the Waterstones Bookstore.  More bliss.  Four stories of books, which for me is like putting a drunk in a bar, I’m such a book addict.  I could never give up paper and covers in favor of some electronic reading device.  There is so much more to the experience than the reading of the words.  Milla and Isabel settled into the children’s section and I was able to have some free moments wandering by myself, which was heavenly.

After making a few purchases (of course), we left Waterstones and discovered two more bookstores, the American Bookstore and a small local shop.  All were in Spull Square, a delightful place full of trees, birds, sun, and visitors.  Dogs romped.  Birds chirped and ate crumbs.  Groups congregated.  The sun shone.  We sat for a while on a bench eating our purchases from the AH grocery.  This was a fine discovery, minus the vomit on the stairs out front–ewww!  We were able to purchase lunch meat, cheese, bread, and fruit.  We ate these in Spull Square until a yellow jacket decided to chase us away.  Milla screamed and some locals laughed at her.  It was kind of funny.  We then waited for Anne at a coffee shop and drank decaf Americanos.  Isabel played and nursed.  Once Anne arrived, we caught a train to the theater where we watched her fiance in an opera.  It was all wonderful fun.

Good:  Trains are fast.  Weather is lovely.  Buildings are charming and crooked.  There are hooks from the tops of the buildings with which to swing furniture in through the windows of narrow old houses.

Not so good:  Vomit in front of the grocery store and the smell.

Sublime:  Isabel waving at people on the shore and their smiles and waves in return.  She took them by surprise, this tiny person waving at them from a boat.

Isabel in front of a canal in Amsterdam.

Milla in Amsterdam.

Anticlimactic

The interesting thing for me in finally finishing one of my books is how anticlimactic it has been.  I finished it, then sat here and thought, Okay, it’s done.  I will have to read through it and edit, but the bulk of it is complete. It seemed as if the occasion deserved something more, but it really didn’t.  If there has been a sincere shift in my thinking over the last few years it is this:  life is about the ride, not the destination.  This book just proved to me how much this has sunk in and become a part of me.

Time to rouse baby and get her dressed.  I love the smile she gives me when she awakens.  This morning before I got out of bed, I was lying next to her and she wakened for a moment, then patted my chest for milky, and gave me her lovely smile before latching on and going back to sleep.  Ah, baby love is the best love of all!

Pointless Rambling

Do you ever have a day where it feels like there is a burr in your ass?  I didn’t start out the day feeling that way, but ever since I woke from a midday nap I have felt increasingly cranky.  I’m sure a lot of it is that I did not get enough sleep last night, and the other part is that I’ve got a damn cold again, and my voice is nearly gone, and by the end of the day I’m frankly sick to death of squeaking rather than speaking.  I finally decided it would not even be a good idea to work on my book because my attitude would more than likely worm its way into the text and I don’t need that.

All this said, I have the cutest, sweetest, most adorable baby on the planet sleeping next to me and just seeing her fills my heart with love and joy.  She is perfection.  Tonight in the car, she picked up her chubby, sandaled foot and held it to her head like a phone.  “Lo?” she said into her heel, her toes to her ear.  What could be cuter than that?  Sweet adorableness.  I’m in baby love.  Older daughter was actually kind today too.  She had me come in and cover her with blankies before going to sleep, then I cuddled her and accidentally poked her in the eye.  This required kisses and loves.  At least she didn’t snarl at me.  I’m not in love with this snarly, surly age. I hope we get through it intact.  I foolishly believed I would be immune from adolescent angst in my child.  Oh how wrong I was…

Miscellaneous Blatherings

I have finished two chapters in two days, but now I have to work at the job that makes me money.  I don’t want to.  I’m burned out.  I took a small break, but I think I need a vacation where I leave the continent.  We are planning one of those, but it will not arrive soon enough.  There are other things happening in the meantime that I look forward to.  I just need to keep plugging away at the day job until I get over the funk.  It will happen; it has before.

Isabel has taken to letting her dollies nurse on her, or nurse on me before she nurses.  She is very generous, that one.

I have also been working on the second book at the same time as the first. Both are right there, in my brain, so when I want to work on one, I start typing and out it comes.  The problem is that I want to finish both and there isn’t enough time in the day.  But it will happen.  I’m glad enough for the work that is coming.

Milla is getting taller and growing things like breasts.  She complained about the bra I bought her so I just bought her some bigger ones.  As has been the case since she was tiny she likes her clothing five sizes too big.  I have to say that I prefer that to the opposite alternative.

Our next door neighbor is moving away.  Ours has not been a cordial acquaintance.  Mostly it hasn’t been an acquaintance at all, but what contact there has been has been unfriendly. She does not seem to like us, and we really don’t like her in return.  We have vowed to take a pie to the new tenant, hoping that a beginning kindness will at least give rise to the possibility of a friendly acquaintance.  We shall see.  I am glad, though, that the neighbor who does not like us is leaving.

It is sunnyish today, which is an improvement over downpours.  I’m glad that it is not brightly sunny or I would lament leaving work until the last day.  As it is, I will get it done without grumbling that I’m doing it in exchange for good weather.

Monday

One of my several books is finally coming together.  I have been plugging away steadily and actually making a dent in getting it done.  The result though, is that when I have time to sit and write, it doesn’t happen here.  Many days, like this one, the choice is eat, write, cello, or French.  Usually only eat wins.  Tonight I bought plant starts for the garden, and since it was not raining I decided to plant those instead of all my other potential projects, so I managed only eat and plant.  Oh, and pull weeds.  First I had to pull weeds out of the planter boxes in order to plant the vegetables in them.  The ground was soft and loamy, perfect for pulling weeds and also for planting.  Oregon’s weather today was as schizophrenic as ever, unable to decide between warm sun and pounding rain.  I’m a bit dismayed by the rains we are getting.  They are more like east coast rains than typical Oregon rains, but things are changing in the weather world, so I should not be surprised.

In any case, it was pouring rain when I bought the baby plants, but by the time we got home, I made dinner and we ate it, the sun had decided to come out and stay out until dusk when I completed the planting.  This was quite satisfactory.  I love digging in the dirt and growing things.  It makes me feel centered.  Isabel came outside with me and helped. She scolded Ava whenever Ava barked at the wind, or the walking neighbor, or the squirrel, or the cat, or the way her fur fell across her face.  Isabel also made her hoo sound and showed me plants, helped me to pick weeds, and showed me how her coat snaps.  She liked pulling out the old leaves from the flower bulbs that have already bloomed for the year.  She stacked them in the stack of discarded plant parts and old rooty things.  Then she watched closely as I dug holes and placed baby lettuce or baby corn into them.  Adorable.

I finished this gardening project at dusk and my hands were filthy, so I figured it was as good a time as any to take a bath.  However, taking a bath and getting baby ready for bed took up the whole evening, leaving me basically no time for cello, French, or writing.  Now I should be sleeping but I’m typing this.  Why?  I have no idea.  I just pulled out the computer and started to go.  I can’t say what insane motivation drove me to it.  I am going to overcome this motivation now and go to sleep because the only time I’m going to get writing done during the week is in the early morning, which means getting up early, and if I am going to get any sleep at all (which is necessary in my brain for coherent writing), I have to stop this now and turn out the light.

My baby

My sweet baby holds a doll and rocks it back and forth and up and down exactly as I rock her, holding it in the same position as if it’s being nursed.

She then drops the doll with a thunk and goes and picks up the cat by the neck.  There is a limit, I suppose, to the similarities.

Love

My little daughter is perfect.  I have moments sometimes, when I’m holding her hand or looking at her, when I think to myself that I am a human and she is a human, she is my cub, my baby.  I held her hand tonight as she lay against me in the crook of my right shoulder. I could smell the warmth of her body wafting upward, see the tiny curls forming in the sweat along the base of her neck.  She held both my hands with her hands, each of her fingers warm and soft.  I picked at her baby fingernails with mine, catching the ends and pulling off the sharp places.  This is my cub, I thought. This is my little human.  Here we are, two humans, lying together in this bed in this house in the twilight as she moves into sleep.  The moment was so basic, so contented, so perfect in its simplicity.  I love my human child.  I love every moment with her.  She brings me grace and contentment.  She is perfect.

Life Goes On…

Man, it’s pathetic how little I write on this anymore.  It seems like my days start so early and are filled to the brim until late and then I fall into bed completely exhausted, only to start it all again the next day.  Work has been a living hell.  I have been hating my job so much, trying to focus on what I like about it, trying to help people, but shit just keeps coming up that I have to deal with and it takes time away from the stuff that actually feels useful.  Today a client told me she thinks I’m wonderful and that she knows I’m fighting for her, and that part is true, I do want the very best for my clients.  But I’m not so sure about the wonderful part and I am barely keeping my head above water.  It was nice to hear though.  She brought a smile to my face.

My infant daughter brings the most smiles to my face.  She is so happy and growing and changing so much.  She smiles and makes a little hoo sound all the time about everything.  She call me Maa Maa and says bye bye when she waves.  She is the most adorable little person.  She laughs all the time. She loved Christmas.  She opened her presents one by one, handing me pieces of wrapping paper as she went.  She and Milla are the reason for the holiday for me. They enjoy themselves so much and it is utterly delightful to watch them enjoy and experience everything.

I can’t believe how tall my Milla is getting.  She has passed my friend Rita and is on her way to passing my friend Sara. She’s lanky and tall and completely gorgeous.  Luckily she is also still very much 11 and into dogs and knitting and being as comfortable as possible so she goes around dressed like a hippie all the time, which is totally fine with me because I don’t need the boys chasing her yet.  I think she will manage to be taller than they are for several years to come so by the time they figure out how amazing she is, she will be older, which can’t hurt.  She is a smart girl.  She knows how these things roll.

I have to go to bed.  It’s 11 and I get to work all day tomorrow. Lucky me. I’m grateful to have a job, but I sure wish it wasn’t such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Ewww

Someone asked me how many times a day I have to change Isabel’s diaper, the implication being that I must change cloth more than I would change disposables. It should be the same.  If someone is changing their child less frequently because the child is wearing disposables, that means their child is sitting around in plastic soaked urine. That is just gross.

Baby Love

It doesn’t matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, rubbing my baby’s back is like mainlining bliss. There must be some kind of direct Oxytocin hit for moms there or something.  Same with rubbing her head.  I could sit and rub her head and her back and get that blissed out feeling all day long.  She is heavenly.  Who needs the afterlife when this is available?  Ahhh, I love it.  I love her.

Day 16

Fifteenth day of life.

Not much exciting to report.  Today we went over to Gramma’s house for dinner because Daddy’s birthday was the day after Isabel’s.  We had turkey dinner and Gramma, Aunt Sarah, and Cousin Caroline held Isabel.  After dinner, Isabel and I took a nap that felt amazing.  I’m so tired all the time, so any nap is welcome.  Milla dressed doggy Ava up in baby clothes, then retired to the basement to play Rock Band and sing.  Isabel and I slept through this.  Other than that, we didn’t do much today.  It was nice to relax.  Isabel is beautiful.  I took a lot of photos of her, but then left the camera at Gramma’s so I could not download them as I had hoped to do tonight.  Ah well.  I will get it done later.

Two Weeks Old: Pumpkins

Today Isabel is two weeks old. She had an adventurous day, of sorts.  Considering she slept through most of it, I’m not sure how much of an adventure it really was.

photoFirst we went to Sauvie Island to the pumpkin patch.  We were going to go to the main big one with the giant corn maze, but when we arrived at about 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday a couple of weeks before Halloween, we discovered that everyone else in Portland had the same idea. There was a line of cars a half a mile long on the road to the patch so when we got there, we just kept driving on past the patch.  We told Milla we would come back during the week when things would likely not be as crowded.  She was amenable to this when she saw the crowds and lines.  We drove on around part of the island and in the process, discovered another, more unknown pumpkin patch with animals, caramel apples, a smaller corn maze, a hay maze, hayrides, orchards, and flowers.

Milla and Daddy went off in search of a pumpkin while Isabel nursed on my lap as I sat on a hay bale under a fruit tree. The sun was beaming and warm, and sitting under the heat nursing baby Isabel was quite pleasant.  After she had milk I changed her diaper in the shade under another tree.  By then Milla had found her pumpkin.  She and I and the baby went to check out the corn maze and animals, I picked out a pumpkin for me, and Milla picked out a little one for Isabel. Milla pulled the wagon up to the checkout where we stopped first to buy caramel apples and cider before heading on our way.  It was certainly an enjoyable afternoon.

Later in the day, Daddy was playing with the Portland Jazz Orchestra doing a tribute to Buddy Rich.  Isabel and I went to watch him.  The Jazz Orchestra is a 17 piece big band.  I sat in the way back because I expected the music to be loud.  It was loud, but Isabel slept through the whole thing.  The only time she wiggled a bit was after a piece when the audience erupted in applause.  She was not terribly fond of the clapping.  The music was fantastic and the stories from the band member who played with the Buddy Rich band in the sixties were entertaining.  It was a fun show.

After the show, right after I got Isabel strapped into her car seat, she pooped.  I removed her from the car seat and changed her diaper in the front seat of the car, bundled her back up, strapped her in the car seat, whereupon she promptly pooped again.  Silly girl!

Overall the day was lovely. Milla is looking forward to carving her pumpkin.  I’m looking forward to sleep.  Isabel is looking forward to milk.  Easy goals, I think.

Day 13

Twelfth day of life.

I love my baby.  She is lying her on my arms as I type, completely sacked out.  She is so cute.  She just drank a bunch of milk and crashed.  She loves her milk.

Today she had her second checkup with the midwives.  They weighed her (8 pounds, 15 ounces) and pronounced that she would likely be back up to birth weight at two weeks after birth (this Saturday).  They checked her belly button because it has been kind of oozy and said it looked normal and the ooziness would heal.  They had to perform the second half of the heal stick test where they take blood to send to the state.  Isabel did not like this but she didn’t flat out cry.  Rather she whimpered.  This was not fun for Mommy and Daddy.

I called a friend today who has been expecting a baby to adopt.  It turns out his baby was born on the same day as Isabel!  He and his wife have been waiting for a baby for nearly two years.  I am so happy for them that they finally have a daughter to love.

I have been having baby loss fears like I had with Milla, where I worry about SIDS and other disasters taking my baby from me.  I force the thoughts from my mind and do my best to avoid dangers, but the thoughts still lurk there, worries unbidden. I just love this little person so much and do not want anything to happen to her.

Today I bought her a night light for her changing table and some pictures of duckies to hang there as well.  Cute stuff.

Oh, she just made me laugh.  She is lying here sleeping on my lap and started to squirm a bit then pooted a big poot that made her jump, her eyes flying open in surprise.  This made me giggle.  Now that the bubble is out she is sleeping soundly again.

Isabel has more and more alert awake times.  She coos and talks, waving her arms and making faces.  She is a sweet baby.  She is wonderful to sleep with. She wakes up to drink milk then falls promptly asleep.  She hasn’t awakened to chat in the middle of the night in a few days, probably because she has been having an alert, awake time right before we go to bed.  I am going to check and see if the next time she doesn’t have an alert, awake time right before bed if she wakes up in the middle of the night.

In spite of these mostly sleeping nights, I am still really tired and have been taking daily naps with her.  I just can’t feel completely rested when the longest sleep stretch is three hours, but that will come later.  I am enjoying having her this age.  She is delightful.  I love her so much and am so thankful she was born.

Day 11

Tenth day of life.

Oh, tired.  Tired to the bone.  I sleep.  I actually sleep many hours.  I just don’t sleep that many in a row, so I’m tired.  Isabel and I took three naps together today.  I was falling over in my soup I was so tired.  I had to just get up and go into the bedroom and lie down on the bed.  Normally I tend towards insomnia and cannot sleep deeply without earplugs.  Since my baby sleeps with me I am not using the earplugs and have learned to sleep without them.  This is useful.  The funny thing is when I had bad insomnia and was a walking zombie I could not fall asleep without them.  Maybe it helps to be flooded with baby love hormones.

Isabel has a cold.  I have instituted a no visitors policy.  When visitors do come again, they cannot touch my baby without first washing their hands.  She has congestion and this morning she had a fever.  She is so tiny, I hate her feeling ill at this age.  Apparently it is good for the immune system, but I still don’t like my babies to be sick.  Breastfeeding helps, considering it has immunities in it she doesn’t have and won’t for a couple of years.  She has been drinking a lot of milky.

Cutting the frenulum helped immensely with nursing.  She gulps her milk now.  I have also discovered that I basically cannot eat sugary things at all.  It gives us both gas. Since making this discovery both of us have felt better in the gas department.  I wasn’t even eating that much, just dessert after a meal.  I don’t sit around forking candy into my face or anything.  But the amount was enough to bother both of our digestive systems, so no more for me.  I’ll have fruit for dessert instead.  It’s healthier anyway.

Thoughts certainly fritter off into the ether when I’m tired.  I had a thought about something I wanted to write when I was writing about fruit for dessert and by the time I get here the thought is gone.  This is how it has been for me, but oh well, I have a baby to love so I don’t care.

One Week Old: The Land of Cuteness

Lara Gardner’s Weblog, so long full of angst and loneliness, heartache and concern, now a lovefest to her new baby.  I’m giddy in love with this little person.  She is lying here nursing right now and making these little hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm noises between gulps.  Her little right hand is resting on her cheek, her left hand on her chest. She is so relaxed, so content, such a delightful little human.  She sighs, then hmms, then takes another drink.  Pure and utter bliss.  How boring I must be to read right now!  I don’t even care.  How wonderful it is to be bathed in gobs of loviness.  I cannot complain.

Today we went to the little shop where I bought her g diapers because I could not figure out how to use them properly.  I bought a couple of newborn sizes, and received several small sizes from Daddy’s mom.  The newborn ones didn’t work.  The small ones were too big.  It turns out that the cloth inserts really don’t work that well when they are really little.  There are disposable, biodegradable inserts that work for these little ones.  We went and bought some of these inserts and lo and behold, they work!  I’m pleased because we have been using some disposable ones, but they just aren’t as soft. They are supposed to be biodegradable.  Maybe that is why they aren’t very soft, but the non-biodegradable ones aren’t soft either, so that’s probably not it.  They just aren’t cloth, which is softer.  That’s all there is to it.

Our little dog Ava is very curious about the baby, but she is also very good.  She sits a bit of a distance away and leans her head forwardly, cautiously sniffing.  What is that thing? she seems to ask.  She looks at the baby, then looks at me, then looks back at the baby, giving her a good sniff.  Between Milla, Ava, and Isabel, we live in the land of cuteness. It is nice place to be.

Day 7

Sixth day of life.

Tomorrow it will have been a week since Isabel was born.  Wow.  What an amazing week.  The first days with a baby are so visceral, so present.  I love it.  I spend time simply looking at her, memorizing her face, her hands, her feet, her body.  Baby love is wonderful.  Pure bliss.

Today was an eventful day for Miss Isabel.  She had her first pediatrician visit, and because she had a short frenulum, her first surgical procedure.  I really like our new pediatrician.  He is a naturopathic doctor, very practical and down to earth.  I adore his bedside manner.  He’s been a physician for years, and his relaxed manner and confidence is evident in all he does.

As I said, Isabel had a short frenulum.  The midwives pointed this out the day she was born, but I didn’t think anything of it.  After five days of nipple hell though, I decided to look up the ramifications of it.  One of the most common is the inability to latch on properly.  Isabel was doing her darndest to try, but it just wasn’t working.  Her little tongue didn’t reach far enough.  No wonder she was nursing all the time–she was hungry!!

All the websites on short frenulums (otherwise known as being tongue-tied) said clipping it was quick and painless.  I’ll agree with the former, but to call the procedure painless isn’t quite accurate. The doctor takes a pair of scissors and clips the skin under the tongue, the frenulum.  It is a cutting and it stings and bleeds.  Isabel cried for a minute until she was able to get on my breast, but I have little doubt the mini wound was sore for a little while.  I’ve cut that skin before and it smarts.  Things seemed to heal up quickly though, and the differences while nursing are remarkable.  The procedure was definitely worth it.  Isabel gets tons of milk now and her constant nursing has stopped.  The nipples appear to be on the mend, although they are still very sore.  They had cracks and scabs on them. Ouch!

Later this evening  my friend Sara came to visit, bringing her little daughter Leah and dinner for the two of us.  Daddy had a concert tonight and Milla went to watch him, so it was girls’ night here with my friend and our daughters.  It was a pleasant way to spend the evening.

Milla came home excited from the concert.  She apparently fell asleep at the end of the first set and then danced through the second!  Silly girl.  She loves big band music.  She also loves dressing up, so the evening provided her with pleasure on both counts.

Tomorrow it will be a week.  This has been one of the best weeks of my life, filled with baby love.

Day 6

Fifth day of life.

Today was fairly uneventful.  Miss Isabel decided to be awake again last night, which was actually pretty wonderful.  She woke and ate around 1:30, then woke again around 3:30 and was up for about an hour and a half.  We went into Milla’s room to hang out because Milla has some pretty butterfly lights she leaves on at night. The light in her room is cozy and warm, perfect for a middle of the night Mama/Daughter hangout.  Isabel cooed and kicked, waved her arms, stretched her neck, and looked directly at me, practicing using her eyes. Long-legged Milla snuggled next to us, the dog at the foot of the bed.  It was a most pleasant manner in which to spend the darkened hours.

Once we went back to bed, Isabel awoke again around 7 for some milky, then fell promptly asleep until 11.  We both slept until 11 actually.  When she woke up she stayed awake for several hours.  We went for a quick visit to the store and she slept the entire time in the front-pack carrier.  We also had 2 visitors.  My friend Rita came for an hour at 2 and my friend Kathleen came for a couple of hours at 6.  Both times she slept through the visits except to have a small bit of milk.  I guess those long stretches of being awake just wore her out.

Seriously?  I am in love.  I know I have said it before, but it is true.  Baby bliss is truly blissful and amazing.  I love it.

Isabel goes for a ride in the car.

Isabel goes for a ride in the car.

Day 5

Fourth complete day, starting the fifth.

Today Isabelle pooped.  The funny thing about babies is that it is easy to be happy about things like poop.  She has not pooped since the first day of her life when she pooped a bunch of meconium. This isn’t much of a surprise since my milk really didn’t come in fully until yesterday so she has only been eating colostrum, which generally doesn’t make poop.  Today she pooped really early this morning, like 3:30 a.m.  Then she did it again this evening.  Sweet darling little pooper.

Last night was very different than the night before.  Something I learned with Milla is that the only thing one can count on with babies is that the will always change patterns on you.  Isabelle is too young to have developed any patterns anyway, so I’m just observing how she is.  The night before she was awake for several hours.  Last night she ate at 12:30, then woke up at 3:30, fell promptly asleep after, then woke again at 7:30 and fell promptly asleep after.  She had a couple of days where she was awake a lot. Today she was asleep a lot.

Today was also her first venture into the world outside.  I needed several baby things and also really just wanted to get out of the house so she had her first car ride and visit to the store.  She slept the entire way to the first store and through the whole visit.  I wore her in my front pack and she snuggled against me.  Oh, I love her so much.

We then needed to go to JC Penney because we need a curtain to cover this high window in our room, the light through which really bothers Isabelle.  It is in the wall behind our bed so when I sit and nurse the light comes right in at her face.  I also needed some nursing bras.  This trip was exhausting.  I fed her in the car before we went in, but she did not want to be in the carrier anymore and was awake.  I did not want her hanging out in the mall.  I hate malls and especially did not want my tiny baby there.  We sat in the curtain area and she nursed some more, but when we tried putting her in the carrier with Daddy, she got upset again, so I just carried her to bras.  They did not have a bra with a normal fastener.

An aside here.  Why is it all the maternity bra companies have gone to these horrible clips that cannot be opened with one hand?  Is it a conspiracy by formula companies to keep women from breastfeeding?  Damn annoying.

Anyway, I nursed her a bit again in the bra section, then just put her in the carrier.  She fell promptly asleep.  We decided to look for bras at Motherhood Maternity since we were already there, I was tired, and wanted to get something and get it done.  The trouble is that store is at the other end of the mall.  The walk there and back wore me out completely.  Motherhood Maternity bras had the same unworkable clasp as every brand at Penney’s so I just gave up, resolving to look on the internet.  I fell asleep in the car on the way home I was so tired.

Now we are home and Isabel is still asleep.  After I get off the computer I get to snuggle and nurse my little baby again.  Right now Isabel, Milla, and Ava the dog are sprawled across the bed sleeping together.  I love my girls. They are wonderful.

Day 4

Third complete day, beginning the fourth.

Little Isabel Lorraine, love of my life.  So far she likes being awake at night.  She finishes drinking her milky then wants to look around at us and everything.  Last night she had a long awake period, beginning at about 3:30 a.m.  Lucky for mommy, during the day she seems to like to sleep for a while between nursings, so I slept too.  I was tired.

Day 1: Isabel Lorraine is Born!

I awoke this morning at 6:59 a.m. to a pain that hurt like a terrible menstrual cramp and ran down the insides of my legs.  Considering how many false alarms I’ve had with painful contractions, I considered that this too might not be real.  However, the pain was real enough I could not go back to sleep.  I lumbered out of bed and went to the bathroom.  In the bathroom, I started having very real, very painful contractions.  I called out to the others in the house, but they were asleep.  I was having gastrointestinal problems because the night before I made the mistake of eating cheese pasta with truffles.  I knew better.  I am allergic to milk.  Not just intolerant, but allergic.  This means that if I drink milk or get its protein in cheese or other things, I get allergy symptoms and severe gastrointestinal upset.  However I had smelled the truffles in this pasta and they were so heavenly, I thought one small scoop would not hurt.  It did.

As I sat there having contractions and going through the unpleasant side effects of eating cheese, I knew this was it.  I finally was able to get up and go tell Daddy to set up the birthing tub.  I then tried to straighten a few things in between contractions.  At 7:30, I gave up bothering to try and time them and called the midwives.  The contractions were hurting so much by then I couldn’t function when they were happening.  The tub was filling slowly, but I decided just to get in.

The contractions were intense and painful, so close together there really wasn’t any breather in between.  I begged anyone and everyone to make them stop.  I was not one of those serene women, suffering in silence.  I moaned and groaned.  My hips were hurting because the muscles were so stretched from walking around pregnant for 42 weeks.  I finally had the urge to push and at 9:19 a.m., September 26, 2009, Miss Isabel Lorraine was born.

I cannot stress enough the pleasure of having our baby at home.  As quick as my labor went, I don’t know how we would have made it to the hospital without more torturous pain anyway.  Yet after the birth, our experience compared to the birthing center in a hospital experience was so different, so mellow, so peaceful and wonderful.  My little baby was with me the entire time.  She was weighed and measured on our bed.  She snuggled closely skin to skin with a blankie wrapped around her.  She found my nipple right away and started suckling.  Perfection!

Milla was so enchanted with the entire experience.  She video-taped and helped keep the dog out of the way.  She was right there the entire time.  Mostly the midwives, Daddy, and Milla just stood to the side providing encouragement.  I did not want to be touched, but was grateful they were there. After she was as delighted with her sister as we were and could not wait to hug and hold her.  She is as in love as we are.

Isabel weighs 9 pounds, 1 ounce, and is 20.5 inches long.  A big baby!  She looks like a little peach.  Her face is round and perfect, her hair soft and blonde.  I am completely in love.

Television is So Dumb

My daughter spent 4 1/2 months living with her father this last winter and spring.  In our house, she does not watch television and movies are limited, nor does she play idiot, I mean video games, or ever listen to music on headphones.  (She is a Waldorf student, after all, and I have followed these teachings as closely as possible.)  At Dad’s house, she was given a television in her room.  He let her play video games and bury her brain in headphones listening to true corporate crap. The differences since she spent those four months watching the stupid box are enormous.  She was  sold on corporate culture, began to believe most advertising (although she is also skeptical if the ad isn’t cute and geared toward selling to a ten-year-old), and generally thinks all the television that was left on at all hours of the day was entertaining.

I don’t know if I did her any favors keeping this shit from her if seeing it makes it so palatable.  Yet I still would not change that most of her life has not been spent in front of the idiot box.  The first couple of weeks after she came home she kept claiming she was “bored” and wanting me to entertain her.  Then she slipped back into her home routine and started knitting and creating plays for her stuffed animals and reading, doing all those things with her mind she did not do when she had an idiot box to stare at.

It blows my mind that parents find the thing “educational” and “interactive.”  It might present some content or ask questions the child answers, but the child is still sitting there on her butt, being told or asked by flashing movements, more loud and ugly these days.  The child is not out making the discovery on her own, thinking and creating, truly interacting.

Milla proved to us her ability to create and design and think on her own, using her own mind.  She planned and executed an amazing dog wedding between our dog and the neighbor dog, Luke.  She designed and sewed Ava’s gown and veil.  She made a marriage certificate with a shiny, glittery, yellow seal.  There was a guest list for us all to sign. She wrote the vows and planned the ceremony.  She chose the music for all aspects of the ceremony, including the processional, after the vows, the first dances, and the reception.  She designed decorations and hung them in the yard, Ava and Luke Tie the Knot.  All of it was thorough and amazing.  She’s ten.  This is what she does instead of staring at the television.

I was thinking about all of this this morning.  There was an ad on Dan’s computer before something he was watching on Huffington Post.  Milla saw it and said it was a funny commercial.  She had seen it at her dad’s.  She told us the premise.  To me it sounded so damn stupid and ridiculous, nothing funny at all, and I felt sad that she found this shit she had seen on the idiot box amusing.  However I long ago realized that her life is hers to live, not mine to control.  I can provide certain influences, but so do so many other things and ultimately she will make her own choices.  I can only hope that the influences I’ve provided help her to be a functional, healthy, and happy adult.  That’s the thing about parenting, if we do our jobs, this is exactly how it should be.