Have I Ever Been Instantaneous?

Henry: I'm hungwy, Mom.
Me: OK, I'll make sandwiches.
Henry: OK.
(less than a nanosecond passes)
Henry: Mom, I thought you were going to make sandwiches.

Henry: I need you to weach my puzzo fo me. I wanna play wif my puzzo.
Me: OK. (Moving toward the puzzle, in the same nanosecond...)
Henry: Mom, I thought you were going to get my puzzo for me.

I have no idea where the "I thought you were going to..." came from. But I cannot do anything fast enough to prevent it these days.

For the last few weeks, Henry seems to know there's big change coming his way. For one thing, he's developed separation anxiety really for the first time in his life (including not wanting to be left with his dad, even).

But this desire for me to do things, and do them now? Hmmm. You'd think he'd know that I rarely operate that way, certainly not in the last two months or so. Plus, he's never expected me to, before.

More than the idea of me leaving him, he needs to get used to the idea that I will sometimes have to finish other things (usually to do with the baby) before I can help him.

Yet somehow I get the distinct impression that he does understand that, and he's just training me right now. So maybe it's me that needs to be aware of the big changes coming my way...

Cherubic little drill sergeant...


In the Feathered Nest

Friday I took the boys strawberry picking - our little spring ritual here. It was beautiful and sunny and the strawberries were bright and sweaty looking. And quite delicious.

And then because I must be crazy, we went straight from the strawberry adventure to Costco, Target, and Trader Joe's. I loaded groceries and boys into the car at three different places in 91 degree weather.

And then when David came home and had to unload all of it and was putting it away and got really frustrated about not having room, we had words about grocery shopping.

My questionable rationale being that grocery shopping is hard, it's not something he wants to do when he gets home after work, and I'm not going again for any reason until after this baby is born.

His point being that food goes to waste sometimes if you buy too much at once and there's not enough cupboard space, and besides that, we're having a baby - not preparing for the apocalypse.

Saturday I felt like a truck ran over me - too much bending, lifting, and either sitting in a car or on my feet for twelve or fourteen straight hours on Friday. I have no idea what I was thinking.

And of course today I noticed we're out of laundry stain remover, peanut butter, and soon toilet paper. So I wasn't as thorough as I thought, and my stock piling makes me feel a little sheepish, but still. Grocery shopping is probably number one on my list of hated tasks, and I am now officially boycotting it, maybe for the rest of the summer.

Meanwhile, we (by "we" I mean mostly David) have also thoroughly scrubbed two and a half bathrooms, cleaned and straightened the piles of nonsense that were invading our bedroom, run several loads of laundry, bought a couple more onesies, a baby monitor and a carseat, and are now in the process of dragging out a large area rug from our living room, polishing the floor under it, and replacing the rug (and rearranging the furniture in the process).

Tomorrow after my 39-week OB appointment, I am co-hosting a bridal shower for a darling girl from church, so I'll be food prepping and socializing most of the day.

Then I plan to sink into a happy routine of sitting on the couch, every now and then having what Henry has started calling "choclicks" (i.e., fudge frosting on a spoon), drinking ice water by the gallons, perhaps maintaining the laundry, and incubating.

Not exactly blog material, but there's always the outside chance that I will now have the time and energy to blog.

And with a sedentary mother, Cal and Henry will undoubtedly come up with some human interest for us all, don't you think?


Debut as a Soccer Mom

Sometime in the fall last year, Calvin started talking about soccer. All. the. time.

By December, the only thing he would tell me he wanted for Christmas was a soccer ball. Done. The other toys and winter weather kept him from devoting a lot of time to playing with the ball for a few months, but he was very happy to have it.

In February or so, I received the spring program of sports and activities for our town and noticed a sweet little Saturday soccer program for 4- and 5-year-olds called "Me and My Ball."

Perfect, I thought - Cal will get to start soccer (his apparent dream), he'll be able to go run around and kick things for an hour each Saturday for two months, his dad will take him (woohoo!), and it will be a nice diversion for all of us in the last weeks of my pregnancy.

That's what I get for thinking. I should have known better after the swimming lessons - these things I think will be fun diversions for the kids end up being WORK for the parents trying to get the kids to have fun.

I should have also clued in a little bit when I was hyping the upcoming first practice by saying, "And you'll get to learn all the rules, and how to play the game really good..." and Cal replied, "I already know the rules. You can't use your hands. And I already play really good."

Nevertheless, we bought little shin guards, he got another ball and a t-shirt at his first practice, and we were set. I went to the first couple "practices" to cheer him on. While he sat on my lap on the damp grass, too hesitant to join the mob of kids on the field.

He doesn't like the skill drills, no matter how fun the coach makes it sound. It's mostly because Cal likes to do something perfectly if it's in front of other people, and he couldn't "get" the skills fast enough before the coach moved on.

The ball the soccer league gave him at the beginning looks just like the other fifty balls on the field, and it was disturbing to him (and most of the other 4-year-olds) when they pooled the balls for a game and he no longer had sole possession of the ball that we had written his name on.

So we decided to take his own ball the next time, which is a different color than the others, and gave him the explanation that sometimes everyone shares all the balls but he'll always get his own back at the end. That kinda alleviated the ball angst. (Why they give personal balls to preschoolers at the beginning I cannot fathom...Why not as a consolation prize at the end of the "season," after they've shared the whole time?)

He doesn't like that the coach changes almost every time - they just have a big group of kids, no formal teams at this age, so they count off each week and go with a different coach and different mix of kids every time. Calvin will stage a sit-in for the first twenty minutes or so over not knowing the coach. (He bonded with the first one by telling a swell knock-knock joke and has only had that coach one time since.) And last week he said mournfully, "But I still don't know any of the kids there." I think he kinda feels like it's starting over every week, instead of seeing the same friends each time. Understandable. He thrives on structure and familiarity.

I stopped going after the first couple of times, because (aside from the issues of standing for an hour on a soccer field in late pregnancy) when I went, Henry would also come along and it was more of a draw for Cal to take his ball and his brother to the nether regions of the field and play a grass-picking, piling, rolling ball sort of game with him. So David gives me the report each week.

Out of the six weeks (hours) of soccer so far, Cal has been on the field about one hour total. For one thing, it takes him fifteen to twenty minutes to warm up to the idea and get brave enough to go out and do his thing. Then once he does go out there, where they are playing ball-stealing games and having dribbling races, if he doesn't "win," he benches himself.

The death knell came this last week, I think, when Cal finally got the nerve to go out and play near the end of the hour, only to get knocked down within 30 seconds by one kid tripping into him and then kicked in the face by another kid running by. Bloody nose, hurt pride. David cleaned him up and said, "How about we go get the car washed?"

Don't get me wrong - I totally knew going into it that four years old is still a little guy, that we're not exactly the soccer family, and I have no problem with Cal being hesitant to join in. We honestly haven't pushed him.

Well, OK - at first I was a little tense about the situation and spent a lot of time encouraging, cajoling, bribing him to go out and give it a try. But it stressed him out and stressed us out and even the money we paid to enroll him wasn't worth that - this was supposed to be a fun first exposure. So we came around to the conclusion that at least we would go and watch, even if he didn't feel like playing. Trust me, compared to some other parents out there, we are really laid back about it.

I just decided that signing him up this year was a flop, and I would take full responsibility for it - he just isn't quite ready to join in like that, and that's OK. Far be it from me to pressure a kid. And there is also the side of his personality that lends itself more to individual sports than team sports. We'll try golf or tennis or rock climbing sometime...

I was just a little disappointed because the way he talked about soccer and wanted that soccer ball for literally months, I thought it would be the highlight of his life so far, instead of the dreaded hour of every week. I made a note to myself that we would wait until being on a team was his idea, and until then we'd just play soccer with him ourselves. Or let him devise grass-picking, piling, ball rolling games with his two soccer balls and his brother from now on. Lesson learned.

But then we hear him telling his preschool friends and church teachers, "I play soccer. I have shin guards and everything! I love soccer." The best was when he pulled his cozy coupe over to the backyard fence, climbed up on top of it so he could see over the fence, and kicked up a conversation with the bachelor neighbor who was setting up his new BBQ grill: "I play soccer. I'm really good. I love it. I know all the rules, and I have two soccer balls, and I go to practice..." In fact, he tells most anyone about his enduring love for the game and his skills and that he plays soccer.

It's like he has lived an ENTIRELY different experience. I just don't get it.

Maybe he has post-traumatic stress syndrome, and has simply blocked the weekly teary-eyed shin guard wrestling episodes, and forgets his own, "I hate soccer! I don't want to go!" tirades.

Or maybe when he is sitting there on the sideline watching the kids he is really having an out of body experience, and feels himself out there, being the star of the game.

Whatever it is, signing him up for soccer apparently has made his life so far.

Which is good, because I think we'll wait another four years before we do it again.

WTW: Celebrating Me

For this week's Woman to Woman, Morning Glory and Lei challenged each participant to write about her strengths and accomplishments, something women probably don't do often enough. For other posts about celebrating who we are and what we can do, visit Seeds from My Garden and My Many Colored Days today!

I started this post at 6 a.m. and it's taken me until now, 6 p.m., to sit down and articulate what I might say. In the end, I feel the best about just writing what my husband had to say. So much for tooting my own horn, huh?

Me: What do you think is one of my strengths?
David: Is this for your blog?
Me: Phthththththth! Does it matter?
David: Well, you always ask me these kind of things when you want to write about it on your blog. I was just wondering.
Me: Well?
David: You are discerning and intuitive and have a really good "feeling" for people and choices and consequences. You know how to follow your gut and you have a strong moral compass. I think you've always had good examples in your life, but a lot of the time you've been left on your own to actually chart your course, and it's made you really thoughtful and intuitive. I think that's your greatest strength because it permeates everything you do - your interactions with people, being a mother, planning for the future. And I think I respect it because it's the opposite of how I choose or decide things, but it keeps you (and us) in line.

And then later...

Me: But what do I bring to our home or family?
David: You're the driving force. You're like the center tent pole, holding it all up.
Me: Does that mean I wear the pants?
David: No, I think we share...
Me: We share the pants?
David: Yeah, we each have one leg in the pants. No, I mean - you are a great organizing force. You see what needs done in our home and you see it through. You let me know what you need help with. You see what the boys need, and you try to make it happen. You have ideas and you make lists and you communicate so that things fall into place...
Me: But our house is a mess more often than not.
David: But if any of us is hurt or sad or needs to talk, you're the one we want. I have close relationships with the boys, but when it comes down to a need, you are the one they want - I just won't do. And as much as I love Calvin or Henry, when it comes down to it, you're the one I want to talk to and be with more than anyone else.

So...my strength lies basically in marrying a man who tells me exactly what I want to hear, on demand.

Kidding, ladies, only kidding...

But talking to him made me realize that there are lots of things that I (and lots of women) do that aren't the kind of things we get thanked or recognized for - Hubs isn't likely to come home from work and say, "Wow, thanks for the honey-do list and your incredible intuition today. It makes my whole world better."

But the bottom line is that the better part of our natures - the ability to nurture, to listen, to organize the aesthetics of our home life, to laugh, to roll with the punches, to be present - are the things that will top the list of what the people we love the most appreciate the most.

Of course, with the kind of springboard David gave me in listing my strengths, I can come up with a few more accomplishments, physical attributes and character traits that are uniquely mine or especially wonderful, things that would stand on their own whether I had a husband and kids or not, but today I think I'll celebrate me, being the one that all my boys want, just because I'm me.


Let's Talk Henry

I've really been slooooooooowwwiiiing doooooooowwwwnnn in the last few days. And I have so much to do...

But what little energy I have seems to be going mostly toward things like being super sentimental over Henry, my baby-now-boy, who is soon to be sandwiched between the larger than life oldest and the new baby.

I guess this happened around this time last year, too, but I want to snuggle him more and listen to him more and basically bottle him up to keep for a while, because things change so quickly, not necessarily for the worse, but change is always a little sad.

So, at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, here's a little mishmash of things I want to remember about Henry at age "almost three."

His favorite thing to play lately is "vending machine." On the days I take Cal to preschool, Henry and I drop off Dad's dry cleaning and he gets a soda from the machine at the dry cleaners. He likes to have me put the money in and then he pushes the green (Sprite) button and wrestles with the bottle when it clunks to the opening below. It's the thrill of the week for Henry.

He has brought the thrill home by doing clever things like dropping a business card in the slit of the top dresser drawer, hearing it drop, then opening the bottom dresser drawer to get out a "Sprite." Over and over and over. He also likes to block doorways with his arms spread across like a gate and tell us that we can't get through until we put a quarter in his mouth. When we put a quarter in, he makes all kinds of mechanical sounds and opens the gate for us to pass.

The other day, he kept coming over to me and stealing bites of some pudding I was eating. I told him to stop, he already ate all his, and to go away now. To which he replied, "I can't go away until you put a coin in my mouf." I complied, thinking it was a really easy solution, since the gates he makes always open so quickly when I put a coin in. This time, when I said, "OK. There you go, one coin. No go away from my pudding," he cackled and said, "Nope. I won't go away! That's acause I'm bwoken! Aggh!Ha!HA!HA!"

He is crazy into babies and actually makes a pretty convincing baby out of his fringy blanket by rolling it and then folding the bottom up, all swaddle-like. For a few days this baby was named, "Little Tiny," but more recently changed to "Teeny." I can do without the voice he uses when referring to and conversing with his baby, but it's adorable to see how he holds it and talks to it and puts it down for a nap.

For a couple days last week, he insisted that it was MY baby, and I needed to be holding it 24/7, more or less. I let it fall off the couch once and he bolted across the living room, picked it up and told me to be careful. And once I let it unroll on my lap while I was sitting at the computer and he told me Little Tiny was cold and needed rocked. When I didn't comply, he came over and rolled it up again and carried it away to take care of it properly himself.

Mixed in with his imaginary play (Calvin has never done a whole lot of that - he's very concrete and literal), Henry is loving puzzles these days (another thing Cal doesn't really do - he doesn't like the trial and error aspect of putting a puzzle together, he wants it perfect the first try). He mostly likes to ask me where pieces go, and chatter with me the whole time he is putting them together, and then he is thrilled when the whole picture is made. He told me to take a picture one day, he was so excited about finishing two puzzles.

There are some not-so-charming things about his emerging opinions and interests, like on the potty training front: I showed him some very cool big boy underwear at the store the other day in an effort to get him a little excited about the whole idea, and asked if he'd like to get some. "No," he shook his head emphatically and then tipped it to one side, "I just want to keep diapers for pooping in my pants." Excellent. I guess we're headed for double diapers for a while again.

Auntie S and I took the preschoolers swimming last week. Henry has this dangerous combination of complete fearlessness and complete lack of grace. He fell so many times, face in the water, then came up only to slip again. It's really Three Stooges comical, because he is so nonchalant about it. He rarely cries or gets scared, just recovers and moves happily on to the next stumble, and doesn't want me to soothe or baby him in the least.

Only once while we were swimming did he want me because he had slipped in the kiddie pool under one of the water works play pipes, stood up, bonked his head on the pipe, went under the water again, stood up, bonked his head again, under the water again (all this in a matter of seconds, and I was less than five feet away from him, trying to heave my pregnant self through the knee-high water as quickly as possible, lest you think I was watching my child drown...), then finally came to my outreached arms. Even after all that, I was more upset than he was, but he let me hold him until his ears drained, then he went to splash stumbling again.

Last week we had to have some routine bloodwork to check Henry's iron. It's not my favorite thing at all - I don't watch when they draw blood from my own arm because it just makes me queasy watching tubes fill up. So it's really tough to have to look when they are doing it to my little boy, since I have to hold his arm steady and straight. I always expect Henry to absolutely lose it over shots and bloodwork, but he doesn't.

This time, he was most annoyed with the elastic band that was so tight around his upper arm (that's my boy - hates constrictions), but he kept up a little banter with the nurse the whole time - "What's that?" - "Why you doing that?" - until the needle went in. He made one little cry and then just turned his head into my chest and said, whimpering, "That hurts, Mommy." By the time she put a band-aid on his arm, he just had two little tears pooled right below his eyes, and he let me hug him for a minute, then crawled off my lap and was ready to go.

I think that is my main challenge with Henry - he has always been so easy-going, so low-maintenance, other than his Energizer-bunny quality. I sometimes wonder if he really doesn't need the attention, or if he's just learned to cope without it. And I'm feeling so worried about giving him what he needs in that department, especially once there's a new baby in the house.


The love always goes far enough to include every child, even when you think you can't possibly love another one as much as the one(s) you already have. It's just the ability to love each one the way they need it. Always wondering if I'm doing right by each one of them...

Henry is so precious and bright, and sometimes I feel like he slips through the cracks somehow, but I really hope not.


More About Questions

I don't know a parent of a preschooler who hasn't lamented the "Why?! But, why?!" stage of every child's development. Most of the time, "why" isn't really the question they want answered, but they discover the power of asking: it stimulates a conversation. It makes Mom talk to them. (Unless she has become tired and cranky and mindlessly keeps saying, "I don't know...Want some chocolate?")

I have an almost-three-year-old there right now. He also likes to ask, "how" in an improper context, such as, "How are we going to have snack?" This drives his big brother Calvin crazy, who feels morally obligated to get Henry to understand that he actually means to say, "WHEN are we going to have snack?" And Henry doesn't get it. Frustration on all sides.

But I really think that the stage Calvin has arrived at may give the "Why" stage a run for its money. It is the stage marked by this question:

How do you know?

This stage is actually complicated because it arouses very divergent feelings as a parent, depending on the word that is emphasized, which seems to evolve in three phases.

When Calvin started it, it was along the lines of, "HOW do you know I was there?" To be sure, this was a silly question, asking me how I knew he was there, when he had been talking to me the whole time he was hiding under the blanket in the same room with me. But I was OK with it, since the emphasized "how" made it seem like he was impressed with my infinite knowledge. Of course, that also wore a little thin, because he's a bright boy, and I don't really believe that he really wondered how I knew something so obvious.

And then began the derivative, "How do you KNOW?" I kinda liked this for a while, because he would ask it in relation to things I know or believe strongly, and we had some sweet little conversations about things we could know about, even when we don't see them, like the wind.

But then he started asking the same thing, same emphasis on "know," and if he didn't like or believe my answer, he would say with a condescending little head shake and roll of his eyes, "Mom, scientists don't even know." No mom likes to be ranked below a scientist, for crying out loud. So much for the parental omniscience I was feeling just a few days before over the same exact question.

But the most deflating variable of the question has now begun: "How do YOU know?!" I don't like the sass, I don't like the disrespect, and I don't like it that half the time I don't know, and that he knows it. I'm almost wishing that I could hear him ask "Why?" a million times a day again. You know, how precious it would be for him to drive me crazy with the same question over and over again, just because he likes the sound of my voice and doesn't care about the substance or accuracy of the answers.

But to give him a little credit, there are some pretty impressive inquiries in the mix lately, too.

Like when we were waiting for the phlebotomist the other day, there were several signs posted around the room with a cell phone crossed out and the words, "No Cell Phones" written below it. Calvin pointed out every one of the signs and told me what they said. (He doesn't read quite yet - his understanding was based primarily on the picture.) Then he looked around at all of them again and asked, "Mom! Why do these signs all say 'No cell phones,' but none of the words have a letter 'F'?"

Now, that's the kind of question I like. And when I answered him, he didn't even ask how I knew. I just might be able to get through this stage, too.



It's Pink and Chocolate Day! (Cute wedding picture at that link - you really ought to go...) One of the best things about my wedding day, besides the cake (also at that link), was the photographer we hired for the day. (If I was really good I would get digital copies of all the negatives so I could post a wedding pic or two, but that is beyond me right now...)

He did journalist-style photography, mostly candid shots, starting in the morning with my getting ready, then David and I walking down the street together, then riding the Trax a block to the temple. (The Trax was a sentimental thing to me - it's the kind of public transport we rode on our mission in Ukraine...)

It was fun to have someone snapping pictures the whole way, capturing all our impromptu kisses and pretty much every moment and every guest who shared our day. What I got the biggest kick out of was the people on the street, as we walked with a photographer following us, whispering to one another, "Who are they?" I'm sure they were feeling really uncool, not recognizing the celebrities before them.

I really did feel like a bit of a celebrity that day, beautiful and (finally) marrying the man I love, feeling a true sense of beginning and celebration and hope.

When I was in college, a friend of mine once said that the thing she wanted most in a relationship was to really know someone and to really be known. I've thought about that a lot in the six years I've been married and more than once realized with a profound sense of gratitude that somehow I came out with a relationship just like that.

It isn't to say that I know everything about David or he about me, or that we even understand each other's needs or wants completely on a daily basis, but if there was ever a person who really "gets" me, or who has a perfect desire to understand and love me, it's him.

I learned early on that it is a mistake to assume that someone doesn't really love you if they can't read your mind, and I love the level of communication David and I enjoy. Sometimes knowing that all I have to do is say something, and David will hear it and act on it - or else tell me I'm out of line (which is needed sometimes!) - is even sweeter than if he was wearing himself out guessing at my happiness because I was too stubborn to communicate.

I read an article in the doctor's office just yesterday about a woman who kept a list in a notebook for the twenty years of her married life of all the thoughtful things her husband did, the tender moments that she wanted to savor always, the things she called "their sweet little life together." Very few of the items are huge gifts or momentous occasions - they were just times that she loved and savored sharing with the man she loved.

As it turns out, her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and died at a relatively young age. She made a comment that her notebook didn't represent their complete life together, the conflicts or heartaches that happen in every marriage, but she treasured her list because any one item could take her back to the moment and she could have them all back with him.

In fact, she even had one item on the list that happened after his death - On her 60th birthday celebration as she was seated at dinner, the doorbell rang and it was a delivery of a huge birthday bouquet with a note from her husband that said, "Happy birthday with undying love..." As he lay dying the spring before, he had asked one of his daughters to remember to send it for him.

David and I have been married for only six years, but if I kept such a list, it would be full of tenderness and respect and thoughtfulness. There is nothing luxurious or exceptional about our life, we have our little boys, one car and still rent until we can tackle the housing market, and we can't afford extreme vacations.

But we hold hands. He listens to me. We jealously guard our evening and weekend time together as a family. We go to church together and talk too late into the night sometimes about things we care about - trading off between his passion for world affairs and mine for the affairs of our household.

And I love the way he knows me and loves me.

One of my favorite memories of David's unselfish regard for things I care about happened in our first year of marriage. I was four months pregnant, had just come out of nausea-ville, and was coordinating a wedding reception for my best friend. Totally my cup of tea, loved making all the arrangements and seeing it come together, but after the work-intensive day of setting up and putting things in place, and stressing about everything being perfect, I was so tired and my back ached. I bustled around for a while, but then just needed to sit.

Every time I felt that I was slacking or needed to check on something, or had forgotten to do this or that, I would look up from where I was sitting to see David doing exactly what needed to be done - refilling the punch bowl, adding another cake to the dessert table, emptying the overflowing trash can.

To me it was miraculous that someone would do that for someone else, for me, no less. I remember sitting there thinking he was one in a million - he has little or no interest in the aesthetics of wedding receptions, but he had enough interest and concern for me that he just took up where I left off so I could rest and enjoy my friend's wedding day.

To me, it's things like that - just being aware of the other - that make a marriage work. David makes me feel treasured and, perhaps more importantly, considered, every day of my life. For that and a million other little moments and loving actions and just for being who he is, I still feel like a celebrity being followed with a camera down the street, kissing my husband (only now being trailed by two rowdy little boys). I still feel the sense of beginning and hope, and I celebrate every one of the six years before today, and all the years for the rest of forever with him.

Love you, Bubba.


Mother's Day Et Cetera

Happy (late) Mother's Day to you!

This picture is Calvin's beautiful ink and crayon drawing of flowers - you should have seen the meticulousness with which he drew the seeds in the center. I love them.

And this post is where I exercise my mother's prerogative and write miscellaneous stuff mostly for me.

I had a fabulous Mother's Day. David gave me a beautiful corsage for me to wear to church. I hope that will be a tradition - you know, once you grow up there just aren't many corsage-wearing occasions. And what better reason to wear one than being a mom, huh?

The little boys picked out a squirrel-proof bird feeder to hang outside our window. It was Calvin's idea ("Mom really loves the birds, you know".) David took them shopping on Saturday, explained to them that it was a surprise and not to tell, then Henry burst through the door when they got home and told.

David cleaned all weekend, rearranged furniture for me, let me take naps and sleep in, plus made some scrumptious salads for Sunday dinner. I was feeling nostalgic for my grandma, so I commisioned him to make her recipe for potato salad and frog eye salad, and my favorite thing ever, mozzarella-basil-tomato salad. And he also whipped up a darn good chocolate cake.

The greatest thing is that we took all the sides and went over to Auntie S's, where Uncle K had grilled up some chicken and fabulous vegetables, the older kids watched the little ones, and Auntie S and I sat and did nothing but talk while we waited for dinner, then they also did all the clean-up. Very nice.

Meanwhile, I continue to gestate. What I am most enjoying is when Henry tells me I have something on my shirt on the lower side of my belly where I can't see. He's really looking out for me. I also like Calvin telling me that this baby needs to be born. Soon.

I have had a hey-day buying onesies for the new little man. I personally cannot think of anything much more adorable than fat thighs and dimpled knees, and onesies really show them off. One of the perks to having a newborn in summertime. I can taste them already.

I have noticed on the sizing of baby items that it appears I will be giving birth to a three month old. Calvin was 8 pounds 11 ounces and Henry was 9 pounds 6 ounces. I don't anticipate this boy being smaller. Perhaps I should host a little bloggy guessing pool...hmmmm...I could think up a prize for the blog friend who guesses closest to his birth weight. And YOU all could think up a prize for ME if I deliver a ten-pounder. Whaddaya say?

I had in mind to post a bit more about Calvin and Henry (there have been some doozies the last couple days), but I think I'll put it in another post.

I have some leftover chocolate cake to go eat.


Me-Me-Muh-Meme: The Random Eight

C.H. Green from Beneath the Ivy Wreath tagged me this week to do this meme. I like to play along and needed a little jumpstart for a post.

So...eight random things about me:

1. Maraschino cherries creep me out. I will not eat one, Sam-I-Am.

2. I am the girl next door - the one that all the parents LOVED for their children to hang out with, the one that all the moms wanted their sons to marry (I still have a note from one mom to prove it!) and the one their sons talked to about their girl problems but never considered dating. The rule keeper, steady-as-she-goes, rather plain but pulled together - and inside actually quite fun - girl. That's me.

3. I have a high tolerance for physical pain, but I am pretty sure that insomnia and/or sleep deprivation will. kill me.

4. Flossing my teeth gives me the same sensation as running fingernails down a chalkboard. (**shivering as I even think about it...**) But I find the dentist's chair relaxing.

5. I love knowing and talking to people who are "up" on pop culture, but I have little or no desire to get jiggy with it myself.

6. I never actually knew what an azalea was until I lived in Virginia. And now I think they are as much a part of my heart as Aspen forests in a Colorado September.

7. My mom is a hairstylist, which means I got my first permanent wave when I was two years old, sitting in a high chair. And I've never had long hair because there was always easy access at home to a new haircut or style. She's still the only one in the world who knows my head and can give me a cut I like.

8. I was never really bothered by heights until I had children. And now, whether the boys are with me or not, I get a wild mix of vertigo and a feeling that my butt is going to fall off my body, and I pretty much want to cling onto whatever I can and cry until I can move again. It's really not pretty.

Now...I'm supposed to tag eight people to post their own Random Eight. If you made it through mine, consider yourself tagged. I'm just not sure who has already done this one. Do let me know if you play along!


The Intimacy of Inconvenience

***Long post. Sorry. But I've been thinking. And writing. Hard work these days. And here it is. Deal with it, or move on.***

Even those of us who think we are pretty normal have quirks and tendencies and psychological hang-ups of some sort that rear their ugly little heads like gargoyles coming to life on the spires of an enchanted cathedral.

Today, you get a little glimpse at one of my pesky gargoyles. Pregnancy perhaps brought it to life this time around, but it is nonetheless always there, spewing rain through its spout on the roof line...

A few weeks ago I had an episode of sorts over - get this - calling a babysitter. My OB appointment had been on my calendar a good three weeks earlier, I had even rearranged other plans or planned other appointments for different days because I knew that I had it.

And yet the day arrived and I realized that although the appointment was on my radar, I had forgotten the minor detail of finding a sitter for the boys. This was also a visit to the OB when I really needed an undistracted conversation, and the thought of taking the boys along (which I have done before) was threatening to give me hives, it was so not an option for me.

Long story short, I made several calls, got turned down repeatedly, and finally left one last voice mail a mere hour and a half before my appointment in which I started bawling and snarfing incoherently, trying to explain my need for a last minute babysitter because I needed a doctor.

And then there wasn't an option to erase the sniveling message after I got a hold of myself.

And then her husband was the first one home that day and picked it up instead of her.

When she called (undoubtedly at her husband's concerned recommendation) to check on me later in the evening, I smoothed it all over by laughing maniacally nervously casually and assuring her between extra peppy guffaws that everything was OK, I had just been stressed and felt silly trying to get a babysitter on such short notice.

After the hormonal smoke had cleared, and my very cool neighbor/landlady/friend had come home just before I was leaving and agreed to sit with the boys for an hour, and I almost didn't feel embarrassed for snotting up a voicemail like an idiot, I started asking myself, "What in the world was that all about?!"

I was seriously in knots over something so small...

Yes, I was frustrated that my brain had not processed the idea to get a sitter a little bit sooner than the day of. But that wasn't exactly it.

Yes, calling lots of people and getting a negative or no response added to that incompetent brainless feeling. But that wasn't exactly it, either.

Both of those feelings were just extensions of this underlying part of my personal hard-wiring:

I HATE to be an inconvenience.

It gives me serious stress to "put someone out." Really. It's like a cardinal rule of my psyche: Whatever you do, do NOT cause a problem or inconvenience for someone else.

So there it was, and I knew it was true. Somehow, "You made your bed, now lie in it," has taken on this element of personal uber-responsibility that makes me completely implode when I have to ask someone to help me out of a mess I made. It sometimes mutates into eccentricities like, "Whatever you do, do not ask for help," or, "You won't be able to repay that, so you can't ask," or, worst of all, "You wouldn't want someone to use YOU like that."

There are other people in my family who think this way, too. It drives me nuts when I see it in them, but then to realize I do it, too!

I have managed in some ways to overcome this. For example, I was able to realize that paying for college or a mission wasn't something that I could do by myself and that asking for help for those kind of things wasn't being a burden, it was being realistic and smart enough not to squander my future out of a stubborn belief that I should do things myself and not impose on anyone else.

And luckily for me, I have lots of good people in my life who were more than glad to help once I asked, who were happy and anxious to do whatever they could to help me go forward in life. But I think that was more about learning, "Ask, and ye shall receive."

For some smaller things, like when Henry was born, I was able to depend heavily on people to help me postpartum without guilt because I had learned from experience that a new baby wasn't a one-person endeavor, and once again that others were more than glad to help, and completely understood my need.

But still, I struggle to ask for small favors or to lean on others, especially if it's because of some mistake or fumble on my part.

I was mulling over this glitch in my emotional hardware when my mind flashed back to a couple weeks before, when I was on the other end of a last minute babysitting request. I was busy with the boys when David took a call from Elizabeth, simply asking if I would call back as soon as I had a minute.

Elizabeth is someone with whom I can converse easily, and we've known each other for a few years. We chat in the hall at church, and we've exchanged babysitting and gotten together for dinner a few times. I admire her for a lot of things, but sometimes haven't been able to gauge the depth of our friendship.

When I called back her husband answered and he told me she was already on her way to the hospital. I asked what was going on and he said that her dad was dying - she had been trying to find a sitter so that could go together to be with her dad. She hadn't found anyone, so she went alone. Without any consideration, I told him I'd be over in ten minutes.

On the drive there, I suddenly felt so close to Elizabeth and thankful that I would be someone she would call. It turned out that I was one of the first people she had tried. That felt good. Lots of other people had turned her down before I called back, but I came through for her. That felt good, too. I felt special and needed and like I was truly her friend.

As an adult, we have a few friendships that just click easily and naturally from the get-go, others are friendships that are solid mostly because we "go way back" with a person. We may have friendships that develop around a common hobby or interest, and that's mostly what we share with the other person. Sometimes we become friends with others who have kids the same age as ours and we see them at a lot of common school or extracurricular activities.

Mostly we have acquaintances and get together with people we work with, sometimes a neighbor or two, but I have felt it become more and more difficult to form lasting true connections as we grow up, change jobs, relocate, get more and more involved in the micro-universe that is our own family. We all kinda keep our distance. Or at least that's what introverts like me do.

"You can count on me" friendships seem more and more difficult to find and maintain. But after thinking how my friendship with Elizabeth seemed changed and enhanced because she asked me to help her when she was in a pinch, I realized that my inability to ask for help out of a tight spot might be part of the reason I don't feel as deeply connected with others these days.

I was explaining this little epiphany to David one night and he said, "You know, I think I know exactly what you mean." This surprised me, because I thought I was being sappy and a little melodramatic about how good I felt that Elizabeth needed me.

David said he recently had the same kind of experience with a co-worker, Scott. They have a lot in common, they work on projects well together, and our Calvin and his daughter are the same age so we've gotten together for birthdays in the last few months. But David still wasn't sure if he was just a work buddy, or a friend.

Then one day Scott asked David if he would be willing to come pick up their family at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning and take them to the airport so they wouldn't have to pay for two weeks of parking while they were on vacation. Scott was a little hesitant to ask, but David was completely glad to do it.

And then another evening when David had to work late and missed his carpool ride, which meant that I would have to get the boys out of bed, load them up and go pick up David whenever he finished, Scott said before he left, "David, please call me when you're through. I live close by and can take you home, no problem. Don't bother Traci."

David said that these two things made him realize that Scott is more than a work buddy or acquaintance, that he is a friend.

So here is what I've learned: There is an intimacy that comes from inconveniencing each other from time to time. There is a closeness that develops when we see each other in a pinch and can do exactly what is needed to help the other out. When I stubbornly believe that I shouldn't "put anyone out," I'm actually preventing a closeness and sharing that could enrich a lot of my relationships. I'm not allowing anyone to feel like they are part of my life, that I need them.

For me, feeling needed is second only to being loved unconditionally. Everyone wants to feel like they have something they can offer or do for someone they care about.

In fact, when I think of the most intimate relationships I have - with my husband, for instance - it is a lot about taking up slack, helping each other out, sometimes seriously inconveniencing the other on occasion. It's how we learn and grow with each other, learn to trust and pull for one another.

It's not using one another, it's not walking all over one another. It's not a contest of score-keeping or back-scratching - it's being part of each other, of really reaching deep and connecting, because we both know we need each other.

And somehow, knowing another's need and being able to fill it gladly makes both people feel more like true friends.


Do You Know This Feeling?

Me: Can I just go away for a little while?
David: Sure. What's going on?
Me: Nothing, really. It's just...They keep talking to me.



That's what I'm doing today - you know, the little piles of paper here and there, phone calls to make, bills to pay, appointments to schedule...

I have some posts in my head but they are being clogged big time by baby on the brain (i.e., completely pathetic inability to put two words together in a coherent manner or to filter out interference of any kind), so let me see if getting some of the naggy little "to-do's" done around here will help me out...

In the meantime, I have to note that one of Cal's oft-used phrases has evolved again. A year ago, when something was unusual or new to him, he would say, "What in the world?!" and then he changed it slightly to, "What in the whatness?!"

This week, he started saying, "That's certainly odd."

Certainly? Odd?

I absolutely don't know where he picked it up, but if you could see the quizzical 40-year-old facial expression that goes with it...it's a crack-up, actually. And he's so serious.

OK. Gotta go. Someone is hungwy and specifically needs scwambled eggs.


What a Boy Can and Can't Do

Last week, the boys sat on the counter while I washed strawberries and cut the greens off so we could have them on French toast and for snackiness. After cleaning and cutting the tops, I would hand a strawberry to one of them, who would load it in the egg slicer, push the top down and then put the evenly sliced strawberries into a bowl.

I was feeling brilliant about the new use of the egg slicer, and they were loving every minute of it. In fact, all twenty minutes or so. Granted, it would have only taken me ten to do it all myself, but we were working together, they were sampling berries and feeling brilliant to be big boys helping mom.

So - a boy can slice strawberries.

Sunday morning, David had the job of putting a bunch of shrimp on skewers for a family dinner after church. Calvin had been asking and asking to help, so David set up shop at the table, I think maybe believing (hoping?) that Cal would give up after a skewer or two. Nope. Twenty minutes later, Cal was still plugging away at the last of them, working right alongside his Dad, chatting away.

So - a boy can make shrimp kabobs.

A couple nights ago, Calvin kept putting a Wiggles radio toy up to my mouth and telling me to open up. Which I would not. That toy has been everywhere. And why should I open my mouth for a mere musical rendition of "Fruit Salad! Yummy! Yummy!"?

Then later that night as we were getting ready for bed, Calvin demanded that I open my mouth and would not take his little hands off my cheeks until I did. Finally, I said I didn't want to open my mouth and why did he want me to? To which he replied, "I need to tell the baby good-night and I love him!"

So - a boy can talk to his little brother in utero - and expose him to the musical stylings of the Wiggles - through his mother's mouth.

This morning, Cal went up to his room, picked out a complete matching outfit (albeit long-sleeved, long-panted for an 82 degree day, but matching!!), put it on, then went into the front hall to put on his shoes, where he started telling Henry that he was getting dressed so that he could go play in the front yard (a new privilege).

Henry started saying he wanted to play in the front, too, and Calvin was countering with all kinds of arguments about being four, and staying where Mom can see him, and not running away when Mom called, and not getting into the parking lot, and that Henry just could not come out with him right now because he didn't know how to do all that yet and he was only two and a half, not four. Henry persistently told him that he could and that he would and that he really wanted to come play with him.

Finally, Cal came into to me, reported that he was dressed and wanted to play out in the front yard and then added in his most imperial voice, "And will you please tell Henry that he cannot play in the front yard? I just can not watch a little boy and play at the same time."

So, a boy can get himself completely dressed, but there would appear to be some limits to his multi-tasking ability, after all.