Friday, August 31, 2007


Saturday, December 19, 1987: I was in seventh grade, and I was feeling miserable. This didn't seem unusual; it's hard to be 13, in the first year of junior high, and not be miserable. It had been a rough semester so far; for weeks I'd been locked in a secret competition with the most popular girl in my class to see who could go the longest without repeating an outfit. No one knew about this contest, including my competitor, which did give me a slight edge. But she was so good at never repeating an outfit exactly, that I was forced to wear some pretty embarrassing ensembles just to keep up.

On this particular morning, however, I felt unusually uncomfortable, and teary, and awful in a more-than-the-usual-teen-angst way. And I really really had to go to the bathroom. 5 of us shared one upstairs bathroom, and eventually I got my turn.

"Mom!" I called.

I'd gotten my period. This was exciting and all, but mostly I just wanted to die. We were supposed to drive to the new mall that had just been built a mere 20 miles from where I lived. How could I walk around the mall with my family in my new condition?! I went downstairs and lay face down on the floor, trying disappear.

Then things got worse. My father came up to me and patted me on the back, saying, "Congratulations!" I decided to never get up again.

Have I mentioned that I'm the daughter of a minister?

The next morning, at the fellowship hour after church, I was putting in my obligatory face time amongst the throng of faithful Presbyterians, when my mom's best friend spied me from across the room.

"Sarahlynn!" She ran over to me and clasped me in a big hug. "You're a woman now!"

Shockingly, it got even worse from there.

"You know," my mother mused, "you were conceived exactly 14 years ago. December 19, 1973."


The theme for the STLBloggers Blog Carnival this month is "What is/was the most important/significant day of your life?" I decided to follow in my elder daughter's footsteps and get all literal with it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wii Would Like to Give a Gift to You

I am a long way from being done with my Christmas shopping, but I've started, so I'm feeling OK about that. I like to save some shopping for December, since I'm always in a spend-spend-spend mood then, sucker for seasonal marketing that I am. But I like to spread out my shopping as much as possible, so that each person gets a thoughtful gift rather than whatever was on sale as I walked through the mall on Christmas Eve.

I've also gotten a good start on planning Ellie's 4th birthday party, which will be in October. I know what we're doing, have a theme, have a general idea for the cake I plan to design, and am mulling over homemade invitation ideas. Every year the planning gets a bit more complex, though the parties are still pretty simple (here at the house, no hired entertainment).

Before Christmas and Ellie's birthday, however, is my birthday. I will be 33 this year, but not until the middle of next month. Since my birthday feels like fall, it still seems to me that it's a long way off. It's still swelteringly hot and dry here, and it's August. Nowhere close to fall! This year I keep forgetting about my birthday entirely, mentally moving on to bigger holidays later in the year.

Everyone else, however, really seems to be thinking about my birthday. Oddly, I've already gotten most of my presents. First, my mom took me to get a pair of Dansko clogs. These are ridiculously expensive, and she knew that if she just sent me the money I'd never get around to buying myself the shoes, so she took me shopping while she was visiting a few weeks ago.

Next, Paul got me a Ninteno Wii. I have been waiting for this console for a long, long time and am so excited to have it. The house is a mess and Paul and I are both sleep deprived, but we're having lots of fun. (Since we can only play after the girls go to bed, that seriously limits the all-consuming nature of this particular pastime.) I got this present early because Paul thought it would be much harder to find than it was, and once he got it he had to give it to me immediately.

In the mail yesterday, I got a book from my youngest sister, which I haven't opened yet, but the packing slip assures me that it will help me get over missing Harry Potter.

In the mail today I got a really wonderful greeting card organizer that I've been eyeing in catalogs for a long time. I have no idea who it's from!

I know why my friend E is longing for fall: her husband is scheduled to redeploy from Iraq soon.

But I have no idea why everyone else is showering me with wonderful, amazing gifts this summer. I'm not complaining! I could get used to this sort of treatment.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I See the Moon and The Moon Sees Me

But not for much longer. I have two kids who will be up in a couple of hours, but I'm up this late to see a lunar eclipse? Am I nuts? I must be. Sure, the waiting has been fun, with the baby sleeping since 7:20, my book club tonight, then the cookie dough eating, Nintendo Wii playing, and assorted more adult games back in the bedroom. But now I've read all the Parents magazine that I can handle for the day (what did you think I meant? Well, maybe that too.) and I'm exhausted. The weather is perfectly clear - great view - and our air conditioner is repaired, so I'm cool and comfortable. Hurry up, moon.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cute Pug, But . . .

Yesterday, I got up with Ada at 5:30, then put her back to bed and lay back down myself a little after 6:00. Around 7:00, I was awoken by Ellie, who's touching my face and smelling dreadful.

"She must have spit up," said Paul. (Ellie still spits up occasionally; it's part of the low-tone that so often accompanies Down syndrome.)

"No, I think it's worse than that," I said.

I was torn between trying to wake up - too many late nights this week - and trying to hide my head from what I could already tell was going to be a challenging start to the morning.

Paul gave me status updates as he checked things out. "Ellie's pants look fine" (Good! No blow-out! Maybe we caught it in time . . . ) "But somebody pooped in Ellie's room!" (Huh? She managed to pull her pants down, then back up, but she can't . . . )

Here's where it starts to get really fun; put down the pumpkin loaf and prepare yourself.

Lizzi the pug, who hasn't had an "accident" in months and has never ever had one anywhere other than the front room - her "accidents" are very behavioral - has defecated in Ellie's room. Which we did not straighten before bed last night, so there are toys, dolls, and books scattered all over the floor. And Ellie has been awake, playing in her room for a while.

She voluntarily went in there and shut the door, a rare occurrence in the early mornings, so we should have been suspicious, but we were just so excited to have a little extra sleep.

Have I mentioned this interesting little quirk Lizzi came to us with (6 years ago, from pug rescue)? When she goes "potty," she spins in a circle several times first. It made her really easy to finish housebreaking, but when she can't wait to poop, it can make for some disastrous results.

So the morning started with some excitement. Paul took care of poop removal, cleaning carpets, and stripping the beds. I went through dozens of Clorox wipes, thoroughly cleaning everything that can't be dropped into the washing machine. But many things (even some dolls and stuffed animals) will be stuffed into the washing machine.

Granted, it wasn't actually touching any of Ellie's stuff. But, I figure, she might have touched it, then played with her toys. Poop is sort of fascinating, after all, when not confined to the toilet where it belongs. Especially when it's such an unexpected find!

Paul thinks I'm a little "obsessive" about the cleaning; he thinks that picking up the actual poop is enough, he just humored me by steaming the carpet and changing the sheets (and quilt, and comforter).

And then we all got bathed and changed. And then we started our day, somewhat later than usual but still to preschool on time.

I believe that dogs are family members. You can't just get rid of them when they piss you off. I'm going to need to keep reminding myself of that so that I don't commit canicide.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Adelaide's First Half Year

Tomorrow, Ada turns 7 months old. In her first six months, Ada has been busy being the most beautiful baby in the world. But somehow she has found the time to accomplish so much!

She's currently cutting her 6th tooth, with more obviously on the way. With these teeth, she really really enjoys eating solid food. And I don't just mean fruit and vegetable purees. She also really likes eating real, table foods, like chicken, ground beef, peas, green beans, and Cheerios. She scarfs this stuff down, even while staring fixedly at her older sister's pizza, obviously coveting the really good stuff still to come.

She also loves to drink water. Is it too early for this? I hope not. She will take a glass or bottle (think: Aquafina) of water, pull it to her mouth and, with a little assistance, drink. Both of my girls love water, odd little ducks.

For several weeks after returning from Scotland, my perfect little sleeper was hopelessly off schedule, but she seems to have resumed her previous sleep habits. Alleluia!

Adelaide sits independently, and can get down into a lying position without falling over. She rolls with ease, although she does still occasionally get stuck with on an errant shoulder when trying to get off her stomach. Unless she has something to brace against, she's not yet making much forward progress on her belly, though she's beginning to try. Paul says that she was "cruising" around her LeapFrog table today, but I'd definitely list that skill as "emerging."

My favorites: Ada loves to laugh and talk, and scold us when she's mad. She's also a big fan of gaming. She's proficient at handling the cloth herself during peekaboo, and yesterday she invented a variation where she hides her face on the couch, then pops up, grinning, for the big reveal. She sometimes waves when people say "Hi!" to her, and she's big into imitation, especially clapping.

She loves her big sister, who, completely typically, loves to steal her toys.

Her cousin is the same height, and more than 3 pounds heavier. Amazing!


with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think the experience of reading it aloud together - although frustrating at times - was vastly improved by the experience of reading it a bit more slowly, and having someone on-hand with whom to bounce around theories as we progressed through the story.

I really really enjoyed it. The magic lasted straight through that last, climactic scene in the Great Hall.

The last remaining unresolved mysteries for me are:
1) What do Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny do?
2) What on earth was Aberforth doing with the goats?

So, what did you think, now that I can finally talk to those of you who finished it weeks ago?

Sunday, August 19, 2007


This weekend we traveled to Valparaiso, Indiana for a 50th anniversary party.

I've always thought that the renewal of wedding vows was a silly ceremony. It seemed to me that most vow renewals were about: Look at meeeeee, I miss being the briiiiide.

And I figured that the vows don't need repeating. "As long as we both shall live." I said it. I meant it. That's that.

But now I feel different. I've always been told that the mind is like a steel trap, and as we age it tends to try to close, so an increasing effort is necessary to continue to force it open.

I do notice that in myself at times, and certainly in others, especially as people age. With the increasing fragility and fear that can come with becoming elderly, it seems that many people hold tightly to certainty and judgement, as though those things will keep them safe, will keep the world familiar and less threatening.

For myself, however, I become more comfortable with who I am year by year, and am less certain of everything over time. "I could never . . . " "How could anyone . . . "

Oh, that's how!

Empathy. And from there, growth and understanding, even of situations I've not been in. It's a work in progress, I'm a work in progress.

But back to anniversaries and vow renewals.

Many (most?) marriages go through periods of stress. What's wrong with recommitting? What's wrong with saying to your partner that you choose him, all over again?

And what's wrong with celebrating the commitment it takes to make a partnership work over the treacherous terrain of life, year by year, child by child, paycheck by tax season, tragedy by success, whatever your marriage's stresses are?

I think we should focus less on marriages and more on anniversaries.

I think we should celebrate life's happenings, more than life's promises. I think we should party more at funerals, should eulogize our loved ones while they're still alive, should throw big anniversary bashes and for-no-good-reason parties for those who make our lives richer. And for ourselves, too. I think that an accomplishment doesn't always come at the conclusion of anything: a graduation, a career, a marriage, a life.

At the vow renewal and anniversary party we attended this weekend, my friend Sam said that he'd had two goals in life: to outlive his father, and to live long enough to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. He achieved both, and better than he could ever have imagined; he still loves to just hold his wife's hand, she still takes his breath away.

Friday, August 17, 2007


I have often found motherhood to be a sensual, which is not to say sexual, experience. There's the nursing, of course. Ada and I spent a lot of time side-lying, with her latched onto my nipple while kicking me lovingly with a sharp foot. Beyond that obvious example, I love the indescribable softness of baby skin, with its underlying baby fat. I love the smell of baby head and milk-fed baby breath. I love the sound of funny baby noises: squeaks and snorts and giggles. I love the look of an innocent baby face sleeping, and the lights in a laughing baby's eyes.

A lot of the same wonders apply to toddlers, too. I love the smell of my toddler's breath, the sight of her sweet face, relaxed and trusting in sleep, or lighting up at the sight of me, arms opened wide, shouting, "Mommy!" I love hearing, "I love you." I love the funny little things she does with language. I love the way she caresses me with her beautiful hands. I love seeing scrapes and bumps and bruises on her skin whose origins are mysterious to me; I love her emerging independence.

Ellie just woke up, with a dry diaper, because she needed to potty. Then she went right back to sleep uncomplainingly. Despite a very long, no-nap day, I am flush with love for my daughters.

A funny anecdote, then, to cut through the syrupy feeling in here.

I was lying on my bed with Ada later this afternoon, who was waking from the short nursing nap she'd taken while Ellie had her snack in front of Curious George. Ellie stopped by Paul's bedside table before climbing up into bed with Ada and me. She brought up our little Homedics massagers. We hadn't had these out in a few months, and the girls enjoyed playing with them. Ellie enjoyed games like, "Put the massager on your . . . elbow! Foot! Chin!" Ada loved the colorful glow and the weird sensation of pressing the vibrating plastic against her mouth (she's working on her 6th tooth).

After a while, Ellie disappeared 'round Paul's side of the bed again and resurfaced with these massager things my mom got Paul for Christmas a couple of years ago. They're plastic sticks with what look like racket balls on the ends for wacking your loved one on the back. Feels great, and I taught Ellie how to hit mommy - gently, and just on the back, no, not on your sister's head!

Ellie disappeared and resurfaced again, this time with these two things.

I shut daddy's bedside table and decided we'd had enough of that game for the afternoon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dry Coughs and No Sleep

I'm exhausted, and I can't bring myself to think anymore about sleep and potty trials tonight, let alone write more about them.

Instead, I'll say that the Paul & Sarahlynn Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows couples' read got off to a rocky start, with Paul falling asleep in the middle of the big escape/battle scene at the beginning, and not being able to stay completely awake through the end of that chapter the next night, either. We rallied tonight, however, and are up to Chapter 8: The Wedding. For the record, the correct reaction to Voldemort flying beside Harry - broomless! - is not a sudden and unintentional head bob.

I'd also like to compliment the wonderful, thoughtful, selfless administrator who decided that it would be a good idea to start school in the middle of August. I'd forgotten how much easier it is to have just one child for a few hours in the morning. Especially as the other child comes home afterwards exhausted and wanting to - nap!

Before I go, a word on my mad mothering skillz: I can now multitask. Specifically, I can sing familiar lullabies to a baby who needs soothing while simultaneously reading. Reading Newsweek, that is. I do tend to stumble and miss lyrics when I read something startling or distracting. But still, it's a pretty cool skill when dealing with a rough patch. I've long been able to perform various parenting skills at once, like nursing Ada while reading to Ellie, or dancing to music while holding a baby and picking up scattered toys, but this new skill allows me to have something very like leisure time. Huh.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Like to Travel

We hope to have our house paid off by the time we're in our mid-40's, which should allow us an increased ability to travel. We love taking trips, and I often start planning a new one even before we've taken the next one we have planned. We're not planning a Disney World trip this year, unlike last fall and the year before that, but I still find myself on the Disney website from time to time, scoping out package prices.

Although we do lots of flying vacations now, we still enjoy the updated classic car vacation too (with the addition of car seats and DVD players). When I was a kid we too long driving vacations every summer, so it seemed natural to plop both girls into the new van (5 months old with 8 thousand miles already) and drive out to Wyoming.

When I saw this little map thingie, I had to plot all the states I've visited. I know that I missed some, particularly states in which I've spent very little time - my dad had a fondness for briefly detouring into neighboring states so that we could say that we've been there - but this is a good start . . . and a to-do list!

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Kirkwood Farmer's Market

"You live in Kirkwood. Get over to Tropical Moose and have the chocolate cream snow cone."

"Saralynn, you're not a true Kirkwoodian! You've never been to Tropical Moose? For shame!"

"you can't call yourself a true Kirkwoodian if you've never been to Tro Mo."

Well, I'm not a true Kirkwoodian, but we finally did go to Tro Mo tonight, and it was good.

After dinner, Paul, Ellie, and Ada were playing in Ellie's room while I read a chapter of Harry Potter 5 (that Dolores Umbridge!). Ellie came charging out of her room saying, "Tima go! Time-uh go!"

She wouldn't share with us exactly where we needed to go, but since we're indulgent parents and the girls and I were cooped up inside all day today (over 100 degrees and miserable out there, ugh) we all grabbed shoes and loaded into the cool car for a drive.

Ellie directed us at the intersections: left, right, right, straight, until it became apparent that she mainly wanted to drive around and listen music. Then we drove into Kirkwood for shaved ice. I had wedding cake, Paul had chocolate, and Ellie chose not to partake of hers - too cold.

Then we drove around looking for our dream house for a while before heading home to start the two-hour battle to get our girls to sleep. Paul and I play the house game differently. He restricts himself to houses that are actually for sale, which certainly cuts down on the size of the pool. I figure that since this is fantasy shopping anyway, why bother with a technicality like a for sale sign, anyway?

But back to the sleeping for a moment. This absolutely sucks. Ada was the world's best sleeper until Scotland, and we've been struggling to get back on track ever since. It's been more than 6 weeks since we returned to our native time zone. Ellie was putting herself to bed wonderfully - we'd read stories, say prayers, kiss her goodnight, then leave - until the baby was born. We allowed her the luxury of one of us lying with her while she fell asleep in the months after Ada came home because she seemed to need it. Now we're trying to break that habit and it is not going well at all.

Also? There are people who will train your pet for you. Why not your child? I would give pretty much anything in my possession for someone to come over and finish off this potty training business.

A Little More About Cats

I mentioned that we're having a problem with pet cats roaming the neighborhood and litters of kittens hunting in our yard (and on our patio, until Paul resecured some screens that Ellie enjoys loosening). An interesting discussion followed via comments.

There are a couple of separate issues here.

1) Roaming pets. If my dog is outside my yard without a leash and scares someone who is afraid of dogs, even if she does not physically harm anyone, I'm being negligent. If I walk my dog around the block and let her defecate in my neighbor's yard without cleaning up after her, I'm being a negigent dog owner. (Or it's intentional, mild vandalism, depending on your political signage.)

I understand that many people feel that their cats are different, need to get out and hunt, hate to be cooped up in the house all the time, or are impossible to pen in with a typical fence.

I'm not sure that freely roaming cats are completely harmless, however. I'm a little afraid of cats, particularly around my children. An unknown cat might have claws and teeth and be aggressive, especially if she has a litter of kittens nearby. I'm also very allergic to cats. Further, I don't enjoy the smell of cat piss, and sometimes neighborhood cats seem to enjoy marking the same spots over and over again.

2) Spaying and neutering. I feel a little like Bob Barker here. I understand that surgery costs money, but when adopting from The Humane Society, most local shelters will help with the cost. At the least, it seems only responsible to me that if you have a pet that might be fertile, that pet should be kept inside or otherwise confined so that she can't have a litter of kittens in the wild.

I am totally willing to hear how I'm wrong or haven't thought these issues through all the way.

In my specific situation, the one neighbor I know of who lets her cats roam freely also lets her dog out without a leash. Annie the golden retreiver is never out without a parent, even if she's a few yards away, exploring on her own. This doesn't bother me, and wouldn't even if Annie were a cat. Annie doesn't pee next to my front door or spent hours unsupervised in my yard. Annie has lost several feline siblings in the last few years to traffic (we live on a very quiet street, but the cats roam far), poison, and attacks from larger animals.

Specific responses:
- CCW, Taking the cats to a shelter myself isn't really an option. I have no idea how I'd catch them; I can't do it easily since I'm so allergic; I'd have no way to transport them, etc.
- Kristi, feel free to come over and kitty shop!
- Cate, fantastic idea to ask our vet.
- Sarah, I fear that you are right about the feral colony.
- Camera and Amanda, I was afraid of that.
- Brooke, I think I'd feel the same way.
- Thanks, PK. And that sounds like a great party!
- I will call my neighbor before I call a shelter of any kind, but currently I'm busy hiding my head in the sand. Figuratively, of course. The sandbox isn't really safe with kittens nearby (Paul changed our sand after the kitty caper). I'm thinking that even if the parent cats aren't hers, she might be more willing to search them out and possibly even trap them. She does love cats.

I did have animal control called on me one time, and it was terrible. My parents' neighbors didn't like that they had two big black labs (inside dogs) so they waited for my parents to go away on vacation then called animal control, saying that my parents had left the dogs unattended in the backyard while out of town in the summer heat. I was 19 years old and home by myself that week. Fortunately, when the animal control lady came back for her second visit, to take the dog (she'd come by the first time while I was at work and the older dog was in her pen outside) she met me at the door and found it obvious that Cleo was a loved pet rather than an abandoned dog. I do not take pet ownership lightly, and nor to I take the destruction of pets lightly.

Monday, August 06, 2007

'arry Potter

Some of you might have noticed our obsession with all things Harry Potter. I am aware that Rowlings's books are not exactly high art, but they are fantastic nonetheless. Perhaps the prose isn't always magical, but the storytelling is wonderful and the world she's created, well, it's hard to beat for creativity and blessed escapism.

Paul and I read the aloud books together, and we regularly host parties. Here's a shot of the invitation to the last Potter party we hosted, at my parents' house for the release of the 4th movie.

Not the aged parchment, complete with burned edges. I also sealed each envelope with wax stamped by a lightening bolt.

We enjoyed the 5th movie a great deal last month, even more than the small feast we had afterwards comprising butter beer, pumpkin bread, banana bread, Bernie Botts Every Flavor Beans, licorice wands, and a dark chocolate cake shaped like a castle.

We're behind on our reading this year, though. With the addition of children to our social schedule, and the books getting longer and longer, it's increasingly difficult to find time to read together. We haven't begun book 7, so we're assiduously avoiding spoilers and hoping for the best.

A few days before the new book published, I started over reading Book 1. On our way up to Iowa for Paul's family's reunion, we started listening to Book 6 on CD. We're still not quite done with that, but I'm up to Book 5 rereading independently, and we should be ready to start Book 7 in a week or so. We're very excited.

I've given up several things to make room for all this Potter (note that Harry himself is one of my least favorite characters). Like another of my obsessions, Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Also, sleep (see next paragraph). And I've spent so much time lying on my right side nursing Ada and reading lately that I developed painfully blocked ducts on the left. (Better now, but I'm back to nursing while sitting up for a while.)

All that background and I lost my point. Alas.

Instead, I'll ask an unrelated question. They're not the owls on Privet Drive from Book 1, but we're a bit over-run by cats here. We have some neighbors who let their cats run free about the neighborhood, which frustrates me. And it seems that perhaps some of these pets are not spade or neutered, because there's a young litter of kittens living across the street, and an older litter hunting in our yard, chasing our cardinals. Last night, they broke into our screened in porch. My next door neighbor (like me, not a cat person) complains that just outside her front door smells like a litter box, and she's got a point. I'm getting annoyed. What should I do about this cat problem?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Summer Vacation

School starts in about a week, and I'm looking forward to it. I've enjoyed having Ellie with me everyday, but I need a break from my summer vacation! I'm picturing quiet mornings reading in bed while Ada nurses or naps. These might not happen, but at least we'll probably be home a bit more.

For much of the summer, whenever we were in town and not hosting visiting family members, our weekly morning schedule looked a little like this: once a week we went to church, once we went out and did an activity as a family, once I got together with an at-home friend, twice we went to playgroups, and one morning a week the girls and I stayed home. Playgroups and other outings might to be a friend's house, the zoo, botanical gardens, Grant's Farm, a park, etc., all in the St. Louis summer heat. After afternoon nap, there was a session of swimming lessons, weekly therapy appointments, church and social engagements, etc. And, of course, the usual errands to be run. I'm beat! On the other hand, we all seem pretty healthy, without the usual influx of preschool germs.