Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trying to Feel Good

My internet connection is annoyingly up and down this week, which keeps me from doing the "research" I’d planned to do for the blog post that I’d planned to write. Instead, I’ll try this modified little meme-thing I picked up while stumbling around the internet. That makes it sound like an STD.

With no qualifications or justifications, here are 5 things I'm proud of about me:
  1. I’ve never had casual sex. (I've never had an STD, either.)
  2. I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. On a related note, I read a lot: fiction, nonfiction, genre fiction, memoir, Newsweek, etc.
  3. My body does a good job with pregnancy, labor, and baby feeding. I did natural childbirth once! And might do it again someday when I don't have to play with Mr. Pitocin.
  4. I think about things, really think about them. For the past 10 years or more, I've been trying to train my brain to look behind the emotion at the facts, the logic, the different sides of a situation.
  5. Sometimes I can make pretty pictures with words.

Hmm, that was harder than I thought it would be.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


First of all, thanks very much to Jessica for staying with the girls tonight so that Paul and I could go out for a movie and dinner. I originally wanted to see Juno, but we ended up seeing Charlie Wilson's War, and enjoying it very much.

I didn't think that I was interested in seeing a movie about US 1980s cold war politics in the middle east. But I like Aaron Sorkin's writing and there was a good cast, so we went.

I'd love to talk about it with any of you who've seen the movie, especially other feminists. Obviously, Wilson is a flawed character (and I liked the way that's obvious from the opening scene). But his politics were pretty sound, and he was good at working the system to accomplish things. How did you feel about the sexy female aides? How about the way he treated them in the film (flirtatiously, but with respect)? He relied upon them and trusted them to do the jobs that needed doing; they certainly weren't just eye candy. Except for the belly dancer and the Playmate.

A Few Good Men. The American President. Sports Night. The West Wing. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. If you write it, baby, I'll watch it. But (note that this is the tongue-in-cheek part) I wish he'd do an interview confession which projects he wrote while straight and which ones he wrote while high, so I can decide how I prefer his work. For example, Matthew Perry is often better looking while on pills (the emaciated look makes for a strong jawline) and he's got a haunted quality that is more serious actor and less class clown when he's fighting his monkey. And Stephen King admitted that he can't even remember writing Cujo. I'm as square as they come, but I do find it interesting to compare people's work while loaded versus sober.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


How do you go from being a high school drop-out to being a soldier? How do you go from drinking on the job at a factory to leading a platoon? How do you go from gang-banger to hero?

My best friend is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. As I'm a liberal raised by pacifists, married to another liberal raised by pacifists, this friendship has been an interesting and educational experience for me. Her husband, also a good friend, just returned from 14 months in Iraq.

I spent 11 years of my childhood living near Fort Riley, Kansas, "Home of the Big Red One," First Infantry Division. Instead of, "Yo mama so fat" jokes, kids in my schools said, "Yo mama wear combat boots." Often, this was true.

People talk about flashbulb memory in conjunction with events like the assassination of JFK or MLK, Jr. My first and clearest experience with the phenomenon was while washing dishes one evening as a teenager. It was cold, winter, and my parents were out running. I had the small, black-and-white TV on for company and I heard President George H.W. Bush declare war on Iraq. "Damn," my father said later when he returned from his run, half-frozen, and I repeated the news.

War has always effected me politically, of course, but somehow it never touched me personally. I wore slogan support bracelets - Desert Shield, Desert Storm - but I didn't stay up at night, worrying about loved ones and imagining what their lives were like over in that desert. I recommend that everyone get close to someone who experiences war on a personal level.

In the meantime, here's a snippet of what Basic Training is like. Note the recruit who didn't realize that we are at war, the spelling and grammar in the letters home, the complaints about maturity and discipline. Note how different they look at their graduation ceremony. Think of going from child to warrior in 9 weeks.

Ada's One

In the white space between songs on one of her beloved Ralph CDs, Ada says, "The End." I took a list of more than 50 words Ada says along with me to her 12-month check-up, and she's added quite a few more words in the days since. "I've never seen a 12-month-old who's quite this verbal," the pediatrician said. Of course, Ada was showing off quite a bit, enunciating, "Doctor" clearly, when she normally says, "cah" for cat and car.

Last weekend, we drove up to my parents' house to celebrate Ada's first birthday, along with that of her cousin, Arria, who was born one day later. Arria prefers walking to crawling, a leap in preference Ada hasn't yet been willing to make consistently. Until peer pressure kicked in. Today, for her Parents as Teachers Parent Educator, Ada happily walked all over the room, talked up a storm, stacked cups, played high five, sang songs, and generally acted like a very happy, compliant, much older baby.

Not that I'm complaining.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One Year Old Pictures

Who's a cute little baby? Ada's a cute little baby!

And she's got a cute (but sick) big sister, too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


A big Thank You to Beverly at Homeschool Image for awarding me one of Project Mommy's Excellent Blog Awards.

In turn, I pass the award on to:
  1. Peripatetic Polar Bear from The Ice Floe because of her beautiful prose and often resonant descriptions
  2. Kay Olson at The Gimp Parade because she challenges to me to see what I should be noticing and am very good at ignoring
  3. Flea from One Good Thing because she writes honestly about things that "we" just don't talk about
  4. Andrea McDowell at Beanie Baby for a combination of factors, including: subject matter, writing, and challenges to my comfort zones
  5. The PCUSA Blog, which merits the award for its amazing blogroll alone!

And these bloggers because I find myself checking in with them regularly just to see what's going on in their lives. These blogs are sometimes here's what happened today sort of blogs, but they're written in such a way that I feel like I know the author, and am usually friends with her. That's a pretty cool effect to achieve with a blog.
  1. Moreena from The Wait and the Wonder - poignant!
  2. Psycho Kitty at SBFH - I actually called her, on the phone based solely on bloggy communication. Amazing.
  3. Angela at Fluid Pudding - witty, local
  4. The Crazy Cat Woman - love the quick-to-read, daily posts that paint such a clear picture
  5. Portia at The Winding Sheet - because we shared some similar painful experiences around the same time, which helped me tremendously.

Sidenote: wow, does my whole template - most especially my blogroll - need an update! So sorry, everyone.

And on Beverly's blog, I found this most excellent quiz, for all you Tudor fans out there:

Which of Henry VIII's wives are you?
this quiz was made by Lori Fury

Congratulations! You are Katherine Parr.
Katherine Parr spent nearly her whole life married to crotchety old men: Henry was the THIRD old fart she was forced to marry. Is it any wonder she turned to books and religion to occupy her time?

Katherine wasn't just smart, she was a tiny bit uppity, too: she almost got herself thrown in jail for arguing with His Royal Fatness about some theological issues. After Henry croaked, Katherine dropped the prim and proper act and married Thomas Seymour, a handsome, dashing pirate kind of guy who was also as dumb as a post.

Which goes to show you that even bookworms know how to get it on.

First Down

Happy first Birthday, Adelaide! The year has gone so fast.



Yesterday, Ellie and Ada and I went to Cici’s for lunch. The girls were munching on pasta and breadsticks while I got drinks and pizza to share. When I sat back down, I distributed drinks (lemonade for Ellie, water for Ada) and handed Ellie her plate of pizza, Ada her homemade quesadilla with chicken, cheddar, and pureed broccoli.

“Ma-ma-ma-ma” she said, “I want pizza.”

I’d rather expected that she would, so I had a piece of sauceless cheese on my plate for her. But seriously. It was the day before her first birthday. "I want pizza?!!" Don't get me wrong, she still sounds like a baby much of the time. Most of her words are very hard to understand out of context. Cat and car both sound a lot like, "cah," for example. Still, Ada's amazing, beautiful, wonderful; it's been a great year.

Yes, a Jewish Carpenter

Ellie's in Sunday School for the first time this year, rather than just childcare while Paul and I are in Sunday School and church. I've been pleased with how smoothly she's made the transition from: church is a place to play to and learn, too. Just like preschool.

I know and trust the teachers, so I'm comfortable that she's unlikely to be learning a lot of theology I'm uncomfortable with. But I admit that I didn't expect her to absorb a lot of it.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Christmas rolled around and she seemed to get it without any prompting from me. First, let me admit that I haven't spent much time at home educating Ellie about the wonders of Santa Claus and his North Pole dwelling, gift giving ways. Nor have I spent much time explaining about Jesus. I know, I know.

"Later," I thought. I'm not sure where to start, and where to stop. Sure, Christmas is the birthday celebration of the baby Jesus, a reasonable concept, but Ellie's very literal. Won't she expect an actual baby? And what do I do in a few months when it's Easter? "Hey, Ellie, remember the baby Jesus? Well, some people really didn't like him when he grew up, and . . ."

"Maybe next year," I thought.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Ellie was very engaged from our first reading of Who Is Coming To Our House? in early December and, on the last page, she answered the question before I could read it:

"Baby Jesus!" she said with great excitement. Except that, with her adorable little Ellie voice, it sounds like, "Baby Jew-zus."

I nearly fell right over. So we have talked quite a bit about him lately. I'm still not sure what I'll say at Easter, though.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Not Quite Freestyle

I love HGTV. I get that it's supposed to be "reality" TV, or at least more so than fictional medical dramas and that sort of thing. For me, however, they're not so different. I watch TV to enjoy a world I wouldn't otherwise inhabit, and, for me, dramas with incredibly good looking vampires are about as realistic as professionally designed spaces.

I have no gift for interior design. Actually, I like a couple of rooms in my house: the front room doesn't look professional, but it's pretty cool with "wet sand" colored walls, black furniture, and bits of art from around the world. Ada's room is straight out of Dr. Seuss. Ellie's garden room is lovely, too. I can do a theme upon occasion, but none of my rooms looks professionally designed.

Currently, I'm confronted with an intimidatingly blank slate. We have a large, finished basement. There are three unfinished parts (laundry room, utility room, shelved storage room) and the rest is finished. There's a good-sized home office, a bedroom, a new bathroom, and the big, open room below the upstairs living room and family room. We just had this whole area painted, all very light, and hope to design and decorate the space so that it becomes, eventually, our main family room.

It's a big, rectangular space, and we have it divided into two parts: playroom and family room. The 30' southern wall has a chair-rail with wooden wainscoting below, all painted to match the upper wall. The shorter western wall has the same design. The long northern wall is partially open to the office and stairs; the rest is lined with built-in shelves for book and toy storage. The short eastern wall has doors to the bathroom, utility room, and storage room.

As you walk down the stairs, at the eastern end of the northern wall, I'd like the space to open out into the playroom, since that's where the taller, deeper shelves for toy storage are located. We have a wonderful wooden indoor slide, and the great wooden kitchen set that Ellie doesn't even know that she got for Christmas yet, since we're waiting until it's all set up to show her . . . and the room just finished being painted a week or two ago; we haven't moved the furniture back yet, let alone set anything up or decorated. It makes sense, then, for the family room area to be at the western end of the room.

What I'd like to see, I think, are big murals above the chair rail of the long southern wall, probably different ones to define the two spaces, with a tall cabinet or something to divide them. We need a new TV, or we will soon be watching the radio instead. I think a wall-mounted, ventless fireplace would be lovely on the short western wall, drawing attention away from the TV. (Did you know that you can get these, in cool-looking copper, for only $200?!) I'd also like to carpet the stairs, replace all the lighting, and get a new ceiling. Oh, and put down a new floor in the laundry room.

All this stuff is reasonably priced individually, but way out of reach when we add it up - especially as we try to crawl out from under Christmas - so we'll be doing it very, very slowly. It's a playroom/family room, but we don't want it to be too cartoony. I've considered "maps" and "libraries" as themes for the two rooms, as well as "sky" and "trees."

But if any of you have some passion for decorating and would like to draw up a design plan for me, I'd love to see it! I'm so stuck. Of course, if you'd like to pay for it, too . . .

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Trustee No More

I am thrilled to report that I lost about 20 pounds yesterday. Don't worry about my health: this was a combination of figurative weight loss and non-biological weight, including files and emotional burdens.

On January 19, my three year term as a subdivision trustee finally ended. Wahoo!!!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I volunteered. I was just at a meeting, and no one else wanted to do it, and I felt like everyone was looking around waiting for someone to volunteer, so I foolishly piped up.

"How much time is required?"

"Oh, very little! This is a quiet little subdivision; usually there's not much to do."

Inevitably, I volunteered. And it turns out that I sucked as a trustee.

I got nothing in the way of initiation or training as a trustee, so I spent my first year with no responsibilities except to listen to people whine and complain about how tall so-and-so's grass is this week and whether the tarp over the car in that carport is a violation of the restriction indenture. Occasionally I had to write a letter politely asking someone to paint a shed or remove yard waste. That's when I realized that I really don't care about those things, except perhaps in extreme situations.

In my second year things got worse. One of the other two trustees really liked the power and control of being a trustee, I suspect, and was happy to do all the work himself to maintain that control. Fine by me! When his mother died and he sank into a depression, he was unreachable much of the time. This left me with lots of legitimate resident complaints and no clue how to address them. Where's the annual assessment notice? Are we having the subdivision garage sale this year? The trustees of the adjoining neighborhood want payment for shared landscaping expenses. Gah! Clumsily, I began figuring out what needed doing and how I might do it.

In my third year, I was just counting down the days. I knew what to do and was doing it responsibly (mailing out assessment notices, writing and mailing a newsletter, contacting residents and trustees of our plat and the adjoining one about various issues, reminding people about the annual meeting, and so forth) but a new trial was sent for me in the guise of the new trustee, a retired man who has long been very active in subdivision affairs.

This dude seemed to be of the contingent that disparages the young whippersnapper new residents - those of us who aren't the original owners of our 50-year-old homes - and our lazy approach to subdivision trustee-ism (the depressed former trustee is about my age). So from the outset we have a dynamic where I feel like he's judging me and am feeling defensive about my accomplishments and performance. And his wife is sick, which is probably affecting him as well. I try to be sympathetic to that, but it's hard. Here are a couple of sample e-mail exchanges (irrelevant bits removed).

This was one of our very first interactions, sort of a get-to-know-you exercise. He wanted us to contact neighbors and contacts in the county government to follow up on rumors that someone was considering building a fence for which he hadn't personally been contacted for permission:

Sarahlynn: It is my opinion, given the description of the duties of the neighborhood trustees in the subdivision indentures, that it is not the role of the trustees to approve or deny proposed new building projects, as long as said projects do not violate any local building codes or subdivision indentures.

Older Trustee (OT): I think that we can not function effectively as the Board of Trustees under existing conditions. I do not understand our problem. Please tell us how you think we can cooperate. If we fail to continue to serve as Trustees and other homeowners do not volunteer, St. Louis County will appoint a Board of Trustees.

Nearly a year later, this was from one of our last interactions:

OT: My wife is very ill, and I am spending a lot of time with her at doctor's visits and testing labs. I don't know how much time I will have for Trustee functions. {snip} Please tell me the plans for the Annual Meeting.

Sarahlynn: I will be happy to send out the mailing this weekend, so that you can have more time with your wife. The annual meeting will be at the usual date and time, and {Neighbor Name} has offered to host again this year.

OT: Thanks for your kind offer to mail the trash newsletter. {snip boring bit about our waste management contract} I think that all the plans for the Annual Meeting should be discussed jointly by all of the Trustees before you make any decisions about them. We would sincerely like to hear your opinions. You don't seem interested in ours. We may not all agree with your thinking, e.g: date, time, place.

Sarahlynn: The meeting time and date are specified for us in the Restriction Indenture {extremely boring citation}. To date, I have had one subdivision resident volunteer to host the annual meeting at his home. Unless either of you would prefer host, or have been approached by another resident requesting hosting responsibilities, I recommend that we proceed with the resident who has so offered.

Argh. Dealing with this sort of crap was much more tolerable when I got paid for it. It's not very fun to do for free when it's a cause I don't much care about. So, I'm thrilled to be done. And I now know for sure that a career in politics is not for me!

Regardless, I'm done! And, if you actually read that whole, boring post, you can celebrate because you relived the experience with me, and you're done too! Let's eat Rotel cheese dip together!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why Do We Even Have Cold Medicine?

This is a continuation of my erratic series of posts tackling the really controversial issues in our society. (Note the sarcasm.) Praise God, we're all healthy here right now.

But I really am annoyed about cold medicine. I prefer not to take it, myself. I believe that my body is producing all the excess snot because it's trying to clear out the virus. I believe that if I suffer few a few bad days, I'll be through with the cold sooner. But sometimes that's not an option. Sometimes, I really really just need to sleep or function at a higher level, and I've been known to take a little cold medicine on those occasions.

It's worse with my kids. They don't understand what's going on when they're sick, and they can't force themselves to sleep when they feel awful. Nor can they do some of the things I do to help when I have a bad cold, like sipping on scalding hot water or sucking on sugar free hard candy as I try to fall asleep with a tickle in my throat.

We're so so fortunate that both girls have been healthy this year (knock wood!). But there have been times when Ellie's had such a bad cold that she can't breathe well, such a bad cough that she can't sleep for days and nights at a time.

It's easy for "officials" to say that children don't need cold medicine, but if they don't, do adults? Why are we expecting more of our youngest children than we expect of ourselves? I hope that no one involved in this decision by the FDA allows themselves any OTC cold medicines for the next several years as an act of penance.

I don't care that some studies show little improvement of symptoms with some cold medicines; I know what does work for my child. I know what I can safely give her that will help dry out her nose or quiet her coughing for a few hours so that she can sleep at night.

Because these risks they speak of? When we you really drill down into it, it turns out that the risks are mostly from parents over-dosing their kids. Parents don't realize that there's Tylenol in Tylenol Cold & Cough and double up doses of both. Yeah, that's terrible and dangerous and it sucks.

But the answer isn't to get rid of the medicines! It's better packaging, better education, better front-line training by pediatricians, etc.

Because it's not like removing medicines from the shelves is going to make things better. When parents are exhausted in the middle of the night, some are going to reach for their own cold and cough remedies to help their kids sleep. And that is absolutely not safe.

And if they come around later, trying to take away my Concentrated Infant Motrin Drops (Dye-Free) I'll pop 'em in the nose. You try living with a teething toddler whose pain you know you can sooth with a little droplet of ibuprofen. She looks up at you with this betrayal in her eyes, which are clearly saying, "Why are you doing this to me, Mommy? It hurts! Make it better!" It makes me much more understanding of the grandparents who reminisce about rubbing brandy onto babies' gums.

There's no evidence that these oral drugs actually ease cold symptoms in children so young - some studies suggest they do no good at all. And while serious side effects are fairly rare, they do occur. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year reported that more than 1,500 babies and toddlers wound up in emergency rooms over a two-year period because of the drugs.

"It's one thing if you're curing cancer, but we're talking about a self-limiting illness," said Sharfstein. "If there's really no evidence of benefit, you don't want to risk the rare problem. Then you're left with tragedy that you can't justify."

. . .

Last October, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reported that the cold and cough medicine industry admitted that 92 deaths were connected to combination cold medicines - but claimed 79 of them were due to misuse or overdose.

Health groups acknowledge that while low doses of cold medicine don't usually endanger an individual child, the bigger risk is unintentional overdose. For example, the same decongestants, cough suppressants and antihistamines are in multiple products, so using more than one to address different symptoms - or having multiple caregivers administer doses - can quickly add up. Also, children's medicines are supposed to be measured with the dropper or measuring cap that comes with each product, not an inaccurate kitchen teaspoon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What Year Do You Belong In?

Oh, alas. The Keatons must have done me in.

You Belong in 1983

Wild, over the top, and just a little bit cheesy. You're colorful at night - and successful during the day.

For the record, I was nine.

This Round's On Me

Paul's an elder at our church. For those not familiar with the PCUSA style of government, the similarities between it and the U.S. version of a representative democracy aren't entirely coincidental. Elders are a little bit like senators, and the session committees are where a lot of the work of running a church is handled (Building and Grounds, Mission and Outreach, Finance, Evangelism, Youth and Family, etc.).

Anyway, there was a session meeting tonight and one item for discussion was a change in church policy so that - with prior pastor, business administrator, and clerk of session authorization - wine would be permitted in the church for a specific event. Examples given were for wedding parties and receptions and the occasional formal dinner hosted in the new fellowship hall.

I am very uncomfortable with this, and still trying to put my thoughts in order. What better place to hash them out?

Why am I so opposed, when I am not a teetotaller?

1) People bring alcohol to weddings anyway, of course. I'm sure lots of brides and grooms are swigging from flasks before walking down the aisle. Doing so illicitly feels different to me than doing so with church approbation. In my opinion, marriage is not something to be undertaken with the assistance of "liquid courage." If such is required, perhaps the timing for this marriage is not right? Others' opinions may vary, but should the church be in the business of endorsing that?

2) I am uncomfortable with the role alcohol plays in our society. "Partying" is used synonymously with getting loaded, and is apparently impossible without alcohol (or drugs). Binge drinking is glorified and commonly referenced, just listen in immediately following any college exam or during high school lunchroom discussions.

"I had a rough day; I need a drink," is such a common sentiment that it's unremarkable, except that, when you think about it, it's a little horrifying. Your day was so bad that you need an addictive and mind-altering substance? You need it? Perhaps this is cause for some concern?

A nice dinner isn't a nice dinner without wine, a party isn't a party without cocktails (or a keg, depending on your friends), a celebration just really isn't without the titillating promise of booze.

We don't even use wine with communion at our church. Why do we want to open ourselves up to these sorts of societal and moral, let alone legal concerns? What is gained? What is lost? I don't see the benefit. I can drink pretty much anywhere else; I don't need to do so at church.

I'm not sure I've made any sense of the muddle in my head about this yet, or put my finger on what's really making me uncomfortable. Perhaps your comments will help. So, let me have it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Super" Tuesday

The longest primary season ever is nearing its (de facto) close, a mere 9 months before the general election. Groan. This process is so painful! I hope that someone somewhere reads Anna Quindlen's article about making the primary and convention process meaningful again.

Four years ago, I watched every single primary debate. This year, I haven't watched a single one. Burned out. Still. But I do need to know who to vote for on February 5th.

So I was excited when a friend sent me this link to Minnesota Public Radio's Choose Your Candidate quiz. I found it interesting and educational to take, was surprised by my results, and am beginning to get a little more excited about the election now. All good things!

At the very least, my results narrowed down which party's ballot I should request:
Hillary Clinton 26.0
John Edwards 24.0
Barack Obama 24.0
Dennis Kucinich 22.0
. . .
Fred Thompson 1.0
My results were slightly different the second time I took the quiz, though the order was the same. I answered the same way, but weighted my answers slightly differently. This was a very interesting exercise.

While I'm talking about politics, did you all catch the thing about Huckabee's son hanging a dog and then-Gov. Huckabee leaning on police and prosecutors to ignore it? Good.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In My Own Skin

Living with me, I imagine, is a little like living with a cactus. I'm a bit prickly (but really tender inside! juicy delicious!) and it helps to have a thick skin.

Living with Paul is a little like living with someone who's suffered terrible burns over most of his body. Everything hurts, infections c'mon in, and and what's left of his skin is very thin.

This is why we need therapy!

Perhaps what we need instead are regular spa treatments for me (to pluck out all those quills, of course) and, well, therapy for Paul. Heh.

Edited to add: This is not meant to imply that things are going poorly. They're not! I think it's good that we're aware of our issues. I need to remember to be gentler, more considerate with Paul. And he is increasingly able to laugh at himself when he sees that his initial reaction is out of proportion to the situation. Yay, therapy! Also, our therapist has been on medical leave for nearly 2 months and we're beginning to feel the strain a little. Humor helps.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bucket List

No, not the movie, the St. Louis Bloggers January Carnival. My recent not-cancer freak-out threw this one into bold relief for me:

Sarahlynn's To Do Before I Die List:
1) Watch my kids grown up healthy and happy.
The End.

Since I'm trending a bit contrary, my other would-like-tos include:
  • Have my whole house organized, top to bottom, with no Monica Closet. Not even a Monica Drawer. Just once, just for a few minutes, just to see what it feels like.
  • Publish a good book, to good reviews and sales.
  • Find a miracle cure for my feet so that I can rollerblade again.
  • While I'm at it, find a miracle cure for cancer. And world hunger. And so forth.
  • Have sex with Taye Diggs and his identical twin brother.
What? What?!

OK, well, I don't like New Year's Resolutions and I don't like Bucket Lists, so I don't play nicely with either. My mind just doesn't naturally think in superlatives like, what's my favorite book/movie/song/color? What do I most want to do before I die?

There's a lot of stuff I want to do before I die. There's a lot of stuff I want to do before Easter. There's a lot of stuff I want to do before bed tonight.

But last Sunday, I did "ask" my Sunday School class make some sort of New Year's Resolutions, because the lesson suggested that we do so.

We Believe that our lives are pieces of God's plan. What can we do in our immediate futures to help imagine our eternal lives in God's presence?

Ah, this exercise I like better. It's far less morbid!
  • I can practice saying, "Yes."
  • And I can stop waiting for the question, looking instead for opportunities to volunteer in ways that make a significant contribution without inspiring me to feel resentful or overwhelmed.
  • I can continue the practice I began working so hard on last year, involving compassion and understanding.
On these, I've already begun. About these, I already feel hopeful.

And, in the end, I think they're more important and valuable both to me and to others than worrying about when I'll die, or where I'll travel, or even the state of my half-organized basement storage closet.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Note To Self

My doctor doesn't think that I'm dying of cancer.

I went to see him about the mysterious blister on the underside of one of my breasts that doesn't seem to be healing well. When added to the terrible itchiness, brief flirtations with mastitis, and alarmist emails, well . . .

It turns out that I probably have dry skin, irritating nursing bras, and a burn on the underside of one of my breasts from sleeping on a heating pad turned up too high to help with a (normal, typical) clogged duct.

He thinks it's healing fine, and will send me to see someone else if it still looks ugly in a couple more weeks. (It has started healing better over the last couple of days, and the increased pain I think is a good sign of feeling actually returning to the burned area. The only weird thing was that it didn't hurt at the time, probably because I was feverish and sleeping. I am an idiot.) And since my itchy skin is much, much better with the new moisturizer I'm using, I'm inclined to believe him about the cancer.


Here's where I went wrong with the doctor's appointment. "I need to find a babysitter; what a pain," I thought when the doctor's first available appointment was at an inconvenient time for Paul to be away from work. Then I remembered, "Hey, I'm in a babysitting co-op!"

I made one call, which didn't immediately pan out perfectly. And I hate the phone and go to great lengths to avoid it.

"Hey, again," I thought. "This is a short visit. I'll just take Ada with me. Everyone will love seeing the baby I was pregnant with this time last year. She can sit on my left knee while the doctor fiddles with my right breast. Much easier!"

See what I mean by great lengths?

This is how it actually played out. I arrived on time (yay!) but neglected to think about the fact that the doctor's practice had split/moved, plus it was a new calendar year, plus we have new insurance. So I had to occupy Ada while filling out a lot of paperwork.

Ada loves books. I packed 7 of her favorites, and she wasn't interested in a single one of them. Of course. So after the paperwork, I spent the next 10 hours (or minutes, whatever) bouncing up and down, singing, dancing, whooshing around the tiny waiting area, letting her touch the doorstop, blinds, magazines, etc.

Finally (after a wait that would have been too brief if it had been just my book and me alone in a chair) I got to go back to an exam room. Well, first I had to be weighed, and the less said about that, the better. The nurse held Ada, who screamed about it.

Then I had to figure out how to unhook my bra while holding a child. (I put her down, natch. Fortunately, she was willing and able to stand next to me.)

Then I held her on my lap, perched on that table we women know all too well, feeding her Goldfish while we waited for the doctor. Who wanted me to lie down for the examination.

Picture this: I am lying back on the exam table, shirt raised and right arm over my head. My left arm is fully extended out in front of me to hold onto Ada's arm. She, meanwhile, is perched on my left knee and is not very fussy or wiggly, thankfully.

But she must have been a little stressed by the experience; she fell asleep in the car on the way home and napped for more than an hour; an unusual experience for my little daytime sleep dieter!

"Self," I thought on the way back out to the car, "Just pick up the doggone phone next time. What sucks in the moment is so very, very worth it in the end."

Also, I'm having a hard time imagining my next annual pap smear (8 weeks from now, but who's counting?) with a baby on my lap.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Savvy Traveler?

I've exposed my ignorance; now it's your turn.

Link courtesy of my wonderful sister and brother-in-law: The Traveler IQ Challenge

I'll show you mine if you show me yours . . .

Warning, it's a little addictive. And surprisingly educational. I don't think I'll ever misplace Malaysia again.

On a completely unrelated note, Ada learned to kiss today. "Say goodnight to Daddy, Ada."

"Mmmmmm-ah!" she says, pressing her lips - pushed together into a flat line - against his cheek. This was funny and therefore much repeated, until it became a painful experience involving her many teeth. But still: funny! adorable!

Now, go tell me how smart you were on your first trip through the geo-quiz.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Baby Talk

Ada's focused on walking right now. She gets this intense and excited look on her face, then rushing stumble walks over to you, never breaking eye contact. She laughs and laughs.

This is really saying something, given that my poor baby has been a CRANKY girl for these last several weeks, gums swollen and bleeding as 4 molars and 4 eyeteeth try to break free at once. By the time she turns one in a few weeks, she might have all of her baby teeth. A long break before the 2-year-old molars would be nice for all of us.

Ada's increasingly comfortable taking 3-5 steps between things. Any further distance, and she attempts to map out a cruising route. Failing that, or in a big hurry, she just drops down and speed-crawls, which is the most adorable thing ever. I will be sad when this stage is over (not the teething part!).

When I say that Ada talks, it's hard to give an accurate reflection of what that means. Let me try a little harder. Ada babbles a lot, like many babies do. I love her fast angry babble, "Gah!Gah!Gah!Bla!Buh!NaNaNaNak!" There's her happy, keep-holding-my-hands-I-love-walking babble, which sounds like a little piece of song. And there's her singing itself, which transitions us into Ada's speech.

Ada labels things correctly, a scary lot of the time. She was 8 months old when her Uncle Rob said, "Quack!" across the room and she said, "Duck." By that time, she'd already been telling us some things (Mama, Dada, Wawa, etc.) for quite a while.

Lately, we might be reading a book that is not about teddy bears or kitty cats but if she sees a teddy bear or kitty cat in an illustration, she'll point it out and name it. I couldn't begin to list all of her words, partly because it's only gradually that I realize what they are. She's hard to understand a lot of the time - she's 11 months old! - but I suspect that quite a lot of her babbling sounds are actual words. And that it pisses her off that I don't recognize them.

Unlike her big sister, Ada's very much a schedule girl. If I don't have her in bed by 7:00, I'm likely to see quite a bit of this sort of thing:

She still nurses. She's very clear about what she does and does not want to eat at mealtime, though "Chezzo" (Cheerios) is one of the few foods she asks for by name. She loves to pinch my nose until I honk. She loves to say, "eye" and poke finger into her own, and then mine. She ate beef stew for dinner Saturday night, with a biscuit, just like her big sister, her parents, and her godmother. The next night was the "meatloaf" and "mashed potatoes." Tonight we all had cheeseburgers (with zucchini and mushrooms on whole grain) and baked sweet potato "fries." She eats some jars of food for convenience and nutrition, but at dinnertime she eats what we eat and loves it.

She does some of this:

And this:

Hopefully these pictures have have brightened your January Tuesday a little, just as their subject brightens mine.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Two parenting moments for today.

First, Ellie developed nursemaid's elbow again, which is another story for quite another forum. As usual, I tried to make her comfortable in bed, this time with Finding Nemo on the portable DVD player by her head. But when Paul had finished preparing a Deceptively Delicious dinner of meatloaf (with pureed carrots) and mashed potatoes (with pureed cauliflower) I wanted Ellie to be up and about in order to share it with us.

Nursemaid's elbow usually reduces on its own, and if it doesn't, or if she seems to be in a lot of pain, I take her to the pediatrician for a quick reduction. Today, she wasn't crying, so we were waiting it out to see if it resolved itself before bedtime. Then I decided that I could probably do it on my own. I am, after all, a formerly certified E.M.T.. So I supported her elbow with my left hand and pulled gently on her wrist, rotating just slightly, and, "pop!" Immediate use of the arm again. I am SuperMom! It felt amazing, and now I understand why Ellie's pediatrician says that reducing nursemaid's elbow is one of her favorite parts of her job.

Later this evening, both girls were playing happily together, on their own, and with us, in Ellie's room, in Ada's room, in our room, in the hallway, in the family room, in the living room, etc. At one point, they decided that they wanted baby bottles with water in them. Don't ask me, I'm just the mama. They had great fun with these silly toys (neither of my girls would drink from bottles) and at one point, Ada was holding her bottle above her head with an out-stretched arm as though it were an Oscar.

Ellie leaned over and clunked her bottle against Ada's. "Cheers!" she said. Where did she get that?

So adorable.

Christmas Eve, at my dad's church

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gee, Thanks

I understand why people made this video, and why others send it around. But, man, do I ever wish I hadn't gotten this particular "send it to all the women you love!" email a few months ago.

I'm talking about inflammatory breast cancer, Google at your own risk.

Bottom line: if I suspect that I'll be dead before next Christmas, is that making me a better, happier person, spouse, or parent right now? Answer: As it turns out, NO.

And, yet, oh the panicky hours and many late nights I've spent quietly freaking out about this.

In my opinion, the target audience for this sort of piece should be primary care physicians and other front-line health care practitioners. So at my next well woman check up, if I tell my doctor that my left breast itches like crazy and my right breast has its own issues (two bouts of clogged duct/mastitis in the past six months of nursing, one experience sleeping on a hot pad and getting a terrible blister that looks disgusting and is not healing well) my doctor will know if I need further tests or not.

See, this is a type of breast cancer that forms in "sheets" and produces no lumps visible via standard imaging technology (including mammograms). The only way to really test and diagnose is a biopsy, which can be painful, disfiguring, and incompatible with breastfeeding - not a step to be taken lightly. Speaking of breastfeeding, this is a type of cancer that's apparently not deterred by pregnancy or breastfeeding. And it can strike young women as easily as older women. Oh, and it's usually fatal. Very aggressive, fast-moving, etc. Until recently, the mortality rate was 100%. The current treatment involves a very aggressive regimen of surgery, chemo, radiation, more chemo . . . and that only gives you a 40% chance of being alive in a couple of years. So, yeah.

This is, apparently, a rare type of breast cancer. One site I saw said that 1% of all diagnosed breast cancers is inflammatory breast cancer. Do you know how many women are diagnosed with breast cancer? Unbelievably high numbers. So 1% is still a lot of women. And "rare" means something different to me, a woman who had a baby with Down syndrome while still in her 20's, a woman whose younger sister had a malignant brain tumor. "Rare" translates into "targeted for Sarahlynn" to me.

Still, I'm not usually freaked out by these sorts of emails. Except that breasts simply don't behave normally while breastfeeding (weird lumps, strange sensations, itchiness possibly explained by the ring-around-the-boob fit of nursing bras) so I seem to be exhibiting almost every advertised symptom.

I don't want to die. The thing that paralyzes me? The thought of not being around for my babies as they grow up. Man, I love those kids, and as imperfect as I am as a mother, I know in my bones that they're better off with me than without me.

So, please.

Next time you get one of these horrifying DON'T GET RAPED! or HEALTH RISK YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF! or YOUR MICROWAVE WILL KILL YOU! SEND THIS TO ALL THE WOMEN YOU LOVE! emails, please wait a moment before hitting "forward."

First go to; check it out.

Then, once you've determined that it's real, think about it for a moment. Will sending this really make the recipients safer? Healthier? Happier? Or will it just freak them out needlessly?

Then reply with a big "fuck you" to your book club friend's mom's great aunt who sent it to you, and hit "delete."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 In Words, out of context

First sentence of the first post of every month of 2007:

January: This is the first sentence of the first post of the month thing.
February: Post retracted by request.
March: I've been writing a lot about Adelaide, but there's so much to say about Eleanor too.
April: I was tagged, so I'm slipping this in right before Monday becomes Tuesday.
May: Quick update on my way to bed.
June: My day can be summed up like this:
Today was the first day of Ellie's summer vacation from preschool, and it rained.
July: Wow oh wow oh wow.
August: School starts in about a week, and I'm looking forward to it.
September: Recently, I wrote about what Ada's been up to lately.
October: For the past couple of months, I've been seeing red and white signs around Kirkwood:
Protect Historic Kirkwood
Preserve Our National Historic District
Don't Buy 407 E Argonne (now removed due to threatened legal action)
Taller Than Allowed Downtown?!?
Please Build It Lower!
and so forth
I find myself oddly on the other side of this issue.
November: Yo yo yo, it's NaNoWriMo; here we go!
December: I can't blog right now!

In titles:

January: 2006 In Review
February: Back to Draft
March: I Love Ellie
April: Magical Moment Monday
May: The House is Neat, Finally
June: I Don't Get Enough Sleep
July: Close
August: Summer Vacation
September: Literalist
October: Protect Historic Kirkwood! Or Not
November: Write On!
December: It's Time for Christmas Letters


Oh, for heaven's sake. I'm boring myself. Next year, I'll change it up and pick random and interesting posts rather than just the first post for each month. Bob forbid I actually quit this tradition!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Big, Fun, Scary

This is a follow-up to NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to take on one big, fun, or scary goal for 2008. You know, sort of exactly like a New Year's Resolution. Which I don't do. But.

Why not?

Big: Weigh less than my (stunning if I do say so myself) Y2K weight by Christmas

Fun: Cruise the Inner Passage, go to Disney World, and spend a long, hot, child-free weekend in Mexico

Scary: swim cage-free with sharks

No, really:

Big: Limit gorging and resume regular workouts (notice how this is not a SMART goal, but I'll know and that's all that matters)

Fun: go on at least one date per month, and therapy sessions do not count

Scary: Submit at least 2 magazine articles to editors and at least 5 novel query letters to agents.