Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Club

Living in Tiny Town has taught me one thing fo' shizzle: you have to make your own fun. Along those lines, one of the "fun" things that I do every month is book club. I've mentioned this before, and periodically receive emails asking for specifics.

For the past several years, we've been getting together in each other's homes to discuss a particular book talk about sex see each other without the children underfoot. It is an actual book club (vs a "book club"), meaning we DO pick a title to discuss every month. However, we are not known for our devotion to discussing the book or staying on topic. Also, every month there are several people who don't read (or don't finish) the book. They/we still have fun.

We use a list of questions (usually from to get us started, but soon the conversation veers away from the book and eventually reaches the point of no return. I always laugh really hard- at least once- each time we meet. It is absolutely delightful to see these women without each of us also parenting our children. (Though nurslings are always welcome.)

If you'd like to start a book group of your own, here are some tips:

*be willing to host often, especially in the beginning
*mix up the type of books chosen (rotating months of fiction/nonfiction, for example)
*pick books readily available and not too new (hard covers are expensive; new books are harder to get at libraries)
*invite all sorts of people initially... those that are not really into it will weed themselves out
*be flexible- if lots of people can't make it, we reschedule. If we usually meet on a Thursday but that won't work this month, we'll pick a Tuesday
*keep the door open for any new book lovers that might enter your life (people who really love to read are almost always a good addition)
*pick a time of day that is convenient for your group: for us, this is 7:30 pm- after dinner and the kids can be pj'd and ready for bed before you walk out the door. Mornings (like during preschool time) or Saturdays sometimes work great too.
*choose books 1-2 months ahead to give everyone time to get a copy of the book

Finally, here is a list of what we've read, starting with our most recent and working back to our very first book (which is Bel Canto- still a favorite of mine!). Feel free to use this list to get ideas for your own group. (I love seeing other book clubs' lists.)

(Sorry about the font change. Copying and pasting...)

I asterisked** the ones I particularly LOVED. (I loved something about each of them, however.)


(for May) Girl With a Dragon Tatoo- Stieg Larson

(for April) Desert Flower- Waris Dirie

Broken for You- Stephanie Kallos

Atchafalaya Houseboat- Gwen Roland

The Help- Kathryn Stockett**


Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime- Mark Haddon

Crackers and Milk- Arlene Nelson

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle- Barbara Kingsolver**

The Book Thief- Markus Zusak**

Last Child in the Woods- Richard Louv

The Shack- Wm Paul Young

The Tipping Point- Malcolm Gladwell

Angry Housewives Eating Bon-bons- Lorna Landvick

Three Cups of Tea- Greg Mortenson**

Get to Work- Linda R Hirshman


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle- David Wroblewski

19 Minutes- Jodi Picoult

The Ten Year Nap- Meg Wolitzer

Love in the Time of Cholera- Gabriel Garcia

Plum Wine- Angela Davis-Gardner

Kitchen Confidential- Anthony Bourdain

Shop Girl- Steve Martin

Water For Elephants- Sara Gruen**

Red Tent- Anita Deamant**

Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini**


Eat Pray Love- Elizabeth Gilbert

Mango Season- Amulya Malladi

Life of Pi- Yann Martel**

Memory Keeper’s Daughter- Kim Edwards

Secret Life of Bees- Sue Monk Kidd**

Plan B- Anne Lamott

Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls**

Bel Canto- Anne Patchett

If you do start a group of your own, be sure to let me know how it's going. Happy reading!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Things I Hate That Everyone Else Loves (And Vice Versa)

Things I just don't get that everyone else loves:

*those stretchy headband things that everyone wears with pony tails- they won't stay on my head!
*Twilight movies (the books were good, but I wasn't ga-ga over them either)
*Harry Potter movies
*Science fiction anything
*Cadbury eggs (caramel ones are a different story)
*black licorice
*The Office (actually don't hate it... just have never seen it)
*SYTYCD, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Surviver, et al (never watch them)
*(the idea of a) Kindle- I love physically holding a book, thumbing through, looking back, reading the summary, gazing at the author's photo...
*flats/ballet slippers (either too big or too small, make my feet sweaty/slippery)
*Disney anything
*licensed character anything
*anything that has to do with mailing packages or the post office
*shaving (still haven't done it since Christmas...)
*Pancake Sunday (meh. I'm over it.)
*Soda, especially diet
*participating in any kind of activity that involves going down a hill at a fast speed.

Things I love that everyone else hates usually doesn't love:

*Oprah (I do. I really, really love Oprah.)
*Vegetables (well, at least everyone in this household hates them)
*being pregnant (loved)
*breastfeeding (swoon) (I seriously LOVED it) (even with twins!)
*wearing hats
*folding laundry (not putting it away though)
*late summer bedtimes for the kids (exhausting at times, but that extra family time every evening is wonderful)
*any kind of spice or flavor to my food (again, pertains to my housemates only)
*melty ice cream (I mentioned this once and couldn't believe how many folks DESPISE melty ice cream.)
*driving on I-90 from here to the Black Hills (not much to see, sure, but familiar and comforting to me)
*Melissa Gilbert's biography

Out Like a Lamb

At the beginning of March, we still had several feet of snow, the girls were wearing full winter gear to school every day (parkas, snow pants, winter boots, hats, and mittens), and it seemed as if warmer days may never EVER be reality. (See here, for example.)

Now, only a few weeks later, all of our snow is gone. Snow gear is put away. Light jackets or fleeces have replaced the winter gear. They wear shoes to school instead of boots.

The forecast this week calls for several (did you see that? S-E-V-E-R-A-L) days of 70 degrees.

We are planning a cook out.

We are riding bikes every day.

We are playing outside- sans coats!- with friends frequently.

The (formerly dreaded, but now not so bad) trampoline has been reassembled for the season and is in daily use. And you know, there are several ways to utilize a trampoline:

Signs of Easter are everywhere. For example, look at my secret stash, and you'll see jelly beans. (Sweet tart are my favorite.) And Cadbury Eggs (mini caramal, all the way). Also on Saturday, we participated in our first egg hunt.

A couple of our daughters even transformed into Easter-bunny-esque type creatures.

For a month that started out so very much like WINTER, I dare say it is spring.

Right now, the girls and I are walking to our elementary school for a book fair, and I'm contemplating how to dress. I'm afraid I'll be too hot in a fleece but not warm enough without it.

It's a seasonal hazard, I suppose, this never quite knowing how to dress.

...But we'll take it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I swear, the kitten seems to really love this. Now matter how rough or bumpy the ride is, or how fast or crazy they steer, she just lounges in there, dozing, batting at things, or cleaning herself.

We really lucked out the in the cat department. Our other cat is gentle, but also very shy and skittish, so it's great to have a pet that's actually, you know, A PET.

I Think Orange Is Her Color

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Night

Her name is Fedelis. She is 7 years old and lives in Kenya. There are two children in her family, and her mom sometimes works as a farmer. Her birthday is the day after Marin's.

She is the child we are sponsoring through Compassion.

We all piled on my bed on Friday night, talking about it, looking at children waiting for sponsors. My older daughters had lots of questions, many of which were hard to answer. I don't want to burden their little hearts. But I don't want to gloss things too much, either.

I have a lot of mixed feelings, still, about Compassion, about "choosing" a child, about basically giving the child food and other resources in return for Christianity.

But I can't stop thinking about Fedelis. Is she ok? Has she learned she is sponsored yet? Did she eat something today? Is she safe? Is she cold? Kate asked me the same question as we ate breakfast this morning. "Do you think Fedelis is hungry?" she said, as she chewed thoughtfully.

I had to say "yes".


Lice. We don't have them. Yet. I guess it can take 10 days to 2 weeks? But I've been looking at little scalps and have not been seeing any activity. So. There's that.

The mom of those girls DID call me. I think she was so mortified by it that it took her awhile to work up the nerve. After I talked to her, I felt like an ass for being so grumpy about it all. I was totally not being sensitive to how having head lice was making her feel...

Also, I was wrong about her kids playing here that afternoon. I've since learned that as long as they've had the treatment for 10 minutes (or whatever the package says) they are fine to return to school/activities etc. They chose to keep her home for that whole day, but they did not NEED to...

So while my head is itching- still (right now, in fact)- every time the subject comes up, I feel bad about how I reacted. I mean, I DON'T want head lice, that much is still TRUE, but I didn't need to be so whiny about it.

Talk about 1st world problems.


This weekend was perfectly lovely. Friends, dinner, church, lunch date, a little shopping, projects, spring toys out, walks, more friends, happy outside children...

We are warm, fed, comfortable, independent, happy... we are wealthy, by the world's standards. We really are among the luckiest people on the planet. I'm starting to learn that appreciating that is more effective that feeling guilty for it.

And I can't help wondering if Fedelis safe.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Internets, I need to ask you a question. Would you let your child play with another child- outside- when that other child had head lice as recently as this morning?

Actually, there's a little more to the story... Yesterday after school, our two little neighbor girls (roughly the same age as my twins) came over after school for a couple of hours. They do this occasionally on Tuesdays, because they have a lapse in childcare on this particular weekday.

It was rainy and gloomy yesterday, so the girls played inside the entire time. And they played dress-up. As in, putting on dresses and such that are now hanging in my daughters' room. And they laid on the couch and watched tv. Like, with their heads on my couch arms.

This morning, the mom found head lice on one of the girls. She kept her home from school. She didn't call me to let me know, even though those kids had been here for a little over 2 hours yesterday.

After school today- a beautiful, sunny, 50-some degree day- the girls were knocking on our door minutes after school let out. BOTH girls. I'd heard that one of them was home sick today, so I asked her if she was feeling better and she said "Oh, yeah. I wasn't sick... I just had head lice! I used the shampoo, so I'm fine now."

So now I'm sitting here- kinda pissed if I'm being honest. I sent the girls home. I got out a comb and checked over my girls' heads... no sign of lice.

I am terrified of head lice. I've never had it, and I rilly rilly don't want my kids to get it. All that washing of bedding, freezing of stuffed animals, shampooing and combing and itching of heads... all of it sounds miserable. It sounds like exactly how I DON'T want to spend these beautiful spring days.

I don't want to sound all prissy, as in "my precious children can't play with you because you have lice"... In actuality, my being a stickler on this issue is incongruent with the rest of my personality. I'm not a germ-a-phobe, like, AT ALL. In fact, if that child HAD been sick (mild fever or whatever) but was now better, I wouldn't have any issue of her playing here.

(As long as she hasn't been puking.) (Or had head lice!)

I guess I just figure that germs are everywhere, and if my kids were going to get exposed, they're going to get exposed. Colds, fevers, runny noses, coughing, sore throats... I can handle it. Puking? Keep you kid home, please.

And if they have BUGS? On their HEADS? I kinda don't want them coming over here to play either. And a phone call would also have been nice.

I kinda really REALLY don't want it. Loads upon loads of laundry? Night after night of bathing and combing? Sitting on the edge of my seat, just waiting to find out we've re-infected ourselves? Thanks, but NO THANKS.

Ya know?

(And now I'm scratching my head.)

If any of you have experience head lice I have a couple of questions:

1. Should I do anything to prevent getting it? The dresses they were wearing weren't washable, and... how do I wash my couch?

2. How long after a delousing should a child be kept away from other children? If she had lice this morning, is she now safely free of them?

3. How do I KNOW if my kids have it? I've never even seen them, and frankly googling it is about the LAST thing I want to do right now. And how long after exposure do they get it?

Also? They should have not allowed her to come over to my house this afternoon. Right?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Compassion? Or Something Else?

I've spent the last week reading the blogs of the men and women on the Compassion trip to Kenya, Africa. The beautifully written blog posts- published in Africa while they were living the experience- are hard to not be moved by. And the photos are haunting, riveting, heartbreaking. Everything was so fresh and raw and honest and horrible and beautiful.

And so I keep trying to turn away, because I'm not sure what to do to help.

Sponsoring a child (or three) would be the obvious choice. But sponsor through which program? I know the most about Compassion now, and I'm impressed with them as an organization. I like that their goal is to empower the people: education, skills training, etc. I like that the money and help is specific to each family's needs. I like that there is no requirement for religious participation and/or conversion. I like that the Compassion employees are all native Kenyans.

But I'm scared to death of Christian Fundamentalists. Scared. To death. Honestly, they've given Christians everywhere a bad name. Specifically, Focus on the Family, George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, and all of those political pundits that also gather Fudies by the hordes. All of it. Makes me want to puke, shout, scream, holler, become violent, and not identify myself as a Christian.

So while Compassion itself seems like a MIGHTY organization, the fact that so many Fundies associate with it makes me worried. Not that their works are not still doing good, regardless of who's backing them. But I'm not sure I want my heart and my dollars to back them.

But perhaps that's just ridiculous too? Maybe there are other organizations that would be a better match for my personal beliefs? But what these hypothetical organizations DOING with my money? With Compassion, at least, I feel like I know where and how the money is spent...

Do you help the poorest of the poor? Or do you focus on the people that need just a little boost to get back on their feet, so that they don't join the poorest of the poor, creating a cycle?

And then there's the issue of WHERE to help people. There are people suffering everywhere... should my money and efforts stay in Tiny Town? In my state? In my own country?

I don't think I have strong feelings about this either way, but I also don't feel like I'm savvy enough about poverty, relief organizations, solutions, etc to form an educated decision.

Plus, $38/month seems so... pathetic. I mean, I feel SELFISH GIVING only $38/month. Which is silly, because is GIVING, but still. We can't afford to sponsor 10 children (though 3 seems reasonable, since we have 3 children) without making major lifestyle changes... but maybe we need to make major lifestyle changes! Why should we have so MUCH (so much, in fact, that I threw out 2 garbage bags full of junk this weekend) when others don't even have a single drop of clean water?

I guess I think that helping people wherever is better than not helping. And helping a little is better than nothing. And I guess, if pushed, I'd say that helping wherever your heart is being pulled is the "right" place to help...

Right now, my heart is being pulled to Kenya.

But you can see the mental spiral I'm in, right? So how do I get out of it and DO something, ANYTHING? Because I'm feeling frozen at the moment. Fro. zen.

None of this is articulate or even making much sense. But it's accurate in that it's exactly how my brain feels: swirling with all of these jumbled thoughts and emotions. Confused. Conflicted. Wanting to help. Wanting to turn away.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Little (and a Big) Ingrate(s)

Last night for dinner, I made Pioneer Woman's mac-n-cheese. I enlisted David to do all the whisking of the butter/flour/milk until it was perfectly thick. We poured in the heaps of shredded cheddar cheese. We salivated together about how delicious it was going to be, for this recipe- like every PW recipe- starts with 2 cups of heavy cream and a stick of butter*. How can it go wrong?

*Not really, but almost.

At the very end, we added the salt and pepper- skipping the dried mustard out of respect for some very delicate palates around here- and THAT was my first mistake.

Not the leaving out the mustard part.

The letting David see how much pepper I put in part. ONE! WHOLE! TEASPOON!

I already had a sense of foreboding, but I cheerfully put the dish in the oven to make it all melty and bubbly. My family WOULD love this dinner. It was macaroni and cheese after all! Only better! See:

It smelled wonderful, yet as I called the kids to the table, their super-detective noses (trained to sniff out anything that doesn't come from a box) were already alerted to a suspicious scent.... could that be a HOMEMADE dinner they smell?

And David was still grumbling about the pepper. And I was all, but it's Pioneer Woman's recipe! With heavy cream*! I tempered an egg for you fuckers. COME ON PEOPLE.

*not really, but almost.

Anyway, Joan ate some of hers, Kate choked down juuuuust enough bites as to not enrage me, and Marin (who brags that mac-n-chz is her FAVORITE... at least from a box) didn't eat a bite. David had seconds, but he'd like everyone to know that if it were up to HIM, he'd do LESS PEPPER.

Are you listening world? Do you hear him, Pioneer Woman? LESS PEPPER PLEASE.

God forbid our food have flavor, folks!

Lesson (re)learned: if I am going to go to any trouble for dinner, invite friends over so that someone else will also enjoy it.


Hey, remember this:

Well, I've decide that the gloom of this winter-turning-spring is not so bad, as long as there are fresh flowers in the house.

So, I filled those jars:

That's better! It feels like spring*!

*not really, but almost.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Spring is in the air in these parts, and people are slowing making their way out of hibernation. Though several feet of snow still stands, there are more people out and about- even bike riding!- and many more children walking home from school.

On Tuesday as I was waiting for the girls to get home, I glanced out the dining room window and saw a large group of boys throwing snowballs. Due to some hedges, I couldn't see who they were throwing them at, but they were volleying so many so quickly that I figured there was another large group of boys on the other side of the street involved in the snowball fight.

Then my daughters came into view, and I could see they were worried (Kate) and crying/limping (Joan).

And then it dawned on me.

Those boys were not having a friendly snowball fight with an equally large group of boys. They were pummeling my (much, much smaller and younger) daughters with those snowballs.

One hit Joan so hard that the snowball KNOCKED her flat over, face-first, into a large puddle. As she struggled to get up (dressed in snow pants, bulky coat, clumsy boots, and a heavy backpack) they continued to throw snowballs at her.

There were around 5-7 boys involved, all of them older. My daughters do not recognize any of them, and since their school is so community orientated this leaves me to believe that they go to the upper-elementary school, which houses grades 4th through 6th. Which means that those boys were MUCH older than my 1st graders.

I immediately stepped outside when I saw my girls, and as I ushered them up our walk and inside I yelled to the boys "Please do not throw snowballs at my daughters."

They mimicked me in a snotty, fake-girly voice "Please do not throw snowballs..." and laughed at me.

Then someone yelled something to me. I didn't hear what he said, but due to the outburst of laughter I can assume it was rude.

In the moment, I was more concerned about checking Joan over to see if she was injured or just shook up. (She was not hurt, minus a little skinned palms). By the time I had my wits about me, the boys were long gone.

I asked the girls a few questions, cleaned Joan up, and we forgot about it and continued our day.

The next morning, I awoke early, stewing about it. Sure, the whole thing is unsettling, but the things that upset me the most were: the age difference between the boys and my kids, the number of boys versus my girls (there was one other girl with my girls, a 3rd grader, but still they were very outnumbered), the fact that the boys were so extremely disrespectful when I appeared, and the fact that they did not seem intimidated by an adult presence (me) AT ALL. I also didn't like how hard and fast they were throwing the snowballs, the distance and speed of the snowballs, nor the fact that due to the melting-all-day and refreezing-at-night that we've had, many of those "snow"balls were probably more like "ice"balls.

I decided to call my girls' principal. Actually, the principal at the other school (where those older boys go) is a personal friend of ours, but I didn't want to blur those lines. I figured there wasn't much she (my girls' principal) could do, seeing as how it didn't happen on school grounds and also seeing as how the boys are not even students in her school. But there was probably nothing the other principal could do either, so.

However, I just wanted to have some kind of documentation, if only verbal. This way, if we continue to have problems, I have some sort of dialogue started.

She was very nice and very concerned. All of our schools have a strong "anti-bullying" policy, so they take these things seriously. She said that I should go out there give them the business, find out their names, ask their phone number and address, etc. I actually *would* have done more initially, had I not been distracted by Joan possibly being hurt.

In any case, the girls will continue to walk home from school. Partially because I'm lazy and don't want to go and get them, yes. And partially because they come home so much happier after walking (versus when I go to pick them up and they start battling before the van door is shut). The walk is obviously good for them- they clear their minds, burn off a little energy, breathe some fresh air, have some quiet thoughts, and come home renewed and calm.

But it's more than that. I want them to know that we *do* live in a safe place, and that what happened wasn't OK, but that many people in our community are looking out for them and will help them. I want them to know that we don't hide, we don't quit, we don't let bullies get the best of us. We stand up to them, and for each other. And we get adults' help when needed.

(I realize we are very lucky to live in a place where this is possible.)

(I should also mention that the girls didn't even ASK if they were going to walk. The whole thing shook them up for about 5 minutes, and then they promptly forgot about it. And when I asked if they knew any of the boys' names, Joan brightly and heartbreakingly offered to ask them for me.) (Can you picture that? My sweet, tiny girl trying to cheerfully ask these big, older boys their names?)

HOOO boy, am I all jazzed up now while I wait for them to get home.

Yesterday there was no sign of the boys, but I'm on the look out. And they should be scared. They not only have awakened a hibernating Mama Bear, but they poked her precious cubs with sharp sticks.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some More

After being sick for the past two days, I can tell you, hoooooo boy, does it feel great to return to the land of the living.

David and I have both been having a great time playing around with the new camera... but I've also had plenty of frustration with myself and my lack of knowledge. Now I have the equipment to take better photos, but no madd skillz. I want to know NOW, dammit! Le sigh...

Anyway, here's a few photos from lately:

The girls and I, watching a little tv before bed. (David's turn to play with the flash).

Marin and her cowboy boots (this is what she wore to church!)

My girls, looking all serious. Man, the hormones (or something!) (can it be hormones already??) in these two lately....


The other day, a friend called me out of the blue and asked it I would take some photos of her pregnant belly. After telling her, in at least 30 different languages, that I was not a photographer by. any. means. ....I finally agreed. The timing of her phone call and our camera purchase was wicked, and I was happy to experiment on her give it a whirl.

I was also quite nervous. What if I hated everything I took? What if SHE did?

But I can be good under pressure. So I told myself it was just for fun; she had no major expectations; we'd keep it casual and see what we got. After all, neither of us had anything to lose.

So this morning, armed with a pocket full of Smarties*, Marin and I headed over to her house for the "photo shoot".

....and WHEW! There are a handful from today that I really like. Not professional quality, certainly, but not so terrible I'm embarrassed to give her a CD of the photos.

And seriously? What a fun hobby! And so refreshing to have something besides my own kids and surroundings to play with.

*Take it from me, Smarties- handed out one by one; not the whole roll at once- are THE best bribe when photographing children. They are eaten quickly, create no spit/drool, are mess free and not sticky, and you can hand one out for each photo if needed since they are so small. As soon as kids start getting squirmy or uncooperative, a small "Who wants a treat?" gets them back on track like magic. We even take Smarties with us to photo studios for our kids.

(You're welcome.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

First shot

Yesterday, David took the day off, we headed to the city (known in these parts as The Cities) to shop for a new camera.

My requirements were as follows: DSLR, detachable flash, and can we get a cute camera bag too?

Luckily for me, my husband is a goddamn rock star in these types of missions, as he's able to read reviews without glossing over, look at features without clicking over to cute camera straps, and basically puzzle out the details when deciding WHICH ONE in a case like this.

I, on the other hand, get overwhelmed instantly and make an emotional decision based on zero facts.

We already had strong leaning towards Canon, since we know several local Canon owners and could potentially borrow lenses etc to test drive before buying.

To us, Canon versus Nikon was basically Coke versus Pepsi, so. We were going with the local peeps.

After talking with the Camera Store Guy, holding models, asking questions, leaving to eat lunch and think, we returned and purchased a camera right there at the store. Online deals were within $50, and buying at the store means we (both of us) get to take a couple of classes for free.

Plus, sometimes, it just feels good not to give Amazon all of our money, ya know?

So, we have a new camera*. And I've got a lot to learn.

In this shot, I was playing with flash**- David has an old detachable one that works with the new camera! I didn't edit this at all, and I know it's waaaay too washed out. But, I love how crisp and clear and clean everything is.

*For those interested in the details: we thought we were going to buy the Canon Rebel XSi, but in the end, we got the Canon Rebel XS. It was on clearance, so we were able to buy the camera and two lenses for the same cost as buying the XSi and only one lens. And even though the XS is being discontinued, it doesn't mean anything to us: all of the Canon lenses, flashes, etc will still work on it. So basically, we got a great deal, and we can feel ok about upgrading once we know what the hell we're doing.

**We didn't end up buying a flash yet. I'll play with David's old one until we find one we want to buy.

We didn't buy a camera bag yet either. So, hit me up with your favorite bags!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Things are slowly, EVER. SO. SLOWLY, starting to melt 'round these parts.

As you can see, the sidewalks are still tunnelish, with snow piled high on each side.

And many snowbanks are nearly 5 feet tall, like this one in front of our house. Keep in mind that most of this snow fell long ago (December?), and we've had many days of temps *just barely* warm enough to cause a little melting. So the piles are sinking in on themselves, bit by bit.

So these photos are the "after" all of the melting.

But they are still very tall. As you can see.

The girls' snow fort is still holding steady. They have outfitted it with lawn chairs and a skylight.

Despite the piles and piles of snow everywhere, I can smell spring in the air. Our 30 degree days feel warm to us, for we are Minnesotan after all, and we'll take them!

Many of us have even taken to going around coat-less. Or driving around with our windows down. I'm not making this up- pinky swear!

In part, we are all simply insane from cabin fever, yes. But the sun feels so warm now! And things are drip, drip dripping all day long.

(Marin and I, as well as all members of the Green household, still wear coats and hats. No mittens though.)

We've also exchanged the snow boots for rain boots.

Because even amidst the piles of snow, there are still a few puddles that must be jumped in. Amiright?

And let's just say that if things start melting any faster than super-duper-slow, I'm going to build a houseboat. You in?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

October 4th, 2002

This morning, DesignHer Mama linked to a post that really struck a nerve with me. Nearly everyone I know in my brick-and-mortar life already knows this story, but I realized that I've never shared it here, or at least not with many details.

From the beginning:

In May of 2002, I became pregnant for the first time, after very little "trying". I was shocked, happy, and so excited I nearly wet myself every time it crossed my mind. David didn't want to tell anyone for awhile, and I made exactly one (1) day at work before I went home and BEGGED him to let me tell at least the women I worked with. It was all I could think about, and it TORTURED me to not be able to share.

(I've never been a very secretive or private person. More of a yelling from the rooftops person.)

We decided to wait tell my family until we saw them on July 4th. In an uncharacteristic fit of creativity, I made up little photo frames for all of them that said "This frame is for a picture of your first grandchild, due to arrive in February of 2003". I wrapped those bitches up and avoided talking to my mom for fear I'd spill the beans.

I had wanted to be a mother for-EVAH, and had only waited "so long" (about 1 1/2 years) after we got married to get pregnant because I was to be in East Coast Anne's wedding, located on the, erm, East Coast, and I was to be damned if I would miss it due to a pregnancy slash flying restrictions.

And now here I was: happily married, pregnant, and finally going to be a mama.

Beyond everything else, the thing I was the most excited about was finding out the gender of the baby. I COULD NOT BELIEVE that I was supposed to wait weeks and weeks and weeks (not to mention 10 whole months, back before sonograms were available!) to find out if I was having a son or daughter.

I thought from the beginning it was a girl. Lots of other people did too. In truth, I really WANTED a girl. But more than that, I just wanted to know, goddammit, and NOW.

I expressed this to my doctor, and he suggested waiting a little longer than the routine 20 weeks for the sonogram, because it would be easier and more likely that we'd be able to determine the baby's gender. I reluctantly agreed, for the only thing worse than waiting an extra week or two was having a sonogram where THEY COULDN'T TELL.

That would have killed me. Or at least, it would have felt like it was killing me.

You can see how much this issue was driving me crazy, can't you? I wanted to know so badly, that I couldn't focus on much else.

So, finally, my ultrasound date rolled around. October 4, 2002. I was 23 weeks pregnant, and my tum was just starting to look like "yep, definitely pregnant" instead of "Is she or isn't she?"

David was with me, and in my mind I was thinking "I'm not leaving here today until they tell me if I am having a boy or a girl."

So there was the dimly lit room, the cold gel on the stomach, the wand moving around. We saw a head, and the little string-of-pearls spine, and a foot. The tech got quiet for a few minutes, at first explaining she was doing a few measurements. Then she made a few "Mmmm" type noises.

I thought nothing of it, completely willing to be patient with her as long as she reciprocated and TOLD ME BOY OR GIRL.

After a few minutes she said "Oh. You know what we have here..."

And this is where I put the back of my hand over my head (Scarlett O'Hare style), closed my eyes, and thought to myself "This is it. This is the moment I find out if I am having a boy or a girl."

"We have two babies," she said, simply.

"What?????????????????" I thought for sure I heard her wrong, or that she was playing a little joke on me.

I really thought that; that it was a joke.

"No, I'm not kidding. See? Here is one little head- Baby A- and here is another little head- Baby B..." She kept talking but I was still processing.

"Are they conjoined??????" I blurted out. I mean, I had just seen that special on Discovery Health, so it was a natural question.

"No, no" she clucked. "See this? There is a membrane separating them. I can't tell if they are identical or fraternal, but I can say they are two separate sacs."

At some point I looked up at David, whose face was 17 shades of white, and who had yet to utter much of anything. "But I only want ONE baby!" I said.

Yes, I really said that. Over and over, in fact. I just simply was not planning for two newborns, was in no way prepared for two, and for christsake I was FIVE months pregnant.

I mean, how was I supposed to put my perfectly coiffed and obscenely adorable baby in a sling and be that cute mom- just me and my sweet babe- browsing Target if... if I had TWO babies???

(Answer: there would be few trips to Target, or any where else, for that matter.)

David answered me, gently and lovingly, as I kept insisting that I only wanted ONE baby by saying "It's a little late now honey. There's already two in there." He said this as he gently patted my foot. Pat, pat, pat.

Call him Captain Obvious if you want to, but Boy was barely conscious, much less armed with comebacks for his nearly hysterical-with-disbelief wife.

When we left a little later, a string of blurry photos and a "probably two girls" prediction, we didn't know what do to with ourselves. We actually sat in our car, in the parking lot, too stunned to move. Our world had completely ground to a halt- every single thing we had pictured about becoming parents had drastically changed in an instant- and we had no idea how to reenter life.

After a long, stunned silence, we both picked up our phones and started calling our families and best friends. To be honest, I was horrified with our news- mad even- but telling people was the fun part.

(Even though we had called our parents a couple years before- on April 1st- and told them we were pregnant with twins [that, friends, is karma kicking us in the ass], my mom said she knew right away that I was not joking this time, due to the horror she could detect in my desperate voice.)

Everyone was so very excited for us, which helped me with the overwhelmed, sinking, this-cannot-be-happening-to-me feeling that came over me much of the time. (Incidentally, this was a state that I had a hard time shaking for the next 2 years... Though I loved my girls as much as any mother- and certainly with a ferocity that surprised even me- I had a hard time adjusting to life with two infants.)

When we finally left the parking lot in order to fetch my car (at my workplace) and some dinner, I was still in a state of complete shock. It was surreal, going into my work and telling people- in person now- our news. Going to the mall to eat, and seeing stroller after stroller go wheeling by, each carrying ONE baby. Why did SHE get to have one baby, but _I_ have to have TWO?

As I said, as the word got around, and more and more people were excited for us, I was able to feel excited and happy and even giddy at times. I was scared about what taking care of two babies would be like, day to day, but I already loved them both.

That day, 7 1/2 years ago, remains THE most shocking of my life. I have never received information so unexpected and that would so directly impact my life forever.

I can see now, looking back, that I left my body for a bit that day- I remember much of it with such clarity that it seems as if I was above, watching myself live it. The needle pulled across the record, screetching, and we were momentarily frozen in time.

I know that people that have children with special needs sometimes describe their journey in a similar way: shocking, overwhelming, hard to be excited about. For a long time, I felt silly sharing my story since my girls were both healthy, and I should be more grateful, and how can I complain about such a fabulous blessing?

The truth that I wasn't happy about it- that I was in fact depressed about it- is just that: my truth. Life threw me something difficult that I was not expecting, and as beautiful and perfect as those babies were, it did not make those feelings vanish.

Obviously, having twins was just exactly what I was supposed to do. It is no longer- nor has it been for ages- something "novel" in our lives. In fact, we never call the girls "the twins", and having them as our daughters seems 100% normal and natural. I thought I'd blog about parenting twins quite a bit... but in reality I barely write about it at all.

It's just us; our family. Our beautiful, not-what-we-expected-but-perfect-just-the-same family.

I wish I could have told my pregnant self that, all those years ago. It's going to be fine. Hard, yes, but you can do it. It will get easier. And they will change you in ways that nothing else could.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday Dinner, With Recipe

Yesterday, we had ourselves a good old-fashioned, farm-style Sunday Dinner. Which was consumed as our evening meal instead of our midday meal, but still.

Inspired by my newly acquired Pioneer Woman cookbook (from the library, but we'll be buying it I'm sure), we made pot roast, creamy mashed potatoes, and peach crumb cake.

I think Termerity Jane first tweeted with a link to the cake recipe, and about 5 minutes later an email came through from the Green-side of the family, planning our Easter dinner.

(Yes, they are always that organized and yes, they always plan that far ahead).

Since I had just read that mouth-watering recipe, I volunteered to make it for Easter. Without, you know, ever having made it. And if you knew the level of Suzie Homemakers and Becky Home Ecy's on David's side of the family, you'd raise one eyebrow at me and wonder what I was thinking.

I usually bring a fruit platter. Or a salad. Meanwhile, they butcher a hog in their basement, make and stuff their own sausage from a generations-old family recipe, all while also braising a leg of lamb with homemade mint sauce.

(And you probably think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)

Anyhoo, I made the peach crumb cake yesterday, to go with our Sunday Dinner. (We had friends over. We'd never be foolish enough to put the time or effort into making that kind of meal for our houseful of little ingrates, who eat the obligatory 2 nibbles before slinking off the family room to gorge on their secret stash of Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans.)

I cannot believe how easy this recipe was, and how delicious the results were! The original link, with photos, is here. (I'm printing here as well so if that link ever breaks I'll still have the recipe.) (I'm supa-smart!)

Peach Crunch Cake

24.5 oz jar of sliced peaches in light syrup
1 package yellow cake mix
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), cut into 16 pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Layer ingredients in a 13 X 9 dish, in order starting with the peaches.
Bake for about 40 minutes.
Serve warm or cold… with or without ice cream.