Sunday, May 30, 2010


Watching the clouds gather, I think of how my emotions towards my daughter flop, flip, flop, flip- a fish on the shore- compassionate, frustrated, tender, exhausted.

The storm is gaining momentum. The sky rumbles.


She's crying again, and my eyes are itchy from exhaustion. I feel a weariness come over my body, and I roughly shove it away.

I make her lunch, ignoring that she's not eating her breakfast.

I count the times she woke me in the night, anxious about going to school. I am mad. Hardened. Forcing patience out of my pores, with my fingers crossed that she doesn't know how sick of her I really am.

I slap her sandwich together and shove it in her lunch box.



She smiles up at me from the crook of my arm. Her laugh comes from her belly, or maybe her toes. Her sense of humor is acute and delightful, perfectly pitched to my own sensibilities.



"Young children have more fears and phobias than adults, and experience the emotion of them more intensely." The manila envelope containing the Anxiety Care handout from the school counselor greets me when I open her backpack.

I scan through, heart rate quickening, hopeful- oh so hopeful- that the answers lie within.

The fetid smells of institutional learning flicker through my mind, taking me back. I am in a Psych class, in the basement of an old brick and stone building.

The answers are no where to be found.


3:27 AM

My own anxiety keeps me awake at night, my brain flicking around, not actually worrying, not actually solving anything, but awake. Body begs brain to turn off. Brain lets out a belch and keeps whirring. I feel my breast, detect the one small spot where the "tissues are thickened". The C word drifts around, but I never allow my brain to pull it into focus. Not tonight.

3:36 AM

My daughter is standing by my bedside. She too is awake, always awake in the night when I am. ALWAYS. Her intuitive nature intrigues me, maddens me, and guilt washes over when the thoughts she gets this from you whisper through my head.

"Gobacktobed" I murmur, frustrated.


She disappears.


I watch her through an upstairs window. It's the weekend, no school in sight, and she's jumping on the trampoline while the soaker hose mists her with cool water. She is vibrant, her cells so full of energy their communications are nearly visible.

Her laughter drifts up, up, up, and I remember her first laugh: her drooly chin and gummy mouth agape. The heavens opened for an instant that day and jolted me with the sheer joy one feels when hearing the angels sing.

I so easily can recall all of the times I rocked her in my arms, smelling her curls and stroking her cheek. All the blankets I have tucked around her, to comfort her, to keep her warm. All of the times I have set her gently in her bed, my own shirt damp from the fact of her.

Now, looking at her out the window, one would never guess that for the last 4 weeks she has been in tears, morning & night, about going to school. The bright blue sky behind her confirms my belief: my girl is happy.

That night, as I pull the covers around her once again, I get a whiff of her baby-self.



*Bing-ping* The almost daily email from her teacher arrives. "She's settled in fine." "She's happy and talkative today." "She's doing fine here. I wish we could read her mind!"

Her teacher likes her, I can tell. Once she's at school, her days are good.

I sip my hot coffee, burning my tongue a little. While I rub the raw part over my teeth I breathe a sigh of thanks that she has the teacher she has.


I ask about her day; her eyes twinkle. She tells me about the special sticker she got, what she did at recess, the funny thing a boy said to her. I watch her closely, quietly wondering if something at school is making her upset.

As the stories bubble forth, I know in my heart that everything at school is just fine. I can feel it. My girl is anxious, but the answer is not so simple as someone picking on her.

Relief and frustration have an equal hold on me.

Flip. Flop.

I may avoid plastic, drink from jelly jars, buy local foods, live in a small town, cherish girlfriends, advocate for birthing women, teach breastfeeding class, and take lots of photos.

I also go to church even though I'm not sure I'm a "Christian", am terrible about returning phone calls, yell too much at my kids, and crave cigarettes whenever I smell one being lit. I'm anxious, have had anxious thoughts and tendencies most of my life, and most prolifically after my twins were born.

But I am not Anxiety.


The rain stops and I step outside to look for a rainbow. My bare feet get wet and a little muddy, but no matter where I search the sky, there are no rainbows in sight.

The way the sunlight is bursting through the clouds, I am sure that someone is seeing a rainbow right now. I wonder who they are.


Slowly, slowly things are getting better. The more back to her old self she gets, the more I realize how much I missed her.

And the more of her that comes back to us, the more I remember. She is not Anxiety either.

There are no boxes for my girl- We are not putting her in one, her teacher is not putting her in one... Her daddy is downstairs making pancakes with her. I hear them laughing. "You are my expert egg cracker," he says. I imagine her grinning, and I think she IS good at cracking eggs. The thought makes me smile, and I click over to facebook to look at a favorite photo of her.

The flip/flopping recedes, and I resign to riding this out.


An unexpected kindness on a dark day has become a tentative friendship. She has looked cancer in the face and has come out on the other side beautiful, with sparkling eyes.

"Will you tell me your story?" I ask. And her teacher smiles.

I have so much to learn.


The sky is yellow now, or rather the light from the sky is yellowish pink, making the trees seem to glow, tricking my eyes to think the light is coming from inside their leaves. It's evening, and the rain has stopped. I still don't see a rainbow, but the light is so unique and magical I realize I'm no longer looking for one.

Something on my cheek tickles, and as I go to itch it I realize is a little spittle from her joyful goodnight kisses. She went to bed so happy, it was just like old times.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Long Weekend

The other day, I took a look at our calendar and was startled to discover that starting next weekend, we do not have a free weekend until mid July! While all of our plans are highly anticipated, it was still a bit of a shock to see half of the summer zip by in a string of fun-filled weekends.

So this weekend, we are laying low. And by "laying low", I mean "doing 39 (kazillion) household chores and projects". We may be the only ones in the country that don't have any big camping/traveling/grilling plans, and we're absolutely gleeful about it.

And by "no plans", I mean "our weekend is busier than we thought". Funny how the times fills up even when you plan to keep it simple. Last night we had a bonfire at friends' house. Tonight we're doing homemade pizza and beer here with another family. Tomorrow afternoon we have a birthday party for David's niece. Monday there's a Tiny Town parade and a traditional lunchtime picnic at the neighbor's house.

Actually though, have these things peppered throughout helps us to be more productive. Yes, MORE. Both David and I are more efficient when we have pressure or time constraints. If our entire weekend were truly empty and stretching before us, I think we'd waste a great deal of time, just because "we have the whole weekend to do X"...

Look! We got our porch all ready to use for meals this summer.

Instead we are grabbing the pieces of time between activities and making the most of it. And while doing chores is sort of a huge drag, it is very satisfying to systematically scratch things from our list. I've even written a few things on the list that were half done, simply because make that strike through it is so gratifying.

Additionally, the weather here is absolutely perfect. High 80's, slightly breezy, bright blue sky, lowish humidity. For someone who's mood is so directly effected by the weather, I sure picked the wrong state. Well, except for this time of year. Early summer, FTW!

What are your plans for the weekend? And how do you best accomplish household projects and chores?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Keeping On

First of all, thank you for all of your book ideas. (If you are looking for something to read, check out the comments section of that post.) I am bringing the list to book club tonight to help us choose.

Fair's fair, and since I asked what your favorite novel of all times is, I feel as if I should share mine. But wow, that's a hard question to answer.

I have a long list of favorite books and authors, but I guess if I had to pick one book it would be Barbara Kingsolver's "The Bean Trees". I've read it several times- but not for years now- and discovering that little book opened up a whole new world of books and authors for me. Plus, I must have been about 19 or 20 when I first read it, so the "coming of age" aspect really hit home. I should read it again and see if it still holds that same magic...

Other authors/books I love: Wally Lamb, Richard Russo, all of Barbara Kingsolver's books, Anne Lamott, Ruth Reichl, The Red Tent, A Million Little Pieces, Memoirs of a Geisha, Little Bee, Three Cups of Tea, and Water for Elephants.

I guess I wouldn't say that's my ultimate, lifetime-of-favorites list... more like things I've read in the last 10 years that I've loved the most. Actually, more like what-I-can-think-of-off-the-top-of-my-head.

Also, nearly every book I pick up is because someone I know (or someone I read) recommends it. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever just walked into a book store and browsed books and chosen one that I'd never heard of.

(It's not too late to tell me about the books you love! That's basically what I'm saying!)


Anyway, other things around here have been more-or-less the same. Kate is still crying every morning before school, still refusing breakfast. She's sleeping better, and the intensity of her anxiety has waned a bit, I think, but no major improvements there.

I am feeling better (and more at peace) about the whole Breast Diabolical. It still worries me, and I'm still having a little insomnia and days without appetite. Overall, though, I'm just willing to ride this out. Whether or not that "thicken area" is cancer or pre-cancer is already drawn out in the cards, so worrying myself sick about it isn't going to help. I'll continue to be proactive and stay on top of it, but I can't control the outcome. Ya know?

Oh, but hey. I did realize something about myself the other day. I STILL- after 34 trips around the sun- have trouble asking for and receiving help. With Kate, for example: I feel SO indebted to her teacher, to the school counselor, etc for having to "deal" with Kate and with me, for the time extra time it takes for them to email me etc. I just feel sooooo guilty for "taking up their time".

What the hell is THAT all about? I mean, I know it's their JOB, a job they get paid for... and yet.

(Please feel free to psychoanalyze me in the comments section.)


I am sitting on my screened porch on a really idyllic summer morning, typing all of this out. I feel happy. Content. Peaceful. Grateful. Calm.

In the moment, it seems as if a post about books, breasts, anxiety, asking for help, and a beautiful summer day makes perfect sense.

Funny how life is woven together like that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Questions: What's the best fiction book you've read lately? Also, what is your favorite novel of all times?

I am looking for a couple of good books for our book club.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Camper Cabin

(Image courtesy of Teh Internets.)

Today, I pack- for just myself!- and head to a state park with four of my local friends. A "Girls' Getaway", I guess you could say.

Kate is a mess about me leaving- oh, Kate- but she is off at school now, so the worst of that is over. (The worst for her is separating from me.) She'll be fine, and maybe even have fun, while I'm gone.

We have very few plans for ourselves: hiking, camp fire, wine, maybe a movie... The weather is warm and summery... I have a new(ish) camera to play with... There will be no cat purring my face off at 4 am...

Happy weekend, friends. Hope yours is lovely too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The World, It IS A Good Place

Oh, man.

Things have been... very stressful here at Chez Verde.

For the third week in a row, my anxious daughter is STILL crying every morning before school and most nights before bed. She's clingy and fragile, and frankly? Driving me crazy. I'm trying to be compassionate with her, but that has been steadily fading away, replaced with exhaustion in dealing with her.

Amidst Anxiousgate 2010, I also developed another round of mastitis, making it the third (3rd!) time I've had it since January, and the second time in so many weeks. The last two times I didn't develop the tell-tale fever, which really had me freaked out. (Let us also take a moment to note I have not breastfed a child in 2 years.)

Had my doctor freaked out too, if she were being honest with me.

So I had a mammogram (procedure itself was no big deal! really!) and a ultrasound. Everything looked fine except for an area of "thickened" tissue that is "probably" from having a recent infection.

And now several brick-and-mortar people are going HUH? CAN'T BE. Marie never stops talking... and she hasn't said a word about this! Yeah, sorry about that.

You see, I've been a leeetle bit- shall we say- anxious about all of this. Wasn't sleeping well, could hardly eat (severity? 9 lbs in one week gone- HEY-O!... not that I recommend the Do-I-Have-Cancer-AEEEIIIIIII Diet).

I'm better now. I ate a normal dinner last night. And I slept well the last couple of nights. And we are "watching" that thickened area of my Left Texas, which is really all that can be done at this point.

But you know what? During all of this, I received so many wonderful surprises, all from people that had no idea what was going on.

*A friend dropped by with bagels and coffee, totally unexpectedly

*A different friend called me just to say what a good mom I was, which was really nice to hear and totally out of the blue.

*My daughter came home with a "thank you" package from her classroom (for volunteering). The bag was chocked FULL of lots of wonderful treats, many of which were my ultimate favorite, which her teacher had no way of knowing.

*My poppies- my favorite!- bloomed, and much MUCH earlier than usual:

*On Sunday, a friend called and said "We have ribs and strawberry salad that we want to share with you. Can you come for lunch?" Um, yes, YES WE CAN!

*Two different people stopped me at church to compliment my children. One woman said: "We've just so enjoyed watching your girls grow over the years." I resisted the urge to say "THESE LITTLE SHITS?" and simply smiled and thanked her.

*I received fresh flowers. TWICE.

I feel humbled... honored.... grateful... that when our family was falling apart, the universe smiled on us. And sent us so many kindnesses.

It blows my mind, really.

But mostly it made me sure that the world really is full of good things. And by things, I mean people.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Place Holder

I'm posting these images

Of our crab apple tree, in bloom

From a few weeks ago

Because this week, it was hard

Due to my janky breast and lots of stress
(Wamp, wamp, sad trombone)

But I'll write more about that later, when I'm not so exhausted

So for now, enjoy these photos of our crab apple tree in bloom

Because these pink flowers mean it's officially spring in Minnesota.
(and it has been for a few weeks. Happy!)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Next Stage

Last night, I found myself sitting in a darkened auditorium here in Tiny Town, with lots and lots of familiar, friendly faces sitting around me, and one of my three daughters on my lap at all times.

We were at the high school Variety Show, which is basically their spring choir concert.

We go to this show nearly every year- as do many other people in town that don't have kids performing in the show. It might sound odd, but that's how we roll here in Tiny Town. We always know several of the kids on stage, and we are friends with both choir and band directors, and the show is entertaining and kid-friendly.

Often at these shows, I have moments where I am a mess: I can see it so clearly. In a matter of years/days/HOURS, it will be MY suddenly teen-aged daughters on that stage.

But last night, as I watched those teenagers perform- so ripe with youth and possibility- I had peace about it all. Yes, my children were going to grow up and become lanky and mysterious creatures.

But it's ok. Moving through the stages of life is right and beautiful.

Instead of clinging to their baby-ish selves- for even at ages 7 and 3, I can still sniff their baby-selves on them once in awhile- I can let go. I can- and will- still hold them close and smell their necks and cherish these wonderful years of their young lives. But I can also let them grow and change and blossom and become.

I still want another baby- and THAT jury remains hung- but I had a moment of clarity about that too: Babies are easy and safe and what I know. I'm excellent at babies. I can snuggle a baby and nurse a baby and keep a baby warm and dry.

And while the parenting of my older children is scary and new, I crave returning to my familiar safe-haven of babycare: something I am good at, someplace where I can- without a doubt- give my child all she needs.

But as I sat in the auditorium last night- the heavy weight of each of my daughters filling my lap in turn, making my legs ache- I had peace about moving past what's comfortable. It might be scary and lonely and even awful at times.

But it will also be wonderful to watch these girls grow into their own.

Glorious, even.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More Barfing

So, I mentioned this in the comments of my last post, but ANOTHER child puked in Kate's class yesterday.

And then last evening guess who else threw up? (Nope, not Kate, THANK YOU BABY JEBUS.)


And I was home alone with the kids, and *I* was nearly PHOBIC- not about barfing- but about my kid finding out about my barfing. (I'm fine. It was head cold/heartburn related, I think.)

Kate handled herself well during the school-barfing incident yesterday. She held her breath and said she felt shaky for about 5 minutes. The teacher said she was laughing minutes afterward, and later in the afternoon, her teacher had her send me an email.

Success, right?


Yesterday afternoon Kate and I had a long talk about it. And I just want to point out that I'm very aware of putting too much energy into something like this, and then having what was once a legitimate fear transform into an attention seeking behavior. So it's not like I'm constantly stroking Kate over this fear, or make a huge deal about it, or whatever.

In fact, after the panic attack, we never really talked about that incident again. Kate is an intuitive child, and if I asked her about it she'd probably extrapolate that panic attacks are WORRISOME and that she better start WORRYING. In fact, I never even told that that incident was called a panic attack. I remember from by brief foray into psychology that often times panic attacks are caused by panicking over having a panic attack.

But anyway, I did make a point to talk to her yesterday. Thanks to many of your ideas (thank you thank you thank you!) I suggested things she could do if someone was throwing up (close her eyes, turn away, cover her ears, go into the hallway).

I told her that she has been handling herself GREAT, and that she should be proud of how well she's dealt with it. She told me her teacher said the same thing, and that she DID feel proud of herself.

We talked about how LOTS of people are afraid of throwing up, and how most people are only really afraid of it for awhile and then the fears go away. (See what I just did there? AM GENIUS).

We talked about getting a book about the digestive system to help her understand why people throw up.

She even said that perhaps she would stop asking her friend to describe the vomit color to her. This actually made me laugh.

It was a good talk.

But by bedtime she was a MESS. Sobbing, not wanting to go to school. Wishing school had never been invented. Wishing she was her little sister so she could stay home with me.

(She would have been acting this way with or without our "talk", I'm positive.)

This morning she sobbed all through getting ready, didn't eat a thing, and was begging to stay home. She said she was sick. I made her go to school anyway.

In fact, I took her to school. She refused to get out of the car, so I helped her out and agreed to walk her into the building. Usually at this point she pulls herself together, but today she was clinging to me and sobbing. Her teacher "invited" me to stay and read to the students (I was in yoga pants, a baseball cap, with totally unwashed face and teeth. GAH!). I read for awhile, while Kate cried.

She kept insisting she was sick. Her teacher and I insisted that she try school for awhile and if she still felt sick she could call me.

And then I left. And she cried some more, hugging her teacher.

But I can't let her stay home for feeling anxious because that will create a huge problem. Kate is an anxious kid by nature, and would rather NEVER leave her mother, and man. It felt harsh, but I knew she just HAD to go.

Plus, her teacher is about the awesomest teacher EVER, so I know she's in good, loving hands.

But you know what? If she IS sick, I'm going to feel like the BIGGEST ASS EVER.

(And PS to the teacher's aide: Thanks for giving me that "Tsk, tsk" look and saying to me "You just need to leave" and saying with your eyes that my presence was making it worse. I needed to feel MORE LIKE SHIT, standing around in my furry teeth and yoga pants, about how the morning was playing out. Having my kid clinging to me and sobbing is not exactly MY IDEAL MORNING, either.)

(And PPS- I'm going to marry Kate's teacher, just as soon as I can get up the guts to ask her. I've never proposed before... ideas?)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My "Middle" Child

Being born 2 minutes after her sister and 3 3/4 years before her other sister, Kate is our family's "middle" child.

Kate is by and large my hardest child to parent. She very sensitive; she thinks about things and worries; she needs more "Mama-time"; she struggles with anxiety, especially when it comes to separating from me.

And lately, her strong dislike of barfing (either for herself OR others) has ratcheted itself into a full-fledged phobia.

About a month ago, she had- literally- a panic attack when her tummy hurt a little and she thought she was going to throw up. It was intense and scary to see, not to mention disturbing and heartbreaking. I was suuuuuuper calm while it was happening and was able to get her to breath more slowly. I taught her to "breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth" and we talked about thinking good things when we breath in and breathing out the bad thoughts.

The whole thing lasted about 1/2 hour, at which point it was bedtime. Kate had calmed down and was breathing normally, but was still upset and clingy. David took over putting her to bed, as I needed to debrief from the whole thing.

At that time I decided not to seek professional help for her- for an isolated incident- as I didn't want to slap a mental health label on my 7 year old child.

But on Monday, a child threw up in Kate's classroom. Kate came home and cheerfully told me about it: how she heard the girl coughing and turned herself face the wall because she just knew the girl was going to throw up, how then she "can't remember what happened next" but the next thing she knew she had peed her pants.

That's right, my girl became so frightened that she can't remember what happened AND she wet herself.

Though she was cheerful and matter-of-fact about it that afternoon, by the next morning she was a mess. She didn't want to go to school (for fear of that child being there and puking again), she wouldn't eat anything, and she cried through the entire morning routine.

For some reason, this time I'm very bothered by it all... more so than even the panic attack. I feel heartbroken for my girl, that she had to experience that away from home. I feel stupid- and like a novice mother- for not telling her teacher about her fear, for not having an adult in that school building that had any idea that she might need some help.

I feel like maybe we do need to look into some help for her.

Or maybe we don't? Am I making a big deal out of something? Starting my girl down a path of drugs and shrinks and lobotomies and that she doesn't need to be going down?

I'm too deep into this to have any kind perspective. I did talk to her teacher this morning, and that helped me feel much better. Her teacher is going to ask the school counselor what his advice is.

And this is why parenting doesn't get any easier. Sure, there is less physical demands of a 7 year old- by god, I think she's even wiping her own butt 100% of the time now- but these mental gymnastics and the worrying... The constantly having to watch what I say and how I react and how my attitude is effecting her....

Oh, you guys... I'm worried about my girl.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oh, You Guys (I'm Fine)

So Friday I really thought I was going to die. Which was an unfortunate waste of time, since it turns out I'm not!

A couple of things happened. First, I emailed a friend who just happens to be my previous OB/GYN and basically asked her if I had cancer. And she responded- immediately- that based on what I told her (and you'll have to trust me that I went into an embarrassing amount of detail) that I DEFINITELY DID NOT have IBC. Which I found reassuring since I thought for sure she'd say "It's probably nothing but you should be seen by your doctor", or something along those lines.

Second, I woke Saturday morning with all the redness and streaking gone. Now do YOU think IBC would make such miraculous improvements in such a short time? (Actually, I have no idea if it can... and I'll be damned if I'm going to try to find out.)

So anyway. No more internet doctoring for me. A bid you adieu, Dr. Google.

Additionally, I can't believe it's Sunday night already. I'm feeling like a jerk for being all "Zoh! I zink I haz da CANZER!" and then disappearing for 2 days.

But truly, we were home for about 10 minutes- total- this weekend. And do you want to know what we did in those ten minutes? (Spoiler: I'm going to tell you anyway.) We mowed the yard, washed/folded/put away 9 loads of laundry, cleaned our house from top to bottom, and completely rearranged/cleaned/organized Joan and Kate's room.


Which just goes to show you (well, ME) that when we want to be productive, we can be productive. I think perhaps we had so much momentum, that it never even occurred to us to slow down.

[We also put around 200 miles on the minivan, participated in the MS Walk, went grocery shopping 2x, delivered around 15 May baskets, drove the girls to Barf E Cheese for a bday party, had an art show (for J & K) and a gymnastics class (for M), and had dinner with friends.]

We are definitely a family that works best- and most efficiently- under pressure. Which makes me wonder how many days of retirement it'll take us to transform ourselves into gelatinous balls of goo, due to lazy, unscheduled days...

So, anyway, here's to ending a busy and happy weekend thankful for good health and deliciously tired. Cheers!