Keep trying

As I entered the warm, chlorine-soaked air, I had already given up. Z had been spectacularly whiny all day, throwing fits about washing her hands, sharing her toys, getting ready for her swim lesson. She didn't want to go to her swim lesson, she hates it, you see, and nothing was going to change her mind. The previous week, she had been so stubborn with her teacher about not wanting to put her face in the water that it seemed clear this whole endeavor was a colossal waste of time.

There's only two more weeks left of swim lesson. We'll finish this out and be DONE.

Maybe we'll even skip the last week....

I was flashing forward to the expected scene at the end of the lesson, when we all would crowd into a tiny shower stall in the cold locker room, E slipping and eating soap, Z loudly whining about how cold she is.

Isn't there some saying about doing the exact same thing over and over again but expecting a different result?

E had been a challenge all day, too. At the tail end of a cold, she was extra clingy and screechy and just now discovering the joys of throwing herself on the ground in a heap at the slightest frustration. She would surely spend the entirety of her sister's swim lesson drinking the pool water right after I told her NO and running away from me, headfirst toward the deep end.

The two girls seem to do this, set each other off, inspire each other in a contagious downward spiral. Good thing I resist the temptation to get pulled along for the ride.


I walked with the girls past the long lanes of impossibly young high schoolers doing laps in the churning water like spawning fish through a busy stream and tried very hard to ignore the tidal motion contained in each of my thighs, set off by every strike of my heels.

No one sees me. No one cares about my pale, dimpled thighs or my stretched out bathing suit or the several crucial spots my razor missed.

When we got to the "beach entrance", Z took off for the water at a gleeful skip. She splashed in and her sister lurched forward toward her, squealing. By the time Z's teacher arrived for her lesson, the girls were having a rousing game of "Catch That Duckie", throwing a little rubber duck for the other to catch, and laughing their heads off.

Z left for her lesson and E and I settled into the edge of the water with our toys. E chose the stacking cups, quickly building them into a tall tower. The strange muffled-yet-LOUD sounds of the busy pool quieted as I watched her complete concentration on her task. When one cup fell, she calmly picked it up and tried again, until she had a tower she was pleased with. Her shiny face turned toward me in triumph and I clapped and marveled and was finally present for the first time all day.

After about fifteen minutes, E started pulling my hand, trying to lead me toward her sister, begging "ZeeZee! ZEEEZEEEE!" so we went to see just what Z was up to.

Walking up, I wasn't sure where Z was until I recognized her suit on a form that was face down in the water, goggles on, pushing off away from the wall toward her teacher like some kind of ... swimmer. Her teacher beamed up at me, nodding her head at my astonishment. Z leapt out of the water, quickly rubbed the dreaded water off her face and yelped "I swam, Mommy! I swam!"

"YOU SWAM!" I screamed back. "I saw you!"

E and I stayed for a little longer, clapping and grinning as Z put her face in the water over and over again.

We laughed and hugged through the shower and got dressed without a single whine. As we walked out of the locker room, Z looked at me and said, "I'm so proud of myself, Mom. I kept trying."

"I'm proud of you too, Boo. We all need to remember to keep trying."


Grampa's stories always have happy endings

When my parents last came to visit, he was having headaches. He gets migraines occasionally but his usual medication for them wasn't working. He has persistent allergies and recurrent sinus infections but a thorough treatment for both of these didn't touch his pain. He is plagued by soft teeth and jaw problems, but a visit to the dentist and several crowns later and he was still clutching his head at regular intervals.

But he came anyway, that weekend in October, because it was Z's Grandparents Day at her school and he didn't want to miss it.

So he didn't.
He rallied. He and my mom watched her do a few of her works and ate the snack she brought to them. My dad gamely played Grampa Jungle Gym on the playground and just had to try out the kiddie bikes that go in a circle.

I wish I didn't feel the need to blur out the kids' faces because they are laughing their heads off.

By the end of the weekend, he was pretty miserable. On Monday, he found out he had shingles. On Thursday, he found out his cancer had returned, this time in his brain.

To say this hangs heavy on my heart, on my days, is an understatement. I knew that nothing in life is promised, that every day is precious and shouldn't be taken for granted. I knew that. I know that.

Cancer, I don't fucking need to be reminded of that.

By the way, I love to address my anger to "Cancer", like it's a person. Someone to be reasoned or bargained with, or if all else fails, to be beaten into submission. It's not, of course, and there is no reasoning or bargaining with this wily and vicious disease that has touched or will touch so many of our lives. But talking to it helps. Yelling at it helps more. The anger has to go somewhere.

He has completed his three weeks of radiation, battered, weakened but hoping to be victorious this time. When we went to go visit them two weekends ago, he was tired. But not too tired to tell Z bedtime stories, which, next to playing with my old collection of Barbies, is her favorite part of visiting my parents.

They are always princess stories and they always have to have happy endings.


Obsessions and diversions

I have a problem.

I crave it. I need it. I find myself twitchy if I don't get to spend some serious time doing it every day. Whenever a quiet moment arrives, I seek it out. I hide how much I do it. I know where all my favorite things are stashed. I think carefully about which one I chose. I lust for just a moment with my beloved and fantasize about sinking into a pillow, sighing with relief that my time with it is finally here.

I am, of course, talking about reading.

I cannot seem to get enough of reading. I want to do it all the time. I get very cranky, twitchy even, if a day goes by and I haven't had enough time to read. I have been known to get particularly pissy when interrupted while reading something really interesting when I'm almost finished.

(One might even say I am an avid and voracious reader.) (That was for Swistle.)

I like to think of this vice as more than socially acceptable, why it's LAUDABLE! It can only be a good thing that I read every spare second, often ignoring my children's requests for attention because I NEED to find out what happens to our poor Katniss! It's okay with me that they will remember me as Mom-who-always-had-her-nose-in-a-book/New Yorker/newspaper because haven't we all have heard that seeing parents read is the key to making our children geniuses (or something like that)?

I also like to think that my reading habit is preferable to watching television. After all, escaping into the blue-lighted oblivion of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge and its ilk has always been a sure sign that I am headed to a full-blown depression. Too much TV leaves me feeling slack-jawed, restless and in desperate need of both a shower and a long walk. Reading, on the other hand, brings me real knowledge, relaxation and contentment.

When I'm being honest, I must admit that I escape into reading in much the same way that I have, on occasion, escaped into TV. I long to dive into someone else's reality; now, I just choose to find that escape through the written word rather than the flickering screen. I still cling to the belief that reading is essentially beneficial and when so much of my SAHM day can feel like mindless drudgery, I yearn for the mental stimulation most reading brings. I feel, frankly, that it is my DUE.

CG, that rational spoilsport, disagrees with me, though. He feels the breakfast table should be free of reading materials to better facilitate face-to-face communication (pffft, whatever that is) and finds it off-putting that the first thing I want to do after putting the girls to bed is read. He claims QUESTIONABLE instances of me not hearing the kids ask me something of vital importance. (You want more milk? WHATEVER. I'm reading the NYT Modern Love column.) He expresses grave concerns about how much time is lost that could be used finding real-live, live-in-Virginia type friends because I am so often engrossed in the written lives of computer-based friendships.

(But you're my real friends, too! You are!)

I do understand his point of view and so I am struggling to let go of my newspaper-at-the-table breakfast. And I'm trying to set aside specific blog reading time and leave all books and magazines in the bedroom to be reserved for quiet time and bedtime.

In exchange, though, I think he should have to turn off his iPhone at the table.



My little remora

I started a post with this same title three years ago when Z was E's age now. I had been complaining to CG about how clingy Z was, how impossible it was for me to cook dinner/fold laundry/shove food in my pie-hole/DO ANYTHING, because I "always have this barnacle attached to my side". CG, being a biologist and resident Know-er of Annoyingly Useful Knowledge, corrected me: "I'd say she's more like a remora than a barnacle." And I, once again, snuck over to my laptop to Google a word I was pretty sure he just made up.

Remora: noun. Marine fish with a flattened elongated body and a sucking disk on the head for attaching to larger fish or moving objects.

I think this photo sums up how I feel much of the time.

It is vaguely comforting to know it was a phase that Z obviously left behind sometime between one and a half and FOUR, however it is no accident that I NEVER FINISHED THAT PREVIOUS POST. Because this is my life right now: I'm lucky if I finish wiping my ass.

E has two settings at the moment: gleeful destruction and remora-like clinging. It seems she must even out every moment of running full speed into traffic with an equally stressful high-octave cling-fest later. It is simply exhausting as she toggles between the two with little to no transition or warning. When she has decided she is finished clinging for the moment, she will suddenly fling herself out of my arms, headfirst, with such force and velocity that I fear it is only a matter of time before she lands smack on the top of her wee head. (Though, I must say, my reflexes are getting SHARP. Give me a bow and arrow! I'm ready for the Hunger Games!) She prances away from me at the library or at home while we're folding the laundry and the next thing you know she's found a stack of books to knock over onto smaller children or she's twisted my delicate eyeglasses that she managed to pull out of their case. The case that was in my fully zippered purse. Which was in the CLOSED closet. The last time I tried to pee with her in the room (because, of course, I cannot pee without her, lest she scream her little head off outside the door), she managed to pull down a bottle of infant Tylenol I had on the counter (because, of course, she's also teething) and opened the DEFINITELY CLOSED child-proofed cap while I watched. And all that was just today.

But WOE UNTO YOU if you try to leave her. And by "you" I mean ME. It's all Mommy, all the time over here and as flattering as it might seem from a distance, it frankly sucks (pun not intended but accepted) from up close. I cannot leave the room, or even her line of sight, without her wailing and needing to be picked Uhp! UHp! immediately. Since she has yet to develop the remora's suction cup (Oh, but GIVE HER TIME), the dinner hour requires me to break out the Ergo and chose between strapping her on my front (all the better for her to pick my nose and laugh while I try to see the stove over her head and not burn her toes), my side (where she tries to pinch off the skin tags that grow on the loose flesh between my former boobs and my armpits), or my back (where she likes to pull the little wispy hairs at the base of my neck until I come unhinged.)

This is where my little girl leaves the remora behind because, according to University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, remoras are "considered to have a commensal relationship with their host, since they do not hurt the host and are just along for the ride." (Add "commensal" to the list of words I had to look up because I was pretty sure someone made them up.) They also, apparently, help out by removing parasites off the host.

Yo, E. Those skin tags are not parasites. Leave them be.

And, apparently, E didn't get the memo about NOT HURTING THE HOST.

Watch out.

I'm comin' for you.

Just wait till I get my suction cup....


Can you tell I never write poetry?

O, Daylight Savings Time
Whose idea was this crime?

You giveth and you taketh away
why can't the hours just be nice and stay?

My clocks won't all be right for weeks
the wake up hour is what really reeks.

I used to think we gained an hour,
now 7 am being 6 tastes so sour.

Of course, the real problem of this is


Halloween, progress

I am not the Halloween mother I thought I would be. I have not yet made a single homemade costume based on our family's collective imagination. This year, unlike last, I only pondered this for a millisecond.
Maybe I will make costumes, someday. Until then, we will trade folded bills for itchy, poorly made costumes that originated in the imagination of some corporate entity. Because some things just have to give.

So much of mothering is not what I thought it would be. This is a good and a bad thing, of course. I knew it would be hard. I didn't know that some days that hardness would settle into my stomach, turning it to stone and making me fear both what I've become and what damage I've already done.

I knew I would love them. I didn't know my love for them would be so all consuming that simply watching a beloved child walk away from me in a Halloween costume could reduce me to joyful tears.

I knew I would take a million pictures of them. I didn't quite understand how many poor ones I would take.

(Let us stop for a moment and ponder the olden days, when taking pictures meant FILM and DEVELOPING and the inability to know the quality of the picture you've taken for WEEKS or at least hours. And let us give thanks for the forgiving and immediate nature of digital cameras. AMEN.)

For some reason, Halloween strikes me every year, the way some holidays do. It marks time, this candy-filled, costumed day that comes once a year. Remember when toddler Z sweated herself into a stupor because we were too dim to realize our little bee was too hot?

Remember when I was newly pregnant with E and felt every inch the Halloween ghoul?

What do you mean I need a costume? This IS my costume. SCARRRRRYYYY.

Remember when Z and E were "Cinderella" and "her fairy godmother" and we bought cheap costumes and couldn't get a good picture and ate too much candy and sat outside in the sun on the dining chairs and laughed?

Yes. I remember.

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