When Z was an infant, I gave her a massage every day, usually after her nightly bath. As a new mother, I was intent on doing everything right and well and took great pains to figure out and apply whatever that might be. As one of my few marketable skills is massage, I took a class in infant massage, studied several books on the topic and was intent on doing it regularly as part of my bonding time with my child.

You can probably guess how well it went. Yep, she hated it.

Well, she would tolerate it for a few minutes, as long as I sang to her and she wasn't too sleepy or too hungry or too excited or too awake or too gassy or too something I could never figure out.  I did love those moments she was reasonably content: the squish of her buttery soft thighs, the smell of Burt's Bee's oil, the feeling of connection between us. But it was always short lived.
It's a miracle this picture even exists.

She was a highly reactive baby, easily overstimulated and upset. My books all said massage would help calm her down. So I kept trying. I tried first thing in the morning. I tried before her bath. I tried after a nap. I tried deeper pressure. I tried lighter pressure. I tried with music on and off. Lights on and off and every dim-able setting in between.

It often seemed to be just too much for her, no matter what I did. 

I gave up her nightly massages around 5 months. She was starting to flip over then, and so spent much of the massage intent on flipping to whichever side she wasn't on. It was clearly becoming more of a fight than a massage and I finally got the message.

I felt like a failure. 


Yesterday was Z's first day at public school. First day riding the school bus. First day of first grade.

She was up early, nervous, excited, ready. She bounced her way through breakfast and tooth brushing and had to give herself a pep-talk as she struggled to tie her new tie shoes, the ones she insisted on buying. 
She was early to the bus stop but the bus was early too and so our goodbye was rushed and before I knew it she was off. 

When I met her at the bus stop that afternoon she was still bouncing, but with a weary look in her eye that I've come to know well. She whined about wanting to play with her neighborhood friends but I gently and firmly guided her home for some down time. We read some books, spent an hour playing with Legos and she and her sister watched a video while I cooked dinner.

After dinner, we took the girls upstairs for a bath, which hasn't been nightly in many years. They fought over space and favorite bath toys and Z seemed on edge in that tired-yet-wired way.  Her younger sister quickly got pulled out and put to bed and she and I were left in the bathroom as the tub drained out.

"Do you want a massage?" I asked, expecting her to say no, as she often does.

"Sure," she said. "With a song, please!"
She lay back on the tile floor, wiggling until she found a spot where we both could fit in the small bathroom. I rubbed my oiled hands along her impossibly long legs, still soft but now covered with downy hair.  I moved very slowly, watching her face, noticing when she closed her eyes and relaxed her face a little. Ticklish spots were skipped; I stopped immediately when she seemed done. 

"Thanks Mom. That was nice," she said giving me a hug.

"I'm glad, sweetheart. I'm so very glad."



It was 8:48 am and we were trying to leave Vermont; our planned departure time was long past. My mom and I were crying (of course) and CG and I kept forgetting one last thing (of course) and E had to pee one last time (OF COURSE). And, frankly, while we had been there two whole weeks, it's always hard to leave, no matter how long I've been there.

Z was waiting by the car, somewhat patiently, processing it all. "I'm SAD to be leaving Vermont! But I'm also HAPPY to be going home!"

"I know what you mean," I said, peeling my eyes away from my favorite view of the early morning sun dancing on the lake. "I feel that way too. It's called 'bittersweet', because you feel happy and sad all at the same time."

"Yeah," she said, thinking this one over. "But... what's bitter and what's sweet? Or is it ALL bitter AND sweet?"



My dad is sick. Pneumonia and hospitalization early in the summer. Supplemental oxygen. A walker. A wheelchair. 13 hour nights and, sometimes, two naps a day. 

My parents cancelled a long-planned train trip across British Columbia when a doctor informed them that the risks involved were grave.

He's himself. Some days. A joke here and there.

But in noticable ways, he's not the same strong, capable, hearty, independent Dad.

It's a new phase. 

I don't like it very much, and I haven't written too much lately because the heaviness in my heart doesn't want to come out my fingers.



For me, this was the most relaxing summer at the lake since before motherhood. Almost like an actual *whisper* vacation.  The girls can finally play together, by themselves, usually without too much intervention or supervision. Having a rule-following older child seemed suddenly wonderful, after months of annoyance when she checked my speed against the speed limit signs or corrected my approximate time giving: we know she will follow the rules.


 There was so much swimming this year.  And fishing

and hiking and waterskiing 
and wakeboarding.

The girls were constantly peeing, over-hydrated from inhaling half of the lake while swimming open mouthed like some kind of constantly smiling, bottom-feeding fish. And we adults were all dehydrated from the lake, sitting in the sun, on a boat or on a lounge chair with a book in one's lap, always results in a desperate need to drink several gallons at one sitting.


The girls constantly clambered for time at the lake, asking first thing upon waking, can we go swimming now? How about NOW?


There is something so wonderful about a place you come back to once a year, every year of your life. There is perspective there, as you see changes in the people you love compared to the time you saw them here last year, and all the years before. These vacations mark our growth and our losses. Every change stands in stark relief against our wealth of memories.

This is the rock wall my father built with his previously strong arms. This is the kayak he used to hold over his head and carry down the steep stairs to the lake. This is the dock he used to jump off of.

Here are my daughters, previously scared of the water, jumping off that same dock.

We reveled in the gaining of skills from some of our loved ones, while quietly mourning the loss of others.

Perspective can be bittersweet.


West Virginia is for haters

We live very close to the border with West Virginia, and we'd never stepped foot in our neighboring state. So I put it on my list of things I need to do before I turn 40 and on Monday, I decided to warm up for our 10+ hour car trip that we are taking to Vermont tomorrow by driving to West Virginia.

Virginians don't speak very highly of West Virginia. I hear classist, red-neck jokes mostly and I try to turn a deaf ear to such things because I'm open-minded and white-liberal-guilty like that.

Besides, everywhere I've ever lived has a snobby attitude about somewhere else. In San Francisco, people looked down on Southern California. Then I moved to Southern California and the people there looked down at those in the central valley. Growing up in New Jersey, we looked down on .... ourselves.

And poor West Virginia. It just can't be as bad as my neighbors here profess.

I had heard, for instance, that you'll know the moment you drive into West Virginia because of all the toilets sitting on front lawns. 

I can tell you that I didn't see a single toilet on any lawn. So there.

We decided to head to Harper's Ferry because... it was close. And had ice cream. Knowing nothing really about it, we ventured into the National Park there and wandered around the old town they have preserved for tourists/history buffs. Here are the girls after we walked up hand carved stone steps that are a part of the Appalachian Trail.

Well, that 20 minutes of walking totally wore us out, so then it was time for lunch.

Z chose the restaurant. It was ... mediocre.

Z chose mac and cheese and it was greasy and she didn't care for it, so her lunch consisted entirely of lemonade.

E ate some mac and cheese (or mac-n-and-cheese, as she calls it) and some lemonade and IS THAT SPINACH. OMG SHE CHOWED ON RAW SPINACH. IT'S A MIRACLE.

(oh, and our 20-something waiter was missing at least half his teeth and this was the ceiling over our head. UM. WEST VIRGINIA HELP ME OUT HERE. I"M TRYING TO NOT BE JUDGY AND YOU'RE NOT HELPING.)

I had promised the girls ice cream so with no further ado, we marched over for their very first ice cream cones. (Yes, I'm mean like that. This was a special treat.)

E's was smurf "cotton candy" flavored and Z got chocolate with white chocolate covered pretzel bits.

Both were YUM, though I nervously spent the last half of their ice cream eating terrified of when their sugar/food dye spazziness would hit.

With ice cream energy coursing through our veins, we walked through the John Brown wax museum (OMG HORROR SHOW COMPLETE WITH WHIPPED SLAVES AND A HANGING SCENE. I had to cover both my girls eyes and usher them through to keep them from having nightmares until they are 83.)

With that, we called it a day.

Here are the girls on the shuttle bus ride back to our car. Sugar high hasn't come yet...

Oh wait...

Yep. There it is.

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