October 31, 2011

My first pumpkin

Last night we (I) carved Lulu's first jack-o-lantern.

J.D.: It...kind of looks like it had a stroke. Like...all lopsided.

Me: It was the last pumpkin at Trader Joe's that didn't have warts. Next year, I'll get a good one.

MIL: I like how you carved in laugh lines. I've never seen a pumpkin with wrinkles before.

Me: Those are eyelashes.

J.D.: What's up with his eye? It looks like he is leering at someone. "Hey, baby, I'll jack your lantern any time."

Me: He is not LEERING. He is WINKING. And he's a girl. Hence, the EYELASHES.

J.D.: Or like he's lost a contact lens. "Oh hey you guys do you see it? Where is it? Is it, like, on me?"

Me: I don't like how you started using a Valley Girl voice when you found out it was a lady pumpkin. That is insulting. You have a DAUGHTER. You should be above stereotypes.

J.D.: "Seriously, you guys, I, like, can't see! Omigod! Help!"

FIL, passing by: Hey, nice pumpkin! I like how he's shooting death rays from his eyes.


With the lights off and a candle inside, it was still pretty. And that's the point, right?

Right. So suck on that, HATERS.

October 30, 2011

Little Wonders: New Skates

First time on ice skates.
Two and a half years old.
Took to the ice like a natural.
Love it.

October 29, 2011

Snow day

When it comes to snow, J.D. and I are just big kids. We work from home--and still, we pray for snow days. Snow means Christmas, our birthdays, warm stews bubbling away on the stovetop, sledding, cookies, hot chocolate, and that holy, quiet hush that comes over the world and reminds you what it must have been like in ancient times.

Last winter, we didn't get much snow, but what little snow we got, I missed because of bed rest. The night Lulu was born last March, it snowed, and when we woke up the next morning, there was a dusting on the grass that made my heart glad.

But I missed real snow--a good, thick, soft blanket of it. So when I heard we might get an early storm this weekend, I was beside myself. At noon it started to come down, thickly. But it didn't stick. It didn't cover the grass.

And I was disappointed.

J.D. said, "Let's go find some snow." And so we bundled Lu up in her bear suit and drove west out 66, away from DC, through Fairfax and Loudon and Fauquier counties, toward the mountains.

And we found our snow.

It was everything we wanted it to be. The clean smell in the air, the white blanket covering, the quiet hush.

Now we're back home, waiting for cookies to come out of the oven.

And it's still coming down.

October 28, 2011

Little wonder: Baby's first library books

Lulu and I visit the library every week for story hour. We love flipping through the stacks of childrens' books while we're there, and today we decided to take some of our (read: my) favorites home to stay with us for a while. It was a sacrosanct moment for me, book lover I am. One day I won't remember what time Lu was born or what she got for her first Christmas, but I know I'll always remember her first library books. Blueberries for Sal, because blueberries are the favorite food right now. The Big Snow, in honor of the flurries we'll have here in D.C. tonight. And Eloise because she just rules.

Tonight we'll snuggle up and read each one of them.

Both sides now

I've always been the kind of person who functions best when there is some kind of reward at the end of things to spur me on. Throughout my adult life, I've always tried hard to find little ways to reward myself for doing things that needed to be done. I went to work today; ergo, I totally deserve this $89 pair of shoes!

Yesterday I cleaned my entire house, did three loads of laundry, pureed, steamed, and froze a huge batch of dollar-apiece locally grown organic carrots, stripped and washed and dried and stuffed cloth diapers, fed the baby carefully mashed worth-their-weight-in-gold farmer's market blueberries, cleaned blueberries off baby and floor, wrote six thank-you notes, did the grocery shop, and edited a 15-page article on glass fiber-reinforced polymer composite.

"Good job, self," I thought, tuckered out at the end of the day. "You have accomplished a lot in a little amount of time. I am so proud of you. As a special treat to honor all you've done, I will carve out a half-hour this evening so that you can PLUCK YOUR EYEBROWS."

Motherhood brings with it all sorts of adjusted expectations. This is one of them. There's less time, less opportunity to treat myself. But it's important to try to fit these things in. And so I look forward to Tuesday because it's the day the Savage Love podcast comes out, and I allow myself an hour in the middle of the day to clean the kitchen and listen to other people talk about their sex lives in amusing detail. Every Friday night, the call goes up around the house: We're changing the sheets! It's New Sheet Day! The promise of slipping into bed between those fresh, smooth sheets is almost too much excitement to bear. A Starbucks latte, once a many-times-a-day, taken-for-granted necessity, becomes a special, once-a-week treat, a genuine outing, a reason for putting on makeup, blowdrying my hair.

Trip to H&M = all expenses paid weekend in Paris

I think my pre-baby self would have thought this was a sad way to live. Post-baby me feels sorry for her. There's so much she didn't see, so many tiny joys she missed.

I know one day the harried baby stage will end and I'll have more time for myself.

I hope I remember to be grateful for it.

October 27, 2011

Heart of a Clan

If you follow us on Twitter at all (by the way: follow us on Twitter! We're witty and fun!), you might have seen some updates in the last several days indicating what's been going on with my family.

Last Thursday morning, as I gleefully planned my luxurious alone weekend, sending Carl and the littles off to his mother's while I claimed sickness so I could stay home and catch up on all sorts of work around the house (Carl was conniving with me on that one - we mostly just wanted to keep his mom from having hurt feelings about me not coming), when I got a phone call from my dad.

Grandma was in the hospital. Pneumonia with other complications, including the twelve-plus-year battle with Alzheimer's now shutting down most of her brain functions so that her body couldn't even attempt to heal itself. It was a matter of days at most, possibly even hours.

He told me not to change my weekend plans, to stay put and wait until the end, when we could come up for the memorial. A few hours and several phone calls later, my sister and I were meeting halfway between our two places so that we could drive up to Mom and Dad's together. A few hours after that, we were at the hospital.

Four days later, with four of her eight kids and two (out of eighteen) grandkids by her side, Grandma finally ended the fight.

This has been a weird week. Grief, laughter, memories, all mingled together. I've been spending most of my time in Mom and Dad's kitchen, trying to make enough food to keep the hospital crew going, and after the vigil ended, trying to feed the family still here. In between food prep, I was at the hospital, or at the nursing home with Dad, trying to help Grandpa figure out details. After the weekend, when Carl and the littles got back, I've been trying to play Mamma again as well.

And did I mention that Joy's fourth birthday party, planned for months, is happening on Saturday at Mom and Dad's? My sister and I stayed up until 12:30 last night putting together a felt garland for decorations (and it looks really cute, if I do say so myself).

We've been consuming great amounts of coffee. And since I've been mistaken for either specifically my mother or else more generally my father's wife ("Hello, Kevin, is this your wife?" "No, this is my younger daughter." AWKWARD), I've been also, frivolously, trying to keep up with makeup, and contemplating a purple streak for my hair.

No, seriously. I just haven't decided whether I want to do temporary streaking myself or go to a salon and get a semi-permanent one.

In the meantime, the littles are playing with first-cousins-once-removed and second cousins, and getting their first real glimpse of what it is like to be part of this crazy clan, this clan where the line is blurred between aunts and uncles and cousins ("Jordan, say hi to your Aunt Louise - I mean, cousin Louise, and your cousins, I mean, second cousins Joy and Grace - oh wait, first cousins once removed"), where I get to boss my uncle around ("Do NOT drive home tonight; I want to be able to look your wife in the face when she comes back to town"), where every time we get together laughter spills out, even when grief is underlying it all, where the bonds of family and God bring us all close enough together that even though we don't always get along perfectly, we would all do anything to support each other in hard times.

I love being a part of this family. It shocked Carl a little, the first few times he did something with the whole clan (or most of it - the uncle in Australia hasn't been home since '98), hearing the stories everyone shares, seeing the familiarity between people who haven't seen each other in years, understanding that there is a friendship that exists between family that can never happen between others, no matter how much you love them (and I do have friends I consider family, that the littles call Uncle and Aunt even though they aren't related - but there is something about one's actual family that can't be duplicated), understanding that the chaos involved in our gatherings is actually pretty controlled and understandable ... but he's growing into it.

And the littles? They aren't going to have the plethora of cousins that I did, with Dad's seven siblings (Carl and I each only have one sister, although Carl does have a couple half-siblings he hardly ever sees), but even so, they are already starting to enjoy this extended family. Yesterday I watched Joy stand on the ice and cheer my cousin's little boy on as he ventured out on ice skates for the first time, and smiled at the picture on my cousin's phone of the two kids standing on either side of their Great-Grandpa.

We're missing Grandma, and that won't change at any family gatherings, ever, but the heart of the family lives on.

The '98 reunion, the last time we had the whole crew together. Pay no attention to the teenager in the front row in a mint green shirt. She had really bad fashion sense at the time.

October 25, 2011

Bad parenting, now in HD

Dear Child Protective Services,

I am writing because I fear that by now you might have heard the rumor that I let my seven(!)-month-old child watch television. And I wanted to say a few things in my defense.

First of all, I want to say that mostly Lulu just listens to TV. She is addicted to the stupid Toddler Tunes music channel and will not do tummy time without it blaring in the background. Though I tried my hardest to encourage a preference for the classical and world music channels, my child wants RAFFI, which means that I have "The More We Get Together" running through my head 21 hours a day (English AND FRENCH. Le plus nous nous blow our brains out, ensemble, ensemble...)

And yes, while Lulu's eyes light up at the sound of Michael C. Hall's voice ("Dada!"), as the result of an intense Dexter marathon that spanned her first few months on the planet, I can safely say that she has never seen his face. Because I keep her carefully angled away from the television at all times. I figure that it must be the picture that warps the brain cells, right? Otherwise the internet would tell me to keep her away from the radio, too. (This is my logic). With her back to the TV, she should be quite safe, unless there is some harm from the TV rays that I don't know about. I...don't really know how a TV works and just realized that it may involve electromagnetism, which I know can be dangerous from a sci-fi book I read once. (I promise immediately remedy my lack of knowledge on this subject by reading Wikipedia and perusing copious messages posted to online web forums.)

Of course, my genius plan has gotten a lot harder now that Lulu has learned to do this:

Can't yet roll both ways; can, however, do a full back bend to see the screen.

I thought about tying her down to limit her movement, but if I recall correctly, your lot sort of frowns on that. I suppose I could limit my TV intake, or even (gasp!) stop watching it altogether. But you don't really expect me to do that. I mean, you guys are notoriously hardcore, but I know you can't be THAT unreasonable.

In any case, I apologize for this lapse in judgment and I assure you that I will do all I can to stunt my child's crafty, preternatural, Nadia-Comaneciesque flexibility. And in the meantime, I promise to only watch television that is instructive on important topics. Like Project Runway (art and design) or the Real Housewives of New York (scheming).

Thank you for your continued understanding in the face of my many flaws.

Until next time,


October 24, 2011

A wrinkle in time

Maybe it's that Louise's grandmother is ill and isn't expected to recover, and I've been thinking of her constantly these past few days. Maybe it was reading Darcy's post on missing her dad that did it. Maybe it's the time of year, with Day of the Dead looming. But I've been thinking of my grandparents a lot lately.

My mom's dad died when I was six, and it was the first time I had ever encountered the concept of death. I remember it as being confusing, but I don't think it affected me very deeply, to tell the truth. I just didn't get it. My dad's mom died when I was eleven and that was much, much harder, because I better understood the concepts of gone and forever. My Mammaw, my mom's mom, my best friend, died suddenly when I was 21 and that was crushing to me. I don't think I'll ever really get over it. Later that year, my dad's dad died, and that was a mixed bag, because he had been ill with Parkinson's disease for so long. It was hard to lose him, but there was some relief that he wasn't sick anymore. A hard thing to admit--that relief--and a hard knot to untangle.

I grew up with the ideal grandparent situation, I think. Both sets of my grandparents lived in my town, and I saw both many times a week. I spent heaps of time with them and there are special things I remember about each one. Eating at Art's Kitchen with Grandaddy Larry, sitting on the steps of his house as he worked on his truck. Going to the symphony with Grandaddy Gene, and the ringing of the bell in honor of the submarine veterans of WWII every year. Singing with him while he played the violin. I remember Grandma Lois leaning over me, teaching me to sew neat stitches to make a Raggedy Ann doll, helping her with the crossword, going to lunch at the club, sitting in the cart as she wheeled me around the commisary. Thousands of impromptu sleepovers with Mammaw, laying in her bed, propped up with feather pillows, playing Nintendo, watching Golden Girls, eating candy corn.

When I was pregnant and on bed rest, I passed the hours by sorting through family pictures and while doing this, I came across my grandparents' faces over and over again. There were so many things I wanted to ask them. My Mammaw had four children born prematurely. How did she handle that? Did she have to be on bed rest, too? What was it like, back in the '50s, to be the parent of a premature baby? My Grandma Lois had a twin that died at birth and I remember being obsessed with finding out the twin's name. Nobody remembered what it was, or if she even had one. Grandaddy Gene had always wanted to go to college, to study math or science or engineering, and he could have, with the G.I. Bill, after WWII ended. But instead, when he came home, he got married and started a family. Did he ever regret that choice in the middle of the night as the baby screamed in the next room? Did he wish that things could have been different, that his duties as a parent to provide for his family didn't press so heavily on him?

These are all things I didn't think to ask about when they were alive. And now I'll never know the answers.

There are so many things I want Lulu to know about her great-grandparents. I want her to know about Mammaw's laugh, her love of sweet things. Grandma Lois's whistling--her voice was damaged during surgery and she couldn't sing after that, but she learned to whistle beautifully. The way Grandaddy Gene always wore a flat cap--always. How Grandaddy Larry read a book in his reclining leather chair, an afghan draped over him.

Sometimes it hits me, though: I can tell her these things, but she won't really understand them. I love hearing stories about my great-grandparents. As a kid I used to beg to hear everything about them. What kind of food did they eat? How did she wear her hair? What was his favorite color? What was her favorite flower? My parents always answered me as best they could, but for all that, the great-grandparents never seemed really real to me. They seemed like characters in a book, people I'd read about instead of people that actually walked and talked. I didn't know their voices or the way they smelled or the way their faces looked when they were happy or tired. I didn't know the things that made them who they were.

I hate that these flesh-and-blood people I loved will seem like characters in a book for Lulu. I want them to be real to her. I want her to know them. I hate that she can't.

J.D. and I are obsessed with the idea of time travel. Not in a passionate sci-fi way, but it's something we do talk about at length on long car trips, in late-night chats. We like to discuss the logistics of it, how it would work, the ethical implications of it. J.D. has this theory that people from the future will time-travel back to the past and save our consciousnesses somehow, download us into the future after we die. He likes to expound upon it at great length.

Last month, when researchers discovered that some neutrinos may move faster than light, we talked about it again and joked about gassing up the DeLorean because it was going to happen. We talked about what time we would go back to, if we could. A time we were really interested in, to see what it was like? Or a time that we didn't really care to visit, but would, in order to issue some kind of warning? How much would it cost, to go back in time? Would it be like space travel--tons and tons of money, so that only rich people like that guy from NSYNC could make the trip?

J.D. lost his last two living grandparents about a year or so before I got pregnant with Lulu. It seems like such a raw deal, to have them only just miss meeting each other. J.D. was close to his grandfather--really close. I asked him, "Would you pay a hundred thousand dollars to go back to a time when your grandfather was alive, to have him meet Lu?"

J.D. didn't even have to think. He said yes.

"What about a million dollars?"

He said yes again, quick as before.

Of course it's easy to talk in hypotheticals that will never happen. We don't have a million dollars. There's no such thing as a time-travel machine. But if there were, I feel quite sure I'd gladly rob a bank or orchestrate a massive ponzi scheme to raise the funds to be able to make the trip. Because it's something that I wish for so often and so much--to be able to go back and have Lulu spend one day--one hour--with my grandparents. To see them kiss her chubby cheeks and love on her, if only for one tiny moment in time.

Dressing up yoga pants

Probably no article of clothing in the SAHM wardrobe is as reviled as the yoga pant. For some reason, people have complicated feelings about them. I don't really understand why. I am a longtime aficionado of the yoga pant. I work at home; I have worn yoga pants for years. I wore yoga pants on the regular, even before I ever dreamt of becoming a mom. And so I've picked up a tip or two for dressing up yoga pants, making them look less like pajamas and more like real, honest-to-goodness clothing. Today I am feeling generous, and so I will pass on these tips to you. Are you ready? OK then.

The first rule of dressing up yoga pants is that you don't dress up yoga pants.

If you do a google search for "dressing up yoga pants" you will find pages and pages of suggestions for adding things like blazers and high-heeled boots to complete the look. I caution you against doing this. You will not look hip, or chic, or like you are not wearing yoga pants. You will look like one of those kids' books, where you can flip the pages and make the doctor wear clown shoes. You will look like you are playing a game called "can anyone guess I am not wearing ACTUAL PANTS?" (HINT: we can, girl. WE ALWAYS CAN.)

The thing to do, instead, is to let the yoga pants be yoga pants, and build an outfit around them. It will not be an outfit you can wear interchangeably with other outfits. If you're going to a WOH job, or to dinner with friends, or church or a DAR meeting or a night out at a bar? FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, wear real pants. But if you are going to spend your day running after kids and crawling around on the floor and doing school drop offs? You can still look cute and chic.

Here are my strategies for making this work.

1. Pick a non-yoga yoga pant. By which I mean: don't get one with obvious athletic details. Unless you plan to use the pant for actual athletic activity. You want your fabric to breathe. You don't want seams in weird places or a sheeny butt. You want something cotton, with stretch. Something like the slim flare yoga pants from American Eagle:

2. Wear a shirt. (Duh). But I mean: a real shirt. Not an oversized tee you yanked from your husband's drawer. Nothing with the name of an athletic sportswear manufacturer; no gigantic Nike swoops. Not anything made of running material, unless you are trying to fake the "I've just been to the gym" thing. (Or you have actually been to the gym).

The key is to treat the yoga pants the way you would your favorite pair of old, worn in jeans, the ones you had in high school and that still fit, the ones that feel like velvet from the dryer. You wouldn't wear them out to dinner with friends with a silk-chiffon blouse. You'd toss on a cute cotton tee. Preferably with some sort of detailing to keep it from being too plain.

Right now, my go-to shirt to fulfill this requirement is the pintucked burnout tee from the Gap:

There are some really cute sweatshirts out there right now, but I'd save them to wear with jeans. Pair them with yoga pants and the whole things gets very sweatsuity, very fast.

2. Wear real shoes, too. By which I mean: not running shoes. Or Uggs. When in doubt, go for ballet flats, but be careful to choose a pair that's casual (No patent leather, no sequins, no calf's hair or Tory Burch logos). This doesn't have to mean boring, though:

Chains = not boring.

Pop of yellow = also not boring.

Do you have a pair of Chuck Taylors? If not, I highly suggest investing in a pair. They come in literally every color/shade/permutation under the sun and are probably the singlemost important item to keeping yoga pants looking cute and fun instead of sad and boring.

3. Add a bold accessory. Nothing dainty or flashy. Stay away from glittery or iridescent and focus on bright, bold, primary colors. Think about something like this:

A necklace like this is an outfit maker--throw it on with a plain white t-shirt and suddenly you look like you know what you're doing. A necklace like this and mascara can make a hospital gown look like it cost $178 at Anthropologie.

Helpful hint: I like to keep a necklace hanging on the front doorknob so that I can drop it over my head on my way out to the store, the library, or playgroup.

A scarf immediately adds depth and interest and texture to an otherwise drab outfit and draws the attention toward the face in the same way a bold necklace does. I like this circle scarf from American Apparel because it doesn't have loose ends that hang down in your soup (or the baby's blowout diaper, depending on how your day is going).

Bonus points: It also looks like it would be really great for breastfeeding. Score!

4. You're going to want a cute jacket. This rough tweedy number is mine.

The Ann Taylor catalog people have dressed it up here, but trust me: it works great with a more casual look, too.

5. Wear your yoga pants with confidence. Repeat after me: There is NO SHAME in yoga pants. You are a mom: you run around all day mashing bananas, gluing macaroni to cardboard, wiping up snot and poop and puke. Nurses do some of these things, and they're allowed to wear scrubs. And orthopedic shoes. In public. And nobody bats an eyelash.

You should hold you head high. If there's one thing I've learned in my nearly 30 years on the planet, it's that you can get away with a lot if you act like you're the shit. You've followed my rules, you're wearing cute shoes. So don't mind the haters. They're just jealous of your boob scarf.

How much do you love your yoga pants? What are your tips for making them work?

October 23, 2011

Little wonders: baby kisses

Lulu has learned to give kisses. Big, open-mouthed, slobbery kisses. They are not always given in traditional kiss locations, and they can sometimes be a bit more gnaw-y than you'd expect a kiss to be. But they are sweet, nonetheless.

October 20, 2011

I love Lulu

I love that she loves it when J.D. and I pretend to eat her. "ZOM-BIE BA-BY," we say in our best zombie voices, and she cackles, so amused.

I love that when we zoom her around the air, she makes what we call her "superhero face." Mouth wide open, nose crinkled. Pure glee and crimefighting adorableness all in one compact package.

I love that she sits in her swing with one leg up in the air. Although I hope we can wean her of this habit by the time she's in high school. As my own mother would say, it's not very ladylike.

I love her enthusiasm, her burgeoning sense of independence. She's new to food, but when we feed her, she grabs at the spoon, already wants to do it herself. I have the feeling that once she can talk, I'll be hearing this a lot: "No, Mama--I do it."

I love reading to her with J.D., and the little asides we make on the stories that we reads. We love to talk about capitalist overlords when we read Mike Mulligan. "'I work faster and better when someone is watching me? WTF kind of Big Brother shit is that?'" Occupy Popperville, everybody, because Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne are the 99%!

When Lulu is tired, she rubs her eyes with her hands like a pantomime of somebody in a play, pretending to be tired. It's infinitely charming. There is something so sweetly innocent about it. When she wants our attention, though, she blows raspberries, total Bronx cabbie style, tongue sticking out, a baby sneer on her face. We can't help laughing at both.

I love the tragic relationship Lu has with the cats. She absolutely adores them and wants them to come near to her--but when they do, she gets so excited, starts windmilling her arms and legs, and the cats get freaked out and run away again. Then she is totally bereft, lip folding down, tears, the works.

I wish I could be as happy about anything in the world as Lulu is to have her diaper changed. This kid loves being naked, loves to glory in her small, pudgy, supersoft and velvety body. I hope she always, always does, that she never wishes she was shaped or assembled any differently from the way she is, because she is perfect and perfectly herself.

I love to dress her for the day. My favorite of her outfits right now is a white dress with tiny blue polkadots, a hand-me-down from Louise's littles. I pair it with a pair of black leggings with multicolored buttons on the ankles, and Lulu looks gamine and adorable and totally '50s, a tiny, roly-poly Audrey Hepburn. (An image she immediately shatters by simultaneously farting and puking. I am sure Audrey never did either one of those things.)

I love the thousand little songs we sing to our girl throughout each day, how we change the lyrics to suit her. "I loves you, Lulu," we sing, to the tune of I Loves You, Porgy. "Mrs. Lulu," we sing, to the tune of Mr. Sandman, "I lo-ove you. When you're not with me, I'm feeling so blue." We substitute words in that old song, Calendar Girl: "I love I love I love my little Lulu girl, every day, every day of the year."

I love the big girl my baby is becoming, but I love that there are signs of the tiny newborn she used to be still in her, too. Yesterday, Lu sneezed, and then sighed--something I haven't heard her do in months. It felt like a reminder, like a gift.

I love everything about this kid, all the tiny pieces that make her who she is today.

Dear God: give me the gift of memory. Don't let me forget a single thing.

October 18, 2011

By any other name

The whole science of naming is something that has fascinated me since I was a young child. I remember filling the margins of my notebooks with a list of the names that I thought were beautiful--Helen, Clover, Augusta, Beatrice, Felicity, Jessamine--and wonder which one of these I would pick for my future child, what she would be like, how her name would shape her. When they handed that blank birth certificate form to me in the hospital, all those neat little boxes waiting to hold the name we'd chosen for our daughter, I actually trembled with excitement. I couldn't believe they were going to let me name an actual person.

A lot of thought went into picking Lulu's name. Which, in the interest of full disclosure, isn't actually Lulu. I don't want to say exactly what it is because I feel hinky about giving her name on the internet. I mentioned it several times on my old book blog, but this is a blog about her life, and I don't want to share details of her life without her consent. One day, if she wants, I'll go back and do a search-and-replace on the whole thing with her real name, but until then, she's Lulu. It's her nom de guerre.

Lulu has three names, first, middle and last. Her last name is my husband's, because I am subjugated and antifeminist but mostly because my maiden name is German and hard to spell. Her middle name is for my paternal grandmother, who died when I was 11. I have 21 years' worth of memories of my mother's mom, my Mammaw, to share with Lu when she is older, but I wanted her to have something of my other grandmother, too. So we added a few letters to her name, Lois, and made a name that felt a little more fresh.

Lu's first name is short and sweet and to the point. It is the name of a character in my favorite book. It's a classic; it peaked in popularity in the U.S. in 1910 and has been sliding ever since. It's not a new oldie, one of the ubiquitous "pretty grandma" names like Violet or Alice or Eloise. It's common enough among the general population so that you won't bat an eyelash to hear it but it's not a name that you find much on women under 40, much less little babies. Think Jane. (It's not Jane. But Jane is on my list).

But on an everyday basis, we don't call Lulu by any of these carefully chosen names. Most of the time we call her stupid things like "Bicky" or "Dog-Dog" or "Pants." When we're not using these undignified monikers, we call her by a nickname. It's a foreign version of her real name, a legitimate name, not made up. It's in the top 50 or so names for girls in Holland and Belgium and France, but in the U.S., it's very rare. There is a Dutch pop star and French actress and a character in a popularish book and movie who share this name, but I have never met anybody in real life who goes by it. We like that Lulu has two names, J.D. and I, and that they are so different. We like that she could use either one of them her whole life, or that she can switch back and forth between them as her situation and identity dictate. Whether Lulu grows up to be a Supreme Court Justice or the singer in a punk rock band, she's covered.

I think something that I have always liked about names are the small--and not-so-small--ways in which they shape our lives. A child's name is so important to whom he or she will become. That's backed up by science--researchers have found that students with names starting with A or B do better in school than kids whose names start with C or D, that men named Dennis and Joe are far more likely to become dentists and plumbers than men named James or Andrew. When I meet a parent with a baby, I always ask what his or her name is, and then I try to think about how that name will shape that baby's future. Will little Atom grow up to be a physicist? Will Colton ride horses? Will Shiva backpack through India, feel an affinity for Hindu philosophies? I'm named for an aunt--my mother's sister--and we are very, very close, and so alike that it's scary. But what if my mom had named me for her other sister? Would I feel closer to her, share more of her traits?

But what I really love are the things a name says about the namer. The things I wouldn't otherwise know. When my very good friend gave her son a very Celtic name, one of the ones with a lot of consonants that don't sound how you expect them, I wanted to know what led her to choose it. It seemed like a kind of random choice. But then she told me the story of her Irish immigrant grandparents, why they left their home in Ireland, why they moved to America, their traditions. I was floored--I hadn't known my friend's ancestry was so important to her. I hadn't known she was Irish at all. And I'd known her for 10 years.

At story hour at the public library a few weeks ago, there was a mother with a four-week-old baby, and his name was Larry. "That is a marvelous name," I told her. "Most people think it sounds like a hick or an old man," she said, "But it was my dad's name." And then she told me about her dad, who had died. She gave part of his memory, and part of herself, to me, and I'd only known her for thirty seconds.

Even really common names can be more revealing than you'd think. A woman I went to elementary school with recently named her daughter Jennifer, which isn't strange, but seemed like a strange choice because of its unstrangeness. But there was a story there, too: my Filipino friend, with her Filipino name, had dreamed, when she came to this country at a young age, of being a bright and bubbly, quintessentially American Jennifer instead of the foreign-sounding Maricel. Jennifer represents countless Jennis, Jennys, Jens and Jenns to us; to her it represented a wish for her new life.

So it's surprising, given the deep, intimate, personal nature of the naming process, that people can be such TOTAL ASSHOLES about the things that other people call their children. Seriously, everybody on the planet? What is WRONG with you? People can find something negative to say about pretty much every name under the sun (as evinced by the fact that nobody liked the boy name J.D. and I picked out, which was JOHN, probably the most inoffensive name known to man). But we parents of kids with unusual names reap it harder than anybody else. Just the other day I was talking to my friend S., whose daughter is named Liesel, and she recounted to me the story of a woman who accosted her while she was in the grocery store, minding her own business, to tell her that she didn't like her daughter's name, which she had discerned from the monogrammed diaper bag hanging over my friend's shoulder.

"When people do that to me," I said. "I wish them hemorrhoids."

"When people do that to me," Liesel's mom said, "I wish that they would be somehow unfairly implicated in a heinous crime and forced to flee the long arm of the law and the grip of the one-armed man. Like in The Fugitive."

So we talked about it some more, at length, and came up with a list of dos and don'ts that everybody must follow when talking to parents about their childrens' names. Because we decree it so. And because the penalty of not doing it is hemorrhoids.
  • DO call the child by the name the parents have chosen. Even if you don't really like it or you feel stupid saying it. Don't choose an alternate nickname, or make one up, or use the middle name instead.
  • DON'T be afraid to ask questions. It's OK to ask how a name is spelled or pronounced. It's OK to ask more than once if you need to. Because pretty much everybody prefers that you ask multiple times rather than getting it wrong.
  • DO let us know if you know someone else with the same name as our child. But please don't tell us if you had an evil teacher/horrible boss/person you never liked with that name.
  • DON'T be afraid to say that you think a name is unusual. We know the name is unusual; that's usually why we chose it.
  • DO try to chose your words carefully, though. Words like "strange" and "weird" and "odd" don't always sound the best. It's always better to say "interesting."
  • DON'T say you dislike a name. Don't ever do that, please. Usually by the time a parent is sharing a name with you, the kid is born and here and that's his name and your opinion will only make everybody feel bad. Remember that if we all had the same taste in names as you, then your own child's name wouldn't be so special. And everyone wants their child's name to be at least a little bit special--that's why there are 50,000 nicknames for Elizabeth, and why people go so ferally batshit crazy when someone "steals" the name they've chosen.
  • DO try to find something to like about the name that's being shared with you. Even names like Ethel and Edna can be charming if you think of them in the right way. For instance, Ethel Waters was a totally boss jazz singer and Edna Ferber wrote some of the most adorable books in the history of books. Accentuate the positive. And there's always a positive.
  • Most importantly, DO ask about the story behind the name. You'll almost always learn something important or meaningful about the person who chose it.
If you hear me calling my kid Dog-Dog, though? I give you permission to look askance at me for that.

"One day I'll learn to talk, Pantoufle. And then I'll get my revenge."

How did you pick your child's name? What does it mean to you? Please share the story with us in the comments.

My Sister, My Friend

As I sit here typing this, Joy and Gracie are cuddled on the couch looking at an American Girl doll catalog, and Joy is coaching Gracie in counting. They made it up to twenty-five before Grace lost interest.


When I found out I was pregnant with Grace, right before Joy hit the ten-month mark, and I realized my children would be just about a year and half apart, I will admit that my heart sank a bit. Not only were my memories of pregnancy and labor all too vivid still (I remember crying on the phone to my mother at one point, telling her I really wasn't at all sure I could do labor again so soon), I was close to overwhelmed with one small child. How would I handle two, so close in age that one would be barely out of one stage when the other entered it?


People told me that it would be great, that the first year or so would be really hard, but after that having two children less than two years apart would be wonderful. One amazing mother I know deliberately had four children as close to a year apart as she could - she wanted to have the baby stage all at once and have it over with, as well as wanting her children to grow up close in age. And her kids - all grown and past college now - are awesome, all of them (I have often bemoaned the fact that I have no younger sister I could marry off to one of the boys). But I still wasn't sure.


Joy gets frustrated at Grace. A lot. She also tries to boss her. A lot. There have been physical altercations (thankfully, not enough to be called A Lot, but enough). "Joy, don't hit your sister over the head with your plate!" is one of those phrases I never thought to hear come out of my mouth, yet has. Grace is pretty easygoing for the most part, but when she gets mad, she Gets Mad. Joy will need to watch her step in another year or so, because soon little sissy isn't going to be so easy to push over (as a little sister myself, I have to admit this doesn't bother me muchly. Older sisters need younger sisters who won't let them be bulldozers). They are not the picture-perfect loving sisters.


They both just came running up to me and handed me imaginary cookies. "We're making cookies!" Joy squealed. "Cookies!" Gracie echoed. Then they raced back off upstairs, where I am sure they are getting into all sort of mischief but at least they are giggling and I haven't heard any crashes yet so I'm not too worried at the moment.


They aren't perfect sisters, but they really are, despite the times when they are furious at each other, best friends. Considering that I just emailed my sister, whom I saw on Sunday, to ask if she was going to be available to Skype today because it's been too long since we talked, this fills me with delight.


Maybe the stress of of the last few years, being pregnant while having one baby still in the house, of having two toddlers, of barely finishing one kid's potty-training when the other decided she was ready for it, of balancing naps and meals and never getting a moment to breathe because someone always needed me ...

Maybe it really has been worth it, to see these two as they are now, and to know it will get even better as they grow older.

October 17, 2011


Over the weekend, Louise posted about the times when you should put the camera down, sit back and just enjoy. But at other times, it is important to pick the camera up, and snap away.


I have the reputation for being a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to photography. "No, no," the instructor of my Tuesday night Intro to Photography class is prone to saying. "It's really good, especially for a beginner." I hear it a lot, in all walks of my life: "You need to cut yourself slack." But I hardly ever do, especially when it comes to photography. One unfortunate shadow, the blur of an eyelid, a chopped-off hand? Delete, delete, delete.

So how is it, then, that some of the pictures I love best are some of the most imperfect?

This is our first photo with Lulu. There wasn't time to take a proper one before she was whisked down to the NICU. So we posed--my parents, my mother-in-law, my husband and me--with a cell phone photo of Lu that J.D. snapped as the nurses were wheeling her away.

It wasn't the kind of newborn photo I'd hoped to get, the kind you see over at Kelle Hampton's blog, of a soft-lighted mother and baby looking joyfully at each other in their first wondrous moments together. But still: I love it.


This is our first family photo, just the three of us. Taken in the NICU the next morning, the first time we were able to hold our girl. A kind nurse asked, "Would you like a family picture?" and we said, "Guh," which in stunned new-parent speak can mean "No problem" or "Is it serious?" or "We are over the moon with happiness." In this case, it meant yes, thank you. She translated, and whipped out a non-digital, 35-mm point and shoot. She printed out our picture on a printer in the corner of the nurses's station, handed to us as we left, the ink still wet, along with a lot of pamphlets on PPD and proper handwashing procedures.

The pixels are as big and square as my hand. You can't actually see the features on Lulu's face very well. There's just a baby-head-shaped red splotch that denotes her presence. But still: I love it.


We meant to take a picture to replace that one shortly after Lulu came home. We figured out the tripod and the self-timer on the camera. But lugging all of this stuff out, setting it up, finding a time when all of us had hair brushed and matching clothes on and no drool or pee or vomit on any part of our person was a little hard. I know that family pictures are important, and sometimes difficult, to get. So whenever I see a family with a new baby all out together, I will go right up to them and ask them, "Do you want me to take a picture of you all together?" I will pose them, snap a few shots, get their email addresses and send them copies.

But somehow, I couldn't get it together to do this for myself.

Until this weekend. We were at a pumpkin patch with friends, we were walking to the car, we passed a platform of pumpkins and I said, "Stop!" I moved things around, adjusted the exposure, handed the SLR to my friend who has never SLR-ed before. She waited for us to get in position and snapped the shot.

When I got home and opened the file in Photoshop, I saw that for all my careful adjustment, it was kind of a funky picture. The spot I'd picked was backlit by the setting sun; I had to play around a lot with levels and fill light so that we didn't look like zombies. The sky is weirdly exposed in a nuclear-fallout kind of way, and I have a strange Joan-of-Arc thing going on with my hair. It's not a perfect picture by any means.

But it is still perfect because it's us, all of us, together. And so I love it.

October 16, 2011

Little wonders: DC sunset


Autumn Leaves

On Friday, we drove through the Adirondacks on our way to visit my folks for the weekend. It was glorious, especially in the southern part where everything was either at or just barely past peak. I wanted to stop EVERYWHERE to take pictures.

But we waited until we got to Lake Placid (which is one of my favorite places in the whole world and almost as much of a home to me as where I grew up, because of all the time I spent there in my college years, working almost every single weekend of the fall and winter at various sporting events) and could get some lunch as well as pictures.

Except then my camera quit working on me. And it was raining, so I couldn't take the time to mess with it without it and us getting soaked. So we grabbed lunch and drove the rest of the way up to my parents'. No pictures at all.

(We fixed the camera once we got up here, by the way. The lens had some dust in it.)

I was a little disappointed at first, but then I got thinking about the nature of beauty. Isn't, maybe, half of what makes some things beautiful, their transient nature? If the trees were always this dizzying array of golden, orange, and red, would we notice them as much, or would we take them for granted after a while?

Maybe, by not being able to capture the whiteness of a mountain cascade spreading like a veil across the dark rocks, the reflection of red and yellow in a lake at the bottom of a mountain, the colors spreading across the horizon as far as the eye could see, maybe by only having to fix them in my memory instead of relying on the camera to record them for me ...

Maybe I appreciated them more.

And maybe, if I think of these days with small children as beautiful in their passing, if I look at potty training, and self-control teaching, and mealtime struggles, and never ever getting enough sleep, as memories getting locked away in my heart instead of tasks sucking up my life ...

Maybe I'll appreciate them more, too.

Not to say I won't still get frustrated and tired and occasionally longing for the days when they are older. But if I think of these days as fleeting as the autumn leaves, it might make it easier for me to delight in them.

October 14, 2011

Mommy meangirl

I have to preface the entry by saying that I live in the snootiest county in the snootiest area probably in the world. There's this messageboard, for moms in my metro area? And it is filled with some of the meanest parents I have ever had the misfortune to run across online. People who won't hesitate to tell you that they think you are a bad parent, that you are fat and poor, that your kids are ugly. There are SO many mean moms on there. But luckily I have never encountered any of them in real life. All of the moms I have met in real life, at parks and library story hours, have been nothing but totally awesome and nice.

Until today. Today I am pretty sure I was mommy meangirled.

It happened like this: Lulu and I got up early. It was raining, so our usual jaunt to the park was out. So we decided to go to a playgroup meetup at a local community center. We've been a few times before, she loves it, I have a great time talking to nice people. Today I sat down in my usual spot, started chatting to the other parents. There was a dad to the left of me, a mom to the right with her twins. We listened to stories, we sang songs. Then we put the babies on the floor and let them loose on a bunch of small plush balls.

Just about this time, a new mom walks over, plops herself down with her kid, and confiscates the balls nearer to us. She turns to the mom with twins. "Would you like to play?" The mom with twins says yes, and so the new mom rolls a ball to her. Then she leans ALL THE HELL WAY over me and says to the dad, "Would you like to play with us?" The dad says yes. She says nothing to me. She rolls the ball over my legs to the dad. Lulu is sitting there clapping her hands, watching. The mom collects the balls, rolls them out again. But not to us.

WTF, right? I just kind of sat there, waiting for her to ask us if we would like to play, too, but she didn't. Soon it became apparent that she didn't plan to, and I really didn't know how to respond. I suppose I could have asked, "Hey, can we join in?" but neither of the other parents had had to ask, and something in me balked at having to be all, please, sir, I want some more to this woman who had so obviously snubbed us. Across the room were some moms I knew, nice moms, moms who had always included us in previous playgroup activities, and I wanted so badly to get up and walk away from the mean mom but my foot had fallen asleep, which prevented a quick getaway.

So I just sat there, feeling like a fool. Thinking of other times in my life I had felt this way. In sixth grade, when I learned everybody in the class except for me and a few others had been invited to Allison Dupre's birthday at a really cool waterpark near the beach. I had always been really cool to Allison, practicing spelling with her in the carpool line before a big test, lending her Sweet Valley books. We were in Scouts together. She had come to my birthday. When I confronted her, crying, asking her why I wasn't invited, she said, "I just didn't feel like inviting you, Cathy."

While I waited for the feeling to come back in my foot, I went over a mental checklist, trying to work out if there was anything about the way I looked, right then, that would make it appropriate--even wise--to exclude me from the playtime fun. I was wearing jeans and a black tee, ballet flats, an anthropologie sweater. My hair was brushed. My teeth were brushed. While I was not wearing makeup, I had at least showered and put on earrings. They were $4 earrings from Forever 21, covered in tacky rhinestones, but I did not think that qualified me as crazy woman from whom you must protect your children. Maybe she didn't like the cut of my jib? Maybe she thought the others would be more complacent minions?

And the worst part was, this woman's kid? Was older than Lulu, about a year old. And could tell that Lulu wanted to play. So every time she got the ball, she rolled it to my daughter. And then the mean mom would reach over, take it back, and roll it to one of her BALL PLAY APPROVED friends. It made me sad, to see her kid so open, so inclusive, because I know when that baby grows up, she is going to be a meangirl just like her mother. Because you learn what you see, right?

The hour came to a close, the other parents got up and drifted away, and finally, the mean mom turned to me and tried to make small talk since she had nobody else to talk to. I guess I was better than nobody at all. I usually try to cut people some slack in situations like this, but today I wasn't in the mood. I just kept thinking of how my kid's eyes followed the ball she (or I?) obviously wasn't good enough to play with. And plus she was being so suddenly nice and it freaked me out. The feeling had come back to my foot so I stood up and collected our things. The mean mom said, "Are you going to come back next week?" And I said, "Maybe."

Here is what I would have liked to say, though.

"Listen, lady, probably not--unless you're not here. Because seriously, you have just made me feel about three inches tall and I don't like the fact that you found it so easy to be rude and excluding to a little baby. Maybe you don't like my diaper bag or some shit, but that's no excuse for excluding my kid. She doesn't realize now but one day she will and she'll be hurt, and I actually think people who can be hurtful in this way are psychopaths that are a worse of a threat to society than someone like Dexter, who dismembers and kills people on the reg. You've now thrown me into a quiet panic about how I will handle this mean girl shit in my daughter's preteen years, how I will make her feel better when girls like your own kid are mean to her because they can be, since I don't seem to be doing such a good job with it myself right now. Nothing would make me happier than if you relocated to Timbuktu. I wish you hemorrhoids. Good day."

I got home and dug through the toy box and found a few balls of our own. I spent a little while rolling them to Lu, praising her when she bopped them back in my direction, talking about how good it felt to share when I rolled them back. I might not be able to protect my daughter from all the meangirls in the world, but I swear by the three faces of Jove, she will never be one herself. Not while I have breath in my body.

October 13, 2011


We took advantage of the gorgeous weather last weekend to visit one of our favorite state parks and did a bit of exploring/rambling/hiking/picnicking.

When we moved from our previous house to this one a few months ago, I kept waiting for my moment of nostalgia, the welling up of all the good memories we'd had in that place, momentarily overshadowing all the very very bad things that caused us to move in the first place.

It never came.

I had it here, at the park, though.

Carl's been doing phone interviews for a new job, new city, new state (more about that if it comes through - I'm not terribly superstitious, but I still don't like talking about things when they are nebulous possibilities instead of "Hey! We're moving in two weeks!"), which means that we are looking very seriously at everything we do here being the "last time."

The last time for apple picking at our favorite orchard. The last time seeing the gloriousness of an Upstate NY autumn. The last time visiting each of our favorite parks. Our last time at this park, this park we visited when Gracie was a week old and we had to get out of the house, the park that gave my children a place to run and play when we didn't have a yard, the park where we were able to look from the mountaintop and see the beauty of this strange new city when it was all new to us.

And then I had that nostalgic twinge. I forced myself to walk slowly, to breathe deeply, to soak in the moment instead of regretting how quickly it would pass. And as the littles ran and tumbled and laughed and played, as Carl chased them all over in crazy circles, I smiled and let the memories sink down into my heart.

We may never visit this park again, but we will always have each other, and new memories will build on top of the old ones.

October 12, 2011

No Good Very Bad Day

We had a great holiday weekend. Like, birthday party, going to a play, cheering daddy in his first race, barbecuing with friends, drive in the country great. We really did. I have pictures to prove it.

We played with friends...

We enjoyed the beautiful fall weather...

We drove through a spicy apple orchard with the windows down...

And paid an impromptu visit to the Great Pumpkin.

It was so wonderful; it was the kind of weekend that reminds you why you do the during-the-week stuff, to pay for tickets and presents and beer and celebratory banners and all those things. This weekend had, in the words of the old Mickey D's jingle, food, folks, and fun. It was the kind of weekend that restoreth the soul.


Then yesterday happened.

I woke up to a grey-faced J.D. standing over me. "I think I have food poisoning." And I was all YEAH NO SHIT. There was literally not one shred of color in his face. He betook himself to the couch. I folded laundry and cleaned up the stuff that had piled up during the weekend (one of the only downsides to having a lot of fun days all in a row) and dealt with a blowout diaper courtesy of Lulu Belle, champion pooper. Some of it had gotten on her white onesie, so I plopped it in the sink with a scoop of Oxyclean, turned the hot water on, and then the doorbell rang and I went and signed for the package and then Lu was crying and I had to pick her up...

...and then about 15 minutes later, I heard the cat meowing from the middle of a spreading puddle of water on the bathroom floor.


We have a beautiful sink in our bathroom that is shaped like a very shallow fluted bowl. When purchasing it, I thought about how clean and elegant and architectural it would look. I did not consider how, if (when) it ever overflowed, water would sloosh over the rim and behind the vanity.

Which meant disconnecting pipes

To move the vanity and mop up the water behind it

Since I didn't caulk the area behind the sink when J.D. and I laid our new bathroom floor, and was worried about water getting underneath the linoleum and bubbling up

Which apparently seems to have happened anyway.

I'd just put the towels BACK in the laundry when Lulu started howling with hunger. She was being kind of fussy and tetchy about breastfeeding, so I pumped enough for a bottle and then passed it over to J.D. He fed her for a while, her eyes closed, blessedly...

And then she started to shake. Her upper body, but mostly just her head. It bobbed back and forth in a weird way for about five or six or maybe even as long as seven seconds. J.D. threw the bottle aside and started tapping her face, and it seemed to take a long time for her to open her eyes, and for a moment I thought she wouldn't, but then she did. And J.D. and I looked at each other and he said, "Did she just have a SEIZURE?"

I had been grasping for, but not reaching that word, and as soon as he said it, I snapped into emergency mode, which does not involve calling 911 or assessing for damage, but ripping the baby out of his arms, going to huddle up in a corner of the couch, and covering both of our heads with an afghan. From under the afghan, I debated with J.D. whether we should drive to the emergency room or call an ambulance or do nothing.

We settled for the middle ground. We called the pediatrician. She wanted us to bring the baby in right away.

So J.D. took my precious child to the doctor's, and instead of working I curled into a fetal position on the couch and chewed my nails and then got up and rummaged around in my desk drawer in case there was a cigarette forgotten in there, which is another thing I always do in emergencies. I kept checking the time on the phone like why are they gone so long, what is happening? Why isn't my husband calling me? And then after a million years, J.D. came home with Lulu cooing in her carseat and he had stopped by the store, so obviously she wasn't dying or anything. But I was still all MAH BABY WHAT DID THE DOCTOR SAY? And J.D. was like, "Oh, you know, she said it happens."

Wait, what?

"She said their neurological systems are still developing and kind of glitchy and sometimes they just weird out for a second."

And...is it going to happen again?

"Maybe. But it's not a big deal. Hey, I got cookie dough at the store."

So. Babies can just have seizure-y type things for no reason at all? And that's normal? I really feel like this could have been covered in one of the FIVE HUNDRED baby books I read before Lulu was born. There were dozens of pages on what kind of crib mattress to pick, what kind of rattles are most entertaining for each developmental stage, but nothing about weird shaking episodes caused by neurological system glitches. Not ONE WORD.

It kind of seems like the thing you would want to mention.

And it really makes me wonder what other critically important and scary things I don't know about babies. What else did the books leave out? Does their skin turn different colors? Do they occasionally shoot laser beams from their fingertips?

Lulu finished her bottle from earlier and went happily to sleep but of course I was afraid to leave her in case the shaking thing happened again. By the time I realized it wouldn't, it was late. And so I ended up starting my workday at 11:46 PM. And of COURSE the cat had barfed on the floor of the office, in retaliation for me marooning him in the bathroom hours earlier.

So I went and ate some cookie dough. THE END.

October 11, 2011

Love You, So Much

I realized the other day that I talk mostly about Joy on here.

This is not because Gracie is a negligible personality. Far from it. It's just that the difference between an almost-four year old and almost-two and a half year old means there are more stories to tell about Joy.

Grace is hysterical, but most of the humor comes from the moment, the facial expressions, the context. Trying to explain the jokes to someone else just falls flat.

She is, as I lovingly call her, my curly-haired imp.

She is quick to love, quick to laugh, quick to anger and sadness, with a scream so piercing the nurses at the birthing center had never heard anything like it from a newborn. And it's only gotten stronger as she's gotten older.

She is the extrovert in a family of introverts.

Another six months to a year, and I am sure the stories about her will pour out, that the roles will be reversed and Joy will get relatively little screen time compared to her vibrant younger sister. Right now Grace still follows big sister's steps in everything, but I've been seeing hints that indicate that state of affairs won't last much longer. As a little sister myself, who went from adoring my big sister to protecting her, I find myself reminding Gracie daily that "you don't have to do that just because Joy is!"

Her other nickname around the house is "Bundle" (anyone else here read Agatha Christie? Remember Bundle Brent?), as in: a bundle of mischief; a bundle of sweetness; a bundle of silliness; a bundle of energy; a bundle of love; a cuddle-bundle (that one gets tricky to say sometimes).

She's fallen down the stairs more times in the last two years than I care to count, and is the child most likely to give her mother a heart attack before she reaches age five. Fearless and adventurous, where her sister is cautious and thoughtful, she provides me with new challenges every day.

This kid? She is fun.

And I can't wait for the day when I can share more of her stories with you.

For now, I need to go double-check to make sure the door to the cellar is locked. She's already fallen down those steps once this month.

Ooh! I do have a funny story I can share. I just took a break from this to put Gracie down for her nap. As usual, I said: "Love you!" as I tucked her in, and she looked back up at me with twinkling eyes and added: "So much!"

October 9, 2011

Dear Mom and Dad

Thank you for getting married 35 years ago today. Thank you for having me six years later, even after a miserable pregnancy with Lis three years before. Thank you for staying married, through the good times and the bad, and giving me an example of perseverance and faithfulness.

Thank you for filling our house with laughter and love. Thank you for drilling into us from childhood that "people are more important than things." Thank you for your examples of how to put other people ahead of ourselves.

Mom, thank you for using baking and cooking to teach me fractions. Thank you for letting us do school outside when the weather was nice. Thank you for quitting your job to teach us at home when public school was no longer working for us, even though that was a pretty radical thing to do at the time. Thank you for reading to me when I had to spend summer days in bed with cucumbers over my eyelids because they got sunburned, for library trips that send us home staggering with piles of books, for introducing me to some of my best friends in life - Betsy, Tacy, and Tib; Anne Shirley and Emily Starr; Lucy and Edmund and Jill and Eustace and Aravis and Shasta; Bilbo Baggins; Randy and Rush, and Portia and Julian; so many characters who have helped shape me into the person I am today. Thank you for sticking to your guns and making us eat homemade whole wheat bread instead of storebought white bread. Thank you for teaching me to sew and knit and tear apart walls and above all, to think for myself.

Dad, thank you for for impromptu trips to McDonalds for fries and hot chocolate even when we couldn't afford it. Thank you for joining the board of the skating club so you could be involved in our sport. Thank you for getting on the ice with the other dads and not being embarrassed to skate to "Born to be Wild" in our ice show. Thank you for going with me to the '98 Worlds, so I could see some of my favorite skaters ever in person, and thank you for asking Todd Eldredge for his picture when I was too shy to say anything. Thank you for working ridiculous hours at your job so Mom could stay home with Lis and me. Thank you for letting me work at that job with you when I was old enough, so I could start to earn my own income and learn about hard work. Thank you for teaching me to fish, to throw and catch (even though I'm still terrible at that), to shoot a gun and drive a car and how to keep my head in an emergency.

Thank you both, most of all, for showing us faith and love and godliness, for raising us to be strong-minded, independent women unashamed of who and what we are.

My greatest hope as a parent is that someday my girls will have the kind of relationship with Carl and me that Lis and I have with you.

Happy Anniversary.

October 6, 2011

If music be the food of love...

...then we're eating a rather strange meal, over here.

The music situation lately in my house is--pretty diverse. That's the politically correct way of putting it. If I wanted to be less PC, I would say that it is totally, schizophrenically insane.

J.D. and I have pretty wide musical tastes to begin with. He's in a hardcore band. He also likes the more cerebral forms of rap, like Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang Clan and Odd Future, and has a penchant (which he won't admit) for totally cheesy pop music a la Lady Gaga. I, on the other hand, prefer '80s LA punk, New Wave, and Big Band from the 1930s and '40s. On top of that, we both listen to a lot of New Orleans soul, and have been known to totally nerd out over classical stuff.

Add a six-month-old baby, who persists in liking the most obnoxious, high-pitched, repetitive children's music in the world and things get even weirder.

For your Friday listening pleasure, I give you our top songs of the week, AKA the world's randomest playlist ever. Seriously, this is what a mixtape would sound like if it was played by Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Have a rockin' weekend! If that's your thing. Otherwise you could just...be mellow. Neil Young style. (Please note: we do not listen to Neil Young. He is the ONE ARTIST, apparently, that is not welcome in our musical smorgasboard.) (Although we do like Jimmy Fallon's Neil Young impression. That's fine by us.)