Friday, November 21, 2008


Hannah screamed as she thrust her body towards me, pulling away from her mother. Saline tears raced up and over her flushed cheeks, like two agile skiers racing down the snow covered slopes. One by one the tears landed on her snug t-shirt. The dark spots created random polk-a-dots across her belly that grew with each passing second.

I looked at her mother, "Is there something I can do to make this better?" Kai and I were leaving after a play dough playdate. I stayed too long and needed to make a speedy exit in order to meet my daughter at our house when she stepped off the bus.

Charlene sighed, "She wants a hug and a kiss."

Ah, that explained Hannah's fish like movements with her lips. I tried blowing her a kiss.

"Hannah, look," I said dramatically bringing my hand up to my own puckered lips. "I'm going to blow you a kiss, get ready to catch it ok?"

Most kids love this game, catching the winged kiss with their padded palms. Hannah continued to scream, wanting no part such breezy affection. She pulled away from Charlene, causing her to quickly shift her weight to the opposite side in order to prevent both of them from toppling over.

"Ok," I said. "How about a kiss on your head?" I barely knew this little one. I tried to read her mother's face. Did she want me to give her daughter a kiss good-bye? Certainly not. I wouldn't want someone I barely knew kissing my kids. So, I planted a soft kiss on Hannah's shiny honey colored hair, noticing her perfect part down the middle. I realized that after six years, I still haven't mastered such a clean part on my own daughter's hair.

This only proved to insult Hannah and she yowled with more intensity. Looking up at me with her pale blue eyes, she seemed offended, as if I had offered her an apple in place of a towering flowered cake on her birthday. Meanwhile, the clock ticked away in my mind, the bus would be coming soon.

So I leaned down and gave her the quickest kiss I could muster on her quivering lips and magically, she stopped.

Relieved I said, "Okay Hannah, we'll see you next week and I'll bring stamps to play with next time." Hannah closed her eyes and rested her head on Charlene's shoulder, suddenly exhausted.

"See ya!" Charlene waved as we finally walked out the back door where my car waited impatiently.

As I turned the key in the ignition my thoughts shifted gears with disapproval. Why didn't I just leave? Lots of kids cry at the end of a play date. I taught elementary school for several years. I know about boundaries. "Give me a high five or a hug!" Those are the choices.

But Hannah is living in a home for pregnant women who are in crisis. Her mother is expecting a baby soon and is trying to secure a job, a car and a place to live in these coming months with the help of the staff at the home. Hannah now lives with 4 other families in similar situations, pregnant mothers with no where to go, trying to piece their lives back together. How can I deny such a simple request from a 2 year old? But the fact is, next time I will need stick to my guns and say no. I know it must be against the rules to give the kids kisses.

I wasn't prepared, in many ways, I was not prepared at all. I will return next week with the box of stamps and colored ink pads under my arm and the phrase, "How about a high 5 or a hug?" planted firmly in my mind.

** Names used are not the real names of the given individuals.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Booty Bounce

For the last several nights, Elizabeth, Kai and I have taken part in an after dinner dance contest. We pull up itunes on the computer and take turns throwing out new moves to the 30 seconds of any given song. Josh judges as he cleans up the kitchen. So far, Elizabeth has won each competition hands down. Josh and I exchanged more than a few raised eyebrows between each other as she danced, “Where did she learn to move like that?” Not from me… unfortunately. I love to dance. I am just not good at it.

Today, I tried a new health club that recently opened up near us called LA Fitness. After years at Cardinal, I thought it might be time for a change. This club offers classes. I decided to try Cardio Kickboxing. The very cute and Barbie-like instructor asked us at the beginning of the class if anyone did not have any dancing background. “Even taking classes as a kid counts, just something. “ I was the only one to raise my hand. “Ok, that’s fine, “she assured me with a flash of gleaming white teeth, “I just need to know who I am dealing with today.”

A friend of mine used to teach Step at one of the clubs I belonged to. She used to joke, “I know if Kate can follow my queues, than anyone can.” Ouch. But it was true. I used to mouth the counts out along with her so I wouldn’t mess up. At least I made the other self-proclaimed uncoordinated women feel better. This is why I run and bike people, no choreography needed.

This instructor, I think her name was Alyssa, was so good though! She broke down all the moves for us first, gave out high fives when we finally got it right, and encouraged us to part-take in the optional “booty-bounce” move. She looked very MTV-ish doing it, me, I looked like an idiot. And yet, I didn’t care. It was fun. I laughed and tried it anyway. The instructor with her careful directions, good music, and upbeat attitude made my day. I’ve often wished my mom had forced me to take dance lessons. According to her, she asked me a few times about lessons and I refused. Now I am wondering if it is too late to try as an adult.

In any case, Elizabeth will want to compete again tonight I’m sure. Little does she know that her mom just learned a new move from Miss Alyssa! I am sure the “booty-bounce” will get me a few extra points with the judge, or at the very least a raised eyebrow.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Get in your playroom!

Josh just left for his weekend with friends and the kids are tearing each other apart. My classic line is, “When I find myself losing patience at 8am, I know it isn’t going to be a good day.” The weather outside is cloudy and rainy. The damp chill seeps into the bones and spirit, prompting an extra layer of clothing and high pitched whining from my children, typical pre-holiday weather for Indiana.

And so, I am implementing a new strategy today. If my darling little ones cannot find the means to problem-solve like civilized people as they wander the house, they will need to do so together in a dual time out in the playroom. Instead of separating them, or just letting them work it out in a loud fashion right next to me, I am placing them both in the playroom together with the following instructions:

“ You two will need to solve this problem together in here. Once you have a workable solution that you both agree to, you may join me in the rest of the house. I am setting the timer for 5 minutes. You may not come out until you hear it beep.”

So, I will get a little writing in while I wait…

And there is it, beep, beep, beep…the infamous timer. Who knew my microwave would morph from fast food preparation to an integral tool in my parenting procedures? Duty calls and the experiment continues…

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why bother?

Looking at Kai’s lime green box of Leggos, I imagine if I stacked all of my reasons NOT to write, one on top of the other, the colorful tower would certainly reach the ceiling. After all, a pile of clean laundry sits on my bed, waiting to be folded and put away. Today is Friday, which means I need to complete two reports for work. I just sent out Evite invitations for Elizabeth’s 6th birthday party. She wants a beach party and although we discussed a number of games and activities, I need to compile a list of supplies for them, as well as deciding what to send home with the kiddos as a treat bag. Once again, I vowed to complete all Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving this year and yet not one gift has been purchased so far. Emails from friends sit in my inbox unanswered. I feel tired, how is it that going on vacation provokes such exhaustion? Maybe I am getting sick and should rest my newly colored red head down on a pillow and take a quick nap while Kai sleeps? But Jenny did ask me to send her a picture of my new hair color…can I get a good shot taking the picture myself? Plus, what am I going to say? What happens when I sit down to write and nothing of value comes out? How long do I push through what feels like crap before I quit for the day? At least if I tackle one of the above tasks, I can claim victory over my list and triumphantly cross it off for today.

Writing remains on my mind, if not on my to do list no matter what the given day holds. And so I come back, time and time again to all of the reasons I DO write. I write because I remember my mom sitting down to write in our living room in Illinois. She sat in the rarely used, but quiet room with pencil in hand and a yellow legal pad on her lap. Wandering into the room, I asked her what she was doing? She looked so out of place to me. I was used to my mom bustling about in the kitchen or reading a novel at the end of the sofa in the highly trafficked family room. She told me she thought she would try writing a book and was just getting started today. I left her to write, and remembered feeling a sense of awe that my mother was sitting down to write a book. I write because I never did see my mom sit down to write in that yellow legal pad again. I write because I learned a few months ago that the story line is still in her mind, ready to be exposed on the page but she is waiting until retirement to dive into that venture again.

I write because I see my soon to be six year old daughter writing stories of her own now. The stories appear on the page like transparent wings flecked with silver fairy dust, beautiful, magically, and completely her own. My own breath quickens watching her discover the power of words on a white page. As she bends over her work, I silently pray she never lets go of the thread of creativity and expression, that she instead confidently grabs hold of each one that comes her way, weaving together a solid rope of expression in her life.

I write because it gives me an excuse to eavesdrop on nearby conversations. Like the two airport mechanics sitting behind me, while taking their break in the Miami Airport this week. I listened intently as one described their boss as “The Elephant Man” right before the smaller mechanic purposefully sent a lost traveler in the wrong direction.

”Now, what are you gonna do when he comes back saying he can’t find it?” asked the larger and more empathetic mechanic. “Well,” said the small one with a shrug, “then I’ll just send him down that-a-way. Only two ways to go. He’ll find what he needs eventually.” And they continued on, teasing each other about the Dixie cup sized coffee one chose to drink, and whether or not one donut a week is following the doctor’s orders. “It’s all about moderation,” argued the larger mechanic.

I write because for as long as I can remember, it has helped me to understand and navigate the world I live in, internally and externally. As a child I wrote about anorexic cheerleaders that committed suicide. Yep, that one was given to my sister as a gift when I was eight years old! Call out the psychiatrist please… Still, I worked through body issues on the page and not in my life. I write because that same sister insists that I should, and I want to believe her more than I’ll admit.

I write because it is always refreshing, exciting, frustrating, hard as hell, comforting, painful, insightful, boring, and available. I write because for some reason, even though my to-do list remains long, if I write a little each day, I feel accomplished, even if the writing isn’t my dream-perfect- powerful and descriptive narrative.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

33 and feelin' free!

In my 5 year old daughter’s eyes, she is thrilled that Obama won this election simply because that is who her parents voted for this year. Today is my birthday. Elizabeth climbed into bed with me early this morning for a birthday snuggle. After sharing with her that Obama won last night, I asked her, “Elizabeth, do you know why this is such a big deal?” She shrugged, thinking we'd take part in more birthday talk this morning instead of politics.

I shared with her that Barack Obama is the very first African American man to be elected as our president. She tried her best to muster up some enthusiasm in response to this announcement. What my daughter fails to understand is what inflates me with a bursting sense of hope for the future. In Elizabeth's brightly colored kindergarten world, I might as well have said, “He is the first man who wears purple socks to be elected president,” and the impact would remain the same.

Today I turned 33. My Dad called this morning to wish me a Happy Birthday, talk about the Election Day news and remind me that I was born on Election Day in 1975. As far as I am concerned, the results of this race this year is the best birthday gift that I can imagine. My children, Elizabeth and Kai, will know a different world, just as I know a world entirely different from the one I was born into 33 years ago.

Last night, while watching the numbers roll in, tears streamed down my face and when I finally saw Barack and Michelle Obama walk out to greet the huge crowd at Grant Park with their two little girls in tow, I thanked God for the opportunity to witness this historical moment from my family room.

I leave with my sister this Friday for our cruise in the Bahamas. We’ll meet Erin and Kristin from the Manic Mommies podcast and hopefully make a few new friends on this trip. I am just so grateful that the election occurred before this trip, as I don’t think I would really be able to relax otherwise.

A half a day into my 33rd year, and I have to say, it is looking pretty darned good from where I stand.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Oh la la

I fell in love with a cat named Oh la la this week. The name alone coupled with her aqua blue eyes and her pink metallic tag declaring her title, completely enamored me to her soft gray feline-self. She visits our house each morning and evening, bolting in the house the moment we crack open the door. Even my husband, who is not a fan of the purring and pawing breed, thinks she is “a pretty cool cat”. After several days of Oh la la exploring our house, I called the number on her tag. I felt like we were quietly kidnapping someone else’s cat each time she strolled through our home.

It turns out, Oh la la lives a few streets away within our neighborhood. Audrey, her owner is 8 months pregnant. Oh la la apparently dashes out of the house each morning. Audrey’s growing belly prevents her from rushing out in the yard after the zigzagging cat. I shared with Audrey that Oh la la has spent some time in our house over the last few days. I wanted to check and make sure that she felt okay about Oh la la’s rendezvous in our family room. Secretly, I hoped that by contacting Oh la la’s owner, she would sigh and say, “Oh, that cat is such a pain! If you want to keep her over there…be my guest!” Instead, she said, “You know what? I guess I would say not to let her in, just because I am afraid she won’t come back home then. “ My heart sank. “She‘s my little princess. I got her seven years ago. I’m sure you see how sweet she is.”

Of course, I noticed her extraordinary demeanor. I hoped that perhaps Audrey no longer recognized or appreciated Oh la la’s charming behavior. My phone call proved that thought incorrect. Before hanging up, I agreed to keep Oh la la outside and said good-bye feeling deflated despite Audrey’s chipper, “Thanks honey!”

This is not the first time I’ve fallen in love with someone or something that wasn’t mine. A few years ago I met a small boy in our workout childcare room that I felt a strong connection to. I discovered later that he was being fostered by a local family here in town. Immediately, I felt that Josh and I were meant to adopt him. Needless to say, the family fostering him loved him as well and was working on adopting him already. I did not sleep more than a few hours a night for weeks feeling distressed over the situation, wondering what it could mean. Were Josh and I meant to foster children? Is that why I fell in love with this little boy at our gym? Was it to show me that I was ready to adopt a toddler and didn’t “need” to experience babyhood once again? Whatever the purpose, the situation impacted me in a powerful way. We did go on to later adopt Kai as a toddler, only a few weeks younger than that little boy who charmed me so quickly months ago.

This love at first sight phenomenon has only occurred twice in my life, once with a little two year old boy and now with a whimsical and affectionate cat, Oh la la. I am not sure what these situations say about me. I still keep an eye out for that little boy when I am out running errands around town . And in the case of Oh la la, I remain quick to give Oh la la some attention when she shows up at our door, outside the house of course. Who knows, maybe a cat is in our family’s future, just not Audrey’s princess.