Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Grrr Aargh

Grrr Aargh
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.

I have a little secret. I don't know if it is healthy for a grown woman to admit it but I love Buffy. You know, the slayer. Maybe you missed this cancelled series while you were off doing more important things. That's understandable. But hear me out before you scoff.

I didn't watch Buffy from the start. In 1997, the only TV show I watched was the X-files. I worked weeknights and I watched movies late at night. I wouldn't have watched it anyway; I wasn't impressed by the campy movie.

I think I first caught an episode on FX while I was folding clothes and the boys (Zack and his cousin, Austin) were sleeping. I was deep in the throes of domestic life, overwhelmed with Zack's special needs and I didn't get out much. I was bored and blue. I figured I could use a little diversion.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, at first glance, is a high school drama centered around a shallow teen girl that happens to be chosen to fight all sorts of undead. That's a fair analysis. But ask any Joss Whedon fan and they will tell you there's more to it--themes of sacrifice, duty and good vs. evil. And don't forget the witty, delicious writing.

So I remain obsessed, jonesing for the next Whedon project. Come back, Mutant Enemy, come back. I'll be waiting.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm going as the Incredible Hulk

When I set up this blog a few months ago, I had to decide whether to write under my real name or to use some cheeky pseudonym. There are some advantages to being veiled, chief among them, I could say what I want without being personally accountable for my words. I can be wimpy, not assertive enough, but I think it is good to lay claim to your words, even when they bite. I take stock in making sure I weigh my words carefully--my mug is attached and I don't want to scare the tuna salad out of my folks. They raised me right.

That said, I get crabby sometimes and I have some things to get off my chest. I need to vent. Therefore, I must rant on behalf on mamas everywhere.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a perfect mother. I spent much of my first year holding Lexi in one arm and pulling my hair out with the other. I felt I bit off more than I could chew and inadequate to the task. I read books, prayed and begged for advice from mothers I thought 'got' it, the ones who seemed to have it all together. And you know what, I have become competent. My mothering is not perfect, never easy--but I wake up and muddle my way through. So, when I volunteer at the school, please treat me with respect. I have interrupted my bon-bon schedule to do unpaid work and I don't appreciate it when you scold me like a 6 year old. Come to think of it, don't yell at the kids either. It's ugly and unnecessary. And when my little boy changes his mind, that he still feels icky and really should have stayed home from school after all, please don't chide me. I am trying to teach my kids to make good choices. Yes, I am aware of the fact that we sometimes have to make those choices for them--that's why he missed his cousin's big halloween party and stayed home all weekend. On my lap. I am not an idiot. Like those before me and those traveling with me each day, I am doing the best I can.

Some days my mind swims with fear and guilt that I am all wrong for this job. Could you kindly not chuck me under the bus?

*The author would like to congratulate herself for writing the forementioned post without any bad words. She is making a concerted effort to make her Mom proud and tries to avoid certain choice words that are unsuitable for little Milton ears. She is, however, feeling far less cranky now...

Halloween rerun

Halloween rerun
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
The Cat and the Bat--Halloween 2005. This picture was taken at New Heights community church, where our friends, the Doyles, attend. I think the highlight of this year's festivities was looking for their pictures to appear on the big screen--although the cake walk is always a crowd pleaser.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Getting cozy with Clive

I have 43 books checked out from the Fort Vancouver library. This is not a grand total; this is the current pile. They are stacked in front of the fireplace, in a basket under the coffee table and next to my bed. I read fiction, picture books, to my kids and until I collapse. And when I don't have a book with me, I read cereal boxes and signs in the doctor's office. I can't help myself. So, I decided that maybe I should start writing blurbs about the books I love. It seems like a natural extension of my compulsive reading habits.

It took me awhile to pick the first book. My favorite books section is bare in my profile because I can't choose. (And I won't tell you which child is my favorite either.) But I can readily name the book that ushered big changes in my life when I read it last year.

Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller

Now, don't moan. I know everyone is talking about it and it has all the buzz. I tend to avoid popular titles, especially when they show up at my local WalMart. (Go ahead. Call me a book snob. I can take it.) It is quietly making its way onto the NYT bestseller list, just one notch above Mere Christianity today. There are plenty reviews out there that do this book justice, so I don't feel the need to reinvent the blessed wheel. This is my personal testimony, if you will.

When I finally gave Miller a shot, I had been church shopping for about 5 years--seeking God and trying to find a church home. I was cranky and cynical. My spiritual life stank and I worried that my kids would grow up unchurched and worse, uninterested in God. I picked this book up one Friday night, read it and started attending Imago Dei, where Don attends, that Sunday. I share that story with countless others in the Pacific Northwest. But I believe that if I had read this book half-way around the world, it would have given me hope. Not to give up faith or on God, just because I was a church misfit, lost and disillusioned. We've been at Imago ever since.

Over the past year, my kids have grown to love God. My daughter was baptized over the summer. My family is surrounded by a loving community. All because one guy sat down and wrote down his thoughts.

I have often wanted to tell Don what this book means to me. I don't know what I would say. (I don't go to a lot of author signings for the same reason. I'm such a groupie, silly and awe-struck.) But if I wasn't such a wuss, I would start with 'thank you.'

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sauvieland 2006

Sauvie Island
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
When Imago Dei promises to take over a joint, we aren't messing around. After a tough afternoon*, there's nothing better than a trip out to Sauvie Island, just outside of Portland. We took a hayride and trick-or-treated through the corn maize. There was even s'mores. (Although Greg and I are not marshmallow fans. Yuck.) Lexi busted out her own version of Irish/Country dancing on about 14 feet of hay, while Zack threatened to jump, or rather, fall off. Thankfully, there were no injuries, just a sense of how lucky we are to have finally found a church to call our own. We had a great time.

*(Zack needed a change of clothes today at school for the accident that shall remain nameless. He was crushed and tearful, certain that no other 5 year old has miscalculated both the door lock and urgency of the matter. It took dry shoes and a visit with his kind principal to make it through the last 30 minutes of school.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

And they were swangin'

And they were swangin'
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
My hubby and I have been casting blame onto each other's respective families for the seriously strange behavior our children exhibit. Clearly we can agree on the fact that they are indeed silly, and perhaps, possessed.

We'll keep 'em.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I love Big Al's

Birthday girl
Originally uploaded by mama.milton.
When I first sent Greg the menu for Lori's birthday party at Big Al's, there was some confusion. I think ilovebigals.com threw him off a little. I can picture him sitting in his office, wondering why I am sending him kinky emails at work.

I had to clarify.

Last night, we celebrated my sister's birthday at the swanky new bowling alley in town. I am not much of a bowler, but the kids are hooked. They had a great time hanging out with their great-grandma, who proved she still has it, and Uncle Dave gave them impromptu lessons.

So, happy birthday Aunt Lori. We hope you had a great day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Zack doesn't like it when I am on the computer too long. Especially when the laptop is 'sitting' in his spot. I think he found a solution. My kids fight, a lot. I know this is normal, but don't tell me it's pleasant. I had to snap this picture (and I succeeded this time) before they came to their senses and started poking each other in the eye.

The rest of this post is going to go like this: brag brag brag, brag brag brag, brag brag--you get the picture. And if you don't share our gene pool, I will forgive you for declaring me a prime example of why no one should read mommy blogs, what with the sappiness and endless blather about their genius kids and all. You are excused.

Now on to the highlights from the forementioned conferences:

Zack spent his pre-K years at a special ed preschool and before that, he spent a year in one-on-one speech therapy. He initially qualified for an IEP for delays in speech, fine motor skills and intellectual development. He eventually tested out of the program and was regarded as a 'typically developing' child. I still worried. What would kindergarten bring? Would his struggles with speech resurface as troubles with reading? I got the impression that only time would tell. So far, it appears he is doing fine. Even ahead in many areas. And when his teacher smirked at Zack's answer to 'what makes me special'--"I can do connect-the-dots"--Greg and I shared our own private smile. Little does she know where he has been; little does she know he can independently connect those dots to 150.

Lexi has always been quiet at school, a little reserved. At the beginning of 2nd grade, I wasn't sure if her teacher could have picked her out of a line up--she sorta blended right in. She does what she is supposed to do and I sometimes worry at the end of the day, she will be lost in the shuffle and discouraged. I am sure we are guilty of taking her good manners and willingness to please for granted too. And how long before she realizes that if you really want extra attention, to be bribed for good behavior, all you got to do is let your freak flag fly? Well, I am certain it won't be this year, because this teacher is paying attention--and her praise took us by surprise. She is doing well academically. This is clear. She was also attuned to Lexi's eye for illustration. But when she spoke of Lexi's kindness and patience with other students, that she has been instrumental in helping another little boy succeed, that she shows great leadership skills--we were puffed up and all gloaty inside. I will remember this day when her kindness is lacking with her brother. She is turning out ok, despite me.

I slept good last night.

*This concludes bragfest, October 2006. Be well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

10 reasons why I am looking forward to the 'holiday season'

It is wrong to talk about the 'holidays', unless it is Halloween, in October. But that season is not far away. Last week, some well-meaning mom quoted how days I had left to shop before Christmas. My head nearly blew up.

When did Christmas become so ugly? And something I actually started to dread? No more, I say. No more! Here's some reasons I hope will make me smile as the days go on:

  1. I am not working in retail this Christmas.
  2. On a related note, I will not be yelled at by beleaguered, evil customers who hate the season and are nonetheless spending money they do not have on things no one needs.
  3. And I won't have to give recommendations to folks who have never been in a bookstore before and have no love for books. (Yes Virginia, there are other authors besides Dan Brown and JK Rowling.)
  4. We are going to my in-laws' llama ranch the week before Christmas. My sister-in-law and nephews are coming up from Poway, CA.
  5. Christmas Eve services and celebrating Advent.
  6. Taking the kids to the Grotto.
  7. Zoolights with Greg's company.
  8. Baking and making crafts with the kids.
  9. Movies.
  10. Hanging out with family and friends, drinking Bailey's and coffee.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Borders blues

I used to be a bookseller. That's the fancy title for working at a bookstore, and it seems everyone has title these days--just ask the barista behind the coffee cart. I happened to love my job, and never was embarrassed to be working in retail. When my kids were younger, it was my outlet, a way to retain a little of my identity. And I was paid to read and talk about books, something I do anyway. My seasonal position lasted for nearly 5 years. I quit this summer when Greg began traveling more and I couldn't justify paying for a sitter late into the evening. For a couple of months, both of us were either at work or alone with the kids. I didn't realize how tired I was and how much I was missing until I called a truce--we were spread too thin.

Still, there are days I miss Borders. I miss the staff. It occurred to me Sunday at church, when I caught up with a former coworker, that I have been avoiding coming in for a cup of coffee, to read magazines I will not buy. I always told myself, especially when it was a tough day, that I would/could quit my job when I was ready to write. It gave me some excuse to hold on to my lofty notions of what that would look like. But to leave a comfortable job means pursuing my dream, alone and without much feedback or approval. That it would be lonely and hard and exciting and challenging.

I am the ex-girlfriend who just can't move on. I had a sure thing, and I was content. I guess not enough time has lapsed between where I was and where I am headed. I don't trust myself to let go yet. But I'll get there.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Pumpkin patch

Here is where the smashing new pictures of our trip to BiZi farms pumpkin patch are supposed to be. I braved a bus of 5 year olds on a splendid fall day and have nothing to show for it. That's not entirely true--we had a grand time and I met me some new friends, the new batch of mamas on their first field trip with their oldest child. So all was not lost, only my pictures.

And if Greg wasn't sound asleep right now, I'd be harassing him for answers. How could this happen? Where are my pictures? I aimed, I shot, I made the kids pose. Boo hoo. On a perfect fall day, I was the mental Mama taking pretend pictures, just like my kids do with my old 35mm.

The only thing different about this photo op was that my real job was watching over 3 kindergarten boys, prone to wandering to the opposite corners of the world. I would take an inventory, snap quickly, and make sure I didn't lose anyone. I guess I can't play photographer and corral boys very well.

And in my world, boys trump pumpkins. A little.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Or so I hear. Today there were two blog options: you could hear me whine about my cold, or I could tell you about our hand-me-down couch. I know, some options. Gee, it just occurred to me why technorati rates me somewhere in 6 digit number land. Sad, sad. But yet I press on with such optimism...

This couch was bequeathed to us while I was pregnant with Alexis, some 9 years ago. Before that, it had been relegated to my in-laws basement, its glory years long gone. Even then, the arms had worn out and had been carefully patched. When she came to our house, there were no complaints, because there was no couch. And when it occurred to me that I might want a place to sit after I had the baby, ending my 60 hour work weeks, I was grateful for a place to house my hiney. Up to this point, Greg and I sat in our respective rockers, drawing, writing, watching movies, reading--they were perfect. We didn't have a kitchen table either because we rarely ate at home and obviously, we didn't entertain much. Funny thing is, I didn't even feel any need for any of these things before I became a mom.

Lately, I feel differently about my old couch. I'm kind of a no-nonsense person, and the couch serves her purpose. But we do have friends over now; I would like to entertain more. I think we have outgrown our castoffs.

So thanks for the years, old girl. Thanks for providing a semi-soft spot for family to sleep and for kids to practice headstands. We'll remember opening our wedding gifts on you, and that Lexi got her first facial rugburn upon you. You've served us well.

Now go away.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Creepy crawly

I'm sure my neighbors love me in the morning. All summer I held a morning curfew on the kids, keeping their hullabaloo all to myself. But school has started and all bets are off. Any given morning, rain or shine, they are outside around 8 am. I remind them of being considerate of the people who may still be sleeping. (I used to think this morning monologue fell on deaf ears, but now I realize that Zack, who wakes up early every day, simply can't imagine a world where people sleep past 6 am.) It's a foggy this morning, and a little cold, so I snuck back into the house to grab another cup of coffee. That's when the screaming began. Loud perils of 'MOOOMMMM, MMMOOOMMM' echoed from the driveway. (See, the speech therapy worked, good M sounds.) What now? My Grandma is in the hospital, Greg has pneumonia and my Mom told me this morning that she is experiencing pain in her tweaked knee akin to childbirth (which is a gold standard for rating pain in our family. My Mom and I both had back labor, not the 'it's like cramps' labor, for the record.) I really would like the rest of our small extended family to stay intact. I step outside, berating myself for leaving them unsupervised, as if I am this omnipotent being who stops bike accidents by supreme oogling.

It turns out there is no blood or broken bones. It's the exquisite spider web they found, the first, they agree, of the fall.

Isn't it amazing, Mom.

Just look at the workmanship.

Suddenly it's like Christmas in October. And I am not surprised. I love this season. I love the webs and spiders. (I am under the impression that orb weavers stay outdoors to catch juicy morsels, so they are ok by me.) I love pumpkins and their respective patches even more. My love for pumpkins borders on obsession and I can't explain it. It makes me wonder how many other odd things we are passing on to our kids. Greg and I love fiction, fantasy worlds and creepy creatures. They have the complete set of Lord of the Rings action figures. Zack was Frodo for Halloween when he was 2. He couldn't talk, but he had heard the trilogy by then. Lexi plays vampire slayer and can name all the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So when the kids aren't screaming for me at the bus stop, I wait for the phone call. You know, the one that starts with, "Mrs. Milton, we have some concerns..." It's bound to happen.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Proud Mama

I have worn many titles since I became a Mama. I have been 'That's-not-my-Progeny-licking-the-QFC-floor" Mama. (I don't think anyone noticed that Lexi and I were wearing matching jackets on this oh-so-delightful trip to the store. Right?!) Lexi says it was because she was a dog. I am not sure how often you can use that excuse, dearheart, but watching you lap the frozen food aisle clean was a painful sight. (Before you ask why I didn't stop her, it wasn't entirely because I was a hapless parent. Zack was 4 days old and I had mastitis to boot. The licking began right as the cashier was ringing as up. I broke into a sweat, not sure if I should run to her, or stay with the newborn. I guess my postpartum brain figured she wasn't in too much danger of being snatched, what with the crazy dog behavior and all. I think the episode of joy ended with an ugly tantrum as the sweet puppy morphed into a stubborn 3 year old and a solemn vow that I would not being leaving my house again. Ever.)

Not that I got to keep my word because Zack had a lot of health problems when he was two and it became clear that he was delayed in his development. This meant many appointments and speech therapy--something I like to remember as the 'If-I-have-to-watch-my-sweet-son-struggle-to-say-MOREMARBLES-in-speech-therapy, I-will-surely-croak' Mama. I am amazed and grateful for what speech therapy did for Zack. And I am certain practicing making the 'em' sound produced 'mama', something I had waited for a long time. But watching him struggle through these exercises for hours was excruciating for me. And I am afraid to admit, terribly boring. I am sure if he could have spoke, he would have voiced his displeasure as well.

Last Friday night was a cause for celebration. I was supposed to get together for a girls' night with some friends. Greg was scheduled to be out-of-town that night, and I couldn't seem to line up a babysitter. So I brought my kids along. They are the oldest of the kids born to this particular set of mamas, and I hoped that as such, they could handle watching Curious George downstairs and playing with toys while I caught up with my friends. Maybe they sensed my desperation for grownup time. Maybe they have matured. Maybe they were just sick of hanging out with me too. They didn't make a peep. Better yet, there was no sibling bloodshed. Zack ended up crashing out and Lexi sat quietly watching a Disney channel movie. I felt sorta bad that she was awake and alone. But mainly I felt proud. I was a 'proud' Mama.