Saturday, May 31, 2008

parenting mistake #76

Dear readers,

Yes, you! With the cute little tyke wrapped around your ankle. It's confession time.

I've been successfully and singlehandedly doing some minor renovations in our bathroom, between tea with friends (read: therapy), school obligations and a return to jazzercise.

My house looks like I have abandoned it to raccoons.

So, as per my usual, I made up some chore lists for my kids this morning. Simple things they can do while Greg and I tackle improvements designed to sell this house.

Zack is more tidy in nature; lists make his heart sing. He is plowing through his. Happy is he and his organized brain, which I may never fully comphrehend.

Lexi is creating alternative lists to my list; still helpful, but not what I need right now. She thinks this is a democracy. She thinks the lists should be equal in difficulty, that I should ignore the three year age difference. She thinks baking me shortbread for strawberries is in order. (She may be on to something.)

I've created a chore monster.

I was inconsistent in including her in these activities way back when; she would have been more excited to learn how to mop at three or four. Maybe.

(Ok, I don't buy that completely either. I have hated housework my whole life.)

So, as I listen to her grouse and stomp, I offer this up, if it lightens your load someday: Be consistent in choreland. Make them share the load early and often.

That is all.

Over and out, and learning from my mistakes,

Mama Milton

Friday, May 30, 2008

the boys

oh to be five
Austin, 5
feisty boy
Caden, 2

I watched my nephews while my sister went and got all pretty, with a cut and color.

They are rascals, and sweet and quick, quick, quick.

(Their Aunt Sissy thinks they're real cool cats.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

pork chops over politics

So I emerged from my painting pit, to some strange news. I guess Rachael Ray was under fire yesterday over a scarf she was wearing in a recent Dunkin' Donuts ad.

Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin claimed the scarf resembles a keffiyeh, and symbolizes support for Muslim extremism and terrorism. Stranger still: She seemed to imply that unless you are 'clueless', you would have known better than to wear 'distinctive hate couture'.

I'll be honest. I don't know if keffiyehs are bold political statements. I don't know if they are offensive. I don't know much about them at all, sweeping me into the clueless department.

But I know a little about Ms. Ray: She may be loud. She may have saturated the airwaves with too much Yum-o. She may have found a way to foist canned tomatoes on planet Earth, sneaking them in 93.78397% of her recipes.

But covert terrorist supporter? Big political player? Pah-leese.

I'm filing this one under 'I have bigger fish to fry, frankly' category.

(I did google the snot out of the subject. I found pictures of 'conservatives' and 'liberals' alike in similar garb. Does anybody have anything credible to add? I'm curious.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



They used to line the door; this last name tag - nicknames given each week at preschool storytime - remains.

I've got a soft spot for Jim-Bob. I can't bring myself to take it down.

I look at it and I picture Zack perched at the front of a gaggle of 3 and 4 year olds, so healthy, so happy, waiting for the librarian to christen him with a new, silly name.

Storytime was the spark. Those days crammed in the little library gave me hope. He was outrunning the delays that had left him behind.

I will miss seeing this little tag when I move.

(The obedient, the quiet - all apologies - can be found over here.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

to do

  1. Admit to self: Your bulletproof, water-resistant 'I don't need to write this down' memory is beginning to unravel.
  2. Grab some paper and a pen. Let's say a sharpie.
  3. Take up list making. All the cool kids are doing it.
  4. When in doubt, go back to #1. You doofus.
  5. Cast blame. Meds and neurosis should top the list as likely culprits. (Look! I'm getting the hang of it. We'll call it List 2.0: The Offenders.)
  6. Add a reward to the Master list. It's hard to take on new habits.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Summer vacation is coming and with it, Big Plans.

Our Big Plan: Get through the move. Everything else is gravy.

I'm looking forward to lazy days at the park, propped with a book at the local community pool. My kids have hit the golden age of being allowed to swim without me, so I plan reading until my eyes fall out, while the yet to be hired real estate agent shows my house.

I'm looking forward to taking day trips around the area. See Mt. St. Helens. Spend the day with my family. Go to the beach.

I'm looking forward to seeing a movie in the park. Eating Ranier cherries. Seeing friends.

(I'm such a homebody.)

Picture courtesy of art.com; Lowell Herrero

Saturday, May 24, 2008

ahead of me

"Be careful."

I bellow through the trees, watching both kids scramble ahead of me on a trail, each trying to beat the other down the path, into the lush forest.

They are strong and able footed, but I panic when we near the drop off. I am startled when a couple of guys run past me, searching for their lost chocolate Lab. By the ravine. It does nothing for my nerves.

We reach the lower falls and they teeter out to the edge of a mossy rock, searching for crawdads.

"Be careful, be careful, be careful."

I find the words leaping out of my mouth every 20 seconds. How can they grow up, and develop any competence when every thing I say makes the world sound so risky. When I'm paralyzed they will what? Get wet. Twist an ankle?

I bite my tongue. I stop chanting fearful words. I sit on a rock and look up stream, cursing my luck that Greg has the camera with him at the car show.

From behind me creeps a sopping wet Lab; she shakes her coat and the kids rush to the lost dog's aid.

They race ahead of me, again, and my heart starts pounding, again. They fuss over the strange dog, and call her continuously on the trail; I can hear the three of them leading the way. I catch up and they are on a mission, undaunted by the remarks of unkind adults - admonishing us for not having 'our' dog on a leash - until I get ahold of the dog's thankful owner.

And I try, like every mama I know, to be brave, tapdancing in that precarious place somewhere between keeping them safe and letting them soar.

Friday, May 23, 2008

days spent in her kitchen

I wandered into my neighbor's kitchen last weekend during her son's birthday party, her kitchen for two rightful years now and I made myself at home.

It's fraudulent, this familiarity with another woman's space, but in my mind it stills belongs to T, the previous owner.

I used to sit at that very counter nearly every morning after the bus took our bigger kids off to school, and we drank countless cups of coffee. In the corner, I hear faint laughter, the days past with preschoolers underfoot, playing dressup. Running. Skipping.

Lunchtime would approach, and I'd show myself out, another morning spent in the ease of a friend, before I took Zack to school.

Rinse. Repeat. Two years passed.

I never much liked her husband; he seemed overbearing. My gut feelings were on target, but I didn't grasp how deep their troubles ran.

She had been hiding secrets from me, scary secrets about stalking charges, and previous attempts to leave him. He had punched their teenage daughter in the jaw, weeks before we moved in. The police had been involved. He was terrorizing her family, spinning out of control again.

She poured her story out in my lap and then she was gone for a while.

Soon there were restraining orders, and divorce lawyers and coffee at my place.

I wrote a letter, supporting what I knew of the situation to aid in her custody battle.

I kept my heart and door open to her, and her 5 kids.

And then one sunny morning, she came to the bus stop and announced that he had repented. He had repented and she was positively giddy to announce that he was moving back in. To stay.

My mouth dropped open, but there were no words. There was never a single word I said until she packed up and moved, some months later, that made a difference.

I told her we couldn't come to her house. I told her I was concerned. I told her I cared.

I told her that I was consumed with worry for her kids' safety. That when she said he would never hurt my kids, what that implied.

I didn't go outside much that summer. I didn't sleep well.

I would never have another unfiltered conversation with her again. The emails we exchange a couple times of year now are filled with Christianese, praise for her perfect marriage, their perfect reunion.

I wish it was the truth. With all my heart.

And I hope there is someone else, drinking coffee with her the next time she needs a friend when things undoubtedly spin out of control. Again. I hope someone else helps pick up the pieces.

I will never say I told you so. I hope she is safe.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

the ups and downs

The week hasn't been full of despair. Yes, I have been sad, and puked on, and I teared up when I asked a sales associate about picking up boxes today but I try to keep it all in perspective. I imagine my new house. Meeting new people. Maybe getting a job. I imagine gussying up a guest room and having company.

I picture my circle getting bigger. An adventure waiting.

Last week, the temperatures went from 53 degrees to 97 in two short days. The rains stopped and I got sunburned. And through it all, I had a low grade headache punctuated by a set of cluster headaches.

(I'm blaming the barometer.)

I discovered, writhing in pain, that laying on my face - no really - makes the pain bearable.

So, I found myself like this last week.

(Except I have hair. And a shirt.)

I left a 4 year-old's birthday party twice, sounding a little too high maintenance for my taste. (The sun. Is too much. I must lie down. Big baby.)
Lexi's choir practice at the senior center? Oh, I struck a pose.
I went to the grocery store in big shades, like some hungover hussy, and narrowly escaped playing yogi. I thought my clutching the floor might bring a little unwanted attention my way.

And I yelled at every car, every light, desperate to get home one evening. (The kids just called me 'Daddy'.)

I couldn't predict when the pain would strike; it was completely random. Last time I checked, the weather does not listen to my voice.

I don't spend my time looking for a higher purpose in pain; it's not my style.

But I couldn't deny it felt like a nudge, this stopping what I was doing and being still when my nerves were shattered and my stress level was soaring.

Or at least I gave someone pause last week. So happy to amuse...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

of eagles and puke

Morning came, as mornings do, and with it a question: Would Lexi be ready to go back to school after her umpteenth cough/fever combo? Or would I be ducking out of another field trip with Zack's class, leaving him seven year-old 'this is the worst thing EVER' sad?

Just add rain and no husband and I had the perfect storm.

Lexi had just decided to play it safe and stay home when I sat down quietly next to Zack to explain I wouldn't be able to make it when he yelped the most pathetic little yelp and she changed her mind. Girled up, if you will, with a little Advil and a hot shower.

It reminded me so much of what we Moms do - pushing through, trying not to let someone down - that I got a little choked up at her maturity.

Zack and I rode the bus down to the Water Resource center and learned about floods, and sturgeons and plants while a sweet little classmate turned my direction to heave, splattering his breakfast on my big black Danskos while I rubbed his back.

(A mother's work is never done.)

And we marveled at a Bald Eagle's nest, and soaked up the rainy May day that almost wasn't.

Monday, May 19, 2008

in motion

I have to face reality today: We are getting the house ready to put on the market and we will be moving soon.

There I said it.

Then why do I still feel so sad? I've been trying to hold it together the past few days, but maybe I need a better tactic. I'm thinking: Rent a bunch of sappy movies and cry it out? We'll see.

Meanwhile, there are field trips and potlucks and end-of-the-year everythings to go to. I have to admit that it is good that I can tell the kids something; we aren't teetering back and forth anymore. They can say goodbye to our school and maybe get some closure. (I'm a child of the 80s. I'm versed in psychobabble.)

So, I am cleaning out the place, dividing my belongings into the going, goodwill and trash piles. I'm one crazy gene away from being a bonefide hoarder so I sit on my bed, in a stupor, wishing the task was something more appealing, like sawing off my pinky toe with an emery board. But. It's what needs to be done.

You know what I need? I need your suggestions: Have you listened to any good books on CD lately? Between you and the library, there's hope for me yet.

Please. I'm desperate.

Friday, May 16, 2008

busy as a bee (must be spring)

The sun is out and my windows are open. Can you hear my kids squabbling? It's grating on your nerves, huh?

I'm on it, I swear.

I'm feeling a little lean on the blogside. Lots of ideas; no time to write.

(And not in that 'I'm watching too much crap TV' sort of way.)

We came home from a school event last night and my reader was teeming with posts, ones I'd like to comment on. But then I was lazy and you guessed it, I watched Lost.

I'll eventually get my head above water and stop by your place. I promise.

But my daughter is crying over whether or not Spielberg directed any of the Star Wars movies - or produced or something, wah - and is pondering, aloud, how is he involved, exactly, with the Indiana Jones movie. And she needs to know RIGHTNOW. Pressing, pressing issues for pressing pressing times.

(It's my due, for raising them to be movie freaks like me. Stupid karma.)

So I'm off to solve cinematic debates and then to lunch & a movie with my sister and Mom. (Her mother's day out...)

Hope your weekend is off to a good start.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I didn't catch their take on Lost

I was sitting in a hobbit chair this morning, cutting out laminated book covers for Zack's class when I hear two first grade girls, whispering when they should be reading.

Blonde Piggytails: Um, did you know that An. Ge. Lina. Jol. Lee. is having twins? I think they are gurls.

White Headband: Yeah, but did you know that Jessica Simpson and Ashlee Simpson are sisters?

Blonde Piggytails: How do you know they are sisters?

White Headband: I dunno. Maybe they are entirely different Simpsons. Like Lisa.

Pause. They look over their shoulders at me. Their voices become barely audible.

Blonde Piggytails: Hmmm. I don't know about that. But. I like Ashlee's hair red. It's red now.

White Headband: It's 'cause of the wedding. Brides always do stuff like that.

(And Mrs. Milton wanted to add something about her nosejob, but she thought better of it. The three of us had a lot to do before recess and the sun is finally out.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

lice are lousy all the time

My friend C called me from her cell phone on her way to daycare, breathless, to say she was going to be in my driveway any minute. I was in pjs and making pancakes, and suddenly worried why she wasn't calling 911 instead.

Something was clearly wrong.

Turned out, she needed me to take a look at her girls' noggins. She needed me, the resident Lice Queen, to check.

They were spared. Lucky them.

But today I want to give you some of my hardearned nitpicking tactics, just in case those suckers come a knockin'.

(I see you giving me the stink eye. I didn't say I want you to suffer, I just know how prevalent headlice is. Think of it as a public service announcement.)

  • *If you have kids in daycare or school, familiarize yourself with their policy. This seems obvious, but hear me out. Our district's policy is for every family to check their kids heads at least 2x a week. Before we had our fall from grace, I read this to mean: Start checking heads when we tell you there's been an outbreak. Sadly, I was wrong. Our school doesn't check heads and doesn't tell you squat. In our district, the responsibility rests completely on the parents.

  • *Know what to look for. Pay attention to the area behind the ears and the neck. This was my big error; I didn't know where to look.
  • *If you do have an infestation, take heart. Many sauve women have gone before you. It won't last forever. Pinky swear.
  • *Start chugging the caffeine, because that first day is exhausting. (I wouldn't get drunk just yet. Too many details.) You will need to vacuum and wash just about everything in hot water (bedding, coats, clothes) while simultaneously checking every family members' head and in your spare time (heh), you will need to treat the lice and nits ASAP. Stock up on stimulants: You will be on head check patrol for a couple weeks, no joke. (We also bagged up a herd of baby dolls and stuffed animals. They took a little trip to the garage. There was no way I could hot water wash them all.)

  • free at last

  • *Then again, bear in mind, lice are a pain, but they aren't imbued with magical abilities. They can't jump around. They don't strategize. Focus on the infested head, and you'll get through it.
  • *Now for my treatment experience: I treated with naturopathic Lice Freee twice. (Smells good, with anise oil.) Checked twice daily. A couple came back a few weeks later, right after we got back from Disneyland. (I nearly cried.) Second round: I tried RID, which didn't work and caused Lexi's eyes to nearly swell shut. Fun times. I used LiceMD next. I LOVED it. It is goopy and it sprays off the comb and ruined my t-shirt, but I don't care. It removed nits I couldn't see with a light and magnifying glass. We've been good now for a several weeks. (Zack had it too, early on. His short hair was treated easily with Lice Freee.)
  • *Keep it light. We borrowed the Buffy boxset from our dear Jen the morning we started the treatment; Lexi picked out her favorite episodes while I applied gunk and gave her a little pedicure. It helped keep the "I am icky" feelings at bay.

Hopefully posting this will somehow keep us safe from the buggers. I'm superstitious like that.

If that fails, well, I am here to hold your hand. Sometimes I'm good like that.

(I am struggling with Blogger today. It dropped half my post earlier; then the picture. I don't know how it will show up if you're using a reader. So sorry!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

columbia gorge

Lexi's choir spent Saturday night at the Skamania Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge, which seemed a little backwards for mother's day weekend, but whatever. To hear her tell it, this trip was necessary. But after little sleep, and a lot of swimming, I'm not sure that her judgement is sound.

We crossed over the Bridge of Gods, and hit up Multnomah Falls on our way to my parents' house. It was misty out - we Pacific Northwest folks are fluent in 'rain' terminology - but it's always a worthy stop.

(A worthy stop that will leave your hair frizzy.)

The rest of the day was spent with family, tickling kids and stuffing our faces. What'd you do yesterday, O Favorite Moms of Mine?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

to my mom

ammy, papa and the sprouts

There's a lot I could say about my Mom; she is amazing. But this year has been tough on her. It's been long and trying.

(She's been caring for my Grandmother, which is a year's worth of posts in itself.)

She remains the glue of the family, the one the kids clamor to visit.

I just hope she knows how much we love her.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

um, thanks?

Mama Milton: Look. It says, "Welcome young authors".

I'm trying to psyche Lexi up. She is shifting in the backseat, nervous about today's writing workshop.

MM, longingly: I wish I was going...

Zack: Um, Mom. It said young writers.

MM: Yes, yes it did.

(Good thing he fed me muffins.)

Friday, May 09, 2008

and it was good

Zack woke up, singing an impromptu ditty about 'muffins with Mom, muffins with Mom', in preparation for a special breakfast hosted by his class to honor, you guessed it, Moms.

He sang. He harassed his sister, on her case to get ready already.

He insisted that I stop by Peet's coffee for a Black Sheep Bakery Vegan muffin, so I wouldn't be left out.

And we sat on foot high chairs; Zack held a stack of books to read to me, I ate my special pastry. He pointed out students I had worked with, just the day before, because at 7, it is simply a treat, bringing a parent to school.

Later some women at Jazzercise, a little further down the path, were lamenting that their grown children forget to call. Don't really keep in touch anymore. Especially their sons.

I know it happens.

But today, I was a queen. Heralded. Admired.

I'm tucking this day in my pocket, and savoring it. To be so lucky.

(And coming up in June...Donuts with Dad. First grade is a hoot.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

left to my own devices

I'm feeling a little weary; I'm feeling a little irked. It's too bad too, because after painting with some students in Zack's class, and enjoying an afternoon with my nephew, I should be bounding off rainbows.

Yet, still. Grumpy.

I just got to thinking this afternoon: When did I become so complacent, so reliant on Big Media in place of my own Big Ideas? When did we as a whole?

My local newscasters can't tell a heartwarming story without saying something stupid like, 'boy, that's really paying it forward', just in case I was confused.

The democrats can't seem to get a candidate in place, even when most experts agree that the only way Clinton can win is if the superdelegates supersede what appears to be the people's choice.

And Kathy Lee Gifford self-righteously pokes fun at 'mommy blogs' on national TV - not that she had actually taken any time to read one - because she is uncomfortable with women, common women anyway, writing about motherhood in a public forum.

I wondered this afternoon, my house full of kids, how exactly do I teach them to be free thinkers, when it seems like those in power have a lot invested in keeping us pretty useless. Compliant. (Yes, I know this is nothing new.)

I don't know.

(I suddenly have the urge to say: "And then my head exploded. The End." Sorry, Kate.)

But I'm riled up; I imagine that's a start.

I'm not alone. Check out: Vintage Thirty & Beanpaste on KLG. Mrs. G on Superdelegates. I loved reading all the comments too.


first day

First day at Disneyland, just a month ago.

(Wordless Wednesday)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

lobbing a little meatball your way

We cannot tell a lie. We love this commercial. We love baby meatie.

(The kid's expressions get me every time...)

Monday, May 05, 2008

excuse me while I drink (water)

Note to self: When you are due for your bi-monthly blood draw AND you've been sick, think about rescheduling.

When three medical professionals comment on looking dehydrated, take heed. Maybe it's not the day to draw blood

And when the first, oh, 10 attempts are fruitless and the kind lady asks if she jab around the other arm, stop while you're ahead. You can come back.

Because when you smugly say, "Sure, no problem" the next thing you know you're wheeling around on a gurney, dehydrated and woozy and pretty certain you've mooned the entire lab on your 'graceful' descent down.

(Dang pants. Dang keister.)

Two assistants, more pokes and a billion promises to take it easy later, I was on my feet and out the door.

(So much for a margarita tonight. Make mine a virgin...)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

from beneath my rock

I resurfaced yesterday to join Lexi's Girl Scout troop to Build-A-Bear and the mall. I was the one in the back, with the crusty nose.

(Oh, how I love to nuzzle a kleenex box.)

To know me is to know that: I am not fond of the mall, and I really don't have any burning desire to build a bear or a monkey and dress it in spiffy, spendy costumes.

However, like many motherly things, this wasn't for my benefit. I sucked down some cold meds and felt just better enough to change into real clothes and tagged along.

I was impressed; 18 girls, 4 adults, no snags.

Lexi created a husky dog. The girls took pledges to spend more of their parents' money to become bestest friends with their critter, and Lexi was smitten. (I'm thinking Build-A-Cult?)

I do a lot with and for my kids. But this was one of the times Lexi turned to me, several times throughout the day, and thanked me for coming. It was the last words on her lips, before she crashed out last night.

You never know when the moments will come. I'm glad I made it too.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

a day of rest

I am the queen of denial. The hayfever I thought was raging yesterday, was really just a cold, in disguise.

(My brain cells have been expelled, via my nose.)

I'm going to try a mustard bath, and take a nap, and read a pile of magazines from the library.

(I've got a full weekend ahead; I need to feel better lickety split. No pressure.)

I'll come a knockin', soon. I promise.