31.10.06

I Love my Midwife!

Okay, maybe not love, but I have definitely developed an intense appreciation for her. My 1/2 hour appointment today extended an extra hour as she talked to me about my depression, made me a homeopathic remedy, gave me really long list of supplements to start taking and basically took a lot of time to make sure I was taken care of. That’s pretty excellent for a health professional don’t you think? I’ll let you know what they are if I notice them working and then maybe other people who are in the middle of this will get some help too. (If they start working my husband may also fall in love with our midwife, because he misses me and isn’t all that fond of the totally other person I become under the influence of pregnancy hormones.)

My favorite part is that starting the last month of my pregnancy they come to visit me every week, and after the baby they come to my house until 4 weeks after to do their follow-up care. There’s nothing like lying in your own bed and having them come to you while you get to rest and bond with your baby. (Did I mention I’m planning a home birth again? I was in the hospital the first time, and it is misery by comparison to having your baby at home.)

And then she talked to me about eating my placenta. And I said okay.

Okay, I’m totally laughing to myself picturing the collective reaction to those two sentences. The thing is the placenta holds many minerals and hormones that just happen to be the exact things that woman with Post Partum Depression don’t have enough of and desperately need. All other mammals, including non-carnivores eat their own placenta immediately after giving birth. Research has shown that there is a biological reason for this. Humans used to make a practice of eating the placenta; we just haven’t for the last few centuries, maybe even less. Anyway, I have a history of PPD and I already knew all of this because I learned it in the first month I ever took of Doula training many years ago. So I agreed to try it.

Of course, I intend to dry it and put it in capsules, and disguised in yogurt smoothies, because I don’t think it’s all that appetizing on it’s own, call me crazy, oh wait, you probably already did.

Hey, I've reached the point that I'll try anything if it promises to keep me from feeling like shit all the time. Wouldn't you?

30.10.06

Weekend Refugees

The kids had a great weekend at their Bema’s house. (Yes the family has weird nicknames; this one is short for Big Ma, or my mother in law.) You can tell they enjoyed themselves by the number of bloody openings their bodies are covered with.

The Girl prefers to not wear shoes as she tears around on several (fenced) acres with the dogs, whom she affectionately refers to as wolves since she watched Babe last month, and they are the same breed as the sheep dogs on that movie. The dogs lavish her with affection, and occasionally frustrate her with their over protectiveness. When they decide she shouldn’t go a certain way, or they all want her to pet them simultaneously, they will surround her with their bodies and keep her trapped between them until she screams in frustration and we go running outside and rescue her by calling the dogs. This is part of their inherent herding instinct; small things should be carefully guarded and kept safe. They take their job seriously these dogs she is never without canine companionship. She adores them, and they her even allowing her to feed them by hand from their food dish.

(The summer of 2005 my children became convinced that they were dogs. The girl, then 18 months or so would eat dog food, lay down with the dogs in the grass, and lick water out of puddles on the ground. The Boy would come tearing out of the house barking at the top of his lungs whenever a car pulled up in the driveway. He thought it was great fun to chase around with the dogs.)

The first of many small wounds inflicted this weekend were the inevitable bloody stubbed toes. They happen at least a couple of times a month, so no one mentions them that much. Her legs and arms are covered with minor little scrapes and cuts from plowing her way through trees and bushes. Then, last night she decided to try something new, something every child on that property has tried, and damaged themselves in the process. The main driveway onto the property is a long straight paved hill; it is quite steep. At the bottom of it is an automatic gate that keeps short people and animals from going onto the road, and strange people and animals from coming in. You see where this is going don’t you?

The Girl decided to try riding a little push car down the driveway. She made it all the way to the bottom without falling off. The push car lacking any handy sort of braking system, she substituted with her face by slamming it into one of the upright bars on the gate. The sound of screams as she ran up the hill was enough to get us all outside. She now has a big bruise on her cheek, a scrape above her eyebrow and another on the top of her forehead. I will be a while before her pretty face forgets it’s sudden encounter with that gate. It was her uncle, the Genius Husband’s youngest brother who went and got the push car and pieced together the events of the story. He would know, since it was 6 short years ago that his five-year-old self attempted to ride down the same hill, and his 5-year-old skull bled impressively for quite a while. While we all had sympathy for the girl, we congratulated her on having come through the ordeal with so little blood, and no lasting scars. Well, her uncles actually thought that last part was a draw back, after all scars are cool and make for great stories, she won’t even have a trophy to show.

About half an hour later the Boy came in with blood on his knee, and bruises everywhere. The other knee had already fallen victim to running past a part of the sea kayak his daddy is building that was sticking out a bit and slamming his knee into it while tearing out a small gash.

I hadn’t realized when he was quizzing me so carefully about how the Girl got hurt that his motives were something other than concern for his sister. As soon as she was taken care of, he had decided to go out and try the EXACT SAME THING, expecting that he could succeed where she had not. He did not make it all the way down the hill, but fell and tumbled off at some point before the bottom, tearing up his kneecap and adding to his bruise count.

They also have managed to contract some sort of weird skin fungus that their uncle had. It just looks like a pimple at first, and then turns into a lesion and then starts to scab, and then just looks absolutely disgusting and keeps spreading. Their uncle had it when he came back from Thailand this summer, or he got it at the Dojo where the Boy takes Judo because he works out there too. Either way, in spite of how careful he has been, and we have been, the Boy has it behind his ear, and it looks awful. I found it last night when I was tucking him in and felt it as I touched his head. This morning I realized the little zit like spot on the Girls face, on the opposite cheek from the gate incident, is also an outbreak of the mystery rash. The kids have now had their wounds thoroughly sanitized, bandaged to keep them from touching anything else and spreading it, and now resemble mini refugees with all of their bruises and bandages.

At least they had fun. (Though not nearly as much as I’m going to have sterilizing their pillows and bedding and clothing and bath tubs and towels and oh, anything else that may have come into contact with that rash.)

27.10.06

Small Joys Friday

It’s Friday already. This week has been full. Birthday parties will do that.

We got the Boy a scooter for his birthday gift. I had no idea he would be able to ride it already, but he took off on it like he’s been riding one all his life. He’s ridden it with me as we go on our errand walks two days this week and I watch him pull away from me in baggy camouflage shorts and skate shoes with a red T-shirt riding with all the confidence of a boy who was born to do this kind of thing. He looks like a miniature teenager from behind and I enjoy the bitter sweetness of watching my child grow up.

The Girl has emerged this week in true girl fashion, showing a new gift for organization. I turned around to see why she hadn’t come in yet one day and saw her arranging all of the shoes on our front step into a tidy row, pairs together, all toes facing the same direction. She is now lining up her brother’s cars as well. Today I told them to both clean up their mess while I made dinner. She normally needs a lot of verbal help, reminders, specific instructions, and constant attention. Today she picked up all of the toys in the bedroom all by herself and put them away in the basket, and did it in record time.

The main thing that has brought me joy this week is the family I have married into. In one of their time honored (invented just for them) traditions, birthday people get something special. After every present is opened and the cake all eaten, we all sit down and take a turn talking about why we are thankful that the birthday person was born, and expressing our hopes for their future, usually in the form of a prayer or a blessing. It is a time of calling attention to the things that make us unique and special and encouraging those things that we see in that person and would like to see grow. Every one, from the great grandparents down to the youngest uncle (11) participated in blessing my first-born, and speaking to him the things that are truly wonderful about him. The bachelor uncle who is my age and brought the full model fighter jet with moving parts, he has just moved up a billion levels of cool in the Boy’s eyes if that were possible, rearranged his work schedule so that he could attend his five-year-old nephew’s birthday party.

Tonight we make our weekly pilgrimage to their large home that has housed 8 children, and many more besides, to partake of our Shabbat meal together, and we will as always, sleep at Beema’s house and my children will have other grown-ups read to them and sing to them and tuck them in at night, and grow larger hearts and personalities as they expand into the greater family that surrounds them. As a traditional part of dinner, before we eat the father’s present will bless each of their children once again, and give to them in the ancient ways that they have been given as much of a gift of love and affirmation and a call to something greater than themselves as they are able. They will speak to them of who they are and who they can be as the candles glow in the soft twilight, and I will again try not to cry. I cry because of the ache for something I didn’t have as a child that is awakened each week as they do this, and I will cry because I have been welcomed into this circle of love and I am just beginning to feel as though I belong.

Small Joys Friday was Crafty Momma's idea.

25.10.06

Score one for the underdog

This Sunday the kids and I spent the afternoon taking advantage of one of the many great things about living I San Diego, if you can drive to them that is. We went to Mission Bay and played at one of the gigantic playgrounds there near the water while the Genius Husband had lunch with his dad and brothers.

It was a perfect day; the sun shone but there was a breeze that kept things cool and big shade trees. I had time to almost complete a sweater I’ve been knitting for the Girl for a very long time while I watched them play. I love the way the Girl now pretends to feed every toy animal she comes across, including the plastic fish on a giant spring who received many generous handfuls of sand to satisfy it’s appetite.

The day was even more memorable toward the end because of a little boy who became fast friends with my Boy. They played all of the games together that little boys do, blending into each other’s worlds of make-believe seamlessly. At one point they were playing with two large rubber balls that the other boy owned when some bigger boys came and thought it would be funny to play a game of keep away with the Boy’s new friend. They quickly tossed the ball back and forth while the little boy screamed in frustration stomping his feet in his impotence. I was just moving to step in and play a round of the playground parent game just as I saw my Boy start growling and charge toward one of the boys who was tormenting his friend. He was ready for battle; he is a staunch defender of his friends and family. Neither of us got to do anything however, for just as we began to move, this little boy picked up a handful of sand and with impressive accuracy flung (I want to say flang, oh Mel what have you done to me?) it into the eyes of the boy holding his ball. His tormentor staggered in surprise, dropped the ball, and staggered back rubbing his eyes.

Am I a bad mother because I laughed out loud and cheered inside my head? Because that’s what I did, I was so impressed with this little guy’s ability to strategize and stand up to those bullies. They left the playground a minute later.

I told the Genius Husband about it when he arrived to pick us up. His only question was, “Did the Boy see it.”

To my affirmative reply he emphatically stated, “Good!”

Maybe we’re both bad parents.

22.10.06

A letter to my boy on the day that you turn five.

You are suddenly a boy, all traces of the baby and toddler have vanished, except that you still like a hug and to snuggle from time to time, which is good, because I still need them too. Your wrists no longer have that little baby crease in them. You are strong and lean, your body ripples with muscles; you have no baby fat left.

I watched you on Sunday when we went out for lunch with friends and family. You sat over at the kid’s table with the other boys, you ate an entire In’n’Out cheeseburger, with nothing on it but cheese of course, and still had room for fries. You were independent and confident, and I was so glad the one moment you remembered me and ran over because you wanted a hug. You are growing up so fast.

I love watching you as you gain even more physical prowess. You ride your bike, you do flips, no hands, on my bed and on the trampoline, and you can cartwheel, and roll. You can climb to very high places very fast. You are a fast runner, and you have managed to hurt your grown-up uncles in wrestling matches. You are very strong inside and out. You are quick to protect your friends and family. The other day daddy warned some of your new neighborhood friends, who are older and bigger than you, that if they started playing rough games with you they might get hurt. He was worried that you might be too rough for them if things got started, because you are so used to rough play with your uncles and the sparring from Judo. He also told you that you could play rough with them if they started it, because he knows that you wouldn’t have unless he gave you permission. You are disciplined already. You would run away or let them hurt you rather than break the rules you have learned, and daddy doesn’t want you to get hurt.

You are deep into pretend. Often I have a snarling lion or dinosaur in my house instead of a boy. You have sweetly consented recently to being a horsy, and giving your sister rides everywhere as she calls you horsy, horsy, horsy. You love loud, rambunctious play. You can also sit for hours now looking at books, or building with Lego, the wild boy inside of you has begun to settle a little bit as you grow up. You are no longer nonstop action.

You are very serious often. You remind me of your daddy the way you MUST UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING. You chase down every detail, every loose end must be examined and tied up. I don’t know the answers to many of your questions, but that’s not good enough for you. You ask them again and again, you don’t even bother to rephrase, just like daddy, demanding a different answer, one that is better informed and satisfies your curiosity. I know that you will be one day thinking of things no one else thought of yet, that your mind is truly unique.

You have grown compassionate and thoughtful. Emotionally you have matured way beyond the demanding and rebellious toddler I have known the past few years. In just the past several months, you have become like a little man, you are sunny and helpful, and kind. I am blessed to watch you change in this way. You are so confused when you run to help your little sister do something, and she yells and turns on you and demands that she wants to do it herself. You have reveled in your role as her big brother, her helper, her protector, and as she becomes more independent and needs to learn to do things alone I can see that it hurts you. It’s so hard for you to let go and let her do it. Just as it’s hard for you to let her go on thinking something inaccurate, however loud the argument must become in order to convince her she’s wrong. You are still learning to let her pretend and not insist on accuracy all of the time. She still needs you my boy; she will always need her older brother’s love and care. You are too young to be learning that sometimes to love you have to let go a little, but you are learning it anyway, and I am proud of you my son.

When you were a brand new baby I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I would lie next to you on the bed as you slept and just stare. Sometimes I would cry, just because you were so perfect and beautiful. Before you I slept next to your daddy’s back, with my arm around him. After you were born I couldn’t turn my back on you. It felt wrong in such a deep way to roll over and not be facing you as I slept.

You are my first child. I will constantly be learning with you how to be a parent. I pray that I won’t make too many mistakes, but mostly that I will help you to have the tools to deal with them when I inevitably do. I remember the nights when we both cried, because I didn’t know how to help you, and you would cry and cry while I walked around with you in my arms. Those weren’t very frequent, but they happened. I didn’t have one single night like that with your sister when she was a baby. You taught me so much.

You teach me everyday. Like the times when you disobey me while we’re out, and I tell you that you will deal with the consequences when we get home. I’ve lost count of the number of times I forget until you remind me. You have such character already. How did you come to me my boy? I don’t deserve a child like you.

I am who I am because of you. You are the first thing I have done that I must do, no matter what. I realized when you were very small that being your mommy, taking care of you when you needed it, is the only thing I have done, that no one else can or will do. If I didn’t feed you, there was no one else who would do it for me. Being your mommy is the first thing I have undertaken that really matters. I had to become strong to do it, because you are strong. I had to become patient, because you require patience. I had to be capable of more love than I ever thought that I could hold, because you deserve to be loved unconditionally, and completely. I had to become humble, because I have erred and I have needed to tell you that and ask you to forgive me instead of pretending to be perfect, to let you know that it’s okay to not be perfect, that making mistakes will happen and its better to try and fail than to not try at all. I need to let you know that especially my dear son. I already see the part of you that demands perfection, needs everything to work a certain way. I hope I can help you to turn that to strength instead of the crippling thing it can become.

Before you were born, I believed in theory that children are blessings. Your Beema told me that often the way children bless us is because of the ways we have to grow in order to parent them. You have a wise Beema. You have been one of the greatest blessings in my life, the most life changing, and very beautiful.

Happy birthday my boy. I love you so much.

19.10.06

Small Joys Fridays

The new blog is up, though it requires much work still, you can go on over and read my first post on shopping for basic pantry items.

It’s small joys Friday again, and I’m glad I have started this because it forces my heavily pessimistic self to remember the myriad of ways in which I am truly blessed.

This week I had a good talk with a dear friend whom I saw in person instead of on the phone.

I held an absolutely delicious baby boy, 2 1/2 months old, and he smiled at me for over an hour.

The genius husband volunteered to cook dinner this week, two nights in a row.

I finally got my pictures hung again in our new apartment and some curtains. It’s been two months since we moved in. Now it’s starting to look like home.

Our TV is gone, because it’s not really ours to begin with. Some friends loaned it to us when we first moved here, and I’ve hated it ever since. I know, I sound a little nuts, let me explain. I like watching TV, a lot; I have the makings of a great couch potato. I grew up in a house without any TV and I don’t like the way a television takes over a home as small as ours, dominates the conversation, tramples over family time and evening hours, and eats away at time I could be productively getting other things done because I usually watch if it’s on. We only used it to watch DVD’s and didn’t get cable or anything, and yet it still did this. I am excited that our friends want it back, and that we are letting it go. Now I can arrange my furniture according to the space we’re in instead of making sure you can see the TV from every chair. I can always watch things on my computer if I really need to, even download shows I like, but I feel like I can breath a little more now that it’s gone.

My in-laws were stranded at my house this week because of car trouble. I was in the middle of cleaning for dinner guests when they came. They played with my kids, braided hair, tore around outside for hours and helped me tidy while they waited for the car to be towed and the other one to be fetched, etc. I think we all had fun, even though they had a little mini disaster, and it was near my place instead of on the freeway, so they had a place to hang while it was dealt with.

My Girl sits herself down next to my pillow in the morning to jabber away about her dreams, and her plans for the day, and horses and popsicles and pancakes and ice cream and birthday parties; all of the exciting things in her little girl life. Sometimes I am so tired, but I love that she wants to tell me, and I love it when she gets close to me like that, I have to reach out and hug her every time, it’s a compulsion that must be obeyed, she is too sweet to not hug.

Happy Friday everyone.

Small joys FIrdays are from Crafty Momma.

17.10.06

Finding Home Again

Tonight I actually have a chance to be in bed early enough that I may get adequate sleep and not be a total crank in the morning, and want to strangle my children for saying things like, “I want berries in my porridge,” at least one hundred times in an increasingly whiny voice as I prepare their breakfast, after I’ve already said “yes”. That is if I don’t spend too long writing tonight.

So, I will be starting another blog devoted to eating nourishing foods, and finding and preparing them, as well as other little health tips I’ve picked up along the way. Anyone with a clever name idea?

On that note, I’ve been thinking recently how much I could have learned from my grandmother if I had taken the time to pay attention. When it comes to keeping a house in order, and good food on the table, she is a total expert. Also, I just did laundry for the week, and am completely mystified as to how two or three items that went in looking not too bad came out so stained I’m thinking I should just toss them. My grandmother would know how to keep this from happening, and she would never just toss it, it would be reincarnated in some sort of useful way at her house. After all, this SAHM gig is my job right now, and I am slowly learning that there is a method to it, that makes all things easier.

The one thing I did learn from my grandmother was the way she takes care of herself as well. Once when I was living with them I slept in fairly late one morning and walked out of my basement room to find my grandmother, who looks amazing and trim, and she’s somewhere around 80 right now, doing her morning excercises. This embarrassed us both, mainly because she um, well, she hasn’t ever heard of workout clothing, she does it in her underwear. I quickly detoured to the bathroom, and when I came out she was upstairs making breakfast and fully clothed. If I didn’t know how much it would embarrass her to bring it up again, I would tell her how thankful I am that I saw that, because it has helped me to value taking care of my body too. She also somehow managed to get everything done in time to go for a walk every day at around 4pm. Sure she would get the mail on the way back, but she would walk down to the river and just have time for herself for a while before going home and making dinner and cleaning up, and then picking up whatever knitting or sewing project she was working on before bed. Life with her had a pleasant peaceful rhythm that was sorely lacking in the house I grew up in, and it’s something I want to create for my children, thought I’m not doing the greatest job at it so far I don’t think. (I have no idea what it was like at her house before 11 children grew up and moved away, but my father says it was still pretty orderly.)

Here is an excerpt of a letter I received from her yesterday.

“Today it’s raining, we still have carrots turnips and beets out in the garden so it will be a few days before we can dig them up…still have to pack them into pails and store them in our well house.
Today I canned 7 quarts of tomatoes and three pints of tomato sauce, as well as baking a pumpkin pie and banana muffins. We bought a bag of bananas at a sale price and now I’ve got to find a way to use them.”

Does anyone else out there fit these kinds of things into their average day, which in her case still consists of making a hot meal for lunch and dinner? I don’t.

So, as I was thinking about all of these things and intending to write a little something about them, I ran across this site and read their manifesto. I’m very excited to find other people who are thinking this way, I expect it to be helpful. Go and read it, and goodnight.

15.10.06

Why Don’t Americans Eat Real Food?

This evening I stood in the cereal isle of Albertson’s feeling paralyzed as I stared at the hundreds of boxes in front of me. All I wanted was Cheerios, plain, whole oat Cheerios. I have been craving them the last several months of this pregnancy, plain Cheerios with milk. Actually, Cheerios would be inaccurate because what I really wanted was Trader Joe’s Oh’s, which taste better in my opinion, and cost 2 dollars less a box. But, as I have mentioned, transportation is a constant problem for me and my beloved TJ’s is too far to walk. I intended to pay the extra 2 bucks for the branding, and go home and eat. Instead, I stood staring. I don’t want a DVD puzzle in my cereal box, neither do I want a free book or any thing else but a plain box of Cheerios. I don’t want to pay an extra dollar to get the book for “Free”. Why is it that I could have gotten a “plain” box of any sugar cereal that I desired, including Honey Nut Cheerios without books and interactive computer nonsense, but a plain box of cereal needs a marketing gimmick?

I started reading labels. Good grief, the stuff in some of these isn’t even food. Come one, oat flour and corn syrup, in cereal; are people insane? I wouldn’t feed that to myself even if I didn’t have an unborn child to think of. Lists a mile long of preservatives, and chemical additives and when you are finished reading perhaps 3 of 12 things on the list are something I recognized as edible. I went on.

You see, I’ve had this brownie craving for a while, but I don’t want to bake them. In Canada I could find these brownies at Safeway; they were called two bite brownies, little mini brownie treats. They were made with flour, and butter, and chocolate, and sugar, you know, the things that brownies are supposed to be made out of. Every so often I pick up a box of brownies at Albertson’s, maybe just to torture myself I’m not sure, maybe I am an optimist after all. The ingredients list reads like a chemistry textbook. I recognized enriched flour, one box boasted that they used “real” chocolate in their brownies, hmmm, I wonder what the other ones use. After flour there was high fructose corn syrup, people, do you know what this stuff does to your body and your brain? Then there was chocolate, what followed was a frighteningly long list of processed egg something of other, and lecithin, and soy bean oil, and hydrogenated this, and partly hydrogenated that, and chemical, preservative, chemical, preservative, etc. You get the picture. Needless to say, I did not buy any brownies tonight. I admit I probably think more about what goes into my body than most. How I feel on a daily basis pretty much depends on it. The thing is though, so does everyone else, whether they’ve made the connection yet or not. I feel like my grandpa on a tirade or something, but whatever happened to real food?

I can’t bring myself to buy bread at Albertson’s either. There are two choices really, white bread, or whole grain that been sweetened within and inch of its life. What is the point of buying whole grain bread if the second largest ingredient in it is corn syrup, or sugar? To my mouth its disgusting and fake tasting, and I won’t eat it. I’d rather eat a decent white bread that’s made properly than a whole grain with excessive sweetening in it.

I am a shop the U type of person. I shop the outside circle, produce, dairy, meat, bakery, household goods, and I’m outta there. It is rare for my cravings to take me into the deep darkness that is the center aisles. Every time I go there I leave empty handed, and frustrated. I’m lucky that where I live there are alternatives, there is Trader Joe’s, a store that makes their food out of real ingredients, doesn’t over process or poison their food, I can feed my family their crackers and cereals, and even cookies, and frozen entrees and not feel like I’m poisoning us all to death a little bit at a time; because it’s good, and good for you. (They should give me a months free shopping or something for this unsolicited endorsement.) We have stores here where everything is organic, you don’t even need to label read because they’ve done it for you, they don’t stock anything that doesn’t have real food in it and no preservatives and over processed whatchmacallit. But these are specialty stores. Albertson’s is a store that represents mainstream shopping and eating habits of the American public, and it has barely any food in it and by that I mean things that actually nourish.

The kids that my son plays with in our neighborhood are fat, almost all of them. I’m not talking about cute and cherubic, they are still young and round and chubby type of fat, I’m talking about dangerously obese fat. I’m talking about three rolls under their armpits type of fat. It breaks my heart. When I went to school, the one poor kid or two per grade who looked like that were, unfortunately, mocked, singled out, and teased. I’m not saying that this was a good thing; I’m pointing out that now it’s normal for all of the kids to look like that. I see the middle school girls walking home in their little low-rise jeans and belly shirts, showing off bellies larger than I had after my first baby was born. While I’m glad that these girls have confidence, I can’t help but be concerned at how grossly unhealthy they are. American’s are undernourished at the same time as they are overweight!

When I look at what’s available at the local store, it makes sense that children look the way they do, that childhood obesity is an epidemic, that diet related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure are now commonly found in the bodies of children under 3. What is wrong with a country that allows itself to be told what to eat by manufacturers who don’t care about their health, only what is cheapest and most convenient to produce? How did this happen, and how is it going to change?

Which brings me to an interesting thought before I say goodnight. I have often wondered how I could go about educating others about how to eat properly, nourishing themselves. I know there are a hundred books out there, and tons of diets, mostly about losing weight, but how many people really know what they should be eating, and why they shouldn’t be eating other things. I have been successful in one on one encounter with friends and neighbors. I don’t blame people who eat poorly for their lack of education. Everything about the system, starting from childhood on is designed to make us consumers instead of thoughtful eaters, but I know there are so many out there who aren’t thoughtful, and wouldn’t even know where to begin. I love to teach, I can’t help it, and I just wish I could sit mothers down and teach them what I know. I’ve done so for a few small groups, and it’s always eye opening for a lot of people. So enough preamble; I’m thinking about starting another blog and devoting it to healthful eating, shopping, cooking, and other aspects of enjoying the act of nourishing ourselves. This would include recipes for real brownies, and where to find ice cream that only has cream and eggs and sugar and vanilla bean in it, or great chocolate, as well as meals and breakfast and the like.

What do you think Internet? Would you like that? Maybe if enough people get it, then I’ll be able to shop at the local store and purchase real food again.

13.10.06

Small Joys Fridays

It’s harder this week to find things that have brought joy. I’ve been depressed, and sad and irritated, and tired, wait I’ve just listed all of the symptoms of prenatal depression. It hit me hard this week.

But here is what I have.

Apples are in season. I know you can buy apples any time of year, but only in the fall can you get new crop apples, that are fresh and deeply colored, and don’t taste a little bit woody. And they are so inexpensive when they are in season. We have been feasting on apples here. Every day my children wake up and help themselves to apples while they wait for breakfast. I love apples; some of my best memories have apples tied to them. Any day visiting at my grandparent’s farm was a good day. Picking apples in the fall was a great day, and eating grandma’s homemade apple pie with ice cream for dessert all adds up to one of my favorite childhood memories. She made these pies for Thanksgiving, often for Christmas, and ordinary days that were made special because she had family visiting. I remember starting on a long road trip with some friends when I was older and picking box after box of apples from a tree that someone had told us we could harvest. We kept those boxes at the back of our big huge white van, and all that drive down the coast we smelled them, and feasted on them, they tasted so good. Apples make me think of being home, and being loved, and these are great things to remember.

I found, quite by accident this morning, a song that I used to love, that I listened to and sang often during a similar period of sadness. Ironically it’s titled Joy. I listened to it again this morning, letting its beauty wrap around me for a few minutes as the notes dropped one by one into my weary heart, and smoothed a little of the rough sadness away leaving peace behind, and I’ve been humming it since.

Sitting outside in the cardboard booth we built for Sukkoth. (No it’s not Kosher, the roof is supposed to be of branches, but they frown on cutting things off of trees where I live, and we decided that since the Israelites would have made their booths from materials they could find in the wilderness, that we could make ours out of material we could find near us, and technically cardboard is an organic substance.) Reading to my children about God’s promise to come and live with his people being fulfilled while they cuddle near to me and listened.

These are the few things this week I have been able to find joy in.

Small Joys Fridays is from Crafty Momma. I found it through Misha

11.10.06

Kids and Locomotion

Ever notice how children never just walk anywhere? Why walk when there are so many more interesting, and perhaps dirty ways of arriving.

For instance, when the Boy is told to go and pick up something, most of the time he crawls, and rolls, and slides, and drags his head along the carpet enroute to his destination. Do you suppose he does it on purpose, just to irritate the snot out of me?

My daughter embarks on similar transportation adventures. She likes to walk backwards until she slams into things, move her head around in circles while making silly faces, somehow this is moving in her opinion. She has a tendency to slide her head along the ground as she crawls as well, which is a bigger problem for her since she has hair, and when she does this 30 seconds after I have finished braiding it, and another 5 seconds before we are getting in the car to go to church or something, it makes it look as though she has just woken up with a gigantic rat snarl on her head and that I am a very negligent mommy.

Then there are the routes chosen by children to get from one place to the other. In our house there are a few choice ones. When In my bedroom and told to get themselves anywhere else, they like to go across the bed, several times, which gives them extra opportunities to perform flips, with no hands, and somersaults with dramatic jumps at the end. If they are heading down the hallway for any reason they prefer to first climb the ugly chair that I still haven’t replaced, and slide down the back of it. Other favorites are overturning the little kid sized chairs and climbing through the legs, or swinging through, or an especially cool trick is to tip the chair as you are walking across it so that you hang suspended on one edge for a moment before it rocks over to the other side.

Every stone, wall, tree trunk and open grassy spot is a potential route when we are walking outside. Staying on the sidewalk is so passe when they could be climbing things and jumping off of them, or turning cartwheels on the grass.

I guess you could say that I have an at home gymnastics studio. Which is fine, unless this all takes place when I tell them to go and clean their room, or I'm in a hurry to get home, in which case I’m certain it’s become an avoidance technique. I know they come by it honestly. My little brother is a professional actor stunt person, and he learned all of his own daredevil acts at home until he grew up and went away to school. I remember in elementary school, he might have been 7; he and our younger sister choreographed a gymnastics act for the school talent show. In it he flipped my little sister around while hanging upside down from a bar, walked tightrope style back and forth across the bar she hung upside down from and did several other impressive stunts, ending with a baby drop dismount. My mother was almost trampled by eager parents wanting to know which gymnastics studio her kids went to. She had to say that they didn’t, partly because my dad was afraid that gymnastics were too “girly” for his son, but they were welcome to send their kids over to play on our rusty swing sets, which is where they practiced all of the tricks.

I suppose it could be Judo too. Most of their warm-up drills consist of running and rolling, backwards and forwards, and alligator crawls and every other way of getting across the mats. But I think he was doing this sort of thing long before he got to that class. I think his first thought on seeing the drills must have been, “You mean I can do this, and no one will tell me to stop messing around and hurry up. I get to drop and roll? Woohoo!!”

So I want to know, do your kids do this sort of thing? Is it genetic? Or is it my fault for letting them watch this way too many times? After all, these guys don’t just walk anywhere.

10.10.06

Adventures Without a Car

This is what life looks like in suburbia when you don’t have a car, and have to wait for other people to drive you places or walk there yourself. I have just cancelled my monthly midwife appointment for tomorrow morning, because my Milly who usually drives me is flying to Seattle with her mother tomorrow to visit an aunt dying of cancer. As frustrated as I feel, um, I’m not dying of cancer, or losing someone close to me to it. I just feel like a 13 year old asking her parents to drive her to the mall, again. So I’m shutting up now.

I’ll tell you instead about a different day without a car that happened a couple of weeks ago. It’s my guide to simple errands.

1.) Remember that you have stewing meat in the fridge and need to use it soon, decide to make beef stew.
2.) Realize that for beef stew you need to buy onions, and potatoes, and hey you need several other items at the store, it’s time for a grocery run.
3.) Pull out your trusty double jogging stroller that’s easy to push and carries two children plus many bags of groceries, only to remember that it has a flat tire from the last time you took it out.
4.) Go online to see if Target has the little old lady pushcarts to wheel your groceries home in. They do.
5.) Take two children and backpack and walk to Target, several blocks in the opposite direction of the grocery store, in order to buy cart before going to the store.
6.) Wander around Target until you find someone who informs you that this particular store doesn’t carry those anymore, although they are available online and at other larger stores.
7.) Bite tongue and fight laughter/tears as he helpfully informs you of another store nearby, as in 15/20 minutes of freeway driving away, where they might have what I’m looking for.
8.) Decide not to tell him that you don’t have a car and that’s why you need a grocery basket on wheels.
9.) Walk with children the several blocks in the other direction toward Albertson’s.
10.) Try the drugstore next to Albertson’s, they have old people stuff, maybe they have one.
11.) Look fruitlessly at the rows of bedpans and walkers and canes, none of which are going to help at all.
12.) Take children into grocery store. Purchase necessary items. Resist the urge to buy anything else, reminding yourself that apples, even on sale, are heavy, and you are pregnant.
13.) Fill up backpack at the checkout, while everyone looks at you as though a third eye just sprouted from your head. "What you're walking? Why? How far?"
14.) Calculate a weight of at least 40lbs in backpack, based on individual purchases.
15.) Realize with dismay that hip belts are not made to accommodate pregnant bellies.
16.) Decide to check BigLots for a basket since they are close by. Stand with groceries growing heavier on your back as kids pretend to ride the horse and elephant rides outside the store.
17.) Ask at the front counter if they have any baskets on wheels, only to be told that they did during the promotion, but they are out of stock now.
18.) Begin the short but distracting walk home with two toddlers in tow.
19.) Bark like a drill sergeant to keep them from climbing every rock and tree and rolling in every piece of grass they can find.
20.) End up irritated and frustrated and only slightly less slow moving.
21.) Continue by sheer force of will and voice to coerce children toward home without examining every blade of grass, and picking up every dried up worm on the sidewalk.
22.) Finally arrive at home.
23.) Drop the backpack on the floor.
24.) Collapse in a chair from exhaustion.
25.) Get it together an hour later and make something else for dinner; it’s way to late to start a stew.
26.) Spend the next day wondering if the Braxton Hicks you are having are normal for 26 weeks.
27.) When a few start to make you gasp because they hurt, call your midwife.
28.) When she asks if you have done anything strenuous lately, say no, and then remember the day of grocery shopping.
29.) She says to go lay down and it will probably stop by itself, but don’t carry groceries again.
30.) Tell husband entire saga while trying to finish dinner prep during mild contractions.
31.) Don’t tell anyone how worried you feel.
32.) React in anger when he thinks it might be helpful to point out that if you were in better shape you wouldn’t have a problem right now.
33.) Have mini argument.
34.) Finish dinner and go lie down.
35.) Hopelessly wish you had a car so that errands would be simple.
36.) Find the tire patch kit instead and toss it in husband’s direction out of gratitude for his ever so sensitive commentary.
37.) Appreciate fixed stroller 100 times more the next time you have to go out.

8.10.06

How We Met-Episode 3

This is the last installment in the how I came to marry the Genius Husband saga, and in my opinion the most important. You’ll want to stay until the end because it involves embarrassing yet sweet incontinence.

After we were engaged the Genius Husband went kind of nuts for a couple of days, and sort of disappeared, as in got in his car and started driving north on the I-5. He told me later that he was coming to terms with the reality that marrying me meant he could never just pick up and go again, he would always have to think about me too, he would have to be responsible. When you have wanderlust streak as deep and as wide as my husband’s this is a very daunting reality. He can only go so long without needing to be somewhere else, and that place always changes. Before me he could travel the world with what he could carry in a satchel, and enough money scraped together for a plane ticket. Now it would be two plane tickets, and since I’m a girl a hotel to sleep in might be nice, or clean drinking water, or, if he took off on his own there would still be a home to maintain where I lived that he left and returned to.

Anyway, after he wrestled with the whole thing for a couple of weeks, he decided that he did in fact want to marry me, and it was worth losing his freedom for, and he asked me to marry him again, this time with a ring that he designed himself and had made. (It’s very pretty, and very unique.) I, of course, said yes again.

A few months later we were talking about something, I was planning a trip to Nepal I think, which I never actually took. There was all sorts of tension, and finally I stopped and asked, “What’s happening here?”

He responded that he felt as though he was waiting for me to actually make him part of my life instead of an accessory. See, I kind of had the same thoughts about marriage that some women have about babies. They think that they will go along with their lives as they are, there will just be a little person around to play with and hug at night. They expect to go on with their jobs, their social life, their entertaining, and then this little person arrives, and cries all night and needs to be fed every hour and they have no sleep and the thought of going back to work and leaving someone else to care for this creature that demands everything of them is so wrenching that at some point they realize that everything has changed. I was expecting to go on with my life, my plans, my ideas, with the added bonus of a loving and supportive man on the side who would make me feel good and special and fit himself into what ever I had planned. This is not exactly what marriage looks like.

That afternoon as we sat in his little black, old, BMW, he forced me to open my eyes up to the reality that if we married it would be he and I making decisions, that what he wants may not be what I want, that we would need to compromise, that he expected to assume a lot of the responsibility of making major life decisions, and that he wasn’t all that interested in being a tag along to the life I had going right now and that my focus would have to shift from my friends and my plans to him, and our plans. It was a cruel awakening for me, and my little romantic bubble burst into several pieces that settled into the faded upholstery around us. As I sat silently absorbing this new conundrum, he said, “So now, knowing that, knowing now what it means to say yes to me, will you marry me? Will you join your life with my life, and let it be different because of it?”

Through my tears I blubbered, “What else am I going to say, I love you?”

And then I stopped, and I thought for a second, and I said, “I can’t answer you yet, I need some time to think about it. I don’t want to give myself any kind of back door when I’m unhappy say several years from now when I can say, well ‘I didn’t really have time to think it over, I didn’t know what I was getting into’ and give myself an excuse for leaving. Can you come back tomorrow? I’ll answer you then.”

And I got out of his car and went inside.

You see, I watched my parents marriage fall apart, I didn’t and still don’t ever want to be divorced, to put my children through that kind of misery, to ever be as unhappy as my parents were/are. Because I’m analytical I tend to break things down, examine events, try to explain and understand every single little thing that happens and why it happens. My son gets this from me. As a child I listened to a litany of things my mother regretted about their courtship, his proposal, their first year of marriage, their honeymoon, every little disappointment and unexpected hurt was rehearsed, almost daily, when I was younger. She expressed so much disappointment and regret at not having seen sooner who my father was, at finding out she was married to a different man than she thought she was getting, at being unhappy and not having noticed the several indicators that seemed to her in her middle age to have pointed towards this fate if only she had read the signs. I didn’t want to become that woman. I don’t want to become that woman. Thank God I haven’t yet. In her defense, my father made her miserable, they made each other miserable, but she was so broken and vulnerable when she met him that I feel nothing but compassion for the way she was constantly crushed by her life with him, and I’m glad she finally had the courage to leave, as hard as it was.

Anyway, in my quest to not live in regret, and knowing myself well enough to realize that I could very well sabotage my future relationship with this man if I didn’t sit still for a minute and figure things out, and make sure my arsenal was free of explosives before going in, I started a 24 hour soul search. I journaled, I cried, I talked to my friends, I made pro and con lists, I listed every bad quality in him that I was aware of, I listed all of his good points, I pinpointed the things about him that had the potential to drive me crazy in several years, I tried to separate the reality of who he was right at this moment from the potential I saw in him, and the man I felt he would become. I asked myself if he never grew past the person he is now, would I still love him and be content with him? (yes) I asked myself what my biggest fears were and were they at all logical considering who he was? (no) I tried to be as thorough as I possibly could, and when he returned the next evening, I still didn’t know.

I could see the tension in him as he walked in the door, I had made him wait for a whole day, and the poor man was feeling it and trying very hard not to influence my decision by making me feel guilty, or sorry for him, or unfree in anyway to decide. I asked him if he would mind going for a walk, since I didn’t want to talk in a house full of people. As we headed off down the street I noticed that he was walking a little bit funny, and I asked him if he was okay, he responded that he was a little tense.

We stopped on a street corner and I blubbed and told him all of my fears and confusion. Eventually I asked him if we could sit down in the grass. I remember him saying, “Um…okay.”

After all of the blubbing and thinking out loud to him I finally concluded, “I think I could marry you, I just want to be certain that it’s what I’m supposed to do, that it’s what God wants me to do.”

(Okay, so I was very young/immature, I had grown up Christian, and I still had this naïve idea that God plans everyone’s life out in neat little packages and the only challenge is to figure out exactly what HE wants and then you’ll be happy. You may laugh at me, I do. It is also much more convenient to sign your life away to someone else, be it deity or person because then you can avoid making any hard decisions and if something goes wrong you can blame it on them. It’s a great way to avoid responsibility. Now I have realized that kind of the point of being alive, having freedom, God making us, etc. is so that we can become adults, free people who make real choices that have real consequences and in the living out of our lives this way we fully embrace what it is to be human, and the incredible gift that our lives can be. Anyway, I digress.)

Until this point the Genius Husband/Fiancé had been relatively silent, listening to me ramble. Finally he asked if I wanted to know what he thought God might be saying to me. He was trying not to influence me you see. I wanted to hear it and he said something very wise that I will never forget, because with it I stepped into a place I didn’t know existed before then. He said, “I think God is just saying what do you want? If you marry me, I will love you, we will have a life together and you can be happy. If you don’t marry me there will be people who will love you, and you can be happy. What do you want?”

With those words I found myself hanging out over an abyss that I managed to avoid until then, the frightening place of freedom and responsibility. This was not a moral choice, there was no right or wrong here, there wasn’t even necessarily better or worse, there was just the question of what I was going to choose, coupled with the ultimate responsibility for that choice and its outcome. There would be no one to blame but myself if I was unhappy with my choice, it was my choice and I had to make it. There was a man in front of me who required and deserved an answer, and I couldn’t avoid it. I was absolutely terrified. I bawled like a little baby for what felt like ages.

At the end of it, as I started to calm down, I came to this little spinning center in the middle of the frightening empty blackness, I suppose it was just the unknown but it actually felt like I was seeing these things. In the middle of that bright little center a voice spoke to me what I knew to be true what I believed in the center of myself was the most important thing. “In the end, all that matters is how well we love God, and love others.”

How on earth was marrying someone going to keep me from doing that? If anything it would give me more opportunities to do just that. In that moment all of the swirling in my heart came to a stop, and with complete peace I looked at him and said, “Yes.”

His smile was beautiful. And we got up and started to walk back towards the house. Now for all of you who stuck with me through all of that inner turmoil and bit of personal theology, here is your reward.

As we walked he said, “OK do you want to know what we’re going to do now?”

I said “What.”

“We’re going to stop at my car and I’m going to get a clean pair of pants out of the trunk, and then borrow your shower.”

I asked the question you are all asking, “Uh, why?”

“Well, when we were leaving the house I was so nervous I kind of, sort of, shit myself. I thought it was just gas but it wasn’t.”

The poor guy had walked around the neighborhood, sat down in the grass, listened to me blubber and ramble, and managed to say something really wise, all with poo in his pants.

How did I not notice? Besides being so obviously self-absorbed I mean? He was wearing a very thick pair of lined wool felt pants that he had picked up in Nepal and they were absorbent enough, and dark enough, that I hadn’t noticed, or smelled anything.
After he cleaned himself up we went to a nearby park with a view of the city and the water, and ate the picnic he had brought and our symbolic first meal in our life together, and it was very romantic.

I have not yet regretted the choice I made that night, though I often wish things were different, and once or twice I have had to choose to not go there, even though I’m tempted, but for me it was one of the more pivotal moments of my life thus far, and one of the best.

*****

Everyone who knows us knows that story, for all you who are worried about the GH's dignity as I reveal his embarassing moments. It's common knowledge around here, so I don't feel bad sharing it with you internet, especially 'cause, hey, it's anonymous.

6.10.06

Small Joys Fridays

Misha has been doing small joys Fridays, which were started by crafty momma. I decided to participate this week, mainly because all of these things have been kicking around inside my brain and small joys Friday seemed like the perfect setting for them.

You know how laughter changes a person’s face? My normally stunning little girl becomes completely radiant when she starts to laugh. Her face glows and she is impossible to look away from, or to keep from smiling in response. I see perfect strangers forget themselves and come to a stand still when this girl laughs like that, in the middle of Target. And the sound is one of the most delicious in the entire world; it’s deep and contagious waves of joy that roll from her belly. Someday maybe I’ll finally get a picture of this, or manage to record it.

My friend moved to Connecticut and left her piano behind in my living room after deciding it wouldn’t survive a trip across the continent through several elevations, temperatures, and climates. In a different life, before children, I spent the greater part of my day practicing and playing on this instrument, and teaching other people how to play. It’s like an old friend that has returned to comfort me, and listens responsively as I tell it all my secrets. The instant response from a familiar instrument is like meditation for my perfectionist, control freakazoid soul. It brings me back to a place of peace. It’s also been very sweet to begin teaching the boy to play, and to listen. He found his first tune by ear this week, it was Bob the Builder, but what the heck, the point is that the child has a musical ear. This is going to be fun.

The baby is 28 weeks now, and carrying very low, which means that I can still breath. This is good. It’s also good to feel the very forceful gymnastics practice that takes place all day, even if my cervix is the springboard. I will never get used to the feeling of suddenly being kicked between the legs, from the inside. It’s a surprise every time.

The evening are cooler now, and I have a pashmina shawl that I love to wear over my bare arms when it cools off. (I got it in Vancouver for $20 from a direct import store, wool and silk blend so it’s warm and light.) I really like this shawl. What I like better is my Boy coming to me where I sit and giving me a hug, and then, very carefully, rearranging my shawl so that it covers me again so that I’ll stay warm.

Sometimes my children stop what they are doing and spontaneously give each other hugs and kisses, smiling into each other’s eyes as they do it.

I am so glad that the Boy likes his schoolwork, and learning. He congratulates himself on every task completed. (Not like his mommy at all hey Teresa? ;) There is something so beautiful about his genuine pleasure in doing something well and his satisfaction at finishing a task that my heart fills to see it. For him learning is an innocent pleasure. I hope it stays that way. It was also an unexpected gift when the Genius husband came home for a minute or two in the afternoon, and had the time to explain how grids work to him when he was confused, and he got it. Why does it make mothers so happy to see their children happy with their father?

I’m no longer constantly ravenous. Food is something I can start to enjoy again, instead of panic over.

My hips haven’t been bothering me very much yet.

I also inherited a treadmill from the GH’s grandmother. (No she’s not dead, just moving.) Now I can exercise, for real, while my children are awake! I have been very frustrated this pregnancy at how difficult it has been to stay active, I don’t like to approach labor out of shape, the baby gets more oxygen if I exercise moderately every day, and most importantly, I need exercise endorphins to stay sane and balance my brain chemistry. Seriously, it was exercise that pulled me out of PPD after the Girl was born. And look, I’ve been walking a mile each day this week, without needing to get my children dressed and drag them with me and listen to them whine that they’re tired the whole way, while they ride in the stroller, and now I have this list of things to write for small joys Friday. It’s making a difference already.

4.10.06

Random Things

Why does my daughter have a belly button obsession? It used to be my belly button that she would dig in incessantly while nursing. While weaning I was often able to trade nursing for tummies to help her fall asleep. Then I got very sensitive when pregnant and couldn’t stand anything touching my stomach, especially not little girl nails and not very gentle rubbing. We quickly traded for her lying next to me or back rubs while I sing “Her Song” a made up tune I randomly hummed one day and now remember. I didn’t realize that she was fondling her own belly button while I rubbed her back, until it got cooler and I started dressing her in layers for the night. Now I have to unsnap the onesie under her jammies so that she can feel it until I’m done humming, and then she wants it snapped back up again.

********
What is this weird rash that she has all over her? It’s been going on for two weeks now. All I know for certain is that it’s not one of the 5 most common viral rashes of childhood, because it doesn’t look anything like the pictures on the internet of Chickenpox, measles, rosia, and whatever else they can get. It starts like rough little bumps all over her back and then the areas where she has creases get larger and red and then dry out and look like hundreds of little white scars, which freaked me out, but they stop looking that way with skin cream. They won’t go away. Oatmeal has kept them subdued though. It drives me crazy not knowing what is wrong. My best guess is that it’s a really bad teething rash since she is growing molars and everything. Only it’s not on her butt. It looks closest to the rash the Boy would get when he had strawberries when he was little but I have racked my brain for any new additions to her diet, clothing, detergents, foods, and I’m coming up empty. Any ideas?

********
Today the Boy had trouble with his math work for the first time. He couldn’t understand the concept of grids to represent numbers and insisted that his way of looking at it, while valid, was the only way. After an unexpected daytime visit from his dad who was able to explain it to him, he sat down to finish today’s lesson. Here is a conversation I never thought I’d have with my four year old.
“OK buddy, good job. We’re done now put the book away.”

“But I want to do more can you show me how to do this page?”

“No, the girl is waiting to go to the playground and then I have to get dinner ready.”

“But I want to do my school work, Can you PLEASE SHOW ME HOW TO DO THIS!”

“No honey, that’s another lesson we’ll do it tomorrow when I have time to explain it to you properly.”

“But I want to do it now.”

“No, tomorrow.”

‘Please mom.”

“Put the book away lets get ready to go outside.”

I busy myself with preparations. When I come back I see that he is making random marks on new pages, desperate to keep doing school.

“What are you doing? I told you to put that book away, stop doing school and get ready to go to the playground now.”

*******

Updated to add

Why do my kids like the one, two, buckle my shoe song so very much? Since introducing it in a math lesson yeterday morning I have been asked to sing it at least 100 times. They think it's hysterical. I'm heartily sick of big fat hens.

3.10.06

Follow my nose

I may have mentioned before that I like trees. Okay that may be an understatement; I’m a little bit nuts when it comes to trees. I just moved 50 yards at a net loss of $900 or more just to be near trees instead of asphalt.

The sounds and smells of trees do something for me that little else can do. There is nothing like walking down a familiar street when the breeze suddenly carries the heavy sweet scent of a wet tree. There is no breath deep enough to experience it fully. I have to stop myself from hyperventilating sometimes I’m breathing so rapidly and deeply trying to suck in the smell.

Here in CA there are fragrant trees everywhere and a walk in the evening after the dew has settled is like a cornucopia for my nose. The easiest to distinguish are the dogwoods that line several nearby streets. It’s a sweetness that stops just a shade before it becomes flowery, rich and heavy, yet fresh and green, with a hint of cinnamon.

There are the tall eucalyptus, with their trade mark scent, though one must stand still and catch the air just right to experience it fully. There are the giant pines outside my window, and now that the days are no longer oppressively hot their fragrance comes to me as I take my first few conscious breaths of the crisp morning air, and I think longingly of Canadian forests and mountains, and every camping trip I’ve ever been on.

Pepper trees have been a new and exciting adventure for my nose, both green and spicy, and yet still sweet even when mixed with heat and dust.

I fell in love with a Bay tree in northern California where my friend lives. I vowed to plant one beside any house I come to own if it will survive the climate. One of the reasons I dream of owning a house is to plant around me the fragrances I find so entrancing, to create a cocoon of fresh smell and sound where I can rest in the center and my soul can be nourished along with my senses.

I have learned, to my astonishment, that not everyone can smell trees. I told my friend once to stop under a stand of Dogwoods after it rained and breath, and she thought I was nuts, she couldn’t smell anything at all. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Canada, I spent so much time outdoors breathing clean small town air. I would go for walks in the woods after it rained just to smell the poplar trees, and the grass, and the wet dirt. I would return wet up to my knees, red cheeked and refreshed, full of hope and joy.

In autumn in Canada I could smell the frost, and the slightly rotten leaves as they softened in the mud and mixed with the residual green, the apples on my grandmother’s trees, the bitter smell of leaves burning, and warm rich smoke from wood fireplaces as they once again found a use. I once told my husband that it was going to snow soon, he asked how I could be so sure. I could smell it, feel it in the air. I love walking in the first snowfall, especially when it falls silent and thick, diffusing the light and bathing everything in a soft glow, and covering the ground in peaceful beauty. Everything is transformed, hushed, reverent and still. Even snow has a scent.

When the Boy was born I was blessed to have a large forest preserve right outside my back door. I would put him in the baby carrier and we would walk for hours through those forests, when it snowed I would put him underneath my coat or sweater and we would explore the woods together. (I think I was happier and more content that year than any other year of my life. Maybe it was the trees.) After the Girl came we lived near a different forest. (How I miss Canadian cities, full of parks and trees.) I loved taking them for walks there, no cars to worry about, no exhaust, and no immediate danger if they strayed off the path a little; we enjoyed every minute of those adventures.

My daughter hugs trees, which makes me hugely happy. Not that I want her to turn into a raving environmentalist or something, though now I see what urban sprawl truly is I can see why I inspires such passion. I am glad that she feels for them the same affection that I do. She explores their surfaces with her hands, puts her face near their trunks to smell the bark, she holds leaves to her nose.

It seems that when I am consciously experiencing a tree, I can’t be anything other than happy, or grateful. I can’t smell a tree and be anywhere outside of the moment I’m in. I suppose that it is my place of rest, of centeredness, a gift to me from the creator reminding me to stop, and experience and come back to peace, if only for a moment.

1.10.06

How We Met-Part 2

So a week after the Genius Husband, then guyIjustmetandliked, left for India, his dad showed up at my place of residence/place of worship. I was, after all, camping out on the floor of the nursery, in a church, that had once been a bar by the beach. He showed up for the evening service. I was scared out of my wits. I’m terribly aware of people watching me, and I felt certain he had come to watch me, with the slim pretext of taking some Canadian friends to check out our weekly feed all of our homeless friends that lived at the beach too. He thought I might like to meet them. (Yeah right) I made small talk, and then spent the rest of the evening hiding outside with some of the teenagers who were sweet, but too cool to go inside.

A week later as I walked out of my living room/church library I was again ambushed. Walking straight toward me was my future FIL and his second son. He says, “Carrien I thought you’d like to meet GH’s brother E.”

Then he walked away, leaving me face to face with a guy I didn’t know, who was also checking me out, but not for his own sake. So I tried to make conversation, and then I ran away again. I now know that my FIL doesn’t really trust his ability to read people, but every one trusts E. He took the report back to the rest of the family. I guess I passed.

I emailed the GH, confiding my suspicion that his family was checking up on me. His reply essentially stated that it was a distinct possibility since he had told his mother that he thought he was going to marry me, and gave her an awful photo of me, the only one he had. He had snapped it when I first woke up in the desert. I’m sitting up in my sleeping bag, blinking into the sun, sand in my hair, and altogether unwashed.

The first thing that pried its way into my dumbfounded brain was “He likes me, he really really likes me. He wants to marry me. Why the heck am I not terrified?”

Its not like I accepted the first marriage proposal that came my way, though none of the others had come with rings in hand or anything, but I had never once felt even a little bit tempted to accept. My response to his very sweet and nervous email where he said he would never be so tacky as to propose marriage over the internet, but he had to know if I was thinking similar things, or could I just please reject him now so he could move on, was to say that I was actually thinking the same things and to talk to me in a year or so when he got back. We had known each other two weeks people, this was insane for me, but I knew in spite of myself.

The second thing I thought was “Oh crap, they must think I’m a total idiot.”

That week I was ready for them; I even curled my hair. Since I knew that I had only met 2 of 8 children and one parent, I was expecting a full-scale invasion and I was going to be prepared this time.

Only no one came. In fact, none of them came again the whole time I was there. I was constantly looking over my shoulder for any sign of them, but they had disappeared.

The GH and I continued our electronic correspondence; he called me on my birthday. I still have copies of all of our cheesy, sappy, dreamy love letters from that year. The GH is embarrassed that any record exists of his engaging in such drivel. But since he says that in front of his guy friends that he likes to spar with and engage in stick fights, I choose to believe that its mostly bluster to spare his reputation.

Just before I returned to Canada, the GH begged me once again to go and meet his family, because he wasn’t going to be there to introduce me to them, and he wanted them to meet me before I left. So I went, with all of my friends for support, to his dad’s church one Sunday and met his brother, and his other brother, and his other brother, and his sister, and his other sister and his brother, and I finally met his mother. She confided that she had been dying to come and meet me herself, but was trying really hard not to be a typical Jewish mother and butt in, but would I please call her and invite myself to their house for dinner sometime so she could get to know me? And then I saw that terrible picture; she pulled it out of her wallet. I didn’t know it existed until then. So I went. And it felt like my grandmother’s house at Christmas, full of all of my cousins. I felt at home right away. My Milly and I had our first long talk and it became immediately apparent that we were cut from the same cloth she and I, and would get along just great. The FIL often jokes that his son found his mother and married her and in our case that’s a positive thing.

I went back to Canada after that. He got sick in Nepal in his 8th month of travel and finally decided to return to North America because he couldn’t get rid of the parasites, and he was a walking skeleton. He flew to Canada, he stayed with some family friends, the same I had met the first night his dad came to see me, close to where I was staying. For a month we dated, and hashed out disciplining our children and homeschooling and every other topic we imagined might have any bearing on whether or not we should marry.

The night before he was to go home we went to Kanaskis country, a beautiful outdoor area nestled at the foot of the Canadian Rockies. (He still hadn’t seen the mountains.) We took a picnic with us and sat by a fire together under the light of a very full moon dreaming about the places we’d like to live and the kind of house we’d like to live in together. Once the moon had risen over the ridge we noticed it looked exactly the same as the moon we had seen in the desert that first night we were together and he was swept away by the romance of it all and proposed on the spot. I said yes and we were both giddy with excitement. He told me later he thought he couldn’t plan a more perfect moment, so figured he’d better take the one he was given.

We stayed awake until it was time for him to leave the next morning, and then said goodbye until I returned to San Diego a month hence. I went wedding dress shopping with my mother that week, because I am a girl and get excited by the idea of dress shopping.

This however is not when I actually “decided” to marry him. I was certain it was he and no other, I was enjoying the romance of it all, and I did love him completely, but I had not yet decided to become a married woman with all that entailed. That happened the 3rd time he proposed. Stay tuned.

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