Monday, December 06, 2010

The Great Gender Revelation was the great Gender Revelation - VERY eagerly anticipated in our household.

I had heard of this great idea of how to tell your family about the gender of the baby: make a cake - blue if it's a boy, pink if a girl - and frost it white. When the cake is cut, all is made known in the twinkling of an eye.

So I bought two cakes today - a white one to mix with blue food coloring, if required, and a strawberry cake mix.

Brad had today off and so he got to accompany us to the ultrasound. HURRAY! When we went in to the doctor's office, the nurse welcomed us and said to Aiden, "So...! A boy or a girl... Which do you want?" Aiden said with a big smile, "I want a lollipop!" He has always gotten lollipops there before, so it was perfectly logical to expect one today. The nurse was quite amused...and Aiden got his desired lollipop.

At one point in the ultrasound before the gender had been revealed, I squinted at the screen and said, " Oh... are they ( I don't know why I used THAT pronoun because it was clearly ONE person there) sucking their thumb?" And she said, "No... that shows...that you're having a girl." Okay! Talk about getting the WRONG end of things! I guess I will not try to take up being an ultrasound technician anytime soon! I really don't know how I got THAT from THAT. But you know ultrasounds - to the layperson, it's kind of anybody's guess most of the time.

It didn't seem like a great big deal to Aiden - whenever we've asked him in the past, he has always said, "A gol." ( Translation: a girl.) So he was very matter of fact about the news - it wasn't news to him.

So we came home and I mixed up the strawberry cake, feeling very, very happy.

Now comes the fun part of deciding on a name. We had decided on a boy's name but in the girl department, we are far from decided.

This evening when some of our family assembled for the cutting of the cake, we were joined via the miracle of video Skype by Liane and her kids...who had assembled with great big signs, voting for the gender of their choice; the majority leaned towards the male persuasion. Sorry, nephews - girls are making a comeback in the family!

So - there's our big news! Thanks for sharing our joy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lessons my Son Taught Me (about how wrong I can be)

Sometimes I think I have amnesia. Like the time I awoke about one o'clock in the morning and heard sounds of crashing and running coming from downstairs. Brad was beside me, asleep. I instantly concluded it was ROBBERS. Of course! And then the robber started running upstairs...and in my half-wakeful, fully terrified, totally illogical state, I suddenly knew it was a dog. Yes, a dog had somehow broken in to our house. This was not my finest hour in the reasoning department. And then, I heard the dog open Aiden's door. So I went back to thinking it was a robber. Only it was about to become a kidnapper! All this happened in the space of about three seconds, it seemed, and I was shaking Brad's arm, trying to wake him up. He knew instantly that it was just Aiden. Why couldn't I have thought of that? Seriously, the thought had hardly even entered my head. Oh yeah. I have a child. Children do these things. The only thing is, when heard in the dead of night, the pitter-patter of little feet tend to transmogrify into the clump-clump of burglars.

Aiden came in all distressed and disoriented and I was still sort of in terrified/angry at the kidnapper/fight or flight mode...which weirdly and instantly turned into comforting, motherly mode as soon as I heard his voice. A wrenching and disconcerting transition for one o'clock a.m.

It turns out that Aiden had woken up, was thirsty, didn't have his drink beside his bed ( my fault), and so got up, opened his door, closed his door ( both of which should have woken me up), and went downstairs to forage. It's not quite been two months since he graduated from a crib to a big boy bed, and even though he has gotten up out of bed several times, this was the first time he had done it after I was asleep. That is all to say, in my defense, I'm still getting used to another person around the house who is potentially nocturnally mobile.

And then there was the time I found a small piece of plum sitting on a kitchen chair. I looked in the fruit bowl and lo and behold, there was a plum with a small bite missing. For some reason, my brain instantly condemned Brad. I formed this mental picture of him taking a bite and deciding it wasn't ripe enough and spitting it out. I don't know why I had this rush to judgment - it's not like he does this kind of thing often! And as I held the plum in my hand, I shook my head and said in a quiet, slightly exasperated tone, "Brad...!" Aiden looked up at me and said quite penitently, "I bite it, Mama." It reduced me to hysterical laughter on the spot. I just love that he owned up to it immediately, when he could have gotten away with it. When I told Brad, he thanked Aiden for not throwing him under the bus. ( Hmmm- a violent idiom for a two year old to puzzle over.)

I just felt like clonking myself over the head - DUH, CLAIRE! You have a two year old boy! Those are the kind of creatures who climb up on kitchen chairs and take big bites out of plums and spit them out. That's practically in their job description!

It's just funny how our brains are constantly trying to solve mini-mysteries, struggling to instantly make sense out of what we see, or hear ( as in the case of the midnight marauder who turned out to be my son), and in my case anyway, the conclusions are not always correct.

And on a totally unrelated note - we were reading a Dora the Explorer book tonight before bedtime. ( For the lucky few who are uninitiated in the ways of this fictional wunderkind, I will explain. Dora is a bilingual cartoon child who leads a shrill crusade to teach the Spanish language to young Anglo urchins everywhere.)(No un-politically correct comments from the peanut gallery, please. Yes, I agree, we shouldn't have to press 1 to hear something in English... but on the other hand, it really doesn't send our beloved country to the dogs to learn a little Spanish. Trust me. ) I was reading a Dora story to Aiden about how Dora says goodnight to a host of animals, bilingually, of course. "Goodnight snakes! Buenos Noches, culebras!"( What normal little girl says Goodnight to snakes? Well, at least now I will never forget the Spanish word for snakes. Oh goodie - another useless brain wrinkle.) Anyway- with each "goodnight" I would prompt Aiden to say, "Buenos noches!" And his utterance of the phrase was so cute, that I knew if I could bottle that cuteness and sell it, I would be an instant millionaire. As I wrote on my Facebook status: " I think the sound of Aiden saying "Buenos Noches" as I turn out the light is sweet enough to melt the stony heart of the cruelest despot."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seven years with Brad

Tomorrow ( July 26) we celebrate our seventh anniversary. Seven sounds like a big number to me, for some reason. I was looking at our wedding pictures this morning and shaking my head at the different world we were in back then...Serious and silly differences: in 2003 there were a few less pounds on both our frames, more hair on his head, fewer nieces and nephews, and a brother... to name but a few of the most glaring items. But, together we have weathered the changes that have come, have grown and changed together, and I am so grateful to have Brad with me. He is truly my best friend and understands me in a way that no one else does. And I don't think it's just because he's learned my quirks over seven years of tribulation; sometimes I believe he was born with an innate ability to "get me." I'm so lucky and thankful for that - it has saved so much wasted time. I have been spoiled.

It's not just that he understands me - although that is a huge virtue. He's a thoroughly good man - good in a way that I believe is rare. Funny, hardworking, considerate, having a decided opinion yet diplomatic, people skills coming out his ears, responsible with money, an encourager, unpretentious, honoring to my parents as well as his, gives grace and space to others to be different and yet still accepts them, a wonderful father who loves and has fun with his son and also is attentive to his child's behavior and consistently follows through with discipline and training, appreciates beauty, is not loud, annoying or smarmy, is faithful to the things he believes, has good boundaries with others, doesn't run with scissors...the list goes on and on. Yeah, I got a good one.

And it's funny because I used to think choleric people were borderline evil... and then I married one. I actually didn't even know he was choleric until I had already fallen in love with him. So the joke's on me, I guess.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Something New in the Way of Breakfast Food

I know that Solomon said that there was "no new thing under the sun." Not to refute willy-nilly the wisest man who ever lived, but I beg to differ - and I have proof. I think that there is something new under the sun sitting on my kitchen table - a breakfast concoction that I am sure has never before existed.

I made Aiden's oatmeal and added a few typical toppings - yogurt, raisins, some sliced banana, some fresh peach slices... and then proceeded to prepare some green beans for the Father's Day family lunch we are going to attend later. Aiden spied the beans, and asked for one. So I picked a steaming green bean out of the mix, and laid it on the edge of his cereal bowl. He asked for it! He's a notoriously slow eater, so moments later, to speed his snail-like consumption, I added the piece de resistance to his oatmeal - a scattering of mini-marshmallows. Those disappeared pretty fast...but the bulk of the oatmeal remains.

I refuse to believe that there has ever before been a dish that contained oatmeal, green beans, and mini-marshmallows.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Now Aiden has started saying, "You're my special treasure" to me, which makes more sense (than just "You're special") because I actually say that to him. There is something about the word "treasure" coming out of his mouth that makes me want to scream for the cuteness of it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Out of the mouths of babes... my babe in particular

As a lover of words, it fascinates me to watch Aiden's vocabulary and language skills develop. He has been speaking fairly complete sentences for a few months now, but just in the last week, he has had a few firsts in his repertoire of speech. For instance, he came out with, "I miss Grampa" clear as a bell, the other day. Not "Where Grampa?" as he usually does; I had never heard him say, " I miss" before.

And he's picked up on the word "sweetie," which is not that surprising, as it is bandied about our house quite a lot. But to hear oneself referred to as "sweetie-Mama" or "sweetie-Daddy" is quite charming. As we were leaving a store the other day, he called out to the cashier, "Bye, sweetie!"

And the word "why" has suddenly appeared. Oh boy. I find myself going down all sorts of crazy rabbit trails in response to this word, trying to answer his "why" questions as much as I can. Veteran parents will probably chuckle in mild scorn at this statement. I know sooner or later, probably sooner, my ability and desire to answer the why questions will be exhausted. ( KJ, he was asking "why" in regards to rain the other day, and I thought to myself, "The water cycle! Condensation! Evaporation! Precipitation!" Perhaps not in that exact order, and perhaps I have left something out, but... I didn't go there.I think I took the cop out route, which was something about how plants need a drink...which didn't totally satisfy him.) I have a feeling that this word is here to stay for a while. It simultaneously brings me thrill and dread because the word "why" is a vehicle of mysterious origin that carries you through gates of curiosity, into all kinds of realms of knowledge of good and evil. And he's just boarded that vehicle.

But the most memorable one to me this week was, "I love you, Mama!" He has said the words, "love you" before, but always in response to when I said, "I love you" to him. And a lot of times, he used to just make a kissing noise after I told him I loved him, and I understood that was his way of saying it. This time, he said it out of the blue, joyfully, when I had not said anything to him. A moment and feeling I will never forget. And he has been following it up with, "You're special, Mama!" I just about DIE every time. I don't really know where he got that, because I don't really use that exact phrase, so he can't be copy-catting me. I'd always heard that it is a powerful moment in a parent's life, when they first hear their child say, "I love you." And all I can say is Yes, it certainly is.

It is good that his cuteness to me is on the increase, because these days, as he leaves babyhood farther behind and moves upward into the pre-schooler phase, his tendencies to whine, manipulate, throw tantrums and generally make mischief are steadily on the rise as well. I guess it is to be expected - he is two and a half, after all. ( Expected, but not accepted, of course. I will not bow to this stage. I am definitely opposed to brats.) Only this evening, he came to me, and calmly deposited a dirty diaper from the pail into my disbelieving hand. Thankfully, he had not opened it up or littered his room with the rest of the contents of said pail. I know more than one story of fecal malfeasance by children. (Knock on wood - he could still do it, I know.)( And I know that as of right now, this is more of an "exploring the world" thing, not a naughtiness thing. The diaper pail is right there in his room, after all. Hmmmm.) I still think he's not quite ready to tackle potty-training full force ( we have had a few fruitless sessions on the potty), but I think it's a sign that once the child goes dumpster diving in the diaper pail, that the plot is thickening in the potty chapter. But I digress...I WAS talking about vocabulary. How did this become a treatise on toilet training?

All this to say, as the stakes increase and the game becomes more complicated, it's nice to have certain compensations, like hearing, "I love you, Mama! You're special, Mama!"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Beginning of Summer

I saw a promotion by Ransomed Heart Ministry ( John Eldredge's ministry)where if you promised to read and blog about his new book about marriage, entitled "Love and War", that they would send you a free copy of the book. I was all "sign me up!" but when I signed up, they then informed me that the promotion was over. Wah. I'm a day late and a free book short. But I had to leave my blog address and check a box letting them know if I wanted any other promotional info in the future ( YES, PLEASE), and it made me think..."Hmmm... are they going to come over here and check out my blog to see if I am worthy of investment?" And that made me think I should be more faithful in updating, no matter how mundane the posts.

So - here's the latest from our world.

As most of you probably know from Facebook, we were on vacation last week in Savannah. I was a little nervous b/c the weather forecast showed thunderstorms for EVERY single day we were there, and there were a few scattered showers, but my fears of a hotel-bound vacation did not come true. We were able to do everything we had wanted. Huzzah! We went to Tybee Island and enjoyed the beach a couple times, went on a dolphin cruise, and explored the city on foot. We did a LOT of walking and LOVED it. Last time we were here, it was December of 08, and we didn't have a real chance to explore and take pictures to our hearts content, which we did this time. Wandering the quiet streets and squares, especially in the evening, enjoying the giant oak trees hung with Spanish moss and the beautiful architecture of the city, I could feel that my beauty hunger was being fed...and at the same time, making me more hungry. That's the thing about steeping yourself in beautiful surroundings - it makes you want more. It's like scratching a bad case of poison ivy on your arms - it feels so good, and yet, the more you scratch, the more you need to scratch. As I read in the book I got for my birthday ( Captivating - by John and Stasi Eldredge), "Every experience of beauty points to eternity." - Hans Urs von Balthasar

My parents have moved back north. I miss them. Aiden keeps asking where Grampa and Grandma M. are and saying he wants to hug them. We plan on going up this fall for a visit, and I know the time will fly between now and then, but still, September seems like a long time away right now.

That's it for now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reflections on my 32nd

My birthday was last week. I turned 32. It sounds middle-aged and boring. Hmmph. I can't wait til next year - 33 is a much better number. But I digress; it was a great day, nonetheless. I was going to blog about it and then I got really busy and lost inspiration, blah, blah, blah. But a few little things happened that I want to remember for the ages, and plus, I also heard that Aunt Gladys recently fell and sprained her ankle, so I thought I would seize the day and write this out, partly for posterity, and partly for Aunt G, so she'll have something to read when she checks my blog.

On my birthday's morning walk, Aiden and I saw a turtle on the sidewalk, and I LOVE turtles. We stopped and conversed with it for a while. When we got home, I saw a long, black snake slithering off into the bushes in front of my house. I surprised myself and actually chased it - or tried to - just to see where it went, not from an overflowing love of all God's creatures ( sorry, the other Claire Pass - who DOES have an overflowing love of all God's creatures) but just from morbid curiosity. But it eluded me.

Then I got a call from a total stranger, wishing me a happy birthday. Well, really it was one of Brad's co-workers and I found it quite charming. There is some sort of tale, no doubt, behind this, but the details are fuzzy in my brain at this point.

One of the highlights of the day was a birthday lunch in the park where many friends gathered and shared superior vittles and gave me gifts and made me feel special. There was a playground right next to the picnic tables so all the kids could play, and I have to confess that for a few minutes, my attention was distracted from Aiden and I lost track of him. I suddenly couldn't find him anywhere. Dread in my stomach. And then, I remembered him ranting on about wanting to see the train, which was in another part of the park... and so I zoomed over there, and yelled his name, and sure enough, he was all alone, on the train. Oh my heart. Shudder, wilt, dissolve. Thankyou, God, and guardian angels, for keeping him safe.

Round about here, I got a text from Nicole who was with Philip. To understand this part, I must backtrack into last year or thereabouts. I had made a birthday page for Philip's Dynavox, with options of phrases like, "Did you get any cool gifts?" "How old are you now?" and "You're over the hill!" and then there's a button that is a recording of me singing Happy Birthday. ( At one point, there was a version of me singing it in my silly voice, but then that got really annoying when you heard it played seventeen times in a row. Well, really, it was annoying the second or third time. Also, fun fact to know and tell: Philip laughed so hard while I was recording it, that I had to go into another room to record. ) Anyway...somehow, Philip had realized in recent days that my birthday was coming up. So Nicole texted me that Philip was using the Happy Birthday song button and then clicking on my name. I thought that was so sweet.

(He also has been delighting in telling me that I'm "over the hill." Ha! My own creation comes back to bite me! )

Then I went to work and Philip serenaded me with my own voice, several times. I thought it was slightly amusing that I was singing Happy Birthday to myself from some point in time in the distant past.

And then after a trip to Lowe's with Philip, I went home and Brad took me out to dinner - while Aiden had a visit with Conner - thanks, Kristi!- at a marvelous Italian restaurant. Oh, their stuffed mushrooms are magnificent. Pretty much everything there is magnificent - all fresh, all made right there. The only slight shadow cast upon it was the super-annoying conversation from a couple of other diners whose inane, egotistical, abominational babble we could not help but overhear...( really, if you had been there, you would no doubt have wanted to wring their collective necks too, because they just epitomized what is sending this country, nay humanity in general, to heck in a handbasket!) but Brad did his level best to drown them out by telling me interesting work related stories. I shouldn't have ranted about those buffoonish diners, because I don't really want to remember them for the ages, and I really felt a little bad that I didn't feel more compassionate towards them - but I DO want to remember the fact that Brad was in total silent agreement with me about the situation the entire time (we did not utter one word about it until we were out of there but it was like there was an unspoken exchange between us of, "Oh my word." "Yeah, I know! What is with them?" "Make it stop, please!" "Can I go give them a spanking?" Okay. I just made that last one up and I don't really know who was who in that imagined conversation) and he was so nice to keep up a steady stream of talking to distract me...which is slightly unusual, because the other times we've gone to that restaurant, we are generally hushed into a blissful, reverent near-coma by the ecstasy of the fabulous food. So I recognized and appreciated his sacrifice.

We did our best to convince Aiden that it was MAMA'S birthday, NOT Uncle Brown's
( it seems that Nate's birthday made the initial birthday impression in his brain. Nate is now inextricably entwined with Aiden's own version of the Happy Birthday Song, which is not unlike some sort of martial Soviet anthem in its unique tune). I think we were partially successful in this because at one point, he did utter the words" Happy Birthday, Mama" in consecutive order, but I think it is going to take a long time to fully eradicate Uncle Brown from Aiden's association with birthdays. And just as he has disassociated the two, it will be March 1st ... and time to sing to Nate again ... which will throw Aiden into hopeless confusion once more. And Diabolous will rejoice. ( Sorry - I just got carried away by the spirit of Ethel Barrett there.) (And if you don't know who she is, just google her. You're at a computer right now anyway. What's stopping you? Yes, go down this rabbit trail. She's interesting.)( I love parentheses.) ( And ellipses....)

So anyway- for an un-interesting age, it was kind of an interesting day.

By the way - our vacation is fast approaching. Can't wait. May has truly lived up to its eye popping reputation for craziness again. I was right in my prediction. And what busy-ness I didn't have, I received by Facebook osmosis from others. So, I'm in need of a good vacation. Even if it rains the entire time ( which it is forecasted to do), we will have a GREAT time. ( Please pray that we will have good weather!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


A couple weeks ago, we got a card in the mail, saying that our trash pickup day was going to be changed from Monday to Wednesday. Why- I have no idea. The ways of the trash company cannot be fathomed. Anyway, I said, okay. No biggie. Then I got another notice in the mail from them, a few days later. Thanks, yep, I heard you the first time.

THEN, I got an automated PHONE CALL from them. OKAY. I GOT IT.

So I put out my trash last Wednesday. Good grief, people. What is the big deal?

And then, a couple days ago, I got yet another automated phone call. Hello!? The change has already occurred, people. I passed the test. You can stop treating me like an imbecile.

So guess who forgot to put out the trash this morning? And guess who heard the trash truck coming and was smitten with the awful realization that the trash was not out at the curb? And guess who punched the garage door opener, dashed outside, hauled the trashcan up the driveway, at the same time yelling pleadingly at the driver who was zipping past the driveway...and got him to back up and take the trash... all within the space of about fifteen seconds. Ha. Yes. That would be me. I love to provide entertainment for the neighborhood. Oh man. I wonder if the trash man has some sort of list in the truck on which he checked off my name for further remedial calls and cards in the mail.

After all that resentment over being treated like a four year old with the endless reminders...and I go and forget.

Oh the great, momentous dramas of my life.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Silly anecdotes - with a warning label

Something I've been thinking about recently: I really do not want to be one of those parents who thinks that the universe revolves around their child, and talks to people ad nauseum about the most mundane minutia of their child's life, and expects EVERYONE to adore - or even just be mildly interested in- their offspring. I think this is a phenomena especially true with many first time parents. ( By the time the third child rolls around, it seems like most parents have mellowed out a good deal in their perspective.) I am fine with the fact that no one will ever love Aiden like Brad and I do. Okay- I know immediate family members love and may be sincerely interested in his progress, but beyond that, to the rest of the world, he's just another little kid. And that is as it should be. No one can be special to everyone. I think that's partly why the cult of celebrity is so unhealthy - it's based on unnatural specialness.

But I meander away from my point. Which is...No, I do not want to be one of those sickening people who goad you with silly anecdotes and heart-warming images into commenting on the preciousness of their tot...BUT...for those few who really WANT to hear stories about Aiden, you may continue reading. The vast majority of you are excused. This is TOTALLY optional. I am not foisting ANYTHING upon you. Void where prohibited. And really, the writing of this is largely for my own benefit, so I can remember certain scenes after time has discarded these small memories from my brain. Because it's not just a chronicle of Aiden - it's also a way for me to contemplate my own progress into motherhood. So...all that being said, here come the silly anecdotes.

We've had some gorgeous weather here in the last couple weeks. Well, gorgeous for those like me who do not suffer from pollen related allergies. Aiden and I have taken to going for walks almost every day, especially in the evenings because I think it helps him release a lot of energy and get ready for bed. So we toddle down the sidewalk to the park and back - which is probably about a half mile round trip. And we seem to have a lot of adventures along the way. Like meeting dogs the size of dust bunnies that tickle my ankles and jump up to Aiden's shoulders and scare him. It is funny that anyone could be afraid of such a tiny, harmless creature, but I guess it seems like a pretty good sized dog to him. We also met a girl who had three vibrant colored ducklings - one orange, one blue, and one green. I guess she got them for Easter; Aiden was quite charmed. Aiden greets any and all passersby, especially children, quite literally following in the footsteps of Buppa Charlie.

And then, there's the icecream truck. We've got two vans that regularly troll the neighborhood almost every day in search of children who are training in the sport of instant gratification, developing the habit of impulse buying, heedless of the economic folly in which they are engaging. These unscrupulous swindlers offer overpriced icecream products, and blare piercing, tinny Christmas tunes - and other non-Christmas music - and in spite of all these things which should prejudice me against this institution of summertime, I still thrill to the thought of buying from the icecream man. There's just something undeniably wonderful about the combination of the great outdoors, capitalism, and icecream. It overcomes all natural reason. I think it may be a holdover reaction from my childhood, where there was no icecream man because we lived in a place that just wasn't the kind of residential area that lends itself to such businesses...and so a mobile icecream service still seems like a fascinatingly novel concept to me. However, I have not indulged quite yet this season. It's April, for Pete's sake. The icecream man will be haunting our subdivision for a good five or six more months. If I give in now, Aiden will expect it every time. And so, Pandora's box remains closed for the time being.

I encountered another Pandora's box recently - at the outlet mall. Aiden and I went down to Tanger to get some summer sandals for him, and outside the shoe store there was one of those little kid rides where you put in the quarters and they jostle around, causing untold glee. It was a little fire truck, and Aiden was having a great time in it, even without the quarters. Oh foolish me - I wanted to up the ante and make it even MORE fabulous, because that's one of the great joys of parenthood- giving fun. So I stuck in the quarters...and there was great excitement...for about two minutes. I knew he probably would put up some show of resistance when it was time to go, but after the scene of wailing and martyrdom that followed, I thought it would be wise to post some sort of warning label above those little rides. Kind of like cigarette packs, except without the cancer and death part. "Use of this machine may cause short-term happiness, followed by excessive whining, general crankiness, and ruination of your shopping trip. Any thanks you may have expected for the outlay of your hard earned cash will most likely be forgotten in the flood of pleas for more money to buy more time on this machine. In short, this machine may cause you to claw your own eyeballs out."

( I have to say, he didn't really ruin the rest of the shopping trip. But he came close when he upset a small display of mini-skillets in the Harry and David store... but he made up for it by helping me choose a new pair of sunglasses later on. He dubbed them "Cute" so I bought them.)

So now you see why I'm wary of anything that has a Pandora-esque feel about it. Or maybe Pandora isn't the allusion that I want. Maybe anything that smells Trojan horsey...Anyway, I think my theoretical knowledge about parenting is giving way to experiential knowledge - and hence, I grow wiser. Hopefully.

P.S. And if you think that in the whole thing about first time parents adoring their children that I am writing about YOU, you are pretty much wrong. Oh yes, I'm fairly sure you are wrong. Do not sit on the fence of wondering whether you should be offended or not - you shouldn't be.

And P.P.S. I think I have been guilty of this very "everyone should adore my child" syndrome for a little while because I caught myself thinking, "Wow - He really IS wonderful and beautiful and special!" and then I realized that every parent thinks this about their children at one point or another. So I guess I'm sort of normal. And if you have thought this about your child, you are normal too...but only if you realize that your child's exceptionalism is probably all in your head.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Manic, Manic Month of May

I had this great idea for Thanksgiving in April. I was going to hold a big ol' dinner with all the trimmings and invite people from the highways and byways - figuratively speaking of course, really just family... There would be lamb or something sufficiently springy for the main course, instead of the autumnal turkey. And fancy green beans, and buttery crescent rolls and all manner of festive side dishes... And of course, pies. That was really my whole motivation - the pies. ( Not really, but almost.) But my great idea keeps running into snags. Sigh. Mostly just getting everyone together on the same day. 'Twas doomed from the start. Maybe I'll just end up eating a pie by myself at midnight one of these days. Or hold the grand fete for my guests on a Wednesday night. Which would be depressing and rushed. Just what every hostess wants.

You see, there is one thing that I don't like about spring - and that is this: once the pollen starts to fling itself far and wide, people suddenly get this strange urge to DO things. As if they have been in hibernation all winter. Suddenly the pace of life quickens and everyone just gets exponentially busier and starts rushing around like bees on drugs. Including me. It makes me ill. For instance, I've been trying to plan out the month of May and already it's stressing me out because May is a MONSTER month. I used to always LOVE May - it's my birth month. You have to love your birth month. And really, come on, it's Maaay; things are blooming and cooing their heads off. What more beautiful month could there be? ( I can hear Liane in my mind's ear, from the days of our youth, arguing that June, her birth month, is superior to May and quoting the poem, "What is so rare as a day in June?" Okay, if James Russell Lowell says it...then, it must be true. You win.)

But now I see May as a perfect storm of social gatherings, a dark time for one such as myself who has become less of a social butterfly over the years, and more of Button butterfly who has crawled back into the cocoon and is metamorphasizing backwards into an ugly, lowly, stumpy caterpillar. ( I have not deigned to see that movie, ( Benjamin Button, not The Hungry Caterpillar) but I do know that the premise is that Brad Pitt's character ages backwards. And while I'm spoiling movies, soylent green is people, the Titanic sinks, and Old Yeller DIES.)

Every weekend in May, and on many days in between the weekends, there is some THING looming on the calendar...weddings, graduations, concerts, parties, birthdays, holidays, christenings, showers, funerals, pet adoption anniversary just doesn't END! I think all of humanity should be put in strait-jackets ALL MONTH long and be told to SIMMER DOWN.

I think I'm going to block the whole month off my calendar. I'm going to put a giant post-it on the whole page of May, and write, "SAVE THE DATE - all these dates in this month - for my SANITY." Forget March madness - in my book, MAY is the maddest month. And really, Liane, what is so rare as a day in MAY?! That's what the poem SHOULD say! I know - it would throw the whole rhyming scheme off the rest of Mr. Lowell's poem, but really - the fifth month is all a frantic blur, you have to admit. And then you arrive, exhausted, at Memorial Day - a panting, ragged shell of yourself, barely able to take nourishment in the form of hamburgers and hotdogs at the holiday cookout... and you have to go on vacation to recover. That's why I think we're going to take our vacation in May this year - just to escape the madness. Too bad we can't take off the whole month. I think that's what we should do next year, Brad. Save up all your days off, take the month of May and fly to New Zealand or the Seychelles Islands.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Throwing Away Dead People's Gifts and Stuff

I have a small pot/kettle/saucepan ( I really don't know what the correct name is) that has some problems. Among other things, the handle is really wobbly; it's a risky thing to carry it from sink to stove when it contains any amount of water. I wonder when I should end its life. But I don't really want to end its life. It was a wedding gift from Mrs. Eileen Sandford and I feel like throwing it away would somehow be losing a link to an amazing lady who I admired and loved. And at the same time, that pot/kettle/saucepan always makes me feel a little guilty, because she fell and hurt herself as she was getting ready for our wedding, ( I wonder if I am remembering correctly that it was as she was getting something to wrap this very gift) and passed away several days later. We didn't hear about it until the day we got home from our honeymoon, which was the day of her funeral. ( This was in the long ago dark ages before Facebook.)

I have always regretted missing her funeral and, truth be told, I've always felt partially responsible for her death, in a strange way. Which is really awful because that lady was a saint. I appreciated her genuineness. She was a woman without fear, without guile, and with plenty of feist. Okay, so maybe feist isn't a word - but why not - when feisty IS a word.

So, when we arrived home from our honeymoon and found that this pot/kettle/saucepan had somehow made its way onto our kitchen table, unwrapped, because she never got a chance to wrap it, with a note inside, from her, it was a startling discovery. An eerie, but useful, gift. For a long time, it was my only small pot/kettle/saucepan and I depended on it heavily. So, even though its working days are nearly over, I am hesitant to get rid of this thing. Who knew that such a small pot/kettle/saucepan could hold such memories?

And it's the same with my bathrobe that Andrew gave me for Christmas one year...This bathrobe is distinctly ratty now, but I don't think I could ever throw it away.

I am going through Grampa's things these days, throwing things away ( don't worry- nothing valuable - I don't think anyone really cares about long johns that are forty years old), sorting through other things, making a yardsale pile, and a keep- for-posterity pile. But mostly it's throwing things out. To tell the truth, there are certain items that I have fantasized about throwing away in recent years. But when it came down to throwing away some of his old shirts the other day, it was an odd, bittersweet moment. It just sort of felt a little wrong.

I know that things are just things - they're not the same as people. But I have a strong sentimental streak in me, and I do get very attached to things, especially when the person the thing is associated with is no longer alive.

So - to throw, or not to throw - that is the dilemma.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


There was a bit of a thunder storm here on Sunday night and Aiden, who had never before seemed to notice thunder, was seriously freaked out by it. This occurred at bedtime, turning a usually simple event, and for me a joyous/anticipated/peaceful time of day, into a maelstrom of terror and tears. We did the best we could, trying to explain that the thunder was up in the sky, far away, it wasn't going to hurt him...pulling out all the tricks we could think of, including bringing in the "Special Bear" - the teddy bear made out of Buppa Charlie's fuzzy fleece- and eventually, he made it to the land of slumber.

But he has not forgotten the thunder. His pronunciation of it is "summer." It's now the first thing he talks about every loud it was, how scary it was, how it was up in the sky, how he cried...

And last night, even though there was not a hint of thunder in the atmosphere, he screamed in terror after I said Goodnight and left the room. He never cries at bedtime. I have been very spoiled, I know. After a few minutes of seeing if he would just cry himself to sleep, I went back in to talk to him. It turns out, he was of course, remembering the thunder...but this is what he said, "Scare...God." ( His use of the word scare can be interpreted "scared" "scary" or "scare." ) I don't remember equating God with the thunder in any of our earlier conversations. I didn't say that the thunder was God bowling, or God's voice, or anything. But he has been asking where Grampa ( Buppa Charlie) is a lot lately, and I always tell him that he went to see Jesus in heaven. Then he asks, "Where heaven?" and I have a hard time knowing how to answer that. How do you explain heaven to a two year old? Somehow, despite my trying to avoid the directional word, he has gotten the conventional idea that it is "UP." So perhaps he thought "Heaven/God = up. Thunder = up. God = thunder." Anyway- my impression when he said "Scare...God" was that he was scared of a mean, thundering God. Crucial moment! Impressionable, young mind alert!

Brad and I quickly did our best to explain what God is like in terms a two year old could grasp. God is like Joey... ( I felt on shaky ground comparing God to a five year old neighbor boy who wears camo and attaches a shoe box with string to the back of his bike to give his stuffed animals rides around the culdesac)because God is our friend. God is like Daddy because he's strong and protects us. God is like Grampa and Grandma because He is wise. And God is like Mama because He loves you. It seemed to help a little bit.

Transitioning to bed again was still a little struggle, but the worst was over. I loved this experience...the first time we really got a chance to communicate in words the tenderness and immensity of God's love to our son. It's easy to think, "Oh, he's two. What he thinks of God now doesn't really have a bearing on his life." And in some ways, that's true, but in another way, it is important. He is discovering the world right now and I want him to know, as early as he can, that there is a Love behind it all.

All that being said, I am trying not to dread the upcoming season of thunderstorms... I'm hoping against hope that our peaceful bedtime ritual will continue despite what the weather may bring.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Death and Taxes...for one more year.

Tonight, we briefly watched a montage of some Olympic feats of wonderment, and then some commercials came on...and there was H & R Block, touting their tax expertise. I turned to Brad and said in a nostalgic tone of voice, "Awwww, this is the last year you'll be doing Grampa's taxes..." And he looked at me and said, "Nope. He lived three days into this year."

I don't know why that made me want to laugh hySTERically.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alternate titles for this post: "Seize the cuteness" or "Higgledy Piggeldy News of the Day"

I thought I would record something that just happened for posterity: We had invited some visiting Bibleschool students here last night for dinner and I had left the placemats on the dining room table overnight. Aiden swiped one off the table just now, brought it in the kitchen, dropped it on the floor, laid down on top of it and said, "Blankie. Night night." He looked like some sort of cute little Muslim with a prayer rug.

Speaking of Aiden, his latest thing is to name body parts...Mostly facial ones. I have to be very careful when dressing him, hugging him, or really any time I am within poking distance because I may find a small finger jabbing into my eyeball as he says, "Eyebrow!" ( He sometimes misses the exact location of certain anatomical parts.)

We have a guest staying with us these days - Dave Hansen. He's become Aiden's new hero, partly because he's a great guy, and partly because he has a great dog - Buffy. I thought Aiden was going to fly to the moon with joy when Buffy came along with Dave in our car last night to go to midweek meeting at church. Me - I was just ready to fly to the moon with joy because Buffy didn't throw up in the car. ( For a minute, it looked/sounded like she might.) I'm not a big dog person but Buffy is a model of good behavior. Very quiet and non-stinky. If all dogs were like her, maybe I would be a dog person.

The neighbor kids have been charmed with Dave too. He was doing some yard work around our house and apparently fell prey to Joey's visitations. Basically, if you are at our house, and outdoors, you are fair game. Be warned - Joey, approximately five years old- will descend and he has been known to talk hind legs off mules. Grampa LOVED him. Joey asked me later when I came home if Dave was my grandfather. Hmmm. In a word, "NO." For one thing, he's 23. I think. Anyway - too young to be anyone's Grampa! Maybe Joey thinks that to stay with us for any length of time - from one night up to three years - you have to be a Grampa and perhaps we were hosting interviews/auditions for a new Grampa position. That child is something else. He also said - Joey, that is, about Dave - "Thank the Lord! He found my ball that I'd lost for years! I LOVE that guy!" For some reason, all the lost balls in the neighborhood end up in our backyard down by the creek.

It's fun having Dave here. In some ways, he reminds me of Andrew a little. And that's always nice. He doesn't remind me of Grampa at all...except that he eats cold cereal.

Enough rambling for one day.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Remembering Grampa

Most of you probably saw the picture and description of the Memory Bear that I posted on Facebook. If you did, skip the next paragraph ...

Volunteers from the hospice where Grampa spent his last days made what they call a "Memory Bear" for us. We gave them a couple of pieces of clothing that belonged to Grampa and they made teddy bears out of them. They made two - one for Aiden and one for Matthew, Rosanna's son. The one we got is made from Grampa's old orange fleece jacket. I love it. It's so Grampa.

The day we got it, Aiden was out in the driveway playing with some of the neighbor kids. I brought out the bear to show the kids and they thought it was wonderful. They all wanted to hold it and hug it. I thought it was a really neat way for them to remember Grampa.

And then they went about their games and I had a fabulous time watching them. There were four or five hanging around and they had this pogo stick and were timing each other to see who could stay up bouncing the longest. Then they got two pogo sticks and took turns going head to head with each other. The rest of us sat around on Grampa's swing, pretending to be Pogo-stick Olympic Judges ( or in Aiden's case, wandering around the cul-de-sac with a soccer ball). It was weird; I felt like I was one of them.

And then I thought, "Grampa should be here." And I really missed him in a way that I hadn't experienced before. This was a situation when, if he was in the house, I would have run down to tell him to come outside... because he loved this kind of thing. Just hanging out with the kids. He lived for it. If there was a cold or rainy spell, or the kids had too much homework to play outside and several days would pass without him seeing them, he'd start to get agitated and upset. If it was a nice day out, he was always hopeful that "this will bring them outside!" And as I sat there, feeling like a kid myself, I realized in a new way that was part of why Grampa enjoyed children so much - because they made him feel young. I guess I always sort of knew that, but living it myself made me know it in a new way. It made me think of how Grampa used to talk about why kids are so great. I'm putting what he would say into my own words: Kids are just real. You don't have to pretend to be anything other than who you really are with them. They talk about totally random, irrelevant things, they have no big responsibilities, they are uncomplicated, there are no hidden agendas or schemes to manipulate you ( at least, not with THESE kids...I know that's not true with all kids). It made me smile as I thought of what Grampa taught me by example; like Jesus, he knew that kids are important... and worthy of attention and investment.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Yesterday, I sat down to work with Philip and it quickly became apparent that something was wrong.

To understand the story, let me take you on a quick detour into a technological explanation. ( Ha! Me! Explaining technology!) Usually, the Dynavox scans a number of options on a page, and as they scan on the screen, there's a little speaker behind Philip's head that speaks whatever's on the screen. When he hears what he wants, he hits the button by his head to select the word/phrase or open a new page. Anyway- that is just a brief and very incomplete description of an auditory scanning device.

So, the little speaker behind his head that usually gives him cues was not working. So I went into the setup menu and tried to figure out what was wrong. The usual suspects did not pan out, so I decided to call Tech Support. This made Philip's day - he LOVES calling Tech Support. He goes into raptures of bliss if I even mention it.

As I talked to the Tech Support guy, I suddenly noticed that the little tiny cord that runs from the speaker, under the wheelchair, and comes up the side to plug into the Dynavox... was... unplugged...hanging out in space like limp spaghetti. Duh, Claire! I was so embarrassed that such a simple thing had escaped my notice. I faced a choice, and I chose the cowardly path. After the next thing that the guy told me to do, I plugged the speaker back in and said, "It works now!" I instantly regretted it because I realized the thing he told me to do should not have fixed the problem - it was more a peripheral issue. He was a little mystified that it had been fixed in that way. I just couldn't bring myself to admit to him that it was all due to an unplugged cord. I felt too idiotic. He seemed to verbally shrug his shoulders over the mysteries of computers and why they do what they do and I pretended to join him in the shrugging ( Ah, yes, what a temperamental droid. 'Tis beyond our ken, Mr. Tech Support Man) while inwardly stifling my chortles. I hung up as quickly as I could.

Immediately, I told Philip what I had done and we laughed. We howled. We almost screamed with laughter. And then, there was no changing the subject. We had to use this experience as "The Thing That We Write About Today." This is what Philip wrote: "We don't hear thin little speaker. That stinks. We call technical support man. Claire see Dynavox speaker unplugged. She was scared embarrassed." He did a great job, did he not? It took him the best part of an hour to write this, with my help. People, do not take the ease with which you can communicate for granted. If you can speak, you have it very, very good. This cannot be overstated.

And then we wrote a song about it. Well, not exactly about me being an idiot - but about Tech Support in general. I had brought my new guitar with me to show Philip so we brainstormed together and came up with a song in praise of Tech Support. He gave me a lot of the words - Dynavox, bugs, email, man, idea, internet, stranger, cell phone, cool, etc. so I could weave them into the lyrics. Here is the song we came up with. It's to the tune of "You are My Sunshine." And just so you know the "V" refers to the model/name of the Dynavox.

When there's a problem with my V
We try to fix it as best we can
Sometimes we research on the website
But we like to call the tech support man

When there's a bug in the email
And no one here can figure out why
We pick up Philip's little cell phone
To call Dynavox - we hope it's a guy*

When we listen to this stranger
They give ideas that are cool
They check out problems and help us clean up
So Claire won't throw the V in the pool

* Philip was adamant that I mention that we prefer talking to the MAN at Tech Support. Apparently the men there are better than the women. Okay!

Anyway, it was a fun day and quite refreshing. Recently I feel like I've been stuck in a rut, running out of ideas of different things to motivate and try with Philip... This definitely got us OUT of the rut.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

For You, Aunt Gladys!

When we visited Aunt Gladys in California recently, she encouraged me in the strongest terms to keep updating my blog...because apparently she checks it EVERY DAY...and I have been letting her down! I know I have been writing far less on the blog these days... for a number of reasons. But I know I just need to take whatever comes along and just put it out there. It doesn't need to be great. So, it's not much, but here are some little things. Mostly for you, Aunt Glady!

Aiden has been putting more words together in simple, incomplete sentences. It's exciting to watch his language skills develop. I was watching something sad the other day and I just gave up, surrendered to the bittersweetness of it and started bawling out loud and Aiden, who was playing nearby, looked up at me with wide eyes and I SWEAR he said, "I don't want you to cry!" Of course, it wasn't clear, and probably most people might not have gotten that out of it, but the sounds he uttered all added up to that. I hastened to assure him that I was fine. Oh dear, this child is going to have to get used to the sight of his mother crying. I don't know - maybe he shouldn't have to get used to it. I hope it doesn't damage him. I hope he can accept it. My name is Claire, and I'm a crier.

He also saw a Rice Krispy bar cookie on the same thing that I was watching - no I was not crying at the sight of cookies - and once he saw that, he shouted out, "COOKIE!" and turned to me as if I could magically produce one in that instant. I agreed with him that it would be nice to have a cookie now, but we didn't have any right now. So what? "COOKIE!" I said maybe we could make some later. "Okay! Cookie?" As if, " Is it later yet?"

It's hard to explain to a two year old that cookies take time to make...especially when your oven doesn't work and you have to use a toaster oven to bake...because you are waiting for your W2 tax form to come so you can get your refund money and go buy a new oven. And the toaster oven takes twice as long to bake your cookies as a normal oven...but I love him so much - and also happen to be very fond of peanut butter cookies too - that I made a batch anyway. And by the time the first batch was done, Aiden had almost forgotten about the cookies! That's good because it was a puny amount to begin with, and was even punier after I had consumed a suitable amount of quality assurance samples. I gave up and put the dough in the fridge for when the new oven comes.

(It's been over a month since the oven gave up the ghost. ( Yes- two days before Christmas- I had to use my neighbor's oven to bake Aiden's birthday cake!) There has been a lot of crockpot usage, and pasta, and microwaving. I miss baking - it's not the same with the toaster oven. Anyway, blah diddy blah blah blah.)

And I am constantly amazed at his memory. A week or two ago, some of the neighbor kids were playing in our driveway. One of the girls fell down and hurt her hand. I had her come in to wash the blood off her hand and she was crying, and apparently, this tragedy made quite an impression on Aiden. Every once in a while, out of the blue, he will pull out this string of words, with a few variations. But it always goes something like this, "Anna. Bike. Boom. Ow! Cry. Hand. Driveway." It's interesting to see how sensitive he is to others' pain. Maybe all kids his age are like this. I don't really know. My Childhood Growth and Development class in college was a complete waste of time, taught by an incompetent hippie. ( I must hasten to add that it was the ONLY class at Saint A's that was a waste of time. I loved all my other classes. Yes, even Economics.)

Anyway, that's enough for now. I'll try to do better but don't hold your breath for the next installment!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ode to Benedictine Bliss

As those who follow me on Facebook know, I've been thinking about Eggs Benedict recently. Up until last week, I don't recall that I have ever eaten this dish before. But at a charming and fantastic restaurant in Monterey named Rosine's, my 31 year stint of not eating E.B. came to a happy end.

I guess I'd been a little intimidated by said dish for a couple reasons. The last time I had a poached egg was probably when my age numbered in the single digits, back when I preferred my eggs runny. I have since turned my back on eggs "over easy." Yech. The thought of the poached egg white brought up the same revulsion as if I had been offered a platter of ghostly, jiggling jellyfish. That, and Hollandaise sauce was a mysterious substance that I was not willing to risk getting to know better. I don't know. Egg yolks? On a poached egg? Too much yellow. It was just a weird, mental block. When we all go out to breakfast together, Eggs Benedict was something that Nate would order and I would look at with a slightly raised eyebrow. Nate, the food adventurer.

And I don't know what it was that broke this mental block. Maybe it was the adventure of vacation in a Californian coastal town. When you're driving along next to the gloriously turbulent Pacific Ocean, taking in the luxurious, charming seaside cottages of Carmel, and falling in love with the Tolkienesque trees of that region, there's a kind of atmosphere makes you feel that anything is possible. It's a heady, transformative feeling.

On Tuesday morning, as we were getting ready for the day, Brad went online and looked up the menu of Rosine's, ( I can't remember how he heard about this place) and pointed out that he thought I might like the Eggs Benedict. Here is the description, straight from the menu: An English muffin topped with freshly roasted sliced turkey breast, avocado, three poached eggs,fresh sauteed mushrooms and our homemade hollandaise sauce.

I decided to try it.

It was overwhelmingly good. Love at first bite. The poached eggs were not too runny, as I had feared. The whites were far from ghostly. They were solid mounds of miraculous goodness. The turkey was truly fresh. It wasn't really sliced - it was pulled... like someone had been picking their Thanksgiving turkey and given me the best pieces. And of course, you can't go wrong with sauteed mushrooms and avocado. But the best part, the thing that made this dish a culinary masterpiece, was the magnificent Hollandaise sauce. I was smitten. When I somehow permitted others at the table to take a taste, ( or did someone else at the table have the same thing? I don't remember. I was in such a trance of self-absorbed, food exultation) they remarked that it was unusually good Hollandaise sauce, perhaps one of the best they had ever eaten. ( It must have been Nate who said this.) The only shadow that was cast upon the experience was knowing that I had started out at the Hollandaise pinnacle. When you start out at the top, there's no where to go but down. I am afraid that no other version of this sauce will compare. Trust me to find the pessimistic angle to heaven on earth.

Here is a link to the restaurant. Under the breakfast heading, you will see a picture of the Turkey, Avocado, Mushroom Benedict that I ordered. Click on it to enlarge it. ( This is an order.) And I defy you not to drool and swoon with jealousy.

Everyone's food was very good. The atmosphere was happy. The place was not just a restaurant but also a bakery, and at one point, two employees walked out, apparently on their way to a delivery, bearing an enormous cake between them. It was roughly the size of a Chevy Suburban, covered with strawberries. All eyes in the room followed them out the front door, disbelief and longing on every face.

We were so impressed with the quality of our experience that we came back the next day for breakfast and I ordered something similar - the Veggie Eggs Benedict. Basically, it was the same thing except for instead of turkey, there was tomato. And I ordered a half size, with only one egg, because I hadn't been able to finish my portion yesterday. Ah, bliss.

Now I am obsessed with re-creating this dish. This task could take a lifetime and could potentially wreak havoc with my body. I already have a tendency towards elevated cholesterol. And over the past month with all its chaos, I have gained at least five pounds. Imagine what years of experimentation with Eggs Benedict could do to me. It even SOUNDS bad for you - with the word "Benedict" in the title - as if it will betray you. Okay, that's weird, coming from a graduate of a Benedictine Catholic college. Why is it that Benedict Arnold springs to mind first, and not Saint Benedict? Whatever. Wikipedia tells me that neither of these famous Benedicts has anything to do with this dish.

Perhaps as I embark upon this culinary quest, I should invest in egg stocks. Kind of like how I used to think when Grampa lived with us, we should invest in salad dressing stocks; he used so much salad dressing that I think we made those companies obscenely rich. And then my handsome returns on my egg investments could finance the expensive cholesterol medication I would need.

I find it ironic that in January, the month when most people resolve to LOSE weight...I seem set on gaining.


I must urge you all to go to Monterey. Go, not just for the famous aquarium or Cannery Row or the views of the ocean. Go for Rosine's Eggs Benedict.