Thursday, May 31, 2012

Double or something

Tad and I are not gamblers by nature.  I once went to Vegas with my sister;  we took one walk up the strip, looked at each other and said, "Let's go see a movie."

Nevertheless, we love betting each other on random things.  When we were dating, we'd bet dinner or even cash.  But now that our lives and bank accounts are joint, we bet other things.  Like ten minute back rubs.

My favorite standing bet of ours takes place at Summerfest once a year.  We like to go one of the nights without our children and see the band most interesting to us.  This summer it'll be the Beach Boys.  Anyway, we walk the first length of the Summerfest grounds and place a wager of a ten or fifteen minute back rub on who runs into someone they know first.  If the first person we run into is someone who I know or have known first, I get a back rub.  And vice versa.  If Tad wins, I always move for double or nothing for our second lap.  Last year, I lost, both laps.  And Tad won a half hour back rub.

So this morning, I brought the grocery store flyer to the table and busied myself making our shopping list.  I turned to the bakery page, saw a little notice and said, "Hey! Tomorrow is national doughnut day!"
Coen ran over to look. "What are we going to do to celebrate?"
I laughed.
After Coen walked away, Tad said, "Actually, I was going to take them to get a doughnut before school this morning, but maybe I'll do it tomorrow."
"You should!"
Tad paused. "Well...maybe I should do it today instead. It'll probably be really busy on international doughnut day."
I laughed. "National doughnut day and I sincerely doubt that there will be so many people celebrating national doughnut day, that it'll be crowded."
"Huh!" Tad said, "People are suckers. And if we were that easily roped into celebrating national doughnut day, then I think many other people will be too."
"Who's even going to know that it's national doughnut day?!" I demanded. "You'd have to bank on people actually paging through this flyer looking for deals on or before tomorrow.  That's probably not a lot of people."
"You know, there's also Google!"  Tad said.  "I think I'll take them to the grocery store instead of Cranky Al's.  It will probably be swamped there!"
"You are ridiculous! No one is going to celebrate national doughnut day, by Googling, grocery store flyers or otherwise!"
"Okay." Tad said.  "I bet you that tomorrow, the two "O"s of Google will be doughnuts."
"No way!"
"I bet you." Tad said.
"What's our wager?"
"The winner gets to choose the last two people to invite to our Brewer game next Friday."
(Tad won tickets to Friday's Brewer game and has invited all his friends.  It has been a point of contention because I wanted to invite more of my friends.  There are two spots left and we've been battling over who gets to choose the people to fill them.  This was a very exciting bet for me.)
"You are ON!"
We shook.  I shook vigorously.
"Uh oh." Tad said.

Check Google tomorrow, readers, and you'll find out who won!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Whew. And celebratory sugary frozen beverages.

This weekend was the culmination of a B-I-G two years.

I began blogging last year when Tad quit his job and went full-time back to school to get his Montessori certification.  This year was his first year of teaching at Highland Community School. This weekend he took his last two oral exams and PASSED.  He is now an officially certified Montessori teacher. 

Triumphantly returned Tad with his children

It has been a stressful time, with the single income of last year and the waiting for him to take his exams this spring.  Over the weekend, Tad checked into a hotel with his Montessori materials, study aides and did not come up for air until it was time to take his exam at 9:00 on Sunday morning.  While we waited for him to call us, Coen and Lucy and I made a banner and decorated the house.  My stomach was so full of nerves as we went to the grocery store to buy him a cake and a bouquet that I let the children each pick out a pack of any kind of gum they wanted.  Chiclets for Lucy and Bubble tape for Coen. 

At home again, we listened to "All You Need Is Love" radio on Pandora; Coen and Lucy played together with Legos; and I tried to breathe deeply and stop willing my phone to ring.  I walked into the kitchen and rinsed the breakfast dishes.  Without trying to, I pictured Tad coming out of the garage, his fist in the air in celebration.  I smiled. I just knew he'd done well.  Suddenly, I heard the click of the back door and I looked expectantly towards it. Tad came in the house, sunglasses on, like a soldier returning from his own kind of battle and held his fist in the air. I screamed and threw my arms around him.  All the work and all the stress and all the worry and the past year and everything, all at its successful conclusion.  We went out for dinner at TGI Fridays at Miller Park to celebrate.  We all raised our glasses of strawberry lemonade slushee in a toast.  "To Daddy!" I said.  "To Tad!" Coen and Lucy said.

Coen and Lucy and their Lemon/Lime shaved ice

Monday was a beautiful day.  We packed a picnic and went over to South Shore park with some friends.  We ate lunch and talked and watched the kids at the park.  We all went down to the beach and played in the sand and waded in the water.  And then sat in the shade of the concessions stand and got treats all around. 

The day ended with Tad's parents, burgers, fries and a viewing of the Beatles' Hard Days Night.
After the children were tucked into bed, Tad and I cuddled up on the couch and watched baseball, talking about how nice it is for him to be finished and how summer is coming.

It's going to be a good one.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Playing cards

Have you ever played the card game, Spoons?  Oh it is a ton of fun.

Friday at work, we had a training put on by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). It was a sensitivity training to give us an idea of Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia.  We had to wear headphones with voices, telling us various things. 

I was terrified.

But I did it and it was hard.  The first half, I had to read an article and answer related comprehension questions, and be interviewed.  For a moment, the voices made me pause when answering the question, "Who is our vice president."  The voices would pause for a while and then start up again and when I was in the bathroom, the voice shouted, "You suck!" and it made me jump.  And I talked back to it.  "I do not suck." 

The second half, as we listened (or tried not to listen) to the voices, we could play games or talk or whatever.  I played Crazy Eights with two coworkers and told them about how I used to play with my grandma.  When I had to draw cards, she'd say over and over, "Pick 'em up, honey! Pick 'em up!"

We played a round of that, then I told them about a really fun game which my sister called "Rat Screw" and my mom called "Fast money."  I couldn't remember the real name.  But then I remembered that it was only for two people to play.  I thought a moment.  Spoons!

My coworker remembered it and we taught our third to play.  Then people started watching us as we were laughing hysterically.  More joined us.  It was much easier to block out the voices when we were playing, laughing and having fun together.

I was relieved when it was over, but so glad I did it. My eyes are open to mental illness in a whole new way and I think it will make me better at my job. 

And I can't wait to teach my kids to play spoons!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Parenting likes company

This weekend, Tad is away and I'm going it alone with my children.  I welcome the opportunity to be a solo parent for a few days, but it makes me think about how much parenting likes company.  And how a neighborhood like mine, makes company a built-in possibility.

Yesterday afternoon I was planning on just taking the kids home for dinner and putting them to bed.  But suddenly four neighborhood families were having an impromptu back yard dinner, everyone contributing an item or two for the meal.  The kids played in the back yard and four women sat at the table sipping beverages and talking about our own childhoods.

The kids all ate ice cream after dinner and I thought about how cool it is to live in a neighborhood that is a community. And how the last time I felt this comfortable and properly placed in Milwaukee, I left for the Peace Corps.  So I haven't felt this settled since the year 2000.  And I'm not going anywhere for a while.  So I can enjoy this sense of belonging I have.

After my children were tucked into bed and kissed and hugged and read and sung to, my friend Jen came over and we talked for three hours and drank tea.

I woke up this morning alone in my bed, window open and a thunderstorm crashing outside.  I got my kids to come into bed with me for all of two minutes before they begged to get up and watch TV, and a lovely two minutes it was.

Today I'll look for more company for Coen and Lucy and I and tomorrow my weekend of single parenthood will come to an end.

Liam, finishing off the ice cream.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You take the take the bad...

You take 'em both and there you have..

The Facts of Life!

I LOVED that show.  And this year, at our annual fundraiser event at work, Geri Jewell (aka Cousin Geri from the Facts of Life) was our keynote speaker.  Every year we have a Power Dinner, for members of the community and supporters of IndependenceFirst to come out to raise money for our organization and hear a keynote speech from a celebrity from a disability. 

I'm not a big celebrity person. I don't read any of those magazines. I feel like for the most part, if I were to see a celebrity, I don't have anything to say really.  But I guess famous people can be pretty exciting.  Admittedly, I did follow Vanilla Ice around Grand Avenue Mall in 1992 and try to talk to him, calling him "Mr. Ice." He was visibly annoyed with me and had them shut the gates down in the store while he tried on shoes.  And I waited in line to meet Tommy Page in 1990 to shake his hand (mostly because he sang with the New Kids on the Block.) 

The one celebrity I did meet and get all flustered about was Leonard Cohen.  He is my first child's namesake and his music was all that was on as Tad and I were falling in love.  I got to shake his hand, tell him that and show him a picture of my own Coen.  That was pretty cool.

So yesterday, when Geri Jewell came, I thought it would be nice to meet her.  Her portayal of cousin Geri on a favorite show of mine, was not my first experience with a person with a disability. But it was my second time seeing someone with a disability on TV.  Linda on Sesame Street was first.  Geri was so funny and real and I think it helped me further understand that disability is nothing to fear, that it is a natural part of life.  Our good family friend Larry used a wheelchair and my mom's friend and colleague Sheryl was blind.  My lab partner in biology had CP and I didn't know yet that I was going to be working some day as an advocate, but I knew that all of these individuals were cool people.

But all I wanted to do when I met Jeri Jewell was sing her the Facts of Life theme song.  I still know all the words. That and the theme song for Punky Brewster are my two most favorites.  I was teaching in Cudahy when she arrived so I missed her initial visit and tour.  But as she was in the lobby, ready to leave, I went out there and did it.  She sang the ending with me. 

Last night, she gave an awesome speech at the event.  And what she said at the end was that Cerebral Palsy and Blindness, Deafness, Using a wheelchair, having learning disabilities, etc.. are not the real disabilities.  The real disabilities are hatred and violence, prejudice and ignorance and injustice.  Those are the real disabilities.  

Yay, Geri!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Three Robots. Or Is Positivity postively annoying?

When I was a kid, there was this book that my best friend Jenny had, called "The Three Robots".  It was about three robots, Pos, Neg and Semi-Pos.  Pos was the eternal optimist robot who was trying to get his friends to be cheerful and smile.  This was not so easy for the other two and I don't recall a lot about the book, but that it made me feel a little weird, though I don't remember why exactly.

So I googled the heck out of it until I found what I hope is the book and I ordered it on ebay.  It's on its way to me now.

I brought it up because I've been thinking a lot about positivity.  Studies show that a positive attitude actually makes for better health and well-being.  And I have been, all my life, a generally happy, upbeat and positive person.  But sometimes a positive attitude just seems to annoy people.

My freshman year in high school, we had to give a speech, about an object that represented us.  I chose a yellow koosh ball.  Remember those?  And while I was talking about how its sunny color and bouncy shape represented my personality, Margaret, this girl in school who did. not. like. Alie. Kriofske., crossed her arms pointedly across her chest and rolled her eyes.  After class she stopped me in the hallway and told me how stupid and annoying my speech was.

When I have gushed a little over a note Tad has given me or something he's said, I often am met with eye rolls and disdain.

What's so wrong with being positive? 

Was my freshman speech annoying to Margaret because she thought I should just shut up and enjoy my life and not talk about how much I enjoy it? Or was it annoying to her because she wished she had what I was talking about?  Or was it just plain annoying?  I'm not sure.

And to be quite frank, when I look on FaceBook, and someone says "I love my life" or something to that effect, I find myself occasionally suppressing an urge to roll my eyes (if I'm in a bad mood or having a rough day).  But if I'm in a good mood, I'm just like "Good for her!"  Isn't that interesting.  And in the end, those positive posts are the ones that bring me back to someone's page to see what else they're saying. 

So I started thinking. Maybe it's okay to love your life.  Maybe it's okay to say 'Guess what my husband said....' or 'Here's something great that happened to me....'  If you think and talk like that, you know you love your life without having to actually say it explicitly. 

But I see people say things to their friends like, "Oh you're so in shape. I hate you."  or "Don't you just hate her and her beautiful hair!"  Or at work, "Why does she get to leave early on Tuesdays?! Why don't I?"  Why do we begrudge people the good things that come to them?  Why can't we say:
"You look great."
"You have great hair."
"That's so nice that you get to leave early on Tuesdays."
and just assume there are reasons for all of those things. 

We live in such a sad and stressed out world.  Every one's so worried and hurt and angry and stressed and afraid.  And it affects me too.  It affects all of us.  I'm working on a story right now and everything about it is sad.  When I write a song, it is almost always sad.  It's there.  I just don't choose to communicate it every day.  My dear friend, Jen, who is an artist and a kindred spirit (and also, coincidentally, knows about the Three Robots) told me, "I think, for you, that's just what needs to come out."

And she's right.  I don't let that stuff out on a daily basis so it comes out in my art.  Without me even thinking about it.

So let it all out, maybe I'm saying.  The sad stuff, sure.  But the happy stuff too.  It's good for you.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21st eight years ago...

This morning, I woke up and Tad grabbed me as I passed him going to the shower and hugged me.  He said "So, it's been eight years of this marriage business, huh?"  And I thought how lucky I am to be with someone who always says something entirely unconventional and new.  It makes me always interested in what's going to happen next.
And then at breakfast, he unrelentingly made fun of me for eating my baked oatmeal, which involves a couple eggs, and milk and sugar and vanilla in addition to the oatmeal... when I sat down to eat, he had the kids breaking into this song he made up. The lyrics were something like:
Oh if you live in the country and you like to chase cows and ride horses every day
It's country oatmeal
If you just can't get enough eggs
Both kids sang it with him and then as they finished, Lucy said, "Why?" not really understanding the point of the song.  But I understood.  I understood that I married someone who teases me as often as he kisses me.  Which is exactly what I need.

Our wedding day itself was new and unconventional.  We got married barefoot in the back of South Shore Park Pavilion.  In the middle of the ceremony, the sky grew black and Lake Michigan looked like it was about to be overtaken by the storm of the century.  As the rain started, the whole wedding party rushed for the pavilion. As Tad and I ran with the crowd, people yelled "Congratulations!" to us as we passed.  We responded laughing, "We're not married yet!" and finished the ceremony indoors while rain and hail whipped at the windows.  We half-danced, half-marched around the room to "Do you Realize" by the Flaming Lips once our marriage was official.  Nine month old Coen was there in his little maroon baby tuxedo.  Tad and I danced with him to "Memo to my Son" by Randy Newman.  Our first dance was "Sharp Cutting Wings (Song to a Poet)" by Lucinda Williams.  (And now we have our own little Lucinda.)

That was eight years ago today.

This is my absolute favorite picture of our wedding day. We're heading inside as the storm approaches.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How having an iphone took me away from my parents, then brought them back to me...

I have no sense of direction.
I usually can say that if I've come to an intersection and I feel as if I should go left, I should probably go right.
I have many a time gone the wrong way out of my own street or driveway.
And I have had a lot of jobs that have required me to drive around the city going to different schools and organizations to teach classes.
So often I am making phone calls like these:
(phone ringing)
My dad: Uh..hello..this is Joel Kriofske Speaking.
(now before I go on, just let me say that my dad does not answer the phone like a normal person.  He never just says "hello"  It's usually a full sentence like the one above, sometimes even longer including the time of day and who he is and how he's related to the caller which obviously the caller knows since they are the one who called him.)
Me: Dad?  Help! I'm driving to a place on Beloit Road and I'm on Forest home.  I don't know which direction I'm crossing!
My dad: Okay, well what streets are you passing.
Me: (pausing) Sixty-first, sixty second, sixty-third!!!!
My dad: Well, you're going south.
Me: (hysterically) But I'm at an angle! Am I ever going to get to Beloit Road?!!!
And he'll talk me calmly through until I'm where I'm supposed to be.

I've always been like this.  When I first had my driver's license, I was driving with my sister and some friends home to Hartland from Brookfield Square.  We got lost.  I called my parents.
My mom: Hello? (my mom, on the other hand does say hello like a normal person
Me: Mom? I'm lost.
My mom: When did you leave the mall?
Me: I don't know. A long time ago.
My mom: Well, where are you?
Me: leaning out of a phone booth (remember this was before cell phones) Excuse me, miss. Where are we? (pausing, then back into the receiver) Slinger.
My mom: (with great alarm) SLINGER?!!!
(another pause)
My dad: Hello? This is your father speaking...

So, when I finally got an iPhone and found it had a GPS built in and I could map my way from anywhere to anywhere, I was ELATED.  Except for one thing. I would miss those frantic calls to my dad, getting directions and having a little chat with both my parents in the process.

But I needn't have worried.  Now that I have an iPhone, I am a walking, talking google machine for my mom and dad.

They call me for phone numbers, addresses, hours of business operation, doctors, etc..  We talk all the time.

And today?  They called me to find out "Who sings the 1950's hit song "Secretly".  And they sang it to me. Complete with my dad singing the lyrics and my mom singing the back up "why oh why oh why"s. I am not kidding.  So I looked it up. And called them back. And we had a nice little chat.

And these are the kind of calls I get all the time.  I love it. Having an iPhone has brought me closer to my parents, rather than farther away.  Who knew?

Oh and it's Jimmie Rodgers, by the way. In case you were curious.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I can still have fancy drinks

When you live in Wisconsin and you don't have a lot of explaining to do.

Random person: Do you want a drink?
Me: Oh, thanks! I'll have a soda (or a juice, or a water, or a virgin one of those...)
Random person: Don't you drink?
Me: No, no alcohol for me.
Random person: You don't drink?
Me: (laughing [nervously, or proudly, depending on the situation]) No. I don't drink
Random person: at ALL?
Me: at all.
Random person: WHY?

Now here, depending on where I am and with whom I'm talking, I can go one of two ways. I can give a brief answer, like that I'm the designated driver. Or I can elaborate.  I never mind elaborating, just sometimes it feels like too much to tell another person.

But the truth is this: I have never had a drink of alcohol in my life.  My mom always says, alcoholism does not run in our family, it gallops.  And when I was twelve and relatives started offering (or pushing) drinks to me, I made a vow.  My vow was this: I will never ever drink alcohol.

I made it through the peer pressure laden teen years when all the kids in my neighborhood were sneaking sips of booze from their parents' stash. I made it through college in Whitewater where the only thing there to do for fun was go to house parties.  I made it through my early twenties the duration of which, like all my friends, I spent the majority in a bar.

I walked into those bars on a nightly basis and just like any regular, the bar tender would slide a Shirley Temple across the bar to me upon my arrival.  Sometimes, just for fun, at parties, I drank a bottle of Sprecher Root Beer in a paper bag.  And whenever possible, I put my juices or sodas in a fancy tumbler or a wine glass so at least I'd look like everyone else and could avoid the above line of questioning.

Anyway, due to my behavior, I often was accused of being drunk, so I guess it didn't much matter. I'd walk away from a crowd after some sort of antic or story or loud insertion of my opinion or idea and here someone say
"God, she is SO wasted."
I guess being surrounded by people who had lowered inhibitions, I felt like I could lower mine on my own.  

And now, I really don't mind answering that question.  And it feels to me like an accomplishment anyway.  In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of all places.

And I still drink my fancy drinks in fancy glasses.

Addendum:  My MOM is the one who says that about alcoholism galloping in our family. I have fixed it above. She called me today to let me know that I was incorrect!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Breakin' up is hard to do

I am not good at breakups.  Specifically, I'm not good at being the breaker-upper.  Tad is our break up guy.  He makes all the phone company changes and he's the one who calls to cancel credit cards and subscriptions.  He declines the invites when there's an event or party we can't attend.  When someone knocks on our door selling something, I run and hide, pushing Tad towards the door. 

This is because I cannot say no. If I were in charge, no doubt we'd have reams of Hanukkah wrapping paper, piles of Yankee candles and a freezer full of ready-to-bake cookie dough.

Recently, when Tad purchased insurance for his cell phone and I decided the $7 a month was not worth it, he made ME do the break up call.  "You're the one who doesn't want the insurance." He said.  I sat by the phone, taking deep breaths and ramping myself up to make the call.  Finally, I did.

AT & T Lady: AT & T, what can I help you with today?
Me: Yes. Hello. Um. My husband purchased insurance for his phone and I'd like to cancel it.
AT & T Lady: Okay, I can help you with that. May I ask why you'd like to cancel it?
Me: (my voice bordering on panic) PLEASE DON'T TALK ME OUT OF IT!!!!
AT & T Lady: (laughing) I won't. I won't.  I just need to put down a reason.
Me: (calming down) Oh!
And the conversation went on like that and I did it! I cancelled the insurance.  It took a lot out of me though. I had to have a handful of chocolate chips afterwards to settle me down.

But I have always been better able to handle being broken up with.  And this spring, my therapist broke up with me.  I had two sessions in a row where I was kind of digging for something to talk about.  I would start on something and then she'd ask one of her brilliant probing questions...and then I'd start to answer, pause, and say "You know, that's not really a problem for me anymore!"

So finally she told me that maybe I was done. 
"Are you breaking up with me?" I asked.
She laughed. "No. You can come back for a pick-me-up any time you want or if in a year some more issues arise, absolutely call me.  But you've done some good work.  I think the rest is up to you."
"You ARE breaking up with me!" I said.
She laughed again.  She wasn't really, and I have made a lot of progress since I started. 
I feel like a new person.
In fact. We have to call our old dentist to tell them we're not coming back there and have them send the x-rays to the new dentist.
Maybe I could even handle that one on my own!

And for your viewing pleasure, in honor of this post, Breaking up is hard to do by Neil Sedaka.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Urine for it.

Tonight I cleaned the house.  C-L-E-A-N-E-D it.  I vacuumed, dusted, swept, mopped, scoured, scrubbed and washed.

Back before my therapist broke up with me (have I told you that my therapist broke up with me?  Perhaps that can be tomorrow's blog) she had me make a list of my values, in order of importance.  Making that list helped me fix some of the stress in my life. Turns out, when your behavior is not in line with your values, you get stress. 

Now cleaning, cleanliness, a sparkling house... that was WAY down on my values list.  But I was acting as if it were number one.  Or number two, maybe.  But high up there.  And it was...

So now I am no longer so worried about little messes and picking up an elaborate toy set up in the living room which will just make an eventual return the next day.  Tad and I made a deal in which he does all the dishes and most of the laundry while I do the other stuff.  And I only do a big deep clean on the house one night a month.  Tonight was that night.

And what do you think happened to me as a result of putting cleaning where it belonged on my values list?  I got happier. I got rid of some stress.  And it really doesn't make that much of a difference in the overall clean-feeling of my house. 

Except for one place:

The upstairs toilet.

Which is where the children use the bathroom. 

Seriously, what is with boys?  When I go to clean that thing, there is urine EVERYWHERE! It's on the floor all around the toilet. It's all around the top.  The edges of the seat are actually tinted yellow.  What is the deal?!  I mean, does he ever even pee INSIDE the toilet at ALL?

You'd think with such a handy dandy aiming device as the penis, you'd be able to make it into the big target of a toilet bowl.  But alas...I think boys must get interested in other things. Indeed, I've seen him lose track of the task at hand, turning to talk to me as I walk by or just looking aimlessly around the bathroom.

Perhaps as he grows up, his aim...ahem...concentration will improve.  Tad assures me this is the case.  In the meantime, cleaning isn't so bad when only done once a month.  Except for the toilets. For now.

Here's my poem:

Don't look at the ceiling or the door. Watch where you pee or it's on the floor!
Just pay attention, aim your pee, so your mom won't have to clean.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Another Mother's Day

Oh, Mother's Day. At worst, a holiday designed to bolster our capitalist system, a reason for people to spend money on brunches and flowers and cards and chocolates and beautiful useless knick-knacks at boutique after boutique.  At best, a recognition of a tough, wonderful and important job: motherhood.

So happy mother's day to all the mothers out there.  All of them.

To the pregnant mothers who are so excitedly waiting for their baby, who can't wait to become mothers, painting nurseries and picking out breast pumps.
And the expectant mothers who are not pregnant by choice but are becoming mothers nonetheless, apprehensive and a little terrified of their soon to be changing life.
To the mothers who made the terribly difficult choice to end a pregnancy because they knew that they had to for whatever reason that they did.
To those who desperately want to become mothers and try and try though their bodies keep failing them (and those that are already mothers but want another or more children and try and try for that to happen with money and time and energy through disappointment and loss.)

Happy Mother's Day.

To the mothers whose babies came out of their bodies, who labored all night and sweat and breathed and pushed and tore.  Or were cut open and sewed back together.  And who held that new baby in their arms and called it their own.

And to the mothers whose babies came out of another woman's body, who thought and wished, and paid and planned and waited and waited and waited.  And who held that new baby in their arms and called it their own.

Happy Mother's day.

To the mothers who are raising their children alone.
To the mothers who left their partner because it was what they needed to do for themselves and their children.
To the mothers whose partner left them and they continued raising their children and going on even with broken hearts and diminished incomes.
To the mothers who raise children with their husbands.
To the mothers who raise children with their wives (who are wives/spouses/partners) in every sense of the word except the legal sense in so many states in this (hopefully changing) country of ours.

Happy Mother's Day.

To the mothers who work somewhere all day and then come home and work some more making dinner and cleaning up and bathing and parenting their children.
To the mothers who work all day and all night at home, making lunch and facilitating nap time and making dinner and cleaning up and bathing and parenting their children.

Happy Mother's Day.

To the mothers whose mothers are gone and to the mothers whose mothers are all women who want to call their mother with questions about bug bites, and recipes, and confusing feelings and travel those who cannot make that call and those who are lucky enough to be able to.
Happy Mother's Day.

To mothers who co sleep and wear their babies attachment parent.  And those who sleep separately from their children and use strollers and bouncy chairs.  To those who breast feed and those who bottle those who feed their kids all organic, vegetarian, all-natural diets and those who feed their kids whatever they can buy at the grocery store, McDonalds and Oreos. 

Happy Mother's Day.

To mothers who gaze at their children when they are asleep at night and those who breathe a sigh of relief to finally have time to themselves.  To mothers who have all the tools and support they need to make good, healthy choices for themselves and their children and to the mothers who don't have those tools or support.

To the all kinds of mothers all over the world who have one thing in common: Their children.  Their children who need them and want them and love them.  To those for whom comforting and nourishing comes naturally and for those who have to work at it.

To the mothers whose children have grown and the mothers whose children have died. To the mothers whose children are just being born and the mothers whose children are just growing up.

To all mothers.  Everywhere.  Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thank you, Universe.

Yesterday had the makings of a hard day.  I woke up feeling sad and raw about Harald.  I was on my way to teach the 8th grade girls I'm working with and am I going to do this today?  I felt on the edge of tears and worried that if they got out of hand or I had to raise my voice, I would cry in front of them.  As I pulled up to the school, I decided I would just be real with them.  When they sat down, I said, "Good morning."  They all echoed me back.  Then I said, "So, I have to be honest with you today. I'm having a pretty hard morning. A good friend of mine died last night and I feel pretty sad.  I need you guys to be respectful and listen. If you get too loud, I'm not going to raise my voice. If I have to raise my voice I'm going to cry. And I don't want to do that.  So I will just sit down and wait until you're ready.  I thought about cancelling but I really like you guys and I really want to do this class today (here I heard a few audible 'awwwww's) Okay?"
They all nodded.
We did the class and they were AMAZING. Totally respectful. Quiet.  Only talked when it was time to talk.

After I left I thought perhaps that next week I should tell them my husband's leaving me or something so they'll do it again.  (Just kidding)

Then in the afternoon, I had to take my kids to the dentist.  If you are a reader of my blog, you might remember our dental trauma back in November.  If not, you can read about it here.  So needless to say I was nervous about how things would go.

But we changed dentists since and we went to Small World Dentistry and it was incredible. 

Coen went first and showed Lucy how it would all work while she watched him solemnly on a chair. And when it was Lucy's turn?  She FULLY COOPERATED.  I don't know how well you know my daughter but FULL COOPERATION is not in her repertoire.  I almost cried, watching her opening her mouth wide and letting them brush and floss and count teeth. She even let them do x-rays.  The staff was wonderful and encouraging, no pressure, just kindness and that was a huge help.  I couldn't believe how easy it was.

As we left I said, "I am SO proud of you guys. You did so great at the dentist."  And Coen said, "You should be mostly proud of Lucy because that was her first time doing such a great job." And Lucy said, "No, you should be mostly proud of Coen for being such a good big brother."  And I put my arms around both of them and said, "I am proud of BOTH of you."

On the way home, I told Coen and Lucy about Harald.  They asked me a lot of questions as I knew they would and it felt really good to talk about.  They asked to see pictures of him and so I showed them some on my computer when we got home. Coen said, "He looks like a nice guy, Mommy."
Later on I overheard them talking in the playroom.
Lucy: Mommy misses Harald.
Coen: I know. Lucy, you know sometimes when people die, you can see them alive in your dreams.
Lucy: Maybe Mommy can see Harald in her dreams.
Coen: Go tell Mommy that.
Lucy: (coming into the kitchen) Mommy?
Me: (smiling already) Yes?
Lucy: Mommy. I hope that you get to see Harald alive again in your dreams.
Me: I hope so too, honey.
Lucy: Well let's talk about him a lot today so you can dream about him.

After the kids went to bed, Tad put on my favorite show and put his arms around me while we watched.  I went to bed at 9:00.  Going to sleep, I felt so thankful to my girls' class and the dentist and my children and my husband and the universe for throwing some really great happenings at me on a hard day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Goodbye, Harald Knudsen

My dear friend Harald died last night, Wednesday May 9th at 7:40 p.m. in Argyle, New York.
His brother, Ode, was by his side.

The last time I was with him, with our friend Steff in his Argyle nursing home, he was making inappropriate jokes about sponge baths.  When we said goodbye to him for the last time, he wryly smiled at us and said in his northern NY accent, "Hey. Think of me once in a while." And all three of us burst in to laughter.  Steff and I both kissed him on the head before we left.  In the picture above, he is making dancing feet out of olives and swizzle sticks.

 Harald traveled all over Eastern Europe, teaching English.  He was married three times.  He was an alcoholic who quit drinking all on his own.  He built a two story beautiful house in the woods of Northern New York with his own two hands.  He gave a killer shoulder rub.  Once when we were bored, in the quiet Estonian town of Haapsalu, he made up a game called "slipper ball"  He tipped a coffee table over, and instructed us to put slippers on our hands.  Harald and I batted a ball back and forth across the overturned coffee table with our slippered hands and laughed until there were tears in our eyes.

Harald is one of the kindest, funniest, weirdest, most loving and  interesting people I've ever met and I will miss him very very much.

 Wherever you are, Harald, I love you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parenting Big Kids

I'll be honest. I'm not a big fan of babies. I mean, I like them...who doesn't? But when I hold a friend's baby, I'm usually thinking "How long before it's polite for me to give this baby to someone else?"  Kids though?  Looove kids. 

They are fun. They have imaginations and say strange and hilarious things.  They are people.  (Not that babies aren't people, but really--in the end--they act more like organisms than people...until they start toddling) But kids--they're still new-ish people so they are raw-er and real-er than most of the the grown-up people I know. 

I love talking to kids and playing with kids... and now that I'm a parent...I love taking breaks from kids.

Having big kids means you open up your planner and find a picture like this:

Having big kids means that someone pinkie swears that they'll start eating vegetables when they're five, and you know it's true because that same someone pinkie swore that they'd start going in the toilet all the time when they turned four and they did.

Having big kids means that someone looks up at your with big, bright eyes and says, "Sometimes I feel sensitiver than anyone in the world". And you want to cry from all the sweetness and love.

Having big kids means that they go and play upstairs for an hour and leave you downstairs to talk or read a magazine or get some stuff done around the house.  Sometimes they play upstairs so long that you miss them and go up to see what they're doing. 

Having big kids means that on a morning like today, when your alarm clock doesn't go off and you rush upstairs an hour later than usual expecting to wake still sleeping can find your four-year-old daughter's light on and when you open the door all the way, she gives a little dance and a ta-da! and shows you that she already got dressed all by herself. And after you rouse your completely asleep son, he asks his sister to stay with him while he dresses instead of you and as you pop the first English muffins out of the toaster, he bounds down the stairs, dressed already too.

I know I'm supposed to wish my kids would stay little forever.  But I'm glad they're growing up. They're supposed to.  I'm proud of who they are and am enthralled to see what they become as they grow. And you know what else having big kids means? 

Having big kids means having incredible growing, learning people in your house to teach you things while they learn from you. Having big kids means they begin getting their own lives and you can start paying more attention to yours.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Every night, Tad and I have a similar conversation.  Usually after we've watched something together or both worked on different endeavors, creative or not.  For me it could be sewing, blogging, working on a story I'm writing, playing on Facebook, or talking on the phone... For Tad it could be writing, emailing parents of his students, working on his website, Fantasy Baseball, or real baseball...

At any rate, there comes a point at the end of the night, when I say, "I'm going to bed.  You coming?" And Tad says, "I'll be there shortly. I am still unwinding. I don't want to sprint off to bed." And then I say indignantly, "I'm NOT sprinting off to bed. I am unwinding too! I'm going to READ!" 

So last night, when I was in bed, unwinding, I noticed that since I had rearranged the bedroom (as I do every spring, putting our bed directly under the window and moving it away from the window every fall) that as I was unwinding, I had a direct line of vision of Tad unwinding. Which made me giggle.  And I giggled until he finally looked up at me.

"I can see you!" I said.

Tad shook his head.  Here is what I saw -------->

Isn't that funny?  Look how directly I can see him!  So then I said, "Now take a picture of me!" He shook his head again and laughed. And obliged.

It's hard to see, but there I am, in bed. Reading.  Unwinding! And laughing very hard at our direct line of sight to each other which of course was impeding Tad's unwinding.  And this isn't a very good picture; which he didn't tell me.  He knows I would have gotten up and turned lights on and made him take it again, further impeding his unwinding process.

So, we unwind in different ways.  He likes to stay up and dressed and on the couch and I like to get cozy in bed and read until I'm sleepy. Oh. and be antagonizing. That is also really helpful to my unwinding process.

Aren't you glad you're not married to me?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Last stroll down Frederick Avenue

When I moved into 2579 N Frederick Street, I was twenty-two years old.  In my journal, I found this "poem" written on February 23 of 1998:


Top notch huh?  And I thought majoring in English and Creative Writing was brilliant!  My sister, on the other hand, was an artist at that time.  Here are the kinds of pictures you get of yourself when your sister is in the School of Photography.

And here are the kinds of pictures you get when you think it would be hilarious if everyone was holding a household item in a snapshot:

But, you know, it was college. Speaking of which, this was our fridge at that address:

It appears we have a jar of jam, some miracle whip and the rest...beverages.  Wow.

I will look forward to gathering Saturday with some close friends and friends I haven't seen in a long time.  It's been fun too looking at pictures and remembering how I was.  That was a fun, hard, weird, growing time....
Happy almost weekend everyone!

Here we are gathered around, singing Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls. Ohh the 90s.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Frederick Street

I can't think of anything current to blog about today.  So I'm taking a walk down memory lane.  Down Frederick Street to be exact.  A lot of really formative, important parts of my life happened on Frederick Street. 

2579 N Frederick Street is where I:
Moved in after breaking up with a live-in boyfriend of 4 years, out of high school
Changed my major from Social Work to English/Creative Writing (which obviously was not a good idea but I was twenty-one and idealistic and was sure that becoming a writer would be no problem.)
Lived with my sister, Beth and good friend Jud for two years
Got accepted to study abroad in London (which began my love for travel)

2490 N Frederick Street is where I:
Graduated from college
First realized I wanted to work with kids with disabilities
Got into the Peace Corps
Met Tad

This weekend we're having a reunion of sorts of the people who hung out with us at our first place on Frederick Street.  If you were one of those people, or if you just want to see us, come to the BBC on Saturday night around 9:00 or 10:00.

On Frederick Street, I walked home with my roommate Jud, who was carrying a Styrofoam container with leftovers as well as several pieces of pilfered silverware on a cold wintry night.  I got way ahead of him and as he ran to catch up, he slipped on a patch of ice and landed with a thud on the ground.  Silverware rained down on him from his containers right on his head.  It was among the funniest sights I've ever seen.

On Frederick Street I watched a guy drink beer out of a blender as it was our only clean dish left in the house; My sister's boy friend did a back flip after she broke up with him to prove he wasn't too hurt; and one night when Jud and I told her to wait for us to get our Jammie's on before movie time, Beth said "Well you guys better get in there and change, cuz I'm poppin' this sucker in the V!"

On Frederick Street, we had an upstairs landlord who declared our house no longer in the jurisdiction of the city of Milwaukee after the cops came through and discovered her son's marijuana stash in the basement.  She put a sign on the door which read "THIS IS NOW THE VILLAGE OF ONOLA. NO LONGER UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE CITY OF MILWAUKEE."  Seriously.  Also, she had a sister who left her with her two daughters in addition to her own four and our landlord was overheard one night drunkenly screaming at said sister, the following:
"I want all my money back and I want it in liquor!"

On Frederick Street, a group of us learned that if you lay on your back and laugh on purpose, in a room full of people, suddenly everyone is laughing for real and it is glorious.

On Frederick Street a lot of things were funny, and a lot of thing were fun.  It's where I came into my own as an adult, as a woman....  It brought me to the place I am today.  I like where I am today, but it will be nice to go back there for a little while, in my head.

Jud, Beth and I circa 1997