Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prozac on the Prairie

I've been wondering lately about the availability of prescription strength 'mood lifters' in the Midwest. If this isn't possible, perhaps something nice in a Sedative?

In less than 40 hours, my family and I will begin a voyage across space and time, across the American prairie, leaving our comfy home and traveling in a car for 14 hours to see my husband's family. Yes. With a 3.5 year old and a 1.5 year old. And what little sanity we thought we had. For a family reunion.

Please don't get me wrong--I really do enjoy my husband's extended family. I just prefer to enjoy them a little closer to home. Say, within a 20 minute drive. And I have enjoyed the Rocky Mountains in the past. When we made the drive without children. I simply cannot imagine what this trip is going to be like. My stress level is off the charts.

I have had glimmers of eagerness when anticipating this trip. I optimistically bought a variety of children's books on clearance and stashed away matchbox cars and small toys in preparation for the car ride. P and I even fought briefly over whether or not a portable DVD player would be procured for our trip, but he won and we're driving without. We've tried to structure our driving around the schedule that our children normally follow and I'm packing healthy meals similar to what we would be eating at home so the kids' systems aren't burdened with salty, fatty, processed food they aren't accustomed to. I've done everything in my power to assure as enjoyable a trip as possible, including an overnight stop at a nice hotel with a pool.

Tonight, however, while laying out and organizing the distractions I've arranged for the children I realized one thing.

That it's madness. Absolute madness.

It's insane to think that any amount of books or gadgets is going to distract my kids from realizing that they are not in Happy Vacation Funland but, in fact, strapped into carseats for hours and hours without end. I mean, really? How do you get around that? I know they are going to hate it after an hour, that they are going to want the car ride to stop, and that they are going to want to be at HOME, HOME NOW, riding on their trikes. They are going to develop Restless Legs Syndrome, Tourette's, and possibly a rash and, by the way, I am pretty sure that whining will kill me or at least make my ears bleed.

I will try to be optimistic, and failing that, at least cheerful. A grumpy mama isn't anyone's idea of fun, least of all mine. And I know that once we get to the mountains that the kids will have a lovely time. My children continue to surprise me with the things they are capable of and I'm pretty sure they'll hold out as long as any toddler and preschooler could be expected to. A lot of my anxiety is simply because I have no idea what to expect of them. Can I expect a peaceful ride to Des Moines? To Rochester? To the end of our street? I just know that 14 hours of screaming unhappiness isn't tolerable to anyone unless you're medicated. Heavily.

"Though I say, 'I will forget my complaint,
I will leave off my sad countenance and be cheerful,' Job 9:27

Monday, June 25, 2007

Walk a Mile in My Bra

The time had come. The baby had been weaned and it was finally time to trade in my sorry, stretched out, worn out, tired and beaten nursing bras for something with an underwire. It had been two years since I'd worn anything more supportive than an ace bandage. I was starting to hurt. It was finally time to buy the bra my girls deserved after years of dutiful service to me and my babies.

As much as I anticipated the forgotten lift that a good bra can give, it was largely overshadowed by the looming dread of the Rite of the Nordstrom Lingerie Dept Bra-fitting. It's true. Even though the mighty swimsuit receives top billing as Most Dreaded Clothes to Buy, followed perhaps by blue jeans, I have to think that buying bras must be the elephant in the room that no one talks about. The process must be so traumatic for so many women that, like survivors of an airplane crash, it is an experience that is simply never talked about.

Shopping at a do-it-yourself store, like Sears or Target is bad enough. You're left to your own devices, roaming the aisles aimlessly, riffling through the racks, bringing piles and stacks of bras on itty-bitty hangers back and forth to your dressing room hoping to stumble upon something that seems like a good fit. Of course, after you've brought half a dozen bras home which you certainly thought were going to work, you find that, no, they do not work at all, but you are unfortunately stuck with a hundred dollars in underwear that will poke you in the arms until they wear out. Or the sun implodes upon itself. Whichever comes first, you eagerly await either event which will put you out of your pokey misery.

There is the other option. This is the one I choose and has proven to be one of the most humbling experiences in my life thus far. It's right up there with obstetrics appointments or a visit to the dentist. It is the Way of the Fitting and while difficult and embarrassing it ultimately yields better results. The buying experience is brief (relatively) and painful, but when it's over you're left wearing a bra you like and carrying a bag of bras that will do their job with pride and enthusiasm.

I've had many fittings in the past since babies, lactation, and age all seem to have an affect on your size and shape, but like most hobbies, this never seems to get boring or routine. I was lead back into the fitting area by the well-dressed sales lady where she instructed me to remove my shirt. Quickly, she whipped her measuring tape from around her neck and measured me here and there. Talking about various options, she left the room leaving me standing in front of a three-way mirror to contemplate my double layer of stretch marks (who knew they could CRISS-CROSS like that?) and the fact that someone other than my husband or sister-in-law had seen my dilapidated bra. If my bra were a house, it would be a condemned trailer home. It's not like something you'd invite a stranger home to see. My embarrassment was compounded by the awareness that this was Nordstrom's, hardly a place where people with dilapidated bras come to shop. I was clearly out of my element, even though I'd been here numerous times before and my sales person was being clearly professional. After all, she had neither gasped nor laughed at the sight of my bra. I was starting to wonder if I should have stopped at Sears to buy a cleaner, better bra to wear while shopping at Nordstrom's. Well, what's done is done.

The trying on session of my fitting went as expected with my honorable sales person hooking me into this bra, advising me on how to best hoist my endowment into that bra. Eventually I found a nice, reasonably priced item that fit well. And then she brought in the Unicorn. She introduced this bra as being really wonderful "when it works" and that this is the bra that Oprah always talks about and that she thinks I should just try it out to see how it does. She hooked me into the thing and I was skeptical to say the least. It had a massive, moulded shape like the breastplates worn by the warrior queens of ancient Ireland or the mythical warrior goddess Athena. But once I was strapped in, I was a convert. I put my top back on in order to get a better idea of the shape this thing was giving me and once I looked down I was overcome by the nearness of my chest. All I could do was say, "Oh!" and "Hello!" in a surprised sort of manner and "I haven't seen this much of you since I was thirteen!" The saleswoman smiled and said, "Yes, they do give you a nice bit of lift." Lift? Lift! My chest had such a presence that I felt rude not including them in conversation. I felt like I should consult them on where we were having lunch that afternoon. Lift, indeed.

My faith was again restored in the power of polyester, spandex, and flexible underwire support.

I still felt a little like Athena as I walked out of the dressing room and I was a little self-conscious with my dramatically repositioned bust. But it felt wonderful to walk into the world for the first time in two years with all my body parts right where they're supposed to be.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Like A Rocket

My husband and I bought our house about eight years ago. We had only been married a year at the time and were still very young. We were very fortunate to buy when we did. We could barely afford to buy our house for what it's worth today.

I really like our house, too. It's small, but it's big enough that the idea of raising three children here doesn't make me want to eat cat hair and throw sandbox toys at the neighbors. I like that the neighborhood is older, low-key and that no one cares much how long it's been since you've mowed your lawn, much less watered it. I like that there is no "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality, unless you count those who strive for the loudest motorcycle. Our neighborhood might not be anything to look at, but it's safe, it's quiet, and you can sit down and take your shoes off. I feel at home here.

Except for two months in the summer. Two months that make me want to lick the hair off my cat and throw plastic pails and shovels at my neighbors. For two months in the summer every Tim, Dick, and Joe in our neighborhood decides to stockpile fireworks in their garage like the feds are revoking their constitutional rights to raise a ruckus. They seem to squirrel them away in the dark winter months (or make their own, industrious chaps that they are) only to have a two month long Yankee Doodle Militia party from mid-June through the Blessed Fourth of July until sometime in mid-August.

In the beginning, it's only mildly irritating (or it used to be, before I could enjoy the pleasure of anticipating what was ahead in future weeks). A small boom here, a mild bang there. No big deal. But then the local guys start getting excited--they try to hold back knowing they should wait for the Fourth, but as the Big Day draws nearer and as they dip deeper into their explosive stash they just can't wait any longer.

By the time the Fourth of July passes, I'm a walking symphony of ticks and twitches, white knuckling my way through the evening news at night wondering which firecracker is going to be the One to Wake The Baby. My Lord, the Fourth of July hasn't been the same since The Baby came.

The worst are the post-Fourth firecrackers that the men seem to find stashed away in the dark corners of their garages or basements. These take me utterly by surprise and like someone suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. My reaction to these sporadic, unexpected explosions sends me straight to the ceiling where I cling, nails dug deep into the sheet-rock.

Maybe someday I'll be able to hear the jovial festivities of our local patriots with equanimity, long after my babies have grown and I don't have to nurse anyone back to sleep. I hear they're developing new medications every day. But I doubt they'll find one to help me.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Introduction

I've seen a list on other blogs called "100 Things". It's supposed to serve as an introduction to the blogger, a sort of synopsis of who they are and what they are like. I wrote one, once, and it turned out pretty well, even though it is now too outdated to be of use. I think that in the interest of brevity I'll make another one for you, just so we can get acquainted.

100 Things:

1) My name is Sarah.
2) I stay at home with my kids all day.
3) I'm getting better at this the longer I do it.
4) I have one husband. For the sake of his privacy, I'll call him "P".
5) I have two children. My son is three and a half. When he was a baby we called him the "Man-Cub". For the sake of his privacy and something like efficiency, I'll call him "T". My daughter is a year and a half old. She has no nicknames and I'll call her "A".
6) I like efficiency, even though I am often far from it.
7) I like to knit. A lot. I like yarn and making things. I like how clever I feel when I've knitted something well. I like that when I knit something, I get to decide how perfect I want a project. I can redo something again and again until I get it right, or gracefully live with the flaws or scrap the whole thing altogether.
8) I like to make people laugh.
9) I've decided that I dislike sarcasm. It tends to be mean-spirited. I don't like how it tends to tear people down.
10) I have a cat. I don't dote on her like I used to before I had kids.
11) I take a lot of pictures. A LOT of pictures. Right now, we have approx. 4,000 digital photos that we've taken since our son was born.
12) I love my coffee pot. Love. It has a thermal carafe, which essentially means I can have hot coffee all day without ever having to reheat it.
13) I love drinking tea, but seldom have time to drink it. Coffee seems quicker to me.
14) We tried for three years before we were able to get pregnant with our son.
15) Our daughter was a surprise. One we were hoping for.
16) Sometimes, when I think about my kids growing up, I miss them already.
17) I like to cook.
18) This feeling is more pronounced when I don't have children hanging off of me.
19) It helps that my husband cleans up after dinner. Every night.
20) I have a degree in English.
21) I have no idea what you're supposed to do with it.
22) One of my favorite things about having children is that I get to read all those great children's stories.
23) But I don't read to my kids enough.
24) This weighs on me when I see how much they love it.
25) I love hanging my laundry on the clothes line.
26) I took piano lessons for 14 years.
27) I still can't play the piano worth a lick.
28) I wanted dance lessons instead but my mom said that I would be able to play piano when I'm old. Tap dancing, not so much.
29) Now, I'm more interested in spinning my own yarn when I'm old.
30) I still have little interest in the piano.
31) Maybe I'll learn how to play the violin instead.
32) Or the cello. The cello might make me look thin.
33) My parents are really interesting people.
34) I grew up on a hobby farm in Minnesota.
35) I helped my family raise our own chickens, cows, and vegetables.
36) I still miss having laying hens.
37) I have one brother who is younger than me.
38) I wish I knew him better.
39) We used to go "exploring" when we were growing up. We would pack a lunch, a canteen, and pocket knives and go hiking around the fields and hills around our house.
40) We would find really cool, really big rocks on our hikes. He would carry them back in his backpack.
41) I've been to London twice.
42) I've never seen the ocean up close.
43) I love to read.
44) I hardly have time for reading anymore.
45) We don't have TV.
46) We watch movies on our computer, though.
47) I get hooked on a TV series DVD and watch it over and over until I can't stand it anymore. First it was Law and Order, then West Wing, now it's the Andy Griffith Show.
48) My family doesn't eat much meat.
49) I wish I could say we are vegetarians, but I like the flexibility of eating what is available when we are guests at someone's home or when we're at restaurants. I made chicken tonight. I can't remember when I last handled raw meat.
50) I used to help my family butcher our own chickens, but I still get grossed out handling raw meat.
51) I am hoping this blog will serve partly as a baby book of sorts. There are a hundred silly things that my kids do that I want to remember and share, but seem to momentary to actually write out in a paper baby book.
52) I'm finding it harder to make this list than I thought it would be.
53) I used to figure skate in college. Not competitively, but just for fun.
54) I love old movies.
55) I love British mystery movies.
56) I dislike being hot.
57) Minnesota isn't cold enough for me.
58) I'd move to Canada if my extended family didn't live here.
59) I once made up a funny anthem for Canada.
60) Getting the mail is sometimes the high point of my day.
61) I love sleep. Can't get enough. Giving up sleep has been one of the big sacrifices of having children for me.
62) Sometimes I think I'd like to write a book, but don't know if I could handle the solitude that writing one requires.
63) I'm trying to give up all unnecessary spending.
64) I'm finding the space between Need and Want is a vast, grey colored land filled with shadowy ambiguity.
65) I wish my friends lived closer to me.
66) They only live about half an hour away, but it's still too far for how often I would like to see them.
67) I give my opinion too freely.
68) I try not to be too pushy with my advice.
69) I fail often.
70) Mostly with my sister in law.
71) She is younger than my and I am often overcome with the urge to tell her exactly what I think.
72) I think her ability to tolerate this is one of the reasons I feel so close to her.
73) I cloth diaper my kids.
74) I think they lie when they say this makes them potty train sooner. Liars. All of Them.
75) I know six other women, just off the top of my head, who also cloth diaper their kids.
76) I had two kids in cloth diapers for over a year.
77) I did a lot of laundry.
78) I didn't mind. It was better than taking out a lot of trash.
79) I'll miss cloth diapering when my last baby is potty trained. I think.
80) I want one more baby.
81) I wonder if I will always want just one more baby.
82) I think that people who see the world in terms of black/white, right/wrong are often frustrated.
83) My favorite writer is Madeleine L'Engle. And Anne Lamott. Jane Austen. And Wilke Collins. And E. Nesbit. And. . .
84) Sometimes I don't know what I want for my future.
85) I can't decide where I want to live--alone in the country, in a small town, or in a city. I never imagine that I want to live in the suburbs, but here I am.
86) I'm not sure what to do about that.
87) I've never owned a new car.
88) I'm not sure I want to.
89) But it would be nice to have a car that was younger than 10 years old.
90) My son was born eight weeks premature. My daughter was born via emergency cesarean.
91) I seem to have bad luck birthin' the babies.
92) I'm glad to have lucked out with good kids.
93) I'm not the kind of mother I wish they had, though. But I'm the one I want them to have.
94) I wish I were a more patient and clever person.
95) I would like to have more adventures.
96) My husband and I went to high school together, but didn't meet until college.
97) We dated, got engaged, and got married in a year.
98) We knew what we wanted.
99) I think we made a good choice.
100) We are blessed.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's About Time

I'm finally doing it. After years and years of reading the blogs of other people, I am actually writing one of my own.

I've felt rather guilty over the past three years since I've been an avid blog reader and have had no writing of my own to offer. I've lurked, commented, and emailed other bloggers and even when some of my "blogging ladies", as I have come to call them, have actually been kind enough to ask after my own URL, I have had nothing to give them. It's been like sitting through a public radio pledge drive and not calling in to pledge, even though you listen to the station every day.

So here it is--my own contribution to the body of writing found only on the internet. Over the past few years, I have found company, encouragement, and comfort from the voices of other people who are going through lives very similar and very different from my own. It is because I have appreciated their writing so much that I have felt the need to do the same.

Come for a visit, come to stay. Thanks for stopping by.