Monday, March 26, 2007

Ethan's Birthday Party Recap

This was shortly before one boy decided to "moon" the camera. No, it was not my child. It easily could have been. Ethan was in sugar psychosis.

Ethan had a lot of fun and we survived. I'm too tired to comment further, except to ask...How can my little baby boy be five years old already?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Friend Phyllis

We met in 1994 during a job interview. It was a team deal. If you've had any type of job in corporate America, you know what I am talking about. A select number of group employees get to individually issue a round of questions and then reconvene to decide fate as you know it.

I don't remember where Phyllis landed on the inquisition roster that day but I do recall feeling immensely relieved when she sat down across from me, behind the beige desk, under the the bluest of blue lights. I had just been interrogated by a very high strung, rather unfriendly little waif of a woman. I knew within two minutes that she was voting me off of the show. But Phyllis was different and I knew, just knew, that I would have a fighting chance to get this job if I clicked with her.

The job was doable for me. Unfortunately, my resume didn't reflect that reality. A lot of self discovery, tons of life experience but not a lot of tangible accomplishment. Phyllis gave me the time and space to explain my way around these shortcomings. She listened to me. Sounds simple, I know. But you could tell that she was actually hearing my answers and not automatically formulating the next question while I spoke.

Right away, I liked her. I didn't get the corporate spiel. She told me that yes, this was a great company but that I better be prepared to work day and night, weekends, whatever it took. And I'd better like total chaos because the place was nuts. Prosperous to be sure but a nut house all the same. Phyllis was no sad-sack but she certainly was no cheerleader. A woman after my own heart.

I saw her when I left the building that morning and I could have just given her the obligatory "thanks for taking the time" salutation. But that would not have felt right. I remember firmly shaking her hand with both of mine and thinking that even if I didn't get the job, she would surely be a great person to know.

Yes,I got the job. And we became fast friends We worked together, apart, for, and around each other over the course of the next several years. She guided, taught, coached, and counseled. On occasion, she was disappointed in me. In those few instances, I felt great shame and regret. But I learned and it made me better. And I appreciated her willingness to shake me off of the high horse from time to time. I love to get on my high horse you know. Still do.

Phyllis is accomplished and has a number of interests outside work. I always admired this about her. She loves art, music, gourmet food, and travel. She is well read. And most importantly, she has a heart of gold. She cares about the way people feel and isn't about being the center of attention. I love the way she enjoys simple things, like good conversation and an interesting piece of news.

I've witnessed some of her struggles and I'm inspired by her resiliency. She is always willing to try something new, to forge unchartered territory. I know she would appreciate a partner but her life has not come to a standstill without one. She is a testament to figuring it out and getting it done. I've learned a lot from her these past 13 years.

Even though we are separated by distance and have different life circumstances at the moment, I think of her often and I know she feels the same.

I just love Phyllis.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Thinking About Cassandra Floyd

For some reason, she stumbled into my thoughts today. What happened really was unthinkable. Undoubtedly, the enormity of her tragic, violent death is recognized by countless people. And like so many, I ache for her mother and father and have often wondered how they have managed over the years. I've also fathomed how I, a parent, would cope if faced with such devastating circumstances. Is there a time when a mother thinks about the death of her child a mere twenty-five times in any given day? Is that any improvement over the year before when one quietly, inwardly grieved at clockwork intervals, syncing life's cadence to a predictable drone of rhythmic, inevitable sadness? Or the year it happened, when it surely consumed every moment, every thought, every breath. I can only begin to imagine. Some say that the pain never really goes away. It just becomes something different, diffused through a prism of routine living. Just less focused so that maybe, it doesn't hurt quite so much as it did the day before.

As a mother, I can't shake the thought of a four year-old girl losing both of her parents. Ethan is now four, going on five, and he really needs me for so many things. Beyond the obvious stuff, he is out of sorts if we're apart for too long. I know that he craves my attention on everything from super heroes to lower-case letters. My opinions shape his thoughts. Without fail, he knows that I will replace his kicked-off covers before I go to bed. He trusts both Jim and I will keep his world safe and to be there each and every morning. How does a child awake to learn that these basic promises could not be kept and that her whole world is just gone?

Thankfully we take comfort in the resiliency of children. After all, this little girl comes from impressive stock. While I wasn't close to Cassandra, and only crossed paths with her in social situations throughout high school and college, I remember some very admirable qualities about her. Despite her origins of affluence and privilege, she was not frivolous nor undisciplined. High achievement came naturally to her. And was she smart. She excelled in math and science at a time when it still wasn't "cool" for girls to do so. Even as a teenager, she carried an air of calm authority about her. We all knew that Cassandra would get an "A" on that honors Chemistry test. Her chosen career in medicine was certainly a natural progression.

Tonight I pray for Cassandra's daughter, and for the family members who now care for her. I have got to believe that she will be OK and the legacy she has inherited will only be a sad but surmountable footnote in an otherwise happy life. She's got so many people cheering her on.

To Cassandra's parents, please know that so many of us think of you often and pray that you have known some peace with the passage of time. I hope there is comfort in knowing the esteem so many of us continue to feel for your daughter's memory.

As for Cassandra, may the Lord keep her well and loved beyond measure.

You're Only As Happy...

as your least happy child. Or so I am told by my mother-in-law, Millie.

Right about now, my least happy child is torn up over the fact that our cat Jazzy escaped from an open window on Monday. It is now early Saturday morning and no Jazzy. The lengths to which I have gone to find this cat border on absurdity. I'm too tired to map out those logistics at the moment. Suffice it to say that I had to break it to Ethan that yes, Jazzy is lost. Oh the tears. Not whiny ones either. Just pure heartbreak. And my heart broke right along with his.

He cried off and on for three hours last night. I tried to distract him and it worked for moments at a time. Then he would remember and get sad all over again. I have to remind myself that this is the same child who could not get past the first 10 minutes of "March of the Penguins" because he was worried that a solitary bird did not have enough friends. He went nearly hysterical when watching the movie "Eight Below" because the thought of dogs being left alone in Antarctica for months on end was more than he could bear. When reading books to him, I have to be extra mindful of any sad element in the plot and edit when I can. He is very, very empathetic for his age and I love that about him. I just wish for his sake that he could ratchet it down a notch or two. It might make coping with life's inevitable sadnesses just a little easier.

So, the search for Jazzy continues. I would do anything to spare Ethan this anguish. The worst part of all of this is that I know that this won't be the first time he will feel pain, loss, or grief. I can't spare him and I can't endure those emotions for him. This is a very helpless part of the parenting arrangement. I guess the best I can do is to help him cope, try to keep positive about the outcome, and pass on some resiliency that he will surely need in the future.

The baby books just don't prepare you for this stuff. You just have to go on instinct.

By the way, I really miss Jazzy too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Oracle Speaks..and Borrows a Few

As a follow-up to "Leigh-isms", Oracle decided to throw in a few pearls of her own:

If you don't have on lipstick, you don't look done.

Don't spit up because it will land in your face....meaning never say never.(Mirtha B.)

Berkeley is sister city to the world but they can't fix the damn potholes. (Jimmy B.)

What is the point of having kids if you don't make them do chores.

A little fear in a kid is a good thing. (I am not that great at this one.) They should never think they have you where they want you, because then you are screwed.

Always shave your pits.

College is not for everyone, but if not college, then trade school.

If you look back and think High School was the best time of your life, then your life is pretty pitiful. You peaked at 17. This is true even if high school was great.

Good penmanship is a good thing.

Always make your bed.

Print your photos. People look at albums, not computer files.

Taxes suck.

If you make an effort to be happy, generally you are. If you need a pill for this, by all means, take it.

How come the biggest proponents of "diversity" don't understand that that extends to diversity of ideas. Few of them know any born-again Christians but almost all know a Latino trans-gender socialist. (Of course this is an exaggeration, but you get my point.)

I have a God-given right to the parking space in front of my house.

Wear your seat belt.

There is nothing wrong with liking James Taylor, Rod Stewart, and Barry Manilow. Because I like easy listening does not mean I have a character flaw.

Learn English!

Hamsters are vermin.

Dressing your little girl in cute clothes is one of the joys in life.

Who the hell lets their kids have Bratz dolls. Go ahead, teach your kid to be a ho.

Tampax was a GREAT invention.

Why do salads made by someone else always taste better than ones I make myself?

Finding a good parking space in the City is a signal to me that my day will be a good one.

If you put out good vibes, generally good ones will come bouncing back.

The older I get, the less I like fighting. Yes, I used to enjoy a good argument years ago.

A book address book is better than a computer one.

Trees make houses and neighborhoods look better.

Nurses will sell each other out in a heart beat, but docs will cover the asses of their colleagues, even when they need to be hung out to dry. I think this is really a male/female thing at heart.

Having it "all" is a lie.

You will probably scar your kids for life no matter what you do, and some day they will be on the couch blaming you, so screw it. Just do your best.

It is good to say no to your kids.

Your kids will find your weaknesses and use them against you. They are very clever.

Being punctual is a virtue.

Sugar beats salty.

You can't have too many photos.

I don't get the point of scrap booking.

One decent vacation a year is necessary.

The older I get, the less stuff I need.

Kids need to go to bed early. On average, kids today don't get enough sleep.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why is God So Loud?

At bed time, Ethan asked why God is so loud. Of course, I had no idea what he meant. The conversation went something like this...

Ethan: Well, when we go to church, he's really loud. Is he that loud at home?

: Ethan, are you talking about God or Father Don?

: You mean Father Don is different from God? I thought he was God.

: No, Ethan. We've talked about this. Father Don speaks ABOUT God. Father Don is a man. You know, like Daddy.

: Daddy doesn't wear dresses Mom.

: Yes, that is true Ethan. Now, about the loud part. Father Don wears a microphone so that everyone can hear him in the Church.

Mom, he doesn't have a microphone! Microphones are the the things you hold when you're a rock star.

That's one kind of microphone. Father Don's is very small and attaches to the outside of his, well uh... dress. But we don't call it a dress; it is called a vestment.

So, does he talk that loud at home?

No sweetie. He doesn't need a microphone at his home.

You could probably use a microphone when me and McKenna horse around and are screaming and not listening to you. Father Don can use it to yell at his kids.

Not a bad idea Ethan, except that Father Don does not have children.

Are you kidding me? I thought you said his name was FATHER Don.

In his case, FATHER is kind of used like MR. It's a title.

I don't understand. Why doesn't he have kids?

There's a lot to explain here honey and it's getting late...

I'm pretty sure he has kids.

No. The children you see with him are from your school. He isn't their Daddy though.

Oh. Isn't he going to get some?

Honey, priests do not get married and they do not have children. This is a deal that they make with God.

Is he sad about it?

I don't think so sweet bear. He made the choice to just give all his attention to God and to tell people about how great God is.

OK. But maybe he doesn't have to tell people SO LOUDLY.

Ethan: Mommy, why are you laughing?

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Nora Ephron wrote a really funny and very on-point book about aging, vanity, motherhood, and more: I Feel Bad About My Neck. I just loved it. Her observations are perfect. Some include:

A woman can't own too many black turtleneck sweaters (Amen sister. I must have 5)

Don’t buy anything that is 100 percent wool even if it seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when you try it on in the store.

The plane is not going to crash.

Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty-five. (At 40, I'm already there.)

If the shoe doesn’t fit in the shoe store, it’s never going to fit.

There’s no point in making pie crust from scratch.

If only one third of your clothes are mistakes, you’re ahead of the game.

Now, some of my own:

Go to Church when you want to the least.

You just have to dress for your figure.

I don't care what you say, feet are ugly. No matter what you do to them.

You must have friends who are women.

Poor grammar, both written and oral, is judged very harshly.

If you don't have any female friends, time to figure out why not.

The best marriages aren't always obvious.

Women are very hard on one another.

Your hair stylist is worth the money.

You cannot and should not do your own hair coloring. Ever.

Beauty is not simply organic; it can be created.

Women CAN have it all...just not all at the same time.

College is always worth it.

Flip flops should be reserved for tropical, third world countries.

Nothing looks more tired than unpolished shoes with scuffed toes.

Own at least one thing that you could not bear to part with.

A nice fragrance can change your mood.

A well organized linen closet is a worthy goal.

A parent who does not document her children's lives through photos and words is shirking a major responsibility.

Use sunscreen every day of you life.

Never, ever economize on a bra.

Find at least one thing to do that you love so much you lose track of time.

Learn to apologize well.

Buy the best quality you can possibly afford.

One of my primary goals as a mother is to make good memories for my children.

Full-time day care and full-time mommy care should both be avoided when possible.

Once you drive a German car, all others pale.

Ask someone over for dinner who doesn't get many invites. You'll both feel better.

Complete as many personal goals as possible BEFORE having children.

High thread count sheets can make up for a really bad day.

You will never spend less than $100 at Costco.

See a live performance at least once a year.

Dressing children is one of the joys in life.

Display books in your home.

Puppy breath is one of the best smells in the world.

Fresh flowers make any room prettier.

That party you are dreading will usually end up being enjoyable.

Most of the time, you're never going to use that coupon you cut out.

Receiving a handwritten note in the mail is like manna from Heaven.

Nivea lotion works as well as the $40 stuff you bought at Nordstrom.

Talk to your son about super heroes.

Every once in a while, you need to think about when you are wrong.

Balancing your checkbook to the penny is a waste of time.

If you wear black pants more than once a week, you're wearing them too much.

Decide what you want and then figure out the money. Not the other way around.

Hearing your daughter say "twubble" (trouble) is one of the cutest things in the world.

Admire humble people and act accordingly.

People who don't read for pleasure are really missing out.

Putting away folded laundry is a dismal chore.

Well fitting undergarments can make up for all kinds of things.

Wearing absolutely no make-up is almost as bad as wearing too much.

Shopping at Target is more fun than several things I can think of.

People who don't like animals scare me a little.

Put the shopping cart back in the designated area instead of teetering it against the lamp post closest to your car.

Beyond a wedding band, men don't really look good in jewelry.

Clutter and disorganization chip away at your sanity.

When you want to throttle your wayward children, pull out the baby albums.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Some Favorites

No particular order.

Beautiful baby girl...though not such a baby anymore

Wipe out (fake)

Summer clad McKenna

Captain Ethan - Cockpit American Airlines. What FAA regulations?

Halloween 06

Out-of-control dimples

I'm gonna wrap you up like a baby burrito!

Who are you and why are you close-talking?

You can't fake this kind of joy

flower power

Kojak in a bathing suit

Note the arm crease. Love it!

Free and easy in Florida

They "get" each other. Always have.
Easily pass for brother and sister.

Why waste a perfectly good opportunity to mess up (or improve, you choose) a Kodak moment?

First love - Gemma

Suburban cowboy

The tradition continues

New baby, petrified Mom. Both of us survived.

Great Grandpa and Ethan. I love this photo.

Relish the cute times. They don't let you dress them like this for very long.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ethan's Opinion

This was sent to me several days ago by Mr. Flower. Just a passing kindness on his part, a relic of another life. I don't yearn for the past but I just wish I could bring some of that rugged individualism back into my mommy world. Not too much, mind you. Just enough to keep the spark ignited. Just enough so that I'm not a gray minivan among a million other gray minivans.

I was thinking about all of this when Ethan came behind me, looked at this image on my monitor and asked with all the sincerity in the world, "Is that God's mommy"?

He instantly reminded me that in his world, I'm a super mommy. Wow.

You can't buy, borrow, or fake that feeling of pure admiration. It only comes from the unconditional love and devotion of your child. You can't get it from your partner, your spouse, your stuff, or your bestest girlfriend. It can only come from being a mom. It's worth every sacrifice, every frustration, all the worry.

I guess I don't feel so gray after all.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Family Picture

...taken at Joan and Paul's house on Christmas Eve. I like it because it's nearly impossible to get the kids to settle down for a group shot. So here we are:

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Miss you Grandfather

To answer your question, Gramp...Yeah, it was a pretty good life. Pretty good indeed.