Thursday, June 29, 2006

OK, A LOT Freaked!

So, um, yeah. Posting about my fears (see below) made me wake up and realize that I need to be a grown-up already and not bury my head in the sand, so to speak. So I went and bought a test.

The lovely grocery store we go to has a Playland for kids, and even though I really only needed to buy this one thing, this was one purchase I wanted to make ALONE. Sans kids. So I checked them into the Playland and then went to find the right aisle. I haven't needed to buy such things in over 3 yrs. And wouldn't you know that there was a stocker working in that aisle just as I needed a little privacy? I scoped the tests and grabbed a First Response Early Detection with shaky hands and split out of there like a guilty teenager or something. Gah! What's WRONG with me?? It feels very different when you're buying the test hoping and praying you get the two lines and when you're buying the test hoping you don't.

I wandered around the store, browsing and just killing time. Letting my bladder fill up. The test was like a hot poker, burning me. Mocking me. Taunting me. I almost just went and tested in the store restroom, except to go there would mean I'd have to walk right in front of the Playland and I didn't want my kids to see me and not be getting them. I finally had enough and was really too preoccupied to really see the various housewares I was looking at, anyway, and went and got the kids. We got them the requisite free cookie and then loaded up to come home and get lunch.

I got the kids rolling with their lunches and then went upstairs to my bathroom. Why wait? I know that first morning urine is the strongest, but might as well take the plunge and see, and there were two tests anyway so I could always test again, if need be, in a few days with first morning pee. So I peed on the stick.


I didn't even have to wait more than a few seconds. It was nearly immediate. Impossible to misinterpret. Clear as day, 2 pink lines appeared. Oh.My.God. I'm pregnant. No mistake. The 2nd line isn't even faint. It's barely lighter than the control line. No questioning whether you can detect a second line if you squint and hold it in just such a way in just the right light. No worries about it being an evaporation line. It popped up, screaming "PREGNANT!".

So now I have to tell Mr. Chick. He's going to freak out, too. We were NOT planning this. This was not what we wanted, but when you play with fire, sometimes you get burned. OF COURSE every child is a blessing. I know this. I'm just not ready. He's not ready. I didn't want any more kids after the age of 35. I'm 36 1/2, people. Advanced maternal age and all that. Increased risk of problems. I'm healthy, but I'm older than I ever wanted to be with a newborn. I'll be 37 when the baby is born.

I don't have ANYTHING anymore for a baby. Nothing. No maternity clothes, no baby gear. I sold it all. We were done. The only thing we have left is the crib. No infant seat, no stroller. No highchair. No breast pump. No bottles. No baby clothes for either boy or girl. I've passed just about everything on. I only kept the odd special outfit as mementos. WE ARE NOT PREPARED FOR THIS! The only thing we DO have, besides the crib, is a house big enough to accommodate another person. We're in good shape there. Hell, even our car might not work. I drive a Volvo wagon, but the back seat doesn't quite work for 3 kids across. Maybe, just maybe, if we change Nicholas's booster to a little seat-only kind that he can use with the regular shoulder seat belt it would be slim enough for the other two carseats. OH.MY.GOD!

My head is swimming, my heart is racing, and I'm more than a little freaking out. I simply did not expect this. AT.ALL. Please don't think I'm a bad person for not being excited or happy just yet. I'll get there, I'm sure. I'm a good mom and will eventually take this in stride, but for right now, this moment, this feels too overwhelming and scary. I feel like crying. I don't want to tell anyone IRL until we come to terms with this. Until we can be happy and excited about it. We were so done, and now we're getting a little "gotcha - surprise!" baby.

This changes EVERYTHING.

A Little Freaked

I'm not sure why I'm posting about this, but here goes. I feel quite stupid about it, actually, since it's just not like me. I'm usually better about this sort of thing, but have gotten... lazy? Irresponsible? Foolish? Ahead of myself? All of the above, most likely. You see, I think my period might be late/MIA and I'm freaking about about what that might mean.

It's the uncertainty of not even being sure if I AM late that makes me feel ridiculous. I usually know these things. I'm usually on top of it. But for some reason, for the life of me, I absolutely cannot remember when my last period was, exactly. Was it at the beginning of this month? End of last month? It was around then, but the exact dates elude me. Am I late, or just getting close? I'm usually a pretty regular sort of girl when it comes to my period, so it's quite unusual for me to ever be late. Ever. And usually there are signs that my period is coming. But now? Not so much. In fact, it's the absence of any of the usual predictors that is what is causing me to be a little, um, worried.

Mr. Chick and I have been pretty cautious in these matters. I'm not on any birth control, however. We've been relying on him to, ah, wear the pants in the family, as it were.

But we don't always do that. What stupid people we are!

When we don't, we go with the ultra-reliable Pull-Out method. Aren't we brilliant!? But the thing is, he's never not been able to. Not once. We've never had even a close call on that front in terms of "oops! Sorry babe..." He's really, really good about it. Impressively good.

I don't know what to think. Clearly, there's a chance. There's always a chance. I don't feel pregnant. I don't have that inner sense. Not that my "inner sense" is to be trusted - that same voice is the one to tell me it's ok to risk it without birth control. Of course, my boobs are feeling more tender than usual.... crap!

The thing is, we don't want any more children. I know, I know: if we didn't want more children why didn't we take more precaution against that? I've said it before - WE'RE STUPID RISK TAKERS! Also - if we were so done with our family, why not get that vasectomy thing we've heard so much about? WE WANT TO! But Mr. Chick just got medical insurance that will cover it. Like this month. Wouldn't that be just a kick in the pants to finally get the insurance so we can at long last make our family permanently a family of 4, only to wind up expecting another? Karma is a bitch, I tell you. Of course if I were to find myself "in the family way" we'd roll with it. Of course we would. But it's just not something either of us ever envisioned. It would take some time to get used to the idea.

I know I should just get off my butt and take a test. But somehow that feels like I'm jinxing myself. How silly is that? I must be in denial, because the inner dialogue I'm having with myself says that to do so would be a waste of money because I don't even know if I'm late yet and I should just wait a few more days. I'm sure my period will be here by then. Plus, the chances are slim that I'm pregnant anyway. And then a few more days go by and I'm still in the same place. Gah! I should just test and get it over with.

But I'm scared to.

I'll feel foolish if I do test and it's negative, and I'll feel even more foolish if I test and it's not. I really really REALLY don't want to be pregnant!

Either way, I'm going to be making that oh-so-critical appointment for Mr. Chick to get snipped STAT, because this situation is not funny and not to be repeated. Ever.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Home Is Where The Heart Is

At least, that's what they say. But is it true? I mean, when you think of "home", where do you think of? Do you think of your current address, where you live today? Do you think of the house you grew up in?

I think "home" is contextual. Most days, in my regular, daily existance, when I refer to "home" I'm usually meaning my own personal dwelling with my immediate, nuclear family. The Chick Family. As in, "c'mon kids, let's go home and get some lunch" kind of thing. But in a larger, grander sense, "home" is the house I grew up in. As in, "are you going home for Christmas?" when you have your own place but it's clearly not what is being referenced in that question.

My parents are getting ready to sell my "home", and it feels very, very strange.

But what is weirder is that when I think back on my childhood - those formative years consisting mostly of elementary school - I'm thinking of a different house altogether. From the ages of 4-12 we lived in a different house in a different city than where my parents live now. That's where I have most of my memories of riding my bike to my friends house to play. Of making up all sorts of imaginative games and spending hours and hours refining them. Of knowing all the kids in the neighborhood and being able to go off on my own and find things to do. Of childhood. Then we moved to Portland - I was in the 6th grade - and that's where my parents have been ever since. For something like 25 yrs.

This is the house that I think of when I think of "home". It's where I lived during all of my sometimes rocky adolescence. My teenaged years. Zits, malls, driving, boyfriends and proms. All that high school goodness. Going away to college then coming back "home" for the summers. Buying my first house but still going "home" for the occasional dinner when I didn't want to cook. Morning-after wedding brunch. Holidays. The place you go and see your senior portrait still hanging on the wall. Grandma and Grandpa's house. The place where all of us could and would gather - the centerpiece of our family. And now it's going on the market so another family can move in and start making it their "home". It makes me a little sad to think about.

But it's time. Logically, I completely agree with my parents that it's the right time to sell. They're empty-nesters who no longer need a 3200+ sq.ft. traditional colonial with 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. On a sloped 1/4 acre. It's just too much house. It's a house built for a family, not a semi-retired couple. Plus, the neighborhood, ridiculously stable and much-desired, has seen home values soar to unbelievable levels and more houses are starting to go on the market as the "old guard" moves out to make way for younger families. So if my parents sell now they can reap big bucks for the house. If memory serves (and I have a freakish memory for such things), they bought the house in 1981 for $140,000. BIG money back then. They're going to list it for $650k - $675k. Nice.

So the plan is to sell the big house and do a big fat remodel of the small rental house they own. It's a small - very small - 2 bdrm, 1 bath bungalow in a cute, nice neighborhood. It's only about 3 miles away from my parents' big house. They're going to dump a fat wad of the proceeds into the remodel and make that small house a decently-sized one. 3 bdrms + office, 2.5 baths, great room. 2200+ sq. ft. with all the bells and whistles. Nice, flat yard (vs. the sloped/hilly one they have now). One level living, which is good as they age and stairs might become a difficulty down the road. So it makes perfect sense. They'll live at their lake house between selling the big house and finishing the remodel of the rental.

I went over there last night to help my mother get ready to put the house on the market. Her realtor made a few suggestions of a few things to rearrange or get rid of completely to enhance the "staging" of the house. Thankfully not much as my mother has great style and the house always looks nice and organized. But it made me sad to see some family photos come off those walls. To see pictures of our family over the years no longer in the places they've been for decades. To roll up some rugs, move the heirloom piano, box up and cart stuff out to the garage. My parents won't be taking everything with them to the new house. They can't. So we were discussing where certain things will be going. Did we want anything? At this point, it seems my sister will be taking the piano since her son is starting lessons. She may not keep it long-term (it's not her personal style), but for now it'll be going to her house. I might be getting my parents gorgeous dining room furniture. I've always loved it, but it's very traditional and isn't the right style for my current home. I don't care - I'll still take it - at least for now. I was uncomfortable having that discussion because it was like what you have to talk about when someone dies: what to do with their stuff. I guess it's like the Family Home is dying, in a sense.

It's exciting to think about the remodel of the rental house. But it's not "home". And yet, it will be for my parents. It's now the time of the changing of the guard, I guess. Where we (my sisters and I) no longer assume we'll be going to my parents for Thanksgiving dinner and will instead become the hostesses for holidays. Mom and Dad will come to us instead of us going "home". We'll now be the ones in the "big houses" instead of them, better able to accommodate everyone.

So, when everything is over and done with, and my parents have sold the Family Home and moved into their newly remodeled and decorated place, will I still have a "home" in the larger sense? No, I won't. My "home" will only live in my memories and photos. My "home" will then only be the one I'm creating for my growing family. Where my heart is.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Full Circle

This weekend I took the kids on a little roadtrip. We had been invited to attend the graduation party of my cousin's oldest son, Aaron (does that make Aaron my 2nd cousin? 1st cousin-once-removed? I get these things confused...). As I was getting ready for the trip I had a flashback: at my own high school graduation party, a mere 18 years ago (gulp!), Aaron was a little baby and I had a picture of him sitting on my lap that day. I haven't fully unpacked the photo albums and other memorabilia, but I dug through a few boxes in search of that photo. I was determined to find it. I wanted to bring it along to show everyone. It took some doing, but I finally found the picture of us:

Taken at my high school graduation party. Aaron was a wee babe then, drooling on my presents. I haven't changed a bit in 18 years!! It's a miracle.

I felt like a huge geek, but I busted out that picture and showed his family. They didn't remember it being taken but enjoyed seeing it. It was very surreal, looking at that sweet baby perched on my lap as I basked in the glow of my graduation, and then seeing him in the same position as the new graduate. Only this time I was much older. And it was even weirder when I caught of glimpse of Aaron, the cute, chubby baby in that photo, sitting with MY daughter on HIS lap.

It was a very full-circle experience. I'm sure he'll be bringing his small children to the graduation parties we throw for Nicholas and Lauren in just 13 and 16 more years, respectively. It'll go by in a blink.

Aaron today, a high school graduate. I attended his grad party this weekend. A very full circle moment, yes?

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Sleep is, I mean. At least to Lauren it is. This child requires such a minimal amount of sleep I can't believe it! She's all-go, high energy all day long, lately doesn't nap and if she does it's 15-20 min. in the car at best, and still hangs out in her room for 45 min - 1 hr, completely awake, after we put her to bed. AND THEN she's up-and-at-'em at 6:15am. Bedtime, by the way, is no later than 8pm on the days when naps have been skipped. So she's not going to sleep until closer to nine, still getting up around 6:15am, and NOT NAPPING! On the days when she does take a "normal" nap her bedtime is affected by hours. She'll finally go to sleep between 10:30-11pm on those days. How does she function on such little sleep? Because I'm barely functioning trying to keep up with her.

Nicholas, on the other hand, is my sleepy child. At the ripe old age of 5 (today is his actual birthday but he's considered himself 5 since his party on Wed), he could still nap for a couple of hours each day, go to bed at 9-9:30pm, and sleep until 7am. Ideal, yes? I LOVE that he sleeps, and man! he does need it. He's getting better and better about maintaining a decent disposition when he doesn't nap, but he falls apart much more quickly when he's tired than his sister does. He's slowly dropping his nap, and I'm OK with that - he's 5 and entering Kindergarten - but my toddler?? I thought kids needed more sleep. She's the exception to more than a few rules.

Am I wrong for allowing my sleepy brain to flirt with the notion of doping her up on cold meds that make kids sleep just so I can get some rest myself?? Because if she keeps staying up so late and waking me up so effing early everyday I'm going to need something stronger than simple coffee to keep me going.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Just Like That Annoying Mastercard Commercial...

Dinner for 20 at Chuck E. Cheese: $85.49
Balloons and water bottles for 9 kids: $18.00
Amount for ungodly quantities of batteries required: $28.50
Nickelodeon aquarium kit: $21.95
Goldfish: $.29
Getting a big hug and kiss and "this was the best birthday EVER!" from Nicholas: priceless!

Yes, Nicholas celebrated his 5th birthday at the coveted Chuck E. Cheeses last night. It was chaotic and crazy and crowded, and we couldn't keep track of all the kids that ran helter-skelter through the place, and the pizza kinda sucked and damn! why can't that place sell drinks by the pitcher anyway? And it was nearly impossible for the adults to have any sort of conversation what with all the chasing around of the kids, but the kids themselves had the time of their lives, and that's what counts when you're 5 and it's your birthday. And they even announced it over the P.A. system and everything! And Chuck E. Cheese himself came up to him and shook his hand! Oh boy - a dream come true. Despite getting sick with a chest cold, Nicholas still rocked the games and earned enough tickets for a slinky. A bonus birthday gift.

I love the fact that my child, while getting bigger and more worldly everyday, still believes in such things as "birthday fairies" because I told him they existed. Am I evil for doing this? He's been wanting a goldfish longer than I can remember, and I must have told him at one point that you needed to be 5 to get a fish. Nicholas forgets nothing, and has reminded me almost daily for months that he's turning 5 and is therefore old enough for a fish and he wants one and PLEASE CAN I HAVE A GOLDFISH FOR MY BIRTHDAY??!! Even I can get that hint. As luck would have it, the PlayCare at the YMCA happened to have fish bowls and fish, cut out and everything, for kids to color and then glue the fish on the bowl. Glue, people - not tape. Because, y'know, that's what the person told him to do so we simply.could.not.use.tape. So after Nicholas colored the fish bowl and the fish (gold, appropriately), and we "glued" (really, taped, but don't tell him or I WILL kill you) that fish into place, I told Nicholas that if he put his picture under his pillow and wished for a fish (the name of a book we have), the birthday fairy would hear his wish and he might just get what he wished for. He promptly put that crayola creation under his pillow and repeated the mantra, "I wish for a fish! I wish for a fish! I wish for a fish!" before naptime and bedtime for two days. He rationalized the concept by explaining to me that the Birthday Fairy would hear his wish and then tell the people coming to his party what he wanted. See, that makes perfect sense to a 5 yr old. Just so you know. If only life were that simple, eh?

So of course we were getting him a goldfish. I mean, duh - ! We're not cruel, regardless of what you think. Mr. Chick made the obligatory visit to Petco to get the necessary supplies. I was envisioning, you know, a simple bowl and some rocks and maybe a fake plant or two. He busts out with a 10-gallon aquarium kit, complete with filter and lighted hood. A bit much for a simple goldfish, but what can you do? He was just as excited as Nicholas, I think, to get a damn fish. We wrapped that big box up (in Christmas paper, no less, because it was so massive that I didn't have enough birthday wrap to cover it. Nice. I rock like that.) and Mr. Chick brought it with him to Chuck E. Cheese. It goes without saying that Nicholas was happy that the Birthday Fairy listened and came through for him.

But then, momentary angst. First thing this morning we had to check out the gift haul. I mean, it's hard to really examine and appreciate the bountiful goodness of glorious presents in the middle of nutty Chuck E. Cheeses. Almost immediately - before breakfast had been eaten or pajamas exchanged for clothing - Nicholas was wanting to go to the store for batteries and fish. NOW! (quick aside: we needed 4 "D" batteries, 3 "C" batteries, 2 9-volts, and 3 dc1.5's - the little disc kind - to power all the stuff he was given. Jeez! It probably cost more to buy the power for the toys than the toys themselves. What a racket!) We scouted locations for this aquarium and quickly realized that it was too big to go in Nick's room. His dresser has a bookshelf hutch on it, and there wasn't enough room to accommodate the tank. This was a major bummer because Nicholas had visions of cozying up with the fish, I think. But I said we could take a look at other options, and this soothed his troubled soul. Apparently having the tank downstairs in the playroom just wouldn't do. Then it wouldn't be truly his. I understand this.

Once we hit Petco we found the perfect compromise: a less-expensive, smaller aquarium kit from the nutty people of Nickelodeon. It's a brand from them called "Odd Parents" - it's not quite SpongeBob, but it's close. It's a 3-gallon plastic bowl that has an off-kilter castle that masks the filter/bubbler thingy, and two very strange, slightly upsetting and creepy, balloon heads that "float" in the water. Nicholas thinks they're perfect toys for "Fishie" (the oh-so-original moniker he's bestowed upon his new goldfish. Long live Fishie!) So the tank, while noticeably cheaper than what Mr. Chick had picked out, fits on Nick's dresser, and isn't quite as low-grade as a simple bowl. It has a filter! We set the thing up and Nicholas has been visiting Fishie off and on all day. And having Fishie in his room was clearly more important than Fishie rocking a stylin' glass aquarium. Now if I can just keep Lauren from dunking her fingers in the water or wanting to drop various objects into the bowl we'll be A-OK.

I took pictures of the party - really, I did. But I had to use my mother's camera and she hasn't downloaded them yet. Hopefully I'll get them soon and can share a few images from the event.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Live and In-Person!

If a picture is worth 1000 words, then a video is the Gettysburg Address. A video is a picture brought to life. For Father's Day, Mr. Chick created this little video of Nicholas and Lauren to send to his dad and granddad.

I shot it about a month ago (back when Lauren was willing to allow me to comb her hair and put a barrette in it). Nicholas decided it was time for Lauren's nap and managed to get her into her bed and decided to read her the obligatory 2 stories. I grabbed the camera and started filming because it was just so damn cute. He read her two stories - really read them! - and then proceeded to even sing her the "night night song" I made up for the kids when they were babies (they each have their own version). I couldn't believe it - it was a very precious moment. For time sake, Mr. Chick edited the video to just the first story; the classic "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" by Eric Carle. You will see/hear Nicholas prompt/quiz Lauren at various parts of the story, just like I do. But it's funny, because he's asking her about what's coming next without showing her the picture. He thinks she can read the words like he can. Silly kid. He also gives her praise, just like I do. It's strange to hear yourself channeled through your kid. And you can see his confusion at the very end of the story, when the words he reads don't quite match up to how it's supposed to go. He reads out of order and it throws him just a bit. He makes a nice recovery. With a cover so flawless I see a future of public speaking.

And, you can get a taste of Lauren's verbal ability and how she tends to drop off the final sounds of words. Like when she tries to say "horse" and it sounds like "hor".

So on that note, I present Baby Chicks Storytime:

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Husband, Father, Friend


I couldn't ask for a better daddy to our kids. I love how you make them laugh everyday. I love how they light up when you come in the door from work. I love how Lauren wants to sit on your lap whenever you're home. I love how you teach Nicholas about proper table manners. I love how you include the kids in everything you do, right down to home improvement projects and going for runs with them. I love how you love them. I love the example you're being of what a man is to our son, and I love how you're being the only man in our daughters life so she won't try to fill that void with something/someone else. I love that you're showing them how a man should treat a woman by the way you treat me.

You're the perfect father to our kids, and I love that about you.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Girls Lake Retreat

Tonight, I'm not a mom. Tonight, I'm not a wife. Tonight, I'm a friend. Tonight, I'm me. Well, ok, I'll always be a mom, and hopefully always be a wife, too. But tonight I get to slip away with 4-5 other girlfriends to my parents lake house for a night off. For a night of eating and drinking and talking and laughing. Maybe even some crying, too, depending. There might even be some sleeping, but who knows. We're ALL looking forward to some time away from our daily lives to reconnect and recharge our batteries. Much planning has gone into our Great Escape:

Carpooling plans.
Food plans.
Babysitting plans.

Nothing about checking out for a night ever comes easy.

We're taking off from my house, aka Ground Zero, by 3:30pm at the latest. Then we're making tracks up the freeway to pick up the other duo before racing to the lake for our night away. No kids, no husbands. Just friends. Good friends. Lifetime friends. And lots of alcohol and snackables.

Grilled shrimp skewers
Green salad
Crusty bread
Chips and 7-layer dip
Strawberry pie
Drinks, drinks and more drinks.

And hottubbing under the moon and trees with a gorgeous lake view. And music. And funny stories. And gossip. And reconnection.

And then we all must return to our regularly scheduled programming far too early. But we'll be a happier, if hung, bunch. I can't wait!

Could This Be It?

I think we're standing at the precipice. It could go either way. I don't want to push too hard for fear of making things worse, but I'm excited at the thought that This Could Be It. What? you ask. Simple! Potty training young Lauren, of course. Duh!

Nearly every day this week Lauren has managed to pee in the potty one time. Once each day. That's it. It's like something she needs to do in order to check it off her daily list. "Tinkle in potty - check!" and then gets back to the business of emptying her bowels in her diaper. The thing is, SHE'S telling US when she needs to pee on the potty. And mostly, she tells us when we're in the hottub. I think it's the relaxing warm water that does it. She'll climb her slick, chubby, naked body out of the hottub and announce she has to "pee pee in potty chair" and take off for the door. We scramble to catch up to her. But lately, without fail, she's able to pee in varying amounts once she sits her bum on the throne. She's even been able to tell me, after my incorrect presumption she was finished, "no Mama - more pee pee" and lo and behold, she peed more. So I KNOW she's starting to correctly read the signals her bladder is sending out. I mean, she farts and thinks she needs to pee on the potty. So far, she's never managed anything solid. THAT will be the day!

And also, she's never managed two successful potty visits in a single day. She gets that one in, and every other subsequent visit yield nothing.

Nicholas is getting in on the action, too. It's adorable. If Lauren pees on the potty, he's usually right there in the bathroom with us, cheering her on. And when she's successful, he runs to find his Bambi coloring book - the one with the stickers in it - and ceremoniously gives her a Bambi sticker as a reward. From him to her. He asks her where she wants her sticker and puts it in it's selected spot for her. This is a big, big deal - Nicholas is very protective of his Bambi stickers, so for him to willingly give one to Lauren is a generous act of kindness. I love that he feels like he can help participate in this and "teach" her how to be a big girl. In fact, just the other day he was peeing while Lauren was in the bathroom and he felt compelled to offer more instruction, "Lauren, this is a penis. See my penis? Boys have penises but you don't because you're a girl." End of lesson. I had to stifle my laughter.

So to honor the progress that Lauren is making, and seems interested in continuing to make, I'm making a special trip to the store today to purchase some GIRL training pants for her. I'm hoping this takes it to the next level and moves us another step closer to becoming a diaper-free household. I'm NOT going the pull-ups route if I can help it. If she is unable to remain dry at night, like her brother, then we'll consider Pull-Ups for her for nighttime. But I'm opposed to using them during the day.

So wish us luck. I really think this could be it!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Chick Book Club

I'm in love.... with a new author, that is. Why didn't anyone tell me about Jodi Picoult before??! OMG, I've been loving her novels. LOVING THEM! I can't seem to get enough of them. In fact, I'm only tearing myself away from the one I'm currently burning through to post this and encourage everyone to go read her stuff.

The first Jodi Picoult novel I read was called Vanishing Acts. So excellent! I've always been drawn to character-driven novels, and that's where Jodi Picoult seems to excel. She writes of her characters in such detail and with such insight into tricky, emotionally charged situations that it's nearly impossible to put the book down. In Vanishing Acts, the story centers around 1 woman who had a fairly idyllic upbringing minus one major element: her mother was dead. Or, at least, that's what she believed. And then her world, her very foundation is rocked to the core when she learns the truth about her beginnings in this life and how different people view the same act quite differently. You read the story through various character viewpoints: the main character, her fiance, their best friend, her father, and even ultimately her mother. Their lives are so intertwined that nothing is black and white anymore, which is what makes the story so compelling and thought-provoking. You keep asking yourself the same question: what would *I* do in that circumstance?? When is something wrong actually right? It's captivating and grips you emotionally.

The Tenth Circle was the next novel I tore through. Also quite excellent. The main character is a young teenaged girl. The family seems normal enough - they see what they want to see, and choose not to see what's right in front of their eyes. Then something horrible and inexcusable happens, and you get to read about how quickly something can unravel and fall apart right before your very eyes. It deals with a very heavy topic: rape. Do you have to actually say the word "no" to give that intent? And also, as the mother of a daughter, I was more than a little interested to read the girls' story about when the double-life of a teenager begins. When do kids stop telling you everything and start to keep secrets. When are those little secrets just that, and when are they more. Dangerously more. I kept asking myself: what can I do, if anything, to remain connected to my daughter? What if I just *think* we're doing ok when in reality her world is something else completely? Will I miss the signs? Will there BE signs?? Tough, tough questions. This book is about that, and more. Awesome.

My Sisters Keeper is the book I'm currently reading. I'm about halfway through and I.can' Yet another no-win, no clear-cut right answer theme. This time, it's about another young teenaged girl who is the youngest child of 3. She was conceived strictly to save her older sisters life, who was diagnosed as a baby with leukemia. She's a perfect genetic match, engineered that way. A "designer baby". Her whole life she's understood that she's to donate whatever her sister might need to save her life: cord blood, bone marrow, and now, a kidney. Only this "donor" child now wants a say in whether she will donate something or not. She's never been asked - her parents make all the decisions since she's a minor. So despite the fact that her failing to donate a kidney will likely result in her sisters death, she wants to fight for the legal right to refuse to donate. How this action affects the family and relationships is the meat of the book. Again, you read it through everyone's perspective. You really get insights into each person, and you can understand their differing points of view. I start to wonder what *I* would do if one of my children fell victim to cancer and I could "save" that child by having another who could be a donor. Would I do it? My first instinct is to say, emphatically, YES! But that's before really considering what that would mean to the child conceived strictly to be a savior to the other. Sticky, sticky stuff. But gripping and that's why I can't stop reading.

From what I can tell, most of Jodi Picoult's stories about the family relationships. The dynamics that exist between husbands and wives, sons and daughters. The complex nature of those interactions, so heavy with history and understanding, and yet so often completely misunderstood. Throw in an emotionally-charged event and offer some impressive insights, a dash of angst, and a smidge of doubt for good measure, and you have the makings of a real page-turner. These are not "chick books" - not by a long shot. They are not light reads, either, in that they completely suck you in and you find yourself dwelling on the topic even after you've finished the chapter and book. But they are quick reads, at least for me, simply because they are so compelling that I can't help myself but to dive in for more as often as possible.

I read as I make breakfast. I read as I eat breakfast.

I read in the bathroom (dirty little secret - TMI?)

I read during naptime, if there IS a naptime (grrr! children who don't nap annoy me)

I read in bed before going to sleep every.single.night. Without fail.

I read A LOT.

If you like to read, and haven't yet discovered the joy that is a Jodi Picoult novel, I urge you to get your closest public library and get yourself one of her books to read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Helmet Head

Who can explain the bizarre, quirky behavior of a 2 1/2 year old child who insists on wearing a big blue bike helmut around for days on end?? ("my hat, Mama - I wanna wear my hat!") It's not a good look. But first thing every morning for the past few days Lauren has put on this stupid bike helmut, fastened the straps under her chinny-chin-chin, and kept the damn thing on all day.

She wears it at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

She wears it at the park, despite getting a sweaty underneath.

She doesn't take it off until it's time for bed, and then the helmut sits in the chair next to her bed.

She'd wear it in the hottub if I let her, and I'm sure she'd wear it to bed as well. I have to draw the line somewhere.

She looks ridiculous and sweet at the same time, as only a funny toddler can. My very own "special" child in the helmut. Help me.

Perhaps it's a show of solidarity and she's covering her hair much the same way I did for most of last week? Yeah, maybe not. Maybe it's more to prevent me from running a comb through her hair each morning? That's more likely. She's resisted with every fiber of her being her hair being touched for a couple of months now. She used to be so placid about it - I could comb her hair and put barrettes or whatnot in it, but those days seem to be a dim memory anymore.

Or maybe, she just likes the damn helmut and thinks it's the greatest accessory a girl could have. I hope she comes to her senses soon. But then again, with as fearless and physical as my daughter is, perhaps keeping her noggin well-protected when she plays at the park or wrestles with her brother isn't such a bad idea after all. It's more practical and easier on the pocketbook than a shoe obsession, after all.

Suddenly, her recent bouts with wearing rain boots with shorts, or wearing her brother's old superhero pajama tops all over town don't seem like bad choices anymore. Because the helmut? It's a sad look.

Monday, June 12, 2006

From Goth To Glam In 7 Days

OR - how to finagle (is that a word? Finagle? I'm sure I'm spelling it wrong) 2 afternoons without the kids getting your hair done.

I believe I've mentioned on more than one occasion my rising concern with the ever-growing number of gray hair cropping up on my head. I was certain that it was just proliferating in and around my part (no matter where I parted my hair... la la la I'm still in denial), but then I noticed some grays creeping in behind my ear. Sort of a bad place to be 2-toned when you wear your hair up most days. But THEN my friend/hairstylist informed me that, "oh no, you've got gray hair popping up in the back, too. It's pretty much all over your head now. Sorry." I suddenly felt like I'd been sucker-punched. Ouch.

On a tight law school budget I wasn't able to get my hair professionally done very often. Therefore, I resorted to (gasp!) dyeing my own hair from color purchased from a drug store. The brand wasn't as important as whether something was on sale. I could find a color close enough to my natural in most lines. No biggie. And I only did it 3-4 times per year. Not terribly often, in other words. Just enough to keep the fucking grays in check. But when I took my cheap-ass dyed hair to a real salon, the damage I'd done became terribly evident.

"yes, your hair has probably gotten much more porous with the store-bought dye products. The virgin hair on top is better, but with the grays it's harder to cover well. I'm sure we can fix you right up, but it's going to be tricky and involved."

A few hours later I walked out of there with a new cut (well, trim - I'm growing it longer) and color. It was still slightly damp, so I knew it was a smidge darker than it would be when it dried. Flash-forward a few hours and completely dried hair: FUCK!

Um, this is NOT my normal, natural color minus gray. No, this is more than a few shades darker. I'd go so far as to call it Goth. A bit dramatic for my taste. And flat. Devoid of any life. Very black, and very dull. NOT what I was envisioning at all. But no grays! There was a silver lining. A very thin silver lining. So I called my friend/hairstylist and told her I wasn't completely thrilled with the color and was hoping she could fix me. "yes, yes I'd be happy to correct your color but I can't do it until next Saturday. Say around 11am?"

That was ONE.WEEK.AWAY. 7 days of being very Goth stretched ahead of me. Ggrreeeaattt. I pretty much wore my hair in a ponytail the entire week and avoided as many people as possible. But you can never avoid your mother, it seems, no matter how hard you try.

"oh honey -! You got your hair colored and it's so dark! Too dark. It does NOT suit you. Please go do something with that hair! You can't wear it down, not like that. Put it in a ponytail or something and get it off your face."

Um, thanks mom.

So a week goes by and I get to take yet another Saturday off to read trashy mags and chat with chatty women while my hair gets handled. Maybe I should pre-arrange hair disasters in the future so I can get away with doing this again, because I was not complaining about the time away being "pampered". They did some process where they sort of worked backwards - from tip back to root - where the color was being sucked right out of my hair little by little. The ends were certainly darker than the root, what with them being so porous and all. After about 30 minutes, they rinsed me out and everyone waited with baited breath to see what happened with my color. They blew it dry straight instead of it's natural wavy curl so they could get a better look at the color, and ....

IT TURNED OUT PERFECT! It's like the BEST color I've ever had. It's my natural color, only a little jazzier. There is light and life to this color. There are hints of dark auburn, which compliment my pasty skin tones. I should have been born a redhead, I swear. I have pale, pale skin with freckles and blue eyes. If that doesn't scream redhead I don't know what does. But instead I was given very dull, medium-dark brown hair. Nothing special. But this color is that, only better. Only what it should be naturally. I love love love it!

And as bad as my week was looking like the Goth poster child was, it was so totally worth it if it led me to this new color.

va-va-va-VOOM, baby!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Spring Pics

Our digital camera is busted (thanks, Lauren!) so I've not been able to take many photos for a few months. I've had to rely on others to have their cameras with them and then send me the photos at their convenience. It's not a system I would recommend.

To that end, I recently received these images of my kids in my inbox. It's been awhile since I've posted any pictures of the Baby Chicks, so here they are:

"Bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do?" This was taken just this past weekend at the Portland Starlight Parade. It's part of the Rose Festival and always fun (minus the rain, but that's to be expected. It's Portland during Rose Festival, after all. It ALWAYS rains during Rose Festival. You get used to it.)

Last month I joined a friend for a day at the zoo. Of all the animals, the kids had the most fun with the silly birds. Lorikeets, to be exact. I think it's because these were the only animals you got to touch and feel (other than the stinky goats), and that goes a long way with kids. It's not everyday you get to have a bird land on you. Thankfully, none pooped on us, which is more than I can say for my kids.

Nicholas feeds the lorikeet at the zoo.

Lauren makes a good roost for the lorikeet

MP and her baby chicks at the zoo

And since we're on the subject of Rose Festival (we are, aren't we? Well, in my mind we are.) I'm joining my parents, 2 nephews and niece to take the kids down to the Rose Festival Fun Center (aka carnival). I think we might be asking for trouble, but we're risking it anyway. We'll be riding the MAX train to get downtown, so I'm sure that will be one of the most fun "rides" of the day. It's supposed to be lovely weather, so why not enjoy the sunshine while watching the freaks-on-parade at the annual Fun Center and eating lots of crappy carny food? But first, we must get through the final swimming lesson of the session. It's been very touch-and-go with the swimming lessons, and the instructor even used the phrase "hissy fit" in his comments about Nicholas summarizing his progress this session.


But the lesson on Monday was great and I'm holding out hope that the lure of going down the water slide as the end-of-session treat and then heading to the fun center with Grandma and Grandpa will be motivation enough to ensure ending on a good note. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 05, 2006

In The Blink Of An Eye

In the blink of an eye, a child can disappear. Just like that - gone. That's what happened to me with Lauren the other day and it scared the crap out of me.

There is a wonderful Children's Museum in Portland. It's really, really great and the kids have a fantastic time whenever we go. My little local library has free passes you can check out, so that's what we do. I took the kids on Friday, not realizing that there would be a ton of other kids there, too, because of end-of-school-year field trips and such. Oh well - what's a few more kids running around, right? We spent nearly 4 hours there that day, playing and exploring and creating. We did lunch, made keepsake treasures with clay, built tall skyscrapers with blocks, and engineered dams for water.

It was time to go - Lauren had just filled her diaper (nasty!) and the kids were getting tired. We were playing in the grocery store area (Nicholas loves to be both the checker and stockboy) and I was helping him put his apron on. Therefore, my eyes were off Lauren. It happens there more than I'd like - you lose track of one kid while your eyes are on the other, but you do a quick visual scan and relocate them. I don't know about you, but I can pick out my child in the middle of a crowd in a heartbeat. It must be some sort of mother's homing beacon: your heart is connected to theirs by an invisible thread and you can zero in on them as if there is no one else around.

The Children's Museum is one big playground and it's very, VERY easy for a child to go around a corner and you can't see them. They get enticed by something new to play with and there are no barriers preventing the flow between one play exhibit and the next. But in much the same way you can sight them among many, they can hear your particular voice above the din. So a quick "Lauren? Where are you?" results almost immediately in a, "here I am, Mama!", reassuring you of your child's safety and giving you their exact location. Suddenly, my call went unanswered.

I must not be the only mom this has happened to, because the staff there are great and approach you if you look slightly frantic and like you're searching for an errant child. They all have walkie-talkie gizmos attached to their collars for just this purpose, and I've seen them talk into them more than once. "We're looking for a 3 year old boy wearing tan shorts and a red shirt by the name of Steven". But the fact that it happens to others doesn't make me feel any better that it happened to me, too. I must have had that calm-but-accelerating-to-panic look on my face, because a helpful staffer approached ME with the "can I help you find someone?" question. And I actually wavered - certainly I don't need to call out the troops to find her? I mean, she was just RIGHT HERE and can't have gone far, right? But I told the lady that yes, I was looking for my 2 1/2 year old daughter. I answered (quickly, quickly) the standard description questions, all the while scanning the crowds for her. WHERE WAS SHE??!!

"She has light brown hair - just like his (pointing at Nicholas) with a pink barrette in it. She's wearing a pink shirt with flowers on one side, and blue shorts. She has a big blue flower painted on one cheek. Yes, she's wearing sandals. They're brown. Her name is Lauren." (OMG, WHERE IS SHE??!)

They called in the description as I start moving faster and faster through the place, calling out her name. I'm no longer calm. I'm much closer to frantic than I'd like. I keep expecting her to pop out and announce herself, "here I am, Mama!" but it doesn't happen. WHERE IS SHE?? She's not in the grocery store. She's not in the water play area. She's not in the construction building zone. She's not back in the clay room. LAUREN WHERE ARE YOU!!??

It felt like an eternity, but in reality it was more like 5 minutes. 5 panic-stricken, heart-stopping minutes of not knowing where my daughter was. I never, EVER want to feel that again. EVER. Terrifying flashes of all the awful things you imagine might happen to your baby. Did someone take her? Is she OK? WHERE IS SHE??!

Then the helpful employee told me that they think she's in the front. The front?? I already checked there, but ok. And sure enough, she was there. A nice lady was holding her. Lauren wasn't crying and didn't seem to be upset, unlike me. They told me they found her - wait for it - OUTSIDE, WALKING DOWN THE SIDEWALK AND ABOUT TO CROSS THE STREET. The nice lady stopped her and brought her back to the Children's Museum. Thank God for good samaritans (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU - I'm eternally grateful to you). I have no idea how in the hell she was able to get outside. How she left the building without anyone stopping her. How I failed to prevent this from happening.

My best guess? She heard me say that it was time to go. That we needed to go back to the car so we could go home, and that's just what she was trying to do: go back to the car.

I don't think my heart has recovered yet. I give my kids a lot of hugs and kisses throughout the day, but I've been hugging Lauren (and Nicholas, too), a little tighter all weekend. Watching her a little more closely. Not wanting her to get too far away from me. Those 5 minutes of her absence - of The Great Unknown - has scarred me permanently. I don't think I could live without either one of my kids. If something terrible happened to one of them, I'd surely die. It took just a split second for her to disappear from my sight, and 4 minutes and 55 seconds to find her again, but those were the scariest, most frightening few minutes of my life. Period.

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