Monday, July 28, 2008

Greetings From Alaska


So I’ve been neglecting the blog lately because we have been on the road (so to speak, since we abandoned our car in St. Louis) for the last week. We drove from Ohio to Illinois where we stayed for one night, and then over to St. Louis where we stayed for two nights. Then we flew from St. Louis to Dallas and from Dallas to Anchorage.

All of the traveling went beautifully. Really, two years ago I couldn’t have imagined that we could drive for hours and hours and fly for hours and hours and our kids would really just behave perfectly. They ate snacks and read books and drew pictures. They watched a part of a movie on my laptop, but stopped when the headphones weren’t working properly. When we told them to nap they closed their eyes and napped.

In central Illinois we stayed with Craig’s aunt and uncle and we visited Craig’s paternal grandmother. In St. Louis we stayed with Craig’s cousins, visited his maternal grandparents, and hung out with his sister. Here in Alaska, we have been busy visiting with the usual—Craig’s parents, my parents, all of my grandparents, various cousins and aunts and uncles, my brothers and sisters. And for the first time since my brother Joe’s wedding five years ago, we have gotten to spend time with my brother Joe, his wife, and his three step-daughters, all up from Utah.

Henry has been overwhelmed at times. “No more grandmas!” he sobbed when he woke up at his great-grandparents’ house in St. Louis. And when my parents, who picked us up from the airport, dropped us off at Craig’s parents’ house where we are currently staying, Henry moaned, “THIS grandma is worse than THAT one!”

But both of them, now that they have adjusted to the time difference and have caught up on their sleep, are acting like this is the thing they have been waiting for all of their lives. In the past, Luke has tried to create some extended family for himself. He recently began calling my good friend Nancy’s daughters, Emily and Hazel, his cousins. He played with them nearly every day from birth to age three, after all, and we meet up with them at least a few times a year.

But finally Luke and Henry have real cousins. All girls, ages 10, 13 and 16. It is a match made in heaven. They play and paint faces and dance and practice kung-fu and put on magic shows. The girls beg to take care of the boys and the boys adore the attention. Craig and I have gone out for walks, gone out to lunch, hung out for whole afternoons in the same house as our children without seeing them.

I think I understand people having large families now. I could have six or seven kids, I think, if I had extended family around to help. To fill in some of the blanks. To keep me company and to enjoy my kids while I bear witness—preferably with my feet up and a drink in my hand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Music to a Mama's Ears


Henry just came up to me while I was watching some videos on Youtube and said, "Come on! Turn that off and let's read some of our awesome library books!"

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Livin' Is Easy


I'm really too tired to write anything. It is summertime, you know. We are busy, busy, busy around here with lemonade, art and comic sales. I don't know if I'll make it for another week until we go on vacation.

Luke made 20 dollars in two hours, by the way. I think I should give up this writing thing. The money is in the lemonade, art and comics!

Friday, July 11, 2008

You Aren't In Alaska Anymore

To follow up on my last post, Craig spoke to Officer Fox on the phone this morning to clarify just what constitutes a "junk vehicle." Basically, our cars are fine so long as they have valid tags from some state and they move now and then. So since our Mercedes isn't insured and we don't intend to use it for transportation until we move or diesel prices go down, we are unders strict instructions to "turn the vehicle around in the driveway once per week" so the neighbors will know that the car runs. Officer Fox is going to be driving by our place later today to make sure the car is pointing out toward the street.

And, trying to be extra, extra helpful, Officer Fox said we might also want to check our valves now and then. You know, before we take the kids to the movies. Oh, and he said, "You aren't in Alaska anymore. You are in Worthington."

Just so we are clear.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh Worthington, Why Have You Forsaken Me?


Yesterday morning I was happily baking with my boys when a cop walked up to our door. I watched him walk up the driveway, looking at our two vehicles and peering into our garage. Our garage is a little sketchy looking, I must admit, and the garage door was opened. It is packed with old metal working and wood working equipment, and Craig is currently “spooging,” a word that makes me blush but apparently means cleaning rust and paint off of metal objects using a car battery and a large tub of some sort of liquid. I’m lucky the officer didn’t ask me about that, since it looks like someone is up to something sketchy.

The cop informed me that one of our neighbors called to report our vehicles because they don’t have Ohio license plates. I told the cop that we are Alaska residents since Craig has always been a student. The cop seemed to imply that we should be Ohio residents, that we shouldn’t live in Worthington, and that I’m a bad mother all in one conversation.

“You need Ohio plates and Ohio licenses in order to establish Ohio residency,” he said.

“Well, my husband is only doing a postdoc, sort of a temporary internship,” I told him, since he clearly didn’t know what I was talking about.

“So he has taken a job here and you have lived here for a year?” he asked.

“Yes, but we are Alaska residents and we intend to return to Alaska after he is done with his schooling,” I answered.

“Well, your tags are expired on the jeep,” he went on, “and Worthington has an ordinance against junk vehicles, even parked in your own yard,” he answered.

Okay, I understand that our Mercedes isn’t much to look at, but a junk vehicle? I just drove it to Target a few days ago! Of course, I didn’t want to tell the officer that because we aren’t carrying insurance on it since we try not to drive much. But it was a hot day—too hot for walking two miles there and two miles back—and Craig had taken the jeep somewhere, an unusual situation since we don’t drive much these days.

“Well, we don’t drive much which is why we forgot about the tags on the jeep, but we’ll take care of that as soon as possible,” I answered.

“Well what if you want to take your kids to the movies or on a trip?” he asked.

I was starting to get annoyed. I’m getting in trouble for trying to conserve gas and for having an ugly car? And what, I’m a bad mom because I don’t take my kids on road trips?

Going back to his residency speech, which I really don’t think is his business, he asked, “Do you work in Ohio?”

“No, I stay home with my kids,” I answered.

“Well, you have purchased a home,” he stated. There aren’t a lot of rental homes in this community.

“Actually, we just rent,” I replied.

Beyond the annoying police officer who made me feel like an awful, unsettled, poor, non-working mother, there is the whole issue of a neighbor reporting our vehicles. Why would anyone care? It must be someone who doesn’t like us for some reason. Someone who is annoyed by the junk in our yard—junk which, by the way, pales in comparison to junky yards in Alaska where we are from.

A month or so ago I met a woman at the park who had a big impact on my perception of Worthington. I was finally feeling a little settled here, recognizing the assets of our community, and then I met a woman named Margot who clinched my appreciation for this town. She is originally from Maine and then had moved to Boston, finally settling here. Her path, so similar to my Alaska, Chicago, Worthington path, made me feel automatically close to her. And then she said to me, “Worthington is just like a warm hug—it cradles you. People here are so nice and friendly.” And after she said that, I was beginning to believe that Worthington, Ohio was embracing my family and me.

And now I feel like Worthington is mad at us. It doesn’t like our lawn that is a little too long, our ugly (but functional!) car, or our garage that is jam-packed with crazy stuff. Oh, Worthington, you have betrayed me! Your embrace has become a sea of closed doors, nosy people peering through windows, self-righteous citizens who drive gas-guzzling vehicles to the farmer’s market to purchase expensive gourmet pies.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Weaning

Happy birthday to you, Henry! Your wonderful present is that you no longer get to do the one thing that you love more than anything, the one thing you ask for when you are afraid or hurt or lonely, the one thing that is only yours in this household where you wield so little power and control.

Don’t you know you are such a big boy? You are so big now! You use the big boy potty and ride a big boy bike! And you don’t get nursies any more! Yay!!!

To be fair to myself, I decided to try the cold turkey method out as a test. I figured that I could always go back to letting Henry nurse. But when I asked him if he wanted to stop nursing after his third birthday, he said yes. So I decided to go with it and give it a shot. So we talked it up, Craig and I.

With Luke, child-led weaning worked out. The philosophy worked with the child, and with a few gentle nudges from me, Luke weaned at two and a half.

But Henry wasn’t showing many signs of cutting back. And he persisted in waking up every morning at 4:45 a.m. with the hopes of scoring a hit off the nursies, even though I supposedly night weaned him a year and a half ago. I guess he has been hoping all this time to convince me that 4:45 is the morning. And the whining for nursies at any and all times of day was doing me in.

And, I’ll admit, part of my desire to wean has been that no one around here, from what I can tell, nurses a kid that can talk. And Henry can certainly talk.

“Mom, can I have my nursies?” he yelled across the library one day.

And, “Can I tell the nursies that I love them?” once when we had friends over for dinner.

The cold-turkey method has gone really well, actually, with only a few episodes of whining and begging. I have generally been able to distract Henry.

But part of me worries that I’m doing some sort of damage. He has started sucking his thumb a little bit—albeit halfheartedly and in imitation of Luke—and the other day, a month after his birthday, he looked earnestly into my eyes and asked to nurse.

“I have been waiting and waiting and waiting. Is it time for nursies YET?”

He is a persistent child.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

And This is the Reason I Was Feeling Nostalgic

For a little while—about fourteen hours or so—I thought I was pregnant. And this was surprising and overwhelming and also really wonderful. It made me think a lot about babies and toddlers and go back and look at a lot of old pictures of Luke and Henry when they were wee little things.

But let me go back and tell this like a proper story.

First of all—and I’ll be purposely vague here, since I know my dad reads this blog—let me just say that it is probably not a great idea to order free samples of birth control over the internet, especially if it is a type you have never used before, and then attempt to use it after drinking several celebratory glasses of birthday wine.

So in the back of my mind I knew that there was a slim possibility of pregnancy. And I’m okay with that. I have been very ambivalent for the past year about having another child. On the one hand, I appreciate the rhythm that we have found in our lives as of late. We are finally feeling somewhat settled here. And our two active, outgoing boys keep us on our toes, to put it mildly. But. But. As much as I fear morning sickness and the pushing stage and, well, newborns in general, I long for another child.

But Craig doesn’t. Oh no, not one bit. Whenever the topic of another child comes up, Craig states, unequivocally and without hesitation, that he does not want any more children. Period. End of discussion.

And you know, when I discovered that the free sample appeared to be partially malfunctioning a few weeks ago, I did mention it to Craig. But I mentioned it to him mildly, while thinking, “Hmm, this may be my chance for a little accident.”

But of course, I never really thought I would get pregnant. I didn’t begin noticing any signs of pregnancy in the weeks following the free sample incident. But then I hurt my toe.

On the day that I got pregnant with Henry three years and ten months ago, I stumbled and fell and bruised my little toe very badly. And then, a few days after the free sample episode, I dropped a coffee cup on my big toe and thought I might have broken it. I still can’t wiggle it properly. So I thought it might be an omen.

When I was telling a friend about all of this, she asked, “So what symptoms of pregnancy are you having?”

“Hmm, well,” I paused. “There’s the hurt toe.”

Neither she nor Craig thought the toe was a clear indicator of my pregnancy, but I was growing increasingly convinced.

I finally took a pregnancy test a few days later. For some reason, the urine didn’t seep properly into the testing windows. I don’t think I held it flat. But I couldn’t waste ten whole dollars! So I pulled it apart and spread the urine onto the testing area. Hygienic, I know. By this point I was annoyed and convinced that I had ruined the test, so I threw it away. But a few hours later, I dug it out of the trashcan.

And I saw two lines.

Granted, the whole test was disassembled and the lines did look a little unusual. Thinner than I remember the lines on a pregnancy test. But two lines.

And I cried. A lot. Because even though I thought I wanted another child, I knew, in that crystalline instant, that I didn’t really want another child NOW. Because the thoughts that filled my head were of all the things I wished I had done before getting pregnant again. I wished I had gone to the dentist. I wished I had gotten myself established more firmly in my writing. I wished that I had gone to Hawaii to visit my friend Jenny. I wished I knew more about the homebirth climate in Ohio. I wished we had a little more money. I wished I had spent more time with Craig before the crazy hormones kicked in. And oh, how I could feel those hormones ALREADY. Of course I was pregnant! I was feeling extra hungry, very weepy, just a bit nauseous.

And then I heard Craig puttering around the house, whistling to himself. He sounded so happy. And I knew that he would not be terribly pleased to find out we were having another child. And that made me really sad.

Finally I got up the nerve to tell him, and he was kind and excited and also very worried.

It is funny how we form our identities. How we begin to believe something about ourselves and are then able to make it so. Not that I made myself pregnant that night, but I truly believed for that one night that I was pregnant. I cradled my little belly, which is really just leftover padding from the last two, but for that night was my third child. I couldn’t sleep at all—those pregnancy hormones, you know—and I was up often to use the bathroom. I snacked on crackers at midnight when I started feeling queasy. I read up online about various midwives in the area, and, after reading about one in particular that seemed very good and also affordable, I chanted her name as a mantra to the rhythm of my breath to ease my nerves and help myself finally fall asleep: “Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy.”

Well, I’ve already given away this punch line: I was not—am not—pregnant. I bought a multi-pack of pregnancy tests the next morning that have since confirmed several times that we are not expecting another baby.

It was an emotionally draining night, certainly. But it helped me to clarify what I want for our future. I think it also helped Craig open his mind, just a little bit, to the idea of another child.

But what it did, more than anything, was awake in both of us the possibility that our life together could dramatically change at any moment. Much more, really, than the addition of another child. But to us that felt huge, because for the most part, we have always made plans and they have worked out. As Craig so charmingly put it in his stunned ramblings right after I told him I thought I was pregnant: “We aren’t the kind of people who have accidents like this.” But we could be. I would go so far as to say that we are, because there are certainly accidents and surprises in store for us in our life. Not because we are any particular kind of people, but because we are people. We are human.

So for now I’m just looking at old pictures of Luke and Henry and thinking again about the softness of newborn skin and the satisfying weight of a baby in my arms.