Further Evidence of My Rich Fantasy Life


April 29 (MINNE@P*LIS)—A thirty four year old mother of two was held for questioning this afternoon after a neighbor witnessed her allegedly removing evergreen wreaths from four houses near her home on the xxxx block of xx Avenue South, then using them to build a bon fire on the sidewalk.

The neighbor, who called the police at around 1 p.m., recalled, “She looked real calm, but real determined. She was carrying her baby, and the little girl was following after her.”

“It’s almost May!” the woman was heard to yell as police escorted her away from the blazing wreaths. “It’s time to move on!”

The woman, whom the police report identified only as “caro,” could not be reached for comment. Her husband was reluctant to speak to reporters but noted that, since mid-February, his wife had frequently “ranted” about the continued presence of the wreaths. “It’s been a long winter,” he observed. “It could be that the snow this past weekend put her over the edge.”


Weekend Wars

For a long time, I was under the impression that Saturday and Sunday would be the easy parenting days.

It seems obvious, right? All week, the at-home parent (or mostly at-home parent, in our case) is pretty much alone with the kids. Overwhelmed. Wishes she had an extra set of arms. And then the weekend comes. The full-time working spouse is around, and there is that extra set of arms. (Also legs, brain, shoulders, spleen, etc.) It’s twice as easy on the weekends, right?

Am I the only one for whom that math doesn’t quite end up working out?

Yes, there are more hands here. And A is probably more willing than most working spouses to use them for the common good. More laundry gets done. The house is neater at the end of the day, usually. We eat better. There’s the option of more one on one time with the kids. All good.

But around here the weekends also get to be complex. Sometimes awkward. Often—in spite of how very much there is that each of us would like to do—oddly empty. Even boring.

It’s one of the last parts of our identity as parents—and as a family—to fall into place. I’m pretty solid, now, in my sense of myself as a mom of two, and A feels the same about being a dad. But how we operate, all four of us? How we spend (or fill) two days together? There are so many moving parts. It’s taking us a long time to figure out what works and doesn’t work when we’re all together, and I have to keep reminding myself that we're not failing; we're learning.

Lack of planning is at the root of a lot of it. For the longest time, working on the old pre-kid model of spontaneous weekend fun, we’d wake up Saturday morning and ask each other What are we going to do today? By late afternoon we were all at each other’s throats, neither A nor I having done much of anything fulfilling and the girls cranky or bored from hanging out at home most of the day.

Lately we’ve been methodical about planning the weekend. We talk about it starting on Wednesday. It helps to have a map, to put some things in place ahead of time.

And we’re starting to see the different textures the time can take. Instead of an unpredictable stretch of hours, there are options: We take turns going for runs. Or we each take a kid, one going out and one staying home. Or we all hang out in the yard, Iris in the sling and Ingrid helping bag leaves and sticks as A and I talk and work. Or we all go out together—and we’re starting to figure out when that’s worth it and when it’s not.

Time together, the two of us and the kids, is what we both wanted the most as we looked forward to having children. We had no idea that this, too, would be work, would be something we couldn't exactly just experience but would have to build for ourselves.

It will get easier when Iris drops a nap and we have more than a couple of hours at a time to leave the house at once. It will get easier as the girls both get older. For now it still—still—feels new.


Bedtime Stories

After book reading time and before bedtime, I tell Ingrid a story. For several months the stories were always about Yogurt Dog and featured details gleaned from Ingrid’s day (plus magical pairs of wings made out of leaves, snowflakes, or butterflies).

At the end of a hard day earlier this week, Ingrid and I looked at some of her baby pictures together, and I hit on another kind of story: It starts with Mama and Daddy wanting a baby very much, goes on (skipping all mention of genitalia or pharmaceuticals) to tell how happy we were to find out a tiny baby was growing inside of me, how long we waited for the baby to be ready to be born, and how happy we were when it turned out to be a beautiful baby girl named Ingrid. We wrap up the story with any number of sweet cozy details about Ingrid’s infancy (napping and nursing curled up on the couch). She beams, listening to it, and asks me to repeat it, sometimes five times in a row.

I'd told that story for the past half-dozen naps and bedtimes, with no response from Ingrid other than quiet, smiling listening. Tonight I added a little extra detail at the beginning of the story, and it took us somewhere fascinating:

Me: Once upon a time there was just Mama and Daddy and Lucy. There was no Ingrid and no Iris.

Ingrid: There was no Iris?

Me: Nope. There was no Ingrid and no Iris. And Mama and Daddy—

Ingrid: Where was Iris?

Me: Where was Iris? She wasn’t born yet. This was before you were born, and before Iris was born. And Mama and Daddy—

Ingrid: Where did she go?

Me: Well. She, um. You mean? Um, where did she...come from? She grew inside of Mama, just like you did. Remember when Iris was growing inside of Mama?

Ingrid: Mhm.

Me: So before you were born, and before Iris was born—

Ingrid: Was she at the hospital?

For three days we blew right through a story that started out “there was no you,” but the second I mentioned no baby sister, it became unfathomable. Wow. I spend my days worrying that we’ve ruined her life by bringing a little sister into it, and if left to her own devices she’d have bitten the poor baby’s ears off by now, but it turns out that she already can’t imagine a world without her.


Current Shopping List

chocolate chips
gummy vitamins

There's no middle ground in our family.


Running Again

I’m wearing the t-shirt from the last 10K I ran, and it’s 2008 but the giant green numbers on the shirt say 1990. And the pants I’m running in are yoga pants that have all the perk of a spent condom, having stretched and collapsed with me through two pregnancies. The college women running by me, although I still expect some sisterhood, are looking at me like 1990? And the runners who really hold my gaze like comrades, like, I know who you are and what you’re doing? They are old. My pelvis makes a blunt snapping sound every few steps, as though it’s about to fold in half.

I remember so distinctly being 18 and peeling off this same t-shirt in my dorm room after a run. That room smelled like old straw and my roommate’s hair conditioner and hazelnut coffee. I remember looking down at my body and thinking I am a woman now. Look at this body—I am lithe and awesome. Why am I just now noticing how beautiful I am?

Then, I was always under the eyes of that boyfriend. My love for him seemed singular. It was as singular as anyone’s love for her 18-year-old boyfriend, and as wrong-headed. But I can’t keep from being fond and teary remembering it. It’s what taught me to love my hips, my breasts. It was the first time I felt exactly the same size as my skin.

All of a sudden I’m not carrying a two-pound Walkman blaring Crowded House; I’ve got an iPod Shuffle tucked into my bra strap and I’m getting weepy over Jerry Springer’s lost dreams. The skin of my stomach actually hangs down a little bit over my waistband.

And all of a sudden the person I lie next to is a man whose love throws that age-18 romance up as the strange, giddy shadow of a thing it really was. We are swimming in the ocean together, we two, all the days we've had together buoying us. He knows about my stomach. We have seen each other ugly. We have looked together at the most beautiful things on earth.

I am so much braver now. I can see so much better. I have amazing biceps from three straight years of carrying giant babies. I know better what to say, and what to be quiet about, and how to stay powerful doing both. God, look at me! Look at me, huffing my way through twelve-minute miles, ridiculous saggy boobs and all. Look at me! Now I am a woman.


Random note: Remember the post getupgrrl wrote one time about running? She was emerging from a miserable many months, and she wrote about the feeling of being ready to run again, setting her shoes by the door. Not strong again yet, but ready to get there. Remember getupgrrl? This is one of my least favorite things about blogging: people can write and write and write and then disappear. I know about her running shoes and how the sky looked to her on the worst day of her life. And now where is she? It doesn’t seem right.


Mysterious Splatters

This almost looks like it could be blood. Or coffee, but we barely drink coffee. The unknown quality is an important part of the beauty here, I think.

So many of you have requested prints of these images that I have taken a page out of dooce's book and am looking into a professional fine-art photo printer.


Friday Trivia

What’s your position on Kleenex?

More specifically, Kleenex offered by strangers in the grocery store. To wipe my kids’ noses.

People offer the girls and me Kleenex in public. A lot. Does this happen to you?

My good friend J and darling husband A, both clearly inclined to see the good in humanity, think people are Just Being Nice. They are part of a village, raising children. They see a mom with two kids. They see snot. They see a way they can help, and they do.

When it happens, I react as though I believe that is the case.

But really what I’m thinking is Oh God they can see what an awful mom I am for not keeping the snot at bay. Our family is a vector of pestilence and it’s all my fault. They are so grossed out they can’t contain themselves.

Or: If they think there’s any hope of both noses ever being clean at once they are living some kind of ridiculous pipe dream. If they had ever, ever been in this position they would see the impossibility of this and not even bother trying to help.

Where do you come down?



I'm a writer, you'd say, and I'd think, Well, when was your novel published? Or have your essays appeared in The New Yorker? No? Well then you are middle aged, likely recently divorced, and have been reading Julia Cameron.

Then last month I told some friends of ours—good friends: people we see every week—about the poem that was accepted for publication this winter*, and they were surprised. Have you always liked to write? they asked. Subtext: You write? Really?

Well, yes. I write. Have scrawled in notebooks ever since I discovered that spiral-bounds could be purchased by the stack at the grocery store. Have considered it a practice ever since I ripped through Writing Down the Bones in a public library armchair one Saturday in high school. The best part of my job is the writing. The best part of my plans is what I'll write next.

And yet, somehow, my writing is a surprise to the best of my friends. How can I have kept this a secret?

Trying to bring in a little extra income, I'm working on picking up some contract writing jobs. Newsletters, brochures, whatever editing work I can find. Part of getting this going is updating my résumé. Opening a separate business checking account. Making business cards. On those cards and those new checks, I'm having printed, under my name, Writer. Call me middle aged. (I'm 34, thanks.) Say it's wishful thinking. Damn the self-help books. Question my credentials. Whatever. I write. Have always written. Will always. Am, have been, and really always plan to be. A writer.

*Accepted for the spring issue of this journal, and it's still not out. Come on! Spring is here! Even in Minnesota!


Compost Bucket

I find that composting is such a beautiful way for our family to soar on the breath of the earth. It makes me feel so pure and fresh to know that the food remnants we discard will return to the soil to nourish a new generation of life.


The 140 gallons is going to clinch it.

Dear Boss:

As we discussed this morning, I am hereby submitting in writing my request for a one-year sabbatical from the posititon of Mama.

I’ve been in this position nearly three years now (closer to four if you count the preliminary gestational phase), and, though there’ve been rough patches, I’ve headed up a team that has achieved a great deal. We’ve gone from four microscopic gametes to two whole human beings, a total of 56 pounds of girl.

As head of nutrition, education, hygiene, entertainment, discipline, planning, logistics, and spousal management, I feel a great sense of pride in the two terrific children we’ve raised. Ingrid pees in the potty, says thank you, “reads” like a maniac, and (for some reason) can identify all 50 states, on a map plus several European countries and Cuba. Iris can crawl, woof, and eat avocados with her own hands. And they are both as adorable and healthy as I can imagine two kids being. It’s hard to argue with that evidence.

And let’s not forget my important role as producer and procurer of food for the family. During my tenure here, I’ve not only personally produced over 140 gallons of milk (conservative estimate), I’ve supervised the cultivation of three summers’ impressive crops of herbs, tomatoes, and pumpkins; made at least 200 trips to the grocery store, and prepared at least 1000 meals.

You have been well aware of my dissatisfaction with the working conditions here, and yet I have also made clear that I consider it a great privilege to bear the title of Mama and have on occasion found sublime joy in carrying out my work. I hope to remain in this position for many years.

But I think you’ll agree that this past three years has been an exhausting period of time. The lack of sleep, the intense demands on my body, the requirement that I be present at nearly all times, the absolute rarity of any time at all to myself; anyone would agree that after three years of this, a person needs and deserves a substantial break.

I believe it is to the advantage of the whole family—children, father, and myself—to bring in a fresh, energetic temporary replacement to fill my position for this coming year. Someone unmuddled by sleep deprivation; someone with fresh solutions to the perennial whine of I’m cold but I don’t want to wear my coat and the ongoing cry of I want to nurse and practice crawling at the same time.

During my sabbatical, I plan to sleep, write, go for leisurely runs, and, as funding permits, spend several months near the ocean. I am confident that I will return to this position rejuvenated and ready to assume again the great responsibility and honor of being the primary caregiver for these two lovely children.



Filthy Pictures

I want you to be comfortable here. I mean, don't perch on the edge of the perfectly upholstered sofa and place your teacup precisely in the center of that lovely designer coaster. Put your feet on the coffee table, already. And if you spill a little, would you mind picking up that sock over there and just doing your best to blot it up?

I don't want you to leave here thinking I could never have her over to my house. She'd think I was a total slob. No. I want you to walk out onto my front porch dusting cat hair off your clothes and thinking Well, Jesus, at least I vacuum occasionally. I don't get done as much as I'd like but at least I'm doing better than caro. And she's all right, so I must be all right too.

Many bloggers post photos revealing the details of wonderful domestic surroundings. And I don't know about you, but none of them ever looks quite like my house. So, as my contribution to that genre, I am beginning a series of photos, to be taken as the whim strikes me and posted as I get a chance, to share with you the real beauty of our home.

I call this first one "Hi Daddy."



So, we did have an IM conversation. Friday. And it was messier (shocking! I know!) than what I imagined. Having, after all, some boundaries about what I post on the internet, I won't go into detail, except that it was one of the most bittersweet, cathartic conversations I've ever been in.

He did say he was sorry. And I said it was ok. And meant it.

This morning the four of us went for a walk in the sun. My brother-in-law came over to borrow a saw, and at the same time a friend called needing me to drive her to the hospital (she cut her hand). There was logistical shifting and asking for help in various directions, and we did what we needed to do and later went for a walk to the park and ran into a family from Ingrid's day care. A big bunch of friends came for dinner.

All winter we clung together, the four of us, tangled in this sticky little life, not looking out, not seeing who else we could touch. And now the doors are open again and we are inhaling. Lending and borrowing and helping again. No longer hunkered down. It's good.

And it's good—if unnerving—to remember that I can still reach people way out there on the periphery—old loves, old friends. People who from so far away can still make my world tremble just a little.


Big Car, Little Car

We're coming to the end of our patience with our fifteen-year-old, in-the-shop-every-month, speedometer-doesn't-work-right, rusty-as-hell Subaru station wagon.

This past weekend we got A's mom to babysit so we could spend a couple of hours shopping for cars together. (Amazingly, this still felt like a date. Must've been the quick parking lot backseat necking session halfway through the second test drive.)

We've got it narrowed down to a couple of options: get another (used) Subaru. Or go for something smaller—like a Honda Civic or (the much cuter option*) Mazda Protege—and use about two thirds of the gas we would with the bigger car.

Now, a Subaru station wagon is by far not the largest or least fuel efficient car a family can drive in this country, and the cash savings on gas if we chose a smaller car would probably add up to only a couple of hundred dollars a year (we don't drive much). But it seems like at this point in history if we have the opportunity to cut out a third of the gas we burn, we should.

Except we are so American. We've been driving this station wagon for so long, we've gotten used to taking off for weekend trips with way more than we need. And we get stuck on What if we get a dog? And What if we buy a tree? And Will we really be able to fit everything in that tiny trunk? What about camping?

For ninety nine percent of the driving we do, a Subaru is Too Much. And a great deal can be accomplished with a roof rack and some more frugal packing habits. Why is it so hard to suck it up and choose what someone in almost any other country in the world would do by default?

How about you? What do you drive? Does it work for your family? For the rest of the world?


*I am so not in the habit of seeing my car as an important part of my identity (see rusty fifteen-year-old Subaru). But driving the Protege, I felt so cute. And driving the Civic? I felt like I was 34 and cheap and covered with baby snot. (Which I am, on all three counts, I guess, but still.)