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C is for calm. September 11, 2012

Filed under: Brain Chatter — gleefulbarbarians @ 3:55 pm

September 11. This day of chaos. Of catastrophe. It’s more about the calm now, isn’t it? (see how I’m working in all those Cs?) It’s hard not to reflect today. To feel a little bit slower or more thoughtful. There’s a kind of serenity in depression, I think. At least you know you’re not alone today. I’m in my house by myself for the first time in God knows how long. It’s like the feeling just before you dip your toes in a warm bath (not that I take baths), knowing you are about to find a moment, just a minute or two, of calm.

Our house has been full. First the 4 of us, then our au pair, then another au pair is living with us for nearly 6 weeks (long story), my parents stayed with us for 5 nights (8 in the house) and then David’s parents stayed nearby, along with a friend who we brought in to photograph the birthday and photos of grandparents and the girls. We only ever seem to have photos taken moments before we leave–oh look, it’s nana and papa on the couch with the girls and they are never any good. Hopefully we got some good ones this time.

It has been craziness and commotion for days. Even without more than an activity a day, just the process of moving here or there was, at times, overwhelming. We had about 35 people here on Saturday to celebrate Brenna’s 3rd birthday. I kept it as simple as possible–not much food to prepare that day–and it was lovely. I had texted Inja’s husband Brian to see if they could attend, but hadn’t heard back. The doorbell rang and Inja and her family was there. I literally started crying because it meant so much that Brian brought her and the kids. My parents got to see her, which was lovely. I think I’ve finally accepted this balance Inja has of living in the present with her quick-witted responses and her “removedness,” which isn’t a word, but hopefully you understand. Anyways, it was wonderful to see her. I asked our photographer friend to take a photo of us and said to her, “now you have to smile because your mom never says you smile.” Next thing I knew, she put her hand over my mouth and pretended to kiss me, which of course, was popular in making your friends laugh when you were 12. This was good.

There was this a moment during the party, when I sat down to eat and looked around at our friends and family scattered all over the deck and yard, immersed in conversation, watching the kids play on the jungle gym or in the yard, eating and drinking, enjoying. And I was keenly aware that the moment was good.  It’s like dipping your toe in the bath again–there’s just the recognition of a life affirming moment. I love those. You know the saying “We don’t remember days. We remember moments.”?? (Cesare Pavese) I believe that. Sometimes I get scared that something will happen–that I will die. That David will die. Or someone else I love. I’m so thankful that if I had time to look back–5 seconds, 5 hours, 5 months–that it would be full of beautiful and touching moments.

Isn’t today a great day to reflect on those moments? Not where you were when you heard or how you felt when the walls or the people fell, but those moments that have come since that make us thankful to be alive.

Hugs and love to you today.

 

A is for Awesome April 24, 2012

Filed under: Brain Chatter — gleefulbarbarians @ 4:39 am

Holy crap, I am in awe of your dishes and laundry policy. You are awesome. In so many ways. Our au pair left at the beginning of March and since I’m supposed to be working…like a lot…I am surrounded by Clutter. So much so that I had to capitalize it. or Capitalize it. Clutter on my dresser. And the bathroom counter. And the desk. And the kitchen island. And the coffee table. And even the freaking ottoman in our bedroom. I keep saying to myself, during the 18 hours that my children are in school (let’s give it 18 minus the time it takes me to get to/from home and I have about 15.5 hours a week “free”), “Today you will stop working on your computer and you will clean. You will do it for 2 hours. 1 hour. 30 minutes. Just get up and do 15 minutes of cleaning. Okay, it will take only 6 minutes to clean off your dresser. Do it. Do it now! Crap, you have to go pick up the girls. Stop working!” And so it goes…

Your cat sounds so much like a cat. If you’ve never read about cats on The Oatmeal, you should check it out because it’s hysterical: http://theoatmeal.com/tag/cats, like this one: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/cat_vs_internet. This is super funny and you might relate to it too: http://www.booksofadam.com/2011/03/more-stupid-cat.html, or this one: http://www.booksofadam.com/2010/11/poor-stupid-cat.html. Cats are such entertaining furry people.

My dog, Marley, is dying. She is something like 14 and I’ve had her for 12 years. She’s my first pet, really. We had goldfish growing up and evidently there was a cat in our house until I was about 2, but I must not have interacted with her very much. (She was also Siamese and loud–they are known for their vocal nature.) Marley’s legs are giving out on her, her whole back half, really, but she’s still very much here, wanting to be with our family all the time. Just in the past week she stopped going upstairs almost completely. It wasn’t until last year that I realized she wasn’t just going to go off and die someday. I foolishly thought that like, I would come home and she wouldn’t meet me at the door and she would have just passed away on her own. It took David’s grandfather’s death last summer to make me realize the truth. Grandpa’s body just shut down on him, even though his mind was so present, so witty and “there.” He made the choice and I have to do the same for Marley sometime soon. Last weekend, before we went to my sister-in-law’s wedding, Marley was not doing well and I was a wreck. She stopped eating her dry food. So now we’ve upgraded to really expensive canned food. The kind that has grade A meats, peas, potatoes, flax seed, kale and delicious array or organic vegetables. But she’s eating, so I won’t question. I’m hoping she’ll tell me when it’s time, but I might just have to make a decision. Which sucks.

I always thought of myself as a cat person. I always felt like more of a cat myself–they are more independent. They are easier. But two things happened. One: I didn’t want to be single cat lady. It’s awful, but true. It was such an unpleasant thought of being the woman who came home to sit around with her cat, reading a book and sharing a can of tuna or something. I was living in Washington DC and wanted to be girl about town. When I moved to Boulder to be my more preferred girl about mountains, it sort of secured the dog ownership for me. I did a project at the Humane Society and when I met Marley, she peed on my shoes (claiming me for her own). I became a dog owner. The big upswing with a dog is you are forced to take said canine outside. So the summer after she chose me, I hiked almost every day. I walked a lot. And I looked really tan and thinking back, pretty darn fit. The cat walking doesn’t really serve as a personal trainer quite as well.

I’ve been reading Jane Green–more British chick lit. I’m too tired to describe it, but it’s a nice read. Off to bed. Aiming to sleep as much as possible. With a two year old who likes to wake up and sleep on/around/attached to me. Still.

C. U. B. U.

 

Taking it easy on yourself January 3, 2012

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity — gleefulbarbarians @ 12:12 am

AL, I thought I was going to be so brilliant and kick the year off by posting after what seems like eons, years, months since I’ve written. I just looked at our site and saw 2 posts that I missed! How did that happen? I’ll tell you–it’s a lack of sleep going on 5 years now. I saw a journal entry, in my little notebook that I only seem to write in on vacations and major holidays, from November 2009. Brenna was 2 months old and I had slept 7 hours the previous night. So why does she wake 3-6 times now? Because I’ve allowed it. Because I’ve been too tired to make the change and cut out the night nursing. It’s time. She and I have been talking about it. It’s the new year and people make changes, right? Sometimes when I tell her no nursing she just rolls over, I sing her a sleepy version of Twinkle Little Star. Other times, she says “no tinkle ittle star!” and goes to sleep. My girl is growing up.

I didn’t reflect on 2011 very much. I reflected more on how I felt at the end of it, which is thankful. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, but if people are alive, I’m pretty much happy now. Anything else is just sprinkles. At midnight the other night (yes, I was awake for new years), David said it’s going to be an interesting year–we’ve got a lot of travel planned, Ainsley starts Kindergarten in the fall (which makes me want to cry when I think of it, namely because I think of Dave Barry’s article every time. I read the last few sentences and get teary.) and lots of other adventures on the horizon. Ainsley will be a big girl as she walks in the school doors for the first time and I will cry.

Can I add that even though I’ve lived in Colorado for 12 years, New Year’s to me is still at 10 pm because that’s when the ball drops in NY? I mean, I’m from New York, how is new year’s at any other time? I was finishing a puzzle at 10 pm this year and missed the ball drop (for reasons why, see paragraph 1).

Looking forward to this “interesting” year ahead, I’m scared my grandmother won’t be there at the end. She’s 90 and feisty, but I began to cry as I kissed and hugged her goodbye last week. Her voice broke too. You just never know. I am not sure my dog and canine companion of 11+ years won’t make it through the year. I’m scared Inja will continue to live in a sub-optimal place or bad things will happen to the good people I know. I’m also hopeful–that I’ll actually be able to lose 8 lbs, that our travels will be exciting and not as exhausting as they currently promise. I’m hopeful I’ll make some money to afford what I spend and that I’ll sleep more. I would settle for life and sleeping more.

Did I tell you to read The Night Circus? If not, go read it. I’ve read it 3 times in the past month or so and would start it again tonight. Truly.

My friend Kate gave Brenna a little doll–stupidly named Belly Brites by the marketing person for a toy company–her belly lights up, changes color and plays a large portion of Clair de Lune. It’s very sweet. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard Clair de Lune over the past few weeks. One night she played it 16 times before going to bed. First thing in the morning, Ainsley came in the room and turned it on. I might have thrown up in my mouth a little.

I’m heading downstairs to make dinner. Tacos with chicken breast or ground beef, beans, avocado, cheese, lettuce, salsa. It’s incredibly exciting. I’m going for Americana tonight. I might even use paper plates and not compost afterward (not really).

Hugs to you and happy 2012. How do you think it will be an interesting year?

 

Holy Crap! August 31, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Uncategorized — gleefulbarbarians @ 5:23 pm

Dear Amey,

Ainsley has been saying “Holy Crap!” quite a bit recently. And for very simple things. If she likes the images in a book, she’ll exclaim “Holy Crap! I love these pictures!” I just let it go. I read in a magazine that a mom was driving with her daughter and the girl asked “Where’s the effing pharmacy?” Mom was just about to yell at her daughter for cursing when she realized the child was asking “Where’s the F in pharmacy?” We are always so quick to jump.

So I saw you just a week and a half ago. You met my husband and daughters, and enjoyed a diner breakfast all in one fell swoop.  It was lovely to see you and hear you converse with my girls. (plus you made me feel good for saying I looked great.) I enjoyed hearing about camp as well, which is a subject best left to another post. It’s very life-affirming being with you. Thank you for taking the time to come visit with us for a while.

What’s interesting on my end? Let’s see: yesterday, I met up with Inja and her parents who are visiting for a week. We went to the Fifth Element Ranch nearby in Loveland, CO. Tara, the therapist and a new friend of mine, facilitated a very interesting session. I believe Inja’s parents brought her expecting Inja to participate in traditional equine therapy. What it became was mostly some help for her parents to realize that things may not change. The extreme fears and frustrations they have regarding their daughter and what she endures in her home and life may not change. And rather than fight those feelings, to be nice to them, welcome them, to relax and say “these are my feelings.” It doesn’t mean you have to accept the situation, but accepting your feelings about them can give you an opportunity to be more grounded–or maybe just more okay with the groundlessness. It is strange to know people your whole life, but to experience something so intense where–gasp!–feelings are talked about, it’s really unusual and a little awkward, even after going through Inja’s illness together. Her dad talked about being at the hospital 3 weeks after it all began nearly a year ago and Inja was showing few signs of any awareness. He said I came in to visit and as I started talking, Inja’s eyes began to twitch. And when I left, Inja moved her mouth to say “bye.” He talked about how tremendous that was. That felt really good, to know that I was so much a part of her person that her person “came out,” even in the darkness. I’m going to carry that with me.

As we sat in a “sacred circle” together, I watched Inja’s daughter, Nona, climb up and sit on her mom’s lap. Seeing them cuddle, love and connect is such a gift. I have to remember that.

Before I go back to work, I’ll also tell you that a few weeks ago, I started working on another grant for the WOLFF foundation. Years ago, at the age of 15, I became penpals with a boy named Bill Wolff. We were the kind of creative teens who wrote long letters (on paper!), streams of consciousness last went on for dozens of pages. He was a year or two older than me and chose to go to college at Binghamton University. When I went to visit him at 16 or 17, it was totally awkward. He knew me so well, and yet not at all. I had a lot of fun, fell in love with the school, and of course, ended up at Binghamton as well. Over my 4 years there, I’d see him from time to time, but we never really connected in that same way we did through writing. As I started to write this grant, he came to mind and I decided to Google him. I was shocked to find he existed–like in real life! I’ve wondered where life took him. It turns out: all over. He is an incredible sculptor who received some sort of special “masters” in Japan. He’s a professor in Rochester and does incredible pieces of work: billwolff.net. I reached out to him and we have connected. For how long, I’ve no idea. But it’s nice to know what an interesting life he’s had. I also realized that I have often sought out situations, like this, where I can write. Where I can think, comment, pose questions and learn more about myself. I’ve kept a journal my whole life and have, over the years, found people who enjoy this type of writing exploration. I need a creative outlet in my life. And I’m so happy you are not just a part, but a contributor to that creativity.

How do these “letters” always end up so much longer than I anticipate?

Yours in creative chatter,
Julie

 

Happy 4th of July! July 5, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity — gleefulbarbarians @ 5:38 am
Tags: , ,

Ah, Independence Day. Time to celebrate. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt free and independent. You know when I feel most independent? When I’m in my car, turning on the lights because I’ve actually stayed out until it’s dark outside. (it doesn’t happen very often). It’s like I suddenly realize that I’m by myself. At night. Like…alone…of course, I have this pull to be home and with the girls for bed time, and I get very impatient to just be home. Some day, I won’t need to nurse before bed, read stories, brush teeth or give hugs. For now, I’m okay with this kind of dependence. I cherish it, actually, even when I sometimes feel like I’ve sat in this chair for way too many hours.

Mommy Independence is not just about freedom of time or from demands, but also from worry. I worry a lot. I guess it’s what moms do when they are trying to protect what they love.  Still, I wish I worried less. Stupid creative mind.

Your last letter sounded really exhausting. I’m pretty tired right now, so I recognize exhaustion. 🙂 Really though, neither of my children slept as babies. Ainsley started to sleep around two years–namely because I was pregnant and couldn’t take it much more. I think she knew. I’m coming to that point with Brenna. I just can’t take how tired and cranky I feel every day. Sometimes I worry that I will never feel less tired. That it will always be this way.

I also sometimes worry that I’ll never slow down. I know everyone, every parent is busy. That it goes fast. But I just want to not feel like every moment of my day is rush, rush, rush, do, do, do..do you ever slow down?

I think I’m a little sad today because it was last year today that I last saw Inja before her aneurysm. Our daughters were in a parade on bikes and then cooked out and swam. I’ve thought of her a lot today.

I’m not being funny, am I? It’s almost midnight, so I gotta go to sleep. Sometimes I’m funny before sleep. Evidently not now. But I had to write and you know, depress you.

I hope you had a great day. The 4th is so lovely because everyone just takes time to be together and enjoy. It’s like the whole country is that way. I love that. Night!

 

 

Time flies when you are completely bewildered June 7, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity — gleefulbarbarians @ 11:00 pm

Dear Amey,

Why do I keep going to sleep after midnight? WHY?!? I know I will be exhausted in the morning. I am literally running on fumes. And each week, I think “wow, I could not get more tired.” And you know what happens a week later? I am more tired. I know the mommy reserves are mighty and seemingly never-ending, but sometimes I am concerned I will run out of fumes. And being that tired does not bode well for anything else. I’m crankier. I can think, but it takes more effort. I eat worse. I work out less. Seriously, if I could just get in bed before 9 pm each night, it’s possible I could solve all the world’s problems. I’m fabulous when I’ve slept.

You mentioned cookies in your last post and the recipe on the package. I’m fairly certain that over the centuries, your average mama did not have access to tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of cookie recipes. She grew up, learned how to make a couple kinds of cookies that her family passed down to her and that was it. Maybe she tweaked it, maybe she added some more cinnamon or lemon peel, but basically, she mastered a cookie. It was probably divine to master that cookie, not that she would have given the alternative a thought. You know what happens when I want to make a lemon cookie? I search Google. Lemon cookie=19.2 million results. Try to master that! It gives you the idea that your cookie is not good enough, that you could always do better. When all you really want is a lemon cookie to satisfy your lemon cookie urge.

Great. Now I want a lemon cookie.

I started another book 2 nights ago–Jane Green, The Beach House. I like British chick lit. It’s witty.

David & I started writing a book a couple years ago. It’s a great idea. I’ll explain it someday. I still might do it, so I can’t talk about it. Someday, someday, someday…while cleaning out the garage and all my childhood belongings, I found two stories I’d written about Inja. One was about our endless adventures and how we have done so much together–enough to fill a lifetime–or so I thought as a teenager. And now all I do is crave more adventures with her. I also had written another story based on our friendship, probably 20 years ago, where her character was killed in a car accident. It’s fairly haunting and brought tears to my eyes, as it does now. It’s not fair.

Have I mentioned that Inja wrote me so many cards, so many letters over the course of our 35 year friendship that when I read them, it’s like she knew the tragedy her future would hold? Which of course, she didn’t, but she left so many beautiful thoughts about being with me no matter what, being friends through good times and bad…I’ve never grieved her brain aneurysm. She’s alive. It’s hard to grieve for someone who lives an hour away. She still loves me, still feels the same about me. She can’t cook, drive a car, or be a fully present mother to her children (this is the part that kills me), but she is there and she still loves. I really, really miss her though. I really do. (yes, I am crying now.)

On a funnier, lighter note: my 4 year old is a fashion diva. She isn’t super princess or frilly, but she is very artistic and driven in her need to select, match and create her own outfits. I have no idea how this will translate into adulthood. Sometimes it scares me, but it could be interesting. Ainsley is her own person, as is Brenna, and I have to support them and the people they are. I realized after looking at my elementary school report cards this past weekend that I am this way, I have been this way for a long time and nothing will change that. I feel that way about my children too–they are the way they are. I just need to support them with love and compassion to help them become the best version of the people they are. I can’t wait to see who they grow up to be (well, I can wait. I’m just excited to see it.)

We are about to buy a crazy, expensive, large, life-time-guarantee-carrying wooden play structure with swings, slide & little house at the top. I would argue that it’s an unnecessary expense, but this is what I realized–my children will use it all the time. Every day when the weather permits. They will use it until they are teenagers and if you look at it that way, per use, it’s pennies. And the excitement and happiness a swing set brings is pretty substantial. Inja and I practically lived on the swing set and jungle gym as children. I know that kind of happiness.

What makes your boys happy?

Yours in writing and campsongs,
Julie

 

The washing up June 1, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity,she's crafty — gleefulbarbarians @ 6:05 am

It’s bathing night here, so I’m currently sitting at the top of the stairs with one kid in each shower (one in mine, one in theirs), while I periodically inquire, “What are you doing in there?  Are you nearly done?”.  It’s great that they can bathe themselves, but it’s still a process.  Nicholas has a running commentary going in his.  I think he’s talking about NHL 11 (video game for the playstation) or just the playoffs because I swear I heard something like “that’s a bad word in sign language [??], and you should get fined for using that, but nothing happens if the ref doesn’t see it…” and now he’s talking about how people should pass the puck, and playing positions.  Of course, with all this talking and the water running he can’t hear my periodic shouts.

We’re on day 2 of “do the dishes before going to bed.”  This is a task I dislike, and yet I like the end result.  Night Gal hates doing the dishes.  Morning Gal likes waking up to a tidy kitchen.  Of course, Morning Gal gets up after the 3 other people in the house have already had breakfast many mornings, so it’s no longer exactly “tidy,” but at least it’s not littered with roasting pans and kitchen knives.  It was rough going over the weekend (“it’s a holiday – I don’t want to do dishes!”), particular since I made (not terribly good) cookies which made extra dishes.

I’ve been wanting oatmeal cookies and I’d had good results before with the recipe on the Quaker Oats can.  It is only now that I remember I have at least one canister of instant oats (from when my grandmother was here) plus the industrial sized box from Costco (regular rolled, not instant or quick), and that one or both of those probably has the recipe.  I’ll go see how that compares with the one I found on the Quaker website.  The end result was a mostly alright cookie, but kind of dense.  It’s a sad testimony to how rarely I make cookies that the boys were thrilled, even with mediocre cookies.

I noticed on the Quaker site that in the “recipes” tab, there’s a link to “oatmeal topping ideas.”  Score!  I thought.  I could use some new ideas.  Oatmeal does hold me longer than some other breakfast choices we have (one of my other favorites is a fried egg on a piece of toast – simple, but delicious).  I clicked and the page didn’t load.  I immediately thought, “If the Quaker people can’t come up with new things to do with oatmeal, what hope is there for me?!”  And then I hit “reload” and all kinds of things loaded. The other day I did chopped roasted almonds (take away my hippie card – my nuts aren’t raw), dried cranberries and some cranberry apple butter Trader Joe’s had over the winter.  It’s been living in my fridge, but wasn’t moldy and hadn’t expired.  Super.

[Showers done, teeth brushed, jammies on.  Soundtrack featured “Are you done yet?” and “What are you doing in there?”  and “Leave your brother alone!”  and the ever popular “Stop reading and finish up already.”  Now they’re returning from saying goodnight to Dan who was last spotted making no-carb chocolate mousse for himself for dessert]

Tell me more about the brain candy you’re reading.   I read brain candy nearly exclusively, and my audiobooks (my background noise while I do housework) have to be.  The fact that I’m doing this “Game of Thrones” book as an audiobook is a big switch for me – I have to pay more attention than I normally do with an audiobook, but I could get this faster (it’s a library download) than waiting for an actual print copy of the book.  One of my first audiobooks?  The entire (oh yes, all 10+ books) Princess Diaries series.  I also end up reading books that are related to television series or movies because I can’t think of things to read on my own.  It’s how I found Charlaine Harris (she writes the Sookie Stackhouse books that are behind the “True Blood” series on HBO).  Also, my library subscribes to this database called NoveList which has this great “author read-alike” feature.  I read the “Confessions of a Shopaholic” series and then found a whole mess of Irish/UK chick lit to read.   Janet Evanovich is another fun read.  In the “not exactly brain candy” category, I’m still a huge Stephen King fan.

You asked about books I would write.   For fiction, maybe something with a mermaid as a the main character.  WIth all the vampire hype, people might be ready.  Also, I thought MaryJanice Davidson’s 3 book series about a mermaid named Fred was good.  I’d have to not copy her.    For non-fiction I have no idea.  Probably the best I could do would be a collection of essays.  You know – like this thing.  I don’t know enough about any one thing to want to write a book about it.  Things I’m sort of involved with (like breastfeeding or knitting) are already done so well that I don’t feel drawn to try to invade that yet.  Plus, with the knitting?  By the time I thought about writing essays on that (because it surely won’t be a pattern book), the bloom will be off that literary rose.  I might have better luck going right to e-publishing, but I’m not that interested.    I would like Thomas Hale to release his Medications and Mother’s Milk book in a better format. CD-ROM would be nice, wider pages would be nice.  That book has like 1500 pages or something, but it’s only 4″ wide.    OKay.  I thought I might be exaggerating, but I looked on amazon.  It’s 1262 pages, and 8.4 x 4.4 x 2.2 inches.  Basically?  A brick.  It’s a pain in the neck to copy from it or scan it, I’m not certain the margins are wide enough so that I could get it 3 hole drilled….  ARGH!  And it’s such a good reference.  Oh, and you definitely need to read The Wind in the Willows.  I read it two summers ago – it was on that 100 books everyone should read from the BBC.

I often have a hard time just letting the boys make a mess of stuff.  Sometimes it’s balanced by the level of laziness I’m feeling: let them make a mess making their own breakfast and I get an extra 30 minutes in bed OR get up and make them breakfast.   I try to manage the science experiments mostly so there isn’t fighting over who does what and so that we actually do the experiment (rather than spilling a jar full of cabbage juice all over the kitchen floor).   The outside dirt is easier for me to manage.  I generally don’t care too much about how dirty they get outside.  Our backyard is one big dust pile because the boys have killed the grass via hockey playing and bike riding.

I’m nearly done with the sleeves for my sweater.  The other day I showed Dan the sleeve progress and he shot back, “I’m no longer impressed unless you’re doing two at a time.”  At which point I showed him that I was, in fact, doing both.  HA!  His public statement is that knitting is “witchcraft” because “there’s no way you can turn one piece of string into a sweater without tying any knots.  At any point the whole thing could unravel!  It’s witchcraft.”

Remember when we had mashed potatoes with m&ms in them?

~AL