First Fourth

first fourth

2003 was our first Fourth of July as parents. It was also Bryan’s first paid holiday in nearly his entire working life, having lived the high life of a freelancer until I got knocked up with Ruthie. It was the first time I’d ever seen him relax – like, REALLY relax – because he wasn’t thinking about all the money he wasn’t earning that day by not working, or all the all the future business he wasn’t funneling into the pipeline.

Five years later Bryan lost weight, I’ve gained weight, and I have a new growth attached to my hip who goes by the name, Thomas. Also? Ruthie still makes this face when she’s pissed at me. And at bedtime. And when I cut her off at three bowls of cereal.

to have and to hold

memorial bush

Friends gave me this bush three years ago in honor of Gordy after he died. It came in a five gallon bucket, and just look at it now. It grows like a weed, but I couldn’t be happier about it, because when pruned I bring the clippings inside and display them in a vase. The leaves smell like pine and sweet oregano when you rub them, and it freshens up any room.

The bush sits to the left as you walk up my front steps, and I really do think of Gordy every time I pass by it. I’m certain that if I ever moved out of this house, I would take the bush with me. I just don’t part that easily with Things That Mean Something.

What do you hold in your hand, or in your pocket, what treasure to you look at to remember someone or something by?

Influenza: chronicled

It started on Friday or Saturday with a slight tickle in my throat and a runny nose – a simple cold. It was a beautiful day. The kids played outside and I decluttered and swept my front porch, and cut the grass. Despite tickle in my throat, I generally felt like this:


On Sunday we decided to stay home from church. Ruthie was still coughing and Thomas now had a runny nose. They frown on these things in the children’s church area. I was feeling a little worse, and Bryan now had a throat tickle.

Still thinking I had a simple cold, I armed myself with a pitch fork and hoe, and went outside to turn over a new garden plot I created last fall along the south side of the house. Layers of top soil, newspaper, mulch, compost, and over-crop turned under – one back-breaking lurch at a time.


I came inside where Bryan asked me what I’d been doing. I tell him. He smirks sheepishly and says, “I forgot. I was supposed to tell you Don has a rototiller you can borrow.”


Sunday night explodes into a full-blown cold, and I’m now regretting that I labored in the garden because I am sore all over. I can’t get warm, so I take a hot shower. I still can’t get warm, so I snuggle up with wool socks, a sweatshirt, and a heating pad. I’m slowly killing every tree in the forest with my running nose:


Monday I wake up, feeling a little worse. Contemplate going to the gym as scheduled. Should I push through cold to work out? Will exercise invigorate me and drive this cold from my body? I decide to stay home and rest. The week is wide open, I can easily make up the workout on Tuesday.

By late morning on Monday I’m beginning to realize I do not, in fact, have a simple cold. My skin hurts. My hair hurts. It hurts to move. It hurts to lay still.

After a brief visit to wikipedia for confirmation, I realize I have the flu.

In humans, common symptoms of the disease are the chills, then fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort.

Monday afternoon my girlfriend calls. We were supposed to hang out that evening, but I am now too sick. She says she was sick like that a month ago, and spent all week in bed. All week? In bed? I feel panicked. Her kids are school age. Mine are… jumping age. They are jumping on me while I lay helplessly on the bed. We have exhausted every PBS program and movie in the house.

I attempt a walk to the cupcake shop to run down their energy. I imagine the kids doing a lot of this:


While I do a lot of this:


But it is bitter cold, and I am exhausted. I make it 1 1/2 blocks before we turn around and end up at the coffee/wine bar instead. The one with bottles of wine lining all the walls. We are there ten minutes when I realize this was a very bad idea. We go home and resume jumping on the comatose mom.

Tuesday morning. Repeat all of the above except the attempt at leaving the house. Kids actually tire of watching tv and ask if they can play outside. It’s not even nice out. It’s cold. And wet. That’s how stir crazy they are. Also? When left to their own devices, they act a little like this:


While they are outside it occurs to me Advil might take away the sensation of getting hit by a truck. I take two, and within half an hour I feel like a normal human being again. I walk upright. I open my eyes. I actually put a load of clothes into the washing machine. I actually heat up leftover chili and make dinner. It’s a miracle! Advil is a miraculous drug! I am able to function.

After dinner Advil wears off. I cannot move. My hair hurts. My skin hurts. I swallow Tylenol PM and go to bed at 8:30 with the kids.

On Wednesday I wake up early, still feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. I am pissed. It is no longer a novelty to lay around all day, sleeping while the kids set things on fire. I actually have work I need to be doing, like the laundry:


I give The Flu the finger and start my day with two Advil and a cup of coffee, laying helplessly on the couch as I wait for Advil to kick in. I’m staying ahead of the pain.

When it does kick in, I clean the bathroom. I spray the entire thing down with Lysol, including all the door knobs and cabinet handles. I spray all the door knobs in the hallway. I spray the front and back door. I spray the couch. I spray my chair. I spray the phone. I shut down my laptop and give it a good rub down. I scour the kitchen with Lysol All-Purpose cleaner with bleach. My nostrils are now burning, and my children are growing extra toes, but my house sparkles like this:


I open all the windows to let out the toxic smell and the flu funk. I dare anyone to even TRY getting sick in my house.

A friend arrives with her children. She brings lunch. She leaves to run errands. I insist. I’m fine, I say. Let’s stick to the co-op plan, I say. How hard can it be? I say. Three out of five children take naps. The other two happily create fairies on


The sun comes out. All children wake up and go out to play. My Advil is wearing off. Friend arrives in the nick of time and says, “I’ll take your kids home, feed them spaghetti, and bring them back at 7:30.”

I would have jumped up to kiss her if I could. Instead I wave my approval at her weakly, and pass out on the couch. I rest for an hour. When I get up I actually feel half way decent. Advil has warn off, but I am not feeling pain. I pay bills. I think about doing laundry, but remember the two flights of stairs involved. I decide to rest some more.

Children arrive home on schedule at 7:30. They are fed, bathed, and tired. I am actually happy to see them. We snuggle. They go to bed. I watch American Idol and am confused about why dreadlocks guy is still on the show.

Today is Thursday. I’m still sick with the flu, coughing up a lung and relying on Advil to function. I look just thrilled about it, don’t I?


Ruthie has preschool today so I must leave the house. I make a list of errands to run because dammit if I’m going to let this thing kill me. Miraculously, the kids are dressed and fed. I recycle dirty underwear and put on clothes from a pile on the floor. I manage to get out the door looking halfway decent, if not a little like a bitter, God fearing, gun owner:


A friend calls my cell phone and says she’s going to my friendly neighborhood Target, would I like to join her? I remind her that I’m on my deathbed without the benefit of actually dying. But the lure of seeing anything but my own walls overcomes me, and I agree.

Foolishly walking past the handicap scooters in the entryway, Thomas and I discover Friend in the clearance section. We are clearance junkies and search the racks for $3.48 clothing items. I forget I have a child, who apparently forgets he has a mother, and we are now looking for lost boy in the Misses section. Sadly, I made myself look decent enough that judgmental mothers cannot see that the sickness has caused this lapse in proper mothering, that I am obviously not in my right mind for shopping at Target on such a day.

We find lost boy who is then strapped into shopping cart as punishment. Stubborn boy spends next twenty minutes trying to escape shopping cart prison. We decide to reward this behavior by ending our shopping trip and buying him a scone at the in-store Starbucks. Friend and I have a conversation the length of time it takes for a three year old to eat a scone.

I start to feel Advil wearing off. It is time to pick up Ruthie.

I call another friend on my way up the hill and tell her I’ll be by to drop something off. I drive up hill and pick up Ruthie from preschool. Advil has completely worn off. My elbows hurt. My fingers hurt. My knees hurt. My fat hurts. I drive home in pain, completely forgetting to stop at friend’s house.

As of this writing, the latest dose of Advil is not working. All pain, all the time. Obviously, this does not stop me from writing a snarky blog post, or lamenting to all my Twitterers about my suffering. A girl has priorities.

But I have hope. I believe in the will of God. For any God who places me in just the right place at just the right time – against all logical and rational odds – to purchase these lovelies at Target for $3.48 a piece:


Is a God who, I believe, can heal me of the flu.

June Cleaver called, and she asked for her apron back.

housework never looked so goodI’ve taken to wearing this adorable apron as I busy myself around the house. I found it at one of the antique shops in my neighborhood, and I just fell in love with the fabric and the design. It looks homemade, but is very well constructed with large pockets and feminine pressed pleats and a little rick-rack for decoration.

apronAt first I started wearing it mostly for nostalgia, as it reminds me a little of my grandma. But as I cleaned up the living room and swept one afternoon, I found myself picking up odds and ends off the floor and putting them into my apron pockets – socks, miniature pirates and their even smaller swords, Polly Pocket accessories, etc. Clean up was faster when I could make one trip to the play room to put it all away, instead of multiple trips as I cleaned.

Am I an oppressed housewife who needs to be set free by the feminist movement? Or am I a trend setter? Perhaps stay-at-home moms everywhere will pay cold hard cash for a “retro” apron like mine. You never know. But somebody should really think about making some of these.

Relax and unwind


Hung the “gone fishing” sign on the door this weekend and escaped to a city I would move to in a New York minute if I could convince each and every one of my friends to come along. I just can’t imagine living without my peeps, no matter how strongly Portland courts me.

An annual trip we’ve taken four years, now – except that I think it might be five – we stayed in our favorite digs, visited our favorite spots, and ventured into some new places as well.

In years past I’ve clicked photos and blogged and written of our adventures. But this weekend was quieter, more introverted. The pictures you see here are almost all we took, and I didn’t feel any draw to report our activities (perhaps because much of what we did involved pulled curtains and Do Not Disturb signs, if you know what I mean).

Bryan’s been working long hours these last months – and even as I write he is away at a function until late tonight – so the time together was timely. The challenge for me, of course, is always the re-entry. It’s never graceful. I’m never glad to be back. I’m always more than a little bitter it had to end.

Though I did say to Bryan at one point on Sunday, when I was starting to think about the kids just a little bit, that I couldn’t imagine not having kids. The time I would have! The money to burn! The intact cells of my brain! What would I do with myself, day in and day out? What mystery would there be to uncover? What challenge to overcome? For what stolen moment would I devise an elaborate plan to capture?

So this is what I tried to remember today as Thomas crapped in the bathtub yet again, and as Ruthie woke from her nap in the foulest of moods. I tried to remember that these children are a blessing to me, not a thorn in my side as I sometimes see them. They are a gift given to me. And though weekend escapes without them for marital bliss are important, my heart should always be glad to be where it is.

Weekend Project.

weekend project

We don’t have an entryway.

I have dozens of pictures clipped from magazines of large, high-ceiling-ed entryways with sweeping staircases and homey benches. I have pictures of back door mud rooms with cute storage lockers or cubbies sectioned off for each child. I have pictures of old wardrobes converted to coat closets, of closet system installations, of change jars and old-fashioned telephones atop hall tables.

I had it all figured out, and then I bought a house with no front entryway, no back door mud room, and no coat closet.

We started with a coat tree. I hate coat trees. Thankfully ours never tipped over, but when I cleared all the coats off I found a purse I’d been looking for since last summer and a mysterious red jacket from Land’s End in size 18 months. If you’re the first to hang your coat up when arriving, it takes you ten minutes to uncover it again when you leave.

Not to mention the kids can’t reach it to hang up their coats.

I put together this little ensemble from Ikea for less than fifty bucks. Two basic coat hook racks, and a bench-shoe-rack thing from the bathroom section. We are not a no-shoes house, but with all our bedrooms upstairs it’s not practical to keep the kids’ shoes in their rooms. Having them right by the door saves time and hassle when we are rushing out the door.

At the suggestion of a friend, who is one of my two personal decorators, we flipped the couch to the other side and put the chairs against the wall (you can see the arm of the black club chair). This opened up more space in that corner for a cute little kid sized coat rack that Thomas and Ruthie ADORE. Just like he announced the new kitchen to every visitor, Thomas WILL point out his new coat rack every time you come over.

I may frame some of Ruthie’s art and hang it above their coats.

The milestone for me in all of this – besides the fact we actually hauled out a drill and did it – is that it looks nothing like what I always wanted, yet I’m so happy with it. I needed to adjust my expectations to fit my circumstances. I needed to let go of the picture in my head.

Which I did.

And now I’m well on the road to maintaining order in my home.

Princess Ruthie and her Knight In Shining Armour

Princess Ruthie and her knight in shining armour

Halloween 2007

When I asked Ruthie what she wanted to be for Halloween she said, and I know this will shock you, a princess. Then Thomas, who always wants whatever Ruthie gets, also said he wanted to be a princess. Obviously Bryan would not have a son wandering around the neighborhood dressed in drag, so we had to get creative. I found this great Knight’s costume in the role play isle at Target, and get this, it was only ten bucks! Not bad for a brand new costume.

And now he has something to wear around the house besides his pink purse and high heels.