Ruthie the Cat

If you’ve ever owned a cat, or spent any time around one, you already know how they love to curl up on the newspaper you have spread out in front of you.

If you’re reading it on the floor, they’ll sidle up under your chin, make a few passes to get your attention, then lie down on the newspaper and begin to purr. If you’re reading at the table, they still jump up and flaunt their same dance in front of you.

Much like a toddler, they believe they are the center of your world, that the sun rises and sets for your adoration of their existence, that nothing could possibly be more interesting or more beautiful than they are. It’s as if they are proclaiming the newspaper has no significance apart from their connection with it.

When I am working in the garden, Ruthie is like a cat.

Today as I sat on the ground pulling weeds around me, Ruthie plopped into my lap, right under my chin. She felt she was helping me weed, when in actuality I couldn’t see what I was doing because her cute blond head was in my way.

Surprisingly, I was rather good natured about it. I’ve been trying to overcome my impatience and perfectionism for the sake of raising a daughter who still speaks to me when she’s old enough to realize she doesn’t really have to anymore. In this attempt, what I’ve realized is that Ruthie will jump in to “help” me accomplish my task, but quickly lose interest and move on to something else.

She has learned, along with the rest of us, that chores can be rather boring and monotonous.

As for her other catlike qualities, Ruthie is an excellent snuggler.

The lesson for today is “Listen To That Inner Mommy-Voice When It’s Screaming At You, or Else [insert tragic circumstance here].”

Just when I thought I was running out of things to write about and my blog would shrivel up and die, my two year old once again provided plenty of material for me.

To preface this story I would just like to say that in addition to my 4 month old and two-and-a-half-year-old, I’m also watching my friend’s 18-month-old for a week. Plus, it’s ninety degrees today which makes everyone whiney.

That is my defense.

For a brief hour today I had all three kids simultaneously taking naps, during which I read a book without guilt. One by one they each began to wake up, so I began the snack rotation while putting dinner together. It was only 1:30 in the afternoon, but I was making a chicken curry salad that needed to be chilled.

Toward the end of all this mayhem, one kid was crying, one kid was wandering happily about with toys in hand, and one particular EEEVIL blond girl was much too quiet.

The Voice told me to check on her.

I ignored The Voice.

“But I just want to mix this dressing,” I told The Voice. “I’ve been trying to make this salad all morning and I’m almost done.”

She’s up to no good, said The Voice. CHECK ON HER NOW!

Quietly and patiently I scooped the salad into a tupperware and put it in the fridge, washed my hands, put a few dishes in the dish washer, then walked into the living room to check on Ruthie.


[Now, let me just take this moment to assure everyone that I later apologized to Ruthie for what you are about to read because, while she grossly misbehaved, there is no excuse for the temper I unleashed on her in my anger. I am far from perfect as a mother, but I always make a point to tell Ruthie I’m sorry when I am wrong.]

The pink I painted on her toenails apparently was not enough for Ruthie, because she confiscated the bottle of nail polish and painted her legs, her arms, and poured the rest of the bottle out onto my BRAND NEW COUCH.

This is the couch I saw in the store window, fell in love with, waited six months until we had the money to buy it, waited five weeks for it to be delivered, and now have the privilege of napping on daily. It’s red. It’s soft. If I were Dooce I would lick my couch.

I’ve only had it for three months.

I believe what came out of my mouth was something like, “YOU ARE IN SUCH BIG FUCKING TROUBLE YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO TAKE THINGS OFF THE TABLE DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I HAD TO FUCKING BEG FOR THIS COUCH I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THIS…” etc. etc. etc. You get the idea: all caps, no punctuation, lots of swearing.

Poor thing. Poor, unsuspecting cute blond girl who just wanted to look pretty.

I think the most important thing that I am currently learning as a mother is how easy it is to crush the spirit of my children and embitter them against me. Countless times I have, in mid-sentence, flash forwarded in my mind to Ruthie at age thirteen: bitter, rebellious, and hating me because we’ve spent our entire relationship butting heads.

She is a creative, smart, observant, verbal, independent girl, and I think most of the time I fail to recognize all of these (and more!) amazing qualities about her because I’m so fixated on her stubborn will and propensity to be curious.

I pray on a daily basis that I will let go of this and learn to choose my battles more carefully with her so the next time I go ape over [insert tragic circumstance here], my voice is not just the white noise she hears from me all day long.

I made good with Ruthie. As I cleaned her up I spoke quietly to her, apologizing for losing my temper, and I asked her to forgive me. We kissed, we hugged, then we had some snuggle time while the other kids napped again. I cherish my time alone with her, and I wish I could will myself into being more tender with her when she’s out of line.

She is a beauty — a one-of-a-kind — and I love her dearly.

Vacation Preparations

I really shouldn’t be writing this right now. Currently Ruthie is in slumberland and Thomas is gazing happily at his own reflection, so I should be running around like a mad woman getting ready for our vacation. It’s no small task to pack for a five day camping trip with two small children. Fortunately it’s “car camping,” so we’re packing up just about our entire household… including the backyard hammock!

Normally I would say, What’s the point? Why go through the trouble to take your nice, indoor, plumbed, kitchen with a lovely fan and take it outdoors where there is no running water and no fan to cool your glistening skin? Ahhh… but there’s a perk! We are attending a secret music festival on one of the San Juan Islands. I say secret because if all of you realized how cool this music festival was you would want to come, too, then it would just be too big and not be very cool anymore.

Sorry, but that’s the way it is. You’re not invited.

The other night Bryan and I took the kids to a café in West Seattle where we met a friend and her kids. This café had live music and served the most amazing mocha I’ve ever had in my whole life. Or maybe I was just dying for some chocolate. At any rate, this café was very “kid friendly” and had games and coloring books on a little kid-sized table.

Once it got later and the place cleared out a bit we let Ruthie run around. I love watching her run. She reminds me of the bouncing head of an electric typewriter, running stiffly and quickly and bouncy while giggling like popping bubbles. She was, of course, barefoot. I never bother with socks anymore because who has the time to look for all the clothing that gets flung around? The shoes are bad enough to find.

I look forward to our vacation so I can see her running around like a busy typewriter, giggling, and growling ROAR at me from behind a chair. “Roar, mama! Roar!” And then, of course, I have to chase her around a tree and pretend to scare her. This will be a great weekend for her to be free, to be adventurous, and to be truly tuckered out.

So now I will stop writing and continue packing.

The Biting Incident

Yesterday Ruthie was bitten by a child who shall remain nameless.

This is ironic considering that not an hour before The Incident, the Vicious Biter’s mom and I were conversing about the evil nature of our toddlers.

For instance, over the weekend we took Ruthie on a special Thomas the Train ride with thousands of other toddlers, giving me the opportunity to compare my parenting outcomes with all the perfect parents who were in attendance with their perfect children.

I discovered that I am, quite honestly, a failure.

While other children sat contentedly in their seats, oohh-ing and awww-ing and pointing out the window, MY CHILD was the only one on the train attempting to hurl herself out the window so she could see better. I wanted to rip the belt off Bryan’s pants and strap her to the seat.

She is also evil to her friends. She will steal toys from her friends and stash them in drawers, or under pillows, or in boxes so The Victim cannot retrieve them and begins to scream. She then stands back to survey her handiwork as The Victim throws a level 4 fit right in front of her.

The other day she took an apple slice from one of her little minions, and when he came back to her in search of it, SHE ACTUALLY STOPPED CHEWING until he walked away! What have I created???

For this reason I am fully aware that that, although venting one’s frustration through biting is not appropriate, my Evil Blond Girl most likely provoked The Incident.

Foiled! or, You May Have Won the Battle But I Will Win the War!

Yesterday while shopping at a Target store, the heavens parted, the light shown down upon me, and I heard the angels singing, for I discovered EXTRA TALL SAFETY GATES THAT MOUNT TO THE WALL WITH SCREWS!!!

No more will Ruthie climb over the gate! No more will she push through until it becomes unwedged from the door frame! I will now enjoy my coffee in peace until an hour blessed by God himself.

I can smell the sanity brewing already.

Mobile Inspiration

So Bryan bought me this little pdf thingy last week to help me be more efficient. I was just excited to have a remote drive on which I could write. However, when I use the handwriting recognition feature it translates the first sentence of this post in this way: [ So Brian brojnt me’ his etou pdf 1hinogy last week to help.we be more efficient.]

I’m not seeing the efficiency in that.

What it does allow me to do is discreetly surf the internet without Ruthie noticing as she watches Finding Nemo for the 42nd time.

We watch A LOT of Nemo. It’s my crutch to get through the early morning wake up calls without sending Ruthie out to the curb for the weekly trash pick up.

Screw all those studies that say your children shouldn’t watch more than two hours of T.V. a year or whatever it is “they” say. Those people have never spent 24 hours with my lively, curious, and energetic two year old who also happens to like partying in the middle of the night. Sometimes mamma needs to help the little angel zone out for awhile so she can take a shower, drink a cup of coffee, or perhaps lie down and die.

Which brings me to my next point: 8:30am is a very dark time in the world of PBS. I spend all morning chasing the GOOD shows around our three different PBS stations – shows like Barney, Clifford, and Sesame Street. But 8:30 is the Black Hole of children’s television, leaving this mamma searching desperately through the channels for something — ANYTHING — so she doesn’t have to hear the droning whines of the bratty Caillou.

It’ll be a miracle if my child manages to grow up with all her brain cells intact.


Last night I had a disturbing dream that my house was overrun by hordes of people as if everybody in the entire world either lived or worked in my home. The house was so packed it was like a night club dance floor without the benefits of sweating away the calories. For some reason, in the midst of all this chaos I was trying to fill out some kind of form.

So I did what any mother knows to do when she can’t think to remember her own name… I shut myself in the bathroom.

But just as I thought I had a moment’s peace, people started barging in on me one by one to ask me questions. I wish I could remember now what those questions were, but all I remember is feeling like I wanted to launch an escape pod into outer space because at least out there I’d get some peace and quiet.

Ironically, the thing that woke me up out of this dream was my two-year-old crawling into bed with me. Again.

Pipe Dream

WARNING: The following post contains copious amounts of complaining. If such things annoy you please avert your eyes.

Ruthie has discovered the endless joys of bedtime torture that come with sleeping in a Big Girl Bed. I swear her butt is made of rubber because she bounces straight out of bed before you can say “Pour me a drink, the kids are in bed!”

As an introvert I find it quite disturbing to be around my children from 5am until after 9pm, day in and day out. It does things to me.

Tonight we happened to be at a friend’s for dinner, and as we talked into the evening Ruthie grew quieter, then resorted to sucking her right thumb while playing with her left ear, until she actually began clawing at the front door and whined, “Home! Home! Home!”

“See Ruthie?” I exclaimed with great indignation. “Not so much fun when the shoe’s on the other foot, huh???”

Sometimes I wonder who the adult is in this relationship.

I just want things to go MY WAY. I want my kids to wake up smiling and perky at a healthy 8am, and I want their bathed and neatly pajama-ed bodies back in bed by 7pm, and I want them to ask for carrot sticks and apples for snacks, and I want them to say, “Okay mom!” when I yell at them to not run into the street.

Is that so much to ask?

Sleep Deprived

I used to wake up every morning at 6am, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee with my husband, then spend a couple hours working on the computer before my daughter woke up.

Now she wakes me up around 4:30 or 5:00 each morning with her obnoxiously cheery “Hi, Mamma!”

I can’t even begin to describe how grouchy I am when I have to engage before my morning cup of coffee.

I used to be excited to see my daughter come bursting through the door to the kitchen in the morning. She would always strike a certain pose as she slammed the door shut behind her, and it reminded me of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Now when I see her eyes peering at me just over the mattress of my bed I get a seething clench of dread in my chest. Not the kind of warm fuzzies we mothers want to have about our children.

I am a mean person when I am sleep deprived – a point which my two-year-old has not yet clued into, but would benefit greatly from knowing.

These days when I consume my morning cup of coffee, I am standing in the middle of my kitchen with squinty eyes watching cable news — or Barney, depending on which one of us has the stronger will that morning – while Ruthie eats her bowl of cereal and I periodically shush her for trying to talk to me.

Disoriented, I have vague memories of silence, of birds chirping, of that still in the air as the sun begins to rise. I wonder what the heck I was thinking, spending those precious mornings doing something so stupid as paying bills or returning emails when I could have been writing, or reading, or sleeping for crying out loud.

I now believe that an organized life is overrated. I do what I can, but if you come to my house and find balls of dog hair floating across the hardwood floors and dirty dishes in my sink you won’t see a look of apology on my face, because that means I had a nap today, which means I won’t bite your nose off when you try to talk to me.


My two year old daughter loves to help me. For instance, yesterday morning I was pulling weeds in the garden when she came up behind me with a pair of my gardening gloves on, and began pulling up the alyssum in the garden’s border.

“Help!” She kept saying over and over again, as she struggled to grab something through the huge gloves with her tiny fingers.

Normally I would’ve thought that to be so adorable, but I was nine months pregnant at the time and was simply trying to feel like I was accomplishing something in order to satisfy a ferocious nesting urge that my large and off-balance body was not cooperating with. In short, my patience was thin.

I tried to distract her with a broom, asking her to “help” mamma by sweeping the walkway, but she was only interested in the broom when I was the one sweeping with it.

I have to admit I do feel a twinge of guilt for being so irritated with her for wanting to “help” me with everything. After all, when we first saw the ultrasound and learned Ruthie was a girl, all I could think of were the many ways I would be able to teach and disciple my daughter to be a godly woman, a hard-working woman, a woman capable of making her home warm and hospitable.

From the very beginning Ruthie has been an observer and a clean freak. She has her own set of wash cloths now so she can clean off her own booster seat tray. When she spills water from her cup she runs to the kitchen to find a towel and wipes up her mess. When she finds discarded mail or scraps of paper on the floor she picks them up and carries them to the trash can in the kitchen, and just the other day she placed a stray section of the newspaper in the recycling basket.

Bryan calls her obsessive compulsive. I think she’s brilliant.

I know this is cliché mom-speak, but I am terrified at how much of my behavior she mimics. She pays attention to what I do and learns from me. When I lose my patience and am harsh with her, the sad look on her face breaks my heart. Her sad little face is God’s conviction for me, my conscience.

“Mamma was wrong to react that way, Ruthie,” I said at one point yesterday. “I’m sorry.”

Ruthie looked me in the eye, then leaned forward and gave me a hug, and I knew she understood.

And that was profound to me.