February 21, 2012

What's in a Name?

Future namesakes
Naming Baby X is proving... a little complicated.

When it comes to cultural differences, my husband and I do very well.  We don't have arguments that are fundamentally based on a world view and experience that are different from each other.  Rather, we talk things through and find our common ground.

But baby names?  This is a much trickier area.

You see, M is white.

And I?  Am not.

Our first two babies were much easier to name.
Jewish and "white" are just not the same thing.  I have no frame of reference for "white."  I have a lifetime of experiences of otherness, of being an anomaly among "white" people.  Of being a "token Jew," or of being told by the group of white people around me about every other Jew they've ever known.  Of having my OWN cultural identity and needs completely ignored and marginalized in the face of the culture of the majority... white American culture.  Of "white" people having no idea what on earth I'm talking about when I reference the same basic experiences that all Jewish people share.

I wrote about this extensively once upon a time, for the blog of a Muslim mother I used to correspond with online.  I'm not going to rehash all the same issues, but I'll refer you to a perfect example.

Baby names.

For M, a lot of the names I come up with are strange; they are names he is completely unfamiliar with.  Whereas I have actual people that I know (or have known) and can associate with names like these:

Girls:
Aviva, Talia, Mara, Nava, Simcha, Zohara, Chani, Revital, Hadassah, Freyda, Noa...

Boys:
Dov, Ari, Tzvitka, Chaniel, Naftali, Lev, Yona, Chaim, Misha, Eitan

This is what a Rifka looks like
I can see the wheels spinning sometimes in M's head when I suggest naming a girl "Noa."  His thoughts, although he has the sensitivity never to say such a thing, are along the lines of, "What kind of a weird name for a girl is THAT?"  Keep in mind, M has met a Noa.  She's a regular feature at my family's seders.

Whereas when he suggests a perfectly white-American name- like, Kaylee- my internal response is, "But that's so... white."

There are other baby naming traditions that don't carry between Jews and goyim.  For example, who you can and cannot name a baby after.

In Jewish culture, it's a pretty big insult to name a baby after a living relative.  You name babies for dead relatives, as an honorific and sort of in the hope of passing along some of the beloved departed's traits.  You don't see a lot of Jewish Juniors.  Of course, in M's culture, you name babies after living people all the time.  M's middle name is his own father's name.  Nothing unusual for him, for me it would be inviting the worst of all possible outcomes- replacing the father with the son.  I could never name a child for my husband.

My great-grandma- big Bubbe
This means that, what with both of us having pretty big families, a LOT of names of just plain off the table.

The tradition of passing along family names made coming up with SI and DD remarkably easy.  We had both lost loved ones throughout our lives, and nobody had yet been named for our departed grandmothers and family friends.

SI is named, first, for my great-grandmother.  She died when I was about fourteen, and she was one of my favorite people in the whole world.

SI's middle name comes from my mother's best friend, who was murdered by her boyfriend when I was a child.  I have no real memories of the woman, but my memories of my mother grieving will stay with me for my whole life.  As important to me as my great-grandmother was, I have no doubt that Irene was more important to my mother.  And as I have a lifelong best friend of my own, I know how utterly devastated I would be if I found out something so horrific had happened to her.  In honor of the woman who had been my mother's best friend for most of her life, we gave her name to our daughter.

DD is named for both my grandmother and M's grandmother.  They actually died within the same year, my grandmother from colon cancer and M's grandmother from pulmonary fibrosis.  They were both wonderful women who were much loved, and M and I each remember our grandmother well.  As an added bonus, it was M's grandma's idea to give all of her children the initials "DD," so naming DD... well... DD, was an added honorific to her.

My grandma
Right now, we're operating under the impression that Baby X is a girl.  If Baby X is a boy, it simplifies matters somewhat.  M and I have both lost a grandfather, so we have a few names to work with.  But as for girls' names?

The debate is endless.

I suggest Hadassah, he counters with Scarlett.  I suggest Aviva, he counters with Angela.  I suggest Naama, he says... what?

It is, without a doubt, his least favorite recurring conversation.  He would rather talk about life insurance, or scheduling his next prostate exam.  He hates having this conversation with me.  I, likewise, hate having it with him.  But I can't stop.  Not until we're absolutely sure we can agree on a name.  It's a compulsion I can't shake.

For the time being, we're agreed on something.  Tentatively.  I'm not going to give it away, but it does include an old name from each of our families.  One of M's great-great-aunts (or was it great-great-great grandmother?), and one of my great-great-aunts.

My mother's best friend
I'm not sure it's right, but I'm not sure ANY name is right.  SI and DD had their names presented to us.  I had hoped to have daughters to name after three of those four women since I was fifteen.  I had never considered that I might find myself in need of other girls' names... but I like Jewish names.  I like names that feel to me as though they are connected with my heritage, my history, my culture, and my identity.

M has said that, when we were first dating seriously, he had considered me "white."  Now, he says he knows better.

And we're still learning to get through these cultural differences.  While I'm learning to take things in stride that would be utterly bizarre to my Jewish community, M is learning to take things in stride that are completely foreign to him.

I am a very Americanized Jew.  I am not a terribly religious Jew.  I have blue eyes and pale skin, I speak English extremely well and barely any Hebrew, I cook meat and dairy together for my husband and I am a kosher-by-default vegetarian.  But I am still a Jew.  And, as far as I and my community is concerned, any child of mine will also be- essentially- Jewish.  At least, they will have the opportunity to identify as Jewish, the implications of which are something that almost nobody who isn't born to a Jewish family can fully understand.  They will have the option of being accepted by the community at large as being Jewish.

So if Baby X is a Chani, or a Dov, that won't raise many eyebrows with the Yelenas and Avramis.  But it will for the Lindsays and Williams... which is to say, for M's family.

Baby X, last we saw probably-her
And if Baby X is a Brian, or a Valerie, it won't cause a stir with the Dereks and the Beths.  But it will make the Renas and the Bentzis shake their heads with the understanding that I have abandoned my own community a little more- that I have stepped even farther away from my heritage.  And I confess, I'd be shaking my head with them.

I love M.  And I believe with 100% of my soul that these are not irreconcilable differences.

But holy cow...

Naming a baby is hard.

February 17, 2012

Dissenting Opinions

BWS tips buttonAs I hope you are all aware, I have taken The Mom Pledge.  And I take it seriously.

As you may or may not be aware, but a lot of the expectations that we had for adulthood were pretty far fetched.  Adults DON'T always know what's going on.  They DON'T mysteriously have all the answers.  They DON'T have constant confidence in the place in the universe.

So, like children, adults bicker.  And they argue.  And they bully.

As much as we like to think that bullying is a problem of children and children alone, this is just not the case.  And, sadly, mothers are some of the worst offenders I know.

I believe that parenting is hard- and as a result parents take the parenting choices of other people very personally.  This is silly, one parent's choices have no bearing whatsoever on the choices of any other parent.  But if you do something differently from me, it's not hard for me to infer that you are doing it wrong.  And amazingly, it is just as easy for me to assume that if you have any success, it means that I am doing it wrong.  Which means that your parenting choices are actually an attack on my parenting choices.

This is, as I said above, just plain silly.  Your parenting choices have nothing to do with my parenting choices. The same way that your marriage has nothing to do with my marriage, and your religion has nothing to do with my religion.  Until your parenting/marriage/religious choices involve attacking me, it's just plain none of my business and we can lead our own separate lives.

That said, there will be disagreements between parents, just as there are always disagreements between people, and it doesn't take long for a disagreement between people to escalate into a full fledged, mud flinging fight.

And nowhere is that easier than online.

In the course of stating my opinions I have been called a child abuser, accused of calling people Nazis, called a criminal, had my own words taken out of context to discredit and insult me, and been generally attacked for my beliefs and my shared thoughts.

And I invite a lot of this.  I invite it by existing in an ephemeral space filled with anonymous (or even known) people who feel it is their right to punish me for disagreeing with them.  I invite it for discussing controversial topics- which I do very deliberately and (I hope) with a great deal of respect and sensitivity.

But that does not make it okay.

Part of The Mom Pledge reads, 
"I will welcome differing opinions when offered in a respectful, non-judgmental manner, and I will treat those who do so in kind."

This is, I have found, one of the easiest things in the world to do.

Unfortunately, it is rare.  I almost never experience respectful disagreements.  I almost never get a comment that says, "I hear what you're saying, and I disagree with you for this calmly explained reason."

What is much more common is differing opinions in the form of attacks.  "You are a criminal and you should be arrested."  "You are wrong, and because God tells me so you are going to Hell."  "Your culture is evil and is comparable to another culture for its brutal treatment of women/children."  "You must not love your children."  "You must not even LIKE children."

When people say things like that, be they strangers or otherwise, it hurts.  There's no getting around it.  It just plain hurts my feelings.

And of course, one impulse- and one that can be very hard to fight- is the impulse to direct my righteous anger into an attack against them.  Against the person who has attacked me.

I try never to bow to this impulse.  I sometimes fail.  I sometimes find myself using language that I know is incendiary, bringing personal matters into a completely impersonal issue.  Being a gigantic jerk, basically.

But I find that I only fail, I only rise to the attack if I am attacked by somebody that I know in the real world.  Somebody I have some manner of respect for.  Because in the course of being attacked, I lose my respect for that person, that former friend or acquaintance or whatever.  I stop thinking of them as a person I know who doesn't deserve to be hurt, and instead think of them as a failure of the potential I knew in them.  As somebody who would respond to an impersonal choice or opinion of mine with anger or even with threats, they become somebody that I want to show that I don't care about them anymore.

And that is wrong.  That is not a reasonable way to handle a disagreement.

I get some comments on my blog, or my facebook page, or through Twitter, that disagree with me.  Some of them respectfully so, and others... well, others that are basically trolling.  And I am always astounded, relieved, and incredibly grateful to be disagreed with respectfully.

I learn things.  Most importantly, I learn to communicate myself better.  Nine times out of ten, if I have offended somebody I have done it through some kind of miscommunication.

Unsurprisingly, the posts that have generated the most disagreements are my End of the Month Controversies- one of which is coming up next week.  Most particularly, my opinions regarding abortion and marijuana use.

One reader who disagreed with me wrote an entire post about my post... only with dramatic changes.  He took my words out of context, he isolated sentences (and I do tend to write in sentence fragments on occasion- one of my writerly affects) in order to give his own readers the impression that I was saying things that were, frankly, absurd and offensive.

He claimed to have left comments on my blog that I never responded to- which was untrue.  But worst of all were the comments on HIS blog.

There were categorically an attack on me.  And despite the fact that my opinions were not accurately portrayed, that my character was not accurately portrayed, and that he had done me the kindness of leaving me essentially anonymous... I felt incredibly hurt.

I couldn't believe what I was reading as I went through the comments.  A group of people, ranged against me, to attack me.  Being facilitated by what were essentially lies.

I responded as calmly as possible, by addressing some of the misinformation that he had portrayed.  And my respectful comment was treated respectfully.  And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

But I will never forget how much it pained me to be made into a pariah- into a caricature of myself- and to be openly berated and ridiculed.

Some people, anonymous or otherwise, will refuse to see that you are not attacking them merely by having different views.  Some people, parents or not, will assume that when you disagree with them you are attacking them, and they will attack in perceived retaliation.  Some people, perhaps even friends or family, will attack your character and send you angry messages loaded with inflammatory language and claim the moral high ground.  Friends of friends or friends of dissenters might mob together to attack you as one.  This actually happens.

You can control your environment, though.  And your blog, your facebook page, those are your environment.  You don't have to let people line up and attack another person even if it seems like it's on your behalf.  (So please, no bashing the blogger who took my words out of context.)  You don't have to publish comments by trolls.  You don't have to rise.

It can be hard.  When suddenly your inbox is flooded with the ranting of angry strangers- calling you all sorts of awful things- it can be hard to remember there isn't actually a crowd of angry people staring you down, chasing you with pitchforks and torches.  It can be hard to take a deep breath and start casually hitting that "delete" key without reading the full content of what lies within.  It can be hard to accept a comment and calmly say to the author, "I disagree with you, and this is why."

It can be particularly hard when somebody ends a rant against you by signing off, "Respectfully."  As though by adding this to the end they suddenly erase all the hurt they have caused.

I struggle with this.  I try to be better.  I can't claim that by taking The Mom Pledge I have suddenly lost all of my reactionary faults.  But I am more aware of them.  I know that I only fail when the attacks come against me in my personal life, away from my Becoming SuperMommy persona.

I have drafted more angry comments and facebook posts than I can count.  I write about controversial topics.  There should be no surprise that occasionally people will call me names or try to hurt me.

Human beings are sensitive creatures.  Particularly when it comes to sensitive topics.  And on some topics, my writing can be much less sensitive than I would hope after a day or two of hindsight.

That's why I don't publish those comments.  That's why, on this blog, you will (hopefully) never read that I am RIGHT and somebody else is WRONG because they are a BAD PERSON.

If I disagree with somebody, I try my best to do so in a reasoned manner.  I do my utmost to make sure my attacks are not personal, if I must make any attacks at all.  I try to write about controversy as it applies to me, my life, my history, my circumstances.  And the only expert that there is on me is me.

I am a growing, learning individual, as are we all.  I am an adult who is capable of making mistakes, of learning from them, and of improving.

I am not the grown-up that I hoped I would be.  I am not mysteriously confident, in control, and all knowing.  But I do hope that by the time I reach my dotage I will be the sort of adult I believed I could be.  That I will be in control of all of my actions.

The Mom Pledge is about improving.  About helping make ourselves, our space, our lives a little better through kindness.

We don't have to agree.  We don't even have to be respectful.  But we do have to coexist.  And sharing a space, even a space as vast as the internet, is always made better by kindness.

Please, if you haven't already, take the time to sign The Mom Pledge.  It's not just for moms, it's not just for bloggers, it's for everyone who exists in a digitally enhanced social world.  And take the time to think before you react to the unkindness of others.

If we all behaved in such a manner, the world would be a very different place.  But through conscious action we can improve it.  We can make it better.  At the very least, we can make OUR space a place where the overriding tone is of kindness and welcome.  Even the welcome of differening opinions.

February 16, 2012

11 Things About Me

Bonus picture!  Snow fun!
Lisa from the O'Gs has tagged me!

While I won't follow all the rules (that's just the way I roll), I'm still going to answer all the questions.  Because it's more fun than researching the board members of CSX.  (Yes, that is what I'm supposed to be doing right now.  My life is so glamorous.)

So here are my answers to eleven questions.



With thanks to the ixesn for the picture
1. If you had to leave the U.S. and move to another country, where would you move to and why?
My first thought is Canada, because I speak the language, it's near to our friends and family, and it has universal healthcare.  But, if I COULD move to any other country, versus HAD to, it would probably be the Czech Republic.  I don't know why it draws me so strongly, but shortly before M and I started dating I actually nearly picked up my little life and just hopped a plane to Prague.  For good.  It still has its appeal!

2. Are you an adventurous eater? I.e. do you like trying new foods?
Oh yes.  So long as it's vegetarian and I'm not allergic to it (no Swiss type cheeses), I'll give it a try.  I LOVE trying new foods!

3. What’s your favorite animal?
Ask anyone who ever saw my bedroom when I was a teenager.  Gorillas.  When I was pregnant with the girls, I finally decided it was time to go through my stuffed gorilla collection and let it go.  I kept the best ones for the kids, a few with serious sentimental value for myself, and donated the rest.  I had well over 100 stuffed gorillas.

That's a fully boned Tudor style corset for my
Countess Bathory costume.
4. What was your first job?
I started babysitting as a pre-teen, but I'm not sure that counts.  The first non-family-friend, non-childcare job I ever had was sewing historically accurate cloaks for Maison Rive, a clothier who specialized in the Society for Creative Anachronism crew.  I made almost nothing, and I was paid in coin.  Seriously.  Because that's historically accurate.  My boss, Lady Alizonde de Breguerf, was a known "authenticity nazi," which meant that a lot of my wages went into my own historically accurate clothing, but I learned a TON about Renaissance clothing construction, among other things, and I got to go to a lot of really fun events.  Despite the lousy pay and the absurd conditions (really- hand sewing wool cloaks in a tiny, airless apartment in the middle of August), I loved it.

5. Would you renew your vows complete with another wedding?
I would do this again in a heartbeat.
Absolutely.  M and I have discussed it quite a bit.  You see, our anniversary is sort of also the anniversary of M beating brain cancer, so it feels like a big deal.  Lucky M, he gets three brain-cancer-ass-kicking-aversaries: his birthday, our anniversary, and the Fourth of July (the day we got engaged and the day before his seizure and diagnosis).  We've considered having a vow renewal and complete gigantic party- or maybe even a destination kind of wedding thing- for either our fifth or our tenth.  It doesn't look like our fifth will be very realistic, what with having two three year olds and an almost one year old at that point, but the tenth might be the way to go.  Ten years of marriage is nothing to sneeze at.  And neither is ten years of astrocytoma survival!

6. What one talent do you wish you had?
I wish I was better at the piano.  I've always loved it, but it isn't something I'm just naturally awesome at.  Not to toot my own horn, but I'm awesome at an awful lot of things.

Caught in the act at a B&B
7. Do you let your kids jump on the bed?
Nope.  Their beds are just plain not up to it.  DD's bed is actually held together with duct tape at this point (really).  Our bed I let them "dance" on, which is basically jumping, and if I'm tired or I'm okay with them goofing off when they should be sleeping, I let them get away with it in their rooms.  But officially?  Not allowed.

8. What’s your favorite salad dressing?
Annie's Goddess Dressing, Annie's Artichoke Parmesan, and Annie's Shitake Miso.  Unfortunately, I can't eat salad dressing right now.  Fortunately for me, I don't have to.  We have a local shop that is AMAZING- Old Town Oil.  I've picked up bottles of their Fig Balsamic and their Black Currant Balsamic, and that vinegar alone is ALL YOU NEED.  Seriously.  So freakin' awesome.  Pricey for salad dressing, but then... you don't need a lot.  And it is the best. vinegar. ever.

9. Do you recycle?
Yes, I try.  Unfortunately, the recycling system in Chicago is incredibly corrupt.  How do I know?  I used to work as a VISTA in the CHA Recycling Buyback program.  Sadly, the program is no more.  However the recycling system in the city hasn't changed much.  What happens when the corner of the dump designated for "blue bags" and other assorted recycling is full?  The trucks just dump the rest.  Seriously.  Most of the stuff that you think is "recycled" in Chicago is just landfilled.  It sucks.

From Nicholas C. of Yelp
10. What do you like on your ice cream?
Margie's hot fudge.  If you are ever in Chicago, go to Margie's.  You can thank me when you come out of the raspberry hot fudge induced coma.

11. Are you left or right handed?
I'm vaguely ambidextrous.  I write with my right hand, I eat with my left, I can sort of swap for a lot of things. I would like for my kids to be ambidextrous as well, but so far... I think they might actually just be lefties.



...and now, back to my research!  Happy afternoon, all!

February 15, 2012

Singles Awareness Day

Aunt Genocide is pretty awesome.
Like all of the Borenstein clan (even those who now go by Becoming SuperMommy), my younger sister can WRITE.  Yesterday, she wrote this, and gave me permission to publish it.  Is it about parenthood?  No.  But it is about feminism, about the expectations one has for their lives, and the pressures of other people to do things "the right way," regardless of the reality of their lives.  In short, it's about a lot of things I care about.  And I thought it was wonderful.  So, with Aunt Genocide's permission, I am publishing this blog.  Please, if you enjoy it as much as I did, let her know in the comments.  And maybe she'll listen to the friends who are now trying to convince her to start up her own blog.  (Of course, maybe instead we'll forgive her for not starting her own blog- considering that what she IS starting is a Ph.D. program and going to Rabbinical school!  Mazel tov Aunt Genocide!)




Singles Awareness Day

Valentine’s Day is a powerful force of mans creation. I'm not one for hallmark holidays, but this one has a special place in my, and most other Americans', life. Not because I get depressed for being alone, or because I get treated specially for being in a relationship (most recently with a man who hated the holiday as much as myself), but because it has an amazing power to put one’s life and status in unpleasant perspective. Regardless of their situation and quality of life.

Grandmommy and Aunt Genocide in Gettysburg
I live every day of my life as a single adult. A pretty happy one too. I've got a decent job, great friends, awesome family, two amazing cats, and will soon be back in school for my doctorate. I am pretty fucking happy. Not to mention the fact that I date. And I enjoy the hell out of that too. I have nice things, cook myself fabulous meals, and throw a mean dinner party. I also play with other people's kids, and they like me. I'm fun. A little crazy, but no one has to deal with that part but me.

The standard of women having to be settled down, having children and married to a good man by 30-years-old is outdated and no longer applicable. Not only are we living longer, able to bear children far later in life, and able to do it with other women and/or by ourselves, but we are also supported by a society that employs and values us. True, women still make less money than men, on the whole, but I don't care. I think we're doing pretty damn well. Well enough, in fact, that those who want to should take full advantage of the opportunity to do whatever the hell they want with their lives. Not that I am not joyful for the wonderful couples I know who have found each other and are sharing their lives. Bully for them, they make me happy.

Does this define me personally? No. I want children. I want to quit work and stay at home cooking and painting with Bob Ross, and getting fat on my husband’s heart shaped boxes of chocolate. Of course I do. But the time has passed, and I really believe this, that I should feel guilty or like a failure for taking another path in my life, at least for the present.

SI, Aunt Genocide, and DD
My concern is that there is a societal pressure to be "there." To be settled, getting married and so on. So much so that people I know (don't worry, it's probably not you) are settling. And not in the good way. Women and men of tremendous potential who want a married life are finding that "good enough" will do. And in my opinion, "good enough" is simply not good enough. In a time when untraditional couples are finally able to be with the "right" person, after long struggles of trying to settle for "societally acceptable" or "good enough," we single straight men and women in our adulthoods should just give up the ghost of success through matching as a means to success in life.

Men may have issues in a similar vein, I'm not honestly sure, as I believe the "Aging Bachelor" is far preferable and less negative a title than "solitary spinstress." I do, however, know several men whose mothers berate them for not having met a nice girl. To those men I believe this rant also applies.

Fact is, there is in no way, in no one's view but your own any problem with being single, unhindered, and free to pursue your own interests without the burden of a significant other. I am totally and completely proud of my accomplishments, and I know that those people who care about me don't consider me a failure because of my status as a single woman. I'm not a "I'm woman hear me roar" type, and I don't want to be a curt, suited professional with only a career to keep me warm at night, but I am very good at what I do and I help people in the process. Plus my mommy bought me a heated blanket.

Aunt Genocide- soon to be Dr. Rabbi Aunt Genocide
I don't think Valentine’s Day is bad, not at all. I just think we need to get to a place, as people, and as a society, in which being single in your adulthood is not a synonym for some kind of failed ability to attract a mate. When that issue is dealt with, Valentine’s Day will go back to meaning what it did when I was a kid: the day two days before I buy all the candy super cheap.

February 14, 2012

Soundtrack of our Love

Our friends, toasting our happiness
Everyone danced their butts off
When M and I got married, we tried really hard to keep things in our budget while still keeping it personal and meaningful.  It seems that a lot of the time, the more meaningful your little touches, the more the price goes up.  Or, possibly worse, the more time you have to put into every single detail.

A perfect example of that is our solution for place cards.

We only did a small amount of arrangement when it came to seating charts.  We designated tables, but let everyone choose their own seats at their table.  To tell them what their tables were, we made them CDs with personalized labels.  The labels had their name, their table name (our tables were named after our favorite local restaurants), and of course the track list.
A portrait of us I made for the reception



It was a CD of "our" songs.  And a pretty awesome one at that.



We included songs that reminded us of each other...
"The Man I Love," as sung by Sarah Vaughan and "The Girl I Love (She Got Long Black Wavy Hair)" by Led Zeppelin



At Cape Reinga in New Zealand
Songs that played a role throughout the history of our romance...
"Can't Keep My Eyes Off Of You" by Frankie Valli, "Beautiful Freak" by Eels



Songs that were about the wedding and the honeymoon itself .
"My Kind of Town" by Frank Sinatra, "Island in the Sun" by Weezer


Kissing on the rooftop

Songs that described our plans for the future...
"Come Rain or Come Shine" by Billie Holiday, "In My Life" by The Beatles



Songs that described our love...
"Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe" by Barry White, "Asleep and Dreaming" by The Magnetic Fields




Songs we loved to sing to each other...
"Such Great Heights" by Iron and Wine, "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys



And songs that played a role in the wedding itself...
"When A Man Loves A Woman" by Percy Sledge, "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones





There will never be enough ways to say "I love you."
I love my husband.

He is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.

And each time I hear a track of the twenty or so songs we gave to each and every one of our wedding guests, I am reminded of the happiest day of my life.



...and I hope they all hear those songs, and think of the day with even a fraction of the love and joy that went into it.

Happy Valentine's Day.  May your lives be filled with love.

...and may you dance until you're pretty sure your legs are going to fall off.

February 10, 2012

Pie and Utter Geekery

About a month ago, I participated in an event that, frankly, was a very very VERY bad idea.

This requires a little explanation.  It will all make sense in the end, I promise.

I am a gigantic nerd.  I sometimes wonder how close to the line of true geekdom I fall, because honestly a great deal of my geek cred has been acquired purely by osmosis.

How?  Well, this is my dad.  When I first started "dating," sometime in my mid-teens, I quickly determined my own litmus test for whether or not a guy was too geeky or nerdy for me to spend my time with- if he knew who my dad was, he was out.

So, when it comes to carrying on a conversation about some fine details of geekery, from the history of PayPal to the problems facing any anti-spam effort, I really can hold my own.

That said, my personal computer geekiness only extends to my basic knowledge of HTML and extremely long history with socializing via the internet.

My first comic love.
Of course, being vaguely geeky, even by association, I gravitated towards *real* geeks.  People who build their own server farms, battle robots, or pornography empires.

And there are some elements of nerd/geek culture that are just plain inescapably awesome.

Like comic books.

It wasn't my father who interested me in comic books in the beginning.  No, it was my uncle, who is less of a geek extraordinaire in his own right than he is an expert in something that geeks almost universally consider really really cool.  His area of expertise?  Sexual deviancy is post-Soviet Russian literature.

He despises Jonathan Safran Foer, or at least did after "Everything is Illuminated" was first published.

At any rate, HE was the big comic book geek. And when I was a kid, he decided he had "outgrown" his comic collection.  A decision I expect part of him regrets to this day.  Being the only relatives of "appropriate" comic reading age, my sisters and I inherited the bulk of his collection.  Everything valuable he kept, but our home became refuge to more comic books- almost all in their protective sleeves- than I could have ever hoped to count.  We could have opened a really crappy comic book shop.

At first, I had little interest in the comics.  My closest experience with them was watching some of my younger cousins (on my mother's side) playing with X-Men action figures, and it held absolutely no interest for me.  Until I discovered on one sleepless night, the Mars series.  Scientist Morgana Trace, paralyzed, builds a super exoskeleton with which she is able to explore the strange and dangerous landscape of Mars.

It's really a very cheesy book.  But I loved it.  And I learned that comics might have something to offer me.

One of my first boyfriends later introduced me to Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.  A few years later, my uncle bought me my first Love and Rockets book.

There was no turning back.  I still think that the Palomar collection by Los Brothers Hernandez is one of the best books I've ever read.

So, I became a comic book... fan.  Not quite a geek, really.  I never got too into superhero stories.  But I am utterly addicted to Walking Dead- the books, not the show.

Which brings me to my very very VERY bad idea.

A local comic book shop held a pie baking contest.  To the winner?

You guessed it.  Comic books.

I absolutely couldn't resist.  Despite not being able to eat pretty much anything that goes into a pie, I decided to enter.

I started off by shooting myself in the foot.  How?  I spent an entire day emailing the owner of the comic book shop with questions- mostly about my ideas for awesome comic-themed pies.  From what I could tell, this hadn't actually been part of the competition up to that point, but after being bombarded by emails he sent a notice to all of the contestants- the pies must be comic themed.

There went my comic-themed edge.

So I spent the whole afternoon coming up with awesome ideas for comic themed pies.  A collection of Comedian Creme Mini Lemon Pies (with a drizzle of raspberry blood), a Hulk ice-cream pie (mint, of course), a Thing pie (sweet potato and covered in crushed Boston Baked Beans)...  in the end, I settled on two.

The first was my Snow White and Rose Red Charming Cheesecake, inspired by the sisters of both fable and Fables.  This was a real cheesecake- no cream cheese here.  Just mascarpone and ricotta cheeses, with raspberries on one half and white chocolate shavings on the other.

The second was actually M's idea- Rorschach Creme Pie.

The Rorschach Creme Pie was something I had considered, recipe wise, but I hadn't thought of the theme.  I was going to use it to make a Georgia Mud Pie, which is like a Mississippi Mud Pie except that there are dead people coming out of it (because the Walking Dead mostly takes place in Georgia, get it?).  But M's idea was better.

So I made my Rorschach Creme Pie, and my Charming Cheesecake.

They were both amazing.

And, out of about twenty pies, my Rorschach Creme Pie took first prize.  The Charming Cheesecake pulled in at a prizeless #5, but only because meat pies were allowed.  If it had been a sweet pie only kind of contest, I would have taken first and third.  I feel pretty awesome about that.

What makes me feel the awesomest though?

The winning pie- judged barely better than a pie made out of spiced meat (but only then because half of the judges didn't get a chance to taste my pie at all- it had been completely devoured)- was nearly fat free.  And vegan.

...that's right.  My vegan pie beat out spiced turkey pie.  It beat out "Spider Jerusalem Bacon and Swiss" pie. It beat out a "Gotham Night" pecan and bacon pie.

It beat both "Captain American Apple Pie" and "Fantastic Four Apples" pie.

It even beat "Banana: The Last Pie."

So, for those of you who don't believe that a vegan dessert can be just as freakin' delicious as any meaty, fruity, or otherwise creamy pie, eat your hearts out.

...so, why was this such a bad idea?

You might remember that I'm pregnant, and that for me that means I have a gall bladder that can't process fats.  This was a contest of open judging- everyone who paid to enter the event (a paltry $7 that was waived if you brought a pie) was a judge.  That meant that you had to taste as many as twenty different pies.

Oh yeah, this was a bad idea for me.

Even worse?  After making friends of sorts with the owner, he's now having ANOTHER baking contest.  For cakes.

The day after my birthday.

...who thinks they might be in the mood for some Bifrost Cake with Rainbow Bridge Frosting?





Rorschach Creme Pie
2 packages firm silken tofu
10oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan)
10oz white chocolate chips (vegan)
1 3/4 c graham crumbs
1/2 c margarine (vegan)
Chocolate syrup

1. Melt margarine in a bowl.  Mix with graham cracker crumbs.  Press into sides of two pie pans (or one GIGANTIC pie pan, as the case may be).  Set aside.
2. In a blender, blend one package of tofu until mostly creamy.  Add 1tsp-1tbsp water if needed.
3. In a double boiler, melt the semi-sweet chocolate.  Add to blender, and quickly blend with tofu until homogeneous.  Pour into pie crusts until about half full.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with white chocolate, topping off pie pans.  Only this time, add just a little bit more water.  Just a bit- so that the white chocolate is ever so slightly creamier than the brown.
5. Carefully drizzle chocolate syrup onto the surface of the pie.  Using a toothpick, marble the top of the pie to recreate a Rorschach test.
6. Set pie in fridge to set overnight.

Done.

Easy as award winning vegan pie, right?

February 9, 2012

Silly Names

No, this isn't about Baby X.  Sorry.
This is not M's nurse.

My husband and I have spent a remarkable amount of time in hospitals, considering that neither of us is anything close to a medical professional.

Shortly before we moved in together, I began having problems relating to my dysautonomia, and spend several days in and out of a hospital.  Then M had his seizure and subsequent weeks of hospitalization (or near-hospitalization).  Then there were the endless treatments and MRIs, and then there was IVF and a complicated twin pregnancy.

And since then, there has been a really nasty gall bladder attack, and then a second complicated pregnancy.

This is not M's doctor.
I have more doctors' names and numbers in my phone than most doctors do.

...but the names.  Oh, the names!  Our doctors have the most absurd names you could possibly imagine.

When M was first diagnosed and admitted to his medical trial, his team of doctors were...

Dr. Raizor
Nurse Burns
...and Dr. Grimm.

We joked and joked about how dark it was, and about what on earth his radiologist might be named.

This is also not M's doctor.
Her name was Maryanne Marrimont.  She was as far from "Grim" as you could get.

I think about those doctors a whole lot.  We've seen so many come and go, so many specialists we never need to see again (we hope), so many nurses who have switched specialties or moved on to become stay-at-home parents...  We've been remarkably lucky to have such considerate and available and WONDERFUL doctors.

So yesterday... when my OB was out of the office and I was having gall bladder issues, when I found out the name of the doctor I had been referred to...  It seemed almost like a little twist of fate.

My new OB for the day?  Dr. Bacchus.

You just can't make some of these things up.

Having only communicated with Dr. Bacchus on the phone, for all I know this might in fact be right.

February 7, 2012

Mortality and the Meaning of Parenthood

Watching cartoons in Mommy and Daddy's bed
Today is a sick day.

I'm writing from my dinky little netbook, reclining in my bed, watching Super Why on the amazing new TV M got us for Christmachannukwanzakah.  Normally, I wouldn't be spending my morning this way.  But I don't feel like a total loser.  You see, I have company.

Tucked under the blanket on M's side of the bed is one curly headed moppet, clinging to a Grandma made pound puppy, a green frog lovey, and a cup of juice.

On my feet there's a second moppet cuddled up, caressing a pink lovey and with another cup of juice nearby.

Lovely readers, my children and I are having a sick day.

Normally, when the girls are sick, they get parked in front of the TV in the living room.  They get to eat snacks in front of the tube, and watch all the Disney movies they want.  It keeps the sick-related whining to a minimum.

But today...

Today SI woke at just after dawn crying her little eyes out.  Being sick can be so hard.  And DD, who is more stoic about her illness, feels just as dreadful.

And me?  I'm too tired for anything other than zoning out.  So I might as well be comfortable too.

I had considered our usual illness routine, but while I was forcing my unwell children to eat their blueberry oatmeal, I checked my email.  And in my inbox was some sobering news.

The internet is, as I've mentioned, amazing for connecting to other people.  I have been fortunate to become not exactly friends, but acquaintances of a sort with many other bloggers. Almost friends. I watch their kids grow, they watch mine, and we commiserate on the burdens and struggles of parenthood or school or whatever life brings to us.

So this morning, I received news from a fellow mom blogger about a new challenge in her life. "Revital Shiri-Horowitz- the novelist and blogger- has just been diagnosed with lymphoma.

I understand what she has gone through, emotionally, in the last few days.  She has four sons, three still at home.

I was never afraid of my mortality before I was a mother.  Death seemed almost irrelevant- an inevitable event that would be followed by the dissolution of all cares of what had constituted my life.  I didn't fear for myself.  I didn't fear for the afterlife, or for my remains.

But now I fear death.  Now I fear for my children.

They are so young. would they even remember their mother?  What effect would if have on their lives, to grow up without a mother?

And little Baby X... there is no chance of Baby X remembering me.  Not yet.

Every time I look at the stitches on my chest (finally coming out this week), I am grateful.  Relieved that I caught that mole before it got worse, before I was looking at chemo and God only knows what else.  I am sure that the scar will give me reason to be grateful every day of my life.

And I think about M, and our choice to have children when we did.  We had planned to wait, but with his cancer there was just so much uncertainty.

The longer we would have as a family, the better.  So the sooner we could start a family, the better.

And here we are.

When M turns 30, we'll be a family of five.  If he reaches the goal he set before our wedding, to have spent more of his life married to me than not, Baby X will be 20 years old.

It's a long time from now.  A lot can happen.  When I was 20, I considered what I had to be a whole life.

I had no idea how fortunate I was to have both of my parents.  I don't think I ever truly appreciated them until I had children of my own.  Until I had any idea what they had spent the last three decades going through.

I still don't.  I still don't know how it feels to go through the struggles and pains they have experienced.

I hope that, for some of them, I never do.

Revital does, though.  For some of it.

The fact is, we parents have more similarities than differences.  No matter what we do, what we believe, where we live, the choices we make...

We are- almost all of us- fundamentally motivated by love for our children.  All the choices we make, from keeping our relationships with our spouses as a priority, to the way we earn our incomes, to the sacrifices we make... these are all an expression of the love we have for our children.

And I am learning that there is nothing on this earth like the love one has for one's children to really understand your place in life.  To understand, first of all, how incredibly unimportant you are in comparison to the thing you have created.  And at the same time, to understand how because of that same person, you are the most important thing at the same time.  Because you are in charge of them.  of their happiness, of their growth, of meeting their potential.  You aren't the most important thing in your own life, you are the most important thing in the life of the thing that is most important to you.

It's a huge responsibility.  It's an enormous weight.  Every single mistake you make, every single choice you get wrong... these might have lifelong consequences for that person you literally live for.

It's why parents are so vicious to each other.  Because seeing another parent make a different choice is an indictment of your own choice to do things another way.  Because if their child is in any way better off because of a choice they made differently than you, you imagine that your choice hurt your child.

And to think that you have caused your child some damage is unbearable.

I think of my death as one of the worst things that could possibly happen to my children.  Because no person can make the choices for my children that I can make.  Because no matter how much they are loved by others, my love will always be one of the most important things in their lives.  And if I am not here to love them, they will be hurt, damaged, by that.

Is it selfish?  Is it deluded?

I don't know.

I do know that the idea of a parent's love being the most important thing in a child's life has been reinforced over and over again to me, from the time I was small.  I remember reading Hans Christian Anderson's Little Matchstick Girl, which has the "happy ending" of the little girl dying, and getting to be an angel in heaven with her grandmother, having never known her own mother.

I still cry when I think of that book.

And I keep all parents struggling with illness in my heart.  I keep them in my thoughts, and in my prayers, and I wish them the fastest and least painful recovery possible. 

I wish for Revital a quick and successful round of treatments.  I wish her a long life with her sons.

I grieve for all the children who have lost their parents.  And I grieve for all parents who fear they must leave this world and their children.

I grieve for the parents who are left behind.

Today, I am playing in bed with my daughters.  Today, I am watching DD and SI as they wrestle and fall down, hugging and giggling.  Today I am watching "Le Ballon Rouge" and listening to their narration of the mostly silent film.

Today, I am reveling in them.  Because who knows how much time any of us have.

Today, we are staying in our pajamas and playing games and singing songs and getting lots of rest.  Because being sick is no fun.

This is the best way to be sick.
Today, we are enjoying being sick.  It's something that as grownups we almost never get to do.  When we're sick as grownups, we're *really* sick.  We have cancer, or we have heart disease, or we have diabetes.

We don't get to spend a day being pampered and loved, we don't get to build the memories of people who magically make everything better.

We don't begin to build the mythology of our parents.

Today is a sick day for my kids.  The sort of sick day they will look back on fondly, as I do of my early childhood sick days when my mother would park me in front of Fairy Tale Theatre and feed me bottomless bowls of ramen.

Today is a sick day.

And I, for one, am grateful.




Please keep Revital and her family in your thoughts and prayers.  And if you are so inclined to read, she will be writing about her battle on her blog as it unfolds.  Thank you.


February 6, 2012

Re-Learning How To Eat

I can't eat them, but I can still ROCK a pie baking contest!
(More on that particular topic in a blog to come.)
I promise you, if you read all the way to the end of this litany of food woes I will give you a recipe.

Despite what Aunt Genocide might say, I am typically a very healthy eater.

Aunt Genocide's opinion is thoroughly skewed, because whenever I cook for her I consider it a "special occasion," and as a result she gets "special occasion" meals.  Which tend to include a lot more butter and the like.

Typically, as a vegetarian and fair weather CSAer, I eat a diet that would impress most nutritionists.  I do- I'm a big believer in eating your colors, I LOVE beets and brussels sprouts and lentils and kale (which I would TOTALLY eat for dinner tonight if I had any beets), I've managed to turn my meat-and-potatoes husband into a salad and cabbage soup loving veggie eating machine (except for brussles sprouts and beets and asparagus- but nobody's perfect.  Yet.).

My restricted diet is killing me.

You see, I have this weird microscopic type of gall bladder disease.  No stones, no huge infections, just malformation on a microscopic level.  The only treatment for it is removing the gall bladder.  But, of course, nobody removes the gall bladder of a pregnant lady unless its actually going to kill her to leave it in.

So, instead of treating my gall bladder disease, I must avoid my gall bladder disease.  And that means not eating foods that your gall bladder helps you digest.

What does the gall bladder do?  It produces the type of bile that digests fat.

...now, I already ate a pretty low-fat diet.  I did.  I didn't cook with a lot of butter (except for Aunt Genocide), I saved french fries and the like for similarly rare occasions, and I avoided anything that looked "gross and greasy," like bad pizza or chimichangas.  My favorite date night cuisines are sushi and Ethiopian- both INCREDIBLY low fat restaurant food.  If I *really* needed to pig out, to feel gross and greasy and truly indulge in the disgusting yet delicious stuff that is fatty food, I'd get breaded mushrooms or onion rings.  That happened maybe twice a year.  I also gave myself a pass for Channukah- where the thing that makes a food "traditional" for the holiday is that it is fried in oil.  Seriously.

That said, I was adamantly opposed to "lite" products.  They trick you with a lack of flavor, and rather than eat a small amount of something fatty (say, a tablespoon of sour cream in your big bowl of borscht), you need to eat A TON OF IT to get the same kind of taste.  In which case, you're eating all sorts of other junk you didn't need.  So I ate regular sour cream, regular cream cheese, regular mayonnaise... I just didn't eat very much of it.  And when the entire fat content of the big bowl of borscht you're enjoying is in the one tablespoon of sour cream you've mixed into it, despite having full-fat condiments, you're still eating a low-fat dish.

But eating "low fat" is not the same as eating "no fat."

It's not a matter of, "Oh, I really shouldn't eat this ice cream!  It's so bad for me!"  It's more like, "If I eat this reduced fat yogurt, I'm going to spend most of my afternoon with stabbing abdominal pain, trapped in the bathroom."  (BTW- Did you know that most "fat free" yogurt contains gelatin, which isn't vegetarian?)

I've found that some very simple fats don't cause me a lot of trouble.  I can eat avocados without being in too much pain, and I've found that cow dairy fats are worse for me than sheep or goat dairy fats.

But sadly, my diet restrictions don't end there.

Eggs inflame the gall bladder.  I can't eat eggs.  And it's not a matter of avoiding scrambled eggs for breakfast, it's when there are eggs in something.  Like bread.  Or chilequiles.

Likewise, I have to avoid spicy foods (which I LOVE).  Spicy foods cause your stomach to produce more bile (hence heartburn), which in turn stimulates your gall bladder... which causes me intense distress.

ADD TO THAT the weird pregnancy aversions and assorted other diet problems- I've basically become lactose intolerant this pregnancy, and bread gives me heartburn through the roof.  Additionally, I've been having some candida problems throughout this pregnancy, so anything too sweet is automatically off the table.  I spent a week living off of frosted flakes (fat free!) with low-fat almond milk.  Boy, do I regret that.

So what is left?

The answer?  Not a whole hell of a lot.

Fruit, vegetables, small amounts of goat and sheep's cheeses, and a few varieties of protein.

I've been eating a lot of tofurkey and seitan.  They're remarkably low-fat.

That said, I love to eat.

I LOVE to eat!

Eating is one of my greatest joys.  I love eating, I love cooking, I love just looking at raw ingredients and thinking about all the amazing things I can do with them.

But this pregnancy, my eating has hit a wall.

Thankfully, I've been learning that there are *some* things I can still eat, some ways I can still cook, and some concessions I can make to *nearly* recreate my favorite pre-pregnancy dishes.

Take this moment for example: right now I'm eating a sandwich.  It contains avocado, tomato, sliced tofukey, and some sheep's milk Manchego cheese, all on sourdough bread.

I've found that the harder the bread, the less trouble I have digesting it.  I have no idea why that is.

I *can* eat, it just takes a whole lot more work than it used to.

With that in mind, I undertook the task of making Superbowl snacks for some friends who came to watch the game at our place last night.

The coup de grace at any similar shin-dig at our house is the bean dip.  I make a wicked bean dip.

Of course, usually, I do so with a variety of ingredients that I just plain can't eat right now.  So I endeavored to make a nearly fat free seven layer bean dip.

And it was, in a word, awesome.

While I normally abhore "fat free" versions of foods that rely on fat for their awesomeness, in this case it really worked.  The lack of flavor in the sour cream and cream cheese were made up for by using a more flavorful salsa (in this case, a roasted poblano salsa), and the big flaw with fat free cheese (its inability to melt properly) was completely hidden by the top layers.  Fat free refried beans are, quite simply, better than the other varieties.  I have pretty much always used them anyway, as the fat in refried beans is almost always lard, which is not vegetarian and is, frankly, gross.

So for your dietary and sports watching pleasure, here is my recipe for Almost Fat Free Eight Layer Bean Dip.


That mostly empty and extremely large blue dish was the bean
dip.  Somebody at our 4th of July party had the brilliant idea
to put it on top of our burgers.  Insanely awesome.
Almost Fat Free Eight Layer Bean Dip
1pkg fat free cream cheese
1 c fat free sour cream
2 15oz cans fat free refried black beans
2c fat free shredded cheddar cheese
2c flavorful salsa (for mild salsa, choose one containing fruit- you'll have a better balance of flavor)
1/2 c sliced black olives
1/2 c frozen corn
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped finely
4-5 avocados
1/4c lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.
Layer one: Spread beans evenly in a casserole/lasagna pan- 9"x11" or larger.
Layer two: In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and sour cream until thoroughly blended.  Spread on top of beans.
Layer 3: Sprinkle corn evenly across the pan.
Layer 4: Sprinkle olives evenly across the pan.
Layer 5: Spread salsa evenly over dish.
Layer 6: Spread shredded cheese evenly over dish.  Cover as completely as you can.

Bake for 20 minutes.  While baking, prepare guacamole (only avocados, lemon juice, salt, and pepper)
Remove from oven, and add top layers.

Layer 7: Spread guacamole over dish- yes, it's piping hot and you're covering it in guacamole.  Yes, that will make the guacamole look gross.  Trust me on this one.
Layer 8: Sprinkle the cilantro LIBERALLY over the whole thing.  Normally, you want to put cilantro in your guacamole.  However, if you put it on top, it stays green, making the whole thing continue to look delicious and appetizing until it's all gone.

In order to enjoy properly, serve with Frontera Blue Corn tortilla chips.  Believe it or not, those "full fat" chips have the same amount of fat as most "low fat" chips (half the amount as standard fried chips), but taste WAY better.  Seriously.

...also, celery is a totally effective bean dip delivery device.

Enjoy!

February 5, 2012

Solitude

postsecret.com
Once again, I'm linking up with Mad Jackie for Secret Sunday.

Most days, it takes my children over an hour to actually settle in and nap.  Many, many times I've been advised to let them off the hook- to let them play alone in their room, or to make it "quiet time" instead of "nap time," but I can't.

You see, I treasure my children's nap time.

It's the only time during the day that I get to be almost alone.

I used to be alone a lot of the time.  Through pretty much all of my teenage years, I didn't sleep.  I would spend each night, alone, wandering the town on foot or entertaining myself in my bedroom.

I really treasured my alone time.  I loved how my parents' old neighborhood seemed to just belong to me in the wee hours of the morning.  I would pilfer flowers from neighbors gardens, and leave mystery roses in front of strangers doorways.  I figured everyone could use a little romance and mystery in their lives.

Or I would write.  Or I would paint.  Or I would read, endlessly.

When I moved to Chicago, I gave up my nighttime wandering after one or two excursions.  It seemed like a remarkably foolish thing to do, blind alleys everywhere, threatening strangers... You aren't actually alone when you walk in the city at night.  Even after leaving downtown, heading to the far north of the city, I still wasn't alone at night.  I learned the hard way that there is a special kind of night life in places that are, literally, full of people.  And no matter how appealing it might sound to wander off to the beach at two in the morning, there are a whole host of reasons why it shouldn't be done.

When I lived in the dorms for my art school, I was lucky enough to have a roommate who had a boyfriend in town.  I almost always had the place to myself.  One summer with a roommate (who had a VERY active social life and was never home) and then I moved into my studio apartment.

Alone.

It's odd- I have always been a profoundly social person.  I have always loved the company of other people, I have always tried to make my home, my space, a place where all of my friends felt welcome.  A place of gathering.  Dinner parties, couch crashers, lunch dates, art nights...  My home has always been a hub.

When M and I moved in together, we picked an apartment where I could still have *my* space.  My studio, but more than that.  A place where I did my private things.  Personal things.  A place that was just mine, and that I didn't have to share.  A place where I could still be alone.

And that didn't work out so well.  With M's diagnosis, our home was always full of family- it was a huge perk of having chosen the apartment we did- the extra space could house more guests.

And then we had babies.

And I haven't actually been alone since we had babies.

I used to relish my drives to school in the morning.  It was the closest to solitude that I could get.

I love my children.  I am constantly awed by them, always proud of them, and my sense of blind luck in having two such incredible little people as my children humbles me every day.  As much as I never doubted that I would love my children, I never expected it to be quite like what it is.  How I can wipe their noses and their butts day after day and be truly ambivalent to the ickiness 90% of the time, and still find so much profound joy in the smiles they give me while I do it.  I just also wish that for even a few hours a month, I could just... be alone.

The things I wish I could still do are very simple.  I wish I could wander around my house singing Les Mis in full character.  I wish I could take long baths.  I wish I could nap in the sunny spots on the carpet.  I wish I could read every book I've picked up with the intention of reading in the last four years.

But I don't get to be alone.  Not really.

My children are very good about keeping to themselves when I want them to.  They're very cooperative about playing together so I can get things done.

But they decided ages ago that whenever I sing, I must be trying to put them to sleep.  I can't sing showtunes in my pajamas without two tiny critics shouting me down.

I can't soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a book of esoteric philosophy.  I can't spend hours poring over my OED.

Yes- I used to do that.

I do miss being alone, but more than that I miss feeling alone.  There is something remarkably comforting about solitude.  Something soothing in knowing that the only person who gives a damn what you're doing at that moment is yourself.  I think that solitude is healthy.

I am actually looking forward to the fall so much I can hardly believe it.

This fall, SI and DD will *hopefully* be starting pre-school.  And I'll be left for three hours each day alone with Baby X.

Baby X, who will be three months old, and probably still be sleeping a lot.

Baby X, who *hopefully* will not object to my singing.  Who will *hopefully* be the sort of easygoing child that SI and DD were as infants.

And- incredibly- for the first time I will find myself at home with only one baby.

It sounds so easy right now I almost can't believe it.

Only one baby...

It will almost be like being alone.

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