Bated breath.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hating being told to sit still for a picture.  2009.
I think we nearly lost our little dog this afternoon.

ClaireDog's been with us since Thanksgiving weekend 1998, when I scooped her out of a pen outside Wal-Mart and decided that I couldn't wait until Christmas to bring her home to Aaron. I went inside, bought a tiny harness and some food, and brought her home in a cardboard box. She was six weeks old and could fit in the palm of my hand. We wouldn't have kids for another seven years, but suddenly we had a baby.

She's been with us ever since, and her antics always entertained. She was a tiny puppy fireball who could hurtle herself over the back of the couch without touching it at all (skidding across the house on our hardwood floors on her rear end afterwards) and a "heat-seeking missle" that laid, panting, with her belly turned toward the flames of our gas space heater, baking herself until you couldn't touch her. (Then she'd stretch out belly-down on the coldest section of floor, recovering. Spa treatment, I called it.) She chewed on electrical cords until she shocked the tar out of herself on the a/c cord in her metal crate while we weren't home. She caught mice and floppy orange frisbees with wild and endless abandon. She fought the leash at first, hopping down the street on her hind legs, gagging, embarassing us to no end. She snowplowed through the yard at full tilt, spraying snow and pushing her body through the white cloud like a dervish. The first time we left town and left her with my sister, she immediately went into heat and started bleeding all over the place. My poor sister followed her around with little doggy diapers, trying to stop the chaos. We've laughed and laughed at her. God, she was nuts.

In Florida, she was my companion, digging with me in the sand as I built gardens and schemed to plant our front yard with natives instead of grass. She chased a giant black snake (harmless) that was living in our yard until he finally bit her in disgust and left forever. We would walk around the neighborhood retention pond, and I'd watch the bald eagles circle overhead and hope they weren't mistaking her for a rabbit. One day we came upon a giant momma sandhill crane and her baby, and had to beat a swift retreat as she spread her wings and advanced threateningly at us. She entertained our many visitors and gorged herself on fallen avocados from our tree. I remember crying and her licking my tears as we struggled through the horrid conflicts in our church (and employer) that led us to leave and head back to the Ozarks.

Now, she's a sleepy old thing who spends her days snoozing and asking to go outside. She loves to bake herself (still) on the sidewalk, even in this awful heat. When she's had enough, she comes and scratches at the door. (She's peeled the paint and scratched that old door something awful. I can't believe I let her do that. I do.) She loves carrots and cheese and any other treat she can scam from the kitchen; she loves the kids, and they've learned to treat her gently and love her, though not like Aaron and I do. She still thinks of herself as a fearful watchdog, obliged to bark furiously at anyone with a uniform, wheels or fur of any kind, or a tendency not to move right along out of her field of vision. As far as she's concerned, everything within sight is her property. Stay off your yard, neighbor. I have a fat geriatric minpin who's a-gonna bark you to death.

I've never had another dog. Before we had kids, she was our baby. She slept in our bed until she couldn't leap up anymore; then she slept on the floor in our room, until she started making a regular habit of peeing on the carpet in the hall. We tried and tried to get her to quit, but finally had to install a baby gate and keep her downstairs with the hardwood floors. She sleeps on her bed or on the couch now, and is apparently untraumatized by the switch. I still miss her warm body pressed against my feet. (Okay, I don't miss the hair in the bed. At all.)

Anyway. Today Aaron called as I was parking at the grocery store. She'd fallen out of an armchair in some kind of fit, and her hind legs wouldn't work right and her head was twisted and held hard to the right. She was panting hard. He sat with her, helpless, and I called the vet. There's not much we can do, he said. She'll either stop or she won't. Could be a seizure, could be a stroke.

Then, forty minutes later, her head straightened, and a minute or two later, she shakily got to her feet and tottered off for a drink. Aaron watched in amazement.

My sister says a 40-minute seizure would probably kill a person. But within an hour afterward, she was wiggling greetings and kissing us and asking to go outside just like she always does. I gave her half a baby asprin, as the vet suggested, and we'll go in for an exam tomorrow to see if there's any way to pinpoint or prevent the cause.
Hanging out with Gracie at the grandparents'.  2008?

There could be more of these, one after another. There could never be another. We really have no idea. Has she had them before, when we were gone? Will she have more, alone, when we're out of the house? How scary.

My sweet old dog. I'm thinking through 13 years with her tonight.

I know no dog lives forever. But how much time do we have left?


Monday, July 11, 2011

The sun's in overdrive. Blazing, blasting, relentless. I water my vegetables in our little plot at the new community garden, but my front yard plants are suffering with only their mulch to save them. There only seems to be time to water one thing, and I choose the veggies, dreaming of tomatoes and eggplants and squash that are only now beginning to form, slowly and reluctantly under this oppressive heat.

My summer's in overdrive too. Somehow, Gracie's second round of swimming lessons arrived today-- the "end of summer" session that I've been thinking of as the end of our season. Our Arkansas Virtual Academy supplies are en route via UPS to us, and I still don't have a schoolroom area cleared to put them in. My son's still not pottytrained, and he returns to preschool in just a month. (I really wanted to accomplish this, but we've been running hither and yon all summer. How, exactly, do you provide consistent and leisurely trips to the potty when you're always flying about from one place and activity to another? I'm stumped, and failing on this point.)

Life blazes along. "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." I struggle along attempting to provide food, clothing, shelter for my kids and husband... not that well, I might add. But do I provide love? Spiritual growth, depth, honesty? Do they know how much I love them? Do we read enough books, pray enough, laugh enough, look into each other's eyes enough?

How can I possibly be 37, married 13 years, nearly 20 years out of high school? How can Gracie be nearly 33% through her time at home with us?

Amazing. Exhilarating. Also, terrifying.

Thoughts at Q's naptime (3.25 years old)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oh, Q. My baby, my oh-so-big boy, and everything in between.

I just rushed upstairs at the sound of your tears, my heart pounding just a little even though I knew there was likely nothing seriously wrong. You'd woken from your nap, perhaps suddenly, and didn't like it. But a momma's heart is always just a bit terrified to hear her youngest crying.

I worry about you more than I do your sister, actually. Your reluctance to walk, talk, tell me your age, climb stairs alone, use a spoon regularly... all these things have given me pause. You, certainly, are not on your sister's timetable... your behavior as a 3-year-old is closer to hers as a 2-year-old. I know you're a boy, the youngest, and that these things slow you down a bit, and that she was and is a regular whirlwind of Grow Up As Fast As Possible, but still. I wonder about you sometimes, about whether you'll catch up with your peers before kindergarten, about whether I'm doing enough to make sure you can.

I am also completely devoted to you and dazzled by you whether you do or not. You are smart and funny, a boy who could identify all the letters of the alphabet before he could say hardly any other words. You love the Cat In The Hat's new learning show, building things, making tunnels for your trains. You ask for fireworks every time we drive past the parking lot where we parked last fourth of July, and you cry if we drive past the turns that lead our car to Grammy's house. I know you're smart as a whip, in your own way.

I drive you to preschool every Tuesday and Thursday, and even after a few months, part of me still wants to back out of the parking lot and take you home with me. I love our mornings together, full of late-morning jammies and PBS shows and watching you haul your trains around as if they were dollies. But that preschool has connections to the school district therapists that will be giving you extra help soon, and I know that could be a boost in your development that you need. I know too that the structure and the social interaction there has already spurred you further, and that you're learning to follow directions, climb playground equipment, and socialize with other kids there. So I park the car, pull you and your alligator out of the back seat, and lead you in for your six hours away from home. It is usually a little sad for me to do it, though.

Anyway. Back to that crying you were doing.

I sat down on the bed, patted your back, asked if I could hold you, and you gratefully nodded, allowed me to scoop you up. You sit on my lap now to put your head on my shoulder, your long legs sticking out behind me. I wrapped my arms around you gently, and after a minute, your head sank onto my shoulder.

Just like we used to be, all those nights when I'd rock you to sleep after a feeding. Snuggled together, and your heart at peace because of it.

And my heart broke a little to hear your breathing lengthen almost immediately, your limbs growing heavier as you slipped back into your nap.

I laid you down and came back downstairs, thinking of the quote that is so true it's almost become a cliche:
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” -Elizabeth Stone

You are my heart, walking around outside my body. In the quiet of the just-us-two afternoon, I feel it so deeply. Sleep well, Quinton. Grow up healthy, strong, good, trusting, and brave. I will give my all to see that you get a chance to do so.

I heart Dan.

Friday, February 11, 2011

If I lived near the Phoenix Commotion, I would be banging down the door to somehow help out with what they're doing. Generous, thrifty, creative, resourceful, FUNNY, and undeniably meaningful.

Single moms, low-income families, artists, strugglers. Come one, come all. Everybody can have their own house, rising from the ashes of the castoffs of our wasteful, foolish building industry.

Oh, how I love it. I've seen a brief video or two about Dan Phillips and his work months ago, but forgot the names involved. I stumbled across him again today via YouTube recommendations, and listened to his entire TED talk (available on the Phoenix Connections website).

Somebody hand me some goggles and show me how to use a power saw. I'm so in.

Happy New Year- 2010 in review

Saturday, January 01, 2011

I'm still here, still alive, just not posting much.  

I picked this list of yearly questions up at a blog I've been reading for years.  This is the first year I've answered them, but I found it helpful and hope to make it a yearly event.   I may go back and alter a couple of these as I remember (or come up with) better answers, but I wanted to post it before it gets shunted to the back of my mind and forgotten.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
This was strangely hard to answer at first.  We didn't travel anywhere new, I didn't take up any new hobbies that I can recall... but there were a few firsts.  I visited two children's museums for the first time.  I threw a kids' birthday party (as in for kids, not for family/adults).  We
attended Baker Seed's spring planting festival (which I will definitely repeat) and visited Laura Ingalls Wilder's home nearby in Mansfield, Missouri.  I impersonated Martha Stewart (or possibly my mother!) and taught a group of women how to make snowball candles, candied apples, and frost sugar cookies.  We opened Aaron's new office downtown, which was a ton of work but has been hugely rewarding. I weigh more than I ever have without being pregant.  (sigh.  more on that later.)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't remember if I had any official new year's resolutions, but I did intend to start exercising and get into better shape, and no, that has not happened.  This year's resolutions include that, plus implementing some kind of household management schedule, using a calendar and to-do list so I don't forget important things, and teaching my daughter to read with the system we've owned for over a year.  All of these are things that eat huge guilty holes in my self-image and my desire to interact with the world around me.  It's time to make some changes and unshackle myself from these issues!

Smaller things, more desires than Life Needs:
Make the kids' room cute and less girly.  (Quinton moved into Gracie's room, and it needs to be made theirs rather than her room with an extra bed.)
Build (or have built) the cold frames for the old windows I scored on freecycle so that we can try growing greens through the winter next year.
Get the $#%% window a/c removed from the dining room so that it can stop leaking cold air into our house during the winter.
Start finding or forming a community of women from my own church.
Clean the upstairs carpets, myself or by hiring someone.
Paint the kitchen.
Help Gracie learn to swim and conquer her weird fear of water in her eyes.
Continue to learn how to use essential oils effectively for my family's physical and emotional wellbeing.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Friends, yes.  Family, no.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

A plan.  That sounds funny, but this year was a bit of drifting along (in the slow times) and/or just managing to stay above water (during the crazy times).  I'd like to tackle my responsibilities with a bit more forethought and deliberate action. Just a bit-- I'm no Type A personality.  Just need a little less chaos.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Late August, for putting Quinton into preschool, and Gracie starting ballet classes (my babies are growing up!).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

That's hard.  I'm not sure I can name one.  Survival?  Keeping a Happy Face through my husband's busy season (aka Single Mom Era)?

9. What was your biggest failure?

I really wish I had taught Gracie to read by now, and that I had gotten busy on the fitness/weight loss thing this year.  My lofty goals of feeding my family healthy food often fell by the wayside as I grabbed something quick and easy (and popular) to save myself hassle.  I think I'll stop here, I'm not sure which is biggest and I don't want to create a Failure List.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Surprisingly little.  I credit essential oils (yay!) and a lack of general activity (boo)-- ie if you don't move much, you're unlikely to injure stuff. 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

We put central heat and air into our downstairs, which is fabulous; we scored a $100 swingset via Craigslist this fall that I think will serve us extremely well; and we bought a beautiful handcarved artisan rocking chair (again, secondhand via Craigslist) that I absolutely love.  

12. Where did most of your money go?

See the paragraph above, especially the central heat and air bit.

13. What did you get really excited about?

That rocking chair.  Quinton getting so enthralled with Christmas.  Finding a friend who shares so much of my life outlook.

14. What song will always remind you of 2010?

The Twelve Days of Christmas was Gracie's hands-down favorite this season... I hope I never forget having to sing it over and over. 

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Not sure.
– thinner or fatter? A bit fatter, sadly.
– richer or poorer? Financially richer, I think.  Not by much.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Lived with the electronics turned off.  Read more books.  Given Gracie more reading lessons.  Made better use of my alone time to recharge my batteries and organize my thoughts (rather than, for example, playing bejeweled late at night on Facebook).

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Bejeweled and Facebook.  Watching the television.  Sitting still.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

We had four Christmases this year:  At my parents' the 23rd, at home alone on the 24th, Santa coming on the morning of the 25th, and then the big dinner with Aaron's family on the afternoon of the 25th.  And then Aaron's mom came to town the 26th to visit.  That's a bit nuts, isn't it?

19. What was your favorite TV program?

American Pickers, or Pawn Stars.  I love stuff shows.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

That one about the poor kids with the crazy parents.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I can't remember a single thing.  I don't listen to much grown-up music these days.  I did love the Butterflyfish album (kids' music, but good enough for adults to enjoy too).

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

I am not film-centric; we watch a lot of films, but I generally forget their names quickly.  I don't remember actors' names either.  Um, How to Train your Dragon was really good...

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 36 in March.  Um... I don't remember?  I'm sure there was pineapple upside down cake at my mom's house involved... that's a yearly tradition.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

That health/weight loss thing I keep harping upon.  Teaching Gracie to read. 

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Um... If It's Semi-Clean, I'll Wear It.  I Hope I Didn't Wear This To Church Last Week.  My fashion situation is pretty dismal at the moment.

26. What kept you sane?

Coffee.  Knitting.  Friendships with other moms in this phase of life.  God's love.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

I hope I've learned it:  Nobody can or will make me change except me.