A heartfelt bathrobe

I absolutely should not be writing a blog post right now- I should by writing my talk for church tomorrow, or practicing my flute part for the choir program, or changing the sheets on Brigham's bed because he wet it again last night, so I'll try to keep this short.  I was reading the Washington Post online just now while I ate my lunch and I saw this column by Ann Patchet.  I hate all of Ann Patchet's novels that I've read because they have flat characters and unsatisfying plot lines (especially Bel Canto- I think I've never hated the ending to a book more), but her writing is beautiful and I love her memoir, Truth and Beauty.  Anyway, in the article she tells about a Christmas present her father gave her when she was 10 or 12- he read her a short story over the phone.  The reason she loved the present was because it showed her that her father knew her- that even at that young age she wanted to be a writer- and she imagined him reading the story and wanting her to hear it, so that she could learn something about what makes a good story.  The gift was only evidence of the one thing that I think every child wants from their parents- to be seen, and loved for who they really are, and to be given help to become what they envision for themselves.

Those were the thoughts going through my mind at the fabric store this afternoon (I actually hardly ever go there, it's pure coincidence that I mentioned it in my last post!).  I was picking out fleece to make bathrobes for the boys for Christmas.  Marley was crying and trying to dump her bottle out all over the pattern table.  I was getting hungry.  The line at the cutting counter was growing.  Bad Christmas music was playing.  I needed to pick something and get out.  Instead I stood in the fleece aisle for twenty more minutes, putting bolts in my cart, then taking them back out again.  Eric's was easy- there were lots of basketball prints to choose from.  But Brigham was harder- his talents and loves are not so easily captured on a $4.99-per-yard bolt of fabric.  And I wanted his bathrobe to be just as reflective of his personality as Eric's.  In the end I bought some with fire trucks on it, just because I liked the colors.  As long as I show my children by my actions that I see them as they really are- not who I want them or need them to be- and I love them just because they're mine, I don't think the pattern on their bathrobes is going to scar them for life.  Still, I hope that one day I can give each of my children a beautiful gift that is exactly their heart's desire.  One that says- I see who you are and I love you and will always be here to help you to reach for your dreams.


26.2 in 32.0

We spent last weekend in Charlotte, watching Eric run in the Thunder Road Marathon. He had a rough race and didn't meet his time goal, but still felt good about finishing. We got to meet his cousin Eric and his wife, who live in Charlotte the night before the race. Eric and Eric hadn't seen each other in more than twenty years, so that was fun...even though the boys did absolutely nothing the whole night but eat M&M's out of a decorative bowl like it was the first food they'd seen in days.

We stayed with our good family friends Connie and Charlie in their adorable house that I wish I'd gotten a picture of. When I grow up, and have a real house with an actual guest room in it, I want it to be just like Connie's. They even had a second guest room for Eric to sleep in by himself, which was a good thing because Marley decided to wake up at 2:45 A.M. and stay awake almost the whole rest of the night. I had no idea what to do, not being in my own house and not having a yoga ball at my disposal so I just let her bump around the room in the dark, whimpering and fussing.

We woke up at 5 A.M. and headed to the start line in downtown Charlotte. It was 32 degrees...
But apparently no one told this dude...

About the time that he ran by I started losing it. The boys were miserable, and very intent on making sure I knew it. We were at mile 13, standing next to a lovely woman from Minnesota who was there with her young daughters watching her husband run the 4th marathon in his quest to do one in each of the 50 states. She looked exactly like Cameron Diaz and was annoyingly patient with her kids- playing cute games with them to keep them distracted and getting them excited to cheer for their Dad when he ran past. Contrasted with me- shivering, sleep-deprived, snapping at the kids and not looking like Cameron Diaz in any way, shape or form. I think I looked more like this guy...

After spending an hour at mile 13 waiting for Eric, he finally came down the stretch, right on pace but not looking very good. He told me he was struggling, handed me his gloves and ran on. The kids gave half-hearted cheers and then went right back to complaining while I stood in the street staring after him, hoping he would be okay. He sort of has a history with racing and E.M.T.'s, but that's a whole other story.

I had promised the boys we could go inside the convention center for a little while to get warm, so we headed there next, me speed walking with the stroller and them half screaming/ half crying at me because they were so cold. After a few minutes inside I looked at the course map and realized that we didn't have much time to make it to mile 18, where I knew Eric would be looking for us (even though I had told him to remember who he was dealing with and not worry if we weren't where we were supposed to be when we were supposed to be there!). We ran the last few blocks and made it to the course just in time to see a guy in a jester hat run past, which made me think we had missed Eric, since I remembered this guy being behind him at mile 13. We stuck around for a few minutes, but didn't see him so we headed to the finish line.

The race clock said 2:35 when we got there, so we scouted out a place to watch Eric cross the line, not too long after 3:10, we hoped (because we wanted him to do well and a little bit because we were kinda cold:). But he called me when he passed mile 20 to tell me he was way off his pace and I had time to take the kids inside and warm them up. It turns out we had left the mile 18 corner just before he ran by. We ducked into a Baptist church and listened to them rehearsing for their Christmas pageant. When the race clock approached 3:30 we headed back outside to look for Eric. By this time the boys were warmer and happier so they were cheering for all the people who passed by, telling them to hang in there, that they were almost done. Finally Eric came down the stretch, somewhere around 3:40, I think. I was relieved to see that he looked tired and cold, but otherwise okay...

And you gotta love a guy who runs a marathon in his purple Lands End slippers!

We let him recover for a few minutes and then headed back to Connie and Charlie's. On the way home we stopped in Siler City to see my cousins, Janice and Fred. We had a wonderful dinner with them, and the kids were excited to get some early Christmas gifts. By about 8:00, everyone was turning into pumpkins, so we headed home.

I'm so proud of Eric for finishing the race even when he knew he wouldn't reach his goal. I think it was good for the boys to see him competing on a bad day. He usually places in his age group and has even won a few races, so I'm glad they could see an example of good sportsmanship and keeping your perspective when you're disappointed with your performance. Eric told me after the race that as he approached mile 18, he thought about dropping out, but he really liked the race shirt, and he wouldn't feel right wearing it if he didn't finish. Whatever works! Good job sweatheart- we love you!!



“He’s fine, Katie…he’s with his Dad!”  

I nodded from the backseat, on my way to the fabric store with two friends, my first outing away from my newborn son.  I felt silly for worrying about my baby when I’d left him with his own father.  So along with the panic and the guilt, there was vindication when I heard my name being called over the store intercom a half an hour later.  I could already hear the tiny screams as I reached across the cutting counter for the phone.  

I felt like a paramedic arriving on the scene when I walked through the door.  Stand back please…I’ll take it from here.  His face was red and sweaty from crying, his arms and legs moved frantically.  I could feel him melt with relief as I nursed him, the sounds of sucking interrupted periodically by post-crying hiccups.

Years later now, when I ask for a hug goodnight he holds his body rigid and breaks away quickly.  Shaggy bangs cover the eyes that used to gaze so unflinchingly into mine while he nursed.  But we play a game sometimes.  I lock my arms around him and ask for the password as he laughs and squirms.  With each wrong guess I tighten my grip and he laughs harder.  Tonight I drag the game out… “Not that one…wrong…nope, try again!”  Concern flickers in his brother’s eyes.  “I think that’s too tight Mama.” 

“No,” he says through his giggles, “Tighter...tighter.”


In my kitchen RIGHT NOW...

...you won't believe it...is a real-live Duke basketball player.  If your name is Eric (big or small), you fell all over yourself preparing for this major event.  Big Eric hurriedly removed the jumble of shoes, dirty socks and candy cane wrappers from the front porch so it wouldn't look, as he said, "so redneck".  Then he swept the floor and shooed me out of the kitchen where I was in the middle of frosting Christmas cookies.  Little Eric brought in his basketball from the driveway, combed his hair and hopped around saying "Is he here yet?  Is he?".  Brigham and I didn't know what all the fuss was about- I mean the poor kid is just a walk-on who needs help with his Econ final.  I'm more excited about the money, frankly.  But it was kind of fun to see them so excited.  He was very gracious and sweet with the boys- Eric got his ball signed and Brigham offered him a menorah he had made out of tin foil.  

This afternoon we went to the park with our good friends the Alders.  As we were leaving another boy asked Eric and Brigham why they had two mommies.  I laughed as his Dad explained that I was their mommy and the other lady was their friend.  As I drove away I understood his confusion- Carson and McKenzie are just as happy to have me watch them do a trick on the swings as their mom.  My kids will ask Linds to tie their shoe or show her a cool bug.  Our friends are truly like family to us and we are so lucky.  It seems like more and more of you are far away from us, but we think about you all the time...

Eric told me last night that he had gotten a $150 ticket for driving with expired tags.  Which prompted me to think that I am also driving with expired tags (but least mine were good until October- his expired in August!).  "They never sent me anything in the mail about it!" is what I said, which is verbatim what I also said to the police officer when this happened to me a year ago.  When will I learn?  Apparently due to cost-cutting measures, the DMV has decided to just stop sending out registration reminders and leave it up to drivers to remember when their tags expire.  I say that's discrimination against people with bad memories.  It's a MEMORY TAX!!  That is so unfair.


Survival of the merriest

Before recapping our weekend, may I just say that it's taking every ounce of willpower I have not to cut this child's hair in his sleep...

We survived the department Christmas party with our dignity intact- but barely. Basically I spent the whole afternoon rushing and snapping at the children so that we could be on time and actually have a place to sit this year. Honestly, us arriving on time anywhere is cause enough for a party...

THIS boy gave me a heart-attack, though it wasn't his fault...
He needed to go to the bathroom partway through dinner, and it being Eric's Christmas party, I offered to take him. As we approached the bathroom, Marley on my hip, I told Brigham he could just come in the ladies' room with me since I had to go too. A man standing in a nearby group of people interjected to say that he would take Brigham in. He looked sort of offended that I would take a six-year-old boy into the ladies' room. I demured, of COURSE, but he insisted and before I knew it he had taken Brigham into the bathroom. I had no idea what to do, so I turned and ran through the crowd until I found Eric and announced "IneedyouitsanemergencyamantookBrighamintothebathroomcomequickly!!!!" We both trotted as inconspicuously as possible back to the bathroom, which Eric found empty. That's when panic set in. Eric went back through the crowd to look for them and I ran outside, bouncing the poor baby's head all over the place, yelling "BRIGHAM!" I saw two teenage boys that I thought I remembered had been talking to the man. I ran up to them and asked if they'd seen a little boy. They looked at me like I was a crazed lunatic and told me he was inside with their DAD, looking for me. Then they indignantly informed me that he was a Duke professor and a father of three, so I didn't have to worry. I thanked them awkwardly and ran back inside where I imagined Eric was by now standing on top of a table yelling for everyone to help us find our son. Thankfully, he had found Brigham without having to resort to anything that drastic. We still don't know who the man was. When I got back to the table and calmed down I gave Brigham the third degree about whether anyone had touched him ANYWHERE, just in case. I thought about it a lot afterwards and decided three things:

1. Six years old probably is a little too old to be going into the ladies' room.

2. I should have firmly said, "No thank you, I'm not comfortable with that."

3. Had the man still taken Brigham into the bathroom I should have marched in after them rather than running off into the crowd.

Had this whole thing happened in a public place, I'm sure I would have done those things. It was the fact that we were at Eric's school party and I worried about making a bad impression for his sake that made me so confused and panicky. But I still think that man was being TOTALLY inappropriate.

But enough of that...Marley got to wear her Christmas dress to church yesterday! Cindy made it to match her daughters, Jenna and Rachel (the female two-thirds of her triplets). Have you ever seen anything cuter!?

You can just see how proud she is to be with the two big girls.

The baby doll shopping went very well, if you consider coming home with two dolls instead of one a success, which Eric did not. I couldn't decide between one that was a baby, and would simultaneously suck and blink when you put a bottle in its mouth, and another doll that was more of a girl, with long brown hair and long eyelashes. I knew that the girl doll was too big (practically the size of Marley) and too heavy for her to carry around, but I wanted that doll. Anyway, I realized that I could just get the bald baby for Christmas and wait and buy the hair-doll next year or for her birthday, but then I worried- what if the doll company that makes it goes out of business before then? You never know in this economy! So I bought them both. And I even made it back to the school to pick up the kids and then to Eric's concert FIFTEEN whole minutes early. What's happening to me??


My early Christmas present...

All week I've been walking around with a general air of excitement without really knowing why.  I tried to guess- is it the Pitchfork's Christmas concert this Friday, in which I get to see my cute husband sing while wearing a tux?  Nope- love the Pitchforks, and my cute husband, but this event- several hundred people packed into Duke's Gothic reading room- not a single one of them with a small child on his or her lap, let alone THREE, is always more stressful than it is fun.  Last year Brigham fell asleep in his chair next to an elderly woman in a fur coat and peed himself in such quantity that I, sitting two seats away, had to stop breathing through my nose for the rest of the concert.  

No, not that then.  The Economics department Christmas party at the country club?  Um, no.  Last year we arrived a few minutes late to find that every single chair at every single table in the club was taken, so we got our dinners and sat in the chilly lobby, where I proceeded to have to nurse my two-month-old in front of the entering parade of stuffy professors and their fur-coat-and-pearl-earringed wives.  I'm sorry, stuffy professors.  I do thank you for your efforts at educating my husband, but I'm just not looking forward to spending my Saturday evening with you.  Let's see then........

Ahhhh, YES.  This Friday night, before the concert, is the annual parent's night out at the elementary school.  The idea is that we get to leave our kids at the school to watch movies and eat pizza while we moms and dads get a chance to do some Christmas shopping without them in tow.  Since Eric will be doing vocal warm-ups and stuffing his pockets full of ding-dongs (don't ask) at that time, I'll have to do my shopping all by myself.  And there's only one person on my list.  Would you like to guess what I'm going to buy?  A BABY DOLL!

Finally, I get to buy a present for my offspring that doesn't have a scowling mechanical face or the potential to be aimed and fired at my butt while I'm cooking dinner!  It has to be the best baby doll in the whole world.  And I want accessory bottles, one with milk and one with orange juice- the kind you can turn upside down and it looks like they're draining.  And if they still make dolls that poop and pee into a little fake diaper, my daughter will have one!  No, of course my mother didn't deprive me of just such a baby doll under the pretense that it was "tacky."  Why would you think that?

Anyway, needless to say, I am very, very excited for my Friday night.  Even though I have a small suspicion that Marley may at this point be more interested in stuffing the baby in the toilet, or down an air vent than she will be at feeding it a bottle. But we must start them young!  All you moms of girls- any tips on where to find the best baby doll in the whole world?