Monthly Archives: March 2012

On the MOVE

A few days ago, Beckett decided to start crawling.

We were given almost no warning. One day, he was just sitting looking around, complete with green plastic bowls, scooting occasionally on his butt in a very limited radius if there was anything that he wanted to get his hands on.  Then the next day, I turned my back for 30 seconds or so, and when I looked back, he had moved himself six feet across the room.  Since then, he has become our little miniature human dust mop, a constant reminder of just how much I need to clean the floor.

Beckett’s new-found mobility has reminded me of just how much we have not baby-proofed the house.  Most of the time, he gets on the floor and starts looking for the nearest electrical cord he can stick in his mouth.  (Oh, right, he’s also working on getting his second tooth.)  When Maggie was becoming mobile, we had a large fenced-in area that gave her plenty of room to roam around, but also kept her safe from the knives and choking hazards that we kept lying around.

With the second child, things are a little more… complicated.  Maggie has more-or-less free range of the house.  Our bedroom and David’s office are off limits, and my “office” is now in a large fenced-in area that allows me to roam but also keeps me safe from the puzzles and general toddler chaos that takes over the house on most days.  Maggie is allowed to get out toys and crayons and whatnot during the day, and then has to put them away before dinner at night.

And then there’s Beckett.  Maggie gets our her toys, and Beckett watches with rapt attention.  Before he was mobile, we could make sure that Maggie’s toys were safely out of his reach.  But now, what with the super-speedy army crawling/dust mopping, anything left on the floor is fair game to be chewed on.  It’s a hard thing for me to remember, let alone the two-year-old wonder.

And so it starts.  Before mobility, Beckett was more of a curiosity to Maggie.  She could give him hugs and kisses; they could laugh at each other.  But he never really posed a threat to her things.  Now, though, the kid can move.  He can get his hands and his gums on anything left unattended on the floor.

Let the rivalry commence.

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On Writing

I am not particularly well-suited to being a writer.

That is to say, I have always loved to write, but my personality is not one that would naturally guide me toward choosing writing as a career.  And yet, here I am.

Being a writer means taking chances and going out on a limb.  Publishing words that I have written myself is something akin to what I imagine it would be like to go streaking through Central Park on a particularly sunny and warm Saturday afternoon.  Except that in this analogy, instead of running through a crowd at top speed, I would be strolling slowly, exposed and unrushed, allowing strangers to study and critique and criticize my naked body at their leisure.

When I was in college, I wrote drafts of my papers and sent them to a peer or a professor for editing and comment.  I would feel a tightening knot in the pit of my stomach until I received my draft back.  When I then turned in those papers for a grade, I would feel a tremendous amount of relief, because it was finally – FINALLY – out of my hands.  There could me no more revisions.  The paper was as perfect as it was going to be.

Writing professionally is, of course, not the same thing as writing a paper for a college course.  It is, though, a process of continually offering oneself up for judgement.  When someone reads the words that I have written, s/he is reading a piece of me.

Recently, a project that I was working on got cut short.  It was not a project that I felt particularly passionate about – in fact, it was the writer’s equivalent of a “day job.”  Even so, when I got word that the project was being discontinued, I immediately internalized it.  My writing hadn’t been good enough.  I hadn’t been good enough.

None of this is true.  The discontinuation of the project had – so far as I know – nothing to do with my writing.  It likely had more to do with the marketing strategy, the design, maybe a mistaken target audience.  I was one small part of the project. But, says my inner doubting voice, I was the writer.  When they discontinued the project, it was because people were failing to buy my words.

This blog – this website – is my attempt to be a little more brave. I am a perfectionist in a profession that strikes perfectionists paralyzed.  I’ve started half a dozen other blogs, and each time I wrote maybe one post and then wrote draft after draft that I picked over and revised and never really managed to finish.  The longer those drafts sat there, the more I felt like I needed to make those posts perfect before I turned them over to the internet with all of that public-ness.

I started this blog, really, with one goal in mind.  I want this to be a place where I write and publish something every few days, perfection be damned.  If it has been three days since I published anything, then I need to push the “publish” button on something.  In just about everything I’ve ever read on how to be a writer, the first rule is to just write.  Write something.  Write something that is clumsy and terrible that even you don’t want to read, but write it.  Put pen to paper (or the digital equivalent) and get your words down.

So here I am, writing.  I already have a backlog of drafts of posts that I imagine will go unpublished.  But so far, I have managed to write and publish more on this blog than I ever have before.  These are my words about my life, and I make all of my choices about what I write here.  (A distinct difference from the things I am paid to write. Though they are still my words, someone else has usually chosen the topic, the format, even the word count.)

These are my words.  This is my life.  Maybe I’ll go take that stroll through the park now.

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No Kids Today, huh?

This morning I had a meeting with an editor. We were going to meet at a coffee shop that I frequent with my family (both kids in tow, usually).  So I put on some big-girl pants (read: not yoga pants) and I put on a shirt without any (visible) stains (patterned fabrics help to hide a multitude of infant and toddler related mishaps) and I headed out the door.

When I arrived at the coffee shop, I waved to the manager and then looked around for the woman I was meeting. This was our first meeting in person – not on the phone or through the internet, and so I scanned the room, made eye contact with a woman who looked like she was looking for someone, and went over to introduce myself.

A minute or two after I sat down, a waitress came by with my usual drink order – COD with a side of milk and a glass of water.  She had not taken my order, but she knows what I get every. single. time I go in there.  My table mate looked at me with one eyebrow raised and I shrugged and confessed that I come here a lot, as it is close to my house and I work from home. This place is my home office away from my home office.

As the meeting progressed, the manager stopped my to refill my coffee. As he looked up from my cup and into my face, a look of surprise came into his eyes.  “So, no kids today, huh?”  I smiled and responded that, yes, the kids were at home with my husband so that I could, you know, take this meeting, with this person sitting right here across the table from me.

He left and I offered a bashful smile to the editor sitting opposite me. “We come here a lot,” I said.  “My daughter really likes the muffins.”

The rest of the meeting went well, and we covered everything that needed to be covered.  We shook hands and she asked me where the bathroom was, since she was clearly not a regular at this place and I definitely was.  After I pointed the way, I waved goodbye to the manager and waitress and walked out the door.

Now, let me be clear here.  When I got home I had been gone, without a single child in tow, for 2 hours and 19 minutes.  I had tried to be a real, grown-up, professional person for 2 hours and 19 minutes, and those 2 hours and 19 minutes felt like … a day off.  And even better, when I got home, both of the kids were napping, which meant I could have a real, adult conversation with my husband.  Then I made pizza dough for tonight’s dinner.  Then I sent out a couple of emails.  And then, only after I had what felt like the most productive morning I have had in two years, Beckett woke up.  And then life – the real life of chaos, and getting things done in bits and pieces – started all up again.

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So, You’ve Gone and Got a Green Bowl Stuck on Your Head

This morning, Beckett got a green plastic bowl stuck on his head.

Now, when I say “stuck” I mean mostly that he got the bowl onto his bald noggin without any clue as to how to get it off again.  All he needed to do was to lift the bowl up – as one removes a hat – to free himself.  Instead, he managed to tilt said green plastic bowl to the perfect angle; the bowl sat on his head, covered his eyes and nose and rested on his lips.  From there, he could just sit and chew on the edge of the bowl. I got up to go get the camera, and by the time I got back, the bowl had slipped off Beckett’s head to the floor.

I offer up this image as an illustration of Beckett’s personality as I see it so far. He got his head stuck in a bowl – and he just figured it was something to chew on.  I kept waiting for him to freak out, but instead he just kind of… rolled with it.

I don’t like to play the comparison game too much.  It’s not really fair to say that Maggie did this while Beckett does that.  It’s partly unfair just because I can’t remember exactly how Maggie was at each age.  She is who she is now, and it is as if she has always been that way.  It’s also unfair because Maggie and Beckett are simply two different people.  But, with two children, some degree of comparison is inevitable.  So allow me to embrace the inevitable for a moment.

When Maggie was about 6 months old, she wanted to crawl.  She wasn’t just experimenting with the idea of crawling.  She was working on it.  I have a very vivid memory of a baby Maggie propped up on all fours, rocking back and forth, trying with every fiber of her being to figure out just how to make all of her limbs work in cooperation to get her from Point A to Point B.  She was so … determined.  As she has grown, that determination has not lessened at all.  She intentionally sets up obstacles for herself, and she practices until she masters whatever skill she is working at, be it climbing stairs without holding on, walking over pillows, crawling under/over/through the various IKEA furniture that we have around the house.  If anyone interrupts her practice with something so trivial as, say, dinner, she gets frustrated even to the point of lashing out and hitting.

Some of this is just typical toddler behavior, and I don’t mean to say that my toddler is extra special, by any means.  But her personality seems to be one of determination and drive.  She is a do-er.

Beckett, on the other hand, is not yet really showing any interest in crawling.  He rarely cries except when he’s hungry, and then when he does get fed he demonstrates such overwhelming gratitude by practically jumping up and down that it’s hard to remember the angst that he was expressing in those moments before.  When he does want to get somewhere, he kind of… scoots.  His favorite posture is sitting straight up, where he can keep an eye on things – especially his big sister.  And when he gets a bowl stuck on his head, he seems to just assume that that’s the way things are supposed to be, so he might as well enjoy it.

I know that all this might change as he grows into his personality more.  But for the time being, I’m going to try to keep the camera a little closer, in case that bowl happens to land on his head again.

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Playing in the Dirt

Spring has undoubtedly arrived in Memphis. There are flowers everywhere I look. New green leaves are popping out of bare branches.  The rose bushes that David pruned a couple months ago are sporting beautiful new growth.

We have now lived in Memphis for about three years. I was pregnant with Maggie when we moved here, though we lived in a different house for our first year. (It was terrible.  The roof leaked. We were relatively certain that there was some structural damage. And don’t even get me STARTED about the bugs.  I mean, you expect a certain number of large, black creepy-crawly things when you live in a southern city, but this was OUT OF CONTROL and I had more than one incident when a fully-grown cockroach crawled over my BARE FOOT.  I am getting the creeping willies just thinking about that.)  Anyway, we moved out of that first house as soon as our lease allowed and moved to a very nice house rented from a lovely woman who decided that she wanted to move to Hawaii.

We’ve been here about two years now and this is the first time since we have been married that we have lived in a place longer than the span of a 12-month lease, which means we’re starting to think about things beyond “getting all of the boxes unpacked just in time to turn around and pack them again because we have two kids and moving takes at least 6 months in either direction.”

So, over the course of the past week, I decided to tackle a flower bed that is outside our front door.  It had shrubs in it when we moved in here, but those succumbed to the Memphis summer heat shortly after we moved in.  So last summer it became a tangled mess of weeds and random plants that may or may not have been actual flowers at some point.  And last summer I was a thousand months pregnant with Beckett and it was consistently about 100 degrees outside so I did nothing to help the situation.

But this year!  I have a plan. I thought Maggie would have fun playing in the dirt with me, and so last weekend I took the kids outside and spent several hours pulling up the various weeds and clover patches that had found themselves at home in the little patch of dirt.  Maggie didn’t enjoy playing in the dirt quite as much as I had envisioned, as she spent most of the time getting very small specks of dirt on her hands and then coming to me saying over and over again, “Wash hands? Yes? Wash hands?” (Having a toddler who insists on staying clean has its advantages, I suppose, but not when we’re playing in the dirt.)

But Maggie overcame her fear of getting dirty this past weekend when phase two of the plan was put into action.  David and I dug up the compost pile we have out back and gathered the bit of usable compose while turning everything else over.  I mixed the compost into the patch of dirt and a few pots and then I planted seeds: spearmint, thyme, sage, oregano, basil, parsley, and marjoram.  Some of the seeds were to go in the pots and then the rest would go into the flower bed.  But as I planted the seeds, Maggie came behind me and very helpfully starting moving the dirt between the pots and the patch of dirt that she would not touch the week before.

So at one point I think I might have had some nice rows of herbs.  Now, I have no idea where anything, and I highly doubt that I’ll have rows of anything.

But the patch of dirt will be full of herbs that I planted with Maggie.

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