Wednesday, May 28, 2008


OMG I am so busy right now!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Over It

For a good 5 or 6 years, I was VERY into "which stroller is the best" and "what baby products are necessary" and all that JAZZ. I went through several strollers and finally found one that I loved so much that I wanted to lick it daily. I had very strong opinions about baby products.

You know what?


I really do not care anymore.

Not only that, I do not want to hear about it anymore.

I was so passionate about it at the time that I thought I would never get tired of sharing my advice and experience. I thought I would be the seasoned mom imparting my hard-earned wisdom to the young mothers out there.

But now that those things are not directly impacting my life anymore, I am just not interested! I even gave away my beloved stroller.

I think I've matured! Or, possibly, become more self-centered. Hmmm...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

11 years

Eleven years ago today, May 24th was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, just as it is today. Back then, I woke up very early in the morning and applied my makeup according to the consultant's instructions. My Mom dropped me off at the hair salon and went over to the reception site to start setting up. It was a typical partly rainy Portland morning, except that it was our big day! It was actually here!

You were probably not awake yet while I was having my hair done. I think it was 6:00 am or something god-awful like that. I know that my bridesmaids were getting up and ready at my parents' house. I remember that Wendy and Jodie were up before I left, keeping me company while I did my makeup.

When my hair was done and my veil was attached, my Dad, my bridesmaids, and my friend who was singing in the wedding all showed up in the rented minivan to pick me up and take us all to the cathedral. I think you guys were probably headed over there, or about to leave your Dad's house, since your drive was shorter. I wonder what you and your friends were talking about that morning!

At the cathedral, my bridesmaids helped me into my dress, and then you and I saw each other for the first time that day. Were you thinking what I was thinking? I'm marrying my best friend this morning! It was the most natural feeling in the world.

We were so young! We didn't know how to put on a wedding, and we'd probably do it differently now that we've been to several; but it doesn't matter. It was beautiful; and anyway, the details are small compared to the big picture. I'd marry YOU all over again.


Eleven years ago, what would we have thought if we had known we'd be spending our anniversary throwing a slumber party for our daughter's 8th birthday?

Actually, I think you and I would both have thought "Cool!" We were so excited about the family years. Back then we were young and silly!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Just a little boo-boo

Thursday, 1:00 pm:
The Boy slams the sliding glass door on Middle Girl's finger. It is bleeding and swelling. She is screaming. I wash it off and put a Band-Aid on it for the bleeding. The finger is sensitive and Middle is careful with it.

Friday, 12:50 pm:
The Hubby calls to tell me that his friend's wife, who has been battling cancer for years (with several periods of good health) is probably not going to survive the weekend.

Friday, 1:00 pm:
Middle Girl takes the Band-Aid off of her finger and we discover that her skin is WHITE where the Band-Aid was and PURPLE everywhere else. The nail is purple. The WHITE parts get me worried; I decide to consult a doctor and usher The Boy and a seriously freaking-out Middle Girl into the minivan. She does NOT want to see a doctor and is having a screaming, fighting fit about it.

Urgent Care goes as you would expect: wait, wait, wait, entertain The Boy, entertain The Boy, entertain The Boy, comfort Middle Girl, comfort Middle Girl, comfort Middle Girl. During the time it takes to drive there, the finger begins to pink up, and while waiting in the waiting room, the WHITENESS is pretty much gone. When we finally see the doctor, he says the nail bed does not need to be drained (Hurrah!), and he wants to take an x-ray to make sure the finger is not broken. Having the x-ray done adds quite a bit of time to our stay -- good thing I have arranged for someone to pick up Big Girl from school. But the finger is not broken and Mommy feels better having had it checked out!

It's amazing how quickly my mind imagined Worst-Case Scenarios. While getting everyone out the door and driving over to Urgent Care, I was so worried about the WHITENESS of the skin, and was blaming myself for not taking her in yesterday but instead putting a Band-Aid on it and then leaving that damn Band-Aid on for 24 hours. She wouldn't let me take it off, yes, but I knew better. It was so WHITE that I was concerned about how long it had gone without blood flow, and whether there had been cell death, and my mind even went all the way to perhaps losing it past the knuckle (my aunt's finger is missing the last section).

Do you think my overreaction has something to do with Hubby's phone call coming only minutes before? Probably, but I think it's more of a mommy thing. We do tend to worry about our children! and worry that we are doing a good enough job taking care of them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Today is my husband's Grandma's birthday.

She is a terrific lady. Both Middle Girl and The Boy's middle names are in honor of her, because I admire her so much. (I am proud to have given her her first great-grandchildren. She and her friends decided that she should be called G.G., for "great grandma.")

She's tough. She has very strong opinions, and her opinions are the right opinions; anyone who doesn't agree is foolish. Hubby's family members all tell us with wide, serious eyes: "don't argue with Grandma."

But here's the thing- they think she's so scary, but she is one of the most loving
Grandmas I have ever seen.

Maybe if I had met my maternal Grandma, I would have a different perspective, but she passed away when my mom was seventeen. My Granddad remarried, and she's very nice, but she is quiet and reserved. It's hard to be close to her. My paternal Grandmother ("Do NOT call me Grandma") was a very harsh woman. She was very cruel to my mom and made it clear that she was not good enough for my dad. She exercises a mean, manipulative guilt trip over my dad to this day, and she passed away three-and-a-half years ago. She did love me and we got along well, but once I was old enough to see how she was toward my mom, I couldn't feel the same way about her anymore. When she needed full-time care, she was so mean to her caregivers that they kept quitting, but she refused to live with my parents so my dad had to keep finding new caregivers in the tiny rural town where she lived.

Grandmother is a big psychological ISSUE for my whole family and my dad's brother's whole family, so I will stop there.

When I met The Hubby's Grandma, I met a real Grandma. I felt like she adopted me into her heart early on. I could see right away that she loved people, and they knew it. Yes, she speaks her mind (which I admire), but no one worries that if they disagree, she won't love them anymore. She demonstrates both: 1) high standards for her loved ones' ideas and actions, and 2) unconditional love.

She has opened her heart to my sisters-in-law as well. Fundamentally, she enjoys people and believes in living a happy life!

She is now unable to take care of herself and has a live-in caregiver, whom she adores. She loves to visit with both adults and children, but she asks the same question over and over in her conversations. She doesn't remember The Boy anymore, and asks every other minute "whose boy is this?" We love to see her, and be in her warm and loving presence, but it is also very difficult and painful to witness. I miss the parts of her that we have lost; we all do.

On this day, I just want to celebrate her, a remarkable woman whom I am so fortunate to have in my life. Happy Birthday, Grandma. We love you so much.
Edited to add: this picture.

Manhood in brief(s)

I don't even know what that title means, except that it makes me laugh. I prefer boxer-briefs.

That last post with the Esquire list is very long and cumbersome. To sum up,
The Hubby is:

1. Smart, loyal, competent, trustworthy, respectful.
2. A good card player (and other games as well).
3. A sports fan.
4. A man of few words. Not great at the art of conversation.
5. Not interested in fights or other displays of testosteroney stupidity.
6. Interested in food, wine, and spirits without being pretentious.
7. Not a handyman or mechanic.
8. An excellent partner. (Agrees that we both take care of our life together, be it laundry, dinner, whathaveyou)
9. A devoted Daddy.

I don't blame you if you didn't want to slog through reading that other post. But if you skipped it, you missed the link to a great post about by
Dad Gone Mad. So I'm giving it to you again! A devoted Daddy writing about being a devoted Daddy! Putting it into words! (See #4 above.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quien es mas macho?

Blackbird found an article from Esquire magazine on 75 skills every man should master.

I thought it would be fun to steal the idea from Blackbird and see how many of these skills The Hubby has. I thought it would be fun for me to answer them, and then have him answer them, to see how well I did. But he was sick in bed all day yesterday and then got up early to go on a business trip (he was actually supposed to leave yesterday), so he's not here to answer them. Oh well, it was a good idea.

My new idea for a twist on this is for me to answer them for The Hubby and then answer them for me! Does Esquire think I'm a good man? Let's see!
(My answers for Hubby are in blue, for me are in magenta.)

A man should be able to:

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence.
The Hubby is a man of few words, that's for sure. Sometimes he has good advice. If he doesn't, he'll just keep quiet.
Me? One sentence? Never!

2. Tell if someone is lying.
The Hubby is an excellent card player. He has very good instincts for this.
I'm alright.

3. Take a photo.
The Hubby never takes photos, and therefore we have almost no pictures of me with our babies. I am always the one taking the photos. Ironically, however, he is always being asked by strangers to take their picture. This happens around here, and around the world! It's kind of amazing. He must look trustworthy and competent. (Well, he is.)
I can take a decent photo with my point-and-shoot.

4. Score a baseball game.
Absolutely! He has been an expert at all things Sport since he was The Boy's age.
My Daddy taught me how to score a baseball game when I was a kid. I really enjoy it.

5. Name a book that matters.
One of our earliest conversations was about Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man. Unfortunately, neither of us read many books anymore, although when we were college kids we dreamed that one day we would have a house with room for a library.

6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible.
I don't know about that, but he knows a lot about a number of groups, and can carry on a great conversation about music.
Name a song by Huey Lewis & the News. I know 'em all.

7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill.
I am sure that he could, but why bother? He's good at the grill.
I don't grill. As for meat, I prefer to cook fish.

8. Not monopolize the conversation.
The Hubby has the opposite problem, actually.
For me, it really depends. Sometimes I can't stop myself from talking, and other times I am a wallflower.

10. Buy a suit.

11. Swim three different strokes.
Yes, although he is pretty out-of-practice.
I suck at swimming. But I could fake my way through three strokes.

12. Show respect without being a suck-up.
Absolutely. He radiates respect and loyalty.
I am not a suck-up. And I respect people. So I guess I'll say yes.

13. Throw a punch.
I wonder. I am sure he never has, and I can't imagine he ever would, but he probably knows in theory how it should be done.
Absolutely not at all.

14. Chop down a tree.
Not without injuring himself.

15. Calculate square footage.
Yes, fo' sho'.
Me, too.

16. Tie a bow tie.
We would need to learn this together by watching a video on YouTube or something.

17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well.
Not in large batches, but we'd both like to practice this.

18. Speak a foreign language.
Not really, no.
I can sort of communicate.

19. Approach a woman out of his league.
No. In fact, I finally had to approach him back in the day (and I am out of his league, right?).
I'm kind of intimidated by beautiful women myself.
I loved this one in the original article!

20. Sew a button.
I know he could do this if he just gave it a try. But he always makes me do it.

21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer.
I don't know what they would be arguing about, but he has never used a cheap shot.
Ditto for me.

Oh, no. This one is not in my blog comfort zone.

23. Be loyal.
Hubby takes this one. He is the epitome of loyal.
This is a really good one in the article, too!

24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope.
Oh, yes. And he knows how to order it, too.
I like to let him surprise me.

25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it.
He is not a handyman. All home projects involve a lot of cussing.
I hold my own pretty well, but I don't completely understand the terminology here.

26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat.
I think so. He would be very rusty at it, though.
I have not done this since I was about eleven years old. I think sighing would probably be involved.

27. Play gin with an old guy.
Oh, he would LOVE to! This is right up his alley.
I would get my ass handed to me on a platter.

29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped.
I think he would know what this is talking about. As an Engineering major, he took more physics than I did.
I took a year of physics in college, but ... wha??

30. Feign interest.
I'd have to say he is not great at this one.
I used to be better at this, before I was so tired all the time.

31. Make a bed.
He certainly can. And sometimes, he does!
Ummm, yeah.

32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick.
We like drinking wine. We are not snobby about it. But we don't usually say much besides "interesting" or "smooth."
This one is really good in the article too.

33. Hit a jump shot in pool.
I really do think he could do this. There was a snooker table in his dad's basement.
Not on purpose.

34. Dress a wound.
We would both manage alright, I think.

35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once).
I bet he could do these, but I think there would be some cussing involved.
I have only done the second one.

36. Make three different bets at a craps table.
Let's just say this right now. All the gambling/cards ones? Let me just understate it and say he's got these covered.
I don't gamble. I will play cards (my family enjoyed playing games growing up), but I am not competitive or strategic. I'm in it for the conversation and the bonding.

37. Shuffle a deck of cards.
See #36.
(Oh... I can do this, no problem.)

38. Tell a joke.
We are both hopeless.

39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack.
See #36.

40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear.
We are good with kids. But our almost-eight-year-old does not seem to hear us.

41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear.
We are very nice to our servers.

42. Talk to a dog so it will hear.
The Hubby is a man of few words.
I am kind of lame around dogs.

43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help.
This would be a bad scene.
Why not ask for help?

44. Ask for help.
Too late.
Oh, I see.

45. Break another man's grip on his wrist.
I can't imagine him ever needing to do this.
I need to go read the article again 'cuz I should learn how to do this.

46. Tell a woman's dress size.
I think he has no idea. But he might surprise me.
I try not to think about it.

47. Recite one poem from memory.
Not unless it involves sports stats.
My brain is full of holes.

48. Remove a stain.
Yes, although he usually consults with me for tips.

49. Say no.
I forget what the article was referring to.

50. Fry an egg sunny-side up.
We both sometimes have yolk troubles.

51. Build a campfire.
I bet he could make this happen with some trial and error. He's probably done it before.
Me, no way.

52. Step into a job no one wants to do.
Yes, he quietly takes care of things for people.
Hello? Stay at home mom. This is all I do all day.

53. Sometimes, kick some ass.
Absolutely not.
Ditto. Unless we're talking about a verbal tirade, after the fact.

54. Break up a fight.
I don't think he's ever done this, although it's far more likely than actually being involved in a fight.
Hello? Stay at home mom. This is all I do all day.

55. Point to the north at any time.
Yes, I don't know how he does it!
I just learned this from the article! Woot!

56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person.
We used to do this for each other in college.

57. Explain what a light-year is.

58. Avoid boredom.
He does not like being bored.
Avoid what now?

59. Write a thank-you note.
Yes, he can, and he even does if I ask him to.
Oh you betcha.

60. Be brand loyal to at least one product.
Diet Pepsi.

61. Cook bacon.
We don't cook bacon.

62. Hold a baby.
Yes, absolutely! In fact, he was nineteen and we had been together for two weeks. I saw him holding his one-year-old cousin. And I was a puddle on the floor.
Um, ya think?

63. Deliver a eulogy.
He could do a great job. Thankfully, he hasn't had to do this yet.
I would be a mess.

64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch.
This one is weird. You have to read the article. I think it's about giving up your long-held beliefs if confronted with new information? Um, I think? I can't even deal with this one right now.

65-67. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Throw a football with a tight spiral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably.
Not as well as he used to.
I watch sports.

68. Find his way out of the woods if lost.
Um, yeah, no idea.
Not a chance.

69. Tie a knot.
Any kind of knot? We both could make one happen.

70. Shake hands.
He has a condition that makes his palms very sweaty. Four years ago, he had a procedure that fixed the problem. He enjoys shaking hands now, and he really appreciates being able to!
I have a good handshake.

71. Iron a shirt.
He thinks he can't, but he could do it.

72. Stock an emergency bag for the car.
Only if the thought counts.

73. Caress a woman's neck. Back of your fingers, in a slow fan.
I don't know what he's talking about with the back of the fingers, wha?

74. Know some birds.
Maybe owl vs. pelican.
A few.

75. Negotiate a better price.
Neither of us are any good at this.

You can read the article here - it helps because it makes the list seem less random!

It goes without saying that this is one person's idea of necessary man skills. Mine would be different! The Hubby has never been a guy who needs to seem "manly," and that in itself demonstrates his sexy self-confidence. Nothin' more manly to me than a guy who sees men and women as just people: we all are here to love one another.

I read this post at Dad Gone Mad today, and he talks about how much he loves taking care of his kids, and it sure hit me where it counts - right in the tear ducts! Go read about a real man, KINDA LIKE MINE.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

getting caught up

Early Thursday morning I came down with some sort of gastro thing. After a little while, it was clear that it was only getting worse and The Hubby would need to stay home from work.

He got Big Girl to school and dealt with the other two all day while trying to do work and be on conference calls. I could tell from my bed that he was juggling a lot and sometimes resorting to using the TV babysitter.

I started composing a blog post in my head about how if it were The Hubby who was sick, he would just take a day off work and stay home and I would try to keep the kids occupied and out of the house as much as possible so he could rest in a quiet house. But when I'm sick, he tries to work from home and the kids are wreaking havoc around him, and the house is loud, and I am having little visitors coming in to talk to me since Daddy's on the phone, and I am feeling so guilty about being sick and making him stay home that I am trying to convince myself that I feel okay enough that he can go in.

But then, The Boy threw up all down The Hubby's back and I was still too sick to help. Hubby had a lot to deal with that day, and he rose to the occasion as he is wont to do. That blog post in my head never made it to the computer, since The Hubby really did what we all needed him to do.

So that was Thursday.

Friday and Saturday were very busy. Since everyone was feeling better by Thursday night, and there was no school on Friday, I took the kids to Disneyland on Friday for a few hours (annual passes expired today). On Saturday the girls had dance class and then we had to rush Big Girl to the American Girl Place for a birthday party. Middle Girl and I looked around the store while Big Girl was in the Cafe for the party. Then the drive home (American Girl Place is a big pain of a drive) and I had just a couple of hours to shower and get ready for a formal fundraiser event The Hubby and I attended.

That was last night, and today, The Hubby has the stomach bug. Poor guy.

Oh, and we have been having a heat wave (it's 96 right now). And that's all I have to say about THAT.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two stories today

When I picked Middle Girl up from preschool today, she had something exciting to tell me: "I got to let one of the butterflies go!"

Her class has studied the life cycles of butterflies and frogs, and has kept caterpillars and tadpoles to observe. The butterflies all hatched from the cocoons over the weekend, and today they were flying around their little net home, ready to go outside. (Three of the tadpoles have turned completely into frogs; the rest are somewhere in-between.)

The teachers drew names to determine who would get to release the butterflies, and Middle Girl was lucky enough to be one of the children chosen! While her classmates looked on, she let a butterfly climb onto her finger, then carefully moved her finger out of the net habitat to the open air, and off it flew!

I asked her which she liked better: having a butterfly on her finger or holding a snail in her hand (she LOVES that), and she said "the butterfly!" Cool! I wish I could have seen it and taken some photos!

My second story is about The Boy. We were walking through a parking lot and he saw a man standing around smoking. He stared at him for a minute, and then asked, "Mommy, what is that thing he keeps putting in his mouth?"

Yes, he is over three years old and has never seen anyone smoking before! Isn't that fantastic?!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This Cat

Our cat is gettin' up there. We think he's about 11.

About ten years ago, my friend called and said, "I'm going to work at Club Med! I need you to take care of my cats while I'm there. It'll be about two months."

So Dino and Max came to live with us. Max was kind of a neurotic cat, always on the hunt for a piece of paper to eat. But Dino was a cool cucumber. He sauntered around like the king of the castle.

My friend called to say, "they have extended my contract! It'll be more like a year!" I said, "I don't think it's fair to the cats to live somewhere for a year and then go back to you. What do you think?"

Well, we still have Dino, so I think you know what she said.

We adopted another stray cat a while later, so now the count was one boy (Dino) and two girls. They lied around together, grooming each other and cuddling up for snoozes. They played and wrestled and things were good.

Then, when I was pregnant with my first, Dino started terrorizing the girls. He would chase them around the house, trying to bite their necks, and they would hiss and shriek at them. The old chase game, which we called "racetrack kitties," turned into something much more unpleasant. A lot of times, I would have to put him in another room. I thought maybe all the hormones I was giving off were affecting him despite the fact that we was fixed. It was really very strange.

Things did not get better until we moved out of the condo-on-a-busy-street and into a house-with-a-yard-on-a-quiet-street. We let him go outside and prowl around, and things improved. During the next few years, we were very sad to lose the two girls, first one, and then the other.

He has been our only cat for four or five years now.

He is a great cat - patient, even-tempered, not bothered by the kids' energy. People who don't like cats tend to like him ... because he's friendly, more like a dog than a cat.


He is lonely. He is needy. If I sit down, boom! he's in my lap. When people come to our house to visit, he is all over them and won't take no for an answer. He will even climb into The Hubby's lap, and they have never gotten along. In his advancing age, he sleeps a lot. I try to give him attention, but there are times when I need to stand up. I think he needs another cat around to snuggle with, but we don't want to be getting another cat right now. But I see him and my heart yells, "he needs a cat friend!"

Awww, Dino, bud, we love you. Just wanted you to know that.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I woke up late and had to rush to meet the choir before church without having eaten breakfast.

The Hubby got the kids ready all by himself (big whoop, right?) and took them to church (when he does that, he has to sit in the pew with them by himself while I am singing - I would not want to do that!). No time to clean up discarded pajamas or the pile of dishes in the sink.

Home after church, The Hubby quickly sighs, "I am not doing that again." (You see, this was the first week after Sunday School ended for the summer.)

Kids give me the Mother's Day things they made at school.

The Hubby: "So, should we go run some errands?"

Me: "I don't want to run errands. You know what I want to do? I want to go to Disneyland."

We discussed for a moment whether we could get by without a grocery trip and some laundry loads, but in the end the fact that our annual passes expire in one week proved to be decisive. We all changed into pants and comfortable shoes, threw some snacks, camera, and sunscreen in a backpack, and headed over there!

We decided Disneyland might be too crowded, so we went to California Adventure. It was a great day! We went on a few rides, saw several shows, had some food, took Middle Girl to the potty seventy-gajillion times, and just enjoyed each other's company. Emphasis on that last one.

Big Girl and I took Middle Girl on Soarin' Over California for her first time, and she loved it. How could she not? It is a great ride. You really feel like you're flying through the air over the California scenery.

The girls and I also saw the Aladdin show - first time for all of us. It was well done, and we were all glad to see it. Meanwhile, The Hubby and The Boy were watching the Pixar Parade (Lightning and Mater included) and riding the "Silver Rocket" over and over again.

We had never been to the Animation area before. It is really cool! There are shows in which you get to talk to this CG turtle from Finding Nemo, and he actually talks to people in the audience. The Boy loved it. We also went to a show where they teach you how to draw a Disney character. Then there are places to explore on your own - making a zoetrope strip and watching a huge claymation zoetrope thing.

The Hubby and I took turns going on California Screamin' as a single rider. I sat next to a cute and hip mom whose husband and six-year-old daughter were in the row in front of us. It was her daughter's first time on the ride and she was excited and a little nervous (no way Big Girl would try this roller coaster, even though she is almost eight). The ride was great, of course, and as we got out we said "Happy Mother's Day" to each other. "Beats going to brunch!" she said. Yeah! You said it, sister.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Friday and Saturday

I needed to do a kids' clothes purge, sort my clothes and shoes, get a bench for the front stoop, get Big Girl to work on her Thank You notes, sort CDs and videos, research hotels in Quebec, practice some new songs, clean out the basement...

But I stumbled upon some YouTube videos from the Rock Star reality show (it was on a couple of years ago and I loved it), and then I ended up looking around the internet for more information about my favorite singers. And the awesome House Band. And then I found that they were the House Band for a recent MTV reality show called "Rock the Cradle." And then I watched the whole series on the web.

I will never get those two days back.

In other news, the Tooth Fairy visited our house, and our girl got to show all of her friends her new gappy grin!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

We interrupt this blogger malaise to bring you the following announcement

Middle Girl just lost her first tooth!

Bermuda Triangle in my Brain

My friend Eileen had her third baby a few months ago. I am having fun watching her deal with three.

When she drops the oldest off at preschool, she takes the infant seat out of the minivan and snaps it into the Snap 'N Go stroller, as the two older boys jump out of the car and head toward the classroom. At the classroom door, the baby lying in the stroller waits outside because there isn't really enough room to roll it inside. (I sneak over and give the baby some goofy grinny faces so he'll smile at me!) Boy Number Two wants to stay and play in Big Brother's classroom so Eileen has to coax him out of there. And they're off! Back to the car to rush to Boy Number Two's music class or Parent Ed class or Target.

At Parent Ed class, I get to see more of the Third Baby show. Eileen switches the baby between the stroller and the sling. Walking around with an 18-pound baby strapped to her body, she helps Boy Number Two with the swings, the slide, the toy cars, the Birdseed Table, the tricycles, the craft of the day... At Song Time, she tries to surreptitiously nurse the baby while Boy Number Two sits next to her. On the days when BN2 wants the lap spot, she shifts the baby over to one arm and holds them both close. During Snack Time, she makes sure the baby has nursed enough or burps him or bounces him to sleep, while friends like me make sure BN2 gets the snack refills he needs.

I watch and enjoy helping out, and I think to myself, "did I do this too?"

Because I am surprised to say that I DON'T REMEMBER IT.

It's like there is a huge chunk of time missing from my brain.

How did I drop off Big Girl with a barely-2-year-old and a baby? Did I use my Snap N Go? Did I just carry him? When did he nurse? OH! I remember, I nursed him in the minivan in the preschool parking lot, right after drop-off, since there was no time in the rush of the morning getting the other two out the door.

How did I carry him during Middle Girl's Parent Ed class? Did I carry him in the sling or the Bjorn? Did Middle Girl understand when I needed to tend to the baby? Did she sit next to me during Song Time or fight to fit into my lap?

Was I actually there?

I guess I was, because I found this picture:

That looks like something I would remember, doesn't it?

Ugh, it saddens me.... because they are little for so short a time and my brain has lost some of it! I want to be able to close my eyes and transport myself back to those days... relive it a little bit... But when I try, there's nothing there!

I can do that for the first baby, and the second baby, but not for number three. And I love The Boy with every beat of my heart. He makes me melt with happiness.

What up, brain?! C'mon, help a girl out!

I was calmer with this baby than with the other two, that much I know. I rolled with the punches and gave myself permission to take more naps. I was more relaxed about this, knowing everything would work out. And he was a happy, calm baby, so that helped. The days passed by smoothly. And then I forgot.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Quebec & Me

(It's long, but even if you don't read it, please scroll down to the photos at the end of the story!)

June 25, 1993

Saying good-bye to Mom at the airport in Portland, Oregon, she boards her plane to Vancouver. It's a small plane, one of the first of this size that she has experienced. She is 20 years old and it is just about two weeks after her sophomore year in college. As she sits on this little plane, she is feeling proud of her independence.

In Vancouver, she must connect to a flight to Toronto. Somehow she find out that she must pay an airport tax here. She exchanges some money and takes care of the fee. She finds her flight and congratulates herself - there is nothing she can't do!

Several hours and time zones later, she finds herself in Toronto with some time to kill before her flight to Quebec City. She browses in the airport shops and reads the books she started on the earlier flights.

She arrives in Quebec City after nightfall and checks into her hotel for the night. The hotel staff were nice despite her complete ignorance of the French language, helping her make a plan for getting to the bus depot early in the morning. Before falling asleep for the night, she calls Mom to report a safe journey thus far.

Hearing Mom's voice on the other end of the phone brings an unexpected wave of emotions. The pride and independence she was feeling is submerging, and her feelings of nervousness and apprehension are bubbling up to the surface. She tries to fight them off, but they betray her in a quivering voice that Mom, of course, detects. Mothers know the tones in their children's voices. Mom talks her through the rest of the trip's plan, as she fights off the tears that are now forcing themselves into her eyes. She ultimately loses the battle in an explosion of sobbing insecurity.

I know it will be okay, I'm just so scared. I am going to be camping for two weeks, and I have never been camping before. I hope I brought the right gear. I know the program made sure that enough people were bringing tents and stoves, but I hope finding a person who'll take me in goes smoothly. I hope I figure out the restroom and shower situation at the campground. I hope I am cut out for this research. Studying whales is what I want to do with my life! What if I hate it or am hopelessly incompetent? Then my dreams will be shattered and how will I deal with that? This is too much new stuff for me and I am too far away from everyone! I am so alone out here!

Mom comforts her daughter with caring words of encouragement. Daughter says goodnight and calls her boyfriend to repeat the sobbing conversation all over again.

Red-eyed and queasy-stomached, she awakens the next morning and calls a cab to take her to the bus depot. She must arrive in time to purchase her ticket (speaking no French) and board the bus to Grandes Bergeronnes before it departs at 9:20 am.

Arriving at the bus depot, she sees a small group of young women carrying sleeping bags, dressed in "outdoor"-style clothing. The college sponsoring this Field Studies course had sent out a roster, and strangely enough, only women had enrolled in this session. They all made eye contact and subsequently discovered that they were heading to the same place. On the bus together, and during the lunch stop, everyone enjoyed getting to know the fellow students who would be sharing in this adventure. Our heroine's stomach relaxed a bit, but not much; it helped a lot that Jennifer had already adopted her for a tent-mate, but she still worried about the campground and whether she was physical enough to handle the boat work.

They arrived in Grandes Bergeronnes and met their instructor: a real, honest-to-God whale researcher. He looked like a salty man of the sea: a few teeth missing, bright white hair pulled back into a pony tail, a raincoat and Wellington boots. He would eventually reveal himself to be one of the most caring instructors she would ever have, a teacher with a passion for not only his subject, but also for teaching itself.

He took the students to their campground, showed them around, helped them get set up, and took them to the closest market to buy provisions. He supplied a kitchen tent so the students would have a common area at the campsite. That night, after dinner, he walked them over to his home, and gave them an introductory lecture in his living room. They would be on the water, out with the whales, in the morning!

Our young heroine found that the campground was reasonably well equipped, and her tent-mate was a perfect fit. They made themselves a cozy little space and fell asleep with the sound of the wind in the trees above their heads.

They awoke the next morning to find a rainy, drippy day. The instructor came to fetch his students, with the bad news that the weather would keep them on the shore. He felt it was a perfect opportunity to do some of his lectures, since he usually taught the seminars every other night. This time, he could get them out of the way at the beginning of the course and the students could have free time at night. Since it rained part of the next day as well, that is exactly what happened. The students spent their usual lecture nights working on their research projects (also in the instructor's house) or heading over to the dance club in Tadoussac.

He taught them about the whales that come into the St. Lawrence River during the summer to find plankton and fish to eat. They would be seeing many minke and finback whales, although they were too early in the summer to see the blue whales. They would also see the only non-artic population of the small white beluga whales. He taught them about the behaviors they would be observing from the boats and how to identify what the whales were doing from what was visible above the water's surface. The frequency of breathing and the curve of the arch or kick of the tail as they dove back under would tell them if they were resting, traveling, or hunting for a food source. Feeding behaviors could be quite dramatic if the whales had located a school of fish. They would be traveling at higher speeds, often breaking through the surface with a great, open mouth and extended throat.

He taught them about the physiology of the whales with respect to oxygen intake. Because they breathe air but live in the water, they must consciously regulate their oxygen supply. During their visits to the surface, they must allow time for all of their cells to get rid of carbon dioxide and take in oxygen, which must travel through the bloodstream to/from the lungs and blowhole. His research has shown that to accomplish this, most whales take four breaths per dive cycle. The students listened, looked at the slides, and took notes, all the while longing to be out there seeing it for themselves.

Soon enough, the morning came when Prof. Salty invited the students to come down to the dock. He gave them all full-body flotation-insulation suits to protect them if they fell into the water, explaining that the suit would give them a few minutes before they became hypothermic, while the students chuckled nervously. They boarded the two zodiacs, received further instruction on boat safety and equipment, and headed out! The zodiacs sped across the water. The students' arms started to hurt as they held tight to the ropes and handles, bouncing up and down with the wind whipping against them. Our young heroine felt much better seeing her nervous exhilaration mirrored in all the faces of her fellow students. This was hard, but she was just like everyone else!

All of the gritted facial expressions changed the first time they saw a whale. They learned how to record the data: how many whales were in the group, time between breaths (for the lead whale in particular), type of dive or swim, sonar readings, location, air temperature, wind speed, bearing of the whales, and distance from the boat. They listened and they learned, but they could barely contain their emotions because they were sitting on the side of an inflatable boat with a whale about 50 meters away! A breath-taking, awe-inspiring animal that spends most of its life inaccessible to people. Its life below the surface is one we can try to deduce from the few clues of its surface behaviors, but remains a fascinating mystery.

At the end of their first day, the students' bodies were cold and exhausted. It took a lot of strength to stay in that boat! Their minds and hearts, however, were energized. This experience was exactly what they had hoped. The scenery was beautiful, the animals fascinating. The next morning, Prof. Salty asked them, "who wants to go out again today, and who wants a shore break? I always let my students take days off." The students all wanted to go back out there.

For two weeks, they spent every decent-weather-day (all but one of the remaining days) on the water. By their last day, they were old pros. Their bodies no longer tired from the exertion of hanging on to the boat. They were quick to spot the surfacing whales from long distances. They were skilled at taking the data and using the equipment. They had developed their own proposals for research projects. Our heroine's final report proposed a study of how the tides affect the resting behaviors of finback whales. She predicted that during rising tides the whales would take advantage of the flowing water pushing the food up and concentrating it, and therefore a smaller proportion of their time would be spent in resting behaviors.

On their last day in Grandes Bergeronnes, the students packed up camp as quickly as they could and convinced the research assistants to take them on the water for just a few hours. (Prof. Salty had to prepare for the new batch of students arriving that afternoon.) They breathed in every last bit of the St. Lawrence River that they could, and then boarded the bus to head back to Quebec City. This time, our heroine was not alone. She was with a group of young women who had shared an experience that few people could fully understand. They were headed home to their summer jobs, and then back to their respective colleges, but they had one last night together in Quebec City. They explored the city together, and our heroine's jaw dropped in awe at the stunning architechture in the nearly four-centuries-old city. It was a bustling summer night; people were out enjoying themselves while walking among the shops along the old cobblestone streets or climbing on the fortress-like city walls.

This time, as she fell asleep in her Quebec City hotel bed in preparation for her early flight home, our young heroine knew that she would always hold this place in a special hollow of her heart. It was there that she had been lucky enough to meet these young women, and share some days with them in admiration of the magnificent animals that brought her spirit to life.

Minke and finback whales of the St. Lawrence
(Photos taken on my disposable camera. yes, disposable!)

The other zodiac is having a near-whale experience. Both boats had many of these, and I'm glad I captured what it looked like from afar.

That's me in the middle. In this shot, you can see the flotation-insulation suits we wore, as well as how we were perched on the pontoons of the inflatable boat. My parents were a little freaked out when I got home and showed them my photos!
That's my tent-mate Jennifer on the right.