First Day of School Nostalgia

Tuesday was the first day of school.

It was more than a little bittersweet to me. This was the first summer in Oregon I didn’t spend home with the boys, and I feel almost like the whole season almost passed me by. When you don’t get home until 5:30 and jump straight into frantically cooking dinner for hangry children, bedtime and nighttime and getting up to get ready for work the next morning is on you before you know it.

On the other hand, Oregon did her best to make it feel as summery as possible to try to make up for it, so maybe fall isn’t such a bad thing. We had almost no rain from May on, and the whole state seems dry and crackly. Local parks lost quite a few older trees due to the overly dry summers, and the ground feels hard-baked beneath my feet.

I may not be ready for the return of the rain, but the land certainly is, and I can’t begrudge it the moisture.

Anyways, as I was saying, Tuesday was the first day of school which always makes me feel more than a little nostalgic. I remember lining up in front of my mom’s camera with its shutterclick sound, bright flash, and the roll of film that would wind itself up at the end of every spool. First day of school pictures are a yearly tradition.

As I dragged everyone outside into the nicer light to take my own pictures, DragonMonkey dutifully dropped his backpack on the ground and walked over to the designated picture-taking area. “Why do we have to do this every year?”

“Because….. because it makes a nice collage when you’re all done. I can see how you looked at the beginning of each year. I have first day pics of me, all the way up until my first day of college.

He lined up in front of the wall in front of our house, and reached for his yellow piece of construction paper with the hastily-written words in cheap marker. “If we’re… if we’re still doing this in college, do you think that maybe…. I mean, not to hurt your feelings, but maybe we could get nicer signs instead of paper?”

Present Becky is always willing to make promises on Future Becky’s behalf, so I was quick to agree. Future Becky would totally make one of those awesome, color-coordinated, sturdy Pinterest-style signs.

Future Becky is a chump.

I raised my cell phone, and DragonMonkey threw on his customary closed-mouth smirk smile that he always does for pictures, the one that makes him look disturbingly teenagerish.

After that it was Squid’s turn – I say Squid because that’s what I’ve called him on this blog since the beginning (when he was a Squidgelet), but he’s recently informed us that we are not to refer to him by that nickname anymore. In fact, we are not to refer to him by any nicknames. He will only respond to his full name.

I raised my cell phone, and he tilted his head back, looking at me with the heavy-lidded cool-dude expression he always likes to don for pictures.

“Squid, can’t you open your eyes a little bit more? I can barely see your eyes. You don’t have to smile if you don’t want to, but just open your eyes a little mo—“

“Bus,” intoned the Bean. “BUS!”

I snapped another picture in desperation:

And then kissed them as they dashed down the street, their backpacks rising and falling with each stride.

Like I said, first days of school always makes me feel nostalgic, and as I drove to work my brain rattled down familiar roads. Am I doing enough, as a mom? Am I being there enough, helping enough, loving enough, challenging and pushing enough, educating enough? Am I screwing any of them up? Have I already screwed them up beyond repair? Will they turn into adults I actually like, ones I am proud of? What can I improve on?

It was that last thought that trapped my brain. If you have multiple children, it’s not an easy answer. Every kid is unique. Even if I could wave a magic wand and change myself, each of my kids would want something different from me.

If DragonMonkey could reshape me, I think he’d turn me into the quintessential Pinterest mom. I’d rise before dawn in a wrinkle-free, coordinated outfit, and cook a couple of pounds of bacon and pancakes. I’d wake him with a hug and a tickle and invite him to feast while I washed all the breakfast dishes myself, and then he would get dressed and I’d spend the rest of the day chauffeuring him around to new experiences. Our days would be scheduled, right down to the minute, and there would be few surprises. Everything would be planned out (well in advance) with professional-looking calendars and well-packed gym bags for soccer games and playdates (are they still called playdates at his age? Probably not.) Upon returning home I’d miraculously produce a hearty, healthy, meat-and-vegetable dinner within minutes. After dinner we would play a light round of video games.

It sounds exhausting, but he would be so, so content.

Also, he would want me to have super long, super straight hair. I dunno. It’s just a thing with him.

What would Squid want?

Squid would want me to be Elsa:

only I’d be Elsa with a machine gun.

It be only me and him, no other siblings around, and we would have amazing adventures where we would shoot guns and rappel down walls and help people. At the end of each adventure he would heroically save us all, and most likely I would present him with a nightly medal he could hang on his wall. We’d feast all day on ice cream and sodas and candy.

My hair would also be long, and I would never cut it, because cutting hair is pretty much the same as ruining everything about yourself forever and ever. I’d be a crack shot with a rifle, and always have on fresh lipstick.

I’m not gonna lie, aside from the whole makeup thing and wearing a dress, I think I’d have a lot of fun in Squid’s World.

If I’m being honest, the twins would probably love to change me too. Finn’s imaginary mom is the easiest to understand – I didn’t even have to think very hard to know what he would want.

Finn would very much like it if I could stop being me, and just figure out a way to be The Bean, except with boobies.

Seriously.

He would be SO content if I could just figure out a way to make this happen. Also, my/ Bean’s boobies would still be producing copious amounts of milk that never ran out, and Finn would still be able to nurse all day. The two of them would live on a tractor, alternating all day between nursing and doing tractor-type stuff.

I’m pretty sure if Finn was in charge of heaven, that’s all it would be: Heavily-lactating, giant-boobed men on a variety of different tractors.

You can see why I’d rather be stuck in Squid’s world, right?

Magpie is a harder nut to crack, because she’s so quiet with her wants. I know she would like to have Mommy/daughter time without any pesky brothers around. In her imaginary mom world I would be a fashion diva, and we would both dress up constantly.

Please understand that by dress up I don’t mean we would wearing tasteful evening gowns with sensible heels – oh no. Magpie’s version of dressing up consists of layering accessories upon accessories… and also, do you know what makes an accessory really pop? Another accessory.

The two of us would adorn ourselves like real-life Fancy Nancies:

and then we would spend quite a bit of time just sitting around pointing out each other’s amazing outfits. Earrings. Yes, earrings. I am wearing earrings. You have sparkly shoes. Yes, yes you do. I do, too.

We would admire each other’s glasses, frequently.

Wherever we went each day, it would not be in a car pointed in the direction of home, because oh lawsie, “NOT DAT WAY. NOT DAT WAY. NO HOME… NOT DAT WAY.” She’s an adventuring sort at heart.

She’s not very particular about what we would do, provided we do it together, but if I had to come up with something I think we would spend the entire day swinging on swings at the park, trying on different pairs of shoes, and maybe riding a pony. We’d have a collection of items we dragged around, from Purple Bow Dog to Rattle Elephant, and we would very systematically rearrange them around ourselves wherever we went.

We would hold hands, a lot. We’d practice number facts, and sing the ABC’s and “Tinka Tinka Widdah Stah” over, and over, and over. And over.

And over, and over, and over, and over.

Also, we would feast on .99 cent bagged salad from Safeway, because she’s kind of weird that way.

Maybe it’s for the best that the kids can’t rearrange me to suit their desires… It’s exhausting just imagining it.

In other news: Reverie isn’t coming home until closer to the end of the month, which I’m thrilled about. I can definitely use another week or so to get things ready for her.

Getting ready for Reverie

I introduced the twins to Reverie yesterday.

I figured it was time, since she’s going to be coming home in less than a month (GACK!). I didn’t want the first time she saw a pair of loud, hyper two-year-olds to take place during the stress of her move.  There’s enough craziness at our place that every day is a lesson in desensitizing:  kids on trampolines waving towels over their heads, flying kites over the paddock, wagons full of shrieking children being pulled all over by a hyper Labrador….

If I can take any steps ahead of time to make her transition to Bean Acres easier, I definitely want to.

In case you were curious, the answer to “How many people actually refer to it as Bean Acres?” is still “just Becky”. Even when I do use it, it’s usually only in my head.  There’s something about naming your property and then saying it out loud that feels a teensy bit pretentious, like you’re talking about yourself in third person.

Well, I don’t care. I’m going to keep calling it Bean Acres, in hopes that one day it will catch on.

Of course if really wanted everyone to call it by a name, I could probably should have named our home FartFartPoopFart Acres.

And if you don’t understand why that is, then I congratulate you, because you aren’t living in a house filled with mostly males. Seriously. I will never understand why farts are so unbelievably funny.

Anyways, I had a few minutes in between getting off of work and showing up at the house to get started on dinner, so I decided to stop by and see if I could say hi to Reverie, and scratch on her a little bit.

There have been times when I’ve come to see her she was waaaaay out on the back side of 20 acres and all I could see was a tiny brownish speck next to a larger brownish speck, but lately Kathleen has been putting her in a shady paddock during the day, to protect her incredibly sensitive pink nose.

I foresee a lot of Destin/long-nosed fly masks in our future.

Luckily for me, Reverie and her mom (Sparkle) were hanging right by where I normally park, so it didn’t take very long to find them.

Reverie was very, VERY interested in the twins, almost to the point of spooking. It didn’t help that Finn was in a hyper mood and kept jumping rather than walking, and that Magpie had dragged along the singing puppy she takes with her everywhere.

 

His (apparently it’s a boy?) name is Doggie PurpleBow, and bless the makers that gave him an off switch that’s easy to switch off but hard for toddlers to find.

Seriously, thank you. There are only so many times you can hear “That’s my tummy!!! Tummy begins with ‘T’!!!! T…U…M…M…Y.. spells TUMMY!!!!” followed by semi-maniacal animatronic giggling before you get the urge to run away and join a cult. That off switch saves my sanity.

For being only 3 months old, I am really impressed at how laid back Reverie seems to be. I know a lot of adult horses that would not stand still with two screechy twins coming running full tilt at them, complete with creepy singing dolls in their arms.

I prepped the twins as we got near, to better direct them.

“This is Sparkle. Sparkle is a mommy horse. Sparkle is nice.”

And dude.

Sparkle is SO nice. Every horse should be a Sparkle.

Sparkle is just a gem of a mare in a very pretty package. You could tell she really liked the twins, because she just came alive when they drew near, swooping low to snuffle at them and standing patiently as they patted the sensitive tip of her nose with their inept little hands.

Magpie, who lives up to her namesake more every day with her penchant for shiny, sparkly things, was in awe of the name.

The horse was named Sparkle.

Not only was the horse named Sparkle, but she, Magpie, also had on a pair of sparkle shoes (light up Sketchers with sequins I found at a yard sale.)

She couldn’t get over it- it totally blew her little two-year-old mind.

“Yook, Spahkle. Hi, Spahkle. Spahkle shoes! My Spahkle shoes. You Spahkle. Dese my spahkle shoes!”

Sparkle is thinking, “You’ve literally been showing me your shoes five minutes straight, saying the same three sentences over and over. I get it. I see them.”

 

While the twins were VERY interested in Reverie, and she in them, I discouraged it as much as possible.

“That’s Sparkle, she’s a nice horse. And this is Reverie, Sparkle’s baby. Reverie is Mommy’s new horse. Reverie is a baby, and Reverie bites. Hard. It will hurt. No touching, or she might bite you. This horsie bites.”

Okay, maybe Reverie doesn’t actually bite…but hey man, two-year-olds and three-month-old horses don’t mix. Reverie would probably nip out of boredom given half a chance, and I’d rather terrify the twins a bit and have them keep a safe distance than try to explain the concept to them or give her a chance to learn bad manners.

After all, for all Reverie is amazingly sweet and calm, she’s still just a foal. I trust her as much as I would trust a hyper kitten near priceless lace curtains.

The twins were horrified at the concept that Reverie could bite, and proceeded to spend the rest of their time lecturing her.

“No biting. No bite. No. Ow. No biting,” they said, over and over…. and over and over…. and over and over, in a kind of squeaky tandem Gregorian chant.

It almost made me miss the whole “Dese my Spahkle shoes” litany. I wish I’d thought to take a video instead of a pic.

You can actually see Finn saying “no bite” here.

Anyways, it’s a little disconcerting that Reverie will be coming home in a few weeks. For the one thing, it means summer is almost over, and that makes me sad. With my full-time job, I feel like I barely spent any time outside.

In addition, although I’m not nearly so worried as I would have been if I hadn’t brought home Jupiter last year…. She’s only going to be four months old.  Jupiter was the youngest horse I’ve ever owned, and he was already a yearling when I got him.

The idea of her actually being here, so young and impressionable, is totally terrifying.  I know in my head that it’s actually not, but my heart disagrees and keeps insisting it really is terrifying.  Reverie represents years (decades?) worth of dreaming come true.

The most disconcerting thing about her impending arrival is the fact that she’s, you know, going to actually be mine. I’m a perpetual daydreamer. I’m used to daydreams – they’re easy, and airy, and fun to live in…. but the Bean is a realist. When I daydream, he tends to take it literally.

 

It used to cause us issues in our marriage, because I would want to daydream with him (“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get 30 chickens and make money selling eggs? Wouldn’t it be great if we had more property, and could raise our own beef?  What if we packed it all up and headed to Montana? Look at this gorgeous chocolate Labrador, I wouldn’t mind owning a dog like this”, etc, etc.) and he would start to get stressed, trying to figure out all the complexities of turning my imaginary scenarios into a reality.

Even after ten years of marriage, it still weirds me out when the Bean manages to turn my daydreams into reality ,and I think that’s where I am at now. The sheer realness of Reverie makes me nervous.

In my head I am Alex Ramsey on a deserted island with my amazing Black Stallion who is bonded with only me. I am athletic and confident and young, galloping bareback over deserted stretches of sand, and I always know the right thing to do.

In reality…. I’m a 37-year-old mom of four who is out of shape and struggles with depression and has never really taken many riding lessons or had a foal this young, and what the heck am I doing with a horse this nice? What if I ruin her? What if I break her?  I asked for water, but someone handed me the nice china, and can I please just use one of your plastic tumblers to get a drink out of so I don’t have to worry about dropping it?

Caspian is also an amazing horse, but he wasn’t necessarily my decision so I didn’t feel as responsible for him as I do for Reverie.  That’s not to say he’s not magnificent – he’s athletic and amazing and calm and wonderful and talented and I’ve never met a horse as honest as he is.  Still, I didn’t set out to buy him. A horse trader sold him to a horse trader, who sold him to my parents, who needed to find him a quick home after they had some unexpected hospital time.

I’m sure I’d feel just as panicky if I’d bred him from scratch.

Of all the things that are not on my control, there is one thing I can actually do something about, so I’ve channeled all this:

Image result for now what do I do

 

into slowly getting back into shape. I set an initial weight loss goal for myself back in May, and I’m almost there. Once I hit that goal I will then let myself join the local CrossFit.  I know, I know, Crossfit is the devil/the best/the worst/your savior.

I’ve heard it from a lot of different people, trust me.

The thing is, I tried CrossFit before, and it suited me perfectly. The trainers were wonderful and modified all exercises for out of shape me….

But during the free trial week I found myself getting super competitive and I pushed myself too hard for where I was phsically.  I didn’t injure myself – I just ended up having to go up and down stairs on my butt for three days because I didn’t trust my quads to hold my weight.

You haven’t really lived until you’ve tried to navigate stairs on your butt with a set of 7 month old twins in your arms.

I know you’re imagining that in your mind, and let me assure you, the reality of it was even more ridiculous.

Anyways, I figure I’m almost as the point where I can try again, and hopefully by the time Reverie is rideable I’ll be in a place where I can sit a three or four-year-old green broke horse (you better believe I’m sending her away for the first 90 days!) and not feel totally off-balance from lack of core strength.

Giving myself something to do helps. It gives me something to do while I think, and as I ponder, I’m also realizing that it’s okay. It’s okay to love something this much.

In those quiet moments where I’m honest with myself, I think that loving Reverie may be my biggest fear of all.

When I was in my early 20’s I had a flame point cat named Fuego. If you’ve never had a close connection with a pet, it will sound weird to say this, but he was my best friend.  When he escaped from my house and got hit by a car, I was devastated. That’s not hyperbole either- after I received the phone call letting me know he’d died I started crying so hard I had to leave work, and for the rest of the week I barely managed to pull myself together enough to show up for my receptionist job.

Months later, still in the midst of  my private mourning, I lay curled on my side under the covers as silent tears dripped down my cheeks. I still felt aching and raw, lonely for the way he used to crawl under the covers and sleep against me. And that’s when I had a total lightbulb moment, to the point I even muttered it out loud:

“Well, this is stupid.”

Fuego would have lived, what … Fifteen years at most? Seventeen? It just didn’t make sense to give away that big of a piece of my heart to a pet only to have it destroyed every decade or so. There wouldn’t be anything left of me when it was all said and done.

And that was that. That was the last time I let myself get really close to a pet. Oh, I still love my animals, but it’s an easy-going love, more like warm affection.

With Reverie I can sense it is going to be so much more, and it makes me nervous.

Of course, maybe I’ll get lucky?  Maybe it’ll turn out that she has a nasty PMS cycle or that she likes to pee on my shoes whenever I get close to her, or barely tolerate me scratching on her neck.  Maybe she’ll be a habitual stall kicker, or like to stomp chickens, or rub her mane out, or pin her ears a lot?

It’s a weird thing to secretly hope for, but then at least I’ll feel like I can relax, because then she wouldn’t be quite so perfect, so the idea of being responsible for such a perfect daydream of a horse won’t be quite so daunting.

And in the meantime…. if you’re looking for books on training young horses over at the St. Helens Public Library, you’re outta luck.  I’ve already checked them all out. After all, when in doubt, go to the library.

 

Day 346: The List

Baby horse needs to get here soon.

I mean, there’s a lot of reasons why Baby Horse needs to get here soon, but the reason I’m referring to is so I can know the gender and knock half the names off The List.

Yes, it has capitals now.  It’s not a list.  It’s The List.  By the time I’m finished honing it down and obsessing over it, and choosing one single name from it, it might even be THE LIST.

About a month or two after Sparkles was confirmed pregnant, I began collecting names. I mean, this is a horse who could be around for 30+ years.  I need to find a name I love.  And so, I began a collection.  If I heard a name I liked, I put it on The List.

If I read a name in a book and I liked the way the name sounded, I put it on The List.

If I remembered a character I adored, or a story that meant a lot to me, or a phrase that I thought encapsulated what this too-nice-for-boring-ol-me foal meant to me…it went on The List. I know there are some people out there who can look at an animal and just get a feel for what that animal’s name is…. But that’s not me.  I’ve never been blessed by that ability.  Hence: The List.

Eventually The List was 70 plus names long, and I began weeding.  Of course, the problem was that for every name I took off, I found another I liked just as much and added it on. Lately, with the foal due ANY DAY NOW, I’ve started to get serious.  I mean, out of 70+ names, there ought to be a few that I didn’t like as much, or that wouldn’t work as a horse’s name, even if it was perfect.

For example: Farandolae.

If I ever got a tattoo, it would be of a farandolae. (Well, either that or Calvin and Hobbes – you know, the scene where the two of them are lounging that tree?  That’s a close second, if I were to ever get a tattoo.)  Anyways, back on track.  What’s a farandolae, you ask?

A farandolae is a made-up scientific term from A Wind in the Door, the third book in Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series. In the book Charles Wallace is becoming sick, and nobody can figure out why.  Eventually it becomes apparent that a great evil is convincing the farandolae in his mitochondria to not “deepen”. When they are young, farandolae are allowed to float around, moving here and there with nothing tying them down.  It’s natural for them, but as they mature they are supposed to grow roots and attach themselves to one spot in the cell in order to do their work and keep the cell healthy.

But they don’t want to.

They listen to the voice of darkness which encourages them to avoid being tied down.  “Fool.  Once you deepen and put down roots you won’t be able to romp around as you do now… you’ll be stuck in one  place forever… and you won’t be able to move ever again.”

In the climactic scene where good argues against evil, one of the older, rooted Farandolae says in return, “Now that I am rooted I am no longer limited by motion.  Now I may move anywhere in the universe.  I sing with the stars.  I dance with the galaxies.  I share in the joy and in the grief.  We must have our part in the rhythm of our world, or we cannot be.  If we cannot be, then we are not.”

I think this means a lot to me because I never really wanted to “grow up”.  When I saw people with their full-time jobs, and their passel o’ kids, and their mortgages and their sensible lives, I shied away.  Even as it was in the process of happening to me, I shied away. And no, I’m not saying that route is for everyone… but for me it was something life needed me to do, and I never wanted to.  I could see it looming ahead, and I fought it, because I thought to throw down those roots was to lose my freedom, and to lose the beauty of my carefree life.

As I grow older, I realize how wrong I was, and how right that older, rooted Farandolae was.  I am no longer limited by motion – now I can move anywhere, and be anything.

The concept is such a huge life lesson I’ve had to learn, and so beautiful to me…

…And just awkward as heck to say and harder to spell, and dude, do I really want to explain something so personal every time I introduce my horse?

And therein lies my dilemma – trying to balance my need for a name with meaning vs a name that’s actually spellable and that I want to say out loud on a day-to-day basis.

Garibaldi? Roheryn? They’re cool… But again, I’d have to repeat myself over and over when introducing the horse.

Paladin?  It’s PERFECT….. oh, wait.  Stupid Mugwump stole it first for her dog.

Pickles?  Story?  I LOVE THEM BOTH, and they’re on my list for personal reasons…. but they also belonged to a friend’s animals, and it seems almost disrespectful to keep them on the list.

Bramble? Pretorian? I like the way they feel when they roll off my tongue, but they don’t make me that excited, so I should probably strike them from The List.

Wanderlust? It’s perfect in meaning (rather than travelling the world with a backpack I am travelling Oregon with my amazing Morgan!), but horrible in reality.  How do you even say it out loud?  What was I thinking? Wander isn’t bad, but…. but Lust?  Lusty? “Hey, Bean, dinner’s just done and there’s a few minutes before bed… can you watch the kids for a while?  I want to go to the barn and groom my Lust for a while… she’s a dirty, hairy Lust.”

Yeah, that’s a definite scratch.

Precept? I think the only reason his made the  list was because I was listening to Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series on audiobook and I liked the way the narrator said that word.

StayGold? I really wish I could make Robert Frost’s poem into a name, because it’s been a staple in my life since I first read it when I was 12 (Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold….) …but it’s awkward, and again, a lot of responsibility to put on a young horse’s shoulders.

Name by name, oh-so-slowly I’ve been weaning down that giant list,  and I finally have it down to just over fifty.

Fifty.

Fifty potential names…..for just one little horse.

I have had WAY too long to overthink this.

Promises (to Keep)
Miles to Go
Chantilly
Sonora Webster
Madmartigan
Elora Danan
Remington
Sangria
Haven
Amity
Epona
Thistle
Keeper
Icarus
Epiphany
Daydream
Paladin
California
Paksennarrion (Paks)
Cloud
Alleluia
Gilead
Zion
Banner
Zuriel
Hobbes
Kelpie
Scorpio
Gulliver
Pilgrim
Voyager
Bard
Peregrine
Pippin
Rohan
Gondor
Hodor
Troubadour
Siren
Trouble
Ronja
Ronin
Epiphany
Warrior
Centurion
Saffron
Apoya
Mariachi
Alegria
Elegir
Wander
Haven
Frontier
Pilgrim

And then, of course, right when I was patting myself on the back for making it even shorter, Aarene had to go and add another one to the list: Fairy Bramble. Bramble I’d already struck from the list, but Aarene pointed out that if Sparkle manages to hold on to her baby until she arrives this weekend, Fairy would be a perfect name, and Fairy Bramble an even better one.  Aarene will be crashing at our place, since she’s the official storyteller at our city’s Fairy Festival…. hence Fairy Bramble for a name.

So, I guess, it looks like I’m still adding to That Danged List.

(I couldn’t find any applicable pictures for this post, and it seems boring without any pictures, so here.  Here’s a couple of gratuitous pics of the boys riding Carrots.)

DragonMonkey on Carrots

Squid on Carrots

 

 

A Bald Eagle is Eatin’ the Chickens

Edit:  This was supposed to post yesterday, but apparently you are supposed to pay for your website URL, every year, or they shut it down. Whoops.

*******

Facebook just reminded me of something.  On this day, back in 2009, I had just passed the LAPD physical…. not by the skin of my teeth, but by the literal skin of my face.

 

It was an accident that should never have happened.  I shouldn’t have started the application process to become a police officer as soon as I had – the DragonMonkey was only 6 months old, and because of my C-section I’d had to wait two months to even begin any real exercise.  I’d been hitting it hard – getting up early in the morning to run, attending CAP physical fitness programs a couple of times a week….

Still – I knew I wasn’t quite ready.  It’s just….  thought I could force myself through it.  After all, it was a numbers game.  You had to pass the physical portion of testing to even begin backgrounds, and backgrounds at the LAPD took a notoriously long time, sometimes up to a year.  Plus, there was no telling when the next academy would even be, even if I was accepted. A best case scenario would give me an additional 6 months to whip myself into shape.  A more realistic timeline would give me 9-12 months… maybe even closer to a year and a half.   I figured if I could just push through the easy treadmill portion I could continue with my fitness regime and by the time I was through backgrounds and accepted into the next academy, I’d be physically ready as well.

The test was harder than I thought it was going to be.  The treadmill was narrow and had no handrails, which made me feel surprisingly dizzy – I am not afraid of heights, but something about the lack of handrails gave me an odd sense of vertigo.  The test itself wasn’t very long.  They had it timed just right to simulate the effect of running 3 miles at a 9 min/mile pace, starting off at a walk and slowly increasing inclination and speed until the final minute was spent at a near sprint at 45 degrees of inclination.

Still, I figured I could do anything for 10 minutes, and I was right.  I passed, and the treadmill turned off…. And in that instant I stepped wrong, tripped, stumbled, and my legs fell out from underneath me.

Falling on that treadmill was like one of those viral videos.  I pitched forward, and then in a last-ditch effort not to fall flat on my face I threw myself backwards, and I ended up falling on my side.  The treadmill was still booking along at a pretty good pace, so it immediately flung me backwards into the wall behind it, where I crumpled, wedged into the space between the treadmill and the wall.  I lay there, panting for breath, my chin bouncing on the still-running belt, scraping the skin off of it.

By the time I managed to pry myself out of there I was too horrified to accept a Band-Aid. Not only did I not want to draw attention to it the stupidity of my injury with a giant Band-Aid (I didn’t realize the injury was as visible as it was), but I also didn’t want to give the person any time to reconsider handing me the “passed” certificate.  I thanked him and grabbed that certificate and went to get changed for the next portion – the questionnaire.

Eleanor Roosevelt may have said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

You know what?

I bet you Eleanor Roosevelt never headed into police candidate testing, the only woman in a room full of chiseled young men, her chin bleeding all over a button-up lavender shirt that was snugly buttoned over too-large nursing boobies.

I threw back my shoulders and pretended I belonged, but I still felt like a poser.

Still, scraped chin or not, I was hopeful.  I could just see myself as a police officer, so clearly. I’d always been interested in law enforcement.  I’d been a part of a police and fire cadet problem in high school and had thoroughly enjoyed my time on every ride along I had during my time with 911 Dispatching. Sure, I’d left that field to go back to school to purse a degree in the medical field, but now that life, a baby, and finances had gotten in the way of that, a career in law enforcement seemed like the perfect fit.

Spoiler alert:  I totally didn’t become a police officer.  I failed on backgrounds, and by the time I could reapply, the dragon of my rheumatoid arthritis had woken back up from its slumber and made me a permanent physical D.Q.

Sometimes I still feel sad about that.  I know it would have been a very, very hard job, and I know that there’s a lot of anti-police sentiment out there right now…. But I still think I would have found it fulfilling.

But you know what?  That’s not what this post is about.

What this post is about is that on this day, back in 2009, I had one baby, lived in a one bedroom duplex in Fullerton, California, and had just passed the LAPD physical.

This morning, in 2018, I have four kids, a minivan, 3.5 horses, and live on acreage in St. Helens, Oregon. I was in the process of being mobbed by twin toddlers, trying to shrug my way into fancy little low heeled boots so I could go to my nice little office job in the city, when I heard the Bean call out in a strange voice from the bathroom:

“Becky?  Be-e-ecky?  A bald eagle’s gettin’ the chickens!”

“WHAT?”

“A bald eagle is eatin’ the chickens!”

As a mom, I’ve come to expect to hear a lot of strange stuff before 7 in the morning, but even I have to admit this was a first.

Not wasting the time it would take to look out the window and confirm, I darted out the sliding glass door, hollering for Artemis to follow me.  I could hear her claws on the hardwood floor (sorry, floor) as she leaped to obey, so I jumped out the door and bounded down the steps, trusting her to follow. If it sounds like a bad idea to bring a Labrador to a bald eagle fight, it wasn’t. I still think it would have worked.

Artemis is one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever owned, but she has one failing that is impossible to train out of her:  If you throw a pretend ball, she’ll chase it.

Every time.

She’ll chase it like her life depends on it – leveling out low to the ground, hind claws churning the dirt up behind her as she digs down deep with the force of her frantic run.

I’ve tried teaching her the difference since she was 4 months old, but she can’t help herself.  If you say, “Ready?”  and palm a fake ball, she’ll perk right up, and the second you “throw” it she’ll level out in a dead sprint in whatever direction that was.

I thought this might come in handy with the bald eagle.  Artemis doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, which is good –I would never be stupidly cruel enough to pit a dog against a large bird of prey, and I especially wouldn’t do anything to hurt a bald eagle.  I don’t know all the details, but I’m pretty sure they’re a nationally protected bird, and bad things happen to people who try to hurt them. I knew the bird was separated from us by a very secure 5 foot tall no climb fence.  My hope was that the sight of an angry adult human and a large 80 pound dog sprinting towards it at a dead run would be enough to make it reconsider ever coming back to this particular bit of land for its breakfast.

I headed out on the deck and down the steps, running as best as I could in my trendy little heeled boots (as in, not very well at all.) Even separated by a couple hundred feet, I could clearly see the bald eagle.  It was a full size adult, rich brown body contrasting with the snowy white of its head, flapping awkwardly around the paddock on absurdly long wings as it desperately tried to reach one of my chickens.  It would have succeeded, but every time it had almost grasped her in its talons one of the horses would thunder by in a spooked gallop, and it would have to take to the air again to avoid being trampled.  The chicken in question was the appropriately named Nugget, one of my Easter Eggers.  She was crouched down low, separated from the rest of the flock that had taken refuge beneath the horse shelter. I don’t know how, but she had somehow managed to squeeze herself between the fence and the water trough , making it nearly impossible for the eagle to reach through and grab her with its talons.

“Scat!  Scat!  ARTEMIS, WHERE ARE YOU?  COME?”

From back in the house, I heard one of the boys, “Mom, she’s inside!”

“What?  Artemis COME!”  Where was my dog?  I needed her to be sprinting at the eagle to truly scare it.  The sight of me slowly lumbering after it, with my pear-shaped hips and tottery heels was not exactly fear-inducing.

“MOM!  She’s not outside!  We got her!  She’s inside!”

And that’s when I realized they thought she’d run off, and that I was running off to try and catch her. They saw her coming out the door after me and had stopped her, locking her inside the living room. “NOOOO.  I need her!  Let her come out!”

“What?”

“Let her outside!”

“What?”

“ARTEMIS, COME!  ARTEMIS, READY?  ARTEMIS, GO GET IT!”

“Mom, we got her! Mom, she’s inside!”

“LET HER OUT!”

“What?”

By this time I was only about 50 feet away, and close enough to the eagle that it finally decided to give up.  It gave me a somewhat disgusted look. “That was MY breakfast, not YOURS.  RUDE,” before launching into the air.  Its wing span, its body, its everything… was huge.  HUGE.

Aren’t they huge? http://trapfreemt.org/media/bald-eagle-release-headwaters-state-park

It’s one thing to know that bald eagles are big, and to admire them soaring in the sky above you.  It’s one of the things about Oregon I’ll never grow tired of.

It’s quite another thing to be about 15 feet away from one, waving your arms and saying, “SCAT!  SHOO!  You leave my chickens alone!  Just…. Just SCAT!” and realize that if it didn’t feel like moving, there really wouldn’t be too much you could do to change its mind.

 

Bald eagle caught on hunter webcam

Luckily it did take flight.  Its wingspan was so large it looked awkward those first few beats off the ground as it tried to dodge the horses, but after a beat or two it levelled out and was out of sight surprisingly fast.

I’m hoping we can get the materials to cobble together a chicken tractor before it returns. Our hopes were to build a really big chicken coop this summer, but with all the nesting eagles in this area doing double time to feed their young, I don’t think the chickens are going to last that long.

Still.

I am definitely not in California anymore.

The lower pasture is so pretty. It would look much prettier fenced with electric tape and horses grazing in it – one day. One day.

 

A Day With Four Kids

Things I’ve Already Done Today:

  • Wake up.
  • Change both babies’ diapers
  • Kiss The Bean goodbye as he heads off to work
  • Plop both babies in their high chairs, return to kitchen, and ponder the contents of the pantry and the fridge.  No milk.  No butter.  No cereal.  No gluten-free bread.  No tortillas.  No cheese.  No … well, anything easy.
  • Scramble some eggs.  Eggs and leftover Cheerios for everyone.  Yay, nutrition!
  • While everyone is eating, go outside.  Let Artemis go pee.  Feed horses.  Water chickens.  Water the wilted tomato plants.  Collect chicken eggs.
  • Return inside.  Dress all four children in clean clothes, brush their hair, their teeth.  Occasionally scream out “WE ARE LATE!  MOVE FASTER! WHY IS THE TV ON?!?!?  STAND IN THE CORNER! NO, WAIT, THERE’S NO TIME!”
  • Drop older boys off at Vacation Bible School so they can learn about patience and love and gentle kindness.
  • Idle in the parking lot and consider what you are going to make for lunch and dinner. Factor in your schedule. Realize there is no avoiding it – you need to go to the grocery store, RIGHT NOW.
  • Drive to Longview.
  • Arrive at WinCo.  Plop one twin in the cart, the other in a carrier, and purchase $280 worth of groceries, self bag, and get an extra cart to hold them.
  • Drag out both carts by yourself, load them up in the car, load up the babies and hand them each a squeeze pouch of apple sauce.  Realize it’s only been 41 minutes since you arrived.  Turn on car and head for home.
  • Pause at a red light and marvel at your awesomeness. 41 minutes.  You rock.
  • Turn on the latest Bloody Jack/Jacky Faber audio book.
  • Five minutes from home, wince as Magpie succumbs to carsickness and explodes vomity applesauce everywhere.
  • Pull into driveway.
  • Unload Magpie, strip her down, and haul nekkid baby upstairs and plop her in the shower.
  • Head back downstairs.  Use paper towels to wipe up the visible vomit.  Toss into plastic bag, then trash can.
  • Load up arms with as many bags of groceries as you possibly can.
  • Head back upstairs.  Deposit said bags on kitchen floor.
  • Head back downstairs for more groceries.
  • Repeat a stupid number of times.  Mentally cuss architect who invented houses with a main floor not on the ground level.
  • Bring up the last thing – a watermelon – and then head downstairs, turn off car, extricate sleeping Finn who stays sleeping.  HOORAY!
  • Creep through threshold of house, which (as always) automatically causes the sleeping Finn to wake and begin shrieking violently.
  • Plop shrieking baby on floor.
  • Grab towel, go get Magpie out of the shower, and head to her room to dry her off and put on new clothes.
  • Step over shrieking Finn, who continues to follow you around the house so he can be very certain you are hearing his outrage properly.
  • Change Magpie into clothes, then plop both babies in high chairs. Swipe contents of their still-dirty-from-breakfast trays onto the floor.  Good thing you have a Labrador, right?
  • Give them Ritz crackers to keep them quiet.
  • Clean out fridge of old food, wipe down shelves.
  • Glance at clock.  ACK!  YOU HAVE TO BE AT THE CHURCH IN 16 MINUTES!!
  • Put away frozen and refrigerated foods.  Stack the non-perishable items on the counters.
  • Lock Labrador in bedroom so she doesn’t give in to temptation, eat the groceries, and force you to skin her alive.
  • With a baby in each arm, use your chin to hit the unlock button on the van keys. Head downstairs carrying both babies.
  • Arrive at van, reach out a hand to open the door, and have it automatically lock as soon as you touch it.
  • Take a brief moment to imagine using a castration knife on the idiot engineer who decided that when you hit “unlock” on a vehicle that it should automatically relock itself.
  • Walk back upstairs with the babies.  Try to tuck the keys in the waistband of your pocketless workout pants you’re wearing.  Give up.  Grab the keys with your mouth, instead.
  • Walk back down the stairs while staring up at the left sky, right sky, left sky, right sky, left sky, right sky in an attempt to keep the keys out of the four baby hands trying to jerk it out of your mouth.
  • Get babies in car seat, pretending not to notice the still-wet vomit spots on Magpie’s carseat.
  • Drive like the wind to the church.
  • Kids are supposed to leave at 12:35.  It’s 12:33.  Put one baby in a carrier, tuck the other in your arm, head to get the kids.
  • Awesome.  Your kids are both the last ones in their classroom.  Awesome. You’re such an awesome mom.
  • Instead of “hi” your children greet you with “You weren’t there to see us do our performance on stage.  When I realized you weren’t there, I almost cried in front of everyone.  Everybody else’s moms were there.  Why not you?”
  • Try to explain about groceries, realize you’re just making them sadder, and apologize.
  • Return home.  Head back upstairs.
  • Let Artemis out to go potty.
  • Start cooking lunch.
  • Realize you forgot Artemis outside – HOORAY!  She was waiting at the back door.  Good dog.  Very good dog.
  • Put babies back in high chairs.  Swipe uneaten Ritz crackers to the floor.  Good thing you have a Labrador, huh?
  • Feed everyone.
  • Ignore the “Now can we go to the fair?  Now?  When we’re done eating, right? Right?  Then we can go?  Remember, today is fair day?” coming from the kitchen table.
  • While they’re eating, finish putting away groceries.
  • Glance at clock – 1:14 pm.  Oh, Lord.  It’s only halfway through the day.  I’m only halfway through the day.

 

Things still to do today:

  • Take all four kids to the fair
  • Cook dinner
  • Take care of horses and settle them in for the night
  • Shower
  • Exercise
  • Meal prep, so I can eat healthy
  • Laundry, so I can go to work tomorrow and smell gross
  • Sweep?  Maybe dishes?
  • Evening baths
  • Get kids in PJs and in bed
  • Find pencil sharpener and sharpen pencils.
  • Track down the creators of those inspirational “nobody’s busy, it’s just a matter of priorities” quotes you keep seeing on Facebook and stab them in the eye with a pencil.
  • Sleep?  Maybe?  Pretty please, babies?  Can this be the night you two both sleep through the night?

If anyone knows the address of the person who first said this, send it to me in an email. I’ve got a drawer full of pencils just waiting to meet them.

Winter, Blessings, and a Barn

What an absolutely brutal winter.

*

That star up above represents the 800 words I just cut from this post, where I went into a bunch of boring detail describing how sucky it was for me, linking to articles proving how abnormally rainy and grey it was to “prove” it was okay for me to feel that way, etc, etc.

When I’m boring myself with my whininess I know it’s probably time to cut the words.

Suffice it to say, it was an abnormally rainy winter.  There were only 3 mild days between October and March (when there are usually 17), some months broke rainfall records that have lasted since… well, since they started recording rainfall records. Other months didn’t break those records… but they fell short by less than a tenth of an inch.

At the library we had a lot of people coming in and printing bus tickets, or plane tickets, or any other ticket they could find to get outta Dodge.  “I can’t handle it anymore.  You never see the sky,” they’d say, with a half-crazed, almost caged look to their eyes.

Continue reading

How Not To Have A Relaxing November

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA WHAT WAS I THINKING.

 

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I mean, it’s not like I have a lot on my plate.  It’s not like I’m attempting NaNoWriMo – 50,000 words of writing in one month.  I’m not like I’m trying to survive the first year with my twins – who, even though they just turned 9 months old, still wake every 3 hours at night.

It’s not like I’m trying to raise my 5 and my 8-year-old sons, and all the complexities that come with kids as they grow older.  Sure, they don’t pee or color on stuff anymore, but solutions to their problems now require me to actually turn on my brain.  On the whole, I think I found the random destruction a lot easier to deal with it.

It’s not like I don’t have all of the stuff I listed above, or a part-time job, or household chores, or family visiting, or holiday activities, or or or….

But I received the sweetest email a couple of weeks ago.

“Caspian is such a dear – he never does anything wrong – but he’s not really settling in/thriving here at the barn…”

I mean, if you’re going to get politely broken up with by a barn, it was the nicest, softest way to break the news ever… but it was still a bummer.   I couldn’t disagree with her assessment – Caspian seemed lonely and a bit sad at the new barn. It was obvious a change was needed.

The truth is, I spent the first few days after receiving that email trying to figure out if I even really had any business owning a horse.

Yes, Caspian was and is receiving the best of care…. but I almost never get to see him.  I actually do have plenty of time to spend with him.  The problem is that my free time is when most barns are closed.  I have time every morning from 5:30am-7am, and then again every evening after 8pm…. but what barn is going to agree to let a boarder traipse around in the dark like that?

I spent the next week after the email looking at the hard facts.  It’s hard to justify the expense of owning a “luxury item”, so to speak, when I have so little time to enjoy him.The problem with having an accountant for a husband is that I have started taking a longer view of how much things cost.  I think it’s easy to justify a horse when you are looking at the month-to-month.  Can I afford his monthly care?  Yes.

Even if I technically can afford it… should I, when I never see him?  The times I have available to devote to my horse are probably never going to work with a traditional barns, and it’s going to be quite some time before the twins are old enough to let me visit during regular hours. Can I afford him for another “wasted” year or more, knowing that the $400 a month I have set aside for him adds up to $4800 in one year? $9600 every two years?

That’s a lot of money for a once-a-week (if that) horse habit.

And so began The Great Depression of 2016.

I hate being an adult.  I really, really do…. but I just couldn’t see any way around it. Shopping for a new horse barn just made it seem so much clearer to me.  So many of the places around where I live are self-care.  It’s not that I don’t want to do self-care – I actually really enjoy mucking stalls.  It’s that I just don’t want to do it with four kids in tow.  I’ve cleaned Caspian’s stall quite a few times while wearing the twins, and it left me sweaty and grumpy. Somewhere in the middle of it, while I struggled to push the wheelbarrow through some damp grass, desperately trying to keep it from dumping over, one twin strapped in front, one twin strapped in back, sweat pouring down my face, I thought…

Wait.  Am I actually paying to do this?  I mean, I’m not just choosing to torture myself like this, but I’m actually paying good money to do it?  I’m paying money to never ride and never groom, and just spend my time pushing around my horse’s feces?

So I came home, and I had a long discussion with The Bean.  And then another long discussion.  And then we had several long discussions.

And then the Bean and I sat down and had a long talk a week ago on Monday night, and we came to the final decision.

We decided to sell our house.

I know, it was a bit of a shock for me too.  I went into it thinking the conversation was going to end with, “Yeah, let’s sell Caspian and we’ll just find another horse when the time is better.”  Instead, the conversation turned into “Why don’t we just bump up our ‘find a home with enough land for a horse’ plan”?

We’re not looking to move far – we both love our town.  We just want a little land for the horse, and maybe a little more room for when my mom comes to help me with the twins.

Hey, did you know what’s easy?  Deciding to sell your house.

Do you know what’s not easy?  Cleaning your house so that it’s ready to sell…. in less than two days.  We decided to sell on Monday night, and we were due to leave for Thanksgiving on Wednesday night.

It’s not that I live in squalor, but let’s all agree that unless you are one of those fancy-schmancy OCD people, there’s a big difference between having a house that’s straightened up and having a house that’s ready for a realtor to show at an Open House.

Two days later, with every closet organized, and every bit of furniture positioned just so, and every shelf arranged, the basement cleaned, the cobwebs dusted, the floors waxed, the bathrooms scrubbed, the Thanksgiving ingredients bought and in the fridge, it was 11pm at night and the only thing I had left to do was put away the laundry in my bedroom….

And I couldn’t.

I just plain ran out of gas. I stood there and stared at the last little bit of mess in an otherwise pristine (pristine for me, anyways) house, and I just…. I just couldn’t.

 

meme

The Bean, who was in a miraculously good mood, looked around the room with a smile.  “We’re almost done,” he chirped, coming in with another armful of clean laundry.

I looked at him, I looked at the maybe 20 minutes of work left, and I fell face first on the bed and started to cry.  It wasn’t even a satisfying cry, either.  A satisfying cry would have involved sobs and… well, energy.  I just lay face-first on the bed and tears leaked out.  I was so, so tired.

Did you know that you can shove a bunch of dirty laundry in trash bags and that it fits neatly in the trunk of a Honda Civic?  That’s what we ended up doing, and the clothes is still in there.  We haven’t really missed the items, either.  Maybe I should just drive it to the Goodwill and dump it?

Anyways, I made it through the rest of the cleaning and through a Thanksgiving that was amazing and perfect, and kind of hazy from a fog of exhaustion.

And now my days have become a crazy string of “Quick, feed a baby…. crap, there’s a showing.  Quick, clean the house and make it look non-lived in.  Quick, grab Artemis.  Quick, grab my mom’s dog that I’m babysitting for a month.  Are the boys getting off of school?  Quick, grab a snack so they don’t turn hangry while we sit at a park and wait for strangers to stare at the house.  Quick, return home and cook dinner.  Quick, get ready for work the next day.  Quick, quick, quick….

I moved Caspian yesterday to what I am hoping is his last boarding situation – he has an huge box stall, and turnout all day, and I paid extra for him to have hay in his face all day.  He seems happy, even if I am sad I don’t get to stare at the GORGEOUS Morgans at the other place anymore.  (I’m still disgruntled he ruined my stay at my dream barn, but oh well.)

As I unloaded him, I pet his fuzzy, yellowish-grey, barely-groomed face with the large, sad eyes.  He looked… like an abandoned pony, and it made my heart sad.  I hate being the absentee owner that people on horse threads make fun of.  Caspian deserves better.

… but the neat thing is that soon he is going to get it.  As I ran my fingers under his mane he leaned in to the contact every-so-lightly, ever-so-politely, and it was so strangely thrilling to be able to say, “Don’t get too attached to the ponies here.  This is just a temporary barn.  The next move, you get to come home.  Permanently.”

Timehop keeps reminding me that 9 years ago I was a cocktail waitress in a bar, just starting to date the unassuming car salesman who liked to sit at the corner and drink a bottle of Heineken and eat chicken strips with ranch.

And now?

Yesterday I had to rearrange all the seats in my minivan to make a road trip, and when we finally returned home The Bean stood out in the pouring rain at 9:30 at night rearranging them back to normal it so I wouldn’t have to deal with it in the morning.  Over Thanksgiving weekend he took all four kids out so I could get a much needed nap.  And this morning he put up with me snapping at him (sorry Bean – I’m a cranky toddler when I’m sleep deprived) over tiny stuff, and still managed to remember to make out a check and put it where I could find it easily and change the babies diapers before heading off for his ridiculously-long day at work.

And today?

Today is the first day I haven’t had a lot on my plate.  The house guests went home (don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing and I’m so glad they stayed), and today there are no showings scheduled yet. Today I don’t work, and I don’t have to do a 3 hour round trip to drive to return a vehicle, and my husband is kind, and there aren’t any holidays looming.

And now, today, two kids are in school, two babies are napping (at the same time!  For once!) and I am sitting on my computer, researching fencing options.

Dude.  Fencing options, and pasture rotation details, and sacrifice areas for MY horse who is going to be in MY backyard in a few months.

WHOA.

So….. does anyone want to buy a house?

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Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

My favorite thing about nursing twins is how much weight I am losing!  It’s amazing!  I eat whatever I want, and the weight keeps falling off, and now I’m wearing a size 4!  I do feel like I am getting too thin, though…. do any of you have any meal suggestions to help me put on weight?

 

Sometimes the Facebook La Leche Group For Nursing Multiples group is a real source of help.

Sometimes it makes me just want to stab people.

I swear, if I hear one more person complain about how nursing makes them lose weight too fast, I’m gonna track down their home address just so I can throw a brick at their head.

Maybe nursing=weight loss for some people, but for me…. for me it just makes my body go into “CONSERVE ALL THE CALORIES” mode, even with nursing double time.  I mean…. I am already gluten free for my health, but because of the twins’ stomach sensitivities I’ve had to go dairy and soy free as well.

Is that sinking in?  I am exclusively nursing TWINS on a dairy, gluten, and soy free diet….. and I haven’t lost a single pound since the first week after I gave birth.

I really do think I missed my calling to live on a prairie and raise 18 babies.  If I lived on a prairie I imagine my ability to stay fat and healthy while nursing twins would be a real bragging point. I bet we’d go to all the… errr…. corn-shucking parties? (is that what olden-time prairie people did for fun?) and all the women would flock to me.

“Becky, look at your ample thighs!” they’d exclaim.  “Look at that back roll!  Can I touch it?  Can I touch your back roll and jiggly arms?  You’re so impressive!” they’d fawn. “How do you stay so fat, even though you’re been nursing your passel full o’ kids for years and years?”

…….

Sigh, you get the point.  I was going to joke about this further, but after I typed the phrase “passel full o’ kids” I realized I really would have had something like 18 babies if I’d lived on the prairie in the 1800s, and the daydream kind of made me shudder.  Maybe I’m better off in my current lifestyle.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bed, without even proofreading this stream-of-consciousness bit of writing.  This post is brought to you by extreme, extreeeeeme sleep deprivation… but (if I can take a moment to pat myself on the back) – there was a post. Go me, actually managing to post every single day for 11 days straight!

Anyways, I really am off to bed, but not without asking…. if get a moment, can you cross your fingers that Magpie would actually sleep tonight?  I don’t think she slept more than 45 minutes at a stretch last night, combined with Finn’s normal 2-3 times of waking..  I’m feeling pretty ragged.

Babies

I was never much of a baby person.

Oh, I did the odd babysitting here and there in my teenage years.  I liked kids, they liked me, and it was easy money…. but I usually refused any jobs where the babies were younger than 8 or 9 months old.

If that sounds harsh it’s because the feeling was mutual – I didn’t really care for little babies, and little babies didn’t really like me. They let me know in no uncertain terms.

“Oh, Becky, it’s just in your head.  Here, hold her,” someone would say, depositing a blank-faced infant in my arms.  Almost immediately, the baby would stiffen.

“Relax – just hold her close,” they’d say.

“I am.  She feels like 2 x 4.”

“Just…. just relax.”

“I’M TRYING,” I’d say, through gritted teeth.  “Hey, uh… baby.  Hey there.  Good girl…. good…. girl.”

The baby would usually stare at me dubiously for a few more moments, and then burst into frantic tears.  Get me out of this imposter’s arms.  SAVE ME.  SAVE ME FROM HER UNCOMFORTABLE INCOMPETENCE!

It never failed – you could give me the happiest, most complacent, 100% asleep infant and I could have it crying in a matter of minutes, just by trying to hold it.

What can I say?  It was a gift.

The good news is that the first few weeks after a baby is born, they tend to be pretty much dead to the world.  They wake, they cry for food, you feed them, you change their diaper, and they go back to sleep.  In terms of being interactive, they’re about as socially fun as a hermit crab.

I think the reason they sleep so much in the beginning isn’t because they’re tired from birth…. it’s because it’s to give inept baby-handling parents like me a chance to figure out what they’re doing.  Eventually they wake up from the just-born stupor, but hopefully by that time you’re not as uncomfortable with handling your own baby.

Since I never had any desperate desire to have or hold little babies of my own,  I could never understand why people went so ga-ga over babies.  They weren’t all that cute, in the grand scheme of things.  They have swollen faces, they twist up their faces with really weird expressions, and they generally look kind of, well… weird.

I mean, here are some newborn otters:

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And here is a newborn infant (mine, to be exact):

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From a purely logical perspective, I think we can all agree the otters are cuter.  They’re fuzzy, soft, round little bits of adorableness.  You can practically feel your hand reaching out to pet one.

The newborn babies just kind of looks… pink.  And swollen.  And disgruntled.  They look like disappointed, naked little grubs…. and yet when I see those photos of the twins just after they were born, something wrenches on my inside, and I can practically feel my brain hitting the release switch on a massive load of bonding hormones.

It’s not just because they are tiny, or because they are mine… I think it goes deeper than that.  When I see tiny babies on the street, I think I am drawn to them because I know how incredibly fleeting that first period is.  I don’t see a newborn baby – I see DragonMonkey as he was when I first met him. Even though I wouldn’t trade the lanky, logical, fun boy he is nowadays, I miss his sweet softness.

Which, now that I think about it, is low-down dirty lie. He was only sweet and soft for the first 2 or 3 weeks.  After that he screamed and puked and was in all ways an incredibly high-needs baby….

But eh.  It’s a sweet lie.  If my brain is going to feed me lies, I don’t mind that one all that much.

Moving on to the whole point of this musing: I never really expected to be that “into” babies…. but lately it feels like I just can’t get enough.  You’d think it would the opposite. With two babies pressed to me all day long, you’d think I would be over holding infants, but the opposite is true.

The twins are 7 months old now, and the other day I looked at Magpie as she was stretched out during one of her naps, and I realized she no longer qualifies as a tiny baby. I saw my first hint of toddler.  It’s subtle, but it’s there – a slight lengthening of her forearms, the way she throws her arms above her head like a child instead of the tight curl of the just-born.

I’m not really sure what it is, but lately when I’m looking at the twins I can see the hints of the people they will become, and it makes me both proud and nostalgic, as if they’ve already grown, and flown away….

When in reality, Magpie is pressed against me, laying flat against the still-soft surface of my stomach.  Kraken is crashed out in his baby swing – he’ll be too big for it soon, but for the time being it’s a helpful bedtime tool.  Magpie though… lately she’s been weaning her own self off of the swing, much to my dismay.  It makes getting her down for the night a lot harder, and by the time she’s finally asleep I have a tendency to just sit still and hold her rather than risk waking her.

Besides…. the view is pretty sweet.  She’s sprawled over me in the complete, sleepy abandon that only the truly young seem to manage.  Her cheeks are flushed with the heat of sleep, one arm thrown back, lips pursed in a nursing dream.  I ought to put her down.  I ought to clean up the living room, or prepare the boys’ lunch for school in the morning.  Oh, sure, everyone likes to quote that “I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep”poem, but they forget about the other lines: “The shopping’s not done and the bills are past due, and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo.”

There’s so much that needs to be done, not the least of which is getting to bed early.  I’m very, very sleep deprived this week.  I ought to go to bed early, so I’m not grumpy and mean tomorrow from lack of sleep.

But instead, I press my hand against Magpie’s head, feeling the pleasing curve of her skull beneath my palm.  I feel the heat of her skin against my own,  brush my thumb against the curve of her cheek, and I watch her breathe… and grow.

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Yay For Procrastination!

Wasn’t I just bragging late last night that “my house is a relatively happy house”?

Dude, you totally missed my spaz-out hissy-fit I threw night, right after I clicked “Publish”.

Here’s the thing:  I decided to participate in the “Write 31” thingie.  In order to officially participate, you had to create a little button-thingie (you like my technical terms?  Be careful using them – they’re only for trained professionals).  Well, first you had to choose a category (I chose “Family”), then you had to choose a topic (I chose “How to Be a Crappy Mom), and then you had to create the button which was a hyperlink (or something?) and link up to the official Write 31 page.

Make sure you do it by October 5th! the website said.

I’m sure they intended that to read as “Do it on October 1st, but if you have to do it a day or two late, I suppose we can allow it.”

Me being, well, ME, I read that as “whatever you do, don’t do it before October 5th, because that’s just silly.”

So, as yesterday was October 5th, I clicked “Publish” and then went over there to figure out the button-link up-thingie.  I mean, it was only 10 pm at night on the absolute-last-day-possible.  I had two whole hours to work with. I wasn’t just on-time, I was practically early.

…..

And that’s when I discovered that the Write 31 link-up thingie runs on east coast time…. which is a full 3 hours ahead of me.  While it was 10 pm on October 5th in Oregon, it was already 1 am on October 6th on the east coast, and link ups had closed.

Normally I would have given a good-natured groan and simply gone on with my day….. but I’m running on a pretty horrible sleep deficit nowadays.  I’ve been staying up late every night to type not only write on my long-abandoned blog, but I’ve been writing actual posts with a theme and a TOPIC.

Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to stay on topic for five whole days in a row?

So, anyways, when I found out that I’d missed the sign ups, well…. I was just a little bit disappointed.

 

 

I handled it very gracefully.

 

I did not consider throwing the computer to the ground, only to remember it was borrowed, and expensive.  I did not settle for placing it gently on the couch beside me before stomping up to my feet and using my “special words”.

 

 

I did not ignore The Bean as he tried to figure out what was going on with me.
I did not stomp into the bedroom…. only to stomp back out to the living room to use more of my “special words” in an incoherent nearly unintelligible rant…..

 


… Only to stomp back into the bedroom with a “Well, FINE.  I’m just going to go to sleep.  It doesn’t matter anyways.  It’s all STUPID. DON’T BOTHER TRYING TO FIX IT.  IT’S ALL STUPID.  GOOD NIGHT.”

Okay.  Maybe I did do a little of that.

But seriously, you have to understand just how tired I’ve been every night as I stay up to finish my post…. my post which has been both ON TOPIC and following my theme.

How tired am I?

Well, after I stomped off to bed last night, I made a decision to chart how many times I was up at night, just so I could share with you.

Now, normally the Kraken is the crappy sleeper and Magpie is much, much better.  If I were better about sleep training she would definitely be sleeping through the night at this point.  Unfortunately, she’s been having a rough week this last week, so she woke up 6 times last night.

That’s 6 times between 10:30 and 6:30 am.

The Kraken was much better and only woke up twice.

Still – that was 8 separate wake up periods requiring me to detach one tiny little boob leech (yes, we’re co-sleeping – The Kraken between The Bean and I, and Magpie over on an Ikea crib we attached to the side of our bed like a little sidecar), roll over, pull the other baby close, and go back to sleep as they nurse.

Sure, I don’t have to actually get out of bed and walk to a different room, so I’m able to go back to sleep fairly quickly…. but it’s still waking up, and it doesn’t make for a restful night of sleep.

Anyways, now you know why I found my lack of involvement so disappointing, and why I had so few reserves to deal with it.

After spending the day thinking about it though, I have decided it’s actually kind of a good thing.  No, I won’t be able to officially participate….. but I’m still planning on doing the exercise, and I feel that by doing it on my own I am now free to choose my own topics. Sure, nobody was going to hunt me down with a pitchfork if I’d strayed while “officially” participating, but still.

So, there’s your warning.  If I start posting about pets, horses, books, childhood memories, working at the library, or whatever instead of my kids, you have been forewarned.

Now if you’ll excuse me, sleep (GLORIOUS SLEEP!) is calling me…. at least for an hour or so.  On the other hand, who knows?  Maybe tonight will be the twins’ first night sleeping through the night?

A girl can hope?