Monday, May 31, 2010

joy in the lines, days 6-8: two brief encounters with Chip

To find out the reasons behind this joy extraction endeavor, endeavor yourself over here.

I just don't know if I will ever be able to convey the absolute depth of mingled pleasure and weirdness it is to drive long distances with Chip. For your consideration:

At what might be the busiest Flying J gas station and mini-mart in the history of the world (outside Snowville, Utah-- population 177, I kid you not)... Chip is pumping our gas when he pops his head in the door for this: "Wow. I just had an encounter with the cutest little field mouse. He sort of stopped by my foot and then... went running. He was cute." At this, he walks away, LEAVING THE DOOR TO OUR CAR COMPLETELY OPEN, doing everything to make our vehicle an option for the poor destitute field mice of all Snowville except hanging a sign: Your Ticket To The Big City. Later, as he climbed into the car and we drove away, Chip put it all together with this, "I guess I should have closed the door... that mouse was cute. But creepy. A creepy mouse that I don't want to take in the car."

Location: several miles outside of Snowville, Utah. Driving on the highway.
Whimsy, turns and points at passing sign: Wow. Dude, did you see that sign?
Chip: What sign?
Whimsy: The one that said EXIT 38- NO SERVICES.

Chip (laughing): Oh yeah, it's funny now but terrible in the middle of a white-out snowstorm.
Whimsy: I want to take a picture of that sign. Will we see it again?
Chip: Don't worry about seeing that one again. There are plenty more coming.

Continuing to play the joy game:

If you want to play along, comment here and let us know. Or do me a favor and tell me what's making you joyful these days.

Friday, May 28, 2010

joy in the whiskers, day 5: on fat cats and kindness to animals

This is Phoebe.

You've met her before--- here, and here.

I don't always speak very kindly of her because she is annoying. That's the truth. She is annoying and always up in our grills at precisely the moments when we don't particularly want a fuzzy fatpants up in our grills.

Bean has taken to telling Phoebe to go away even when she's not in the near vicinity. I'll hear GO AWAY, PHOEBE from a room away and see Phoebe just sort of lazing at the doorway--- not bothering Bean in the least bit. But there it is: a gift we're giving Bean, one that I don't necessarily welcome. I've tried to say excuse me instead, but it's met with mixed results--- Phoebe doesn't get that it means I need her to move from the top stair or else she'll be squished flat, and Bean doesn't get that we are supposed to be polite to everyone, even our pets.

Here's what I don't understand about Phoebe: she doesn't deter from her task. She doesn't take no for an answer. She will come back again and again and again (and again). She pushes the limit of patience and does so with the sliver's chance that you will, one time in a thousand, turn to her and say come on up. Let me give you some scratches. Even if that one time comes directly after she has been ousted, bodily, from the kitchen--- here's Phoebe, purring already, glad to be of service.

Which is why I can't fault her. Despite the copious downy fur that sticks ON YOUR LIPS, despite finding her on our bed over and over again, despite the sheer fact of her COMPLETE DISREGARD to our house rules, she loves us. She loves us with the kind of love you want in a cat that's around a toddler.

Because Bean loooooooves Phoebe. I might hear the occasional GO AWAY PHOEBE from Bean, but more often than that it's me telling Bean to get off the cat or stop pulling Phoebe's tail or don't poke Phoebe's face or Honey, she doesn't like it when you try to kick her or DUDER WE DON'T SIT ON THE CAT GET OFF HER PLEASE KTHNXBYE.

I was watching the two of them on Monday--- Bean was chasing Phoebe underneath the kitchen table from one side to the other, weaving in and out of chair legs. I don't know which one was having more fun: Bean for the excitement of trying to catch the cat or Phoebe for all the loves and kisses she was getting (including tail pulls and face smashing).

This was the joy I pulled from my day, and I thought about it later when I ran across some pictures of a two-year-old me picking up a pack of kittens individually BY THEIR TAILS. And then there's me in the picture: grinning for ALL I'M WORTH. Seems she comes by it honestly.

I'm going to continue the joy ride until sometime next week... I figure it's a great way to round out a holiday weekend, yes?

Here are the bloggers that are playing along...
Eight Twenty Eight
One Day at a Time
City Mouse Country
Four Molnars
Midnight Rambler

You should play too. What's making you joyful these days?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

joy in the road dust, day 4: on finding it when it's lost somewhere under the seat cushion

For details about the joy project, visit here.

I've been keeping something from you, my friends. For the past several days you've been coming here reading these posts from me and (maybe?) imagining me writing from the comfort of the Whimsy family couch. Or something.

And all the while, I've been (mostly) in a car.

Well, mostly in a car since Tuesday morning. We are slowly maneuvering our way across Washington, parts of Oregon, and Idaho as Chip works--- and will spend the long weekend with my parents in Utah. Tuesday will have us heading back home, again following the same route. A total of eleven days gone.

I was happy to take the trip. Spending quality time with Chip, seeing my parents and siblings and their kids--- all a bonus.
Did you know that when you take a picture from a moving car that's speeding along the highway, that the guardrails look funny and crooked?
I just didn't count on this ridiculously painful neck/back/shoulder situation. Which, yes, is still bothering me. It has me counting the minutes and seconds in the car, each bit of time spent in that seat a prison sentence.

Normally when we're driving I'm able to read or write or do one of a million little things to pass the time. But this new and badly improved body of mine has me sitting in the seat, staring straight ahead, hoping the pain in my shoulder and arm will go away go away go away go away. Not very joyful.

But I'll tell you what--- for the first time I've been able to truly watch the scenery as it passes, see the magnificent fluctuations in glorious green from one place to the next. Even as I'm busily stuffing instant ice packs behind my back.
My husband is a SUCKER for his daughter. She insisted she HAD to have a "ball" (clear plastic round thingie from a vending machine) and he relented. They ended up with 1 "ball" and 1 tiny plastic Mariner's cap.
And then there's this:

Bean entertaining herself at the restaurant during dinner last night.

These bloggers are playing along... if you'd like to play too, comment here and I'll link you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

finding joy in the bedrock, day 3: between a rock and a

For more information about extracting joy - read here.

I have a lot of rocks. I found a bunch of them recently sitting in a box underneath my studio work table, and I spent a good long while reminiscing about the events they mark.

... ... ... ... ...

Capital Hill was my first Seattle neighborhood. It was outlandish. It was bustling. It was colorful. It was loud. And it was weird.

Even at 9pm on Friday night in the Safeway grocery store. Maybe especially at 9pm on Friday night in the Safeway grocery store.

It was in the early weeks of living and working here, when I had only a few friends and even less to do on a Friday night. So I went grocery shopping.

While I was busy strolling through the produce an older man came up to me. He asked me if I'd ever seen a fossil. This is when an informed and city-wise girl would not pass Go and would not collect $200 - and would proceed directly to security. But what did I do? I backed up a little, looked around to see if anyone else was around (a few others)-- and I mumbled something like, "Um, yes. I'm really not interested. Thanks." But the guy walked over to my cart and put a large black rock inside. A rock about the size of a grapefruit. "No worries. I'm giving it to you. There's a fossil inside."

And there was. The imprint of a large fern frond, sandwiched between the two pieces of rock.

I've kept it ever since.

... ... ... ... ...

I have rocks from beaches I've visited, the mountains, Oban castle in Scotland, my honeymoon. I've picked them up because of their shape--- round, oblong, flat. Or sometimes their color would catch my eye--- deep maroon, blue-gray, stark white, a lovely sea glass green. Rocks with deep pock marks, smooth rocks, one with a thick white stripe running through it.

... ... ... ... ...

Bean has recently started collecting rocks. When she says the word, it comes out ROKXXX, lots of spittle, lots of emphasis on the X.

She gathers them in her dimpled hands, rolls their rough surfaces over her cheek. I stop myself from telling her they're dirty. I understand the harvest is a tactile experience.

Her small collection lives on our front walkway, piled together by our planters. I've tried to move some of the less desireable ones (read: items covered in mysterious substances) out of her reach, but she catches me every time. Wants to keep each one. After she grabs them from my hand, she'll hold each one individually, like she's memorizing their shape and texture. She can't tell me yet why these little stones are so important, but I'll hazard a guess: each one stands for an effort she's made--- a long teetering venture into our neighbor's yard, or the arduous trek back from the mailbox. They stand as sentinals for time spent and a trophy gained. Very much like the rocks I've kept. Who am I to tell her an adventure into the backyard, a grunting reach under the neighbor's fence, isn't as important as a trip to Scotland or an eccentric guy at a supermarket?

There is joy to be found in rocks and stones, the things we keep from our adventures in the great beyond, no matter the shape or size.

What kinds of things do you gather on your adventures? Postcards or bits of earth or pictures taken on a fancy camera? I collect cat whiskers, so nothing you say is going to surprise or shock me.

If you're playing along today, let me know and I'll link you up - or if you're not blogging, but you'd like to share anyway, tell us what's giving you some joy.
For their part, these lovely bloggers are digging digging digging, and finding it...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

joy in a minute, day 2: how do YOU eat an oreo?

So easy, finding pleasure in a cookie.

No challenge in that,
but does it really matter?

I don't think so.

Because there it is,
the zing of sugary confection

the smile growing wider
with each bite.

And the mustache/goatee afterwards?

Totally lickable.

Now. What's your favorite cookie, and your favorite method for its consumption? Mine would have to be a chocolate susan cookie, unusual and hard to find done right (think buttery rich shortbread-like cookie base with a dollup of chocolate frosting on top). And a nice glass of ice-cold milk on the side.

If you're playing along today, let me know--- I'll link you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

joy in the minutiae, day 1: joy in confinement

In case you're wondering about this here hullabaloo, read here for a description of the where's and why's, and how you can get in on the action (comment that you're playing, and at the end of the week -or two- I'll pick a winner to receive a care package courtesy of ME).

I rolled into the weekend still chewing on this idea of joy extraction.

It takes time
to extract
from life.

Chip came home on Friday afternoon to find Bean and I bed-haired and mussed, freshly awake from dual nappage (hers for the roosting cold, mine for the almost-roosting cold and a nerve-induced neck ache that was threatening a Whimsy revolt of the highest order).

He brought dinner home (love that man) and we ate it on the couch.

So began the (sort-of) weekend in repose.

Saturday had us heading to a massage appointment (the neck ache took root and was now classified as a full-blown neck outage with accompanied muscle pain down my arm). I luxuriated in the hands of the talented Lisa and hoped that I'd be feeling right as rain for a post-massage Costco run. (Despite her best efforts, I wasn't in the right/rain category though we went shopping anyway.)

At each stop along the way I considered this body of mine (how could I not). The movements I make each day: picking Alice up after she's hurt herself, or scooping her into my arms for a quick love--- moving through the house, bending down to pick up toys and doing the dishes in the sink--- climbing into the car for errands and out again at home, stooping over a sewing project, running on the treadmill, reaching and grasping and twisting and bending. The movement we make in the quiet of sleep, the small reach for a pillow or the whisper of my toes under the bedsheets. Pulling and grasping for the canister of oatmeal in the kitchen, mixing cookie dough, walking to the mailbox. The -ing of so many words made real because of the movement behind them.

This body is a miracle, whether it is in working order or not. Each movement on Saturday was accented with a sharp jab of pain, my patience going staccato because of it. On Sunday I was still in pain, forced myself to a regimen of ice packs and pain killers, occasional stretching as suggested by Lisa.

On Sunday afternoon I asked Chip in all sincerity if it would ever end, if I'd be feeling better.

Of course he said yes. And he resisted the urge to LAUGH at me (which he should have done, yes, he should have laughed at me and all the drama drama drama).

So here it is, for you my lovelies, a glimpse into JOY despite inconvenient pain: the obvious reference to the many people living with chronic pain, or debilitating disease, or the lasting effects of a tragic accident. We have a family friend who was rendered a quadriplegic due to a freak body surfing accident in 1989. An amazing man, one who finds joy in living his life, whose catch phrase, "It's good to be alive" is one that belies the simple nature of his outlook.

Enjoy this body, in all its gracefulness. Wiggle your fingers and feel the distinct pleasure in their movement. If you can't do that, wiggle your mind and know that you can move with infinite freedom in the space between your ears.

By Sunday afternoon, Bean and I were beyond stir-crazy. We'd skipped church and had destroyed any semblance of order in the living room. I went so far as to gate the kitchen from further 2-year-old redecorating. But despite the small quarters and the lackluster company ("good for nothing" and "pathetic" come to mind when I think of my body parked and whimpering on the couch)--- Bean kept finding things to do, games to play, and mischief to ponder.

Not hard to find joy in that. She pelted me with several pieces of plastic food and the word that came time mind was this: wonderful.

If you're playing along this week, comment here when you've posted and I'll link you up---

If you want to play along, please link back to The Creamery and let me know (comment or email at whimsyattack AT gmail DOT com). I'll visit everyone's posts and pick my favorite, who will receive an authentic care package a la Whimsy (that's me, dudes).

(Also let me take a moment to wish a very happy birthday to my very oldest friend Stacie and one of my very newest friends Alicia. Happy birthday, girls, you make my life brighter because you're in it. Thank you for being so amazing.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

little reprieves

This is how it works, when you are eating a sad little lunch and your daughter is trolling the living room with Mega Blocks in her mouth, horrible rivers of snot comming from her nose. You feel the rising push of landlocked hysteria, the kind brought on by a hovering batch of toddler sickness. Playdate plans cancelled, no visits to the store or the post office or the bank to hover hopefully in the distance. It's just you, a cooled-off plate of leftovers, and your sick kid - who isn't helping things by being so awfully cranky, she's told you to GO AWAY several times in the last hour, going so far to tell you to MOVE when you looked at her too long.

And then you get an email notification on Ye Olde Crackberry, saver of graces and connector to the grand Internetz. A new comment.

One from this lovely person Hannah who informed me that she found The Creamery through The Stirrup Queens. Hmm, thought I, I shall investigate.

So I did. And then I started reading--- all these wonderful little odes about blogs, small verbal embraces from anonymous readers charting the things they love about a particular blogger. It was enough to make me feel both warm AND fuzzy. And then I got to one about The Creamery. You guys, I got teary reading it, this little bit of love put out there with no intention of recognition or praise or even a thank you from the recipient (me). It was so wonderfully nice.

Which, when you think about it, is a notion sadly overlooked from day-to-day. The general niceness of people. Like a bag of patterns gifted to me by Heidi's mom. And my mother-in-law, calling me up yesterday afternoon to let me know she'd be bringing the bag o patterns straight to my doorstep, to save me the pick-up trip. Like Bean leaning over and giving me a kiss and a love after I changed her diaper this morning. Like you. And you. And you. I could catalog your niceness in a long ode, but instead I'm going to just say thank you. Thank you for being so nice.

Now - if you read the blurb at The Stirrup Queens, and you're dying to find out the depth of my commitment to a blog post, read here for the toothpaste saga.

And also, while I have you here, I'd like to invite you to play along next week with an experiment in joy extraction (oddly sounds like a dental procedure, doesn't it?).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

of course

I can promise hilarious results if your child, already familiar with the wondrous miracle known as "cake", the spectacular fabulousness known as "cup cake", and the fluffy gift of breakfast goodness known as "pancake" becomes intensely demanding that she taste this thing you are calling a "rice cake". Go on, see what happens.

... ... ... ... ...

To be filed under More Things I never imagined myself saying:

We do not put sticks in our eyes.

Honey, stop hiding goldfish crackers in my shoes.

We do not throw crayons at peoples' heads.

Take the stick out of your eye.

Phoebe is NO WHERE NEAR YOU. Why are you telling her to Go Away?

Batteries do not belong in the bathtub.

Your eye! The stick does not go there! Take. It. OUT.

... ... ... ... ...

And I present to you, this week's special moment of Of Course:

The day I posted a grand dare for us to find joy (beginning next week - stay tuned!)--- Bean started the day sneezing. She stood in the hallway, her eyes rimmed red. After each explosion, she'd bless herself. Bless you, Alice, bless you!

The afternoon I posted an exciting challenge for each of us to look for joy (beginning Monday - you should play too!)--- Bean wandered the living room with glassy eyes and a runny nose. I hoped for hay fever but cancelled playdate plans for the following day, just in case.

The evening I posted a call to arms, to search for joy (yes, next week - you know you want to play)--- Bean sat in my lap on the kitchen floor, puking her tiny little guts out into a plastic rubbermaid container (the first thing I grabbed), and I thought: Of course.

Just a bit later, this is Bean and me walking upstairs for her bath. She is making this heartwrenching moan/whine noise as we walk up each stair. I stop on the landing and sigh. "Alice, I can't understand you with that paci in your mouth. Take it out and tell me what you need."

She squinches up her eyes and makes the noise again. "Mwannnnnnnnnnnn!"

"Alice. I can't understand you."

"Mwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!!!!" She throws her hand away from me, kicks the wall.

"Honey. Stop. I can't understand what you need. Tell me, but take the paci out of your mouth." I'm crouching in front of her now, trying to control my voice and be calm.

She lifts her face to me, tear stained, snot dribbled, terrible vomity bits dotting her chin. Pulls the paci from her mouth with a smack and sighs-- oh so irritated. With a deep breath she speaks evenly, "Alice said ONE. ONE!"

(She's counting the stairs. Duh.) Of course.

And this is my moment of seeing joy, even in the yawning void that is the first moments of a fit of unknown sickness. My little girl, growing. Of course.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

project: find joy in the pavement cracks

I do believe she was looking for rocks when I took this picture. Rcoks are her current outdoor obsession. ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS!

Yesterday while eating lunch I found myself thinking about a line from the movie Elizabethtown. It's this one, from Susan Sarandon's character Holly.

She says, "But you know, I figured it out. It takes time to be funny... and it takes time to extract joy from life."

I want to think about that for a minute with you.

It takes time
to extract
from life.

I wonder.

I know that you're busy. And tired. And probably feeling more than a little bit run down. I know that I have been feeling exactly those things-- nothing heavy, but a general late-spring malaise that eats the soul for breakfast and continues right on through the body until there is nothing left for dessert.

When I think about this idea, that being funny takes time--- that finding joy is a process that requires a commitment of focus--- it makes me feel like I've been a little lazy. That the past several weeks of heavy thinking are the result of a failure of my imagination.

I'm not naive enough to think that it's just a change of heart, a change of perspective, that will put the soul-sucking malaise monster to bed. But I do think that a general shift in understanding would do wonders for this here beat-down Whimsy. I'd like to propose an experiment, my Minions. A call to arms and a call to hope.

Anyone who even skims the briefest bits here at The Creamery knows that I hold a special place in my heart for pain, a quiet reverance for the refining fire of sadness and what it teaches us about being human. You should know that I do not make this suggestion lightly. But I think it might be good. For me, surely, but maybe for you.

I'm proposing a challenge. A journey. An attempt. Something new.

This invitation is extended to the dearest hardcore Minions and non-minions alike, to anyone who even stops by on the smallest most flighty whim.

To find joy. To extract it from each day. And to share it.

Here's how it's going to work:

For a week, beginning on Monday May 24th, I'm going to strive to find something joyful in my day. And I'm going to write about it. For a week I will do nothing but focus on extracting joy--- pulling it out from beneath the surface, coaxing it forward, digging for it if the situation requires.

I'd love for you to do the same. Email me or comment here if you're in for the ride - maybe you can't imagine posting about joy for an entire week. Try for a single day. If you tell me that you're playing along, I'll visit your blog and post links here of your inspiring stories. Don't forget to link back here, that way we can try to encourage others to join in the game.

At the end of the week (or two - I'm reserving the right to extend it if it's going well), I'm going to choose my favorite post that someone else has done and they will get a bonafide Whimsy Care Package. I've been told I am talented in the ways of the wily Care Package.

Of course this isn't about the goods, but in a true challenge to find joy, doesn't a package in the mail make things even more joyful?

What do you think? You can tell me it's a terrible idea, I will love you anyway and I will find something to smile about (your honesty).

Monday, May 17, 2010


We have entered a phase I'm calling BEAN DESTROYER OF WORLDS. (It's not as much fun as you'd like to imagine.)

It isn't easy to describe other than that: wide sweeping arms, throwing the entire contents of table tops and toy boxes and bags of blocks onto the floor. Or when the fancy strikes, there is cabinet emptying.

My most favorite of all, a snapshot from the other day:

From where I sit in the den, I hear some kind of cheerful Bean shout. She is in the living room, and I realize, frightfully unsupervised. There is a gleeful squealing and then a distinct plink of something hitting the hardwood floor. I get up to investigate.

And this is what I see, her bare feet planted wide, her back to me. Her elbow cocks back and arm winds up to fling something across the room, hard. It hits the floor and shatters into several pieces. In her other non-throwing hand: the small cup I keep for her crayons. I stand there in silence for a moment, unable to stop her as she reaches into the cup for another unsuspecting Crayola missile.

Wind up and... throw.

And now the floor is littered with the things, most of them just newly bought, now just little nubs of color barely an inch long.

I am furious.

And I still am, though I have since caught her doing this two other times, the pieces shrinking into non-existence.

I understand the greedy-eyed thirst for destruction. Who among us hasn't tossed something across a room in a fit of rage? Or maybe you've done worse (and better)--- watched a glass shatter at your feet (on purpose); smashed something with a powerful throw (so good); or ripped something to bits just because you could (and so you did).

It's this need for the dismantling of things that makes us such complex and beautiful creatures. We aren't satisfied to have something whole and unfettered. We are terrible in our bent to break things apart, to know how something works, to see inside.

These days I focus so much on keeping things together. I hold the vase tighter to my chest to avoid even the smallest splinter--- I wonder if in trying to avoid the breakage I only cause a deeper fissure, way down in my center.

I've been fighting Bean's new call for demolition. We've done time outs and clean ups and taken privileges away. None of it is making much sense to her. She wants to feel her power, know she can unmake something that was once whole. And after a little self examination I'm wondering if I need to change my tactic, join her in the revelry. And then show her that some things can't be remade, only changed.

--And here's where you come in: what's your tactic for facing a child bent on destruction? Beat 'em (FIGURATIVELY) or join 'em?--

Friday, May 14, 2010

another postcard from nowhere

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy. -J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I love you more, more or less

Oh you beautiful beastly man, you very unbelieveably gorgeous specimen of a man. I don't know how you do it, how you know exactly what to do to just make me absolutely crazy for you. You just go out and pick up those specific skills that will make me wild over you, and you do them. You do the hell out of this sexy stuff and it makes you even more impossible to resist.

Impossible to resist, I say.

Maybe I shouldn't share your hotness with the internets because they might be tempted to try to steal you away from me, and I couldn't live without having you near. But then again, I don't think it would be right to keep this kind of talent underwraps. It's not fair to the world to keep you a secret.

Like how you can take a laser pointer, scan the room, and then tell me with a half-inch's accuracy, exactly where you're going to land the pointer. You're a freaking MARKSMAN-SNIPER. Amazing. And it makes me love you more.

Like how you can get us purposefully lost in an unknown city and then miraculously get us headed in the right direction again, no map or directions or asking for help. Like there is a TREASURE MAP IN YOUR BRAIN. This is something that absolutely makes me love you more.

Like how we have that golf-ball-in-a-glass-globe-filled-with-water thing, and you can get the golf ball on the tee in, like, 30 seconds or less, using your stellar ninja skills. It is HOTT. And without a question, makes me love you more.

Like how you are, without a doubt, the best tetris player I've ever had the pleasure to meet. And I've met a lot of tetris players (no really?). Tetris skills, dude. Makes me love you more.

Like how you have Bean's DVR'ed Sesame Street episode order memorized, and you can tell me which one I want, by referring to its placement in the queue (go eight down, no not nine - eight down). This makes me love you so much more.

Like how you are up $17,100 on that imaginary poker game on your cell phone. I mean, it's almost like it's REAL MONEY and you're such a poker animal with your bluffing and your checking and your betting. And then with the winning? Totally makes me love you more.

I think I need to stop cataloging your vast repertoire of skills, because I know that I have the ladies just salivating over all this manly goodness. In the end, it's just you. All you--- and you make me love you more.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


And these were the things that lead to this moment yesterday afternoon: me running through the grass at a small city park in the middle of Longview, Washington; my breath coming out in measured beats as I pushed my legs forward-- faster, longer strides, breath goes in and breath goes out, the car a blue smudge on the periphery. Chip's measured breathing behind me as he held Alice and followed my strides. Breath in and breath out. The car growing larger in my eyesight.

The entire trek across the park taking no more than two minutes, but in it was a lifetime of space to think about what had happened to lead us here.

A stop in the park on our way south to Portland. A restless girl who needed to stretch her legs.

We walked lazily on the springy turf, marveling at the giant trees. Bean pointed skyward, "A TREE, mommy. A TREE." She looked for rocks and bounced from one bush to another.

Then Chip walked ahead to check on the pick-up time of a nearby mailbox. I stayed back with Bean, watching her circle a huge tree. For a moment she was out of my view, and as I stepped around, this is what I saw:

My tiny girl, bending expectantly over the ground, holding something small and light brown in her dimpled fingers.

From that snapshot, to this one from Bean's perspective:

A mommy crossing the distance in a single second, scooping the girl up and brushing the airy shell from her fingertips. All business, so quick. And then the mommy firmly calling to the daddy,

"Chip. We have to leave now. We need to get Alice to the car right now. She picked up a peanut shell."

I passed Bean off into Chip's strong arms as he nodded to me, the action implied. The intention focused. "You run ahead and get ready."

And then I was off, churning grass under my feet--- the push of my leg muscles keeping time with my breathing. I performed a checklist in my head: grab the wipes (maybe we can catch any spare oils before she has a reaction), grab the Epi-pen, count to ten. Chip will know where the hospital is. We will inject her and then take her in. Be calm.

I considered this list five times before the car door was smooth under my fingertips. Chip was just a moment behind me, his long legs making short work of the distance. As I opened the door and grabbed the wipes I called back to him for a report.

She seems okay. She seems okay.

Here's the wipe.

He already knew my plan without discussion or explanation.

Another wipe.

Bewildered looks from Alice as I turned to watch the progress, wipe her other hand.

And she was fine. She is fine. We walked in quiet a few minutes later, watching her closely for any sign of reaction. We went back and checked the peanut shell she'd picked up --- the ground was littered with dozens of them, more than a few with peanuts still tucked in the shell. I felt sick for my lack of foresight, terrible that I hadn't seen the minefield.

Because that's what it can feel like: these innocuous things that become viciously dangerous in Bean's vicinity.

There was a Sunday months ago, just a few weeks after Bean's diagnosis. We were navigating the crowded halls after church, weaving through bodies. I was in front with Chip and Bean behind me. And we were smiling at each passing face, saying hello and murmering greetings. Then we turned a corner and there were a clutch of teenage boys laughing, walking out of a classroom, a bright orange bag in one boy's hand. And in the other hands of all the boys: gold foil wrappers, brown folded papers--- the familiar round shape of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

Things slowed in that moment until I could see the slow glint of sun on the foil. I watched the boys' smiles as they ate the delicious chocolate, the lucious peanut butter. I imagined a small crumble of the chocolate on the floor, Bean's hand reaching for it in a moment when my mind is turned elsewhere, putting the candy into her mouth. And then I turned, glanced back at her perched high in Chip's arms. Her impossibly lovely face, smiling. She was reaching out to me. I wanted to throw myself backward, wrap my body over Bean. Instead I watched as Chip turned his large shoulders to elbow past the boys and their after-church fun. It happened so fast, was such a small thing. Who doesn't enjoy chocolate? But then there was us, me and Chip and Alice standing outside the doors, shaking, thinking these repeated words: this close, this close, this close, this close.

Always so close.

Like the shells in the park and the car across the long stretch of grass. Like Chip's breath on my back as he's running behind me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

everything you need to know

If you'd never read a single word about her, if you'd never seen another photo or heard a story about this girl--- everything you'd need to know, you would know, by looking at this photo.

Because this is Bean. In all her glory.

Friday, May 7, 2010

and this is why

. Watching her climb onto a kitchen chair, face planted directly in the seat--- legs gyrating behind her until she heaves her body forward.

. Toddler morning breath (imagine bubble gum and a very loved sweater, in breath form-- weird, but seriously just...awesome).

. Why mommy? Why? Why? Why? Whywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhy?

. Squealing.

. Spinning.

. The tiny shoes.

. Her arms wrapped tight around my neck.

. Remembering every fairy tale and bedtime story I knew, once upon a time.

. This little piggie.

. These pieces of my heart, running around outside my body, wearing shoes and skirts and skinning her knees.

. Digging in the dirt.

. Knuckle dimples.

. Flintstone toes.

. Children's gummy vitamins.

. The joy that comes from these two words: ICE CREAM.

. Walks under the swaying trees.

. Nosies.

. I love you.

. "Go away Phoebe!"

. The smell of her.

. Her body nestled into mine.

. Baths.

. Jumping.

. Putting puzzles together.

. Footie jammies.

. Kitten's First Full Moon. (Oh yucky kitten!)

. Counting the steps. Counting the windows. Counting the cars. Counting the rocks. Counting the pages. Counting the flowers. Counting the leaves on our tree. Counting, counting, counting.

. A child's appreciation of flowers.

. Coming home.

. Morning pretzel crumbs on the carpet.

. La la la Elmo.

. Understanding that GORDON'S THE MAN.

. Singing the rainbow song.

. Fingernail clippings.

. Cries on the monitor.

. Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! MOOOOOOOM-MEEE!

All of it. Every single blessed instant of it. The awful diapers and the poop and the hair pulling and the wonder of how she wrapped an entire roll of tape around a kitchen chair in 2.5 seconds. Unraveled rolls of toilet paper and the fact that I don't remember the last time I watched something on the tv in my studio that did not involve Elmo. The constant crunch of cereal on the floor. The little crayon renderings I find on the coffee table well after she's gone to bed. The total lack of bathroom privacy. The exhaustion, the depletion, the mind-numbing repetition of every single day running into the next and the next and the next. The late nights, the sore throats, the fevers. The salt in the humidifier. The eucalyptus oil that gets underneath my fingernails. The dark eye circles, the stretch marks, the gray hair, the muscle pains and the constant second-guessing of am I doing it right and what if I'm not and what if I am and is she going to be okay will she be scarred for life? Every single moment, every single worry, every single inconvenience, every single terribly wonderful bit of it.

This is why I do it. This is why I'm a mother.

Happy Mother's Day, to all the mommies.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

gmboa contest up and running!

My friends and minions. The fabulous Boise-dwelling Midnight Rambler has the Golden Minion Box of Awesomeness and she just put up the contest for the next recipient.

If you know all about it - just go here and enter. This is going to be an AWESOME contest.

And I can personally VOUCH for at least one of the items that will be included in the GMBOA-- and they are my FAVORITE STORE-BOUGHT COOKIE ON THE PLANET. Direct from Boise, Idaho.

If you don't know all about it, and want to understand, I'm going to approach this with my mother in mind. I love her so very dearly. Every once in a while she'll call me and tell me that she read my blog and has 'absolutely no idea what you're talking about'. So the short mother-appropriate version is this:

- The GMBOA is a box. It was spray painted gold and given a fancy acronym as the prize for the Minionlympics that I held here a few months ago.
- The box is filled with lots of goodies like candy and gifty items.
- A blogger holds a contest for the box, and when a winner is selected, the box is sent on (filled with loot) to the new recipient.
- That recipient then holds a contest for the box, and once a winner is chosen, fills the box and continues to spread the joy.
- There are rules to win the box. Namely, you have to be a follower of The Creamery to win the box. It's easy to be a follower (down there to the right).
- That's pretty much it. Mom--- does this make sense?

Good luck, all Minions!

and then

I yelled at our neighbor's gardener on Tuesday. True story. He was blowing garbage and dead leaves and other junk underneath the fence into our yard.
It made me cranky.
Normally I wouldn't have responded in quite that way. Softer, maybe.
I even made the gardener take his earplugs out so I could properly explain how UNACCEPTABLE it was to blow someone else's garden debris underneath the fence.
And then...
And then I grabbed all the bits of leaves and the two or three potato chip wrappers in my hands and threw them back over the fence. Such was my rage.
It was my and then day--- when one thing would happen and then another and then another and then and then (you get the idea).
Have you had an and then day recently? I want to hear about it. Details.
(The photo: nothing to do with this post, really--- but a glimpse of another Etsy shop skirt. I guess I'm a tease. Soon, my friends, soon.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

on moving and standing still

Our days are about repetition, Bean and I. I roll through an empty bed with Chip gone on business. In the early morning hours, I listen to Bean engage in a toddlerese conversation with Elmo and her other stuffed friends over the monitor. She shifts and changes position, the crib mattress whispering. Later as she is calling for me, I walk down the hall to retrieve her. We start our day with a cup of pretzels and sleepy eyes.

Later, after Bean is dressed, I lace my shoes and exercise. When she says it, it's ESS-SER-SIZE!!!, always CAPS, always exclamation points. I move through my workout, cursing and sweating and generally loving every second of it. Most days we climb upstairs so I can run on the treadmill while Bean stages herself in various locations throughout the bedroom. She watches Sesame Street. I listen to music.

Usually a mix of songs on my ipod--- a group of songs that I put together a month ago, songs that struck me as useful for this specific point in my life.

A few listens in and I realized that a good majority of the songs have a similar line--- something about the whole world moving while I'm standing still. It's a recurring thought I have, wondering and worrying over the building and moving and changes occuring around me while I stand static and quiet in their midst. I contemplate this while pushing my body forward on the treadmill. I watch the numbers click by. I track my progress on a piece of paper, writing down the miles as they grow in the smallest barely recognizeable increments.

After cleaning up and getting dressed, we head back downstairs. Maybe there are errands to run or we squeeze in a visit to the park. Sometimes we hang out in our yard, pulling weeds. I walk along the side of the house, noting the small green shoots of new grass. They push through wet soil, their tips a thrilling shade of green I can't replicate in paint. It surprises me how quiet the yard appears, yet how busy it gets in the microcosm of a small 6-inch square of ground. Bean likes to pull bits of gravel from the dirt, throw clods of it against the fence.

We eat lunch together. Her usual chicken nuggets and some fruit. She pushes them around her plate, smacks her lips. I eat a cup of soup, some pretzels. Bean likes to comment on my lunch, pointing to my bowl. SOUP! she says, smiling. When I offer her some, she shakes her head.

During Bean's nap, I pace the house. I clean up the living room, the kitchen. Load the dishwasher. I can't sit still. As I listen to her soft snoring, I head to my studio to contemplate the latest project (wedding invitations for my very good friend Danielle).

And then it's late afternoon. Bean is awake and snacking on wheat Chex and raisins. She is hoping for some chocolate (MILKIES? she asks, a devilish pleasure twinkling in her eyes). We now both stand in the studio. I walk the length of my table, putting different shades of paper together, noting the texture differences and wondering what Danielle is going to like best. Bean eats Chex and scribbles furiously on paper. Her entire arm is alive with transporting the crayon across the page: over, across, over, over, over, up, down. The line creates a mass of blue, covering the other lines previously made: red, yellow, orange. She holds up her creation, ITSA RAIN-BOW, MOMMY! RAIN-BOW!

Evening gathers quickly in the corners of the house. We notice it in the the longer shadows, the sound of dogs barking in the yard next door. Before dinner, we walk to the mailbox. Bean runs alongside me, her legs working furiously. She likes to veer wildly onto the grass parkway. She wants to gather flowers. I want to focus on the task at hand; grab mail and get back inside for dinner. Every step is a compromise.

During Bean's dinner, I empty the dishwasher. I gather plates and bowls and spoons to put in their proper places. I circle the kitchen, keeping time with the steady clink of dish on dish. We walk upstairs together after dinner, counting each step. Bean lifts herself on steady legs. I can't believe how much she's grown. She counts as we pass the landing-- TEN! ELEVEN! TWELVE! TURTEEN! FOURTEEN! FI-TEEN!

At bathtime the water swirls around Bean's midsection. She likes to pour it from one cup to another. I rush around the bathroom to gather her towel, a washcloth, her toothbrush.

Bean lays warm and wet, wrapped in her pink towel post-bath. She stares at her bedroom ceiling while I race to get her ready for bed. Pajamas, lotion, diaper, cream. We sing the same songs in the same order and talk about the same quiet bedtime topics. We pray for daddy's welfare and ask that we all have good dreams. When I kiss her goodnight, she reaches into my hair. She tells me, PRETTY MOMMY, SO PRETTY.

This is when the quiet of the house seeps into my bones. I drift through the rooms, my body slowing as the dark descends. I finish cleaning up the child detritus in the living room. I pick bowls off the kitchen floor and think about Bean. Just two days ago she couldn't count past thirteen, and today I heard her get up to seventeen. The miles claim us as we move through them. They gather in our minds as knowledge and on our bones as muscle. We pick up subtle new wrinkles and new bits of green like I pick cups off the floor.

I put the ipod on, play the music as background to my cleaning rituals. There is another line that comes to me---
And all of this life moves around you, for all that you claim you're standing still-- you are moving too.