Monday, January 31, 2011

for your monday

You've caught me thinking about entrances and exits --- the way people come and go in our lives. How they leave and when. What they do in those first few minutes when we are still sizing them up, wondering if they're passing through or will be staying for a long while.

You've caught me thinking about the emphasis we place on the way things end, when so many of our biggest moments are found in the very beginning.

You've caught me thinking. On a Monday.

Footprint on Your Heart
by Gary Lenhart

Someone will walk into your life,
Leave a footprint on your heart,
Turn it into a mudroom cluttered
With encrusted boots, children's mittens,
Scratchy scarves---
Where you linger to unwrap
Or ready yourself for rough exits
Into howling gales or onto
Frozen car seats, expulsions
Into the great outdoors where touch
Is muffled, noses glisten,
And breaths stab,
So that when you meet someone
Who is leaving your life
You will be able to wave stiff
Icy mitts and look forward
To an evening in spring
When you can fold winter away
Until your next encounter with
A chill so numbing you strew
The heart's antechamber
With layers of rural garble.

Friday, January 28, 2011

fashion sense

I can't imagine where she gets it from---

this desire to layer.

The leggies OVER the sweater leggings seemed like a bit of overkill, but what's a mother to do?

My cousin Kristen told me once, "Eventually you have to let go of the part of your ego that's wrapped up in how they dress." This, she says to me after she finished telling the story about her daughter's favorite get-up (was it fairy wings and galoshes and a hat and a thick plaid sweater?...something like that, I'm sure).

She's right, you know. My ego and this one's clothing choices are closely intertwined.

But right now, I'm not sure if that's a bad thing.

I think she looks very smart.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

a phone message I would have left last night

Hi, sweetie. It's me. Of course you know it's me because you have caller ID. And quite frankly, it's a miracle if you're listening to this message because you don't really listen to messages, you just call people back. But just in case, I know we already talked tonight - and I had some work to do and so did you; reports, I think you said. I know we already talked tonight but there are these things that I forgot to tell you.

Like how cute Bean's bum is in her Big Girl Underpanties. So cute, you have no idea.

Like how well she did on her first day of potty training--- I am so proud I could burst. She only had one accident. The unmistakeable sound of drip drip drip gush on the hardwood floor, it was like a levy breaking. I ran upstairs, holding her aloft, hoping to salvage the opportunity to pee. Of course it was lost - staining her shocking white unders yellow. She was most upset about that, the panties-- the panties, mommy! When I whisked out a new pair, she quieted. I told her it was okay. Accidents happen. Ten minutes later there was this awesome moment when she came to me asking to go to the potty. Again, we rushed upstairs, and met with absolute NUMBER TWO CONTACT SUCCESS. The joy. The joy, Chip, it was perfect. She threw her arms around my neck and squealed.

Like how tonight, when I was putting Bean to bed and it was her turn to say her prayer, she insisted that she do it herself. She pulled herself off my lap and sat across from me in the dark room. Her small head bent over her arms. This is what she said, "I'm grateful for my family. Thank you for piggie. We had a great day today. Please bless my buddies. I'm grateful for mommy. And daddy. I love daddy. I love daddy - and he loves me (and now she was singing--) WE ARE A HAPPY FAMILY!"--- and then this: a breathy pause, a small hand on my arm, a whisper, "Mommy---can you pease help me?". We finished together.

There were many small moments like that today. Little glimmers of joy that I wish I could wrap up and give to you. If I could, I'd send these boxes of joy to you on the next southern flying wind, so they'd find their way into your pocket while you work. In a quiet minute in your car you could open one of the boxes, pull the long string until the wrappings open with a small pop. Perhaps you'd open a little gift of Alice's laugh.

We miss you. But you know that, you must always know that, I say it so often.

Call me back when you can. I love you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

potty training for the dumb and uninformed

That would be the name of my best-selling book, if I had one. I am uniquely equipped to write that book, being both dumb AND uninformed, in case you were worried.

I'm taking notes now as I do my best to live up to my talents in the Training of the Potty. (Because, you know, I've done it so many times before.)

We spend a lot of time singing this song.

You're welcome.

* I walked into the bathroom Monday afternoon to find Piggie sitting just so, on this tiny doll-sized potty. It appears that Bean would like to enlist additional members into our training class
** And I feel compelled, as per my Expert Status would require, to tell you that the band who performs the song is Over the Rhine. That's a typo up there in the clip. Just in case you too decide you must listen to the song for helpful tips.

Friday, January 21, 2011

a word about gifts


This is the wonder of the internet: to have this thing you need, or want to know, or you're looking for affirmation for some kind of feeling and you just feel like there is no way, no way on this green earth that you're going to find it. It was like that with Alice's blanket Bo. He was given to us as a gift, a gift long before she'd even made her entrance into the world. And by the time their relationship had developed (Bo of the Magical Soothing Powers, Bo of the Wonderful Blanket Smell, Bo of the Soft Sweet Fibers, Bo Wish We All Had One) - it's not like I could find a back-up in the stores anywhere.

All of this at the time when I was struggling with all those New Mother Things: the nursing and the all-organic-crazy-or-not and the sleep issues and the hand wringing and all the...stuff. The stuff that we throw out on the internet in the winging crazy hope that someone will understand. Someone will have answers or sympathy or both. Day in and day out, someone did. One of you would log in to The Creamery and would remind me that I wasn't crazy, and then you'd offer gifts of hope. They were like small white feathers of a bird high overhead, your words would remind me to look up, to have faith, to breathe. Many times they would make me laugh out loud. Or I would cry in gratitude to have found a small section of the internet world that accepted me as I was. I came to the internet to write. To share stories. And I ended up making friends.

It will be four years this year, four years since I started this blog called The Creamery. This space has seen its fair share of sadness and loss, and I'm sorry to say it has seen a little bit of angst and anger and meanness. I've tried hard to keep The Creamery shielded from ugly things, but the truth is, that ugliness is out there in so many forms, lurking right outside our windows. It's going to peek in from time to time. It's going to be attracted to the warmth from the kitchen. I've seen some familiar faces come and go--- faces dear and loved don't visit here anymore, whether it's my doing or a simple lack of interest or just limited heart/mind/time space, it doesn't matter. I miss every one of those faces. Every one. And there are some of you so new here, so squeaky clean to The Creamery's interior, you have quietly stood by and listened and lurked, maybe fearing that you're not welcome (but you are, you really truly are). Then there are you dear ones who have visited long and well, who have watched Bean grow and marveled over her days. You have offered comfort when it was sorely needed. You have become my friends.

There have been rough moments during the last several months, a jumbled cocktail of worry and repetition that, over time, rubbed me raw. Things that once upon a time wouldn't have phased me are now wriggling in the back of my mind like stray pieces of sand. And I've become increasingly preoccupied with this mysterious group of people who come to visit here at The Creamery but leave so quietly, leave no trace other than the faint shadow of their site meter stat. I have worried over your presence, that's the truth--- worried probably more than I ought--- wondering what I could do to welcome your being here, or, quite frankly, wondering if The Creamery was a concept better left to these first early few years of Bean's life. I've considered the possibility that maybe it's time to finally close these doors and turn off the kitchen light.

Enter Sarah from Indiana (hello Sarah!). I had posted something about Alice's Bo - how I've never been able to find a back-up blanket. I have never done a decent job of explaining just how worrisome a woobie-without-a-replacement is. Especially when the woobier (woobier? woobie-ite? woobie-onian?) is a child who has the particular trouble of coughing until she vomits. At night. The closest I've come is telling you that I've developed a pretty decent case of Post Traumatic Stress surrounding the evening hours anytime Alice is sick. I get a twitching tick in my eye (truly). You just don't know until you've lived it. Sarah's email was this: Hey, we have one of those blankets if you want it. What do you say?


And as we exchanged emails about addresses and particulars I considered dear Sarah from Indiana: a girl I've never met, someone who has never commented, someone whom I know virtually nothing about. But apparently, she visits The Creamery, and she cared enough about my plight to offer a solution.

Sometimes hope comes in the form of a blog comment. Sometimes it comes in the form of an email. Or a surprise phone call from an old friend. Sometimes hope is a blanket from Indiana. It tells you that you aren't alone, that this late night vigil you keep is kept by other mothers across the planet. These mothers might be silent at times, but they are listening. And they are reading.

I'm keeping The Creamery open. I would miss this warm space. I'd miss all the gifts of hope. And I'd miss you.

Thank you, Sarah, for everything.

Thursday, January 20, 2011



Please welcome

with great fanfare

and an incredible deluge of anticipation

Faux Bo

(We are calling him Baux)

The story will come tomorrow. I know you can't wait. Edge-of-seat anticipation, yes?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

more birthday round-up


Because I know that you simply didn't get enough yesterday.

(Yes, that was Elmo face down on the table at our Fancy Birthday Restaurant serving as Designated Balloon Holder.)
(He is very serious about his work.)
(The restaurant was my choice. I love their fries.)
(And the dessert was quite fantastic.)
(Even if I do say so myself.)
(The company, my sweeties, was also quite fantastic.)
(As was the birthday.)
(Welcome, 37, I'm excited to get to know you.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

the great birthday cake decision


Chocolate sounded too chocolate.
And vanilla just seemed so... vanilla.
Caramel was just right.

Mmm caramel.

Friday, January 14, 2011

walking bravely into thirty-seven

At first glance, I think
It's not that different, really, than all the years before it
The same growing realization of time: how swiftly it goes by, how little we hold in our hands
for its passage.
The same worries, the same stresses, the same bright accents of joy.
Alice reminds me to sing Happy Birthday, tells me as she hands me a present--
an empty box wrapped in a dishtowel.
Her face is the bow: pink lips and white teeth.
Last year it was vanilla cupcakes, cream cheese frosting, rainbow sprinkles.
This year we're still deciding. There is talk of mixing it up--- chocolate.

These first few steps like a worn path, familiar.
And yet not. As I look around the landscape is different, the other side of thirty-seven.
The rolling hill toward forty.
I'm not afraid of growing old.
But it's shocking, how the gray hair creeps in - how little I'm prepared for it.
New wrinkles around my eyes that weren't there yesterday.
I want to welcome thirty-seven with open arms, but I'm standing quietly to the side
Arms crossed
Reserving judgment.

But I can tell you
The candles burn just as bright--
Vanilla or chocolate,
Cupcake or pie,
Seventeen or thirty-seven.

Smiling faces by firelight,
I'll take them at any age.

I've been dreaming of new music, or new music to me.
To that end I have a birthday wish. It's something of a big request.
(But perhaps a few of you are up to the task.)
Want to know what it is?
Who's feeling up to making me a cd mix? A soundtrack for thirty-seven, pretty please?
And this: a picture of you - eating a celebratory dessert.
Email me: whimsyattack AT gmail DOT com

I believe it's perfectly acceptable for one to be cheeky and demanding on her birthday. What do you think?

Happy weekend, all.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

our love song for Chip

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb, born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground, head in the clouds
It's okay; I know nothing's wrong, nothing

Hey, I got plenty of time
Hey, you got light in your eyes
And you're standing here beside me
Out of the passing of time
Never for money, always for love
Cover up and say goodnight, say goodnight

Home is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home, she lifted up her wings
I guess this must be the place
I can't tell one from another
Did I find you, or did you find me?
There was a time, before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I'll be, where I'll be

Hey, we drift in and out
Hey, sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I'm just an animal looking for a home
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you'll love me 'til my heart stops
Love me 'til I'm dead
Eyes that light up, eyes that look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head
Say goodnight
Say goodnight
Say goodnight

-This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody), Talking Heads
* photo courtesy of my very talented brother-in-law, Christian

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

seeing red

She likes color. When I ask her about her favorite hue, she tells me Red. Orange. Green. Blue. Yellow. She can't make up her mind, and why should she? I like them all. Different reasons for each.
Black for quiet, for mystery. Yellow for vibrancy. Blue for peace and calm. Green for feeling alive, a zing of movement. Orange for fun.
Monday was red. A day for intense focus and extreme passion. We ran the length of the house, howling, and then back to the living room to collapse in a heap. We laughed until we were hoarse. And then she turned to me, slapped me hard on the face, angry that I was sitting "Too close - too close, mommy. GO AWAY!" I yelled back, not a proud moment for me. I sent us both to time out while I tried to gather my dignity.
Later I sat on the couch paying bills. She'd been quiet for a while, talking to various stuffed buddies, when I felt a small tug on my sleeve.
"Mommy. Can you please feed little Elmo? Can you feed him some red?" She held out a plate of red, perfectly gathered hues of the day.
Last night, after I'd put her to bed, I prowled the hallways with a distracted mind --- thinking over the day, my imperfections as a mother. How many times had I lost my temper, had I scolded for something small? Far too many, was the answer I received as I checked the lock on the front door. Closing up the house as inventory of personal pitfalls. Walking by my dark studio, I noticed a cat-sized silhouette in front of the window, the curtains open. I wandered in to seek comfort of the four-legged kind. It was Fergus, staring into a wonderland of falling snow. We sat on the bed together, each seeking comfort. He rubbed his head on my hand and made purrdle noises. I watched the snow drift by in the lamplight of our neighbor's windows. Snow is beautiful as it falls, especially at night. I love how the white makes even the darkest of nights become twilight again: a serene silver blue against a sky of spun silk. No one was out as the flakes fell fast and thick, a perfect blank canvas. I thought about the day to come, what I could do better. Practice patience, enjoy Alice's exurberance. A deep breath to forgive past mistakes. White for calm, white for quiet, white for a fresh start.
Colors for everything. Makes perfect sense to me.
(Do you have a favorite color? Or do you describe mood by color? What are you feeling right now?)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

advice from fergus


He says to take a nap. Dream deep gulping breaths of sleep. Relax. Indulge in stretching. Feel each finger as it reaches to its full length: each joint, each apendage, each muscle. Find a spot of sun to wrap yourself in. Luxuriate in warmth. Practice listening with open ears. Eat food with exactness, quiet contemplation. Close your eyes. Pay attention to your body. Move with intention. Know you are beautiful. Absolute perfection, no question about it. Everyone loves you.

And why wouldn't they?

...what do your favorite animals tell you?

Monday, January 10, 2011

miscellaneous monday

(Bean's favorite comfort activities. Also: the Bo in Question.)


There's a word for it, though it escapes me at the moment, which makes sense, since the word I'm looking for would describe this feeling of free-falling, of walking from one dark room into one even darker, the furniture left haphazard so you run into it, shins bruised.

. . .

Bean is suffering from yet another (yes, truly) cold. This one accented with a dry, whistling cough that began (yes, again, truly) on the last day the antibiotics she was taking for her ear infection. I mean, really? Maybe there will come a day in the distant future when I will just shrug and be all, yeah - she's sick again, it's fine. But at this point in time I cannot be all shruggy and nonchalant with the added bonus of the night time cough-induced vomitting. And since a couple of you asked recently about Bean's woobie, Bo, here's the deal: it's this soft knit blanket with Winnie the Pooh on it, and it was sold in Target stores the year before Bean was born. It was a gift. I had no earthly idea that that particular blanket would become the resonating beacon for All Things Comforting and Sweet for Bean. Had I known, I surely would have delivered myself to the nearest several Targets and purchased dozens of identical blankets. However, given that I didn't know how monumentally important the blanket would be until nearly a year after said blanket was manufactured... I was late to the party. I searched in stores. I searched online. I searched on e-bay. There was one e-bay entry coming from somewhere in Hong Kong that was promising, WITH the blanket - but the auction had closed and I was (again) out of luck. So. We are left with the only copy of a seemingly rare and highly desired blanket. A very long explanation to give you this: Whimsy has HIVES when she thinks of evening sessions of cough-induced vomit.

. . .

Wednesday's post was not about pants.

. . .

This is the beginning of my birthday week, capped off on Saturday by my actual birthday. To celebrate, I'm going to post about favorite things. Good things and sweet things and things that I love - and things that you love as well. I think this is a week deserving of comfort - let's revel in it. But for today, we're starting small. Bean and I are hanging out at home, trying to relax a bit. Tell me about your favorite relaxing ritual. If I had the choice, I'd get a pedicure. But seeing as I'm here at the house - I don't think a pedicure is possible. Whatcha got?

Friday, January 7, 2011

who she is

She is someone who adds an F sound to the end of every -er word. Grover becomes Groverf. Over becomes overf. Ever becomes everf. And together (my very favorite) becomes togeverf.

She is someone who says to me, from the back seat of the car, "Mommy, I have a question for ya." Yes honey? What is it? "My question is: what does green say?" To which I respond, green means go go go.

She is someone who asks me if I'm okay every time I laugh.

She is someone who calls out to every balloon she sees, every flag she passes as we're driving, every colorful flying thing--- like friends.

She is someone who listens to passing conversations. The other day, she overheard two ladies at Target. As we rounded the corner she repeated what she'd heard, "THAT'S SO WEIRD!" And they both laughed.

She is someone who likes names. She calls to people we know. Loudly. Across quiet rooms and in crowded elevators. She calls to people we don't know as well. From something she misheard during the same Target trip - I had said, "Excuse me, ma'am", and Bean called out loudly and with great gusto from her perch standing at the bow of our red Target shopping cart, for the remainder of that shopping trip EXCUSE ME MAN!

She is someone who doesn't call it a burp. It's burt - and she's sticking to her story. Every little Bean-sized belch - Mommy! I burt! Buuuuuurt!

She is someone who dances until she's dizzy.
She is someone who says sumfing instead of something, and one of my favorite things in the world is when she's bored and she comes to me and says, "Mommy, I want sumfing else. Sumfing else, pease?" Melt.
She is someone who breaks my heart when she cries, who brings me to tears when she laughs, who makes magic with every funny face.
The truth is, try as I might, there is no way to capture her in a few sentences. The things she does, the things she says... they are such a small part of who she is.
But one thing I know, beyond all else---- this small girl, she is a wonder to me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

a metaphor of pants


I'm no stranger to making changes when they don't fit. It's what I do - a few tucks here and there to reveal an article of clothing that I'll wear for a good long while. Work as effort, work as investment.

I've hemmed every pair I've ever owned, the gift of short legs and a sewing machine waiting in the wings. I don't ever expect them to fit just right that first time on, and somehow they never do--- though a few have surprised me over the years, the way they slide on without effort, the curve in the hip to fit just so.

Chip's require patches. He comes to me, pants in hand, Can you help these? Is there something you can do? He wears his pants with roughness, with enthusiasm that rubs the fibers raw. Thin in the same places, I can read the story they tell of walking and bending and reaching. The white outline of his wallet. I keep patches in my sewing kit for these occasions, running stitches in repeating patterns to reinforce the seams. When I'd patched a soft pair of denim for the third time last year I had to tell him, This isn't going to hold. There's nothing here, no strength in the fibers to keep them from coming apart. He asked me to patch them anyway, let him enjoy them for just a little longer.

My pants are worn differently, but still careless in my own way. Patches won't solve the way I run hems into the ground, frayed bits breaking off into the carpet. But still I salvage, I save. I peer over worn blue jeans fading to gray, examine the stitching that is coming loose. I worry over the seams that won't hold.

I find it impossible to throw them away. They sit on my sewing table for months at a time. I fret over busted seams and holes. I finger unraveled fabric and dream of ways to fix bent zippers. My tenuous efforts yield recycled results: pants that have long outlived their wear into something new, something workable, something I can still love.

There was one pair of denim--- jeans I'd worn through thick and thin, jeans that fit every curve, jeans that went with everything, jeans that I was sure would last forever. In time I felt them chafing my skin, rubbing me raw. I kept hoping I'd find them comfortable again, put them in my closet and waited. But each time I brought them out into daylight they faded into something gray and ungainly. Up against my softest sweaters, my favorite shirts, they were fitful and picky. They just didn't... go. When I put them on, they pinched and pulled. I put them on the sewing table and prayed for a miracle. I dove into the work, intensive and focused, committed to resuscitation. But the smallest picking of the seams had them disintegrating in my hands: the years had weathered them badly, from inside out.

A few months later, Chip stood next to my sewing table, shaking his head - My jeans... you were right. I thought if I worm them more carefully they would hold up, but it didn't make any difference. No integrity, as you said. They ripped when I was in Portland. I had to throw them away.

Because of this, I know he understands me. It's against my nature to abandon things, especially when they were once so coveted. I am born to transform something unworkable, something unlovable, into something else. Pants into a tiny skirt for Alice. Pants into a drawstring bag for blocks. But I've learned that sometimes it isn't possible. Sometimes there is no integrity to save, no fibers to rework, no give in the seams for repurposing.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they just don't fit.

Monday, January 3, 2011

permission at the beginning of the year


Let it go. Let it all go - the hammering and irk of bad decisions, the swallowed gulp of embarrassment. Let it go.

Stop thinking about what you did that one time and how dumb you felt because of it. And while you're at it, stop thinking about what you wished you would have done instead.

Don't relive that moment of anger. Don't revisit it, feeling the rush of heat on your cheeks and the rising clutch of tension in your belly. Don't think of all the things you said and how you threw a shoe at the door, you were so mad.

There is no potion to bring you back, no magic incantation that will deliver a moment already gone into your hands.

This is your permission at the dawn of a new year: to stop clutching at things gone by; and instead - to run headlong into the days ahead. To fling your arms wide - and wider still - at the tomorrows coming your way, and even better still, to love this day you're living today. It's yours to do with as you will.


Happy new year, my friends.

A glorious way to kick off the new year: a lovely box of GOODIES. Rose has the latest GMBOA contest up on her blog - starting today! Go forth and make me proud.