Thursday, August 27, 2009

Separation anxiety

School starts up again in two weeks but before we get to that milestone I have one more huge summer hurdle to clear: I'm losing my oldest child for a week.

A few weeks ago my mom invited the girls and I to join her and her girlfriend on a trip to North Carolina. For several reasons I just can't go but they invited Anna to join them.

I immediately spiraled into a mess of motherhood anxiety. I've never been away from my children for more than three nights and that was only this past spring. And that was hard.

My mind raced through the pros and cons:

Anna IS in a very adventurous phase right now and I know she would have a blast.

But at some point she will undoubtedly become terribly homesick and probably have some sort of emotional meltdown. And Anna's meltdowns can be intense.

However my mother of all people is excellent at soothing and distracting Anna and helping her get past her more difficult moods. And goodness knows Anna surprises us every day, I might not be giving her enough credit.

What am I talking about? How can I send my baby away for that long, I would miss her like crazy! Not to mention her father and sister, who are kind of attached to the kid. And dealing with the father and sister missing Anna could be as hard as missing her myself.

On the other hand, Rachel has been absolutely loving one-on-one time with her favorite adults lately so it might be the perfect time for the girls to have some separation.

And on that note, with school starting in two weeks it is actually a really good time for the ever-clingy-Anna to get some separation from ME.

At the end of the day - or the five seconds it took for all of these thoughts to flash through my mind - it boiled down to two questions for me: would she have fun and would she be well taken care of? The answers to those two questions were yes. The rest of it, well I just would have to suck it up and not be selfish.

Like all Jewish children Anna was given a Hebrew name as well as her English one. Anna Frances is also Chana Fayga, which means "graceful bird."

She leaves me early Saturday morning and will be gone a whole week if all goes as planned. Rachel and I have several "special things" planned throughout the week to keep me - I mean Rachel - occupied.

I will try not to engage in weepy blogging. But forgive me if I do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 8/25/09

This week's entry in Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project is simultaneously one of my favorite pictures of all time and one of the worst photos ever taken of me.

This was taken November 16, 2005, the day after Rachel was born. An eleven-month-old Anna could not have possibly understood why Mommy went to work Monday morning and never picked her up. Tuesday afternoon, after 24 hours of trying to stop my premature labor, Rachel was born and taken to the NICU. On Wednesday I was finally out of bed and recovering from my second c-section in twelve months. By Wednesday evening I was still unshowered and in pain, my face still red and itchy from the medication in the spinal, but I needed my Anna. My mom brought her up to see me in her little red sleeper and I don't know who was happier to see whom. I couldn't hold her in my lap because of the incision but someone perched her on the arm of my chair so we could snuggle. In typical determined Anna fashion she wiggled herself around until she could assume her sleepy position - right thumb in mouth, left hand touching her hair. She still does this when she gets tired. I have a million pictures of her in this position, but this is by far my favorite.

If you would like to take part in this awesome project, the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A rare moment

Confession: I am an intensely political person. This may surprise some because I rarely speak about politics. I avoid discussion because I get so emotional about the subject that it usually just ruins my day.

There have been several political events in my lifetime that stand out as moments that changed my world view, or at least my view of American politics. One of these events was the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Another was the Clinton impeachment and all of the events that surrounded that time. I still have a hard time discussing those things because of the profound effect they had on me.

Those two situations pale in comparison to what is going on with our health care system right now. I am so angry that I can barely listen to the current debates.

I take one daily medication. It is nobody's business what that medication is but suffice it to say that I can not function without it. This medication does not come in generic form because some drug company can make much more money keeping it under a name brand. It costs me about $50 per month, with my insurance and only if I fill it through mail order. If I try to use my local pharmacy it costs me closer to $80 per month. Between our insurance premiums, our deductibles, our prescriptions and our copays we spend more money on health care expenses than our grocery, drug store and utility bills combined. And we are one of the lucky families who actually have insurance. And we still aren't getting what we need - my husband chose to eliminate one of his necessary medications because it was outrageously expensive and we very simply cannot afford it. When my daughter broke her arm last year she required an emergency visit with an x-ray and a sling, then two trips to the orthopedist with x-rays each time. Do you know how much of that my insurance paid for? Come on, guess. I will give you a minute.

Did you guess? Was your guess $15.86 (yes, that is a period, not a comma)? Because that is the exact amount my insurance company paid for that whole ordeal. Apparently Anna hadn't met her deductible yet for the year, plus some of that stuff wasn't covered for some reason that I still cannot get anyone to explain to me sufficiently. I am still paying off that broken arm.

My family is far from being the worst off in this country. We are struggling mightily but we do have employer provided insurance, ineffective though it is. When we were on COBRA our premiums were higher than our mortgage payment, coming in every month at $1500. And we were just a family of three back then, so I guess I should be thankful. But I'm not. I'm so incredibly angry that it's probably a good thing I don't live closer to Washington.

Mostly I just want to know: how in the name of everything good and holy is this acceptable?

How is it ok that the US ranks so low in the world's healthcare systems?

How is it ok that educated, informed adults are going all over the county telling outright lies - LIES! Just making stuff up! - to the American public?

Why is the American public not pissed off about being lied to?

Why do so many Americans just believe the garbage being shoveled over their heads without doing some actual research of their own?

Why does my husband have to go without a necessary medication so that we can feed our kids?

Why aren't doctors more vocal in the debate? Doesn't it make a doctor's job more difficult when the patient waits until they are very sick to come in because they can't afford preventative care? Or when a patient stops taking a medication for financial reasons?

Why don't more people see health care as a social necessity and not a privilege?

Why aren't more people as angry as I am?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Girl knows what she's doing

I often jokingly call Anna "Danna" because of her resemblance - in looks and in personality - to her father. She truly is a miniature version of my husband, down the smallest idiosyncratic tics and the spot on her back she likes me to scratch. Sometimes I actually have to call Dan in to handle Anna situations when I get frustrated. "I don't get her," I shamefully admit to him. "I do," is his response and more often than not he really does. Dan just GETS Anna, understands the way her mind works and why she needs things to be just so. The same way I GET Rachel.

This is not to lessen the connection I have with my oldest daughter. It certainly is a special one and every once in a while I get to really see what is going in that head. And those moments are sort of awesome.

A few nights ago I give the fifteen minute bedtime warning and both girls scrambled for my lap. Anna wins the initial tussle and stretches across my legs, leaving no room for her sister. Rachel protests loudly and I suggest she go cuddle with Daddy on the couch. She refuses, choosing instead to battle it out with Anna, who is totally gloating.

"Rachel, Daddy needs hugs, look how sad he is!" I try again. Dan pouts appropriately, playing along.

"No! I want Mommy!"

"Fine," Anna announces. "I will go cuddle with Daddy." And she starts to get up.

"NOOOOOOO!" Rachel shouts and flies at her father with such force that I hear the "ooomph" as she lands on his chest.

I look at Anna, fearing that the next round of complaining is about to start. Instead she glances at me over her shoulder with such a knowing look and a tiny smirk that I can't help but stare back at her in awe.

That girl is no fool.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thirty eight

It's my birthday today and other than the fact that I know I will be able to take a lengthy nap later with no one complaining about it, I find it hard to get excited. As a couple Dan and I have never gone all out on birthdays with huge presents or surprise trips or anything. We usually opt for a nice dinner somewhere and a small gift.

My favorite birthday ever? Turning 30. I had sort of dreaded it for no real reason other than I was sort of supposed to. But then Dan took me to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and I looked at him and burst into happy tears, realizing that I really had everything I'd ever wanted to have by the time I was thirty. We were planning our wedding and I was filled with joy and excitement for the life we were about to make together.

While I'm dragging out the old pictures, here are a few I found on photobucket of me as a toddler. Click to view them larger, if you dare.


I like this one in particular, if only because it proves that I just may really be Anna's birth mother.


And further proof that I've never once in my life had a good hair day.


I plan on spending some time alone today and taking that nap. My mom will be taking the girls and allowing them to help make dinner and cake and then Dan and I will head over there to enjoy the goodies. Because that is my present to my husband - letting him off the "where do I take her for dinner" hook.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday - 8/18/09

Continuing my participation in Mrs. Schmitty's Take Us Back In Time Tuesday project, I present to you this - gasp - completely not-child-related photo. In fact, this week's entry predates my children completely, predates my marriage even. It may even predate some of the common sense I've attained since my early twenties. Behold:

That would be me, rappelling in northern Israel in the spring of 1994. I was completely terrified. See my right hand, how it's holding onto the rope in a death grip? I was supposed to be loosely holding that rope while allowing it to slide through my fingers as I gracefully descended the side of the mountain. Instead, I wound up with a palm full of bloody rope burns. Whatever, I did it and I was so glad I did. I'm also glad I gave a friend my camera because looking at the sheer terror in my face brings me back to that moment every single time.

If you would like to take part in this wonderfully nostalgic project, the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not so wild herd

I might not have teams of gorgeous mustangs on my property like The Pioneer Woman, but I do have this exotic herd:

Did you know that these ponies have magnetic feet? I didn't. At least not until the girls went to bed a few nights ago and I walked into my kitchen only to find this scene on my refrigerator door. I love finding little surprises like this. I consider it one of motherhood's bonuses.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A little mother-daughter bonding

It has been a long, busy weekend. A lot of errands, new people, animals and heat. Anna is tired. She is stretched on the couch watching her current favorite movie and trying her best not to suck her thumb. I gaze at her newest freckles and the legs that seem to have grown since this morning.

"Hey Anna, guess what?"
"I love you."
"That's not exciting."

Friday, August 14, 2009

I am not entirely sure she's mine

Last night I baked snickerdoodles. I allowed myself a moment to be the cool mom by bringing a plate of them outside to treat the neighborhood kids who were playing with Anna. I'm not going to lie, I completely reveled in the "ooohs" and "aaahs" as they gathered around to thank me and praise my baking skills. But I digress.

Today after lunch I allowed the girls to each take a cookie out of the jar and a few minutes later Anna came over to me and explained that she was finished - and then she handed me half a snickerdoodle. "I'm full," she told me. Too full for half a cookie? Half of a soft, delicious, cinnamon-coated treat? I don't think I've ever thrown away half a cookie. In fact I've been known on more than one occasion to complain of how stuffed I am while polishing off dessert.

I stared at the cookie piece sitting in my palm, wondering if this child is seriously mine. And then Rachel wandered along and plucked it out of my hand, shoving it into her mouth before she was even done chewing the first one. Now THAT is my child.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


One of my favorite bloggers The New Girl posted recently about the snapshots strangers get of our kids on any given day. It's a great post (go read it!) and maybe I am just way self-centered but it made me think about the snapshots those same strangers get of my parenting.

I am proud to have kids who are usually quite well-behaved in public. I like to think that most of that can be chalked up to good parenting but I know they also love a spotlight. Their red hair and bright smiles, coupled with the fact that they look so much like twins garners them a lot of attention. As soon as anyone so much as smiles at her Anna usually launches into her routine, introducing herself and her sister and bragging about whatever is going on in her little life. Rachel smiles and bats her eyelashes at the bakery for free cookies. I love being the mom with the sweet little girls who dutifully hold on to the cart as we cross the parking lot. I enjoy giving the impression that I've got it all together.

A few weeks ago a good friend did me a huge favor and took me grocery shopping. I had no car at my disposal that day and this friend packed up her own four-year-old daughter and accompanied me and the girls to the store. I had a list and a budget and I figured it would be a pretty quick trip. Until we got the grocery carts. My girls are huge fans of the carts where they can sit in the "car" next to each other and "drive." But with the friend came the inevitable fight over who got to sit next to her. Two seats, three girls, lots of screaming. They agreed to take turns but both girls wanted to be first and nothing in my rather large and well-stocked purse would bribe them into submission. So much noise, so many witnesses. I finally decided that if they were going to scream, they could do so while I shopped. I took off down one aisle with one loud and unhappy child only to suddenly realize that my favorite store's remodeling project had apparently hit a new stage and nothing was where it used to be. Anxiety hit as the the one child who was happy started to yell at me for something and I started to sweat. This is so not the impression I enjoy giving the neighborhood grocery store. I want to be the calm, happy, proud mother, not the frazzled, sweaty, sniping mess.

But of course I am both of those women. Just as I occasionally wonder if my girls have multiple personalities I know that I am just as changeable. And when I can manage to remain calm and happy I am just as proud of myself as I am of my children. Of course good planning can help too - which is why I will never again approach grocery cart seating without a strategy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Take Us Back In Time Tuesday

Because I am a sucker for photos of all kinds, especially photos of my children, especially especially photos of my children when they were tiny, I decided to participate in Take Us Back In Time Tuesday, a project started by It's a Schmitty Life.

So without further ado, here is my first Take Us Back In Time Tuesday (TUBITT?) post:

This photo was taken six days after Rachel came home from the hospital. Which was also nine days before Anna turned one. Anna took one look at her new little sister and decided that it was the coolest doll we'd ever bought her. She had this inexplicable need to constantly have Rachel in her line of sight, to touch her and babble to her and to try to share her toys. We'd find Rachel in the swing with a pile of offerings sitting at her feet, placed there by a big sister who instantly loved her unconditionally.

In this photo Anna is standing on the little shelf on the bottom of the bassinet to get a better view of Rachel. I remember constantly scolding Anna to get down but nothing would keep her from checking on her baby sister.

If you want to participate in TUBITT (hee) - and you totally should - the participation rules are here and the Mr. Linky link can be found here.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I just have no idea

You know those big metal tins that Tinkertoys used to come in? Like this?

Well we found something similar in our basement, filled with some old wooden blocks from my husband's childhood. The girls both liked the blocks, but Rachel really loved the tin. She did some expected things with it - marched around beating the bottom like a drum, put it over her head, filled it with various and assorted random items.

And then she did something I did not expect. She set a big pink ball in it so that the top half of the ball was poking out of the tin. Then she put a pink head band on the ball and called the whole thing her baby. She carried it around and told us all about her baby. She gave her baby kisses and a blanket. Then she announced, "She's stupid. My baby is stupid." She said it with a smile and then went on hugging it.

Dan and I looked at each other, speechless. I guess that's another game we're hoping doesn't come up at school.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


When Rachel was nine months old she used her brand new crawling skills to reach a stack of clean blankets I had folded and placed on a chair. She pulled them down one at a time, examining each one closely, running it through her fingers and touching it to her face. When she had thoroughly experienced the blanket, she tossed it aside and reached for the next one. She continued this process until she reached the plainest, least embellished blanket we had, a gift she had received from a family friend. A simple purple crocheted number with no pictures, ribbons or special features. When she got to this one she stuck her thumb in her mouth and proceeded to roll around on the floor until she was wrapped up in the purple blanket. Dan turned to me and said, "I guess Rachel has a blankey." Indeed.

[Photo taken January 2007 when Rachel was about 14 months old. Oh man do I miss her being that small.]

This was unfamiliar territory for us because Anna never had a security item other than her thumb. But from the moment she chose that blanket she had to have it at all times. She had a very specific routine with it, as seen above. She would clutch a corner of the blanket in her right hand while she sucked her right thumb. With her left hand she felt along the wavy edges and sometimes stuck her fingers through the crochet holes. Sometimes I'd play a game with her and find the other corners and show them to her. She'd smile behind the thumb and gather all the corners together in her hand.

And when she was really feeling affectionate, when she really wanted to show some love, she would hold out a part of the blanket and rub it against my cheek. It would absolutely melt my heart.

This was all well and good until Rachel started walking. She waited until she was 15 months old to do so but when it finally happened she dragged the blankey everywhere. At which point my mother the crocheting master decided to recreate the blankey in smaller form. This project was completed in the summer of 2007 and when it was presented to her I cautiously explained that the original blankey would now stay in her bed while this new one would be the one she could carry around. I held my breath, waiting for what was surely to be some form of resistance. She inspected it, sucked her thumb with it, felt along the edges and I swear she almost shrugged. Not a single complaint came forth from her sweet face. She even found some new ways to enjoy blankey.

The ease of the transition stunned everyone. It was the first time I remember clearly thinking to myself that this child was very different from her sister.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Anna offended

The girls have seen a few new movies lately. Today we screened Coraline and I have never seen Rachel so enthralled by a film on the first viewing. She sat in her favorite spot on the couch and would not be distracted, even insisting on watching the credits. She talked about it on and off for the rest of the day and even asked to watch it again later.

Then came bedtime. As I tucked Rachel in she told me she hoped she wouldn't dream about "that other Mommy who turns mean." I reminded her of the happy ending and tried to turn the conversation to lighter fare, such as a planned trip the park tomorrow. She smiled and snuggled into her covers.

Half an hour later Rachel is in tears and says she's scared but doesn't know why. I'm still hoping to avoid her presence in my bed tonight so I agree to lay down with her in her bed. I settle in and dry Rachel's tears, memories of childhood nightmares flashing in my mind. After a few minutes of silence we hear an exasperated sigh from Anna's side of the room. "Rachel. You do not need Mommy. You have ME."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Leave it to a four-year-old to bring the celebration to screeching halt

This is my totally awesome sister-in-law Amy and her boyfriend Eric:

Aren't they completely adorable? Amy is the nicest person you will ever meet and keeps me sane by taking the girls for outings and overnights and just generally rocking in countless ways. If anyone deserves her it's Eric, a kind, patient soul who already handles my in-laws better than I often do. Amy got a diamond ring from Eric last weekend. She called Saturday evening to tell us the news and when I screamed in excitement the girls were understandably curious.

"Aunt Amy is getting married!" I explained, still on the phone with Amy.
"Will she be a bride?" Anna asked.
"Will she wear a veil?" Rachel asked.
"Maybe, if she wants to."
"What will she name the baby?" asked Anna.
"WHOA!" came the reply from the phone.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

I'm pretty sure Ariel never said that

Rachel is extremely committed to her play. This means that when she is in character we must call her by her fictional name and she often creates different voices to go along with her scenes. One of her favorite places to play is the bathtub and lately every single bath brings the announcement that "I am Ariel, Mommy." All I can do is play along as she explains that it's bedtime and lays down in the water, feet crossed to form her tail.

Her Ariel voice is high-pitched and very breathy. "Look at my tail Mommy," she breathes. "Isn't it beautiful?" I assure her (again) that it is indeed a beautiful green tail. "See my bra Mommy? It's purple. It's a shell bra, isn't it pretty?" Well she is certainly into the details lately. Yes, it's a pretty purple shell bra. "See my boobies Mommy? Don't my boobies look beautiful in the purple bra?"

The look on my face makes Anna laugh and I hide behind a towel before proclaiming bath time over.