A Cold Start

Happy September!

To celebrate the beginning of a new month, my daughter thoughtfully gave me her cold. Now, while Natalie’s version of a cold involves running around the house singing at the top of her lungs while ignoring the occasional nasal drip, my version involves lying immobile with a refrigerator-sized head, an overflowing sinus system, and a profound sense of “OWWW.”

If I don’t survive the weekend, at least you’ll know why.


All That Time

So you don’t currently have a job; what do you do with all that time?

8:00a – Wake up. Wonder why I feel like a poorly-engineered hybrid between a whale and overcooked spaghetti. Wonder also why my internal organs feel as though they’ve been through a 40-round boxing match. Have the vague sense that I used to have abdominal muscles, but can’t quite remember where I put them.

8:03a – Remember I’m 7 months pregnant. Ah.

8:15a – Set table, pour juice, get out vitamins, cut bananas for cereal, gather napkins from afar… and realize husband and daughter have already finished breakfast. Feel horridly motherish.

8:45a – 10:25a – Clean up from breakfast, sweep house, primp, re-sweep house after Natalie procures fresh dirt from her secret stockpile, run two loads of laundry, water flowers, sing forty-five verses of “Old MacDonald” (including the ever-popular elephant and kangaroo variations), dress Natalie, wipe Natalie’s nose 5,142 times (how did she manage to catch a cold in August?), clean Natalie’s room, wipe Natalie’s nose another 4,916 times, and sing on demand “the Elmo song,” “the Ernie song,” “the Bert song,” “the Barney song,” “the tomato song,” and “the broccoli song” (guess how many of those I actually know?).*

10:26a – 11:45a – “Mommy, you want to read a story?” Translation: “Mommy, I want you to read me every story we own, and then some more, until your vocal chords start making horrible grating noises. And then just one more, pleeeeeeease?”

11:46a – 12:35p – Let MP3 player take over Sesame Street Sing-along duties. Channel my inner Martha and prepare an unrecognizable form of chicken for lunch, using things like capers and fresh rosemary from my little balcony garden. Feel very impressive and Ratatouille.

12:36p – Wonder why I’m melting into puddles of sweat, steaming like a teakettle, and then evaporating when such pleasant, mild breezes are blowing through the windows. Wonder also why I find myself on the brink of starvation just half an hour before lunch. Fight the urge to consume a pre-lunch snack of everything in our cupboards. Conclude death is imminent.

12:40p – Remember I’m 7 months pregnant. Right.

12:45p – Put deliciously clean, sunshine-scented sheets on beds. Fight the overwhelming urge to nap for an hour or four (see above).

1:02p – Suddenly realize gourmet chicken contraption has been in oven for… a while. Discover it burnt, of course. On cue, polenta explodes all over stove and grievously injures my finger. Feel not so much like Martha Stewart, more like Mr. Bean.

1:15p – Welcome husband home for “Blackened Chicken Medley” and “Firecracker Polenta.” Enjoy lunch despite itself. Bravely conquer dishes despite wounded finger, and feel a little like William Wallace.

2:15p – Finally collapse onto lovely clean sheets to nap.

2:45p – Can’t.

2:50p – Dan, getting ready to go back to work, invites me to go with him to the electronics store tonight. Fondly reminisce about last night’s trip to the electronics store in which I inadvertently set off the store alarm and, in my consternation over our bus being 15 minutes late, left our bag at the bus stop, giving Dan the unique opportunity to run frantically through town in the dark to rescue our new telephone, which turned out not to be in its box in the first place. I opt to stay home.

3:00p – Settle onto couch with laptop and aspirations of grandeur. Nothing will stop me from writing this afternoon!

3:01p – Natalie wakes up crying and rubbing her head. Soothe, kiss, and put her back to sleep. Wonder mildly if she could have head lice.

3:10p – Wish I knew what lice looked like. Resist impulse to reawake Natalie and search every pore on her scalp.

3:14p – Start to feel terrified of couch, bed, own hair, and every other soft substance in our house. Wonder where one goes to buy industrial-strength gasoline in this town.

3:18p – Reflect that if bugs are found occupying heads of anyone in a 20-mile radius, I will surely die.

3:19 – 3:26p – Shudder violently.

3:27p – Tired, tired, tired from all this worrying. Doze off despite my newfound phobia of pillows. Firmly resolve to be up by 4:00. I will write this afternoon!

4:00p – Press snooze.

5:15p – Wake up. Stare at ceiling during that buffer zone between waking up and getting up in which I closely resemble the undead.

5:20p – Get up, though still a zombie. Snack: brains. I mean, popcorn.

5:30p – And coffee yogurt, because I’m adventurous like that. (And also because, despite the widely-known fact that coffee and yogurt should never mix, it’s spectacularly yummy.)

5:35p – And wafers, which are basically crisped air with vanilla creme filling, yet snacks nonetheless.

5:40p – Natalie: “Mommy, my head hurts!” (Rub, rub, rub.) Me: “Why does your head hurt?” Natalie, shrugging: “I don’t know anymore.” Call husband to see if the internet knows whether Natalie has lice or not.

5:55p – The internet isn’t sure but can tell me how to save 15% or more on my car insurance. So helpful.

6:10p – Give Natalie shampoo of the century. Remind her 46 times to stop drinking the bathwater (a favorite pastime of hers since her very first bath).

6:40p – Peel off her scalp and dissect it with the finest-toothed comb in modern history. Find nothing growing on it but hair. Rejoice!

6:50p – Wonder why else Natalie’s head would hurt. Can only think of leprosy. Feel slightly like House, M.D.

6:55p – Natalie starts chanting, “PLAYGROUND! PLAYGROUND! PLAYGROUND!” Am amazed that she remembers my promise of a trip to the playground from 9 hours ago, while I cannot seem to remember why my own stomach looks like a watermelon. Revisit fears that other moms will criticize, ostracize, and possibly throw gravel at me for not speaking perfect Italian.

7:00p – Look at Natalie’s bright, expectant little face, suck up my fears, and walk with her to playground. Natalie surveys the 803 other children running amok around all the exciting equipment and opts instead to sit in a pile of gravel already occupied by a little girl, her mother, and a plastic shovel (“I help play!”). Ask the mother if it is OK for us to join them, and she briefly says yes without looking up. Awkward silence ensues. Feel like a trespasser. Quite certain of being prosecuted.

7:15p – Hear mother speaking to daughter in… well, not-Italian (something closer to a coughing fit actually). Realize that I might not be the only foreigner in Italy. Realize that I might not be the only woman at the playground afraid of talking. Realize I’ve been wretchedly pathetic.

7:20p – 8:00p – Start a conversation with the other mother. Help Natalie make a new friend. Relax. Feel like Wonder Woman.

8:01p – Dan returns from non-disastrous (i.e. – wifeless) trip to electronics store, and we settle into our evening together. Am happy to be.


And The Emmy Goes To…

Natalie at breakfast: “Mommy, I want some yogurt.”
Me: “Sure! Just finish your toast.”
Natalie, vehemently shaking her head: “All done with toast! I want yogurt!”
Me: “I’d be happy to give you some yogurt as soon as you finish your toast.”

I failed to realize I was setting heinously cruel expectations for my little girl. After all, I happen to know she adores toast. Plus, even if her good-natured taste buds had unexpectedly changed in the middle of breakfast, she only had half a bite left. Slathered in her favorite strawberry jelly, no less.

At any rate, Natalie found my words unbearably harsh and became emotional. And by emotional, I mean wracked with heartbroken, life-is-over sobs, tears flooding down her little cheeks. I knew I couldn’t hand over the yogurt without creating one of those monsters children who scream and writhe in agony through grocery store aisles after their mothers refuse to buy them Sugar-Frosted Sugarbombs, but Natalie was a truly heart-wrenching sight.

Just when I thought I was going to start crying, she stopped, sighed wearily, and told me, “You’re hard, Mommy.” Battle over, she promptly ate her toast.

I passed over the yogurt in a mild state of shellshock, because — holy cow — the inconsolable weeping was fake? This girl deserves an Emmy for Best Breakfast Time Drama. And holy freaking COW, what am I going to do when she reaches puberty? [12-year-old Natalie at breakfast: “But Mom, I’m all done with milk! I want Jack Daniels!”] At least she’s realizing now that I’m a “hard,” relentless dictator who is devoid of human kindness and pity even when her daughter is in the [fake] depths of despair.



Insomnialus Maniacus

This is my fifth sleepless night in a week. If this doesn’t stop, I am sure to go legally insane and start biting people.*

I hate sitting down to write only because I have nothing else to do with my ADHD brain. I’d rather write from inspiration, or at least valiant work ethic. And I’d rather sleep at night.

I’m tired of being bullied by blank pages when I sit down to work. I’m tired of days ending abruptly and without closure, their tedium spilling over into each new morning. I’m tired of feeling like the only person on the planet who can’t manage to do simple things like sleep and be Martha Stewart.** Mostly, I’m just tired.

Anyone know a cure for insomnia/sporadic writer’s block/general slumpiness? I’m leaning towards warm milk spiked with LSD…

* Not necessarily in that order. ::Chomps at bit::

** Ornamental frozen napkin rings, anyone?


In Case I Felt Like Mopping…

Lesson of the Day:
When a monsoon hurricane carnivorous thunderstorm is raging outside, don’t leave all the windows open, reasoning that rain falls straight down and thus will not flood the house. Thunderstorms, it turns out, are not reasonable creatures.

Current mood: Wet
Mood of house: Pissed


Husbands Are Nice To Have

Snapshots Of A Husband After Four Years, One Month, And Eighteen Days Of Marriage

He makes me fabulous cappuccinos almost every day and sits down to enjoy each soul-warming sip with me. Looking back at my distress when we started dating and I discovered he did NOT LIKE COFFEE, I’m rather glad I married him anyway. ::Wink::

He can figure out in 2.5 seconds why I’m grumpy (the reason usually boils down to lack of food, lack of sleep, or lack of creative outlet) and prescribe a cure, all the while patiently disregarding my rampant snarliness. (And believe me, I can get ferocious when hungry…)

He draws pictures on my stomach of the baby (in a dress, of course, to distinguish that she’s a girl) saying “I LOVE MOMMY!”

Even after lying down for a nap, he somehow senses when I’m crying in the bathroom because I feel like a terrible mother. Within a few minutes, he can find my sense of value and my smile and gently put them back in place.

Just before we fall asleep at night, he smiles at me the same way he did when the church doors opened and I floated down the aisle in a shimmering white dress to promise the rest of my life to him.

He was more than worth that promise.


The Belly Nears Its Expiration Date

The moment I first suspected I was pregnant with Natalie, my stomach performed a complicated gymnastic maneuver and my mind fogged over. When I regained conscious thought, I could hardly stop worrying. Details like finding a doctor and buying maternity clothes seemed overwhelming because I wasn’t sure I’d even love Natalie when she came. Needless to say, the start of my first pregnancy wasn’t exactly the thrilling, Hallmark-worthy experience I had always imagined.

Along the way, though, excitement managed to sneak in between all the doubt. I felt Natalie move for the first time as the results from the 2004 presidential election were being broadcasted, and after that one tiny flutter, I wouldn’t have cared if the antichrist himself had been elected grand dictator of the previously free world. I fell in love with her long before her birth, but I still wished that the first weeks hadn’t been tainted by so much anxiety.

Enter my resolve to thoroughly enjoy this pregnancy. And I have enjoyed it, from the moment Dan’s smile told me we had our blue plus sign (I was too nervous to look for myself). It’s been so much easier, physically and emotionally, than last time, and I love the wriggly roundness in my belly that means our family is finally complete.

Lately, though, my pregnancy has been on the back burner of my mind. I suppose it could have something to do with moving three times in one summer, learning a new language, hanging out with a busy two-year-old, etc. At any rate, my stomach did another highly athletic move this week when I realized that we only have ten weeks before we meet our baby girl face to face (and quite possibly fewer, considering how early Natalie decided to make her appearance). Where in the world did time go?

While I have zero (0) clue how life will function with two little girls, I can’t wait to find out. I can’t wait to cuddle my newest daughter and watch my oldest learn how to love in a new way. I can’t wait to see my husband’s face glow even brighter as yet another female wraps herself around his heart. I can’t wait to tell people our baby’s name and have her warmly welcomed into the world.

Ten weeks…

::Deep breath. Smile::

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