Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We are in Telluride, Colorado right now staying with Jason's aunt and uncle at their slope side vacation home, and let me tell you, this has turned out to be one damned good vacation. One might question the wisdom in packing up an almost three-year-old, getting on a plane and travelling all day during holiday season whilst thirty-two weeks pregnant to stay at a place that, while breath takingly beautiful, is situated at 8,500 feet and taxing on already squished lungs. I have to say though, despite my reservations, this was a good idea.
When we left for the airport Saturday morning, Jason and I were prepared for the worst. That's just how we are. That way, we can be pleasantly surprised if things go okay. The Austin airport was almost deserted. We checked our giant, barely under fifty pounds bag - no problem. We went through security - no problem, though Jack was concerned initially that we weren't going to get our shoes back. The flight was on time and we boarded early with the other families with young children - no problem. The rest of the day of travel - transfer in Houston and shuttle from Montrose to Telluride - also went off without a hitch. There was no lost luggage. Jack only had to pee once on the airplane and was extremely entertained just looking out the window. It was truly amazing.
Since we've been here, Jason has gotten to ski and has enjoyed it more than he ever has before. Being able to ski in and out right out the front door of the house is a big plus. Jack has enjoyed sledding and playing in the snow, though I think his very favorite thing has been riding the gondola to and from town. I went on a snow shoe hike with Jason's cousin, who is also pregnant, and I did way better than I thought I would hiking up and down hills in the snow at this altitude. We had a little trouble sleeping the first couple of nights, due in part to Jack's coughing so hard he threw up in bed the first night. Now that we're all a bit acclimated to the altitude, though, we're sleeping better. Strangely, Jack has been taking naps every day since we've been here, which is what he's doing now, allowing me to write. Jason and I haven't gotten to spend as much time together as I'd like, since he's skiing and I'm not. I have got to get back up here sometime when I can ski, because it is so beautiful here, and there are a lot of nice long blue and green runs that go all the way to the top of the mountain.
I am so glad we came, because I have a feeling it's going to be a long time until we do something like this again. It's one thing to travel and vacation with one young kiddo and an entirely different thing with two. I think toting a baby along with Jack and all the accompanying gear may just tip the scales toward more trouble than it's worth.

P.S. I typed this on our brand new iPad, which i am still figuring out, so please excuse typos, misspellings and anything that doesn't make sense.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

To dance or not to dance...

Yesterday was Jack's first tap performance with his school.  I was hesitant at first to let him do it, because he tends to be shy and not like to perform, even when it's just me asking him to sing the ABC's in front of a well-known relative.  He seemed enthusiastic about it, though.  He was excited about our seeing his "train dance," and he'd been showing us pieces of it at home.  So, Saturday morning, we piled into the minivan and headed to the Mexican American Cultural Center for the show.  When we got there, I was relieved to see the room was relatively small and well-lit and there wasn't really a stage - just an area of the room flanked by screens where the kids would do their dances and folding chairs set up for the audience.  It seemed less intimidating than a giant auditorium with a stage and spotlights and whatnot.  Jack was all smiles.  I took him to where his fellow dancers were waiting in the second row of chairs in their matching overalls and train conductor hats.  They were all bouncing on and off the chairs and looking so cute together.  Jack sat with his classmates to wait their turn to dance.  He periodically turned around to check we were still there, seated about four rows behind him, and smile at us.  This is going well, I thought.
The boys had to wait about fifteen minutes until their turn to dance, and as the time passed, Jack began to look more and more worried.  Jason, I and my parents all smiled encouragingly at him every time he turned around, though, and he made no move to leave his row.  I went up to hug and reassure him a couple of times as well.  By the time it was their turn to perform, Jack looked teary eyed.  Jason was in place to video Jack's dance, which was all of about three minutes long.  As the train music started, Jack began to cry in earnest, but, bless his heart, he was still doing his best to do all the steps and moves.  He obviously knew them well.  As the longest three minutes of my life went by, I almost went up and got him several times.  I didn't though, because he was still trying so hard to do the dance, despite how upset he was.  It broke my heart.  By the time it was over, I had pushed my way to the front, near the dancers.  As the music ended and everyone clapped, I called Jack into my arms, where he buried his head in my chest and snuggled his blankie.  I felt horrible.  How could I subject my child, whom I know to be shy, to such torture when he's not even three years old?  I should have sat with him while he waited, despite the school's instructions that parents stay in the audience.  I should have stayed closer to the stage area during the performance so Jack could see me better.  I should have gone up and gotten him in the middle of the dance when it became obvious he was not going to calm down.  Maybe I shouldn't have had him do the damned show in the first place.
Jack sat on my lap for the rest of the dances.  The whole show was only twenty minutes long, and halfway through the dance right after his, he was practically standing on my lap to see the older kids doing a dance to "Singing in the Rain," with umbrellas.  He seemed perfectly fine, as he asked, "Why they have umbrellas?  It's not raining."  We went out to lunch after the show and got Jack his favorite - a chocolate milkshake.  He was happy and bouncy and talking our ears off like normal.  He did not seem scarred by the morning's event in the least.  We talked about the performance later, and Jack stated very calmly and matter-of-factly that he, "did not like all those mommas and daddies there."  He said, "It was hard."  I was glad he felt all right to talk about it, especially without getting upset about it again.  For Jason and I it was another matter, though.  As we talked later that evening, it turns out Jason felt much the same as I.  He was mad at himself for not going to get Jack during the performance when he seemed so upset.  Both of us still feel guilty about it, even though for Jack it's already ancient history.  I know I may never want to watch the video Jason shot.
The kids do another show in May, and I can tell you, we're going to do that one a lot differently.  First of all, I'm going to ask Jack if he wants to do it, point blank, instead of just gauging his level of enthusiasm.  And, I think I might encourage him to just go and watch the show, instead of dancing in it.  He loves tap and music so much.  I don't want him to start hating it because he dreads having to perform it.  It's not about the performance anyway; it's about learning to enjoy and appreciate the arts.  I do want to encourage him to come out of his shell and to honor his commitments, but he's not even three yet.  I don't want to do those things at the expense of his comfort and enjoyment of dance and the school experience.  So, in May, should he decide to do the performance again, I want to be right there to bail him out, should he change his mind at any point.  Even though I never want to be one of those moms who hovers over her child, not letting him make his own decisions and mistakes, I think in this case, maybe a little helicopter parenting is warranted. 
It's just so damned hard to know what the right thing is sometimes.  Yesterday, I thought I was giving Jack room to make his own decisions and experience his own life, when in the end, I think he needed a bit more guidance.  He needed someone to tell him it was okay if he was nervous and decided not to do it.  I think he felt like he had to go up there and dance, come hell or high water.  And, while that may be an all right sentiment while trying to teach your older child to follow through with what he has promised to do, for a preschooler, you should cut him a little slack.  I keep telling myself just to learn from this and stop beating myself up over what I could have done differently.  No parent is perfect, and Jack will bounce back from just about any error we make.  It seems guilt comes with the territory of being a parent, though.  All I know is, I better get over it, because I have a good eighteen plus more years of parenting mistakes to make, and the guilt from those could crush a momma.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas "Fun"

This will likely be my last blog before Christmas, and I wouldn't be shocked if it were the last before the baby is born.  I had all this fun stuff planned for these weeks before the holidays - social events, shopping, neat crafts for Jack and I to do at home and of course blogging.  Yesterday, however, I realized as fun as all this stuff sounds, I don't have the energy to enjoy it all.  After "quiet time" yesterday (I can no longer even pretend it's nap time) we set out to make Oreo balls.  Jack was excited about it, and so was I.  I'm not a big fan of cooking, but I love to bake.  And Oreo balls only have three ingredients, so they're pretty simple.
We started at three o-clock with plenty of time before bath at five.  I began chopping Oreos in the blender.  That didn't work so well, so I transferred them to my small chopper, which ground the cookies with marginally better results.  Since the chopper is small, I had to do five or six different batches of chopping and dumping into a bowl.  Then, I tried to blend the cream cheese with the Oreo crumbs with the same blender that failed me the first time - no dice.  I chunked the blender into the sink and got out my heavy-duty KitchenAid mixer.  Why I didn't start with the mixer is beyond me.  I'm claiming pregnancy brain.  In doing so, however, I had a flash to the last time I made Oreo balls two years ago.  I had a sneaking suspicion I went through the same song and dance with multiple kitchen appliances then.  By the way, Jack really enjoyed "helping" throughout all this, since his main task was periodically sampling the Oreos, which he'd never had before yesterday.
So I finally got the Oreo crumbs thouroughly blended with the cream cheese - never thought mixing two ingredients could be so time consuming.
Now it was time to roll the entire bowl of dough into roughly one-inch diameter balls.  My back ached.  I sighed and dug in.  Jack helped make two more or less log-shaped "balls" before he lost interest and ran off to the play room.  It took me the better part of an hour to roll around 130 little Oreo balls.  I did transfer everything to the dining table halfway though in an attempt to save my back, but I'm not sure it helped much.  When I finally got all the balls done and into the fridge to chill and the kitchen cleaned up, it was 4:55 - five minutes til bath time.  I couldn't believe how long it had taken and how exhausted I felt.  After all, most of us don't consider baking an exercise of physical endurance.  And I still had to melt white chocolate for coating the balls, something I still haven't done, twenty-four hours later.  I spent that last five minutes before bath cuddling on the couch with Jack before I begrudgingly  dragged us upstairs to start the bath/dinner/bed routine.  I could have easily sat there on the couch for another hour or so, but with no nap these days, if we don't start bath at five o'clock and get Jack in bed by 7:30, bad things start to happen.
As a result of the Oreo ball experience and my subsequent exhaustion and crankiness, I've decided to cut a lot of unnecessary things off my "to do before Christmas" list.  I thought I'd rather enjoy our last holiday with only one child than make myself miserable cramming in all the "fun" stuff.  So if  I don't show up at your holiday gathering, get you a gift or even talk to you for the next several months, no offense intended.  I'm probably napping.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Tribute

The week before Thanksgiving, I was at my parents house with Jack when my dad got a phone call.  His mother had died.  It came as a shock to my dad and the rest of the family.  She was eighty-three years old but still living in her house, taking care of herself and even volunteering at the hospital each week.  She wasn't sick at all.
We all went to Dallas that weekend for the service - my aunts, uncles and cousins.  My family handled the next several days in a way that was beautifully balanced between sadness and celebration.  This is one thing I love about them.  They have the heart-warming ability to tend to the practical business of death without ignoring the pain everyone feels and the tears that need to be shed.  And there is still a sense of gladness we are all together, still jokes to be made and laughter to share in the midst of grief.  In the spirit of this ability to celebrate, I'd like to dedicate this writing to my grandmother, June Saint Germain Coover, and all that she was in life.

It didn't really hit me that she was gone until Friday night, when Jason took my cousins and mom to the airport to pick up my sister.  I was alone in her house, with Jack asleep in the bedroom.  I walked around and looked at all of the things I had seen countless times throughout childhood in visits to my grandmother's house - the shells on the window sill in the bathroom, the tiny african violets in the kitchen, the blue and white china dinner dishes.  But what really got to me was her sewing room.  I saw neatly folded fabrics, meticulously labeled with type, number of yards and whether or not she had washed it.  Laid out on a table, I saw a pattern for a skirt with fabric and lace trim obviously meant for that pattern.  I could tell she had intended to make the skirt for herself.  That's when I really felt how abruptly she had gone.  She had all of these things she intended to do that would now never be completed.  I was much more hesitant to disturb the fabric and pattern than other things in the house.  It was as if I still expected her to come back and finish it, and I didn't want to disarray it for her.  I think that sentiment ran throughout the family, too.  Later that weekend, my dad found an incomplete "to do" list in the study.  He held it up and exclaimed, "She can't leave us yet.  She hasn't finished this list!"
When you look through the house, you can see a little of who my grandmother was, but things do not tell a person's true, complete story.  I did not spend a lot of time with her as an adult, but as a child growing up living thirty minutes from her house, we went over there on a regular basis.  Here is what I remember about her:
I remember her "tee-hee" laugh.  It was almost like a cartoon grandmother laugh, and I thought it was cute even when I was five years old.  I remember when I'd stay with her, she'd let me put sugar on my cereal and we'd have ding-dongs for dessert - things we didn't do at home. But, it was only one spoonful of sugar and only one ding-dong.  June Coover liked sweets, but she was all about self-control and reasonable limits.  I remember there used to be a swing that hung from the huge sicamore tree in her front yard.  It was the kind made out of a board and two ropes, like something out of a fairy tale.  I'd swing on that swing and look at the white ceramic cats on the roof of the house across the street, wondering if they were real, watching for them to move.  I remember my grandmother's love of dogs and babies.  Both seemed to gravitate towards her instinctively.  Fussy babies instantly slept on her bosom, and dogs were all wags around her.  She had a beagle named Tex when I was really young.  That dog wore a path in the grass where he walked the same route around the house every day.  Later, she had a golden retriever named Lilly.  I remember helping Grandmother bathe her and brush her and the big fluffs of golden hair that would drift across the lawn afterward.  My grandmother loved to swim.  I remember when she finally got an in-ground pool in the back yard.  She got in that pool to exercise or to relax.  We spent many a birthday, and fourth of July over there swimming in that pool.  The whole family would get together and cook out hot dogs and hamburgers.  We kids (and some adults too) would fill up water balloons and have a blast breaking them all over the place.

I remember my grandmother as a warm, loving person.  She indulged her grandchildren to some extent but never to the point of gluttony.  She was fun.  She always had great toys and books at her house.  She knew what children liked.  She had her rules, though.  There was a bedtime, even at her house, and toys were to be picked up and put away when you finished with them.  She was a disciplined, organized person.  I imagine that's how she managed to raise four children for a time at least, in a two bedroom one bathroom house without totally losing her sanity.  My grandmother worked hard for a lot of her life, and she didn't complain.  She simply did what needed doing and still managed to be a pleasant person, to boot.  Circumstances that would have made a lot of people bitter, did not seem to affect her spirit much at all.  Hardship that might have given her an excuse to lie down and not "do" did nothing of the sort.  Her concern for others - her children, her family, her community - often superseded her attention to herself.  Several times since her death three weeks ago, I've heard people say she was a saint. And, while I try not to deify those that have passed away (after all, no matter how wonderful they were, they were still human with faults like the rest of us) in this case, I tend to agree.  I am not a religious person, and I don't know what the qualifications for sainthood are, but my grandmother surely hit close to the mark.  Only once in my life did I hear her say something even remotely negative about another person.  And while I know she wasn't perfect, I think she truly strived to see the good in all people.  I think she honestly and pervasively worked to be nonjudgmental of others.  Through her work at her church and the hospital, she put her beliefs into action, something so few of us do, but she did not pontificate or preach at people.  In that way, she was a woman of action. 
I love and admire my grandmother - yes, I always oddly, formally called her "grandmother," while my younger cousins came up with the warmer moniker "Grammy June."  And even though as an adult, I only saw her a couple of times a year, I miss her.  I missed her at Thanksgiving, and I'm going to miss her next year when we all gather at the lake for the Fourth of July, but even now, here in my own house in Austin I miss her.  I miss the idea of her in the world, because it was a better place for her having been here.  This writing is not just for her, but for the whole family, because whomever she was to us - June, Mom, Grandmother, Grammy June - she can live on not just in our memories but in who we choose to be, in our actions that we learned from her.