Monday, June 28, 2010

Things I do Lately

Lately, we've been spending all our afternoons in the backyard with the water balloons.

I estimate I have filled upwards of 300 water balloons over the course of three days.

The girls call them 'eggs' or 'pets'. Ayla has figured out how to twist them so they have two bulbs. She draws eyes and mouths on them and calls them 'piggies' or 'baby birds'.

She doesn't remember when she was my baby bird, stretching that hungry mouth wide, rocking her weak little neck back and forth in search of food.

Lately I have been calling Indy "little traveler". Come here, little traveler. Let me hold you, little traveler. Here's your juice, little traveler. I don't know where this nickname came from. Ayla is, of course, "little bird".

I think because one day, I want my chickies to fly.

Lately I have been drinking way to many extra coffee caramel frappucinos. We're talking like, one every other day. The people at all the Starbucks in town, and the Daz Bog, know me by face. Some by name. They finally ask me what I'm studying. I quite nervously tell them I'm writing.

I downplay it. Oh, it's just my little habit. Something I do in my free time, you know, when I'm not with my kids.

I think if I was a man, I wouldn't play it off so lightly. Women are always afraid to take credit for our work.

You call yourselves crafters. You are artists. You call yourselves scrap-bookers. You are record keepers, memory holders, historians. You call yourselves 'just stay-at-home moms'. You are sculptors and authors of life. Of person. Of self.

Isabel Allende had four books published before she called herself 'Author'.

We should learn from that mistake.

Lately I go up and down, up and down. Let me tell you something: If you have the gall to ask the universe for possibility, you just might get it. New changes every day. The horizon expands and closes with each swell of the sea. You will bob relentlessly in your little boat. Don't feel bad when you grasp to the edge of the rail, sick, peering into the endless deep.

It is, after all, to be expected.

Lately I read a lot of smut, and it turns my brain to jello. And all I can think of, then, is Julia Roberts.

I'm gonna go ahead and be comfortable with my intellect jello. Call it a survival skill, if you will.

Lately, I just want to lay in bed with my warm little puppies and read them books. Ayla has discovered the pleasures of Junie B. Jones. This is to my unsurpassed delight. Junie B Jones rants about the 'stupid smelly bus' and the new 'dumb bunny baby'. She get's ticked if you forget her 'B', and she's pretty sure she can beat up that Jim. That Jim she hates. For the first time, Ayla sees herself reflected back to her in a character. What a miracle. That first connection: There is someone in the universe who knows me, who sees me, who IS me. Who holds facets of my self.

Reading is showing her, for the very first time, that she is not alone. Reading has named a truth of her life.

Who knew that Truth went by "Junie B."?

Right now Junie B. is to Ayla as Tori Amos is to me.

Lately, Noah and I are still trying to find a place to live.

Lately, I dream of vacations.

I reach a point where I have to remind myself that I can't just unravel, spool out, let every bad thing run loose in me and grow wild. I have to hold it together for my daughters. For my husband. Little Bird and Little Traveler are more important than my immediate needs. Than any of my immediate pain or discomfort.

If I let them, they will remind me that it's fleeting.

They do this from the moment they are born. They will cry with almighty gusto. They will unleash a hurricane the likes of which the world has never seen*, right inside your very own living room. Scream like they are calling down the terrible power of all the gods and goddesses of dark things, of pain, of wrath.

Then they will find it: Skin. Warmth. Breast. Succor. Love.

They don't waste another moment feeling sorry for themselves. They don't ask, why was I without food a moment ago? Why was I without love?

Goodness is offered and they take it in with total abandon.

They hold it now, and they are held.

They remind me: that's all that matters.

*Here I have paraphrased a line from Elizabeth: The Golden Age. As with all lines, it sounds much better when delivered by Cate Blanchett.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vesuvius At Home, This is Your Life

The girls wake me up at 6:30 am.

Usually this is Noah's shift, or at least Netflix's shift. In the entirety of our lives together before now, Noah has risen to go to work in the morning and ever since we have had kids, I have stayed home. Now, there are plenty of people out there willing to tell you how staying at home with kids is harder than things like being LA's district attorney or a NYPD officer, but it does have its advantages and one of them is that when the working parent leaves at, say, 7:30 am, you can put Spongebob Squarepants on Netflix instant watch and buy yourself an extra 25-50 minutes of dozing in bed. As long as you can doze through the screaming in the opening sequence and your kids don't decide to jump on your ribs screaming along with it. Which sometimes, they do.

Now everything has changed. The girls wake me up at 6:30 am, and Mr.V is sleeping next to me. And unless I want to be a ginormous and heartless douchetron, I have to ensure he stays sleeping. This is because Mr.V worked last night until after 2 am and didn't get home until 3. AM. As in 3.5 hours before the goblins wake up. And tonight he has to work until 1 am again.

Which means Mr. V must sleep and Vesuvius must rise.

I start out our first day of this new schedule with a dose of optimism under my early morning crankiness. (If you ever by chance come into contact with me right after I have woken up: Please leave me alone. It will be better for everyone--you know: you, me, the 'verse, the fifth dimension). Ayla wants pancakes so I make pancakes. I am cooking at 6:42 in the morning. As I whisk my krusteaz and water I try to ignore the creeping feeling that me cooking at 6:42 in the morning is probably the seventh horseman of the apocalypse. Death, disease, pestilence, Vesuvius at work before 9.

The girls want to help but I am too tired to allow it. I just want to mix and pour and flip the damn pancakes and get it over with so that the children can sit down and eat and I can have a few moments to gather my self, check my email, sit outside with a coffee. Be something other than mommy-me for just a few short moments during this day. If you want to call me a bad mother for this, well, go ahead.

I've been called it before. (Mostly by my own Inner Voice, but still).

Somehow, even though the little darlings dump copious amounts of powdered sugar all over their plates and each eat one out of the four pancakes I serve them, we make it through the morning. We sit in the back yard and the Destroyers only try to destroy each other maybe once or twice.

(Did I mention I am also trying to keep them quiet because there is a teenager sleeping on the couch?)

A bit before noon Mr. V rises and tells me I can flee to safe haven if I want.

At this point you are probably thinking I have nothing to complain about, and probably you are right. But just suspend your disbelief for a little while and bear with me.

Break time lasts about an hour and then Mr. V leaves for work.

We have put the girls down for a 'nap' and at this point, I am hoping to nap a little myself. But Ayla never naps anymore and Indy only occasionally. I put one of them in the basement and one of them in Grammy's room. Other people are home, so for privacy I go to my room and shut the door. This means that when the goblins get up from nap after ten minutes, I don't hear them. I don't hear them until they've raised a proper ruckus. They time the ruckus for the moment when I have just begun to doze off into sleep. Therefore snake-jawed mommy arises from her lair. But she is unable to vent her frustration because there are other people home. And if the other people see snake-jawed mommy spit fire and roar venom and the goblins, well, it might make everyone a little uncomfortable.

"Stay in your room," I say, doing my impression of stern. "Do not get up until I say you can. If you get up you will not get any treats or tv time for the rest of the day."

It doesn't work.

Around two we are ready to roll out of the house so that if I have to yell at the children, I can at least do it in private. We wait for about 45 minutes in my room. The girls watch tv and I mess around on facebook, dreaming of lattes and trying not to fall asleep on my keyboard.

You all, my lovely dear friends, are posting status updates about your lovely dear vacations. And don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge you your hard-earned rest, except--I do. I begin to think about how Mr. V would have had three weeks of paid vacation at his old job this year. And about how new job gives no, absolutely none, paid vacation. And about how we used to at least be able to send the darling dearests to grammy's for two, or sometimes a long four, day weekends. And now we can't even do that because we live with grammy and we have nowhere to escape to.

You read that right--I am feeling sorry for myself.

I just would like some time off so desperately much.

But there, my bourgeois privilege is showing.

After another 45 minutes the teenagers come back with the car and we are off.

I'll spare you the long version. Let's just say that while I hoped it would include this:

Cold, caffeinated beverages and some polite book browsing at Barnes and Noble; two grateful children pleasantly selecting movies at Blockbuster, a quick trip to the grocery store for a fresh and healthy dinner, a peaceful evening at home including nutritious meals and a little snuggle in bed with a book time, bath, clean, pink cheeked children tired from their day and ready to let mommy have a rest at about 8 pm--

It did not.

Ah, what fools we mortals be!

Multiple trips to the bathroom and stubborn displays of dominance including foot stomping, screaming, throwing, and declarations of parental hatred (as in "You're so stupid! I hate you mom!") were about all I got.

The guy at Blockbuster took one look at me and said, "Are you ok? You look exhausted". And for once, this remark made me feel not prickly but deeply, deeply gratified.

See, Universe? Even Blockbuster guy can see I need a break!

When I am hungry my temper turns murderous and when I'm tired I get weepy. I leaked a few tears in the car and dragged our sweaty, cranky selves into Chick-fil-A around 6:30 pm because at this point, I had lost all will to actually cook a healthy meal--a task that would also involve being pleasantly social with whoever might be home in the kitchen, something else I was simply not up to. I'm hoping the girls can play for about an hour and I can get them home with only enough time to brush teeth and go to bed.

The girls eat a few bites and go off to play. I gratefully open my book. Right now I am reading a fantasy novel that is, it must be said, a little bit smutty. Obviously I Can. Not. Put. It down.

(Ask yourself this: Would you be reading Pynchon if Chick-fil-A was the only place you ever got to read?)

In less time than it takes me to read one page, the girls are back. Except they aren't eating. They are kicking the seats, fighting over toys and straws, playing with the blinds in the window, knocking over the carnations on the table.

My commands for them to shape up or ship out are met with tongues stuck out, more kicks to the table, and loud exclamations of "NO!".

I haul my naughty soldiers home.

At after nine pm, they are still not asleep.

I send Mr. V an 'I am in hell' sort of text and he mistakes it for a 'I am feeling flirtatious' kind of text and I'm too cranky to even laugh about it.

(There's a fun riddle: Guess what the text said.)

I drink a beer even though I'm so tired I don't even feel like drinking a beer.

(If drinking when you are too tired to drink is a sign you may have a drinking problem, I'd really rather not hear it).

Ten pm. The goblins are sleeping. At long, long last. I get in 45 minutes of smut. I look at my beautiful Ayla, sweet-faced and peaceful on the floor (don't ask). I hear my restless-sleeping Indy knocking against the other side of my wall from her bed. I don't fall into any kind of amnesiac illusions about how great it would be to have another child. I am not flooded with endorphins or feelings of universal goodwill.

But it does ease my aching, tired heart. Just enough.

45 minutes of reading has been way too long. The girls will be up in 7 hours and 45 minutes. It will take me at least 30 minutes to fall asleep. If 7 hours of sleep a night is enough for you, you just might be a better parent than me.

I do best on nine.

I don't know why it is, but this day rather than everything else is what makes me lose heart.

I fall asleep dreaming of my old life . . .

. . . the girls wake me up at 6:11 am.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dear Friends, Dear Husband


Dear Friends,

The funny thing about sharing parts of your life story on the interwebs is that you start to feel like you owe people updates.

So in the end, it went like this: Mr. V did not fly to Scotland.

I am sad.

But Mr. V DID get a job as a brewer at Oskar Blues brewery, who asked him not to fly to Scotland after all because they couldn't spare him.

And I am so, so proud of him.

I wanted to--ahem--go public with this news when I had a picture of Mr.V that would display to you him in all his Brewer glory. In my mind Mr. V was wearing a shirt that said, you know--BREWER--in white on black, and he was wearing his brown wellies (which I do find most attractive) and holding up a sack of hops or some other brewing paraphernalia like a fisherman with a good catch.

But life is crazy, so you will just have to picture that in your head.

At this point in the blog I would like to invite you all to grab that can of Dale's Pale Ale or Mamma's Little Yella Pils--what? You don't have it on hand? Well go buy some--and take a sip of that gods-wrought beverage, and think a little thought of Mr. V. Who is currently, I don't know. Mashing some tun or adding the wort or pouring in the grains.

And when you drive through Longmont and the sweet scent of hops are in the air, well. Think again of my Mr. Vesuvius.

Dear Mr.V:

I am sad you are not in Scotland. But I am glad you were here on my birthday to buy me expensive Indian food and delicious gelato, to drive me home in the rain and put the little Ladies of Destruction to bed. And I am glad for the present of shopping at Anthropology without aforementioned Ladies. Even though we fought in the kitchen while my family politely pretended not to hear. We are both under a lot of strain. And right now I am really wishing you would come home because the goblins are in the room next door raising a right unholy ruckus and I'm about to go all snake-jawed on them. Again.

I mean don't get me wrong, I am filled with a joy that is beyond description to have the two little terrors in my life.

It's just that I prefer wrangling them with you by my side.

I will go anywhere to keep you by it.

Even Longmont.

(And if that does not attest to love, I ask ye mortals: what will?)


Vesuvius Of The Water Balloons and Eternal Exhaustion and Refreshing Alcoholic Drinks

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gonna Have a Good Time


Today is my birthday

and I would like to thank

Meine mutti and meine vater.

For bringing me into this world 29 years ago today.

And for raising me right.

For teaching me to say please, and to write those infernal thank you notes.

For teaching me I am smart.

For telling me I am beautiful.

For taking me to art museums and theater in the park and camping and that one time my dad and I saw the Nuggets play the Utah Jazz.

And we ate pizza hut.

And even for doing things like taking me to see Billy Graham and the opening of the new Focus on the Family facilities in Colorado Springs (even though now in my adulthood I should not be left alone in a room with Dr. Dobson) and purchasing me subscriptions to Brio but also to Seventeen.

For the birthday where you gave me a copy of Seventeen magazine and fancy chocolate mints in the pretty tin.

And the ones where my dad tossed me in the Eisenhower pool.

And the ones where everyone broke their wrists at Skate City.

For the cake that looked like the dog.

And the one I decorated myself that read "Happy Brittany Birthday!"

For letting me spend all summer long laying in my bed not doing a damn thing other than reading and wishing.

For teaching me to think and for teaching me to dream.

I would like to thank my sister too.

For twirling my hair.

Acting in the stupid plays I wrote.

Always playing Stephanie and letting me be D. J.

(Remember the pillow people?)

For listening to Save Ferris and Dr Jones, Jones, calling Dr Jones. Too loud, that one time the summer before I left for college and mom and dad were gone. We were both a little afraid we'd never see each other again.

But we did.

For making me believe that I was someone to be looked up to. (Even when I'm sure I wasn't.)

For getting mad when people were mean to me and writing in you diary how you hated Courtney and wanted to kill her and stab her with a Nife.

I forgive you for stealing my diary and I even forgive dad for reading it to you.

Can I say that I am happy today with who I am without it sounding prideful?

The point is, I have all of you--

---all of it, all of these past 29 years--

To thank.

Love You.


PS For my birthday I am wishing for Indian food and gelato. So far my chances look pretty good.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mia zuppa è molto freddo e disgustoso!

I have this thing about Italy.

It started maybe three or four summers back when I read Eat Pray Love. Which is a really wonderful book and not just for chicks. Just because it was written by a woman, who isn't Joan Didion, about herself doesn't mean it's just for chicks, ok?

If I am on any kind of spiritual journey, it was started by Eat Pray Love.

I wanted to do all the things Liz (I affectionately call her) does in the book--travel to India and stay in an ashram, hop a flight to Bali and get to know some sweet but wily locals, make friends with an ethereal Swedish beauty.

But mostly I wanted to eat the pasta.

And the bread.

And definitely the gelato.

Before I read Eat Pray Love, I had read Under the Tuscan Sun. Please don't think of the movie when you read this book. The book is a woman's memoir of traveling back and forth between Tuscany and the US with her husband, renovating a house they bought on impulse in the Italian countryside. It has nothing to do with bus tours for all the single ladies, or men that drop by to kill scorpions and put back in order that life you have ruined with all your hysterical estrogenic fumblings.

The book is also about things like taking your own olives in to rustic Italiano farmers to be pressed for oil, and walking down a dusty Etruscan road (I don't really know they're Etruscan, I just couldn't use the word 'Roman' here because I'm going to use it again in a minute) every day to buy cheese that was made that day and bread that was just baked and oh yeah, on Christmas Eve it seems all the Italians in Tuscany roam about the palazzo, which is lit-up like a carnival tent, drinking strong spirits and eating roasted nuts and laughing with one another and just in general being so. Damn. Italian.

I had never really thought of Italy as a place I dearly wanted to go. When I think if Italy, I think of reds and oranges, and those aren't really my colors. I think of dry and dusty too, and heat. Not really my specialty. I am Nordic, ok? I am meant to be staring out at a stormy gray sea with my flaxen hair floating in the breeze.

I also think of vaguely smarmy, dimly lit Italian restaurants and cheesy music and the smell of burnt garlic.

Napoli e napola e napoli e napola! Dat's a spicey-uh meatboll!

But I felt pulled there in a way I couldn't explain.

(Well ok. There is actually a lot to explain the pull. Let's just start with the art. We'll take our time moving on from there.)

I knew I couldn't go to Italy, so I made some rather lame attempts to capture the Italian spirit in my own life.

This involved mainly things like laying in bed til ten, drinking wine with my morning coffee, taking a two hour nap in the midday heat, staying in bed to read historical fiction books about the Medicis and the Italian Renaissance, eating right to bursting every night, working on my Liz Lemon Italian accent (I like-uh to make-uh de prrranka phone coll!) and telling my husband my new found sloth was not actually that. I was just being in Rome, ok?

I asked my parents for at Italian-themed birthday. We ate pizza and drank sangria (which I guess is actually Spanish?) and my parents bought me an expensive slice of tiramisu from the molto authentico Italiano Tony's Meat Market.

Like Liz Gilbert, I also started learning to speak Italian. I checked out the cd's from the library and listened to them on my way to work, trying to learn to roll my r's. And I did rather well, thank you very much. I can tell any Italian the very useful "Mio marito e Italiano" (which means "My husband is Italian!") (thanks to my high school Spanish, it sounds to me like I'm saying "My little husband is Italian!" but I don't think the language tape people would want to play that kind of prank on me).

Also if you ask me where I'm from, I can say: "Di Denver". The example on the cd's actually used Denver. Maybe they thought it sounded better with an Italian accent than "Di Cincinatti" or "Di Fargo".

I do remember some of the lovely alphabet. The Italians utter no clumsy "dubble yew". Rather, they say "doppio vou". Then there is the wonderfully Romanesque 'zeta' for 'zee'.

As you can see, I am quite an achiever. (I can also tell you that "A Chevrolet is an American car!" in French, and can inform you that I am Japanese--admittedly with more gusto that accuracy).

(For those of you interested: if you try to learn to speak Swedish by cd, you are taught to say things like "Waiter! My soup is cold!" and "Take this back immediately! This is not what I ordered!" Also, how to ask to speak to the manger. I guess when traveling to Sweden your main concern should be poor restaurant service.)

After my toga party-esque foray into Italian culture, I sort of forgot about all things Roman for awhile.

But the heart wants what the heart wants.
And it doesn't forget.

So I turn to my husband, after some real deep thinking, and say:

"When I publish my book, and when I have money of my own, I want us to travel to Tuscany and live there for a year."

And he says, "Ok."

And then he says, "Italy is pretty much the one place in the world I have no desire to see."


Fancy that.

I sip my sangria and hand him my well-worn copy of Liz.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Too Soon To Tell

"Wife," says Husband. "I find I must needs travel to Scotland for two weeks in order to better our lives together."

"Hmmm," says I. I am kneading my dough like a proper house woman. Next I shall be pounding dirt out of frocks with stones in a courtyard fountain. "I suppose this venture will be filled only with sweat and hard work, and surely not many visits to whisky distilleries and breweries that craft beer with a 41 percent alcohol content."

"Surely not," says he, as he dons his dapper cap and ties the laces on his newly shined boots. "No more than it shall include visits to peerside doxies on the shores of the Thames, nor gluttony and revelry among all the goodly pubfoods and football fans merry olde England has to offer."

"It shall be well, then," says I. "You shall travel to the labyrinthine streets of London and the bonnie olde highlands of Scotland, leaving me here with the babes and the laundry and me own bookshoppe work and this cursed dough that requires constant kneading."

And that is, more or less, how it happened.

I told Noah to apply for a job in India, and then the next day he tells me Brew Dog in Scotland has invited him out for two weeks.

And would I move to Scotland, if we had the chance?


And do I think we will be moving to Scotland?

Probably not.

A week ago Mr. V got the offer, and I spun like a planet knocked out of a treacherous orbit. Revolving madly on hope and possibility.

I have long time dreamed of being an ex-pat.

And if I want to live off 'maybe' like a drug, well, who can prove it does me harm?

Mr. V hates the maybe.

Me, I grow expansive. I am a daydreamer with ambition. An idealist who believes my own fantasies can become real.

I researched the United Kingdom's immigration laws.

Pictured life in a small town on the Scottish coast.

Started figuring out how to get Mr. V a UK work visa.

Checked out books by Iain Banks and Diana Gabaldon.

Hope and action go hand-in-hand for me.

And that, more than anything, gives me--

well. You know.

Now I am thinking that we probably won't be moving to Scotland. But--they only get two hours of daylight in January, did you know?

Yeah. F you, Scotland. You and your lochs and your whiskies and your land of eternal night.

We might have found a reason to settle here for a bit. And then again, we might not have. (Poor Mr.V)

I'll be a little sad if we don't move to Scotland. For a few days I may even mope.

And then, this little daydream believer will just keep bouncing around in the roulette machine that her life seems to have become, and wonder:

What next?

(That is, right after she fetches her poor Mr. V, who thrives on routine and order and predictability, a very large brandy).

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