Not That Girl

Ev'ry so often we long to steal
To the land of what-might-have-been
But that doesn't soften the ache we feel
When reality sets back in

lyrics from the musical Wicked


What next?

We like to put our kids in things. We put Celia in a pumpkin for her first Halloween, and in a gift bag for her first birthday. We've shared shots of Tucker on a scale and in our Betz crock. It's funny now and perhaps the pictures will embarrass Tucker later... We have some ideas for future props, but would love for this post to help us generate more. We know we have some very creative readers out there and we invite you to chime in (or e-mail us!) with suggestions as to what else we could put him in... preferably something cute and embarrassing!


Math Lessons

If I were teaching, I might formulate a little end-of-the-year lesson plan with my camera. The ten-year-olds always want to bring their cameras these last few days of school... why not create a good excuse for them to do just that? There's lots of math involved in picture taking - lens length and shutter speed, and opportunities to discuss angles, perspective and scale.
We could use our cameras to capture objects at the same distance to calculate the height of an unknown object. I bet the kids wouldn't even know they were doing math! I look forward to time in the classroom again someday. Right now, though, I cherish time at home.
We have lots of super photographs of Celia's first couple years. And we've already captured several good pictures of Tucker. But for each additional child, we've discovered, the statistical probability of getting a good photograph -of them together- decreases by ten orders of magnitude. At least.
But I like this one. This one's a keeper. I like it because Andy took it, and because Celia and Tucker are in it. I like anything that involves Andy and Celia and Tucker. So, I like this photo. It's like a equals b and b equals c...


Thomas and Friends

Or, Tucker and trains. Or Tummy time. Whatever you want to call this photo, it's cute. And quite frankly, our Little Tommy Tucker (as his great Uncle Danny calls him) is way more entertaining than that cartoon train Thomas...

So far, Uncle Danny (who's eighty-something, living in Palm Springs, adorable as ever) is the only one allowed to refer to Tucker by any sort of nickname. Andy is adamant that Tucker is his nickname, and that he doesn't need any others. I'm partial to Kentucky, but Andy thinks that's stupid. He abhors "Tucky". Lots of people have tried "Tuckster", although Andy insists that Tucker is cool enough, that two extra letters doesn't make it any cooler. But Uncle Danny has good taste. He's always been ahead of his time. And, Uncle Danny can get away with a good bit. Afterall, he carried a purse at his sister's wedding, back in the seventies. So if that's what Uncle Danny wants to call him, Little Tommy Tucker it is!



Enjoying the Fruits of our Neighbors

We love it here. For lots of reasons. Not the least of which is our neighbors. Around Easter, the little girl across the street baked and delivered iced holiday cookies, and on a day that we needed a pick-me-up, the sugar, and her sweet smile, worked wonders. And our next door neighbor has been an incredible source of information and inspiration. She works for the county, and has hooked Celia up with some of the best therapists around. As a technology guru and speech therapist herself, she knows everything there is to know about adaptive technology; she prolonged Celia's enjoyment of several favorite toys by sharing a switch activator, and has found numerous things for us to try with Celia to keep her engaged and content. One door down from her, the entire family has pitched in... the first time they mowed our lawn we were away, and although we appreciated the mysterious good deed, we hated not knowing whom we could thank. Since then, we've caught them outside on several occasions, mowing, trimming, edging, bagging... caring for our yard as if it were their own. Across the street, Colby's been invited to attend doggie day camp with two of his best canine buds this summer, in their big, green backyard. Colbs is most excited about the kiddie pool the neighbor dogs have promised to share with him, and we're thrilled thinking we'll get a break from his nails clicking on the hardwood as he follows us around all day...
One evening last week when we were without a computer, we enjoyed spending time in the rocking chairs on the front porch (remember when we pledged to do that more often after the power outage last fall?), and we talked about how much we love it here, how grateful we are to be surrounded by so many good people. We looked out across the yard, and beyond, and appreciated the fruits of our neighbors. Even more, though, we appreciate our neighbors themselves and the kindnesses they've shown. Our family is thriving, due in large part to so many who have, literally and figuratively, fed and watered us, who have, through their labor, allowed us extra time to nurture our own little saplings...




Our laptop is broken. Andy says at the hospital they have a downtime back-up plan, so when their computers don't work, the patients are okay. Unfortunately we don't have an alternative protocol to follow during downtime. Fortunately, none of our lives depend upon blogging or functioning computers. (We're currently visiting G 'Ro and using her computer to post this message.) We've been told it might take 7 - 10 days for repairs... so we won't be able to update our blog for awhile. Maybe I'll catch up with my laundry after all!



Observations from the Bottom of the Laundry Pile

Our house is messy. Don't get me wrong, we're still at least seven cats shy of a visit from the Health Inspector. We've made progress in the yard, planting flowers and cleaning the pond. We've worked on long-overdue thank you notes. We got some groceries in... We've taken time for fun things, too - a Justin Roberts musical concert for the little people, Vietnamese take-out dinner for the big people, a little hot tub time, pedicures, double stroller walks, wine on the front porch this evening... But we're running out of clean things to wear. We have some serious floordrobe issues. (You know, we wear clothes off the floor sometimes. You've done it.)
What I've observed though, is that life goes on. So our clothes are wrinkled and perhaps spit up on, so our house is dusty and dog-haired. Not such a big deal after all. Because there are bigger things to worry about, better things to do.
Still, the last thing I should be doing is updating the blog with photos and stories. But I couldn't resist sharing a couple photos from the weekend. And then I'll tackle the laundry...



Hammer Hammock Time

You can't touch this...


A little Longfellow

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead...
But this little girl has never, ever been even the tiniest bit horrid...


Mom's the Word

Well, it was this weekend anyway.

I’ve been a mother for over two years. Unfortunately, “Mama” was not one of the words Celia used to use, so no little people have actually ever called me Mom. Yet. (And except for when my fifth graders accidentally called me mom, which was always a flattering mistake, but one that doesn’t really count.) I’m still pretty new at this thing called motherhood. And to be perfectly honest, there are lots of times when I feel entirely under-qualified. I don’t insist on pockets in every pair of pants, for balling up tissues and collecting other paraphernalia, like my mom does. I don’t merge into traffic quite as cautiously and I don’t have a way of making every holiday feel extra special, like she can. I don't always stock the cabinets and fridge with everyone's favorite snack, or put the needs of everybody else before my own the way my mom continues to do.

Although, there are moments when I see my mother in me. When I lose track of time in a bookstore, she's there. I am my mom when I stock up on thank you notes and when I spritz the guest sheets with lavender linen spray, when I eat ice cream before bed and when I start a second project before the first one is complete. I know whose daughter I am when I find my nose in a book instead of my hands in the air during a football game. I see my mother in myself when I stand at the front of a classroom. And when I remind loved ones to wear seatbelts or sunscreen...

But there’s still a lot I need to work on. Truthfully, sometimes I find myself looking at the computer screen, or even the clock, when I should be watching my babies. But I know I’m not alone in my flaws. And I don’t expect perfection from myself, most of the time anyway. I’ve learned the best way to feel qualified is through practice and I'm finding myself a bit more confident each day. I hate to have to practice on these two small people though. They deserve a pro. But I am thankful that I get to spend time with these special souls. They’re a big help when it comes to making me a mom. I’d love them even if I didn't grow their hearts in mine, if they didn’t sleep across the hall, or we didn't share the very same last name. They're, obviously, what motivates me to keep trying. That, and I have a lot to live up to. My parents (step and in-law, too) are the people I want to be when I grow up. Mostly, anyway. I’m okay without all the pockets.



One day...

A Jewish proverb says "God could not be everywhere. That is why he made mothers."

One day a year to celebrate our mothers, wives, sisters (in-law) is ridiculous. The mothers I know deserve to be celebrated every day. Mothers love unconditionally. They work tirelessly. They give without hesitation or reservation. Most importantly they put up with their husbands and sons!

Mothers are not made they are born. Watching a mother be born and then born again with our children has been the most incredible transformation I have ever seen. Not unlike our Very Hungry Caterpillar stuck in her cocoon. The best part is that I get to see this beautiful butterfly fly each and every day.

Happy Mother's Day Jenni!



It could be argued that we were established circa 1982, when we were in preschool together, sharing our favorite Eeyore doll or playing side by side under the cots during nap time. Or, as fifth graders, on the farm - swimming in the river, riding wave runners and driving golf carts. Or on July 4th, the summer before our Junior year, watching fireworks, in the sky and in each others' eyes... all these things certainly contributed to a firm foundation.
Perhaps "Jenni and the Betz" was established as we sang and danced together, partners in Show Choir, and in crime (somewhere, there's a large stash of of road signs to show for that). Or, over the course of four years at different colleges, maybe the never-missed-a-weekend visits established us. Adopting a dog, committing to raising Colby together, may have had something to do with forming a stable base.
In 2002, our wedding made us all official like. Buying a home, constructing and finishing the basement, definitely helped us feel established. Adding two feet, and then adding two more... that's what really did it. Growing our family gives us kind of a settled feeling, a permanence. We've got a good little plot right here to live on...




Two months.

Two bright eyes, dark as the color of coffee. Two round brown buttons, rich as molasses. Beady, sparkling, full of adventure and perhaps a tinge of mischief.

Two years, two months.

Two copper-hued eyes, engaging as a good book. Two fiery discs, deep as still waters. Windows into her soul.

Two very lucky parents...



Look Who's Talking

and smiling and exercising eleventy seven other forms of absolute cuteness:



I know our family doesn't have the corner on suffering. Suffering is, unfortunately, universal. But hard as I try not to, some days I just feel sorry for myself, I'm sad, I hurt. And I know that's okay, that it's normal. Usually we're good at trying to put a positive spin on things. I don't feel like doing that right now. I just need to get the sad out. Sugar-coating feels so disingenuous at the moment.

I’d never thought much about bearing the pain of death. Maybe Easter brought it to my attention, maybe Celia did… regardless, it just wasn’t something I’d squandered much mental energy on. I read books on how to deal with the pain of giving birth. After surviving labor, the nurses asked, on a scale of one to ten, where my pain level fell. I kept saying two or three, thinking, although I hurt, there must be something worse. And Andy kept whispering in my ear, with all his patient care knowledge, that I needed to say I was in more pain, that it was higher on the scale, if I wanted any medicine. Now, when I think back (and I know, some of the memory of labor pain subsides, to kind of trick your body into thinking you can go through it all again) maybe I should have said zero. Because I don’t think the scale goes high enough to rank this kind of pain. It's deep. And I know there isn’t any medicine to help it subside. My head hurts. I try to empty it, to let my thoughts roam away from what I can’t stop thinking about. And my heart hurts worse. I know the heart is supposed to be a resilient muscle – it bends, it breaks, it mends, all in the job description. I thought my heart had been broken before. Now I wonder if my heart will ever feel whole again.

I know, she' still here, and we treasure every minute with her. But behind every happy minute is an undercurrent of worry, of sadness. How much will it hurt when she's gone? I try really hard not to allow myself to feel sad too much, but sometimes the yearning for what could have been seeps out of my heart and pools in a spot I can’t help but dive into. The waves of sadness lap at me, and occasionally they rear up high enough to wash over my head, pulling me under. Deep.

Eventually I resurface.

Wading into old memories helps.

A year ago, May 2008, under the tulip tree...