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By Robin Dearing
Friday, September 14, 2007
Summer ended just a little too quick. We weren't quite done with it yet — which is probably why I signed Margaret up for swimming lessons this month.
She just wasn't ready to hang up the ole swimsuit yet.
Of course, now the Lincoln Park Pool is closed, she's having to swim indoors at Orchard Mesa's pool, but she doesn't see to care.
So now we have twice weekly swim lessons dumped on after-school theater and piano lessons.
On the first day of class, we arrived just in time. As Mar got ready for her lessons, I fretted over our new hectic schedule. Why did I think that she needed yet another thing on her plate right now?
Then she was in the water with her two classmates and her instructor. She's learning the crawl stroke and her face was beaming. She was really having a good time.
Plus she's learning a valuable life tool. Being a strong swimmer is a good thing for a bunch of reasons, including you never know when you're going to find yourself stranded in a giant body of water (OK, maybe I've been watching too much "Man vs. Wild").
So, my weekday evenings have become a rhythm of traveling here and there for lessons and classes, sprinkled with homework and piano practice. I don't have time to unwind after work anymore, but seeing the joy and excitement on Margaret's face as she's learning new skills is enough for me.
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I have a fabulous nanny during the workweek. Both my girls adore her, she comes to our house, and she’s bilingual!
OK, so I’m talking about the nearly daily dose of Dora that occupies my girls in the mornings while I get ready for work.
I confess that I’m guilty of turning on the television or popping in a DVD in order to distract my girls while I try to work from home, especially with the heat wave we had in Nashville this summer preventing us from quality backyard play time.
Not surprising, two studies released this year have found that both television and
so-called educational DVDs for babies can be detrimental to a child's development.
I don’t know about you, but when I first introduced my girls to Baby Einstein videos as infants, it was out of a purely selfish need for a mental-health break, not to mention personal hygiene, as I was one missed shower shy of looking like a homeless person.
A study released earlier this month
purports that watching television more than two hours a day early in life can lead to attention problems later in adolescence. The link was established by a study of the habits and behaviors of more than 1,000 children born in Dunedin, New Zealand, between April 1972 and March 1973. The children, aged 5 to 11, watched an average of 2.05 hours of weekday television. From age 13 to 15, time spent in front of the tube rose to an average of 3.1 hours a day.
Another recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics
said that many educational DVDs marketed toward infants, such as Brainy Baby or Baby Einstein, may actually hinder language development.
Do parents really buy so-called “educational” baby DVDs thinking that they are really more beneficial than one-on-one stimulation such as sitting down to play blocks or curling up to read with them? As a busy working mom, kiddie videos and TV shows have been lifesavers when I've needed to distract the girls during a conference call, not to mention portable DVD players are wonderful for long road trips or sick days. But like anything, I think moderation is the key.
I’ve made an effort to replace TV time at our house with reading time, art projects and just turning on some fun music. But I’ll admit it’s nice to know that Dora is Tivo’d just in case I need her.
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I'm embarrassed to admit that my 84-year-old grandma is cleaning my kitchen right now. And I don't mean she's just doing some dishes.
She deemed my kitchen so dirty that she allotted a whole week of her month to come up here to Grand Junction and clean it.
It's a good thing I cleaned the carpets a few weeks ago or she really would have been horrified.
Yesterday she marched me into KMart — or rather Big K — and made me buy all the best cleaning products like AJAX and Formula 409.
She got up at 7:30 a.m. to start this nasty chore. I didn't even have to time to curl up for my five minutes of "me and Al Roker and a nice cup of coffee" time before she started banging and spraying and scrubbing.
Lord ... she must think I'm a total slob and in a lot of ways she's totally right. Her idea of clean is my ideal of clean which I never reach. I can put on a good illusion but she sees right through it.
I'm embarrassed and at the same time grateful that someone came to rescue me from never ending housework. No matter how hard I try there is some kind of down and dirty housecleaning that I can't ever seem to find the time to do but it still needs done.
Why? Oh yeah, because usually I'm changing diapers and cooking and shopping and paying bills and working at The Daily Sentinel.
By the end of the week my kitchen is going to be so clean that you could have your appendix removed right on my kitchen counter.
I think I'll just stop using the stove so that it just stays immaculate because it's pretty unlikely that it will ever be this clean again.
Last night she was telling me about how the doctor used to tell her to give her babies canned evaporated milk. You know, that kind you make pumpkin pie with. And one of them got really sick ... uh, yeah ... but maybe I should be giving Jonas some of that because he's crying too much.
Wow, it sure is different the way children are raised compared to the ’50s. It's a wonder any of baby boomers lived. Evaporated milk!!!
Anyways ... I guess I'd better watch and learn how to deep down clean. Besides the oven cleaner has been sitting for EXACTLY TWO HOURS she's informed me and it's time to wash it off. I just can't in good conscience let her do it all by herself.
But, "thank God for grandmothers" is all I have to say.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I posted this entry last year on this day. The feelings are still as raw six years later as they were then. I encourage you to attend one of the events taking place today to mark this day, or at the very least send up a prayer.
I’m excited and happy today because my sister is coming to visit. Last time I saw her, she was hugely pregnant with her second baby. Today she is flying in from Boston out of Logan airport. Her carry-on luggage consists of Max, age 3, and her new 5 month-old baby, Sam. Their plane took off about 20 minutes ago.
In a few minutes I have to rouse Alex from bed to get ready to catch the bus for another day of 5th grade. I’ve already showered, and I’m pouring my coffee when the phone rings.
“Did you see the news?” my mom asks. “Turn on the TV.”
I click it on and struggle to focus. When I do, the world as I know it comes to a screeching halt.
My family is from “back east”. I went to college in Albany - just a couple hours drive from the Big Apple. Another sister lived in Yonkers and worked in Manhattan, as did many of her friends and husband’s relatives. A couple of my friends were working in Manhattan too.
“What the hell? It’s the Twin Towers!”
“They don’t know what happened yet.”
“Geez, it looks really bad! What time are you and dad leaving to pick up Deanne from Denver?”
“In about half an hour. Their plane doesn’t get in until this afternoon.”
“OK. Have a safe trip.”
We used to go to New York at least once a year. Never went to the Statue of Liberty, though. Too touristy. We hung out at Rockefeller Center, went to Little Italy for real cannolis, cruised Chinatown, stood in line for cheap tickets to Broadway plays, avoided Times Square and taking the subway.
I dial my parent’s phone number.
“Hey! They think somebody flew a plane into the building! Oh my God! Did you see that? One just went in to the other tower!”
“Oh my God! Oh my God!”
“I’m gonna call the newsroom to see if they know anything.”
My heart is beating so fast. I can’t breathe. My hands are shaking so badly I have trouble dialing the number.
“Hey Kathy. It’s Lynn. Do you guys know what’s going on? My sister is flying in from Boston this morning with her babies.”
This can’t be happening, I think. This doesn’t happen to us. Not stuff like this.
“OK,” she says slowly, deliberately. “Do you know what airlines she was on?”
My stomach lurches. Why would that be important? Why is she asking me that? Think, damn it, think.
“I think it was United.”
I will always admire and be grateful for the way Kathy sensed my mounting
hysteria and struggled with answering my question. I will never forget what she said next.
“They think some planes were hijacked by terrorists. They’re not sure which airlines, but one of them left out of Boston at about 9:15.”
About the time Deanne’s plane left.
I hang up and stand in the middle of my bedroom. I am numb. Almost paralyzed. “This can’t be happening,” I repeat over and over.
My sister. Her babies.
In the few minutes it takes to get Alex to the bus, the news is coming fast and furious. We had a vague idea of what happened. Two planes, two towers. Another plane crashed into a field somewhere.
“Mom, did you try and call Deanne?”
“I tried her cell phone. There’s no service. What did they say at the Sentinel?”
How do you find the words to say it? If you say it will it make it real? How do you wrap your mind around believing you just saw your sister and your two nephews blown into tiny pieces across the Manhattan skyline?
“I’m coming over.”
Somebody please! What the hell is happening?
My mom calls and says she’s going to a neighbor’s. I meet her there. She and dad are dressed and ready to leave for Denver to meet the plane.
“Oh my God! The tower just collapsed! Oh my God! What is happening? Where are my babies?”
Those words came out of my mother’s mouth. They were ripped out of the mouths and hearts of more than 3,000 mothers that day.
Where are my babies?
Many, too many, left behind babies they never saw, didn’t even know they were going to have.
By the grace of God, my sister and her babies were not on that plane. They had seats on the next one out, scheduled to leave twenty minutes later. She finally got a call out to say they were safe. The kids were okay. Max was eating pizza. Twenty minutes.
A few days later the e-mails started coming. The first college classmate missing. The second, a third, then a fourth. The messages kept coming. Then they got worse. Remains identified. Bodies recovered. Funerals pending.
The chaplain at my college and the chaplain then for the F.D.N.Y, Father Mychal Judge, the first to die when he was struck by debris. The best man at my sister’s wedding, Lt. Joseph Leavey, from Ladder 15, F.D.N.Y., the first unit on the scene.
The World Trade Center. The Pentagon. American Flight 11. American Flight 77. United Flight 175. United Flight 93.
“Mom, is the outside light on?”
“No, honey, why?”
“I just think you should turn the light on.”
It will help him. To have the light on. Those bastards robbed him, robbed us all, of so much. Of feeling safe. Ever. Again.
I will never forgive. Some things are beyond the capacity of human forgiveness.
And I will never, ever forget.
By Robin Dearing
Monday, September 10, 2007
The Daily Sentinel is proud to participate in United Way's annual pacesetters campaign. And it was a record-setting for giving among Sentinel employees.
One of the fun ways the co-chairs of our United Way campaign raised money was by having a cake raffle.
I mean, really, who doesn't love cake? OK, there are probably people who don't love cake, but I'm not one of them. I love me some cake. Mmm, cake.
They got a bunch of employees to donate cakes and the rest of us bought raffle tickets for a dollar a piece. I was very excited about this raffle, because next to eating cake, I love winning stuff.
Every hour on the hour, they drew a name and the winner got to pick a cake. Hour after hour, everyone else's name was called. I started to get worried that I wouldn't win cake.
I decided that I didn't want to win a cake. Who needs cake anyway?
I do. So I was thrilled when my name finally was drawn. I ran down to the break room and happily choose this cake:
It was made by my Haute Mama cohort, Lynn.
I didn't share it with my coworkers because I wanted Margaret to see it whole. I figured that she'd think it was neat.
I was wrong, she was totally delighted by this cake. When she first saw it she cried out, "Is that a giant donut?'
To which I said, "Well, of course it's a giant donut. And we're going to eat it after dinner."
Oh and it tasted as good as it looked.
By Robin Dearing
Friday, September 7, 2007
In case the picture is too hard to read, let me translate the school assignment Margaret brought home this week:
Describe: to pick beten two
(Mar drew a picture of three people — I think they're girls — one has a word bubble which says, "iny, mny, miny, mo.")
I hope the green frog sticker means "most excellent" because this work — and she — is.
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The next logical chapter for me to write about my current maternal bliss would concern Soren and his transition from only child to big brother.
I was a little worried about him mostly because when other mothers would ask me about it they would unconsciously shake their heads ever so slightly and a look of concern would enter their eyes as if having this second child was a complete injustice to Soren and I was in for a bit of hell. Frankly, they were scaring me. So I would reply "Well, he's just gonna have to deal with it."
But I really was nervous about how this transition might go. I imagined Soren welding a giant toy dump trunk against his brother and pounding him with his toddler fists. Or worse, crying and crying about his imagined neglect.
I would tell Soren about the new baby coming. I even went so far as to hold a doll for Soren, demonstrating how to stroke the baby "nice." I lifted my shirt and place the doll to my breast (weird I know) explaining to him the art of breastfeeding. I'd point to my giant belly and say "baby" hoping he'd make a connection. But how do you really know what a 15-month-old is comprehending?
The weekend before Jonas' arrival I would look at Soren and feel a bit sorry for him. He had no idea what was coming. I took him to the park and let him eat ice cream and popsicles even when he didn't eat his dinner. I let him sleep in mommy's bed and turned on the Teletubbies in case he wanted to watch ... which he didn't but anyway.
I made sure to limit visitors in the hospital so that we could privately introduce Soren to his new brother. The hospital was intimidating to him. He looked at his new brother but clung to his dad. I don't blame him as the hospital is a scary place even for grown ups.
When Soren and his dad came back to take us home, Soren looked down into the bassinet and said, "Bye Bye" to the new baby. We laughed and explained again that this baby was ours to keep. He repeated "baby baby" in the car and stared into the car seat beside him. I think it had finally had sunk in.
The next morning, and every morning since, his first words upon waking have been "Where's baby?"
He looks anxiously at me when leaving the house to make sure Jonas hasn't been left behind. He pats and strokes his brother just the way I showed him with the doll repeating, "Nice nice."
Soren hugs Jonas and shows genuine concern when he cries and pats his stomach saying, "Hush hush."
He tries to share his crackers and he loves to watch him take a bath or get a diaper change.
There hasn't been any jealousy. No exaggerated temper tantrums or head banging at least not caused by anything to do with his brother.
Soren has an innate sense that this little guy is in his life to stay. I guess I haven't said it enough but oldest is a great kid.
Now when I see Soren plant the most gentle kiss on his brother's nose I know that I didn't do any kind of injustice to him ... I gave him a real gift ... one he already loves very much.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Sometimes I wonder if being an only child is a good thing or a bad thing.
Maybe it’s neither. Maybe it’s just a thing. Having grown up with five siblings I always had someone around to socialize with, whether I wanted to socialize or not. Alex just has
.. me, around the house. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
This year he’s been a little slow to start socializing. He has the girl friend, with whom he seems to spend the majority of his free time, in person or on the phone or on the dreaded myspace. I don’t think this relationship is the best thing to happen to him. I don’t really have any complaints about the girl. Well, I do, but none that I choose to go public with at this time. It’s just that I think he needs to expand his social horizons a bit.
To put it into perspective, he does spend nine hours a day in school if you count travel time on the bus. And he is also working on weekends still, both days. So free time is not something he has a lot of. But last Friday was a home football game that I strongly urged him to go to, which ultimately he did. After the girl friend came home on the bus with him, his buddies came over and decided to paint their school initials on their chests (male-buddies I should clarify). After much trash-talking and “giggling” and criticizing of each other’s artistic abilities, they ended up like this:
It was pretty funny. On Sunday night he asked these buddies plus one other to come over and spend the night playing X-box. I was happy to let him do this and glad he invited them over. After all, that’s one reason we got this house; which worked perfectly because when they were upstairs with the door shut I couldn’t hear them. Wait, maybe NOT such a good thing. But I still checked them every hour or so and they were happily huddled around the X-box blowing things up in 3-D. (I’ll talk about the midnight burning of the gasoline can another time, filed under stupid teenage boy tricks.)
But still, he is too socially isolated I think. He wants to have the girl friend come home on the bus with him one afternoon a week to hang out. I think this is a bad idea. I think its too much girl-relationship too soon and too young. I would rather he get back into the martial arts or some other sport.
Am I being a helicopter mom?
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
It rained on Grand Mesa over Labor Day weekend. And you know what that means ... no, not wet campers ... mushrooms.
We are lucky enough to have some great friends who know tons about all things food. They even know enough about mushrooms that we can tag along on their 'shroom hunting expeditions.
(Yes, that is Margaret in the foreground throwing rocks at me — delightful child, she is.)
Because we're better eaters than we are knowers of food, Bill and I would never attempt to hunt mushrooms on our own — and neither should you, unless you are well versed in the bijillion varieties of mushrooms. Many are poisonous and can kill you — dead — very quickly or at the least, make you wish you were dead.
Armed with a very good mushroom book, we tromped around the damp ground searching for porcini
mushrooms. I'd never been hunting before so I had to keep asking, "Is this one?" Only to be told "No — and don't even touch that one" over and over again.
There we saw so many varieties of mushrooms all over the floor of the mesa.
They are so beautiful and bizarre. So many different color, textures, shapes and sizes.
I have no idea what any of these are called because mushrooms are notoriously difficult to identify. And there were just too many to look up.
We never found any edible porcinis but we were lucky enough to find a patch of chanterelles.
In the mushroom book, chanterelles were listed as "edible, choice" — which is a very good thing. On the Internet, you can buy fresh chanterelles for $24 a pound. So we were pleased with our find.
But even if we didn't find any edible mushrooms, just spending an afternoon taking a close look at the floral on the mesa is a great way to spend a day.
By Robin Dearing
Monday, September 3, 2007
Living in Nashville is an interesting blend of modern country and longtime legends.
I’ve sat behind Jo Dee Messina at church, seen Amy Grant at a corner sandwich shop, spotted LeAnn Rimes after yoga class, walked by Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn fame at Target, seen Billy Ray Cyrus perform Achey Breaky Heart live (way before the Hannah Montana days), smiled at Keith Urban at the airport and seen country legend Vern Gosden get into it with a Home Depot employee.
During one of my biggest brushes with country music greatness, however, I totally blew it.
It was in the early 1990s and I was working part-time in the children’s section of a mall department store. A woman with blazing big red hair was pushing her little boy in a stroller. It took me only a few seconds to realize she was the one, the only, Reba.
Now this was back in my days when I was more into Depeche Mode than the Dixie Chicks. I was pretty sure this woman was Reba. She just had to be. She set a package of toddler socks on the counter and I looked at her and said, somewhat timidly, "I don’t want to embarrass you, but are you Reba McEntire?"
She looked at me and without skipping a beat responded, "Why yes I am
and why would that embarrass me?"
Score one for me for social awkwardness and score one for her for a comeback worthy of a country music diva.
I should have asked for her autograph.