my punani wears a superhero cape

Recently I was at a group function and I got sandwiched between two C-section Mamas – that is, women who’d delivered their first babies this way and were planning / had planned future births to be surgical ones – who related their experiences. One of them professed a preference to repeat surgery should she become pregnant again, and by partial way of explanation said, “I’ve already ruined this part of my body [gesturing toward abdomen], I don’t want to blow out, you know [gestures toward crotch] … too!” This gave me a giggle, although part of me wondered if a great deal of people really believe your vagina blows out if you give birth through it. I’m picturing something like a tattered fruit rollup or one of those tire fragments you see on the freeway (and in case you were curious, mine seems to have held up rather well – in fact, has even sustained some improvements). I was content to listen for a while without comment – but the “birth choices” conversation carried on long enough that I eventually weighed in with my own experiences and opinions.

One thing I’ve learned from new Mamas is that the subject of birth can be controversial. Even among good friends, the tension in the room can amp up a bit when the subjects of labor, the use of medicine or drugs, safety issues, and pain tolerance comes up. I think this urge to discuss and defend fades with time, since I do not hear too many detailed birth stories from women in my mother’s generation (some of them are quite dismissive that we care as much as we do, damn their eyes). I’m guessing that usually by the time your youngest child is in primary school your birth story / stories have been alloted to a Cliff Notes version and you’ve made peace with how it all went down. But in my microcosm these last few years I have heard birth stories told back to back for hours on end at these functions.

Women aren’t silly, though, to care – whatever differing opinions they may have and however passionately (and occasionally ignorantly) they may hold them. Birth is as major as death and as universal, and how we give birth effects every aspect of how we nurture. There’s also the subjective experience itself. Honestly, birth can feel empowering and life-changing like nothing else (it can also feel like a drawn-out, confusing torture session; a clinical procedure softened by narcotics and culminating in a pink baby swaddled in arms; or a horrible nightmare suffused with deep strains of anger and mistrust). It can feel like you climbed a mountain all by yourself – a spiritual, emotional, and physical ordeal that you kick the ass of on your own terms and under your own power. Not all women are fortunate to have this kind of birth – but I’d like all women to get a shot, a truly informed choice, in the whole business, and our culture is nowhere close.

let’s get physical!

Vignettes from this morning’s chapter in my quest for a kick-ass bod. Yeah, I’ve been working out. Did you notice? Check out the ass. Actually, I need more of an ass. This flat, yet broad, expanse of corduroy could use a little ghetto.

So anyway, a local gym is offering free membership for those willing to supervise their daycare mornings. My loverly friend Steph is taking advantage of this great deal and asks me along to her workout this morning. Excellent! I know the gym has a trial membership, but I’m not sure this trial will also include the daycare option… So… I’m a considerate woman (read: schmuck); this morning an hour before Steph picks me up, I call.

I get some pipsqueak on the other end, making powershakes or whatever. I can tell she doesn’t “get” the daycare arrangement. She’s acting vapid. I continue to press my point, thinking, For heaven’s sake, I shouldn’t have called! Finally, she breaks her slack-jawed silence: “Are you looking to get free daycare?” she accuses. Vomity little tart. I almost hang up. In a cold fury, I ask if there’s someone else I can talk to. She puts a manager on and in two minutes I am off the phone, issue resolved (“Sure! Come on in!” the seemingly more sensible manager chirps).

[Sigh!] OK. Time to get The Girl out of bed (sleeping in, the little sodder), off to preschool, gym bag packed, hurry hurry. 8:45 AM, Obstacle #42 of the morning: I have no athletic shoes (the closest thing being my least butch pair of docs). Aha! The neighbor girl’s Vans she left with me – at a 9 1/2, a full two sizes too large. Fuck it. Nothing, not rabid children or bitchy gym-counter girls or the fact I am wearing pajama bottoms, my hospital socks, and clown shoes – will keep me from pumping iron!

We get there. Throw the kids in the childcare room. Flaunt our “personal sweat towels” (Steph’s old burp cloths) and my iPod. I do a little time on the elliptical machine. My ass screams in protest. I flail off to do some stretches so I won’t be crippled tomorrow. I flop on the mat next to an older black man who is rolling an exercise ball into position. He is at least sixty pounds overweight yet I noted he spent over twently minutes on a stair machine kicking ass. Wearily he settles himself on the ball and picks up a large staff-like object across his shoulders. “Is that your Jedi saber?” I ask him. He sasses back, “More like Friar Tuck!” Giggle, giggle.

It’s a good workout and we end up in the steam room (me and Steph, not me and the older dude). My towel is tiny and I am reminded of the locker room scene in Starsky and Hutch. A short shower and a kid pick up, then we’re on the road for blessed, blessed coffee.

I feel great. I don’t even hate my life for the rest of the day.

so, I was at a party last night, and I’ve discovered…

… in the world of womankind, the gossip quotient is staggering.

I’m not just talking about the, “Oh my God, did you hear that Betsy…” full-on reporting and back-talking that happens immediately after the poor woman in question is out of sight. I’m talking about the constant realigning and discernment of friends, foes, bitches, and ho’s (is that how you spell “ho” in the plural?”). I’m referring to the morbid interest women show when there is in-fighting amongst girls, especially former friends who used to be tight.

At the party in question I quickly self-segregated into the handful who were intermittently heading upstairs to the pool hall (read: smoking area – hey, I was a Designated Driver and needed some fun). Even though I didn’t make the rounds to everyone there, and had a relatively small number of interactions with different women, I was surprised at how many times attempts were made to seduce me into making or decrying particular alliances. A couple women bitched about a woman not present. One woman threw out a subtle barb referring to a perceived insult I had experienced from a third woman there (I didn’t take the bait, though). A couple women commented on my tank top (not revealing, but tight and busty) in a way that seemed not-altogether-nice. It was sort of like a bunch of cats all sniffing one another. Except everyone was drinking, so a little like cats in heat. Or something.

Now, for the exactly three fellows who read my blog, this isn’t to say I prefer the company of men, or that I believe an all-male get-together to be a more honest, open, and fun event. Hardly. First of all, the incidents where men get together – and do all the organizing themselves – are about once a year. If a man doesn’t enjoy the pasttimes of either A. killing things, or B. golfing, this number is even more drastically reduced. Also, on the flip side of the female’s more vicious inner workings exists a camaraderie, fierce love, and emotional openness that I can’t honestly see a group of men exhibiting (I could be wrong, having no experience there). Part of the package of the intuitive and maternal Goddess is the murderous Kali-bitch who has a string of heads hanging around her neck.

And for the record: no, I’m not interested in back-biting, no matter how tempting; and yeah, I was fine with how tight my shirt was and the resultant boobage and soft-middle that was displayed.

that homecoming crown, still so elusive

What is that feeling I’m having again? It’s so familiar. Not a good thing, either. Why am I acting so awkwardly? Why am I not talking? What’s wrong?

Oh yeah. I’m the odd one out.

It happens every once in a while. Very rarely, really. In this case, it’s me and a small group of ladies I would call acquaintances (as opposed to friends). They’re friendly. They’re nice. In their presence, I feel like a dork. I’m not telling the right stories. I’m not keeping my crayon between the lines of the coloring book we’re using. Maybe I have an intensity about issues I shouldn’t. Maybe it’s how I wave my middle finger in the air to punctuate a story (never at somebody, more like to make a point). Maybe I should have smaller boobs and stop wearing tribal earrings (I swear, the only remotely “edgy” thing I have going!).

It’s times like this I am grateful I (generally) like myself, and that I know people who like me for the person I am. Most of these people are women who are – to use my friend Steph’s descriptive of yours truly – “brassy”, irreverent, and outspoken, like me.

But sometimes – like now – I feel an elusive cliquishness that distresses me. I don’t know how to break the code and play by the rules. I want to. I don’t have a problem playing by different rules. So I stop saying anything snarky, or the word “crotch”, or talking about my husband’s ass. Still, I can tell I’m not fitting in. It isn’t working! Last resort? Be quiet. Be a wallflower. Go home to those who like you. Call best friend up and share an amusing sexual harassment story.

These days I know enough about people to know that exclusivity is often not deliberate – it’s a miscommunication between species. In this case, the vanilla-wafer jock / cheerleader girl with the overly-friendly, foul-mouthed trollop who takes smoke breaks behind the gym (guess which one I am?). It doesn’t even hurt, exactly.

And then I wonder – do I do the same to other girls? Who are they, and what’s their story? And why are they silent?

If that’s me, I’m truly sorry, sisters.

a milestone for the girl next door

This weekend we lost a neighbor. Not to age, or illness, or a domestic scuffle between houses – but to her move-out on being 18 and emancipated. As of last week, the transition wasn’t going as smoothly as the turnkey operation both women had expected. As our dear fledgling girl came to find out, it is a pain in the ass to move, even if your possessions are constrained to that of a dependent in your parent’s home. But with a little extra burst of energy, a bunch of cardboard boxes, takeout Chinese food and a few Coronas, it was accomplished. And two nights ago I found myself packing up, tearing down, and sorting through this girl’s entire life – before waving goodbye to her and her history in her mother’s home.

The first time I met our neighbor’s girl I was seven months pregnant with my first child and we had only recently moved in. One crummy winter’s night I came home to a locked-up house and since I was unwilling to climb through a window I went next door to find someone who could. I remember feeling kind of dumb, but that it was a very appropriate thing for a fourteen year old neighbor to do, and not an appropriate thing for a hugely pregnant woman to do. To think in such a short time would come to know and love the family and that little girl would not only babysit the child in my belly at the time, but another as well, and move out and get a job and take off into her own life – is further proof in how the universe moves on at its fast clip no matter what pace you move at.

Here’s to your freedom, Pegs. I know you will enjoy it.

doing our part for the Dairy Farmers of Washington propaganda

Today as part of the Clallam County Farm Tour (doesn’t that sound exciting!) we headed out to the Brown’s dairy farm – which is on its way to becoming the first certified raw milk creamery in the state. Calves, cowshit, hay rides, and petting zoos – in short, our fat li’l munchkins’ dreams come true.

Kids + yogurt.

Sophie + kitten.

Nels + Mama.

On our way out to Sequim we passed by a molester van (example here, and not to be confused with a serial-killer van) – man, I wish I could have got a picture. I point it out to the rest of our driving party.

Ralph: “Not a molester van. Too many windows.”
Cyn: “But there are curtains!”
Ralph: “Too many windows. Toddlers can pull back curtains.”

PartyTown, population: 4 Hogabooms

Last night 6 o’clock found us unexpectedly at a rather lovely dinner party with our kids in tow. We hadn’t expected to go at all, since two separate childcare options fell through. But the host’s ladyfriend and a small cadre of other partygoers put in a few calls during the day and begged us to come. Who can resist such sweetness? We cleaned up ourselves and our children as best we could and headed out to Cape George.

I do well at parties. I am comfortable talking to anyone. I don’t always introduce myself to everyone, which I really do think I should. And it’s easy to be intimidated by venues such as the one we were at – the house is expansive, spotless, Sunset-magazine material, built over a pond with little waterfalls and a beautiful open deck. Am I the only one who secretly hopes that at midnight the huge, gleaming hot tub will be unveiled and I’ll be able to hop in in my panties, a martini in one hand, while still entertaining the sixty-and-up members of the Board with my witty and urbane conversation? Probably.

Here I was with my choice of wine to drink, a lovely catered meal (delicious, gourmet food that I didn’t have to make) that included a chicken alfredo lasagne and hot banana bread pudding with rich cream and caramel sauce. The funniest part was our kids, who were in parallel experiencing equally Roman-esque entertainment: being cared for in the back guest wing by three teenage girls with giant bowls of chocolates and chips. Every once in a while one of these young girls, rail-thin and all eyeliner and dangling earrings, would come out with a child on a hip to find some milk. My kids attempted no eye contact with me or my husband – they looked like little waifs being taken into the arms and care of a brothel on opening-night celebrations.

At nine o’clock our son is looking red-eyed and dazed – his calling card for getting sleepy. He can’t bear to miss out on what’s happening around him, but his body is shutting down. We pack up the girl (so stoned on teenage girls, Muppets, and chocolate that she is whirring and hovering) – and head home.

A lovely, pampered evening.

can you tell me why you have been so sad?

Today was the most brilliant wakeup in so long. All four of us in bed; sunlight filtering in. The Girl scooting up to her brother and kissing him on the mouth: “I love you, Nels.” Everyone waking up cozy, warm, and loved. These are moments in your life you will never have the same again.

After story time at the library, I had four girlfriends over with their babies (all girls!). We ladies are coming out of our winter hibernation. In catching up I can’t believe how much everyone’s lives are in flux. Pregnant, cranky and nervous; workaholic husbands, marriage trouble, friendships strained. To look at us from the outside we seem so boring. But there’s so much going on. Ralph came home for lunch to a roomful of 9 females (Nels was asleep in his room). He took it in stride.

Big date night for The Girl and I. First: sushi with Sindee and Julie. Edamame and rice for the wee one. Then some window shopping; a steamed milk; a carousel ride; and to the movie (Robots – great voice talent, little else to offer).

My life is full of love and I want to hold it in my heart.

you were the mother of three girls so sweet

who stormed through your turnstile and climbed to the street
but after conception your body lay cold
and withered through autumn and you found yourself old

can you tell me why you have been so(sad)

he took a lover on a faraway beach
while you arranged flowers and chose color schemes

can you tell me why you have been so sad?
can you tell me why you have been so sad?

the girls were all there
they traded their vows
the youngest one glared with furrowed brows
they tenderly kissed then cut the cake
the bride then tripped and broke the vase
the one you thought would spend the years
so perfectly placed below the mirror
arriving late you clean the debris
and walked into the angry scene

it felt just like falling in love again
and it felt just like falling in love again

can you tell me why you have been so sad?
can you tell me why you have been so…

two wives, three kids, and a bun in the oven

So starts the first morning of a new partnership. For a week it will be Jodi and I corralling our three little ones and she’s knocked up to boot. Things are going well so far. The two girls are ecstatic to have a playmate their own age and are still high off the fun of a new friendship. Sophie is alternately bossy and helpful to the littler girl, much more scattered than usual and less of a help to Mama. Cyan is a willing accomplice.

The Man leaves for work a few minutes late at quarter to eight, toothbrush poking out of his mouth. Then it’s on to Jodi and I to get ready for the day. Changing diapers. Helping with the potty. Putting hair up. Dressing three kids. I get my brood ready and Jodi and her girl are at the table for breakfast #2. Michelle arrives to help with housework while we’re out, so I let her have care of my children for my 15 minutes to myself. I step into the shower and experience a few wonderful minutes of washing my face, scrubbing my scalp. The hiss and splash of the water obfuscates whatever the hell is going on out in the living room. By the time I am dressed and my hair dry Paige is here too. It’s time to go. The ratio of four adults to three kids allows us to get carseats, kids, diaperbags, etc all loaded up in the car in a timely fashion.

Stop at the husband’s work to pick up some cash. Drive through for coffee. Head to playschool. Kids run around; parents steal an hour for “class” in the next room. Normal chit-chat: how to get our kids to eat, unfairness along gender lines of parenting, sex (or lack thereof). There are two husbands there and they valiantly stick up for “their side” of the whole mess. Three of the women at the table are pregnant. All of us are looking for a safe place and strength in numbers. We head back to the kids’ room and sing, pack everyone up, head home.

Groceries and then home for lunch: sandwiches, pickles, carrot sticks, tomato soup, milk. Kids are winding down; lunch is cleaned up; children are changed, nursed, soothed, read to.

I figure Jodi and I have twenty minutes to talk with no distractions before it’s time to get back to work – wash diapers, do laundry, figure out dinner, do dishes, and get our kids to the grocery store again before heading home to cook. Foreseeing this brief respite we have stocked up on good coffee and some bistro cookies (carefully hidden from the kids).

Time to enjoy a break.