showing up

In 2003, for reasons I still don’t understand, we wrote our new family’s first Christmas letter. Frank wasn’t sure why we were writing it at the time and we both thought that this first entry into our family’s public narrative should be sent out for very limited distribution. Our first letter vividly featured our most pressing and passionate marital argument until that point: a debate on the number of pillows allowed on a bed.

My answer? Eleven.

Frank’s answer? Definitely less than 11.

What was funny to us then, and even now, was how many people responded to tell us how much they enjoyed the letter.  And also, to passionately declare their support for either Team Frank or Team Emily.

The important thing, though, is that we felt this surge of connection with the people who commented.

So, we wrote another letter. And another. And another. And we got brave and sent it to everyone on our mailing list. It was exhilarating!

There are only two rules of K-Fam Christmas Letter Writing: 1. Keep it light and 2. No medical drama.

There have been some years when those two rules have been easier to follow than others.

The letter-writing process begins with both a scrubbing of the year’s events as well as a suggestion of a concept.  This year, after spending approximately five minutes with his newest daughter, Frank determined that the letter should be a memorandum from Annie talking about the circus she joined called Our Family.

In the case of this year’s letter, I wrote it, deleted it, wrote it again, sent it to Frank, sent him some changes, he sent me changes, I sent him changes and then we were done. Many years, there is at least one request (from Frank) for a chart/graph representing of some sort of achievement (sometimes this achievement is vomit or diaper-related) and most years, I ask for a few extra pages.  We’ve remedied these requests by occasionally allowing a gratuitous graph to sneak into the letter now and then; I started a blog.

The most important thing that happens, though, is that first step: we scrub the events of the year.  I take out the unnecessary details of the somewhat emergency c-section, the intestinal drama with two toddlers that reside in our home, Frank’s inability to securely screw the top on the orange juice and Annie’s over-the-top cuteness (she’s too young to get into too much trouble right now). Not to put too fine a point on this topic, but Frank, what is up with the OJ? And the Tabasco? And anything else with a lid?

So the events are scrubbed.  Cleaned up. We put a bow on the whole thing and send it out first-class mail.

The other stuff I don’t include is how many times I look at my peers and see how they are being a better mom.  They have better crafts, better playdate ideas, cuter lunches for their kids, etc, etc, etc. And then I see how some people are truly excellent writers and I’m a hack blogger.

I actually almost didn’t write this blog post because, well, it’s not an original topic or theme and others have written about this particular theme better, funnier and betterer.  (That whole sentence is a beautiful mess. I can’t fix it.)

But since this blog exists largely so that my daughters can glimpse inside the brain of their 34 year old mother, I am writing it anyway.

I realize there are two things illustrated with the story about the Christmas letter:

First, that when Frank and I are sharing our story and delighting people and engaging with friends and family – that is when we are the happiest.  We love making people laugh.  We love the idea of people opening their mail and being excited to see another silly letter from those tall people. We love the connection.

Second, nearly every year I think, “meh. I don’t think I can write this letter.” I didn’t do anything remarkable enough.  I made mistakes.  I can’t even tell you how many times Frank wanted to write something fun about my job, and I told him to just chill out – write something generic – write something uninteresting that essentially says, “Don’t worry, Emily still has a job.” I did fun and cool stuff when I worked.  I worked with remarkable leaders and innovators and true public servants. I helped out with projects that were fun and interesting. I just never could say it because I was weirdly worried that someone would write back and say, “Um, yeah, Emily is lame.”

In a nutshell, I have a lot of anxiety about how people perceive me and I hate that about myself. (I am actually working on a post specifically about that anxiety, but I started it a year ago and I’m still not any closer to done.)

I am not the best writer.  I am not the best mom.  I am not the best human. I am not number one, I’m not even in the top 50%. The only immediately remarkable thing about me is my height – and that doesn’t help me on the Internets.

I would really like to use that lack of bestness as a reason not to try.  I want to say, “Well, I don’t have to write that press release or post that information or play tea party with my twins” or WHATEVER – because someone else is doing it better somewhere else.

Wiser people than me have said now-cliche things like “99% of success is showing up” and other such brilliant things. And they are right.

I write all of this to essentially steal borrow other people’s wisdom: show up.

Show up and do your job. Show up and be a parent. Show up and be a friend, daughter, son, sister, brother – whatever. If you don’t have the best words to share, the best dish to pass, the best outfit for the occasion – show up any way.

Be brave. Be courageous. Let your little light shine. Even if that light is just a Christmas letter. Even in the worst years, when your spouse lost their job twice and you moved and you were a little freaked out – show up and write the letter and connect with the people you love.

A lot of people don’t show up. Maybe they are scared, too. Maybe they were worried they couldn’t do the best or most interesting, so they stayed home.

I totally get it: It’s hard. I often don’t want to show up. Sometimes, I don’t show up.

And maybe people don’t know that sometimes all they need to do is show up. Sometimes they are worried about a lot of things, like what if they aren’t enough. Maybe, if you see someone not showing up, maybe you could reach out to them. Show up for them.

Stand firm. Be present.

Grab hold.

Because the other thing I’ve heard a lot is that possession is 9/10ths of the law. (Note: I am not a lawyer or someone who knows anything at all about the law. So, you know, take that possession thing with a grain of salt.)

words

Words give shape to this life, to feelings, to experiences.

I remember going through the end of a relationship, and just deciding that it was just a “thing” that happened and one minute it existed and the next it was gone. So, I didn’t put many words around that grief.  I didn’t give it shape – meaning – purpose – I just sort of let it ooze and leak and evaporate away. I shrugged it off.

In stark contrast, when Frank and I started dating, we could not use enough WORDS. We wrote each other letters and emails and text messages.  I saved those text messages as long as I could until I changed cellphone providers one too many times and the texts were gone.

Every moment of our relationship was (and still is) painted in words. Love, hope, happiness, expectation, dreams – all carefully spoken and written and envisioned.

Even the messy moments have words.  Well, sometimes they have raised eyebrows, crossed arms and wrinkled noses.  It’s quite the picture – and you know what they say about pictures…

Still, with all of these words, there are still memories that feel like vapor – moving through me with all of the emotion and feeling of the moments they represent – and then vanishing when I try to inspect them.

This weekend. Church. Familiar words of a song, ripped from the same Bible verses as another song. A light, happy mood coupled with the weight of the week hanging in the background triggered a memory and a moment from fifteen years ago.

… for I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God…

Driving – the ultimate teenage freedom – in an old, blue jeep. It didn’t matter what the car looked like, as long as there was gas and a working radio.

Wherever. Movies, parks, festivals. Whatever. A nagging sense that these moments were fleeting. A quickly squashed thought: we won’t be young forever.

Friends. Singing. Warm air through the windows. A mid-summer sun sifting through the clouds on the western horizon.

If time was money, we were millionaires without a wallet.

And just like the many mornings I wake up to tell Frank of my dreams, the words don’t come fast enough and the end results are just vague meanderings without any of the important elements of the story.

Idyllic suburban setting. Typical teenage experience. Yawn.

But… it was so much more.  It was my life.

Like water through my fingers, those days are gone and I find myself wishing the words would come faster so that I could wrap myself around them, but instead I am sucking ether.

So. Frustrating.

And so here I am tonight. My children are escape artists with no interest in sleeping. Specifically, Carrie is amused by her own agility at leaping out of her crib, pleased with herself that she no longer bangs her face on the crib railing during the descent.

On the third time I’ve gone up the stairs, turned left and looked to their room, I find myself stifling a laugh.

Carrie has quickly shut the door, but is hanging on to the handle for dear life.  From outside of the room, the lever door handle is angled peculiarly in the down position. She must know that this is the third time and this time I will not rock her in the chair and call her my angel and smell her straight light brown/dark blond hair.  She must know that this time, I must.not.laugh because I must be MOM. A force of gentle justice at bedtime. The woman who knows better.

But for a few seconds, looking at that door handle, I am two years old. I am her peer. I know the adrenaline running through her as she waits for me to find her on the other side of the door – out of her bed – again. I know this because that was me once.

It takes a hiccup of time- for me to swallow the giggle and remind myself that to cave is to create a child who will.never.sleep. I open the door, swoop her into my arms and place her firmly into her crib.  She knows. I know. We cannot make eye contact or we will break the fourth wall.  If we do, we will be forced to acknowledge that I am a child, a teenager, an irresponsible college student, who somehow is a mother. Someone has to be in charge, here. It’s me.

When I finally leave her room, letting the door softly click behind me, I think – will I remember this?

Are mountains made of these quickly forgotten moments?

If only…

a requiem for diet coke

Subtitled: A Eulogy of a Love Affair

Like all classic love affairs, it began innocently enough.

A glance across the room in high school.  A night at the movies in college.

By the time I graduated from college, I didn’t really notice that Diet Coke had left a toothbrush at my place, started taking over a shelf in the medicine cabinet and began adding itself to my grocery shopping list. By the time I was working full time my insatiable need for Diet Coke had taken hold, seemingly without warning.

A can at breakfast. A fountain drink at lunch. A mid-afternoon pick-me-up. The discovery of Diet Dr. Pepper.

It didn’t hurt that the first office I worked at had a veritable pipeline of Diet Coke in the form of company-supplied-and-maintained soda fountains.

Assessing future employers based on access to diet caffeinated cola products became practically my top priority in my job hunt.  I was only stymied by the fact that most companies don’t include “access to coke” in job descriptions.

Fear not.

Directors who knew me knew that my productivity, when bolstered by diet caffeinated cola, was that of five semi-hungover employees.  Directors who loved me understood that Diet Dr. Pepper was my hands down favorite diet caffeinated cola.

See, I spent much time analyzing and rating my preferred diet caffeinated colas, resulting in Diet Dr. Pepper winning every time, followed by Diet Coke from McDonalds (has to be – nothing compares), followed by Diet Pepsi in a 20 ounce bottle or 12 ounce can followed by Diet Coke in a can.

I wrote a poem about Diet Coke.

At my first job.

My first grown-up job.

I did that.

And? My director thought it was a lovely poem and hung it on her wall.

It’s a disease, people.

Of course, as my love affair with diet caffeinated colas heated up, the buzz about the suspect ingredients also started building.  Around the time we started to try to have children, the diet caffeinated cola love affair was peaking, but it was nearly impossible to ignore the mounting evidence that some of the ingredients were not good for me.

I almost felt shame every time I heard the pop and the “pssshhh” of the can opening.

Almost.

Most doctors seem to agree that women trying to get pregnant and those who were already pregnant should cut the caffeine.

So, I quit.

It was easy to quit. Too easy.

I heard myself say these words, “See? I don’t need Diet Coke. I can quit at any time.”

You may have heard those same words on A&E’s Intervention or you know, any show about drug addiction.

I was “clean” for my entire pregnancy with the twins.

While in the NICU, Carrie had an apnea incident (basically she forgot to breath) and I heard one of the nurses mention that babies who have chronic apnea incidents are sometimes put on caffeine. And I thought, “what if I drink some Diet Coke, pump and give it to her via breast milk  Maybe that will help!” Mom to the rescue!

So I called my old flame Diet Coke.  I wondered what it would be like after all that time.  Would there be the heat and the passion that I remembered?

Oh, that first blissful sip.  It was so good. So bubbly. So cold.  So fresh and delicious.

Ahhh.

But the innocence was gone.  I knew better.  I knew the scandalous ingredients.  I knew too much.

I tried to keep my torrid affair out of the public eye.  I knew there were others who would judge.  Others who knew that I knew that they knew that I knew that Diet Coke has some pretty nasty crap in it.

When I went back to work, I started a bad habit of going to McDonald’s for oatmeal in the morning – and oh – a Diet Coke.  Only $1 for 32 ounces. I mean, why not?  The small, medium and large are all priced the same.

It would be tragic to pay the same as a large, but only get a small.

And then I discovered that the twins loved Oatmeal.  As a mom on the run, Oatmeal became the perfect breakfast food on the go.

And some Diet Coke… in a giant tub… with a straw.

After some time, I noticed that I was needing some more diet caffeinated cola around lunch. Plus, sandwiches always taste better with diet caffeinated cola.  We have a vending machine that sells Diet Dr. Pepper.  In 20 ounce bottles.

If you’re doing the math with me, you’re probably noticing that on most days I was drinking 50+ ounces of diet caffeinated deliciousness – often well before noon.

So this New Year, I decided to give it up.

Go cold turkey.

I challenged the part of me that said, too casually, “I can give it up at any time.”

And so I did.  I discovered tea and coffee.  A more “mellow buzz” if you will.

I sip. I try to drink water.

Today, I found myself thinking about lunch.  I usually think about lunch about 2.4 seconds after I finish breakfast.  So, there I was, thinking about lunch… and how delicious a large Diet Coke from McDonald’s would be.

I didn’t cave.

And just like that, I realized that I was over Diet Coke. We had our moment in the sun, but our season together was over.

One month, twelve days, 20 hours, 41 minutes.

Fair thee well, diet caffeinated cola products.  Fair thee well.

:: and scene::

style

Specifically, management style.

We’ve all got a management style.

I’ve got it.  You’ve got it. We’ve all got it!

Sure beats herpes, right?

(nothing like a herpes reference to kick off a blog post, eh?)

So. Anywho.

I’ve had lots of managers in my lifetime.  My first two managers were my parents.

My parents have a very unique, very different management style than most parents.

Let’s talk about my mom first.

My mother LOVES a good time. Loves it. Every day was a new adventure.  Mom LOVES people. She loves to talk in lines at the grocery store, at the post office, waiting for the walk signal at a stop light, on the phone to customer service reps, at sporting events and so on. Church was the ultimate showcase of the differences between my parents – after the last note of the last song was sung, my dad BOLTED for the car, grabbing whichever children were closest. My mom? She saw her friend Joyce and wanted to check in on how Joyce’s uncle’s brother’s wife was doing.  And then she saw Ann and goodness, Ann’s oldest looks so cute with her new haircut.  And on the way out she wanted to check in with Father Joe about the Women’s Pot Luck for the Council of Catholic Women and also to see who needed a dish for a funeral.

And to my mother’s horror, when she stepped out into the crisp sunshine of a glorious Sunday, there was my father, pulled right up to the front doors of the church, waiting.

How the next few moments went often determined whether we would be going out for a delightful family brunch or if we were going home for left over cold pizza.

My dad is practically her exact opposite. My dad loved to sit with us and talk about our five year plans and what our personality profiles suggested would be ideal career paths for us. He still loves to review business and acquisition strategies and enjoys reading resumes for people on the hunt for a new job.  He practices looking at things in new ways.

When we were home sick from school and my dad was our caregiver one rare November day, my dad made charts of our fevers on 3×5 index cards.  He planned story times, sometimes the content of which he imagined up in some of the most hilarious stories I’d ever heard in my young life, and sometimes he read to us from The Time Machine  by H.G. Wells.

Were my parents perfect? Nope. They were lots of fun, absolutely.  If you were going to have to be stuck in a car for two weeks traveling across the country and staying in a pop-up camper, you’d be lucky to be stuck with my family.

But the part of me that loves the idea of schedules and charts and graphs (oh, excel, how I love thee), always sort of wished my mom gave me more routine and structure. And for anyone saying, “But Emily, your mom reads your blog! How could you say that??” I must tell you, I know this about myself because my mother told me so.  My mother is a keen observer.  She knew things about us before we ever knew it. She knew I’d go to DePaul before I ever knew it. She knew I’d marry Frank before I even said yes.

She’s good like that.

Annoyingly good.

My parents are different from my friends’ parents.  They are very different from Frank’s parents.  Frank was raised by a periodontist and an artist.  If you want to know what makes a pilot, I think that has to be it – the perfect combination of science on a small scale (in.your.mouth.yuck!) and the abstract vision of modern sculpting.

And yet, despite our parents’ very different management styles, interests and skills, Frank and I make (and laugh at) the same juvenile jokes.

Tonight, Frank looked at me and said, very confidently with a slight smirk, “titmouse.”

And I. Lost. It.

For those of you at home who wonder if this is a made up word, I assure you it is not.  Below, please take a moment to enjoy the tufted titmouse:

Yes, I am a Tufted Titmouse. What?

On Facebook and in forums and in conversations, I have observed much dispute over parenting management styles.  From epidurals to store-bought baby food, nothing is sacred. Or perhaps the issue is that everything is sacred.

I gotta tell y’all that if you get an epidural or you don’t, if you breastfeed or you don’t, if you cloth diaper or you don’t, if you make all of your baby food or you don’t, you may still raise a daughter or a son that will date, fall in love with, and marry another individual who will absolutely fall apart when your child says, “titmouse.”

When my first boyfriend broke up with me, my mom and dad did the most wonderful thing.  First, my mom realized that this was a job for dad.  And my dad sat down and talked to me about grieving lost relationships. As a 17 year old girl, there is nothing more powerful than a dad who is brave enough and smart enough to sit down with you and affirm that you are beautiful and that not all men suck. Just some.

He told me all of the old adages apply: “Time heals all wounds” and “it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”.  And then he very profoundly quoted John Lennon and told me, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

I, myself, have gotten all worked up about whether my child will excel or fail miserably based upon the quantity and quality of breastmilk she received.

But in the midst of the anguish of deciding how to feed my children, I learned how to love them. How to make difficult decisions to care for them, how to snuggle them without watching the clock, how to make them laugh, how to play with them and how to be the mom they need me to be.

Not to worry, we have another 17+ years to go. I don’t expect this learning process to end now that they are close to walking.  I expect that I will continue learning how to be their parent and how to love them.

And I am grateful for all of the styles of parenting I’ve been able to witness because I will likely draw from all of them as I develop as a mom.

Titmouse.

Ha ha ha. 🙂

who’s driving this car anyway?

Let me begin this with a real life example as an analogy.

About six years ago, my dearest friend Ginger* (*name changed to protect the innocent) were in Utah on a business trip.  She was my companion for the trip because Frank was off flying all around the great Midwest.  Anyway, Ginger and I had a wonderful spa vacation in Park City, Utah and boarded a black SUV bound for Salt Lake City’s airport at the end of our long weekend.  Riding along with us was one of the sales reps hosting the event.  The sales rep, Courtney, was chatting excitedly about our weekend, what she did, what we did, how she missed her kids, her husband, her hair, her clothes – etc, etc – but we were not paying attention to what she was saying.  We were nodding at her, but staring wide-eyed ahead as we watched the driver of the black SUV we were in swerving, barely stopping at traffic lights and intersections, merging hap-hazardly onto the highway, weaving in and out of lanes on the mountainous highway, cutting off trucks on steep inclines and generally driving like a drunken maniac.

Courtney kept talking as Ginger and I exchanged concerned glances.  Finally Courtney noticed that we were not engaged in the conversation at all, she turned in her seat to look ahead and realized that our driver was not of sound mind to be driving the car.

I wasn’t sure what to do – I didn’t want to make a scene, but I was fairly certain that this gentleman was going to drive us off the side of a very large mountain.  After a few seconds of indecision, Courtney screamed, “I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM NOW!”  Startled, the driver asked if she wanted to get off at the next exit and she said, “No, now, right now I have to go.  Pull over.”

Cutting off a few more cars, swerving across lanes, the driver pulled over.

“Actually I don’t have to go to the bathroom.  I need to drive,” ordered Courtney.

“What?” asked the driver.

“Get out of the car, I am driving.  You are clearly not feeling well.”

And much to our surprise, the driver relented control of the car and let Courtney get behind the wheel.

We arrived at the airport a little shaken, but otherwise in one piece.

So what does this have to do with anything anyway?

When I look around at the State of Illinois, our world, our country and our circumstances, I am struck by the feeling that I am in the third row of an SUV that is on a collision course with the side of a mountain.

I have this feeling of helplessness that I cannot make a difference in the situation.  That no one else notices what is wrong, and if they do, they can’t stop it either.

As someone who now pays more attention to what goes on in our government, I am struck by how many people don’t vote in local elections.

Why do local elections matter anyway?  Local elections matter because they represent the heart and soul of our country and directly impact your day-to-day life. Water, sewer, electricity, trees, streets, parks, emergency responders, public safety, to name a few, are all handled either mostly or entirely by your local municipalities and taxing bodies.  How each of those services is provided directly impacts your wallet by way of your property taxes, sales taxes, special referendums and service fees.

But even worse than not voting in a municipal election is not understanding, especially in the State of Illinois, the many LAYERS of government that provide services.  If you live in Cook County, for example, you drive along roads that are maintained by the state, the tollway, the county and the municipality.  Depending on how well the particular taxing body is doing, the roadways may be in varying states of repair/disrepair.

Pop Quiz – you know what town you live in, but do you know what township you live in? You should know this because you pay a separate line item of property taxes to that organization.

Until I started paying attention, I wasn’t really aware of the many layers of government that affected my daily life.  And here’s the thing – the vague fog that I existed in is no excuse.  I am an adult. Along with my husband, we are financially responsible for ourselves and our children.

Are we all busy? Yes.  Do we all have a lot on our plate?  Yes.  Is it overwhelming to try to untangle the knot of taxing bodies providing services? Yes.

The problem with how many of us has been living our lives is this: we don’t care until it’s a crisis.  And then we make rash decisions about who is best able to fix the problems confronting us without fully understanding everything that is affected.

Many people came out and voted for “Change” in 2008.  Very few people asked, “What kind of change?” I’m not saying that I agree or disagree with President Obama’s platform or what he’s been doing while in office.  I’m just saying that there were many people who fell in love with the rhetoric and were disenchanted when they found out what it meant.

And the media, politicians, and lobbyists love that we blindly follow the rhetoric without pausing to really understand the issues.

But with all of this ignorance, there is a cost.

I received my property tax bill last year and looked it over.  It has doubled in the two years we’ve lived here, while the assessed value of our home has plummeted.

My righteous indignation boiled near the surface while I looked at all the line items listed on the bill.  How could this be?

And I knew, without skipping a beat, that the resolution to many of my problems and frustrations started with me.  The doubling of my property taxes is the price I paid for living in ignorant bliss.

It’s a heavy price tag, friends.

I hope that everyone takes the time to learn about the main issues affecting their community and to get involved.  Even if it is only sending an email to your elected officials (you’d be amazed how many people represent you!), attending a townhall meeting, reading your local news or viewing the State’s budget online.

So back to my Utah car ride – I’m glad Courtney spoke up and took over the reins.  I’m also glad that she was a smart, capable driver.  She was the right person for the job.

Is the right person for the job driving the car you’re in?

three things: dancing emily-style

It has become apparent to me today that Frank and I desperately need dance lessons.

This is not just for us – it’s for everyone who has to watch us dance.

And it’s not because of Frank.  Standing at 6’9″, Mr. Frank can cut a rug seven ways until Sunday.

No.

If you know me, and you know Frank, then you know that the source of our dance move mojo… issues… is me.  And here is my amateur diagnosis of what goes wrong on the dance floor…

thing 1: rhythm

A major element of dancing is rhythm.  You know, keeping a beat.  It’s a fundamental element of dance. As in, required. Oddly enough, my inability to keep a beat (and carry a tune and sing & clap simultaneously) was a leading factor in my decision to end my orchestral career after 8 long years of torturing a variety of dedicated musical professionals. Tonight, for example, there was a song playing and everyone was clapping along with it.  Some people were even stomping and clapping.  Me?  I was clapping.  Was I clapping at the same time as everyone else? No. And I certainly wasn’t stomping at the same time as everyone else.  As a matter of fact, I probably wasn’t even dancing to the same song as everyone else on the dance floor.  It probably looked like I was having a stroke.

thing 2: mah moves

I think that dance class would be beneficial in helping me develop more than four moves. “What are your moves, exactly?” you might ask.  Well, generally my “moves” involve looking at the people dancing near me and trying to do what they are doing. If I can’t do what they are doing, I do some sort of variation on aggressively stepping to the left and right, twitching, anxious hair adjustments and grinding on my husband’s leg.  The last dance move has been banned in some of the more conservative states in the Union, but my lawyer is appealing on grounds that I can’t help myself.

thing 3: leadership skillz

If you thought that my lack of rhythm or any dance skillz at all would’ve stopped me from trying to lead on the dance floor, then you’d be wrong. I have serious control issues that manifest themselves in trying to take over during slow songs.  Frank, being the alpha male-type that he is, often fights me for control.  Lucky for him, I also don’t have a good sense of balance, so usually he can regain the lead while I am trying not to fall on top of the cute 80 year old couple doing the foxtrot next to us. Our struggle for the lead has resulted in a lot of clenched smiles as we hiss at each other “one-TWO-three-FOUR” and “NO! ONE-two-THREE-FOUR!!!”

So… any suggestions on where to take dance lessons?  We still have three more weddings this year (although one is tomorrow, so we are probably too late on that one).

in the middle of the night…

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

~Billy Joel, “River of Dreams”

I loved that song when I was in high school.

And now, 12 years later, I find myself walking in my sleep through the land of diapers to the babies in their cribs.  And when I get there?  They are usually crying.  Sometimes, for added bonus, they are covered in puke.

I love it.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I love holding them and rocking them and praying feverishly that they will NOT throw up on me (or Frank or Grandma) and that they WILL go back to sleep easily after their middle of the night feedings.

When I am rocking the girls and NOT praying for positive digestive results (“Dear God, please help Ellie move her bowels so that I won’t have to do that thing with the thermometer that the doctor told me about that sounds so terrible!! And dear God, please do not let Carrie puke down my shirt again.  If she pukes on my shirt, that’s okay, but if she pukes down it, I’m going to have to shower and I really, really just want to go to bed…”), I try to sing to the girls.

Ahem.  I try to sing because I am not a very good vocalist.  I have no ear.  And I have no memory for songs.

So in the middle of the night, I try to remember songs I liked growing up.  And I try to sing them as best as I can.  It usually goes like this, “In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep, to the river of dreams, in the middle of the night, I go walking…” and I realize I am in a death loop with the lyrics and heavens, I don’t even think I have the right lyrics!

When I come to the realization that I am about to permanently lodge a song in my brain with completely incorrect lyrics, I then make up songs for the girls.

“My name is Carrigan, I went to the fair again, I won a bear again, who has no hair again, just like me, I’m Carrigan.”

And Carrie doesn’t really seem to care much.  Singing a song that makes sense or doesn’t make sense does not seem to impact the likelihood that she will puke on me.

For Elliana, sometimes I sing to her, “My name is Elliana, I have a friend Gianna, we went to Tia-juana.”  But that’s as far as I get before I start thinking, “Well, I think it’s Tijuana, not Tia-juana.  And isn’t that where they used to race the horse they made the movie about?  Not Secretariat, but the other horse movie.  The other recent one.  The horse who won all three.  Gosh.  Who was that?”

And so you will find in my Google history that I have googled “Lyrics for Billy Joel’s River of Dreams”, “clumpy baby spit up”, and “horses that won the triple crown.”

By the way, Seabiscuit, the horse I was thinking about, did not win the Triple Crown.  War Admiral did.  But Seabiscuit won more races that year overall and more money.  So, I guess I can tell the girls that little factoid when I am singing to them in the middle of the night, when I go walking in my sleep.

To the river of dreams…