Monday, July 30, 2007

Just a Little Creepy

As we were having a post church Sunday morning breakfast with my parents, brother N, and his girlfriend, and we were talking about our near death experience Friday night (on a two lane road and a car coming in the opposite direction from some reason just came into our lane going about 70 miles an hour forcing me up onto the shoulder) this personcame into the restaurant. Not exactly who you want to see when discussing near death experiences. He sat next in the booth next to us. And regardless of how I feel or don't feel about euthanasia, I wasn't sure I wanted him near the Cricket. Odd that, eh?


Friday, July 27, 2007

I Saw the Sign

...that we don't quite belong here (anymore).

Case in point: Earlier this summer, we cancelled our lawn fertilizer service. Not because it couldn't use it or even because we decided we were going to do it ourselves. I'd like to pretend that we cancelled it because we were concerned about the pesticides, and we are of course concerned about that, but quite honestly that is why we cancelled. We cancelled because our cash reserves were getting quite low and having an impeccably green lawn was low on the totem pole of needs.

Around the time we cancelled the service, I noticed that across the road from us the people that live there had a fairly large crew of landscapers. "Hm," I thought, "Spring clean-up." I thought about how nice it would be just to hire a crew of gardeners to come spruce up the place. I enjoyed the ethnic chatter from my own backyard. These guys worked hard.

A few weeks ago, I noticed them again, planting, weeding, mowing.

And today, there they, yet again.

People, I just realized this isn't a spring clean-up, mid-summer touch-up, high summer weed-out, these guys are their regular gardeners.

That's right: my neighbors don't just have a gardener, they have a crew, that appears to come at least once a week to mow, and twice a month to maintain the, shall we just say, grounds.

We so need to move.


Monday, July 16, 2007


If, for example, we were thinking of getting a new car seat, and knowing that Cricket probably weighs at this point around 22 pounds (we'll know for sure on Wednesday), what kind of car seat would you recommend and why?


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Four Summer Things Cricket Loves

1. The pool: Cricket is enjoying summer so far. He loves the pool. The first time we went in, I stupidly forgot the sun screen, so I was little obsessed about staying the shade and we only went in for a few minutes. On the Fourth, he did pool redux, this time with sunscreen. Unfortunately the pool was a little bit cooler, so we still didn't stay in that long. He went under twice, and after he got down looking shocked, he flashed a big smile. I can't wait to see what he's going to do in the ocean.

2. Mastering parseltongue and wrestling snakes: Best money I have ever spent at IKEA. He loves this snake almost as much as he loves the pool. I love to see him pull this snake all over the place.

3. Reading: He's figured out how to hold books up and look at the pictures, which I think is super, but just as often, he grabs the book to put into his mouth too. But he's looking on his own. I could swear that this morning he turned the page on his own, which I'm sure is a fluke, but it was great fun. 4. Hanging out in the hammock: He loves to be under the trees or looking up at the sky. He sings songs to the birds, which is really charming. He could be there for hours just looking up. He's looked up like this since he was just born. I wonder what it all means.


Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm Your Fire

If I had to ask myself what famous person or icon I remind myself of lately, I know who it is. Any glance at myself in the mirror while naked tells me that I am the Venus of Willendorf.

And there is one pro and one con to that statement.

1.) (Pro) I can still see the goddess in myself,

and 2.) (con) that goddess is the Venus of Willendorf.


Friday, July 06, 2007

The Rosary Turtle

I looked in at the Cricket a few minutes ago and noticed that he had with him in the swing a particular turtle that my parents brought back with them from South Carolina when I was still in labor. That turtle stayed with him in the NICU and sat next to the monitor, looking down at him as things beeped and whirred away. The turtle itself was a reminder to me think about the beach in SC where my parents have a home. I thought about this beach during the requisite "be still" time after the transfer of Cricket. I told the little embryos inside me if they stayed (preferably one, please) I would take them down the ocean and let them swim away. Play on the beach. This place is my own personal happy place. Looking at this little turtle while we were in the NICU helped me try to remember that place. It didn't always work, but it was enough.

After about a week in the NICU I was down in the chapel of the hospital, trying to get it together. A woman came in who was probably some sort of Eucharistic minister to those in the hospital and asked me if I wanted to take the sacrament. I did. I could barely keep it together as she prayed with me, and when she said the "Angel of God" prayer*, a prayer we said every night of my childhood and at the start of any car trip longer than 20 minutes, I out and out cried. She then slipped a small cheap pink plastic rosary into my hand. I went back upstairs to the NICU and wrapped the rosary around the middle of the turtle, tucking it under the sweatshirt the turtle was wearing.

Soon after, Cricket went on the mend.

I haven't taken the rosary off the turtle, so when I saw the turtle in Cricket's pudgy little hand, I thought about whether I should go remove the turtle or let it be. I let it be. I mentioned to Partner that next time he got the turtle, we should take off the rosary.

"I already did," she said. "I give him that turtle every day during his nap and never knew it was there until one day I saw this little cross sticking out. I ripped it off then."

"Okay. Good. That rosary is what made him get better."

She stopped and looked at me very seriously. "Do you really believe that? I mean, Katie, do you really believe it was that rosary? Maybe it was the turtle?"

"No, he had the turtle from the time he was born."

"Maybe it was the little hat he wore?" She was incredulous.

"No, it wasn't his hat. He also had the hat right away too." I was serious. She was almost laughing.

"I can't believe you think it was that rosary that made him better."

I pouted a little, but had to think about it. Did I really think it was a pink, plastic rosary that made Cricket get better and get out of the NICU?

My grandmother was firm believer in holy water. Sprinkle the holy water and things would heal. She told a story about her mother on the farm in Canada. There was tornado headed straight for their house and her mother went out into the yard and sprinkled holy water in all for corners of the yard and the tornado veered right off. Never hit their house. Now, we all know that tornadoes have erratic patterns, but to my grandmother it was the holy water that spared them. She would have been insulted if you had suggested otherwise. I always chuckled a little (inside) when she told this story, but how is that so different from me telling Partner that the rosary was responsible for making Cricket better?

Partner ended up comparing this to picking up a penny. "Does the penny really bring you luck?" Hm. I pointed out that prayer was different from this. "Sure, prayer. But waving a rosary above someone's head is not prayer." She's right. That's not prayer. Which is not to say that I wasn't living one big long extended prayer the whole time he was in the NICU. Life was a prayer then: please make me strong enough to deal with this, please let him eat, please let him breathe, please get him of CPAP, please let that monitor stop going off, please don't let him pull out the NG tube again, please let him be okay, please, please, please.

So what about that penny? It won't give me good luck, but I'm not about to pass it up. I'll pick up that penny as a hedged bet. But that's got to be different from faith. Faith as superstition? I don't think of myself as this type of person, but hey, I've buried St. Joseph not only in my yard, but several places on the blog as well. When I lived in Ireland, I crossed myself as we passed a church, just like all the oul wans. I know the patron saints for many different situations. Does this make me superstitious or just culturally very Catholic? But realistically faith has to be different than "step on crack, break your mother's back." It's not a cause and direct effect relationship. And to think about faith that way or imbue objects with magical powers, well, that could end up being downright dangerous.

I don't know. I guess I don't think it was the rosary that made Cricket better. It was time, good nurses and doctors, himself, our real prayers. All of that.

But I also think it didn't hurt.

(*Angel of God prayer the way we said it: Angel of God, our guardian dear, to whom God's love commits us here, ever this day and ever this night, be at my side to light, to guard, and to keep us near.)


Monday, July 02, 2007

Still Selling

Today I got very surly as we loaded the Cricket into the car, yet again, for another showing. Why do they always want to see the house when it's his nap time? And just as a matter of reference, this is how desperate we are: the showing today was not for a sale, but for a renter. And we mistakenly put the price for rent about $900 dollars cheaper than we should have. Who wouldn't want to rent our house for the price we listed?

Apparently it doesn't make a difference to the guy who saw the house today since his company would be paying the rent. He's coming back tomorrow to take pictures to send to his wife, who lives in a different hemisphere. I don't want to say more than that. (But I cooked lamb in the house tonight and am considering leaving my Wallabies tee shirt out in the closet, maybe a rugby call on the back deck...) But if they want to rent this house for at least a year, with the option of staying on for a year or two after that, maybe the Michigan market could rebound in that time and instead of selling our house for under appraised value, we might actually sell it for what it's worth.

You know the market in Michigan is bad when even the builder can't make money on her own home.

I get a little frustrated when I read blogs of other Michigan home sellers who are frustrated that their houses aren't selling and they've only been on the market for a few weeks. (Just FYI, I'm not talking about people I actually know.) I want to whine, "Look at me! Our house has been for sale for a year! A year! And now we own TWO houses for sale!" But realistically, I have to look at the house I'm living in. I can't complain. Really. I live in the type of house I thought I'd never live in. We're leaving behind this lifestyle for some time to come, perhaps forever, so maybe I should just enjoy the life of Reilly while I can. Mix up some martinis and sit on the back deck, look out over the backyard. Grill up with friends while we have room to mingle and then some...

The truth is that we're mostly moving because of money at this point. Michigan has the highest unemployment in the nation, and guess what? When people are unemployed, the real estate market tanks, and then guess what? People aren't really building homes either. Since our fates were hitched on the building star, which has now fallen in a blazing glory to earth, we're crushed under its weight.

But the fact of the matter is that we've wanted to change our lifestyle for some time now. We don't feel like we're living very responsibly. Before this point there have been two of us living in 3400 sq ft house. When we started planning the new house, we were going to go smaller, and somehow it ended up 400 sq ft bigger. (Although we were more "green" in our approach there; the geothermal heating and cooling rocks!) But there's no reason we need this much space or need to use as many natural resources as it takes to live in a house like this. And even with Cricket, we still don't need this much space. In fact, I'm positive I'd like less space with him. Less time cleaning/weeding = more time with child.

I also want to teach him different values about work. Right now we have someone mow our lawn, shovel our driveway, mulch our beds, etc. What does that teach him about ownership? I want to do those things as a family. Even though I complained as kid about things like raking, it was actually fun to be out in the yard on a crisp autumn afternoon with dad and a rake, and the delight of finishing a hard job. There was something almost magical going out to shovel the driveway late at night in the middle of a snowstorm. The snow swirling in flakes around your face lit up by the porch light and the muffled silence and scrape of the shovel on the drive and the promise of hot drink that would make your cold hands tingle when you got back inside. Warming up under the blanket was that much sweeter for the work you did.

I also want him to have friends to play with and places to ride his bike. That doesn't exist here. Brother K thinks I'm crazy-- our backyard is sizable and he thinks this is a kid's dream, but it wouldn't have been for me. I suppose I've always been social, but I think having a small yard with a kid next door or down the street is preferable to playing alone in your acre backyard. Yawn. Boooorrrrinnnggg. When I think about what I loved as a kid it was playing with other kids in the neighborhood. And I went everywhere on my bike: the library, the swim club, friends houses, my grandmother's, church, school-- everywhere. It was exciting when a parent would propose an after dinner bike ride to get ice cream. Now we'd be taking our lives into our hands to go bike out on the road next to our house.

And I hate that if I want to go for a walk with Cricket, I have to load him in the car seat from hell, drive to a neighborhood or downtown, unload him, and then stroll. I tried walking him on our cul de sac; it was like watching paint dry. It would be so much fun to just go out the door with him and, voila! Sidewalks and neighbors-- what fun, oh my! When we walk through the neighborhoods I covet, I love to look at the kids toys out in front of houses, sidewalk chalk drawings, strollers parked in driveways, and imagine our lives in such a place. Once when we were taking an evening walk I overheard another child leaving a friend's house. "Goodnight, Henry-who-has-to-sleep-soon!" he called out. Other children were busy spraying each other with a hose. I want those memories for Cricket, not playing alone in his big backyard.

The logistics of our downsizing are something to consider though. In all likelihood we'll rent while I'm in school. Even we don't rent, we're planning on moving from a 3400 sq ft house, not including the basement in that footage, and a three car garage to something probably around 800 to 1200 sq ft. (IKEA here we come!) We won't have a formal dining room and kitchen nook, so what do we do with two tables? No more four bedrooms, so two there's two extra beds to contend with. It highlights the excess we've been living with, and it's a hideous addiction. Even in the quest to downsize, do you see how I call for even more consumption? (The IKEA reference.) I don't need to buy more stuff to downsize, but it's so how we get used to living. It's time to break the cycle.

So rent my house. Buy my house. It's horrible and sad and scary and exciting and liberating and new all the same time. I think I'm ready.

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What We Learned Today

Cricket's lesson from the President today:

Go ahead and commit any crime you want, just make sure you do while working for President George W. Bush.

I can't even big to express how incredibly pissed off I am right now.