Monthly Archives: September 2008

Does God Mind Nose Picking During Communion?

Yesterday, I took our two-year-old son with me to church while Andrew stayed home sick with the other two.  Still on crutches for a suspected stress fracture in my hip, I relied on my friends/pew-mates to help my son make it up to the alter with me for communion.

No sooner had we gotten settled at the alter rail, my son on my left, friends on my right, than did I look over to see my little ones’ index finger crammed two knuckles deep into his nose.  Just as the priest approached to hand us our wafers.  After quickly pulling the finger out of the nose, stifling the laughter that threatened to interrupt the heavenly calm in the nave, I cupped my hands just in time to receive the bread for both Gabe and I–after which, I made sure I dipped my son’s wafer into the wine chalice.  I figured, the sharing of the bread and wine during Eucharist should only go so far.


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Analysis of the first presidential Obama-McCain Debate

After watching with bated breath (ok, maybe not so bated…but certainly with great interest) the first Obama-McCain debate, here’s my unofficial, unsolicited analysis of what happened:

Lehrer: What’s your take on what’s happening with our economy?

Obama: It’s the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  We’ve watched our country’s economy go into the shitter in the past eight years under an administration that John McCain voted in favor of over 90% of the time.

McCain: Yeah, the economy kind of sucks.  But America is a great country, and I have every faith that we can pull out of this ’cause I have lots of foreign policy experience.

Lehrer: What do each of you anticipate doing differently with your financial policies, should you become president, in light of the huge, gargantuan, previously unimaginable bailout we’re about to put into place?

McCain: I’ll re-build our country’s economy by giving tax breaks to corporate America and to the richest people in this country.  As long as the wealthy are still payin’ someone to clean their houses and shine their shoes, this economy will rebound.  I know this because I have more foreign affairs experience than Senator Obama.  He just doesn’t understand.

Obama: I’ll keep spending money.  The only way to fix our economy is from the bottom up.  As long as house cleaners and shoe shiners can pay for the health care they truly need after breathing in all those chemicals over the years…this economy will rebound.

Lehrer: What do each of you make of the situation in Iraq as it stands now?

Obama: The question isn’t “what should we do about Iraq now,” it should be, “should we have gone into Iraq at all?  My answer is ‘no.’  We need to make a concrete plan to pull our trips out of Iraq, and send them to Afghanistan, where the real war is.  I know this because I am logical, not based on much of any foreign affairs experiences or visits to Middle Eastern countries who didn’t want me there in the first place.

McCain: We need to stick it out in Iraq until the Iraqi citizens are tattooing “Allah Save America” on their honey buns.  If I become Commander in Chief, we will not leave Iraq defeated.  I know this because of my extensive foreign affairs experiences.  Obama just doesn’t get it.  Oh, wait–did I say that, already?

Obama’s rebuttal: What John doesn’t get is that the choice to go into Iraq and stay there, which John has supported President Bush in, suggests a level of decision making and judgment that is dangerous, idiotic and…hey, McCain!  Look over here when I talking to you, damnit!  This is a debate, not a luncheon with the queen!  I dare you to make eye contact with me!

Lehrer: How do each of you view Pakistan and Russia following recent month’s events?

Obama: Blah…blah…blah (insert any politically correct jargon here that would sound reasonable coming from either side of the stage)

McCain: Blah…blah…blah (insert any politically correct jargon here that would sound reasonable coming from either side of the stage)

Lehrer: Come on now, boys.  Let’s hear the truth:  Would you, or would you not sit down with a leader from a rogue nation and discuss hot topics like nuclear proliferation, terrorist groups and the price of imported chai tea without demanding a laundry list of requirements to be met from said ‘rogue nation’ first?

Obama: I’d sit down with anybody, anywhere, anytime.  Or, at least, I’d have one of my underlings show up.

McCain: Hell no.  Either they submit, or they don’t get a lick of my time.  The same goes for my underlings.  I know this because of my foreign affairs…

Obama: Oh, shove it with the foreign affairs bit, John. No one’s buyin’ it anyway!

Lehrer: How do each of you feel regarding our nation’s safety now, in comparison to before 9-11?

McCain: We’re the strongest, safest, best damned nation in the world!  No one can touch us!  We’re invincible!  (Oh, and I love veterans and I promise to take care of them.  I promise to take care of veterans and they know I love them.  I know I promise veterans…)

Lehrer: Yeah, Senator, we get it.  Let’s move on.

Obama: Safer?  Sort of.  But there’s this slight problem that’s weakening the safety of our general population: we haven’t secured our transit systems, our chemical plants or our borders.  We continue to occupy places around the world where we’re not welcome and, in general, most everyone outside our borders hates us.  Other than that, yeah, I think we’re pretty safe.  God Bless America.

McCain: I promise we’ll be safe when I become president because I’ll give tax cuts to the wealthy, and I love to love veterans.

Lehrer: Thank you to both of the candidates, the University of Mississippi, and to all of you watching.  Do forget to tune in next Tuesday, October 2 when Sarah Palin and Joe  Biden will attempt to kick it to each other with equal grace, fury and repetitiveness as their running mates.  Until then, good night.


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Chapter Share: Chapter Thirteen ~ Pregnancy Number Three: The Second Trimester

While the following chapter of A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood is still difficult for me to re-read to this day, I still appreciate it for its frankness–something I had to do at the time, while writing this book, as a measure of catharsis–and ultimately,  a motivating factor in my willingness to go forward and share my story with friends, strangers, my Lamaze class students, and anyone else who might benefit from my experience with pregnancy related depression…

Chapter 13 – Pregnancy Number Three: The Second Trimester

As the end of my first trimester came and went, nausea and fatigue persisted.  My hopes for the burst of energy that so many books predict for the second trimester were bludgeoned, but this time I was not exactly surprised, as I had missed out on this mid-pregnancy bliss while pregnant with Landon as well.  At twenty-two weeks, my nausea finally began to subside, only to be quickly followed by a recurrence of the sometimes debilitating pelvic pain that had plagued my second pregnancy.

I re-visited the physical therapist with whom I had worked less than two years prior and began the same set of “pelvis stabilizing” exercises that I had been somewhat diligent about performing when I was last knocked up. (Don’t you just hate that term?  Me too, but I couldn’t resist it here.)

I hoped that by being a good and responsible patient, I could get a jump start on an exercise routine that included therapeutic movements with names like “tail wags”, “supermans” and “hip hikes”, and stave off the worst of the pain that had been a source of great frustration and discomfort in my not-so-distant past.  I hooked up with a trainer at the local gym who added exercises such as “wall angels” to my regimen, and I was hopeful that the remainder of this pregnancy would pass uneventfully.

But shortly after resuming the physical therapy program, I was blindsided by a  mid-pregnancy bout of prenatal depression and I became unable to properly look after Ellie and Landon.  I stopped eating and drinking and gradually, day by day, slipped further into an emotional catatonia.

Although the majority of this period of my pregnancy quickly became a blur; memorialized in my mind are snapshots of crying spells, emotional and physical despondency while my children milled around me, casting anxious sideways glances in my direction, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that I could handle the challenge I was soon to face in simultaneously mothering three young children….

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Childbirth Stories

As Andrew succinctly captured in his post today, we had an awesome party at our house yesterday afternoon with several of the Lamaze class couples I have taught in the past several years, along with their kiddos.

Because of the work I do, (okay, because of one of the several hats I wear) I get to hear some really amazing childbirth stories.  Three top my list right now.  In brief, this how they went down:

Story # 1:  Amy* and her husband waited and waited for labor to start…refusing to seek an elective medical induction…and finally having labor start on its own right around her 42nd week of pregnancy.  As planned, they headed to the hospital and met their cherished doula there.  As the end of her 24 hour labor neared, she began the pushing phase of delivering their son.  7 hours later…yes, 7 hours of pushing…their son was born healthy as a horse, and Amy didn’t accept a drop of pain medication, Pitocin, or any other significant medical intervention in the process.

Because of the baby’s abberrant heart beat pattern, she even avoided being hooked up to the fetal monitor for long periods of time.  Her nurse simply listened to the baby’s heart rate once in a while with the doppler.  End of story:  Mom and baby were awesomely healthy!  Go Amy!

Story #2:  One of the mom’s at our party yesterday had another whopper of a story to share.  Pregnant with her second child and also planning for a hospital birth, all the while remembering that her first (induced) labor was relatively quick, she immediately took note when her labor started one weekday morning.  Once her husband helped her time contractions, and they found them to be 1min. long and four minutes apart, Jane* decided it was time to think about heading into the hospital.  Her husband decided to run their 2 y.o. son to day care first–with the anticipation of getting back home quickly at which point he’d take his wife up to the hospital.

As Jane continued to labor at home alone, things started to pick up quickly.  As she went to visit the restroom, she realized the contractions she was now experiencing were PUSHING contractions.  Three contractions later, Jane caught her own baby while kneeling on the bathroom floor.  “The good thing was she cried right away,” Jane recalled of her three-month-old daughter’s birth.  Minutes later her husband arrived back home, and heard his wife “talking baby talk” in the bathroom.  He rounded the corner to find mom and baby resting comfortably in the bathtub.

Story #3:  Elena* had been anxiously awaiting the home birth she, her husband and their older son had been anticipating for weeks.  With a gradual start to labor, and a continually gradual progress throughout labor until the last hour, she had a wonderful experience at home with her hubby, son, two midwives and a doula/friend.  Spending the last hour of labor in a warm water birth tub, she worked through the final stages of labor with her awesome birth support team at her side.  Her son was there to witness the birth of his five-years-younger brother, and Elena’s hubby caught the baby as he slid out without even so much as a single push from mom.  Mom and baby have gone on to practice lotus care, along with a traditional, but nearly long-lost practice in this culture:  a 40 day lie-in for mom and baby.

Bravo to all of the women sited in these stories, along with their husband’s and extended labor support teams for incredible childbirth experiences!  It is stories like these that remind us childbirth can be safe, normal and lovely (even if unexpected in one way or another) all at the same time, when the process is protected and lovingly cared for.

* Names changed for protection of privacy

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Chapter Share, Part Two: Chapter Twenty-Five ~ The Saniplane

Following in the footsteps of yesterday’s post…here’s the audio version of another one of my favorite chapters from A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood...

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Chapter Share From A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood: Chapter Twelve ~ The Vagina Monologues of a Toddler



 To my faithful readers of this blog, I have decided to start sharing a few chapters of A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood via this mediumPerhaps I will, eventually, get organized enough to share one chapter at a time in chronological order.  But for now, I thought I’d just toss out there some of my very favorites…and this one definitely tops the list:


Chapter 12 – The Vagina Monologues of a Toddler

“Daddy, I don’t like being a girl.”

Having struggled in the past weeks with her frustration of being a three-year-old; experiencing a pained desire to grow younger rather than older, all the while worrying  that Landon would continue growing older and eventually overtake her in age, Ellie struggled to find peace with her place in the world.

“What don’t you like about being a girl?” Andrew asked.

“Well…I’m having vagina problems.”

If I had been present during this conversation, I might have been tempted to start firing off a list of covertly concerned questions a mile long.  “How long has this been bothering you?  Does it itch down there?  Does it hurt when you pee?  Did someone touch you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable?”  But I was gone teaching class, so Andrew had the distinct honor of fielding this one on his own.

“What kind of vagina problems?”

“Well,” Ellie offered in, I’m sure, her most thoughtful and painstaking tone, “just vagina problems.”

“Oh.  Well, I’m…sorry to hear that.”

Ellie was content with the answer, and that was that.  It’s a funny thing with young kids—they’ll throw you something out of left field, and then just leave it there as if it’s as ordinary as the daily paper on your doorstep.  As we lay in bed later that night, Andrew relaying the conversation to me, I laughed until tears streamed from my eyes.

But Ellie’s contentment at the time would not last.  She continued her own toddleresque version of The Vagina Monologues for several more weeks, revisiting the plight every so often thereafter.  Sometimes, it was enough for her to blurt out, “Mommy, I just don’t feel like a girl today!” 

On one such occasion, I found the courage to ask in response, “What makes you not feel like a girl, Ellie?” I was anxious to hear her highly dramatized reply.

 “My outfit doesn’t look like a princess!  And my hair is all spiky!”  she howled.  Dashing herself onto the living room floor, her pink tutu flipped up over her underwearless bare bottom and her “Princess” emblazoned t-shirt rode up to her armpits.  Choking back a giggle, I gathered her into my arms, burying my nose into her still baby-soft hair and gently crooned, “You look like a princess to me, Mouse.”

Andrew and I initially agreed to assume the perpetual vagina issues were nothing more than one of her attention-getting tactics: she would squirm on the floor, howling about how her vagina was causing her problems, tugging on her underwear, which was also “causing…” (she would often leave out the remainder of the sentence…it was apparently enough for her to whine in a nasally voice, “my underwear’s causing…” without completing the sentence, which satisfied her need to fuss about something.) 

A year later, we would finally come to understand that Ellie’s complaints about her vagina, underwear, the tags on her shirts, the straps on her shoes, her brother’s singing in the back seat of the car, and the pink and purple tassels on her bicycle handle bars (which were all promptly ripped out) were all a manifestation of her extraordinarily sensitive temperament.  For several years, we would discover that logic, distraction, pleading, and admonishing were all equally ineffective in extinguishing the meltdowns that were caused by these normally inoffensive things.

One hot summer afternoon, while getting Ellie and Landon changed into their swimsuits in the cargo area of our family-mobile, smack-dab in the middle of the local swimming pool parking lot, Ellie started doing the panty problem dance.  She twisted her face into all sorts of miserable looking expressions, and ultimately pulled up on her lavender Sleeping Beauty underpants to the point of giving herself a frontal wedgie, all the while complaining, “my underwear’s causing…”  It was all Andrew and I could do to turn our heads and grit our teeth before bursting out laughing right in front of her.  To suggest to her that she was the one doing all of the “causing” wouldn’t have gotten us anywhere. 

      Andrew expertly diffused the situation by using the “Low and Slow” approach—a tactic offered by one of the several counselors we sought guidance from in dealing with Ellie’s colorful personality.  With a calm, quiet, slow voice, he walked Ellie through the steps of undressing and redressing until she was gleefully ready for an afternoon dip in the pool.

And don’t think we didn’t take her seriously at first —Ellie went through several rounds of doctor’s exams and tests for bladder infections, supplemented with frequent applications of various creams that might ease any actual labial irritation.  But when we started noticing that her dramatically desperate requests for “cream” and the permission to not wear underwear (or anything at all) directly correlated with Landon’s frequent bouts of diarrhea that required applications of Desitin to his bottom, along with other life-changing events, such as a household move, the start of preschool, and the approaching due-date of her second sibling, we were on to her.

But we were, in fact, intent on dealing with Ellie’s vagina issues mundanely and without incident.  As parents, we pride ourselves in modeling an extreme level of comfort with our own bodies in the hopes that this attitude will rub off on our children.  Admittedly, this tactic would occasionally result in conversations about bodily functions at the dinner table, in the grocery store, or anywhere the topic spontaneously occurred to one of the kids.  It was not beyond our Ellie and Landon to aggressively pursue the question of why people vomit, while standing in line at the local shipping store. 

All the same, I did occasionally worry about how far the vagina issue with Ellie would go outside the confines of our immediate family.  I couldn’t help but wonder what the ramification would be if and when Ellie decided to inform her preschool teachers about her vaginal troubles—or even worse, the volunteer “grandmas” from the senior center, who helped out in the preschool. 

Nearly a year after Ellie’s vaginal obsession began, Andrew and I were still treated to an occasional resurgence of the topic.  While out in Seattle for a surprise visit with my parents, Ellie fluctuated between sweet, charming, and boisterous, and surly, pouty, and as angry as a Montana wildfire in mid-August.  The final twelve hours of our visit were particularly challenging for Ellie (and, therefore, for everyone involved). 

Following dinner, Ellie, Landon, and my parents congregated downstairs in the family room for some play time while Andrew and I began organizing our trunk-load of belongings for our trip back home.  Unbeknownst to us, Ellie—exhausted from a flurry of activity over the preceding three days—had begun to revisit her underwear complaints once again, with an occasional bit of vaginal angst thrown in.  While Andrew and I finished packing, we could hear Ellie’s desperation rising up the stairwell from the basement.  When we joined the group downstairs, I immediately recognized the look on my father’s face that said he was disapprovingly uncomfortable about something that had just happened.

“Ellie says she’s having vagina problems,” my dad said, his eyes needling through me like I was sixteen again and home an hour past curfew. 

“She told us, ‘My vagina’s bubbling!’” He paused. “Kimmelin, sometimes, there’s such a thing as too much information.” 

Oh, God, I thought to myself.  The secret’s out.  Surveying the look on his face, I couldn’t tell whether the ‘too much information’ he referred to was that which Ellie had just shared with him, or the information I had obviously shared with her, sometime in the past.  Taking a stab at it, I retorted,

“Oh well, Dad.  At least she knows the right name for it.”



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The Historical Significance of…the Grasshopper, and the Tale of Halloween Emily Flower Boy

Be it the folk tale of the grasshopper and the ant, or the appearance in hieroglyhics to represent great numbers of people…

 or the namesake for a 1/10 scale off road vehicle by the Japanese toy company Tamiya…

 the grasshopper/locust insect is a common element of the over all summer time landscape for many of us…like it or not.  Did you know there are subgroups of grasshoppers with names like “Obscure Slantfaced Grasshopper” and “Elegant Grasshopper” and the “Long-Headed Toothpick Grasshopper”?

Neither did I until today, but for my nearly 4-year-old middle son, none of this matters.  He doesn’t mind that they jump willy-nilly, unpredictably, and at the last minute when you’re about to step on them while walking down the sidewalk or middle of the road.  He doesn’t mind the clicking sound they make when they spread their wings and fly–propelling themselves awkwardly through the air until they find a safe place to land.  He doesn’t mind the holes they chew into the lush leaves of my perennials and crab apple tree. 

He just likes to catch them.

Yesterday, he caught a particularly old grasshopper…one that was surely on it’s way out of this existance.  The poor, slightly disgusting thing was missing one of its hind hopper legs–but that also didn’t seem to bother my son much.  In a matter of minutes, my son had grown quite attached to his captive “friend”, naming it Halloween Emily Flower Boy. (Some of my readers may recall the inch worm “Halloween Emily” that graced our lives for all of twelve hours earlier this summer.)





Having been patient for quite some time with my son’s coddling, chasing and doting, the Old Man Hopper finally started trying to get away from his captor.  As my son would pick it up, the insect would struggle to free itself toward the nearest plant or shrub.  My son, finally growing frustrated with the lack of cooperation on the part of his new “friend” finally pleaded,

“Don’t leave grasshopper!  I like you…I need you!”

Ah, boys will be boys.  And from everything I have ever come to understand about that half of the gene pool–catching grasshoppers, lightning bugs, worms and (God forbid) snakes is just a part of boyhood.  And grasshoppers, like it or not, have been a part of that process since the dawning of time.


As a side note:  when our son returned to the garage this morning, and peered inside the cardboard box he’d safely nestled Halloween Emily Flower Boy into the night before–he found the grasshopper to be motionless, lying on its side.  “Oh well,” my son uttered as he picked the insect up.  He walked over to the garbage can and tossed the bug inside.  “He was dead mom, so I just throwed him away.”

So much for nostalgia.

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