A very wise child

The whole family piled in the car last weekend to head down to see family for Christmas. Brian spent a bit of time trying to find out from me what his Christmas present was, while Helen sat in the backseat drinking some juice and looking out the window. Then Brian asked me if I got him a new videogame. Since his usual M.O. with a new videogame is to occupy the sofa for 2 weeks while perfecting it, I responded as any loving wife would.

Jennie: Do you think I'm stupid?

Helen: (from backseat) You're not stupid, Mommy!

Brian: Helen, I think Mommy was actually calling Daddy stupid.

Helen: Oh. Okay!

Jennie: (laughs hysterically)

Brian: (clenches jaw)


Future Superstar

Helen sings A LOT. Usually on demand, too. The important part is, I've got some video proof of it, finally.

"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"


"Itsy Bitsy Spider"

Each video is about 30 seconds long. Enjoy.


Moments of Clarity

One morning this week, Helen woke up crying. I ran upstairs to see what was wrong, and she was lying frozen on her bed. When I asked what was wrong, the tears came pouring out, and she told me that her neck hurt. My first worry was "Does her head hurt, too? Does she have a fever?" Because moms tend to panic about the worst-case scenarios first: meningitis, paralyzed, you'll shoot your eye out, etc.

Turns out Helen had a pretty bad crick in her neck. She's been sleeping in her big bed for nearly a month, after a short transisition period in a toddler bed, and what I've discovered is that after I tuck her in and close the door, she gets out of bed, turns on the light and piles up her bed with stuffed animals and books. Lots and lots of books. If she wakes up, she sits in bed and reads books.

That night, she must have had so much stuff piled on the bed that she ended up sleeping in an awkward position, and so her neck was in pretty bad shape. She cried so hard whenever I tried to move her, and she absolutely refused to take a shower or a bath to warm it up. So I ended up giving her a little ibuprofen and sitting with her until she finally moved around. That took a couple of hours. The entire time was a struggle - she was in pain, and not understanding why, she was really cranky about it. Everything was a battle that ended in tears, including getting her dressed to go to daycare. At times it was just a marvel to watch her fall apart so easily. It's truly a crisis, when the world conspires against you in EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED.

I felt bad about taking her to school in that condition, but I had to make an appearance at work. The teachers were very understanding, and I hoped that a little bit of time playing with friends would make her feel better. I called to check on her that afternoon and the report was that everything seemed fine. Or so I thought.

I got back to the daycare that afternoon, and the director walked with me on the way to her classroom. Without even asking, he said to me, "Today, you know, there were moments of clarity, when Helen really got it and she could hold it all together. And then, sometimes, it was just one giant meltdown."

My shoulders slumped. I could see the entire evening stretched out ahead of me, just like the morning had gone. And once I was home that night, I wasn't too far off the mark, either.

The next morning, she woke up and told me very brightly, "My neck not hurting, Mommy!" Ah, thank you sweet Jesus.

But I haven't forgotten the director's comment all week, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that's a very good description of motherhood, too.


Family News

My husband Brian has a large extended family. His mother has five brothers and sisters, all of whom are married with children of their own. I've loved being a part of their family, spending special holidays and events with them. Most of them made the long journey to our wedding, which touched me deeply. When I cooked Thanksgiving for the first time, stressed by having a newborn, a dozen dinner guests and a dressing recipe that just wouldn't work, they were all there to pitch in, making appreciative noises over every detail. They are good people to have in your corner, and I'm thrilled to pieces to know them all.

About 2 years ago, one of Brian's cousins, a lovely girl named Amanda, married a handsome and polite young man who also happened to be named Brian. Although I had met Amanda at another family gathering, we met then-fiance Brian at our own wedding. I will never forget that Brian is the reason we have our entire set of steak knives. I heard through the grapevine that he encouraged that purchase after seeing our registry. I knew right then & there he was a keeper!

The next year, Brian & I made the trip with a very new Helen to see them get married. What a gorgeous ceremony! We had plenty of volunteers to take care of Helen, so we got to enjoy the reception, too.

Her Brian had recently been complaining of stomach pain, and learned last month after several doctor visits and tests that he has advanced Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. In someone that young, it's obviously devastating news. I cannot imagine facing this kind of event so early in my own marriage, and I pray each day that they are given the strength to handle this journey.

Brian has been admitted for treatment to one of the foremost cancer centers in the country, and Amanda started a blog to update family and friends about his treatment. As it is with anyone's life story - sometimes days are good, sometimes days are harder. But my hard days now pale in comparison.

I invite you to vist her blog and check on their progress. Bookmark it, check on them when you can, and send good vibes their way. I know they'll appreciate it.

Click here for Brian's Update.



This evening I called Brian on my way home from work and discovered that he had already picked up Helen from daycare, and was driving home with her. To understand this story, you may want to know that she often takes a stuffed animal to daycare with her, and that day she had a brown puppy dog.

Anyway, while I was on the phone with Brian, in the background I could hear her chanting.

Helen: Puppy driving!! Puppy driving!!

Brian (to me): Puppy's up front with me.

Jennie: A-ha.

Helen: Puppy driving!! Go puppy, go puppy, go puppy, go puppy ...

(Brian & I have a short conversation about possibilities for dinner that evening. We have this same conversation via cell phone every evening. In the background I can still hear Helen chanting.)

Helen: Go puppy, go puppy, go puppy, go puppy ...

Brian: Helen, we can't go any faster, sweetie. You don't want puppy to rear-end the car in front of us and cause his premiums do go up, do you?

Helen: (complete silence)

Brian (to me): Boy, I really got her there.

Jennie: Hahahahaha! Oh, that's totally going on the blog.

Helen: (still silent)

Brian: Helen, you'll get that joke when you're older and you wreck your daddy's car.

Jennie: And how!