Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Word Up

Aidan (after being sent to see if Sean was sitting in his time-out): "Yeah, he's still sitting there, looking glum."

Aidan (after I asked if he needed help while struggling to put his overflowing basket in the laundry room): "No, I got it. It's just cumbersome."

Aidan (on the last day of school, when asked what was his favorite word): "Flabbergasted."

I'd like to think that having two educated parents who read to him daily has something to do with his vocabulary, but no, it's all thanks to Becky, better known by her other identity:


Sean and I are big fans of her sidekick, Captain Huggy-Face. All of us like to join him in his dance at the end of the show. It's on PBS, and is cute and clever. I can't help enjoying that one of the villains is called "Mr. Big" or that another villain, Granny May, throws mints from her purse when she's trying to get away.


Our first house, that we left four years ago in Oregon, is for sale again.

An old  friend emailed, and we enjoyed peeking at the realtor's web site to see what was the same and what had changed.

I didn't expect Aidan to recognize it, as he was 2 years old when we left, but maybe he's seen enough photos of it here or has a better memory than I imagine, because he immediately said, "Our old house!" and then said, "Is my tree still there?" The tree we planted on his Christening day.

Yes, it was still there. As was the deck Brian built with his little boy. And the container garden beds. And A&deck the retaining wall Brian built, the fence he built, the window boxes he made for me, and the tile floor he put in the kitchen...even the white, scalloped shelf in the bathroom that I was so tempted to take when we left. I still see so much of Brian's work throughout it, but he seemed less fazed by it (and much more interested in seeing how much more it was selling for today).

I wouldn't want to go back (the whole house is only 1060 sq feet), but I still have great affection for that house---for all we learned while tearing it apart and putting it back together, for all the memories made within it, and for all it gave us back in return, namely the freedom to stop teaching for a few years once we sold it...Twoworkingguysso I could stay home with the handy little guy in the above photo, and with this cutie-pie in the photo below today.


I only hope its new owners enjoy it as much as we did.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Perspective III

The first four

The first four O'Malley girls, L to R: Erin, Eileen, me, and Karen behind me.

My sister Erin was the first in my family to go to college, and the next two in line, Eileen and I, followed her directly to Loyola.

How to describe Erin? I remember visiting Erin when I was a high school junior, and she took me to a Marxist Society meeting. Even at that young age, she was already a political conservative, but she was interested in things, and unafraid of the unfamiliar. Instead of taking core 101 requirements, she took graduate level theology classes---because she was interested. She had and still has an insatiable appetite for learning, discovering, and living life to its fullest.

I have several stories about Erin's role in my freshman year, but I'll limit myself to just one: DeNiro's "The Mission" was playing on campus, a rare opportunity to see it on the big screen years after its release. I begged my roommates and friends to come, but ended up going alone. When the lights came up on the mostly empty audience, I remember delighting in seeing my sister alone on the other side of the room. So often, Erin gave me that gift---of showing me it was more than okay to follow your interests, to go to the beat of a different drum. 

She had a unique group of friends, who could go from a serious discussion of the Cubs in one breath to a light-hearted debate of Aquinas in the next. I adored them all. Based on them, I assumed everyone at college would be smart, witty, and passionate about making the world better. I eventually recovered from my disillusionment, but it took time.

Dan O'Neill was part of her group, and he passed away last week from brain cancer. His wife Jodi was Erin's college roommate. I haven't seen either of them since they graduated, so in my mind, they are still 22, young and fresh, with the whole world ahead of them.

I've lost friends of my own, people much closer to me, but my brain is having a hard time wrapping itself around this news. Maybe because he had sons still young, or because he was part of the group I idealized when I was still young. They were supposed to be invincible.

One of my favorite biblical quotes has always been:"The Kingdom of Heaven is within you." Luke 17:21

For years I misread it as meaning heaven is here on earth. I still like the notion of living so as to create a great life here, not focused on an afterlife. But this thinking of heaven being on earth had me striving hard to believe, like Candide, that this was the best of all possible worlds. I could convince myself it was so for brief periods of time, because there is so much to love about this life. Joy. Beauty. Kindness.

Ultimately the tragedies of the world would knock that notion down though. How can this world be enough, a world in which children get cancer, in which women get raped, and in which loss is inevitable? A world in which a man barely 40 gets brain cancer and his young sons have to witness him slowly lose his hold on life?

But the line reads "within you" not "around you."

Heaven, more and more, has come to mean peace of mind and connection to me. And those are within me, when I take time out to connect there.

Perspective II


Our old friend John came through town this weekend (he's the one on the right above, with his good friend Andy). We hadn't seem him in six years, but he hadn't changed much. I adore John for several reasons, including his ability to recite poems in their entirety, for introducing me to DDT and more recently Sun Kil Moon, and the way he is carving his life out on his own terms. But the middle child in me will always adore John for being the one who came back for me when I got "left behind" at the Vlad Motor Inn.

We were Peace Corps volunteers in Russia at the same time, but John was one of the city volunteers and I was a decidedly "village" volunteer, living 20-some hours by train from Vladivostok. I don't even remember why I was in the city without Bri, possibly an English teacher conference or something. I was staying at Andy's I think, and a large group of us had gone out to dinner together, to this crazy, Howard-Johnson-styled place on the outskirts of the city. A new group of volunteers had come in as we were leaving, and I got distracted (possibly by the running water in the restroom) and discovered my group had already left for the train station. I had no idea how to get back to Andy's or even to the city really, and was running toward the train station in the dark as I heard the train arrive and leave. I kept walking toward the station, pretending I knew where I was going or even if there was another train coming, when I saw John's silhouette heading toward me. So happy. Still happy just remembering it.

I felt self-conscious during John's brief visit. Our town normally lends itself to entertaining visitors, but it was just too hot to hike. John has continued traveling around the globe and is currently teaching in Beijing. Which makes me feel like my life is extremely ordinary in comparison. But I'm learning to embrace ordinary.  Strawberry popsicles on the deck while the boys spray each other with the hose. A glass of wine with a great dinner made by Brian. Simple pleasures that make me feel extraordinarily lucky.

Perspective I

I'm not sure what is the bigger challenge to posting right now---finding time to be at the computer or being able to put my thoughts into any kind of comprehensible order. Probably my inability to write brief snapshots---I'm always going for the panoramic view. I've just written one mega-long post that really should be three separate posts.  So here are the random things on my mind, in part 1 of 3:

Jungle Gym web

Nolan refuses to slow down his pace toward growing up and leaving home. Seriously. He outgrew his bassinet last month, and this month he's outgrown his little bath. He was such a trooper today, as we ran around dropping off prescriptions, picking up forms, grocery shopping and taking the boys to their final swim lesson.

(Liz, he is LOVIN' the jungle gym. Thanks for sending it at the perfect time, and Angie, thanks for sending it to Aidan six years ago!)

We celebrated the end of swimming lessons with some yummy Hawaiian ice today---or at least I celebrated, and I think Nolan is with me on that one. No more getting woken up from his morning nap, no more trying to nurse under the hot sun outside. But Aidan loves swimming lessons and any excuse to be in the water. And despite his tears at the start of every lesson, I think Sean secretly loved swimming lessons too.

Sean with his swim teacher web

I've just finished a large project that had been dominating my To Do list for months. For weeks I've looked at things left undone around our house (like the chaos reigning in my office) and thought of how much I'd accomplish once this big job was done. It's had the opposite effect instead. Now I just want to go bed at a reasonable time and spend as little time on the computer as possible (even though it's after 1 am now and I've been on the computer for too long).

Note to all: if ever you witness a woman, very pregnant with her third child, volunteer do something that requires large amounts of uninterrupted, solitary time, just laugh like she was making a joke and let it go. She'll thank you later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

4 Months

4 months Nolan web

At four months, Nolan...

* is 17 lbs. 14 oz and 26 inches. He's in the 95% for length, weight and head circumference now. At least he's consistent:-)

* is just a lovable, happy guy. I'll be coming back to this post to add a little indulgent video of him laughing. Because I love it.

*Lights up when his dad comes in the room.

*Wiggles with glee when Aidan tries to practice saying "A-i-d-a-n" with him.

*Smiles at Sean but also nervously looks around to make sure other people are in the room (okay, maybe I'm just projecting that last bit...especially after finding Sean trying to feed Nolan a peanut the other day).

*has celebrated his baptismSleepy grandson Nolan web

*met and loved his Grandma O'Malley 

*slept through the 4th of July firework display

*has been to Arches (again), hiking a bit of Bill's Canyon, Mill Creek (again), the diner, 2 parks, and on a crazy walk that turned into a run so as to escape the mosquito onslaught.

*has tolerated the total disruption of whatever nap schedule he once had so that his big brothers can go to swim lessons every day.

*Rolled over for the first time on July 7th. Tummy to back.

*loves to taste his toys and give them a good chew.

* went from sleeping 10 hrs straight for weeks (8pm-5am), to now waking up around 2am for a late-night snack. What is up with that??

4 months Don't mess w me web

*Can pull himself up with his front arms to look around (he's been greeting us this way from the crib for a while, but Aidan had never seen him do it until this photo shoot. He was so excited and said, "Mom, he's learning to crawl! Wait, I've gotta get Sean to see this!" Love the brotherly enthusiasm.)

Bittersweet month. Really the end of infanthood. The first three months are in many ways an extension of pregnancy---you are so physically attached to each other still. It's good to break out of that cocoon, but I miss it a little too. The way you could fall asleep anywhere (you're much more choosy now). But if I don't focus on looking backwards, this is really the best age. 

You're still immobile and unable to cause any trouble, but your personality is at full volume. You delight in us the way we delight in you, what could be more wonderful. Smiles, laughter, actual hugs. You love when we bury our heads into your neck for a good kiss. When I open your palm, there is always a piece of my hair there. Love the way you tuck your head into me when you're tired. The way you splash in the tub.

Nolan smiling web Loving every minute of this miracle third trip through babyville.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

On the bright side

Whose been sleepin in my bed ...our boys are all at the magical age where the most comfortable spot on the planet is their mom and dad's bed. I love this photo so much, I hope you can overlook the fact that it's out of focus.


...my mom came to visit for the 1st time since we moved here. Such a blessing to have her healthy and for my kids to get a good dose of Grandma.

Lots of good memories from her short visit, but my favorite was when she pulled a lawn chair up next to the kid pool while Aidan showed off his diving moves to her. He relished having her give him a score on each dive. It started out on a scale from 1 to 10, but when I came back out again, she was telling him, "200!"

Nolan in grandma's hands ...Grandma's hands. I love this photo, possibly because I miss my own Nana's hands so much and would love to have had a photo like this of her with me.

Family at Arches 2008

...the kindness of strangers who ask if we'd like a photo of all of us together.

Laughing for daddy

...hearing a real laugh when his dad tries to eat his toes. Love that game;-)

Crack up

...the way these two crack each other up ALL day long.

Jam session

...impromptu jam sessions in the backyard.

Looking at daddy

...the woman who came up to me after mass today to comment on how Nolan looks at Brian. So true. He can't get enough of his dad.

The same woman proceeded to share with me the story of one of her friends, who married into a family that hasn't "sired a female in over 100 years." She's told me this story, with much greater detail, at least four times before, but it was only today that I realized she's much older than I thought, and has no memory of previously telling me. Obviously the sight of me with my three boys compels her to share it with me. Did I cut her off last time? Will I be able to give her the little delight she obviously takes from telling it next time?


...the progress this little guy is making in using the bathroom (because I know you're dying to hear all about that!)

Vacation07 149

...Brian being home for the 4th of July (photo above is from last year's 4th).

With the fires waging in CA, we've been preparing for his exit any moment. Truth told: I hate it. I don't have the personality or disposition to be a "fire wife". I find the anticipation of him leaving almost as exhausting as the single parenting after he's left (almost). Hate worrying about him, hate not knowing when he'll be returning, hate knowing that when he does get home, he still might have to leave any minute. Despite all that, I still like him a lot, and he still likes fighting fire (even though he promised me he'd grow out of it years ago), so here we are.

Had he been gone, we would have gone to the parade anyway, but given that the parade is less than 5 minutes long, and I'm usually at least that late, I doubt we'd have seen it. And then he wouldn't have been there to catch the collapsing bouncy house or to hear Aidan tell him with pride how he sunk a teenager with his fastball at the dunking booth. And when we all decided it was too hot and muggy to stay and eat at the park, he wouldn't have been there to somehow grill up dinner in less than 30 minutes. And Aidan and Sean wouldn't have been given the chance to freak out their mom by dancing around lighting fireworks... if he hadn't been here.

4th of July053

So I'll take what time this fire season gives us and say thank you. Not graciously, no. With the same old resentment and reluctance and the exhaustion that comes from not wanting to be a brat on the same day he might leave. But still, ultimately, grateful.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

What am I doing here?

That's been the question in my head every time I've attempted to start a post in the last week or so.

Whenever I take a short break from the site, I find it difficult to post, start questioning the whole effort, and have to remind myself why I'm doing this.

The original idea was to continue the blog until Nolan's first birthday, and I plan to stick to that...at least I think I do.

I like how little things get captured here that I might otherwise have forgotten. I like how blogs make the world a little smaller and connect like-minded people. I like sharing random things that I enjoy. I love the way it combines words and photos. I love the way it motivates me to pick up the camera more.

I'll share what I don't like when I pack the whole thing up:-)

So now I just need to sum up the last few weeks and get those random posts down that have been wandering around my head. Lots of photos to come, a few kid quotes, a recipe and a random contest.  Assuming I get back to the computer this week.

Meanwhile...here's a recent favorite photo :


It's dark and if I knew how to use PSE better, I'd tweak it a bit, but I love that Brian reached for the camera last Saturday while the boys were watching cartoons and all snuggled with me on the couch. Pjs, blankies, and one with a pacifier. These are the days...and that's why I'll keep doing whatever it is I'm doing here, even if I'm not 100% sure of what that is.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

So grateful for the privilege to have been born here. May we be better stewards to this amazing land and to the vision of those amazing men and women in 1776!

Thanks, Anne, for the link to Kate Smith, but for my sisters, I also have to include this version from one of my all-time favorite movies:

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