weekend trip report

Daddy J had to leave town for business for several days, which, though infrequent, is always a bummer for me. I get lonely and stressed when I’m solo parenting for any length of time. SO! I whipped up a weekend getaway with my mother and the big boys. Her birthday is today, so it was good timing. We usually go somewhere every summer with Grandma MJ, but this summer she took the big boys to Yosemite and we didn’t get around to our Mama, Grandma, and boys trip.

Until now.

Poking around for places within driving distance, I came up Lexington, Kentucky. I’ve been to Louisville, but never Lexington. At 4.5 hours, it was sort of far away for a one night trip, but we pushed on. There was this Harvest Festival that we were really excited about. It involved re-enacters. Yay!

We went to Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, just outside Lexington. It’s a historic Shaker Village with buildings that date from the early 1800’s. Our suite was SO much better than I expected. Super roomy and comfy. Rockinrolla slept on the fold-out couch and housekeeping brought an inflatable mattress for Brad, so we were all set.

I had planned on getting there noonish, but we didn’t actually get out of the house until close to 9:00, which I thought would put us there around 1:00. The festival ran from 10:00 til 5:00, so I figured that would be fine. What I failed to realized, though, was that Lexington is in the Eastern time zone. With food stops and check-in, we actually set foot in the Harvest Fest close to 2:30. I wish we’d had more time, but whaddayagonnado.

The boys are now 14 and 15, so there were perfectly happy to branch off with some money in their pockets and go exploring. They reported that they loved the live music and holding the baby lambs in the barn. (awwww…)

I listened to this talented trio (Dad with 12 and 15 year old daughters) while I ate my fresh parmesan pasta with squash for lunch (yum):

My mother set off to pick some apples (sadly, the season didn’t cooperate for the apple crop) and I wandered into the Shaker Meeting House, where these ladies were leading a song and dance.

I sat down for about thirty seconds, and couldn’t stand it any more. Had to get up and dance. I will fail when I try to describe it, but I’ll try anyway: the dances I participated in had concentric rings of men and women who turned in opposing ways, and then another with a line of men facing a line of women. We did very simple steps (like, step, step, STOMP, step back) and various representative moves with our hands while singing repetitive songs. You hold your hands out in front, palms up, to receive the spirit.

It was one of the most joyful things I’ve ever done. I couldn’t stop smiling, I felt so full of happiness just being there. I wept and had to keep biting my lip and wiping tears away so I wouldn’t totally fall apart. It wasn’t so much that I was embarrassed, I just didn’t want to start sobbing and have to leave the dance. I thought, Holy shit! I’m a Shaker! and then, Damn, I bet there aren’t any Shakers around where we live.

Mostly I thought, I feel God’s presence here.

I thanked the ladies after the dance with a big smile and tear-smeared cheeks, and then floated out of the Meeting House.

Mom and I did a wine tasting for a local winery. (Yes, they had wine, beer, and hard cider at this event!)

The wine was actually great, but not as great as the winery owner’s daughter. She had painted three pumpkins and had a sign out: Hold a pumpkin for One Cent. Hold it twice for a dollar! I ponied up a buck to hold a pumpkin and get my picture with her.

We all got to see the sheep herding dog Cal, which was a huge highlight for me.

(Side note: The dog handler totally says “That’ll do, that’ll do,” just like in Babe.)

There were all kids of fun, gentle little kid activities at the festival involving pumpkins and hay bales and baby animals and face paint.

The boys wandered off to listen to music and do whatever teenage boys do at Shaker festivals, and Mom and I explored.

After the festival closed down, we had a little time before our 6:30 dinner reservations. The boys watched vulgar cartoons in the suite and I swung from a tree swing and did some reading outside. Mom read too, I think. Dinner was at the Shaker Village. We asked to eat outside under a tent instead of in the crowded building, which was a good call. The food was expensive and fair-to-middlin, but whatever. The scenery was great and we didn’t have to drive anywhere.

We considered driving into Harrodsburg for a movie or bowling, but opted to stay on site. We scoped out the common room, played a top game (skittles, I think), and a few rounds of Connect Four, then turned in.

Our goal for the next morning was Keeneland Race Track; they exercise the horses there from 6-10 am, and you can eat breakfast in the trainers kitchen. This is when I realized what a small town girl I am: I did NOT anticipate the Race Track being the size of a town. There were multiple grandstands, all sorts of buildings everywhere, and roads leading all over the place. It was incredibly confusing for a girl with a poor sense of direction. We saw the track where we thought the horses were exercising, but there was just one horse and it was obstinately refusing to run in front of us. We saw the trainer’s kitchen and drove there since we were all ravenous, and learned we’d miss seeing the horses exercising. That was a bummer. At least we got breakfast.

But! We scooted on over to the Kentucky Horse Park. That was a good call. There were two spots available for the trail ride, so I bought tickets for Brad and Rockinrolla to do that and Mom and I went into the park itself.

The Parade of Breeds show sounded interesting.

And yes, it was indeed fabulous. The stadium area was really small, and we got to be right up front. These young women in costume rode various beautiful horses around while the commentator explained what made each breed special. The sun was sparkling, the horses were gorgeous.

And again with the weeping.

I pulled out my sunglasses because I didn’t want to have to explain to my mom why I was crying. I didn’t want to spoil it with words. I felt again, God is here, and also, Wardie would have loved this.

And then realized,

Wardie DOES love this.

I felt him right there with me, part of God and part of me, laughing with pure delight at the talented, beautiful horses and their riders. I thought,

THIS is the way to keep him close; doing joyful, childlike stuff with people we love will help me feel his joy.

It was such a gift to feel him close again.

There was more to see at the horse park, but we were ready to get back home.

We had our cranky moments, our minor disappointments, but it was everything I wanted in a weekend trip.

So grateful for every minute of it.

Next year, a Rainbow three-year-old is coming along.


So, I sort of knew this, but it still seems weird:

Rainbow is now bigger than Ward ever was.


He’s now a few days shy of 31 months old, and Wardie was 33 months when he had his accident. But Rainbow’s a really big 31 month old. I pulled out the ridiculously huge toddler clothes of Wardie’s that I’d put in the top of the closet back in February 2009. It seemed like the day would never come when our teeny little dreamed-of infant would ever fit into these big boy jeans and jackets and turtlenecks, but now it seems I’ve almost waited too long.

With laundry piling up ominously (groan…) I needed to put Rainbow in long pants for school this morning, and was totally out of clean ones. I remembered that box of Wardie clothes, the one that I’ve always thought of digging into when Rainbow got much, MUCH older. And, yeah, they fit perfectly, and are sort-of-almost-too small. Like, the moss colored jeans I put on him today are just long enough and are have no room to spare around the waist. This will probably be their only wearing.

And it’s weird, a little bit heart-lurchy, but also oddly relieving. I feel like Rainbow hitting 34 months will be a big emotional milestone for me, but it’s also a milestone that he’s just bigger that Ward got to be. I’m probably doing a poor job describing it, and I know I’m almost certainly doomed to be a fretful mother for my entire life, but there is a certain deep exhalation that I’m counting on having when Rainbow lives longer than his brother.


As far as the debinking goes, I think I made some major headway last night. I had clipped off the tips of two of his binkies a couple of days ago and offered them to him at bedtime. Of course he tossed them and insisted on the “fresh” binky. I wasn’t up for a battle, so I let him have the unclipped one.

BUT: at about 4 am, he woke up and had lost his binky. I searched for that thing and it was nowhere to be found, so I presented the two clipped ones. A FRESH binky! he begged. I want a FRESH binky… *sniff* And I mentally steeled myself for a miserable and sleepless early morning.

AND YET: he gave up pretty quickly and used one of the snipped binkies for the rest of the night. It couldn’t have been that satisfying, but he slept with it and had it in his mouth when he woke up this morning. I’m thinking that Gradual Binky Depletion may be the answer here. Shearing off slivers every day seems like the least dramatic option, if he’s willing to use a binky that’s been cut at all, don’t you think? And yes, it doesn’t seem like the silicone is going to rip into chunks with a straight cut across the pacifier tip. It seems to be made of pretty tough stuff.

on little cat feet

It started yesterday, the introspective malaise and feelings of inadequacy and vague sadness. It’s an ache in my chest, a wishing-things-were-different, an organ rejection of this sorrow that’s thrust in me forever.

I realized today that it’s because the Bad Time is coming, the anniversary of the Horror is on its way. I’m a dumb bunny crouching in the grass while the cat sneaks up on me: slow, intent, and dreadful.


by: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

nutritive matter

So, I went to the post office when Rainbow yesterday, as part of our frequent wagon ride/get a cookie at the coffee shop/check the mail/climb on the caboose loop. There is a free book bin that I let him poke around in, mostly so he will leave the shelved library books alone.

He pulled out this manilla envelope that I immediately recognized as a school report card and started running around with it like it was a piece of really great loot. I wrestled gently took it from him and told him it was not a book; it was something important that someone would want back.

As I pulled it from him, this fell out.

I was all, Huh, an angel…? I replaced it and peeked inside the envelope. The report card was for the 2008-2009 school year. I sort of figured no one would want it any more, but I put it up on the shelf of library books just in case.

We went and played on the caboose for a while, and I thought about the little metal angel charm. I thought about putting it in a collage painting. I wondered about the report card and what I would find in it.

I wanted it.

Feeling more than a little weird, I slipped back into the post office. I told Bonnie, the postal worker, that I was just curious about the report card. I looked closer and saw it was from Waco, Texas. I read the name out to her, and she said she didn’t know anyone by that name around here. I took it.

Turns out it’s a report card for a little boy in Catholic school. Oddly, I can’t find his grade on it, but the school was for grades K-8, and it included an graduation angel pin and a little photo. (The angel had broken off of the pin, so it was just a flat angel shape.) Based on the subjects he’s graded on, it looks like he had finished kindergarten. The boy has some learning delays, it seems; his report card has not-so-many S’s for Satisfactory, and then a split between I’s for Improving and N’s for Needs Improving. There was also an appointment sheet for speech therapy at a university. I half-heartedly googled his name, but I guess Texas is a big place, and I’m not going to get all stalkery about a little boy.

I wondered what to make of it. It’s just a random report card, after all.

But you can make of it what you want to. You can let it mean whatever you want it to mean. You SHOULD.

So, okay.

I will.

Does it mean that I’ve graduated from grieving? Can one even graduate? I certainly feel better than I did five years ago. I feel very sure that Ward is happy and bathed in love and joy. I feel very, very blessed with my family and my faith. Yes, I’m prone to outbursts of laughable dumb-assedness and flagrant bitchiness and sleepless, neurotic fretfulness. But whatever. I’m human. I’m mostly nice, most days.

Or does it mean that Wardie has graduated? Is he thrilled that something new is going on for him? Is he one step closer to that gleaming source? Or is he being held in some lucky mama’s arms right now, milky-sweet and blinking at this shiny bright world?

I like to think of my faith like a dense cloud around me, not sharply focused on one particular direction. Just padding me with gentleness when I need it, insulating me with warmth, giving flashes of inspiration at times.

Or maybe it’s an amorphous blob, squishing around and absorbing the nuggets that suit its specialized needs when it comes upon them, and leaving the non-nutritive matter behind.

The teacher’s parting notes:

Way to go! I am so proud of you! Keep up the good work and improvements!

I’ll miss you this summer but I’ll see you next year. Practice and review what we’ve learned this year. You’ve come out of your shyness and talk quite a bit (speech is showing improvement – keep it up!)

Always keep GOD in your heart and be the best that YOU can be!!!

I love you!


I’m driving to pick Rainbow up from his two (now three) day a week daycare, on the up-down road that he loves.


I feel that hot tingle, that not-unpleasant shock down my right ear to my jawline that tells me he’s there. Turn off the radio and say Hello.

I’m glad you’re here. What’s going on with you? I’m on my way to pick up Rainbow.

affection and inquiry

Yes, he’s amazing. He’s so fun and sweet and lovable. Such an enormous blessing. I love so much that we have him in our family. I love him.

a wave of love and gratification

(And I get the feeling, not for the first time, that Ward had a hand in this, that he knows Rainbow and loves him, too, and that he not only approved but was around when the plans were laid. I feel like he’s proud. I imagine the two of them hugging, and how they would play together right now: silly, bossy, fearless, adorable little boys. I cry overwhelmed, full-of-the-goodness-of-the-whole-thing tears.)

Is anything going on special with you? I hope you’re doing amazing things.


(I laugh, too.)

I love you.

testing the waters


(gripping stomach)

Rainbow and I met a friend and her little girl at the pool today.

(wipes sweat from brow)

It went pretty well.

(trying to smooth out furrowed forehead)

Apparently, it was spring break in this town, so the kiddie area that my friend S says has, like, 6 or 7 kids on an average morning, had this frothing mass of squealing children in it. It did have a play zone in the 2′ deep zone, but the slide seemed to go into deeper water, or at least it seemed deeper from where I was standing. Rainbow considered doing it, and wanted to loiter at the top of the slide and watch the other kids slide for a while. I went to the bottom of the slide and peeked up at him while S was at the top encouraging him to try, but he just wasn’t ready. Fine with me.

He was quite brave walking around in chest-deep water and playing with the water works wheels and levers and such, and I tagged along behind him with arms out, creating a buffer zone to keep all the rowdy big kids from knocking him over and wishing I’d put him in his floaty foam swimsuit.

(NOTE TO SELF: Your one piece, which you couldn’t find last summer, STILL hasn’t appeared in the dresser. Buy a new one piece for this sort of venture. You need it. Sheesh.)

S told me some about the swim lessons that she has begun with her little girl, so maybe we’ll try it. I need to talk to her more about it when I can actually hear her and the air isn’t full of the shrieks of spring break elementary school kids.

I had a moment this morning when I was looking for his swimsuit, frustrated that I couldn’t find ONE of them, when I knew that there were TWO in the drawer that were hand-me-downs from Ward. There was that blue palm tree one, which Rainbow ended up wearing, and there was the Hawaiian floral orange and red one. And then I remembered that the red and orange one was the one Ward had been wearing when it happened, and it’s gone now.

(Oh, lurching stomach, be still.)

I don’t know what happened to it. He went to the hospital in it, at any rate.


( … )


Rainbow had a great time, I didn’t cry or freak out or anything, and he loved playing with little E. So it was good, I think, and will be easier next time.

I’ve been doing some anxiety baking, though, since he went down for a nap: chocolate bundt cake, a casserole for dinner, and some tuna salad for whenever hungry boys or daddy might want it.

Cooking helps.

The weather

is just stunning where we are. It’s about as perfect as it can be, I think. Rainbow and I were out this morning on a long walk and explore through downtown and the park, and the birds are just going nuts and bulbs are blooming and trees are all flowery. The sun feels heavenly, balmy and gentle.

I smile when I think about Ward loving this scene from Bambi. He loved the owl especially. You ‘member that OWL? he’d ask, and widen his big blue eyes.

He thought it was HYSTERICAL.

I’m glad it’s so glorious outside, because I think otherwise I’d just melt into a puddle of sad. It’s nice to see all the growing and beautiful things, fresh and perfect and full of promise. And then I think about Sharon’s little girls going to bed every night and knowing their mom isn’t alive any more, then waking up in the morning and having that blessed moment or two before they remember The Terrible Thing, where they still feel rested and fine and fresh, just with a little niggling What Was That Terrible Thing? And then they remember, and feel that dark heaviness, and the day starts all over again.

And I’m sure it’s different for little kids, “They’re resilient,” but it’s their mom.

It’s just so heartbreaking.


That’s the sound of my relief that Daddy J is home from his four night business/personal trip to Washington state.


Not that the kids have been trying or that anything has gone awry. The kids have been perfect and everyone is well. I just got weighed down with some grief that I haven’t felt for awhile. It was like a net was thrown on me and I suddenly found myself having to operate under the weight and entanglement of the whole thing. I don’t know if it was the end of the year, marking another year gone, or feeling the deep grief that cousin K and her family are going through.

Bad Feelings got reawakened and the old longings and regrets kicked in.

I miss him.

It happens.

The kids, really, are very helpful in bringing my mood up. They are funny and smart and generally extremely helpful. On one of the worst mornings, I dragged my rear end out of bed and announced that we were all going to the mall. Rainbow’s naps have been a little sporadic, so I decided to just figure on him skipping entirely and spend the entire afternoon there. It was a rainy, cold day.

But it was cheerful and bright at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

(Or, as Daddy J calls it, Yucky Sneezes.)

Rainbow’s first trip to the land of the Mouse, not to be confused with the one who lives in the Land of the Monorail and Twelve Dollar Turkey Legs.

It was awesome, A. because Rainbow loved it, and B. because he didn’t even want to play any of the games, he just wanted to run around and climb on stuff (read: cheap thrills) and C. it’s kind of impossible to be depressed when you’re chasing a laughing, thoroughly enchanted toddler around an arcade and catching glimpses of your teenager engrossed in the basketball game.

Checking out Mama on the Chuck E.T.V.

Afterward, we went to the play zone at the mall. Also awesome.

Then ate in the food court. I’d give this experience a C. Rainbow was tired by this point and kind of a nut. The falafel sandwich I got was pretty gross, and Rainbow made a mess with his food. He’s not a fan of sitting in a high chair in general, really. He’s kind of an action mealtime guy.

Then TJ Maxx, where Rainbow got a new tractor play set. I’m learning that retail therapy doesn’t have to be about self-gifting, although that sure works sometimes. It’s also about buying stuff for your kids and getting them all excited. That works, too. And No, I am definitely not above that.

Yesterday was another good one. I took Rainbow to his class at the children’s museum and he did GREAT. He’s doing better at paying attention every week. We played in the museum after with the big boys, then took Rainbow to Grandma L’s. The big boys and I had a gold star day: Lunch at a fancy little restaurant (including dessert!) then shoe and music shopping and a trip to Kroger. We met Daddy J for dinner last night at Bonefish Grill and welcomed him home.

And now it’s back to school time.


I need to remember that, when I can, the powering through and making myself get out to do stuff is helpful when I’m sad. Sometimes it’s impossible, when the grief attacks. Sometimes taking to bed is all one can do, especially when the grief is raw and new. That’s a powering through all its own.

But now that I’m in this ripened state of grief, with some callouses built up, the worst case scenario (like, crying in public) isn’t all that bad. I mean, I’ve done it before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. But in general, distraction and activity work great for these minor visits to the Place of Sadness.

I think I’m back now.


I walked with Rainbow down to Daddy J’s grandma’s house. It’s mostly emptied out and is pretty messy inside. It makes me very sad to be in it.

In the last months of Great-Grandma’s life, Rainbow was very uncomfortable in it. Grandma was unwell and the atmosphere was, at best, subdued and, at worst, pretty bleak. The last few times he saw her, he was took a long time to warm up to her aged and shrunken appearance, and, a couple of times, he flat-out refused to go in. Halloween was kind of a bad scene; he wouldn’t stop crying and making for the door when I took him in to see her.

Anyway, that made me all the more surprised when he wanted to hang out in her house today. Cousin R was over from Knoxville to pick up some items, but by the time we got down there he was about ready to go. Rainbow, on the other hand, wanted to go upstairs and explore. He wanted to build with the bin of Mega Blocks that she kept behind the sofa for toddlers. He did not want to leave.

We visited outside for a while with Grandma’s neighbor, M, whom we’ve known since the big boys were babies. (Back in the day, we used to live right across the street from Great-Grandma. And before, that, we knew M because she has worked at our alma mater in town for I-don’t-know-how-long.) She had her dog with her, a black Pomeranian named Charlie who was literally almost as wide as he was long, due to excessive fluff and fat. Rainbow was totally smitten with Charlie and buried his face in that black fluffy stuff, giggling.

I had already been feeling reflective and sad about Ward in the last couple of days. Nothing earth-shattering or new, just sad and missing him. I was thinking about how my memories of him are fading; they are moving away from me like little boats on the ocean. Sometimes it seems that all I have left is the feel of his silky blond curls around my fingers, and the amazement I felt that someone so beautiful had come from my body.

Just sad.

I remember how he loved the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. I had been afraid that it might scare him, but he loved it. Afterward, for weeks he’d ask, “Do ya member those green ghosses? They would say ooo-ooo-ooo!” and just crack himself up.

I want to not feel sad about the ghosts. The messy house, soon to be sold, the lives that seem far too short. I want to see the ghosts for what they are: just memories of people who have moved on and are right where they need to be. I want to laugh at the idea of sad or scary ghosts – oooo-ooo-ooo! – and know that the people we love are laughing with us.

***The part Ward loved best was around 6:00, when the ghosts are in the graveyard.

first little soldier

So, I have a piece published on Babble, and I’m sort of nervous about the whole thing. It’s very personal, and it’s all just out there. So far there has been one friendly comment, which was nice, but will the trolls come out of the woodwork and smell fresh meat? Will people pull quotes out of context and use them to prove what a dumbass/callous bitch I am? Will people say cruel/judgey things about my life and choices? Will I be able to shrug it off?


That said, I am super, duper excited about it. I have sent off a bazillion (well, maybe eight) pieces to Babble, Adoptive Families, and Parenting, and am all hopeful to get something else published very soon. Also am working on the racy romance novel (up to about 17,000 words of 55-50,000) and that’s fun.

The writing is a big dream of mine, and it feels so great to take this first step of getting paid to write something and put it out there. My job-job (writing passages for and editing/revising English standardized tests) is something I really love, and it has the added bonus of getting my writing muscles all limbered up.

Daddy J fully supported me in converting our attic into my office, and it’s perfect place to work. It’s a beigey soft and coral pink, totally feminine and comfortable, with shaggy tan carpet. The perfect little nest to hatch dreams.

So, go check it out if you get a chance.

(holds fluttering stomach)

I hope you like it.

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