Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sturdy Love

Last night, Joe-Henry was coughing up a lung, that horrible, deep, wracking, wet cough, when I went in with my bottle of pink medicine. He would rather get hit by a bus, eaten by a dinosaur, get poked in the eye with a nasty eye-poking stick or cough all night long than take that medicine. He's never even tried it, but he knows it tastes like "burning fire".

But I am the mother, and I will not be moved, and he must. He MUST. So he wails and flails, and tells me he hates it, and I am a "mean mom", and then, he DOES. He opens his mouth, his face red with anger and effort, his cheeks wet with tears. There is the requisite "YUCK", and the thrashing of sheets, and "Why are you so MEAN?!" And after a few minutes of sniffling, he settles down again, as I smooth his covers and rub his back. It's quiet again, no coughing, no tears, just his arm around my neck, his warm hand on my cheek.

"Mom, you and Dad love me so good. Your love is as sturdy as the Great Wall of China".

And with that, we both went to sleep.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"That" House

This past Saturday, I was doing everything in my power to keep some kind of bug at bay, and Joe-Henry was BEGGGGGGIIIING me to play Hullabaloo with him, and I was BEGGGGIIIING him to leave me alone and let me sit on the couch, the doorbell rang. It was the little boy who lives across the street. His sister had been by earlier to return something her mom had borrowed the night before, and I mentioned that Joe-Henry was available to play. So first one child arrives, then his sister, then his brother and the other neighbor, along with his oldest brother. They all made themselves at home, I brought up some games and cleared the coffee table out of the living room, spread out paper on the dining room table for art projects, and managed to actually get a little rest and get some housework done. With seven kids in my house. It was easier than one in some ways, but also I knew that eventually they would go home, and I would be allowed to savor that.

But since then, our house has somehow become "that house", the one where everyone wants to play and today being a snow day, and Joe-Henry having a cough, and me trying to get my damn school core testing done, I had to set a few more rules. And since Joe-Henry didn't want to tell on his friends if they were misbehaving, I decided to make it easy on everyone and set some house rules. Let me know what you think:


1. BE KIND. No trash talk, no back talk, and no inappropriate language.

2. If you played with it, please put it away before you leave.

3. If you’d like something to eat or drink, please ask first. If you eat something with a wrapper or a peel, please throw it
away. If you drink something in a disposable container, put it in recycling when finished.

4. No hitting, no pushing and no playing with pretend guns or weapons inside the house, no aiming pretend guns or
weapons at other people. Ever.

5. Ball throwing, screaming, rough-housing must be done outside.

6. If you need to tell an adult about someone else’s behavior more than once, it’s time to go home.

If you can think of any others, let me know. I'm posting them in Joe-Henry's bedroom. He was pretty excited about it until I explained to him that "modelling" behavior meant actually behaving that way himself, rather than just reading the rules to his friends out loud with a whistle around his neck. Anyway, I figure it might save me some arguments.

I love that we are "that house". I am thrilled that Joe-Henry has friends that want to play with him and that they feel comfortable here, and I'm glad to be providing a safe, fun environment for them. Really, I am.

Oh, and if anyone has any great cocktail recipes, send those my way, too.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Deep Dark Secret....

Don't worry. It has nothing to do with panties or how to get busted by your child and your in-laws while you have hot steamy sex with your husband. (Not this time anyway) Nope. My deep, dark secret is this....

I LOVE to shop at Goodwill.

There. I've said it. Consequences be damned.

I should qualify this, I guess. I love to find a bargain, a steal, a perfect something that I need, and I love knowing that it might have had a gentle life already, and I'm not contributing to wanton and wasteful mass production of stuff. (But I've been known to get a little steamy over that as well).

Here's what brought this on. I have been shopping for a new coat for Joe-Henry for a couple weeks. His coat is on it's second year with him, and it had a previous life with a friends two sons already, so it was getting a little worn. Still in decent shape, just not as warm and toasty as it had been last year. Plus he's grown, like, a foot in the last month, so he's poking out a bit more. Anyway, I hit all the usual after Christmas sales, all the usual suspects: Macy's, Target, LL Bean, Land's End, and today I tried the Columbia Sportswear Outlet Store, sure that I would find nirvana. But nope. They had plenty of coats that he could have worn last year, or might be able to wear when he's in highschool, but none that would fit him this winter and into next winter. Shoot.

So we hop in the car and head home, but on the way, we pass a really great Goodwill, so I make a sharp right, with JH moaning in the backseat about how much he HATES shopping, and I tell him to put a cork in it, we're going in for five minutes. And there, shining under the neon lights, was a perfect winter jacket. Big and poofy and water-resistant, with a lovely, warm, fleecy detachable hood. Dark green with black across the shoulders.

Originally Old Navy, new with tags.

Price tag 14.00, and when we got to the cash register, half off. HALF OFF, PEOPLE! That's a brand new winter coat for SEVEN BUCKS.

He played football in it while it snowed this evening, and stayed nice and toasty. And he thanked me for his new coat.


Saturday, January 26, 2008


It's been a loooong week at the McQ household. I have been mostly spending every spare minute trying to get some online testing finished for work, and you know, being a mom. Hanging over my head is the newsletter I need to write for the KT group, as well as designing a postcard for my old chiropractor in California. I'd say I'm dealing with it all really well by eating more chocolate, and neglecting myself. I have, though, showered every day this week, because personal hygiene is paramount.

The weather has been wreaking havoc on everyone's mood at school. First of all, there's been SUNSHINE all week long. Geez Louise. I was so relieved when I woke this morning to cloudy skies threatening freezing rain and snow. That's more like it.
Seriously though, what with the full moon this week and the cold, dry air making everyone a conduit for the lightening-strength static electricity, and the bitter cold (well, not mid-western bitter cold, but still, really damn cold for us), I was working double time with the kids. There were meltdowns of Titanic proportions this week, tantrums that made me feel as though I just wanted to take a nap. But drink first. I actually DID take a nap yesterday, something I can never do but managed yesterday to make it home, crawl under the covers and sleep for an hour and a half while my wonderful husband kept the boy busy.

Through this whole week, as distracted and exhausted as I have been, Joe-Henry has been my constant reminder of the joy that is to be had in the world. He's been in the best mood, laughing about everything, so interested in the world. He's going through another of those growth-spurts that take him from one part of childhood to another, and I'm feeling as though everytime I look at him, he's my boy, but different in some huge way. His brain is going five-thousand miles a minute. He's stopped playing Star Wars and is moving on to other landmarks in boydom: Football, basketball, dinosaurs and of course, fart and poop jokes. Of course, those last two have been with us for a while, because, well, he is our son after all and my husband and I have VERY sophisticated taste in humor, but lately, the jokes actually make sense. He's been very active and more social, which is something I've been hoping for. He's been asking to play with friends, advocating for that by himself, which is always something I've had to push him toward.

I've been less worried about him, and of course, now that I've said that out loud, I'm sure I'll find something to worry about. But he's just been so happy, and funny. I took him to see Walking With Dinosaurs last week, on the day that he had studied about Martin Luther King in school, and as the Paleontologist explained about the Meat Eaters Vs. The Plant Eaters, Joe-Henry leaned over and whispered "Mom, if Martin Luther King was a Dinosaur, he TOTALLY would have made the Meat Eaters get along with The Plant Eaters!"

In a world where the realities are so harsh for so many, I feel incredibly blessed to be invited into his reality, where the possibilities are wondrous and abundant. Because, even though my cynical grown-up brain might not see the hope and grace at first glance, through his eyes, it's there, as bright as the winter sun.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Miss Communication

Have you ever had the experience where you say something completely innocuous (or so you think) and it is taken out of context and someone winds up with hurt feelings, and you are standing there saying "but, but, but...." That's something that happened to me this week, with someone I dearly love, and it left me feeling bruised and anxious and sad. And feeling completely inept at communication.

I work with kids that don't perceive and process information neuro-typically, and my experience this week made me feel great empathy for them. They often say and do things that piss people off, and they don't mean to and can't really help it. Some of them don't have much language (if any), so telling someone to "back up", or "stop", or "I like you" is harder than it is for you and I. I think about that every day, and do my best to find ways for them to say what they need to say, because, damn, that is so important. To be able to just get it across.

And yet, even though I have the ability to do just that - I have the language and the voice - sometimes my thoughts don't line up in neat rows and what I say comes out wrong, or worse, I'm afraid to say something and wind up torturing myself with the "what if's". Things I need to say, but can't; or live in fear of saying because I might hurt someone's feelings or damage a friendship.

It might be difficult to imagine me NOT saying something, as I do tend to have a talent for TMI. But I have such a difficult time addressing things that need to be addressed. I'll process the crap out of things, and leave them unsaid, and I wish I could be braver. After all, these aren't issues that have any huge stakes: my marriage is not in jeopardy, my child is not in danger, I'm not running afoul of the law.

I'm just afraid to say things sometimes. And that pisses me off about myself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just Us

Grandma and Grandpa left today, leaving behind a wake of folded laundry and a fridge full of groceries. We had a great visit, with many highlights and a only a few bumps. Mostly, though it was lovely, and so nice to hear the laughter - theirs AND Joe-Henry's because they truly do enjoy each other so much.

Here are a few highlights of their visit:

Brunch at The Restaurant at Officer's Row in Vancouver. There were delicious meals all around, and Joe-Henry ate every speck of food on his plate, which might be setting some kind of record. When we went in the restaurant it was a bit cloudy, but coming out, the sun was shining bright, and we had a great day.

There was the trip to OMSI, where Joe-Henry lit up like a Christmas Tree doing all the experiments. I'm not sure how much they loved the museum itself, but I know they loved being with the boy. I did too.

There was the rousing game of Yahtzee over dinner with my brother and his girl, and Foosball after pizza last night at the Blind Onion (Joe-Henry and Grandpa won two games and we tied the third game), and of course, there were the oranges. So many of them!

And they look so SWEET!

We'll miss them, but we'll look forward to visiting them during spring break. And I promise: No hanky panky*.

*Some promises are made to be broken.

our eclectic bookcase

our eclectic bookcase
Originally uploaded by anniemcq
These beautiful volumes arrived today, eagerly anticipated, and we quickly made room on the shelf for them. Here they are in the winter afternoon light.

The generosity that brought these to our home makes me feel better about this world. For those of you that don't know the story check it out here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sexy Love

If you don't like to read about married adults doing what married adults do (not nearly often enough in my humble opinion), please feel free to skip this post. You've been forewarned.

Alright, I'll begin here...

I guess it had to happen sometime.

My fabulous in-laws arrived Friday afternoon, to hang out with Joe-Henry and I while Charley is off at a tradeshow for the week. And because I will miss him terribly, I decided to send him off properly, and make sure he was eager to come home. I had fallen asleep earlier with Joe-Henry, reading a book, and sometime after midnight I crawled into our bed. And my husband is a very warm and snuggly person, and his parents were right downstairs, so right there it just feels that much naughtier, and one thing lead to another, and we began to, as Rodius says so eloquently, make the sweet, sweet love.

At some point there was a pause in the action when I heard "MOM!"

We waited a second, then I heard it again, "MAAWWWM!"

So before he wakes the whole house, I put on my pajamas and head into his room, where he was on the bed, on top of the covers, face down, his head buried in his hands. Uh oh.....

"Mom, I heard a noise! It was a heavy breathing noise, and I thought maybe something was wrong with Grandpa, but then I heard Daddy...."

And because I am lightening fast in the middle of the night when my head is swimming with sleep and sex, I said "Oh, sweetie, that was just daddy and I. We were just smooching."

"I know, but I heard this..." And at this point he begins to mimic the sounds he heard us making, and I started laughing hysterically. I tried to get it under control, and eventually I did, but not before I secured his January 4th, 2020 5 p.m. appointment with his shrink. I manage to get out something about grown ups and loving each other in a different grown up way, and ended with, "and sweetheart, I think it's probably best if you don't talk about this to anyone else. Daddy and I will answer any questions you have." With that he snuggled up and went back to sleep. I padded down the hall to my now sleeping husband, and lay there wide awake for about an hour.

The next morning, he hops out of bed and as I walked into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, he's loudly telling grandma and grandpa about the noises, and begins to do his impression for them "and then I heard 'aaaahhhhhhh, aaaaahhhhhh, yeeeeeeeeaaahhh, really quiet but breathing hard, and it was just Mom and Dad SMOOCHING!' I managed to get myself back into the bedroom, where I crawled under my bed with the dust bunnies for a good ten minutes. My poor mother-in-law kept trying to steer the conversation to all the oranges we have, and how sweet they are, and where did we get them, but he wouldn't be deterred until his dad came out and said, "Hey, Joe-Henry, why don't you go show grandpa your Lego Starwars game."

Today when Charley left, Joe-Henry gave me a really hard time for telling Charley how good he smelled. "You never say I smell good mom!" He acted out for a good hour after Charley left, and finally he told me the reason he was being a brat is because I didn't love him as much as I love his Dad. I told him I loved him just as much, just as mightily as I love his dad, but that it was a different kind of love. "Yeah, I know. SEXY love. I want you to love me that way, too".

We talked it out, and I have to say, I think I should get extra points for having that conversation with my in-laws in the next room.

Don't you agree?!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Auntie Em, Auntie Em!!!!

Hey, guess where a tornado touched down today? Vancouver, USA, that's where! We were untouched in our neighborhood and at school, but we did go into lockdown at school.


Hardy & Persistent & Colorful

I was amazed, when walking out my door a couple days ago, by this flash of pinky-purple in the corner of my yard. Probably just a candy wrapper, I thought, blown down the street by the wind. But no, it was this beautiful heather, in full bloom. I stopped to look, then had to grab my camera, it was so beautiful. Unusual - delicate AND hardy. Those little blossoms look so fragile, but the prickly stems tell a different story. Thriving in the cold, picking up the moods of passers by just by being there, showing a little color in the never ending grey.

Of course this stuff grows like crazy during the winter here too. And though green is my favorite color, and this looks so soft and beautiful, it's everywhere.

Of course, nothing is as colorful as this.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hey, I are too smart

Today at work we were trying to hook up a universal remote, and I had put the batteries in and couldn't get it do anything! What a piece of crap, I thought to myself, until my co-worker, after I had walked away, took the batteries out and put them in again, this time CORRECTLY, and got it running no problem.

Sigh.... Not one of my shining moments. See this is why I worry about my son and his science experiments, nay, his very FUTURE, with me as his mother. I am aging, people, I have old fogey eyes, and I get easily distracted by shiny objects. And chocolate. How is he supposed to grow into a genius if I am misplacing all his science tools?

This past weekend we went to the River City Bluegrass Festival (where I got to meet Tim O'Brien, one of the most amazing musicians EVER - but that's a post for another day) in Portland, and it was held at the Convention Center. I took a picture of this big shiny ball, swinging menacingly above our heads, over a map of the planets on the tile floor below.

It was pretty and shiny, and somehow I knew it was Foucault's Pendulum, but don't ask me HOW I knew. I just did. Don't ask me who Foucault is, or why he designed a pendulum, or what it's supposed to measure (the earth's rotation comes to mind), go see for yourself at the Oracle of Wiki. I just took the picture because I thought Suttonhoo would enjoy it. Because she's all smart and stuff. She's probably built one. Or at least knows someone who has.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

oh. my.

Further proof that the world is full of goodness is found HERE.

Suttonhoo is a dear friend, and she has joined forces with The World's Best Mechanical Engineer and his Brother (both friends we've never met) to bestow upon Joe-Henry some real life magic. A while back, TWBME very generously posted a series of experiments for Joe-Henry on Suttonhoo's blog, after hearing that JH had a penchant for knowing how the doors work on the MAX train. It was quite a series, and deserves a second look. Their generosity of spirit continues, and we here at the McQ household, all of us, are verklempt.

We offer a million thank-yous, and it still doesn't seem like enough. You make the world golden.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Yesterday, there was a brief respite from the unrelenting grey around here. And when I say grey, I don't mean the pretty dove grey that lends itself to beautiful lighting, I mean the kind of grey that sucks the light out of the sky and swallows it, leaving you walking, not in the dark, but in the dull.

I had gone to get my hair cut, driven like a zombie to the sweet little "barbershop" in town and chatted away with my stylist, and when I came out, I was blinking from the brightness. I had planned a walk afterward anyway, so I raced home and grabbed my camera. I always take pictures of the same things, because I always tend to walk in the same place, because it's so beautiful there, and it's also flat. I'm not a fan of hills. So I made my way, again, to Officer's Row, then over the bridge into town to my favorite decrepit building, lingering on the freeway overpass to look at all. that. sunshine.

The sun toyed with me for an hour, made me believe that she would stay, but then the dark black storm clouds rolled in, the wind began to howl, and even now, though there is sun coming through our tiny octagonal window by our front door casting a shadow of my own head on my computer, as I type this, it's fading. There will be more rain today. And tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

But someday, it will be spring again. I've seen the light.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Where the boys are

Happy New Year, from the McQ household. Guess what my resolution is? To never eat again. Honestly, I don't quite know how it happened, but these cookies just FLEW right into my mouth and have packed themselves right around my midsection, which is sort of new to me, since they usually love to snuggle up right around my ass. But they didn't quite make it that far down this time, and I'm wondering how in the hell I'm going to wear anything but stretchy sweat pants for the next month or so.

I'm feeling the need to spend this next week (since I am still off until next Monday) in an isolation chamber. My hormones are completely out of whack, and I would love, dearly love, to spend a few days alone, going for walks and taking care of myself, but I am stuck with this kid. Seriously though, I wish I could escape for a day or so, mostly for his sake, because I am one crabby mother. It isn't an existential crisis, it is hormones, plain and simple, and I'm hoping something happens to relieve the situation soon, or I might get fired from my family.

And I just can't seem to get any kind of conversation out of my son that doesn't involve Star Wars, and I don't really speak Star Wars. I can't quite keep up. It's like technical jargon - I hear it and my eyes roll back in my head and I fall into a deep slumber. But I love to hear him talk to his dad about it, because Dad speaks fluent boy geek, and to listen to them, well it's enough to melt your wookie heart. And since the only Star Wars movie we hadn't seen was Revenge of the Sith, my sweet husband decided it would be a great idea to pick that one up so we could all watch it. But the trouble is that it's really dark and scary, and now I get questioned all day about the likelihood of dying in hot lava?

Or, if you got your foot in hot lava?

Would you die from that?

Or just lose your foot?

Would it hurt?

Or would you feel it?

Where is the closest hot lava to where we live?

Oh, and at bedtime he wraps his arms around my neck so tight I worry about blacking out from the pressure on my carotid artery.

So between Star Wars and the fart jokes - oh my. You can really tell I'm the only female in this house right now. I need a break from the fart jokes. And the penis jokes. Especially the penis jokes. I take my penis' very, very seriously.

A few days ago though, we had a lovely respite from all the testosterone induced madness when Joe-Henry and I travelled to Seattle to see our lovely friends Annie & Anita and spent the night. They are old and dear friends of ours and they have a beautiful little girl Joe-Henry's age and a new baby boy. Joe-Henry and Hazel are best buds, but there was an interesting turn, when he realized that he could get kissed under the mistletoe, and he became the kissing bandit. He wanted a smooch from his girl so much, and he would nonchalantly hang out under the door jamb, then scream and run when she came near. It was apparent that he was nursing a bit of a crush, which is a whole new kettle of fish for him. They got in a bit of a tif when she wasn't using his new XO laptop "correctly" and he spoke sharply to her and was bossy, and she got upset with him. When he apologized, he felt she didn't really accept his apology. So we took a little break and I took him aside, and he said "Mom, it's not like with Vic. When I say I'm sorry, he says that's okay, and it's over. With girls it's more... complicated." But the funny thing is, I heard from her moms that she said exactly the same thing. "It's more complicated with boys." They made up, though, and spent the rest of the afternoon laughing and playing and hamming for my camera.

I have a feeling that 2008 is going to bring about lots of new feelings for this boy in my house. My resolution is to be a better listener. So I guess that means I'd better pay a bit more attention then next time we watch Star Wars around here. If I'm going to listen, I should at least learn the language.