This morning, I said a word I shouldn’t have said about Holy Guacamole. (She’s our cat.)

“Mom,” Lucy gasped (because we all know how she feels about bad words). “Santa can hear you!”

“You’re on the naughty list now,” Dave teased.

Lucy promptly ran into the dining room, sat down next to Julia and whispered, “Hey. Hey. Mommy’s on the naughty list. She said the ass word.”

Julia tore her eyes away from her book to look Lucy in the face.

“You know, asshole.”

Julia’s mouth dropped open.

“She’s not going to get any presents this year!”

“Santa hasn’t brought me a present in years,” I said, placing a plate of pancakes on the table. “I’m a lifer on the naughty list.”

I winked at Dave and we all laughed, except Lucy. She twirled her fork in her hand and looked thoughtful.

About forty-five minutes later, during the commute to school, Lucy piped up from the back seat, “Mom? Mom, I have something important to tell you.”

I turned the radio down and got ready to listen. “Alright.”

“If you’re really on the naughty list, I’ll share my presents with you.”

“Oh honey, that’s very sweet, but you don’t have to do that.”

“Everyone should get presents on Christmas, especially you, Mom, because I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“But you might now want to say that ass word anymore.”

The Holidays

by Leslie

For me, they start with Thanksgiving (more specifically, when I put the turkey in the brine for Thanksgiving) and end on New Year’s Day (on which I take down the Christmas tree, which had gone up no sooner than the day after Thanksgiving.) Some people begin celebrating at (or even before!) Halloween, with the overriding theme being CHRISTMAS, and bless those crazies and their incredible endurance. I just don’t have the stamina. I can be excited about Christmas for one month. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

We are now within my celebratory time frame. I am excited about Christmas.

We’ll be counting down to the big day, just like last year, because it was cheap, easy and fun. If only I’d written down all the stuff we did last year. Right now, I’m re-list-making and stalled out at 16 things.

1. Visit the Festival of Lights at Oglebay
2. Make a Christmas wish paper chain
3. Visit the Christmas store & buy an ornament
4. Make paper snowflakes and hang them up
5. Build a gingerbread house
6. Write a Christmas Mad Lib
7. Play Christmas Pictionary
8. Sing Christmas carols by candlelight
9. Visit the Live Nativity
10. Make magic reindeer food for Christmas Eve
11. Make Christmas Cookies
12. Play Christmas Bingo
13. Have a paper snowball fight
14. Drink hot cocoa while wearing whipped cream Santa beards
15. Write and sing the Grimmett’s 12 days of Christmas
16. Decorate a family member (we all know it will be Dave) like a Christmas tree

I’ve scoured the internet and there are plenty of creative ideas floating around out there, but they need to be things I can actually manage to do on what will mostly be school nights this month. Also, they need to be things I actually want to do.

Ah, 17. Drink Egg Nog

Anyway, the countdown begins on December 1st. I’ve got time to come up with stuff. It’ll be even easier if you share your ideas. Got any?

“I don’t even have an inkling,” I lied to Dave. I didn’t even know I was lying. “I have no idea if this kid is a girl or a boy.”

“It’s a boy,” Julia told us.

“No,” Lucy argued. “It’s a girl. I want a girl for The Sister’s Club.”

“We’ll know soon enough,” Dave said, rubbing my belly. Then he shifted into drive and started off to the ultrasound appointment where we’d get a peek at our Caboose.

One hundred and six minutes later, our whole crew was sitting in the dark and staring at a big screen. Julia and Lucy sat on either side of my mom against the wall. Phoebe sat on Dave’s lap near my head, with a gorilla grip on my shoulder. Occasionally, she’d touch my cheek and murmur, “Mama?” so I’d look at her and she could tell that I was okay. She wasn’t so sure about what they were doing to my belly.

My baby

“Look, Bee.” I pointed to the screen. “Do you see the baby?”

“Baby?”

“Mmm-hmmm. The baby in mommy’s belly.”

“Look! A bubble! Baby in dere!”

We listened to the baby’s heartbeat and Julia and Lucy asked a ton of questions. The ultrasound technician was wonderful – she answered them all and took her time pointing things out – the four chambers of the heart, the stomach, the bladder, the cord insert, arms and legs.

Baby Arm

Baby Leg

She measured the baby’s belly, head, and leg from hip to knee. And finally, Julia asked the big question: “So, is it a boy or a girl?”

The baby didn’t want to tell us right away. (In fact, the baby was keeping a lot from us. I have to go back for a follow up ultrasound so they can check out all that they couldn’t see this time around.)

After a bit more looking, a second ultrasound technician came in and said, “I’m going to help finish things up here. Are we finding out the sex?”

“Yes!” We all shouted in unison.

“Okay then, let’s see what we have.”

She moved the transducer all over my belly, but regardless of the view, a little hand was in the way. “Come on, baby. Let’s see what you got,” she said as she poked and pressed on my belly, stirring up some movement. “And there,” she froze the image on the screen and pointed. “Alright. Here’s a leg, here’s a leg, and what’s that in the middle?”

It's a boy!

Lucy jumped up, “It’s a girl!?!”

“No…” Then the ultrasound tech punched a button on the machine and the words it’s a boy!! appeared on the screen.

Julia raised her arms over her head and whooped, “Woohoooo!”

Lucy screamed, “NOOOOOO!”

“A boy? You’re sure?” I asked.

“Absolutely.”

“You’re 100% certain? It’s a boy.”

“You’ve got a son. Are you surprised?”

It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I had really expected this child to be a girl. Expected isn’t even the right word. Believed. I believed this baby was a girl. I mean, we have three girls. What are the chances?

I’m not disappointed. (Lucy isn’t either. She’s actually pretty excited about having a brother. She just wasn’t exited about guessing wrong. She was even less excited that Julia was right.) I’m feeling a little surprised. And scared. I’ve got a man to raise, people. I don’t know anything about doing that.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” my mom tried to reassure me. “He’ll be a baby first. You know about babies. Just start there.”

So here we are, my beautiful baby boy, Jackson.

Jackson

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Here’s what’s up with the BlogHer Book Club these days: My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future by Kate and David Marshall. Not so much a book to read, but to work through, you know, like a workbook.

When I got the e-mail announcing this title, I was all in to review it. “This is for me,” I said. “I could use some direction.” I couldn’t wait to start making my life map! And then it arrived. Twenty pages in, I hid it away in my desk drawer. Turns out, mapping out your life takes some effort.

The publisher promotes the book by saying, “Kate and David help readers map their road of life by reflecting on the past, evaluating the present, and dreaming of the future.”

Well, who wants to do that? I mean, the words reflecting, evaluating and dreaming make it sound nice. But I don’t reflect on the past so much as worry about it. I guess you could say I’m evaluating my present when I’m worrying about it. And the future? WORRIED ABOUT IT. I really had to adjust my head space to use this book.

I am so glad I did.

There’s a whole lot to be gained from taking a start to finish view of your life. The “thought-provoking prompts and questions” that laid it all out weren’t always easy to answer, but they revealed so much. It’s easy to to lose sight of where you are when you’ve got your head down and are working hard just trying to make it day by day, which is how I’ve felt lately. But I found that I’d really been minimizing all that I’ve done and had no bearing on how close I am to meeting many of my short-term goals – goals I haven’t been willing to look past. (Let’s be honest, it’s hard to dream about a family vacation when you’re struggling to keep the heat on. What will life be like when the kids are grown up? I can’t imagine what life will be like when they can all poop in the potty.)

Turns out, I’ve done a lot in my life that I’m proud of, I know what makes me happy and I already have what matters most to me: a loving family. The things I get hung up on worrying about, when all mapped out, are such a small part of my life. This book helped me put all of that in perspective and made me feel like it was okay, even reasonable, to dream about the future, like it is absolutely possible and that I will not always be right here, in this spot, with these worries. I needed that.

Want to learn more about this book? Join the BlogHer Book Club discussion.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Are you a writer?

by Leslie

It’s November and also National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month. I usually do NaBloPoMo (though not this year, obviously), but NaNoWriMo? Nah. That’s for real writers. And I’m going through a I-used-to-a-better-[fill in the blank with writer, mother, human being]-but-now-I-suck thing.

Recently, Julia came home from school with an assignment to read Author: A True Story by Helen Lester. We read it and talked about it and my blog (“Are you a writer, mom?”) and eventually, NaNoWriMo. Julia felt inspired and has begun writing a book. So far, she’s written just under 3,000 words and 6 chapters.

Here are three of my favorite excerpts:

1. Mom said, ”Well, we’ll see what we can do.” She says that all the time! Why doesn’t she at least say no or yes?

2. Mama was going to have a baby…. Really? Having another brother is just what I need. Well, at least it’s in another year. There are things that are worse. Like, a cannonball of death.

3. We would have gone a whole lot faster if Mikey would stop eating, peeing, and pooping all month long. It was a long trip, but I had something to keep me busy – talking. Talking was my power, being quiet was my enemy. But being talkative wasn’t just the thing, it was trying to talk my mom into having my very own room.

(I can’t help but wonder how much she is drawing from her real life experience.)

I am so impressed with Julia and her commitment to writing her book. She adds to it every day. And if you ask her if she’s a writer – a real writer – she’ll tell you without hesitation, “Yes! One day, I hope to be a published author, too.”

I could use a dose of her attitude.


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