Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Husband's Much Younger Wife

Happy Birthday Babe!  Photo from here.

Today is a big birthday for my husband, so before this spins off into ruminations about my favorite subjects-- me and the jumbled contents of my own mind-- I want to say that he is a wonderful person, a fabulous husband, and that I am thankful for him every day.  We were talking briefly last night about being extra grateful today, because five and a half years ago, after he had a routine physical that was part of a job interview, he (we, though he did the worst parts) had to deal with a serious diagnosis and the treatment that followed and still continues.  He has been amazingly strong throughout, showing every day what a smart, grounded, sensitive person he is.  Lucky for me, he also has a wicked sense of humor, because I doubt he could put up with me without it.  Happy diamond anniversary of your birth, Mike.  I love you today and always.

Of course, someone else's birthday always makes me think about my own, because, you know, I'm like that-- introspective, I mean, not self centered.  My birthday is in about six weeks, so until then, I will be nominally twelve years younger than Mike. I'm sure this age difference will continue to be a running joke with us, especially as the number of candles on our cakes moves from being cheerful and celebratory to being a genuine fire hazard.   When we get to read the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times, we read each other the Vows column, pointing out where people went to college, noting how the future partners when eerily alike, and verbally high-fiving the couple with an age difference of a decade or more:  "Good for him!" and more and more often, "Good for her!"

Unless you are in your twenties, when it could still be illegal in many states, I think the idea of a much younger spouse can be very attractive.  It works for us.  Personally, from the time I began seriously considering boys at all, those my own age had no appeal.  I always felt more comfortable with someone older.  There is no sense of the word though, in which I am a "trophy wife," and even if I was, I would be more like a "Thank you for playing" plaque that kids get for participation without actual triumph.  To be a real prize, I would have to weigh half as much, get surgical implants in several bodily locations and spend one hundred and fifty per cent more time exercising, and really, who are we kidding?   I like to think that my comparatively youthful exuberance and my razor sharp wit make up for my physical shortcomings. So far, my husband has lovingly aided this delusion by telling me he likes me just the way I am, and pointing at beautiful skinny girls on TV, saying, "get that girl a sandwich!"

Still, I can't help thinking about my own advancing age, because being the younger one only gets you so far. And then, the front of this week's New York Times Book Review featured "Fresh Voices" and I had the renewed revelation that I will never again be a "fresh" voice.  An "as-yet-unheard voice" perhaps, but my use-by date is too close for me to ever be called fresh again.  Even my son, a writer who turned 30 last year, has talked about the fact that he no longer qualifies for some grants and fellowships at his advanced age.  At least he still has a decade to get into The New Yorker's Twenty Under Forty.  I doubt they do a "Forty Under Fifty," but even then, I have to get my ass seriously in gear and produce some damned fine work to qualify under the wire in the next year and five weeks.   

It isn't that I feel that I haven't accomplished anything, but there is the nagging sensation that there is little time left to do something big.  Not that I still couldn't, but now I'm so much more keenly aware of the energy and dedication it takes to leave a mark on the world that will resonate beyond the circle of friends and family.  When you're young, at least when I was, it was almost impossible to gauge how difficult real accomplishment was going to be, because everything still seemed possible.  The future was wide open, and looked like it would last a long time.  As I begin to see more of my life in the rear view mirror, and less road ahead, I'm more daunted, more skeptical, and so much more exhausted. 

Maybe that's a key though-- if I adopted one trophy wife habit, like afternoon napping, maybe I would have the energy to make that mark.  I mean, look at Grandma Moses, who didn't have a real artistic career until she was in her late 70s.  By then, maybe I would be considered wise, and that could be my entree to literary resonance.  And even when I am an old crone, I will still be my husband's much younger wife. 

Grandma Moses Yellow House, 1955, from here

Cartoon from The New Yorker,  available here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

And so it begins.  Photo from here.
I know today is the first day of Spring because, well, it is on the calendar.  And I'm cleaning, though I don't think it's technically Spring Cleaning, because I am not attacking things with the vigor that capitalized cleaning demands.  Mostly, I'm probably cleaning because I started writing this and got stuck a little and began to productively procrastinate, which I've talked about here before. 

Since we live in Arizona, the news stations have resorted to showing pictures of local mountain snow, followed by out of state spring blooms, because here, in the Valley of the Sun, it has been in the mid to high eighties for the past week.  It was ninety on the weekend, when I stubbornly refused to turn on the air conditioner, because, for G-d sakes, it's March, dammit.  Mike got the table fan out of the storage closet, and we did use the ceiling fan and open all the windows to catch any cool breezes that might waft our way. 

So yeah, Spring, whatever. 
I remember being out in this kind of weather.  Amazing picture from here.

But I wasn't always this blase about the vernal equinox and the harbingers of Spring, like the tiny green shoots of crocus that gamely poke up through the grey slush of accumulated winter weather.  I have lived where Spring mattered, and even if the day itself didn't bring a cinematic blossoming and brightening, it was the promise of something to look forward to-- that lovely time before summer and steamy, icky weather that was as kvetch-worthy as winter in its own unbearable way. 

This is near Emerson Hall.  I think I fell right around where these bikes are parked. 
I grew up in Southern California, then moved to Arizona, so I came to winter late, you see, and it took me a while to catch up. I was childlike, goofy really, in my wonder at snow when we first moved to the East coast. I went outside, without my jacket, put my hands up, my tongue out, and spun around, then promptly slipped and went down, top over tea-kettle. My learning curve was embarrassingly steep. In Maine, Mike finally bought me some stretchy, spiky shoe attachments (kind of like these) at LL Bean. That was after I had already purchased the sturdiest, heaviest boots I'd ever owned. The soles looked like tire treads. I'd resisted, initially, for the same reason I'd had to pass up the chunky platform sandal trend-- congenitally thick ankles. I put those babies on reluctantly, because they made me look like a puffy down parka perched on two tree stumps, surrounded by a snowy ring of ragg wool sock and, well, big heavy hiking boots. But after losing a ballet flat and a Converse sneaker in snow drifts on the way to school, I gave in. The ice still got the best of me though, and I slid and splayed like a newborn lamb, unable to spot slick patches quickly enough to step around them. Hence the spikes. I lost the spikes in snow drifts twice, both times off of my left boot. In Portland, I eventually I got to the point where I could be trusted to walk out in winter with a baby, but then I usually had the stroller to steady me, or I stuck to side streets and walked down the middle, where municipal trucks had been kind enough to drop salt and sand to keep me off the ground.


I have fallen more than once here, too. The second time it was only raining kind of hard, so yeah, maybe it's me.

I have had the ignominious pleasure of falling on my ass at Harvard too, though not academically, thank goodness.  (Though wouldn't I love the chance?!) As a super philosophy nerd, I was excited to get permission to take a seminar led by T.M. Scanlon and Derek Parfit a few fall semesters ago.  The seminar room in Emerson Hall was packed every week because these guys are such giant fish in the tiny philosophy pond, and listening to them respectfully disagree about matters of ethics was always a good show.  The Brighton-Somerville bus was running late that week, because the weather was bad, though not bad enough to call classes.  I got off the bus and slid on a patch of ice to a near fall in front of Harvard Book Store, just before I crossed the street to go through one of the campus gates.  Thinking that I had now filled my quota of embarrassing mishaps for the day, I hurried on, only to land flat on my rear on the path that led to Emerson Hall.  Luckily, I had only twisted my ankle and I still had both of my boots on, but I was soaked and had to dig the contents of my book bag out of the snow around me before hobbling the rest of the way to the seminar.  The lecture had already begun and the room was packed, which is just as well. I would have looked even sillier standing alone at the back of a partially empty room just to avoid soaking a Harvard chair. 

Yeah, I fell more than once at BC too. 


So even though there is no winter danger now that we've moved back West, I still sigh happily at the thought of Spring, remembering soft breezes and slowly rising temperatures.  And I sometimes miss that early morning anticipation, watching the early newsteam joke about the crappy weather while the crawl scrolls below them listing the schools and businesses and roads that are closed.  Day off!  Jackpot!  Turn off the news and snuggle back into bed.  By the end of the winter this gets old though, and you've missed so many school days you have to do makeups into June, or you've lost enough work hours that paying the heating oil bill is a tight squeeze. It's time for Spring then. 

My theory is that we feel the seasons change when the temperature starts to hover around 40 degrees for any length of time.  In the Fall, as the winter bears down, we pull out the woolen scarves and the anoraks, saying, "It's only 40 out there.  It's freezing!"  On the other end of winter's tunnel, we welcome that shift into the 40's, putting the heavy sweaters back into storage and pulling out the more delicate footwear.  "It's already 40 degrees.  It's warming up!"  The buds are starting to appear and the trees are beginning to lose their scary, twisty ghost-tree look.  Even here, in the anomalously warm desert, the forty degree rule seems to hold.  Especially when you get to call someone back East and taunt them with a forty degree difference in daytime temperature.  Soon enough though, it will be Spring for everyone. 

We'll be that much closer to complaining about the heat of Summer.

New beginnings are always welcome.  Picture found here.

Images of Boston colleges in the snow from here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

When Less is Just Less

Image from slcrawford.

There is a lot of what I would call "neo-minimalist" talk swirling around these days, like this article  from the New York Times this past Sunday, or  this man's blog and books, and the work of these guys, with their lecture gigs and their oh-so-simple website, which includes a picture of just six shirts hanging defiantly in a closet above just two pair of shoes.  It's as though divesting oneself of the psychic and physical weight of possessions has become an industry in itself-- though a tight one, I guess, because, you know, Less is More.

It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently-- well kind of on and off my whole adult life, because for me, having money seems to be a cyclical thing.  We have less now, but I've had less before, and then had more again, so there is no reason to suspect that prosperity is not indeed, "just around the corner," as Herbert Hoover never actually said during the Great Depression of the last century.  

So I have to say, my reactions to the New York Times piece and some of the other minimalist ideas floating in mainstream intellectual space have been mixed, precisely because I understand this mini-movement as choices these individual minimalists are making.  That gives some important context we shouldn't ignore, because choosing to live with less once you have had more is a situation in which you might be happy to find yourself, but just struggling without stuff is an entirely different kettle of fish. 

Renouncing most material possessions and with them, the spirit of base materialism, is a positive action that can be seen as bold and brave, even when the move made by people who could, if they wanted to, pick up the thread of what they used to do, such as software development or real estate sales, and earn themselves back into a McMansion with a BMW parked in the driveway.  Less can be a learning experience and lead to real growth and change, as the NY Times essay and some of the other minimalist literature indicates.  Usually, these correspondents have made the minimalist choice in the name of that ethereal spectre, "work life balance," giving up not just stuff, but also the job that got them that stuff, as a way to gain some intangible that is more important.  And they find it.  But I think it is also important to remember that some people are just struggling to make ends meet, and they live with less because they simply can't have more.   This doesn't necessarily produce the same spiritual awakening, and indeed, can be pretty damned depressing. 

If we want to really put things into context, I have to disclose some of my own.  We've had one of our worst financial years ever, due mainly to the fact that I stopped working as a retail manager last April.   My unemployment and the reasons (some might say rationalizations) behind it, is a topic for another post, so I'll save it for now, but offer that there was an element of choice to our currently circumscribed (read, financially harrowing) life.  We have gained some valuable intangibles, but are we minimalists?  I'm not sure.  We have given things up, with mixed results. 

The main thing we gave up is child care, which took the lion's share of my paycheck.   Child-rearing is a totally DIY thing for us now, and that has been a good thing for the girls.  They have thrived this year, and have not gone through the bi-weekly cycle of colds and coughs that they did last year.  For me, this is the first year I've been a full time mom, and it has been delightful and challenging and super-fun and sometimes annoying.  Just like it is for every parent.  But the fact that the girls are happier and healthier is something I wouldn't easily give up, even though there are some weekend mornings that I just have to go out.  By myself.  It doesn't matter where. 

We no longer have cable TV.  Yes we watch far less-- just what we get with a set of new-fangled rabbit ears, so there is really no point in channel surfing-- all waves eventually crash on the network beaches, or on the too-welcoming shores of the evangelical channels.  On the plus side, I've read fourteen whole books since the first of the year, started the blog and an Etsy shop.  The girls are doing a lot more artwork, and Delia is learning to crochet.  But I'd still kind of like to find out what happened to Raylan Givens' jailed pappy on Justified, or sit and mindlessly watch TV BFFs Ina and Giada and  Nigella on the Food Network.  As Fiona put it, as the cable box was being sent away with the FedEx man, "I'm not sure this was such a good decision." Eventually, we'll join the 21st century and stream TV, but until then, we can manage, if somewhat grumpily, to watch less and do more.

We couldn't afford to furnish our apartment, so ninety-five percent of what we have was given to us by friends and family.  I realize almost every day that we have been really fortunate to acquire these things, so even though I've been heard to loudly and bitterly complain that our apartment resembles the BEFORE shots in the make-over stories in decorating magazines, I am happy when I look at the things in the apartment, knowing that everyone thought about us and gave them to us when we needed them. 

We don't have a car.  Unfortunately, the Phoenix metro area is not exactly a bastion of public transport.  We had the foresight to find an apartment close to bus routes because we knew it would be necessary, but it takes Mike 90 minutes each way to and from work, which would be about a half hour each way by car.  Remarkably though,  we're offered rides to school and work all the time.  Maybe it starts as curiosity about the car-less, but I like to think of it as a triumph of human spirit among my neighbors, especially the moms I hang with on the school pick-up scene. We are also close enough to be able to borrow a car from Mike's brother some time each month.  When we do use the car, we really appreciate it, especially the girls, who are clearly becoming conscious that living without a car is unusual, and perhaps, undesirable. 

Another thing I know about having less money is that it means that many things take more time and  planning.  Running errands without a car is much more time consuming, even with good public transport, but I do get more exercise that way. Buying fresh food to cook rather than more expensive prepared alternatives means more time in the kitchen and more foresight about having something to cook in the first place.  I know that, like the minimized TV watching, these things are good for us on several levels, but sometimes I'd really just like to order take-out at the end of a long day, take a quick ride to pick it up, and then eat it with my feet up in while I watch Guy Fieri visit a fine French restaurant some guy has built at the back of a bowling alley.

So what do these minimalist odes to simplicity really mean? I guess that has to go back to the context of why we have less.  Are we renouncing by choice?  Then, yes, there is beauty in not having to worry about maintaining a life with so many things around us. I really believe this, so I am always trying to reuse, recycle, and donate, because even though we struggle, we still seem to have excess sometimes and we have benefited from these actions by others.  Yet I also believe that this is a point I have been lucky to get to, because when I get cranky about having to cook, or not having anything to watch on TV, I can remember that I have made choices about how I wanted to spend my day, even though I never experienced the sort of surpluses the neo-minimalists have forsaken. 

Maybe the takeaway is that those of us who sometimes struggle with less should take comfort in the affirmations of those minimalists who have rejected the maximalist world: they've made it to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold ain't all it's cracked up to be.  Really though, I think most people would like a chance to learn that for themselves. 

I guess the one true statement I can make about living with less is that it is a mixed blessing.  I think the minimalist movement needs to acknowledge that, and not just because there are lots of people who never have enough to have the choose what they can give up.  I mean, who would take those high powered work-aholic jobs that get you so much stuff if living with less was an unalloyed delight?  For that matter, who would work in retail stores or collect garbage, or come out to snake your drain?  There is something to be said for stuff, just as there is something to be said for being able to manage, even flourish, without it. 
I'm just saying...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

First Grade is Not a Drill

I went to Delia's school last week to help with  a program called "Art Masterpiece" which gives a brief lesson on an artist and then allows the children to do a quick project that reflects the artist's style. 
"Memory Quilt" More info and beautiful images at Faith Ringgold.com
Last semester, Faith Ringgold was the featured artist and the kids did drawings about a family memory and framed them with squares of paper and fabric so the whole thing looked like one of Ringgold's memory quilt square pieces.  It was just before Thanksgiving, so many of them drew turkeys based on the outline of their hands (even though one young lady huffily declared, "that is so kindergarten!") They had a good time, and I am all for encouraging creativity and artistic exploration, etc... so I signed up to go again this semester.
This time, the focus was Georgia O'Keeffe and her amazing flower paintings.  I was glad, because, through some sad quirk of taste,  I'm not a huge fan of the drying skulls in the desert, though I'm sure that some of the 1st graders might have enjoyed executing those with gusto.  After a quick explanation of O'Keeffe's themes and methods, including a first grade translation of the idea that young art student O'Keeffe had been frustrated by the limits of naturalist expression, so she strove to show something conventional, like flowers, in a new way. Then the kids were shown  assorted images of O'Keeffe's flowers along with real flowers to get their imaginations revved up. 

White Flower on Red Earth #1 1943, found here

With such an endorsement of what everyone now uniformly calls "thinking outside the box," the kids were directed to outline a flower in crayon on a sheet of watercolor paper so that the flower filled the whole page, even spreading off the page if possible, to mimic some of O'Keeffe's work.  Then they got to use watercolors to fill in the flower, doing shading and color work that was supposed to flow and pop like one of the flowers in an O'Keeffe painting.  Then twenty-seven first graders had forty minutes to create some art.

But before we could get the creative mojo going, the bell rang for scheduled "lock down" drill.  The drills have increased in frequency since the Newtown tragedy last December, in part, I suppose, to help quell the fears of parents concerned about the preparation for something like that here, and in part to really prepare.  During the drill, we filed into a workroom adjacent to the classroom where the door could be closed and all lights shut off.  Essentially, the children were practicing hiding in the dark to fake out a crazed intruder.  I had been there during other drills since Newtown, and this was the first time I just got a lump in my throat, but didn't actually sob. 

When I was in elementary school, the only thing we had remotely like this were earthquake preparedness drills, "duck and covers," where kids scrambled under their desks and put their arms over their necks as they tried not to concuss themselves on the under-desk cubbies.  (Yeah, one year a kid had to go to nurse with a cut on his forehead from the drill...) Every year, we watched this film,
or one just like it, until I was out of sixth grade.  The teacher usually had trouble with the film, but  there was always a boy (I did not say nerd) in the class the teacher could call over to thread the film onto the back spool so that the whole class could collectively sigh with disappointment as the narrator intoned the opening words:  "The San Fernando Valley, six a.m.  An almost ordinary day..."    The 1971 Sylmar quake was a big deal when I was a kid. The epicenter was local, about 90 minutes from where I grew up, with effects that most adults throughout California could still vividly remember, as in, "I was standing in my kitchen having a cup of coffee when the everything started shaking and all the glassware fell out of the cupboards."  or "I wasn't awake yet, and I thought the world must be ending.  When I went outside, my patio was cracked in half."  I think they were still showing the same film when my sons first went to elementary school, but by then, all the teacher had to do was call on a boy to pop in a VHS tape. 
By today's cinematic disaster standards, the footage of an actual earthquake with falling buildings almost seems quaint:  No aliens, no lasers, really, how bad could it be?  But then, we were supposed to be afraid enough to be compliant during a drill, in case local tectonic plates shifted and the seismic shit really hit the fan. 

The drill at Delia's school was short.  I mean,  how long can you keep little kids silently huddled in the dark when there is really no imminent danger?  But the teacher, to her credit, took it very seriously and strenuously encouraged the students to do the same.  "This could save lives," she said. And afterward, as she chastised some gigglers, not calling them out by name, but intoning that they knew who they were, she asked them how they would feel if their noisy chatter actually brought harm to their classmates.  Heads were bowed, but after a minute to consider what this might mean, time marched on and it was time to go back to the art lesson. 

White Flower, 1929, from this source
The main direction to the kids was to use the entire page,  give a close-up view, as though the person looking at their picture were inside the flower.  The flowers were meant to flow off the page.  Some kids dove right in, natural artists I guess, producing big, blowzy blooms and using bright colors.  But some of the kids struggled.  They asked questions like, "which of those flowers should I copy?" and "what color am I supposed to use?" and "am I doing this right?  I can't do this right."  One young lady insisted she would never be able to finish, so she might as well not start.  Take that, artistic expression!

I was surprised by how much trouble even a little abstraction caused them.  Several of the kids in fact, could not make themselves follow the directions, and ended up producing a standard child's view of a flower, a single bloom tidily sitting atop a stem, with the yellow sunshine drawn in the upper corner and the green grass indicated at the bottom edge of the page.  The teacher shook her head, but each of those rebels seemed to harbor the proud notion that they had done the right thing, like there was no reason to produce something that didn't look like a real flower.  I hope none of them are ever forced into art museums.  They will feel like they are in hell.  

While they worked, I couldn't help thinking about the drill, and the collective responsibility it imposed on them.  Everyone's fears had to be constructively channeled for the good of the group.  We all had to duck and cover back in the day, but that was about saving ourselves from natural disaster, not helping protect the group from a psychotic rampage.  How do you teach kids to be afraid enough to hide and brave enough to hide quietly?  It was no time to rebel, no time for abstraction. 

Three and a half minutes later, they come back into the brightly lit classroom and are instructed to put themselves inside a flower.  It's a lot to be asked before lunch.

By the time class ended,  most of the kids, even Miss "I'mNotGonnaTry," were able to finally complete an O'Keeffe-esque picture.  I'm sure the whole gallery will look great hanging in the cafeteria on the night of the PTO's Spaghetti Dinner.  While everyone eats industrial spaghetti with Parmesan cheese product, the principal will reassure the assembled parents that the school is ready for whatever comes.  "The lock down drills are going well...and please, take a look at the beautiful abstract art our first graders did this semester."  I'm sure there will be some parents nodding with approval that their child was able to show an actual flower, with grass and sun.  The way flowers should look. 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hello to All That

My baby, my youngest child, is five years old today.  She is a beautiful, complicated person with a strong sense of humor and an even stronger will.  I adore her. 

But this isn't about her, this is about me.  This is about me and me becoming a mom.

Fiona is my fourth child.  The others range in age from thirty to six.  I have two "sets" of children, I guess, something more and more common in this new age we live in, a time when reinvention and recombination is encouraged, and families can be created over a lifetime.  This step-wise arrangement has been a good thing for me, because I have both boys and girls and have experienced the joys (and other "stuff") of both and can talk about the differences with some authority now.  (I still fear the upcoming "emotional" years with the girls, when the waves of hormones start crashing on these shores.)  Also, I can still distinguish Legos from knock-off generic blocks and do a wicked french braid while both the braid-ee and I munch on buttered English muffins. 

And even though I just told Fiona that just because it's her birthday, she can't act like a little pischer, I don't know what I would do without her.  She calls me "Moo-shu," after the Chinese take-out food, just because she likes the sound of the words.  Even though there are times when she talks circles around me and runs me off my feet, I am thankful for her every day...usually by the time she is asleep, at least.  You see, I am utterly convinced that I could not have easily managed four children within a conventional time-span, such that I would have had four actual under-age children under my care at the same time.  Utterly convinced.  Just writing about this makes me tired.

Here's a fun Fiona fact:  she is the only child, out of the four, who was premeditated. 
Her oldest brother was a surprise. In my own defense, I was a college freshman away at school with my first serious boyfriend, recently informed by a well-respected OB-GYN how terribly sad it was that I would probably never have children without some kind of medical intervention.  Picture the heavy sigh and sad shake of head as said doc lets me know I really don't need a script for birth control.  Picture also, the heavy sighs and sad shakes of head when I revealed my college-interrupting condition to my parents.  Did I mention I was seventeen?  They were actually amazing, once the smoky clouds of shock and dismay dissipated, though I am certain my mother has never forgiven me for anointing her as a grandmother just as she turned forty.  I am certain because she mentions it every year around my oldest son's birthday.

I have to say, to be very clear, that the unintentional aspect of all this motherhood has never made me feel that I was making a mistake. 

My only mistake actually, was agreeing to marry my sons' father.  Though even this has to be qualified, because if I hadn't married the-- uh, him, I wouldn't have my younger son, whose impending arrival became apparent just as I was planning to take my oldest son and leave the marriage for a number of very good reasons, including my first husband's increasingly abusive behavior.  I don't know what I would do without Justin, either, and since my parents were already broken in as grandma and grandpa, and I was still married, there was much less distressed fanfare accompanying his debut. 

I will leave out, for now, years of single parenthood, during which I am sure that I have somehow scarred my sons for life.  To date, both are solid citizens and I am very proud, but I am a Jewish mother, so the worry lingers.  Whatever it is, it will be my fault.  That is all I know. 

So, advance the way back machine, if you will, to a couple of years  after the boys graduate from high school.  I'm done, I think, with the mom basics, and in the American feminist renaissance tradition, it is time to do something for myself.  My current husband and I decide on mid-life career shifts, and head to law school, across the country.  The boys are grown-ups, old enough to go through the airport security by themselves and visit when they can, so I feel good about going back to school.  First semester goes well, but by January, I can't shake the ugly flu that seems to be ravaging the other One Ls.  I just need some antibiotics... Or do I? 

You can picture the visit to  Maine Student Health, then housed in a temporary trailer across campus from the law building, where a (young) middle aged woman sits on a paper-covered exam table, convinced that a pregnancy test is really unnecessary-- really, I mean law school, stress, flu-- just get me some amoxicillin and I'll be fine.  I might have been slightly less shocked than my equally middle aged husband, who held the results up to the light to be sure he was reading them correctly.  Enter Delia, that September.   Thanks to the supportive community at the school and two solid summers of Con Law and Trial Practice, I graduated with my class, just after Fee was born. 

Why a second baby during law school?  Couldn't I have just tied one hand behind my back and refused to use electronic resources to up the level of difficulty? 

Wait, didn't she say that Fiona was the one she planned? 

Our advancing age, the thought of Delia having no one her age in the family, and the availability of public health care for grad students, contributed to the decision to have another child  right away.  So we did.  Kind of a miracle, given the ridiculous work-study-childcare schedule.  It was meant to be, as they say, because life would be less astounding, less musical, less everything, without my baby who is five today. 

And even though I just had to tell Fiona that, just because it's her birthday, she can't have ice cream for breakfast, even with cereal sprinkled on it, I wouldn't trade her, or any of the four, for anything.  Ever. 

Especially when they are sleeping.