A Gypsy in Snow Pants

Women have children for many different reasons. Some women want a baby (This is a classic bait and switch ladies. How they start out is not how they end up.) Some women want to be mothers - sometimes even after they truly know what that means. Some women just want people to stop pestering them about when the baby is coming already. Here is a confession - one of the main reasons that I had kids was to dress them up in super awesome Halloween costumes. In my mind I saw my little trick-or-treaters marching into the night clad in thematically inspired clothing designed and executed by their super creative and capable mother. (Me.) The actual trick-or-treating would be done with their father, because October's too cold for me to do that kind of craziness and also, someone has to answer the door and dole out candy. (Also, this was going to be the time when I could judge all of the other mom's efforts to see if they were as good as mine.)

As you can see, my plan was foolproof. In my mind. Then I had children... and my children had opinions. These opinions included ideas about what they would and would not wear at Halloween. Mostly these opinions revolved around what they perceived as "cool" or "not cool". Also, these opinions tended to change the night before Halloween...after I'd completed their costume. So now it's store bought costumes and no matching. (Who's being judged now? )

Too bad, because I had some good ideas too. Some of the better ones that were summarily dismissed were:
  • Marie Antoinette and some random French peasants. My daughter just didn't get this one and she hated the wig. What kind of girl hates a huge white wig, I ask you? If I could wear a big old powdered wig to the grocery store I would totally do it... and I might or might not yell "let them eat cake" when I walked past the bakery.
  • Little Bo Peep and her sheep brothers. I'm not sure why my four year old son would not want to dress up as a sheep to coordinate with his baby brother and be herded by his older sister's crook while I took pictures, but it totally ruined a good photo op. that would've been very cute in one of those graduating senior slide shows. Whatever.
  • A family tribute to "The Wizard of Oz" - again foiled by: a. my sons, who felt that they could've made a lot shorter work of the Wicked Witch of the West if only they were allowed to use their light sabers at the church trunk-or-treat, and b. my husband, who had no interest in going out in public dressed as a member of The Lollipop Guild. Go figure.
Personally, my favorite Halloween costume when I was a little girl was a gypsy. When you live in the Rocky Mountains the idea of being a gypsy is about as exotic as it gets. I had visions of being decked out in a white peasant blouse, huge gold hoop earrings, a festive head scarf with fringe all around the edge, and a red skirt that would fly up in a huge circle when you spun around on your heels. (One of the best parts of being a little girl is a twirly skirt. Fun.) I would of course need lots of bangles and beads and bracelets and baubles - because I was pretty sure that those were the things that made a gypsy's life so great... and I'd seen pictures. Oh, also, I'd need a tambourine.

Yep, that's what my costume looked like... in my head. However, as I recall I usually ended up wearing a read bandanna, lots of cheap, beaded necklaces, and some lipstick. (I realize now that essentially my costume was a biker chick at Mardi Gras.) The things that really gave it that authentic Mediterranean flair though, were - snow boots and a winter coat. The sad truth was that Montana at the end of October was no place for twirly skirts and peasant blouses. No place for a gypsy- unless the gypsy wanted frostbite.

I look back on my gypsy obsession now and have a couple of thoughts. Firstly, I'm totally unclear about whether it is or is not okay to allow your child to dress as a gypsy for Halloween. It seems a little... racial. I think it must be alright, though. I mean, I would let my kids dress in lederhosen (another thwarted family costume theme: "The Sound of Music" - I wanted to be that Baroness lady), or in kimonos or ninja wear. I would let them dress like Cleopatra and other Egyptiany people. So...

Secondly, I didn't know that one day I would come dangerously close to living the gypsy lifestyle with my three children and hugely pregnant belly. Living like a gypsy, with the constant moving around, is less glamorous I've found, than dressing like one. We are on the move again after just one year. Our rental house was sold and the people that are buying it actually want to live in it. Rude. At first I did not think it was going to be a big deal to find housing. We wanted to "downsize" anyway and we were pretty open to whatever came along. (By the way, the word "downsize" might sound neutral and consoling, but in reality- it's pretty lame. I'm hoping to leave the "downsize" part of life behind us really soon.) Too bad for us, finding a rental that allowed us to keep our kids around people they know and didn't force us to revisit the last school year with our daughter (an experience just as enjoyable as a daily bikini wax) turned out to be asking a lot. Particularly when you're trying to "downsize".

With about 10 days to go before we had to move out we still had no place to move... in. What I learned next was this: Necessity might be the mother of Invention, but the mother of Necessity is Poverty. That's when I hatched my plan. Yurt. Or maybe a tent. At a campground. Homeschooling and cooking over a fire. Apparently Poverty is also the mother of Crazy. My family was not impressed. I told my sisters that a lot of people live that way. They told me that those people were called "homeless" - or "scary polygamist kidnappers on the run from the law". They told me that I needed to find somewhere to take my soon to be newborn baby that did not include communal showers and exposure to random mosquito borne diseases.

Fortunately, God knows that despite my willingness for adventure/borderline personality, I am not exactly cut out for camping and that I would last about two minutes in a Yurt homeschooling my children and beating my clothing against a rock. After that, there would just be a lot of tears. From me mostly. So... although I was looking forward to a big adventure, we have successfully found a place to move our family... that includes a permanent roof and flush toilets. Now with exactly two days to spare all I have to do is come up with a way to move all of our stuff. Maybe, if I can find one that fits over my belly, I'll wear a twirly red skirt and a huge powdered wig during the whole fiasco and hope that the new neighbors recognize a gypsy (at heart) when they see one... and since it's August, I won't even need snow pants.

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What kind of pants does a doula wear?

If you are curious about what I really do as a doula, read this. It was written by a mom whose birth I had the privilege of attending. Women rock.

PS- I am not loving the picture of me. Just remember that I am very pregnant and had just done several hours of labor support. It tends to be hard on the makeup.
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It's a miracle his pants survived

Animals are interesting things. Some are beautiful but not useful. Some are useful, but not beautiful. Some are not beautiful, and not useful. Some are just so stinking annoying that you don't even notice if they're beautiful or useful. (I'm just now realizing that this applies to people too. Hmmm.) Falling squarely in the "stinking annoying" category are: our dog (don't ever let Santa bring your kids a dog - ever), woodpeckers that mistake your roof for a giant red wood tree, Nancy Pelosi, (seriously Nan, I can't understand what you're talking about 99% of the time, and I'm pretty sure it's not me) and ... moles (any size, any kind).

Moles are the Howard Dean of the animal kingdom -ridiculous looking and without any apparent purpose other than to agitate the landscape and drive self-respecting suburban property tax payers to the very edge of sanity. Also, there is no way to get rid of them. You think they're gone and then... they're back.

My family's obsession with mole eradication is one of the things that binds us as a people. There are four principle mole hunters among us and they have had varying levels of success.

1. My husband: We used to live in a house that was situated on a large corner lot. Behind us was a huge field (good for privacy, not so much for vermin control). When we moved in, the entire property was overrun with knee high weeds, and creeping vines and very aggressive flora of every other sort. My husband worked for a long time on that yard and finally got it looking really lovely. It had green grass and everything. He was proud. He was a content lawn gardening putterer. (You know - he went out and dug around in the dirt and admired his tulips and lilies and whatever.) Then came the great mole plague of '05... and '06 and '07. My husband turned into a hunter. It was a little scary.

The first thing he tried was to drown them. I was skeptical of this technique as I didn't believe that one could actually flood real life mole tunnels like might be done in an episode of Winnie the Pooh. (All I could picture was that little mole guy with the miner hat and the lisp stomping up to angrily confront my husband about the goings on in his tunnel system and how he was behind schedule now.)

Next he went for the "stalk and smash" approach. I found him at 2am in the back yard with a headlamp and a shovel, poised over a section of earth which he had determined as the spot most likely to host the mole's next appearance. I was pretty certain that the only people (other than my husband) that wandered around in the middle of the night with a head lamp and a shovel were those that made a living farming the kind stuff that gets them thrown into the pen, and since I didn't fancy seeing myself on the next episode of "Cops" made him go back inside the house.

Some of the other things he tried were - chewing gum down the holes (I think this operates on the same concept that your mom had when she told you it would sit in your stomach for 7 years if you swallowed it), maybe poison of some kind, and these strange devices that he borrowed from my brother in law. They were like cylinders that you'd bury down their holes and then at random intervals (both day and night) would vibrate and hiss. Apparently I have better ears than the mole. The "audio deterrent approach" made me want to leave my husband, but the mole was willing to go into counseling to save their relationship.

(Just for the record the only mole I think we ever caught was caught by me. And when I say "caught" I mean I found it dead on the driveway and picked it up with a shovel while saying "iiih". I suspect he may have caught a glimpse of my husband in the head lamp and laughed himself to death.)

2. My sister A. I'm not sure that her mole capture should count in the family tally as it was actually her rat terrier that made the kill. Poor mole. What he learned that day is that you can't outrun good breeding. (Also, I think this is the only reason that she keeps that dog. Santa got her too.)

3. My mother. She actually caught a mole with her bare hands. Or rather a cup that she was holding in her bare hands. Moles might be fast with the tunneling, but with the running - not so much. For reasons best known to the mole, this one was making an above ground dash for my mom's flower beds when she trapped it in a cup and then, as any logical woman who suddenly found herself holding a cup containing a live mole would do, flushed it down her toilet.

From there on out, my mother hired a mole removal service.

4. My brother in law. My sister and her husband own a piece of property that is like 3 acres or something. 3 acres can hold a lot of moles. My nieces actually came running inside the house one afternoon yelling that there were 2 moles wrestling on the lawn. My sister and her husband were skeptical, but upon closer inspection actually found 2 real life moles wrestling around on their lawn. (They weren't doing that kind of wrestling. They were actually wrestling - a territorial dispute I guess.) In a move that I think made my husband a little bit jealous, my brother in law grabbed a shovel and - there's no easy way to say this- bashed the little suckers. He does admit to being slightly concerned at the impact that this act of brutality might have on his little girls, who were onlookers to the attack, but don't worry - they cheered him on. Literally.

Like I said, moles don't leave. I'm not sure if it's reincarnation, resurrection, or reproduction, but there's always one ready to step up and take the place of its fallen comrade. So... despite the shovel incident, where he got two in one blow, the mole problem persists and my brother in law has resorted to traps. Lots of traps.

Which brings me to... mole karma. The mole traps are usually covered, for obvious reasons, but yesterday they were uncovered so that my brother in law could mow the yard. My 3 year old was taking turns with his cousin (waiting for his turn actually) riding the lawn mower with his uncle and I was sitting talking to my sister. That is when I looked over and saw my son, holding in his beautiful man sized hands, a fully armed mole trap. I yelled. He dropped the trap, but because he is going to be a valedictorian some day, leaned over to pick it back up. I yelled again and went over to pick him up before he succeeded in losing at least 7 of his 10 fingers. (At this point my sister said to me "Don't you pick it up". Apparently she thinks I'm a valedictorian too.) I explained to him in as graphic language as I could think of why picking up a mole trap was a bad idea. (I didn't feel like it was a time to wax poetic.) Unfortunately for him he's three, and his uncle was coming back toward him with the lawn mower. He thought that it was his turn for a ride.

In reality my brother in law was coming to disarm the mole trap. My son ran toward the spot where he would traditionally wait to swap with his cousin ... right toward the still fully armed mole trap. I screamed for him to stop. He kept running. He stepped on the mole trap. The trap snapped. The trap missed.

Call it what you want. Call it luck. Call it a miracle (I do). Maybe it was because my husband never actually executed a mole and therefore its blood did not cry out for vengeance. I grabbed my son and hugged his trap free foot/ankle/leg, made sure he was okay... and then I yelled at him about obedience and listening and how hard it is to run with crutches. I yelled. I yelled loud enough to scare those pesky little moles into saying to each other "Man, that girl's crazy. C'mon, I heard some guy's trying to flood us out two doors down. I could use a laugh."

And if I can get rid of moles, I'd consider myself both beautiful (most days) and useful.

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Always have a spare pair of pants

Here's something you need to know about boys: every boy knows everything about something.

My oldest son knows everything about oceans and all the stuff that lives in them. Want to know what color an octopus' blood is? Ask my son - (also, you can ask him why it is not the same color as your blood, if you're interested.) Want to know which sharks give birth to live young? Ask my son. Want to know how barnacles eat? Ask my son. (My kids and I actually saw this at the coast last week - it was pretty cool, if I do say so myself.)

My second son knows everything about Star Wars. Apparently this is something that lots of boys know everything about. I learned this lesson when I went to the park with three of my very good friends and their children. Between the 4 of us we have 14 children ages 10 and under. The families break down like this 4 boys, 3 boys/1 girl, 2 boys/1 girl/1 boy on the way, 1 girl/2 boys/1 boy on the way. That's a 13:3 boy-girl ratio, in case you're counting. You'll never see anything more wonderful and potentially dangerous than a pack of little boys roving free range through a park hitting each other about the head and shoulders with multiple colors of plastic light sabers. At one point one of the little Jedis ended up saberless. Sad. I pointed out to him that one of my sons had two light sabers, and because he was raised right, I was certain that he would willingly give one up. If hope had a face, it would've been his. However, when he turned around and figured out who I was talking about he explained (to a girl who was obviously in need of some serious Star Wars education) "Oh. Yeah, he's General Grievous. He's in Clone Wars episode three. He's actually supposed to have 4 light sabers." Apparently he was a Star Wars purist, and so settled for a blaster rather than further compromising the aforementioned Grievous.

You might think that when boys grow up, they no longer know the everything about the something that they knew as children. Not so. Totally not so.

My husband, for example, knows everything about cars and always has (according to his mother.) He too likes to share his knowledge with me. Before I met him, I knew where to put the key and the gas. I now know terms like "continuously variable transmission", "holly four barrel carbs" and "dual exhaust". Before I met him, I used the terms "wheels" and "tires" interchangeably. Now I know that wheels and tires are not the same thing, and you cannot call them the same thing. I also know that they come in different sizes. I even know what size tires our car takes.

I know this last little gem, because when you are 8 months pregnant and you are driving on the freeway to a baby blessing on a 95 degree Sunday afternoon with your three kids in the back seat of the car in their church clothes (complete with little man neck ties) and suddenly your car says "low tire pressure" and then "hey hope you are close to a cute little boutique that sells tires because your spare is already on the car and it's gonna be hard to drive on three wheels - even if they do do it in the movies all the time", you get to hear your husband telling the people that he's managed to reach on his cell phone over and over again what size tires you need followed by "a special tire order isn't going to help me - I'm literally sitting here with my kids in the car... (fill in the explanation from above here)." Also, I learned that the only people besides our family that observe the Sabbath anymore are the people that were already at the blessing (cell phones in the car, not the church) and the Les Schwab Tire Company - who slightly deflated the miracle of loosing a tire at the freeway exit by a tire store, by not being open on Sundays.

Other things that you should know about cars with flat tires - if you pull into a gas station, don't expect anyone that works there to give you any kind of helpful information, except how much a car wash costs, and also, if you buy your kids and yourself an ice cream treat to stop them from saying "stop putting your hand in my section" and "I can hear you breathing too loud through your nose" it will taste slightly of petrol, Valvoline and trucker stink - just like everything else you buy from the Chevron quick mart. Yum. Oh, and the patrons of the Chevron will keep asking your children where they are going dressed like that on such a hot day and then look at you like you're some kind of fundamentalist loony because you dared make your children change out of their camouflage shorts and Crocs before going to get religion.

Every boy knows everything about something, but every girl knows something about everything. The something about cars that I know is this -they break - but fear not, eventually someone will answer their cell phone, eventually you will come up with a plan to rescue your stranded family and eventually someone will be able to sell you the part you need...and then - who cares what it's called, if they sell a spare, buy one and keep it in your car.

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