my brother, part 4

Back to my brother's story.

Christoper always excelled in school. He liked being in competition with the smart kids. He quickly outgrew the high school environment and decided to do his junior and senior year together, enabling him to graduate a year early. He impressed us all with his perseverance and hard work. He took two english classes, several hard science classes, and a speech class at a local university. He studied late into the night more than a couple times a week. By the time May arrived, he had earned the right to say goodbye to Clarksville High early. We were all very proud of him. At the graduation ceremony the principle had each student stand to be recognized for college scholarships received. My chest swelled with pride as the principle said, "Chris Kotter. John Brown University. Excellence in Engineering Scholarship." I felt like standing up and saying, "That's MY brother!"

He decided to attend John Brown University after considering many state schools. This decision made us all happy. Chad and I had awesome experiences at the small Christian school. I can't help but think that our positive stories impacted his decision to go there.

About a month ago, he moved into the dorm. He was giddy, a little self conscious, and all smiles. His roomate is a missionary kid from Brazil. So far, they get along. Once a week or so, I call Christopher to see if he needs anything. He's without a car, and Walmart is not in walking distance from the campus. He usually turns down my offer for Walmart runs, but he always receives invitations for meals out or a weekend afternoon at our house.

When I see him, I can't help but smile inside. He's so grown up. His chest, neck and arms are filling in. (He lifts weights with a buddy.) His voice seems more mature. He laughs like a man -- deeply and with light in his eyes. He is more alive than ever before. His major is Construction Management, which is the same thing Chad studied. They compare stories of profs, projects, and classes. By the time Chris graduates they'll have a lot more in common.

I guess this is the end of my series on my little bro. As I write Part 4, I think of many stories I've left out. In the future I'll revisit the topic and tell stories of him taking a rental car for a hush-hush 100 mph spin around town, band camp girlfriends and other typical little brother stuff.


clothes talk

I am tired of all my clothes. I keep buying the same stuff over and over again. I have this desire to dress funky and unique. Something between skater-chick, hippie, and prep. I know; those are opposites. That is one of my problems.

Another problem is that I like simplicity too much. I am drawn to the Favorite-Ts at the Gap. If they are on sale, I buy them every time. My closet has various colors of the long-sleeve and short-sleeve versions. Sometimes I layer them with the short-sleeved ones on top. That is about the extent of my "style."

I see girls wearing layered lacy tanks with sparkly shoes. I like that look, but I'd feel like an alien if I wore it. Which leads to another one of my problems. Confidence. I second guess myself when I try new things. One time in aerobics I tried to be cool and wore something out of the ordinary. I could barely do the steps right, because I was so self-consious with all the mirrors. After that I stuck to grey shorts and big white t-shirts. Borrrrring.

Maybe another one of my problems is that I live in Arkansas. This might be a cop-out, but really... we only have a few places to get stuff. Yeah, yeah, I could order from the internet, but that just isn't the same as REALLY shopping.

Today I ventured to the mall and made myself go into a store other than the Gap. I entered Express, determined to find something different. A nice clerk began talking to me. She was five months pregnanct. We exchanged baby pleasantries and then I began the search. I found several shirts with cute sleeves, a little sparkle and slinky material. Fun stuff. Each time I found an item to consider, there were only Smalls and X-Smalls available. What the hell?! Here I am, excited that my boobs are finally on their way down from a DD. I'm feeling good because MIGHT be able to fit into a Large instead of an XL. Good grief. Are there really THAT MANY tiny people out there? Obviously not, because all the big sizes are gone. Errr. (This is a different subject for a different post... sorry.)

I ended up buying a long-sleeve black v-neck. (50% off for $12.50. Not bad.) Along the neckline are understated sparklies and lace. I plan to wear a black tank underneath for added support and coverage. Soon, when I can fit my wide bootie into my date jeans, I'll have a fun, new outfit to show off. If only there were a store in the mall where we could buy Confidence to finish off the new look.


garage sale tidbits

Today I participated in a garage sale with two friends. All three of us are moving within the next three weeks. We each have babies. We wanted to get rid of junk, make some cash, and hang out. I dragged myself from bed at 6am and managed to stumble out the door with a blurry-eyed baby at 6:35. I got a dozen Krispy Kremes on the way (as well as coffee for myself) and arrived just at 7:00. Buyers steadily came and went until 1:00. During these six hours we juggled babies, bartered dollars, and told stories about our rejected possesions. We laughed at people (nicely) and made sure the kids didn't get too close to the street.

By noon, I was zonked. Melody had taken two naps in a $1 leopard print umbrella stroller. I sold two video game chairs, Chad's metal weights, an array of kitchen glassware, full size duvet cover with shams, and two little girl play strollers. I also sold an anitque high chair that I purchased a few weeks ago at a flea market. I snatched it up with high hopes of having a CUTE high chair instead of the monster ones on the market these days. It ended up being ricketty with slick chipped paint and no straps. I'm still looking for the right solution.

Items I was not sucessful at getting rid of where my husband's weight bench and one of those monster high chairs I mentioned already. It came from a neighbor several months ago. It had a cracked vinyl seat. By the end of the sale I had a $1 sticker on it. One lady did consider it for awhile. She said her brother needed a high chair for his restaurant. The girls and I laughed like banchees after she left. I could picture it in a dingy corner of some greasy waffle joint. Just the kind of public chair I'd love to use for my baby!

All in all, I made $65. (Of course if you subtract money from the donuts, coffee, lunch, poster board, huge black marker, and gas, I probably only made about $45. It was worth it for the social time.) Now it's early afternoon. Melody is sleeping and I'm heading to Nap Land myself. Chad is working on the house until dark, so I have the rest of the afternoon to rest, pack a little, clean up things, and perhaps make some banana bread.


update -- the house & melody

We have a lot going on right now. For one, we're building a house. That in itself is a lot. The house will be ready for interior paint in about a week. We've been busy picking colors, facets, lights, countertops, appliances, tubs, etc, etc, etc. The list is long! Now that I can see the house taking shape, I'm excited. Chad has been excited since before the footings were poured. It was hard for me to invision things until recently. Now I'm excited too.

Chad works for a residential construction company, so he knows about this stuff already. His job involves buying materials and scheduling. Thus, he's in his element when it comes to building our own house. He has scheduled things out to the day; of course there have been bumps and mishaps, but for the most part it has been a successful project. They say the devil is in the details, so we'll see how things pan out in the end. Chad plans on doing the trim himself as well as the cedar siding on the exterior of the house. I fear these two projects will take months. The other day I asked, "Have you estimated how much time your projects are going to take?" His facial expression showed me the answer. No. I try not to nag.

I took Melody to the doctor a couple days ago. She's been acting strange this week. Nights have been rough for 5 days in a row. She was sleeping 10 hour stretches with no problem until this week. It has been hard to be up with her again; it reminds me of the newborn days. I remember those first weeks with awe. How did I do it? I remember taking a 10 minute walk and then returning to the house and sleeping for two solid hours...

But back to the doctor visit... her ears, throat, and breathing checked out fine. At the end of the visit the doctor weighed her. She is 15 pounds / 9 ounces. She has gained only one pound in the past two months. (!) Her rank has slipped to the 5th percentile (from the 15th).

Of course I'm worried. I've talked to many people -- other moms, my mom, Chad, friends. They say nice things to ease my mind.

"You feed her often. She's fine."
"She's just petite. It's okay for girls to be little."
"Her motor skills and cognitive development are on track."
"Don't worry about it."

I've been trying to be brave; to not think about it; not let it get to me. But I'm distracted and tired and my mind keeps returning to the issue of her size. I love the way she looks. She has soft, round legs and a little ball tummy. When she's naked I squeal at the sight of her tiny proportions. I'm not alarmed by her appearance. I only worry after we've visited the doctor.

I make ongoing mental lists of high calorie baby food she can eat -- avocado, egg yolk, yogurt, flaxseed oil, banana. She eats all these foods without resisting. However, she only eats a tiny bit of each... maybe a 10th of an avocado or one ounce of yogurt at a time.

We've stopped breastfeeding. For awhile I nursed her at night and in the mornings. Then last week she began refusing. She still cuddles up to me as we lay side by side, in our nursing position. She holds onto my shirt, drawing it close to her face. With her other hand she sucks her fingers. This is the way she falls asleep now. I'm thankful we can still be so close even though she won't nurse. I have mixed feeling on her weaning. Part of me is sad because I planned to nurse until December. I am sad she won't get the nutrition of breastmilk anymore. Another part of me is relieved and happy. I'm feel free! My body belongs to ME again.


my brother, part 3

Back to the story of my little bro...

When my brother was three months old we moved from Texas to California. On the seven day drive he took up most of the car. In the backseat we had a baby car bed which occupied two-thirds of the bench seat. In the front seat a large rear facing carseat sat inbetween my parents. These items symbolized his presence in our family; he was the focus. I remember staring at him as he slept next to me in the back seat. He wore only his diaper as we drove through the desert on Hwy 10. He slept on his stomach; I traced lightly on his soft back, hoping he enjoyed my touch.

We lived in California for 4 years. They were heart-wrenching years of loneliness, isolation, adolescence, and bad clothes. I took comfort in my toddler companion who didn't see lack of style, bad hair, or dorky conversation. During the earthquake of 1989, I was the one who grabbed him as we fled to the hallway of the shaking house.

Christopher had a special way with old people. When we visited my grandpa in the nursing home I crumbled into my dad's arms at the sights and sounds of the ailing, bed-ridden elderly. My brother was three years old and he didn't see these things. He was oblivious to the smells and sadness. He walked the halls with my grandpa; small new hand wrapped in strong old wrinkled fingers. He hummed along in his high-little-boy-voice as my grandpa sang old hymns with his rummbling crackly deep voice. It was an endearing sight.

When Christopher was 4 and I was 15, we moved to Arkansas. A year later he started kindergarden and I made sure my mom bought him cute clothes so he'd fit in. We had more money at this point, so getting him nice things was easier. He named our black stray cat, Apple. He loved to ride in the front seat of the mini-van. Usually I made him sit in the backseat though. He was great at Monopoly at a young age. He had a coin collection. He loved doing outside projects with my dad and saving his money.

When he was eight years old I left for college. While moving into my female-only dorm, men had to yell "Man on the hall" when they entered. We all laughed when his high squeaky voice proclaimed, "Man on the hall!" On my visits home from college I would take Christopher to school in the mornings. On the way, we'd get donuts and eat them quickly as to finish before arriving at the school.

When he was ten I brought lots of friends home from college. We'd spend weekends eating real food, sleeping on floors all over the house, and playing video games, legos, and outside games. He joined in with the big kids and had a blast. My friend Matt told him about cool bands and Christopher immediately spent his money on their CDs.

He was twelve when I graduated from college. Fourteen when I got married. And 18 when Melody came along. Shortly after her birth he called our dear Uncle Jerry and said, "Tell me how to be a good uncle." Jerry's response, "Take her to 7-11 and buy her candy." So far Christopher has been an awesome uncle.


the juggling game

I am not finished posting about my brother, but I am going to write about other stuff today. One of the reasons I've been absent is because I felt constrained to post about him again, and the inspiration wasn't there.

Today has been strange. I woke up early at 6:00. Melody was still asleep and I enjoyed the darkness of the quiet morning. I took care of paperwork while my brain was fresh. I think best in the morning. My motor skills are a different story. As I attempted to make a smoothie, frozen peaches went flying, clattering loudy on the tile floor.

Melody woke around 7:00. We nursed and then walked for a hour. She slouched to one side of her stroller with a duh face as the cracks in the sidewalk rhymically passed. I felt strong and sturdy and walked briskly. The air was cool, evidence that summer is finally saying goodbye.

The rest of the day has been a struggle. I've been on a mission to take care of things. Send my bro-in-law and sis-in law letters with snapshots of Melody. They are both in college and need contact from the outside world. Make bean soup. I've had a bag of dry red beans for over a year. I found them on Saturday as I began packing the kitchen for our upcoming move. I vowed to cook them before we move; today is the day. They are simmering on the stove with brown rice, tomatoes, green onions, corn, and ranch seasoning. I hope it's good, because there's a lot of it.

The reason these things have been a struggle is because I ignore Melody while I work. She watches Einstein, plays on her blanket, claps her hands, and watches me walk back and forth through the living room over and over again. After awhile she gets bored and wants my attention. Most days I gladly quit my chore to be with her. Here is my question: Is it possible to be a good mom AND a good homemaker? I feel like I have to choose. And inbetween these two, I long to find a tiny bit of time for just ME. To read, write, email, whatever.

I'm not complaining... I love being at home. I'm just wondering how to juggle it all. How do you do it?