Monday, November 5, 2012

We've Moved!

Soooo .... obviously I haven't posted in a while.
With new jobs, new schedules, growing boys, etc., posting long detailed blogs just wasn't working.
I'm hoping I can make some magic work in 140 characters or less -- now you can follow Tarababble on Twitter @Tarababble.
Woo hoo!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mom

Henry has taken lately to calling me "my mom."

"Come and play, my mom!"

"Can I have a jelly bean, my mom?"

"I'll be Yoda, and you be Obi-Wan Kenobi, my mom." (We've also been very into Star Wars lately.)

At first I thought the new moniker was a sign of possession -- this is my mom. But it's not how he says it. He says it the same way an adult would when talking about his or her mother: "Oh, my mom is coming for the weekend."

I think, maybe, being "my mom" is a result of Henry starting to have a life separate enough from me that he talks about me to other people -- to his preschool classmates, to his grandparents, to his little buddies. He refers to me when I'm not around.

I've decided I like being "my mom" as opposed to "my mom." I like that I am "my mom" casually and warmly and naturally, because I really hope that's how he talks about me when he grows up, too. I want teenager Henry to smile when he talks about hanging out with "my mom," and 20-something Henry to tell his roommates and girlfriends how awesome "my mom" is. And dangit, when that kid has kids, I'd better hear the sentence "My mom will come and help out for a couple weeks." (Or a couple months. Not to be pushy, distant-future in-laws.)
My mom, my brother, Gandalf, and me

I want that kind of relationship for my sake, but I want it for him, too. I get to talk about my mom like that, and I'm glad I do.

My mom is amazing, no questions asked. Oh, I know she wasn't always perfect when I was a kid, but only because she's confessed to such terrible slights as accidentally impaling me with a diaper pin once. If we're going off my memory alone, my mom is strictly awesome.

My mom spent her entire 22nd birthday in labor with me -- though, because I was stubborn from day one, I held out until 2 a.m. the day after, so we don't share a birthday.

My mom started college when my brother and I were toddlers, juggling her class schedule with my dad's so they could be home with us. I remember going to class with her and coloring while she took her tests. She graduated with a perfect 4.0.

My mom chaperoned a field trip to Seattle when I was in seventh grade. We were supposed to go to the art museum one afternoon, and even though my mom loves museums and knew it would be educational for us, she snuck my friends and me away from the pack and took us to Planet Hollywood for strawberry milkshakes, because we were 12 and it's exactly what we wanted.

My mom going fishing at Big Creek
My mom has been a teacher for almost 20 years, and even when she talks about how tiring and frustrating her job can be, she always circles back to how much she loves her kids, and I've never met a kid who didn't love her.

My mom can play "Amazing Grace" on the flute more beautifully than anyone on earth. My mom can spend an entire day fishing from a lawn chair on a dock even if she hardly catches a thing. My mom can recite Emily Dickinson poems.  My mom spent last weekend coaxing 10 baby ducklings from their eggs, checking on them in her classroom every few hours because she couldn't stop thinking about them.

I remember back in our childbirth class when I was pregnant with Henry, we went around and talked about who we wanted in the birthing room with us. I was the only person who said "my mom," and I realized then how blessed I am.

My mom has always trusted me, always supported me, always been willing to give me advice and help, always listened when I told her I wanted to do things on my own. She let me mess up when I needed to, and though we rarely argued she set me straight when I needed to be. (For the record: You were right about all those times you made me dress nicely for an important event, Mom. Sorry about that.)

My mom, aka Gramma, and little Henry
My mom was amazing when I was a kid. But she's amazing now, too. I'm closer with her now than I ever was, and I'm learning more and more all the time that I love her as a mother and just in general, as a person.

Happy Mother's Day, my mom.

(And happy Mother's Day to the rest of you, too. I've got to run -- got a date with a cheeseburger. If you'd like to stick around, you can read the previous post in the Mother's Day series here.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Problem With Other Mothers

For the past few years, my Mother's Day gift has been a simple tradition: a beer and a bacon cheeseburger at a local pub.

Mom at Work
This year, I'm adding a little more -- I want my lunch alone. All alone. And I want to read while I eat. And if anyone interrupts me to do anything other than refill my water or ask if I want dessert (and I will), we will have words.

With a successful Easter series (start here and work backward if you haven't read it) behind us, I'd like to welcome you, dear Babblists, to the Mothers' Day series.

We begin with a thought launched in my mind by two articles posted on Facebook today by two of my beloved Mom-Friends -- people  I met through our mutual state of having young children, but I love for more than their ability to have kids that entertain my kids.

The first is a brief piece by author Erica Jong, posted in a debate about attachment parenting on the New York Times website. The second is a blog post by April Perry on the Power of Moms site.

The posts are unrelated and the main topics are quite different, but both address a similar problem: the habit of mothers to constantly compare themselves to other mothers, and to certain standards of parenting that may or may not actually exist.

In every city, in every social circle, and I have no doubt in every culture, there is a magical Perfect Mother hanging around, and every other mother simultaneously hates her and wants to be her. I love that both of these articles are in essence asking moms to knock off trying to be perfect.

"We all parent the best we can," Jong writes. "Being human, we’re ambivalent. We want perfection for our babies, but we also need sleep."

And says Perry, in harmony, "Whatever it is we feel we are lacking, can we collectively decide–as deliberate mothers–that we are not going to sit around feeling discouraged about all the things we’re not?"

These messages are so good, and so important. I need to hear them all the time. I'm not perfect, and I remind myself often that it's OK. I don't even do some of the things I'd like to for my boys, like making all of Little Dan's baby food, because I happen to like sleep and reading more. That's OK too.

But here's where I'm going to twist this a little farther: As much as it's reassuring to be told I'm not perfect, it's funny how fast being imperfect turns into a matter of pride.

Example: My boys live in hand-me-downs, yard sale scores, consignment store finds, and clearance-rack specials. New, full-price clothes are gift territory only. I'm quite content with this. I grew up in a similar manner, and I think it's good for people and the environment to re-use and recycle clothing. I also get a lovely little endorphin rush from getting a good deal. (Got these $56 shoes in like-new condition for Henry for $17. Continuing to brag about it. Go. Me.)

I've embraced the fact that my kids don't wear the latest styles, that all their name-brands are second hand, that one pair of shoes that fit is good and two pairs is awesome. And that's great. But ...

I know a mother whose kids who are always in the latest styles, in brands so posh I've never heard of them. They own multiple pairs of dress shoes. And I can't guess how many times I've caught myself observing them, muffling an eye roll, and thinking, "Ugh, how wasteful and shallow."

I'm pretty good at not wanting to be the Perfect Mother. But I have a problem not hating her.

This is the other side of the story that we've got to be telling to each other, moms (and dads, and grandparents, and anyone with little children they love). We're all doing this differently. We have different tastes and values and habits, and different ways of expressing them. Our incomes and situations force us into certain decisions and those situations aren't always readily apparent to the outside eye. We all have different standards of perfection, basically.

It's important to forgive ourselves for the things we don't do, and to embrace the way we do them. But it's also important to forgive all the other moms for doing it differently.

There is room, of course, for encouraging habits I think are good, for supporting positive changes of views and actions. But I have to quit disguising judgement of others beneath acceptance of myself.

I'm working on improving my attitude. I don't wear Danny around, but I need to tell the babywearing moms that they're awesome, too. I don't cloth diaper, but I need to express my admiration for the laundry-loving moms who do. I work a little and stay home a lot, but I know and love some women who have to work, some who want to work, and some who devote 100 percent of their time to the running of their homes, and I need to tell them all that they're important and interesting and good at what they do. And I need to tell the mom of those dressed-up kids how adorable her kids are in their spiffy outfits, because they really are adorable, and I can tell she loves putting together their adorableness.

Step one of ending the ridiculous Mommy Wars is loving ourselves. But it's empty without loving each other.


Happy Mothers' Day to all you mothers and all you who love a mother. Stop by again as the series continues ...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Flashback: Visitors!

I've said before that high school wasn't exactly my favorite thing. Now, I'm wary of anyone who calls the awkward social teenage times the "best years" -- but now that it's been nine years since I graduated, it's easier to enjoy the good memories and forget about all the angst. (Though sometimes I laugh at the angst. Ha, ha. Angst.)

The Roberts family got a delightful blast from the high-school past last week: my friend Natalie stopped by for a few days ... from Switzerland!

Natalie was an exchange student my senior year of high school. We played soccer together on a goofy co-ed rec-league team, and hit it off pretty quickly. She was absorbed into my group of quirky, nerdy, artsy friends, and some of my best memories of that year include her.

Natalie (as Pippi Longstocking), Nina (as Pocahontas)
and me (as "Very Cold," because it's North Idaho), Halloween 2002.
Yes, we trick-or-treated. Yes, it was awesome.

We'd last seen each other seven years ago at a wedding. That was a brief visit -- short enough that no one can seem to remember if Tim was even there -- so getting to spend two days with her was pretty great. She also brought along her former host-sister Krista, who was a quiet eighth-grader last time I saw her and has transformed into a sweet, hipster-y Seattleite. (Also along for the trip: Krista's dog Wayne, who quickly became Henry's new best friend.)

We got a little nostalgic for senior year, naturally, and cataloged where all our old friends are (made way easier by Facebook, though we still thought up a few people lost to time), but the best part of the visit was figuring out that we're still friends now.

Our lives have taken different trajectories -- in particular that I married and had children young, which is an oddity in Switzerland -- but our personalities still mesh. She was thrilled to meet my boys, I was thrilled to hear of her world travels and her job teaching elementary school.  It was good catching up on old times, and good getting to know each other as adults, as our conversation wandered to topics of culture and relationships and politics that just hadn't been on our radar as kids.

We walked around town and played with the kids and went to a hole-in-the-wall bar and a cool coffeeshop and ate Swiss chocolate and enormous American hamburgers. It was just good to hang out again, really.

Now I've just got to figure out a way to get to Switzerland!

(Here are just a few photos from the weekend -- Henry was not interested in sitting still, and poor Danny had an ear infection and spent most of the time sleeping feverishly. And I'm just terrible at taking pictures. ... Argh.)

Looking for worms
Henry and Wayne

If Henry lets us actually take a picture, he often has to pose with his light saber

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm Still Here!

Greetings, Babblists!

Just dropping this quick note to say that Tarababble still exists, though posts have been rare lately. I've been busy keeping up with other projects, playing outside with Henry and Little Dan, and resting my carpal-tunnel-tastic wrist while watching endless episodes of "Bones" and "Parks and Recreation." (Educational TV, you know.)

But here's what you have to look forward to in the coming weeks when I can squish in some blog time:

- The promised followup to the parental leave post about benefits for stay-at-home parents. In light of the popularity of the parental leave topic -- and the importance of it -- it will likely come up more in general.

- Some pictures and stories from the awesome visit we just had from a old friend -- from Switzerland!

- A little Friday Flashback reminiscing about events five years ago, when I graduated from college and embarked on my brief daily newspaper career.

- Some thoughts on hope (been writing this one in my head and will type it someday!)

- And, if you ask nicely enough, more terrible poetry ...

Thanks for sticking with me, folks! Now get off your computer and go play in the sun.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Flashback: Bowlerama

Today on Friday Flashback, we zip alllll the way back to Tuesday, upon which I experienced one of the triumphs of my adult life: finally winning Mystery Oldie of the Day on the radio.

With my mongoose-like reflexes I dialed in and correctly identified -- with merely a two-second clip ("for-ev-eerrrrr") to guide me -- "Truly, Madly, Deeply," by Savage Garden.

Which is an oldie now, apparently. It's a song that carries for me a truckload of emotional baggage, as it was released 15 years ago, when I was in the seventh grade. Every time I hear it I feel a little nauseated and sweaty and have flashbacks to junior high dances. And no, I don't remember all the words. But Tim does :) .

Anyway -- the prize for being the Mystery Oldie Super Sleuth was a gift certificate for the local bowling alley. Which brings us to: a flashback to yesterday, and Henry's Very First Bowling Trip.

It was awesome.

So have a truly, madly, deeply good weekend, Babblists.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Mother of a Problem

As much as I am a news junkie, my brain just doesn't have the capacity for too much of the national chatter lately. But last week's Ann Romney vs. Hilary Rosen smackdown over stay-at-home motherhood caught my attention.

Mom and the bosses
I'm not particularly interested in discussing the nuances of stay-at-home parenting work vs. at-the-office work. It's an old debate. But every time the subject of motherhood enters the news, I listen, especially when we're talking about valuing motherhood (and fatherhood) as an important part of our society.

I always hope the conversation trickles toward a topic that is pathetically neglected in the United States: the support we as a nation offer new parents.

Let's play a game: You're a grocery store clerk. You're married to a construction worker. You don't make a ton of money, but you're not desperate economically. You find out you're pregnant. As you prepare for the birth, your plans include what you will do for maternity leave when the baby comes.

If you live in Sweden, your government guarantees 480 days of leave -- that's one year, four-ish months. Two months of it is guaranteed for your husband. You'll receive 80 percent of your regular pay for the first 390 days of your leave, then a flat rate. You start imagining a world of playdates and snuggling, of being there to see your baby smile and crawl and walk, without a thought of how you're going to pay for it.

But Sweden's the usual suspect, right? You pay taxes out the nose for benefits like this, which Americans don't stomach well. But how about a country that's a little closer cousin to the USA?

If you live in the U.K., your employer must offer you up to one year of leave. Your employer will give you 90 percent of your regular pay for the first six weeks and a flat rate for weeks 7-39 (and it doesn't matter that you work for a small business, because public money will reimburse them for most of it). Weeks 40-52 are unpaid, but available. You're relieved to know you're guaranteed a few weeks to recover physically and emotionally from your birth. You and your husband decide you can afford an additional four months off -- enough time to establish breastfeeding, get in some form of sleep routine, and relax with your new little critter before you head back to work.

Doesn't sound too bad, but Britain is still a pretty wealthy country. It can't be so good everywhere, right?

In Serbia you'll get a year off, 100 percent paid by the government, as long as Baby is your first or second kid.

In Poland you get five months, 100 percent paid. In Kazahkstan you'll get a little more than four months, 100 percent paid. In Indonesia you'll get three months, 100 percent paid. In Venezuela you get 18 weeks, 100 percent paid. In Algeria you'll get 14 weeks, 100 percent paid.

In Somalia you get up to 14 weeks at 50 percent of your pay.

In Afghanistan you get 90 days at 100 percent of your pay.

And what about here at home?

In the United States, your employer must give you up to 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act*. They can pay you but don't have to, and most don't. The government, federally and in the vast majority of states, offers you nothing.

You save up some vacation time, but it's tricky -- you only have two weeks to work with. You have one week of sick leave and you use it up on morning sickness and doctor's appointments. You scrimp and save, but the birth itself is going to cost so much -- a few thousand dollars, even with your insurance, and you make just enough not to qualify for Medicaid. Your husband can pick up some overtime, but you want him at home to help you navigate new motherhood and bond with his child. Your parents would love to help, but they're not rolling in the dough either.

Your baby is due in just a month, and you still haven't figured out how to get more than four weeks off. What if you have a C-section and have to recover? What if the baby's colicky and you never sleep? Your boss is sweet and supportive, but reminds you that you need your FMLA paperwork in, and soon, so you have to decide.

So what do you do? (Going in the bathroom and crying is an option, but it won't get you far.)

And what do we as Americans do about this? It seems we're pretty content. I can't believe we are.

This isn't a question of taxes or state's rights or big government or whatever. It's a question of what we really value.

We say we value families, that healthy children are the path to a healthy future, that good parenting is the bedrock of our society. The vast majority of people do consider parenthood a job, whether one performed full-time or in conjunction with others.

So if we consider parenting so important -- as Ann Romney said, good ol' Mitt often told her that her job was more important than his -- why are we content to have one of the poorest family leave policies on the planet?

I lean toward supporting a federal  program. For better or worse, the government is the existing system able to pay for and administer policies like family leave. (And yes, I'm saying I'd pay more in taxes to support a federal program. Happily.)

Most countries listed above go the federal route, though some (like Somalia and Afghanistan) put the burden on employers -- which I can't imagine would fly well in our land of small businesses. Heck, if you're really against the government getting involved, we could always create a network of nonprofits that help people afford to stay home with their children.

And if you're  against improving our parental leave policies, tell me why. Let's get this debate started -- because the rest of the world is laughing at us for failing to.


* - as pointed out by astute reader cadylee, this only applies if you work for a company big enough to have to abide by FMLA at all.
Facts and figures in this blog come from the incredible interactive NPR map found here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blessed are the Candymakers

Easter is over but the story continues --

This is from Jim LaPage's Word series, which is awesome.
Check it out by clicking here
It's one that's really meant to be told again and again, and in the past few weeks we told it before bedtime, in the bathtub, at the dinner table, in the car, because Henry asked, again and again.

We stumbled through it at first -- how to tell a story so intense and cosmic and weird to a little boy, how to give him some shred of understanding. What do you want a 3-year-old to get from the story of Easter? What do you want anyone to get?

Birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection. A narrative -- but to what end? The answer found me before I could overthink it -- the answer Jesus gave an expert in the Mosaic law when he asked for the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself."

And so we told him, again and again: Jesus taught us to love God and to love other people. The whole story is about that.

I hope he spends some time on those ideas as he grows up, keeps them at the heart of the Easter story, wrestles with their meaning and their execution.

It's fascinating, though, to see how he processes it now, to see how that intense, cosmic, weird story comes out in the preschooler mind. He loves supervillains: What were the names of those guys who didn't like Jesus? He adores his friends: What did Jesus and his friends play together?

And this:

Me: "... and so he went around the land talking to people and teaching them and helping them."
Henry: "He helped them? What'd he do?"
Me: "If they were sick, he healed them. If they were hungry, he gave them food. If they were thirsty, he gave them something to drink."
Henry: "If there was time for dessert, he gave them some candy."


Happy (perpetual) Easter.

Check out the rest of the series: Good Egg Hunting, Euaggelion, 49 Years of Easter Awesomeness, Ode to a Marshmallow Peep  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Flashback: Good Egg Hunting

About 23 Years Ago: 

This is me, age 3ish. You may wonder why I'm dressed in a jacket so puffy I look like a cone of strawberry soft-serve. I am hunting Easter eggs.

In Idaho, this is something we often do in the snow, sleet, rain, or extreme cold. We are the postal service of egg hunting. This year, I'm hoping  for sunny skies for hunting tomorrow and Sunday. And though we did have two inches of snow on the ground yesterday morning, that means nothing. It could be 80 tomorrow. Then it could hail. You just never know.

This particular picture was taken at the official Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever: the Laclede community egg hunt.

Laclede is my tiny little hometown, where my mom (and her mom and her mom and her mom) is from. It's a good town in a lot of ways, but the egg hunt is a crowning achievement.

It takes place in lovely Riley Creek Park, which offers a decent beach, some crowded camping, and a couple acres full of amazing places to hide candy and eggs.

I don't have any distinct memories of the hunt from my childhood, but I do remember it well from teenage years on. The hunt had gone dormant for a few years, and Mom decided to bring it back. For a few weeks every spring, my house became Candy Wonderland.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I stand next to my Bible study leader, clutching a stack of glossy fliers, smiling one of those smiles that’s all teeth and no brain.

We hover a moment over the frat boy working on his laptop in the Student Union. The Bible study leader begins her spiel: “We just want to invite you …” And I dutifully hand over the flier.

We’re spreading the word about the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Spreading the Word. Evangelizing, because that’s what good evangelical Christians do.

I am excited. Aren't I? I’ve been in this big campus Christian group since I started college, and this is the first time I’ve ever been asked to do anything other than show up to meetings.

Part of me feels hopeful as I hand out the fliers – maybe this is my step toward the magical inner circle, the group of clean-cut cool kids who are “on fire for Christ” and are so good. Isn’t that what I want? And isn’t this what I have to do to get there?

But most of me feels awful. I’m never going to watch “Passion of the Christ.” The whole deal makes me uncomfortable – the staggering stylized violence, Mel Gibson’s vicious anti-Semitic remarks, this idea that getting people to watch a movie is somehow miraculously going to “turn our nation to God” or “start a revival” or whatever the catchphrase is.

This idea that a completely fake college freshman and her Bible study leader handing out fliers is going to show anyone any sort of love, or hope, or anything.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Flashback: 49 Years of Easter Awesomeness

The eeeeevil carpal tunnel syndrome is keeping me from doing much typing at the moment, so I'm keeping today's Friday Flashback simple --- it's Easter picture time! (Thanks to my mom for sending me most of these.)

Hope you enjoy, and I hope you come back next week for more Easter posts, both silly and serious. (And here's Ode to a Marshmallow Peep, in case you missed it.)

One Year Ago:

Painting Easter eggs!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ode to a Marshmallow Peep

I took an introduction to poetry class my freshman year of college. It was taught by an earnest grad student with a taste for the mopey -- the darker and whinier and more depressing the poem, the better. In retrospect, I'd call her emo. At the time, I thought she was just kind of silly.

I tried to like those poems, I really did. I clapped as my classmates read their woeful rhymes. I attempted to meet her ever-so-serious assignments, but mostly came out sounding grumpy. (Grumpy isn't the best emotion for poetry.)

I didn't hate the class. We actually read some poems I still love, like Billy Collins' "Marginalia" and Li-Young Lee's "Persimmons," even though after "Persimmons" we had to write erotic poetry and I almost died. (I was 18; I was innocent; the word "erotic" made me giggle because all I could think of was the Simpsons bit about erotic cakes -- the part from the end of the Treehouse of Horror episode "Homer3" when he falls into the real world. I'd link to it, but "erotic cakes" is just not something you Google.)

For our final assignment, we created chapbooks of the semester's work and were allowed to add in a few new poems. We all got together at the gyro shop to read our work aloud.

I wasn't going to read. I smiled and clapped through everyone's performances, most of which were very good but several of which required restraint from eye-rolling. The last girl who signed up to read closed her eyes and chanted her poem, a long thing about death and futility, and when she was done my instructor scanned the audience. "Come on, anyone else?"

So I got up and recited this:

Ode to a Marshmallow Peep

Saturday, March 24, 2012

[Satur]day Flashback: A Weekend Away

Friday Flashback is coming to you on Saturday this week because we spent the weekend (our weekends always happen midweek) visiting various family members to the north. And a fabulous weekend it was!

The snow followed us around -- but it's March in Idaho, so that's not too strange -- but we stayed warm and dry and had good time with in-laws, cousins, and my maternal grandparents. (My other grandpa and grandma live up north too but have the flu -- so here's a feel-better shout out to them!)

Two days ago we spent the entire day goofing off with Grammy and Poppy. I spent eight years of my life living about three giant leaps from their house, but being farther away now has the advantage of making every visit to their house a special time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Read and Respond

When I shuffle through my Facebook feed every day, I inevitably run into a post -- or three or ten -- that makes me want to slam my face on my desk.

Sometimes it's because I strongly disagree. Sometimes it's because I agree strongly but am frustrated with the way the thought was expressed. A few times lately it's because I've seen people I really like picking fights with each other, sometimes directly, sometimes with subtle, indirect jabs that are still so well-placed. (And yeah, sometimes it's also because I'm friends with my teenage cousins, and most of what they say is like a secret code to me, and that makes me feel old.)

Day after day, I keep running into these posts and news stories and ideas that make me want to respond, but the idea of responding makes me feel like a scared little rabbit with a too-small cage and a too-fast heartbeat. (Unless they're sleeping, I imagine that rabbits have a running commentary in their heads something along the lines of "Ohgoshohgoshohgoshohnoohcrapohgosh...")

Part of me feels like a wuss for never, or at least very rarely, responding. When I do, it's usually to request clarification, to make a joke, or to offer up something along the lines of "this is just my personal point of view, but ..."  Something very safe. Something couched in fluff. Something that keeps the little rabbit in the too-small cage because at least that's better than the too-big world.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Flashback: Spring Breaaaa---ughhhhh

Where'd Spring Break go? I'll tell ya where it went. It was devoured by the evil monster known as Influenza.

Here's Henry reading at the book store today --
trust me, you don't want to see us the rest of the week.
The flu just doesn't work for my hair.
Back in November the whole family got flu shots, but this wicked little booger was a "new strain" so it snuck right past all our defenses. Stupid mutation.

Anyway -- One Week Ago Today I was starting to feel a little yucky, so I thought I'd take a walk in the glorious glorious sun! What a lovely day! Spring Break awaits! I shall be revived!

Of course by the time I got home all I could do was the lie there on the floor like a sock filled with rice (which, incidentally, does wonders for earaches). And the week pretty much went from there.

Looking back at less-germy times ...

Thursday, March 15, 2012


The Paper Mama

Hey look! I joined a blog network! Does that make me official yet?

(And if you came here to read this and are like, "Dude, that's it?" Well ... too bad! Ha.

Oh, fine. Here are some posts that you might not have read yet: )

Happy Thursday!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Career Planning for Babies

In that silly part of my mind that thinks far, far too far into the future, I've created a nice little list of Careers I Hope My Boys Might Have.

Practicing for spacewalks
In no particular order:

1. Astronaut
2. Medical missionary
3. Professional baseball player (Seattle Mariners preferred)
4. Folk-rock singer/songwriter

If you think it's weird that I cultivate such a list, then get this: I also fret about what might happen should they actually become any of these things. Medical missionaries are often in harm's way! Professional baseball players are often jerks! Singer-songwriters often live in vans! Astronauts FREAKING GO TO OUTER SPACE! 

Et cetera.

We've been thinking a lot about careers in this family lately. Mostly because none of us (babies and otherwise) have them. Wished-for careers, maybe. Magical things called "career options" that our college degrees are supposed to give us. But like anyone who's done any job hunting in the past couple years knows, "options" is a pretty meaningless word. (That, and I just really like bumming around my house doing made-up things like "mothering" and "blogging" and "reading books for fun.")

I get a little down on careers sometimes. I like the quote "Careers are a twentieth-century invention, and I don't want one," even if I don't really dig the story it comes from (Into the Wild. Overrated.)  Why can't Americans be things like hunter-gatherers anymore? Tim would have made a great hunter-gatherer.

But you can't buy cars or houses or every Toy Story action figure known to man as a hunter-gatherer. Or as a stay-at-home parent, or a worker in a low-paying but enjoyable and easygoing job, or anything like that. Nooo, you've got to work your butt off, then work off the layers of muscle and bone beneath your butt. And if you don't, you're lazy, or a moocher, or unmotivated, or whatever -- no matter who you are otherwise.

I haven't solved the problem of work, or money, or rat-races, or any of that, and I don't suppose I will by the time my boys grow up, unfortunately.

I can't guarantee they'll be any of the things on my list, or any of the things on the wish-lists they'll have someday. I can't guarantee they'll like those jobs if they have them. I can't even guarantee they'll have jobs they like even a little bit at all. But I can start now telling them it doesn't matter.

If my kids want a career, great. But I don't want them to need one. I don't want a job to be what makes my babies happy someday. I want them to find their joy and peace and identity in God, in their families and friends, in their communities, in all the things they do that they're not paid for. I'd love it if they loved their jobs, but I don't ever want them to think their worth is in their career. My parents never put that expectation on me, and I'm thankful for it, especially on days when I start beating myself up over lack of big paychecks and important credentials.

Someday, when my boys are grown up and someone asks me "So what do your kids do?" I'd like to answer with something like, "Well, they spend a ton of time at home with their families, they have wonderful adventures wherever they go, they serve God and their neighbors, they build and create and explore."

(And then -- maybe -- I'd like to add, "on Mars.")

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Flashback: Self Portrait With Palm Tree

This is me, seven years ago:

I am lost in Tempe, Arizona.

At least it may have been Tempe. I got on the bus in Tempe, after all. Waved good-bye to my friends at the edge of the sprawling ASU campus. Started reading. Listened for my stop. Got off when the driver called out the street name.

Funny thing about big cities: sometimes the streets go all over town.

It was my first time on a city bus. I was 19. I had just gotten engaged. I was in some sort of industrial area with blocky, faceless buildings.

I should have called someone. Obviously. But I found a copy shop and asked for a phone book and looked on the map. Three miles between me and where I was supposed to be. Three miles in flat Arizona, mild in March.

I decided to walk.

I stopped to take my own picture under a palm tree. Someone once told me that unkempt palm trees become havens for rats, that you can prod the dead leaves with a stick and rats just come pouring out. I saw a palm tree for the first time when I was 17. I love palm trees.

I meant for it to be a good picture, a self-portrait in the pre-Facebook days when self-portraits weren't so common. But the wind picked up, and I blinked, and the shutter snapped after my smile ended.

I remember thinking when I took the picture that it proved I was brave, setting out into the unknown city by myself.

I remember thinking it proved I was reckless, at least I could be reckless.

I remember feeling like I was on the edge of something.

That feeling hasn't gone away since.


Check out other Friday Flashbacks here and here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Guest Post: The Baby Name Rules

I'm fascinated with baby names -- not just what people name their children, but where those names come from, how naming patterns move through communities, how cultures create rules and rituals for naming. I always read the baby announcements in the paper, eagerly await the yearly Social Security names index, and have read books on baby names just for kicks.
Henry David - too cool for rules from Day 1

That's why I'm delighted to share with you this guest post, from my friend Savannah at Preconceived Notions. I've mentioned her and her fabulous food blog, Appetite, before, and I'm excited to bring some attention to her newest project of blogging with wit and snark through "life, marriage, pregnancy, and motherhood" as well -- because those are all things I'm kind of involved in (or in the case of pregnancy, have been involved in) too, you know.

I loved the post you're about to read, and I hope you do too. I also hope you enjoy arguing with it! Because while I wholly support the rules that would discourage the names Promise, Field, and Tree (yes, I have known people by all those names!), I have broken the Obvious Clause of the Literature/Pop Culture section myself. (Complex, these rules ...)

So read on and share your thoughts on The Baby Name Rules!


The Baby Name Rules

I'm already being asked by people if we're thinking about baby names. I find that pretty funny, seeing as how I'm not pregnant, people expect me to already have named my not-yet-conceived spawn. And yes, actually, we have. At least, if we have a boy first. If we have a girl, we're fairly clueless. This is all assuming I manage to get pregnant and then give birth to a child that looks like the name we picked out.

I've had many friends give birth in recent years, and baby name selection has ranged in difficulty — from friends who knew what their kid was named from the minute sperm met egg to those who didn't name their child for several days after birth, and even a friend who is still luke-warm about her child's moniker.

Now, as a copy editor, I see baby names all the time — especially in the weekly "birth" announcements. I think this makes me qualified to pass on some advice to all parents out there who are considering naming a child.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Flashback: Leap Week

Happy March, Babblists! February flew by -- even with the extra day! -- and I shall today repeat the cliche of all who live in four-season states: I can't wait for spring.

To entertain you as you while away the slushy hours, returning this week is Friday Flashback. (For those of you who missed its inception last week, read it here.)

Are you ready for it? Here we go!


Today: Today we had a family day. We got up early, awakened by a phone call, sad news from a dear friend. We couldn't fix the world today so we just stuck together. We watched cartoons, ran errands, went to the playground, took it easy. We had lunch together. We played with the camera after lunch.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Destroyer of Laundry

It's laundry day.

Yesterday was also laundry day.

And the day before.

If you, y'know, wear clothes, this is a familiar process. And if you have kids, you really know how this goes. I'm not sure exactly how, but adding Danny to our household doubled the amount of laundry we create. The kid's only 16 pounds! (And yet, he produces more than triple his mass in spit-up every day.)

Laundry is my nemesis. It lurks in every corner of my house. A stray sock among the baby toys. A slimy bib draped over the back of the chair. The ever-growing pile behind the bathroom door. Everywhere I go, everything I do, it's watching me. It's like Sting.

I hate laundry.

But I have this new philosophy about housework. It's called Defeating It So It Can't Defeat Me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Amazing Beautiful Creatures

This is one of our all-time favorite Sesame Street clips. Henry's been especially into it lately, asking me to sing the Beautiful Creatures Alphabet instead of the usual song. At the end, he always adds in the little ululation (which I love, because it gives me an excuse to use the word "ululation.")

Ladysmith Black Mambazo always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. When Henry was born my parents bought me a collection of world lullabies to play for him. In that first week, when I nursed all day and night and Henry never seemed to sleep, I listened to it over and over and over. This song was my favorite:

Be Still My Child (Album Version)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Flashback: New glasses, old band nerds

Ohhh, week, you elusive little booger, where did you go? Here we are at Friday again. And almost the end of February!

Fridays are now Flashback Fridays at Tarababble, because I need some regular features, and I like alliteration.

I'm modeling the idea on a feature that lots of newspapers run, looking back at the headlines at certain points in the past. The idea is to dig up some fun stories otherwise lost to time (but not lost to Facebook Timeline!), and maybe get you reflecting a bit on points past, too. Let's hope it's fun, shall we?


One Day Ago Today: I am the purchaser of new glasses! Present glasses have a nasty scratch and are missing most of an earpiece and also the world has become a little blurry through them, so it was time. I tried on all the Super Awesome Hip glasses and bought the least hip. My face just can't take hip. When I wear thick frames I look like I belong in a old yearbook. Not doing something awesome like A/V Club or ham radio, though. I'm that kid who wandered through the background of someone else's scene and has the hem of my pants tucked into my socks.

One Week Ago Today: Was ... a Friday ... aaaaand that's all I've got.

One Month Ago Today: Henry's third birthday was imminent. I spent most of the day painstakingly making handmade cupcakes in the shapes of Cars characters, inspired by a recipe I saw on Pinterest ... hahahahha, no. I did eat some frosting out of a can, though.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I like to think I’m a grocery store Jedi – able to get in and out with a maximum amount of nutritious, tasty food for a minimum bill, all while talking myself out of the expensive junk food I so desire. (These are not the Pop Tarts you are looking for …)

During this week’s grocery trip, though, I decided to look for something at the store I hadn’t before: empty shelves.

You can probably guess that I didn’t find any. No sold-out items, or even waning ones. My cheese was one of scores of blocks. My milk was surrounded by dozens of identical gallons. Even the less common items – this week it was maaagical Odwalla bars, to fill my need as a nursing mother for massive amounts of food all day long – were sold in boxes and stacks and piles.

The store had an abundance of everything.

Here is what got me thinking about this:

Yayyyy fuzzy cell phone picture!

Yup, that’s a table full of bread. It’s in the lobby of my church, which runs a food pantry. Last week, that table was one of four holding breads, rolls, cookies, pastries, and cakes that we ran out of room for on the four big shelves in the food pantry itself.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Look! Tarababble has a new design!

I had planned on writing an actual blog post today, but the limits of naptime dictate one thing at a time! (And for as simple as this is, you'd be surprised how long it took me ... sigh. Thank goodness for this place: )

Anyway, if you're an old reader, thanks for coming and looking at the new pretties. If you're new, cruise around and check it out!

~Tara :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Boldly Go, Vandals

The Idaho State Board of Education made a wildly unpopular decision yesterday to yank the word “flagship” out of the University of Idaho’s mission statement, as proposed by Boise State alumnus and SBOE member Milford Terrell.

The move is obviously political – a way to stroke the quivering egos of the Bronco crowd, who are dang good at celebrating the big Whatever Bowl win, but less able to quit pouting that the UI just straight-up shuts them down at academic pursuits.

But – what’s done is done. The real question now is what we do next. If we’re not Idaho’s flagship university anymore, what the heck should we be?

Here’s my proposal:

(Are you ready for this? Cause it’s awesome. And it was actually Tim’s idea, but I’m expanding on it and he doesn’t have a blog, so whatever. Annnnyway – awesome time …)

The starship university.

Heck. Yeah.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Pink Shirt Conundrum

Henry’s preschool has a color-themed day once a month. Henry lives for color days. Breakfast must be served in a bowl of the Color. We spend days in advance discussing which toys he has in the Color and which he should take for sharing. And, of course, Henry must wear a shirt in the Color.

This month’s color day fell on Valentine’s Day. The color: pink.

Oh. Pink.

We didn’t have a stitch of pink kids’ clothing in the house. I thought about just telling him to live without, but I knew the scene that would occur should Pink Day arrive with no pink clothing. It wouldn’t be pretty. So I started searching.

As I searched, I concluded two things:

1. Clothing marketed to little boys is 99.9% not pink.

2. Clothing marketed to little girls is 90% pink, but never just pink. It must also have sparkles, or lace, or frillies.

Now, I was aware of this on some level before, just from having been in stores and from having friends with little girls. I’d never really thought much of it, other than general relief that I don’t have little girls and thus don’t have to live in a sea of pink. (It’s really just not a color I like. Especially sickly Pepto-bismol-y pink. Blech.)

The Quest For a Pink-Day Shirt forced me to consider some things I’d been content to let slip by before. And what I concluded really bothered me.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Choo-Choo-Choose You!

When I was 9 years old, I spent hours the weekend before Valentine’s Day creating a pile of cards for my classmates with construction paper, markers, and Looney Tunes stickers.

The effort was out of creative impulse and a love for Bugs Bunny, sure. But mostly it was out of pure terror.

See, at some point in my childhood I’d seen a Simpsons episode called “I Love Lisa.” In it, Lisa Simpson feels guilty that her classmate Ralph hasn’t received any Valentines and drops into his bag one with the slogan “I Choo Choo Choose You.”

Ralph takes the message to heart, and soon the entire school thinks Lisa is in love with the crayon-eating kid known for quips like “Yay, sleep! That’s where I’m a Viking!” and “My cat’s breath smells like cat food!”

To little fourth-grade me, that sounded like the worst humiliation possible. I had to take every precaution, lest some slimy boy think I was in love him. Didn’t matter if he was a crayon-eater or a cool kid – I wasn’t socially functional enough for any of it. (Fourth-grade Tara spent a lot of time writing elaborate stories about aliens. So about the same as now, but with less confidence.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rage Against the Blog

I was feeling bloggy (it’s an adjective now!) today, so I polled my Facebook Braintrust for inspiration.

My brother’s suggestion: “I think you should write about that time you punched me for singing that it wrong that it still makes me laugh?”

My brain: “That sounds like something I would have done. Yee-up. Uh-huh. But what the heck song was it? And when? And how could it have been that bad?”

Ahhh, yes. That one. Thaaaaaat one.

(Is it funny that I kind of want to punch him again for finding it funny that 12 years ago I punched him for singing that song?)

But now that I’ve related that anecdote … what now?

I wish I could just bust something awesome out. But I guess I’m still struggling to figure out what this blog wants to be.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chaos - Order - Entropy

Here, for no particular purpose but my own sanity and your entertainment (I hope), is a story about Friday:

Most people understand the concept of chaos – parents especially, since even the best-behaved children are by nature tiny chaos machines.

If you’d asked me Friday morning if I understood chaos, I may have answered yes, but more likely would have flung a screeching preschooler at you and fled.

Chaos Part 1: The Doctor’s Office

We arrive early. We have the first appointment of the day – no waiting, yay! Henry is giggly and charming, if slightly wiggly, as the nurse weighs and measures him. He balks at the blood pressure cuff, but no biggie. He’s distracted by a super-awesome dinosaur-truck book, so who has time for blood pressure? I notice his little hands trembling as we turn pages. I assume he is excited.

We wait. We play “I Spy” and “I’m Thinking of a Tasty Food” and I start getting cocky, hoping the doctor will walk in just as my barely-3-year-old is effortlessly pronouncing “stethoscope” or something. Someone does walk in, but it’s a nurse informing us that not only is the doctor late, no one knows where she is or when she’ll be back. Henry bolts behind the exam table when the door opens. I assume we are playing hide-and-seek.

Finally the Doc arrives. And Henry explodes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Year Three

Well, here we are. In just more than three hours, Henry will be 3 years old. 

Or, to be technical, in 7 hours and 2 minutes I will mark precisely three years since I first looked into the  face of my baby boy. Man he's changed since that moment. He's less slimy and screamy for one -- most of the time, at least. He walks and talks and all that good stuff. Sometimes I want to set him free in the wild to be the feral child he so longs to be, but for the most part I'm pretty fond of the little guy.

I've already gushed about him -- just couldn't wait all the way until his birthday for that post. So today I'll meditate for a moment on another milestone taking place January 26: It's been three years since I became a mother.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On containing multitudes

I was at a church event a few years back, visiting with a man I didn’t know. The conversation turned toward my profession, and I said I worked at the newspaper.

 His eyes widened. “Oh,” he said, “that must be so hard for you.”

I asked why he thought that.

“That paper is so liberal,” he said. “All those things on the opinion page. It must be really hard to deal with that.”

I let about 30 different responses, some of them less polite than others, bounce around in my head before finally responding that I actually thought our opinion page had an interesting mix of liberal and conservative opinions, as did our newsroom, and that I quite liked my job. Then I changed the subject.

But what I kind of felt like saying is what I’ll say here: “Actually, I’m kind of a liberal. And I probably wrote some of those things you don’t like.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Post: That Post On The Healthcare System

Hello, loyal Tarababble readers! The following is a guest post by my friend Melanie (of Musings of a Renaissance Girl) -- I've been pestering her about it for a while, and I'm excited to be sharing it with you.

When she was 16, Melanie was diagnosed with cancer. Her family had to face the terrifying threat of losing her -- and of losing everything they had to pay for the treatments that eventually saved her life. Here's her story.


I realized something today.  I realized that I've been putting off blogging, primarily because I had promised a post on the healthcare system, which I felt unequal to for a number of reasons.  One is a lack of organization, one a distaste for controversy, but primarily I've been avoiding the subject here because it involves going back there, and there is a place I've successfully managed to steer clear of for several years now.

However, I do think what I have to say needs to be said, and luckily it is not up to me to offer the perfect solution to solve all our problems and create a disease and debt-free paradise.  I can only point out the problems as I see them.  Sit back and relax.  This promises to be a longish post.

I was sixteen years old when I was diagnosed with stage three (stage four being worst-case, stage one best) Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system.  It came out of nowhere for our family.  Someone later made a remark to my mother, as if it was something she should have done, about how they were "concentrating on prevention" themselves.  Now, my sister and I lived about the healthiest lives possible.  We lived on the side of a mountain, breathed clean air, climbed trees, ran around in fields, not to mention having ballet classes every week.  My mother cooked everything we ate from scratch, we drank soda perhaps once a year.  We were always healthy, and because we were always healthy, when our family couldn't afford health insurance, just about the time I turned sixteen, it didn't seem like a big loss.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd been to the doctor.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Henry's World

Henry was staring off into space, deep in thought, while we were eating our oatmeal this morning. 

“Mommy?” he asked. “What do chameleons eat?”
“Bugs,” I said.
A moment later: “Mommy, what do frogs eat?”
“Flies,” I said.
“And bugs!”
A moment later: “What do chickens eat?”
We discussed the chickens at his great-grandparents’ house, and how they like chicken feed and scraps and watermelon rinds. He suggested we should take them a pail of watermelon.

He was quiet for a while. Then, a special grin – one eyebrow raised, mouth on the edge of a giggle. “Mommy?”
“What do rubber duckies eat?”


My boy turns 3 in just a few days. Three years! And of course it fits the old paradox: eternity and no time at all, rolled into one.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

In Praise of Gentle Men

     Tim with little tiny Henry

I’m married to a gentle man. Not a gentleman, though I suppose sometimes he is that. A gentle man.

In more than eight years, I’ve rarely heard Tim raise his voice. He roughhouses with our older son, and I’ve seen him wrestle with his younger brothers, but he has never displayed his anger with physical aggression toward anyone or anything, ever.

In fact, he’s rarely angry at all. He doesn’t hide it or bottle it up, except on occasion, as most people do. He lets it go. He pauses, he reflects, he prays, he thinks. He asks whether anger will fix a problem or improve a situation -- and the answer is usually no. Even in situations of injustice or evil, he is not fooled into believing that “righteous” anger is helpful, or even real. He chooses to use his energy to communicate, build people up, and seek solutions.

He’s probably totally embarrassed reading that, and he might argue with it, but it’s what I see in him. His gentleness, kindness, and self-control (sound familiar?) are an enormous part of why I love him.

I try to be more like him, though my impulses tell me to yell, to throw, to hit. Most people who know me as an adult think of me as fairly mild-mannered, but know that when I joke around about wanting to punch people in the nose, I really want to punch people in the nose. (I did it, once, in fourth grade, to a boy who was making fun of my brother. It felt awesome. But it didn’t accomplish much.)

So why, today, am I talking up my gentle Tim? Because I’ve been reading lately about a movement within my faith that is pretty nasty toward gentleness.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Heretic

Last week I was reading in my comfy chair, holding Danny, and I started to drift off. I did one of those spectacular edge-of-sleep muscle jerk thingies and knocked Danny on the head with my reading material. He woke up, howled a moment, then relaxed again, and we went on as usual.

I was reading a 550-page book, but the damage was minimal … because it was on my Kindle.

Confession: The book was the latest in the Percy Jackson series. (They’re fun to read, OK?)

Confession II: I LOVE my Kindle.

Fuzzy cell phone picture of lovely Kindle! Reading John McPhee's Silk Parachute. Good stuff.

My amazing Auntie Beth got me the Kindle for Christmas this year. Auntie Beth has been my book supplier since birth, and I’d say a good 60 percent or more of the books I own have been gifts from her. I owe my book-hoarding personality to her, as well: She was a librarian for years at the University of Idaho, reads more than anyone I know, and has amassed an impressive library, mainly of the mystery novels she adores. (She’s also responsible for cursing me to write, but that’s a story for another time.)

Normally, my Christmas list to Auntie Beth comprises the books I’d like, usually new hardbacks or more “literary” titles that are hard to get from the library or my favorite second-hand bookstore. But this year, after much thought, I asked for the Kindle.

I feel a little bit like a heretic. I love books, right?


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